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Parent Category: Kansas Reading Library
Category: Life and Adventures of 'Billy' Dixon
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In the restaurant part of Rath's store, a transom had been cut over the west door; this transom was open, as no glass had even been put in. This door had been strongly barricaded with sacks of flour and grain, one of the best breastworks imaginable, the Indians having no guns that could shoot through it. 

Climbing to the top of this barricade, to take a good look over the ground west of the building, I saw an object crawling along in the edge of the tall grass. Levelling my gun, and taking aim with my body resting on one knee, I fired. The recoil was so great that I lost my balance and tumbled backward from the top of the barricade. As I went down I struck and dislodged a washtub and a bushel or two of cooking utensils which made a terrific crash as they struck the floor around me. I fell heavily myself, and the tumbling down of my big "50" did not lessen the uproar. The commotion startled everybody. The boys rushed forward believing that I had been shot, even killed. I found it quite difficult to convince them that I had not been shot, and that most of the noise had been caused by the tub and the tin pans.

I was greatly interested in the object I had shot at, so I crawled up on the sacks again. By looking closely, I was able to see the object move. I now fired a second time, and was provoked at seeing the bullet kick up the dirt just beyond the object. I tried the third time and made a center shot.

By 2 o'clock the Indians had fallen back to the foot of the hills and were firing only at intervals. They had divided their force, putting part on the west side and part on the east side of the buildings. Warriors were riding more or less constantly across the valley from one side to the other, which exposed them to our fire. So we began picking them off. They were soon riding in a much bigger circle, and out of range.

This lull in the fighting was filled with a kind of disturbing uncertainty. Since early morning, we had been able to hold the enemy at bay. We were confident that we could continue to do so as long as we had ammunition. We thanked our stars that we were behind thick adobe walls, instead of thin pine boards. We could not have saved ourselves had the buildings been frame, such as were commonly built in frontier towns in those days. Still, there was no telling how desperate the Indians might become, rather than abandon the fight; it was easily possible for them to overwhelm us with the brute force of superior numbers by pressing the attack until they had broken down the doors, and which probably would have been attempted, however great the individual sacrifice, had the enemy been white men. Luckily, it was impossible to set the adobes on fire, or else we should have been burned alive.

Though we did not relax in watchfulness when the Indians withdrew, yet we were able to throw off some of the high tension that had kept our nerves and muscles as taut as bowstrings since daybreak. A man's mouth gets dry and his saliva thick and sticky when he fights hour after hour, knowing that if he goes down his death will be one of torture, unless he should be instantly killed. All forenoon the Indians had been descending upon us like a storm, taunting us in every imaginable way, even pounding upon the doors with their guns and lances, and vying with each other in feats of martial horsemanship. They had flaunted the bloody scalps of the poor Shadlers with devilish glee. Time and again, however, we had ripped into them with our guns and brought down horses and warriors until in many places the grass around Adobe Walls was wet with blood.

About 4 o'clock in the afternoon a young fellow at Hanrahan's, "Bermuda" Carlisle, ventured out to pick up an Indian trinket which he could see from the window. As he was not shot at, he went out a second time, whereupon others began going out, all eager to find relics. For the first time, we now heard of the death of Billy Tyler at Leonard & Myer's. Tyler had been killed at the beginning of the fight, as had the Shadlers.

When I saw that it was possible to leave the buildings with reasonable safety, I determined to satisfy my curiosity about three things.

An iron-gray horse had been standing for hours not far from the south window of Hanrahan's saloon. I could not understand what had held him so long, before he was finally shot by the Indians themselves. When I reached the carcass, the mystery was clear--there lay a dead warrior who had fallen in such a way as to make fast the rope that held the horse. The horse wore a silver-mounted bridle. With a buffalo bone I pried open the stiffened jaws and removed the bridle, also taking the rawhide lariat.

On one of the reins, about ten inches from the bit, was fastened a scalp, which evidently had been taken from the head of a white woman, the hair being dark brown in color and about fifteen inches in length. The scalp was lined with cloth and edged with beads. Several other scalps were found that day. One was on a war shield.

