Travel on Old Trails
ON a beautiful spring morning. in early May, 1859, I was awakened at the break of day--having gone into camp the preceding evening after dusk--by the singing of birds and lowing of cattle, and last, but not least, the harsh and discordant voice of the wagon boss of whom I stood in wholesome fear--calling, "Roll out, roll out!" to the men as the cattle were driven into the corral to yoke up and get started. Indeed all nature seemed alive and pouring out the sweetest notes on that lovely morning when I first saw the great Pawnee Rock.
It was, indeed, a curious freak of nature, rising abruptly out of a fertile stretch of bottom land several miles wide, three or four miles north of the Arkansas River, which flowed sluggishly long its way, its muddy current on its usual spring rise caused by the melting of snow in the mountains. The time of the year, the ideal weather, and the lovely greensward, interspersed with the most beautiful variegated wild flowers, combined to make one of the most beautiful sights I ever witnessed. The scene impressed itself not only upon me, but the other drivers--"Bull whackers," we were called--shared my admiration, and through our united petition to the wagon boss, the train was halted long enough to allow our going to the Rock, from the summit of which I obtained the grand view that so impressed me. It seemed as if I could never tire of gazing on the wonderful panorama that spread before me.
The road, if recollection serves me right, ran only a few hundred feet south of the base of the Rock, parallel to its face. The Rock faced the south, rearing itself abruptly, and presenting almost a perpendicular front with a comparatively smooth surface, having thousands
of names inscribed on its face, and also on a great many slabs that had, in the process of time and exposure to the elements, been detached from its top and sides and lay flat at its base. Most of the names were those of "Forty-niners" who had taken that route in their mad rush for the gold fields of California during that memorable year. Among the names cut in the Rock were those of officers and enlisted men in the United States army as well as a number of famous men and frontiersmen.
There were also a great many Indian paintings, or pictographs, and hieroglyphics done by the red man -- crude and laughable, and some of them extraordinarily funny, but I have been told since there was a great deal of significance attached to these paintings, some of them portraying important tribal history, others representing brave and heroic deeds, performed by members of the tribes.
Of course, there were a great many stories told of the Rock, romances the most of them, I suppose.
An old plainsman and mountaineer told me that the name "Pawnee Rock" was taken from a great fight lasting several days, between the Pawnees and their life-long enemies, the Plains Indians composed of a mixed band of Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, Comanches, and a few Sioux, all pitted against the Pawnees, and numbering more than ten to one. What a desperate battle it was!
The Pawnees had come over to the Arkansas on their usual buffalo hunt, and, incidentally, to steal horses from their enemies, the Plains Indians. They crossed the river and proceeded south, penetrating deep into the enemy's country, where a big herd of ponies grazed and lived in supposed security. The Pawnees reached the herd without arousing the least suspicion of the owners that the animals were in danger. Surrounding and cutting out what they wanted, they started on the return trip, greatly elated over their easy success, and reached the Arkansas River without meeting with the slightest resistance, but
found the river very high and out of its banks. The ponies refused to take the river, which delayed them considerably. In the meantime, the band of Indians, composed of Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, Comanches, and a few Sioux, was on a buffalo hunt, too, when some of them discovered the trail of the Pawnees and quickly notified the others. They all gave chase, overtaking the Pawnees just as they were crossing the Arkansas. The Pawnees might still have gotten away had they abandoned the stolen horses; but this they refused to do until it was too late.
Finally, pressed on all sides by overwhelming odds, they were glad to retreat to the rock where they made a final stand, fortifying themselves as best they could by erecting mounds of loose rock, and loading and firing from behind this crude shelter with such daring and bravery that their enemies were kept at bay. They were sorely in need of water. Of meat they had plenty, as they lived upon the flesh of their dead horses. At night, some of them usually crept through the line of sentinels that guarded them and made their way to the river, filling canteens of tanned hide or skins and working their way back to their beseiged friends.
