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Receiving At Los Lobos








From: The Outlet

The trip to Lasalle County was mere pastime. All three of the outfits
kept in touch with each other, camping far enough apart to avoid any
conflict in night-herding the remudas. The only incident to mar the
pleasure of the outing was the discovery of ticks in many of our horses'
ears. The pasture in which they had wintered was somewhat brushy, and as
there had been no frost to kill insect life, myriads of seed-ticks had
dropped from the mesquite thickets upon the animals when rubbing against
or passing underneath them. As the inner side of a horse's ear is both
warm and tender, that organ was frequently infested with this pest,
whose ravages often undermined the supporting cartilages and produced
the drooping or "gotch" ear. In my remuda over one half the horses were
afflicted with ticks, and many of them it was impossible to bridle,
owing to the inflamed condition of their ears. Fortunately we had with
us some standard preparations for blistering, so, diluting this in
axle-grease, we threw every animal thus affected and thoroughly swabbed
his ears. On reaching the Nueces River, near the western boundary of
Lasalle County, the other two outfits continued on down that stream for
their destination in the lower country. Flood remained behind with me,
and going into camp on the river with my outfit, the two of us rode
over to Los Lobos Ranch and announced ourselves as ready to receive
the cattle. Dr. Beaver, the seller of the herd, was expecting us, and
sending word of our arrival to neighboring cowmen, we looked over the
corrals before returning to camp. They had built a new branding-chute
and otherwise improved their facilities for handling cattle. The
main inclosure had been built of heavy palisades in an early day, but
recently several of smaller sized lumber had been added, making the most
complete corrals I had ever seen. An abundance of wood was at hand for
heating the branding-irons, and every little detail to facilitate the
work had been provided for. Giving notice that we would receive every
morning on the open prairie only, we declined an invitation to remain at
the ranch and returned to my wagon.

In the valley the grass was well forward. We had traveled only some
twenty miles a day coming down, and our horses had fared well. But as
soon as we received any cattle, night-herding the remuda would cease,
and we must either hobble or resort to other measures. John Levering
was my horse-wrangler. He had made two trips over the trail with Fant's
herds in the same capacity, was careful, humane, and an all-round
horseman. In employing a cook, I had given the berth to Neal Parent, an
old boyhood chum of mine. He never amounted to much as a cow-hand, but
was a lighthearted, happy fool; and as cooking did not require much
sense, I gave him the chance to make his first trip. Like a court
jester, he kept the outfit in fine spirits and was the butt of all
jokes. In entertaining company he was in a class by himself, and spoke
with marked familiarity of all the prominent cowmen in southern Texas.
To a stranger the inference might be easily drawn that Lovell was in his
employ.

As we were expecting to receive cattle on the third day, the next
morning the allotment of horses was made. The usual custom of giving the
foreman first choice was claimed, and I cut twelve of solid colors but
not the largest ones. Taking turns, the outfit roped out horse after
horse until only the ten extra ones were left. In order that these
should bear a fair share in the work, I took one of them for a
night-horse and allotted the others to the second, third, and last
guard in a similar capacity. This gave the last three watches two horses
apiece for night work, but with the distinct understanding that in
case of accident or injury to any horse in the remuda, they could be
recalled. There was little doubt that before the summer ended, they
would be claimed to fill vacancies in the regular mounts. Flood had kept
behind only two horses with which to overtake the other outfits, and
during his stay with us would ride these extras and loans from my mount.

The entire morning was spent working with the remuda. Once a man knew
his mount, extra attention was shown each horse. There were witches'
bridles to be removed from their manes, extra long tails were thinned
out to the proper length, and all hoofs trimmed short. The horses were
fast shedding their winter coats, matting the saddle blankets with
falling hair, and unless carefully watched, galled backs would result.
The branding-irons had been altered en route, and about noon a vaquero
came down the river and reported that the second round-up of the day
would meet just over the county line in Dimmit. He belonged at Los
Lobos, and reported the morning rodeo as containing over five hundred
beeves, which would be ready for delivery at our pleasure. We made him
remain for dinner, after which Flood and I saddled up and returned with
him. We reached the round-up just as the cutting-out finished. They were
a fine lot of big rangy beeves, and Jim suggested that we pass upon
them at once. The seller agreed to hold them overnight, and Flood and
I culled back about one hundred and twenty which were under age or
too light. The round-up outfit strung the cattle out and counted them,
reporting a few over seven hundred head. This count was merely informal
and for the information of the seller; but in the morning the final one
would be made, in which we could take a hand.

