Reed Anthony, Cowman HTML version

XIII. The Centennial Year
I returned to Texas early in January. Quite a change had come over the situation
since my leaving home the spring before. Except on the frontier, business was
booming in the new towns, while a regular revolution had taken place within the
past month in land values. The cheapness of wild lands had attracted outside
capital, resulting in a syndicate being formed by Northern capitalists to buy up the
outstanding issue of land scrip. The movement had been handled cautiously, and
had possibly been in active operation for a year or more, as its methods were
conducted with the utmost secrecy. Options had been taken on all scrip voted to
corporations in the State and still in their possession, agents of the syndicate
were stationed at all centres where any amount was afloat, and on a given day
throughout the State every certificate on the market was purchased. The next
morning land scrip was worth fifty dollars a section, and on my return one
hundred dollars a certificate was being freely bid, while every surveyor in the
State was working night and day locating lands for individual holders of scrip.
This condition of affairs was largely augmented by a boom in sheep. San Antonio
was the leading wool market in the State, many clips having sold as high as forty
cents a pound for several years past on the streets of that city. Free range and
the high price of wool was inviting every man and his cousin to come to Texas
and make his fortune. Money was feverish for investment in sheep, flock-masters
were buying land on which to run their bands, and a sheepman was an envied
personage. Up to this time there had been little or no occasion to own the land on
which the immense flocks grazed the year round, yet under existing cheap prices
of land nearly all the watercourses in the immediate country had been taken up.
Personally I was dumfounded at the sudden and unexpected change of affairs,
and what nettled me most was that all the land adjoining my ranch had been filed
on within the past month. The Clear Fork valley all the way up to Fort Griffin had
been located, while every vacant acre on the mother Brazos, as far north as
Belknap, was surveyed and recorded. I was mortified to think that I had been
asleep, but then the change had come like a thief in the night. My wife's trunk
was half full of scrip, I had had a surveyor on the ground only a year before, and
now the opportunity had passed.
But my disappointment was my wife's delight, as there was no longer any
necessity for keeping secret our holdings in land scrip. The little tin trunk held a
snug fortune, and next to the babies, my wife took great pride in showing visitors
the beautiful lithographed certificates. My ambition was land and cattle, but now
that the scrip had a cash value, my wife took as much pride in those vouchers as
if the land had been surveyed, recorded, and covered with our own herds. I had
met so many reverses that I was grateful for any smile of fortune, and bore my
disappointment with becoming grace. My ranch had branded over eight thousand