A dugout was built on either end of the range. Major Hunter took the wagon and team and went to the nearest settlement, returning with a load of corn, having contracted for the delivery of five hundred bushels more. Meanwhile I was busy locating the cattle, scattering them sparsely over the surrounding country, cutting them into bunches of not more than ten to twenty head. Corrals and cosy shelters were built for a few horses, comfortable quarters for the men, and we settled down for the winter with everything snug and secure. By the first of December the force was reduced to four men at each camp, all of whom were experienced in holding cattle in the winter. Lines giving ample room to our cattle were established, which were to be ridden both evening and morning in any and all weather. Two Texans, both experts as trailers, were detailed to trail down any cattle which left the boundaries of the range. The weather continued fine, and with the camps well provisioned, the major and I returned to the railroad and took train for Council Grove. I was impatient to go home, and took the most direct route then available. Railroads were just beginning to enter the West, and one had recently been completed across the eastern portion of the Indian Territory, its destination being south of Red River. With nothing but the clothes on my back and a saddle, I started home, and within twenty-four hours arrived at Denison, Texas. Connecting stages carried me to Fort Worth, where I bought a saddle horse, and the next evening I was playing with the babies at the home ranch. It had been an active summer with me, but success had amply rewarded my labors, while every cloud had disappeared and the future was rich in promise.
A PROSPEROUS YEAR
An open winter favored the cattle on the Medicine River. My partners in Kansas wrote me encouragingly, and plans were outlined for increasing our business for the coming summer. There was no activity in live stock during the winter in Texas, and there would be no trouble in putting up herds at prevailing prices of the spring before. I spent an inactive winter, riding back and forth to my ranch, hunting with hounds, and killing an occasional deer. While visiting at Council Grove the fall before, Major Hunter explained to our silent partner the cheapness of Texas lands. Neither one of my associates cared to scatter their interests beyond the boundaries of their own State, yet both urged me to acquire every acre of cheap land that my means would permit. They both recited the history and growth in value of the lands surrounding The Grove, telling me how cheaply they could have bought the same ten years before,—at the government price of a dollar and a quarter an acre,—and that already there had been an advance of four to five hundred per cent. They urged me to buy scrip and locate land, assuring me that it was only a question of time until the people of Texas would arise in their might and throw off the yoke of Reconstruction.