The Outlet
Andy Adams

Part 3 out of 5

each other's location. Several times during the forenoon, when a
swell of the plain afforded us a temporary westward view, we
caught glimpses of Forrest's cattle as they snailed forward,
fully five miles distant and barely noticeable under the low
sky-line. The Indian herds had given us a good start in the
morning, and towards evening as the mirages lifted, not a
dust-signal was in sight, save one far in our lead.

The month of June, so far, had been exceedingly droughty. The
scarcity of water on the plains between Dodge and Ogalalla was
the dread of every trail drover. The grass, on the other hand,
had matured from the first rank growth of early spring into a
forage, rich in sustenance, from which our beeves took on flesh
and rounded into beauties. Lack of water being the one drawback,
long drives, not in miles but hours, became the order of the day;
from four in the morning to eight at night, even at an ox's pace,
leaves every landmark of the day far in the rear at nightfall.
Thus for the next few days we moved forward, the monotony of
existence broken only by the great variety of mirage, the glare
of heat-waves, and the silent signal in the sky of other
voyageurs like ourselves. On reaching Pig Boggy, nothing but
pools greeted us, while the regular crossing was dry and dusty
and paved with cattle bones. My curiosity was strong enough to
cause me to revisit the old bridge which I had helped to build
two seasons before; though unused, it was still intact, a credit
to the crude engineering of Pete Slaughter. After leaving the
valley of the Solomon, the next running water was Pawnee Fork,
where we overtook and passed six thousand yearling heifers in two
herds, sold the winter before by John Blocker for delivery in
Montana. The Northwest had not yet learned that Texas was the
natural breeding-ground for cattle, yet under favorable
conditions in both sections, the ranchman of the South could
raise one third more calves from an equal number of cows.

The weather continued hot and sultry. Several times storms hung
on our left for hours which we hoped would reach us, and at night
the lightning flickered in sheets, yet with the exception of
cooling the air, availed us nothing. But as we encamped one night
on the divide before reaching the Smoky River, a storm struck us
that sent terror to our hearts. There were men in my outfit, and
others in Lovell's employ, who were from ten to twenty years my
senior, having spent almost their lifetime in the open, who had
never before witnessed such a night. The atmosphere seemed to be
overcharged with electricity, which played its pranks among us,
neither man nor beast being exempt. The storm struck the divide
about two hours after the cattle had been bedded, and from then
until dawn every man was in the saddle, the herd drifting fully
three miles during the night. Such keen flashes of lightning
accompanied by instant thunder I had never before witnessed,
though the rainfall, after the first dash, was light in quantity.
Several times the rain ceased entirely, when the phosphorus, like
a prairie fire, appeared on every hand. Great sheets of it
flickered about, the cattle and saddle stock were soon covered,
while every bit of metal on our accoutrements was coated and
twinkling with phosphorescent light. My gauntlets were covered,
and wherever I touched myself, it seemed to smear and spread and
refuse to wipe out. Several times we were able to hold up and
quiet the cattle, but along their backs flickered the ghostly
light, while across the herd, which occupied acres, it reminded
one of the burning lake in the regions infernal. As the night
wore on, several showers fell, accompanied by almost incessant
bolts of lightning, but the rainfall only added moisture to the
ground and this acted like fuel in reviving the phosphor. Several
hours before dawn, great sheets of the fiery elements chased each
other across the northern sky, lighting up our surroundings until
one could have read ordinary print. The cattle stood humped or
took an occasional step forward, the men sat their horses, sullen
and morose, forming new resolutions for the future, in which
trail work was not included. But morning came at last, cool and
cloudy, a slight recompense for the heat which we had endured
since leaving Dodge.

With the breaking of day, the herd was turned back on its course.
For an hour or more the cattle grazed freely, and as the sun
broke through the clouds, they dropped down like tired infantry
on a march, and we allowed them an hour's rest. We were still
some three or four miles eastward of the trail, and after
breakfasting and changing mounts we roused the cattle and started
on an angle for the trail, expecting to intercept it before noon.
There was some settlement in the Smoky River Valley which must be
avoided, as in years past serious enmity had been engendered
between settlers and drovers in consequence of the ravages of
Texas fever among native cattle. I was riding on the left point,
and when within a short distance of the trail, one of the boys
called my attention to a loose herd of cattle, drifting south and
fully two miles to the west of us. It was certainly something
unusual, and as every man of us scanned them, a lone horseman was
seen to ride across their front, and, turning them, continue on
for our herd. The situation was bewildering, as the natural
course of every herd was northward, but here was one apparently
abandoned like a water-logged ship at sea.

The messenger was a picture of despair. He proved to be the owner
of the abandoned cattle, and had come to us with an appeal for
help. According to his story, he was a Northern cowman and had
purchased the cattle a few days before in Dodge. He had bought
the outfit complete, with the understanding that the through help
would continue in his service until his range in Wyoming was
reached. But it was a Mexican outfit, foreman and all, and during
the storm of the night before, one of the men had been killed by
lightning. The accident must have occurred near dawn, as the man
was not missed until daybreak, and like ours, his cattle had
drifted with the storm. Some time was lost in finding the body,
and to add to the panic that had already stricken the outfit, the
shirt of the unfortunate vaquero was burnt from the corpse. The
horse had escaped scathless, though his rider met death, while
the housings were stripped from the saddle so that it fell from
the animal. The Mexican foreman and vaqueros had thrown their
hands in the air; steeped in superstition, they considered the
loss of their comrade a bad omen, and refused to go farther. The
herd was as good as abandoned unless we could lend a hand.

The appeal was not in vain. Detailing four of my men, and leaving
Jack Splann as segundo in charge of our cattle, I galloped away
with the stranger. As we rode the short distance between the two
herds and I mentally reviewed the situation, I could not help but
think it was fortunate for the alien outfit that their employer
was a Northern cowman instead of a Texan. Had the present owner
been of the latter school, there would have been more than one
dead Mexican before a valuable herd would have been abandoned
over an unavoidable accident. I kept my thoughts to myself,
however, for the man had troubles enough, and on reaching his
drifting herd, we turned them back on their course. It was high
noon when we reached his wagon and found the Mexican outfit still
keening over their dead comrade. We pushed the cattle, a mixed
herd of about twenty-five hundred, well past the camp, and riding
back, dismounted among the howling vaqueros. There was not the
semblance of sanity among them. The foreman, who could speak some
little English, at least his employer declared he could, was
carrying on like a madman, while a majority of the vaqueros were
playing a close second. The dead man had been carried in and was
lying under a tarpaulin in the shade of the wagon. Feeling that
my boys would stand behind me, and never offering to look at the
corpse, I inquired in Spanish of the vaqueros which one of the
men was their corporal. A heavy-set, bearded man was pointed out,
and walking up to him, with one hand I slapped him in the face
and with the other relieved him of a six-shooter. He staggered
back, turned ashen pale, and before he could recover from the
surprise, in his own tongue I berated him as a worthless cur for
deserting his employer over an accident. Following up the
temporary advantage, I inquired for the cook and horse-wrangler,
and intimated clearly that there would be other dead Mexicans if
the men were not fed and the herd and saddle stock looked after;
that they were not worthy of the name of vaqueros if they were
lax in a duty with which they had been intrusted.

"But Pablo is dead," piped one of the vaqueros in defense.

"Yes, he is," said G--G Cederdall in Spanish, bristling up to the
vaquero who had volunteered the reply; "and we'll bury him and a
half-dozen more of you if necessary, but the cattle will not be
abandoned--not for a single hour. Pablo is dead, but he was no
better than a hundred other men who have lost their lives on this
trail. If you are a lot of locoed sheep-herders instead of
vaqueros, why didn't you stay at home with the children instead
of starting out to do a man's work. Desert your employer, will
you? Not in a country where there is no chance to pick up other
men. Yes, Pablo is dead, and we'll bury him."

The aliens were disconcerted, and wilted. The owner picked up
courage and ordered the cook to prepare dinner. We loaned our
horses to the wrangler and another man, the remuda was brought
in, and before we sat down to the midday meal, every vaquero had
a horse under saddle, while two of them had ridden away to look
after the grazing cattle. With order restored, we set about
systematically to lay away the unfortunate man. A detail of
vaqueros under Cederdall prepared a grave on the nearest knoll,
and wrapping the corpse in a tarpaulin, we buried him like a
sailor at sea. Several vaqueros were visibly affected at the
graveside, and in order to pacify them, I suggested that we
unload the wagon of supplies and haul up a load of rock from a
near-by outcropping ledge. Pablo had fallen like a good soldier
at his post, I urged, and it was befitting that his comrades
should mark his last resting-place. To our agreeable surprise the
corporal hurrahed his men and the wagon was unloaded in a jiffy
and dispatched after a load of rock. On its return, we spent an
hour in decorating the mound, during which time lament was
expressed for the future of Pablo's soul. Knowing the almost
universal faith of this alien race, as we stood around the
finished mound, Cederdall, who was Catholic born, called for
contributions to procure the absolution of the Church. The owner
of the cattle was the first to respond, and with the aid of my
boys and myself, augmented later by the vaqueros, a purse of over
fifty dollars was raised and placed in charge of the corporal, to
be expended in a private mass on their return to San Antonio.
Meanwhile the herd and saddle stock had started, and reloading
the wagon, we cast a last glance at the little mound which made a
new landmark on the old trail.

