Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Leah Moser and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
A Collection of Western Camp-fire Stories
TO MR. AND MRS. HENRY RUSSELL WRAY
I. DRIFTING NORTH
II. SEIGERMAN'S PER CENT
III. "BAD MEDICINE"
IV. A WINTER ROUND-UP
V. A COLLEGE VAGABOND
VI. THE DOUBLE TRAIL
VIII. AT COMANCHE FORD
IX. AROUND THE SPADE WAGON
X. THE RANSOM OF DON RAMON MORA
XI. THE PASSING OF PEG-LEG
XII. IN THE HANDS OF HIS FRIENDS
XIII. A QUESTION OF POSSESSION
XIV. THE STORY OF A POKER STEER
"The Passing of Peg-Leg" and "A Question of Possession" appeared
originally in _Leslie's Monthly_, and are here reprinted by permission
of the publishers of that magazine.
[Illustration:] Bar X bar.
[Illustration:] Barb wire.
[Illustration:] Diamond tail.
[Illustration:] Johnson & Hosmer
[Illustration:] United States.
[Illustration:] Dead tree.
[Illustration:] Tin cup.
[Illustration:] Bar Z bar.
[Illustration:] Running W.
[Illustration:] Three circle.
[Illustration:] Two bars.
[Illustration:] Broken arrow.
[Illustration:] Four D.
[Illustration:] Turkey track.
[Illustration:] Owned by "Barbecue" Campbell.
[Illustration:] "Inspected and condemned."
[Illustration:] Flower pot.
[Illustration:] Frying pan.
[Illustration:] Laurel leaf.
[Illustration:] X bar two.
[Footnote 1: These three belong to the United States Government.]
It was a wet, bad year on the Old Western Trail. From Red River north
and all along was herd after herd waterbound by high water in the
rivers. Our outfit lay over nearly a week on the South Canadian, but
we were not alone, for there were five other herds waiting for the
river to go down. This river had tumbled over her banks for several
days, and the driftwood that was coming down would have made it
dangerous swimming for cattle.
We were expected to arrive in Dodge early in June, but when we reached
the North Fork of the Canadian, we were two weeks behind time.
Old George Carter, the owner of the herd, was growing very impatient
about us, for he had had no word from us after we had crossed Red
River at Doan's crossing. Other cowmen lying around Dodge, who had
herds on the trail, could hear nothing from their men, but in their
experience and confidence in their outfits guessed the cause--it was
water. Our surprise when we came opposite Camp Supply to have Carter
and a stranger ride out to meet us was not to be measured. They had
got impatient waiting, and had taken the mail buckboard to Supply,
making inquiries along the route for the _Hat_ herd, which had not
passed up the trail, so they were assured. Carter was so impatient
that he could not wait, as he had a prospective buyer on his hands,
and the delay in the appearing of the herd was very annoying to him.
Old George was as tickled as a little boy to meet us all.
The cattle were looking as fine as silk. The lay-overs had rested
them. The horses were in good trim, considering the amount of wet
weather we had had. Here and there was a nigger brand, but these
saddle galls were unavoidable when using wet blankets. The cattle were
twos and threes. We had left western Texas with a few over thirty-two
hundred head and were none shy. We could have counted out more, but on
some of them the Hat brand had possibly faded out. We went into a
cosy camp early in the evening. Everything needful was at hand, wood,
water, and grass. Cowmen in those days prided themselves on their
outfits, and Carter was a trifle gone on his men.
With the cattle on hand, drinking was out of the question, so the only
way to show us any regard was to bring us a box of cigars. He must
have brought those cigars from Texas, for they were wrapped in a copy
of the Fort Worth "Gazette." It was a month old and full of news.
Every man in the outfit read and reread it. There were several train
robberies reported in it, but that was common in those days. They had
nominated for Governor "The Little Cavalryman," Sol Ross, and this
paper estimated that his majority would be at least two hundred
thousand. We were all anxious to get home in time to vote for him.
Theodore Baughman was foreman of our outfit. Baugh was a typical
trail-boss. He had learned to take things as they came, play the cards
as they fell, and not fret himself about little things that could not
be helped. If we had been a month behind he would never have thought
to explain the why or wherefore to old man Carter. Several years after
this, when he was scouting for the army, he rode up to a herd over on
the Chisholm trail and asked one of the tail men: "Son, have you
seen anything of about three hundred nigger soldiers?" "No," said the
cowboy. "Well," said Baugh, "I've lost about that many."
That night around camp the smoke was curling upward from those cigars
in clouds. When supper was over and the guards arranged for the night,
story-telling was in order. This cattle-buyer with us lived in Kansas
City and gave us several good ones. He told us of an attempted robbery
of a bank which had occurred a few days before in a western town. As a
prelude to the tale, he gave us the history of the robbers.
"Cow Springs, Kansas," said he, "earned the reputation honestly of
being a hard cow-town. When it became the terminus of one of the many
eastern trails, it was at its worst. The death-rate amongst its city
marshals--always due to a six-shooter in the hands of some man who
never hesitated to use it--made the office not over desirable. The
office was vacated so frequently in this manner that at last no local
man could be found who would have it. Then the city fathers sent to
Texas for a man who had the reputation of being a killer. He kept his
record a vivid green by shooting first and asking questions afterward.
"Well, the first few months he filled the office of marshal he killed
two white men and an Indian, and had the people thoroughly buffaloed.
When the cattle season had ended and winter came on, the little town
grew tame and listless. There was no man to dare him to shoot, and
he longed for other worlds to conquer. He had won his way into public
confidence with his little gun. But this confidence reposed in him was
misplaced, for he proved his own double both in morals and courage.
"To show you the limit of the confidence he enjoyed: the treasurer of
the Cherokee Strip Cattle Association paid rent money to that tribe,
at their capital, fifty thousand dollars quarterly. The capital is
not located on any railroad; so the funds in currency were taken in
regularly by the treasurer, and turned over to the tribal authorities.
This trip was always made with secrecy, and the marshal was taken
along as a trusted guard. It was an extremely dangerous trip to make,
as it was through a country infested with robbers and the capital at
least a hundred miles from the railroad. Strange no one ever attempted
to rob the stage or private conveyance, though this sum was taken in
regularly for several years. The average robber was careful of his
person, and could not be induced to make a target of himself for any
money consideration, where there was danger of a gun in the hands of a
man that would shoot rapidly and carelessly.
"Before the herds began to reach as far north, the marshal and his
deputy gave some excuse and disappeared for a few days, which was
quite common and caused no comment. One fine morning the good people
of the town where the robbery was attempted were thrown into an uproar
by shooting in their bank, just at the opening hour. The robbers were
none other than our trusted marshal, his deputy, and a cow-puncher
who had been led into the deal. When they ordered the officials of
the bank to stand in a row with hands up, they were nonplused at their
refusal to comply. The attacked party unearthed ugly looking guns and
opened fire on the hold-ups instead.
"This proved bad policy, for when the smoke cleared away the cashier,
a very popular man, was found dead, while an assistant was dangerously
wounded. The shooting, however, had aroused the town to the situation,
and men were seen running to and fro with guns. This unexpected
refusal and the consequent shooting spoiled the plans of the robbers,
so that they abandoned the robbery and ran to their horses.
"After mounting they parleyed with each other a moment and seemed
bewildered as to which way they should ride, finally riding south
toward what seemed a broken country. Very few minutes elapsed before
every man who could find a horse was joining the posse that was
forming to pursue them. Before they were out of sight the posse had
started after them. They were well mounted and as determined a set of
men as were ever called upon to meet a similar emergency. They had the
decided advantage of the robbers, as their horses were fresh, and the
men knew every foot of the country.
"The broken country to which the hold-ups headed was a delusion as far
as safety was concerned. They were never for a moment out of sight of
the pursuers, and this broken country ended in a deep coulee. When
the posse saw them enter this they knew that their capture was only a
matter of time. Nature seemed against the robbers, for as they entered
the coulee their horses bogged down in a springy rivulet, and they
were so hard pressed that they hastily dismounted, and sought shelter
in some shrubbery that grew about. The pursuing party, now swollen to
quite a number, had spread out and by this time surrounded the men.
They were seen to take shelter in a clump of wild plum brush, and the
posse closed in on them. Seeing the numbers against them, they came
out on demand and surrendered. Neither the posse nor themselves knew
at this time that the shooting in the bank had killed the cashier.
Less than an hour's time had elapsed between the shooting and the
capture. When the posse reached town on their return, they learned of
the death of the cashier, and the identity of the prisoners was soon
established by citizens who knew the marshal and his deputy. The
latter admitted their identity.
"That afternoon they were photographed, and later in the day were
given a chance to write to any friends to whom they wished to say
good-by. The cow-puncher was the only one who availed himself of the
opportunity. He wrote to his parents. He was the only one of the trio
who had the nerve to write, and seemed the only one who realized the
enormity of his crime, and that he would never see the sun of another
"As darkness settled over the town, the mob assembled. There was no
demonstration. The men were taken quietly out and hanged. At the final
moment there was a remarkable variety of nerve shown. The marshal and
deputy were limp, unable to stand on their feet. With piteous appeals
and tears they pleaded for mercy, something they themselves had never
shown their own victims. The boy who had that day written his parents
his last letter met his fate with Indian stoicism. He cursed the
crouching figures of his pardners for enticing him into this crime,
and begged them not to die like curs, but to meet bravely the fate
which he admitted they all deserved. Several of the men in the mob
came forward and shook hands with him, and with no appeal to man or
his Maker, he was swung into the great Unknown at the end of a rope.
Such nerve is seldom met in life, and those that are supposed to have
it, when they come face to face with their end, are found lacking
that quality. It is a common anomaly in life that the bad man with
his record often shows the white feather when he meets his fate at the
hands of an outraged community."
We all took a friendly liking to the cattle-buyer. He was an
interesting talker. While he was a city man, he mixed with us with
a certain freedom and abandon that was easy and natural. We all
regretted it the next day when he and the old man left us.
"I've heard my father tell about those Cherokees," said Port Cole.
"They used to live in Georgia, those Indians. They must have been
honest people, for my father told us boys at home, that once in the
old State while the Cherokees lived there, his father hired one of
their tribe to guide him over the mountains. There was a pass through
the mountains that was used and known only to these Indians. It would
take six weeks to go and come, and to attend to the business in view.
My father was a small boy at the time, and says that his father hired
the guide for the entire trip for forty dollars in gold. One condition
was that the money was to be paid in advance. The morning was set for
the start, and my grandfather took my father along on the trip.
