BUFFALO NEAR THE BIG BEND

That afternoon we reached Council Grove, on the west bank of Neosho
River. It was then a place of less than a hundred and fifty inhabitants
but an important business point–the outpost of Kansas settlements and
the last town, going westward, until Denver, Colorado, was reached.
Travellers going to the plains usually halted here to lay in any
requisites for their trip that might have been overlooked in starting
from the Missouri River and also for last repairs on wagons and for
horseshoeing.

The tires on our hind wheels had become a little loose, and we decided
to have them shrunk and reset, so we camped by a blacksmith shop near
the centre of the village, and soon had the blacksmith at our work,
which he finished before dark.

Making an early start next morning, we rolled out, nooned at Diamond
Springs, fifteen miles from the Grove, where there was but one family,
and at evening camped at Lost Springs, thirty miles from Council Grove,
where Jack Costillo’s ranch was the only habitation. So long as the
road and weather were fine we wished to make up the time lost in being
delayed by the jayhawkers and lengthened our drives accordingly.

We were now fairly launched on the plains and would see little more
timber and no habitations of white men except an occasional trading
ranch at the crossing of some creek along the road. We were nearing the
eastern edge of the buffalo range.

The road from Fort Riley, that we had formerly travelled in going out
to the Arkansas River and back, enters the Santa Fé road here at Lost
Springs. At this camp there was no timber and no running water–merely
a series of water-holes strung along a prairie hollow. This had long
been a well-known camping ground; but where the springs were from which
it takes the name I never knew, for I never saw any.

We pitched our tent near where the Fort Riley road enters the Santa Fé
and after supper attended to the usual camp work. After we had groomed
and fed our animals the Irishman and I strolled up to the ranch to
renew old acquaintance with the proprietor, Jack Costillo, also an
Irishman, whom we had previously known as a soldier in the Mounted
Rifle Regiment in New Mexico.

Costillo was delighted to meet us again and, of course, set out his
best for us. We spent a couple of hours very pleasantly talking over
old times with him and then returned to our camp. As we walked along,
thinking of the Italian name borne by this man, who, as Jack said,
“wore the map of Ireland on his face,” I remarked:

“When I hear such names as O’Shaughnessy, Finnegan, or McCarthy given
for an Irishman, they seem natural and Irish enough, but now and then
I find an Irishman with what seems to be a very un-Irish name, such as
Costillo’s, for instance. How do you account for these misfit names,
Jack?”

“Oh, that’s ‘asy,” replied Jack. “You see, ould Ireland is a sea-girt
isle an’ is visited by ships of various nations, an’ now an’ then some
foreign sailor, in an Irish port, falls in love with an Irish girl an’
marries her, an’ the childther, of course, will bear the foreigner’s
name, though they be as Irish as Paddy’s pigs.”

“Well, that is a reasonable explanation of a question that has
occasioned me a good deal of speculation,” I answered, “and, accepting
your solution of the problem, my mind will be much easier in the
future.”

At these roadside ranches, which had sprung up at every important
camping place along the road since the Pike’s Peak gold discovery,
liquor was sold and a small general assortment kept of such goods as
were in demand by travellers.

No attempt was made to cultivate the soil or raise crops; they were
there merely for the trade of the road and–at points farther out–for
Indian trade. They also bought worn-out stock from passing outfits
and, after resting and recruiting such animals, sold them to other
travellers needing fresh animals.

The Santa Fé mail contractors, Hall & Porter, of Independence,
Missouri, had established stations at certain ranches, but beyond
Council Grove there were, as yet, no regular eating or lodging stations
for passengers in the mail-coaches. They had to carry their own bedding
and take camp fare with the mail hands–two drivers and a conductor to
each coach.

At Cottonwood Creek, the next camp west of Lost Springs, we began to
see buffalo–a few straggling old bulls at some distance from the
road–but as yet no herds. By the time we had reached the Little
Arkansas small bands became more numerous and neighborly; and from
there on the herds grew larger, till by the time we reached the
vicinity of Fort Larned–much later–dense masses of them were to be
seen in every direction.

As far west as Lost Springs we found multitudes of prairie-chickens
along the road and our shotgun kept our mess supplied with fresh meat.
From Lost Springs westward we saw no more prairie-chickens, but as we
soon reached the buffalo range we killed young buffalo or antelope.

