On arriving at the Edwards ranch, we halted a few days in order to gather the fruits of my first mavericking. The fall work was nearly finished, and having previously made arrangements to put my brand under herd, we received two hundred and fifty more, with seventy-five thrifty calves, before proceeding on to the new ranch on the Clear Fork. On arriving there we branded the calves, put the two brands under herd, corralling them at night and familiarizing them with their new home, and turning them loose at the end of two weeks. Moving cattle in the fall was contrary to the best results, but it was an idle time, and they were all young stuff and easily located. During the interim of loose-herding this second contingent of stock cattle, the branding had been finished on the ranch, and I was able to take an account of my year’s work. The “Lazy L” was continued, and from that brand alone there was an increase of over seventeen hundred calves. With all the expenses of the trail deducted, the steer cattle alone had paid for the entire brand, besides adding over five thousand dollars to my cash capital. Who will gainsay my statement that Texas was a good country in the year 1871?
THE SCHOOL OF EXPERIENCE
Success had made me daring. And yet I must have been wandering aimlessly, for had my ambition been well directed, there is no telling to what extent I might have amassed a fortune. Opportunity was knocking at my gate, a giant young commonwealth was struggling in the throes of political revolution, while I wandered through it all like a blind man led by a child. Precedent was of little value, as present environment controlled my actions. The best people in Texas were doubtful of ever ridding themselves of the baneful incubus of Reconstruction. Men on whose judgment I relied laughed at me for acquiring more land than a mere homestead. Stock cattle were in such disrepute that they had no cash value. Many a section of deeded land changed owners for a milk cow, while surveyors would no longer locate new lands for the customary third, but insisted on a half interest. Ranchmen were so indifferent that many never went off their home range in branding the calf crop, not considering a ten or twenty per cent loss of any importance. Yet through it all—from my Virginia rearing—there lurked a wavering belief that some day, in some manner, these lands and cattle would have a value. But my faith was neither the bold nor the assertive kind, and I drifted along, clinging to any passing straw of opinion.