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Kansas Cattle-herding

Kansas Cattle-herding image
Parent Issue
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Tt is the early dawn of a Muy day in Western Kanras. A sea of rolling billowa f land extenda io every direetion to the iiinost reaoh of' the visión. The plainsarê lOvered with a rieh (rowth of bluijuint md buffalo grass. A herd of cattle is 3leping in a corral by a creek- cows, twoyear-olds, yearlings and calvis. A lew p mies ure pieketed with long ropei on the prairie. A couple ot saddleis blaiiketSRnd luidles hang on pegs by the corral hars. The scène is cmmeiilly peaoeful. Oica siunally a OOW n.-es. and, iralking to the salt liiinel, gontly licks ihü sult, iluu liok ber nose, aa tnough she had eerioqs thougbu of piokÜDg it, so as to ïnsurè itkeepmg over Buminer. lint, on n fliction, she eonolndea it will keep thia si'a.-on. at iiii.v imu', aml wallu over lo ihe .vcriilchiu postS iiniJ t hei e stands mbbing her neck iip and down. Smliicnly BRrppni, shc gasea, opeo eyed, at a wolf, wlio sits on his haunches some liundred yards from the corral, síiiíhl' thero peosively, looking ;it the great auiount of Prtxh toé(. Aftei azing at tbe wulf QBtil satisSed, the cow lies dipwn ;i(;ain. The deep bn-alliing ot the cattlf, the niornini; calis of the uieaduw larks, tle soft ruusic of the wind as it whistles through the short, tender grriB.s, are the only sounds heard. As the east grows red, the oceupants of a large du-oul situatid on the bank of a creek, lounge slowly out, aüd walk to tbe w;rt t, whcre they drink and wash- the latter a Seedy operation, as tile hnl r does not waste time in waliing. One K&e to f'eed the poniea corn, and s-addie tluni , the other buildn a fire and cooks break f im This uieal eonsilU of corn-doiigers or baking powder biseuit, friud bacoD and strong ruiïfc without ruilk or tugar. There may be 200 cows in the lierd, but none are niilked. .The herders sinifily exist with as little trouble ae possible. As a rule they do not read ; do not think of anything but tbe eattle. To attend these well is their ambition. Aftcr break tast the bars are taken down and the cattle string out of' the corral. Fortuing in long files, they tbl'ow the deep, well-worn trails that lead to the feeding grounds. It is a very leisurelj marcb. Now and then an aniuial drop,out of' line, eats a few njouthfuls of grasa, but soon drops into file aain and resumes uiarching. On reaching the desired feeding ground tbe cattle spread aud begin feedini.'. At about ten o'clock they are full, or nearly so, and in a listless manner they cfiange front, and f'eed toward water. Arriviug there the herd drink, stand in the water, aud "loaf" away on hour. They then lie down, and f'or two or three hours remain quiet. As the snn gets low the cattle agaiti spread and f'eed. As the sun siuks to the horizon the herders slowly f'orce tlieiu to feed toward their corral, and by tlie time tliey have f'td up to it, it is generally du=k. l!ai aio put up, ponies staked out, supper oooked and eaten, and the herders go to bed. In all herds there are a few animáis that lcad off; tliat is, they wilt not reniain on yOlir rttne, but conot&ntly cn3cavor to Icnd the herd to pastures new. These anintnls are generally ycllow or black s'eois, but sometimes cows or heifers are guilty ui' Urn trick. Of course these animáis are sold as soon as possible, but until sold (bar ara the cause ni a vast amouut of' bard ridrag. Man] are ihe dovices uscd to break theuj of this habit, but I never knew any to be suceessf'ul. 1 well remeniber a large tbreeyear oíd heifer, coal-blaek ia color, whiofa had a great desiro to feed in a ravine that we did not want her to feed in. Almo.-t daily she would aBp out of the herd, and sotue of us would have to drive her back. One day a new herdor, unaecustomed to Texas cattle, B&ld he could fiighten the heiier out of' the ravine, and frighton her so badiy that she would never agaia leave the herd. We all told hiin to go ahead witta bis plan. Kiding near the ravine, be di.