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The Outlet by Andy Adams

Part 4 out of 5

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grazing across to our destination, the most direct route was
adopted. The first week after leaving the Niobrara was without
incident, except the meeting with a band of Indians, who were
gathering and drying the wild fruit in which the country
abounded. At first sighting their camp we were uneasy, holding
the herd close together; but as they proved friendly, we relaxed
and shared our tobacco with the men. The women were nearly all of
one stature, short, heavy, and repulsive in appearance, while the
men were tall, splendid specimens of the aborigines, and as
uniform in a dozen respects as the cattle we were driving.
Communication was impossible, except by signs, but the chief had
a letter of permission from the agent at Pine Ridge, allowing
himself and band a month's absence from the reservation on a
berrying expedition. The bucks rode with us for hours, silently
absorbed in the beeves, and towards evening turned and galloped
away for their encampment.

It must have been the latter part of July when we reached the
South Fork of the Big Cheyenne River. The lead was first held by
one and then the other herd, but on reaching that watercourse, we
all found it more formidable than we expected. The stage of water
was not only swimming, but where we struck it, the river had an
abrupt cut-bank on one side or the other. Sponsilier happened to
be in the lead, and Forrest and myself held back to await the
decision of the veteran foreman. The river ran on a northwest
angle where we encountered it, and Dave followed down it some
distance looking for a crossing. The herds were only three or
four miles apart, and assistance could have been rendered each
other, but it was hardly to be expected that an older foreman
would ask either advice or help from younger ones. Hence Quince
and myself were in no hurry, nor did we intrude ourselves on
David the pathfinder, but sought out a crossing up the river and
on our course. A convenient riffle was soon found in the river
which would admit the passage of the wagons without rafting, if a
cut-bank on the south side could be overcome. There was an abrupt
drop of about ten feet to the water level, and I argued that a
wagon-way could be easily cut in the bank and the commissaries
lowered to the river's edge with a rope to the rear axle. Forrest
also favored the idea, and I was authorized to cross the wagons
in case a suitable ford could be found for the cattle. My
aversion to manual labor was quite pronounced, yet John Q.
Forrest wheedled me into accepting the task of making a
wagon-road. About a mile above the riffle, a dry wash cut a gash
in the bluff bank on the opposite side, which promised the
necessary passageway for the herds out of the river. The slope on
the south side was gradual, affording an easy inlet to the water,
the only danger being on the other bank, the dry wash not being
over thirty feet wide. But we both agreed that by putting the
cattle in well above the passageway, even if the current was
swift, an easy and successful ford would result. Forrest
volunteered to cross the cattle, and together we returned to the
herds for dinner.

Quince allowed me one of his men besides the cook, and detailed
Clay Zilligan to assist with the wagons. We took my remuda, the
spades and axes, and started for the riffle. The commissaries had
orders to follow up, and Forrest rode away with a supercilious
air, as if the crossing of wagons was beneath the attention of a
foreman of his standing. Several hours of hard work were spent
with the implements at hand in cutting the wagon-way through the
bank, after which my saddle horses were driven up and down; and
when it was pronounced finished, it looked more like a
beaver-slide than a roadway. But a strong stake was cut and
driven into the ground, and a corral-rope taken from the axle to
it; without detaching the teams, the wagons were eased down the
incline and crossed in safety, the water not being over three
feet deep in the shallows. I was elated over the ease and success
of my task, when Zilligan called attention to the fact that the
first herd had not yet crossed. The chosen ford was out of sight,
but had the cattle been crossing, we could have easily seen them
on the mesa opposite. "Well," said Clay, "the wagons are over,
and what's more, all the mules in the three outfits couldn't
bring one of them back up that cliff."

We mounted our horses, paying no attention to Zilligan's note of
warning, and started up the river. But before we came in view of
the ford, a great shouting reached our ears, and giving our
horses the rowel, we rounded a bend, only to be confronted with
the river full of cattle which had missed the passageway out on
the farther side. A glance at the situation revealed a dangerous
predicament, as the swift water and the contour of the river held
the animals on the farther side or under the cut-bank. In
numerous places there was footing on the narrow ledges to which
the beeves clung like shipwrecked sailors, constantly crowding
each other off into the current and being carried downstream
hundreds of yards before again catching a foothold. Above and
below the chosen ford, the river made a long gradual bend, the
current and deepest water naturally hugged the opposite shore,
and it was impossible for the cattle to turn back, though the
swimming water was not over forty yards wide. As we dashed up,
the outfit succeeded in cutting the train of cattle and turning
them back, though fully five hundred were in the river, while not
over one fifth that number had crossed in safety. Forrest was as
cool as could be expected, and exercised an elegant command of
profanity in issuing his orders.

"I did allow for the swiftness of the current," said he, in reply
to a criticism of mine, "but those old beeves just drifted
downstream like a lot of big tubs. The horses swam it easy, and
the first hundred cattle struck the mouth of the wash square in
the eye, but after that they misunderstood it for a bath instead
of a ford. Oh, well, it's live and learn, die and forget it. But
since you're so d-- strong on the sabe, suppose you suggest a way
of getting those beeves out of the river."

It was impossible to bring them back, and the only alternative
was attempted. About three quarters of a mile down the river the
cut-bank shifted to the south side. If the cattle could swim that
distance there was an easy landing below. The beeves belonged to
Forrest's herd, and I declined the proffered leadership, but
plans were outlined and we started the work of rescue. Only a few
men were left to look after the main herds, the remainder of us
swimming the river on our horses. One man was detailed to drive
the contingent which had safely forded, down to the point where
the bluff bank shifted and the incline commenced on the north
shore. The cattle were clinging, in small bunches, under the
cut-bank like swallows to a roof for fully a quarter-mile below
the mouth of the dry wash. Divesting ourselves of all clothing, a
squad of six of us, by way of experiment, dropped over the bank
and pushed into the river about twenty of the lowest cattle. On
catching the full force of the current, which ran like a
mill-race, we swept downstream at a rapid pace, sometimes
clinging to a beef's tail, but generally swimming between the
cattle and the bluff. The force of the stream drove them against
the bank repeatedly, but we dashed water in their eyes and pushed
them off again and again, and finally landed every steer.

The Big Cheyenne was a mountain stream, having numerous
tributaries heading in the Black Hills. The water was none too
warm, and when we came out the air chilled us; but we scaled the
bluff and raced back after more cattle. Forrest was in the river
on our return, but I ordered his wrangler to drive all the horses
under saddle down to the landing, in order that the men could
have mounts for returning. This expedited matters, and the work
progressed more rapidly. Four separate squads were drifting the
cattle, but in the third contingent we cut off too many beeves
and came near drowning two fine ones. The animals in question
were large and strong, but had stood for nearly an hour on a
slippery ledge, frequently being crowded into the water, and were
on the verge of collapse from nervous exhaustion. They were
trembling like leaves when we pushed them off. Runt Pickett was
detailed to look especially after those two, and the little
rascal nursed and toyed and played with them like a circus rider.
They struggled constantly for the inshore, but Runt rode their
rumps alternately, the displacement lifting their heads out of
the water to good advantage. When we finally landed, the two big
fellows staggered out of the river and dropped down through sheer
weakness, a thing which I had never seen before except in wild

A number of the boys were attacked by chills, and towards evening
had to be excused for fear of cramps. By six o'clock we were
reduced to two squads, with about fifty cattle still remaining in
the river. Forrest and I had quit the water after the fourth
trip; but Quince had a man named De Manse, a Frenchman, who swam
like a wharf-rat and who stayed to the finish, while I turned my
crew over to Runt Pickett. The latter was raised on the coast of
Texas, and when a mere boy could swim all day, with or without
occasion. Dividing the remaining beeves as near equally as
possible, Runt's squad pushed off slightly in advance of De
Manse, the remainder of us riding along the bank with the horses
and clothing, and cheering our respective crews. The Frenchman
was but a moment later in taking the water, and as pretty and
thrilling a race as I ever witnessed was in progress. The latter
practiced a trick, when catching a favorable current, of dipping
the rump of a steer, thus lifting his fore parts and rocking him
forward like a porpoise. When a beef dropped to the rear, this
process was resorted to, and De Manse promised to overtake
Pickett. From our position on the bank, we shouted to Runt to dip
his drag cattle in swift water; but amid the din and splash of
the struggling swimmers our messages failed to reach his ears.
De Manse was gaining slowly, when Pickett's bunch were driven
inshore, a number of them catching a footing, and before they
could be again pushed off, the Frenchman's cattle were at their
heels. A number of De Manse's men were swimming shoreward of
their charges, and succeeded in holding their beeves off the
ledge, which was the last one before the landing. The remaining
hundred yards was eddy water; and though Pickett fought hard,
swimming among the Frenchman's lead cattle, to hold the two
bunches separate, they mixed in the river. As an evidence of
victory, however, when the cattle struck a foothold, Runt and
each of his men mounted a beef and rode out of the water some
distance. As the steers recovered and attempted to dislodge their
riders, they nimbly sprang from their backs and hustled
themselves into their ragged clothing.

I breathed easier after the last cattle landed, though Forrest
contended there was never any danger. At least a serious
predicament had been blundered into and handled, as was shown by
subsequent events. At noon that day, rumblings of thunder were
heard in the Black Hills country to the west, a warning to get
across the river as soon as possible. So the situation at the
close of the day was not a very encouraging one to either Forrest
or myself. The former had his cattle split in two bunches, while
I had my wagon and remuda on the other side of the river from my
herd. But the emergency must be met. I sent a messenger after our
wagon, it was brought back near the river, and a hasty supper was
ordered. Two of my boys were sent up to the dry wash to recross
the river and drift our cattle down somewhere near the
wagon-crossing, thus separating the herds for the night. I have
never made claim to being overbright, but that evening I did have
sense or intuition enough to take our saddle horses back across
the river. My few years of trail life had taught me the
importance of keeping in close touch with our base of
subsistence, while the cattle and the saddle stock for handling
them should under no circumstances ever be separated. Yet under
existing conditions it was impossible to recross our commissary,
and darkness fell upon us encamped on the south side of the Big

The night passed with almost constant thunder and lightning in
the west. At daybreak heavy dark clouds hung low in a semicircle
all around the northwest, threatening falling weather, and hasty
preparations were made to move down the stream in search of a
crossing. In fording the river to breakfast, my outfit agreed
that there had been no perceptible change in the stage of water
overnight, which quickened our desire to move at once. The two
wagons were camped close together, and as usual Forrest was
indifferent and unconcerned over the threatening weather; he had
left his remuda all night on the north side of the river, and had
actually turned loose the rescued contingent of cattle. I did not
mince my words in giving Mr. Forrest my programme, when he turned
on me, saying: "Quirk, you have more trouble than a married
woman. What do I care if it is raining in London or the Black
Hills either? Let her rain; our sugar and salt are both covered,
and we can lend you some if yours gets wet. But you go right
ahead and follow up Sponsilier; he may not find a crossing this
side of the Belle Fourche. I can take spades and axes, and in two
hours' time cut down and widen that wagon-way until the herds can
cross. I wouldn't be as fidgety as you are for a large farm. You
ought to take something for your nerves."

