THAT morning I opened my
ears and eyes in a new world. Around me were farmyard noises and the
bustling back and forth of the men at their early tasks.
There was nothing in this
country life for me.
I had little real
knowledge of civilised ways. The highest type of culture with which I
had come into contact, was that of the semi-civilised tribes of Indian
Territory. I could not call cultured a large percentage of the soldiers
with whom I had associated. They were of the lowest stratum of
I gravitated to the edge
of the underworld. In time I went to the bottom of it.
The Denison saloons
invited me. The day soon found me among their idlers. They were very
kindly disposed when they found I had money. My clothes belied the fact.
I loaned my two months’
pay to my easily-made friends. They promised to pay it back the next
day. The next day never came.
Money gone, friendship
vanished, and no one to give to me either!
The night noises of the
town bothered me. The roar and shriek of a train, the rattle of a wagon,
even footsteps on the sidewalk would awaken me with a start. So way out
of town I found a camping place.
Came there always numbers
of travellers with their wagon outfits. They readily offered me the
hospitality of their kind. To accept this, I soon became a regular
One night I was talking
with a Choctaw Indian when he spoke of the notorious outlaw—Tom Starr.
I vividly recalled the
time I tracked him and his gang and he got away.
His permanent rendezvous,
the Choctaw told me, was in the Creek Nation, east of Eufaula, only a
few days’ ride from Denison.
I now became obsessed
with the idea of meeting the bandit of whom I had heard much.
With this end in view I
went with the Indian when he left for his home. I travelled with him for
several days, then struck out alone in my search.
I learned that any
stranger seen by Starr in the vicinity of his home would probably
receive very ungentle treatment. But as I felt in constant danger of
arrest, I reasoned that no matter where I was or in what company, my
situation could be neither better nor worse.
I presented neither a
formidable nor a creditable appearance. I wore an old suit of clothes
much too large for me. I was penniless and unarmed.
This, I reflected, might
be in my favour should I meet the much feared man.
I had no difficulty in
finding food. It was given me by the poor but kind-hearted Indians whose
houses I visited on the road. A gourd of osaufkee—a food made of
corn—was the usual offering.
Arrived at a place in the
Creek Nation called Hickory Ground, I met with a large gathering of
The occasion was the
whipping of a horse thief. According to his promise, the culprit was on
hand. He had been free from the day of his sentence to that set for
punishment. This was a privilege not unusual among the Creeks.
The crier called out that
the time had come.
The culprit stripped to
the waist and took his place on the spot indicated by an officer.
He drew himself up
proudly and called out so all could hear;
“Hononwah do-e-escha!” (I
am a man.)
He would show he could
suffer as a man should.
The officer then gave him
twenty-five hard lashes with the thonged whip. It brought the blood, but
he did not so much as flinch or shrink under the punishment.
This seemed to settle the
matter entirely. Having paid the penalty, he regained his standing among
I had reached the
vicinity of Starr’s place when I was taken sick of a fever.
At a little distance from
the road I lay down under a tree and became unconscious.
When I awoke I was lying
on a blanket in a house. A short man with long straight hair and face
black as charcoal, was cooking something in a big iron kettle which hung
in the fireplace.
When he found I was
conscious, he told me how I came there. He had found me. Tom Starr had
brought me to the cabin. My utter helplessness had appealed to the
outlaw. I was in Tom Starr’s house.
The desperado proved to
be entirely different from what I had imagined.
He was of fine
appearance, spoke to me kindly, and did everything he could for my
comfort. He asked me no questions about myself.
I volunteered the
information that I was from the West and was just wandering through the
country when I was taken sick.
Starr would often be gone
from home several days. Sometimes when he returned he would have a new
horse; sometimes two—always good ones.
When I grew strong enough
to go outdoors I began to yearn for the saddle.
The black man—Kahjolustee
(Blackberry)—told me there were good horses all around us; if I wanted
one to go and get it.
Late one night four tired
men arrived at the cabin in company with Kahjolustee, who seemed always
to be on the watch.
