Reed Anthony, Cowman HTML version

II. My Apprenticeship
During the winter of 1865-66 I corresponded with several of my old comrades in
Texas. Beyond a welcome which could not be questioned, little encouragement
was, with one exception, offered me among my old friends. It was a period of
uncertainty throughout the South, yet a cheerful word reached me from an old
soldier crony living some distance west of Fort Worth on the Brazos River. I had
great confidence in my former comrade, and he held out a hope, assuring me
that if I would come, in case nothing else offered, we could take his ox teams the
next winter and bring in a cargo of buffalo robes. The plains to the westward of
Fort Griffin, he wrote, were swarming with buffalo, and wages could be made in
killing them for their hides. This caught my fancy and I was impatient to start at
once; but the healing of my reopened wound was slow, and it was March before I
started. My brother gave me a good horse and saddle, twenty-five dollars in gold,
and I started through a country unknown to me personally. Southern Missouri
had been in sympathy with the Confederacy, and whatever I needed while
traveling through that section was mine for the asking. I avoided the Indian
Territory until I reached Fort Smith, where I rested several days with an old
comrade, who gave me instructions and routed me across the reservation of the
Choctaw Indians, and I reached Paris, Texas, without mishap.
I remember the feeling that I experienced while being ferried across Red River.
That watercourse was the northern boundary of Texas, and while crossing it I
realized that I was leaving home and friends and entering a country the very
name of which to the outside world was a synonym for crime and outlawry. Yet
some of as good men as ever it was my pleasure to know came from that State,
and undaunted I held a true course for my destination. I was disappointed on
seeing Fort Worth, a straggling village on the Trinity River, and, merely halting to
feed my mount, passed on. I had a splendid horse and averaged thirty to forty
miles a day when traveling, and early in April reached the home of my friend in
Paolo Pinto County. The primitive valley of the Brazos was enchanting, and the
hospitality of the Edwards ranch was typical of my own Virginia. George
Edwards, my crony, was a year my junior, a native of the State, his parents
having moved west from Mississippi the year after Texas won her independence
from Mexico. The elder Edwards had moved to his present home some fifteen
years previous, carrying with him a stock of horses and cattle, which had
increased until in 1866 he was regarded as one of the substantial ranchmen in
the Brazos valley. The ranch house was a stanch one, built at a time when
defense was to be considered as well as comfort, and was surrounded by fine
cornfields. The only drawback I could see there was that there was no market for
anything, nor was there any money in the country. The consumption of such a
ranch made no impression on the increase of its herds, which grew to maturity
with no demand for the surplus.