The Life and Adventures
BETTER KNOWN IN THE CATTLE COUNTRY AS
A TRUE HISTORY OF SLAVERY DAYS, LIFE ON THE GREAT CATTLE RANGES AND ON THE PLAINS OF THE "WILD AND WOOLLY" WEST, BASED ON FACTS, AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCES OF THE AUTHOR
Published: Los Angeles: Wayside Press, 1907.
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This book is dedicated to my wife, MRS. ALICE LOVE
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Having passed the half century mark in life's journey, and yielding to persistent requests of many old and valued friends of the past and present, I have decided to write the record of slave, cowboy and pullman porter will prove of interest to the reading public generally and particularly to those who prefer facts to fiction, (and in this case again facts will prove stranger than fiction). I assure my readers that every event chronicled in this history is based on facts, and my personal experiences, of more than fifty years of an unusually adventurous life.
While many things contained in this record happened many years ago, they are as fresh in my memory as if they happened but yesterday. I have tried to record events simply as they are, without attempting to varnish over the bad spots or draw on my imagination to fill out a chapter at the cost of the truth. It has been my aim to record things just as they happened, believing they will prove of greater interest thereby; and if I am able to add to the interest and enjoyment of a single reader I will consider myself well repaid for the time and labor of preparing this history.
To my playmates of my boyhood, who may chance to read this I send greetings and wish them well. To the few friends, who assisted myself and widowed mother in our early struggles, I tender my sincerest thanks, and hope they have prospered as they deserve. For those who proved our enemies, I have no word of censure. They have reaped their reward.
To that noble but ever decreasing band of men under whose blue and buckskin shirts there lives a soul as great and beats a heart as true as ever human breast contained—to the cowboys, rangers, scouts, hunters and trappers and cattle-men of the "GREAT WESTERN PLAINS," I extend the hand of greeting acknowledging the FATHER-HOOD of GOD and the BROTHERHOOD of men; and to my mother's Sainted name this book is reverently dedicated.
Slavery Days; the Old Plantation; My Early Foraging; the Stolen Demijohn; My First Drunk. 7
The War; the Rebels and the Yankees; I Raise a Regiment; Difficulty in Finding an Enemy; Ash Cake; Freedom. 14
Raising Tobacco; Our First Year of Freedom; More Privations; Father Dies; "It Never Rains but It Pours;" I Become the Head of the Family; I Start to Work at One Dollar and Fifty Cents a Month. 19
Boyhood Sports; More Devilment; the Rock Battles; I Hunt Rabbits in My Shirt Tail; My First Experience in Rough Riding; a Question of Breaking the Horse or Breaking My Neck. 29
Home Life; Picking Berries; the Pigs Commit Larceny; Nutting; We Go to Market; My First Desire to See the World; I win a Horse in a Raffle; the Last of Home. 36
The World is Before Me; I Join the Texas Cowboys; Red River Dick; My First Outfit; My First Indian Fight; I Learn to Use My Gun. 40
I Learn to Speak Spanish; I Am Made Chief Brand Reader; the Big Round-up; the 7-Y-L Steer; Long Rides; Hunting Strays. 46
On the Trail; a Texas Storm; Battle with the Elements; After Business Comes Pleasure. 52
Enroute to Wyoming; the Indians Demand Toll; the Fight; a Buffalo Stampede; Tragic Death of Cal Surcey; An Eventful Trip. 58
We Make a Trip to Nebraska; the "Hole in the Wall Country;" a Little Shooting Scrape; Cattle on the Trail and the Way to Handle Them; a Bit of Moralization. 66
A Buffalo Hunt; I Lose My Lariat and Saddle; I Order a Drink for Myself and My Horse; a Close Place in Old Mexico. 72
A Big Mustang Hunt; We Tire Them Out; the Indians Capture Mess Wagon and Cook; Our Bill of Fare Buffalo Meat without Salt. 82
On the Trail with Three Thousand Head of Texas Steers; Rumors of Trouble with the Indians; at Deadwood, S. D.; the Roping Contest; I Win the Name of "Deadwood Dick;" the Shooting Match; the Custer Massacre; We View the Battlefield; Government Scouts; at Home Again. 88
Riding the Range; the Fight with Yellow Dog's Tribe; I am Captured by the Indians and Adopted into the Tribe; My Escape; I ride a Hundred Miles in Twelve Hours without a Saddle; My Indian Pony; "Yellow Dog Chief;" the Boys Present Me with a New Outfit; in the Saddle and on the Trail Again. 98
On a Trip to Dodge City, Kan.; I Rope One of Uncle Sam's Cannon; Captured by the Soldiers; Bat Masterson to My Rescue; Lost on the Prairie; the Buffalo Hunter Cater; My Horse Gets Away and Leaves Me Alone on the Prairie; the Blizzard; Frozen Stiff. 106
The Old Haze and Elsworth Trail; Our Trip to Cheyenne; Ex-Sheriff Pat F. Garret; the Death of Billy the "Kid;" the Lincoln County Cattle War. 116
Another Trip to Old Mexico; I Rope an Engine; I Fall in Love; My Courtship; Death of My Sweetheart; My Promised Wife; I Must Bear a Charmed Life; the Advent of Progress; the Last of the Range. 123
The Pullman Service; Life on the Rail; My First Trip; a Slump in Tips; I Become Disgusted and Quit; a Period of Husking; My Next Trip on the Pullman; Tips and the People Who Give Them. 131
The Pullman Palace Sleeping Car; Long Trips on the Rail; the Wreck; One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin; a Few of the Railroads Over Which I Have Traveled; the Invalids and the Care We Give Them. 137
The Tourist Sleeping Car; the Chair Car; the Safeguards of Modern Railroading; See America, Then Let Your Chest Swell with Pride that You are an American. 142
A Few of the Railroad Men Under Whom I Have Served; George M. Pullman; the Town of Pullman, Ill.; American Railroads Lead the World; a Few Figures. 148
A Few Reminiscences of the Range: Some Men I Have Met; Buffalo Bill; the James Brothers; Yellowstone Kelly; the Murder of Buck Cannon by Bill Woods; the Suicide of Jack Zimick. 155
SLAVERY DAYS. THE OLD PLANTATION. MY EARLY FORAGING. THE STOLEN DEMIJOHN. MY FIRST DRINK. THE CURSE OF SLAVERY.
In an old log cabin, on my Master's plantation in Davidson County in Tennessee in June, 1854, I first saw the light of day. The exact date of my birth I never knew, because in those days no count was kept of such trivial matters as the birth of a slave baby. They were born and died and the account was balanced in the gains and losses of the Master's chattels, and one more or less did not matter much one way or another. My father and mother were owned by Robert Love, an extensive planter and the owner of many slaves. He was in his way and in comparison with many other slave owners of those days a kind and indulgent Master.
My father was a sort of foreman of the slaves on the plantation, and my mother presided over the kitchen at the big house and my Master's table, and among her other duties were to milk the cows and run the loom, weaving clothing for the other slaves. This left her scant time to look after me, so I early acquired the habit of looking out for myself. The other members of father's family were my sister Sally, about eight years old, and my brother Jordan, about five. My sister Sally was supposed to look after me when my mother was otherwise occupied; but between my sister's duties of helping mother and chasing the flies from Master's table, I received very little looking after from any of the family, therefore necessity compelled me at an early age to look after myself and rustle my own grub. My earliest recollections are of pushing a chair in front of me and toddling from one to the other of my Master's family to get a mouthful to eat like a pet dog, and later on as I became older, making raids on the garden to satisfy my hunger, much to the damage of the young onions, watermelons, turnips, sweet potatoes, and other things I could find to eat. We had to use much caution during these raids on the garden, because we well knew what we would catch if someone caught us, but much practice made us experts in escaping undetected.
