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In July, 1856, the people living in the vicinity of our home--feeling the necessity of more extensive educational facilities for their children than they had yet had--started a subscription school in a little log cabin on the bank of the creek, which for a while proved quite a success.

My mother being very anxious to have me attend this school, I acceded to her oft-repeated wishes, and returning home, I became a pupil of the institution. I made considerable progress in my studies--such as they were--and was getting along very well in every other respect, until I became involved in my first love affair.

Like all school-boys, I had a sweetheart with whom I was "dead in love"--in a juvenile way. Her name was Mary Hyatt. Of course I had a rival, Stephen Gobel, a boy about three years my senior--the "bully" of the school. He was terribly jealous, and sought in every way to revenge himself upon me for having won the childish affections of sweet little Mary.

The boys of the school used to build play-houses or arbors among the trees and bushes for their sweethearts. I had built a play-house for Mary, when Steve, as we called him, leveled it to the ground. We immediately had a very lively fight, in which I got badly beaten. The teacher heard of our quarrel and whipped us both. This made matters worse than ever, as I had received two thrashings to Steve's one; I smothered my angry feelings as much as possible under the humiliating circumstances, and during the afternoon recess built another play-house, thinking that Gobel would not dare to destroy a second one; but I was mistaken, for he pushed the whole structure over at the first opportunity. I came up to him just as he finished the job, and said:

"Steve Gobel, the next time you do that, I'll hurt you." And I meant it, too; but he laughed and called me names.

At recess, next morning, I began the construction of still another playhouse, and when I had it about two-thirds finished, Steve slyly sneaked up to the spot and tipped the whole thing over. I jumped for him with the quickness of a cat, and clutching him by the throat for a moment I had the advantage of him. But he was too strong for me, and soon had me on the ground and was beating me severely. While away from home I had someway come into possession of a very small pocket dagger, which I had carried about with me in its sheath, using it in place of a knife. During the struggle this fell from my pocket, and my hand by accident rested upon it as it lay upon the ground. Exasperated beyond measure at Steve's persistence in destroying my play-houses, and smarting under his blows, I forgot myself for the moment, grasped the dagger and unthinkingly thrust it into Steve's thigh. Had it been larger it would probably have injured him severely; as it was, it made a small wound, sufficient to cause the blood to flow freely and Steve to cry out in affright:

"I am killed! O, I am killed!"

The school children all rushed to the spot and were terrified at the scene.

"What's the matter?" asked one.

"Bill Cody has killed Steve Gobel," replied another.

The uproar reached the teacher's ear, and I now saw him approaching, with vengeance in his eye and a big club in his hand. I knew that he was coming to interview _me_. I was dreadfully frightened at what I had done, and undecided whether to run away or to remain and take the consequences; but the sight of that flag-staff in the school teacher's hand was too much for me. I no longer hesitated, but started off like a deer. The teacher followed in hot pursuit, but soon became convinced that he could not catch me, and gave up the chase. I kept on running, until I reached one of Russell, Major & Waddell's freight trains which I had noticed going over the hill for the west. Fortunately for me I knew the wagon-master, John Willis, and as soon as I recovered my breath I told him what had happened.

"Served him right, Billy," said he, "and what's more, we'll go over and clean out the teacher."

"Oh, no; don't do that," said I, for I was afraid that I might fall into the hands of the wounded boy's friends, who I knew would soon be looking for me.

"Well, Billy, come along with me; I am bound for Fort Kearney; the trip will take me forty days. I want you for a cavallard driver."

"All right," I replied, "but I must go home and tell mother about it, and get some clothes."

"Well then, to-night after we make our camp, I'll go back with you."

The affray broke up the school for the rest of the day as the excitement was too much for the children. Late in the afternoon, after the train had moved on some considerable distance, I saw Steve's father, his brother Frank, and one of the neighbors rapidly approaching.

"Mr. Willis, there comes old Gobel, with Frank and somebody else, and they are after me--what am I going to do?" I asked.

"Let 'em come," said he, "they can't take you if I've got anything to say about it, and I rather think I have. Get into one of the wagons--keep quiet and lay low. I'll manage this little job. Don't you fret a bit about it."

I obeyed his orders and felt much easier.

