Reed Anthony, Cowman/In Conclusion
The subsequent history of the ill-fated Cheyenne and Arapahoe Cattle Company is easily told. Over ninety per cent of the cattle moved under the President's order were missing at the round-up the following spring. What few survived were pitiful objects, minus ears and tails, while their horns, both root and base, were frozen until they drooped down in unnatural positions. Compared to the previous one, the winter of 1885-86, with the exception of the great January blizzard, was the less severe of the two. On the firm's range in the Cherokee Strip our losses were much lighter than during the previous winter, owing to the fact that food was plentiful, there being little if any sleet or snow during the latter year. Had we been permitted to winter in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe country, considering our sheltered range and the cattle fully located, ten per cent would have been a conservative estimate of loss by the elements. As manager of the company I lost five valuable years and over a quarter-million dollars. Time has mollified my grievances until now only the thorn of inhumanity to dumb beasts remains. Contrasted with results, how much more humane it would have been to have ordered out negro troops from Fort Reno and shot the cattle down, or to have cut the fences ourselves, and, while our holdings were drifting back to Texas, trusted to the mercy of the Comanches.
I now understand perfectly why the business world dreads a political change in administration. Whatever may have been the policy of one political party, the reverse becomes the slogan of the other on its promotion to power. For instance, a few years ago, the general government offered a bounty on the home product of sugar, stimulating the industry in Louisiana and also in my adopted State. A change of administration followed, the bounty was removed, and had not the insurance companies promptly canceled their risks on sugar mills, the losses by fire would have been appalling. Politics had never affected my occupation seriously; in fact I profited richly through the extravagance and mismanagement of the Reconstruction régime in Texas, and again met the defeat of my life at the hands of the general government.
With the demand for trail cattle on the decline, coupled with two severe winters, the old firm of Hunter, Anthony & Co. was ripe for dissolution. We had enjoyed the cream of the trade while it lasted, but conditions were changing, making it necessary to limit and restrict our business. This was contrary to our policy, though the spring of 1886 found us on the trail with sixteen herds for the firm and four from my own ranches, one half of which were under contract. A dry summer followed, and thousands of weak cattle were lost on the trail, while ruin and bankruptcy were the portion of a majority of the drovers. We weathered the drouth on the trail, selling our unplaced cattle early, and before the beef-shipping season began, our range in the Outlet, including good will, holding of beeves, saddle horses, and general improvements, was sold to a Kansas City company, and the old firm passed out of existence. Meanwhile I had closed up the affairs of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Company, returning a small pro rata of the original investment to shareholders, charging my loss to tuition in rounding out my education as a cowman.
The productive capacity of my ranches for years past safely tided me over all financial difficulties. With all outside connections severed, I was then enabled to give my personal attention to ranching in Texas. I was fortunate in having capable ranch foremen, for during my almost continued absence there was a steady growth, together with thorough management of my mixed cattle. The improved herd, now numbering over two thousand, was the pride of my operations in live stock, while my quarter and three-eighths blood steers were in a class by themselves. We were breeding over a thousand half and three-quarters blood bulls annually, and constantly importing the best strains to the head of the improved herd. Results were in evidence, and as long as the trail lasted, my cattle were ready sellers in the upper range markets. For the following few years I drove my own growing of steers, usually contracting them in advance. The days of the trail were numbered; 1889 saw the last herd leave Texas, many of the Northern States having quarantined against us, and we were afterward compelled to ship by rail in filling contracts on the upper ranges.
