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My earthly possessions at this time consisted of two pairs of woolen blankets, one large, heavy, water-proof Navajo blanket, one bright, gaudy serape, a buffalo-hair pillow, two suits of underclothes, two navy-blue overshirts, an extra pair of pants, an overcoat, and an undercoat. I told the Mexican that could speak English that "I would go and see those men and try to get in with them, and go on farther east toward Fort Elliott."

I had $96.60 in my purse. I took from the sack that contained my extra clothing some papers, for my identification, wishing to place myself right with the four men at the start, for on the frontier there were more or less men of shady repute and some notorious outlaws. Every riding-horse at this time was out of camp. The English-speaking Mexican said that I "had better wait until some of the lancers came in and go on horseback." I said, "No; it is only a little ways and I would just as soon walk."
The Indians had been subdued the summer before, and we all felt safe in that one respect, and would continue to feel so until the next spring. So I struck out. The Mexican who came in and told me about the four men being encamped, after describing them and their outfit, which was interpreted to me, passed on out westward to look for a chance to lance a buffalo. When I left camp I was wearing a half-worn pair of heavy congress gaiters, and a pair of heavy duck leggings. It was not my intention to be gone more than three or four hours. I struck out down the Blue, at a rapid gait. At this time I was in excellent mettle, apparently in perfect health. My muscles were thoroughly toughened by rough, rugged physical exercise, my appetite good and sleep sound.
This was the morning of the 15th of November, 1874. As I walked along I was possessed of hopes of a successful future. I went down Blue Water to where it empties into the South Canadian. I saw a smoke across the river on a little creek that put into the Canadian from the south side. This must be the camp, and the Mexican had said nothing about crossing the river. This smoke was more than a mile away, near a brush thicket. I forded the river and went up the creek, only to find an abandoned camp. The sign was fresh; they had not been gone long. I followed the wagon-trail up the creek to where it crossed, taking up a slope in a southeast direction. I hurried on to the top of the plains, hoping to get a view of the outfit I was looking for.
Standing here and looking over a vast stretch of country, I saw to my left the rugged and irregular breaks of the Canadian; in front of me some two miles or more were the breaks of a cañon coming into the river from the south; and on the opposite side of the cañon saw the outfit.
I was hunting, heading northward toward the Canadian river. They had traveled a southeast course to round the head of the cañon, and were traveling down the eastern side of it when I saw them. Thinking I could yet intercept them, I headed in the direction of the mouth of the cañon. Having short buffalo-grass to walk over and a level, stoneless prairie, without a sign of mesquite or sage-brush, as the cowboys would say, "I fairly rattled my hocks."
Arriving at the mouth of the cañon, there was no one in sight. But, standing on a jutting promontory, I could see scattering bands of antelope, a large flock of wild turkeys, a few straggling buffalo, and one large lobo or timber wolf. I went down into the Canadian river bottom proper, turned east, crossed the ravine below the mouth of the cañon, and skirted along the slope, carefully looking for the wagon-tracks which are always, in the short-grass country, very plain for several days.
I traveled down parallel with the main river about three miles further, and no results. I turned, going up the slope, going on to the table-land, expecting to find the trail going eastward over the bench or table-land. I traveled along this bench and watched the ground closely, occasionally stopping and scanning the country over. In this way I had traveled possibly two miles when I heard the report of a gun to my right front, and, as I judged, a mile away.
From here I could have gone straight back to the camp of Mexicans I had left, not over ten miles at farthest, as I believed. This I should have done. But I reasoned thus: The man who fired that gun was a member of the party I was seeking; I would yet get to them and would offer to pay them well, to go back with me to the Mexican camp for my own gun and outfit, and then work my way to Fort Elliott. Acting upon this reasoning, I started in the direction that the report of the gun came from, walking very rapidly and taking no note of the ground.
I had gone about a mile when I came in sight of another break in the plain by a draw running back from the river. Before going into the draw, or little valley, with a watercourse running through it, and standing pools (at that season the water not running over the riffles), I took a good look in every direction and could see no sign of humanity. I was dripping wet with perspiration, and could feel the pangs of hunger keenly, but was not thirsty, as I had taken a drink of water when crossing the draw below the mouth of the first cañon. I went down to the nearest pool of water, stripped off, and took a good bath, and after rubbing my body thoroughly with the outside of my outer shirt, and dressing, I walked up to the plateau opposite the way I had come. I sat down on a chalky point facing the Canadian river.
