Life and Adventures of Broncho JohnShort book written by Broncho John H. Sullivan . . . .

The following transcription is taken directly from a book written by Broncho John H. Sullivan in 1896 titled Life and Adventures of Broncho John: His First Trip Up the Trail. The book has been transcribed exactly as it was written.

Source Citation:
Sullivan, J. H. 1896. Life and Adventures of Broncho John: His First Trip Up the Trail. Valparaiso, Indiana: J. H. Sullivan. 24 p.


In the preparation of this book an endeavor has been made to have every point clear and easily understood. Broncho John, in the course of his travels, has experienced the need of a work in which the young American of the east should truthfully know about the life of the young American of the west, as it has been and is at present. This little work is brief -- read carefully. Broncho John is writing a large book which will be of great importance. It will be an account of his awful experience, and will be a true history of the life of the cowboy since the arrival of Columbus. Put this book in your library and preserve it for a reference. Show it to your friends and have them get one. By sending ten cents the book will be forwarded at once.

                                                Yours truly,
                                                    J. H. Sullivan
                                                            Valparaiso, Indiana.


J. H. Sullivan








My childhood days were principally spent in the companionship of wild creatures. I loved wild animals. I found great pleasure and happiness in winning the love and confidence of the grizzly, silver tip and black bears. I made friends with the wolves, elk, deer, antelope, mountain sheep, buffalo and other wild creatures. I had great sympathy for the outlawed pony, especially when he was made so by cruel masters. My love for controlling the BRONCO creatures and teaching them better ways won for me the title of BRONCHO JOHN. General Crook, Major Frank North, Wild Bill, Texas Jack, Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill were among the first who gave me that name. I had the title before I was eight years old. I began life among me at about six years of age. I loved to be busy. I began among the uncivilized, the wildest and most severest of man, beast and climate; also among the greatest of good men, such as explorers, army officers, missionaries, great Indian chiefs and nature's beauties. I was always very ambitious to be of service to these great men and learn what I could from them. I loved to have such people ask me to do something and at such an early age I learned the art of obedience. When I asked a question, which was very seldom, it was always answered with such great care that it created faculties for exploration and discovery, and at a very early age I discovered that to be successful in my ambitions and where circumstances were placing me, I must master the art of transportation, that had anything to do with War, Exploration and Troubles. At ten years old I could whip a Texas bull with a bandanna. The last real battle I had with a Buffalo bull was on Buffalo Bill's homestead, near North Platte, Neb., which saved the life of a little child. I knew how to feed my pony, when there was no grain, and beat the best ropers and animals at their own game. I was twelve years old when I started out alone, with the exception of two first-class Oregon horses, on my own long distance trailing. I left Fort Laramie and rode south up Laramie river, Chugwater creek, down Crow Creek, passed old Fort St. Vrains, up South Fork Platte river to Denver. I stayed there long enough to hurry through.

I was always afraid of people of large cities. To me in those days they were something most terrible. The stories told of them was something awful in my mind. I was near Denver several times before this, but I was never allowed to go to town. We generally stayed out on Cherry Creek or over to Provosts Home or sometimes with the Brown's at the foot hills. I rode with a party of prospectors to Colorado City. They tried very hard to take my ponies on a trade, but I gave them a good feast of prairie chickens that I brought down with my six-shooters. One of them asked me if I would fight and I told him to try me once. I left Colorado City at about eleven o'clock that night. I rode nights and passed Pueblo then through the mountains at Sangree-de-Cristo Pass to the old Fort Garland, and then down to the Rio Grande country. I rode through many little Mexican settlements. I stayed over many days in quite a few of them and had a good time with the Mexican and half-breed boys. I liked them all because they were kind and honest. I stopped over at Cristobal, Des Montes, Taoe, Joya, Canada, Santabe, Valenci, Dona Ana, old Fort Fillmore. I met three old cow boys, there who were one their way to San Antonio. I knew two of them who were Wyoming men. They knew a cut-off through the Guadalupe mountains to Rio Pecas, then to Fort Clark and San Antonio.

