Joseph A. Munk
I. A ROMANTIC LAND II. MY FIRST TRIP TO ARIZONA III. THE OPEN RANGE IV. RANCH LIFE V. THE ROUND-UP VI. RANCH HAPPENINGS VII. A MODEL RANCH VIII. SOME DESERT PLANTS IX. HOOKER'S HOT SPRINGS X. CANON ECHOES XI. THE METEORITE MOUNTAIN XII. THE CLIFF DWELLERS XIII. THE MOQUI INDIANS XIV. A FINE CLIMATE
A ROMANTIC LAND
A stranger on first entering Arizona is impressed with the newness and wildness that surrounds him. Indeed, the change is so great that it seems like going to sleep and waking up in a new world. Everything that he sees is different from the familiar objects of his home, and he is filled with wonder and amazement at the many curious things that are brought to his notice. Judging the country by what is common back east, the average man is disappointed and prejudiced against what he sees; but, estimated on its merits, it is found to be a land of many attractions and great possibilities.
A hasty trip through the country by rail gives no adequate idea of its intrinsic value, as such a limited view only affords a superficial glimpse of what should be leisurely and carefully examined to be properly understood or appreciated. At the first glance it presents the appearance of a desert, but to one who is acquainted with its peculiarities it is by no means desolate. It furnishes a strong contrast to the rolling woodlands of the far east, and to the boundless prairies of the middle west; and, though it may never develop on the plan of the older states, like California, it has an individuality and charm of its own; and its endowment of natural wealth and beauty requires no borrowing from neighbors to give it character or success.
It has grand scenery, a salubrious climate, productive soil, rich mineral deposits and rare archaeological remains. It also has a diversified fauna and flora. The peccary, Gila monster, tarantula, centipede, scorpion and horned toad are specimens of its strange animal life; and, the numerous species of cacti, yucca, maguey, palo verde and mistletoe are samples of its curious vegetation. It is, indeed, the scientist's Paradise where much valuable material can be found to enrich almost every branch of natural science.
Hitherto its growth has been greatly retarded by its remote position in Uncle Sam's domain; but, with the comparatively recent advent of the railroad, the influx of capital and population, and the suppression of the once dreaded and troublesome Apache, a new life has been awakened that is destined to redeem the country from its ancient lethargy and make it a land of promise to many home seekers and settlers.
When the Spaniards under Coronado first entered the land more than three hundred and fifty years ago in search of the seven cities of Cibola, they found upon the desert sufficient evidence of an extinct race to prove that the land was once densely populated by an agricultural and prosperous people. When or how the inhabitants disappeared is unknown and may never be known. It is even in doubt who they were, but, presumably, they were of the Aztec or Toltec race; or, perhaps, of some civilization even more remote.
The Pueblo Indians are supposed to be their descendants, but, if so, they were, when first found, as ignorant of their ancestors as they were of their discoverers. When questioned as to the past they could give no intelligent answer as to their antecedents, but claimed that what the white man saw was the work of Montezuma. All that is known of this ancient people is what the ruins show, as they left no written record or even tradition of their life, unless it be some inscriptions consisting of various hieroglyphics and pictographs that are found painted upon the rocks, which undoubtedly have a meaning, but for lack of interpretation remain a sealed book. The deep mystery in which they are shrouded makes their history all the more interesting and gives unlimited scope for speculation.
Arizona is a land that is full of history as well as mystery and invites investigation. It has a fascination that every one feels who crosses its border. Paradoxical as it may seem it is both the oldest and newest portion of our country—the oldest in ancient occupation and civilization and the newest in modern progress. In natural wonders it boasts of the Grand Canon of Arizona, the painted desert, petrified forest, meteorite mountain, natural bridge, Montezuma's well and many other marvels of nature. There are also ruins galore, the cave and cliff dwellings, crumbled pueblos, extensive acequias, painted rocks, the casa grande and old Spanish missions. Anyone who is in search of the old and curious, need not go to foreign lands, but can find right here at home in Arizona and the southwest, a greater number and variety of curiosities than can be found in the same space anywhere else upon the globe.
Arizona is a land of strong contrasts and constant surprises, where unusual conditions prevail and the unexpected frequently happens.
From the high Colorado plateau of northern Arizona the land slopes toward the southwest to the Gulf of California. Across this long slope of several hundred miles in width, numerous mountain ranges stretch from the northwest to the southeast. Through the middle of the Territory from east to west, flows the Gila river to its confluence with the Colorado. This stream marks the dividing line between the mountains which descend from the north and those that extend south, which increase in altitude and extent until they culminate in the grand Sierra Madres of Mexico.
The traveler in passing through the country never gets entirely out of the sight of mountains. They rise up all about him and bound the horizon near and far in every direction. In riding along he always seems to be approaching some distant mountain barrier that ever recedes before him as he advances. He is never clear of the encircling mountains for, as often as he passes out of one enclosure through a gap in the mountains, he finds himself hemmed in again by a new one. The peculiarity of always being in the midst of mountains and yet never completely surrounded, is due to an arrangement of dovetailing or overlapping in their formation. His winding way leads him across barren wastes, through fertile valleys, among rolling hills and into sheltered parks, which combine an endless variety of attractive scenery.
An Arizona landscape, though mostly of a desert type, is yet full of interest to the lover of nature. It presents a strangely fascinating view, that once seen, will never be forgotten. It stirs a rapture in the soul that only nature can inspire.
Looking out from some commanding eminence, a wide spreading and diversified landscape is presented to view. Though hard and rugged, the picture, as seen at a distance, looks soft and smooth and its details of form and color make an absorbing study.
The eye is quick to note the different hues that appear in the field of vision and readily selects five predominating colors, namely, gray, green, brown, purple and blue, which mingle harmoniously in various combinations with almost every other color that is known. The most brilliant lights, sombre shadows, exquisite tints and delicate tones are seen which, if put on canvas and judged by the ordinary, would be pronounced exaggerated and impossible by those unfamiliar with the original.
The prevailing color is gray, made by the dry grass and sandy soil, and extends in every direction to the limit of vision. The gramma grass of the and region grows quickly and turns gray instead of brown, as grasses usually do when they mature. It gives to the landscape a subdued and quiet color, which is pleasing to the eye and makes the ideal background in a picture.
Into this warp of gray is woven a woof of green, spreading in irregular patches in all directions. It is made by the chaparral, which is composed of a variety of desert plants that are native to the soil and can live on very little water. It consists of live oak, pinion, mesquite, desert willow, greasewood, sage brush, palmilla, maguey, yucca and cacti and is mostly evergreen.
The admixture of gray and green prevails throughout the year except during the summer rainy season, when, if the rains are abundant, the gray disappears almost entirely, and the young grass springs up as by magic, covering the whole country with a carpet of living green. In the midst of the billowy grass myriads of wild flowers bloom, and stand single or shoulder to shoulder in masses of solid color by the acre.
Upon the far mountains is seen the sombre brown in the bare rocks. The whole region was at one time violently disturbed by seismic force and the glow of its quenched fires has even yet scarcely faded away. Large masses of igneous rocks and broad streams of vitrified lava bear mute testimony of the change, when, by some mighty subterranean force, the tumultuous sea was rolled back from its pristine bed and, in its stead, lofty mountains lifted their bald beads above the surrounding desolation, and stand to-day as they have stood in massive grandeur ever since the ancient days of their upheaval. Rugged and bleak they tower high, or take the form of pillar, spire and dome, in some seemingly well-constructed edifice erected by the hand of man. But the mountains are not all barren. Vast areas of fertile soil flank the bare rocks where vegetation has taken root, and large fields of forage and extensive forests of oak and pine add value and beauty to the land.
The atmosphere is a striking feature of the country that is as pleasing to the eye as it is invigorating to the body. Over all the landscape hangs a veil of soft, purple haze that is bewitching. It gives to the scene a mysterious, subtle something that is exquisite and holds the senses in a magic spell of enchantment.
Distance also is deceptive and cannot be estimated as under other skies. The far-off mountains are brought near and made to glow in a halo of mellow light. Manifold ocular illusions appear in the mirage and deceive the uninitiated. An indefinable dreamy something steals over the senses and enthralls the soul.
Arching heaven's high dome is a sky of intense blue that looks so wonderfully clear and deep that even far-famed Italy cannot surpass it. The nights are invariably clear and the moon and stars appear unusually bright. The air is so pure that the stars seem to be advanced in magnitude and can be seen quite low down upon the horizon.
The changing lights that flash in the sky transform both the sunrise and sunset into marvels of beauty. In the mellow afterglow of the sunset, on the western sky, stream long banners of light, and fleecy clouds of gold melt away and fade in the twilight.
