A NIGHT IN THE KIOWA CAMP

We reached the dugout just before noon, and after unsaddling, watering,
and feeding our horses and partaking of a good dinner that Jack had
prepared we saddled up again. I now rode the gray mustang, as Tom had
suggested, and on one of our mules packed my bedding for the use of
Captain Saunders and myself at the Indian camp. We struck out down the
creek for the Kiowa camp, I leading the mule and the captain bringing
up the rear. This kind of campaigning was a revelation to Captain
Saunders and seemed to interest him greatly.

At the Indian camp Tom was anxiously awaiting me, and seemed surprised
to see me accompanied by the officer, whom I introduced, explaining the
occasion of his visit.

Under the impulse of his long and strict military training, Tom came
to “attention” and saluted and seemed somewhat surprised at the
captain’s proffered hand. In the regular service hand-shaking between
an officer and a soldier or ex-soldier would be considered a breach
of army etiquette. Quickly comprehending the situation, Tom grasped
the extended hand and thereafter appeared to feel on terms of perfect
equality with the officer.

“I can’t allow you to see old To hausen,” Tom explained, “he’s too sick
to see company; an’ I can’t devote much time to your entertainment
myself, captain, but I’ll tell the Injuns to try an’ make your visit
agreeable; an’ you an’ Peck’ll have to get along the best you can.”

Tom turned to an old Indian, who, he said, was next in rank to To
hausen, and explained to him in Mexican who we were and the object of
our visit. The old warrior then in a loud voice made an announcement to
the camp in the Kiowa tongue, after which he repeated to Tom what he
had told his people.

“This old fellow,” explained Tom to the captain, “is named Lobo.
He told the Indians that I said: ‘These two white men are our good
friends. One of them is a captain of soldiers from the fort. They heard
that our chief was very sick and they have come all the way from the
fort to bring some more good medicine for To hausen. They are good men
an’, Kiowas, you must be good to ’em. Our camp an’ all that we have is
at their service. Make them welcome, Kiowas.’

“Now,” continued Tom, “as Lobo says, ‘the camp is yours.’ He has given
orders to his women to unsaddle your horses an’ unpack your mule, an’
some of the youngsters will drive your animals out an’ put ’em in
the herd. He has also ordered the women to clear out one half of his
lodge for your use, an’ your saddles an’ beddin’ will be carried in an’
placed there, where you are to sleep. You are at liberty to go where
you please about the camp, enter any lodge you choose, an’ you’ll find
’em all friendly and agreeable; an’ you an’ everything you have will
be perfectly safe so long as you are their guest. Now, you’ll have to
excuse me, for I must go to my patient.”

“By the way, how is the old chief?” asked the captain.

“Pretty feeble. His age is against him, for he must be up in the
seventies. I’m getting the fever pretty well under control, and if he
gets no backset I think I can pull him through. I have my bed close by
him an’ I try to keep the lodge at as even a temperature as possible;
but I have to do most everything myself, for these Injuns can’t be made
to savvy how to take care of the sick. Now, I must go.”

After seeing our animals sent out to the herd and our saddles and
bedding taken into Lobo’s lodge, we went inside, spread our bed, and
then took a stroll about camp. Everything here–the Indians, their
dress and habits–was new, strange, and deeply interesting to Captain
Saunders, who had never before seen a wild Indian.

Noticing To hausen’s dilapidated old ambulance standing near his lodge,
I said:

“Captain, do you see that old government ambulance?”

“Yes,” he replied, “and I have been wondering at it and was going to
ask you if many of the Indians have such vehicles?”