When Kansas quarantined against Texas cattle, Dodge was abandoned as a range market. The trail moved West, first to Lakin and finally to Trail City, on the Colorado line. In attempting to pass the former point with four Pan-Handle herds in the spring of 1888, I ran afoul of a quarantine convention. The cattle were under contract in Wyoming, and it was my intention not even to halt the herds, but merely to take on supplies in passing. But a deputation met us south of the river, notifying me that the quarantine convention was in session, and requesting me not to attempt to cross the Arkansas. I explained that my cattle were from above the dead line in Texas, had heretofore gone unmolested wherever they wished, and that it was out of my way to turn west and go up through Colorado. The committee was reasonable, looked over the lead herd, and saw that I was driving graded cattle, and finally invited me in to state my case before the convention. I accompanied the men sent to warn me away, and after considerable parley I was permitted to address the assembly. In a few brief words I stated my destination, where I was from, and the quality of cattle making up my herds, and invited any doubters to accompany me across the river and look the stock over. Fortunately a number of the cattlemen in the convention knew me, and I was excused while the assembly went into executive session to consider my case. Prohibition was in effect at Lakin, and I was compelled to resort to diplomacy in order to cross the Arkansas River with my cattle. It was warm, sultry weather in the valley, and my first idea was to secure a barrel of bottled beer and send it over to the convention, but the town was dry. I ransacked all the drug stores, and the nearest approach to anything that would cheer and stimulate was Hostetter's Bitters. The prohibition laws were being rigidly enforced, but I signed a "death warrant" and ordered a case, which the druggist refused me until I explained that I had four outfits of men with me and that we had contracted malaria while sleeping on the ground. My excuse won, and taking the case of bitters on my shoulder, I bore it away to the nearest livery stable, where I wrote a note, with my compliments, and sent both by a darkey around to the rear door of the convention hall.
On adjournment for dinner, my case looked hopeless. There was a strong sentiment against admitting any cattle from Texas, all former privileges were to be set aside, and the right to quarantine against any section or state was claimed as a prerogative of a free people. The convention was patiently listening to all the oratorical talent present, and my friends held out a slender hope that once the different speakers had relieved their minds they might feel easier towards me, and possibly an exception would be made in my case. During the afternoon session I received frequent reports from the convention, and on the suggestion of a friend I began to skirmish around for a second case of bitters. There were only three drug stores in the town, and as I was ignorant of the law, I naturally went back to the druggist from whom I secured the first case. To my surprise he refused to supply my wants, and haughtily informed me that one application a day was all the law permitted him to sell to any one person. Rebuffed, I turned to another drug store, and was greeted by the proprietor, who formerly ran a saloon in Dodge. He recognized me, calling me by name; and after we had pledged our acquaintance anew behind the prescription case, I was confidentially informed that I could have his whole house and welcome, even if the State of Kansas did object and he had to go to jail. We both regretted that the good old days in the State were gone, but I sent around another case of bitters and a box of cigars, and sat down patiently to await results. With no action taken by the middle of the afternoon, I sent around a third installment of refreshments, and an hour later called in person at the door of the convention. The doorkeeper refused to admit me, but I caught his eye, which was glassy, and received a leery wink, while a bottle of bitters nestled cosily in the open bosom of his shirt. Hopeful that the signs were favorable, I apologized and withdrew, but was shortly afterwards sent for and informed that an exception had been made in my favor, and that I might cross the river at my will and pleasure. In the interim of waiting, in case I was successful, I had studied up a little speech of thanks, and as I arose to express my appreciation, a chorus of interruptions greeted me: "G' on, Reed! G' on, you d——d old cow-thief! Git out of town or we'll hang you!"
With the trail a thing of the past, I settled down to the peaceful pursuits of a ranchman. The fencing of ranges soon became necessary, the Clear Fork tract being first inclosed, and a few years later owners of pastures adjoining the Double Mountain ranch wished to fence, and I fell in with the prevailing custom. On the latter range I hold title to a little over one million acres, while there are two hundred sections of school land included in my western pasture, on which I pay a nominal rental for its use. All my cattle are now graded, and while no effort is made to mature them, the advent of cotton-seed oil mills and other sources of demand have always afforded me an outlet for my increase. I have branded as many as twenty-five thousand calves in a year, and to this source of income alone I attribute the foundation of my present fortune. As a source of wealth the progeny of the cow in my State has proven a perennial harvest, with little or no effort on the part of the husbandman. Reversing the military rule of moving against the lines of least resistance, experience has taught me to follow those where Nature lends its greatest aid. Mine being strictly a grazing country, by preserving the native grasses and breeding only the best quality of cattle, I have always achieved success. I have brought up my boys to observe these economics of nature, and no plow shall ever mar the surface where my cows have grazed, generation after generation, to the profit and satisfaction of their owner. Where once I was a buyer in carload lots of the best strains of blood in the country, now I am a seller by hundreds and thousands of head, acclimated and native to the soil. One man to his trade and another to his merchandise, and the mistakes of my life justly rebuke me for dallying in paths remote from my legitimate calling.
