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The Long Drive
A cowboy’s own story of his experiences on the trail from Texas to Chicago
April 1960 | Volume 11, Issue 3
He looked right at me for a full minute or more, then said, “Yes.” He was that dazed.
I said, “Was you with that drove ahead of us about a day’s drive?” After a long time he said, “Yes.”
I took him up on my horse so that the cattle would not see him walking. Anyone walking is strange to them and unusual enough that they might either rush him and kill him or be frightened and stampede.
We took him to the wagon and gave him water, and after a long, long sleep he could remember what had happened. He said they camped beside a stream for the night, twelve of them and their cattle and horses, and the first thing they knew they was surrounded by Indians. He could not tell how many. Every other man was killed; they had left him for dead. When he came to, the cattle and horses had been driven away and he had started walking.
We carried him with us a few days until we met a Mexican with four horses in a row, each tied to the tail of the one ahead of him. He said he would take the man back down the trail.
We drove up to Clarksville, where the cattle got in the streets and turned and ran back. We stopped them back about five miles but found twenty-odd head gone. Dick went to look for them, and we drove on and found pasture and waited for him to catch up. After two days’ wait, Fred went back to look for Dick.
While camped waiting for Dick and Fred to come and the river to fall, we noticed off at a short piece another camp. The country around the Red River was full of herds waiting for the river to go down. We rode over and found a camp of riders with five hundred Mexican mustangs.
We returned to our camp for the night, and that night came one of the worst stampedes we ever had. I don’t know what started it, no one knows. Three quick revolver shots told us they was off and they was headed straight for the horse camp.
When I saw the stampede was for the horse camp, I rode. Bob was fastest so I got there and told them what was coming. They got out their horses but, oh, what a stampede! The cattle ran straight into the horse camp, and the horses stampeded. The cattle scared the horses and the horses the cattle. There was nothing to do. All we tried to do was keep a bunch in sight. When daylight come, there they was, mustangs and steers, all mixed up. Here a group, there a group, and dead ones all over the prairie.
We spent the day sorting them up. Fred and Dick came up with the lost ones, but things went bad. Bushnell quarreled with his help. He did not understand the southerners, and they did not like a Yankee boss. When he quarreled, the men quit, and because of shortage of help the others had to be in the saddle night and day. Everybody had the blues; we had been out over a month up to the Red River.
That night Bob was stole!
It happened when I was asleep. Bob was staked out, saddled and bridled, five or six rods away. One of the pickets missed him. He called me and said, “Perry, your Bob is gone!”
I reached up and pulled the stake: the rope had been cut! That settled it. If the stake had been pulled I would have thought Bob was around near and would come when I called, but the rope was cut.
I said to the picket man, “How long has he been gone?”
He said, “He was there the last ride around.”
I knew then he must have been gone ten or fifteen minutes, no more.
I recalled that at the last river south of the Red a man was hired to help us across. He took a fancy to Bob right away. Everybody did, but all the time he was helping he watched him and tried to trade for him and then to buy him, and offered me more than any horse was worth then.
But I said, “No sir, I don’t want you to offer anything. I don’t want to sell him.”
He helped us around the swamp that lay along the river. It was a half day’s drive around the swamp. We paid him and expected we was through with him. That had been a week or ten days and we had driven a hundred miles, but I knew it was him. He had followed and stole my horse.
“Bushnell,” I said, “I want old Sal.” She was the only horse who stood any chance of catching him.
Bushnell said, “I will pay you for the pony. You stay here. If you go, you will be shot.”
I said, “That man wanted a horse worse than any man I ever see but one. That’s me.”
Bushnell said, “He won’t shoot fair. He will get you from the bushes.”
I said, “He wants to hit me first shot then.”
It was just morning light when I started. I rode for the little village by the swamp, where I thought I could get help. When I got there it was late afternoon.
I rode up to the hotel. The proprietor was standing there. He knew something was wrong. I explained my horse was stole and I thought that the man who lived across the river stole him. Says I, “If one of you will help, I will pay you for it.”
Here is where my Mason pin come in play. When I gave the sign, several fellows volunteered to go. The landlord said, “If you could cut through the swamp, you could save a lot of time and maybe head him off. There is one and only one that knows a passage through the swamp. If that old scout was only here he—”