In running buffalo we used the black horse, Jack’s capture, and
although at first somewhat shy of the brown, woolly monsters, he soon
got used to them and evinced keen interest in the chase.

In killing a buffalo for fresh meat we usually selected a yearling or
two-year-old, to insure tender meat, and cut out only a few pounds of
the choicest parts from the carcass, buffalo being so plenty that we
seldom thought of the wastefulness of this then common practice.

Antelope, the fleetest and most graceful animal on the plains, could
seldom be overhauled by a mounted man, but their inquisitiveness was so
great that they would often, in herds of a dozen or more, approach our
camp through curiosity; and if they did not come close enough to suit
us, by displaying a red blanket we could lure them on, almost close
enough to knock them over with a stick. Their meat is tender and well
flavored, but at certain seasons there is little fat on it and a little
bacon cooked with it improves it.

Coming in from grooming the black horse one day, Jack declared:

“The more I handle that horse the better I like him. He’s one of the
best I ever rubbed a brush over. I’ve been wondering who that jayhawker
could have stole him from an’ dreading lest the owner should follow us
up an’ claim his property, in which case, of course, we’d have to give
him up.”

“Well, Jack,” I replied, “it ain’t likely that the owner of the horse,
whoever he may be, will ever bother us; and when we hear from the old
storekeeper, back where you got him, if no owner has shown up there to
inquire about him, then your claim is the next best and he’ll be your
horse.”

“No,” said the impulsive Irishman, “ef we’re to git to kape him he’s to
be company property–he’ll belong to all of us.”

“Well,” put in Tom, “I’ve been thinkin’ that the black horse is
entitled to a name, anyhow. We’ve named the mules–or Wild Bill
did–‘Dink’ an’ ‘Judy’ an’ the broncos ‘Polly’ an’ ‘Vinegar’; now,
what’ll we call the horse?”

“Why not call him ‘Captain Tucker,’ after the jayhawker?” I suggested.

“No,” promptly objected Jack, “it wouldn’t be treatin’ the horse fair
to call him after such a scoundrel.”

“How would ‘Black Prince’ do?” proposed Tom.

“That suits me better. ‘Black Prince’ it shall be.”

Passing successively Cottonwood Creek, Big and Little Turkey Creeks,
Little Arkansas, Jarvis Creek, Big and Little Cow Creeks, we reached
Big Bend, the point where the Santa Fé trail, going westward, first
strikes the Arkansas River.

Before reaching Big Bend we noticed with uneasiness that the tires on
our fore wheels were becoming loose. At Council Grove, where we had
had the tires of the hind wheels shrunk and reset, those of the fore
wheels had seemed tight enough; but since leaving there the woodwork
of the fore wheels had been shrinking more and more each day, until
now something must be done to tighten them or we would soon have a
broken-down wagon. We had hoped to reach Fort Larned before having to
reset these tires, but from Big Bend it was nearly two days’ drive to
the fort.

Seeing old Tom examining the wheels, I asked:

“Well, Tom, what are we going to do about it? Hadn’t we better take
them fore wheels off and throw them into the river overnight?”

“No,” replied the old man, “that would only help us for a day and
by to-morrow night they’d be dry as ever. We’ll just give ’em a
plainsman’s shrinking, an’ that’s pretty nigh as good as to have a
blacksmith cut an’ weld an’ reset ’em. We’ll swell the felloes by
puttin’ canvas between them an’ the tires. The first thing is to unload
the wagon.”

It was quite a job, but Jack and I soon had the stuff all out and
stacked up on the ground.

“Now, prop up the front ex an’ take off the wheels.”

This was soon accomplished.

“Now, while I knock off the tires you an’ Jack can get out your gunny
sacks an’ carry up a whole lot of buffalo-chips an’ pile ’em handy.”

By the time we had done this Tom had taken off the tires and laid them
down, one on top of the other, raised a couple of inches off the
ground by stones placed here and there under them.

