The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail DaysAndy Adams / Western
Produced by Keith M. Eckrich, and the PG Online DistributedProofreaders Team
THE LOG OF A COWBOY
A Narrative of the Old Trail Days
BY ANDY ADAMS
_ILLUSTRATED BY E. BOYD SMITH_
Our cattle also shall go with us. --_Exodus_ iv. 26.
The Riverside Press]
BOSTON AND NEW YORK: HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY,
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
TO THE COWMEN AND BOYS OF THE OLD WESTERN TRAIL
THESE PAGES ARE GRATEFULLY DEDICATED
I. UP THE TRAIL
III. THE START
IV. THE ATASCOSA
V. A DRY DRIVE
VI. A REMINISCENT NIGHT
VII. THE COLORADO
VIII. ON THE BRAZOS AND WICHITA
IX. DOAN'S CROSSING
X. NO MAN'S LAND
XI. A BOGGY FORD
XII. THE NORTH FORK
XIV. SLAUGHTER'S BRIDGE
XV. THE BEAVER
XVI. THE REPUBLICAN
XVIII. THE NORTH PLATTE
XIX. FORTY ISLANDS FORD
XX. A MOONLIGHT DRIVE
XXI. THE YELLOWSTONE
XXII. OUR LAST CAMP-FIRE
XXIV. BACK TO TEXAS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
MAP SHOWING THE TRAIL
HEAT AND THIRST
MEETING WITH INDIANS
CELEBRATING IN DODGE
SWIMMING THE PLATTE
THE LOG OF A COWBOY
UP THE TRAIL
Just why my father moved, at the close of the civil war, from Georgiato Texas, is to this good hour a mystery to me. While we did notexactly belong to the poor whites, we classed with them in poverty,being renters; but I am inclined to think my parents wereintellectually superior to that common type of the South. Both wereforeign born, my mother being Scotch and my father a north of Irelandman,--as I remember him, now, impulsive, hasty in action, and slow toconfess a fault. It was his impulsiveness that led him to volunteerand serve four years in the Confederate army,--trying years to mymother, with a brood of seven children to feed, garb, and house. Thewar brought me my initiation as a cowboy, of which I have now, afterthe long lapse of years, the greater portion of which were spent withcattle, a distinct recollection. Sherman's army, in its march to thesea, passed through our county, devastating that section for miles inits passing.
Foraging parties scoured the country on either side of its path. Mymother had warning in time and set her house in order. Our work stockconsisted of two yoke of oxen, while our cattle numbered three cows,and for saving them from the foragers credit must be given to mymother's generalship. There was a wild canebrake, in which the cattlefed, several hundred acres in extent, about a mile from our littlefarm, and it was necessary to bell them in order to locate them whenwanted. But the cows were in the habit of coming up to be milked, anda soldier can hear a bell as well as any one. I was a lad of eight atthe time, and while my two older brothers worked our few fields, I wassent into the canebrake to herd the cattle. We had removed the bellsfrom the oxen and cows, but one ox was belled after darkness eachevening, to be unbelled again at daybreak. I always carried the bellwith me, stuffed with grass, in order to have it at hand when wanted.
During the first few days of the raid, a number of mounted foragingparties passed our house, but its poverty was all too apparent, andnothing was molested. Several of these parties were driving herds ofcattle and work stock of every description, while by day and by nightgins and plantation houses were being given to the flames. Ourone-roomed log cabin was spared, due to the ingenious tale told by mymother as to the whereabouts of my father; and yet she taught herchildren to fear God and tell the truth. My vigil was trying to one ofmy years, for the days seemed like weeks, but the importance of hidingour cattle was thoroughly impressed upon my mind. Food was secretlybrought to me, and under cover of darkness, my mother and eldestbrother would come and milk the cows, when we would all return hometogether. Then, before daybreak, we would be in the cane listening forthe first tinkle, to find the cattle and remove the bell. And my day'swork commenced anew.