This journey took about three months. I traveled the most of the time by night. I learned the art of self reliance in good shape on this trip south. I had a few exciting experiences on the way. I lived a few weeks with my friends in San Antonio and saw some very exciting times around main and military plazas. There were big offers for cow boy trailers to go north. Branding business was working its ways into the interior of Texas and ranches sprang up. The ranch owners had clubbed together fr the purpose of protection against hide droppers and sme of the old wild cattle hunters were very angry. The most successful one was old man Maverick. He claimed and took all cattle that had no brands and he had men who were hard fighters and he paid good salaries and big salvage. Another outfit that had been whipped several times by the Maverick crews, through their leader, decided to leave Maverick alone, and then claimed all cattle that had brands. There was bad blood and war all around. There were several Eastern men with money at San Antonio who had cattle on their hands but did not dare ship. A couple of young Northern men from the Platte country opened up a kind of business and they shipped other people's stock and insured them against everything except disease.

My three friends, myself and ten others signed for a trip North with five thousand head of cattle. I think the shippers names were Murphy and Ryan. The crew was made up of eight Northern white cow boys and six Mexicans, all long haired men and a boy, "myself." We were furnished with powder, lead and caps. Each of us had our own two six-shooters, but the company furnished four more for each. Each man had to use fifty rounds a day for practice Rain or Shine. I was the youngest in the outfit and was kept continually busy which I liked very much. I had thirty ponies in my string besides my own two well trained Oregon horses. We camped the first night between San Pedro Springs and old Fort Alamo, where Davie Crockett was killed. San Antonio was most all Mexican then and about four miles away. We drove through Austin, Belton, Waco, Wardsville, Dallas and the last little town was Sherman. We had about three thousand cattle that were not branded. Our scout reported that a crew of about fifteen men were following our trail and that they were probably after our stock. That night the scout was away until morning and as soon as he returned we had a council of war. Our party was divided into three companies -- A, B, and C. Lots were were cast to man each company. It was my lot to be in company A. Lots were cast for the first fighting company -- company B got it. I tried every way to exchange with one of the men in company B. I made big offers and finally one of the men agreed. He told the old man. A council was immediately called, and I will never forget the awful expression on that old grizzly's features. He raised his two hands, then stamped his feet, and with a tremendous roar he threw both hands on his guns, stopped a moment with an awful look at all of us, and then said in a loud clear voice, "Death, and quick, too, to the bribers hereafter." I learned something that I can never forget. We were near the Red river and moving our heard in a line about three miles long when the strange men rode up and the rangler herd and deliberately asked the old man how many unbranded beeves we had. About three thousand was the answer. We are Maverick's men, and want them. The old man said: "Strangers, there is our war company out yonder and ready for action." A prairie chicken flew over and I brought it down. The leader said: "Well, old man, if all your men are as good as that kid, and your stock not afraid of shooting sounds, then I reckon you can go." The old man answered by saying, "Strangers, you had better take a back trail," which they did. That crew never bothered us again.

The Red River was high and it took us two weeks to cross over with the herd and then we worked east a few miles. About the fifth day our scout reported a fresh trail of white men, well mounted, and numbered about sixty in the party and believed it was the Slaughter gang, as he called them, the crew that claimed all the branded cattle and that their by-words were "Dead men tell no tales." They operated mostly in the nation. It was decided "at council" that it would be better to fight Indians than white men. The next day we took a back trail to Rio Negro. Our scout believed the gang would probably hold fort where the new Chisim trail crossed the Canadian river. We worked up the Rio Negro to the forks, then north to the South Canadian, then north and west until we crossed the North Canadian. While crossing this river our scout discovered Indians and reported the discovery to the old man. The old man called me in and said: "Broncho, my boy, from now on, you are a full-fledged scout. You will be under the orders 'entirely' of Prairie Fox. Remember my boy, Obedience and Discipline at the cost of your life. Remember, this herd and out lives depends on obedience and discipline to the chief scout and guide. You are now assistant scout of this command. God bless you my boy, go." The scout was a fine fellow.

That night we struck the Indians' trail and found that they were a party of Comanche war scouts. The next night we discovered their war party of about four-hundred. We struck the Red Fork and worked west. A few of the Indians were giving us a little fun in running fights with one of our war companies, trying to lead them into ambush. The Indians divided into several bands. Now I saw it was sure war for us.

