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The Outlet by Andy Adams

Part 5 out of 5

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a social visit. The latter were all absent, except the cook, but
shortly returned from down the river and reported the opposition
herds to be crossing the Missouri, evidently going to camp at
Alkali Lake.

"Well, I've been present at a good many deliveries," said Quince
Forrest, as he reined in his horse, "but this one is in a class
by itself. We always aimed to get within five or ten miles of a
post or agency, but our friends made a worthy effort to get on
the parade-ground. They did the next best thing and occupied the
grazing where the cavalry horses have been herded all summer. Oh,
their cattle will be hog-fat in a few days. Possibly they expect
to show their cattle in town, and not trouble the quartermaster
and comandante to even saddle up--they're the very kind of people
who wouldn't give anybody trouble if they could help it. It
wouldn't make so much difference about those old frontier
officers or a common cowman, but if one of those young
lieutenants was to get his feet wet, the chances are that those
Washington City contractors would fret and worry for weeks. Of
course, any little inconvenience that any one incurred on their
account, they'd gladly come all the way back from Europe to make
it right--I don't think."

While we were discussing the situation, Bob Quirk arrived at
camp. He reported that Lovell, relying on the superiority of our
beeves, had waived his right to deliver on the hour of high noon,
and an inspection of the other cattle would be made that evening.
The waiver was made at the request of the leading officers of
Fort Buford, all very friendly to the best interests of the
service and consequently ours, and the object was to silence all
subsequent controversy. My brother admitted that some outside
pressure had been brought to bear during the night, very
antagonistic to the post commander, who was now more determined
than ever to accept none but the best for their next year's meat
supply. A well-known congressman, of unsavory reputation as a
lobbyist in aiding and securing government contracts for his
friends, was the latest addition to the legal forces of the
opposition. He constantly mentioned his acquaintances in the War
Department and maintained an air of assurance which was very
disconcerting. The younger officers in the post were abashed at
the effrontery of the contractors and their legal
representatives, and had even gone so far as to express doubts as
to the stability of their positions in case the decision favored
Lovell's cattle. Opinion was current that a possible shake-up
might occur at Buford after the receipt of its beef supply, and
the more timorous ones were anxious to get into the right wagon,
instead of being relegated to some obscure outpost.

It was now evident that the decisive issue was to occur over the
delivery of the contending herds. Numerous possibilities arose in
my imagination, and the various foremen advanced their views. A
general belief that old man Don would fight to the last was
prevalent, and amidst the discussions pro and con, I remarked
that Lovell could take a final refuge behind the indemnity in

"Indemnity, hell!" said Bob Quirk, giving me a withering look;
"what is sixty-five thousand dollars on ten thousand beeves,
within an hour of delivery and at thirty-seven and a half a head?
You all know that the old man has strained his credit on this
summer's drive, and he's got to have the money when he goes home.
A fifteen or twenty per cent. indemnity does him no good. The
Indian herds have paid out well, but if this delivery falls down,
it will leave him holding the sack. On the other hand, if it goes
through, he will be, financially, an independent man for life.
And while he knows the danger of delay, he consented as readily
as any of us would if asked for a cigarette-paper. He may come
out all right, but he's just about white enough to get the worst
of it. I've read these Sunday-school stories, where the good
little boy always came out on top, but in real life, especially
in cattle, it's quite different."

My brother's words had a magical effect. Sponsilier asked for
suggestions, when Bob urged that every man available go into the
post and accompany the inspection party that afternoon. Since
Forrest and himself were unknown, they would take about three of
the boys with them, cross the Missouri, ride through and sum up
the opposition cattle. Forrest approved of the idea, and ordered
his cook to bestir himself in getting up an early dinner.
Meanwhile a number of my boys had ridden down to Forrest's wagon,
and I immediately dispatched Clay Zilligan back to my cattle to
relieve Vick Wolf and inform the day-herders that we might not
return before dark. Wolf was the coolest man in my employ, had
figured in several shooting scrapes, and as he was a splendid
shot, I wanted to send him with Forrest and my brother. If
identified as belonging to Lovell's outfits, there was a
possibility that insult might be offered the boys; and knowing
that it mattered not what the odds were, it would be resented, I
thought it advisable to send a man who had smelt powder at short
range. I felt no special uneasiness about my brother, in fact he
was the logical man to go, but a little precaution would do no
harm, and I saw to it that Sponsilier sent a good representative.

About one o'clock we started, thirty strong. Riding down the
Yellowstone, the three detailed men, Quince Forrest, and my
brother soon bore off to the left and we lost sight of them.
Continuing on down the river, we forded the Missouri at the
regular wagon-crossing, and within an hour after leaving
Forrest's camp cantered into Fort Buford. Sanders and his outfit
were waiting in front of the quartermaster's office, the hour for
starting having been changed from two to three, which afforded
ample time to visit the sutler's bar. Our arrival was noticed
about the barracks, and evidently some complaint had been made,
as old man Don joined us in time for the first round, after which
he called Dave and me aside. In reply to his inquiry regarding
our presence, Sponsilier informed him that we had come in to
afford him an escort, in case he wished to attend the inspection
of the opposition herds; that if there was any bulldozing going
on he needn't stand behind the door. Dave informed him that Bob
and Quince and three of the other boys would meet us at the
cattle, and that he need feel no hesitancy in going if it was his
wish. It was quite evident that Mr. Lovell was despondent, but he
took courage and announced his willingness to go along.

"It was my intention not to go," said he, "though Mr. Aspgrain
and Sutton both urged that I should. But now since you boys all
feel the same way, I believe I'll go. Heaven and earth are being
moved to have the other cattle accepted, but there are a couple
of old war-horses at the head of this post that will fight them
to the last ditch, and then some. I'm satisfied that my beeves,
in any market in the West, are worth ten dollars a head more than
the other ones, yet there is an effort being made to turn us
down. Our claims rest on two points,--superiority of the beef
tendered, and the legal impossibility of a transfer from
themselves, a corporation, to themselves as individuals. If there
is no outside interference, I think we will make the delivery
before noon to-morrow. Now, I'll get horses for both Mr. Sutton
and Senator Aspgrain, and you see that none of the boys drink too
much. Sanders and his outfit are all right, and I want you lads
to remind me to remember him before we leave this post. Now,
we'll all go in a little party by ourselves, and I don't want a
word out of a man, unless we are asked for an opinion from the
officers, as our cattle must argue our cause."