There is a close relationship between a cowman and his herds. My insight into cattle character exceeds my observation of the human family. Therefore I wish to confess my great love for the cattle of the fields. When hungry or cold, sick or distressed, they express themselves intelligently to my understanding, and when dangers of night and storm and stampede threaten their peace and serenity, they instinctively turn to the refuge of a human voice. When a herd was bedded at night, and wolves howled in the distance, the boys on guard easily calmed the sleeping cattle by simply raising their voices in song. The desire of self-preservation is innate in the animal race, but as long as the human kept watch and ward, the sleeping cattle had no fear of the common enemy. An incident which I cannot explain, but was witness to, occurred during the war. While holding cattle for the Confederate army we received a consignment of beeves from Texas. One of the men who accompanied the herd through called my attention to a steer and vouchsafed the statement that the animal loved music,—that he could be lured out of the herd with singing. To prove his assertion, the man sang what he termed the steer's favorite, and to the surprise of every soldier present, a fine, big mottled beef walked out from among a thousand others and stood entranced over the simple song. In my younger days my voice was considered musical; I could sing the folk-songs of my country better than the average, and when the herdsmen left us, I was pleased to see that my vocal efforts fascinated the late arrival from Texas. Within a week I could call him out with a song, when I fell so deeply in love with the broad-horn Texan that his life was spared through my disloyalty. In the daily issue to the army we kept him back as long as possible; but when our supply was exhausted, and he would have gone to the shambles the following day, I secretly cut him out at night and drove him miles to our rear, that his life might be spared. Within a year he returned with another consignment of beef; comrades who were in the secret would not believe me; but when a quartette of us army herders sang "Rock of Ages," the steer walked out and greeted us with mute appreciation. We enjoyed his company for over a month, I could call him with a song as far as my voice reached, and when death again threatened him, we cut him to the rear and he was never spoken again. Loyal as I was to the South, I would have deserted rather than have seen that steer go to the shambles.
In bringing these reminiscences to a close, I wish to bear testimony in behalf of the men who lent their best existence that success should crown my efforts. Aside from my family, the two pleasantest recollections of my life are my old army comrades and the boys who worked with me on the range and trail. When men have roughed it together, shared their hardships in field and by camp-fire like true comrades, there is an indescribable bond between them that puts to shame any pretense of fraternal brotherhood. Among the hundreds, yes, the thousands, of men who worked for our old firm on the trail, all feel a pride in referring to former associations. I never leave home without meeting men, scattered everywhere, many of them prosperous, who come to me and say, "Of course you don't remember me, but I made a trip over the trail with your cattle,—from San Saba County in '77. Jake de Poyster was foreman. By the way, is your old partner, the little Yankee major, still living?" The acquaintance, thus renewed by chance, was always a good excuse for neglecting any business, and many a happy hour have I spent, living over again with one of my old boys the experiences of the past.
I want to say a parting word in behalf of the men of my occupation. Sterling honesty was their chief virtue. A drover with an established reputation could enter any trail town a month in advance of the arrival of his cattle, and any merchant or banker would extend him credit on his spoken word. When the trail passed and the romance of the West was over, these same men were in demand as directors of banks or custodians of trust funds. They were simple as truth itself, possessing a rugged sense of justice that seemed to guide and direct their lives. On one occasion a few years ago, I unexpectedly dropped down from my Double Mountain ranch to an old cow town on the railroad. It was our regular business point, and I kept a small bank account there for current ranch expenses. As it happened, I needed some money, but on reaching the village found the banks closed, as it was Labor Day. Casually meeting an old cowman who was a director in the bank with which I did business, I pretended to take him to task over my disappointment, and wound up my arraignment by asking, "What kind of a jim-crow bank are you running, anyhow?"
