Part 8 out of 9
the Eighteenth Infantry, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, directing
General Custer to follow the Indian trail discovered, pushing the
Indians from one side, while General Gibbon pursued them from an
opposite direction. As no instructions were given as to the rate at
which each division should travel, Custer, noted for his quick,
energetic movements, made ninety miles the first three days, and,
discovering the Indians in large numbers, divided his command into
three divisions, one of which he placed under Major Reno, another
under Major Benteen, and led the other himself.
As Custer made a detour to enter the village, Reno struck a large body
of Indians, who, after retreating nearly three miles, turned on the
troops and ran them pell-mell across Grassy Creek into the woods.
Reno overestimated the strength of his enemies and thought he was
being surrounded. Benteen came up to the support of Reno, but he too
took fright and got out of his position without striking the enemy.
While Reno and Benteen were trying to keep open a way for their
retreat, Custer charged on the village, first sending a courier,
Trumpeter Martin, to Reno and Benteen with the following despatch:
“Big village; be quick; send on the packs.” This order was too plain
to be misunderstood. It clearly meant that he had discovered the
village, which he intended attacking at once; to hurry forward to his
support and bring up the packs, ambulances, etc. But, instead of
obeying orders, Reno and Benteen stood aloof, fearful lest they should
endanger their position, while the brave Custer and his squad of noble
horses rushed down like a terrible avalanche upon the Indian village.
In a moment, fateful incident, the Indians came swarming about that
heroic band until the very earth seemed to open and let loose the
elements of volcanic fury, or like a riot of the fiends of Erebus,
blazing with the hot sulphur of their impious dominion. Down from
the hillside, up through the valleys, that dreadful torrent of Indian
cruelty and massacre poured around the little squad to swallow it up
with one grand swoop of fire. But Custer was there at the head, like
Spartacus fighting the legions about him, tall, graceful, brave as a
lion at bay, and with thunderbolts in his hands. His brave followers
formed a hollow square, and met the rush and roar and fury of the
demons. Bravely they breasted that battle shock, bravely stood up and
faced the leaden hail, nor quailed when looking into the blazing
muzzles of five thousand deadly rifles.
Brushing away the powder grimes that had settled in his face, Custer
looked over the boiling sea of fury around him, peering through the
smoke for some signs of Reno and Benteen, but seeing none. Still
thinking of the aid which must soon come, with cheering words to his
men he renewed the battle, fighting still like a Hercules and piling
heaps of victims around his very feet.
Hour after hour passed, and yet no friendly sign of Reno's coming;
nothing to be seen through the battle-smoke, except streaks of fire
splitting through the misty clouds, blood flowing in rivulets under
tramping feet, dying comrades, and Indians swarming around him,
rending the air with their demoniacal “hi-yi-yip-yah!—yah-hi-yah!”
The fight continued with unabated fury until late in the afternoon;
men had sunk down beside their gallant leader until there was but a
handful left, only a dozen, bleeding from many wounds and hot carbines
in their stiffening hands.—The day is almost done, when look! Heaven
now defend him! The charm of his life is broken, for Custer has
fallen; a bullet cleaves a pathway through his side, and as he falters
another strikes his noble breast. Like a strong oak stricken by the
lightning's bolt, shivering the mighty trunk and bending its withering
branches down close to the earth, so fell Custer; but, like the
reacting branches, he rises partly up again, and striking out like
a fatally wounded giant he lays three more Indians dead and breaks his
mighty sword on the musket of a fourth; then, with useless blade and
empty pistol, falls back the victim of a dozen wounds.—He was the
last to succumb to death, and died, too, with the glory of
accomplished duty on his conscience and the benediction of a grateful
country on his head. The place where fell these noblest of heroes is
sacred ground, and though it be the Golgotha of a nation's mistakes,
it is bathed with precious blood, rich with the gems of heroic
I have avoided attaching blame to any one, using only the facts that
have been furnished me to show how Custer came to attack the Sioux
village and how and why he died.
When the news of the terrible massacre was learned, soldiers everywhere
made a pilgrimage to the sacred place, and friendly hands reared a
monument on that distant spot commemorative of the heroism of Custer
and his men. They collected together all the bones and relics of the
battle and piled them up in pyramidal form, where they stand in
sunshine and storm, overlooking the Little Big Horn.
Soon after the news of Custer's massacre reached us, preparations were
immediately made to avenge his death. The whole Cheyenne and Sioux
tribes were in revolt, and a lively, if not very dangerous, campaign
Two days before receipt of the news of the massacre, Colonel Stanton,
who was with the Fifth Cavalry, had been sent to Red Cloud agency, and
on the evening of the receipt of the news of the Custer fight a scout
arrived in our camp with a message from the colonel informing General
Merritt that eight hundred Cheyenne warriors had that day left Red
Cloud agency to join Sitting Bull's hostile forces in the Big Horn
Notwithstanding the instructions to proceed immediately to join
General Crook by the way of Fort Fetterman, General Merritt took the
responsibility of endeavouring to intercept the Cheyennes, and as the
sequel shows he performed a very important service.
He selected five hundred men and horses, and in two hours we were
making a forced march back to Hat, or War Bonnet Creek—the intention
being to reach the main Indian trail running to the north across that
creek before the Cheyennes could get there. We arrived there the next
night, and at daylight the following morning, July 17, 1876, I went
out on a scout, and found that the Indians had not yet crossed the
creek. On my way back to the command I discovered a large party of
Indians, which proved to be the Cheyennes, coming up from the south,
and I hurried to the camp with this important information.
The cavalrymen quietly mounted their horses, and were ordered to
remain out of sight, while General Merritt, accompanied by two or
three aids and myself, went out on a tour of observation to a
neighbouring hill, from the summit of which we saw that the Indians
were approaching almost directly toward us. Presently fifteen or
twenty of them dashed off to the west in the direction from which we
had come the night before; and, upon closer observation with our
field-glasses, we discovered two mounted soldiers, evidently carrying
despatches for us, pushing forward on our trail.
The Indians were evidently endeavouring to intercept these two men,
and General Merritt feared that they would accomplish their object.
He did not think it advisable to send out any soldiers to the
assistance of the couriers, for fear they would show to the Indians
that there were troops in the vicinity who were waiting for them.
I finally suggested that the best plan was to wait until the couriers
came closer to the command, and then, just as the Indians were about
to make a charge, to let me take the scouts and cut them off from the
main body of the Cheyennes, who were coming over the divide.
“All right, Cody,” said the general, “if you can do that, go ahead.”
I rushed back to the command, jumped on my horse, picked out fifteen
men, and returned with them to the point of observation. I told
General Merritt to give us the word to start out at the proper time,
and presently he sang out:—
“Go in now, Cody, and be quick about it. They are going to charge on
The two messengers were not over four hundred yards from us, and the
Indians were only about two hundred yards behind them. We instantly
dashed over the bluffs, and advanced on a gallop toward them.
A running fight lasted several minutes, during which we drove the enemy
some little distance and killed three of their number. The rest of
them rode off toward the main body, which had come into plain sight
and halted upon seeing the skirmish that was going on. We were about
half a mile from General Merritt, and the Indians whom we were chasing
suddenly turned upon us, and another lively skirmish took place.
One of the Indians, who was handsomely decorated with all the ornaments
usually worn by a war-chief when engaged in a fight, sang out to me,
in his own tongue: “I know you, Pa-he-haska; if you want to fight,
come ahead and fight me.”
The chief was riding his horse back and forth in front of his men, as
if to banter me, and I concluded to accept the challenge. I galloped
toward him for fifty yards and he advanced toward me about the same
distance, both of us riding at full speed, and then, when we were only
about thirty yards apart, I raised my rifle and fired; his horse fell
to the ground, having been killed by my bullet. Almost at the same
instant my own horse went down, he having stepped into a gopher-hole.
The fall did not hurt me much, and I instantly sprang to my feet.
The Indian had also recovered himself, and we were now both on foot,
and not more than twenty paces apart. We fired at each other
simultaneously. My usual luck did not desert me on this occasion,
for his bullet missed me, while mine struck him in the breast.
He reeled and fell, but before he had fairly touched the ground I was
upon him, knife in hand, and had driven the keen-edged weapon to its
hilt in his heart. Jerking his war-bonnet off, I scientifically
scalped him in about five seconds.
The whole affair from beginning to end occupied but little time, and
the Indians, seeing that I was some little distance from my company,
now came charging down upon me from a hill, in hopes of cutting me off.
General Merritt had witnessed the duel, and realizing the danger I was
in ordered Colonel Mason with Company K to hurry to my rescue.
The order came none too soon, for if it had been one minute later
I would have had not less than two hundred Indians upon me. As the
soldiers came up I swung the Indian chieftain's top-knot and bonnet
in the air, and shouted:—
“The first scalp for Custer!”
General Merritt, seeing that he could not now ambush the Indians,
ordered the whole regiment to charge upon them. They made a stubborn
resistance for a little while, but it was no use for any eight hundred,
or even sixteen hundred, Indians to try to check a charge of the
gallant old Fifth Cavalry. They soon came to that conclusion and
began a running retreat toward Red Cloud agency. For thirty-five
miles we drove them, pushing them so hard that they were obliged to
abandon their loose horses, their camp equipage, and everything else.
We drove them into the agency, and followed in ourselves, notwithstanding
the possibility of our having to encounter the thousands of Indians at
that point. We were uncertain whether or not the other agency Indians
had determined to follow the example of the Cheyennes and strike out
upon the war-path; but that made no difference with the Fifth Cavalry,
for they would have fought them all if necessary. It was dark when
we rode into the agency, where we found thousands of Indians collected
together; but they manifested no disposition to fight.
While at the agency I learned the name of the Indian chief whom I had
killed that morning; it was Yellow Hand, a son of old Cut Nose
—a leading chief of the Cheyennes. Cut Nose, having learned that
I had killed his son, sent a white interpreter to me with a message to
the effect that he would give me four mules if I would turn over to
him Yellow Hand's war-bonnet, guns, pistols, ornaments, and other
paraphernalia which I had captured. I sent back word to the old
gentleman that it would give me pleasure to accommodate him, but
I could not do it this time.
The next morning we started to join General Crook, who was camped near
the foot of Cloud Peak in the Big Horn Mountains, awaiting the arrival
of the Fifth Cavalry before proceeding against the Sioux, who were
somewhere near the head of the Little Big Horn—as his scouts informed
him. We made rapid marches and reached General Crook's camp on Goose
Creek about the 3d of August.
At this camp I met many an old friend, among whom was Colonel Royall,
who had received his promotion to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the
Third Cavalry. He introduced me to general Crook, whom I had never
met before, but of whom I had often heard. He also introduced me to
the General's chief guide, Frank Grouard, a half-breed, who had lived
six years with Sitting Bull, and knew the country thoroughly.
We remained in this camp only one day, and then the whole troop pulled
out for the Tongue River, leaving our wagons behind, but taking with
us a large pack-train. We marched down the Tongue River for two days,
thence in a westerly direction over the Rosebud, where we struck the
main Indian trail, leading down this stream. From the size of the
trail, which appeared to be about three or four days old, we estimated
that there must have been in the neighbourhood of seven thousand
Indians in the war-party.
We pushed on, but we did not seem to gain much on the Indians, as they
were evidently making about the same marches that we were.
