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Author of 'The Log of a Cowboy'




   VI. SPRING OF '76




When I first found employment with Lance Lovelace, a Texas cowman, I
had not yet attained my majority, while he was over sixty. Though not
a native of Texas, "Uncle Lance" was entitled to be classed among its
pioneers, his parents having emigrated from Tennessee along with a party
of Stephen F. Austin's colonists in 1821. The colony with which his
people reached the state landed at Quintana, at the mouth of the Brazos
River, and shared the various hardships that befell all the early Texan
settlers, moving inland later to a more healthy locality. Thus the
education of young Lovelace was one of privation. Like other boys in
pioneer families, he became in turn a hewer of wood or drawer of
water, as the necessities of the household required, in reclaiming the
wilderness. When Austin hoisted the new-born Lone Star flag, and called
upon the sturdy pioneers to defend it, the adventurous settlers came
from every quarter of the territory, and among the first who responded
to the call to arms was young Lance Lovelace. After San Jacinto, when
the fighting was over and the victory won, he laid down his arms,
and returned to ranching with the same zeal and energy. The first
legislature assembled voted to those who had borne arms in behalf of the
new republic, lands in payment for their services. With this land scrip
for his pay, young Lovelace, in company with others, set out for the
territory lying south of the Nueces. They were a band of daring spirits.
The country was primitive and fascinated them, and they remained. Some
settled on the Frio River, though the majority crossed the Nueces, many
going as far south as the Rio Grande. The country was as large as the
men were daring, and there was elbow room for all and to spare. Lance
Lovelace located a ranch a few miles south of the Nueces River, and,
from the cooing of the doves in the encinal, named it Las Palomas.

"When I first settled here in 1838," said Uncle Lance to me one morning,
as we rode out across the range, "my nearest neighbor lived forty miles
up the river at Fort Ewell. Of course there were some Mexican families
nearer, north on the Frio, but they don't count. Say, Tom, but she was a
purty country then! Why, from those hills yonder, any morning you could
see a thousand antelope in a band going into the river to drink. And
wild turkeys? Well, the first few years we lived here, whole flocks
roosted every night in that farther point of the encinal. And in the
winter these prairies were just flooded with geese and brant. If you
wanted venison, all you had to do was to ride through those mesquite
thickets north of the river to jump a hundred deer in a morning's ride.
Oh, I tell you she was a land of plenty."

The pioneers of Texas belong to a day and generation which has almost
gone. If strong arms and daring spirits were required to conquer the
wilderness, Nature seemed generous in the supply; for nearly all were
stalwart types of the inland viking. Lance Lovelace, when I first met
him, would have passed for a man in middle life. Over six feet in
height, with a rugged constitution, he little felt his threescore
years, having spent his entire lifetime in the outdoor occupation of a
ranchman. Living on the wild game of the country, sleeping on the ground
by a camp-fire when his work required it, as much at home in the saddle
as by his ranch fireside, he was a romantic type of the strenuous

He was a man of simple tastes, true as tested steel in his friendships,
with a simple honest mind which followed truth and right as unerringly
as gravitation. In his domestic affairs, however, he was unfortunate.
The year after locating at Las Palomas, he had returned to his former
home on the Colorado River, where he had married Mary Bryan, also of the
family of Austin's colonists. Hopeful and happy they returned to their
new home on the Nueces, but before the first anniversary of their
wedding day arrived, she, with her first born, were laid in the same
grave. But grief does not kill, and the young husband bore his loss as
brave men do in living out their allotted day. But to the hour of his
death the memory of Mary Bryan mellowed him into a child, and, when
unoccupied, with every recurring thought of her or the mere mention of
her name, he would fall into deep reverie, lasting sometimes for hours.
And although he contracted two marriages afterward, they were simply
marriages of convenience, to which, after their termination, he
frequently referred flippantly, sometimes with irreverence, for they
were unhappy alliances.

On my arrival at Las Palomas, the only white woman on the ranch was
"Miss Jean," a spinster sister of its owner, and twenty years his
junior. After his third bitter experience in the lottery of matrimony,
evidently he gave up hope, and induced his sister to come out and
preside as the mistress of Las Palomas. She was not tall like her
brother, but rather plump for her forty years. She had large gray eyes,
with long black eyelashes, and she had a trick of looking out from under
them which was both provoking and disconcerting, and no doubt many an
admirer had been deceived by those same roguish, laughing eyes. Every
man, Mexican and child on the ranch was the devoted courtier of Miss
Jean, for she was a lovable woman; and in spite of her isolated life and
the constant plaguings of her brother on being a spinster, she fitted
neatly into our pastoral life. It was these teasings of her brother that
gave me my first inkling that the old ranchero was a wily matchmaker,
though he religiously denied every such accusation. With a remarkable
complacency, Jean Lovelace met and parried her tormentor, but her
brother never tired of his hobby while there was a third person to

Though an unlettered man, Lance Lovelace had been a close observer of
humanity. The big book of Life had been open always before him, and he
had profited from its pages. With my advent at Las Palomas, there were
less than half a dozen books on the ranch, among them a copy of Bret
Harte's poems and a large Bible.

"That book alone," said he to several of us one chilly evening, as we
sat around the open fireplace, "is the greatest treatise on humanity
ever written. Go with me to-day to any city in any country in
Christendom, and I'll show you a man walk up the steps of his church
on Sunday who thanks God that he's better than his neighbor. But you
needn't go so far if you don't want to. I reckon if I could see myself,
I might show symptoms of it occasionally. Sis here thanks God daily that
she is better than that Barnes girl who cut her out of Amos Alexander.
Now, don't you deny it, for you know it's gospel truth! And that book
is reliable on lots of other things. Take marriage, for instance. It is
just as natural for men and women to mate at the proper time, as it is
for steers to shed in the spring. But there's no necessity of making all
this fuss about it. The Bible way discounts all these modern methods.
'He took unto himself a wife' is the way it describes such events. But
now such an occurrence has to be announced, months in advance. And after
the wedding is over, in less than a year sometimes, they are glad to
sneak off and get the bond dissolved in some divorce court, like I did
with my second wife."

All of us about the ranch, including Miss Jean, knew that the old
ranchero's views on matrimony could be obtained by leading up to the
question, or differing, as occasion required. So, just to hear him talk
on his favorite theme, I said: "Uncle Lance, you must recollect this is
a different generation. Now, I've read books"--

"So have I. But it's different in real life. Now, in those novels you
have read, the poor devil is nearly worried to death for fear he'll not
get her. There's a hundred things happens; he's thrown off the scent
one day and cuts it again the next, and one evening he's in a heaven of
bliss and before the dance ends a rival looms up and there's hell to
pay,--excuse me, Sis,--but he gets her in the end. And that's the way it
goes in the books. But getting down to actual cases--when the money's on
the table and the game's rolling--it's as simple as picking a sire and a
dam to raise a race horse. When they're both willing, it don't require
any expert to see it--a one-eyed or a blind man can tell the symptoms.
Now, when any of you boys get into that fix, get it over with as soon as

"From the drift of your remarks," said June Deweese very innocently,
"why wouldn't it be a good idea to go back to the old method of letting
the parents make the matches?"

"Yes; it would be a good idea. How in the name of common sense could
you expect young sap-heads like you boys to understand anything about
a woman? I know what I'm talking about. A single woman never shows her
true colors, but conceals her imperfections. The average man is not to
be blamed if he fails to see through her smiles and Sunday humor. Now, I
was forty when I married the second time, and forty-five the last whirl.
Looks like I'd a-had some little sense, now, don't it? But I didn't. No,
I didn't have any more show than a snowball in--Sis, hadn't you better
retire. You're not interested in my talk to these boys.--Well, if ever
any of you want to get married you have my consent. But you'd better get
my opinion on her dimples when you do. Now, with my sixty odd years, I'm
worth listening to. I can take a cool, dispassionate view of a woman
now, and pick every good point about her, just as if she was a cow horse
that I was buying for my own saddle."

Miss Jean, who had a ready tongue for repartee, took advantage of the
first opportunity to remark: "Do you know, brother, matrimony is a
subject that I always enjoy hearing discussed by such an oracle as
yourself. But did it never occur to you what an unjust thing it was of
Providence to reveal so much to your wisdom and conceal the same from us

It took some little time for the gentle reproof to take effect, but
Uncle Lance had an easy faculty of evading a question when it was
contrary to his own views. "Speaking of the wisdom of babes," said he,
"reminds me of what Felix York, an old '36 comrade of mine, once said.
He had caught the gold fever in '49, and nothing would do but he and
some others must go to California. The party went up to Independence,
Missouri, where they got into an overland emigrant train, bound for the
land of gold. But it seems before starting, Senator Benton had made a
speech in that town, in which he made the prophecy that one day there
would be a railroad connecting the Missouri River with the Pacific
Ocean. Felix told me this only a few years ago. But he said that all
the teamsters made the prediction a byword. When, crossing some of the
mountain ranges, the train halted to let the oxen blow, one bull-whacker
would say to another: 'Well, I'd like to see old Tom Benton get
his railroad over _this_ mountain.' When Felix told me this he
said--'There's a railroad to-day crosses those same mountain passes over
which we forty-niners whacked our bulls. And to think I was a grown man
and had no more sense or foresight than a little baby blinkin' its eyes
in the sun.'"

With years at Las Palomas, I learned to like the old ranchero. There was
something of the strong, primitive man about him which compelled a
youth of my years to listen to his counsel. His confidence in me was a
compliment which I appreciate to this day. When I had been in his employ
hardly two years, an incident occurred which, though only one of many
similar acts cementing our long friendship, tested his trust.

One morning just as he was on the point of starting on horseback to
the county seat to pay his taxes, a Mexican arrived at the ranch and
announced that he had seen a large band of _javalina_ on the border of
the chaparral up the river. Uncle Lance had promised his taxes by a
certain date, but he was a true sportsman and owned a fine pack of
hounds; moreover, the peccary is a migratory animal and does not wait
upon the pleasure of the hunter. As I rode out from the corrals to learn
what had brought the vaquero with such haste, the old ranchero cried,
"Here, Tom, you'll have to go to the county seat. Buckle this money belt
under your shirt, and if you lack enough gold to cover the taxes, you'll
find silver here in my saddle-bags. Blow the horn, boys, and get the
guns. Lead the way, Pancho. And say, Tom, better leave the road after
crossing the Sordo, and strike through that mesquite country," he called
back as he swung into the saddle and started, leaving me a sixty-mile
ride in his stead. His warning to leave the road after crossing the
creek was timely, for a ranchman had been robbed by bandits on that road
the month before. But I made the ride in safety before sunset, paying
the taxes, amounting to over a thousand dollars.

During all our acquaintance, extending over a period of twenty years,
Lance Lovelace was a constant revelation to me, for he was original in
all things. Knowing no precedent, he recognized none which had not the
approval of his own conscience. Where others were content to follow, he
blazed his own pathways--immaterial to him whether they were followed by
others or even noticed. In his business relations and in his own way, he
was exact himself and likewise exacting of others. Some there are who
might criticise him for an episode which occurred about four years after
my advent at Las Palomas.

Mr. Whitley Booth, a younger man and a brother-in-law of the old
ranchero by his first wife, rode into the ranch one evening, evidently
on important business. He was not a frequent caller, for he was also a
ranchman, living about forty miles north and west on the Frio River, but
was in the habit of bringing his family down to the Nueces about twice a
year for a visit of from ten days to two weeks' duration. But this time,
though we had been expecting the family for some little time, he came
alone, remained over night, and at breakfast ordered his horse, as if
expecting to return at once. The two ranchmen were holding a conference
in the sitting-room when a Mexican boy came to me at the corrals and
said I was wanted in the house. On my presenting myself, my employer
said: "Tom, I want you as a witness to a business transaction. I'm
lending Whit, here, a thousand dollars, and as we have never taken any
notes between us, I merely want you as a witness. Go into my room,
please, and bring out, from under my bed, one of those largest bags of

The door was unlocked, and there, under the ranchero's bed,
dust-covered, were possibly a dozen sacks of silver. Finding one tagged
with the required amount, I brought it out and laid it on the table
between the two men. But on my return I noticed Uncle Lance had turned
his chair from the table and was gazing out of the window, apparently
absorbed in thought. I saw at a glance that he was gazing into the past,
for I had become used to these reveries on his part. I had not been
excused, and an embarrassing silence ensued, which was only broken as he
looked over his shoulder and said: "There it is, Whit; count it if you
want to."

But Mr. Booth, knowing the oddities of Uncle Lance, hesitated.
"Well--why--Look here, Lance. If you have any reason for not wanting to
loan me this amount, why, say so."

"There's the money, Whit; take it if you want to. It'll pay for the
hundred cows you are figuring on buying. But I was just thinking: can
two men at our time of life, who have always been friends, afford to
take the risk of letting a business transaction like this possibly make
us enemies? You know I started poor here, and what I have made and
saved is the work of my lifetime. You are welcome to the money, but if
anything should happen that you didn't repay me, you know I wouldn't
feel right towards you. It's probably my years that does it, but--now, I
always look forward to the visits of your family, and Jean and I always
enjoy our visits at your ranch. I think we'd be two old fools to allow
anything to break up those pleasant relations." Uncle Lance turned in
his chair, and, looking into the downcast countenance of Mr. Booth,
continued: "Do you know, Whit, that youngest girl of yours reminds me of
her aunt, my own Mary, in a hundred ways. I just love to have your girls
tear around this old ranch--they seem to give me back certain glimpses
of my youth that are priceless to an old man."

"That'll do, Lance," said Mr. Booth, rising and extending his hand. "I
don't want the money now. Your view of the matter is right, and our
friendship is worth more than a thousand cattle to me. Lizzie and the
girls were anxious to come with me, and I'll go right back and send them



Within a few months after my arrival at Las Palomas, there was a dance
at Shepherd's Ferry. There was no necessity for an invitation to such
local meets; old and young alike were expected and welcome, and a dance
naturally drained the sparsely settled community of its inhabitants from
forty to fifty miles in every direction. On the Nueces in 1875, the
amusements of the countryside were extremely limited; barbecues,
tournaments, and dancing covered the social side of ranch life, and
whether given up or down our home river, or north on the Frio, so they
were within a day's ride, the white element of Las Palomas could always
be depended on to be present, Uncle Lance in the lead.

Shepherd's Ferry is somewhat of a misnomer, for the water in the river
was never over knee-deep to a horse, except during freshets. There may
have been a ferry there once; but from my advent on the river there was
nothing but a store, the keeper of which also conducted a road-house
for the accommodation of travelers. There was a fine grove for picnic
purposes within easy reach, which was also frequently used for
camp-meeting purposes. Gnarly old live-oaks spread their branches like
a canopy over everything, while the sea-green moss hung from every limb
and twig, excluding the light and lazily waving with every vagrant
breeze. The fact that these grounds were also used for camp-meetings
only proved the broad toleration of the people. On this occasion I
distinctly remember that Miss Jean introduced a lady to me, who was the
wife of an Episcopal minister, then visiting on a ranch near Oakville,
and I danced several times with her and found her very amiable.

On receipt of the news of the approaching dance at the ferry, we set
the ranch in order. Fortunately, under seasonable conditions work on
a cattle range is never pressing. A programme of work outlined for a
certain week could easily be postponed a week or a fortnight for that
matter; for this was the land of "la mañana," and the white element
on Las Palomas easily adopted the easy-going methods of their Mexican
neighbors. So on the day everything was in readiness. The ranch was a
trifle over thirty miles from Shepherd's, which was a fair half day's
ride, but as Miss Jean always traveled by ambulance, it was necessary to
give her an early start. Las Palomas raised fine horses and mules, and
the ambulance team for the ranch consisted of four mealy-muzzled brown
mules, which, being range bred, made up in activity what they lacked in

Tiburcio, a trusty Mexican, for years in the employ of Uncle Lance, was
the driver of the ambulance, and at an early morning hour he and his
mules were on their mettle and impatient to start. But Miss Jean had
a hundred petty things to look after. The lunch--enough for a
round-up--was prepared, and was safely stored under the driver's seat.
Then there were her own personal effects and the necessary dressing and
tidying, with Uncle Lance dogging her at every turn.

"Now, Sis," said he, "I want you to rig yourself out in something
sumptuous, because I expect to make a killing with you at this dance.
I'm almost sure that that Louisiana mule-drover will be there. You know
you made quite an impression on him when he was through here two years
ago. Well, I'll take a hand in the game this time, and if there's any
marry in him, he'll have to lead trumps. I'm getting tired of having my
dear sister trifled with by every passing drover. Yes, I am! The next
one that hangs around Las Palomas, basking in your smiles, has got to
declare his intentions whether he buys mules or not. Oh, you've got a
brother, Sis, that'll look out for you. But you must play your part.
Now, if that mule-buyer's there, shall I"--

"Why, certainly, brother, invite him to the ranch," replied Miss Jean,
as she busied herself with the preparations. "It's so kind of you to
look after me. I was listening to every word you said, and I've got my
best bib and tucker in that hand box. And just you watch me dazzle that
Mr. Mule-buyer. Strange you didn't tell me sooner about his being in the
country. Here, take these boxes out to the ambulance. And, say, I put
in the middle-sized coffee pot, and do you think two packages of ground
coffee will be enough? All right, then. Now, where's my gloves?"

We were all dancing attendance in getting the ambulance off, but Uncle
Lance never relaxed his tormenting, "Come, now, hurry up," said he, as
Jean and himself led the way to the gate where the conveyance stood
waiting; "for I want you to look your best this evening, and you'll be
all tired out if you don't get a good rest before the dance begins. Now,
in case the mule-buyer don't show up, how about Sim Oliver? You see, I
can put in a good word there just as easily as not. Of course, he's a
widower like myself, but you're no spring pullet--you wouldn't class
among the buds--besides Sim branded eleven hundred calves last year. And
the very last time I was talking to him, he allowed he'd crowd thirteen
hundred close this year--big calf crop, you see. Now, just why he should
go to the trouble to tell me all this, unless he had his eye on you, is
one too many for me. But if you want me to cut him out of your string of
eligibles, say the word, and I'll chouse him out. You just bet, little
girl, whoever wins you has got to score right. Great Scott! but you have
good taste in selecting perfumery. Um-ee! it makes me half drunk to walk
alongside of you. Be sure and put some of that ointment on your kerchief
when you get there."

"Really," said Miss Jean, as they reached the ambulance, "I wish you
had made a little memorandum of what I'm expected to do--I'm all in a
flutter this morning. You see, without your help my case is hopeless.
But I think I'll try for the mule-buyer. I'm getting tired looking at
these slab-sided cowmen. Now, just look at those mules--haven't had a
harness on in a month. And Tiburcio can't hold four of them, nohow.
Lance, it looks like you'd send one of the boys to drive me down to the

"Why, Lord love you, girl, those mules are as gentle as kittens; and you
don't suppose I'm going to put some gringo over a veteran like Tiburcio.
Why, that old boy used to drive for Santa Anna during the invasion
in '36. Besides, I'm sending Theodore and Glenn on horseback as a
bodyguard. Las Palomas is putting her best foot forward this morning in
giving you a stylish turnout, with outriders in their Sunday livery. And
those two boys are the best ropers on the ranch, so if the mules run off
just give one of your long, keen screams, and the boys will rope and
hog-tie every mule in the team. Get in now and don't make any faces
about it."

It was pettishness and not timidity that ailed Jean Lovelace, for a
pioneer woman like herself had of course no fear of horse-flesh. But
the team was acting in a manner to unnerve an ordinary woman. With
me clinging to the bits of the leaders, and a man each holding the
wheelers, as they pawed the ground and surged about in their creaking
harness, they were anything but gentle; but Miss Jean proudly took her
seat; Tiburcio fingered the reins in placid contentment; there was a
parting volley of admonitions from brother and sister--the latter was
telling us where we would find our white shirts--when Uncle Lance
signaled to us; and we sprang away from the team. The ambulance gave a
lurch, forward, as the mules started on a run, but Tiburcio dexterously
threw them on to a heavy bed of sand, poured the whip into them as they
labored through it; they crossed the sand bed, Glenn Gallup and Theodore
Quayle, riding, at their heads, pointed the team into the road, and they
were off.

The rest of us busied ourselves getting up saddle horses and dressing
for the occasion. In the latter we had no little trouble, for dress
occasions like this were rare with us. Miss Jean had been thoughtful
enough to lay our clothes out, but there was a busy borrowing of collars
and collar buttons, and a blacking of boots which made the sweat stand
out on our foreheads in beads. After we were dressed and ready to start,
Uncle Lance could not be induced to depart from his usual custom, and
wear his trousers outside his boots. Then we had to pull the boots off
and polish them clear up to the ears in order to make him presentable.
But we were in no particular hurry about starting, as we expected to out
across the country and would overtake the ambulance at the mouth of the
Arroyo Seco in time for the noonday lunch. There were six in our party,
consisting of Dan Happersett, Aaron Scales, John Cotton, June Deweese,
Uncle Lance, and myself. With the exception of Deweese, who was nearly
twenty-five years old, the remainder of the boys on the ranch were young
fellows, several of whom besides myself had not yet attained their
majority. On ranch work, in the absence of our employer, June was
recognized as the _segundo_ of Los Palomas, owing to his age and his
long employment on the ranch. He was a trustworthy man, and we younger
lads entertained no envy towards him.

It was about nine o'clock when we mounted our horses and started. We
jollied along in a party, or separated into pairs in cross-country
riding, covering about seven miles an hour. "I remember," said Uncle
Lance, as we were riding in a group, "the first time I was ever at
Shepherd's Ferry. We had been down the river on a cow hunt for about
three weeks and had run out of bacon. We had been eating beef, and
venison, and antelope for a week until it didn't taste right any longer,
so I sent the outfit on ahead and rode down to the store in the hope of
getting a piece of bacon. Shepherd had just established the place at the
time, and when I asked him if he had any bacon, he said he had, 'But is
it good?' I inquired, and before he could reply an eight-year-old boy of
his stepped between us, and throwing back his tow head, looked up into
my face and said: 'Mister, it's a little the best I ever tasted.'"

"Now, June," said Uncle Lance, as we rode along, "I want you to let
Henry Annear's wife strictly alone to-night. You know what a stink it
raised all along the river, just because you danced with her once, last
San Jacinto day. Of course, Henry made a fool of himself by trying to
borrow a six-shooter and otherwise getting on the prod. And I'll admit
that it don't take the best of eyesight to see that his wife to-day
thinks more of your old boot than she does of Annear's wedding suit,
yet her husband will be the last man to know it. No man can figure to a
certainty on a woman. Three guesses is not enough, for she will and she
won't, and she'll straddle the question or take the fence, and when you
put a copper on her to win, she loses. God made them just that way,
and I don't want to criticise His handiwork. But if my name is Lance
Lovelace, and I'm sixty-odd years old, and this a chestnut horse that
I'm riding, then Henry Annear's wife is an unhappy woman. But that fact,
son, don't give you any license to stir up trouble between man and wife.
Now, remember, I've warned you not to dance, speak to, or even notice
her on this occasion. The chances are that that locoed fool will come
heeled this time, and if you give him any excuse, he may burn a little

June promised to keep on his good behavior, saying: "That's just what
I've made up my mind to do. But look'ee here: Suppose he goes on the war
path, you can't expect me to show the white feather, nor let him run any
sandys over me. I loved his wife once and am not ashamed of it, and he
knows it. And much as I want to obey you, Uncle Lance, if he attempts to
stand up a bluff on me, just as sure as hell's hot there'll be a strange
face or two in heaven."

I was a new man on the ranch and unacquainted with the facts, so shortly
afterwards I managed to drop to the rear with Dan Happersett, and got
the particulars. It seems that June and Mrs. Annear had not only been
sweethearts, but that they had been engaged, and that the engagement had
been broken within a month of the day set for their wedding, and that
she had married Annear on a three weeks' acquaintance. Little wonder
Uncle Lance took occasion to read the riot act to his _segundo_ in the
interests of peace. This was all news to me, but secretly I wished June
courage and a good aim if it ever came to a show-down between them.

We reached the Arroyo Seco by high noon, and found the ambulance in camp
and the coffee pot boiling. Under the direction of Miss Jean, Tiburcio
had removed the seats from the conveyance, so as to afford seating
capacity for over half our number. The lunch was spread under an old
live-oak on the bank of the Nueces, making a cosy camp. Miss Jean had
the happy knack of a good hostess, our twenty-mile ride had whetted
our appetites, and we did ample justice to her tempting spread. After
luncheon was over and while the team was being harnessed in, I noticed
Miss Jean enticing Deweese off on one side, where the two held a
whispered conversation, seated on an old fallen tree. As they returned,
June was promising something which she had asked of him. And if
there was ever a woman lived who could exact a promise that would be
respected, Jean Lovelace was that woman; for she was like an elder
sister to us all.

In starting, the ambulance took the lead as before, and near the middle
of the afternoon we reached the ferry. The merry-makers were assembling
from every quarter, and on our arrival possibly a hundred had come,
which number was doubled by the time the festivities began. We turned
our saddle and work stock into a small pasture, and gave ourselves over
to the fast-gathering crowd. I was delighted to see that Miss Jean
and Uncle Lance were accorded a warm welcome by every one, for I was
somewhat of a stray on this new range. But when it became known that I
was a recent addition to Las Palomas, the welcome was extended to me,
which I duly appreciated.

The store and hostelry did a rushing business during the evening hours,
for the dance did not begin until seven. A Mexican orchestra, consisting
of a violin, an Italian harp, and two guitars, had come up from Oakville
to furnish the music for the occasion. Just before the dance commenced,
I noticed Uncle Lance greet a late arrival, and on my inquiring of June
who he might be, I learned that the man was Captain Frank Byler from
Lagarto, the drover Uncle Lance had been teasing Miss Jean about in the
morning, and a man, as I learned later, who drove herds of horses north
on the trail during the summer and during the winter drove mules and
horses to Louisiana, for sale among the planters. Captain Byler was a
good-looking, middle-aged fellow, and I made up my mind at once that he
was due to rank as the lion of the evening among the ladies.

It is useless to describe this night of innocent revelry. It was a
rustic community, and the people assembled were, with few exceptions,
purely pastoral. There may have been earnest vows spoken under those
spreading oaks--who knows? But if there were, the retentive ear which
listened, and the cautious tongue which spake the vows, had no intention
of having their confidences profaned on this page. Yet it was a night
long to be remembered. Timid lovers sat apart, oblivious to the gaze
of the merry revelers. Matrons and maidens vied with each other in
affability to the sterner sex. I had a most enjoyable time.

I spoke Spanish well, and made it a point to cultivate the acquaintance
of the leader of the orchestra. On his learning that I also played the
violin, he promptly invited me to play a certain new waltz which he was
desirous of learning. But I had no sooner taken the violin in my hand
than the lazy rascal lighted a cigarette and strolled away, absenting
himself for nearly an hour. But I was familiar with the simple dance
music of the country, and played everything that was called for. My
talent was quite a revelation to the boys of our ranch, and especially
to the owner and mistress of Las Palomas. The latter had me play several
old Colorado River favorites of hers, and I noticed that when she had
the dashing Captain Byler for her partner, my waltzes seemed never long
enough to suit her.

After I had been relieved, Miss Jean introduced me to a number of nice
girls, and for the remainder of the evening I had no lack of partners.
But there was one girl there whom I had not been introduced to, who
always avoided my glance when I looked at her, but who, when we were in
the same set and I squeezed her hand, had blushed just too lovely. When
that dance was over, I went to Miss Jean for an introduction, but she
did not know her, so I appealed to Uncle Lance, for I knew he could
give the birth date of every girl present. We took a stroll through the
crowd, and when I described her by her big eyes, he said in a voice so
loud that I felt sure she must hear: "Why, certainly, I know her. That's
Esther McLeod. I've trotted her on my knee a hundred times. She's the
youngest girl of old man Donald McLeod who used to ranch over on the
mouth of the San Miguel, north on the Frio. Yes, I'll give you an
interslaption." Then in a subdued tone: "And if you can drop your rope
on her, son, tie her good and fast, for she's good stock."

I was made acquainted as his latest adopted son, and inferred the old
ranchero's approbation by many a poke in the ribs from him in the
intervals between dances; for Esther and I danced every dance together
until dawn. No one could charge me with neglect or inattention, for I
close-herded her like a hired hand. She mellowed nicely towards me after
the ice was broken, and with the limited time at my disposal, I made
hay. When the dance broke up with the first signs of day, I saddled
her horse and assisted her to mount, when I received the cutest little
invitation, 'if ever I happened over on the Sau Miguel, to try and
call.' Instead of beating about the bush, I assured her bluntly that if
she ever saw me on Miguel Creek, it would be intentional; for I should
have made the ride purely to see her. She blushed again in a way which
sent a thrill through me. But on the Nueces in '75, if a fellow took a
fancy to a girl there was no harm in showing it or telling her so.

I had been so absorbed during the latter part of the night that I had
paid little attention to the rest of the Las Palomas outfit, though
I occasionally caught sight of Miss Jean and the drover, generally
dancing, sometimes promenading, and once had a glimpse of them
tête-à-tête on a rustic settee in a secluded corner. Our employer seldom
danced, but kept his eye on June Deweese in the interests of peace, for
Annear and his wife were both present. Once while Esther and I were
missing a dance over some light refreshment, I had occasion to watch
June as he and Annear danced in the same set. I thought the latter
acted rather surly, though Deweese was the acme of geniality, and was
apparently having the time of his life as he tripped through the mazes
of the dance. Had I not known of the deadly enmity existing between
them, I could never have suspected anything but friendship, he was
acting the part so perfectly. But then I knew he had given his plighted
word to the master and mistress, and nothing but an insult or indignity
could tempt him to break it.

On the return trip, we got the ambulance off before sunrise, expecting
to halt and breakfast again at the Arroyo Seco. Aaron Scales and Dan
Happersett acted as couriers to Miss Jean's conveyance, while the rest
dallied behind, for there was quite a cavalcade of young folks going a
distance our way. This gave Uncle Lance a splendid chance to quiz the
girls in the party. I was riding with a Miss Wilson from Ramirena, who
had come up to make a visit at a near-by ranch and incidentally attend
the dance at Shepherd's. I admit that I was a little too much absorbed
over another girl to be very entertaining, but Uncle Lance helped out by
joining us. "Nice morning overhead, Miss Wilson," said he, on riding up.
"Say, I've waited just as long as I'm going to for that invitation to
your wedding which you promised me last summer. Now, I don't know so
much about the young men down about Ramirena, but when I was a youngster
back on the Colorado, when a boy loved a girl he married her, whether it
was Friday or Monday, rain or shine. I'm getting tired of being put
off with promises. Why, actually, I haven't been to a wedding in three
years. What are we coming to?"


On reaching the road where Miss Wilson and her party separated from us,
Uncle Lance returned to the charge: "Now, no matter how busy I am when I
get your invitation, I don't care if the irons are in the fire and the
cattle in the corral, I'll drown the fire and turn the cows out. And if
Las Palomas has a horse that'll carry me, I'll merely touch the high
places in coming. And when I get there I'm willing to do anything,--give
the bride away, say grace, or carve the turkey. And what's more, I never
kissed a bride in my life that didn't have good luck. Tell your pa you
saw me. Good-by, dear."

On overtaking the ambulance in camp, our party included about twenty,
several of whom were young ladies; but Miss Jean insisted that every
one remain for breakfast, assuring them that she had abundance for
all. After the impromptu meal was disposed of, we bade our adieus and
separated to the four quarters. Before we had gone far, Uncle Lance
rode alongside of me and said: "Tom, why didn't you tell me you was a
fiddler? God knows you're lazy enough to be a good one, and you ought to
be good on a bee course. But what made me warm to you last night was the
way you built to Esther McLeod. Son, you set her cush about right. If
you can hold sight on a herd of beeves on a bad night like you did her,
you'll be a foreman some day. And she's not only good blood herself, but
she's got cattle and land. Old man Donald, her father, was killed in
the Confederate army. He was an honest Scotchman who kept Sunday and
everything else he could lay his hands on. In all my travels I never met
a man who could offer a longer prayer or take a bigger drink of whiskey.
I remember the first time I ever saw him. He was serving on the grand
jury, and I was a witness in a cattle-stealing case. He was a stranger
to me, and we had just sat down at the same table at a hotel for dinner.
We were on the point of helping ourselves, when the old Scot arose and
struck the table a blow that made the dishes rattle. 'You heathens,'
said he, 'will you partake of the bounty of your Heavenly Father without
returning thanks?' We laid down our knives and forks like boys caught in
a watermelon patch, and the old man asked a blessing. I've been at his
house often. He was a good man, but Secession caught him and he never
came back. So, Quirk, you see, a son-in-law will be a handy man in the
family, and with the start you made last night I hope for good results."
The other boys seemed to enjoy my embarrassment, but I said nothing in
reply, being a new man with the outfit. We reached the ranch an hour
before noon, two hours in advance of the ambulance; and the sleeping we
did until sunrise the next morning required no lullaby.



There is something about those large ranches of southern Texas that
reminds one of the old feudal system. The pathetic attachment to the
soil of those born to certain Spanish land grants can only be compared
to the European immigrant when for the last time he looks on the land of
his birth before sailing. Of all this Las Palomas was typical. In the
course of time several such grants had been absorbed into its baronial
acres. But it had always been the policy of Uncle Lance never to disturb
the Mexican population; rather he encouraged them to remain in his
service. Thus had sprung up around Las Palomas ranch a little Mexican
community numbering about a dozen families, who lived in _jacals_ close
to the main ranch buildings. They were simple people, and rendered their
new master a feudal loyalty. There were also several small _ranchites_
located on the land, where, under the Mexican régime, there had been
pretentious adobe buildings. A number of families still resided at these
deserted ranches, content in cultivating small fields or looking after
flocks of goats and a few head of cattle, paying no rental save a
service tenure to the new owner.

The customs of these Mexican people were simple and primitive. They
blindly accepted the religious teachings imposed with fire and sword
by the Spanish conquerors upon their ancestors. A padre visited them
yearly, christening the babes, marrying the youth, shriving the
penitent, and saying masses for the repose of the souls of the departed.
Their social customs were in many respects unique. For instance,
in courtship a young man was never allowed in the presence of his
inamorata, unless in company of others, or under the eye of a chaperon.
Proposals, even among the nearest of neighbors or most intimate of
friends, were always made in writing, usually by the father of the
young man to the parents of the girl, but in the absence of such, by a
godfather or _padrino_. Fifteen days was the term allowed for a reply,
and no matter how desirable the match might be, it was not accounted
good taste to answer before the last day. The owner of Las Palomas
was frequently called upon to act as _padrino_ for his people, and so
successful had he always been that the vaqueros on his ranch preferred
his services to those of their own fathers. There was scarcely a vaquero
at the home ranch but, in time past, had invoked his good offices in
this matter, and he had come to be looked on as their patron saint.

The month of September was usually the beginning of the branding season
at Las Palomas. In conducting this work, Uncle Lance was the leader, and
with the white element already enumerated, there were twelve to fifteen
vaqueros included in the branding outfit. The dance at Shepherd's had
delayed the beginning of active operations, and a large calf crop, to
say nothing of horse and mule colts, now demanded our attention and
promised several months' work. The year before, Las Palomas had branded
over four thousand calves, and the range was now dotted with the crop,
awaiting the iron stamp of ownership.

The range was an open one at the time, compelling us to work far beyond
the limits of our employer's land. Fortified with our own commissary,
and with six to eight horses apiece in our mount, we scoured the country
for a radius of fifty miles. When approaching another range, it was our
custom to send a courier in advance to inquire of the ranchero when it
would be convenient for him to give us a rodeo. A day would be set, when
our outfit and the vaqueros of that range rounded up all the cattle
watering at given points. Then we cut out the Las Palomas brand, and
held them under herd or started them for the home ranch, where the
calves were to be branded. In this manner we visited all the adjoining
ranches, taking over a month to make the circuit of the ranges.

In making the tour, the first range we worked was that of rancho Santa
Maria, south of our range and on the head of Tarancalous Creek. On
approaching the ranch, as was customary, we prepared to encamp and ask
for a rodeo. But in the choice of a vaquero to be dispatched on this
mission, a spirited rivalry sprang up. When Uncle Lance learned that the
rivalry amongst the vaqueros was meant to embarrass Enrique Lopez, who
was _oso_ to Anita, the pretty daughter of the corporal of Santa Maria,
his matchmaking instincts came to the fore. Calling Enrique to one side,
he made the vaquero confess that he had been playing for the favor of
the señorita at Santa Maria. Then he dispatched Enrique on the mission,
bidding him carry the choicest compliments of Las Palomas to every Don
and Doña of Santa Maria. And Enrique was quite capable of adding a few
embellishments to the old matchmaker's extravagant flatteries.

Enrique was in camp next morning, but at what hour of the night he had
returned is unknown. The rodeo had been granted for the following day;
there was a pressing invitation to Don Lance--unless he was willing
to offend--to spend the idle day as the guest of Don Mateo. Enrique
elaborated the invitation with a thousand adornments. But the owner of
Las Palomas had lived nearly forty years among the Spanish-American
people on the Nueces, and knew how to make allowances for the exuberance
of the Latin tongue. There was no telling to what extent Enrique could
have kept on delivering messages, but to his employer he was avoiding
the issue.

"But did you get to see Anita?" interrupted Uncle Lance. Yes, he had
seen her, but that was about all. Did not Don Lance know the customs
among the Castilians? There was her mother ever present, or if she must
absent herself, there was a bevy of _tias comadres_ surrounding her,
until the Doña Anita dare not even raise her eyes to meet his. "To
perdition with such customs, no?" The freedom of a cow camp is a
splendid opportunity to relieve one's mind upon prevailing injustices.

"Don't fret your cattle so early in the morning, son," admonished
the wary matchmaker. "I've handled worse cases than this before. You
Mexicans are sticklers on customs, and we must deal with our neighbors
carefully. Before I show my hand in this, there's just one thing I want
to know--is the girl willing? Whenever you can satisfy me on that point,
Enrique, just call on the old man. But before that I won't stir a step.
You remember what a time I had over Tiburcio's Juan--that's so, you were
too young then. Well, June here remembers it. Why, the girl just cut up
shamefully. Called Juan an Indian peon, and bragged about her Castilian
family until you'd have supposed she was a princess of the blood royal.
Why, it took her parents and myself a whole day to bring the girl around
to take a sensible view of matters. On my soul, except that I didn't
want to acknowledge defeat, I felt a dozen times like telling her to
go straight up. And when she did marry you, she was as happy as a
lark--wasn't she, Juan? But I like to have the thing over with in--well,
say half an hour's time. Then we can have refreshments, and smoke, and
discuss the prospects of the young couple."

Uncle Lance's question was hard to answer. Enrique had known the girl
for several years, had danced with her on many a feast day, and never
lost an opportunity to whisper the old, old story in her willing ear.
Others had done the like, but the dark-eyed señorita is an adept in the
art of coquetry, and there you are. But Enrique swore a great oath he
would know. Yes, he would. He would lay siege to her as he had never
done before. He would become _un oso grande_. Just wait until the
branding was over and the fiestas of the Christmas season were on, and
watch him dog her every step until he received her signal of surrender.
Witness, all the saints, this row of Enrique Lopez, that the Doña Anita
should have no peace of mind, no, not for one little minute, until she
had made a complete capitulation. Then Don Lauce, the _padrino_ of Las
Palomas, would at once write the letter which would command the hand of
the corporal's daughter. Who could refuse such a request, and what was a
daughter of Santa Maria compared to a son of Las Palomas?

Tarancalous Creek ran almost due east, and rancho Santa Maria was
located near its source, depending more on its wells for water supply
than on the stream which only flowed for a few months during the year.
Where the watering facilities were so limited the rodeo was an easy
matter. A number of small round-ups at each established watering point,
a swift cutting out of everything bearing the Las Palomas brand, and we
moved on to the next rodeo, for we had an abundance of help at Santa
Maria. The work was finished by the middle of the afternoon. After
sending, under five or six men, our cut of several hundred cattle
westward on our course, our outfit rode into rancho Santa Maria proper
to pay our respects. Our wagon had provided an abundant dinner for our
assistants and ourselves; but it would have been, in Mexican etiquette,
extremely rude on our part not to visit the rancho and partake of a cup
of coffee and a cigarette, thanking the ranchero on parting for his
kindness in granting us the rodeo.

So when the last round-up was reached, Don Mateo and Uncle Lance turned
the work over to their corporals, and in advance rode up to Santa Maria.
The vaqueros of our ranch were anxious to visit the rancho, so it
devolved on the white element to take charge of the cut. Being a
stranger to Santa Maria, I was allowed to accompany our _segundo_,
June Deweese, on an introductory visit. On arriving at the rancho, the
vaqueros scattered among the _jacals_ of their _amigos_, while June and
myself were welcomed at the _casa primero_. There we found Uncle Lance
partaking of refreshment, and smoking a cigarette as though he had been
born a Señor Don of some ruling hacienda. June and I were seated at
another table, where we were served with coffee, wafers, and home-made
cigarettes. This was perfectly in order, but I could hardly control
myself over the extravagant Spanish our employer was using in expressing
the amity existing between Santa Maria and Las Palomas. In ordinary
conversation, such as cattle and ranch affairs, Uncle Lance had a good
command of Spanish; but on social and delicate topics some of his
efforts were ridiculous in the extreme. He was well aware of his
shortcomings, and frequently appealed to me to assist him. As a boy my
playmates had been Mexican children, so that I not only spoke Spanish
fluently but could also readily read and write it. So it was no surprise
to me that, before taking our departure, my employer should command
my services as an interpreter in driving an entering wedge. He was
particular to have me assure our host and hostess of his high regard for
them, and his hope that in the future even more friendly relations might
exist between the two ranches. Had Santa Maria no young cavalier for the
hand of some daughter of Las Palomas? Ah! there was the true bond for
future friendships. Well, well, if the soil of this rancho was so
impoverished, then the sons of Las Palomas must take the bit in their
teeth and come courting to Santa Maria. And let Doña Gregoria look well
to her daughters, for the young men of Las Palomas, true to their race,
were not only handsome fellows but ardent lovers, and would be hard to

After taking our leave and catching up with the cattle, we pushed
westward for the Ganso, our next stream of water. This creek was a
tributary to the Nueces, and we worked down it several days, or until
we had nearly a thousand cattle and were within thirty miles of home.
Turning this cut over to June Deweese and a few vaqueros to take in
to the ranch and brand, the rest of us turned westward and struck the
Nueces at least fifty miles above Las Palomas. For the next few days
our dragnet took in both sides of the Nueces, and when, on reaching
the mouth of the Ganso, we were met by Deweese and the vaqueros we had
another bunch of nearly a thousand ready. Dan Happersett was dispatched
with the second bunch for branding, when we swung north to Mr. Booth's
ranch on the Frio, where we rested a day. But there is little recreation
on a cow hunt, and we were soon under full headway again. By the time we
had worked down the Frio, opposite headquarters, we had too large a herd
to carry conveniently, and I was sent in home with them, never
rejoining the outfit until they reached Shepherd's Ferry. This was a
disappointment to me, for I had hopes that when the outfit worked the
range around the mouth of San Miguel, I might find some excuse to visit
the McLeod ranch and see Esther. But after turning back up the home
river to within twenty miles of the ranch, we again turned southward,
covering the intervening ranches rapidly until we struck the Tarancalous
about twenty-five miles east of Santa Maria.

We had spent over thirty days in making this circle, gathering over five
thousand cattle, about one third of which were cows with calves by their
sides. On the remaining gap in the circle we lost two days in waiting
for rodeos, or gathering independently along the Tarancalous, and, on
nearing the Santa Maria range, we had nearly fifteen hundred cattle. Our
herd passed within plain view of the rancho, but we did not turn aside,
preferring to make a dry camp for the night, some five or six miles
further on our homeward course. But since we had used the majority of
our _remuda_ very hard that day, Uncle Lance dispatched Enrique and
myself, with our wagon and saddle horses, by way of Santa Maria, to
water our saddle stock and refill our kegs for camping purposes. Of
course, the compliments of our employer to the ranchero of Santa Maria
went with the _remuda_ and wagon.

I delivered the compliments and regrets to Don Mateo, and asked the
permission to water our saddle stock, which was readily granted. This
required some time, for we had about a hundred and twenty-five loose
horses with us, and the water had to be raised by rope and pulley from
the pommel of a saddle horse. After watering the team we refilled our
kegs, and the cook pulled out to overtake the herd, Enrique and I
staying to water the _remuda_. Enrique, who was riding the saddle horse,
while I emptied the buckets as they were hoisted to the surface, was
evidently killing time. By his dilatory tactics, I knew the young rascal
was delaying in the hope of getting a word with the Doña Anita. But
it was getting late, and at the rate we were hoisting darkness would
overtake us before we could reach the herd. So I ordered Enrique to the
bucket, while I took my own horse and furnished the hoisting power. We
were making some headway with the work, when a party of women, among
them the Doña Anita, came down to the well to fill vessels for house

This may have been all chance--and then again it may not. But the
gallant Enrique now outdid himself, filling jar after jar and lifting
them to the shoulder of the bearer with the utmost zeal and amid a
profusion of compliments. I was annoyed at the interruption in our work,
but I could see that Enrique was now in the highest heaven of delight.
The Doña Anita's mother was present, and made it her duty to notice that
only commonplace formalities passed between her daughter and the ardent
vaquero. After the jars were all filled, the bevy of women started on
their return; but Doña Anita managed to drop a few feet to the rear of
the procession, and, looking back, quietly took up one corner of her
mantilla, and with a little movement, apparently all innocence, flashed
a message back to the entranced Enrique. I was aware of the flirtation,
but before I had made more of it Enrique sprang down from the abutment
of the well, dragged me from my horse, and in an ecstasy of joy,
crouching behind the abutments, cried: Had I seen the sign? Had I not
noticed her token? Was my brain then so befuddled? Did I not understand
the ways of the señoritas among his people?--that they always answered
by a wave of the handkerchief, or the mantilla? Ave Maria, Tomas! Such
stupidity! Why, to be sure, they could talk all day with their eyes.


A setting sun finally ended his confidences, and the watering was soon
finished, for Enrique lowered the bucket in a gallop. On our reaching
the herd and while we were catching our night horses, Uncle Lance strode
out to the rope corral, with the inquiry, what had delayed us. "Nothing
particular," I replied, and looked at Enrique, who shrugged his
shoulders and repeated my answer. "Now, look here, you young liars,"
said the old ranchero; "the wagon has been in camp over an hour, and,
admitting it did start before you, you had plenty of time to water the
saddle stock and overtake it before it could possibly reach the herd. I
can tell a lie myself, but a good one always has some plausibility. You
rascals were up to some mischief, I'll warrant."

I had caught out my night horse, and as I led him away to saddle up,
Uncle Lance, not content with my evasive answer, followed me. "Go to
Enrique," I whispered; "he'll just bubble over at a good chance to tell
you. Yes; it was the Doña Anita who caused the delay." A smothered
chuckling shook the old man's frame, as he sauntered over to where
Enrique was saddling. As the two led off the horse to picket in the
gathering dusk, the ranchero had his arm around the vaquero's neck, and
I felt that the old matchmaker would soon be in possession of the facts.
A hilarious guffaw that reached me as I was picketing my horse announced
that the story was out, and as the two returned to the fire Uncle Lance
was slapping Enrique on the back at every step and calling him a lucky
dog. The news spread through the camp like wild-fire, even to the
vaqueros on night herd, who instantly began chanting an old love song.
While Enrique and I were eating our supper, our employer paced backward
and forward in meditation like a sentinel on picket, and when we had
finished our meal, he joined us around the fire, inquiring of Enrique
how soon the demand should be made for the corporal's daughter, and was
assured that it could not be done too soon. "The padre only came once a
year," he concluded, "and they must be ready."

"Well, now, this is a pretty pickle," said the old matchmaker, as he
pulled his gray mustaches; "there isn't pen or paper in the outfit. And
then we'll be busy branding on the home range for a month, and I can't
spare a vaquero a day to carry a letter to Santa Maria. And besides, I
might not be at home when the reply came. I think I'll just take the
bull by the horns; ride back in the morning and set these old precedents
at defiance, by arranging the match verbally. I can make the talk that
this country is Texas now, and that under the new regime American
customs are in order. That's what I'll do--and I'll take Tom Quirk with
me for fear I bog down in my Spanish."

But several vaqueros, who understood some English, advised Enrique of
what the old matchmaker proposed to do, when the vaquero threw his hands
in the air and began sputtering Spanish in terrified disapproval. Did
not Don Lance know that the marriage usages among his people were their
most cherished customs? "Oh, yes, son," languidly replied Uncle Lance.
"I'm some strong on the cherish myself, but not when it interferes
with my plans. It strikes me that less than a month ago I heard you
condemning to perdition certain customs of your people. Now, don't get
on too high a horse--just leave it to Tom and me. We may stay a week,
but when we come back we'll bring your betrothal with us in our vest
pockets. There was never a Mexican born who can outhold me on palaver;
and we'll eat every chicken on Santa Maria unless they surrender."

As soon as the herd had started for home the next morning, Uncle Lance
and I returned to Santa Maria. We were extended a cordial reception by
Don Mateo, and after the chronicle of happenings since the two rancheros
last met had been reviewed, the motive of our sudden return was
mentioned. By combining the vocabularies of my employer and myself, we
mentioned our errand as delicately as possible, pleading guilty and
craving every one's pardon for our rudeness in verbally conducting the
negotiations. To our surprise,--for to Mexicans customs are as rooted
as Faith,--Don Mateo took no offense and summoned Doña Gregoria. I was
playing a close second to the diplomat of our side of the house, and
when his Spanish failed him and he had recourse to English, it is
needless to say I handled matters to the best of my ability. The Spanish
is a musical, passionate language and well suited to love making, and
though this was my first use of it for that purpose, within half an hour
we had won the ranchero and his wife to our side of the question.

