Hat Creek Dateline: 1881/10/04
Stortz returns from Ogallala beef drive despite all obstacles
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Chris Stortz, foreman of the 999 Ranch, and his trail crew of cowboys returned here today after their fall beef drive to Ogallala, Neb. A telegram from Charles Guernsey, superintendent of the ranch, was waiting here for Stortz when he arrived. Guernsey, along with three of the crew "cow pokes" had accompanied the 22 car loads of three- and four-year-old steers on to Chicago. By the time the trail crew got here, the beef herd had arrived in Chicago, been fed, watered, and sold. The cow pokes have enjoyed all of Chicago that they can stand and are enroute home. Guernsey is headed to New York for the winter.
The fall beef roundup had taken about two weeks. They were then on the rail to Ogallala for another 17 days. After leaving the ranch on the Cheyenne River north of here, they trailed the beeves up Old Woman Creek, and Sage Creek (South Fork of Old Woman) to here. After going up over the Hat Creek breaks south of here they headed for Rawhide Buttes, and followed Rawhide Creek to the North Platte River. At the mouth of Rawhide Creek (between Lingle and Torrington) Guernsey rode ahead to Ogallala to order cars and arrange for shipment of cattle.
The river is low this time of year, but Guernsey knew that it is difficult to cross anytime. There are no settlements along the North Platte below Fort Laramie and fords for safe crossing of the grub wagon and riders are difficult to find.
He traveled along the north bank of the river until he saw a long bull freight train heading west on the other side. Thinking he could get across while they were still in sight and could see if anything happened to him, he started across.
Fortunately, he was on his best horse, Major, who seemed to delight in conquering even quicksand. One minute his front quarters were in up to his neck; the next, after they were pulled out, his hind legs would be in equally deep, then all four would seem to be reaching for the bottom with little chance of reaching it.
Major did not "lose his head" and finally got all four feet and his rider on the south bank. In the meantime, the "safety" of the bull train had passed out of sight to the west.
As they continued, a terrific thunderstorm overtook them between Ash Hollow and Ogallala on the South Platte River. With lightening flashes and heavy rain for the last 15 miles they kept up as stiff a lope as possible and at 10:30 loped straight on to the Ogallala Hotel porch.
In due time the beeves were loaded on the railroad cars and headed for Chicago. Guernsey and the three "cow pokes" rode in the caboose. At each stop they would inspect the cattle and prod to their feet any that were down. The cattle were unloaded at Council Bluffs and Clinton, Iowa for feed, water, and rest. After five days on the Union Pacific and Northwestern railroads, they arrived at the Chicago stockyards at 1 a.m. By 11 that same morning the cattle had been weighed and paid for, Rosebaum Bros. and Co. doing the selling and Armor and Co. the buying.
Information source: "Wyoming Cowboy Days," by Charles A. Guernsey)>