“Now pile your chips all round over the tires, ’bout a foot deep, an’
then set ’em afire, an’ the breeze’ll keep the fire a-boomin’; an’
while the tires is a-heating bring the wheels up here close by; get
that piece of old canvas out o’ the wagon; cut some strips from it
long as you can git ’em, jist the width of the felloes; get some of
the tacks out of the till of the mess-chest; put the canvas strips
on the outside of the felloes, draw ’em tight, an’ tack ’em here an’
there as you go round the wheel until you get about four thicknesses
of canvas on; then give the outside layer of canvas a little wettin’
so’s it won’t burn out afore we can git the tire cooled off. Then lay
the wheels down handy to the fire, with a rock here an’ there under the
rims to make ’em lay solid.”

When this had all been done:

“Now get the shovel an’ scoop out a little, long hole in the ground
close by an’ keep it filled with water. Bring the pick an’ shovel an’
spade an’ axe an’ hatchet an’ lay ’em handy. Then fill all the buckets
with water an’ set ’em close by.”

The wind kept the circle of buffalo-chips that covered the tires
blazing briskly, and by the time the chips were nearly burnt out we
could see that the tires were red-hot and knew that they had expanded
enough to drop over the canvassed wheels.

“Now,” resumed Tom, “we’ll have to work lively an’ make no mislicks
when we drop a tire over a wheel so’s to get it cooled an’ shrunk on
afore it burns out the canvas. We’ll have to use the pick an’ spade an’
shovel to lift ’em out o’ the fire an’ drop ’em over the wheels. Peck,
you take the pick, Jack the shovel, an’ I’ll take the spade. When all’s
ready I’ll give the word, an’, Peck, you stick the point of your pick
under the top tire an’ lift it up a little so’s me an’ Jack can slip
our shovel an’ spade under it; then the three of us’ll lift the tire
out of the fire an’ lay it in its place over the wheel an’ then go to
pourin’ water on, an’ quick as it’s shrunk enough to stay on Jack’ll
run his shovel handle through the hole in the hub, pry the wheel up,
an’ with one of you on each side, a-holt of the shovel handle, you can
hold the wheel over the pool of water with the lower rim in the water
while I spin it ’round, an’, with axe in one hand an’ hatchet in the
other, I’ll hammer the tire to its place as it shrinks. Now, do you men
‘savvy’ all them instructions?”

We “savvied,” and, following Tom’s directions, we soon had both tires
nicely reset and shrunk, and it made a very substantial job. It was hot
and laborious work and gave us unusually keen appetites for the supper
that followed, which Tom prepared, while Jack and I reloaded our wagon.

After supper, as we lay on our beds in the tent talking over old times,
Jack recalled to my mind the Cheyenne campaign of 1857 and how we used
to gather wild plums in the sand-hills near where we were now camped.
He spoke also of a man bitten by a rattlesnake near here. This called
out a story from Tom, who said:

“Speakin’ of rattlesnakes reminds me of a little incident that
happened out in New Mexico when I was in the old First Dragoons. I
was a sergeant, an’ we had a new recruit in the company by the name
of Nesbit–a mighty quiet sort of a feller that the men called a
‘stoughton-bottle,’ or a ‘bump on a log’–a good man for duty, only he
didn’t make free with the other men or have much to say to anybody. He
had a fashion in hot weather, when he was loungin’ about camp off duty,
of goin’ barefooted, with the bottoms of his pants an’ drawers rolled
up several inches.

“One day, when we was camped on the Rio Grande, water call had jest
gone, an’ we’d all started out from our tents to water our horses an’
picket ’em out on fresh grass. I was walkin’ a few steps behind Nesbit
when I heard the whiz-whir of a rattlesnake in the direction of the
man, an’ as I looked to’rds him I was horrified to see a big rattler
that seemed to have hold of one of his ankles an’ was a-jerkin’ an’
squirmin’ an’ wrappin’ itself all ’round his leg; but, as I found out
afterward, the snake had struck at his ankle an’ caught a mouthful
of the roll of Nesbit’s trousers an’ got his fangs tangled so’s he
couldn’t git loose but hadn’t touched the leg at all.

