A College Vagabond
The ease and apparent willingness with which some men revert to an aimless life can best
be accounted for by the savage or barbarian instincts of our natures. The West has
produced many types of the vagabond,--it might be excusable to say, won them from
every condition of society. From the cultured East, with all the advantages which wealth
and educational facilities can give to her sons, they flocked; from the South, with her
pride of ancestry, they came; even the British Isles contributed their quota. There was
something in the primitive West of a generation or more ago which satisfied them.
Nowhere else could it be found, and once they adapted themselves to existing conditions,
they were loath to return to former associations.
About the middle of the fifties, there graduated from one of our Eastern colleges a young
man of wealthy and distinguished family. His college record was good, but close
application to study during the last year had told on his general health. His ambition,
coupled with a laudable desire to succeed, had buoyed up his strength until the final
graduation day had passed.
Alexander Wells had the advantage of a good physical constitution. During the first year
at college his reputation as an athlete had been firmly established by many a hard fought
contest in the college games. The last two years he had not taken an active part in them,
as his studies had required his complete attention. On his return home, it was thought by
parents and sisters that rest and recreation would soon restore the health of this
overworked young graduate, who was now two years past his majority. Two months of
rest, however, failed to produce any improvement, but the family physician would not
admit that there was immediate danger, and declared the trouble simply the result of
overstudy, advising travel. This advice was very satisfactory to the young man, for he had
a longing to see other sections of the country.
The elder Wells some years previously had become interested in western and southern
real estate, and among other investments which he had made was the purchase of an old
Spanish land grant on a stream called the Salado, west of San Antonio, Texas. These land
grants were made by the crown of Spain to favorite subjects. They were known by name,
which they always retained when changing ownership. Some of these tracts were princely
domains, and were bartered about as though worthless, often changing owners at the
So when travel was suggested to Wells, junior, he expressed a desire to visit this family
possession, and possibly spend a winter in its warm climate. This decision was more
easily reached from the fact that there was an abundance of game on the land, and being a
devoted sportsman, his own consent was secured in advance. No other reason except that
of health would ever have gained the consent of his mother to a six months' absence. But
within a week after reaching the decision, the young man had left New York and was on
his way to Texas. His route, both by water and rail, brought him only within eighty miles
of his destination, and the rest of the distance he was obliged to travel by stage.