THE DRIVES 1872-73 -- THE GREAT PANIC -- EFFECTS ON WESTERN CATTLE MARKETS -- STOCK-MEN'S MASS MEETING AND BANQUET -- THE NATIONAL LIVE STOCK ASSOCIATION -- COL. O. W. WHEELER -- WINTERING CATTLE ON THE RANGE.
Near three hundred and fifty thousand head of cattle arrived in Western Kansas during the year of 1872; scarce more than one-half as many as were driven during the previous year. This fact, alone, is quite suggestive of the wide-spread loss and disaster of 1871; the year often termed "bad medicine" by western drovers. There was great rivalry between Wichita and cattle points on the K. P. Railway. There was a vigorous effort made to draw a portion of the drovers with their herds to Coffeyville, on the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railway. The cattle season of 1872 was a good one for the drovers, although they did not receive other than fair paying prices for their stock; yet, in consequence of the bountiful corn crop throughout the northwest, creating an immense demand for cattle for feeding purposes, the drovers were able to sell out at moderately good prices. The good results of the season had the effect in 1873 of a marked increase in the number of cattle driven. At the opening of the season three different railways competed for the cattle trade, the K. P., the A., T. & S. Fe, and L., L. & G. Railways. It was evident, even before the opening of the cattle season, that the drive would be very large. The utmost activity was manifested on the cattle trail by parties working in the interest of their respective roads or points, all of which poured out money freely in order to secure cattle business. How different was this to the conduct of the railway company the first three years of the existence of the cattle trade, when it was first being established; then it required both money and labor, coupled with faith and nerve, to do the task; to overcome the multitude of obstacles that successively arose, mountain high, to oppose and almost overwhelm the enterprise undertaken at Abilene. In the years of '72 and '73 the K. P. Railway Company were willing to pay numbers of men snug sums of money to use their influence, and to work in favor of their line, and then pay handsomely to have the stock loaded upon the cars from shipping yards built by the railway company at many thousand dollars cost; while, in the years of '68 and '69, they did nothing to aid the business. When parties secured the cattle and loaded them upon the cars from yards built, maintained, and operated at private expense, the railway company had only repudiation of its contract to offer as recompense for services.
In 1873, near four hundred and fifty thousand head of cattle entered Western Kansas, besides about fifty thousand which turned off of the trail to the eastward and went to Coffeyville, making an aggregate of near one-half million head of cattle. Of this number fully three-fifths were stock cattle; that is, cows, heifers, yearlings, and steers younger than four years old. The season was marked as the first in which there was nearly no demand from any source for stock cattle.
Scarce a single buyer from any of the Territories put in an appearance, but on the other hand it was reported that they were supplied with cattle, and that instead of being buyers they would be for years to come extensive sellers. Thus instead of relieving the Western Kansas cattle market of its surplus or excess, they were pressing to the front, shoulder to shoulder, as competitors in the Eastern markets in which they had a decided advantage from the fact that the Territorial cattle had been wintered North, and not being driven to disturb or prevent them from fatting. The result of the situation which developed in 1873, was that such herds as failed to get into the Indian contracts were held upon the range, and an attempt was made to fatten them for the fall market. In order to do this large sums of money had to be raised, by borrowing of such banks as were disposed to accommodate the cattle men. Many drovers were in debt in whole or in part for their herds, while others did not have means to pay off their surplus men on arriving in Kansas, or buy necessary camp supplies, Resort was had to borrowing money instead of selling cattle at such prices as were offered. This was done to a very large extent. On the first of September Texan drovers in Kansas were in debt fully $1,500,000. The greater portion of this amount was due and payable during the month of October.
