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Indian reservation, there has been a scanty plainsmen, are invariably sent ahead, perhaps and sparse settlement, quite peculiar in its a year in advance, to spy out the land and character. In the forest the woodchopper pick the best places. One of these may go comes first; on the fertile prairies the granger by himself, or more often, especially if they is the pioneer; but on the long stretching up- have to penetrate little known or entirely unlands of the far West it is the men who guard known tracts, two or three will go together, and follow the horned herds that prepare the the owner or manager of the herd himself way for the settlers who come after. The high being one of them. Perhaps their herds may plains of the Upper Missouri and its tributary already be on the border of the wild and unrivers were first opened, and are still held, by inhabited country: in that case they may the stockmen, and the whole civilization of the have to take but a few days' journey before region has received the stamp of their marked finding the stretches of sheltered, long-grass and individual characteristics. They were from land that they seek. For instance, when I the South, not from the East, although many wished to move my own elkhorn steer brand men from the latter region came out along on to a new ranch I had to spend barely the great transcontinental railway lines and a week in traveling north among the Little joined them in their northern migration. Missouri Bad Lands before finding what was
They were not dwellers in towns, and from then untrodden ground far outside the range the nature of their industry lived as far apart of any of my neighbors' cattle. But if a large from each other as possible. In choosing new outfit is going to shift its quarters it must go ranges, old cow-hands, who are also seasoned much farther; and both the necessity and the
chance for long wanderings were especially back ten miles or more among the broken great when the final overthrow of the north- buttes and plateaux of the uplands to where ern Horse Indians opened the whole Upper the brown hay, cured on the stalk, stands Missouri basin at one sweep to the stock thick in the winding coulées. men. Then the advance-guards or explorers, These lookouts or forerunners having reeach on one horse and leading another with turned, the herds are set in motion as early in food and bedding, were often absent months the spring as may be, so as to get on the at a time, threading their way through the ground in time to let the travel-worn beasts trackless wastes of plain, plateau, and river- rest and gain flesh before winter sets in. Each bottom. If possible they would choose a coun- herd is accompanied by a dozen, or a score, try that would be good for winter and summer or a couple of score, of cowboys, according to alike; but often this could not be done, and its size, and beside it rumble and jolt the then they would try to find a well-watered heavy four-horse wagons that hold the food tract on which the cattle could be summered, and bedding of the men and the few impleand from which they could be driven in fallments they will need at the end of their jourto their sheltered winter range--for the cattle ney. As long as possible they follow the trails in winter eat snow, and an entirely waterless made by the herds that have already traveled region, if broken, and with good pasturage, is in the same direction, and when these end often the best possible winter ground, as it is they strike out for themselves. In the Upsure not to have been eaten off at all during the per Missouri basin, the pioneer herds soon summer, while in the bottom the grass is al- had to scatter out and each find its own way ways cropped down soonest. Many outfits among the great dreary solitudes, creeping regularly shift their herds every spring and carefully along so that the cattle might not be fall; but with us in the Bad Lands all we do, overdriven and might have water at the haltwhen cold weather sets in, is to drive our ing-places. An outfit might thus be months beasts off the scantily grassed river-bottom on its lonely journey, slowly making its way over melancholy, pathless plains, or down the by several yoke of oxen, or perhaps by six or valleys of the lonely rivers. It was tedious, eight mules. To guard against the numerous harassing work, as the weary cattle had to be mishaps of prairie travel, two or three of these driven carefully and quietly during the day and prairie schooners usually go together, the strictly guarded at night, with a perpetual brawny teamsters, known either as “bullwatch kept for Indians or white horse-thieves. whackers” or as “mule-skinners,” stalking Often they would skirt the edges of the streams beside their slow-moving teams. for days at a time, seeking for a ford or a good The small outlying camps are often tents, or swimming crossing, and if the water was up mere dug-outs in the ground. But at the main and the quicksand deep the danger to the ranch there will be a cluster of log buildings, riders was serious and the risk of loss among including a separate cabin for the foreman or the cattle very great.
