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Parent Category: Kansas Reading Library
Category: Life and Adventures of 'Billy' Dixon
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When the spring of 1867 came around, I was offered my old job on the farm, and Mrs. McCall, a kind, good woman, used all her influence to get me to accept it. But my head was filled with dreams of adventure in the Far West. Always, I could see the West holding its hands toward me, and beckoning and smiling.

Meeting a Government train-master named Simpson, who was hiring men to go out with a train that was to be shipped by railroad as far as Fort Harker, I forgot all that Mrs. McCall had said to me about staying on the farm, and hired to Simpson. Returning to the farm, I told my good friends good-bye.

The Kansas Pacific railroad had now been built as far west as Fort Harker. All our wagons and harness were new and these, together with the mules, were loaded into cars and shipped to Fort Harker. We went into camp close to the Fort.

In this outfit were a good many raw men, while the mules were known as "shave-tails," which meant wild, unbroken mules; only a few had been harnessed and driven. By this time I could handle a team with as much ease as a man could. In my lot were two or three gentle mules--I have cause to remember one old fellow in particular, upon whose back I afterwards had one of the most exciting rides of my life.

We put in ten days breaking the "shave-tails." It was a scene of hilarious excitement, and not without danger, as often mules would be kicking and bucking in harness with might and main, while others would be running away. At such times the drivers had no time to pay attention to other things.

While in this camp, cholera began raging at Fort Harker, which struck terror to many who stood in no fear of other dangers to life. Many of our men deserted, and two died of the dread disease. I witnessed the death of one of our men, Frinkum, and shall never forget his agony. Men who were apparently in the full vigor of health at sunrise lay dead by night. The authorities kept the number of dead secret as much as possible. The burials were usually at night.

This epidemic of death extended from Fort Harker, Kansas, to Fort Union, New Mexico. Its origin was said to have been in the Tenth Cavalry, a negro command, which had shipped from the East to the western frontier. Now, all this excitement did not bother me a bit--I did not think much about it. The doctors made regular calls at our camp every day, and we were placed on a strict diet. We were forbidden to eat any kind of vegetable or fresh meat. The disease ran its course in about three weeks.

Alas, and again alas, up to this time I had never seen a buffalo! I could almost taste buffalo, so keen was I to behold one of these shaggy monsters, pawing the sandy plain, throwing dust high in air, and shaking his ponderous head at his enemies, defying them to battle.

The Government here issued a new lot of arms and ammunition to us. This looked warlike, and was greatly to my liking. The guns were the Sharpe's carbine, carrying a linen cartridge, with which was used the "army hat" cap. In addition, we were given a six-shooter Remington, cap and ball pistol. These were the very latest arms.

Now came an eventful, a momentous morning, I had just crawled from under my blankets and was feeding my mules. Glancing to the northwest, I saw a lone object on the plains. At the moment the object apparently failed to make an impression upon my mind, and I turned toward my mules. Then I jumped as if I had been stung by a hornet. With eyes distended, I whirled and looked again at the lone object on the Plains. My body was vibrating as if touched by a dynamo.

A buffalo! No mistake about it. There he stood, rather far off and dim. Maybe he had been waiting for me all these years, waiting for me to see him. That was my buffalo. I determined that I should get him, even if I had to twist my fingers in his shaggy mane and drag him alive into camp.

Seizing a blind-bridle, I slipped it onto the gentle old mule to which I referred in an earlier page, made a dash for my rifle and rode away bareback and at top speed after the buffalo.

The buffalo had turned and was moving away from camp when he caught sight of the boy on the mule riding wildly toward him. With a flip of his tail, the buffalo struck his rocking-chair gait and went lumbering away. Up and down hills and across gullies he galloped. I was hot behind him, and at times was just at the point of getting range, only to see the buffalo increase his speed and spoil my shot.

