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Authors: Ben K. Green

Wild Cow Tales

BOOK: Wild Cow Tales
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“For anyone who loves a good story well told, or has a hankering for the vigorous pleasures of taking a good, long look at the real thing when it comes to action or adventure … 
Wild Cow Tales
is a classic gem. Ben Green’s accounts have the flavor of sage, saddle leather, sweat and dust mixed up with sharp, dry humor.”

—Andy Russell

“Ben K. Green is perhaps the most gifted of all Texas story tellers. He had been cowboy, horse trader, and veterinarian over most of the State. In the last flicker of the golden age of the range, Green drove the last herd of steers through Dallas. Yet it is a pretty safe bet that a century hence readers will still delight in his writings.”


“With unprofessional simplicity and a lack of pretentiousness, and without much concern for sentence structure, these stories have a wonderful touch of genuineness and pungent reality. Mighty good readin’.”


“…  shows that Texas is still cattle country. Best of all, it reveals a salty character who can laugh at himself while providing a string of stories bound to entertain the reader.”

Dallas News

If you’ve enjoyed this book, look for other Ballantine Book true tales of the West:



WESTERN BADMEN Dorothy M. Johnson


Copyright © 1969 by Ben K. Green

All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-23940

eISBN: 978-0-307-77239-8

This edition published by arrangement with
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

201 East 50th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022





and early 1930’s when very few teen-age boys or young men had any aspirations to be cowboys. The Machine Age was fast taking the day and young men were learning trades in keeping with progress and changing times. There was little or no glamour attached to the cattle business during this period and cowboys were looked upon either as ruffians or individuals with less mentality than it took to adjust to the Machine Age.

After the crash in 1929 cattle were of very little value and many ranchers, both large and small, went out of business and there was no way for a day-labor cowboy to make a living. Men with families and responsibilities had to learn some other trade, and the only young men that would still ride for a living, handle cattle, and break horses
were those that had no desire to do anything else regardless of what they might be paid because of their love of cowboyin’.

Bankers hated to see a cowboy come in the bank for a loan, and if you were a cowboy, your best friends would have rather waved at you than to have been caught talking to you. As far as I was personally concerned, being a horseman and a cowboy was a disease and no treatment would have done any good. If they had a vaccine for it, it wouldn’t have taken on me. My high-school classmates referred to me as being backward and nonprogressive, and for the most part may have felt a little sorry for me. In spite of all this, I preferred to stay in the cow business, live horseback, and be independent of any source of income that would deprive me of my time and personal liberties.

I started out being a cowboy when I crawled out of the cradle, and I had never gotten used to very many of the luxuries that most people considered necessities. Camping out in rough country under a bluff or close to a windmill had never occurred to me as being anything but normal living, and I didn’t understand what most people referred to as hardships in camp living.

Cattle were cheap and wild cattle were worth about half as much as cattle that could be handled horseback. This being true, one of the ways that I had of surviving the financial strains of the times and staying in the cattle business was to buy or handle for other people outlaw cattle that, if and when I could catch them, would make me more money than the meager amount that could be made in the handling of ordinary cattle at the prices they were bringing.

All Western cattle might have been referred to by farmers or Midwestern cattle feeders as being wild, and it’s true that cattle were far from being gentle from the standpoint of allowing a man to work among them horseback or on foot. Cattle that would booger at the sight of a man or any of the common mechanical sounds of modern civilization and break to run for cover would be the kind of cattle that cowboys referred to as being wild.

Outlaw cattle are those that have gotten away from main herds on roundups, one or several times, and have learned to hide in dense brush, river bottoms or mountainous country. Such cattle learn how to get away from a rider and if they are eornered will try to fight their way out and it seems that it becomes their purpose to stay in whatever particular part of a range where they have the most protection and are least likely to be roped or driven.

The reader will understand that all of the accounts in
Wild Cow Tales
will have some similarities since each account of trapping wild cattle has its setting in some type of rough country where cattle can hide or can get away because a rider cannot follow or head them at top speed over rough terrain, brush, logs, or some other obstacles.

