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Title:      A Tour on the Prairies
Author:     Washington Irving
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Language:   English
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Title:      A Tour on the Prairies
Author:     Washington Irving


Having, since my return to the United States, made a wide and varied
tour, for the gratification of my curiosity, it has been supposed that I
did it for the purpose of writing a book; and it has more than once been
intimated in the papers, that such a work was actually in the press,
containing scenes and sketches of the Far West.

These announcements, gratuitously made for me, before I had put pen to
paper, or even contemplated any thing of the kind, have embarrassed me
exceedingly. I have been like a poor actor, who finds himself announced
for a part he had no thought of playing, and his appearance expected on
the stage before he has committed a line to memory.

I have always had a repugnance, amounting almost to disability, to write
in the face of expectation; and, in the present instance, I was expected
to write about a region fruitful of wonders and adventures, and which had
already been made the theme of spirit-stirring narratives from able pens;
yet about which I had nothing wonderful or adventurous to offer.

Since such, however, seems to be the desire of the public, and that they
take sufficient interest in my wanderings to deem them worthy of recital,
I have hastened, as promptly as possible, to meet, in some degree, the
expectation which others have excited. For this purpose, I have, as it
were, plucked a few leaves out of my memorandum book, containing a
month's foray beyond the outposts of human habitation, into the
wilderness of the Far West. It forms, indeed, but a small portion of an
extensive tour; but it is an episode, complete as far as it goes. As
such, I offer it to the public, with great diffidence. It is a simple
narrative of every-day occurrences; such as happen to every one who
travels the prairies. I have no wonders to describe, nor any moving
accidents by flood or field to narrate; and as to those who look for a
marvellous or adventurous story at my hands, I can only reply, in the
words of the weary knife-grinder: "Story! God bless you, I have none to
tell, sir."



In the often vaunted regions of the Far West, several hundred miles
beyond the Mississippi, extends a vast tract of uninhabited country,
where there is neither to be seen the log-house of the white man, nor the
wigwam of the Indian. It consists of great grassy plains, interspersed
with forests and groves, and clumps of trees, and watered by the
Arkansas, the grand Canadian, the Red River, and their tributary streams.
Over these fertile and verdant wastes still roam the elk, the buffalo,
and the wild horse, in all their native freedom. These, in fact, are the
hunting grounds of the various tribes of the Far West. Hither repair the
Osage, the Creek, the Delaware and other tribes that have linked
themselves with civilization, and live within the vicinity of the white
settlements. Here resort also, the Pawnees, the Comanches, and other
fierce, and as yet independent tribes, the nomads of the prairies, or the
inhabitants of the skirts of the Rocky Mountains. The regions I have
mentioned form a debatable ground of these warring and vindictive tribes;
none of them presume to erect a permanent habitation within its borders.
Their hunters and "Braves" repair thither in numerous bodies during the
season of game, throw up their transient hunting camps, consisting of
light bowers covered with bark and skins, commit sad havoc among the
innumerable herds that graze the prairies, and having loaded themselves
with venison and buffalo meat, warily retire from the dangerous
neighborhood. These expeditions partake, always, of a warlike character:
the hunters are all armed for action, offensive and defensive, and are
bound to incessant vigilance. Should they, in their excursions, meet the
hunters of an adverse tribe, savage conflicts take place. Their
encampments, too, are always subject to be surprised by wandering war
parties, and their hunters, when scattered in pursuit of game, to be
captured or massacred by lurking foes. Mouldering skulls and skeletons,
bleaching in some dark ravine, or near the traces of a hunting camp,
occasionally mark the scene of a foregone act of blood, and let the
wanderer know the dangerous nature of the region he is traversing. It is
the purport of the following pages to narrate a month's excursion to
these noted hunting grounds, through a tract of country which had not as
yet been explored by white men.

It was early in October, 1832, that I arrived at Fort Gibson, a frontier
post of the Far West, situated on the Neosho, or Grand River, near its
confluence with the Arkansas. I had been travelling for a month past,
with a small party from St. Louis, up the banks of the Missouri, and
along the frontier line of agencies and missions that extends from the
Missouri to the Arkansas. Our party was headed by one of the
Commissioners appointed by the government of the United States, to
superintend the settlement of the Indian tribes migrating from the east
to the west of the Mississippi. In the discharge of his duties, he was
thus visiting the various outposts of civilization.

And here let me bear testimony to the merits of this worthy leader of our
little band. He was a native of one of the towns of Connecticut, a man in
whom a course of legal practice and political life had not been able to
vitiate an innate simplicity and benevolence of heart. The greater part
of his days had been passed in the bosom of his family and the society of
deacons, elders, and selectmen, on the peaceful banks of the Connecticut;
when suddenly he had been called to mount his steed, shoulder his rifle,
and mingle among stark hunters, backwoodsmen, and naked savages, on the
trackless wilds of the Far West.

Another of my fellow-travellers was Mr. L., an Englishman by birth, but
descended from a foreign stock; and who had all the buoyancy and
accommodating spirit of a native of the Continent. Having rambled over
many countries, he had become, to a certain degree, a citizen of the
world, easily adapting himself to any change. He was a man of a thousand
occupations; a botanist, a geologist, a hunter of beetles and
butterflies, a musical amateur, a sketcher of no mean pretensions, in
short, a complete virtuoso; added to which, he was a very indefatigable,
if not always a very successful, sportsman. Never had a man more irons in
the fire, and, consequently, never was man more busy nor more cheerful.

My third fellow-traveller was one who had accompanied the former from
Europe, and travelled with him as his Telemachus; being apt, like his
prototype, to give occasional perplexity and disquiet to his Mentor. He
was a young Swiss Count, scarce twenty-one years of age, full of talent
and spirit, but galliard in the extreme, and prone to every kind of wild

Having made this mention of my comrades, I must not pass over unnoticed,
a personage of inferior rank, but of all-pervading and prevalent
importance: the squire, the groom, the cook, the tent man, in a word, the
factotum, and, I may add, the universal meddler and marplot of our party.
This was a little swarthy, meagre, French creole, named Antoine, but
familiarly dubbed Tonish: a kind of Gil Blas of the frontier, who had
passed a scrambling life, sometimes among white men, sometimes among
Indians; sometimes in the employ of traders, missionaries, and Indian
agents; sometimes mingling with the Osage hunters. We picked him up at
St. Louis, near which he had a small farm, an Indian wife, and a brood of
half-blood children. According to his own account, however, he had a wife
in every tribe; in fact, if all this little vagabond said of himself were
to be believed, he was without morals, without caste, without creed,
without country, and even without language; for he spoke a jargon of
mingled French, English, and Osage. He was, withal, a notorious braggart,
and a liar of the first water. It was amusing to hear him vapor and
gasconade about his terrible exploits and hairbreadth escapes in war and
hunting. In the midst of his volubility, he was prone to be seized by a
spasmodic gasping, as if the springs of his jaws were suddenly unhinged;
but I am apt to think it was caused by some falsehood that stuck in his
throat, for I generally remarked that immediately afterward there bolted
forth a lie of the first magnitude.