We had consumed about eight miles in this sort of thing, when we came to a smooth flat. My old mule was panting and pretty well winded by this time, but I was able to make him take another spurt in speed. This brought me within range. The buffalo fell dead at the first shot. The explosion scared the mule into hysteria, but his was no worse than mine. I had not only killed a buffalo, but had killed, unaided, the first buffalo I ever saw.

By this time three or four men from the outfit had arrived. They were jubilant over my success, and were kind enough to exaggerate the distance of the shot. The buffalo was a hard animal to kill instantly, as a vital spot had to be struck. We skinned the carcass, and each man cut off a chunk of meat and took it back to camp. Greatly to our disgust, not a mouthful were we allowed to cook or eat, because of the cholera quarantine.

A few days later orders were given to load the wagons with Government supplies for Fort Hayes, Kansas, 90 odd miles west of Fort Harker. By this time our "shave-tail" mules were under fairly good control, and we got under headway without much trouble.

On this trip, at a distance, we saw a bunch of Indian warriors, but did not come in contact with them. In my lack of experience I was eager for the fray, and was disappointed when I saw the war party disappear over a long ridge, without my having been able to test my marksmanship and my new Sharpe's rifle. Buffaloes were seen in numbers, and I was lucky enough to kill several "on my own hook." We reached Fort Hayes in about four days, and returned to Fort Harker in about the same time.

Fort Hayes was garrisoned mostly with negro soldiers. No buildings had been erected at that time, and we unloaded our supplies in the open prairie, where guards had been stationed to protect them. The timber for the buildings was being hauled from Fort Harker.

Our next trip was to Fort Wallace, with Government supplies, the distance being considerably greater than from Fort Harker to Fort Hayes. We always had an escort of soldiers, as there was constant danger of meeting an Indian war party.

In August, 1867, we were sent to Fort Lyon, and on this trip we saw thousands of buffaloes. The breeding season was now approaching its close, and at night and early morning could be heard the constant, low thunder of the bulls, their grunting rising into a roar that was one of the most striking of the natural phenomena of the Plains country. The calves, by this time, were alert, active little fellows, closely guarded by their mothers. Later in the season, all the bulls would segregate themselves from the cows, to range apart until the next breeding season. West of Fort Dodge we saw Indians in war paint, and expected to be attacked, but the rascals veered round us and went on their way.

Fort Hayes was on a tributary of the Smoky Hill River; old Fort Zarah, on Walnut Creek; Fort Larned on Pawnee Fork, and Fort Harker on Big Creek. All these forts were being remodeled and improved. In this way we put in all that summer, hauling supplies to one fort or the other, and when not engaged in this, we hauled rock for the foundations of the buildings.

Along in October, 1867, while several Government trains were at Fort Harker, waiting for orders, we were notified to make ready to accompany a party of peace commissioners that had been authorized to treat with several of the main plains tribes of Indians in the Southwest, at Medicine Lodge, Kas. These negotiations were afterwards known as the Medicine Lodge Treaty. Like most other treaties with these tribes, it was soon broken.

Several trains, with a part of ours, were to accompany this expedition. I was eager to go, but as no orders had been given to my outfit, I was fearful that I might be left behind. Here was the opportunity I had long looked for--to see a big gathering of Indians close at hand, without danger of getting scalped. I had almost given up in despair, when an orderly galloped up from headquarters, saying that two more wagons must be sent forward at once. It was now 6 o'clock in the evening. Simpson, our wagon-master, approached me and said:

"Billy, you and Frickie (Frickie drove the wagon next to mine) get ready at once and go into Fort Harker."

As a rule, nothing ever greatly excited me in my frontier days, but I am bound to admit that I was now going round and round, so overjoyed was I at my good luck. My agitation came near causing me to be left behind.

I ran as quickly as possible to where my mules were eating their grain, and without halting jerked the harness from the rack to throw it onto the lead mule. With both feet this mule kicked me squarely in the small of the back. I dropped as if I had been struck with an axe, and found myself partly paralyzed, and scarcely able to move. Recovering slightly, I regained my feet, but found that I could not straighten my body. I was game, however. Calling Frickie, I told him what had happened, and asked him to help me harness my mules, and not to say a word to anybody about my being hurt. Were it known that I had been kicked, I might be sent to the hospital. Frickie was a good fellow, and I was soon on my way to the Fort. By next morning I was in fairly good shape.