My attention likewise had been attracted by an object at the rear of the little sod house west of Rath's store. We had fired at it over and over until we had cut a gap in the corner of the sod house. The object finally had disappeared from sight. For a considerable time we had seen feathers whipping round the corner in the wind, and had thought that probably three or four Indians were concealed there. Every time I had turned loose my big "50" I had torn out a chunk of sod.

When I reached the sod house, I was startled at what I saw. There sat a painted and feathered warrior in a perfectly upright position with his legs crossed and his head turned to one side in the most natural way imaginable. His neck was broken and he was as dead as they ever made 'em. I am bound to admit that I jumped back, fearful that he was alive and would bore me through and through before I could pull down on him.

What we had been shooting at so frequently was the dead warrior's lance, which was covered with webbing and adorned with black feathers at intervals of every five or six inches. The lance had been stuck upright in the ground, and had been shot in two, which caused the feathers to disappear--the upper part had doubled over across the dead Indian's legs. I added the lance to my "prizes of war."

The object that I had seen crawling along the edge of the tall grass was the third that demanded my attention. I found a dead Indian lying flat on his stomach. He was naked, save for a white cloth wrapped round his hips. His six-shooter was in his belt. The Indian had been shot through the body, and one knee had been shattered. I could plainly see the trail he had made by the blood on the grass. A short distance away lay a shot pouch and a powder horn; there were about fifteen army cartridges in the pouch. A few steps further, was his 50-caliber needle gun, an army Springfield. Next, were his bow and his quiver. I confiscated the whole outfit.

One of the noisiest and most active spectators of the fight was a young crow which some of the hunters had captured shortly after our arrival at Adobe Walls. The crow had been petted by every man in camp. All of us were acquainted with the old superstition that the crow is an omen of death. During the worst of the fight this crow flew from one building to another, in and out of the open windows, calling "Caw! Caw! Caw!" in the most dismal way. It would alight on some object in the room, and sit there calling and cawing until somebody, tiring of the noise, would shout, "Get out of here, you black rascal!" and then chase him from the building. The crow would fly to another building and repeat his performance. Despite the bullets, this crow was never injured and, save our horses, was the only thing left outside.

There were several dogs at the Walls, but all of them cut for tall timber when the fighting began and did not show up for several days. All our horses were killed or run off. The five horses that had been left in the stockade were quickly shot down, the Indians poking their guns between the cottonwood pickets. Four head tied to a wagon near Rath's were cruelly killed. I saw the Indians when they first rode up and tried to cut the rope with a butcher knife. One was a gray mare that was notorious for her vicious kicking. She would not let the Indians approach her, so all were shot. My own saddle horse, which I had owned for years and highly prized, was among the first to be shot, and still lay tied to the wagon when I found him.

The Indians were not without military strategy. They had planned to put every man of us afoot, thereby leaving us without means of escape and powerless to send for aid save as some messenger might steal away in the darkness, to traverse on foot the weary distance and the dangerous and inhospitable region that lay between us and Dodge City. By holding us constantly at bay and keeping fresh detachments of warriors rallying to the attack they probably thought it possible to exhaust our strength, and then overwhelm us. It should be remembered that Adobe Walls was scarcely more than a lone island in the vast sea of the Plains, a solitary refuge uncharted and practically unknown. For the time we were at the end of the world, our desperate extremity pressing heavily upon us, and our friends and comrades to the north ignorant of what was taking place.

At the first dash, the Indians had driven off all the horses they had found grazing in the little valley, and which Billy Ogg had gone in the dusk of dawn to round up preparatory to our departure for the hunting grounds. We counted fifty-six dead horses scattered in the immediate vicinity of the buildings, some with arrows sticking in their bodies, and others bored with bullets. Of these ten head belonged to the hunters. Added to this slaughter were the twenty-eight head of oxen that belonged to the Shadler brothers. In nearly every instance, a horse that had been wounded far from the buildings would stagger in our direction, apparently to get as close as possible to his friends. There they would stand in agony until the Indians shot them down, which happened in every instance.

