The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 20, July 1916 - April, 1917 Page: 12
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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the railroads, competition became sharp. The big men met and
combined against the little ones. They agreed that no more
maverick commissions should be paid, and that no more cowboys
should have brands of their own. Thus the rustler began to be
looked upon as a thief and a criminal by the big cattlemen.
Among the cow punchers there were honest men as well as dis-
honest ones. Ex-hunters as well as cowboys joined in rustling.
Real cattle stealing became a habit of the rustlers. They devel-
oped their own dialect and lived on "slow elk," that is yearling
beef, but it was a point of honor never to touch the cow of a
poor man or small owner. The companies suffered considerable
loss, and not infrequently the manager of a ranch was in open
sympathy with or connived at the theft. Sometimes cowboys
branded the calves at night for the rustlers.
A worse and less excusable type of rustler lived in Montana.
They were located and driven out by the cattlemen. Those who
did not leave when warned to do so were hanged. Between 1876
and 1886 the vigilantes of the range executed a great many men.
One morning thirteen were found hanged on a railroad bridge.
Rustlers modified and tampered with brands so that the mav-
erick was not the only object stolen. They carried small wires
that could be bent into any form desired. With such equipment,
changes were made in the brands of animals, for example, 101
could easily be changed to 701 or 107 or 707." They bound the
honest settlers to them by giving them pieces of "slow elk." The
settler might wish to refuse the gift, but knew it was unsafe to
do so. THaving once accepted, he was bound to secrecy and to be
an ally of the rustler. To be sure, they were enemies of the
cattle kings. Cattle kings had in many instances been rustlers
themselves originally. When the great trails were opened, some
owners had started at one end of the trail with a few cattle and
arrived at the other end with a great herd. HI-enceforth they
lived in luxury and frequently served their country and their in-
terests in legislatures and ~n Congress.7 They had no feeling
for the less successful rustler nor for the humble, plodding settler.
The next stage of the conflict was with the sheep interests.
I"Hough, E., Cowboy, II, 294-6.
"aChapman, Arthur, "The Last War for the Cattle Range," in Outing,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 20, July 1916 - April, 1917, periodical, 1917; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101070/m1/18/: accessed February 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.