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Red River Station








From: The Outlet

When the spirit of a man is once broken, he becomes useless. On the
trail it is necessary to have some diversion from hard work, long hours,
and exposure to the elements. With man and beast, from the Brazos to Red
River was a fire test of physical endurance. But after crossing into the
Chickasaw Nation, a comparatively new country would open before us. When
the strain of the past week was sorest, in buoying up the spirits of my
outfit, I had promised them rest and recreation at the first possible
opportunity.

Fortunately we had an easy ford. There was not even an indication that
there had been a freshet on the river that spring. This was tempering
the wind, for we were crippled, three of the boys being unable to resume
their places around the herd on account of inflamed eyes. The cook had
weathered the sand-storm better than any of us. Sheltering his team, and
fastening his wagon-sheet securely, he took refuge under it until the
gale had passed. Pressing him into the service the next morning, and
assigning him to the drag end of the herd, I left the blind to lead the
blind in driving the wagon. On reaching the river about the middle
of the forenoon, we trailed the cattle across in a long chain, not
an animal being compelled to swim. The wagon was carried over on a
ferryboat, as it was heavily loaded, a six weeks' supply of provisions
having been taken on before crossing. Once the trail left the breaks, on
the north side of the river, we drew off several miles to the left and
went into camp for the remainder of the day. Still keeping clear of
the trail, daily we moved forward the wagon from three to five
miles, allowing the cattle to graze and rest to contentment. The
herd recuperated rapidly, and by the evening of the fourth day after
crossing, the inflammation was so reduced in those whose eyes were
inflamed, that we decided to start in earnest the next morning.

The cook was ordered to set out the best the wagon afforded, several
outside delicacies were added, and a feast was in sight. G--G Cederdall
had recrossed the river that day to mail a letter, and on his return
proudly carried a basket of eggs on his arm. Three of the others had
joined a fishing party from the Texas side, and had come in earlier in
the day with a fine string of fish. Parent won new laurels in the supper
to which he invited us about sundown. The cattle came in to their beds
groaning and satiated, and dropped down as if ordered. When the first
watch had taken them, there was nothing to do but sit around and tell
stories. Since crossing Red River, we had slept almost night and day,
but in that balmy May evening sleep was banished. The fact that we were
in the Indian country, civilized though the Indians were, called forth
many an incident. The raids of the Comanches into the Panhandle country
during the buffalo days was a favorite topic. Vick Wolf, however, had
had an Indian experience in the North with which he regaled us at the
first opportunity.

"There isn't any trouble nowadays," said he, lighting a cigarette, "with
these blanket Indians on the reservations. I had an experience once on a
reservation where the Indians could have got me easy enough if they had
been on the war-path. It was the first winter I ever spent on a Northern
range, having gone up to the Cherokee Strip to avoid--well, no matter.
I got a job in the Strip, not riding, but as a kind of an all-round
rustler. This was long before the country was fenced, and they rode
lines to keep the cattle on their ranges. One evening about nightfall
in December, the worst kind of a blizzard struck us that the country had
ever seen. The next day it was just as bad, and BLOODY cold. A fellow
could not see any distance, and to venture away from the dugout meant
to get lost. The third day she broke and the sun came out clear in the
early evening. The next day we managed to gather the saddle horses, as
they had not drifted like the cattle.

"Well, we were three days overtaking the lead of that cattle drift, and
then found them in the heart of the Cheyenne country, at least on that
reservation. They had drifted a good hundred miles before the storm
broke. Every outfit in the Strip had gone south after their cattle.
Instead of drifting them back together, the different ranches rustled
for their own. Some of the foremen paid the Indians so much per head to
gather for them, but ours didn't. The braves weren't very much struck
on us on that account. I was cooking for the outfit, which suited me in
winter weather. We had a permanent camp on a small well-wooded creek,
from which we worked all the country round.

