“Hold on a minute, Jim,” said Officer. “We’re in rags; we need some clothes. We’ve been in town long enough, and we’ve got the price, but it’s been such a busy afternoon with us that we simply haven’t had the time.”
Straw took our part, and Flood giving in, we entered a general outfitting store, from which we emerged within a quarter of an hour, wearing cheap new suits, the color of which we never knew until the next day. Then bidding Straw a hearty farewell, we rode for the North Platte, on which the herd would encamp. As we scaled the bluffs, we halted for our last glimpse of the lights of Ogalalla, and The Rebel remarked, “Boys, I’ve traveled some in my life, but that little hole back there could give Natchez-under-the-hill cards and spades, and then outhold her as a tough town.”
THE NORTH PLATTE
It was now July. We had taken on new supplies at Ogalalla, and a week afterwards the herd was snailing along the North Platte on its way to the land of the Blackfeet. It was always hard to get a herd past a supply point. We had the same trouble when we passed Dodge. Our long hours in the saddle, coupled with the monotony of our work, made these supply points of such interest to us that they were like oases in desert lands to devotees on pilgrimage to some consecrated shrine. We could have spent a week in Ogalalla and enjoyed our visit every blessed moment of the time. But now, a week later, most of the headaches had disappeared and we had settled down to our daily work.
At Horse Creek, the last stream of water before entering Wyoming, a lad who cut the trail at that point for some cattle companies, after trimming us up, rode along for half a day through their range, and told us of an accident which happened about a week before. The horse of some peeler, working with one of Shanghai Pierce’s herds, acted up one morning, and fell backward with him so that his gun accidentally discharged. The outfit lay over a day and gave him as decent a burial as they could. We would find the new-made grave ahead on Squaw Creek, beyond the crossing, to the right hand side in a clump of cottonwoods. The next day, while watering the herd at this creek, we all rode over and looked at the grave. The outfit had fixed things up quite nicely. They had built a square pen of rough cottonwood logs around the grave, and had marked the head and foot with a big flat stone, edged up, heaping up quite a mound of stones to keep the animals away. In a tree his name was cut—sounded natural, too, though none of us knew him, as Pierce always drove from the east coast country. There was nothing different about this grave from the hundreds of others which made landmarks on the Old Western Trail, except it was the latest.
That night around the camp-fire some of the boys were moved to tell their experiences. This accident might happen to any of us, and it seemed rather short notice to a man enjoying life, even though his calling was rough.