I had a mental picture of John Quincy Forrest doing any manual
labor with an axe or spade. During our short acquaintance that
had been put to the test too often to admit of question; but I
encouraged him to fly right at the bank, assuring him that in
case his tools became heated, there was always water at hand to
cool them. The wrangler had rustled in the wagon-mules for our
cook, and Forrest was still ridiculing my anxiety to move, when a
fusillade of shots was heard across and up the river. Every man
at both wagons was on his feet in an instant, not one of us even
dreaming that the firing of the boys on herd was a warning, when
Quince's horsewrangler galloped up and announced a flood-wave
coming down the river. A rush was made for our horses, and we
struck for the ford, dashing through the shallows and up the
farther bank without drawing rein. With a steady rush, a body of
water, less than a mile distant, greeted our vision, looking like
the falls of some river, rolling forward like an immense
cylinder. We sat our horses in bewilderment of the scene, though
I had often heard Jim Flood describe the sudden rise of streams
which had mountain tributaries. Forrest and his men crossed
behind us, leaving but the cooks and a horse-wrangler on the
farther side. It was easily to be seen that all the lowlands
along the river would be inundated, so I sent Levering back with
orders to hook up the team and strike for tall timber. Following
suit, Forrest sent two men to rout the contingent of cattle out
of a bend which was nearly a mile below the wagons. The wave,
apparently ten to twelve feet high, moved forward slowly, great
walls lopping off on the side and flooding out over the bottoms,
while on the farther shore every cranny and arroyo claimed its
fill from the avalanche of water. The cattle on the south side
were safe, grazing well back on the uplands, so we gave the
oncoming flood our undivided attention. It was traveling at the
rate of eight to ten miles an hour, not at a steady pace, but
sometimes almost halting when the bottoms absorbed its volume,
only to catch its breath and forge ahead again in angry
impetuosity. As the water passed us on the bluff bank, several
waves broke over and washed around our horses' feet, filling the
wagon-way, but the main volume rolled across the narrow valley on
the opposite side. The wagons had pulled out to higher ground,
and while every eye was strained, watching for the rescued beeves
to come out of the bend below, Vick Wolf, who happened to look
upstream, uttered a single shout of warning and dashed away.
Turning in our saddles, we saw within five hundred feet of us a
second wave about half the height of the first one. Rowels and
quirts were plied with energy and will, as we tore down the
river-bank, making a gradual circle until the second bottoms were
reached, outriding the flood by a close margin.

The situation was anything but encouraging, as days might elapse
before the water would fall. But our hopes revived as we saw the
contingent of about six hundred beeves stampede out of a bend
below and across the river, followed by two men who were
energetically burning powder and flaunting slickers in their
rear. Within a quarter of an hour, a halfmile of roaring, raging
torrent, filled with floating driftwood, separated us from the
wagons which contained the staples of life. But in the midst of
the travail of mountain and plain, the dry humor of the men was
irrepressible, one of Forrest's own boys asking him if he felt
any uneasiness now about his salt and sugar.

"Oh, this is nothing," replied Quince, with a contemptuous wave
of his hand. "These freshets are liable to happen at any time;
rise in an hour and fall in half a day. Look there how it is
clearing off in the west; the river will be fordable this evening
or in the morning at the furthest. As long as everything is safe,
what do we care? If it comes to a pinch, we have plenty of stray
beef; berries are ripe, and I reckon if we cast around we might
find some wild onions. I have lived a whole month at a time on
nothing but land-terrapin; they make larruping fine eating when
you are cut off from camp this way. Blankets? Never use them;
sleep on your belly and cover with your back, and get up with the
birds in the morning. These Lovell outfits are getting so tony
that by another year or two they'll insist on bathtubs, Florida
water, and towels with every wagon. I like to get down to
straight beans for a few days every once in a while; it has a
tendency to cure a man with a whining disposition. The only thing
that's worrying me, if we get cut off, is the laugh that
Sponsilier will have on us."

We all knew Forrest was bluffing. The fact that we were
water-bound was too apparent to admit of question, and since the
elements were beyond our control, there was no telling when
relief would come. Until the weather moderated in the hills to
the west, there was no hope of crossing the river; but men grew
hungry and nights were chilly, and bluster and bravado brought
neither food nor warmth. A third wave was noticed within an hour,
raising the water-gauge over a foot. The South Fork of the Big
Cheyenne almost encircled the entire Black Hills country, and
with a hundred mountain affluents emptying in their tribute, the
waters commanded and we obeyed. Ordering my men to kill a beef, I
rode down the river in the hope of finding Sponsilier on our
side, and about noon sighted his camp and cattle on the opposite
bank. A group of men were dallying along the shore, but being out
of hearing, I turned back without exposing myself.

On my return a general camp had been established at the nearest
wood, and a stray killed. Stakes were driven to mark the rise or
fall of the water, and we settled down like prisoners, waiting
for an expected reprieve. Towards evening a fire was built up and
the two sides of ribs were spitted over it, our only chance for
supper. Night fell with no perceptible change in the situation,
the weather remaining dry and clear. Forrest's outfit had been
furnished horses from my remuda for guard duty, and about
midnight, wrapping ourselves in slickers, we lay down in a circle
with our feet to the fire like cave-dwellers. The camp-fire was
kept up all night by the returning guards, even until the morning
hours, when we woke up shivering at dawn and hurried away to note
the stage of the water. A four-foot fall had taken place during
the night, another foot was added within an hour after sun-up,
brightening our hopes, when a tidal wave swept down the valley,
easily establishing a new high-water mark. Then we breakfasted on
broiled beefsteak, and fell back into the hills in search of the
huckleberry, which abounded in that vicinity.

A second day and night passed, with the water gradually falling.
The third morning a few of the best swimmers, tiring of the diet
of beef and berries, took advantage of the current and swam to
the other shore. On returning several hours later, they brought
back word that Sponsilier had been up to the wagons the afternoon
before and reported an easy crossing about five miles below. By
noon the channel had narrowed to one hundred yards of swimming
water, and plunging into it on our horses, we dined at the wagons
and did justice to the spread. Both outfits were anxious to move,
and once dinner was over, the commissaries were started down the
river, while we turned up it, looking for a chance to swim back
to the cattle. Forrest had secured a fresh mount of horses, and
some distance above the dry wash we again took to the water,
landing on the opposite side between a quarter and half mile
below. Little time was lost in starting the herds, mine in the
lead, while the wagons got away well in advance, accompanied by
Forrest's remuda and the isolated contingent of cattle.

Sponsilier was expecting us, and on the appearance of our wagons,
moved out to a new camp and gave us a clear crossing. A number of
the boys came down to the river with him, and several of them
swam it, meeting the cattle a mile above and piloting us into the
ford. They had assured me that there might be seventy-five yards
of swimming water, with a gradual entrance to the channel and a
half-mile of solid footing at the outcome. The description of the
crossing suited me, and putting our remuda in the lead, we struck
the muddy torrent and crossed it without a halt, the chain of
swimming cattle never breaking for a single moment. Forrest
followed in our wake, the one herd piloting the other, and within
an hour after our arrival at the lower ford, the drag-end of the
"Drooping T" herd kicked up their heels on the north bank of the
Big Cheyenne. Meanwhile Sponsilier had been quietly sitting his
horse below the main landing, his hat pulled down over his eye,
nursing the humor of the situation. As Forrest came up out of the
water with the rear guard of his cattle, the opportunity was too
good to be overlooked.

"Hello, Quince," said Dave; "how goes it, old sport? Do you keep
stout? I was up at your wagon yesterday to ask you all down to
supper. Yes, we had huckleberry pie and venison galore, but your
men told me that you had quit eating with the wagon. I was pained
to hear that you and Tom have both gone plum hog-wild, drinking
out of cowtracks and living on wild garlic and land-terrapin,
just like Injuns. Honest, boys, I hate to see good men go wrong
that way."


A week later we crossed the Belle Fourche, sometimes called the
North Fork of the Big Cheyenne. Like its twin sister on the
south, it was a mountain river, having numerous affluents putting
in from the Black Hills, which it encircled on the north and
west. Between these two branches of the mother stream were
numerous tributaries, establishing it as the best watered country
encountered in our long overland cruise. Besides the splendid
watercourses which marked that section, numerous wagontrails,
leading into the hills, were peopled with freighters. Long ox
trains, moving at a snail's pace, crept over hill and plain, the
common carrier between the mines and the outside world. The
fascination of the primal land was there; the buttes stood like
sentinels, guarding a king's domain, while the palisaded cliffs
frowned down, as if erected by the hand Omnipotent to mark the
boundary of nations.

Our route, after skirting the Black Hills, followed up the Belle
Fourche a few days, and early in August we crossed over to the
Little Missouri River. The divide between the Belle Fourche and
the latter stream was a narrow one, requiring little time to
graze across it, and intercepting the Little Missouri somewhere
in Montana. The course of that river was almost due north, and
crossing and recrossing it frequently, we kept constantly in
touch with it on our last northward tack. The river led through
sections of country now known as the Bad Lands, but we found an
abundance of grass and an easy passage. Sponsilier held the lead
all the way down the river, though I did most of the advance
scouting, sometimes being as much as fifty miles in front of the
herds. Near the last of the month we sighted Sentinel Butte and
the smoke of railroad trains, and a few days later all three of
us foremen rode into Little Missouri Station of the Northern
Pacific Railway. Our arrival was expected by one man at least;
for as we approached the straggling village, our employer was
recognized at a distance, waving his hat, and a minute later all
three of us were shaking hands with Don Lovell. Mutual inquiries
followed, and when we reported the cattle fine as silk, having
never known a hungry or thirsty hour after leaving the North
Platte, the old man brightened and led the way to a well-known

"How did I fare at Omaha?" said old man Don, repeating Forrest's
query. "Well, at first it was a question if I would be hung or
shot, but we came out with colors flying. The United States
marshal who attempted to take possession of the cattle on the
North Platte went back on the same train with us. He was feeling
sore over his defeat, but Sutton cultivated his acquaintance, and
in mollifying that official, showed him how easily failure could
be palmed off as a victory. In fact, I think Mike overcolored the
story at my expense. He and the marshal gave it to the papers,
and the next morning it appeared in the form of a sensational
article. According to the report, a certain popular federal
officer had gone out to Ogalalla to take possession of two herds
of cattle intended for government purposes; he had met with
resistance by a lot of Texas roughs, who fatally shot one of his
deputies, wounding several others, and killing a number of horses
during the assault; but the intrepid officer had added to his
laurels by arresting the owner of the cattle and leader of the
resisting mob, and had brought him back to face the charge of
contempt in resisting service. The papers freely predicted that I
would get the maximum fine, and one even went so far as to
suggest that imprisonment might teach certain arrogant cattle
kings a salutary lesson. But when the hearing came up, Sutton
placed Jim Reed and me in the witness-box, taking the stand later
himself, and we showed that federal court that it had been
buncoed out of an order of injunctive relief, in favor of the
biggest set of ringsters that ever missed stretching hemp. The
result was, I walked out of that federal court scot free. And
Judge Dundy, when he realized the injustice that he had
inflicted, made all three of us take dinner with him, fully
explaining the pressure which had been brought to bear at the
time the order of relief was issued. Oh, that old judge was all
right. I only hope we'll have as square a man as Judge Dundy at
the final hearing at Fort Buford. Do you see that sign over
there, where it says Barley Water and Bad Cigars? Well, put your
horses in some corral and meet me there."

