Page:Yule Logs.djvu/400

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384
ON A MEXICAN RANCHE

Mexico, the hides, and his cotton-fields, was larger than sufficed for his needs. His table was supplied from the estates. Horses, when required, could be lassoed, brought in, and broken in in any numbers. Indian corn, rice, sugar, the chief items of food of the slaves, were all raised on the estates, while meat was forthcoming to any amount. Save for dresses and jewels for his daughter, and a few imported luxuries, such as wine, the calls upon his purse were insignificant.

The changes, then, that went on were a source of almost unmixed annoyance: there were complaints from his herdsmen, of cattle being driven off by parties of reckless whites; disputes arose with the cowboys of an American company which had purchased a large tract of land to the north, and more than one fray had taken place between his peons and their men, owing to the cattle of one or other party straying beyond their limits and getting mixed with those of their neighbour. He had, so far refused to resort to the method adopted by many other Mexican proprietors, of engaging several white overlookers and cowboys. These were paid but a small salary, but were given a fixed proportion—a third or a fourth—of the increase of the herds they looked after. It was therefore to their interest to guard them closely, and to protect them both from cattle-stealers and from the cowboys of other ranches. It was found that much trouble was saved by this method, and quarrels avoided with their unwelcome neighbours, while the profits were larger than those made when matters were looked after by the indolent natives. Don Garcia had for some time refused to adopt this method; but he hated trouble, and there were such constant complaints of theft from his herds that he began to feel that it would be necessary to adopt the practice, at any rate on the northern part of his estates. He had now, with his daughter, been paying a visit to a friend whose estate lay eighty miles to the south.