Old Gobel, Frank and the neighbor soon came up and inquired for me.

"He's around here somewhere," said Mr. Willis.

"We want him," said Gobel; "he stabbed my son a little while ago, and I want to arrest him."

"Well, you can't get him; that settles it; so you needn't waste any of your time around here," said Willis.

Gobel continued to talk for a few minutes, but getting no greater satisfaction, the trio returned home.

When night came, Willis accompanied me on horseback to my home. Mother, who had anxiously searched for me everywhere--being afraid that something had befallen me at the hands of the Gobels--was delighted to see me, notwithstanding the difficulty in which I had become involved. I at once told her that at present I was afraid to remain at home, and had accordingly made up my mind to absent myself for a few weeks or months--at least until the excitement should die out. Mr. Willis said to her that he would take me to Fort Kearney with him, and see that I was properly cared for, and would bring me back safely in forty days.

Mother at first seriously objected to my going on this trip fearing I would fall into the hands of Indians. Her fears, however, were soon overcome, and she concluded to let me go. She fixed me up a big bundle of clothing and gave me a quilt. Kissing her and my sisters a fond farewell, I started off on my first trip across the plains, and with a light heart too, notwithstanding my trouble of a few hours before.

The trip proved a most enjoyable one to me, although no incidents worthy of note occurred on the way. On my return from Fort Kearney I was paid off the same as the rest of the employees. The remainder of the summer and fall I spent in herding cattle and working for Russell, Majors & Waddell.

I finally ventured home--not without some fear, however, of the Gobel family--and was delighted to learn that during my absence mother had had an interview with Mr. Gobel, and having settled the difficulty with him, the two families had become friends again, and I may state, incidentally, that they ever after remained so. I have since often met Stephen Gobel, and we have had many a laugh together over our love affair and the affray at the school-house. Mary Hyatt, the innocent cause of the whole difficulty, is now married and living in Chicago. Thus ended my first love scrape.

In the winter of 1856-57 my father, in company with a man named J.C. Boles, went to Cleveland, Ohio, and organized a colony of about thirty families, whom they brought to Kansas and located on the Grasshopper. Several of these families still reside there.

It was during this winter that father, after his return from Cleveland, caught a severe cold. This, in connection with the wound he had received at Rively's--from which he had never entirely recovered--affected him seriously, and in April, 1857, he died at home from kidney disease.

This sad event left my mother and the family in poor circumstances, and I determined to follow the plains for a livelihood for them and myself. I had no difficulty in obtaining work under my old employers, and in May, 1857, I started for Salt Lake City with a herd of beef cattle, in charge of Frank and Bill McCarthy, for General Albert Sidney Johnson's army, which was then being sent across the plains to fight the Mormons.

Nothing occurred to interrupt our journey until we reached Plum Creek, on the South Platte river, thirty-five miles west of Old Fort Kearney. We had made a morning drive and had camped for dinner. The wagon-masters and a majority of the men had gone to sleep under the mess wagons; the cattle were being guarded by three men, and the cook was preparing dinner. No one had any idea that Indians were anywhere near us. The first warning we had that they were infesting that part of the country was the firing of shots and the whoops and yells from a party of them, who, catching us napping, gave us a most unwelcome surprise. All the men jumped to their feet and seized their guns. They saw with astonishment the cattle running in every direction, they having been stampeded by the Indians, who had shot and killed the three men who were on day-herd duty, and the red devils were now charging down upon the rest of us.

I then thought of mother's fears of my falling into the hands of the Indians, and I had about made up my mind that such was to be my fate; but when I saw how coolly and determinedly the McCarthy brothers were conducting themselves and giving orders to the little band, I became convinced that we would "stand the Indians off," as the saying is. Our men were all well armed with Colt's revolvers and Mississippi yagers, which last, carried a bullet, and two buckshots.

The McCarthy boys, at the proper moment, gave orders to fire upon the advancing enemy. The volley checked them, although they returned the compliment, and shot one of our party through the leg. Frank McCarthy then sang out, "Boys, make a break for the slough yonder, and we can then have the bank for a breast-work."