At midday in the hazy distance, moving slowly down the valley, can be seen spiral columns of dust that resemble pillars of smoke. They ascend perpendicularly, incline like Pisa's leaning tower, or are beat at various angles, but always retaining the columnar form. They rise to great heights and vanish in space. These spectral forms are caused by small local whirlwinds when the air is otherwise calm, and are, apparently, without purpose, unless they are intended merely to amuse the casual observer.
A cloudy day is rare and does not necessarily signify rain. Usually the clouds are of the cumulus variety and roll leisurely by in billowy masses. Being in a droughty land the clouds always attract attention viewed either from an artistic or utilitarian standpoint. When out on parade they float lazily across the sky, casting their moving shadows below. The figures resemble a mammoth pattern of crazy patchwork in a state of evolution spread out for inspection.
The impression that is made while looking out upon such a scene is that of deep silence. Everything is hushed and still; but, by listening attentively, the number of faint sounds that reach the ear in an undertone is surprising. The soft soughing of the wind in the trees; the gentle rustle of the grass as it is swayed by the passing breeze; the musical ripple of water as it gurgles from the spring; the piping of the quail as it calls to its mate; the twitter of little birds flitting from bush to bough; the chirp of the cricket and drone of the beetle are among the sounds that are heard and fall soothingly upon the ear.
The trees growing upon the hillside bear a striking resemblance to an old orchard and are a reminder of home where in childhood the hand delighted to pluck luscious fruit from drooping boughs. A walk among the trees makes it easy to imagine that you are in some such familiar but neglected haunt, and instinctively you look about expecting to see the old house that was once called home and hear the welcome voice and footfall of cherished memory. It is no little disappointment to be roused from such a reverie to find the resemblance only a delusion and the spot deserted. Forsaken as it has been for many years by the native savage Indians and prowling wild beasts, the land waits in silence and patience the coming of the husbandman.
MY FIRST TRIP TO ARIZONA
I recall with vivid distinctness my first trip to Arizona and introduction to ranch life in the spring of 1884. The experience made a deep impression and has led me to repeat the visit many times since then, with increased interest and pleasure.
During the previous year my brother located a cattle ranch for us in Railroad Pass in southeastern Arizona. The gap is one of a series of natural depressions in a succession of mountain chains on the thirty-second parallel route, all the way from New Orleans to San Francisco over a distance of nearly twenty-five hundred miles. The Southern Pacific Railroad is built upon this route and has the easiest grade of any transcontinental line.
Railroad Pass is a wide break between two mountain ranges and is a fine grazing section. It is handsomely bounded and presents a magnificent view. To the north are the Pinaleno mountains, with towering Mt. Graham in their midst, that are nearly eleven thousand feet high and lie dark in the shadows of their dense pine forests. Far to the south rise the rugged Chiricahuas, and nearby stands bald Dos Cabezas, whose giant double head of granite can be seen as a conspicuous landmark over a wide scope of country. The distance across the Pass as the crow flies is, perhaps, fifty miles. Beyond these peaks other mountains rise in majestic grandeur and bound the horizon in every direction.
At the time that the ranch was located the Pass country was considered uninhabitable because of the scarcity of water and the presence of hostile Indians. No permanent spring nor stream of water was known to exist in that whole region, but fine gramma grass grew everywhere. Its suitability as a cattle range was recognized and caused it to be thoroughly prospected for water, which resulted in the discovery of several hidden springs. All of the springs found, but one, were insignificant and either soon went dry or fluctuated with the seasons; but the big spring, known as Pinaleno, was worth finding, and flows a constant stream of pure, soft water that fills a four-inch iron pipe.
When the spring was discovered not a drop of water was visible upon the surface, and a patch of willows was the only indication of concealed moisture. By sinking a shallow well only a few feet deep among the willows, water was struck as it flowed through coarse gravel over a buried ledge of rock that forced the water up nearly to the surface only to sink again in the sand without being seen. A ditch was dug to the well from below and an iron pipe laid in the trench, through which the water is conducted into a reservoir that supplies the water troughs.
Again, when the ranch was opened the Indians were bad in the vicinity and had been actively hostile for some time. The ranch is on a part of the old Chiricahua reservation that was once the home and hunting grounds of the tribe of Chiricahua Apaches, the most bold and warlike of all the southwest Indians. Cochise was their greatest warrior, but he was only one among many able Apache chieftains. He was at one time the friend of the white man, but treachery aroused his hatred and caused him to seek revenge on every white man that crossed his path.
His favorite haunt was Apache Pass, a convenient spot that was favorable for concealment, where he lay in wait for weary travelers who passed that way in search of water and a pleasant camp ground. If attacked by a superior force, as sometimes happened, he invariably retreated across the Sulphur Spring valley into his stronghold in the Dragoon mountains.
Because of the many atrocities that were committed by the Indians, white men were afraid to go into that country to settle. Even as late as in the early eighties when that prince of rascals, the wily Geronimo, made his bloody raids through southern Arizona, the men who did venture in and located ranch and mining claims, lived in daily peril of their lives which, in not a few instances, were paid as a forfeit to their daring.
The Butterfield stage and all other overland travel to California by the southern route before the railroads were built, went through Apache Pass. Although it was the worst Indian infested section in the southwest, travelers chose that dangerous route in preference to any other for the sake of the water that they knew could always be found there.
The reputation of Apache Pass, finally became so notoriously bad because of the many murders committed that the Government, late in the sixties, built and garrisoned Ft. Bowie for the protection of travelers and settlers. The troops stationed at the post endured much hardship and fought many bloody battles before the Indians were conquered. Many soldiers were killed and buried in a little graveyard near the fort. When the fort was abandoned a few years ago, their bodies were disinterred and removed to the National cemetery at Washington.
Railroad Pass is naturally a better wagon road than Apache Pass, but is without water. It was named by Lieut. J. G. Parke in 1855 while engaged in surveying for the Pacific Railroad, because of its easy grade and facility for railroad construction.
I timed my visit to correspond with the arrival at Bowie station on the Southern Pacific Railroad, of a consignment of ranch goods that had been shipped from St. Louis. I was met at the depot by the ranch force, who immediately proceeded to initiate me as a tenderfoot. I inquired of one of the cowboys how far it was to a near-by mountain. He gave a quien sabe shrug of the shoulder and answered me in Yankee fashion by asking how far I thought it was. Estimating the distance as in a prairie country I replied, "Oh, about a mile." He laughed and said that the mountain was fully five miles distant by actual measurement. I had unwittingly taken my first lesson in plainscraft and prudently refrained thereafter from making another sure guess.
The deception was due to the rarefied atmosphere, which is peculiar to the arid region. It not only deceives the eye as to distance, but also as to motion. If the eye is steadily fixed upon some distant inanimate object, it seems to move in the tremulous light as if possessed of life, and it is not always easy to be convinced to the contrary. However, by putting the object under inspection in line with some further object, it can readily be determined whether the object is animate or still by its remaining on or moving off the line.
Another peculiarity of the country is that objects do not always seem to stand square with the world. In approaching a mountain and moving on an up grade the plane of incline is suddenly reversed and gives the appearance and sensation of going downhill. In some inexplicable manner sense and reason seem to conflict and the discovery of the disturbed relation of things is startling. You know very well that the mountain ahead is above you, but it has the appearance of standing below you in a hollow; and the water in the brook at your feet, which runs down the mountain into the valley, seems to be running uphill. By turning squarely about and looking backwards, the misplaced objects become righted, and produces much the same sensation that a man feels who is lost and suddenly finds himself again.
We immediately prepared to drive out to the ranch, which was ten miles distant and reached by a road that skirted the Dos Cabezas mountains. The new wagon was set up and put in running order and lightly loaded with supplies. All of the preliminaries being completed, the horses were harnessed and hooked to the wagon. The driver mounted his seat, drew rein and cracked his whip, but we didn't go. The horses were only accustomed to the saddle and knew nothing about pulling in harness. Sam was a condemned cavalry horse and Box was a native bronco, and being hitched to a wagon was a new experience to both. The start was unpropitious, but, acting on the old adage that "necessity is the mother of invention," which truth is nowhere better exemplified than on the frontier where conveniences are few and the most must be made of everything, after some delay and considerable maneuvering we finally got started.
The road for some distance out was level and smooth and our progress satisfactory. As we drove leisurely along I improved the opportunity to look about and see the sights. It was a perfect day in April and there never was a brighter sky nor balmier air than beamed and breathed upon us. The air was soft and tremulous with a magical light that produced startling phantasmagoric effects.