"Before starting from the Indian's cabin my grandfather took out his
purse and paid the Indian four ten-dollar gold pieces. The Indian
walked over to the corner of the cabin, and in the presence of other
Indians laid this gold, in plain sight of all, on the end of a log
that projected where they cross outside, and got on his horse to be
gone six weeks. They made the trip on time, and my father said his
first thought, on their return to the Indian village, was to see if
the money was untouched. It was. You couldn't risk white folks that
"Oh, I don't know," said one of the boys. "Suppose you save your wages
this summer and try it next year when we start up the trail, just to
see how it will work."
"Well, if it's just the same to you," replied Port, lighting a fresh
cigar, "I'll not try, for I'm well enough satisfied as to how it would
turn out, without testing it."
"Isn't it strange," said Bat Shaw, "that if you trust a man or put
confidence in him he won't betray you. Now, that marshal--one month
he was guarding money at the risk of his life, and the next was losing
his life trying to rob some one. I remember a similar case down on
the Rio Grande. It was during the boom in sheep a few years ago, when
every one got crazy over sheep.
"A couple of Americans came down on the river to buy sheep. They
brought their money with them. It was before the time of any
railroads. The man they deposited their money with had lived amongst
these Mexicans till he had forgotten where he did belong, though he
was a Yankee. These sheep-buyers asked their banker to get them a man
who spoke Spanish and knew the country, as a guide. The banker sent
and got a man that he could trust. He was a swarthy-looking native
whose appearance would not recommend him anywhere. He was accepted,
and they set out to be gone over a month.
"They bought a band of sheep, and it was necessary to pay for them
at a point some forty miles further up the river. There had been some
robbing along the river, and these men felt uneasy about carrying
the money to this place to pay for the sheep. The banker came to the
rescue by advising them to send the money by the Mexican, who could
take it through in a single night. No one would ever suspect him of
ever having a dollar on his person. It looked risky, but the banker
who knew the nature of the native urged it as the better way, assuring
them that the Mexican was perfectly trustworthy. The peon was brought
in, the situation was explained to him, and he was ordered to be in
readiness at nightfall to start on his errand.
"He carried the money over forty miles that night, and delivered it
safely in the morning to the proper parties. This act of his aroused
the admiration of these sheep men beyond a point of safety. They paid
for the sheep, were gone for a few months, sold out their flocks to
good advantage, and came back to buy more. This second time they did
not take the precaution to have the banker hire the man, but did so
themselves, intending to deposit their money with a different house
farther up the river. They confided to him that they had quite a
sum of money with them, and that they would deposit it with the same
merchant to whom he had carried the money before. The first night they
camped the Mexican murdered them both, took the money, and crossed
into Mexico. He hid their bodies, and it was months before they were
missed, and a year before their bones were found. He had plenty
of time to go to the ends of the earth before his crime would be
"Now that Mexican would never think of betraying the banker, his old
friend and patron, his _muy bueno amigo_. There were obligations that
he could not think of breaking with the banker; but these fool sheep
men, supposing it was simple honesty, paid the penalty of their
confidence with their lives. Now, when he rode over this same road
alone, a few months before, with over five thousand dollars in money
belonging to these same men, all he would need to have done was to
ride across the river. When there were no obligations binding, he was
willing to add murder to robbery. Some folks say that Mexicans are
good people; it is the climate, possibly, but they can always be
depended on to assay high in treachery."
"What guard are you going to put me on to-night?" inquired old man
Carter of Baugh.
"This outfit," said Baugh, in reply, "don't allow any tenderfoot
around the cattle,--at night, at least. You'd better play you're
company; somebody that's come. If you're so very anxious to do
something, the cook may let you rustle wood or carry water. We'll fix
you up a bed after a little, and see that you get into it where you
can sleep and be harmless.
"Colonel," added Baugh, "why is it that you never tell that experience
you had once amongst the greasers?"
"Well, there was nothing funny in it to me," said Carter, "and they
say I never tell it twice alike."
"Why, certainly, tell us," said the cattle-buyer. "I've never heard
it. Don't throw off to-night."
"It was a good many years ago," began old man George, "but the
incident is very clear in my mind. I was working for a month's wages
then myself. We were driving cattle out of Mexico. The people I
was working for contracted for a herd down in Chihuahua, about four
hundred miles south of El Paso. We sent in our own outfit, wagon,
horses, and men, two weeks before. I was kept behind to take in the
funds to pay for the cattle. The day before I started, my people drew
out of the bank twenty-eight thousand dollars, mostly large bills.
They wired ahead and engaged a rig to take me from the station where I
left the railroad to the ranch, something like ninety miles.
"I remember I bought a new mole-skin suit, which was very popular
about then. I had nothing but a small hand-bag, and it contained only
a six-shooter. I bought a book to read on the train and on the road
out, called 'Other People's Money.' The title caught my fancy, and it
was very interesting. It was written by a Frenchman,--full of love
and thrilling situations. I had the money belted on me securely, and
started out with flying colors. The railroad runs through a dreary
country, not worth a second look, so I read my new book. When I
arrived at the station I found the conveyance awaiting me. The plan
was to drive halfway, and stay over night at a certain hacienda.
"The driver insisted on starting at once, telling me that we could
reach the Hacienda Grande by ten o'clock that night, which would be
half my journey. We had a double-seated buckboard and covered the
country rapidly. There were two Mexicans on the front seat, while I
had the rear one all to myself. Once on the road I interested myself
in 'Other People's Money,' almost forgetful of the fact that at that
very time I had enough of other people's money on my person to set all
the bandits in Mexico on my trail. There was nothing of incident that
evening, until an hour before sundown. We reached a small ranchito,
where we spent an hour changing horses, had coffee and a rather light
"Before leaving I noticed a Pinto horse hitched to a tree some
distance in the rear of the house, and as we were expecting to buy a
number of horses, I walked back and looked this one carefully over.
He was very peculiarly color-marked in the mane. I inquired for his
owner, but they told me that he was not about at present. It was
growing dusk when we started out again. The evening was warm and
sultry and threatening rain. We had been on our way about an hour
when I realized we had left the main road and were bumping along on a
by-road. I asked the driver his reason for this, and he explained that
it was a cut-off, and that by taking it we would save three miles and
half an hour's time. As a further reason he expressed his opinion that
we would have rain that night, and that he was anxious to reach the
hacienda in good time. I encouraged him to drive faster, which he did.
Within another hour I noticed we were going down a dry arroyo, with
mesquite brush on both sides of the road, which was little better than
a trail. My suspicions were never aroused sufficiently to open the
little hand-bag and belt on the six-shooter. I was dreaming along
when we came to a sudden stop before what seemed a deserted jacal.
The Mexicans mumbled something to each other over some disappointment,
when the driver said to me:--
"'Here's where we stay all night. This is the hacienda.' They both got
out and insisted on my getting out, but I refused to do so. I reached
down and picked up my little grip and was in the act of opening it,
when one of them grabbed my arm and jerked me out of the seat to the
ground. I realized then for the first time that I was in for it in
earnest. I never knew before that I could put up such a fine defense,
for inside a minute I had them both blinded in their own blood. I
gathered up rocks and had them flying when I heard a clatter of hoofs
coming down the arroyo like a squadron of cavalry. They were so close
on to me that I took to the brush, without hat, coat, or pistol. Men
that pack a gun all their lives never have it when they need it; that
was exactly my fix. Darkness was in my favor, but I had no more idea
where I was or which way I was going than a baby. One thing sure, I
was trying to get away from there as fast as I could. The night was
terribly dark, and about ten o'clock it began to rain a deluge. I kept
going all night, but must have been circling.
"Towards morning I came to an arroyo which was running full of water.
My idea was to get that between me and the scene of my trouble, so
I took off my boots to wade it. When about one third way across, I
either stepped off a bluff bank or into a well, for I went under and
dropped the boots. When I came to the surface I made a few strokes
swimming and landed in a clump of mesquite brush, to which I clung,
got on my feet, and waded out to the opposite bank more scared than
hurt. Right there I lay until daybreak.
"The thing that I remember best now was the peculiar odor of the wet
mole-skin. If there had been a strolling artist about looking for
a picture of Despair, I certainly would have filled the bill. The
sleeves were torn out of my shirt, and my face and arms were scratched
and bleeding from the thorns of the mesquite. No one who could have
seen me then would ever have dreamed that I was a walking depositary
of 'Other People's Money.' When it got good daylight I started out
and kept the shelter of the brush to hide me. After nearly an hour's
travel, I came out on a divide, and about a mile off I saw what looked
like a jacal. Directly I noticed a smoke arise, and I knew then it was
a habitation. My appearance was not what I desired, but I approached
"In answer to my knock at the door a woman opened it about two inches
and seemed to be more interested in examination of my anatomy than in
listening to my troubles. After I had made an earnest sincere talk she
asked me, 'No estay loco tu?' I assured her that I was perfectly sane,
and that all I needed was food and clothing, for which I would pay her
well. It must have been my appearance that aroused her sympathy, for
she admitted me and fed me.
"The woman had a little girl of probably ten years of age. This little
girl brought me water to wash myself, while the mother prepared me
something to eat. I was so anxious to pay these people that I found a
five-dollar gold piece in one of my pockets and gave it to the little
girl, who in turn gave it to her mother. While I was drinking the
coffee and eating my breakfast, the woman saw me looking at a picture
of the Virgin Mary which was hanging on the adobe wall opposite me.
She asked me if I was a Catholic, which I admitted. Then she brought
out a shirt and offered it to me.
"Suddenly the barking of a dog attracted her to the door. She returned
breathless, and said in good Spanish: 'For God's sake, run! Fly! Don't
let my husband and brother catch you here, for they are coming home.'
She thrust the shirt into my hand and pointed out the direction in
which I should go. From a concealed point of the brush I saw two men
ride up to the jacal and dismount. One of them was riding the Pinto
horse I had seen the day before.
"I kept the brush for an hour or so, and finally came out on the mesa.
Here I found a flock of sheep and a pastore. From this shepherd I
learned that I was about ten miles from the main road. He took
the sandals from his own feet and fastened them on mine, gave me
directions, and about night I reached the hacienda, where I was kindly
received and cared for. This ranchero sent after officers and had the
country scoured for the robbers. I was detained nearly a week, to see
if I could identify my drivers, without result. They even brought in
the owner of the Pinto horse, and no doubt husband of the woman who
saved my life.
"After a week's time I joined our own outfit, and I never heard a
language that sounded so sweet as the English of my own tongue. I
would have gone back and testified against the owner of the spotted
horse if it hadn't been for a woman and a little girl who depended on
him, robber that he was."
"Now, girls," said Baugh, addressing Carter and the stranger, "I've
made you a bed out of the wagon-sheet, and rustled a few blankets
from the boys. You'll find the bed under the wagon-tongue, and we've
stretched a fly over it to keep the dew off you, besides adding
privacy to your apartments. So you can turn in when you run out of
stories or get sleepy."
