On The Just And The Unjust

: The Outlet

The quarantine guards returned to their camp. Our plans were suddenly

and completely upset, and not knowing which way to turn, Sponsilier and

I, slightly crestfallen, accompanied the guards. It was already late

in the evening, but Captain Ullmer took advantage of the brief respite

granted him to clear the east half of the valley of native cattle.

Couriers were dispatched to sound the warning among the ranches down the

iver, while a regular round-up outfit was mustered among the camps to

begin the drifting of range stock that evening. A few men were left at

the two camps, as quarantine was not to be abandoned, and securing our

borrowed horses, my partner and I bade our friends farewell and set out

on our return for the Yellowstone. Merely touching at Powderville for

a hasty supper, we held a northwest, cross-country course, far into

the night, when we unsaddled to rest our horses and catch a few hours'

sleep. But sunrise found us again in our saddles, and by the middle of

the forenoon we were breakfasting with our friends in Miles City.

Fort Keogh was but a short distance up the river. That military

interference had been secured through fraud and deception, there was not

the shadow of a doubt. During the few hours which we spent in Miles,

the cattle interests were duly aroused, and a committee of cowmen were

appointed to call on the post commander at Keogh with a formidable

protest, which would no doubt be supplemented later, on the return of

the young lieutenant and his troopers. During our ride the night

before, Sponsilier and I had discussed the possibility of arousing the

authorities at Glendive. Since it was in the neighborhood of one hundred

miles from Powderville to the former point on the railroad, the herds

would consume nearly a week in reaching there. A freight train was

caught that afternoon, and within twenty-four hours after leaving the

quarantine camp on the Powder River, we had opened headquarters at the

Stock Exchange Saloon in Glendive. On arriving, I deposited one hundred

dollars with the proprietor of that bar-room, with the understanding

that it was to be used in getting an expression from the public in

regard to the question of Texas fever. Before noon the next day, Dave

Sponsilier and Tom Quirk were not only the two most popular men in

Glendive, but quarantine had been decided on with ringing resolutions.

Our standing was soon of the best. Horses were tendered us, and saddling

one I crossed the Yellowstone and started down the river to arouse

outlying ranches, while Sponsilier and a number of local cowmen rode

south to locate a camp and a deadline. I was absent two days, having

gone north as far as Wolf Island, where I recrossed the river, returning

on the eastern side of the valley. At no ranch which was visited did my

mission fail of meeting hearty approval, especially on the western side

of the river, where severe losses from fever had been sustained the fall

before. One ranch on Thirteen Mile offered, if necessary, to send every

man in its employ, with their own wagon and outfit of horses, free of

all charge, until quarantine was lifted. But I suggested, instead, that

they send three or four men with their horses and blankets, leaving the

remainder to be provided for by the local committee. In my two days'

ride, over fifty volunteers were tendered, but I refused all except

twenty, who were to report at Glendive not later than the morning of the

6th. On my return to the railroad, all arrangements were completed and

the outlook was promising. Couriers had arrived from the south during

my absence, bringing the news of the coming of the through Texas cattle,

and warning the local ranches to clear the way or take the consequences.

All native stock had been pushed west of the Powder and Yellowstone,

as far north as Cabin Creek, which had been decided on as the second

quarantine-line. Daily reports were being received of the whereabouts of

the moving herds, and at the rate they were traveling, they would

reach Cabin Creek about the 7th. Two wagons had been outfitted, cooks

employed, and couriers dispatched to watch the daily progress of the

cattle, which, if following the usual route, would strike the deadline

some distance south of Glendive.

During the next few days, Sponsilier and I were social lions in that

town, and so great was our popularity we could have either married or

been elected to office. We limited our losses at poker to so much an

evening, and what we won from the merchant class we invariably lost

among the volunteer guards and cowmen, taking our luck with a sangfroid

which proved us dead-game sports, and made us hosts of friends. We had

contributed one hundred dollars to the general quarantine fund, and had

otherwise made ourselves popular with all classes in the brief time at

our command. Under the pretense that we might receive orders at any time

to overtake our herds, we declined all leadership in the second campaign

about to be inaugurated against Texas fever. Dave and I were both

feeling rather chesty over the masterful manner in which we had aroused

the popular feeling in favor of quarantine in our own interest, at the

same time making it purely a local movement. We were swaggering about

like ward-heelers, when on the afternoon of the 5th the unexpected again

happened. The business interests of the village usually turned out to

meet the daily passenger trains, even the poker-games taking a recess

until the cars went past. The arrival and departure of citizens of

the place were noted by every one, and strangers were looked upon

with timidity, very much as in all simple communities. Not taking any

interest in the passing trains, Sponsilier was writing a letter to

his girl in Texas, while I was shaking dice for the cigars with the

bartender of the Stock Exchange, when the Eastbound arrived. After the

departure of the train, I did not take any notice of the return of the

boys to the abandoned games, or the influx of patrons to the house,

until some one laid a hand on my shoulder and quietly said, "Isn't your

name Quirk?"