Soon the two commands were nearly out of supplies, so the trail was
abandoned. The troops kept on down Powder River to its confluence
with the Yellowstone, and remained there several days. Here we met
General Miles, who reported that no Indians had as yet crossed the
Yellowstone. Several steamboats soon arrived with a large quantity
of supplies, and once more the “Boys in Blue” were made happy.
One evening while we were in camp on the Yellowstone at the mouth of
Powder River, I was informed that the commanding officers had selected
Louis Richard, a half-breed, and myself, to accompany General Miles on
a scouting expedition on the steamer _Far West_, down the Yellowstone
as far as Glendive Creek.
The _Far West_ was to remain at Glendive overnight, and General Miles
wished to send despatches back to General Terry at once. At his
request I took the despatches and rode seventy-five miles that night
through the Bad Lands of the Yellowstone, and reached General Terry's
camp next morning, after having nearly broken my neck a dozen times
There being but little prospect of any more fighting, I determined to
go East as soon as possible. So I started down the river on the
steamer _Yellowstone_ en route to Fort Beauford. On the same morning
Generals Terry and Crook pulled out for Powder River, to take up the
old Indian trail which we had recently left.
The steamer had proceeded down the stream about twenty miles when it
was met by another boat on its way up the river, having on board
General Whistler and some fresh troops for General Terry's command.
Both boats landed, and almost the first person I met was my old friend
and partner, Texas Jack, who had been sent out as a despatch carrier
for the _New York Herald_.
General Whistler, upon learning that General Terry had left the
Yellowstone, asked me to carry him some important despatches from
General Sheridan, and although I objected, he insisted on my performing
this duty, saying that it would only detain me a few hours longer;
as an extra inducement, he offered me the use of his own thoroughbred
horse, which was on the boat. I finally consented to go, and was soon
speeding over the rough and hilly country toward Powder River, and I
delivered the despatches to General Terry the same evening. General
Whistler's horse, though a good animal, was not used to such hard
riding, and was far more exhausted by the journey than I was.
After I had taken a lunch, General Terry asked me if I would carry
some despatches back to General Whistler, and I replied that I would.
Captain Smith, General Terry's aide-de-camp, offered me his horse for
the trip, and it proved to be an excellent animal; for I rode him that
same night forty miles over the Bad Lands in four hours, and reached
General Whistler's steamboat at one o'clock. During my absence the
Indians had made their appearance on the different hills in the
vicinity, and the troops from the boat had had several skirmishes with
them. When General Whistler had finished reading the despatches,
he said, “Cody, I want to send information to General Terry concerning
the Indians who have been skirmishing around here all day. I have
been trying all the evening long to induce some one to carry my
despatches to him, but no one seems willing to make the trip, and
I have got to fall back on you. It is asking a great deal, I know,
as you have just ridden eighty miles; but it is a case of necessity,
and if you'll go, Cody, I'll see that you are well paid for it.”
“Never mind about the pay,” said I, “but get your despatches ready and
I'll start at once.”
In a few minutes he handed me the package, and, mounting the same
horse which I had ridden from General Terry's camp, I struck out for
my destination. It was two o'clock in the morning when I left the
boat, and at eight o'clock I rode into General Terry's camp, just as
he was about to march—having made one hundred and twenty-five miles
in twenty-two hours.
General Terry, after reading the despatches, halted his command and
then rode on and overtook General Crook, with whom he held a council;
the result was that Crook's command moved on in the direction which
they had been pursuing, while Terry's forces marched back to the
Yellowstone and crossed the river on steamboats. At the urgent
request of General Terry I accompanied the command on a scout in the
direction of the Dry Fork of the Missouri, where it was expected we
would strike some Indians.
The first march out from the Yellowstone was made in the night, as we
wished to get into the hills without being discovered by the Sioux
scouts. After marching three days, a little to the east of north,
we reached the buffalo range and discovered fresh signs of Indians,
who had evidently been killing buffaloes. General Terry now called
on me to carry despatches to Colonel Rice, who was still camped at
the mouth of Glendive Creek, on the Yellowstone, distant about eighty
miles from us.
Night had set in with a storm, and a drizzling rain was falling when,
at ten o'clock, I started on this ride through a section of country
with which I was entirely unacquainted. I travelled through the
darkness a distance of about thirty miles, and at daylight I rode
into a secluded spot at the head of a ravine where stood a bunch of
ash-trees, and there I concluded to remain till night, for I considered
it a very dangerous undertaking to cross the wide prairies in broad
daylight, especially as my horse was a poor one. I accordingly
unsaddled my animal, and ate a hearty breakfast of bacon and hardtack
which I had stored in the saddle-pockets; then, after taking a smoke,
I lay down to sleep, with my saddle for a pillow. In a few minutes
I was in the land of dreams.
After sleeping some time—I can't tell how long—I was suddenly
awakened by a roaring, rumbling sound. I instantly seized my gun,
sprang to my horse, and hurriedly secreted him in the brush. Then I
climbed up the steep side of the bank and cautiously looked over the
summit; in the distance I saw a large herd of buffaloes which were
being chased and fired at by twenty or thirty Indians. Occasionally
a buffalo would drop out of the herd, but the Indians kept on until
they had killed ten or fifteen. Then they turned back and began to
cut up their game.
I saddled my horse and tied him to a small tree where I could reach
him conveniently, in case the Indians should discover me by finding my
trail and following it. I then crawled carefully back to the summit
of the bluff, and in a concealed position watched the Indians for two
hours, during which time they were occupied in cutting up the buffaloes
and packing the meat on their ponies. When they had finished this work
they rode off in the direction whence they had come and on the line
which I had proposed to travel. It appeared evident to me that their
camp was located somewhere between me and Glendive Creek, but I had
no idea of abandoning the trip on that account.
I waited till nightfall before resuming my journey, and then I bore
off to the east for several miles, and by taking a semicircle to avoid
the Indians I got back on my original course, and then pushed on
rapidly to Colonel Rice's camp, which I reached just at daylight.
Colonel Rice had been fighting Indians almost every day since he had
been encamped at this point, and he was very anxious to notify General
Terry of the fact. Of course I was requested to carry his despatches.
After remaining at Glendive a single day, I started back to find
General Terry, and on the third day I overhauled him at the head of
Deer Creek while on his way to Colonel Rice's camp. He was not,
however, going in the right direction, but bearing too far to the East,
and so I informed him. He then asked me to guide the command, and
I did so.
On arriving at Glendive I bade good-by to the general and his officers,
and took passage on the steamer _Far West_, which was on her way down
IN A TRAPPER'S BIVOUAC.
The majority of old-time trappers and scouts always had an inexhaustible
fund of anecdote and adventure. Stories were often told at night when
the day's duty of making the round of the traps was done, the beaver
skinned, and the pelts hung up to cure. Their simple supper disposed,
and being comfortably seated around their fire of blazing logs,
each one of them indulged, as a preliminary, in his favourite manner
of smoking. Some adhered to the traditional clay pipe, others, more
fastidious, used nothing less expensive than a meerschaum. Many,
however, were satisfied with a simple cigarette with its covering of
corn husk. This was Kit Carson's usual method of smoking, and he was
an inveterate partaker of the weed. Frequently there was no real
tobacco to be found in the camp; either its occupants had exhausted
their supply, or the traders had failed to bring enough at the last
rendezvous to go round. Then they were compelled to resort to the
substitutes of the Indians. Among some tribes the bark of the red
willow, dried and bruised, was used; others, particularly the mountain
savages, smoked the genuine kin-nik-i-nick, a little evergreen vine
growing on the tops of the highest elevations, and known as larb.
It was a rare treat to come across one of those solitary camps when
out on a prolonged hunt, for the visitor was certain of a cordial
welcome, and everything the generous men had was freely at your
service. The crowning pleasure came at night, when stories were told
under the silvery pines, with troops of stars overhead, around a
glowing camp-fire, until the lateness of the hour warned all that it
was time to roll up in their robes, if they intended to court sleep.
Let the reader, in fancy, accompany us to some thunder-splintered
cañon of the great rock-ribbed Continental Divide, and when the
shadows of night come walking along the mountains, seek one of these
sequestered camps, take our place in the magic circle, and listen to
wondrous tales as they are passed around. There is nothing to disturb
the magnificent silence save an occasional soughing of the fitful
breeze in the tops of the towering pines, or the gentle babbling of
some tiny rivulet as its water soothingly flows over the rounded
pebbles in its bed. There is a charm in the environment of such a
spot that will photograph its picture on the memory as the gem of all
the varied experiences of a checkered life.
One of the best raconteurs was Old Hatcher, as he was known throughout
the mountains. He was a famous trapper of the late '40's. Hatcher
was thoroughly Western in all his gestures, moods, and dialect.
He had a fund of stories of an amusing, and often of a marvellous cast.
It was never any trouble to persuade him to relate some of the scenes
in his wayward, ever-changing life; particularly if you warmed him up
with a good-sized bottle of whiskey, of which he was inordinately fond.
When telling a story he invariably kept his pipe in his mouth, using
his hands to cut from a solid plug of Missouri tobacco, whenever his
pipe showed signs of exhaustion. He also fixed his eyes on some
imaginary object in the blaze of the fire, and his countenance
indicated a concentration of thought, as if to call back from the
shadowy past the coming tale, the more attractive, perhaps, by its
He declared that he once visited the realms of Pluto, and no one ever
succeeded in disabusing his mind of the illusion.
The story is here presented just as he used to tell it, but divested
of much of its dialect, so hard to read, and much more difficult to
“Well!” beginning with a vigorous pull at his pipe. “I had been down
to Bent's Fort to get some powder, lead, and a few things I needed at
the beginning of the buffalo season. I remained there for some time
waiting for a caravan to come from the States which was to bring the
goods I wanted. Things was wonderfully high; it took a beaver-skin
for a plug of tobacco, three for a cup of powder, and other knick-knacks
in proportion. Jim Finch, an old trapper that went under by the Utes
near the Sangre de Cristo Pass, a few years ago, had told me there was
lots of beaver on the Purgatoire. Nobody knowed it; all thought the
creeks had been cleaned out of the varmints. So down I goes to the
cañon, and sot my traps. I was all alone by myself, and I'll be
darned if ten Injuns didn't come a screeching right after me.
I cached. I did, and the darned red devils made for the open prairie
with my animals. I tell you, I was mad, but I kept hid for more than
an hour. Suddenly I heard a tramping in the bushes, and in breaks my
little gray mule. Thinks I them 'Rapahoes ain't smart; so tied her to
grass. But the Injuns had scared the beaver so, I stays in my camp,
eating my lariat. Then I begun to get kind o' wolfish and squeamish;
something was gnawing and pulling at my inwards, like a wolf in a
trap. Just then an idea struck me, that I had been there before
trading liquor with the Utes.
“I looked around for sign, and hurrah for the mountains if I didn't
find the cache! And now if I didn't kiss the rock that I had pecked
with my butcher-knife to mark the place, I'm ungrateful. Maybe the
gravel wasn't scratched up from that place, and to me as would have
given all my traps for some Taos lightning, just rolled in the
“I was weaker than a goat in the spring, but when the Taos was opened,
I fell back and let it run in. In four swallows I concluded to pull
up stakes for the headwaters of the Purgatoire for meat. So I roped
old Blue, tied on my traps, and left.
