Tolleston Butts In

Morning dawned on a scene of pastoral grandeur. The valley of the North

Platte was dotted with cattle from hill and plain. The river, well

confined within its low banks, divided an unsurveyed domain of

green-swarded meadows like a boundary line between vast pastures. The

exodus of cattle from Texas to the new Northwest was nearing flood-tide,

and from every swell and knoll the solitary figure of the herdsman

greeted the rising sun.

Sponsilier and I had agreed to rejoin our own outfits at the first

opportunity. We might have exchanged places the evening before, but I

had a horse and some ammunition at Dave's camp and was just contentious

enough not to give up a single animal from my own mount. On the other

hand, Mr. Dave Sponsilier would have traded whole remudas with me; but

my love for a good horse was strong, and Fort Buford was many a weary

mile distant. Hence there was no surprise shown as Sponsilier rode up to

his own wagon that morning in time for breakfast. We were good friends

when personal advantages did not conflict, and where our employer's

interests were at stake we stood shoulder to shoulder like comrades. Yet

Dave gave me a big jolly about being daffy over my horses, well knowing

that there is an indescribable nearness between one of our craft and his

own mount. But warding off his raillery, just the same and in due time,

I cantered away on my own horse.

As I rode up the North Fork towards my outfit, the attached herd was

in plain view across the river. Arriving at my own wagon, I saw a mute

appeal in every face for permission to go to town, and consent was

readily granted to all who had not been excused on a similar errand

the day before. The cook and horse-wrangler were included, and the

activities of the outfit in saddling and getting away were suggestive of

a prairie fire or a stampede. I accompanied them across the river, and

then turned upstream to my brother's camp, promising to join them later

and make a full day of it. At Bob's wagon they had stretched a fly, and

in its shade lounged half a dozen men, while an air of languid indolence

pervaded the camp. Without dismounting, I announced myself as on the way

to town, and invited any one who wished to accompany me. Lovell and Reed

both declined; half of Bob's men had been excused and started an hour

before, but my brother assured me that if I would wait until the deposed

foreman returned, the latter's company could be counted on. I waited,

and in the course of half an hour the trail boss came back from his

cattle. During the interim, the two old cowmen reviewed Grant's siege of

Vicksburg, both having been participants, but on opposite sides. While

the guest was shifting his saddle to a loaned horse, I inquired if there

was anything that I could attend to for any one at Ogalalla. Lovell

could think of nothing; but as we mounted to start, Reed aroused

himself, and coming over, rested the stub of his armless sleeve on my

horse's neck, saying:

"You boys might drop into the sheriff's office as you go in and also

again as you are starting back. Report the cattle as having spent a

quiet night and ask Phillips if he has any word for me."

Turning to the trail boss he continued: "Young man, I would suggest that

you hunt up your employer and have him stir things up. The cattle will

be well taken care of, but we're just as anxious to turn them back to

you as you are to receive them. Tell the seller that it would be well

worth his while to see Lovell and myself before going any farther. We

can put him in possession of a few facts that may save him time and

trouble. I reckon that's about all. Oh, yes, I'll be at this wagon all


My brother rode a short distance with us and introduced the stranger as

Hugh Morris. He proved a sociable fellow, had made three trips up the

trail as foreman, his first two herds having gone to the Cherokee Strip

under contract. By the time we reached Ogalalla, as strong a fraternal

level existed between us as though we had known each other for years.

Halting for a moment at the sheriff's office, we delivered our messages,

after which we left our horses at the same corral with the understanding

that we would ride back together. A few drinks were indulged in before

parting, then each went to attend to his own errands, but we met

frequently during the day. Once my boys were provided with funds, they

fell to gambling so eagerly that they required no further thought on my

part until evening. Several times during the day I caught glimpses of

Tolleston, always on horseback, and once surrounded by quite a cavalcade

of horsemen. Morris and I took dinner at the hotel where the trio of

government jobbers were stopping. They were in evidence, and amongst

the jolliest of the guests, commanding and receiving the best that

the hostelry afforded. Sutton was likewise present, but quiet and

unpretentious, and I thought there was a false, affected note in the

hilarity of the ringsters, and for effect. I was known to two of the

trio, but managed to overhear any conversation which was adrift. After

dinner and over fragrant cigars, they reared their feet high on an outer

gallery, and the inference could be easily drawn that a contract, unless

it involved millions, was beneath their notice.