Our route had been a pleasant one, quartering ourselves, occasionally, at
the widely separated establishments of the Indian missionaries, but in
general camping out in the fine groves that border the streams, and
sleeping under cover of a tent. During the latter part of our tour we had
pressed forward, in hopes of arriving in time at Fort Gibson to accompany
the Osage hunters on their autumnal visit to the buffalo prairies. Indeed
the imagination of the young Count had become completely excited on the
subject. The grand scenery and wild habits of the prairies had set his
spirits madding, and the stories that little Tonish told him of Indian
braves and Indian beauties, of hunting buffaloes and catching wild
horses, had set him all agog for a dash into savage life. He was a bold
and hard rider, and longed to be scouring the hunting grounds. It was
amusing to hear his youthful anticipations of all that he was to see, and
do, and enjoy, when mingling among the Indians and participating in their
hardy adventure; and it was still more amusing to listen to the
gasconadings of little Tonish, who volunteered to be his faithful squire
in all his perilous undertakings; to teach him how to catch the wild
horse, bring down the buffalo, and win the smiles of Indian princesses;--
"And if we can only get sight of a prairie on fire!" said the young
Count--"By Gar, I'll set one on fire myself!" cried the little Frenchman.



The anticipations of a young man are prone to meet with disappointment.
Unfortunately for the Count's scheme of wild campaigning, before we
reached the end of our journey; we heard that the Osage hunters had set
forth upon their expedition to the buffalo grounds. The Count still
determined, if possible, to follow on their track and overtake them, and
for this purpose stopped short at the Osage Agency, a few miles distant
from Fort Gibson, to make inquiries and preparations. His travelling
companion, Mr. L., stopped with him; while the Commissioner and myself
proceeded to Fort Gibson, followed by the faithful and veracious Tonish.
I hinted to him his promises to follow the Count in his campaignings, but
I found the little varlet had a keen eye to self-interest. He was aware
that the Commissioner, from his official duties, would remain for a long
time in the country, and be likely to give him permanent employment,
while the sojourn of the Count would be but transient. The gasconading of
the little braggart was suddenly therefore at an end. He spake not
another word to the young Count about Indians, buffaloes, and wild
horses, but putting himself tacitly in the train of the Commissioner,
jogged silently after us to the garrison.

On arriving at the fort, however, a new chance presented itself for a
cruise on the prairies. We learnt that a company of mounted rangers, or
riflemen, had departed but three days previous to make a wide exploring
tour from the Arkansas to the Red River, including a part of the Pawnee
hunting grounds where no party of white men had as yet penetrated. Here,
then, was an opportunity of ranging over those dangerous and interesting
regions under the safeguard of a powerful escort; for the Commissioner,
in virtue of his office, could claim the service of this newly raised
corps of riflemen, and the country they were to explore was destined for
the settlement of some of the migrating tribes connected with his

Our plan was promptly formed and put into execution. A couple of Creek
Indians were sent off express, by the commander of Fort Gibson, to
overtake the rangers and bring them to a halt until the Commissioner and
his party should be able to join them. As we should have a march of three
or four days through a wild country before we could overtake the company
of rangers, an escort of fourteen mounted riflemen, under the command of
a lieutenant, was assigned us.

We sent word to the young Count and Mr. L. at the Osage Agency; of our
new plan and prospects, and invited them to accompany us. The Count,
however, could not forego the delights he had promised himself in
mingling with absolutely savage life. In reply; he agreed to keep with us
until we should come upon the trail of the Osage hunters, when it was his
fixed resolve to strike off into the wilderness in pursuit of them; and
his faithful Mentor, though he grieved at the madness of the scheme, was
too stanch a friend to desert him. A general rendezvous of our party and
escort was appointed, for the following morning, at the Agency.

We now made all arrangements for prompt departure. Our baggage had
hitherto been transported on a light wagon, but we were now to break our
way through an untravelled country, cut up by rivers, ravines, and
thickets, where a vehicle of the kind would be a complete impediment. We
were to travel on horseback, in hunter's style, and with as little
encumbrance as possible. Our baggage, therefore, underwent a rigid and
most abstemious reduction. A pair of saddle-bags, and those by no means
crammed, sufficed for each man's scanty wardrobe, and, with his great
coat, were to be carried upon the steed he rode. The rest of the baggage
was placed on pack-horses. Each one had a bear-skin and a couple of
blankets for bedding, and there was a tent to shelter us in case of
sickness or bad weather. We took care to provide ourselves with flour,
coffee, and sugar, together with a small supply of salt pork for
emergencies; for our main subsistence we were to depend upon the chase.

Such of our horses as had not been tired out in our recent journey, were
taken with us as pack-horses, or supernumeraries; but as we were going on
a long and rough tour, where there would be occasional hunting, and
where, in case of meeting with hostile savages, the safety of the rider
might depend upon the goodness of his steed, we took care to be well
mounted. I procured a stout silver-gray, somewhat rough, but stanch and
powerful; and reigned a hardy pony which I had hitherto ridden, and
which, being somewhat jaded, was suffered to ramble along with the
pack-horses, to be mounted only in case of emergency.

All these arrangements being made, we left Fort Gibson, on the morning of
the tenth of October, and crossing the river in front of it, set off for
the rendezvous at the Agency. A ride of a few miles brought us to the
ford of the Verdigris, a wild rocky scene overhung with forest trees. We
descended to the bank of the river and crossed in straggling file, the
horses stepping cautiously from rock to rock, and in a manner feeling
about for a foothold beneath the rushing and brawling stream.

Our little Frenchman, Tonish, brought up the rear with the pack-horses.
He was in high glee, having experienced a kind of promotion. In our
journey hitherto he had driven the wagon, which he seemed to consider a
very inferior employ; now he was master of the horse.

He sat perched like a monkey behind the on one of the horses; he sang, he
shouted, he yelped like an Indian, and ever and anon blasphemed the
loitering pack-horses in his jargon of mingled French, English, and,
Osage, which not one of them could understand.