“It used to be the best place in the mountains for meat, but nothing
was in sight. Things looked mighty strange, and I wanted to make the
back track; but, says I, here I am, and I don't turn, surely.
“The bushes was all scorched and curly and the cedar was like fire had
been put to it. The big, brown rocks was covered with black smoke,
and the little drink in the bottom of the cañon was dried up. I was
now most under the old twin peaks of ‘Wa-te-yah’; the cold snow
on top looking mighty cool and refreshing.
“Something was wrong; I must be shoving backwards, I thought, and that
before long, or I'd go under, so I jerked the rein, but I'll be dog-goned,
and it's true as there's meat running, Blue kept going forward.
I laid back and cussed and kicked till I saw blood, certain. Then I
put out my hand for my knife to kill the beast, but the 'Green River'
wouldn't come. I tell you some unvisible spirit had a paw there,
and it's me that says it, 'bad medicine' it was, that trapping time.
“Loosing my pistol, the one I traded at Big Horn, the time I lost my
Ute squaw, and priming my rifle, I swore to keep right on; for after
staying ten years in these mountains, to be fooled this way wasn't the
game for me nohow.
“Well, we, I say, ‘we,’ for Blue was some—as good as a man any day;
I could talk to her, and she'd turn her head as if she understood me.
Mules are knowing critters—next to human. At a sharp corner Blue
snorted, and turned her head, but couldn't go back. There, in front,
was a level cañon with walls of black and brown and gray stone, and
stumps of burned piñon hung down ready to fall onto us; and, as we
passed, the rocks and trees shook and grated and croaked. All at once
Blue tucked her tail, backed her ears, bowed her neck, and squealed
right out, a-rearing on her hind legs, a-pawing, and snickering.
This hoss didn't see the cute of them notions; he was for examining,
so I goes to jump off and lam the fool; but I was stuck tight as if
there was tar on the saddle. I took my gun, that there iron, my rifle,
and pops Blue over the head, but she squealed and dodged, all the time
pawing; but it wasn't no use, and I says, ‘you didn't cost more than
two blankets when you was traded from the Utes, and two blankets ain't
worth more than two beaver-skins at Bent's Fort, which comes to two
dollars a pair, you consarned ugly pictur—darn you, anyhow!’ Just
then I heard a laughing. I looks up, and two black critters—they
wasn't human, sure, for they had black tails and red coats—Indian
cloth, cloth like that traded to the Indians, edged with white, shiny
stuff, and brass buttons.
“They come forward and made two low bows. I felt for my scalp-knife,
for I thought they was approaching to take me, but I couldn't use it
—they was so darned polite.
“One of the devils said, with a grin and bow, ‘Good-morning, Mr. Hatcher!’
“‘H——!’ says I, ‘how do you know me? I swear this hoss never saw
“‘Oh, we've expected you a long time,’ said the other, ‘and we are
quite happy to see you—we've known you ever since your arrival in
“I was getting sort of scared. I wanted a drop of Taos mighty bad,
but the bottle was gone, and I looked at them in astonishment, and
“‘Hush!’ screamed one, ‘you must not say that here—keep still, you
will see him presently.’
“I felt streaked, and a cold sweat broke out all over me. I tried to
say my prayers, as I used to at home, when they made me turn in at night—
“‘Now I lay me.’
“Pshaw! I'm off again, I can't say it; but if this child could have
got off his animal, he'd took hair and gone down the trail for
“All this time the long-tailed devils was leading my animal, and me
top of her, the biggest fool dug out, up the same cañon. The rocks
on the sides was pecked smooth as a beaver-skin, ribbed with the grain,
and the ground was covered with bits of cedar, like a cavayard of
mules had been nipping and scattering them about. Overhead it was
roofed, leastwise it was dark in here, and only a little light come
through the holes in the rock. I thought I knew where we was, and
eeched awfully to talk, but I sot still and didn't ask any questions.
“Presently we were stopped by a dead wall. No opening anywhere. When
the devils turned from me, I jerked my head around quick, but there
was no place to get out—the wall had growed up behind us too. I was
mad, and I wasn't mad neither; for I expected the time had come for
this child to go under. So I let my head fall on my breast, and I
pulled the wool hat over my eyes, and thought for the last of the
beaver I had trapped, and the buffalo as had taken my lead pills in
their livers, and the poker and euchre I'd played at the Rendezvous at
Bent's Fort. I felt comfortable as eating fat cow to think I hadn't
cheated any one.
“All at once the cañon got bright as day. I looked up, and there was
a room with lights and people talking and laughing, and fiddles
screeching. Dad, and the preacher at home when I was a boy, told me
the fiddle was the devil's invention; I believe it now.
“The little fellow as had hold of my animal squeaked out—‘Get off
your mule, Mr. Hatcher!’
“‘Get off!’ said I, for I was mad as a bull pricked with Comanche
lances, for his disturbing me. ‘Get off? I have been trying to, ever
since I came into this infernal hole.’
“‘You can do so now. Be quick, for the company is waiting,’ says he,
“They all stopped talking and were looking right at me. I felt riled.
‘Darn your company. I've got to lose my scalp anyhow, and no
difference to me—but to oblige you’—so I slid off as easy as if I
had never been stuck.
“A hunchback boy, with little gray eyes in his head, took old Blue away.
I might never see her again, and I shouted—‘Poor Blue! Good-by, Blue!’
“The young devil snickered; I turned around mighty stern—‘Stop your
laughing, you hell-cat—if I am alone, I can take you,’ and I grabbed
for my knife to wade into his liver; but it was gone—gun,
bullet-pouch, and pistol, like mules in a stampede.
“I stepped forward with a big fellow, with hair frizzled out like an
old buffalo just before shedding time; and the people jawing worse
than a cavayard of paroquets, stopped, while frizzly shouted:—
“‘Mr. Hatcher, formerly of Wapakonnetta, latterly of the Rocky Mountains.’
“Well, there I stood. Things were mighty strange, and every darned
nigger of them looked so pleased like. To show them manners, I said,
‘How are you?’ and I went to bow, but chaw my last tobacco if I could,
my breeches was so tight—the heat way back in the cañon had shrunk
them. They were too polite to notice it, and I felt for my knife to
rip the dog-goned things, but recollecting the scalp-taker was stolen,
I straightens up and bowed my head. A kind-looking, smallish old
gentleman, with a black coat and breeches, and a bright, cute face,
and gold spectacles, walks up and pressed my hand softly.
“‘How do you do, my dear friend? I have long expected you. You cannot
imagine the pleasure it gives me to meet you at home. I have watched
your peregrinations in the busy, tiresome world with much interest.
Sit down, sit down; take a chair,’ and he handed me one.
“I squared myself on it, but if a ten-pronged buck wasn't done sucking
when I last sot on a chair, and I squirmed awhile, uneasy as a
gun-shot coyote; then I jumps up and tells the old gentleman them sort
of fixings didn't suit this beaver, he prefers the floor. I sets
cross-legged like in camp, as easy as eating meat. I reached for my
pipe—a fellow so used to it—but the devils in the cañon had cached
“‘You wish to smoke, Mr. Hatcher?—we will have cigars. Here!’ he
called to an imp near him, ‘some cigars.’
“They was brought in on a waiter, about the size of my bullet-pouch.
I empties them into my hat, for good cigars ain't to be picked up on
the prairie every day, but looking at the old man, I saw something was
wrong. To be polite, I ought to have taken but one.
“‘I beg pardon,’ says I, scratching my scalp, ‘this hoss didn't think
—he's been so long in the mountains he's forgot civilized doings,’
and I shoved the hat to him.
“‘Never mind,’ says he, waving his hand and smiling faintly, ‘get
others,’ speaking to the boy alongside of him.
“The old gentleman took one and touched his finger to the end of my
cigar—it smoked as if fire had been sot to it.
“‘Waugh! the devil!’ screams I, darting back.
“‘The same!’ chimed in he, biting off the little end of his, and
bowing, and spitting it out, ‘the same, sir.’
“‘The same! what?’
“‘H——l! this ain't the hollow tree for this coon—I'll be making
medicine,’ so I offers my cigar to the sky and to the earth, like an
“‘You must not do that here—out upon such superstition,’ says he,
“‘Don't ask so many questions—come with me,’ rising to his feet, and
walking off slow and blowing his cigar-smoke over his shoulder in a
long line, and I gets alongside of him. ‘I want to show you my
establishment—you did not expect to find this down here, eh?’
“My breeches was all-fired stiff with the heat in the cañon, and my
friend, seeing it, said, ‘Your breeches are tight; allow me to place
my hand on them.’
“He rubbed his fingers up and down once, and by beaver, they got as
soft as when I traded them from the Pi-Utes on the Gila.
“I now felt as brave as a buffalo in the spring. The old man was so
clever, and I walked alongside of him like an old acquaintance.
We soon stopped before a stone door, and it opened without touching.
“‘Here's damp powder, and no fire to dry it,’ shouts I, stopping.
“‘What's the matter; do you not wish to perambulate through my
“‘This hoss doesn't savey what the human for perambulate is, but I'll
walk plum to the hottest fire in your settlement, if that's all you mean.’
“The place was hot, and smelt of brimstone; but the darned screeching
took me. I walks up to the other end of the lodge, and steal my mule,
if there wasn't Jake Beloo, as trapped with me to Brown's Hole! A lot
of hell-cats was a-pulling at his ears, and a-jumping on his shoulders,
and swinging themselves to the ground by his long hair. Some was
running hot irons into him, but when we came up they went off in a
corner, laughing and talking like wildcats' gibberish on a cold night.
“Poor Jake! he came to the bar, looking like a sick buffalo in the eye.
The bones stuck through his skin, and his hair was matted and long,
all over, just like a blind bull, and white blisters spotted him.
‘Hatch, old fellow! you here too?—how are you?’ says he, in a
faint-like voice, staggering and catching on to the bar for support—
‘I'm sorry to see you here; what did you do?’ He raised his eyes to
the old man standing behind me, who gave him such a look, he went
howling and foaming at the mouth to the fur end of the den and fell
down, rolling over the damp stones. The devils, who was chuckling by
a furnace where was irons a-heating, approached easy, and run one into
his back. I jumped at them and hollered, ‘You owdacious little
hell-pups, let him alone; if my scalp-taker was here, I'd make buzzard
feed of your meat, and parfleche of your dog-skins,’ but they squeaked
out, to ‘go to the devil.’
“‘Waugh!’ says I, ‘if I ain't pretty close to his lodge, I'm a nigger!’
“The old gentleman speaks up, ‘Take care of yourself, Mr. Hatcher,’ in
a mighty soft kind voice, and he smiled so calm and devilish—it nigh
froze me. I thought if the ground would open with an earthquake, and
take me in, I'd be much obliged anyhow. Thinks I, ‘You saint-for-saken,
infernal hell-chief, how I'd like to stick my knife in your withered
“‘Ah! my dear fellow, no use trying—that's a decided impossibility.’
I jumped ten feet. I swear a medicine-man couldn't a-heard me, for
my lips didn't move, and how he knew is more than this hoss can tell.
“‘I see your nervous equilibrium is destroyed; come with me.’
“At the other side the old gentleman told me to reach down for a brass
knob. I thought a trick was going to be played on me, and I dodged.
