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“A cow-boy’s dining room.” Photographed eating dinner next to the chuck wagon are, from left to right, the Sherman brothers: Frank, Seeley, Stanford, and Francis.
David Adamson

Long Time Gone and the Cowboy

By Timy Trosper (Senior, Class of 2000)

November 15, 2023

The following story was written 25 years ago as part of the series created by the Eads High School history project—Kiowa County: A Retrospective at the Dawn of a New Millennium. This series was written by EHS juniors and seniors in 1999—as the new century was about to come on to the scene. Each student chose a subject they were interested in and then through first-hand interviews and primary sources did the research and wrote the article. Each article was printed in the Kiowa County Press. The high school staff that guided this project included Pete Conrad, EHS English teacher, and Betsy Barnett, District Media Specialist. The project won a state history award in 2000.

I’m about twenty-four, and I’m rugged, rough, and tough and hard-working. I’m generally honest and educated about life in general (although my education level is only at the eighth grade level), and I have a practical knowledge of the hard ways of the West. My best friend is my horse, who I ride more than twelve hours a day in all kinds of weather, no matter how I feel. Do you know who I am? Well, I’m the Cowboy.

I came to this area after the Civil War, and I hired on with the Eads Livestock Company to ride the range. Since there were no fences and thousands of acres of grassland, I looked for sick or stray cattle. All us cowboys would circle out and explore the range thoroughly, head the cattle in and brand the calves. I sure got good meals and a warm bed. I also got seven horses of my own to ride. Once a stranger wandered into our camp and we welcomed him, but he had to wash the dishes and fill the wood box for his keep.

I always used a bronc saddle when I broke horses for the Eads Livestock Company. To ride the range, I used a regular saddle, a straight bit, a bridle, and spurs to make my horse “get up and go.” A Navajo blanket, if I could find one, sure was nice to put under my saddle. I also had a pair of chaps and a lasso to catch those calves.

EADS LIVESTOCK COMPANY CATTLE DRIVE, 1929 – In September 1929, forty cowboys mounted their horses near Sweetwater Lake to continue one of the last great cattle drives of the area. The drive stretched from the foothills of the Front Range to Lakin, Kansas, and took three months to complete. Eads Livestock Company, comprised of 15,000 acres north of Eads, was a subsidiary of Swift and Company, which owned a string of ranches in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. Mat Jones became the ranch manager in August 1923. In 1928, there were 8,000 steers on the ranch. From late July through fall, the cowboys would drive 100-125 cattle weekly to the stockyards in Kit Carson to be shipped to feedlots. Kiowa County Museum

Since the Eads Livestock Company was such a large outfit, on cattle drives a chuck wagon came along with us. Our meals were not fancy; mostly beans, bread, coffee, and lots and lots of water. Did you know some ponds on the open range are not fit to drink? The water was alkali, or it had animal matter in it. That’s why we loaded and carried lots and lots of water on the trail.

I remember one cattle drive south of Kit Carson. We had a black cook. He cut his finger while cutting up the meat and we just could not get the bleeding to stop. So, we held him down, and used a branding iron to sear the wound shut.

Stories were always told around the campfire at night on the cattle drives, and one story that I can remember best was about Mr. J. W. Dawson, foreman of the SS Ranch. Seems he provided a thrilling and daring exhibition of horsemanship when he forced his horse to jump a thirty-foot cliff into the bed of Big Sandy Creek!

On another trail drive, south of Bob Ferris’ place, a cowboy wandered in from the west and asked for a job breaking wild horses. The bronc bucked so hard everything fell to the cowboy and the horse as he did all he could do to hang on and ride that bronc. After getting off that bronc, he said, “I am a cowboy. I can ride him, but I don’t ever want to get on that horse again!”

Local cowboys out on range eating beside the chuck wagon. David Adamson

After working for the Eads Livestock Company, I decided I like this country. I wanted to stay here and get a cattle herd of my own. I decided to homestead and “prove up a place” of my own. Lucky for me, one of my neighbors was a cowboy by the name of Kent France. Well, we went to Old Mexico and found us some wild steers in the brush, roped, caught, and drug them out. Once we had enough for a sizeable herd, we trail drove them back to Colorado. I claimed them for my own, branded them, pastured them, and sold them. Did you know that Mr. France, at the age of twenty-four, rode with the Hugo Cowboys? This group met President Teddy Roosevelt, who was on a train traveling through this area. Mr. France also married Mary Rittgers, believed to be one of the first white babies born in Kiowa County.

Another neighbor of mine, Otto Fischer, father of Bennie Fischer sure fell on some “hard luck” back in 1929. Seems Otto was ready to take his cattle to the stockyards in Kansas City to sell them. At the time he was ready to leave, Otto was offered $80 for all the heifers and $100 for all the steers at his place at Galatea. He turned the money down and sent the cattle on the railroad train. When they got to the stockyards, the men told him that the stock market had crashed so they could not sell his cattle. Instead of taking the cattle back home, he told them to send him the money when they were sold. A few weeks later, he received a bill from them for shipping and handling. If Otto would have sold his cattle a week earlier, he might have died a rich man.

For me, anyway, weather was always a big concern in this country. Each cowboy had his or her own way of predicting the weather, and they paid attention to the “signs” because they were the only way of telling how the weather might be out on the open range. Mr. Forrest “Red” Craven told me that in the winter if you could see Pikes Peak from around here it was going to be a nice day. He always knew when it was going to storm because the horse’s tail would fluff up. A southeast wind meant that in three days you would get rain, and in a blizzard, you just tried to get the cattle back to the house.

In 1903, at age 20, Stanford Sherman was the foreman of the Bar Z-O Ranch, which was owned by the Holt Cattle Company and located about 20 miles southwest of Hugo, Colorado. The ranch covered nearly 100 square miles and ran approximately 8,000 head of cattle. David Adamson

Well, I guess that’s about the end of my story. I have faced heat, thirst, stampedes, and ever-changing weather. I have dealt with Indians, rustlers, armed homesteaders mean cattle, and horses. I took pride in my work, and survival was my goal. To me, the “cowboy way” was the only way, and I am “one in a million.”

Happy trails to you!

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