Much has been
written over the years about the Texas cowboy. And in 1923, The
Gonzales Inquirer put out a special edition celebrating the
paper's 70th anniversary. In that edition they included an Old Trail
Drivers section honoring those men who drove cattle up the trail
from Gonzales County.
During a reunion
of the Texas Trail Drivers Association, held in Gonzales
in 1923, more light was shed on the life of the cowboy.
B. Saunders, president of the TTDA, spoke at the meeting. He said
the average person did not conceive of the volume of business done
through the work of the old trail drivers. He claimed that the trail
drivers deserved the most credit for the development of Texas after
the Civil War.
at the meeting, J.B. Wells, gave his account of life on the trail.
Wells said he had driven cattle in years when practically every
stream was dry. And other years when every stream was flowing with
so much water that the men had to swim across with the cattle.
another exciting event on a drive through Indian country: One day
a band of Indians swooped down on us and rode around the edge of
the herd, shouting, in an effort to stampede our cattle. Mr. Wells
was quick to point out that they offered the Indians all their supplies
to take the savages' minds off their cattle. We very generously
turned over to them all the beans, bacon, coffee, sugar and other
eatables we had, he said.
They were left
in uninhabited country without food for several days until they
reached a place where they could buy supplies. They had no money
and had to trade cattle for provisions.
On one of his
drives, J.B. Wells spoke of seeing a man named Hardin kill three
men in a drunken brawl on the trail. He didn't give the man's first
name, so one can only speculate as to if it was John Wesley who
did the killing.
One old cowboy,
L.D. Taylor, gave an account of his adventures on the trail. He
spoke of being in the saddle for 24 hours without food or sleep.
Taylor told of trying to hold the herd in check during blinding
thunder and hail storms. "You never knew when you would be run over
and killed," he said.
the pain and hardships, the trail drivers continued to send large
numbers of cattle up the trail to the northern markets. According
to The Gonzales Inquirer, the following herds were driven
from Gonzales County in 1878. G.W. Littlefield, 6,000 head; Littlefield
and J.D. Houston, 8,000; Lewis & Dilworth and R.A. Houston, 4,000;
Lewis & Dilworth and Parramore, 2,500; Lee Kokernot, 2,000; Jesse
McCoy and R.H. Floyd, 2,500.
At the time
these herds went up the trail, prices for cattle varied from six
to fifteen dollars per head. That was big money back then and it
was those dollars that put Texas back on solid financial ground.
The old trail
drivers drove their last herds and secured a place in history years
ago. But the tradition of the cowboy way of life in Texas will live
Montgomery February, 2001 column
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I would have made 475 a month as a cook, but I'm a leader sometimes
so I may have made $100 a month as a trail boss. - Mike