A second drink, a cigar all round, and we were ready to start. As
we returned to our mounts, a bustle of activity pervaded the
post. Orderlies were leading forth the best horses, officers were
appearing in riding-boots and gauntlets, while two conveyances
from a livery in town stood waiting to convey the contractors and
their legal representatives. Our employer and his counsel were on
hand, awaiting the start, when the quartermaster and his outfit
led off. There was some delay among the officers over the change
of a horse, which had shown lameness, while the ringsters were
all seated and waiting in their vehicles. Since none of us knew
the trail to Alkali Lake, some one suggested that we follow up
the quartermaster and allow the military and conveyances to go by
the wagon-road. But Lovell objected, and ordered me forward to
notice the trail and course, as the latter was a cut-off and much
nearer than by road. I rode leisurely past the two vehicles,
carefully scanning every face, when Mr. Field recognized and
attempted to halt me, but I answered him with a contemptuous look
and rode on. Instantly from the rigs came cries of "Stop that
man!" "Halt that cowboy!" etc., when an orderly stepped in front
of my horse and I reined in. But the shouting and my detention
were seen and heard, and the next instant, led by Mike Sutton,
our men dashed up, scaring the teams, overturning both of the
conveyances, and spilling their occupants on the dusty ground. I
admit that we were a hard-looking lot of cow-hands, our
employer's grievance was our own, and just for an instant there
was a blue, sulphuric tinge in the atmosphere as we accented our
protest. The congressman scrambled to his feet, sputtering a
complaint to the post commander, and when order was finally
restored, the latter coolly said:

"Well, Mr. Y-----, when did you assume command at Fort Buford?
Any orders that you want given, while on this military
reservation, please submit them to the proper authorities, and if
just, they will receive attention. What right have you or any of
your friends to stop a man without due process? I spent several
hours with these men a few days ago and found them to my liking.
I wish we could recruit the last one of them into our cavalry.
But if you are afraid, I'll order out a troop of horse to protect
you. Shall I?"

"I'm not at all afraid," replied Mr. Raddiff, "but feel under
obligation to protect my counsel. If you please, Colonel."

"Captain O'Neill," said the commandant, turning to that officer,
"order out your troop and give these conveyances ample protection
from now until their return from this cattle inspection. Mr.
Lovell, if you wish to be present, please ride on ahead with your
men. The rest of us will proceed at once, and as soon as the
escort arrives, these vehicles will bring up the rear."

As we rode away, the bugles were calling the troopers.

"That's the way to throw the gaff into them," said Sutton, when
we had ridden out of hearing. "Every time they bluff, call their
hand, and they'll soon get tired running blazers. I want to give
notice right now that the first mark of disrespect shown me, by
client or attorney, I'll slap him then and there, I don't care if
he is as big as a giant. We are up against a hard crowd, and we
want to meet them a little over halfway, even on a hint or
insinuation. When it comes to buffaloing the opposite side,
that's my long suit. The history of this case shows that the
opposition has no regard for the rights of others, and it is up
to us to try and teach them that a love of justice is universal.
Personally, I'm nothing but a frontier lawyer from Dodge, but I'm
the equal of any lobbyist that ever left Washington City."

Alkali Lake was some little distance from the post. All three of
the herds were holding beyond it, a polite request having reached
them to vacate the grazing-ground of the cavalry horses. Lovell
still insisted that we stand aloof and give the constituted
authorities a free, untrammeled hand until the inspection was
over. The quartermaster and his assistants halted on approaching
the first herd, and giving them a wide berth, we rode for the
nearest good point of observation. The officers galloped up
shortly afterward, reining in for a short conversation, but
entering the first herd before the arrival of the conveyances and
their escort. When the latter party arrived, the nearest one of
the three herds had been passed upon, but the contractors stood
on the carriage seats and attempted to look over the cordon of
troopers, formed into a hollow square, which surrounded them. The
troop were mounted on chestnut horses, making a pretty sight, and
I think they enjoyed the folly and humor of the situation fully
as much as we did. On nearing the second herd, we were met by the
other boys, who had given the cattle a thorough going-over and
reported finding two "Circle Dot" beeves among the opposition
steers. The chances are that they had walked off a bed-ground
some night while holding at Ogalalla and had been absorbed into
another herd before morning. My brother announced his intention
of taking them back with us, when Sponsilier taunted him with the
fact that there might be objections offered.

"That'll be all right, Davy," replied Bob; "it'll take a bigger
and better outfit than these pimps and tin-horns to keep me from
claiming my own. You just watch and notice if those two steers
don't go back with Forrest. Why, they had the nerve to question
our right even to look them over. It must be a trifle dull with
the GIRLS down there in Ogalalla when all these 'babies' have to
turn out at work or go hungry."

Little time was lost in inspecting the last herd. The cattle were
thrown entirely too close together to afford much opportunity in
looking them over, and after riding through them a few times, the
officers rode away for a consultation. We had kept at a distance
from the convoy, perfectly contented so long as the opposition
were prisoners of their own choosing. Captain O'Neill evidently
understood the wishes of his superior officer, and never once
were his charges allowed within hailing distance of the party of
inspection. As far as exerting any influence was concerned, for
that matter, all of us might have remained back at the post and
received the report on the commander's return. Yet there was a
tinge of uncertainty as to the result, and all concerned wanted
to hear it at the earliest moment. The inspection party did not
keep us long in waiting, for after a brief conference they turned
and rode for the contractors under escort. We rode forward, the
troop closed up in close formation about the two vehicles, and
the general tension rose to that of rigidity. We halted quietly
within easy hearing distance, and without noticing us the
commandant addressed himself to the occupants of the conveyances,
who were now standing on the seats.

"Gentlemen," said he, with military austerity, "the quality and
condition of your cattle places them beyond our consideration.
Beef intended for delivery at this post must arrive here with
sufficient flesh to withstand the rigors of our winter. When
possible to secure them, we prefer Northern wintered cattle, but
if they are not available, and we are compelled to receive
Southern ones, they must be of the first quality in conformation
and flesh. It now becomes my duty to say to you that your beeves
are rough, have been over-driven, are tender-footed and otherwise
abused, and, having in view the best interests of the service,
with the concurrence of my associates, I decline them."

The decision was rendered amid breathless silence. Not a word of
exultation escaped one of our party, but the nervous strain
rather intensified.

