The cowboy plays such an important part in the cattle business that we stop here to tell the reader about him. You have heard much about him, but little that is true. So incorrect are the representations of him in the Eastern States that the reader will be surprised to learn from the photograph that the cowboy is a member of the human family.
We assure the reader that this is a photograph of a real cowboy, whom we have seen and conversed with, and from whom we begged the photo. He has been in the business since he was twelve years of age, and, of course, is a veteran cowboy although he is not over thirty years old. He has lived most of his life just outside of civilization and scoured the "Great Plains" and penetrated the Rockies, so thoroughly, that he is more at home there than he is in Denver or Greeley. He is a real dare-devil on the round-up, and the wildest broncho cannot run faster than he can ride. He sticks to his back, too, except when the flying brute stumbles when on the dead run; and then, of course, he falls with him. In this way he has learned what it is to have a broken arm, a dislocated shoulder, fractured ribs, sprained ankles, and bruises without number; but he was easily mended, and is now as good as new. He has been picked up for dead several times, when horse and rider went down together in their chase after a wild steer; and no one could tell why he was not killed, except that his time had not come. And yet this daring cowboy, so familiar with "life on the plains," his life as wild as the cattle which he herded, actually went into a civilized community, courted and married a modest, good girl, and established a home. If her ideas of a cowboy, and those of her neighbors, had been like those of many Eastern people, she would have run away from him when he went to make love, expecting a bullet from a revolver, instead of an arrow from Cupid. The photograph shows him, of course, as he appears at home in citizen's dress.
People in the New West laugh at the prevalent ideas of the cowboy in the East. When a town is sacked, or a railroad train robbed by masked men, it is heralded throughout the Eastern States as the crime of cowboys, when more likely a gang of professionals from New York or Chicago perpetrated the deed. That there are bad cowboys must be admitted; but, as a class, they are not the desperadoes and cut-throats which many Eastern papers represent them to be. We have seen cowboys who were educated in the best warehouses of Boston, and were told of others who were graduated at Harvard and Yale. They were in search of health, and engaged in this business, first, for health, and, second, for a fortune. That we may not be charged with giving a rose-colored view of this class, we call attention to the sentiments of others,
whose opportunities of personal observation have been far better than ours.
The editor of the West Shore, published at Portland, Ore., has the following:--
"The idea entertained of the cowboy by the Eastern public is as erroneous as it is possible to be. The cowboys, as a class, are a brave, intelligent, honorable, kind-hearted, and cool-headed class of men. In their ranks will be found college graduates, sons of many of the first families of the East, men worth their thousands in their own right, scions of nobility from Europe, and natives of the plains and mountains, the last, of course, by far the most numerous. That their life of freedom from restraint should develop certain wild traits of character, or that among them should drift an occasional refugee from justice, is not surprising; but such a recruit must behave himself like a man, and should he commit any outrage or crime, his companions would be the first to see that he was properly punished. They have no great love for Indians, nor, for that matter, has any man who has been brought into contact with that lazy, pilfering, ignoble race; and if they occasionally have trouble with Mr. Lo, the blame is by no means entirely their own. No better description of them and their characteristics can be given than the following by a cattleman, who has lived and worked with them for years:--
"'The cowboy is the most thoroughly misunderstood man, outside of the localities where he is known, on the face of the earth. I know him in all his alleged terrors, and as a class there are no nobler-hearted or honorable men in the world. Brave to rashness and generous to a fault, if you should be thrown among them you would find them ever ready to share their last crust with you, or lie down at night with you on the same blanket. Say that I have ten thousand cattle which I am about to send overland from Texas into Montana to fatten for the market. Those cattle will be on the drive from the first of April until the middle of September. They are divided into three herds, with a dozen or sixteen men with each herd. I intrust those cattle in the hands of a gang of cowboys. For six months I know absolutely nothing of my stock. I trust their honesty, to the extent of many thousands of