One day when Master and the family went to town mother decided to make some wine of which she was very fond, accordingly she gathered some grapes and after pressing them she made some fairly good wine. This she placed in a demijohn, and this for better security she hid in the garden, as she thought unknown to anyone, but my brother, sister and myself had been watching the process with considerable curiosity, which finally reached such a pitch that there was nothing to it; we must sample a liquid that looked so good. So Jordan went to the hay loft from where a good view could be obtained all around, while myself and Sally busied ourselves in the vineyard. Presently Mother thinking all secure left the house with the demijohn and proceeded to hide it. Jordan, from the hay loft, noted that mother never left the garden until she returned to the house, empty handed, but he was unable to see the exact hiding place.
It was several days later while passing through the garden that we ran across the lost demijohn. It did not take us long to discover that its contents suited our tastes. Sally and Jordan dragged it into a sweet corn patch, where we were safe from observation. An oyster can was secured to serve as a glass and the way we attacked that wine was a caution to the Temperance Workers. And I can assure you we enjoyed ourselves for a while, but for how long I am unable to tell exactly. Mother soon missed us but being very busy she could not look for us until evening, when she started out to look us up, after searching and calling in vain. She decided to take the dogs to help find us. With their aid we were soon located, lying in the sweet corn, "dead drunk," while the demijohn quite empty, bottom side up, stared at mother with a reproachful stare, and the oyster can which had served up and took me to the house, and let Sally and Jordan lie in near by, bearing mute witness against us. Mother picked me up and took me to the house, and let Sally and Jordan lie in the sweet corn all night, to dwell on the events. Immediately preceding our return to consciousness is a painful subject to me as it was exceedingly painful then. I was most feverish the next day with a head on my shoulders several sizes larger than the one I was used to wearing. Sally and Jordan were enjoying about the same health as myself, but the state of our health did not exempt us from mother's wrath. We all received a good sound old-fashioned thrashing. A fitting prelude to my first "drunk."
I suppose I acquired the taste for strong drink on this occasion; be that as it may, the fact remains that I could out-drink any man I ever met in the cattle country. I could drink large quantities of the fiery stuff they called whiskey on the range without it affecting me in any way, but I have never been downright drunk since that time in the sweet corn patch. Our plantation was situated in the heart of the black belt of the south, and on the plantations all around us were thousands of slaves, all engaged in garnering the dollars that kept up the so-called aristocracy of the south, and many of the proud old families owe their standing and wealth to the toil and sweat of the black man's brow, where if they had to pay the regular rate of wages to hire laborers to cultivate their large estates, their wealth would not have amounted to a third of what it was. Wealth was created, commerce carried on, cities built, and the new world well started on the career that has led to its present greatness and standing in the world of nations. All this was accomplished by the sweat of the black man's brow. By black man I do not mean to say only the black men, but the black woman and black child all helped to make the proud south what it was, the boast of every white man and woman, with a drop of southern blood in their veins, and what did the black man get in return? His keep and care you say? Ye gods and little fishes! Is there a man living today who would be willing to do the work performed by the slaves of that time for the same returns, his care and keep? No, my friends, we did it because we were forced to do it by the dominant race. We had as task masters, in many instances, perfect devils in human form, men who delighted in torturing the black human beings, over whom chance and the accident of birth had placed them. I have seen men beaten to the ground with the butts of the long whips carried by these brutal overseers, and for no other reason than that they could not raise to their shoulders a load sufficient for four men to carry. I have seen the long, cruel lash curl around the shoulders of women who refused to comply with the licentious wishes of the men who owned them, body and soul—did I say soul? No, they did not own their soul; that belonged to God alone, and many are the souls that have returned to him who gave them, rather than submit to the desires of their masters, desires to which submission was worse than death. I have seen the snake-like lash draw blood from the tender limbs of mere babies, hardly more than able to toddle, their only offense being that their skin was black. And young as I was my blood often boiled as I witnessed these cruel sights, knowing that they were allowed by the laws of the land in which I was born. I used to think it was not the country's fault, but the fault of the men who made the laws. Of all the curses of this fair land, the greatest curse of all was the slave auction block of the south, where human flesh was bought and sold. Husbands were torn from their wives, the baby from its mother's breast, and the most sacred commands of God were violated under the guise of modern law, or the law of the land, which for more than two hundred years has boasted of its freedom, and the freedom of its people.
Some of the slaves, like us, had kind and indulgent masters. These were lucky indeed, as their lot was somewhat improved over their less fortunate brothers, but even their lot was the same as that of the horse or cow of the present day. They were never allowed to get anything in the nature of education, as smart negroes were not in much demand at that time, and the reason was too apparent, education meant the death of the institution of slavery in this country, and so the slave owners took good care that their slaves got none of it.
Go and see the play of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and you will see the black man's life as I saw it when a child. And Harriett Beecher Stowe, the black man's Saviour, well deserves the sacred shrine she holds, along with the great Lincoln, in the black man's heart.
WAR. "THE REBELS AND YANKEES." I RAISE A REGIMENT TO FIGHT. DIFFICULTY IN FINDING AN ENEMY. ASH SAKE. FREEDOM.
When I was ten years old the war broke out between the "North and the South." And there was little else talked about, among the slaves as well as the slave owners of the neighborhood. And naturally the many different stories we heard worked us children to a high state of excitement. So much so that we wanted to go to war, and fight for the Union, because among us slave children there was no difference of opinion, as to which side was right.
The Union was "IT," and we were all "Yankees." Not being able to go to war as our masters did, we concluded to play war, accordingly I gathered all the boys of the neighborhood together, into a regiment, which it was my intention to divide into two parties of Rebels and Yankees, but in this I met an insurmountable obstacle. Not one of the boys wanted to be a rebel, consequently we had to look elsewhere for an enemy to give us battle, and serve as a vent for our growing enthusiasm. The next Sunday preceding the organization of our regiment, we started out over the surrounding country in quest of trouble, which we were not long in finding, as we soon ran across a nest of yellow jackets. These we proceeded to exterminate, in which we were successful after a short but destructive battle. We suffered considerably in wounded but lost none of our soldiers. This engagement we called the capture of fort "Hell." For some time thereafter we made regular raids into the surrounding country in quest of an enemy. We were eventually successful in our quest, as in quick order we ran across and captured a company of bumble bees. This we called the "Battle of the Wilderness." Victory over a nest of hornets we called the capture of "Fort Sumter." A large nest of wasps gave us perhaps the hardest fight of our campaigning. This we ran across in the fields not far from home. There was an unusually large number of them, and as is usually the case with these insects, they proved very ferocious. Nothing loth, however, we attacked with cheers, only to be driven back time and again and finally we were compelled to make a very undignified retreat, at full speed in the direction of home. Not to be beaten, however, we secured reinforcements and more ammunition, in the shape of old rags, brooms and so forth, and returned to the charge, and although we were driven back several times we stayed until we won out, and the last insect lay a quivering mass on the ground. There was not one among us, not wounded in some manner, as for myself I had enough of it. My nose looked like a dutch slipper, and it was several days before my eyes were able to perform the duties for which they were made. However, the Union forces were victorious and we were happy. Our masters told us if the soldiers caught us, they would hang us all, which had the effect of keeping most of us close around home. Master had gone to join Lee's forces, taking with him father, who was engaged in building forts, which work kept him with the Confederate army until General Grant arrived in the country, when he was allowed to come home. From then on Union soldiers passed the neighborhood most every day on their way south, to join the fighting regiments.
We soon found out they would not hurt us and they were the wonderment and pride of our youthful minds. They would take everything they could find to eat for themselves and horses, leaving the plantation stripped clean of provisions and food, which entailed considerable misery and hardships on those left at home, especially the colored people who were not used to such a state of affairs, and were not accustomed to providing for their own wants. Finally Lee surrendered and master returned home. But in common with other masters of those days he did not tell us we were free. And instead of letting us go he made us work for him the same as before, but in all other respects he was kind. He moved our log cabin on a piece of ground on a hill owned by him, and in most respects things went on the same as before the war. It was quite a while after this that we found out we were free and good news, like bad news, sometimes travels fast. It was not long before all the slaves in the surrounding country were celebrating their freedom. And "Massa Lincoln" was the hero of us all.
