Title: Hammitt, Chief of Cowboys

Periodical: New York Times

Date: August 19, 1894

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HAMMITT, CHIEF OF COWBOYS.

Buffalo Bill's Famous Rider Talks of His Early Experiences in the West.

Everybody who has visited the Wild West either in Europe or America, has been attracted by the superb riding of Frank Hammitt, chief of the cowboys, but few know that he is the son of an ex-Governor of Colorado. Loth to talk about himself, Hammitt dropped into a conversation the other night with a reporter and told how he became a cowboy. He said: "It was in 1881. I was a boy then, not as boys are now, inexperienced and tender, but what was then termed a tough kid. I joined a trail outfit on the Arkansas River in order to get back North. Trail work was against my taste, but it was my desire to get North, no matter how disagreeable the cost might be. Trail work, as every one knows who is in any way familiar with the West, is the most trying that a cowboy has to contend with. The herd of Texas cattle that I had engaged to help with comprised about 3,000 head, consisting mostly of cows, many of which had young calves. The hardest part of work of this nature is what cowboys termed punching up drags, that is to say, worn-out cows and young calves. I being a boy and having joined the herd on its way, was given the extremely pleasant job of punching up these drags.

"It so happened that we were short-handed, bad weather set in, and two or three stampedes occurred, causing almost superhuman efforts on the part of the boys to control the herd. For several days we saw the tining continued, and every man was worn out for loss of sleep and physical exertion. You talk about human endurance; well, there was not a man who dared leave us. Starvation and death stared any man in the face who dared risk himself on the plains apart from the mess wagon. Among our little band was a negro who had been engaged to 'night herd.' During the day all he was required to do was to ride in the bed wagon and sleep as long as he liked. When bad weather and hard night work commenced, our negro became obstinate and refused to stand his watch, and for three successive days we were unable to get him out on watch. On the evening of the third, about supper time, it was raining pitchforks and was very cold. The trail boss gave the order for night guards. One of the guards, Tom Granger by name, was designated to keep guard until midnight, with instructions to call the negro to relieve him.

"Granger was well-nigh worn out himself and had reached that stage of desperation when men look wild out of their eyes. He went, however, like a man, and stood his guard, until the tap of twelve, when he called the negro, who refused to get up. Granger tried every way in the world to get that African out, but in vain; there was no moving the obstinate coon. Granger then awoke me, with the request to go out on duty until 3 o'clock, then come back and wake up the negro, telling me to be sure and call him in case the other refused to get up. I stood guard until the time was up, then called the negro, who threated to break my neck if I didn't 'leave him alone.' Then I awoke Granger, who got up, patted me on the back, and told me to go to bed, observing quietly that he would look after the coon. I considered it best to wait and see what Granger would do. It was just breaking day when Granger walked over to the negro, shook him until he was wide awake, and then told him to go out to the herd.

"In violent and abusive language the negro refused, made all sorts of threats, and then deliberately turned over and went to sleep. Granger studied for a moment, and then, going to the mess wagon near by, picked up an axe and returned. When he had succeeded again in waking the coon he quietly asked him to go and take his guard, which was once more violently refused. Granger drew his axe back and let fly, burying it in the negro's skull and splitting it with the blade protruding through the chin. Many times in my life I have seen things that deeply impressed me, but never since this occurrence have I ever seen anything done so coolly and with apparent consideration as that. No one said a word, nor was Granger upbraided for his act. The foreman said that, as we were in a hurry, we must leave the negro where he was. Granger, however, persisted in having him buried. It was done with as much ceremony as possible."

Title: Hammitt, Chief of Cowboys

Periodical: New York Times

Date: August 19, 1894

Keywords: African American cowboys American frontier Beef cattle Cattle drives Cattle herding Cowboys Horsemanship Horsemen Murder

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