About the middle of September the great panic of 1873 began in the eastern cities, and by the first of October had reached the Northwest and West in its full force, paralyzing every business to a greater or less extent. Perhaps no business in the west suffered so much as the cattle trade. There was an unprecedented number of cattle awaiting the opening of the packing season and the general fall markets, and their owners were as a rule largely in debt to the banks, which debts matured during the month of October. Owing to the distressed condition all the banks found themselves placed in, it was impossible to grant extensions, and there was no other alternative than to put the cattle upon the market in order to pay the debt for which the live stock was in many instances pledged. The short corn crop had reduced the number of buyers fully fifty per cent, as compared with the previous year, and the panic had the effect of farther reducing the number of would-be purchasers fully one-half, so that there were scarce one-fourth the number of buyers for cattle in the fall of 1873, that there were in that of 1872, whilst the number of cattle for sale was much larger. In addition to the foregoing, the season had been rainy and the grass coarse, soft, and washy, consequently the cattle had stampeded much and fatted little, so that more than ninety per cent of them were unfit to be packed, or to go to eastern markets. In fact they were only fit to be fed during the winter and marketed the following year. To a man whose sympathies ran with cattle men, it was like attending a funeral of friends daily, to stand upon any of the cattle marts and witness the financial slaughter of drovers and shippers constantly occurring.
Many cattle that were forwarded east, did not sell for scarce more than freight and charges. A single firm lost one hundred and eighty thousand dollars in three weeks' shipments. It was common to hear a shipper say, pointing to his cattle, that every horn in sight was losing a five dollar note, or ten dollars per head. Indeed, money was lost as fast and completely as if a bonfire had been made of it, and kept burning for forty days. It is estimated that the panic lost Texan drovers fully two millions of dollars. No such calamity ever befell the western cattle trade; it is beyond the power of the writer to give by pen or word, even a faint description of the great calamity or tell of its wide spread ruin. Men by the score could be named who were suddenly bankrupted, and it was very rare to meet a cattle drover, trader, or shipper, who had not lost heavily. Many thousands of stock cattle, especially cows and rough thin steers, were sold at from one to one and a quarter cents per pound gross weight, to be "tanked;" that is, the hide, horns, and hoofs taken off, and the balance of the carcass placed in a tank and rendered, or steamed; the tallow obtained, the balance was thrown away. Many thousand were disposed of in this manner, while by far the greater portion were taken by feeders some of the best herds were taken by the packers. The year of 1873 was, taken as a whole, one of great disaster to western cattle men, and will be long and vividly remembered by many whose fondest hopes, together with their fortunes, were dashed to the earth and broken. Of the half million cattle that came to Kansas during that year, fully two-fifths were put in winter quarters in Western Kansas, or driven into Colorado, and of the remainder (perhaps one hundred thousand,) were put on feed in the Northwestern States, and as any more went direct to market and were slaughtered, whilst the remainder went to the Indians and to be consumed the in more northern Territories.
One thing may be regarded as effectually settled. That no more stock cattle are needed or wanted from Texas in the Northern States or Territories, and the sooner the stock men of Texas recognize this fact and cease depleting their stocks at home the better for them. We deem it now full time to urge Texan live stock men to stop driving off to Northern markets other than beef cattle, and whether it is really best to drive them or allow them to remain upon their native pastures until fat, and then ship direct to market, is a proposition that will bear discussion.
About the middle of September 1873, a mass meeting of live stock men was held, and a banquet given at Kansas City. The purpose of this was to bring the Northern and Southern cattle men together in social contact and intercourse, and if possible to inspire the drooping cattle trade with greater life and activity, and also to form an Association of Live Stock Men. The mass meeting and banquet was a great success. Near two thousand cattle men sat down to the banquet, and addresses were delivered by Gov. Woodson, Missouri, and other prominent men, representing the various sections of the West and Southwest.
Many amusing incidents occurred, one of which we relate: An unshaven, unshorn, roughly-clad cow-boy fresh from New Mexico obtained a seat at the Banquet table. He had often heard of the exhilarating effect of fine pure wine, but had never tasted any. As soon as he was cleverly seated clutched a quart bottle of champagne saying, "What's this hur trick -- guess I'll try the critter." Popping the cork he proceeded to pour one-half the contents of the bottle down his throat without stopping. Then hesitating for a moment, remarked: "This hur stuff is too d--d thin; it won't make nobody drunk; I could drink the Gulf of Mexico if it was like this and not be drunk neither." Then guzzling the balance of the quart he reached for a second bottle, which he was in the act of uncorking when the effect of the first bottle seemed to suddenly reach his brain. Hesitating for a moment in which his eye was observed to tingle with a newly aroused wildfire he arose to his feet; then suddenly jumped about two feet into the air and brought his ponderous fist down on the table with the force of a trip-hammer, and screamed in tones near akin to the warhoop of a Comanche: "I'm a s--n of a b--h from New Mexico, by G-d. I'm just off of the Chisholm trail -- wild and woolly -- and I don't care a d--m I can whip any short-horn in America, by G--d." All the while jumping up and down like a caged wild demon -- his long uncombed hair hanging a profused mass over his face whilst his eyes shot forth piercing tiger glances. Had he had his pistols, death's cold leaden pellets would have been distributed promiscuously.