While a great many slaves rejoiced at the altered state of affairs; still many were content to remain as before, and work for their old masters in return for their keep. My father, however, decided to start out for himself, to that end he rented twenty acres of land, including that on which our cabin stood, from our late master.
We were at this time in a most destitute condition, and father had a very hard time to get a start, without food or money and almost naked, we existed for a time on the only food procurable, bran and cracklins. The limited supply of provisions made the culinary duties most simple, much to the disgust of mother, who was one of the best cooks in the country, but beggars cannot be choosers, and she very cheerfully proceeded to make the best of what we had. She would make a great fire in the large fire place in the cabin. The fire when hot enough, was raked from the hearth and a small place cleaned away, in the center of this clean space, mother would lay a cabbage leaf, on which she would pour some batter made from bran and water or buttermilk and a little salt. Then on top another cabbage leaf was laid and hot coals raked over the whole, and in a short time it would be baked nicely. This we called ash cake.
This, with occasional cracklins made up our entire bill of fare for many months. Father would make brooms and mats from straw and chair bottoms from cane and reeds, in which my brother and I would help him, after he had taught us how. During the week a large load was made and Friday night father would take the load on his shoulders and walk to town, a dozen miles, where he would sell them and bring seed and food home. When the weather would permit we worked in the field, preparing for our first crop.
The twenty acres, being mostly uncultivated, had to be cleared, plowed and thoroughly harrowed. Our first crop consisted of corn, tobacco and a few vegetables.
Father would lay off the corn rows. Jordan and I would drop the corn while father came behind and covered the rows.
In this manner we soon had in a considerable crop of corn and some vegetables for our own use. During the winter which was sometimes severe, during which time nothing, of course, could be done in the farming line, and when not otherwise engaged, we started to try and learn ourselves something in the educational line. Father could read a little, and he helped us all with our A B C's, but it is hard work learning to read and write without a teacher, and there was no school a black child could attend at that time. However, we managed to make some headway, then spring came and with it the routine of farm work. Father was a man of strong determination, not easily discouraged, and always pushing forward and upward, quick to learn things and slow to forget them, a keen observer and a loving husband and father. Had he lived this history would not have been written.
RAISING TOBACCO, OUR FIRST YEAR OF FREEDOM. MORE PRIVATIONS. FATHER DIES. IT NEVER RAINS—BUT IT POURS. I BECOME THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY AND START TO WORK AT $1.50 PER MONTH.
As soon as the corn crop was in the ground we commenced to plant tobacco. Before the seed was sown, it was necessary to gather large piles of brush and wood and burn it to ashes on the ground to destroy the seeds of the weeds. The ground was then spaded and raked thoroughly, and the seed sown. After it had come up and got a fair start, it was transplanted in rows about three feet apart. When the plants become large enough it is necessary to pull the suckers off, also the worms off the leaves. This task fell upon Jordan and myself.
In picking the worms off the plants it is necessary to use the greatest care that the plants are not damaged, but Jordan and I were afraid to touch the worms with our fingers, so we took sticks and knocked them off, also a few leaves with each worm. This fact called forth some rather strong language from father, who said we were doing more harm than good. But our aversion to the worms was so strong that we took several thrashings before we could bring ourselves to use our fingers instead of a stick. When the tobacco was ripe there would be yellow spots on the leaves. It was then cut, let lie for one day, then hung on a scaffold to be sun cured. It was allowed to remain on the scaffold for perhaps a week, then it was hung up in the barn to be smoked, after which it was made into a big bulk and a weight placed on it to press it out, then it was stripped, and put into hands and then it was ready for the market. Our crop the first year was not large and the most of it went to pay the rent and the following winter proved a hard one, and entailed considerable privation and suffering among the many ex-slaves, who had so recently been thrown on their own resources, without money or clothing or food, and only those who have had the experience can appreciate the condition of things or rather lack of things, at the close of the war, and these conditions did not only affect the ex-slaves and colored people, but covered the entire south, and many former well-to-do slave owners now found themselves without a penny they could call their own, having been stripped of everything and compelled to start all over again. Surely "war is hell"—but slavery is worse. Early in the spring father went to work for a neighboring planter a couple of weeks in order to get his plows and horses again to plow his land. A somewhat larger crop was put in this year, but unfortunately for us when everything was planted father took sick and died shortly after. This was a stunning loss to us just at a time when we most needed a father and husband's help, counsel and protection. But we did not lose courage for long.
The crop must be looked after and the coming winter provided against. My sister Sally had been married about three years at this time and was with her husband and two little girls on a small farm some distance away, which my brother-in-law rented. That left mother, Jordan and I to look after things. Although I was the youngest, I was the most courageous, always leading in mischief, play and work. So I now took the leadership, and became the head of the family. Things were beginning to take on a more hopeful look, when my brother-in-law died, leaving my sister sick with two small children and in about the same circumstances as ourselves. Everything, indeed, looked hopeless now, as our late master and his brother had left the old place and gone north. So remembering I was the only man on the place now, though only fifteen years old, I said to mother and sister who were weeping bitterly, "brace up, and don't lose your heads. I will look after you all." I said this with a bravado I was far from feeling, but I could not see the use of weeping now there was work to be done, if we were to keep from starving the coming winter. We all turned in to help one another and in this manner. The crop was gathered and we were in fairly good condition for the coming winter, but the work was too much for Sally who lingered through the winter and early in the spring we laid her beside her father and husband, and her two little orphans were left to us. It now became very apparent to me that something must be done, because the crop raised the year before was barely enough to last us through the winter and we would soon be in actual need again. We needed clothing, especially the little girls of my sister, and we had no money to buy seed for this season's crop or food to last us out. So I concluded to go to work for some one if I could find anything to do. With that resolve, I put on my best rags and to mother's inquiry as to where I was going I told her I did not know myself. It fairly made my heart ache to see my little nieces going around almost naked, bare footed, and have them always asking for things I was powerless to give them. I determined to go from place to place until I secured employment of some kind that would in a measure, permit me to feed, and as far as I was able, clothe mother and the children, now dependent on me.
The fact that I was now free, gave me new born courage to face the world and what the future might hold in store for me. After tramping around the country for two days, I finally secured work with a Mr. Brooks, about six miles from home at one dollar and fifty cents a month. Notwithstanding the smallness of my prospective wages, I was happy and returned home in a jubilant frame of mind, to impart the news to mother. I was to commence the next morning. Mother said it was not much, but better than nothing. I told mother that I thought I could bring some food and clothing home for the children before the month was out. The little ones hearing this, were overjoyed and looked on me as a rich man indeed. Jordan was to remain at home and attend to what little there was to do, and the next day I started work for Mr. Brooks. In less than a week I made my first visit home, taking with me some potatoes, bacon, cornmeal, and some molasses, which I had rustled in various ways. I also had a bundle of old clothing given to me by the neighbors, which mother could make over for the children, and to say the children were happy is but a mild expression.
For the second month I received a raise of fifty cents, and the third month of my employment, so good did I work, that I received three dollars. With so many at home to provide for, my wages did not last long, but out of my three dollars I bought each of the children a book. The rest went for provisions and clothing. One day while passing the store of Mr. Graves, near our home I saw a checked sunbonnet and a red calico dress which struck my fancy as just what I wanted for mother. On asking the price Mr. Graves told me I could have the sunbonnet for twenty-five cents and the dress for four bits. That seemed to be within my means, and quite reasonable. I asked him to keep them for me until I got my wages at the end of the month. This Mr. Graves promised to do if I would pay him something down. I only had fifteen cents of which I paid five cents on the bonnet and ten cents on the dress and went on my way, filled with happy thoughts as the result of my bargain. I resolved to be very saving this month and I became very impatient for my month to end and was continually asking Mr. Brooks if my month was not soon over. He would laugh and say "yes, soon." But it seemed to me that was the longest month I ever knew. When at last the month was over he gave me fifty cents, claiming I had drawn my wages during the month. I knew that was not so. I also knew I had a balance coming to me and told him so. But he denied it and the result was that we had a fight. I hit him in the head with a rock and nearly killed him after which I felt better. Then going to Mr. Graves the storekeeper, I told him the whole trouble. He expressed sympathy for me and said to give him the fifty cents and take the bonnet and dress, and we will call it square. And you can imagine my feelings as I took the things home to mother, and she was more pleased with them than any queen with her silks and satins. There being plenty of work to do at home, I did not again look for other work. The only thing that worried me was that the little ones were still without shoes, but on my promise to soon get them some they were satisfied. It was here I got my first lessons in self-dependence and life's struggles. I learned true usefulness and acquired the habit of helping others which I carried with me all through my after life and that trait perhaps more than any other endeared me to my companions on the range and all with whom I have had dealings.