There was a great deal of news to review. Lovell had returned to
Ogalalla; the body of Tolleston had been recovered and given
decent burial; delivery day of the three Indian herds was at
hand, bringing that branch of the season's drive to a close. But
the main thing which absorbed our employer was the quarantine
that the upper Yellowstone country proposed enforcing against
through Texas cattle. He assured us that had we gone by way of
Wyoming and down the Powder River, the chances were that the
local authorities would have placed us under quarantine until
after the first frost. He assured us that the year before, Texas
fever had played sad havoc among the native and wintered Southern
cattle, and that Miles City and Glendive, live-stock centres on
the Yellowstone, were up in arms in favor of a rigid quarantine
against all through cattle. If this proved true, it was certainly
an ill wind to drovers on the Powder River route; yet I failed to
see where we were benefited until my employer got down to

"That's so," said he; "I forgot to tell you boys that when Reed
and I went back to Ogalalla, we found Field, Radcliff & Co.
buying beeves. Yes, they had bought a remuda of horses, rigged up
two wagons, and hired men to take possession of our 'Open A' and
'Drooping T' herds. But meeting with disappointment and having
the outfit on their hands, they concluded to buy cattle and go
ahead and make the delivery at Buford. They simply had to do it
or admit that I had called their hands. But Reed and I raised
such a howl around that town that we posted every man with beeves
for sale until the buyers had to pony up the cash for every hoof
they bought. We even hunted up young Murnane, the seller of the
herd that Jim Reed ran the attachment on; and before old Jim and
I got through with him, we had his promise not to move out of
Keith County until the last dollar was in hand. The buyers
seemed to command all kinds of money, but where they expect to
make anything, even if they do deliver, beats me, as Reed and I
have got a good wad of their money. Since leaving there, I have
had word that they settled with Murnane, putting a new outfit
with the cattle, and that they have ten thousand beef steers on
the way to Fort Buford this very minute. They are coming through
on the North Platte and Powder River route, and if quarantine can
be enforced against them until frost falls, it will give us a
clear field at Buford on the day of delivery. Now it stands us in
hand to see that those herds are isolated until after the 15th
day of September."

The atmosphere cleared instantly. I was well aware of the ravages
of splenic fever; but two decades ago every drover from Texas
denied the possibility of a through animal in perfect health
giving a disease to wintered Southerners or domestic cattle, also
robust and healthy. Time has demonstrated the truth, yet the
manner in which the germ is transmitted between healthy animals
remains a mystery to this day, although there has been no lack of
theories advanced. Even the theorists differed as to the manner
of germ transmission, the sporule, tick, and ship fever being the
leading theories, and each having its advocates. The latter was
entitled to some consideration, for if bad usage and the lack of
necessary rest, food, and water will produce fever aboard
emigrant steamships, the same privations might do it among
animals. The overdriving of trail cattle was frequently
unavoidable, dry drives and the lack of grass on arid wastes
being of common occurrence. However, the presence of fever among
through cattle was never noticeable to the practical man, and if
it existed, it must have been very mild in form compared to its
virulent nature among natives. Time has demonstrated that it is
necessary for the domestic animals to walk over and occupy the
same ground to contract the disease, though they may drink from
the same trough or stream of water, or inhale each other's breath
in play across a wire fence, without fear of contagion. A
peculiar feature of Texas fever was that the very cattle which
would impart it on their arrival, after wintering in the North
would contract it and die the same as natives. The isolation of
herds on a good range for a period of sixty days, or the falling
of frost, was recognized as the only preventive against
transmitting the germ. Government rewards and experiments have
never demonstrated a theory that practical experience does not

The only time on this drive that our attention had been called to
the fever alarm was on crossing the wagon trail running from
Pierre on the Missouri River to the Black Hills. I was in the
lead when a large bull train was sighted in our front, and
shortly afterward the wagon-boss met me and earnestly begged that
I allow his outfit to pass before we crossed the wagon-road. I
knew the usual form of ridicule of a herd foreman, but the boss
bull-whacker must have anticipated my reply, for he informed me
that the summer before he had lost ninety head out of two hundred
yoke of oxen. The wagon-master's appeal was fortified by a
sincerity which won his request, and I held up my cattle and
allowed his train to pass in advance. Sponsilier's herd was out
of sight in my rear, while Forrest was several miles to my left,
and slightly behind me. The wagon-boss rode across and made a
similar request of Forrest, but that worthy refused to recognize
the right of way to a bull train at the expense of a trail herd
of government beeves. Ungentlemanly remarks are said to have
passed between them, when the boss bull-whacker threw down the
gauntlet and galloped back to his train. Forrest pushed on, with
ample time to have occupied the road in crossing, thus holding up
the wagon train. My herd fell to grazing, and Sponsilier rode up
to inquire the cause of my halting. I explained the request of
the wagon-master, his loss the year before and present fear of
fever, and called attention to the clash which was imminent
between the long freight outfit in our front and Forrest's herd
to the left, both anxious for the right of way. A number of us
rode forward in clear view of the impending meeting. It was
evident that Forrest would be the first to reach the freight
road, and would naturally hold it while his cattle were crossing
it. But when this also became apparent to the bull train, the
lead teams drove out of the road and halted, the rear wagons
passing on ahead, the two outfits being fully a mile apart. There
were about twenty teams of ten yoke each, and when the first five
or six halted, they unearthed old needle rifles and opened fire
across Forrest's front. Once the range was found, those
long-range buffalo guns threw up the dust in handfuls in the lead
of the herd, and Forrest turned his cattle back, while the bull
train held its way, undisputed. It was immaterial to Forrest who
occupied the road first, and with the jeers of the freighters
mingled the laughter of Sponsilier and my outfit, as John Quincy
Forrest reluctantly turned back.

This incident served as a safety-valve, and whenever Forrest
forged to the lead in coming down the Little Missouri, all that
was necessary to check him was to inquire casually which held the
right of way, a trail herd or a bull train.

Throughout the North, Texas fever was generally accepted as a
fact, and any one who had ever come in contact with it once,
dreaded it ever afterward. So when the devil was sick the devil a
monk would be; and if there was any advantage in taking the
contrary view to the one entertained by all drovers, so long as
our herds were free, we were not like men who could not
experience a change of opinion, if in doing so the wind was
tempered to us. Also in this instance we were fighting an avowed
enemy, and all is fair in love and war. And amid the fumes of bad
cigars, Sponsilier drew out the plan of campaign.

"Now, let's see," said old man Don, "tomorrow will be the 25th
day of August. I've got to be at the Crow Agency a few days
before the 10th of next month, as you know we have a delivery
there on that date. Flood will have to attend to matters at
Rosebud on the 1st, and then hurry on west and be present at
Paul's delivery at Fort Washakie. So you see I'll have to depend
on two of you boys going up to Glendive and Miles and seeing that
those cow-towns take the proper view of this quarantine matter.
After dinner you'll fall back and bring up your herds, and after
crossing the railroad here, the outfits will graze over to
Buford. We'll leave four of our best saddle horses here in a
pasture, so as to be independent on our return. Since things have
changed so, the chances are that I'll bring Bob Quirk back with
me, as I've written Flood to help The Rebel sell his remuda and
take the outfit and go home. Now you boys decide among yourselves
which two of you will go up the Yellowstone and promote the
enforcement of the quarantine laws. Don't get the impression that
you can't do this, because an all-round cowman can do anything
where his interests are at stake. I'll think the programme out a
little more clearly by the time you bring up the cattle."

The herds were not over fifteen miles back up the river when we
left them in the morning. After honoring the village of Little
Missouri with our presence for several hours, we saddled up and
started to meet the cattle. There was no doubt in my mind but
that Sponsilier would be one of the two to go on the proposed
errand of diplomacy, as his years, experience, and good solid
sense entitled him to outrank either Forrest or myself. I knew
that Quince would want to go, if for no other reason than to get
out of working the few days that yet remained of the drive. All
three of us talked the matter of quarantine freely as we rode
along, yet no one ventured any proposition looking to an
agreement as to who should go on the diplomatic mission. I was
the youngest and naturally took refuge behind my years, yet
perfectly conscious that, in spite of the indifferent and
nonchalant attitude assumed, all three of us foremen were equally
anxious for the chance. Matters remained undecided; but the next
day at dinner, Lovell having met us before reaching the railroad,
the question arose who should go up to Miles City. Dave and
Quince were also eating at my wagon, and when our employer forced
an answer, Sponsilier innocently replied that he supposed that we
were all willing to leave it to him. Forrest immediately approved
of Dave's suggestion. I gave my assent, and old man Don didn't
qualify, hedge, or mince his words in appointing the committees
to represent the firm of Lovell.

"Jealous of each other, ain't you? Very well; I want these herds
grazed across to Buford at the rate of four miles a day. Nothing
but a Mexican pastor, or a white man as lazy as Quince Forrest
can fill the bill. You're listening, are you, Quince? Well, after
the sun sets to-night, you're in charge of ten thousand beeves
from here to the mouth of the Yellowstone. I want to put every
ounce possible on those steers for the next twenty days. We may
have to make a comparison of cattle, and if we should, I want
ours to lay over the opposition like a double eagle does over a
lead dime. We may run up against a lot of red tape at Fort
Buford, but if there is a lick of cow-sense among the government
representatives, we want our beeves to speak for themselves. Fat
animals do their own talking. You remember when every one was
admiring the fine horse, the blind man said, 'Isn't he fat?' Now,
Dave, you and Tom appoint your segundos, and we'll all catch the
10:20 train west to-night."

I dared to risk one eye on Forrest. Inwardly I was chuckling, but
Quince was mincing along with his dinner, showing that languid
indifference which is inborn to the Texan. Lovell continued to
monopolize the conversation, blowing on the cattle and ribbing up
Forrest to see that the beeves thenceforth should never know
tire, hunger, or thirst. The commissaries had run low;
Sponsilier's cook had been borrowing beans from us for a week
past, while Parent point-blank refused to share any more of our
bacon. The latter was recognized as a staple in trail-work, and
it mattered not how inviting the beef or venison might be, we
always fell back to bacon with avidity. When it came time to move
out on the evening lap, Forrest's herd took the lead, the other
two falling in behind, the wagons pulling out for town in advance
of everything. Jack Splann had always acted as segundo in my
absence, and as he had overheard Lovell's orders to Forrest,
there was nothing further for me to add, and Splann took charge
of my "Open A's."

When changing mounts at noon, I caught out two of my best
saddlers and tied one behind the chuckwagon, to be left with a
liveryman in town. Leaving old man Don with the cattle, all three
of us foremen went into the village in order to secure a few
staple supplies with which to complete the journey.

It can be taken for granted that Sponsilier and myself were
feeling quite gala. The former took occasion, as we rode along,
to throw several bouquets at Forrest over his preferment, when
the latter turned on us, saying: "You fellows think you're d--d
smart, now, don't you? You're both purty good talkers, but
neither one of you can show me where the rainbow comes in in
rotting along with these measly cattle. It's enough to make a man
kick his own dog. But I can see where the old man was perfectly
right in sending you two up to Miles City. When you fellows work
your rabbit's foot, it will be Katy with those Washington City
schemers--more than likely they'll not draw cards when they see
that you are in the game--When it comes to the real sabe, you
fellows shine like a tree full of owls. Honest, it has always
been a wonder to me that Grant didn't send for both of you when
he was making up his cabinet."

The herds crossed the railroad about a mile west of Little
Missouri Station. The wagons secured the needed supplies, and
pulled out down the river, leaving Sponsilier and myself
foot-loose and free.

Lovell was riding a livery horse, and as neither of us expected
him to return until it was too dark to see the cattle, we amused
ourselves by looking over the town. There seemed to be a great
deal of freighting to outlying points, numerous ox and mule
trains coming in and also leaving for their destinations. Our
employer came in about dusk, and at once went to the depot, as he
was expecting a message. One had arrived during his absence, and
after reading it, he came over to Dave and me, saying:

"It's from Mike Sutton. I authorized him to secure the services
of the best lawyer in the West, and he has just wired me that he
has retained Senator Aspgrain of Sioux City, Iowa. They will
report at Fort Buford on September the 5th and will take care of
any legal complications which may arise. I don't know who this
senator is, but Mike has orders not to spare any expense as long
as we have the other fellow's money to fight with. Well, if the
Iowa lawyers are as good stuff as the Iowa troops were down in
Dixie, that's all I ask. Now, we'll get our suppers and then sack
our saddles--why, sure, you'll need them; every good cowman takes
his saddle wherever he goes, though he may not have clothes
enough with him to dust a fiddle."


