Heritage, Spring 2003 Page: 27
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ever had a man who would shirk his duty;
had he been so inclined he would have
been ridiculed out of it. It is certain that
no deadheads ever stayed in a cow camp
any length of time.
As soon as the cattle had grazed sufficiently,
they were put in moving order
without delay. A column of cattle would
march either slow or faster, according to
the distance the side men ride from the
line. Therefore, when we had a long drive
to make between watering places, and it
was necessary to move faster, the men rode
in closer to the line. Under normal conditions,
the herd was 50 to 60 feet across, the
thickness being governed by the distance
we had to go before resting. When the signal
was given to start the herd, the foreman
would tell the men what width to
make the herd. Therefore the order might
be 10 to 20 feet. Narrowing the string was
called "squeezing them down." 10 feet was
the lowest limit. For when the line was
this width, gaps came and the cattle began
trotting to fill up the spaces. Then the
pointers checked them in front. The
fastest steppers would naturally go up a little;
but they were never allowed to trot.
After a herd was handled a month or two
they became gentler...
In laying off a trail the foreman or the
owner of the cattle would ride forward 20
or 30 miles-that is if he does not expect
to find water sooner. He always rode a
good horse and explored both sides of the
way in his search for water holes. He preferred
to find watering places 12 or 15
miles apart, but he kept going until he did
find it-with this exception, if he found
that he was striking a desert he would
return to the herd and inform the men
what to expect. They then knew that the
cattle were to be moved with all possible
speed without actually crowding them.
The owner then changed horses and rode
on ahead until he found water, then he
would go back and signal to the men. This
was kept up until the destination was
reached. Our trail was now established and
two or three more drives would plainly
mark it. This is the way I laid off the
On my first drive across the 96-mile
desert that lies between the Pecos and
Concho rivers, I lost 300 head of cattle.
We were three days and nights crossing
this desert, and during this time we had no
sleep or rest, as we had to keep the cattle
moving all the time in order to get them to
the river before they died of thirst. I rode
the same horse for the three days and
nights, and what sleep I got was on his
back. As the cattle got closer to the water
they had no sense at all, and we had to
hold them back as well as we could. When
they reached the stream they swam right
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Spring 2003, periodical, Spring 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45378/m1/27/?q=contract%20drovers%20cattle: accessed October 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.