The men threw their heavy
saddle-bags on the floor for pillows, spread their saddle-blankets, and
lay down in their clothes. They were soon asleep.
The next morning the men
were up bright and early.
While they were cleaning
the mud from their outfits, I walked up behind one of them. His
sixshooter was lying on the ground. I picked it up.
Quick as a flash the man
snatched it out of my hand and angrily asked what I meant.
I was so surprised I
didn’t reply. I walked away wondering at his conduct.
Kahjolustee informed me I
must be very careful how I acted when this man was around. He was a very
great man—greater in fact than Tom Starr himself. The whole country
everywhere was against him. Nearly everybody wanted to kill him.
His name was Jesse James.
I had never heard of this
most notorious bandit of the United States. At the time he meant no more
to me than any of the other riders of the crooked trail.
As I remember him, he was
a rather genial fellow with a full beard of a reddish colour and very
peculiar eyes that seemed to be in constant motion.
He and his men stayed
with us for more than a week. I helped them break a rather wild horse,
and one of them gave me a white-handled Colt’s six-shooter.
I soon became fully
equipped with horse and saddle, and with my complete recovery from the
effects of the fever, began to feel ready for anything.
Our visitors fully
rested, went on their way to Texas. Indeed Starr’s ranch was a half-way
place for such men, as they ranged between the north and south.
There were a number of
visitors at the rendezvous while I was there. Among them was a Creek
Indian by the name of Ed Grayson. I took a great liking to him. He and a
cousin by the name of Tom Grayson, were “on the scout.,, Which means
they were under the displeasure of the law, and were dodging around for
hiding-places among their friends.
The Indians in this
locality always did this, instead of leaving the country, although it
was a pretty sure thing they’d be caught or killed some day.
One day I went with Ed
Grayson to Eufaula. Several United States marshals were there looking
for him, and the reckless fellow said he wanted to have some fun with
As we rode into the
little town he advised me to wait at one of the stores while he rode
around to find what he could scare up.
In a little while there
were whoops and shots up the street. He had found the marshals lurking
in some of the stores, and he was trying to get them started.
As he rode down the
street he looked the incarnation of fearless manhood.
Tall, lithe and alert, he
sat his clean-limbed sorrel horse, a part of it.
He came at an easy canter
with his long black hair floating around his. square shoulders and
whipping into his clear-cut face.
The bridle reins hung
loosely on his horse’s neck.
He had a sixshooter in
each hand. At intervals he fired into the air and gave his piercing yell
This was his challenge to
the marshals to come out into the open like men and try to take him.
Not one of them so much
as made himself visible.
It was but a short time
after this that Ed Grayson’s career came to an end.
We were in town one day
when he spied an enemy entering Crabtree’s store. Drawing his gun from
its holster he left me with the remark that he would go across and
settle with him.
As he passed through the
doorway, he cried out,
“I am ready to die right
This was a challenge
often used by the Creeks.
Grayson was an expert
with the revolver. With the gun, he had a serious fault. Instead of
bringing the muzzle upwards and firing at the same time, he had the
habit of raising the muzzle, cocking the gun with the motion, and firing
as he brought the muzzle downwards.
This time the fault
proved fatal to him. It gave his foe but a moment’s advantage, but it
He fell with a bullet in
That night Tom Grayson
and the rest of us rode through and through the town shouting out our
Shortly afterward I saw
Tom Grayson fall into the Big Sleep on the porch of Crabtree’s store. He
went down under a charge of buckshot from a doublebarrelled shotgun in
the hands of an enemy.
Well equipped with horse
and guns, I began once more to lay plans. I told them to some of the
young fellows of my acquaintance. I had vengeance to wreak on the man
against whom I had a just cause. They agreed to go west with me to do
this and— other things.
But one day there was a
mix-up with the marshals, and one of our men was fairly riddled with
I counted myself lucky to
get out of the Creek country afoot and as poor as when I went into it.