While resting here and scanning the country over, my eye fell upon a peculiar-looking object on a flat in front of me not more than sixty rods away. The grass here was the short, curly buffalo variety. Not a switch or object of any kind around this lone object. I gazed at it for some time, but could not make it out. My curiosity was now aroused; so I started for it, and found upon arrival that it was a five-gallon water-keg with a gray woolen blanket sewed around it, the work having been done with a sacking-needle and twine. It was lying near the center of a fresh trail made by five or six wagons drawn by both horses and mules, the tracks pointing southeast. I followed this trail until near dusk, and, no sign of overtaking any one being apparent that night, I turned around and retraced my steps nearly a mile, to where I had passed at the head of a draw an abandoned camp.
There was quite a pile of wood that had been gathered and not used. The place was on high ground overlooking the country to the north and west. There was a thicket of stunted hackberry and palodura, hard poles of china-wood, close to where the old camp-fire had been. There was probably an acre of it all together. It was now quite dark and the stars were twinkling. I picked up a dry twig and reached into my pocket for my penknife. To my chagrin and discomfiture I found I had left it in my other pocket, when I put on my best trousers that morning. I immediately placed my right hand across my breast to feel for my match-box, which I always carried in my left outside shirt pocket, when to my delight I found my matches were safe and all right. I then gathered some fine twigs, and soon had a rousing fire.
There was a trickling stream of water coming out of the scrubby wood patch, and the campers who had preceded me had dug a hole about two feet deep and thirty inches across for the water to run into. It was full at this time, so I was assured of this and a camp-fire. I was very tired and quite hungry. There was an empty Pierre Lorillard tobacco-box here which the campers had left. This I used for a head-rest, and in a reclining position before my fire I began to think of ways and means. I finally decided to retrace my steps and get back to the Mexican camp. So I folded my hat, tied a handkerchief around my head, placed the hat on the tobacco-box for a pillow, stretched out and went to sleep. Three times during the night I was awakened by the cold. Then I would get up, replenish the fire, get warm, lie down and sleep again.
My last awakening was at daylight, and the sky was overcast with murky clouds; and here I must say that I, for the first time, became somewhat doubtful about making, or finding my way back to the camp I had left. But the trail I had been following was plain, and could be followed no matter how cloudy it might get.
I have been asked many times by various plainsmen, why, from this camp, I did not go north to the Canadian river, take up the south side of it to the mouth of Blue Water, then up Blue Water to the Mexican camp. This thought did occur to me; but what if that camp should be moved? Might I not get so weak from hunger that I would perish before I could reach it?
So I took the trail I turned back on the night before, and traveled over it for about six miles, when it suddenly turned to the right and headed nearly due south. By this time the clouds had grown thicker, the atmosphere warmer and damp. I had not gone to exceed a hundred yards farther when I came to a cross-trail, and noticed that one wagon had turned off into it and followed it in a northeast direction. I dropped down on the grass and pondered in my mind the pros and cons of my predicament; and I reasoned that this one wagon had been the one that I had followed the morning before, and had at all times been on my right; that it had intercepted the trail somewhere along the route from where I had discovered the keg, and while walking along rapidly, looking more ahead than otherwise, I had not noticed it when it came into the one I was on. And as if by impulse I arose to my feet and followed it.
After walking about eight miles, I suddenly came to the breaks of the South Canadian, and walking down a long, gradual draw, gently sloping on each side, I came to the river, and saw that the trail crossed it and that the main channel was hard against the south bank. I got a sounding-stick and noted that the water was about three feet deep ten feet from where the trail entered it. A few rods below I noticed a sandbar projecting far out into the stream, which at this place was about one hundred and twenty-five yards wide from bank to bank.
These southwestern streams are generally very sinuous, and the channel frequently shifts from side to side, leaving the rest of the stream at common or low stage of water, either in wet sandbars or a thin sheet of water down to this bar.
