Excerpts of a book about a former Denton citizen, Jim Gober (1864-1933). Gober, who went on to become the Sheriff of Potter County in the Texas Panhandle was the son of George and Amanda Gober who ranched in northwestern Denton County. This firsthand account of Sam Bass and ranch life in the 1880s on the western frontier gives us a glimpse into the old west in a way that ordinary history books cannot. This is a very human account of Jim Gober's early days in Denton before he headed west. Dick Gober inherited an unfinished manuscript written by his grandfather in the 1920s, recounting his exciting life in law enforcement. The younger Gober has painstakingly edited this wonderful legacy and it is through his generosity that we are able to bring you this excerpt. Cowboy Justice has been published by Texas Tech University Press. Note: Some of these chapters do not appear in the published edition of Cowboy Justice.
The Formative Years A Pioneer Beginning
My father and mother were born and raised near Marietta, Cob County, in the State of Georgia. They immigrated to Texas with families of their relatives and settled in 1848 in Hunt, Fannin and Denton Counties.
On December 23, 1864, I was born on Pot Creek, near where the beautiful and thriving city of Greenville now stands. My first memory of incidents and circumstances is when my father bought a mill and wool carding machine on Long Branch, one mile from Greenville, which was then a very small village, probably four or five business places and a post office and schoolhouse. The mill was operated by a large incline wheel called a tread wheel, for the fact that six or eight yoke of oxen were tied by the head to stanchions above the wheel and their weight and movement revolved the wheel, and the revolving of the wheel turned the machinery by belts and shafts. Since my father's mill and carding machine were the only equipment of their types within miles, he was kept very busy meeting all of the needs in the area. Also, since grain was the principal cultivated crop, the mill seemed to be in constant use.
In 1869, when I was four years old, my father sold out and moved to Denton County , and settled nine miles northwest of where the City of Denton, Texas now stands. He settled near his brother, Uncle John Gober, who was rather partial to me and oftentimes took me with him to Denton on business. At that time, Denton was composed of a mill, post office, grocery, dry goods store and a saloon. The county was sparsely settled with not more than two hundred people. The Comanche and Kiowa Indians made a practice of coming in two or three times a year, stealing horses and murdering anyone that got in their path, but the county settled up rapidly, and the Indians never bothered us after 1872.
My father bought land and improved a farm on Clear Creek in 1871. It was while living here that I remember my first school. To get to school, I walked three miles with an older brother and sister. I was seven years old and a man named Flinn Jones taught the school and he taught me my ABCs.
Our farm had splendid soil, and we had ample timber for improvements. My two older brothers and I were large enough to be good workers, so together with my father, a very strong man, raised to work on a farm, we were more than a substantial crew. We raised wonderful crops of corn, cotton, oats and barley. In fact, we had superb results with everything we planted.
After five years of living in a hewn, log house, my father and oldest brother drove ox teams to Jefferson, Texas, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles from where we lived, to haul lumber to build a frame house of two stories, with six rooms. When the house was finished, we moved in and converted the two-room log house into a storeroom and smoke house. We killed a good many hogs and had the smoke house full of meat and lard. The main product raised for sale was cotton, which we hauled off to Dallas, a distance of fifty-two miles. We brought home flour, coffee and sugar, and all other food stuff we didn't raise on the farm.
A Family Tragedy
One day, my father went to Denton and hired a painter to paint our new house. At three o'clock in the morning, after the last coat of paint was put on the house, it burned to the ground, and the entire family was left without shelter, food or money, standing in the yard in night clothes, only!
Then and there was the first time I ever saw my father show a sign of weakness at any stage of a condition or from any consequence of a problem. He sat down in the family circle of a wife and six children, naked, and without shelter or food, and cried as though his heart was breaking. It did break, for he never seemed to be the same man afterwards, and never seemed to desire more than just a living, only.
He owed some on the land and realized that he couldn't meet the obligation; however, the neighbors came to our rescue, and we were given some clothes. A man by the name of Bob Wright, who was married to a cousin of ours, had a large house.