“‘Do not be afraid; turn it when you pull; steady; there, that's it.’
It came, and a door shut of itself.
“‘Mighty good hinges!’ said I, ‘don't make any noise, and go shut
without slamming and cussing them.’
“‘Yes—yes! some of my own importation. No, they were never made here.’
“It was dark at first, but whenever the other door opened, there was
too much light. In another room there was a table in the middle, with
two bottles, and little glasses like them in St. Louis at the
drink-houses, only prettier. A soft, thick carpet was on the floor,
and a square glass lamp hung from the ceiling. I sat cross-legged on
the floor, and he on a sofa, his feet cocked on a chair, and his tail
coiled under him, comfortable as traders in a lodge. He hollered
something, I couldn't make out, and in comes two black crook-shanked
devils with a round bench and a glass with cigars in it. They vamosed,
and the old coon, inviting me to take a cigar, helps himself, and
reared his head back, while I sorter lays on the floor, and we smoked
“‘But have we not been sitting long enough? Take a fresh cigar, and
we will walk. That was Purgatory where your quondam friend, Jake
Beloo, is. He will remain there awhile longer, and, if you desire it
can go, though it cost much exertion to entice him here, and then only
after he had drunk hard.’
“‘I wish you would, sir. Jake was as good a companion as ever trapped
beaver, or gnawed poor bull in the spring, and he treated his squaw as
if she was a white woman.’
“‘For your sake I will; we may see others of our acquaintance before
leaving this,’ says he, sorter queer-like, as if to mean, no doubt of it.
“The door of the room we had been talking in shut of its own accord.
We stooped, and he touched a spring in the wall, a trap-door flew open,
showing a flight of steps. He went first, cautioning me not to slip
on the dark stairs; but I shouted not to mind me, but thanked him for
telling me, though.
“We went down and down, until I began to think the old cuss was going
to get me safe too, so I sung out—‘Hello! which way; we must be
mighty nigh under Wah-to-yah, we've been going on so long?’
“‘Yes,’ said he, much astonished; ‘we're just under the Twins. Why,
turn and twist you ever so much, you do not lose your reckoning.’
“‘Not by a long chalk! This child had his bringing-up at Wapakonnetta,
and that's a fact.’
“From the bottom we went on in a dampish sort of a passage, gloomily
lit up with one candle. The grease was running down the block that
had an auger-hole bored in it for a candlestick, and the long snuff to
the end was red, and the blaze clung to it as if it hated to part
company, and turned black, and smoked at the point in mourning.
The cold chills shook me, and the old gentleman kept so still,
the echoes of my feet rolled back so solemn and hollow, I wanted liquor
mighty bad—mighty bad!
“There was a noise smothered-like, and some poor fellow would cry out
worse than Comanches a-charging. A door opened, and the old gentleman
touching me on the back, I went in and he followed. It flew to, and
though I turned right around, to look for sign to escape, if the place
got too hot, I couldn't find it.
“‘What now, are you dissatisfied?’
“‘Oh, no! I was just looking to see what sort of a lodge you have.’
“‘I understand you perfectly, sir; be not afraid.’
“My eyes were blinded in the light, but rubbing them, I saw two big
snakes coming at me, their yellow and blood-shot eyes shining awfully,
and their big red tongues darting backwards and forwards, like a
panther's paw when he slaps it on a deer, and their jaws wide open,
showing long, slim, white fangs. On my right four ugly animals jumped
at me, and rattled their chains—I swear their heads was bigger than
a buffalo's in summer. The snakes hissed and showed their teeth, and
lashed their tails, and the dogs howled and growled and charged, and
the light from the furnace flashed out brighter and brighter; and
above me, and around me, a hundred devils yelled and laughed and swore
and spit, and snapped their bony fingers in my face, and leaped up to
the ceiling into the black, long spider-webs, and rode on the spiders
which was bigger than a powder-horn, and jumped onto my head.
Then they all formed in line, and marched and hooted and yelled; and
when the snakes joined the procession, the devils leaped on their
backs and rode. Then some smaller ones rocked up and down on springing
boards, and when the snakes came opposite, darted way up in the air
and dived down their mouths, screeching like so many Pawnee Indians
for scalps. When the snakes was in front of us, the little devils
came to the end of the snakes' tongues, laughing and dancing, and
singing like idiots. Then the big dogs jumped clean over us, growling
louder than a cavayard of grizzly bear, and the devils, holding on to
their tails, flopped over my head, screaming—‘We've got you—we've
got you at last!’
“I couldn't stand it no longer, and shutting my eyes, I yelled right
out, and groaned.
“‘Be not alarmed,’ and my friend drew his fingers along my head and
back, and pulled a little narrow black flask from his pocket, with—
‘Here, take some of this.’
“I swallowed a few drops. It tasted sweetish and bitterish—I don't
exactly know how, but as soon as it was down, I jumped up five times
and yelled ‘Out of the way, you little ones, and let me ride’; and
after running alongside, and climbing up his slimy scales, I got
straddle of a big snake, who turned his head round, blowing his hot,
sickening breath in my face. I waved my old wool hat, and kicking him
into a fast run, sung out to the little devils to get up behind, and
off we started, screeching, ‘Hurrah for Hell!’ The old gentleman
rolled over and bent himself double with laughing, till he pretty nigh
choked. We kept going faster and faster till I got on to my feet,
although the scales was mighty slippery, and danced Injun, and whooped
louder than them all.
“All at once the old gentleman stopped laughing, pulled his spectacles
down on his nose, and said, ‘Mr. Hatcher, we had better go now,’ and
then he spoke something I couldn't make out, and all the animals stood
still; I slid off, and the little hell-cats, a-pinching my ears and
pulling my beard, went off squealing. Then they all formed in a half
moon before us—the snakes on their tails, with heads way up to the
black cobwebbed roof, the dogs reared on their hind feet, and the
little devils hanging everywhere. Then they all roared, and hissed,
and screeched several times, and wheeling off, disappeared just as the
lights went out, leaving us in the dark.
“‘Mr. Hatcher,’ said the old gentleman again, moving off, ‘you will
please amuse yourself until I return’; but seeing me look wild, said,
‘You have seen too much of me to feel alarmed for your own safety.
Take this imp for your guide, and if he is impertinent, put him
through; and for fear the exhibitions may overcome your nerves, imbibe
of this cordial,’ which I did, and everything danced before my eyes,
and I wasn't a bit scared.
“I started for a red light that came through the crack of a door, and
stumbled over a three-legged chair, as I pitched my last cigar-stump
to one of the dogs chained to the wall, who caught it in his mouth.
When the door was opened by my guide, I saw a big blaze like a prairie
fire, red and gloomy; and big black smoke was curling and twisting and
spreading, and the flames a-licking the walls, going up to a point,
and breaking into a wide blaze, with white and green ends. There was
bells a-tolling, and chains a-clinking, and mad howls and screams; but
the old gentleman's medicine made me feel as independent as a trapper
with his animals feeding around him, two pack of beaver in camp, with
traps sot for more.
“Close to the hot place was a lot of merry devils laughing and
shouting, with an old pack of greasy cards—it reminded me of them we
used to play with at the Rendezvous—shuffling them to the time of the
Devil's Dream, and Money Musk; then they'd deal in slow time, with the
Dead March in Saul, whistling as solemn as medicine-men. Then they
broke out sudden with Paddy O'Rafferty, which made this hoss move
about in his moccasins so lively that one of them that was playing
looked up and said, ‘Mr. Hatcher, won't you take a hand? Make way,
boys, for the gentleman.’
“Down I got amongst them, but stepped on one little fellow's tail,
who had been leading the Irish jig. He hollered till I got off it,
‘Owch! but it's on my tail ye are!’
“‘Pardon,’ said I, ‘but you are an Irishman!’
“‘No, indeed! I'm a hell-imp, he! he! who-oop! I'm a hell-imp,’ and
he laughed and pulled my beard, and screeched till the rest threatened
to choke him if he didn't stop.
“‘What's trumps?’ said I, ‘and whose deal?’
“‘Here's my place,’ said one, ‘I'm tired of playing; take a horn,’
handing me a black bottle; ‘the game's poker, and it's your next deal
—there's a bigger game of poker on hand’; and picking up an iron rod
heating in the fire, he punched a miserable fellow behind the bars,
who cussed him and ran away into the blaze out of his reach.
“I thought I was great at poker by the way I gathered in the
beaver-skins at the Rendezvous, but here the slick devils beat me
without half trying. When they'd slap down a bully pair, they'd
screech and laugh worse than trappers on a spree.
“Says one, ‘Mr. Hatcher, I reckon you're a hoss at poker away in your
country, but you can't shine down here—you ain't nowhere. That
fellow looking at us through the bars was a preacher up in the world.
When we first got him, he was all-fired hot and thirsty. We would dip
our fingers in water, and let it run in his mouth, to get him to teach
us the best tricks—he's a trump; he would stand and stamp the hot
coals, and dance up and down while he told his experience. Whoop-ee!
how he would laugh! He has delivered two long sermons of a Sunday,
and played poker at night of five-cent antes, with the deacons, for
the money bagged that day; and when he was in debt he exhorted the
congregation to give more for the poor heathen in a foreign land,
a-dying and losing their souls for the want of a little money to send
them a gospel preacher—that the poor heathen would be damned to
eternal fire if they didn't make up the dough. The gentleman that
showed you around—old Sate, we call him—had his eyes on the preacher
for a long time. When we got him, we had a barrel of liquor and
carried him around on our shoulders, until tired of the fun, and threw
him in the furnace yonder. We call him “Poke,” for that was his
favourite game. Oh, Poke,’ shouted my friend, ‘come here; here's a
gentleman who wants to see you—we'll give you five drops of water,
and that's more than your old skin's worth.’
“He came close, and though his face was poor, and all scratched, and
his hair singed mighty nigh off, make meat of this hoss, if it wasn't
old Cormon, that used to preach in the Wapakonnetta settlement! Many
a time he's made my hair stand on end when he preached about the other
world. He came closer, and I could see the chains tied on his wrists,
where they had worn to the bone. He looked a darned sight worse than
if the Comanches had scalped him.
“‘Hello! old coon,’ said I, ‘we're both in that awful place you talked
so much about; but I ain't so bad off as you yet. This young
gentleman,’ pointing to the devil who told me of his doings—‘this
gentleman has been telling me how you took the money you made us throw
in on Sunday.’
“‘Yes,’ said he, ‘if I had only acted as I told others to do, I would
not have been scorching here for ever and ever—water! water! John,
my son, for my sake, a little water.’
“Just then a little rascal stuck a hot iron into him, and off he ran
in the flames, ‘cacheing’ on the cool side of a big chunk of fire,
a-looking at us for water; but I cared no more for him than the Pawnee
whose scalp was tucked in my belt for stealing my horses on Coon Creek;
and I said:—
“‘This hoss doesn't care a cuss for you; you're a sneaking hypocrite;
you deserve all you've got and more too—and look here, old boy, it's
me that says so.’
“I strayed off a piece, pretending to get cool, but this hoss began to
get scared, and that's a fact; for the devils carried Cormon until
they got tired of him, and, said I to myself, ‘Ain't they been doing
me the same way? I'll cache, I will.’
