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Dan Budd, a Texas Cowboy - Cora Melton Cross

Published October 7th, 2014 by Unknown

[From J. Marvin Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, June, 1928]

"They're building towns and railroads now,
 where we used to bed ow' cows.
And men with mule and plow and hoe,
 are digging up our bedding grounds.
The old-time cowboy has watched the change,
 seen the good times come and go.
But the old-time cowboy will soon be gone,
 just like the buffalo."

That is the alpha and omega of Dan Budd's experience in the cattle business, as he tells it. But there's a lot that happened in between, beginning as far back as 1852, when his father, W. M. Budd, heard and heeded the "on to Texas" call away back in Illinois. In reckoning upon a prospective location in the West, the Budd who pioneered Texas listened attentively to the reports about the State, particularly those setting forth the advantages of certain parts of it adapted to cattle raising and finally making a decision that Lamar County was his preference, he started on the journey, neither halting nor drawing rein excepting to rest or sleep until he reached the Pinhook Settlement, four miles south of the city of Paris of today, founded by one Mathias Click twenty-four years previous. Here he stopped, looked the country over, declared it measured up to his estimation, and immediately prepared to begin the raising of Longhorn cattle.

Fortunately, he came as the country was on the rebound from what was known as her "black years," so called from a succession of calamities, beginning with a heavy frost which killed the grain and cotton in the bud—then a serious reckoning, since a crop meant food or famine, with a limited reserve supply to draw on. This was followed by a prolonged drought, prohibiting replanting. Severe sandstorms and various disastrous quirks and turns of the elements added nothing to a feeling of security against privation. And that period went down in history as the "pirate" year.

Close on its heels came contention and dissatisfaction over the State boundary. And it was not until the boundary bill passed, and Austin, by popular vote, was declared the location for the Capitol and other State buildings, that harmony was restored. In the meantime Texas had lost much of her population through the hue and cry of "more gold In California," inducing her pioneers to try their luck in the elusive search for the yellow metal.

Young Budd arrived in time to participate in the aftermath of all of this, but he brought with him two valuable assets, energy and determination, characteristic of the people of the Middle West. Texas frontiersmen had endured to the limit and a courageous bucking-up against almost overwhelming odds by a newcomer renewed hope in their hearts and strength in their weary bodies, and he was heartily welcomed. As for Budd himself things moved smoothly enough, and from the very first his enterprise thrived amazingly.

Came Josephine Murphy from Arkansas, and from the first time her Irish eyes o' blue smiled Into the brown ones of W. M., his one desire was a repetition of the miracle. Even his beloved cattle became a secondary consideration, nor did this abate until one fine day Josephine placed her dainty foot in his palm that he might lift her to the saddle of her mount and with him beside her ride away to White Cut schoolhouse, where a circuit rider pronounced them man and wife. Back at Pinhook in their log cabin love nest, business began to pick up, and the youthful groom put in some good, hard licks to make up for lost time in his cattle industry.

It was in this home that some years later their son, D. J., the Dan of our story, was born. From the time his little legs could stride the saddle in front of his father he rode the herd and actually grew from baby-hood to manhood working cattle. With added years and experience he came in touch with boys in the work who were "out on their own hook" and he immediately began to want to shift for himself. After much discussion he was turned footloose, and what he thinks of it after long years filled with ups and downs, is expressed in the introductory verse of the details between the interesting happenings here and there, he will now tell you.

"My trailing didn't amount to much for it could hardly be classed as that. I didn't hanker after the long, hard drives, 'but I did go with several herds on the shorter ones, the first of which was with 700 head of 7-A. cattle owned and bossed by George B. Ancell, from Wichita to up somewhere around Amarillo, where we turned 'em loose on grass. The Ancell boys, Jim Rogers and I were along. It was a cow and calf herd that was weak in the knees for lack of grass in the spring. I stayed with Ancell until 1894, doing everything that comes in the everyday life of a plain cow hombre. Mr. Ancell was a fine man to work for. He is now living, I understand, somewhere near Electra, still handling cattle, and he 'shore' knows his stuff when it comes to anything connected with 'em.

"The following year I went to work for Wagner Bros. on their D ranch in the Indian Territory and stayed with them a year. Then I got to saddle-tramping again and drifted across to the Tom Jones ranch. Talk about ranches, that was some sized little plat of ground. It ranged from the Rio Grande to the Verdi Gris River and was simply lousy with cattle. I remember that at one time Jones bought 10,000 head from Charles Schreiner. They were some of the King cattle, and he moved them from Electra, then known as Beaver's Switch, to the Caddo Reservation. He owned thousands of cattle and I worked for him all over the Indian Territory. His headquarters ranch was in Wichita County, known as the T. Fork, an old, old ranch location. I have been told that it is now almost entirely an oil producing area. But Mr. Jones sold it several years ago and went to Mexico to handle cattle. Sometime later he died in Del Rio. I sure hated to hear of his death; for he was as good a man as ever lived, I reckon, and couldn't have been beat to work for.

"When I quit working for Tom Jones I acted on his advice and started in for Dan Budd, himself. Didn't have much to begin with, but I was pretty well up in the cow business and decided to land what few head I had in the San Angelo country.