He sheltered and fed us until father and a few neighbors cut logs and built a house sufficient to shelter us. Then father, with his broken heart and low in spirit, sold what stock he could spare and went to Denton and bought enough provisions to help us make another start. The entire family worked like slaves to attempt to restore our lives to what they had been, but the season was droughty, and our crop was very light, so the result was, we were still poverty-stricken.
An Early Encounter with Sam Bass
It was after our family tragedy when we lost our home that I remember my first sight of Sam Bass, at the first race that he matched with the Denton Mare. In Sam Bass' first horse race, he was using a race pony he had bought when she was two years old. She had become lame through following an immigrant wagon.
As I remember the circumstances of this encounter with Sam Bass, it occurred sometime in the summer of 1875 when he was nineteen or twenty years old and had been working in a livery stable at Denton. Uncle John and I had gotten in our lumber wagon and started for home, a distance of nine miles. My uncle turned the team off the main trail, and drove to the south to a level valley. There I saw approximately two hundred men and saddle horses. There were wagons and buggies and all the different conveyances that had brought them to this spot. I saw paths, straight as an arrow, running east and west, probably with a fifteen feet space between the paths which were four hundred and forty-four yards in length.
Sam Bass was leading a beautiful, red, sorrel mare on one of the paths. Tom Spotwood was leading a beautiful roan mare on the other path. On the Bass mare, or better known as the Denton mare, was a small Negro boy, about twelve years old, and on the Collin County mare, was a white boy, about the same age.
The crowd was divided, each mare's friends and backers were near the path on which their favorate was being led back and forty by their respective owners and trainers. I heard loud curses, boasts and challenges, and saw men meet each other half way between the paths, and wager money, jewelry, knives and pistols. As time went on, the men got louder and more boisterous and wicked threats were shouted until finally, a pistol shot rang out and the two mares were running their fastest speed, neck and neck. When they finished, I heard the judges decide the Denton mare won by a fraction of a nose. The roan mare's friends disputed the decision, and it was at this juncture that I had seen my first horse race, and I was also observing the first men fighting, in my young career. They were fighting with fists and quirts, some waiving six shooters.
My uncle took me by the arm and hurriedly led me to the wagon, and as I remember, he loped the team back to the trail leading homeward. Once the team leveled down to a moderate trot, Uncle John said, "now son, let this be a lesson to you to stay clear of horse races. I brought you to see this race that you would know what kind of men indulge in racing and gambling." Many years later, when horse racing became both a passion and an avocation for me, many times I thought about what Uncle John had said to me that day.
Although I was only nine years of age, and I have already stated, this was my first experience of being in rough company, and I was frightened, and at the same time, excited. Still I felt the spirit of sympathy, in my heart, for the losing side. Perhaps my sympathy was aroused, more deeply, for the white lad that rode the roan mare, crying, than for the little black skunk that rode the Denton mare, grinning and showing his white teeth. He was doing this in a way to convince me that he was elated over his victory of out-performing the white boy.
That spirit of sympathy, created in my young heart, had taken deep roots and grew to a substantial level. All of my life I have been for the under dog.
Strange as it may seem, Sam Bass matched many races with his mare during the two years following this first race, and won them all. Sam, although somewhat wild and reckless, had many friends, and a few enemies. He was honest in his everyday walk of of life.
A Brief Mention of the Sam Bass Gang
In the early spring of 1877, Sam Bass and other boys of Denton, and Tom Spotwood and Joel Collins of Collin County, went to the south Texas coast. There they hired on as cowboys to drive a herd of wild, longhorn cattle to Nebraska. It took them until late summer or early fall to get to their destination.
When the cattle were delivered and the boys paid off, they were set free to "paddle their own canoe," and get home as they pleased. Now Nebraska was a wilderness in its crude state, and the few towns were composed of supply stores, saloons, gambling houses and dance halls. The boys made splendid cash customers and were royally entertained until the last one was out of funds, then their reception grew cooler, and cooler. This "temperature," this coolness, was felt principally from their lady loves that had been so affectionate while their money had lasted, but now had become unbearable.
The boys held a council of war and decided to rob the Union Pacific train. They did rob the train and got more 1877, twenty-dollar gold pieces, than they could carry. Strange to say, they came back to Denton County. I am quite sure, that one of those 1877, twenty-dollar gold pieces, was the first twenty-dollar gold piece that I ever saw, but soon they were common property. These boys spent them as free as though there was an unending supply, but their home visit was of short duration.