Morris informed me that his employer's suspicions were aroused, and

that he had that morning demanded a settlement in full or the immediate

release of the herd. They had laughed the matter off as a mere incident

that would right itself at the proper time, and flashed as references a

list of congressmen, senators, and bankers galore. But Morris's employer

had stood firm in his contentions, refusing to be overawed by flattery

or empty promises. What would be the result remained to be seen, and the

foreman and myself wandered aimlessly around town during the afternoon,

meeting other trail bosses, nearly all of whom had heard more or less

about the existing trouble. That we had the sympathy of the cattle

interests on our side goes without saying, and one of them, known as

"the kidgloved foreman," a man in the employ of Shanghai Pierce, invoked

the powers above to witness what would happen if he were in Lovell's

boots. This was my first meeting with the picturesque trail boss, though

I had heard of him often and found him a trifle boastful but not a bad

fellow. He distinguished himself from others of his station on the trail

by always wearing white shirts, kid gloves, riding-boots, inlaid spurs,

while a heavy silver chain was wound several times round a costly

sombrero in lieu of a hatband. We spent an hour or more together,

drinking sparingly, and at parting he begged that I would assure my

employer that he sympathized with him and was at his command.

The afternoon was waning when I hunted up my outfit and started them

for camp. With one or two exceptions, the boys were broke and perfectly

willing to go. Morris and I joined them at the livery where they had

left their horses, and together we started out of town. Ordering them

to ride on to camp, and saying that I expected to return by way of Bob

Quirk's wagon, Morris and myself stopped at the court-house. Sheriff

Phillips was in his office and recognized us both at a glance. "Well,

she's working," said he, "and I'll probably have some word for you late

this evening. Yes, one of the local attorneys for your friends came in

and we figured everything up. He thought that if this office would throw

off a certain per cent. of its expense, and Reed would knock off the

interest, his clients would consent to a settlement. I told him to go

right back and tell his people that as long as they thought that way,

it would only cost them one hundred and forty dollars every twenty-four

hours." The lawyer was back within twenty minutes, bringing a draft,

covering every item, and urged me to have it accepted by wire. The bank

was closed, but I found the cashier in a poker-game and played his hand

while he went over to the depot and sent the message. "The operator has

orders to send a duplicate of the answer to this office, and the moment

I get it, if favorable, I'll send a deputy with the news over to the

North Fork. Tell Reed that I think the check's all right this time, but

we'll stand pat until we know for a certainty. We'll get an answer by

morning sure."

The message was hailed with delight at Bob Quirk's wagon. On nearing the

river, Morris rode by way of the herd to ask the deputies in charge to

turn the cattle up the river towards his camp. Several of the foreman's

men were waiting at my brother's wagon, and on Morris's return he

ordered his outfit to meet the beeves the next morning and be in

readiness to receive them back. Our foremen were lying around temporary

headquarters, and as we were starting for our respective camps for the

night, Lovell suggested that we hold our outfits all ready to move out

with the herds on an hour's notice. Accordingly the next morning, I

refused every one leave of absence, and gave special orders to the

cook and horse-wrangler to have things in hand to start on an emergency

order. Jim Flood had agreed to wait for me, and we would recross the

river together and hear the report from the sheriff's office. Forrest

and Sponsilier rode up about the same time we arrived at his wagon, and

all four of us set out for headquarters across the North Fork. The sun

was several hours high when we reached the wagon, and learned that an

officer had arrived during the night with a favorable answer, that the

cattle had been turned over to Morris without a count, and that the

deputies had started for town at daybreak.

"Well, boys," said Lovell, as we came in after picketing our horses,

"Reed, here, wins out, but we're just as much at sea as ever. I've

looked the situation over from a dozen different viewpoints, and the

only thing to do is graze across country and tender our cattle at Fort

Buford. It's my nature to look on the bright side of things, and yet I'm

old enough to know that justice, in a world so full of injustice, is a

rarity. By allowing the earnest-money paid at Dodge to apply, some kind

of a compromise might be effected, whereby I could get rid of two of

these herds, with three hundred saddle horses thrown back on my hands at

the Yellowstone River. I might dispose of the third herd here and give

the remuda away, but at a total loss of at least thirty thousand dollars

on the Buford cattle. But then there's my bond to The Western Supply

Company, and if this herd of Morris's fails to respond on the day of

delivery, I know who will have to make good. An Indian uprising, or the

enforcement of quarantine against Texas fever, or any one of a dozen

things might tie up the herd, and September the 15th come and go and no

beef offered on the contract. I've seen outfits start out and never

get through with the chuck-wagon, even. Sutton's advice is good; we'll

tender the cattle. There is a chance that we'll get turned down, but if

we do, I have enough indemnity money in my possession to temper the wind

if the day of delivery should prove a chilly one to us. I think you had

all better start in the morning."