“Well, sir, I was nearly paralyzed with fear an’ was tryin’ to think of
some way I could help the man but didn’t see how. He never said a word,
but just reached down as cool as ef he was goin’ to pluck a flower,
grabbed the snake right back of its head so close it couldn’t turn to
bite his hand when it got its fangs loose, then pulled its fangs loose
from the roll of his trousers an’ pulled the snake away from where it
was wrapped around his leg. It coiled itself around his arm an’ kep’
its rattle a-hummin’, and I couldn’t imagine how he was goin’ to get
rid of it without gettin’ bit.

“Well, it all happened quicker’n scat, an’ while I was a-tryin’ to
study out some way I could help him out he knew just what to do an’ was
a-doing it without asking anybody’s help.

“He just reached for his belt with the other hand, pulled his
butcher-knife, sliced the snake’s head off clean–taking a slice out
of his finger in doing it, shook the snake loose from his arm an’
dropped it, stooped down an’ dug a little hole with his knife, raked
the snake’s head into it an’ covered it up so’s nobody would tramp on
it with bare feet an’ get pizened, wiped his knife on his britches’ leg
an’ returned it to the sheath, tore a piece off his ol’ hankercher an’
wrapped his cut finger up, an’ went on an’ ‘tended to his horse–all
without sayin’ a word or makin’ any fuss; an’ when I got my breath
enough to say, ‘Nesbit, that was a close call,’ he merely remarked
indifferent like: ‘Yes, but you know a miss is as good as a mile.’

“It had all been done so quietly an’ quickly that the other men passin’
by hadn’t noticed what was goin’ on.

“Well, sir, I count that one of the coolest, grittiest things I ever
saw done, an’ when I got back to camp I went an’ told the orderly
sergeant about it, an’ he had to go an’ tell the captain; an’ then the
captain sent for me, an’ I had to tell him all the particulars; an’
when I got through all the ol’ man had to say was, ‘He’ll do,’ but I
could see that the captain was mightily pleased with the raw recruit.

“Well, the upshot of it was the next evenin’ at ‘retreat’ the orderly
sergeant published an order to the company to the effect that ‘Private
Nesbit is hereby appointed corporal an’ will be obeyed an’ respected
accordingly.’

“You see, the captain saw from that little affair of the snake that
Nesbit was something more than a ‘bump on a log,’ an’ so he give the
man a lift to start him, an’ in a little while he was made sergeant;
an’ then, when the ol’ orderly sergeant’s time was out an’ he was
discharged, Nesbit was made first sergeant right over the heads of us
old hands who’d been in the service a heap longer. But he deserved
it, an’ I never begrudged him the promotion, for he made one of the
best orderly sergeants I ever knew–always the same quiet, cool, nervy
Nesbit.”

“I always told you,” remarked Jack, “that it won’t do to set a man down
for a fool ’cause his clo’s don’t fit him.

“Changin’ the subject,” said Jack, “it’s about five miles from here up
to Charley Rath’s ranch, at the mouth of Walnut Creek; ain’t it, Tom?”

“Yes; five miles to Walnut Creek, sixteen from there to Pawnee Rock,
eight miles from the Rock to the crossin’ of Ash Creek, six from Ash
Creek to Pawnee Fork, an’ three miles, after crossing Pawnee Fork, on
up the creek will bring us to Fort Larned, which is two miles and a
half off the Santa Fé road, but in plain sight of it.”

