Read CHAPTER VII of Ranching‚ Sport and Travel , free online book, by Thomas Carson, on


A year before selling out the Company’s cattle I had started a small ranch for myself. Seeing that it was quite hopeless to run cattle profitably on the open-range system, and having longing eyes on a certain part of the plains which was covered with very fine grass and already fenced on one side by the Texas line knowing also quite well that fencing of public land in New Mexico was strictly against the law (land in the territories is the property of the Federal Government, which will neither lease it nor sell it, but holds it for home-steading) I yet went to work, bought a lot of wire and posts, gave a contract to a fence-builder and boldly ran a line over thirty miles long enclosing something like 100,000 acres. The location was part of the country where our stock horses used to run with the mustangs, and so I knew every foot of it pretty well. There was practically no limit to the acreage I might have enclosed; and I had then the choice of all sorts of country country with lots of natural shelter for cattle, and even country where water in abundance could be got close to the surface. In my selected territory I knew quite well that it was very deep to water and that it would cost a lot of money in the shape of deep wells and powerful windmills to get it out; yet it was for this very reason that I so selected it. Would not the country in a few years swarm with settlers ("nesters” as we called small farmers), and would they not of course first select the land where water was shallow? They could not afford to put in expensive wells and windmills. Thus I argued, and thus it turned out exactly as anticipated. The rest of the country became settled up by these nesters, but I was left alone for some eight years absolutely undisturbed and in complete control of this considerable block of land. More than that the County Assessor and collector actually missed me for two years, not even knowing of my existence; and for the whole period of eight years I never paid one cent for rent. On my windmill locations I put “Scrip” in blocks of forty acres. Otherwise I owned or rented not a foot.

Just a line or two here. I happen to have known the man who invented barbed wire and who had his abundant reward. Blessings on him! though one is sometimes inclined to add cursings too. It is dangerous stuff to handle. Heavy gloves should always be worn. The flesh is so torn by the ragged barb that the wound is most irritating and hard to heal. When my fence was first erected it was a common thing to find antelope hung up in it, tangled in it, and cut to pieces. Once we found a mustang horse with its head practically cut completely off. The poor brutes had a hard experience in learning the nature of this strange, almost invisible, death-trap stretched across what was before their own free, open and boundless territory. And what frightful wounds some of the ponies would occasionally suffer by perhaps trying to jump over such a fence or even force their way through it; ponies from the far south, equally ignorant with the antelope of the dangers of the innocent-looking slender wire. In another way these fences were sometimes the cause of loss of beast life, as for instance when some of my cattle drifted against the fence during a thunder and rain storm and a dozen of them were killed by one stroke of lightning.

Into this preserve my cattle-breeding stock were put: very few in number to begin with, yet as many as my means afforded. My Company job and salary would soon be a thing of the past and my future must depend entirely on the success of this undertaking. Once before I had boldly, perhaps rashly, taken a lease of a celebrated steer pasture in Carson County, Texas, and gone to Europe to try and float a company, the proposition being to use the pasture, then, and still, the very best in Texas, for wintering yearling steers. No sounder proposition or more promising one could have been put forward. But all my efforts to get the capital needed failed and it was fortunate for me that at the end of one year I succeeded in getting a cancellation of the lease. On first securing the lease the season was well advanced and it became an anxiety to me as to where I should get cattle to put in the pasture, if only enough to pay the year’s rent some 7000 dollars. One man, a canny Scotsman, had been holding and grazing a large herd of 4000 two-year-old steers, all in one straight brand, on the free range just outside. He knew I wanted cattle and I knew he wanted grass, as he could not find a buyer and the season was late. We both played “coon,” but I must say I began to feel a bit uncomfortable. At last greatly to my relief and joy, he approached me, and after a few minutes’ dickering I had the satisfaction of counting into pasture this immense herd of 4000 cattle. Meantime, I had also been corresponding with another party and very soon afterwards closed a deal with him for some 3700 more two-year-old steers. Thus with 7700 head the pasture was nearly fully stocked, the rent for the first year was assured, and I prepared to go to the Old Country to form the company before mentioned. But before going I found it necessary to throw in a hundred or so old cows to keep the steers quiet. The steers had persisted in walking the fences, travelling in great strings round and round the pasture. They had lots of grass, water and salt, but something else was evidently lacking. Immediately the cows were turned loose all the uneasiness and dissatisfaction ceased. No more fence walking and no more danger (for me) of them breaking out. The family life seemed complete. The suddenness of the effect was very remarkable. This pasture has ever since been used solely for my proposed purpose and every year has been a tremendous success.

