To handle these thundering herds, stockyard were established next to the railroad shops. In 1866 alone, the Missouri Pacific and MKT Railroad Stockyards handled an estimated 168,000 head of longhorn cattle. A cattle drive of 100 years ago, was a hard way for a cowhand to earn $100. The days were hot and dusty, the nights cold and lonely. It was an unglamorous job but cowboys left a trail of glamor. Such was the life of Gil Favor, Rowdy Yates and the rest of the Rawhide drovers as they headed for Sedalia in the popular 1960’s television show: Rawhide. The show, based on the diary of Drover George C. Duffield,depicts the hardships of the 1866 cattle drive from San Antonio to Sedalia.
The series first aired on January 9, 1959 with the “Incident of the Tumbleweed”. Almost seven years and 217 shows later, the series end-ed on December 7, 1965 with the “Crossing at White Feather”.
Lyrics to “The Rawhide Theme”
This excerpt was taken from The Trampling Herd: The Story of the Cattle Range in America, by Paul L. Wellman et.al.
George C Duffield, who made the drive of 1866, was a young man from Iowa. He owns one great distinction among the trail riders - he alone of all of them kept a diary. The document, published in the Annals of Iowa in 1924, gives illumi-nating and intensely human view of the difficulties of the trail. With Harvey Ray, his partner, Duffield went down the Mississippi by steamboat, and to Galveston by coasting steamer, then overland to the Colorado River country where they bought cheap cattle and made up a herd to be returned to Iowa. It was April 29, 1866, that the northward march began.
Duffield’s journal gives a picture of the ensuing hard and exasperating journey. Stampedes occurred May 1 and May 6 and pretty continuously thereafter. Each time days were wasted trying to find the animals that were lost. By May 9 the young Iowan wished fervently he was through with his task, as his entry in his diary shows: “Still dark & Gloomy River up everything looks Blue to me.” Four days later another maddening stampede during a thunder storm added to his gloom, although he recovered all but fifty of his steers: “all tired Everything discouraging.”
But when he reached the Brazos the real trouble began. His approximately one thousand cattle were divided into three herds, with twenty cowboys as trailers, and it took three days to make the crossing. Cattle and horses were swum across and provisions and camp equipment were ‘rafted’ over. Unfortunately most of the ‘Kitchen furniture such as camp Kittles Coffee Pots Cups Plates &c &c” were lost in the process. After rounding up the cattle on the other side of the river, ‘all Hands gave the Brazos one good harty dam,’ and rode away without joy.
Rain fell and the wind blew almost constantly on the journey and the Texas cowboys with the herd grew sulky. Some of them quit. On May 20 Duffield wrote: “Rain poured down for two hours Ground flooded Creeks up - Hands leaving Gloomey times as ever I saw.”
Most of their few remaining cooking utensils were lost in the crossing of the Trinity, and the following night, May 23, “Hard rain that night & cattle behaved very bad - ran all night-was on my Horse the whole night & it raining hard. Glad to see Morning come counted & found we had lost none for the first time-feel very bad.”
Three days were required by the dolorous Mr. Duffield to put his herd across the Red River and at that crossing the first tragedy of the journey occurred. A cowboy named Carr, caught in the swirl of the tide while working with the swimming herd, was drowned. To signalize their passage of the river, the perverse longhorns stampeded again the following night. Next day the diary noted: “Hunt cattle again Men all tired & want to leave. am in the Indian country am annoyed by them believe they scare the cattle to get pay to collect them .... Two men and Bunch Beeves lost-Horses all give out & men refused to do anything.” And on the succeeding day: “Hard rain & wind Storm Beeves ran & had to be on Horse back all night. Awful night. wet all night clear bright morning. men still lost quit the Beeves and go Hunting Men is the word - 4 p.m. Found four men with Indian guide & 195 Beeves 14 miles from camp. allmost starved not having had a bite to eat for 60 hours got to camp about 12 m Tired.”
For several days things went a little better, although the country was boggy with the heavy rains and the rivers and creeks gave constant trouble. But on June 12 there is the following entry: “Hard rain & Wind Big stampede & here we are among the Indians with 150 head of Cattle gone hunted all day & the rain pouring down with but poor success dark days ware these to me Nothing but Bread & Coffee Hands all Growling & Swearing.”
