“Yes, indeed,” admitted Sargent. “There’s nothing develops a man like settling up a new country. It brings out every latent quality. In the West you can almost tell a man’s native heath by his ability to use baling wire, hickory withes, or rawhide.”
The instinct of cattle is reliable in selecting their own range. Within a week, depending on the degree of maturity, the herd, with unerring nutrient results, turns from one species of grass to another. The double-wintered cattle naturally returned to their former range; but in order to quicken the work, any beeves of that class found below were drifted above headquarters. It was a distinct advantage to leave the herd undisturbed, and with the first shipment drifted to one end of the range, a small round-up or two would catch all marketable beeves.
The engaged men arrived on the appointed date. The cook and wrangler were initiated into their respective duties at once. The wagon was equipped for the trail, vicious horses were gentled, and an ample mount allotted to the extra men. The latter were delighted over the saddle stock, and mounted to satisfy every desire, no task daunted their numbers. Sargent was recognized as foreman; but as the work was fully understood, the concerted efforts of all relieved him of any concern, except in arranging the details. The ranch had fallen heir to a complete camp kit, with the new wagon, and with a single day’s preparations, the shipping outfit stood ready to move on an hour’s notice.
It was no random statement, on the part of the solicitor, that Wells Brothers could choose the day on which to market their beef. Sargent had figured out the time, either forced or leisurely, to execute a shipment, and was rather impatient to try out the outfit in actual field work.
“Suppose we break in the outfit,” he suggested, “by taking a little swing around the range. It will gentle the horses, instruct the cook and wrangler, and give us all a touch of the real thing.”
Joel consulted a calendar. “We have four days before beginning to gather beeves,” he announced. “Let’s go somewhere and camp.”
“We’ll move to the old trail crossing at sun-up,” announced Sargent. “Roll your blankets in the morning, boys.”
A lusty shout greeted the declaration. It was the opening of the beef-shipping season, the harvest time of the year, and the boys were impatient to begin the work. But the best-laid plans are often interrupted. That evening a courier reached headquarters, bearing a message from the commission firm which read, “Have your double-wintered beeves on Saturday’s market.”
“That’s better,” said Sargent, glancing over the telegram. “The wagon and remuda will start for Hackberry Grove at sun-up. Have the messenger order ten cars for Friday morning. The shipment will be on Saturday’s market.”