First of all a word about my house and home. Built on what may be called the Spanish plan, of adobes (sun-dried bricks), the walls were 2-1/2 feet thick, and there was a courtyard in the centre. Particular attention was paid to the roof, which was first boarded over, then on the boards three inches of mud, and over that sheets of corrugated iron. The whole idea of the adobes and the mud being to secure a cool temperature in summer and warmth in winter. No other materials are so effective.

As explained before, there were no trees or shrubs of any kind within a radius of many miles. So to adorn this country seat I cut and threw into my buggy one day a young shoot of cotton-wood tree, hauled it fifty miles to the ranch, and stuck it in the centre of the court. Water was never too plentiful; so why not make use of the soap-suddy washings which the boys and all of us habitually threw out there? When the tree did grow up, and it thrived amazingly, its shade became the recognized lounging-place. With a few flowering shrubs added the patio assumed quite a pretty aspect. Another feature of the house was that the foundations were laid so deep, and of rock, that skunks could not burrow underneath, which is quite a consideration. Under my winter cottage at the Meadows Ranch in Arizona skunks always denned and lay up during the cold weather, selecting a point immediately under the warm hearthstone. There, as one sat reading over the fire, these delightful animals, within a foot of you, would carry on their family wrangles and in their excitement give evidence of their own nature; but happily the offence was generally a very mild one and evidently not maliciously intended.

Around the house was planted a small orchard and attempts were made at vegetable-growing. But water was too scarce to do the plants justice. Everything must be sacrificed to the cattle. One lesson it taught me, however, and that is that no matter how much water you irrigate with, one good downpour from Nature’s fertilizing watering-can is worth more than weeks of irrigation. Rain water has a quality of its own which well or tank water cannot supply. Plants respond to it at once by adopting a cheery, healthy aspect. It had another equally valuable character in that it destroyed the overwhelming bugs. How it destroyed them I don’t know: perhaps it drowned them; anyway they disappeared at once.

In my own pasture in New Mexico I for various reasons decided to “breed,” instead of simply handle steers. Steers were certainly safer and surer, and the life was an easy one. But there appeared to me greater possibilities in breeding if the cows were handled right and taken proper care of. It will be seen by-and-by that my anticipations were more than justified, so that the success of this little ranch has been a source of pride to me.

The ranch was called “Running Water,” because situated on Running Water Draw, a creek that never to my knowledge “ran” except after a very heavy rain. Prairie fires were the greatest danger in this level range country, there being no rivers, canons, or even roads to check their advance. Lightning might set the grass afire; a match carelessly dropped by the cigarette-smoker; a camp fire not properly put out; or any mischievously-inclined individual might set the whole country ablaze. Indeed, the greatest prairie fire I have record of was maliciously started to windward of my ranch by an ill-disposed neighbour (one of the men whose cattle the Scotch Company had closed out and who ever after had a grudge against me) purposely to burn me out. He did not quite succeed, as by hard fighting all night we managed to save half the grass; but the fire extended 130 miles into Texas, burning out a strip from thirty to sixty miles wide. On account of a very high wind blowing that fire jumped my “guard,” a term which needs explanation. All round my pasture, on the outside of the fence, for a distance of over forty miles was ploughed a fire-guard thus: two or three ploughed furrows and, 100 feet apart, other two or three ploughed furrows, there being thus a strip of land forty miles long and 100 feet wide. Between these furrows we burnt the grass, an operation that required great care and yet must be done as expeditiously as possible to save time, labour and expense. A certain amount of wind must be blowing so as to insure a clean and rapid burn; but a high gusty wind is most dangerous, as the flames are pretty sure to jump the furrows, enter the pasture, and get away from you. The excitement at such a critical time is of course very great. In such cases it was at first our practice to catch and kill a yearling, split it open and hitch ropes to the hind feet, when two of us mounted men would drag the entire carcass over the line of fire. It was effective but an expensive and cumbrous method. Later I adopted a device called a “drag,” composed of iron chains, in the nature of a harrow, covered by a raw hide for smothering purposes. This could be dragged quite rapidly and sometimes had to be used over miles and miles of encroaching fire. The horses might get badly burnt, and in very rank grass where the fierce flames were six to eight feet high it was useless. Sometimes we worked all night, and no doubt it formed a picturesque spectacle and a scene worthy of an artist’s brush. Across the centre of the pasture for further safety, as also around the bull and horse pasture, was a similar fire-guard, so that I had in all some fifty-five miles of guard to plough and burn. It is such critical and dangerous, yet necessary, work that I always took care to be present myself and personally boss the operation. Without such a fire-guard one is never free from anxiety. Many other ranchers who were careless in this matter paid dearly for it. These fires were dangerous in other ways. A dear old friend of mine was caught by and burnt to death in one. Another man, a near neighbour, when driving a team of mules, got caught likewise, and very nearly lost his life. He was badly burnt and lost his team.