BOYHOOD SPORTS. MORE DEVILMENT. THE ROCK BATTLES. I HUNT RABBITS IN MY SHIRT TAIL. MY FIRST EXPERIENCE IN ROUGH RIDING. A QUESTION OF BREAKING THE HORSE OR, BREAKING MY NECK.
In those days it was more the custom, than now, to work six days and rest on the seventh, accordingly us boys always had our Sundays free. And we never lost an opportunity to put in motion some devilment to make the time pass in what we thought was the most pleasant way. Anything to have a great time. Our chief means of having fun for a while was the rock battles. We boys of the entire neighborhood would get together, then divide in equal numbers on a side, then after gathering all the available rocks from the landscape, we would proceed to have a pitched battle, throwing the rocks at each other as hard as we could, and with a grim intent to commit battery. As a rational consequence the bravest would force the weaker side to retreat. It then became a question of running or being rocked to death. After these battles we were all usually in very bad condition, having received very hard knocks on sundry and various parts of our anatomy, but for all that we have never bore malice toward each other. We were careful to keep these escapades from the knowledge of our elders. In this way we were quite successful until one time we had a boy nearly killed, then we thought the old folks would whip us all to death. This incident ended the rock battles. But we soon had something else doing to furnish ourselves fun and excitement.
About this time we planned a rabbit hunt, after the small cotton tail rabbits, which were plentiful in the surrounding country. Getting all the boys together and securing the track hounds of the neighborhood we were off. It was not long before the dogs caught track of something and away they went with all the boys behind. Now at that time it was not customary for us boys of the plantation to wear shoes and pants, the principal reason being that we did not have either shoes or pants to wear. So you can perhaps imagine the sight presented by a score or more of boys of all ages chasing behind the hounds, with our shirt tails flying through bushes, thorns and brambles, up hill and down hill, many of us bleeding like stabbed pigs, but we were too much interested to pay any attention to a little blood. We wanted the rabbits, and everything else was of secondary importance, even the calls of the younger boys who got tired and fell behind. Onward we went over rocks, through fields, over fences, until we could hear the dogs no more, then tired out we had to stop. I told the boys to sit down, that I thought the dogs would come this way again. It was not long before I thought I heard something and told the boys to hush and have their rocks ready to kill the rabbit. It never occurred to me that it would be anything but a rabbit. The bay of the dogs came nearer, then over the fence jumped a big red fox right in front of me. He stopped and we looked in each others eyes. It was hard to tell which of us was the most surprised, however, I was the first to run away, and run I did. I ran like a black tailed deer. Many times I thought I felt him nibble at my shirt tails, and his eyes grew in my imagination as large as wagon wheels and Mr. Fox, himself, seemed to grow as big as an elephant. When at last I dropped from sheer exhaustion and could summon courage to look behind me, I could see nothing. It was then I realized I was not so game as I thought I was and the knowledge was not pleasant by any means. Not far from our house there was a horse ranch, owned by a Mr. Williams. He had two sons about my own age and I would often go and see them on Sundays. As I was very fond of riding horses most of the horses on the ranch were very wild. So one day the oldest boy and I made a plan to break the young colts. The only chance we had of doing so was on Sunday, when the family went to church, as we did not think Mr. Williams would approve of our plan. Mr. Williams' boy said he would give me ten cents for every colt I broke. That was perfectly satisfactory to me. The money was made of shin plaster those days (paper). The next Sunday I started to break horses. We did not dare to put the bridle on them as we were afraid the boss might surprise us and we would not be quick enough to get it off. Our mode of procedure was to drive one at a time in the barn, get it in a stall, then after much difficulty I would manage to get on its back. Then the door was opened and the pole removed and the horse liberated with me on its back, then the fun would commence. The colt would run, jump, kick and pitch around the barn yard in his efforts to throw me off. But he might as well tried to jump out of his skin because I held on to his mane and stuck to him like a leech. The colt would usually keep up his bucking until he could buck no more, and then I would get my ten cents. Ten cents is a small amount of money these days, but in those days that amount was worth more to me than ten dollars now.
Well, we went on Sunday after Sunday and I broke about a dozen colts in this way, and also managed to do it without the boss discovering the favor I was undoubtedly doing him, in breaking all his wild horses. Only his boys were aware of the doings and they paid me. So I had no scruples about what I was doing, especially as it afforded me great fun. Finally the boys wanted me to break a big handsome black horse called Black Highwayman. Knowing the horse's uncertain temper and wild disposition and taking into consideration its size, I refused to break him for ten cents, as the fact was I was rather scared of him. After considerable bargaining, in which I held out for fifty cents, we finally compromised on twenty-five cents. But I can assure you it was more for the money than the fun of the thing, that I finally consented to ride him. With great difficulty we managed to get him in a stall as we did the others, but I no sooner landed on his back than he jumped in the manger with me hanging to his mane. Finally the door was opened and the pole removed and out of the barn we shot like a black cloud, around the yard we flew, then over the garden fence. At this juncture the track hounds became interested and promptly followed us. Over the fields we went, the horse clearing the highest fences and other obstacles in his way with the greatest ease. My seat on his back was not the most comfortable place in the world, but as the horse did not evince any disposition to stop and let me get off, I concluded to remain where I was. All the dogs of the neighborhood were fast joining in the race and I had quite a respectable following. After running about two miles we cleared a fence into a pasture where there was a large number of other horses and young colts, who promptly stampeded as we joined them, Highwayman taking the lead with me on his back, looking very much like a toad. And all the dogs in the country strung out in the rear. Naturally we formed a spectacle that could not fail to attract the attention of the neighbors, who soon as possible mounted horses and started in pursuit and vainly tried to catch my black mount but could get nowhere near him, while I without bridle or anything to control him could do nothing but let him run as all the other horses bunched around us and the dogs kept up a continual din. I simply held on and let him go. It was a question of breaking the horse or breaking my neck. We went over everything, through everything, until finally the killing pace told and Black Highwayman fell, a thoroughly exhausted and completely conquered and well broken horse. As for myself, I was none the worse for my exciting ride. But on looking for my twenty-five cents, I found it gone. The boys had paid me in advance, as I insisted, and I had tied the money up in a corner of my shirt tail and during my wild ride it had come untied and worked out. This was a great misfortune to me and for a while I was inconsolable. I asked the boys if they would make it right, but no, they had paid me once and they refused to give me another quarter. This riled me considerable and I told them all right, to come again when they wanted a horse broken. That settled us and the horse breaking. The experiences I gained in riding during these times, often stood me in good stead in after years during my wild life on the western plains. Mr. Williams of course, heard of my last wild ride, but instead of being angry, he seemed to see the funny side of it, which I could not.
The spectators wondered how in the world I ever escaped a broken neck and I have often wondered how I escaped in after years from situations that seemed to be sure death. But escape I did and am now hale and hearty, without pain, with muscles like iron and able at any time to run a hundred yards in eleven seconds or jump a six foot fence.
HOME LIFE. PICKING BERRIES. THE PIGS COMMIT LARCENY. NUTTING. WE GO TO MARKET. MY FIRST DESIRE TO SEE THE WORLD. I WIN A HORSE IN A RAFFLE. THE LAST OF HOME.