"Well, now, Reed," said he in apology, "I really don't know why the bank should close to-day, but there must be some reason for it. I don't pay much attention to those things, but there's our cashier and bookkeeper,—you know Hank and Bill,—the boys in charge of the bank. Well, they get together every once in a while and close her up for a day. I don't know why they do it, but those old boys have read history, and you can just gamble your last cow that there's good reasons for closing."
The fraternal bond between rangemen recalls the sad end of one of my old trail bosses. The foreman in question was a faithful man, working for the firm during its existence and afterwards in my employ. I would have trusted my fortune to his keeping, my family thought the world of him, and many was the time that he risked his life to protect my interests. When my wife overlooks the shortcomings of a man, it is safe to say there is something redeemable in him, even though the offense is drinking. At idle times and with convivial company, this man would drink to excess, and when he was in his cups a spirit of harmless mischief was rampant in him, alternating with uncontrollable flashes of anger. Though he was usually as innocent as a kitten, it was a deadly insult to refuse drinking with him, and one day he shot a circle of holes around a stranger's feet for declining an invitation. A complaint was lodged against him, and the sheriff, not knowing the man, thoughtlessly sent a Mexican deputy to make the arrest. Even then, had ordinary courtesy been extended, the unfortunate occurrence might have been avoided. But an undue officiousness on the part of the officer angered the old trail boss, who flashed into a rage, defying the deputy, and an exchange of shots ensued. The Mexican was killed at the first fire, and my man mounted his horse unmolested, and returned to the ranch. I was absent at the time, but my wife advised him to go in and surrender to the proper authorities, and he obeyed her like a child.
We all looked upon him as one of the family, and I employed the best of counsel. The circumstances were against him, however, and in spite of an able defense he received a sentence of ten years. No one questioned the justice of the verdict, the law must be upheld, and the poor fellow was taken to the penitentiary to serve out the sentence. My wife and I concealed the facts from the younger children, who were constantly inquiring after his return, especially my younger girls, with whom he was a great favorite. The incident was worse than a funeral; it would not die out, as never a day passed but inquiry was made after the missing man; the children dreamed about him, and awoke from their sleep to ask if he had come and if he had brought them anything. The matter finally affected my wife's nerves, the older boys knew the truth, and the younger children were becoming suspicious of the veracity of their parents. The truth was gradually leaking out, and after he had served a year in prison, I began a movement with the view of securing his pardon. My influence in state politics was always more or less courted, and appealing to my friends, I drew up a petition, which was signed by every prominent politician in that section, asking that executive clemency be extended in behalf of my old foreman. The governor was a good friend of mine, anxious to render me a service, and through his influence we managed to have the sentence so reduced that after serving two years the prisoner was freed and returned to the ranch. He was the same lovable character, tolerated by my wife and fondled by the children, and he refused to leave home for over a year. Ever cautious to remove temptation from him, both my wife and I hoped that the lesson would last him through life, but in an unguarded hour he took to drink, and shot to death his dearest friend.
For the second offense he received a life sentence. My regret over securing his pardon, and the subsequent loss of human life, affected me as no other event has ever done in my career. This man would have died for me or one of mine, and what I thought to be a generous act to a man in prison proved a curse that haunted me for many years. But all is well now between us. I make it a point to visit him at least once a year; we have talked the matter over and have come to the conclusion that the law is just and that he must remain in confinement the remainder of his days. That is now the compact, and, strange to say, both of us derive a sense of security and peace from our covenant such as we had never enjoyed during the year of his liberty. The wardens inform me that he is a model prisoner, perfectly content in his restraint; and I have promised him that on his death, whether it occurs before or after mine, his remains will be brought back to the home ranch and be given a quiet grave in some secluded spot.
