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Parent Category: Kansas State History Articles
Category: Old West Kansas
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At our request White Wolf and two of his braves gave us a display of their skill--or rather, their strength--in the use of their bows, shooting their arrows at a stake sixty yards off. The efforts were what would be called good "line shots," although missing the slender stick.

We then essayed a trial with the chief's bow, which was an exceedingly stout hickory wrapped in sinew, but we found that more practiced strength than ours was required even to bend it. Some amusement was created when the first of our party took up the bow, by the haste with which a small and unusually ugly Indian retreated from the foreground as if fearing that an arrow might be accidentally sent through his blanket.

Among the stock which the savages had brought with them was a long-eared, diminutive brute, scarcely higher than a table, and apparently forming the connecting link between a jackass rabbit and a donkey. This animal White Wolf seemed extremely anxious to present to the Professor, but it was politely declined, by the advice of the interpreter, who explained to us that a return gift of the donkey's weight in sugar and coffee would be expected. Notwithstanding the stringency of the law forbidding the sale of whisky and ammunitions to the Indians, the savages found little difficulty in filling themselves with fire-water, and also got a little powder. White Wolf went off with his pocket full of cartridges in exchange for some Indian commodities, but the cunning pale face rendered them of little value by selecting ammunition a size too small for the gun.

The eating powers of these nomads are marvelous. We saw the chief, inside of two hours, devour three hearty dinners, one of which was gotten up from our own larder and was both good and plentiful. As he did full justice to every invitation to eat and drink, we concluded that he would continue to accept during the whole afternoon, if the opportunity were only offered him. What a capital minister to England was here wasting his gastric juices on the desert air! If Great Britain should continue her hesitation to digest our Alabama claims, the wolf at their door would digest enough roast beef to bring them to terms or starvation. Sugar, coffee, spices, pickles, sardines, ham, and many another luxury of civilization, were alike welcome at the capacious portal of the untutored savage. Dobeen discovered him eating a can of our condensed milk under the impression that it was a sweet porridge.

Their entertainment at the town being concluded, the Indians were conducted over to the fort and some rations given them. They manifested an especial fondness for sugar, but took any thing they could get, their ponies proving capable of carrying an unlimited number of sacks. It seemed as difficult to overload these animals as it is a Broadway omnibus; and their riders, perhaps in order to avoid being top heavy, took freight for the inside whenever opportunity offered. As they came back through the town, we all turned out to see them off. The band promised us peace, notwithstanding which it was no small satisfaction to discover that they were poorly armed. Bows and arrows were the only weapons which all possessed, and while a few had revolvers, the chief alone sported a rifle, a rusty-looking old breech-loader.

As our late cavalry escort rode off, their attitudes plainly bespoke that they had been raiding upon more than the flesh-pots of Egypt. Sons of the sandy-complexioned desert, we saw several of them kiss their mother before they got out of sight. The most serious question with us now was whether or not these red gormandizers had been uttering peace notes not properly indorsed by their hearts. The trouble is that when one discovers a circulation of this kind, his own ceases about the same instant, and his bones become a fixed investment in the fertile soil of the plains.

One of the officers of the fort told us an amusing instance of the impudent treachery of which the western Indians of to-day are sometimes guilty. A year or two before, when Hancock commanded the Department and was encamped near Fort Dodge, on the Arkansas, Satanta and his band of Kiowas came in. This chief has always been known as very hostile to the whites, usually being the first of his tribe to commence hostilities. He was the very embodiment of treachery, ferocity, and bravado. Phrenologically considered, his head must have been a cranial marvel, and the bumps on it mapping out the kingdom of evil a sort of Rocky Mountain chain towering over the more peaceful valleys around. Viewed from the towering peaks of combativeness and acquisitiveness the territory of his past would reveal to the phrenologist an untold number of government mules, fenced in by sutler's stores, while bending over the bloody trail leading back almost to his bark cradle, would be the shades of many mothers and wives, searching among the wrecks of emigrant trains for flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone.

Satanta was long a name on the plains to hate and abhor. He was an abject beggar in the pale faces' camp and a demon on their trail. On the occasion in question he came to Gen. Hancock with protestations of friendship, and, although these were not believed, he was treated precisely as if they had been. To gratify his love of finery an old military coat with general's stars, said to be one that Hancock himself had cast off, was presented him. By some means he also acquired a bugle, and the garrison were greatly amused for the remainder of the day by seeing Satanta galloping back and forth before his band, blowing his bugle and parading his coat, the warriors all cheering the old cut-throat and proud as himself of the display. The way he handled that bugle, however, before the next morning was by no means so amusing.