Only once did I come near betraying my trust. About the middle of thethird day I grew very hungry, and as the cattle were lying down, Icrept to the edge of the canebrake to see if my dinner was notforthcoming. Soldiers were in sight, which explained everything.Concealed in the rank cane I stood and watched them. Suddenly a squadof five or six turned a point of the brake and rode within fifty feetof me. I stood like a stone statue, my concealment being perfect.After they had passed, I took a step forward, the better to watch themas they rode away, when the grass dropped out of the bell and itclattered. A red-whiskered soldier heard the tinkle, and wheeling hishorse, rode back. I grasped the clapper and lay flat on the ground, myheart beating like a trip-hammer. He rode within twenty feet of me,peering into the thicket of cane, and not seeing anything unusual,turned and galloped away after his companions. Then the lesson, taughtme by my mother, of being faithful over a few things, flashedthrough my mind, and though our cattle were spared to us, I felt veryguilty.
Another vivid recollection of those boyhood days in Georgia was thereturn of my father from the army. The news of Lee's surrender hadreached us, and all of us watched for his coming. Though he was longdelayed, when at last he did come riding home on a swallow-markedbrown mule, he was a conquering hero to us children. We had neverowned a horse, and he assured us that the animal was his own, and byturns set us on the tired mule's back. He explained to mother and uschildren how, though he was an infantryman, he came into possession ofthe animal. Now, however, with my mature years and knowledge ofbrands, I regret to state that the mule had not been condemned and wasin the U.S. brand. A story which Priest, The Rebel, once told methrows some light on the matter; he asserted that all good soldierswould steal. Can you take the city of St. Louis? was asked ofGeneral Price. I don't know as I can take it, replied the general tohis consulting superiors, but if you will give me Louisiana troops,I'll agree to steal it.
Though my father had lost nothing by the war, he was impatient to goto a new country. Many of his former comrades were going to Texas,and, as our worldly possessions were movable, to Texas we started. Ourfour oxen were yoked to the wagon, in which our few household effectswere loaded and in which mother and the smaller children rode, andwith the cows, dogs, and elder boys bringing up the rear, our caravanstarted, my father riding the mule and driving the oxen. It was anentire summer's trip, full of incident, privation, and hardship. Thestock fared well, but several times we were compelled to halt andsecure work in order to supply our limited larder. Through certainsections, however, fish and game were abundant. I remember theenthusiasm we all felt when we reached the Sabine River, and for thefirst time viewed the promised land. It was at a ferry, and thesluggish river was deep. When my father informed the ferryman that hehad no money with which to pay the ferriage, the latter turned on himremarking, sarcastically: What, no money? My dear sir, it certainlycan't make much difference to a man which side of the river he's on,when he has no money.
Nothing daunted by this rebuff, my father argued the point at somelength, when the ferryman relented so far as to inform him that tenmiles higher up, the river was fordable. We arrived at the ford thenext day. My father rode across and back, testing the stage of thewater and the river's bottom before driving the wagon in. Then takingone of the older boys behind him on the mule in order to lighten thewagon, he drove the oxen into the river. Near the middle the water wasdeep enough to reach the wagon box, but with shoutings and a freeapplication of the gad, we hurried through in safety. One of the wheeloxen, a black steer which we called Pop-eye, could be ridden, and Istraddled him in fording, laving my sunburned feet in the cool water.The cows were driven over next, the dogs swimming, and at last, bagand baggage, we were in Texas.
We reached the Colorado River early in the fall, where we stopped andpicked cotton for several months, making quite a bit of money, andnear Christmas reached our final destination on the San Antonio River,where we took up land and built a house. That was a happy home; thecountry was new and supplied our simple wants; we had milk and honey,and, though the fig tree was absent, along the river grew endlessquantities of mustang grapes. At that time the San Antonio valley wasprincipally a cattle country, and as the boys of our family grew oldenough the fascination of a horse and saddle was too strong to beresisted. My two older brothers went first, but my father and mothermade strenuous efforts to keep me at home, and did so until I wassixteen. I suppose it is natural for every country boy to befascinated with some other occupation than the one to which he isbred. In my early teens, I always thought I should like either todrive six horses to a stage or clerk in a store, and if I could haveattained either of those lofty heights, at that age, I would haveasked no more. So my father, rather than see me follow in thefootsteps of my older brothers, secured me a situation in a villagestore some twenty miles distant. The storekeeper was a fellowcountryman of my father--from the same county in Ireland, in fact--andI was duly elated on getting away from home to the life of thevillage.
