A Texas Matchmaker HTML version

XX. Shadows
Spring was now at hand after an unusually mild winter. With the breaking of the
drouth of the summer before there had sprung up all through the encinal and
sandy lands an immense crop of weeds, called by the natives _margoso_, fallow-
weed. This plant had thriven all winter, and the cattle had forsaken the best
mesquite grazing in the river bottoms to forage on it. The results showed that
their instinct was true; for with very rare exceptions every beef on the ranch was
fit for the butcher's block. Truly it was a year of fatness succeeding a lean one.
Never during my acquaintance with Las Palomas had I seen the cattle come
through a winter in such splendid condition. But now there was no market. Faint
rumors reached us of trail herds being put up in near-by counties, and it was
known that several large ranches in Nueces County were going to try the
experiment of sending their own cattle up the trail. Lack of demand was
discouraging to most ranchmen, and our range was glutted with heavy steer
The first spring work of any importance was gathering the horses to fill a contract
we had with Captain Byler. Previous to the herd which Deweese had sold and
delivered at Fort Worth the year before, our horse stock had amounted to about
four thousand head. With the present sale the ranch holdings would be much
reduced, and it was our intention to retain all _manadas_ used in the breeding of
mules. When we commenced gathering we worked over every one of our sixty
odd bands, cutting out all the fillies and barren mares. In disposing of whole
_manadas_ we kept only the geldings and yearlings, throwing in the old stallions
for good measure, as they would be worthless to us when separated from their
harems. In less than a week's time we had made up the herd, and as they were
all in the straight 'horse hoof' we did not road-brand them. While gathering them
we put them under day and night herd, throwing in five _remudas_ as we had
agreed, but keeping back the bell mares, as they were gentle and would be
useful in forming new bands of saddle horses. The day before the appointed time
for the delivery, the drover brought up saddle horses and enough picked mares
to make his herd number fifteen hundred.
The only unpleasant episode of the sale was a difference between Theodore
Quayle and my employer. Quayle had cultivated the friendship of the drover until
the latter had partially promised him a job with the herd, in case there was no
objection. But when Uncle Lance learned that Theodore expected to accompany
the horses, he took Captain Frank to task for attempting to entice away his men.
The drover entered a strong disclaimer, maintaining that he had promised Quayle
a place only in case it was satisfactory to all concerned; further, that in trail work
with horses he preferred Mexican vaqueros, and had only made the conditional
promise as a favor to the young man. Uncle Lance accepted the explanation and
apologized to the drover, but fell on Theodore Quayle and cruelly upbraided him
for forsaking the ranch without cause or reason. Theodore was speechless with