I went, thinking I would pull off my shoes at the water's edge and wade the river. I had walked out on this bar about sixty yards, when I heard a noise behind me. I instantly stopped, looked around and saw two big raccoons running along the bank, making their peculiar noise.
My feet began sinking the moment I stopped. I raised my left foot, placing my weight on my right, and in drawing my left foot out of the quicksand my foot pulled out of the shoe, so the stockinged foot came down on the sand. I threw all my weight on it, pulled on the right, and yanked, struggled, and floundered in quicksand; but finally extricated myself and hurried back to solid footing, minus my left shoe.
About this time the wind began to rise, coming first from the southeast. I saw, down the river about eighty rods, some large scattering cottonwood trees. I unbuttoned my right legging, took a four-in-hand silk necktie, wrapped the legging around my shoeless foot, tied it as best I could, and went to the clump of trees.
Here I found a large cottonwood log, perfectly dry, that had recently fallen. The top was considerably broken by the fall, and with an abundance of broken limbs I soon had a fire. My feet, and my legs up to my knees, were wet. The sand was gritted into my stockings and drawer-legs, which was very uncomfortable, indeed. I stripped of pants, drawers, and socks; propped up broken limbs for a drying-rack; took off my coat and sat down upon it in front of the fire; rubbed and thoroughly dried myself from the knees down. After my clothing had dried, I beat the sand out of it and rigged up again.
Here in this sandy river-bottom was tall-stemmed grass. I got uneasy about my fire; so I went to work to smother it out, by using my hands for a shovel, and scooping sand and throwing it on the fire, which had now burnt pretty well down. The fire had been built in lee of the big log, and I had taken the precaution to trample the grass down close around the bare spot of ground I had built the fire upon. Then I would ignite the edge of the trampled grass, and, taking both leggings in my right hand, would beat it out, when I thought it was near the danger-line.
After getting the fire secure from spreading, I got up on the log and looked down the river, then up stream, and across; but no sign of mankind. Hunger seemed to be gnawing at my vitals. I would upbraid myself for lack of wisdom, and thought how foolishly I had acted in leaving the Mexican camp without my gun and knife. Here I was, ravenously hungry; and here were deer, turkey, beaver, coon, buffalo and antelope, a regular hunter's paradise, and I lost and helpless, perfectly unable to help myself, with the fat of the land all around me.
I sat down on the log and commenced reasoning, with this result: I was now in the South Canadian river bottom; the military trail from Fort Dodge, on the Arkansas river, crossed the Canadian river on its way to Fort Elliott, which, I had been informed while in Santa Fé, was about thirty-five miles south of the crossing; that in going down the Canadian river, from where I now was, one would have to pass the Adobe Walls before coming to the trail.
I now decided that the sensible thing to do would be to go down the river; that I was a young, strong man, and should brush all obstacles aside; should decide on some certain route, follow that and not zigzag on every trail I came to. Then I started and walked out to the foot of the breaks, where the short grass came down to the bottom-lands, then started down the river, hugging the bluffs and crossing the narrow valley of the deeper breaks that ran far back toward the table-land or plain, heading for the nearest and closest headland jutting toward the river. Every mile or so I would have to stop and readjust the legging on my shoeless foot.
I had gone perhaps five miles when I came to a very plain wagon-trail, one that had been traveled considerably. It crossed the river not more than 200 yards from where I came to it, and led up to the mouth of a wide draw in a southeasterly course. I could see, too, that this trail had been recently traveled over and the last outfit that had passed over it had gone up the draw.
Thinking that this trail after getting to the head of the draw might take an eastward trend, more down the river, I vacillated again, and followed it up to the plateau. After getting to the top, this trail followed a hogback for about a mile south, then, rounding the head of another break to the east, it struck straight east, going down the river about two miles from it. This pleased me, as the walking was much better, and I could make better time.
As cloudy as it was, the points of the compass were as clear as a bell, in my mind.
I had not proceeded far on this trail when suddenly the wind shifted to the northwest, blowing quite strong, and soon scattering snowflakes were falling. Traveling on about a mile farther, the trail came to the head of a gradual draw running back toward the Canadian. There were springs here, and here also the trail turned sharply to the southeast, and I started down the draw for the Canadian river. By this time a blinding snow-storm had set in, and I was traveling nearly due north. The storm was pelting me from the northwest.
