Wells Brothers HTML version
Living In The Saddle
The glow of a smouldering camp-fire piloted the returning horsemen safely to their
wagon. A good night's rest fitted them for the task of the day, which began at sunrise.
The next shipment would come from the flotsam of the year before, many of which were
heavy beeves, intended for army delivery, but had fallen footsore on the long, drouthy
march. The past winter had favored the lame and halt, and after five months of summer,
the bulk of them had matured into finished beef.
By shipping the different contingents separately, the brothers were enabled to know the
situation at all times. No accounts were kept, but had occasion required, either Joel or
Dell could have rendered a statement from memory of returns on the double and single
wintered, as well as on the purchased cattle. Sale statements were furnished by the
commission house, and by filing these, an account of the year's shipments, each brand
separate, could be made up at the end of the season.
The early struggle of Wells Brothers, in stocking their range, was now happily over.
Instead of accepting the crumbs which fell as their portion, their credit and resources
enabled them to choose the class of cattle which promised growth and quick returns. The
range had proven itself in maturing beef, and the ranch thereafter would carry only
sufficient cows to quiet and pacify its holdings of cattle.
"If this was my ranch," said Sargent to the brothers at breakfast, "I'd stock it with two-
year-old steers and double-winter every hoof. Look over those sale statements and you'll
see what two winters mean. That first shipment of Lazy H's was as fat as mud, and yet
they netted seven dollars a head less than those rag-tag, double-wintered ones. There's a
waste that must be saved hereafter."
"That's our intention," said Joel. "We'll ship out every hoof that has the flesh this year.
Nearly any beef will buy three two-year-old steers to take his place. It may take another
year or two to shape up our cattle, but after that, every hoof must be double-wintered."
An hour after sunrise, the drag-net was drawing together the first round-up of the day.
The importance of handling heavy beeves without any excitement was fully understood,
and to gather a shipment without disturbing those remaining was a task that required
patience and intelligence. Men on the outside circle merely turned the cattle on the
extremes of the range; they were followed by inner horsemen, and the drag-net closed at
a grazing pace, until the round-up halted on a few acres.
The first three shipments had tried out the remuda. The last course in the education of a
cow-horse is cutting cattle out of a mixed round-up. On the present work, those horses
which had proven apt were held in reserve, and while the first contingent of cattle was
quieting down, the remuda was brought up and saddles shifted to four cutting horses. The
average cow can dodge and turn quicker than the ordinary horse, and only a few of the
latter ever combine action and intelligence to outwit the former. Cunning and ingenuity,