“Well, now, I felt sort of queer, so I saunters along kind o' slowly,
until I saw an open place in the rock, not minding the imps who was
drinking away like trappers on a bust. It was so dark there, I felt
my way mighty still, for I was afraid they'd be after me. I got
almost to a streak of light when there was such a rumpus in the cave
that gave me the trembles. Doors was slamming, dogs growling and
rattling their chains, and all the devils a-screaming. They come
a-charging; the snakes was hissing sharp and wiry; the beasts howled
long and mournful, and thunder rolled up overhead, and the imps was
yelling and screeching like they was mad.
“It was time to break for timber, sure, and I run as if a wounded
buffalo was raising my shirt with his horns. The place was damp, and
in the narrow rock, lizards and vipers and copperheads jumped out at
me, and climbed on my legs, but I stamped and shook them off. Owls,
too, flopped their wings in my face and hooted at me, and fire blazed
out and lit the place up, and brimstone smoke came nigh choking me.
Looking back, the whole cavayard of hell was coming; nothing but
devils on devils filled the hole!
“I threw down my hat to run faster, and then jerked off my old blanket,
but still they was gaining on me. I made one jump clean out of my
moccasins. The big snake in front was getting closer and closer, with
his head drawed back to strike; then a hell-dog run up nearly alongside,
panting and blowing with the slobber running out of his mouth, and a
lot of devils hanging on to him, who was a-cussing me and screeching.
I strained every joint, but it was no use, they still gained—not fast—
but gaining. I jumped and swore, and leaned down, and flung out my
hands, but the dogs was nearer every time, and the horrid yelling and
hissing way back grew louder and louder. At last, a prayer mother
used to make me say, I hadn't thought of for twenty years, came right
before me as clear as a powder-horn. I kept running and saying it,
and the darned devils held back a little. I gained some on them.
I stopped repeating it, to get my breath, when the foremost dog made
a lunge at me—I had forgot it. Turning up my eyes, there was the old
gentleman looking at me, and keeping alongside without walking. His
face wasn't more than two feet off, and his eyes was fixed steady, and
calm and devilish. I screamed right out. I shut my eyes, but he was
there still. I howled and spit, and hit at it, but couldn't get his
darned face away. A dog caught hold of my shirt with his fangs, and
two devils, jumping on me, caught me by the throat, a-trying to choke
me. While I was pulling them off, I fell down, with about thirty-five
of the infernal things and the dogs and the slimy snakes on top of me,
a-mashing and tearing me. I bit pieces out of them, and bit again,
and scratched and gouged. When I was 'most give out, I heard the
Pawnee scalp-yell, and use my rifle for a poking stick, if in didn't
charge a party of the best boys in the mountains. They slayed the
devils right and left, and set them running like goats, but this hoss
was so weak fighting he fainted away. When I come to, I was on the
Purgatoire, just where I found the liquor, and some trappers was
slapping their ‘whats’ in my face to bring me to. All around where
I was laying, the grass was pulled up, and the ground dug with my
knife, and the bottle, cached when I traded with the Utes, was smashed
to flinders against a tree.
“‘Why, what on earth, Hatcher, have you been doing here? You was
kicking and tearing around, and yelling as if your scalp was taken.
We don't understand these hifalootin notions.’
“‘The devils of hell was after me,’ said I, mighty gruff. ‘This hoss
has seen more of them than he ever wants to see again.’
“They tried to get me out of the notion, but I swear, and I'll stick
to it, I saw a heap more of the all-fired place than I want to again.
If it ain't a fact, I don't know fat cow from poor bull.”
Hatcher always ended his yarn with this declaration, and you could
never make him believe that he had had only a touch of delirium tremens.
This story is related by Colonel W. F. Cody:—
In 1864 two military expeditions were sent into the northwest
country to disperse any hostile gatherings of Indians, one
expedition starting from Fort Lincoln on the Missouri River
under command of General George A. Custer. It was on this
expedition that Custer discovered gold in the Black Hills,
a discovery which finally led up to the great Sioux war of 1876,
when he lost his life in the battle of the Little Big Horn.
The other expedition started from Rawlins on the Union Pacific
Railway to go north into the Big Horn Basin in the Big Horn
Mountain country. This expedition was commanded by Colonel
Anson Mills. I was chief scout and guide of the expedition.
One day, when we were on the Great Divide of the Big Horn
Mountains, the command had stopped to let the pack-train close
up. While we were resting there, quite a number of officers
and myself were talking to Colonel Mills, when we noticed,
coming from the direction in which we were going, a solitary
horseman about three miles distant. He was coming from the
ridge of the mountains. The colonel asked me if I had any
scouts out in that direction, and I told him I had not.
We naturally supposed that it was an Indian. He kept drawing
nearer and nearer to us, until we made out it was a white man,
and as he came on I recognized him to be California Joe.
When he got within hailing distance, I sung out, “Hello, Joe,”
and he answered, “Hello, Bill.” I said: “Where in the world
are you going to, out in this country?” (We were then about
five hundred miles from any part of civilization.) He said he
was just out for a morning ride. I introduced him to the
colonel and officers, who had all heard and read of him, for
he had been made famous in Custer's _Life on the Plains_.
He was a tall man, about six feet three inches in his moccasins,
with reddish gray hair and whiskers, very thin, nothing but
bone, sinew, and muscle. He was riding an old cayuse pony,
with an old saddle, a very old bridle, and a pair of elk-skin
hobbles attached to his saddle, to which also hung a piece of
elk-meat. He carried an old Hawkins rifle. He had an old
shabby army hat on, and a ragged blue army overcoat, a buckskin
shirt, and a pair of dilapidated greasy buckskin pants that
reached only a little below his knees, having shrunk in the
wet; he also wore a pair of old army government boots with the
soles worn off. That was his make-up.
I remember the colonel asking him if he had been very
successful in life. He pointed to the old cayuse pony, his
gun, and his clothes, and replied, “This is seventy years'
gathering.” Colonel Mills then asked him if he would have
anything to eat; he said he had plenty to eat, all he wanted
was tobacco. Tobacco was very scarce in the command, but they
rounded him up sufficient to do him that day. When invited to
go with us, he said he was not particular where he went,
he would just as soon go one way as the other; he remained
with us several days, in fact, he stayed the entire trip.
He was of great assistance to me, as he knew the country
thoroughly. He was a fine mountain guide, but I could seldom
find him when I most needed him, as he was generally back with
the column, telling frontier stories and yarns to the soldiers
for a chew of tobacco.
One day I rode back from the advance guard to ask the colonel
how far he wanted to go before camping, and while I was riding
along talking to him, we noticed that the advance guard had
stopped and were standing in a circle, evidently looking at
something very intently. They were so interested that they
did not come to their senses until the colonel and myself rode
in among them. Then they immediately moved forward, leaving
the colonel and myself to see what they had been investigating.
It was a lone grave in the desolate mountains, and whoever had
been buried there evidently had friends, because the spot was
nicely covered with stones to prevent the wolves from digging
up the corpse.
We were looking at this grave when old Joe rode up, and as he
stopped he threw down his hat on the pile of rocks and said,
The colonel said, “Joe, do you know anything about the history
of this grave?” Joe replied—
“Well I should think I did.” The colonel then asked him to
tell us about it. Joe said:—
“In 1816”—we didn't stop to think how far back 1816 was—
“I had been to Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River with
a company of fur traders, and had been trapping in that country
for two or three years, and by that time the party had made up
their minds they would start back to the States, across the
mountains. They were headed for the Missouri River, and when
they got there, they intended to build a boat and float down
to St. Louis. As they were coming across the Continental
Divide of the Rocky Mountains, had reached the eastern slope,
and were coming down one of the tributaries of the Stinking
Water, some one of the party discovered what he thought to be
gold nuggets in the bed of the stream. The water was clear.
Every man went down to the water prospecting. The stream was
so full of gold nuggets that they all jumped off their horses,
leaving them packed as they were, and commenced throwing gold
nuggets out on the banks.
“They abandoned everything they had with them, provisions and
all, excepting their rifles, and prepared to load the gold.
“Then they started for the Missouri River again, and when they
reached the spot where this grave was, a man was taken suddenly
ill, died in a very few minutes, and they buried him there.”
Old Joe gave a sly wink, as much as to say, “We buried the
money with the man.”
At this time quite a number of officers gathered around where
the advance of the command had halted, and there may have been
thirty or forty soldiers listening to this story; there were
some who took it to be one of Joe's lies that he usually told
The colonel ordered the bugler to sound “forward.” The command
moved on and within five or six miles went into camp. But
every man who had listened to Joe's story of this grave,
feeling that there was some hundred thousand dollars buried
in it, gave it a look as they passed by.
We moved on and went into camp. Joe was messing with me, and
after we had supper he said, “Bill, would you like to see a
little fun to-night?” I said, “Yes, I am in for fun or
anything else.” He said, “As soon as it gets dark you follow
me.” I said, “You bet I will follow you,” thinking all the
time that he was going back to dig this fellow up.
As soon as it was dark he started and motioned me to follow
him, but, instead of going back on the trail, he went in the
direction that we intended to go in the morning. Thinks I to
myself, “That is good medicine, we won't go directly back on
the trail but follow another.”
I asked him if we did not want to take a pick and shovel with
us, and he said, “What for?” I said, “We will need it.”
He said, “No, we won't need it; you come on.”
When we got outside the camp he commenced to turn around to
the left, getting back on our trail. I said, “This is all
right.” He was now going back toward the grave. We went
about a mile on the trail and he said, “Sit down here.”
I said, “Don't we want to go on?” He said, “What for?”
I said, “To dig that fellow up and get the money.” He said,
“The money be damned; I never saw the bloomin' grave before,”
or something like that. I was disappointed. He said, “Wait a
few minutes until after ‘taps,’ and you will see that camp
Presently here they came, scouts, soldiers, and packers by the
dozen, sneaking through the brush and hurrying back on the
trail. Old Joe laid down behind this bowlder and just rolled
with laughter to see them going to dig up the grave.
The next morning the boys told me that they dug up the grave
and found some bones; they dug up a quarter of an acre of
ground and never got the colour of a piece of gold; then they
KIT CARSON ON THE YELLOWSTONE.
One of the Old American Fur Company's trappers by the name of Frazier,
as often told of him around the camp-fire, was one of those athletic
men who could outrun, outjump, and throw down any man among the more
than a hundred with whom he associated at the time. He was the best
off-hand shot in the whole crowd, and possessed of a remarkably steady
nerve. He met with his death in a curious way. Once when away up the
Platte he with one of his companions were hunting for game in an aspen
grove. Suddenly an immense grizzly bear came ambling along about
fifty yards away, evidently unaware of his enemy, man, being near him.
Frazier told his comrade to take to a tree, while he would behind one
of the others and kill the beast. He raised his rifle, fired, and
the bullet lodged just above the bear's eye. As the ball struck him,
the animal seemed intuitively to get the direction from which it came,
and started for Frazier. The aspens have a very smooth, slippery bark
and are very difficult to climb. Frazier failed to get high enough
to be out of reach of the dying and enraged bear, and in a few minutes
was a mangled mass at the foot of the tree, both he and the bear dead.
The majority of people, probably, imagine that the white man learned
the art of trapping from the Indian; but the converse is the case.