"One afternoon when I was in camp all alone, I noticed an Indian
approaching me from out of the timber. There was a Winchester standing
against the wagon wheel, but as the bucks were making no trouble, I gave
the matter no attention. Mr. Injun came up to the fire and professed
to be very friendly, shook hands, and spoke quite a number of words in
English. After he got good and warm, he looked all over the wagon,
and noticing that I had no sixshooter on, he picked up the carbine and
walked out about a hundred yards to a little knoll, threw his arms in
the air, and made signs.

"Instantly, out of the cover of some timber on the creek a quarter
above, came about twenty young bucks, mounted, and yelling like demons.
When they came up, they began circling around the fire and wagon. I was
sitting on an empty corn-crate by the fire. One young buck, seeing that
I was not scaring to suit him, unslung a carbine as he rode, and shot
into the fire before me. The bullet threw fire and ashes all over me,
and I jumped about ten feet, which suited them better. They circled
around for several minutes, every one uncovering a carbine, and they
must have fired a hundred and fifty shots into the fire. In fact they
almost shot it out, scattering the fire around so that it came near
burning up the bedding of our outfit. I was scared thoroughly by this
time. If it was possible for me to have had fits, I'd have had one sure.
The air seemed full of coals of fire and ashes. I got good practical
insight into what hell's like. I was rustling the rolls of bedding out
of the circle of fire, expecting every moment would be my last. It's a
wonder I wasn't killed. Were they throwing lead? Well, I should remark!
You see the ground was not frozen around the fire, and the bullets
buried themselves in the soft soil.

"After they had had as much fun as they wanted, the leader gave a
yell and they all circled the other way once, and struck back into the
timber. Some of them had brought up the decoy Indian's horse when they
made the dash at first, and he suddenly turned as wild as a Cheyenne
generally gets. When the others were several hundred yards away, he
turned his horse, rode back some little distance, and attracted my
attention by holding out the Winchester. From his horse he laid it
carefully down on the ground, whirled his pony, and rode like a scared
wolf after the others. I could hear their yells for miles, as they made
for their encampment over on the North Fork. As soon as I got the fire
under control, I went out and got the carbine. It was empty; the Indian
had used its magazine in the general hilarity. That may be an Indian's
style of fun, but I failed to see where there was any in it for me."

The cook threw a handful of oily fish-bones on the fire, causing it to
flame up for a brief moment. With the exception of Wayne Outcault, who
was lying prone on the ground, the men were smoking and sitting Indian
fashion around the fire. After rolling awhile uneasily, Outcault sat up
and remarked, "I feel about half sick. Eat too much? Don't you think it.
Why, I only ate seven or eight of those fish, and that oughtn't to hurt
a baby. There was only half a dozen hard-boiled eggs to the man, and I
don't remember of any of you being so generous as to share yours with
me. Those few plates of prunes that I ate for dessert wouldn't hurt
nobody--they're medicine to some folks. Unroll our bed, pardner, and
I'll thrash around on it awhile."

Several trail stories of more or less interest were told, when Runt
Pickett, in order to avoid the smoke, came over and sat down between
Burl Van Vedder and me. He had had an experience, and instantly opened
on us at short range. "Speaking of stampedes," said Runt, "reminds me
of a run I was in, and over which I was paid by my employer a very high
compliment. My first trip over the trail, as far north as Dodge, was in
'78. The herd sold next day after reaching there, and as I had an old
uncle and aunt living in middle Kansas, I concluded to run down and pay
them a short visit. So I threw away all my trail togs--well, they were
worn out, anyway--and bought me a new outfit complete. Yes, I even
bought button shoes. After visiting a couple of weeks with my folks,
I drifted back to Dodge in the hope of getting in with some herd bound
farther north--I was perfectly useless on a farm. On my return to Dodge,
the only thing about me that indicated a cow-hand was my Texas saddle
and outfit, but in toggery, in my visiting harness, I looked like a rank
tenderfoot.

