Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

It was about this time that the end of the Kansas Pacific track was in the heart of the buffalo country, and the company was employing about twelve hundred men in the construction of the road. As the Indians were very troublesome, it was difficult to obtain fresh meat for the workmen, and the company therefore concluded to engage the services of hunters to kill buffaloes.

Having heard of my experience and success as a buffalo hunter, Messrs. Goddard Brothers, who had the contract for boarding the employees of the road, met me in Hays City one day and made me a good offer to become their hunter, and I at once entered into a contract with them. They said that they would require about twelve buffaloes per day; that would be twenty-four hams, as we took only the hind-quarters and hump of each buffalo. As this was to be dangerous work, on account of the Indians, who were riding all over that section of the country, and as I would be obliged to go from five to ten miles from the road each day to hunt the buffaloes, accompanied by only one man with a light wagon for the transportation of the meat, I of course demanded a large salary. They could afford to remunerate me well, because the meat would not cost them anything. They agreed to give me five hundred dollars per month, provided I furnished them all the fresh meat required.

Leaving my partner, Rose, to complete our grading contract, I immediately began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and it was not long before I acquired considerable notoriety. It was at this time that the very appropriate name of "Buffalo Bill," was conferred upon me by the road-hands. It has stuck to me ever since, and I have never been ashamed of it.

During my engagement as hunter for the company--a period of less than eighteen mouths--I killed 4,280 buffaloes; and I had many exciting adventures with the Indians, as well as hair-breadth escapes, some of which are well worth relating.

One day in the spring of 1868, I mounted Brigham and started for Smoky Hill River. After galloping about twenty miles I reached the top of a small hill overlooking the valley of that beautiful stream.

As I was gazing on the landscape, I suddenly saw a band of about thirty Indians nearly half a mile distant; I knew by the way they jumped on their horses that they had seen me as soon as I came into sight.

The only chance I had for my life was to make a run for it, and I immediately wheeled and started back towards the railroad. Brigham seemed to understand what was up, and he struck out as if he comprehended that it was to be a run for life. He crossed a ravine in a few jumps, and on reaching a ridge beyond, I drew rein, looked back and saw the Indians coming for me at full speed and evidently well-mounted. I would have had little or no fear of being overtaken if Brigham had been fresh; but as he was not, I felt uncertain as to how he would stand a long chase.

My pursuers seemed to be gaining on me a little, and I let Brigham shoot ahead again; when we had run about three miles farther, some eight or nine of the Indians were not over two hundred yards behind, and five or six of these seemed to be shortening the gap at every jump. Brigham now exerted himself more than ever, and for the next three or four miles he got "right down to business," and did some of the prettiest running I ever saw. But the Indians were about as well-mounted as I was, and one of their horses in particular--a spotted animal--was gaining on me all the time. Nearly all the other horses were strung out behind for a distance of two miles, but still chasing after me.

The Indian who was riding the spotted horse was armed with a rifle, and would occasionally send a bullet whistling along, sometimes striking the ground ahead of me. I saw that this fellow must be checked, or a stray bullet from his gun might hit me or my horse; so, suddenly stopping Brigham, and quickly wheeling him around, I raised old "Lucretia" to my shoulder, took deliberate aim at the Indian and his horse, hoping to hit one or the other, and fired. He was not over eighty yards from me at this time, and at the crack of my rifle down went his horse. Not waiting to see if he recovered, I turned Brigham, and in a moment we were again fairly flying towards our destination; we had urgent business about that time, and were in a hurry to get there.

The other Indians had gained on us while I was engaged in shooting at their leader, and they sent several shots whizzing past me, but fortunately none of them hit the intended mark. To return their compliment I occasionally wheeled myself in the saddle and fired back at them, and one of my shots broke the leg of one of their horses, which left its rider _hors(e) de combat_, as the French would say.

Only seven or eight Indians now remained in dangerous proximity to me, and as their horses were beginning to lag somewhat, I checked my faithful old steed a little, to allow him an opportunity to draw an extra breath or two. I had determined, if it should come to the worst, to drop into a buffalo wallow, where I could stand the Indians off for a while; but I was not compelled to do this, as Brigham carried me through most nobly.

The chase was kept up until we came within three miles of the end of the railroad track, where two companies of soldiers were stationed for the purpose of protecting the workmen from the Indians. One of the outposts saw the Indians chasing me across the prairie, and gave the alarm. In a few minutes I saw, greatly to my delight, men coming on foot, and cavalrymen, too, came galloping to our rescue as soon as they could mount their horses. When the Indians observed this, they turned and ran in the direction from which they had come. In a very few minutes I was met by some of the infantrymen and trackmen, and jumping to the ground and pulling the blanket and saddle off of Brigham, I told them what he had done for me; they at once took him in charge, led him around, and rubbed him down so vigorously that I thought they would rub him to death.