The owner of the cattle was elated over the restoration of order.
My contempt for him, however, had not decreased; the old maxim of
fools rushing in where angels feared to tread had only been again
exemplified. The inferior races may lack in courage and
leadership, but never in cunning and craftiness. This alien
outfit had detected some weakness in the armor of their new
employer, and when the emergency arose, were ready to take
advantage of the situation. Yet under an old patron, these same
men would never dare to mutiny or assert themselves. That there
were possible breakers ahead for this cowman there was no doubt;
for every day that those Mexicans traveled into a strange
country, their Aztec blood would yearn for their Southern home.
And since the unforeseen could not be guarded against, at the
first opportunity I warned the stranger that it was altogether
too soon to shout. To his anxious inquiries I replied that his
very presence with the herd was a menace to its successful
handling by the Mexican outfit. He should throw all
responsibility on the foreman, or take charge himself, which was
impossible now; for an outfit which will sulk and mutiny once
will do so again under less provocation. When my curtain lecture
was ended, the owner authorized me to call his outfit together
and give them such instructions as I saw fit.

We sighted our cattle but once during the afternoon. On locating
the herd, two of my boys left us to return, hearing the message
that the rest of us might not put in an appearance before
morning. All during the evening, I made it a point to cultivate
the acquaintance of several vaqueros, and learned the names of
their master and rancho. Taking my cue from the general
information gathered, when we encamped for the night and all
hands, with the exception of those on herd, had finished catching
horses, I attracted their attention by returning the six-shooter
taken from their corporal at noontime. Commanding attention, in
their mother tongue I addressed myself to the Mexican foreman.

"Felipe Esquibil," said I, looking him boldly in the face, "you
were foreman of this herd from Zavalla County, Texas, to the
Arkansaw River, and brought your cattle through without loss or

"The herd changed owners at Dodge, but with the understanding
that you and your vaqueros were to accompany the cattle to this
gentleman's ranch in the upper country. An accident happens, and
because you are not in full control, you shift the responsibility
and play the baby act by wanting to go home. Had the death of one
of your men occurred below the river, and while the herd was
still the property of Don Dionisio of Rancho Los Olmus, you would
have lost your own life before abandoning your cattle. Now, with
the consent and approval of the new owner, you are again invested
with full charge of this herd until you arrive at the Platte
River. A new outfit will relieve you on reaching Ogalalla, and
then you will be paid your reckoning and all go home. In your
immediate rear are five herds belonging to my employer, and I
have already sent warning to them of your attempted desertion. A
fortnight or less will find you relieved, and the only safety in
store for you is to go forward. Now your employer is going to my
camp for the night, and may not see you again before this herd
reaches the Platte. Remember, Don Felipe, that the opportunity is
yours to regain your prestige as a corporal--and you need it
after to-day's actions. What would Don Dionisio say if he knew
the truth? And do you ever expect to face your friends again at
Los Olmus? From a trusted corporal back to a sheep-shearer would
be your reward--and justly."

Cederdall, Wolf, and myself shook hands with several vaqueros,
and mounting our horses we started for my camp, taking the
stranger with us. Only once did he offer any protest to going.
"Very well, then," replied G--G, unable to suppress his contempt,
"go right back. I'll gamble that you sheathe a knife before
morning if you do. It strikes me you don't sabe Mexicans very

Around the camp-fire that night, the day's work was reviewed. My
rather drastic treatment of the corporal was fully commented upon
and approved by the outfit, yet provoked an inquiry from the
irrepressible Parent. Turning to the questioner, Burl Van Vedder
said in dove-like tones: "Yes, dear, slapped him just to remind
the varmint that his feet were on the earth, and that pawing the
air and keening didn't do any good. Remember, love, there was the
living to be fed, the dead to bury, and the work in hand required
every man to do his duty. Now was there anything else you'd like
to know?"


Both herds had watered in the Smoky during the afternoon. The
stranger's cattle were not compelled to go down to the crossing,
but found an easy passage several miles above the regular ford.
After leaving the river, both herds were grazed out during the
evening, and when darkness fell we were not over three miles
apart, one on either side of the trail. The Wyoming cowman spent
a restless night, and early the next morning rode to the nearest
elevation which would give him a view of his cattle. Within an
hour after sun-up he returned, elated over the fact that his herd
was far in the lead of ours, camp being already broken, while we
were only breakfasting. Matters were working out just as I
expected. The mixed herd under the Mexican corporal, by moving
early and late, could keep the lead of our beeves, and with the
abundance of time at my disposal we were in no hurry. The Kansas
Pacific Railroad was but a few days' drive ahead, and I advised
our guest to take the train around to Ogalalla and have a new
outfit all ready to relieve the aliens immediately on their
arrival. Promising to take the matter under consideration, he
said nothing further for several days, his cattle in the mean
time keeping a lead of from five to ten miles.

The trail crossed the railroad at a switch east of Grinnell. I
was naturally expecting some word from Don Lovell, and it was my
intention to send one of the boys into that station to inquire
for mail. There was a hostelry at Grinnell, several stores and a
livery stable, all dying an easy death from the blight of the
arid plain, the town profiting little or nothing from the cattle
trade. But when within a half-day's drive of the railway, on
overtaking the herd after dinner, there was old man Don talking
to the boys on herd. The cattle were lying down, and rather than
disturb them, he patiently bided his time until they had rested
and arose to resume their journey. The old man was feeling in
fine spirits, something unusual, and declined my urgent
invitation to go back to the wagon and have dinner. I noticed
that he was using his own saddle, though riding a livery horse,
and in the mutual inquiries which were exchanged, learned that he
had arrived at Grinnell but a few days before. He had left Camp
Supply immediately after Forrest and Sponsilier passed that
point, and until Siringo came in with his report, he had spent
the time about detective headquarters in Kansas City. From
intimate friends in Dodge, he had obtained the full particulars
of the attempted but unsuccessful move of The Western Supply
Company to take possession of his two herds. In fact there was
very little that I could enlighten him on, except the condition
of the cattle, and they spoke for themselves, their glossy coats
shining with the richness of silk. On the other hand, my employer
opened like a book.

"Tom, I think we're past the worst of it," said he. "Those Dodge
people are just a trifle too officious to suit me, but Ogalalla
is a cow-town after my own heart. They're a law unto themselves
up there, and a cowman stands some show--a good one against
thieves. Ogalalla is the seat of an organized county, and the
town has officers, it's true, but they've got sense enough to
know which side their bread's buttered on; and a cowman who's on
the square has nothing to fear in that town. Yes, the whole gang,
Tolleston and all, are right up here at Ogalalla now; bought a
herd this week, so I hear, and expect to take two of these away
from us the moment we enter Keith County. Well, they may; I've
seen bad men before take a town, but it was only a question of
time until the plain citizens retook it. They may try to bluff
us, but if they do, we'll meet them a little over halfway. Which
one of your boys was it that licked Archie? I want to thank him
until such a time as I can reward him better."

The herd was moving out, and as Seay was working in the swing on
the opposite side, we allowed the cattle to trail past, and then
rode round and overtook him. The two had never met before, but
old man Don warmed towards Dorg, who recited his experience in
such an inimitable manner that our employer rocked in his saddle
in spasms of laughter. Leaving the two together, I rode on ahead
to look out the water, and when the herd came up near the middle
of the afternoon, they were still inseparable. The watering over,
we camped for the night several miles south of the railroad, the
mixed herd having crossed it about noon. My guest of the past few
days had come to a point requiring a decision and was in a
quandary to know what to do. But when the situation had been
thoroughly reviewed between Mr. Lovell and the Wyoming man, my
advice was indorsed,--to trust implicitly to his corporal, and be
ready to relieve the outfit at the Platte. Saddles were
accordingly shifted, and the stranger, after professing a
profusion of thanks, rode away on the livery horse by which my
employer had arrived. Once the man was well out of hearing, the
old trail drover turned to my outfit and said:

"Boys, there goes a warning that the days of the trail are
numbered. To make a success of any business, a little common
sense is necessary. Nine tenths of the investing in cattle to-day
in the Northwest is being done by inexperienced men. No other
line of business could prosper in such incompetent hands, and
it's foolish to think that cattle companies and individuals,
nearly all tenderfeet at the business, can succeed. They may for
a time,--there are accidents in every calling,--but when the tide
turns, there won't be one man or company in ten survive. I only
wish they would, as it means life and expansion for the cattle
interests in Texas. As long as the boom continues, and foreigners
and tenderfeet pour their money in, the business will look
prosperous. Why, even the business men are selling out their
stores and going into cattle. But there's a day of reckoning
ahead, and there's many a cowman in this Northwest country who
will never see his money again. Now the government demand is a
healthy one: it needs the cattle for Indian and military
purposes; but this crazy investment, especially in she stuff, I
wouldn't risk a dollar in it."

During the conversation that evening, I was delighted to learn
that my employer expected to accompany the herds overland to
Ogalalla. There was nothing pressing elsewhere, and as all the
other outfits were within a short day's ride in the rear, he
could choose his abode. He was too good a cowman to interfere
with the management of cattle, and the pleasure of his company,
when in good humor, was to be desired. The next morning a horse
was furnished him from our extras, and after seeing us safely
across the railroad track, he turned back to meet Forrest or
Sponsilier. This was the last we saw of him until after crossing
into Nebraska. In the mean time my boys kept an eye on the
Mexican outfit in our front, scarcely a day passing but what we
sighted them either in person or by signal. Once they dropped
back opposite us on the western side of the trail, when
Cedardall, under the pretense of hunting lost horses, visited
their camp, finding them contented and enjoying a lay-over. They
were impatient to know the distance to the Rio Platte, and G--G
assured them that within a week they would see its muddy waters
and be relieved. Thus encouraged they held the lead, but several
times vaqueros dropped back to make inquiries of drives and the
water. The route was passable, with a short dry drive from the
head of Stinking Water across to the Platte River, of which they
were fully advised. Keeping them in sight, we trailed along
leisurely, and as we went down the northern slope of the divide
approaching the Republican River, we were overtaken at noon by
Don Lovell and Dave Sponsilier.

