E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott went on his first trail drive at the age of ten. At that time, he was living with his parents in Nebraska and helped his father herd cattle home from Texas. The Civil War had ended only five years prior and Abbott recalled the Lone Star State being overrun with long-horns. (Their owners had gone off to fight with the Confederacy and in the meantime, the cattle had multiplied and run wild.)
Although Abbott’s father wanted him to work on the family farm, Abbott had different plans. High supply and low demand for beef in Texas had brought the price down to four dollars a head. Meanwhile, people all over the country were in need of cattle with no way of transporting them from Texas by rail.
Cowboys became the solution to this problem. They trailed out across hundreds of miles to deliver cattle to buyers all
over the country. Among them was Abbott, who set out as a teenager to be a cowpuncher. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s he drove cattle on the Western Trail, which stretched from San Antonio, Texas, to Miles City, Montana, with important stops at Dodge City, Kansas, and Ogallala, Nebraska.
Although Abbot wanted to be a cowboy, he experienced many hardships. Lack of food (other than beef), treacherous landscapes, and loss of sleep were common problems he encountered. (Sometimes Abbott and his fellow cowboys would rub tobacco in their eyes just to keep awake.) Lightning strikes twice knocked him off his horse and claimed the lives of others. On one occasion, he came across a fellow cowpuncher that had been crushed to death by his horse.
Despite these hardships, Abbott enjoyed his life as a cowboy and met a number of famous folks along the way. Abbott not only encountered but was photographed with Calamity Jane while in Lewistown. He also met Buffalo Bill Cody and said of him, “Buffalo Bill was a good fellow… and we had to hand it to him because he was the only one that had brains enough to make that Wild West stuff pay money.”
Abbott’s own fame grew with the publishing of his memoir in 1939, titled We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher, which he wrote with the assistance of journalist Helena Huntington Smith. (Years prior, he had asked Charlie Russell to collaborate with him on a book but the artist died in 1926 before they got the chance.) Abbot’s memoir later inspired Lonesome Dove, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.