A Family Reunion





The hospitality of a trail wagon was aptly expressed in the invitation

to enjoy ourselves. Some one had exercised good judgment in selecting

a camp, for every convenience was at hand, including running water and

ample shade from a clump of cottonwoods. Turning our steaming horses

free, we threw ourselves, in complete abandonment and relaxation, down

in the nearest shade. Unmistakable hints were given our host of certain

refreshments which would be acceptable, and in reply Forrest pointed to

a bucket of creek water near the wagon wheel, and urged us not to be at

all backward.



Every one was well fortified with brown cigarette papers and smoking

tobacco, and singly and in groups we were soon smoking like hired hands

and reviewing the incidents of the morning. Forrest's cook, a tall,

red-headed fellow, in anticipation of the number of guests his wagon

would entertain for the day, put on the little and the big pot. As it

only lacked an hour of noon on our arrival, the promised fresh beef

would not be available in time for dinner; but we were not like guests

who had to hurry home--we would be right there when supper was ready.



The loss of a night's sleep on my outfit was a good excuse for an

after-dinner siesta. Untying our slickers, we strolled out of hearing

of the camp, and for several hours obliterated time. About three o'clock

Bob Quirk aroused and informed us that he had ordered our horses, and

that the signal of Sponsilier's cattle had been seen south on the trail.

Dave was impatient to intercept his herd and camp them well down the

creek, at least below the regular crossing. This would throw Bob's and

my cattle still farther down the stream; and we were all determined

to honor Forrest with our presence for supper and the evening hours.

Quince's wrangler rustled in the horses, and as we rejoined the camp the

quarters of a beef hung low on a cottonwood, while a smudge beneath them

warned away all insect life. Leaving word that we would return during

the evening, the eleventh-hour guests rode away in the rough, uneven

order in which we had arrived. Sponsilier and his men veered off to

the south, Bob Quirk and his lads soon following, while the rest of us

continued on down the creek. My cattle were watering when we overtook

them, occupying fully a mile of the stream, and nearly an hour's ride

below the trail crossing. It takes a long time to water a big herd

thoroughly, and we repeatedly turned them back and forth across the

creek, but finally allowed them to graze away with a broad, fan-like

front. As ours left the stream, Bob's cattle were coming in over a mile

above, and in anticipation of a dry camp that night, Parent had been

advised to fill his kegs and supply himself with wood.



Detailing the third and fourth guard to wrangle the remuda, I sent

Levering up the creek with my brother's horses and to recover our loaned

saddle stock; even Bob Quirk was just thoughtless enough to construe a

neighborly act into a horse trade. About two miles out from the creek

and an equal distance from the trail, I found the best bed-ground of the

trip. It sloped to the northwest, was covered with old dry grass, and

would catch any vagrant breeze except an eastern one. The wagon was

ordered into camp, and the first and second guards were relieved just

long enough to secure their night-horses. Nearly all of these two

watches had been with me during the day, and on the return of Levering

with the horses, we borrowed a number of empty flour-sacks for beef, and

cantered away, leaving behind only the cook and the first two guards.



What an evening and night that was! As we passed up the creek, we

sighted in the gathering twilight the camp-fires of Sponsilier and my

brother, several miles apart and south of the stream. When we reached

Forrest's wagon the clans were gathering, The Rebel and his crowd being

the last to come in from above. Groups of saddle horses were tied among

the trees, while around two fires were circles of men broiling beef over

live coals. The red-headed cook had anticipated forty guests outside of

his own outfit, and was pouring coffee into tin cups and shying biscuit

right and left on request. The supper was a success, not on account of

the spread or our superior table manners, but we graced the occasion

with appetites which required the staples of life to satisfy. Then we

smoked, falling into groups when the yarning began. All the fresh-beef

stories of our lives, and they were legion, were told, no one group

paying any attention to another.



"Every time I run a-foul of fresh beef," said The Rebel, as he settled

back comfortably between the roots of a cottonwood, with his back to its

trunk, "it reminds me of the time I was a prisoner among the Yankees.

It was the last year of the war, and I had got over my first desire to

personally whip the whole North. There were about five thousand of

us held as prisoners of war for eleven months on a peninsula in the

Chesapeake Bay. The fighting spirit of the soldier was broken in

the majority of us, especially among the older men and those who had

families. But we youngsters accepted the fortunes of war and were glad

that we were alive, even if we were prisoners. In my mess in prison

there were fifteen, all having been captured at the same time, and many

of us comrades of three years' standing.