"Quirk," said the old man, as the two dismounted, "I was just
telling Dave that twenty years ago this summer I carried a musket
with Sherman in his march to the sea. And here we are to-day,
driving beef to feed the army in the West. But that's neither
here nor there under the present programme. Jim Flood and I have
talked matters over pretty thoroughly, and have decided to switch
the foremen on the 'Open A' and 'Drooping T' cattle until after
Ogalalla is passed. From their actions at Dodge, it is probable
that they will try and arrest the foreman of those two herds as
accessory under some charge or other. By shifting the foremen,
even if the ones in charge are detained, we will gain time and be
able to push the Buford cattle across the North Platte. The
chances are that they will prefer some charges against me, and if
they do, if necessary, we will all go to the lock-up together.
They may have spotters ahead here on the Republican; Dave will
take charge of your 'Open A's' at once, and you will drop back
and follow up with his cattle. For the time being and to every
stranger, you two will exchange names. The Rebel is in charge of
Forrest's cattle now, and Quince will drop back with Paul's herd.
Dave, here, gave me the slip on crossing the Texas Pacific in the
lower country, but when we reach the Union Pacific, I want to
know where he is, even if in jail. And I may be right there with
him, but we'll live high, for I've got a lot of their money."

Sponsilier reported his herd on the same side of the trail and
about ten miles to our rear. I had no objection to the change,
for those arid plains were still to be preferred to the lock-up
in Ogalalla. My only regret was in temporarily losing my mount;
but as Dave's horses were nearly as good, no objection was urged,
and promising, in case either landed in jail, to send flowers, I
turned back, leaving my employer with the lead herd. Before
starting, I learned that the "Drooping T" cattle were in advance
of Sponsilier's, and as I soldiered along on my way back, rode
several miles out of my way to console my old bunkie, The Rebel.
He took my chaffing good-naturedly and assured me that his gray
hairs were a badge of innocence which would excuse him on any
charge. Turning, I rode back with him over a mile, this being my
first opportunity of seeing Forrest's beeves. The steers were
large and rangy, extremely uniform in ages and weight, and in
general relieved me of considerable conceit that I had the best
herd among the Buford cattle. With my vanity eased, I continued
my journey and reached Sponsilier's beeves while they were
watering. Again a surprise was in store for me, as the latter
herd had, if any, the edge over the other two, while "The Apple"
was by all odds the prettiest road brand I had ever seen. I asked
the acting segundo, a lad named Tupps, who cut the cattle when
receiving; light was thrown on the situation by his reply.

"Old man Don joined the outfit the day we reached Uvalde," said
he, "and until we began receiving, he poured it into our foreman
that this year the cattle had to be something extra--muy
escogido, as the Mexicans say. Well, the result was that
Sponsilier went to work with ideas pitched rather high. But in
the first bunch received, the old man cut a pretty little
four-year-old, fully a hundred pounds too light. Dave and Mr.
Lovell had a set-to over the beef, the old man refusing to cut
him back, but he rode out of the herd and never again offered to
interfere. Forrest was present, and at dinner that day old man
Don admitted that he was too easy when receiving. Sponsilier and
Forrest did the trimming afterward, and that is the secret of
these two herds being so uniform."

A general halt was called at the head of Stinking Water. We were
then within forty miles of Ogalalla, and a day's drive would put
us within the jurisdiction of Keith County. Some time was lost at
this last water, waiting for the rear herds to arrive, as it was
the intention to place the "Open A" and "Drooping T" cattle at
the rear in crossing this dry belt. At the ford on the
Republican, a number of strangers were noticed, two of whom rode
a mile or more with me, and innocently asked numerous but leading
questions. I frankly answered every inquiry, and truthfully, with
the exception of the names of the lead foreman and my own.
Direct, it was only sixty miles from the crossing on the
Republican to Ogalalla, an easy night's ride, and I was conscious
that our whereabouts would be known at the latter place the next
morning. For several days before starting across this arid
stretch, we had watered at ten o'clock in the morning, so when
Flood and Forrest came up, mine being the third herd to reach the
last water, I was all ready to pull out. But old man Don
counseled another day's lie-over, as it would be a sore trial for
the herds under a July sun, and for a full day twenty thousand
beeves grazed in sight of each other on the mesas surrounding the
head of Stinking Water. All the herds were aroused with the dawn,
and after a few hours' sun on the cattle, the Indian beeves were
turned onto the water and held until the middle of the forenoon,
when the start was made for the Platte and Ogalalla.

I led out with "The Apple" cattle, throwing onto the trail for
the first ten miles, which put me well in advance of Bob Quirk
and Forrest, who were in my immediate rear. A well-known divide
marked the halfway between the two waters, and I was determined
to camp on it that night. It was fully nine o'clock when we
reached it, Don Lovell in the mean time having overtaken us. This
watershed was also recognized as the line of Keith County, an
organized community, and the next morning expectation ran high as
to what the day would bring forth. Lovell insisted on staying
with the lead herd, and pressing him in as horse-wrangler, I sent
him in the lead with the remuda and wagon, while Levering fell
into the swing with the trailing cattle. A breakfast halt was
made fully seven miles from the bed-ground, a change of mounts,
and then up divide, across mesa, and down slope at the foot of
which ran the Platte. Meanwhile several wayfaring men were met,
but in order to avoid our dust, they took the right or unbranded
side of our herd on meeting, and passed on their way without
inquiry. Near noon a party of six men, driving a number of loose
mounts and a pack-horse, were met, who also took the windward
side. Our dragmen learned that they were on their way to Dodge to
receive a herd of range horses. But when about halfway down the
slope towards the river, two mounted men were seen to halt the
remuda and wagon for a minute, and then continue on southward.
Billy Tupps was on the left point, myself next in the swing; and
as the two horsemen turned out on the branded side, their
identity was suspected. In reply to some inquiry, Tupps jerked
his thumb over his shoulder as much as to say, "Next man." I
turned out and met the strangers, who had already noted the road
brand, and politely answered every question. One of the two
offered me a cigar, and after lighting it, I did remember hearing
one of my boys say that among the herds lying over on the head of
Stinking Water was an "Open A" and "Drooping T," but I was unable
to recall the owner's or foremen's names. Complimenting me on the
condition of my beeves, and assuring me that I would have time to
water my herd and reach the mesa beyond Ogalalla, they passed on
down the column of cattle.

I had given the cook an order on an outfitting house for new
supplies, saying I would call or send a draft in the morning. A
new bridge had been built across the Platte opposite the town,
and when nearing the river, the commissary turned off the trail
for it, but the horse-wrangler for the day gave the bridge a wide
berth and crossed the stream a mile below the village. The width
of the river was a decided advantage in watering a thirsty herd,
as it gave the cattle room to thrash around, filling its broad
bed for fully a half mile. Fortunately there were few spectators,
but I kept my eye on the lookout for a certain faction, being
well disguised with dust and dirt and a month's growth of beard.
As we pushed out of the river and were crossing the tracks below
the railroad yards, two other herds were sighted coming down to
the water, their remudas having forded above and below our
cattle. On scaling the bluffs, we could see the trail south of
the Platte on which arose a great column of dust. Lovell was
waiting with the saddle stock in the hills beyond the town, and
on striking the first good grass, the cattle fell to grazing
while we halted to await the arrival of the wagon. The sun was
still several hours high, and while waiting for our commissary to
come up, my employer and myself rode to the nearest point of
observation to reconnoitre the rear. Beneath us lay the hamlet;
but our eyes were concentrated beyond the narrow Platte valley on
a dust-cloud which hung midway down the farther slope. As we
watched, an occasional breeze wafted the dust aside, and the
sinuous outline of a herd creeping forward greeted our vision.
Below the town were two other herds, distinctly separate and
filling the river for over a mile with a surging mass of animals,
while in every direction cattle dotted the plain and valley.
Turning aside from the panorama before us, my employer said:

"Tom, you will have time to graze out a few miles and camp to the
left of the trail. I'll stay here and hurry your wagon forward,
and wait for Bob and Quince. That lead herd beyond the river is
bound to be Jim's, and he's due to camp on this mesa to-night, so
these outfits must give him room. If Dave and Paul are still free
to act, they'll know enough to water and camp on the south side
of the Platte. I'll stay at Flood's wagon to-night, and you had
better send a couple of your boys into town and let them nose
around. They'll meet lads from the 'Open A' and 'Drooping T'
outfits; and I'll send Jim and Bob in, and by midnight we'll have
a report of what's been done. If any one but an officer takes
possession of those two herds, it'll put us to the trouble of
retaking them. And I think I've got men enough here to do it."


It was an hour after the usual time when we bedded down the
cattle. The wagon had overtaken us about sunset, and the cook's
fire piloted us into a camp fully two miles to the right of the
trail. A change of horses was awaiting us, and after a hasty
supper Tupps detailed two young fellows to visit Ogalalla. It
required no urging; I outlined clearly what was expected of their
mission, requesting them to return by the way of Flood's wagon,
and to receive any orders which my employer might see fit to
send. The horse-wrangler was pressed in to stand the guard of one
of the absent lads on the second watch, and I agreed to take the
other, which fell in the third. The boys had not yet returned
when our guard was called, but did so shortly afterward, one of
them hunting me up on night-herd.