Then, at Don Mateo's orders, the parents of the girl were summoned. This
involved some little delay, which permitted coffee being served, and
discussion, over the cigarettes, of the commonplace matters of the
country. There was beginning to be a slight demand for cattle to drive
to the far north on the trails, some thought it was the sign of a big
development, but neither of the rancheros put much confidence in the
movement, etc., etc. The corporal and his wife suddenly made their
appearance, dressed in their best, which accounted for the delay, and
all cattle conversation instantly ceased. Uncle Lance arose and greeted
the husky corporal and his timid wife with warm cordiality. I extended
my greetings to the Mexican foreman, whom I had met at the rodeo about a
month before. We then resumed our seats, but the corporal and his wife
remained standing, and with an elegant command of his native tongue Don
Mateo informed the couple of our mission. They looked at each other in
bewilderment. Tears came into the wife's eyes. For a moment I pitied
her. Indeed, the pathetic was not lacking. But the hearty corporal
reminded his better half that her parents, in his interests, had once
been asked for her hand under similar circumstances, and the tears
disappeared. Tears are womanly; and I have since seen them shed, under
less provocation, by fairer-skinned women than this simple, swarthy
daughter of Mexico.

It was but natural that the parents of the girl should feign surprise
and reluctance if they did not feel it. The Doña Anita's mother offered
several trivial objections. Her daughter had never taken her into her
confidence over any suitor. And did Anita really love Enrique Lopez of
Las Palomas? Even if she did, could he support her, being but a vaquero?
This brought Uncle Lance to the front. He had known Enrique since the
day of his birth. As a five-year-old, and naked as the day he was born,
had he not ridden a colt at branding time, twice around the big corral
without being thrown? At ten, had he not thrown himself across a gateway
and allowed a _caballada_ of over two hundred wild range horses to jump
over his prostrate body as they passed in a headlong rush through the
gate? Only the year before at branding, when an infuriated bull had
driven every vaquero out of the corrals, did not Enrique mount his
horse, and, after baiting the bull out into the open, play with him like
a kitten with a mouse? And when the bull, tiring, attempted to make
his escape, who but Enrique had lassoed the animal by the fore feet,
breaking his neck in the throw? The diplomat of Las Palomas dejectedly
admitted that the bull was a prize animal, but could not deny that he
himself had joined in the plaudits to the daring vaquero. But if there
were a possible doubt that the Doña Anita did not love this son of Las
Palomas, then Lance Lovelace himself would oppose the union. This was an
important matter. Would Don Mateo be so kind as to summon the señorita?

The señorita came in response to the summons. She was a girl of possibly
seventeen summers, several inches taller than her mother, possessing
a beautiful complexion with large lustrous eyes. There was something
fawnlike in her timidity as she gazed at those about the table. Doña
Gregoria broke the news, informing her that the ranchero of Las Palomas
had asked her hand in marriage for Enrique, one of his vaqueros. Did she
love the man and was she willing to marry him? For reply the girl hid
her face in the mantilla of her mother. With commendable tact Doña
Gregoria led the mother and daughter into another room, from which the
two elder women soon returned with a favorable reply. Uncle Lance arose
and assured the corporal and his wife that their daughter would receive
his special care and protection; that as long as water ran and grass
grew, Las Palomas would care for her own children.

We accepted an invitation to remain for dinner, as several hours had
elapsed since our arrival. In company with the corporal, I attended to
our horses, leaving the two rancheros absorbed in a discussion of Texas
fever, rumors of which were then attracting widespread attention in the
north along the cattle trails. After dinner we took our leave of host
and hostess, promising to send Enrique to Santa Maria at the earliest

It was a long ride across country to Las Palomas, but striking a free
gait, unencumbered as we were, we covered the country rapidly. I had
somewhat doubted the old matchmaker's sincerity in making this match,
but as we rode along he told me of his own marriage to Mary Bryan, and
the one happy year of life which it brought him, mellowing into a mood
of seriousness which dispelled all doubts. It was almost sunset when we
sighted in the distance the ranch buildings at Las Palomas, and half an
hour later as we galloped up to assist the herd which was nearing the
corrals, the old man stood in his stirrups and, waving his hat, shouted
to his outfit: "Hurrah for Enrique and the Doña Anita!" And as the last
of the cattle entered the corral, a rain of lassos settled over the
smiling rascal and his horse, and we led him in triumph to the house for
Miss Jean's blessing.



The branding on the home range was an easy matter. The cattle were
compelled to water from the Nueces, so that their range was never over
five or six miles from the river. There was no occasion even to take out
the wagon, though we made a one-night camp at the mouth of the Ganso,
and another about midway between the home ranch and Shepherd's Ferry,
pack mules serving instead of the wagon. On the home range, in gathering
to brand, we never disturbed the mixed cattle, cutting out only the cows
and calves. On the round-up below the Ganso, we had over three thousand
cattle in one rodeo, finding less than five hundred calves belonging to
Las Palomas, the bulk on this particular occasion being steer cattle.
There had been little demand for steers for several seasons and they had
accumulated until many of them were fine beeves, five and six years old.

When the branding proper was concluded, our tally showed nearly
fifty-one hundred calves branded that season, indicating about twenty
thousand cattle in the Las Palomas brand. After a week's rest, with
fresh horses, we re-rode the home range in squads of two, and branded
any calves we found with a running iron. This added nearly a hundred
more to our original number. On an open range like ours, it was not
expected that everything would be branded; but on quitting, it is safe
to say we had missed less than one per cent of our calf crop.

The cattle finished, we turned our attention to the branding of the
horse stock. The Christmas season was approaching, and we wanted to get
the work well in hand for the usual holiday festivities. There were some
fifty _manadas_ of mares belonging to Las Palomas, about one fourth of
which were used for the rearing of mules, the others growing our saddle
horses for ranch use. These bands numbered twenty to twenty-five brood
mares each, and ranged mostly within twenty miles of the home ranch.
They were never disturbed except to brand the colts, market surplus
stock, or cut out the mature geldings to be broken for saddle use. Each
_manada_ had its own range, never trespassing on others, but when they
were brought together in the corral there was many a battle royal among
the stallions.

I was anxious to get the work over in good season, for I intended to ask
for a two weeks' leave of absence. My parents lived near Cibollo Ford on
the San Antonio River, and I made it a rule to spend Christmas with my
own people. This year, in particular, I had a double motive in going
home; for the mouth of San Miguel and the McLeod ranch lay directly on
my route. I had figured matters down to a fraction; I would have a good
excuse for staying one night going and another returning. And it would
be my fault if I did not reach the ranch at an hour when an invitation
to remain over night would be simply imperative under the canons of
Texas hospitality. I had done enough hard work since the dance at
Shepherd's to drive every thought of Esther McLeod out of my mind if
that were possible, but as the time drew nearer her invitation to call
was ever uppermost in my thoughts.

So when the last of the horse stock was branded and the work was drawing
to a close, as we sat around the fireplace one night and the question
came up where each of us expected to spend Christmas, I broached my
plan. The master and mistress were expected at the Booth ranch on the
Frio. Nearly all the boys, who had homes within two or three days' ride,
hoped to improve the chance to make a short visit to their people. When,
among the others, I also made my application for leave of absence, Uncle
Lance turned in his chair with apparent surprise. "What's that? You want
to go home? Well, now, that's a new one on me. Why, Tom, I never knew
you had any folks; I got the idea, somehow, that you was won on a horse
race. Here I had everything figured out to send you down to Santa Maria
with Enrique. But I reckon with the ice broken, he'll have to swim out
or drown. Where do your folks live?" I explained that they lived on the
San Antonio River, northeast about one hundred and fifty miles. At this
I saw my employer's face brighten. "Yes, yes, I see," said he musingly;
"that will carry you past the widow McLeod's. You can go, son, and good
luck to you."

I timed my departure from Las Palomas, allowing three days for the trip,
so as to reach home on Christmas eve. By making a slight deviation,
there was a country store which I could pass on the last day, where I
expected to buy some presents for my mother and sisters. But I was in a
pickle as to what to give Esther, and on consulting Miss Jean, I found
that motherly elder sister had everything thought out in advance. There
was an old Mexican woman, a pure Aztec Indian, at a ranchita belonging
to Las Palomas, who was an expert in Mexican drawn work. The mistress of
the home ranch had been a good patron of this old woman, and the next
morning we drove over to the ranchita, where I secured half a dozen
ladies' handkerchiefs, inexpensive but very rare.

I owned a private horse, which had run idle all summer, and naturally
expected to ride him on this trip. But Uncle Lance evidently wanted me
to make a good impression on the widow McLeod, and brushed my plans
aside, by asking me as a favor to ride a certain black horse belonging
to his private string. "Quirk," said he, the evening before my
departure, "I wish you would ride Wolf, that black six-year-old in my
mount. When that rascal of an Enrique saddle-broke him for me, he always
mounted him with a free head and on the move, and now when I use him
he's always on the fidget. So you just ride him over to the San Antonio
and back, and see if you can't cure him of that restlessness. It may be
my years, but I just despise a horse that's always dancing a jig when I
want to mount him."

Glenn Gallup's people lived in Victoria County, about as far from Las
Palomas as mine, and the next morning we set out down the river. Our
course together only led a short distance, but we jogged along until
noon, when we rested an hour and parted, Glenn going on down the river
for Oakville, while I turned almost due north across country for the
mouth of San Miguel. The black carried me that afternoon as though the
saddle was empty. I was constrained to hold him in, in view of the
long journey before us, so as not to reach the McLeod ranch too early.
Whenever we struck cattle on our course, I rode through them to pass
away the time, and just about sunset I cantered up to the McLeod ranch
with a dash. I did not know a soul on the place, but put on a bold front
and asked for Miss Esther. On catching sight of me, she gave a little
start, blushed modestly, and greeted me cordially.

Texas hospitality of an early day is too well known to need comment;
I was at once introduced to the McLeod household. It was rather a
pretentious ranch, somewhat dilapidated in appearance--appearances
are as deceitful on a cattle ranch as in the cut of a man's coat. Tony
Hunter, a son-in-law of the widow, was foreman on the ranch, and during
the course of the evening in the discussion of cattle matters, I
innocently drew out the fact that their branded calf crop of that season
amounted to nearly three thousand calves. When a similar question was
asked me, I reluctantly admitted that the Las Palomas crop was quite a
disappointment this year, only branding sixty-five hundred calves, but
that our mule and horse colts ran nearly a thousand head without equals
in the Nueces valley.

I knew there was no one there who could dispute my figures, though Mrs.
McLeod expressed surprise at them. "Ye dinna say," said my hostess,
looking directly at me over her spectacles, "that Las Palomas branded
that mony calves thi' year? Why, durin' ma gudeman's life we alway
branded mair calves than did Mr. Lovelace. But then my husband would
join the army, and I had tae depend on greasers tae do ma work, and oor
kye grew up mavericks." I said nothing in reply, knowing it to be quite
natural for a woman or inexperienced person to feel always the prey of
the fortunate and far-seeing.

The next morning before leaving, I managed to have a nice private talk
with Miss Esther, and thought I read my title clear, when she surprised
me with the information that her mother contemplated sending her off to
San Antonio to a private school for young ladies. Her two elder sisters
had married against her mother's wishes, it seemed, and Mrs. McLeod was
determined to give her youngest daughter an education and fit her for
something better than being the wife of a common cow hand. This was the
inference from the conversation which passed between us at the gate. But
when Esther thanked me for the Christmas remembrance I had brought her,
I felt that I would take a chance on her, win or lose. Assuring her that
I would make it a point to call on my return, I gave the black a free
rein and galloped out of sight.

I reached home late on Christmas eve. My two elder brothers, who also
followed cattle work, had arrived the day before, and the Quirk family
were once more united, for the first time in two years. Within an hour
after my arrival, I learned from my brothers that there was to be a
dance that night at a settlement about fifteen miles up the river.
They were going, and it required no urging on their part to insure the
presence of Quirk's three boys. Supper over, a fresh horse was furnished
me, and we set out for the dance, covering the distance in less than
two hours. I knew nearly every one in the settlement, and got a cordial
welcome. I played the fiddle, danced with my former sweethearts, and,
ere the sun rose in the morning, rode home in time for breakfast. During
that night's revelry, I contrasted my former girl friends on the
San Antonio with another maiden, a slip of the old Scotch stock,
transplanted and nurtured in the sunshine and soil of the San Miguel.
The comparison stood all tests applied, and in my secret heart I knew
who held the whip hand over the passions within me.

As I expected to return to Las Palomas for the New Year, my time was
limited to a four days' visit at home. But a great deal can be said in
four days; and at the end I was ready to saddle my black, bid my adieus,
and ride for the southwest. During my visit I was careful not to betray
that I had even a passing thought of a sweetheart, and what parents
would suspect that a rollicking, carefree young fellow of twenty
could have any serious intentions toward a girl? With brothers too
indifferent, and sisters too young, the secret was my own, though Wolf,
my mount, as he put mile after mile behind us, seemed conscious that his
mission to reach the San Miguel without loss of time was of more than
ordinary moment. And a better horse never carried knight in the days of

On reaching the McLeod ranch during the afternoon of the second day, I
found Esther expectant; but the welcome of her mother was of a frigid
order. Having a Scotch mother myself, I knew something of arbitrary
natures, and met Mrs. McLeod's coolness with a fund of talk and stories;
yet I could see all too plainly that she was determinedly on the
defensive. I had my favorite fiddle with me which I was taking back to
Las Palomas, and during the evening I played all the old Scotch ballads
I knew and love songs of the highlands, hoping to soften her from the
decided stand she had taken against me and my intentions. But her
heritage of obstinacy was large, and her opposition strong, as several
well-directed thrusts which reached me in vulnerable places made me
aware, but I smiled as if they were flattering compliments. Several
times I mentally framed replies only to smother them, for I was the
stranger within her gates, and if she saw fit to offend a guest she was
still within her rights.

But the next morning as I tarried beyond the reasonable hour for my
departure, her wrath broke out in a torrent. "If ye dinna ken the way
hame, Mr. Quirk, I'll show it ye," she said as she joined Esther and me
at the hitch-rack, where we had been loitering for an hour. "And I dinna
care muckle whaur ye gang, so ye get oot o' ma sight, and stay oot o'
it. I thocht ye waur a ceevil stranger when ye bided wi' us last week,
but noo I ken ye are something mair, ridin' your fine horses an' makin'
presents tae ma lassie. That's a' the guid that comes o' lettin' her rin
tae every dance at Shepherd's Ferry. Gang ben the house tae your wark,
ye jade, an' let me attend tae this fine gentleman. Noo, sir, gin ye ony
business onywhaur else, ye 'd aye better be ridin' tae it, for ye are no
wanted here, ye ken."

"Why, Mrs. McLeod," I broke in politely. "You hardly know anything about

"No, an' I dinna wish it. You are frae Las Palomas, an' that's aye
enough for me. I ken auld Lance Lovelace, an' those that bide wi' him.
Sma' wonder he brands sae mony calves and sells mair kye than a' the
ither ranchmen in the country. Ay, man, I ken him well."

I saw that I had a tartar to deal with, but if I could switch her
invective on some one absent, it would assist me in controlling myself.
So I said to the old lady: "Why, I've known Mr. Lovelace now almost a
year, and over on the Nueces he is well liked, and considered a cowman
whose word is as good as gold. What have you got against him?"

"Ower much, ma young freend. I kent him afore ye were born. I'm sorry
tae say that while ma gudeman was alive, he was a frequent visitor at
oor place. But we dinna see him ony mair. He aye keeps awa' frae here,
and camps wi' his wagons when he's ower on the San Miguel to gather
cattle. He was no content merely wi' what kye drifted doon on the
Nueces, but warked a big outfit the year around, e'en comin' ower on the
Frio an' San Miguel maverick huntin'. That's why he brands twice the
calves that onybody else does, and owns a forty-mile front o' land on
both sides o' the river. Ye see, I ken him weel."

"Well, isn't that the way most cowmen got their start?" I innocently
inquired, well knowing it was. "And do you blame him for running his
brand on the unowned cattle that roamed the range? I expect if Mr.
Lovelace was my father instead of my employer, you wouldn't be talking
in the same key," and with that I led my horse out to mount.

"Ye think a great deal o' yersel', because ye're frae Las Palomas.
Aweel, no vaquero of auld Lance Lovelace can come sparkin' wi' ma lass.
I've heard o' auld Lovelace's matchmaking. I'm told he mak's matches and
then laughs at the silly gowks. I've twa worthless sons-in-law the noo,
are here an' anither a stage-driver. Aye, they 're capital husbands for
Donald McLeod's lassies, are they no? Afore I let Esther marry the first
scamp that comes simperin' aroond here, I'll put her in a convent, an'
mak' a nun o' the bairn. I gave the ither lassies their way, an' look at
the reward. I tell ye I'm goin' to bar the door on the last one, an' the
man that marries her will be worthy o' her. He winna be a vaquero frae
Las Palomas either!"

I had mounted my horse to start, well knowing it was useless to argue
with an angry woman. Esther had obediently retreated to the safety of
the house, aware that her mother had a tongue and evidently willing to
be spared its invective in my presence. My horse was fidgeting about,
impatient to be off, but I gave him the rowel and rode up to the gate,
determined, if possible, to pour oil on the troubled waters. "Mrs.
McLeod," said I, in humble tones, "possibly you take the correct view of
this matter. Miss Esther and I have only been acquainted a few months,
and will soon forget each other. Please take me in the house and let me
tell her good-by."

"No, sir. Dinna set foot inside o' this gate. I hope ye know ye're no
wanted here. There's your road, the one leadin' south, an' ye'd better
be goin', I'm thinkin'."

I held in the black and rode off in a walk. This was the first clean
knock-out I had ever met. Heretofore I had been egotistical enough to
hold my head rather high, but this morning it drooped. Wolf seemed to
notice it, and after the first mile dropped into an easy volunteer walk.
I never noticed the passing of time until we reached the river, and the
black stopped to drink. Here I unsaddled for several hours; then went
on again in no cheerful mood. Before I came within sight of Las Palomas
near evening, my horse turned his head and nickered, and in a few
minutes Uncle Lance and June Deweese galloped up and overtook me. I had
figured out several very plausible versions of my adventure, but this
sudden meeting threw me off my guard--and Lance Lovelace was a hard man
to tell an undetected, white-faced lie. I put on a bold front, but his
salutation penetrated it at a glance.

"What's the matter, Tom; any of your folks dead?"




"Girl gone back on you?"

"I don't think."

"It's the old woman, then?"

"How do you know?"

"Because I know that old dame. I used to go over there occasionally when
old man Donald was living, but the old lady--excuse me! I ought to
have posted you, Tom, but I don't suppose it would have done any good.
Brought your fiddle with you, I see. That's good. I expect the old lady
read my title clear to you."

My brain must have been under a haze, for I repeated every charge she
had made against him, not even sparing the accusation that he had
remained out of the army and added to his brand by mavericking cattle.

"Did she say that?" inquired Uncle Lance, laughing. "Why, the old
hellion! She must have been feeling in fine fettle!"



The new year dawned on Las Palomas rich in promise of future content.
Uncle Lance and I had had a long talk the evening before, and under
the reasoning of the old optimist the gloom gradually lifted from my
spirits. I was glad I had been so brutally blunt that evening, regarding
what Mrs. McLeod had said about him; for it had a tendency to increase
the rancher's aggressiveness in my behalf. "Hell, Tom," said the old
man, as we walked from the corrals to the house, "don't let a little
thing like this disturb you. Of course she'll four-flush and bluff you
if she can, but you don't want to pay any more attention to the old lady
than if she was some _pelado_. To be sure, it would be better to have
her consent, but then"--

Glenn Gallup also arrived at the ranch on New Year's eve. He brought
the report that wild pigeons were again roosting at the big bend of the
river. It was a well-known pigeon roost, but the birds went to other
winter feeding grounds, except during years when there was a plentiful
sweet mast. This bend was about midway between the ranch and Shepherd's,
contained about two thousand acres, and was heavily timbered with ash,
pecan, and hackberry. The feeding grounds lay distant, extending from
the encinal ridges on the Las Palomas lands to live-oak groves a hundred
miles to the southward. But however far the pigeons might go for food,
they always returned to the roosting place at night.

"That means pigeon pie," said Uncle Lance, on receiving Glenn's report.
"Everybody and the cook can go. We only have a sweet mast about every
three or four years in the encinal, but it always brings the wild
pigeons. We'll take a couple of pack mules and the little and the big
pot and the two biggest Dutch ovens on the ranch. Oh, you got to parboil
a pigeon if you want a tender pie. Next to a fish fry, a good pigeon pie
makes the finest eating going. I've made many a one, and I give notice
right now that the making of the pie falls to me or I won't play. And
another thing, not a bird shall be killed more than we can use. Of
course we'll bring home a mess, and a few apiece for the Mexicans."

We had got up our horses during the forenoon, and as soon as dinner was
over the white contingent saddled up and started for the roost. Tiburcio
and Enrique accompanied us, and, riding leisurely, we reached the bend
several hours before the return of the birds. The roost had been in
use but a short time, but as we scouted through the timber there was
abundant evidence of an immense flight of pigeons. The ground was
literally covered with feathers; broken limbs hung from nearly every
tree, while in one instance a forked hackberry had split from the weight
of the birds.

We made camp on the outskirts of the timber, and at early dusk great
flocks of pigeons began to arrive at their roosting place. We only had
four shotguns, and, dividing into pairs, we entered the roost shortly
after dark. Glenn Gallup fell to me as my pardner. I carried the gunny
sack for the birds, not caring for a gun in such unfair shooting. The
flights continued to arrive for fully an hour after we entered the
roost, and in half a dozen shots we bagged over fifty birds. Remembering
the admonition of Uncle Lance, Gallup refused to kill more, and we sat
down and listened to the rumbling noises of the grove. There was a
constant chattering of the pigeons, and as they settled in great flights
in the trees overhead, whipping the branches with their wings in search
of footing, they frequently fell to the ground at our feet.

Gallup and I returned to camp early. Before we had skinned our kill the
others had all come in, disgusted with the ease with which they
had filled their bags. We soon had two pots filled and on the fire
parboiling, while Tiburcio lined two ovens with pastry, all ready for
the baking. In a short time two horsemen, attracted by our fire, crossed
the river below our camp and rode up.

"Hello, Uncle Lance," lustily shouted one of them, as he dismounted.
"It's you, is it, that's shooting my pigeons? All right, sir, I'll stay
all night and help you eat them. I had figured on riding back to the
Frio to-night, but I've changed my mind. Got any horse hobbles here?"
The two men, George Nathan and Hugh Trotter, were accommodated with
hobbles, and after an exchange of commonplace news of the country, we
settled down to story-telling. Trotter was a convivial acquaintance of
Aaron Scales, quite a vagabond and consequently a story-teller. After
Trotter had narrated a late dream, Scales unlimbered and told one of his

"I remember a dream I had several years ago, and the only way I can
account for it was, I had been drinking more or less during the day.
I dreamt I was making a long ride across a dreary desert, and towards
night it threatened a bad storm. I began to look around for some
shelter. I could just see the tops of a clump of trees beyond a hill,
and rode hard to get to them, thinking that there might be a house
amongst them. How I did ride! But I certainly must have had a poor
horse, for I never seemed to get any nearer that timber. I rode and
rode, but all this time, hours and hours it seemed, and the storm
gathering and scattering raindrops falling, the timber seemed scarcely
any nearer.

"At last I managed to reach the crest of the hill. Well, sir, there
wasn't a tree in sight, only, under the brow of the hill, a deserted
adobe _jacal_, and I rode for that, picketed my horse and went in. The
_jacal_ had a thatched roof with several large holes in it, and in the
fireplace burned a roaring fire. That was some strange, but I didn't
mind it and I was warming my hands before the fire and congratulating
myself on my good luck, when a large black cat sprang from the outside
into an open window, and said: 'Pardner, it looks like a bad night

"I eyed him a little suspiciously; but, for all that, if he hadn't
spoken, I wouldn't have thought anything about it, for I like cats.
He walked backward and forward on the window sill, his spine and tail
nicely arched, and rubbed himself on either window jamb. I watched him
some little time, and finally concluded to make friends with him. Going
over to the window, I put out my hand to stroke his glossy back, when
a gust of rain came through the window and the cat vanished into the

"I went back to the fire, pitying the cat out there in the night's
storm, and was really sorry I had disturbed him. I didn't give the
matter overmuch attention but sat before the fire, wondering who could
have built it and listening to the rain outside, when all of a sudden
Mr. Cat walked between my legs, rubbing himself against my boots,
purring and singing. Once or twice I thought of stroking his fur, but
checked myself on remembering he had spoken to me on the window sill. He
would walk over and rub himself against the jambs of the fireplace, and
then come back and rub himself against my boots friendly like. I saw him
just as clear as I see those pots on the fire or these saddles lying
around here. I was noting every move of his as he meandered around, when
presently he cocked up an eye at me and remarked: 'Old sport, this is a
fine fire we have here.'

"I was beginning to feel a little creepy, for I'd seen mad dogs and
skunks, and they say a cat gets locoed likewise, and the cuss was
talking so cleverly that I began to lose my regard for him. After a
little while I concluded to pet him, for he didn't seem a bit afraid;
but as I put out my hand to catch him, he nimbly hopped into the roaring
fire and vanished. Then I did feel foolish. I had a good six-shooter,
and made up my mind if he showed up again I'd plug him one for luck. I
was growing sleepy, and it was getting late, so I concluded to spread
down my saddle blankets and slicker before the fire and go to sleep.
While I was making down my bed, I happened to look towards the fire,
when there was my black cat, with not even a hair singed. I drew my gun
quietly and cracked away at him, when he let out the funniest little
laugh, saying: 'You've been drinking, Aaron; you're nervous; you
couldn't hit a flock of barns.'

"I was getting excited by this time, and cut loose on him rapidly, but
he dodged every shot, jumping from the hearth to the mantel, from the
mantel to an old table, from there to a niche in the wall, and from the
niche clear across the room and out of the window. About then I was some
nervous, and after a while lay down before the fire and tried to go to

"It was a terrible night outside--one of those nights when you can hear
things; and with the vivid imagination I was enjoying then, I was almost
afraid to try to sleep. But just as I was going into a doze, I raised
up my head, and there was my cat walking up and down my frame, his back
arched and his tail flirting with the slow sinuous movement of a snake.
I reached for my gun, and as it clicked in cocking, he began raking my
legs, sharpening his claws and growling like a tiger. I gave a yell and
kicked him off, when he sprang up on the old table and I could see his
eyes glaring at me. I emptied my gun at him a second time, and at every
shot he crouched lower and crept forward as if getting ready to spring.
When I had fired the last shot I jumped up and ran out into the rain,
and hadn't gone more than a hundred yards before I fell into a dry wash.
When I crawled out there was that d----d cat rubbing himself against my
boot leg. I stood breathless for a minute, thinking what next to do, and
the cat remarked: 'Wasn't that a peach of a race we just had!'

"I made one or two vicious kicks at him and he again vanished. Well,
fellows, in that dream I walked around that old _jacal_ all night in my
shirt sleeves, and it raining pitchforks. A number of times I peeped in
through the window or door, and there sat the cat on the hearth, in full
possession of the shack, and me out in the weather. Once when I looked
in he was missing, but while I was watching he sprang through a hole
in the roof, alighting in the fire, from which he walked out gingerly,
shaking his feet as if he had just been out in the wet. I shot away
every cartridge I had at him, but in the middle of the shooting he would
just coil up before the fire and snooze away.

"That night was an eternity of torment to me, and I was relieved when
some one knocked on the door, and I awoke to find myself in a good bed
and pounding my ear on a goose-hair pillow in a hotel in Oakville. Why,
I wouldn't have another dream like that for a half interest in the Las
Palomas brand. No, honest, if I thought drinking gave me that hideous
dream, here would be one lad ripe for reform."

"It strikes me," said Uncle Lance, rising and lifting a pot lid, "that
these birds are parboiled by this time. Bring me a fork, Enrique. Well,
I should say they were. I hope hell ain't any hotter than that fire.
Now, Tiburcio, if you have everything ready, we'll put them in the oven,
and bake them a couple of hours."

Several of us assisted in fixing the fire and properly coaling the
ovens. When this had been attended to, and we had again resumed our easy
positions around the fire, Trotter remarked: "Aaron, you ought to cut
drinking out of your amusements; you haven't the constitution to stand
it. Now with me it's different. I can drink a week and never
sleep; that's the kind of a build to have if you expect to travel and
meet all comers. Last year I was working for a Kansas City man on
the trail, and after the cattle were delivered about a hundred miles
beyond,--Ellsworth, up in Kansas,--he sent us home by way of Kansas
City. In fact, that was about the only route we could take. Well, it was
a successful trip, and as this man was plum white, anyhow, he concluded
to show us the sights around his burg. He was interested in a commission
firm out at the stockyards, and the night we reached there all the
office men, including the old man himself, turned themselves loose to
show us a good time.

"We had been drinking alkali water all summer, and along about midnight
they began to drop out until there was no one left to face the music
except a little cattle salesman and myself. After all the others quit
us, we went into a feed trough on a back street, and had a good supper.
I had been drinking everything like a good fellow, and at several places
there was no salt to put in the beer. The idea struck me that I would
buy a sack of salt from this eating ranch and take it with me. The
landlord gave me a funny look, but after some little parley went to the
rear and brought out a five-pound sack of table salt.

"It was just what I wanted, and after paying for it the salesman and
I started out to make a night of it. This yard man was a short, fat
Dutchman, and we made a team for your whiskers. I carried the sack of
salt under my arm, and the quantity of beer we killed before daylight
was a caution. About daybreak, the salesman wanted me to go to our
hotel and go to bed, but as I never drink and sleep at the same time,
I declined. Finally he explained to me that he would have to be at the
yards at eight o'clock, and begged me to excuse him. By this time he was
several sheets in the wind, while I could walk a chalk line without a
waver. Somehow we drifted around to the hotel where the outfit were
supposed to be stopping, and lined up at the bar for a final drink.
It was just daybreak, and between that Dutch cattle salesman and the
barkeeper and myself, it would have taken a bookkeeper to have kept a
check on the drinks we consumed--every one the last.

"Then the Dutchman gave me the slip and was gone, and I wandered into
the office of the hotel. A newsboy sold me a paper, and the next minute
a bootblack wanted to give me a shine. Well, I took a seat for a shine,
and for two hours I sat there as full as a tick, and as dignified as
a judge on the bench. All the newsboys and bootblacks caught on, and
before any of the outfit showed up that morning to rescue me, I had
bought a dozen papers and had my boots shined for the tenth time. If I'd
been foxy enough to have got rid of that sack of salt, no one could have
told I was off the reservation; but there it was under my arm. If ever
I make another trip over the trail, and touch at Kansas City returning,
I'll hunt up that cattle salesman, for he's the only man I ever met that
can pace in my class."

"Did you hear that tree break a few minutes ago?" inquired Mr. Nathan.
"There goes another one. It hardly looks possible that enough pigeons
could settle on a tree to break it down. Honestly, I'd give a purty to
know how many birds are in that roost to-night. More than there are
cattle in Texas, I'll bet. Why, Hugh killed, with both barrels,
twenty-two at one shot."

We had brought blankets along, but it was early and no one thought of
sleeping for an hour yet. Mr. Nathan was quite a sportsman, and after he
and Uncle Lance had discussed the safest method of hunting _javalina_,
it again devolved on the boys to entertain the party with stories.

"I was working on a ranch once," said Glenn Gallup, "out on the Concho
River. It was a stag outfit, there being few women then out Concho way.
One day two of the boys were riding in home when an accident occurred.
They had been shooting more or less during the morning, and one of them,
named Bill Cook, had carelessly left the hammer of his six-shooter on a
cartridge. As Bill jumped his horse over a dry _arroyo_, his pistol
was thrown from its holster, and, falling on the hard ground, was
discharged. The bullet struck him in the ankle, ranged upward,
shattering the large bone in his leg into fragments, and finally lodged
in the saddle.

"They were about five miles from camp when the accident happened. After
they realized how bad he was hurt, Bill remounted his horse and rode
nearly a mile; but the wound bled so then that the fellow with him
insisted on his getting off and lying on the ground while he went into
the ranch for a wagon. Well, it's to be supposed that he lost no time
riding in, and I was sent to San Angelo for a doctor. It was just
noon when I got off. I had to ride thirty miles. Talk about your good
horses--I had one that day. I took a free gait from the start, but the
last ten miles was the fastest, for I covered the entire distance in
less than three hours. There was a doctor in the town who'd been on the
frontier all of his life, and was used to such calls. Well, before dark
that evening we drove into the ranch.

"They had got the lad into the ranch, had checked the flow of blood and
eased the pain by standing on a chair and pouring water on the wound
from a height. But Bill looked pale as a ghost from the loss of blood.
The doctor gave the leg a single look, and, turning to us, said: 'Boys,
she has to come off.'

"The doctor talked to Bill freely and frankly, telling him that it was
the only chance for his life. He readily consented to the operation, and
while the doctor was getting him under the influence of opiates we fixed
up an operating table. When all was ready, the doctor took the leg off
below the knee, cursing us generally for being so sensitive to cutting
and the sight of blood. There was quite a number of boys at the ranch,
but it affected them all alike. It was interesting to watch him cut and
tie arteries and saw the bones, and I think I stood it better than any
of them. When the operation was over, we gave the fellow the best bed
the ranch afforded and fixed him up comfortable. The doctor took the
bloody stump and wrapped it up in an old newspaper, saying he would take
it home with him.

"After supper the surgeon took a sleep, saying we would start back to
town by two o'clock, so as to be there by daylight. He gave instructions
to call him in case Bill awoke, but he hoped the boy would take a good
sleep. As I had left my horse in town, I was expected to go back with
him. Shortly after midnight the fellow awoke, so we aroused the doctor,
who reported him doing well. The old Doc sat by his bed for an hour and
told him all kinds of stories. He had been a surgeon in the Confederate
army, and from the drift of his talk you'd think it was impossible to
kill a man without cutting off his head.

"'Now take a young fellow like you,' said the doctor to his patient,
'if he was all shot to pieces, just so the parts would hang together, I
could fix him up and he would get well. You have no idea, son, how much
lead a young man can carry.' We had coffee and lunch before starting,
the doctor promising to send me back at once with necessary medicines.

"We had a very pleasant trip driving back to town that night. The
stories he could tell were like a song with ninety verses, no two alike.
It was hardly daybreak when we reached San Angelo, rustled out a sleepy
hostler at the livery stable where the team belonged, and had the horses
cared for; and as we left the stable the doctor gave me his instrument
case, while he carried the amputated leg in the paper. We both felt the
need of a bracer after our night's ride, so we looked around to see if
any saloons were open. There was only one that showed any signs of life,
and we headed for that. The doctor was in the lead as we entered, and
we both knew the barkeeper well. This barkeeper was a practical joker
himself, and he and the doctor were great hunting companions. We walked
up to the bar together, when the doctor laid the package on the counter
and asked: 'Is this good for two drinks?' The barkeeper, with a look
of expectation in his face as if the package might contain half a dozen
quail or some fresh fish, broke the string and unrolled it. Without a
word he walked straight from behind the bar and out of the house. If he
had been shot himself he couldn't have looked whiter.

"The doctor went behind the bar and said: 'Glenn, what are you going to
take?' 'Let her come straight, doctor,' was my reply, and we both took
the same. We had the house all to ourselves, and after a second round
of drinks took our leave. As we left by the front door, we saw the
barkeeper leaning against a hitching post half a block below. The doctor
called to him as we were leaving: 'Billy, if the drinks ain't on you,
charge them to me.'"

The moon was just rising, and at Uncle Lance's suggestion we each
carried in a turn of wood. Piling a portion of it on the fire, the blaze
soon lighted up the camp, throwing shafts of light far into the recesses
of the woods around us. "In another hour," said Uncle Lance, recoaling
the oven lids, "that smaller pie will be all ready to serve, but we'll
keep the big one for breakfast. So, boys, if you want to sit up awhile
longer, we'll have a midnight lunch, and then all turn in for about
forty winks." As the oven lid was removed from time to time to take
note of the baking, savory odors of the pie were wafted to our anxious
nostrils. On the intimation that one oven would be ready in an hour, not
a man suggested blankets, and, taking advantage of the lull, Theodore
Quayle claimed attention.

"Another fellow and myself," said Quayle, "were knocking around Fort
Worth one time seeing the sights. We had drunk until it didn't taste
right any longer. This chum of mine was queer in his drinking. If he
ever got enough once, he didn't want any more for several days: you
could cure him by offering him plenty. But with just the right amount on
board, he was a hail fellow. He was a big, ambling, awkward cuss, who
could be led into anything on a hint or suggestion. We had been knocking
around the town for a week, until there was nothing new to be seen.

"Several times as we passed a millinery shop, kept by a little blonde,
we had seen her standing at the door. Something--it might have been
his ambling walk, but, anyway, something--about my chum amused her,
for she smiled and watched him as we passed. He never could walk along
beside you for any distance, but would trail behind and look into the
windows. He could not be hurried--not in town. I mentioned to him that
he had made a mash on the little blond milliner, and he at once
insisted that I should show her to him. We passed down on the opposite
side of the street and I pointed out the place. Then we walked by several
times, and finally passed when she was standing in the doorway talking
to some customers. As we came up he straightened himself, caught her eye,
and tipped his hat with the politeness of a dancing master. She blushed
to the roots of her hair, and he walked on very erect some little
distance, then we turned a corner and held a confab. He was for playing
the whole string, discount or no discount, anyway.

"An excuse to go in was wanting, but we thought we could invent one;
however, he needed a drink or two to facilitate his thinking and loosen
his tongue. To get them was easier than the excuse; but with the drinks
the motive was born. 'You wait here,' said he to me, 'until I go round
to the livery stable and get my coat off my saddle.' He never encumbered
himself with extra clothing. We had not seen our horses, saddles, or
any of our belongings during the week of our visit. When he returned he
inquired, 'Do I need a shave?'

"'Oh, no,' I said, 'you need no shave. You may have a drink too many,
or lack one of having enough. It's hard to make a close calculation on

"'Then I'm all ready,' said he, 'for I've just the right gauge of
steam.' He led the way as we entered. It was getting dark and the shop
was empty of customers. Where he ever got the manners, heaven only
knows. Once inside the door we halted, and she kept a counter between us
as she approached. She ought to have called the police and had us run
in. She was probably scared, but her voice was fairly steady as she
spoke. 'Gentlemen, what can I do for you?'

"'My friend here,' said he, with a bow and a wave of the hand, 'was
unfortunate enough to lose a wager made between us. The terms of the
bet were that the loser was to buy a new hat for one of the dining-room
girls at our hotel. As we are leaving town to-morrow, we have just
dropped in to see if you have anything suitable. We are both totally
incompetent to decide on such a delicate matter, but we will trust
entirely to your judgment in the selection.' The milliner was quite
collected by this time, as she asked: 'Any particular style?--and about
what price?'

"'The price is immaterial,' said he disdainfully. 'Any man who will
wager on the average weight of a train-load of cattle, his own cattle,
mind you, and miss them twenty pounds, ought to pay for his lack of
judgment. Don't you think so, Miss--er--er. Excuse me for being unable
to call your name--but--but--' 'De Ment is my name,' said she with some
little embarrassment.

"'Livingstone is mine,' said he with a profound bow,' and this gentleman
is Mr. Ochiltree, youngest brother of Congressman Tom. Now regarding the
style, we will depend entirely upon your selection. But possibly the
loser is entitled to some choice in the matter. Mr. Ochiltree, have you
any preference in regard to style?'

"'Why, no, I can generally tell whether a hat becomes a lady or not, but
as to selecting one I am at sea. We had better depend on Miss De Ment's
judgment. Still, I always like an abundance of flowers on a lady's hat.
Whenever a girl walks down the street ahead of me, I like to watch the
posies, grass, and buds on her hat wave and nod with the motion of her
walk. Miss De Ment, don't you agree with me that an abundance of flowers
becomes a young lady? And this girl can't be over twenty.'

"'Well, now,' said she, going into matters in earnest, 'I can scarcely
advise you. Is the young lady a brunette or blonde?'

"'What difference does that make?' he innocently asked.

"'Oh,' said she, smiling, 'we must harmonize colors. What would suit one
complexion would not become another. What color is her hair?'

"'Nearly the color of yours,' said he. 'Not so heavy and lacks the
natural wave which yours has--but she's all right. She can ride a string
of my horses until they all have sore backs. I tell you she is a cute
trick. But, say, Miss De Ment, what do you think of a green hat, broad
brimmed, turned up behind and on one side, long black feathers run round
and turned up behind, with a blue bird on the other side swooping down
like a pigeon hawk, long tail feathers and an arrow in its beak? That
strikes me as about the mustard. What do you think of that kind of a
hat, dear?'

"'Why, sir, the colors don't harmonize,' she replied, blushing.

"'Theodore, do you know anything about this harmony of colors? Excuse
me, madam,--and I crave your pardon, Mr. Ochiltree, for using your given
name,--but really this harmony of colors is all French to me.'

"'Well, if the young lady is in town, why can't you have her drop in
and make her own selection?' suggested the blond milliner. He studied a
moment, and then awoke as if from a trance. 'Just as easy as not; this
very evening or in the morning. Strange we didn't think of that sooner.
Yes; the landlady of the hotel can join us, and we can count on your
assistance in selecting the hat.' With a number of comments on her
attractive place, inquiries regarding trade, and a flattering compliment
on having made such a charming acquaintance, we edged towards the door.
'This evening then, or in the morning at the farthest, you may expect
another call, when my friend must pay the penalty of his folly by
settling the bill. Put it on heavy.' And he gave her a parting wink.

"Together we bowed ourselves out, and once safe in the street he said:
'Didn't she help us out of that easy? If she wasn't a blonde, I'd go
back and buy her two hats for suggesting it as she did.'

"'Rather good looking too,' I remarked.

"'Oh, well, that's a matter of taste. I like people with red blood in
them. Now if you was to saw her arm off, it wouldn't bleed; just a
little white water might ooze out, possibly. The best-looking girl I
ever saw was down in the lower Rio Grande country, and she was milking
a goat. Theodore, my dear fellow, when I'm led blushingly to the altar,
you'll be proud of my choice. I'm a judge of beauty.'"

It was after midnight when we disposed of the first oven of pigeon
pot-pie, and, wrapping ourselves in blankets, lay down around the fire.
With the first sign of dawn, we were aroused by Mr. Nathan and Uncle
Lance to witness the return flight of the birds to their feeding
grounds. Hurrying to the nearest opening, we saw the immense flight of
pigeons blackening the sky overhead. Stiffened by their night's rest,
they flew low; but the beauty and immensity of the flight overawed us,
and we stood in mute admiration, no one firing a shot. For fully a
half-hour the flight continued, ending in a few scattering birds.



The spring of '76 was eventful at Las Palomas. After the pigeon hunt,
Uncle Lance went to San Antonio to sell cattle for spring delivery.
Meanwhile, Father Norquin visited the ranch and spent a few days among
his parishioners, Miss Jean acting the hostess in behalf of Las Palomas.
The priest proved a congenial fellow of the cloth, and among us, with
Miss Jean's countenance, it was decided not to delay Enrique's marriage;
for there was no telling when Uncle Lance would return. All the
arrangements were made by the padre and Miss Jean, the groom-to-be
apparently playing a minor part in the preliminaries. Though none of the
white element of the ranch were communicants of his church, the priest
apparently enjoyed the visit. At parting, the mistress pressed a gold
piece into his chubby palm as the marriage fee for Enrique; and, after
naming a day for the ceremony, the padre mounted his horse and left us
for the Tarancalous, showering his blessings on Las Palomas and its

During the intervening days before the wedding, we overhauled an unused
_jacal_ and made it habitable for the bride and groom. The _jacal_ is a
crude structure of this semi-tropical country, containing but a single
room with a shady, protecting stoop. It is constructed by standing
palisades on end in a trench. These constitute the walls. The floor is
earthen, while the roof is thatched with the wild grass which grows rank
in the overflow portions of the river valley. It forms a serviceable
shelter for a warm country, the peculiar roofing equally defying rain
and the sun's heat. Under the leadership of the mistress of the ranch,
assisted by the Mexican women, the _jacal_ was transformed into a rustic
bower; for Enrique was not only a favorite among the whites, but also
among his own people. A few gaudy pictures of Saints and the Madonna
ornamented the side walls, while in the rear hung the necessary
crucifix. At the time of its building the _jacal_ had been blessed, as
was customary before occupancy, and to Enrique's reasoning the potency
of the former sprinkling still held good.

Weddings were momentous occasions among the Mexican population at Las
Palomas. In outfitting the party to attend Enrique's wedding at Santa
Maria, the ranch came to a standstill. Not only the regular ambulance
but a second conveyance was required to transport the numerous female
relatives of the groom, while the men, all in gala attire, were mounted
on the best horses on the ranch. As none of the whites attended,
Deweese charged Tiburcio with humanity to the stock, while the mistress
admonished every one to be on his good behavior. With greetings to Santa
Maria, the wedding party set out. They were expected to return the
following evening, and the ranch was set in order to give the bride a
rousing reception on her arrival at Las Palomas. The largest place on
the ranch was a warehouse, and we shifted its contents in such a manner
as to have quite a commodious ball-room. The most notable decoration
of the room was an immense heart-shaped figure, in which was worked in
live-oak leaves the names of the two ranches, flanked on either side
with the American and Mexican flags. Numerous other decorations,
expressing welcome to the bride, were in evidence on every hand. Tallow
was plentiful at Las Palomas, and candles were fastened at every
possible projection.

The mounted members of the wedding party returned near the middle of
the afternoon. According to reports, Santa Maria had treated them most
hospitably. The marriage was simple, but the festivities following had
lasted until dawn. The returning guests sought their _jacals_ to snatch
a few hours' sleep before the revelry would be resumed at Las Palomas.
An hour before sunset the four-mule ambulance bearing the bride and
groom drove into Las Palomas with a flourish. Before leaving the bridal
couple at their own _jacal_, Tiburcio halted the ambulance in front of
the ranch-house for the formal welcome. In the absence of her brother,
Miss Jean officiated in behalf of Las Palomas, tenderly caressing the
bride. The boys monopolized her with their congratulations and welcome,
which delighted Enrique. As for the bride, she seemed at home from the
first, soon recognizing me as the _padrino segundo_ at the time of her

Quite a delegation of the bride's friends from Santa Maria accompanied
the party on their return, from whom were chosen part of the musicians
for the evening--violins and guitars in the hands of the native element
of the two ranches making up a pastoral orchestra. I volunteered my
services; but so much of the music was new to me that I frequently
excused myself for a dance with the senoritas. In the absence of Uncle
Lance, our _segundo_, June Deweese, claimed the first dance of the
evening with the bride. Miss Jean lent only the approval of her
presence, not participating, and withdrawing at an early hour. As all
the American element present spoke Spanish slightly, that became the
language of the evening. But, further than to countenance with our
presence the festivities, we were out of place, and, ere midnight, all
had excused themselves with the exception of Aaron Scales and myself. On
the pleadings of Enrique, I remained an hour or two longer, dancing with
his bride, or playing some favorite selection for the delighted groom.

Several days after the wedding Uncle Lance returned. He had been
successful in contracting a trail herd of thirty-five hundred cattle,
and a _remuda_ of one hundred and twenty-five saddle horses with which
to handle them. The contract called for two thousand two-year-old steers
and fifteen hundred threes. There was a difference of four dollars a
head in favor of the older cattle, and it was the ranchero's intention
to fill the latter class entirely from the Las Palomas brand. As to the
younger cattle, neighboring ranches would be invited to deliver twos
in filling the contract, and if any were lacking, the home ranch would
supply the deficiency. Having ample range, the difference in price was
an inducement to hold the younger cattle. To keep a steer another year
cost nothing, while the ranchero returned convinced that the trail might
soon furnish an outlet for all surplus cattle. In the matter of the
horses, too, rather than reduce our supply of saddle stock below the
actual needs of the ranch, Uncle Lance concluded to buy fifty head in
making up the _remuda_. There were several hundred geldings on the ranch
old enough for saddle purposes, but they would be as good as useless in
handling cattle the first year after breaking.

As this would be the first trail herd from Las Palomas, we naturally
felt no small pride in the transaction. According to contract,
everything was to be ready for final delivery on the twenty-fifth of
March. The contractors, Camp & Dupree, of Fort Worth, Texas, were to
send their foreman two weeks in advance to receive, classify, and pass
upon the cattle and saddle stock. They were exacting in their demands,
yet humane and reasonable. In making up the herd no cattle were to be
corralled at night, and no animal would be received which had been
roped. The saddle horses were to be treated likewise. These conditions
would put into the saddle every available man on the ranch as well as on
the ranchitas. But we looked eagerly forward to the putting up of the
herd. Letters were written and dispatched to a dozen ranches within
striking distance, inviting them to turn in two-year-old steers at the
full contract price. June Deweese was sent out to buy fifty saddle
horses, which would fill the required standard, "fourteen hands or
better, serviceable and gentle broken." I was dispatched to Santa Maria,
to invite Don Mateo Gonzales to participate in the contract. The range
of every saddle horse on the ranch was located, so that we could gather
them, when wanted, in a day. Less than a month's time now remained
before the delivery day, though we did not expect to go into camp for
actual gathering until the arrival of the trail foreman.

In going and returning from San Antonio my employer had traveled by
stage. As it happened, the driver of the up-stage out of Oakville was
Jack Martin, the son-in-law of Mrs. McLeod. He and Uncle Lance being
acquainted, the old ranchero's matchmaking instincts had, during the
day's travel, again forged to the front. By roundabout inquiries he had
elicited the information that Mrs. McLeod had, immediately after the
holidays, taken Esther to San Antonio and placed her in school. By
innocent artful suggestions of his interest in the welfare of the
family, he learned the name of the private school of which Esther was a
pupil. Furthermore, he cultivated the good will of the driver in various
ways over good cigars, and at parting assured him on returning he would
take the stage so as to have the pleasure of his company on the return
trip--the highest compliment that could be paid a stage-driver.

