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Texas | Columns | Somewhere in the West

B. F. (Frank) Payne
Texas Ranger

by Linda Kirkpatrick

The Spaniards brought the first herds of cattle to the southwestern region of what would later become the United States of America. The Spaniards realized that these vast grasslands would be well suited for grazing. By the mid nineteenth century, these lands had been acquired by the United States. The Anglo ranchers continued to run herds of cattle on the grasslands. Annually they would round up the herds and brand the calves according to the brand of their mother. Thus each rancher was able to keep up with the herd size and the cattle belonged to him even though the cow herds ran free.

Texas longhorn and calf
Photo courtesy John Stankewitz 04-25-2006

This process worked well until the Civil War. Many of the young men who had hired out to work these cows were called to fight. At the end of the war these free ranging herds had grown in number. The unbranded wild herds of Longhorn cattle numbered in the millions.
The end of the war brought about a demand for beef and the wild longhorns in Texas were just what was needed to fill the demand. These longhorns were cheap, unbranded, wild and a long way from the railhead. The ranchers here decided to take advantage of this money making opportunity. They hired young men just back from the war and started rounding up these loose cattle. Branding fires were built and the wild longhorns were labeled with the brand of the rancher. The cattle were then turned over to the trail bosses who applied another brand, known as a trail brand, before they hit the long drive up to the northern railheads.
B. F. Payne, who made his home in the Frio Canyon of Texas, was interviewed in 1897 by famed author and former Texas Ranger A. J. Sowell, (Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas). The following account is from that interview.

B.F. (Frank) Payne, Texas ranger
B.F. (Frank) Payne
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick

The year was 1866, when B. F. (Frank) Payne, a strapping young lad of twelve years old, mounted his pony to go on a cow hunt with his dad and some of the other neighboring ranchers. This particular hunt would take place in the counties west of Travis County in the central part of Texas. Texas was sparsely populated at this time. Ranches, towns and homesteads were few and far between and the threat of conflict between the Indians and the Anglos was always on everyone’s mind. But these daring settlers took chances, chances that were sometimes costly.

Young Frank was excited about his first cow hunt. Little did he know how exciting things were going to get before the day was over. Frank’s dad and the other men were all armed with rifles and revolvers, it was always better to be prepared.

Around noon, as the cow hunters were about to head home, they came upon a band of Indians. The cow hunters had not been discovered by the Indians so they decided to attempt a surprise attack. As the men discussed their attack, Frank’s dad expressed concern about young Frank. Frank was unarmed and just a little young to be taking part in the raid. So Frank was instructed to stay put and not to leave the spot until the fight was over and they came back to get him. Young Frank's curiosity was already beginning to grow.

The men slipped over the edge of the draw and surprised the Indians. The Indians quickly mounted their horses and attempted to escape. The chase was then on with the cow hunters closing in on the fleeing Indians. As they rode out of sight, Frank became a little concerned and frankly he really wanted to see what he was missing. So he put the spurs to his horse, edging closer for a better view. He soon realized what a huge mistake he had made.

Frank was just about to get close enough to see what was happening when a loose horse came charging in Frank’s direction. This panicked horse spooked Frank’s pony and the excitement began. That little cow pony got the bits in his teeth and ran hell bent right towards the Indians. Try as he might, he was not able to stop his run away pony. Frank’s dad watched in horror as his son rode right to the Indians. The Indians on the other hand shot arrows and threw lances at what they thought was a charging cow hunter. Then the worst of worst happened, something cut the reins or maybe they just broke and what little control Frank had was now gone and the pony just ran that much faster. Frank, (thinking quickly) took his rope and looped it around his pony’s nose and eventually was able to get the horse under control. Luckily he and the horse made it through the camp and beyond the Indians.

Frank’s Dad and the other men charged through the Indians in hopes of protecting Frank. Some of the Indians were killed and only one cow hunter was wounded. When Frank finally met up with his dad it was discovered that not only were his reins cut but there were two arrows in his saddle. It was a lucky day for this curious young lad.

In 1870, Frank joined the Texas Rangers under Captain Rufus Perry. This was a time when the Indian Raids in Texas were many and brutal. This particular company of Rangers was stationed at the Little Red River near Camp San Saba. The Rangers received word that a band of Indians had raided near Dripping Springs and made off with about one hundred head of horses. The horses had been taken from various ranchers in that area. The Rangers, whose main responsibility at this date was to protect the settlers from the Indians, wasted no time in mounting up and locating the trail the Indians left behind. The trail was near a place called Shovel Mountain. As they neared the mountain they discovered a white man being chased by the band of Indians. The man soon found himself in the protective custody of the Rangers and the Indians suddenly had a change of heart.

The pursuit was on and soon the Rangers managed to separate the stolen horses from the Indians. As was the usual story, the Indians out numbered the rangers 125 to 28. Three rangers stayed with the recaptured horses while the rest made a stand. The Indians made three charges at the rangers before their chief was killed. The chief’s horse (with the chief still aboard) ran wildly in among the Rangers. The Indians finally realized that the battle was lost, as was the herd of horses and the body of their dead chief.

The names of some of the men in the command were: Captain Perry, B. F. Payne, Frank Enoch, the three Bird brothers, Griffin, Page and Cox. The rest are unknown. The one Ranger killed was one of the Bird Brothers. His body was taken to Birdtown for burial. The belongings of the dead chief were taken to the state capitol in Austin for display. The horses were returned to their rightful owners. Of the 27 men under Captain Perry, not a one was over 25 years of age.

B.F. Frank Payne Children
Children of B.F. (Frank) Payne
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick

Frank Payne died in 1900 and is buried in Floral Cemetery in Leakey, Texas. He and his wife, Claudia, had five children. As of today, four generations of his descendents still live in the town of Leakey, Texas.
© Linda Kirkpatrick
Somewhere in the West
September 5 , 2007 Column

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