Before the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation that covered what is now
Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo Counties, was opened to white settlement in
1901, ranchers leased pasture from the tribes. Some of the big ranches in
Texas, moved their herds across Red River to feed n this short grass
prairie. One of the big ranches that leased pasture was the Waggoner in
North Texas, but this is only one of several. This was open range when the
longhorns roamed the plains. There were a lot of early residents, before
statehood, that worked for these ranchers.
In the first part of
this century there were still a number of these cowboys in Kiowa county
that had worked the ranches in the 1880's and 1890's. Among them were
Samuel Parson, a range rider for Edd Louder, Bud Donald, Bob Lacross, John
Baker, Tom and Taylor Attaway, Claud Wilson, Cossel Webber, Tobe Cranford
and Soloman Penn. J.B. Haley ran cattle for himself and Texas Cattlemen.
James Cosner worked for the D D D or Waggoner oufit as a line rider. Dan
Waggoner was Manager, Tom Waggoner was Range Boss.
among these early range hands, was Dick Holly. This is a story of one part
of his life.
The last of the Longhorn cattle---they
were clearing the Kiowa - Comanche Reservation as a cattle range. Congress
had taken action for opening these reservations for settlement. All the
cattle on the range in 1887 were the Longhorns; the whitefaced cattle
first apeared on the plains in 1882. Until then, the cattle on the range
carried horns from 6 to 9 1/2 feet long. It was very difficult to load
these cattle in a railroad car. Their heads had to be twisted so as to
force the long horns through the car door.
The Longhorn cattle
were wild blooded. So long as a man stayed on his horse they paid little
attention to him. But, she he dismount, they would swing their heads,
snort and horn or trample him underfoot.
A severe thunderstorm
caused moving herds to stampede. The cowboy recovered control by circling
the herd, and racing in front of them, all on the run, ebdeavering to halt
and calm them. This was accomplished many times only after hours of the
most dangerous riding. Many times when the boys succeeded in swinging the
leaders back into the herd, the cattle would form a solid mass and in a
movement called milling, tightly together they would run wildly in a
circle, completely crazed and beyond control.
It was at such times
that the cowboy had use for his past experience. He must crowd in on the
side of the circle using his lariat to whip his way into the massive
whirling tonnage of flesh and horns. These experiences explain why each
cowboy had his favorite mount of ponies, the ones he knew to be most
dependable, quick and sure of foot, lest they stumble or step in a hole.
In action such as this, the pony, as well as the cowboy, profited by his
past experience. After the milling was halted, the cattle once again would
string out on the trail with the cowboy and his pony exhausted.
most serious experience in handling herds of cattle on long movements,
requiring weeks to accomplish, was a failure to encounter water. A second
day without water brought unrest and most surely an unruly herd. They
would leave the trail and scatter in all directions. The cowboy and his
pony must always be on the alert, chase the unruly animals back into the
herd as another and another would break away.
At night, the cowboys
would circle the herd slowly bringing them to a stop and bedding for the
night. This was very difficult to accomplish if the cattle were thirsty.
The cowboy usually worked 3 hours on and 3 hours rest during the night
when camped, with the herd not moving. At night we depended on the north
star and big dipper for directions.
On Octber 5, 1887, I was
working for the Edlemond Brothers who owned the Cross S cattle. Their
headquarters was in a dugout close to the mouth of Turkey Creek near where
Altus is now. They decided to move a lot of their cattle to New Mexico,
where they had secured a ranch. So we gathered 2,000 head and started west
Our crew consisted of eight cowboys, Boss, Horse
Wrangler, and Cook. We boys used eight horses to the man. We didn't feed
them, we rode them on grass. We had plenty of water and grass until we
left the head of Paladore Canyon (NOTE: This would be Palo Duro Canyon in
the Texas Panhandle, Armstrong Co., SE of Amarillo, along the Prairie Dog
Town Fork of Red River) and headed up on the plains. Then we had to make
three days and three nights for our next water which was Mustang Lake on
We had plenty of water for ourselves for drinking and
cooking. We didn't wash in these three days for we had to be saving with
our water. Now these cattle in this long drive drive would become tired
and lay down and rest a while. While they were resting, our cook would fix
us coffee and our meals so when the cattle were ready to move, we were
ready to head them in the direction we wanted to go.
In driving at
night, we would pick out a star in the direction we were going and our men
would keep the cattle pointed in that direction. We had no road to travel,
so had to just take our course and go.
The third evening our lead
cattle reached water about sundown. They were strung out for a mile. There
was plenty of water there and good grass. So we stayed there for seven
days and nights and let our cattle rest and we boys got caught up on our
rest and sleep.
Our next water was at what they called Stinking
Springs on the other side of the plains. It would take us two days and
nights to make this drive and from there on we had plenty of water and
grass. We went out by way of old Fort Sumner and there some of the boys
got hold of some pretty bad whiskey. (NOTE: Old Fort Sumner was located
about 57 miles west of Clovis NM just off present Hwy. 60-84, near the
present town of Ft. Sumner, De Baca Co. NM)
We traveled on and
reached our destination which was 22 miles the other side of Albuquerque,
NM on the Rearperker Creek (NOTE: likely the Rio Puerco, NW of
Albuquerque) and there we turned our cattle loose. When we turned the
cattle loose, half the boys went back to Greer County and the other half
of us stayed there. We wintered in an old Mexican "doby" house. We had no
top on it but it did not rain in that country that winter, so when it
snowed we would shovel the snow out of our house. We had a good time with
nothing to do except attend to our saddle horses and cook and eat and go
down and dance with the Mexicans. Once when our supply wagon went to town
to get food it got snowbound and we only had coffee and hard tack bread.
It took us two and a half months to make this drive. We had good
times and bad times. At mustang Lake we had no wood with which to do our
cooking and make fires. We had to gather cow chips for this
This above narration was written in 1926 by R. H. (Dick)
Holly with the cooperation of A.B. Harding. Mr. Holly operated a dairy
at Hobart for several years and at this time was one of the few old-time
cowboys left in this section of the county. Permission to present this
story was given by William H. Holly, grand nephew of Dick Holly. All
rights reserved to William H. Holly.
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