The old man's review of the situation was a rational one, in which Jim

Reed and the rest of us concurred. Several of the foremen, among them

myself, were anxious to start at once, but Lovell urged that we kill

a beef before starting and divide it up among the six outfits. He also

proposed to Flood that they go into town during the afternoon and freely

announce our departure in the morning, hoping to force any issue that

might be smouldering in the enemy's camp. The outlook for an early

departure was hailed with delight by the older foremen, and we younger

and more impulsive ones yielded. The cook had orders to get up something

extra for dinner, and we played cards and otherwise lounged around until

the midday meal was announced as ready. A horse had been gotten up for

Lovell to ride and was on picket, all the relieved men from the attached

herd were at Bob's wagon for dinner, and jokes and jollity graced the

occasion. But near the middle of the noon repast, some one sighted

a mounted man coming at a furious pace for the camp, and shortly the

horseman dashed up and inquired for Lovell. We all arose, when the

messenger dismounted and handed my employer a letter. Tearing open the

missive, the old man read it and turned ashy pale. The message was from

Mike Sutton, stating that a fourth member of the ring had arrived during

the forenoon, accompanied by a United States marshal from the federal

court at Omaha; that the officer was armed with an order of injunctive

relief; that he had deputized thirty men whom Tolleston had gathered,

and proposed taking possession of the two herds in question that


"Like hell they will," said Don Lovell, as he started for his horse. His

action was followed by every man present, including the one-armed guest,

and within a few minutes thirty men swung into saddles, subject to

orders. The camps of the two herds at issue were about four and five

miles down and across the river, and no doubt Tolleston knew of their

location, as they were only a little more than an hour's ride from

Ogalalla. There was no time to be lost, and as we hastily gathered

around the old man, he said: "Ride for your outfits, boys, and bring

along every man you can spare. We'll meet north of the river about

midway between Quince's and Tom's camps. Bring all the cartridges you

have, and don't spare your horses going or coming."

Priest's wagon was almost on a line with mine, though south of the

river. Fortunately I was mounted on one of the best horses in my string,

and having the farthest to go, shook the kinks out of him as old Paul

and myself tore down the mesa. After passing The Rebel's camp, I held my

course as long as the footing was solid, but on encountering the first

sand, crossed the river nearly opposite the appointed rendezvous. The

North Platte was fordable at any point, flowing but a midsummer stage

of water, with numerous wagon crossings, its shallow channel being about

one hundred yards wide. I reined in my horse for the first time near the

middle of the stream, as the water reached my saddle-skirts; when I came

out on the other side, Priest and his boys were not a mile behind me. As

I turned down the river, casting a backward glance, squads of horsemen

were galloping in from several quarters and joining a larger one which

was throwing up clouds of dust like a column of cavalry. In making a

cut-off to reach my camp, I crossed a sand dune from which I sighted the

marshal's posse less than two miles distant. My boys were gambling among

themselves, not a horse under saddle, and did not notice my approach

until I dashed up. Three lads were on herd, but the rest, including

the wrangler, ran for their mounts on picket, while Parent and myself

ransacked the wagon for ammunition. Fortunately the supply of the latter

was abundant, and while saddles were being cinched on horses, the cook

and I divided the ammunition and distributed it among the men. The

few minutes' rest refreshed my horse, but as we dashed away, the boys

yelling like Comanches, the five-mile ride had bested him and he fell

slightly behind. As we turned into the open valley, it was a question if

we or the marshal would reach the stream first; he had followed an old

wood road and would strike the river nearly opposite Forrest's camp.

The horses were excited and straining every nerve, and as we neared

our crowd the posse halted on the south side and I noticed a conveyance

among them in which were seated four men. There was a moment's

consultation held, when the posse entered the water and began fording

the stream, the vehicle and its occupants remaining on the other side.

