Prompted by Dell, before leaving Chicago I bought some books for the winter evenings, notably Mill’s “Political Economy”; Carlyle’s “Heroes and Hero Worship” and “Latter Day Pamphlets”; Col. Hay’s “Dialect Poems”, too and three medical books, and took them down with me to the ranch. We had six weeks of fine weather, during which I broke in horses under Reece’s supervision, and found out that gentleness and especially carrots and pieces of sugar were the direct way to the heart of the horse; discovered, too, that a horse’s bad temper and obstinacy were nearly always due to fear. A remark of Dell that a horse’s eye had a magnifying power and that the poor, timid creatures saw men as trees walking, gave me the clue and soon I was gratified by Reece saying that I could “gentle” horses as well as aryone on the ranch, excepting Bob.
As winter drew down and the bitter frost came, outdoor work almost ceased. I read from morning till night and not only devoured Mill, but saw through the fallacy of his Wage–Fund theory. I knew from my own experience that the wages of labor depended primarily on the productivity of labor. I liked Mill for his humanitarian sympathies with the poor; but I realized clearly that he was a second-rate intelligence, just as I felt pretty sure that Carlyle was one of the Immortals. I took Carlyle in small doses, for I wanted to think for myself. After the first chapters I tried to put down first, chapter by chapter, what I thought or knew about the subject treated, and am still inclined to believe that that is a good way to read in order to estimate what the author has taught you.
Carlyle was the first dominant influence in my life and one of the most important: I got more from him than from any other writer. His two or three books learned almost by heart, taught me that Dell’s knowledge was skimpy and superficial and I was soon Sir Oracle among the men on all deep subjects. For the medical books, too, turned out to be excellent and gave me almost the latest knowledge on all sex-matters. I was delighted to put all my knowledge at the disposal of the boys, or rather to show off to them how much I knew.
That fall brought me to grief: early in October I was taken by ague; “chills and fever” as it was called. I suffered miseries and though Reece induced me to ride all the same and spend most of the daytime in the open, I lost weight till I learned that arsenic was a better specific even than quinine. Then I began to mend, but, off and on, every fall and spring afterwards, so long as I stayed in America, I had to take quinine and arsenic to ward off the debilitating attacks.
I was very low indeed when we started down on the Trail; the Boss being determined, as he said, to bring up two herds that summer. Early in May he started north from near St. Anton’ with some five thousand head, leaving Reece, Dell, Bob, Peggy the cook, Bent, Charlie and myself to collect another herd. I never saw the Boss again; understood, however, from Reece’s cursing that he had got through safely, sold the cattle at a good price and made off with all the proceeds, though he owed Reece and Dell more than one-half.
Charlie’s love-adventure that ended so badly didn’t quiet him for long. In our search for cheap cattle we had gone down nearly to the Rio Grande and there, in a little half — Mexican town, Charlie met his fate.
As it so happened, I had gone to the saloon with him on his promise that he would only drink one glass, and though the glass would be full of forty-rod whisky, I knew it would have only a passing effect on Charlie’s superb strength. But it excited him enough to make him call up all the girls for a drink: they all streamed laughing to the bar, all save one. Naturally Charlie went after her and found a very pretty blond girl, who had a strain of Indian blood in her, it was said. At first she didn’t yield to Charlie’s invitation, so he turned away angrily, saying:
“You don’t want to drink probably because you want to cure yourself or because you’re ugly where women are usually beautiful”. Answering the challenge the girl sprang to her feet, tore off her jacket and in a moment was naked to her boots and stockings.
“Am I ugly?” she cried, pushing out her breasts, “or do I look ill, you fool!” and whirled around to give us the back view!
She certainly had a lovely figure with fair youthful breasts and peculiarly full bottom and looked the picture of health. The full cheeks of her behind excited me intensely, I didn’t know why: therefore, it didn’t surprise me when Charlie, with a half-articulate shout of admiration, picked her up bodily in his arms and carried her out of the room.
When I remonstrated with him afterwards, he told me he had a sure way of knowing whether the girl, Sue, was diseased or not.
I contradicted him and found that this was his infallible test: as soon as he was alone with a girl, he pulled out ten or twenty dollars, as the case might be, and told her to keep the money. “I’ll not give you more in any case”, he would add: “now tell me, dear, if you are ill and we’ll have a last drink and then I’ll go. If she’s ill, she’s sure to tell you — see!” and he laughed triumphantly.