We held our herd near a fine Buffalo Wallow, where there was plenty of water, and held a council of war. The orders given were that as soon as the scouts reported when the Indians would strike, that one company would leave at night, find the weakest point of the Indians, cut them up and keep cutting until they were on the retreat, and when the scouts saw fit time for the next company to strike, the same law must be acted upon and so on.

The next day there were Indians everywhere. Prairie Fox called council about ten o'clock. He said that we must prepare for a hard fight. Little circles of smoke were rising around us. We stampeded our herd on a circle of about four miles. It was a fine, clear day and no wind. We set the country afire outside of our fire guard; a wind soon came and the fire raged for miles across country south and south-west, but in the direction of the Indians the fire steamed out. Lots were cast that night to man the companies. Prairie Fox and myself were left out. The old man would be with the last company to go out. The scouts were strictly ordered to keep out of battle until the last or in defense of the herd. Our war ponies were kept up and fed on seed tops. Each of us had Remington powder and cap revolvers. We were ready for business.

That night Prairie Fox went out on a scout and came back about one o'clock and reported that the Indians were preparing for their scalp dances and that they were sure of easy success in killing all and capturing the ponies, and that he thought their hearts were not bad enough to strike tomorrow and that the Indians were in two camps.

The next day was fine. About three o'clock Prairie Fox said the Indians would strike tomorrow. That night Company B went out composed of three white men and one Mexican and two ponies each. The old man gave them to understand not to make a fight until the Indians began first, and to remember to find their weakest point and "when you do begin, cut them up and keep a cutting until they are on the retreat, or until you are dead, no quarters and no mercy."

The day following, the Indians showed up in full war paint and feathers flying. It looked very beautiful to me; I thought they looked finer than the Sioux. At one time about fifty circled near enough for a fight, but Company A soon run them off. At five o'clock the Indians disappeared. It was full moon and Prairie Fox and myself thought of scouting a little but decided not to as we were strictly on the watch for a surprise. That night and next day was quiet, even the coyotes were still. The next day was fine and Prairie Fox looked a little alarmed. He was continually fixing his guns and looking at his war pony. He said there was something doing somewhere. I asked if he thought the boys were fighting, he said: "they surely were or Indians would be around." That night the old man remarked that he noticed some of the men had lost their appetite. He said, "Which of you fellows can't eat?" Five of the oldest men smiled and said "Here!" "Here!" "Here!" "Here!" and "Here!" "Now," the old man said, "you fellows take that alkali dust right there, put a handful in a cup of that'er water and drink it," which they did. "Now sit there and eat meat and pone until I tell you to stop." They ate the most I ever saw them eat at one time. "Now you critters are fit for transportation for the next twenty-four hours, and that stuff you chucked won't sour."

Company A was ready to go out most any minute and we were ready. Next day came and no Indians. About three o'clock Company B came in and they had about thirty scalps. There were come scalps that had gray-hairs, indicating that they came from old men, also a few squaw and papoose scalps. As soon as the old man saw them he went into a fit of chanting, crying and moaning. We all cried except Prairie Fox, even the scalpers cried. We held a council and Company B said that when they got about eight miles from camp they discovered a Travois Trail and ran it down to the camp, then went to the other camp which was all bucks. The camps were only a mile apart. That afternoon they heard the shooting, then they rode into the Indian squaw camp and killed and scalped. Some of the young bucks escaped and gave them alarm. The Indians moved north right away and left all the dead and some of their wounded and lots of ponies.

I always believe that Prairie Fox knew that this war party had their squaw village with them. It was an awful lesson to the Comanches; they had been most cruel to the whites. The harder these people were punished in time of war the more they honored and respected such enemies in time of peace.