It was my first sight of a mirage and it naturally excited my curiosity. It seemed as if a forest had suddenly sprung up in the San Simon valley where just before had appeared only bare ground. With every change in the angle of vision as we journeyed on, there occurred a corresponding change in the scene before us that produced a charming kaleidoscopic effect. The rough mountain was transformed into a symmetrical city and the dry valley into a lake of sparkling water,—all seeming to be the work of magic in some fairyland of enchantment.
In a ledge of granite rock by the wayside were cut a number of round holes which the Indians had made and used as mills for grinding their corn and seeds into meal. Nearby also, were some mescal pits used for baking the agave, a native plant that is in great demand as food by the Indians. The spot was evidently an old rendezvous where the marauding Apaches were accustomed to meet in council to plan their bloody raids, and to feast on mescal and pinole in honor of some successful foray or victory over an enemy.
We next crossed several well-worn Indian trails which the Apaches had made by many years of travel to and fro between their rancherias in the Mogollon mountains and Mexico. The sight of these trails brought us back to real life and a conscious sense of danger, for were we not in an enemy's country and in the midst of hostile Indians? Nearly every mile of road traveled had been at some time in the past the scene of a bloody tragedy enacted by a savage foe. Even at that very time the Apaches were out on the warpath murdering people, but fortunately we did not meet them and escaped unmolested.
The road now crossed a low hill, which was the signal for more trouble. The team started bravely up the incline, but soon stopped and then balked and all urging with whip and voice failed to make any impression. After several ineffectual attempts to proceed it was decided not to waste any more time in futile efforts. The horses were unhitched and the wagon partly unloaded, when all hands by a united pull and push succeeded in getting the wagon up the hill. After reloading no difficulty was experienced in making a fresh start on a down grade, but a little farther on a second and larger hill was encountered, when the failure to scale its summit was even greater than the first. No amount of coaxing or urging budged the horses an inch. They simply were stubborn and would not pull.
Night was approaching and camp was yet some distance ahead. The driver suggested that the best thing to do under the circumstances was for the rest of us to take the led horses and ride on to camp, while he would remain with the wagon and, if necessary, camp out all night. We reluctantly took his advice, mounted our horses and finished our journey in the twilight. Aaron, who was housekeeper at the ranch, gave us a hearty welcome and invited us to sit down to a bountiful supper which he had prepared in anticipation of our coming. Feeling weary after our ride we retired early and were soon sound asleep. The only thing that disturbed our slumbers during the night was a coyote concert which, as a "concord of sweet sounds was a dismal failure" but as a medley of discordant sounds was a decided success. The bark of the coyote is particularly shrill and sharp and a single coyote when in full cry sounds like a chorus of howling curs.
We were all up and out early the next morning to witness the birth of a new day. The sunrise was glorious, and bright colors in many hues flashed across the sky. The valley echoed with the cheerful notes of the mocking bird and the soft air was filled with the fragrance of wild flowers. The scene was grandly inspiring and sent a thrill of pleasure through every nerve.
While thus absorbed by the beauties of nature we heard an halloo, and looking down the road in the direction of the driver's bivouac we saw him coming swinging his hat in the air and driving at a rapid pace that soon brought him to the ranch house. In answer to our inquiries as to how he had spent the night he reported that the horses stood quietly in their tracks all night long, while he slept comfortably in the wagon. In the morning the horses started without undue urging as if tired of inaction and glad to go in the direction of provender. They were completely broken by their fast and after that gave no further trouble.
After a stay of four weeks, learning something of the ways of ranch life and experiencing not a few exciting adventures, I returned home feeling well pleased with my first trip to the ranch.
THE OPEN RANGE
Arizona is in the arid belt and well adapted to the range cattle industry. Its mild climate and limited water supply make it the ideal range country. Indeed, to the single factor of its limited water supply, perhaps, more than anything else is its value due as an open range. If water was abundant there could be no open range as then the land would all be farmed and fenced.
Arizona is sometimes spoken of as belonging to the plains, but it is not a prairie country. Mountains are everywhere, but are separated in many places by wide valleys. The mountains not only make fine scenery, but are natural boundaries for the ranches and give shade and shelter to the cattle.
There are no severe storms nor blizzard swept plains where cattle drift and perish from cold. The weather is never extremely cold, the mercury seldom falling to more than a few degrees below freezing, except upon the high plateaus and mountains of northern Arizona. If it freezes during the night the frost usually disappears the next day; and, if snow flies, it lies only on the mountains, but melts as fast as it falls in the valleys. There are but few cloudy or stormy days in the year and bright, warm sunshine generally prevails. There has never been any loss of cattle from cold, but many have died from drought as a result of overstocking the range.
The pastures consist of valley, mesa and mountain lands which, in a normal season, are covered by a variety of nutritious grasses. Of all the native forage plants the gramma grass is the most abundant and best. It grows only in the summer rainy season when, if the rains are copious, the gray desert is converted into a vast green meadow.
The annual rainfall is comparatively light and insufficient to grow and mature with certainty any of the cereal crops. When the summer rains begin to fall the rancher is "jubilant" and the "old cow smiles." Rain means even more to the ranchman than it does to the farmer. In an agricultural country it is expected that rain or snow will fall during every month of the year, but on the range rain is expected only in certain months and, if it fails to fall then, it means failure, in a measure, for the entire year.
Rain is very uncertain in Arizona. July and August are the rain months during which time the gramma grass grows. Unless the rain falls daily after it begins it does but little good, as frequent showers are required to keep the grass growing after it once starts. A settled rain of one or more days' duration is of rare occurrence. During the rainy season and, in fact, at all times, the mornings are usually clear. In the forenoon the clouds begin to gather and pile up in dark billowy masses that end in showers during the afternoon and evening. But not every rain cloud brings rain. Clouds of this character often look very threatening, but all their display of thunder and lightning is only bluff and bluster and ends in a fizzle with no rain. After such a demonstration the clouds either bring wind and a disagreeable dust storm, or, if a little rain starts to fall, the air is so dry that it evaporates in mid air, and none of it ever reaches the earth. In this fashion the clouds often threaten to do great things, only to break their promise; and the anxious rancher stands and gazes at the sky with longing eyes, only to be disappointed again and again.
As a rule water is scarce. A long procession of cloudless days merge into weeks of dry weather; and the weeks glide into months during which time the brazen sky refuses to yield one drop of moisture either of dew or rain to the parched and thirsty earth. Even the rainy season is not altogether reliable, but varies considerably one year with another in the time of its appearance and continuance.
The soil is sandy and porous and readily absorbs water, except where the earth is tramped and packed hard by the cattle. One peculiarity of the country as found marked upon the maps, and that exists in fact, is the diminution and often complete disappearance of a stream after it leaves the mountains. If not wholly lost upon entering the valley the water soon sinks out of sight in the sand and disappears and reappears at irregular intervals, until it loses itself entirely in some underground channel and is seen no more.
Many a pleasant valley in the range country is made desolate by being destitute of any surface spring or running brook, or water that can be found at any depth. Occasionally a hidden fountain is struck by digging, but it is only by the merest chance. Wells have been dug to great depths in perfectly dry ground in an eager search for water without finding it, and such an experience is usually equivalent to a failure and the making of a useless bill of expense.
A never-failing spring of good water in sufficient quantity to supply the needs of a ranch in the range country is of rare occurrence, considering the large territory to be supplied. Only here and there at long intervals is such a spring found, and it is always a desirable and valuable property. It makes an oasis in the desert that is an agreeable change from the surrounding barrenness, and furnishes its owner, if properly utilized, a comfortable subsistence for himself and herds. His fields produce without fail and the increase of his flocks and herds is sure.
The isolated rancher who is well located is independent. He is in no danger of being crowded by his neighbors nor his range becoming over stocked with stray cattle. His water right gives him undisputed control of the adjacent range, even though he does not own all the land, which is an unwritten law of the range and respected by all cattlemen.
Because of the scarcity of water the range country is sparsely settled and always will be until more water is provided by artificial means for irrigation. Even then a large portion of the land will be worthless for any other purpose than grazing, and stock-growing on the open range in Arizona will continue to be a staple industry in the future as it has been in the past.
The range is practically all occupied and, in many places, is already over stocked. Where more cattle are run on a range than its grass and water can support there is bound to be some loss. In stocking a range an estimate should be made of its carrying capacity in a bad year rather than in a good one, as no range can safely carry more cattle than it can support in the poorest year; like a chain, it is no stronger than its weakest link.
A good range is sometimes destroyed by the prairie dog. Wherever he establishes a colony the grass soon disappears. He burrows in the ground and a group of such holes is called a dog town. Like the jack-rabbit he can live without water and is thus able to keep his hold on the desert. The only way to get rid of him is to kill him, which is usually done by the wholesale with poison. His flesh is fine eating, which the Navajo knows if the white man does not. The Navajo considers him a dainty morsel which is particularly relished by the sick. If a patient can afford the price, he can usually procure a prairie dog in exchange for two sheep.