The savages, long before their contact with the white man, silently
crept along the banks of the creeks and, caching themselves in the
brush on their margin, with a patience characteristic of the race,
waited for the beaver to show himself in the shallow water, or crawl
on the banks, when they killed him with their stone-pointed arrows.
The process was a tedious one, and they earnestly desired to know of
some other method of capturing the wary little animal, so necessary
in their domestic economy. So to their intense satisfaction, when
the white man came among them, they saw him walk boldly along the
streams and place a curious instrument in the water, which caught
the beaver and held him until the trapper was ready to take him out.
With their usual shyness the Indians watched the white man's method
from the underbrush skirting the margin of the creeks, and when the
trapper had left, they stole his trap and carried it off to their
village. A long time elapsed before the savage learned how to use
the trap which had so interested him. It was not until the white man
taught him that he learned how to watch the beaver at work in the pale
moonlight; how to know where the beaver-houses were, the proper method
of placing the trap, its peculiar bait, and then to leave it to catch
The following story was told many years ago by George P. Belden, and
it is the second instance of Indian elopement that has come under the
observation of the authors of this book. It occurred some time in
the early '40's.
The Ogallallas and Brûlés were once the most powerful tribes
on the plains, and were particularly friendly. The chief of
the Brûlés was an old and experienced warrior. The chief of
the Ogallallas had a son whose name was Souk. The old Brûlé
frequently noticed the young Ogallalla, and seemed mightily
pleased with him. On one or two occasions he spoke to Souk
encouragingly, and one day went so far as to invite him to
visit his tribe, and spend a few days at his lodge. These
visits were often repeated, and it was during one of them
Souk met the daughter of his friend, who was the belle of her
tribe, and, besides her great personal charms, was esteemed
to be the most virtuous and accomplished young woman in the
nation. It did not take long for her to make an impression
on the heart of Souk, and soon both the young people found
themselves over head and ears in love with each other.
The Indian girl was proud of her lover, as well she might be,
for he was only twenty-eight years of age, tall, handsome,
good-tempered, and manly in his deportment. Besides these
considerations in his favour, he was virtually the head of his
tribe, and no warrior was more renowned for deeds of valour.
A born chief, the idol of his aged father, prepossessing in
his appearance, already the leader of his band and its chief
warrior. He was just such a person as was likely to move the
heart and excite the admiration of a young girl.
Chaf-fa-ly-a was the only daughter of the Brûlé chief, and
the spoiled pet of her father. She was tall, lithe, and agile
as an antelope. She could ride the wildest steed in her
father's herds, and no maiden in the tribe could shoot her
painted bow so well, so daintily braid her hair, or bead
moccasins as nicely as Chaf-fa-ly-a. Giving all the love of
her passionate nature to Souk, he loved her with all the
strength of his manly heart in return. Day after day the
lovers lingered side by side, sat under the shade of the great
trees by the clear-running brook, or hand in hand gathered
wild flowers in the shadows of the hills.
Sometimes Souk was at the village of his father, but he always
made haste to excuse himself, and hurried back to the camp of
the Brûlé chief. In truth he was never content, except when
by the side of the bewitching Chaf-fa-ly-a. The old men knew
of the growing attachment between their children, and seemed
rather to encourage than to oppose it. Chaf-fa-ly-a was
buoyantly happy, and a golden future seemed opening up before
her. Souk often reflected how happy he would be when he and
his darling were married; and frequently at night, when the
stars were out, the young lovers would sit for hours and plan
the future happiness of themselves and the people over whom
they would rule.
One day Souk returned to his father's camp, and formally
notified him of his love for Chaf-fa-ly-a, and demanded her
in marriage. The old chief listened attentively, and at the
close of Souk's harangue rose and struck the ground three
times with his spear, declaring that he knew of no reason why
his son should not be made happy, and have Chaf-fa-ly-a to
wife. The grateful Souk was so overjoyed, that, forgetting
his position and the rank of his chief, he fell upon his neck,
and, kissing him again and again, actually shed tears.
Putting him kindly aside, the father, well knowing the
impatience of young lovers, hastily summoned three of his most
distinguished chiefs, and said to them, “Mount your swiftest
horses! go to the camps of the Brûlé, and when you have come
to him, say, Souk, the son of his old friend, loves his only
daughter, Chaf-fa-ly-a, and that I demand her of him in
marriage to my son. You will also say that, according to the
ancient customs of our tribes, I will pay to him whatever
presents he may demand for the maiden, and that it is my
desire, the friendship long existing between ourselves and
our people may be cemented by the marriage of our children.”
Bowing low, the chiefs retired, and were soon on their way to
the Brûlé village, which was three days' journey distant.
Rather than wait impatiently in the camp until the chiefs
would return, Souk proposed to go on a short hunting excursion
with some warrior friends to whom he could unbosom himself.
Meantime the chiefs had proceeded on their errand, and on
the evening of the third day caught sight of the Brûlé camp.
They were hospitably received by the venerable chief, who did
all in his power to make them comfortable after their fatiguing
ride. On the following morning the chief assembled his
counsellors, and, making a great dog-feast, heard the request
of the ambassadors. When they had done speaking, the Brûlé
rose and announced his consent to the marriage, saying he was
delighted to know that his daughter was to be the wife of
so brave and worthy a young man as the son of his friend.
He then dismissed the chiefs, stating that he would shortly
send an embassy to receive the promised presents, and complete
the arrangements for the marriage of the young couple.
When the chiefs returned to their camp and announced the
result of their mission, there was great rejoicing, and Souk,
who had cut his hunt short and returned before the chiefs, was
now, perhaps, the happiest man in the world. There was still,
however, one thing which greatly troubled him. He knew his
father was very proud, and considered the honour of an
alliance with his family so great that but few presents would
be required to be made. On the other hand, the old Brûlé was
exceedingly parsimonious, and, no doubt, would take this
opportunity to enrich himself by demanding a great price for
his daughter's hand.
Determined not to wait the pending negotiations before seeing
his sweetheart, Souk summoned a band of his young warriors,
and, burning with love, set out for the Brûlé camp. It being
the month of June, Souk knew the old chief would have removed
from his winter encampment to his summer hunting-grounds and
pasture, on the Lower Platte. This would require some seven
or eight days' more travel, and carry him through a portion of
the territory of his enemies; but love laughs at danger, and,
selecting eight tried companions, he set out. The evening
of the second day brought him to the border of his father's
dominions, and, selecting a sheltered camp by the side of a
little stream, they determined to rest their animals for a day
before crossing the territory of the hostile Cheyennes.
As soon as it was dark they saddled their horses, and,
swimming the Upper Platte, set out to cross the enemy's lands.
Their route lay in a southeasterly direction, and led them
over a fine hilly country, almost destitute of wood, except in
the deep valleys and narrow ravines. The sun had long passed
the meridian, the horses had rested, and the travellers taken
their midday meal, but as yet had seen nothing to indicate
that man was anywhere in this vast region.
The sun was fast going down, and they were endeavouring to
reach a good camping-ground known to several of the party,
when suddenly, as they were descending a mountain, they saw
below them smoke curling up, and, in the distance, two objects
which looked like ants on the plain. From their position they
could not see the fires from whence the smoke arose, but the
sight of it caused them hastily to dismount and lead their
horses under shelter of the projecting rocks, that they might
not be discovered.
Two advanced on foot to reconnoitre, creeping cautiously
round the base of the rocks, and then onward among fallen
masses that completely screened them. At length they reached
a point from which they beheld, about a half a mile below
them, an encampment of over one hundred men. Three large
fires were blazing, and while groups were gathered around
them, others were picketing their horses, and evidently
preparing to encamp for the night. Souk's men had not long
been in their observatory when they saw two men riding
furiously down the valley toward the camp, and they instantly
surmised these were the two black spots they had seen on
the plain, and that Souk and his party had been discovered.
They were not long left in doubt, however, for as soon as the
horsemen reached the camp they rode to the chief's lodge,
commenced gesticulating wildly, and pointing toward the cliffs
where Souk and his men were. A crowd gathered around the
new-comers, and presently several were seen to run to their
horses and commence saddling up. The scouts now hastily left
their hiding-place, and hurried back to Souk, whom they
informed of all that was occurring below.
Not a moment was to be lost, and, ordering his men to mount,
Souk turned up the mountain along the path he had just come.
He knew he had a dangerous and wily enemy to deal with,
ten times his own in numbers, and that it would require all
his skill to elude them, or the greatest bravery to defeat
them, should it become necessary to fight.
Fortunately he knew a pass farther to the west, that was
rarely used, and for this he pushed with all his might.
On reaching the mountain top, and looking back, black objects
could be seen moving rapidly up the valley, and they knew that
the enemy was in pursuit of them. All night Souk toiled along,
and, when the morning began to break, saw the pass he was
seeking several miles ahead. Reaching the mountain's edge at
sunrise, they dismounted and began the perilous descent into
the gorge. In two hours it was accomplished, and they entered
the sombre shadows of the great cañon. They had begun to
feel safe, when suddenly the man in front reined up his horse
and pointed to several pony tracks in the sand. Souk
dismounted and examined them, and, on looking around, saw
where the animals had been picketed, apparently, about two
Could it be possible that the enemy had reached the pass
before him, and were waiting to attack him higher up in the
gorge? He could hardly credit it, and yet it must be so,
for who else could be in the lonely glen. Recollecting that
the cañon to the right would carry him into the great pass
some ten miles higher up, he still hoped to get through before
the enemy reached it, and, hastily mounting, they galloped
furiously forward. They had come in sight of the great pass,
when, just as they were about to enter it, they saw a man
sitting on a horse a few hundred yards ahead of them, and
directly in the trail. On observing the Ogallallas,
the horseman gave the Cheyenne war-whoop, and, in a moment,
a dozen other mounted men appeared in rear of the first.
Grasping his spear, Souk shouted his war-whoop, and, ordering
his men to charge, dashed down upon the enemy. Plunging his
spear into the nearest foe, he drew his battle-axe and clove
open the head of the one in the rear, and before his comrades
could come up with him had unhorsed a third. A shout down
the great cañon caused Souk to hurriedly look that way, when
he saw about fifty warriors galloping toward him. He now knew
he had reached the pass ahead of the main body, and encountered
only the scouts of the Cheyennes. Ordering his men to push on
up the pass to the great valley beyond, he, with his two
companions, remained behind to cover their retreat. On coming
to their dead and wounded warriors, the Cheyennes halted and
held a conference, while Souk and his friends leisurely
pursued their journey. In the gorge in which he then was,
Souk knew ten men were as good as a hundred, and he was in no
hurry to leave the friendly shelter of the rocks. Taking up
a position behind a sharp butte, he fortified the place, and
quietly waited for the Cheyennes. Hour after hour passed, but
they did not appear. The shadows of evening were beginning
to creep into the ravines, and several of Souk's party were
anxious to quit their retreat and continue their journey,
confident that the Cheyennes had returned to their camp; but
the wily young Sioux told them to be patient, and he would
inform them when it was time to go. The evening deepened into
twilight, the moon rose over the peaks and stood overhead,
indicating that it was midnight, but still Souk would not go.