The Epilog of Sam Bass and his Gang
A man named Jim Murphy was well-known by me and for years by the Bass gang and trusted by them as a best friend. Their trust in him was to the extent that they gave him a liberal quantity of their gold. But Murphy slipped off to Round Rock and arranged with the bank to get Texas Rangers there, with him acting as a spy and leading the Bass gang up to the slaughter. All was arranged and the Bass gang was killed, save Frank Jackson with whom I had been in company many Sundays while I lived with his sister, Mrs. Ben Keys, whose husband was a distant relative of my mother.
Jim Murphy came back to Denton where he was a regular customer at Ben Pascal's saloon. He fell ill and was taken to the Shipley Hotel where he died. Several hours before he died, both eyes burst in his head. As a boy, I had not the least sympathy for Murphy, for as well as I knew him, I could not respect a man that will induce and influence a man to commit a crime knowing that he will be killed. It would have been just as easy for Murphy to induce these big-hearted, rough boys to disband and go to some other country and start life anew, as Frank Jackson did. And Frank Jackson was considered the most daring man of the gang. Since the Round Rock experience, Jackson has been a hard-working, honest man.
My eldest brother met Jackson some twenty-five years ago in a Colorado mining town. Jackson had worked in the mine during the Uray and Cripple Creek excitement. He became a law-abiding citizen in 1878, and he suffered his share for his reckless, thoughtlessness when he was a mere, uneducated lad.
Life's Early Losses
My father traded his equity in the farm for a small tavern, which included an inn, at an old cattle town called Bolivar, three miles up Clear Creek from the farm. We moved to Bolivar, a town of possibly one hundred in population. Father rented a forty-acre farm, one mile from town. Mother and my oldest sister ran the inn while father and I farmed. My older brothers went away to work for themselves. We got along nicely, that is, we made a good living, but never had more.
When I didn't have to work in the crop, I went to school and learned real fast, as I always had a high degree of pride and craved to be a man of importance, from the time I was ten years old. Around 1879, after I was fourteen, I would work off the farm when father could spare me. Then I could earn money to buy nice clothes to wear to school, church or Sunday School.
It seemed that I made friends with everyone I came in contact with, young and old. My mother was always kind and affectionate to me, from my very first memory, until she died at the age of eighty-three, when I was forty-five. She is responsible for my spirit of pride and self importance.
Getting back to my school experience, at fifteen years of age, I was very well educated in history, arithmetic, grammar and geography. I was also in love, for the first time, with a sweet little girl of my own age, named Augustine Alexander. She was an orphan living with an Uncle, a Camolite Doctor. He was a raw-boned man, six feet, four inches tall, with a disposition as sour as a pall parrot, and he plainly exposed his disposition if he caught Augustine and me together.
That same year, 1879, we received a new school teacher who came from Tennessee. His name was Boren and he was thirty-one or thirty-two years old. He and the doctor became fast friends, as he was also a Camolite and had been invited to take up abode at the doctor's house. I soon noticed that Mr. Boren was displaying undue interest in Augustine and he was paying special attention to her. She would protest to me, in confidence, and cry, for she knew it was hurting me. Augustine also knew that Boren showed a noticeable lack of concern about my school work. This growing tragedy loomed larger and more serious until I concluded that I must quit school, as it was only grief, instead of knowledge, that I was receiving.
On Friday afternoon when I left school, there was a sadness in my heart, for I felt that I was a victim of a situation over which I had no control. I also felt robbed of my chance to get an education, a condition that I believed would play heavily against my life's ambitions. On the other hand, I was fifteen years old, large for my age, and I felt that I could face the world and its troubles, as well as the average man. I told my father that I was quitting school, as it was an embarrassment I was getting from Mr. Boren instead of an education. My father realized, at once, what was wrong, for he and mother both knew that Augustine and I were sweethearts and they both thought the world of her. They also knew that the doctor had forbidden her from going with me.
