THE Indian boy’s sports
are suggested by the narratives of the men and by the things he expects
to do when he comes to the age and strength of a hunter and warrior. He
plays at what he will do in earnest when he becomes a man. So the first
thing he plays at, is how to make a living—the last thing the white boy
Among our earliest sports
was the hunt for prairie dogs, which we played were bear or deer, and
the game of “Hunt the Buffalo.” In the latter, a number of the boys
would go away out upon the prairie in the morning, taking along
provisions of some kind, usually a piece of dried or boiled meat. These
boys were the buffaloes! Another company were the hunters. The game was
to catch the buffaloes and capture the provisions, when the successful
hunters would have a feast together.
We were engaged in this
sport one day when I was one of the hunters. We had gone a distance of
perhaps four or five miles when I had an adventure which came near
costing me my life.
Creeping through the
weeds and grass I came upon a buffalo-wallow. In it was an old shaggy
bull which had been hooked out of the herd.
A heroic idea took
possession of me. I would kill the old fellow and make a name to be
sounded loudly through the camp. So, selecting a sharp-barbed arrow, I
crept up within a few feet of my quarry.
In my conceit and
eagerness to distinguish myself, I did not stop to consider that, with
my puny strength, it would be impossible to drive an arrow far enough
into a buffalo’s side to kill him. I discovered it, however, a few
I knew where to aim—just
behind the left shoulder. Rising to one knee, I fitted the arrow to the
string and drawing it back to the head, I let it go.
With a grunt the buffalo
jumped up. So did I.
He was stung enough to
make him curious to find out what the thing was that had disturbed his
repose. When he caught sight of me, he evidently made up his mind I was
the thing. For a moment we gazed at each other. Then I stood not upon
the order of my going, but went at once. If ever a boy wished for wings
I was that boy.
The creek was a little
distance away, and there lay safety. I glanced over my shoulder at my
pursuer. He was as high as a mountain. His eyes were coals of fire, each
as big a6 the moon. In my flight my little rag of a blanket slipped off
my shoulders. He stopped to fight it This gave me time. I gained the
bank of the creek and flung myself down into the top of a tree.
The buffalo, who,
doubtless, had enjoyed the chase far more than I had, galloped on down
the trail, in evident disgust.
After a while, some of
our young men who were riding back to the camp, passed near me. I
signalled to them, hurriedly told of the adventure, and pointed out down
the valley the course the old straggler had taken. He had not long to
enjoy the memory of the chase, for he soon fell victim to the arrows of
the grown-ups I had set upon his tracks.
The hunters took me into
camp, and told the story— not of how I had hunted the buffalo, but of
how the buffalo had hunted me—at which there was a great laugh, and with
common consent they called me Gwah-tahe-lam-khe-ah, or
Unquestionably I had made
a name to be sounded loudly through the camp!
One of the chief delights
of us boys was the war game.
We painted our faces red
and yellow streaked with black, and tied on our heads tufts of buffalo
hair for imitation scalp-locks. This was to keep safe the real
scalp-locks and yet give the victors their tokens of conquest. Dividing
into two parties, each with its chief, and armed with our bows and
blunt-headed arrows, we then disappeared into the bushes and woods for
the battle. It was not always bloodless.
Once, while engaged in
this always exciting sport, I saw a boy of the other side in a clump of
“Hah!” I exulted, “his
scalp shall dangle at my belt before this battle is over. To-night I
will dance around it in the fireshine, and tell of my victory.”
Creeping up behind a log,
so as to get a quick shot at him, I poked my head above it, arrow-notch
No sooner did my head
appear than another boy who had been watching me, let fly his arrow. It
struck me near my right eye. The blood blinded me. But according to the
rules of the game, I could not so much as lift my hand to wipe it away.
I must act as though dead. My enemy with an exultant whoop dashed up and
took my “scalp.”
And that night I had
another humiliation—seeing my “scalp” tied to a pole, the victor holding
it aloft as he danced around in the firelight and boastfully told of his
victory, while the other members of his “tribe” shouted in chorus at
every pause in the recital of the story.
Another one of our
favourite sports was to lasso and ride the wildest horses of the herd.
On horseback we cut out
and roped an unbroken mustang. To mount him was a much harder thing to
do. Once in a while one of us was thrown, but the rider was always ready
for another trial.
At the age of eight or
nine we began to herd the horses.
At night we brought the
best and fleetest close to camp to picket them in readiness for
Often while engaged in
the duty of herding, a contest with the ropes took place. A boy was
caught and jerked from his horse, or the animal thrown. Then his rider
struck out afoot for the bushes, were we could not use the lasso.
We learned to ride on the
side of the horse, clinging to his mane or to a rope around his neck,
with nothing but one foot showing above his back; to leap to the ground,
still clinging to the mane, and to remount the horse on the run.
One of our sports was to
take a supposedly wounded comrade from the field. As he lay flat upon
the ground, a horseman rode up on either side of him, grasped legs or
arms and dragged or carried him to a considerable distance. Or two
riders dropped a robe to him. He would clutch it, roll on top of it and
be hauled away.