After the cut had started in for the ranch, we loitered along, looking
them over, and I noticed several that might have been thrown out. "Well,
now," said Flood, "if you are going to be so very choice as all that,
I might as well ride on. You can't use me if that bunch needs any more
trimming. I call them a fine lot of beeves. It's all right for Don
to rib the boys up and make them think that the cattle have to be
top-notchers. I've watched him receive too often; he's about the easiest
man I know to ring in short ages on. Just so a steer looks nice,
it's hard for the old man to turn one back. I've seen him receiving
three-year-olds, when one fourth of the cattle passed on were short
twos. And if you call his attention to one, he'll just smile that little
smile of his, and say, 'yes, he may be shy a few months, but he'll
grow.' But then that's just old man Don's weakness for cattle; he can't
look a steer in the face without falling in love with him. Now, I've
received before when by throwing out one half the stock offered, you
couldn't get as uniform a bunch of beeves as those are. But you go
right ahead, Tom, and be sure that every hoof you accept will dress five
hundred pounds at Fort Buford. I'll simply sit around and clerk and help
you count and give you a good chance to make a reputation."

Los Lobos was still an open range. They claimed to have over ten
thousand mixed cattle in the straight ranch brand. There had been no
demand for matured beeves for several years, and now on effecting this
sale they were anxious to deliver all their grown steers. Dr. Beaver
informed us that, previous to our arrival, his foreman had been throwing
everything in on the home range, and that he hoped to deliver to us over
two thousand head from his own personal holdings. But he was liberal
with his neighbors, for in the contingent just passed upon, there must
have been over a hundred head in various ranch brands. Assuring him that
we would be on hand in the morning to take possession of the cattle, and
requesting him to have a fire burning, on coming opposite the camp,
we turned off and rode for our wagon. It meant a big day's work to
road-brand this first contingent, and with the first sign of dawn, my
outfit were riding for Los Lobos. We were encamped about three miles
from the corrals, and leaving orders for the cook to follow up, the camp
was abandoned with the exception of the remuda. It was barely sun-up
when we counted and took possession of the beeves. On being relieved,
the foreman of Los Lobos took the ranch outfit and started off to renew
the gathering. We penned the cattle without any trouble, and as soon as
the irons were ready, a chuteful were run in and the branding commenced.
This branding-chute was long enough to chamber eight beeves. It was
built about a foot wide at the bottom and flared upward just enough
to prevent an animal from turning round. A heavy gate closed the exit,
while bull-bars at the rear prevented the occupant from backing out. A
high platform ran along either side of the branding-chute, on which the
men stood while handling the irons.

Two men did the branding. "Runt" Pickett attended the fire, passing up
the heated irons, and dodging the cold branding-steel. A single iron
was often good for several animals, and sometimes a chuteful was branded
with two irons. It was necessary that the work should be well done; not
that a five months' trip required it, but the unforeseen must be guarded
against. Many trail herds had met disaster and been scattered to the
four winds with nothing but a road brand to identify them afterward.
The cattle were changing owners, and custom decreed that an abstract of
title should be indelibly seared on their sides. The first guard, Jake
Blair, Morg Tussler, and Clay Zilligan, were detailed to cut and drive
the squads into the chute. These three were the only mounted men, the
others being placed so as to facilitate the work. Cattle are as innocent
as they are strong, and in this necessary work everything was done
quietly, care being taken to prevent them from becoming excited. As
fast as they were released from the chute, Dr. Beaver took a list of the
ranch brands, in order to bill of sale them to Lovell and settle with
his neighbors.

The work moved with alacrity. As one chuteful was being freed the next
one was entering. Gates closed in their faces and the bull-bars at the
rear locked them as in a vice. We were averaging a hundred an hour, but
the smoke from the burning hair was offensive to the lungs. During the
forenoon Burl Van Vedder and Vick Wolf "spelled" Flood and myself for
half an hour at a time, or until we could recover from the nauseous
fumes. When the cook called us to dinner, we had turned out nearly five
hundred branded cattle. No sooner was the midday meal bolted than the
cook was ordered back to camp with his wagon, the branded contingent of
cattle following in charge of the first guard. Less than half an hour
was lost in refreshing the inner man, and ordering "G--G" Cederdall, Tim
Stanley, and Jack Splann of the second guard into their saddles to take
the place of the relieved men, we resumed our task. The dust of the
corrals settled on us unheeded, the smoke of the fire mingled with that
of the singeing hair and its offensive odors, bringing tears to our
eyes, but the work never abated until the last steer had passed the
chute and bore the "Open A."

