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Captain James H. Cook, Agate Springs, Nebraska. in Hunting Costume. Frontispiece "Fifty Years on the Old Frontier" 1923.)



product is imbedded in these lakes for the use and benefit of future generations.

So, I have taken you back over a span of almost half a century. During this period wonderful developments have been made in every line, in our great state. We are recognized as one of the great states of the nation. We are proud of its religious life; proud of its passion for education; proud of our great universities, schools, churches, great business institutions, and all else that has made our state great.

Let us hope the next fifty years will do as well.


(An experience, in the State of Nebraska, connected with the days of the old Texas Cattle Trail, when the northern part of the State was occupied by its original inhabitants, still following to a large extent, the modes of life pursued by their ancestors.)

By James H. Cook, Agate, Sioux County
Read Before Annual Meeting Nebraska State Historical
Society January, 1911

In the year 1876, I helped to drive a herd of Texas steers, numbering about two thousand five hundred head, from a point on the Nueces River in Texas, to what was then known as the "Whetstone Bottom" on the Missouri River in South Dakota.

These cattle had been purchased by men who had contracted with the United States Interior Department to supply a number of our Indian Agencies with beef. The herd, composed entirely of strong cattle, made good time and led the drive made that season from Southern Texas, and was the first great herd of cattle to be driven through Western Nebraska into Dakota.

Our experience in getting as far as the North Platte River in Western Nebraska was the one common to those who "drove the trail" in those days -- high, water, stormy weather, stampedes of both cattle and saddle horses, hunger at times and great thirst, as well as a few other discomforts which aided the cowboy in rounding out his full measure of whatever he might choose to call it-misery or joy.

We crossed the South Platte and North Platte Rivers a few miles east of the town of Ogallala. From there we drove over

       Cook, James Henry, Naturalist; b. Kalamazoo, Mich., Aug. 26, 1858; s. Henry and Elizabeth (Shaw) C.; ed. Pub. Schs.; m. Kate Graham Cook, of Cheyenne, Wyo., Sept. 28, 1886; children -- Harold James, John Graham (dec). Mgr. WS Ranch, Socorro Co., N. M., 1882.87; owner Agate Springs Ranch, Agate, Sioux Co., Neb., since 1887. Discovered Agate Springs Fossil Quarries, from which many valuable prehistoric specimens have been secured; maintains, with Harold J. Cook, a free mus. of natural history, at Agate. Guide and scout with Texas Rangers in early 70's; Scout for U. S. cav. in Geronimo Indian Campaign, 1885, 86. Mem. Am. Inst. Social Sci., Nebraska State Hist. Soc., Hon. Mem. Boy Scouts America; Asso. Mem. Order Indian Wars of U. S. Republican. Protestant. Author: Fifty Years on the Old Frontier, 1923; also stories of adventure. Lecturer on geology, evolution, etc. Home: Agate, Neb.
       From Who's Who in America, 1926.27, Vol. 14.


to Birdwood Creek, then to the head waters of the Dismal and Loup rivers and on north through the great chain of shifting sand hills that are now so well known.

There were ten of us, including our Trail Boss, Mr. Mack Stewart, and the cook, with the cattle and a band of saddle horses. In addition to our regular crew we had a guide by the name of Aaron Barker, who had been employed at North Platte city. This guide probably knew Western Nebraska as well as any man living in those days, having been associated with the Sioux Indians in that part of the country for years. In fact, I have been told that he and a few companions engaged in handling Sioux ponies at the expense of their real owners.

We passed through the sand hill country at the season when the sand cherries were ripe and at their best, as were the blossoms on the "soap weeds" (or yucca), and since the cattle seemed to have found something that pleased their palates as well as the cherries did ours, it looked to me, at one time, as though we would never all get together again. This was my first experience with sand cherries and it left a pleasant impression on my memory.

Cattle Mired in the Lake

Driving on north from the head waters of the north fork of the Loup River, our guide took us to one of the sand hill lakes, then unnamed. Here occurred an incident worth mentioning. The weather was very warm and we had a long drive without water before we arrived at the lake. The cattle scented the water long before we reached it, since the direction of the wind was favorable, and they strung out for it at a trot. We tried to hold the leaders back but when they came within about a half mile of the water they split into bunches and in spite of our efforts, rushed madly into the lake. About a hundred head were mired down before we could crowd those following to a place where the mud and guano were not so deep.

Wild Fowl Abundant

At that time, and probably for centuries before, the lakes in the sand hills of Nebraska were the breeding places for all sorts of wild fowl. Upon our arrival, countless flocks of wild geese, ducks, pelicans, swan, and many other varieties of water fowl hovered over and flew about us, no doubt greatly surprised by our abrupt intrusion.

Roping and Pulling the Cattle from the Mire

The task that confronted its before we could get anything in the line of supper, was to save the cattle that had mired down. This provided to be quite a job, as we got our saddle horses mired in the attempt to get near enough to the cattle to threw our ropes over their horns, so that we could pull them out. As some of the best cattle in the herd were in the mire, we had to get them out and save them if such a thing was possible. Fortunately there was a clump of willows growing at one side of the lake, and we cut some of these, tied them into bunches, and

This sand hill lake where the range cattle mired down was probably one of the group of lakes south of Valentine, including Dad's Lake, Red Deer Lake. and Marsh Lake. This is one on the most famous breeding grounds of wild fowl in the United States. It ought to be made a Nebraska Game Preserve Park.

Picture or sketch

A Texas "Longhorn" in Thoughtful Mood.
(From sketch in U. of N. Thesis "The Long Drive" by Everett Dick.)


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