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EVOLUTION OF A STATE


CHAPTER XII



A return surprise; Stampeding a Caballado; anecdotes of field and chase; Cure for fistula; Old frontiersmen; Commissioner to Indians.

The Indians were worsted for the time being, but they played for even and won hands down. Not long after our unceremonious call upon them Lieutenant Wren, with half a dozen men to assist him, took the horses out to graze. The government didn't furnish seed for the horses, nor to any extent for the men either. It was quite early in the morning, and, there having been no recent irruptions of the Indians in that vicinity, are had grown careless. So little apprehensive were we of a raid, that the guards were not even mounted.

The horses were feeding towards the creek, and when near the timber, half a dozen Indians suddenly dashed out blowing whistles and yelling. The horses snorted and started to run, when an Indian mounted on a quick horse rushed in ahead of them, leading off up the creek, the other Indians following, still yelling and whistling.

It was all so quickly and neatly done that the guard only fired at them without effect. A number of the horses, however, broke away and started back towards the fort, and the Indians, no doubt realizing that "a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush," didn't stop to recover them. My horse, a fine American, of which I was very proud, buying corn for him, struck straight out for the fort. I threw the gate opens, and he ran in.

Felix McClusky, a wild Irishman, had just saddled his horse to go out and herd the caballado while the men on duty came in for breakfast. I hastily saddled my horse and we two started after the horses that had escaped from the Indians and were tearing madly off down towards Hornsby's station.

Old Isaac Casner, who had left the service and was then living at Hornsby's, had been up to the fort and was jogging along leisurely on his return. He had crossed the creek and gained the open prairie when he heard the clattering of hoofs coming in his rear. He turned in his saddle and took one look behind. The frightened animals pursued by McClusky and myself were bearing right down on him. We had lost our hats in the wild race, and our hair flying in the wind gave us much the appearance of Indians. Uncle Isaac, who, as previously stated, weighed about 200 pounds, laid whip to his horse, which was a good animal, and led off across the prairie to Hornsby's station, about a mile distant, the horses following in his wake and we trying to get in ahead of them. McClusky's sense of fun took in the situation. "Be Jasus," said he, "look at him run!" and the reckless creature could not refrain from giving a war whoop to help the old man along.

Hearing the racket the men at Hornsby's fort ran out, and seeing the chase, threw the gate open. Breathless from fright and exhaustion, Casner ran in, gasping, "Injuns."

Before the inmates of the fort had time to do anything we dashed past, running down into the bend, where I succeeded in getting ahead of the fleeing horses and stopping them. As soon as I got breath enough I took McClusky to task for yelling at poor Casner. With ready Irish wit he promptly explained: "Be Jasus, I was thryin' to stop him." We drove the horses back to the fort, pretty well tired out ourselves and the horses so badly winded that we were obliged to let them rest till the next morning before we could pursue the Indians.

The crafty marauders had laid their plans well, having marked out the trail they proposed taking by bits of white rags, which they didn't stop to remove. We followed them three days and never found where they had stopped long enough to make a fire.

We came across the remains of a horse from which they had cut portions of the flesh, which they must have eaten raw as they ran.

On the third day we got out on the head of the San Gabriel, where there were a great many mustangs, and their tracks having obliterated the Indians' trail, we were forced to abandon the pursuit, returning home empty-handed.

The rascals were doubtless gratified to find some of the very same animals among, their haul that we took from than a short time before.

President Houston suspended Lieutenant Wren, but we all liked him and knew that no power on earth could have held those terror stricken animals after the Indians made their dash. So we unanimously petitioned the president to reinstate him, a petition which was granted. After that, however, we didn't go out on foot to herd the horses, but just the same the Indians again stampeded the caballado and got away with a portion of it.

There was no braver or better man in the service than Lieutenant Nicholas Wren. I know not whence he came nor whither he went, but had I been sent on a perilous mission I know of no man I would have chosen before him to bear me company. When his term expired he left, and I never knew where he went.