My father knew it would be useless to prevail upon me to continue going to school, so after he was silent for at least five minutes, he said, "well, we need quite a few new rails on the field fence, so you grind your ax tomorrow, and Monday morning you can go to the timber and start cutting rail cuts, and about Friday I will go with you and we will split them into rails."
The Learning Process
Monday, I went to the timber, about ten acres adjoining the forty-acre farm,and picked out a grove of trees with nice straight bodies and began to cut my first rail cuts. I worked hard for four days, and had made a fine showing as an ax man, I thought. I just knew, in my own mind, that my work had been done so well that my father would be well-pleased, and he would be able to complete, easily, the remainder of the work on the rails.
Friday came, and father had made a maul for himself and had sharpened up his iron wedge, and had also made some wooden wedges, called gluts, and so, armed with rail-splitting implements, off to the timber we went. When we got to the logs I had cut, my father laid his maul and wedges down, and I saw him turn his head and smile. Then he picked up an iron wedge, handed it to me and said, "Take the maul and try your luck on splitting rails."
I then set the wedge at the end of the log and tapped it lightly until it would stand by itself, then I swung the maul with all the strength I had. The wedge, instead of going in the log, went twenty feet in the air! My father uttered a hearty laugh, then he said, "son, your rail cuts are all piss elms and you couldn't split them with dynamite." Then I felt sick at heart, sure enough, for I had lost my girl, lost my education, and lost my reputation as a rail splitter. Father said, "I should have come with you and showed you what kind of trees to cut." That helped my feelings some. Then he said, "well, I bought a new mule today, and I will help you hitch him to the double shovel plow this afternoon, and then you can go to laying the corn whilst I make the rails." All the experience I had had in plowing was when I was thirteen and a half years old, and shortly after our house burned. My spirit was willing to do most anything that would be a help to my father and our family, and besides, my pride was hurt over the rail-splitting experience. I felt that I had to prove to my father that I could do as well as any man, so I looked at the plowing job as the opportunity to redeem myself.
Before father and I had a chance to hitch the new mule to the plow, Bob Wright, the man that had given our family shelter and food for a few days until our log cabin was built, came and asked my father to let me help him plow his ground for spring planting. Father agreed, and I was sent to plow for Bob Wright. I felt rather glad to go, for as young as I was when our house burned, I felt very grateful for the favor Wright had shown us in our hour of need.
The first morning we were up, fed the teams and harnessed them while Mrs. Wright, who was a double cousin to me, got breakfast. By sunrise we were in the field plowing. Wright had two large, high-spirited mares hitched to a ten-inch turning plow, and he had four large horses hitched to a gang riding plow. He started me in the lead and he followed. Wright sat on his seat on the riding plow and he used his black snake freely on his team of four, and by doing this, he kept my team in a very fast walk, and often, in a trot, just to keep out of his way. Every time he popped his whip, my mares would strike a trot. At twelve o'clock, we took out for dinner. I was so tired, I couldn't eat, and I felt so heartbroken, I was sick. I couldn't understand why a man who had been so kind to us could treat me so bad. Maybe he had made a mistake, but how could that be?
Promptly, at one o'clock that afternoon, we were back on the job and moving at the same clip. That night my legs ached so bad, I couldn't sleep. The next day, it was the same, and so it was every day, for two weeks. When I finally went home, and I thought the day would never come, I had fallen off so much in flesh, my mother was frightened and insisted that I go to bed. I did go to bed and I was very sick, but it was heart sick that I was, over being mistreated by a man who I had thought to be my friend; a man whose wife was as near a sister as possible, not to actually be a sister. I didn't tell anybody in the family what actually happened. If I had told my father, it would have meant trouble between him and Wright and that would have meant estrangement between his wife and our entire family. I just rested and mother doctored me, and finally got my leg aches cured. No one ever knew how Wright had driven me in front of his riding plow.
The next day, after my recovery from that sad experience, father and I had been out finishing up the rail timbers that had been abandoned when I was turned over to Wright and that ill-fated adventure behind the plow! We were coming home from the timber, where I had worked so hard chopping down the piss elm trees. It was while we were on the way home that this whole incident with Wright came back to my mind, and I decided never to tell anyone what really happened during those two weeks of living through hell.
