THE ROUND-UP OF 1883: A RECOLLECTION
By Ralph H. Records
The round-up of 1883 was a notable one. It ended riding the open range for cowhands of the Cherokee Outlet and of southern Kansas. For, in 1882, the cattlemen of the Strip had begun fencing their ranges, and now they wanted their round-up representatives to comb Indian Territory from its northern border to Washita River and as far east as Chisholm trail.1 And it lasted three months.
In their annual March meeting at Caldwell, the members of the Cherokee Livestock Association appointed a round-up captain and authorized him to set the date for the round-up and arrange an itinerary for the wagon outfits to follow. The manager of such an enterprise must be an experienced cattleman. More often than not, the men who actually owned herds of cattle knew less about caring for them than did their seasoned foremen. Abner Wilson, Major Drumm’s foreman in the eighties, was known all over the Strip. He had managed the spring round-up of 1880 so successfully that the Southwestern Cattlemen’s Association in their meeting of 1881 voted to give him a hundred dollar saddle.2 Wilson as round-up captain had watched the range cattle shed their winter hair until the brands showed through. Then he knew it would be time to grease wagons, arrange bows and sheets, get rope, buy grain for the teams, and lay in a supply of coffee, flour, salt, dried fruit, and other essentials for the cowhands. Wilson had to estimate how long it would take to notify the ranch foremen. They could be reached by mail, but the names of all foremen and their post office addresses appeared in the Association brand book.3 There were times when a mail carrier called at some of the cow camps, operating from Kiowa, Kansas.4 Wilson also prepared a diagram showing when each ranch representative would get going and he gave the names of those who would send wagon outfits. lie advised foremen who were not sending wagons, what wagon their representative should join, and where, on a given day.
Just as the cattleman depends on his foreman, so the foreman must know which cowhand is most competent to attend the spring round-up. The round-up representative must have perfect eyesight, be quick at recognizing brands and marks, know how to handle horses and take care of them under unusual circumstances, be able to ride a horse swimming a swollen stream, be familiar with all the traits of his horses—knowing which ones are sure-footed, which ones are good cutting horses, or good roping horses, and which one would make a good packhorse. This cowhand knows that no two cows are alike in disposition, and he will not permit a rustler or any one else to make off with a cow ’whose brand appears in the brand book, even though she be missing from home range two years or more. The competent cowhand does not complain about what he has to eat, when matters can not be helped by complaining, and he performs his duties, faithfully, cheerfully, and well. And this cowhand—the pick of the men on the home range—should be conversant with the lingo of the range, its lore, and cow country custom.
So during the first week of April, 1883, Foreman Sam Fling of the Spade ranch, after a personal conference with Drumm’s man Wilson, told L. S. Records he would represent the Spade ranch and that his friend “Texas Dave" Thomas would represent Drumm’s outfit.5 They were told to meet at a certain spot on the Texas trail and join the Comanche Pool wagon.6 These two cowhands had five saddle horses apiece and their bed rolls strapped behind their saddles. When they met on the trail, a fine mist was falling but the wagon was not in sight. So they wrapped their two rolls of bedding inside a water-proof sheet and placed the pack on one of the other horses. They then drove eight horses down the trail, making good time.
Soon they overtook a wagon, equipped with excellent bows and sheet, belonging to a Barber County cattleman, and Lee Bradley of Medicine Lodge was in charge. Bradley stopped and let them throw their bedding inside his wagon under the sheet. Several other Barber men ahead of the wagon drove a fairly large bunch of saddle horses. In keeping with cow country custom at least two of the men rode in front of the horses, the other riders following. Thomas and Records threw their extra mounts into the Barber herd, making a sizeable herd of horses.
Thomas then rode ahead of the wagon, looking after the saddle horses, but Bradley and Records rode behind the wagon while another Barber man sat in the driver’s seat. Soon the two riders behind the wagon heard a turkey gobbling in a brushy hollow near the trail.
Said Records, “Lee, let’s go over and get that turkey."
Bradley replied, “Oh, it would be useless. Let him go."
The insistent Spade cowhand replied, “If we work it right, we can have turkey for supper."
When Bradley recalled how roast turkey tasted, he grew interested. The men rode to the opposite side of the turkey, and Bradley fired a shot from his six-shooter as the turkey flew. The bird alighted in the trail, and Records told Bradley how to catch him without shooting him: keep him on the trail, keep him trotting, and watch for his wings to droop. The turkey overtook the moving wagon, but by now his wings were dragging on the ground. The bewildered bird, seeing the strange object in front of him, tried to turn back on the trail, and then tried to turn out of the trail. But those two old cutting horses kept that bird in his place until he was too tired to fly. Bradley yelled to the cook. He poked his head from behind the wagon sheet.
Records said, “Come and get your turkey for supper."
The cook jumped out, gathered the wobbly bird into his arms, and asked, “Where did you get him?"
The cowhands would not tell, but the Spade rider warned the cook to tie the turkey’s legs carefully if he wanted to eat him for supper.
As night approached, the wagon master selected high ground east of Turkey Creek near the present site of Hennessey, Oklahoma. The trail was west of this stream. The Barber men feared a rise in the stream would cut them off from the trail crossing on the Cimarron south of the site of the present Dover, Oklahoma. Recalling the supper many years later, Records said, “We ate all that turkey before we left camp."
Early next forenoon, the Barber wagon stopped in front of John Chapin’s general merchandise store on Red Fork ranch, where Dover now stands. Records and Chapin were well acquainted. They rode to the stage crossing on the Cimarron to see how high the river was; Chapin had said it was booming. Records recalled that it “was awfully high." Crossing that river with a team and loaded wagon was out of the question. This cowhand told the Barber men that Chapin would let them use the stage company’s boat if they would find two men who could row it across the river.7 There were two oars and space for two rowers. Records went on to say, “I pretended that we had two men to operate the boat."