We made a run for the slough which was only a short distance off, and succeeded in safely reaching it, bringing with us the wounded man. The bank proved to be a very effective breast-work, affording us good protection. We had been there but a short time when Frank McCarthy, seeing that the longer we were corraled the worse it would be for us, said:

"Well, boys, we'll try to make our way back to Fort Kearney by wading in the river and keeping the bank for a breast-work."

We all agreed that this was the best plan, and we accordingly proceeded down the river several miles in this way, managing to keep the Indians at a safe distance with our guns, until the slough made a junction with the main Platte river. From there down we found the river at times quite deep, and in order to carry the wounded man along with us we constructed a raft of poles for his accommodation, and in this way he was transported.

Occasionally the water would be too deep for us to wade, and we were obliged to put our weapons on the raft and swim. The Indians followed us pretty close, and were continually watching for an opportunity to get a good range and give us a raking fire. Covering ourselves by keeping well under the bank, we pushed ahead as rapidly as possible, and made pretty good progress, the night finding us still on the way and our enemies still on our track.

I being the youngest and smallest of the party, became somewhat tired, and without noticing it I had fallen behind the others for some little distance. It was about ten o'clock and we were keeping very quiet and hugging close to the bank, when I happened to look up to the moon-lit sky and saw the plumed head of an Indian peeping over the bank. Instead of hurrying ahead and alarming the men in a quiet way, I instantly aimed my gun at the head and fired. The report rang out sharp and loud on the night air, and was immediately followed by an Indian whoop, and the next moment about six feet of dead Indian came tumbling into the river. I was not only overcome with astonishment, but was badly scared, as I could hardly realize what I had done. I expected to see the whole force of Indians come down upon us. While I was standing thus bewildered, the men, who had heard the shot and the war-whoop and had seen the Indian take a tumble, came rushing back.

"Who fired that shot?" cried Frank McCarthy.

"I did," replied I, rather proudly, as my confidence returned and I saw the men coming up.

"Yes, and little Billy has killed an Indian stone-dead--too dead to skin," said one of the men, who had approached nearer than the rest, and had almost stumbled upon the corpse. From that time forward I became a hero and an Indian killer. This was, of course, the first Indian I had ever shot, and as I was not then more than eleven years of age, my exploit created quite a sensation.

The other Indians, upon learning what had happened to their "advance guard," set up a terrible howling, and fired several volleys at us, but without doing any injury, as we were so well protected by the bank. We resumed our journey down the river, and traveled all night long. Just before daylight, Frank McCarthy crawled out over the bank and discovered that we were only five miles from Fort Kearney, which post we reached in safety in about two hours,--shortly after _reveille_--bringing the wounded man with us. It was indeed a relief to us all to feel that once more we were safe.

Frank McCarthy immediately reported to the commanding officer and informed him of all that had happened. The commandant at once ordered a company of cavalry and one of infantry to proceed to Plum Creek on a forced march--taking a howitzer with them--to endeavor to recapture the cattle from the Indians.

The firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell had a division agent at Kearney, and this agent mounted us on mules so that we could accompany the troops. On reaching the place where the Indians had surprised us, we found the bodies of the three men whom they had killed and scalped, and literally cut into pieces. We of course buried the remains. We caught but few of the cattle; the most of them having been driven off and stampeded with the buffaloes, there being numerous immense herds of the latter in that section of the country at that time. The Indian's trail was discovered running south towards the Republican river, and the troops followed it to the head of Plum Creek, and there abandoned it, returning to Fort Kearney without having seen a single red-skin.

The company's agent, seeing that there was no further use for us in that vicinity--as we had lost our cattle and mules--sent us back to Fort Leavenworth. The company, it is proper to state, did not have to stand the loss of the expedition, as the government held itself responsible for such depredations by the Indians.

On the day that I got into Leavenworth, sometime in July, I was interviewed for the first time in my life by a newspaper reporter, and the next morning I found my name in print as "the youngest Indian slayer on the plains." I am candid enough to admit that I felt very much elated over this notoriety. Again and again I read with eager interest the long and sensational account of our adventure. My exploit was related in a very graphic manner, and for a long time afterwards I was considerable of a hero. The reporter who had thus set me up, as I then thought, on the highest pinnacle of fame, was John Hutchinson, and I felt very grateful to him. He now lives in Wichita, Kansas.