Mr. Y----, the congressman, made the first move. Quietly
alighting from the vehicle, he held a whispered conversation with
his associates, very composedly turned to the commandant, and

"No doubt you are aware that there are higher authorities than
the post commander and quartermaster of Fort Buford. This higher
court to which I refer saw fit to award a contract for five
million pounds of beef to be delivered at this post on foot. Any
stipulations inserted or omitted in that article, the customary
usages of the War Department would govern. If you will kindly
look at the original contract, a copy of which is in your
possession, you will notice that nothing is said about the
quality of the cattle, just so the pounds avoirdupois are there.
The government does not presume, when contracting for Texas
cattle, that they will arrive here in perfect order; but so long
as the sex, age, and weight have been complied with, there can be
no evasion of the contract. My clients are sub-contractors, under
an assignment of the original award, are acting in good faith in
making this tender, and if your decision is against them, we will
make an appeal to the War Department. I am not presuming to tell
you your duty, but trust you will take this matter under full
advisement before making your decision final."

"Mr. Y--, I have received cattle before without any legal advice
or interference of higher authority. Although you have ignored
his presence, there is another man here with a tender of beef who
is entitled to more than passing consideration. He holds a
sub-contract under the original award, and there is no doubt but
he is also acting in good faith. My first concern as a receiving
agent of this government is that the goods tendered must be of
the first quality. Your cattle fall below our established
standards here, while his will take rank as the finest lot of
beeves ever tendered at this post, and therefore he is entitled
to the award. I am not going to stand on any technicalities as to
who is legally entitled to make this delivery; there have been
charges and counter-charges which have reached me, the justice of
which I cannot pass on, but with the cattle it is quite
different. I lack but five years of being retired on my rank, the
greater portion of which service has been spent on this frontier,
and I feel justified in the decision made. The government buys
the best, insists on its receiving agents demanding the same, and
what few remaining years I serve the flag, there will be no
change in my policy."

There was a hurried conference. The "major-domo" was called into
the consultation, after which the congressman returned to the

"Colonel, you are forcing us to make a protest to the War
Department. As commander at Fort Buford, what right have you to
consider the tender of any Tom, Dick, or Harry who may have
cattle to sell? Armed with an assignment of the original award,
we have tendered you the pounds quantity required by the existing
contract, have insisted on the acceptance of the same, and if
refused, our protest will be in the War Office before that sun
sets. Now, my advice is--"

"I don't give a damn for you nor your advice. My reputation as a
soldier is all I possess, and no man can dictate to nor
intimidate me. My past record is an open book and one which I am
proud of; and while I have the honor to command at Fort Buford,
no threats can terrify nor cause me to deviate from my duty.
Captain O'Neill, attend orders and escort these vehicles back to
their quarters."

The escort loosened out, the conveyances started, and the
inspection was over. We were a quiet crowd, though inwardly we
all felt like shouting. We held apart from the military party,
and when near the herd which held the "Circle Dot" steers, my
brother and a number of the boys galloped on ahead and cut out
the animals before our arrival. On entering the wagon-road near
the post, the military cavalcade halted a moment for us to come
up. Lovell was in the lead, and as we halted the commandant said
to him: "We have decided to receive your cattle in the morning--
about ten o'clock if that hour will be convenient. I may not come
over, but the quartermaster's Mr. Sanders will count for us, and
you cowmen ought to agree on the numbers. We have delayed you a
day, and if you will put in a bill for demurrage, I will approve
it. I believe that is all. We'll expect you to spend the night
with us at the post. I thought it best to advise you now, so that
you might give your men any final orders."


Lovell and his attorneys joined the cavalcade which returned to
the post, while we continued on south, fording the Missouri above
Forrest's camp. The two recovered beeves were recognized by their
ranch brands as belonging in Bee County, thus identifying them as
having escaped from Bob Quirk's herd, though he had previously
denied all knowledge of them. The cattle world was a small one,
and it mattered little where an animal roamed, there was always a
man near by who could identify the brand and give the bovine's
past history. With the prospects bright for a new owner on the
morrow, these two wayfarers found lodgment among our own for the

But when another day dawned, it brought new complications.
Instead of the early arrival of any receiving party, the
appointed hour passed, noon came, and no one appeared. I had
ridden down to the lower camps about the latter hour, yet there
was no one who could explain, neither had any word from the post
reached Forrest's wagon. Sponsilier suggested that we ride into
Buford, and accordingly all three of us foremen started. When we
sighted the ford on the Missouri, a trio of horsemen were just
emerging from the water, and we soon were in possession of the
facts. Sanders, my brother, and Mike Sutton composed the party,
and the latter explained the situation. Orders from the War
Department had reached Fort Buford that morning, temporarily
suspending the post commander and his quartermaster from
receiving any cattle intended for that post, and giving notice
that a special commissioner was then en route from Minneapolis
with full authority in the premises. The order was signed by the
first quartermaster and approved by the head of that department;
there was no going behind it, which further showed the strength
that the opposition were able to command. The little attorney was
wearing his war-paint, and we all dismounted, when Sanders
volunteered some valuable points on the wintering of Texas cattle
in the North. Sutton made a memorandum of the data, saying if
opportunity offered he would like to submit it in evidence at the
final hearing. The general opinion was that a court of inquiry
would be instituted, and if such was the case, our cause was not
by any means hopeless.

"The chances are that the opposition will centre the fight on an
assignment of the original contract which they claim to hold,"
said the lawyer, in conclusion. "The point was advanced yesterday
that we were intruders, while, on the other hand, the government
was in honor bound to recognize its outstanding obligation, no
matter in whose hands it was presented, so long as it was
accompanied by the proper tender. A great deal will depend on the
viewpoint of this special commissioner; he may be a stickler for
red tape, with no concern for the service, as were the post
commander and quartermaster. Their possession of the original
document will be self-evident, and it will devolve on us to show
that that assignment was illegal. This may not be as easy as it
seems, for the chances are that there may be a dozen men in the
gang, with numerous stool-pigeons ready and willing to do their
bidding. This contract may demonstrate the possibility of a ring
within a ring, with everything working to the same end. The
absence of Honest John Griscom at this delivery is significant as
proving that his presence at Dodge and Ogalalla was a mistake.
You notice, with the exception of Field and Radcliff, they are
all new men. Well, another day will tell the story."