"Haven't you got one for us?" inquired the cattle-buyer of Baugh.
"This is no time to throw off, or refuse to be sociable."
"Well, now, that bank robbery that you were telling the boys about,"
said Baugh, as he bit the tip from a fresh cigar, "reminds me of a
hold-up that I was in up in the San Juan mining country in Colorado.
We had driven into that mining camp a small bunch of beef and had
sold them to fine advantage. The outfit had gone back, and I remained
behind to collect for the cattle, expecting to take the stage and
overtake the outfit down on the river. I had neglected to book my
passage in advance, so when the stage was ready to start I had to
content myself with a seat on top. I don't remember the amount of
money I had. It was the proceeds of something like one hundred and
fifty beeves, in a small bag along of some old clothes. There wasn't a
cent of it mine, still I was supposed to look after it.
"The driver answered to the name of South-Paw, drove six horses, and
we had a jolly crowd on top. Near midnight we were swinging along, and
as we rounded a turn in the road, we noticed a flickering light ahead
some distance which looked like the embers of a camp-fire. As we came
nearly opposite the light, the leaders shied at some object in the
road in front of them. South-Paw uncurled his whip, and was in the act
of pouring the leather into them, when that light was uncovered as big
as the head-light of an engine. An empty five-gallon oil-can had been
cut in half and used as a reflector, throwing full light into the
road sufficient to cover the entire coach. Then came a round of
orders which meant business. 'Shoot them leaders if they cross that
obstruction!' 'Kill any one that gets off on the opposite side!'
'Driver, move up a few feet farther!' 'A few feet farther, please.'
'That'll do; thank you, sir.' 'Now, every son-of-a-horse-thief, get
out on this side of the coach, please, and be quick about it!'
"The man giving these orders stood a few feet behind the lamp and
out of sight, but the muzzle of a Winchester was plainly visible and
seemed to cover every man on the stage. It is needless to say that we
obeyed, got down in the full glare of the light, and lined up with
our backs to the robber, hands in the air. There was a heavily veiled
woman on the stage, whom he begged to hold the light for him, assuring
her that he never robbed a woman. This veiled person disappeared at
the time, and was supposed to have been a confederate. When the light
was held for him, he drew a black cap over each one of us, searching
everybody for weapons. Then he proceeded to rob us, and at last went
through the mail. It took him over an hour to do the job; he seemed in
"It was not known what he got out of the mail, but the passengers
yielded about nine hundred revenue to him, while there was three times
that amount on top the coach in my grip, wrapped in a dirty flannel
shirt. When he disappeared we were the cheapest lot of men imaginable.
It was amusing to hear the excuses, threats, and the like; but the
fact remained the same, that a dozen of us had been robbed by a lone
highwayman. I felt good over it, as the money in the grip had been
"Well, we cleared out the obstruction in the road, and got aboard the
coach once more. About four o'clock in the morning we arrived at our
destination, only two hours late. In the hotel office where the stage
stopped was the very man who had robbed us. He had got in an hour
ahead of us, and was a very much interested listener to the incident
as retold. There was an early train out of town that morning, and at
a place where they stopped for breakfast he sat at the table with
several drummers who were in the hold-up, a most attentive listener.
"He was captured the same day. He had hired a horse out of a livery
stable the day before, to ride out to look at a ranch he thought of
buying. The liveryman noticed that he limped slightly. He had collided
with lead in Texas, as was learned afterward. The horse which had been
hired to the ranch-buyer of the day before was returned to the corral
of the livery barn at an unknown hour during the night, and suspicion
settled on the lame man. When he got off the train at Pueblo, he
walked into the arms of officers. The limp had marked him clearly.
"In a grip which he carried were a number of sacks, which he supposed
contained gold dust, but held only taulk on its way to assayers in
Denver. These he had gotten out of the express the night before,
supposing they were valuable. We were all detained as witnesses. He
was tried for robbing the mails, and was the coolest man in the court
room. He was a tall, awkward-looking fellow, light complexioned, with
a mild blue eye. His voice, when not disguised, would mark him amongst
a thousand men. It was peculiarly mild and soft, and would lure a babe
from its mother's arms.
"At the trial he never tried to hide his past, and you couldn't help
liking the fellow for his frank answers.
"'Were you ever charged with any crime before?' asked the prosecution.
'If so, when and where?'
"'Yes,' said the prisoner, 'in Texas, for robbing the mails in '77.'
"'What was the result?' continued the prosecution.
"'They sent me over the road for ninety-nine years.'
"'Then how does it come that you are at liberty?' quizzed the
"'Well, you see the President of the United States at that time was
a warm personal friend of mine, though we had drifted apart somewhat.
When he learned that the Federal authorities had interfered with my
liberties, he pardoned me out instantly.'
"'What did you do then?' asked the attorney.
"'Well, I went back to Texas, and was attending to my own business,
when I got into a little trouble and had to kill a man. Lawyers down
there won't do anything for you without you have money, and as I
didn't have any for them, I came up to this country to try and make an
"He went over the road a second time, and wasn't in the Federal prison
a year before he was released through influence. Prison walls were
never made to hold as cool a rascal as he was. Have you a match?"
* * * * *
It was an ideal night. Millions of stars flecked the sky overhead.
No one seemed willing to sleep. We had heard the evening gun and the
trumpets sounding tattoo over at the fort, but their warnings of the
closing day were not for us. The guards changed, the cattle sleeping
like babes in a trundle-bed. Finally one by one the boys sought their
blankets, while sleep and night wrapped these children of the plains
in her arms.
SEIGERMAN'S PER CENT
Towards the wind-up of the Cherokee Strip Cattle Association it became
hard to ride a chuck-line in winter. Some of the cattle companies
on the range, whose headquarters were far removed from the scene of
active operations, saw fit to give orders that the common custom of
feeding all comers and letting them wear their own welcome out must be
stopped. This was hard on those that kept open house the year
round. There was always a surplus of men on the range in the winter.
Sometimes there might be ten men at a camp, and only two on the
pay-roll. These extra men were called "chuck-line riders." Probably
eight months in the year they all had employment. At many camps they
were welcome, as they would turn to and help do anything that was
After a hard freeze it would be necessary to cut the ice, so that the
cattle could water. A reasonable number of guests were no drawback at
a time like this, as the chuck-line men would be the most active in
opening the ice with axes. The cattle belonging to those who kept open
house never got so far away that some one didn't recognize the brand
and turn them back towards their own pasture. It was possible to cast
bread upon the waters, even on the range.
The new order of things was received with many protests. Late in the
fall three worthies of the range formed a combine, and laid careful
plans of action, in case they should get let out of a winter's job.
"I've been on the range a good while," said Baugh, the leader of this
trio, "but hereafter I'll not ride my horses down, turning back the
brand of any hidebound cattle company."
"That won't save you from getting hit with a cheque for your time when
the snow begins to drift," commented Stubb.
"When we make our grand tour of the State this winter," remarked Arab
Ab, "we'll get that cheque of Baugh's cashed, together with our own.
One thing sure, we won't fret about it; still we might think that
riding a chuck-line would beat footing it in a granger country,
"Oh, we won't go broke," said Baugh, who was the leader in the idea
that they would go to Kansas for the winter, and come back in the
spring when men are wanted.
So when the beef season had ended, the calves had all been branded up
and everything made snug for the winter, the foreman said to the boys
at breakfast one morning, "Well, lads, I've kept you on the pay-roll
as long as there has been anything to do, but this morning I'll have
to give you your time. These recent orders of mine are sweeping, for
they cut me down to one man, and we are to do our own cooking. I'm
sorry that any of you that care to can't spend the winter with us.
It's there that my orders are very distasteful to me, for I know what
it is to ride a chuck-line myself. You all know that it's no waste of
affection by this company that keeps even two of us on the pay-roll."
While the foreman was looking up accounts and making out the time of
each, Baugh asked him, "When is the wagon going in after the winter's
"In a day or two," answered the foreman. "Why?"
"Why, Stubby, Arab, and myself want to leave our saddles and private
horses here with you until spring. We're going up in the State for the
winter, and will wait and go in with the wagon."
"That will be all right," said the foreman. "You'll find things right
side up when you come after them, and a job if I can give it to you."
"Don't you think it's poor policy," asked Stubb of the foreman, as
the latter handed him his time, "to refuse the men a roof and the bite
they eat in winter?"
"You may ask that question at headquarters, when you get your time
cheque cashed. I've learned not to think contrary to my employers; not
in the mouth of winter, anyhow."
"Oh, we don't care," said Baugh; "we're going to take in the State for
a change of scenery. We'll have a good time and plenty of fun on the
The first snow-squall of the season came that night, and the wagon
could not go in for several days. When the weather moderated the three
bade the foreman a hearty good-by and boarded the wagon for town,
forty miles away. This little village was a supply point for the range
country to the south, and lacked that diversity of entertainment that
the trio desired. So to a larger town westward, a county seat, they
hastened by rail. This hamlet they took in by sections. There were
the games running to suit their tastes, the variety theatre with its
painted girls, and handbills announced that on the 24th of December
and Christmas Day there would be horse races. To do justice to all
this melted their money fast.
Their gay round of pleasure had no check until the last day of the
races. Heretofore they had held their own in the games, and the first
day of the races they had even picked several winners. But grief was
in store for Baugh the leader, Baugh the brains of the trio. He had
named the winners so easily the day before, that now his confidence
knew no bounds. His opinion was supreme on a running horse, though
he cautioned the others not to risk their judgment--in fact, they had
better follow him. "I'm going to back that sorrel gelding, that won
yesterday in the free-for-all to-day," said he to Stubb and Arab, "and
if you boys go in with me, we'll make a killing."
"You can lose your money on a horse race too quick to suit me,"
replied Stubb. "I prefer to stick to poker; but you go ahead and win
all you can, for spring is a long ways off yet."
"My observation of you as a poker player, my dear Stubby, is that you
generally play the first hand to win and all the rest to get even."
They used up considerable time scoring for the free-for-all running
race Christmas Day, during which delay Baugh not only got all his
money bet, but his watch and a new overcoat. The race went off with
the usual dash, when there were no more bets in sight; and when it
ended Baugh buttoned up the top button of his coat, pulled his
hat down over his eyes, and walked back from the race track in a
meditative state of mind, to meet Stubb and Arab Ab.
"When I gamble and lose I never howl," said Baugh to his friends, "but
I do love a run for my money, though I didn't have any more chance
to-day than a rabbit. I'll take my hat off to the man that got it,
however, and charge it up to my tuition account."
"You big chump, you! if you hadn't bet your overcoat it wouldn't be so
bad. What possessed you to bet it?" asked Stubb, half reprovingly.
