“If we stock the range fully this fall,” said Joel, in outlining his plans, “it is my intention to build an emergency camp on this creek, in case of winter drifts. Build a dug-out in some sheltered nook, cache a little provision and a few sacks of corn, and if the cattle break the line, we can ride out of snug quarters any morning and check them. It beats waiting for a wagon and giving the drift a twenty-mile start. We could lash our blankets on a pack horse and ride it night or day.”
“What a long head!” approvingly said Sargent. “Joel, you could almost eat out of a churn. An emergency camp on the Prairie Dog is surely a meaty idea. But that’s for next winter, and beef shipping’s on in full blast right now. Let’s ride; supper’s waiting on the Beaver.”
LIVING IN THE SADDLE
The glow of a smouldering camp-fire piloted the returning horsemen safely to their wagon. A good night’s rest fitted them for the task of the day, which began at sunrise. The next shipment would come from the flotsam of the year before, many of which were heavy beeves, intended for army delivery, but had fallen footsore on the long, drouthy march. The past winter had favored the lame and halt, and after five months of summer, the bulk of them had matured into finished beef.
By shipping the different contingents separately, the brothers were enabled to know the situation at all times. No accounts were kept, but had occasion required, either Joel or Dell could have rendered a statement from memory of returns on the double and single wintered, as well as on the purchased cattle. Sale statements were furnished by the commission house, and by filing these, an account of the year’s shipments, each brand separate, could be made up at the end of the season.
The early struggle of Wells Brothers, in stocking their range, was now happily over. Instead of accepting the crumbs which fell as their portion, their credit and resources enabled them to choose the class of cattle which promised growth and quick returns. The range had proven itself in maturing beef, and the ranch thereafter would carry only sufficient cows to quiet and pacify its holdings of cattle.
“If this was my ranch,” said Sargent to the brothers at breakfast, “I’d stock it with two-year-old steers and double-winter every hoof. Look over those sale statements and you’ll see what two winters mean. That first shipment of Lazy H’s was as fat as mud, and yet they netted seven dollars a head less than those rag-tag, double-wintered ones. There’s a waste that must be saved hereafter.”
“That’s our intention,” said Joel. “We’ll ship out every hoof that has the flesh this year. Nearly any beef will buy three two-year-old steers to take his place. It may take another year or two to shape up our cattle, but after that, every hoof must be double-wintered.”