"Well," said he, turning his horse and circling with me, "we
caught onto everything that was adrift. The Rebel and Sponsilier
were both in town, in charge of two deputies. Flood and your
brother went in with us, and with the lads from the other
outfits, including those across the river, there must have been
twenty-five of Lovell's men in town. I noticed that Dave and The
Rebel were still wearing their six-shooters, while among the boys
the arrests were looked upon as quite a joke. The two deputies
had all kinds of money, and wouldn't allow no one but themselves
to spend a cent. The biggest one of the two--the one who gave you
the cigar--would say to my boss: 'Sponsilier, you're a trail
foreman from Texas--one of Don Lovell's boss men--but you're
under arrest; your cattle are in my possession this very minute.
You understand that, don't you? Very well, then; everybody come
up and have a drink on the sheriff's office.' That was about the
talk in every saloon and dance-hall visited. But when we proposed
starting back to camp, about midnight, the big deputy said to
Flood: 'I want you to tell Colonel Lovell that I hold a warrant
for his arrest; urge him not to put me to the trouble of coming
out after him. If he had identified himself to me this afternoon,
he could have slept on a goose-hair bed to-night instead of out
there on the mesa, on the cold ground. His reputation in this
town would entitle him to three meals a day, even if he was under
arrest. Now, we'll have one more, and tell the damned old rascal
that I'll expect him in the morning.'"

We rode out the watch together. On returning to Flood's camp,
they had found Don Lovell awake. The old man was pleased with the
report, but sent me no special word except to exercise my own
judgment. The cattle were tired after their long tramp of the day
before, the outfit were saddle weary, and the first rays of the
rising sun flooded the mesa before men or animals offered to
arise. But the duties of another day commanded us anew, and with
the cook calling us, we rose to meet them. I was favorably
impressed with Tupps as a segundo, and after breakfast suggested
that he graze the cattle over to the North Platte, cross it, and
make a permanent camp. This was agreed to, half the men were
excused for the day, and after designating, beyond the river, a
clump of cottonwoods where the wagon would be found, seven of us
turned and rode back for Ogalalla. With picked mounts under us,
we avoided the other cattle which could be seen grazing
northward, and when fully halfway to town, there before us on the
brink of the mesa loomed up the lead of a herd. I soon recognized
Jack Splann on the point, and taking a wide circle, dropped in
behind him, the column stretching back a mile and coming up the
bluffs, forty abreast like an army in loose marching order. I was
proud of those "Open A's;" they were my first herd, and though in
a hurry to reach town, I turned and rode back with them for fully
a mile.

Splann was acting under orders from Flood, who had met him at the
ford that morning. If the cattle were in the possession of any
deputy sheriff, they had failed to notify Jack, and the latter
had already started for the North Platte of his own accord. The
"Drooping T" cattle were in the immediate rear under Forrest's
segundo, and Splann urged me to accompany him that forenoon,
saying: "From what the boys said this morning, Dave and Paul will
not be given a hearing until two o'clock this afternoon. I can
graze beyond the North Fork by that time, and then we'll all go
back together. Flood's right behind here with the 'Drooping T's,'
and I think it's his intention to go all the way to the river.
Drop back and see him."

The boys who were with me never halted, but had ridden on towards
town. When the second herd began the ascent of the mesa, I left
Splann and turned back, waiting on the brink for its arrival. As
it would take the lead cattle some time to reach me, I
dismounted, resting in the shade of my horse. But my rest was
brief, for the clattering hoofs of a cavalcade of horsemen were
approaching, and as I arose, Quince Forrest and Bob Quirk with a
dozen or more men dashed up and halted. As their herds were
intended for the Crow and Fort Washakie agencies, they would
naturally follow up the south side of the North Platte, and an
hour or two of grazing would put them in camp. The Buford cattle,
as well as Flood's herd, were due to cross this North Fork of the
mother Platte within ten miles of Ogalalla, their respective
routes thenceforth being north and northeast. Forrest, like
myself, was somewhat leary of entering the town, and my brother
and the boys passed on shortly, leaving Quince behind. We
discussed every possible phase of what might happen in case we
were recognized, which was almost certain if Tolleston or the
Dodge buyers were encountered. But an overweening hunger to get
into Ogalalla was dominant in us, and under the excuse of
settling for our supplies, after the herd passed, we remounted
our horses, Flood joining us, and rode for the hamlet.

There was little external and no moral change in the town.
Several new saloons had opened, and in anticipation of the large
drive that year, the Dew-Drop-In dance-hall had been enlarged,
and employed three shifts of bartenders. A stage had been added
with the new addition, and a special importation of ladies had
been brought out from Omaha for the season. I use the term LADIES
advisedly, for in my presence one of the proprietors, with marked
courtesy, said to an Eastern stranger, "Oh, no, you need no
introduction. My wife is the only woman in town; all the balance
are ladies." Beyond a shave and a hair-cut, Forrest and I fought
shy of public places. But after the supplies were settled for,
and some new clothing was secured, we chambered a few drinks and
swaggered about with considerable ado. My bill of supplies
amounted to one hundred and twenty-six dollars, and when, without
a word, I drew a draft for the amount, the proprietor of the
outfitting store, as a pelon, made me a present of two fine silk

Forrest was treated likewise, and having invested ourselves in
white shirts, with flaming red ties, we used the new
handkerchiefs to otherwise decorate our persons. We had both
chosen the brightest colors, and with these knotted about our
necks, dangling from pistol-pockets, or protruding from ruffled
shirt fronts, our own mothers would scarcely have known us. Jim
Flood, whom we met casually on a back street, stopped, and after
circling us once, said, "Now if you fellows just keep perfectly
sober, your disguise will be complete."

Meanwhile Don Lovell had reported at an early hour to the
sheriff's office. The legal profession was represented in
Ogalalla by several firms, criminal practice being their
specialty; but fortunately Mike Sutton, an attorney of Dodge, had
arrived in town the day before on a legal errand for another
trail drover. Sutton was a frontier advocate, alike popular with
the Texas element and the gambling fraternity, having achieved
laurels in his home town as a criminal lawyer. Mike was born on
the little green isle beyond the sea, and, gifted with the Celtic
wit, was also in logic clear as the tones of a bell, while his
insight into human motives was almost superhuman. Lovell had had
occasion in other years to rely on Sutton's counsel, and now
would listen to no refusal of his services. As it turned out, the
lawyer's mission in Ogalalla was so closely in sympathy with
Lovell's trouble that they naturally strengthened each other. The
highest tribunal of justice in Ogalalla was the county court, the
judge of which also ran the stock-yards during the shipping
season, and was banker for two monte games at the Lone Star
saloon. He enjoyed the reputation of being an honest, fearless
jurist, and supported by a growing civic pride, his decisions
gave satisfaction. A sense of crude equity governed his rulings,
and as one of the citizens remarked, "Whatever the judge said,
went." It should be remembered that this was in '84, but had a
similar trouble occurred five years earlier, it is likely that
Judge Colt would have figured in the preliminaries, and the
coroner might have been called on to impanel a jury. But the
rudiments of civilization were sweeping westward, and Ogalalla
was nerved to the importance of the occasion; for that very
afternoon a hearing was to be given for the possession of two
herds of cattle, valued at over a quarter-million dollars.

The representatives of The Western Supply Company were quartered
in the largest hotel in town, but seldom appeared on the streets.
They had employed a firm of local attorneys, consisting of an old
and a young man, both of whom evidently believed in the justice
of their client's cause. All the cattle-hands in Lovell's employ
were anxious to get a glimpse of Tolleston, many of them
patronizing the bar and table of the same hostelry, but their
efforts were futile until the hour arrived for the hearing. They
probably have a new court-house in Ogalalla now, but at the date
of this chronicle the building which served as a temple of
justice was poorly proportioned, its height being entirely out of
relation to its width. It was a two-story affair, the lower floor
being used for county offices, the upper one as the court-room. A
long stairway ran up the outside of the building, landing on a
gallery in front, from which the sheriff announced the sitting of
the honorable court of Keith County. At home in Texas, lawsuits
were so rare that though I was a grown man, the novelty of this
one absorbed me. Quite a large crowd had gathered in advance of
the hour, and while awaiting the arrival of Judge Mulqueen, a
contingent of fifteen men from the two herds in question rode up
and halted in front of the court-house. Forrest and I were lying
low, not caring to be seen, when the three plaintiffs, the two
local attorneys, and Tolleston put in an appearance. The
cavalcade had not yet dismounted, and when Dorg Seay caught sight
of Tolleston, he stood up in his stirrups and sang out, "Hello
there, Archibald! my old college chum, how goes it?"

Judge Mulqueen had evidently dressed for the occasion, for with
the exception of the plaintiffs, he was the only man in the
court-room who wore a coat. The afternoon was a sultry one; in
that first bottom of the Platte there was scarcely a breath of
air, and collars wilted limp as rags. Neither map nor chart
graced the unplastered walls, the unpainted furniture of the room
was sadly in need of repair, while a musty odor permeated the
room. Outside the railing the seating capacity of the court-room
was rather small, rough, bare planks serving for seats, but the
spectators gladly stood along the sides and rear, eager to catch
every word, as they silently mopped the sweat which oozed alike
from citizen and cattleman. Forrest and I were concealed in the
rear, which was packed with Lovell's boys, when the judge walked
in and court opened for the hearing. Judge Mulqueen requested
counsel on either side to be as brief and direct as possible,
both in their pleadings and testimony, adding: "If they reach the
stock-yards in time, I may have to load out a train of feeders
this evening. We'll bed the cars, anyhow." Turning to the
sheriff, he continued: "Frank, if you happen outside, keep an eye
up the river; those Lincoln feeders made a deal yesterday for
five hundred three-year-olds.--Read your complaint."

The legal document was read with great fervor and energy by the
younger of the two local lawyers. In the main it reviewed the
situation correctly, every point, however, being made subservient
to their object,--the possession of the cattle. The plaintiffs
contended that they were the innocent holders of the original
contract between the government and The Western Supply Company,
properly assigned; that they had purchased these two herds in
question, had paid earnest-money to the amount of sixty-five
thousand dollars on the same, and concluded by petitioning the
court for possession. Sutton arose, counseled a moment with
Lovell, and borrowing a chew of tobacco from Sponsilier,
leisurely addressed the court.

