At the War and Interior departments I made many friends. I understood cattle so thoroughly that there was no feature of a delivery to the government that embarrassed me in the least. A list of contracts to be let from each department was courteously furnished us, but not wishing to scatter our business too wide, we submitted bids for six Indian contracts and four for delivery to army posts on the upper Missouri River. Two of the latter were to be northern wintered cattle, and we had them on the Medicine River; but we also had a sure market on them, and it was a matter of indifference whether we secured them or not. The Indian contracts called for cows, and I was anxious to secure as many as possible, as it meant a market for the aging she stuff on my ranch. Heretofore this class had fulfilled their mission in perpetuating their kind, had lived their day, and the weeds grew rankly where their remains enriched the soil. The bids would not be opened until the middle of January, and we should have notice at once if fortunate in securing any of the awards. The holiday season was approaching, Major Hunter was expected at home, and the firm separated for the time being.
THE CENTENNIAL YEAR
I returned to Texas early in January. Quite a change had come over the situation since my leaving home the spring before. Except on the frontier, business was booming in the new towns, while a regular revolution had taken place within the past month in land values. The cheapness of wild lands had attracted outside capital, resulting in a syndicate being formed by Northern capitalists to buy up the outstanding issue of land scrip. The movement had been handled cautiously, and had possibly been in active operation for a year or more, as its methods were conducted with the utmost secrecy. Options had been taken on all scrip voted to corporations in the State and still in their possession, agents of the syndicate were stationed at all centres where any amount was afloat, and on a given day throughout the State every certificate on the market was purchased. The next morning land scrip was worth fifty dollars a section, and on my return one hundred dollars a certificate was being freely bid, while every surveyor in the State was working night and day locating lands for individual holders of scrip.
This condition of affairs was largely augmented by a boom in sheep. San Antonio was the leading wool market in the State, many clips having sold as high as forty cents a pound for several years past on the streets of that city. Free range and the high price of wool was inviting every man and his cousin to come to Texas and make his fortune. Money was feverish for investment in sheep, flock-masters were buying land on which to run their bands, and a sheepman was an envied personage. Up to this time there had been little or no occasion to own the land on which the immense flocks grazed the year round,