ranchman; often another in which to cook At last, after days of excitement and dan- and eat; a long house for the men to sleep in; ger and after months of weary, monotonous stables, sheds, a blacksmith's shop, etc.,toil, the chosen ground is reached and the the whole group forming quite a little settle
final camp pitched. The footsore animals are ment, with the corrals, the stacks of natural turned loose to shift for themselves, outlying hay, and the patches of fenced land for garcamps of two or three men each being estab- dens or horse pastures. This little settlement lished to hem them in. Meanwhile the primi- may be situated right out in the treeless, nearly tive ranch-house, out-buildings, and corrals level open, but much more often is placed are built, the unhewn cottonwood logs being in the partly wooded bottom of a creek or chinked with moss and mud, while the roofs river, sheltered by the usual background of are of branches covered with dirt, spades and somber brown hills. axes being the only tools needed for the work. When the northern plains began to be setBunks, chairs, and tables are all home-made, tled, such a ranch would at first be absolutely and as rough as the houses they are in. The alone in the wilderness, but others of the supplies of coarse, rude food are carried per- same sort were sure soon to be established haps two or three hundred miles from the near- within twenty or thirty miles on one side est town, either in the ranch-wagons or else by or the other. The lives of the men in such some regular freighting outfit, whose huge can- places were strangely cut off from the outside vas-topped prairie schooners are each drawn world, and, indeed, the same is true to a hardly less extent at the present day. Some- landmarks as, for instance, near us, the times the wagons are sent for provisions, Deadwood and the old Fort Keogh trails. and the beef-steers are at stated times driven Cattle-ranching can only be carried on in off for shipment. Parties of hunters and its present form while the population is scanty; trappers call now and then. More rarely and so in stock-raising regions, pure and simsmall bands of emigrants go by in search ple, there are usually few towns, and these are of new homes, impelled by the restless, aim- almost always at the shipping points for catless craving for change so deeply grafted in tle. But, on the other hand, wealthy cattlethe breast of the American borderer: the men, like miners who have done well, always white-topped wagons are loaded with do- spend their money freely; and accordingly mestic goods, with sallow, dispirited-look- towns like Denver, Cheyenne, and Helena, ing women, and with tow-headed children; where these two classes are the most influwhile the gaunt, moody frontiermen slouch ential in the community, are far pleasanter alongside, rifle on shoulder, lank, homely, places of residence than cities of five times uncouth, and yet with a curious suggestion of their population in the exclusively agricultural grim strength underlying it all. Or cowboys States to the eastward. from neighboring ranches will ride over, look- A true “cow town” is worth seeing,—such ing for lost horses, or seeing if their cattle a one as Miles City, for instance, especially at have strayed off the range. But this is all. the time of the annual meeting of the great Civilization seems as remote as if we were Montana Stock-raisers' Association. Then the living in an age long past. The whole ex- whole place is full to overflowing, the imporistence is patriarchal in character: it is the tance of the meeting and the fun of the attendlife of men who live in the open, who tend ant frolics, especially the horse-races, drawing their herds on horseback, who go armed from the surrounding ranch country many hunand ready to guard their lives by their own dreds of men of every degree, from the rich prowess, whose wants are very simple, and stock-owner worth his millions to the ordinary who call no man master. Ranching is an cowboy who works for forty dollars a month. occupation like those of vigorous, primitive It would be impossible to imagine a more pastoral peoples, having little in common with typically American assemblage, for although the humdrum, workaday business world of there are always a certain number of foreignthe nineteenth century; and the free ranch- ers, usually English, Irish, or German, yet they man in his manner of life shows more kinship have become completely Americanized; and to an Arab sheik than to a sleek city merchant on the whole it would be difficult to gather a or tradesman.
finer body of men, in spite of their numerous By degrees the country becomes what in a shortcomings. The ranch-owners differ more stock-raising region passes for well settled. from each other than do the cowboys; and In addition to the great ranches smaller the former certainly compare very favorably ones are established, with a few hundred, or with similar classes of capitalists in the East. even a few score, head of cattle apiece; and Anything more foolish than the demagogic now and then miserable farmers straggle in outcry against“ cattle kings” it would be difto fight a losing and desperate battle with ficult to imagine. Indeed, there are very few drought, cold, and grasshoppers. The wheels businesses so absolutely legitimate as stockof the heavy wagons, driven always over the raising and so beneficial to the nation at same course from one ranch to another, or to large; and a successful stock-grower must the remote frontier towns from which they get not only be shrewd, thrifty, patient, and entheir goods, wear ruts in the soil, and roads terprising, but he must also possess qualities are soon formed, perhaps originally follow- of personal bravery, hardihood, and self-reing the deep trails made by the vanished liance to a degree not demanded in the least buffalo. These roads lead down the river-bot- by any mercantile occupation in a community toms or along the crests of the divides or else long settled. Stockmen are in the West the strike out fairly across the prairie, and a man pioneers of civilization, and their daring and may sometimes travel a hundred miles along adventurousness make the after settlement of one without coming to a house or camp of the region possible. The whole country owes any sort. If they lead to a shipping point them a great debt. whence the beeves are sent to market, the The most successful ranchmen are those, cattle, traveling in single file, will have worn usually South-westerners, who have been bred many and deep paths on each side of the to the business and have grown up with it; wheel-marks; and the roads between impor- but many Eastern men, including not a few tant places which are regularly used either by college graduates, have also done excellently the United States Government, by stage-coach by devoting their whole time and energy to lines, or by freight teams become deeply worn their work, — although Easterners who invest