So we continue with more Experiences of Boss Neff in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandle:
The Panhandle and Boss Neff—Part II
Los Ciboleros Ride Full Tilt Into Buffalo Herd
While Henry Ivings and I were recuperating at Garcia’s Plaza, Juan Trujillo, his brother, Jose, and three other Mexicans drove into the corral for the night. They had about 15 horses and mules, four wagons, four saddles, a water barrel, enough provisions and grain for the mules and best saddle horses to last a month.
They were armed with lances, some six shooters and rifles and they said they were on their way over into the Panhandle of Texas and No Man’s Land to hunt buffalo. Their object was to secure and dry enough buffalo meat for the next summer.
Don Juan could speak just a few words of English and together with Henry’s knowledge of Spanish the two of them were soon talking and getting well acquainted and finally Don Juan invited us to go with them. He said we could help skin, stake out and flesh the hides and cut the fleshy parts of the meat into strips for drying purposes. It is needless to say we accepted his generous offer, and the next morning found us on the way over to Buffalo Springs, which, by the way, is the head of Coldwater Creek, near the northwest corner of Texas.
On the way over to the Springs we were constantly in sight of innumerable antelope, mustangs and range cattle. Senor Trujillo told us that a year or two before the cattlemen on the Canadian River had built a drift fence that extended from the Indian Territory to New Mexico, that is paralleled the Canadian and was some 15 miles north of the Canadian. Therefore the buffalo could not migrate south as they had previously done.
Be it said of the Trujillo brothers that they were of the Castillian stock and were mighty high class Mexican people, they owned two of the best buffalo horses obtainable, Panzon and Pinto Alazan (in English, Big Belly and Paint Sorrel). They both had plenty of speed and they didn’t shy from a buffalo when they rode along side of one, which was unusual for most horses.
Jose was the official cocinero, or cook. He was a past master at cooking tortillas, frijoles and pastel de carnel, which was a pie or stew made of the choice bits of buffalo and consisted of brains, sweetbread, kidney and buffalo hump, and was considered par excellence in any camp. Another of his favorite dishes was roast. He would take the front quarter of a buffalo carcass after the forearm and the heavy parts were removed. He would sharpen both ends of two green sticks of wood, piercing the meat with them about one foot apart. The other ends were planted firmly in the ground. The sticks supported the meat in an upright position some two feet from a good campfire. He would bake it in that position for possibly two hours, then the other side would be turned to the fire for about two hours. That kind of a roast, together with tortillas or sour dough biscuits was good enough for the most exacting epicurean.
Two Days to Springs
It took us two days to make the Springs. The first white men or Americans that we met since leaving Springer were two Cross L cowpunchers. They were stationed in a line camp at Buffalo Springs, which was some 40 miles southeast of the headquarters on the Cimarron River.
Their raiment consisted of California pants, flannel shirts, white hats, six shooters, silver mounted spurs and fine looking saddles, which looked mighty good to me and only increased my desire to own a regalia of that kind.
We let the springs at midday, the Trujillo brothers riding their best buffalo horses while the caravan followed in a northeast direction, they having told us they would go toward Company M, which, by the way is a short body of water on the Beaver River. The hunters rode on ahead and disappeared, but some 10 0r 12 miles cut from the springs one of the riders appeared on the horizon waving his sombrero. When we drew near he told us they had killed two buffalo.
He piloted us on in the direction indicated by his lance and not far distant we drove up to where the buffalo lay. We camped here for the night and skinned the buffalo. In the morning we took all the fleshy parts, the hides and some of the boney pieces for camp meat and pulled on over to Company M in No-Mans Land, now Cimarron County, Okla.
We were disappointed in not finding many buffalo but killed one or two old bulls on the way down to the head of water of the Beaver, now in Texas County. Here we met some hunters. They said the buffalo were farther south on the Coldwater and Agua Frio. There were lots of range cattle, antelope and wild horses on the head of the Beaver.
Henry and the hunters explained to me that the ranchmen owned no land, paid no taxes, and that the cattle lived on the grass the year around, and that it was simply a matter of branding calves during the summer, shipping beef in the fall, which appealed to me greatly. I vowed then that I’d learn the business, save my wages and be a ranchman in No Man’s Land.
On to Coldwater
After two or three days camp on the Beaver we pulled out for the Coldwater. We remained at the Coldwater camp for a week or more. Here is where we stretched out our hides, cut the meat into strips, which were hung on ropes to dry. We always took a team to where they were killed, skinned them and brought all the fleshy parts, together with the hides and tongues, to the camp.
Henry and I did the skinning. We also staked flesh and stretched the hides. The fleshy parts of buffalo, and also of antelope, were cut in strips and hung over ropes to dry. This, when dry, was called jerkie. The Trujillos did not salt their jerkie because, they said, a gray meat bug got into salted meat but did not bother when it was not salted.
Henry and I had never seen them kill a buffalo thus far. Don Juan located several bunches up the creek near Agua Frio and he told us that the following day we would move up to Agua Frio, and as that would be our last camp he promised to take us with him so we could witness the slaughter.
On this particular day Juan was mounted on Panzon, Jose on Pinto Alazan, Henry and I on two lesser lights. Finally some 20 head were located lying down at the head of an arroyo.
From Windward Side
Los Ciboleros, or buffalo hunters, usually carried a fusil or .44 Winchester in a scabbard, and their lance, when not in action, was also carried in a scabbard. The lance had a steel blade 12 to 14 inches long, attached to a staff some seven feet in length and when it was in the scabbard it extended to the side and above the horse’s head.
They usually killed the buffalo with the lance, the antelope with the fusil.
This day we approached the buffalo from the windward side and Juan and his brother rode full speed among them. They lanced three that soon fell by the way. This was a spectacular sight for a tenderfoot from Ohio.
We camped here 10 or 12 days, until we had 19 buffalo hides and a fine lot of jerkie. The Trujillos took great delight in teaching me Spanish while we were in camp. The first sentence I learned was “Como se llamo eso?” (What do you call that?)
From the Agua Frio we started out caravan westward to Perico and then on to Garcia’s Plaza, where we bid, “Amigos nuestros adios.” (“Our friends, goodbye.”)
Next Week, Part III