“No. I don’t know of another Indian on the plains who sports an
ambulance or any other wheeled vehicle to ride in. I must tell you how
he came by this one. In the spring of ’59 the Kiowas were becoming
restless, and disregarding the warnings and advice of the old chief,
who was always friendly to the whites, they were inclined to follow the
lead of Satank, who is always unfriendly. They were threatening to go
on the war-path. Our command of four companies of First Cavalry, under
Major John Sedgwick, was sent out on the plains from Fort Riley with
orders to range along the Arkansas River to try to keep the Indians
in subjection. The Pike’s Peak gold excitement was at its height
then, and an outbreak of the Indians would be a serious affair. Old
To hausen tried hard to keep the Kiowas peaceable, but succeeded in
holding only this small band of about a hundred warriors, the rest of
the tribe following Satank. To hausen often visited our camps and our
officers often gave him and his adherents presents. Our quartermaster,
Lieutenant James B. McIntyre, had this old ambulance on hand, and,
as it was about played out, he got it condemned by a board and was
thinking of burning it to get rid of the old trap, when it occurred
to him to make a present of it to To hausen if he would accept it.
The old fellow was very much pleased to think of riding about in such
a rig as our commanding officer sometimes used. Lieutenant McIntyre
had his blacksmith put the old rattletrap in serviceable shape; and
then put harness on a pair of the old chiefs mustangs and had them
broken to work by some of the soldiers and turned the outfit over to To
hausen. But neither he nor any of his men could learn to use the lines
and, after a few efforts they dispensed with the lines altogether,
and, putting a boy on each bronco of the team, they have since
navigated the ambulance in that shape. Indian-like, they generally
travel at a gallop, whether the ground is smooth or rough, and often
break something, but they tie it up with rawhide to hold the parts
together till they can get to Fort Larned or Fort Lyon, and then the
quartermasters have their men patch it up again for the old man.”

As evening approached we returned to the home of Lobo, where a good
fire burning in the centre of the lodge made it quite comfortable
except for the smoke that nearly blinded us; but by lying down on our
blankets we found we could avoid this discomfort.

Tom dropped in for a few minutes to see how we were getting along and
to tell us that under the stimulating influence of the whiskey I had
brought the old chief was showing a decided improvement.

Two women had for some time been busy cooking a meat stew in a kettle
that hung over the fire. After a time I brought out and gave them some
coffee, sugar, and hardtack that I had brought in my saddle pocket to
add to the meal. After lifting the big kettle off the fire, the women,
with a great horn spoon, ladled out a dishful of the stew to each of
the guests first, and then to Lobo.

We ate hungrily. Lobo was the last one to “throw up the sponge” and
announce his perfect satisfaction by a prolonged Indian grunt, and then
as he leaned back against a pile of bedding, he added: “Muy wano!”

Before eating I had handed a plug of tobacco to Lobo, who had whittled
off enough to fill a great red-stone pipe and then returned the plug to
me. I tried to induce him to keep the plug, but he declined. As Tom had
intimated would be the case, a number of men dropped in after supper
to call on Lobo and his white visitors, and the big red pipe was then
brought out, lit with a coal of fire, and put on its travels, each
taking a puff and passing it to the next.

The Indians evidently appreciated the free tobacco I was furnishing,
for the pipe was soon smoked out, refilled, and emptied again and
again, till all were fully sated. After this some talk was indulged in,
and then the visitors went out one by one, till only the captain and I
and Lobo’s family remained. Saunders and I soon after removed our coats
and boots and turned in.

During the evening the woman had carried in several armfuls of wood and
piled it convenient to the fire in the centre of the lodge, and, the
weather being quite cold, she got up several times during the night to
replenish the fire.

Saunders and I were both awake by daylight, but, as our host and his
family and the dogs still seemed soundly sleeping, we kept our bed for
a time to avoid disturbing them. Finally, old Lobo crawled out and,
wrapping his buffalo robe around him, went outside the lodge. In a few
minutes we heard him, in a loud voice, haranguing the camp, and a few
minutes later the camp was all astir.

After breakfast, on telling Lobo that we wished to return to our camp,
two of his boys drove the herd into camp and roped our animals, which
were quickly saddled and packed.

I took the remains of the plug of tobacco and the packages of sugar,
coffee, and hardtack out of our saddle pockets, carried them into
Lobo’s lodge, and laid them down.