The following evening a meeting was held, and an organization was formed, which was named and styled THE LIVE STOCK MEN'S NATIONAL ASSOCIATION. Officers: President, John T. Alexander, of Alexander, Illinois; Corresponding Secretary, Joseph G. McCoy, Kansas City, Missouri; Treasurer, W. H. Winants, Kansas City, Missouri.
The great panic of 1873 beginning soon after the instituting of the Association, all efforts to extend the organization were temporarily suspended. But it is the determined purpose of interested parties at an early day to push and extend the organization, until, if possible, every live stock man in the United States is induced to become a member. All communications pertaining to the Association should be addressed to the Corresponding Secretary.
It is a fact that every other branch of business or occupation, (although often not of one-half the magnitude nor employing a fourth of as many men as the live stock business), is organized completely, and by such organizations, aid and protect its members in a thousand ways, besides collecting statistical and other general information concerning their special business, as well as protecting their co-laborers from oppression and outrage at the hands of strong monopolies, with which they are often individually brought into business relations. It is true that live stock men are, or have been heretofore, entirely unorganized, and as a result thereof they are not correctly informed as to the extent or magnitude of the business in which they are engaged; nor do the stock-men of one State, as a class, or as a rule, have any definite knowledge of the number engaged in like business in any other State or Territory. This might be truthfully said of most stock-men as to their adjoining counties, and often, townships. Nor do they know, or have any good means of informing themselves, as to the number of live stock, hogs, cattle, or sheep, that are being prepared for market, or that likely to be put upon the market at any given time in the future. And when they are prepared, or ready to market their stock, if the nearest and most convenient means of transportation chooses to ask them exorbitant rates of freight, they submit, and although they will complain piteously about the extortion, they do nothing to prevent its repetition. Indeed, it has often been said that every stock-man was an independent sovereignity in and of himself, and preferred to act for himself alone, free and independently, even if he does pay dearly for the privilege of so doing. It is idle to question the proposition, that if stock-men would organize they could have at least a part of the say in fixing rates of freight, yard charges, feed charges, commissions, and other incidental expenses to which the business is inevitably subjected. It would be next to impossible for railroads to effect and maintain combinations which the stock-men could not break. Corporations, by combination, would not successfully put up and maintain the price of freight fully thirty-three per cent., over rates charged previous years, and that too, when live stock is selling at prices ranging from twenty-five to fifty per cent. below those realized in former years. No such outrage could, or would be attempted successfully, or tolerated, if live stock-men would act in concert to obtain that that they desire, and of a right ought to have; neither could stock-yard companies insolently mistreat and abuse live stock, or charge exorbitant and outrageous prices for yardage, hay, corn, or for other services rendered; they would not dare to do it. But as matters now stand -- the live stock men entirely unorganized, each one by himself and for himself only, are subjected to the arbitrary restrictions and extortionate charges of conscienceless corporations. A stock-man or shipper sees himself wronged, and his stock abused, neglected, and otherwise mistreated, but feels himself powerless as to remedies, and usually does nothing but mutter curses, not loud, but deep; then pass along, only to have the same outrages repeated as often as he attempts to go to market.
The only remedy suggested to the mind of the author for these and many other abuses and grievances, is in organization. Then a potent protest that could and would be enforced and respected would issue against offending parties, and they be compelled to do right and act fairly with their patrons; or in the event of their persisting in oppressive practices such retributive justice could be meted out to them as would compel a change in their conduct and manner of doing business; or the business would be taken entirely from them.
Again if the stock-men were properly associated together a statistical bureau would be established for gathering and disseminating such information as would enable the members of the association to form correct estimates as to the amount of stock in every section of the country, and the probable number that would be marketed each month of the year.