"I remember the day we were taken off the train and marched through the

town for the prison, a Yankee band in our front playing national airs

and favorites of their army, and the people along the route jeering us

and asking how we liked the music. Our mess held together during the

march, and some of the boys answered them back as well as they could.

Once inside the prison stockade, we went into quarters and our mess

still held together. Before we had been there long, one day there was a

call among the prisoners for volunteers to form a roustabout crew. Well,

I enlisted as a roustabout. We had to report to an officer twice a day,

and then were put under guard and set to work. The kind of labor I liked

best was unloading the supplies for the prison, which were landed on a

near-by wharf. This roustabout crew had all the unloading to do, and the

reason I liked it was it gave us some chance to steal. Whenever there

was anything extra, intended for the officers, to be unloaded, look out

for accidents. Broken crates were common, and some of the contents was

certain to reach our pockets or stomachs, in spite of the guard.



"I was a willing worker and stood well with the guards. They never

searched me, and when they took us outside the stockade, the captain of

the guard gave me permission, after our work was over, to patronize the

sutler's store and buy knick-knacks from the booths. There was

always some little money amongst soldiers, even in prison, and I was

occasionally furnished money by my messmates to buy bread from a baker's

wagon which was outside the walls. Well, after I had traded a few

times with the baker's boy, I succeeded in corrupting him. Yes, had him

stealing from his employer and selling to me at a discount. I was a good

customer, and being a prisoner, there was no danger of my meeting his

employer. You see the loaves were counted out to him, and he had to

return the equivalent or the bread. At first the bread cost me ten cents

for a small loaf, but when I got my scheme working, it didn't cost me

five cents for the largest loaves the boy could steal from the bakery. I

worked that racket for several months, and if we hadn't been exchanged,

I'd have broke that baker, sure.



"But the most successful scheme I worked was stealing the kidneys out of

beef while we were handling it. It was some distance from the wharf to

the warehouse, and when I'd get a hind quarter of beef on my shoulder,

it was an easy trick to burrow my hand through the tallow and get a

good grip on the kidney. Then when I'd throw the quarter down in the

warehouse, it would be minus a kidney, which secretly found lodgment in

a large pocket in the inside of my shirt. I was satisfied with one or

two kidneys a day when I first worked the trick, but my mess caught on,

and then I had to steal by wholesale to satisfy them. Some days, when

the guards were too watchful, I couldn't get very many, and then again

when things were lax, 'Elijah's Raven' would get a kidney for each man

in our mess. With the regular allowance of rations and what I could

steal, when the Texas troops were exchanged, our mess was ragged enough,

but pig-fat, and slick as weasels. Lord love you, but we were a great

mess of thieves."



Nearly all of Flood's old men were with him again, several of whom were

then in Forrest's camp. A fight occurred among a group of saddle horses

tied to the front wheel of the wagon, among them being the mount of

John Officer. After the belligerents had been quieted, and Officer had

removed and tied his horse to a convenient tree, he came over and joined

our group, among which were the six trail bosses. Throwing himself down

among us, and using Sponsilier for a pillow and myself for footstool, he

observed:



"All you foremen who have been over the Chisholm Trail remember the

stage-stand called Bull Foot, but possibly some of the boys haven't.

Well, no matter, it's just about midway between Little Turkey Creek and

Buffalo Springs on that trail, where it runs through the Cherokee Strip.

I worked one year in that northern country--lots of Texas boys there

too. It was just about the time they began to stock that country with

Texas steers, and we rode lines to keep our cattle on their range. You

bet, there was riding to do in that country then. The first few months

that these Southern steers are turned loose on a new range, Lord! but

they do love to drift against a breeze. In any kind of a rain-storm,

they'll travel farther in a night than a whole outfit can turn them back

in a day.



"Our camp was on the Salt Fork of the Cimarron, and late in the fall

when all the beeves had been shipped, the outfit were riding lines and

loose-herding a lot of Texas yearlings, and mixed cattle, natives to

that range. Up in that country they have Indian summer and Squaw winter,

both occurring in the fall. They have lots of funny weather up there.

Well, late one evening that fall there came an early squall of Squaw

winter, sleeted and spit snow wickedly. The next morning there wasn't

a hoof in sight, and shortly after daybreak we were riding deep in our

saddles to catch the lead drift of our cattle. After a hard day's ride,

we found that we were out several hundred head, principally yearlings of

the through Texas stock. You all know how locoed a bunch of dogies can

get--we hunted for three days and for fifty miles in every direction,

and neither hide, hair, nor hoof could we find. It was while we were

hunting these cattle that my yarn commences.