For any success that I may have achieved, due acknowledgment must be given my helpmate. I was blessed with a wife such as falls to the lot of few men. Once children were born to our union and a hearthstone established, the family became the magnet of my life. It mattered not where my occupation carried me, or how long my absence from home, the lodestar of a wife and family was a sustaining help. Our first cabin, long since reduced to ashes, lives in my memory as a palace. I was absent at the time of its burning, but my wife's father always enjoyed telling the story on his daughter. The elder Edwards was branding calves some five miles distant from the home ranch, but on sighting the signal smoke of the burning house, he and his outfit turned the cattle loose, mounted their horses, and rode to the rescue at a break-neck pace. When they reached the scene our home was enveloped in flames, and there was no prospect of saving any of its contents. The house stood some distance from the other ranch buildings, and as there was no danger of the fire spreading, there was nothing that could be done and the flames held undisputed sway. The cause of the fire was unknown, my wife being at her father's house at the time; but on discovering the flames, she picked up the baby and ran to the burning cabin, entered it and rescued the little tin trunk that held her girlhood trinkets and a thousand certificates of questionable land scrip. When the men dashed up, my wife was sitting on the tin trunk, surrounded by the children, all crying piteously, fully unconscious of the fact that she had saved the foundation of my present landed holdings. The cabin had cost two weeks' labor to build, its contents were worthless, but I had no record of the numbers of the certificates, and to my wife's presence of mind or intuition in an emergency all credit is given for saving the land scrip. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. The compiling of these memoirs has been a pleasant task. In this summing-up of my active life, much has been omitted; and then again, there seems to have been a hopeless repetition with the recurring years, for seedtime and harvest come to us all as the seasons roll round. Four of my boys have wandered far afield, forging out for themselves, not content to remain under the restraint of older brothers who have assumed the active management of my ranches. One bad general is still better than two good ones, and there must be a head to a ranch if it is to be made a success. I still keep an eye over things, but the rough, hard work now falls on younger shoulders, and I find myself delegated to amuse and be amused by the third generation of the Anthonys. In spite of my years, I still enjoy a good saddle horse, scarcely a day passing but I ride from ten to twenty miles. There is a range maxim that "the eyes of the boss make a fat horse," and at deliveries of cattle, rounds-ups, and branding, my mere presence makes things move with alacrity. I can still give the boys pointers in handling large bodies of cattle, and the ranch outfits seem to know that we old-time cowmen have little use for the modern picturesque cowboy, unless he is an all-round man and can deliver the goods in any emergency.
With but a few years of my allotted span yet to run, I find myself in the full enjoyment of all my faculties, ready for a romp with my grandchildren or to crack a joke with a friend. My younger girls are proving splendid comrades, always ready for a horseback ride or a trip to the city. It has always been a characteristic of the Anthony family that they could ride a horse before they could walk, and I find the third generation following in the footsteps of their elders. My grandsons were all expert with a rope before they could read, and it is one of the evidences of a merciful providence that their lives have been spared, as it is nearly impossible to keep them out of mischief and danger. To forbid one to ride a certain dangerous horse only serves to heighten his anxiety to master the outlaw, and to banish him from the branding pens means a prompt return with or without an excuse. On one occasion, on the Double Mountain ranch, with the corrals full of heavy cattle, I started down to the pens, but met two of my grandsons coming up the hill, and noticed at a glance that there had been trouble. I stopped the boys and inquired the cause of their tears, when the youngest, a barefooted, chubby little fellow, said to me between his sobs, "Grandpa, you'd—you'd—you'd better keep away from those corrals. Pa's as mad as a hornet, and—and—and he quirted us—yes, he did. If you fool around down there, he'll—he'll—he'll just about wear you out."
Should this transcript of my life ever reach the dignity of publication, the casual reader, in giving me any credit for success, should bear in mind the opportunities of my time. My lot was cast with the palmy days of the golden West, with its indefinable charm, now past and gone and never to return. In voicing this regret, I desire to add that my mistakes are now looked back to as the chastening rod, leading me to an appreciation of higher ideals, and the final testimony that life is well worth the living.