Ranching in Early Days
THE ranches in those days were few and far between. Beyond the Grove were Peacock's ranch, at Cow Creek, Alison's ranch, at Walnut Creek, and also that of William Greiffenstein, with whom I afterward had the pleasure to serve in the house of representatives. The following is a true story of the fate of Peacock, as related to me a few years after his death. Peacock kept a whisky ranch on Cow Creek. He and Satank, the great war chief of the Kiowas, were great friends and chums, as Peacock knew the sign language well. He had quite a large ranch and traded with the Indians, and, of course, supplied them with whisky. In consequence, the soldiers were always after him. Satank was his confidential friend and lookout. He had to cache his whisky and hide it in every conceivable manner, so that the troops would not find it. In fact, he dreaded the incursions of the soldiers much more than he did the Indians. One day Satank said to him: "Peacock, write me a nice letter that I can show to the wagon bosses and get all the chuck I want. Tell them I am the great war chief of the Kiowas, and ask them to give me the very best in the shop." Peacock said, "All right, Satank," and sat down and penned this epistle: "This is Satank, the biggest liar, beggar, and thief on the plains. What he can't beg of you he will steal. Kick him out of your camp, as he is a lazy, good-for-nothing Indian." Satank presented his letter several times to passing trains, and, of course, got a very cool reception, or rather a warm one. One wagon boss blacksnaked him, after which indignity he sought a friend, and said to him: "Look here! Peacock promised to write me a good letter, but I don't understand it. Every time I present it the
wagon boss gives me the devil. Read it, and tell me just what it says." His friend did so, interpreting it literally. "All right," said Satank, and the next morning a daylight he took some of his braves and rode to Peacock's ranch. He called to Peacock, "Get up; the soldiers are coming." The summons was quickly obeyed. Seizing his field-glass, Peacock ran to the top of his lookout, and the instant he appeared, Satank shot him full of holes, exclaiming as he did so, "Good-by, Mr. Peacock; I guess you won't write any more letters."
Then they went into the building and killed every man present, except one, a sick individual, who was lying in one of the rooms, gored through the leg by a buffalo. All that saved him was that the Indians were very superstitious about entering apartments where sick men lay, for fear they might have the smallpox, which disease they dreaded more than any other. I came from the mountains in the spring of 1864 to Spring Bottom, on the Arkansas River. The Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Kiowas were committing many depredations along the Arkansas that summer. Shortly after our arrival, my partner, Joe Graham, went to Fort Lyon after supplies to stand a siege, as we expected daily to be attacked, the hired man and myself remaining at the ranch to complete our fortifications. On the night of Graham's return I started for Point of Rocks, a famous place on the Arkansas, twenty miles below our ranch, to take a mule which he had borrowed to help him home with his load. The next morning at daylight our ranch was attacked by about three hundred Indians, but the boys were supplied with arms and ammunition, and prepared to stand a siege. After they had killed one Indian and wounded a number of their ponies, the savages became more careful; they tried by every means in their power to draw the boys. outside; they even rode up with a white flag and wanted to talk. Then they commenced to tell in
The people in the coach yonder say there are several hundred Indians above the bend; and while they are not actually on the warpath, they stopped the coach and robbed it, whipped the mules with their quirts until they got them on a dead run, then fired at them, and shot several arrows into the coach; some are still sticking into the back of it." Ward asked me what I was going to do. I said that a man might as well be dead as to lose his property, and I proposed to stay with it; "Maybe! we won't see an Indian." He replied: "I am going to stay with you." "God bless you for it," I said, "but it is asking too much of you." "Well, I am going to stay with you, anyhow." Then I motioned to the stage-driver to go on, and he did so right quickly. The cattle had all laid down in the yokes while we halted, but we soon hustled them up and started, feeling pretty blue. We first held a little consultation, and then moved all the ammunition to the first wagon, on which Ward was to sit. I gave him the rifle; I had on a six-shooter and a belt full of cartridges, and we agreed to let the Indians take the grub and the blankets if they came, but that we