The Indians, apparently satisfied with their reprisal, gave us a respite and we had an easy time of it at the fort, hunting being now our principal occupation. I was out alone in the river bottom one day riding along a narrow trail through the thick underbrush, when I heard my dog, which had run ahead of me, baying something out in the brush. As it was impossible to ride through the tangle I dismounted, and, tying my pony, started to see what kind of game the dog had flushed. I had proceeded but a few steps when I hear a snort and then a crash of brush coming in my direction, so near that there was no time to untie my horse and mount; the brush was so thick there was no chance to get out of the trail, but there was fortunately a fallen tree across the path, which had lodged so as to rise some four feet above the ground. Catching a limb, I hastily swung myself upon the tree just as an old buffalo bull rushed into view, closely pursued by the dog. On seeing me the dog redoubled his attack, bringing the bull to bay right under my perch, the bull snorting and fending him off, sometimes striking the tree in his angry lunges, almost jarring me off. The tree was a mere sapling and afforded a very insecure footing, but I clung to another sapling with one hand and to my rifle with the other. Watching my opportunity, I put the muzzle of my gun right over his loin and fired, breaking him down, after which I finished him at my leisure. There are a good many things I would rather face than an angry buffalo bull.

Reuben Hornsby and Jacob Harrell were out on the prairie together, and seeing a band of buffalo, concluded to replenish their stock of meat. They shot a buffalo, which, not being immediately disabled, made toward them. There was a small mesquite tree near, the only tree around there. Hornsby was quite agile in spite of his years and 180 pounds weight. He sprang for the tree, which bent under his weight.

"Climb, Harrell, climb!" he shouted. Jake was busy loading his gun. Just before the wounded animal reached them it fell, and Jake gave it another shot before it could rise.

"How did you expect me to climb, Hornsby, when the only tree near was bending with you?" "O, by guinie, that was your own lookout," Hornsby replied. The saying became proverbial.

Jake Harrell used to tell a story about some negroes who were talking about buffalo.

"What you do, Pomp, if buffalo git arter you?" asked one.

"I'd climb," said Pomp.

"Ah, boy," said an old blind sage, "you 'pend on dat, you pend on broken stick; buffalo climb, too."

Another time a squad of us were out scouting on the head of Gilleland's creek. The country was mostly open, but here and there were motts of chaparral and prickly pears, forming a veritable stronghold for any animal that chose to avail himself of it. In passing one of these motts we saw a large panther run into it by a narrow pathway. We immediately circled his lair, and whenever a fellow caught sight of the game he blazed away, regardless of those on the further side.

One or more shots taking effect, the panther assumed the offensive. We had a green fellow along, Butler by name. Not being able to handle a rifle, we armed him with a musket. Anxious to distinguish himself he dismounted and started into the jungle on foot to "beard the lion in his den."

Just then the enraged beast came into view from my position, making straight for Butler, its hair turned the wrong way, its tail erect, and eyes like balls of fire.

"Look out, Butler, he's coming!" I shouted. Just then Butler caught sight of the panther.

"The Jesus!" he cried, "look at his eyes!" And dropping his musket he crashed through the brush and prickly pears, regaining the open just as the infuriated animal made a spring for him. Fortunately the panther was so crippled that his spring was rendered ineffectual, and before he could collect himself for another I shot him dead. It took Butler some time to get rid of the cactus needles, and he never got rid of the joke while he remained in the service.

When Coleman went up to build the fort he recruited a company from the men who were mustered out at Columbia. Generally speaking they were as little fitted for the position as men jobbing around cities usually are. Colonel Coleman himself was a lawyer, commanded a company at the battle of Concepcion, and was a staff officer to General Houston in the brief but glorious campaign of '36.

Many of his company were not mounted -- in fact, didn't know how to ride, and so unskilled in the use of fire arms that the only possible way in which they could have killed an Indian would have been a la Fitzsimmons; their fists were big enough and there was "beef" enough behind them.


Canyon of San Felippe
APACHE PASS

On one occasion a couple of men came in from the fort on Little river to get ammunition. Captain Andrews, fearful of an attack being made on them, sent an escort back with them, most of the men detailed being these raw recruits, who were on foot. When we reached the San Gabriel without having seen any signs of Indians, we dispensed with the "infantry," myself and one other man going out to Little river and returning next day, leaving the boys to take care of themselves during our absence.

Game, which was the principal source of food supply, was so abundant that we never thought of taking anything along but salt when we went out on duty. So these bold soldier boys camped without grub, and when we returned next day were half famished, with droves of buffalo and deer all around them. Their stock of ammunition was nearly exhausted and they hadn't even drawn blood. Remembering my own failure in diet line when I first came to the country, and therefore heartily sympathizing with them, I at once started out to relieve their distress, bidding them all remain in camp, but their gnawing hunger would not admit of their quietly biding the time and they must perforce accompany me. Several times I was ill the act of shooting when "bang" went a musket and away went the buffalo. Becoming exasperated, I at length turned on the crowd and swore roundly that if they didn't immediately return to camp I would, and they might starve.

