- Historic Sites
The Long Drive
A cowboy’s own story of his experiences on the trail from Texas to Chicago
April 1960 | Volume 11, Issue 3
Bushnell was not better on the third day. In the evening we was sitting in the hotel lobby. I was playing a fiddle that was there. I looked up and saw Bushnell trying to come downstairs. He was hanging on the banister and could hardly make the steps. Dick jumped up to help him down. I says to the landlord, “Can’t you give us a room downstairs? He is too weak to climb the stairs.”
The landlord said there was only his room and the hired girl’s room downstairs. The girl spoke up and said she would be glad to give up her room to help a sick man. So Dick went up for the medicine and our guns, and we took the girl’s room for the night.
The next morning the landlord rapped at our door. Says he, “Is your room all right?”
We three, Bushnell, Dick, and me, always slept together when possible, with our heads against the door on account of the money.
The landlord couldn’t get in.
I says, “Not up yet,” and looked around. “Yes, we are all right.”
“Then you are the only ones,” says he. “Everyone in the hotel has been chloroformed and robbed. One of the girls, the one that changed rooms with you, has not come to, yet.”
Fred and Bartlett had been robbed with the rest. Sid Bartlett lost thirty dollars. Fred Lewis would never tell how much.
During the three days in Millican we had picked up five ponies and was ready to start toward the cow country as soon as Bushnell was able to ride. When he said he would get out where they could not chloroform us, we packed up and started. We rode not more than a mile when we had to stop for him to rest. That was the way we traveled all day.
We rode slowly, resting often for Bushnell. It was just the end of the rainy season. No rain, but mud in the road to the axles. Oxen lay dead along the road where they had played out from pulling heavy loads in the deep mud. Carts stood stuck in the mud where the drivers had gone off and left them. We got twenty or twenty-five miles by the middle of the afternoon when we came to a plantation house. We liked to put up early because we didn’t want to travel after dark, and we asked to stay all night at the plantation. The man asked us to “sit awhile” and a nigger took our horses.
It was an old plantation home just as it had been before the war. The planter’s name was A. J. Moore. He treated us to everything that was the best. We had the first milk and butter that we had had since we arrived in Texas. In the evening when the Negroes came up from the fields there was forty mules and every one had a nigger wench riding. They were singing! Such a concert I never heard.
In the morning after breakfast they brought our horses. When we were ready to take leave, Bushnell asked what was our bill? I will never forget how that planter looked. He stared for a long time, then said, “I have never been guilty of taking money from a guest and I won’t start on you.”
You see, Bushnell did not understand these southern people. They were so hospitable. This man had fought four years in the Southern Army, but he treated us just as though we was from the South.
We hadn’t got that day, oh, maybe three or four miles, when we come across a party of men with a dead man tied on a horse. We said, “What is the matter?”
They said they found him up above a little piece, tied to an Osage orange tree with sixteen bullet holes in him. He was a rider from the store at Millican and had took some merchandise from the store to the little store up above. Someone thought he had some money. He never carried any, but someone had thought so and shot him with sixteen bullet holes.
It was there we had a talk. I said, “You see the conditions and the country we are in, men shot down in cold blood, sharpers, robbers, bad men. Do you want to turn back, or go on? What do you want to do? We have this money and they know it. There has been an attempt to get it and we don’t know what may happen.”
“No,” Bushnell said. Bushnell was no coward. “I don’t want to go back home, but if I had known the conditions the country is in I never would have come.”
“Well,” I said, “you are an old man, sick, and need your rest. But here we are, four of us, Bartlett and Fred, two old soldiers, and Dick and me. One of us will always keep watch. They know we have this money.” After that one of us watched every night.