It is not difficult for the practical cattle man to see wherein such information would be of inestimable value in forming business calculations, and a correct judgment of the probable future status of the business and markets. Besides a great aid to both buyers and sellers would be thus created and a general business register of the wants or desires of live-stock men would exist, to which any member might refer at his pleasure and thus save much time and money which would otherwise be spent in rambling over the country seeking without knowing just where to look for that which he desired. The advantages of organization or association are so numerous and so great, that it is time spent idly to urge them upon the attention of thinking, discerning live-stock men. But if they continue to bear without effort to remedy the many evils, abuses and extortions which have been heaped upon them in the past, then are they degenerate dung-hills, and unfit to bear the proud distinction to which as a class they aspire.
But we hope and apprehend the day is not distant when there will be found organizations of live-stock men in every State and in many counties; all of which may be made auxiliary to a general or national association. When that day does come, live-stock men will be subjected to fewer losses and be able to conduct their business in an intelligent, systematic manner just as is every other industry or vocation in the United States. It is in no sense for the lack of intelligence among stock-men that effectual organization has not before been effected, but from a habit of doing and acting in an independent individual capacity. The benefits to accrue from association are not thought of or realized; but the day now is when their numbers, and their interest alike behoove them to organize for their own mutual benefit, information and strength.
Some of the most intelligent of the land, both of the East and the West, are found in the live stock business. Impaired health often drives eastern born and educated men into the vocation of live stock; in the outdoor pure air exercise they find restored health. Men who are familiar with the amenities of high social life, those who are fitted by nature and education to adorn the best walks of life, are often found in the live stock business in the west; such a one is Col. O. W. Wheeler, who, in his native Connecticut home, received such a business education and training as fitted him for a commercial life; but that fell malady of New England--consumption, soon manifested its unmistakeable presence in his breast, and he was not long in deciding to test the effects of a trip by ocean steamer to the Pacific slope. Sorrowfully he bid an affectionate adieu to the loved home of his childhood, and to his parents, brothers, and sisters, and boarded a Pacific mail steamer bound for the Isthmus. This was before the Panama Railroad was completed, and the passage from ocean to ocean was made in canoes poled by natives up the Chagres river to the head thereof, thence on mules to Panama harbor.
Although that scourge of the tropics, Panama fever, laid its heavy hand upon his debilitated form, yet he survived it, and after a passage of thirty-two days found himself upon the golden sands of California. Arriving in the year 1851, he was among the comparatively early settlers in that eldorado. The very atmosphere was dense with excitement about the mines, of which new ones were being daily discovered, adding their volume to the constantly increasing wave of excitement. When the Colonel's health was somewhat restored, his means being limited, he went to the mines, but upon a brief trial found that he was not physically able to endure the heavy labor incident to mining. Accordingly he resumed to Sacramento and engaged in mercantile pursuits, taking a position as head salesman in a large establishment. But having a disposition that prompted the desire to be in the open air, and having naturally a great love for live stock, he accepted the first good opportunity and went to trading in cattle. Going a few hundred miles east into the desert on the emigrant trail, he met an immense concourse of in-coming caravans, consisting of teams and outfits en route overland from the States. Of course many animals, oxen, horses and mules were jaded out by their long journey over the plains, and were comparatively valueless to the emigrants, who were only too glad to part with them for a small consideration either in cash or recruited animals, for one of which a half dozen jaded ones could readily be exchanged. The all-absorbing effort of the emigrant was to get through to the land of golden promise, and he knew not how soon he would be compelled to either halt, or leave part of his outfit. This jaded stock only needed a few weeks rest and recruiting, no other food was required than the natural grasses of the mountain valleys. This trade, as the reader might readily infer, was very profitable, and the Colonel made several trips, reaping rich harvests.