From several sources I had learned that Esther had left the ranch for
the city, but on Uncle Lance's return I got the full particulars. As
a neighboring ranchman, and bearing self-invented messages from
the family, he had the assurance to call at the school. His honest
countenance was a passport anywhere, and he not only saw Esther but
prevailed on her teachers to give the girl, some time during his visit
in the city, a half holiday. The interest he manifested in the girl won
his request, and the two had spent an afternoon visiting the parks and
other points of interest. It is needless to add that he made hay in my
behalf during this half holiday. But the most encouraging fact that he
unearthed was that Esther was disgusted with her school life and was
homesick. She had declared that if she ever got away from school, no
power on earth could force her back again.

"Shucks, Tom," said he, the next morning after his return, as we were
sitting in the shade of the corrals waiting for the _remuda_ to come in,
"that poor little country girl might as well be in a penitentiary as in
that school. She belongs on these prairies, and you can't make anything
else out of her. I can read between the lines, and any one can see that
her education is finished. When she told me how rudely her mother had
treated you, her heart was an open book and easily read. Don't you lose
any sleep on how you stand in her affections--that's all serene. She'll
he home on a spring vacation, and that'll be your chance. If I was your
age, I'd make it a point to see that she didn't go back to school.
She'll run off with you rather than that. In the game of matrimony, son,
you want to play your cards boldly and never hesitate to lead trumps."

To further matters, when returning by stage my employer had ingratiated
himself into the favor of the driver in many ways, and urged him to send
word to Mrs. McLeod to turn in her two-year-olds on his contract. A few
days later her foreman and son-in-law, Tony Hunter, rode down to Las
Palomas, anxious for the chance to turn in cattle. There had been little
opportunity for several years to sell steers, and when a chance like
this came, there would have been no trouble to fill half a dozen
contracts, as supply far exceeded demand.

Uncle Lance let Mrs. McLeod's foreman feel that in allotting her five
hundred of the younger cattle, he was actuated by old-time friendship
for the family. As a mark of special consideration he promised to send
the trail foreman to the San Miguel to pass on the cattle on their home
range, but advised the foreman to gather at least seven hundred steers,
allowing for two hundred to be culled or cut back. Hunter remained over
night, departing the next morning, delighted over his allowance of
cattle and the liberal terms of the contract.

It was understood that, in advance of his outfit, the trail foreman
would come down by stage, and I was sent into Oakville with an extra
saddle horse to meet him. He had arrived the day previous, and we lost
no time in starting for Las Palomas. This trail foreman was about thirty
years of age, a quiet red-headed fellow, giving the name of Frank
Nancrede, and before we had covered half the distance to the ranch I was
satisfied that he was a cowman. I always prided myself on possessing a
good eye for brands, but he outclassed me, reading strange brands at
over a hundred yards, and distinguishing cattle from horse stock at a
distance of three miles.'

We got fairly well acquainted before reaching the ranch, but it was
impossible to start him on any subject save cattle. I was able to give
him a very good idea of the _remuda_, which was then under herd and
waiting his approval, and I saw the man brighten into a smile for the
first time on my offering to help him pick out a good mount for his own
saddle. I had a vague idea of what the trail was like, and felt the
usual boyish attraction for it; but when I tried to draw him out in
regard to it, he advised me, if I had a regular job on a ranch, to let
trail work alone.

We reached the ranch late in the evening and I introduced Nancrede to
Uncle Lance, who took charge of him. We had established a horse camp for
the trail _remuda_, north of the river, and the next morning the trail
foreman, my employer, and June Deweese, rode over to pass on the
saddle stock. The _remuda_ pleased him, being fully up to the contract
standard, and he accepted it with but a single exception. This exception
tickled Uncle Lance, as it gave him an opportunity to annoy his sister
about Nancrede, as he did about every other cowman or drover who visited
the ranch. That evening, as I was chatting with Miss Jean, who was
superintending the Mexican help milking at the cow pen, Uncle Lance
joined us.

"Say, Sis," said he, "our man Nancrede is a cowman all right. I tried to
ring in a 'hipped' horse on him this morning,--one hip knocked down just
the least little bit,--but he noticed it and refused to accept him. Oh,
he's got an eye in his head all right. So if you say so, I'll give him
the best horse on the ranch in old Hippy's place. You're always making
fun of slab-sided cowmen; he's pony-built enough to suit you, and I kind
o' like the color of his hair myself. Did you notice his neck?--he'll
never tie it if it gets broken. I like a short man; if he stubs his toe
and falls down he doesn't reach halfway home. Now, if he has as good cow
sense in receiving the herd as he had on the _remuda_, I'd kind o' like
to have him for a brother-in-law. I'm getting a little too old for
active work and would like to retire, but June, the durn fool, won't get
married, and about the only show I've got is to get a husband for you.
I'd as lief live in Hades as on a ranch without a woman on it. What do
you think of him?"

"Why, I think he's an awful nice fellow, but he won't talk. And besides,
I'm not baiting my hook for small fish like trail foremen; I was aiming
to keep my smiles for the contractors. Aren't they coming down?"

"Well, they might come to look the herd over before it starts out. Now,
Dupree is a good cowman, but he's got a wife already. And Camp, the
financial man of the firm, made his money peddling Yankee clocks. Now,
you don't suppose for a moment I'd let you marry him and carry you away
from Las Palomas. Marry an old clock peddler?--not if he had a million!
The idea! If they come down here and I catch you smiling on old Camp,
I'll set the hounds on you. What you want to do is to set your cap for
Nancrede. Of course, you're ten years the elder, but that needn't cut
any figure. So just burn a few smiles on the red-headed trail foreman!
You know you can count on your loving brother to help all he can."

The conversation was interrupted by our _segundo_ and the trail foreman
riding up to the cow pen. The two had been up the river during the
afternoon, looking over the cattle on the range, for as yet we had
not commenced gathering. Nancrede was very reticent, discovering a
conspicuous lack of words to express his opinion of what cattle Deweese
had shown him.

The second day after the arrival of the trail foreman, we divided our
forces into two squads and started out to gather our three-year-olds. By
the ranch records, there were over two thousand steers of that age in
the Las Palomas brand. Deweese took ten men and half of the ranch saddle
horses and went up above the mouth of the Ganso to begin gathering.
Uncle Lance took the remainder of the men and horses and went down the
river nearly to Shepherd's, leaving Dan Happersett and three Mexicans to
hold and night-herd the trail _remuda._ Nancrede declined to stay at the
ranch and so joined our outfit on the down-river trip. We had postponed
the gathering until the last hour, for every day improved the growing
grass on which our mounts must depend for subsistence, and once we
started, there would be little rest for men or horses.

The younger cattle for the herd were made up within a week after the
invitations were sent to the neighboring ranches. Naturally they would
be the last cattle to be received and would come in for delivery between
the twentieth and the last of the month. With the plans thus outlined,
we started our gathering. Counting Nancrede, we had twelve men in the
saddle in our down-river outfit. Taking nothing but three-year-olds, we
did not accumulate cattle fast; but it was continuous work, every man,
with the exception of Uncle Lance, standing a guard on night-herd. The
first two days we only gathered about five hundred steers. This number
was increased by about three hundred on the third day, and that
evening Dan Happersett with a vaquero rode into camp and reported that
Nancrede's outfit had arrived from San Antonio. He had turned the
_remuda_ over to them on their arrival, sending the other two Mexicans
to join Deweese above on the river.

The fourth day finished the gathering. Nancrede remained with us to the
last, making a hand which left no doubt in any one's mind that he was
a cowman from the ground up. The last round-up on the afternoon of the
fourth day, our outriders sighted the vaqueros from Deweese's outfit,
circling and drifting in the cattle on their half of the circle. The
next morning the two camps were thrown together on the river opposite
the ranch. Deweese had fully as many cattle as we had, and when the two
cuts had been united and counted, we lacked but five head of nineteen
hundred. Several of Nancrede's men joined us that morning, and within an
hour, under the trail foreman's directions, we cut back the overplus,
and the cattle were accepted.

Under the contract we were to road-brand them, though Nancrede ordered
his men to assist us in the work. Under ordinary circumstances we should
also have vented the ranch brand, but owing to the fact that this herd
was to be trailed to Abilene, Kansas, and possibly sold beyond that
point, it was unnecessary and therefore omitted. We had a branding chute
on the ranch for grown cattle, and the following morning the herd was
corralled and the road-branding commenced. The cattle were uniform in
size, and the stamping of the figure '4' over the holding "Lazy L"
of Las Palomas, moved like clockwork. With a daybreak start and an
abundance of help the last animal was ironed up before sundown. As a
favor to Nancrede's outfit, their camp being nearly five miles distant,
we held them the first night after branding.

No sooner had the trail foreman accepted our three-year-olds than he and
Glen Gallup set out for the McLeod ranch on the San Miguel. The day our
branding was finished, the two returned near midnight, reported the San
Miguel cattle accepted and due the next evening at Las Palomas. By dawn
Nancrede and myself started for Santa Maria, the former being deficient
in Spanish, the only weak point, if it was one, in his make-up as a
cowman. We were slightly disappointed in not finding the cattle ready to
pass upon at Santa Maria. That ranch was to deliver seven hundred, and
on our arrival they had not even that number under herd. Don Mateo, an
easy-going ranchero, could not understand the necessity of such haste.
What did it matter if the cattle were delivered on the twenty-fifth or
twenty-seventh? But I explained as delicately as I could that this was
a trail man, whose vocabulary did not contain _mañana_. In interpreting
for Nancrede, I learned something of the trail myself: that a herd
should start with the grass and move with it, keeping the freshness of
spring, day after day and week after week, as they trailed northward.
The trail foreman assured Don Mateo that had his employers known that
this was to be such an early spring, the herd would have started a week

By impressing on the ranchero the importance of not delaying this trail
man, we got him to inject a little action into his corporal. We asked
Don Mateo for horses and, joining his outfit, made three rodeos that
afternoon, turning into the cattle under herd nearly two hundred and
fifty head by dark that evening. Nancrede spent a restless night, and at
dawn, as the cattle were leaving the bed ground, he and I got an easy
count on them and culled them down to the required number before
breakfasting. We had some little trouble explaining to Don Mateo the
necessity of giving the bill of sale to my employer, who, in turn, would
reconvey the stock to the contractors. Once the matter was made clear,
the accepted cattle were started for Las Palomas. When we overtook them
an hour afterward, I instructed the corporal, at the instance of the
red-headed foreman, to take a day and a half in reaching the ranch; that
tardiness in gathering must not be made up by a hasty drive to the point
of delivery; that the animals must be treated humanely.

On reaching the ranch we found that Mr. Booth and some of his neighbors
had arrived from the Frio with their contingent. They had been allotted
six hundred head, and had brought down about two hundred extra cattle
in order to allow some choice in accepting. These were the only mixed
brands that came in on the delivery, and after they had been culled down
and accepted, my employer appointed Aaron Scales as clerk. There were
some five or six owners, and Scales must catch the brands as they were
freed from the branding chute. Several of the owners kept a private
tally, but not once did they have occasion to check up the Marylander's
decisions. Before the branding of this hunch was finished, Wilson, from
Ramirena, rode into the ranch and announced his cattle within five miles
of Las Palomas. As these were the last two hundred to be passed upon,
Nancrede asked to have them in sight of the ranch by sun-up in the

On the arrival of the trail outfit from San Antonio, they brought a
letter from the contractors, asking that a conveyance meet them at
Oakville, as they wished to see the herd before it started. Tiburcio
went in with the ambulance to meet them, and they reached the ranch late
at night. On their arrival twenty-six hundred of the cattle had already
been passed upon, branded, and were then being held by Nancrede's outfit
across the river at their camp. Dupree, being a practical cowman,
understood the situation; but Camp was restless and uneasy as if he
expected to find the cattle in the corrals at the ranch. Camp was years
the older of the two, a pudgy man with a florid complexion and nasal
twang, and kept the junior member busy answering his questions. Uncle
Lance enjoyed the situation, jollying his sister about the elder
contractor and quietly inquiring of the red-haired foreman how and where
Dupree had picked him up.

The contractors had brought no saddles with them, so the ambulance was
the only mode of travel. As we rode out to receive the Wilson cattle
the next morning, Uncle Lance took advantage of the occasion to jolly
Nancrede further about the senior member of the firm, the foreman
smiling appreciatingly. "The way your old man talked last night," said
he, "you'd think he expected to find the herd in the front yard. Too
bad to disappoint him; for then he could have looked them over with a
lantern from the gallery of the house. Now, if they had been Yankee
clocks instead of cattle, why, he'd been right at home, and could have
taken them in the house and handled them easily. It certainly beats the
dickens why some men want to break into the cattle business. It won't
surprise me if he asks you to trail the herd past the ranch so he can
see them. Well, you and Dupree will have to make him some _dinero_ this
summer or you will lose him for a partner. I can see that sticking out."

We received and branded the two hundred Wilson cattle that forenoon,
sending them to the main herd across the river. Mr. Wilson and Uncle
Lance were great cronies, and as the latter was feeling in fine fettle
over the successful fulfillment of his contract, he was tempted also to
jolly his neighbor ranchero over his cattle, which, by the way, were
fine. "Nate," said he to Mr. Wilson, "it looks like you'd quit breeding
goats and rear cattle instead. Honest, if I didn't know your brand, I'd
swear some Mexican raised this bunch. These Fort Worth cowmen are an
easy lot, or yours would never have passed under the classification."

An hour before noon, Tomas Martines, the corporal of Santa Maria, rode
up to inquire what time we wished his cattle at the corrals. They were
back several miles, and he could deliver them on an hour's notice. One
o'clock was agreed upon, and, never dismounting, the corporal galloped
away to his herd. "Quirk," said Nancrede to me, noticing the Mexican's
unaccustomed air of enterprise, "if we had that fellow under us awhile
we'd make a cow-hand out of him. See the wiggle he gets on himself now,
will you?" Promptly at the hour, the herd were counted and corralled,
Don Mateo Gonzales not troubling to appear, which was mystifying to the
North Texas men, but Uncle Lance explained that a mere incident like
selling seven hundred cattle was not sufficient occasion to arouse the
ranchero of Santa Maria when his corporal could attend to the business.

That evening saw the last of the cattle branded. The herd was completed
and ready to start the following morning. The two contractors were
driven across the river during the afternoon to look over the herd
and _remuda_. At the instance of my employer, I wrote a letter of
congratulation to Don Mateo, handing it to his corporal, informing him
that in the course of ten days a check would he sent him in payment.
Uncle Lance had fully investigated the financial standing of the
contractors, but it was necessary for him to return with them to San
Antonio for a final settlement.

The ambulance made an early start for Oakville on the morning of the
twenty-sixth, carrying the contractors and my employer, and the rest
of us rode away to witness the start of the herd. Nancrede's outfit
numbered fifteen,--a cook, a horse wrangler, himself, and twelve
outriders. They comprised an odd mixture of men, several barely my age,
while others were gray-haired and looked like veteran cow-hands. On
leaving the Nueces valley, the herd was strung out a mile in length, and
after riding with them until they reached the first hills, we bade them
good-by. As we started to return Frank Nancrede made a remark to June
Deweese which I have often recalled: "You fellows may think this is a
snap; but if I had a job on as good a ranch as Las Palomas, you'd never
catch me on a cattle trail."



A few days later, when Uncle Lance returned from San Antonio, we had a
confidential talk, and he decided not to send me with the McLeod check
to the San Miguel. He had reasons of his own, and I was dispatched to
the Frio instead, while to Enrique fell the pleasant task of a similar
errand to Santa Maria. In order to grind an axe, Glenn Gallup was sent
down to Wilson's with the settlement for the Ramirena cattle, which
Uncle Lance made the occasion of a jovial expression of his theory of
love-making. "Don't waste any words with old man Nate," said he, as he
handed Glenn the check; "but build right up to Miss Jule. Holy snakes,
boy, if I was your age I would make her dizzy with a big talk. Tell
her you're thinking of quitting Las Palomas and driving a trail herd
yourself next year. Tell it big and scary. Make her eyes fairly bulge
out, and when you can't think of anything else, tell her she's pretty."

I spent a day or two at the Booth ranch, and on my return found the Las
Palomas outfit in the saddle working our horse stock. Yearly we made up
new _manadas_ from the two-year-old fillies. There were enough young
mares to form twelve bands of about twenty-five head each. In selecting
these we were governed by standard colors, bays, browns, grays, blacks,
and sorrels forming separate _manadas,_ while all mongrel colors went
into two bands by themselves. In the latter class there was a tendency
for the colors of the old Spanish stock,--coyotes, and other hybrid
mixtures,--after being dormant for generations, to crop out again. In
breaking these fillies into new bands, we added a stallion a year or
two older and of acceptable color, and they were placed in charge of a
trusty vaquero, whose duty was to herd them for the first month after
being formed. The Mexican in charge usually took the band round the
circuit of the various ranchitas, corralling his charge at night,
drifting at will, so that by the end of the month old associations would
be severed, and from that time the stallion could be depended on as

In gathering the fillies, we also cut out all the geldings three years
old and upward to break for saddle purposes. There were fully two
hundred of these, and the month of April was spent in saddle-breaking
this number. They were a fine lot of young horses, and under the master
eye of two perfect horsemen, our _segundo_ and employer, every horse was
broken with intelligence and humanity. Since the day of their branding
as colts these geldings had never felt the touch of a human hand; and it
required more than ordinary patience to overcome their fear, bring them
to a condition of submission, and make serviceable ranch horses out of
them. The most difficult matter was in overcoming their fear. It was
also necessary to show the mastery of man over the animal, though this
process was tempered with humanity. We had several circular, sandy
corrals into which the horse to be broken was admitted for the first
saddling. As he ran round, a lasso skillfully thrown encircled his front
feet and he came down on his side. One fore foot was strapped up, a
hackamore or bitless bridle was adjusted in place, and he was allowed
to arise. After this, all depended on the patience and firmness of the
handler. Some horses yielded to kind advances and accepted the saddle
within half an hour, not even offering to pitch, while others repelled
every kindness and fought for hours. But in handling the gelding of
spirit, we could always count on the help of an extra saddler.

While this work was being done, the herd of geldings was held close at
hand. After the first riding, four horses were the daily allowance of
each rider. With the amount of help available, this allowed twelve to
fifteen horses to the man, so that every animal was ridden once in three
or four days. Rather than corral, we night-herded, penning them by dawn
and riding our first horse before sun-up. As they gradually yielded, we
increased our number to six a day and finally before the breaking
was over to eight. When the work was finally over they were cut into
_remudas_ of fifty horses each, furnished a gentle bell mare, when
possible with a young colt by her side, and were turned over to a
similar treatment as was given the fillies in forming _manadas._ Thus
the different _remudas_ at Las Palomas always took the name of the bell
mare, and when we were at work, it was only necessary for us to hobble
the princess at night to insure the presence of her band in the morning.

When this month's work was two thirds over, we enjoyed a holiday. All
good Texans, whether by birth or adoption, celebrate the twenty-first of
April,--San Jacinto Day. National holidays may not always he observed
in sparsely settled communities, but this event will remain a great
anniversary until the sons and daughters of the Lone Star State lose
their patriotism or forget the blessings of liberty. As Shepherd's Ferry
was centrally located, it became by common consent the meeting-point for
our local celebration. Residents from the Frio and San Miguel and as far
south on the home river as Lagarto, including the villagers of Oakville,
usually lent their presence on this occasion. The white element of Las
Palomas was present without an exception. As usual, Miss Jean went by
ambulance, starting the afternoon before and spending the night at a
ranch above the ferry. Those remaining made a daybreak start, reaching
Shepherd's by ten in the morning.

While on the way from the ranch to the ferry, I was visited with some
misgivings as to whether Esther McLeod had yet returned from San
Antonio. At the delivery of San Miguel's cattle at Las Palomas, Miss
Jean had been very attentive to Tony Hunter, Esther's brother-in-law,
and through him she learned that Esther's school closed for the summer
vacation on the fifteenth of April, and that within a week afterward she
was expected at home. Shortly after our reaching the ferry, a number
of vehicles drove in from Oakville. One of these conveyances was an
elaborate six-horse stage, owned by Bethel & Oxenford, star route mail
contractors between San Antonio and Brownsville, Texas. Seated by young
Oxenford's side in the driver's box sat Esther McLeod, while inside the
coach was her sister, Mrs. Martin, with the senior member of the firm,
his wife, and several other invited guests. I had heard something of the
gallantry of young Jack Oxenford, who was the nephew of a carpet-bag
member of Congress, and prided himself on being the best whip in the
country. In the latter field I would gladly have yielded him all honors,
but his attentions to Esther were altogether too marked to please either
me or my employer. I am free to admit that I was troubled by this turn
of affairs. The junior mail contractor made up in egotism what he lacked
in appearance, and no doubt had money to burn, as star route mail
contracting was profitable those days, while I had nothing but my
monthly wages. To make matters more embarrassing, a blind man could have
read Mrs. Martin's approval of young Oxenford.

The programme for the forenoon was brief--a few patriotic songs and an
oration by a young lawyer who had come up from Corpus Christi for the
occasion. After listening to the opening song, my employer and I took
a stroll down by the river, as we were too absorbed in the new
complications to pay proper attention to the young orator.

"Tom," said Uncle Lance, as we strolled away from the grove, "we are up
against the real thing now. I know young Oxenford, and he's a dangerous
fellow to have for a rival, if he really is one. You can't tell much
about a Yankee, though, for he's usually egotistical enough to think
that every girl in the country is breaking her neck to win him. The
worst of it is, this young fellow is rich--he's got dead oodles of money
and he's making more every hour out of his mail contracts. One good
thing is, we understand the situation, and all's fair in love and war.
You can see, though, that Mrs. Martin has dealt herself a hand in the
game. By the dough on her fingers she proposes to have a fist in the
pie. Well, now, son, we'll give them a run for their money or break a
tug in the effort. Tom, just you play to my lead to-day and we'll see
who holds the high cards or knows best how to play them. If I can cut
him off, that'll be your chance to sail in and do a little close-herding

We loitered along the river bank until the oration was concluded, my
employer giving me quite an interesting account of my rival. It seems
that young Oxenford belonged to a family then notoriously prominent
in politics. He had inherited quite a sum of money, and, through the
influence of his congressional uncle, had been fortunate enough to
form a partnership with Bethel, a man who knew all the ropes in mail
contracting. The senior member of the firm knew how to shake the tree,
while the financial resources of the junior member and the political
influence of his uncle made him a valuable man in gathering the plums on
their large field of star route contracts. Had not exposure interrupted,
they were due to have made a large fortune out of the government.

On our return to the picnic grounds, the assembly was dispersing for
luncheon. Miss Jean had ably provided for the occasion, and on reaching
our ambulance on the outer edge of the grove, Tiburcio had coffee all
ready and the boys from the home ranch began to straggle in for dinner.
Miss Jean had prevailed on Tony Hunter and his wife, who had come down
on horseback from the San Miguel, to take luncheon with us, and from the
hearty greetings which Uncle Lance extended to the guests of his
sister, I could see that the owner and mistress of Las Palomas were
diplomatically dividing the house of McLeod. I followed suit, making
myself agreeable to Mrs. Hunter, who was but very few years the elder of
Esther. Having spent a couple of nights at their ranch, and feeling a
certain comradeship with her husband, I decided before dinner was
over that I had a friend and ally in Tony's wife. There was something
romantic about the young matron, as any one could see, and since the
sisters favored each other in many ways, I had hopes that Esther might
not overvalue Jack Oxenford's money.

After luncheon, as we were on our way to the dancing arbor, we met the
Oakville party with Esther in tow. I was introduced to Mrs. Martin, who,
in turn, made me acquainted with her friends, including her sister,
perfectly unconscious that we were already more than mere acquaintances.
From the demure manner of Esther, who accepted the introduction as a
matter of course, I surmised she was concealing our acquaintance from
her sister and my rival. We had hardly reached the arbor before Uncle
Lance created a diversion and interested the mail contractors with a
glowing yarn about a fine lot of young mules he had at the ranch, large
enough for stage purposes. There was some doubt expressed by the stage
men as to their size and weight, when my employer invited them to
the outskirts of the grove, where he would show them a sample in our
ambulance team. So he led them away, and I saw that the time had come to
play to my employer's lead. The music striking up, I claimed Esther for
the first dance, leaving Mrs. Martin, for the time being, in charge of
her sister and Miss Jean. Before the first waltz ended I caught sight
of all three of the ladies mingling in the dance. It was a source of no
small satisfaction to me to see my two best friends, Deweese and Gallup,
dancing with the married sisters, while Miss Jean was giving her whole
attention to her partner, Tony Hunter. With the entire Las Palomas crowd
pulling strings in my interest, and Father, in the absence of Oxenford,
becoming extremely gracious, I grew bold and threw out my chest like the
brisket on a beef steer.

I permitted no one to separate me from Esther. We started the second
dance together, but no sooner did I see her sister, Mrs. Martin, whirl
by us in the polka with Dan Happersett, than I suggested that we drop
out and take a stroll. She consented, and we were soon out of sight,
wandering in a labyrinth of lover's lanes which abounded throughout this
live-oak grove. On reaching the outskirts of the picnic grounds, we came
to an extensive opening in which our saddle horses were picketed. At
a glance Esther recognized Wolf, the horse I had ridden the Christmas
before when passing their ranch. Being a favorite saddle horse of the
old ranchero, he was reserved for special occasions, and Uncle Lance had
ridden him down to Shepherd's on this holiday. Like a bird freed from a
cage, the ranch girl took to the horses and insisted on a little ride.
Since her proposal alone prevented my making a similar suggestion,
I allowed myself to be won over, but came near getting caught in
protesting. "But you told me at the ranch that Wolf was one of ten in
your Las Palomas mount," she poutingly protested.

"He is," I insisted, "but I have loaned him to Uncle Lance for the day."

"Throw the saddle on him then--I'll tell Mr. Lovelace when we return
that I borrowed his horse when he wasn't looking."

Had she killed the horse, I felt sure that the apology would have been
accepted; so, throwing saddles on the black and my own mount, we were
soon scampering down the river. The inconvenience of a man's saddle, or
the total absence of any, was a negligible incident to this daughter of
the plains. A mile down the river, we halted and watered the horses.
Then, crossing the stream, we spent about an hour circling slowly about
on the surrounding uplands, never being over a mile from the picnic
grounds. It was late for the first flora of the season, but there was
still an abundance of blue bonnets. Dismounting, we gathered and
wove wreaths for our horses' necks, and wandered picking the Mexican
strawberries which grew plentifully on every hand.

But this was all preliminary to the main question. When it came up for
discussion, this one of Quirk's boys made the talk of his life in behalf
of Thomas Moore. Nor was it in vain. When Esther apologized for the
rudeness her mother had shown me at her home, that afforded me the
opening for which I was longing. We were sitting on a grassy hummock,
weaving garlands, when I replied to the apology by declaring my
intention of marrying her, with or without her mother's consent.
Unconventional as the declaration was, to my surprise she showed neither
offense nor wonderment. Dropping the flowers with which we were working,
she avoided my gaze, and, turning slightly from me, began watching our
horses, which had strayed away some distance. But I gave her little
time for meditation, and when I aroused her from her reverie, she rose,
saying, "We'd better go back--they'll miss us if we stay too long."

Before complying with her wish, I urged an answer; but she, artfully
avoiding my question, insisted on our immediate return. Being in a
quandary as to what to say or do, I went after the horses, which was a
simple proposition. On my return, while we were adjusting the garlands
about the necks of our mounts, I again urged her for an answer, but in
vain. We stood for a moment between the two horses, and as I lowered my
hand on my knee to afford her a stepping-stone in mounting, I thought
she did not offer to mount with the same alacrity as she had done
before. Something flashed through my addled mind, and, withdrawing the
hand proffered as a mounting block, I clasped the demure maiden closely
in my arms. What transpired has no witnesses save two saddle horses,
and as Wolf usually kept an eye on his rider in mounting, I dropped the
reins and gave him his freedom rather than endure his scrutiny. When we
were finally aroused from this delicious trance, the horses had strayed
away fully fifty yards, but I had received a favorable answer, breathed
in a voice so low and tender that it haunts me yet.

As we rode along, returning to the grove, Esther requested that our
betrothal be kept a profound secret. No doubt she had good reasons, and
it was quite possible that there then existed some complications which
she wished to conceal, though I avoided all mention of any possible
rival. Since she was not due to return to her school before September,
there seemed ample time to carry out our intentions of marrying. But as
we jogged along, she informed me that after spending a few weeks with
her sister in Oakville, it was her intention to return to the San Miguel
for the summer. To allay her mother's distrust, it would be better for
me not to call at the ranch. But this was easily compensated for when
she suggested making several visits during the season with the Vaux
girls, chums of hers, who lived on the Frio about thirty miles due north
of Las Palomas. This was fortunate, since the Vaux ranch and ours were
on the most friendly terms.

We returned by the route by which we had left the grounds. I repicketed
the horses and we were soon mingling again with the revelers, having
been absent little over an hour. No one seemed to have taken any notice
of our absence. Mrs. Martin, I rejoiced to see, was still in tow of her
sister and Miss Jean, and from the circle of Las Palomas courtiers who
surrounded the ladies, I felt sure they had given her no opportunity
even to miss her younger sister. Uncle Lance was the only member of our
company absent, but I gave myself no uneasiness about him, since the
mail contractors were both likewise missing. Rejoining our friends and
assuming a nonchalant air, I flattered myself that my disguise was

During the remainder of the afternoon, in view of the possibility that
Esther might take her sister, Mrs. Martin, into our secret and win her
as an ally, I cultivated that lady's acquaintance, dancing with her and
leaving nothing undone to foster her friendship. Near the middle of the
afternoon, as the three sisters, Miss Jean, and I were indulging in
light refreshment at a booth some distance from the dancing arbor, I
sighted my employer, Dan Happersett, and the two stage men returning
from the store. They passed near, not observing us, and from the defiant
tones of Uncle Lance's voice, I knew they had been tampering with the
'private stock' of the merchant at Shepherd's. "Why, gentlemen," said
he, "that ambulance team is no exception to the quality of mules I'm
raising at Las Palomas. Drive up some time and spend a few days and take
a look at the stock we're breeding. If you will, and I don't show you
fifty mules fourteen and a half hands or better, I'll round up five
hundred head and let you pick fifty as a pelon for your time and
trouble. Why, gentlemen, Las Palomas has sold mules to the government."

On the return of our party to the arbor, Happersett claimed a dance with
Esther, thus freeing me. Uncle Lance was standing some little distance
away, still entertaining the mail contractors, and I edged near enough
to notice Oxenford's florid face and leery eye. But on my employer's
catching sight of me, he excused himself to the stage men, and taking my
arm led me off. Together we promenaded out of sight of the crowd. "How
do you like my style of a man herder?" inquired the old matchmaker, once
we were out of hearing. "Why, Tom, I'd have held those mail thieves
until dark, if Dan hadn't drifted in and given me the wink. Shepherd
kicked like a bay steer on letting me have a second quart bottle, but it
took that to put the right glaze in the young Yank's eye. Oh, I had him
going south all right! But tell me, how did you and Esther make it?"

We had reached a secluded spot, and, seating ourselves on an old fallen
tree trunk, I told of my success, even to the using of his horse. Never
before or since did I see Uncle Lance give way to such a fit of hilarity
as he indulged in over the perfect working out of our plans. With his
hat he whipped me, the ground, the log on which we sat, while his peals
of laughter rang out like the reports of a rifle. In his fit of ecstasy,
tears of joy streaming from his eyes, he kept repeating again and again,
"Oh, sister, run quick and tell pa to come!"

As we neared the grounds returning, he stopped me and we had a further
brief confidential talk together. I was young and egotistical enough to
think that I could defy all the rivals in existence, but he cautioned
me, saying: "Hold on, Tom. You're young yet; you know nothing about the
weaker sex, absolutely nothing. It's not your fault, but due to your
mere raw youth. Now, listen to me, son: Don't underestimate any rival,
particularly if he has gall and money, most of all, money. Humanity is
the same the world over, and while you may not have seen it here among
the ranches, it is natural for a woman to rave over a man with money,
even if he is only a pimply excuse for a creature. Still, I don't see
that we have very much to fear. We can cut old lady McLeod out of the
matter entirely. But then there's the girl's sister, Mrs. Martin, and
I look for her to cut up shameful when she smells the rat, which she's
sure to do. And then there's her husband to figure on. If the ox knows
his master's crib, it's only reasonable to suppose that Jack Martin
knows where his bread and butter comes from. These stage men will stick
up for each other like thieves. Now, don't you be too crack sure. Be
just a trifle leary of every one, except, of course, the Las Palomas

I admit that I did not see clearly the reasoning behind much of this
lecture, but I knew better than reject the advice of the old matchmaker
with his sixty odd years of experience. I was still meditating over his
remarks when we rejoined the crowd and were soon separated among the
dancers. Several urged me to play the violin; but I was too busy looking
after my own fences, and declined the invitation. Casting about for the
Vaux girls, I found the eldest, with whom I had a slight acquaintance,
being monopolized by Theodore Quayle and John Cotton, friendly rivals
and favorites of the young lady. On my imploring the favor of a dance,
she excused herself, and joined me on a promenade about the grounds,
missing one dance entirely. In arranging matters with her to send me
word on the arrival of Esther at their ranch, I attempted to make her
show some preference between my two comrades, under the pretense of
knowing which one to bring along, but she only smiled and maintained an
admirable neutrality.

After a dance I returned the elder Miss Vaux to the tender care of
John Cotton, and caught sight of my employer leaving the arbor for the
refreshment booth with a party of women, including Mrs. Martin and
Esther McLeod, to whom he was paying the most devoted attention.
Witnessing the tireless energy of the old matchmaker, and in a quarter
where he had little hope of an ally, brought me to thinking that there
might be good cause for alarm in his warnings not to be overconfident.
Miss Jean, whom I had not seen since luncheon, aroused me from my
reverie, and on her wishing to know my motive for cultivating the
acquaintance of Miss Vaux and neglecting my own sweetheart, I told her
the simple truth. "Good idea, Tom," she assented. "I think I'll just ask
Miss Frances home with me to spend Sunday. Then you can take her across
to the Frio on horseback, so as not to offend either John or Theodore.
What do you think?"

I thought it was a good idea, and said so. At least the taking of the
young lady home would be a pleasanter task for me than breaking horses.
But as I expressed myself so, I could not help thinking, seeing Miss
Jean's zeal in the matter, that the matchmaking instinct was equally
well developed on both sides of the Lovelace family.

The afternoon was drawing to a close. The festivities would conclude
by early sundown. Miss Jean would spend the night again at the halfway
ranch, returning to Las Palomas the next morning; we would start on our
return with the close of the amusements. Many who lived at a distance
had already started home. It lacked but a few minutes of the closing
hour when I sought out Esther for the "Home, Sweet Home" waltz, finding
her in company of Oxenford, chaperoned by Mrs. Martin, of which there
was need. My sweetheart excused herself with a poise that made my heart
leap, and as we whirled away in the mazes of the final dance, rivals and
all else passed into oblivion. Before we could realize the change in the
music, the orchestra had stopped, and struck into "My Country, 'tis of
Thee," in which the voice of every patriotic Texan present swelled the
chorus until it echoed throughout the grove, befittingly closing San
Jacinto Day.



The return of Miss Jean the next forenoon, accompanied by Frances Vaux,
was an occasion of more than ordinary moment at Las Palomas. The Vaux
family were of creole extraction, but had settled on the Frio River
nearly a generation before. Under the climatic change, from the swamps
of Louisiana to the mesas of Texas, the girls grew up fine physical
specimens of rustic Southern beauty. To a close observer, certain traces
of the French were distinctly discernible in Miss Frances, notably in
the large, lustrous eyes, the swarthy complexion, and early maturity of
womanhood. Small wonder then that our guest should have played havoc
among the young men of the countryside, adding to her train of gallants
the devoted Quayle and Cotton of Las Palomas.

Aside from her charming personality, that Miss Vaux should receive a
cordial welcome at Las Palomas goes without saying, since there were
many reasons why she should. The old ranchero and his sister chaperoned
the young lady, while I, betrothed to another, became her most obedient
slave. It is needless to add that there was a fair field and no favor
shown by her hosts, as between John and Theodore. The prize was worthy
of any effort. The best man was welcome to win, while the blessings of
master and mistress seemed impatient to descend on the favored one.

In the work in hand, I was forced to act as a rival to my friends, for
I could not afford to lower my reputation for horsemanship before Miss
Frances, when my betrothed was shortly to be her guest. So it was not
to be wondered at that Quayle and Cotton should abandon the _medeno_ in
mounting their unbroken geldings, and I had to follow suit or suffer
by comparison. The other rascals, equal if not superior to our trio in
horsemanship, including Enrique, born with just sense enough to be a
fearless vaquero, took to the heavy sand in mounting vicious geldings;
but we three jauntily gave the wildest horses their heads and even
encouraged them to buck whenever our guest was sighted on the gallery.
What gave special vim to our work was the fact that Miss Frances was a
horsewoman herself, and it was with difficulty that she could be kept
away from the corrals. Several times a day our guest prevailed on Uncle
Lance to take her out to witness the roping. From a safe vantage place
on the palisades, the old ranchero and his protégé would watch us
catching, saddling, and mounting the geldings. Under those bright eyes,
lariats encircled the feet of the horse to be ridden deftly indeed, and
he was laid on his side in the sand as daintily as a mother would lay
her babe in its crib. Outside of the trio, the work of the gang was
bunglesome, calling for many a protest from Uncle Lance,--they had no
lady's glance to spur them on,--while ours merited the enthusiastic
plaudits of Miss Frances.


Then came Sunday and we observed the commandment. Miss Jean had planned
a picnic for the day on the river. We excused Tiburcio, and pressed the
ambulance team into service to convey the party of six for the day's
outing among the fine groves of elm that bordered the river in several
places, and afforded ample shade from the sun. The day was delightfully
spent. The chaperons were negligent and dilatory. Uncle Lance even
fell asleep for several hours. But when we returned at twilight, the
ambulance mules were garlanded as if for a wedding party.

The next morning our guest was to depart, and to me fell the pleasant
task of acting as her escort. Uncle Lance prevailed on Miss Frances to
ride a spirited chestnut horse from his mount, while I rode a _grulla_
from my own. We made an early start, the old ranchero riding with us
as far as the river. As he held the hand of Miss Vaux in parting, he
cautioned her not to detain me at their ranch, as he had use for me at
Las Palomas. "Of course," said he, "I don't mean that you shall hurry
him right off to-day or even to-morrow. But these lazy rascals of mine
will hang around a girl a week, if she'll allow it. Had John or Theodore
taken you home, I shouldn't expect to see either of them in a fortnight.
Now, if they don't treat you right at home, come back and live with us.
I'll adopt you as my daughter. And tell your pa that the first general
rain that falls, I'm coming over with my hounds for a cat hunt with him.
Good-by, sweetheart."

It was a delightful ride across to the Frio. Mounted on two splendid
horses, we put the Nueces behind us as the hours passed. Frequently we
met large strings of cattle drifting in towards the river for their
daily drink, and Miss Frances insisted on riding through the cows,
noticing every brand as keenly as a vaquero on the lookout for strays
from her father's ranch. The young calves scampered out of our way, but
their sedate mothers permitted us to ride near enough to read the brands
as we met and passed. Once we rode a mile out of our way to look at a
_manada_. The stallion met us as we approached as if to challenge all
intruders on his domain, but we met him defiantly and he turned aside
and permitted us to examine his harem and its frolicsome colts.

But when cattle and horses no longer served as a subject, and the wide
expanse of flowery mesa, studded here and there with Spanish daggers
whose creamy flowers nodded to us as we passed, ceased to interest us,
we turned to the ever interesting subject of sweethearts. But try as I
might, I could never wring any confession from her which even suggested
a preference among her string of admirers. On the other hand, when she
twitted me about Esther, I proudly plead guilty of a Platonic friendship
which some day I hoped would ripen into something more permanent, fully
realizing that the very first time these two chums met there would be an
interchange of confidences. And in the full knowledge that during these
whispered admissions the truth would be revealed, I stoutly denied that
Esther and I were even betrothed.

But during that morning's ride I made a friend and ally of Frances Vaux.
There was some talk of a tournament to be held during the summer at
Campbellton on the Atascosa. She promised that she would detain Esther
for it and find a way to send me word, and we would make up a party and
attend it together. I had never been present at any of these pastoral
tourneys and was hopeful that one would be held within reach of our
ranch, for I had heard a great deal about them and was anxious to see
one. But this was only one of several social outings which she outlined
as on her summer programme, to all of which I was cordially invited as
a member of her party. There was to be a dance on St. John's Day at the
Mission, a barbecue in June on the San Miguel, and other local meets for
the summer and early fall. By the time we reached the ranch, I was just
beginning to realize that, socially, Shepherd's Ferry and the Nueces was
a poky place.

The next morning I returned to Las Palomas. The horse-breaking was
nearing an end. During the month of May we went into camp on a new tract
of land which had been recently acquired, to build a tank on a dry
_arroyo_ which crossed this last landed addition to the ranch. It was a
commercial peculiarity of Uncle Lance to acquire land but never to part
with it under any consideration. To a certain extent, cows and land had
become his religion, and whenever either, adjoining Las Palomas, was for
sale, they were looked upon as a safe bank of deposit for any surplus
funds. The last tract thus secured was dry, but by damming the _arroyo_
we could store water in this tank or reservoir to tide over the
dry spells. All the Mexican help on the ranch was put to work with
wheelbarrows, while six mule teams ploughed, scraped, and hauled rock,
one four-mule team being constantly employed in hauling water over ten
miles for camp and stock purposes. This dry stream ran water, when
conditions were favorable, several months in the year, and by building
the tank our cattle capacity would be largely increased.

One evening, late in the month, when the water wagon returned, Tiburcio
brought a request from Miss Jean, asking me to come into the ranch that
night. Responding to the summons, I was rewarded by finding a letter
awaiting me from Frances Vaux, left by a vaquero passing from the Frio
to Santa Maria. It was a dainty missive, informing me that Esther was
her guest; that the tournament would not take place, but to be sure and
come over on Sunday. Personally the note was satisfactory, but that I
was to bring any one along was artfully omitted. Being thus forced to
read between the lines, on my return to camp the next morning by dawn,
without a word of explanation, I submitted the matter to John and
Theodore. Uncle Lance, of course, had to know what had called me in to
the ranch, and, taking the letter from Quayle, read it himself.

"That's plain enough," said he, on the first reading. "John will go with
you Sunday, and if it rains next month, I'll take Theodore with me when
I go over for a cat hunt with old man Pierre. I'll let him act as master
of the horse,--no, of the hounds,--and give him a chance to toot his own
horn with Frances. Honest, boys, I'm getting disgusted with the white
element of Las Palomas. We raise most everything here but white babies.
Even Enrique, the rascal, has to live in camp now to hold down his
breakfast. But you young whites--with the country just full of young
women--well, it's certainly discouraging. I do all I can, and Sis helps
a little, but what does it amount to--what are the results? That poem
that Jean reads to us occasionally must be right. I reckon the Caucasian
is played out."

Before the sun was an hour high, John Cotton and myself rode into the
Vaux ranch on Sunday morning. The girls gave us a cheerful welcome.
While we were breakfasting, several other lads and lasses rode up, and
we were informed that a little picnic for the day had been arranged.
As this was to our liking, John and I readily acquiesced, and shortly
afterward a mounted party of about a dozen young folks set out for a
hackberry grove, up the river several miles. Lunch baskets were taken
along, but no chaperons. The girls were all dressed in cambric and
muslin and as light in heart as the fabrics and ribbons they flaunted.
I was gratified with the boldness of Cotton, as he cantered away with
Frances, and with the day before him there was every reason to believe
that his cause would he advanced. As to myself, with Esther by my side
the livelong day, I could not have asked the world to widen an inch.

It was midnight when we reached Las Palomas returning. As we rode along
that night, John confessed to me that Frances was a tantalizing enigma.
Up to a certain point, she offered every encouragement, but beyond that
there seemed to be a dead line over which she allowed no sentiment to
pass. It was plain to be seen that he was discouraged, but I told him I
had gone through worse ordeals.

Throughout southern Texas and the country tributary to the Nueces River,
we always looked for our heaviest rainfall during the month of June.
This year in particular, we were anxious to see a regular downpour to
start the _arroyo_ and test our new tank. Besides, we had sold for
delivery in July, twelve hundred beef steers for shipment at Rockport on
the coast. If only a soaking rain would fall, making water plentiful, we
could make the drive in little over a hundred miles, while a dry season
would compel; us to follow the river nearly double the distance.

We were riding our range thoroughly, locating our fattest beeves, when
one evening as June Deweese and I were on the way back from the Ganso,
a regular equinoctial struck us, accompanied by a downpour of rain and
hail. Our horses turned their backs to the storm, but we drew slickers
over our heads, and defied the elements. Instead of letting up as
darkness set in, the storm seemed to increase in fury and we were forced
to seek shelter. We were at least fifteen miles from the ranch, and it
was simply impossible to force a horse against that sheeting rain.
So turning to catch the storm in our backs, we rode for a ranchita
belonging to Las Palomas. By the aid of flashes of lightning and the
course of the storm, we reached the little ranch and found a haven. A
steady rain fell all night, continuing the next day, but we saddled
early and rode for our new reservoir on the _arroyo_. Imagine our
surprise on sighting the embankment to see two horsemen ride up from the
opposite direction and halt at the dam. Giving rein to our horses and
galloping up, we found they were Uncle Lance and Theodore Quayle. Above
the dam the _arroyo_ was running like a mill-tail. The water in the
reservoir covered several acres and had backed up stream nearly a
quarter mile, the deepest point in the tank reaching my saddle skirts.
The embankment had settled solidly, holding the gathering water to our
satisfaction, and after several hours' inspection we rode for home.

With this splendid rain, Las Palomas ranch took on an air of activity.
The old ranchero paced the gallery for hours in great glee, watching the
downpour. It was too soon yet by a week to gather the beeves. But under
the glowing prospect, we could not remain inert. The next morning the
_segunão_ took all the teams and returned to the tank to watch the dam
and haul rock to rip-rap the flanks of the embankment. Taking extra
saddle horses with us, Uncle Lance, Dan Happersett, Quayle, and myself
took the hounds and struck across for the Frio. On reaching the Vaux
ranch, as showers were still falling and the underbrush reeking with
moisture, wetting any one to the skin who dared to invade it, we did not
hunt that afternoon. Pierre Vaux was enthusiastic over the rain, while
his daughters were equally so over the prospects of riding to the
hounds, there being now nearly forty dogs in the double pack.

At the first opportunity, Frances confided to me that Mrs. McLeod had
forbidden Esther visiting them again, since some busybody had carried
the news of our picnic to her ears. But she promised me that if I could
direct the hunt on the morrow within a few miles of the McLeod ranch,
she would entice my sweetheart out and give me a chance to meet her.
There was a roguish look in Miss Frances's eye during this disclosure
which I was unable to fathom, but I promised during the few days' hunt
to find some means to direct the chase within striking distance of the
ranch on the San Miguel.

I promptly gave this bit of news in confidence to Uncle Lance, and was
told to lie low and leave matters to him. That evening, amid clouds of
tobacco smoke, the two old rancheros discussed the best hunting in the
country, while we youngsters danced on the gallery to the strains of a
fiddle. I heard Mr. Vaux narrating a fight with a cougar which killed
two of his best dogs during the winter just passed, and before we
retired it was understood that we would give the haunts of this same old
cougar our first attention.



Dawn found the ranch astir and a heavy fog hanging over the Frio valley.
Don Pierre had a _remuda_ corralled before sun-up, and insisted on our
riding his horses, an invitation which my employer alone declined.
For the first hour or two the pack scouted the river bottoms with no
success, and Uncle Lance's verdict was that the valley was too soggy for
any animal belonging to the cat family, so we turned back to the divide
between the Frio and San Miguel. Here there grew among the hills many
Guajio thickets, and from the first one we beat, the hounds opened on a
hot trail in splendid chorus. The pack led us through thickets for over
a mile, when they suddenly turned down a ravine, heading for the river.
With the ground ill splendid condition for trailing, the dogs in full
cry, the quarry sought every shelter possible; but within an hour of
striking the scent, the pack came to bay in the encinal. On coming up
with the hounds, we found the animal was a large catamount. A single
shot brought him from his perch in a scraggy oak, and the first chase of
the day was over. The pelt was worthless and was not taken.

It was nearly noon when the kill was made, and Don Pierre insisted
that we return to the ranch. Uncle Lance protested against wasting the
remainder of the day, but the courteous Creole urged that the ground
would be in fine condition for hunting at least a week longer; this hunt
he declared was merely preliminary--to break the pack together and give
them a taste of the chase before attacking the cougar. "Ah," said Don
Pierre, with a deprecating shrug of the shoulders, "you have nothing to
hurry you home. I come by your rancho an' stay one hol' week. You
come by mine, al' time hurry. Sacré! Let de li'l dogs rest, an' in de
mornin', mebbe we hunt de cougar. Ah, Meester Lance, we must haff de
pack fresh for him. By Gar, he was one dam' wil' fellow. Mek one two
pass, so. Biff! two dog dead."

Uncle Lance yielded, and we rode back to the ranch. The next morning our
party included the three daughters of our host. Don Pierre led the way
on a roan stallion, and after two hours' riding we crossed the San
Miguel to the north of his ranch. A few miles beyond we entered some
chalky hills, interspersed with white chaparral thickets which were just
bursting into bloom, with a fragrance that was almost intoxicating.
Under the direction of our host, we started to beat a long chain of
these thickets, and were shortly rewarded by hearing the pack give
mouth. The quarry kept to the cover of the thickets for several miles,
impeding the chase until the last covert in the chain was reached, where
a fight occurred with the lead hound. Don Pierre was the first to reach
the scene, and caught several glimpses of a monster puma as he slunk
away through the Brazil brush, leaving one of the Don's favorite hounds
lacerated to the bone. But the pack passed on, and, lifting the wounded
dog to a vaquero's saddle, we followed, lustily shouting to the hounds.