Turning to the speaker, I was confronted by Mr. Field and Mr. Radcliff,

who had just arrived by train from the west. Admitting my identity, I

invited them to have a cigar or liquid refreshment, inquiring whence

they had come and where their cattle were. To my surprise, Fort Keogh

was named as their last refuge, and the herds were reported to cross the

railroad within the next few days. Similar questions were asked me, but

before replying, I caught Sponsilier's eye and summoned him with a wink.

On Dave's presenting himself, I innocently asked the pair if they did

not remember my friend as one of the men whom they had under arrest at

Dodge. They grunted an embarrassed acknowledgment, which was returned in

the same coin, when I proceeded to inform them that our cattle crossed

the railroad at Little Missouri ten days before, and that we were only

waiting the return of Mr. Lovell from the Crow Agency before proceeding

to our destination. With true Yankee inquisitiveness, other questions

followed, the trend of which was to get us to admit that we had

something to do with the present activities in quarantining Texas

cattle. But I avoided their leading queries, and looked appealingly at

Sponsilier, who came to my rescue with an answer born of the moment.

"Well, gentlemen," said Dave, seating himself on the bar and leisurely

rolling a cigarette, "that town of Little Missouri is about the dullest

hole that I was ever water-bound in. Honestly, I'd rather be with the

cattle than loafing in it with money in my pocket. Now this town has got

some get-up about it; I'll kiss a man's foot if he complains that this

burg isn't sporty enough for his blood. They've given me a run here

for my white alley, and I still think I know something about that game

called draw-poker. But you were speaking about quarantine. Yes; there

seems to have been a good many cattle lost through these parts last

fall. You ought to have sent your herds up through Dakota, where there

is no native stock to interfere. I'd hate to have cattle coming down the

Powder River. A friend of mine passed through here yesterday; his herd

was sold for delivery on the Elkhorn, north of here, and he tells me

he may not be able to reach there before October. He saw your herds and

tells me you are driving the guts out of them. So if there's anything

in that old 'ship-fever theory,' you ought to be quarantined until it

snows. There's a right smart talk around here of fixing a dead-line

below somewhere, and if you get tied up before reaching the railroad,

it won't surprise me a little bit. When it comes to handling the cattle,

old man Don has the good hard cow-sense every time, but you shorthorns

give me a pain."

"What did I tell you?" said Radcliff, the elder one, to his partner, as

they turned to leave.

On nearing the door, Mr. Field halted and begrudgingly said, "See you

later, Quirk."

"Not if I see you first," I replied; "you ain't my kind of cowmen."

Not even waiting for them to pass outside, Sponsilier, from his elevated

position, called every one to the bar to irrigate. The boys quit their

games, and as they lined up in a double row, Dave begged the bartenders

to bestir themselves, and said to his guests: "Those are the kid-gloved

cowmen that I've been telling you about--the owners of the Texas cattle

that are coming through here. Did I hang it on them artistically, or

shall I call them back and smear it on a shade deeper? They smelt a

mouse all right, and when their cattle reach Cabin Creek, they'll smell

the rat in earnest. Now, set out the little and big bottle and everybody

have a cigar on the side. And drink hearty, lads, for to-morrow we may

be drinking branch water in a quarantine camp."

The arrival of Field and Radcliff was accepted as a defiance to the

local cattle interests. Popular feeling was intensified when it was

learned that they were determined not to recognize any local quarantine,

and were secretly inquiring for extra men to guard their herds in

passing Glendive. There was always a rabble element in every frontier

town, and no doubt, as strangers, they could secure assistance in

quarters that the local cowmen would spurn. Matters were approaching

a white heat, when late that night an expected courier arrived, and

reported the cattle coming through at the rate of twenty miles a day.

They were not following any particular trail, traveling almost due

north, and if the present rate of travel was maintained, Cabin Creek

would be reached during the forenoon of the 7th. This meant business,

and the word was quietly passed around that all volunteers were to be

ready to move in the morning. A cowman named Retallac, owner of a range

on the Yellowstone, had previously been decided on as captain, and would

have under him not less than seventy-five chosen men, which number, if

necessary, could easily be increased to one hundred.