Night had come by the time we reached Fort Harker. We had to load and then drive about three miles to camp, on the Smoky Hill. The last two wagons were loaded with ammunition for a small Gatling gun, not an undesirable equipment on Indian peace expeditions in those days.

We pulled out bright and early next morning for Plum Creek, where there was a small road-ranch. Next day we reached Fort Zarah on Walnut Creek and on the third day we went on up the Arkansas and crossed it about seven miles below Fort Larned. We reached Medicine Lodge on the fourth day, where the treaty was to be held.

All along the way on this trip we were traveling through countless numbers of buffaloes. I remember seeing a wounded buffalo cow followed by six big lobo wolves. No hoofed animal could withstand these savage beasts--they were a terror to other wild life on the Plains. Wantonly, several buffaloes had been shot, and left lying to rot on the ground. An orderly came riding down the line with strict orders, that if another man in the outfit fired another shot at a buffalo he would be placed in irons.

Between the Arkansas River and Medicine Lodge we were met by a number of noted Indian chiefs, mounted upon their finest horses and arrayed in their most splendid costumes. They carried themselves with dignity and in every feature was revealed their racial pride and their haughty contempt of the white man. Among them I recall Satanta, Kicking Bird, and Black Kettle.

Satanta, chief of the Kiowas, rode a big black horse, and presented a magnificent appearance. It was because of his complaint that the order had been issued against the killing of buffaloes--a complaint that lay at the very heart of the grievances of the Indian against the white man in frontier days. He declared that the buffaloes were the property of himself and his people, and to destroy the buffalo meant the destruction of the Indian. Leading a nomadic life, which prevented his tilling the soil, even if he had wished to engage in agriculture, which he did not, the Indian saw that he would be deprived of his principal and most necessary food--buffalo meat--if the buffaloes were killed.

At a later day General Phil. Sheridan, to subdue and conquer the Plains tribes for all time, urged and practiced the very thing that Satanta was fearful might happen. In the early 70's, the state legislatures of Kansas and Colorado, listening to the appeal of the Indians, through sympathetic white persons, enacted laws to stop the slaughtering of the buffaloes, General Sheridan at that time was in command of the Military Department of the Southwest, with headquarters at San Antonio. The Texas legislature, in session at Austin, was at the point of declaring against the merciless slaughter of buffaloes that was then under way in the Staked Plains and Panhandle regions. General Sheridan is said to have told the legislators that the state should give to every buffalo-hunter a bronze medal, on one side of which should be a dead buffalo, and on the other, a discouraged Indian, adding:

"These men have done more in the last year to settle the vexed Indian question than the entire regular army has done in the last thirty years. They are destroying the Indians' commissary; and it is a well-known fact that an army losing its base of supplies is placed at a great disadvantage. Send them powder and lead, if you will; but, for the sake of a lasting peace, let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated. Then your prairies can be covered with speckled cattle, and the festive cowboy, who follows the hunter as a second fore-runner of an advanced civilization."

The Texas legislature accepted General Sheridan's advice. The Texans as a people were readily disposed to agree with that point of view, for in no State did the Plains Indians commit crimes more cruel and horrible than in Texas.

On our way to Medicine Lodge our train of sixty wagons was strung out for a distance of about two miles, accompanied by a strong escort of soldiers.

The members of this Indian Peace Commission were: N. G. Taylor, Commissioner of Indian Affairs; John B. Henderson, United States Senator; General William Tecumseh Sherman; General W. L. Harney; John B. Sanborn; General A. H. Terry; S. F. Tappan, and General C. C. Augur.

  

Satank, The Old Tiger of the Kiowas.

