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The buffalo hunters made this possible, but they largely left with
their kill; the hunters were after a fast buck, and when the means
of making the fast money was gone, so were they.
Men who replaced the buffalo hunters were also after quick
money and "a shot at the moon," but the very nature of their
business required that they stay to harvest the crop of rangy, tough,
tick-infested and dangerous rawhide and longhorn. Harvesting in
many cases meant roping (with a rawhide string, since high grade
rope was not available) unbranded calves, or in many cases maverick
bulls and cows that might be several years old. These were the open
range men of the Old West--mostly young, pitifully poor, with a
vision of wealth and at least some understanding of the future.
They were lucky to find a bath once a month in some gyppy stream
and many of them went six months with nothing between them
and a sun-drenched sky but a highcrowned, sweat-stinking old felt
Most of the land they ranged belonged to a Jew in Galveston,
a railroad in New Orleans, or some syndicate in New York, who
never saw the land but held it as an investment. The cowmen did
not care who owned it; they built a dugout at some well watered
spot, stuck poles near by for a corral, and this was headquarters
for a ranch. Sometimes these men had fifty to one hundred head of
longhorns, sometimes into the thousands, but they all had the dream
of a cattle empire in this harsh land of open, belly-deep grass,
freezeouts, droughts, sandstorms, and prairie fires.
Even after eighty years it is possible to follow their history and
to wonder at their skill and sometimes foresight.
By far the most colorful was little John Chisum, who carved out
an empire bigger than Cuba along the Pecos, yet never carried a
gun, and died in bed almost broke aged under sixty. Oliver Loving
was probably the most daring-his younger partner, Charles Good-
night, the most forceful; C. C. Slaughter the best businessman; and
the Waggoners unquestionably the ones to see and grasp opportunity.
In between these masters of the cow business were the thousands of
little men whose cow brands are registered in almost all of the coun-
ties-and each brand lists the lifetime dream of some man who was
"shooting at the moon" in some hope that he would reap a harvest of
gold from the tips of myriads of longhorns.
The history of these men, who sweated a kind of civilization out
of a raw sea of grass, has been poorly treated as a unit. They piled
ranch on ranch, extending the. frontier towards the New Mexico
Territory, but their history has largely been written only in old
abstract records, mortgage foreclosures, and recorded wills-not as
the composite of the development of this new land.
All this great, area has only a few physical landmarks, the most
noticeable being the escarpmerit marking the edge of the South
Plains or "Caprock" which runs roughly (quite roughly) from Big
Spring north to the valley of the Canadian River.
A small portion drains into 'the Colorado River, the rest being
drained by the Clear Fork, Double Mountain, and Salt Forks of the
Brazos, by the Wichita, Pease, and Prairie Dog Forks of the Red
River, and the biggest of all, the Canadian River. South of the
Canadian lay the impressive Palo Duro, Tule, and Blanco Canyons
along the edge of the Plains.
Outstanding landmarks include the east-west ridge of the Calla-
han Divide from Callahan to Mitchell counties, in which are oc-
casional passes such as Buffalo Gap. A low range of hills from
-77-7- _ .- - - ... .. ..7 7 - - T
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 64, July 1960 - April, 1961. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101190/. Accessed May 24, 2013.