But the only man who could row a boat under such conditions was Ad Pardee of the Barber outfit, who was a master oarsman. He was not a product of this dry western country, for he had grown to manhood in the East. Pardee did not once suspect that he would be the whole crew! Records got the key and unlocked the padlock on the boat chain; Pardee eased the boat to a spot up-stream from the stage crossing and prepared to load it with bedding and supplies taken from the wagon.
As the two cowhands loaded the boat, seven or eight Cheyenne Indian boys jumped out of a brand new farm wagon on the south bank of the river and swam across. Some of the boys were nearly full grown and spoke good English. A middle aged German-American owned the wagon and team and was driving the boys to Caldwell, Kansas, where they expected to entrain for the Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Indian school.
The Indian spokesman for the boys asked Records for permission to use the boat. He wanted to take his father and mother across. Pointing a finger at two persons sitting on the south bank he said, “That’s my father and mother. They want to cross and go with us to Caldwell."
Records replied, “I can’t let you have the boat. But if you’ll take our empty wagon across, I’ll give you a dollar and a half in silver and we’ll bring your father and mother when we come back with the boat." The young Indian was pleased.
Just as this brief parley between Records and the Cheyenne Indian youth ended, the German lashed his long-legged mule team into the roaring Cimarron. The Barber County cowhands wondered if that man could be sane. Every eye was riveted on the man in the wagon. First one mule plunged out of sight and then the other. But the driver, standing stiff as a poker, held the team steady until they came within forty yards of the north bank. There, the water was deepest and swiftest. Suddenly both mules dropped out of sight, yet the driver knew they were still on the lines. Then their heads popped above water as they made a great effort to reach shore. In the struggle the wagon box was shaken loose from the running gear and started down stream. The driver let the lines go, and the team walked out upon the bank; the cowhands caught and tied them.
Records went on to say, “The old German hollored, ‘Help! Help! I want help !’ But that bunch of Indian boys just stood looking. I said, ‘If you expect to get to Caldwell, go and get that fellow.’ "
They rushed into the water and soon overtook the wagon box. Swimming alongside, the Indians turned it shore-ward and saved their driver’s life.
Now the Barber wagon was ready to go south. The wagon bed was tied firmly to the running gear. The team was unharnessed and the whole Barber horse herd swam the river, part of the cowhands swimming their mounts in front of the herd, and others behind them. The Indian boys took the wagon across, and had as much fun doing it as the Barber cowhands had watching it.
Pardee was anxious to set the boat in motion, and Records climbed in. They rowed up stream in still water close to shore, to make allowance for the heavy current, so as to connect with the stage crossing on the south shore.
Recalling this incident Records said, “We had not gone far when Pardee asked, ‘What is the matter with you?’ He noticed that my oar missed water with one stroke and plunged toward the bottom with the next one!"
The Spade cowhand, now caught red handed, confessed, “Ad, I’ll just tell you the truth: I never had an oar in my hands; but we’ve got to cross this river."
Pardee replied with some feeling, “If I had known that, I never would have gotten into this boat. But go ahead and do the best you can until we hit the current."
“Let me have your oar," said Pardee when the boat reached the current.
Continuing the account Records said, “He took both oars, and, leaning back as far as he could, rowed as fine as I ever saw a boat go. When we got through the current he said, ‘Take the oar.’ "
Soon the boat struck the south bank and the old Indian, grabbing the prow, helped pull it out of the water. As quick as the boat was unloaded, the cowhands motioned to the Indian and his squaw to get in. And Records asked the Indian to take the oar.
The old fellow shook his head vehemently; he would not touch it. So Pardee took both oars again and soon the Indian couple were getting out of the boat on the north bank, near the Carlisle-bound Indian lads.
These boys were waiting for their money. Records handed their leader a dollar and a half, and he and Pardee began filling the boat with the remainder of the cow outfit’s bedding and supplies.
The two men were getting into the loaded boat when the old German driver came rushing up and said, “These boys want their money." Then turned around and talked to them a moment. Addressing the cowhands more excitedly he said, “They say you never paid ’em."
The Spade cowhand replied heatedly, “You start right out of here or I’ll build a smoke under you!"
The German driver whirled around and left without saying another word.8
After taking the second boat load of supplies across the river, Pardee chained and locked the boat and Records returned the key to Chapin. Then Ad remarked slyly, “Records, I believe you made some improvement. If you keep it up, you might learn to handle a boat after a while!"
They were soon swimming their horses across the river, where they reloaded the Barber County wagon and started for North Canadian River. Deer were plentiful, but the Cheyennes were hunting, because the government was issuing them beeves. Pardee killed large buck deer, near the stage crossing on the Canadian, and the whole outfit had venison for several meals.
Pardee’s bag of this large buck excited young Jim McDonald, who had never been on a round-up. He said to Records, “Let’s go and see if we can kill a deer."
The Spade cowhand replied, “I have not lost any deer, and I have a hunch that I’ll have all the work my string of horses can do."
After that, McDonald rode forth alone. Continuing his story the old Spade man said, “After a while Jim came riding in with a most sorrowful look on his face. His horse was bleeding at the nose, and he wanted to know how he could stop it."
McDonald was chasing deer through timber when a small dead limb struck deep into the horse’s nostril and broke off. The rider dismounted, pulled the limb out, but got a terrible scare when blood began flowing. Jim had other reasons for feeling distressed. If this horse bled to death, he would have to pay for it and he might lose his job. It was a gentle company horse, and McDonald thought a great deal of it.