The only thing that preoccupied my mind now was shelter. Hence, I hurried down the draw, hoping to come to the brakes and find some side-break that would afford me wood and shelter.
Once I thought I was to be run over by a large herd of antelope; they were running at a rapid rate in the wake of the storm crossing the draw right at me, as it were, and before they were aware of my presence they were almost upon me, but discovered me just in time to separate, some jumping high, to left and right, the entire band passing on each side of me. They came and were gone like the wind.
Soon the wind abated, and a steady, heavy fall of snow continued. The flakes were so thick, for a short time, that it was hardly possible to see any distance.
Pretty soon I heard an unusual noise just ahead of me, and all at once I walked almost to the brink of a large pond. It was a "beaver dam," and it was beavers that I had heard. I saw four beavers. They were disporting in the stream, and seemed as delighted as little children could or would be when the first snowflakes of the season came.
After passing on down below the dam, just a little way, I stepped upon a green stick of cottonwood about three feet long and about three inches in diameter. I picked it up, and saw that both ends of the stick had the tell-tale mark of beaver teeth. This greatly encouraged me; for I knew I could not be far from wood.
Going on still farther, I perceived that the snow was not falling so thick and that I could see quite a distance ahead, and on either side of me, and also that night was drawing near.
Soon the hills on each side of me became higher and more rugged. In a few minutes' walk I saw to my left a side cañon, or deep ravine, with a heavy growth of young cottonwood trees. Turning into this gorge-like place, to my exceeding joy I found an overjutting wall, and under it had eddied a great pile of leaves from the cottonwood, hackberry, and stunted elm. I soon found plenty of dead limbs and poles, which I dragged and carried to the opposite of the projecting wall.
The reader will understand that this side draw faced and opened into the main draw towards the east; this overjut was on the north side of the draw, just at the extreme eastern edge of the pole and timber thicket; and immediately south of the overjut it was not over eighty feet to the base of the hill, or embankment, which was some forty feet higher than my night's bed under the overjut.
I built my fire; turned over two old stumps that the beaver had cut the trees from some years before; placed them side by side between the fire and overjut. Then I sat down; pulled off my shoe and legging, and proceeded to dry my socks and the bottoms of my pants legs; for the snowfall was damp and my feet were very wet. The snow was still falling, and continued to do so all that long November night.
I now felt the need of fixing my footwear differently; for I had had trouble all day in keeping it on. I took the legging that I had not worn on the foot, and placing it on the ground, put the foot down on it and would fold it up this way, then would try it that way, and finally decided that with a hole here, one there, and another at this place, and then laced this way around the ankle, it could be kept on the foot and not be so bunglesome, and would make a fair moccasin.
I took a dry elm stick, put one end in the fire and got it to burning well; then would hold it on an incline and twirl it around, the charred end on the solid place, on one of the stumps. I repeated this until I got a marlinspike of it. I then took another stick, put the end of it to a live coal, and would hold it on the places, on the improvised moccasin, that had been marked with charcoal where the holes or eyelets were to be. In this way a small eyelet at each place was scorched so that the marlinspike could be worked through, and by reaming it a little, soon had the eyelet-holes all completed.
Then, taking the silk four-in-hand and with good sharp teeth which I then had, I managed to get it started and ripped it through the center from end to end. This gave me two just such lace-strings as I needed.
Everything being dry, I put on the right shoe, laced on the moccasin, crawled into the leaves,—tired, hungry, and sleepy, with not one particle of fear of danger from the elements, which had concerned me so much before I reached this sheltering place.
I was disturbed from my slumber only once during the night. It was some time after darkness had set in when I crawled into and under the leaves, and when I awoke it must have been about three o'clock in the morning. The time is only guess-work with me, as I had no timepiece. The fire was nearly out. I had drawn some of the wood under the overjut, and as there was no snow on it I soon had a bright, cheerful blaze going. I sat on the two stumps a few moments, and, feeling sleepy again, I went to bed. It was then still snowing lightly.