When this trade was over, or done, he outfitted several teams and went to freighting to the various mining districts; but not liking this business he sold out, and meeting an excellent opportunity he bought out a disgusted merchant, and soon built up a lucrative trade, and then sold it out at good advantage. Finally he met with an opportunity to buy a large flock of sheep which the owners did not know how to handle to advantage. The Colonel having been reared a practical farmer, had no difficulty in putting the flock in fine condition, soon after which he divided the wethers from the stock sheep, and sold the former to the butcher at twelve dollars gold per head, and for the stock sheep a little better price was realized. These sales in addition to the proceeds of the wool clip, made the transaction highly satisfactory. Being the most successful in live stock, as well as best pleased with the business, he decided to go to Los Angelos in Southern California and bring up a herd of cattle, which he did, and sold out at a splendid profit on his arrival at Sacramento. This operation proved so remunerative and congenial that he was prompted to repeat it, which he did; but owing to serious illness he did not succeed so well, yet he made money. While in Southern California, two hundred miles south of San Francisco, he espied a large fine ranch stocked up with over three thousand head of cattle, besides horses, of which the owner had become tired. The Colonel determined to buy the whole establishment, which he did without delay or trouble. But he did not hold the realty more than a year before receiving a fine offer for it, which he accepted, retaining the most of his cattle.
About this time he conceived the project of opening a wholesale meat market in San Francisco, which soon required the carcasses of forty bullocks daily. This soon exhausted his herd, but there was no trouble in getting a supply from others, at such figures as afforded a fine margin. The wholesale slaughtering and meat market was continued for two years, when the desire for a more roaming venture took possession of him; accordingly, he made a trip by way of his Connecticut home to the Northwestern States, and purchased a herd of horses, which were started over the plains. This was in the year of 1861 and the plains' Indians were all on the war-path, and crossing the plains was an undertaking fraught with great danger; especially as Mr. Lo was decidedly fond of horses, and was not scrupulous about paying for them in coin or greenbacks. To prevent capture, or robbery, if not worse, it was necessary to travel in large trains or caravans, and maintain by organization, a semi-military defensive attitude. At the head of this organization, the Colonel was placed by the unanimous vote of a large number of emigrants and plains-men. That trip was one of great peril, and required persistent, eternal vigilance The experience and prudence of the Colonel was equal to the occasion, and although the train passed through a country swarming with hostile redskins who were ever on the watch for an opportunity to attack the train unawares, the only mode of Indian warfare; and although the red devils hovered on the route for days, the entire train, comprising several hundred wagons and more than a thousand head of loose stock, was conducted through safely.
After arriving in California his horses were sold at a moderate profit, but not content to stop or abandon the drover's life, the Colonel embarked in driving fat stock from Lower, or Southern California, to the various mining regions in the Northern part of the State, and to those of the great silver regions of Nevada. This very profitable traffic was continued through summer and winter, through snow and sunshine, until the spring of 1867, when in consequence of the extreme scarcity of cattle -- a result brought about by a drought, which had prevailed on the Pacific slope--he determined, in company with Messrs. Wilson and Hicks, to go to Texas and drive a large herd of cattle from there to the mining regions of the Pacific slope. In pursuance of this determination, they visited the Lone Star State early in the year, and purchased a select herd of twenty-four hundred head of cattle, and over one hundred head of good cow ponies, and employed fifty-four sturdy men, all of which they armed in the best manner, with superior rifles. No more complete outfit, or better herd of stock ever left Texas. This herd was the first to pass through the Indian Nation, and broke the trail over which the drive of 1867 came. It was a year of constant rain and flood, and, as if to add to the distress of the situation, the Asiatic cholera made its appearance and swept away many cow boys, and some of the drovers. When they had arrived in the vicinity of Abilene, a halt for consultation and for reconoitering the situation was made. The Indians on the plains were extremely hostile, and all on the war path. After obtaining all the information possible, it was determined to stop at Abilene and dispose of the herd. To this course the Colonel objected, and earnestly urged his two partners to go forward as per the original programme, but he was overruled. He was no theorist or dreamer desiring to attempt impossibilities, but having often been exposed to savage redskins, and being anything but a coward, he did not fear to go forward with the herd and fight their way, if need be, through the hostile Indian country.
The fear of Indian depredations influenced his partners to take the course determined upon. This magnificent herd did not get in good flesh during the summer season, nevertheless it was shipped to Chicago and packed upon the owner's account, which operation was not profitable. The Colonel's plan was to winter the herd, when he found that his partners would not risk going through to California, but in this he was again overruled. However when their herd was shipped and packed he returned to Kansas, and bought on his individual account, a herd of fifteen hundred head of cattle, which he wintered in the southeast part of the State, and fatted the following summer.