"I shall not trouble your honor by reading our reply in full, but
briefly state its contents," said he, in substance. "We admit
that the herds in question, which have been correctly described
by road brands and ages, are the property of my client. We
further admit that the two trail foremen here under arrest as
accessories were acting under the orders of their employer, who
assumes all responsibility for their acts, and in our pleadings
we ask this honorable court to discharge them from further
detention. The earnest-money, said to have been paid on these
herds, is correct to a cent, and we admit having the amount in
our possession. But," and the little advocate's voice rose, rich
in its Irish brogue, "we deny any assignment of the original
contract. The Western Supply Company is a corporation name, a
shield and fence of thieves. The plaintiffs here can claim no
assignment, because they themselves constitute the company. It
has been decided that a man cannot steal his own money, neither
can he assign from himself to himself. We shall prove by a
credible witness that The Western Supply Company is but another
name for John C. Fields, Oliver Radcliff, and the portly
gentleman who was known a year ago as 'Honest' John Griscom, one
of his many aliases. If to these names you add a few moneyed
confederates, you have The Western Supply Company, one and the
same. We shall also prove that for years past these same
gentlemen have belonged to a ring, all brokers in government
contracts, and frequently finding it necessary to use assumed
names, generally that of a corporation."

Scanning the document in his hand, Sutton continued: "Our motive
in selling and accepting money on these herds in Dodge demands a
word of explanation. The original contract calls for five million
pounds of beef on foot to be delivered at Fort Buford. My client
is a sub-contractor under that award. There are times, your
honor, when it becomes necessary to resort to questionable means
to attain an end. This is one of them. Within a week after my
client had given bonds for the fulfillment of his contract, he
made the discovery that he was dealing with a double-faced set of
scoundrels. From that day until the present moment,
secret-service men have shadowed every action of the plaintiffs.
My client has anticipated their every move. When beeves broke in
price from five to seven dollars a head, Honest John, here, made
his boasts in Washington City over a champagne supper that he and
his associates would clear one hundred thousand dollars on their
Buford contract. Let us reason together how this could be done.
The Western Supply Company refused, even when offered a bonus, to
assign their contract to my client. But they were perfectly
willing to transfer it, from themselves as a corporation, to
themselves as individuals, even though they had previously given
Don Lovell a subcontract for the delivery of the beees. The
original award was made seven months ago, and the depreciation in
cattle since is the secret of why the frog eat the cabbage. My
client is under the necessity of tendering his cattle on the day
of delivery, and proposes to hold this earnest-money to indemnify
himself in case of an adverse decision at Fort Buford. It is the
only thing he can do, as The Western Supply Company is execution
proof, its assets consisting of some stud-horse office furniture
and a corporate seal. On the other hand, Don Lovell is rated at
half a million, mostly in pasture lands; is a citizen of Medina
County, Texas, and if these gentlemen have any grievance, let
them go there and sue him. A judgment against my client is good.
Now, your honor, you have our side of the question. To be brief,
shall these old Wisinsteins come out here from Washington City
and dispossess any man of his property? There is but one
answer--not in the Republic of Keith."

All three of the plaintiffs took the stand, their testimony
supporting the complaint, Lovell's attorney refusing even to
cross-examine any one of them. When they rested their case Sutton
arose, and scanning the audience for some time, inquired, "Is Jim
Reed there?" In response, a tall, one-armed man worked his way
from the outer gallery through the crowd and advanced to the
rail. I knew Reed by sight only, my middle brother having made
several trips with his trail cattle, but he was known to every
one by reputation. He had lost an arm in the Confederate service,
and was recognized by the gambling fraternity as the gamest man
among all the trail drovers, while every cowman from the Rio
Grande to the Yellowstone knew him as a poker-player. Reed was
asked to take the stand, and when questioned if he knew either of
the plaintiffs, said:

"Yes, I know that fat gentleman, and I'm powerful glad to meet up
with him again," replied the witness, designating Honest John.
"That man is so crooked that he can't sleep in a bed, and it's
one of the wonders of this country that he hasn't stretched hemp
before this. I made his acquaintance as manager of The Federal
Supply Company, and delivered three thousand cows to him at the
Washita Indian Agency last fall. In the final settlement, he drew
on three different banks, and one draft of twenty-eight thousand
dollars came back, indorsed, DRAWEE UNKNOWN. I had other herds on
the trail to look after, and it was a month before I found out
that the check was bogus, by which time Honest John had sailed
for Europe. There was nothing could be done but put my claim into
a judgment and lay for him. But I've got a grapevine twist on him
now, for no sooner did he buy a herd here last week than Mr.
Sutton transferred the judgment to this jurisdiction, and his
cattle will be attached this afternoon. I've been on his trail
for nearly a year, but he'll come to me now, and before he can
move his beeves out of this county, the last cent must come, with
interest, attorney's fees, detective bills, and remuneration for
my own time and trouble. That's the reason that I'm so glad to
meet him. Judge, I've gone to the trouble and expense to get his
record for the last ten years. He's so snaky he sheds his name
yearly, shifting for a nickname from Honest John to The Quaker.
In '80 he and his associates did business under the name of The
Army & Sutler Supply Company, and I know of two judgments that
can be bought very reasonable against that corporation. His
record would convince any one that he despises to make an honest

The older of the two attorneys for the plaintiffs asked a few
questions, but the replies were so unsatisfactory to their side,
that they soon passed the witness. During the cross-questioning,
however, the sheriff had approached the judge and whispered
something to his honor. As there were no further witnesses to be
examined, the local attorneys insisted on arguing the case, but
Judge Mulqueen frowned them down, saying:

"This court sees no occasion for any argument in the present
case. You might spout until you were black in the face and it
wouldn't change my opinion any; besides I've got twenty cars to
send and a train of cattle to load out this evening. This court
refuses to interfere with the herds in question, at present the
property of and in possession of Don Lovell, who, together with
his men, are discharged from custody. If you're in town to-night,
Mr. Reed, drop into the Lone Star. Couple of nice monte games
running there; hundred-dollar limit, and if you feel lucky,
there's a nice bank roll behind them. Adjourn court, Mr.


"Keep away from me, you common cow-hands," said Sponsilier, as a
group of us waited for him at the foot of the court-house stairs.
But Dave's gravity soon turned to a smile as he continued: "Did
you fellows notice The Rebel and me sitting inside the rail among
all the big augers? Paul, was it a dream, or did we sleep in a
bed last night and have a sure-enough pillow under our heads? My
memory is kind of hazy to-day, but I remember the drinks and the
cigars all right, and saying to some one that this luck was too
good to last. And here we are turned out in the cold world again,
our fun all over, and now must go back to those measly cattle.
But it's just what I expected."

The crowd dispersed quietly, though the sheriff took the
precaution to accompany the plaintiffs and Tolleston back to
their hotel. The absence of the two deputies whom we had met the
day before was explained by the testimony of the one-armed
cowman. When the two drovers came downstairs, they were talking
very confidentially together, and on my employer noticing the
large number of his men present, he gave orders for them to meet
him at once at the White Elephant saloon. Those who had horses at
hand mounted and dashed down the street, while the rest of us
took it leisurely around to the appointed rendezvous, some three
blocks distant. While on the way, I learned from The Rebel that
the cattle on which the attachment was to be made that afternoon
were then being held well up the North Fork. Sheriff Phillips
joined us shortly after we entered the saloon, and informed my
employer and Mr. Reed that the firm of Field, Radcliff & Co. had
declared war. They had even denounced him and the sheriff's
office as being in collusion against them, and had dispatched
Tolleston with orders to refuse service.

"Let them get on the prod all they want to," said Don Lovell to
Reed and the sheriff. "I've got ninety men here, and you fellows
are welcome to half of them, even if I have to go out and stand a
watch on night-herd myself. Reed, we can't afford to have our
business ruined by such a set of scoundrels, and we might as well
fight it out here and now. Look at the situation I'm in. A
hundred thousand dollars wouldn't indemnify me in having my
cattle refused as late as the middle of September at Fort Buford.
And believing that I will be turned down, under my contract, so
Sutton says, I must tender my beeves on the appointed day of
delivery, which will absolve my bondsmen and me from all
liability. A man can't trifle with the government--the cattle
must be there. Now in my case, Jim, what would you do?"

"That's a hard question, Don. You see we're strangers up in this
Northwest country. Now, if it was home in Texas, there would be
only one thing to do. Of course I'm no longer handy with a
shotgun, but you've got two good arms."

"Well, gentlemen," said the sheriff, "you must excuse me for
interrupting, but if my deputies are to take possession of that
herd this afternoon, I must saddle up and go to the front. If
Honest John and associates try to stand up any bluffs on my
office, they'll only run on the rope once. I'm much obliged to
you, Mr. Lovell, for the assurance of any help I may need, for
it's quite likely that I may have to call upon you. If a ring of
government speculators can come out here and refuse service, or
dictate to my office, then old Keith County is certainly on the
verge of decadence. Now, I'll be all ready to start for the North
Fork in fifteen minutes, and I'd admire to have you all go

Lovell and Reed both expressed a willingness to accompany the
sheriff. Phillips thanked them and nodded to the force behind the
mahogany, who dexterously slid the glasses up and down the bar,
and politely inquired of the double row confronting them as to
their tastes. As this was the third round since entering the
place, I was anxious to get away, and summoning Forrest, we
started for our horses. We had left them at a barn on a back
street, but before reaching the livery, Quince concluded that he
needed a few more cartridges. I had ordered a hundred the day
before for my own personal use, but they had been sent out with
the supplies and were then in camp. My own belt was filled with
ammunition, but on Forrest buying fifty, I took an equal number,
and after starting out of the store, both turned back and doubled
our purchases. On arriving at the stable, whom should I meet but
the Wyoming cowman who had left us at Grinnell. During the few
minutes in which I was compelled to listen to his troubles, he
informed me that on his arrival at Ogalalla, all the surplus
cow-hands had been engaged by a man named Tolleston for the
Yellowstone country. He had sent to his ranch, however, for an
outfit who would arrive that evening, and he expected to start
his herd the next morning. But without wasting any words, Forrest
and I swung into our saddles, waved a farewell to the wayfaring
acquaintance, and rode around to the White Elephant. The sheriff
and quite a cavalcade of our boys had already started, and on
reaching the street which terminated in the only road leading to
the North Fork, we were halted by Flood to await the arrival of
the others. Jim Reed and my employer were still behind, and some
little time was lost before they came up, sufficient to give the
sheriff a full half-mile start. But under the leadership of the
two drovers, we shook out our horses, and the advance cavalcade
were soon overtaken.

