I returned to Texas early in September. My foreman on the Double Mountain ranch had written me several times during the summer, promising me a surprise on the half-blood calves. There was nothing of importance in the North except the shipping of a few trainloads of beeves from our ranch in the Outlet, and as the bookkeeper could attend to that, I decided to go back. I offered other excuses for going, but home-hunger and the improved herd were the main reasons. It was a fortunate thing that I went home, for it enabled me to get into touch with the popular feeling in my adopted State over the outlook for live stock in the future. Up to this time there had been no general movement in cattle, in sympathy with other branches of industry, notably in sheep and wool, supply always far exceeding demand. There had been a gradual appreciation in marketable steers, first noticeable in 1876, and gaining thereafter about one dollar a year per head on all grades, yet so slowly as not to disturb or excite the trade. During the fall of 1879, however, there was a feeling of unrest in cattle circles in Texas, and predictions of a notable advance could be heard on every side. The trail had been established as far north as Montana, capital by the millions was seeking investment in ranching, and everything augured for a brighter future. That very summer the trail had absorbed six hundred and fifty thousand cattle, or possibly ten per cent of the home supply, which readily found a market at army posts, Indian agencies, and two little cow towns in the North. Investment in Texas steers was paying fifty to one hundred per cent annually, the whole Northwest was turning into one immense pasture, and the feeling was general that the time had come for the Lone Star State to expect a fair share in the profits of this immense industry.
Cattle associations, organized for mutual protection and the promotion of community interests, were active agencies in enlarging the Texas market. National conventions were held annually, at which every live-stock organization in the West was represented, and buyer and seller met on common ground. Two years before the Cattle Raisers’ Association of Texas was formed, other States and Territories founded similar organizations, and when these met in national assembly the cattle on a thousand hills were represented. No one was more anxious than myself that a proper appreciation should follow the enlargement of our home market, yet I had hopes that it would come gradually and not excite or disturb settled conditions. In our contracts with the government, we were under the necessity of anticipating the market ten months in advance, and any sudden or unseen change in prices in the interim between submitting our estimates and buying in the cattle to fill the same would be ruinous. Therefore it was important to keep a finger on the pulse of the home market, to note the drift of straws, and to listen for every rumor afloat. Lands in Texas were advancing in value, a general wave of prosperity had followed self-government and the building of railroads, and cattle alone was the only commodity that had not proportionally risen in value.