Did trail drive bosses have an understanding that no two drives left at the same time? And did trail drives ever intersect and cause a problem as to which drive had the “right of way?”
Jack A. Graves
No written “Code of the Trail” existed, but yes, trail drivers had an understanding amongst each other. Many trail bosses knew it was best for all to maintain some kind of trail etiquette or spirit of cooperation.
Oftentimes several herds would be moving up the trail at the same time. A herd might be a few miles ahead or behind, and another might be off to the flanks. The cowhands stayed busy trying to keep the cows from getting mixed in with another herd.
When more than one herd arrived at a river crossing, the first herd there had the right of way; cowhands had to keep the other herd back.
In 1871 alone, 600,000 head were trailed out of Texas, so you can see that put a lot of stress on both grass and watering places.