I was awakened by the long-drawn-out howl of wolves, and on rising to a sitting posture I noticed that the sky was clear as crystal, the sun was shining brightly, and two big lobo or timber wolves were sitting on their haunches just across the gorge on the edge of the hill, not more than 130 feet from me, alternating in howling, both facing me and the embers of my fire.


I got up and "chunked up" the fire, and piled on all the remaining wood that I had gathered the evening before. I was well acquainted with the cunning, cowardly wolf, and could only think of him with contempt.
I had read many stories of savage wolves, what they had done and what they could do; but always accepted them with allowance. But here were two of them face to face with me. No gun, no knife. I was not scared. I had read of the effect fire had upon wolves, and, whether it was true or not, resolved to give myself the benefit of the doubt.
Accordingly, I prepared me two strong firebrands. One was about three and the other one four feet long. I worked them partly out of the fire, and by rolling the ends in snow put out the fire to within about one foot of the end of each one; and in walking out of the gorge to the main draw I carried one in each hand, every once in a while flirting them back and forth, to fan them so as to keep the fire on them alive.
The wolves did not follow me, nor did I really think they would, yet, I had made such foolish moves for the past two days that I did not wish to take chances on anything any more.
Instead of keeping on down the valley as I had at first intended to do, I crossed it and ascended the eastern slope to the mesa or plateau, upon coming to the top of which I stopped and scanned the country over, hoping to see a smoke. For on these mornings when the landscape is covered with snow and the air is frosty, smoke can be seen a long way off. But nothing of the kind was visible.
I continued on in a northeasterly direction, aiming to strike the edge of the river-bottom again, and determined now to stick to it when once there, unless I saw a sure-enough camp away from it. The real pangs of hunger had left me, but weakness was creeping on. The old elastic step was gone. The snow was five inches deep. The sun was shining so brightly that my eyes were burning.
Thanks to the wolves, I still had one of the charred sticks in my hands. I pinched off flakes of charcoal with my finger-nails and blackened my cheeks under my eyes. And was it providential that I escaped snow-blindness?
Right here I wish to stop this narrative long enough to say that I will put the Panhandle of Texas against any other 180 miles square of territory in America for spasmodic, erratic weather. Before the sun reached the meridian it was very warm. Not a breath of air seemed to stir. The snow melted rapidly, and before the middle of the afternoon it was a veritable slush; and I slowly spattered through it.
About 3 P. M., as I passed through a gap that separated quite a flat-top from the main plateau I saw, first opposite a bend in the river and off to my left, and fully a mile or more out from the river and on the north side, I being on the south side, what I at first took to be tents. Yes. I was sure I saw tents. That meant to me soldiers and full rations.
Then I felt hungry! Oh, so hungry! The sight seemed to stimulate me, and I moved on down the river until I came opposite the same objects, but they now looked altogether different. I could not make out what I had first seen; but I did see in the north and west a dark-blue cloud near the horizon, rapidly rising.
Here the bluff came down close to the river, dropping down in benches with a narrow sandy bottom. I went down near the river to where there was a rack-heap or pile of driftwood; and, evening coming on, I selected a place between two sand ridges and built a fire. Where I built it it was not more than fifty feet from the water's edge, which was very shallow, just barely a thin sheet of water, the channel running against the north bank. After I had gotten the fire to burning good, I went back up on the bench of land, to where I could see over to the objects that had attracted my attention so much, and just as the sun was disappearing behind the hills the blue cloud had settled back. Not definitely making out what any of the objects were, I went back to the fire.
Just then I heard the sound, as if it were an ax, in the direction I had been looking. It was repeated several times, and then all was silence. Soon it began to turn very cold, and by morning had frozen the river, in the shallow places along the bars. There was no grass where I built the fire. I had made it in a basin between two sand ridges; and when it had burned to a bed of coals I took the end-gate of a wagon, which I found in the driftwood, and separated the coals to right and left, to some little distance from the fire-bed. Then I built two fires and stretched myself out in the original warm fire-bed between the two fires. I was resting, but could not sleep for hours,—or so it seemed to me. I kept turning from side to side, at first on account of the heat in the sand under me; then I would get up from time to time and replenish the fires.