Among the notable chiefs were: Satanta, Kicking Bird, Black Kettle, Medicine Arrow, and Lone Wolf. Black Kettle was then at the height of his power, but soon to meet the death he had so often inflicted. He led the Cheyenne raid in the valley of the Solomon River in August, 1868, and had been in the Sand Creek fight in Colorado, November, 1864, where Colonel Chivington, commanding a regiment of Colorado troops massacred a lot of Cheyennes. I camped on that battleground in 1870 while hunting buffaloes. The spot was still strewn with bones of the dead, and the trees were yet scarred by the hail of bullets that had come from the guns of the soldiers, who killed old and young, women and children, without mercy, and atrociously mutilated the bodies of the dead. In 1866, at Fort Harker, Black Kettle had made a speech of great eloquence, asking the Government not to permit the building of railroads through the Indian country, as it would drive away the buffaloes and leave the Indians to starve.

This fear of the change that would follow the building of railroads across the Plains was night and day in the heart of the Indian. No chief made a speech in which he did not refer to it. In June, 1871, Little Raven, Powder face, and Bird Chief, Arapahoes; Little Robe and Stone Calf, Cheyennes, and Buffalo Good, Wichita, were taken to Washington and Boston, that they might be impressed with the white man's strength, and futility of the Indians' further resistance the Government. Stone Calf, in a speech at Tremont Temple, Boston, handled the railroad question in this manner.

"They (the Government) said they would teach our people to plant and raise corn, and to build our habitations from trees. But before they ever ploughed or planted an acre of corn for us they commenced to build railroads through our country. What use have we for railroads in our country? What have we to transport from our nations? Nothing. We are living wild, really living on the prairies as we have in former times. I do not see that we have been benefitted in the least by all the treaties that we have made with the United States Government."

We went into camp on Medicine Lodge Creek, to wait until the gathering Indians had come in. Near us was a small village of Indians, to whom a runner came on the third day to notify them that some of their livestock had been stolen by the Kaws, a neighboring tribe. We could see the wave of excitement run over the village, and the bucks running to and fro, getting ready for the pursuit. The squaws were no less active. They helped saddle the ponies, etc., and jabbered and screamed to each other in a way that would have made it hard for the marauders had they been captives in the custody of the squaws. As each buck got ready, he rode away without waiting for his companions. They returned later in the day with their ponies, but had been unable to overtake the thieves.

I shall never forget the morning of October 28, 1867. At a distance of about two miles from our camp was the crest of a low swell in the Plains. The background was blue sky--a blue curtain that touched the brown Plains. For a moment I was dumbfounded at sight of what was rising over that crest and flowing with vivid commotion toward us. It was a glittering, fluttering, gaily colored mass of barbarism, the flower and perfection of the war strength of the Plains Indian tribes. The resplendent warriors, armed with all their equipment and adorned with all the regalia of battle, seemed to be rising out of the earth. Their number was estimated at 15,000, but I cannot vouch for its accuracy.

As they came into plainer view, the Indians spread their ranks wider and wider, to create as profound an impression as possible, and inspire us deeply with their power. Now they could be heard chanting and singing. Having arrived within a quarter of a mile of our camp, the Indians charged like a whirlwind, firing their guns and brandishing them above their heads. The charge was abruptly halted, and the Indians stood at rest, waiting for the negotiations to begin. The tribes represented were the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche.

While the Indians were advancing, and were about half a mile distant, orders were given in camp that every man should retire at once to his tent, and there hold himself in readiness to resist an attack, which might be made at any moment. My boyish curiosity got the better of me, and I was standing just outside the door of my tent, gazing with open mouth at the oncoming Indians. General Harney was walking up and down the line between the tents, encouraging the men, telling them not to be afraid, as we had enough men to whip all the Indians in sight. He saw me as he was passing my tent. Tapping me on the shoulder with his riding whip, he said, "Get back into your tent, young man." I lost no time in obeying him.

