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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July

Cattle Baron Jesse Driskill was moving a herd north from Bastrop, Texas to Kansas. As the day came to an end, one vaquero wrangling for Jesse asked, "Jefe. Va a celebrar maƱana" as he pondered if the Americano's would celebrate the next day being the fourth of July.   Colonel Driskill smartly replied, "You bet we sure will, Rafael. Thank you for reminding me."

The following morning the drovers were woken like each morning before day light.  As they sat having coffee just as the sun began to rise, the Colonel joined the boys around the camp fire telling them, "Today's going to be a short day boys. Get the herd moved down near Bushy Creek."  The creek ran through the city of Round Rock, Texas  which was a link through central Texas that would lead up to meet the famed Chisholm trail.  The Colonel then said, "Let's get a move on it. We're burning daylight."  
The camp was broken down and the chuckwagon rolled out before half pass seven and the herd pushing north where they would arrive at the creek by ten.  As the herd reached the creek, the chuckwagon was already in place with cookie tying up the canvas fly for shade and tossing bedrolls and gear off the wagon.  The Colonel had the cowboys cut a steer from the herd and asked the cook too butcher it. Telling the wranglers and drovers he wanted them to all get a bath down at the creek and diner would be at 5PM sharp.

The day seem much a holiday to the cowboys working for Col. Driskill.  It was surely rare to be able to take time to mend socks, clean leathers, bath in the creek and even wash clothes. Some cowboys just ran around in long johns and boots for much of the early afternoon.  Cookie even sat up the grooming table and mirror along the front wheel where one by one, each cowboy came along to shave his face as they prepped for tonight's meal.

Cookie had two other cowboys assist him as they dug a large pit hole in the ground. After soaking a large canvas tarp in the creek, they wrapped half a side of beef in the tarp and placed it in the ground. Then covering with several inches of dirt, they lite a fire to the stacked wood above. The other side of beef was hung from the center of three large cedar post next too the fire allowing it to slowly smoke throughout the remainder of the day.

By late afternoon, all the cowboys found their way to be around the chuckwagon. The Colonel sat playing a game of checkers when he peered at his pocket watch, that hung to his vest by a gold chain. Seeing the hour of five PM arriving and since he was down to one King against three Kings in his checker game, he yielded giving victory of the game to his hire hand and then promptly stood up calling the others to come gather around.

"Before I give to much of a speech about today, I want to begin with the Lords Prayer." As the Colonel began leading the group of men with the prayer, each removed their hats as they stood in a circle near the camp fire. Some joined in resighting the prayer including the vaqueros.

"Men," started Col. Driskill. "Today is an important day that Americans shall forever remember. Today marks the day of our Independence. Thomas Jefferson given the primary task to write the Declaration heading the committee of five men who found the important words that provide liberty and independence to all of us. This declaration was first proposed in June of 1776 by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain. Congress in close session approved the resolution on July 2nd."

The Colonel continued, "I want to remind each of us here today.  Some of you  men recently fought in our civil war, some for the north, some for the south, some men here today from Mexico, and others today that we can all call free men have devoted your life and time to make this drive to Kansas possible. We are all men and while created equal, equality often does not come fairly. I would like to read the first paragraph of that declaration which we are about to take celebration. 
 "When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

The colonel asked one of his cowboys what independence meant to him. The cowboy replied, "Able to ride my horse in any direction with out fear." Another stated, "A free man owned my no other man." Even another cowboy answered up, "Equality in our society free from any external ecclesiastical control."

The air was filled with the aroma of the smoking beef as the cook removed the tarp from the pit. Several cowboys assisted him as he prepped to serve.  The cowboys carried the tarp to a table where cookie began slicing up cuts of the beef and glazing it with a sauce of molasses, brown sugars, mustard and vinegar. The savory smells of fresh coffee boiling in the pot, the beef, beans and biscuits filled the camp as the men began to lined up to gather a plate.

Each cowboy able to go back in line for seconds when cookie then set out two large dutch ovens removing the lid revealing peach cobbler. The colonel exclaimed, "Cookie, you've out done yourself. Good thing we don't eat like this every day as I believe I would gain 50 pounds from your excellent cooking."

The cowboys wasted no time chowing down the special meal. The camp fire rested center to the group as each shared little stories and made small conversations.  Under the Texas sun, the day slowly turned to dusk as the sky became highlighted with colors of yellow, orange and pinks over the indigo blue sky. Each cowboy watched  the sun slowly fade behind the hills while the cook lite the kerosene lamps. "Boys," said the Colonel. This has been a great 4th of July. Since we have a herd of cattle that would likely stampede if we fired off our guns, I promise when we get to Dodge City, we'll come in a shoot'in and howlerin', but tonight, I'll make one exception. Cookie, bring that bottle you've been hiding for me and let's crack that jug. Here's to freedom boys and our independence."
Jesse Driskill, a successful cattle baron, had moved to Texas from Missouri in 1849. While he built a fortune, he also lost a fortune but is best known for establishing the finest Hotel west of the Mississippi in Austin, Texas, "The Driskill Hotel" established in 1886. 
Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
Painting of Col. Jesse Driskill inside the lobby of the pristine hotel
Wishing each of us a safe and Happy 4th of July.  May the food be great, the night lite with fireworks and remember, don't stampede the herd.  For Rules of Flag Etiquette STANDARDS of RESPECT.

1 comment:

  1. Great story and an interesting blog just found it but I will be back. Paged through some of your recipes and they look good (not sure about the mountain oysters though). I have a tongue in cheek cooking blog myself – think I will see if my outdoor cooking expertise can mess up any of your fine recipes.

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