dollars, without a contract, without a bond, with no earthly hold upon them, legally or morally, beyond the fact that I am paying them thirty-five or forty dollars a month to protect my interests. And these are the men pictured in the East as outcasts of civilization! I trust absolutely to their judgment in getting those cattle through a wild and unbroken country without loss or injury. I trust as absolutely to their bravery and endurance in the face of danger, for a man to be a cowboy must be a brave man. For instance, we are on a drive. The cattle are as wild as deers naturally, and being in an unknown country are as nervous and timid as sheep. The slightest noise may startle them into a stampede. We have been on the drive all day, and night is coming. It is cold and raining. We have reached the point where we intend to round up for the night. The men commence to ride around the drove, singing, shouting, and whistling to encourage the animals by the sounds they are familiar with and to drown any noise of an unusual character which might provoke a stampede. Round and round the cattle they ride, until the whole drove is travelling in a circle. Slowly the cowboys close in on them, still shouting and singing, until finally the cattle become quiet, and after a time lie down and commence chewing their cuds with apparent contentment. Still the vigilance of the men cannot be relaxed. At least half of them must continue riding about the resting herd all night. A stampede of cattle is a terrible thing to the cowboys, and may be brought on by the most trivial cause. These wild cattle away from homes are as variable as the wind, and when frightened are as irresistible as an avalanche. The slightest noise of an unusual nature, the barking of a coyote, the snap of a pistol, the crackling of a twig, will bring some wild-eyed steer to his feet in terror. Another instant and the whole drove are panting and bellowing in the wildest fear. They are ready to follow the lead of any animal that makes a break. Then the coolness and self-possession of the cowboy are called into play. They still continue their wild gallop around the frightened drove, endeavoring to reassure them and get them quiet once more. Maybe they will succeed after an hour or two, and the animals will again be at rest. But the chances are that they cannot be quieted so easily. A break is made in some direction. Here comes the heroism of the cowboy. Those cattle are as blind and unreasoning in their flight as a pair of runaway horses. They know no danger but from behind, and if they did, could not stop for the surging sea of maddened animals in the rear. A rocky gorge or deep-cut cañon may cause the loss of half their number. Those in the rear cannot see the danger, and the leaders cannot stop for those behind and are pushed on to their death. A precipice may lie in their way, over which they plunge to destruction. It matters not to the cowboy. If the stampede is made, the captain of the drove and his men ride until they head it, and then endeavor to turn the animals in a circle once more. A hole in the ground, which catches a horse's foot, a stumble, and the hoofs of three thousand cattle have trampled the semblance of humanity from him. He knows this. A gulch or gorge lies in their path. There is no escaping it. There is no turning to the right or the left, and
in an instant horse and rider are at the bottom, buried under a thousand cattle. History records no instance of more unquestioning performance of duty in the presence of danger than is done by these men on every drive. Should the stampede be stopped, there is no rest for the drivers that night, but the utmost vigilance is required to prevent a recurrence of the break from the frightened cattle. This may happen hundreds of times on a single drive.
"'I remember one instance which, from the friendship in which I held the victim, has made a lasting impression on me. Two brothers were together on the drive. Both men had been educated in an Eastern college, but for some reason had drifted to the cattle plains of Texas and had become cowboys. The elder was the captain of the drive. Sitting about the camp-fire one night the younger was very down-hearted about something, and finally said: "Charlie, let's throw up this drive. I don't want to go; I feel that one or the other of us will never go back. I am ashamed of this, but I cannot shake it off." His brother was impressed by his seriousness, but could only say: "George, here are three thousand cattle in my charge. I could not leave them if I knew that I would be killed to-morrow." "A stampede!" cried one of the men. In an instant they were all at their animals, saddles were adjusted, and away they went. The captain gained the head of the drive, and had succeeded in turning them a little when his horse stumbled. In another instant horse and rider could hardly have been distinguished from one another. This is the class of men cowboys are made of, and I never knew of many instances where they failed to do their duty.