This fine old warrior made a lasting impression upon me, and I can see him now, as if it were only yesterday, passing back and forth in the camp street, with the fire of valor burning in his eyes. He felt the responsibility of this critical moment, and knew that the slightest break on either side would precipitate war on the spot. He made an imposing appearance that memorable fall morning. He was gray-haired, straight, broad-shouldered, and towered to the commanding height of six feet and six inches. General Harney was an experienced Indian fighter, and exerted a powerful influence among the Plains tribes. They knew him and respected him, believing that he had always told them the truth.

The Indians drew up their horses at a distance of about 200 yards. General Harney had motioned to them to stop, and for their principal chiefs to come into camp. The latter were obedient to his request and after dismounting, sat down with the peace commissioners. At the end of about an hour's conference, the main body of Indians was permitted to enter camp. There were many Indian boys not more than ten years old among the warriors, which probably was an artifice to create among us the belief that there were more fighting men than were actually in the ranks.

  

Indian Ration Issue at Fort Sill.

Bringing up the rear were the squaws and children and dogs. The squaws pitched their tepees on the creek in sight of our camp.

The young bucks spurned all friendly overtures, refusing to shake hands, and conducting themselves in a sullen manner. After riding through our camp many times, evidently to examine it carefully and gain an accurate knowledge of our strength, they withdrew and remained at a distance. During this time the troops were intently watching every movement of the Indians, suspecting treachery at every turn.

The commission and the chiefs finally agreed upon the terms of the treaty, the main point of which was that the Indians should keep south of the Arkansas River. I had reason to remember this particular provision in subsequent years, as did many another buffalo-hunter. To venture south of the Arkansas for buffalo was to risk falling into the very jaws of the lion, as the Indians fought jealously for the preservation of the right which they declared had been given to them at Medicine Lodge.

The making of treaties with the Plains tribes was followed by the breaking of these treaties whenever the Indians saw fit to do so. Conditions generally made it difficult for the Indians to do otherwise. They were beset on all sides by a frontier population that was as hostile to the Indians as the Indian was to the whites. Lack of permanency and continuity in the arrangements made by the Federal government were largely responsible for the unrest and frequent outbreaks. The situation was clearly described by General W. B. Hazen in 1874, when most of the southwestern tribes had gone on the warpath. He said:

"As one example of this very point, I will call attention to successive treaties made with the Kiowas, Satanta at the head, by five separate and successive commissions, each ignorant of what the other had done, and believing that they alone were receiving the fresh faith of these people. Several solemn treaties were made, by which these people were to cease war, and especially raiding into Texas, previous to the Medicine Lodge treaty of 1866, all to be broken within thirty days thereafter. Then comes that of Medicine Lodge, terms of which you know. Then one was made with General Sheridan and myself, at Fort Larned, in the autumn of 1868, to be quickly broken. Then, again, in 1869, with General Sheridan, to be broken not less than twenty times, until he was imprisoned in Texas. Then a new farce with the commissioners, by which he was released, and he is now leading the war party of the tribe. This would have been impossible had there not been men ignorant of the situation, at each successive occasion to deal with these people, nor could it have taken place had the Army, with its persistent organization, control of Indian affairs. Such is the case all through the administration of Indian matters. One civil administration, or one set of civil officers, in good faith undertakes an experimental policy, good enough of itself, but as soon as anything is done on the new plan, with all its invariable pledges, and its flattering promises are fully conceived and begun, a new administration begins, with equally good intent, an entirely new policy, unintentionally disregarding all the promises and efforts of its predecessors and their agents. The savage cannot comprehend this, and naturally calls it a lie, the white people a nation of liars, and as evidence relates a half dozen cases like that just described. I am giving no fictitious imaginings, but what I know. This thoroughly destroys any faith or interest that otherwise may be nourished in an Indian community; nor can this be changed only by giving them a consecutive policy, which is impractical only through some branch of government that is in itself perpetual."

