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Category: The Ranche On The Oxhide
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The Pawnees and Kaws, tribes of Indians long at peace with the whites, and whose reservations were in the eastern part of the state, frequently made incursions into the buffalo region two hundred miles from their home in the valley of the Neosho, on their annual hunt for their winter's supply of meat.

The valley of the Oxhide was one of their favorite camping-grounds, and from thence they radiated in bands to the plains, where the vast herds of the great shaggy animals grazed in the autumn months, on their curious elliptical march from the Yellowstone to the southern border of Texas.

Every autumn these Indians camped in the timber only about a mile from Errolstrath ranche, and it was very natural that the boys, especially Joe, should often visit their temporary village, as it was decidedly a new sensation for them. The tepees, or lodges, built in a conical shape out of long poles covered with well-tanned buffalo hides, were a never-ending curiosity to Joe. The chief of the band, Yellow Calf, an old man nearly eighty years of age, took a great fancy to Joe from the moment he first saw him. As soon as he became acquainted with his character he called him "White Panther," after the strange nomenclature of the North American savage. The Indians noticed immediately that Joe was different from the majority of white children they had met, and his quickness of motion was the reason they named him as they did. His readiness in acquiring their language, which he almost mastered in a few months, astonished them. Then Joe was always kind and gentle to the band, often bringing food from his mother's table when she could give it to him, especially bread or biscuit, of which old Yellow Calf was inordinately fond. At the suggestion of the chief, the closest warriors of his council took great delight in showing their new boy friend the use of the bow and arrow. They taught him how to prepare the skins of animals he shot; how to make the robe of the buffalo as soft as a doeskin, and they taught him how to trap beaver, otter, and muskrat, in which valuable fur-bearing animals all the streams abounded. Yellow Calf would sit for hours talking with Joe, learning from him all about the strange inventions of the white man, and their uses. He in turn taught the boy the mysteries of the beautiful sign language, so wonderful in its symbolism; and the manner of trailing, so that in a few months he was as well versed in the methods of following an enemy on the warpath as the savages themselves.

The Indians frequently took Joe with them far up the Arkansas valley on their grand hunts after the buffalo. His parents readily gave their consent to his going with his red friends, though he was sometimes absent from home for more than a week. For three seasons the same band of Pawnees had their village on the creek, remaining there during the months of September and October of each year. All that time Joe continued his intimacy with them, and became more perfect in his knowledge of their savage methods. He could follow the blindest trail by day or night, and the signs of the various hostile tribes were as familiar to him as the alphabet.

He had been carefully trained to all this knowledge by the Pawnees, who were the hereditary enemies of the Cheyennes who still claimed sovereignty over the great plains. Once, in fact, when he had been out for a fortnight with his Indian friends on a buffalo hunt, the party was suddenly met by a band of Cheyennes, and, of course, a battle ensued to which Joe was a witness. After the fight that night, when the band camped on the Walnut, he saw the dances of the victorious Pawnees and learned a great deal about savage warfare.

Shortly after the advent of the Pawnees on the Oxhide, and when Joe had established his friendly relations with them, although he could shoot fairly well previously, he now began to take a special delight in hunting. Every moment he could get to himself, he was off in the timber or out on the prairie with his rifle or shot-gun. He never carried these, however, unless he hunted alone, as on many occasions he was accompanied by one or two of the Pawnee boys about his own age whom the band had brought with them; young bucks, not yet old enough to have reached the dignity of warriors. They had to do the work generally assigned to the women, for no squaws were with the band. It is beneath a warrior to do anything but hunt, eat, smoke, and go to war; for idleness is the predominant characteristic of the men of every savage race, and the Pawnees were no exception.

While they were encamped on the Oxhide the warriors scarcely ever left the delightful place except, of course, when summoned by their chief to the hunt. They sat all day in the shadow of their lodges, puffing lazily at their pipes and relating over and over again the stories of their feats in personal encounters with their enemies, the Cheyennes.

The North American Indians are very assiduous in teaching their boys all that becomes a great warrior,--how to ride the wildest horses, and how to hunt and trap every variety of animal used in the domestic economy of their families. The very moment a son is large enough to handle them, bows and arrows are constantly in his hands.

As the Indians had only a few poor rifles, whenever Joe went out with his dusky young companions on a hunt, he, too, took nothing but his bow and arrows which the Pawnees had given him, for he did not want his boy friends to feel his superiority when armed with the white man's weapons. The number of squirrels, rabbits, and game birds he killed in a single day would have astonished a city-bred boy.

The Pawnee warriors, flattered by Joe's preference for their society to that of his white neighbors, made him the very finest bows and arrows of which their skill was capable. They looked forward to the day when he should develop into a great warrior, and hoped, too, that the time would come when, becoming tired of civilization, he would let them adopt him into the tribe. One morning, to the surprise of Joe, the old chief despatched a runner back to the reservation with orders to his squaws to make a complete suit of buckskin for his young white friend. In about two weeks when the messenger returned to the camp with the savage dress, Joe, of course, was delighted with his quaint and really beautiful costume. It was made out of the finest doeskin, elegantly embroidered with beads; the seams of the coat-sleeves and trousers were fringed in the most approved savage fashion, while the moccasins were exquisitely wrought with the quills of the porcupine, gayly colored. There were also given the boy all the adjuncts of a warrior,--a tomahawk, medicine-bag, tobacco-pouch, powder-horn, bullet-sack, flint and steel, and, last of all, a magnificent calumet manufactured of the red stone from the sacred quarry in far-off Minnesota.

Joe had never mentioned to any of the family, not even to Rob, what was in store for him from the Pawnees. To make the surprise greater to the household, when he was ready to put on the new suit, he got one of the warriors to decorate his face in royal savage style, and thus metamorphosed, he walked into the cabin one noon, just as the family were about to sit down to dinner. None of them recognized him, and when he began to talk in the Pawnee language, not a word of which any of them could understand, his father motioned him to take a seat at the table and eat, as he had often done to the real Pawnees on their many visits to the ranche.

At last Joe could contain himself no longer, and he cried out in his exultation over the farce he had enacted: "Father, mother, Rob, and you girls, don't you know me?"

"No!" they all answered simultaneously, but immediately recognizing his voice, now that he spoke English, his mother said that she had never suspected for a moment that the horrid-looking, paint-bedaubed creature before her could be her own child.

Then all had a good laugh over the manner in which Joe had deceived them, but his father insisted that he must go and wash the paint from his face before he thought of sitting down to eat with Christian people; he could allow it in the case of a real savage, because they did not know any better.

Joe was very hungry, for he had been out hunting grouse on the hills all the morning, and was tired, too, so he hastily obeyed his father's injunction. He ran to the spring, and by vigorously rubbing at the various colors, he at last succeeded in getting his face clean. In a few moments he returned to the dining-room looking like himself again, but very stately, by reason of his brand-new suit; and the family could not help staring at and admiring him. Then, when he had taken his place at the table, he was obliged to tell how he had happened to acquire such a fantastic dress, and explain the use of each curious article belonging to it.

Gertrude and Kate both hoped that he would not wear the handsome clothes every day, and his mother suggested that he must never go to the village in such a savage dress. His father said nothing, but evidently regarded his boy with pride.

In reply to the various comments, Joe told the family that he intended to wear the Indian costume only on extraordinary occasions. If ever the Cheyennes, Kiowas, Comanches, or Arapahoes broke out, he would certainly wear it, for when those savages saw him, they would think he was a great warrior, and be careful how they bothered him. The family little thought, as he uttered his playful remarks, how soon that uniform would be worn on a mission fraught with danger to themselves and the whole settlement.

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