We reached Miles City shortly after midnight. It was the
recognized cattle centre of Montana at that time, but devoid of
the high-lights which were a feature of the trail towns. The
village boasted the usual number of saloons and dance-houses, and
likewise an ordinance compelling such resorts to close on the
stroke of twelve. Lovell had been there before, and led the way
to a well-known hostelry. The house was crowded, and the best the
night clerk could do was to give us a room with two beds. This
was perfectly satisfactory, as it was a large apartment and
fronted out on an open gallery. Old man Don suggested we take the
mattresses outside, but as this was my first chance to sleep in a
bed since leaving the ranch in March, I wanted all the comforts
that were due me. Sponsilier likewise favored the idea of
sleeping inside, and our employer yielded, taking the single bed
on retiring. The night was warm, and after thrashing around for
nearly an hour, supposing that Dave and I were asleep, old man
Don arose and quietly dragged his mattress outside. Our bed was
soft and downy, but in spite of the lateness of the hour and
having been in our saddles at dawn, we tossed about, unable to
sleep. After agreeing that it was the mattress, we took the
covering and pillows and lay down on the floor, falling into a
deep slumber almost instantly. "Well, wouldn't that jar your
eccentric," said Dave to me the next morning, speaking of our
inability to sleep in a bed. "I slept in one in Ogalalla, and I
wasn't over-full either."

Lovell remained with us all the next day. He was well known in
Miles City, having in other years sold cattle to resident cowmen.
The day was spent in hunting up former acquaintances, getting the
lay of the land, and feeling the public pulse on the matter of
quarantine on Southern cattle. The outlook was to our liking, as
heavy losses had been sustained from fever the year before, and
steps had already been taken to isolate all through animals until
frost fell. Report was abroad that there were already within the
jurisdiction of Montana over one hundred and fifty thousand
through Texas cattle, with a possibility of one third that number
more being added before the close of the season. That territory
had established a quarantine camp on the Wyoming line, forcing
all Texas stock to follow down the eastern side of the Powder
River. Fully one hundred miles on the north, a dead-line was
drawn from Powderville on that watercourse eastward to a spur of
the Powder River Mountains, thus setting aside a quarantine
ground ample to accommodate half a million cattle. Local
range-riders kept all the native and wintered Texas cattle to the
westward of the river and away from the through ones, which was
easily done by riding lines, the Southern herds being held under
constant control and hence never straying. The first Texas herds
to arrive naturally traveled north to the dead-line, and,
choosing a range, went into camp until frost relieved them. It
was an unwritten law that a herd was entitled to as much grazing
land as it needed, and there was a report about Miles City that
the quarantine ground was congested with cattle halfway from
Powderville to the Wyoming line.

The outlook was encouraging. Quarantine was working a hardship to
herds along the old Powder River route, yet their enforced
isolation was like a tempered wind to our cause and cattle, the
latter then leisurely grazing across Dakota from the Little
Missouri to the mouth of the Yellowstone. Fortune favored us in
many respects. About Miles City there was no concealment of our
mission, resulting in an old acquaintance of Lovell's loaning us
horses, while old man Don had no trouble in getting drafts cashed
to the amount of two thousand dollars. What he expected to do
with this amount of money was a mystery to Dave and myself, a
mystery which instantly cleared when we were in the privacy of
our room at the hotel.

"Here, boys," said old man Don, throwing the roll of money on the
bed, "divide this wad between you. There might be such a thing as
using a little here and there to sweeten matters up, and making
yourselves rattling good fellows wherever you go. Now in the
first place, I want you both to understand that this money is
clear velvet, and don't hesitate to spend it freely. Eat and
drink all you can, and gamble a little of it if that is
necessary. You two will saddle up in the morning and ride to
Powderville, while I will lie around here a few days and try the
market for cattle next year, and then go on to Big Horn on my way
to the Crow Agency. Feel your way carefully; locate the herds of
Field, Radcliff & Co., and throw everything in their way to
retard progress. It is impossible to foretell what may happen,
and for that reason only general orders can be given. And
remember, I don't want to see that money again if there is any
chance to use it."

Powderville was a long day's ride from Miles City. By making an
early start and resting a few hours at noon, we reached that
straggling outpost shortly after nightfall. There was a
road-house for the wayfaring man and a corral for his beast, a
general store, opposition saloons, and the regulation blacksmith
shop, constituting the business interests of Powderville. As
arriving guests, a rough but cordial welcome was extended us by
the keeper of the hostelry, and we mingled with the other
travelers, but never once mentioning our business. I was uneasy
over the money in our possession; not that I feared robbery, but
my mind constantly reverted to it, and it was with difficulty
that I refrained from continually feeling to see that it was
safe. Sponsilier had concealed his in his boot, and as we rode
along, contended that he could feel the roll chafing his ankle. I
had tied two handkerchiefs together, and rolling my share in one
of them, belted the amount between my overshirt and undershirt.
The belt was not noticeable, but in making the ride that day, my
hand involuntarily went to my side where the money lay, the
action never escaping the notice of Sponsilier, who constantly
twitted me over my nervousness. And although we were tired as
dogs after our long ride, I awoke many times that night and felt
to see if my money was safe; my partner slept like a log.

Several cowmen, ranching on the lower Powder River, had
headquarters at this outpost. The next morning Sponsilier and I
made their acquaintance, and during the course of the day got a
clear outline of the situation. On the west the river was the
recognized dead-line to the Wyoming boundary, while two camps of
five men each patroled the dividing line on the north, drifting
back the native stock and holding the through herds in
quarantine. The nearest camp was some distance east of
Powderville, and saddling up towards evening we rode out and
spent the night at the first quarantine station. A wagon and two
tents, a relay of saddle horses, and an arsenal of long-range
firearms composed the outfit. Three of the five men on duty were
Texans. Making ourselves perfectly at home, we had no trouble in
locating the herds in question, they having already sounded the
tocsin to clear the way, claiming government beef recognized no
local quarantine. The herds were not over thirty miles to the
south, and expectation ran high as to results when an attempt
should be made to cross the deadline. Trouble had already
occurred, where outfits respecting the quarantine were trespassed
upon by three herds, making claim of being under government
protection and entitled to the rights of eminent domain.
Fortunately several of the herds on the immediate line had been
bought at Ogalalla and were in possession of ranch outfits who
owned ranges farther north, and were anxious to see quarantine
enforced. These local cowmen would support the established
authority, and trouble was expected. Sponsilier and I widened the
breach by denouncing these intruders as the hirelings of a set of
ringsters, who had no regard for the rights of any one, and
volunteered our services in enforcing quarantine against them the
same as others.

Our services were gratefully accepted. The next morning we were
furnished fresh horses, and one of us was requested, as we were
strangers, to ride down the country and reconnoitre the advance
of the defiant drovers. As I was fearful that Field or Radcliff
might be accompanying the herds, and recognize me, Sponsilier
went instead, returning late that evening.

"Well, fellows," said Dave, as he dismounted at the quarantine
camp, "I've seen the herds, and they propose to cross this
dead-line of yours as easily as water goes through a gourd
funnel. They'll be here by noon to-morrow, and they've got the
big conversation right on tap to show that the government
couldn't feed its army if it wasn't for a few big cowmen like
them. There's a strange corporal over the three herds and they're
working on five horses to the man. But the major-domo's the whole
works; he's a windy cuss, and intimates that he has a card or two
up his sleeve that will put these quarantine guards to sleep when
he springs them. He's a new man to me; at least he wasn't with
the gang at Ogalalla."

During the absence of my partner, I had ridden the dead-line on
the north. A strip of country five miles wide was clear of cattle
above the boundary, while below were massed four herds, claiming
the range from the mountains to the Powder River. The leader of
the quarantine guards, Fred Ullmer, had accompanied me on the
ride, and on our return we visited three of the outfits, urging
them to hold all their reserve forces subject to call, in case an
attempt was made to force the dead-line. At each camp I took
every possible chance to sow the seeds of dissension and hatred
against the high-handed methods of The Western Supply Company.
Defining our situation clearly, I asked each foreman, in case
these herds defied local authority, who would indemnify the
owners for the loss among native cattle by fever between
Powderville and the mouth of the Yellowstone. Would the drovers?
Would the government? Leaving these and similar thoughts for
their consideration, Ullmer and I had arrived at the first
quarantine station shortly before the return of my partner.

Upon the report of Sponsilier, Ullmer was appointed captain, and
lost no time in taking action. After dark, a scout was sent to
Camp No. 2, a meeting-place was appointed on Wolf Creek below,
and orders were given to bring along every possible man from the
local outfits and to meet at the rendezvous within an hour after
sun-up the next morning. Ullmer changed horses and left for
Powderville, assuring us that he would rally every man interested
in quarantine, and have his posse below, on the creek by sunrise.
The remainder of us at headquarters were under orders to bring
all the arms and ammunition, and join the quarantine forces at
the meeting-place some five miles from our camp. We were also to
touch at and command the presence of one of the four outfits
while en route. I liked the determined action of Captain Ullmer,
who I learned had emigrated with his parents to Montana when a
boy, and had grown into manhood on the frontier. Sponsilier was
likewise pleased with the quarantine leader, and we lay awake far
into the night, reviewing the situation and trying to anticipate
any possible contingency that might thwart our plans. But to our
best reasoning the horizon was clear, and if Field, Radcliff &
Co.'s cattle reached Fort Buford on the day of delivery, well, it
would be a miracle.

Fresh horses were secured at dawn, and breakfast would be secured
en route with the cow outfit. There were a dozen large-calibre
rifles in scabbards, and burdening ourselves with two heavy guns
to the man and an abundance of ammunition, we abandoned
Quarantine Station No. 1 for the time being. The camp which we
were to touch at was the one nearest the river and north of Wolf
Creek, and we galloped up to it before the sun had even risen.
Since everything was coming our way, Sponsilier and I observed a
strict neutrality, but a tow-headed Texan rallied the outfit,

"Make haste, fellows, and saddle up your horses. Those three
herds which raised such a rumpus up on Little Powder have sent
down word that they're going to cross our dead-line to-day if
they have to prize up hell and put a chunk under it. We have
decided to call their bluff before they even reach the line, and
make them show their hand for all this big talk. Here's half a
dozen guns and cartridges galore, but hustle yourselves. Fred
went into Powderville last night and will meet us above at the
twin buttes this morning with every cowman in town. All the other
outfits have been sent for, and we'll have enough men to make our
bluff stand up, never fear. From what I learn, these herds belong
to a lot of Yankee speculators, and they don't give a tinker's
dam if all the cattle in Montana die from fever. They're no
better than anybody else, and if we allow them to go through,
they'll leave a trail of dead natives that will stink us out of
this valley. Make haste, everybody."

I could see at a glance that the young Texan had touched their
pride. The foreman detailed three men to look after the herd, and
the balance made hasty preparations to accompany the quarantine
guards. A relief was rushed away for the herders; and when the
latter came in, they reported having sighted the posse from
Powderville, heading across country for the twin buttes.
Meanwhile a breakfast had been bolted by the guards, Sponsilier,
and myself, and swinging into our saddles, we rounded a bluff
bend of the creek and rode for the rendezvous, some three miles
distant. I noticed by the brands that nearly every horse in that
country had been born in Texas, and the short time in which we
covered the intervening miles proved that the change of climate
had added to their stability and bottom. Our first glimpse of the
meeting-point revealed the summit of the buttes fairly covered
with horsemen. From their numbers it was evident that ours was
the last contingent to arrive; but before we reached the twin
mounds, the posse rode down from the lookout and a courier met
and turned us from our course. The lead herd had been sighted in
trail formation but a few miles distant, heading north, and it
was the intention to head them at the earliest moment. The
messenger inquired our numbers, and reported those arrived at
forty-five, making the posse when united a few over sixty men.