would stay by our guns and ammunition. Ward said he would never get off the box containing the ammunition. We had proceeded about two miles, were awfully tired and hungry, had just driven out of the road to make a temporary camp, congratulating ourselves that we had missed the Indians, when here they came, two on their ponies at first. I said to Ward that we would lick these two; they dare not tackle us, but we had better keep right on and not go into camp. Ward raised his gun and motioned for them to keep off. They circled and went to the rear, when just over a little rise the whole business of them poured. I pounded away and yelled at the cattle to keep them moving, but there were so many Indians they blocked the road, and we came to a standstill. They swarmed around us, and on all the wagons, but the front one; this Ward kept them off of. They took
all of our grub and rope, but nothing else. After stringing their bows and making lots of threats and bluffs a.t us, they dropped a little behind and we drove off and left them. We hustled the cattle along five or six miles, when we came to a good place to water. Ward ran up on a bluff to see what had become of the savages, while I drove the cattle chained together to the river. Ward commenced to shout just as I reached the bank. The oxen got no water that day. I turned them around in a hurry, hitched on, and started. Ward said that the Indians were not more than three miles off, coming our way. We never made another halt until we were in sight of the lights on Commissary Hill, at old Fort Lyon, which we reached about one o'clock that night. I reported to the commanding officer the next morning, and we learned afterwards that these Indians had been on Sand Creek to bury the bones of their dead who were killed in the Chivington fight several years before. Only a week after our escape there was a general outbreak and war.
In 1866 I went to Fort Dodge. Now, one might be inclined to think that the kind of life I had been leading--the hard experience--that a person would be anxious to abandon it at the first favorable opportunity; but this is not so. It gives one a zest for adventure, for it is a sort of adventure that you become accustomed to; you get to like it; in fact, there is a fascination about it no one can resist. Even to a brave man-God knows I make no pretension to that honor-there is a charm to the life he cannot forego, yet I felt an irresistible power and could not permit myself to give it up. Mr. A. J. Anthony and I bought out the Cimarron ranch, twenty-five miles west of Fort Dodge. The company of which we purchased were heartily tired of the place, and eager to sell, for two of their number had been brutally murdered by the Indians while attempting to put up hay. Anthony was an old "Overland stage messenger," had seen lots of ups and downs with the Indians
on the plains, and rather enjoyed them. So we got together some of the old-timers and went to making hay. Right there our troubles commenced. We both had seen a great deal of the Indians and their methods before; but we didn't realize what they could and would do when they took the notion. If we didn't see some of the savages every day it was a wonder; and once that summer they actually let us alone for four weeks. I remarked to my partner: "There is something wrong in this; they must be sick." So they were. When they came in that winter and made a treaty, they told us the cholera had broken out among them, and the reason for their remaining away for so long a time was on account of the scourge. The cholera was perfectly awful that summer on the plains; it killed soldiers, government employees, Santa Fe traders and emigrants. Many new graves dotted the roadsides and camping places, making fresh landmarks. I remember two soldiers coming up with the mail escort one night, who were severely reprimanded by their sergeant for getting drunk, at which they took umbrage, stole two horses and deserted the next day. One of them returned on foot about noon, stating that the Indians had attacked them early in the morning, got their animals from the picket line, and shot his partner through the right breast; that he had left him on an island twelve miles up the river. Our cook had been complaining a little that morning, and when I went to his room to see him he said that he had dinner all ready, and would like to go along with us after the wounded soldier. I told him no; to stay at home, go to bed, keep quiet, and above all else to drink very little cold well-water. The sergeant took six men and the escort wagon with him, and I followed on horseback. When we arrived opposite the island we hailed the soldier, and he came out of the brush. He walked up and down the river bank, and made signs to us that his right arm was useless and he seemed to be in great pain.