Hitherto it had been the universal custom of cattlemen to use “grade” bulls, many of them, alas! mere “scrubs” of no breeding at all. No one used pure-bred registered bulls except to raise “grade” bulls with. I determined to use “registered” pure-bred bulls alone, and no others, to raise steers with, and was the first man to my knowledge to do so. Neighbours ridiculed the idea, saying that they would not get many calves, that they could not or would not “rustle” that is, they would not get about with the cows that they would need nursing and feeding and would not stand the climate. Well, I went east, selected and bought at very reasonable figures the number needed, all very high bred, indeed some of them fashionably so, and took them to the ranch. By the way, bulls were not called bulls in “polite” society: you must call them “males.” Very shortly afterwards there was a rise in value of cattle, a strong demand for such bulls, and prices went “out of sight.” Thus the bulls that cost me some 100 dollars apiece in a little while were worth 200 or even 300 dollars. The young bulls “rustled” splendidly, and as next spring came along there was much interest felt as to results. To my great delight almost every cow had a calf, and nearly every calf was alike red body and white face, etc. (Hereford). I kept and used these same bulls six or seven seasons; every year got the highest calf-brand or crop amongst all my neighbours; and soon, with prudent culling of the cows, my small herd (some 2000) was the best in the country; and my young steers topped the market, beating even the crack herds that had been established for twenty years and had great reputations.

To give an instance: my principle was to work with little or no borrowed money. Thus my position was such that I did not always have to market my steers to pay running expenses; and as I hate trading and dickering, as it is called, my independence gave me a strong position. Well, once when travelling to the ranch I met on the train two “feeders” from the north, who told me they wanted to buy two or three hundred choice two-year-old, high-bred, even, well-coloured and well-shaped steers. Having by chance some photos in my pocket of my steers (as yearlings taken the year before) I produced them. They seemed pleased with them and asked the price, which I told them; but they said no ranch cattle were worth that money and ridiculed the idea of my asking it. “Oh,” I said, “it is nothing to me; that is the price of the cattle,” but I carefully also told them how to get to my place and invited them to come and see me. Oh, no! they said it was too ridiculous! We travelled on to Amarillo and I at once went out to Running Water. Only two days afterwards, on coming in to dinner, I found my two gentlemen seated on the porch waiting for me. After dinner we saddled up and went out to see the steers. The dealers were evidently surprised and made a long and careful inspection. Evidently they were well pleased, and on returning to the house it was also evident that they were going to adopt the usual tactics of whittling a small piece of wood (a seemingly necessary accompaniment to a trade) and “dickering”; so I again told them my terms, same as before, and hinted that they might take or leave them as they liked. The deal was closed without further ado, some money put up, and next day I started for England, leaving to the foreman the duty and responsibility of delivering the steers at the date specified. These men, like most other operators, were dealing with borrowed money got from commission houses in Kansas City. I learnt afterwards that their Kansas City friends, on hearing of the trade, refused to supply the funds till they had sent a man out specially to see the two-year-old steers that could possibly be worth so much money. He came out, saw them, and reported them to be well worth the price; and they were acknowledged to be the finest small bunch of steers ever shipped out of the south-west country. This was very gratifying indeed.

