Herding Cattle on the Western Trail

In a land of endless open range, the best way to make a fortune was by herding cattle from Texas to Kansas City where they could be shipped by rail for a big payday. In the game Western Trail, players are rival cattlemen in 19th century America, herding their herds across the vast American West and attempting to beat the competition to the prize. Those who do so will be rewarded handsomely and ultimately win the game.

The game consists of several rounds, with each round taking about an hour and ending when all players have arrived at their destination station with their most valuable herds in tow. Along the trail, players earn money and victory points by completing certain actions, such as improving their herds, building railroad posts, and hiring skilled staff. The winner is the player who manages their herd and staff wisely, while avoiding pitfalls and dangers on the arduous trail.

During the 1849 Gold Rush, California became the destination of choice for most emigrants traveling on the trail. The number of people using the trail increased dramatically as a result, with an estimated 200,000 travelers between 1849 and 1860. Along with emigrants, the trail was frequented by soldiers, Indian scouts, ranchers, traders, and adventurers.

Many of the towns and communities on the western trail were created to serve trail travelers. Some, like Dodge City and Topeka, were established as railway and river towns to provide goods and services to the trail traffic. In addition, there were a variety of small frontier towns along the trail where emigrants could find food, shelter, and supplies.

There were a number of hazards on the trail, including stampedes, dangerous river crossings, hostile Indians, and disease. Cholera, smallpox, and gunshot wounds were common causes of death among travelers, but other perils also loomed large on the trail. Food was often scarce and contaminated water was frequently available, so disease was a major cause of death on the trail.

At the end of the Civil War, Texas possessed between three and six million head of cattle, most of them wild unbranded mavericks that were worth only two dollars each in local markets. However, those same animals were potentially much more valuable in the North, which had been denuded of livestock during the war and where longhorns were especially sought after.

In order to transport large herds of cattle from Texas to market, the cowboys would have to herd them together. They referred to this herding work as “trail driving.” Typically, a contract drover employed about eleven people who were called trail hands. These men herded the cattle, rounded up strays and interlopers, and overseen the remuda – the herd of spare saddle horses. The majority of trail hands were young Whites, usually in their twenties, who worked seasonally as cowboys. These young men were known as buckaroos, or vaqueros, and they wore distinctive hats and tan shirts. A small number of women were known to ride the trail as well.

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