Some time before dawn the sleepy garrison were aroused by the thunders of a stock stampede, and out of the darkness came the clatter of hoofs, as Satanta and his band departed for the south with a goodly herd of government mules and horses. Pursuit was commenced at once, with the hope of cutting them off before they could get the stock across the Arkansas, then somewhat swollen. Just as the troops reached the bank of that stream, a major-general's uniform was seen going out of the water upon the other side. Notwithstanding its high rank fire was instantly opened upon it, but ineffectually. The savage turned a moment, blew a shrill, defiant blast upon his bugle, and galloped off in safety. Too much promotion made him mad. As a simple chief, he might have stolen some straggling teams; as a major-general, he appropriated a whole herd.

During the next eighteen months, Satanta had several encounters with the troops, generally wearing the major-general's coat and blowing his bugle. His last exploit, which brought the long hesitating sword of justice upon his head, is too fresh and too painful to be soon forgotten. A few months ago the savage chief was living with his people on a reserve in the Indian Territory and being fed by the government. Gathering a few of his warriors he stole forth, and, crossing the Texas border, surprised a wagon train, murdered the teamsters, and drove off the mules. Fortunately, Gen. Sherman, in his examination of frontier posts, happened to be near the scene of murder, and at once ordered troops in pursuit. They were still trailing the marauders when Satanta returned to the reservation at Fort Sill, and with bold effrontery begotten of long immunity, actually boasted of the crime before the Quaker agent. "I did it," said he, "and if any other chief says it was him, tell him he lies. I am the man." Gen. Sherman had just arrived, and when Satanta, with a number of minor chiefs who were with him on the raid, came into the fort to trade and visit, they were seized and bound, and started for Texas under a strong guard, to be tried by the authorities there. On the way one of the Indians in some manner loosened his bands, and seizing the musket of the guard nearest him, shot the soldier in the shoulder, but before he could do further harm the other guards fired, and the savage rolled from the wagon down upon the plain, apparently dead. The body was afterward found close by the road-side in a position which showed that after falling the savage had enough of vitality left to enable him to crawl with bloody hands for several yards. Finding the life-tide ebbing fast, he had then placed his body in position toward the rising sun, composed his arms by his side and, with Indian stoicism, yielded up his breath. The remainder of the party, including Satanta, were brought safely to Texas, tried, and sentenced to be hanged.

Our adventure with White Wolf and his band obliged us, of course, to pass another night in Hays. We spent a most pleasant hour during the evening in the office of Dr. John Moore, an old resident of Plattsburg, N. Y., who assisted us materially in selecting medical stores, and who by his genial disposition endeared himself to our entire party, so that when we heard of his sad fate soon afterward, it seemed as if death had crouched by our own camp-fire. Should the Indians become troublesome, there was some talk at the fort, he now informed us, of organizing a company for operations against them, composed of buffalo hunters and scouts under the lead of regular officers, and in this case it was his purpose to accompany it in the capacity of a surgeon. As good guns were difficult to obtain there, and we had some extra weapons, one of our party loaned the doctor an improved Henry rifle and holster revolvers. Before we again heard of him, he had crossed that shadowy line which winds between the tombs and habitations of men, and his name was added to the drearily long list which bears for its heading--"Killed by Indians."

Commencing with those first entries after the Mayflower introduced our fathers to savage audience, and chiseling separately each name on a marble milestone, the white witnesses would girdle the earth.

Sunrise next morning saw us again moving northward, fully determined that no body of Indians, unless comprising the whole Cheyenne nation, should force us back again. We had met the red man on his native heath and familiarity had bred contempt. All were in excellent spirits and felt the braver, perhaps, because our late visitors had assured us that their tribe was on the war-path against the Pawnees, and meant only peace with the whites.

Our party left Hays the second time with quite an acquisition. On the eve of starting we had been approached by an artist, who begged permission to accompany us. We assented on the instant. An artist was, of all others, the thing we needed. How interesting it would be to have the thrilling incidents of the coming months sketched by our artist on the spot. "Daub" was a fine-looking fellow, with peaked hat, peaked beard, and peaked mustache; in short, was of the genuine artist cut, of the kind that are always sitting around on the stones in romantic places and getting married to heiresses.

