OUR chief kept warriors
scouting around on the prairie nearly all of the time. Hence, it came
about, in the autumn of this same year, that I was chosen one of two to
go out toward the northeast to watch the movements of some cattlemen.
Separated from my
companion, one day, I unexpectedly ran onto a bunch of cowboys. As they
saw me about the same time that I caught sight of them, it was too late
to retreat and too dangerous. So I decided to meet them boldly and offer
signs of friendliness.
I found them a jolly lot.
They took me to their camp and finally to their ranch at Paladora
I was with them for
probably three months, and with my small stock of Mexican words was soon
able to hold conversation with them in a kind of jargon. It was there I
learned some English, too, and it afterwards stood me in good stead.
When I left the
cow-punchers and went back again to Zakatoh, he acted as though he
believed I had given the white men information hurtful to his welfare
and I was constantly on my guard. I determined that if I saw signs of
danger from him, he shouldn’t be the one to get the first shot.
Came a day when we heard
there were big doings between the Indians and soldiers at Fort Sill. So
Zakatoh took our whole band near that post We made our camp on Cache
All along the stream were
Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches. We mingled freely with them and found
that a number of the chiefs with their bands had been rounded up by the
soldiers. The chiefs were in the guardhouse and their warriors in bad
humour. A big fight was a likely thing at any time, and the soldiers
kept close watch.
There were heroes among
those wild savages of the plains. One of the chiefs who was at Fort Sill
at the time, was accused of leading a raid into Texas, where a number of
white men were killed and horses run off. An officer ordered his
soldiers to seize the accused. Although guiltless of the charge, he
Shortly the man who had
led the raid stalked majestically into the officer’s presence. It was
Setayete (White Bear) a chief of most striking and noble appearance. In
the fearless grandeur of his manhood, he faced the soldier and bent
piercing, unflinching eyes upon his face.
“I talk straight. I am
the chief who led that raid,” he proudly said. “If you take any man and
hang him like a dog, take me.”
He was taken to Texas
where he was tried and condemned to be hanged. While attempting to
escape he was killed.
We all wondered if the
Kiowas might not have been accused of making a raid which we ourselves
had made, so we were careful not to let a word drop which would cause
anyone to suspect us.
There were not more than
six lodges of our band at this time, and no one paid us much attention.
Besides it was difficult for outsiders to understand the language of the
Estizeddelebe. That they all believed we had been brought in by the
soldiers we knew, and we wisely allowed them to keep on thinking so.
One day there was an
unusual stir at the post and we found out that the soldiers were about
to start with several of the Kiowa chiefs to Texas. We found out, too,
that the white men intended to hang them.
That night the Kiowa
warriors mounted their horses and circled round and round singing their
war songs. They rode up close to the barracks and called to the
“Come out and fight us
In this Zakatoh and the
rest of us joined. We hoped there would be a big fight.
The next morning we saw
near the guardhouse a number of wagons and squad of soldiers. They were
closely guarding the noted war-chief Setankyea (Sitting Bear).
When they ordered him to
get into one of the wagons, he refused. The soldiers seized him and
threw him in with brutal force.
About a mile from the
post Setankyea rose to his feet and called to a number of his warriors
who were following on horseback.
“These soldiers think
they are going to take me to Texas,” he cried, “and hang me like a dog.
I will show them! You young men go to your camp and say to the people
that Setankyea died to-day, the first day out.”
He drew himself up
“Now I will show you how
a chief can die. And I call upon Those-Above to witness that I die like
a man, unafraid. But I do not go alone,” he finished fiercely, “I take
with me upon the Long Trail one of these soldiers.”
At this he tore off the
handcuffs, the flesh coming with them. He put his bleeding hands to his
mouth. When he took them away, they held a large sharp knife.
There was a flash of the
steel, a piercing war whoop and the blood spurted from the side of one
of the guards sitting nearby.
Seizing the guard’s gun
Setankyea snapped it at another soldier. There was no cartridge in the
The soldiers fairly
riddled the chief with bullets. He fell out of the wagon to the ground
and sang his death-song while the soldiers continued to send their
bullets into his body. At last he gnashed his teeth, gave one long
defiant whoop and fell back dead.