Records, seeing that the wound was hard to reach, said, “If I had a hot iron, I might be able to cauterize it."
Like a drowning man reaching for a life line McDonald said, “I have an iron stake pin about eighteen inches long."9 He built a fire, heated the pin until it was red, and stuck it up the horse’s nostril. “I suppose he hit the right spot, for the wound stopped bleeding," said the Spade man in conclusion.
The Barber men pulled up to the North Canadian and found the river running over its banks, and the Comanche Pool wagon was there. Apparently this outfit had crossed the Cimarron before it reached flood stage. Tom Pettijohn was in charge of the Comanche wagon; Tom Doyle and Jim Wilson were also there. Noah Mills, Bill Parker, and Tip McCracken, representatives of other ranches in the Outlet, had joined the Pool wagon when it left headquarters on Salt Fork.10
The Comanche Pool outfit were making a log raft to put their wagon on. When it was finished Pettijohn said, “We’ve got to stretch a rope across from a tree on this bank to one on the other bank."
Immediately someone asked how he was going to do that. He replied that he would swim the torrent, holding one end of the rope in his teeth, providing he could find a nimble fellow who would hold the coiled rope and release it gently by degrees as the swimmer made his way across stream. Pettijohn, after looking the two outfits over, selected the light quick-moving Spade representative. “I want you to take the rope and play it out to me," he said.
Records replied, “All right, I’ll do the best I can. I want to cross that river myself."
Pettijohn, like Pardee with the boat on the Cimarron, preferred to go up stream to make certain that he would reach shore opposite the raft. The current carried Pettijohn with it, but the Spade cowhand kept up with him, unrolling the rope as he shifted until the swimmer reached shore. Then Pettijohn tied his end of the rope to a tree, and the other end was made fast to a tree near the raft. An additional rope tied the raft to the main rope.
Only the wagon boxes were placed on the raft, but one at a time. Noah Mills, getting into the Comanche wagon box as ballast, kept shifting his position in the box to keep the raft from dipping water, and did the ferrying by pulling on the rope. The Barber men then placed their wagon box, filled with their supplies, on the raft and ferried it across.
The running gears of the wagons were pulled across by horses, the home ends of the ropes being fastened to saddle horns, and the other ends to the wagon tongues. But the Comanche men had neglected to tie down their wooden bolsters on their wagon gear. As a result, the front bolster and king bolt were swept away, when the wagon surfaced near the south bank. The Barber men, seeing this accident, took pains to fasten their bolsters.
Records remarked that he did not know until then that common cowpunchers could be such good wagon makers. “Yet the Comanche Pool wagon carried more tools than I have ever seen in a cow outfit," he added. They felled a solid young tree, planed it down, bored a hole through it to receive the king bolt, and shaped the remainder of the tree into a bolster and standards.
Now that the wagons and teams, even the saddles, were all on the south bank of North Canadian, Bill Parker and Laban Records were left on the north bank with all the saddle horses of both outfits. The river bank was so steep, the horses were afraid to step off into the water. So the men fastened a number of ropes end to end, forming a chute, and forced the horses into the water. Of course, all these horses could swim. But Little Dog, a Kingsbury and Dunson horse,11 brought up the trail in the spring of 1880, was a queer fellow. He always settled to the bottom to see how deep the water was before swimming. Records knew all about this trait, but in the rush of getting a mount and starting the herd he jumped on Little Dog’s bare back and glided gently into the water. Said Records, “Little Dog sank to the bottom and left me ten feet above, waiting for him to come up!" But the cowhand clung to the rope—the horse had no bridle on. Soon the horse "came up and swam as pretty as a duck."
This water show appealed to Parker, whose horse was several lengths ahead of Little Dog. Parker slid off behind his horse, grabbing him by the tail and holding the coil of his rope in his left hand. Then be let go of the horse’s tail and trailed at the end of the rope. Waving his right arm high in the air, his quirt dangling from the wrist, Parker whooped like a savage Indian.
When L. S. Records made shore a huge fire was burning, and his old friend Tip McCracken sat on a log nearby. They had ridden the line together on the Spade ranch in 1880. McCracken was now Barbecue Campbell’s ranch foreman.12 Cattle rustlers soon became the subject of conversation. McCracken related that these fellows, after hearing of this great clean-up round-up, warned the Strip men not to cut out any “burnt" cattle.13 McCracken said the rustlers had branded a number of stray cattle during the previous winter, and he saw a number of cattle with Campbell’s brand on them. “We were more determined," now that they had made their threats, “to cut out of their herd everything we could claim," Records added.
Shortly before the Barber and Comanche outfits broke camp, a Texas cowman accompanied by his cowhands rode into camp, looking for some men who knew how to pilot his herd of full-fed beeves across the Canadian. He added that none of his men could swim a horse and keep a herd of longhorns swimming and moving in the right direction at the same time.
The Spade cowhand commented bluntly, “You must have a dickens of an outfit; all they need is a good firing."
This caustic statement caused one of the Texas riders to say he would swim his horse alongside the herd if his critic would tell him how to get into the river and on which side of the herd to ride. So the Spade cowhand atoned for his harsh comment by helping the Texas cowman and his drivers round up their herd and point them into the river. He suggested that he and the volunteer driver should swim their horses on the down-stream side of the herd at the point—the more difficult to do, for these men were to keep the cattle from turning down stream. The volunteer rider was also told to let his horse swim without interference. Other riders were to fall in behind and keep the whole herd pointed north. At about mid-stream this Texas driver, losing his head, jumped to his feet on his horse’s back, then leaped over its head and swam for the north bank, reaching shore ahead of his horse.