"'There is another interesting period in the life of the cowboy, and that is the spring round-up. In the fall the cattle stray away, and in working away from the storms they sometimes get away a hundred miles or so. Each cattle-owner has his own particular brand on his cattle. The ranchmen in some natural division of the country will organize a grand round-up in the spring. The cowboys will drive the cattle all in together in one big drove. Then the captain of the round-up will direct the owner of ranch A to "cut" out his cattle. One of A's most experienced men will then ride into the drive until he sights an animal with his brand on. Deftly he will drive the animal to the outer edge of the herd, and then with a quick dash, run the beast out away from the drove, and it is taken in charge by others of A's ranchmen, while the cutter goes back after another. After some fifteen or twenty minutes, A's cutter will be taken off and B's man given a chance. This will be continued until each ranch has its cattle cut out. If any cattle are found without a brand, they are killed for the use of the men on the roundup. This cutting is a work requiring great skill and experience, and frequently requires the use of the lariat. Often cattle with a strange brand are found. If any one recognizes the brand, a ranchman living nearest the owner takes charge of it and notifies the owner. If no one recognizes the brand, the captain of the round-up advertises it, and if no owner is found, it is sold at auction for the benefit of the Cattlemen's Association.
"'These things will go to show the responsibilities resting upon these men. I will tell you how they get the reputation for recklessness. We will suppose these men have been on a drive for six months and been paid off. Then they are just like any other body of men; they go in for some fun, and on their lark ride yelling through the streets of some little town, shoot a few street lamps out, or get into a saloon row. Some imaginative correspondent immediately sends an account of it to some Eastern paper, where it comes out headed "Another Cowboy Outrage." Now, I know of hundreds of cowboys who never carry a revolver. They have strict ideas of honor, and they stand upon their honor. They are off duty, a lot of big-hearted, rough boys, but they are not outlaws or outcasts. They are not the class of men who rob trains or hold up people crossing the plains, and I believe that, taken for all in all, the American cowboy will compare favorably in morals and manners with any similar number of citizens, taken as a class.'"
A traveller in the West, writing to the Chicago Herald, describes the heroic conduct of a cowboy as follows:--
"One of the slickest things I ever saw in my travels, was a cowboy stopping a cattle stampede. A herd of six or eight hundred had got frightened at something and broke away pell-mell, with their tails in the air, and the bulls at the head of the procession. But Mr. Cowboy didn't get excited at all when he saw the herd was going straight for a high bluff, where they would certainly tumble down into the cañon and be killed. You know that when a herd like that gets to going they can't stop, no matter whether they rush to death or not. Those in the rear crowd those ahead, and away they go. I wouldn't have given a dollar a head for that herd, but the cowboy spurred up his mustang, made a little detour, came in right in front of the herd, cut across their path at a right angle, and then galloped leisurely on to the edge of that bluff, halted, and looked around at that wild mass of beef coming right toward him. He was as cool as a cucumber, though I expected to see him killed, and was so excited I could not speak. Well, sir, when the leaders had got within about a quarter of a mile of him I saw them try to slack up, though they could not do it very quick. But the whole herd seemed to want to stop, and when the cows and steers in the rear got about where the cowboy had cut across their path, I was surprised to see them stop and commence to nibble at the grass. Then the whole herd stopped, wheeled, straggled back, and went to fighting for a chance to eat where the rear guard was.
"You see that cowboy had opened a big bag of salt he had brought out from the ranch to give the cattle, galloped across the herd's course and emptied the bag. Every animal sniffed that line of salt, and, of course, that broke up the stampede. But, I tell you, it was a queer sight to see that fellow out there on the edge of that bluff quietly rolling a cigarette, when it seemed as if he'd be lying under two hundred tons of beef in about a minute and a half."
We have said that, from November to May, cattle wander where they please for food. Cowboys bestow no special care upon them, except occasionally, after a severe storm, or during an unusually cold winter, they go out to find how it is with the herd.
About the twentieth of May, however, the "round-up" begins. All the cattlemen in the district (the grazing country is divided into districts, under the control of necessary laws) meet at a given place, each owner of a herd furnishing a given number of cowboys and horses, according to the size of his herd; an organization is formed by the choice of captain and other necessary officers; and the exciting and fascinating business begins. The cowboys, upon their well-trained bronchos, sweep over the country, searching for and surrounding the scattered cattle, driving them towards an appointed locality, where, each day, each stockman "cuts out" his own cattle, brands the calves, guards them at night, and drives them on the following day to another fixed locality, and thus on, until the home ranch is reached, when they are again turned loose.
