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An estimated 25,000 to 35,000 men trailed six to ten million head of cattle and a million horses northward from Texas to Kansas and other distant markets between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the century. Judging from the literary remains housed in range archives and libraries, memories of the experience lingered far longer in the minds of the men and boys involved than did the tracks of bovine hooves upon the landscape of the Great Plains and beyond. Besides drudgery and hardship, the long drive promised excitement and danger for some; for many, a trip across the prairie behind a herd of Texas Longhorns was the most unforgettable experience of their lives. Years later, memories of raging rivers, unpredictable stampedes, and sudden violence still stirred the blood of these now older and wiser men as they clustered together at old settlers' days and county fairs recounting days that would never pass again and yearning for a simpler life a world grown complex. "Cowboys," observed one novelist descended from a long and distinguished line of Texas cowpunchers, "are romantics, extreme romantics, and ninety-nine out of a hundred of them are sentimental to the core. They are oriented to the past and face the present only under duress, and then with extreme reluctance." 1 The trail drivers of Texas were no exception. As their numbers steadily declined, the history and folklore created by these drovers threatened to disappear as well.
11. Larry McMurtry, In a Narrow Grave (Austin: Encino Press, 1978), p. 149.