“I met old ‘Says I’ Littlefield,” said Nat, “back at the ford of the Republican, and he tells me that they won over five hundred dollars off this Circle Dot outfit on a horse race. He showed me a whole basketful of your watches. I used to meet old ‘Says I’ over on the Chisholm trail, and he’s a foxy old innocent. He told me that he put tar on his harness mare’s back to see if you fellows had stolen the nag off the picket rope at night, and when he found you had, he robbed you to a finish. He knew you fool Texans would bet your last dollar on such a cinch. That’s one of his tricks. You see the mare you tried wasn’t the one you ran the race against. I’ve seen them both, and they look as much alike as two pint bottles. My, but you fellows are easy fish!”
And then Jim Flood lay down on the grass and laughed until the tears came into his eyes, and we understood that there were tricks in other trades than ours.
From the head of Stinking Water to the South Platte was a waterless stretch of forty miles. But by watering the herd about the middle of one forenoon, after grazing, we could get to water again the following evening. With the exception of the meeting with Nat Straw, the drive was featureless, but the night that Nat stayed with us, he regaled us with his experiences, in which he was as lucky as ever. Where we had lost three days on the Canadian with bogged cattle, he had crossed it within fifteen minutes after reaching it. His herd was sold before reaching Dodge, so that he lost no time there, and on reaching Slaughter’s bridge, he was only two days behind our herd. His cattle were then en route for delivery on the Crazy Woman in Wyoming, and, as he put it, “any herd was liable to travel faster when it had a new owner.”
Flood had heard from our employer at Culbertson, learning that he would not meet us at Ogalalla, as his last herd was due in Dodge about that time. My brother Bob’s herd had crossed the Arkansaw a week behind us, and was then possibly a hundred and fifty miles in our rear.
We all regretted not being able to see old man Don, for he believed that nothing was too good for his men, and we all remembered the good time he had shown us in Dodge. The smoke of passing trains hung for hours in signal clouds in our front, during the afternoon of the second day’s dry drive, but we finally scaled the last divide, and there, below us in the valley of the South Platte, nestled Ogalalla, the Gomorrah of the cattle trail. From amongst its half hundred buildings, no church spire pointed upward, but instead three fourths of its business houses were dance halls, gambling houses, and saloons. We all knew the town by reputation, while the larger part of our outfit had been in it before. It was there that Joel Collins and his outfit rendezvoused when they robbed the Union Pacific train in October,