A Fall Of Crumbs
An active day followed. The two trail foremen left early to overtake their herds, and the
trio at the homestead was fully employed. The cripples were brought up, brands were
copied, and the commissary stores assorted and arranged. Before leaving, the men had
stretched the sunshade, and the wounded magician sat in state before his own tent door.
The second contingent numbered forty cattle. Like the first, they were a mixed lot, with
the exception of a gentle cow. Occasionally a trail foreman would provide his outfit with
a milk cow before starting, or gentle one en route, and Seay had willingly given his cow
to the hospital on the Beaver.
A fine rain fell during the night. It began falling during the twilight of evening, gathering
in force as the hours passed, and only ceased near the middle of the following forenoon.
The creek filled to its banks, the field and garden freshened in a day, and the new ranch
threw off the blight of summer drouth.
"This will bring the herds," said Forrest, as the sun burst forth at noon. "It's a general rain,
and every one in Dodge, now that water is sure, will pull out for the Platte River. It will
cool the weather and freshen the grass, and every drover with herds on the trail will push
forward for Ogalalla. We'll have to patrol the crossing on the Beaver, as the rain will lay
the dust for a week and rob us of our signal."
The crippled man's words proved prophetic. One of the boys was daily detailed to ride to
the first divide south, from which a herd, if timing its march to reach the Beaver within a
day, could be sighted. On a primal trace, like the Texas and Montana cattle trail, every
benefit to the herd was sought, and the freshened range and running water were a
welcome breeze to the drover's sail.
The first week after the rain only three herds reached the Beaver. Each foreman paid his
respects to Forrest at the homestead, but the herds were heavy beef cattle, purchased at
Dodge for delivery on army contracts, and were outfitted anew on a change of owners.
The usual flotsam of crippled and stray cattle, of galled and lame saddle stock, and of
useless commissary supplies, was missing, and only the well wishes of the wayfaring
were left to hearten man and boy at the new ranch.
The second week brought better results. Four of Don Lovell's herds passed within two
days, and the nucleus of cattle increased to one hundred and forty odd, seven crippled
horses were left, while the commissary stores fairly showered, a second wagon load
being necessary to bring up the cache from the trail crossing. In all, during the week,
fifteen herds passed, only three of which refused the invitation to call, while one was
merely drifting along in search of a range to take up and locate with a herd of cattle. Its
owners, new men in the occupation, were scouting wide, and when one of them
discovered Hackberry Grove above the homestead, his delight was unbounded, as the
range met every requirement for establishing a ranch.