The last victim of their cruelty was a mustang colt owned by Mrs. Olds. This colt had been captured by some of the hunters among a bunch of wild mustangs, and given as a present to Mrs. Olds who had petted the graceful, affectionate little creature until it followed her from place to place like a dog. Some rather romantic stories have been written about this mustang colt and the part it played in the fight at Adobe Walls. The truth, however, unadorned, is the colt remained near the buildings throughout the fight, and when I saw it a feathered arrow was sticking in its back. I never knew whether the colt died of this wound or was afterwards shot to put the poor little thing out of its misery.

When we found that we could move around outside the buildings without danger of immediate attack, we blanketed the bodies of Tyler and the Shadlers and dug a single grave near the north side of the corral. There they lie to this day, without a stone to mark the spot. Many a spring and many a summer have come and gone, and many a winter has sent its blinding snows across the Panhandle since that far-off day. The Indians and the buffaloes have vanished from the scene, and the plow is running over the land where they ranged. After all, the boys are sleeping as quietly and as restfully as if they had been buried in the village churchyard back at their old homes.

Despite the utmost efforts of our savage foes to carry away their dead and wounded, thirteen dead Indians were left on the ground near the buildings, so closely under the muzzles of our guns that it would have been suicide for their comrades to have attempted their recovery. By the time we had buried our three comrades, darkness had come, and we abandoned further outside work and returned to the protection of the buildings, completely exhausted by the strain and excitement of the day's fighting.

What we had experienced ate into a man's nerves. I doubt if any of us slept soundly that June night. Somewhere out there in the darkness our enemies were watching to see that nobody escaped from the beleaguered adobe buildings. Inasmuch as Indians rarely, if ever, attack at night, preferring the shadows of early morning when sleep is soundest, and when there is less chance of their being ambushed, we felt reasonably certain of not being attacked before daybreak. As for myself I dreamed all night, the bloody scenes of the day passing in endless procession through my mind--I could see the Indians charging across the valley, hear the roar of the guns and the blood-curdling war-whoops, until everything was a bewildering swirl of fantastic colors and movements.

All my comrades at Adobe Walls that day showed much courage. It is with pride that I can recall its many incidents without the feeling that there was the slightest inclination on the part of any man to show the "white feather." To be nervous or fearful of death is no sign of weakness--sticking at one's post and doing the thing that is to be done is what counts.

"Bat" Masterson should be remembered for the valor that marked his conduct. He was a good shot, and not afraid. He has worked his way up in the world, and has long been a successful writer for a New York newspaper. He was sheriff of Ford county, Kansas, at Dodge City, in 1876-77. It has always seemed strange to me that finally he should prefer life in a big city, after having lived in the west. I have been told that he has said that he had no wish again to live over those old days, that they no longer appealed to him, but I never believed it. Such a thing is contrary to human nature.

All that long night after the first day's fighting not a sound was heard nor did an Indian come near. Next morning the pet crow was the only living object to be seen in the valley, where he was holding high carnival on the dead horses, flying from one carcass to another.

By this time such an awful stench was rising from the dead Indians and dead horses that we were forced to get rid of them. As we had no teams with which to drag them away, we rigged up several buffalo hides and tied ropes to them, then rolled the bodies onto the hides and pulled them far enough away to prevent the evil smell from reaching the buildings. In this way three or four men could move a horse.

At one place, between Rath's and Hanrahan's, twelve horses lay piled together. We dug a pit close at hand and rolled them in. The other horses and the Indians were dragged off on the prairie and left to the coyotes and buzzards.

On the second day we saw only one bunch of Indians. They were on a bluff across the valley east of us. Some of our men opened up on them at long range; the Indians returned the fire and disappeared. It was plain to them that there was still a lot of fight left in us.

Our situation looked rather gloomy. With every horse dead or captured, we felt pretty sore all round. The Indians were somewhere close at hand, watching our every movement. We were depressed with the melancholy feeling that probably all the hunters out in the camps had been killed. Late that afternoon our spirits leaped up when we saw a team coming up the valley from the direction of the Canadian. This outfit belonged to George Bellfield, a German who had been a soldier in the Civil War.

A black flag was flying from one of the buildings, and when Bellfield and his companions saw it they thought we were playing some kind of joke on them. In broken English Bellfield remarked to his men, "Dem fellers tink day's damn smart, alretty." But when he drew nearer and began seeing the dead horses, he put the whip to his team and came in at a dead run.

