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In The Hands Of His Friends
There was a painting at the World's Fair at Chicago named "The Reply," in which the
lines of two contending armies were distinctly outlined. One of these armies had
demanded the surrender of the other. The reply was being written by a little fellow,
surrounded by grim veterans of war. He was not even a soldier. But in this little fellow's
countenance shone a supreme contempt for the enemy's demand. His patriotism beamed
out as plainly as did that of the officer dictating to him. Physically he was debarred from
being a soldier; still there was a place where he could be useful.
So with Little Jack Martin. He was a cripple and could not ride, but he could cook. If the
way to rule men is through the stomach, Jack was a general who never knew defeat. The
"J+H" camp, where he presided over the kitchen, was noted for good living. Jack's
domestic tastes followed him wherever he went, so that he surrounded himself at this
camp with chickens, and a few cows for milk. During the spring months, when the boys
were away on the various round-ups, he planted and raised a fine garden. Men returning
from a hard month's work would brace themselves against fried chicken, eggs, milk, and
fresh vegetables. After drinking alkali water for a month and living out of tin cans, who
wouldn't love Jack? In addition to his garden, he always raised a fine patch of
watermelons. This camp was an oasis in the desert. Every man was Jack's friend, and an
enemy was an unknown personage. The peculiarity about him, aside from his deformity,
was his ability to act so much better than he could talk. In fact he could barely express his
simplest wants in words.
Cripples are usually cross, irritable, and unpleasant companions. Jack was the reverse.
His best qualities shone their brightest when there were a dozen men around to cook for.
When they ate heartily he felt he was useful. If a boy was sick, Jack could make a broth,
or fix a cup of beef tea like a mother or sister. When he went out with the wagon during
beef-shipping season, a pot of coffee simmered over the fire all night for the boys on
night herd. Men going or returning on guard liked to eat. The bread and meat left over
from the meals of the day were always left convenient for the boys. It was the many little
things that he thought of which made him such a general favorite with every one.
Little Jack was middle-aged when the proclamation of the President opening the original
Oklahoma was issued. This land was to be thrown open in April. It was not a cow-
country then, though it had been once. There was a warning in this that the Strip would
be next. The dominion of the cowman was giving way to the homesteader. One day Jack
found opportunity to take Miller, our foreman, into his confidence. They had been
together five or six years. Jack had coveted a spot in the section which was to be thrown
open, and he asked the foreman to help him get it. He had been all over the country when
it was part of the range, and had picked out a spot on Big Turkey Creek, ten miles south
of the Strip line. It gradually passed from one to another of us what Jack wanted. At first
we felt blue about it, but Miller, who could see farther than the rest of us, dispelled the
gloom by announcing at dinner, "Jack is going to take a claim if this outfit has a horse in
it and a man to ride him. It is only a question of a year or two at the farthest until the rest