"It was open range, green, grassy prairies and mesquite flats for protection; dogtowns, rattlesnakes, chaparral, sage and greasewood thrown in for miles around. Watered by the Concho Rivers, three forks of 'em, the best water in the world and the finest grazing for stock. There was lots of sheep there then; is yet down about Sonora and Ozona, and Mexicans a-plenty. Needless to say that I did well with my cattle; couldn't help it. There was nothing to do but stay on the job, keep my eyes peeled and watch 'em grow.

"That country was full of cattlemen at that time. The range had been 'free for all' for so long that when wire fences were introduced there was some exciting times. The old-timers, well, maybe not so much older than I am, but those who have been there since 1882 and before, tell some interesting things about the early days. Among them being that there were but three pastures in the country at that time. L. B. Harris and W. S. Veck each had one fenced on North Concho River and Mrs. Kate Arden one on the middle prong. The county was then sixty miles wide and 190 long. But a little later Midland and Coke were sliced off and not long after that the Legislature cut a hunk out at one time big enough to make thirteen more counties.

"There wasn't much town there either; William S. Veck owned the bank and a big supply store. Sterling P. Robertson had a general merchandise store and there was a little one-room sort of clothing and men's furnishing goods combined owned by Meyers. E. A. Nimitz had an adobe hotel and Mrs. A. E. Tankersley ran the Concho House, at that time calculated to knock your eye out with its grandeur, being a two-story frame building with porches running full length above and below.

"The flood that washed Ben Ficklin away in 1882 destroyed the courthouse and agitated the removal of the county seat to San Angelo. The vote carried that year but the erection of the stone courthouse—lately razed for the building of a more magnificent one—was not begun until the following year. and it was not completed until sometime in 1885.

There was an adobe schoolhouse in the town, a Methodist and Catholic church and the Millspaugh waterworks, owned and operated by J. L, Millspaugh, who also ran a big supply store near Fort Concho. Beside these there were seventeen saloons, most of 'em with adjoining dance halls and all with gambling in full blast. There was stud poker, three-card monte, faro and roulette, pay your money and take your choice. Killings were frequent and of small concern, serving more to keep the excitement to the usual pitch than anything else. Judge Preuser was Justice of the Peace, and he had his hands full.

"The old-time cattlemen talk about the blizzard of the year of 1884, and declare there has been nothing like it since. They recall that cattle drifted down from the plains and froze to death by the thousands in a snowstorm that was so terrific in force that it almost put them out of business. The cattle came to the river seeking water and protection and when they got in and drank their fill they froze in droves. Fort Concho got its water supply for twelve companies of soldiers from Main Concho, and with it full of dead cattle something had to be done and that quick. Orders were issued to ‘clear the stream,’ and when the soldiers quit dragging out the cattle they numbered just 6,000 head. That was close in around San Angelo, too, and they were probably just as bad on the other two forks and farther out. People got so they would not eat the fish caught from the rivers on account of there being so many dead cattle in the water.

Some time after that wire fencing began in earnest. L. B. Harris, father of Frank and Ralph, who still carry on the cattle business on a stupendous scale, put in about 20.000 acres fronting the Colorado River in what is now Coke County, and built what was then unheard of, a fine brick house for ranch headquarters. J. Willis Johnson, multi-millionaire cattleman and landowner, at the time of his death a few years ago, started in about that time by buying the Walking Cane brand. Nub Pulliam was another of the old guard, who still herds on the same old range. Wash, Mart and Fayette Tankersley, now ranching on Dove and Spring Creeks, and Seaton Keith of Lipan Springs, yes and ever so many others. There's many a story waiting to be dug up around the old ranches, like the Bar S, the Circle 6 and I. C. and others.

"The last named was called in the early days the Mullins ranch. It was owned by Ike Mullins, who branded I. C., which, so his cowboys said, was indicative of the man, whose own morale and business principles were so unquestionable that nothing amiss ever escaped his eyes in his employees. He did not hesitate to give a fellow his time if he caught him swearing or stealing. He was a fine character and was buried, at his request, on top of a hill overlooking the ranch.

"It doesn't seem long since I worked cattle all over the country surrounding San Angelo, but how the scenery has changed! All the modern methods of communication and transportation, too, for that matter, are in force there. The old site of Fort Concho is now a credible and bustling subdivision to the city. The hill and mesquite flats are bristling with oil well structures and it looks like she has wealth and prosperity by the tail with a downhill pull, for development of resources has just begun.

"Am I still in the cattle business? Well, I just reckon I am and not liable to be much else for some time to come I guess, unless an oil well happens to hoist me on top of the world. Even then I guess I would keep right on handlin' cattle in the same old way. Of course it's hard to tell what a fellow would do if such a miracle as that did happen, but I am inclined to think it would be pretty hard for me to wean myself away from the rattle of horns, the bawling herd, thud of hoof, lowing of mother cows, answering bleat of baby calves and everything that goes with 'em. There's something about it all that once you have a part of it you just can't hardly do without, and I was born to it. Yes, I guess it's safe to say I am a fixture in the cattle business."


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