When asked if they had been attacked by Indians, Bellfield and his men said that they had not seen a sign of one. That same day Jim and Bob Cator came in from their camp north of Adobe Walls.

  

High Bluff East of Adobe Walls on Which Dixon Killed Indian at 1200 Yards.

It was of greatest importance that somebody should go to Dodge City for help. Henry Lease, a buffalo hunter, volunteered to undertake this dangerous journey, Bellfield furnishing a horse. Lease started after dark on the second day. He carefully examined his pistols and his big "50." filled his belts with plenty of ammunition, shook hands with us and rode away in the night. I doubt if there was a man who believed that Lease would get through alive. It was a certainty, however, that there would be a pile of dead Indians where he fell, if he were given a fighting chance for his life.

At the same time we sent out two men to visit the different camps, and warn the hunters that the Indians were on the war path. They were to bring back the news if the hunters were dead.

On the third day a party of about fifteen Indians appeared on the side of the bluff, east of Adobe Walls Creek, and some of the boys suggested that I try my big "50" on them. The distance was not far from three-fourths of a mile. A number of exaggerated accounts have been written about this incident. I took careful aim and pulled the trigger. We saw an Indian fall from his horse. The others dashed out of sight behind a clump of timber. A few moments later two Indians ran quickly on foot to where the dead Indian lay, seized his body and scurried to cover. They had risked their lives, as we had frequently observed, to rescue a comrade who might be not only wounded but dead. I was admittedly a good marksman, yet this was what might be called a "scratch" shot.

More hunters came in on the third day, and as news of the Indian outbreak spread from camp to camp the boys were soon coming in like blackbirds from all directions--and they lost no time making the trip. By the sixth day there were fully a hundred men at the Walls, which may have given rise to the statement so frequently made in after years that all these men were in the fight.

The lone woman who was at Adobe Walls, Mrs. Olds, was as brave as the bravest. She knew only too well how horrible her fate would be if she should fall into the hands of the Indians, and under such circumstances it would have caused no surprise had she gone into the wildest hysterics. But all that first day, when the hand of death seemed to be reaching from every direction, this pioneer woman was cool and composed and lent a helping hand in every emergency.

By the fifth day enough hunters had arrived to make us feel comparatively safe, yet it was expedient that we should protect ourselves as fully as possible, so the men began fortifying the buildings. None of them had been finished, nor had any port-holes been cut in the walls. Our shooting was done from the windows and transoms. With port-holes we could have killed many more Indians. A little inclosure with sod walls was now built on top of Rath's store, and another on top of Myer's for lookouts. A ladder led from the inside to these lookouts.

On the fifth day William Olds was stationed in the lookout on Rath's store, to watch for Indians while the other men were at work. The lookout on the other buildings shouted that Indians were coming, and all of us ran for our guns and for shelter inside the buildings. Just as I entered Rath's store I saw Olds coming down the ladder with his gun in his hand. A moment later his gun went off accidentally, tearing off the top of Old's head. At the same instant Mrs. Olds rushed from an adjoining room--in time to see the body of her husband roll from the ladder and crumple at her feet, a torrent of blood gushing from the terrible wound. Olds died instantly. Gladly would I have faced all the Indians from the Cimarron to Red River, rather than have witnessed this terrible scene. It seemed to me that it would have been better for any other man there to have been taken than the husband of the only woman among us. Her grief was intense and pitiable. A rough lot of men, such as we were, did not know how to comfort a woman in such distress. We did the best we could, and if we did it awkwardly, it should not be set down against us. Had we been called upon to fight for her, we would not have asked about the odds, but would have sailed in, tooth and toe-nail. When we tried to speak to her we just choked up and stood still. We buried Olds that same evening, about sixty feet from the spot where he was killed, just southeast of Rath's store.

The Indians that had caused the alarm numbered between twenty-five and thirty, and were up the valley of Adobe Walls Creek headed east. Finally, they disappeared, and we did not see them again. They may not have belonged to the attacking party, and were merely passing through the country.

I always regretted that I did not keep the relics I picked up at Adobe Walls. Mrs. Olds asked me for the lance when I returned to the building, and I gave it to her. The other relics I took to Dodge City, and gave them away to first one person and then another.

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