Cowboys, Lawmen and the American Frontier – American Cowboys and Cattle Drives

Cowboys needed two-to-three months to get a herd of Longhorns from Texas to Kansas. The cattle shuffled along at 10-12 miles per day. The terrain was difficult to manage, and cowboys had to move their herds across creeks, mountains, canyons, badlands and rivers.

Beyond natural problems imposed by geography and weather, there were man-made issues. Cattle rustlers could disrupt events along the trail, and Native-Americans—who were living in “Indian Territory” with depleted meat supplies—wanted bounty from the trail bosses.

A top danger cowboys had to think about was the risk of stampedes. It didn’t take much to “spook” the cattle who would then “run wild.”

Cowboys who could manage all these problems, and get their stock to the railhead in a timely manner, developed great reputations.

Cowboys also used the Great Western Cattle Trail, which crossed the lands of “Indian Territory.” Doan’s Crossing was the last supply post before the cowboys drove their herds through Native-American lands. It was a dangerous place. “Trail bounty” was a cost of doing business, but that was the least of the cowboys’ concerns. They wanted to be sure they made it through “Indian Territory” with their lives intact.

Giving-up beef, to starving Native Americans, was a payment made by the cowboys. The fact that it was necessary, however, raises a different question. Why did the federal government relocate Native Americans to lands where wild antelope and buffalo were already extinct?

If trail bosses refused to pay trail-bounty demands, they risked retaliation. Among other things, the warriors could attack the drive or cause the cattle to stampede.

As the cattle moved northward, they grazed, but what about the cowboys? How were they able to prepare their food, in the middle of nowhere? Enter the chuck wagon.

Source: Cowboys, Lawmen and the American Frontier – American Cowboys and Cattle Drives
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