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  • "Just a Continual Rumble and Roar":A Texas Cowboy Remembers an 1884 Cattle Drive
  • Richard W. Slatta (bio)

Cowboy Tom Stewart wrote this letter in 1934, fifty years after he helped Isaac Hudson drive his herd of cattle from Grayson County to Jones County, Texas. Born in Alabama in 1854, Hudson came to Texas at age five. Hudson purchased two sections of land four miles south of Anson, the seat of Jones County, in 1884, starting the ranch that was the destination of the trail drive. Hudson ranched until his death in 1910. His son Frederick Edward Hudson, who lived and practiced medicine at Stamford, Texas, until his death in 1963, asked Stewart to write down his memories of the drive.

Although we have a wealth of cattle drive accounts, the Stewart letter stands out for several reasons. First, most accounts deal with the Chisholm Trail; Stewart recounts an east-west drive through Texas.1 Second, this drive is smaller than most, with only four cowboys. It involves a modest ranching operation and herd, more typical than the big outfits and famous figures of Texas ranch life. Third, this is a candid, unvarnished account, a private letter not written for publication. Thus we do not have the stereotypical tall tales and exaggerations than mar many such accounts.

The author's original spelling and grammar have been preserved. Valerie Shelley, of Los Alamos, New Mexico, shared the letter with Richard W. Slatta, who provided the annotations for the letter. Her great uncle was Frederick Edward Hudson, the letter's recipient; her great-grandfather was rancher Isaac Hudson. Shelley and her husband, Ken, both work for Los Alamos National Laboratory. [End Page 173]

Both Val and Ken's families work ranches in New Mexico. As Val wrote to Slatta, "cowboys 'just loving the job' is surely right in line with my firsthand observations of my husband's family and my Dad's love of his job. Most years, it's a toss up whether they will make money or lose it. But still they love it. And they spend many a precious weekend in freezing cold or blazing heat out there working on the ranch. The Shelley ranch is too remote and rugged for motorized ranching, so it is all accomplished on horseback. (All on very ornery horses, I must add.)".2 Val located Slatta after she and her daughter Summer read his book Cowboy: The Illustrated History (2006).

Hamleigh, Texas3 August 14, 1934

E. F. Hudson, M.D.4

Dear Sir an Friend,

After mutch delay, wil try to answer your letter dated 7, 26, 34. I had paper, pin, diary on table, ready to write you, when a Mr. Stricland, of Snyder came for me to paint his house. Couldn't mis the job, needed the money, hence the delay.5

As to the work for your father: I begun work for him in March, 1884 on his ranch, some 12-15 miles south of Sherman, Grayson Co., Tx. gathering and branding cattle, buying a few cows and calves, paying $30-$35 for some. We left there about the first of May (84).

Your father and mother gave us a dance the night before we left. I danced (or tried to) my first set that night, with a girl by name Jimmie Wheat. I had one awful time trying to get through that set. We danced the Double Ell. I mean the others did. I was sash shaying in all direction, most of the time hunting my partner. I don't think I would ever have found her but she would call me, come get me, then we would start all over. That almost killed me. In fact, I have never gotten over it yet. One of the sweetest girls I ever met and I was just the right age to fall for a prettie girl. I thought when a girl called you by your given name and smiled at you, and her eyes sort of sparkled, she was in love with you, and oh Doctor, how I have suffer B4 I learned better. Aw Shaw, I could write a 1000 acres of bunk but could never express my...


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