The work over, a pretense was made at washing the dust and grime from
our faces. It was still early in the day, and starting the cattle for
camp, I instructed the boys to water and graze them as long as they
would stand up. The men all knew their places on guard, this having
been previously arranged; and joining Dr. Beaver, Jim and I rode for the
ranch about a mile distant. The doctor was a genial host, and prescribed
a series of mint-juleps, after which he proposed that we ride out and
meet the cattle gathered during the day. The outfit had been working a
section of country around some lagoons, south of the ranch, and it was
fully six o'clock when we met them, heading homeward. The cattle were
fully up to the standard of the first bunch, and halting the herd we
trimmed them down and passed on them. After Flood rode out of this
second contingent, I culled back about a dozen light weights. On
finishing, Jim gave me a quiet wink, and said something to Dr. Beaver
about a new broom. But I paid no attention to these remarks; in a
country simply teeming with prime beeves, I was determined to get a herd
to my liking. Dr. Beaver had assured Lovell that he and his neighbors
would throw together over four thousand beeves in making up the herd,
and now I was perfectly willing that they should. It would take two days
longer to gather the cattle on the Los Lobos range, and then there were
the outside offerings, which were supposed to number fully two thousand.
There was no excuse for not being choice.

On returning to Los Lobos about dusk, rather than offend its owner,
Flood consented to remain at the ranch overnight, but I rode for camp.
Darkness had fallen on my reaching the wagon, the herd had been bedded
down, and Levering felt so confident that the remuda was contented that
he had concluded to night-herd them himself until midnight, and then
turn them loose until dawn. He had belled a couple of the leaders, and
assured me that he would have them in hand before sun-up. The cook was
urging me to supper, but before unsaddling, I rode around both herd and
remuda. The cattle were sleeping nicely, and the boys assured me that
they had got a splendid fill on them before bedding down. That was
the only safe thing to do, and after circling the saddle stock on the
opposite side of camp, I returned to find that a stranger had arrived
during my brief absence. Parent had fully enlightened him as to who he
was, who the outfit were, the destination of the herd, the names of
both buyer and seller, and, on my riding in, was delivering a voluble
dissertation on the tariff and the possible effect on the state of
putting hides on the free list. And although in cow-camps a soldier's
introduction is usually sufficient, the cook inquired the stranger's
name and presented me to our guest with due formality. Supper being
waiting, the stranger was invited to take pot-luck with us, and before
the meal was over recognized me. He was a deputy cattle inspector for
Dimmit County, and had issued the certificate for Flood's herd the year
before. He had an eye for the main chance, and informed me that fully
one half the cattle making up our herd belonged to Dimmit; that the
county line was only a mile up the river, and that if I would allow the
herd to drift over into his territory, he would shade the legal rate.
The law compelling the inspection of herds before they could be moved
out of the county, like the rain, fell upon the just and the unjust. It
was not the intent of the law to impose a burden on an honest drover.
Yet he was classed with the rustler, and must have in his possession a
certificate of inspection before he could move out a purchased herd, or
be subject to arrest. A list of brands was recorded, at the county seat,
of every herd leaving, and if occasion required could be referred to in
future years. No railroad would receive any consignment of hides or live
stock, unless accompanied by a certificate from the county inspector.
The legal rate was ten cents on the first hundred, and three cents on
all over that number, frequently making the office a lucrative one.