“Suppose she doesn’t know she’s ill?” I asked: but he replied: “they always know and they’ll tell the truth when their greed is not against you”.
For some time it looked as if Charlie had enjoyed his Beauty without any evil consequences, but a month or so later he noticed a lump in his right groin and soon afterwards a syphilitic sore showed itself just under the head of his penis. We had already started northwards, but I had to tell Charlie the plain truth.
“Then it’s serious”, he cried in astonishment, and I replied.
“I’m afraid so, but not if you take it in time and go under a rigorous regimen”.
Charlie did everything he was told to do and always bragged that gonorrhea was much worse, as it is certainly more painful, than syphilis; but the disease in time had its revenge.
As he began to get better on the Trail, thanks to the good air, regular exercise and absence of drink, he became obstreperous from time to time and I at any rate forgot about his ailment.
The defection of the Boss made a serious difference to us; Reece and Dell with three or four Mexicans and Peggy went on slowly buying cattle; but Bob and Bent put a new scheme into my head. Bent was always preaching that the Boss’s defection had ruined Reece and that if I would put in, say five thousand dollars, I could be Reece’s partner and make a fortune with him. Bob, too, was keen on this and told me incidentally that he could get cattle from the Mexicans for nothing. I had a talk with Reece who said he’d have to be content with buying 3000 head for cattle had gone up in price twofold and the Boss’s swindle had crippled him. If I would pay Bent’s, Charlie’s and Bob’s wages, he’d be delighted, he said, to join forces with me: on Bob’s advice, I consented and with his help, I managed to secure three thousand head for little more than three thousand dollars. And this is how we managed it.
For some reason or other, perhaps, because I had learnt a few words of Spanish, Bob had taken a fancy to me and was always willing to help me except when he was mad with drink. He now assured me that if I would go with him down the Rio Grande a hundred miles or so, he’d get me a thousand head of cattle for nothing. I consented, for Bent, too, and Charlie, were on Bob’s side.
The next morning before sunrise we started out and rode steadily to the southeast. We carried enough food for two or three days. Bob saw to that without any question, but generally he brought us about eight o’clock near some house or other where we could get food and shelter. His knowledge of the whole frontier was as uncanny as his knowledge of cattle.
On the fourth or fifth day about nine in the morning he stopped us by a little wooded height looking over a gorge of the river. To the left the river spread out almost to a shallow lake, and one did not need to be told that a little lower down there must be one or more fords where cattle could cross almost without wetting themselves.
Bob got off his horse in a clump of Cottonwood trees which he said was a good place to camp without being seen. I asked him where the cattle were and he told me “across the river”. Within two or three miles, it appeared, there was a famous hacienda with great herds. As soon as it got dark he proposed to go across and find out all about it and bring us the news. We were to be careful not to be seen and he hoped that we would not even make a fire but lie close till he returned.
We were more than willing, and when we got tired of talking Bent produced an old deck of cards and we would play draw poker or euchre or casino for two or three hours. The first night passed quickly enough. We had been in the saddle for ten hours a day for four or five days and slept a dreamless sleep. Bob did not return that day or the next and on the third day Bent began to curse him, but I felt sure he had good reason for the delay and so waited with what patience I could muster. On the third night he was suddenly with us just as if he had come out of the earth.
“Welcome back”, I cried. “Everything right?"
“Everything”, he said: “It was no good coming sooner; they have brought some cattle within four miles of the river; the orders are to keep ’em away seven or eight miles, so that they could not be driven across without rousing the whole country; but Don Jose is very rich and carefree and there is a herd of fifteen hundred that will suit us not three miles from the river in a fold of the prairie guarded only by two men whom I’ll make so very drunk that they’ll hear nothing till next morning. A couple of bottles of aguardiente will do the bizness, and I’ll come back for you tomorrow night by eight or nine o’clock.”
It all turned out as Bob had arranged. The next night he came to us as soon as it was dark. We rode some two miles down the river to a ford, splashed through the rivulets of water and came out on the Mexican side. In single file and complete silence we followed Bob at a lope for perhaps twenty minutes when he put up his hand and we drew down to a walk. There below us between two waves of prairie were the cattle.
In a few words Bob told Bent and Charlie what they were to do. Bent was to stay behind and shoot in case we were followed — unlikely but always possible. Charlie and I were to move the cattle towards the ford, quietly all the way if we could, but if we were pursued, then as hard as we could drive them.
For the first half hour all went according to program. Charlie and I moved the cattle together and drove them over the waves of prairie towards the river; it all seemed as easy as eating and we had begun to push the cattle into a fast walk when suddenly there was a shot in front and a sort of stampede!
