Reed Anthony, Cowman HTML version

XI. A Prosperous Year
An open winter favored the cattle on the Medicine River. My partners in Kansas
wrote me encouragingly, and plans were outlined for increasing our business for
the coming summer. There was no activity in live stock during the winter in
Texas, and there would be no trouble in putting up herds at prevailing prices of
the spring before. I spent an inactive winter, riding back and forth to my ranch,
hunting with hounds, and killing an occasional deer. While visiting at Council
Grove the fall before, Major Hunter explained to our silent partner the cheapness
of Texas lands. Neither one of my associates cared to scatter their interests
beyond the boundaries of their own State, yet both urged me to acquire every
acre of cheap land that my means would permit. They both recited the history
and growth in value of the lands surrounding The Grove, telling me how cheaply
they could have bought the same ten years before,--at the government price of a
dollar and a quarter an acre,--and that already there had been an advance of four
to five hundred per cent. They urged me to buy scrip and locate land, assuring
me that it was only a question of time until the people of Texas would arise in
their might and throw off the yoke of Reconstruction.
At home general opinion was just the reverse. No one cared for more land than a
homestead or for immediate use. No locations had been made adjoining my
ranch on the Clear Fork, and it began to look as if I had more land than I needed.
Yet I had confidence enough in the advice of my partners to reopen negotiations
with my merchant friend at Austin for the purchase of more land scrip. The panic
of the fall before had scarcely affected the frontier of Texas, and was felt in only a
few towns of any prominence in the State. There had been no money in
circulation since the war, and a financial stringency elsewhere made little
difference among the local people. True, the Kansas cattle market had sent a
little money home, but a bad winter with drovers holding cattle in the North,
followed by a panic, had bankrupted nearly every cowman, many of them with
heavy liabilities in Texas. There were very few banks in the State, and what little
money there was among the people was generally hoarded to await the dawn of
a brighter day.
My wife tells a story about her father, which shows similar conditions prevailing
during the civil war. The only outlet for cotton in Texas during the rebellion was
by way of Mexico. Matamoros, near the mouth of the Rio Grande, waxed opulent
in its trade of contrabrand cotton, the Texas product crossing the river anywhere
for hundreds of miles above and being freighted down on the Mexican side to
tide-water. The town did an immense business during the blockade of coast
seaports, twenty-dollar gold pieces being more plentiful then than nickels are to-
day, the cotton finding a ready market at war prices and safe shipment under
foreign flags. My wife's father was engaged in the trade of buying cotton at
interior points, freighting it by ox trains over the Mexican frontier, and thence
down the river to Matamoros. Once the staple reached neutral soil, it was palmed