Once the object of his call was made clear, I warmed to our guest. If
the rate allowed by law was enforced, it meant an expense of over a
hundred dollars for a certificate of inspection covering both herd and
saddle stock. We did not take out certificates in Medina on the remudas
as a matter of economy. By waiting until the herd was ready, the two
would be inspected as one, and the lower rate apply. So I urged the
deputy to make himself at home and share my blankets. Pretending that I
remembered him well, I made numerous inquiries about the ranch where we
received our herd the year before, and by the time to turn in, we were
on the most friendly terms. The next morning I offered him a horse from
our extras, assuring him that Flood would be delighted to renew his
acquaintance, and invited him to go with us for the day. Turning his
horse among ours, he accepted and rode away with us. The cattle passed
on the evening before had camped out several miles from the corrals and
were grazing in when we met them. Flood and the Doctor joined us shortly
afterward, and I had a quiet word with Jim before he and the inspector
met. After the count was over, Flood made a great ado over my guest and
gave him the glad hand as if he had been a long-lost brother. We were
a trifle short-handed the second day, and on my guest volunteering
to help, I assigned him to Runt Pickett's place at the fire, where he
shortly developed a healthy sweat. As we did not have a large bunch of
beeves to brand that day, the wagon did not come over and we branded
them at a single shift. It was nearly one o'clock when we finished,
and instead of going in to Los Lobos, we left the third guard, Wayne
Outcault, "Dorg" Seay, and Owen Ubery, to graze the cattle over to our
camp.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in idleness and in the
entertainment of our guest. Official-like, he pretended he could hardly
spare the time to remain another night, but was finally prevailed on and
did so. After dark, I took him some distance from camp, and the two of
us had a confidential chat. I assured him if there was any object in
doing so, we could move camp right to or over the county line, and
frankly asked him what inducement he would offer. At first he thought
that throwing off everything over a hundred dollars would be about
right. But I assured him that there were whole families of inspectors in
Lasalle County who would discount that figure, and kindly advised him,
if he really wanted the fee, to meet competition at least. We discussed
the matter at length, and before returning to camp, he offered to make
out the certificate, covering everything, for fifty dollars. As it was
certain to be several days yet before we would start, and there was a
prospect of a falling market in certificates of inspection, I would make
no definite promises. The next morning I insisted that he remain at some
near-by ranch in his own territory, and, if convenient, ride down every
few days and note the progress of the herd.

We were promised a large contingent of cattle for that day. The ranch
outfit were to make three rodeos down the river the day before, where
the bulk of their beeves ranged. Flood was anxious to overtake the other
outfits before they reached the lower country, and as he assured me I
had no further use for him, we agreed that after receiving that morning
he might leave us. Giving orders at camp to graze the received beeves
within a mile of the corrals by noon, and the wagon to follow, we made
an early start, Flood taking his own horses with him. We met the
cattle coming up the river a thousand strong. It was late when the last
round-up of the day before had finished, and they had camped for the
night fully five miles from the corrals. It took less than an hour to
cull back and count, excuse the ranch outfit, and start this contingent
for the branding-pens in charge of my boys. Flood was in a hurry, and
riding a short distance with him, I asked that he pass or send word to
the county seat, informing the inspector of hides and animals that a
trail herd would leave Los Lobos within a week. Jim knew my motive in
getting competition on the inspection, and wishing me luck on my trip,
I wrung his hand in farewell until we should meet again in the upper
country.

The sun was setting that night when we finished road-branding the last
of the beeves received in the morning. After dinner, when the wagon
returned to camp, I instructed Parent to move up the river fully a
mile. We needed the change, anyhow, and even if it was farther, the next
morning we would have the Los Lobos outfit to assist in the branding, as
that day would finish their gathering. The outside cattle were beginning
to report in small bunches, from three hundred upward. Knowing that Dr.
Beaver was anxious to turn in as many as possible of his own, we delayed
receiving from the neighboring ranches for another day. But the next
morning, as we were ironing-up the last contingent of some four hundred
Los Lobos beeves, a deputy inspector for Lasalle arrived from the county
seat. He was likewise officious, and professed disappointment that the
herd was not ready to pass upon. On his arrival, I was handling the
irons, and paid no attention to him until the branding was over for the
morning. When he introduced himself, I cordially greeted him, but at the
first intimation of disappointment from his lips, I checked him.

Using the best diplomacy at my command, I said, "Well, I'm sorry to
cause you this long ride when it might have been avoided. You see, we
are receiving cattle from both this and Dimmit County. In fact, we are
holding our herd across the line just at present. On starting, we expect
to go up the river to the first creek, and north on it to the Leona
River. I have partially promised the work to an inspector from Dimmit.
He inspected our herd last year, and being a personal friend that way,
you couldn't meet his figures. Very sorry to disappoint you, but won't
you come over to the wagon and stay all night?"

But Dr. Beaver, who understood my motive, claimed the privilege of
entertaining the deputy at Los Lobos, and I yielded. We now had a few
over twenty-four hundred beeves, of which nineteen hundred were in the
Los Lobos brand, the others being mixed. There was a possibility of
fully a hundred more coming in with the neighboring cattle, and Dr.
Beaver was delighted over the ranch delivery. The outside contingents
were in four bunches, then encamped in different directions and within
from three to five miles of the ranch. Taking Vick Wolf with me for the
afternoon, I looked over the separate herds and found them numbering
more than fifteen hundred. They were the same uniform Nueces Valley
cattle, and as we lacked only a few over a thousand, the offerings were
extremely liberal. Making arrangements with three of the four herds to
receive the next day, Vick and I reached our camp on the county line
about sunset. The change was a decided advantage; wood, water, and grass
were plentiful, and not over a mile farther from the branding-pens.