At once Charlie shot out on the left as I shot out on the right and using our whips, we quickly got the herd into motion again, the rear ranks forcing the front ones on; the cattle were soon pressed into a shuffling trot and the difficulty seemed overcome. Just at that moment I saw two or three bright flames half a mile away on the other side of Charlie and suddenly I heard the zipp of a bullet pass my own head and turning, saw pretty plainly a man riding fifty yards away from me. I took very careful aim at his horse and fired and was delighted to see horse and man come down and disappear. I paid no further attention to him and kept on forcing the pace of the cattle. But Charlie was very busily engaged for two or three minutes because the fusilade was kept up from behind till he was joined by Bent and shortly afterwards by Bob. We were all now driving the cattle as hard as they could go, straight towards the ford. The shots behind us continued and even grew more frequent, but we were not further molested till three quarters of an hour later we reached the Rio Grande and began urging the cattle across the ford. There progress was necessarily slow. We could scarcely have got across had it not been that about the middle Bob came up and made his whip and voice a perfect terror to the beasts in the rear.
When we got them out on the other side I began to turn them westwards towards our wooded knoll, but the next moment Bob was beside me shouting — “Straight ahead, straight ahead; they are following us and we shall have to fight. You get on with the herd always straight north and I’ll bring Charlie back to the bank so as to hold ’em off.”
Boylike, I said I would rather go and fight, but he said: “You go on. If Charlie killed, no matter. I want you.” And I had perforce to do what the little devil ordered.
When Texan cattle have been brought up together the largest herd can be driven like a small bunch. They have their leader and they follow him religiously and so one man can drive a thousand head with very little trouble.
For two or three miles I kept them on the trot and then I let them gradually get down to a walk. I did not want to lose any more of them; some fat cows had already died in their tracks through being driven so fast.
About two o’clock in the morning I passed a log-house and soon an American rode up beside me and wanted to know who I was, where I had brought the cattle from and where I was going? I told him the owner was behind me, and the boys and I were driving them straight ahead because some greasers had been interfering with us.
“That’s the shooting I heard”, he said. “You have driven them across the river, haven’t you?”
“I’ve driven them from the river,” I replied; “some of them were getting a drink.”
I could feel him grin though I was not looking at him.
“I guess I’ll see your friends pretty soon,” he said, “but this raiding is bad business. Them greasers’ll come across and give me trouble. We border-folk don’t want a fuss, hatched up by you foreigners!”
I placated him as well as I could; but at first was unsuccessful. He didn’t say much but he evidently intended to come with me to the end because wherever I rode, I found him right behind the herd when I returned.
Day had broken when I let the cattle halt for the first time. I reckoned I had gone twelve miles from the ford and the beasts were foot-sore and very tired; more and more of them requiring the whip in order to keep up even a walk. I bunched them together and came back to my saturnine acquaintance.
“You are young to be at this game”, he said. “Who is your Boss?”
“I don’t keep a boss”, I answered, taking him in with hostile scrutiny. He was a man of about forty, tall and lean with an enormous quid of tobacco in his left cheek — a typical Texan.
His bronco interested me; instead of being an Indian pony of thirteen hands or so it was perhaps fifteen and a half and looked to be three-quarters bred. “A good horse you have there”, I said.
“The best in the hull country,” he replied, “easy.” “That’s only your conceit”, I retorted. “The mare I am on right now can give him a hundred yards in
“You don’t want to risk any money on that, do you?” he remarked.
“Oh, yes”, I smiled.
“Well, we can try it out one of these days, but here comes your crowd”, and indeed, although I had not expected them, in five minutes Bent and Bob and Charlie rode up.
“Get the cattle going”, cried Bob, as he came within earshot. “We must go on. The Mexicans have gone back but they will come right after us again. Who is this?” he added, ranging up beside the Texan.
“My name is Locker”, said my acquaintance; “and I guess your raiding will set the whole border boiling. Can’t you buy cattle decently, like we all have to?”
“How do you know how decently we paid for them?” cried Bent, thrusting forward his brown face like a weasel’s, his dog teeth showing.
“I guess Mr. Locker is all right”, I cried laughing; “I propose he should help us and take two or three hundred head as payment, or the value of them — ”
“Now you’re talking”, said Locker. “I call that sense. There is a herd of mine about a mile further on; if two or three hundred of your Jose steers join it, I can’t hinder ’em; but I’d rather have dollars; cash is scarce!”