His men had begun to grumble, when suddenly a noise was heard
in the gorge below, and presently voices and the tramp of
horses could be distinguished. Souk ordered four of his men
to mount and be ready to leap the rude rock breastworks when
he gave them notice, and to cheer and shout as lustily as
possible. He then lay down with the other four, and waited
for the foe. To his delight he noticed, as the Cheyennes
came up, many of them were dismounted and leading their ponies.
They came within a few feet of the barricade before they
perceived it, and then Souk and his comrades commenced a rapid
discharge of arrows into their midst. Three or four shots had
been fired before the Cheyennes knew what the matter was, or
where the whizzing shafts came from. Then Souk shouted his
battle-cry, and the four mounted Sioux, repeating it from
behind the butte, dashed over the barricade and charged the
enemy, who broke and fled in the utmost confusion down the
gorge. In a moment Souk, with his remaining Sioux, was
mounted and after them. The animals of the Cheyennes broke
loose from some of the dismounted warriors before they could
mount, and left them on foot. Several hid among the rocks,
but Souk overtook and killed four. The pursuit was kept up
for nearly five miles, when Souk turned back and hastily
continued his journey to the Brûlé camp, where he arrived in
safety on the evening of the seventh day.
He was kindly received by the father of his prospective bride,
and given a dozen fine lodges for himself and friends.
The meeting between Souk and his sweetheart was as tender as
that of lovers could be, and now, that they were once together,
both were perfectly happy. Near the Brûlé encampment were
some mountain vines covered with flowers, and here Souk and
Chaf-fa-ly-a each day spent hour after hour in sweet communion
with each other. The stream was dotted for miles with hundreds
of richly painted teepees; thousands of horses and ponies were
constantly to be seen grazing in the green valley, and scores
of warriors in their gay and various-coloured costumes galloped
to and fro among the villages. It was a pleasant sight at the
home of the old Brûlé, and one that filled their young hearts
with pride and joy, for all these herds and people were one
day to be theirs.
After lingering a month in the camp, the old Brûlé announced
to Souk he was about to send the chiefs to receive the
presents for Chaf-fa-ly-a's hand, and if the young man and
his friends wished to return home it would be a favourable
opportunity for them to do so. Souk took the hint and made
By the advice of the old chief, the party took another route,
and, although it was two days longer, it brought them in
safety to the Ogallalla encampment.
At Souk's request, his father immediately assembled the
council, and the negotiations for Chaf-fa-ly-a's hand began.
An aged Brûlé made the first speech, expatiating on the power
of his chief, the richness of his tribe, and the beauty of
Chaf-fa-ly-a. This was followed by an Ogallalla, who dwelt
at length upon the power of his chief, his rank, and age, and
upon the nobleness, bravery, and skill of Souk. Several other
speeches were made on each side, in which the young man and
woman were alternately praised, and the glory of their fathers
extolled to the skies. The council then adjourned until the
following day, the important point of the conference—the price
of the lady's hand—not having been touched upon at all.
Next day the conference continued, and toward evening the
Brûlé chiefs, after having spoken a great deal, abruptly
demanded fifty horses and two hundred ponies as the price
The friends of Souk were a good deal surprised at the
extravagant demand of the Brûlé, it being about three times
more than they expected to give. Souk's father could not
conceal his indignation, and, saying he would give but
twenty-five horses and one hundred ponies, adjourned the
council, directing the Brûlé chiefs to return home and inform
their venerable head of his decision.
Souk returned to his lodge with a heavy heart, for he clearly
foresaw trouble, and that his love, like all other “true loves,”
was not to run smoothly. Summoning his friends, he desired
them to make as many presents as possible to the Brûlé chiefs,
and before they started he added five horses of his own,
hoping by this liberality to secure their good-will. He also
caused them to be secretly informed, that if they could induce
the Brûlé chief to accept his father's offer, he would, on the
day of his marriage, present to each of them a fine horse.
Before leaving the Brûlé camp, Souk and Chaf-fa-ly-a had vowed
a true lover's vow, that, come what would of the council, they
would be faithful to each other, and die rather than break
their plighted troth. Souk had also promised his betrothed
he would return in the fall and make her his wife, with or
without the consent of the tribes.
As the summer months wore away, and no word was received from
the Brûlé camp, Souk became each day more restless, and
finally, calling together a few friends, started once more for
the Brûlé's home.
He was received most cordially by the old chief, and, as
before, given most hospitable entertainment. Often, however,
he thought he detected sadness on the old man's face, and on
questioning Chaf-fa-ly-a as to the cause of her father's
trouble, the poor girl burst into tears and confessed she was
about to be sacrificed for her father's good. She said that
the Cheyenne chief, with whom her father had long been at war,
had asked her hand, and promised, on receiving her as one of
his wives, to cease from warring with the Sioux. Her father,
actuated by a desire to do his people and friends good, had,
after the refusal of Souk's father to furnish the required
presents, given the Cheyenne a promise, and they were to be
married the following year, when the grass grew green on the
earth. The old chief preferred greatly to have Souk for a
son-in-law, but he wished also to serve his people and old
friends. The treaty was to be binding on the Cheyennes, for
the Ogallallas as well as the Brûlés, and therefore Souk and
his father would be greatly benefited by her marriage to the
This astounding intelligence came near upsetting Souk's better
judgment, and for a while he was nearly demented. Taking the
fond girl in his arms, he swore, rather than see her the wife
of the hated Cheyenne, he would spill both his own and her
blood, and they would go to the happy hunting-grounds together.
Chaf-fa-ly-a begged him to be calm, and she would make her
escape with him and fly to his people. It was agreed that
early in the spring, before the encampment moved to its summer
pastures, Souk, with a chosen band, should come over the
mountains, and in the confusion, when the tribe was on its
march, they would seize a favourable opportunity to escape
into the mountains, from which they could make their way to
Souk's father and implore his protection.
Cautioning him, even by a look, not to betray any knowledge
of her engagement to the Cheyenne, the lovers parted, and next
day Souk set out for his home, apparently utterly indifferent
as to the result of the negotiations for his marriage.
Slowly the winter months dragged along, and to the impatient
Souk they seemed interminable; but at length the water began
to come down from the mountains, and the ice grew soft on the
streams. As soon as he saw these indications of returning
spring, Souk called his bravest friends together and set out
from the camp. He did not tell any one where he was going,
and it was only when they began to ascend the mountains that
they suspected they were on the way to the Brûlé camp.
In eight days they descended the plain into the old chief's home.
He was greatly astonished to see Souk, for he believed it
impossible at that season of the year for any one to cross
the mountain. However, he gave Souk and his friends a hearty
welcome, and again provided them with everything they needed.
Next day the chief rode down the river to prepare the camps
for moving, and Souk and Chaf-fa-ly-a, being left alone in the
camp, had all the opportunity they desired for laying their
plans. Chaf-fa-ly-a said the camp would move in four days,
and that in the meantime they must make every preparation for
their flight. There was one horse in the herd, she said, that
was the swiftest in the tribe, and he must be either killed or
she would ride him. Her father had always objected to her
mounting this animal because he was so vicious; but, now that
he was away, it would be a good time for her to ride the animal,
and show to her father that she was a better horsewoman than
he thought. Once upon him, she could pretend a fondness for
the beast, and thus secure him to ride on the trip. Souk
agreed to all she said, and the wild horse was at once sent for.
He reared and plunged fearfully, but at length he was conquered,
and Chaf-fa-ly-a mounted his back. Souk rode by her side, and
they galloped down the river to meet the old chief, who they
knew must by that time be returning homeward, as it was nearly
evening. They soon met him, and when he saw his daughter on
the wild horse, he was greatly surprised, but not displeased,
for all Indians are proud of their horsemanship. Cautioning
her to be very careful and hold him fast, Souk, the old chief,
and Chaf-fa-ly-a rode back to the village together.
Next day Chaf-fa-ly-a again rode the wild horse, and in the
evening slyly extracted a promise from her father that she
should be permitted to ride him when the village changed its
On the morning of the fourth day the herds were gathered,
the teepees pulled down, and the village commenced its march
to the summer pastures. The men had got the herds fairly on
the way, and the sun was just tipping the icy peaks of the
mountains, when Souk and Chaf-fa-ly-a mounted their steeds and
galloped swiftly forward. Chaf-fa-ly-a rode the wild horse,
and Souk was mounted on a splendid stallion. All of Souk's
warriors had been sent the day before to Pole Creek, a day in
advance, under the pretence of hunting.
Riding on until they reached the head of the herd, they were
about to pass, when the herders informed the young couple that
it was the chief's orders no one should go ahead of the herd
and they could proceed no farther. Giving the men a pleasant
reply, Chaf-fa-ly-a said she was only trying the mettle of her
horse, and at once turned back. They had gone but a little
distance when they entered the sand-hills, and, making a wide
circuit, came out far in advance of the herd. They were now
on the banks of a little lake, and, giving their horses full
rein, sped by its clear waters.
Long before night the young people reached Pole Creek and
found Souk's warriors. He hastily explained to them what had
happened, and, charging them to remain, and if possible draw
the enemy from the trail, Souk and his sweetheart again set
One of the warriors who remained behind was to personate a
woman, and, if possible, make the old chief's people think he
was Chaf-fa-ly-a. Souk said he knew a pass through the Black
Hills that would bring them to his father's country two days
sooner than by any other route, and, although the way was
somewhat dangerous, they must take all risks and depend on
the swiftness of their horses for their escape.
All night they rode on, and at sunrise halted on the top of
a high hill to breakfast on cold roast antelope and wild
artichokes. Chaf-fa-ly-a's horse bore her light weight
without seeming fatigued, but Souk was heavy and his steed
began to show signs of distress.
Far in the distance they could see the blue line of the gap
that still lay between them and safety; and, hurriedly
refreshing themselves from a spring of pure water, they again
set out, hoping to reach it before night.
It was near sundown when they began to ascend the high ridge
that led into the gap, and they had just reached the crest
when Chaf-fa-ly-a, scanning the valley below them, descried
horsemen following on their trail. They had hoped they were
not yet discovered, and under cover of night might still reach
the pass in safety, but the horsemen soon divided, and one
half went up the valley, while the others continued to follow
the trail. Souk knew in a moment that those who went up the
valley were going to head them off, and, although they had
nearly double the distance to ride, their road was comparatively
smooth, while Souk's lay along precipices and over crags.
Calling to Chaf-fa-ly-a that they must now ride for their
lives, Souk whipped up the horses, and they began to climb
rapidly the rugged pathway.
All night they pushed along, and at daylight found themselves
quite near the pass. Souk scanned the valley through the
hazy light, but could detect no traces of the Brûlé people.
He began to hope that they had not yet arrived, and spoke
encouragingly to Chaf-fa-ly-a, who, pale with fatigue, now sat
upon her horse like a statue. Descending into the deep cañon,
Souk directed Chaf-fa-ly-a to ride rapidly for the pass, while
he followed close in the rear, ready to attack the enemy that
might appear. They had gone about half a mile, and were just
entering the jaws of the great gorge, when a cry of distress
rose from the lips of the girl, and, looking to his right,
Souk saw about twenty Brûlés rapidly closing on the pass.
The noble girl whipped up her horse, and, darting forward like
an arrow, shot through the pass full fifty yards ahead of the
foremost Brûlé warrior.
