BRADFORD ROBBINS GRIMES
(Familiarly Known as “B. R.”)
Daisy Ferguson Grimes
(Mrs. B. R.”)
“It was probably just as well, if not better, that I was unarmed for I would have been tempted to shoot that red devil right then and there. Nevertheless, as I had not threatened to shoot him I was plumb locoed when he spoke of killing me. If he shot, I knew I’d never know what hit me. I wished I had given him the entire herd. It was the first and last time for me to leave my revolver where I could not reach it. I didn’t dare call for assistance lest he shoot and I be beyond the necessity of having it. I watched him in silence as he again twirled the barrel, so slowly that I knew he was debating just what he should do. I was helpless and knew it, but he didn’t. Just what that red skin was prompted to do after scaring me to death I’ll never know. He dropped the revolver into the moral, glared viciously at me and hurling a score of choice epithets upon my innocent head walked off.”
“Upon later occasions when an Indian asked for wohaw, I gave him a steer or a cow without argument, even though I had already paid tribute to his chief.”
“The Indians must have been hungry all the time. They invariably showed up at mealtime. The morning following my experience with the Comanches, a band of Arapahoe’s appeared for breakfast. Of course, we could have dispensed with their presence but we didn’t even suggest they go for reasons you’ll now readily understand. The Arapaho’s may not have been as wild as the Comanches but they were wild enough. Having been a party to the 1867 treaty with the government they evidently thought they were Sunday school children in comparison with their Comanche brothers. During the meal they ate ravenously. Oz was sure we wouldn’t have anything left. One of them spoke of the Comanches saying: “Him go, go all time. Me sit down.”
“Having had enough of Indians to last me a life time I readily agreed that his tribe was much more peaceful one than the Comanches, and I didn’t stretch the truth. When they were through eating they asked for wohaw and I very willingly gave them a calf. When they had parted I told them they were good Indians but didn’t add I hoped I’d never see them again.”
“Cache Creek was not as shallow as I would have liked. However, I decided to ford the herd. Fortunately, it got across without the loss of a single head. But Oz and his chuck wagon didn’t fare so well, although he knew his mules and his mules knew him.”
“The north bank was steep. Oz was confident the mules could climb it. Four men as riders ran ropes from the pommels of their saddles to the wagon to assist the mules which forded the stream in safety, and with vociferous shouts, in which Oz, from his seat on the wagon, joined lustily, were encouraged in their efforts to climb the bank. Just as the brink was reached one of the riders failed to do his share of the pulling and in less time than it takes to tell the entire outfit was a tangled mess in the river. Oz came up sputtering. He hollered his head off at the mules and the riders alike. The adjectives he used while we were rescuing him and his precious mules, and afterwards while we were retrieving what we could of the supplies brought laughs from everybody and materially eased the situation. But Oz couldn’t be prevailed upon to attempt the ford again at the same place.
“I ain’t aiming to take more ‘n one bath this trip,” he observed, ‘onless I takes it of mah own free will.”
“We had to go down stream quite a distance before we found a place to suit him.”
“Stampedes invariably occurred at night. Very often slight sounds such as a horse shaking itself and making the stirrups rattle, or a rabbit might try to weave its way through the herd, was all that was needed to cause the sea of flesh to become terrified and break loose.”
“But it was when thunder crashed, streaks of lightening flashed, and a deluge of rain fell that cattle forgot to be ladies and gentlemen and became panic stricken. It was then a real stampede where the herd was sweeping across the prairie. And it was then that the intelligence of the cow pony demonstrated itself. Each rider had his special night horse, usually a white one as that color could be more easily seen, and chosen because of his intelligence. They could see through rain and darkness what their riders could not see. They could stop and turn on a dime to follow a recalcitrant critter, and knowing they could the men had to anticipate their every move and be prepared not to be thrown to the ground. My men were not the dressed-up-for-the-occasion cowboys. They were riders who knew what to do in a crisis without being told, and did it.”
“My first experience handling a night stampede which was caused by the premeditated acts of others was shortly after we left Cache Creek.”
“Cattle thieves, or timber wolves, as they were called, would lie in wait in a timber clump and watch their chance to steal as many head from a herd as they felt they could safely handle. They branded them with their own brands.”
“One night when we were bedded down the herd began to get restless, a sure sign to a cow hand that something was wrong. Before we could find out what was disturbing them, the herd started off across the country in all directions on a real rampage. With tails up, they tore here, there and everywhere, bellowing with fear. It took us all night and the next day to round them up and another day to count them. Our loss was small. On some of those recovered were fresh brands which convinced us we had been the victims of cattle thieves whose deserted camp we later found in a nearby wood and who, had the stampede not occurred would have waited until we had gone on our way and then disposed of the stolen cattle as their property.”
“That stampede didn’t help the herd which continued to be restless for several days and doubled the work of the riders.”
“It wasn’t long before we met another band of Arapahoes. I was riding about a mile ahead of the herd when the Indians accosted me. I recognized one of the band as having been one of those who had breakfast with us. He pointed me out to the others, saying: “Him Chief,” whereupon one of them greeted me: “You Chief? Howdy, John.”