I now settled down to the work around the farm and the problem of making a living for those dependent on me. The crop was all in and after attending to such work around home as had to be done, we found a source of revenue in gathering berries for market. Large quantities of black berries and others grew wild in the woods near by. And they always found a ready market. With small pails and a big basket mother and I would start out after the work at home was done. Reaching the woods we would sit under the bushes and fill the pails, then empty them into the big basket until that was full which usually comprised our day's work.
One day, wishing to secure a large quantity of berries for market, we went early in the morning and on reaching the woods we placed the big basket in what we thought a safe place, and after some hours of industrious work, the big basket was full of nice ripe blackberries. We then proceeded to fill our pails again which would be sufficient for the day. This accomplished, we prepared to start for home. But when mother went to take the big basket it was empty.
The stray pigs had found them and committed larceny. Mother felt so bad she cried. We had put in a hard day's work for nothing. It had been our intention to take them to town on the morrow and buy something for Sunday, but now the fruit of our labor was gone and the disappointment was great. I looked at mother, then at the empty basket and did not know for which to feel most sorry. So I said, "Well, there is no use grieving over spilt milk. If we had not had them we could not have lost them, and there are plenty more of the same kind for the picking." Mother turned toward me, and said, with a look I will always remember, "My boy, whatever happens, you never get discouraged." I did not see the use of losing courage and I think the only time I weakened was when father died, as he could not be replaced.
We went on talking and picking berries, and before we knew it the basket was full again and the pails. It was now night so mother took the bushel basket on her head and I took the pails and we were soon home. That night mother took my clothing, as was customary, and washed and pressed it so I would look nice and clean to go to market the next day. As I only had one outfit of clothes I had necessarily to go without them during the washing process, however, mother always kept me clean, at considerable labor on her part. The next morning, early, mother and I started for town, five miles distant, walking along the hot, dusty road, each of us with a basket of berries on our heads and bunches of cucumbers in our hands, mother having much the larger load, but she was a very strong woman. As it chanced we had a lucky day and sold our stock of berries and cucumbers in a short time. We then bought what we needed and had a little money left but for all that, I was not quite satisfied. I wanted mother to buy something that was not necessary, but she said, "My son, if we don't save a few cents now what will it be later on? We will have to go to the poorhouse." I said, "Dear mother if there is a house poorer than ours I don't want to see it." I will always remember the sight of mother's face as she turned to me, the tears running down her cheeks as she answered, "Yes, my son, you are right there are few houses poorer than ours now." The same year when fall came mother and I thought we had the bull by the horns. There were several fine groves of walnut, hickory nut, chestnut and shirly bark nut trees in the woods and I made a sleigh on which I nailed a big box. I tied a rope for a tongue and with a stick on the end, mother and I working as a sort of double team would draw through the woods among the trees gathering the different kinds of nuts and as the box was big, large quantities could be gathered in this manner. During the nut season we worked every day from morning to night, gathering large quantities of nuts for which we always found a ready market. As we worked we talked of what we would buy with the money and making plans for the future. The nuts we sold usually brought us: chestnuts one dollar a bushel; walnuts fifty cents, and hickory nuts fifty cents a bushel. This money added to the proceeds of the crop netted us quite a nice sum and made our condition much better, but I assure you, dear readers, it took hard work from morning to night to make both ends meet but with the help of God we made them meet, and during this time we were always healthy and the knowledge that we were free and working for ourselves gave us courage to continue the struggle. It was about this time that I commenced thinking about going west.
I wanted to see more of the world and as I began to realize there was so much more of the world than what I had seen, the desire to go grew on me from day to day. It was hard to think of leaving mother and the children, but freedom is sweet and I wanted to make more of the opportunity and my life than I could see possible around home. Besides I suppose, I was a little selfish as mortals are prone to be. Finally the desire to go out in the world grew so strong that I mentioned it to mother, but she did not give me much encouragement, and I don't think she thought I had the courage to go, and besides I had neither clothing or money and to tell the truth, the outlook was discouraging even to me, but I continued to look for an opportunity which happened in a very unexpected manner shortly after. One day a man by the name of Johnson announced that he would raffle a fine beautiful horse at fifty cents a chance. I heard of it at once, but had no money with which to get a chance. However, when there's a will there's a way, so I went to the barn and caught two chickens which I sold for fifty cents and at once got a chance. My chance won the horse. Mr. Johnson said he would give me fifty dollars for the horse and as I needed the money more than the horse I sold the horse back. Mr. Johnson at once raffled him off again and again I won the horse, which I again sold for fifty dollars. With nearly a hundred dollars I went home and told mother of what I had done and gave her half of the money, telling her I would take the other half and go out in the world and try and better my condition. I then went to town and bought some underwear and other needful articles, intending to leave at once, but mother pleaded with me so hard to stay home, that I finally consented to remain one more month, but at the end of that time she pleaded for one more and I could not refuse her. During this time my uncle came to live with us and I asked him to take my place at home. This he consented to do gladly. Things were going on fairly well at home now. The farm was yielding a fair living and the children having grown much larger they were a source of help instead of an hindrance and now that my uncle and my brother Jordan were home to look after mother, I felt I could better leave them now, because I was not really needed at home. After gathering what few things I wanted to take with me and providing myself with some needed clothes, I bade mother and the old home farewell, and started out for the first time alone in a world I knew very little about.
THE WORLD IS BEFORE ME. I JOIN THE TEXAS COWBOYS. RED RIVER DICK. MY FIRST OUTFIT. MY FIRST INDIAN FIGHT. I LEARN TO USE MY GUN.
It was on the tenth day of February, 1869, that I left the old home, near Nashville, Tennessee. I was at that time about fifteen years old, and though while young in years the hard work and farm life had made me strong and hearty, much beyond my years, and I had full confidence in myself as being able to take care of myself and making my way.
I at once struck out for Kansas of which I had heard something. And believing it was a good place in which to seek employment. It was in the west, and it was the great west I wanted to see, and so by walking and occasional lifts from farmers going my way and taking advantage of every thing that promised to assist me on my way, I eventually brought up at Dodge City, Kansas, which at that time was a typical frontier city, with a great many saloons, dance halls, and gambling houses, and very little of anything else. When I arrived the town was full of cow boys from the surrounding ranches, and from Texas and other parts of the west. As Kansas was a great cattle center and market, the wild cow boy, prancing horses of which I was very fond, and the wild life generally, all had their attractions for me, and I decided to try for a place with them. Although it seemed to me I had met with a bad outfit, at least some of them, going around among them I watched my chances to get to speak with them, as I wanted to find some one whom I thought would give me a civil answer to the questions I wanted to ask, but they all seemed too wild around town, so the next day I went out where they were in camp.
Approaching a party who were eating their breakfast, I got to speak with them. They asked me to have some breakfast with them, which invitation I gladly accepted. During the meal I got a chance to ask them many questions. They proved to be a Texas outfit, who had just come up with a herd of cattle and having delivered them they were preparing to return. There were several colored cow boys among them, and good ones too. After breakfast I asked the camp boss for a job as cow boy. He asked me if I could ride a wild horse. I said "yes sir." He said if you can I will give you a job. So he spoke to one of the colored cow boys called Bronko Jim, and told him to go out and rope old Good Eye, saddle him and put me on his back. Bronko Jim gave me a few pointers and told me to look out for the horse was especially bad on pitching. I told Jim I was a good rider and not afraid of him. I thought I had rode pitching horses before, but from the time I mounted old Good Eye I knew I had not learned what pitching was. This proved the worst horse to ride I had ever mounted in my life, but I stayed with him and the cow boys were the most surprised outfit you ever saw, as they had taken me for a tenderfoot, pure and simple. After the horse got tired and I dismounted the boss said he would give me a job and pay me $30.00 per month and more later on. He asked what my name was and I answered Nat Love, he said to the boys we will call him Red River Dick. I went by this name for a long time.
