• Jerry Turner Special to The News
    Jerry Turner Special to The News

If you like the Old West, buy a copy of ‘Up the Trail to Kansas’

When you think of cattle drives, do you see a seasoned trail boss, a grizzled old cook, and dozens of young eager men pushing longhorns through all kinds of hardships? About the only accurate part of that picture are the longhorns and hardships. “Up the Trail to Kansas in 1868,” written by Jack Bailey and published by the University of Oklahoma Press provides some surprises. It is a first day by day account of a cowboy told by a real cowboy.

Bailey was a North Texas farmer who was literate enough to write an interesting account of what life was like on the long trip from Texas to Kansas. Sometimes he wrote several times a day depending on the circumstances. Bailey encountered Indians, freed slaves, U.S. soldiers, Mexicans, and other cowboys working for different cattle companies. Bailey recognized labor relations between the white cowboys and the Negroes on the trip strained almost to the breaking point when differences were made in the treatment of the freedmen over the whites. One incident involved “milk gravy” being given to Negroes but denied the white cowboys. Bailey saw the treatment as equal since he remembered “how it was before.” Surely, he was talking about pre-slave days. The journal reflects how a common man felt about social and political issues of Civil War years.

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