Many of the steers are wild as buffaloes, and often start off into a dead run just where the cowboys object to their going, and it is a neck and neck race often for miles, or until the wild creatures are exhausted. Here the excitement, as well as the dangers of the business, come in. Sometimes a wild bull will turn on his pursuer in a frenzy of madness, and the cowboy has but one thing to do--he must turn from the enraged animal and run for dear life. Neither horse nor rider can wage successful warfare with a mad bull. Horses are trained so thoroughly to the business that they voluntarily chase a steer when it is necessary, but run from him when that appears advisable.
A writer in the Boston Commercial Bulletin describes his participation in a round-up in Colorado, from which we make a few extracts:--
"All in a moment the earth seemed fairly sprouting with cattle, as they suddenly sprang into sight on all sides, the insatiate curiosity of the animals drawing them from miles across the country to take a good look at us. Breathing hard with excitement, they would stand viewing us with eyes large from fright and defiance, until as we started for them away they would go, bellowing wildly and with a noise as of hundreds of beaten drums from the falling hoofs.
"And wildly exciting was the chase, our aims quite marvellously aided by the excellence of our ponies, who it would seem might almost have accomplished the task themselves. The perceptions of a trained cow-horse become marvellously acute. Guided by the smallest twitch on the reins, he seems to divine by a subtle instinct the will of the rider. Out of a large herd the horse will seem to comprehend at once what cattle are to be cut out, sighting an animal apparently at the same instant with his rider, and seeming to take a diabolical sort of delight in running the creature down and frustrating all its clumsy, contrary efforts to run the wrong way.
"When a cowboy leaves his outfit to join any other, or for an expedition of any kind, he always takes his 'string' of horses, generally five or six, as well as all of his personal property, along with him. The tarpaulin--always pronounced as if spelled tarpaulion, and we will therefore henceforth so call it--and the blankets, comprising his bed, are wrapped around the gentlest of his horses and made fast with a lariat in a good 'squaw hitch'; on top of this the precious war-sack is fastened with especial care, and thus, driving his horses ahead of him, with all his earthly responsibilities directly before his eyes, the cowboy sallies forth. He gets his 'grub' at any ranch he may come to until he joins another grub wagon, and unrolls his bed on the ground wherever night overtakes him, corralling his horses if he is so lucky as to find a corral, otherwise hobbling them, that is, tying the forelegs together with a bit of rope. One horse, however, ready for immediate use, he always stakes."
"There were a few posts to be replanted at this point; but, for the most part, we had little to do, and we improved the leisure by establishing a little impromptu laundry by the river side. Our process was very simple. Wetting the garments thoroughly, we laid them out on the bank, rubbing them well over with soap; we then scrubbed and slapped each piece vigorously between our bands, when we rinsed them well, wrung them out, spread them on the grass, and, lighting pipes, stretched our exhausted selves out beside them, keeping a lazy oversight on the drying. Some, more energetically ingenious, tied their clothes in a bunch to the end of a lariat, and, throwing them out in the stream, towed them up a piece against the current but, beyond its interesting eccentricity, there was little to be said in favor of this method.
"The river comprised our entire toilet facilities, barring the hard soap on the grub-wagon; and we were wont to seize upon every opportunity for a bath and a swim in its murky waters."
"The ideas of roughness and exposure suggested by sleeping out are not sustained by the facts in the cowboy's case, as in the tarpaulion properly folded he sleeps as warmly and comfortably as in a tent. The method of his bed-making is not without art of its own. He first spreads out his tarpaulion on the ground. On the middle, at one end, a few inches below the edge, widthwise, his blankets, each folded once through the middle, are laid; his war-sack is arranged for a pillow, and then the tarpaulion is folded over the blankets on either side, making a sausage-like roll of the canvas some two feet wide, and the full sixteen feet long. Going to the foot then he makes a last fold just below his blankets, drawing the extra length well up over his pillow, where it will extend a couple of feet, forming ample shelter from rain.