During the day we saw many varieties of the cactus, some of them very beautiful. As we had no regular botanist with our expedition, Mr. Colon developed a taste in that direction, and secured and deposited several fine specimens which were carefully laid away in Shamus' wagon. It was not long before that excellent Irishman gave a prolonged howl, the cause of which he did not vouchsafe to tell us, but as we saw him cautiously rubbing his pantaloons we surmised that he had rolled or sat down upon a choice variety. The remainder of the plants he must, with still greater caution, have dropped overboard, as none could subsequently be found for boxing. If the truth must be said, I was not at all sorry for it. I had lent a hand in obtaining an unusually large cactus, but the loan was returned in such damaged condition that I lost all interest at once. The minute needles which nature has scattered over these plants will pierce a glove readily, and burrow in the flesh like trichina. The cactus may be set down as Dame Nature's pin-cushions.

Endless prairie-dog villages covered the country, and occasionally cayotes, about the size of setters, with brushy, fox-like tails, started out of ravines and ran off with a hang-dog sort of look, stopping occasionally to see if they were being pursued. Our guide ran one of these down with his horse and it was almost with sympathy that we watched the tired wolf, when he found running useless, dodging between the horse's legs, rendering the rider's aim false. It was finally dispatched by a greyhound. The latter deserved his name only from courtesy of species, as his color was inky black. He belonged to one of our hostlers, who got him from a Mexican train-master, and was a wonderful fighter. I saw him afterward in combats with not only the cayote, but the large timber wolf, and in every instance he came off the victor. On one occasion, I remember, he whipped the combined curs of a railroad tie camp, making every antagonist take to his heels. Very nearly as high as a table, with powerful chest and immense spring, the hound's movements were like flashes of light. He danced round and over his foe, his fangs clicking like a steel trap, first on one side and now on the other, and again, ere his enemy had closed its jaws on the shadow in front, he was at the rear. I have seen a gray wolf bleeding and helpless, and the hound untouched, after a half hour's combat.

On the north fork of Big Creek we frightened a dozen antelopes out of the brakes, and had a fine opportunity of witnessing a chase by the hound which alone was worth a journey to the plains to see. I remember having been very much interested, when a boy, in reading accounts of gazelle hunting in the Orient, where hawks and dogs are both used. The former pounce down from the air on the fleet-footed victim's head, compelling it to stop every few moments to shake its unwelcome passenger off, and the dogs are thus enabled to overtake it. This always seemed to me a cowardly sort of sport. The harmless victim of the chase, who can not touch the earth without its turning tell-tale to the keen-scented pursuer, should not be robbed of his only refuge, speed, or the pursuit becomes butchery.

The American antelope upon our plains is what the gazelle is upon those of Africa. Timid and fleet, it often detects and avoids danger to which its powerful neighbor, the buffalo, falls a victim. The group which we had frightened bounded away with an elasticity as if nature had furnished them hoofs and joints of rubber. There was no apparent effort in their motion, and we imagined larger powers in reserve than really existed. As the greyhound slowly gained upon them, we noticed this, and the Professor thereupon delivered what Sachem aptly styled a running discourse.

"Gentlemen, poetry of motion, perhaps by poetical license, gives exaggerated ideas of force. A smooth-running engine, though taxed to its utmost capacity, seems capable of accomplishing more, while its wheezing neighbor, groaning and straining as if on the verge of dissolution, has abundant powers in reserve. Some Hercules may lift a weight on which a straw more would seem to him large enough to sustain the traditional drowning man. The feat marks itself by a life-long backache, but, if he has performed it gracefully, he bears with it a reputation for a fabulous reserve of power, the exhibition seeming but the safety valve to his supposed giant forces struggling for expression."

Our learned friend seldom found us less attentive than then. All the wagons were stopped, and from every elevation upon them we looked out over the solitudes at the race going on before us. Pursuer and pursued were pitting against each other the same quality--speed. There was no lying in ambush or taking unawares. The fleetest-footed of game was flying before the swiftest of dogs. There could be no trailing, as these hounds run only by sight. What a straining of muscles! The low ridge barely lifting the animals against the horizon, their legs, from rapidity of motion, were invisible, and the bodies, for a short space, seemed floating in air. It was one short, black line, running rapidly into twelve gray ones, these latter resolving occasionally into as many balls of white cotton, when the puffy, rabbit-like tails of the antelopes were turned toward us. Two of the best mounted horsemen from our party had started with the chase, but seemed scarcely moving, so rapidly were they left behind.

Twice we thought the hound had closed, but instantly succeeding views showed daylight still between, although the narrow strip was being blotted out with the same regular certainty with which the dark slide of the magic lantern seizes the figures on the wall. Down into a ravine, and out of sight they passed, and we were fearing the _finale_ would be hidden, when they came into view on the opposite side and pressed up the bank. The bounds of the hound were magnificent, and we all gave a cry of admiration, as with a splendid effort he launched himself like a black ball upon the herd. In an instant after we saw him hurled back and taking a very unvictor-like roll down the hill. He quickly recovered, however, and fastened on an antelope which seemed lagging behind. His first selection, the leader of the herd, had proved an unfortunate one, and he bore a bruise for some time where the buck had struck him with his horns.