The boss took me to the city and got my outfit, which consisted of a new saddle, bridle and spurs, chaps, a pair of blankets and a fine 45 Colt revolver. Now that the business which brought them to Dodge City was concluded, preparations were made to start out for the Pan Handle country in Texas to the home ranch. The outfit of which I was now a member was called the Duval outfit, and their brand was known as the Pig Pen brand. I worked with this outfit for over three years. On this trip there were only about fifteen of us riders, all excepting myself were hardy, experienced men, always ready for anything that might turn up, but they were as jolly a set of fellows as one could find in a long journey. There now being nothing to keep us longer in Dodge City, we prepared for the return journey, and left the next day over the old Dodge and Sun City lonesome trail, on a journey which was to prove the most eventful of my life up to now.
A few miles out we encountered some of the hardest hail storms I ever saw, causing discomfort to man and beast, but I had no notion of getting discouraged but I resolved to be always ready for any call that might be made on me, of whatever nature it might be, and those with whom I have lived and worked will tell you I have kept that resolve. Not far from Dodge City on our way home we encountered a band of the old Victoria tribe of Indians and had a sharp fight.
These Indians were nearly always harrassing travelers and traders and the stock men of that part of the country, and were very troublesome. In this band we encountered there were about a hundred painted bucks all well mounted. When we saw the Indians they were coming after us yelling like demons. As we were not expecting Indians at this particular time, we were taken somewhat by surprise.
We only had fifteen men in our outfit, but nothing daunted we stood our ground and fought the Indians to a stand. One of the boys was shot off his horse and killed near me. The Indians got his horse, bridle and saddle. During this fight we lost all but six of our horses, our entire packing outfit and our extra saddle horses, which the Indians stampeded, then rounded them up after the fight and drove them off. And as we only had six horses left us, we were unable to follow them, although we had the satisfaction of knowing we had made several good Indians out of bad ones.
This was my first Indian fight and likewise the first Indians I had ever seen. When I saw them coming after us and heard their blood curdling yell, I lost all courage and thought my time had come to die. I was too badly scared to run, some of the boys told me to use my gun and shoot for all I was worth. Now I had just got my outfit and had never shot off a gun in my life, but their words brought me back to earth and seeing they were all using their guns in a way that showed they were used to it, I unlimbered my artillery and after the first shot I lost all fear and fought like a veteran.
We soon routed the Indians and they left, taking with them nearly all we had, and we were powerless to pursue them. We were compelled to finish our journey home almost on foot, as there were only six horses left to fourteen of us. Our friend and companion who was shot in the fight, we buried on the plains, wrapped in his blanket with stones piled over his grave. After this engagement with the Indians I seemed to lose all sense as to what fear was and thereafter during my whole life on the range I never experienced the least feeling of fear, no matter how trying the ordeal or how desperate my position.
The home ranch was located on the Palo Duro river in the western part of the Pan Handle, Texas, which we reached in the latter part of May, it taking us considerably over a month to make the return journey home from Dodge City. I remained in the employ of the Duval outfit for three years, making regular trips to Dodge City every season and to many other places in the surrounding states with herds of horses and cattle for market and to be delivered to other ranch owners all over Texas, Wyoming and the Dakotas. By strict attention to business, born of a genuine love of the free and wild life of the range, and absolute fearlessness, I became known throughout the country as a good all around cow boy and a splendid hand in a stampede.
After returning from one of our trips north with a bunch of cattle in the fall of 1872, I received and accepted a better position with the Pete Gallinger company, whose immense range was located on the Gila River in southern Arizona. So after drawing the balance of my pay from the Duval company and bidding good bye to the true and tried companions of the past three years, who had learned me the business and been with me in many a trying situation, it was with genuine regret that I left them for my new position, one that meant more to me in pay and experience. I stayed with Pete Gallinger company for several years and soon became one of their most trusted men, taking an important part in all the big round-ups and cuttings throughout western Texas, Arizona and other states where the company had interests to be looked after, sometimes riding eighty miles a day for days at a time over the trails of Texas and the surrounding country and naturally I soon became well known among the cowboys, rangers, scouts and guides it was my pleasure to meet in my wanderings over the country, in the wake of immense herds of the long horned Texas cattle and large bands of range horses. Many of these men who were my companions on the trail and in camp, have since become famous in story and history, and a braver, truer set of men never lived than these wild sons of the plains whose home was in the saddle and their couch, mother earth, with the sky for a covering. They were always ready to share their blanket and their last ration with a less fortunate fellow companion and always assisted each other in the many trying situations that were continually coming up in a cowboy's life.
When we were not on the trail taking large herds of cattle or horses to market or to be delivered to other ranches we were engaged in range riding, moving large numbers of cattle from one grazing range to another, keeping them together, and hunting up strays which, despite the most earnest efforts of the range riders would get away from the main herd and wander for miles over the plains before they could be found, overtaken and returned to the main herd.
Then the Indians and the white outlaws who infested the country gave us no end of trouble, as they lost no opportunity to cut out and run off the choicest part of a herd of long horns, or the best of a band of horses, causing the cowboys a ride of many a long mile over the dusty plains in pursuit, and many are the fierce engagements we had, when after a long chase of perhaps hundreds of miles over the ranges we overtook the thieves. It then became a case of "to the victor belongs the spoils," as there was no law respected in this wild country, except the law of might and the persuasive qualities of the 45 Colt pistol.
Accordingly it became absolutely necessary for a cowboy to understand his gun and know how to place its contents where it would do the most good, therefore I in common with my other companions never lost an opportunity to practice with my 45 Colts and the opportunities were not lacking by any means and so in time I became fairly proficient and able in most cases to hit a barn door providing the door was not too far away, and was steadily improving in this as I was in experience and knowledge of the other branches of the business which I had chosen as my life's work and which I had begun to like so well, because while the life was hard and in some ways exacting, yet it was free and wild and contained the elements of danger which my nature craved and which began to manifest itself when I was a pugnacious youngster on the old plantation in our rock battles and the breaking of the wild horses. I gloried in the danger, and the wild and free life of the plains, the new country I was continually traversing, and the many new scenes and incidents continually arising in the life of a rough rider.
I LEARN TO SPEAK SPANISH AND AM MADE CHIEF BRAND READER. THE BIG ROUND-UPS. RIDING THE 7-Y-L STEER. LONG RIDES. HUNTING STRAYS.
Having now fairly begun my life as a cowboy, I was fast learning the many ins and outs of the business, while my many roamings over the range country gave me a knowledge of it not possessed by many at that time. Being of a naturally observant disposition, I noticed many things to which others attached no significance. This quality of observance proved of incalculable benefit to me in many ways during my life as a range rider in the western country. My employment with the Pete Gallinger company took me all over the Pan Handle country, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico with herds of horses and cattle for market and to be delivered to other ranch owners and large cattle breeders. Naturally I became very well acquainted with all the many different trails and grazing ranges located in the stretch of country between the north of Montana and the Gulf of Mexico, and between the Missouri state line and the Pacific ocean. This whole territory I have covered many times in the saddle, sometimes at the rate of eighty or one hundred miles a day. These long rides and much traveling over the country were of great benefit to me, as it enabled me to meet so many different people connected with the cattle business and also to learn the different trails and the lay of the country generally.
Among the other things that I picked up on my wanderings, was a knowledge of the Spanish language, which I learned to speak like a native. I also became very well acquainted with the many different brands scattered over this stretch of country, consequently it was not long before the cattle men began to recognize my worth and the Gallinger company made me their chief brand reader, which duties I performed for several years with honor to myself and satisfaction to my employers. In the cattle country, all the large cattle raisers had their squad of brand readers whose duty it was to attend all the big round-ups and cuttings throughout the country, and to pick out their own brands and to see that the different brands were not altered or counterfeited. They also had to look to the branding of the young stock.
