Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Women of the 1800s on the Cattle Drive

The experiences of life on the Prairie by the true cowboys, are stories of danger, hardships and true character.

On these adventures were also the women. The tales that follow are their stories of life on the Cattle Drive. Excerpts from the book "The Cowgirls" by Joyce Gibson Roach

A Womens Perspective on The Cattle Drive

Mrs. Amanda Burks of Cotulla Texas, describes how cattle had to be rushed through stretches of timber in order to keep them from scattering, and how during electrical storms "lighting seemed to settle on the ground and creep along like something alive." She survived a hail storm during which she had to tie her horses to keep them from running away with her, and then found herself lost from the group. When she was with t he crew, Amanda often was left alone in camp at night while the men stood alert for stampede.

Amanda saw the great spectacle of fifteen herds lined out waiting to cross the Trinity River and of a stampede caused by Indians in which the Burks's herd was mixed with another.

While many women must have seen prairie fires, probably few ever saw one which started with their own two little hands. Amanda, thinking she would be helpful, decided to build a fire in a dry gully attached to the prairie on either side. It did not take long to set the entire countryside ablaze. Mrs. Burks was impressed that the cowboys did not fuss at her about the fire. In fact she noted that along the trail the men were attentive to her and made a point of hunting surprises of wild fruit and prairie chickens for her.

Mrs. Burks knew what it was to suffer through winter on the plains, but of each of her hardships she said that it helped break the monotony. Some felt sorry for Amanda but her reply was:

"....what women, youthful and full spirit and the love of living, needs sympathy because of availing herself of the opportunity of being with her husband while at his chosen work in the great out-of-door world."

In 1871, Harriet Cluck gathered her three children up along with George, her husband and one thousand head of cattle, headed north from Texas up the Chisholm Trail. The family packed their belongings in an old hack, but Mrs. Cluck kept her spy glass and shotgun always with her.

The journey went smoothly until the herd hit the Red River. The river was flooded and Mrs. Cluck handed her children over to trusted riders while she climbed on behind her husband on his horse to make the crossing.

Mrs. Cluck made it a point to scan the horizon for trouble and one day she found it-rustlers. Helping to load the shotguns, Mrs. Cluck bolstered the courage of younger cowboys by calling out, "If any of you boys are afraid to fight, come here and drive the hack and give me your guns and horse." When the rustlers approached the herd and asked for a tribute, George Cluck replied, "I have sixteen as good fighters under me as ever crossed the Red River and they are all crack shots. When you get ready, open the ball, but us Texans will dance the first set."

No doubt Harriet felt the same way.

I hope you have enjoyed these stories- please check back for more of these amazing stories of Women on the Prairie.

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