"Well, boys, the first day I struck town I met a through man looking for
hands. His herd had just come in over the Chisholm Trail, crossing to
the western somewhere above. He was disgusted with his outfit, and was
discharging men right and left and hiring new ones to take their places.
I apologized for my appearance, showed him my outfit, and got a job
cow-punching with this through man. He expected to hold on sale a week
or two, when if unsold he would drift north to the Platte. The first
week that I worked, a wet stormy night struck us, and before ten o'clock
we lost every hoof of cattle. I was riding wild after little squads of
cattle here and there, guided by flashes of lightning, when the storm
finally broke. Well, there it was midnight, and I didn't have a HOOF OF
CATTLE to hold and no one to help me if I had. The truth is, I was lost.
Common horse-sense told me that; but where the outfit or wagon was was
anybody's guess. The horses in my mount were as good as worthless; worn
out, and if you gave one free rein he lacked the energy to carry you
back to camp. I ploughed around in the darkness for over an hour, but
finally came to a sudden stop on the banks of the muddy Arkansaw. Right
there I held a council of war with myself, the decision of which was
that it was at least five miles to the wagon.

"After I'd prowled around some little time, a bright flash of lightning
revealed to me an old deserted cabin a few rods below. To this shelter
I turned without even a bid, unsaddled my horse and picketed him, and
turned into the cabin for the night. Early the next morning I was out
and saddled my horse, and the question was, Which way is camp? As soon
as the sun rose clearly, I got my bearings. By my reasoning, if the
river yesterday was south of camp, this morning the wagon must be north
of the river, so I headed in that direction. Somehow or other I stopped
my horse on the first little knoll, and looking back towards the bottom,
I saw in a horseshoe which the river made a large bunch of cattle. Of
course I knew that all herds near about were through cattle and under
herd, and the absence of any men in sight aroused my curiosity. I
concluded to investigate it, and riding back found over five hundred
head of the cattle we had lost the night before. 'Here's a chance to
make a record with my new boss,' I said to myself, and circling in
behind, began drifting them out of the bottoms towards the uplands. By
ten o'clock I had got them to the first divide, when who should ride up
but the owner, the old cowman himself--the sure enough big auger.

"'Well, son,' said my boss, 'you held some of them, didn't you?' 'Yes,'
I replied, surly as I could, giving him a mean look, 'I've nearly ridden
this horse to death, holding this bunch all night. If I had only had a
good man or two with me, we could have caught twice as many. What kind
of an outfit are you working, anyhow, Captain?' And at dinner that day,
the boss pointed me out to the others and said, 'That little fellow
standing over there with the button shoes on is the only man in my
outfit that is worth a --------.'"

The cook had finished his work, and now joined the circle. Parent began
regaling us with personal experiences, in which it was evident that he
would prove the hero. Fortunately, however, we were spared listening
to his self-laudation. Dorg Seay and Tim Stanley, bunkies, engaged in a
friendly scuffle, each trying to make the other get a firebrand for his
pipe. In the tussle which followed, we were all compelled to give way or
get trampled underfoot. When both had exhausted themselves in vain, we
resumed our places around the fire. Parent, who was disgusted over the
interruption, on resuming his seat refused to continue his story at the
request of the offenders, replying, "The more I see of you two varmints
the more you remind me of mule colts."

Once the cook refused to pick up the broken thread of his story, John
Levering, our horse-wrangler, preempted the vacated post. "I was over
in Louisiana a few winters ago with a horse herd," said John, "and had
a few experiences. Of all the simple people that I ever met, the 'Cajin'
takes the bakery. You'll meet darkies over there that can't speak a word
of anything but French. It's nothing to see a cow and mule harnessed
together to a cart. One day on the road, I met a man, old enough to be
my father, and inquired of him how far it was to the parish centre,
a large town. He didn't know, except it was a long, long ways. He had
never been there, but his older brother, once when he was a young man,
had been there as a witness at court. The brother was dead now, but if
he was living and present, it was quite possible that he would remember
the distance. The best information was that it was a very long ways off.
I rode it in the mud in less than two hours; just about ten miles.