The Navajo is an adept at capturing this little animal. The hunter places a small looking-glass near the hole and, in concealment near by, he patiently awaits developments. When the prairie dog comes out of his hole to take an airing he immediately sees his reflection in the glass and takes it for an intruder. In an instant he is ready for a fight and pounces upon his supposed enemy to kill or drive him away. While the prairie dog is thus engaged wrestling with his shadow or reflection the hunter shoots him at close range with his bow and arrow—never with a gun, for if wounded by a bullet he is sure to drop into his hole and is lost, but the arrow transfixes his body and prevents him from getting away. He has been hunted so much in the Navajo country that he has become very scarce.
Much of the ranch country in southern Arizona is destitute of trees, and shade, therefore, is scarce. Upon the high mountains and plateaus of northern Arizona there are great forests of pine and plenty of shade. But few cattle range there in comparison to the large numbers that graze on the lower levels further south. What little tree growth there is on the desert is stunted and supplies but scant shade. In the canons some large cottonwood, sycamore and walnut trees can be found; upon the foot hills the live oak and still higher up the mountain the pine. Cattle always seek the shade and if there are no trees they will lie down in the shade of a bush or anything that casts a shadow. The cattle are so eager for shade that if they can find nothing better they will crowd into the narrow ribbon of shade that is cast by a columnar cactus or telegraph pole and seem to be satisfied with ever so little if only shade is touched.
Twenty years ago before there were many cattle on the southwestern range, the gramma grass stood knee high everywhere all over that country and seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of feed for an unlimited number of cattle during an indefinite term of years. It was not many years, however, after the large herds were turned loose on the range until the grass was all gone and the ground, except in a few favored spots, left nearly as bare of grass as the traveled road. At the present time whatever grass there is must grow each year which, even in a favorable year, is never heavy. If the summer rains fail, no grass whatever can grow and the cattle are without feed. The grass about the springs and water holes is first to disappear and then the cattle must go farther and farther from water to find any grass. When cattle are compelled to travel over long distances in going from grass to water, they naturally grow thin from insufficient food and are worn out by the repeated long journeys. A cow that is thin and weak will postpone making the trip as long as possible—two, three and even four days in the hottest weather she will wait before attempting the trip. At last, when the poor creature reaches water, she is so famished from thirst that she drinks too much. In her feeble condition she is unable to carry the enormous load of water which she drinks and lies down by the side of the friendly water trough to die from exhaustion.
If cattle are turned loose upon a new range they act strange and are inclined to scatter. Until they become accustomed to the change they should be close herded, but after they are once located they are not liable to stray very far.
As they are only worked by men on horseback they are not frightened at the sight of a horse and rider; but let a stranger approach them on foot, in a moment after he is sighted every head is raised in surprise and alarm and the pedestrian is, indeed, fortunate if the herd turns tail and scampers off instead of running him down and tramping him under foot in a wild stampede.
Nowhere else can be found a finer sight than is witnessed in the range country. In every direction broad meadows stretch away to the horizon where numberless cattle roam and are the embodiment of bovine happiness and contentment. Scattered about in irregular groups they are seen at ease lying down or feeding, and frisking about in an overflow of exuberant life. Cow paths or trails converge from every point of the compass, that lead to springs and water holes, on which the cattle travel.
It is an interesting sight to watch the cattle maneuver as they form in line, single file, ready for the march. They move forward in an easy, deliberate walk one behind the other and may be seen coming and going in every direction. They make their trips with great regularity back and forth from grass to water, and vice versa, going to water in the morning and back to the feeding grounds at night.
Cows have a curious fashion, sometimes, of hiding out their calves. When a cow with a young calf starts for water she invariably hides her calf in a bunch of grass or clump of bushes in some secluded spot, where it lies down and remains perfectly quiet until the mother returns. I have many times while riding the range found calves thus secreted that could scarcely be aroused or frightened away, which behavior was so different from their usual habit of being shy and running off at the slightest provocation. The calf under such circumstances seems to understand that it is "not at home," and cannot be seen.
At another time a lot of calves are left in charge of a young cow or heifer that seems to understand her responsibility and guards her charge carefully. The young calves are too weak to make the long trip to water and thus, through the maternal instinct of the mother cow, she provides for the care of her offspring almost as if she were human.
After viewing such a large pasture as the open range presents, which is limitless in extent, the small fenced field or pasture lot of a few acres on the old home farm back east, that looked so large to boyish eyes in years gone by, dwindles by comparison into insignificance and can never again be restored to its former greatness.
 This statement is made on the authority of Mr. F. W. Volz, who lives at Canon Diablo, and is familiar with the customs of the Navajos.
Ranch life on the open range may be somewhat wild and lonely, but it is as free and independent to the rancher as it is to his unfettered cattle that roam at will over a thousand hills. As a place of residence for a family of women and children it is undesirable because of its isolation and lack of social and educational privileges; but for a man who cares to "rough it" it has a rare fascination. Its freedom may mean lonesomeness and its independence monotony, yet it is very enjoyable for a season. Like anything else it may become wearing and wearisome if continued too long without a change, but its novelty has a charm that is irresistible.
Ranch life is untrammeled by social conventionalities and is not burdened by business cares, but is an easy, natural life that is free from all kinds of pressure. It relieves the tension of an artificial existence, and worry and vexation are forgotten. Time loses its rapid flight and once more jogs on at an easy pace; and its complete isolation and quiet gives nature a chance to rest and recuperate
"Away from the dwellings of careworn men."
The environment of ranch life is highly conducive to good health. The scenery is delightful, the air pure and bracing, the food wholesome and nutritious, the couch comfortable and the sleep refreshing. Walking and riding furnish the necessary exercise that nature demands. Indeed, there is no better exercise to be found than riding horseback to stimulate sluggish organs, or excite to healthy action the bodily functions. It stirs the liver, causes deep breathing, strengthens the heart and circulation, tones the nerves and makes an appetite that waits on good digestion. An outdoor life is often better than medicine and is a panacea for the "ills that human flesh is heir to."
The ranchman, if he is in tune with his surroundings, finds a never-failing spring of pleasure. If he is company for himself he is well entertained and if he is a lover of nature he finds interesting subjects for study upon every hand. His wants are few and simple and the free life that he lives develops in him a strong and sturdy manhood. He is the picture of health and is happy and contented as the day is long.
However, such a life does not suit everyone, as individual tastes differ. Prejudice also exerts an influence and is apt to estimate all western life as crude and undesirable, being in a transition state of change from savagery to civilization. Be it even so; for, if the savage had never existed to furnish the ancestry that civilized man boasts, civilization would not have been possible. It is only natural that this should be so as, in the order of nature, evolution begins at the bottom and works up.
There is perhaps no condition in life that can be called perfect, yet of the two extremes we choose to believe that civilization is preferable to barbarism; but an intermediate state has the advantage over both extremes by avoiding native crudeness upon the one hand and excessive refinement upon the other, both being equally undesirable.
Happiness, which we all profess to seek, exists in some degree everywhere but we are always striving to acquire something more. In our constant struggle for improvement, progress undoubtedly is made in the right direction. With refinement comes increased sensibility and an enlarged capacity for enjoyment. But, such a state in itself is not one of unalloyed bliss, as might be supposed, since it is marred by its antithesis, an increased amount of sickness and suffering, which is the inevitable penalty of civilization. In such a progression the pleasures of life become more, but the acuteness of suffering is also increased. The mistake lies in the fact that in our eager pursuit after the artificial we forget nature and not until we acquire a surfeit of that which is artificial and grow weary of the shams and deceits of the world do we stop and think or turn again to nature to find the truth.
In the early days the frontier was the rendezvous for rough and lawless characters of every description. That time has gone by never to return in the history of the nation, as the rustlers have either reformed and become good citizens or long ago left the country by the lead or hemp routes. The change in the times has been such that never again will it be possible to return to the conditions that existed in the early settlement of the west which gave to desperadoes a safe hiding place.
The people now living on what is left of the frontier will, as a class, compare favorably with those of any other community. There may be small surface polish, as the world goes, but there is much genuine gold of true character that needs only a little rubbing to make it shine.
The population being sparse there is comparatively little opportunity or inclination for wrongdoing. Whatever anybody does is noticed at once and everything that happens is immediately found out. The favorite haunt of vice and crime is not in a sparsely settled community, public opinion to the contrary notwithstanding, but in the centers of population, in, our large cities where temptation to do evil is strong and dark deeds find ready concealment in the mingling and confusion of the throng.