"The big augers of the outfit lived in Wichita, Kansas. Their foreman,

Bibleback Hunt, and myself were returning from hunting this missing

bunch of yearlings when night overtook us, fully twenty-five miles from

camp. Then this Bull Foot stage came to mind, and we turned our horses

and rode to it. It was nearly dark when we reached it, and Bibleback

said for me to go in and make the talk. I'll never forget that nice

little woman who met me at the door of that sod shack. I told her our

situation, and she seemed awfully gracious in granting us food and

shelter for the night. She told us we could either picket our horses

or put them in the corral and feed them hay and grain from the

stage-company's supply. Now, old Bibleback was what you might call shy

of women, and steered clear of the house until she sent her little boy

out and asked us to come in. Well, we sat around in the room, owly-like,

and to save my soul from the wrath to come, I couldn't think of a

word that was proper to say to the little woman, busy getting supper.

Bibleback was worse off than I was; he couldn't do anything but look at

the pictures on the wall. What was worrying me was, had she a husband?

Or what was she doing away out there in that lonesome country? Then

a man old enough to be her grandfather put in an appearance. He was

friendly and quite talkative, and I built right up to him. And then we

had a supper that I distinctly remember yet. Well, I should say I do--it

takes a woman to get a good supper, and cheer it with her presence,

sitting at the head of the table and pouring the coffee.



"This old man was a retired stage-driver, and was doing the wrangling

act for the stage-horses. After supper I went out to the corral and

wormed the information out of him that the woman was a widow; that her

husband had died before she came there, and that she was from Michigan.

Amongst other things that I learned from the old man was that she had

only been there a few months, and was a poor but deserving woman. I

told Bibleback all this after we had gone to bed, and we found that our

finances amounted to only four dollars, which she was more than welcome

to. So the next morning after breakfast, when I asked her what I owed

her for our trouble, she replied so graciously: 'Why, gentlemen, I

couldn't think of taking advantage of your necessity to charge you for

a favor that I'm only too happy to grant.' 'Oh,' said I, 'take this,

anyhow,' laying the silver on the corner of the table and starting

for the door, when she stopped me. 'One moment, sir; I can't think of

accepting this. Be kind enough to grant my request,' and returned the

money. We mumbled out some thanks, bade her good-day, and started for

the corral, feeling like two sheep thieves. While we were saddling

up--will you believe it?--her little boy came out to the corral and gave

each one of us as fine a cigar as ever I buttoned my lip over. Well,

fellows, we had had it put all over us by this little Michigan woman,

till we couldn't look each other in the face. We were accustomed to

hardship and neglect, but here was genuine kindness enough to kill a

cat.



"Until we got within five miles of our camp that morning, old Bibleback

wouldn't speak to me as we rode along. Then he turned halfway in his

saddle and said: 'What kind of folks are those?' 'I don't know,' I

replied, 'what kind of people they are, but I know they are good ones.'

'Well, I'll get even with that little woman if it takes every sou in my

war-bags,' said Hunt.



"When within a mile of camp, Bibleback turned again in his saddle and

asked, 'When is Christmas?' 'In about five weeks,' I answered. 'Do you

know where that big Wyoming stray ranges?' he next asked. I trailed onto

his game in a second. 'Of course I do.' 'Well,' says he, 'let's kill him

for Christmas and give that little widow every ounce of the meat. It'll

be a good one on her, won't it? We'll fool her a plenty. Say nothing to

the others,' he added; and giving our horses the rein we rode into camp

on a gallop.



"Three days before Christmas we drove up this Wyoming stray and beefed

him. We hung the beef up overnight to harden in the frost, and the next

morning bright and early, we started for the stage-stand with a good

pair of ponies to a light wagon. We reached the widow's place about

eleven o'clock, and against her protests that she had no use for so

much, we hung up eight hundred pounds of as fine beef as you ever set

your peepers on. We wished her a merry Christmas, jumped into the wagon,

clucked to the ponies, and merely hit the high places getting away. When

we got well out of sight of the house--well, I've seen mule colts

play and kid goats cut up their antics; I've seen children that was

frolicsome; but for a man with gray hair on his head, old Bibleback Hunt

that day was the happiest mortal I ever saw. He talked to the horses; he

sang songs; he played Injun; and that Christmas was a merry one, for

the debt was paid and our little widow had beef to throw to the dogs. I

never saw her again, but wherever she is to-night, if my prayer counts,

may God bless her!"