During the big round-ups it was our duty to pick out our brand, and then send them home under the charge of our cowboys, likewise the newly branded stock. After each brand was cut out and started homeward, we had to stay with the round up to see that strays from the different herds from the surrounding country did not again get mixed up, until the different home ranges were reached. This work employed a large number of cowboys, who lived, ate and often slept in the saddle, as they covered many hundreds of miles in a very short space of time. This was made possible as every large cattleman had relays of horses sent out over the country where we might be expected to touch, and so we could always count on finding a fresh horse awaiting us at the end of a twenty-five or a fifty mile ride. But for us brand readers there was no rest, we merely changed our saddles and outfit to a fresh horse and were again on the go. After the general round up was over, cowboy sports and a good time generally was in order for those engaged in it. The interest of nearly all of us centered in the riding of what was known as the 7 Y-L steer. A big long horn wild steer, generally the worst in the herd, was cut out and turned loose on the open prairie. The cow boy who could rope and ride him would get the steer as his reward, and let me assure you dear reader, that it was not so easy as it sounds, as the steer separated from its fellows would become extremely ferocious and wild, and the man who attempted to rope and ride him would be in momentary danger of losing his life, if he relaxed in the least his vigilance and caution, because a wild steer is naturally ferocious. Even in cutting them out of the round up I have known them to get mad and attack the cowboys who only saved themselves by the quickness of their horses, or the friendly intervention of a comrade who happened to be near to rope the maddened long horn, and thus divert his attention to other things. But in the case of the 7 Y-L steer such intervention is against the rules, and the cowboy who attempts to rope and ride the steer must at all times look out for himself. I have seen two horses and their riders gored to death in this sport, and I have had to shoot more than one steer to save myself and horse after my horse had fallen with me and placed himself as well as me at the maddened beast's mercy. At such times it takes a cool head and a steady hand as no random shot will stop a wild steer. The bullet must be placed in a certain spot, the center of the forehead, to accomplish its mission. The last time I had a horse fall with me in roping the 7 Y-L steer, he fell as the steer was but a few feet away, falling in such a way that my leg caught under the saddle, holding me fast. Quick as I could I gave the steer a bullet in the head and he stumbled and fell dead on top of my horse and me, so that the boys had to interfere to the extent of dragging the steer and horse off of my leg.
The cowboy who is successful in roping the steer must then mount and ride him. If he does that successfully the steer becomes his personal property to do with as he will, only a slight reward for the risking of his life and the trouble of accomplishing the feat. But it is done more for sport's sake than anything else, and the love of showing off, a weakness of all cow boys more or less. But really it takes a high class of horsemanship to ride a long horn, to get on his back and stay there as he runs, jumps, pitches side ways, backwards, forward, up and down, then over the prairie like a streak of lightning. I have had the experience and I can assure you it is no child's play. More than one 7 Y-L steer has fallen to my lot, but I had to work for it, and work hard. After all it was only part of the general routine of the cow boy's life, in which danger plays so important a part. It is seldom thought of being merely a matter of course, and none of us would have foregone the sport, had we known that sure death awaited us as the result, because above all things, the test of a cow boy's worth is his gameness and his nerve. He is not supposed to know what fear means, and I assure you there are very few who know the meaning of that word.
Most of my readers no doubt have heard of the great round ups and cuttings, connected with the cattle raiser's life. But not one in a hundred has any idea as to how an immense herd of wild cattle are handled in a big round up. My many years of experience has given me unusual knowledge on the subject, and you may bring any cattleman or boss to me, and I will guarantee to answer any question he can ask me about the cattle business. The first general round up occurs about the first of April. This round up is to run in all the near cattle belonging to each man, and head them toward our respective ranges. If we find any other brand mixed up with ours we head them toward their own range, and keep our own together. Every cow boy does the same and in this way every cattleman is enable to get his own brand together on his own range, so that when the next general round up occurs he will have most of his near cattle together on the home range. In order to get the cattle together in the first general round up, we would have to ride for hundreds of miles over the country in search of the long horn steers and old cows that had drifted from the home range during the winter and were now scattered to the four winds of heaven. As soon as they were found they were started off under the care of cow boys for the place agreed upon for the general round up, whether they belonged to us or not, while the rest of us continued the search. All the cow boys from the many different outfits working this way enabled us to soon get all the strays rounded up in one great herd in which the cattle of a dozen different owners were mixed up together. It then became our duty to cut out our different herds and start them homewards. Then we had to brand the young stock that had escaped that ordeal at the hands of the range riders. On finding the strays and starting them homewards, we had to keep up the search, because notwithstanding the fact that we had done range riding or line riding all winter, a large number of cattle would manage to evade the vigilance of the cow boys and get away. These must all be accounted for at the great round up, as they stood for dollars and cents, profit and loss to the great cattle kings of the west. In going after these strayed and perhaps stolen cattle we boys always provided ourselves with everything we needed, including plenty of grub, as sometimes we would be gone for nearly two months and sometimes much longer. It was not an uncommon occurrence for us to have shooting trouble over our different brands. In such disputes the boys would kill each other if others did not interfere in time to prevent it, because in those days on the great cattle ranges there was no law but the law of might, and all disputes were settled with a forty-five Colt pistol. In such cases the man who was quickest on the draw and whose eye was the best, pretty generally got the decision. Therefore it was of the greatest importance that the cow boy should understand his gun, its capabilities and its shooting qualities. A cow boy would never carry anything but the very best gun obtainable, as his life depended on it often. After securing a good gun the cow boy had to learn how to use it, if he did not already know how. In doing so no trouble or expense was spared, and I know there were very few poor shots on the ranges over which we rode and they used the accomplishment to protect themselves and their employer's cattle from the Indian thiefs and the white desperadoes who infested the cattle country, and who lost no opportunity to stampede the herds and run off large numbers of them. Whenever this happened it generally resulted in a long chase and a fierce fight in which someone was sure to get hurt, and hurt badly. But that fact did not bother us in the least. It was all simply our duty and our business for which we were paid and paid good, and so we accepted things as they came, always ready for it whatever it might be, and always taking pride in our work in which we always tried to excel.
Christmas, Dec. 25, 1872, is a day in my memory which time cannot blot out. I and a number of friends were in a place called Holbrook, Ariz. A dispute started over a saddle horse with the following result. Arizona Bob drew his forty-five Colt revolver, but before he had time to fire he was instantly killed by A. Jack. Then a general fight ensued in which five horses and three men were killed.
It was a sad thing for me to see my friends dead in a corral on a Christmas morning, but I helped bury the dead and took care of the wounded. The names were A. Jack, Wild Horse Pete and Arizona Bill.
ON THE TRAIL. A TEXAS STORM. A CATTLE STAMPEDE. BATTLE WITH THE ELEMENTS. AFTER BUSINESS COMES PLEASURE.
After the round ups and on returning from our long rides after strayed cattle we would have to prepare to take the trail with herds of cattle and horses for market and to be delivered to other large ranch owners. The party of cow boys to make these trips were all selected men. We would spend several days at the home ranch resting up and preparing our outfit, in which our guns, saddles, blankets and horses were given a thorough overhauling and placed in first class condition, as they would be called on to do good hard service on these trips on the trail. The nature of our journey would depend very much on the kind of cattle we were called upon to handle. Sometimes it would be all classes together; on other occasions the herd would consist of a certain kind, such as long yearlings, short yearlings, tail end and scabs. The larger demand however, seemed to be for straight three and four year old steers. These latter kind were the easiest to handle on the trail. It is no doubt necessary that I explain the difference between the different kinds I mention here. Short yearlings were those over one year old and short of two years, long yearlings those two years and short of three years, tail end and scabs mean nearly the same thing, and comprise all the very young stock of all classes not yet reached the dignity of yearlings. These latter were in demand from the cattle men, who took them to feed until they got their growth or to raise from, as stock cattle three or four years old were generally the market or beef cattle. These latter were by all odds the easiest to handle on the trail. Sometimes we would have an order for five or six hundred head of all classes of cattle, then again we would have to start out with fifteen hundred head of shipping steers, or several hundred head of horses.