"When one crawls into bed he first throws back the top folds of the tarpaulion, drawing it out a little wider than the bed beneath; then boots, hat, chaparrals, and other garments are arranged above the pillow, and he gently insinuates himself down between the blankets, pulling the extra length of canvas up over his head. If the wind blows hard, he reaches up and tucks the loose canvas well under his head, his covering presenting a smooth surface to the weather, and his body acting as a water-shed, so that he can sleep in warm security through the heaviest storm. With the blankets properly folded inside the tarpaulion, the whole is rolled up into a huge roly-poly package during the day, going on the grub wagon when the camp moves; and but a few minutes suffices at night for the cowboy to 'roll down' his bed, and establish himself in what his hard day's work has taught him to regard as sufficient luxury.
"In getting started, a young lad, who had just joined the outfit at Sterling, having a bucking horse of extreme viciousness, was thrown twice, once landing safely on his feet, but the next time striking on his head with terrible force. As the poor boy--he was no more than fourteen years old--staggered to his feet, sick and dizzy, to try it again, I took pity on him, and, riding out to the herd, roped up a fresh horse, while one of the other boys hastily helped me to shift the lad's saddle and help him on in good shape. Had he been a few years older, nobody would have dreamed of interfering, nor should I have ventured to do it even then had I seen the foreman about. He was on hand, however; and his wrath at my irregularity of friendliness was prompt and outspoken, evidently increasing the unreasoning hostility with which he had all along regarded me.
"Cowboys generally are skilled horsemen, many of them expert 'broncho-breakers,' really capable of sustaining the common boast of being 'able to ride anything that wears hair.' Some of their fancy riding, picking up coins and blossoms from the ground while going at full speed, and other feats of a similar nature, are wonderfully graceful. For these tricks, however, the horse, as well as the rider, must be trained, an undisciplined horse always stopping when one leans low from the saddle, which is likely to throw the rider from the force of inertia. A favorite feat of the cowboy broncho-breaker, and one by no means easy, is to place silver dollars in his stirrups,-- when he can get together so much wealth,-- back himself to hold the coins in place while he rides his horse at full speed, instigating him to buck as much as possible."
The reader will find much additional information about the round-up from the following description by a Kansas ranchman:--
"This part of the country is drained by a number of rivers which all flow, roughly speaking, in a southeasterly direction. Between the rivers are 'divides' that is, tracts of land more or less elevated, and from them small streams or 'creeks' run down, at various distances from each other, to the rivers. Let us suppose that we are going to round up a certain section of country. Some point is fixed on the river that runs through that section, at which to commence work. Every one likely to have any cattle in that neighborhood sends one or more representatives, according to the number he expects to find. The smaller owners club together and fit out a wagon with provisions, so that there may be with one wagon six or eight men representing as many different brands. The big men, who expect to find perhaps one thousand head, send a wagon of their own, with five or six riders. We will suppose the meeting point about thirty miles from our camp. About two days before the time fixed for beginning work we load a wagon with provisions, according to the number of men who go with it, and the probable time of their absence. Each man puts in his own roll of blankets. A driver is provided, who has also to act as cook. Each of the riders is provided with several horses, the usual allowance being about five to a man. A horse-herder is generally taken, whose sole duty is to look after the loose horses. When we are ready we make our start, driving the loose horses before us.
"In the middle of the day we camp for dinner, and probably wish to change our horses. To effect this, a couple of ropes are stretched from the wheels of the wagon, a man holding the end of each, so as to form an angle into which the horses are driven. The men stand behind the horses to prevent them from getting out at the open side of the triangle, each armed with a lariat, which be throws over the head of the particular animal he wishes to ride, and pulls him out of the herd. When every one has caught his horse, the remainder are turned loose again to graze, until it is time to go on. At night we camp beside a stream, if we can find one, and in order to prevent the horses from straying, we round them up again, and hobble them by tying a short rope to the forelegs of each. A couple of horses are picketed out, with which to get up the others in the morning. The following morning, at daybreak, the cook is up and gets breakfast for us, while two of the men go to hunt up the horses, unhobble them, and drive them back to the wagon. After breakfast the wagon is reloaded with the bedding and cooking utensils, and we proceed on our journey. On reaching our destination that evening, we see wagons dotted about in every spot convenient for camping, while hundreds of horses are grazing about in herds, averaging, perhaps, fifty or sixty head. The men are for the most part lounging round their camp-fires, discussing cattle, bragging of the speed of their horses, or describing the various brands of which they are in search.
