So with Little Jack Martin. He was a cripple and could not ride, but he could cook. If the way to rule men is through the stomach, Jack was a general who never knew defeat. The “J+H” camp, where he presided over the kitchen, was noted for good living. Jack’s domestic tastes followed him wherever he went, so that he surrounded himself at this camp with chickens, and a few cows for milk. During the spring months, when the boys were away on the various round-ups, he planted and raised a fine garden. Men returning from a hard month’s work would brace themselves against fried chicken, eggs, milk, and fresh vegetables. After drinking alkali water for a month and living out of tin cans, who wouldn’t love Jack? In addition to his garden, he always raised a fine patch of watermelons. This camp was an oasis in the desert. Every man was Jack’s friend, and an enemy was an unknown personage. The peculiarity about him, aside from his deformity, was his ability to act so much better than he could talk. In fact he could barely express his simplest wants in words.
Cripples are usually cross, irritable, and unpleasant companions. Jack was the reverse. His best qualities shone their brightest when there were a dozen men around to cook for. When they ate heartily he felt he was useful. If a boy was sick, Jack could make a broth, or fix a cup of beef tea like a mother or sister. When he went out with the wagon during beef-shipping season, a pot of coffee simmered over the fire all night for the boys on night herd. Men going or returning on guard liked to eat. The bread and meat left over from the meals of the day were always left convenient for the boys. It was the many little things that he thought of which made him such a general favorite with every one.
Little Jack was middle-aged when the proclamation of the President opening the original Oklahoma was issued. This land was to be thrown open in April. It was not a cow-country then, though it had been once. There was a warning in this that the Strip would be next. The dominion of the cowman was giving way to the homesteader. One day Jack found opportunity to take Miller, our foreman, into his confidence. They had been together five or six years. Jack had coveted a spot in the section which was to be thrown open, and he asked the foreman to help him get it. He had been all over the country when it was part of the range, and had picked out a spot on Big Turkey Creek, ten miles south of the Strip line. It gradually passed from one to another of us what Jack wanted. At first we felt blue about it, but Miller, who could see farther than the rest of us, dispelled the gloom by announcing at dinner, “Jack is going to take a claim if this outfit has a horse in it and a man to ride him. It is only a question of a year or two at the farthest until the rest of us will be guiding a white mule between two corn rows, and glad of the chance. If Jack goes now, he will have just that many years the start of the rest of us.”