Reed Anthony, Cowman HTML version

XVII. Foreshadows
I returned to Texas early in September. My foreman on the Double Mountain
ranch had written me several times during the summer, promising me a surprise
on the half-blood calves. There was nothing of importance in the North except
the shipping of a few trainloads of beeves from our ranch in the Outlet, and as
the bookkeeper could attend to that, I decided to go back. I offered other excuses
for going, but home-hunger and the improved herd were the main reasons. It was
a fortunate thing that I went home, for it enabled me to get into touch with the
popular feeling in my adopted State over the outlook for live stock in the future.
Up to this time there had been no general movement in cattle, in sympathy with
other branches of industry, notably in sheep and wool, supply always far
exceeding demand. There had been a gradual appreciation in marketable steers,
first noticeable in 1876, and gaining thereafter about one dollar a year per head
on all grades, yet so slowly as not to disturb or excite the trade. During the fall of
1879, however, there was a feeling of unrest in cattle circles in Texas, and
predictions of a notable advance could be heard on every side. The trail had
been established as far north as Montana, capital by the millions was seeking
investment in ranching, and everything augured for a brighter future. That very
summer the trail had absorbed six hundred and fifty thousand cattle, or possibly
ten per cent of the home supply, which readily found a market at army posts,
Indian agencies, and two little cow towns in the North. Investment in Texas
steers was paying fifty to one hundred per cent annually, the whole Northwest
was turning into one immense pasture, and the feeling was general that the time
had come for the Lone Star State to expect a fair share in the profits of this
immense industry.
Cattle associations, organized for mutual protection and the promotion of
community interests, were active agencies in enlarging the Texas market.
National conventions were held annually, at which every live-stock organization
in the West was represented, and buyer and seller met on common ground. Two
years before the Cattle Raisers' Association of Texas was formed, other States
and Territories founded similar organizations, and when these met in national
assembly the cattle on a thousand hills were represented. No one was more
anxious than myself that a proper appreciation should follow the enlargement of
our home market, yet I had hopes that it would come gradually and not excite or
disturb settled conditions. In our contracts with the government, we were under
the necessity of anticipating the market ten months in advance, and any sudden
or unseen change in prices in the interim between submitting our estimates and
buying in the cattle to fill the same would be ruinous. Therefore it was important
to keep a finger on the pulse of the home market, to note the drift of straws, and
to listen for every rumor afloat. Lands in Texas were advancing in value, a
general wave of prosperity had followed self-government and the building of
railroads, and cattle alone was the only commodity that had not proportionally
risen in value.