"Oh, hell, I'll not need it. It's not going to be a very cold winter,
nohow," replied Baugh, as he threw up one eye toward the warm sun.
"We need exercise. Let's walk back to town. Now, this is a little
unexpected, but what have I got you boy's for, if you can't help a
friend in trouble. There's one good thing--I've got my board paid
three weeks in advance; paid it this morning out of yesterday's
winnings. Lucky, ain't I?"
"Yes, you're powerful lucky. You're alive, ain't you?" said Stubb,
rubbing salt into his wounds.
"Now, my dear Stubby, don't get gay with the leading lady; you may get
in a bad box some day and need me."
This turn of affairs was looked upon by Stubb and Arab as quite a joke
on their leader. But it was no warning to them, and they continued
to play their favorite games, Stubb at poker, while Arab gave his
attention to monte. Things ran along for a few weeks in this manner,
Baugh never wanting for a dollar or the necessary liquids that cheer
the despondent. Finally they were forced to take an inventory of their
cash and similar assets. The result was suggestive that they would
have to return to the chuck-line, or unearth some other resource. The
condition of their finances lacked little of the red-ink line.
Baugh, who had been silent during this pow-wow, finally said, "My
board will have to be provided for in a few days, but I have an idea,
struck it to-day, and if she works, we'll pull through to grass like
four time winners."
"What is it?" asked the other two, in a chorus.
"There's a little German on a back street here, who owns a bar-room
with a hotel attached. He has a mania to run for office; in fact,
there's several candidates announced already. Now, the convention
don't meet until May, which is in our favor. If my game succeeds, we
will be back at work before that time. That will let us out easy."
As their finances were on a parity with Baugh's, the others were
willing to undertake anything that looked likely to tide them over the
winter. "Leave things to me," said Baugh. "I'll send a friend around
to sound our German, and see what office he thinks he'd like to have."
The information sought developed the fact that it was the office of
sheriff that he wanted. When the name was furnished, the leader of
this scheme wrote it on a card--Seigerman, Louie Seigerman,--not
trusting to memory. Baugh now reduced their finances further for a
shave, while he meditated how he would launch his scheme. An hour
afterwards, he walked up to the bar, and asked, "Is Mr. Seigerman in?"
"Dot ish my name, sir," said the man behind the bar.
"Could I see you privately for a few minutes?" asked Baugh, who
himself could speak German, though his tongue did not indicate it.
"In von moment," said Seigerman, as he laid off his white apron and
called an assistant to take his place. He then led the way to a back
room, used for a storehouse. "Now, mine frendt, vat ish id?" inquired
Louie, when they were alone.
"My name is Baughman," said he, as he shook Louie's hand with a hearty
grip. "I work for the Continental Cattle Company, who own a range
in the strip adjoining the county line below here. My people have
suffered in silence from several bands of cattle thieves who have
headquarters in this county. Heretofore we have never taken any
interest in the local politics of this community. But this year we
propose to assert ourselves, and try to elect a sheriff who will
do his sworn duty, and run out of this county these rustling cattle
thieves. Mr. Seigerman, it would surprise you did I give you the
figures in round numbers of the cattle that my company have lost by
these brand-burning rascals who infest this section.
"Now to business, as you are a business man. I have come to ask you to
consent to your name being presented to the county convention,
which meets in May, as a candidate for the office of sheriff of this
As Louie scratched his head and was meditating on his reply, Baughman
continued: "Now, we know that you are a busy man, and have given this
matter no previous thought, so we do not insist on an immediate reply.
But think it over, and let me impress on your mind that if you consent
to make the race, you will have the support of every cattle-man in
the country. Not only their influence and support, but in a selfish
interest will their purses be at your command to help elect you. This
request of mine is not only the mature conclusion of my people, but we
have consulted others interested, and the opinion seems unanimous that
you are the man to make the race for this important office."
"Mr. Baughman, vill you not haf one drink mit me?" said Seigerman, as
he led the way towards the bar.
"If you will kindly excuse me, Mr. Seigerman, I never like to indulge
while attending to business matters. I'll join you in a cigar,
however, for acquaintance' sake."
When the cigars were lighted Baugh observed, "Why, do you keep hotel?
If I had known it, I would have put up with you, but my bill is paid
in advance at my hotel until Saturday. If you can give me a good room
by then, I'll come up and stop with you."
"You can haf any room in mine house, Mr. Baughman," said Seigerman.
As Baugh was about to leave he once more impressed on Louie the nature
of his call. "Now, Mr. Seigerman," said Baughman, using the German
language during the parting conversation, "let me have your answer at
the earliest possible moment, for we want to begin an active canvass
at once. This is a large county, and to enlist our friends in your
behalf no time should be lost." With a profusion of "Leben Sie wohls"
and well wishes for each other, the "Zweibund" parted.
Stubb and Arab were waiting on a corner for Baugh. When he returned he
withheld his report until they had retreated to the privacy of their
own room. Once secure, he said to both: "If you would like to know
what an active, resourceful brain is, put your ear to my head,"
tapping his temple with his finger, "and listen to mine throb and
purr. Everything is working like silk. I'm going around to board with
him Saturday. I want you to go over with me to-morrow, Stubby, and
give him a big game about what a general uprising there is amongst
the cowmen for an efficient man for the office of sheriff, and make it
strong. I gave him my last whirl to-day in German. Oh, he'll run all
right; and we want to convey the impression that we can rally the
cattle interests to his support. Put up a good grievance, mind you!
You can both know that I begged strong when I took this cigar in
preference to a drink."
"It's certainly a bad state of affairs we've come to when you refuse
whiskey. Don't you think so, Stubby?" said Arab, addressing the one
and appealing to the other. "You never refused no drink, Baugh, you
know you didn't," said Stubb reproachfully.
"Oh, you little sawed-off burnt-offering, you can't see the policy
that we must use in handling this matter. This is a delicate play,
that can't be managed roughshod on horseback. It has food, shelter,
and drink in it for us all, but they must be kept in the background.
The main play now is to convince Mr. Seigerman that he has a call to
serve his country in the office of sheriff. Bear down heavy on the
emergency clause. Then make him think that no other name but Louie
Seigerman will satisfy the public clamor. Now, my dear Stubby, I know
that you are a gifted and accomplished liar, and for that reason I
insist that you work your brain and tongue in this matter. Keep your
own motive in the background and bring his to the front. That's the
idea. Now, can you play your part?"
"Well, as I have until to-morrow to think it over, I'll try," said
The next afternoon Baugh and Stubb sauntered into Louie's place, and
received a very cordial welcome at the hands of the proprietor. Baugh
introduced Stubb as a friend of his whom he had met in town that day,
and who, being also interested in cattle, he thought might be able to
offer some practical suggestions. Their polite refusal to indulge in a
social glass with the proprietor almost hurt his feelings.
"Let us retire to the rear room for a few moments of conversation, if
you have the leisure," said Baugh.
Once secure in the back room, Stubb opened his talk. "As my friend
Mr. Baughman has said, I'm local manager of the Ohio Cattle Company
operating in the Strip. I'm spending considerable time in your town at
present, as I'm overseeing the wintering of something like a hundred
saddle horses and two hundred and fifty of our thoroughbred bulls.
We worked our saddle stock so late last fall, that on my advice the
superintendent sent them into the State to be corn-fed for the winter.
The bulls were too valuable to be risked on the range. We had over
fifty stolen last season, that cost us over three hundred dollars a
head. I had a letter this morning from our superintendent, asking me
to unite with what seems to be a general movement to suppress this
high-handed stealing that has run riot in this county in the past.
Mr. Baughman has probably acquainted you with the general sentiment
in cattle circles regarding what should be done. I wish to assure
you further that my people stand ready to use their best endeavors
to nominate a candidate who will pledge himself to stamp out this
disgraceful brand-burning and cattle-rustling. The little protection
shown the livestock interests in this western country has actually
driven capital out of one of the best paying industries in the West.
But it is our own fault. We take no interest in local politics. Any
one is good enough for sheriff with us. But this year there seems
to be an awakening. It may be a selfish interest that prompts this
uprising; I think it is. But that is the surest hope in politics for
us. The cattle-men's pockets have been touched, their interests have
been endangered. Mr. Seigerman, I feel confident that if you will
enter the race for this office, it will be a walk-away for you. Now
consider the matter fully, and I might add that there is a brighter
future for you politically than you possibly can see. I wish I had
brought our superintendent's letter with me for you to read.
"He openly hints that if we elect a sheriff in this county this fall
who makes an efficient officer, he will be strictly in line for the
office of United States Marshal of western Kansas and all the
Indian Territory. You see, Mr. Seigerman, in our company we have as
stock-holders three congressmen and one United States senator. I have
seen it in the papers myself, and it is a common remark Down East, so
I'm told, that the weather is chilly when an Ohio man gets left. Now
with these men of our company interested in you, there would be no
refusing them the appointment. Why, it would give you the naming of
fifty deputies--good easy money in every one of them. You could sit
back in a well-appointed government office and enjoy the comforts of
life. Now, Mr. Seigerman, we will see you often, but let me suggest
that your acceptance be as soon as possible, for if you positively
decline to enter the race, we must look in some other quarter for an
available man." Leaving these remarks for Seigerman's reflections, he
walked out of the room.
As Seigerman started to follow, Baugh tapped him on the shoulder
to wait, as he had something to say to him. Baugh now confirmed
everything said, using the German language. He added, "Now, my friend
Stubb is too modest to admit who his people really are, but the Ohio
Cattle Company is practically the Standard Oil Company, but they don't
want it known. It's a confidence that I'm placing in you, and request
you not to repeat it. Still, you know what a syndicate they are and
the influence they carry. That very little man who has been talking
to you has better backing than any cow-boss in the West. He's a safe,
conservative fellow to listen to."
When they had rejoined Stubb in the bar-room, Baugh said to Seigerman,
"Don't you think you can give us your answer by Friday next, so your
name can be announced in the papers, and an active canvass begun
without further loss of time?"
"Shentlemens, I'll dry do," said Louie, "but you will not dake a drink
mit me once again, aind it?"
"No, thank you, Mr. Seigerman," replied Stubb.
"He gave me a very fine cigar yesterday; you'll like them if you try
one," said Baugh to Stubb. "Let it be a cigar to-day, Mr. Seigerman."
As Baugh struck a match to light his cigar, he said to Stubb, "I'm
coming up to stop with Mr. Seigerman to-morrow. Why don't you join
"I vould be wery much bleased to haf you mine guest," said Louie,
every inch the host.
"This is a very home-like looking place," remarked Stubb. "I may come
up; I'll come around Sunday and take dinner with you, anyhow."
"Do, blease," urged Louie.