The spoor now turned down the San Miguel, and the pace was such that
it took hard riding to keep within hearing. Mr. Vaux and Uncle Lance
usually held the lead, the remainder of the party, including the girls,
bringing up the rear. The chase continued down stream for fully an hour,
until we encountered some heavy timber on the main Frio, our course
having carried us several miles to the north of the McLeod ranch. Some
distance below the juncture with the San Miguel the river made a large
horseshoe, embracing nearly a thousand acres, which was covered with a
dense growth of ash, pecan, and cypress. The trail led into this jungle,
circling it several times before leading away. We were fortunately
able to keep track of the chase from the baying of the hounds without
entering the timber, and were watching its course, when suddenly it
changed; the pack followed the scent across a bridge of driftwood on the
Frio, and started up the river in full cry.

As the chase down the San Miguel passed beyond the mouth of the creek,
Theodore Quayle and Frances Vaux dropped out and rode for the McLeod
ranch. It was still early in the day, and understanding their motive, I
knew they would rejoin us if their mission was successful. By the sudden
turn of the chase, we were likely to pass several miles south of the
home of my sweetheart, but our location could be easily followed by the
music of the pack. Within an hour after leaving us, Theodore and Frances
rejoined the chase, adding Tony Hunter and Esther to our numbers. With
this addition, I lost interest in the hunt, as the course carried us
straightaway five miles up the stream. The quarry was cunning and
delayed the pack at every thicket or large body of timber encountered.
Several times he craftily attempted to throw the hounds off the scent
by climbing leaning trees, only to spring down again. But the pack were
running wide and the ruse was only tiring the hunted. The scent at times
left the river and circled through outlying mesquite groves, always
keeping well under cover. On these occasions we rested our horses, for
the hunt was certain to return to the river.

From the scattering order in which we rode, I was afforded a good
opportunity for free conversation with Esther. But the information I
obtained was not very encouraging. Her mother's authority had grown so
severe that existence under the same roof was a mere armistice between
mother and daughter, while this day's sport was likely to break the
already strained relations. The thought that her suffering was largely
on my account, nerved me to resolution.

The kill was made late in the day, in a bend of the river, about fifteen
miles above the Vaux ranch, forming a jungle of several thousand acres.
In this thickety covert the fugitive made his final stand, taking refuge
in an immense old live-oak, the mossy festoons of which partially
screened him from view. The larger portion of the cavalcade remained in
the open, but the rest of us, under the leadership of the two rancheros,
forced our horses through the underbrush and reached the hounds. The
pack were as good as exhausted by the long run, and, lest the animal
should spring out of the tree and escape, we circled it at a distance.
On catching a fair view of the quarry, Uncle Lance called for a carbine.
Two shots through the shoulders served to loosen the puma's footing,
when he came down by easy stages from limb to limb, spitting and hissing
defiance into the upturned faces of the pack. As he fell, we dashed in
to beat off the dogs as a matter of precaution, but the bullets had done
their work, and the pack mouthed the fallen feline with entire impunity.

Dan Happersett dragged the dead puma out with a rope over the neck for
the inspection of the girls, while our horses, which had had no less
than a fifty-mile ride, were unsaddled and allowed a roll and a half
hour's graze before starting back. As we were watering our mounts, I
caught my employer's ear long enough to repeat what I had learned about
Esther's home difficulties. After picketing our horses, we strolled away
from the remainder of the party, when Uncle Lance remarked: "Tom, your
chance has come where you must play your hand and play it boldly. I'll
keep Tony at the Vaux ranch, and if Esther has to go home to-night, why,
of course, you'll have to take her. There's your chance to run off and
marry. Now, Tom, you've never failed me yet; and this thing has gone far
enough. We'll give old lady McLeod good cause to hate us from now on.
I've got some money with me, and I'll rob the other boys, and to-night
you make a spoon or spoil a horn. Sabe?"

I understood and approved. As we jogged along homeward, Esther and I
fell to the rear, and I outlined my programme. Nor did she protest when
I suggested that to-night was the accepted time. Before we reached the
Vaux ranch every little detail was arranged. There was a splendid moon,
and after supper she plead the necessity of returning home. Meanwhile
every cent my friends possessed had been given me, and the two best
horses of Las Palomas were under saddle for the start. Uncle Lance was
arranging a big hunt for the morrow with Tony Hunter and Don Pierre,
when Esther took leave of her friends, only a few of whom were cognizant
of our intended elopement.

With fresh mounts under us, we soon covered the intervening distance
between the two ranches. I would gladly have waived touching at the
McLeod ranch, but Esther had torn her dress during the day and insisted
on a change, and I, of necessity, yielded. The corrals were at some
distance from the main buildings, and, halting at a saddle shed
adjoining, Esther left me and entered the house. Fortunately her mother
had retired, and after making a hasty change of apparel, she returned
unobserved to the corrals. As we quietly rode out from the inclosure,
my spirits soared to the moon above us. The night was an ideal one.
Crossing the Frio, we followed the divide some distance, keeping in the
open, and an hour before midnight forded the Nueces at Shepherd's. A
flood of recollections crossed my mind, as our steaming horses bent
their heads to drink at the ferry. Less than a year before, in this
very grove, I had met her; it was but two months since, on those hills
beyond, we had gathered flowers, plighted our troth, and exchanged our
first rapturous kiss. And the thought that she was renouncing home and
all for my sake, softened my heart and nerved me to every exertion.

Our intention was to intercept the south-bound stage at the first
road house south of Oakville. I knew the hour it was due to leave the
station, and by steady riding we could connect with it at the first
stage stand some fifteen miles below. Lighthearted and happy, we set
out on this last lap of our ride. Our horses seemed to understand the
emergency, as they put the miles behind them, thrilling us with their
energy and vigor. Never for a moment in our flight did my sweetheart
discover a single qualm over her decision, while in my case all scruples
were buried in the hope of victory. Recrossing the Nueces and entering
the stage road, we followed it down several miles, sighting the stage
stand about two o'clock in the morning. I was saddle weary from the
hunt, together with this fifty-mile ride, and rejoiced in reaching our
temporary destination. Esther, however, seemed little the worse for the
long ride.

The welcome extended by the keeper of this relay station was gruff
enough. But his tone and manner moderated when he learned we were
passengers for Corpus Christi. When I made arrangements with him to look
after our horses for a week or ten days at a handsome figure, he became
amiable, invited us to a cup of coffee, and politely informed us that
the stage was due in half an hour. But on its arrival, promptly on time,
our hearts sank within us. On the driver's box sat an express guard
holding across his knees a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun. As it
halted, two other guards stepped out of the coach, similarly armed. The
stage was carrying an unusual amount of treasure, we were informed, and
no passengers could be accepted, as an attempted robbery was expected
between this and the next station.

Our situation became embarrassing. For the first time during our ride,
Esther showed the timidity of her sex. The chosen destination of our
honeymoon, nearly a hundred miles to the south, was now out of the
question. To return to Oakville, where a sister and friends of my
sweetheart resided, seemed the only avenue open. I had misgivings that
it was unsafe, but Esther urged it, declaring that Mrs. Martin would
offer no opposition, and even if she did, nothing now could come that
would ever separate us. We learned from the keeper that Jack Martin was
due to drive the north-bound stage out of Oakville that morning, and was
expected to pass this relay station about daybreak. This was favorable,
and we decided to wait and allow the stage to pass north before resuming
our journey.

On the arrival of the stage, we learned that the down coach had been
attacked, but the robbers, finding it guarded, had fled after an
exchange of shots in the darkness. This had a further depressing effect
on my betrothed, and only my encouragement to be brave and face the
dilemma confronting us kept her up. Bred on the frontier, this little
ranch girl was no weakling; but the sudden overturn of our well-laid
plans had chilled my own spirits as well as hers. Giving the up stage
a good start of us, we resaddled and started for Oakville, slightly
crestfallen but still confident. In the open air Esther's fears
gradually subsided, and, invigorated by the morning and the gallop, we
reached our destination after our night's adventure with hopes buoyant
and colors flying.

Mrs. Martin looked a trifle dumfounded at her early callers, but I lost
no time in informing her that our mission was an elopement, and asked
her approval and blessing. Surprised as she was, she welcomed us to
breakfast, inquiring of our plans and showing alarm over our experience.
Since Oakville was a county seat where a license could be secured, for
fear of pursuit I urged an immediate marriage, but Mrs. Martin could see
no necessity for haste. There was, she said, no one there whom she would
allow to solemnize a wedding of her sister, and, to my chagrin, Esther
agreed with her.

This was just what I had dreaded; but Mrs. Martin, with apparent
enthusiasm over our union, took the reins in her own hands, and decided
that we should wait until Jack's return, when we would all take the
stage to Pleasanton, where an Episcopal minister lived. My heart sank
at this, for it meant a delay of two days, and I stood up and stoutly
protested. But now that the excitement of our flight had abated, my own
Esther innocently sided with her sister, and I was at my wit's end. To
all my appeals, the sisters replied with the argument that there was no
hurry--that while the hunt lasted at the Vaux ranch Tony Hunter could be
depended upon to follow the hounds; Esther would never be missed until
his return; her mother would suppose she was with the Vaux girls, and
would be busy preparing a lecture against her return.

Of course the argument of the sisters won the hour. Though dreading some
unforeseen danger, I temporarily yielded. I knew the motive of the hunt
well enough to know that the moment we had an ample start it would be
abandoned, and the Las Palomas contingent would return to the ranch. Yet
I dare not tell, even my betrothed, that there were ulterior motives
in my employer's hunting on the Frio, one of which was to afford an
opportunity for our elopement. Full of apprehension and alarm, I took a
room at the village hostelry, for I had our horses to look after,
and secured a much-needed sleep during the afternoon. That evening I
returned to the Martin cottage, to urge again that we carry out our
original programme by taking the south-bound stage at midnight. But all
I could say was of no avail. Mrs. Martin was equal to every suggestion.
She had all the plans outlined, and there was no occasion for me to
do any thinking at all. Corpus Christi was not to be considered for a
single moment, compared to Pleasanton and an Episcopalian service. What
could I do?

At an early hour Mrs. Martin withdrew. The reaction from our escapade
had left a pallor on my sweetheart's countenance, almost alarming.
Noticing this, I took my leave early, hoping that a good night's rest
would restore her color and her spirits. Returning to the hostelry, I
resignedly sought my room, since there was nothing I could do but wait.
Tossing and pitching on my bed, I upbraided myself for having returned
to Oakville, where any interference with our plans could possibly

The next morning at breakfast, I noticed that I was the object of
particular attention, and of no very kindly sort. No one even gave me
a friendly nod, while several avoided my glances. Supposing that some
rumor of our elopement might be abroad, I hurriedly finished my meal
and started for the Martins'. On reaching the door, I was met by its
mistress, who, I had need to remind myself, was the sister of my
betrothed. To my friendly salutation, she gave me a scornful, withering

"You're too late, young man," she said. "Shortly after you left last
night, Esther and Jack Oxenford took a private conveyance for Beeville,
and are married before this. You Las Palomas people are slow. Old Lance
Lovelace thought he was playing it cute San Jacinto Day, but I
saw through his little game. Somebody must have told him he was a
matchmaker. Well, just give him my regards, and tell him he don't know
the first principles of that little game. Tell him to drop in some time
when he's passing; I may be able to give him some pointers that I'm not
using at the moment. I hope your sorrow will not exceed my happiness.
Good-morning, sir."



My memory of what happened immediately after Mrs. Martin's contemptuous
treatment of me is as vague and indefinite as the vaporings of a fevered
dream. I have a faint recollection of several friendly people offering
their sympathy. The old stableman, who looked after the horses,
cautioned me not to start out alone; but I have since learned that I
cursed him and all the rest, and rode away as one in a trance. But I
must have had some little caution left, for I remember giving Shepherd's
a wide berth, passing several miles to the south.

The horses, taking their own way, were wandering home. Any exercise of
control or guidance over them on my part was inspired by an instinct
to avoid being seen. Of conscious direction there was none. Somewhere
between the ferry and the ranch I remember being awakened from my torpor
by the horse which I was leading showing an inclination to graze. Then
I noticed their gaunted condition, and in sympathy for the poor brutes
unsaddled and picketed them in a secluded spot. What happened at this
halt has slipped from my memory. But I must have slept a long time; for
I awoke to find the moon high overhead, and my watch, through neglect,
run down and stopped. I now realized the better my predicament, and
reasoned with myself whether I should return to Las Palomas or not. But
there was no place else to go, and the horses did not belong to me. If I
could only reach the ranch and secure my own horse, I felt that no power
on earth could chain me to the scenes of my humiliation.

The horses decided me to return. Resaddling at an unknown hour, I rode
for the ranch. The animals were refreshed and made good time. As I rode
along I tried to convince myself that I could slip into the ranch,
secure my own saddle horse, and meet no one except the Mexicans. There
was a possibility that Deweese might still be in camp at the new
reservoir, and I was hopeful that my employer might not yet be returned
from the hunt on the Frio. After a number of hours' riding, the horse
under saddle nickered. Halting him, I listened and heard the roosters
crowing in a chorus at the ranch. Clouds had obscured the moon, and so
by making a detour around the home buildings I was able to reach the
Mexican quarters unobserved. I rode up to the house of Enrique, and
quietly aroused him; told him my misfortune and asked him to hide me
until he could get up my horse. We turned the animals loose, and, taking
my saddle inside the _jacal_, held a whispered conversation. Deweese was
yet at the tank. If the hunting party had returned, they had done so
during the night. The distant range of my horse made it impossible to
get him before the middle of the forenoon, but Enrique and Doña Anita
assured me that my slightest wish was law to them. Furnishing me with a
blanket and pillow, they made me a couch on a dry cowskin on the dirt
floor at the foot of their bed, and before day broke I had fallen

On awakening, I found the sun had already risen. Enrique and his wife
were missing from the room, but a peep through a crevice in the palisade
wall revealed Doña Anita in the kitchen adjoining. She had detected my
awakening, and soon brought me a cup of splendid coffee, which I drank
with relish. She urged on me also some dainty dishes, which had always
been favorites with me in Mexican cookery, but my appetite was gone.
Throwing myself back on the cowskin, I asked Doña Anita how long Enrique
had been gone in quest of my horse, and was informed that he left
before dawn, not even waiting for his customary cup of coffee. With the
kindness of a sister, the girl wife urged me to take their bed; but
I assured her that comfort was the least of my concerns, complete
effacement being my consuming thought.

Doña Anita withdrew, and as I lay pondering over the several possible
routes of escape, I heard a commotion in the ranch. I was in the act of
rising when Doña Anita burst into the _jacal_ to tell me that Don Lance
had been sighted returning. I was on my feet in an instant, heard the
long-drawn notes of the horn calling in the hounds, and, peering through
the largest crack, saw the cavalcade. As they approached, driving their
loose mounts in front of them, I felt that my ill luck still hung over
me; for among the unsaddled horses were the two which I had turned free
but a few hours before. The hunters had met the gaunted animals between
the ranch and the river, and were bringing them in to return them to
their own _remuda_. But at the same time the horses were evidence that I
was in the ranch. From the position of Uncle Lance, in advance, I could
see that he was riding direct to the house, and my absence there would
surely cause surprise. At best it was but a question of time until I was

In the face of this new development, I gave up. There was no escaping
fate. Enrique might not return for two hours yet, and if he came,
driving in my horse, it would only prove my presence. I begged Doña
Anita to throw open the door and conceal nothing. But she was still
ready to aid in my concealment until night, offering to deny my
presence. But how could I conceal myself in a single room, and what was
so simple a device to a worldly man of sixty years' experience? To me
the case looked hopeless. Even before we had concluded our discussion,
I saw Uncle Lance and the boys coming towards the Mexican quarters,
followed by Miss Jean and the household contingent. The fact that
the door of Enrique's _jacal_ was closed, made it a shining mark for
investigation. Opening the inner door, I started to meet the visitors;
but Doña Anita planted herself at the outer entrance of the stoop, met the
visitors, and within my hearing and without being asked stoutly denied
my presence. "Hush up, you little liar," said a voice, and I heard a
step and clanking spurs which I recognized. I had sat down on the edge
of the bed, and was rolling a cigarette as the crowd filed into the
_jacal_. A fortunate flush of anger came over me which served to steady
my voice; but I met their staring, after all, much as if I had been a
culprit and they a vigilance committee.

"Well, young fellow, explain your presence here," demanded Uncle Lance.
Had it not been for the presence of Miss Jean, I had on my tongue's
end a reply, relative to the eleventh commandment, emphasized with
sulphurous adjectives. But out of deference to the mistress of the
ranch, I controlled my anger, and, taking out of my pocket a flint,
a steel, and, a bit of _yesca,_ struck fire and leisurely lighted my
cigarette. Throwing myself back on the bed, as my employer repeated
his demand, I replied, "Ask Anita." The girl understood, and, nothing
abashed, told the story in her native tongue, continually referring to
me as _pobre Tomas_. When her disconnected narrative was concluded,
Uncle Lance turned on me, saying:--

"And this is the result of all our plans. You went into Oakville, did
you? Tom, you haven't, got as much sense as a candy frog. Walked right
into a trap with your head up and sassy. That's right--don't you listen
to any one. Didn't I tell you that stage people would stick by each
other like thieves? And you forgot all my warnings and deliberately"--

"Hold on," I interrupted. "You must recollect that the horses had had a
fifty-mile forced ride, were jaded, and on the point of collapse. With
the down stage refusing to carry us, and the girl on the point of
hysteria, where else could I go?"

"Go to jail if necessary. Go anywhere but the place you went. The horses
were jaded on a fifty-mile ride, were they? Either one of them was good
for a hundred without unsaddling, and you know it. Haven't I told you
that this ranch would raise horses when we were all dead and gone?
Suppose you had killed a couple of horses? What would that have been,
compared to your sneaking into the ranch this way, like a whipped cur
with your tail between your legs? Now, the countryside will laugh at us

"The country may laugh," I answered, "but I'll not be here to hear it.
Enrique has gone after my horse, and as soon as he gets in I'm leaving
you for good."

"You'll do nothing of the kind. You think you're all shot to pieces,
don't you? Well, you'll stay right here until all your wounds heal.
I've taken all these degrees myself, and have lived to laugh at them
afterward. And I have had lessons that I hope you'll never have to
learn. When I found out that my third wife had known a gambler before
she married me, I found out what the Bible means by rottenness of the
bones with which it says an evil woman uncrowns her husband. I'll tell
you about it some day. But you've not been scarred in this little
side-play. You're not even powder burnt. Why, in less than a month
you'll be just as happy again as if you had good sense."

Miss Jean now interrupted. "Clear right out of here," she said to her
brother and the rest. "Yes, the whole pack of you. I want to talk with
Tom alone. Yes, you too--you've said too much already. Run along out."

As they filed out, I noticed Uncle Lance pick up my saddle and throw it
across his shoulder, while Theodore gathered up the rancid blankets and
my fancy bridle, taking everything with them to the house. Waiting until
she saw that her orders were obeyed, Miss Jean came over and sat down
beside me on the bed. Anita stood like a fawn near the door, likewise
fearing banishment, but on a sign from her mistress she spread a
goatskin on the floor and sat down at our feet. Between two languages
and two women, I was as helpless as an ironed prisoner. Not that Anita
had any influence over me, but the mistress of the ranch had. In her
hands I was as helpless as a baby. I had come to the ranch a stranger
only a little over a year before, but had I been born there her interest
could have been no stronger. Jean Lovelace relinquished no one, any more
than a mother would one of her boys. I wanted to escape, to get away
from observation; I even plead for a month's leave of absence. But my
reasons were of no avail, and after arguing pro and con for over an
hour, I went with her to the house. If the Almighty ever made a good
woman and placed her among men for their betterment, then the presence
of Jean Lovelace at Las Palomas savored of divine appointment.

On reaching the yard, we rested a long time on a settee under a group
of china trees. The boys had dispersed, and after quite a friendly chat
together, we saw Uncle Lance sauntering out of the house, smiling as he
approached. "Tom's going to stay," said Miss Jean to her brother, as
the latter seated himself beside us; "but this abuse and blame you're
heaping on him must stop. He did what he thought was best under the
circumstances, and you don't know what they were. He has given me his
promise to stay, and I have given him mine that talk about this matter
will be dropped. Now that your anger has cooled, and I have you both
together, I want your word."

"Tom," said my employer, throwing his long bony arm around me, "I was
disappointed, terribly put out, and I showed it in freeing my mind. But
I feel better now--towards you, at least. I understand just how you felt
when your plans were thwarted by an unforeseen incident. If I don't know
everything, then, since the milk is spilt, I'm not asking for
further particulars. If you did what you thought was best under the
circumstances, why, that's all we ever ask of any one at Las Palomas.
A mistake is nothing; my whole life is a series of errors. I've been
trying, and expect to keep right on trying, to give you youngsters the
benefit of my years; but if you insist on learning it for yourselves,
well enough. When I was your age, I took no one's advice; but look how
I've paid the fiddler. Possibly it was ordained otherwise, but it looks
to me like a shame that I can't give you boys the benefit of my dearly
bought experience. But whether you take my advice or not, we're going to
be just as good friends as ever. I need young fellows like you on this
ranch. I've sent Dan out after Deweese, and to-morrow we're going to
commence gathering beeves. A few weeks' good hard work will do you
worlds of good. In less than a year, you'll look back at this as a
splendid lesson. Shucks! boy, a man is a narrow, calloused creature
until he has been shook up a few times by love affairs. They develop him
into the man he was intended to be. Come on into the house, Tom, and
Jean will make us a couple of mint juleps."

What a blessed panacea for mental trouble is work! We were in the saddle
by daybreak the next morning, rounding up _remudas_. Every available
vaquero at the outlying ranchitas had been summoned. Dividing the outfit
and horses, Uncle Lance took twelve men and struck west for the Ganso.
With an equal number of men, Deweese pushed north for the Frio, which
he was to work down below Shepherd's, thence back along the home river.
From the ranch books, we knew there were fully two thousand beeves over
five years old in our brand. These cattle had never known an hour's
restraint since the day they were branded, and caution and cool judgment
would be required in handling them. Since the contract only required
twelve hundred, we expected to make an extra clean gathering, using the
oldest and naturally the largest beeves.

During the week spent in gathering, I got the full benefit of every
possible hour in the saddle. We reached the Ganso about an hour before
sundown. The weather had settled; water was plentiful, and every one
realized that the work in hand would require wider riding than under dry
conditions. By the time we had caught up fresh horses, the sun had gone
down. "Boys," said Uncle Lance, "we want to make a big rodeo on the head
of this creek in the morning. Tom, you take two vaqueros and lay off to
the southwest about ten miles, and make a dry camp to-night. Glenn may
have the same help to the southeast; and every rascal of you be in your
saddles by daybreak. There are a lot of big _ladino_ beeves in those
brushy hills to the south and west. Be sure and be in your saddles early
enough to catch _all_ wild cattle out on the prairies. If you want to,
you can take a lunch in your pocket for breakfast. No; you need no
blankets--you'll get up earlier if you sleep cold."

Taking José Pena and Pasquale Arispe with me, I struck off on our course
in the gathering twilight. The first twitter of a bird in the morning
brought me to my feet; I roused the others, and we saddled and were
riding with the first sign of dawn in the east. Taking the outside
circle myself, I gave every bunch of cattle met on my course a good
start for the centre of the round-up. Pasquale and Jose followed several
miles to my rear on inner circles, drifting on the cattle which I had
started inward. As the sun arose, dispelling the morning mists, I could
see other cattle coming down in long strings out of the hills to the
eastward. Within an hour after starting, Gallup and I met. Our half
circle to the southward was perfect, and each turning back, we rode our
appointed divisions until the vaqueros from the wagon were sighted,
throwing in cattle and closing up the northern portion of the circle.
Before the sun was two hours high, the first rodeo of the day was
together, numbering about three thousand mixed cattle. In the few hours
since dawn, we had concentrated all animals in a territory at least
fifteen miles in diameter.

Uncle Lance was in his element. Detailing two vaqueros to hold the beef
cut within reach and a half dozen to keep the main herd compact, he
ordered the remainder of us to enter and begin the selecting of beeves.
There were a number of big wild steers in the round-up, but we left
those until the cut numbered over two hundred. When every hoof over five
years of age was separated, we had a nucleus for our beef herd numbering
about two hundred and forty steers. They were in fine condition for
grass cattle, and, turning the main herd free, we started our cut for
the wagon, being compelled to ride wide of them as we drifted down
stream towards camp, as there were a number of old beeves which showed
impatience at the restraint. But by letting them scatter well, by the
time they reached the wagon it required but two vaqueros to hold them.

The afternoon was but a repetition of the morning. Everything on the
south side of the Nueces between the river and the wagon was thrown
together on the second round-up of the day, which yielded less than two
hundred cattle for our beef herd. But when we went into camp, dividing
into squads for night-herding, the day's work was satisfactory to the
ranchero. Dan Happersett was given five vaqueros and stood the first
watch or until one A.M. Glenn Gallup and myself took the remainder of
the men and stood guard until morning. When Happersett called our guard
an hour after midnight, he said to Gallup and me as we were pulling on
our boots: "About a dozen big steers haven't laid down. There's only
one of them that has given any trouble. He's a pinto that we cut in the
first round-up in the morning. He has made two breaks already to get
away, and if you don't watch him close, he'll surely give you the slip."

While riding to the relief, Glenn and I posted our vaqueros to be on the
lookout for the pinto beef. The cattle were intentionally bedded loose;
but even in the starlight and waning moon, every man easily spotted
the _ladino_ beef, uneasily stalking back and forth like a caged tiger
across the bed ground. A half hour before dawn, he made a final effort
to escape, charging out between Gallup and the vaquero following up
on the same side. From the other side of the bed ground, I heard the
commotion, but dare not leave the herd to assist. There was a mile of
open country surrounding our camp, and if two men could not turn the
beef on that space, it was useless for others to offer assistance. In
the stillness of the morning hour, we could hear the running and see
the flashes from six-shooters, marking the course of the outlaw. After
making a half circle, we heard them coming direct for the herd. For fear
of a stampede, we raised a great commotion around the sleeping cattle;
but in spite of our precaution, as the _ladino_ beef reëntered the herd,
over half the beeves jumped to their feet and began milling. But we held
them until dawn, and after scattering them over several hundred acres,
left them grazing contentedly, when, leaving two vaqueros with the
feeding herd, we went back to the wagon. The camp had been astir some
time, and when Glenn reported the incident of our watch, Uncle Lance
said: "I thought I heard some shooting while I was cat-napping at
daylight. Well, we can use a little fresh beef in this very camp. We'll
kill him at noon. The wagon will move down near the river this morning,
so we can make three rodeos from it without moving camp, and to-night
we'll have a side of Pinto's ribs barbecued. My mouth is watering this
very minute for a rib roast."

That morning after a big rodeo on the Nueces, well above the Ganso, we
returned to camp. Throwing into our herd the cut of less than a hundred
secured on the morning round-up, Uncle Lance, who had preceded us, rode
out from the wagon with a carbine. Allowing the beeves to scatter, the
old ranchero met and rode zigzagging through them until he came face to
face with the pinto _ladino_. On noticing the intruding horseman, the
outlaw threw up his head. There was a carbine report and the big fellow
went down in his tracks. By the time the herd had grazed away, Tiburcio,
who was cooking with our wagon, brought out all the knives, and the beef
was bled, dressed, and quartered.

"You can afford to be extravagant with this beef," said Uncle Lance to
the old cook, when the quarters had been carried in to the wagon. "I've
been ranching on this river nearly forty years, and I've always made it
a rule, where cattle cannot be safely handled, to beef them then and
there. I've sat up many a night barbecuing the ribs of a _ladino_. If
you have plenty of salt, Tiburcio, you can make a brine and jerk those
hind quarters. It will make fine chewing for the boys on night herd when
once we start for the coast."

Following down the home river, we made ten other rodeos before we met
Deweese. We had something over a thousand beeves while he had less than
eight hundred. Throwing the two cuts together, we made a count, and cut
back all the younger and smaller cattle until the herd was reduced to
the required number. Before my advent at Las Palomas, about the only
outlet for beef cattle had been the canneries at Rockport and Fulton.
But these cattle were for shipment by boat to New Orleans and other
coast cities. The route to the coast was well known to my employer, and
detailing twelve men for the herd, a horse wrangler and cook extra, we
started for it, barely touching at the ranch on our course. It was a
nice ten days' trip. After the first night, we used three guards of four
men each. Grazing contentedly, the cattle quieted down until on our
arrival half our numbers could have handled them. The herd was counted
and received on the outlying prairies, and as no steamer was due for a
few days, another outfit took charge of them.

Uncle Lance was never much of a man for towns, and soon after settlement
the next morning we were ready to start home. But the payment, amounting
to thirty thousand dollars, presented a problem, as the bulk of it came
to us in silver. There was scarcely a merchant in the place who would
assume the responsibility of receiving it even on deposit, and in the
absence of a bank, there was no alternative but to take it home. The
agent for the steamship company solicited the money for transportation
to New Orleans, mentioning the danger of robbery, and referring to the
recent attempt of bandits to hold up the San Antonio and Corpus Christi
stage. I had good cause to remember that incident, and was wondering
what my employer would do under the circumstances, when he turned from
the agent, saying:--

"Well, we'll take it home just the same. I have no use for money in New
Orleans. Nor do I care if every bandit in Texas knows we've got the
money in the wagon. I want to buy a few new guns, anyhow. If robbers
tackle us, we'll promise them a warm reception--and I never knew a thief
who didn't think more of his own carcass than of another man's money."

The silver was loaded into the wagon in sacks, and we started on our
return. It was rather a risky trip, but we never concealed the fact
that we had every dollar of the money in the wagon. It would have been
dangerous to make an attempt on us, for we were all well armed. We
reached the ranch in safety, rested a day, and then took the ambulance
and went on to San Antonio. Three of us, besides Tiburcio, accompanied
our employer, each taking a saddle horse, and stopping by night at
ranches where we were known. On the third day we reached the city in
good time to bank the money, much to my relief.

As there was no work pressing at home, we spent a week in the city,
thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Uncle Lance was negotiating for the
purchase of a large Spanish land grant, which adjoined our range on the
west, taking in the Ganso and several miles' frontage on both sides of
the home river. This required his attention for a few days, during which
time Deweese met two men on the lookout for stock cattle with which to
start a new ranch on the Devil's River in Valverde County. They were in
the market for three thousand cows, to be delivered that fall or the
following spring. Our _segundo_ promptly invited them to meet his
employer that evening at our hotel. As the ranges in eastern Texas
became of value for agriculture, the cowman moved westward, disposing
of his cattle or taking them with him. It was men of this class whom
Deweese had met during the day, and on filling their appointment in
the evening, our employer and the buyers soon came to an agreement.
References were exchanged, and the next afternoon a contract was entered
into whereby we were to deliver, May first, at Las Palomas ranch, three
thousand cows between the ages of two and four years.

There was some delay in perfecting the title to the land grant. "We'll
start home in the morning, boys," said Uncle Lance, the evening after
the contract was drawn. "You simply can't hurry a land deal. I'll get
that tract in time, but there's over a hundred heirs now of the original
Don. I'd just like to know what the grandee did for his king to get that
grant. Tickled his royal nibs, I reckon, with some cock and bull story,
and here I have to give up nearly forty thousand dollars of good honest
money. Twenty years ago I was offered this same grant for ten cents an
acre, and now I'm paying four bits. But I didn't have the money then,
and I'm not sure I'd have bought it if I had. But I need it now, and
I need it bad, and that's why I'm letting them hold me up for such a

Stopping at the "last chance" road house on the outskirts of the city
the next morning, for a final drink as we were leaving, Uncle Lance said
to us over the cattle contract: "There's money in it--good money, too.
But we're not going to fill it out of our home brand. Not in this year
of our Lord. I think too much of my cows to part with a single animal.
Boys, cows made Las Palomas what she is, and as long as they win for
me, I intend--to swear by them through thick and thin, in good and
bad repute, fair weather or foul. So, June, just as soon as the fall
branding is over, you can take Tom with you for an interpreter and start
for Mexico to contract these cows. Las Palomas is going to branch out
and spread herself. As a ranchman, I can bring the cows across for
breeding purposes free of duty, and I know of no good reason why I can't
change my mind and sell them. Dan, take Tiburcio out a cigar."



Deweese and I came back from Mexico during Christmas week. On reaching
Las Palomas, we found Frank Nancrede and Add Tully, the latter being
also a trail foreman, at the ranch. They were wintering in San Antonio,
and were spending a few weeks at our ranch, incidentally on the lookout
for several hundred saddle horses for trail purposes the coming spring.
We had no horses for sale, but nevertheless Uncle Lance had prevailed on
them to make Las Palomas headquarters during their stay in the country.

The first night at the ranch, Miss Jean and I talked until nearly
midnight. There had been so many happenings during my absence that it
required a whole evening to tell them all. From the naming of Anita's
baby to the rivalry between John and Theodore for the favor of Frances
Vaux, all the latest social news of the countryside was discussed. Miss
Jean had attended the dance at Shepherd's during the fall, and had heard
it whispered that Oxenford and Esther were anything but happy. The
latest word from the Vaux ranch said that the couple had separated; at
least there was some trouble, for when Oxenford had attempted to force
her to return to Oakville, and had made some disparaging remarks, Tony
Hunter had crimped a six-shooter over his head. I pretended not to be
interested in this, but secretly had I learned that Hunter had killed
Oxenford, I should have had no very serious regrets.

Uncle Lance had promised Tully and Nancrede a turkey hunt during the
holidays, so on our unexpected return it was decided to have it at once.
There had been a heavy mast that year, and in the encinal ridges to the
east wild turkeys were reported plentiful. Accordingly we set out the
next afternoon for a camp hunt in some oak cross timbers which grew
on the eastern border of our ranch lands. Taking two pack mules and
Tiburcio as cook, a party of eight of us rode away, expecting to remain
overnight. Uncle Lance knew of a fine camping spot about ten miles from
the ranch. When within a few miles of the place, Tiburcio was sent on
ahead with the pack mules to make camp. "Boys, we'll divide up here,"
said Uncle Lance, "and take a little scout through these cross timbers
and try and locate some roosts. The camp will be in those narrows ahead
yonder where that burnt timber is to your right. Keep an eye open for
_javalina_ signs; they used to be plentiful through here when there
was good mast. Now, scatter out in pairs, and if you can knock down a
gobbler or two we'll have a turkey bake to-night."

Dan Happersett knew the camping spot, so I went with him, and together
we took a big circle through the encinal, keeping alert for game signs.
Before we had gone far, evidence became plentiful, not only of turkeys,
but of peccary and deer. Where the turkeys had recently been scratching,
many times we dismounted and led our horses--but either the turkeys were
too wary for us, or else we had been deceived as to the freshness of the
sign. Several successive shots on our right caused us to hurry out of
the timber in the direction of the reports. Halting in the edge of the
timber, we watched the strip of prairie between us and the next cover to
the south. Soon a flock of fully a hundred wild turkeys came running out
of the encinal on the opposite side and started across to our ridge.
Keeping under cover, we rode to intercept them, never losing sight of
the covey. They were running fast; but when they were nearly halfway
across the opening, there was another shot and they took flight, sailing
into cover ahead of us, well out of range. But one gobbler was so fat
that he was unable to fly over a hundred yards and was still in the
open. We rode to cut him off. On sighting us, he attempted to rise; but
his pounds were against him, and when we crossed his course he was so
winded that our horses ran all around him. After we had both shot a few
times, missing him, he squatted in some tall grass and stuck his head
under a tuft. Dismounting, Dan sprang on to him like a fox, and he was
ours. We wrung his neck, and agreed to report that we had shot him
through the head, thus concealing, in the absence of bullet wounds, our
poor marksmanship.

When we reached the camp shortly before dark, we found the others had
already arrived, ours making the sixth turkey in the evening's bag. We
had drawn ours on killing it, as had the others, and after supper Uncle
Lance superintended the stuffing of the two largest birds. While this
was in progress, others made a stiff mortar, and we coated each turkey
with about three inches of the waxy play, feathers and all. Opening our
camp-fire, we placed the turkeys together, covered them with ashes and
built a heaping fire over and around them. A number of haunts had been
located by the others, but as we expected to make an early hunt in the
morning, we decided not to visit any of the roosts that night. After
Uncle Lance had regaled us with hunting stories of an early day, the
discussion innocently turned to my recent elopement. By this time the
scars had healed fairly well, and I took the chaffing in all good humor.
Tully told a personal experience, which, if it was the truth, argued
that in time I might become as indifferent to my recent mishap as any
one could wish.

"My prospects of marrying a few years ago," said Tully, lying full
stretch before the fire, "were a whole lot better than yours, Quirk. But
my ambition those days was to boss a herd up the trail and get top-notch
wages. She was a Texas girl, just like yours, bred up in Van Zandt
County. She could ride a horse like an Indian. Bad horses seemed afraid
of her. Why, I saw her once when she was about sixteen, take a black
stallion out of his stable,--lead him out with but a rope about his
neck,--throw a half hitch about his nose, and mount him as though he
was her pet. Bareback and without a bridle she rode him ten miles for a
doctor. There wasn't a mile of the distance either but he felt the quirt
burning in his flank and knew he was being ridden by a master. Her
father scolded her at the time, and boasted about it later.

"She had dozens of admirers, and the first impression I ever made on her
was when she was about twenty. There was a big tournament being given,
and all the young bloods in many counties came in to contest for the
prizes. I was a double winner in the games and contests--won a roping
prize and was the only lad that came inside the time limit as a lancer,
though several beat me on rings. Of course the tournament ended with a
ball. Having won the lance prize, it was my privilege of crowning the
'queen' of the ball. Of course I wasn't going to throw away such a
chance, for there was no end of rivalry amongst the girls over it. The
crown was made of flowers, or if there were none in season, of live-oak
leaves. Well, at the ball after the tournament I crowned Miss Kate with
a crown of oak leaves. After that I felt bold enough to crowd matters,
and things came my way. We were to be married during Easter week,
but her mother up and died, so we put it off awhile for the sake of

"The next spring I got a chance to boss a herd up the trail for Jesse
Ellison. It was the chance of my life and I couldn't think of refusing.
The girl put up quite a mouth about it, and I explained to her that a
hundred a month wasn't offered to every man. She finally gave in, but
still you could see she wasn't pleased. Girls that way don't sabe cattle
matters a little bit. She promised to write me at several points which
I told her the herd would pass. When I bade her good-by, tears stood in
her eyes, though she tried to hide them. I'd have gambled my life on her
that morning.

"Well, we had a nice trip, good outfit and strong cattle. Uncle Jess
mounted us ten horses to the man, every one fourteen hands or better,
for we were contracted for delivery in Nebraska. It was a five months'
drive with scarcely an incident on the way. Just a run or two and a dry
drive or so. I had lots of time to think about Kate. When we reached
the Chisholm crossing on Red River, I felt certain that I would find
a letter, but I didn't. I wrote her from there, but when we reached
Caldwell, nary a letter either. The same luck at Abilene. Try as I
might, I couldn't make it out. Something was wrong, but what it was, was
anybody's guess.

"At this last place we got our orders to deliver the cattle at the
junction of the middle and lower Loup. It was a terror of a long drive,
but that wasn't a circumstance compared to not hearing from Kate. I kept
all this to myself, mind you. When our herd reached its destination,
which it did on time, as hard luck would have it there was a hitch in
the payment. The herd was turned loose and all the outfit but myself
sent home. I stayed there two months longer at a little place called
Broken Bow. I held the bill of sale for the herd, and would turn it
over, transferring the cattle from one owner to another, on the word
from my employer. At last I received a letter from Uncle Jesse saying
that the payment in full had been made, so I surrendered the final
document and came home. Those trains seemed to run awful slow. But I got
home all too soon, for she had then been married three months.

"You see an agent for eight-day clocks came along, and being a stranger
took her eye. He was one of those nice, dapper fellows, wore a red
necktie, and could talk all day to a woman. He worked by the rule of
three,--tickle, talk, and flatter, with a few cutes thrown in for a
pelon; that gets nearly any of them. They live in town now. He's a
windmill agent. I never went near them."

Meanwhile the fire kept pace with the talk, thanks to Uncle Lance's
watchful eye. "That's right, Tiburcio, carry up plenty of good lena,"
he kept saying. "Bring in all the black-jack oak that you can find; it
makes fine coals. These are both big gobblers, and to bake them until
they fall to pieces like a watermelon will require a steady fire till
morning. Pile up a lot of wood, and if I wake up during the night, trust
to me to look after the fire. I've baked so many turkeys this way that
I'm an expert at the business."

"A girl's argument," remarked Dan Happersett in a lull of talk,
"don't have to be very weighty to fit any case. Anything she does is
justifiable. That's one reason why I always kept shy of women. I admit
that I've toyed around with some of them; have tossed my tug on one or
two just to see if they would run on the rope. But now generally I keep
a wire fence between them and myself if they show any symptoms of being
on the marry. Maybe so I was in earnest once, back on the Trinity. But
it seems that every time that I made a pass, my loop would foul or fail
to open or there was brush in the way."

"Just because you have a few gray hairs in your head you think you're
awful foxy, don't you?" said Uncle Lance to Dan. "I've seen lots of
independent fellows like you. If I had a little widow who knew her
cards, and just let her kitten up to you and act coltish, inside a week
you would he following her around like a pet lamb."

"I knew a fellow," said Nancrede, lighting his pipe with a firebrand,
"that when the clerk asked him, when he went for a license to marry, if
he would swear that the young lady--his intended--was over twenty-one,
said: 'Yes, by G--, I'll swear that she's over thirty-one.'"

At the next pause in the yarning, I inquired why a wild turkey always
deceived itself by hiding its head and leaving the body exposed. "That
it's a fact, we all know," volunteered Uncle Lance, "but the why and
wherefore is too deep for me. I take it that it's due to running to neck
too much in their construction. Now an ostrich is the same way, all neck
with not a lick of sense. And the same applies to the human family. You
take one of these long-necked cowmen and what does he know outside of
cattle. Nine times out of ten, I can tell a sensible girl by merely
looking at her neck. Now snicker, you dratted young fools, just as if
I wasn't talking horse sense to you. Some of you boys haven't got much
more sabe than a fat old gobbler."

"When I first came to this State," said June Deweese, who had been
quietly and attentively listening to the stories, "I stopped over on the
Neches River near a place called Shot-a-buck Crossing. I had an uncle
living there with whom I made my home the first few years that I lived
in Texas. There are more or less cattle there, but it is principally a
cotton country. There was an old cuss living over there on that river
who was land poor, but had a powerful purty girl. Her old man owned any
number of plantations on the river--generally had lots of nigger
renters to look after. Miss Sallie, the daughter, was the belle of
the neighborhood. She had all the graces with a fair mixture of the
weaknesses of her sex. The trouble was, there was no young man in
the whole country fit to hold her horse. At least she and her folks
entertained that idea. There was a storekeeper and a young doctor at the
county seat, who it seems took turns calling on her. It looked like it
was going to be a close race. Outside of these two there wasn't a one of
us who could touch her with a twenty-four-foot fish-pole. We simply took
the side of the road when she passed by.

"About this time there drifted in from out west near Fort McKavett,
a young fellow named Curly Thorn. He had relatives living in that
neighborhood. Out at the fort he was a common foreman on a ranch. Talk
about your graceful riders, he sat a horse in a manner that left nothing
to be desired. Well, Curly made himself very agreeable with all the
girls on the range, but played no special favorites. He stayed in the
country, visiting among cousins, until camp meeting began over at the
Alabama Camp Ground. During this meeting Curly proved himself quite a
gallant by carrying first one young lady and the next evening some
other to camp meeting. During these two weeks of the meeting, some one
introduced him to Miss Sallie. Now, remember, he didn't play her for a
favorite no more than any other. That's what miffed her. She thought he
ought to.

"One Sunday afternoon she intimated to him, like a girl sometimes will,
that she was going home, and was sorry that she had no companion for the
ride. This was sufficient for the gallant Curly to offer himself to her
as an escort. She simply thought she was stealing a beau from some other
girl, and he never dreamt he was dallying with Neches River royalty. But
the only inequality in that couple as they rode away from the ground was
an erroneous idea in her and her folks' minds. And that difference was
in the fact that her old dad had more land than he could pay taxes on.
Well, Curly not only saw her home, but stayed for tea--that's the name
the girls have for supper over on the Neches--and that night carried her
back to the evening service. From that day till the close of the session
he was devotedly hers. A month afterward when he left, it was the talk
of the country that they were to be married during the coming holidays.

"But then there were the young doctor and the storekeeper still in the
game. Curly was off the scene temporarily, but the other two were riding
their best horses to a shadow. Miss Sallie's folks were pulling like bay
steers for the merchant, who had some money, while the young doctor had
nothing but empty pill bags and a saddle horse or two. The doctor was
the better looking, and, before meeting Curly Thorn, Miss Sallie had
favored him. Knowing ones said they were engaged. But near the close of
the race there was sufficient home influence used for the storekeeper to
take the lead and hold it until the show down came. Her folks announced
the wedding, and the merchant received the best wishes of his friends,
while the young doctor took a trip for his health. Well, it developed
afterwards that she was engaged to both the storekeeper and the doctor
at the same time. But that's nothing. My experience tells me that a girl
don't need broad shoulders to carry three or four engagements at the
same time.

"Well, within a week of the wedding, who should drift in to spend
Christmas but Curly Thorn. His cousins, of course, lost no time in
giving him the lay of the land. But Curly acted indifferent, and never
even offered to call on Miss Sallie. Us fellows joked him about his girl
going to marry another fellow, and he didn't seem a little bit put out.
In fact, he seemed to enjoy the sudden turn as a good joke on himself.
But one morning, two days before the wedding was to take place, Miss
Sallie was missing from her home, as was likewise Curly Thorn from the
neighborhood. Yes, Thorn had eloped with her and they were married the
next morning in Nacogdoches. And the funny thing about it was, Curly
never met her after his return until the night they eloped. But he had
a girl cousin who had a finger in the pie. She and Miss Sallie were as
thick as three in a bed, and Curly didn't have anything to do but play
the hand that was dealt him.

"Before I came to Las Palomas, I was over round Fort McKavett and met
Curly. We knew each other, and he took me home and had me stay overnight
with him. They had been married then four years. She had a baby on each
knee and another in her arms. There was so much reality in life that
she had no time to become a dreamer. Matrimony in that case was a good
leveler of imaginary rank. I always admired Curly for the indifferent
hand he played all through the various stages of the courtship. He never
knew there was such a thing as difference. He simply coppered the play
to win, and the cards came his way."

"Bully for Curly!" said Uncle Lance, arising and fixing the fire, as the
rest of us unrolled our blankets. "If some of my rascals could make
a ten strike like that it would break a streak of bad luck which has
overshadowed Las Palomas for over thirty years. Great Scott!--but those
gobblers smell good. I can hear them blubbering and sizzling in their
shells. It will surely take an axe to crack that clay in the morning.
But get under your blankets, lads, for I'll call you for a turkey
breakfast about dawn."



During our trip into Mexico the fall before, Deweese contracted for
three thousand cows at two haciendas on the Rio San Juan. Early in the
spring June and I returned to receive the cattle. The ranch outfit
under Uncle Lance was to follow some three weeks later and camp on the
American side at Roma, Texas. We made arrangements as we crossed into
Mexico with a mercantile house in Mier to act as our bankers, depositing
our own drafts and taking letters of credit to the interior. In buying
the cows we had designated Mier, which was just opposite Roma, as the
place for settlement and Uncle Lance on his arrival brought drafts
to cover our purchases, depositing them with the same merchant. On
receiving, we used a tally mark which served as a road brand, thus
preventing a second branding, and throughout--much to the disgust of the
Mexican vaqueros--Deweese enforced every humane idea which Nancrede had
practiced the spring before in accepting the trail herd at Las Palomas.
There were endless quantities of stock cattle to select from on the two
haciendas, and when ready to start, under the specifications, a finer
lot of cows would have been hard to find. The worst drawback was that
they were constantly dropping calves on the road, and before we reached
the river we had a calf-wagon in regular use. On arriving at the Rio
Grande, the then stage of water was fortunately low and we crossed
the herd without a halt, the import papers having been attended to in

Uncle Lance believed in plenty of help, and had brought down from Las
Palomas an ample outfit of men and horses. He had also anticipated the
dropping of calves and had rigged up a carrier, the box of which was
open framework. Thus until a calf was strong enough to follow, the
mother, as she trailed along beside the wagon, could keep an eye on her
offspring. We made good drives the first two or three days; but after
clearing the first bottoms of the Rio Grande and on reaching the
tablelands, we made easy stages of ten to twelve miles a day. When near
enough to calculate on our arrival at Las Palomas, the old ranchero quit
us and went on into the ranch. Several days later a vaquero met the herd
about thirty miles south of Santa Maria, and brought the information
that the Valverde outfit was at the ranch, and instructions to veer
westward and drive down the Ganso on approaching the Nueces. By these
orders the delivery on the home river would occur at least twenty miles
west of the ranch headquarters.