This gentle admonition had the desired effect and, relieved of their presence, I succeeded in killing a nice fat cow, packing my horse with the meat and walking back to camp.

It was about sundown when I got in, and the ravenous crew couldn't wait for the meat to cook; they snatched it off the fire before it got warm through, bolting it like hungry dogs; I left them eating when I went to sleep, and there was scarcely enough left for our breakfast next morning. I fully expected they would be sick from the effects of the gorging, but perhaps the long tramp back to the fort saved them. A conspicuous member of the company was Cy Gleason. His father being a well-to-do merchant in New Stork, Cy had been accustomed to living on the fat of the land, and being a good eater, was consequently a good forager, ranging the country over in search of chickens, eggs, etc. I was passing his mess one day when he called to "come in and eat something."

"Why, Cy, I'm not hungry," I replied.

"Well, goll darn it all, eat for fear you do get hungry."

When he first went into the ranging service he had a fine horse, but he had probably never had a horse before - certainly never had the care of one, for he seemed totally oblivious to the fact that there was a limit to the endurance of a horse. He chased every coyote and jack rabbit he came upon, never giving his horse a grain of corn and not even changing his stake pin once a week. The horse soon began to show the effect of such treatment. He came to me one day and in his peculiar drawl said:

"See here, Cap, I wish you'd come and look at my horse; I gol, there's somethin' the matter with him; he grows poorer."

I laughed outright. I told him it didn't need a doctor to diagnose the case, and gave him a prescription that was warranted to cure. Not satisfied that I had probed the trouble, he offered to trade horses with me, and having great faith in my prescription, I traded. Under my regime the horse soon began to recuperate and I was quite proud of him. By and by, however, he developed unmistakable signs of fistula, a disease which was beyond my skill. Some one told me that old Natty Moore cured fistula, so I got leave of absence and rode out to his place.

The old man said oh, yes, he had cured many cases. I unsaddled the horse and the old man took up an old, rusty hatchet, and, taking the bridle, started to lead him away, bidding me remain. After a time he returned without the hatchet.

"Now," said he, "don't do anything to it; just let it alone and it will go away."

I was curious to know what he had done to it.

"Well," said he, after a moment's consideration, "I'll tell you if you will keep it to yourself. Just take a horse that has fistula to where two roads cross, stand his fore feet right in the center of the cross, and with some old, rusty hatchet or knife mark three times lengthwise and three times crosswise of the afflicted part and throw the instrument behind you without looking round, and the fistula will go away."

I was completely nonplussed, not to say mad, to think I had gone all the way out there on that fool's errand, but the old gentleman was so kind and friendly and evidently believed so implicitly in his remedy that I concealed my chagrin and offered to pay him.

"Oh, no," said he, "that would break the charm." Well, I concluded I would wait a few days and see how the charm worked, but I saw that the fistula was growing, so I applied to Reuben Hornsby and he gave me a practical prescription, which proved so effective that I will repeat the formula for the benefit of any one who may be in need of it.

Take the root of the poke weed and boil it till it becomes soft, then mash it into a pulp and apply it hot, also bathing the afflicted part with the water.

The next time I saw Uncle Natty he inquired how my horse was getting on. "Finely," I told him. "O, I never knew it to fail," said he, gratified at the success of his conjuring. I never did tell him how I cured that horse, and he was wont to cite that as an instance of his skill. Some time after one of his sons came to me and asked how I cured my horse, as he had one that he wished to treat.

"Why," said I, "didn't your father cure it?"

"O, h----l, no; he cant cure it; now, I want to know how to cure mine."

I then told him, stipulating that he shouldn't tell his father, and he kept his word.

Natty Moore and his sons formed a strong link in the cordon of frontiersmen, which, after all, was the most effective barrier to the incursion of the hostiles. Revered by all who knew them, the old man and his worthy helpmate lived to see their posterity in the fourth generation settled comfortably in the prairie which bears his name.

Meanwhile the Comanches seemed to have withdrawn to their stronghold and what councils were there being held can only be conjectured from what subsequently transpired.

Early in the summer of 1837 a band of Comanches, consisting of two chiefs - Quinaseico (eagle) and Puestia - and six warriors, came to the fort waving a white flag. They had not yet learned to speak English, but all Texas Indians understood more or less Spanish. I, being the most expert in to use of the latter language, went out, though not alone by several, to ascertain their business.