Early in the evening I had warned my boys that we would start on our

return at ten o'clock. The hour was nearly at hand, and in reply to my

inquiry if our portion of the beef had been secured, Jack Splann said

that he had cut off half a loin, a side of ribs, and enough steak for

breakfast. Splann and I tied the beef to our cantle-strings, and when

we returned to the group, Sponsilier was telling of the stampede of

his herd in the Panhandle about a month before. "But that run wasn't

a circumstance to one in which I figured once, and in broad daylight,"

concluded Dave. It required no encouragement to get the story; all we

had to do was to give him time to collect his thoughts.



"Yes, it was in the summer of '73," he finally continued. "It was my

first trip over the trail, and I naturally fell into position at the

drag end of the herd. I was a green boy of about eighteen at the time,

having never before been fifty miles from the ranch where I was born.

The herd belonged to Major Hood, and our destination was Ellsworth,

Kansas. In those days they generally worked oxen to the chuck-wagons,

as they were ready sale in the upper country, and in good demand

for breaking prairie. I reckon there must have been a dozen yoke of

work-steers in our herd that year, and they were more trouble to me than

all the balance of the cattle, for they were slothful and sinfully lazy.

My vocabulary of profanity was worn to a frazzle before we were out a

week, and those oxen didn't pay any more attention to a rope or myself

than to the buzzing of a gnat.



"There was one big roan ox, called Turk, which we worked to the wagon

occasionally, but in crossing the Arbuckle Mountains in the Indian

Territory, he got tender-footed. Another yoke was substituted, and in a

few days Turk was on his feet again. But he was a cunning rascal and

had learned to soldier, and while his feet were sore, I favored him with

sandy trails and gave him his own time. In fact, most of my duties were

driving that one ox, while the other boys handled the herd. When his

feet got well--I had toadied and babied him so--he was plum ruined.

I begged the foreman to put him back in the chuck team, but the cook

kicked on account of his well-known laziness, so Turk and I continued to

adorn the rear of the column. I reckon the foreman thought it better

to have Turk and me late than no dinner. I tried a hundred different

schemes to instill ambition and self-respect into that ox, but he was an

old dog and contented with his evil ways.



"Several weeks passed, and Turk and I became a standing joke with

the outfit. One morning I made the discovery that he was afraid of a

slicker. For just about a full half day, I had the best of him, and

several times he was out of sight in the main body of the herd. But he

always dropped to the rear, and finally the slicker lost its charm to

move him. In fact he rather enjoyed having me fan him with it--it seemed

to cool him. It was the middle of the afternoon, and Turk had dropped

about a quarter-mile to the rear, while I was riding along beside and

throwing the slicker over him like a blanket. I was letting him

carry it, and he seemed to be enjoying himself, switching his tail in

appreciation, when the matted brush of his tail noosed itself over

one of the riveted buttons on the slicker. The next switch brought

the yellow 'fish' bumping on his heels, and emitting a blood-curdling

bellow, he curved his tail and started for the herd. Just for a minute

it tickled me to see old Turk getting such a wiggle on him, but the next

moment my mirth turned to seriousness, and I tried to cut him off from

the other cattle, but he beat me, bellowing bloody murder. The slicker

was sailing like a kite, and the rear cattle took fright and began

bawling as if they had struck a fresh scent of blood. The scare flashed

through the herd from rear to point, and hell began popping right then

and there. The air filled with dust and the earth trembled with the

running cattle. Not knowing which way to turn, I stayed right where I

was--in the rear. As the dust lifted, I followed up, and about a mile

ahead picked up my slicker, and shortly afterward found old Turk,

grazing contentedly. With every man in the saddle, that herd ran seven

miles and was only turned by the Cimarron River. It was nearly dark when

I and the roan ox overtook the cattle. Fortunately none of the swing-men



had seen the cause of the stampede, and I attributed it to fresh blood,

which the outfit believed. My verdant innocence saved my scalp that

time, but years afterward I nearly lost it when I admitted to my old

foreman what had caused the stampede that afternoon. But I was a trail

boss then and had learned my lesson."



The Rebel, who was encamped several miles up the creek, summoned his

men, and we all arose and scattered after our horses. There was quite a

cavalcade going our way, and as we halted within the light of the fires

for the different outfits to gather, Flood rode up, and calling Forrest,

said: "In the absence of any word from old man Don, we might as well

all pull out in the morning. More than likely we'll hear from him at

Grinnell, and until we reach the railroad, the Buford herds had better

take the lead. I'll drag along in the rear, and if there's another move

made from Dodge, you will have warning. Now, that's about all, except to

give your cattle plenty of time; don't hurry. S'long, fellows."





A Dual Tragedy A Fight With A Fury facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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