The sergeant called for volunteers, but not a man responded. The Arkansas was swimming full and the current was very swift in one place for about three hundred yards. It appeared that none of his comrades liked the fellow very well, one of them saying, when the sergeant asked for some one to go over, "If he don't swim, or at least make an effort, he can stay, and I hope the Indians will get him." I said, "Boys, this won't do; I will get him," and after him I went. When I reached the island I sat down and reasoned with him; told him exactly what I required him to do. He seemed very grateful, and knew that I was risking my own life on him. He was a powerfully built fellow, and his wound had almost paralyzed his right side. He said: "Mr. Wright, I appreciate what you have done for me, and what you are about to undertake; now, before God, I will let go my hold if I see you cannot make it." He stayed nobly by his promise. When we had gone under water several times, and the current was bearing us down, and it appeared that every minute would be our last, he said, in the despair of death: "I am going; let me go." I replied, "For God's sake, no; hold on." I then felt inspired. I said to myself, this man has a grand nature; I am going to save him or sink with him. Indeed, all these thoughts flashed through my mind, and, as God is my judge, I would have done it, as at that moment I had no fear of death whatever. When I reached the bank I was completely exhausted and had to be helped out of the water. I was awfully sick; it seemed that my strength had left me absolutely. It was fully an hour before I was strong enough to ride.
Strange to say, I lay side by side with this poor man in the hospital at Fort Dodge, after his rescue. He was excessively kind and attentive, and when I began to convalesce--for the same night I was stricken down with cholera--we exchanged drinks; he took my brandy, I his ale. He would insist in saying that the cause of my sickness was the terrible exertion I had made that day in his
behalf; but it was not so. When I got back to the ranch, after our ride up the river, our poor cook was in a terribly bad fix. I knew that he was gone the moment I saw him, although he was still sitting up and appeared cheerful, except when the cramps would seize him. I asked him what he had been drinking. He replied that his thirst was so intolerable that he drank a whole bucketful of canned lemonade. I said to him, "My poor boy, make your peace with God; tell me the address of your parents or friends." He answered: "I have none; it makes no difference; I think I will pull through all right." In an hour he was dead. We were laying him out in the shade on the east side of the house, and I was in the act of tying up his jaws, when a breeze from the south seemed to enter his mouth and wafted back into mine. I said then, "There, boys, I have tasted the cholera from this poor fellow," and at once set about making my preparations as to my business affairs and other matters. Before two o'clock in the morning I was down with the dreadful disease. Barlow, Sanderson, & Company, the proprietors of the "Overland Stage," to whom I had shown many favors, the moment they heard of my illness, sent an ambulance and escort of soldiers, and I was conveyed to the hospital at Fort Dodge. There, under the kind and careful treatment of Doctors De Graw and Wilson, I recovered. I must go back to the haymaking at the ranch. Day after day the Indians would harass us in some manner, but they had not yet succeeded in killing any of our men, although they repeatedly ran off our stock, fired into and broke up our camp, until even old-timers, men in whom we had placed the utmost confidence and depended upon in case of emergency, began to grow tired. They said it was too monotonous for them. I don't think they really understood the true definition of the word. Still we persisted, were hopeful, and continued to hire new men at from seventy-five to a hundred dollars a month for com-
mon hands; we had to have hay. We considered it no more than just to tell these new men, when we hired them, they would have to take desperate chances, and that was the reason we were paying such large wages. Well, the Indians finally exhausted us of our horse stock, and we had to resort to ponies; but they were too small and we got along very slowly. We were compelled to purchase a big span of mules of the United States mail company, for which we paid six hundred dollars. Mr. Anthony was very proud of them, as he often sat behind them when he was a messenger on the overland routes. They were named Puss and Jennie. The first morning they were sent to the haystack Anthony was in the corral stacking. After a while he came to the house, looking as proud as a peacock, and said to me: "Hear that machine? Ain't Puss and Jennie making it hum?" But the sound did not seem natural to me, so I grabbed a spy-glass and ascended to the lookout on top of the building. Sure enough, just as I expected, I saw two Indians come up, one on each side of the mules, pounding them over the backs with their bows, and they were making it hum, while the boys in the camp were sh60ting 'as fast as they could load and fire, protecting the poor driver, who was running toward them for his life with about two dozen of the red devils after him, whooping, yelling, and shouting as they charged upon him. The two Indians who attacked the driver of the mowing-machine had watched their opportunity, rushed out of the brush on the bank of the river, and were upon him before he had the slightest idea of their presence, and running off with the mules. His two revolvers were strapped upon the machine, and he could do nothing but drop off behind from his seat, leave his weapons, and run for his life. The government had ten men and a sergeant stationed at the ranch, on escort duty with the United States mail. One day while the men were at dinner, and a soldier was on guard outside, whom I suspected was asleep at the