A juncture of forces was effected within a mile of the lead herd.
It was a unique posse. Old frontiersmen, with patriarchal beards
and sawed-off shotguns, chewed their tobacco complacently as they
rode forward at a swinging gallop. Beardless youths, armed with
the old buffalo guns of their fathers, led the way as if an
Indian invasion had called them forth. Soldiers of fortune, with
Southern accents, who were assisting in the conquest of a new
empire, intermingled with the hurrying throng, and two men whose
home was in Medina County, Texas, looked on and approved. The
very horses had caught the inspiration of the moment, champing
bits in their effort to forge to the front rank, while the
blood-stained slaver coated many breasts or driveled from our
boots. Before we met the herd a halt was called, and about a
dozen men were deployed off on each flank, while the main body
awaited the arrival of the cattle. The latter were checked by the
point-men and turned back when within a few hundred yards of the
main posse. Several horsemen from the herd rode forward, and one
politely inquired the meaning of this demonstration. The question
was met by a counter one from Captain Ullmer, who demanded to
know the reason why these cattle should trespass on the rights of
others and ignore local quarantine. The spokesman in behalf of
the herd turned in his saddle and gave an order to send some
certain person forward. Sponsilier whispered to me that this
fellow was merely a segundo. "But wait till the 'major-domo'
arrives," he added. The appearance of the posse and the halting
of the herd summoned that personage from the rear to the front,
and the next moment he was seen galloping up the column of
cattle. With a plausible smile this high mogul, on his arrival,
repeated the previous question, and on a similar demand from the
captain of the posse, he broke into a jolly laugh from which he
recovered with difficulty.

"Why, gentlemen," said he, every word dripping with honeyed
sweetness, "this is entirely uncalled for. I assure you that it
was purely an oversight on my part that I did not send you word
in advance that these herds of mine are government cattle and not
subject to local quarantine. My associates are the largest army
contractors in the country, these cattle are due at Fort Buford
on the 15th of this month, and any interference on your part
would be looked upon as an insult to the government. In fact, the
post commander at Fort Laramie insisted that he be permitted to
send a company of cavalry to escort us across Wyoming, and
assured us that a troop from Fort Keogh, if requested, would meet
our cattle on the Montana line. The army is jealous over its
supplies, but I declined all military protection, knowing that I
had but to show my credentials to pass unmolested anywhere. Now,
if you care to look over these papers, you will see that these
cattle are en route to Fort Buford, on an assignment of the
original contract, issued by the secretary of war to The Western
Supply Company. Very sorry to put you to all this trouble, but
these herds must not be interfered with. I trust that you
gentlemen understand that the government is supreme."

As the papers mentioned were produced, Sponsilier kicked me on
the shin, gave me a quiet wink, and nodded towards the documents
then being tendered to Captain Ullmer. Groping at his idea, I
rode forward, and as the papers were being returned with a mere
glance on the part of the quarantine leader, I politely asked if
I might see the assignment of the original contract. But a
quizzical smile met my request, and shaking out the heavy
parchment, he rapped it with the knuckles of his disengaged hand,
remarking as he returned it to his pocket, "Sorry, but altogether
too valuable to allow out of my possession." Just what I would
have done with the beribboned document, except to hand it over to
Sponsilier, is beyond me, yet I was vaguely conscious that its
destruction was of importance to our side of the matter at issue.
At the same instant in which my request was declined, the big
medicine man turned to Captain Ullmer and suavely remarked, "You
found everything as represented, did you?"

"Why, I heard your statement, and I have also heard it disputed
from other sources. In fact I have nothing to do with you except
to enforce the quarantine now established by the cattlemen of
eastern Montana. If you have any papers showing that your herds
were wintered north of latitude 37, you can pass, as this
quarantine is only enforced against cattle from south of that
degree. This territory lost half a million dollars' worth of
native stock last fall from Texas fever, and this season they
propose to apply the ounce of preventive. You will have ample
time to reach your destination after frost falls, and your
detention by quarantine will be a good excuse for your delay.
Now, unless you can convince me that your herds are immune, I'll
show you a good place to camp on the head of Wolf Creek. It will
probably be a matter of ten to fifteen days before the quarantine
is lifted, and we are enforcing it against citizens of Montana
and Texas alike, and no exception can be made in your case."

"But, my dear sir, this is not a local or personal matter.
Whatever you do, don't invite the frown of the government. Let me
warn you not to act in haste. Now, remember--"

"You made your cracks that you would cross this quarantine line,"
interrupted Ullmer, bristlingly, "and I want you to find out your
mistake. There is no occasion for further words, and you can
either order your outfit to turn your cattle east, or I'll send
men and do it myself."

The "major-domo" turned and galloped back to his men, a number of
whom had congregated near at hand. The next moment he returned
and haughtily threatened to surrender the cattle then and there
unless he was allowed to proceed. "Give him a receipt for his
beeves, Fred," quietly remarked an old cowman, gently stroking
his beard, "and I'll take these boys over here on the right and
start the cattle. That will be the safest way, unless the
gentleman can indemnify us. I lost ten thousand dollars' worth of
stock last fall, and as a citizen of Montana I have objections to
leaving a trail of fever from here to the mouth of the
Yellowstone. And tell him he can have a bond for his cattle,"
called back the old man as he rode out of hearing.

The lead herd was pointed to the east, and squads of men rode
down and met the other two, veering them off on an angle to the
right. Meanwhile the superintendent raved, pleaded, and
threatened without avail, but finally yielded and refused the
receipt and dispossession of his cattle. This was just what the
quarantine captain wanted, and the dove of peace began to shake
its plumage. Within an hour all three of the herds were moving
out for the head of Wolf Creek, accompanied only by the
quarantine guards, the remainder of the posse returning to their
homes or their work. Having ample time on our hands, Sponsilier
and I expected to remain at Station No. 1 until after the 10th of
September, and accordingly made ourselves at home at that camp.
To say that we were elated over the situation puts it mildly, and
that night the two of us lost nearly a hundred dollars playing
poker with the quarantine guards. A strict vigilance was
maintained over the herds in question, but all reports were
unanimous that they were contentedly occupying their allotted

But at noon on the third day of the enforced isolation, a
messenger from Powderville arrived at the first station. A troop
of cavalry from Fort Keogh, accompanied by a pack-train, had
crossed the Powder River below the hamlet, their avowed mission
being to afford an escort for certain government beef, then under
detention by the local authorities. The report fell among us like
a flash of lightning. Ample time had elapsed for a messenger to
ride to the Yellowstone, and, returning with troops, pilot them
to the camps of Field, Radcliff & Co. A consultation was
immediately held, but no definite line of action had been arrived
at when a horseman from one of the lower camps dashed up and
informed us that the three herds were already trailing out for
the dead-line, under an escort of cavalry. Saddling up, we
rallied what few men were available, determined to make a
protest, at least, in the interest of humanity to dumb brutes.
We dispatched couriers to the nearest camps and the outer
quarantine station; but before a posse of twenty men arrived, the
lead herd was within a mile of the dead-line, and we rode out and
met them. Fully eighty troopers, half of which rode in column
formation in front, halted us as we approached. Terse and to the
point were the questions and answers exchanged between the
military arm of the government and the quarantine authorities of
Montana. When the question arose of indemnity to citizens, in
case of death to native cattle, a humane chord was touched in the
young lieutenant in command, resulting in his asking several
questions, to which the "major-domo" protested. Once satisfied of
the justice of quarantine, the officer, in defense of his action,

"Gentlemen, I am under instructions to give these herds, intended
for use at Fort Buford, a three days' escort beyond this
quarantine line. I am very much obliged to you all for making so
clear the necessity of isolating herds of Texas cattle, and that
little or no hardship may attend my orders, you may have until
noon to-morrow to drift all native stock west of the Powder
River. When these herds encamp for the night, they will receive
instructions not to move forward before twelve to-morrow. I find
the situation quite different from reports; nevertheless orders
are orders."


The quarantine guards returned to their camp. Our plans were
suddenly and completely upset, and not knowing which way to turn,
Sponsilier and I, slightly crestfallen, accompanied the guards.
It was already late in the evening, but Captain Ullmer took
advantage of the brief respite granted him to clear the east half
of the valley of native cattle. Couriers were dispatched to sound
the warning among the ranches down the river, while a regular
round-up outfit was mustered among the camps to begin the
drifting of range stock that evening. A few men were left at the
two camps, as quarantine was not to be abandoned, and securing
our borrowed horses, my partner and I bade our friends farewell
and set out on our return for the Yellowstone. Merely touching at
Powderville for a hasty supper, we held a northwest,
cross-country course, far into the night, when we unsaddled to
rest our horses and catch a few hours' sleep. But sunrise found
us again in our saddles, and by the middle of the forenoon we
were breakfasting with our friends in Miles City.

Fort Keogh was but a short distance up the river. That military
interference had been secured through fraud and deception, there
was not the shadow of a doubt. During the few hours which we
spent in Miles, the cattle interests were duly aroused, and a
committee of cowmen were appointed to call on the post commander
at Keogh with a formidable protest, which would no doubt be
supplemented later, on the return of the young lieutenant and his
troopers. During our ride the night before, Sponsilier and I had
discussed the possibility of arousing the authorities at
Glendive. Since it was in the neighborhood of one hundred miles
from Powderville to the former point on the railroad, the herds
would consume nearly a week in reaching there. A freight train
was caught that afternoon, and within twenty-four hours after
leaving the quarantine camp on the Powder River, we had opened
headquarters at the Stock Exchange Saloon in Glendive. On
arriving, I deposited one hundred dollars with the proprietor of
that bar-room, with the understanding that it was to be used in
getting an expression from the public in regard to the question
of Texas fever. Before noon the next day, Dave Sponsilier and Tom
Quirk were not only the two most popular men in Glendive, but
quarantine had been decided on with ringing resolutions.

Our standing was soon of the best. Horses were tendered us, and
saddling one I crossed the Yellowstone and started down the river
to arouse outlying ranches, while Sponsilier and a number of
local cowmen rode south to locate a camp and a deadline. I was
absent two days, having gone north as far as Wolf Island, where I
recrossed the river, returning on the eastern side of the valley.
At no ranch which was visited did my mission fail of meeting
hearty approval, especially on the western side of the river,
where severe losses from fever had been sustained the fall
before. One ranch on Thirteen Mile offered, if necessary, to send
every man in its employ, with their own wagon and outfit of
horses, free of all charge, until quarantine was lifted. But I
suggested, instead, that they send three or four men with their
horses and blankets, leaving the remainder to be provided for by
the local committee. In my two days' ride, over fifty volunteers
were tendered, but I refused all except twenty, who were to
report at Glendive not later than the morning of the 6th. On my
return to the railroad, all arrangements were completed and the
outlook was promising. Couriers had arrived from the south during
my absence, bringing the news of the coming of the through Texas
cattle, and warning the local ranches to clear the way or take
the consequences. All native stock had been pushed west of the
Powder and Yellowstone, as far north as Cabin Creek, which had
been decided on as the second quarantine-line. Daily reports were
being received of the whereabouts of the moving herds, and at the
rate they were traveling, they would reach Cabin Creek about the
7th. Two wagons had been outfitted, cooks employed, and couriers
dispatched to watch the daily progress of the cattle, which, if
following the usual route, would strike the deadline some
distance south of Glendive.

