The upper image is a photo of the original Tarrant County courthouse taken before it burned in 1876. The crowds suggest it is either a market day or a gathering to watch a hanging. To cattle drovers and cowboys, Fort Worth seemed like an enormous place. In the novel, the boy Joe was amazed at the number of houses and wide dusty streets filled with wagons and buggies. While looking for the post office, he and July passed what seemed like fifty saloons, even seeing a small herd of well-behaved longhorns being driven right in the streets.
In those saloons, cowboys and other thirsty men drank beer and spirits, danced with painted women, and if they chose, gambled at cards and other games of chance. Fort Worth was an oasis for the cowboys driving the cattle herds. It was the last town before the cattle drive —a place to buy supplies, have a little fun, and make a few memories before the long and dangerous journey ahead.