time, two Indians, who had stolen a couple of old mules from the stage station forty miles above, rode by and fired at the sentinel, just for fun, I believe, or at least to wake him up, and then dashed down to the river, crossing close to a Mexican train. Quicker than thought they unsaddled their mules, threw them upon the back of two freight horses that were picketed near, mounted them, and jumped off a steep bank five feet deep into the Arkansas and were over on the other side before the astonished Mexicans really knew what was going on. The day before the same train had left a lame steer out in the sand hills, and the wagon boss sent one of the hands back after it that morning. As soon as the two Indians crossed the river they spied the Mexican with the lame ox and immediately took after him. From the top of my building, with an excellent glass, I could plainly see their whole maneuverings. The savages circled around the poor "greaser" again and again; charged him from the front and rear and on both sides, until I actually thought they had ridden over him a dozen times, emptying their revolvers whenever they made a charge. They would only halt long enough to reload and then were after him again. During all these tactics of the Indians the Mexican never made any attempt to return their fire; that saved his life and scalp. They wanted to compel him to empty his revolvers, and then they could run up and kill him. Of course, from the distance, nearly two miles, I could not hear the report of the Indians' weapons, but I could see the smoke distinctly, and I knew that the Mexican had not fired a shot. Presently the poor fellow's horse went down, and he lay behind it for awhile. Then he cut the girth, took off the saddle, and started for the river, running at every possible chance, using the saddle as a shield, stopping to show fight only when the savages pressed him too closely; then he would make another stand, with the saddle set up in front of him. After a few more unsuccessful charges, the Indians
left him. When he had arrived safely at the train, they asked him why he had not fired a shot when the Indians rode so close to him. He stated if he had a thousand shots he would have fired them all, but in crossing the river that morning his horse had to swim and his revolver got wet (the cartridges were the old-fashioned kind, made of paper, and percussion caps the means of priming. It was fortunate, perhaps; for if the Indians had surmised that his revolver would not go off, they would have had his scalp dangling at their belts in short order. The Indians had given us a respite at the ranch for awhile (I refer to the time I have mentioned when they were attacked by the cholera). We had recruited up considerably, were in high hopes, and had started in fresh, as it were, when one morning they swooped down upon us again to the number of two thousand, it appeared to me; but there was not that many, of course; still they were thick enough.
It looked as if both of the banks of the Arkansas were alive with them, as well as every hill and hollow. There were Indians everywhere. Our men were all in the hay field, with the exception of two, and my partner, Mr. Anthony, was with them. Anthony was a cool, brave man; knew exactly what to do and when to act. I think that his presence saved the party. I could see the whole affair from the lookout. As soon as the firing began we could see our watchman, who was stationed on a bluff, and his horse ran away and threw him, but he managed to get to the boys in the field. We were using two wagons with four yoke of cattle to each. The wagons were about half loaded, and the boys had to fly and leave them standing. The Indians set the hay on fire, then opened with a shower of arrows upon the steers, and started them on a run, scared out of their senses. We found them after the thing was over, all dead in a string, chained together as they had been at work. The savages had lots of fun out of their running the poor brutes around the bottoms while the hay on the wagons was burning. At
the first attack the men all got together as quickly as possible and made for the camp, which was on the bank of the river. A hundred or more Indians charged them so close that it appeared they would ride over them, but whenever our boys made a stand and dropped on their knees and began to deliberately shoot, they would shy off like a herd of frightened antelope. This, they kept up until they reached the river, over half a mile from where they started in the field, then they made for a big island covered with a dense growth of willows; there they hid, remaining until after dark.. 