During the next few days, Sponsilier and I were social lions in
that town, and so great was our popularity we could have either
married or been elected to office. We limited our losses at poker
to so much an evening, and what we won from the merchant class we
invariably lost among the volunteer guards and cowmen, taking our
luck with a sangfroid which proved us dead-game sports, and made
us hosts of friends. We had contributed one hundred dollars to
the general quarantine fund, and had otherwise made ourselves
popular with all classes in the brief time at our command. Under
the pretense that we might receive orders at any time to overtake
our herds, we declined all leadership in the second campaign
about to be inaugurated against Texas fever. Dave and I were both
feeling rather chesty over the masterful manner in which we had
aroused the popular feeling in favor of quarantine in our own
interest, at the same time making it purely a local movement. We
were swaggering about like ward-heelers, when on the afternoon of
the 5th the unexpected again happened. The business interests of
the village usually turned out to meet the daily passenger
trains, even the poker-games taking a recess until the cars went
past. The arrival and departure of citizens of the place were
noted by every one, and strangers were looked upon with timidity,
very much as in all simple communities. Not taking any interest
in the passing trains, Sponsilier was writing a letter to his
girl in Texas, while I was shaking dice for the cigars with the
bartender of the Stock Exchange, when the Eastbound arrived.
After the departure of the train, I did not take any notice of
the return of the boys to the abandoned games, or the influx of
patrons to the house, until some one laid a hand on my shoulder
and quietly said, "Isn't your name Quirk?"

Turning to the speaker, I was confronted by Mr. Field and Mr.
Radcliff, who had just arrived by train from the west. Admitting
my identity, I invited them to have a cigar or liquid
refreshment, inquiring whence they had come and where their
cattle were. To my surprise, Fort Keogh was named as their last
refuge, and the herds were reported to cross the railroad within
the next few days. Similar questions were asked me, but before
replying, I caught Sponsilier's eye and summoned him with a wink.
On Dave's presenting himself, I innocently asked the pair if they
did not remember my friend as one of the men whom they had under
arrest at Dodge. They grunted an embarrassed acknowledgment,
which was returned in the same coin, when I proceeded to inform
them that our cattle crossed the railroad at Little Missouri ten
days before, and that we were only waiting the return of Mr.
Lovell from the Crow Agency before proceeding to our destination.
With true Yankee inquisitiveness, other questions followed, the
trend of which was to get us to admit that we had something to do
with the present activities in quarantining Texas cattle. But I
avoided their leading queries, and looked appealingly at
Sponsilier, who came to my rescue with an answer born of the

"Well, gentlemen," said Dave, seating himself on the bar and
leisurely rolling a cigarette, "that town of Little Missouri is
about the dullest hole that I was ever water-bound in. Honestly,
I'd rather be with the cattle than loafing in it with money in my
pocket. Now this town has got some get-up about it; I'll kiss a
man's foot if he complains that this burg isn't sporty enough for
his blood. They've given me a run here for my white alley, and I
still think I know something about that game called draw-poker.
But you were speaking about quarantine. Yes; there seems to have
been a good many cattle lost through these parts last fall. You
ought to have sent your herds up through Dakota, where there is
no native stock to interfere. I'd hate to have cattle coming down
the Powder River. A friend of mine passed through here yesterday;
his herd was sold for delivery on the Elkhorn, north of here, and
he tells me he may not be able to reach there before October. He
saw your herds and tells me you are driving the guts out of them.
So if there's anything in that old 'ship-fever theory,' you ought
to be quarantined until it snows. There's a right smart talk
around here of fixing a dead-line below somewhere, and if you get
tied up before reaching the railroad, it won't surprise me a
little bit. When it comes to handling the cattle, old man Don has
the good hard cow-sense every time, but you shorthorns give me a

"What did I tell you?" said Radcliff, the elder one, to his
partner, as they turned to leave.

On nearing the door, Mr. Field halted and begrudgingly said, "See
you later, Quirk."

"Not if I see you first," I replied; "you ain't my kind of

Not even waiting for them to pass outside, Sponsilier, from his
elevated position, called every one to the bar to irrigate. The
boys quit their games, and as they lined up in a double row, Dave
begged the bartenders to bestir themselves, and said to his
guests: "Those are the kid-gloved cowmen that I've been telling
you about--the owners of the Texas cattle that are coming through
here. Did I hang it on them artistically, or shall I call them
back and smear it on a shade deeper? They smelt a mouse all
right, and when their cattle reach Cabin Creek, they'll smell the
rat in earnest. Now, set out the little and big bottle and
everybody have a cigar on the side. And drink hearty, lads, for
to-morrow we may be drinking branch water in a quarantine camp."

The arrival of Field and Radcliff was accepted as a defiance to
the local cattle interests. Popular feeling was intensified when
it was learned that they were determined not to recognize any
local quarantine, and were secretly inquiring for extra men to
guard their herds in passing Glendive. There was always a rabble
element in every frontier town, and no doubt, as strangers, they
could secure assistance in quarters that the local cowmen would
spurn. Matters were approaching a white heat, when late that
night an expected courier arrived, and reported the cattle coming
through at the rate of twenty miles a day. They were not
following any particular trail, traveling almost due north, and
if the present rate of travel was maintained, Cabin Creek would
be reached during the forenoon of the 7th. This meant business,
and the word was quietly passed around that all volunteers were
to be ready to move in the morning. A cowman named Retallac,
owner of a range on the Yellowstone, had previously been decided
on as captain, and would have under him not less than
seventy-five chosen men, which number, if necessary, could easily
be increased to one hundred.

Morning dawned on a scene of active operations. The two wagons
were started fully an hour in advance of the cavalcade, which was
to follow, driving a remuda of over two hundred saddle horses.
Sponsilier and I expected to accompany the outfit, but at the
last moment our plans were changed by an incident and we remained
behind, promising to overtake them later. There were a number of
old buffalo hunters in town, living a precarious life, and one of
their number had quietly informed Sheriff Wherry that they had
been approached with an offer of five dollars a day to act as an
escort to the herds while passing through. The quarantine captain
looked upon that element as a valuable ally, suggesting that if
it was a question of money, our side ought to be in the market
for their services. Heartily agreeing with him, the company of
guards started, leaving their captain behind with Sponsilier and
myself. Glendive was a county seat, and with the assistance of
the sheriff, we soon had every buffalo hunter in the town
corralled. They were a fine lot of rough men, inclined to be
convivial, and with the assistance of Sheriff Wherry, coupled
with the high standing of the quarantine captain, on a soldier's
introduction Dave and I made a good impression among them.
Sponsilier did the treating and talking, his offer being ten
dollars a day for a man and horse, which was promptly accepted,
when the question naturally arose who would stand sponsor for the
wages. Dave backed off some distance, and standing on his left
foot, pulled off his right boot, shaking out a roll of money on
the floor.

"There's the long green, boys," said he, "and you fellows can
name your own banker. I'll make it up a thousand, and whoever you
say goes with me. Shall it be the sheriff, or Mr. Retallac, or
the proprietor of the Stock Exchange?"

Sheriff Wherry interfered, relieving the embarrassment in
appointing a receiver, and vouched that these two Texans were
good for any reasonable sum. The buffalo hunters approved,
apologizing to Sponsilier, as he pulled on his boot, for
questioning his financial standing, and swearing allegiance in
every breath. An hour's time was granted in which to saddle and
make ready, during which we had a long chat with Sheriff Wherry
and found him a valuable ally. He had cattle interests in the
country, and when the hunters appeared, fifteen strong, he
mounted his horse and accompanied us several miles on the way.
"Now, boys," said he, at parting, "I'll keep an eye over things
around town, and if anything important happens, I'll send a
courier with the news. If those shorthorns attempt to offer any
opposition, I'll run a blazer on them, and if necessary I'll jug
the pair. You fellows just buffalo the herds, and the sheriff's
office will keep cases on any happenings around Glendive. It's
understood that night or day your camp can be found on Cabin
Creek, opposite the old eagle tree. Better send me word as soon
as the herds arrive. Good luck to you, lads."

Neither wagons nor guards were even sighted during our three
hours' ride to the appointed campground. On our arrival tents
were being pitched and men were dragging up wood, while the cooks
were busily preparing a late dinner, the station being fully
fifteen miles south of the railroad. Scouts were thrown out
during the afternoon, corrals built, and evening found the
quarantine camp well established for the comfort of its
ninety-odd men. The buffalo hunters were given special attention
and christened the "Sponsilier Guards;" they took again to
outdoor life as in the old days. The report of the scouts was
satisfactory; all three of the herds had been seen and would
arrive on schedule time. A hush of expectancy greeted this news,
but Sponsilier and I ridiculed the idea that there would be any
opposition, except a big talk and plenty of bluffing.

"Well, if that's what they rely on," said Captain Retallac, "then
they're as good as in quarantine this minute. If you feel certain
they can't get help from Fort Keogh a second time, those herds
will be our guests until further orders. What we want to do now
is to spike every possible chance for their getting any help, and
the matter will pass over like a summer picnic. If you boys think
there's any danger of an appeal to Fort Buford, the military
authorities want to be notified that the Yellowstone Valley has
quarantined against Texas fever and asks their cooperation in
enforcing the same."

"I can fix that," replied Sponsilier. "We have lawyers at Buford
right now, and I can wire them the situation fully in the
morning. If they rely on the military, they will naturally
appeal to the nearest post, and if Keogh and Buford turn them
down, the next ones are on the Missouri River, and at that
distance cavalry couldn't reach here within ten days. Oh, I think
we've got a grapevine twist on them this time."

Sponsilier sat up half the night wording a message to our
attorneys at Fort Buford. The next morning found me bright and
early on the road to Glendive with the dispatch, the sending of
which would deplete my cash on hand by several dollars, but what
did we care for expense when we had the money and orders to spend
it? I regretted my absence from the quarantine camp, as I was
anxious to be present on the arrival of the herds, and again
watch the "major-domo" run on the rope and fume and charge in
vain. But the importance of blocking assistance was so urgent
that I would gladly have ridden to Buford if necessary. In that
bracing atmosphere it was a fine morning for the ride, and I was
rapidly crossing the country, when a vehicle, in the dip of the
plain, was sighted several miles ahead. I was following no road,
but when the driver of the conveyance saw me he turned across my
front and signaled. On meeting the rig, I could hardly control
myself from laughing outright, for there on the rear seat sat
Field and Radcliff, extremely gruff and uncongenial. Common
courtesies were exchanged between the driver and myself, and I
was able to answer clearly his leading questions: Yes; the herds
would reach Cabin Creek before noon; the old eagle tree, which
could be seen from the first swell of the plain beyond, marked
the quarantine camp, and it was the intention to isolate the
herds on the South Fork of Cabin. "Drive on," said a voice, and,
in the absence of any gratitude expressed, I inwardly smiled in

I was detained in Glendive until late in the day, waiting for an
acknowledgment of the message. Sheriff Wherry informed me that
the only move attempted on the part of the shorthorn drovers was
the arrest of Sponsilier and myself, on the charge of being
accomplices in the shooting of one of their men on the North
Platte. But the sheriff had assured the gentlemen that our
detention would have no effect on quarantining their cattle, and
the matter was taken under advisement and dropped. It was late
when I started for camp that evening. The drovers had returned,
accompanied by their superintendent, and were occupying the
depot, burning the wires in every direction. I was risking no
chances, and cultivated the company of Sheriff Wherry until the
acknowledgment arrived, when he urged me to ride one of his
horses in returning to camp, and insisted on my taking a carbine.
Possibly this was fortunate, for before I had ridden one third
the distance to the quarantine camp, I met a cavalcade of nearly
a dozen men from the isolated herds. When they halted and
inquired the distance to Glendive, one of their number recognized
me as having been among the quarantine guards at Powderville. I
admitted that I was there, turning my horse so that the carbine
fell to my hand, and politely asked if any one had any
objections. It seems that no one had, and after a few commonplace
inquiries were exchanged, we passed on our way.