Captain Saunders, feeling disposed to reward the two boys for taking
care of our animals, offered each a silver half dollar. Their young
eyes brightened at sight of the money, for they knew it would buy them
something nice at the trader’s store, but a hesitating glance at
Lobo seemed to decide them to refuse the proffered gifts, and with a
pleasant, “No quiero, señor” (“Don’t want it, sir”), which their looks
belied, they turned away.

“Give them to me, captain,” I said, “and I’ll place them where they
won’t reject the money.” I carried the two silver pieces into the lodge
and put them with the other things. No objection was made to my leaving
these presents where they could be found, but Indian hospitality
forbade them openly to accept gifts from a guest.

At dinner Jack proposed that Captain Saunders and he should go out that
afternoon and kill some buffalo and put out some poison. The captain
was eager to go, for he was quite without experience in this form of
sport. After Saunders was armed, equipped, and mounted he and Jack rode
away and I turned to and attended to the dinner dishes.

It was near sunset when they got back to camp, reporting that they had
killed and poisoned some buffalo, and Captain Saunders had killed also
an antelope, the carcass of which he had tied on behind his saddle and
brought in.

“L’ave the captain alone for the makin’s of a plainsman,” exclaimed
Jack as he dismounted and began unsaddling. “He’ll need but little more
instruction from any of us. He catches on quick. He’ll soon be like an
old hand at the business. An’ that horse of his is all right, too.
Ain’t a bit afeard of a buffalo an’ goes at ’em like he was used to it.”

“Possibly the captain has had more experience of this kind,” I
suggested inquiringly, “than we have supposed.”

“Not a bit of it,” replied Saunders. “This is actually my first glimpse
of frontier life; but I have always been interested in such matters and
have read everything I could find on the subject and have talked to old
plainsmen and in that way have acquired some ideas of such things. I
wish I could stay with you a week or two and hunt buffalo and antelope,
for it is noble sport; but this isn’t what Uncle Sam is paying me for,
and I must go back to Fort Larned to-morrow. Still, I consider this
time well spent, for the experience I am getting out here is certainly
valuable to one who expects to do service on the plains.”

“We shall be sorry to lose your company, captain,” I replied; “but,
if you are going in to-morrow, why not take your antelope along as a
trophy of the trip? The weight will not be much, and we can fit it
behind the cantle of your saddle and tie it on so it will ride nicely.”

“Yes,” added Jack, “but that will have to be done to-night, for it’ll
freeze hard before morning, and then you can’t fit it on. I’ll fix it
now.”

He placed Saunders’s saddle upon some sacks of grain, bent the antelope
carcass to fit snugly behind the cantle, tying the feet down to the
cinch rings, and left it to freeze in that position.

After supper Jack played the fiddle awhile, and we sang some songs;
but Saunders seemed more interested in drawing us out to tell of our
soldier experiences on the frontier and kept us yarn spinning till late
bedtime. In the morning, after breakfast, he struck the trail for Fort
Larned.

For the next week or two, although the weather had turned stormy, Jack
and I put in all the time we could at poisoning and skinning wolves. It
was now getting well along in February–nearing the close of the season
for taking pelts. We had already taken about twenty-five hundred and
were anxious to make our winter’s catch an even three thousand before
quitting.

Tom’s patient, old To hausen, had so far recovered that Tom had
returned to our camp, but still made an occasional visit to the Kiowa
village, where, on account of his success in treating the old chief
and others, his services as medicine-man were now much sought by the
afflicted Indians, to the utter neglect of old Broken Nose, their own
medicine-man, who seemed jealous of Tom’s popularity.

One day Jack had gone out alone, riding old Vinegar the buckskin
bronco, to kill some buffalo, and in a short time he came back to camp
afoot, carrying his saddle and bridle.

“What’s happened? Where’s Vinegar?” we asked anxiously.

“Vinegar’s done for–dead,” he answered as he threw down the saddle
and bridle, “an’ I’m in big luck myself to be here to tell it. It was
this way: I was chasin’ a bull, an’ shot him but had got too close
or the bronco was too slow turnin’ to get away–anyway the bull got
his head under Vinegar an’ heaved both him an’ me into the air, an’
we come down in a heap; but by good luck the buffalo went on without
stopping to make further fight, or he might easy have finished both of
us. I scrambled to my feet, Vinegar still lying where he fell, with his
paunch ripped open an’ entrails hanging out. With a great effort he got
up onto his feet, but his insides were hanging to the ground, and there
he stood a-looking at me pleading like an’ a-groaning as much as to ask
me to put him out of his misery, which was all I could do for him; so I
put my pistol to his head and finished him.”