After dinner, father and I went to the barn and got the new mule he had bought. We harnessed him and father took a small rope and made some lines to run through the rings of the hames and tie in the ring of the bridle bit. On the ends where I would have to hold the animal, father tied loops so I could slip the loops over each hand and on to my wrists. This was done so that the rope lines wouldn't interfere with holding the plow handles. All the time we were hitching the mule to the double-shovel plow, he was giving me quick, crow-eyed glances. The mule was a light sorrel color with a red stripe down his back, and red stripes around his legs. He was sixteen hands high, slim and long-legged. The more I looked at him, the wilder he looked and acted.
Father drove him to the field already hitched to the plow. He drove the mule one round, or rather, plowed one row of corn, then he gave me the lines and the plow handles. At this time he cautioned me by saying, "he is all right, but be careful until we know him better. He might kick you if you don't watch." So I started, mule-scared.
The corn rows ran east and west and the fields were west of town, and you could see all over the fields from our inn.
Me and the mule got along fine except when I would turn at the west end of the row and start back towards home, then the mule would get faster, and faster, then get into a trot. It was in July and the weather was real hot and the mule got hotter and faster every round. Finally, when I tried to turn him around at the end, next to town, he refused to turn, and sidled in next to the rail fence, so I couldn't budge him.
After worrying with him for some time, I unfastened the chain traces and led him home. When father saw me leading the mule into stable, he came out of the house and asked me why I had quit at that time of the day. I gave him a detailed description of the mule's conduct, and he said, "well, we'll learn him better tomorrow, if he tries that game again." Next morning, father went with me to the field and helped me hitch the mule to the plow. He stayed to watch me start the plowing process and observe the mule's actions. Then he said he would keep watch and if the mule stopped on me, to just stand and wait for him and he would start him for me. Sure enough, about ten o'clock, he backed up in the fence corner, and in a few minutes, I saw father coming. When he got to me I was still holding the plow handles and the rope lines looped over my wrist.Father walked up to the fence, took the top rail off and then, swinging the rail, he hit the mule across the ribs. The mule then jumped as far as ten feet and the rope lines around my wrists jerked me on my head and shoulders. By that time the mule was running, dragging me and the plow, and father was running after us.
A kind of stinging nettle grew in the field. Its plants were about two feet high and a foot or two across. This variety of nettle was called Bull nettle, and when it touched the flesh, it made whelps like a lash. By the time father caught up with the mule and got it stopped and me loose from the rope lines, I was a horrible sight. My clothes were all torn off, and what skin was left on me was in huge whelps from the Bull nettle. Between the mule, the double shovel plow and me, we had broken down corn enough to buy a mule with good sense! When I found I was able to walk, father sent me home and he took charge of the mule. As bad as I hated that mule, I felt sorry for him, for I knew he would be a pitiful sight before the day was over.
When I got home, mother put me in a tub of cold water and began bathing the skinned places and getting the sand out of the raw places. After a half hour, she succeeded in getting me in shape to go to greasing and bandaging. When she had fixed me up, she petted and talked to me until I could stop sobbing and dry the tears. Then I told mother I was going away to hunt work--something I could do without having so much trouble. Mother said, "perhaps someone near home will need you and you could work for them and be where I would know you are all right, but", then she paused, "you are to stay with me here at the house until you get well, so I can doctor these skinned places and nettle stings."
In a few days, Mr. Lock Forester came in town looking for hands to work onhis cattle ranch , and I asked him for a job. He said, "Jimmie, I would like to give you a job, but I have some bronc horses to break before I start gathering cattle and the men I am hiring will have to break these horses, or at least every man will have to break one horse." Well, I said, "I don't mind trying to ride one." He said, "well, you ask your mother and tell her you have to ride a bronc, and if she is willing, you can go out with me this evening."
I almost ran home, and when I found mother, I told her I had gotten a job with Mr. Forester, if she would let me go, so after studying a bit, she said, "Mr. Forester is a good man and I think he will treat you well. So I will let you go if you promise to come home every chance you get, and be careful and not get hurt." I felt bad not telling her that I had to ride a bronc, but I knew it would be all off if I did.
