“Big Dick told him about this incident, and the old man feeling his oats, as he leaned with his back against the bar, said to us with a noticeable degree of pride, ’Lads, I’m proud of every one of you. Men who will fight to protect my interests has my purse at their command. This year’s drive has been a success. Next year we will drive twice as many. I want every rascal of you to work for me. You all know how I mount, feed, and pay my men, and as long as my name is Erath and I own a cow, you can count on a job with me.’”
“But why did you take them back to the sand-hills to bury them?” cut in Lucy.
“Oh, that was Big Dick’s idea. He thought the sand would dig easier, and laziness guided every act of his life. That was five years ago, son, that this lower trail was made, and for the reasons I have just given you. No, I can’t tell you any more personal experiences to-night; I’m too sleepy.”
No State in the Union was ever called upon to meet and deal with the criminal element as was Texas. She was border territory upon her admission to the sisterhood of States.
An area equal to four ordinary States, and a climate that permitted of outdoor life the year round, made it a desirable rendezvous for criminals. The sparsely settled condition of the country, the flow of immigration being light until the seventies, was an important factor. The fugitives from justice of the older States with a common impulse turned toward this empire of isolation. Europe contributed her quota, more particularly from the south, bringing with them the Mafia and vendetta. Once it was the Ultima Thule of the criminal western world. From the man who came for not building a church to the one who had taken human life, the catalogue of crime was fully represented.
Humorous writers tell us that it was a breach of good manners to ask a man his name, or what State he was from, or to examine the brand on his horse very particularly. It can be safely said that there was a great amount of truth mingled with the humor. Some of these fugitives from justice became good citizens, but the majority sooner or later took up former callings.
Along with this criminal immigration came the sturdy settler, the man intent on building a home and establishing a fireside. Usually following lines of longitude, he came from other Southern States. He also brought with him the fortitude of the pioneer that reclaims the wilderness and meets any emergency that confronts him. To meet and deal with this criminal element as a matter of necessity soon became an important consideration. His only team of horses was frequently stolen. His cattle ran off their range, their ear-marks altered and brands changed. Frequently it was a band of neighbors, together in a posse, who followed and brought to bay the marauders. It was an unlucky moment for a horse-thief when he was caught in possession of another man’s horse. The impromptu court of emergency had no sentiment in regard to passing sentence of death. It was a question of guilt, and when that was established, Judge Lynch passed sentence.