As we were passing to the westward of Santa Maria, our employer and
one of the buyers rode out from that ranch and met the herd. They had
decided not to brand until arriving at their destination on the Devil's
River, which would take them at least a month longer. While this
deviation was nothing to us, it was a gain to them. The purchaser was
delighted with the cattle and our handling of them, there being fully
a thousand young calves, and on reaching their camp on the Ganso, the
delivery was completed--four days in advance of the specified time. For
fear of losses, we had received a few head extra, and, on counting them
over, found we had not lost a single hoof. The buyers received the
extra cattle, and the delivery was satisfactorily concluded. One of the
partners returned with us to Las Palomas for the final settlement, while
the other, taking charge of the herd, turned them up the Nueces. The
receiving outfit had fourteen men and some hundred and odd horses. Aside
from their commissary, they also had a calf-wagon, drawn by two yoke of
oxen and driven by a strapping big negro. In view of the big calf crop,
the partners concluded that an extra conveyance would not be amiss, and
on Uncle Lance making them a reasonable figure on our calf-wagon and the
four mules drawing it, they never changed a word but took the outfit.
As it was late in the day when the delivery was made, the double outfit
remained in the same camp that night, and with the best wishes, bade
each other farewell in the morning. Nearly a month had passed since
Deweese and I had left Las Palomas for the Rio San Juan, and, returning
with the herd, had met our own outfit at the Rio Grande. During the
interim, before the ranch outfit had started, the long-talked-of
tournament on the Nueces had finally been arranged. The date had been
set for the fifth of June, and of all the home news which the outfit
brought down to the Rio Grande, none was as welcome as this. According
to the programme, the contests were to include riding, roping, relay
races, and handling the lance. Several of us had never witnessed a
tournament; but as far as roping and riding were concerned, we all
considered ourselves past masters of the arts. The relay races were
simple enough, and Dan Happersett volunteered this explanation of a
lance contest to those of us who were uninitiated:--

"Well," said Dan, while we were riding home from the Ganso, "a straight
track is laid off about two hundred yards long. About every forty yards
there is a post set up along the line with an arm reaching out over the
track. From this there is suspended an iron ring about two inches in
diameter. The contestant is armed with a wooden lance of regulation
length, and as he rides down this track at full speed and within a
time limit, he is to impale as many of these rings as possible. Each
contestant is entitled to three trials and the one impaling the most
rings is declared the victor. That's about all there is to it, except
the award. The festivities, of course, close with a dance, in which the
winner crowns the Queen of the ball. That's the reason the girls always
take such an interest in the lancing, because the winner has the
choosing of his Queen. I won it once, over on the Trinity, and chose
a little cripple girl. Had to do it or leave the country, for it was
looked upon as an engagement to marry. Oh, I tell you, if a girl is
sweet on a fellow, it's a mighty strong card to play."

Before starting for the Rio Grande, the old ranchero had worked our
horse stock, forming fourteen new _manadas_, so that on our return about
the only work which could command our attention was the breaking of
more saddle horses. We had gentled two hundred the spring before, and
breaking a hundred and fifty now, together with the old _remudas_, would
give Las Palomas fully five hundred saddle horses. The ranch had the
geldings, the men had time, and there was no good excuse for not
gentling more horses. So after a few days' rest the oldest and heaviest
geldings were gathered and we then settled down to routine horse work.
But not even this exciting employment could keep the coming tournament
from our minds. Within a week after returning to the ranch, we laid off
a lancing course, and during every spare hour the knights of Las Palomas
might be seen galloping over the course, practicing. I tried using the
lance several times, only to find that it was not as easy as it looked,
and I finally gave up the idea of lancing honors, and turned my
attention to the relay races.

Miss Jean had been the only representative of our ranch at Shepherd's on
San Jacinto Day. But she had had her eyes open on that occasion, and on
our return had a message for nearly every one of us. I was not expecting
any, still the mistress of Las Palomas had met my old sweetheart and her
sister, Mrs. Hunter, at the ferry, and the three had talked the matter
over and mingled their tears in mutual sympathy. I made a blustering
talk which was to cover my real feelings and to show that I had grown
indifferent toward Esther, but that tactful woman had not lived in vain,
and read me aright.

"Tom," said she, "I was a young woman when you were a baby. There's lots
of things in which you might deceive me, but Esther McLeod is not one of
them. You loved her once, and you can't tell me that in less than a year
you have forgotten her. I won't say that men forget easier than women,
but you have never suffered one tenth the heartaches over Esther McLeod
that she has over you. You can afford to be generous with her, Tom.
True, she allowed an older sister to browbeat and bully her into
marrying another man, but she was an inexperienced girl then. If you
were honest, you would admit that Esther of her own accord would never
have married Jack Oxenford. Then why punish the innocent? Oh, Tom, if
you could only see her now! Sorrow and suffering have developed the
woman in her, and she is no longer the girl you knew and loved."

Miss Jean was hewing too close to the line for my comfort. Her
observations were so near the truth that they touched me in a vulnerable
spot. Yet as I paced the room, I expressed myself emphatically as never
wishing to meet Esther McLeod again. I really felt that way. But I had
not reckoned on the mistress of Las Palomas, nor considered that her
strong sympathy for my former sweetheart had moved her to more than
ordinary endeavor.

The month of May passed. Uncle Lance spent several weeks at the Booth
ranch on the Frio. At the home ranch practice for the contests went
forward with vigor. By the first of June we had sifted the candidates
down until we had determined on our best men for each entry. The old
ranchero and our _segundo_, together with Dan Happersett, made up a good
set of judges on our special fitness for the different contests, and we
were finally picked in this order: Enrique Lopez was to rope; Pasquale
Arispe was to ride; to Theodore Quayle fell the chance of handling the
lance, while I, being young and nimble on my feet, was decided on as the
rider in the ten-mile relay race.

In this contest I was fortunate in having the pick of over three hundred
and fifty saddle horses. They were the accumulation of years of the best
that Las Palomas bred, and it was almost bewildering to make the final
selection. But in this I had the benefit of the home judges, and when
the latter differed on the speed of a horse, a trial usually settled the
point. June Deweese proved to be the best judge of the ranch horses, yet
Uncle Lance never yielded his opinion without a test of speed. When the
horses were finally decided on, we staked off a half-mile circular track
on the first bottom of the river, and every evening the horses were sent
over the course. Under the conditions, a contestant was entitled to use
as many horses as he wished, but must change mounts at least twenty
times in riding the ten miles, and must finish under a time limit of
twenty-five minutes. Out of our abundance we decided to use ten mounts,
thus allotting each horse two dashes of a half mile with a rest between.

The horse-breaking ended a few days before the appointed time. Las
Palomas stood on the tiptoe of expectancy over the coming tourney. Even
Miss Jean rode--having a gentle saddle horse caught up for her use, and
taking daily rides about the ranch, to witness the practice, for she was
as deeply interested as any of us in the forthcoming contests. Born to
the soil of Texas, she was a horsewoman of no ordinary ability, and rode
like a veteran. On the appointed day, Las Palomas was abandoned; even
the Mexican contingent joining in the exodus for Shepherd's, and only a
few old servants remaining at the ranch. As usual, Miss Jean started by
ambulance the afternoon before, taking along a horse for her own saddle.
The white element and the vaqueros made an early start, driving a
_remuda_ of thirty loose horses, several of which were outlaws, and a
bell mare. They were the picked horses of the ranch--those which we
expected to use in the contests, and a change of mounts for the entire
outfit on reaching the martial field. We had herded the horses the night
before, and the vaqueros were halfway to the ferry when we overtook
them. Uncle Lance was with us and in the height of his glory, in one
breath bragging on Enrique and Pasquale, and admonishing and cautioning
Theodore and myself in the next.

On nearing Shepherd's, Uncle Lance preceded us, to hunt up the committee
and enter a man from Las Palomas for each of the contests. The ground
had been well chosen,--a large open bottom on the north side of the
river and about a mile above the ferry. The lancing course was laid off;
temporary corrals had been built, to hold about thirty range cattle
for the roping, and an equal number of outlaw horses for the riding
contests; at the upper end of the valley a half-mile circular racecourse
had been staked off. Throwing our outlaws into the corral, and leaving
the _remuda_ in charge of two vaqueros, we galloped into Shepherd's with
the gathering crowd. From all indications this would be a red-letter day
at the ferry, for the attendance drained a section of country fully a
hundred miles in diameter. On the north from Campbellton on the Atascosa
to San Patricio on the home river to the south, and from the Blanco on
the east to well up the Frio and San Miguel on the west, horsemen were
flocking by platoons. I did not know one man in twenty, but Deweese
greeted them all as if they were near neighbors. Later in the morning,
conveyances began to arrive from Oakville and near-by points, and the
presence of women lent variety to the scene.

Under the rules, all entries were to be made before ten o'clock. The
contests were due to begin half an hour later, and each contestant was
expected to be ready to compete in the order of his application. There
were eight entries in the relay race all told, mine being the seventh,
which gave me a good opportunity to study the riding of those who
preceded me. There were ten or twelve entries each in the roping and
riding contests, while the knights of the lance numbered an even thirty.
On account of the large number of entries the contests would require a
full day, running the three classes simultaneously, allowing a slight
intermission for lunch. The selection of disinterested judges for each
class slightly delayed the commencement. After changing horses on
reaching the field, the contests with the lance opened with a lad from
Ramirena, who galloped over the course and got but a single ring. From
the lateness of our entries, none of us would be called until afternoon,
and we wandered at will from one section of the field to another. "Red"
Earnest, from Waugh's ranch on the Frio, was the first entry in the
relay race. He had a good mount of eight Spanish horses which he rode
bareback, making many of his changes in less than fifteen seconds
apiece, and finishing full three minutes under the time limit. The feat
was cheered to the echo, I joining with the rest, and numerous friendly
bets were made that the time would not be lowered that day. Two other
riders rode before the noon recess, only one of whom came under the time
limit, and his time was a minute over Earnest's record.

Miss Jean had camped the ambulance in sight of the field, and kept open
house to all comers. Suspecting that she would have Mrs. Hunter and
Esther for lunch, if they were present, I avoided our party and took
dinner with Mrs. Booth. Meanwhile Uncle Lance detailed Deweese and
Happersett to handle my horses, allowing us five vaqueros, and
distributing the other men as assistants to our other three contestants.
The day was an ideal one for the contests, rather warm during the
morning, but tempered later by a fine afternoon breeze. It was after
four o'clock when I was called, with Waugh's man still in the lead.
Forming a small circle at the starting-point, each of our vaqueros led
a pair of horses, in bridles only, around a ring,--constantly having in
hand eight of my mount of ten. As handlers, I had two good men in our
_segundo_ and Dan Happersett. I crossed the line amid the usual shouting
with a running start, determined, if possible, to lower the record of
Red Earnest. In making the changes, all I asked was a good grip on the
mane, and I found my seat as the horse shot away. The horses had broken
into an easy sweat before the race began, and having stripped to the
lowest possible ounce of clothing, I felt that I was getting out of them
every fraction of speed they possessed. The ninth horse in my mount, a
roan, for some unknown reason sulked at starting, then bolted out on the
prairie, but got away with the loss of only about ten seconds, running
the half mile like a scared wolf. Until it came the roan's turn to go
again, no untoward incident happened, friendly timekeepers posting me
at every change of mounts. But when this bolter's turn came again, he
reared and plunged away stiff-legged, crossed the inward furrow, and
before I could turn him again to the track, cut inside the course for
two stakes or possibly fifty yards. By this time I was beyond recall,
but as I came round and passed the starting-point, the judges attempted
to stop me, and I well knew my chances were over. Uncle Lance promptly
waived all rights to the award, and I was allowed to finish the race,
lowering Earnest's time over twenty seconds. The eighth contestant, so I
learned later, barely came under the time limit.

The vaqueros took charge of the relay mounts, and, reinvesting myself in
my discarded clothing, I mounted my horse to leave the field, when who
should gallop up and extend sympathy and congratulations but Miss Jean
and my old sweetheart. There was no avoiding them, and discourtesy to
the mistress of Las Palomas being out of the question, I greeted Esther
with an affected warmth and cordiality. As I released her hand I could
not help noticing how she had saddened into a serious woman, while the
gentleness in her voice condemned me for my attitude toward her. But
Miss Jean artfully gave us little time for embarrassment, inviting me to
show them the unconcluded programme. From contest to contest, we rode
the field until the sun went down, and the trials ended.

It was my first tournament and nothing escaped my notice. There were
fully one hundred and fifty women and girls, and possibly double that
number of men, old and young, every one mounted and galloping from one
point of the field to another. Blushing maidens and their swains dropped
out of the throng, and from shady vantage points watched the crowd
surge back and forth across the field of action. We were sorry to miss
Enrique's roping; for having snapped his saddle horn with the first
cast, he recovered his rope, fastened it to the fork of his saddletree,
and tied his steer in fifty-four seconds, or within ten of the winner's
record. When he apologized to Miss Jean for his bad luck, hat in hand
and his eyes as big as saucers, one would have supposed he had brought
lasting disgrace on Las Palomas.

We were more fortunate in witnessing Pasquale's riding. For this contest
outlaws and spoilt horses had been collected from every quarter. Riders
drew their mounts by lot, and Pasquale drew a cinnamon-colored coyote
from the ranch of "Uncle Nate" Wilson of Ramirena. Uncle Nate was
feeling in fine fettle, and when he learned that his contribution to
the outlaw horses had been drawn by a Las Palomas man, he hunted up the
ranchero. "I'll bet you a new five-dollar hat that that cinnamon horse
throws your vaquero so high that the birds build nests in his crotch
before he hits the ground." Uncle Lance took the bet, and disdainfully
ran his eye up and down his old friend, finally remarking, "Nate, you
ought to keep perfectly sober on an occasion like this--you're liable to
lose all your money."

Pasquale was a shallow-brained, clownish fellow, and after saddling
up, as he led the coyote into the open to mount, he imitated a drunken
vaquero. Tipsily admonishing the horse in Spanish to behave himself, he
vaulted into the saddle and clouted his mount over the head with his
hat. The coyote resorted to every ruse known to a bucking horse to
unseat his rider, in the midst of which Pasquale, languidly lolling
in his saddle, took a small bottle from his pocket, and, drinking its
contents, tossed it backward over his head. "Look at that, Nate," said
Uncle Lance, slapping Mr. Wilson with his hat; "that's one of the Las
Palomas vaqueros, bred with just sense enough to ride anything that
wears hair. We'll look at those new hats this evening."

In the fancy riding which followed, Pasquale did a number of stunts.
He picked up hat and handkerchief from the ground at full speed, and
likewise gathered up silver dollars from alternate sides of his horse
as the animal sped over a short course. Stripping off his saddle and
bridle, he rode the naked horse with the grace of an Indian, and but
for his clownish indifference and the apparent ease with which he did
things, the judges might have taken his work more seriously. As it
was, our outfit and those friendly to our ranch were proud of his
performance, but among outsiders, and even the judges, it was generally
believed that he was tipsy, which was an injustice to him.

On the conclusion of the contest with the lance, among the thirty
participants, four were tied on honors, one of whom was Theodore Quayle.
The other contests being over, the crowd gathered round the lancing
course, excitement being at its highest pitch. A lad from the Blanco was
the first called for on the finals, and after three efforts failed to
make good his former trial. Quayle was the next called, and as he sped
down the course my heart stood still for a moment; but as he returned,
holding high his lance, five rings were impaled upon it. He was entitled
to two more trials, but rested on his record until it was tied or
beaten, and the next man was called. Forcing her way through the crowded
field, Miss Jean warmly congratulated Theodore, leaving Esther to my
tender care. But at this juncture, my old sweetheart caught sight of
Frances Vaux and some gallant approaching from the river's shade, and
together we galloped out to meet them. Miss Vaux's escort was a neighbor
lad from the Frio, but both he and I for the time being were relegated
to oblivion, in the prospects of a Las Palomas man by the name of Quayle
winning the lancing contest. Miss Frances, with a shrug, was for denying
all interest in the result, but Esther and I doubled on her, forcing her
to admit "that it would be real nice if Teddy should win." I never was
so aggravated over the indifference of a girl in my life, and my regard
for my former sweetheart, on account of her enthusiasm for a Las Palomas
lad, kindled anew within me.


But as the third man sped over the course, we hastily returned to watch
the final results. After a last trial the man threw down his lance, and,
riding up, congratulated Quayle. The last contestant was a red-headed
fellow from the Atascosa above Oakville, and seemed to have a host of
friends. On his first trial over the course, he stripped four rings, but
on neither subsequent effort did he equal his first attempt. Imitating
the former contestant, the red-headed fellow broke his lance and
congratulated the winner.

The tourney was over. Esther and I urged Miss Frances to ride over with
us and congratulate Quayle. She demurred; but as the crowd scattered I
caught Theodore's eye and, signaling to him, he rode out of the crowd
and joined us. The compliments of Miss Vaux to the winner were insipid
and lifeless, while Esther, as if to atone for her friend's lack of
interest, beamed with happiness over Quayle's good luck. Poor Teddy
hardly knew which way to turn, and, nice girl as she was, I almost hated
Miss Frances for her indifferent attitude. A plain, blunt fellow though
he was, Quayle had noticed the coolness in the greeting of the young
lady whom he no doubt had had in mind for months, in case he should win
the privilege, to crown as Queen of the ball. Piqued and unsettled in
his mind, he excused himself on some trivial pretense and withdrew.
Every one was scattering to the picnic grounds for supper, and under the
pretense of escorting Esther to the Vaux conveyance, I accompanied the
young ladies. Managing to fall to the rear of Miss Frances and her
gallant for the day, I bluntly asked my old sweetheart if she understood
the attitude of her friend. For reply she gave me a pitying glance,
saying, "Oh, you boys know so little about a girl! You see that Teddy
chooses Frances for his Queen to-night, and leave the rest to me."

On reaching their picnic camp, I excused myself, promising to meet them
later at the dance, and rode for our ambulance. Tiburcio had supper all
ready, and after it was over I called Theodore to one side and repeated
Esther's message. Quayle was still doubtful, and I called Miss Jean to
my assistance, hoping to convince him that Miss Vaux was not unfriendly
towards him. "You always want to judge a woman by contraries," said Miss
Jean, seating herself on the log beside us. "When it comes to acting her
part, always depend on a girl to conceal her true feelings, especially
if she has tact. Now, from what you boys say, my judgment is that she'd
cry her eyes out if any other girl was chosen Queen."

Uncle Lance had promised Mr. Wilson to take supper with his family, and
as we were all sprucing up for the dance, he returned. He had not been
present at the finals of the lancing contest, but from guests of the
Wilsons' had learned that one of his boys had won the honors. So on
riding into camp, as the finishing touches were being added to our
rustic toilets, he accosted Quayle and said: "Well, Theo, they tell me
that you won the elephant. Great Scott, boy, that's the best luck that
has struck Las Palomas since the big rain a year ago this month! Of
course, we all understand that you're to choose the oldest Vaux girl.
What's that? You don't know? Well, I do. I've had that all planned out,
in case you won, ever since we decided that you was to contest as the
representative of Las Palomas. And now you want to balk, do you?"

Uncle Lance was showing some spirit, but his sister checked him with
this explanation: "Just because Miss Frances didn't show any enthusiasm
over Theo winning, he and Tom somehow have got the idea in their minds
that she don't care a rap to be chosen Queen. I've tried to explain it
to them, but the boys don't understand girls, that's all. Why, if Theo
was to choose any other girl, she'd set the river afire."

"That's it, is it?" snorted Uncle Lance, pulling his gray mustaches.
"Well, I've known for some time that Tom didn't have good sense, but I
have always given you, Theo, credit for having a little. I'll gamble my
all that what Jean says is Bible truth. Didn't I have my eye on you and
that girl for nearly a week during the hunt a year ago, and haven't you
been riding my horses over to the Frio once or twice a month ever since?
You can read a brand as far as I can, but I can see that you're as blind
as a bat about a girl. Now, young fellow, listen to me: when the master
of ceremonies announces the winners of the day, and your name is called,
throw out your brisket, stand straight on those bow-legs of yours, step
forward and claim your privilege. When the wreath is tendered you,
accept it, carry it to the lady of your choice, and kneeling before her,
if she bids you arise, place the crown on her brow and lead the grand
march. I'd gladly give Las Palomas and every hoof on it for your years
and chance."

The festivities began with falling darkness. The master of ceremonies,
a school teacher from Oakville, read out the successful contestants and
the prizes to which they were entitled. The name of Theodore Quayle was
the last to be called, and excusing himself to Miss Jean, who had him in
tow, he walked forward with a military air, executing every movement in
the ceremony like an actor. As the music struck up, he and the blushing
Frances Vaux, rare in rustic beauty and crowned with a wreath of
live-oak leaves, led the opening march. Hundreds of hands clapped in
approval, and as the applause quieted down, I turned to look for a
partner, only to meet Miss Jean and my former sweetheart. Both were in a
seventh heaven of delight, and promptly took occasion to remind me of
my lack of foresight, repeating in chorus, "Didn't I tell you?" But the
music had broken into a waltz, which precluded any argument, and on
the mistress remarking "You young folks are missing a fine dance,"
involuntarily my arm encircled my old sweetheart, and we drifted away
into elysian fields.

The night after the first tournament at Shepherd's on the Nueces in
June, '77, lingers as a pleasant memory. Veiled in hazy retrospect,
attempting to recall it is like inviting the return of childish dreams
when one has reached the years of maturity. If I danced that night with
any other girl than poor Esther McLeod, the fact has certainly escaped
me. But somewhere in the archives of memory there is an indelible
picture of a stroll through dimly lighted picnic grounds; of sitting on
a rustic settee, built round the base of a patriarchal live-oak, and
listening to a broken-hearted woman lay bare the sorrows which less than
a year had brought her. I distinctly recall that my eyes, though unused
to weeping, filled with tears, when Esther in words of deepest sorrow
and contrition begged me to forgive her heedless and reckless act. Could
I harbor resentment in the face of such entreaty? The impulsiveness of
youth refused to believe that true happiness had gone out of her life.
She was again to me as she had been before her unfortunate marriage, and
must be released from the hateful bonds that bound her. Firm in this
resolve, dawn stole upon us, still sitting at the root of the old oak,
oblivious and happy in each other's presence, having pledged anew our
troth for time and eternity.

With the breaking of day the revelers dispersed. Quite a large
contingent from those present rode several miles up the river with our
party. The _remuda_ had been sent home the evening before with the
returning vaqueros, while the impatience of the ambulance mules
frequently carried them in advance of the cavalcade. The mistress of Las
Palomas had as her guest returning, Miss Jule Wilson, and the first time
they passed us, some four or five miles above the ferry, I noticed Uncle
Lance ride up, swaggering in his saddle, and poke Glenn Gallup in the
ribs, with a wink and nod towards the conveyance as the mules dashed
past. The pace we were traveling would carry us home by the middle
of the forenoon, and once we were reduced to the home crowd, the old
matchmaker broke out enthusiastically:--

"This tourney was what I call a success. I don't care a tinker's darn
for the prizes, but the way you boys built up to the girls last night
warmed the sluggish blood in my old veins. Even if Cotton did claim a
dance or two with the oldest Vaux girl, if Theo and her don't make the
riffle now--well, they simply can't help it, having gone so far. And did
any of you notice Scales and old June and Dan cutting the pigeon wing
like colts? I reckon Quirk will have to make some new resolutions this
morning. Oh, I heard about your declaring that you never wanted to see
Esther McLeod again. That's all right, son, but hereafter remember that
a resolve about a woman is only good for the day it is made, or until
you meet her. And notice, will you, ahead yonder, that sister of mine
playing second fiddle as a matchmaker. Glenn, if I was you, the next
time Miss Jule looks back this way, I'd play sick, and maybe they'd let
you ride in the ambulance. I can see at a glance that she's being poorly



During the month of June only two showers fell, which revived the grass
but added not a drop of water to our tank supply or to the river. When
the coast winds which followed set in, all hope for rain passed for
another year. During the residence of the old ranchero at Las Palomas,
the Nueces valley had suffered several severe drouths as disastrous
in their effects as a pestilence. There were places in its miles of
meanderings across our range where the river was paved with the bones
of cattle which had perished with thirst. Realizing that such disasters
repeat themselves, the ranch was set in order. That fall we branded the
calf crop with unusual care. In every possible quarter, we prepared for
the worst. A dozen wells were sunk over the tract and equipped with
windmills. There was sufficient water in the river and tanks during the
summer and fall, but by Christmas the range was eaten off until the
cattle, ranging far, came in only every other day to slake their thirst.

The social gayeties of the countryside received a check from the
threatened drouth. At Las Palomas we observed only the usual Christmas
festivities. Miss Jean always made it a point to have something extra
for the holiday season, not only in her own household, but also among
the Mexican families at headquarters and the outlying ranchites. Among a
number of delicacies brought up this time from Shepherd's was a box of
Florida oranges, and in assisting Miss Jean to fill the baskets for each
_jacal_, Aaron Scales opened this box of oranges and found a letter,
evidently placed there by some mischievous girl in the packery from
which the oranges were shipped. There was not only a letter but a
visiting card and a small photograph of the writer. This could only be
accepted by the discoverer as a challenge, for the sender surely knew
this particular box was intended for shipment to Texas, and banteringly
invited the recipient to reply. The missive certainly fell upon fertile
soil, and Scales, by right of discovery, delegated to himself the
pleasure of answering.

Scales was the black sheep of Las Palomas. Born of a rich, aristocratic
family in Maryland, he had early developed into a good-natured but
reckless spendthrift, and his disreputable associates had contributed no
small part in forcing him to the refuge of a cattle ranch. He had been
offered every opportunity to secure a good education, but during his
last year in college had been expelled, and rather than face parental
reproach had taken passage in a coast schooner for Galveston, Texas.
Then by easy stages he drifted westward, and at last, to his liking,
found a home at Las Palomas. He made himself a useful man on the ranch,
but, not having been bred to the occupation and with a tendency to
waywardness, gave a rather free rein to the vagabond spirit which
possessed him. He was a good rider, even for a country where every
one was a born horseman, but the use of the rope was an art he never
attempted to master.

With the conclusion of the holiday festivities and on the return of the
absentees, a feature, new to me in cattle life, presented itself--hide
hunting. Freighters who brought merchandise from the coast towns to the
merchants of the interior were offering very liberal terms for return
cargoes. About the only local product was flint hides, and of these
there were very few, but the merchant at Shepherd's Ferry offered so
generous inducements that Uncle Lance investigated the matter; the
result was his determination to rid his range of the old, logy,
worthless bulls. Heretofore they had been allowed to die of old age, but
ten cents a pound for flint hides was an encouragement to remove these
cumberers of the range, and turn them to some profit. So we were ordered
to kill every bull on the ranch over seven years old.

In our round-up for branding, we had driven to the home range all
outside cattle indiscriminately. They were still ranging near, so that
at the commencement of this work nearly all the bulls in our brand were
watering from the Nueces. These old residenter bulls never ranged over
a mile away from water, and during the middle of the day they could be
found along the river bank. Many of them were ten to twelve years old,
and were as useless on the range as drones in autumn to a colony of
honey-bees. Las Palomas boasted quite an arsenal of firearms, of every
make and pattern, from a musket to a repeater. The outfit was divided
into two squads, one going down nearly to Shepherd's, and the other
beginning operations considerably above the Ganso. June Deweese took the
down-river end, while Uncle Lance took some ten of us with one wagon on
the up-river trip. To me this had all the appearance of a picnic. But
the work proved to be anything but a picnic. To make the kill was most
difficult. Not willing to leave the carcasses near the river, we usually
sought the bulls coming in to water; but an ordinary charge of powder
and lead, even when well directed at the forehead, rarely killed and
tended rather to aggravate the creature. Besides, as we were compelled
in nearly every instance to shoot from horseback, it was almost
impossible to deliver an effective shot from in front. After one or more
unsuccessful shots, the bull usually started for the nearest thicket,
or the river; then our ropes came into use. The work was very slow; for
though we operated in pairs, the first week we did not average a hide a
day to the man; after killing, there was the animal to skin, the hide to
be dragged from a saddle pommel into a hide yard and pegged out to dry.

Until we had accumulated a load of hides, Tiburcio Leal, our teamster,
fell to me as partner. We had with us an abundance of our best horses,
and those who were reliable with the rope had first choice of the
_remuda_. Tiburcio was well mounted, but, on account of his years, was
timid about using a rope; and well he might be, for frequently we found
ourselves in a humorous predicament, and sometimes in one so grave that
hilarity was not even a remote possibility.

The second morning of the hunt, Tiburcio and I singled out a big black
bull about a mile from the river. I had not yet been convinced that
I could not make an effective shot from in front, and, dismounting,
attracted the bull's attention and fired. The shot did not even stagger
him and he charged us; our horses avoided his rush, and he started for
the river. Sheathing my carbine, I took down my rope and caught him
before he had gone a hundred yards. As I threw my horse on his haunches
to receive the shock, the weight and momentum of the bull dragged my
double-cinched saddle over my horse's head and sent me sprawling on the
ground. In wrapping the loose end of the rope around the pommel of the
saddle, I had given it a half hitch, and as I came to my feet my saddle
and carbine were bumping merrily along after Toro. Regaining my horse, I
soon overtook Tiburcio, who was attempting to turn the animal back from
the river, and urged him to "tie on," but he hesitated, offering me his
horse instead. As there was no time to waste, we changed horses like
relay riders. I soon overtook the animal and made a successful cast,
catching the bull by the front feet. I threw Tiburcio's horse, like a
wheeler, back on his haunches, and, on bringing the rope taut, fetched
Toro to his knees; but with the strain the half-inch manila rope snapped
at the pommel like a twine string. Then we were at our wit's end, the
bull lumbering away with the second rope noosed over one fore foot, and
leaving my saddle far in the rear. But after a moment's hesitation my
partner and I doubled on him, to make trial of our guns, Tiburcio having
a favorite old musket while I had only my six-shooter. Tiburcio, on my
stripped horse, overtook the bull first, and attempted to turn him, but
El Toro was not to be stopped. On coming up myself, I tried the same
tactics, firing several shots into the ground in front of him but
without deflecting the enraged bull from his course. Then I unloosed a
Mexican blanket from Tiburcio's saddle, and flaunting it in his face,
led him like a matador inviting a charge. This held his attention until
Tiburcio, gaining courage, dashed past him from the rear and planted a
musket ball behind the base of his ear, and the patriarch succumbed.

After the first few days' work, we found that the most vulnerable
spot was where the spinal cord connects with the base of the brain. A
well-directed shot at this point, even from a six-shooter, never failed
to bring Toro to grass; and some of us became so expert that we could
deliver this favorite shot from a running horse. The trouble was to
get the bull to run evenly. That was one thing he objected to, and yet
unless he did we could not advantageously attack him with a six-shooter.
Many of these old bulls were surly in disposition, and even when they
did run, there was no telling what moment they would sulk, stop without
an instant's notice, and attempt to gore a passing horse.

We usually camped two or three days at a place, taking in both sides of
the river, and after the work was once well under way we kept our wagon
busy hauling the dry hides to a common yard on the river opposite Las
Palomas. Without apology, it can be admitted that we did not confine our
killing to the Las Palomas brand alone, but all cumberers on our range
met the same fate. There were numerous stray bulls belonging to distant
ranches which had taken up their abode on the Nueces, all of which were
fish to our net. We kept a brand tally of every bull thus killed; for
the primary motive was not one of profit, but to rid the range of these

When we had been at work some two weeks, we had an exciting chase one
afternoon in which Enrique Lopez figured as the hero. In coming in to
dinner that day, Uncle Lance told of the chase after a young _ladino_
bull with which we were all familiar. The old ranchero's hatred to wild
cattle had caused him that morning to risk a long shot at this outlaw,
wounding him. Juan Leal and Enrique Lopez, who were there, had both
tried their marksmanship and their ropes on him in vain. Dragging down
horses and snapping ropes, the bull made his escape into a chaparral
thicket. He must have been exceedingly nimble; for I have seen Uncle
Lance kill a running deer at a hundred yards with a rifle. At any rate,
the entire squad turned out after dinner to renew the attack. We saddled
the best horses in our _remuda_ for the occasion, and sallied forth
to the lair of the _ladino_ bull, like a procession of professional

The chaparral thicket in which the outlaw had taken refuge lay about a
mile and a half back from the river and contained about two acres. On
reaching the edge of the thicket, Uncle Lance called for volunteers to
beat the brush and rout out the bull. As this must be done on foot,
responses were not numerous. But our employer relieved the embarrassment
by assigning vaqueros to the duty, also directing Enrique to take one
point of the thicket and me the other, with instructions to use our
ropes should the outlaw quit the thicket for the river. Detailing
Tiburcio, who was with us that afternoon, to assist him in leading the
loose saddle horses, he divided the six other men into two squads under
Theodore Quayle and Dan Happersett. When all was ready, Enrique and
myself took up our positions, hiding in the outlying mesquite brush;
leaving the loose horses under saddle in the cover at a distance. The
thicket was oval in form, lying with a point towards the river, and we
all felt confident if the bull were started he would make for the timber
on the river. With a whoop and hurrah and a free discharge of firearms,
the beaters entered the chaparral. From my position I could see Enrique
lying along the neck of his horse about fifty yards distant; and I had
fully made up my mind to give that bucolic vaquero the first chance.
During the past two weeks my enthusiasm for roping stray bulls had
undergone a change; I was now quite willing that all honors of the
afternoon should fall to Enrique. The beaters approached without giving
any warning that the bull had been sighted, and so great was the strain
and tension that I could feel the beating of my horse's heart beneath
me. The suspense was finally broken by one or two shots in rapid
succession, and as the sound died away, the voice of Juan Leal rang
out distinctly: "Cuidado por el toro!" and the next moment there was a
cracking of brush and a pale dun bull broke cover.

For a moment he halted on the border of the thicket: then, as the din of
the beaters increased, struck boldly across the prairie for the river.
Enrique and I were after him without loss of time. Enrique made a
successful cast for his horns, and reined in his horse; but when the
slack of the rope was taken up the rear cinch broke, the saddle was
jerked forward on the horse's withers, and Enrique was compelled to free
the rope or have his horse dragged down. I saw the mishap, and, giving
my horse the rowel, rode at the bull and threw my rope. The loop neatly
encircled his front feet, and when the shock came between horse and
bull, it fetched the toro a somersault in the air, but unhappily took
off the pommel of my saddle. The bull was on his feet in a jiffy, and
before I could recover my rope, Enrique, who had reset his saddle,
passed me, followed by the entire squad. Uncle Lance had been a witness
to both mishaps, and on overtaking us urged me to tie on to the bull
again. For answer I could only point to my missing pommel; but every man
in the squad had loosened his rope, and it looked as if they would all
fasten on to the _ladino_, for they were all good ropers. Man after man
threw his loop on him; but the dun outlaw snapped the ropes as if they
had been cotton strings, dragging down two horses with their riders and
leaving them in the rear. I rode up alongside Enrique and offered him my
rope, but he refused it, knowing it would be useless to try again with
only a single cinch on his saddle. The young rascal had a daring idea
in mind. We were within a quarter mile of the river, and escape of the
outlaw seemed probable, when Enrique rode down on the bull, took up his
tail, and, wrapping the brush on the pommel of his saddle, turned his
horse abruptly to the left, rolling the bull over like a hoop, and of
course dismounting himself in the act. Then before the dazed animal
could rise, with the agility of a panther the vaquero sprang astride his
loins, and as he floundered, others leaped from their horses. Toro was
pinioned, and dispatched with a shot.

Then we loosened cinches to allow our heaving horses to breathe, and
threw ourselves on the ground for a moment's rest. "That's the best kill
we'll make on this trip," said Uncle Lance as we mounted, leaving
two vaqueros to take the hide. "I despise wild cattle, and I've been
hungering to get a shot at that fellow for the last three years.
Enrique, the day the baby is born, I'll buy it a new cradle, and Tom
shall have a new saddle and we'll charge it to Las Palomas--she's the
girl that pays the bills."

Scarcely a day passed but similar experiences were related around the
camp-fire. In fact, as the end of the work came in view, they became
commonplace with us. Finally the two outfits were united at the general
hide yard near the home ranch. Coils of small rope were brought from
headquarters, and a detail of men remained in camp, baling the flint
hides, while the remainder scoured the immediate country. A crude press
was arranged, and by the aid of a long lever the hides were compressed
into convenient space for handling by the freighters.

When we had nearly finished the killing and baling, an unlooked-for
incident occurred. While Deweese was working down near Shepherd's Ferry,
report of our work circulated around the country, and his camp had been
frequently visited by cattlemen. Having nothing to conceal, he
had showed his list of outside brands killed, which was perfectly
satisfactory in most instances. As was customary in selling cattle, we
expected to make report of every outside hide taken, and settle for
them, deducting the necessary expense. But in every community there
are those who oppose prevailing customs, and some who can always see
sinister motives. One forenoon, when the baling was nearly finished, a
delegation of men, representing brands of the Frio and San Miguel, rode
up to our hide yard. They were all well-known cowmen, and Uncle Lance,
being present, saluted them in his usual hearty manner. In response
to an inquiry--"what he thought he was doing"--Uncle Lance jocularly

"Well, you see, you fellows allow your old bulls to drift down on my
range, expecting Las Palomas to pension them the remainder of their
days. But that's where you get fooled. Ten cents a pound for flint hides
beats letting these old stagers die of old age. And this being an idle
season with nothing much to do, we wanted to have a little fun. And
we've had it. But laying all jokes aside, fellows, it's a good idea to
get rid of these old varmints. Hereafter, I'm going to make a killing
off every two or three years. The boys have kept a list of all stray
brands killed, and you can look them over and see how many of yours we
got. We have baled all the stray hides separate, so they can be looked
over. But it's nearly noon, and you'd better all ride up to the ranch
for dinner--they feed better up there than we do in camp."

Rather than make a three-mile ride to the house, the visitors took
dinner with the wagon, and about one o'clock Deweese and a vaquero came
in, dragging a hide between them. June cordially greeted the callers,
including Henry Annear, who represented the Las Norias ranch, though I
suppose it was well known to every one present that there was no love
lost between them. Uncle Lance asked our foreman for his list of outside
brands, explaining that these men wished to look them over. Everything
seemed perfectly satisfactory to all parties concerned, and after
remaining in camp over an hour, Deweese and the vaquero saddled fresh
horses and rode away. The visitors seemed in no hurry to go, so Uncle
Lance sat around camp entertaining them, while the rest of us proceeded
with our work of baling. Before leaving, however, the entire party in
company of our employer took a stroll about the hide yard, which was
some distance from camp. During this tour of inspection, Annear asked
which were the bales of outside hides taken in Deweese's division,
claiming he represented a number of brands outside of Las Norias. The
bales were pointed out and some dozen unbaled hides looked over. On a
count the baled and unbaled hides were found to tally exactly with the
list submitted. But unfortunately Annear took occasion to insinuate that
the list of brands rendered had been "doctored." Uncle Lance paid little
attention, though he heard, but the other visitors remonstrated with
Annear. This only seemed to make him more contentious. Finally matters
came to an open rupture when Annear demanded that the cordage be cut on
certain bales to allow him to inspect them. Possibly he was within his
rights, but on the Nueces during the seventies, to question a man's word
was equivalent to calling him a liar; and _liar_ was a fighting word all
over the cattle range.

"Well, Henry," said Uncle Lance, rather firmly, "if you are not
satisfied, I suppose I'll have to open the bales for you, but before I
do, I'm going to send after June. Neither you nor any one else can cast
any reflections on a man in my employ. No unjust act can be charged in
my presence against an absent man. The vaqueros tell me that my foreman
is only around the bend of the river, and I'm going to ask all you
gentlemen to remain until I can send for him."

John Cotton was dispatched after Deweese. Conversation meanwhile became
polite and changed to other subjects. Those of us at work baling hides
went ahead as if nothing unusual was on the tapis. The visitors were all
armed, which was nothing unusual, for the wearing of six-shooters was as
common as the wearing of hoots. During the interim, several level-headed
visitors took Henry Annear to one side, evidently to reason with him and
urge an apology, for they could readily see that Uncle Lance was justly
offended. But it seemed that Annear would listen to no one, and while
they were yet conversing among themselves, John Cotton and our foreman
galloped around the bend of the river and rode up to the yard. No doubt
Cotton had explained the situation, but as they dismounted Uncle Lance
stepped between his foreman and Annear, saying:--

"June, Henry, here, questions the honesty of your list of strays killed,
and insists on our cutting the bales for his inspection." Turning to
Annear, Uncle Lance inquired, "Do you still insist on opening the

"Yes, sir, I do."

Deweese stepped to one side of his employer, saying to Annear: "You
offer to cut a bale here to-day, and I'll cut your heart out. Behind my
back, you questioned my word. Question it to my face, you dirty sneak."

Annear sprang backward and to one side, drawing a six-shooter in the
movement, while June was equally active. Like a flash, two shots rang
out. Following the reports, Henry turned halfway round, while Deweese
staggered a step backward. Taking advantage of the instant, Uncle Lance
sprang like a panther on to June and bore him to the ground, while the
visitors fell on Annear and disarmed him in a flash. They were dragged
struggling farther apart, and after some semblance of sanity had
returned, we stripped our foreman and found an ugly flesh wound crossing
his side under the armpit, the bullet having been deflected by a rib.
Annear had fared worse, and was spitting blood freely, and the marks of
exit and entrance of the bullet indicated that the point of one lung had
been slightly chipped.

"I suppose this outcome is what you might call the _amende honorable_"
smilingly said George Nathan, one of the visitors, later to Uncle Lance.
"I always knew there was a little bad blood existing between the boys,
but I had no idea that it would flash in the pan so suddenly or I'd have
stayed at home. Shooting always lets me out. But the question now is,
How are we going to get our man home?"

Uncle Lance at once offered them horses and a wagon, in case Annear
would not go into Las Palomas. This he objected to, so a wagon was
fitted up, and, promising to return it the next day, our visitors
departed with the best of feelings, save between the two belligerents.
We sent June into the ranch and a man to Oakville after a surgeon, and
resumed our work in the hide yard as if nothing had happened. Somewhere
I have seen the statement that the climate of California was especially
conducive to the healing of gunshot wounds. The same claim might be made
in behalf of the Nueces valley, for within a month both the combatants
were again in their saddles.

Within a week after this incident, we concluded our work and the hides
were ready for the freighters. We had spent over a month and had taken
fully seven hundred hides, many of which, when dry, would weigh one
hundred pounds, the total having a value of between five and six
thousand dollars. Like their predecessors the buffalo, the remains of
the ladinos were left to enrich the soil; but there was no danger of the
extinction of the species, for at Las Palomas it was the custom to allow
every tenth male calf to grow up a bull.



The spring of '78 was an early one, but the drouth continued, and after
the hide hunting was over we rode our range almost night and day.
Thousands of cattle had drifted down from the Frio River country, which
section was suffering from drouth as badly as the Nueces. The new wells
were furnishing a limited supply of water, but we rigged pulleys on the
best of them, and when the wind failed we had recourse to buckets and a
rope worked from the pommel of a saddle. A breeze usually arose about
ten in the morning and fell about midnight. During the lull the buckets
rose and fell incessantly at eight wells, with no lack of suffering
cattle in attendance to consume it as fast as it was hoisted. Many
thirsty animals gorged themselves, and died in sight of the well; weak
ones being frequently trampled to death by the stronger, while flint
hides were corded at every watering point. The river had quit flowing,
and with the first warmth of spring the pools became rancid and
stagnant. In sandy and subirrigated sections, under a March sun, the
grass made a sickly effort to spring; but it lacked substance, and so
far from furnishing food for the cattle, it only weakened them.

This was my first experience with a serious drouth. Uncle Lance,
however, met the emergency as though it were part of the day's work,
riding continually with the rest of us. During the latter part of March,
Aaron Scales, two vaqueros, and myself came in one night from the Ganso
and announced not over a month's supply of water in that creek. We also
reported to our employer that during our two days' ride, we had skinned
some ten cattle, four of which were in our own brand.

"That's not as bad as it might be," said the old ranchero,
philosophically. "You see, boys, I've been through three drouths since
I began ranching on this river. The second one, in '51, was the worst;
cattle skulls were as thick along the Nueces that year as sunflowers in
August. In '66 it was nearly as bad, there being more cattle; but it
didn't hurt me very much, as mavericking had been good for some time
before and for several years following, and I soon recovered my losses.
The first one lasted three years, and had there been as many cattle
as there are now, half of them would have died. The spring before the
second drouth, I acted as _padrino_ for Tiburcio and his wife, who was
at that time a mere slip of a girl living at the Mission. Before they
had time to get married, the dry spell set in and they put the wedding
off until it should rain. I ridiculed the idea, but they were both
superstitious and stuck it out. And honest, boys, there wasn't enough
rain fell in two years to wet your shirt. In my forty years on the
Nueces, I've seen hard times, but that drouth was the toughest of them
all. Game and birds left the country, and the cattle were too poor to
eat. Whenever our provisions ran low, I sent Tiburcio to the coast with
a load of hides, using six yoke of oxen to handle a cargo of about a
ton. The oxen were so poor that they had to stand twice in one place
to make a shadow, and we wouldn't take gold for our flint hides but
insisted on the staples of life. At one point on the road, Tiburcio had
to give a quart of flour for watering his team both going and coming.
They say that when the Jews quit a country, it's time for the gentiles
to leave. But we old timers are just like a horse that chooses a new
range and will stay with it until he starves or dies with old age."

I could see nothing reassuring in the outlook. Near the wells and along
the river the stock had trampled out the grass until the ground was as
bare as a city street. Miles distant from the water the old dry grass,
with only an occasional green blade, was the only grazing for the
cattle. The black, waxy soil on the first bottom of the river, on which
the mesquite grass had flourished, was as bare now as a ploughed field,
while the ground had cracked open in places to an incredible depth, so
that without exercising caution it was dangerous to ride across. This
was the condition of the range at the approach of April. Our horse
stock, to be sure, fared better, ranging farther and not requiring
anything like the amount of water needed by the cattle. It was nothing
unusual to meet a Las Palomas _manada_ from ten to twelve miles from the
river, and coming in only every second or third night to quench their
thirst. We were fortunate in having an abundance of saddle horses,
which, whether under saddle or not, were always given the preference in
the matter of water. They were the motive power of the ranch, and during
this crisis, though worked hard, must be favored in every possible

Early that spring the old ranchero sent Deweese to Lagarto in an attempt
to sell Captain Byler a herd of horse stock for the trail. The mission
was a failure, though our _segundo_ offered to sell a thousand, in the
straight Las Palomas brand, at seven dollars a head on a year's credit.
Even this was no inducement to the trail drover, and on Deweese's return
my employer tried San Antonio and other points in Texas in the hope of
finding a market. From several places favorable replies were received,
particularly from places north of the Colorado River; for the drouth was
local and was chiefly confined to the southern portion of the state.
There was enough encouragement in the letters to justify the old
ranchero's attempt to reduce the demand on the ranch's water supply, by
sending a herd of horse stock north on sale. Under ordinary conditions,
every ranchman preferred to sell his surplus stock at the ranch, and
Las Palomas was no exception, being generally congested with marketable
animals. San Antonio was, however, beginning to be a local horse and
mule market of some moment, and before my advent several small selected
bunches of mares, mules, and saddle horses had been sent there, and had
found a ready and profitable sale.

But this was an emergency year, and it was decided to send a herd of
stock horses up the country. Accordingly, before April, we worked every
_manada_ which we expected to keep, cutting out all the two-year-old
fillies. To these were added every mongrel-colored band to the number of
twenty odd, and when ready to start the herd numbered a few over twelve
hundred of all ages from yearlings up. A _remuda_ of fifty saddle
horses, broken in the spring of '76, were allotted to our use, and our
_segundo_, myself, and five Mexican vaqueros were detailed to drive
the herd. We were allowed two pack mules for our commissary, which was
driven with the _remuda_. With instructions to sell and hurry home, we
left our horse camp on the river, and started on the morning of the last
day of March.

Live-stock commission firms in San Antonio were notified of our coming,
and with six men to the herd and the seventh driving the _remuda_, we
put twenty miles behind us the first day. With the exception of water
for saddle stock, which we hoisted from a well, there was no hope of
watering the herd before reaching Mr. Booth's ranch on the Frio. He
had been husbanding his water supply, and early the second evening we
watered the herd to its contentment from a single shaded pool. From the
Frio we could not follow any road, but were compelled to direct our
course wherever there was a prospect of water. By hobbling the bell mare
of the _remuda_ at evening, and making two watches of the night-herding,
we easily systematized our work. Until we reached the San Antonio River,
about twenty miles below the city, not over two days passed without
water for all the stock, though, on account of the variations from our
course, we were over a week in reaching San Antonio. Having moved the
herd up near some old missions within five or six miles of the city,
with an abundance of water and some grass, Deweese went into town,
visiting the commission firms and looking for a buyer. Fortunately a
firm, which was expecting our arrival, had a prospective purchaser from
Fort Worth for about our number. Making a date with the firm to show our
horses the next morning, our _segundo_ returned to the herd, elated over
the prospect of a sale.

On their arrival the next morning, we had the horses already watered and
were grazing them along an abrupt slope between the first and second
bottoms of the river. The salesman understood his business, and drove
the conveyance back and forth on the down hill side, below the herd,
and the rise in the ground made our range stock look as big as American
horses. After looking at the animals for an hour, from a buckboard, the
prospective buyer insisted on looking at the _remuda_. But as these were
gentle, he gave them a more critical examination, insisting on their
being penned in a rope corral at our temporary camp, and had every
horse that was then being ridden unsaddled to inspect their backs. The
_remuda_ was young, gentle, and sound, many of them submitting to be
caught without a rope. The buyer was pleased with them, and when the
price came up for discussion Deweese artfully set a high figure on the
saddle stock, and, to make his bluff good, offered to reserve them and
take them back to the ranch. But Tuttle would not consider the herd
without the _remuda_, and sparring between them continued until all
three returned to town.

It was a day of expectancy to the vaqueros and myself. In examining the
saddle horses, the buyer acted like a cowman; but as regarding the range
stock, it was evident to me that his armor was vulnerable, and if he got
any the best of our _segundo_ he was welcome to it. Deweese returned
shortly after dark, coming directly to the herd where I and two vaqueros
were on guard, to inform us that he had sold lock, stock, and barrel,
including the two pack mules. I felt like shouting over the good news,
when June threw a damper on my enthusiasm by the news that he had sold
for delivery at Fort Worth.

"You see," said Deweese, by way of explanation, "the buyer is foreman
of a cattle company out on the forks of the Brazos in Young County. He
don't sabe range horses as well as he does cows, and when we had agreed
on the saddle stock, and there were only two bits between us on the
herd, he offered me six bits a head all round, over and above his offer,
if I would put them in Fort Worth, and I took him up so quick that I
nearly bit my tongue doing it. Captain Redman tells me that it's only
about three hundred miles, and grass and water is reported good. I
intended to take him up at his offer, anyhow, and seventy-five cents a
head extra will make the old man nearly a thousand dollars, which is
worth picking up. We'll put them there easy in three weeks, learn the
trail and see the country besides. Uncle Lance can't have any kick
coming, for I offered them to Captain Byler for seven dollars, and here
I'm getting ten six-bits--nearly four thousand dollars' advance, and we
won't be gone five weeks. Any money down? Well, I should remark! Five
thousand deposited with Smith & Redman, and I was particular to have it
inserted in the contract between us that every saddle horse, mare, mule,
gelding, and filly was to be in the straight 'horse hoof' brand. There
is a possibility that when Tuttle sees them again at Fort Worth, they
won't look as large as they did on that hillside this morning."

