Reed Anthony, Cowman HTML version

XVIII. The Beginning Of The Boom
The great boom in cattle which began in 1880 and lasted nearly five years was
the beginning of a ruinous end. The frenzy swept all over the northern and
western half of the United States, extended into the British possessions in
western Canada, and in the receding wave the Texan forgot the pit from which
he was lifted and bowed down and worshiped the living calf. During this brief
period the great breeding grounds of Texas were tested to their utmost capacity
to supply the demand, the canebrakes of Arkansas and Louisiana were called
upon for their knotty specimens of the bovine race, even Mexico responded, and
still the insatiable maw of the early West called for more cattle. The whirlpool of
speculation and investment in ranches and range stock defied the deserts on the
west, sweeping across into New Mexico and Arizona, where it met a counter
wave pushing inland from California to possess the new and inviting pastures.
Naturally the Texan was the last to catch the enthusiasm, but when he found his
herds depleted to a remnant of their former numbers, he lost his head and
plunged into the vortex with the impetuosity of a gambler. Pasture lands that he
had scorned at ten cents an acre but a decade before were eagerly sought at two
and three dollars, and the cattle that he had bartered away he bought back at
double and triple their former prices.
How I ever weathered those years without becoming bankrupt is unexplainable.
No credit or foresight must be claimed, for the opinions of men and babes were
on a parity; yet I am inclined to think it was my dread of debt, coupled with an
innate love of land and cattle, that saved me from the almost universal fate of my
fellow cowmen. Due acknowledgment must be given my partners, for while I held
them in check in certain directions, the soundness of their advice saved my feet
from many a stumble. Major Hunter was an unusually shrewd man, a financier of
the rough and ready Western school; and while we made our mistakes, they
were such as human foresight could not have avoided. Nor do I withhold a word
of credit from our silent partner, the Senator, who was the keystone to the arch of
Hunter, Anthony & Co., standing in the shadow in our beginning as trail drovers,
backing us with his means and credit, and fighting valiantly for our mutual
interests when the firm met its Waterloo.
The success of our drive for the summer of 1880 changed all plans for the future.
I had learned that percentage was my ablest argument in suggesting a change of
policy, and in casting up accounts for the year we found that our heavy beeves
had paid the least in the general investment. The banking instincts of my partners
were unerring, and in view of the open market that we had enjoyed that summer
it was decided to withdraw from further contracting with the government. Our
profits for the year were dazzling, and the actual growth of our beeves in the
Outlet was in itself a snug fortune, while the five herds bought at the eleventh
hour cleared over one hundred thousand dollars, mere pin-money. I hurried