Walking Gold Pieces
Following the lead of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific, other rail lines soon spread throughout the West -- the Kansas Pacific, Northern Pacific, and Denver Pacific; the Texas and Pacific; the Denver and Rio Grande; the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.
And as the railroads moved onto the Great Plains, they brought with them people who had never seen the West, or its most magnificent animal, the buffalo. At first, they shot the buffalo for sport, banging away at the huge herds from the windows of passengers cars. One church group from Lawrence, Kansas, organized a two-day hunting excursion to raise money: three hundred people signed up.
the white men wanted to build railroads, or when they wanted to farm or
raise cattle, the buffalo still protected the Kiowas. They tore up the
railroad tracks and the gardens. They chased the cattle off the ranges.
The buffalo loved their people as much as the Kiowas loved them... Then
the white men hired hunters to do nothing but kill the buffalo.
The buffalo didn't belong to anybody. If you could kill them, what they brought was yours. They were walking gold pieces.
Frank Mayer was hanging around Dodge City, Kansas, in the heart of buffalo country, looking for work, when he met two hunters who offered to show him their brand-new trade. "I was young... I needed adventure," he remembered. "Here was it."
The new rail lines meant that buffalo robes and buffalo meat could be taken to eastern markets in greater numbers, at lower costs. And manufacturers had perfected techniques for turning stiff buffalo hides into soft leather -- ideal for shoes, cushions, carriage tops, and the belts that turned machinery in eastern factories.
Frank Mayer was determined to be among the first to profit from the buffalo boom. He sank everything he owned into a hunting outfit -- wagons, mules, camp equipment, and firearms. Then he headed out onto the Plains.
I went into the business, I sat down and figured that I was indeed one
of fortune's children. Just think. There were 20 million buffalo, each
worth at least $3 -- $60 million. At the very outside, cartridges cost
25 cents each, so every time I fired one I got my investment back twelve
times over. I could kill a hundred a day.... That would be $6,000 a month
-- or three times what was paid, it seems to me, the President of the
United States. Was I not lucky that I discovered this quick and easy way
to fortune? I thought I was.
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