Then Records looked back and saw that he was the only horseman in the stream and that the cattle on the trail end of the herd were crowding down stream to a huge tree whose large branches were partially submerged in water. It appeared that the herd was going to break in two at that tree and cause trouble. Luckily the first big longhorn reaching the tree hooked his horns on a limb, and the current rolled him into the tree on his back. He made such a noise, pawing the water and struggling for his life, that the cattle veered up stream again, and the whole herd made the crossing safely. The old fellow, caught in the limbs of the tree, slipped loose and followed them.
When this ordeal was over, the cowman said he could not swim a horse and had never crossed a stream like this one. He did not blame his drivers for not wanting to swim their horses. The Comanche men let the Texan use their raft and keep their rope in the cable across the river, providing he gave them an equal amount of rope. This was agreeable and both outfits broke camp.
The two outfits from southern Kansas headed for South Canadian River, where they held their first round-up. &ldquot;It was a regular rustlers’ round-up," Records recalled, and there were about four thousand head of cattle of many marks and brands, making it very difficult to find strays. Yet the Strip men soon had a sizable herd of their own, which Bill Parker, Fine Ewing’s ranch representative, and one or two others, were holding at some distance from the rustlers’ herd. Tip McCracken, Ad Pardee, L. S. Records, and a number of other cowhands from the Strip were riding through the rustlers’ round-up herd, looking for Strip cattle. In a moment Records spotted two four-year-old beeves with Fine Ewing’s brand and ear marks on them. Just then this cowhand saw five of the rustlers bunched on the outside, between their herd and the Strip cut. They heard what Parker and Records said.
“Bill," said Records, “here are two of Fine’s beeves."
“All right, I’ll help you get ’em out," Parker replied.
As the two men started these beeves toward the Strip cut the rustlers yelled, “Hold on there you can’t take them out of the herd!"
Parker drew his Winchester, and Records his six-shooter. McCracken and other Strip men, on the farther side of the big herd, rode at break-neck speed to assist the two men. McCracken was a fearsome-looking fellow at that moment. Even his old friend Records had never seen him so heavily armed, “He carried a Winchester, a six-shooter, and a dirk knife in his belt!" the Spade cowhand added. The rustlers sat glued to their horses, saying nothing as the two beeves were pushed into the Strip cut.
Parker and Records then rode back, and Records was surprised to find that Andy Puckett was with the rustlers.14 Addressing this man he said, “Puckett, I’ll show you why we were so cocksure about these steers." Then Records opened his brand book to page 15, showing F. Y. Ewing’s brand UIN on the left side of all grown cattle on his Driftwood range, and UN on both sides of his Texas cattle.15 Pointing to the brand on the left shoulder of Bill Parker’s horse Records asked, “Are you claiming horses, too? We have five of them with Ewing’s brand on their shoulder. What have you fellows to show for your claim?"
Puckett replied, “We have no claim we can show on the beeves; but we have orders to hold all UN four-year-olds."
Parker, Ewing’s man, said he was going to keep these steers. And he rode away. Soon all the participants were busy working the herds, and the Strip men spent three or four days along South Canadian.
A day or so later, Puckett hailed Records, when no one else was in sight, and asked him what he thought of Bill Parker’s ideas, if he was usually correct. The Strip man told him that Parker was an experienced cowhand who had worked several years for Ewing. Then he wanted to know if Tip McCracken was a bad man, and how long Records had known him. The Strip man replied that McCracken had come up the Texas trail in 1878. that he met him in 1879, rode the line with him on the Spade ranch in 1880, and now McCracken was Barbecue Campbell’s foreman and round-up representative for 1883. Records warned Puckett that McCracken was hunting Barbecue Campbell’s cattle and would take them whether they had winter brands or not. And he ended this talk with Puckett by saying, “We’ll stand by McCracken in whatever he says."16
Next day, after Puckett and the Spade man had conferred, Parker rode around the Strip cut to where Records was working and said, “Well, I’ve been making a fool of myself again."
Records quickly remarked, “Well that’s natural, Bill, but what’s the news?"
Parker replied dolefully, “Fine Ewing sold all his three-year-old steers last fall to a fellow who had a Government contract to issue beef to the Indians at Fort Reno. That would make them steers four years old this spring, and the steers must be theirs!"
“Bill, why in the dickens didn’t you think of that before? You might have got both of us badly spanked. . . ."
Parker replied, “Oh, I forgot all about it."
“Well," said Records, “I’ll see Puckett and tell him about it."
Records did so, and Puckett promised to come in person. But he never came. So when the Strip round-up outfits broke camp on South Canadian, Parker and Records cut the two steers back into Puckett’s herd.
Now the Barber and Comanche wagon outfits—accompanied by Tip McCracken, Bill Parker, Dave Thomas and others—started up South Canadian. Noah Mills and Laban Records transferred to the 4D wagon and headed south for the Caddo Indian reservation on Washita River.17 The Strip cowhands were greatly interested in observing how Caddo Indians lived and dressed. Said Records, “Most of the men wore plug hats, white men’s pants, gaudy shirts, beads and ornaments around their necks and in their ears." He also noted that a majority of these people lived in log houses—all residences were facing south—but that a few had nice-looking frame houses. And the Caddoes seemed to be a clean people, the cowhand crediting the squaws with this cleanliness. The earth around each residence was cleaned of all vegetation a rod in extent. Each day, if dry weather prevailed, a squaw sprinkled this barren ground with water and then tamped it with a wooden maul.18 As a result, there was no dust in these houses, and the soil did not erode.
