AROUND THE SPADE WAGON
It was an early spring. The round-up was set for the 10th of June. The grass was well forward, while the cattle had changed their shaggy winter coats to glossy suits of summer silk. The brands were as readable as an alphabet.
It was one day yet before the round-up of the Cherokee Strip. This strip of leased Indian lands was to be worked in three divisions. We were on our way to represent the Coldwater Pool in the western division, on the annual round-up. Our outfit was four men and thirty horses. We were to represent a range that had twelve thousand cattle on it, a total of forty-seven brands. We had been in the saddle since early morning, and as we came out on a narrow divide, we caught our first glimpse of the Cottonwoods at Antelope Springs, the rendezvous for this division. The setting sun was scarcely half an hour high, and the camp was yet five miles distant. We had covered sixty miles that day, traveling light, our bedding lashed on gentle saddle horses. We rode up the mesa quite a little distance to avoid some rough broken country, then turned southward toward the Springs. Before turning off, we could see with the naked eye signs of life at the meeting-point. The wagon sheets of half a dozen chuck-wagons shone white in the dim distance, while small bands of saddle horses could be distinctly seen grazing about.
When we halted at noon that day to change our mounts, we sighted to the northward some seven miles distant an outfit similar to our own. We were on the lookout for this cavalcade; they were supposed to be the “Spade” outfit, on their way to attend the round-up in the middle division, where our pasture lay. This year, as in years past, we had exchanged the courtesies of the range with them. Their men on our division were made welcome at our wagon, and we on theirs were extended the same courtesy. For this reason we had hoped to meet them and exchange the chronicle of the day, concerning the condition of cattle on their range, the winter drift, and who would be captain this year on the western division, but had traveled the entire day without meeting a man.
Night had almost set in when we reached the camp, and to our satisfaction and delight found the Spade wagon already there, though their men and horses would not arrive until the next day. To hungry men like ourselves, the welcome of their cook was hospitality in the fullest sense of the word. We stretched ropes from the wagon wheels, and in a few moments’ time were busy hobbling our mounts. Darkness had settled over the camp as we were at this work, while an occasional horseman rode by with the common inquiry, “Whose outfit is this?” and the cook, with one end of the rope in his hand, would feel the host in him sufficiently to reply in tones supercilious, “The Coldwater Pool men are with us this year.”