Another revolution in ranch practice was the keeping up of my bulls in winter-time and not putting them out with the cows till the middle of July. This also met with the ridicule of all the “old-timers”; but it was entirely successful! The calf crop was not only a very large one but the calves were dropped all about the same time, were thus of an even age (an important matter for dealers), and they “came” when their mothers were strong and had lots of milk.

Young cows and heifers having their first calves had to be watched very closely, and we had often to help them in delivery. It may also be mentioned here that the sight of a green, freshly-skinned hide, or a freshly-skinned carcass, will frequently cause cows to “slink” their calves. The smell of blood too creates a tremendous commotion amongst the cattle generally; why, is not quite known.

I also made a practice in early spring of taking up weak or poor cows that looked like needing it, putting them in a separate pasture and feeding them on just two pounds of cotton-seed meal once a day; no hay, only the dry, wild grass in the small pasture. The good effect of even such a pittance of meal was simply astounding. Thereafter I do not think I ever lost a single cow from poverty or weakness. This use of meal on a range ranch was in its way also a novelty. Afterwards it became general and prices of cotton-seed and cotton-seed meal doubled and more.

When a very large number of range cattle, say 2000 or so, required feeding on account of poverty, hay in our country not being obtainable, cotton-seed (whole) would be fed to them by the simple and effective method of loading a large wagon with it, driving it over the pasture, and scattering thinly, not dumping, the seed on to the grass sod. The cattle would soon get so fond of it that they would come running as soon as the wagon appeared and follow it up in a long string, the strongest and greediest closest to the wagon, the poor emaciated, poverty-stricken ones tailing off in the rear. But not one single seed was wasted, everyone being gleaned and picked up in a very short time. It is the best, easiest and most effective way: indeed, the only possible way with such a large number of claimants. And as said before, the recuperating effect of this cotton-seed is simply astonishing. It may be noted, however, that if fed in bulk and to excess the animals will sometimes go blind, which must be guarded against.

In the matter of salt it had become the common practice to use sacked stuff (pulverized) for cattle. There was a strong prejudice against rock salt; so much so that when I decided to buy a carload or two it had to be specially ordered. Another laugh was raised at my proposed use of it. The cattle would get sore tongues, or they would spend so long a time licking it they would have no time to graze, etc., etc. Meantime I had lost some cows by their too quick lapping of the pulverized stuff. Thereafter I never lost one from such a cause and the cattle throve splendidly. Besides, the rock salt was much easier handled and considerably more economical.

My wells were deep, none less than 250 feet, the iron casing 10-inch diameter, the pipe 6-inch or 8-inch, and the mill-wheels 20 feet in diameter; this huge wind power being necessary to pump up from such a depth a sufficiency of water. The water was pumped directly into very large shallow drinking wooden tubs, thence into big reserve earthen tanks (fenced in), and thence again led by pipe to other large drinking-tubs outside and below the tanks, supplied with floating stop-valves. This arrangement, arrived at after much deliberation, worked very well indeed; no water was wasted, and it was always clean; and in very cold weather the cattle always got warm, freshly-pumped well water in the upper tub, an important matter and one reason why my cattle always did so well. But oh, dear! the trouble and work we often had with these wells! Perhaps in zero temperature something would go wrong with the pump valve or the piston leather would wear out, or in a new well the quicksand would work in. Neither myself, foreman nor boy was an expert or had any mechanical knowledge; though continued troubles, much hard work, accompanied by, alas! harder language, was a capital apprenticeship. In bitter cold freezing weather I well remember we once had to pull out the rods and the piping three times in succession before we got the damned thing into shape, and then we did not know what had been the matter. To pull up first 250 feet of heavy rod, disjoint it, and lay it carefully aside; then pull up 250 feet of 6-inch or 8-inch iron piping, in 20-feet lengths, clamp and disjoint it, and put it carefully aside; then to use the sand-bucket to get the sand out of the well if necessary; repair and put into proper shape the valve and cylinder, etc.; then (and these are all parts of one operation), re-lower and connect the 250 feet of heavy piping, the equally long rods, and attach to the mill itself oh, what anxiety to know if it was going to work or not! On this particular occasion, as stated, we self, foreman and one boy actually had to go through this tedious and dangerous performance three times in succession! To pull out the piping great power is needed, and we at first used a capstan made on the ranch and worked by hand. But it was slow work, very slow, and very hard work too; afterwards we used a stout, steady team of horses, with double tackle, and found it to work much more expeditiously. But there was always a great and ever-present danger of the pipe slipping, or a clamp, a bolt, or a hook, or even the rope breaking with disastrous results.