There was a great deal to be said, and it required two languages to
express it all, but finally the "Dreibund" parted. The next day
Baugh moved into his new quarters, and the day following Stubb was so
pleased with his Sunday dinner that he changed at once.
"I'm expecting a man from Kansas City to-morrow," said Baugh to Louie
on Sunday morning, "who will know the sentiment existing in cattle
circles in that city. He'll be in on the morning train."
Stubb, in the mean time, had coached Arab as to what he should say. As
Baugh and he had covered the same ground, it was thought best to have
Arab Ab the heeler, the man who could deliver the vote to order.
So Monday morning after the train was in, the original trio entered,
and Arab was introduced. The back room was once more used as a council
chamber where the "Fierbund" held an important session.
"I didn't think there was so much interest being taken," began Arab
Ab, "until my attention was called to it yesterday by the president
and secretary of our company in Kansas City. I want to tell you that
the cattle interests in that city are aroused. Why, our secretary
showed me the figures from his books; and in the 'Tin Cup' brand
alone we shipped out three hundred and twelve beeves short, out of
twenty-nine hundred and ninety-six bought two years ago. My employers,
Mr. Seigerman, are practical cowmen, and they know that those steers
never left the range without help. Nothing but lead or Texas fever can
kill a beef. We haven't had a case of fever on our range for years,
nor a winter in five years that would kill an old cow. Why, our
president told me if something wasn't done they would have to abandon
this country and go where they could get protection. His final orders
were to do what I could to get an eligible man as a candidate, which,
I'm glad to hear from my friends here, we have hopes of doing. Then
when the election comes off, we must drop everything and get every man
to claim a residence in this county and vote him here. I'll admit that
I'm no good as a wire-puller, but when it comes to getting out the
voters, there's where you will find me as solid as a bridge abutment.
"Why, Mr. Seigerman, when I was skinning mules for Creech & Lee,
contractors on the Rock Island, one fall, they gave me my orders,
which was to get every man on the works ready to ballot. I lined them
up and voted them like running cattle through a branding-chute to put
on a tally-mark or vent a brand. There were a hundred and seventy-five
of those dagoes from the rock-cut; I handled them like dipping sheep
for the scab. My friends here can tell you how I managed voting the
bonds at a little town east of here. I had my orders from the same
people I'm working for now, to get out the cow-puncher element in the
Strip for the bonds. The bosses simply told me that what they wanted
was a competing line of railroad. And as they didn't expect to pay the
obligations, only authorize them,--the next generation could attend to
the paying of them,--we got out a full vote. Well, we ran in from
four to five hundred men from the Strip, and out of over seven hundred
ballots cast, only one against the bonds. We hunted the town all over
to find the man that voted against us; we wanted to hang him! The
only trouble I had was to make the boys think it was a straight up
Democratic play, as they were nearly all originally from Texas. Now,
my friends here have told me that they are urging you to accept the
nomination for sheriff. I can only add that in case you consent, my
people stand ready to give their every energy to this coming campaign.
As far as funds are concerned to prosecute the election of an
acceptable sheriff to the cattle interests, we would simply be flooded
with it. It would be impossible to use one half of what would be
forced on us. One thing I can say positively, Mr. Seigerman: they
wouldn't permit you to contribute one cent to the expense of your
election. Cattle-men are big-hearted fellows--they are friends worth
having, Mr. Seigerman."
Louie drew a long breath, and it seemed that a load had been lifted
from his mind by these last remarks of Arab's.
"How many men are there in the Strip?" asked Arab of the others.
"On all three divisions of the last round-up there were something
like two thousand," replied Baugh. "And this county adjoins the Cattle
Country for sixty miles on the north," said Arab, still continuing
his musing, "or one third of the Strip. Well, gentlemen," he went on,
waking out of his mental reverie and striking the table with his fist,
"if there's that many men in the country below, I'll agree to vote one
half of them in this county this fall."
"Hold on a minute, aren't you a trifle high on your estimate?" asked
Stubb, the conservative, protestingly.
"Not a man too high. Give them a week's lay-off, with plenty to drink
at this end of the string, and every man will come in for fifty miles
either way. The time we voted the bonds won't be a marker to this
"He's not far wrong," said Baugh to Stubb. "Give the rascals a chance
for a holiday like that, and they will come from the south line of the
"That's right, Mr. Seigerman," said Arab. "They'll come from the west
and south to a man, and as far east as the middle of the next county.
I tell you they will be a thousand strong and a unit in voting. Watch
my smoke on results!"
"Well," said Stubb, slowly and deliberately, "I think it's high time
we had Mr. Seigerman's consent to make the race. This counting of our
forces and the sinews of war is good enough in advance; but I
must insist on an answer from Mr. Seigerman. Will you become our
"Shentlemens, how can I refuse to be one sheriff? The cattle-mens must
be protec. I accep."
The trio now arose, and with a round of oaths that would have made the
captain of a pirate ship green with envy swore Seigerman had taken
a step he would never regret. After the hearty congratulation on his
acceptance, they reseated themselves, when Louie, in his gratitude,
insisted that on pleasant occasions like this he should be permitted
to offer some refreshments of a liquid nature.
"I never like to indulge at a bar," said Stubb. "The people whom I
work for are very particular regarding the habits of their trusted
"It might be permissible on occasions like this to break certain
established rules," suggested Baugh, "besides, Mr. Seigerman can bring
it in here, where we will be unobserved."
"Very well, then," said Stubb, "I waive my objections for
When Louie had retired for this purpose, Baugh arose to his full
dignity and six foot three, and said to the other two, bowing, "Your
uncle, my dears, will never allow you to come to want. Pin your faith
to the old man. Why, we'll wallow in the fat of the land until the
grass comes again, gentle Annie. Gentlemen, if you are gentlemen,
which I doubt like hell, salute the victor!" The refreshment was
brought in, and before the session adjourned, they had lowered the
contents of a black bottle of private stock by several fingers.
The announcement of the candidacy of Mr. Louis Seigerman in the next
week's paper (by aid of the accompanying fiver which went with the
"copy") encouraged the editor, that others might follow, to write a
short, favorable editorial. The article spoke of Mr. Seigerman as a
leading citizen, who would fill the office with credit to himself and
the community. The trio read this short editorial to Louie daily for
the first week. All three were now putting their feet under the table
with great regularity, and doing justice to the vintage on invitation.
The back room became a private office for the central committee of
four. They were able political managers. The campaign was beginning
to be active, but no adverse reports were allowed to reach the
candidate's ears. He actually had no opposition, so the reports came
in to the central committee.
It was even necessary to send out Arab Ab to points on the railroad
to get the sentiments of this and that community, which were always
favorable. Funds for these trips were forced on them by the candidate.
The thought of presenting a board bill to such devoted friends never
entered mine host's mind. Thus several months passed.
The warm sun and green blades of grass suggested springtime. The
boys had played the role as long as they cared to. It had served the
purpose that was intended. But they must not hurt the feelings of
Seigerman, or let the cause of their zeal become known to their
benefactor and candidate for sheriff. One day report came in of some
defection and a rival candidate in the eastern part of the county. All
hands volunteered to go out. Funds were furnished, which the central
committee assured their host would be refunded whenever they could get
in touch with headquarters, or could see some prominent cowman.
At the end of a week Mr. Seigerman received a letter. The excuses
offered at the rich man's feast were discounted by pressing orders.
One had gone to Texas to receive a herd of cattle, instead of a few
oxen, one had been summoned to Kansas City, one to Ohio. The letter
concluded with the assurance that Mr. Seigerman need have no fear but
that he would be the next sheriff.
The same night that the letter was received by mine host, this tale
was retold at a cow-camp in the Strip by the trio. The hard winter was
At the county convention in May, Seigerman's name was presented. On
each of three ballots he received one lone vote. When the news reached
the boys in the Strip, they dubbed this one vote "Seigerman's Per
Cent," meaning the worst of anything, and that expression became a
byword on the range, from Brownsville, Texas, to the Milk River in
The evening before the Cherokee Strip was thrown open for settlement,
a number of old timers met in the little town of Hennessey, Oklahoma.
On the next day the Strip would pass from us and our employers, the
cowmen. Some of the boys had spent from five to fifteen years on this
range. But we realized that we had come to the parting of the ways.
This was not the first time that the government had taken a hand in
cattle matters. Some of us in former days had moved cattle at the
command of negro soldiers, with wintry winds howling an accompaniment.
The cowman was never a government favorite. If the Indian wards of the
nation had a few million acres of idle land, "Let it lie idle," said
the guardian. Some of these civilized tribes maintained a fine system
of public schools from the rental of unoccupied lands. Nations, like
men, revive the fable of the dog and the ox. But the guardian was
supreme--the cowman went. This was not unexpected to most of us.
Still, this country was a home to us. It mattered little if our names
were on the pay-roll or not, it clothed and fed us.
We were seated around a table in the rear of a saloon talking of the
morrow. The place was run by a former cowboy. It therefore became a
rendezvous for the craft. Most of us had made up our minds to quit
cattle for good and take claims.
"Before I take a claim," said Tom Roll, "I'll go to Minnesota and peon
myself to some Swede farmer for my keep the balance of my life. Making
hay and plowing fire guards the last few years have given me all the
taste of farming that I want. I'm going to Montana in the spring."
"Why don't you go this winter? Is your underwear too light?" asked
Ace Gee. "Now, I'm going to make a farewell play," continued Ace. "I'm
going to take a claim, and before I file on it, sell my rights, go
back to old Van Zandt County, Texas, this winter, rear up my feet, and
tell it to them scarey. That's where all my folks live."
"Well, for a winter's stake," chimed in Joe Box, "Ace's scheme is
all right. We can get five hundred dollars out of a claim for simply
staking it, and we know some good ones. That sized roll ought to
winter a man with modest tastes."
"You didn't know that I just came from Montana, did you, Tom?" asked
Ace. "I can tell you more about that country than you want to
know. I've been up the trail this year; delivered our cattle on the
Yellowstone, where the outfit I worked for has a northern range. When
I remember this summer's work, I sometimes think that I will burn
my saddle and never turn or look a cow in the face again, nor ride
anything but a plow mule and that bareback.
"The people I was working for have a range in Tom Green County, Texas,
and another one in Montana. They send their young steers north to
mature--good idea, too!--but they are not cowmen like the ones we
know. They made their money in the East in a patent medicine--got
scads of it, too. But that's no argument that they know anything
about a cow. They have a board of directors--it is one of those cattle
companies. Looks like they started in the cattle business to give
their income a healthy outlet from the medicine branch. They operate
on similar principles as those soap factory people did here in the
Strip a few years ago. About the time they learn the business they go
broke and retire.
"Our boss this summer was some relation to the wife of some of the
medicine people Down East. As they had no use for him back there, they
sent him out to the ranch, where he would be useful.