There was great rejoicing on Cabin Creek that night. Songs were
sung, and white navy beans passed current in numerous poker-games
until the small hours of morning. There had been nothing dramatic
in the meeting between the herds and the quarantine guards, the
latter force having been augmented by visiting ranchmen and their
help, until protest would have been useless. A routine of work
had been outlined, much stricter than at Powderville, and a
surveillance of the camps was constantly maintained. Not that
there was any danger of escape, but to see that the herds
occupied the country allotted to them, and did not pollute any
more territory than was necessary. The Sponsilier Guards were
given an easy day shift, and held a circle of admirers at night,
recounting and living over again "the good old days." Visitors
from either side of the Yellowstone were early callers, and
during the afternoon the sheriff from Glendive arrived. I did not
know until then that Mr. Wherry was a candidate for reelection
that fall, but the manner in which he mixed with the boys was
enough to warrant his election for life. What endeared him to
Sponsilier and myself was the fund of information he had
collected, and the close tab he had kept on every movement of the
opposition drovers. He told us that their appeal to Fort Keogh
for assistance had been refused with a stinging rebuke; that a
courier had started the evening before down the river for Fort
Buford, and that Mr. Radcliff had personally gone to Fort Abraham
Lincoln to solicit help. The latter post was fully one hundred
and fifty miles away, but that distance could be easily covered
by a special train in case of government interference.

It rained on the afternoon of the 9th. The courier had returned
from Fort Buford on the north, unsuccessful, as had also Mr.
Radcliff from Fort Lincoln on the Missouri River to the eastward.
The latter post had referred the request to Keogh, and washed its
hands of intermeddling in a country not tributary to its
territory. The last hope of interference was gone, and the rigors
of quarantine closed in like a siege with every gun of the enemy
spiked. Let it be a week or a month before the quarantine was
lifted, the citizens of Montana had so willed it, and their wish
was law. Evening fell, and the men drew round the fires. The
guards buttoned their coats as they rode away, and the tired ones
drew their blankets around them as they lay down to sleep.
Scarcely a star could be seen in the sky overhead, but before my
partner or myself sought our bed, a great calm had fallen, the
stars were shining, and the night had grown chilly.

The old buffalo hunters predicted a change in the weather, but
beyond that they were reticent. As Sponsilier and I lay down to
sleep, we agreed that if three days, even two days, were spared
us, those cattle in quarantine could never be tendered at Fort
Buford on the appointed day of delivery. But during the early
hours of morning we were aroused by the returning guards, one of
whom halted his horse near our blankets and shouted, "Hey, there,
you Texans; get up--a frost has fallen!"

Sure enough, it had frosted during the night, and the quarantine
was lifted. When day broke, every twig and blade of grass
glistened in silver sheen, and the horses on picket stood humped
and shivering. The sun arose upon the herds moving, with no
excuse to say them nay, and orders were issued to the guards to
break camp and disperse to their homes. As we rode into Glendive
that morning, sullen and defeated by a power beyond our control,
in speaking of the peculiarity of the intervention, Sponsilier
said: "Well, if it rains on the just and the unjust alike, why
shouldn't it frost the same."


We were at our rope's end. There were a few accounts to settle in
Glendive, after which we would shake its dust from our feet. Very
few of the quarantine guards returned to town, and with the
exception of Sheriff Wherry, none of the leading cowmen, all
having ridden direct for their ranches. Long before the train
arrived which would carry us to Little Missouri, the opposition
herds appeared and crossed the railroad west of town. Their
commissaries entered the village for supplies, while the
"major-domo," surrounded by a body-guard of men, rode about on
his miserable palfrey. The sheriff, fearing a clash between the
victorious and the vanquished, kept an eye on Sponsilier and me
as we walked the streets, freely expressing our contempt of
Field, Radcliff & Co., their henchmen and their methods. Dave and
I were both nerved to desperation; Sheriff Wherry, anxious to
prevent a conflict, counciled with the opposition drovers,
resulting in their outfits leaving town, while the principals
took stage across to Buford.

Meanwhile Sponsilier had wired full particulars to our employer
at Big Horn. It was hardly necessary, as the frost no doubt was
general all over Montana, but we were anxious to get into
communication with Lovell immediately on his return to the
railroad. We had written him from Miles of our failure at
Powderville, and the expected second stand at Glendive, and now
the elements had notified him that the opposition herds were
within striking distance, and would no doubt appear at Buford on
or before the day of delivery. An irritable man like our employer
would neither eat nor sleep, once the delivery at the Crow Agency
was over, until reaching the railroad, and our message would be
awaiting him on his return to Big Horn. Our train reached Little
Missouri early in the evening, and leaving word with the agent
that we were expecting important messages from the west, we
visited the liveryman and inquired about the welfare of our
horses. The proprietor of the stable informed us that they had
fared well, and that he would have them ready for us on an hour's
notice. It was after dark and we were at supper when the first
message came. An immediate answer was required, and arising from
the table, we left our meal unfinished and hastened to the depot.
From then until midnight, messages flashed back and forth,
Sponsilier dictating while I wrote. As there was no train before
the regular passenger the next day, the last wire requested us to
have the horses ready to meet the Eastbound, saying that Bob
Quirk would accompany Lovell.

That night it frosted again. Sponsilier and I slept until noon
the next day without awakening. Then the horses were brought in
from pasture, and preparation was made to leave that evening. It
was in the neighborhood of ninety miles across to the mouth of
the Yellowstone, and the chances were that we would ride it
without unsaddling. The horses had had a two weeks' rest, and if
our employer insisted on it, we would breakfast with the herds
the next morning. I was anxious to see the cattle again and
rejoin my outfit, but like a watched pot, the train was an hour
late. Sponsilier and I took advantage of the delay and fortified
the inner man against the night and the ride before us. This
proved fortunate, as Lovell and my brother had supper en route in
the dining-car. A running series of questions were asked and
answered; saddles were shaken out of gunny-sacks and cinched on
waiting horses as though we were starting to a prairie fire. Bob
Quirk's cattle had reached the Crow Agency in splendid condition,
the delivery was effected without a word, and old man Don was in
possession of a letter from Flood, saying everything had passed
smoothly at the Rosebud Agency.

Contrary to the expectation of Sponsilier and myself, our
employer was in a good humor, fairly walking on the clouds over
the success of his two first deliveries of the year. But amid the
bustle and rush, in view of another frosty night, Sponsilier
inquired if it would not be a good idea to fortify against the
chill, by taking along a bottle of brandy. "Yes, two of them if
you want to," said old man Don, in good-humored approval. "Here,
Tom, fork this horse and take the pitch out of him," he
continued; "I don't like the look of his eye." But before I could
reach the horse, one of my own string, Bob Quirk had mounted him,
when in testimony of the nutritive qualities of Dakota's grasses,
he arched his spine like a true Texan and outlined a worm-fence
in bucking a circle.

The start was made during the gathering dusk. Sponsilier further
lifted the spirits of our employer, as we rode along, by a
clear-cut description of the opposition cattle, declaring that
had they ever equaled ours, the handling they had received since
leaving Ogalalla, compared to his, would class them with short
twos in the spring against long threes in the fall. Within an
hour the stars shone out, and after following the river some ten
miles, we bore directly north until Beaver Creek was reached near
midnight. The pace was set at about an eight-mile, steady clip,
with an occasional halt to tighten cinches or shift saddles. The
horses were capable of a faster gait without tiring, but we were
not sure of the route and were saving them for the finish after
daybreak. Early in the night we were conscious that a frost was
falling, and several times Sponsilier inquired if no one cared
for a nip from his bottle. Bob Quirk started the joke on Dave by
declining; old man Don uncorked the flask, and, after smelling of
the contents, handed it back with his thanks. I caught onto their
banter, and not wishing to spoil a good jest, also declined,
leaving Sponsilier to drink alone. During the night, whenever
conversation lagged, some one was certain to make reference to
the remarks which are said to have passed between the governors
of the Carolinas, or if that failed to provoke a rise, ask direct
if no one had something to ward off the chilly air. After being
refused several times, Dave had thrown the bottle away, meeting
these jests with the reply that he had a private flask, but its
quality was such that he was afraid of offending our cultivated
tastes by asking us to join him.

Day broke about five in the morning. We had been in the saddle
nearly ten hours, and were confident that sunrise would reveal
some landmark to identify our location. The atmosphere was frosty
and clear, and once the gray of dawn yielded to the rising sun,
the outline of the Yellowstone was easily traced on our left,
while the bluffs in our front shielded a view of the mother
Missouri. In attempting to approach the latter we encountered
some rough country and were compelled to turn towards the former,
crossing it, at O'Brien's roadhouse, some seven miles above the
mouth. The husbanded reserves of our horses were shaken out, and
shortly afterward smoke-clouds from camp-fires, hanging low,
attracted our attention. The herds were soon located as they
arose and grazed away from their bed-grounds. The outfits were
encamped on the eastern side of the Yellowstone; and before
leaving the government road, we sighted in our front a flag
ascending to greet the morning, and the location of Fort Buford
was established. Turning towards the cattle, we rode for the
lower wagon and were soon unsaddling at Forrest's camp. The
latter had arrived two days before and visited the post; he told
us that the opposition were there in force, as well as our own
attorneys. The arrival of the cattle under contract for that
military division was the main topic of discussion, and Forrest
had even met a number of civilian employees of Fort Buford whose
duties were to look after the government beeves. The foreman of
these unenlisted attaches, a Texan named Sanders, had casually
ridden past his camp the day before, looking over the cattle, and
had pronounced them the finest lot of beeves tendered the
government since his connection with that post.

"That's good news," said Lovell, as he threw his saddle astride
the front wheel of the wagon; "that's the way I like to hear my
cattle spoken about. Now, you boys want to make friends with all
those civilians, and my attorneys and Bob and I will hobnob
around with the officers, and try and win the good will of the
entire post. You want to change your camp every few days and give
your cattle good grazing and let them speak for themselves.
Better kill a beef among the outfits, and insist on all callers
staying for meals. We're strangers here, and we want to make a
good impression, and show the public that we were born white,
even if we do handle cattle for a living. Quince, tie up the
horses for us, and after breakfast Bob and I will look over the
herds and then ride into Fort Buford.--Trout for breakfast? You
don't mean it!"

It was true, however, and our appetites did them justice. Forrest
reported Splann as having arrived a day late, and now encamped
the last herd up the valley. Taking our horses with us, Dave and
I set out to look up our herds and resume our former positions. I
rode through Sponsilier's cattle while en route to my own, and
remembered the first impression they had made on my mind,--their
uniformity in size and smoothness of build,--and now found them
fatted into finished form, the herd being a credit to any drover.
Continuing on my way, I intercepted my own cattle, lying down
over hundreds of acres, and so contented that I refused to
disturb them. Splann reported not over half a dozen sore-footed
ones among them, having grazed the entire distance from Little
Missouri, giving the tender cattle a good chance to recover. I
held a circle of listeners for several hours, in recounting
Sponsilier's and my own experiences in the quarantine camps, and
our utter final failure, except that the opposition herds had
been detained, which would force them to drive over twenty miles
a day in order to reach Buford on time. On the other hand, an
incident of more than ordinary moment had occurred with the
cattle some ten days previous. The slow movement of the grazing
herds allowed a great amount of freedom to the boys and was taken
advantage of at every opportunity. It seems that on approaching
Beaver Creek, Owen Ubery and Runt Pickett had ridden across to it
for the purpose of trout-fishing. They were gone all day, having
struck the creek some ten or twelve miles west of the cattle,
expecting to fish down it and overtake the herds during the
evening. But about noon they discovered where a wagon had been
burned, years before, and near by were five human skeletons,
evidently a family. It was possibly the work of Indians, or a
blizzard, and to prove the discovery, Pickett had brought in one
of the skulls and proposed taking it home with him as a memento
of the drive. Parent objected to having the reminder in the
wagon, and a row resulted between them, till Splann interfered
and threw the gruesome relic away.