These wells and mills afforded any disgruntled cowhand or “friendly” neighbour a simple and convenient opportunity of “getting even,” as a single small nail dropped down a pipe at once clogged the valve and rendered the tedious operation necessary. I had altogether five of such wells.

A little more “brag,” if it may be called so, and I shall have done. But it will need some telling, and perhaps credulity on the reader’s part. A certain wild plant called “loco” grows profusely in many parts of the Western States; but nowhere more profusely than it did in my pasture. Indeed it looked like this particular spot must have been its place of origin and its stronghold in time of adversity. Certainly, although it was common all over the plains, I never saw in any place such a dense and vigorous growth of it, covering like an alfalfa field solid blocks of hundreds of acres. This is no exaggeration. It had killed a few of our cattle in Arizona and ruined some of our best horses. The Scotch Company lost many hundreds of cattle by it, and also some horses. The plant seems to flourish in cycles of about seven years; that is, though some of it may be present every year it only comes in abundance, overwhelming abundance, once in the period stated. The peculiarity about it, too, is that it grows in the winter months and has flowered and seeded and died down by midsummer. Thus it is the only green and succulent-looking plant to be seen in winter-time on the brown plains. It is very conspicuous and in appearance much resembles clover or alfalfa. Cattle as a rule will avoid it, but for some unknown reason the time comes when you hear the expression the “cattle are eating loco.” If so they will continue to eat it, to eat nothing else, till it is all gone; and those eating it will set the example to others, and all that have eaten it will go stark staring mad and the majority of them die. Horses are even more liable to take to it, and are affected exactly in the same way; they go quite crazy, refuse to drink water, cannot be led, and have a dazed, stupid appearance and a tottering gait, till finally they decline and die for want of nourishment. I have seen locoed horses taken up and fed on grain, when some of them recovered and quite got over the habit even of eating the weed; but these were exceptions. Most locoed horses remained too stupid to do anything with and were never of much value. There is one strange fact, however, about them; saddle horses, slightly locoed, just so bad that they cannot be led, and therefore useless as saddlers, do, when hitched up to a wagon or buggy, though never driven before, make splendid work horses. They go like automatons; will trot if allowed till they fall down, and never balk. The worst outlaw horse we ever had, one that had thrown all the great riders of the country and had never been mastered, this absolute devilish beast got a pretty bad dose of the weed; and, to experiment, we hitched him up in a wagon, when lo! he went off like any old steady team horse. This is all very interesting; but that is enough as to its effect on live stock.

At the request of the Department of Agriculture I sent to Washington some specimens of a grub which, when the plant reaches its greatest exuberance and abundance, infests it, eating out its heart and so killing it. It destroys the plant, but alas! generally too late to prevent the seed maturing and falling to earth. The plant itself has been several times carefully examined, its juices tested and experimentally administered to various animals. But no absolutely satisfactory explanation of its effects has been given out; and certainly no antidote or cure of its effects suggested.