“Are they herded?” asked Bob.
“Sure”, replied Locker. “I am too near the river to let any cattle run round loose though nobody has interfered with me in the last ten years.”
Bob and I began moving the cattle on leaving Bent with Locker to conclude the negotiations. In an hour we had found Locker’s herd that must have numbered at least six thousand head and were guarded by three herdsmen.
Locker and Bent had soon come to a working agreement. Locker it turned out had another herd some distance to the east from which he could draw three or four herdsmen. He had also a couple of boys, sons of his, whom he could send to rouse some of the neighboring farmers if the need was urgent. It turned out that we had done well to be generous to hi m for he knew the whole of the countryside like a book and was a good friend in our need.
Late in the afternoon, Locker was informed by one of his sons, a youth of about sixteen, that twenty Mexicans had crossed the river and would be up to us in a short time. Locker sent him after the younger boy to round up as many Texans as posible but before they could be collected, a bunch of greasers, twenty or so, in number, rode up and demanded the return of the cattle. Bent and Locker put them off and as luck would have it, while they were arguing, three or four Texans came up, and one of them, a man of about forty years of age named Rossiter, took control’of the whole dispute. He told the Mexican leader, who said he was Don Luis, a son of Don Jose, that if he stayed any longer he would probably be arrested and put in prison for raiding American territory and threatening people.
The Mexican seemed to have a good deal of pluck, and declared that he would not only threaten but carry out his threat. Rossiter told him to wade right in. The loud talk began again, and a couple more Texans came up and the Mexican leader realizing that unless he did something at once he would be too late, started to circle round the cattle, no doubt thinking that if he did some thing his superior numbers would scare us.
in five minutes the fight had begun. In ten more it was all over. Nothing could stand against the deadly shooting of the Westerners. In five minutes one or two of the Mexicans had been killed and several wounded; half a dozen horses had gone down; it was perfectly evident that the eight or ten of us were more than a match for the twenty Mexicans, for except Don Luis none of them scorned to have any stomach for the work, and Luis got a bullet through his arm in the first five minutes. Finally they drew off threatening and yelling and we saw no more of them.
After the battle we all adjourned to Locker’s and had a big drink. Nobody took the fight seriously: whipping Greasers was nothing to brag about; but Rossiter thought that a claim should be made against the Mexican Government for raiding United States territory: said he was going to draw up the papers and send them to the State District Attorney al Austin. The proposal was received with whoops and cheers. The idea of punishing the Mexicans for getting shot trying to recapture their own cattle appealed to us Americans as something intensely humorous. All the Texans gave their names solemnly as witnesses, and Rossiter swore he would draw up the document. Years afterwards Bent whom I met by chance, told me that Rossiter had got forty thousand dollars on that claim.
Three days later we began to move our cattle eastward to rejoin Reece and Dell. I gave one hundred dollars as a reward to Locker’s two boys who had helped us from start to finish most eagerly.
A week or so later we got back to the main camp. Reece and Dell had their herd ready and fat, and after a talk we resolved to go each on his own and join afterwards for the fall and winter on the ranch, if it pleased us. We took three weeks to get our bunch of 12” cattle into condition and so began driving North in July. I spent every night in the saddle and most of the day, even though the accursed fever was shaking me.
All went well with us at first: I promised my three lieutenants a third share in the profits and a small wage besides: they were as keen as mustard and did all men could do. As soon as we reached the latitude of the Indian territory our troubles began. One wild night Indians, who wore sheets and had smeared their hands with phosphorus, stampeded the cattle and though the boys did wonders we lost nearly a thousand head and some hundred horses all of them broken in carefully.
It was a serious loss but not irreparable. The Plain Indians, however, were as persistent that summer as mosquitoes. I never went out after game but they tried to cut me off and once at least nothing but the speed and stamina of Blue Devil saved me. I had to give up serious shooting and depend on luck bringing us near game. Gradually the Indians following us grew more numerous and bolder. We were attacked at nightfall and daybreak three or four days running and the half wild cattle began to get very scarey.