We moved north and crossed the Arkansas river near old Fort Atkinson. Three days later Prairie Fox was wounded in a fight, he had alone, while scouting. He went away at three o'clock in the morning and I was ahead of the herd most of the day watching his trail for signals. At four o'clock we cavied our herd, still Prairie Fox had not arrived. I was sent out to learn what was the matter. I followed his trail about eight miles when I finally heard shooting and soon saw the cause. About twenty Indians had him in a wash-out. I took a circle and got in some quick work, the Indians ran and I managed to get the wounded scout to camp. His horse was killed. I was made scout in his place until he could recover, but he never recovered and we buried him on the lone prairie near Smoky Hill River. I was thirteen years old now and a full fledged scout and guide.

A few days after our old scout, Prairie Fox, was wounded, I was about five miles ahead of the lead bunch. I was riding north through bluffs when suddenly I rode into a valley and only a quarter of a mile from the Indian camp. I instantly saw it was a war party of about three hundred in the village. I just kept on going. The young bucks ran for their ponies. I rode toward them quickly and signaled that I was a messenger from the white war chief. I shot a couple of prairie chickens on the fly. A buck came out of the chief's tepee. I told them to tell the chief that the great long haired white chief had bad heart, and that the Indians must move up the valley out of the way and lose no time. He hurried away and came back with some gifts to give to white chief. I hurried back and told the old man what I had done. He scolded me a little for running into such a trap, but gave me great credit for my quick judgment and wise act.

When we struck the Republican river, we had a fight with a large band of horse thieves. One of our men was killed. I lost two ponies the second day, and we were all scratched a little. The horse thieves were bold, but licked. When we were leaving the Republican for the Little Blue river, a party of about thirty Ogallala Sioux gave us battle. They were after some Pawnees, but struck us. They did no damage and I don't think we did either.

The first town we struck after leaving Sherman, Texas, was Lincoln, Nebraska, or where Lincoln now is. It was composed of two lines of dwellings of all kinds of old stuff, including pieces of old dresses and wagon sheet. I will never forget it. I was riding ahead of the lead bunch on my buckskin Oregon war horse and saw a fat kid playing in the dust right on the trail. I shot ahead, reached down and grabbed the kid by the hair and clothes and rode about three hundred yards to a sod shack, dropped the kid and spurred back. I was not far away when two barrels of buck shot went over my head. The mother thought I attempted to steal the child.

Fremont, Nebraska, was our dead line, and on arrival we had five hundred more cattle than when we started and about three hundred more ponies. There were about fifty elk and twenty old buffalo stayed with us. The stock was in first-class condition. My share of the extra besides my salary was about three hundred dollars. This was my first experience in transportation, guide and Indian scouting on a long trip. We were five months and two weeks on the trail from San Antonio, Texas.

I made many trips up trails of most all kinds, and many trips with explorers and discoverers, not only on this continent but elsewhere. I made many valuable discoveries. There were many times before the Spanish-American war that I wondered if my knowledge and discoveries would ever be of any value to my country in time of war with civilized nations. The credentials and letters are positive proofs of the value of the early training I gave myself. I am going to write a large book of stories of some of my experiences that I know will be pleasing and of importance to all who read it. The stories will show of the persistent times I had when learning about the oceans and seas, the rivers and lakes, the main lands and islands, the mountains and valleys, the prairies and deserts, the tides and ocean streams, the winds and rains, the artics and topics, the storms and calms, the causes of disease of man and beast in time of war and what to do; a knowledge of different races, a knowledge of animals, a knowledge of ships of all kinds in peace and war. This was a practical training that circumstances created.


When reading this history arrange your mind with the times of the first settlements in the gulf country shortly after the discovery by Columbus up to the present time. There are a great many people of white blood who have kept a clear record since the landing of their fore-fathers, nearly four hundred years ago, on the lands of the gulf country. These people are descendents of many nationalities. They are possessed of a wonderfully powerful faculty for honor. They lived in a war of over three hundred years against that awful enemy in many forms called, WRONG. They suffered terribly for the honor and protection of their traditional constitution, called RIGHT. When the whites from the eastern colonies emigrated to the gulf country they adopted the cowboy traditional law of love for RIGHT. This traditional law is growing. It has spread all over the country, and in time will master the world. There are many people living who went to Texas, "from the east" sixty and seventy years ago, and invested several thousands of dollars in the cattle business. They turned their entire property over to people they never saw before, but knew they were the genuine native whites. The speculators gave orders to have their great herds at certain points in two or three years, giving dates. The speculators went back east and never heard nor saw anything of the men or animals until the dates and places appointed two or three years previous. There has never known to have been a case of desertion or robbery on the part of the men hired, but many times the boys were killed or wounded in awful battles in defense of their charges by hostile Indians, robbers, awful prairie fires, stampedes, cloudbursts, floods and winter blizzards. There is no class of people in the world who can show a better record for honor and faithfulness to the law of RIGHT than the cowboys from the beginning, nearly four hundred years ago, to the present time.