The observing cowhand noted that the Caddoes had small corn fields but he did not learn how they planted seed corn or tended a growing crop. One morning he watched an Indian grinding this white soft-kerneled corn, using a wooden mortar and a wooden pestle. The mortar, a short log stood on end, was actually a hewed-out basin, in which the corn was poured; and the pestle, made of close-grained wood, usually four inches in diameter and two feet in length, ground the corn into fine meal, resembling flour. For this reason, the Strip cowhands called the Caddoes’ corn “flour corn." Records said fine bread was made from this meal; he tasted it. He also noticed that a neat fitting wooden cover, made of native wood, kept the mortar free of rain and dirt.
Of course, this cowhand would be interested in the Caddoes’ livestock. Both horses and cattle were numerous on this reservation, but there were no individual brands. There was one tribal brand which the Caddoes called “T on a stool." But the Spade man did not see hogs or chickens.
The Strip men spent several arduous days on this reservation—for it rained nearly every day or night—swimming their horses across swollen Washita River, Sugar Creek, Cobb Creek, and other streams, looking for cattle. Continuing his account Records said, “When the clouds broke and the sun shone, we rolled our clothes in our slickers and rode in our under-clothing."
By nightfall of the second day, the Strip men had more than a score of cattle in their cut. That night they put these cows in an Indian corral, and spread their bedding inside a new log house. Records placed his saddle in an old abandoned lodge, the inclosed building in front of the new house. It was dark, a storm was approaching when two young Indian men entered the log house, saying it was their property and they would spend the night there. They lay on the bare floor and shortly seemed to be asleep. Then a hurricane struck with terrifying fury, scaring the two Caddoes. “They screamed and howled, throwing themselves in all sorts of shapes. and finally dashed out the door," Records recalled. They did not return.
Next morning the cowhands stepped outside and noted the storm’s toll of destruction. Several large trees were uprooted. many had their tops broken, and the Indian lodge had collapsed upon Records’ saddle. He worked hard, removing the entire roof, before he could reach his saddle. “I decided T would take my chances in the open," the cowhand added ruefully.
The Strip men had a new camp after this day’s work. Next morning they scattered as usual, Records going southeast. Returning toward camp later in the forenoon he met George Dean with thirty head of cattle. Dean was employed on a Washita ranch. The Spade man rode through Dean’s cut and found a cow with a Strip brand. which he verified with his brand hook. Dean knew the brand was that of a Strip cattleman ; but he objected to Records taking the animal because two Strip cowhands were present and did not protest when he took the cow into his cut. Records said he would have to take her. “I cut her out and started back. She was wild and made a terrible run."
The cow and the old cutting horse raced north. Approaching a circular grove of large trees, the cow suddenly veered toward it, causing the cowhand to think she was trying to turn back. Yelling and pounding his chaps, the rider dashed through the timber to head her off. “I rode into a Caddo Indian camp meeting, in a nicely arranged arbor, and a missionary was addressing them," the astonished cowboy said. And he rode out of the grove even more quickly than he came.
Now that the cow was running in the right direction, the cowhand looked back to the left of the grove to see what had frightened her. “I saw an Indian man and woman. She was fat and wore gaudy clothes—had a red and yellow shawl about her head and shoulders. He was dressed in black and wore a stovepipe hat. I could not tell whether it was one or two joints high. I thought the cow showed good judgment in being frightened!"
It was near noon-day when Laban and his fast-running cow caught up with the Strip cut. Noah Mills was the only cowhand present. They had not gone far when they passed an Osage Indian party unsaddling their horses. The men were all wearing blankets. The Spade representative, stopping to visit with them a while, learned that they were to visit Cheyenne Indians. By using some Osage words, a few of the Indians got the idea that the cowhand might be an Osage. Several left their horses and came running.
When the Strip cut overtook the wagon, all the cowhands stopped and had dinner. Then Noah Mills had some fun with L. S. Records. Addressing the group he said, “You ought’a heard this fellow gabbling to some of his relatives—old blanket Indians! It was the happiest meeting I’ve seen in a long time."
Soon the wagon was headed north, following the Strip cut. As the afternoon wore on rain began falling again. That night the men were supposed to take turns standing night guard. Finishing night herd alone at midnight, Records found that every suitable place to spread a blanket was occupied by a sleeping cowhand. Rain was falling in a gentle downpour. Since he knew his slicker and chaps were of excellent quality and that his Stetson hat would shield his face, the tired Spade man lay in the mud and went to sleep. “In the morning my right shoulder felt as if it was dead," he recalled.
All that day the Strip outfit moved north. At camp that night. the Spade representative told the fellows he would not night-herd, for he had been doing more than his share, and he was going to sleep late. He did so. Next morning Noah Mills’ voice waked him. “Who is that lying there asleep after sunup?" he asked the fellow who had bunked with Mills the night before.19
The late sleeper, opening his eyes, saw dew drops sparkling in the sunlight, and grass blades were fairly bent to earth by them. “It is the heaviest dew I have ever seen," thought he.
Then Mills said, “Let’s get him by the feet and drag him around in that dew."
The other fellow said, “All right, let’s go and get him."
The Spade cowhand, jumping to his feet and holding his old forty-five in his hand, said, “You’ll never get me. I like fun but there’s no fun in that."
Both fellows stopped. But Mills said, “He won’t shoot; come on, let’s go." They started toward the Spade man again.
Continuing his account Records said, “I fired into the ground in front of them, peppering their faces with gravel. I knew this would make them reconsider what they were doing."
Reflecting an instant Mills remarked, “Oh, come on, he won’t kill us."
The other fellow replied, “I don’t know what he’d do, but I’d kill a fellow before I’d let him drag me around in that dew and sand." He turned away and went to his bunk.
