BRADFORD ROBBINS GRIMES
(Familiarly Known as “B. R.”)
Daisy Ferguson Grimes
(Mrs. B. R.”)
“Horse thieves,” he finally resumed, “multiplied rapidly as the years passed. Those in Texas brought their bands into Kansas and shipped them to different eastern markets, while those in Kansas took their animals into Texas and shipped them to New Orleans. Very frequently the thieves swapped their horses when they met and so saved themselves a long ride.
“One winter I was running about four thousand head of mixed stock in the Indian Territory, close to the Kansas border. I had cut the herd in two, and about thirty-five miles separated the units. At about dusk one evening Barney O’Connor, one of my riders, and I were riding from the south to the north camp when we saw a group of men bunched in a draw about a mile distant to our left. We assumed they were Indians “making medicine” or, to be more explicit holding a pow wow, as no whites other than those wintering their stock in the Territory were supposed to be in it, and we saw no cattle.
“As the trail we were following did not run in the direction of the group we paid no attention to it until Barney happened to look back just in time to see the men deploy and ride toward us. This unfriendly maneuver not only surprised but convinced us they were Indians on the warpath, otherwise they would have ridden in groups or single file. Having a good lead we didn’t wait for them to catch up with us but galloped forward at full speed.
“I was in the lead with five horses attached to a long rope, Barney was in the rear keeping them speeded up. When one of the animals became entangled in the rope, fell, and snarled up the others, we didn’t waste any time trying to straighten them out but kept on going. We thought, of course, our pursuers would be glad to have the horses but when they didn’t pay any attention to them and kept after us we were dead sure they were after our scalps. It seemed to us the faster we rode the faster they rode. We couldn’t shake them off, much less lessen the distance between us. We were glad to be able to hold that.
“The chase of five miles ended when we reached the dugout of a nester which we entered quicker than it takes to tell. Its owner was absent but there were several guns, and rifles of the old fashioned octagon-barrel ram-rod type. Each of us loaded a gun and waited for whatever was to happen. When the riders came to a halt about two hundred yards from us we saw they were whites. They could have shot at us, but they didn’t. Barney was so hopping mad he wanted to shoot right then and there but I told him there were too many against us and that we had better wait for developments.
“We could see the men talking with one another and concluded they were renegades for at that time all the riff-raff white of the country was making the territory their hideout. However, it wasn’t long before one of the men came forward with a white handkerchief tied to the barrel of his gun, and we stepped into the open. When he reached us, the fellow said they believed us to be horse thieves when they saw us riding by with the horses, and were doubly sure when we galloped off; that they would had shot us as we rode had they been able to get within firing distance; that lynching was too good for us and that we might as well give ourselves up. By this time our other men had ridden up; they proved to be Kansas vigilantes who were determined to put a stop to horse stealing. We told them who and what we were and offered to take them to our camp to prove our statements. They examined the brands on our horses and on the five we so unwillingly left behind. In the end they were satisfied we were peaceful citizens and rode off without even apologizing for their mistake. We didn’t ask them to apologize. We were tickled to death to be alive.”
“Cattle stealing,” Braddie continued, “was indulged in by nesters, nondescripts who lived precariously in Texas, the Indian Territory, and Kansas. Upon more than one occasion I left calves dropped on the Chisholm Trail with different ones with the understanding that they could keep half the number if they’d look after the others until I called for them. Out of anywhere from a dozen to twenty head I’d expect to get when I returned I’d invariably be told all had died except two or three. Of course I knew the man lied, but what could I do? I was always so disgusted that I told him he could keep them.
“It was in Texas that cattlemen suffered the greatest depredation at the hands of cattle thieves, white renegades whose thefts assumed such proportions that the cattlemen formed their own vigilante committees.
“What I’m going to tell you happened way back in the early seventies. I was not a party to the lynching but saw the result.
“A wooded area known as Newell’s Grove had been watched off and on for a long time as it was suspected to be the rendevous of a band of marauders who removed the hides from cattle they killed, took them to Indianola for shipment to eastern points where they sold them for six dollars each. Sometimes they buried the carcasses. If they didn’t they just dumped them into a nearby creek or left them to rot on the prairie.
“The first clue to the identity of the Newell Grove bunch was when a cattleman chanced to see a number of hides being placed aboard one of the Tres Palacios creek boats. He inspected them and convinced himself they had been taken from stolen stock. Further investigation showed that the captain of the boat had known for some time what was going on and had helped the thieves get several prior shipments aboard surreptitiously.
“News of the discovery reached the cattle rustlers who were evidently afraid the captain would tell on them. They visited the boat one night, gagged and bound the captain and tying a small cook stove around his neck dropped him into the creek. But that murder didn’t save them. A few days later the five members of the gang were swinging from the top cross piece of a gate. Yes, I saw them dangling, dead as dead herrings. They were buried with their boots on. There were no repercussions and cattle stealing was no longer a nightmare for the cattlemen in that part of the country.”
Sunday School Outfit
The biography of Bradford R. Grimes will ever remain colorful and real. In casual conversations with friends something of past experiences may suddenly suggest itself. I spent thirty-nine hours in the saddle once hunting water. We had 700 cattle out of water.
He has said, “I started my cowboy life wearing kid gloves, carrying my Prayer-Book and a pocket edition of Shakespeare. The kid gloves were soon discarded, Shakespeare replaced with a six shooter and the Prayer Book found needed practical use. I read the Burial Service for one whom we buried by the wayside.”
The W B G or Grimes outfit was known
as the Sunday School Outfit. The hands were not permitted to kill
strays. It was the custom of the Elder Grimes to invite them to
accompany him to church at any place he might meet the Drive, such
as Austin, Ft. Worth, Wichita, Great Bend or Dodge.
Horse Stealing, Cattle Stealing & Sunday School Outfit
Copyright 2007 -
Present by the Grimes Family
Oct. 25, 2007
Oct. 25, 2007