Morning dawned on a scene of active operations. The two wagons were

started fully an hour in advance of the cavalcade, which was to follow,

driving a remuda of over two hundred saddle horses. Sponsilier and I

expected to accompany the outfit, but at the last moment our plans were

changed by an incident and we remained behind, promising to overtake

them later. There were a number of old buffalo hunters in town, living

a precarious life, and one of their number had quietly informed Sheriff

Wherry that they had been approached with an offer of five dollars a day

to act as an escort to the herds while passing through. The quarantine

captain looked upon that element as a valuable ally, suggesting that if

it was a question of money, our side ought to be in the market for their

services. Heartily agreeing with him, the company of guards started,

leaving their captain behind with Sponsilier and myself. Glendive was a

county seat, and with the assistance of the sheriff, we soon had every

buffalo hunter in the town corralled. They were a fine lot of rough men,

inclined to be convivial, and with the assistance of Sheriff Wherry,

coupled with the high standing of the quarantine captain, on a soldier's

introduction Dave and I made a good impression among them. Sponsilier

did the treating and talking, his offer being ten dollars a day for a

man and horse, which was promptly accepted, when the question naturally

arose who would stand sponsor for the wages. Dave backed off some

distance, and standing on his left foot, pulled off his right boot,

shaking out a roll of money on the floor.

"There's the long green, boys," said he, "and you fellows can name your

own banker. I'll make it up a thousand, and whoever you say goes with

me. Shall it be the sheriff, or Mr. Retallac, or the proprietor of the

Stock Exchange?"

Sheriff Wherry interfered, relieving the embarrassment in appointing a

receiver, and vouched that these two Texans were good for any reasonable

sum. The buffalo hunters approved, apologizing to Sponsilier, as he

pulled on his boot, for questioning his financial standing, and swearing

allegiance in every breath. An hour's time was granted in which to

saddle and make ready, during which we had a long chat with Sheriff

Wherry and found him a valuable ally. He had cattle interests in the

country, and when the hunters appeared, fifteen strong, he mounted his

horse and accompanied us several miles on the way. "Now, boys," said he,

at parting, "I'll keep an eye over things around town, and if anything

important happens, I'll send a courier with the news. If those

shorthorns attempt to offer any opposition, I'll run a blazer on them,

and if necessary I'll jug the pair. You fellows just buffalo the herds,

and the sheriff's office will keep cases on any happenings around

Glendive. It's understood that night or day your camp can be found on

Cabin Creek, opposite the old eagle tree. Better send me word as soon as

the herds arrive. Good luck to you, lads."

Neither wagons nor guards were even sighted during our three hours' ride

to the appointed campground. On our arrival tents were being pitched and

men were dragging up wood, while the cooks were busily preparing a late

dinner, the station being fully fifteen miles south of the railroad.

Scouts were thrown out during the afternoon, corrals built, and evening

found the quarantine camp well established for the comfort of its

ninety-odd men. The buffalo hunters were given special attention and

christened the "Sponsilier Guards;" they took again to outdoor life as

in the old days. The report of the scouts was satisfactory; all three

of the herds had been seen and would arrive on schedule time. A hush of

expectancy greeted this news, but Sponsilier and I ridiculed the idea

that there would be any opposition, except a big talk and plenty of


"Well, if that's what they rely on," said Captain Retallac, "then

they're as good as in quarantine this minute. If you feel certain they

can't get help from Fort Keogh a second time, those herds will be our

guests until further orders. What we want to do now is to spike every

possible chance for their getting any help, and the matter will pass

over like a summer picnic. If you boys think there's any danger of an

appeal to Fort Buford, the military authorities want to be notified

that the Yellowstone Valley has quarantined against Texas fever and asks

their cooperation in enforcing the same."

"I can fix that," replied Sponsilier. "We have lawyers at Buford right

now, and I can wire them the situation fully in the morning. If they

rely on the military, they will naturally appeal to the nearest post,

and if Keogh and Buford turn them down, the next ones are on the

Missouri River, and at that distance cavalry couldn't reach here within

ten days. Oh, I think we've got a grapevine twist on them this time."

Sponsilier sat up half the night wording a message to our attorneys at

Fort Buford. The next morning found me bright and early on the road to

Glendive with the dispatch, the sending of which would deplete my cash

on hand by several dollars, but what did we care for expense when we

had the money and orders to spend it? I regretted my absence from the

quarantine camp, as I was anxious to be present on the arrival of the

herds, and again watch the "major-domo" run on the rope and fume and

charge in vain. But the importance of blocking assistance was so urgent

that I would gladly have ridden to Buford if necessary. In that bracing

atmosphere it was a fine morning for the ride, and I was rapidly

crossing the country, when a vehicle, in the dip of the plain, was

sighted several miles ahead. I was following no road, but when the

driver of the conveyance saw me he turned across my front and signaled.