“Well," commented Mills as he began putting on his clothes, “I guess that’s about right."
But the Spade cowhand recalled the breakfast that followed. The cook called the men and told them that, with the exception of coffee, there would not be enough grub for all. He counted men, he counted biscuits. “Let’s do this on the square," the cook said. “Bring your tin plates here and I’ll ration the food out to you." He laid one whole biscuit and a half of one and a slice of bacon on each plate. Then he said, “Help yourselves to coffee."
One of the cowhands in this outfit, who worked for a ranch on Deer Creek near Arbuckle trail, said he would show the wagon master to his camp, where flour and bacon could be gotten, and it would not take more than a half day’s travel. So the wagon and the guide left camp first, the cattle and horses following. In an hour or so, the cow outfit lost the wagon trail when rain began falling again. But the cattle did not suffer from heat. Yet the horses were slipping and dropping to their knees on the sandstone, which tended to make them lame. The men shifted their course northeast to South Canadian River, and, crossing to the north side, found traveling easier.
To escape this sandstone area, the herd had traveled many miles out of their way. So when they started west up the Canadian they were a day’s travel behind the wagon. The wagon had reached its destination early that afternoon. Noon came and passed, but the men had nothing to eat.
Shortly before nightfall a cow bearing Milt Bennett’s brand broke out of the cut and started back.20 She had been in this country so long she did not want to leave it. Two young inexperienced cowhands tried to head her off. But, seeing that the fellows did not know what they were doing, she charged and bluffed them.
The Spade cowhand rode back to them.
One of them said, “You’d better keep away from her; she’ll gore your horse."
Seeing the Spade man’s horse, she charged, and he turned his horse broadside, pulling out his six-shooter. “When she got within ten steps, I put a forty-five bullet where I thought it would do the most good!"
One of the chaps yelled excitedly, &ldquot;Why, you have killed her."
&ldquot;It looks that way to me!" Records commented casually.
The herd and hungry cowhands did not stop. Records had only a small pearl-handle knife, used to trim his finger nails. He thought it would be too delicate to skin a beef with. Learning that neither of the young fellows had a knife, he asked them to overtake the men with the herd and ask if one of them had a livestock knife. They reported, “There is not a knife in the bunch."
So the cowhand, using his manicure knife, peeled off the hide from the hock joint to the hip bone, and, cutting out several chunks of round steak, filled his saddle pockets with it. Then he filled the boys’ slickers with meat. Overtaking the men with the herd the three said, “We’re going to have round steak for supper!" And this sounded good to the hungry men. They had given up hopes of finding the wagon and Deer Creek camp, for night had fallen.
For a campsite the outfit stopped at a cottonwood tree, partially burned by prairie fire and broken in two ten or twelve feet above ground. It was a good place to build a fire. Everybody asked at once, “Who has matches?"
There was not a match in the crowd. Then one man thought of the heavy coat he had on under his slicker. He borrowed the pen knife, split the lining of his coat and took out a quantity of lint. Others extracted dry fiber from beneath the bark of the tree, and, by firing a six-shooter into the tinder, soon had a roaring fire in the cottonwood stump. All hands gathered around the fire roasting beef and eating it without salt. And there was no grousing. The men slept on the dead tree limbs, for their bedding had gone with the wagon.
At daybreak Jim Hudson, John Eaton and L. S. Records got out and tried to roast more beef ; but there was not enough dry wood left to make a suitable fire. So these men ate raw meat; the others could not bear the smell of it, much less eat it.
The majority of men who broke camp this time wished they had never gone on the round-up. Only one man knew where Arbuckle trail crossed South Canadian, and he said a tall sharp butte marked the spot. There they would recross the river and proceed up Deer Creek to camp. The butte was too far away, to be seen.
Presently the men saw a curl of smoke in timber to the right. Records said he would investigate. He found a tepee and a squaw standing at the entrance. Using sign language, he asked if she had food for a group of hungry men. She shook her head. He asked if white men lived near-by. Again she shook her head. Looking into the timber, this cowhand saw an Indian with a rifle in his hand. He believed the Indian had walked to the timber when he saw white men approaching.
Hudson, Eaton, and Records were having “an awful time keeping our cow outfit together." Said the latter. “Seven or eight of the fellows wanted to ride to Fort Reno, fifty miles away." As complaints increased and tempers got out of hand the three seasoned cowhands told the others to go. Since some of the cows had calves the Spade man said, “We can milk cows, eat land terrapins, and get along fine without you!"
Just then several men saw the butte and what a change came over them. “They even began to help us drive cattle!" said Records.
When the men reached the trail, they stopped the herd near good grass and water. Being trail-weary they would stay there seven to eight hours. Then Eaton and Records changed to new mounts, Eaton taking all the loose saddle horses, while Records remained a few moments with Noah Mills observing the herd.
Seeing that the cattle had no desire to roam, these two cowhands started down the Arbuckle trail toward the river crossing. Records’ mount was just spoiling to run ; he wanted to overtake the horse herd. Jumping stiff-legged into a deep pool, “he kicked water all over me," said the cowhand, “and made me mad. I turned him loose. Soon we began passing the other fellows, slouched in their saddles, as if they were suffering all sorts of misery." Overtaking John Eaton and two other men with the saddle horses, the Spade man pounded his chaps and yelled, stampeding the whole herd.
Eaton called to the other fellows, “Come on boys, he’ll eat everything in camp before we get there!" Then these fellows, seven or eight in number, came like a whirlwind up Deer Creek.
Seeing that Records had not spotted camp, and was about to pass it because he was riding so fast, Eaton yelled, “Throw ’em off the trail. Them fellows will beat us to grub yet!"
