Read CHAPTER VIII of The Life and Adventures of Nat Love Better Known in the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick", free online book, by Nat Love, on ReadCentral.com.

On the trail. A Texas storm. A cattle stampede. Battle with the elements. After business comes pleasure.

After the round ups and on returning from our long rides after strayed cattle we would have to prepare to take the trail with herds of cattle and horses for market and to be delivered to other large ranch owners. The party of cow boys to make these trips were all selected men. We would spend several days at the home ranch resting up and preparing our outfit, in which our guns, saddles, blankets and horses were given a thorough overhauling and placed in first class condition, as they would be called on to do good hard service on these trips on the trail. The nature of our journey would depend very much on the kind of cattle we were called upon to handle. Sometimes it would be all classes together; on other occasions the herd would consist of a certain kind, such as long yearlings, short yearlings, tail end and scabs. The larger demand however, seemed to be for straight three and four year old steers. These latter kind were the easiest to handle on the trail. It is no doubt necessary that I explain the difference between the different kinds I mention here. Short yearlings were those over one year old and short of two years, long yearlings those two years and short of three years, tail end and scabs mean nearly the same thing, and comprise all the very young stock of all classes not yet reached the dignity of yearlings. These latter were in demand from the cattle men, who took them to feed until they got their growth or to raise from, as stock cattle three or four years old were generally the market or beef cattle. These latter were by all odds the easiest to handle on the trail. Sometimes we would have an order for five or six hundred head of all classes of cattle, then again we would have to start out with fifteen hundred head of shipping steers, or several hundred head of horses.

Shortly after I entered the employ of the Pete Gallinger company, and after the round-ups of the early season, we received an order for two thousand five hundred head of three year old steers to be delivered at Dodge City, Kansas. This was the largest herd I had up to the present time followed good rest at the home ranch, we strung the large herd out with two months provisions, and the camp wagon. After a and one hundred extra saddle horses and several pack horses, on the trail. Our outfit consisted of forty picked cow boys, along the old Chillers trail en route for Kansas, and we started on what proved to be an eventful journey. The herd behaved splendidly and gave us very little trouble until we crossed the Red river and struck the Old Dog and Sun City trail, here they became restless, and stampeded nearly every night, and whenever they got half a chance. This made it very hard on us cowboys, as it is no easy matter to ride the lines of such a large herd, let alone having to chase them back in line from many miles over the prairie where they had stampeded in their wild career. After crossing the Kansas line at a place known as the South Forks, while making for the head of the Cimarron river on the twenty-seventh of June, we experienced one of the hardest rain and hail storms I had ever seen, in the western country, the rain came down in torrents only to cease and give place to hail stones the size of walnuts. While the thunder and lightning was incessant. It was shortly after dark when the storm commenced. The twenty-five hundred head of cattle strung out along the trail became panic stricken and stampeded, and despite our utmost efforts, we were unable to keep them in line.