I have gathered thousands of cattle that represented no more than tired horses and torn clothes. The accounts in this book are the unusual circumstances and the original tricks that I had to use to outsmart outlaw cattle and keep my reputation as a top cowhand.


said, were a product of the times in which they flourished. In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, trucks and trailers were not in common use by farmers and small ranchers. In the livestock-farming regions of Texas (especially
along the rivers where the farms had been put in valleys and the ridges and hills were still left in grasslands), the livestock farmer would be running a few head of cattle and raising some calves to sell. He’d also have some cull cows to get rid of occasionally, and now and then a mean fightin’ bull that wouldn’t stay at home, or other breechy cattle (“breechy” meaning cattle that wouldn’t stay inside of a fence) that he’d need to sell. It took about forty head of mixed cattle to make a carload, which would necessitate a number of small stockmen puttin’ their cattle together for a shipment, which never was a very satisfactory arrangement. This situation developed country cow buyers.

I started by hirin’ out horseback, helpin’ country cow buyers when they’d go out and throw cattle together from several different owners until they had enough for a carload. Then we’d drive ’em into town and ship ’em by rail to Fort Worth, Texas. I was a young cowboy, high-school age, when I started buyin’ cattle for myself, especially durin’ the summer months. It was mid-July and all the country cattle had gotten fat on summer grass; and now was the time to start ridin’ the rivers and the ridges to buy what was commonly referred to as “jackpot” cattle. I saddled my horse late that Sunday afternoon, tied a small bedroll and a little grub on the back of my saddle, and headed south to the Brazos River to see if I could put together a load of cattle.

On trips a country cow buyer never planned on campin’ out much. I usually spent the night with people that I was doin’ business with or old friends, and many of the families would have boys and girls about my age.
Country cow buyers were always welcome to spend the night, stop by to eat, and were generally well respected because they were the means of the small stock farmer sellin’ his odd lots of cattle—and, then too, we carried the news. Radios were scarce, telephones were not too common, and about the only newspapers were brought by the mail carrier once a week. This made ever’body glad to see you and want to find out what was goin’ on in town and from communities you had last ridden through.

The first night out I spent with the Weaver family. They had a boy, Mike, who was a little bit younger than I, and his sister, Pam, was about my age. We all knew each other, but Mike and Pam went to school in the country and I went to school in town. They were just sort of passing acquaintances of mine.

When I rode up just before dark, Mike and ever’body hollered get down and come in and that kind of welcome stuff. But Mr. Weaver, lookin’ to the practical side of things, said, “Ben, unsaddle your horse and put him in the barn and feed him. You know we are not goin’ to let you ride on any further—you’ve got to spend the night with us.”

Mr. Weaver and I got my horse put away and went back to the house. Mrs. Weaver and Pam were puttin’ supper on the table. Country gardens were in their flush of production and spring chickens had had time to get fryin’-size; and this bein’ Sunday night, we had a big supper—it looked like without anybody half tryin’ to fix it so. We set out on the porch awhile after dark and visited, talked about ever’thing in general, and, of course, our own business in particular. Mr. Weaver told me that he
had five yearlings and a fat, dry cow that he wanted to sell me the next mornin’. However, it was the custom of good country people not to discuss business much on Sunday, even if it was after dark. Mike had chimed in and said if I was goin’ to be gone down the road a few days that he might have a steer or two caught for me when I got back. This all made interestin’ conversation and pretty soon we went to bed.

It was hot summertime and I slept out in the yard on a pallet with Mike. We got up about daylight; ever’body was gonna have lots to do durin’ the day. Mike and his daddy wanted to get to the field, and Pam and her mother were gonna start cannin’, and I needed to get on down the road and hunt cattle to buy. We looked at the yearlings and the fat cow when I went to the barn with ’em to do the morning feedin’; and, of course, I didn’t have much trouble buyin’ these cattle. It was the custom of the country to ride by and buy cattle and leave them until you had bought enough for a carload and then you turned back and threw ’em together and started drivin’ ’em towards town.

BOOK: Wild Cow Tales
6.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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