The ranchman deserves to be correctly judged by his true character and not by any false standard that is artfully designed to misrepresent him or to unjustly bring him into contempt. He may have a rough exterior, not intending to pose in a model fashion plate, but in real life where he is tried there is found under his coarse garb a heart that is honest and true which responds with sympathy and kindness for anyone in distress; and his generosity and hospitality are proverbial and stand without a rival. Men from every position in life, including college graduates and professional men, are engaged in ranching and whoever takes them to be a lot of toughs and ignoramuses is egregiously mistaken.
The strength, virtue and intelligence of the nation is found in its large middle class of laboring people that is largely composed of farmers and mechanics, men who work with their hands and live natural lives and are so busy in some useful occupation that they have no time to think of mischief. In this favored land of freedom all of our great men have been of the common people and struggled up from some humble position. A life of toil may seem to be hard, but it conforms to nature and natural laws and favors the development of the best that is in man; and he who shirks toil misses his opportunity. Whatever tends to wean men from work only weakens them. Luxury and indolence travel on the downward road of degeneracy. They may make pleasant temporary indulgence, but are fatal to ultimate success.
Locomotion on a ranch consists almost entirely of horseback riding as walking is too slow and tiresome and wheeled conveyance is often inconvenient or impossible for cross-country driving. When the ranchman mounts his horse in the morning to make his daily rounds he has a clear field before him. He is "monarch of all he surveys" and practically owns the earth, since his neighbors live many miles away and his road leads in any direction clear to the horizon.
The average ranch is not intended to furnish luxuries, but to serve the best interests of the business in hand, that of growing cattle. It is usually a "stag camp" composed entirely of men who occupy a rude cabin near some convenient spring or stream of water, where they keep house in ranch style and live after a fashion. No money is ever expended in unnecessary improvements, but every dollar spent in repairs is put where it will do the most good. The house furnishings are all of the plainest kind and intended to meet only present necessities. The larder is not supplied with luxuries nor is the cuisine prolific of dainties, but there is always on hand a supply of the necessaries of life.
Every man has his particular work to perform, but unless it be on some large ranch where the force of men employed is sufficiently large to require the services of a chef, he is also expected to assist in keeping house. It is an unwritten law of the ranch that everybody on the place must share in this work and if anyone shirks his duty he must either promptly mend his ways or else quit his job. It is seldom, however, that this rule has to be enforced, as the necessities of the case require that every man shall be able to prepare a meal as he is liable to be left alone for days or weeks at a time when he must either cook or starve.
The equipment of the cowboy is his horse and reata. They are his constant companions and serve his every purpose. His work includes much hard riding, which he greatly enjoys if no accident befalls him. But dashing on in heedless speed while rounding up cattle he is ever liable to mishaps, as his horse, although sure footed, may at any time step into a prairie dogs' hole or stumble on a loose rock that is liable to throw both horse and rider to the ground in a heap. He is, indeed, fortunate if he escapes unhurt, or only receives a few bruises and not a fractured bone or broken neck.
His work consists in riding over the range and marking the condition of the cattle; line riding to prevent the stock from straying; looking after the springs and water holes and keeping them clean; branding calves, gathering steers for market and assisting in the general work of the round-up. Every day has its duty and every season its particular work, yet there are times of considerable leisure during the year. After his day's work is done he repairs to the ranch house, or to some outlying camp, whichever happens to be nearest when night overtakes him, for every large ranch has one or more such camps posted at some convenient point that furnishes temporary shelter and refreshment, where he rests and eats his frugal meal with a relish that only health and rough riding can give.
If he is at the home ranch in winter he spends the long evenings before an open hearth fire of blazing logs and by the light of the fire and the doubtful aid of a tallow dip lounges the hours away in reading and cogitation; or, if in the company of congenial companions, engages in conversation and pleasantry or any amusement that the party may select. At an early hour he turns in for the night and after a sound and refreshing sleep is up and out with the dawn. After breakfast he mounts his horse and in his striking and characteristic costume of broad sombrero, blue flannel shirt, fringed chaperejos and jingling spurs he rides forth to his work a perfect type of the gallant caballero.
In the range cattle business it is important for every owner of live stock to have some mark by which he can tell his own cattle. It is impossible for any man to remember and recognize by natural marks every animal in a large herd. On the open range there are no fenced pastures to hold the cattle, but all are permitted to run free and mix promiscuously. To distinguish the cattle of different owners a system of earmarks and brands has been devised by which each ranchman can identify and claim his own stock.
The branding is usually done during a round-up when every calf found is caught and branded in the brand of its mother. If a calf remains unbranded until after it is weaned and quits its mother, it becomes a maverick and is liable to be lost to its owner. A calf, if left to itself, will follow its mother for several months and then leave her to seek its own living. Occasionally a calf does not become weaned when it should be, but continues the baby habit indefinitely. If a yearling is found unweaned it is caught and "blabbed" which is done by fitting a peculiarly shaped piece of wood into its nose that prevents it from sucking but does not interfere with feeding.
If a calf loses its mother while very young it is called a "leppy." Such an orphan calf is, indeed, a forlorn and forsaken little creature. Having no one to care for it, it has a hard time to make a living. If it is smart enough to share the lacteal ration of some more fortunate calf it does very well, but if it cannot do so and has to depend entirely on grazing for a living its life becomes precarious and is apt to be sacrificed in the "struggle for the survival of the fittest."
If it survives the ordeal and lives it bears the same relation to the herd as the maverick and has no lawful owner until it is branded. If an unbranded calf has left or lost its mother it has lost its identity as well and finds it again only after being branded, although it may have swapped owners in the process. Theoretically, a maverick belongs to the owner of the range on which it runs, but, practically, it becomes the property of the man who first finds and brands it.
Although the branding is supposed to be done only during a round-up there is nevertheless some branding done in every month of the year. The ranchman is compelled to do so to save his calves from being stolen. Therefore early branding is generally practiced as it has been found to be the best safeguard against theft. Either the spring or fall is considered a good time to brand, but the only best time to brand a calf is when you find it.
Dishonest men are found in the cattle business the same as in other occupations and every year a large number of cattle are misappropriated and stolen from the range. Cattle have been stolen by the wholesale and large herds run off and illegally sold before the owner discovered his loss. Calf stealing, however, happens more frequently than the stealing of grown cattle and many ingenious devices have been invented to make such stealing a success. A common practice is to "sleeper" a calf by a partial earmark and a shallow brand that only singes the hair but does not burn deep enough to leave a permanent scar. If the calf is not discovered as an imperfect or irregular brand and becomes a maverick, it is kept under surveillance by the thief until he considers it safe to finish the job when he catches it again and brands it with his own iron.
Different methods are employed to win a calf and fit it for unlawful branding. Sometimes the calf is caught and staked out in some secluded spot where it is not liable to be found and away from its mother until it is nearly starved when it is branded by the thief and turned loose; or, the calf's tongue is split so that it cannot suck and by the time that the wounded tongue has healed the calf has lost its mother, and the thief brands it for himself. Again, the mother cow is shot and killed, when the orphan calf is branded in perfect safety as "the dead tell no tales."
The owner of cattle on the open range must be constantly on his guard against losses by theft. Usually the thief is a dishonest neighbor or one of his own cowboys who becomes thrifty at his employer's expense. Many a herd of cattle was begun without a single cow, but was started by branding surreptitiously other people's property. It is not an easy matter to detect such a thief or to convict on evidence when he is arrested and brought to trial. A cattle thief seldom works alone, but associates himself with others of his kind who will perjure themselves to swear each other clear.
The cow ponies that are used in range work are small but active and possessed of great power of endurance. They are the descendants of the horses that were brought into Mexico by the Spaniards, some of which escaped into the wilderness and their increase became the wild horses of the plains. They are known by the various names of mustang, bronco and cayuse according to the local vernacular of the country in which they roam. They are wild and hard to conquer and are sometimes never fully broken even under the severest treatment. Bucking and pitching are their peculiar tricks for throwing a rider and such an experience invariably ends in discomfort if not discomfiture, for if the rider is not unhorsed he at least receives a severe shaking up in the saddle.
The native cattle, like the horses, are small and wild, but are hardy and make good rustlers. The native stock has been greatly improved in recent years by cross breeding with thoroughbred Durham and Hereford bulls. Grade cattle are better suited for the open range than are pure bred animals, which are more tender and fare better in fenced pastures. By cross breeding the quality of range cattle has steadily improved until the scrub element has been almost bred out.
