The Missing Pocket-Book: Tom Mason’s Luck – eBook


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Of all the boys into whose hands this story may fall, and who make it a point to read the daily papers, I venture to say that not one in a hundred will remember that he ever saw the above despatch, which was flashed over the wires one bright summer morning a few years ago; but if those boys had been on the ground as I was, and witnessed the thrilling and affecting scenes that transpired before and after that despatch was written, they would have seen some things that time could never efface from their memories. If ever I saw suffering cattle or determined, almost desperate, men, who were fairly spoiling for a fight, it was on that sweltering August day when a big brown-whiskered man, a wealthy farmer of Jacks County, accompanied by the sheriff and two deputies, rode up to the wagon and demanded to see the boss. Around the wagon were gathered a weary and dusty party of men and boys, who had come there to slake their thirst, and John Chisholm, the man to whose enterprise and push the great Texas cattle trade owed its existence, was just raising a cup of the precious fluid to his lips. I say precious because our supply was limited, and the nearest stream far away. It tastes as though it had been boiled for a week, said he, after he had moistened his parched mouth, but every drop of it is worth its weight in gold. Touch it lightly, boys, for there is no telling when we shall be able to fill the cask again. Have any of the scouts come in yet? If we dont find a pool pretty soon we shall all be ruined. Just see there! he added, waving his hand toward the back trail. A blind man could easily follow our route, for every rod of it is marked with dead beeves. It would have taken something besides a pool of water to quench the thirst of that multitude of cattle, which were drifting along a mile or so in advance of the wagon, almost concealed by the suffocating cloud of dust that hung over them and pointed out their line of travel. Just how many of them there were in the herd the most experienced cattleman could not guess, for the flanks of the drove as well as its leading members were far out of sight. There were more than a dozen outfits mixed up together, no attempt having been made to keep them apart; nor was there any effort made to control their movements beyond keeping them headed toward the West Fork of Trinity, the nearest point at which water could be obtained. The suffering beasts complained piteously as they plodded along, and now and then deep mutterings of challenge and defiance, followed by a commotion somewhere in the herd, would indicate the spot where perhaps a dozen of the half maddened animals had closed in deadly combat. It was little wonder that the sixty bronzed and weather-beaten men who accompanied them were in fighting humor, and ready to resist to the death any interference with their efforts to find water or grass. They were almost consumed with thirst themselves. Every drop of water they drank was brought along in the wagon, and there was so little of it that no one thought of taking more than a swallow at a time. Scouts had been sent out early in the morning with instructions to search everywhere for a water-course, and it was as Mr. Chisholm enquired about them, and handed back the cup he had drained, that the sheriff rode up and asked to see the boss.


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