On meeting the rig, I could hardly control myself from laughing

outright, for there on the rear seat sat Field and Radcliff, extremely

gruff and uncongenial. Common courtesies were exchanged between

the driver and myself, and I was able to answer clearly his leading

questions: Yes; the herds would reach Cabin Creek before noon; the

old eagle tree, which could be seen from the first swell of the plain

beyond, marked the quarantine camp, and it was the intention to isolate

the herds on the South Fork of Cabin. "Drive on," said a voice, and, in

the absence of any gratitude expressed, I inwardly smiled in reward.

I was detained in Glendive until late in the day, waiting for an

acknowledgment of the message. Sheriff Wherry informed me that the only

move attempted on the part of the shorthorn drovers was the arrest

of Sponsilier and myself, on the charge of being accomplices in the

shooting of one of their men on the North Platte. But the sheriff

had assured the gentlemen that our detention would have no effect on

quarantining their cattle, and the matter was taken under advisement and

dropped. It was late when I started for camp that evening. The drovers

had returned, accompanied by their superintendent, and were occupying

the depot, burning the wires in every direction. I was risking no

chances, and cultivated the company of Sheriff Wherry until the

acknowledgment arrived, when he urged me to ride one of his horses in

returning to camp, and insisted on my taking a carbine. Possibly this

was fortunate, for before I had ridden one third the distance to the

quarantine camp, I met a cavalcade of nearly a dozen men from the

isolated herds. When they halted and inquired the distance to Glendive,

one of their number recognized me as having been among the quarantine

guards at Powderville. I admitted that I was there, turning my horse so

that the carbine fell to my hand, and politely asked if any one had

any objections. It seems that no one had, and after a few commonplace

inquiries were exchanged, we passed on our way.

There was great rejoicing on Cabin Creek that night. Songs were sung,

and white navy beans passed current in numerous poker-games until the

small hours of morning. There had been nothing dramatic in the meeting

between the herds and the quarantine guards, the latter force having

been augmented by visiting ranchmen and their help, until protest would

have been useless. A routine of work had been outlined, much stricter

than at Powderville, and a surveillance of the camps was constantly

maintained. Not that there was any danger of escape, but to see that

the herds occupied the country allotted to them, and did not pollute any

more territory than was necessary. The Sponsilier Guards were given an

easy day shift, and held a circle of admirers at night, recounting and

living over again "the good old days." Visitors from either side of the

Yellowstone were early callers, and during the afternoon the sheriff

from Glendive arrived. I did not know until then that Mr. Wherry was

a candidate for reelection that fall, but the manner in which he mixed

with the boys was enough to warrant his election for life. What

endeared him to Sponsilier and myself was the fund of information he

had collected, and the close tab he had kept on every movement of the

opposition drovers. He told us that their appeal to Fort Keogh for

assistance had been refused with a stinging rebuke; that a courier had

started the evening before down the river for Fort Buford, and that Mr.

Radcliff had personally gone to Fort Abraham Lincoln to solicit help.

The latter post was fully one hundred and fifty miles away, but

that distance could be easily covered by a special train in case of

government interference.

It rained on the afternoon of the 9th. The courier had returned from

Fort Buford on the north, unsuccessful, as had also Mr. Radcliff from

Fort Lincoln on the Missouri River to the eastward. The latter post had

referred the request to Keogh, and washed its hands of intermeddling in

a country not tributary to its territory. The last hope of interference

was gone, and the rigors of quarantine closed in like a siege with

every gun of the enemy spiked. Let it be a week or a month before the

quarantine was lifted, the citizens of Montana had so willed it, and

their wish was law. Evening fell, and the men drew round the fires. The

guards buttoned their coats as they rode away, and the tired ones drew

their blankets around them as they lay down to sleep. Scarcely a star

could be seen in the sky overhead, but before my partner or myself

sought our bed, a great calm had fallen, the stars were shining, and the

night had grown chilly.

The old buffalo hunters predicted a change in the weather, but beyond

that they were reticent. As Sponsilier and I lay down to sleep, we

agreed that if three days, even two days, were spared us, those cattle

in quarantine could never be tendered at Fort Buford on the appointed

day of delivery. But during the early hours of morning we were aroused

by the returning guards, one of whom halted his horse near our blankets

and shouted, "Hey, there, you Texans; get up--a frost has fallen!"

Sure enough, it had frosted during the night, and the quarantine was

lifted. When day broke, every twig and blade of grass glistened in

silver sheen, and the horses on picket stood humped and shivering. The

sun arose upon the herds moving, with no excuse to say them nay, and

orders were issued to the guards to break camp and disperse to their

homes. As we rode into Glendive that morning, sullen and defeated by

a power beyond our control, in speaking of the peculiarity of the

intervention, Sponsilier said: "Well, if it rains on the just and the

unjust alike, why shouldn't it frost the same."