As a breeding ground Arizona is unsurpassed, but for maturing beef cattle the northern country is preferable. Thousands of young cattle are shipped out annually to stock the ranges of Wyoming and Montana and to fill the feed lots of Kansas, Missouri and other feeding states. A dash of native blood in range cattle is desirable as it enables them to endure hardships without injury and find subsistence in seasons of drought and scant forage.
The general round-up occurs in the fall, just after the summer rains, when there is plenty of grass and the horses and cattle are in good condition. The ranchmen of a neighborhood meet at an appointed time and place and organize for systematic work. A captain is chosen who is in command of the round-up and must be obeyed. Each cowboy has his own string of horses, but all of the horses of the round-up not in use are turned out to graze and herd together. A mess wagon and team of horses in charge of a driver, who is also the cook, hauls the outfit of pots, provisions and bedding.
The round-up moves from ranch to ranch rounding up and marking the cattle as it goes and is out from four to six weeks, according to the number of ranches that are included in the circuit.
When camp is made and everything ready for work the cowboys ride out in different directions and drive in all the cattle they can find. After the cattle are all gathered the calves are branded and the cattle of the several owners are cut into separate herds and held until the round-up is finished when they are driven home.
Every unbranded calf is caught and branded in its mother's brand. In a mix-up of cattle as occurs at a round-up, a calf sometimes gets separated from its mother so that when caught its identity is uncertain. To avoid making a mistake the calf is only slightly marked, just enough to hurt it a little, and is then turned loose. A calf when it is hurt is very much like a child, in that it cries and wants its mamma. As quick as it is let go it immediately hunts its mother and never fails to find her. When cow and calf have come together the calf is again caught and the branding finished.
The pain produced by the hot branding iron makes the calf bawl lustily and struggle to free itself. The mother cow sometimes resents the punishment of her offspring by charging and chasing the men who are doing the branding; or, if she is of a less fiery disposition, shows her displeasure by a look of reproach as much as to say, "You bad men, what have you done to hurt my little darling?"
A peculiarity of brands is that they do not all grow alike. Sometimes a brand, after it is healed, remains unchanged during the life of the animal. At other times it enlarges to several times its original size. Various reasons are assigned to account for this difference. Some claim that the brand only grows with the calf; others assert that it is due to deep branding; and, again, it is ascribed to lunar influence. But, as to the real cause of the difference, no explanation has been given that really explains the phenomenon.
The cowboy's work is nearly all done in the saddle and calls for much hard riding. He rides like a Centaur, but is clumsy on his feet. Being so much in the saddle his walking muscles become weakened, and his legs pressing against the body of his horse, in time, makes him bowlegged. In addition he wears high-heeled Mexican boots which throw him on his toes when he walks and makes his already shambling gait even more awkward.
A cowboy's life has little in it to inspire him with high ideals or arouse his ambition to achieve greatness. He leads a hard life among rough men and receives only coarse fare and rougher treatment. His life is narrow and he works in a rut that prevents him from taking a broad view of life. All that he has is his monthly wages, and, possibly, a hope that at some future day he may have a herd of cattle of his own.
Managing a herd of range cattle successfully is an art that can only be acquired by long practice, and it is surprising how expert men can become at that business. All the work done among cattle is on horseback, which includes herding, driving, cutting and roping. The trained cow pony seemingly knows as much about a round-up as his master, and the two, together, form a combination that is invincible in a herd of wild cattle. The cow or steer that is selected to be roped or cut out rarely escapes. While the horse is in hot pursuit the rider dexterously whirls his reata above his head until, at a favorable moment, it leaves his hand, uncoiling as it flies through the air, and, if the throw is successful, the noose falls over the animal's head. Suddenly the horse comes to a full stop and braces himself for the shock. When the animal caught reaches the end of the rope it is brought to an abrupt halt and tumbled in a heap on the ground. The horse stands braced pulling on the rope which has been made fast to the horn of the saddle by a few skillful turns. The cowboy is out of the saddle and on his feet in a jiffy. He grasps the prostrate animal by the tail and a hind leg, throws it on its side, and ties its four feet together, so that it is helpless and ready for branding or inspection. The cowboys have tying contests in which a steer is sometimes caught and tied in less time than a minute.
It is a comical sight to see an unhorsed cowboy chase his runaway horse on foot as he is almost sure to do if caught in such a predicament. He ought to know that he cannot outrun his fleet steed in such a race, but seems to be impelled by some strange impulse to make the attempt. After he has run himself out of breath he is liable to realize the folly of his zeal and adopt a more sensible method for capturing his horse.
The cowboy who works on the southwestern range has good cause to fear the malodorous hydrophobia skunk. At a round-up all of the cowboys sleep on the ground. During the night, while they are asleep, the little black and white cat-like animal forages through the camp for something to eat. Without provocation the skunk will attack the sleeper and fasten its sharp teeth in some exposed portion of his anatomy, either the nose or a finger or toe and will not let go until it is killed or forcibly removed. The wound thus made usually heals quickly and the incident is, perhaps, soon forgotten; but after several weeks or months hydrophobia suddenly develops and proves fatal in a short time.
The only known cure for the bite of the skunk is the Pasteur treatment and, since its discovery, as soon as anyone is bitten, he is immediately sent to the Pasteur Institute in Chicago for treatment.
Ranch life is often full of thrilling incidents and adventures. The cowboy in his travels about the country looking after cattle, hunting wild game or, in turn, being hunted by yet wilder Indians, finds plenty of novelty and excitement to break any fancied monotony which might be considered as belonging to ranch life. In a number of visits to the range country during the past twenty years, the writer has had an opportunity to observe life on a ranch, and experience some of its exciting adventures.
One day in the summer of 1891, Dave Drew, our foreman, Tedrow, one of the cowboys, and myself, made a trip into East Canon in the Dos Cabezas mountains, in search of some large unbranded calves which had been seen running there. We rode leisurely along for some time and passed several small bunches of cattle without finding what we were looking for. As we neared a bend in the canon, Dave, who rode in advance, saw some cattle lying in the shade of a grove of live oak trees. Instantly he spurred his horse into a run and chased after the cattle at full speed, at the same time looking back and shouting that he saw two mavericks and for us to hurry up and help catch them. It was a bad piece of ground to cover and we found it difficult to make progress or to even keep each other in sight. Tedrow hurried up as fast as he could while I brought up the rear.
In trying to get through in the direction that Dave had gone, we tried to make a short cut in order to gain time, but soon found our way completely blocked by immense boulders and dense thickets of cat-claw bushes, which is a variety of mesquite covered with strong, sharp, curved thorns. We turned back to find a better road and after some time spent in hunting an opening we discovered a dim trail which soon led us into a natural park of level ground hidden among the foothills. Here we found Dave who alone had caught and tied down both the calves and was preparing to start a fire to heat the branding irons. What he had done seemed like magic and was entirely incomprehensible to an inexperienced tenderfoot.
Dave explained afterwards that to be successful in such a race much depended on taking the cattle by surprise, and then by a quick, bold dash start them running up the mountain, when it was possible to overtake and rope them; but if once started to running down hill it was not only unsafe to follow on horseback but in any event the cattle were certain to escape. Taking them by surprise seemed to bewilder them and before they could collect their scattered senses, so to speak, and scamper off, the work of capture was done.
Another adventure, which did not end so fortunately for met happened in the fall of I 887 when the country was yet comparatively new to the cattle business. I rode out one day in company with a cowboy to look after strays and, incidentally, to watch for any game that might chance to cross our path. We rode through seemingly endless meadows of fine gramma grass and saw the sleek cattle feeding on plenty and enjoying perfect contentment. Game, also, seemed to be abundant but very shy and as we were not particularly hunting that kind of stock, we forebore giving chase or firing at long range.
After riding about among the hills back of the Pinaleno ranch and not finding anything we concluded to return home. On starting back we separated and took different routes, going by two parallel ravines in order to cover more ground in our search. I had not gone far until I found the cattle we were looking for going to water on the home trail. Jogging on slowly after them and enjoying the beauty of the landscape, I unexpectedly caught a glimpse of a deer lying down under a mesquite tree on the brow of a distant hill. I was in plain sight of the deer, which was either asleep or heedless of danger as it paid no attention whatever to my presence.
Deer and antelope soon become accustomed to horses and cattle and often mix and feed familiarly with the stock grazing on the open range. The deer did not change its position as I quietly rode by and out of sight behind the hill. There I dismounted and stalked the quarry on foot, cautiously making my way up the side of the hill to a point where I would be within easy shooting distance. As I stood up to locate the deer it jumped to its feet and was ready to make off, but before it could start a shot from my Winchester put a bullet through its head, and it scarcely moved after it fell. The deer was in good condition and replenished our depleted ranch larder with some choice venison steaks. The head, also, was a fine one the horns being just out of velvet and each antler five pointed, was saved and mounted.