Finally I fell into a dreamy slumber, from which I would suddenly arouse, and at one time in the night, when I became thoroughly awakened, I was fully five rods from the fire. This gave me much concern. I had dreamed that some one wanted my bed and had driven me away from it, and I must have left my bed while I was asleep.
Here I uttered the first word I had heard since leaving the camp of the Mexicans. "No," I said; "I am here alone."
It was very cold, and I judged by the Dipper, that grand old night clock of the hunter and cowboy, that it would soon be morning: and to my intense delight it was but a short time until I heard a rooster crow. The sound came from the object I had previously seen, and the place from where I had heard the strokes of the axe. Again and again that welcome sound came to my ears, and two miles away, as I soon learned. Then just at good broad daylight, I heard the bark of a dog.
I picked up a strong cottonwood stick about eight feet long and three inches in diameter and started for the river. The ice at the margin for three or four steps bore my weight. I would use the stick for two purposes: when the ice would no longer hold me up, I would with the stick break it ahead until I got to the main channel; then I would use it for a sounding-pole, step by step reaching ahead and thrusting it to the bottom. The water was about 100 feet wide from shore to bar, and ran from sheet water to three feet in depth at the north bank, which was a cut bank, the top of which was nearly three feet above the surface of the water. Placing both hands on top of the bank, I pulled myself up and had both elbows on the bank, wriggling myself to get one knee up on the bank, when my hat dropped into the water. In easing back I let go too soon, and was nearly submerged. I got the hat, and waded down-stream nearly 200 yards before I found a place where I could get out.
After getting up on the bank I struck out as rapidly as my strength would permit. After going about a mile I saw a horseman coming from the west as fast as his horse could run. He rode up to the objects that had attracted my attention the afternoon before, and soon two men on foot came out, and all ran toward me. I kept my speed up to the limit until we met. I noticed they all had guns and were excited. The horseman was the coolest one of the party. I said, "Don't get uneasy, men; I'm all right. I've been lost."
The two men afoot handed their guns to the man that was mounted. Then, getting on either side of me, each one took a lifting hold under each of my arms to assist me. I said, "Oh, no, gentlemen—I am not that bad off;" but they clung to me. "George," said the old man, "You ride ahead quick and tell Mother to have the coffee hot."
My first question was, "What place is this?"
"It is the Adobe Walls," came the response.
We were soon inside the walls, and a cup of coffee, one biscuit, a small piece of fried buffalo-meat, and about two spoonfuls of gravy were set before me. I had told them I had eaten nothing since the fourth morning before this morning. I was told to eat slowly and sip my coffee. The old lady said:
"Now we want you to have just all you can eat whenever we think you can stand it." And she added: "This is not new to us; two regular soldiers came to our place on the Picket Wire [Purgatoire] in Colorado, who had been lost for four days, and it was all we could do to keep them from gorging themselves; but they were both just about crazy, for, after losing their way, and getting completely lost, they lost their heads and one of them never did recover his mind."
After I had eaten everything placed in sight, I was furnished with dry clothing, a large pan of warm water, soap, and towel. A wagon-sheet had been stretched across a part of the room of the stockade that we were in, and before going behind this curtain to bathe and change my clothing I took a look at myself in a looking-glass that was handed to me. I had not washed since taking the bath in the pool the first day out.
And it was no wonder the children, and older ones, too, stared at me as they did; for I really was a fright. My hair was quite thick, and longer than I usually wore it, not having had it cut at the usual time. It was matted, snarled, and shaggy-looking. My mustache was singed; beard was two weeks old, dirty, and full of grit; my face was charcoaled; hands dirty and grimy. My eyes were sunken back in their sockets; and all in all I was a frightful-looking object, and looked like an object of suspicion.
Just then I happened to remember my papers that I had in an inside pocket of my overshirt. Unbuttoning my shirt-front I took out my papers, the bottom ends of which were wet, handed them to the old man and said: "Read those; they will tell you who and what I am; and when I wash and get on dry clothes I will tell you how I came to be here in this fix."
The man who had ridden the horse went back of the curtain with me and said: "Now I'll help you all I can." After disrobing, we both soaped, lathered, and rinsed, and rubbed, until the glow came all over the body. Then I put on an entire suit of Buck Wood's clothes, he being about my size and build.