The "peace policy" of the Government actually encouraged a number of the more daring chiefs to become defiant in their dealings with Washington. When they saw that the Government did not strike back, or strike back quickly, they did not hesitate to go on raids and commit depredations. Shortly after Satanta and Big Tree, Kiowas, had been paroled by the Texas authorities, in 1873, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, then at Fort Sill, demanded the surrender and arrest of certain Comanche warriors who had been raiding in Texas, saying that if this order should not be obeyed within ten days, it would be inforced by military power. A portion of the Comanche warriors immediately left for the Plains, and it being evident that an attempt to compel compliance by military force could only be successful after a long campaign, the order was suspended and no arrests were made.

The effect of this wavering policy was bad. The same hostile warriors of the Comanches and Kiowas considering themselves victorious, became more and more open in their hostile demonstrations, and during the winter and spring frequent consultations were held by them, sometimes including the neighboring Cheyennes, looking to the marauding expeditions upon a larger scale than for the many years before. Some time in May, at the annual "Medicine" dance of the Comanches, near the mouth of the Sweetwater, one of their young men, making his first appearance as a "medicine" man or prophet, professed to have a revelation from the Great Spirit, to the effect that the Caddoes, Wichitas, and other friendly Indians who were following in the way of the whites, would soon go out of existence, and this would be the fate of the Comanches if they followed the same road; that the only way for them to become the great and powerful nation they once were, was to go to war and kill all the white people they could. The Indians said that he predicted the great drouth that occurred that year; and that he told them that the bullets would drop harmlessly from the guns of the white men; that he appealed to them for the truth of his revelation by predicting that the comet, then attracting general attention, would disappear in five days, and made other demonstrations which to them appeared miraculous and obtained for him entire credence for all his words. The hearts of all the young Comanche warriors were at once fired. Another "medicine" dance was soon after appointed, to which all Kiowas and Cheyennes were invited, when the Comanche "medicine" man again appeared, and at which plans were discussed and determined on for a campaign of murder and rapine. From this period murders and depredations became so frequent as to excite general alarm.

War parties were soon ranging through what is now western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, western Kansas, and eastern Colorado. The war plans of the Kiowas, Comanches and Cheyennes were consolidated by an exciting occurrence at Wichita Agency, August 22, 1874, which inflamed them to outbreaks on a larger scale.

A number of Kiowas and the Noconee band of Comanches with their squaws and children went to the Agency and began raiding the fields and gardens of the friendly Wichitas. General J. W. Davidson, in command at Fort Sill, was notified, and he sent Lieutenant Woodward with a detail of forty men of the Tenth Cavalry to disarm the hostiles and compel their return to Fort Sill. Big Red Food, the chief, turned over a few guns and pistols, but declared that he would not surrender his bows and arrows. In the latter he was supported by the terms of a recent agreement in which it was held that only guns should be classed as arms. With a whoop Big Red Food and his warriors dashed away. The soldiers fired a volley at the Indians. The latter destroyed much property and committed several murders in the neighborhood of the Agency. The war party quickly grew in numbers, and prospect of peace in the Plains country was vanishing.

Wagon loads of supplies and presents had been brought for the Indians, all of which were now distributed. The supplies were mostly blankets, clothing, hats, sugar, coffee and flour, which were issued to the head men, and these in turn made distribution among the families. The Indians now seemed in much better humor.

The day was warm, though fall was at hand, and the heat brought much discomfort to some of the Indians--those, for instance, who put on every article of clothing that had been given to them. It was a comical sight to see some of the old bucks wearing two or three heavy coats and two high-crowned Army hats, one on top of the other. Others were attired in Army uniforms, but without trousers. The latter was a garment which no wild Indian could be induced to wear.

In a short time there was much trading going on between the soldiers and the Indians, but on the sly, as strict orders had been issued against it, especially the trading of any kind of fire-arms to the Indians. The temptation was too strong, however, and I traded my old cap-and-ball six-shooter to an old Indian for three buffalo robes and other trinkets.

About 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the day the Indians came in we got orders to be ready to pull out in an hour. It was nearly sundown when we broke camp. We traveled until late that night to reach the Arkansas River crossing, where we went over and made camp.