The fight was kept up for three days and nights, the Cheyennes and allies making frequent charges during the day, but always being compelled to fall back with severe loss, until they had almost annihilated the little band of Pawnees. On the fourth night they were reduced to three or four men. Knowing their desperate situation and realizing that there was no chance for any of them to escape, they determined to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Every man stripped stark naked, and, watching his opportunity, when the guards were less vigilant than usual, crept stealthily toward the foes. Having approached as near as they could without detection, the Pawnees burst upon the enemy with all the fury of desperate men going to their death, and, with blood-curdling yells,
fought as never men fought before. One of them was armed with a long spear and knife only. (These spears were used in killing buffaloes.) Many a man went down before the weapon, but, finally the Pawnee drove it so deeply into one of his victims that he could not withdraw it. Then he fell back on his butcher knife and made terrible havoc with it, until overpowered by numbers, he died a warrior's glorious death, reeking with the blood of his enemies. He certainly had sufficient revenge.
The time we camped at the foot of the Rock we did not go into camp until after nightfall. Another man and I were placed on first guard around the grazing cattle. After being out some time, we were startled by something dropping, zip! zip! into the grass around us and near us. We thought it was Indians shooting at us with arrows. There were all sorts of rumors of attacks from Indians, and this certainly was a great Indian camping ground and country, so we were greatly alarmed and continually on the lookout, expecting at any time to be attacked. We finally concluded to go to camp and notify the wagon boss. He came back with us and for a long time believed that Indians were shooting at us, but the question was, where were they concealed? The mystery was finally solved. The peculiar sound was made by the little birds called sky-larks, flying up and alighting, striking the earth with such force that the noise seemed like that produced by the fall of an arrow or of a stone. The skylarks and meadow larks sang at all hours of the night on the plains.
The great Pawnee Rock has found its way into the history of the west. Around its rugged base was many a desperate battle fought and won; and many a mystic rite, performed within its shadow, has stamped upon the grand old mass the wierd and tragic nature of the children of the plains.
It was in the immediate vicinity of the rock that I
inadvertently started one of the most disastrous stampedes in the history of the plains.
In the fall of 1862 I was going back east with one of Major Russell's and Waddell's large ox teams. I think we had thirty or forty wagons, with six yoke of oxen to the wagon. Our wagons were strung five or six together and one team of six yoke cattle attached to each string. It was the latter part of November, and we were traveling along the Arkansas River bottom about ten miles west of where Great Bend is now located. It was a very hot afternoon, more like summer than winter-one of those warm spells that we frequently have in the late fall on the plains. I was driving the cavayado (cave-yard--that is, the loose cattle). The Mexicans always drove their cavayado in front of their trains, while the Americans invariably drove theirs behind. I had on a heavy linsey woolsey coat, manufactured from the loom in Missouri lined with yellow stuff, and the sleeves lined with red; and, as I said, it was very warm; so I pulled off my jacket, or coat, and in pulling it off turned it inside out. We had an old ox named Dan, a big, old fellow with rather large horns, and so gentle we used him as a horse in crossing streams, when the boys often mounted him and rode across. Dan was always lagging behind, and this day more than usual, on account of the heat. The idea struck me to make him carry the coat. I caught him and by dint of a little stretching placed the sleeves over his horns and let the coat flap down in front.
I hardly realized what I had done until I took a front view of him. He presented a ludicrous appearance, with his great horns covered with red and the yellow coat flapping down over his face. He trudged along unconscious of the appearance he presented. I hurried him along by repeated punches with my carajo pole, for in dressing him up he had gotten behind. I could not but laugh at the ludicrous sight, but my laughter was soon turned to regret, for no sooner did old Dan make his ap-
pearance among the other cattle than a young steer bawled out in the steer language, as plain as good English, "Great Scott! what monstrosity is this coming among us to destroy us?" and with one long, loud, beseeching bawl, put all the distance possible between himself and the terror behind him. All his brothers followed his example, each one seeing how much louder he could bawl than his neighbor, and each one trying to outrun the rest. I thought to myself, "Great guns! what have I done now!" I quickly and quietly stepped up to old Dan, fearing that he too might get away, and with the evidence of my guilt, took from his horns and head what had created one of the greatest stampedes ever seen on the plains, and placed it on my back where it belonged. In the meantime the loose cattle had caught up with the wagons, and those attached to the vehicles took fright and tried to keep up with the cavayado. In spite of all the drivers could do, they lost control of them, and away they went, making a thundering noise. One could see nothing but a big cloud of dust. The ground seemed to tremble.