As we were crossing the ford we saw on the opposite shore a Creek Indian
on horseback. He had paused to reconnoitre us from the brow of a rock,
and formed a picturesque object, in unison with the wild scenery around
him. He wore a bright blue hunting-shirt trimmed with scarlet fringe; a
gayly colored handkerchief was bound round his head something like a
turban, with one end hanging down beside his ear; he held a long rifle in
his hand, and looked like a wild Arab on the prowl. Our loquacious and
ever-meddling little Frenchman called out to him in his Babylonish
jargon, but the savage having satisfied his curiosity tossed his head in
the air, turned the head of his steed, and galloping along the shore soon
disappeared among the trees.



Having crossed the ford, we soon reached the Osage Agency, where Col.
Choteau has his offices and magazines, for the despatch of Indian
affairs, and the distribution of presents and supplies. It consisted of a
few log houses on the banks of the river, and presented a motley frontier
scene. Here was our escort awaiting our arrival; some were on horseback,
some on foot, some seated on the trunks of fallen trees, some shooting at
a mark. They were a heterogeneous crew; some in frock-coats made of green
blankets; others in leathern hunting-shirts, but the most part in
marvellously ill-cut garments, much the worse for wear, and evidently put
on for rugged service.

Near by these was a group of Osages: stately fellows; stern and simple in
garb and aspect. They wore no ornaments; their dress consisted merely of
blankets, leggings, and moccasons. Their heads were bare; their hair was
cropped close, excepting a bristling ridge on the top, like the crest of
a helmet, with a long scalp-lock hanging behind. They had fine Roman
countenances, and broad deep chests; and, as they generally wore their
blankets wrapped round their loins, so as to leave the bust and arms
bare, they looked like so many noble bronze figures. The Osages are the
finest looking Indians I have ever seen in the West. They have not
yielded sufficiently, as yet, to the influence of civilization to lay by
their simple Indian garb, or to lose the habits of the hunter and the
warrior; and their poverty prevents their indulging in much luxury of

In contrast to these was a gayly dressed party of Creeks. There is
something, at the first glance, quite oriental in the appearance of this
tribe. They dress in calico hunting shirts, of various brilliant colors,
decorate with bright fringes, and belted with broad girdles, embroidered
with beads; they have leggings of dressed deer skins, or of green or
scarlet cloth, with embroidered knee-bands and tassels; their moccasons
are fancifully wrought and ornamented, and they wear gaudy handkerchiefs
tastefully bound round their heads.

Besides these, there was a sprinkling of trappers, hunters, half-breeds,
creoles, negroes of every hue; and all that other rabble rout of
nondescript beings that keep about the frontiers, between civilised and
savage life, as those equivocal birds, the bats, hover about the confines
of light and darkness.

The little hamlet of the Agency was in a complete bustle; the
blacksmith's shed, in particular, was a scene of preparation; a strapping
negro was shoeing a horse; two half-breeds were fabricating iron spoons
in which to melt lead for bullets. An old trapper, in leathern hunting
frock and moccasons, had placed his rifle against a work-bench, while he
superintended the operation, and gossiped about his hunting exploits;
several large dogs were lounging in and out of the shop, or sleeping in
the sunshine, while a little cur, with head cocked on one side, and one
ear erect, was watching, with that curiosity common to little dogs, the
process of shoeing the horse, as if studying the art, or waiting for his
turn to be shod.

We found the Count and his companion, the Virtuoso, ready for the march.
As they intended to overtake the Osages, and pass some time in hunting
the buffalo and the wild horse, they had provided themselves accordingly;
having, in addition to the steeds which they used for travelling, others
of prime quality, which were to be led when on the march, and only to be
mounted for the chase.

They had, moreover, engaged the services of a young man named Antoine, a
half-breed of French and Osage origin. He was to be a kind of
Jack-of-all-work; to cook, to hunt, and to take care of the horses; but
he had a vehement propensity to do nothing, being one of the worthless
brood engendered and brought up among the missions. He was, moreover, a
little spoiled by being really a handsome young fellow, an Adonis of the
frontier, and still worse by fancying himself highly connected, his
sister being concubine to an opulent white trader!

For our own parts, the Commissioner and myself were desirous, before
setting out, to procure another attendant well versed in woodcraft, who
might serve us as a hunter; for our little Frenchman would have his hands
full when in camp, in cooking, and on the march, in taking care of the
pack-horses. Such an one presented himself, or rather was recommended to
us, in Pierre Beatte, a half-breed of French and Osage parentage. We were
assured that he was acquainted with all parts of the country, having
traversed it in all directions, both in hunting and war parties; that he
would be of use both as guide and interpreter, and that he was a
first-rate hunter.

I confess I did not like his looks when he was first presented to me. He
was lounging about, in an old hunting frock and metasses or leggings, of
deer skin, soiled and greased, and almost japanned by constant use. He
was apparently about thirty-six years of age, square and strongly built.
His features were not bad, being shaped not unlike those of Napoleon, but
sharpened up, with high Indian cheek-bones.

Perhaps the dusky greenish hue of his complexion, aided his resemblance
to an old bronze bust I had seen of the Emperor. He had, however, a
sullen, saturnine expression, set off by a slouched woollen hat, and elf
locks that hung about his ears.

Such was the appearance of the man, and his manners were equally
unprepossessing. He was cold and laconic; made no promises or
professions; stated the terms he required for the services of himself and
his horse, which we thought rather high, but showed no disposition to
abate them, nor any anxiety to secure our employ. He had altogether more
of the red than the white man in his composition; and, as I had been
taught to look upon all half-breeds with distrust, as an uncertain and
faithless race, I would gladly have dispensed with the services of Pierre
Beatte. We had no time, however, to look out for any one more to our
taste, and had to make an arrangement with him on the spot. He then set
about making his preparations for the journey, promising to join us at
our evening's encampment.

One thing was yet wanting to fit me out for the Prairies--a thoroughly
trustworthy steed: I was not yet mounted to my mind. The gray I had
bought, though strong and serviceable, was rough. At the last moment I
succeeded in getting an excellent animal; a dark bay; powerful, active,
generous-spirited, and in capital condition. I mounted him with
exultation, and transferred the silver gray to Tonish, who was in such
ecstasies at finding himself so completely en Cavalier, that I feared he
might realize the ancient and well-known proverb of "a beggar on



The long-drawn notes of a bugle at length gave the signal for departure.
The rangers filed off in a straggling line of march through the woods: we
were soon on horseback and following on, but were detained by the
irregularity of the pack-horses. They were unaccustomed to keep the line,
and straggled from side to side among the thickets, in spite of all the
pesting and bedeviling of Tonish; who, mounted on his gallant gray, with
a long rifle on his shoulder, worried after them, bestowing a
superabundance of dry blows and curses.

