SOMEWHERE west of the
Mississippi River, somewhere between the borders of Canada and Mexico I
was born. Just where and just when, I do not know.
trapper, goldseeker and scout, in turn—and companion of such men as Jim
Bridger, Kit Carson, “Wild Bill” and “Buffalo Bill”—was well known for
many years on the frontier as “California Joe.”
By this title and this
only do I know him. Through many, many moons I have hunted diligently,
patiently, for the trail that would lead me to his real name and to his
people. Not even his most intimate friends could help me strike it.
My mother, Al-Zada—known
among the Indians as Hazel Eye—was of the Osage tribe. This fact was
brought to light but recently, in the long search for my ancestry.[For
this information I am indebted principally to Mr. Horace P. Jones of
Fort Sill, Oklahoma.] From as far back as 1868, when, with the Indians,
I was captured by Gen. Geo. A. Custer, during the Battle of the Washita,
I had supposed myself to be a full-blood white man.
My mother’s father was a
hunter and trapper, familiarly and widely known in the early days as
“Pap” Reynolds. When but a girl, Mother was captured by the Northern
Cheyennes. “California Joe,” my father, rescued and married her.*
Mother’s brother, known
as Kinch West, who was with the James boys and the Youngers during the
Civil War, and who refused to surrender to United States authorities at
its close, was killed near Fort Gibson, I. T., by a posse of marshals in
eighteen hundred and eighty-eight.
It must have been in the
year eighteen hundred and fifty-five or six, when father and several
other men of nomadic habits, located with their families, temporarily,
in the State of Texas, by a small stream near where the city of
Gainesville now stands. And on this spot occurred the tragic episode
which was the first of a train of events that have wrought me into the
only man of the kind in the world—and one of the kind is quite enough—to
the credit or discredit of which I lay no claim.
It appears that during
the absence of the men, a small Kiowa war party raided along the stream
and killed or captured the women and children, not one escaping. I was
too young to remember, but the story of the raid was told in my hearing
long years afterwards, by warriors of the tribe.
MY FATHER—HUNTER, TRAPPER, GOLDSEEKER AND SCOUT,
WAS FOR MANY YEARS WELL KNOWN ON THE FRONTIER AS 'CALIFORNIA JOE’”
Mother was alone with me
in the cabin, so the story runs, when the wild riders of the plains
swooped down upon us. She met them with one of father’s rifles, and her
cool, well-directed aim tumbled one of the marauders, dead, from his
horse, and brought down another, mortally wounded. Her expert
marksmanship and her valiant defence, led the attacking party to believe
that a man was back of both, and this unexpected reception sent the
horsemen scurrying to cover. They found it in a nearby ravine. Then,
afoot, they returned, by way of the sheltering bank of the creek, and
crept up to renew the attack. Convenient for their use lay the ax by the
woodpile, and with it they rushed against the door, breaking it in.
It seems that I had
toddled around in front of Mother, and was clinging to her dress when
the Indians burst through the doorway. The leader raised the ax to
strike me. As Mother stooped over to snatch me away from it, the blow
intended for me fell on her head.
I was brushed aside until
the raiders ransacked the house. When they turned to go, they discovered
me sitting on the floor, dabbling my hand in a little pool of blood, and
patting Mother's cheek. A young warrior snatched me up to dash my brains
out against the wall, but I grabbed his long hair and held on so
tenaciously that he decided it would be bad medicine to kill me. So I
saved my own life by pulling the hair of my captor. He was no less than
Zepkhoeete or Big Bow, the young Kiowa chief.
He returned to his camp
with me half dead upon the pommel of his saddle. He dropped me into the
arms of his wife, Tsilta, with the words,
“Here is a present for
“Where did you get him?”
“In Texas,” was his
“Then,” said she, “his
name shall be Tahan.” That is, Texas Man, or Fighting Man.
For years after I came
into civilised life, I went under this translation of my Indian name,
which became corrupted into “Texas Joe.”
The young chief and his
wife took me not only into their tepee but into their hearts as well.
They cared for me as well as they cared for their own children, and my
affections twined about them as does the love of any normal child in
response to kindness.
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