"The next morning we are early astir. The 'boss' of the range we are on comes along and tells us what he wants us to do. We are to work perhaps two creeks that morning. A party is sent up to the head of each creek to drive the cattle down to the mouth, while a third rounds up the cattle along the river. Our party is split up so that two or three may be present at each round-up, and as the men with our wagon are all well acquainted with each other's brands, we arrange to cut any cattle belonging to any of our party wherever we may find them. The detachments that are to work the creeks extend themselves on the way up, and throw on to the creeks all the cattle grazing in their neighborhood. When we get to the head water of our creek, which may be about five miles long, we bring in any cattle we can find on the divide, and then our whole party ride down, pushing all the cattle before them nearly to the river; and wherever we find a convenient level, we round them up, the men posting themselves round the herd, which contains perhaps seven or eight hundred head, to prevent them from breaking away. Then the work of cutting out begins. The boss of the range has appointed two of his men to help to hold the herd, and also to prevent everybody from rushing in, as soon as the cattle are rounded up, and 'ginning them around,' as he would call it, so that no one can work properly, and the calves all get separated from their mothers, making it impossible to tell to whom they belong. As soon as the cattle have quieted down, the word is given that one man from each outfit may go in and cut out. One of our party goes in, and wherever he sees an animal bearing one of our brands he runs it out, continuing until we have collected a little bunch of cattle, which a second man herds, to prevent them from straying off and mixing with the other 'cuts.' When we have got out all our cattle we drive them off towards our wagon. In the meantime two other round-ups have been proceeding, and our 'cuts' from them are brought along and all thrown together, forming the nucleus of what we call our 'day-herd' . . .
"A horse that knows what is wanted goes quietly through the herd while you are looking for your brand; then, when you have singled out your animal and urged her on gently to the edge of the herd, he perceives at once which is the one to be ejected. When you have got her close to the edge, you make a little rush behind her, and she runs out; but as likely as not, as soon as she finds herself outside the herd she tries to get back again, and makes a sudden wheel to the left to get past you. Instantly your horse turns to the left, and runs along between her and the herd so that she cannot get in. Then she tries to dodge in behind you. The moment she turns, your horse stops and wheels round again, always keeping between the cow and the herd, till she gives it up and runs out to the cut where you want her. A good cutting horse will do all this with the reins lying loose upon his neck.
"But it is time to get our dinner. When that is over, we tell the cook to take the wagon up the river about six miles, and there camp. Two of our party are told off to follow with the day-herd, and the rest of us attend a couple more round-ups that take place in the afternoon. That night we picket out a horse apiece, as we have to herd our cattle. The leader of the party divides the night into so many reliefs, and tells each man at what hour he has to go 'on herd.' The next day we work on up the river in the same way, and so on de die in diem till we have rounded up all the cattle in that section of the country.
"If our day-herd becomes unwieldy in size, we despatch it to the range with a couple of men, and commence a fresh herd. Notwithstanding all our care, some cattle are sure to be left behind. A certain number have probably escaped being rounded up. A few we have accidentally missed, even when they were in the round-up, and some calves were not to be found, so that we have left the cows behind to hunt them up. In a few weeks, therefore, we shall work over the same ground again, and then we shall get nearly everything that we left behind on the first occasion."