We made an early start from San Antonio the next morning, passing to the
westward of the then straggling city. The vaqueros were disturbed
over the journey, for Fort Worth was as foreign to them as a European
seaport, but I jollied them into believing it was but a little _pasear_.
Though I had never ridden on a train myself, I pictured to them the
luxuriant ease with which we would return, as well as the trip by stage
to Oakville. I threw enough enthusiasm into my description of the good
time we were going to have, coupled with their confidence in Deweese, to
convince them in spite of their forebodings. Our _segundo_ humored them
in various ways, and after a week on the trail, water getting plentiful,
using two guards, we only herded until midnight, turning the herd loose
from then until daybreak. It usually took us less than an hour to gather
and count them in the morning, and encouraged by their contentment, a
few days later, we loose-herded until darkness and then turned them
free. From then on it was a picnic as far as work was concerned, and our
saddle horses and herd improved every day.

After crossing the Colorado River, at every available chance en route we
mailed a letter to the buyer, notifying him of our progress as we swept
northward. When within a day's drive of the Brazos, we mailed our last
letter, giving notice that we would deliver within three days of date.
On reaching that river, we found it swimming for between thirty and
forty yards; but by tying up the pack mules and cutting the herd into
four bunches, we swam the Brazos with less than an hour's delay.
Overhauling and transferring the packs to horses, throwing away
everything but the barest necessities, we crossed the lightened
commissary, the freed mules swimming with the _remuda_. On the morning
of the twentieth day out from San Antonio, our _segundo_ rode into the
fort ahead of the herd. We followed at our regular gait, and near the
middle of the forenoon were met by Deweese and Tuttle, who piloted us to
a pasture west of the city, where an outfit was encamped to receive the
herd. They numbered fifteen men, and looked at our insignificant crowd
with contempt; but the count which followed showed we had not lost a
hoof since we left the Nueces, although for the last ten nights the
stock had had the fullest freedom.

The receiving outfit looked the brands over carefully. The splendid
grass and water of the past two weeks had transformed the famishing herd
of a month before, and they were received without a question. Rounding
in our _remuda_ for fresh mounts before starting to town, the vaqueros
and I did some fancy roping in catching out the horses, partially from
sheer lightness of heart because we were at our journey's end, and
partially to show this north Texas outfit that we were like the
proverbial singed cat--better than we looked. Two of Turtle's men rode
into town with us that evening to lead back our mounts, the outfit
having come in purposely to receive the horse herd and drive it to their
ranch in Young County. While riding in, they thawed nicely towards us,
but kept me busy interpreting for them with our Mexicans. Tuttle and
Deweese rode together in the lead, and on nearing town one of the
strangers bantered Pasquale to sell him a nice maguey rope which the
vaquero carried. When I interpreted the other's wish to him, Pasquale
loosened the lasso and made a present of it to Tuttle's man. I had
almost as good a rope of the same material, which I presented to the
other lad with us, and the drinks we afterward consumed over this slight
testimony of the amicable relations existing between a northern and
southern Texas outfit over the delivery and receiving of a horse herd,
showed no evidence of a drouth. The following morning I made inquiry for
Frank Nancrede and the drovers who had driven a trail herd of cattle
from Las Palomas two seasons before. They were all well known about the
fort, but were absent at the time, having put up two trail herds that
spring in Uvalde County. Deweese did not waste an hour more than was
necessary in that town, and while waiting for the banks to open,
arranged for our transportation to San Antonio. We were all ready to
start back before noon. Fort Worth was a frontier town at the time,
bustling and alert with live-stock interests; but we were anxious to get
home, and promptly boarded a train for the south. After entering the
train, our _segundo_ gave each of the vaqueros and myself some spending
money, the greater portion of which went to the "butcher" for fruits. He
was an enterprising fellow and took a marked interest in our comfort and
welfare. But on nearing San Antonio after midnight, he attempted to sell
us our choice of three books, between the leaves of one of which he
had placed a five-dollar bill and in another a ten, and offered us our
choice for two dollars, and June Deweese became suddenly interested.
Coming over to where we were sitting, he knocked the books on the
floor, kicked them under a seat, and threatened to bend a gun over the
butcher's head unless he made himself very scarce. Then reminding us
that "there were tricks in all trades but ours," he kept an eye over us
until we reached the city.

We were delayed another day in San Antonio, settling with the commission
firm and banking the money. The next morning we took stage for Oakville,
where we arrived late at night. When a short distance out of San Antonio
I inquired of our driver who would relieve him beyond Pleasanton, and
was gratified to hear that his name was not Jack Martin. Not that I had
anything particular against Martin, but I had no love for his wife, and
had no desire to press the acquaintance any further with her or her
husband. On reaching Oakville, we were within forty miles of Las
Palomas. We had our saddles with us, and early the next morning tried
to hire horses; but as the stage company domineered the village we were
unable to hire saddle stock, and on appealing to the only livery in town
we were informed that Bethel & Oxenford had the first claim on their
conveyances. Accordingly Deweese and I visited the offices of the
stage company, where, to our surprise, we came face to face with Jack
Oxenford. I do not think he knew us, though we both knew him at a
glance. Deweese made known his wants, but only asked for a conveyance as
far as Shepherd's. Yankeelike, Oxenford had to know who we were, where
we had been, and where we were going. Our _segundo_ gave him rather a
short answer, but finally admitted that we belonged at Las Palomas. Then
the junior member of the mail contractors became arrogant, claiming that
the only conveyance capable of carrying our party was being held for a
sheriff with some witnesses. On second thought he offered to send us
to the ferry by two lighter vehicles in consideration of five dollars
apiece, insolently remarking that we could either pay it or walk. I will
not repeat Deweese's reply, which I silently endorsed.

With the soil of the Nueces valley once more under our feet we felt
independent. On returning to the vaqueros, we found a stranger among
them, Bernabe Cruze by name, who was a _muy amigo_ of Santiago Ortez,
one of our Mexicans. He belonged at the Mission, and when he learned of
our predicament offered to lend us his horse, as he expected to be in
town a few days. The offer was gratefully accepted, and within a quarter
of an hour Manuel Flores had started for Shepherd's with an order to the
merchant to send in seven horses for us. It was less than a two hours'
ride to the ferry, and with the early start we expected Manuel to return
before noon. Making ourselves at home in a coffeehouse conducted by a
Mexican, Deweese ordered a few bottles of wine to celebrate properly
our drive and to entertain Cruze and our vaqueros. Before the horses
arrived, those of us who had any money left spent it in the _cantina_,
not wishing to carry it home, where it would be useless. The result was
that on the return of Flores with mounts we were all about three sheets
in the wind, reckless and defiant.

After saddling up, I suggested to June that we ride by the stage office
and show Mr. Oxenford that we were independent of him. The stage stand
and office were on the outskirts of the scattered village, and while we
could have avoided it, our _segundo_ willingly led the way, and called
for the junior member of the firm. A hostler came to the door and
informed us that Mr. Oxenford was not in.

"Then I'll just leave my card," said Deweese, dismounting. Taking a
brown cigarette paper from his pocket, he wrote his name on it; then
pulling a tack from a notice pasted beside the office door, he drew his
six-shooter, and with it deftly tacked the cigarette paper against the
office door jamb. Remounting his horse, and perfectly conscious that
Oxenford was within hearing, he remarked to the hostler: "When your
boss returns, please tell him that those fellows from Las Palomas will
neither walk with him nor ride with him. We thought he might fret as to
how we were to get home, and we have just ridden by to tell him that
he need feel no uneasiness. Since I have never had the pleasure of an
introduction to him, I've put my name on that cigarette paper. Good-day,

Arriving at Shepherd's, we rested several hours, and on the suggestion
of the merchant changed horses before starting home. At the ferry we
learned that there had been no serious loss of cattle so far, but that
nearly all the stock from the Frio and San Miguel had drifted across to
the Nueces. We also learned that the attendance on San Jacinto Day had
been extremely light, not a person from Las Palomas being present, while
the tournament for that year had been abandoned. During our ride up the
river before darkness fell, we passed a strange medley of brands, many
of which Deweese assured me were owned from fifty to a hundred miles to
the north and west. Riding leisurely, it was nearly midnight when we
sighted the ranch and found it astir. An extra breeze had been blowing,
and the vaqueros were starting to their work at the wells in order to
be on hand the moment the wind slackened. Around the two wells at
headquarters were over a thousand cattle, whose constant moaning reached
our ears over a mile from the ranch.

Our return was like entering a house of mourning. Miss Jean barely
greeted Deweese and myself, while Uncle Lance paced the gallery without
making a single inquiry as to what had become of the horse herd. On the
mistress's orders, servants set out a cold luncheon, and disappeared,
as if in the presence of death, without a word of greeting. Ever
thoughtful, Miss Jean added several little delicacies to our plain meal,
and, seating herself at the table with us, gave us a clear outline of
the situation. In seventy odd miles of the meanderings of the river
across our range, there was not a pool to the mile with water enough for
a hundred cattle. The wells were gradually becoming weaker, yielding
less water every week, while of four new ones which were commenced
before our departure, two were dry and worthless. The vaqueros were then
skinning on an average forty dead cattle a day, fully a half of which
were in the Las Palomas brand. Sympathetically as a sister could, she
accounted for her brother's lack of interest in our return by his
anxiety and years, and she cautioned us to let no evil report reach his
ears, as this drouth had unnerved him.

Deweese at once resumed his position on the ranch, and the next morning
the ranchero held a short council with him, authorizing him to spare
no expense to save the cattle. Deweese returned the borrowed horses by
Enrique, and sent a letter to the merchant at the ferry, directing him
to secure and send at least twenty men to Las Palomas. The first day
after our return, we rode the mills and the river. Convinced that to
sink other wells on the mesas would be fruitless, the foreman decided
to dig a number of shallow ones in the bed of the river, in the hope of
catching seepage water. Accordingly the next morning, I was sent with
a commissary wagon and seven men to the mouth of the Ganso, with
instructions to begin sinking wells about two miles apart. Taking
with us such tools as we needed, we commenced our first well at the
confluence of the Ganso with the Nueces, and a second one above. From
timber along the river we cut the necessary temporary curbing, and put
it in place as the wells were sunk. On the third day both wells became
so wet as to impede our work, and on our foreman riding by, he ordered
them curbed to the bottom and a tripod set up over them on which to rig
a rope and pulley. The next morning troughs and rigging, with a _remuda_
of horses and a watering crew of four strange vaqueros, arrived. The
wells were only about twenty feet deep; but by drawing the water as fast
as the seepage accumulated, each was capable of watering several hundred
head of cattle daily. By this time Deweese had secured ample help, and
started a second crew of well diggers opposite the ranch, who worked
down the river while my crew followed some fifteen miles above. By
the end of the month of May, we had some twenty temporary wells in
operation, and these, in addition to what water the pools afforded,
relieved the situation to some extent, though the ravages of death by
thirst went on apace among the weaker cattle.

With the beginning of June, we were operating nearly thirty wells. In
some cases two vaqueros could hoist all the water that accumulated in
three wells. We had a string of camps along the river, and at every
windmill on the mesas men were stationed night and day. Among the
cattle, the death rate was increasing all over the range. Frequently we
took over a hundred skins in a single day, while at every camp cords of
fallen flint hides were accumulating. The heat of summer was upon us,
the wind arose daily, sand storms and dust clouds swept across the
country, until our once prosperous range looked like a desert, withered
and accursed. Young cows forsook their offspring in the hour of their
birth. Motherless calves wandered about the range, hollow-eyed, their
piteous appeals unheeded, until some lurking wolf sucked their blood and
spread a feast to the vultures, constantly wheeling in great flights
overhead. The prickly pear, an extremely arid plant, affording both food
and drink to herds during drouths, had turned white, blistered by
the torrid sun until it had fallen down, lifeless. The chaparral was
destitute of foliage, and on the divides and higher mesas, had died. The
native women stripped their _jacals_ of every sacred picture, and hung
them on the withered trees about their doors, where they hourly prayed
to their patron saints. In the humblest homes on Las Palomas, candles
burned both night and day to appease the frowning Deity.

The white element on the ranch worked almost unceasingly, stirring the
Mexicans to the greatest effort. The middle of June passed without a
drop of rain, but on the morning of the twentieth, after working all
night, as Pasquale Arispe and I were drawing water from a well on the
border of the encinal I felt a breeze spring up, that started the
windmill. Casting my eyes upward, I noticed that the wind had veered to
a quarter directly opposite to that of the customary coast breeze. Not
being able to read aright the portent of the change in the wind, I had
to learn from that native-born son of the soil: "Tomas," he cried,
riding up excitedly, "in three days it will rain! Listen to me: Pasquale
Arispe says that in three days the _arroyos_ on the hacienda of Don
Lancelot will run like a mill-race. See, _companero_, the wind has
changed. The breeze is from the northwest this morning. Before three
days it will rain! Madre de Dios!"

The wind from the northwest continued steadily for two days, relieving
us from work. On the morning of the third day the signs in sky and air
were plain for falling weather. Cattle, tottering with weakness, came
into the well, and after drinking, playfully kicked up their heels on
leaving. Before noon the storm struck us like a cloud-burst. Pasquale
and I took refuge under the wagon to avoid the hailstones. In spite of
the parched ground drinking to its contentment, water flooded under the
wagon, driving us out. But we laughed at the violence of the deluge, and
after making everything secure, saddled our horses and set out for home,
taking our relay mounts with us. It was fifteen miles to the ranch and
in the eye of the storm; but the loose horses faced the rain as if they
enjoyed it, while those under saddle followed the free ones as a hound
does a scent. Within two hours after leaving the well, we reined in at
the gate, and I saw Uncle Lance and a number of the boys promenading the
gallery. But the old ranchero leisurely walked down the pathway to the
gate, and amid the downpour shouted to us: "Turn those horses loose;
this ranch is going to take a month's holiday."



A heavy rainfall continued the greater portion of two days. None of us
ventured away from the house until the weather settled, and meantime I
played the fiddle almost continuously. Night work and coarse living in
camps had prepared us to enjoy the comforts of a house, as well as to do
justice to the well-laden table. Miss Jean prided herself, on special
occasions and when the ranch had company, on good dinners; but in
commemoration of the breaking of this drouth, with none but us boys to
share it, she spread a continual feast. The Mexican contingent were not
forgotten by master or mistress, and the ranch supplies in the warehouse
were drawn upon, delicacies as well as staples, not only for the
_jacals_ about headquarters but also for the outlying ranchitas. The
native element had worked faithfully during the two years in which no
rain to speak of had fallen, until the breaking hour, and were not
forgotten in the hour of deliverance. Even the stranger vaqueros were
compelled to share the hospitality of Las Palomas like invited guests.

While the rain continued falling, Uncle Lance paced the gallery almost
night and day. Fearful lest the downpour might stop, he stood guard,
noting every change in the rainfall, barely taking time to eat or catch
an hour's sleep. But when the grateful rain had continued until the
evening of the second day, assuring a bountiful supply of water all
over our range, he joined us at supper, exultant as a youth of twenty.
"Boys," said he, "this has been a grand rain. If our tanks hold, we will
be independent for the next eighteen months, and if not another drop
falls, the river ought to flow for a year. I have seen worse drouths
since I lived here, but what hurt us now was the amount of cattle and
the heavy drift which flooded down on us from up the river and north on
the Frio. The loss is nothing; we won't notice it in another year. I
have kept a close tally of the hides taken, and our brand will be short
about two thousand, or less than ten per cent of our total numbers. They
were principally old cows and will not be missed. The calf crop this
fall will be short, but taking it up one side and down the other, we got
off lucky."

The third day after the rain began the sun rose bright and clear. Not a
hoof of cattle or horses was in sight, and though it was midsummer, the
freshness of earth and air was like that of a spring morning. Every one
felt like riding. While awaiting the arrival of saddle horses, the
extra help hired during the drouth was called in and settled with. Two
brothers, Fidel and Carlos Trujillo, begged for permanent employment.
They were promising young fellows, born on the Aransas River, and after
consulting with Deweese Uncle Lance took both into permanent service on
the ranch. A room in an outbuilding was allotted them, and they were
instructed to get their meals in the kitchen. The _remudas_ had wandered
far, but one was finally brought in by a vaquero, and by pairs we
mounted and rode away. On starting, the tanks demanded our first
attention, and finding all four of them safe, we threw out of gear all
the windmills. Theodore Quayle and I were partners during the day's ride
to the south, and on coming in at evening fell in with Uncle Lance and
our _segundo_, who had been as far west as the Ganso. Quayle and I had
discussed during the day the prospect of a hunt at the Vaux ranch, and
on meeting our employer, artfully interested the old ranchero regarding
the amount of cat sign seen that day along the Arroyo Sordo.

"It's hard luck, boys," said he, "to find ourselves afoot, and the
hunting so promising. But we haven't a horse on the ranch that could
carry a man ten miles in a straightaway dash after the hounds. It will
be a month yet before the grass has substance enough in it to strengthen
our _remudas_. Oh, if it hadn't been for the condition of saddle stock,
Don Pierre would have come right through the rain yesterday. But when
Las Palomas can't follow the hounds for lack of mounts, you can depend
on it that other ranches can't either. It just makes me sick to think of
this good hunting, but what can we do for a month but fold our hands and
sit down? But if you boys are itching for an excuse to get over on the
Frio, why, I'll make you a good one. This drouth has knocked all the
sociability out of the country; but now the ordeal is past, Theodore is
in honor bound to go over to the Vaux ranch. I don't suppose you boys
have seen the girls on the Frio and San Miguel in six months. Time?
That's about all we have got right now. Time?--we've got time to burn."

Our feeler had borne fruit. An excuse or permission to go to the Frio
was what Quayle and I were after, though no doubt the old matchmaker was
equally anxious to have us go. In expressing our thanks for the promised
vacation, we included several provisos--in case there was nothing to do,
or if we concluded to go--when Uncle Lance turned in his saddle and gave
us a withering look. "I've often wondered," said he, "if the blood in
you fellows is really red, or if it's white like a fish's. Now, when I
was your age, I had to steal chances to go to see my girl. But I never
gave her any show to forget me, and worried her to a fare-ye-well. And
if my observation and years go for anything, that's just the way girls
like to have a fellow act. Of course they'll bluff and let on they must
be wooed and all that, just like Frances did at the tournament a year
ago. I contend that with a clear field the only way to make any progress
in sparking a girl, is to get one arm around her waist, and with the
other hand keep her from scratching you. That's the very way they like
to be courted."

Theodore and I dropped behind after this lecture, and before we reached
the ranch had agreed to ride over to the Frio the next morning. During
our absence that day, there had arrived at Las Palomas from the Mission,
a _padrino_ in the person of Don Alejandro Travino. Juana Leal, only
daughter of Tiburcio, had been sought in marriage by a nephew of Don
Alejandro, and the latter, dignified as a Castilian noble, was then at
the house negotiating for the girl's hand. Juana was nearly eighteen,
had been born at the ranch, and after reaching years of usefulness had
been adopted into Miss Jean's household. To ask for her hand required
audacity, for to master and mistress of Las Palomas it was like asking
for a daughter of the house. Miss Jean was agitated and all in a
flutter; Tiburcio and his wife were struck dumb; for Juana was the baby
and only unmarried one of their children, and to take her from Las
Palomas--they could never consent to that. But Uncle Lance had gone
through such experiences before, and met the emergency with promptness.

"That's all right, little sister," said the old matchmaker to Miss Jean,
who had come out to the gate where we were unsaddling. "Don't you borrow
any trouble in this matter--leave things to me. I've handled trifles
like this among these natives for nearly forty years now, and I don't
see any occasion to try and make out a funeral right after the drouth's
been broken by a fine rain. Shucks, girl, this is a time for rejoicing!
You go back in the house and entertain Don Alejandro with your best
smiles till I come in. I want to have a talk with Tiburcio and his wife
before I meet the _padrino_. There's several families of those Travinos
over around the Mission and I want to locate which tribe this _oso_
comes from. Some of them are good people and some of them need a rope
around their necks, and in a case of keeps like getting married, it's
always safe to know what's what and who's who. Now, Sis, go on back in
the house and entertain the Don. Come with me, Tom."

I saw our plans for the morrow vanish into thin air. On arriving at the
jacal, we were admitted, but a gloom like the pall of death seemed to
envelop the old Mexican couple. When we had taken seats around a small
table, Tia Inez handed the ranchero the formal written request. As it
was penned in Spanish, it was passed to me to read, and after running
through it hastily, I read it aloud, several times stopping to interpret
to Uncle Lance certain extravagant phrases. The salutatory was in the
usual form; the esteem which each family had always entertained for the
other was dwelt upon at length, and choicer language was never used than
the _padrino_ penned in asking for the hand of Doña Juana. This dainty
missive was signed by the godfather of the swain, Don Alejandro Travino,
whose rubric riotously ran back and forth entirely across the delicately
tinted sheet. On the conclusion of the reading, Uncle Lance brushed the
letter aside as of no moment, and, turning to the old couple, demanded
to know to which branch of the Travino family young Don Blas belonged.

The account of Tiburcio and his wife was definite and clear. The father
of the swain conducted a small country store at the Mission, and besides
had landed and cattle interests. He was a younger brother of Don
Alejandro, who was the owner of a large land grant, had cattle in
abundance, and was a representative man among the Spanish element. No
better credentials could have been asked. But when their patron rallied
them as to the cause of their gloom, Tia Inez burst into tears,
admitting the match was satisfactory, but her baby would be carried away
from Las Palomas and she might never see her again. Her two sons who
lived at the ranch, allowed no day to pass without coming to see their
mother, and the one who lived at a distant ranchita came at every
opportunity. But if her little girl was carried away to a distant
ranch--ah! that made it impossible! Let Don Lance, worthy patron of his
people, forbid the match, and win the gratitude of an anguished mother.
Invoking the saints to guide her aright, Doña Inez threw herself on the
bed in hysterical lamentation. Realizing it is useless to argue with a
woman in tears, the old matchmaker suggested to Tiburcio that we delay
the answer the customary fortnight.

Promising to do nothing further without consulting them, we withdrew
from the _jacal_. On returning to the house, we found Miss Jean
entertaining the Don to the best of her ability, and, commanding my
presence, the old matchmaker advanced to meet the _padrino_, with whom
he had a slight acquaintance. Bidding his guest welcome to the ranch, he
listened to the Don's apology for being such a stranger to Las Palomas
until a matter of a delicate nature had brought him hither.

Don Alejandro was a distinguished-looking man, and spoke his native
tongue in a manner which put my efforts as an interpreter to shame.
The conversation was allowed to drift at will, from the damages of the
recent drouth to the prospect of a market for beeves that fall, until
supper was announced. After the evening repast was over we retired to
the gallery, and Uncle Lance reopened the matchmaking by inquiring of
Don Alejandro if his nephew proposed taking his bride to the Mission.
The Don was all attention. Fortunately, anticipating that the question
might arise, he had discussed that very feature with his nephew. At
present the young man was assisting his father at the Mission, and in
time, no doubt, would succeed to the business. However, realizing that
her living fifty miles distant might be an objection to the girl's
parents, he was not for insisting on that point, as no doubt Las Palomas
offered equally good advantages for business. He simply mentioned this
by way of suggestion, and invited the opinion of his host.

"Well, now, Don Alejandro," said the old matchmaker, in flutelike tones,
"we are a very simple people here at Las Palomas. Breeding a few horses
and mules for home purposes, and the rearing of cattle has been
our occupation. As to merchandising here at the ranch, I could not
countenance it, as I refused that privilege to the stage company when
they offered to run past Las Palomas. At present our few wants are
supplied by a merchant at Shepherd's Ferry. True, it's thirty miles, but
I sometimes wish it was farther, as it is quite a temptation to my boys
to ride down there on various pretexts. We send down every week for our
mail and such little necessities as the ranch may need. If there was
a store here, it would attract loafers and destroy the peace and
contentment which we now enjoy. I would object to it; 'one man to his
trade and another to his merchandise.'"

The _padrino_, with good diplomacy, heartily agreed that a store was a
disturbing feature on a ranch, and instantly went off on a tangent on
the splendid business possibilities of the Mission. The matchmaker in
return agreed as heartily with him, and grew reminiscent. "In the spring
of '51," said he, "I made the match between Tiburcio and Doña Inez,
father and mother of Juana. Tiburcio was a vaquero of mine at the time,
Inez being a Mission girl, and I have taken a great interest in the
couple ever since. All their children were born here and still live on
the ranch. Understand, Don Alejandro, I have no personal feeling in the
matter, beyond the wishes of the parents of the girl. My sister has
taken a great interest in Juana, having had the girl under her charge
for the past eight years. Of course, I feel a pride in Juana, and she is
a fine girl. If your nephew wins her, I shall tell the lucky rascal when
he comes to claim her that he has won the pride of Las Palomas. I take
it, Don Alejandro, that your visit and request was rather unexpected
here, though I am aware that Juana has visited among cousins at the
Mission several times the past few years. But that she had lost her
heart to some of your gallants comes as a surprise to me, and from what
I learn, to her parents also. Under the circumstances, if I were you, I
would not urge an immediate reply, but give them the customary period to
think it over. Our vaqueros will not be very busy for some time to come,
and it will not inconvenience us to send a reply by messenger to the
Mission. And tell Don Blas, even should the reply be unfavorable, not to
be discouraged. Women, you know, are peculiar. Ah, Don Alejandro, when
you and I were young and went courting, would we have been discouraged
by a first refusal?"

Señor Travino appreciated the compliment, and, with a genial smile,
slapped his host on the back, while the old matchmaker gave vent to a
vociferous guffaw. The conversation thereafter took several tacks, but
always reverted to the proposed match. As the hour grew late, the host
apologized to his guest, as no doubt he was tired by his long ride,
and offered to show him his room. The _padrino_ denied all weariness,
maintaining that the enjoyable evening had rested him, but reluctantly
allowed himself to be shown to his apartment. No sooner were the
good-nights spoken, than the old ranchero returned, and, snapping his
fingers for attention, motioned me to follow. By a circuitous route we
reached the _jacal_ of Tiburcio. The old couple had not yet retired, and
Juana blushingly admitted us. Uncle Lance jollied the old people like a
robust, healthy son amusing his elders. We took seats as before around
the small table, and Uncle Lance scattered the gloom of the _jacal_ with
his gayety.

"Las Palomas forever!" said he, striking the table with his bony fist.
"This _padrino_ from the Mission is a very fine gentleman but a poor
matchmaker. Just because young Don Blas is the son of a Travino, the
keeper of a picayune _tienda_ at the Mission, was that any reason to
presume for the hand of a daughter of Las Palomas? Was he any better
than a vaquero just because he doled out _frijoles_ by the quart, and
never saw a piece of money larger than a _media real_? Why, a Las
Palomas vaquero was a prince compared to a fawning attendant in a
Mission store. Let Tia Inez stop fretting herself about losing Juana--it
would not be yet awhile. Just leave matters to him, and he'd send Don
Alejandro home, pleased with his visit and hopeful over the match, even
if it never took place. And none of those frowns from the young lady!"

As we all arose at parting, the old matchmaker went over to Juana and,
shaking his finger at her, said: "Now, look here, my little girl, your
mistress, your parents, and myself are all interested in you, and don't
think we won't act for your best interests. You've seen this young
fellow ride by on a horse several times, haven't you? Danced with him
a few times under the eyes of a chaperon at the last _fiesta_, haven't
you? And that's all you care to know, and are ready to marry him. Well,
well, it's fortunate that the marriage customs of the Mexicans protect
such innocents as you. Now, if young Don Blas had worked under me for a
year as a vaquero, I might be as ready to the match as you are; for then
I'd know whether he was worthy of you. What does a girl of your age know
about a man? But when you have as many gray hairs in your head as your
mother has, you'll thank me for cautioning every one to proceed slowly
in this match. Now dry those tears and go to your mother."

The next morning Don Alejandro proposed returning to the Mission. But
the old ranchero hooted the idea, and informed his guest that he
had ordered the ambulance, as he intended showing him the recent
improvements made on Las Palomas. When the guest protested against a
longer absence from home, the host artfully intimated that by remaining
another day a favorable reply might possibly go with him. Don Alejandro
finally consented. I was pressed in as driver and interpreter, and our
team tore away from the ranch with a flourish. To put it mildly, I was
disgusted at having my plans for the day knocked in the head, yet knew
better than protest. As we drove along, myriads of grass-blades were
peeping up since the rain, giving every view a greenish cast. Nearly
every windmill on the ranch on our circuit was pointed out, and we
passed three of our four tanks, one of which was over half a mile in
length. After stopping at an outlying ranchita for refreshment, we spent
the afternoon in a similar manner. From a swell of the prairie some ten
miles to the westward of the ranch, we could distinctly see an outline
of the Ganso. Halting the ambulance, the old ranchero pointed out to his
guest the meanderings of that creek from its confluence with the parent
stream until it became lost in the hills to the southward.

"That tract of ground," said he, "is my last landed addition to Las
Palomas. It lies north and south, giving me six miles' frontage on
the Nueces. and extending north of the river about four miles, Don
Alejandro, when I note the great change which has come over this valley
since I settled here, it convinces me that if one wishes to follow
ranching he had better acquire title to what range he needs. Land has
advanced in price from a few cents an acre to four bits, and now they
say the next generation will see it worth a dollar. This Ganso grant
contains a hundred and fourteen sections, and I have my eye on one or
two other adjoining tracts. My generation will not need it, but the one
who succeeds me may. Now, as we drive home, I'll try to show you the
northern boundary of our range; it's fairly well outlined by the divide
between the Nueces and the Frio rivers."

From the conversation which followed until we reached headquarters, I
readily understood that the old matchmaker was showing the rose and
concealing its thorn. His motive was not always clear to me, for one
would have supposed from his almost boastful claims regarding its
extent and carrying capacity for cattle, he was showing the ranch to a
prospective buyer. But as we neared home, the conversation innocently
drifted to the Mexican element and their love for the land to which they
were born. Then I understood why I was driving four mules instead of
basking in the smiles of my own sweetheart on the San Miguel. Nor did
this boasting cease during the evening, but alternated from lands and
cattle to the native people, and finally centred about a Mexican girl
who had been so fortunate as to have been born to the soil of Las

When Don Alejandro asked for his horse the following morning on leaving,
Uncle Lance, Quayle, and myself formed a guard of honor to escort our
guest a distance on his way. He took leave of the mistress of Las
Palomas in an obeisance worthy of an old-time cavalier. Once we were
off, Uncle Lance pretended to have had a final interview with the
parents, in which they had insisted on the customary time in which to
consider the proposal. The _padrino_ graciously accepted the situation,
thanking his host for his interest in behalf of his nephew. On reaching
the river, where our ways separated, all halted for a few minutes at

"Well, Don Alejandro," said the old ranchero, "this is my limit of
escort to guests of the ranch. Now, the only hope I have in parting
is, in case the reply should he unfavorable, that Don Blas will not be
discouraged and that we may see you again at Las Palomas. Tender my
congratulations to your nephew, and tell him that a welcome always
awaits him in case he finds time and inclination to visit us. I take
some little interest in matches. These boys of mine are going north
to the Frio on a courting errand to-day. But our marriage customs are
inferior to yours, and our young people, left to themselves, don't seem
to marry. Don Alejandro, if you and I had the making of the matches,
there'd be a cradle rocking in every _jacal_." Both smiled, said their
"Adios, amigos," and he was gone.

As our guest cantered away, down the river road, Quayle and I began
looking for a ford. The river had been on a rampage, and while we were
seeking out a crossing our employer had time for a few comments. "The
Don's tickled with his prospects. He thinks he's got a half inch rope on
Juana right now; but if I thought your prospects were no better than I
know his are, you wouldn't tire any horse-flesh of mine by riding to the
Frio and the San Miguel. But go right on, and stay as long as you want
to, for I'm in no hurry to see your faces again. Tom, with the ice
broken as it is, as soon as Esther can remove her disabilities--well,
you won't have to run off the next time. And Theodore, remember what
I told you the other day about sparking a girl. You're too timid and
backward for a young fellow. I don't care if you come home with one eye
scratched out, just so you and Frances have come to an understanding and
named the day."



After our return to the Frio, my first duty was writing, relative to the
proposed match, an unfavorable reply to Don Alejandro Travino.

On resuming work, we spent six weeks baling hides, thus occupying our
time until the beginning of the branding season. A general round-up of
the Nueces valley, commencing on the coast at Corpus Christi Bay, had
been agreed upon among the cowmen of the country. In pursuance of the
plan four well-mounted men were sent from our ranch with Wilson's wagon
to the coast, our _segundo_ following a week later with the wagon,
_remuda_ and twelve men, to meet the rodeo at San Patricio as they
worked up the river. Our cattle had drifted in every direction during
the drouth and though many of them had returned since the range had
again become good, they were still widely scattered. So Uncle Lance took
the rest of us and started for the Frio, working down that river and
along the Nueces, until we met the round-up coming up from below. During
this cow hunt, I carried my fiddle with me in the wagon, and at nearly
every ranch we passed we stopped and had a dance. Not over once a week
did we send in cattle to the ranch to brand, and on meeting the rodeo
from below, Deweese had over three thousand of our cattle. After taking
these in and branding the calves, we worked over our home range until
near the holidays.

On our return to the ranch, we learned that young Blas Travino from
the Mission had passed Las Palomas some days before. He had stopped in
passing; but, finding the ranchero absent, plead a matter of business at
Santa Maria, promising to call on his return. He was then at the ranch
on the Tarancalous, and hourly expecting his reappearance, the women of
the household were in an agitated state of mind. Since the formal answer
had been sent, no word had come from Don Blas and a rival had meanwhile
sprung up in the person of Fidel Trujillo. Within a month after his
employment I noticed the new vaquero casting shy glances at Juana, but
until the cow hunt on the Frio I did not recognize the fine handwriting
of the old matchmaker. Though my services were never called for as
interpreter between Uncle Lance and the new man, any one could see there
was an understanding between them. That the old ranchero was pushing
Fidel forward was evident during the fall cow hunting by his sending
that Mexican into Las Palomas with every bunch of cattle gathered.

That evening Don Blas rode into the ranch, accompanied by Father
Norquin. The priest belonged at the Mission, and their meeting at Santa
Maria might, of course, have been accidental. None of the padre's
parishioners at headquarters were expecting him, however, for several
months, and padres are able _padrinos_,--sometimes, among their own
faith, even despotic. Taking account, as it appeared, of the ulterior
motive, Uncle Lance welcomed the arrivals with a hearty hospitality,
which to a stranger seemed so genuine as to dispel any suspicion. Not
in many a day had a visitor at Las Palomas received more courteous
consideration than did Father Norquin. The choicest mint which grew in
the inclosures about the wells was none too good for the juleps which
were concocted by Miss Jean. Had the master and mistress of the ranch
been communicants of his church, the rosy-cheeked padre could have
received no more marked attention.

The conversation touched lightly on various topics, until Santa Maria
ranch was mentioned, when Uncle Lance asked the padre if Don Mateo had
yet built him a chapel. The priest shrugged his shoulders deprecatingly
and answered the question with another,--when Las Palomas proposed
building a place of worship.

"Well, Father, I'm glad you've brought the matter up again," replied the
host. "That I should have lived here over forty years and never done
anything for your church or my people who belong to your faith, is
certainly saying little in my behalf. I never had the matter brought
home to me so clearly as during last summer's drouth. Do you remember
that old maxim regarding when the devil was sick? Well, I was good and
sick. If you had happened in then and had asked for a chapel,--not that
I have any confidence in your teaching,--you could have got a church
with a steeple on it. I was in such sore straits that the women were
kept busy making candles, and we burnt them in every _jacal_ until the
hour of deliverance."

Helping himself from the proffered snuffbox of the padre, the host
turned to his guest, and in all sincerity continued: "Yes, Father, I
ought to build you a nice place of worship. We could quarry the rock
during idle time, and burn our own lime right here on the ranch. While
you are here, give me some plans, and we'll show you that the white
element of Las Palomas are not such hopeless heretics as you suppose.
Now, if we build the chapel, I'm just going to ask one favor in return:
I expect to die and be buried on this ranch. You're a younger man by
twenty years and will outlive me, and on the day of my burial I want
you to lay aside your creed and preach my funeral in this little chapel
which you and I are going to build. I have been a witness to the
self-sacrifice of you and other priests ever since I lived here.
Father, I like an honest man, and the earnestness of your cloth for the
betterment of my people no one can question. And my covenant is, that
you are to preach a simple sermon, merely commemorating the fact that
here lived a man named Lovelace, who died and would be seen among his
fellow men no more. These being facts, you can mention them; but beyond
that, for fear our faiths might differ, the less said the better. Won't
you have another mint julep before supper? No? You will, won't you, Don

That the old ranchero was in earnest about building a chapel on Las
Palomas there was no doubt. In fact, the credit should be given to Miss
Jean, for she had been urging the matter ever since my coming to the
ranch. At headquarters and outlying ranchitas on the land, there were
nearly twenty families, or over a hundred persons of all ages. But that
the old matchmaker was going to make the most out of his opportunity by
erecting the building at an opportune time, there was not the shadow of
a question.

The evening passed without mention of the real errand of our guests. The
conversation was allowed to wander at will, during which several times
it drifted into gentle repartee between host and padre, both artfully
avoiding the rock of matchmaking. But the next morning, as if anxious to
begin the day's work early, Father Norquin, on arising, inquired for
his host, strutted out to the corrals, and, on meeting him, promptly
inquired why, during the previous summer, Don Alejandro Travino's
mission to obtain the hand of Juana Leal had failed.

"That's so," assented Uncle Lance, very affably, "Don Alejandro was here
as godfather to his nephew. And this young man with you is Don Blas,
the bear? Well, why did we waste so much time last night talking about
chapels and death when we might have made a match in less time? You
priests have everything in your favor as _padrinos_, but you are so slow
that a rival might appear and win the girl while you were drumming up
your courage. I don't write Spanish myself, but I have boys here on the
ranch who do. One of them, if I remember rightly, wrote the answer at
the request of Juana's mother. If my memory hasn't failed me entirely,
the parents objected to being separated from their only daughter. You
know how that is among your people; and I never like to interfere in
family matters. But from what I hear Don Blas has a rival now. Yes;
young Travino failed to press his suit, and a girl will stand for nearly
anything but neglect. But that's one thing they won't stand for, not
when there's a handsome fellow at hand to play the bear. Then the old
lover is easily forgotten for the new. Eh, Father?"

"Ah, Don Lance, I know your reputation as a matchmaker," replied Father
Norquin, in a rich French accent. "Report says had you not had a hand in
it the match would have been successful. The supposition is that it only
lacked your approval. The daughter of a vaquero refusing a Travino? Tut,
tut, man!"

A hearty guffaw greeted these aspersions. "And so you've heard I was a
matchmaker, have you? Of course, you believed it just like any other old
granny. Now, of course, when I'm asked by any of my people to act as
_padrino_, I never refuse any more than you do. I've made many a match
and hope to be spared to make several more. But come; they're calling us
to breakfast, and after that we'll take a walk over to the ranch burying
ground. It's less than a half mile--in that point of encinal yonder. I
want to show you what I think would be a nice spot for our chapel."

The conversation during breakfast was artfully directed by the host to
avoid the dangerous shoals, though the padre constantly kept an eye on
Juana as she passed back and forth. As we arose from the table and were
passing to the gallery, Uncle Lance nudged the priest, and, poking Don
Blas in the ribs, said: "Isn't Juana a stunning fine cook? Got up that
breakfast herself. There isn't an eighteen-year-old girl in Texas who
can make as fine biscuits as she does. But Las Palomas raises just as
fine girls as she does horses and cattle. The rascal who gets her for
a wife can thank his lucky stars. Don Blas, you ought to have me for
_padrino_. Your uncle and the padre here are too poky. Why, if I was
making a match for as fine a girl as Juana is, I'd set the river afire
before I'd let an unfavorable answer discourage me. Now, the padre and
I are going for a short walk, and we'll leave you here at the house to
work out your own salvation. Don't pay any attention to the mistress,
and I want to tell you right now, if you expect to win Juana, never
depend on old fogy _padrinos_ like your uncle and Father Norquin. Do a
little hustling for yourself."

The old ranchero and the priest were gone nearly an hour, and on their
return looked at another site in the rear of the Mexican quarters. It
was a pretty knoll, and as the two joined us where we were repairing a
windmill at the corrals, Father Norquin, in an ecstasy of delight, said:
"Well, my children, the chapel is assured at Las Palomas. Don Lance
wanted to build it over in the encinal, with twice as nice a site right
here in the rancho. We may need the building for a school some day,
and if we should, we don't want it a mile away. The very idea! And the
master tells me that a chapel has been the wish of his sister for years.
Poor woman--to have such a brother. I must hasten to the house and thank

No sooner had the padre started than I was called aside by my employer.
"Tom," said he, "you slip around to Tia Inez's _jacal_ and tell her that
I'm going to send Father Norquin over to see her. Tell her to stand firm
on not letting Juana leave the ranch for the Mission. Tell her that I've
promised the padre a chapel for Las Palomas, and rather than miss it,
the priest would consign the whole Travino family to endless perdition.
Tell her to laugh at his scoldings and inform him that Juana can get a
husband without going so far. And that you heard me say that I was going
to give Fidel, the day he married her daughter, the same number of
heifers that all her brothers got. Impress it on Tia Inez's mind that it
means something to be born to Las Palomas."

I set out on my errand and he hastened away to overtake the padre
before the latter reached the house. Tia Inez welcomed me, no doubt
anticipating that I was the bearer of some message. When I gave her the
message her eyes beamed with gratitude and she devoutly crossed her
breast invoking the blessing of the saints upon the master. I added a
few words of encouragement of my own--that I understood that when we
quarried the rock for the chapel, there was to be enough extra cut to
build a stone cottage for Juana and Fidel. This was pure invention on my
part, but I felt a very friendly interest in Las Palomas, for I expected
to bring my bride to it as soon as possible. Therefore, if I could help
the present match forward by the use of a little fiction, why not?

Father Norquin's time was limited at Las Palomas, as he was under
appointment to return to Santa Maria that evening. Therefore it became
an active morning about the ranch. Long before we had finished the
repairs on the windmill, a _mozo_ from the house came out to the corrals
to say I was wanted by the master. Returning with the servant, I found
Uncle Lance and the mistress of the ranch entertaining their company
before a cheerful fire in the sitting-room. On my entrance, my employer

"Tom, I have sent for you because I want you to go over with the padre
to the _jacal_ of Juana's parents. Father Norquin here is such an old
granny that he believes I interfered, or the reply of last summer would
have been favorable. Now, Tom, you're not to open your mouth one way
or the other. The padre will state his errand, and the old couple will
answer him in your presence. Don Blas will remain here, and whatever the
answer is, he and I must abide by it. Really, as I have said, I have
no interest in the match, except the welfare of the girl. Go on now,
Father, and let's see what you can do as a _padrino_."

As we arose to go, Miss Jean interposed and suggested that, out of
deference to Father Norquin, the old couple be sent for, but her brother
objected. He wanted the parents to make their own answer beneath their
own roof, unembarrassed by any influence. As we left the room, the old
matchmaker accompanied us as far as the gate, where he halted and said
to the padre:--

"Father Norquin, in a case like the present, you will not mind my saying
that your wish is not absolute, and I am sending a witness with you to
see that you issue no peremptory orders on this ranch. And remember,
that this old couple have been over thirty years in my employ, and
temper your words to them as you would to your own parents, were they
living. Juana was born here, which means a great deal, and with the
approval of her parents, she'll marry the man of her choice, and no
_padrino_, let him be priest or layman, can crack his whip on the soil
of Las Palomas to the contrary. As my guest, you must excuse me for
talking so plain, but my people are as dear to me as your church is to

As my employer turned and leisurely walked back to the house, Father
Norquin stood stock-still. I was slightly embarrassed myself, but it was
easily to be seen that the padre's plans had received a severe shock. I
made several starts toward the Mexican quarters before the priest shook
away his hesitations and joined me. That the old ranchero's words had
agitated him was very evident in his voice and manner. Several times he
stopped me and demanded explanations, finally raising the question of a
rival. I told him all I knew about the matter; that Fidel, a new vaquero
on the ranch, had found favor in Juana's eyes, that he was a favorite
man with master and mistress, but what view the girl's parents took
of the matter I was unable to say. This cleared up the situation
wonderfully, and the padre brightened as we neared the _jacal_.

Tiburcio was absent, and while awaiting his return, the priest became
amiable and delivered a number of messages from friends and relatives at
the Mission. Tia Inez was somewhat embarrassed at first, but gradually
grew composed, and before the return of her husband all three of us were
chatting like cronies. On the appearance of Tio Tiburcio, coffee was
ordered and the padre told several good stories, over which we all
laughed heartily. Cigarettes were next, and in due time Father Norquin
very good naturedly inquired why an unfavorable answer, regarding the
marriage of their daughter with young Blas Travino, had been returned
the previous summer. The old couple looked at each other a moment, when
the husband turned in his chair, and with a shrug of his shoulders and
a jerk of his head, referred the priest to his wife. Tia Inez met the
padre's gaze, and in a clear, concise manner, and in her native tongue,
gave her reasons. Father Norquin explained the prominence of the Travino
family and their disappointment over the refusal, and asked if the
decision was final, to which he received an affirmative reply. Instead
of showing any displeasure, he rose to take his departure, turning in
the doorway to say to the old couple:--

"My children, peace and happiness in this life is a priceless blessing.
I should be untrue to my trust did I counsel a marriage that would give
a parent a moment of unhappiness. My blessing upon this house and its
dwellers, and upon its sons and daughters as they go forth to homes of
their own." While he lifted his hand in benediction, the old couple and
myself bowed our heads for a moment, after which the padre and I passed

I was as solemn as an owl, yet inwardly delighted at the turn of
affairs. But Father Norquin had nothing to conceal, while delight was
wreathed all over his rosy countenance. Again and again he stopped me
to make inquiries about Fidel, the new vaquero. That lucky rascal was a
good-looking native, a much larger youth than the aspiring Don Blas, and
I pictured him to the padre as an Adonis. To the question if he was in
the ranch at present, fortune favored me, as Fidel and nearly all the
regular vaqueros were cutting timbers in the encinal that day with which
to build new corrals at one of the outlying tanks. As he would not
return before dark, and I knew the padre was due at Santa Maria that
evening, my description of him made Don Blas a mere pigmy in
comparison. But we finally reached the house, and on our reëntering
the sitting-room, young Travino very courteously arose and stood until
Father Norquin should be seated. But the latter faced his parishioner,

"You young simpleton, what did you drag me up here for on a fool's
errand? I was led to believe that our generous host was the instigator
of the unfavorable answer to your uncle's negotiations last summer. Now
I have the same answer repeated from the lips of the girl's parents.
Consider the predicament in which you have placed a servant of the
Church. Every law of hospitality has been outraged through your
imbecility. And to complete my humiliation, I have received only
kindness on every hand. The chapel which I have desired for years is
now a certainty, thanks to the master and mistress of Las Palomas. What
apology can I offer for your"--

"Hold on there, Father," interrupted Uncle Lance. "If you owe this ranch
any apology, save your breath for a more important occasion. Don Blas is
all right; any suitor who would not be jealous over a girl like Juana is
not welcome at Las Palomas. Why, when I was his age I was suspicious of
my sweetheart's own father, and you should make allowance for this young
man's years and impetuosity. Sit down, Father, and let's have a talk
about this chapel--that's what interests me most right now. You see,
within a few days my boys will have all the palisades cut for the new
corrals, and then we can turn our attention to getting out the rock for
the chapel. We have a quarry of nice soft stone all opened up, and I'll
put a dozen vaqueros to blocking out the rock in a few days. We always
have a big stock of _zacahuiste_ grass on hand for thatching _jacals_,
plenty of limestone to burn for the lime, sand in abundance, and all we
lack is the masons. You'll have to send them out from the Mission, but
I'll pay them. Oh, I reckon the good Lord loves Las Palomas, for you see
He's placed everything convenient with which to build the chapel."

Father Norquin could not remain seated, but paced the room enumerating
the many little adornments which the mother church would be glad to
supply. Enthusiastic as a child over a promised toy, no other thought
entered the simple padre's mind, until dinner was announced. And all
during the meal, the object of our guest's mission was entirely lost
sight of, in contemplation of the coming chapel. The padre seemed as
anxious to avoid the subject of matchmaking as his host, while poor Don
Blas sat like a willing sacrifice, unable to say a word. I sympathized
with him, for I knew what it was to meet disappointment. At the
conclusion of the mid-day repast, Father Norquin flew into a great
bustle in preparing to start for Santa Maria, and I was dispatched for
the horses. Our guests and my employer were waiting at the stile when I
led up their mounts, and at final parting the old matchmaker said to the

"Now, remember, I expect you to have this chapel completed by Easter
Sunday, when I want you to come out and spend at least two weeks with us
and see that it is finished to suit you, and arrange for the dedication.
Las Palomas will build the chapel, but when our work is done yours
commences. And I want to tell you right now, there's liable to be
several weddings in it before the mortar gets good and dry. I have it on
pretty good authority that one of my boys and Pierre Vaux's eldest girl
are just about ready to have you pronounce them man and wife. No, he's
not of any faith, but she's a good Catholic. Now, look here, Father
Norquin, if I have to proselyte you to my way of thinking, it'll never
hurt you any. I was never afraid to do what was right, and when at Las
Palomas you needn't be afraid either, even if we have to start a new
creed. Well, good-by to both of you."