The special commissioner could not arrive before the next
morning. An ambulance, with relay teams, had left the post at
daybreak for Glendive, and would return that night. Since the
following promised to be a decisive day, we were requested to
bring every available man and report at Fort Buford at an early
hour. The trio returned to the post and we foremen to our herds.
My outfit received the news in anything but a cheerful mood. The
monotony of the long drive had made the men restless, and the
delay of a single day in being finally relieved, when looked
forward to, was doubly exasperating. It had been over six months
since we left the ranch in Medina, and there was a lurking
suspicion among a number of the boys that the final decision
would be against our cattle and that they would be thrown back on
our hands. There was a general anxiety among us to go home,
hastened by the recent frosty nights and a common fear of a
Northern climate. I tried to stem this feeling, promising a
holiday on the morrow and assuring every one that we still had a
fighting chance.

We reached the post at a timely hour the next morning. Only three
men were left with each herd, my wrangler and cook accompanying
us for the day. Parent held forth with quite a dissertation on
the legal aspects of the case, and after we forded the river, an
argument arose between him and Jake Blair. "Don't talk to me
about what's legal and what isn't," said the latter; "the man
with the pull generally gets all that he goes after. You remember
the Indian and the white man were at a loss to know how to divide
the turkey and the buzzard, but in the end poor man got the
buzzard. And if you'll just pay a little more attention to
humanity, you may notice that the legal aspects don't cut so much
figure as you thought they did. The moment that cattle declined
five to seven dollars a head, The Western Supply Company didn't
trouble themselves as to the legality or the right or wrong, but
proceeded to take advantage of the situation at once. Neal, when
you've lived about twenty-five years on the cold charity of
strangers, you'll get over that blind confidence and become wary
and cunning. It might be a good idea to keep your eye open to-day
for your first lesson. Anyhow don't rely too strong on the right
or justice of anything, but keep a good horse on picket and your
powder dry."

The commissioner had arrived early that morning and would take up
matters at once. Nine o'clock was set for the hearing, which
would take place in the quartermaster's office. Consultations
were being held among the two factions, and the only ray of light
was the reported frigidity of the special officer. He was such a
superior personage that ordinary mortals felt a chill radiating
from his person on their slightest approach. His credentials were
from the War Department and were such as to leave no doubt but
that he was the autocrat of the situation, before whom all should
render homage. A rigid military air prevailed about the post and
grounds, quite out of the ordinary, while the officers' bar was
empty and silent.

The quartermaster's office would comfortably accommodate about
one hundred persons. Fort Buford had been rebuilt in 1871, the
adobe buildings giving place to frame structures, and the room in
which the hearing was to be held was not only commodious but
furnished with good taste. Promptly on the stroke of the hour,
and escorted by the post adjutant, the grand mogul made his
appearance. There was nothing striking about him, except his
military bearing; he was rather young and walked so erect that he
actually leaned backward a trifle. There was no prelude; he
ordered certain tables rearranged, seated himself at one, and
called for a copy of the original contract. The post adjutant had
all the papers covering the situation in hand, and the copy was
placed at the disposal of the special commissioner, who merely
glanced at the names of the contracting parties, amount and date,
and handed the document back. Turning to the table at which
Lovell and his attorneys sat, he asked for the credentials under
which they were tendering beeves at Fort Buford. The sub-contract
was produced, some slight memorandum was made, and it was passed
back as readily as was the original. The opposition were calmly
awaiting a similar request, and when it came, in offering the
papers, Congressman Y-- took occasion to remark: "Our tender is
not only on a sub-contract, but that agreement is fortified by an
assignment of the original award, by and between the War
Department and The Western Supply Company. We rely on the latter;
you will find everything regular."

The customary glance was given the bulky documents. Senator
Aspgrain was awaiting the opportune moment to attack the
assignment. When it came, the senator arose with dignity and,
addressing the commissioner, attempted to enter a protest, but
was instantly stopped by that high functionary. A frozen silence
pervaded the room. "There is no occasion for any remarks in this
matter," austerely replied the government specialist. "Our
department regularly awarded the beef contract for this post to
The Western Supply Company. There was ample competition on the
award, insuring the government against exorbitant prices, and the
required bonds were furnished for the fulfillment of the
contract. Right then and there all interest upon the part of the
grantor ceased until the tender was made at this post on the
appointed day of delivery. In the interim, however, it seems that
for reasons purely their own, the grantees saw fit to sub-let
their contract, not once but twice. Our department amply
protected themselves by requiring bonds, and the sub-contractors
should have done the same. That, however, is not the matter at
issue, but who is entitled to deliver on the original award.
Fortunately that point is beyond question; an assignment of the
original has always been recognized at the War Office, and in
this case the holders of the same are declared entitled to
deliver. There is only one provision,--does the article of beef
tendered qualify under the specifications? That is the only
question before making this decision final. If there is any
evidence to the contrary, I am ready to hear it."

This afforded the opportunity of using Sanders as a witness, and
Sutton grasped the opportunity of calling him to testify in
regard to wintering Southern cattle in the North. After stating
his qualifications as a citizen and present occupation, he was
asked by the commissioner regarding his experience with cattle to
entitle his testimony to consideration. "I was born to the
occupation in Texas," replied the witness. "Five years ago this
summer I came with beef cattle from Uvalde County, that State, to
this post, and after the delivery, accepted a situation under the
quartermaster here in locating and holding the government's
beeves. At present I am foreman and have charge of all cattle
delivered at or issued from this post. I have had five years'
experience in wintering Texas cattle in this vicinity, and have
no hesitancy in saying that it is a matter of the utmost
importance that steers should be in the best possible flesh to
withstand our winters. The losses during the most favorable
seasons have averaged from one to five per cent., while the same
cattle in a severe season will lose from ten to twenty-five, all
depending on the condition of the stock with the beginning of
cold weather. Since my connection with this post we have always
received good steers, and our losses have been light, but above
and below this military reservation the per cent. loss has run as
high as fifty among thin, weak animals."