“I was thinkin’,” continued Jack, “about the Walnut Creek ranch an’
some o’ the lively times it’s seen since I first know’d it. In ’57,
when we come out here on the Cheyenne expedition, Allison owned it.
Many’s the time the Injuns made life a burden to Allison, but still he
saved his scalp an’ died on the square. In ’58 he left his hired man,
Peacock, in charge of the ranch while he took his teams an’ went in to
Westport, Missouri, after goods. On that trip Allison died suddenly at
Westport, an’, as he had no kinsfolk at the ranch an’ none ever come
out to claim it, Peacock jumped the claim an’ held it as his own. He,
too, had some lively times with the Injuns an’ was finally killed by
ol’ Satank, in the summer of 1860. An’ then Charley Rath jumped the
claim an’ still holds it, but more’n likely he, too, will lose his
napper to some o’ the Indians yet. It was near the ranch, when Peacock
had it, that Pawnee, the Kiowa chief, was killed by Lieutenant Bayard;
wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I was in at the death and had an opportunity to have
done the killing myself that day, but Lieutenant Bayard came up and
took the job off my hands. You see, I was one of the first to mount and
start in chase of the Indian after he’d escaped from the ranch, mounted
his horse, and was racing across the level prairie north of the ranch.
I was riding that speedy little bay horse that we called ‘Greased
Lightning,’ that the officers used in making races. I’d got the start
of Bayard and the rest, overtook the Indian in about a mile and was
right alongside of him, with Lieutenant Bayard coming up just behind
me, and when I called back to the lieutenant to ask whether I should
shoot the Kiowa he replied, ‘No, let me speak to him,’ and I gave way
and let Bayard come in between me and Pawnee. Bayard called on him a
couple of times to halt, on the second demand firing a shot in front of
the Indian as a warning, and when he found that the Indian only jeered
and made faces at him the lieutenant reined in a little and let the
Kiowa go ahead, and, as he did so, dropped his pistol to Pawnee’s back,
saying, ‘Take it, then,’ and let him have it–shooting him through the
heart. Pawnee threw up his hands and fell off his horse dead.”

“Well, by rights,” said Jack, “you’d overtook the Injun first an’ had
the best right to have done that job, but Bayard took advantage of his
bein’ an officer over you to hog the honors.”

“I didn’t consider that there was any particular honor in killing that
Indian, under the circumstances,” I replied, “but I should have done
so if the lieutenant had said the word. But Bayard seemed to think
that the Indian would halt and surrender on his demand, and when the
Kiowa not only refused to yield but defied him, why, there was nothing
else to do but to kill him. We thought it strange at first that Pawnee
should act so defiantly when we had the drop on him, but Peacock told
us when we got back to the ranch that this Indian carried a medicine
or charm hung around his neck that was supposed to protect him from a
white man’s bullet, and when the lieutenant fired a shot and missed him
he was sure he was bullet-proof; but Bayard’s bullet killed him so
quick that he hardly had time to feel disappointed.”

“I don’t know but what it was best, after all,” remarked old Tom,
“seein’ that the Injun had to be killed, for an officer to do it, for
after that shot the Kiowas started on the war-path an’ caused the loss
of a good many lives of innocent people an’ give the troops a whole lot
of trouble an’ hard service for a year or more afterward. Ef it had ‘a’
been an enlisted man fired that shot he’d ‘a’ been court-martialled an’
punished, more’n likely, instead of being honored. So I guess Peck lost
nothin’ by it, for Bayard was sharply reprimanded an’ had to do a whole
lot of explaining to get out of trouble for that little job. As to the
killing of Pawnee bein’ the real cause of the Kiowa outbreak, that was
the idea that some fool people back East got of it; but none of us ever
believed that, for we knew from the actions of ol’ Satank an’ his band
for some time before that, they was bound to go on the war-path with
or without provocation, an’ they seized on the killin’ of one o’ their
chiefs as an excuse for turnin’ loose on the Pike’s Peak emigrants an’
others along the road.”

“You’ll remember,” said Jack, “that I wasn’t with you the next summer
on the Kiowa expedition, for I’d been left back at Fort Riley, in the
hospital, but I know Peck an’ you”–speaking directly to Tom–“was both
with Major Sedgwick’s command in this part of the country when Peacock
was killed; an’, as I’ve heard two or three different stories about
that affair, I’d like to know the straight of it. Tell me jist how it
happened.”

“Well, sir,” began old Tom as he raised up and began whittling another
pipeful of tobacco, “I can give you the straight facts about that
scrape, for I got ’em from Charley Rath an’ the sick man–you know at
the time Satank killed Peacock there was a man sick in bed in the ranch
that the Injuns never touched, an’ he was the only one of Peacock’s men
left alive, ‘cept Wild Bill an’ John Adkins, an’ they was away from
the ranch somewhere. After peace was made with the Kiowas an’ they got
to comin’ around to the Walnut Creek ranch to trade ag’in, Charley
Rath was runnin’ it, an’ he got all the particulars about it from the
Indians who was with Satank when he killed Peacock. So I think I got it
pretty straight.