Imagine, my dear reader, riding your horse at the top of his speed through torrents of rain and hail, and darkness so black that we could not see our horses heads, chasing an immense herd of maddened cattle which we could hear but could not see, except during the vivid flashes of lightning which furnished our only light. It was the worst night’s ride I ever experienced. Late the next morning we had the herd rounded up thirty miles from where they started from the night before. On going back over the country to our camp of the night before, we saw the great danger we had been in during our mad ride. There were holes, cliffs, gulleys and big rocks scattered all around, some of the cliffs going down a sheer fifty feet or more, where if we had fallen over we would have been dashed to pieces on the rocks below, but we never thought of our personal danger that night, and we did not think particularly of it when we saw it further than to make a few joking remarks about what would have happened if some one of us had gone over. One of the boys offered to bet that a horse and rider going over one of those cliffs would bring up in China, while others thought he would bring up in Utah. It was our duty to save the cattle, and every thing else was of secondary importance. We never lost a single steer during this wild night something we were justly proud of. This proved the last trouble we were to have with the herd, and we soon reached the five mile divide, five miles from Dodge City without further incident, and with our herd intact. Here we were to hold them until turned over to their new owners. This accomplished, our work was done and done well for this trip. Then we all headed for Dodge City to have a good time, and I assure you we had it. It was our intention and ambition to paint the town a deep red color and drink up all the bad whiskey in the city. Our nearly two months journey over the dusty plains and ranges had made us all inordinately thirsty and wild, and here is where we had our turn, accordingly we started out to do the town in true western style, in which we were perfectly successful until the town had done us, and we were dead broke. This fact slowed us up, because being broke we could not get up any more steam and we had to cool down right there. We then started out to find our boss, but that gentleman being wise in his time and generation, and knowing we would soon all be broke, and would be wanting more money, and that he would let us have it if we asked him for it only to be thrown away, he made himself scarce, and he kept out of our sight until we cooled off. For my part I would not spend all my money. I would draw about fifty dollars, then I would get what things I wanted and then would let the other go free, but while our money lasted we would certainly enjoy ourselves, in dancing, drinking and shooting up the town. It was our delight to give exhibitions of rough riding roping and everything else we could think of to make things go fast enough to suit our ideas of speed. After several days spent in this manner we would begin to make ready to start on the return journey home to Texas. We left Dodge City on the first of July and on the fifteenth of August we were back on the old home ranch, where we rested up a few days before again starting out to ride the range after the long horns again. As I was a brand reader I had little time to rest as my services were in demand from many of the large cattle kings of Texas and Arizona, and when ever a dispute arose over brands, I was generally sent for to straighten matters out. This with the numerous round ups which I had to attend and the many transfers of cattle throughout the pan handle country kept me continually on the go. When my services were not needed as a brand reader I rode the range along with the other cow boys. This kept us almost continually in the saddle, and away from the home ranch for days at a time; when this was the case our food consisted of biscuit and cakes which we made ourselves from meal which we carried with us, and such meat and game as we could knock over with our guns. We camped wherever it suited and where there was feed for our horses. A cow boy’s first care is always after his gun and his horse, that animal often meaning life and liberty to the cow boy in a tight place and the cow boy without a horse is like a chicken without its head, completely lost. My faithful horse has times without number carried me out of danger and preserved my life. We were not destined to have much rest this season as shortly after we returned from the trip to Dodge City, the boss bought a large herd of cattle down on the Rio Grande, just over the line in Mexico, which we had orders for, so we had to start out and round them up. This was no easy matter as they were scattered over a large range of territory and many strays had to be rounded up and got with the main herd. This we finally accomplished, after a great deal of hard riding over the rough Rio Grande country, and both men and horses were completely tired out, so we went into camp, only holding the herd together and getting rested up. This opportunity we improved by getting acquainted and fraternizing with the cow boys of one of the oldest cattle countries this side of the herring pond Old Mexico. These men were for the most part typical greasers, but they proved to us that they knew a thing or two about the cattle business, and all things considered they were a jolly companionable sort of an outfit. From them we learned a few pointers and also gave them a few very much to our mutual benefit. We remained here a few days before starting northward with our herd, but these few days proved very pleasant ones to us boys who, on account of the monotony of the life we led always welcomed new experiences or events that would give us something to think and talk about while on our long rides behind the slow moving herd of long-horn steers, or around our camp fires when in camp on the plains, and it gave us especial pleasure to meet men of the same calling from other states over the west. It not only gave us pleasure, but it added to our cow knowledge, and of the country over which we might at any time be called on to drive cattle, and in such cases a knowledge of the country was most valuable to us. Then a cow boy’s life contains many things in which he is continually trying to improve and excel, such as roping, shooting, riding and branding and many other things connected with the cattle business. We, in common with other trades, did not know it all, and we were always ready to learn anything new when we met any one who was capable of teaching us.