BRADFORD ROBBINS GRIMES
(Familiarly Known as “B. R.”)
Daisy Ferguson Grimes
(Mrs. B. R.”)
“The WBG ranch kept from eight to ten men busy branding the year around. The annual roundup began in early Spring for it was traditional that herds start north not later than the first week in April. The Chisholm Trail lay about ten miles distant from the ranch. Let me tell you about a drive I made to North Dakota.
“One day my father told me I was to be top man or trail boss in charge of twenty-five hundred head of cattle he was sending to our ranch in North Dakota, and that he would pay me twenty-five dollars a month, and grub. Of course, I felt mighty important as any boy in his early twenties would.
“When we started the round-up thirty or forty men covered an area fifteen miles wide and rode between the different creeks, Juanita, Colorado, Caranchua, Tres Palacios and others. It didn’t take so very long before we had three thousand or more head milling and bellowing close to the ranch, but it took us some time to cut out those we were to drive north and brand them with our trail brand “G.” In addition to the WBG ranch brand they already carried.
“All cattlemen used a trail brand as an extra precaution and for quick identification of stock that might stray, become stolen, or get mixed with other herds on the way.
“We also rounded up a remuda of one hundred extra horses which were pretty wild. We placed them in corrals so that they could become acquainted with each other and lose some of their wild notions before becoming a part of the trail outfit.”
“A remuda was always placed in charge of a horse wrangler who accompanied a drive and remained at the rear of the herd. He was responsible for them. At night he tied the horse he was riding with a long rope, which he attached to his arm so that if the main bunch strayed while he was asleep, as it always did, his horse would start to follow it, pull the rope and awaken him.
“When the cattle were to be counted, six men formed a lane through which the animals passed, sometimes singly, sometimes, two, three, or four at a time. We used peas, beans, or tied knots in strings to keep tab of the number of head. When twenty-five hundred had been accounted for we turned the others loose and headed them for the range.
“When all was in readiness for the drive to begin, our crew consisted of fourteen riders, Oz, our colored cook, who was in charge of the four mule chuck wagon, the horse wrangler, who would not only have to look after the remuda but rotate remounts for those horses that would become galled or tired out, and myself. Seventeen men in all.
“Oz was one of our slaves. Where he got the name of Osborn Williams I never knew until he told me one day he had “just picked it up.” He was a flat-nosed fellow, a fine cook, and a happy spirit. I can hear him singing, and I can hear the tunes he played on his ten cent harmonicas which he always carried with him.
“My father had furnished me with money with which to buy foodstuffs to replenish our larder on the way. Oz always felt very important to when telling me what was needed. And he was an important member of the crew, for upon him rested the responsibility for having meals ready to bolster up the riders who were often tired out from lack of sleep and hard riding, enervated by the hot dustladen winds that blinded them and the cattle alike, or wearied by rains that made the trail a quagmire and the going (trebly) terribly hard.
“When we left the ranch we had about one thousand pounds of food supplies consisting of, in part, green coffee, which we parched in a dutch oven, several sacks of sugar and flour, bacon, rice, hominy, beans, and dried fruits. Oz always had soda biscuits and flapjacks on the menu. Of course, we didn’t have any printed menus. We just took what Oz gave us and ate it or went hungry. Eggs were a few and great luxury. Rabbits, prairie chickens, and antelope could be killed along the way if you were a good shot. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe I was ever considered a good marksman. ‘
“The smell of frying, bacon, the odor of “dried salt,” which was the name we gave pork slabs, and the aroma of boiling coffee, never failed to whet our appetites. We used tin cups and tin plates.
“A twenty to thirty gallon barrel was lashed on either side of the chuck wagon and filled with water for drinking purposes. As we didn’t have any ice you can readily understand how warm the water became. A poncho, or dried hide, was slung under the wagon and filled with kindling. It was the duty of Oz to replenish the supply of kindling with dried chips picked up along the way as in many districts wood was priceless, and we had to use it sparingly. But it was water first, last, all the time for man and beast alike.
“The crew ate in turns as they changed shifts, and Oz knew he would be busy from sunup to sundown, and lots of times the boys would wake him up at night and tell him they had to have grub.
“Our average move did not exceed twelve miles per day. We always timed a drive so as to reach a creek at about noon and another before dark, at which times we would throw the herd off the trail to graze and water. When the noon stop was made we left the herd in charge of just a sufficient number of me to handle it while Oz went on ahead several miles and prepared dinner for the others. When the men with the cattle reached Oz he was ready for them and the others would be turned over to the boys who had already had their dinner and the trek continued. Nightriders took charge immediately after supper.
“Each rider had a yellow slicker, or rain coat, two blankets and a tarpaulin which he laid on the ground, if damp, or used with his blankets when nights were cold. And each had his favorite horse.
“The trail was about on-fourth mile wide and deeply rutted by the hoofs of the cattle which were always wild and hard to handle at the start, but much more docile by the time we reached Austin, Texas. Unless stampeded, they held the trail fairly well. Always at the start one animal would take it upon itself to be the leader of the herd, and no matter how often we stopped for water and feed that critter would head the bunch again when we started.