“You’ll remember that we–that is, Major Sedgwick’s command of four
companies of First Cavalry from Fort Riley–had been chasin’ the
Kiowas’ round over the plains all summer, but hadn’t been able to get
a fight out of ’em ‘cept that little scrimmage our detachment of forty
men under Jeb Stuart had with Satank an’ a little bunch up north of
Bent’s Fort, where we killed eight of ’em an’ captured all their women
an’ children an’ packs.

“Captain Sturgis, with four companies from Fort Arbuckle, had also come
up into this country on the same errand as us–huntin’ the Kiowas–an’
he’d had better luck, for he caught ’em up on the Republican Fork an’
had a nice little fight an’ killed a whole lot of ’em.

“I’m givin’ you all this preamble to give you a clear idee of the
situation that led up to the killing of Peacock. There was a slight
split among the Kiowas durin’ this war, for ol’ To hausen–Little
Mountain–their head chief, with a few of the cool-headed older
warriors of the tribe, had refused to join Satank an’ the hostiles in
makin’ war on the whites, an’ To hausen, with his little band, had
kept out o’ the way for fear of bein’ mistaken by us for the hostiles.
But the biggest part of the tribe, under the leadership of Satank an’
Satanta an’ Big Tree, was a-doin’ their level best to wipe out every
white man, woman, an’ child on the plains.

“Satank was the recognized leader of the hostiles an’ was always very
bitter in his hatred of the whites.

“As our two commands, Sturgis’s an’ Sedgwick’s, had kep’ him on the
jump purty lively durin’ the summer, an’ he’d got the worst of it all
’round, ‘long in the last of August or fore part of September, I think
it was, Satank seemed to conclude–as the time was soon coming when
the Injun agent at Bent’s Fort would be a-giving out the annuities
that Uncle Sam sends out every fall to the peaceable Injuns–that he’d
better make a treaty with Major Sedgwick for the winter, anyway, so’s
him an’ his band could come in for their share of the presents. So he
applied to Peacock for a letter of recommendation to Major Sedgwick,
thinkin’ that a letter from such a prominent trader would help him to
make easy terms with Sedgwick.

“‘Well, sir, right there’s where Peacock made the blunder of his life,
an’ it cost him his life, too. Peacock was a pretty smart man an’ was
acquainted with nearly every Kiowa in the tribe, an’ it’s hard to
understand how he could be so foolish as to do the way he did. But
Satank an’ his band had made him a heap o’ trouble durin’ this last
outbreak, an’ now Peacock thought he saw a chance to even up with his
old enemy. So, instead of writin’ a letter to Sedgwick askin’ mild
treatment an’ makin’ excuses for Satank an’ his scalpers, he wrote one
reading something like this:

MAJOR SEDGWICK,

_Commanding Kiowa Expedition_:

The bearer of this is Satank, the leader of the hostile Kiowas
and the instigator of all, and the actual perpetrator of many of
the atrocious murders and outrages that have been committed on
innocent men, women, and children on the plains during this last
outbreak. He is, by long odds, the worst Indian on the plains, and
you can’t do the country a greater service than to kill him on
sight.

(Signed) PEACOCK.

“Here was the unaccountable part of Peacock’s folly. He certainly knew
that that low-down renegade Englishman that they called ‘English Jim’
was living among the Kiowas at this time; but Jim was a brute an’
appeared to be so ignorant Peacock must have supposed either that the
fellow would be unable to read writing or else that Satank would never
doubt the genuineness of his recommendation and would, therefore, take
no steps to test it. But there’s where the trader fooled himself.

“The Kiowas were camped across the Arkansas, a few miles south from
the ranch. Charley Rath an’ his pardner, George Long, had just begun
to build them a ranch-house here at the Bend, close to where we are
now camped, an’ could see the Kiowas passing back an’ forth across the
river.

“When Satank received the paper from Peacock he and a few men who
was with him went straight back to their camp, give the document to
‘English Jim,’ an’ axed him to read it an’ interpret it into Kiowa,
which he did.