"Now, Mr. Sanders," said the special commissioner, "as an expert,
you are testifying as to the probable loss to the government in
this locality in buying and holding beef on its own account. You
may now state if you have seen the tender of beef made by Field,
Radcliff & Co., and if so, anticipating the worst, what would be
the probable loss if their cattle were accepted on this year's

"I was present at their inspection by the officers of this post,"
replied the witness, "and have no hesitancy in saying that should
the coming one prove as hard a winter as '82 was, there would be
a loss of fully one half these cattle. At least that was my
opinion as expressed to the post commander and quartermaster at
the inspection, and they agreed with me. There are half a dozen
other boys here whose views on wintering cattle can be had--and
they're worth listening to."

This testimony was the brutal truth, and though eternal, was
sadly out of place. The opposition lawyers winced; and when
Sutton asked if permission would be given to hear the testimony
of the post commander and quartermaster, both familiar with the
quality of cattle the government had been receiving for years,
the commissioner, having admitted damaging testimony, objected on
the ground that they were under suspension, and military men were
not considered specialists outside their own vocation. Other
competent witnesses were offered and objected to, simply because
they would not admit they were experts. Taking advantage of the
opening, Congressman Y--- called attention to a few facts in
passing. This unfortunate situation, he said, in substance, was
deeply regretted by his clients and himself. The War Department
was to be warmly commended for sending a special commissioner to
hear the matter at issue, otherwise unjust charges might have
been preferred against old and honored officers in the service.
However, if specialists were to be called to testify, and their
testimony considered, as to what per cent. of cattle would
survive a winter, why not call on the weather prophets to testify
just what the coming one would be? He ridiculed the attestations
of Sanders as irrelevant, defiantly asserting that the only
question at issue was, were there five million pounds of dressed
beef in the tender of cattle by Field, Radcliff & Co. He insisted
on the letter in the bond being observed. The government bought
cattle one year with another, and assumed risks as did other
people. Was there any man present to challenge his assertion that
the pounds quantity had been tendered?

There was. Don Lovell arose, and addressing the special
commissioner, said: "Sir, I am not giving my opinion as an expert
but as a practical cowman. If the testimony of one who has
delivered over ninety thousand cattle to this government, in its
army and Indian departments, is of any service to you, I trust
you will hear me patiently. No exception is taken to your ruling
as to who is entitled to deliver on the existing award; that was
expected from the first. I have been contracting beef to this
government for the past fifteen years, and there may be tricks in
the trade of which I am ignorant. The army has always demanded
the best, while lower grades have always been acceptable to the
Indian Department. But in all my experience, I have never
tendered this government for its gut-eating wards as poor a lot
of cattle as I am satisfied that you are going to receive at the
hands of Field, Radcliff & Co. I accept the challenge that there
are not five million pounds of dressed beef in their tender
to-day, and what there is would be a disgrace to any commonwealth
to feed its convicts. True, these cattle are not intended for
immediate use, and I make the counter-assertion that this
government will never kill out fifty per cent. of the weight that
you accept to-day. Possibly you prefer the blandishments of a
lobbyist to the opinion of a practical cowman like Sanders.
That's your privilege. You refuse to allow us to show the
relationship between The Western Supply Company and the present
holders of its assignment, and in doing so I charge you with
being in collusion with these contractors to defraud the

"You're a liar!" shouted Congressman Y----, jumping to his feet.
The only reply was a chair hurled from the hand of Sutton at the
head of the offender, instantly followed by a rough house.
Several officers present sprang to the side of the special
commissioner, but fortunately refrained from drawing revolvers. I
was standing at some distance from the table, and as I made a
lunge forward, old man Don was hurled backward into my arms. He
could not whip a sick chicken, yet his uncontrollable anger had
carried him into the general melee and he had been roughly thrown
out by some of his own men. They didn't want him in the fight;
they could do all that was necessary. A number of soldiers were
present, and while the officers were frantically commanding them
to restore order, the scrap went merrily on. Old man Don
struggled with might and main, cursing me for refusing to free
him, and when one of the contractors was knocked down within easy
reach, I was half tempted to turn him loose. The "major-domo" had
singled out Sponsilier and was trying issues with him, Bob Quirk
was dropping them right and left, when the deposed commandant
sprang upon a table, and in a voice like the hiss of an adder,
commanded peace, and the disorder instantly ceased.

The row had lasted only a few seconds. The opposing sides stood
glaring daggers at each other, when the commissioner took
occasion to administer a reproof to all parties concerned,
referring to Texas in not very complimentary terms. Dave
Sponsilier was the only one who had the temerity to offer any
reply, saying, "Mr. Yank, I'll give you one hundred dollars if
you'll point me out the grave of a man, woman, or child who
starved to death in that state."

A short recess was taken, after which apologies followed, and the
commissioner resumed the hearing. A Western lawyer, named
Lemeraux, made a very plausible plea for the immediate acceptance
of the tender of Field, Radcliff & Co. He admitted that the
cattle, at present, were not in as good flesh as his clients
expected to offer them; that they had left the Platte River in
fine condition, but had been twice quarantined en route. He was
cautious in his remarks, but clearly intimated that had there
been no other cattle in competition for delivery on this award,
there might have been no quarantine. In his insinuations, the
fact was adroitly brought out that the isolation of their herds,
if not directly chargeable to Lovell and his men, had been aided
and abetted by them, retarding the progress of his clients'
beeves and forcing them to travel as fast as twenty-five miles a
day, so that they arrived in a jaded condition. Had there been no
interference, the tender of Field, Radcliff & Co. would have
reached this post ten days earlier, and rest would soon have
restored the cattle to their normal condition. In concluding, he
boldly made the assertion that the condition of his client's
tender of beef was the result of a conspiracy to injure one firm,
that another drover might profit thereby; that right and justice
could be conserved only by immediately making the decision final,
and thus fearlessly silencing any and all imputations reflecting
on the character of this government's trusted representatives.