"Well, Mr. Sheriff," said old man Don, as he reined in beside
Phillips, "how do you like the looks of this for a posse? I'll
vouch that they're all good cow-hands, and if you want to
deputize the whole works, why, just work your rabbit's foot. You
might leave Reed and me out, but I think there's some forty odd
without us. Jim and I are getting a little too old, but we'll
hang around and run errands and do the clerking. I'm perfectly
willing to waste a week, and remember that we've got the chuck
and nearly a thousand saddle horses right over here on the North
Fork. You can move your office out to one of my wagons if you
wish, and whatever's mine is yours, just so long as Honest John
and his friends pay the fiddler. If he and his associates are
going to make one hundred thousand dollars on the Buford
contract, one thing is certain--I'll lose plenty of money on this
year's drive. If he refuses service and you take possession, your
office will be perfectly justified in putting a good force of men
with the herd. And at ten dollars a day for a man and horse,
they'll soon get sick and Reed will get his pay. If I have to
hold the sack in the end, I don't want any company."

The location of the beeves was about twelve miles from town and
but a short distance above the herds of The Rebel and Bob Quirk.
It was nearly four o'clock when we left the hamlet, and by
striking a free gait, we covered the intervening distance in less
than an hour and a half. The mesa between the two rivers was
covered with through cattle, and as we neared the herd in
question, we were met by the larger one of the two chief
deputies. The undersheriff was on his way to town, but on
sighting his superior among us, he halted and a conference
ensued. Sponsilier and Priest made a great ado over the big
deputy on meeting, and after a few inquiries were exchanged, the
latter turned to Sheriff Phillips and said:

"Well, we served the papers and I left the other two boys in
temporary possession of the cattle. It's a badly mixed-up affair.
The Texas foreman is still in charge, and he seems like a
reasonable fellow. The terms of the sale were to be half cash
here and the balance at the point of delivery. But the buyers
only paid forty thousand down, and the trail boss refuses to
start until they make good their agreement. From what I could
gather from the foreman, the buyers simply buffaloed the young
fellow out of his beeves, and are now hanging back for more
favorable terms. He accepted service all right and assured me
that our men would be welcome at his wagon until further notice,
so I left matters just as I found them. But as I was on the point
of leaving, that segundo of the buyers arrived and tried to stir
up a little trouble. We all sat down on him rather hard, and as I
left he and the Texas foreman were holding quite a big pow-wow."

"That's Tolleston all right," said old man Don, "and you can
depend on him stirring up a muss if there's any show. It's a
mystery to me how I tolerated that fellow as long as I did. If
some of you boys will corner and hold him for me, I'd enjoy
reading his title to him in a few plain words. It's due him, and
I want to pay everything I owe. What's the programme, Mr.

"The only safe thing to do is to get full possession of the
cattle," replied Phillips. "My deputies are all right, but they
don't thoroughly understand the situation. Mr. Lovell, if you can
lend me ten men, I'll take charge of the herd at once and move
them back down the river about seven miles. They're entirely too
near the west line of the county to suit me, and once they're in
our custody the money will be forthcoming, or the expenses will
mount up rapidly. Let's ride."

The under-sheriff turned back with us. A swell of the mesa cut
off a view of the herd, but under the leadership of the deputy we
rode to its summit, and there before and under us were both camp
and cattle. Arriving at the wagon, Phillips very politely
informed the Texas foreman that he would have to take full
possession of his beeves for a few days, or until the present
difficulties were adjusted. The trail boss was a young fellow of
possibly thirty, and met the sheriff's demand with several
questions, but, on being assured that his employer's equity in
the herd would be fully protected without expense, he offered no
serious objection. It developed that Reed had some slight
acquaintance with the seller of the cattle, and lost no time in
informing the trail boss of the record of the parties with whom
his employer was dealing. The one-armed drover's language was
plain, the foreman knew Reed by reputation, and when Lovell
assured the young man that he would be welcome at any of his
wagons, and would be perfectly at liberty to see that his herd
was properly cared for, he yielded without a word. My sympathies
were with the foreman, for he seemed an honest fellow, and
deliberately to take his herd from him, to my impulsive reasoning
looked like an injustice. But the sheriff and those two old
cowmen were determined, and the young fellow probably acted for
the best in making a graceful surrender.

Meanwhile the two deputies in charge failed to materialize, and
on inquiry they were reported as out at the herd with Tolleston.
The foreman accompanied us to the cattle, and while on the way he
informed the sheriff that he wished to count the beeves over to
him and take a receipt for the same. Phillips hesitated, as he
was no cowman, but Reed spoke up and insisted that it was fair
and just, saying: "Of course, you'll count the cattle and give
him a receipt in numbers, ages, and brands. It's not this young
man's fault that his herd must undergo all this trouble, and when
he turns them over to an officer of the law he ought to have
something to show for it. Any of Lovell's foremen here will count
them to a hair for you, and Don and I will witness the receipt,
which will make it good among cowmen."

Without loss of time the herd was started east. Tolleston kept
well out of reach of my employer, and besought every one to know
what this movement meant. But when the trail boss and Jim Flood
rode out to a swell of ground ahead, and the point-men began
filing the column through between the two foremen, Archie was
sagacious enough to know that the count meant something serious.
In the mean time Bob Quirk had favored Tolleston with his
company, and when the count was nearly half over, my brother
quietly informed him that the sheriff was taking possession. Once
the atmosphere cleared, Archie grew uneasy and restless, and as
the last few hundred beeves were passing the counters, he
suddenly concluded to return to Ogalalla. But my brother urged
him not to think of going until he had met his former employer,
assuring Tolleston that the old man had made inquiry about and
was anxious to meet him. The latter, however, could not remember
anything of urgent importance between them, and pleaded the
lateness of the hour and the necessity of his immediate return to
town. The more urgent Bob Quirk became, the more fidgety grew
Archie. The last of the cattle were passing the count as
Tolleston turned away from my brother's entreaty, and giving his
horse the rowel, started off on a gallop. But there was a
scattering field of horsemen to pass, and before the parting
guest could clear it, a half-dozen ropes circled in the air and
deftly settled over his horse's neck and himself, one of which
pinioned his arms. The boys were expecting something of this
nature, and fully half the men in Lovell's employ galloped up and
formed a circle around the captive, now livid with rage. Archie
was cursing by both note and rhyme, and had managed to unearth a
knife and was trying to cut the lassos which fettered himself and
horse, when Dorg Seay rode in and rapped him over the knuckles
with a six-shooter, saying, "Don't do that, sweetheart; those
ropes cost thirty-five cents apiece."

Fortunately the knife was knocked from Tolleston's hand and his
six-shooter secured, rendering him powerless to inflict injury to
any one. The cattle count had ended, and escorted by a cordon of
mounted men, both horse and captive were led over to where a
contingent had gathered around to hear the result of the count. I
was merely a delighted spectator, and as the other men turned
from the cattle and met us, Lovell languidly threw one leg over
his horse's neck, and, suppressing a smile, greeted his old

"Hello, Archie," said he; "it's been some little time since last
we met. I've been hearing some bad reports about you, and was
anxious to meet up and talk matters over. Boys, take those ropes
off his horse and give him back his irons; I raised this man and
made him the cow-hand he is, and there's nothing so serious
between us that we should remain strangers. Now, Archie, I want
you to know that you are in the employ of my enemies, who are as
big a set of scoundrels as ever missed a halter. You and Flood,
here, were the only two men in my employ who knew all the facts
in regard to the Buford contract. And just because I wouldn't
favor you over a blind horse, you must hunt up the very men who
are trying to undermine me on this drive. No wonder they gave you
employment, for you're a valuable man to them; but it's at a
serious loss,--the loss of your honor. You can't go home to Texas
and again be respected among men. This outfit you are with will
promise you the earth, but the moment that they're through with
you, you won't cut any more figure than a last year's bird's
nest. They'll throw you aside like an old boot, and you'll fall
so hard that you'll hear the clock tick in China. Now, Archie, it
hurts me to see a young fellow like you go wrong, and I'm willing
to forgive the past and stretch out a hand to save you. If you'll
quit those people, you can have Flood's cattle from here to the
Rosebud Agency, or I'll buy you a ticket home and you can help
with the fall work at the ranch. You may have a day or two to
think this matter over, and whatever you decide on will be final.
You have shown little gratitude for the opportunities that I've
given you, but we'll break the old slate and start all over with
a new one. Now, that's all I wanted to say to you, except to do
your own thinking. If you're going back to town, I'll ride a
short distance with you."