“As soon as Satank heard the purport of the paper an’ understood the
trick Peacock was trying to play him, he an’ the same gang mounted
their horses an’ rode right back to Peacock’s to settle the account.
On reaching the ranch, as an excuse for their sudden return an’ to
keep Peacock from suspecting what he was up to, Satank an’ his men
never dismounted, but sat on their horses outside the gate an’ called
to Peacock in Mexican–the Kiowas an’ Comanches can nearly all talk a
little Mexican–says he to Peacock, says he, ‘Bring your spy-glass
out an’ look down the road an’ see ef this is a lot of soldiers
a-coming’,–when there was no soldiers in sight nor anything that
looked like ’em.

“Never suspecting the trap that Satank had laid for him, Peacock
come out with his long telescope an’, resting it on the end of a log
sticking out at the corner of the house, begun looking through it in
the direction Satank pointed.

“While busy trying to focus the glass on a little cloud of dust that
Satank kept tryin’ to point out to him, the ol’ rascal put the muzzle
of his rifle to the back of Peacock’s head an’ put a ball through his
brains. While Satank dismounted to scalp Peacock his warriors rushed
into the enclosure through the gate that Peacock had left open as he
come out, an’ it was such a complete surprise to the ranchmen that they
were all soon killed ‘cept the sick man I spoke of. They found him in
bed but never offered to disturb him. I’ve known of Injuns, several
times, a-sparing sick people thataway, but don’t know why, unless they
have a superstition ag’in harming sick folks.

“When Rath an’ Long, down here at the Bend, saw the Kiowas going
back across the river, a-drivin’ Peacock’s herd, they begun to think
something was wrong, so they got out their spy-glass, took a close
look, an’, although the Injuns was two or three miles away, could see
that they had a lot of the ponies packed with what seemed to be some
of Peacock’s goods. This made ’em suspect that the Injuns had captured
an’ plundered the ranch, ef they hadn’t killed Peacock an his men;
so they dropped their work, mounted their horses, an’ went a-flying
up to Peacock’s to see what was up, an’ found all hands killed ‘cept
the sick man, an’ he told ’em what little he’d seen an’ heerd of the
fracas, from where he lay in bed, not bein’ able to get out, an’ how
after killing the other men the Injuns had come to the open door of the
room where he lay helpless an’ fully expecting to be murdered, an’ how
surprised an’ glad he was when they turned away without disturbin’ him.

“Peacock had left no heirs on the place, an’ there was no one in this
part of the country that had any claim on it, so Rath an’ Long decided
to abandon the ranch they had just begun to build here at the Bend an’
move up an’ take possession of Peacock’s place, jumping the claim, same
as Peacock had done after Allison died. An’ Rath is holding it yet, but
George Long quit the business an’ went back to the settlements–got
scared out, I guess. Charley Rath–barring the everlasting danger from
Injuns–has got a bully good layout in that Walnut Creek ranch, both
for trade of the road an’ for Injun trade, for there he gits part of
the trade of Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyennes, an’ ‘Rapahoes; but it’s more
directly in the Kiowa range than the others.”

“Well, Tom,” I asked as the old man seemed to be at the end of his
yarn, “as the Kiowas are now living under a treaty, do you think their
friendship is to be depended on?”

“I wouldn’t feel a bit uneasy in the neighborhood of ol’ To hausen’s
band, for him an’ his followers has kept faith with the whites right
along, through all the late troubles. He’s one of the few good Injuns.
But his band is a small part of the tribe now though he used to be
their head chief. Most of the Kiowas follow the lead of Satank now, an’
you know Satank hates a white man as the devil hates holy water, an’,
although he may keep the peace for a while, it ain’t to be depended
on. I would never feel perfectly safe in the neighborhood of Satank’s
band. An’ then Satanta an’ Big Tree run with him, an’ they’re as bad as
Satank.”

“What I was thinking of,” I added, “is that the winter camp we’re
intending to establish, north of Fort Larned, will be right in the
range of the Kiowas, and if they should happen to find our layout in
the course of the winter they might make trouble for us.”

“Well, we won’t borry any trouble on that score. We knew there was a
risk to run afore we undertook the expedition. When a man goes into the
country of hostile or doubtful Injuns he takes his risk. But at this
time of the year the chances are that we won’t see any Injuns, ’cause
they generally hole up in as snug shelter as they can find in winter
an’ don’t ramble about much. An’ then, ag’in, we’ll not be more’n
twenty miles from Fort Larned, and they’d hardly dare to disturb us ef
they should find our camp.”

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