The shot and my lusty halloo soon brought my cowboy friend to the spot. Together we eviscerated the animal and prepared to pack it to camp on my horse. As we were lifting it upon his back the bronco gave a vicious kick which hit me in the left knee and knocked me down. The blow, though severe, glanced off so that no bone was broken. What made the horse kick was a mystery as he was considered safe and had carried deer on other occasions. But a bronco, like a mule, is never altogether reliable, particularly as to the action of its heels. With some delay in getting started and in somewhat of a demoralized condition we mounted and rode home.
Soon after the accident I had a chill which was followed by a fever and there was much pain and swelling in the knee that was hit. A ranch house, if it happens to be a "stag camp" as ours was, is a cheerless place in which to be sick, but everything considered, I was fortunate in that it was not worse. By the liberal use of hot water and such other simples as the place afforded I was soon better; but not until after several months' treatment at home did the injured knee fully recover its normal condition.
The excitement of running cattle or hunting game on the open range in those days was mild in comparison to the panicky feeling which prevailed during every Indian outbreak. The experience of many years had taught the people of Arizona what to expect at such a time and the utter diabolical wickedness of the Apaches when out on the warpath. During the early eighties many such raids occurred which were accompanied by all the usual horrors of brutality and outrage of which the Apaches are capable.
When it became known in the fall of 1885 that Geronimo was again off the reservation and out on another one of his bloody raids the people became panic-stricken. Some left the Territory until such time when the Indian question would be settled and the Government could guarantee freedom from Indian depredations. Those who remained either fled to some near town or fort for protection, or prepared to defend themselves in their own homes as best they could.
What else could the settlers in a new country do? They had everything invested in either mines or cattle and could not afford to leave their property without making some effort to save it even if it had to be done at the risk of their own lives. They had no means of knowing when or where the stealthy Apaches would strike and could only wait for the time in uncertainty and suspense. Many who were in this uncomfortable predicament managed to escape any harm, but others fell victims to savage hatred whose death knell was sounded in the crack of the deadly rifle.
Some personal experiences may help to illustrate this feeling of panic, as I happened to be at the ranch during the time and know how it was myself.
One day in the month of October, 1885, while Geronimo was making his raid through southern Arizona, my brother and I rode through Railroad Pass from Pinaleno ranch to the Lorentz Place, a distance of fifteen miles. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon that we ascended to the top of a hill to take observations and see if anything was happening out of the ordinary. We saw nothing unusual until we were about to leave when we noticed somewhat of a commotion on the old Willcox and Bowie wagon road which parallels the Southern Pacific track. The distance was too great to see distinctly with the naked eye, but looking through our field glasses, which we always carried when out riding, we could plainly see three loaded wagons standing in the road. The drivers had evidently unhitched their teams and, mounted upon the horses' backs, were riding furiously in a cloud of dust down the road towards Bowie.
I asked the judge, who was a resident and supposed to be familiar with the customs of the country while I was only a tenderfoot, what their actions meant. He admitted that he did not understand their conduct unless it was that they had concluded that they could not make Willcox on that day and were returning to some favorable camp ground which they had passed on their way up, to spend the night; but the manner of their going was certainly peculiar. After watching them disappear down the road we rode on and reached our destination in safety.
The incident was forgotten until a few days later when we were in Willcox a friend inquired what had become of the Indians which had lately been seen on our range. We replied that we had not seen any Indians nor known of any that had been there. He then related to us how only a few days before three freighters had seen two Indians ride upon a hill and halt. The sight of Indians was enough and their only care after that was to get away from them. They quickly unhitched their horses from the wagons and rode ten miles to Bowie where they gave the alarm and spent the night. The next morning, having heard nothing more from the Indians during the night, they took fresh courage and ventured to return to their wagons, which they found as they had left them unmolested, when they continued their journey. When the freighters were asked why they did not stand off the Indians they said that they only had one gun and not knowing how many more redskins there might be decided that to retreat was the better part of valor. It was my brother and I whom they had seen and mistaken for Indians.
A few days after this event I had a similar scare of my own and after it was over I could sympathize with the poor, frightened freighters. I was alone at the ranch house packing up and preparing to leave for home. While thus occupied I chanced to go to the open door and looking out, to my dismay, I saw Indians. "My heart jumped into my mouth" and for a moment I felt that my time had surely come. Two men were seen riding horseback over the foot hills followed by a pack animal. As I stood watching them and took time to think, it occurred to me that I might be mistaken, and that the men were not Indians after all. As they drew nearer I saw that they were dressed like white men and, therefore, could not be Indians; but my scare while it lasted was painfully real. The men proved to be two neighboring ranchmen who were out looking for lost cattle.
In this raid, the Apaches, after leaving their reservation in the White mountains, traveled south along the Arizona and New Mexico line, killing people as they went, until they reached Stein's Pass. From there they turned west, crossed the San Simon valley and disappeared in the Chiricahua mountains. When next seen they had crossed over the mountains and attacked Riggs' ranch in Pinery canon, where they wounded a woman, but were driven off.
The next place that they visited was the Sulphur Spring ranch of the Chiricahua Cattle Company, where they stole a bunch of horses. The cowboys at the ranch had received warning that there were Indians about and had brought in the horse herd from the range and locked them in the corral. The Apaches came in the night and with their usual adroitness and cunning stole the corral empty. The first intimation which the inmates had that the ranch had been robbed was when the cowboys went in the morning to get their horses they found them gone.
From the Sulphur Spring ranch they crossed the Sulphur Spring valley in the direction of Cochise's stronghold in the Dragoon mountains. Before reaching the mountains they passed Mike Noonan's ranch where they shot its owner, who was a lone rancher and had lived alone in the valley many years. He was found dead in his door yard with a bullet hole in the back of his head. He evidently did not know that the Indians were near and was seemingly unconscious of any danger when he was killed.
The Indians were not seen again after entering the stronghold until they crossed the line into Mexico, where they were pursued by United States soldiers. After a long, stern chase Geronimo surrendered himself and followers to General Miles, who brought them back to Arizona. As prisoners they were all loaded into cars at Bowie and taken to Florida. The general in command thought it best to take them clear out of the country in order to put an effectual stop to their marauding. Later they were removed to the Indian Territory where they now live.
The rest of the Apaches remain in Arizona and live on the San Carlos reservation on the Gila river where they are being inducted into civilization. Since the disturbing element among them has been removed there has been no more trouble. They seem to have settled down with a sincere purpose to learn the white man's way and are quiet and peaceable. They are laborers, farmers and stockmen and are making rapid progress in their new life.
A MODEL RANCH
Any one who has been in Arizona and failed to visit the Sierra Bonita ranch missed seeing a model ranch. Henry C. Hooker, the owner of this splendid property, was born in New England and is a typical Yankee, who early emigrated west and has spent most of his life on the frontier.
He went to Arizona at the close of the Civil War and engaged in contracting for the Government and furnishing supplies to the army. It was before the days of railroads when all merchandise was hauled overland in wagons and cattle were driven through on foot. He outfitted at points in Texas and on the Rio Grande and drove his cattle and wagons over hundreds of miles of desert road through a country that was infested by hostile Indians.
Such a wild life was naturally full of adventures and involved much hardship and danger. The venture, however, prospered and proved a financial success, notwithstanding some losses in men killed, wagons pillaged and cattle driven off and lost by bands of marauding Apaches.
In his travels he saw the advantages that Arizona offered as a grazing country, which decided him to locate a ranch and engage in the range cattle business.
The ranch derives its name from the Graham or Pinaleno mountains which the Indians called the Sierra Bonita because of the many beautiful wild flowers that grow there. It is twenty miles north of Willcox, a thriving village on the Southern Pacific Railroad, and ten miles south of Ft. Grant, that nestles in a grove of cotton trees at the foot of Mt. Graham, the noblest mountain in southern Arizona.
The Sierra Bonita ranch is situated in the famous Sulphur Spring valley in Cochise County, Arizona, which is, perhaps, the only all grass valley in the Territory. The valley is about twenty miles wide and more than one hundred miles long and extends into Mexico. Its waters drain in opposite directions, part flowing south into the Yaqui river, and part running north through the Aravaipa Canon into the Gila and Colorado rivers, all to meet and mingle again in the Gulf of California.
Fine gramma grass covers the entire valley and an underground river furnishes an inexhaustible supply of good water. In the early days of overland travel before the country was protected or any of its resources were known, immigrants, who were bound for California by the Southern route and ignorant of the near presence of water, nearly perished from thirst while crossing the valley.