I returned to find Mr. Forester and I told him that mother said I could go, and he informed me what time we would start. Then I hastened back and told mother what time we would start, and she began getting my clothes in shape. I had to depend on mother to break the news to father, but I always had the utmost confidence in mother's decision, standing up with father, so I began getting my saddle and bridle in shape. I fed my pony that I had raised from a colt. She was the first property I ever owned. I came by her when about the last Indian raid was made in these parts. The settlers organized and overtook the Indians and recaptured horses they had stolen and there occurred a running fight. The settlers shot one paint mare in the front leg, just above the knee, and the Indian that was riding her climbed on another horse with the Indian riding it. This Indian mare was left crippled, but she finally got well and had a colt. The colt was snow white with fawn-colored spots on her hips. Since it was open range, the horses and cattle ran at large, and they were rounded up and branded once a year. That is, the calves and colts were branded. This Indian mare was a stray so my father advertised her according to the stray law. He bought her at the sale and gave me the colt. She was a beautiful pony, seven years old, and could gallop all day, and I had just prepared to saddle her to leave home for the first time.
By noon, I had my pony saddled and mother had what clothing she thought I would need packed in a flour sack. I tied it behind my saddle and hitched my pony to the yard fence, in front of the house and eagerly awaited father's arrival from the field, to know my fate-whether or not he would give his consent for me to go. I took care to keep out of his sight long enough for mother to plead my case. Finally, I slipped into the kitchen and asked mother if father had consented. She informed me that he had, so then, with a great sigh of relief, I bade them both goodbye, and rode away with my heart considerably lighter than it had been for several days. This was a mighty step for a sixteen-year-old boy, and it took will power, courage and strength of character to leave a home environment such as I had always enjoyed: a loving mother, the strongest tie of all; a dependable father; a younger sister and brother; and last, but not least, my first sweetheart. When I weighed all that I had left behind as I rode away with only the hope of making a better and happier future, I began to have second thoughts. When I turned my Indian paint pony down the road toward the evening sun, my burden of grief and sadness had just begun, and it was many days and nights before my grieving was done.
Can you picture a tender-hearted, home-loving boy That had always been his mother's pride and joy, Astride an Indian Pony's back, With all his belongings in a flour sack, Seeking some place to make his way, By hardships and toil each day. No soldier ever stood in battle line, That his burden was heaver than mine, And when my memory carries me back to that sad day, I am sincere and can truthfully say, No heavier task has come my way, Than leaving home and loved ones that sad day. Jim Gober
Mr. Forester and I arrived at his ranch about sundown. The ranch was located on a high, rolling prairie, near Hickory Creek. The ranch house was an old-fashioned frame building, one of the first frame buildings to be constructed in the county. You could see several miles in every direction from the vantage point where the ranch house was located. From the house, you could see that there were two large corrals and one small corral, all connected so stock could be separated from one corral to the other. The small corral was used to run in such stock as was to be lassoed.
The next morning Mr. Forester gave instructions to several men, sending them out to bring in the range horses. By the middle of the afternoon, they had one of the largest corrals full, at least one hundred head of mares and colts, and two, three and four year-old, unbroken geldings. We all went to the corrals and began to run such broncos into the same corrals, as Mr. Forester directed. After getting one bronc each, for the six of us, two Negroes, Phil Chisolm and Slick Allen, started lassoing. One would catch the bronc by the head and the other would lasso the front feet. Another man would then get on the rope with each of the Negroes and throw the bronc. Still another man would bring a hack more, a halter made of small rope, and fastened to a rope, long enough and strong enough to hold the bronc when tied to a heavy log out on the prairie. After getting them all caught and tied to logs, the day's routine was over.
For quite a while, I stayed out where I could watch those broncos run on the rope, and rare, and paw, and snort. As I lay in my bunk that evening, I was in an undecided frame of mind as to whether I would try to ride one of those bronc, or go home.
COWBOY-- to be, or not?
I got up the next morning feeling shaken and blue. After breakfast, Mr. Forester called the Negroes up and told them to help each man get on his bronc and then, for them to get on two good horses, and in case anyone got thrown, they could catch the bronc. He spoke directly to Phil Chisholm and told him to saddle the three-year-old for me, and to lead him with the rope fastened to his (Phil's) saddle horn. Then I felt better and real courageous and realized that Mr. Forester felt an interest in protecting my life.
