Tag: cattle drives

CATTLE DRIVES — On the Trail


Cattle Drives – On the Trail

(Research for The Oak Grove Series)

By Kathryn Albright

Oak Grove, Kansas, the fictional town and setting of the Oak Grove Series that I am writing with Laurie Robinson, is the end of the trail for the Texas cattle drives. The town grows and prospers with the cattle industry in the 1880s much like Dodge City, Ellsworth, and Abilene. With its stockyards and a train depot, I knew some of the inhabitants would have to have jobs that involved the cattle business.

 

Cattle Drives

The era of cattle drives in American history began at the end of the Civil War and lasted into the 1890s. Demand for beef in the big cities in the east as well as an abundance of cattle in Texas (five million!) created an opportunity for hard-working men. In Texas, a steer was worth about $3, whereas in Chicago, that same steer would fetch an average of $20, although demand would sometimes push its value to $40. Other reasons for moving the cattle north were to feed the miners in Colorado and California, or to stock ranches as far as Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming.

Some herds were as large as 3,000 cattle. Along with the cattle, extra horses were also included on the drive so that when one horse tired and needed to rest, another could be saddled and used. Cattle could stretch out for a mile on the trail and to manage the herd, cowboys had certain positions.

Cattle Drives

 

Duties of each Cowboy —

  • Point – Rode out in front and helped guide the herd.
  • Swing – Rode along the flanks of the herd to keep them gathered in.
  • Flank – Rode behind the Swing and performed the same job.
  • Drag – Rode behind the herd and kept stragglers from being lost or falling behind. A dusty job.
  • Wrangler – Took care of the remuda of extra horses. Lowest paid position.
  • Cook – Drove the chuck-wagon, cooked the meals. Next to the boss, he was the highest paid man on the drive.

These were not gentle milking cows! Longhorns were cantankerous and bad-tempered. The horns on a steer spread an average of five feet from tip to tip. Rounding up cattle, branding them to establish ownership, and getting them to head in one direction as a group was not without mishaps and sometimes dire consequences. Then there were the dangers along the trail.

Cattle Drives - Longhorn Steer

Range cattle were not smart. They got lost in gullies. They headed out into snowstorms rather than seeking shelter. They were easily spooked and alarmed. A flash of lightning, the boom of thunder, or even an odd odor could initiate a stampede where the herd would run for miles. The only way to stop a stampede was for the cowboys to get out in front of the herd and fire their pistols, wave their hats and yell in a effort to confuse and frighten the cattle into slowing and circling until they calmed down.  One wrong decision and in an instant a rider could be impaled on a horn or trampled to death under hooves. Stampedes were the chief threat and worry for a cowboy on a trail drive.

Another danger could occur at river crossings. Should a cow or steer panic, they could drown and take a cowboy down with them.

Then there were the predators. Rustlers—men who would steal the cattle and, although much less common, Indians on the reservations who attacked the drive. Animals such as the American Timber wolf, cougars, brown bears, and farther north…grizzly bears where also a threat. Rattlers and scorpions bothered the men. Although their bite or sting was not usually fatal to a healthy young man, it could still cause horrible pain. A smart cowboy checked their bedroll before bedding down at night, and in the morning, checked their shoes or boots before putting them on.

Cattle Drives Weather was also a danger. Freezing temperatures and blazing heat were both enemies to the herd and to the cowboys. Finding water along the trail was a matter of life and death. Traveling this way, a drive from San Antonio to Kansas would take about two months. No matter how careful the cowboys were, there was always a percentage of cattle that did not make it to the stockyards.

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In spite of the danger and the dust, I believe many cowboys enjoyed the camaraderie of driving cattle to the stockyards. Sleeping on the hard earth after a long day’ work, however, is not so appealing. I am thankful for my comfy bed!

What, in this season of Thanksgiving, are you thankful for?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of  Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove!

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In the book that will be released in December — The Prairie Doctor’s Bride — a character has an accident along the trail, leaving behind unfinished business in Oak Grove. More on this in a future post…For now, Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove, the first book in the Oak Grove Series, is available.

Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove

Kathryn Albright writes sweet historical Americana Romance.
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Longhorn Leader by Linda Hubalek

Linda-Hubalek-logo2

I’ve been researching for my next book, Tina Tracks a Trail Boss, book eight in my Brides with Grit series, and needed more information about the cattle breed which traveled from Texas to Kansas
along the Chisholm Trail.The Longhorns by J Frank Dobie (1)

A friend loaned me his 1941 copy of The Longhorns by J. Frank Dobie, and I found it to be a fascina
ting read.

Besides details of the actual animal and the trails they took back in the 1800s, there are stories, which made the book really enjoyable to me. One of my favorite chapters is about a lead steer named “Old Blue”. Born in Texas in 1870, he walked his first trail at three years of age to New Mexico.

The next year Charlie Goodnight bought Old Blue, who was in a group of five thousand head driven to Pueblo, Colorado. Goodnight realized the steer’s potential and the longhorn wasn’t sold, but stayed with the home herd on the Goodnight Ranch.

In 1876, Goodnight decided to move back to Texas and Old Blue lead the herd. Over the next eight years, Old Blue kept leading herds, sometimes twice a year, to Dodge City. When the drive was over, he’d travel back to Texas with the horse remuda and drivers.

Old Blue was always be the pointer animal, and the herd learned to follow the sound of his bell. Attached to the bell was a little strap to tie up the clapper so it would stay quiet at night. Old Blue would let a cowboy tie up the clapper at night, and release it in the morning when the herd was ready to move.

The longhorn became a pet, walking right up to the camp to eat bread, apples, or whatever the cook would give him. He preferred to bed down with the horses instead of the herd. The steer faced storms, Indian raids and buffalo stampedes, and lived to be twenty years old.

This is the kind of research which makes interesting background for the writer’s imagination, and for the reader. So, be sure to look for the lead longhorn steer in my next book, because he’ll be leading the herd to Ellsworth, Kansas in 1873.

Here’s the Brides with Grit series so far.

Brides with Grit 8

Please note: Rania Ropes a Rancher is free right now on Amazon, B&N, Kobo and iTunes, so be sure to add it to your e-reader.

Today I’ll give a Kindle ebook copy of the seventh book, Darcie Desires a Drover to a lucky winner.

Here’s the story line for Darcie Desires a Drover, book seven.

A historical romance set in 1873. Darcie Robbins fled St. Louis to protect her two children from their bad father. Now divorced, she’s temporarily working on the Bar E Ranch in central Kansas. She needs a permanent job—or a trustworthy husband—to help provide for her family.

Reuben Shepard went home to his family in New York after the Civil War, to find his wife had declared him dead—so she could wed another. In shock, Reuben didn’t contest her claim and wandered south, spending years as a cattle drover on western trails until settling down to work on the Bar E Ranch.

Spending time with Darcie’s toddler, Tate, makes Reuben miss his own son, Gabe. Reuben travels to New York, hoping to visit his son, and ends up bringing Gabe back to the Kansas because the boy’s step-father had just died.

When Reuben proposes marriage to Darcie for their children’s sake, the couple falls in love as they learn to trust and support each other while planning for their future. But their wedding is stalled when Reuben’s former wife arrives, stating she and Reuben are still married.

What’s the truth and what’s best for the children is their concern now instead of a wedding date. How can they clear the past so they can have a future together?

To get the chance to win Darcie Desires a Drover, please comment on…If you could travel with a cattle drive back in 1873, what would be your favorite, and least favorite thing about the trip?

longhorn herd

About the Author

Linda writes historical fiction and sweet western romance books aboutLindaHubalek_TheBridalCrown_800 pioneer women who homesteaded in Kansas between 1854 to the early 1900s, often using her Swedish immigrant ancestors in the storyline.

Sign up for her newsletter at www.LindaHubalek.com.to hear about the release of future books, contests and more. In return, you’ll get her free Brides with Grit short story, The Bridal Crown. Linda loves to connect with her readers, so please contact her through one of these social media sites.

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