-ujounted, and taking off bis coat orawled through the tall grass until directly above the heifer. Th n, holding the outstretchid ooat in f'rout of' him, be executed a speciur ot' war dance, accouipanied l)y uneaithlv yells. Tbc heifer was friglitened - ,aralyzed with fear, in tact Slie stond PBOtionk-ss, looking up at the horrible figure above her. Then the awful íaot iinpreBed itself on her brain tbat tnuapparitioo was a new kind "1 htmt. dMtioed in drive her and her kind f'roin the face of' tbc prairie, so hhe uight as well die fighting a(O starve to death ; and die rn, not aw;ij froui the grinning, dancing, howling idiii bthmd the coat, but at hini. Dropping the coat he had no use for, he tun d and ran for hia hoise. 'lln; borta ipnckly calculated the chances, and coming to the con clusion that the cow would catch the danoer betore the danccr got to him, ran off. Tlu would-be frigbieoef of oowi ran for h lift; and howlcd tor help. The cow gainid on hiui, and when hor hut breath Mtruck bis naked neck be feil. l'he eow passed over binj, but in passing atépped on bio back, driving the blnod out of nt8 montb aiid nose. Before she could turn on him, the otber herders went at her and drove her off. Un seeing him dismount we had ridden rapidly to hiui, well koowipg wliat would happen. It is needless to say, that youth never repeated that experiment. The cattle of Texas are not afraid of a man, nor are they afraid of a horse ; but they are afraid of a man on a horsc. They do nut understand, at least do not seeiu to understand, that a uian on horseback is a combination of animáis. Apparrn'ly they regard the two as one animal, and one that is too powerful for thcni. To get off of a horse in a herd of wild Texas cattle is almost worth a man's lile, and au experienced herder will never do it. All herds of cattle have a bully among theua. There is a boss cow, and sha ihatcd and feared. Of ugly di.-posiiion, nitiy hiMiking unoffending cowb, greedy in cating, the makes herself generally dibagroeable. Ur it may tic tbat the bully is a steer. The characteristics of' the brute are all the same. The rest of the herd are all alraid of her or him. Singly they can do nothing. Matters go from bad to worse, and cow life becomes unendurable iu the herd. Something bas to be done, and that spon. The bully in walking along gives come unoffending cow a sharp thrust in the ribs. Iostead of running off as expected, the stricken cow wheels around, fury in her cyes, and bellowing a war cry, dashes head on for the bully. The boss is surprbed, but gets to work as an expert, and the rebellious cow is being rapidly wliipped (these cattle fence witb their horns;) but the cry for liberty is uTiderstood by the rest of the herd, and with a unanitnous nmveincnt they all turn on the tyrant, and it the herders do not interfere they kill him. The Lully, being whipped, tuins to run, and to his horror finds that the whole herd i.s af'ter him. As one animal gets near him he receives a vicious dig from a sharp hom. He increases bis speed, but soon another animal domes up to him, and another stab in the result. The bully, witu extended tongue and labored breathi'ig, is leading the herd, and the herd, with entended longues and upright tailx, are following - strers, cows, calvos, all bellowing lnuiily, " Kill him ! kill kim!" And kill him they will it' the herders do not stop the pursuit. Af'ter a leMoa ol'tliis kind the bully is a marvel of gentleness and consideration. A calf could whip liiin. Once I lef 't iny herd for an hour. On my return I was surprised to find tlic cattle bunclied around a deep pool in the ravine. '1 hey were evideutiy gieatly exciied, the consiant ing, tb' la.shing of tlieir tails, their craned OeOsS as ilicy looked over the banks of the pond, all indicatcd that sumething was wrong. Running tuy horse imd swinging a heavy whip, l WMSOOD among the cattlc. They gave way for me. I rode up to the ool. Tliere, standing in dccp waler, was the cubdued bully, a ring of excited steern and ciiw.s wure standing around hiin, but unablc i rvaiii Jini). I nu a stup to the fnn, and tcft the Imlly in üie water to oool nff I did nnt sce liiuj 1'orTi weei. Tbei lic joincd tbe berd as a printte. It' au anioial in thv In rd geta badly WDUoded, it will be killed by others il irrcat care is nut exercised. The loOO aiiimals turn ratbltiiwly on tlie sick or nouuded oues. Il Innks liard and the iiinlnnt, mi; nbM.'1'Vi r ruiuuiks fl ih;crut;li ■li'iwn tovvanl one annther by dumb ani mals. It is simply n expre-sion of' tbe in.