The two rode away together, but halted within sight for a short
conference, after which Lovell returned. The cattle were being
drifted east by the deputies and several of our boys, the trail
boss having called off his men on an agreement of the count. The
herd had tallied out thirty-six hundred and ten head, but in
making out the receipt, the fact was developed that there were
some six hundred beeves not in the regular road brand. These had
been purchased extra from another source, and had been paid for
in full by the buyers, the seller of the main herd agreeing to
deliver them along with his own. This was fortunate, as it
increased the equity of the buyers in the cattle, and more than
established a sufficient interest to satisfy the judgment and all

Darkness was approaching, which hastened our actions. Two men
from each outfit present were detailed to hold the cattle that
night, and were sent on ahead to Priest's camp to secure their
suppers and a change of mounts. The deposed trail boss accepted
an invitation to accompany us and spend the night at one of our
wagons, and we rode away to overtake the drifting herd. The
different outfits one by one dropped out and rode for their
camps; but as mine lay east and across the river, the course of
the herd was carrying me home. After passing The Rebel's wagon
fully a half mile, we rounded in the herd, which soon lay down to
rest on the bedground. In the gathering twilight, the camp-fires
of nearly a dozen trail wagons were gleaming up and down the
river, and while we speculated with Sponsilier's boys which one
was ours, the guard arrived and took the bedded herd. The two old
cowmen and the trail boss had dropped out opposite my brother's
camp, leaving something like ten men with the attached beeves;
but on being relieved by the first watch, Flood invited Sheriff
Phillips and his deputies across the river to spend the night
with him.

"Like to, mighty well, but can't do it," replied Phillips. "The
sheriff's office is supposed to be in town, and not over on the
North Fork, but I'll leave two of these deputies with you. Some
of you had better ride in to-morrow, for there may be overtures
made looking towards a settlement; and treat those beeves well,
so that there can be no charge of damage to the cattle.
Good-night, everybody."


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 evening."

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

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 afternoon.

"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

"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."


The parting of the ways was reached. On the morning of July 12,
the different outfits in charge of Lovell's drive in '84 started
on three angles of the compass for their final destination. The
Rosebud Agency, where Flood's herd was to be delivered on
September 1, lay to the northeast in Dakota. The route was not
direct, and the herd would be forced to make quite an elbow,
touching on the different forks of the Loup in order to secure
water. The Rebel and my brother would follow up on the south side
of the North Platte until near old Fort Laramie, when their
routes would separate, the latter turning north for Montana,
while Priest would continue along the same watercourse to within
a short distance of his destination. The Buford herds would
strike due north from the first tributary putting in from above,
which we would intercept the second morning out.

An early start was the order of the day. My beeves were pushed
from the bed-ground with the first sign of dawn, and when the
relief overtook them, they were several miles back from the river
and holding a northwest course. My camp being the lowest one on
the North Fork, Forrest and Sponsilier, also starting at
daybreak, naturally took the lead, the latter having fully a
five-mile start over my outfit. But as we left the valley and
came up on the mesa, there on an angle in our front, Flood's herd
snailed along like an army brigade, anxious to dispute our
advance. The point-men veered our cattle slightly to the left,
and as the drag-end of Flood's beeves passed before us, standing
in our stirrups we waved our hats in farewell to the lads,
starting on their last tack for the Rosebud Agency. Across the
river were the dim outlines of two herds trailing upstream, being
distinguishable from numerous others by the dust-clouds which
marked the moving from the grazing cattle. The course of the
North Platte was southwest, and on the direction which we were
holding, we would strike the river again during the afternoon at
a bend some ten or twelve miles above.

Near the middle of the forenoon we were met by Hugh Morris. He
was discouraged, as it was well known now that his cattle would
be tendered in competition with ours at Fort Buford. There was no
comparison between the beeves, ours being much larger, more
uniform in weight, and in better flesh. He looked over both
Forrest's and Sponsilier's herds before meeting us, and was good
enough judge of cattle to know that his stood no chance against
ours, if they were to be received on their merits. We talked
matters over for fully an hour, and I advised him never to leave
Keith County until the last dollar in payment for his beeves was
in hand. Morris thought this was quite possible, as information
had reached him that the buyers had recently purchased a remuda,
and now, since they had failed to take possession of two of
Lovell's herds, it remained to be seen what the next move would
be. He thought it quite likely, though, that a settlement could
be effected whereby he would be relieved at Ogalalla. Mutually
hoping that all would turn out well, we parted until our paths
should cross again.

We intercepted the North Fork again during the afternoon,
watering from it for the last time, and the next morning struck
the Blue River, the expected tributary. Sponsilier maintained his
position in the lead, but I was certain when we reached the
source of the Blue, David would fall to the rear, as thenceforth
there was neither trail nor trace, map nor compass. The year
before, Forrest and I had been over the route to the Pine Ridge
Agency, and one or the other of us must take the lead across a
dry country between the present stream and tributaries of the
Niobrara. The Blue possessed the attributes of a river in name
only, and the third day up it, Sponsilier crossed the tributary
to allow either Forrest or myself to take the lead. Quince
professed a remarkable ignorance and faulty memory as to the
topography of the country between the Blue and Niobrara, and
threw bouquets at me regarding my ability always to find water.
It is true that I had gone and returned across this arid belt the
year before, but on the back trip it was late in the fall, and we
were making forty miles a day with nothing but a wagon and
remuda, water being the least of my troubles. But a compromise
was effected whereby we would both ride out the country anew,
leaving the herds to lie over on the head waters of the Blue
River. There were several shallow lakes in the intervening
country, and on finding the first one sufficient to our needs,
the herds were brought up, and we scouted again in advance. The
abundance of antelope was accepted as an assurance of water, and
on recognizing certain landmarks, I agreed to take the lead
thereafter, and we turned back. The seventh day out from the
Blue, the Box Buttes were sighted, at the foot of which ran a
creek by the same name, and an affluent of the Niobrara. Contrary
to expectations, water was even more plentiful than the year
before, and we grazed nearly the entire distance. The antelope
were unusually tame; with six-shooters we killed quite a number
by flagging, or using a gentle horse for a blind, driving the
animal forward with the bridle reins, tacking frequently, and
allowing him to graze up within pistol range.

The Niobrara was a fine grazing country. Since we had over two
months at our disposal, after leaving the North Platte, every
advantage was given the cattle to round into form. Ten miles was
a day's move, and the different outfits kept in close touch with
each other. We had planned a picnic for the crossing of the
Niobrara, and on reaching that stream during the afternoon,
Sponsilier and myself crossed, camping a mile apart, Forrest
remaining on the south side. Wild raspberries had been extremely
plentiful, and every wagon had gathered a quantity sufficient to
make a pie for each man. The cooks had mutually agreed to meet at
Sponsilier's wagon and do the baking, and every man not on herd
was present in expectation of the coming banquet. One of
Forrest's boys had a fiddle, and bringing it along, the
festivities opened with a stag dance, the "ladies" being
designated by wearing a horse-hobble loosely around their necks.
While the pies were baking, a slow process with Dutch ovens, I
sat on the wagon-tongue and played the violin by the hour. A rude
imitation of the gentler sex, as we had witnessed in dance-halls
in Dodge and Ogalalla, was reproduced with open shirt fronts, and
amorous advances by the sterner one.

The dancing ceased the moment the banquet was ready. The cooks
had experienced considerable trouble in restraining some of the
boys from the too free exercise of what they looked upon as the
inalienable right of man to eat his pie when, where, and how it
best pleased him. But Sponsilier, as host, stood behind the
culinary trio, and overawed the impetuous guests. The repast
barely concluded in time for the wranglers and first guard from
Forrest's and my outfit to reach camp, catch night-horses, bed
the cattle, and excuse the herders, as supper was served only at
the one wagon. The relieved ones, like eleventh-hour guests, came
tearing in after darkness, and the tempting spread soon absorbed
them. As the evening wore on, the loungers gathered in several
circles, and the raconteur held sway. The fact that we were in a
country in which game abounded suggested numerous stories. The
delights of cat-hunting by night found an enthusiast in each one
present. Every dog in our memory, back to early boyhood, was
properly introduced and his best qualities applauded. Not only
cat-hounds but coon-dogs had a respectful hearing.

"I remember a hound," said Forrest's wrangler, "which I owned
when a boy back in Virginia. My folks lived in the foot-hills of
the Blue Ridge Mountains in that state. We were just as poor as
our poorest neighbors. But if there was any one thing that that
section was rich in it was dogs, principally hounds. This dog of
mine was four years old when I left home to go to Texas. Fine
hound, swallow marked, and when he opened on a scent you could
always tell what it was that he was running. I never allowed him
to run with packs, but generally used him in treeing coon, which
pestered the cornfields during roasting-ear season and in the
fall. Well, after I had been out in Texas about five years, I
concluded to go back on a little visit to the old folks. There
were no railroads within twenty miles of my home, and I had to
hoof it that distance, so I arrived after dark. Of course my
return was a great surprise to my folks, and we sat up late
telling stories about things out West. I had worked with cattle
all the time, and had made one trip over the trail from Collin
County to Abilene, Kansas.

"My folks questioned me so fast that they gave me no show to make
any inquiries in return, but I finally eased one in and asked
about my dog Keiser, and was tickled to hear that he was still
living. I went out and called him, but he failed to show up, when
mother explained his absence by saying that he often went out
hunting alone now, since there was none of us boys at home to
hunt with him. They told me that he was no account any longer;
that he had grown old and gray, and father said he was too slow
on trail to be of any use. I noticed that it was a nice damp
night, and if my old dog had been there, I think I'd have taken a
circle around the fields in the hope of hearing him sing once
more. Well, we went back into the house, and after talking awhile
longer, I climbed into the loft and went to bed. I didn't sleep
very sound that night, and awakened several times. About an hour
before daybreak, I awoke suddenly and imagined I heard a hound
baying faintly in the distance. Finally I got up and opened the
board window in the gable and listened. Say, boys, I knew that
hound's baying as well as I know my own saddle. It was old
Keiser, and he had something treed about a mile from the house,
across a ridge over in some slashes. I slipped on my clothes,
crept downstairs, and taking my old man's rifle out of the rack,
started to him.