We had a windmill to repair that afternoon, some five miles from the
ranch, so that I did not return to the house until evening; but when all
gathered around the supper table that night, Uncle Lance was throwing
bouquets at himself for the crafty manner in which he had switched the
padre from his mission, and yet sent him away delighted. He admitted
that he was scared on the appearance of Father Norquin as a _padrino_,
on account of the fact that a priest was usually supreme among his own
people. That he had early come to the conclusion if there was to be any
coercion used in this case, he was determined to get in his bluff first.
But Miss Jean ridiculed the idea that there was any serious danger.

"Goodness me, Lance," said she, "I could have told you there was no
cause for alarm. In this case between Fidel and Juana, I've been a very
liberal chaperon. Oh, well, now, never mind about the particulars. Once,
to try his nerve, I gave him a chance, and I happen to know the rascal
kissed her the moment my back was turned. Oh, I think Juana will stay at
Las Palomas."



The winter succeeding the drouth was an unusually mild one, frost and
sleet being unseen at Las Palomas. After the holidays several warm rains
fell, affording fine hunting and assuring enough moisture in the soil to
insure an early spring. The preceding winter had been gloomy, but this
proved to be the most social one since my advent, for within fifty miles
of the ranch no less than two weddings occurred during Christmas week.
As to little neighborhood happenings, we could hear of half a dozen
every time we went to Shepherd's after the mail.

When the native help on the ranch was started at blocking out the stone
for the chapel, Uncle Lance took the hounds and with two of the boys
went down to Wilson's ranch for a hunt. Gallup went, of course, but
just why he took Scales along, unless with the design of making a match
between one of the younger daughters of this neighboring ranchman and
the Marylander, was not entirely clear. When he wanted to, Scales could
make himself very agreeable, and had it not been for his profligate
disposition, his being taken along on the hunt would have been no
mystery. Every one on the ranch, including the master and mistress,
were cognizant of the fact that for the past year he had maintained
a correspondence with a girl in Florida--the one whose letter and
photograph had been found in the box of oranges. He hardly deserved the
confidence of the roguish girl, for he showed her letters to any one who
cared to read them. I had read every line of the whole correspondence,
and it was plain that Scales had deceived the girl into believing that
he was a prominent ranchman, when in reality the best that could be said
of him was that he was a lovable vagabond. From the last letter, it was
clear that he had promised to marry the girl during the Christmas week
just past, but he had asked for a postponement on the ground that the
drouth had prevented him from selling his beeves.

When Uncle Lance made the discovery, during a cow hunt the fall before,
of the correspondence between Scales and the Florida girl, he said to us
around the camp-fire that night: "Well, all I've got to say is that that
girl down in Florida is hard up. Why, it's entirely contrary to a girl's
nature to want to be wooed by letter. Until the leopard changes his
spots, the good old way, of putting your arm around the girl and
whispering that you love her, will continue to be popular. If I was to
hazard an opinion about that girl, Aaron, I'd say that she was ambitious
to rise above her surroundings. The chances are that she wants to get
away from home, and possibly she's as much displeased with the young men
in the orange country as I sometimes get with you dodrotted cow hands.
Now, I'm not one of those people who're always harping about the youth
of his day and generation being so much better than the present. That's
all humbug. But what does get me is, that you youngsters don't profit
more by the experience of an old man like me who's been married three
times. Line upon line and precept upon precept, I have preached this
thing to my boys for the last ten years, and what has it amounted to?
Not a single white bride has ever been brought to Las Palomas. They
can call me a matchmaker if they want to, but the evidence is to the
contrary." This was on the night after we passed Shepherd's, where
Scales had received a letter from the Florida girl. But why he should
accompany the hunt now to Remirena, unless the old ranchero proposed
reforming him, was too deep a problem for me.

On leaving for Wilson's, there was the usual bustle; hounds responding
to the horn and horses under saddle champing their bits. I had hoped
that permission to go over to the Frio and San Miguel would be given
John and myself, but my employer's mind was too absorbed in something
else, and we were overlooked in the hurry to get away. Since the
quarrying of the rock had commenced, my work had been overseeing the
native help, of which we had some fifteen cutting and hauling. In
numerous places within a mile of headquarters, a soft porous rock
cropped out. By using a crowbar with a tempered chisel point, the
Mexicans easily channeled the rock into blocks, eighteen by thirty
inches, splitting each stone a foot in thickness, so that when hauled to
the place of use, each piece was ready to lay up in the wall. The ranch
house at headquarters was built out of this rock, and where permanency
was required, it was the best material available, whitening and
apparently becoming firmer with time and exposure.

I had not seen my sweetheart in nearly a month, but there I was, chained
to a rock quarry and mule teams. The very idea of Gallup and the
profligate Scales riding to hounds and basking in the society of
charming girls nettled me. The remainder of the ranch outfit was under
Deweese, building the new corrals, so that I never heard my own tongue
spoken except at meals and about the house. My orders included the
cutting of a few hundred rock extra above the needs of the chapel, and
when this got noised among the help, I had to explain that there was
some talk of building a stone cottage, and intimated that it was for
Juana and Fidel. But that lucky rascal was one of the crew cutting rock,
and from some source or other he had learned that I was liable to need
a cottage at Las Palomas in the near future. The fact that I was acting
_segundo_ over the quarrying outfit, was taken advantage of by Fidel
to clear his skirts and charge the extra rock to my matrimonial
expectations. He was a fast workman, and on every stone he split from
the mother ledge, he sang out, "Otro piedra por Don Tomas!" And within a
few minutes' time some one else would cry out, "Otro cillar por Fidel y
Juana," or "Otro piedra por padre Norquin."

A week passed and there was no return of the hunters. We had so
systematized our work at the quarry that my presence was hardly needed,
so every evening I urged Cotton to sound the mistress for permission
to visit our sweethearts. John was a good-natured fellow who could be
easily led or pushed forward, and I had come to look upon Miss Jean as
a ready supporter of any of her brother's projects. For that reason her
permission was as good as the master's; but she parried all Cotton's
hints, pleading the neglect of our work in the absence of her brother.
I was disgusted with the monotony of quarry work, and likewise was John
over building corrals, as no cow hand ever enthuses over manual labor,
when an incident occurred which afforded the opportunity desired. The
mistress needed some small article from the store at Shepherd's, and a
Mexican boy had been sent down on this errand and also to get the mail
of the past two weeks. On the boy's return, he brought a message from
the merchant, saying that Henry Annear had been accidentally killed by a
horse that day, and that the burial would take place at ten o'clock the
next morning.

The news threw the mistress of Las Palomas into a flutter. Her brother
was absent, and she felt a delicacy in consulting Deweese, and very
naturally turned to me for advice. Funerals in the Nueces valley were so
very rare that I advised going, even if the unfortunate man had stood
none too high in our estimation. Annear lived on the divide between
Shepherd's and the Frio at a ranch called Las Norias. As this ranch was
not over ten miles from the mouth of the San Miguel, the astute mind can
readily see the gleam of my ax in attending. Funerals were such events
that I knew to a certainty that all the countryside within reach would
attend, and the Vaux ranch was not over fifteen miles distant from Las
Norias. Acting on my advice, the mistress ordered the ambulance to be
ready to start by three o'clock the next morning, and gave every one on
the ranch who cared, permission to go along. All of us took advantage
of the offer, except Deweese, who, when out of hearing of the mistress,
excused himself rather profanely.

The boy had returned late in the day, but we lost no time in acting on
Miss Jean's orders. Fortunately the ambulance teams were in hand hauling
rock, but we rushed out several vaqueros to bring in the _remuda_ which
contained our best saddle horses. It was after dark when they returned
with the mounts wanted, and warning Tiburcio that we would call him at
an early hour, every one retired for a few hours' rest. I would resent
the charge that I am selfish or unsympathetic, yet before falling asleep
that night the deplorable accident was entirely overlooked in the
anticipated pleasure of seeing Esther.

As it was fully a thirty-five-mile drive we started at daybreak, and to
encourage the mules Quayle and Happersett rode in the lead until sun-up,
when they dropped to the rear with Cotton and myself. We did not go by
way of Shepherd's, but crossed the river several miles above the ferry,
following an old cotton road made during the war, from the interior of
the state to Matamoras, Mexico. It was some time before the hour named
for the burial when we sighted Las Norias on the divide, and spurred
up the ambulance team, to reach the ranch in time for the funeral.
The services were conducted by a strange minister who happened to be
visiting in Oakville, but what impressed me in particular was the
solicitude of Miss Jean for the widow. She had been frequently
entertained at Las Palomas by its mistress, as the sweetheart of June
Deweese, though since her marriage to Annear a decided coolness had
existed between the two women. But in the present hour of trouble, the
past was forgotten and they mingled their tears like sisters.

On our return, which was to be by way of the Vauxes', I joined those
from the McLeod ranch, while Happersett and Cotton accompanied the
ambulance to the Vaux home. Nearly every one going our way was on
horseback, and when the cavalcade was some distance from Las Norias, my
sweetheart dropped to the rear for a confidential chat and told me that
a lawyer from Corpus Christi, an old friend of the family, had come
up for the purpose of taking the preliminary steps for securing her
freedom, and that she expected to be relieved of the odious tie which
bound her to Oxenford at the May term of court. This was pleasant news
to me, for there would then be no reason for delaying our marriage.

Happersett rode down to the San Miguel the next morning to inform Quayle
and myself that the mistress was then on the way to spend the night with
the widow Annear, and that the rest of us were to report at home the
following evening. She had apparently inspected the lines on the Frio,
and, finding everything favorable, turned to other fields. I was
disappointed, for Esther and I had planned to go up to the Vaux ranch
during the visit. Dan suggested that we ride home together by way of the
Vauxes'. But Quayle bitterly refused even to go near the ranch. He felt
very sore and revengeful over being jilted by Frances after she had let
him crown her Queen of the ball at the tournament dance. So, agreeing
to meet on the divide the next day for the ride back to Las Palomas, we

The next afternoon, on reaching the divide between the Frio and the home
river, Theodore and I scanned the horizon in vain for any horsemen. We
dismounted, and after waiting nearly an hour, descried two specks to the
northward which we knew must be our men. On coming up they also threw
themselves on the ground, and we indulged in a cigarette while we
compared notes. I had nothing to conceal, and frankly confessed that
Esther and I expected to marry during the latter part of May. Cotton,
though, seemed reticent, and though Theodore cross-questioned him
rather severely, was non-committal and dumb as an oyster; but before we
recrossed the Nueces that evening, John and I having fallen far to the
rear of the other two, he admitted to me that his wedding would occur
within a month after Lent. It was to be a confidence between us, but I
advised him to take Uncle Lance into the secret at once.

But on reaching the ranch we learned that the hunting party had not
returned, nor had the mistress. The next morning we resumed our work,
Quayle and Cotton at corral building and I at the rock quarry. The work
had progressed during my absence, and the number of pieces desired was
nearing completion, and with but one team hauling the work-shop was
already congested with cut building stone. By noon the quarry was so
cluttered with blocks that I ordered half the help to take axes and
go to the encinal to cut dry oak wood for burning the lime. With the
remainder of my outfit we cleaned out and sealed off the walls of an old
lime kiln, which had served ever since the first rock buildings rose on
Las Palomas. The oven was cut in the same porous formation, the interior
resembling an immense jug, possibly twelve feet in diameter and fifteen
feet in height to the surface of the ledge. By locating the kiln near
the abrupt wall of an abandoned quarry, ventilation was given from below
by a connecting tunnel some twenty feet in length. Layers of wood and
limestone were placed within until the interior was filled, when it was
fired, and after burning for a few hours the draft was cut off below and
above, and the heat retained until the limestone was properly burned.

Near the middle of the afternoon, the drivers hauling the blocks drove
near the kiln and shouted that the hunters had returned. Scaling off the
burnt rock in the interior and removing the debris made it late before
our job was finished; then one of the vaqueros working on the outside
told us that the ambulance had crossed the river over an hour before,
and was then in the ranch. This was good news, and mounting our horses
we galloped into headquarters and found the corral outfit already there.
Miss Jean soon had our _segundo_ an unwilling prisoner in a corner, and
from his impatient manner and her low tones it was plain to be seen
that her two days' visit with Mrs. Annear had resulted in some word
for Deweese. Not wishing to intrude, I avoided them in search of my
employer, finding him and Gallup at an outhouse holding a hound while
Scales was taking a few stitches in an ugly cut which the dog had
received from a _javeline_. Paying no attention to the two boys, I gave
him the news, and bluntly informed him that Esther and I expected to
marry in May.

"Bully for you, Tom," said he. "Here, hold this fore foot, and look out
he don't bite you. So she'll get her divorce at the May term, and then
all outdoors can't stand in your way the next time. Now, that means that
you'll have to get out fully two hundred more of those building rock,
for your cottage will need three rooms. Take another stitch, knot your
thread well, and be quick about it. I tell you the _javeline_ were
pretty fierce; this is the fifth dog we've doctored since we returned."

On freeing the poor hound, we both looked the pack over carefully, and
as no others needed attention, Aaron and Glenn were excused. No sooner
were they out of hearing than I suggested that the order be made for
five hundred stone, as no doubt John Cotton would also need a cottage
shortly after Lent. The old matchmaker beamed with smiles. "Is that
right, Tom?" he inquired. "Of course, you boys tell each other what you
would hardly tell me. And so they have made the riffle at last? Why, of
course they shall have a cottage, and have it so near that I can hear
the baby when it cries. Bully for tow-headed John. Oh, I reckon Las
Palomas is coming to the front this year. Three new cottages and three
new brides is not to be sneezed at! Does your mistress know all this
good news?"

I informed him that I had not seen Miss Jean to speak to since the
funeral, and that Cotton wished his intentions kept a secret. "Of
course," he said; "that's just like a sap-headed youth, as if getting
married was anything to be ashamed of. Why, when I was the age of you
boys I'd have felt proud over the fact. Wants it kept a secret, does he?
Well, I'll tell everybody I meet, and I'll send word to the ferry and to
every ranch within a hundred miles, that our John Cotton and Frank Vaux
are going to get married in the spring. There's nothing disgraceful in
matrimony, and I'll publish this so wide that neither of them will dare
back out. I've had my eye on that girl for years, and now when there's a
prospect of her becoming the wife of one of my boys, he wants it kept a
secret? Well, I don't think it'll keep."

After that I felt more comfortable over my own confession. Before we
were called to supper every one in the house, including the Mexicans
about headquarters, knew that Cotton and I were soon to be married. And
all during the evening the same subject was revived at every lull in
the conversation, though Deweese kept constantly intruding the corral
building and making inquiries after the hunt. "What difference does it
make if we hunted or not?" replied Uncle Lance to his foreman with some
little feeling. "Suppose we did only hunt every third or fourth day?
Those Wilson folks have a way of entertaining friends which makes riding
after hounds seem commonplace. Why, the girls had Glenn and Aaron on the
go until old man Nate and myself could hardly get them out on a hunt at
all. And when they did, provided the girls were along, they managed to
get separated, and along about dusk they'd come slouching in by pairs,
looking as innocent as turtle-doves. Not that those Wilson girls can't
ride, for I never saw a better horsewoman than Susie--the one who took
such a shine to Scales."

I noticed Miss Jean cast a reproving glance at her brother on his
connecting the name of Susie Wilson with that of his vagabond employee.
The mistress was a puritan in morals. That Scales fell far below her
ideal there was no doubt, and the brother knew too well not to differ
with her on this subject. When all the boys had retired except Cotton
and me, the brother and sister became frank with each other.

"Well, now, you must not blame me if Miss Susie was attentive to Aaron,"
said the old matchmaker, in conciliation, pacing the room. "He was
from Las Palomas and their guest, and I see no harm in the girls being
courteous and polite. Susie was just as nice as pie to me, and I hope
you don't think I don't entertain the highest regard for Nate Wilson's
family. Suppose one of the girls did smile a little too much on Aaron,
was that my fault? Now, mind you, I never said a word one way or the
other, but I'll bet every cow on Las Palomas that Aaron Scales, vagabond
that he is, can get Susie Wilson for the asking. I know your standard
of morals, but you must make allowance for others who look upon things
differently from you and me. You remember Katharine Vedder who married
Carey Troup at the close of the war. There's a similar case for you.
Katharine married Troup just because he was so wicked, at least that was
the reason she gave, and she and you were old run-togethers. And you
remember too that getting married was the turning-point in Carey Troup's
life. Who knows but Aaron might sober down if he was to marry? Just
because a man has sown a few wild oats in his youth, does that condemn
him for all time? You want to be more liberal. Give me the man who has
stood the fire tests of life in preference to one who has never been

"Now, Lance, you know you had a motive in taking Aaron down to
Wilson's," said the sister, reprovingly. "Don't get the idea that
I can't read you like an open book. Your argument is as good as an
admission of your object in going to Ramirena. Ever since Scales got up
that flirtation with Suzanne Vaux last summer, it was easy to see that
Aaron was a favorite with you. Why don't you take Happersett around and
introduce him to some nice girls? Honest, Lance, I wouldn't give poor
old Dan for the big beef corral full of rascals like Scales. Look how he
trifled with that silly girl in Florida."

Instead of continuing the argument, the wily ranchero changed the

"The trouble with Dan is he's too old. When a fellow begins to get a
little gray around the edges, he gets so foxy that you couldn't bait him
into a matrimonial trap with sweet grapes. But, Sis, what's the matter
with your keeping an eye open for a girl for Dan, if he's such a
favorite with you? If I had half the interest in him that you profess, I
certainly wouldn't ask any one to help. It wouldn't surprise me if the
boys take to marrying freely after John and Tom bring their brides to
Las Palomas. Now that Mrs. Annear is a widow, there's the same old
chance for June. If Glenn don't make the riffle with Miss Jule, he ought
to be shot on general principles. And I don't know, little sister, if
you and I were both to oppose it, that we could prevent that rascal of
an Aaron from marrying into the Wilson family. You have no idea what a
case Susie and Scales scared up during our ten days' hunt. That only
leaves Dan and Theodore. But what's the use of counting the chickens
so soon? You go to bed, for I'm going to send to the Mission to-morrow
after the masons. There's no use in my turning in, for I won't sleep a
wink to-night, thinking all this over."



Near the close of January, '79, the Nueces valley was stirred by an
Indian scare. I had a distinct recollection of two similar scares in my
boyhood on the San Antonio River, in which I never caught a glimpse of
the noble red man. But whether the rumors were groundless or not, Las
Palomas set her house in order. The worst thing we had to fear was the
loss of our saddle stock, as they were gentle and could be easily run
off and corralled on the range by stretching lariats. At this time
the ranch had some ten _remudas_ including nearly five hundred saddle
horses, some of them ranging ten or fifteen miles from the ranch, and on
receipt of the first rumor, every _remuda_ was brought in home and put
under a general herd, night and day.

"These Indian scares," said Uncle Lance, "are just about as regular as
drouths. When I first settled here, the Indians hunted up and down this
valley every few years, but they never molested anything. Why, I got
well acquainted with several bucks, and used to swap rawhide with them
for buckskin. Game was so abundant then that there was no temptation to
kill cattle or steal horses. But the rascals seem to be getting worse
ever since. The last scare was just ten years ago next month, and kept
us all guessing. The renegades were Kickapoos and came down the Frio
from out west. One Sunday morning they surprised two of Waugh's vaqueros
while the latter were dressing a wild hog which they had killed. The
Mexicans had only one horse and one gun between them. One of them took
the horse and the other took the carbine. Not daring to follow the
one with the gun for fear of ambuscade, the Indians gave chase to the
vaquero on horseback, whom they easily captured. After stripping him of
all his clothing, they tied his hands with thongs, and pinned the poor
devil to a tree with spear thrusts through the back.

"The other Mexican made his escape in the chaparral, and got back to the
ranch. As it happened, there was only a man or two at Waugh's place at
the time, and no attempt was made to follow the Indians, who, after
killing the vaquero, went on west to Altita Creek--the one which puts
into the Nueces from the north, just about twenty miles above the Ganso.
Waugh had a sheep camp on the head of Altito, and there the Kickapoos
killed two of his _pastors_ and robbed the camp. From that creek on
westward, their course was marked with murders and horse stealing, but
the country was so sparsely settled that little or no resistance could
be offered, and the redskins escaped without punishment. At that time
they were armed with bow and arrow and spears, but I have it on good
authority that all these western tribes now have firearms. The very name
of Indians scares women and children, and if they should come down this
river, we must keep in the open and avoid ambush, as that is an Indian's

All the women and children at the outlying ranchitas were brought into
headquarters, the men being left to look after the houses and their
stock and flocks. In the interim, Father Norquin and the masons had
arrived and the chapel was daily taking shape. But the rumors of the
Indian raid thickened. Reports came in of shepherds shot with their
flocks over near Espontos Lake and along the Leona River, and Las
Palomas took on the air of an armed camp. Though we never ceased to ride
the range wherever duty called, we went always in squads of four or

The first abatement of the scare took place when one evening a cavalcade
of Texas Rangers reached our ranch from DeWitt County. They consisted of
fifteen mounted men under Lieutenant Frank Barr, with a commissary of
four pack mules. The detachment was from one of the crack companies of
the state, and had with them several half-blood trailers, though every
man in the squad was more or less of an expert in that line. They were
traveling light, and had covered over a hundred miles during the day and
a half preceding their arrival at headquarters. The hospitality of Las
Palomas was theirs to command, and as their most urgent need was mounts,
they were made welcome to the pick of every horse under herd. Sunrise
saw our ranger guests on their way, leaving the high tension relaxed and
every one on the ranch breathing easier. But the Indian scare did not
prove an ill wind to the plans of Father Norquin. With the concentration
of people from the ranchitas and those belonging at the home ranch, the
chapel building went on by leaps and bounds. A native carpenter had been
secured from Santa Maria, and the enthusiastic padre, laying aside his
vestments, worked with his hands as a common laborer. The energy with
which he inspired the natives made him a valuable overseer. From
assisting the carpenter in hewing the rafters, to advising the masons in
laying a keystone, or with his own hands mixing the mortar and tamping
the earth to give firm foundation to the cement floor, he was the
directing spirit. Very little lumber was used in the construction of
buildings at Las Palomas. The houses were thatched with a coarse salt
grass, called by the natives _zacahuiste_. Every year in the overflowed
portions of the valley, great quantities of this material were cut by
the native help and stored against its need. The grass sometimes grew
two feet in height, and at cutting was wrapped tightly and tied in
"hands" about two inches in diameter. For fastening to the roofing lath,
green blades of the Spanish dagger were used, which, after being roasted
over a fire to toughen the fibre, were split into thongs and bound the
hands securely in a solid mass, layer upon layer like shingles. Crude as
it may appear, this was a most serviceable roof, being both rain proof
and impervious to heat, while, owing to its compactness, a live coal of
fire laid upon it would smoulder but not ignite.

No sooner had the masons finished the plastering of the inner walls and
cementing the floor, than they began on a two-roomed cottage. As its
white walls arose conjecture was rife as to who was to occupy it. I made
no bones of the fact that I expected to occupy a _jacal_ in the near
future, but denied that this was to be mine, as I had been promised
one with three rooms. Out of hearing of our employer, John Cotton also
religiously denied that the tiny house was for his use. Fidel, however,
took the chaffing without a denial, the padre and Uncle Lance being his
two worst tormentors.

During the previous visit of the padre, when the chapel was decided on,
the order for the finishing material for the building had been placed
with the merchant at Shepherd's, and was brought up from Corpus Christi
through his freighters. We now had notice from the merchant that his
teamsters had returned, and two four-mule teams went down to the
ferry for the lumber, glassware, sash and doors. Miss Jean had been
importuning the padre daily to know when the dedication would take
place, as she was planning to invite the countryside.

"Ah, my daughter," replied the priest, "we must learn to cultivate
patience. All things that abide are of slow but steady growth, and my
work is for eternity. Therefore I must be an earnest servant, so that
when my life's duty ends, it can be said in truth, 'Well done, thou good
and faithful servant.' But I am as anxious to consecrate this building
to the Master's service as any one. My good woman, if I only had a few
parishioners like you, we would work wonders among these natives."

On the return of the mule teams, the completion of the building could be
determined, and the padre announced the twenty-first of February as the
date of dedication. On reaching this decision, the ranch was set in
order for an occasion of more than ordinary moment. Fidel and Juana were
impatient to be married, and the master and mistress had decided that
the ceremony should be performed the day after the dedication, and all
the guests of the ranch should remain for the festivities. The padre,
still in command, dispatched a vaquero to the Mission, announcing the
completion of the chapel, and asking for a brother priest to bring out
certain vestments and assist in the dedicatory exercises. The Indian
scare was subsiding, and as no word had come from the rangers confidence
grew that the worst was over, so we scattered in every direction
inviting guests. From the Booths on the Frio to the Wilsons of Ramirena,
and along the home river as far as Lagarto, our friends were bidden in
the name of the master and mistress of Las Palomas.

On my return from taking the invitations to the ranches north, the
chapel was just receiving the finishing touches. The cross crowning the
front glistened in fresh paint, while on the interior walls shone cheap
lithographs of the Madonna and Christ. The old padre, proud and jealous
as a bridegroom over his bride, directed the young friar here and there,
himself standing aloof and studying with an artist's eye every effect
in color and drapery. The only discordant note in the interior was the
rough benches, in the building of which Father Norquin himself had
worked, thus following, as he repeatedly admonished us, in the footsteps
of his Master, the carpenter of Galilee.

The ceremony of dedication was to be followed by mass at high noon. Don
Mateo Gonzales of Santa Maria sent his regrets, as did likewise Don
Alejandro Travino of the Mission, but the other invited guests came
early and stayed late. The women and children of the outlying ranchitas
had not yet returned to their homes, and with our invited guests made an
assembly of nearly a hundred and fifty persons. Unexpectedly, and within
two hours of the appointed time for the service to commence, a cavalcade
was sighted approaching the ranch from the west. As they turned in
towards headquarters, some one recognized the horses, and a shout of
welcome greeted our ranger guests of over two weeks before. Uncle Lance
met them as if they had been expected, and invited the lieutenant and
his men to dismount and remain a few days as guests of Las Palomas. When
they urged the importance of continuing on their journey to report to
the governor, the host replied:--

"Lieutenant Barr, that don't go here. Fall out of your saddles and
borrow all the razors and white shirts on the ranch, for we need you
for the dedication of a chapel to-day, and for a wedding and infare for
to-morrow. We don't see you along this river as often as we'd like to,
and when you do happen along in time for a peaceful duty, you can't
get away so easily. If you have any special report to make to your
superiors, why, write her out, and I'll send a vaquero with it to
Oakville this afternoon, and it'll go north on the stage to-morrow. But,
lieutenant, you mustn't think you can ride right past Las Palomas when
you're not under emergency orders. Now, fall off those horses and spruce
up a little, for I intend to introduce you to some as nice girls as you
ever met. You may want to quit rangering some day, and I may need a man
about your size, and I'm getting tired of single ones."

Lieutenant Barr surrendered. Saddles were stripped from horses, packs
were unlashed from mules, and every animal was sent to our _remudas_
under herd. The accoutrements were stacked inside the gate like
haycocks, with slickers thrown over them; the carbines were thrown on
the gallery, and from every nail, peg, or hook on the wall belts and
six-shooters hung in groups. These rangers were just ordinary looking
men, and might have been mistaken for an outfit of cow hands. In age
they ranged from a smiling youth of twenty to grizzled men of forty,
yet in every countenance was written a resolute determination. All
the razors on the ranch were brought into immediate use, while every
presentable shirt, collar, and tie in the house was unearthed and placed
at their disposal. While arranging hasty toilets, the men informed us
that when they reached Espontos Lake the redskins had left, and that
they had trailed them south until the Indians had crossed the Rio Grande
into Mexico several days in advance of their arrival. The usual number
of isolated sheepherders killed, and of horses stolen, were the features
of the raid.

The guests had been arriving all morning. The Booths had reached the
ranch the night before, and the last to put in an appearance was the
contingent from the Frio and San Miguel. Before the appearance of the
rangers, they had been sighted across the river, and they rode up with
Pierre Vaux, like a captain of the Old Guard, in the lead.

"Ah, Don Lance," he cried, "vat you tink? Dey say Don Pierre no ride
fas' goin' to church. Dese youngsters laff all time and say I never get
here unless de dogs is 'long. Sacré! Act all time lak I vas von ol' man.
_Humbre_, keep away from dis horse; he allow nobody but me to lay von
han' on him--keep away, I tol' you!"

I helped the girls to dismount, Miss Jean kissing them right and left,
and bustling them off into the house to tidy up as fast as possible; for
the hour was almost at hand. On catching sight of Mrs. Annear, fresh and
charming in her widow's weeds, Uncle Lance brushed Don Pierre aside and
cordially greeted her. Vaqueros took the horses, and as I strolled up
the pathway with Esther, I noticed an upper window full of ranger faces
peering down on the girls. Before this last contingent had had time to
spruce up, Pasquale's eldest boy rode around all the _jacals_, ringing
a small handbell to summon the population to the dedication. Outside of
our home crowd, we had forty white guests, not including the two Booth
children and the priests. As fast as the rangers were made presentable,
the master and mistress introduced them to all the girls present. Of
course, there were a few who could not be enticed near a woman, but
Quayle and Happersett, like kindred spirits, took the backward ones
under their wing, and the procession started for the chapel.

The audience was typical of the Texas frontier at the close of the
'70's. Two priests of European birth conducted the services. Pioneer
cowmen of various nationalities and their families intermingled and
occupied central seats. By the side of his host, a veteran of '36, when
Mexican rule was driven from the land, sat Lieutenant Barr, then engaged
in accomplishing a second redemption of the state from crime and
lawlessless. Lovable and esteemed men were present, who had followed the
fortunes of war until the Southern flag, to which they had rallied, went
down in defeat. The younger generation of men were stalwart in physique,
while the girls were modest in their rustic beauty. Sitting on the
cement floor on three sides of us were the natives of the ranch,
civilized but with little improvement over their Aztec ancestors.

The dedicatory exercises were brief and simple. Every one was invited to
remain for the celebration of the first mass in the newly consecrated
building. Many who were not communicants accepted, but noticing the
mistress and my sweetheart taking their leave, I joined them and
assisted in arranging the tables so that all our guests could be seated
at two sittings. At the conclusion of the services, dinner was waiting,
and Father Norquin and Mr. Nate Wilson were asked to carve at one table,
while the young friar and Lieutenant Barr, in a similar capacity,
officiated at the other. There was so much volunteer help in the kitchen
that I was soon excused, and joined the younger people on the gallery.
As to whom Cotton and Gallup were monopolizing there was no doubt, but I
had a curiosity to notice what Scales would do when placed between two
fires. But not for nothing had he cultivated the acquaintance of a
sandy-mustached young ranger, who was at that moment entertaining
Suzanne Vaux in an alcove at the farther end of the veranda. Aaron, when
returning from the chapel with Susie Wilson, had succeeded in getting no
nearer the house than a clump of oak trees which sheltered an old rustic
settee. And when the young folks were called in to dinner, the vagabond
Scales and Miss Wilson of Ramirena had to be called the second time.

In seating the younger generation, Miss Jean showed her finesse. Nearly
all the rangers had dined at the first tables, but the widow Annear
waited for the second one--why, only a privileged few of us could guess.
Artfully and with seeming unconsciousness on the part of every one,
Deweese was placed beside the charming widow, though I had a suspicion
that June was the only innocent party in the company. Captain Byler and
I were carving at the same table at which our foreman and the widow were
seated, and, being in the secret, I noted step by step the progress of
the widow, and the signs of gradual surrender of the corporal _segundo_.
I had a distinct recollection of having once smashed some earnest
resolves, and of having capitulated under similar circumstances, and now
being happily in love, I secretly wished success to the little god Cupid
in the case in hand. And all during the afternoon and evening, it was
clearly apparent to any one who cared to notice that success was very

The evening was a memorable one at Las Palomas. Never before in my
knowledge had the ranch had so many and such amiable guests. The rangers
took kindly to our hospitality, and Father Norquin waddled about,
God-blessing every one, old and young, frivolous and sedate. Owing
to the nature of the services of the day, the evening was spent in
conversation among the elders, while the younger element promenaded the
spacious gallery, or occupied alcoves, nooks, and corners about the
grounds. On retiring for the night, the men yielded the house to the
women guests, sleeping on the upper and lower verandas, while the ranger
contingent, scorning beds or shelter, unrolled their blankets under the
spreading live-oaks in the yard.

But the real interest centred in the marriage of Fidel and Juana, which
took place at six o'clock the following evening. Every one, including
the native element, repaired to the new chapel to attend the wedding.
Uncle Lance and his sister had rivaled each other as to whether man or
maid should have the better outfit. Fidel was physically far above the
average of the natives, slightly bow-legged, stolid, and the coolest
person in the church. The bride was in quite a flutter, but having been
coached and rehearsed daily by her mistress, managed to get through the
ordeal. The young priest performed the ceremony, using his own native
tongue, the rich, silvery accents of Spanish. At the conclusion of the
service, every one congratulated the happy couple, the women and girls
in tears, the sterner sex without demonstration of feeling. When we were
outside the chapel, and waiting for our sweethearts to dry their tears
and join us, Uncle Lance came swaggering' over to John Cotton and me,
and, slapping us both on the back, said:--

"Boys, that rascal of a Fidel has a splendid nerve. Did you notice how
he faced the guns without a tremor; never batted an eye but took his
medicine like a little man. I hope both of you boys will show equally
good nerve when your turn comes. Why, I doubt if there was a ranger in
the whole squad, unless it was that red-headed rascal who kissed the
bride, who would have stood the test like that vaquero--without a
shiver. And it's something you can't get used to. Now, as you all know,
I've been married three times. The first two times I was as cool as
most, but the third whirl I trembled all over. Quavers ran through me,
my tongue was palsied, my teeth chattered, my knees knocked together,
and I felt like a man that was sent for and couldn't go. Now, mind you,
it was the third time and I was only forty-five."

What a night that was! The contents of the warehouse had been shifted,
native musicians had come up from Santa Maria, and every one about
the home ranch who could strum a guitar was pressed into service. The
storeroom was given over to the natives, and after honoring the occasion
with their presence as patrons, the master and mistress, after the
opening dance, withdrew in company with their guests. The night had
then barely commenced. Claiming two guitarists, we soon had our guests
waltzing on veranda, hall, and spacious dining-room to the music of my
fiddle. Several of the rangers could play, and by taking turns every one
had a joyous time, including the two priests. Among the Mexicans the
dancing continued until daybreak. Shortly after midnight our guests
retired, and the next morning found all, including the priests,
preparing to take their departure. As was customary, we rode a short
distance with our guests, bidding them again to Las Palomas and
receiving similar invitations in return. With the exception of Captain
Byler, the rangers were the last to take their leave. When the mules
were packed and their mounts saddled, the old ranchero extended them a
welcome whenever they came that way again.

"Well, now, Mr. Lovelace," said Lieutenant Barr, "you had better not
press that invitation too far. The good time we have had with you
discounts rangering for the State of Texas. Rest assured, sir, that we
will not soon forget the hospitality of Las Palomas, nor its ability
to entertain. Push on with the packs, boys, and I'll take leave of the
mistress in behalf of you all, and overtake the squad before it reaches
the river."



Before gathering the fillies and mares that spring, and while riding
the range, locating our horse stock, Pasquale brought in word late one
evening that a _ladino_ stallion had killed the regular one, and was
then in possession of the _manada_. The fight between the outlaw and the
ranch stallion had evidently occurred above the mouth of the Ganso and
several miles to the north of the home river, for he had accidentally
found the carcass of the dead horse at a small lake and, recognizing the
animal by his color, had immediately scoured the country in search of
the band. He had finally located the _manada_, many miles off their
range; but at sight of the vaquero the _ladino_ usurper had deserted
the mares, halting, however, out of gunshot, yet following at a safe
distance as Pasquale drifted them back. Leaving the _manada_ on their
former range, Pasquale had ridden into the ranch and reported. It was
then too late in the day to start against the interloper, as the range
was fully twenty-five miles away, and we were delayed the next morning
in getting up speedy saddle horses from distant and various _remudas_,
and did not get away from the ranch until after dinner. But then we
started, taking the usual pack mules, and provisioned for a week's

Included in the party was Captain Frank Byler, the regular home crowd,
and three Mexicans. With an extra saddle horse for each, we rode away
merrily to declare war on the _ladino_ stallion. "This is the third time
since I've teen ranching here," said Uncle Lance to Captain Frank, as
we rode along, "that I've had stallions killed. There always have been
bands of wild horses, west here between the Leona and Nueces rivers and
around Espontos Lake. Now that country is settling up, the people walk
down the bands and the stallions escape, and in drifting about find our
range. They're wiry rascals, and our old stallions don't stand any more
show with them than a fat hog would with a _javaline_. That's why I take
as much pride in killing one as I do a rattlesnake."

We made camp early that evening on the home river, opposite the range
of the _manada_. Sending out Pasquale to locate the band and watch them
until dark, Uncle Lance outlined his idea of circling the band and
bagging the outlaw in the uncertain light of dawn. Pasquale reported
on his return after dark that the _manada_ were contentedly feeding on
their accustomed range within three miles of camp. Pasquale had
watched the band for an hour, and described the _ladino_ stallion as a
cinnamon-colored coyote, splendidly proportioned and unusually large for
a mustang.

Naturally, in expectation of the coming sport, the horses became the
topic around the camp-fire that night. Every man present was a born
horseman, and there was a generous rivalry for the honor in telling
horse stories. Aaron Scales joined the group at a fortunate time to
introduce an incident from his own experience, and, raking out a coal of
fire for his pipe, began:--

"The first ranch I ever worked on," said he, "was located on the Navidad
in Lavaca County. It was quite a new country then, rather broken and
timbered in places and full of bear and wolves. Our outfit was working
some cattle before the general round-up in the spring. We wanted to move
one brand to another range as soon as the grass would permit, and we
were gathering them for that purpose. We had some ninety saddle horses
with us to do the work,--sufficient to mount fifteen men. One night we
camped in a favorite spot, and as we had no cattle to hold that night,
all the horses were thrown loose, with the usual precaution of hobbling,
except two or three on picket. All but about ten head wore the
bracelets, and those ten were pals, their pardners wearing the hemp.
Early in the evening, probably nine o'clock, with a bright fire burning,
and the boys spreading down their beds for the night, suddenly the
horses were heard running, and the next moment they hobbled into camp
like a school of porpoise, trampling over the beds and crowding up to
the fire and the wagon. They almost knocked down some of the boys, so
sudden was their entrance. Then they set up a terrible nickering for
mates. The boys went amongst them, and horses that were timid and shy
almost caressed their riders, trembling in limb and muscle the while
through fear, like a leaf. We concluded a bear had scented the camp, and
in approaching it had circled round, and run amuck our saddle horses.
Every horse by instinct is afraid of a bear, but more particularly a
range-raised one. It's the same instinct that makes it impossible to
ride or drive a range-raised horse over a rattlesnake. Well, after the
boys had petted their mounts and quieted their fears, they were still
reluctant to leave camp, but stood around for several hours, evidently
feeling more secure in our presence. Now and then one of the free ones
would graze out a little distance, cautiously sniff the air, then trot
back to the others. We built up a big fire to scare away any bear or
wolves that might he in the vicinity, but the horses stayed like invited
guests, perfectly contented as long as we would pet them and talk to
them. Some of the boys crawled under the wagon, hoping to get a little
sleep, rather than spread their bed where a horse could stampede over
it. Near midnight we took ropes and saddle blankets and drove them
several hundred yards from camp. The rest of the night we slept with one
eye open, expecting every moment to hear them take fright and return.
They didn't, but at daylight every horse was within five hundred yards
of the wagon, and when we unhobbled them and broke camp that morning, we
had to throw riders in the lead to hold them back."

On the conclusion of Scales's experience, there was no lack of
volunteers to take up the thread, though an unwritten law forbade
interruptions. Our employer was among the group, and out of deference to
our guest, the boys remained silent. Uncle Lance finally regaled us
with an account of a fight between range stallions which he had once
witnessed, and on its conclusion Theodore Quayle took his turn.

"The man I was working for once moved nearly a thousand head of mixed
range stock, of which about three hundred were young mules, from the San
Saba to the Concho River. It was a dry country and we were compelled to
follow the McKavett and Fort Chadbourne trail. We had timed our drives
so that we reached creeks once a day at least, sometimes oftener. It was
the latter part of summer, and was unusually hot and drouthy. There was
one drive of twenty-five miles ahead that the owner knew of without
water, and we had planned this drive so as to reach it at noon, drive
halfway, make a dry camp over night, and reach the pools by noon the
next day. Imagine our chagrin on reaching the watering place to find the
stream dry. We lost several hours riding up and down the _arroyo_ in the
hope of finding relief for the men, if not for the stock. It had been
dusty for weeks. The cook had a little water in his keg, but only enough
for drinking purposes. It was twenty miles yet to the Concho, and make
it before night we must. Turning back was farther than going ahead, and
the afternoon was fearfully hot. The heat waves looked like a sea of
fire. The first part of the afternoon drive was a gradual ascent for
fifteen miles, and then came a narrow plateau of a divide. As we reached
this mesa, a sorrier-looking lot of men, horses, and mules can hardly be
imagined. We had already traveled over forty miles without water for the
stock, and five more lay between us and the coveted river.

"The heat was oppressive to the men, but the herd suffered most from the
fine alkali dust which enveloped them. Their eyebrows and nostrils were
whitened with this fine powder, while all colors merged into one. On
reaching this divide, we could see the cotton-woods that outlined the
stream ahead. Before we had fully crossed this watershed and begun the
descent, the mules would trot along beside the riders in the lead, even
permitting us to lay our hands on their backs. It was getting late in
the day before the first friendly breeze of the afternoon blew softly in
our faces. Then, Great Scott! what a change came over man and herd. The
mules in front threw up their heads and broke into a grand chorus. Those
that were strung out took up the refrain and trotted forward. The horses
set up a rival concert in a higher key. They had scented the water five
miles off.

"All hands except one man on each side now rode in the lead. Every once
in a while, some enthusiastic mule would break through the line of
horsemen, and would have to be brought back. Every time we came to an
elevation where we could catch the breeze, the grand horse and mule
concert would break out anew. At the last elevation between us and the
water, several mules broke through, and before they could be brought
back the whole herd had broken into a run which was impossible to check.
We opened out then and let them go.

"The Concho was barely running, but had long, deep pools here and there,
into which horses and mules plunged, dropped down, rolled over, and then
got up to nicker and bray. The young mules did everything but drink,
while the horses were crazy with delight. When the wagon came up we went
into camp and left them to play out their hands. There was no herding
to do that night, as the water would hold them as readily as a hundred

"Well, I'm going to hunt my blankets," said Uncle Lance, rising. "You
understand, Captain, that you are to sleep with me to-night. Davy
Crockett once said that the politest man he ever met in Washington
simply set out the decanter and glasses, and then walked over and looked
out of the window while he took a drink. Now I want to be equally polite
and don't want to hurry you to sleep, but whenever you get tired of
yarning, you'll find the bed with me in it to the windward of that
live-oak tree top over yonder."

Captain Frank showed no inclination to accept the invitation just then,
but assured his host that he would join him later. An hour or two passed

"Haven't you fellows gone to bed yet?" came an inquiry from out of a
fallen tree top beyond the fire in a voice which we all recognized. "All
right, boys, sit up all night and tell fool stories if you want to. But
remember, I'll have the last rascal of you in the saddle an hour before
daybreak. I have little sympathy for a man who won't sleep when he has
a good chance. So if you don't turn in at all it will be all right, but
you'll be routed out at three in the morning, and the man who requires a
second calling will get a bucket of water in his face."

Captain Frank and several of us rose expecting to take the hint of our
employer, when our good intentions were arrested by a query from Dan
Happersett, "Did any of you ever walk down a wild horse?" None of us
had, and we turned back and reseated ourselves in the group.

"I had a little whirl of it once when I was a youngster," said Dan,
"except we didn't walk. It was well known that there were several bands
of wild horses ranging in the southwest corner of Tom Green County.
Those who had seen them described one band as numbering forty to fifty
head with a fine chestnut stallion as a leader. Their range was well
located when water was plentiful, but during certain months of the year
the shallow lagoons where they watered dried up, and they were compelled
to leave. It was when they were forced to go to other waters that
glimpses of them were to be had, and then only at a distance of one or
two miles. There was an outfit made up one spring to go out to their
range and walk these horses down. This season of the year was selected,
as the lagoons would be full of water and the horses would be naturally
reduced in flesh and strength after the winter, as well as weak and thin
blooded from their first taste of grass. We took along two wagons, one
loaded with grain for our mounts. These saddle horses had been eating
grain for months before we started and their flesh was firm and solid.

"We headed for the lagoons, which were known to a few of our party, and
when we came within ten miles of the water holes, we saw fresh signs of
a band--places where they had apparently grazed within a week. But it
was the second day before we caught sight of the wild horses, and too
late in the day to give them chase. They were watering at a large lake
south of our camp, and we did not disturb them. We watched them until
nightfall, and that night we planned to give them chase at daybreak.
Four of us were to do the riding by turns, and imaginary stations were
allotted to the four quarters of our camp. If they refused to leave
their range and circled, we could send them at least a hundred and fifty
miles the first day, ourselves riding possibly a hundred, and this
riding would be divided among four horses, with plenty of fresh ones at
camp for a change.

"Being the lightest rider in the party, it was decided that I was to
give them the first chase. We had a crafty plainsman for our captain,
and long before daylight he and I rode out and waited for the first peep
of day. Before the sun had risen, we sighted the wild herd within a mile
of the place where darkness had settled over them the night previous.
With a few parting instructions from our captain, I rode leisurely
between them and the lake where they had watered the evening before. At
first sight of me they took fright and ran to a slight elevation. There
they halted a moment, craning their necks and sniffing the air. This was
my first fair view of the chestnut stallion. He refused to break into
a gallop, and even stopped before the rest, turning defiantly on this
intruder of his domain. From the course I was riding, every moment I was
expecting them to catch the wind of me. Suddenly they scented me, knew
me for an enemy, and with the stallion in the lead they were off to the

"It was an exciting ride that morning. Without a halt they ran twenty
miles to the south, then turned to the left and there halted on an
elevation; but a shot in the air told them that all was not well and
they moved on. For an hour and a half they kept their course to the
east, and at last turned to the north. This was, as we had calculated,
about their range. In another hour at the farthest, a new rider with
a fresh horse would take up the running. My horse was still fresh and
enjoying the chase, when on a swell of the plain I made out the rider
who was to relieve me; and though it was early yet in the day the
mustangs had covered sixty miles to my forty. When I saw my relief
locate the band, I turned and rode leisurely to camp. When the last two
riders came into camp that night, they reported having left the herd at
a new lake, to which the mustang had led them, some fifteen miles from
our camp to the westward.

"Each day for the following week was a repetition of the first with
varying incident. But each day it was plain to be seen that they were
fagging fast. Toward the evening of the eighth day, the rider dared not
crowd them for fear of their splitting into small bands, a thing to be
avoided. On the ninth day two riders took them at a time, pushing them
unmercifully but preventing them from splitting, and in the evening of
this day they could be turned at the will of the riders. It was then
agreed that after a half day's chase on the morrow, they could be
handled with ease. By noon next day, we had driven them within a mile of
our camp.

"They were tired out and we turned them into an impromptu corral made of
wagons and ropes. All but the chestnut stallion. At the last he escaped
us; he stopped on a little knoll and took a farewell look at his band.

"There were four old United States cavalry horses among our captive band
of mustangs, gray with age and worthless--no telling where they came
from. We clamped a mule shoe over the pasterns of the younger horses,
tied toggles to the others, and the next morning set out on our return
to the settlements."

Under his promise the old ranchero had the camp astir over an hour
before dawn. Horses were brought in from picket ropes, and divided into
two squads, Pasquale leading off to the windward of where the band was
located at dusk previous. The rest of the men followed Uncle Lance to
complete the leeward side of the circle. The location of the _manada_,
had been described as between a small hill covered with Spanish bayonet
on one hand, and a _zacahuiste_ flat nearly a mile distant on the other,
both well-known landmarks. As we rode out and approached the location,
we dropped a man every half mile until the hill and adjoining salt flat
had been surrounded. We had divided what rifles the ranch owned between
the two squads, so that each side of the circle was armed with four
guns. I had a carbine, and had been stationed about midway of the
leeward half-circle. At the first sign of dawn, the signal agreed upon,
a turkey call, sounded back down the line, and we advanced. The circle
was fully two miles in diameter, and on receiving the signal I rode
slowly forward, halting at every sound. It was a cloudy morning and
dawn came late for clear vision. Several times I dismounted and in
approaching objects at a distance drove my horse before me, only to find
that, as light increased, I was mistaken.


When both the flat and the dagger crowned hill came into view, not a
living object was in sight. I had made the calculation that, had the
_manada_ grazed during the night, we should be far to the leeward of the
band, for it was reasonable to expect that they would feed against the
wind. But there was also the possibility that the outlaw might have
herded the band several miles distant during the night, and while I was
meditating on this theory, a shot rang out about a mile distant and
behind the hill. Giving my horse the rowel, I rode in the direction of
the report; but before I reached the hill the _manada_ tore around it,
almost running into me. The coyote mustang was leading the band; but as
I halted for a shot, he turned inward, and, the mares intervening, cut
off my opportunity. But the warning shot had reached every rider on the
circle, and as I plied rowel and quirt to turn the band, Tio Tiburcio
cut in before me and headed them backward. As the band whirled away from
us the stallion forged to the front and, by biting and a free use of his
heels, attempted to turn the _manada_ on their former course. But it
mattered little which way they turned now, for our cordon was closing
round them, the windward line then being less than a mile distant.