The special commissioner assumed an air of affected dignity and
announced that a conclusion had been arrived at. Turning to old
man Don, he expressed the deepest regret that a civilian was
beyond his power to punish, otherwise he would have cause to
remember the affront offered himself; not that he personally
cared, but the department of government which he had the honor to
serve was jealous of its good name. Under the circumstances he
could only warn him to be more guarded hereafter in choosing his
language, and assured Lovell that it was in his power to escort
any offender off that military reservation. Pausing a moment, he
resumed a judicial air, and summed up the situation:

"There was no occasion," said he, in an amiable mood, "to refer
this incident to the War Department if the authorities here had
gone about their work properly. Fortunately I was in Minneapolis
adjusting some flour accounts, when I was ordered here by the
quartermaster-general. Instead of attempting to decide who had
the best tender of cattle, the one with the legal right alone
should have been considered. Our department is perfectly familiar
with these petty jealousies, which usually accompany awards of
this class, and generally emanate from disappointed and
disgruntled competitors. The point is well taken by counsel that
the government does not anticipate the unforeseen, and it matters
not what the loss may be from the rigors of winter, the
contractor is exempt after the day of delivery. If the cattle
were delayed en route, as has been asserted, and it was necessary
to make forced drives in order to reach here within the specified
time, all this should be taken into consideration in arriving at
a final conclusion. On his reinstatement, I shall give the
quartermaster of this post instructions, in receiving these
cattle, to be governed, not so much by their present condition as
by what they would have been had there been no interference. Now
in behalf of the War Department, I declare the award to The
Western Supply Company, and assigned to Field, Radcliff, and
associates, to have been fulfilled to the satisfaction of all
parties concerned. This closes the incident, and if there is
nothing further, the inquiry will stand adjourned without date."

"One moment, if you please," said Don Lovell, addressing the
commissioner and contractors; "there is a private matter existing
between Field, Radcliff & Co. and myself which demands an
understanding between us. I hold a sum of money, belonging to
them, as indemnity against loss in driving ten thousand cattle
from Southern Texas to this post. That I will sustain a heavy
loss, under your decision, is beyond question. I am indemnified
to the amount of about six dollars and a half a head, and since
the government is exempt from garnishment and the contractors are
wholly irresponsible, I must content myself with the money in
hand. To recover this amount, held as indemnity, suit has been
threatened against me. Of course I can't force their hands, but I
sincerely hope they will feel exultant enough over your kangaroo
decision to file their action before taking their usual outing in
Europe. They will have no trouble in securing my legal address,
my rating can be obtained from any commercial agency, and no
doubt their attorneys are aware of the statute of limitation in
my state. I believe that's all, except to extend my thanks to
every one about Fort Buford for the many kind attentions shown my
counsel, my boys, and myself. To my enemies, I can only say that
I hope to meet them on Texas soil, and will promise them a fairer
hearing than was accorded me here to-day. Mr. Commissioner, I
have always prided myself on being a good citizen, have borne
arms in defense of my country, and in taking exception to your
decision I brand you as the most despicable member of The Western
Supply Company. Any man who will prostitute a trust for a money

"That's enough!" shouted the special commissioner, rising.
"Orderly, call the officer of the day, and tell him I want two
companies of cavalry to furnish an escort for this man and his
herds beyond the boundaries of this military reservation."
Looking Lovell in the face, he said: "You have justly merited a
severe punishment, and I shall report your reflections to the War
and Indian departments, and you may find it more difficult to
secure contracts in the future. One of you officers detail men
and take charge of this man until the escort is ready. The
inquiry is adjourned."


The inquiry was over before noon. A lieutenant detailed a few men
and made a pretense of taking possession of Lovell. But once the
special commissioner was out of sight, the farce was turned into
an ovation, and nearly every officer in the post came forward and
extended his sympathy. Old man Don was visibly affected by the
generous manifestations of the military men in general, and after
thanking each one personally, urged that no unnecessary
demonstration should be made, begging that the order of escort
beyond the boundary of the reservation be countermanded. No one
present cared to suggest it, but gave assurance that it would be
so modified as not in any way to interfere with the natural
movement of the herds. Some little time would be required to
outfit the forage-wagons to accommodate the cavalry companies,
during which my brother rode up, leading Lovell's horse,
permission was given to leave in advance of the escort, and we
all mounted and quietly rode away.

The sudden turn of affairs had disconcerted every man in the
three outfits. Just what the next move would be was conjecture
with most of us, though every lad present was anxious to know.
But when we were beyond the immediate grounds, Lovell turned in
his saddle and asked which one of us foremen wanted to winter in
the North. No one volunteered, and old man Don continued:
"Anticipating the worst, I had a long talk this morning with
Sanders, and he assured me that our cattle would go through any
winter without serious loss. He suggested the Little Missouri as
a good range, and told me of a hay ranch below the mouth of the
Beaver. If it can be bought reasonably, we would have forage for
our horses, and the railroad is said to be not over forty miles
to the south. If the government can afford to take the risk of
wintering cattle in this climate, since there is no other choice,
I reckon I'll have to follow suit. Bob and I will take fresh
horses and ride through to the Beaver this afternoon, and you
fellows follow up leisurely with the cattle. Sanders says the
winters are dry and cold, with very little if any snowfall. Well,
we're simply up against it; there's no hope of selling this late
in the season, and nothing is left us but to face the music of a
Northern winter."

As we turned in to ford the Missouri, some one called attention
to a cavalry company riding out from their quarters at the post.
We halted a moment, and as the first one entered the road, the
second one swung into view, followed by forage-wagons. From maps
in our possession we knew the southern boundary of the Fort
Buford military reservation must be under twenty miles to the
south, and if necessary, we could put it behind us that
afternoon. But after crossing the river, and when the two troops
again came in view, they had dropped into a walk, passing
entirely out of sight long before we reached Forrest's camp.
Orders were left with the latter to take the lead and make a
short drive that evening, at least far enough to convince
observers that we were moving. The different outfits dropped out
as their wagons were reached, and when my remuda was sighted, old
man Don ordered it brought in for a change of horses. One of the
dayherders was at camp getting dinner, and inviting themselves to
join him, my employer and my brother helped themselves while
their saddles were shifted to two of my well-rested mounts.
Inquiry had been made of all three of the outfits if any ranch
had been sighted on the Beaver while crossing that creek, but the
only recollection among the forty-odd men was that of Burl Van
Vedder, who contended that a dim trail, over which horses had
passed that summer, ran down on the south side of the stream.