                        Come, give me your attention,
                            And see the right and wrong,
                        It is a simple story
                            And won't detain you long.
                        I'll try to tell the reason
                            Why we are bound to roam,
                        And why we are so friendless
                            And never have a home.

It may be well to give a reason for the name "Cow Boy," and how it first came into existence.

In the very earliest days of the arrival of civilization on this continent the Spanish armies broke away and formed into bands of pirates and brigands. The loyal subjects, which were principally missionaries, etc., were compelled to leave the gold country of the Montezumas -- they were chased and hounded on by the robbers. Some drifted north as far as Laramie, and left a trail of adobe walls that will go down in the earliest history of this continent, such as Munchahambra, Pueblo, Santa Fe, El Paso, Del Norte, etc., etc. Some drifted west and a few drifted east and settled in what is now known as San Antonio, Texas. This party of loyal people begged of Spain for help. Spain was then in great difficulties with other powers and the only thing she could do at this time to help her loyal subjects was to send cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and chickens. There were none of these domestic fowls and animals on this continent up to that time. The people then formed a new business and called themselves vaquero's (meaning stock raisers.) The business increased very rapidly, and soon a market was found for hoofs, horns and hides in Europe, and in a short time many people from the eastern settlements emigrated to Texas. The increase of the English speaking people alarmed Mexico. She who tried for many generations to compel the Texans to acknowledge themselves as Mexican subjects, but only to meet with defeat every time. The Texans kept themselves independent, but no nation would acknowledge their independence. Dear old Davie Crockett went to Washington several times, but was only scoffed at and the politicians of the east made fun of his pleading. In 1836 Santa Anna marched a large army across the Rio Grande onto San Antonio and killed all the Texans there with Davie Crockett at the old Fort Alimo. Then Sam Houston, Ben McCullah, Jerry Sullivan, Pat Cannon, Kit Carson and others of great fame as fighters against wrong, declared all of the people of Texas as members of the Texas army. Men, women and children had to fight. Now they asked no help, but all alone, a single star on their flag, they bravely fought and were victorious, and the lone star compelled the world to acknowledge her a nation among nations until she was willingly admitted as one of the sister states of the union.

                        My home is in the saddle,
                            Upon a pony's back,
                        I am a roving cowboy
                            And find the hostile track.
                        They say I am a sure shot,
                            And danger I never knew,
                        But I often heard the story
                            That now I'll tell to you.

The Texans now put their whole attention to the horse and cattle growing business, which was very profitable for hides, horns, hoofs, tallow and corned beef. The monied people of the states began to invest, and a great emigration from the states took place. The Spanish language which was entirely spoken, gave way to English, the word vaquero lost its hold and the word cowboy took its place. The only people who were capable of trailing to the north and back were those who were born of people who had worked on the trails of danger before them, or who were born of people who emigrated to booming countries every year.

                        In eighteen hundred and sixty three
                            A little emigrant band
                        Was massacred by Indians,
                            Bound West by overland.
                        They scalped our noble soldiers,
                            And the emigrants had to die,
                        And the only living captives
                            Were two small girls and I.

The best protectors, the greatest Indian fighters, the most determined men against outlaws are men who were rescued when babes from a terrible massacre, when their fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers were all killed. Some lost all their people in terrible prairie fires, in awful winter blizzards, or crossing flooded rivers. And some strayed away and were picked up by friend or foe.

                        I was rescued from the Indians
                            By a brave and noble man,
                        Who trailed the thieving Indians
                            And fought them hand to hand.
                        He was noted for his bravery
                            While on an enemy's track;
                        He has a noble history,
                            And his name is Texas Jack.