The water rises to within a few feet of the surface and, since its discovery, numerous wells have been dug and windmills and ranch houses dot the landscape in all directions; while thousands of cattle feed and fatten on the nutritious gramma grass. Its altitude is about four thousand feet above the sea and the climate is exceptionally fine.
The Sierra Bonita ranch is located on a natural cienega of moist land that has been considerably enlarged by artificial means. In an average year the natural water supply of the ranch is sufficient for all purposes but, to guard against any possible shortage in a dry year, water is brought from the mountains in ditches that have been constructed at great labor and expense and is stored in reservoirs, to be used as needed for watering the cattle and irrigating the fields. The effect of water upon the desert soil is almost magical and even though the rains fail and the earth be parched, on the moist land of the cienega the fields of waving grass and grain are perennially green.
The owner has acquired by location and purchase, title to several thousand acres of land, that is all fenced and much of it highly cultivated. It consists of a strip of land one mile wide and ten miles long, which is doubly valuable because of its productiveness and as the key that controls a fine open range.
The original herd of cattle that pastured on the Sierra Bonita ranch thirty years ago was composed of native scrub stock from Texas and Sonora. This undesirable stock was sold at the first opportunity, and the range re-stocked by an improved grade of Durham cattle. The change was a long stride in the direction of improvement, but, later on, another change was made to Herefords, and during recent years only whitefaces have been bred upon the ranch.
Col. Hooker has a strong personality, holds decided opinions and believes in progress and improvement. He has spent much time and money in experimental work, and his success has demonstrated the wisdom of his course. Just such men are needed in every new country to develop its resources and prove its worth.
He saw that the primitive methods of ranching then in vogue must be improved, and began to prepare for the change which was coming. What he predicted came to pass, and the days of large herds on the open range are numbered.
Many of them have already been sold or divided up, and it is a question Of only a short time when the rest will meet the same fate.
When this is done there may be no fewer cattle than there are now but they will be bunched in smaller herds and better cared for. Scrubs of any kind are always undesirable, since it has been proved that quality is more profitable than quantity. A small herd is more easily handled, and there is less danger of loss from straying or stealing.
The common method of running cattle on the open range is reckless and wasteful in the extreme and entirely inexcusable. The cattle are simply turned loose to rustle for themselves. No provision whatever is made for their welfare, except that they are given the freedom of the range to find water, if they can, and grass that often affords them only scant picking.
Under the new regime the cattle are carefully fed and watered, if need be in a fenced enclosure, that not only gives the cattle humane treatment but also makes money for the owner. The men are instructed to bring in every sick or weak animal found on the range and put it into a corral or pasture, where it is nursed back to life. If an orphan calf is found that is in danger of starving it is picked up, carried home and fed. On the average ranch foundlings and weaklings get no attention whatever, but are left in their misery to pine away and perish from neglect. The profit of caring for the weak and sick animals on the Sierra Bonita ranch amounts to a large sum every year, which the owner thinks is worth saving.
Another peculiarity of ranch life is that where there are hundreds or, perhaps, thousands of cows in a herd, not a single cow is milked, nor is a cup of milk or pound of butter ever seen upon the ranch table. It is altogether different on Hooker's ranch. There is a separate herd of milch cows in charge of a man whose duty it is to keep the table supplied with plenty of fresh milk and butter. No milk ever goes to waste. If there is a surplus it is fed to the calves, pigs and poultry.
During the branding season the work of the round-up is all done in corrals instead of, as formerly, out upon the open range. Each calf after it is branded, if it is old and strong enough to wean, is taken from the cow and turned into a separate pasture. It prevents the weak mother cow from being dragged to death by a strong sucking calf and saves the pampered calf from dying of blackleg by a timely change of diet.
Instead of classing the cattle out on the open range as is the usual custom, by an original system of corrals, gates and chutes the cattle are much more easily and quickly classified without any cruelty or injury inflicted upon either man or beast. Classing cattle at a round-up by the old method is a hard and often cruel process, that requires a small army of both men and horses and is always rough and severe on the men, horses and cattle.
Besides the herds of sleek cattle, there are also horses galore, enough to do all of the work on the ranch as well as for pleasure riding and driving. There is likewise a kennel of fine greyhounds that are the Colonel's special pride. His cattle, horses and dogs are all of the best, as he believes in thoroughbreds and has no use whatever for scrubs of either the human or brute kind.
The dogs are fond of their master and lavish their caresses on him with almost human affection. In the morning when they meet him at the door Ketchum pokes his nose into one of his master's half open hands and Killum performs the same act with the other hand. Blackie nips him playfully on the leg while Dash and the rest of the pack race about like mad, trying to express the exuberance of their joy.
In the bunch is little Bob, the fox terrier, who tries hard but is not always able to keep up with the hounds in a race. He is active and gets over the ground lively for a small dog, but in a long chase is completely distanced and outclassed to his apparent disgust. Aside from the fine sport that the dogs afford, they are useful in keeping the place clear of all kinds of "varmints" such as coyotes, skunks and wild cats.
How much Col. Hooker appreciates his dogs is best illustrated by an incident. One morning after greeting the dogs at the door, he was heard to remark sotto voce.
"Well, if everybody on the ranch is cross, my dogs always greet me with a smile."
There appears to be much in the dog as well as in the horse that is human, and the trio are capable of forming attachments for each other that only death can part.
The ranch house is a one-story adobe structure built in the Spanish style of a rectangle, with all the doors opening upon a central court. It is large and commodious, is elegantly furnished and supplied with every modern convenience. It affords every needed comfort for a family and is in striking contrast with the common ranch house of the range that is minus every luxury and often barely furnishes the necessaries of life.
SOME DESERT PLANTS
Much of the vegetation that is indigenous to the southwest is unique and can only be seen at its best in the Gila valley in southern Arizona. The locality indicated is in the arid zone and is extremely hot and dry. Under such conditions it is but natural to suppose that all plant life must necessarily be scant and dwarfed, but such is not the fact. Upon the contrary many of the plants that are native to the soil and adapted to the climate grow luxuriantly, are remarkably succulent and perennially green.
How they manage to acquire so much sap amidst the surrounding siccity is inexplicable, unless it is that they possess the function of absorbing and condensing moisture by an unusual and unknown method. It is, however, a beneficent provision of nature as a protection against famine in a droughty land by furnishing in an acceptable form, refreshing juice and nutritious pulp to supply the pressing wants of hungry and thirsty man and beast in time of need.
Another peculiarity of these plants is that they are acanaceous; covered all over with sharp thorns and needles. Spikes of all sorts and sizes bristle everywhere and admonish the tenderfoot to beware. Guarded by an impenetrable armor of prickly mail they defy encroachment and successfully repel all attempts at undue familiarity. To be torn by a cat-claw thorn or impaled on a stout dagger leaf of one of these plants would not only mean painful laceration but, perhaps, serious or even fatal injury. Notwithstanding their formidable and forbidding appearance they are nevertheless attractive and possess some value either medicinal, commercial or ornamental.
The maguey, or American aloe, is the most abundant and widely distributed of the native plants. It is commonly known as mescal, but is also called the century plant from a mistaken notion that it blossoms only once in a hundred years. Its average life, under normal conditions, is about ten years and it dies immediately after blossoming.
It attains its greatest perfection in the interior of Mexico where it is extensively cultivated. It yields a large quantity of sap which is, by a simple process of fermentation, converted into a liquor called pulque that tastes best while it is new and is consumed in large quantities by the populace. Pulque trains are run daily from the mescal plantations, where the pulque is made, into the large cities to supply the bibulous inhabitants with their customary beverage. In strength and effect it resembles lager beer, and is the popular drink with all classes throughout Mexico where it has been in vogue for centuries and is esteemed as "the only drink fit for thirsty angels and men."
The agave is capable of being applied to many domestic uses. Under the old dispensation of Indian supremacy it supplied the natives their principal means of support. Its sap was variously prepared and served as milk, honey, vinegar, beer and brandy. From its tough fiber were made thread, rope, cloth, shoes and paper. The strong flower stalk was used in building houses and the broad leaves for covering them.
The heart of the maguey is saccharine and rich in nutriment. It is prepared by roasting it in a mescal pit and, when done, tastes much like baked squash. It is highly prized by the Indians, who use it as their daily bread. Before the Apaches were conquered and herded on reservations a mescal bake was an important event with them. It meant the gathering of the clans and was made the occasion of much feasting and festivity. Old mescal pits can yet be found in some of the secluded corners of the Apache country that were once the scenes of noisy activity, but have been forsaken and silent for many years.
The fiery mescal, a distilled liquor that is known to the trade as aguardiente, or Mexican brandy, is much stronger than pulque, but less used. Both liquors are said to be medicinal, and are reputed to possess diuretic, tonic and stimulant properties.