Hat Creek Dateline: 1880/08/01
Cattle drives causing dust clouds in area
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
During the last month there hasn't been a day when you could not see a dust cloud raised by a trail herd of "Hash Knife" Longhorn steers as they passed by on their way to Montana. The Hash Knife outfit "named for their brand", is moving 32,000 head of two-year-old Longhorn steers, in 10 trail herds from Texas. The cattle will be turned loose on Box Elder Creek, one of the upper tributaries of the Little Missouri River.
Each of the herds that went by had 12 to 15 cowboys, besides their cook and trail boss.
They traveled about three days apart and have been on the trail since midday. The trail boss tries to get the herd moved about 15 miles each day. Each of the chuck wagons has stopped here for any necessary repairs and to stock up on enough food and supplies to last for several weeks. This is the last supply point on the trail and they have about another 250 miles to go before they reach their new home near where Montana, North and South Dakota join.
The Hash Knife ranch was founded in the late 1870's by three cattlemen from Weatherford, Texas. Colonel Simpson is the General Manager and a part-owner of the outfit. Their herds have been running on the Pecos River in new Mexico and Texas. Some of the cattle that have gone by on the way to Montana have been branded with the famous "Mill Iron." The Hash Knife has about 80,000 cattle. They plan to keep their breeding herd in Texas and New Mexico. They are also expanding their breeding herd into Arizona.
The Hash Knife is moving 30,000 head of cows and yearling heifers onto more than a million acres of land that the Axtex (Aztec)Land and Cattle Company has just purchased from the Santa Fe Railroad, in alternate sections. This purchase of alternate sections will give them control over another million acres.
This tract of land is 80 miles long, running west from Holbrook, Arizona and 40 miles in width, most of it is on the south side of the Santa Fe Railroad. With this purchase the Hash Knife will be the second largest cattle outfit in the United States (second only to the XIT).
The Hash Knife is the first big southern outfit to move into the Box Elder Creek area of Montana. The two-year-old steers will be run at least a year on the abundant hard grass of the area. The fattest ones will be trailed to market. Most of them will be double wintered and sold as four-year-old steers.
Some of then will then be fat enough to go directly to packing plants instead of being placed in feeding pens and fattened on corn. Some of the wildest and smartest of the steers, who learn how to escape the roundups will probably be six or seven years old before they are sold.