But my elation was short-lived. I was to receive no wages for thefirst six months. My father counseled the merchant to work me hard,and, if possible, cure me of the foolish notion, as he termed it.The storekeeper cured me. The first week I was with him he kept me ina back warehouse shelling corn. The second week started out no better.I was given a shovel and put on the street to work out the poll-tax,not only of the merchant but of two other clerks in the store. Herewas two weeks' work in sight, but the third morning I took breakfastat home. My mercantile career had ended, and forthwith I took to therange as a preacher's son takes to vice. By the time I was twentythere was no better cow-hand in the entire country. I could, besides,speak Spanish and play the fiddle, and thought nothing of ridingthirty miles to a dance. The vagabond temperament of the range Ieasily assimilated.
Christmas in the South is always a season of festivity, and the magnetof mother and home yearly drew us to the family hearthstone. There webrothers met and exchanged stories of our experiences. But one yearboth my brothers brought home a new experience. They had been up thetrail, and the wondrous stories they told about the northern countryset my blood on fire. Until then I thought I had had adventures, butmine paled into insignificance beside theirs. The following summer, myeldest brother, Robert, himself was to boss a herd up the trail, and Ipleaded with him to give me a berth, but he refused me, saying: No,Tommy; the trail is one place where a foreman can have no favorites.Hardship and privation must be met, and the men must throw themselvesequally into the collar. I don't doubt but you're a good hand; stillthe fact that you're my brother might cause other boys to think Iwould favor you. A trail outfit has to work as a unit, and dissensionswould be ruinous. I had seen favoritism shown on ranches, andunderstood his position to be right. Still I felt that I must makethat trip if it were possible. Finally Robert, seeing that I wasoveranxious to go, came to me and said: I've been thinking that if Irecommended you to Jim Flood, my old foreman, he might take you withhim next year. He is to have a herd that will take five months fromstart to delivery, and that will be the chance of your life. I'll seehim next week and make a strong talk for you.
True to his word, he bespoke me a job with Flood the next time he methim, and a week later a letter from Flood reached me, terse andpointed, engaging my services as a trail hand for the coming summer.The outfit would pass near our home on its way to receive the cattlewhich were to make up the trail herd. Time and place were appointedwhere I was to meet them in the middle of March, and I felt as if Iwere made. I remember my mother and sisters twitted me about theswagger that came into my walk, after the receipt of Flood's letter,and even asserted that I sat my horse as straight as a poker.Possibly! but wasn't I going up the trail with Jim Flood, the bossforeman of Don Lovell, the cowman and drover?
Our little ranch was near Cibollo Ford on the river, and as the outfitpassed down the country, they crossed at that ford and picked me up.Flood was not with them, which was a disappointment to me, QuinceForrest acting as _segundo_ at the time. They had four mules to thechuck wagon under Barney McCann as cook, while the _remuda_, underBilly Honeyman as horse wrangler, numbered a hundred and forty-two,ten horses to the man, with two extra for the foreman. Then, for thefirst time, I learned that we were going down to the mouth of the RioGrande to receive the herd from across the river in Old Mexico; andthat they were contracted for delivery on the Blackfoot IndianReservation in the northwest corner of Montana. Lovell had severalcontracts with the Indian Department of the government that year, andhad been granted the privilege of bringing in, free of duty, anycattle to be used in filling Indian contracts.
My worst trouble was getting away from home on the morning ofstarting. Mother and my sisters, of course, shed a few tears; but myfather, stern and unbending in his manner, gave me his benediction inthese words: Thomas Moore, you're the third son to leave our roof,but your father's blessing goes with you. I left my own home beyondthe sea before I was your age. And as they all stood at the gate, Iclimbed into my saddle and rode away, with a lump in my throat whichleft me speechless to reply.