"We started north with the grass. Had thirty-three hundred head of
twos and threes, with a fair string of saddle stock. They run the same
brand on both ranges--the broken arrow. You never saw a cow-boss
have so much trouble; a married woman wasn't a circumstance to him,
fretting and sweating continually. This was his first trip over the
trail, but the boys were a big improvement on the boss, as we had a
good outfit of men along. My idea of a good cow-boss is a man that
doesn't boss any; just hires a first-class outfit of men, and then
there is no bossing to do.
"We had to keep well to the west getting out of Texas; kept to
the west of Buffalo Gap. From there to Tepee City is a dry, barren
country. To get water for a herd the size of ours was some trouble.
This new medicine man got badly worried several times. He used his
draft book freely, buying water for the cattle while crossing this
stretch of desert; the natives all through there considered him the
softest snap they had met in years. Several times we were without
water for the stock two whole days. That makes cattle hard to hold
at night. They want to get up and prowl--it makes them feverish,
and then's when they are ripe for a stampede. We had several bobles
crossing that strip of country; nothing bad, just jump and run a mile
or so, and then mill until daylight. Then our boss would get great
action on himself and ride a horse until the animal would give
out--sick, he called it. After the first little run we had, it took
him half the next day to count them; then he couldn't believe his own
"A Val Verde County lad who counted with him said they were all
right--not a hoof shy. But the medicine man's opinion was the reverse.
At this the Val Verde boy got on the prod slightly, and expressed
himself, saying, 'Why don't you have two of the other boys count them?
You can't come within a hundred of me, or yourself either, for that
matter. I can pick out two men, and if they differ five head, it'll be
a surprise to me. The way the boys have brought the cattle by us, any
man that can't count this herd and not have his own figures differ
more than a hundred had better quit riding, get himself some sandals,
and a job herding sheep. Let me give you this pointer: if you are
not anxious to have last night's fun over again, you'd better quit
counting and get this herd full of grass and water before night, or
you will be cattle shy as sure as hell's hot.'
"'When I ask you for an opinion,' answered the foreman, somewhat
indignant, 'such remarks will be in order. Until then you may keep
your remarks to yourself.'
"'That will suit me all right, old sport,' retorted Val Verde; 'and
when you want any one to help you count your fat cattle, get some of
the other boys--one that'll let you doubt his count as you have mine,
and if he admires you for it, cut my wages in two.'
"After the two had been sparring with each other some little time,
another of the boys ventured the advice that it would be easy to count
the animals as they came out of the water; so the order went forward
to let them hit the trail for the first water. We made a fine stream,
watering early in the afternoon. As they grazed out from the creek we
fed them through between two of the boys. The count showed no cattle
short. In fact, the Val Verde boy's count was confirmed. It was then
that our medicine man played his cards wrong. He still insisted
that we were cattle out, thus queering himself with his men. He was
gradually getting into a lone minority, though he didn't have sense
enough to realize it. He would even fight with and curse his horses to
impress us with his authority. Very little attention was paid to him
after this, and as grass and water improved right along nothing of
"While crossing 'No-Man's-Land' a month later,--I was on herd myself
at the time, a bright moonlight night,--they jumped like a cat shot
with No. 8's, and quit the bed-ground instanter. There were three of
us on guard at the time, and before the other boys could get out of
their blankets and into their saddles the herd had gotten well under
headway. Even when the others came to our assistance, it took us
some time to quiet them down. As this scare came during last guard,
daylight was on us before they had quit milling, and we were three
miles from the wagon. As we drifted them back towards camp, for fear
that something might have gotten away, most of the boys scoured the
country for miles about, but without reward. When all had returned
to camp, had breakfasted, and changed horses, the counting act was
ordered by Mr. Medicine. Our foreman naturally felt that he would have
to take a hand in this count, evidently forgetting his last experience
in that line. He was surprised, when he asked one of the boys to help
him, by receiving a flat refusal.
"'Why won't you count with me?' he demanded.
"'Because you don't possess common cow sense enough, nor is the crude
material in you to make a cow-hand. You found fault with the men the
last count we had, and I don't propose to please you by giving you a
chance to find fault with me. That's why I won't count with you.'
"'Don't you know, sir, that I'm in authority here?' retorted the
"'Well, if you are, no one seems to respect your authority, as you're
pleased to call it, and I don't know of any reason why I should. You
have plenty of men here who can count them correctly. I'll count them
with any man in the outfit but yourself.'
"'Our company sent me as their representative with this herd,' replied
the foreman, 'while you have the insolence to disregard my orders.
I'll discharge you the first moment I can get a man to take your
"'Oh, that'll be all right,' answered the lad, as the foreman rode
away. He then tackled me, but I acted foolish, 'fessing up that I
couldn't count a hundred. Finally he rode around to a quiet little
fellow, with pox-marks on his face, who always rode on the point, kept
his horses fatter than anybody, rode a San Jose saddle, and was called
Californy. The boss asked him to help him count the herd.
"'Now look here, boss,' said Californy, 'I'll pick one of the boys to
help me, and we'll count the cattle to within a few head. Won't that
"'No, sir, it won't. What's got into you boys?' questioned the
"'There's nothing the matter with the boys, but the cattle business
has gone to the dogs when a valuable herd like this will be trusted
to cross a country for two thousand miles in the hands of a man like
yourself. You have men that will pull you through if you'll only let
them,' said the point-rider, his voice mild and kind as though he were
speaking to a child.
"'You're just like the rest of them!' roared the boss. 'Want to act
contrary! Now let me say to you that you'll help me to count these
cattle or I'll discharge, unhorse, and leave you afoot here in this
country! I'll make an example of you as a warning to others.'
"'It's strange that I should be signaled out as an object of your
wrath and displeasure,' said Californy. 'Besides, if I were you, I
wouldn't make any examples as you were thinking of doing. When you
talk of making an example of me as a warning to others,' said the
pox-marked lad, as he reached over, taking the reins of the foreman's
horse firmly in his hand, 'you're a simpering idiot for entertaining
the idea, and a cowardly bluffer for mentioning it. When you talk of
unhorsing and leaving me here afoot in a country a thousand miles from
nowhere, you don't know what that means, but there's no danger of your
doing it. I feel easy on that point. But I'm sorry to see you make
such a fool of yourself. Now, you may think for a moment that I'm
afraid of that ivory-handled gun you wear, but I'm not. Men wear them
on the range, not so much to emphasize their demands with, as you
might think. If it were me, I'd throw it in the wagon; it may get you
into trouble. One thing certain, if you ever so much as lay your hand
on it, when you are making threats as you have done to-day, I'll build
a fire in your face that you can read the San Francisco "Examiner"
by at midnight. You'll have to revise your ideas a trifle; in fact,
change your tactics. You're off your reservation bigger than a wolf,
when you try to run things by force. There's lots better ways. Don't
try and make talk stick for actions, nor use any prelude to the real
play you wish to make. Unroll your little game with the real thing.
You can't throw alkaline dust in my eyes and tell me it's snowing.
I'm sorry to have to tell you all this, though I have noticed that you
needed it for a long time.'
"As he released his grip on the bridle reins, he continued, 'Now ride
back to the wagon, throw off that gun, tell some of the boys to take
a man and count these cattle, and it will be done better than if you
"'Must I continue to listen to these insults on every hand?' hissed
the medicine man, livid with rage.
"'First remove the cause before you apply the remedy; that's in your
line,' answered Californy. 'Besides, what are you going to do about
it? You don't seem to be gifted with enough cow-sense to even use a
modified amount of policy in your every-day affairs,' said he, as he
rode away to avoid hearing his answer.
"Several of us, who were near enough to hear this dressing-down of the
boss at Californy's hands, rode up to offer our congratulations, when
we noticed that old Bad Medicine had gotten a stand on one of the boys
called 'Pink.' After leaving him, he continued his ride towards the
wagon. Pink soon joined us, a broad smile playing over his homely
"'Some of you boys must have given him a heavy dose for so early
in the morning,' said Pink, 'for he ordered me to have the cattle
counted, and report to him at the wagon. Acted like he didn't aim to
do the trick himself. Now, as I'm foreman,' continued Pink, 'I want
you two point-men to go up to the first little rise of ground, and
we'll put the cattle through between you. I want a close count,
understand. You're working under a boss now that will shove you
through hell itself. So if you miss them over a hundred, I'll speak to
the management, and see if I can't have your wages raised, or have you
made a foreman or something with big wages and nothing to do.'
"The point-men smiled at Pink's orders, and one asked, 'Are you ready
"'All set,' responded Pink. 'Let the fiddlers cut loose.'
"Well, we lined them up and got them strung out in shape to count,
and our point-men picking out a favorite rise, we lined them through
between our counters. We fed them through, and as regularly as a watch
you could hear Californy call out to his pardner 'tally!' Alternately
they would sing out this check on the even hundred head, slipping a
knot on their tally string to keep the hundreds. It took a full half
hour to put them through, and when the rear guard of crips and dogies
passed this impromptu review, we all waited patiently for the verdict.
Our counters rode together, and Californy, leaning over on the pommel
of his saddle, said to his pardner, 'What you got?'
"'Thirty-three six,' was the answer.
"'Why, you can't count a little bit,' said Californy. 'I got
thirty-three seven. How does the count suit you, boss?'
"'Easy suited, gents,' said Pink. 'But I'm surprised to find such good
men with a common cow herd. I must try and have you appointed by
the government on this commission that's to investigate Texas fever.
You're altogether too accomplished for such a common calling as claims
you at present.'
"Turning to the rest of us, he said, 'Throw your cattle on the trail,
you vulgar peons, while I ride back to order forward my wagon and
saddle stock. By rights, I ought to have one of those centre fire
cigars to smoke, to set off my authority properly on this occasion.'
"He jogged back to the wagon and satisfied the dethroned medicine man
that the cattle were there to a hoof. We soon saw the saddle horses
following, and an hour afterward Pink and the foreman rode by us, big
as fat cattle-buyers from Kansas City, not even knowing any one, so
absorbed in their conversation were they; rode on by and up the trail,
looking out for grass and water.
"It was over two weeks afterward when Pink said to us, 'When we strike
the Santa Fe Railway, I may advise my man to take a needed rest for a
few weeks in some of the mountain resorts. I hope you all noticed how
worried he looks, and, to my judgment, he seems to be losing flesh.
I don't like to suggest anything, but the day before we reach the
railroad, I think a day's curlew shooting in the sand hills along the
Arkansas River might please his highness. In case he'll go with me, if
I don't lose him, I'll never come back to this herd. It won't hurt him
any to sleep out one night with the dry cattle.'