Nothing was left but Dan and me after the dust subsided, and I poked him along with my carajo pole as fast as possible, for I was anxious to find out what damage was done. We traveled miles and miles, and it seemed hours and hours, at last espying the wagon boss still riding like mad. When he came up he said: "What caused the stampede of the cavayado?" I replied that I could not tell, unless it was a wolf that ran across the road in front of the cattle, when they took fright and away they went, all except old Dan, and I held him, thinking I would save all I could out of the wreck. There stood old Dan, a mute witness to my lies. Indeed, I thought at times he gave me a sly wink, as much as to say: "You lie out of it well, but I am ashamed of you." I thought that God was merciful in not giving this dumb animal speech, for if He had they certainly would have hung me. As it was, the wagon boss remarked: "I know it was the cussed
wolves, because I saw several this afternoon, while riding in front of the train. Well," he continued, "that wolf didn't do a thing but wreck six or eight wagons in W alnut creek, and from there on for the next five miles, ten or twelve more; and most of them will never see the states again, they are so completely broken up. Besides, one man's leg is broken and another's arm, and a lot of the men are bruised up. Three steers have their legs broken, and the front cattle were fifteen miles from where we are now, when I overtook them." I have seen many stampedes since, but never anything to equal that. I have seen a great train of wagons heavily loaded, struggling along, drivers pounding and swearing to get the cattle out of a snail's pace, and one would think the train too heavily loaded, it seemed such a strain on the cattle to draw it, when a runaway horse or something out of the usual would come up suddenly behind them, and the frightened cattle in the yoke would set up a bawl and start to run, and they would pick up those heavily loaded wagons and set off with them at a pace that was astonishing, running for miles and overturning the wagons. The boss in front, where he was always supposed to be, would give the order to roughlock both wheels, which would probably be done to a few of the front wagons. Even these doubly locked wagons would be hurled along for a mile or two before the cattle's strength was exhausted, and apparently the whole earth would shake in their vicinity.
My experience with old Dan and the yellow-lined coat was laughable, with but a touch of the tragic at its close, but all the travel along the Santa Fe trail and large part of it was tragedy from beginning to end, kindred highways, in those old days, had not so happy a tone, and much of it had a much more tragic ending-unlightened by any touch of humor. Indeed, had all the blood of man and beast, that was shed beside them, been turned, unlessened, into the trails, their course across the plains
would have been marked in unbroken crimson, from Westport to Santa Fe, and from Leavenworth to Denver.
Moreover, the tragedy was greater than will ever be known, for mute evidences of mysterious bloodshed were not wanting along the old trails. Many times, in the early days of Fort Dodge, I have picked up little bunches of cattle wandering on the plains aimlessly that had been run off by the Indians, as well as horses and mules, and turned them over to some Mexican train from which they had been stampeded. Once I found a buggy all smashed to pieces in the timbered breaks of Duck Creek, but we could never discover whom the unfortunate occupants had been. They had been killed and dumped out, no doubt, miles from where the vehicle was wrecked. One day I found one of the most beautiful horses I ever saw, with a fine saddle on his back. The saddle was completely saturated with blood.
In 1863, the fall before Fort Dodge was established, on the bluffs where you first get a sight of the Arkansas on the dry route from Fort Larned, a little Mexican train of ten or twelve wagons loaded with corn, groceries and other goods, many sacks of flour, together with a featherbed or two, camped one day to get dinner. Soon after they had corralled a band of Indians rode up, with their customary, "How-how, heap Hungry," and wanted some "chuck-a-way." After gorging themselves, they sat around the small fire of buffalo chips smoking, they arose, shook hands all around, mounted their ponies, and, as they arrived at the rear of the corral, suddenly turned and killed everyone of the Mexicans, excepting the day herder, who had started off in advance to his animals that were quietly grazing in the grassy bottoms. The moment he heard the firing he lit out mighty lively for Fort Lyon, closely followed by the red devils, but he managed to escape; the only one left to tell the horrid tale.