Notwitstanding the Missouri mobs, he drove the herd to Quincy, Illinois, where he placed it upon pasture. This was about the time of the great excitement about Spanish fever, and a good opportunity occurred to buy Texan cattle at Quincy from panic-stricken shippers, which he was not slow in improving. Indeed the Colonel bears a well established reputation as a shrewd, observing, operator, whose keen eye always readily sees quickly an opportunity for a profitable investment. Many hundred were sent from the yards to his pasture and mingled with his wintered herd, then he went to Abilene and bought and held several thousand choice cattle. When the excitement subsided and the brisk demand, noted otherwheres, arose for fat Texan cattle for packing purposes, he was found right on hand with rousing fine herds, just ready to reap a harvest of profits. After closing up his summer and fall's operations, he went to Texas where he bought five thousand head of cattle, to be delivered in Nevada. When this contract was completed, he returned to Kansas, and whilst the parties with whom he contracted in Texas were driving the herds to Nevada, he bought and shipped about six thousand head upon the Chicago market.
Upon the arrival of one shipment a genius named Milk took upon himself to inform the Board of Health, that the Colonel was shipping "fresh Texan" cattle. The Board thought him a fit subject upon whom to try the recently enacted prohibitory legislation; accordingly, one day, when the Colonel had about twelve hundred head upon the market, they (the Board of Health,) arrested him for having "Texan cattle in the State of Illinois." Before they took the cattle into possession, the Colonel demanded a bond of indemnity, and then dug out of his convenient pocket a "certificate, under seal," setting forth that the cattle were wintered, and just then the aforesaid board of health "saw it" and wilted. The Superintendent of the yards revived them with sparkling champagne, over the effervesence of which the "board" not only revived, but waxed liberal, and patting the Colonel on the back, told him to bring all the cattle he pleased. This was esteemed an exalted privilege for an American citizen to enjoy in this free country. But the Colonel is anxious to meet the man who set that board of health on him; he would make it warmly interesting to that fellow, and would show him a peculiar variety of the "milk of human kindness;" but it is apprehended that that "milk" would not be appreciated. In all these shipping ventures he was successful; indeed, his judgment was as unerring as his fortune was good; where others stumbled or fell he cautiously but successfully trod.
In the fall season, at the appointed time, the Colonel went to the designated point in Nevada and received, then disposed of the five thousand head of cattle previously contracted for in Texas; the operation was only moderately profitable. In the year of 1870 he drove from Texas, and shipped altogether near twelve thousand head of cattle, and the following year he drove seven thousand head. This was the year in which occurred the great exodus of kine from Texas to Kansas, and was followed by the winter of disaster. The Colonel succeeded in selling all his, but one thousand head, which with eighty-seven head of cow-ponies he put into winter quarters; of the cattle, he lost twenty per cent., and every one of the ponies perished.
He then determined in the future to drive less in numbers, but be more careful in selecting good ones; accordingly he only put two thousand upon the trail leading northward the next year, but they were selected stock. After reaching Kansas he bought five thousand head, mostly wintered cattle and held them during the summer. He succeeded in making one sale of five thousand head to J. B. Hunter & Co., for the snug sum of $125,000. The remainder of his herds he managed to dispose of at paying prices. On returning to Texas the following winter with his cow-ponies, and after looking over the situation, he concluded that too many cattle were being driven to be profitable; accordingly he sold his ponies and returned to Kansas, where, during the summer of 1873, he maintained a "masterly inactivity" -- a mere spectator of occurring events -- but, when a favorable opportunity to make an investment presented itself, he bought six thousand head of cattle and one hundred horses.
The great panic beginning soon after, he was able to sell only about twenty-five hundred head at satisfactory prices, and put five hundred head on slop feed in Central Illinois; then placed three thousand head in winter quarters in Western Kansas.
The business of wintering cattle in Western Kansas has attained great proportions, and life in camp, and in winter quarters, is much like that described under head of ranching and grazing.