Captain Nolan, of the Tenth Cavalry, now came up with forty of his men, and upon learning what had happened he determined to pursue the Indians. He kindly offered me one of the cavalry horses, and after putting my own saddle and bridle on the animal, we started out after the flying Indians, who only a few minutes before had been making it so uncomfortably lively for me. Our horses were all fresh and of excellent stock, and we soon began shortening the distance between ourselves and the redskins. Before they had gone five miles we overtook and killed eight of their number. The others succeeded in making their escape. On coming up to the place where I had killed the first horse--the spotted one--on my "home run," I found that my bullet had struck him in the forehead and killed him instantly. He was a noble animal, and ought to have been engaged in better business.

When we got back to camp I found old Brigham grazing quietly and contentedly on the grass. He looked up at me as if to ask if we had got away with any of those fellows who had chased us. I believe he read the answer in my eyes.

Another very exciting hunting adventure of mine which deserves a place in these reminiscences occurred near Saline river. My companion at the time was a man called Scotty, a butcher, who generally accompanied me on these hunting expeditions to cut up the buffaloes and load the meat into a light wagon which he brought to carry it in. He was a brave little fellow and a most excellent shot. I had killed some fifteen buffaloes, and we had started for home with a wagon-load of meat. When within about eight miles of our destination, we suddenly ran on to a party of at least thirty Indians who came riding out of the head of a ravine.

On this occasion I was mounted on a most excellent horse belonging to the railroad company, and could easily have made my escape; but of course I could not leave Scotty who was driving a pair of mules hitched to the wagon. To think was to act, in those days; and as Scotty and I had often talked over a plan of defense in case we were ever surprised by Indians, we instantly proceeded to carry it out. We jumped to the ground, unhitched the mules quicker than it had ever been done before, and tied them and my horse to the wagon. We threw the buffalo hams upon the ground, and piled them around the wheels in such a shape as to form a breastwork. All this was done in a shorter time than it takes to tell it; and then, with our extra box of ammunition and three or four extra revolvers, which we always carried along with us, we crept under the wagon and were fully prepared to give our visitors the warmest kind of a reception.

The Indians came on pell-mell, but when they were within one hundred yards of us we opened such a sudden and galling fire upon them, that they held up and began to circle around the wagon instead of riding up to take tea with us. They however charged back and forth upon us several times, and their shots killed the two mules and my horse; but we gave it to them right and left, and had the satisfaction of seeing three of them fall to the ground not more than fifty yards away. On seeing how well we were fortified and protected by our breastwork of hams, they probably came to the conclusion that it would be a difficult undertaking to dislodge us, for they drew off and gave us a rest, but only a short one.

This was the kind of fighting we had been expecting for a long time, as we knew that sooner or later we would be "jumped" by Indians while we were out buffalo hunting. I had an understanding with the officers who commanded the troops at the end of the track, that in case their pickets should at any time notice a smoke in the direction of our hunting ground, they were to give the alarm, so that assistance might be sent to us for the smoke was to indicate that we were in danger.

I now resolved to signal to the troops in the manner agreed on, and at the first opportunity set fire to the grass on the windward side of the wagon. The fire spread over the prairie at a rapid rate, causing a dense smoke which I knew would be seen at the camp. The Indians did not seem to understand this strategic movement. They got off from their horses, and from behind a bank or knoll, again peppered away at us; but we were well fortified, and whenever they showed their heads we let them know that we could shoot as well as they.

After we had been cooped up in our little fort, for about an hour, we discovered cavalry coming toward us at full gallop over the prairie. Our signal of distress had proved a success. The Indians saw the soldiers at about the same time that we did, and thinking that it would not be healthy for them to remain much longer in that vicinity, they mounted their horses and disappeared down the cañons of the creek. When the soldiers came up we had the satisfaction of showing them five "_good_" Indians, that is dead ones.

Two hours later we pulled into camp with our load of meat, which was found to be all right, except that it had a few bullets and arrows sticking in it.

While I was hunting for the Kansas Pacific railway, I had the pleasure, in the fall of 1867, of meeting the celebrated Kit Carson, one of, if not the oldest and most noted scout, guide, and hunter that our western country has ever produced. He was on his way to Washington. I also met him on his return from the East, and invited him to be my guest for a few days at Hays City, which invitation he accepted. He then proceeded to Fort Lyon, Colorado, near which place his son-in-law, Mr. Boggs, and family, resided. At this time his health was failing, and shortly afterwards he died at Mr. Boggs' residence on the Picket Wire Creek.