We pulled into Fort Harker about November 1, and drove on out to where the rest of the train was in camp. While unloading our wagons at the Post, a rumor spread that gave us some uneasiness--a rumor about what might happen to the fellows who traded fire-arms to the Indians at Medicine Lodge. The fine for a man who had sold a six-shooter would be fifty dollars, which was enough money to buy a whole lot of fun in those days.

These arms were the property of the United States Government, and proof that a man had sold a gun meant serious trouble. An order came to the men to turn in all their arms. It looked as if I was in bad shape. In my predicament Frickie again came to my aid, and just in the nick of time, by offering to lend me his six-shooter--a six-shooter which he personally owned. I turned in Frickie's gun, and later received another, which I gave to him.

We had grown rather tired of the job of telling the boys that had stayed behind all about the Medicine Lodge treaty by the time orders came for us to hitch up for a trip to Fort Leavenworth. At Fort Harker was a lot of artillery that had been assembled there in 1866 by General Hancock for an Indian campaign. He found that dragging cannons here and there over the Plains in pursuit of hostile Indians was about as feasible as hitting a hummingbird with a brickbat. The Indians moved like the wind or like shadows, and were too wary to come within range of artillery. So the cannons were parked at Fort Harker as useless. All of them were to be hauled back by wagon to Fort Leavenworth. Our trail led along the railway for miles, and it seemed ridiculous that the cannons should not be transported by train. The cost of shipment would have been excessive, however, and inasmuch as the government owned the teams and wagons and was paying us by the month there was no good reason why we should not be hauling cannon to Fort Leavenworth.

We made our first camp near Salina, Kas., and narrowly escaped losing our wagons by fire. In the early morning, a spark blew from a camp-fire into the tall, dry grass. Instantly, the fire began running with the speed of a race horse. All hands turned out to save tents, bedding, wagons, etc. By back-firing, and by beating out the flames near our tents, we were able to get the fire under control. At best, however, we would have lost our wagons had it not been for our good luck in having the teams hitched before the fire broke out. This enabled us to shift the position of the wagons as necessity required.

The fires on the Plains in fall and winter, after frost had cured the grass, were often a magnificent spectacle, especially at night when their radiance reddened the sky for many miles. The sky would be luminous, even though the fire was too far beyond the horizon to be seen. Once under strong headway, with the fire spread over a wide area, it was difficult to arrest its progress. To the experienced plainsman, equipped with a flint or matches, there was no imminent danger, as he knew how to set out protective fires, and thus insure his safety.

These big fires were rather terrifying, nevertheless, especially to the "tenderfoot." Carried forward in the teeth of a high, boisterous wind, the fire was appalling, and there was something sinister and somber in the low roar that sent terror to the heart of wild animals. Vast clouds of smoke were carried into the heavens, until the sun lost its radiance and hung red and dull, like a copper shield, in the opaque depths. The ashes of burned vegetation sifted down hour after hour, as if a volcano were throwing out fine lava dust. At night, when the wind was still, a fire on the Plains was a beautiful sight. In the far distance, the tongues of flame appeared so small that they looked like a red line of countless fingers, pointing with trembling motion toward the sky. The danger of these fires to life in the Plains country has commonly exaggerated. The grass that grew in the Plains did not have the height to produce a sweeping, high-rolling fire, such as was often seen in the regions of the tall bluestem in eastern Kansas.

Upon reaching Fort Leavenworth, the wagons were unloaded, the outfits turned over to the Government, and the "shave-tail drivers" paid off. I had a comfortable stake for a young fellow, and spent the winter in Leavenworth and Kansas City, mingling with the hardy frontiersmen and listening delightedly to their incomparable tales of adventure. I went frequently to the home of my friends, the McCall's, where I always found a hospitable welcome. Several times I went out from both Leavenworth and Kansas City with hunting parties. In those days, railroad companies used to promote "personally conducted" hunting parties to the buffalo range, hunters coming from such distances as Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis.
 

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