We camped with the mail en route several times that
winter, and fed our mules on corn, and ourselves ate of the canned goods that were scattered all over the trail.
It was certainly a curious spectacle, and could be seen for quite a distance, where the savages had cut open feather beds and scattered their contents around, which had caught in the weeds and grass of the prairie. They also emptied many sacks of flour to get the sacks for breechclouts. In nearly the same spot, and in the vicinity, have I many times helped bury the mutilated and scalped remains of men who had been ruthlessly murdered there by the Indians.
For many years, and several years before Dodge City was started, Barlow, Sanderson & Company ran a triweekly stage line through Fort Dodge, over the old Santa Fe trail. They used a large Concord coach, containing three inside seats, capable of holding nine persons comfortably. Then there was a driver's box where three more could be comfortably seated, besides an upper deck where more passengers and baggage could be stowed away; and also what was called a front and hind boot, where still more trunks and baggage could be carried, with a large leather apron strapped down over them, to hold things in place and keep out the weather. There were five mules attached to the coach, two mules on the wheel and three on the lead, and relays were provided from thirty to fifty miles apart, except from Fort Larned to Fort Lyon which were two hundred and forty miles apart. In addition to the stage, a light wagon was taken along to carry grub and bedding. It was seven hundred miles from Kansas City to Santa Fe, and the coach made it in seven days.
One time, before Fort Dodge was established, we had to abandon a big Concord coach, at the foot of Nine-mile Ridge, on account of the muddy condition of the trail, and went on to the stage station with a light spring wagon. On the way we met a band of friendly Indians who were going to Fort Larned, and we told them to haul the coach in. Of course they didn't follow the trail, but
struck across the country on to Pawnee Fork. After a long time had elapsed, Little Raven, the chief, rode into the fort and told us he had left the coach twenty miles up the creek, and blessed if he could get it any farther, as he had pulled the tails out of nearly everyone of his herd of ponies to get it that far. You see their methods of hauling the coach was by tying it to the tails of their ponies.
The summer of 1866, I was closing up my business at Fort Aubrey, preparatory to moving to Fort Dodge, where I had a contract to fill for wood, with the army quartermaster at that post. For a few years previous to this, I had been ranching at the abandoned government post of Fort Aubrey (which I had strongly fortified against the Indians), and erecting stage stations every thirty-five or forty miles, wherever a suitable location could be found, about that distance apart, for the overland stage line of Barlow, Sanderson & Company. This line started from Kansas City, Missouri, but branched off at Bent's old fort, the main line going to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the branch to Denver, Colorado. After crossing the Arkansas river, the former wended its way southwest, over the Raton mountains, while the branch, following up the Arkansas to Pueblo, and from thence, the Fountain Gulch to Colorado Springs, crossed over the divide to Denver. I was also furnishing these small stations with hay, cut in the river bottoms near each station, and I kept a small mule train constantly on the road, hauling grain from the Missouri river (we simply called it "the River" those days, everyone knowing, as a matter of course, that we meant the Missouri) to keep the stations supplied with feed for the stage stock. This is the way we built these stations. We first hunted a steep bank facing the south and the river-as the Arkansas ran east and west-and dug straight into this bank a suitable distance, wide enough to suit our convenience, and ten or twelve feet deep at the deepest place, with a gradual slope to the south
of seven or eight feet. Now this formed three sides of an excavation, you understand, and only left the south opening exposed. This was built up with sod or adobes. The top we covered with poles laid across, and on the poles we placed hay, covering the whole business with dirt, and sloping it down with the natural fall of the ground.
I had hard work to get men to keep these stations, as it was dangerous as well as lonely work. Indians were bad -not in regular open warfare, but occasionally murdering small parties, and we had to keep constantly on the lookout for them. One of the stations about twenty-five miles west of Aubrey, was called Pretty Encampment.
