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Taking steers to market.....1893

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Feb 21, 2005
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From the book "Roundup Years, Old Muddy to the Black Hills"

Story by Frank Huss

STAMPEDE--A Hundred Steers to Pierre--1893

"During August, 1893, with the Chicago beef market on the up-trend I gathered 100 head of Texas steers that were 3 years old that spring, single wintered in this country (SD). I had 320 to pick from, all very fat and full--aged 3 year olds.

Rigging up a mess wagon, hired Andy Graves to cook, with Jack DeVaugh and Big Jack Curry, a typical Texas cowboy, six feet, 2" with regulation mustache, and myself, to handle the cattle. We started from the head of Mix With Food creek (I'm guessing this to be north of Philip,SD, south of Faith, and maybe a ways west, maybe north of the Cheyenne R. not real sure), going east parallel with the Pierre to Deadwood freight road (this "road" was south of Chey. R, went through Hayes, and north of Midland), to ship from Pierre.

For four or five days it was the same routine, noon camp on a creek for water and dry camp on a divide for night. On the fifth day we could smell the smoke of a prairie fire on the north side of the Pierre--Deadwood trail. Hoping the fire would not cross the freight road, we drove east on the south side of the road. On the night of fifth day, we could see the fire and the steers were very restless on this bed ground.

The next night we camped on the divide west and south of Cottonwood creek (west of Philip). Jack Curry and I were on the first guard, from eight to ten PM. About an hour after we bedded them down, something scared those steers and they stampeded, going east. I believe Curry and I headed them 20 times, turning the leaders but there was no stopping them. They finally headed north with Curry and I in the lead. Eventually we reached the freight road and were able to hold them there until daylight, where DeVaugh at last located us, and we turned the cattle over to him and went to the wagon for breakfast.

We moved the camp for the next night to the divide east and south of Hayes postoffice and bedded the cattle down on a side hill about 30 rods east of the camp. Curry was the first guard and when he had been on about an hour, the cook, DeVaugh and I were sitting in camp watching him ride around the cattle, when suddenly, we saw the whole bunch heading straight for the camp and for a few seconds I thought they were going to run over the outfit. But, when a few yards from the camp, the bunch split in halves going by on each side of the camp. And they were going some! After they had passed camp, DeVaugh started for his hight horse to help Curry hold the cattle. I stopped him and told him that Curry could hold them and that he would scare them more by trying to get to them.

We ate breakfast by star light the next morning and DeVaugh and I started east and located the trail of the cattle, going north. About sun rise we were on the divide between Lance Creek Holes and Lance creek (not far west of Ft. Pierre, east of Hayes) looking over the the prairie north of the freight road, when I saw what I thought was a pile of rocks scattered over the prairie. Keeping my eyes on those rocks, I saw them commence to move south and finally realized that it was Curry and the steers moving south off the burnt ground. On approaching Curry and the cattle, we found him moving them slowly toward the grass on the south side of freight road. He said he had turned the leaders many times that night but there was no holding them until they had crossed the road onto the burnt ground where they soon bedded down.

The next day we camped on Willow creek where Tex Hemphill's cattle were scattered. Tex told me to turn my steers in with his mixed bunch, that would hold them. We were glad to do it. After turning the cattle in with Hemphill/s, we saw a young man riding among them, so I approached him and asked if he was looking after Hemphill's cattle. He said he wasn't but that he had a kind of an interest in them. I invited him to eat supper with us, as I was going to Fort Pierre that night to order cars for shipment to Chicago, Saturday. We rode to Fort Pierre without inquiring each other's names. The next day I met him in the Stock Growers Bank of Ft. Pierre and learned that he was G. L. Millett, President of the bank. Of course he had an interest in Hemphill's cattle--10 percent!

The next morning, on going down to take the boat from Fort Pierre, I found the river was high and the slough on this side (West River side) of the island was deep enough to swim a horse. The island was located between the slough and the Missouri River, so we would have to swim the cattle across the slough in order to pen them in the stock yards on the island, from where they would be transported by boart to the Pierre stock yards.

Mr. Smith, agent of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad asked me if we could get those wild steers across the slough saying they would do anything to help. I dvised that they build emporary stock yard on the bank of the slough so the chute would end on the bank where the water was deepest. They built the temporary yards as I suggested and we penned the cattle in them the next morning, with the help of some old cowpunchers from Fort Pierre. Tolley Maupin and I were in the pen to push the steers through the chute into swimming water. Before we started them into the water, I hired two men, each having a row boat telling them if the steers started up or down stream, to row out a few yards away and that would do the trick.

Maupin and I shoved the last of the steers through the chute into the slough, every steer going out of sight in the water. When the last steer started into the water, Maupin and I were in after them. I had placed some cowpunchers on the island to pen the cattle after they had swum the slough. The steers headed stright for the island, landed, were loaded on the Jim Leighton ferry boat with H. A. Anding, Engineer, carried across the Missouri River and placed in the Chicago and Northwestern yard on the Pierre side of the river.They were loaded Saturday morning and I was very glad to turn them over to a Chicago Stock Yards commission firm! They had caused me plenty of grief since leaving home. The Monday market was O.K. and I received a good profit after having held them about sixteen months on the range."

Makes shipping cattle to market today look like a picnic, doesn't it?

Great story out of a great book,MRJ. I spent a winter starting colts for Hollenbecks and was in some of that country the book talks about. They loaned me that set of books as I didn't have much for TV and it was great to read those stories and be right in the country they talked about. It was a great winter. Good horses, Good reading and Super People.

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