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offer. I had no trouble in getting together a drove of fine cattle and other stock - over two thousand head in all. Then we started towards home. I didn't know how long it was going to take to get back. Because this was pioneer work. No drove of cattle had ever been taken across the Alleghany Mountains before. So I was anxious to get started. Besides, I wanted to get them into the New York market before the heat of summer came on.
We got along prosperous. The spring of the year is a good time for drover's work. In the first place, it is the right time to buy the cattle from the farmers. Then again, at this season the roads are soft, so as not to lame the animals. And besides, there is lots of water for drinking purposes, and plenty of pasture at night. In taking a big drove, the order of march is for the drover to ride ahead, sometimes several miles in advance, in order to pick out the road and to make arrangements for sheltering the animals at nightfall. In the present case that work fell to me. Another duty of mine was to find fit places for fording the rivers - either a natu
ral ford, or else some places where the animals could get down into the water safely, swim over, and get up again onto the bank opposite.
opposite. Because those were early days in the Western country. The roads didn't have bridges at all places. And although there were ferries for the stage-coach, there wasn't any ferry big enough to take care of two
thousand head of live stock. So we had to swim or ford the rivers.
In driving a herd, the cattle are placed first. The dogs are trained to follow along just behind and alongside the cattle; because the sheep will come along behind of themselves, being timid. They don't need much tending. After the first day or two they get to know the cattle, and crowd in close behind them without any urging. It's curious, anyhow, to see how a drove of live stock will form itself into a herd after one or two days of marching. They seem to get acquainted with each other, they become a kind of a big family — the cows, the sheep, the dogs, the horses and the boys. They get introduced, so to speak, and hang together after that as though they had growed up on one farm.
This flocking spirit was a great help on the journey. Because pretty soon after leaving Ohio and getting over into Pennsylvania, the country became so wild that, unless the animals had learned to herd together, they could easily have strayed and many would have been lost. In fact, the country became so much of a wilderness after a while that I wasn't always able to find cattle boys when I wanted them. On a long drive like this, you don't have cattle boys for the entire journey. Boys such as you hire for this kind of business are youngsters, and aren't allowed to go far from home. Therefore, we used to pick up a set of boys in the settlements we passed through, take them with us for a day's drive, and let them go back the next day, taking a new set in their place. But when we came to the mountains, the settlements were so scattered that sometimes we had to use the same set of boys for several days' journeys. The farmers along the road were very obliging. They seemed to know that this was the first of what would probably become a frequent custom, and so helped me along. Fodder and living were cheap out there, anyhow. At nightfall, when I would put up at a farmhouse and ask for accommodations for the drove, they would let me have it at a most reasonable figure. Sometimes I paid these bills by leaving with the farmer the lambs or calves that had been dropped during that day's march. They were very trustful farmers out there. All I would need to do, sometimes, would be to say:
“Neighbour, a couple of miles back, down by that ledge of rock, you'll find a ewe.
She dropped a lamb yesterday, and we left her behind. Pretty good pair. Send your boy down and you can have them. We can't stop to take them with us. These new-born
youngsters would delay our march.” Two or three of that kind would sometimes pay our entire bill for the night's lodging. Besides, there were the cattle that got sick. A critter is often too sick to drive; when, if he can only have a little spell to rest up under a cattle-shed, he'll
get well again and thrive. I helped pay, my lodging bills by means of these sick critters which I Teft behind. Besides, the farmers were glad to have a drover come to take their own fatlings. Often I could make a swap, leaving some new-dropped calves or lambs, and take instead good healthy stock.
There were places where we had to camp out at night. When we got up into the Alleghany Mountains and started crossing that wilderness, there were sometimes no farm clearings for mile after mile. When nightfall would overtake us here, we would have to shift the best way we could. But you get used to sleeping out, after a while. Cut browse for the horses, let the critters pick a meal from the
grass and leaves, wherever they can find it; and, with a blanket over some hemlock boughs, make a bed for yourself; in the morning you eat as though there was a wolf in your belly.
Real wolves sometimes used to scare us. Wolves are very fond of veal, and at that time they had not yet been cleared out of the Western mountains. The states were trying their best to get rid of the pestersome varmints and used to offer a bounty for wolves' scalps. In fact, in some places the' killing of wolves was quite a business. A trapper could take a wolf's scalp to the justice of the peace and get a scalp certificate payable by the tax-gatherer when the next tax was gathered. But he didn't
have to wait for the tax-gatherer, because these scalp certificates were good at ʼmost any store for merchandise. The
country out there uncleared that there were still plenty of wolves in the mountains. In fact, some trappers were so abandoned, and the bounty on scalps so high -- for a full-grown wolf, $40, and for whelps, half that price that they would keep a she-wolf and her litter of whelps out in some secluded place in the mountains, in order to sell the scalps when they were full-grown. We met with this danger. But here again the herding spirit of my critters was a help. At night, when they would hear a pack of fifteen or twenty wolves a-yelping in the darkness, the cattle and sheep would crowd in together, shivering with fear. They wouldn't need any dogs or boys to round them up. In fact they would hug in so tight that they would well-nigh smother to death a weakling that might be in the middle of the herd.
With all my care I lost a sight of critters before I
got the drove through. There were those devoured by the wolves; and the stray-aways, because we couldn't stop to hunt up a lost steer, if he got too far from the drove. Also, some died of mud-fever on the legs and belly, due to sloppy roads. Then there were the accidents that happen on a journey through a wild country and across deep and sometimes swift rivers. Out of a drove of two thousand, we lost four or five hundred at least. And, do the best we