We had halted in a circle about fifty yards back from the river-bank,

and as the first two men came out of the water, Don Lovell rode forward

several lengths of his horse, and with his hand motioned to them to

halt. The leaders stopped within easy speaking distance, the remainder

of the posse halting in groups at their rear, when Lovell demanded the

meaning of this demonstration.

An inquiry and answer followed identifying the speakers. "In pursuance

of an order from the federal court of this jurisdiction," continued the

marshal, "I am vested with authority to take into my custody two herds,

numbering nearly seven thousand beeves, now in your possession, and

recently sold to Field, Radcliff & Co. for government purposes. I

propose to execute my orders peaceably, and any interference on your

part will put you and your men in contempt of government authority. If

resistance is offered, I can, if necessary, have a company of United

States cavalry here from Fort Logan within forty-eight hours to enforce

the mandates of the federal court. Now my advice to you would be to turn

these cattle over without further controversy."

"And my advice to you," replied Lovell, "is to go back to your federal

court and tell that judge that as a citizen of these United States, and

one who has borne arms in her defense, I object to having snap judgment

rendered against me. If the honorable court which you have the pleasure

to represent is willing to dispossess me of my property in favor of

a ring of government thieves, and on only hearing one side of the

question, then consider me in contempt. I'll gladly go back to Omaha

with you, but you can't so much as look at a hoof in my possession. Now

call your troops, or take me with you for treating with scorn the orders

of your court."

Meanwhile every man on our side had an eye on Archie Tolleston, who

had gradually edged forward until his horse stood beside that of the

marshal. Before the latter could frame a reply to Lovell's ultimatum,

Tolleston said to the federal officer:

"Didn't my employers tell you that the old ---- -- -- ---- would defy

you without a demonstration of soldiers at your back? Now, the laugh's

on you, and--"

"No, it's on you," interrupted a voice at my back, accompanied by a

pistol report. My horse jumped forward, followed by a fusillade of shots

behind me, when the hireling deputies turned and plunged into the river.

Tolleston had wheeled his horse, joining the retreat, and as I brought

my six-shooter into action and was in the act of leveling on him, he

reeled from the saddle, but clung to the neck of his mount as the animal

dashed into the water. I held my fire in the hope that he would right in

the saddle and afford me a shot, but he struck a swift current, released

his hold, and sunk out of sight. Above the din and excitement of the

moment, I heard a voice which I recognized as Reed's, shouting, "Cut

loose on that team, boys! blaze away at those harness horses!" Evidently

the team had been burnt by random firing, for they were rearing and

plunging, and as I fired my first shot at them, the occupants sprang out

of the vehicle and the team ran away. A lull occurred in the shooting,

to eject shells and refill cylinders, which Lovell took advantage of by

ordering back a number of impulsive lads, who were determined to follow

up the fleeing deputies.

"Come back here, you rascals, and stop this shooting!" shouted the old

man. "Stop it, now, or you'll land me in a federal prison for life!

Those horsemen may be deceived. When federal courts can be deluded with

sugar-coated blandishments, ordinary men ought to be excusable."

Six-shooters were returned to their holsters. Several horses and two men

on our side had received slight flesh wounds, as there had been a random

return fire. The deputies halted well out of pistol range, covering the

retreat of the occupants of the carriage as best they could, but leaving

three dead horses in plain view. As we dropped back towards Forrest's

wagon, the team in the mean time having been caught, those on foot

were picked up and given seats in the conveyance. Meanwhile a remuda of

horses and two chuck-wagons were sighted back on the old wood road, but

a horseman met and halted them and they turned back for Ogalalla. On

reaching our nearest camp, the posse south of the river had started on

their return, leaving behind one of their number in the muddy waters of

the North Platte.

Late that evening, as we were preparing to leave for our respective

camps, Lovell said to the assembled foremen: "Quince will take Reed and

me into Ogalalla about midnight. If Sutton advises it, all three of us

will go down to Omaha and try and square things. I can't escape a severe

fine, but what do I care as long as I have their money to pay it with?

The killing of that fool boy worries me more than a dozen fines. It

was uncalled for, too, but he would butt in, and you fellows were all

itching for the chance to finger a trigger. Now the understanding is

that you all start in the morning."

Todos Santos Solves The Mystery Tom Connor's Scare facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail