My First Solo
We drove away alone that morn, a little sad and a little happy -- Williams, Walter and myself. We were expected to hold up at 5Fort Sill and wait, but we just could not wait long enough. I spent about two whole days selling buggy and one pony, then hit the road with one team and one saddle pony. Molly carried her saddle on her back every day, and I rode with Walter a part of each day. Sometimes I went far ahead and found a better camp.
After a few miles on horseback, Walter would go to sleep on his bed in the wagon, and was no bother at all. After looking back 50 years, I can't remember that he was any trouble, never sick, always ate hearty of anything we had ourselves.
We soon entered another reservation and saw our first Indians, wrapped only in blankets. They were gaudy and elaborate, products of handwork.
Here wood was scarce -- no huts, all had three poles set wide at the bottom and crossed and tied at the top, with canvas wrapped around, touching the ground. Where we found wood or brush and water, there we found a few "Teepees" smoking from the hole left in the top, which was directly over the fire.
In these "Teepee" towns, they paid us no attention. We never saw a group of two or three staring at us, and passed many settlements without seeing anyone at all. I can't recall seeing an Indian walking until we came to Government Supply Store where they got their allowances. Everyone rode something -- mostly ponies, but they liked wheels, too.
I saw one sailing across a prairie on an eight foot hay rake minus the tines. Coming into a supply station, we saw some wagons with two horses pulling them, but most of the wagons given to them were made into two vehicles with two wheels only. A white man in Woodward told me he saw one Indian riding on a riding plow from which the plows had been removed.
We saw no cattle of any sort, and when I asked why, was told that they ate all the government gave them, because they didn't like milk.
At the government supply station, there was lots of merchandise and a big building, owned by white men authorized to issue each month, a specified amount of every item allowed each one. All the Indians had to do was sign. The government paid.
Entering this wigwam ("Teepee" in their language) town, there was a lot of Indians on ponies, and dressed in many colored blankets with strings of buckskin moccasins hanging on saddle horns, all going one way -- toward the post supply house.
None of them made any effort to sell their wares, so I pulled up by one on the roadside and asked, "how much?". He or she, I could not tell which, told me prices by pointing to each article. Some were 60 cents, 75 cents and up to $1.25. All were beautiful, and I selected a pair of moccasins that looked my size and went on toward the post.
A short way further, two dogs came out of a teepee and just about tore my dog to pieces. After rescuing my dog, and placing him in the wagon, we stopped at the post to get our supplies. When leaving town, I put the dog out, and soon, on a turn in the road, I saw some more wigwams quite a ways off the road. Before I could think almost, I saw the same two dogs half way to us and my dog was meeting them full of fight, and it was a bundle of dogs and yelps. I broke it only by firing my pistol in the general direction of the battle, and the two dogs ran back to the wigwam.
Then I looked back to see if anyone was in sight, and sure enough, about 500 feet behind me was a wagon and a team with one big black Indian sitting flat down on the bottom of his wagon bed, all draped in his or her blanket with two big hands reaching out toward me with fingers opening and closing. We drove a little faster, and on the next turn in the road, lost sight of him or her, but our fear of a night attack was very grave. We decided to use every precaution for defense.
About ten miles further, we found an ideal place for battle, if it was to come. A creek with a steep bank 4 to 6 feet high, just off the road, was just the lay we were looking for. It gave us a good view of the road both ways, and had brush between us and the creek, which was only a few paces beyond. We planned our defense carefully. We would bed under the wagon and roll off the bank to give battle from this protection.
At dark, one lone Indian rode up, dismounted and came towards us. We had our guns leaning against the chuck box table on either side. Williams' hand was almost on one and mine on the other. He wanted to "See gun." I handed him mine, (it was a 32 Winchester) with my left hand and at the same time took hold of my 32 pistol in my pocket with my right hand.
He tried his finger in the bore of the gun, then wanted to "See other gun.". I took my gun from his hand and gave it to Williams. He handed the 45-90 to him, and again he tried the bore of the gun with his finger. Wh kill man mile", was his reply. He handed the gun back, and we set both on the other side of the table and asked him to eat, which he did and plenty.
Trying to be friendly with one you fear and cannot converse with is an awkward situation, but we did our best by pushing all the grub we had toward him, until he quit eating. Then he put his hand on his neck and said, "Full much good", and rode away.
We were not by any means assured that we were safe. He might be a scout for information, or have no connection with our enemy. We were tense, but we believed the big gun was a help, if he was a spy sent to look us over. Nothing happened that night but a wind and rain storm, and our bed under the wagon got wet. We felt really happy, for we could be a long way from Woodward the next camp.
A few days more travel, and we camped on a tornado swept home. All the buildings were underground, except a two foot wall above, with skylights on top, and flat. I went into one with four rooms all plastered and neat enough. Didnīt look like it had ever been wet. The skylights were intact in this one, but all the other buildings were busted like they had been bombed.
Had not seen a person for several days, but next morning our horses were gone, and we spent most of the day tracking them. In the afternoon I found a lead of tracks out of the circle of tracks that were around our camp, and followed for three miles down a depression. There I came in sight of a house and fence, and there they were.
With this lost time, we began to speculate how far behind our company could be. We figured we had lost three days -- the time we thought they would camp at Roadaīs birthplace.
From here we soon struck more sand that was very hard going, and also met a cowboy, who told us if we would leave the road when we came to a low ridge on the right of the road about two miles on ahead and follow on top, we would have solid road and save twenty miles to where we would hit our road again. He always went that way, so he said. Williams and I hashed it over, and when we came to the place, we decided to take the trackless ridge.
We forgot to ask about water, and were practically out. We drove after dark by the stars that night until we found a swampy place that looked like there would be water someplace near. So we camped, and I took my lantern to look for water.
That was the wettest place I ever saw to have no water. Only a few cow or horse tracks in a bog had any water, so I went back to the wagon, got a small tin cup, and dipped all of them empty. Back to the fire and more light, we found we had more wiggletails than water. So it had to be a dry and most miserable camp. We could not eat nor rest.
At day break, we hit the ridge, which now we thought must be at least 50 miles long instead of 20. Just about noon, we began to look down from our high ridge, and we could make out what looked like a town. Soon it was plain to see, but it was an hour or more before a road was in view. When the road loomed up, there was a good wire fence between us and the road, yet we hadnīt crossed any fence at any time. Well, we started to follow the fence, and just on the edge of town, there was a big gate. We let ourselves out right into the road, very much afraid someone would ask us what we were doing in his pasture.
On entering town, we found, as usually we had in all towns, a windmill in the middle of the main street with a large watering trough for horses. This was liberal, Kansas, we were told, and we got our supplies, filled our water vessels, and camped on an elevation where we could see the town, and listen to the prairie dogs-- the first we had seen.
It was a city of mounds, right up to the edge of the town in the west, but not a mound or dog on the east. I have wondered about that to this day. I shot one to have a close look at it, and to me it was only a big fox squirrel with a dogīs bark, but not a dogīs head. They are as good eating as a squirrel, if not too old and tough. I saw little owls sitting in the dogīs holes. Also shot a weasel in one, and was told that rattlesnakes sometimes occupy the dogīs homes.
In relating this travel, I have not mentioned many things that happened on it, because I could not remember just where they did take place, yet they are not forgotten after fifty years.
Somewhere in Kansas, I had no wood. We camped close to a house and I went to try to buy some wood. The lady told me they had no wood, but that I could get some cow chips in the bin back of the house. That was where we started to gather chips on the roadside.
Another place in Kansas, a lady brought us out a pan of hot biscuits -- just in time -- we were about to stir up our batter.
Again in Kansas, a drove of yearlings was being herded along the road, and I asked the drover what they were worth now. "Forty-five dollars.", he replied. "A friendly cuss", I thought. When we started, a yearling was not over five dollars. I had sold one cow, taken on a debt for ten dollars, and sold five cows for Uncle Nate for fifty-five dollars, eleven dollars each. And so we put our friend down as a liar. But in a few days, we caught up with another family driving two cows and a two-year-old heifer along with them to Colorado, and I asked the man what cows were worth now. He said he had been offered fifty-five dollars, but was not going to give them away.
There were no papers to be had on the way, so we just forgot that there ever had been newspapers. We didn't know the Spanish American war was on until we were in Idaho. That war accounted for price raises on livestock and everything else we had to buy.
We traveled a few more days in Kansas after leaving Liberal, and were overtaken by the others a short drive before entering Colorado.
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