Shortly after I entered the employ of the Pete Gallinger company, and after the round-ups of the early season, we received an order for two thousand five hundred head of three year old steers to be delivered at Dodge City, Kansas. This was the largest herd I had up to the present time followed good rest at the home ranch, we strung the large herd out with two months provisions, and the camp wagon. After a and one hundred extra saddle horses and several pack horses, on the trail. Our outfit consisted of forty picked cow boys, along the old Chillers trail en route for Kansas, and we started on what proved to be an eventful journey. The herd behaved splendidly and gave us very little trouble until we crossed the Red river and struck the Old Dog and Sun City trail, here they became restless, and stampeded nearly every night, and whenever they got half a chance. This made it very hard on us cowboys, as it is no easy matter to ride the lines of such a large herd, let alone having to chase them back in line from many miles over the prairie where they had stampeded in their wild career. After crossing the Kansas line at a place known as the South Forks, while making for the head of the Cimarron river on the twenty-seventh of June, we experienced one of the hardest rain and hail storms I had ever seen, in the western country, the rain came down in torrents only to cease and give place to hail stones the size of walnuts. While the thunder and lightning was incessant. It was shortly after dark when the storm commenced. The twenty-five hundred head of cattle strung out along the trail became panic stricken and stampeded, and despite our utmost efforts, we were unable to keep them in line.
Imagine, my dear reader, riding your horse at the top of his speed through torrents of rain and hail, and darkness so black that we could not see our horses heads, chasing an immense herd of maddened cattle which we could hear but could not see, except during the vivid flashes of lightning which furnished our only light. It was the worst night's ride I ever experienced. Late the next morning we had the herd rounded up thirty miles from where they started from the night before. On going back over the country to our camp of the night before, we saw the great danger we had been in during our mad ride. There were holes, cliffs, gulleys and big rocks scattered all around, some of the cliffs going down a sheer fifty feet or more, where if we had fallen over we would have been dashed to pieces on the rocks below, but we never thought of our personal danger that night, and we did not think particularly of it when we saw it further than to make a few joking remarks about what would have happened if some one of us had gone over. One of the boys offered to bet that a horse and rider going over one of those cliffs would bring up in China, while others thought he would bring up in Utah. It was our duty to save the cattle, and every thing else was of secondary importance. We never lost a single steer during this wild night—something we were justly proud of. This proved the last trouble we were to have with the herd, and we soon reached the five mile divide, five miles from Dodge City without further incident, and with our herd intact. Here we were to hold them until turned over to their new owners. This accomplished, our work was done and done well for this trip. Then we all headed for Dodge City to have a good time, and I assure you we had it. It was our intention and ambition to paint the town a deep red color and drink up all the bad whiskey in the city. Our nearly two months journey over the dusty plains and ranges had made us all inordinately thirsty and wild, and here is where we had our turn, accordingly we started out to do the town in true western style, in which we were perfectly successful until the town had done us, and we were dead broke. This fact slowed us up, because being broke we could not get up any more steam and we had to cool down right there. We then started out to find our boss, but that gentleman being wise in his time and generation, and knowing we would soon all be broke, and would be wanting more money, and that he would let us have it if we asked him for it only to be thrown away, he made himself scarce, and he kept out of our sight until we cooled off. For my part I would not spend all my money. I would draw about fifty dollars, then I would get what things I wanted and then would let the other go free, but while our money lasted we would certainly enjoy ourselves, in dancing, drinking and shooting up the town. It was our delight to give exhibitions of rough riding roping and everything else we could think of to make things go fast enough to suit our ideas of speed. After several days spent in this manner we would begin to make ready to start on the return journey home to Texas. We left Dodge City on the first of July and on the fifteenth of August we were back on the old home ranch, where we rested up a few days before again starting out to ride the range after the long horns again. As I was a brand reader I had little time to rest as my services were in demand from many of the large cattle kings of Texas and Arizona, and when ever a dispute arose over brands, I was generally sent for to straighten matters out. This with the numerous round ups which I had to attend and the many transfers of cattle throughout the pan handle country kept me continually on the go. When my services were not needed as a brand reader I rode the range along with the other cow boys. This kept us almost continually in the saddle, and away from the home ranch for days at a time; when this was the case our food consisted of biscuit and cakes which we made ourselves from meal which we carried with us, and such meat and game as we could knock over with our guns. We camped wherever it suited and where there was feed for our horses. A cow boy's first care is always after his gun and his horse, that animal often meaning life and liberty to the cow boy in a tight place and the cow boy without a horse is like a chicken without its head, completely lost. My faithful horse has times without number carried me out of danger and preserved my life. We were not destined to have much rest this season as shortly after we returned from the trip to Dodge City, the boss bought a large herd of cattle down on the Rio Grande, just over the line in Mexico, which we had orders for, so we had to start out and round them up. This was no easy matter as they were scattered over a large range of territory and many strays had to be rounded up and got with the main herd. This we finally accomplished, after a great deal of hard riding over the rough Rio Grande country, and both men and horses were completely tired out, so we went into camp, only holding the herd together and getting rested up. This opportunity we improved by getting acquainted and fraternizing with the cow boys of one of the oldest cattle countries this side of the herring pond—Old Mexico. These men were for the most part typical greasers, but they proved to us that they knew a thing or two about the cattle business, and all things considered they were a jolly companionable sort of an outfit. From them we learned a few pointers and also gave them a few very much to our mutual benefit. We remained here a few days before starting northward with our herd, but these few days proved very pleasant ones to us boys who, on account of the monotony of the life we led always welcomed new experiences or events that would give us something to think and talk about while on our long rides behind the slow moving herd of long-horn steers, or around our camp fires when in camp on the plains, and it gave us especial pleasure to meet men of the same calling from other states over the west. It not only gave us pleasure, but it added to our cow knowledge, and of the country over which we might at any time be called on to drive cattle, and in such cases a knowledge of the country was most valuable to us. Then a cow boy's life contains many things in which he is continually trying to improve and excel, such as roping, shooting, riding and branding and many other things connected with the cattle business. We, in common with other trades, did not know it all, and we were always ready to learn anything new when we met any one who was capable of teaching us.
EN ROUTE TO WYOMING. THE INDIANS DEMAND TOLL. THE FIGHT. A BUFFALO STAMPEDE. TRAGIC DEATH OF CAL. SURCEY. AN EVENTFUL TRIP.
After getting the cattle together down on the Rio Grande and both man and beast had got somewhat rested up, we started the herd north. They were to be delivered to a man by the name of Mitchell, whose ranch was located along the Powder river, up in northern Wyoming. It was a long distance to drive cattle from Old Mexico to northern Wyoming, but to us it was nothing extraordinary as we were often called on to make even greater distances, as the railroads were not so common then as now, and transportation by rail was very little resorted to and except when beef cattle were sent to the far east, they were always transported on the hoof overland. Our route lay through southern Texas, Indian Territory, Kansas and Nebraska, to the Shoshone mountains in northern Wyoming. We had on this trip five hundred head of mostly four year old long horn steers. We did not have much trouble with them until we struck Indian Territory. On nearing the first Indian reservation, we were stopped by a large body of Indian bucks who said we could not pass through their country unless we gave them a steer for the privilege. Now as we were following the regular government trail which was a free public highway, it did not strike us as justifiable to pay our way, accordingly our boss flatly refused to give the Indians a steer, remarking that we needed all the cattle we had and proposed to keep them, but he would not mind giving them something much warmer if they interfered with us. This ultimatum of our boss had the effect of starting trouble right there. We went into camp at the edge of the Indian country. All around us was the tall blue grass of that region which in places was higher than a horse, affording an ideal hiding place for the Indians. As we expected an attack from the Indians, the boss arranged strong watches to keep a keen lookout. We had no sooner finished making camp when the Indians showed up, and charged us with a yell or rather a series of yells, I for one had got well used to the blood curdling yells of the Indians and they did not scare us in the least. We were all ready for them and after a short but sharp fight the Indians withdrew and every thing became