-tinet of the animáis, by wbich thcy expect to ward nff attackïtof wolves and 10 I ivvrnt ibiir prowliiig around the herd, by rcinovinr the induccintiit to it The ani ujal is wouiidcd, hftdly wuundud ; tbe laolvea mell bim. and. Ironi lar aiid ncar. gat her about bim. The uattle, in thcii wild state, coBMántJy omved up nnd down tbe water courses, si, ben ihey killed tbe Mck animal, thcy lelt tbo body behind. Now thi y kiil the i-ick one for the same icasnn, and daily ('eed about bis carcass. In Jul tbc berd is fat; eulves are doing well and are f'ull of pliy ; prass is plenty, and the li' rd, as I w liole, ft el splendidly. Tbey are cail amiised, 100. Jack rabbi's are plenty in Kansas, and a never-falliog swtiree 01 BtDUM uient to the ealtle. Aecustcmied tnui tluir cbildhood up, it is ,-imply absurd 10 nee tbe aciionsof the A calf 6nds a bifl jack rabbit, luid, vory naturally, is interested in lookiog ai ibis wild bea.-t. Cautiously ap proaobing bim, she gaxea open-eyed at tbe stnall nionster. A nother calf joins her, and tbey eaoh regard tbe animal. BcginniiiK to caper about it, tbe attention of the beid s attntoted, and tlicyall i'ciuie to have a lonk al tbc j:cl. lic is njade to get up and jump quaintly fí. The cattle all f V 1 - low ; the rabbit sits down, again to be t'nccd up; and wben Ue again jumps off, they eapcr aruund bim, or, with pretended alarm, tbey bcllow and run nway. Many men who caaie to Kansas in 1869 went into the cattle business, bringing eastem ideas with them. Tbey very naturally built sheda to protect their cattle from the cold storms of the winter. I did tbis. and made a mistAe. The reason why sheds are not good is tbat the eattle stand under them when the coli winds blow. and refuHe to leave ihe shelter to fetd or drink ; and when weakened by this lack of food they lose vitality and huddle togetber for wanuth. Tbis huddling is very danperous. The outide cattle want to be on the inside, and they pile up on each otber. Thia piling is callt'd " stacking," and, when onee begun, some eattle are siire to loso their lives. Out üf one "staek " I took twclve dead stcers one roorniug. A neighbor of uiitie took thitty-six. When the cattle of' Texas are weakened liy starvation and lack of watrr. they ate utiablo to L,. i vp u lilmv h ' é1 ÜPLi i - herders are obliged to "tail" thetn. This consists in takinji hnM Of the tail and yelling at tbe animal Whtn it struggles to ariso the herder lifts on the tail, and so helps the feeble brute up. He is rewarded l'i ir his kind inti ■niion by having the animal lowcr it head, and, with a weak bel'ow of rae, stageer at liim, intent 10 kill hitn. A Texas cnw that has to be tailed U about as goud as dt'ad ; fuw ever get over it. Again, wlieu cattiti are weak. they will deliberately eoiüuiit suicide. 1 have wen a steer walk into the deepest place íd a cret'k, tlirowlnrnsulf down, and never make au effort to get out. It' pulled out with ropes and set on fiin feet. he firt ch.ises the herders, then cciolly turns amund and walk. into iliecrwk ;iLraui. Of all the Mttl I have belped out of the atir, [ rrinember liut twu whd did nut return to it n ihe liit (i ormniij :u:il dñ in it. I bt lieve ihej do it with the inti l.igii,t purpu.-e td take their lives. Tl.ey hic we-ik, .-ick, dis c'iurygid, I ive thr bluw, and is a bur'ien to then ; so tbej, juBI as tnany men do uiidcr the same cncumstances, conjoiit suicide. What do the herders d duritig the long ■■utnuitr daj.i? 1 bve ItDowo t herder tci put a numler cl cents into eaeh pocket of' his puntal. "ins, and while on duty play "seveB-ttp." olie pofket against the Other. Il' the nglit pnckft won the game, five cents oud be tifcen trum the lef't and placed in it ; ü' l"-t, thn reverse. In paMn throujth Western Kansas the traveler mikiIi towers, luilt of stone, on the tiips of' the highest bilis. Aakinp what these toweis are for, lie is told that ihey aie Itidian watch towers. Thi sounds well, but it i DOl tnio Tlu-HO stones have been ied Qp l the herders; they think il' tbe rere a little bigher tbey could -re OVW a iWll i" tho prairie, or DtO a ravine, and wuuld thus be saved riding there 10 see if tbeir cattle had strayed. -