- 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
The next day we crossed the Trinity in the worst place possible. I don’t know why Bushnell picked out that place. We had seven miles of wood to drive through. The banks of the river went straight up, and there was a fast current. Then we had a twelve mile drive to get a pen for the night. It was late, and everybody sore.
Somebody said, “Look there,” and there was that little pig swimming the river like a deer and not making any complaint about it. That saved the day. Everybody felt better. The pig got up the bank his self, and when the herd trailed in at dark the pig was with them.
One afternoon I was riding off on one flank of the herd and Dick was riding on the other near some woods. I looked over and there was Dick pulling his revolver. I thought, “Now what?” so I rode up.
“What you got?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” said Dick, ready to pull, hand up all ready.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Hold onl Don’t you dare shoot.”
“What is it?” he asked.
It was a little deer, a fawn, three or four hours old, hidden in the grass with hardly enough showing to tell what it was. Its little mother had told it to lie down perfectly flat and to keep still no matter what happened until she got back. Maybe she had gone for water and maybe to lead away an enemy. She knew that the safest thing for it to do until it could travel was to lie close to the earth and even the eye of a wolf could not find it, though a few feet away. They can not smell a newborn fawn.
I got off my horse and put my hand on it. The little fellow got up and followed me. I said, “Wouldn’t you be proud to kill this?” Dick touched it and saw its pretty eyes and said he wanted to stay a week. All the boys had come up to see what it was all about. It followed them all around. When we got ready to leave, we had to tie it up with a rope of long grass to keep it from following us. Before it could kick loose, we jumped on our horses and rode away fast.
We watched, and after a while we saw his little brown mother come through the woods and look all around, come careful; then call it, bleat, you know.
If I had let Dick kill that fawn, he would never have gotten over it. The boys all talked about it. You can’t describe a stampede nor a little fawn.
Gawd, Dick used to talk about that one in the middle of the night.
We had great times.
One of the boys got stung with a stinging lizard. One of the fellows brought in a horned toad one night. They killed a snake that measured twelve feet. Bartlett saw a rattlesnake just as it struck a steer in the leg. He shot the rattlesnake, but we had to shoot the steer too.
Near Greenville the prairie was burning. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’d seen. Because of the pasture being destroyed we had to turn out of our way five miles. The cattle got scared of the fire and we had to be in the saddle all night, but it was a beautiful sight. Beyond Greenville, we camped with a preacher for the night. We had a good pen for the cattle, and the boys had all the ripe plums and blackberries they could eat. That was a treat!
One evening we camped early and lay resting around the wagon. Old Fred was cooking mess, while the first pickets of the night watched the cattle off a half mile or so. Gray Eagle suddenly threw himself on the ground and listened.
He said, “Indians—coming—fast--three.”
We were just around the bend in a river at a sharp turn. We all heard horses coming then and jumped up with our guns loaded, ready. When they come around the curve, we yelled, “Halt!” We saw then to our surprise that one of them had a little white girl ahead of him.
I said, “Where did you get that child?”
One said, “Father kill brother.”
I said, “And you stole her for revenge?”
The same one said, “Father kill brother.”
I said, “Why did he kill your brother? Did your brother drive off his cattle and horses?”
They didn’t say anything.
I said, “I don’t want to take sides with you or the cowhands neither one, but this little girl must go back to her mother and you go on before her father comes back and shoots you.”
They grunted and rode on. Dick gave the little girl his kitten, and I took her back to her mother. The woman could not talk to thank me for a time. She said she was out hanging up clothes and the Indians got in the house before she saw them. She said she had a gun and could use it but they was gone too far before she saw them.
We was well up to the Red River and across the Red was the Indian nation. (What is now the state of Oklahoma was, in 1866, Indian Territory divided in “nations” among tribes that had been driven out of other parts of the United States. [Ed.]) One day I was scouting ahead of the herd when I saw a man walking toward me. As I rode up I noticed he was staggering and weaving as if he was about to fall. It always means an accident if a man is on the plains without a horse. When I got close I saw his face was covered with blood and his skull cut wide open. His clothes was soaked with blood.
I said, “Did the Indians get you?”