The Western contingent returned home with some misgivings as to the future. Nothing was to be feared from the tribes from whom we were leasing, nor the Comanche and his allies on the southwest, though there were renegades in both; but the danger lay in the flotsam of the superior race which infested the frontier. I felt no concern for my personal welfare, riding in and out from Fort Reno at my will and pleasure, though I well knew that my presence on the reservation was a thorn in the flesh of my enemies. There was little to fear, however, as the latter class of men never met an adversary in the open, but by secret methods sought to accomplish their objects. The breach between the Indian agent and these parasites of the army was constantly widening, and an effort had been made to have the former removed, but our friends at the national capital took a hand, and the movement was thwarted. Fuel was being constantly added to the fire, and on our taking a third lease on a million acres, the smoke gave way to flames. Our usual pacific measures were pursued, buying out any cattle in conflict, but fencing our entire range. The last addition to our pasture embraced a strip of country twenty miles wide, lying north of and parallel to the two former leases, and gave us a range on which no animal need ever feel the restriction of a fence. Ten to fifteen acres were sufficient to graze a steer the year round, but owing to the fact that we depended entirely on running water, much of the range would be valueless during the dry summer months. I readily understood the advantages of a half-stocked range, and expected in the future to allow twenty-five acres in the summer and thirty in the winter to the pasture’s holdings. Everything being snug for the winter, orders were left to ride certain fences twice a day,—lines where we feared fence-cutting,—and I took my departure for home.
HOLDING THE FORT
As in many other lines of business, there were ebb and flood tides in cattle. The opening of the trail through to the extreme Northwest gave the range live stock industry its greatest impetus. There have always been seasons of depression and advances, the cycles covering periods of ten to a dozen years, the duration of the ebb and stationary tides being double that of the flood. Outside influences have had their bearing, and the wresting of an empire from its savage possessors in the West, and its immediate occupancy by the dominant race in ranching, stimulated cattle prices far beyond what was justified by the laws of supply and demand. The boom in live stock in the Southwest which began in the early ’80’s stands alone in the market variations of the last half-century. And as if to rebuke the folly of man and remind him that he is but grass, Nature frowned with two successive severe winters, humbling the kings and princes of the range.