"While the Civil War was being fought, there were a great many
cattle left unbranded and a scramble to brand the critters
started. The scramble led to many fights. The unbranded critter
was supposed to belong to the herd with which it run or to the
controller of the range where found. Some men started in the
cattle business by branding the unbranded critters and never paid
out a dollar for cattle. They registered a brand and then went on
the range branding every critter without a brand regardless where
it was found or the herd the animal was grazing with. Then later,
some went further and worked brands over. There were several
methods used. One we had was picking the hair, another was using
the sap of the milkweed which would cause the hair to die where it
was applied. But, the chief means was using a wagonbox rod, or one
like it. By heating the iron the hot end could be used as a
pencil, changing the brand. For instance, the letter F can easily
be change to read E. A one to a seven, six, ten and so on.
"It was next to impossible for a brand to be deviced which the
brand burners couldn't change.
"I heard of one brand which had the brand burners stumped. The
brand was known as the year brand. The figures of the year in
which the branding was did were placed on the critters. For
example: If we were to brand a critter this year, of 1938, the one
would be placed on the flank, the nine and three on the hips and
the eight on the jaw. That brand was used by a ranch up in the
"When the cattle business began to pick up Bolin started to
increase he herd. He too began to give the unbranded critters
special attention. Orders were given to us waddies to brand all
critters which we found grazing in our section without a brand. We
were finally paid a bonus of 50 for each critter we found and
placed the 'JB' brand onto it. To be honest about it, we waddies
didn't over look any bets and brandedr critters where ever we
located it even if it was in some other territory. We generally
found a reason for riding into other territory- when we thought no
one would see us.
"We were kept busy and the crew was increased to 15 hands and
the herd grew to better than 10,000 head. Then the outfit was
furnished with a cook, an old negro which had been a slave on
Bolin's home place, and Tom was a tolerable good cook. We were
furnished with a hoss wrangler too and our outfit became a real
"Our remuda was increased to around 100 hosses. That provided
each rawhide with six horsses in his string and a few extra.
Horses were used up mighty fast on a cow ranch and it was the
wranglers job to keep the remuda full of fresh hosses. I have seen
five of six hosses ruined during one stampede. Some would be
[solosed?], wind-broken or ruined otherwise from overriding. Some
would step in a hole while running and break a leg and then have
to be shot.
"When a stampede started at night, or day for that matter,
there was no thought of saving hoss flesh. The range held plenty
of wild hosses, which could be had for the taking, and cowhosses
could be bought broke and ready for work for from a $15 to 35.
Naturally, our worst stampede always happened at night during
the worst storms. At such times men or hosses could not see where
to step. It was a case of trusting to luck and many times luck
seemed to be asleep.
STAMPEDE IN A HAIL
"I am going to tell of one night when we had a stampede which I
can't forget. The day had been a hot one and hard one for the
critters. The animals didn't do much grazing until about an hour
before sunset and them continued to graze past their usual bedding
time, which was around dusk. This night a heavy cloud showed
suddenly in the North and came on fast. A heavy rain with sky-fire
came on. The syk-fire was scaring the critters causing all of us
to do plenty of riding in order to hold the animals from going on
a run. Suddenly, hail about the size of pigeon eggs began to fall.
When the hail hit the critters they decided to go somewhere in
spite of hell, highwater of rawhides, and the animals did that
"While working in that hail storm was, one time I found the
ten gallon honk cover a mighty handy article. If we rawhides had
been wearing any ordinary hat, the hail stones would would have
knocked us loco. Our heads were saved, but the rest of our bodies
was full of welts from the pounding of the hail stones. Our hosses
were loco from being pelted and we could hardly control the poor
devils. About half of the mounts started pitching. Those which
were not pitching, were running away from their riders. We were
lucky that the cattle and hosses all were going with the storm. In
addition to loco, hosses, critters and half loco rawhides, it was
dark and we couldn't see what we were running into.
"The hail pelted us for about ten minutes or so, but that was
more than enough and when the hail stopped no one could reckon
where the other riders were or what became of the herd.
"Us waddies lit out to find the herd soon as the hail ceased
falling. The herd stared towards the Colorado River and we all
reckoned the same way, and that was it was still traveling in that
direction. We knew that when the herd reached the river it would
have to stop or swim the river. From where the herd started was
about ten miles from the river. In face of the fact that we all
were separated, we had reckoned the same way and were heading for
"Soon as the hail stopped we all began to shoot our guns to
let each other know where each other were and it was not long till
all of had our bearings. Most of us had reached the herd just
before it reached the river. We just let the animals run until it
reached the river and there, of course, it stopped, and the
animals went to milling and we went to work keeping the critters
from scattering. We finally got the herd quieted and settled, then
started the herd back.