Quick as a flash, it was done. Seeing a log cabin, the Spade man was on the ground running toward the door with the bridle rein caught in the crook of his arm. “Looking in," said he, “I saw a pile of biscuits and a platter of bacon. I rushed in, helped myself, and started eating." Then the hungry cowhand turned to see who was there. “Five strangers sat on boxes and stools, grinning at me," recalled the embarrassed cowhand.
Then Eaton came to the door and said, “Say, fellers, he don’t know much to begin with, and, when he gets hungry, he ain’t got a lick of sense!"
They all laughed. Then the ranch owner invited Eaton to come in and help himself.
Records was taking his second helping, when two other range riders walked in. One of them had stayed all night with Records at his Skeleton camp in the Strip a year before. He said, “You fed me good then and I’m glad to see you help yourself now."
As the unbidden guest finished eating, he saw his own—the 4D—wagon parked behind the cabin. But all the Strip men had eaten, and there was food to spare. So the Spade man lay under the wagon and slept a while. The sun was out again, and it was hot. Eaton was busy working out a deal with the cow outfit quartered in the log cabin. Then he waked the Spade cowhand, told him to eat some of the Strip cook’s dinner, and Eaton would tell him about this deal.
This was the story. Eaton had “swiped a red yearling steer" several days before, and be was afraid some one would claim it before he could get it into the Strip. Now, since Records had already killed a cow and passed steak around and since Eaton did not care to have all these Strip men knowing what he had done, Eaton suggested that his trusted friend from the Spade ranch take Noah Mills, and the cook, and the wagon to the Strip herd near Arbuckle trail and butcher the yearling and dress it. Eaton would stay in camp with the saddle horses until the Deer Creek ranch wagon got back to headquarters. Just as soon as this wagon came in, he would tell the driver to drive it out to the Strip herd and trade some of their flour and salt for part of the beef of Eaton’s yearling.
As the Strip wagon pulled out of Deer Creek camp, Eaton admonished the cook to see that the animal’s kidneys were salted and roasted : “You’ll find they’re as good as any bread you ever ate."21 And this Strip outfit had been without bread for some time. It might happen again before the round-up ended.
Records shot the steer; Mills and the cook helped him dress it. But Eaton and the other wagon had not arrived. The Spade man told Mills some one should ride back to a hill near the trail and help them find the Strip cut.
“Get on my horse," Mills said to the cook.
“Which is your horse!" the cook asked.
“There he is," replied Mills, pointing at Records’ dun horse. The cook climbed on the horse.
The Spade man said, “Don’t you start off with that horse." The cook hesitated, then slid off when the owner of the dun horse reached toward his holster.
Then the cook mounted Mills’ bay horse and rode off. “Noah," said the Spade cowhand, “do you ever expect to see your horse again?"
“Why?" he asked.
Records explained, “He’s just a transient here without a job, looking for a chance to get out of the country. Now he has a good outfit to go with."
“My gracious," said Mills, “I never thought of that!" He ran to the top of that sandhill and stood looking. A moment later he yelled, “Here they come!" The other wagon and Eaton and all the saddle horses met the mounted cook just before he reached the trail, and they brought him back with them. Mills recovered his bay horse; but he had learned some of the ways of the cow country.
The cowman from Deer Creek, just off Arbuckle trail, got a quarter of fresh beef to serve his cowhands at the log cabin; and the Strip’s 4D wagon got a generous helping of flour and salt. The Strip camp that night was where the beef was butchered.
Next morning they headed north on Arbuckle trail. They had heard that White Bead, a Caddo Indian, had several hundred cattle on a ranch up the trail, but that no one had tried to work this herd for strays. Later in the day the Strip men saw this Indian mounted, on a knoll, holding a buffalo gun, and his herd grazing near-by. The young Strip men passed on. The Spade man called to them, “Why don’t you go in?"
“It is dangerous," they replied, “to go in there. He doesn’t allow anybody to cut his herd."
So the man on the dun horse rode in, telling the young fellows to watch the Indian to see that he did not turn that long gun around: and he made two round trips through the Indian’s herd, just as he had done with all other herds. He came out near White Bead and saw that he wore full Indian regalia including an eagle feather stuck in his hair. Concluding his story about this misunderstood Indian, Records said, “I gave him a friendly salute, and he bowed in a very dignified manner."
The Spade representative was greatly interested in looking over the Mennonite mission farther up the trail : its two-story stone building, an Indian school, and Poll Angus cattle were a strange sight to the men who had been so long in an unsettled country.22
The Strip men spent their last night out at Fort Cantonement on North Canadian. Next morning the men began to separate, Mills and several others following the river northwest. “Eaton, Hudson, three other fellows, and I turned northeast to Cimarron River," Records pointed out. There Eaton and his outfit took Cantonement trail up Indian Creek. The Spade man caught one of his mounts and made a packhorse out of him, and crossed the large river, coming out near the mouth of Eagle Chief, with the Spade cattle and horses, “in a crowd to myself."
It was hot, the cattle were trail weary and hard to drive. The horses sensing they were getting close to home walked faster. So the lone cowhand dropped the Spade cut near a big timber on the T-5, “arriving at Spade camp in time for supper."
Before Laban Records finished eating supper, Foreman Sam Fling told him that he and John Smith of Timberlake’s were to throw in with Major Drumm’s wagon to attend round-ups in Barber and Comanche counties, Kansas. Only four ranches from the Strip were represented: Frank Streeter, “Texas Dave" Thomas, John Smith, and Records made up the outfit.23 Closing with simulated weariness in his voice Laban said, “I was gone another month and did not return to Spade ranch until the fourth of July. It was the longest round-up I ever attended, and I lay in the shade ten days."