The same writer furnishes an incident showing how readily cattle learn:--
"The cattle were so well acquainted with my movable shanty that they felt quite at home near it. They had a very annoying habit of getting up early in the morning, just as one was enjoying his final and sweetest nap, and rubbing their foreheads against the corners of the house, every now and then bringing their horns with a bang against the sides. When we moved down on Big Sandy, we had to wait two or three days before we could get a man to haul down the shanty, so we bedded the cattle on the opposite side of the creek to that on which we intended to station the house, in order that they might get into the habit of sleeping a little way off from it; but the very first night after it arrived they all with one consent moved across the creek and bedded themselves close beside it."
A ranchman relates the following incident illustrative of the perilous experience of cattle-driving:--
"One is not ordinarily much troubled by insomnia when cattle driving, but I had a bad nightmare one night, which was not imaginary, but came in the shape of a real cow. I had taken the first relief at night-herding, and when my time was up, and I had called the next man, I lay down near the herd and was soon unconscious of all around. While I was enjoying my peaceful slumbers, an old brute of a cow came grazing in my direction, and as soon as she saw the herder coming round to turn her in, she started to run. When she came to where I was lying, she planted her foot on my chest, having scraped my lip with her hoof, and she then stepped on the leg of one of the boys, who was sleeping beside me, who awoke with a fearful yell, exclaiming that his leg was broken! For a few minutes I felt doubtful whether I was half killed or not, but finally came to the conclusion that I was not much damaged, and, my neighbor seeming also to perceive that this first rash statement respecting his leg was untenable, we soon resigned ourselves again to the arms of Morpheus."
A stockman from whom we have already quoted describes the horses chiefly used, thus:--
"They are for the most part bred in Texas, and are exactly suited to the work required of them. They are generally small, but remarkably tough. A man does not think anything of catching up one from grass and riding him forty or fifty miles in a day. They are never given any corn during the summer, and, if at the beginning of winter they are turned loose in fair condition, they will hold their own on the grass, and fatten up very fast as soon as the green grass comes in the spring. Those that are used in the winter require some grain. Notwithstanding their small size, they are up to considerable weight. The Mexican saddle in general use weighs from thirty to forty pounds, and on top of that you may sometimes see a man of fourteen or fifteen stone.*
*A "stone" in Great Britain is fourteen pounds.
In point of temper they vary considerably. Some are as docile as could be wished, while a good many are addicted to 'bucking.' When a horse bucks he puts his head down between his legs, arches his back like an angry cat, and springs into the air with all his legs at once, coming down again with a frightful jar, and he sometimes keeps on repeating the performance until he is completely worn out with the excursion.
The rider is apt to feel rather worn out too by that time, if he has kept his seat, which is not a very easy matter, especially if the horse is a real scientific bucker, and puts a kind of side action into every jump. The double girth commonly attached to these Mexican saddles is useful for keeping the saddle in its place during one of those bouts, but there is no doubt that they frequently make a horse buck who would not do so with a single girth. With some animals you can never draw up the flank girth without setting them bucking. . . . A really good Texas cow-pony, when broken, is worth from sixty to seventy dollars. The common sort can be had for half that price."
When the cattle of a district are all collected, the work of "cutting out" the cattle of each owner begins. It is an exciting and interesting feature of the round-up. Each owner has his brand, which is properly recorded at a State office; and his cowboys, skilled in the business, separate his cattle from the herd one by one. The cowboys not engaged in cutting out surround the herd and keep them together. The illustration shows the present style of branding cattle.
This brand is taken from the book of brands published by the "Wyoming Stock-Growers' Association." The book contains the brand employed by every member of the association. Other kindred associations employ the same method, so that all the brands of the country are known, and to whom they belong. Under this arrangement the loss of cattle by straying, theft, or false claim is small.
Branding cattle is cruelty. The above brands are burned into the hide with red-hot iron. The cruelty of the method has prompted cattlemen to seek some better way to mark their property. But as yet, no method has been discovered that meets the conditions of ranch life so well as this. There is no doubt that some other way of marking cattle will be discovered superseding the present cruel method.