'We at the ranch formed little parties repeatedly and tried to go to their relief by hugging the river bank, but at every attempt were driven back by an overwhelming number of savages. ' The Indians charged upon our men in the willows many times during the day, in their efforts to dislodge them, and so close did some of them come on their ponies that any of the boys by a single spring could have grabbed their bridle-reins. Although they might have killed several of the savages, the latter would have eventually overpowered them, and cruelly butchered the last one of them. To show how cool and brave a man old Anthony was, and what stuff the men were made of, he passed many a joke around among the boys. There was a stern reticent veteran in the group, whose pipe was seldom out of his mouth excepting when he was asleep. Anthony would repeatedly hand him his pipe and tobacco, and say: "Brother Tubbs, take a smoke; I am afraid there is something wrong with you; have you given up the weed?" Tubbs would reply: "If we don't be getting out of here, we won't be making those ten leads of hay today, and you will lose your bet." Anthony had wagered with some one that they would haul ten loads of hay that day. These and similar jokes passed between them all the while, while they were surrounded by hundreds of savages, many of them within five or six steps very frequently; the least false move on the part of the besieged, and none of them would have
lived as long as it takes me to write this. About three o'clock that afternoon we heard firing both above and below us. The Indians had attacked the United States paymaster coming up the river, and several companies of soldiers coming down, and gave them a hot fight, too, compelling them to go into corral, and holding them for several hours. These constant skirmishes kept up till late in the fall; in November and December, 1868, the Indians made a treaty. I then sent for my family, who were in Missouri. A short time after their arrival, one Sunday morning, during a terrible snowstorm, and no help at the ranch but two stage drivers and a Mexican boy, I threw open the large double doors of the storeroom, and, before I could even think, in popped forty Indians, all fully armed, equipped, and hideous with their war paint on. I thought to myself, "Great God, what have I done; murdered my wife and little ones!" We had to use strategy; resistance would have been useless. The stack of guns was in the corner behind the counter, in a passageway leading to the dwelling-house, or in the part of the building in which I lived. I called to the Mexican boy, in an adjoining apartment, to get his revolver and hold the door at all hazards; to put the guns one at a time inside of the sitting room, and to shoot the first Indian who attempted to get over the counter; to tell the savages what I had ordered, in Spanish, and that I would remain with them and take my chances. Everything worked to a charm, except that the Indians commenced beating the snow off of them and laying aside their accouterments. I said to the boy: "Tell them, in Spanish, this won't do; they could not stay in here; this is the soldiers' room; but they must follow me out into a larger, warmer room where we would cook them some chuck." This he accomplished by signs and in Spanish, as rapidly as God would let him. I said: "When the last one is out, jump quickly and double-bar the door; it is our only chance." I thought the reason
why the Indians acted so coolly was that they believed they had a. "dead cinch" on us, and were in no hurry to commence action. As soon as the boy had finished talking to them they turned and followed me out. One of them took hold of me with many a sign and gesture, but as I could only understand the sign language a little, barely enough to trade with the Indians, I was at this moment so excited that I hardly understood English. The savage then led me back to the door and signed for me to open it. I shook my head and said: "Oh, no, old fellow; not for all the gold in the Rocky Mountains would I open that door again; my dearest treasures on earth are in there, and as long as these doors are closed that long they are safe; but God only knows how long they will remain so." At my refusal he immediately began to abuse me most outrageously; spat in my face, and went on like a madman; more than once he reached for his revolver, and, of course, I thought my time had surely come. The Mexican boy, having heard the rumpus, slipped out of the back door and came around the house to see what was up. I said to him: "Placido, what does he mean?" Placido commenced to smile (the first beam of sunshine I had seen since the entrance of the savages), and he replied: "Oh, that is all right; he left his bow in there, and because you won't open the door thinks you want to steal it." "Tell him I will get it; and, now you have got him in good humor, ask him what they all want and what they are after, and tell me." When I returned Placido and the savages were talking like old chums. The boy said "No danger, we are all right; this is a party of young bucks going to the mountains to steal horses from the Utes." This intelligence was a burden lifted, and I felt as if I could fall down and worship the great God who created me. I said: "Bring out the fatted calf; feed them to their hearts' content, and until their bellies pop out like pizened pups; until their vary in'ards are made to cry, 'Enough!' and
want no more." Instead of the fatted calf we cooked them several camp kettles full of bacon and beans, many of the same full of coffee, two gallons of black molasses, plenty of sugar, and a box of hardtack. They feasted, and went on their way rejoicing. The ultimate fate of the old ranch was, that the Indians burnt it, together with several tons of hay, the day after Mr. Anthony abandoned it, by order of Major Douglas, commanding Fort Dodge.
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