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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Dusting off pages offers up the dirt on Times gone by

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
Kansas Historical Society archives contain every issue of the old Dodge City Times published in the 1870s and 1880s. Browsing the many articles contained within is interesting and educational as we learn about the common happenings of that time.

The term "getting away from it all" meant an entirely different thing from today, as back on Sept. 6, 1879, the Times told of a posse capturing nine horse thieves who had stolen a herd of area ranch horses. Five of the thieves were captured, while four "got away in the Rattlesnake Sand Hills."

The next issue of the Times stated the four thieves who got away were buried in the hills.

The Times quoted the Mobeetie Panhandle newspaper with the following article: "The road between here (Mobeetie) and Tascosa is well defined by a row of black bottles that flash in the rays of the sun. They are empty."

One can assume the black, empty bottles were whiskey bottles and that the trip between the two early towns was more enjoyable for some than others.

The Times told of a man living beside the Canadian River who made extra money by guiding and hauling travelers who needed to cross the sometimes treacherous waterway.

During a recent trip across the riverbed, in which the man hauled baggage on his buckboard pulled by two horses, the first crossing was without incident. When the man retraced his tracks a few minutes later, the team and buckboard sunk out of sight almost instantly, with the man barely escaping the quicksands.

Later, when he attempted to probe the spot with a long pole in an effort to recover his buckboard, no trace of the equipment or team could be found.

A plea for extra freight wagons to come to Dodge City to help haul the stacks of freight piled alongside the railroad track was puzzling. What was the reason for this problem?

Further study reveals that in 1881 to 1883, the Texas Panhandle was filling up quickly with ranchers and farmers all wanting to enclose their properties with new-fangled barbed-wire fences. Much of the extra freight was spools of new barbed wire destined for the Panhandle prairies.

Another article explained that a spool of barbed weighed approximately 80 to 90 pounds and contained one-fourth mile of wire. A boxcar load of wire spools weighed some 22,000 pounds, or about 275 spools of barbed wire. This amount of wire would build a three-wire fence for a distance of 23 miles. Many ranches ordered 10 to 20 carloads of wire per order.

Why were the freighters getting behind in their hauling?

Another Times issue explained the freighters were encountering huge piles of buffalo bones alongside the trails belonging to settlers who had gathered them to sell. The freighters could purchase these bones by the wagonload, haul them to Dodge City, sell them to the railroad and make more money on this backhaul than was made on the original freight load going out of Dodge. This profitable process drastically slowed the customary hauling of freight.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
October 21, 2009 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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