- Previous articles on ranch life in the Indian Territory by Professor Ralph H. Records, Department of History in the University of Oklahoma, that have appeared in The Chronicles are
“Range Riding in Oklahoma," XX (June, 1912), No. 2, pp.
159-71; and “Wild Life on the T-5 and Spade Ranches," XXI
(September, 1943), No. 3, pp. 280-99.
Additional articles and references by other writers can be found in the following issues of Chronicles of Oklahoma: “Reminiscences of a Range Rider" by James C. Henderson, Vol. III, No. 4, pp. 253-88; “The Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association," Vol. V, No. 1, pp. 58-78, and “Ranching on the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation," Vol. VI, No. 1, pp. 35-59, by Edward Everett Dale; “The Opening of the Cherokee Outlet" by Joe B. Milan,, Vol. IX, No. 3, pp. 268.86, with Map of the Cherokee Strip and early ranch locations; “Reminiscences of Charles F. Colcord," Vol. XII, No. 1, pp. 5-18; “The Two Cattle Trails" by H. S. Tennant, Vol. XIV, No. 1, pp. 84-122; “When the Territory Was Young" by T. E. Beck, Vol. XIV, No. 3, pp. 360-64; book review by Dan W. Peery, on The Cherokee Strip by George Rainey, Vol. XIV, No. 4, pp. 118-20; book review by Morris L Wardell, on A Rider in the Cherokee Strip by Evan G. Barnard, edited by Edward Everett Dale (Boston, 1936), Vol. XIV, No. 4, pp. 507-08; and, also, mention of the buffalo hide, presented by the Cherokee Cowpunchers Association with the names of five hundred members, now in the museum of the Oklahoma Historical Society, Vol. 13, No. 4, p. 492.—Ed.
- Cowhands of the Strip and southern Kansas contributed the money. Mr. A. W. Rumsey of Old Kiowa ordered the saddle from Wyeth Hardware and Harness Company, St. Joseph, Mo. It had a silver horn, silver buckles, and was hand carved. It was on display at Rummy’s for several weeks.—Letter, A. B. Rumsey, Kiowa, Kansas, to R. H. R., May 8, 1944.
- The Southwestern Brand Book for the round-up of 1883 was printed by two Medicine Lodge newspaper presses, the Cresset and the Index, and contained the marks and brands of 239 cattle and horse raisers of southwestern Kansas, Indian Territory, Panhandle of Texas.
- Charles King, Kiowa, Kansas, once carried mail in a one-horse cart to the Spade and other ranches for a monthly fee.
- Thomas removed to Montana, continuing in the cattle business, after the Strip was cleared of cattle. Interview, R. H. R. with Roy Streeter, Kiowa, Kansas, June 27, 1937.
- The Comanche Pool headquarters were called Evansville, on Salt Fork. In 1881, there were fifteen members of the Pool and 26,000 head of cattle—Hennessey Clipper, April 24, 1941.
- The Southwest Stage Company operating from Caldwell to Fort Reno owned the boats, using them to exchange mail when the coaches could not cross streams at flood stage.
- L. S. Records believed the driver encouraged the Indian boys to demand more money to remunerate himself for loss of his personal effects in the river, for loss of dignity, and for his narrow escape from drowning.
- No experienced cowhand would carry these dangerous iron stakes. He used bobble rope instead. Usually the ground was too hard and dry to drive stakes.
- Wilson was a small independent cattleman in Barber County. Doyle’s connection is unknown to the writer.
- Kingsbury and Dunson, of Texas, sold many horses to cattlemen in the Strip and southwestern Kansas.
- B. H. Campbell’s range was on Turkey Creek, Indian Territory. It contained 60,191 acres. Brand Book, 1883, p. 31; Report of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Part I (Wash. D. C., 1886), p. 308.
- Cattle rustlers burned over many brands, mutilating them beyond recognition.
- See Evan Barnard, A Rider of the Cherokee Strip, (Houghton, Miflin Boston, 1936), PP. 73, 86-88, 89, for mention of Puckett.
- Ewing’s postoffice was Kiowa.
- Verification of McCracken’s connections with various cattlemen was furnished by Mrs. Anna McCracken, Medicine Lodge, Kans., in a letter to R. H. R., July 18, 1937.
- The 4D wagon belonged to E. M. Flood whose range was on Red Rock and Black Bear creeks Cherokee Strip, I. T.—Brand Book, 1883, p. 49, P. 0. Hunnewell.
- The maul, hewed from a log, was four feet long; it was squared at the bottom and tapered to a hand hold at the top.
- Invariably cowhands doubled beds and slept by twos.
- The Brand Book of 1883 carries no reference to Bennett.
- It was the opinion of L S. Records that Eaton was the ablest cowhand he ever met. He had grit and determination. Yet his company furnished him with hones of poor quality. &ldquot;They were rough old pelters," said the Spade man.
- U. S. Indian Agent D. B. Dyer, Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency, Darlington, August 9, 1884, in his annual report speaks of the large brick school building used by the Mennonites for both Cheyenne and Arapaho children.—Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for 1884. p. 76.
- H. W. Timberlake’s range was south of Salt Plains. Caldwell was the post-office. Wicks, Corbin and Streeter were on Mule Creek and Driftwood, their postoffice being Kiowa. Drumm’s range was at the mouth of the Medicine on Salt Fork. Kiowa was the postoffice address. Bates and Company, or Spade ranch, was south of Drumm on Sand Creek, Wellington was the postoffice, Bates residing there. Drumm was his own foreman until 1886 when he took up residence in K. C. Mo.