“How,” I returned, and we got down to business.”
“They didn’t want wohaw. They wanted money. I gave them three dollars which satisfied them and me. And I had come to the conclusion it didn’t pay to do much, if any, arguing.”
“As there were always many herds on the trail they had to be kept a safe distance apart to prevent being merged. We frequently saw the campfires of outfits ahead, and upon one occasion those of my men who were off duty and I rode forward and joined in an impromptu dance. Men in slickers represented the women. Harmonicas furnished the music, and to the tunes of the Arkansaw Traveler, The Irish Washerwoman, and others I’ve forgotten, we danced all night.”
“At Fort Supply, a government post located near the junction of Beaver River and Wolf Creek, we passed onto the Dodge fork of the trail. As there were quite a number of soldiers stationed at the Fort, a stage coach operated between it and Dodge, a distance of about one hundred miles. Upon reaching Clark Creek post office, a lone building stocked with odds and ends, we forded the Cimarron River to get into Kansas.”
“We reached Dodge the later part of July with the herd in good condition, although we had lost about one hundred head that had dropped on the way and including those lost in the stampede I’ve told you about.”
“Only two of the riders and the horse wrangler decided to leave the outfit, they having lived up to their agreement to accompany the herd as far as Dodge. I paid the riders off in full and they started back to the ranch.”
“The horse wrangler was a Mexican by the name of Ortiz. After buying him a ticket, which I told him I’d give him when he was ready to leave, I gave him ten dollars and a credit slip for the balance due him, which he could cash at our store. I did this because I knew he was a booze fighter and wouldn’t have a cent left when ready to leave.”
“When train time came I waited for Ortiz to show up. When he failed to appear I started out to hunt for him. My search which took, me into all the saloons and through the redlight district, was without result. No one had seen him and to this day, I have never learned what became of him. I have always believed he was lured to the banks of the Arkansas River and murdered by men who knew he had left the herd and must have thought he had a considerable sum of money on his person. Or, perhaps he found a resting place in Boot Hill.”
“Dodge was a wide open border town of tents, slab board shacks, and unpainted buildings. Gambling, wine, women, and song ruled it. Its population consisted of a hodgepodge of humanity, the worst element predominating. Brawls were many. Life was cheap. Murders were frequent, and yet no body thought anything was wrong. Unmarked graves dotted a nearby area known as Boot Hill, so named because those unfortunates who died with their boots on were unceremoniously buried there. To-day, Boot Hill lies in the heart of Dodge City, Kansas, as a memorial to the good and bad men who rest under its sod. Tourists view it with much curiosity and no doubt try to conjure up what must have happened during the days when the inhabitants of the town facetiously told each other: “They planted him in Boot Hill.”
“It was in Dodge that every advantage was taken of the innocence of the cowboy. The worst liquor, marked cards, loaded dice, and rigged gambling devices of every kind beset him on all sides. He never had a chance. Like the proverbial lamb to the slaughter he was fleeced not only of his money, but all too frequently of his entire outfit, gun, saddle, and even his cherished pony.”
“Our camp was on Mulberry Creek, about ten miles distant from town. Early one evening a youth whose name I never learned, drifted into camp for supper and to spend the night. He was in his early twenties and a likeable fellow. It was while he was asleep that a man rode up and shot him without a word of warning, and as quickly rode back to town. When the Marshall demanded his surrender he refused to give himself up and was shot in turn. Before his death he said he killed the boy because he believed he had been following him all the way from Texas, a belief no one shared. Both filled graves on Boot Hill.
“Pasturage was limitless and free. We remained on Mulberry Creek for about two months during which time I bought and sold before continuing north to Ogallala, Nebraska, where I was to turn the herd, which now consisted of three thousand head, over the foreman of our Hot Springs, N. D. ranch.
“We reached Ogallala without trouble and while there I contracted with the Yankton, N.D. Indian Agent to deliver six hundred head of four year old steers on the Missouri River, ninety miles north of Yankton, a drive I’ll never forget.
“The steers were as rambunctious a bunch of critters as I ever handled in all my experience on the range. They stampeded nightly for six consecutive nights. It seemed to all of us we were never out of our saddles. Just what got into those sea lions I don’t know. Perhaps they knew they were headed for the end of the trail that had no turning. But we finally reached the Agency and my job was finished. Some of these steers driven all the way from Texas became so foot sore, we roped them and bound the feet with rags. On this trip we once drove 50 miles without water for the cattle.
“After arranging to return to Oz and
the riders to the ranch I disposed of the remuda, chuck wagon and
mules, for two thousand dollars which, with a check for sixteen
thousand dollars received for the steers. I placed in my belt and
started for Kansas City to bank both and incidentally enjoy the
bright lights before returning to
Texas. I reached home Christmas
Eve, or just nine months after starting north. Following the trail
was always a man’s job,” Braddie concluded.
On the Trail-Gulf to Dakota - Part 2
Copyright 2007 -
Present by the Grimes Family
Oct. 25, 2007
Oct. 25, 2007