After much persuasion, I got a Dutchman by the name of Fred to keep this station. Fred was a big burly devil, strong as an ox, but a big coward. He continually sent me word, by drivers, that he was going to quit, and, in consequence I had to ride up twenty-five miles every few days, to brag on him and encourage him to stay. Well, the Indians had lately been committing little devilments, and one morning I met Fred, a half-mile from the station, a horrible looking sight, blood all over him, his dirty shirt bloody and torn, and a big, sharp butcher-knife in his hand. He was terribly excited and almost raving, going on at a terrible rate, in broken English and Dutch, flourishing his bloody knife and saying, "G-d-him, the son of a b-; I killed him-I cut his throat and his guts out" I was sure he had killed an Indian. I said, "Fred, you have raised. the devil. This will bring on an Indian war. Don't you know it is against orders from headquarters and the commander of the fort to kill an Indian or shoot at him first, under any circumstances?
(And so it was, a standing order). Let's go see about it." We went up, and the house looked like a tornado had struck it. The roof was torn partly off, the room covered with blood, the bed broken down, the old furniture smashed, and everything in disorder, while in the midst of all this lay a big dead bull buffalo. You see, there was
some hay sticking up from the covering of the roof, and some time before day, an old bull had crept down on this roof after the hay, and had broken through, one foot first.
It struck Fred, who was soundly sleeping, and with the noise and dirt falling upon him, suddenly awakened him. He grabbed the foot and leg, feeling the hair on it, it scared him to death, and being a powerful man, he held on to the leg and foot, like grim death to a nigger's heel, thinking the devil had got him. Then they fought and struggled in the dark, until, at last, the buffalo fell through, and still Fred did not know what it was. But his butcher-knife was under his pillow, and he grabbed it and went to cutting and slashing.
Whenever I thought of it afterwards, I had to laugh at his actions and looks when he met me. But I could get him to stay at Pretty Encampment no longer, and well he did not, for less than a week afterwards, two drivers of teams I had just sold, for the purpose of hauling supplies to these ranches, were killed within two miles of their ranch, and the mules and harness stolen. Fortunately, Fred had not yet been replaced with another stock tender or he would have been killed. Not among the least of the hardships and dangers incident to the early pioneer of the southwest was the "Kansas blizzard;" like all the storms in the arid belt, a great majority of them were local, but nevertheless severe and terrible in their destructive fury. A blizzard is defined as "a fierce storm of bitter, frosty wind, with fine, blistering snow." No definition, however save that of actual experience, can define its terrible reality. I have witnessed a change in temperature from seventy-four degrees above zero to twenty degrees below in twenty-four hours, and during this time the wind was blowing a gale, apparently from the four points of the compass. The air was so full of the fine, blistering snow and sand that one could not see ten feet in advance. Turn either way, and it is always in front. The air is full of subdued noises, like
the wail of lost spirits; so all-absorbing in its intensity is this wailing, moaning, continuous noise, that one's voice cannot be heard two yards away. The historical blizzards of 1863, 1866, 1873 and 1888, were general embracing a very large area of country. The early pioneers were, of necessity, nomadic, and were in no way prepared for these sudden changes; and hundreds have lost their lives by suffocating in blizzards when the temperature was not zero, it being a physical impossibility to breathe, the air being so full of fine, blistering snow and sand.
The spirit of the blizzard, as the background to pictures of the wild west, in early days, is well brought out in Eugene Ware's vivid little poem, "The Blizzard."
As an illustration of the terrible nature of a Kansas blizzard in early times, another poem may be quoted, which describes a real experIence, III the neighborhood of Dodge City, by some cowboys on the trail. This poem is written by Henry C. Fellow, the cowboy poet of Oklahoma, and is used m this work by special permission of the author.
Speaking of blizzards, makes me think of John Riney who was one of the very first citizens to settle in Dodge City. He helped build the Santa Fe road into Dodge, and was also the first tollgate keeper for the only bridge over the Arkansas for miles each way; which position he held for many years and was always found strictly honest in his receipts. Before this he was a freighter and froze both of his feet in our big blizzard of 1873, which crippled him for life. He now, (1913), resides peacefully on his big alfalfa farm, a short distance west of Dodge: and has raised a large family, all of whom are much respected citizens of Dodge City.