"But that wasn't a circumstance to other experiences. We had driven
about three hundred horses and mules, and after disposing of over two
thirds of them, my employer was compelled to return home, leaving me to
dispose of the remainder. I was a fair salesman, and rather than carry
the remnant of the herd with me, made headquarters with a man who owned
a large cane-brake pasture. It was a convenient stopping-place, and
the stock did well on the young cane. Every week I would drive to some
distant town eighteen or twenty head, or as many as I could handle
alone. Sometimes I would sell out in a few days, and then again it would
take me longer. But when possible I always made it a rule to get back
to my headquarters to spend Sunday. The owner of the cane-brake and his
wife were a simple couple, and just a shade or two above the Arcadians.
But they had a daughter who could pass muster, and she took quite
a shine to the 'Texas-Hoss-Man,' as they called me. I reckon you
understand now why I made that headquarters?--there were other reasons
besides the good pasturage.

"Well, the girl and her mother both could read, but I have some doubt
about the old man on that score. They took no papers, and the nearest
approach to a book in the house was an almanac three years old. The
women folks were ravenous for something to read, and each time on my
return after selling out, I'd bring them a whole bundle of illustrated
papers and magazines. About my fourth return after more horses,--I was
mighty near one of the family by that time,--when we were all seated
around the fire one night, the women poring over the papers and admiring
the pictures, the old man inquired what the news was over in the parish
where I had recently been. The only thing that I could remember was the
suicide of a prominent man. After explaining the circumstances, I went
on to say that some little bitterness arose over his burial. Owing to
his prominence it was thought permission would be given to bury him
in the churchyard. But it seems there was some superstition about
permitting a self-murderer to be buried in the same field as decent
folks. It was none of my funeral, and I didn't pay overmuch attention
to the matter, but the authorities refused, and they buried him just
outside the grounds, in the woods.

"My host and I discussed the matter at some length. He contended that if
the man was not of sound mind, he should have been given his little
six feet of earth among the others. A horse salesman has to be a good
second-rate talker, and being anxious to show off before the girl, I
differed with her father. The argument grew spirited yet friendly, and I
appealed to the women in supporting my view. My hostess was absorbed
at the time in reading a sensational account of a woman shooting her
betrayer. The illustrations covered a whole page, and the girl was
simply burning, at short range, the shirt from off her seducer. The old
lady was bogged to the saddle skirts in the story, when I interrupted
her and inquired, 'Mother, what do you think ought to be done with a
man who commits suicide?' She lowered the paper just for an instant, and
looking over her spectacles at me replied, 'Well, I think any man who
would do THAT ought to be made to support the child.'"

No comment was offered. Our wrangler arose and strolled away from the
fire under the pretense of repicketing his horse. It was nearly time
for the guards to change, and giving the last watch orders to point
the herd, as they left the bed-ground in the morning, back on an angle
towards the trail, I prepared to turn in. While I was pulling off my
boots in the act of retiring, Clay Zilligan rode in from the herd to
call the relief. The second guard were bridling their horses, and as
Zilligan dismounted, he said to the circle of listeners, "Didn't I tell
you fellows that there was another herd just ahead of us? I don't care
if they didn't pass up the trail since we've been laying over, they are
there just the same. Of course you can't see their camp-fire from here,
but it's in plain view from the bed-ground, and not over four or five
miles away. If I remember rightly, there's a local trail comes in from
the south of the Wichita River, and joins the Chisholm just ahead. And
what's more, that herd was there at nine o'clock this morning, and they
haven't moved a peg since. Well, there's two lads out there waiting to
be relieved, and you second guard know where the cattle are bedded."





Next: Camp Supply

Previous: Mingling With The Exodus



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