Reed Anthony, Cowman HTML version

XXI. The Fruits Of Conspiracy
With a loss of fully fifteen thousand cattle staring me in the face, I began planning
to recuperate the fortunes of the company. The cattle convention, which was
then over, was conspicuous by the absence of all Northern buyers. George
Edwards had attended the meeting, was cautious enough to make no contracts
for the firm, and fully warned me of the situation. I was in a quandary; with an idle
treasury of over a million, my stewardship would be subject to criticism unless I
became active in the interests of my company. On the other hand, a dangerous
cloud hung over the range, and until that was removed I felt like a man who was
sent for and did not want to go. The falling market in Texas was an
encouragement, but my experience of the previous winter had had a dampening
effect, and I was simply drifting between adverse winds. But once it was known
that I had returned home, my old customers approached me by letter and
personally, anxious to sell and contract for immediate delivery. Trail drovers were
standing aloof, afraid of the upper markets, and I could have easily bought
double my requirements without leaving the ranch. The grass was peeping here
and there, favorable reports came down from the reservation, and still I sat idle.
The appearance of Major Hunter acted like a stimulus. Reports about the new
administration were encouraging--not from our silent partner, who was not in
sympathy with the dominant party, but from other prominent stockholders who
were. The original trio--the little major, our segundo, and myself--lay around
under the shade of the trees several days and argued the possibilities that
confronted us on trail and ranch. Edwards reproached me for my fears, referring
to the time, nineteen years before, when as common hands we fought our way
across the Staked Plain and delivered the cattle safely at Fort Sumner. He even
taunted me with the fact that our employers then never hesitated, even if half the
Comanche tribe were abroad, roving over their old hunting grounds, and that now
I was afraid of a handful of army followers, contractors, and owners of bar
concessions. Edwards knew that I would stand his censure and abuse as long as
the truth was told, and with the major acting as peacemaker between us I was
finally whipped into line. With a fortune already in hand, rounding out my forty-
fifth year, I looted the treasury by contracting and buying sixty thousand cattle for
my company.
The surplus horses were ordered down from above, and the spring campaign
began in earnest. The old firm was to confine its operations to fine steers,
handling my personal contribution as before, while I rallied my assistants, and we
began receiving the contracted cattle at once. Observation had taught me that in
wintering beeves in the North it was important to give the animals every possible
moment of time to locate before the approach of winter. The instinct of a dumb
beast is unexplainable yet unerring. The owner of a horse may choose a range
that seems perfect in every appointment, but the animal will spurn the human