Sample Chapters
Read samples from The Gruene Cowboy
Bowie Knife

by John James Haynes, San Antonio

I WAS BORN IN THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS, Aug. 6, 1843, where Gonzales is now located. My father, Charles Haynes, who arrived in Texas some ten years previous, risked his life in helping Texas to gain her independence from Mexico. I was raised in Llano County, then on the frontier.

When I was quite small I was taught to ride, shoot, hunt and run wild cattle, and all the other things necessary to withstand the requirements of those strenuous times.

At a very early age my father presented each of his three sons with a gun, and as he was a mechanic and smith by trade, he made for each of us a long “Bowie” knife, and gave instructions how to use it. The rule in those days was to use the “Bowie” knife and save powder and shot.

I have been in many close quarters when that knife came in mighty handy, for in my time I have killed every kind of wild animal that roamed in this wild country.

Besides the wild animals we had worse foes to contend with — the savage Indians, who often made raids upon the white settlements. But as this writing is for our experiences with cattle on and off the trail, I will confine myself to those experiences.

When I was eighteen years old I joined the Confederate Army and was sent out of the state. I served the entire four years of that desperate struggle, and came home with a crippled arm. When we were discharged we were given transportation home, as far as the train went, and it didn’t go far into Texas in those days.

We came by water to Galveston, and while our “high-up” officers were having a “peace treaty” somewhere in town, we “high up privates of the rear ranks” decided we had been away from home long enough, and as we did not see anything of special interest or excitement to us there, we concluded to leave the “peace subject” with the officers, so we captured a waiting train and ordered the engineer to “charge,” which order was promptly obeyed.

When any of the boys reached a point anywhere near a beeline to his home, he would pull the bell-cord and drop off. I fell off at Brenham, which was the end of the road at that time.

From Brenham I went by stage to Austin and from Austin I took the “ankle express” for my home in Llano County, seventy-five miles away. After a tramp, tramp, tramp with the boys in gray for four long years, I was alone now, but the thoughts of getting home spurred me on, and I did not mind the fatigue as I covered the distance.

One night I stopped at what was known as “Dead Man’s Water Hole,” so called from the fact that the body of an unidentified man was once found there. I used a soft log that night for my pillow, and slept to the tunes of the hoot owls and the coyote wolves.

When I reached home I found my neighborhood was still being raided by hostile Indians. I was soon rigged out with a new saddle, horse and gun, and ready to defend my home against the red men. But I realized that I must seek a livelihood, so, in company with my younger brother, Charlie Haynes, and Harve Putman, we decided to go out and round up mavericks and drive them up the trail.

Each of us having secured two ponies and a pack horse and other equipment for a long camping trip, we started out, establishing our camp in the forks of the North and South Llano Rivers where Junction City now stands.

At that time there were no fences and very few ranches in that region. The cattle from the open country of the north and northwest had drifted into that wild and unsettled wilderness without being sought after and naturally had become very wild.

But we came with the intention of securing our herd, despite the wildness of the brutes. At a point near our camp we found a natural trap that was of material assistance to us. It consisted of a long strip of land about twenty-five feet wide, with a deep hole of water on one side and a very high bluff on the other.

This was the watering place for the cattle of that particular range. We built a pen and fenced in one end of this natural chute, leaving the other end open so that when a bunch of cattle came down for water we crowded in on them and ran them into our pen through the trap. We often started after them out on the range, and in order to get away from us, they would make for the water hole, and right into our trap they would go. We usually kept them in this pen without water or grass until they became tame enough to drive to our other pens some distance away, when, of course, they were then driven regularly for water and grazing. We kept this up until we had about 1,000 head of maverick yearlings.

Harve Putman and my brother, Charlie, decided to sell their undivided interest in these yearlings, and John Putnam and myself bought them for $2.50 per head, on credit, to be paid for on our return from the Kansas market.

We drove the herd by way of Fort Worth and crossed the Texas line at Red River Station. We put a bell on an old cow for a leader, and when a yearling got lost from the herd, and came within hearing of that bell it generally came back to the herd.

We reached Abilene, Kansas, with our yearlings in good shape, and we sold them for eight dollars per head. We found ourselves in possession of $8,000, and had started out without a dollar. But any old trail driver who found himself rich in Abilene, Kansas, in 1871, knows the rest.

In 1872 my brother, Charlie, and I took a mixed herd of about 1,000 head up the trail. This time we made a general roundup. It was the custom in those days for the party or parties getting up a roundup to take along cattle belonging to people they knew.

Owners were glad to have them driven to market and sold. The distance between ranches was so great that a consultation was not possible every time, and it was usually left to the driver’s own judgment.

Be it said to the credit of those early cowmen, everyone was honest with his neighbor and trusted each other absolutely. The only requirement of the law was that the cattle be inspected by the county inspector, the marks and brands being recorded, and it was agreed among the stockmen that certain value be placed on certain grades, ages, etc., as assessed by the assessor.

After driving the cattle up the trail to market, we then, on our return home, paid for cattle as the claimants appeared, according to the assessment, our profit being the selling price, together with those not claimed or unknown.

Our second trip was somewhat different from the first one on account of having so many mixed cattle in the herd. They were easily stampeded by the smell of buffalo, and other things encountered on the trail.

We had several storms on this trip. The lightning during these storms seemed to be playing all over the heads and horns of the cattle, and the loud claps of thunder greatly disturbed them, and often caused a stampede.

When cattle stampede they all move in one direction, with the exactness and swiftness of one body. During a storm we would ride among them, doing our best to get them settled, but in the darkness of the night, the blinding rain, loud peals of thunder, with vivid flashes of lightning to keep them excited, our efforts were often of no avail.

When we saw that they were going, in spite of all we could do, we left two of our Mexican cow hands to “tough it out” with them. No matter how many miles away we found the herd the next day, the faithful Mexicans were still with it.

In a mixed herd many calves were born on the trip, and it was the custom to kill them before starting the herd each morning. Some outfits tried taking along a wagon for the purpose of saving the calves, but it did not pay.

We drove this second herd to Council Grove, Kansas, on the Indian reservation, and as we did not find ready sale, the businessmen of that place secured permission for us to hold them there until the market opened.

While we were in camp here an incident occurred that was a bit interesting to us. We had two Indian blankets, which my brother had captured during a fight with Indians in Blanco County, Texas, some years before. In this fight the chief of the tribe had been killed. We used the blankets for saddle blankets, and one day we hung them out to dry, when an Indian on the reservation came along and saw them. He called others, and they had a general pow wow over them, and the result was that they exchanged us two new government blankets for the Indian blankets.

That night the Indians all got together and had a big war dance around those blankets. We found out later that the two blankets in question had belonged to their chief. Although we anticipated trouble with the redskins on this account, we were not molested, and we remained here for some time.

As the market was crowded, we had to take our time and sell as the demand came for our cattle. In one deal we got a new wagon and a span of good mules. These mules were afterward stolen by Indians from my brother’s home in Blanco County, during a raid when the Indians killed a man named Hadden.