Souk grasped his battle-axe, and, reaching the pass just as
the first Brûlé came up, struck his horse on the head,
dropping him on the ground and sending the rider rolling over
the rocks. The second warrior, seeing the fate of his
companion, swerved his steed to one side and strove to pass
Souk, but he quickly drew his bow and drove an arrow through
the horse behind the fore-shoulder, causing him to drop to his
knees and fling his rider on the ground.
The lovers were now ahead of all of their pursuers, and,
urging their gallant steeds to their utmost, they soon had
the satisfaction of hearing the shouts of the Brûlés dying in
the distance behind them. In an hour they halted, refreshed
themselves, and rested their horses. In the distance they
could see the Brûlés halting by a stream, and apparently
resting also. The lovers were the first to move on, and,
when once in the saddle, they lost no time.
It was past noon when Souk saw some objects several miles off
to the left, and soon made them out to be part of the Brûlés,
who were making for the river, to cut him off from the ford.
The race was a long one, but the lovers won it, and crossed
On the third day they entered the great mountains and drew
near the borders of the country of Souk's father. At sunset
they crossed a little creek, which Souk pointed out to
Chaf-fa-ly-a as the boundary of the Ogallalla lands. Riding
forward a dozen miles, they halted in a wild, mountainous
region, and, for the first time since starting, prepared to
take some rest. Souk comforted Chaf-fa-ly-a with the
assurance that another day would take them to his home, and
that they were now well out of danger.
A sheltered spot was selected for their camp, near a stream,
and while Souk gathered some sticks to make a small fire, his
bride walked down to the water's edge. He saw her turn up the
stream, and in a moment more she was lost from view. The fire
was soon lighted, and Souk busy preparing the evening meal,
when suddenly he heard a fearful shriek at no great distance.
Seizing his battle-axe, he rushed toward the spot from whence
the sound proceeded, but could see no one. Calling the name
of his bride, he dashed forward through the thicket, but could
see or hear nothing of her. He called loudly again, but
received no response. The silence was agonizing, and he
listened for several moments, when he heard the crackling of
some branches in the distance. He rushed frantically to the
spot, but his career was quickly stopped by an object on the
ground. It was the torn and now bloody mantle of his beloved.
The mystery was in part explained—she had retired to this
secluded spot to offer up a prayer to the Great Spirit for
their safe deliverance, and, as was her custom, had taken off
her mantle and spread it on the earth. On this she had knelt,
when a grizzly bear, that terrible beast of the Rocky Mountains,
had rushed upon her and killed her before she could utter a
second cry. His huge paws were deeply imprinted on the sand,
and the trail along which he had dragged his victim was
distinctly visible. Souk, taking the rent garment, plunged
into the brushwood.
He crossed the thicket in several directions, but in vain;
it was dark, and he could not follow the trail. He returned
to the camp in a frame of mind bordering on despair. Raising
his hand to heaven, he swore by the great Wa-con Ton-ka to
track the beast to his den and slay him, or perish in the
conflict. It seemed to him an age before the light appeared,
but at length the gray streamers began to streak the east, and
Souk was on the trail. Again and again he lost it, but the
growing light enabled him to find it, and he pushed on.
He found the lair half a mile out, where the beast had eaten
a part of his beloved, and, as he looked at the blood-stains
on the ground, his brain seemed about to burst from his skull.
Pieces of garments were left on some of the bushes where the
bear had dragged the body along. Far up into the mountains
Souk followed the trail, but at length lost it among the rocks.
All day he hunted for it in vain, and when night came he
returned to his camp. He expected the enemy had come up
during his absence, but he found the horses where he had left
them, and the camp undisturbed. How he wished the Brûlés
would come and kill him. He cursed himself, and wished to die,
but could not. Then he slept, how long he knew not, but the
sun was far up in the heavens and shining brightly when he awoke.
Mounting one of the horses, and leading the other, he started
at full speed. He wished to leave as quickly as possible, and
forever, the cursed spot that had witnessed the destruction of
all his earthly happiness. It afforded him some relief to
ride fast, and he dashed onward, he neither knew nor cared
where. His well-trained steed took the road for him, and as
the evening shadows were beginning to creep over the valley,
he saw far ahead the teepees of his father's village.
He lashed his horse and rode like a madman into the town.
His faithful warriors had returned, but they hardly knew their
beloved young chief, so changed was he. At the door of his
father's lodge his brave horse fell dead, and Souk rolled over
on the ground insensible.
He was carefully lifted up and laid on his own bed, where for
many days he remained in a raging fever, at times delirious,
and calling wildly on the name of Chaf-fa-ly-a. Little by
little he recovered, and at length went about the village
again, but he hardly ever spoke to any one; and for years
the Brûlés and Ogallallas never visited each other.
In the early days the celebrated Kit Carson and Lucien B. Maxwell
trapped on every tributary of the Platte and Yellowstone, long before
they joined General Fremont's first exploring expedition as principal
scouts and guides in company with Jim Bridger, Jim Baker, and others.
In the early '40's, Kit Carson as the leader, with a hundred
subordinates, organized a party of trappers to operate upon the
Yellowstone and its many tributaries. The Blackfeet, upon whose
ground the men were to encroach, were bitter enemies of the whites,
and it was well known that serious difficulties with those savages
could not be avoided, so Carson prepared his plans for considerable
fighting. He assigned one half his followers to the work of trapping
exclusively, while the remainder were to attend to the camp duties
and vigilantly guard it.
As Carson, on many previous occasions, had had tussles with the
hostile Blackfeet, he was not at all disinclined to meet them again on
their own ground; and as he felt doubly strong with such a large party
of old mountaineers, he rather hoped that the savages would attack him,
as he wished to settle some ancient scores with them.
Carson was, however, disappointed that season, and he could not at
first understand why the Blackfeet had left him so severely alone;
but he found out, later, that the smallpox had decimated them, and
they were only too glad to retire to their mountain fastnesses,
completely humbled, and hide in terror hoping to escape further
attacks of the dreaded disease.
Carson and his party spent the winter in that region with the friendly
Crows, passing a delightful season, with an abundance of food, living
in the comfortable buffalo-skin lodges of the tribe, and joining in
their many amusements.
While there was no lack of provisions for the party in the village of
the kind-hearted Crows, their horses suffered greatly. The earth was
covered with deep snow, and Carson and his trappers were kept busy
every day gathering willow twigs and cottonwood bark to sustain the
life of the animals. Great herds of buffalo, driven to the locality
by the severity of the weather, and depending, too, upon the timber
for their sustenance, made it even harder work to supply the horses.
On the opening of spring, Carson and his party commenced to trap again,
and returning to the fruitful country of the hostile Blackfeet, they
learned that the tribe had completely recovered from the visitation
of the smallpox of the previous year. Some bands were camped near
the trapping-ground, and were in excellent condition, spoiling for
a fight with the whites.
Upon discovering the state of affairs, Carson and five of his most
determined men set out on a reconnoitring expedition. They found the
site of the Blackfeet village, and, hurrying back to camp, a party of
forty-three was selected, with Carson as leader. The remainder were
to follow on with their baggage, and if it should become necessary
when they came up to the savages to assist them; Carson and his brave
followers marched ahead, eager for a fight.
It did not require a very long time to overtake the savages, who had
commenced to move their village; and making a sudden charge among them,
Carson and his men killed ten of the savages at the first fire.
The Blackfeet immediately rallied and began to retreat in good order.
The whites were in excellent spirits over the result of the first dash
and followed it up for more than three hours; then, their ammunition
running low, their firing became less rapid, and they had to exercise
the greatest caution. At this juncture the savages suspected the
reason that the white men had moderated their attack, and, with most
demoniacal yells, they rallied, and charged with such force that
Carson and his men were obliged to retreat.
Now, in the charge of the Indians, the trappers could use their
pistols with great effect, and the savages were again driven back.
Again they rallied, however, and in such increased numbers that they
forced Carson and his men once more to retreat.
During the last rally of the Indians, the horse of one of the trappers
was killed, and fell with its whole weight on its rider. Six warriors
immediately rushed forward to scalp the unfortunate man. Seeing his
helpless condition, Carson rushed to his assistance, jumped from his
horse, placed himself in front of his fallen companion, and shouting
at the same instant for his men to rally around him, shot the foremost
warrior dead with his unerring rifle.
Several of the trappers quickly responded to Carson's call, and the
remaining five savages were compelled to dash off, without the coveted
scalp of the fallen white man, but only two of them ever regained
their places in the ranks of their brother braves, for three
well-directed shots dropped them dead in their tracks.
Carson's horse had run away, so, as his comrade was now saved,
he mounted behind one of the men who had come when he called for help,
and rode back to the rest of his command. Then, being thoroughly
exhausted, both parties ceased firing by mutual consent, each waiting
for the other to renew hostilities.
While indulging in this armistice, the other trappers came up with the
camp equipage. The savages showed no fear at this addition to the
force of the enemy, but, calmly covering themselves among the detached
rocks a little distance from the battle-ground, quietly awaited the
With the fresh supply his companions had brought, Carson cautiously
advanced on foot with reënforcements to dislodge the savages from
their cover. The battle was renewed with increased vigour, but the
whites eventually scattered the savages in all directions.
It was a complete victory for the trappers, as they had killed a great
many of the Blackfeet warriors, and wounded a larger number, while
their own loss aggregated but three men killed and only a few severely
Now that the battle was ended, the trappers camped on the ground where
the bloody engagement occurred, buried the dead, tended the wounded,
and, from that time on, pursued their vocation throughout the whole
Blackfeet country without fear of molestation, so salutary had been
the chastisement of the impudent savages. The latter took good care,
ever afterward, to keep out of the way of the intrepid Carson, having
had enough of him to last the rest of their lives.
During the battle with Carson's trappers, the Blackfeet had sent their
women and children on in advance; and, when the engagement had ended,
and the discomfited warriors, so much reduced in number, returned
without one scalp, the big skin lodge, which had been erected for the
prospective war-dance, was occupied by the wounded savages, and the
hatred for the whites among the tribe was intensified to the last
degree of bitterness.
After the season's ending, which had been very successful, Carson
engaged himself as hunter, at the fort of the American Fur Company on
the South Platte; and as game of all kinds—deer, elk, and antelope—
was abundant, the duty was a delightful one.
The following spring, Carson, in conjunction with Bridger, Baker, and
other famous plainsmen, trapped on all the affluents of the Platte,
and camped for the following winter in the Blackfeet country, without
seeing any of his enemies until spring had again made its rounds.
He and his men then discovered that they were near one of the
Blackfeet's greatest strongholds.
Upon this forty men, with Carson as the leader, were chosen to give
them battle. They found the Indians, to the number of several hundred,
and charged upon them. They met with a brave resistance, and the
battle continued until darkness put an end to the fight, when both
whites and savages retired. At the first sign of dawn Carson and his
party prepared for a renewal of the conflict, but not an Indian was to
be seen. They had fled, taking away with them their dead and wounded.
Carson and his followers returned to their camp and held a council of
war, at which it was decided that as the band they had whipped would
report the affair to the chiefs of the several villages, the terrible
loss they had sustained would inspire all the warriors to make a
united effort to wipe out the trappers. The savages knew where their
camp was established, so it would be wise to prepare for another grand
battle on the same ground, by looking to their defences. To that end
sentinels were posted on a lofty hill near by, breastworks were thrown
up under Carson's supervision, and the utmost precaution taken to
guard against a surprise.