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$26.00 per barrel, and corn in various ways became the staple diet. In 1862 my brother, W. G. Butler, who had joined the army, was sent home to gather a bunch of cattle for the Arkansas post. I was then a youth of fourteen and went along to the Hickok pens, near Oakville, where the cattlemen had assembled 500 head, which were headed at once for Arkansas. I helped to drive them as far as Pecan Springs, near the present town of San Marcos, where I bade my brother good-bye and returned home.
In 1863 came the great drouth. The Nueces and San Antonio Rivers became mere trickling threads of water with here and there a small pool. The grass was soon gone and no cattle survived except those that had previously drifted across the Nueces River on to a range that was not so severely affected by the drouth. In 1864 came rains and plentiful grass, and a search for drifted cattle was organized. All the young, able-bodied men were in the army, so a party of forty-five young boys and old men, headed by Uncle Billy Ricks, of Oakville, went to San Diego to the ranch of Benito Lopez, from which point they worked for a month rounding up cattle and cutting out those of their own brands. Every week a herd was taken across the river and headed for home, and in this way 500 head were put back on the ranges of Karnes County, where thousands had grazed before the drouth. My steer was luckily among the five hundred.
In 1868 W. G. Butler, home from the war, drove a herd to Abilene, Kansas, to market, and I went along as far as Gonzales. This fired in me an ambition to ride the whole trail, and in 1870 I made my first trip through to Abilene in the outfit of my brother. The trail then followed lay along the line from Austin to Belton, Valley Mills, Cleburne to Fort Worth, which at that time boasted of a livery stable, a court house and a store operated by Daggett & Hatcher, supply merchants, on the public square, through which we swung our great herd of cattle.