The old chief was half
Cheyenne and had the reputation of being a Mystery Man. One of the
strange things which his people believed he could do, was to cough up a
big knife at will. It was in this way, they claimed, that he obtained
the one with which he stabbed the soldier. How else he could have got it
was as much a mystery, for the officer in charge had searched the chief
before taking him from the guardhouse. [Lieutenant (later General)
Pratt, of the Tenth Cavalry, was the officer. He told me many years
after that he himself stripped the chief and thoroughly examined his
garments; that there was no knife about him and no way for him to get
one before he left the cell.]
That night our chief got
us together and we speedily slipped away to the westward, taking with us
several additions to our band. These were Indians who were glad to
escape from the restraint of the soldiers.
Far into the southwest we
While crossing the Staked
Plains we rode into the teeth of a terrific wind which lasted several
days. So dense was the cloud of fiercely driven sand and dust it nearly
stifled us. Blinded and choked we were compelled to huddle down together
with our robes wrapped around our heads to keep off the stinging
With several others I was
lost from the main company, and but for the plains-craft of one of the
older men we would have perished. He went groping along the ground,
feeling of every weed and sparsely scattered grass-bunch until he found
a plant, the leaves of which always point directly north and south. By
it he got the points of the compass.
That country of the
southwest was new and strange to nearly all of us and new emergencies
frequently arose, but some one of the men always proved equal to them.
One calm evening a scout
came into camp and reported the discovery of a tepee village. Looking
forward to a scrimmage and booty, we quickly made our way to the place.
It was in a deep rocky canyon. We cautiously neared the edge and
As we peered down at the
weather-beaten tepees, some three or four hundred yards below, we
noticed there was no smoke rising from them. Stealthily we watched for
the signs of life usual in an Indian village, but neither to our eyes
nor to our ears did there come sight or sound of them. A strange
something seemed to spread over the place, to become a part of it and to
hold us in its uncanny embrace.
Silently, from behind the
rocks, we peered down at the tepees in the canyon. The sun died out like
a coal of fire on the edge of an ash-heap. The shadows faded into purple
gloom. Stars pricked the sky with pin-holes, through which The
Above-Ones looked down. The moon, a huge, pale-faced war drum, showed
itself on the rim of the world and walked up the sky, sending down its
soft light to uncover the jagged rocks of the canyon and bring the
tepees out of the darkness like ghosts. They grew whiter and whiter, and
held our eyes in strange fascination.
The silence was like that
which must have been before anything was. It was so intense, so ominous,
so awful, we seemed to hear it. We were scarcely able to breathe as the
soundlessness settled down upon us. Our straining senses were ready to
Suddenly, a piercing
scream, sounded far down the canyon.
As one man we dashed to
our horses, sprang to their backs and sped away from the awful place.
In camp, we sat huddled
together in the moonlight. talking over the strange thing, when some one
noticed that Quohahles, the Medicine Man, was absent. The next day he
came in. He had visited the silent village and found the skeletons of
the inhabitants, who must have been carried off by a pestilence. He
found also the body of a horse which had fallen over a cliff. He said
the scream which had brought terror to our hearts must have been the
animal’s death-cry; that once before he had heard the same kind of a
cry, and it came from a dying horse.
In that strange land we
crossed a desert which was so naked there was not so much as a stick of
wood for a picket pin. But nevertheless, when night came, we were able
to tie our horses to the ground.
Each man took his knife
and dug a hole about twelve inches across at the top and twice as wide
at the bottom, pulled up an armful of bunch grass, tied the end of his
lariat around it, stuffed it into the hole and stamped the earth down
upon it. So our horses were literally tied to holes in the ground.
It was on this desert
trip that one of the men discovered huge tracks in the sand. They looked
somewhat like a buffalo’s, but were of greater size. No one had ever
seen anything like them. We followed them day after day, and at night
thought long over them.
At last, soon after we
broke camp one morning, we saw the trackmakers away out on the plain.
There were two of them, great, long-legged creatures with high backs and
One of the older men
tried to account for them through an old legend which says that the
first buffaloes were light in colour and very large and that they came
from a wide desert across a great water. At sight of us the creatures
took fright and ran away at a rapid pace, swaying from side to side like
mountains about to topple over, but undecided on which side to fall. We
stood gazing at them in wonder until they disappeared in the distance.
They gave us much talk
for many moons.
Years afterward I saw a
circus parade in one of the great cities. Among the animals were several
of these “about-to-fall-like-a-mountain buffaloes.” I learned they were
Since then I have often
wondered how the two we tracked ever got into the Great American Desert.