By the time I got back into the presence of the family, they had read my papers, and a letter from U. S. Senator Preston B. Plumb introducing and recommending me to his cattle partner, Major Hood.
The old gentleman then said to me, "We are the Wood family, well known down in Arkansaw, Texas and Colorado. Mr. Cook, this is my wife." We shook hands. "This is my oldest son; Buchanan is his name; this is his wife; and this is George Simpson, her brother. These are the two oldest girls, Virginia and Georgia, and these little ones are all our children. We are on our way from the Picket Wire [Purgatoire], near Las Animas, to Fort Elliott. We just stopped here until the snow-storms were over, and had intended to pull out and go about twelve miles to-day, but as it is we will lie over to-day and give you a rest."
I said: "I certainly appreciate that, and thank you ever so much."
Just then George Simpson went back of the curtain and brought out my wet duds. It was then that I first thought of my money, since I had gotten so wet and was so long getting out of the river.
I said: "Mr. Simpson, I am afraid my money is wet. I never thought of it till now. It's all currency, but a little change. Let's take it and see the condition it's in."
The purse was of buckskin and opened by twisting two steel knobs. The bills had to be folded twice for the purse to contain them, amply. There were two compartments in the pocket-book. In one there were three twenty- and two ten-dollar bills. The other contained two five-dollar bills, a five-dollar gold-piece (the first one I ever had), and one dollar and sixty cents in silver coin.
He handed me the purse, which was sopping wet. I laid it on the dining-table and asked Mrs. Wood to please care for it, adding, "that she could handle the money more deftly than I could." She complied with my request; took out the money and placed each bill separately upon a clean, dry pillow-case. It was all wet through, but the bills were not chafed, and she dried them and the purse so nicely that I had no trouble in using the money. The coin I gave to the little children, in spite of the protests of the parents.
After Mrs. Wood had spread the bills out to dry, she poured out a cup of coffee and gave it to me, together with a biscuit and a slice of meat, all of which I ate ravenously, and asked for more. She said, "N-o! you will have to wait a while." Of course I submitted, but, I do think that at that moment I was hungrier than I had been at any time since I had left the Mexican outfit.
After the money and that portion of my papers that had got wet were dried, Mrs. Wood handed them to me, saying, "These are all right now, and by to-morrow you will be yourself again."
I had started in twice before to tell them how I happened to be in such a condition; but they would divert me by making some irrelevant remark about their horses, or "Look out, boys, and see if you can see any buffalo," and wind up by saying they were anxious to hear how it happened, but they wanted to be all together when I related it.
The fact was: I had laughed outright when I sat down to the table, when I first arrived; then again I laughed when putting on Buck's clothes. They mistook the looks of my eyes, and the actions of the two lost soldiers were in their minds; so they thought I was on the border-land of daftness. All this they told me a month later.
At the dinner hour I ate two biscuits, though I could have eaten ten. They said, "Drink all the coffee you want and to-morrow you can have all the bread and meat you can eat."
About 3 o'clock in the afternoon I went to sleep on a bed they had prepared for me early in the forenoon, behind the curtain. Nor did I wake up until seven o'clock the next morning, having slept soundly for sixteen hours. Nor did I know for nearly a month afterward, that the three men had taken turns, time about, all night, watching me. They said they did not know what might happen; for one of the lost soldiers from old Fort Bent, on the Arkansas, had got up in the night, and with a neck-yoke in his hands was striking right and left at imaginary foes, saying, "Come on, you copper-skinned devils; I'm good for the whole Cheyenne tribe!"
When I came out in the presence of the family, Mr. Wood asked me how I felt. I said: "Splendid; I slept good and sound all night, and I could walk forty miles to-day." The breakfast had been over for an hour. My breakfast was awaiting me; and, after taking a good wash I sat down to a plate piled up with biscuits, another with several great slices of tender buffalo-meat, stewed apples, and rich milk gravy (they had three cows with them). Strong coffee completed the "bill of fare." And I could, and _I did, eat all I wanted_. The women-folks had washed, dried, and ironed my clothes.