Bob did not conceal his anxiety. “Bad Injuns! very mean Injuns —!” One afternoon they followed us openly; there were at one time over a hundred in view; evidently they were getting ready for a serious attack. Bob’s genius got us a respite. While Charlie was advising a pitched battle, Bob suddenly remembered that there was a scrub-oak forest some five miles further on to our right that would give us a refuge. Charlie and Bent, the best shots, lay down and began to shoot and soon made the Indians keep out of sight. In three hours we reached the scrub-oak wood and the bay or bight in it where Bob said the cattle would be safe; for nothing could get through scrub-oak and as soon as we had driven the cattle deep into the bay and brought our wagon to the centre, on the arc of the bight, so to speak, no Indians could stampede the cattle without blotting us out first. For the moment we were safe and as luck would have it, the water in a little creek near by was drinkable. Still we were besieged by over a hundred Indians and those odds were heavy as even Bob admitted.
Days passed and the siege continued: the Indians evidently meant to tire us out and get the herd, and our tempers didn’t improve under the enforced idleness and vigilance. One evening Charlie was sprawling at the fire taking up more than his share of it, when Bent who had been looking after the cattle, came in. “Take up your legs, Charlie,” he said roughly, “you don’t want the whole fire.” Charlie didn’t hear or paid no attention: the next moment Bent had thrown himself down on Charlie’s long limbs. With a curse Charlie pushed him off: the next moment Bent had hurled himself on Charlie and had shoved his head down in the fire. After a short struggle Charlie got free and in spite of all I could do, struck Bent.
Bent groped for his gun at once; but Charlie was at him striking and swinging like a wild man and Bent had to meet the attack.
Till the trial came, everyone would have said that Charlie was far and away the better man, younger too and astonishingly powerful. But Bent evidently was no novice at the game. He side-stepped Charlie’s rush and hit out straight and hard and Charlie went down; but was up again like a flash, and went for his man in a wild rush: soon he was down again and everyone realized that sooner or later Bent must win. Fighting, however, has a large element of chance in it and as luck would have it just when Bent seemed most certain of winning, one of Charlie’s wild swings caught him on the point of the jaw and to onr amazement he went, down like a log and could not be brought to for some ten minutes. It was the first time I had seen this blow and naturally we all exaggerated the force of it not knowing that a light blow up against the chin jars the spinal cord and knocks any man insensible. In fact, in many cases, such a blow results in partial paralysis and life-long weakness.
Charlie was inclined to brag of his victory but Bob told him the truth and on reflection Bent’s purpose and fighting power made the deeper impression on all of us and he himself took pains next day to warn Charlie:
“Don’t get in my way again”, he said to him drily, “or I’ll make meat of you.”
The dire menace in his hard, face was convincing. “Oh, Hell”, replied Charlie, “who wants to get in your way!”
Reflection teaches me that all the worst toughs on the border in my time were ex-soldiers: it was the Civil War that had bred those men to violence and the use of the revolver; it was the civil war that produced the “Wild Bills” and Bents who forced the good-humored Westerners to hold life cheaply and to use their guns instead of fists.
One evening we noticed a large increase in the force of Indians besieging us: one chief too on a pie-bald mustang appeared to be urging an immediate attack and soon we found some of the “braves” stealing down the creek to outflank us, while a hundred others streamed past us at four hundred yards’ distance firing wildly. Bob and I went under the creek banks to stop the flankers while Bent and Charlie and Jo brought down more than one horse and man and taught the band of Indians that a direct attack would surely cost them many lives.
Still there were only five of us and a chance bullet or two might make the odds against us desperate.
Talking it over we came to the conclusion that one man should ride to Fort Dodge for help and I was selected as the lightest save Bob and altogether the worst shot besides being the only man who would certainly find his way. Accordingly I brought up Blue Devil at once, took some pounds of jerked beef with me and a goat-water skin I had bought in Taos; a girth and stirrups quickly turned a blanket into a makeshift, light saddle and I was ready.
It was Bob’s uncanny knowledge both of the Trail and of Indian ways that gave me my chance. All the rest advised me to go North out of our bay and then ride for it. He advised me to go south where the large body of Indians had stationed themselves. “They’ll not look for you there”, he said and “you may get through unseen; half an hour’s riding more will take you round them; then you have one hundred and fifty miles north on the Trail — you may pick up a herd and then one hundred and twenty miles straight west. You ought to be in Dodge in five days and back here in five more; you’ll find us”, he added significantly. The little man padded Blue Devil’s hooves with some old garments he cut up and insisted on leading her away round the bight and far to the south, and I verily believe beyond the Indian camp.
There he took off the mare’s pads, while I tightened the girths and started to walk keeping the mare between me and the Indians and my ears cocked for the slightest sound. But I heard nothing and saw nothing and in an hour more had made the round and was on the Trail for the north determined in my own mind to do the two or three hundred miles in four days at most. On the fourth day I got twenty troopers from the Fort with Lieutenant Winder and was leading them in a bee-line to our Refuge. We got there in six days; but in the mean time the Indians had been busy.