On Tom’s next trip to the Kiowa camp, on mentioning to old To hausen
the bronco’s being killed, the old chief had his herd driven in, and
selecting a good pony–one he had used in his ambulance and so knew its
working qualities–he insisted on Tom’s taking it to replace Vinegar.

About this time, the weather having apparently settled for a mild
spell, Captain Saunders and Wild Bill came over from the post on their
way to the Kiowa village.

Since returning from nursing the old chief, Tom had said little about
the ill feeling that he had stirred up in old Broken Nose, the Kiowa
medicine-man, but, overhearing a conversation between him and Wild
Bill, I learned that Tom was feeling uneasy about this. He suspected
that Broken Nose had sent a message to Satank which, he feared, boded
us no good. He asked Bill to try to find out something about it.

After their return next day, at supper Tom informed us that while at To
hausen’s camp Bill had discovered that old Broken Nose had really sent
to Satank a secret message, the bearer of which had not returned. Bill
could not learn what the message was, but from the old Indian’s evident
hostility toward Tom, and from certain unfriendly remarks he had been
heard to make concerning our killing so many buffalo and other game,
there were good reasons to suspect that his purpose was to stir up
Satank’s well-known animosity toward the whites in general, and direct
his attention to us in particular, in order to even up with Tom by
bringing the hostiles down on us.

Some of To hausen’s people had told Bill, in a friendly way, to warn
us to be sure to close up our work and get away from here, or else
look out for trouble from Satank’s band as soon as the new grass began
to come; but they did not seem to think that Satank’s horses would be
in condition for him and his warriors to make a raid on us before the
grass got up.

The fact that a few of To hausen’s followers denied the report that
Broken Nose was trying to make trouble for us led Bill to conclude
that some of them were not so friendly to us as they pretended. After
stating the situation, Tom went on: “Bill says it ain’t likely that
Satank will be in a condition to make any move for two or three weeks
yet, and by that time we’ll be done skinning wolves and out of here;
but there’s a possibility that the old rascal may make a forced march,
in order to catch us before we can get away. In that case we may have
to fight. He might be able to find a few of his ponies that are able
to travel and mount a party of his men and ride over here to see what
we’re doing; or, if he and his bucks get very anxious for a row, they
might make the trip afoot. Anyway, from now on, we’ve got to keep a
sharp lookout for Injuns or fresh signs in this neighborhood, an’ also
a close watch of To hausen’s camp; for if Satank should come over this
way he’d be apt to go there first thing. To hausen himself an’ most
of his people are friendly to us, but it’s more’n likely that some of
’em’ll be ready to give Satank any information about us that he wants.”

Wild Bill had seemed rather serious and thoughtful this night–and
it was so uncommon for him to remain serious long at a time that it
attracted my attention–and as we were about to turn in he remarked:

“Boys, as Tom says, it’s best to be prepared for emergencies, and if
anything serious should happen to you, such as Satank an’ his warriors
a-looming up of a sudden and a-jumping your camp or corralling you, an’
you could manage to send word to me, the captain an’ I’ll mount some of
his soldiers and come right over. Now, I’ll tell you how you can send
me word”–untying a bead necklace which he wore around his neck. “I’ll
leave this with you. Hang it somewheres handy, and if you have need
of help just write a few words on a slip of paper, tie it ’round the
necklace, then hold the necklace to Found’s nose and let him get the
scent; then tie it ’round his neck, point to the fort, and say to him:
‘Go to Bill!’ He’ll savvy, for he’s been trained to it, and he’ll go
a-flying till he gets to my quarters. Now, mind you, you may not have
any occasion to send for me at all; you’re likely to finish up your
wolf skinning an’ get away from here before Satank gets around; but if
anything should happen that you need us, do as I’ve told you, an’ we’ll
come a-curling and help you out. Is it a whack, Cap?” appealing to
Saunders.

