The High Plains had always been the home of wandering bands of Indians: Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Crow, Arapaho, Osage, Nez Perce, Apache, Mandan, Arikara, Pawnee, and many more. These people lived by hunting the buffalo or antelope, gathering berries and roots, and planting corn and squash. Their homes were earth lodges and tepees. Their tools, until the coming of white men, were of bone and stone, their weapons, the bow and arrow and the club.
At the end of the Civil War, the age of steel moved swiftly westward into this prehistoric land. By 1869, the Union Pacific railroad had spanned the central plains through Nebraska and Wyoming, utilizing an army 10,000 strong of track-laying, bridge-building Irish. By 1872, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fé and the Kansas Pacific, had been driven clear across Kansas.
These lines produced a revolution in the life of the High Plains. The buffalo were exterminated; the Indians were broken and their remnants swept into reservations. Stockyards were established at the railheads in Abilene, Newton, Dodge City, Ogalalla, and Ellis, so that Western beef could be hauled to Chicago and the hungry markets of the East. Drovers from the South Texan borderlands began to drive their herds of long‐ horn cattle up to the railhead cattle towns, over the long trails that led clear through Texas and Indian Territory, or up the Pecos River through New Mexico and Colorado. Between 1866 and 1890, the age of the cowboy and the long trails came and went; during this time 6 million head of Texan longhorns, at the very least, were driven northward either to provide meat for the markets and the Indian reservations or stock the grasslands of Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, New Mexico, and Colorado.
During these years the cattle kingdom of the open grasslands came and went in a flash, leaving its own ineffaceable imprint on the national memory. This was an epic of frontier life, and the cowboy was its hero. It was a hardy, dangerous, and challenging existence which kindled, as did the sea years before, a passion in the hearts of adventurous youth; and it was a way of life which only the toughest and most skilful could survive. The trails along which the huge herds had to be driven covered many hundreds of miles of open territory. Rivers had