Last updated: February 6, 2020
The next morning three buyers from Wichita drove out in Buckboards to look over the herd. Raymond had planned to move the cattle on to Newton, where he had sold last year, but the buyers assured him that Wichita was the newest and best market.
The trail boss decided to take their advice, but he would hold the cattle for a few days for the best deal possible. The beeves would bring a good price, but the cows would be able to sell at a profit.
“I can’t use the she stuff,” one of the men told Raymond, “but I’ll be glad to help you find a buyer. There was a Wyoming man from south of Cheyenne around these parts a day or two looking for cows. Said he was going to start raising his own calves. Of course, no cattle are allowed above the North Platte, but some day they’ll end this Indian nonsense and open up that northern range. Some day, mister, Wyoming’ll be the greatest cow country in the world."
Ad, holding the stranger’s team, took in the words. He could feel something warm and alive moving through him when he heard that phrase “Wyoming country.” It was like the words in a song.
Things were lively here in Wichita, the latest terminus of the Chisholm Trail. Abilene and Newton were about done as cow towns, Bright new ones were being born—Ellsworth, hays City, Honeywell, Caldwell, with Dodge City soon to thrill the world. But just now Wichita held the cards.
If a trail hand was lucky, he could see gunplay almost any night over in the redlight district they called Delano. Rowdy Joe and Red Beard ran the two toughest dance halls and bars. As long as the cowboys kept the fighting among themselves there wasn’t much said. But they’d better stay on the South side of the Arkansas if they had their guns strapped on.
Ad rode to town with George Ray, and it was all the boy could do to get George curried and combed in a barbershop, and then fixed out with a new outfit of clothes at the New York Store in the corner of Douglas Avenue and Main Street. Ad picked out a checked suit of shoddy at the same time, and loyally followed George across the street to Keno hall. George had $150 left after he’d got his new outfit, and it was burning holes in his pocket.
Ad had a place for all his money, He’d squandered thirty dollars on this outfit or dude clothes. That left him ninety dollars to take home to his father. But there wouldn’t be quite that much. Raymond had agreed to let him buy Bluebird for ten dollars. Ollie was to have his night horse, Ginger Snaps, for the same amount. That’d leave the boys eighty dollars each to take home. Their paw could get a fresh start on that much money.
“You boys can hit it for home any time you want to,” Raymond told them one day. “I sold the steers last night for twenty-two dollars a head. That leaves us only the cows, and we can handle them easy enough. Then we’ll sell the wagon and remuda and head for Texas.”
Early the next morning the two little waddies boarded their ponies, waved their hats and hi-yied a Texas farewell. They rounded a bit of rolling ground, and in half a minute the camp was out of sight. Raymond had promised them both that they could return to Texas with him. But first, he insisted, they must go home and visit their folks. It would be two or three weeks, likely, before the outfit left for Wichita.
The boys’ father and their two sisters and younger brothers, were mighty glad to see the returned prodigals when they rode up on their Texas ponies, with their new suits and jingling spurs. Ad even wore his heavy Colt and big bowie knife.
Their new mother was glad to see them too, and the latest member of the family clapped her hands when the boys tickled her. Funny thing about how the baby’d been born the very night that Ad had left to fetch Ollie home. It’d been more than eight months now since he’d ridden off, with that old blue army overcoat of Porcupine’s tied on behind his saddle.
How was Porcupine, anyhow, Ad questioned eagerly.
The father allowed that the old fellow was fine. He’d been away hunting buffalo during the winter and early spring, but he was back now, herding longhorns on the Cottonwood for Mr.Crane. And, by the way, Mr. Crane had said that there’d always be a job for Ad whenever he came home.
Ad’s eyes swept over the crowded, one room frontier home. There wasn’t much room for him and Ollie. When Ollie had turned over his money to their father, he had announced his desire to go back down the trail. He promised he’d bring another bunch of money home next year.
The impoverished, hard-working father led the way out of the house to his sod barn. He wanted to keep both his boys at home, but there was urgent need for the few dollars they could earn.
The impoverished hard-working father led the was out of the house to the sod barn. He wanted to keep both his boys at home, but there was urgent need for the few dollars they could earn.
He cleared his throat and his words came slowly and deliberately: “Maybe you could stay here, Ad, if Ollie wants to go back to Texas. I got some plans for us. Figured next year we could really do some farming and put up a lot of hay and get us a little bunch of cows. Me and you could go in on shares, Ad.”
“I was figuring I might go back to Texas this winter,’ Ad said slowly.
“Don’t you think it’d be a good idea if you went to school some this winter?” the father suggested in a kindly tone.
“We’re going to have a school near here this year. You got to learn to read and write and figger. You can’ make money without knowing them things. And then, next summer we can go into business together.”
Thoughts and scenes raced one another across the film of the boy’s mind and memory. What if some day he could be a cattleman like Mr. Crane? Then he could go down to Texas in style, buy his own herd and drive it north up the Chisholm Trail. Think what Felicia would say when he’d go up to her with twenty-dollar gold pieces jingling in his pockets.
“All right, Paw,” Ad agreed after a long pause. He pulled the saddle off Bluebird and threw it over the top rail of the little corral.
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