“It is,” replied the captain, “and to be prepared for such a
call–though I hope they’ll have no occasion to make it–I’ll have an
understanding with the major when I get back, so that if it should come
in the night I will be allowed to take my company out of the post as
quickly as possible, without calling on him or disturbing the rest of
the garrison.”

“That’s a good idea,” added Bill. “It’ll save a heap of time.”

“Well,” said old Tom, “we’ll try an’ not put the captain an’ Bill to
so much trouble unless it’s a case of dire necessity. I hardly think
that Satank will make war on us, an’ if he should, we’re pretty well
fixed for fighting an’ can give him a good tussle before we call on our
neighbors for help.”

“I’m not scared about it,” replied Bill, “an’ I know you boys ain’t,
for this is just an emergency arrangement. But I tell you right now,
Tom, if there’s any fighting an’ you don’t give me a show I won’t like
you for it.”

I took the bead necklace and hung it in a conspicuous place on the
wall, little thinking that we would ever have occasion to use it, and
sincerely hoping that we would not; but I felt that both Bill and Tom,
who understood Indian ways best, really anticipated trouble with them
and were mentally preparing to meet it.

After the departure of our guests next morning each of us went about
his accustomed duties as usual.

After several days had passed and nothing had occurred to arouse our
uneasiness we gradually regained our accustomed assurance, but I know
that while out hunting or skinning wolves I was more keenly watchful
than formerly, and several times on returning to camp I had noticed Tom
coming down from the nearest bluff with the field-glass in his hand,
indicating that he had been scanning the surrounding country.

I noticed, too, that lately, whenever the team was sent over to the
fort, in addition to the usual batch of baled wolfskins, Tom was now
sending other stuff, such as surplus grain and provisions–anything, in
fact, that could be dispensed with in the camp and reduce our outfit,
as he said, to “light marching order,” for we thought now in a couple
of weeks more we would be ready to break up camp and go in.

Of the three, Jack was by far the most indifferent, for, as he said,
“It’s time enough to bid the divil good morning when you meet him.”

Since To hausen’s band had located near us we had had frequent visits
from some of his people, when the weather was fair, and had struck up
quite a profitable trade with them for buffalo robes, dressed deer and
antelope skins, with a few otter, beaver, panther, wildcat skins, and
the like, paying for them in coffee, sugar, flour, or tobacco. And
since returning from his attendance on the old chief Tom made it a
point to visit him every few days, ostensibly to see how the old fellow
was getting along, but more particularly to try to find out if any
intercourse was passing between Satank’s band and To hausen’s.

To hausen seemed sincere in his efforts to befriend Tom and, so far
as he could, kept Tom informed; but for obvious reasons he had to be
secret about it. Not much going and coming between the two bands was
to be expected, however, for the weather was still quite severe and
stormy a great part of the time, the distance between the two camps
considerable, and Indian ponies at this season of the year were poor
and weak.

In our traffic with the old chief’s people we had given them a liberal
exchange for their skins and peltries–far more than they would have
received from the traders–we being satisfied with about one hundred
per cent. profit on the goods we traded them instead of three to four
hundred per cent. as was the custom with men regularly engaged in the
trade.

The Indians were not slow to see that we were giving them more for
their stuff than they usually received from the traders, and our
commerce with them increased. Soon we found that we were gathering
in so much of this material that it became a serious question how we
were going to smuggle it into our storeroom at Fort Larned, or beyond
there, without Weisselbaum’s knowledge, or, in case we sold our skins
to him, how to account for those we had traded from the Indians. He
had a trader’s license from the government, and we had nothing of the
kind. According to law, we were trespassing on his rights, in which
the commanding officer at Fort Larned was in duty bound to protect him.
When we began trading with the Indians we had not thought of these
difficulties, but, having got into it, we determined to bluff it out
and trust to luck for some future plan to suggest itself to us for
getting through.

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