The second seizure turned out to be a doe, and was quite dead when we reached it. The victor was lying along side, looking very much as if one antelope hunt a day was sufficient for even a greyhound. We noticed that the hair was rubbed off from the doe's sides by its struggles, and on passing our hands over the neck found that its coarse coat parted from the skin at a slight touch. This peculiarity in the antelope is very marked. In a subsequent hunt I once saw a wounded buck plunge forward, roll along the ground for a few feet, and then run off with the bare skin along his entire side showing just where he had struck the earth.

One of our party produced a knife, and the animal was bled and the entrails taken out. We seemed destined to have a mishap with every adventure, and had already learned to expect such sequences, the only question being whose turn should come next. This time it proved to be Semi-Colon's. We were a mile from the wagons, and Semi's horse, being considered the most thoroughly broken, was nominated to bear the game to them. To this proceeding Cynocephalus seemed in nowise indisposed, quietly submitting to the management of one of the hostlers and our guide, as they lashed the antelope across his back, securing it to the rear of the large Texas saddle with the powerful straps which always hang there for purposes of this kind. This accomplished, Semi climbed into the saddle, gave a click and a kick, and set his steed in motion. That eccentric assemblage of bones made one spasmodic step forward, which brought the bloody, hairy carcass with a swing against his loins.

What a change that touch produced! Those wasted nostrils emitted a terrific snort, the stiff stump-tail jerked upward like the lever of a locomotive, and with a dart Cynocephalus was off across the plains. He probably imagined that some beast of prey had coveted his spare-ribs, and was whetting its teeth on the vantage-ground of his backbone. Occasionally the frightened animal would slack up and indulge in a fit of kicking, looking back meanwhile with terror at the object fastened upon his hide, then plunge frantically forward again. The antelope stuck to the saddle for some time, but not so Semi-Colon. The first of these irregular proceedings caused that young man, as Sachem expressed it, "to get off upon his head." Cynocephalus finally burst his saddle-girths, and we were obliged to furnish other transportation for our game.

Let me say, _en passant_, that I am trying to chronicle minutely the events which befel our half-scientific, half-sporting, and somewhat incongruous party on its trip through Buffalo Land; and, although my readers may think us particularly unfortunate, we really suffered no more than amateurs usually do. My object is to set up guide boards at the dangerous places, that other travelers may avoid the pitfalls and the perils into which we fell. And to every amateur hunter we beg to offer this advice: Never tie dead game upon a strange horse unless you owe the rider a grudge.

"Young men," said the Doctor, from his saddle, "you have seen a beautiful illustration in the theory of development. The hound and the antelope may have been originally an oyster and a worm. From their first slow motion, when one only opened its jaws to seize the other, they have progressed until the speed of to-day results. Should the hound ever become wild, and pursuit and flight change to an every-day matter instead of a holiday-sport, development would still continue. A giraffe-like antelope, with the speed of the wind, would fly before a hound the size of a stag." The Doctor's "clinic," as Sachem called it, was suddenly cut short at this point by a struggle for mastery between himself and the human spirit concealed in his horse.

"How much," exclaimed the Professor, when Pythagoras had at length come off triumphant, and we again moved forward--"How much the race that we have witnessed is like that we all run. Powerful and eager as the greyhound, man sees flying before him, on the plain of life, an object which he thirsts to grasp. Taxing every muscle in pursuit, panting after it over the smooth country below the 40th mile-post, he crosses there the ravine where rheumatism and straggling gray hairs lurk, and with these clinging to him, starts up the hill of later life. Half-way to its summit, on which the three-score stone marking the down-hill grade looks uncomfortably like that over a tomb, he seizes the object of pursuit only to be flung back by it bruised. If of the proper metal, he falls but to rise again, and should the first wish be out of reach, fastens on one of its companions. There is where blood tells. If the least taint of cur is in it the first blow sends its recipient yelling to his kennel, there to whine for the remainder of life over bruised ribs."

Muggs thought a single toss was sufficient, and retreat then only prudence. If the bones on one side were broken, he saw no reason to expose the other. Dying successful was only procuring meat for others to enjoy.

The Professor was developing a remarkable talent for finding not only the stones of the past written all over with a wonderful and translatable history, but also the moral connected with each incident of our journey. Had any of us broken our necks he would doubtless have improved the occasion to draw a comparison and have made it the text of a philosophic disquisition.

 

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