We soon, therefore, lost sight of our escort, but managed to keep on
their track, thridding lofty forests, and entangled thickets, and passing
by Indian wigwams and negro huts, until toward dusk we arrived at a
frontier farm-house, owned by a settler of the name of Berryhill. It was
situated on a hill, below which the rangers had encamped in a circular
grove, on the margin of a stream. The master of the house received us
civilly, but could offer us no accommodation, for sickness prevailed in
his family. He appeared himself to be in no very thriving condition, for
though bulky in frame, he had a sallow, unhealthy complexion, and a
whiffling double voice, shifting abruptly from a treble to a

Finding his log house was a mere hospital, crowded with invalids, we
ordered our tent to be pitched in the farm-yard.

We had not been long encamped, when our recently engaged attendant,
Beatte, the Osage half-breed, made his appearance. He came mounted on one
horse and leading another, which seemed to be well packed with supplies
for the expedition. Beatte was evidently an "old soldier," as to the art
of taking care of himself and looking out for emergencies. Finding that
he was in government employ, being engaged by the Commissioner, he had
drawn rations of flour and bacon, and put them up so as to be
weather-proof. In addition to the horse for the road, and for ordinary
service, which was a rough, hardy animal, he had another for hunting.
This was of a mixed breed like himself, being a cross of the domestic
stock with the wild horse of the prairies; and a noble steed it was, of
generous spirit, fine action, and admirable bottom. He had taken care to
have his horses well shod at the Agency. He came prepared at all points
for war or hunting: his rifle on his shoulder, his powder-horn and
bullet-pouch at his side, his hunting-knife stuck in his belt, and coils
of cordage at his saddle bow, which we were told were lariats, or noosed
cords, used in catching the wild horse.

Thus equipped and provided, an Indian hunter on a prairie is like a
cruiser on the ocean, perfectly independent of the world, and competent
to self-protection and self-maintenance. He can cast himself loose from
every one, shape his own course, and take care of his own fortunes. I
thought Beatte seemed to feel his independence, and to consider himself
superior to us all, now that we were launching into the wilderness. He
maintained a half proud, half sullen look, and great taciturnity, and his
first care was to unpack his horses and put them in safe quarters for the
night. His whole demeanor was in perfect contrast to our vaporing,
chattering, bustling little Frenchman. The latter, too, seemed jealous of
this new-comer. He whispered to us that these half-breeds were a touchy,
capricious people, little to be depended upon. That Beatte had evidently
come prepared to take care of himself, and that, at any moment in the
course of our tour, he would be liable to take some sudden disgust or
affront, and abandon us at a moment's warning: having the means of
shifting for himself, and being perfectly at home on the prairies.



On the following morning (October 11), we were on the march by half-past
seven o'clock, and rode through deep rich bottoms of alluvial soil,
overgrown with redundant vegetation, and trees of an enormous size. Our
route lay parallel to the west bank of the Arkansas, on the borders of
which river, near the confluence of the Red Fork, we expected to overtake
the main body of rangers. For some miles the country was sprinkled with
Creek villages and farm-houses; the inhabitants of which appeared to have
adopted, with considerable facility, the rudiments of civilization, and
to have thriven in consequence. Their farms were well stocked, and their
houses had a look of comfort and abundance.

We met with numbers of them returning from one of their grand games of
ball, for which their nation is celebrated. Some were on foot, some on
horseback; the latter, occasionally, with gayly dressed females behind
them. They are a well-made race, muscular and closely knit, with
well-turned thighs and legs. They have a gypsy fondness for brilliant
colors and gay decorations, and are bright and fanciful objects when seen
at a distance on the prairies. One had a scarlet handkerchief bound round
his head, surmounted with a tuft of black feathers like a cocktail.
Another had a white handkerchief, with red feathers; while a third, for
want of a plume, had stuck in his turban a brilliant bunch of sumach.

On the verge of the wilderness we paused to inquire our way at a log
house, owned by a white settler or squatter, a tall raw-boned old fellow,
with red hair, a lank lantern visage, and an inveterate habit of winking
with one eye, as if everything he said was of knowing import. He was in a
towering passion. One of his horses was missing; he was sure it had been
stolen in the night by a straggling party of Osages encamped in a
neighboring swamp; but he would have satisfaction! He would make an
example of the villains. He had accordingly caught down his rifle from
the wall, that invariable enforcer of right or wrong upon the frontiers,
and, having saddled his steed, was about to sally forth on a foray into
the swamp; while a brother squatter, with rifle in hand, stood ready to
accompany him.

We endeavored to calm the old campaigner of the prairies, by suggesting
that his horse might have strayed into the neighboring woods; but he had
the frontier propensity to charge everything to the Indians, and nothing
could dissuade him from carrying fire and sword into the swamp.

After riding a few miles farther we lost the trail of the main body of
rangers, and became perplexed by a variety of tracks made lay the Indians
and settlers. At length coming to a log house, inhabited by a white man,
the very last on the frontier, we found that we had wandered from our
true course. Taking us back for some distance, he again brought us to the
right trail; putting ourselves upon which, we took our final departure,
and launched into the broad wilderness.

The trail kept on like a straggling footpath, over hill and dale, through
brush and brake, and tangled thicket, and open prairie. In traversing the
wilds it is customary for a party either of horse or foot to follow each
other in single file like the Indians; so that the leaders break the way
for those who follow, and lessen their labor and fatigue. In this way,
also, the number of a party is concealed, the whole leaving but one
narrow well-trampled track to mark their course.