After reading this, and the sketches of other cattle men, the reader will rightly conclude that the life of the drover and dealer is one full of change, both in lines and character of business. Such is the fact, and in this fact -- the perpetual changing of clime, country, scenery, men and circumstances, coupled with the excitement ever incident to risk and ventures -- is to be found the fascination of the life and business of a drover, the key to the impetus which ever drives and animates him to greater and greater efforts and larger and larger risks. So deep and firm does the habit and incentive to trade and speculation take hold upon its votaries, that few men after beginning are ever willing to quit the business of stock trading and shipping, or exchange it for any other business. If from financial liability, he is compelled to take up some other vocation, he is ever longing to again try his fortune in live stock operations. If he succeeds, no matter how well at first, it only stimulates him to greater exertions and greater risks. If he does not succeed it only serves to make him determined to retrieve his losses in the same vocation in which he sustained it. Bankruptcy and financial ruin is the only means that will put a stop to his operations.
These observations are more applicable to shippers of live-stock than to ranchmen, or to that other class of dealers who conduct their operations altogether in the country and seldom go to market; then only with their own production. This class of operators are not only more safe and successful but almost invariably accumulate wealth, for they can remain at home, when the market is not good, and hold their stock off, or await the coming of a shipper or speculator to whom they sell, when the prices offered are satisfactory. To this latter class belongs Colonel Wheeler.
Northwestern Kansas is a superior stock country, and abounds with fine buffalo grass upon the uplands and bluestem, or blue joint grass in the valleys, affording abundant hay and winter range; also water, fresh and salt, and timber, and other shelter exists in abundance. In these regions the Colonel has chosen his wintering grounds, and when the herds are once located and become quiet and content, they are not herded, but out riding the country instead, is practiced. Substantial dug-outs were constructed for the comfort of his men, and everything is provided to render them as snug and content as possible under the circumstances. The Colonel's employees are to a man loud in praise of his generous liberality, and every one of them would fight, and if need be, lay down their lives for him or his interests.
When the winter is passed the cattle are gathered together and put under herd, and camps established; this is done to prevent the cattle from straying off or being stolen.
The frontier of Kansas, like all other frontiers, is subject to the depredations of thieving bands of desperadoes, a lot of out-laws, who cannot live in a country or district where civil law can be enforced, but hover on the frontier, ever ready to prey upon the honest frontiersman. These bandits do not hesitate to run off any number of cattle or ponies that the negligent herder may permit to come within their reach.
There are many comforts enjoyed in camp life, out on the great plains in the summer season, not the least among which is the delightsome breeze which so gently sweeps over the land, bringing health, vigor, and "the balm of a thousand flowers" upon its wings. The freedom and abandon which naturally abounds, coupled with the jovial hilarity inevitable to robust health, to which may be added the often recurring sharp appetite for the feasts of game often provided by the skill of some semi-nimrod herder, all conspire to render camp life upon the broad plains a joy forever. When any attention whatever is paid to camp comforts, and the most ordinary sanitary regulations, sickness is almost unknown, but the opposite -- vigorous health, energy, and a keen appreciation of life with its ever changing vicisitudes -- is realized; it is true that many drovers are apparently indifferent to the health and comfort of the cow-boys in their employ; not of this class is the Colonel, the welfare and comfort of his employees are scrupulously looked after, and as a consequence he receives in return faithful service, besides the highest esteem bordering on veneration, from his men, of which he employs constantly a dozen or more.
There are few men in the western live stock trade more widely or more favorably known, than is Col. Wheeler. A puritan in blood, tracing his lineage direct to an honorable soldier of the war of 1812, whose forefathers were among the hardy band of Pilgrims that landed upon the historic Plymouth Rock. His manner of doing business is such as will bear favorable comparison with the most scrupulous and exacting. His business s principles are of the loftiest order, and none more heartily condemns and loathes a low, mean, or arbitrary act, than he, and none would be farther from performing a dishonorable deed; prudent and close, yet bold and daring, in his business transactions; punctual in meeting his engagements; shrewd and correct in finances; cordial and courteous withal dignified but not bigoted in his manner and intercourse with men. He is the universal favorite of a large circle which embraces the entire personal of the western live-stock trade, besides many honorable gentlemen in other walks of life. All recognize in him the generous chivalrous gentleman, whose impulses are ever true and good, and whose sympathies are ever with the worthy and deserving.