Wednesday, September 21, 2011

STAMPEDE

CROSBY, TEXAS -  Overlooking the White River is a strip of hilltop that hosts scrub trees, and long grass.  Peaceful and idyllic it’s hard to reconcile it to the name it holds: Stampede Mesa.  The hilltops violent name comes from a more lawless time.

Stampede

In the fall of 1889 the area was a frequent stop for men on the trail.  A trail boss could order his men to see that the cows they were driving were watered and then bedded down on the Mesa for the night.  The area was good for the tall grass, the water and a high place to spot trouble for some distance away.  For one trail boss trouble came in an unexpected fashion.  The men had accidentally driven their herd through the property of a farmer and had driven his cows up the Mesa with their own.  The Farmer arrived on a scrawny white mare and demanded his cows back.

There was no argument with that, they had no use for his cows, which were just as skinny and malcontent as both the farmer and his horse, but they did have a problem when he also cut out some of their cattle and began to drive them away.  An argument ensued that the trail men were too tired and hungry to endure.  The old farmer was instructed to come back at daybreak when the sun was up and he had a “better chance of seeing things” the cowboy’s way.  Cursing bitterly the farmer, embarrassed not only by being caught stealing but also in having to leave his own stock, rode his old scrawny horse back down the Mesa. 
 
The men gratefully ate and prepared to sleep.  Their rest was to be short lived for in the night the cattle stampeded.  Incredibly, since they seem to be driven away from the North and heading south, they headed straight for the steepest part of the canyon. Every man knew his job and did his best but when the sun came up that morning two men and hundreds of steers lay dead at the bottom of the canyon.  Men who had witness the beginning of the stampede claimed to have seen the old Farmer and his white mare driving the cattle recklessly  toward the cliffs edge. 

There was no justice to appeal to, only the law of the Trail Boss and he decided to let the punishment fit the crime.  He had the Farmer dragged up the hill, his hands tied, his eyes blindfolded and then ordered he be tied to his likewise blindfold horse and driven off the edge of the Mesa. 
 
Of course this is not the end of the story.  The Farmer still blindfolded and tied to his horse was seen countless times. And word began to spread from cowboy to trail driver not to camp on Stampede Mesa lest your herd, or your men  share his fate as he would try to drive men, horse, and steer over the cliff where his body had been left to rot.

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