The Long Drive

PrintPrintEmailEmail

Jack stood just where he had stood all the time looking at me. He was young and good-looking, with good clothes. He said slowly, “I’ll ask you now if you have ever seen as quick a shot as that? His is the quickest draw I ever saw. This man has given me my life and I’m going to take it.” He put a handkerchief around his finger, touched his hat and bowed. He went out, got on his horse, and rode away alone. (Almost nothing is known of Perry Case’s adversary, who was one of a legion of anonymous cow country hoodlums. His last name seems to have been Thorn, and he was, in later years, a circus performer. (He is not, however, to be confused with another and better-known “Texas Jack,” also a showman, J. B. Omohundro.) Evidently, Perry’s bullet not only cost Texas Jack a finger, but tempered his criminal aspirations as well. [Ed.])

Everyone in the barroom wanted to talk to me. I was popular right off. They wanted to know how I learned to shoot, what I did, where I was going, and a lot of questions. Dick wanted to go back to the ranch but we went on to the Springs. There was two of Jack’s gang in the inn when the shooting occurred. We didn’t know if they would follow or not, but they was scared. You see it was all an accident that I hit him just that way, but they didn’t know that.

When Dick and I got back to the ranch the next evening, the cowboys fired their revolvers, let out Texas yells, and gave us a great reception. The news that I got Texas Jack reached the ranch before we did. Bushnell saw a chance and said, “Why yes, that is why I hired him, because he was a crack shot.” It was all fixed then. We was no longer “greenhorn Yanks,” we was “crack shots.”

When we walked toward the bunkhouse, McCabe’s boy stood there with the sorrel colt. He was standing by his pony’s side, rubbing his nose, and when I came up he said, “Now Case, by God, I will sell you Bob!”

This boy wanted me to have his horse. I got Texas Jack when everyone else was afraid of him, and I was a hero to young McCabe. When he said, “I will sell him for $35 in gold” (and that was a lot of money when any other horse, good ones too, could be bought for $5), I gave him the money so quick he did not have time to change his mind.

And that is how I got Bob. Without Bob I would not be alive to tell this story.

The rest of the stay at McCabe’s ranch was different. They treated us all different after I cleaned up Jack. The hands took pains to show us about handling the cattle and how to rig up our camp wagon.

McCabe’s men was to help nine days and furnish two cowboys after that, but we needed more. There was a halfbreed who said he would go with us and help drive, but he was afraid of the way the cowboys would treat him. I said, “Gray Eagle, no one will bother you. You go just like the other ones.” He was good with the stampede and I knew it.

May 11 we was to start, but the Brazos River was so high that we waited three more days. May 15 we started with the herd. The day was warm and pleasant. We calculated to drive fast the first few days in order to get the cattle as far as possible. Some herds have been known to stampede and return to their native range after as much as three days’ drive.

We had a great time crossing that first river. Dick was on a colt. One of the steers wouldn’t take the water. He turned with a sniff and made for Dick’s horse. Dick was green and the horse was awkward, and the steer ran his long horn in the horse’s flank such a length that it threw Dick. The steer turned on Dick. Dick jumped up and ran. The riders pulled their revolvers quick. I saw the flash and heard them fire, but they didn’t hit the steer right. One of them steers would stand up under as much lead as any buffalo that ever walked the prairie. Dick ran. I saw they didn’t get the steer, and I couldn’t think of anything but Dick in danger and I rode right up. The boys said they yelled to me to keep out of the way of the bullets, but I never heard them. All I could see was that steer and Dick. Dick ran toward the river. The boys said, “Jump in” and we could get him out, but Dick could not swim and he would not jump. I shot fast, five shots, the last one got him. The steer went down on all his knees. Dick saw him and went down in a heap too, white as death, but all right.

Gawd, I never heard the fellows warn me to stay out of the way of their bullets.

The river was so swift, we had to take apart the wagon and make a raft to cross. For nine miles there was woods to drive through before we came out on the prairie where the cattle could eat. I learned woods was the hardest driving there was. It was hard to keep the cattle in sight and all moving together. We got in all thirteen miles the first day. The drivers considered that a good day’s drive.

Stampedes! We had plenty. Gawd! I don’t know how many. No one can imagine if he has never seen one. I can’t describe it. You never know when you may have one. The night horses are always saddled and bridled, ready. There you lie sleeping, dreaming of home, maybe, and then three shots ring out. You pull your stake and call, “Bob.” Then you hear the steers. Oh, the thunder of their hoofs was like the worst storm you ever heard. Maybe you are driving along. All is quiet and a rabbit jumps up and one of them steers jumps and snorts, and off they go. Sometimes you just have them stopped, and off they go again.