Reed Anthony, Cowman HTML version

IX. The School Of Experience
Success had made me daring. And yet I must have been wandering aimlessly,
for had my ambition been well directed, there is no telling to what extent I might
have amassed a fortune. Opportunity was knocking at my gate, a giant young
commonwealth was struggling in the throes of political revolution, while I
wandered through it all like a blind man led by a child. Precedent was of little
value, as present environment controlled my actions. The best people in Texas
were doubtful of ever ridding themselves of the baneful incubus of
Reconstruction. Men on whose judgment I relied laughed at me for acquiring
more land than a mere homestead. Stock cattle were in such disrepute that they
had no cash value. Many a section of deeded land changed owners for a milk
cow, while surveyors would no longer locate new lands for the customary third,
but insisted on a half interest. Ranchmen were so indifferent that many never
went off their home range in branding the calf crop, not considering a ten or
twenty per cent loss of any importance. Yet through it all--from my Virginia
rearing--there lurked a wavering belief that some day, in some manner, these
lands and cattle would have a value. But my faith was neither the bold nor the
assertive kind, and I drifted along, clinging to any passing straw of opinion.
The Indians were still giving trouble along the Texas frontier. A line of
government posts, extending from Red River on the north to the Rio Grande on
the south, made a pretense of holding the Comanches and their allies in check,
while this arm of the service was ably seconded by the Texas Rangers. Yet in
spite of all precaution, the redskins raided the settlements at their pleasure,
stealing horses and adding rapine and murder to their category of crimes. Hence
for a number of years after my marriage we lived at the Edwards ranch as a
matter of precaution against Indian raids. I was absent from home so much that
this arrangement suited me, and as the new ranch was distant but a day's ride,
any inconvenience was more than recompensed in security. It was my intention
to follow the trail and trading, at the same time running a ranch where anything
unfit for market might be sent to mature or increase. As long as I could add to my
working capital, I was content, while the remnants of my speculations found a
refuge on the Clear Fork.
During the winter of 1871-72 very little of importance transpired. Several social
letters passed between Major Mabry and myself, in one of which he casually
mentioned the fact that land scrip had declined until it was offered on the streets
of the capital as low as twenty dollars a section. He knew I had been dabbling in
land certificates, and in a friendly spirit wanted to post me on their decline, and
had incidentally mentioned the fact for my information. Some inkling of horse
sense told me that I ought to secure more land, and after thinking the matter
over, I wrote to a merchant in Austin, and had him buy me one hundred sections.
He was very anxious to purchase a second hundred at the same figure, but it