"Sure enough, the day before we crossed that road, somewhere near
the Colorado state line, Pink and Bad Medicine left camp early in
the morning for a curlew hunt in the sand hills. Fortunately it was
a foggy morning, and within half an hour the two were out of sight
of camp and herd. As Pink had outlined the plans, everything was
understood. We were encamped on a nice stream, and instead of trailing
along with the herd, lay over for that day. Night came and our hunters
failed to return, and the next morning we trailed forward towards the
Arkansas River. Just as we went into camp at noon, two horsemen loomed
up in sight coming down the trail from above. Every rascal of us knew
who they were, and when the two rode up, Pink grew very angry and
demanded to know why we had failed to reach the river the day before.
"The horse wrangler, a fellow named Joe George, had been properly
coached, and stepping forward, volunteered this excuse: 'You all
didn't know it when you left camp yesterday morning that we were out
the wagon team and nearly half the saddle horses. Well, we were. And
what's more, less than a mile below on the creek was an abandoned
Indian camp. I wasn't going to be left behind with the cook to look
for the missing stock, and told the _segundo_ so. We divided into
squads of three or four men each and went out and looked up the
horses, but it was after six o'clock before we trailed them down and
got the missing animals. If anybody thinks I'm going to stay behind
to look for missing stock in a country full of lurking Indians--well,
they simply don't know me.'
"The scheme worked all right. On reaching the railroad the next
morning, Bad Medicine authorized Pink to take the herd to Ogalalla
on the Platte, while he took a train for Denver. Around the camp-fire
that night, Pink gave us his experience in losing Mr. Medicine. 'Oh,
I lost him late enough in the day so he couldn't reach any shelter for
the night,' said Pink. 'At noon, when the sun was straight overhead, I
sounded him as to directions and found that he didn't know straight
up or east from west. After giving him the slip, I kept an eye on him
among the sand hills, at the distance of a mile or so, until he gave
up and unsaddled at dusk. The next morning when I overtook him,
I pretended to be trailing him up, and I threw enough joy into my
rapture over finding him, that he never doubted my sincerity.'
"On reaching Ogalalla, a man from Montana put in an appearance in
company with poor old Medicine, and as they did business strictly with
Pink, we were left out of the grave and owly council of medicine men.
Well, the upshot of the whole matter was that Pink was put in charge
of the herd, and a better foreman I never worked under. We reached the
company's Yellowstone range early in the fall, counted over and bade
our dogies good-by, and rode into headquarters. That night I talked
with the regular men on the ranch, and it was there that I found out
that a first-class cowhand could get in four months' haying in the
summer and the same feeding it out in the winter. But don't you forget
it, she's a cow country all right. I always was such a poor hand afoot
that I passed up that country, and here I am a 'boomer.'"
"Well, boom if you want," said Tom Roll, "but do you all remember
what the governor of North Carolina said to the governor of South
"It is quite a long time between drinks," remarked Joe, rising, "but I
didn't want to interrupt Ace."
As we lined up at the bar, Ace held up a glass two thirds full, and
looking at it in a meditative mood, remarked: "Isn't it funny how
little of this stuff it takes to make a fellow feel rich! Why, four
bits' worth under his belt, and the President of the United States
can't hire him."
As we strolled out into the street, Joe inquired, "Ace, where will I
see you after supper?"
"You will see me, not only after supper, but all during supper,
sitting right beside you."
A WINTER ROUND-UP
An hour before daybreak one Christmas morning in the Cherokee Strip,
six hundred horses were under saddle awaiting the dawn. It was a
clear, frosty morning that bespoke an equally clear day for the wolf
_rodeo_. Every cow-camp within striking distance of the Walnut Grove,
on the Salt Fork of the Cimarron, was a scene of activity, taxing to
the utmost its hospitality to man and horse. There had been a hearty
response to the invitation to attend the circle drive-hunt of this
well-known shelter of several bands of gray wolves. The cowmen had
suffered so severely in time past from this enemy of cattle that the
Cherokee Strip Cattle Association had that year offered a bounty of
twenty dollars for wolf scalps.
The lay of the land was extremely favorable. The Walnut Grove was
a thickety covert on the north first bottom of the Cimarron, and
possibly two miles wide by three long. Across the river, and extending
several miles above and below this grove, was the salt plain--an
alkali desert which no wild animal, ruminant or carnivorous, would
attempt to cross, instinct having warned it of its danger. At the
termination of the grove proper, down the river or to the eastward,
was a sand dune bottom of several miles, covered by wild plum brush,
terminating in a perfect horseshoe a thousand acres in extent, the
entrance of which was about a mile wide. After passing the grove, this
plum-brush country could be covered by men on horseback, though
the chaparral undergrowth of the grove made the use of horses
impracticable. The Cimarron River, which surrounds this horseshoe on
all sides but the entrance, was probably two hundred yards wide at
an average winter stage, deep enough to swim a horse, and cold and
Across the river, opposite this horseshoe, was a cut-bank twenty feet
high in places, with only an occasional cattle trail leading down to
the water. This cut-bank formed the second bottom on that side, and
the alkaline plain--the first bottom--ended a mile or more up the
river. It was an ideal situation for a drive-hunt, and legend,
corroborated by evidences, said that the Cherokees, when they used
this outlet as a hunting-ground after their enforced emigration from
Georgia, had held numerous circle hunts over the same ground after
buffalo, deer, and elk.
The rendezvous was to be at ten o'clock on Encampment Butte, a plateau
overlooking the entire hunting-field and visible for miles. An hour
before the appointed time the clans began to gather. All the camps
within twenty-five miles, and which were entertaining participants
of the hunt, put in a prompt appearance. Word was received early that
morning that a contingent from the Eagle Chief would be there, and
begged that the start be delayed till their arrival. A number of old
cowmen were present, and to them was delegated the duty of appointing
the officers of the day. Bill Miller, a foreman on the Coldwater Pool,
an adjoining range, was appointed as first captain. There were also
several captains over divisions, and an acting captain placed over
every ten men, who would be held accountable for any disorder allowed
along the line under his special charge.
The question of forbidding the promiscuous carrying of firearms met
with decided opposition. There was an element of danger, it was true,
but to deprive any of the boys of arms on what promised an exciting
day's sport was contrary to their creed and occupation; besides, their
judicious use would be an essential and valuable assistance. To deny
one the right and permit another, would have been to divide their
forces against a common enemy; so in the interests of harmony it was
finally concluded to assign an acting captain over every ten men.
"I'll be perfectly responsible for any of my men," said Reese, a
red-headed Welsh cowman from over on Black Bear. "Let's just turn our
wild selves loose, and those wolves won't stand any more show than a
coon in a bear dance."
"It would be fine satisfaction to be shot by a responsible man like
you or any of your outfit," replied Hollycott, superintendent of the
"LX." "I hope another Christmas Day to help eat a plum pudding on the
banks of the Dee, and I don't want to be carrying any of your stray
lead in my carcass either. Did you hear me?"
"Yes; we're going to have egg-nog at our camp to-night. Come down."
The boys were being told off in squads of ten, when a suppressed shout
of welcome arose, as a cavalcade of horsemen was sighted coming over
the divide several miles distant. Before the men were allotted and
their captains appointed, the last expected squad had arrived, their
horses frosty and sweaty. They were all well known west end Strippers,
numbering fifty-four men and having ridden from the Eagle Chief,
thirty-five miles, starting two hours before daybreak.
With the arrival of this detachment, Miller gave his orders for the
day. Tom Cave was given two hundred men and sent to the upper end
of the grove, where they were to dismount, form in a half circle
skirmish-line covering the width of the thicket, and commence the
drive down the river. Their saddle horses were to be cut into two
bunches and driven down on either side of the grove, and to be in
readiness for the men when they emerged from the chaparral, four of
the oldest men being detailed as horse wranglers. Reese was sent with
a hundred and fifty men to left flank the grove, deploying his men as
far back as the second bottom, and close his line as the drive moved
forward. Billy Edwards was sent with twenty picked men down the river
five miles to the old beef ford at the ripples. His instructions were
to cross and scatter his men from the ending of the salt plain to the
horseshoe, and to concentrate them around it at the termination of the
drive. He was allowed the best ropers and a number of shotguns, to
be stationed at the cattle trails leading down to the water at the
river's bend. The remainder, about two hundred and fifty men under
Lynch, formed a long scattering line from the left entrance of the
horseshoe, extending back until it met the advancing line of Reese's
With the river on one side and this cordon of foot and horsemen on the
other, it seemed that nothing could possibly escape. The location of
the quarry was almost assured. This chaparral had been the breeding
refuge of wolves ever since the Cimarron was a cattle country.
Every rider on that range for the past ten years knew it to be the
rendezvous of El Lobo, while the ravages of his nightly raids were in
evidence for forty miles in every direction. It was a common sight,
early in the morning during the winter months, to see twenty and
upward in a band, leisurely returning to their retreat, logy and
insolent after a night's raid. To make doubly sure that they would be
at home to callers, the promoters of this drive gathered a number of
worthless lump-jawed cattle two days in advance, and driving them to
the edge of the grove, shot one occasionally along its borders, thus,
to be hoped, spreading the last feast of the wolves.
* * * * *
By half past ten, Encampment Butte was deserted with the exception of
a few old cowmen, two ladies, wife and sister of a popular cowman, and
the captain, who from this point of vantage surveyed the field with
a glass. Usually a languid and indifferent man, Miller had so set his
heart on making this drive a success that this morning he appeared
alert and aggressive as he rode forward and back across the plateau of
the Butte. The dull, heavy reports of several shotguns caused him to
wheel his horse and cover the beef ford with his glass, and a moment
later Edwards and his squad were seen with the naked eye to scale the
bank and strike up the river at a gallop. It was known that the ford
was saddle-skirt deep, and some few of the men were strangers to it;
but with that passed safely he felt easier, though his blood coursed
quicker. It lacked but a few minutes to eleven, and Cave and his
detachment of beaters were due to move on the stroke of the hour. They
had been given one hundred rounds of six-shooter ammunition to the
man and were expected to use it. Edwards and his cavalcade were
approaching the horseshoe, the cordon seemed perfect, though
scattering, when the first faint sound of the beaters was heard, and
the next moment the barking of two hundred six-shooters was reechoing
up and down the valley of the Salt Fork.