After Phil and Slick got all of the men mounted, except me, and some were running and some pitching, and all got considerable distance away, we saddled my bronc. Then Phil fastened a blind fold, made by folding a gunny sack, and put it over the bronc's eyes. He then got on his gentle horse and pulled the bronc's head up close to the horn of his saddle. I was then able to ease into my saddle, on the back of my first bronc. The bronc reared and jumped and tried to run, but was helpless, as Phil, and his trusty horse knew just how to handle him. When we got out of sight of the house and away from the balance of the men, and my bronc was still trying to rear and jump, Phil said, "you get off of him and I will take him to a cleaning." Phil and I both dismounted and I mounted Phil's horse, and Phil soon mounted the bronc, after he succeeded in getting his red bandanna over the bronc's eyes. When he had adjusted himself in the saddle, he reached and pulled the bandanna off of the bronc's eyes and he hit the bronc down the hind legs with a heavy, raw-hide quirt. Then the fun began for me.
The bronc pitched and bawled on every jump, like a calf, and Phil hit him, every jump he made. After pitching about fifty yards, he straightened out at a run, and Phil kept using his quirt. After running about two miles, he was all in, and it took Phil and me until almost dark to get him back to the ranch.
After the bronc was through running and had given out, Phil told me to get on him. I got up into the saddle and Phil got on his horse and he drove me and the bronc in front of him by using the quirt, constantly. We finally got back to the ranch. My bronc was broken, so far as pitching is concerned, and it was easy for me to handle him the next day. So my most-dreaded task was over and I had finished the first degree of a cow puncher without any trouble, and I began to feel considerably important.
We rode our broncos every day for four or five days, and had them real docile. Then we turned them into a pasture with the other saddle horses. It was in early March, 1881, but the grass was already green and the cattle and horses were doing fine.
About the tenth of March, we saddled old, trained cow ponies and used an old gentle horse for a pack animal, to pack our bed blankets, coffee pot and frying pan. We were preparing for my first, short duration, round up of stray cattle. I was detailed to lead the pack horse. Jesse Murphy drove our extra mounts of one horse apiece, and followed me.
We went south to Denton Creek, a distance of twenty miles. There we camped for the night. We had a flour sack full of biscuits that were cooked at the ranch, some bacon and coffee, and that was our menu three times a day, if we found it convenient to stop that often.
There were two Forester brothers, Lock and John. Lock would take a man or two and John likewise, and they would go in different directions hunting the cattle that had strayed away during the winter. As they would get a few together, they would turn them over to Jesse Murphy and me to herd and keep moving toward the designated camping place for the night.
After being out ten days, we were back at the Forester Ranch with about one hundred head of cattle. The Forester brand can be described as looking like railroad tracks, running clear across the animal's side. This brand was called Two Rails. I had noticed that we had several head of cattle in the herd that didn't have the Forester brand, but had small brands of one or two letters of the alphabet, like A or B, C or E.
The next morning when I was awakened for breakfast, I walked out in the yard. It wasn't good light yet, and I noticed a good-sized fire out at the corral. We ate breakfast and went to the corral, right to where old Phil Chisholm was keeping the fire going. In the fire, he had several pieces of wagon tires about four feet long, with one end turned up in a foot-shape. When the tires were red hot, Phil and Slick began roping the cattle with the small brands, then tying them, hog-fashion. Then John Forester grabbed a hot wagon tire and began burning the Two Rail brand on the animal. When he finished, the Two Rail brand had entirely absorbed, or covered up the small letter that was the original brand. Then and there, I got my second lesson in cow punching. I was amused and surprised, for the Foresters were considered leading citizens of the county and they were well-to-do. I never heard of them being accused of rustling cattle. I am truthful and honest when I tell you that this writing is the first time I ever divulged this incident. To contact the editor and grandson of the author, e-mail: Dick Gober
from Cowboy Justice: Tale of a Texas Lawman, Jim Gober Published by Texas Tech University Press, February 1997 ISBN: 0-89672-373-9