The next morning found us in our saddles at the usual early hour. We
were anxious to receive and brand every animal possible that day, so
that with a few hours' work the next forenoon the herd would be ready
to start. After we had passed on the first contingent of the outside
cattle, and as we were nearing the corrals, Dr. Beaver overtook us.
Calling me aside, he said: "Quirk, if you play your cards right, you'll
get a certificate of inspection for nothing and a chromo as a pelon.
I've bolstered up the Lasalle man that he's better entitled to the work
than the Dimmit inspector, and he'll wait until the herd is ready to
start. Now, you handle the one, and I'll keep the other as my guest.
We must keep them apart and let them buck each other to their hearts'
content. Every hoof in your herd will be in a ranch brand of record; but
still the law demands inspection and you must comply with it. I'll give
you a duplicate list of the brands, so that neither inspector need see
the herd, and if we don't save your employer a hundred dollars, then we
are amateurs."

Everything was pointing to an auspicious start. The last cattle on the
delivery were equal to the first, if not better. The sky clouded over,
and before noon a light shower fell, settling the dust in the corrals.
Help increased as the various bunches were accepted, and at the end of
the day only a few over two hundred remained to complete our numbers.
The last contingent were fully up to the standard; and rather than
disappoint the sellers, I accepted fifty head extra, making my herd at
starting thirty-four hundred and fifty. When the last beef had passed
the branding-chute, there was nothing remaining but to give a receipt
to the seller for the number of head received, in behalf of my employer,
pending a later settlement between them.

Meanwhile competition in the matter of inspection had been carefully
nursed. Conscious of each other's presence, and both equally anxious for
the fee, the one deputy was entertained at my camp and the other at Los
Lobos. They were treated courteously, but given to understand that in
the present instance money talked. With but a small bunch of beeves to
brand on the starting day, the direction in which the herd was allowed
to leave the bed-ground would be the final answer. If west, Dimmit had
underbid Lasalle; if the contrary, then the departure of this herd
would be a matter of record in the latter county. Dr. Beaver enjoyed
the situation hugely, acting the intermediary in behalf of his guest.
Personally I was unconcerned, but was neutral and had little to say.

My outfit understood the situation perfectly. Before retiring on the
night of our last camp on the county line, and in the presence of the
Dimmit inspector, the last relief received instructions, in the absence
of contrary orders, to allow the herd to drift back into Lasalle in
the morning. Matters were being conducted in pantomime, and the players
understood their parts. Our guest had made himself useful in various
ways, and I naturally felt friendly towards him. He had stood several
guards for the boys, and Burl Van Vedder, of the last watch, had secret
instructions to call him for that guard.

The next morning the camp was not astir as early as usual. On the cook's
arousing us, in the uncertain light of dawn, the herd was slowly rising,
and from the position of a group of four horsemen, it was plainly
evident that our guest had shaded all competition. Our camp was in plain
view of Los Lobos, and only some five or six miles distant. With the
rising of the sun, and from the top of a windmill derrick, by the aid of
a field-glass, the Lasalle inspector had read his answer; and after the
work in the morning was over, and the final papers had been exchanged,
Dr. Beaver insisted that, in commiseration of his departed guest, just
one more mint-julep should be drunk standing.

When Don Lovell glanced over my expense account on our arrival at
Abilene, he said: "Look here, Tom, is this straight?--twenty dollars for
inspection?--the hell you say! Corrupted them, did you? Well, that's
the cheapest inspection I ever paid, with one exception. Dave Sponsilier
once got a certificate for his herd for five dollars and a few drinks.
But he paid for it a month in advance of the starting of the herd.
It was dated ahead, properly sealed, and all ready for filling in the
brands and numbers. The herd was put up within a mile of where four
counties cornered, and that inspector was a believer in the maxim of
the early bird. The office is a red-tape one, anyhow, and little harm in
taking all the advantage you can.--This item marked 'sundries' was DRY
goods, I suppose? All right, Quirk; I reckon rattlesnakes were rather
rabid this spring."





Next: Mingling With The Exodus

Previous: Organizing The Forces



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