As the band struck the eastward or windward line of horsemen, the mares,
except for the control of the stallion, would have yielded, but now,
under his leadership, they recoiled like a band of _ladinos_. But every
time they approached the line of the closing circle they were checked,
and as the cordon closed to less than half a mile in diameter, in spite
of the outlaw's lashings, the _manada_ quieted down and halted. Then we
unslung our carbines and rifles and slowly closed in upon the quarry.
Several times the mustang stallion came to the outskirts of the band,
uttering a single piercing snort, but never exposed himself for a shot.
Little by little as we edged in he grew impatient, and finally trotted
out boldly as if determined to forsake his harem and rush the line. But
the moment he cleared the band Uncle Lance dismounted, and as he knelt
the stallion stopped like a statue, gave a single challenging snort,
which was answered by a rifle report, and he fell in his tracks.



Spring was now at hand after an unusually mild winter. With the breaking
of the drouth of the summer before there had sprung up all through the
encinal and sandy lands an immense crop of weeds, called by the natives
_margoso_, fallow-weed. This plant had thriven all winter, and the
cattle had forsaken the best mesquite grazing in the river bottoms to
forage on it. The results showed that their instinct was true; for with
very rare exceptions every beef on the ranch was fit for the butcher's
block. Truly it was a year of fatness succeeding a lean one. Never
during my acquaintance with Las Palomas had I seen the cattle come
through a winter in such splendid condition. But now there was no
market. Faint rumors reached us of trail herds being put up in near-by
counties, and it was known that several large ranches in Nueces County
were going to try the experiment of sending their own cattle up the
trail. Lack of demand was discouraging to most ranchmen, and our range
was glutted with heavy steer cattle.

The first spring work of any importance was gathering the horses to fill
a contract we had with Captain Byler. Previous to the herd which Deweese
had sold and delivered at Fort Worth the year before, our horse stock
had amounted to about four thousand head. With the present sale the
ranch holdings would be much reduced, and it was our intention to retain
all _manadas_ used in the breeding of mules. When we commenced gathering
we worked over every one of our sixty odd bands, cutting out all the
fillies and barren mares. In disposing of whole _manadas_ we kept only
the geldings and yearlings, throwing in the old stallions for good
measure, as they would be worthless to us when separated from their
harems. In less than a week's time we had made up the herd, and as they
were all in the straight 'horse hoof' we did not road-brand them. While
gathering them we put them under day and night herd, throwing in five
_remudas_ as we had agreed, but keeping back the bell mares, as they
were gentle and would be useful in forming new bands of saddle horses.
The day before the appointed time for the delivery, the drover brought
up saddle horses and enough picked mares to make his herd number fifteen

The only unpleasant episode of the sale was a difference between
Theodore Quayle and my employer. Quayle had cultivated the friendship of
the drover until the latter had partially promised him a job with the
herd, in case there was no objection. But when Uncle Lance learned that
Theodore expected to accompany the horses, he took Captain Frank to
task for attempting to entice away his men. The drover entered a strong
disclaimer, maintaining that he had promised Quayle a place only in case
it was satisfactory to all concerned; further, that in trail work with
horses he preferred Mexican vaqueros, and had only made the conditional
promise as a favor to the young man. Uncle Lance accepted the
explanation and apologized to the drover, but fell on Theodore Quayle
and cruelly upbraided him for forsaking the ranch without cause or
reason. Theodore was speechless with humiliation, but no sooner were
the hasty words spoken than my employer saw that he had grievously hurt
another's feelings, and humbly craved Quayle's pardon.

The incident passed and was apparently forgotten. The herd started north
on the trail on the twenty-fifth of March, Quayle stayed on at Las
Palomas, and we resumed our regular spring work on the ranch. While
gathering the mares and fillies, we had cut out all the geldings four
years old and upward to the number of nearly two hundred, and now our
usual routine of horse breaking commenced. The masons had completed
their work on all three of the cottages and returned to the Mission, but
the carpenter yet remained to finish up the woodwork. Fidel and Juana
had begun housekeeping in their little home, and the cosy warmth which
radiated from it made me impatient to see my cottage finished. Through
the mistress, arrangements had been made for the front rooms in both
John's cottage and mine to be floored instead of cemented.

Some two weeks before Easter Sunday, Cotton returned from the Frio,
where he had been making a call on his intended. Uncle Lance at once
questioned him to know if they had set the day, and was informed that
the marriage would occur within ten days after Lent, and that he
expected first to make a hurried trip to San Antonio for a wedding

"That's all right, John," said the old ranchero approvingly, "and I
expect Quirk might as well go with you. You can both draw every cent due
you, and take your time, as wages will go right on the same as if you
were working. There will not be much to do except the usual horse
breaking and a little repairing about the ranch. It's quite likely I
shan't be able to spare Tom in the early summer, for if no cattle buyers
come along soon, I'm going to send June to the coast and let him sniff
around for one. I'd like the best in the world to sell about three
thousand beeves, and we never had fatter ones than we have to-day. If we
can make a sale, it'll keep us busy all the fore part of the summer. So
both you fellows knock off any day you want to and go up to the city.
And go horseback, for this ranch don't give Bethel & Oxenford's stages
any more of its money."

With this encouragement, we decided to start for the city the next
morning. But that evening I concluded to give a certain roan gelding a
final ride before turning him over to the vaqueros. He was a vicious
rascal, and after trying a hundred manoeuvres to unhorse me, reared and
fell backward, and before I could free my foot from the stirrup, caught
my left ankle, fracturing several of the small bones in the joint. That
settled my going anywhere on horseback for a month, as the next morning
I could not touch my foot to the ground. John did not like to go alone,
and the mistress insisted that Theodore was well entitled to a vacation.
The master consented, each was paid the wages due him, and catching up
their own private horses, the old cronies started off to San Antonio.
They expected to make Mr. Booth's ranch in a little over half a day, and
from there a sixty-mile ride would put them in the city.

After the departure of the boys the dull routine of ranch work went
heavily forward. The horse breaking continued, vaqueros rode the range
looking after the calf crop, while I had to content myself with nursing
a crippled foot and hobbling about on crutches. Had I been able to ride
a horse, it is quite possible that a ranch on the San Miguel would have
had me as its guest; but I must needs content myself with lying around
the house, visiting with Juana, or watching the carpenter finishing the
cottages. I tried several times to interest my mistress in a scheme to
invite my sweetheart over for a week or two, but she put me off on one
pretext and another until I was vexed at her lack of enthusiasm. But
truth compels me to do that good woman justice, and I am now satisfied
that my vexation was due to my own peevishness over my condition and not
to neglect on her part. And just then she was taking such an absorbing
interest in June and the widow, and likewise so sisterly a concern for
Dan Happersett, that it was little wonder she could give me no special
attention when I was soon to be married. It was the bird in the bush
that charmed Miss Jean.

Towards the close of March a number of showers fell, and we had a week
of damp, cloudy weather. This was unfortunate, as it called nearly every
man from the horse breaking to ride the range and look after the young
calves. One of the worst enemies of a newly born calf is screw worms,
which flourish in wet weather, and prove fatal unless removed; for no
young calf withstands the pest over a few days. Clear dry weather was
the best preventive against screw worms, but until the present damp
spell abated every man in the ranch was in the saddle from sunrise to

In the midst of this emergency work a beef buyer by the name of Wayne
Orahood reached the ranch. He was representing the lessees of a
steamship company plying between New Orleans and Texas coast points. The
merchant at the ferry had advised Orahood to visit Las Palomas, but on
his arrival about noon there was not a white man on the ranch to show
him the cattle. I knew the anxiety of my employer to dispose of his
matured beeves, and as the buyer was impatient there was nothing to do
but get up horses and ride the range with him. Miss Jean was anxious
to have the stock shown, and in spite of my lameness I ordered saddle
horses for both of us. Unable to wear a boot and still hobbling on
crutches, I managed to Indian mount an old horse, my left foot still too
inflamed to rest in the stirrup. From the ranch we rode for the encinal
ridges and sandy lands to the southeast, where the fallow-weed still
throve in rank profusion, and where our heaviest steers were liable to
range. By riding far from the watering points we encountered the older
cattle, and within an hour after leaving the ranch I was showing some of
the largest beeves on Las Palomas.

How that beef buyer did ride! Scarcely giving the cattle a passing look,
he kept me leading the way from place to place where our salable stock
was to be encountered. Avoiding the ranchitos and wells, where the cows
and younger cattle were to be found, we circled the extreme outskirts of
our range, only occasionally halting, and then but for a single glance
over some prime beeves. We turned westward from the encinal at a gallop,
passing about midway between Santa Maria and the home ranch. Thence we
pushed on for the hills around the head of the Ganso. Not once in the
entire ride did we encounter any one but a Mexican vaquero, and there
was no relief for my foot in meeting him! Several times I had an
inclination to ask Mr. Orahood to remember my sore ankle, and on
striking the broken country I suggested we ride slower, as many of our
oldest beeves ranged through these hills. This suggestion enabled me to
ease up and to show our best cattle to advantage until the sun set. We
were then twenty-five miles from the ranch. But neither distance nor
approaching darkness checked Wayne Orahood's enthusiasm. A dozen times
he remarked, "We'll look at a few more cattle, son, and then ride in
home." We did finally turn homeward, and at a leisurely gait, but not
until it was too dark to see cattle, and it was several hours after
darkness when we sighted the lamps at headquarters, and finished the
last lap in our afternoon's sixty-mile ride.

My employer and Mr. Orahood had met before, and greeted each other with
a rugged cordiality common among cowmen. The others had eaten their
supper; but while the buyer and I satisfied the inner man, Uncle Lance
sat with us at the table and sparred with Orahood in repartee, or asked
regarding mutual friends, artfully avoiding any mention of cattle.
But after we had finished Mr. Orahood spoke of his mission, admitted
deprecatingly that he had taken a little ride south and west that
afternoon, and if it was not too much trouble he would like to look
over our beeves on the north of the Nueces in the morning. He showed
no enthusiasm, but acknowledged that he was buying for shipment, and
thought that another month's good grass ought to put our steers in fair
condition. I noticed Uncle Lance clouding up over the buyer's lack of
appreciation, but he controlled himself, and when Mr. Orahood expressed
a wish to retire, my employer said to his guest, as with candle in hand
the two stood in parting:--

"Well, now, Wayne, that's too bad about the cattle being so thin. I've
been working my horse stock lately, and didn't get any chance to ride
the range until this wet spell. But since the screw worms got so bad,
being short-handed, I had to get out and rustle myself or we'd lost a
lot of calves. Of course, I have noticed a steer now and then, and have
been sorry to find them so spring-poor. Actually, Wayne, if we were
expecting company, we'd have to send to the ferry and get a piece of
bacon, as I haven't seen a hoof fit to kill. That roast beef which you
had for supper--well, that was sent us by a neighbor who has fat cows.
About a year ago now, water was awful scarce with us, and a few old cows
died up and down this valley. I suppose you didn't hear of it, living
so far away. Heretofore, every time we had a drouth there was such a
volunteer growth of fallow-weed that the cattle got mud fat following
every dry spell. Still I'll show you a few cattle among the guajio brush
and sand hills on the divide in the morning and see what you think of
them. But of course, if they lack flesh, in case you are buying for
shipment I shan't expect you to bid on them."

The old ranchero and the buyer rode away early the next morning, and did
not return until near the middle of the afternoon, having already agreed
on a sale. I was asked to write in duplicate the terms and conditions.
In substance, Las Palomas ranch agreed to deliver at Rockport on the
coast, on the twentieth of May, and for each of the following three
months, twelve hundred and fifty beeves, four years old and upward.
The consideration was $27.50 per head, payable on delivery. I knew my
employer had oversold his holdings, but there would be no trouble in
making up the five thousand head, as all our neighbors would gladly turn
in cattle to fill the contract. The buyer was working on commission, and
the larger the quantity he could contract for, the better he was suited.
After the agreement had been signed in duplicate, Mr. Orahood smilingly
admitted that ours were the best beeves he had bought that spring. "I
knew it," said Uncle Lance; "you don't suppose I've been ranching in
this valley over forty years without knowing a fat steer when I see one.
Tom, send a _muchacho_ after a bundle of mint. Wayne, you haven't got a
lick of sense in riding--I'm as tired as a dog."

The buyer returned to Shepherd's the next morning. The horse breaking
was almost completed, except allotting them into _remudas_, assigning
bell mares, and putting each band under herd for a week or ten days. The
weather was fairing off, relieving the strain of riding the range, and
the ranch once more relaxed into its languid existence. By a peculiar
coincidence, Easter Sunday occurred on April the 13th that year, it
being also the sixty-sixth birthday of the ranchero. Miss Jean usually
gave a little home dinner on her brother's birthday, and had planned one
for this occasion, which was but a few days distant. In the mail which
had been sent for on Saturday before Easter, a letter had come from John
Cotton to his employer, saying he would start home in a few days, and
wanted Father Norquin sent for, as the wedding would take place on
the nineteenth of the month. He also mentioned the fact that Theodore
expected to spend a day or two with the Booths returning, but he would
ride directly down to the Vaux ranch, and possibly the two would reach
home about the same time.

I doubt if Uncle Lance ever enjoyed a happier birthday than this one.
There was every reason why he should enjoy it. For a man of his age, his
years rested lightly. The ranch had never been more prosperous. Even the
drouth of the year before had not proved an ill wind; for the damage
then sustained had been made up by conditions resulting in one of the
largest sales of cattle in the history of the ranch. A chapel and three
new cottages had been built without loss of time and at very little
expense. A number of children had been born to the soil, while the
natives were as loyal to their master as subjects in the days of
feudalism. There was but one thing lacking to fill the cup to
overflowing--the ranchero was childless. Possessed with a love of the
land so deep as to be almost his religion, he felt the need of an heir.

"Birthdays to a man of my years," said Uncle Lance, over Easter dinner,
"are food for reflection. When one nears the limit of his allotted
days, and looks back over his career, there is little that satisfies.
Financial success is a poor equivalent for other things. But here I am
preaching when I ought to be rejoicing. Some one get John's letter and
read it again. Let's see, the nineteenth falls on Saturday. Lucky
day for Las Palomas! Well, we'll have the padre here, and if he says
barbecue a beef, down goes the fattest one on the ranch. This is the
year in which we expect to press our luck. I begin to feel it in my old
bones that the turning-point has come. When Father Norquin arrives, I
think I'll have him preach us a sermon on the evils of single life. But
then it's hardly necessary, for most of you boys have got your eye on
some girl right now. Well, hasten the day, every rascal of you, and
you'll find a cottage ready at a month's notice."

The morning following Easter opened bright and clear, while on every
hand were the signs of spring. A vaquero was dispatched to the Mission
to summon the padre, carrying both a letter and the compliments of the
ranch. Among the jobs outlined for the week was the repairing of a well,
the walls of which had caved in, choking a valuable water supply with
débris. This morning Deweese took a few men and went to the well, to
raise the piping and make the necessary repairs, curbing being the most
important. But while the foreman and Santiago Ortez were standing on
a temporary platform some thirty feet down, a sudden and unexpected
cave-in occurred above them. Deweese saw the danger, called to his
companion, and, in a flash laid hold of a rope with which materials
were being lowered. The foreman's warning to his companion reached the
helpers above, and Deweese was hastily windlassed to the surface, but
the unfortunate vaquero was caught by the falling debris, he and the
platform being carried down into the water beneath. The body of Ortez
was recovered late that evening, a coffin was made during the night, and
the next morning the unfortunate man was laid in his narrow home.

The accident threw a gloom over the ranch. Yet no one dreamt that a
second disaster was at hand. But the middle of the week passed without
the return of either of the absent boys. Foul play began to be
suspected, and meanwhile Father Norquin arrived, fully expecting to
solemnize within a few days the marriage of one of the missing men.
Aaron Scales was dispatched to the Vaux ranch, and returned the next
morning by daybreak with the information that neither Quayle nor Cotton
had been seen on the Frio recently. A vaquero was sent to the Booth
ranch, who brought back the intelligence that neither of the missing
boys had been seen since they passed northward some two weeks before.
Father Norquin, as deeply affected as any one, returned to the Mission,
unable to offer a word of consolation. Several days passed without
tidings. As the days lengthened into a week, the master, as deeply
mortified over the incident as if the two had been his own sons, let
his suspicion fall on Quayle. And at last when light was thrown on the
mystery, the old ranchero's intuition proved correct.

My injured foot improved slowly, and before I was able to resume my
duties on the ranch, I rode over one day to the San Miguel for a short
visit. Tony Hunter had been down to Oakville a few days before my
arrival, and while there had met Clint Dansdale, who was well acquainted
with Quayle and Cotton. Clint, it appeared, had been in San Antonio and
met our missing men, and the three had spent a week in the city chumming
together. As Dansdale was also on horseback, the trio agreed to start
home the same time, traveling in company until their ways separated.
Cotton had told Dansdale what business had brought him to the city, and
received the latter's congratulations. The boys had decided to leave for
home on the ninth, and on the morning of the day set forth, moneyless
but rich in trinkets and toggery. But some where about forty miles south
of San Antonio they met a trail herd of cattle from the Aransas River.
Some trouble had occurred between the foreman and his men the day
before, and that morning several of the latter had taken French leave.
On meeting the travelers, the trail boss, being short-handed, had
offered all three of them a berth. Quayle had accepted without a
question. The other two had stayed all night with the herd, Dansdale
attempting to dissuade Cotton, and Quayle, on the other hand, persuading
him to go with the cattle. In the end Quayle's persuasions won. Dansdale
admitted that the opportunity appealed strongly to him, but he refused
the trail foreman's blandishments and returned to his ranch, while the
two Las Palomas lads accompanied the herd, neither one knowing or caring
where they were going.

When I returned home and reported this to my employer, he was visibly
affected. "So that explains all," said he, "and my surmises regarding
Theodore were correct. I have no particular right to charge him with
ingratitude, and yet this ranch was as much his home as mine. He had the
same to eat, drink, and wear as I had, with none of the concern, and yet
he deserted me. I never spoke harshly to him but once, and now I wish I
had let him go with Captain Byler. That would have saved me Cotton and
the present disgrace to Las Palomas. I ought to have known that a good
honest boy like John would be putty in the hands of a fellow like
Theodore. But it's just like a fool boy to throw away his chances in
life. They still sell their birthright for a mess of pottage. And there
stands the empty cottage to remind me that I have something to learn.
Old as I am, my temper will sometimes get away from me. Tom, you are my
next hope, and I am almost afraid some unseen obstacle will arise as
this one did. Does Frances know the facts?" I answered that Hunter had
kept the facts to himself, not even acquainting his own people
with them, so that aside from myself he was the first to know the
particulars. After pacing the room for a time in meditation, Uncle Lance
finally halted and asked me if Scales would be a capable messenger to
carry the news to the Vaux family. I admitted that he was the most
tactful man on the ranch. Aaron was summoned, given the particulars, and
commanded to use the best diplomacy at his command in transmitting the
facts, and to withhold nothing; to express to the ranchman and his
family the deep humiliation every one at Las Palomas felt over the
actions of John Cotton.

Years afterward I met Quayle at a trail town in the north. In the
limited time at our command, the old days we spent together in the
Nueces valley occupied most of our conversation. Unmentioned by me, his
desertion of Las Palomas was introduced by himself, and in attempting to
apologize for his actions, he said:--

"Quirk, that was the only dirty act I was ever guilty of. I never want
to meet the people the trick was practiced on. Leaving Las Palomas was
as much my privilege as going there was. But I was unfortunate enough to
incur a few debts while living there that nothing but personal revenge
could ever repay. Had it been any other man than Lance Lovelace, he or I
would have died the morning Captain Byler's horse herd started from the
Nueces River. But he was an old man, and my hand was held and my tongue
was silent. You know the tricks of a certain girl who, with her foot on
my neck, stretched forth a welcoming hand to a rival. Tom, I have lived
to pay her my last obligation in a revenge so sweet that if I die an
outcast on the roadside, all accounts are square."



A big summer's work lay before us. When Uncle Lance realized the
permanent loss of three men from the working force of Las Palomas, he
rallied to the situation. The ranch would have to run a double outfit
the greater portion of the summer, and men would have to be secured to
fill our ranks. White men who were willing to isolate themselves on a
frontier ranch were scarce; but the natives, when properly treated,
were serviceable and, where bred to the occupation and inclined to
domesticity, made ideal vaqueros. My injured foot improved slowly, and
as soon as I was able to ride, it fell to me to secure the extra help
needed. The desertion of Quayle and Cotton had shaken my employer's
confidence to a noticeable degree, and in giving me my orders to secure
vaqueros, he said:--

"Tom, you take a good horse and go down the Tarancalous and engage five
vaqueros. Satisfy yourself that the men are fit for the work, and hire
every one by the year. If any of them are in debt, a hundred dollars is
my limit of advance money to free them. And hire no man who has not
a family, for I'm losing confidence every minute in single ones,
especially if they are white. We have a few empty _jacals_, and the more
children that I see running naked about the ranch, the better it suits
me. I'll never get my money back in building that Cotton cottage until I
see a mother, even though she is a Mexican, standing in the door with
a baby in her arms. The older I get, the more I see my mistake in
depending on the white element."

I was gone some three days in securing the needed help. It was a
delicate errand, for no ranchero liked to see people leave his lands,
and it was only where I found men unemployed that I applied for and
secured them. We sent wagons from Las Palomas after their few effects,
and had all the families contentedly housed, either about headquarters
or at the outlying ranchitas, before the first contingent of beeves was
gathered. But the attempt to induce any of the new families to occupy
the stone cottage proved futile, as they were superstitious. There was
a belief among the natives, which no persuasion could remove, regarding
houses that were built for others and never occupied. The new building
was tendered to Tio Tiburcio and his wife, instead of their own
palisaded _jacal_, but it remained tenantless--an eyesore to its

Near the latter end of April, a contract was let for two new tanks on
the Ganso grant of land. Had it not been for the sale of beef, which
would require our time the greater portion of the summer, it was my
employer's intention to have built these reservoirs with the ranch help.
But with the amount of work we had in sight, it was decided to let the
contract to parties who made it their business and were outfitted for
the purpose. Accordingly in company with the contractor, Uncle Lance and
myself spent the last few days of the month laying off and planning the
reservoir sites on two small tributaries which formed the Ganso. We were
planning to locate these tanks several miles above the juncture of the
small rivulets, and as far apart as possible. Then the first rainfall
which would make running water, would assure us a year's supply on the
extreme southwestern portion of our range. The contractor had a big
outfit of oxen and mules, and the conditions called for one of the
reservoirs to be completed before June 15th. Thus, if rains fell when
they were expected, one receptacle at least would be in readiness.

When returning one evening from starting the work, we found Tony Hunter
a guest of the ranch. He had come over for the special purpose of seeing
me, but as the matter was not entirely under my control, my employer was
brought into the consultation. In the docket for the May term of court,
the divorce proceedings between Esther and Jack Oxenford would come
up for a hearing at Oakville on the seventh of the month. Hunter was
anxious, if possible, to have all his friends present at the trial. But
dates were getting a little close, for our first contingent of beeves
was due on the coast on the twentieth, and to gather and drive them
would require not less than ten days. A cross-bill had been filed by
Oxenford's attorney at the last hour, and a fight was going to be made
to prevent the decree from issuing. The judge was a hold-over from
the reconstruction régime, having secured his appointment through the
influence of congressional friends, one of whom was the uncle of the
junior stage man. Unless the statutory grounds were clear, there was a
doubt expressed by Esther's attorney whether the court would grant the
decree. But that was the least of Hunter's fears, for in his eyes the
man who would willfully abuse a woman had no rights, in court or out.
Tony, however, had enemies; for he and Oxenford had had a personal
altercation, and since the separation the Martin family had taken the
side of Jack's employer and severed all connections with the ranch. That
the mail contractors had the village of Oakville under their control,
all agreed, as we had tested that on our return from Fort Worth the
spring before. In all the circumstances, though Hunter had no misgivings
as to the ultimate result, yet being a witness and accused of being
the main instigator in the case, he felt that he ought, as a matter of
precaution, to have a friend or two with him.

"Well, now, Tony," said my employer, "this is crowding the mourners just
a trifle, but Las Palomas was never called on in a good cause but she
could lend a man or two, even if they had to get up from the dinner
table and go hungry. I don't suppose the trial will last over a day or
two at the furthest, and even if it did, the boys could ride home in the
night. In our first bunch and in half a day, we'll gather every beef in
two rodeos and start that evening. Steamships won't wait, and if we were
a day behind time, they might want to hold out demurrage on us. If it
wasn't for that, the boys could stay a week and you would be welcome
to them. Of course, Tom will want to go, and about the next best man
I could suggest would be June. I'd like the best in the world to go
myself, but you see how I'm situated, getting these cattle off and a new
tank building at the same time. Now, you boys make your own arrangements
among yourselves, and this ranch stands ready to back up anything you
say or do."

Tony remained overnight, and we made arrangements to meet him, either
at Shepherd's the evening before or in Oakville on the morning of the
trial. Owing to the behavior of Quayle and Cotton, none of us had
attended the celebration of San Jacinto Day at the ferry. Nor had any
one from the Vaux or McLeod ranches, for while they did not understand
the situation, it was obvious that something was wrong, and they had
remained away as did Las Palomas. But several of Hunter's friends from
the San Miguel had been present, as likewise had Oxenford, and reports
came back to the ranch of the latter's conduct and of certain threats he
had made when he found there was no one present to resent them. The next
morning, before starting home, Tony said to our _segundo_ and myself;--

"Then I'll depend on you two, and I may have a few other friends who
will want to attend. I don't need very many for a coward like Jack
Oxenford. He is perfectly capable of abusing an unprotected woman, or an
old man if he had a crowd of friends behind to sick him on. Oh, he's a
cur all right; for when I told him that he was whelped under a house, he
never resented it. He loves me all right, or has good cause to. Why, I
bent the cylinder pin of a new six-shooter over his head when he had a
gun on him, and he forgot to use it. I don't expect any trouble, but if
you don't look a sneaking cur right in the eye, he may slip up behind
and bite you."

After making arrangements to turn in two hundred beeves on our second
contingent, and send a man with them to the coast, Hunter returned home.
There was no special programme for the interim until gathering the
beeves commenced, yet on a big ranch like Las Palomas there is always
work. While Deweese finished curbing the well in which Ortez lost
his life, I sawed off and cut new threads on all the rods and piping
belonging to that particular windmill. With a tireless energy for one
of his years, Uncle Lance rode the range, until he could have told at
a distance one half his holdings of cattle by flesh marks alone. A few
days before the date set for the trial, Enrique brought in word one
evening that an outfit of strange men were encamped north of the river
on the Ganso Tract. The vaquero was unable to make out their business,
but was satisfied they were not there for pleasure, so my employer and I
made an early start the next morning to see who the campers were. On the
extreme northwestern corner of our range, fully twenty-five miles from
headquarters, we met them and found they were a corps of engineers,
running a preliminary survey for a railroad. They were in the employ
of the International and Great Northern Company, which was then
contemplating extending their line to some point on the Rio Grande.
While there was nothing definite in this prior survey, it sounded a note
of warning; for the course they were running would carry the line up the
Ganso on the south side of the river, passing between the new tanks, and
leaving our range through a sag in the hills on the south end of the
grant. The engineer in charge very courteously informed my employer that
he was under instructions to run, from San Antonio to different points
on the river, three separate lines during the present summer. He also
informed us that the other two preliminary surveys would be run farther
west, and there was a possibility that the Las Palomas lands would be
missed entirely, a prospect that was very gratifying to Uncle Lance.

"Tom," said he, as we rode away, "I've been dreading this very thing for
years. It was my wish that I would never live to see the necessity of
fencing our lands, and to-day a railroad survey is being run across Las
Palomas. I had hoped that when I died, this valley would be an open
range and as primitive as the day of my coming to it. Here a railroad
threatens our peace, and the signs are on every hand that we'll have to
fence to protect ourselves. But let it come, for we can't stop it. If
I'm spared, within the next year, I'll secure every tract of land for
sale adjoining the ranch if it costs me a dollar an acre. Then if it
comes to the pinch, Las Palomas will have, for all time, land and to
spare. You haven't noticed the changes in the country, but nearly all
this chaparral has grown up, and the timber is twice as heavy along the
river as when I first settled here. I hate the sight even of a necessity
like a windmill, and God knows we have no need of a railroad. To a ranch
that doesn't sell fat beeves over once in ten years, transportation is
the least of its troubles."

About dusk on the evening of the day preceding the trial, June Deweese
and I rode into Shepherd's, expecting to remain overnight. Shortly after
our arrival, Tony Hunter hastily came in and informed us that he had
been unable to get hotel accommodations for his wife and Esther in
Oakville, and had it not been that they had old friends in the village,
all of them would have had to return to the ferry for the night. These
friends of the McLeod family told Hunter that the stage people had
coerced the two hotels into refusing them, and had otherwise prejudiced
the community in Oxenford's favor. Hunter had learned also that the
junior member of the stage firm had collected a crowd of hangers-on,
and being liberal in the use of money, had convinced the rabble of the
village that he was an innocent and injured party. The attorney for
Esther had arrived, and had cautioned every one interested on their side
of the case to be reserved and careful under every circumstance, as they
had a bitter fight on their hands.

The next morning all three of us rode into the village. Court had been
in session over a week, and the sheriff had sworn in several deputies
to preserve the peace, as there was considerable bitterness between
litigants outside the divorce case. These under-sheriffs made it a point
to see that every one put aside his arms on reaching the town, and tried
as far as lay in their power to maintain the peace. During the early
days of the reconstruction regime, before opening the term the presiding
judge had frequently called on the state for a company of Texas Rangers
to preserve order and enforce the mandates of the court. But in '79
there seemed little occasion for such a display of force, and a few
fearless officers were considered sufficient. On reaching the village,
we rode to the house where the women were awaiting us. Fortunately
there was ample corral room at the stable, so we were independent
of hostelries and liveries. Mrs. Hunter was the very reverse of her
husband, being a timid woman, while poor Esther was very nervous under
the dread of the coming trial. But we cheered them with our presence,
and by the time court opened, they had recovered their composure.

Our party numbered four women and five men. Esther lacked several
summers of being as old as her sister, while I was by five years the
youngest of the men, and naturally looked to my elders for leadership.
Having left our arms at the house, we entered the court-room in as
decorous and well-behaved a manner as if it had been a house of worship
and this a Sabbath morning. A peculiar stillness pervaded the room,
which could have been mistaken as an omen of peace, or the tension
similar to the lull before a battle. Personally I was composed, but as
I allowed my eyes from time to time to rest upon Esther, she had never
seemed so near and dear to me as in that opening hour of court. She
looked very pale, and moved by the subtle power of love, I vowed that
should any harm come to or any insulting word be spoken of her, my
vengeance would be sure and swift.

Court convened, and the case was called. As might have been expected,
the judge held that under the pleadings it was not a jury case. The
panel was accordingly excused for the day, and joined those curiously
inclined in the main body of the room. The complaining witnesses were
called, and under direct examination the essential facts were brought
forth, laying the foundation for a legal separation. The plaintiff was
the last witness to testify. As she told her simple story, a hushed
silence fell over the room, every spectator, from the judge on the bench
to the sheriff, being eager to catch every syllable of the recital. But
as in duty bound to a client, the attorney for the defendant, a young
man who had come from San Antonio to conduct the case, opened a sharp
cross-questioning. As the examination proceeded, an altercation between
the attorneys was prevented only by the presence of the sheriff and
deputies. Before the inquiry progressed, the attorney for the plaintiff
apologized to the court, pleading extenuating circumstances in the
offense offered to his client. Under his teachings, he informed the
court, the purity of womanhood was above suspicion, and no man who
wished to be acknowledged as a gentleman among his equals would impugn
or question the statement of a lady. The witness on the stand was more
to him than an ordinary client, as her father and himself had been young
men together, had volunteered under the same flag, his friend offering
up his life in its defense, and he spared to carry home the news of an
unmarked grave on a Southern battle-field. It was a privilege to him to
offer his assistance and counsel to-day to a daughter of an old comrade,
and any one who had the temerity to offer an affront to this witness
would be held to a personal account for his conduct.

The first day was consumed in taking testimony. The defense introduced
much evidence in rebuttal. Without regard to the truth or their oaths, a
line of witnesses were introduced who contradicted every essential point
of the plaintiff's case. When the credibility of their testimony was
attacked, they sought refuge in the technicalities of the law, and were
supported by rulings of the presiding judge. When Oxenford took the
stand in his own behalf, there were not a dozen persons present who
believed the perjured statements which fell from his lips. Yet when his
testimony was subjected to a rigid cross-questioning, every attempt to
reach the truth precipitated a controversy between attorneys as
bitter as it was personal. That the defendant at the bar had escaped
prosecution for swindling the government out of large sums of money for
a mail service never performed was well known to every one present,
including the judge, yet he was allowed to testify against the character
of a woman pure as a child, while his own past was protected from
exposure by rulings from the bench.

When the evidence was all in, court adjourned until the following day.
That evening our trio, after escorting the women to the home of their
friend, visited every drinking resort, hotel, and public house in the
village, meeting groups of Oxenford's witnesses, even himself as
he dispensed good cheer to his henchmen. But no one dared to say a
discourteous word, and after amusing ourselves by a few games of
billiards, we mounted our horses and returned to Shepherd's for the
night. As we rode along leisurely, all three of us admitted misgivings
as to the result, for it was clear that the court had favored the
defense. Yet we had a belief that the statutory grounds were sufficient,
and on that our hopes hung.

The next morning found our party in court at the opening hour. The
entire forenoon was occupied by the attorney for the plaintiff in
reviewing the evidence, analyzing and weighing every particle, showing
an insight into human motives which proved him a master in his
profession. After the noon recess, the young lawyer from the city
addressed the court for two hours, his remarks running from bombast to
flights of oratory, and from eulogies upon his client to praise of
the unimpeachable credibility of the witnesses for the defense. In
concluding, the older lawyer prefaced his remarks by alluding to the
divine intent in the institution of marriage, and contending that of
the two, women were morally the better. In showing the influence of the
stronger upon the weaker sex, he asserted that it was in the power of
the man to lift the woman or to sink her into despair. In his peroration
he rose to the occasion, and amid breathless silence, facing the court,
who quailed before him, demanded whether this was a temple of justice.
Replying to his own interrogatory, he dipped his brush in the sunshine
of life, and sketched a throne with womanhood enshrined upon it. While
chivalry existed among men, it mattered little, he said, as to the
decrees of courts, for in that higher tribunal, human hearts, woman
would remain forever in control. At his conclusion, women were
hysterical, and men were aroused from their usual languor by the
eloquence of the speaker. Had the judge rendered an adverse decision
at that moment, he would have needed protection; for to the men of the
South it was innate to be chivalrous to womanhood. But the court was
cautious, and after announcing that he would take the case under
advisement until morning, adjourned for the day.

All during the evening men stood about in small groups and discussed the
trial. The consensus of opinion was favorable to the plaintiff. But in
order to offset public opinion, Oxenford and a squad of followers made
the rounds of the public places, offering to wager any sum of money that
the decree would not be granted. Since feeling was running rather high,
our little party avoided the other faction, and as we were under the
necessity of riding out to the ferry for accommodation, concluded to
start earlier than the evening before. After saddling, we rode around
the square, and at the invitation of Deweese dismounted before a public
house for a drink and a cigar before starting. We were aware that the
town was against us, and to maintain a bold front was a matter of
necessity. Unbuckling our belts in compliance with the sheriff's orders,
we hung our six-shooters on the pommels of our saddles and entered the
bar-room. Other customers were being waited on, and several minutes
passed before we were served. The place was rather crowded, and as we
were being waited on, a rabble of roughs surged through a rear door, led
by Jack Oxenford. He walked up to within two feet of me where I stood
at the counter, and apparently addressing the barkeeper, as we were
charging our glasses, said in a defiant tone:--

"I'll bet a thousand dollars Judge Thornton refuses to grant a
separation between my wife and me."

The words flashed through me like an electric shock, and understanding
the motive, I turned on the speaker and with the palm of my hand dealt
him a slap in the face that sent him staggering back into the arms of
his friends. Never before or since have I felt the desire to take human
life which possessed me at that instant. With no means of defense in my
possession but a penknife, I backed away from him, he doing the like,
and both keeping close to the bar, which was about twenty feet long. In
one hand I gripped the open-bladed pocket knife, and, with the other
behind my back, retreated to my end of the counter as did Oxenford to
his, never taking our eyes off each other. On reaching his end of the
bar, I noticed the barkeeper going through motions that looked like
passing him a gun, and in the same instant some friend behind me laid
the butt of a pistol in my hand behind my back. Dropping the knife, I
shifted the six-shooter to my right hand, and, advancing on the object
of my hate, fired in such rapid succession that I was unable to tell
even whether my fire was being returned. When my gun was empty, the
intervening clouds of smoke prevented any view of my adversary; but my
lust for his life was only intensified when, on turning to my friends, I
saw Deweese supporting Hunter in his arms. Knowing that one or the other
had given me the pistol, I begged them for another to finish my work.
But at that moment the smoke arose sufficiently to reveal my enemy
crippling down at the farther end of the bar, a smoking pistol in his
hand. As Oxenford sank to the floor, several of his friends ran to his
side, and Deweese, noticing the movement, rallied the wounded man in his
arms. Shaking him until his eyes opened, June, exultingly as a savage,
cried, "Tony, for God's sake stand up just a moment longer. Yonder he
lies. Let me carry you over so you can watch the cur die." Turning to me
he continued: "Tom, you've got your man. Run for your life; don't let
them get you."

Passing out of the house during the excitement, I was in my saddle in an
instant, riding like a fiend for Shepherd's. The sun was nearly an hour
high, and with a good horse under me, I covered the ten miles to the
ferry in less than an hour. Portions of the route were sheltered by
timber along the river, but once as I crossed a rise opposite a large
bend, I sighted a posse in pursuit several miles to the rear. On
reaching Shepherd's, fortunately for me a single horse stood at the
hitch-rack. The merchant and owner of the horse came to the door as I
dashed up, and never offering a word of explanation, I changed horses.
Luckily the owner of the horse was Red Earnest, a friend of mine, and
feeling that they would not have long to wait for explanations, I shook
out the reins and gave him the rowel. I knew the country, and soon left
the river road, taking an air-line course for Las Palomas, which I
reached within two hours after nightfall. In few and profane words, I
explained the situation to my employer, and asked for a horse that would
put the Rio Grande behind me before morning. A number were on picket
near by, and several of the boys ran for the best mounts available. A
purse was forced into my pocket, well filled with gold. Meanwhile I had
in my possession an extra six-shooter, and now that I had a moment's
time to notice it, recognized the gun as belonging to Tony Hunter.
Filling the empty chambers, and waving a farewell to my friends, I
passed out by the rear and reached the saddle shed, where a well-known
horse was being saddled by dexterous hands. Once on his back, I soon
passed the eighty miles between me and the Rio Grande, which I swam on
my horse the next morning within an hour after sunrise.



Of my exile of over two years in Mexico, little need be said. By easy
stages, I reached the haciendas on the Rio San Juan where we had
received the cows in the summer of '77. The reception extended me was
all one could ask, but cooled when it appeared that my errand was one
of refuge and not of business. I concealed my offense, and was given
employment as corporal _segundo_ over a squad of vaqueros. But while
the hacienda to which I was attached was larger than Las Palomas, with
greater holdings in live-stock, yet my life there was one of penal
servitude. I strove to blot out past memories in the innocent pleasures
of my associates, mingling in all the social festivities, dancing with
the dark-eyed señoritas and gambling at every _fiesta_. Yet in the midst
of the dissipation, there was ever present to my mind the thought of
a girl, likewise living a life of loneliness at the mouth of the San

During my banishment, but twice did any word or message reach me from
the Nueces valley. Within a few months after my locating on the Rio San
Juan, Enrique Lopez, a trusted vaquero from Las Palomas, came to the
hacienda, apparently seeking employment. Recognizing me at a glance, at
the first opportunity he slipped me a letter unsigned and in an unknown
hand. After reading it I breathed easier, for both Hunter and Oxenford
had recovered, the former having been shot through the upper lobe of a
lung, while the latter had sustained three wounds, one of which resulted
in the loss of an arm. The judge had reserved his decision until the
recovery of both men was assured, but before the final adjournment of
court, refused the decree. I had had misgivings that this would be the
result, and the message warned me to remain away, as the stage company
was still offering a reward for my arrest. Enrique loitered around the
camp several days, and on being refused employment, made inquiry for a
ranch in the south and rode away in the darkness of evening. But we had
had several little chats together, in which the rascal delivered
many oral messages, one of which he swore by all the saints had been
intrusted to him by my own sweetheart while visiting at the ranch. But
Enrique was capable of enriching any oral message, and I was compelled
to read between the lines; yet I hope the saints, to whom he daily
prayed, will blot out any untruthful embellishments.

The second message was given me by Frank Nancrede, early in January,
'81. As was his custom, he was buying saddle horses at Las Palomas
during the winter for trail purposes, when he learned of my whereabouts
in Mexico. Deweese had given him directions where I could be found, and
as the Rio San Juan country was noted for good horses, Nancrede and a
companion rode directly from the Nueces valley to the hacienda where I
was employed. They were on the lookout for a thousand saddle horses, and
after buying two hundred from the ranch where I was employed, secured
my services as interpreter in buying the remainder. We were less than a
month in securing the number wanted, and I accompanied the herd to the
Rio Grande on its way to Texas. Nancrede offered me every encouragement
to leave Mexico, assuring me that Bethel & Oxenford had lost their mail
contract between San Antonio and Brownsville, and were now operating in
other sections of the state. He was unable to give me the particulars,
but frauds had been discovered in Star Route lines, and the government
had revoked nearly all the mail contracts in southern Texas. The trail
boss promised me a job with any of their herds, and assured me that a
cow hand of my abilities would never want a situation in the north.
I was anxious to go with him, and would have done so, but felt a
compunction which I did not care to broach to him, for I was satisfied
he would not understand.

The summer passed, during which I made it a point to meet other drovers
from Texas who were buying horses and cattle. From several sources the
report of Nancrede, that the stage line south from San Antonio was now
in new hands, was confirmed. One drover assured me that a national
scandal had grown out of the Star Route contracts, and several officials
in high authority had been arraigned for conspiracy to defraud. He
further asserted that the new contractor was now carrying the mail for
ten per cent, of what was formerly allowed to Bethel & Oxenford, and
making money at the reduced rate. This news was encouraging, and after
an exile of over two years and a half, I recrossed the Rio Grande on the
same horse on which I had entered. Carefully avoiding ranches where I
was known, two short rides put me in Las Palomas, reaching headquarters
after nightfall, where, in seclusion, I spent a restless day and night.

A few new faces were about the ranch, but the old friends bade me a
welcome and assured me that my fears were groundless. During the brief
time at my disposal, Miss Jean entertained me with numerous disclosures
regarding my old sweetheart. The one that both pleased and interested me
was that she was contented and happy, and that her resignation was due
to religious faith. According to my hostess's story, a camp meeting had
been held at Shepherd's during the fall after my banishment, by a sect
calling themselves Predestinarians. I have since learned that a belief
in a predetermined state is entertained by a great many good people, and
I admit it seems as if fate had ordained that Esther McLeod and I
should never wed. But it was a great satisfaction to know that she felt
resigned and could draw solace from a spiritual source, even though the
same was denied to me. During the last meeting between Esther and Miss
Jean, but a few weeks before, the former had confessed that there was
now no hope of our ever marrying.

As I had not seen my parents for several years, I continued my journey
to my old home on the San Antonio River. Leaving Las Palomas after
nightfall, I passed the McLeod ranch after midnight. Halting my horse to
rest, I reviewed the past, and the best reasoning at my command showed
nothing encouraging on the horizon. That Esther had sought consolation
from a spiritual source did not discourage me; for, under my
observation, where it had been put to the test, the love of man and wife
overrode it. But to expect this contented girl to renounce her faith and
become my wife, was expecting her to share with me nothing, unless it
was the chance of a felon's cell, and I remounted my horse and rode
away under a starry sky, somewhat of a fatalist myself. But I derived
contentment from my decision, and on reaching home no one could have
told that I had loved and lost. My parents were delighted to see me
after my extended absence, my sisters were growing fast into womanhood,
and I was bidden the welcome of a prodigal son. During this visit a new
avenue in life opened before me, and through the influence of my eldest
brother I secured a situation with a drover and followed the cattle
trail until the occupation became a lost one. My last visit to Las
Palomas was during the winter of 1894-95. It lacked but a few months of
twenty years since my advent in the Nueces valley. After the death of
Oxenford by small-pox, I had been a frequent visitor at the ranch,
business of one nature and another calling me there. But in this last
visit, the wonderful changes which two decades had wrought in the
country visibly impressed me, and I detected a note of decay in the
old ranch. A railroad had been built, passing within ten miles of the
western boundary line of the Ganso grant. The Las Palomas range had
been fenced, several large tracts of land being added after my severing
active connections with the ranch. Even the cattle, in spite of all the
efforts made for their improvement, were not so good as in the old days
of the open range, or before there was a strand of wire between the
Nueces and Rio Grande rivers. But the alterations in the country were
nothing compared to the changes in my old master and mistress. Uncle
Lance was nearing his eighty-second birthday, physically feeble, but
mentally as active as the first morning of our long acquaintance. Miss
Jean, over twenty years the junior of the ranchero, had mellowed into a
ripeness consistent with her days, and in all my aimless wanderings
I never saw a brother and sister of their ages more devoted to, or
dependent on each other.

On the occasion of this past visit, I was in the employ of a live-stock
commission firm. A member of our house expected to attend the cattle
convention at Forth Worth in the near future, and I had been sent into
the range sections to note the conditions of stock and solicit for my
employers. The spring before, our firm had placed sixty thousand cattle
for customers. Demand continued, and the house had inquiry sufficient to
justify them in sending me out to secure, of all ages, not less than a
hundred thousand steer cattle. And thus once more I found myself a guest
of Las Palomos.

"Don't talk cattle to me," said Uncle Lance, when I mentioned my
business; "go to June--he'll give you the ages and numbers. And whatever
you do, Tom, don't oversell us, for wire fences have cut us off, until
it seems like old friends don't want to neighbor any more. In the days
of the open range, I used to sell every hoof I had a chance to, but
since then things have changed. Why, only last year a jury indicted a
young man below here on the river for mavericking a yearling, and sent
him to Huntsville for five years. That's a fair sample of these modern
days. There isn't a cowman in Texas to-day who amounts to a pinch of
snuff, but got his start the same way, but if a poor fellow looks out of
the corner of his eye now at a critter, they imagine he wants to steal
it. Oh, I know them; and the bigger rustlers they were themselves on the
open range, the bitterer their persecution of the man who follows their

June Deweese was then the active manager of the ranch, and after
securing a classification of their salable stock, I made out a
memorandum and secured authority in writing, to sell their holdings at
prevailing prices for Nueces river cattle. The remainder of the day was
spent with my old friends in a social visit, and as we delved into the
musty past, the old man's love of the land and his matchmaking instincts
constantly cropped out.

"Tom," said he, in answer to a remark of mine, "I was an awful fool to
think my experience could be of any use to you boys. Every last rascal
of you went off on the trail and left me here with a big ranch to
handle. Gallup was no better than the rest, for he kept Jule Wilson
waiting until now she's an old maid. Sis, here, always called Scales a
vagabond, but I still believe something could have been made of him with
a little encouragement. But when the exodus of the cattle to the north
was at its height, he went off with a trail herd just like the rest of
you. Then he followed the trail towns as a gambler, saved money, and
after the cattle driving ended, married an adventuress, and that's the
end of him. The lack of a market was one of the great drawbacks to
ranching, but when the trail took every hoof we could breed and every
horse we could spare, it also took my boys. Tom, when you get old,
you'll understand that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. But I am
perfectly resigned now. In my will, Las Palomas and everything I have
goes to Jean. She can dispose of it as she sees fit, and if I knew she
was going to leave it to Father Norquin or his successor, my finger
wouldn't be raised to stop it. I spent a lifetime of hard work acquiring
this land, and now that there is no one to care for the old ranch, I
wash my hands of it."

Knowing the lifetime of self-sacrifice in securing the land of Las
Palomas, I sympathized with the old ranchero in his despondency.

"I never blamed you much, Tom," he resumed after a silence; "but
there's something about cattle life which I can't explain. It seems to
disqualify a man for ever making a good citizen afterward. He roams and
runs around, wasting his youth, and gets so foxy he never marries."

"But June and the widow made the riffle finally," I protested.

"Yes, they did, and that's something to the good, but they never had
any children. Waited ten years after Annear was killed, and then got
married. That was one of Jean's matches. Tom, you must go over and see
Juana before you go. There was a match that I made. Just think of it,
they have eight children, and Fidel is prouder over them than I ever was
of this ranch. The natives have never disappointed me, but the Caucasian
seems to be played out."

I remained overnight at the ranch. After supper, sitting in his chair
before a cheerful fire, Uncle Lance dozed off to sleep, leaving his
sister and myself to entertain each other. I had little to say of my
past, and the future was not encouraging, except there was always work
to do. But Miss Jean unfolded like the pages of an absorbing chronicle,
and gave me the history of my old acquaintances in the valley. Only a
few of the girls had married. Frances Vaux, after flirting away her
youth, had taken the veil in one of the orders in her church. My old
sweetheart was contentedly living a life of seclusion on the ranch on
which she was born, apparently happy, but still interested in any word
of me in my wanderings. The young men of my acquaintance, except where
married, were scattered wide, the whereabouts of nearly all of them
unknown. Tony Hunter had held the McLeod estate together, and it had
prospered exceedingly under his management. My old friend, Red Earnest,
who outrode me in the relay race at the tournament in June, '77, was
married and serving in the Customs Service on the Rio Grande as a
mounted river guard.

The next morning, I made the round of the Mexican quarters, greeting my
old friends, before taking my leave and starting for the railroad.
The cottage which had been built for Esther and me stood vacant and
windowless, being used only for a storehouse for _zacahuiste_. As I rode
away, the sight oppressed me; it brought back the June time of my youth,
even the hour and instant in which our paths separated. On reaching the
last swell of ground, several miles from the ranch, which would give me
a glimpse of headquarters, I halted my horse in a farewell view. The
sleepy old ranch cosily nestled among the encinal oaks revived a
hundred memories, some sad, some happy, many of which have returned in
retrospect during lonely hours since.


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