Well, in a certain year the seven years’ cycle came round; faithfully the loco plant cropped up all over the plains, the seed that had lain dormant for many years germinated and developed everywhere. As winter approached (in October) my fall round-up was due. Calves had to be branded, some old cows sold, and some steers delivered. I had sold nothing that year. On rounding-up the horses many of them showed signs of the weed. The neighbours flocked in and the work began. Only one round-up was made, when the idea seized me that if these cattle were “worked” in the usual way that is, jammed round, chased about and “milled” for several hours they would get tired and hungry, and on being turned loose would be inclined to eat whatever was nearest to them probably the loco plant. It seemed so reasonable a fear, and I was so anxious about the cattle, that I ordered the foreman there and then to turn the herd quietly loose, explained to the neighbours my reasons for doing so, but allowed them to cut out what few cattle they had in the herd: and the year’s work was thus at once abandoned. All that winter was a very anxious time. Reports came in from neighbouring ranches that their cattle were dying in hundreds. On driving through their pastures the loco appeared eaten to the ground; all the cattle were after it, and poor, staggering, crazy animals were met on the road without sense enough to get out of your way. By the end of next spring some of my neighbours had few cattle left to round-up. One neighbour, the largest cattle-ranch in the world, owning some 200,000 head, was estimated to have lost at least 20,000. And meantime how were affairs going in my little place? It will seem incredible, but what is here written is absolute truth. The loco was belly high; the self-weaned calves could be seen wading through it; but ne’er a nibbled or eaten plant could be found. I often searched carefully for such dreaded signs but happily always failed: and I did not lose a single cow, calf or steer, nor were any found showing the slightest signs of being affected.

Many reasons were advanced for the miraculous escape of these cattle; people from a hundred miles away came to see and learn the reason. No satisfactory explanation was suggested, and finally they were compelled to accept my own one, and agree that leaving the cattle undisturbed by abandoning the fall round-up was the real solution of the problem. The only work my men did that winter was to keep the fences up and in good shape, and whenever they saw stray cattle in my pasture to turn them out at once, fearing the danger of bad example. Next winter, the loco being still very bad, the same tactics were adopted and only one solitary yearling of mine was affected. So ended the worst loco visitation probably ever experienced in the West; not perhaps that the plant was more abundant than at some other periods, though I think it was, but for some unknown reason the cattle ate it more freely.

The temperature on these plains sometimes went so low as 20 deg. below zero, with wind blowing. There was no natural shelter, literally nothing as big as your hat in the pasture, and several men advised the building of sheds, wind-breaks, etc. But experience told me just the opposite. I had seen cattle (well fed and carefully tended) freeze to death inside sheds and barns. Also I had seen whole bunches of cattle standing shivering behind open sheds and wind-breaks till they practically froze to death or became so emaciated as to eventually die of poverty. If you give cattle shelter they will be always hanging around it. So I built no sheds or anything else. When a blizzard came my cattle had to travel, and the continued travelling backwards and forwards kept the blood in circulation. There were a few cases of horns, feet, ears and mammae frozen off, but I never had a cow frozen to death and never lost any directly from the severity of the weather. More than that, I never fed a pound of hay.

Our name for calves that had lost their mothers, and therefore the nourishment obtained from milk, was “dogies.” These dogies were ever afterwards unmistakable in appearance, and remained stunted, “runty” little animals of no value. Yet, if taken up early enough and fed on nourishing diet, they would develop into as large and well-grown cattle as their more fortunate fellows.

My foreman was an ordinary cowboy, but he was a thorough cattleman, had already been in my employ for seven years, and his “little peculiarities” were pretty well known to me. He became desperately jealous of his position (as foreman), resenting interference. It is a good characteristic, this desire for independence, if also accompanied by no fear of responsibility; and on these lines my ranch was run. I allowed him great independence, never interfered so long as he carried out general orders and “ran straight”; but I also put on him full responsibility. More than that, I allowed him to run his own small bunch of cattle, some hundred head, in my pasture, and gave him the use of my bulls; his grass, salt and water cost him nothing. This was a very unusual policy to adopt. But the idea was that it would thus be as much his interest as mine to see the fences kept up and in good repair, to see that the windmills and wells were kept in order, that the cattle had salt, were not stolen, etc., and prairie fires guarded against. Well, it all turned out right. My presence at the ranch during a year would not perhaps amount to a month of days; I could live in Denver, San Francisco or Mexico, and only come to the place at round-ups and branding-times. I do not think that a calf was ever stolen from me. The fact was I knew cattle in general and my own cattle in particular so well (and he knew it) that he had no opportunity, and perhaps was afraid to take advantage of me.