As a closing word in this brief discussion of the blizzard in pioneer days, I will narrate one of the many experiences I have had with them. In the summer and fall of 1872 I was freighting supplies from Fort Dodge to Camp Supply, LT. Up to the middle of December we had had no cold weather-plenty of grass all along the route. I loaded some twenty-mule wagons with corn, along about the twentieth of December, and the outfit crossed the river at Fort Dodge, and went into camp that night at Fivemile Hollow, about five miles from Fort Dodge. It had
been a warm, pleasant day, and the sun disappeared in a clear sky. Along in the night the wind whipped around in the north, and a blizzard set in. By morning the draw that they were camped in was full of snow, and the air so full that one could not see from one wagon to the other. The men with the outfit were all old experienced plainsmen, but the suddenness and severity of the storm rendered them almost helpless. They had brought along only wood enough for breakfast, and that was soon exhausted. They then tried burning corn, but with poor success. As a last resort they began burning the wagons. They used economy in their fire, but the second day saw no prospect of a letting up of the storm, in fact, it was getting worse hourly. It was then that P. G. Cook, now living at Trinidad, and another whose name escapes me, volunteered to make an effort to reach Fort Dodge, only five miles distant, for succor. They bundled up in a way that it seemed impossible for them to suffer, and, each mounting a mule, started for the fort. The first few hours, Cook has told me, they guided the mules, and then recognizing that they were lost, they gave the animals a loose rein and trusted to their instinct. This was very hard for them to do, as they were almost convinced that they were going wrong all the time, but they soO11; got so numbed with the cold that they lost their sense of being. They reached the fort in this condition after being out eight hours. They each had to be thawed out of their saddles. Cook, being a very strong, vigorous man, had suffered the least, and soon was in a condition to tell of the troubles of his comrades. Major E. B. Kink, the quartermaster at the fort, immediately detailed a relief party, and, with Cook at their head, started for the camp. The storm by this time had spent itself, and the relief party, with an ample supply of wood, reached them without great hardship, and the entire outfit, minus the three wagons which had been burned for fuel, were brought
back to the fort. Cook's companion was so badly frostbitten that amputation of one of his limbs was necessary to save his life.
In the winter of 1869 I made a contract with the settlers at Camp Supply to freight a trainload of goods from Dodge to that point. I hurriedly caught up my cattle, and picked up what drivers I could find. So little time had I to prepare, and so scarce were hands, that I was glad to get anyone that could handle a whip. Of course I had a motley crew-some good men and a few very worthless. Among the latter was one Jack Cobbin. Now Jack had been a scout during the war, down around Fort Gibson and Fort Smith, and was as great a drunkard as ever drank from a bottle. The first night out we camped at Mulberry, about fifteen miles from Dodge. A little snow had fallen, and the night herders lost about half the cattle. Of course the cattle drifted back to Dodge. Next morning I sent my extra hand and night herder back on the only two horses I had, and pulled one wing of the train ten miles on the divide half way between Mulberry and Rattlesnake creek, and went back and pulled the other wing up about nightfall. That night these cattle got away, but I found them next day and drove them over on a little spring creek three miles from the main road, where there was plenty of water, grass and shelter, and placed a guard with them.
I will here have to anticipate a bit. I was loaded with several wagons of liquor. Jack Cobbin had been drunk ever since we had left Dodge, and I had broken every pipe-stem, quill or straw I could find, as this was the only means he could use to get the liquor out of the barrels, after drilling a hole in the top, so I concluded that I would take him along that night to relieve the guard and keep him sober. About two hours before sundown he and I started out to the cattle. The Indians were at war and killing everybody; so I supplied each man with a dozen rounds of cartridges, in case of a sudden attack,
to be used until our ammunition could be got out of the mess wagon, with strict orders not to fire a gun, under any circumstances, unless at an Indian. Well, we had gone about two miles in the direction of the cattle when Jack began to lag behind, and pretty soon a jackrabbit jumped up and Cobbin blazed away at it. I went back to chide him, when I found he had something slushing in the coffee pot he was carrying with his blankets. I asked him what it was, and he said water. I said: "Throw it out; you are a bright one to carry water to a creek." He said: "Maybe we won't find any creek." I told him that if we did not find the creek we would not find the cattle. So he went on with the coffee pot slushing, slushing, and I cursing him, and ordering him to throw it out. At last we reached the creek and relieved the other boys. I went at once to round up the cattle.