It was enough to make them swear, but by no means were their troubles over. On June 17 they reached the Arkansas where Duffield spent four more days swimming his depleted herd across that river which was a raging torrent, roaring in spate, owing to the heavy rains. “Worked all day hard in the River trying to make the Beeves swim & did not get one over.” the mornful young chronicler of the trail wrote at the end of the first day’s efforts at the Arkansas. “Had to go back to the Prairie Sick & discouraged. have not got the Blues but am in Hel of a fix.”
Eventually, however, the cattle were crossed and the herd reached the vicinity of Baxter Springs July 10 with no further losses. There Duffield found the cap and climax to his woes - the grangers and Jayhawkers were in charge of the border and the cattle could not pass through Missouri.
Several days were spent in fruitless scouting and negotiations. In spite of Duffield’s lugubrious moans on the trail, he seems to have had plenty of decision and nerve, and he showed at this crisis more enterprise than most of the Texans - possibly because he knew the country in which we now was better than they did. His entry of July 25 reveals his deci-sion “We left the Beefe Road (trail) & started due west across the wide Prairie in the Indian Nation to try to go around Kansas & strike Iowa. I have 490 Beeves.”
It was a wise decision. Swinging his herd to the west he passed around the settlements north to the Nebraska line. One cannot but sympathize with the young trail driver in his woes and even after the passage of sixty years there is joy in know-ing that at last he came to the end of the sorrowful road. Early in September, the ancient journal records, he reached the Missouri River near Nebraska City and ferried his few hundred remaining cattle over into the promised land of Iowa.
There is an expression still current in the American language; “In spite of Hell and high water.” It is a legacy of the cattle trail, when the cowboys drove their horn-spiked masses of longhorns through high water at every river and continuous hell between, in their unalterable determination to reach the end of the trail which was their goal.
Excerpt from Cattle Drives in Missouri, Virginia Sue Hutcheson, Missouri Historical Review
Spanish ranchers brought the first permanent herds of cattle to America more than three hundred years ago. Without fences to control their movement, these hardy animals grew wild and mixed freely on the open prairies. These cattle had long legs, lanky bodies, with legs and feet built for speed. It took a good horse with a good rider to outrun a Texas Longhorn. A century or so of running wild had made the longhorns tough and hardy enough to withstand blizzards, droughts, dust storms, attacks by other animals and indians. They did not require great amounts of water to survive. Over time, they also developed long horns and grew an independent, often fierce nature. Some of their descendants still roam the western range.
By the late 1860’s it is estimated that more than a million head of cattle grazed the Texas plains.
The men and boys who kept the cattle together and ‘drove’ them up the trail to market were called ‘’drovers’. Each day the herd traveled 10 to 15 miles. The ‘trail boss’ searched for places where the cattle could ‘graze’ and be watered. It was common to have only 6 to 10 men driving as many as 1,500 head of cattle 500 to 1000 miles. River crossings, storms, and stampedes were just a few of the dangers cowboys faced on the trail drive. Younger men traditionally drove the cattle, a chore more exhausting and dangerous than glamorous.
When handling a herd, some cowboys rode ‘point’ or near the front, with others along the sides, ‘swing’ and ‘flank’. Those in the rear or ‘drag’, kept the stragglers with the heard, always riding in a cloud of dust. The trail boss rode ahead to scout the trail and choose a place to camp. On horse back, a cowboy felt taller, faster and stronger. With the aid of his horse he could round up the cattle, cut them out for branding and drive them to market.
Extra cowhands were hired for the massive roundup. After morning chuck, the cowhands would fan out, drive the ornery critters out of ravines and bottom lands, and circle back toward the chuck wagon’s afternoon destination. They then would sort out the owners stock, doctor the sick, castrate and brand the new calves. Armed with a hot branding iron, cowboys marked livestock as they have for over 4,000 years. Some might have so many brands, marks and notches they would look like a walking billboard.
The cowboys equipment included: low waisted pants; neckerchief; firearm, chaps, bit and bridle, lariat, spurs, knife, boots, gloves, hat and their single most cherished possession, a saddle.