We had not long regained the trail, when, on emerging from a forest, we
beheld our raw-boned, hard-winking, hard-riding knight-errant of the
frontier, descending the slope of a hill, followed by his companion in
arms. As he drew near to us, the gauntness of his figure and ruefulness
of his aspect reminded me of the description of the hero of La Mancha,
and he was equally bent on affairs of doughty enterprise, being about to
penetrate the thickets of the perilous swamp, within which the enemy lay

While we were holding a parley with him on the slope of the hill, we
descried an Osage on horseback issuing out of a skirt of wood about half
a mile off, and leading a horse by a halter. The latter was immediately
recognized by our hard-winking friend as the steed of which he was in
quest. As the Osage drew near, I was struck with his appearance. He was
about nineteen or twenty years of age, but well grown, with the fine
Roman countenance common to his tribe, and as he rode with his blanket
wrapped round his loins, his naked bust would have furnished a model for
a statuary. He was mounted on beautiful piebald horse, a mottled white
and brown, of the wild breed of the prairies, decorated with a broad
collar, from which hung in front a tuft of horsehair dyed of a bright

The youth rode slowly up to us with a frank open air, and signified by
means of our interpreter Beatte, that the horse he was leading had
wandered to their camp, and he was now on his way to conduct him back to
his owner.

I had expected to witness an expression of gratitude on the part of our
hard-favored cavalier, but to my surprise the old fellow broke out into a
furious passion. He declared that the Indians had carried off his horse
in the night, with the intention of bringing him home in the morning, and
claiming a reward for finding him; a common practice, as he affirmed,
among the Indians. He was, therefore, for tying the young Indian to a
tree and giving him a sound lashing; and was quite surprised at the burst
of indignation which this novel mode of requiting a service drew from us.
Such, however, is too often the administration of law on the frontier,
"Lynch's law," as it is technically termed, in which the plaintiff is apt
to be witness, jury, judge, and executioner, and the defendant to be
convicted and punished on mere presumption; and in this way, I am
convinced, are occasioned many of those heart-burnings and resentments
among the Indians, which lead to retaliation, and end in Indian wars.
When I compared the open, noble countenance and frank demeanor of the
young Osage, with the sinister visage and high-handed conduct of the
frontiersman, I felt little doubt on whose back a lash would be most
meritoriously bestowed.

Being thus obliged to content himself with the recovery of his horse,
without the pleasure of flogging the finder, into the bargain the old
Lycurgus, or rather Draco, of the frontier, set off growling on his
return homeward, followed by his brother squatter.

As for the youthful Osage, we were all prepossessed in his favor; the
young Count especially, with the sympathies proper to his age and
incident to his character, had taken quite a fancy to him. Nothing would
suit but he must have the young Osage as a companion and squire in his
expedition into the wilderness. The youth was easily tempted, and, with
the prospect of a safe range over the buffalo prairies and the promise of
a new blanket, he turned his bridle, left the swamp and the encampment of
his friends behind him, and set off to follow the Count in his wanderings
in quest of the Osage hunters.

Such is the glorious independence of man in a savage state. This youth,
with his rifle, his blanket, and his horse, was ready at a moment's
warning to rove the world; he carried all his worldly effects with him,
and in the absence of artificial wants, possessed the great secret of
personal freedom. We of society are slaves, not so much to others as to
ourselves; our superfluities are the chains that bind us, impeding every
movement of our bodies and thwarting every impulse of our souls. Such, at
least, were my speculations at the time, though I am not sure but that
they took their tone from the enthusiasm of the young Count, who seemed
more enchanted than ever with the wild chivalry of the prairies, and
talked of putting on the Indian dress and adopting the Indian habits
during the time he hoped to pass with the Osages.



In the course of the morning the trail we were pursuing was crossed by
another, which struck off through the forest to the west in a direct
course for the Arkansas River. Beatte, our half-breed, after considering
it for a moment, pronounced it the trail of the Osage hunters; and that
it must lead to the place where they had forded the river on their way to
the hunting grounds.

Here then the young Count and his companion came to a halt and prepared
to take leave of us. The most experienced frontiersmen in the troop
remonstrated on the hazard of the undertaking. They were about to throw
themselves loose in the wilderness, with no other guides, guards, or
attendants, than a young ignorant half-breed, and a still younger Indian.
They were embarrassed by a pack-horse and two led horses, with which they
would have to make their way through matted forests, and across rivers
and morasses. The Osages and Pawnees were at war, and they might fall in
with some warrior party of the latter, who are ferocious foes; besides,
their small number, and their valuable horses, would form a great
temptation to some of the straggling bands of Osages loitering about the
frontier, who might rob them of their horses in the night, and leave them
destitute and on foot in the midst of the prairies.

Nothing, however, could restrain the romantic ardor of the Count for a
campaign of buffalo hunting with the Osages, and he had a game spirit
that seemed always stimulated by the idea of danger. His travelling
companion, of discreeter age and calmer temperament, was convinced of the
rashness of the enterprise; but he could not control the impetuous zeal
of his youthful friend, and he was too loyal to leave him to pursue his
hazardous scheme alone. To our great regret, therefore, we saw them
abandon the protection of our escort, and strike off on their hap-hazard
expedition. The old hunters of our party shook their heads, and our
half-breed, Beatte, predicted all kinds of trouble to them; my only hope
was, that they would soon meet with perplexities enough to cool the
impetuosity of the young Count, and induce him to rejoin us. With this
idea we travelled slowly, and made a considerable halt at noon. After
resuming our march, we came in sight of the Arkansas. It presented a
broad and rapid stream, bordered by a beach of fine sand, overgrown with
willows and cottonwood-trees. Beyond the river, the eye wandered over a
beautiful champaign country, of flowery plains and sloping uplands,
diversified by groves and clumps of trees, and long screens of woodland;
the whole wearing the aspect of complete, and even ornamental
cultivation, instead of native wilfulness. Not far from the river, on an
open eminence, we passed through the recently deserted camping place of
an Osage war party. The frames of the tents or wigwams remained,
consisting of poles bent into an arch, with each end stuck into the
ground: these are intertwined with twigs and branches, and covered with
bark and skins. Those experienced in Indian lore, can ascertain the
tribe, and whether on a hunting or a warlike expedition, by the shape and
disposition of the wigwams. Beatte pointed out to us, in the present
skeleton camp, the wigwam in which the chiefs had held their
consultations around the council-fire; and an open area, well trampled
down, on which the grand war-dance had been performed.

Pursuing our journey, as we were passing through a forest, we were met by
a forlorn, half-famished dog, who came rambling along the trail, with
inflamed eyes, and bewildered look. Though nearly trampled upon by the
foremost rangers, he took notice of no one, but rambled heedlessly among
the horses. The cry of "mad dog" was immediately raised, and one of the
rangers levelled his rifle, but was stayed by the ever-ready humanity of
the Commissioner. "He is blind!" said he. "It is the dog of some poor
Indian, following his master by the scent. It would be a shame to kill so
faithful an animal." The ranger shouldered his rifle, the dog blundered
blindly through the cavalcade unhurt, and keeping his nose to the ground,
continued his course along the trail, affording a rare instance of a dog
surviving a bad name.