When I got back it was late and very dark and the fire nearly out. Jack was sound asleep. I built up a big fire and sat down to enjoy it. After sitting some time I awakened Jack, but he refused to go out to the cattle. I felt very uneasy and went again myself. I found that the cattle had stopped grazing and wanted to ramble. I stayed with them several hours, until it was almost impossible to hold them alone, and then went back after Jack, but found him too drunk to be of any assistance. Then I found out what was in the coffee pot. It was whisky which he had drawn with his mouth out of the barrels and spit into the coffee pot. I kicked the pot over, which very much enraged him and he tried to kill me, but I was too quick for him and disarmed him. I went back to the cattle, and after awhile got them quiet and they lay down. I then went back and rebuilt the fire. When I had my back turned to get some more wood the devil threw a handful of big cartridges on the fire. Part of them exploded almost in my face, and the creek being situated in a little canyon with high rocky walls on each side, it sounded like heavy cannonading. I was frightened,
for I thought if there were Indians in five miles they would certainly hear this and pounce down upon us next day. I did not feel like killing Jack when he tried to shoot me for kicking his pot of whisky over, but I was sorely tempted then. I said to him: "My hearty, I won't kill you now, but I will surely get even with you." Next morning we drove in by daylight and strung out one wing of wagons for Rattlesnake creek. When they were about three miles away, Major Dimond came along, in command of several companies of the Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry and asked for whisky. I said: "You are too late; yonder go the wagons containing all the whisky.
I sent them off on purpose to keep my friend Jack Cobbin sober, "pointing to Jack, who replied; "Major Dimond, how are you? I was your old scout at Fort Gibson. If you will loan me your horse and canteen I will get you some whisky." Nearly a dozen of the officers unstrung their canteens and handed them to Jack, and the column was halted until his return, and he came back with every canteen loaded. Each officer took a hearty pull and asked me to join them, but I said I never drank when I was out in the cold. I thought, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." We drew up the other wing that afternoon in a nice little sheltered, heavily wooded grove, under the bank of the creek, where the cook had stretched wagon-sheets and prepared a nice dinner, in the midst of a terrible snowstorm. The lost cattle arrived at the same time we did; so I put Cobbin on one of the horses and sent him out on day herd, while we sat down to dinner. Along in the afternoon I sent a man to relieve him. One of the men saw him coming and dropped a couple of cartridges in the fire just where he thought Jack would hover over to warm, and sure enough he hardly spread his hands to the cheering fire when one cartridge went off and as he turned, the other gave him a parting salute. That night
throwing another handful of cartridges into the fire, and blew our supper all to flingers. We held a council of war, and a majority decided to kill him. The extra hand and cook swore they would. The extra said he would take it upon himself to do the shooting, but I finally persuaded them out of the notion.
That night it cleared off, and we pulled over to Bluff creek, at the foot of Mount Jesus, only a few miles away.
I again put Cobbin on night herd. The clouds had rolled away and the new moon was shining brightly. The air was balmy and springlike. My extra hand and I were sitting up, smoking and enjoying the fine night, with a nice fire on the side of the bank, and the creek below us, when we heard a disturbance at one of the whisky wagons. The extra hand went to see about it, and brought in Cobbin, pretty full, as usual. I upbraided him for not being with the cattle, but to no use, and finally he lay down in front of the fire on the bank above and went to sleep. The extra said: "Now is the time." Jack wore a long, blue, homespun coat, which reached nearly to his heels, with pockets as far down as the coat, in which he kept his cartridges. We gently pulled the tails out from under him and built a fire of dry cottonwood chips on top of his cartridges, and placed a big wet rag above this, so that the fire would be cut off from the balance of his clothing. In course of time the chips were live coals, and then the cartridges began to explode and awaken him. He rolled from the top of the bank right through that fire and plumb into the creek. Scrambling out, he said, "I reckon I laid most too close to the fire." The extra hand told him, "He reckoned he did," and what was more, if he ever caught him at those barrels again he would kill him;" and the extra being a very determined man, Jack knew he would. We had no more trouble with him on the trip.
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