They cut a way through the scrub-oak brush that we regarded as impassable and stampeded the cattle one morning just at dawn and our men were only able to herd off about six or seven hundred head and protect them in the extreme north corner of the bend. The Indians had all drawn off the day before I arrived with the U. S. Cavalry troopers. Next morning we began the march northwards and I had no difficulty in persuading Lieutenant Winder to give us his escort for the next four or five days. A week later we reached Wichita where we decided to rest for a couple of days and there we encountered another piece of bad luck. Ever since he had caught syphilis, Charlie seemed to have lost his gay temper: he became gloomy and morose and we could do nothing to cheer him up. The very first night he had to be put to bed at the gambling saloon in Wichita where he had become speechlessly drunk. And next day he was convinced that he had been robbed of his money by the man who kept the bank and went about swearing that he would get even with him at all costs. By the evening he had infected Bent and Jo with his insane determination and finally I went along hoping to save him, if I could, from some disaster.
Already I had asked Bob to get another herdsman and drive the cattle steadily towards Kansas City: he consented and for hours before we went to the saloon, Bob had been trekking north. I intended to rejoin him some five or six miles further on and drive slowly for the rest of the night. Somehow or other, I felt that the neighborhood was unhealthy for us.
The gambling saloon was lighted by three powerful oil lamps: two over the faro-table and one over the bar. Jo stationed himself at the bar while Bent and Charlie went to the table: I walked about the room trying to play the indifferent among the twenty or thirty men scattered about. Suddenly about 10 o’clock Charlie began disputing with the banker: they both rose, the banker drawing a big revolver from the table drawer in front of him. At the same moment Charlie struck the lamp above him and I saw him draw his gun just as all the lights went out leaving us in pitch darkness.
I ran to the door and was carried through it in a sort of mad stampede. A minute afterwards Bent joined me and then Charlie came rushing out at top speed with Jo hard after him. In a moment we were at the corner of the street where we had left our ponies and were off: one or two shots followed; I thought we had got off scot free; but I was mistaken.
We had ridden hell for leather, for about an hour when Charlie without apparent reason pulled up and swaying fell out of his saddle: his pony stopped dead and we all gathered round the wounded man:
“I’m finished”, said Charlie in a weak voice, “but I’ve got my money back and I want you to send it to my mother in Pleasant Hill, Missouri. It’s about a thousand dollars, I guess”.
“Are you badly hurt?” I asked.
“He drilled me through the stomach first go off” Charlie said pointing, “and I guess I’ve got it at least twice more through the lungs: I’m done”.
“What a pity, Charlie!” I cried, “you’ll get more than a thousand dollars from your share of the cattle: I’ve told Bob, that I intend to share equally with all of you: this money must go back; but the thousand shall be sent to your mother I promise you:” —
“Not on your life!”, cried the dying man, lifting himself up on one elbow: “This is my money: it shan’t go back to that oily sneak thief”: the effort had exhausted him; even in the dim light we could see that his face was drawn and gray: he must have understood this himself for I could just hear his last words: “Good-bye, boy.!” his head fell back, his mouth opened: the brave boyish spirit was gone.
I couldn’t control my tears: the phrase came to me: “I better could have lost a better man.” for Charlie was at heart a good fellow!
I left Bent to carry back the money and arrange for Charlie’s burial, leaving Jo to guard the body: in an hour I was again with Bob and had told him everything. Ten days later we were in Kansas City where I was surprised by unexpected news.
My second brother Willie, six years older than I was, had come out to America and hearing of me in Kansas had located himself in Lawrence as a real-estate agent; he wrote asking me to join him. This quickened my determination to have nothing more to do with cowpunching. Cattle too, Ave found, had fallen in price and we were lucky to get ten dollars or so a head for our bunch which made a poor showing from the fact that the Indians had netted all the best. There was about six thousand dollars to divide: Jo got five hundred dollars and Bent. Bob, Charlie’s mother and myself divided the rest. Bob told me I was a fool: I should keep it all and go down south again; but what had I gained by my two years of cowpunching? I had lost money and caught malarial fever; I had won a certain knowledge of ordinary men and their way of living and had got more than a smattering of economics and of medicine, but I was filled with an infinite disgust for a merely physical life. What was I to do now? I’d see Willie and make up my mind.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51