About three o'clock, we came to a recent camping-place of the company of
rangers: the brands of one of their fires were still smoking; so that,
according to the opinion of Beatte, they could not have passed on above a
day previously. As there was a fine stream of water close by, and plenty
of pea-vines for the horses, we encamped here for the night.

We had not been here long, when we heard a halloo from a distance, and
beheld the young Count and his party advancing through the forest. We
welcomed them to the camp with heartfelt satisfaction; for their
departure upon so hazardous an expedition had caused us great uneasiness.
A short experiment had convinced them of the toil and difficulty of
inexperienced travellers like themselves making their way through the
wilderness with such a train of horses, and such slender attendance.
Fortunately, they determined to rejoin us before night-fall; one night's
camping out might have cost them their horses. The Count had prevailed
upon his protege and esquire, the young Osage, to continue with him, and
still calculated upon achieving great exploits, with his assistance, on
the buffalo prairies.



In the morning early (October 12th), the two Creeks who had been sent
express by the commander of Fort Gibson, to stop the company of rangers,
arrived at our encampment on their return. They had left the company
encamped about fifty miles distant, in a fine place on the Arkansas,
abounding in game, where they intended to await our arrival. This news
spread animation throughout our party, and we set out on our march at
sunrise, with renewed spirit.

In mounting our steeds, the young Osage attempted to throw a blanket upon
his wild horse. The fine, sensible animal took fright, reared and
recoiled. The attitudes of the wild horse and the almost naked savage,
would have formed studies for a painter or a statuary.

I often pleased myself in the course of our march, with noticing the
appearance of the young Count and his newly enlisted follower, as they
rode before me. Never was preux chevalier better suited with an esquire.
The Count was well mounted, and, as I have before observed, was a bold
and graceful rider. He was fond, too, of caracoling his horse, and
dashing about in the buoyancy of youthful spirits. His dress was a gay
Indian hunting frock of dressed deer skin, setting well to the shape,
dyed of a beautiful purple, and fancifully embroidered with silks of
various colors; as if it had been the work of some Indian beauty, to
decorate a favorite chief. With this he wore leathern pantaloons and
moccasons, a foraging cap, and a double-barrelled gun slung by a
bandoleer athwart his back: so that he was quite a picturesque figure as
he managed gracefully his spirited steed.

The young Osage would ride close behind him on his wild and beautifully
mottled horse, which was decorated with crimson tufts of hair. He rode
with his finely shaped head and bust naked; his blanket being girt round
his waist. He carried his rifle in one hand, and managed his horse with
the other, and seemed ready to dash off at a moment's warning, with his
youthful leader, on any madcap foray or scamper. The Count, with the
sanguine anticipations of youth, promised himself many hardy adventures
and exploits in company with his youthful "brave," when we should get
among the buffaloes, in the Pawnee hunting grounds.

After riding some distance, we crossed a narrow, deep stream, upon a
solid bridge, the remains of an old beaver dam; the industrious community
which had constructed it had all been destroyed. Above us, a streaming
flight of wild geese, high in the air, and making a vociferous noise,
gave note of the waning year.

About half past ten o'clock we made a halt in a forest, where there was
abundance of the pea-vine. Here we turned the horses loose to gaze. A
fire was made, water procured from an adjacent spring, and in a short
time our little Frenchman, Tonish, had a pot of coffee prepared for our
refreshment. While partaking of it, we were joined by an old Osage, one
of a small hunting party who had recently passed this way. He was in
search of his horse, which had wandered away, or been stolen. Our
half-breed, Beatte, made a wry face on hearing of Osage hunters in this
direction. "Until we pass those hunters," said he, "we shall see no
buffaloes. They frighten away every thing, like a prairie on fire."

The morning repast being over, the party amused themselves in various
ways. Some shot with their rifles at a mark, others lay asleep half
buried in the deep bed of foliage, with their heads resting on their
saddles; others gossiped round the fire at the foot of a tree, which sent
up wreaths of blue smoke among the branches. The horses banqueted
luxuriously on the pea-vines, and some lay down and rolled amongst them.

We were overshadowed by lofty trees, with straight, smooth trunks, like
stately columns; and as the glancing rays of the sun shone through the
transparent leaves, tinted with the many-colored hues of autumn, I was
reminded of the effect of sunshine among the stained windows and
clustering columns of a Gothic cathedral. Indeed there is a grandeur and
solemnity in our spacious forests of the West, that awaken in me the same
feeling I have experienced in those vast and venerable piles, and the
sound of the wind sweeping through them, supplies occasionally the deep
breathings of the organ.

About noon the bugle sounded to horse, and we were again on the march,
hoping to arrive at the encampment of the rangers before night; as the
old Osage had assured us it was not above ten or twelve miles distant. In
our course through a forest, we passed by a lonely pool, covered with the
most magnificent water-lilies I had ever beheld; among which swam several
wood-ducks, one of the most beautiful of water-fowl, remarkable for the
gracefulness and brilliancy of its plumage.

After proceeding some distance farther, we came down upon the banks of
the Arkansas, at a place where tracks of numerous horses, all entering
the water, showed where a party of Osage hunters had recently crossed the
river on their way to the buffalo range. After letting our horses drink
in the river, we continued along its bank for a space, and then across
prairies, where we saw a distant smoke, which we hoped might proceed from
the encampment of the rangers. Following what we supposed to be their
trail, we came to a meadow in which were a number of horses grazing: they
were not, however, the horses of the troop. A little farther on, we
reached a straggling Osage village, on the banks of the Arkansas. Our
arrival created quite a sensation. A number of old men came forward and
shook hands with us all severally; while the women and children huddled
together in groups, staring at us wildly, chattering and laughing among
themselves. We found that all the young men of the village had departed
on a hunting expedition, leaving the women and children and old men
behind. Here the Commissioner made a speech from on horseback; informing
his hearers of the purport of his mission, to promote a general peace
among the tribes of the West, and urging them to lay aside all warlike
and bloodthirsty notions, and not to make any wanton attacks upon the
Pawnees. This speech being interpreted by Beatte, seemed to have a most
pacifying effect upon the multitude, who promised faithfully that, as far
as in them lay, the peace should not be disturbed; and indeed their age
and sex gave some reason to trust that they would keep their word.

