Opening Cattle Country Caused Resentment

Settler fought off upset cowboy with a hatchet to win right to settle in cattle country.

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When the Comanche Pool cattle country opened for settlement, Father went to this new territory. One day he was staking out a place near Coldwater, Kansas, where the half-dugout was to be located when a cowboy rode up. The cattlemen resented the encroachment of the farmers.

"What are you doing?" queried the cowboy.

"Planning to build a house," replied Father.

"You'd better move on," said the cowboy, cradling his gun in his arm. "You're not wanted here, and it won't be healthy for you to stay."

Father was quietly winding up the twine with which he had been measuring for the foundation. He said, "You'd give a fellow time to gather up his things, wouldn't you?"

"Sure. Get busy."

Father picked up things until he was near the cowboy. Then with an uplifted hatchet in one hand, he reached for the man's gun with the other. The gun was released, and the cowboy left without it. Father turned the gun over to the authorities and went ahead building without further interruption.

The country was wide, grassy plain, ideal for grazing, so it was no wonder there was strife between cattlemen and farmers. A herd law was passed requiring all stockmen to herd their cattle on open range and keep them away from crops and gardens.

The county surveyors were sent out to complete the land survey. Three young men lived in a tent near us while they were surveying. Mother furnished their meals. Sometimes in the evenings they would join the family for friendly conversation. Billie Thorn, the stoutest, used to quote these words: "When I'm a man, a man, I'll be a surveyor, if I can, and – I know I can. I'll establish corners here and there, just to hear the people swear."

Vallie McKee
Anadarko, Okla.

 Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER's Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.