being a native Texan stories of the lives and dangers of cowboys and the cattle drive always grab my attention.,,,from the Enjoying Texas and American History Facebook page...... Darren L. Ivey NoivSuhemb4aners7f5art512l:137ueiP0M · Historical Artwork of the Week: Driving cattle from the ranges of South and Central Texas to the railheads of Kansas was grueling and dangerous work. Stampedes, Indian attack, and lack of graze and water were only a few of the hazards trail drivers faced. Traversing the great waterways of the Plains was another. "River Crossing" by Andy Thomas depicts a pair of cowboys as they exercise extreme caution in getting their herd safely to the other side. After pointing their lead steer north, the risks for a Texas trail boss and his crew of waddies began shortly into their journey. Depending on their starting point, a herd could cross a multitude of rivers including the Nueces, the San Antonio, the San Saba, the Colorado, the Brazos, or the Trinity. Each carried its own risks. All trail drives, regardless of place of origin though, faced crossing the Red River into the Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma). Red River Station began as a trading post and a military camp on Salt Creek, two miles south of the Red River in Montague County. Starting in 1867, the station became the "jumping-off" point on the Chisholm Trail. A store and a saloon was promptly erected, and, three or four years later, a townsite was established. In 1873, a post office was opened under the name of "Salt Creek," which was officially changed to Red River Station in 1884. Additionally, the surrounding community was served by a ferry. Once the movement of cattle shifted westward in response to advancing railroad lines, the Great Western Trail came into being. Doan's Crossing, the major ford on the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the River River, was the location of a general store established by Corwin F. Doan and his uncle Jonathan Doan in 1878. They added a post office the following year. In "Trail Drivers of Texas," Doan described his establishment, "The first house at Doan's was made of pickets with a dirt roof and floor of the same material. The first winter we had no door but a buffalo robe did service against the northers. The store which had consisted mainly of ammunition and a few groceries occupied one end and the family lived in the other. A huge fireplace around which Indians, buffalo hunters and the family sat, proved very comforting. The warmest seat was reserved for the one who held the baby and this proved to be a very much coveted job. Furniture made with an ax and a saw adorned the humble dwelling." He continued, "Later the store and dwelling were divorced. An adobe store which gave way to a frame building was built. Two log cabins for the families were erected. In 1881 our present home was built, the year the county was organized. This dwelling I still occupy. Governors, English Lords, bankers, lawyers, tramps and people from every walk in life have found sanctuary within its walls. And if these walls could speak many a tale of border warfare would echo from its gray shadows." Writing in his 1903 classic, "The Log of a Cowboy," Andy Adams described Doan's Crossing in 1882: "Red River, this boundary river on the northern border of Texas, was a terror to trail drivers. The majestic grandeur of the river was apparent on every hand, with its red bluff banks, the sediment of its red waters marking the timber along its course, while the driftwood, lodged in trees and high on the banks, indicated what might be expected when she became sportive or angry. The crossing had been in use only a year or two when we forded, yet five graves, one of which was less than ten days made, attested her disregard for human life. It can safely be asserted that at this and lower trail crossings on Red River, the lives of more trail men were lost by drowning than on all other rivers together." After fording the river by either route, the Washita River, with its red clay banks lined by willows, was the next hurdle. For those on the Chisholm Trail, the river was typically traversed at Rock Crossing. This name was due to the rock bottom on the north side. Cattle outfits could easily cross except in times of flood, and the fertile Washita Valley was good land for grazing livestock. Jerry M. Nance remembered one crossing of the Washita: "I put the cattle to swimming the river, which had a very swift current. At first they would not take the water, but I cut off bunches of about seventy-five to a hundred and put them to moving Indian fashion and shoved them right off into the water. Some of them would turn and try to come back, but the swift current had carried them down the where the steep banks on this side kept them from coming out, and they had to go across. I crossed the whole herd in this manner." An additional danger was that river bottoms were sometimes bogs of quicksand. Describing a 1880 cattle drive in "The Passing of the Cattle-Trail," E. D. Smith recalled, "When the Canadian river was reached it was bank full and still rising, and constant rains kept it up for several days. Each day while thus kept waiting outfits were constantly arriving, till at last, worn out with the delay, the managers of the several cattle and horse herds held a council, which resulted in a decision to force a passage. This was very dangerous, for the Canadian was full of quicksand, and, like the Cimarron, 'buries its dead.' Rafts were made, camp-equipage, wagons, etc., were crossed safely over. Following this the herds were rounded up with men in position, and a small bunch of 500 head of cattle was driven into the river, for cattle will take water more readily than horses and swim better. The cattle served to set the quicksands in motion and to lead the horses across. Some of the men swam their horses to guide their cattle and keep them moving to the farther shore. The horses were put into the river immediately behind the cattle, and crossed with the loss of five head. While crossing another bunch of cattle, a few got upon a sand-bar and began 'milling' (moving around in a circle). and several head were drowned before the 'mill' could be broken up. A number of Indians who were watching at once fell to rescuing carcasses, and succeeded in getting four or five out of the water, when they at once proceeded to have a feast." As Smith alluded, some rivers possessed fearsome reputations. Buffalo hunter and scout Billy Dixon commented, "The Cimarron is commonly regarded as one of the most dangerous streams in the southwest. Its width often is three or four hundred yards. If there were no sand, the stream would be rather imposing in size. It is filled to the brim with sand, however, and through the sand is an underflow. The quicksands of the Cimarron are notorious. No crossing is ever permanently safe. The sand grips like a vise, and the river sucks down and buries all that it touches, trees, wagons, horses, cattle and men alike, if the latter should be too weak to extricate themselves. In the old days countless buffaloes bogged down and disappeared beneath the sands of the Cimarron. Their dismembered skeletons are frequently uncovered at this day when the river is in flood. "After a rise, the Cimarron is peculiarly dangerous. As it boils and rolls along, the river loosens and hurls forward an astonishing quantity of sand. Unless naked a man quickly finds himself pulled down by the increasing weight of sand that lodges in his clothes, and swimming becomes difficult, and finally impossible, save without tremendous exertion. Stripped bare, a swimmer can sustain himself in the Cimarron with greater ease than in most other streams, as the salt and sand give the water extraordinary buoyancy. No man should ever tackle the Cimarron in flood until after he has stripped to the skin and kicked off his boots. The experienced cow-pony seems to realize its danger when crossing the Cimarron, taking short, quick steps, and moving forward without the slightest pause. To stop would be to sink in the quicksand." Once past the Cimarron, trail crews would eventually reach the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River and cross at Sewell's Ranch. Sewell was a licensed Indian trader who had built a stockade (also known as Pond Creek Ranch) near present-day Jefferson. He also owned two large ranches in the Territory. At this crossing, quicksand and flooding were once more sources for concern. Once they reached Kansas, herds had fewer troubles with crossing streams and rivers. The last major obstacle was the Arkansas River, which was crossed near Wichita or Dodge City, depending on the route taken.