|Every life has a story, but not every story gets told. It’s a shame more of our forebears didn’t put pen to paper and tell us how things were.|
One who did was Levi B. Anderson (1849-1931)
Here’s his story:
“Came overland with my parents to Texas in the spring of 1853 (from Mississippi.)
Our outfit consisted of two wagons and a buggy, and we also brought several of our negro slaves. My mother and the youngest children rode in the buggy, which was drawn by an old mule.
We crossed the Mississippi River on a ferryboat. I do not know how long it took us to make the trip, but we must have made very slow progress, for the older children walked almost all of the way and drove an old favorite milch cow that we called “Old Cherry.”
I remember one amusing incident about that old cow. She had a growing hatred for a dog, and never failed to lunge at one that came near her. One evening about dusk as we were driving her along the way we came to a large black stump by the roadside, and “Old Cherry,” evidently thinking it was a dog, made a lunge at it and knocked herself senseless.
The one thing that stands out most vividly in my recollection of that trip is the fact that I was made to wear a sunbonnet all the way.
I hated a bonnet as much as “Old Cherry” hated a dog, and kept throwing my bonnet away and going bareheaded, so finally my mother cut two holes in the top of the bonnet, pulled my hair through them and tied it hard and fast. That was before the days of clipped hair, and as mine was long enough to tie easily, that settled the bonnet question, and I had to make my entrance into grand old Texas looking like a girl, but feeling every inch like a man.
We stopped in Williamson County, near Georgetown, then in the fall of the same year we came to Seguin, Guadalupe County, where I have lived ever since, except when I was following the trail.
There was but little farming carried on in those days, the settlers depending on grass for feed for their work teams and other stock.
The crops of corn and cane were made with oxen. Many times I have seen the heel flies attack a yoke of oxen and they would run off, jump the rail fence and get away with the plow to which they were attached, and sometimes it would be several days before they were found.
Of course we did not make much farming after that fashion, but we did not need much in those days. We lived care-free and happy until the outbreak of the Civil War, when father and my older brother went into the service to fight for the South, leaving me, a lad of only 11 years, the only protection for my mother and younger brothers and sisters, but mother was a fearless woman and the best marksman with a rifle I ever saw, so we felt able to take care of ourselves.
My duties during the war were many and varied. I was mail carrier and general errand boy for all of the women in the neighborhood. Among other things it was my duty to look after the cattle.
During this trying time the cattle accumulated on the range and after the war when the men returned cow hunting became general. From ten to twenty men would gather at some point, usually at old man Konda’s, in the center of the cow range, and round up the cattle.
Each man would take an extra pony along, a lengthy stake rope made of rawhide or hair, a wallet of cornbread, some fat bacon and coffee, and plenty of salt to do him on the round-up. Whenever we got hungry for fresh meat we would kill a fat yearling, eat all we wanted and leave the remainder. On these trips I acquired my first experience at cow-punching.
I decided at once that was the life for me, so I told my father I wanted to go with the herd. He very reluctantly gave his consent, but made me promise that if I was going to be a cowman that I would be “an honest one.” He then proceeded to give me a lot of advice, and presented me with a ten-dollar gold piece for use on the trip. My mother sewed that money in the band of my trousers (breeches, we called them in those days) and I carried it to Kansas and back that way, and when I returned home I gave it back to my father.
I went on the trail every year thereafter until 1887, when the trail was virtually closed. I went twice as a hand and sixteen times as boss of the herd. I drove over every trail from the Gulf of Mexico to the Dakotas and Montana, but the Chisholm Trail was the one I traveled the most.
The journeys up the trail were beset by many dangers and difficulties. Savage Indians often attacked the herd in attempts to cause a stampede. Few outfits were strong enough to repel the Indians by force and were compelled to pay them tribute in the form of beef. To do the work required on those drives took men of strong nerves, iron bodies and alert brains.
The last trip I made was in 1887, when I drove horses. They were a bunch of Spanish mares just from Mexico, and I remember a squabble I had with two other buyers over a big white paint stud that happened to be in the bunch. I got the stud, all right, and made big money on him as well as all of the other horses.
In 1888 I married and settled down on my farm, but never could quite give up the cattle business, and on a small scale have handled some kind of cattle ever since, but the Jersey or any other kind of milch cow has never appealed to me as the Texas longhorn did.
After thirty years of settled life the call of the trail is with me still, and there is not a day that I do not long to mount my horse and be out among the cattle.”
“I’m from Texas and one of the reasons I like Texas is because there’s no one in control.”
– Willie Nelson
Categories: Texas Biographies