The cowboy fastens his eyes upon an animal wearing his employer's brand, and then proceeds to separate it from the herd. It is not so long and difficult a job as might at first appear, though often an exciting race and hard tussle transpires. Calves, of course, will follow their mothers, and the mothers will not leave their calves for much of a run. An eyewitness says of this part of the round-up:--
"Experienced cowboys ride in among the cattle, and, selecting the animals bearing their employer's brand, drive them out of the general herd and form others, each composed of cattle representing one ownership. This work is called 'cutting out.' The men not engaged in cutting out are employed in 'holding' the herds. The foreman of the round-up has supervision of the work, and sees that cattle are claimed only by the men entitled to them.
"When cutting out has been finished at one general herd, another is 'worked' in the same manner, and then another, and so on, until all the cattle driven in during the day's round-up have been inspected and separated.
"When the cowboys have taken from the herds all the cattle belonging to their respective employers, there are usually a few cattle left over. These are strays and mavericks. Both classes are disposed of under regulations of the association.
"Stray animals whose owners are unknown, and which are of a marketable weight, are taken up, shipped, and marketed. A report of the fact is made to an association inspector, and the proceeds are remitted to the secretary of the association, who keeps an account of the money for the purpose of turning it over to the owner of the strays, should he be found. But if by the time of the next annual meeting no one has claimed the purchase money, it becomes part of the general fund of the association.
"A 'maverick' is an unbranded calf away from its mother. The custom among stockmen, recognized by the rules of the association, is to brand a maverick found on the general round-up with the mark belonging to the largest female herd in the neighborhood."
Branding calves follows 'cutting out,' which requires the services of four men. While calves are expected to stick to their mothers, they are so wild and nimble that often the cowboy has a race after them. A strapping great cowboy on his horse, chasing one of these diminutive little creatures has been the occasion of much loud laughter that is comical indeed. Mr. Keyes, speaking from personal observation, says:--
"Perhaps you might think that this is an easy task; but you would find if you tried it that you were never more mistaken in your life, for the ease with which the rancheros accomplish it has only come with careful training and long practice. The little animal runs wonderfully fast, springs, turns, and dodges almost like a flash. But the cowboy never takes his eyes off of him; and the trained horse, now well warmed up, and entering fully into the spirit of the chase, responds to, almost seems
to anticipate, every turn of his rider's left hand and wrist. Meanwhile the latter, with his right arm, is swinging his noosed rope, or lasso; and in another minute he has thrown it exactly over the calf's head. Instantly the horse plunges forward, giving 'slack' to the rope, and allowing it to be wound around the horn of the saddle; then he moves on, dragging the calf after him, and the little creature is soon in the hands of the men with the branding-irons. These have been heated in a hot fire, and are quickly applied; and in a few minutes, the calf, now indelibly designated as the property of his master, is again running about."
After the general round-up in summer, there follows the beef round-up, collecting cattle which are in a good condition for the market. This occurs in August and September, so that the beeves can be sent to market in October. This is the most interesting part of the whole year to the stockman; for he learns at this time what his profits are. His object in raising cattle is to make money, appeasing the hunger of his fellow-men being only incidental to his business. Hence, he is happy when his beef from a herd of two thousand returns him seven or eight thousand dollars; or his herd of three thousand returns him ten thousand dollars for beef; or his herd of twelve thousand animals returns him forty or fifty thousand dollars: or his herd of twenty-five thousand returns around one hundred thousand dollars for beef. Such returns are in perfect harmony with the genial days of October; and no wonder the stockman is "contented with all the world, and all the world with him."
But his fat cattle must be sent by rail to market, probably to Kansas City or Chicago. He may be twelve or fifteen hundred miles away from his market; and it is no small job to transport cattle that distance, many of them as wild as beasts of prey.
The herd may be many miles from the railroad -- twenty-five, one hundred miles, or even more. They must be driven over this distance, subject, in some localities, to the driving snow-storms of the season, in which man and beast suffer seriously. Full as much care and watch must be bestowed upon them at night as through the day. But they reach the railroad station, where suitable corrals are found in which to enclose them until freight-cars appear. We have known a stockman to wait thirteen days in a storm of snow and sleet for the expected cars, man and beast suffering intensely night and day.