They stated that their tribe was desirous of entering into a treaty with the whites, and to that end requested that a commissioner be sent out to their camp to talk the matter over with their head men. I thereupon conducted them into the fort, where they laid their request before Captain Andrews.

The white people, weary of the perpetual warfare which compelled them to live in forts and make a subsistence as best they might, hailed the proposition for a treaty with delight, and would have been willing to purchase even a cessation of hostilities at almost any price; but, the Indians were so treacherous that the office of commissioner was not one to be coveted.

For reasons above stated, the chiefs selected me to undertake the business, pledging themselves that no harm should befall me. Knowing that there is a degree of honor even among Indians touching those who voluntari1y become their guests, I yielded to the stress of circumstances and agreed to accompany them back to their camp, only about thirty miles distant, on Brushy creek.

One man was really safer than several, as the Indians would naturally have been suspicious of conversation they could not understand, and if treachery were intended numbers would not avail against it.

I bade adieu to my comrades, many of whom thought it would be the last time they would see me, and, putting my life into hands red with the blood of my race, proceeded to the camp where old Muguara, the head chief, received me with every mark of friendship, conducting me to his lodge, where I was made the recipient of every attention known to their code of hospitality. The camp was not nearly so large as I had expected, there being only about fifty lodges and not over one hundred warriors. There must have been more of the tribe somewhere, as they could, on occasion, muster a much larger force. They were exceedingly chary of information regarding their strength, however. There were six prisoners in camp: one white woman and two white boys, and one Mexican woman and two Mexican boys. The Mexican woman was the only one of the lot that evinced any desire to return to her people. She was not permitted to talk to me in private, and policy prevented her giving vent to her feelings in the presence of her captors. After I had been some time among them, they relaxed their espionage somewhat, and she managed to tell me that she was very homesick, having been captured after she was grown. The poor woman cried bitterly over her situation, she having been appropriated by one of the bucks. The white woman said she was very small when taken, and remembered nothing of the circumstances. She had an Indian husband and several children.

None of the boys remembered anything of their homes. One of the white boys, a youth of eighteen or thereabouts, I recognized as a prisoner we had twice recaptured, once at Gonzales and again at Victoria. Each time he stayed a few days, apparently quite satisfied with his surroundings, but, when he got a good chance, decamped, taking several of the best horses along.

The other white child was a bright little fellow, five or six years old. Loath to leave him to grow up a savage, I tried to buy him, offering a fine horse in exchange, but the squaw who had adopted him gathered him close to her bosom with every show of affection. "No," said she, "he is mine; my own child." That was plainly a falsehood, but the love she manifested toward the hapless boy was some palliation therefor.

The Indians would give no information about any of their captives except one little Waco, which Quinaseico had adopted, and I should not have known he was a Waco but that the old chief himself told me. Observing that the other members of the family were all grown up, I asked the old man if that little boy was his child.

"Yes," said he, taking the child in his arms, "mine now."

He then told me that during the war between the Wacos and Comanches, the latter surprised an encampment of the enemy and killed all the occupants except that one little child. Said he:

"After the fight was over I went into a lodge and found this boy, about two years old, sitting beside its dead mother crying; and my heart was sorry for him, and I took him up in my arms and brought him home to my lodge and my wife took him to her bosom, and fed him, and he is mine now." And the little orphan Waco, as well as the little white boy, was petted by the whole tribe.

"Smithwick" being too much of a tongue twister for the average Comanche, old Muguara called the chiefs together in council, when it was decided to bestow upon me the name of an illustrious chief, who had previously departed for the happy hunting ground.

Old Muguara then communicated the decision to me and in a voice that might have been heard a mile proclaimed to all the camp that the white brother's name was henceforth "Juaqua." The name was taken up and repeated by every separate member of the tribe, the men pronouncing it with loud jocularity, the women shyly lisping it half under breath, and the children, with an expression that reminded me of nothing in the world so much as the little bark or squeak of the prairie dog as he disappears into his burrow at the approach of an enemy.

"Juaqua!" The name clung to me years after. I use the Spanish alphabet in spelling these Indian names, it seeming better adapted to the soft sound of the Comanche tongue. I tried to get some knowledge of the latter language, succeeding fairly well with the nouns and adjectives, but when it came to the conjugation of the Comanche verb I gave it up.

The Indians were very skeptical about the utility of writing, but when they told me the names of different objects and saw me write them down and afterwards refer to them, giving the names correctly, they concluded it was "buena."



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