Grayson County TXGenWeb
Buster (Dad) De Graftenried
Biography- Three versions same story 
Pages 1 , 2, 3, 4
March 15, 1938
Bronzed by the sun and wind, Dad De Graftenried is a real life model of the old time cowpuncher and ranchman. A fringe of snow white hair people out beneath an [old?] Stetson hat and his keen eyes twinkle with merriment while he relates adventures of pioneer days. His legs, bowed by sixty years in the saddle, were encased in fine hand made boots and he rolls a cowboy cigarette with the precision of a machine. His genial manner is typical of western hospitality as he receives visitors in the home of his daughter, Mrs. Frank O. Skidmore, where this story was obtained.
"Well now I'll be glad to talk with you about the old days. I enjoy going downtown and talking to some of my old friends for many of us are passing on. Take this for instance as the case were," and then he began:

"I was born in Grayson County, Texas, September 1864 on the old De Graftenried plantation. I remember the little negro kids and my man Berry, who carried me about on his shoulders until I was a fairly big lad. That plantation was home until Father got an urge to go farther west so we headed
for [the?] frontier which later became Stephens county. It hadn't [been?] organized yet, but they had a big picnic and organized it with Breckenridge as the county seat. I can remember that part of it for the kids had plenty of fun. Several times we would go back to Grayson county but every time us
kids would start "chillin" and Pa would put us in the wagon and start west again. We settled on the Clearfork of the Brazos. Tex. In front of our cabins we had things sorta like brush arbors and Mother used to hang quilts up so the
Indians couldn't see us playing. I bet I've been chased a hundred times by the Indians and when asked why he didn't catch me I always tell them, "Well, H---, might as well try to catch a jack rabbit as to chase me. I don't remember a lot of these things until I meet some old fellow and start talking and he says "do  you remember so and so?" and that starts things popping in my mind. My old friend Cap'n John Hughes can remember so many things that happened while we lived on the Clearfork. He was a young man then in the Ranger Service. The Indians killed a family by the name of [Lee?] and I asked Cap'n Hughes if he remembered about it and he said "Well, I reckon I do, I went down there." Life was pretty strenuous for the grownups, but we had a lot of fun. We kids were happy. I can remember the first hat I ever owned was a cotton one, and when you rode your pony the hat all went to crown and you had to reach up and catch it and carry it in your hand the rest of the day.And that's about all we did was ride.

In [?] we moved to New Mexico about Ft. Sumner. There was just two white families there then, ours and Old Brother Gayhart who was German and as the cowboys said, he had quite a bunch of little Germans. We were settled right near the old home of Billy the Kid. He was killed the same year we moved to New Mexico. I think there were only two countries out there then. San Miguel and later we helped make Chavez County.