The terrible danger existing in earlier days can never be pictured with the pen, and I think it is an awful shame that our great writers of the east have allowed the most terrible, greatest and grandest work of human suffering to pass their notice.

                            I FIGHT FOR MY COUNTRY

                        Old Jack could tell a story
                            If he were only here,
                        Of the troubles and the hardships
                            Of the western pioneer.
                        He would tell you how the mothers
                            And comrades lost their lives,
                        And how the noble fathers
                            Were scalped before our eyes.

How were a class of people who were the first to begin an industry, and were the very first to ship goods to foreign markets from this continent in the shape of hoofs, horns and hides, and to furnish the world with corned beef cheaper than any country under the sun could furnish it to her own armies.

                        I was raised among the cowboys,
                            My saddle is my home,
                        And I'll always be a cowboy
                            No difference where I roam;
                        And like our noble heroes
                            My help I'll volunteer,
                        And try to be of service
                            To the western pioneer.

In my own time most all the Indians west of the Missouri river were hostile, the prairie fires as terrible as ever, and sometimes worse when fanned on by outlaws and hostiles while on the trail from Texas to the Platte Valley, thence east. Our system of handling stock, our determination of execution, our faithfulness to our employers and our standing by our work with our lives was the cause of our country feeding the world with beef, and the increase of the demand for beef caused us to open still more dangerous country in the far north where we herded our thousands of cattle through the most terrible winters, where blizzards rages, sixty degrees below zero, where there was no shelter but to leward of our hers, our blankets and faithful pony. The great majority of our native-born boys died with their boots on before they were twenty years old. Our greatest joy was to please our employer and be praised for our good judgment and dangerous hardships while opening up such dangerous countries against terrible acts of enemies.

                        I am a roving cowboy,
                            I've worked upon the trail,
                        I've shot the shaggy buffalo
                            And heard the coyote's wail.
                        I have slept upon my saddle,
                            And covered by the moon;
                        I expect to keep it up, dear friends,
                            Until I meet my doom.


No people have ever been so grossly misrepresented and maligned. There is as much difference between the genuine cowboy and the disreputable blusterer, town loafer and bulldozer, that writers for the press have made the cowboy out to be, as there is between the honest, hard-working mechanic of this or any country, and the swaggering rowdy, loafer, or bully that jostles him in the street. A wide-rimmed hat, fringed leggings, ability to sit a mustang well, a six shooter and a carcass full of bad rum do not make a cowboy. A cowboy is not a drunkard. He is not a horse thief nor a road agent. The men whose faithful endurance guides and guards thousands of herds of valuable stock through dangerous passes and lonely trails, and who place their lives between their charges and the many enemies they encounter from the outcast, criminal scum of the country. It is not the cowboy's favorite pastime to ride through border towns and empty his revolver at unoffending and helpless citizens. On the contrary, the true cowboy is a terror to evildoers of all kinds. Horse thieves hate and fear him. Raiding Indians hold a manifesto from a body of cowboys in more regard than they do a proclamation of the President.

                        The cowboy name is butchered
                            By the papers of the east,
                        And while he is in the city
                            He is treated like a beast.
                        But in his native country
                            His name is ever dear,
                        And you bet he is always welcome
                            By the western pioneer.

Through our system and continual hard and dangerous work we have been the first and the last to have our products loaded on board ships. Over three hundred and fifty years ago hoofs and horns were the only goods besides gold and silver that was shipped from this continent. Now the very last freight going on board steam ships is fresh beef and live cattle. At the same time we have opened up the most desperate country on the face of the earth, as far as enemies in the shape of man, beast, and climate are concerned, and never appealing to our country for help, and no expense to Uncle Sam. We have fought them all, we have won our battles. Beautiful and grand cities are covering the very grounds where many of our boys perished for honor and right. Thousands of splendid, happy homes are springing up everywhere. We have fought hostilities, road agents, horse thieves, the awful winter blizzards, the terrible prairie fires, the dangerous cloud bursts, the horrible night stampedes; we have done our work, it is about past.

Transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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