Still hoping to reach the camp of the rangers before nightfall, we pushed
on until twilight, when we were obliged to halt on the borders of a
ravine. The rangers bivouacked under trees, at the bottom of the dell,
while we pitched our tent on a rocky knoll near a running stream. The
night came on dark and overcast, with flying clouds, and much appearance
of rain. The fires of the rangers burnt brightly in the dell, and threw
strong masses of light upon the robber-looking groups that were cooking,
eating, and drinking around them. To add to the wildness of the scene,
several Osage Indians, visitors from the village we had passed, were
mingled among the men. Three of them came and seated themselves by our
fire. They watched every thing that was going on around them in silence,
and looked like figures of monumental bronze. We gave them food, and,
what they most relished, coffee; for the Indians partake in the universal
fondness for this beverage, which pervades the West. When they had made
their supper, they stretched themselves, side by side, before the fire,
and began a low nasal chant, drumming with their hands upon their
breasts, by way of accompaniment. Their chant seemed to consist of
regular staves, every one terminating, not in a melodious cadence, but in
the abrupt interjection huh! uttered almost like a hiccup. This chant, we
were told by our interpreter, Beatte, related to ourselves, our
appearance, our treatment of them, and all that they knew of our plans.
In one part they spoke of the young Count, whose animated character and
eagerness for Indian enterprise had struck their fancy, and they indulged
in some waggery about him and the young Indian beauties, that produced
great merriment among our half-breeds.

This mode of improvising is common throughout the savage tribes; and in
this way, with a few simple inflections of the voice, they chant all
their exploits in war and hunting, and occasionally indulge in a vein of
comic humor and dry satire, to which the Indians appear to me much more
prone than is generally imagined.

In fact, the Indians that I have had an opportunity of seeing in real
life are quite different from those described in poetry. They are by no
means the stoics that they are represented, taciturn, unbending, without
a tear or a smile. Taciturn they are, it is true, when in company with
white men, whose goodwill they distrust, and whose language they do not
understand; but the white man is equally taciturn under like
circumstances. When the Indians are among themselves, however, there
cannot be greater gossips. Half their time is taken up in talking over
their adventures in war and hunting, and in telling whimsical stories.
They are great mimics and buffoons, also, and entertain themselves
excessively at the expense of the whites with whom they have associated,
and who have supposed them impressed with profound respect for their
grandeur and dignity. They are curious observers, noting every thing in
silence, but with a keen and watchful eye; occasionally exchanging a
glance or a grunt with each other, when any thing particularly strikes
them: but reserving all comments until they are alone. Then it is that
they give full scope to criticism, satire, mimicry, and mirth.

In the course of my journey along the frontier, I have had repeated
opportunities of noticing their excitability and boisterous merriment at
their games; and have occasionally noticed a group of Osages sitting
round a fire until a late hour of the night, engaged in the most animated
and lively conversation; and at times making the woods resound with peals
of laughter. As to tears, they have them in abundance, both real and
affected; at times they make a merit of them. No one weeps more bitterly
or profusely at the death of a relative or friend: and they have stated
times when they repair to howl and lament at their graves. I have heard
doleful wailings at daybreak, in the neighboring Indian villages, made by
some of the inhabitants, who go out at that hour into the fields, to
mourn and weep for the dead: at such times, I am told, the tears will
stream down their cheeks in torrents.

As far as I can judge, the Indian of poetical fiction is like the
shepherd of pastoral romance, a mere personification of imaginary

The nasal chant of our Osage guests gradually died away; they covered
their heads with their blankets and fell fast asleep, and in a little
while all was silent, except the pattering of scattered rain-drops upon
our tent.

In the morning our Indian visitors breakfasted with us, but the young
Osage who was to act as esquire to the Count in his knight-errantry on
the prairies, was nowhere to be found. His wild horse, too, was missing,
and, after many conjectures, we came to the conclusion that he had taken
"Indian leave" of us in the night. We afterwards ascertained that he had
been persuaded so to do by the Osages we had recently met with; who had
represented to him the perils that would attend him in an expedition to
the Pawnee hunting grounds, where he might fall into the hands of the
implacable enemies of his tribe; and, what was scarcely less to be
apprehended, the annoyances to which he would be subjected from the
capricious and overbearing conduct of the white men; who, as I have
witnessed in my own short experience, are prone to treat the poor Indians
as little better than brute animals. Indeed, he had had a specimen of it
himself in the narrow escape he made from the infliction of "Lynch's
law," by the hard-winking worthy of the frontier, for the flagitious
crime of finding a stray horse.

The disappearance of the youth was generally regretted by our party, for
we had all taken a great fancy to him from his handsome, frank, and manly
appearance, and the easy grace of his deportment. He was indeed a
native-born gentleman. By none, however, was he so much lamented as by
the young Count, who thus suddenly found himself deprived of his esquire.
I regretted the departure of the Osage for his own sake, for we should
have cherished him throughout the expedition, and I am convinced, from
the munificent spirit of his patron, he would have returned to his tribe
laden with wealth of beads and trinkets and Indian blankets.



The weather, which had been rainy in the night, having held up, we
resumed our march at seven o'clock in the morning, in confident hope of
soon arriving at the encampment of the rangers. We had not ridden above
three or four miles when we came to a large tree which had recently been
felled by an axe, for the wild honey contained in the hollow of its
trunk, several broken flakes of which still remained. We now felt sure
that the camp could not be far distant. About a couple of miles further
some of the rangers set up a shout, and pointed to a number of horses
grazing in a woody bottom. A few paces brought us to the brow of an
elevated ridge, whence we looked down upon the encampment. It was a wild
bandit, or Robin Hood, scene. In a beautiful open forest, traversed by a
running stream, were booths of bark and branches, and tents of blankets,
temporary shelters from the recent rain, for the rangers commonly bivouac
in the open air. There were groups of rangers in every kind of uncouth
garb. Some were cooking at large fires made at the feet of trees; some
were stretching and dressing deer skins; some were shooting at a mark,
and some lying about on the grass. Venison jerked, and hung on frames,
was drying over the embers in one place; in another lay carcasses
recently brought in by the hunters. Stacks of rifles were leaning against
the trunks of the trees, and saddles, bridles, and powder-horns hanging
above them, while the horses were grazing here and there among the

Our arrival was greeted with acclamation. The rangers crowded about their
comrades to inquire the news from the fort; for our own part, we were
received in frank simple hunter's style by Captain Bean, the commander of
the company; a man about forty years of age, vigorous and active. His
life had been chiefly passed on the frontier, occasionally in Indian
warfare, so that he was a thorough woodsman, and a first-rate hunter. He
was equipped in character; in leathern hunting shirt and leggings, and a
leathern foraging cap.