"When we checked up on our condition after the run, we found
that we had lost two hosses from broken legs done by stepping in a
hole. We picked up their riders on our way back. Three hosses were
[soloaed?] From this stampede you may get some idea of how hosses
are put out of working condition of a cow ranch.
ON A TRAIL DRIVE FROM
"The railroads were finally built into Kans. Abilene, Camp
Supply, Fort Dodge and other places became shipping points for
cattle, but the critters had to be driven from Texas to the
northern market. Driving of hundreds of thousands of cattle out of
Texas then started. Cattle prices raised from nothing,
comparatively speaking, to an average of around $25. a head for
two's and three's (two and three years old).
"In the Llano Co, section cattlemen bunched their market
critters into one herd. Some one man with a crew would drive a
herd to market containing several different brands. After the
cattle were delivered the drover would return and settle with each
rancher. The ranchers were paid the amount received, less his
portion of the expense.
"A driving crew numbered around a dozen men, besides the
belly-cheater and the hoss wrangler. The cooky's job was to attend
to the chuck wagon and keeping cooking fuel on hand besides
cooking the chuck. Of course, the hoss wrangler attended to the
"The number of hosses in the driving remuda varied in number,
but averaged about four for each trail rider.
"The first day out with a herd, we would drive from early
morning till around dusk without a stop, except for water. The
reason for pushing the herd so hard the first day, was to get far
as possible from the home range for bedding time. If the herd was
close to the home range the animals would attempt to return to
their usual bedding ground.
"As a rule our hardest day for handling cattle was the first
day. With each days driving the critters would become more
accustomed to being driven and would handle better, until it took
the drift without any urging.
"After the first day we would allow the critters to graze
along practically at their own gait, but always pointed up the
trail. The only time we would push the herd forward was when we
wanted to reach a certain spot at a specified time, such as
getting to water, bedding grounds or across a stream before dark.
"A herd will drift around 10 miles a day, but reckoning as the
crow flys; about seven miles was the average. Drifting at this
rate cattle will drift several hundred miles and be in good flesh
at the end of the drive, if there is plenty of grass. If a drover
did not care about the condition of the herd at the end of the
drive, for instance, if the herd was being driven to a new range,
a herd can be driven from 10-30 miles each day.
"When it comes to talking about trouble with a herd on a
drive, that all depends on the nature of the critters in the herd,
the kind of a range it was raised on, how it had been handled all
are big factors contributing to how it will handle. If a herd came
off of a rough bushy range those were hard to handle on a prairie.
If the herd had been kept bunched and were used to night riders
those were easier to handle than those let run at will.
"I made many drives while with the Bolin outfit and we always
had more or less of a mixed herd. I never drove two herds that
handled alike. I have been with herds that could hardly be put on
a stampede and others herds that would want to run all the time.
"We started out of Llano Co. one time in the early 70's with a
herd which began running the first day and gave us a run, on the
average, each day till we landed in Abilene Kans. The animals had
run so often that when we arrived in Abilene, their running
ability was developed to prefection and any one of the critters
could out run a race hoss. The animals had conditioned to
whip-cord muscles and bones. Of course the critters were not fit
for market and had to be sold at a greatly reduced price.
"Our worst run with that herd took place about six miles S. of
Doan's Crossing of the Red River. Now, it seemed that herd would
start from the noise made rolling a smoke bill. We had been
pushing the herd the late part of the day, because we wanted to
make the river for water before dark.
"Something caused a critter to snort and that was the signal
for a run. From the previous runs made by that herd we had learned
to just hold the animals in a bunch until the herd had tuckered
itself out, but at this time the Millet outfit was ahead of us
with a herd. We didn't know whether not Millet had crossed the
river, therefore, tried to turn the herd and put it milling to
prevent a possible mixing with the herd ahead.
"Several of us waddies went to the lead and emptied our guns
into the faces of the critters several times, but our efforts did
not stop the run or even turn the herd. All we could do was to
divert their course to one side then back again. All the time the
herd was going in the general direction of the river. The course
followed by the critters, I reckon was caused by the animals
scenting water. Well, the herd was not long in reaching the
crossing and the leaders lit into a quick-sand bog. About a 100 of
the critters became mired, and some went down it.