“We left the ranch on afternoon at about four o’clock. Fifteen hundred miles lay ahead of us. None of us knew that we would, but we hoped to reach our destination alive. Dust storms, tornados, Indians, and renegades, were no strangers in those days. We bedded down the first night we were out, and sunrise next morning saw us well under way. We timed the day’s drive so as to reach the Navidad River before sundown. We reached it that evening, threw the herd off the trail and bedded down for the night. In due time we passed close to Lockhart, Texas, and while the herd continued its way, Oz and I bought about one hundred dollars worth of supplies. Lockhart was then a nondescript settlement of a few hundred people.”
“We reached Austin, Texas, about one hundred and fifty miles from the ranch without anything special happening. I paid of and turned back six riders as the cattle were giving little trouble. Some of the boys who received part pay bought overalls or shirts, or other wearing apparel, while others visited the saloons and returned to outfit in a more-or-less worse for wear condition but still quite able to sit in their saddles and nurse the herd. We remained in Austin thirty-six hours during which time additional foodstuffs were bought. The city then had a population of between twenty and twenty-five thousand people.”
“Leaving Austin, we passed close to Temple, Texas, without stopping, and when we reached Fort Worth, about four hundred miles from home, we rested the stock and purchased enough grub to carry us through to Dodge, Kansas.”
“When we crossed the Red River at Doan’s Ferry, so-called after a man by that name who operated the ferry, we found ourselves in what was spoken of in those days as The Beautiful Indian Territory.”
“Quanah Parker, a half-breed, was head of the Comanche tribe. Quanah was waiting for us when we stepped onto his land. I knew what was expected of me and did not hesitate to hand him fifteen good dollars as a pourboire for good will, which would permit me to feed and water the herd without being molested as we passed through the Territory. He was most polite, spoke excellent English, and when thanking me he assured me we would not be harassed by his tribesmen. I have always believed he must have had scouts out who promptly reported to him when a herd would reach the river. He always met them on the north bank and collected tribute.”
“When Indians asked cattlemen for an animal they asked in wohaw, a word they had picked up from the bullwhacker’s call to their long string of oxen freighting to different army posts. “ Gee” turned the lead oxen to the right, “Wohaw” swung them to the left. It was therefore easy for the Indians to connect “wohaw” with beef, or cattle.”
“A few days after I had settled with Quanah we were bedding down for the night at Cache Creek when several Comanches rode up and demanded wohaw. Their spokesman was a little yellow-faced half-breed and as evil looking as you can imagine. I didn’t appreciate the demand for I felt I had already settled with Quanah and that should be all that could be expected. I told the Indian I had nothing to give him. He didn’t seem to care what I said, and when I finally told him I had made peace with his chief it had no effect. His demands became more insistent and I became equally stubborn. In the end, he evidently thought he could win me over by being more polite. He began to palaver and addressing me we with the customary Indian salutation, said: “You heap good chief.” “You good Texan.”
“I emphatically denied the compliment. I thought I might scare him by letting him think I was the worst bad hombre ever turned loose on the cattle trail, and would stand no nonsense. But he wasn’t taken aback. He continued to tell me what a heap good chief I was until I decided to get rid of him by riding to the rear of the herd. But when he rode alongside me I wondered what the outcome of the interview would be. I bandied words with him as we rode. Before we reached the tail end of the herd one of my riders overtook us and told me the other Indians were talking about cutting the herd. I immediately rode back to find the Indians bunched together and holding a pow wow.”
“It wasn’t long before the Indians demanded, in one voice, “wohaw” and looked at me in such a way that I felt cold chills running up and down my spine. Because of my inexperience I determined to take a chance, I again refused the demands. Had I been wise I would have given them a steer and they would have been satisfied, while my refusal to do so might have as I afterwards realized resulted in having the herd stampeded. Ringed by my riders, who had their revolvers ready to shoot, we talked and argued until I finally told them that if they caused me any trouble they would have to make peace with Quanah. Whether or not Quanah would or would not do anything, I didn’t know, but having taken a stand I was determined to maintain it. What effect Quanah’s name had on them, I don’t know to this day. Anyway, they finally decided to leave. I returned to camp and laid down.”
“I became conscious during the night that some one was moving close by. Opening my eyes I saw that evil looking spokesman creeping up to my horse. Reaching it, he drew my revolver from the saddle moral, a receptacle for odds and ends, where I had foolishly left it. I could see him twisting the barrel around to see if its chambers were loaded, and they were. I thought, for sure my last hour had come. I sat up. My movement caused him to look my way.”
“You good chief, me good chief, he remarked, meaningly, and his ugly look emphasized his words.”
“I made no reply, and when my silence must have nettled him he continued to assure me in lurid language that I was a good chief.”
“You shoot me die, Me shoot, Me die. All same you die,” he bluntly informed me, and I jumped to the conclusion that he thought I had another gun. I didn’t tell him I didn’t have one.
On the Trail-Gulf to Dakota - Part 1
Copyright 2007 -
Present by the Grimes Family
Oct. 25, 2007
Oct. 25, 2007