The drive-hunt was on; the long yell passed from the upper end of
the grove to the mouth of the horseshoe and back, punctuated with an
occasional shot by irrepressibles. The mounts of the day were the pick
of over five thousand cow-horses, and corn-fed for winter use, in
the pink of condition and as impatient for the coming fray as their
Everything was moving like clockwork. Miller forsook the Butte and
rode to the upper end of the grove; the beaters were making slow but
steady progress, while the saddled loose horses would be at hand for
their riders without any loss of time. Before the beaters were one
third over the ground, a buck and doe came out about halfway down the
grove, sighted the horsemen, and turned back for shelter. Once more
the long yell went down the line. Game had been sighted. When about
one half the grove had been beat, a flock of wild turkeys came out at
the lower end, and taking flight, sailed over the line. Pandemonium
broke out. Good resolutions of an hour's existence were converted into
paving material in the excitement of the moment, as every carbine or
six-shooter in or out of range rained its leaden hail at the flying
covey. One fine bird was accidentally winged, and half a dozen men
broke from the line to run it down, one of whom was Reese himself.
The line was not dangerously broken nor did harm result, and on their
return Miller was present and addressed this query to Reese: "Who is
the captain of this flank line?"
"He'll weigh twenty pounds," said Reese, ignoring the question and
holding the gobbler up for inspection.
"If you were a vealy tow-headed kid, I'd have something to say to you,
but you're old enough to be my father, and that silences me. But
try and remember that this is a wolf hunt, and that there are enough
wolves in that brush this minute to kill ten thousand dollars' worth
of cattle this winter and spring, and some of them will be your own.
That turkey might eat a few grasshoppers, but you're cowman enough to
know that a wolf just loves to kill a cow while she's calving."
This lecture was interrupted by a long cheer coming up the line from
below, and Miller galloped away to ascertain its cause. He met Lynch
coming up, who reported that several wolves had been sighted, while at
the lower end of the line some of the boys had been trying their guns
up and down the river to see how far they would carry. What caused the
recent shouting was only a few fool cowboys spurting their horses
in short races. He further expressed the opinion that the line would
hold, and at the close with the cordon thickened, everything would be
forced into the pocket. Miller rode back down the line with him
until he met a man from his own camp, and the two changing horses, he
hurried back to oversee personally the mounting of the beaters when
the grove had been passed.
Reese, after the captain's reproof, turned his trophy over to some
of the men, and was bringing his line down and closing up with the
forward movement of the drive. On Miller's return, no fault could be
found, as the line was condensed to about a mile in length, while the
beaters on the points were just beginning to emerge from the chaparral
and anxious for their horses. Once clear of the grove, the beaters
halted, maintaining their line, while from either end the horse
wranglers were distributing to them their mounts. Again secure in
their saddles, the long yell circled through the plum thickets and
reechoed down the line, and the drive moved forward at a quicker
pace. "If you have any doubts about hell," said Cave to Miller, as the
latter rode by, "just take a little _pasear_ through that thicket once
and you'll come out a defender of the faith."
The buck and doe came out within sight of the line once more, lower
down opposite the sand dunes, and again turned back, and a half hour
later all ears were strained listening to the rapid shooting from the
farther bank of the river. Rebuffed in their several attempts to force
the line, they had taken to the water and were swimming the river.
From several sand dunes their landing on the opposite bank near the
ending of the salt plain could be distinctly seen. As they came out
of the river, half a dozen six-shooters were paying them a salute in
lead; but the excitability of the horses made aim uncertain, and they
rounded the cut-bank at the upper end and escaped.
While the deer were making their escape, a band of antelope were
sighted sunning themselves amongst the sand dunes a mile below;
attracted by the shooting, they were standing at attention. Now when
an antelope scents danger, he has an unreasonable and unexplainable
desire to reach high ground, where he can observe and be observed--at
a distance. Once this conclusion has been reached, he allows nothing
to stop him, not even recently built wire fences or man himself, and
like the cat despises water except for drinking purposes. So when
this band of antelope decided to adjourn their _siesta_ from the warm,
sunny slope of a sand dune, they made an effort and did break the
cordon, but not without a protest.
As they came out of the sand dunes, heading straight for the line,
all semblance of control was lost in the men. Nothing daunted by the
yelling that greeted the antelope, once they came within range fifty
men were shooting at them without bringing one to grass. With guns
empty they loosened their ropes and met them. A dozen men made casts,
and Juan Mesa, a Mexican from the Eagle Chief, lassoed a fine buck,
while "Pard" Sevenoaks, from the J+H, fastened to the smallest one
in the band. He was so disgusted with his catch that he dismounted,
ear-marked the kid, and let it go. Mesa had made his cast with so
large a loop that one fore leg of the antelope had gone through, and
it was struggling so desperately that he was compelled to tie the rope
in a hard knot to the pommel of his saddle. His horse was a wheeler on
the rope, so Juan dismounted to pet his buck. While he held on to the
rope assisting his horse, an Eagle Chief man slipped up and cut the
rope through the knot, and the next moment a Mexican was burning the
grass, calling on saints and others to come and help him turn the
antelope loose. When the rope had burned its way through his gloved
hands, he looked at them in astonishment, saying, "That was one bravo
buck. How come thees rope untie?" But there was none to explain,
and an antelope was dragging thirty-five feet of rope in a frantic
endeavor to overtake his band.
The line had been closing gradually until at this juncture it had
been condensed to about five miles, or a horseman to every fifty feet.
Wolves had been sighted numerous times running from covert to covert,
but few had shown themselves to the flank line, being contented with
such shelter as the scraggy plum brush afforded. Whenever the beaters
would rout or sight a wolf, the yelling would continue up and down the
line for several minutes. Cave and his well-formed circle of beaters
were making good time; Reese on the left flank was closing and
moving forward, while the line under Lynch was as impatient as it was
hilarious. Miller made the circle every half hour or so; and had only
to mention it to pick any horse he wanted from the entire line for a
By one o'clock the drive had closed to the entrance of the pocket,
and within a mile and a half of the termination. There was yet enough
cover to hide the quarry, though the extreme point of this horseshoe
was a sand bar with no shelter except driftwood trees. Edwards and
his squad were at their post across the river, in plain view of the
advancing line. Suddenly they were seen to dismount and lie down on
the brink of the cut-bank. A few minutes later chaos broke out along
the line, when a band of possibly twenty wolves left their cover and
appeared on the sand bar. A few rifle shots rang out from the opposite
bank, when they skurried back to cover.
Shooting was now becoming dangerous. In the line was a horseman every
ten or twelve feet. All the captains rode up and down begging the
men to cease shooting entirely. This only had a temporary effect,
for shortly the last bit of cover was passed, and there within four
hundred yards on the bar was a snarling, snapping band of gray wolves.
The line was halted. The unlooked-for question now arose how to make
the kill safe and effective. It would be impossible to shoot from the
opposite bank without endangering the line of men and horses. Finally
a small number of rifles were advanced on the extreme left flank to
within two hundred yards of the quarry, where they opened fire at
an angle from the watchers on the opposite bank. They proved poor
marksmen, overshooting, and only succeeded in wounding a few and
forcing several to take to the water, so that it became necessary to
recall the men to the line.
These men were now ordered to dismount and lie down, as the opposite
side would take a hand when the swimming wolves came within range of
shotguns and carbines, to say nothing of six-shooters. The current
carried the swimming ones down the river, but every man was in
readiness to give them a welcome. The fusillade which greeted them was
like a skirmish-line in action, but the most effective execution was
with buckshot as they came staggering and water-soaked out of the
water. Before the shooting across the river had ceased, a yell of
alarm surged through the line, and the next moment every man was
climbing into his saddle and bringing his arms into position for
action. No earthly power could have controlled the men, for coming at
the line less than two hundred yards distant was the corralled band of
wolves under the leadership of a monster dog wolf, evidently a leader
of some band, and every gun within range opened on them. By the time
they had lessened the intervening distance by one half, the
entire band deserted their leader and retreated, but unmindful of
consequences he rushed forward at the line. Every gun was belching
fire and lead at him, while tufts of fur floating in the air told that
several shots were effective. Wounded he met the horsemen, striking
right and left in splendid savage ferocity. The horses snorted and
shrank from him, and several suffered from his ugly thrusts. An
occasional effective shot was placed, but every time he forced his way
through the cordon he was confronted by a second line. A successful
cast of a rope finally checked his course; and as the roper wheeled
his mount to drag him to death, he made his last final rush at the
horse, and, springing at the flank, fastened his fangs into a stirrup
fender, when a well-directed shot by the roper silenced him safely at
During the excitement, there were enough cool heads to maintain the
line, so that none escaped. The supreme question now was to make the
kill with safety, and the line was ransacked for volunteers who could
shoot a rifle with some little accuracy. About a dozen were secured,
who again advanced on the extreme right flank to within a hundred and
fifty yards, and dismounting, flattened themselves out and opened on
the skurrying wolves. It was afterward attributed to the glaring of
the sun on the white sand, which made their marksmanship so shamefully
poor, but results were very unsatisfactory. They were recalled, and
it was decided to send in four shotguns and try the effect of buckshot
from horseback. This move was disastrous, though final.
They were ordinary double-barreled shotguns, and reloading was slow
in an emergency. Many of the wolves were wounded and had sought such
cover as the driftwood afforded. The experiment had barely begun, when
a wounded wolf sprang out from behind an old root, and fastened upon
the neck of one of the horses before the rider could defend himself,
and the next moment horse and rider were floundering on the ground. To
a man, the line broke to the rescue, while the horses of the two lady
spectators were carried into the melee in the excitement. The dogs of
war were loosed. Hell popped. The smoke of six hundred guns arose
in clouds. There were wolves swimming the river and wolves trotting
around amongst the horses, wounded and bewildered. Ropes swished
through the smoke, tying wounded wolves to be dragged to death or
trampled under hoof. Men dismounted and clubbed them with shotguns and
carbines,--anything to administer death. Horses were powder-burnt and
cried with fear, or neighed exultingly. There was an old man or two
who had sense enough to secure the horses of the ladies and lead them
out of immediate danger. Several wolves made their escape, and squads
of horsemen were burying cruel rowels in heaving flanks in an endeavor
to overtake and either rope or shoot the fleeing animals.
Disordered things as well as ordered ones have an end, and when sanity
returned to the mob an inventory was taken of the drive-hunt. By
actual count, the lifeless carcases of twenty-six wolves graced the
sand bar, with several precincts to hear from. The promoters of the
hunt thanked the men for their assistance, assuring them that the
bounty money would be used to perfect arrangements, so that in other
years a banquet would crown future hunts. Before the hunt dispersed,
Edwards and his squad returned to the brink of the cut-bank, and when
hailed as to results, he replied, "Why, we only got seven, but they
are all _muy docil_. We're going to peel them and will meet you at the
"Who gets the turkey?" some one asked.
"The question is out of order," replied Reese. "The property is not
present, because I sent him home by my cook an hour ago. If any of you
have any interest in that gobbler, I'll invite you to go home with
me and help to eat him, for my camp is the only one in the Strip that
will have turkey and egg-nog to-night."
A COLLEGE VAGABOND