With this meagre information Lovell and my brother started. A
late dinner over and the herders relieved, we all rode for the
nearest eminence which would afford us a view. The cavalry were
just going into camp below O'Brien's ranch, their forage-train in
sight, while Forrest's cattle were well bunched and heading
south. Sponsilier was evidently going to start, as his team was
tied up and the saddle stock in hand, while the herd was crossing
over to the eastern side of the Yellowstone. We dismounted and
lay around for an hour or so, when the greater portion of the
boys left to help in the watering of our herd, the remainder of
us doing outpost duty. Forrest had passed out of sight,
Sponsilier's wagon and remuda crossed opposite us, going up the
valley, followed by his cattle in loose grazing order, and still
we loitered on the hill. But towards evening I rode down to where
the cavalry was encamped, and before I had conversed very long
with the officers, it was clear to me that the shorter our moves
the longer it would extend their outing. Before I left the
soldier camp, Sanders arrived, and as we started away together, I
sent him back to tell the officers to let me know any time they
could use half a beef. On reaching our wagon, the boys were just
corralling the saddle stock for their night-horses, when Sanders
begged me to sell him two which had caught his fancy. I dared not
offer them; but remembering the fellow's faithful service in our
behalf, and that my employer expected to remember him, I ordered
him to pick, with Don Lovell's compliments, any horse in the
remuda as a present.

The proposition stunned Sanders, but I insisted that if old man
Don was there, he would make him take something. He picked a good
horse out of my mount and stayed until morning, when he was
compelled to return, as the probabilities were that they would
receive the other cattle some time during the day. After
breakfast, and as he was starting to return, he said, "Well,
boys, tell the old man that I don't expect ever to be able to
return his kindness, though I'd ride a thousand miles for the
chance. One thing sure, there isn't a man in Dakota who has money
enough to tempt me to part with my pelon. If you locate down on
the Little Missouri, drop me a line where you are at, and if
Lovell wants four good men, I can let him have them about the
first of December. You through lads are liable to be scared over
the coming winter, and a few acclimated ones will put backbone in
his outfit. And tell the old man that if I can ever do him a good
turn just to snap his fingers and I'll quit the government--he's
a few shades whiter than it, anyhow."

The herd had already left the bed-ground, headed south. About
five miles above O'Brien's, we recrossed to the eastern side of
the Yellowstone, and for the next three days moved short
distances, the military always camped well in our rear. The
fourth morning I killed a beef, a forage-wagon came forward and
took half of it back to the cavalry camp with our greetings and
farewell, and we parted company. Don Lovell met us about noon,
elated as a boy over his purchase of the hay ranch. My brother
had gone on to the railroad and thence by train to Miles City to
meet his remuda and outfit. "Boys, I have bought you a new home,"
was the greeting of old man Don, as he dismounted at our noon
camp. "There's a comfortable dugout, stabling for about ten
horses, and seventy-five tons of good hay in the stack. The owner
was homesick to get back to God's country, and he'll give us
possession in ten days. Bob will be in Little Missouri to-day and
order us a car of sacked corn from Omaha, and within a month
we'll be as snug as they are down in old Medina. Bob's outfit
will go home from Miles, and if he can't sell his remuda he'll
bring it up here. Two of these outfits can start back in a few
days, and afterward the camp will be reduced to ten men."

Two days later Forrest veered off and turned his cattle loose
below the junction of the Beaver with the Little Missouri.
Sponsilier crossed the former, scattering his beeves both up and
down the latter, while I cut mine into a dozen bunches and
likewise freed them along the creek. The range was about ten
miles in length along the river, and a camp was established at
either end where men would be stationed until the beeves were
located. The commissaries had run low, there was a quiet rivalry
as to which outfits should go home, and we all waited with bated
breath for the final word. I had Dorg Seay secretly inform my
employer that I had given Sanders a horse without his permission,
hoping that it might displease him. But the others pointed out
the fact that my outfit had far the best remuda, and that it
would require well-mounted men to locate and hold that number of
cattle through the winter. Old man Don listened to them all, and
the next morning, as all three of us foremen were outlining
certain improvements about the hay ranch with him, he turned to
me and said:

"Tom, I hear you gave Sanders a horse. Well, that was all right,
although it strikes me you were rather liberal in giving him the
pick of a choice remuda. But it may all come right in the long
run, as Bob and I have decided to leave you and your outfit to
hold these cattle this winter. So divide your men and send half
of them down to Quince's camp, and have your cook and wrangler
come over to Dave's wagon to bring back provision and the horses,
as we'll start for the railroad in the morning. I may not come
back, but Bob will, and he'll see that you are well fixed for the
winter before he goes home. After he leaves, I want you to write
me every chance you have to send a letter to the railroad. Now, I
don't want any grumbling out of you or your men; you're a
disgrace to the state that raised you if you can't handle cattle
anywhere that any other man can."

I felt all along it would fall to me, the youngest of six
foremen; and my own dear brother consigning me to a winter in the
North, while he would bask in the sunshine of our own sunny
South! It was hard to face; but I remembered that the fall before
it had been my lot to drive a thousand saddle horses home to the
ranch, and that I had swaggered as a trail foreman afterward as
the result. It had always been my luck to have to earn every
little advance or promotion, while others seemed to fall into
them without any effort. Bob Quirk never saw the day that he was
half the all-round cowman that I was; yet he was above me and
could advise, and I had to obey.

On the morning of the 25th of September, 1884, the two outfits
started for the railroad, leaving the remainder of us in a
country, save for the cattle, so desolate that there was no
chance even to spend our wages. I committed to memory a curtain
lecture for my brother, though somehow or other it escaped me and
was never delivered. We rode lines between the upper and lower
wagons, holding the cattle loosely on a large range. A delightful
fall favored us, and before the first squall of winter came on,
the beeves had contented themselves as though they had been born
on the Little Missouri. Meanwhile Bob's wagon and remuda arrived,
the car of corn was hauled to our headquarters, extra stabling
was built, and we settled down like banished exiles.
Communication had been opened with Fort Buford, and in the latter
part of October the four promised men arrived, when Bob Quirk
took part of my outfit and went home, leaving me ten men. Parent
remained as cook, the new men assimilated easily, a fiddle was
secured, and in fulfillment of the assertion of Sanders, we
picked up courage. Two grain-fed horses, carefully stabled, were
allowed to each man, the remainder of our large number of saddle
stock running free on the range.

To that long winter on the Little Missouri a relentless memory
turns in retrospect. We dressed and lived like Eskimos. The first
blizzard struck us early in December, the thermometer dropped
sixty degrees in twelve hours, but in the absence of wind and
snow the cattle did not leave the breaks along the river. Three
weeks later a second one came, and we could not catch the lead
animals until near the railroad; but the storm drove them up the
Little Missouri, and its sheltering banks helped us to check our
worst winter drift. After the first month of wintry weather, the
dread of the cold passed, and men and horses faced the work as
though it was springtime in our own loved southland. The months
rolled by scarcely noticed. During fine weather Sanders and some
of his boys twice dropped down for a few days, but we never left
camp except to send letters home.