The first work I ever done, was with Caulsey in 1883-84 Caulsey was a freighting outfit. They had seven or eight wagons with seven or eight yolk of oxen to each wagon, and they had a bunch of extra steers. I was hired to drive the steers. This outfit hunted some buffalo and sold the meat, but there were only a few buffalo left in [1883?] so I worked for them that year and then they [played?] out.
Those freighters were tough as could be. They tell this story. One time an Indian was trying to buy a cannon from one of the Army's Generals and was told, "No you will be shooting my soldiers with it." The Indian said, "Me killum soldiers with stick, me want killum damn freighters". Now those
freighting outfits were as fine as money could buy. They had to be since they were the only means of hawling supplies. The wagons were huge as this room, heavily built of oak and canvas with water barrels on the side. They had two men to each wagon and they certainly had team work. They all work just like one man. When there was an attack from the Indians within five minutes they would have the wagons in a circle with water barrels and the steers inside and they would have out their old buffalo guns and a whole army couldn't have gotten to them. The wagon boss always rode in front of the train. It was his job to see that the way was clear. If we came to a piece of timber he would ride
in to see if there was any ambush. If he gave the signal, the wagons would move up and in no time the protection would be formed. When there was no Indian trouble they made camp much the same fashion at night. One wagon with the provisions would be in the middle where the cooking would be
done. Then one of the boys would take the oxen out and let them graze all night. He was called the "nighthawk".
I just wish you could have seen them hitching up in the mornings. Those old steers were well trained.There was always so much dust inside the circle you would wonder how the men ever got the right animals to the [wagon?], but they knew just where to go. They would come up and stand patiently in place, turn those old long horns sidewise, until the bow was in place and locked. They could hitch the right front oxen first, and then the next one would follow until they were all hitched, [then?] with a shout from the driver they would wheel that old wagon out of the circle and take their position ready for another long drive. I learned a lot from watching the freighters and their teams.
After that year I went to work for a little while for the Syndicate, up in the Panhandle country. They had the famous KIT brand. They were supposed to have furnished the money for the building or the capital building at Austin. I didn't work for them very long.
Pretty soon after that I went to work for a Mr. Horn, who owned the Pig Pen outfit, and I stayed on that ranch for more than fifty years, I've been there ever since. I reckon I just helped to make that country. There was trouble in those days over the grass. The cattlemen and sheepmen had it. And
the nesters, thats what we called the families that moved in on us. We couldn't agree about different things, but if ever a body was intitled to rights, By G-- I was because I helped to make five counties. But H--- you couldn't have law and order in those days. Most of the people can't understand that,for instance as the case were. "We lived about thirty miles from the Texas line on the [Pecos?] river and in [1889-90?] it hadn't rained for three years to make any grass for the cattle and wherever there was any little grass the sheepmen
came in and let their sheep eat all the grass from our cattle. The range was overstocked with cattle anyhow and there was no grass. That was what caused the sheepmen and cattlemen's war.
We were about a hundred miles from nowhere but the mail passed every day in a buckboard on the way to Las Vegas, so I wrote to Mr. Horn to ask him to come down and see if we couldn't fix up some way to save our cattle as they were all going to die if we didn't. Mr. Horn lived in Denver but he came to Vegas by train and it took him three days to come from Vegas to old Fort [Sumner?] in a buckboard. Things went better with him there. We fixed up a little spring, had a lot of hard work but the cattle got water.
 I never had a case in court in my life, I just couldn't afford to get into any trouble in that danged sheepmen's war, but I've been a witness a lot of time. The easiest thing for me to do was to move my cattle back out of trouble. I always told my men never to kill anyone unless they had to and if they ever did never to come back around my place because I didn't want to get mixed up with the law. The best thing to do was just to head into Texas, go right off and never come back no more. I was a deputy sheriff in those days, but only for my own protection. Capn' Hughes knows about that time. He's just too good a man. He was on the laws side and he can't talk much. That's the reason he doesn't talk about his experiences and he could tell plenty. And another fine man is old Juan Franco. He is just about the cleanest Mexican cuss I [ever?] knowed in  My  my {End inserted text} life. They are called Mexicans in Texas but in New Mexico they are called Spanish Americans.
They always called me "Dad" since I was about 22. I worked over on the Matador for awhile and I met a girl I had knowed all my life, but I hadn't seen her for a long time. We fell in love and were married right away. She stayed there and I went back to the Horn ranch to make a stake, and the
first thing I knowed, by jiminy I had a boy. It took a letter a month to get there. I strutted around there helping the boys, and was so proud I'd say "now let Dad do that", so from that time on they always called me "Dad". I was the only feller around them parts that had a kid that they [owned?]. They might of had plenty of them but they didn't own them.
The young hands was what we called Buttons if they didn't like to work very much. That was an old term used by the cowmen. One old boy came out to work for me, rode in about night on a little old poor pony and asked me about work. He was about 17 or 18 - I fitted him up with a bunch of ponies, and he
turned out to be one of the best hands I ever had on my place.
You never asked a fellow his name and if he told you, you wouldn't believe it anyhow. This fellow had on a pair of what we called Hand-me-down boots, that is they were just bought in the store and not made to order. So we called him Boots. I had a man that had worked for me so long and was such a dependable man that I counted on him for everything. His name was Dallas. Well, one
evening I looked out and saw a bunch of sheep up in our pasture so I says "Where is Dallas I want him to go out there and drive them sheep out of that pasture. They said that they didn't know they hadn't seen him around that day. So Boots says"Let me go and drive them away." So I let him go, I told
him that if he got into any trouble not to [come?] back here so to take the best horse he could find.He started off but he never came back. Next day the sheriff came up and said that someone had run through this sheep camp [and?] tore it up, scared the sheep all off and set fire to the camp. He had a mexican?] to indentify the person that done  it . But the Mexican said it wasn't any of the fellers there. Well, I never heard what happened to Boots, for about two years. One day a letter come and said that he still had the pony and that he was sick and that he wondered if he had worked for us long enough to have anything coming. Well, I looked on the books, and shore nuff I owed Boots $40.00, so I sent him a check for $40.00. He just signed his name Boots in the letter so I made out the check to Boots and he signed it Boots and by golly he got the money. A few years later he came [past?] our place and stayed all night. on his way to Arizona in another big hurry. He sure was the right kind of
fellow. He knew how to keep his mouth shut. He shore could have anything on that [ranch?]. He [just?] didn't talk too much. He was just a good cowboy. He had slipped the button.  He did what you told him and never  asked any questions about it.

When Mr. Horn died I bought the ranch from the bank at Denver, some of the older [cowmen?] would probably remember it better as the old [Tooley?] ranch or the Old Horn ranch. At one time I branded 7 or 8 thousand calves. That would call for between 16 or 17 thousand head of cattle. During the days that we [fenced?] three townships we had to haul the wire about [116?] miles and
the [posts?] from "the [brakes?]", a distance of [60?] miles. [?]  The big freighting outfits  bought  brought all our supplies from Amarillo. Us old ignorant cowmen didn't know nothing about money only that we had most
everything we needed that money could buy. The way we got our supplies was funny. There was a little store there in Fort Sumner which acted sorta like a bank and handled all our money and paid most all our debts. We were so ignorant we didn't know if they cheated us or not. Now as the case were,  the bookkeeper in the store in Amarillo would say to one of the other men, "You had better look up and see when we took that stuff to the Pig Pen outfit (that was my outfit) and LFD outfit," and he would look it up and say, "Well, its been about three months since we was out that way and the Pig Pen outfit has so many men and the LFD outfit has so many, so I think we had better be getting out that way. The next thing we would know there would be a lot of barrels on the porch, maybe a thousand pounds of flour, 150 pounds of coffee and all other supplies that we needed. That would be the last we would
know about it until the next time they sent us some supplies. They would collect for it at the little store in Fort Sumner as there were no banks in them days out in this country, nor schools like they have now. My wife stayed over at [Portales?], about 30 miles from the ranch so the kids could go to school. I've sold off most of the ranch now. Just kept enough to go back to in the summers. I like El Paso, but I get homesick and have to stay up there part of the time.
Buster (Dad) De Graftenried Age 73 106 W. California Street
El Paso, Texas
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