The next morning a dozen of us from the three herds rode into the
post. Fort Buford was not only a military headquarters, but a
supply depot for other posts farther west on the Missouri and
Yellowstone rivers. The nearest railroad connection was Glendive,
seventy-six miles up the latter stream, though steamboats took
advantage of freshets in the river to transport immense supplies
from lower points on the Missouri where there were rail
connections. From Buford westward, transportation was effected by
boats of lighter draft and the regulation wagon train. It was
recognized as one of the most important supply posts in the West;
as early as five years previous to this date, it had received in
a single summer as many as ten thousand beeves. Its provision for
cavalry was one of its boasted features, immense stacks of forage
flanking those quarters, while the infantry barracks and
officers' quarters were large and comfortable. A stirring little
town had sprung up on the outside, affording the citizens
employment in wood and hay contracts, and becoming the home of a
large number of civilian employees, the post being the mainstay
of the village.

After settling our quarantine bills, Sponsilier and I each had
money left. Our employer refused even to look at our expense
bills until after the delivery, but urged us to use freely any
remaining funds in cultivating the good will of the citizens and
soldiery alike. Forrest was accordingly supplied with funds, with
the understanding that he was to hunt up Sanders and his outfit
and show them a good time. The beef foreman was soon located in
the quartermaster's office, and, having been connected with the
post for several years, knew the ropes. He had come to Buford
with Texas cattle, and after their delivery had accepted a
situation under the acting quartermaster, easily rising to the
foremanship through his superior abilities as a cowman. It was
like a meeting of long-lost brothers to mingle again with a cow
outfit, and the sutler's bar did a flourishing business during
our stay in the post. There were ten men in Sanders's outfit,
several of whom besides himself were Texans, and before we
parted, every rascal had promised to visit us the next day and
look over all the cattle.

The next morning Bob Quirk put in an early appearance at my
wagon. He had passed the other outfits, and notified us all to
have the cattle under convenient herd, properly watered in
advance, as the post commandant, quartermaster, and a party of
minor officers were going to ride out that afternoon and inspect
our beeves. Lovell, of course, would accompany them, and Bob
reported him as having made a ten-strike with the officers' mess,
not being afraid to spend his money. Fortunately the present
quartermaster at Buford was a former acquaintance of Lovell, the
two having had business transactions. The quartermaster had been
connected with frontier posts from Fort Clark, Texas, to his
present position. According to report, the opposition were
active and waging an aggressive campaign, but not being Western
men, were at a disadvantage. Champagne had flowed freely at a
dinner given the night before by our employer, during which
Senator Aspgrain, in responding to a toast, had paid the army a
high tribute for the part it had played in reclaiming the last of
our western frontier. The quartermaster, in replying, had
felicitously remarked, as a matter of his own observation, that
the Californian's love for a horse was only excelled by the
Texan's love for a cow, to which, amid uproarious laughter, old
man Don arose and bowed his acknowledgment.

My brother changed horses and returned to Sponsilier's wagon.
Dave had planned to entertain the post beef outfit for dinner,
and had insisted on Bob's presence. They arrived at my herd near
the middle of the forenoon, and after showing the cattle and
remuda, we all returned to Sponsilier's camp. These civilian
employees furnished their own mounts, and were anxious to buy a
number of our best horses after the delivery was over. Not even a
whisper was breathed about any uncertainty of our filling the
outstanding contract, yet Sanders was given to understand that
Don Lovell would rather, if he took a fancy to him, give a man a
horse than sell him one. Not a word was said about any opposition
to our herds; that would come later, and Sanders and his outfit
were too good judges of Texas cattle to be misled by any bluster
or boastful talk. Sponsilier acted the host, and after dinner
unearthed a box of cigars, and we told stories and talked of our
homes in the sunny South until the arrival of the military party.
The herds had been well watered about noon and drifted out on the
first uplands, and we intercepted the cavalcade before it reached
Sponsilier's herd. They were mounted on fine cavalry horses, and
the only greeting which passed, aside from a military salute, was
when Lovell said: "Dave, show these officers your beeves. Answer
any question they may ask to the best of your ability. Gentlemen,
excuse me while you look over the cattle."

There were about a dozen military men in the party, some of them
veterans of the civil war, others having spent their lifetime on
our western frontier, while a few were seeing their first year's
service after leaving West Point. In looking over the cattle, the
post commander and quartermaster were taken under the wing of
Sanders, who, as only a man could who was born to the occupation,
called their attention to every fine point about the beeves.
After spending fully an hour with Sponsilier's herd, the
cavalcade proceeded on to mine, Lovell rejoining the party, but
never once attempting to draw out an opinion, and again excusing
himself on reaching my cattle. I continued with the military,
answering every one's questions, from the young lieutenant's to
the veteran commandant's, in which I was ably seconded by the
quartermaster's foreman. My cattle had a splendid fill on them
and eloquently spoke their own praises, yet Sanders lost no
opportunity to enter a clincher in their favor. He pointed out
beef after beef, and vouched for the pounds net they would dress,
called attention to their sameness in build, ages, and general
thrift, until one would have supposed that he was a salesman
instead of a civilian employee.

My herd was fully ten miles from the post, and it was necessary
for the military to return that evening. Don Lovell and a number
of the boys had halted at a distance, and once the inspection was
over, we turned and rode back to the waiting group of horsemen.
On coming up, a number of the officers dismounted to shift
saddles, preparatory to starting on their return, when the
quartermaster halted near our employer and said:

"Colonel Lovell, let me say to you, in all sincerity, that in my
twenty-five years' experience on this frontier, I never saw a
finer lot of beeves tendered the government than these of yours.
My position requires that I should have a fair knowledge of beef
cattle, and the perquisites of my office in a post of Buford's
class enable me to employ the best practical men available to
perfect the service. I remember the quality of cattle which you
delivered four years ago to me at Fort Randall, when it was a
six-company post, yet they were not as fine a lot of beeves as
these are. I have always contended that there was nothing too
good in my department for the men who uphold the colors of our
country, especially on the front line. You have been a soldier
yourself and know that I am talking good horsesense, and I want
to say to you that whatever the outcome of this dispute may be,
if yours are the best cattle, you may count on my support until
the drums beat tattoo. The government is liberal and insists on
the best; the rank and file are worthy, and yet we don't always
get what is ordered and well paid for. Now, remember, comrade, if
this difference comes to an issue, I'm right behind you, and
we'll stand or be turned down together."

"Thank you, Colonel," replied Mr. Lovell. "It does seem rather
fortunate, my meeting up with a former business acquaintance, and
at a time when I need him bad. If I am successful in delivering
on this Buford award, it will round out, during my fifteen years
as a drover, over a hundred thousand cattle that I have sold to
the government for its Indian and army departments. There are no
secrets in my business; the reason of my success is simple--my
cattle were always there on the appointed day, humanely handled,
and generally just a shade better than the specifications. My
home country has the cattle for sale; I can tell within two bits
a head what it will cost to lay them down here, and it's music to
my ear to hear you insist on the best. I agree with you that the
firing-line is entitled to special consideration, yet you know
that there are ringsters who fatten at the expense of the rank
and file. At present I haven't a word to say, but at noon
to-morrow I shall tender the post commander at Ford Buford,
through his quartermaster, ten thousand beeves, as a
sub-contractor on the original award to The Western Supply
Company." The post commander, an elderly, white-haired officer,
rode over and smilingly said: "Now, look here, my Texas friend,
I'm afraid you are borrowing trouble. True enough, there has been
a protest made against our receiving your beeves, and I don't
mince my words in saying that some hard things have been said
about you. But we happen to know something about your reputation
and don't give credit for all that is said. Your beeves are an
eloquent argument in your favor, and if I were you I wouldn't
worry. It is always a good idea in this Western country to make a
proviso; and unless the unforeseen happens, the quartermaster's
cattle foreman will count your beeves to-morrow afternoon; and
for the sake of your company, if we keep you a day or two longer
settling up, I don't want to hear you kick. Now, come on and go
back with us to the post, as I promised my wife to bring you over
to our house this evening. She seems to think that a man from
Texas with ten thousand cattle ought to have horns, and I want to
show her that she's mistaken. Come on, now, and not a damned word
of protest out of you."

The military party started on their return, accompanied by
Lovell. The civilian attaches followed at a respectful distance,
a number of us joining them as far as Sponsilier's camp. There we
halted, when Sanders insisted on an explanation of the remarks
which had passed between our employer and his. Being once more
among his own, he felt no delicacy in asking for
information--which he would never think of doing with his
superiors. My brother gave him a true version of the situation,
but it remained for Dave Sponsilier to add an outline of the
opposition herds and outfits.

"With humane treatment," said Dave, "the cattle would have
qualified under the specifications. They were bought at Ogalalla,
and any of the boys here will tell you that the first one was a
good herd. The market was all shot to pieces, and they picked
them up at their own price. But the owners didn't have cow-sense
enough to handle the cattle, and put one of their own gang over
the herds as superintendent. They left Cabin Creek, below
Glendive, on the morning of the 10th, and they'll have to travel
nearly twenty miles a day to reach here by noon to-morrow.
Sanders, you know that gait will soon kill heavy cattle. The
outfits were made up of short-card men and dance-hall ornaments,
wild enough to look at, but shy on cattle sabe. Just so they
showed up bad and wore a six-shooter, that was enough to win a
home with Field and Radcliff. If they reach here on time, I'll
gamble there ain't ten horses in the entire outfit that don't
carry a nigger brand. And when it comes to the big conversation--
well, they've simply got the earth faded."

It was nearly sundown when we mounted our horses and separated
for the day. Bob Quirk returned to the post with the civilians,
while I hastened back to my wagon. I had left orders with Splann
to water the herd a second time during the evening and thus
insure an easy night in holding the cattle. On my return, they
were just grazing out from the river, their front a mile wide,
making a pretty picture with the Yellowstone in the background.
But as I sat my horse and in retrospect reviewed my connection
with the cattle before me and the prospect of soon severing it,
my remuda came over a near-by hill in a swinging trot for their
second drink. Levering threw them into the river below the herd,
and turning, galloped up to me and breathlessly asked: "Tom, did
you see that dust-cloud up the river? Well, the other cattle are
coming. The timber cuts off your view from here, besides the
sun's gone down, but I watched their signal for half an hour from
that second hill yonder. Oh, it's cattle all right; I know the
sign, even if they are ten miles away."


Delivery day dawned with a heavy fog hanging over the valley of
the Yellowstone. The frosts had ceased, and several showers had
fallen during the night, one of which brought our beeves to their
feet, but they gave no serious trouble and resumed their beds
within an hour. There was an autumn feeling in the atmosphere,
and when the sun arose, dispelling the mists, a glorious
September day was ushered in. The foliage of the timber which
skirted either river was coloring from recent frosts, while in
numerous places the fallen leaves of the cottonwood were
littering the ground. Enough rain had fallen to settle the dust,
and the signal of the approaching herds, seen the evening before,
was no longer visible.

The delay in their appearance, however, was only temporary. I
rode down to Sponsilier's camp early that morning and reported
the observations of my wrangler at sundown. No one at the lower
wagon had noticed the dust-clouds, and some one suggested that it
might be a freight outfit returning unloaded, when one of the men
on herd was seen signaling the camp's notice. The attention of
the day-herders, several miles distant, was centered on some
object up the river; and mounting our horses, we rode for the
nearest elevation, from which two herds were to be seen on the
opposite side, traveling in trail formation. There was no
doubting their identity; and wondering what the day would bring
forth, we rode for a better point of observation, when from
behind a timbered bend of the river the lead of the last herd
appeared. At last the Yellowstone Valley held over twenty
thousand beef cattle, in plain sight of each other, both factions
equally determined on making the delivery on an award that
required only half that number. Dismounting, we kept the herds in
view for over an hour, or until the last one had crossed the
river above O'Brien's road-house, the lead one having disappeared
out of sight over on the main Missouri.

This was the situation on the morning of September 15. As we
returned to Sponsilier's wagon, all the idle men about the camp
joined our cavalcade, and we rode down and paid Forrest's outfit

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