In this manner many a
warrior fallen in battle, has been saved by his comrades from capture or
We had “boxing” matches.
In these any number of us could take part at the same time.
We chose sides, and each
side formed a line, facing the other ten or fifteen feet apart At the
word, each line rushed forward until within three or four feet of the
other. Then every boy jumped into the air and whirled and kicked
backwards at his antagonist in the opposing line. This was repeated
until one side or the other was knocked down. Sometimes a foot landed
against the stomach of an opponent who did not whirl quick enough. But
this taught the victim to be quicker next time.
And we had wrestling
One of our best wrestlers
was a white captive who had blue eyes and hair white as thistledown.
From exposure to sun and wind his skin was as dark as that of any
Indian, and this in contrast with the long white hair floating down over
his shoulders, gave him a most unique appearance. We called him White
Hair. He was fond of wrestling, and with his fine physical mould was
well fitted for it.
One day there came a
young wrestler—Kheabone— with several of his companions, to visit our
camp. Our young men made a match between him and our champion. So great
was their confidence in White Hair’s ability that they staked on him
nearly everything they possessed. On Kheabone the visitors did likewise.
The whole village
gathered to witness the match. It was to consist of two falls out of
three, of the style which might be called “catch-as-catch-can.”
The two youths faced each
other, stripped to the breech-clout. The Indian was the taller; the
white boy the more muscular. On the whole they were pretty evenly
Began the contest. They
rushed together, each seeking an advantageous hold. Their supple bodies
twisted, bent and writhed. Kheabone was the quicker; White Hair the
stronger. Strength, however, did not avail against the marvelous
dexterity with which the Redskin wriggled out of his antagonist’s grasp
and by a grapevine twist of the leg, laid the white champion on his back
for the first fall.
The next was White Hair’s
victory, after much manoeuvring and display of agility.
For the third time they
Every trick known to
either was tried without effect. Finally, to our intense surprise, White
Hair tore himself from the embrace of the Indian and darted away across
the prairie with the speed of an antelope, the Redskin hard after him.
Our hearts sank. White
Hair had the heart of a coyote.
Suddenly, as Kheabone
gained on him, White Hair stopped, and with a whirling duck, caught his
pursuer round the legs, tossed him clear over his head, pounced upon him
like a panther and pinned him to the ground.
Kheabone and his friends
were not satisfied. They had little left to wager, but they would bet
everything, even to their moccasins, upon the Redskin’s ability to beat
the White-haired one in a fight
The challenge was
accepted. Our young men covered their bets. Kheabone laid a knife, a
gun, a bow and arrows on the ground in a row at the feet of White Hair.
He could have his choice of weapons. Our champion held up his fists.
“I fight with these,” he
Kheabone, after some
hesitation, held up his fists and declared that babies and girls fought
with their hands, but that he would accommodate the White Head.
Nearby was the bank of
the stream, at the bottom of which, some fifteen feet sheer down, was
thin black mud of an unguessed depth. On the edge of this bank White
Hair took his stand in readiness.
“Knock him over the bank
into the mud/' whispered Kheabone’s advisers.
The Indian approached
White Hair on the run, with fist high in the air. When near enough, he
lunged, throwing his body with the blow.
White Hair side-stepped,
and Kheabone plunged headfirst over the bank into the mud. He sank to
his middle, his legs waving like mullein-stalks in a whirlwind, in his
endeavour to extricate himself.
His friends hauled him
out and washed the oozy slime out of his eyes and ears.
The drollness of the
thing struck us with such force that we screamed in laughter, rolled on
the ground, pulled up grass and threw it into the air and shouted.
Anyone with the belief that Indians never laugh should have witnessed
Kheabone was wild with
anger. It was not fair, he declared. He had been tricked and he wanted
satisfaction. He seized a gun and went hunting for White Hair, who had
The victors arrayed
themselves in the trophies they had won on the match, mounted their
horses, and shouting lustily the name of White Hair, circled round the
crest-fallen visitors, who sat together almost naked.
Tiring of their sport,
they gave back nearly all of the stuff they had won, and when Kheabone
returned from his unsuccessful hunt, they mollified him, found White
Hair and made peace between the two.
We always enjoyed our
sports whole-heartedly, even though our life was full of hardships and
uncertainties. When we left our tepees in the morning, there were many
chances for our scalps to be drying before the lodge of an enemy ere the
sun walked down over the edge of the world. But this thought never
One of the most
interesting captives among the Kiowas was a Mexican boy. The Apaches
captured him in New Mexico. The Kiowas took a fancy to him and traded a
blind mule and two buffalo robes for him. His name was Andrez Martinez.
But as the Kiowas were unable to pronounce the name Andrez, they called
him Andele. As the boy grew up he became completely Indianized. He
forgot his name, his identity, and the fact that he was a captive, and
he became one of the fiercest warriors of the tribe, making many raids
into Texas. He was discovered by a missionary and sent back to his
people. But he returned to the Kiowas, married a white woman, and became
a useful man among the Indians.