"It was as dark as a stack of black cats, but I knew every path
and byway by heart. I followed the fields as far as I could, and
later, taking into the timber, I had to go around a long swamp.
An old beaver dam had once crossed the outlet of this marsh, and
once I gained it, I gave a long yell to let the dog know that
some one was coming. He answered me, and quite a little while
before day broke I reached him. Did he know me? Why, he knew me
as easy as the little boy knew his pap. Right now, I can't
remember any simple thing in my whole life that moved me just as
that little reunion of me and my dog, there in those woods that
morning. Why, he howled with delight. He licked my face and hands
and stood up on me with his wet feet and said just as plain as he
could that he was glad to see me again. And I was glad to meet
him, even though he did make me feel as mellow as a girl over a

"Well, when daybreak came, I shot a nice big fat Mr. Zip Coon out
of an old pin-oak, and we started for home like old pardners. Old
as he was, he played like a puppy around me, and when we came in
sight of the house, he ran on ahead and told the folks what he
had found. Yes, you bet he told them. He came near clawing all
the clothing off them in his delight. That's one reason I always
like a dog and a poor man--you can't question their friendship."

A circus was in progress on the other side of the wagon. From a
large rock, Jake Blair was announcing the various acts and
introducing the actors and actresses. Runt Pickett, wearing a
skirt made out of a blanket and belted with a hobble, won the
admiration of all as the only living lady lion-tamer. Resuming
comfortable positions on our side of the commissary, a lad named
Waterwall, one of Sponsilier's boys, took up the broken thread
where Forrest's wrangler had left off.

"The greatest dog-man I ever knew," said he, "lived on the
Guadalupe River. His name was Dave Hapfinger, and he had the
loveliest vagabond temperament of any man I ever saw. It mattered
nothing what he was doing, all you had to do was to give old Dave
a hint that you knew where there was fish to be caught, or a
bee-course to hunt, and he would stop the plow and go with you
for a week if necessary. He loved hounds better than any man I
ever knew. You couldn't confer greater favor than to give him a
promising hound pup, or, seeking the same, ask for one of his
raising. And he was such a good fellow. If any one was sick in
the neighborhood, Uncle Dave always had time to kill them a
squirrel every day; and he could make a broth for a baby, or fry
a young squirrel, in a manner that would make a sick man's mouth

"When I was a boy, I've laid around many a camp-fire this way and
listened to old Dave tell stories. He was quite a humorist in his
way, and possessed a wonderful memory. He could tell you the day
of the month, thirty years before, when he went to mill one time
and found a peculiar bird's nest on the way. Colonel Andrews,
owner of several large plantations, didn't like Dave, and
threatened to prosecute him once for cutting a bee-tree on his
land. If the evidence had been strong enough, I reckon the
Colonel would. No doubt Uncle Dave was guilty, but mere suspicion
isn't sufficient proof.

"Colonel Andrews was a haughty old fellow, blue-blooded and proud
as a peacock, and about the only way Dave could get even with him
was in his own mild, humorous way. One day at dinner at a
neighboring log-rolling, when all danger of prosecution for
cutting the bee-tree had passed, Uncle Dave told of a recent
dream of his, a pure invention. 'I dreamt,' said he, 'that
Colonel Andrews died and went to heaven. There was an unusually
big commotion at St. Peter's gate on his arrival. A troop of
angels greeted him, still the Colonel seemed displeased at his
reception. But the welcoming hosts humored him forward, and on
nearing the throne, the Almighty, recognizing the distinguished
arrival, vacated the throne and came down to greet the Colonel
personally. At this mark of appreciation, he relaxed a trifle,
and when the Almighty insisted that he should take the throne
seat, Colonel Andrews actually smiled for the first time on earth
or in heaven.'

"Uncle Dave told this story so often that he actually believed it
himself. But finally a wag friend of Colonel Andrews told of a
dream which he had had about old Dave, which the latter hugely
enjoyed. According to this second vagary, the old vagabond had
also died and gone to heaven. There was some trouble at St.
Peter's gate, as they refused to admit dogs, and Uncle Dave
always had a troop of hounds at his heels. When he found that it
was useless to argue the matter, he finally yielded the point and
left the pack outside. Once inside the gate he stopped,
bewildered at the scene before him. But after waiting inside some
little time unnoticed, he turned and was on the point of asking
the gate-keeper to let him out, when an angel approached and
asked him to stay. There was some doubt in Dave's mind if he
would like the place, but the messenger urged that he remain and
at least look the city over. The old hunter goodnaturedly
consented, and as they started up one of the golden streets Uncle
Dave recognized an old friend who had once given him a hound pup.
Excusing himself to the angel, he rushed over to his former
earthly friend and greeted him with warmth and cordiality. The
two old cronies talked and talked about the things below, and
finally Uncle Dave asked if there was any hunting up there. The
reply was disappointing.

"Meanwhile the angel kept urging Uncle Dave forward to salute the
throne. But he loitered along, meeting former hunting
acquaintances, and stopping with each for a social chat. When
they finally neared the throne, the patience of the angel was
nearly exhausted; and as old Dave looked up and saw Colonel
Andrews occupying the throne, he rebelled and refused to salute,
when the angel wrathfully led him back to the gate and kicked him
out among his dogs."

Jack Splann told a yarn about the friendship of a pet lamb and
dog which he owned when a boy. It was so unreasonable that he was
interrupted on nearly every assertion. Long before he had
finished, Sponsilier checked his narrative and informed him that
if he insisted on doling out fiction he must have some
consideration for his listeners, and at least tell it within
reason. Splann stopped right there and refused to conclude his
story, though no one but myself seemed to regret it. I had a true
incident about a dog which I expected to tell, but the audience
had become too critical, and I kept quiet. As it was evident that
no more dog stories would be told, the conversation was allowed
to drift at will. The recent shooting on the North Platte had
been witnessed by nearly every one present, and was suggestive of
other scenes.

"I have always contended," said Dorg Seay, "that the man who can
control his temper always shoots the truest. You take one of
these fellows that can smile and shoot at the same time--they are
the boys that I want to stand in with. But speaking of losing the
temper, did any of you ever see a woman real angry,--not merely
cross, but the tigress in her raging and thirsting to tear you
limb from limb? I did only once, but I have never forgotten the
occasion. In supreme anger the only superior to this woman I ever
witnessed was Captain Cartwright when he shot the slayer of his
only son. He was as cool as a cucumber, as his only shot proved,
but years afterward when he told me of the incident, he lost all
control of himself, and fire flashed from his eyes like from the
muzzle of a six-shooter. 'Dorg,' said he, unconsciously shaking
me like a terrier does a rat, his blazing eyes not a foot from my
face, 'Dorg, when I shot that cowardly --- ---- --- ---, I didn't
miss the centre of his forehead the width of my thumb nail.'

"But this woman defied a throng of men. Quite a few of the crowd
had assisted the night before in lynching her husband, and this
meeting occurred at the burying-ground the next afternoon. The
woman's husband was a well-known horse-thief, a dissolute,
dangerous character, and had been warned to leave the community.
He lived in a little village, and after darkness the evening
before, had crept up to a window and shot a man sitting at the
supper-table with his family. The murderer had harbored a grudge
against his victim, had made threats, and before he could escape,
was caught red-handed with the freshly fired pistol in his hand.
The evidence of guilt was beyond question, and a vigilance
committee didn't waste any time in hanging him to the nearest

"The burying took place the next afternoon. The murdered man was
a popular citizen, and the village and country turned out to pay
their last respects. But when the services were over, a number of
us lingered behind, as it was understood that the slayer as well
as his victim would be interred in the same grounds. A second
grave had been prepared, and within an hour a wagon containing a
woman, three small children, and several Mexicans drove up to the
rear side of the inclosure. There was no mistaking the party, the
coffin was carried in to the open grave, when every one present
went over to offer friendly services. But as we neared the little
group the woman picked up a shovel and charged on us like a
tigress. I never saw such an expression of mingled anger and
anguish in a human countenance as was pictured in that woman's
face. We shrank from her as if she had been a lioness, and when
at last she found her tongue, every word cut like a lash. Livid
with rage, the spittle frothing from her mouth, she drove us
away, saying:

"'Oh, you fiends of hell, when did I ask your help? Like the curs
you are, you would lick up the blood of your victim! Had you been
friends to me or mine, why did you not raise your voice in
protest when they were strangling the life out of the father of
my children? Away, you cowardly hounds! I've hired a few Mexicans
to help me, and I want none of your sympathy in this hour. Was it
your hand that cut him down from the tree this morning, and if it
was not, why do I need you now? Is my shame not enough in your
eyes but that you must taunt me further? Do my innocent children
want to look upon the faces of those who robbed them of a father?
If there is a spark of manhood left in one of you, show it by
leaving me alone! And you other scum, never fear but that you
will clutter hell in reward for last night's work. Begone, and
leave me with my dead!'"

The circus had ended. The lateness of the hour was unobserved by
any one until John Levering asked me if he should bring in my
horse. It lacked less than half an hour until the guards should
change, and it was high time our outfit was riding for camp. The
innate modesty of my wrangler, in calling attention to the time,
was not forgotten, but instead of permitting him to turn servant,
I asked him to help our cook look after his utensils. On my
return to the wagon, Parent was trying to quiet a nervous horse
so as to allow him to carry the Dutch oven returning. But as
Levering was in the act of handing up the heavy oven, one of
Forrest's men, hoping to make the animal buck, attempted to place
a briar stem under the horse's tail. Sponsilier detected the
movement in time to stop it, and turning to the culprit, said:
"None of that, my bully boy. I have no objection to killing a
cheap cow-hand, but these cooks have won me, hands down. If ever
I run across a girl who can make as good pies as we had for
supper, she can win the affections of my young and trusting


Our route was carrying us to the eastward of the Black Hills. The
regular trail to the Yellowstone and Montana points was by the
way of the Powder River, through Wyoming; but as we were only


Back to Full Books