Recollections of a Texas Cowpuncher
R. M. Stephens, Irving, Texas,
I was very much interested in C. C. Bell's article in The News of May 3. I too, am from Missouri and was ahead of Mr. Bell one year in coming to Dallas in 1869, when, as Mr. Bell says, the courthouse grounds, or just south of it, was the principal tourists park. There was an old brick courthouse there then, cracked and about ready to fall down. But Dallas was, as Mr. Bell says, a small village of 500 or 600 people. Clark & Bryant were the principal merchants. The Crutchfield Hotel, just north of the square one block, is the leading hotel. South of the square was the favorite place for high robber poker players and high robber race horse men.
I came out with old man Bracher, a Missouri tenderfoot. We rented the Tom Floyd farm on White Rock, eight miles north of town. I got acquainted with a typical Texas cowpuncher, Andy Johnson. I worked in my cotton crop till the next July and then sold out to Mr. Bracher. Cotton farming did not appeal to me. Andy got me in with him as a cowpuncher for Bill Jackson. I followed that work for twenty years. We went to Dallas, I settled all my indebtedness, I got to camp with $10 and my saddle and bridle. I was introduced to the outfit as a Missouri tenderfoot. I don't remember all the boys, but recall Tomi and Bev Scott, young Tom Floyd and Durl
Buckhanon. I mention these with the hope that some of them may be living and may see this.
Andy told Jackson how tender I was. The wagon was standing on the east side of the courthouse. We corralled the horses with ropes tied to the wheels and I saddled my first Texas cow horse, a fat, slick, coal black with stocking legs and white face, fortunately for me and to the disgust of the boys. I had worked three years for a trader in Texas cattle and horses. having been practically reared on a mule, I could ride some. We turned old Ball loose and he made things warm for the tenderfoot nearly to the old ferry at the toot of Commerce street. We went down into Bill, Ellis, Navarro and Limestone Counties, gathered a herd and drove it up the old Baxter Springs Trail to Jackson's ranch, which he had bought in the Cherokee Nation on Grand River, ten miles above Fort Gibson.
We spent the winter of 1870 there, took what cattle he had left to Baxter Springs the next year, sold out and drifted back toward Texas. We met Dr.Warren of Palo Pinto County, went back to Chetopa, sold out and headed for Texas, worked for the doctor and gathered a herd. The next year we went up the trail to Coffeyville, drifted back to Texas ahead of the cold, worked on the range, gathered a herd the next year, started for Kansas, sold out at Victoria Peak ranch and went back and worked on the range. Sometimes we did not know whether we would wake up with any hair.
To hear the modern cowmen talk about hardships makes me laugh. Much of the time we had not a wagon sheet and part of the time no wagon. One horse would pack the kit for six or eight men. We had a sack of biscuits and salt and coffee, killed our meat when we camped, but had the pick of the land and could have buffalo, bear, deer and wild turkey, as the country was full of game.
In working the range I met my fate, a little blackeyed and black, curly haired girl. l thought I could not possibly live without her and I made her believe it. But I made one more trip up the trail. We held the herd at Victory Peak ranch when that was the farthest ranch on the Wichitas. The Indians had run all the ranchmen back. We had 3,700 head-- 1,200 oid steers from 6 to 12 years old. The Indians came one night and got all the horses but four. The old man sent two of the boys to the ranch at Whitesboro. Coming back through the crosstimbers, west of Montague, a bunch of Indians rant onto them and tried to take them, but the boys were riding good horses and outran them. Our damage was two men shot and one horse, one man shot through the shoulder below the collarbone, one through the calf of his leg.
That summer I came back to the black eyed girl, married her, made one more trip up the trail, settled in Palo Pinto County on Iron Eye Creek, west of Palo Pinto town; took up a ranch and went to ranching on my own hook.
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