pmsaba.jpg (37597 bytes)
by Peru, Pen name for an anonymous Author
San Saba County News, December 23, 1882

 

cowboy.JPG (26118 bytes)      It is now twelve years since the writer of this, broken in health and fortune, caught the first glimpse of San Saba town.  Coming from Louisiana to Marshall, the terminus of the Southern Pacific Railroad, he bought a pony and a map, made for San Saba, some four hundred miles distant, his objective point; traveled roads when he found them and a south-westerly course when he couldn’t, till at length, worn out with sickness and fatigue he reached San Saba. 

       It was said to be the only town in that part of Texas built without the aid and protection of a military force and the writer had a curiosity to see it and its people, and a desire too, perhaps, to settle among them, far beyond the jars and discords of civilization.. About 4 o’clock Saturday evening he entered by the Brownwood road and found the town nearly as large on the map as it was on the ground.  It was called a “town” as a matter of courtesy doubtless, and the fact of its being built without military protection wasn’t after all no great thing to brag about.

            Saturday at that time was a great day in San Saba.  As many men as could be spared in the remote settlements would come together for protection against marauding bands of Indians, and do their milling and trading on that day.  Cattlemen and their hands would also come in to trade and for general recreation.  Those “hands” were usually adventurous spirits who feared nothing on the earth, or under the earth – laws and Indians included.

            Upon our entrance some twelve or fifteen of these were making a pony race – a kind of extemporized steeplechase from the grave yard to the old Doby Saloon, the terms being that the last man in the saloon should “set ‘em up” all around.  A fellow on a little Spanish mule that got frightened, outran the crowd but couldn’t hold him up till he got forty yards or more by the saloon.  Finding that he would be the last one in, he started across the square in a lope, and the others noting the dodge, sent two of their number in hot pursuit who succeeded in “roping” the escaping rider back in triumph.  There was a good deal of jibing at the expense of the loser but it was given and received in the most perfect good humor, and he proceeded at once with the business “before the meeting”.  Each of these had a revolver strapped around him and a Winchester rifle hung to his saddle.  In fact we found everybody thus equipped – for a person was liable to meet a band of hostile Indians at any time and in any place, and once met, cold lead was the compliments exchanged, no quarter being asked or given by neither side.

            And it is a fact worth noting that not a single homicide except in Indian fights occurred in San Saba till the carrying of arms was prohibited by law.  Whether the ill feeling engendered among men sometimes was spent in frequent encounters with Indians or whether the early settlers were exceptionally good natured – certain it is, that the writer never found a people who seemed to move among each other with less friction.  They were hospitable to a degree unknown elsewhere – went to each other’s wedding uninvited but not unwelcome – rode twenty miles to a dance – and equally as far to visit a sick acquaintance, and when misfortune overtook one, he was generously aided.  But few of these pioneers are left, or at least they form but a small percentage of the population, and we can therefore, discuss them with greater freedom.

            Well, having recruited and rested up we engaged in the only legitimate business carried on outside of town – the cow business.  In the first days of April, ’71, we, in the company with eight others, twenty-four ponies, and a “grub” wagon, started for Brady.  At that time Brady, a creek many miles long – now dotted with ranches – didn’t contain a single inhabitant.  The cattle from the north drifted there during the winter and the good shelter and fine grass made it a sort of cow paradise, and therefore a rallying point for cowmen in the early spring.  We struck the creek about twenty miles above the mouth and the valley, from this point to its head, is from one to two miles wide, along an inclined plate, stretching seventy miles to the westward the gradual and almost uniform rise extending to the horizon to double the usual distance.   Our first view of it was from one of its high flanking hills.  The short green grass and flowers of every hue covered the valley.  Here was nature pure, simple and inimitable.  No wonder the Indian fought furiously to prevent the white man from desecrating this beautiful “garden of the gods”.

            Towards noon the cattle began to come in for water, and in two hours the valley was one living, moving, animated panorama.

            Now was our time.  Four of us galloped straight across the valley and four remained on this side.  The cattle were as wild as deer, and would flee from an approaching horseman in the greatest terror.  On reaching the foothills the leader turns to the right, west in a long swinging gallop, and when about two hundred yards off, the next one strikes out after him; the second having gone two hundred yards, the third joins the pursuit and so on.  There is a corresponding movement among the four men on this side of the valley.  The cattle, frightened beyond measure, run from either side, meet in the middle of the valley and stop.   After running about three miles the leaders, still pursued by their respective followers, describe a curve, the one to the right, the other to the left, and meet at the end of this window of terrified bovines.  

The leaders make a momentary halt, to enable their followers to close up, turn on either side, gallop on down about a hundred yards from the cattle and forty yards in advance of the next man behind, who keeps still nearer to them, two men being at the end rolling up the line.   We advance in this way till the first starting point is reached, when the leaders swing together and meet at the lower end of it, then for a few minutes all ride in a circle around the cattle and the “round up” is finishes, and they stand as quietly as if in a corral.  At this time very horse and every man is dripping with sweat, and we ride around awhile in a walk to cool off. 

Now comes the “cutting out”.  Every one of these has a brand burned with a hot iron on its hide, and an ear mark, which is a matter of record in the county of the owner’s residence and we wanted only such cattle was had authority for [illegible section, approximately two lines] ride to the ‘grub wagon, near which the loose horses are grazing, and saddle two fresh horses, expert in what was to follow.  These are called “cutting out ponies”.  They return, ride into the herd, drive out twelve or fifteen head, at random, about two hundred yards from the main herd, stop them and place two men in charge.  Two other men are placed in the interval between the herds, the reminder stay and hold the big herd.

Now the “cutters” ride in among the cattle, each finds one that he wants, drives it quietly to the edge, drives the spurs into his horse – cow tries to get out of the way and is thirty yards from the edge before she knows what’s the matter. She then tries to get back, when the pony, springing, twisting and jumping half a dozen ways at once, heads her off, drives her a little further – when the man in the interval gallops up and drives her to the cut out “bunch”.  This is repeated till the heard is cleaned.  It is then turned loose.  The nucleus is cut out of the “cut”, which is driven on up the creek, fresh horses are saddled – we all move on, and then comes another “round up”.

            This was the first time in life that I saw perfect horsemanship.  Three and a half years with Jeb Stuart made me think that I could show those Texans how to ride.  But after that day’s work I was satisfied with a back seat in this kind of circus. - PERU

 

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