An early spring favored us. I was able to report less than one
per cent. loss on the home range, with the possibility of but few
cattle having escaped us during the winter. The latter part of
May we sold four hundred saddle horses to some men from the upper
Yellowstone. Early in June a wagon was rigged out, extra men
employed, and an outfit sent two hundred miles up the Little
Missouri to attend the round-ups. They were gone a month and came
in with less than five hundred beeves, which represented our
winter drift. Don Lovell reached the ranch during the first week
in July. One day's ride through the splendid cattle, and old man
Don lost his voice, but the smile refused to come off. Everything
was coming his way. Field, Radcliff & Co. had sued him, and the
jury awarded him one-hundred thousand dollars. His bankers had
unlimited confidence in his business ability; he had four Indian
herds on the trail and three others of younger steers, intended
for the Little Missouri ranch. Cattle prices in Texas had
depreciated nearly one half since the spring before--"a good time
for every cowman to strain his credit and enlarge his holdings,"
my employer assured me.

Orders were left that I was to begin shipping out the beeves
early in August. It was the intention to ship them in two and
three train-load lots, and I was expecting to run a double
outfit, when a landslide came our way. The first train-load
netted sixty dollars a head at Omaha--but they were beeves; cods
like an ox's heart and waddled as they walked. We had just
returned from the railroad with the intention of shipping two
train-loads more, when the quartermaster and Sanders from Fort
Buford rode into the ranch under an escort. The government had
lost forty per cent. of the Field-Radcliff cattle during the
winter just passed, and were in the market to buy the deficiency.
The quartermaster wanted a thousand beeves on the first day of
September and October each, and double that number for the next
month. Did we care to sell that amount? A United States marshal,
armed with a search-warrant, could not have found Don Lovell in a
month, but they were promptly assured that our beef steers were
for sale. It is easy to show prime cattle. The quartermaster,
Sanders, and myself rode down the river, crossed over and came up
beyond our camp, forded back and came down the Beaver, and I knew
the sale was made. I priced the beeves, delivered at Buford, at
sixty-five dollars a head, and the quartermaster took them.

Then we went to work in earnest. Sanders remained to receive the
first contingent for Buford, which would leave our range on the
25th of each month. A single round-up and we had the beeves in
hand. The next morning after Splann left for the mouth of the
Yellowstone, I started south for the railroad with two
train-loads of picked cattle. Professional shippers took them off
our hands at the station, accompanied them en route to market,
and the commission house in Omaha knew where to remit the
proceeds. The beef shipping season was on with a vengeance. Our
saddle stock had improved with a winter in the North, until one
was equal to two Southern or trail horses. Old man Don had come
on in the mean time, and was so pleased with my sale to the army
post that he returned to Little Missouri Station at once and
bought two herds of three-year-olds at Ogalalla by wire. This
made sixteen thousand steer cattle en route from the latter point
for Lovell's new ranch in Dakota.

"Tom," said old man Don, enthusiastically, "this is the making of
a fine cattle ranch, and we want to get in on the flood-tide.
There is always a natural wealth in a new country, and the
goldmines of this one are in its grass. The instinct that taught
the buffalo to choose this as their summer and winter range was
unerring, and they found a grass at hand that would sustain them
in any and all kinds of weather. This country to-day is just what
Texas was thirty years ago. All the early settlers at home grew
rich without any effort, but once the cream of the virgin land is
gone, look out for a change. The early cowmen of Texas flatter
themselves on being shrewd and far-seeing--just about as much as
I was last fall, when I would gladly have lost twenty-five
thousand dollars rather than winter these cattle. Now look where
I will come out, all due to the primitive wealth of the land.
From sixty to sixty-five dollars a head beats thirty-seven and a
half for our time and trouble."

The first of the through cattle arrived early in September. They
avoided our range for fear of fever, and dropped in about fifteen
miles below our headquarters on the Little Missouri. Dorg Seay
was one of the three foremen, Forrest and Sponsilier being the
other two, having followed the same route as our herds of the
year before. But having spent a winter in the North, we showed
the through outfits a chilling contempt. I had ribbed up Parent
not even to give them a pleasant word about our wagon or
headquarters; and particularly if Bob Quirk came through with one
of the purchased herds, he was to be given the marble heart. One
outfit loose-herded the new cattle, the other two going home, and
about the middle of the month, my brother and The Rebel came
trailing in with the last two herds. I was delighted to meet my
old bunkie, and had him remain over until the last outfit went
home, when we reluctantly parted company. Not so, however, with
Bob Quirk, who haughtily informed me that he came near slapping
my cook for his effrontery. "So you are another one of these
lousy through outfits that think we ought to make a fuss over
you, are you?" I retorted. "Just you wait until we do. Every one
of you except old Paul had the idea that we ought to give you a
reception and ask you to sleep in our beds. I'm glad that Parent
had the gumption to give you a mean look; he'll ride for me next

The month of October finished the shipping. There was a magic in
that Northern climate that wrought wonders in an animal from the
South. Little wonder that the buffalo could face the blizzard, in
a country of his own choosing, and in a climate where the frost
king held high revel five months out of the twelve. There was a
tonic like the iron of wine in the atmosphere, absorbed alike by
man and beast, and its possessor laughed at the fury of the
storm. Our loss of cattle during the first winter, traceable to
season, was insignificant, while we sold out over two hundred
head more than the accounts called for, due to the presence of
strays, which went to Buford. And when the last beef was shipped,
the final delivery concluded to the army, Don Lovell was a
quarter-million dollars to the good, over and above the contract
price at which he failed to deliver the same cattle to the
government the fall before.

As foreman of Lovell's beef ranch on the Little Missouri I spent
five banner years of my life. In '89 the stock, good-will, and
range were sold to a cattle syndicate, who installed a
superintendent and posted rules for the observance of its
employees. I do not care to say why, but in a stranger's hands it
never seemed quite the same home to a few of us who were present
when it was transformed into a cattle range. Late that fall, some
half-dozen of us who were from Texas asked to be relieved and
returned to the South. A traveler passing through that country
to-day will hear the section about the mouth of the Beaver called
only by the syndicate name, but old-timers will always lovingly
refer to it as the Don Lovell Ranch.

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