It must be here mentioned that on selling out, and in tallying my cattle over to the buyer, the count was disappointingly short; not nearly so short as the Scotch Company’s cattle, it is true, but still, considering that my cattle were inside a good fence, were well looked after, the huge calf crop and apparently small death loss, there was a shortage. Then there is no wonder at the greater shortage of the Company’s cattle, where almost no care could be taken of them, where the calf tallies were in the hands of, and returned by, the foremen of other outfits, where the range was overstocked, the boggy rivers a death-trap, where wolves and thieves had free range, and where blackleg, mismothering of calves and loco made a big hole in the number of yearlings. In my pasture were also wolves and blackleg; and the loss in calves by these, difficult to detect, is invariably greater than suspected.

Only one case of cattle-thieving occurred at my own ranch and I lost nothing by it. Two men stopped in for supper one day; they were strangers, but of course received every attention. They rode on afterwards, coolly picked up some thirty head of my cattle, drove them all night into Texas and sold them to a farmer there. Of course they were not missed out of so many cattle; but someone in Texas had seen them at their new home, noticed my brand and sent word to me. On going after them I found they had been sold to an innocent man who had paid cash for them and taken no bill of sale. It was not a pleasant duty to demand the cattle back from such a man, but he ought to have known better.

Some rustlers in Arizona once detached from a train at a small station a couple of carloads of beef cattle, ran them back down the track to the corral, there unloaded the cattle and drove them off. This very smart trick of course was done during the night and while the crew were at supper.

For all these reasons it will be seen why my small ranch was such a success and such a profitable and money-making institution. But alas! it was to be short-lived! As explained before, I was paying no rent and my fences were illegal. “Kind” friends, and I had lots of them, reported the fences to Washington; a special agent was sent out to inspect, ordered the fence down and went away again. I disregarded the order. To take the fence down meant my getting out of the business or the ruin of the herd. Next year another agent came out, said my fence was an enclosure and must come down. Seeing still some daylight I took down some few miles of it, so that it could not be defined as an enclosure, but only a drift-fence. During the winter, however, I could not resist closing the gap again. Next season once more appeared a Government agent, who in a rage ordered the fence down under pains and penalties which could not well be longer disregarded. Cattle were up in price; a neighbour had long been anxious to buy me out; he was somewhat of a “smart Alick” and thought he could keep the fence up; he knew all the circumstances; so I went over and saw him, made a proposition, and in a few minutes the ranch, cattle, fences and mills were his. Poor man! in six months his fence was down and the cattle scattered all over the country. He eventually lost heavily by the deal; but being a man of substance I got my money all right. So closed my cattle-ranching experiences some eight years ago (1902).

It may be noted that experience showed that polled black bulls were no good for ranch purposes. They get few calves, are lazy, and have not the “rustling” spirit. Durhams or Shorthorns also compared poorly in these respects with Herefords, and besides are not nearly so hardy. The white face is therefore king of the range. And bulls with red rings round the eyes by preference, as they can stand the bright glare of these hot, dry countries better. It used to be my keen delight to attend the annual cattle shows and auction sales of pure-bred bulls, and I would feel their hides and criticize their points till I almost began to imagine myself as competent as the ring judges.

The ranch was in the heart of the great buffalo range. (Indeed the Comanche Indians, and even some white men, used to believe firmly that the buffaloes each spring came up out of the ground like ants somewhere on these Staked Plains, and from thence made their annual pilgrimage north.) It seems these animals were not loco eaters.

On my first coming to New Mexico there were still some buffaloes on the plain, the last remnant of the uncountable, inconceivable numbers that not long before had swarmed over the country. Even when the first railroads were built trains were sometimes held up for hours to let the herds pass. As late as 1871 Colonel Dodge relates that he rode for twenty-five miles directly through an immense herd, the whole country around him and in view being like a solid mass of buffaloes, all moving north. In fact, during these years the migrating herd was declared to have a front of thirty to forty miles wide, while the length or depth was unknown. An old buffalo hunter loves nothing better than to talk of the wonderful old times. One of the oldest living ranchmen still has a private herd near Amarillo and has made many experiments in breeding the bulls to domestic Galloway cows. The progeny, which he calls cattalo, make excellent beef, and he gets a very big price for the hides as robes.