I ACCOMPANIED nearly
every scouting party which left the post, whether in pursuit of
desperadoes or of Indians.
To be in the saddle on
the wide, sweeping prairies was to be like the prodigal returned to his
father’s house—fatted calf, best robe and all—for on such occasions I
dressed and lived as an Indian, and the prairie furnished the calf.
One day I went, with a
small detachment of soldiers, after some Comanches. According to the
report, they had run off with a lot of Texas cattle.
I struck the trail, but
the officer in charge was never the wiser.
It was Zakatoh’s.
And far from me was the
thought of betraying the men whose fasting and feasting and fighting I
had shared for years.
Indeed, I was often
tempted to try to find the doughty warrior, and once more cast in my lot
It was on an expedition
in the panhandle of Texas that I made my first open rebellion against
We were camped on the
Sweetwater, just below Fort Elliott, and orders were issued
prohibiting any of us leaving camp.
No sooner did taps sound
than every man of us, except the guard, slipped away by twos and threes.
As we had left Fort Sill
on the evening of payday, we had not had our bi-monthly blow out, so we
intended taking it in the drinking and gambling places near the post
There was a genuine
rampage that night, and the next morning there were consequences. Every
man of us was ordered to walk and lead his horse.
I bucked. I was no
dough-boy, I was a cavalryman.
I sat down on the ground
and declared I would sit there till the Sweetwater froze over before I
Finally I was ordered to
get into the ambulance. In this, under guard, I rode all day.
During a scout in this
part of the country, we ran across a war-party of Apaches. In the
scrimmage with them, a bullet took the big toe-nail off my left foot.
This was the nearest I ever came to being wounded in my war-days.
But it was the last fight
for my faithful Buckskin. The bullet that glanced off my foot went
through his body.
He was human to me, my
comrade in peril, sunshine and storm; with a heart beating steadily
strong and true; with feet sure, tireless and fleet—my
I left him lying where
the coyotes fought, but he has never been forgotten, nor will he be so
long as my faithful memory brings me the pattering hoof-beats of his
As we were returning
eastward, the troop was ordered down the North Fork of the Canadian
River. We went into winter camp near where Oklahoma City now stands.
The winter furnished a
few of us with at least one memorable experience. On a scout we were
caught in a blizzard and snowbound.
The storm lasted over a
week. We ran out of provisions. For several days our only food was
parched com and little of that. Our horses lived on the bark they gnawed
from cottonwood poles.
When we finally got back
to our quarters camp-fare, meagre as it was, was a feast for a while.
In the spring I went with
the troop on an expedition intended to quiet the restless Cheyennes. We
camped at Bent’s Ranch.
There a scout came in
with despatches from Fort Reno.
I had left my wife and
child at this fort, so I went to him for news of them.
He took me aside and told
me that a certain officer had basely insulted my Nacoomee.
It was this same officer
who had once ordered me to perform a menial service for him, and had
struck me with the fiat side of his sabre when I refused.
I vowed at the time to
get even with him. Now I had double reason.
I could not get
permission to go back to the post and protect my wife.
I determined to go anyhow
and deal with that man in my own way.
I told two of my soldier
friends of my intentions, and as each of them had grievances, real or
fancied, against their officers they decided to leave with me.
One of the soldiers went
by the name of Jack. The other one everybody called “Gee Whiz,” because
of his frequent use of that expression. He had been a lumber-jack in
Michigan and in a fight had bitten a man’s ear off. To hide away he
enlisted in the army. In this he was not singular. More than one man
enlisted to escape penalty for crime. Enlistment in the army in those
days was in many instances like dropping through a hole in the ice.
One day Gee Whiz was on
herd guard when a hail-storm came up and the wind blew his hat off. He
was bald as a billiard ball, save for a little fringe of fiery red
behind his ears; and when the hail-stones pecked him on the naked pate
his voice was heard shouting, “Gee Whiz,” above all the roar of the
Gee Whiz was his name
from that time on.