While we were conversing with the Captain, a veteran huntsman approached,
whose whole appearance struck me. He was of the middle size, but tough
and weather-proved; a head partly bald and garnished with loose iron-gray
locks, and a fine black eye, beaming with youthful spirit. His dress was
similar to that of the Captain, a rifle shirt and leggings of dressed
deer skin, that had evidently seen service; a powder-horn was slung by
his side, a hunting-knife stuck in his belt, and in his hand was an
ancient and trusty rifle, doubtless as dear to him as a bosom friend. He
asked permission to go hunting, which was readily granted. "That's old
Ryan," said the Captain, when he had gone; "there's not a better hunter
in the camp; he's sure to bring in game."

In a little while our pack-horses were unloaded and turned loose to revel
among the pea-vines. Our tent was pitched; our fire made; the half of a
deer had been sent to us from the Captain's lodge; Beatte brought in a
couple of wild turkeys; the spits were laden, and the camp-kettle crammed
with meat; and to crown our luxuries, a basin filled with great flakes of
delicious honey, the spoils of a plundered bee-tree, was given us by one
of the rangers.

Our little Frenchman, Tonish, was in an ecstasy, and tucking up his
sleeves to the elbows, set to work to make a display of his culinary
skill, on which he prided himself almost as much as upon his hunting, his
riding, and his warlike prowess.



The beautiful forest in which we were encamped abounded in bee-trees;
that is to say, trees in the decayed trunks of which wild bees had
established their hives. It is surprising in what countless swarms the
bees have overspread the Far West, within but a moderate number of years.
The Indians consider them the harbinger of the white man, as the buffalo
is of the red man; and say that, in proportion as the bee advances, the
Indian and buffalo retire. We are always accustomed to associate the hum
of the bee-hive with the farmhouse and flower-garden, and to consider
those industrious little animals as connected with the busy haunts of
man, and I am told that the wild bee is seldom to be met with at any
great distance from the frontier. They have been the heralds of
civilization, steadfastly preceding it as it advanced from the Atlantic
borders, and some of the ancient settlers of the West pretend to give the
very year when the honey-bee first crossed the Mississippi. The Indians
with surprise found the mouldering trees of their forests suddenly
teeming with ambrosial sweets, and nothing, I am told, can exceed the
greedy relish with which they banquet for the first time upon this
unbought luxury of the wilderness.

At present the honey-bee swarms in myriads, in the noble groves and
forests which skirt and intersect the prairies, and extend along the
alluvial bottoms of the rivers. It seems to me as if these beautiful
regions answer literally to the description of the land of promise, "a
land flowing with milk and honey;" for the rich pasturage of the prairies
is calculated to sustain herds of cattle as countless as the sands upon
the seashore, while the flowers with which they are enamelled render them
a very paradise for the nectar-seeking bee.

We had not been long in the camp when a party set out in quest of a bee
-tree; and, being curious to witness the sport, I gladly accepted an
invitation to accompany them. The party was headed by a veteran
bee-hunter, a tall lank fellow in homespun garb that hung loosely about
his limbs, and a straw hat shaped not unlike a bee-hive; a comrade,
equally uncouth in garb, and without a hat, straddled along at his heels,
with a long rifle on his shoulder. To these succeeded half a dozen
others, some with axes and some with rifles, for no one stirs far from
the camp without his firearms, so as to be ready either for wild deer or
wild Indian.

After proceeding some distance we came to an open glade on the skirts of
the forest. Here our leader halted, and then advanced quietly to a low
bush, on the top of which I perceived a piece of honey-comb. This I found
was the bait or lure for the wild bees. Several were humming about it,
and diving into its cells. When they had laden themselves with honey,
they would rise into the air, and dart off in a straight line, almost
with the velocity of a bullet. The hunters watched attentively the course
they took, and then set off in the same direction, stumbling along over
twisted roots and fallen trees, with their eyes turned up to the sky. In
this way they traced the honey-laden bees to their hive, in the hollow
trunk of a blasted oak, where, after buzzing about for a moment, they
entered a hole about sixty feet from the ground.

Two of the bee-hunters now plied their axes vigorously at the foot of the
tree to level it with the ground. The mere spectators and amateurs, in
the meantime, drew off to a cautious distance, to be out of the way of
the falling of the tree and the vengeance of its inmates. The jarring
blows of the axe seemed to have no effect in alarming or disturbing this
most industrious community. They continued to ply at their usual
occupations, some arriving full freighted into port, others sallying
forth on new expeditions, like so many merchantmen in a money-making
metropolis, little suspicious of impending bankruptcy and downfall. Even
a loud crack which announced the disrupture of the trunk, failed to
divert their attention from the intense pursuit of gain; at length down
came the tree with a tremendous crash, bursting open from end to end, and
displaying all the hoarded treasures of the commonwealth.

One of the hunters immediately ran up with a wisp of lighted hay as a
defence against the bees. The latter, however, made no attack and sought
no revenge; they seemed stupefied by the catastrophe and unsuspicious of
its cause, and remained crawling and buzzing about the ruins without
offering us any molestation. Every one of the party now fell to, with
spoon and hunting-knife, to scoop out the flakes of honey-comb with which
the hollow trunk was stored. Some of them were of old date and a deep
brown color, others were beautifully white, and the honey in their cells
was almost limpid. Such of the combs as were entire were placed in camp
kettles to be conveyed to the encampment; those which had been shivered
in the fall were devoured upon the spot. Every stark bee-hunter was to be
seen with a rich morsel in his hand, dripping about his fingers, and
disappearing as rapidly as a cream tart before the holiday appetite of a

Nor was it the bee-hunters alone that profited by the downfall of this
industrious community; as if the bees would carry through the similitude
of their habits with those of laborious and gainful man, I beheld numbers
from rival hives, arriving on eager wing, to enrich themselves with the
ruins of their neighbors. These busied themselves as eagerly and
cheerfully as so many wreckers on an Indiaman that has been driven on
shore; plunging into the cells of the broken honey-combs, banqueting
greedily on the spoil, and then winging their way full-freighted to their
homes. As to the poor proprietors of the ruin, they seemed to have no
heart to do any thing, not even to taste the nectar that flowed around
them; but crawled backward and forward, in vacant desolation, as I have
seen a poor fellow with his hands in his pockets, whistling vacantly and
despondingly about the ruins of his house that had been burnt.

It is difficult to describe the bewilderment and confusion of the bees of
the bankrupt hive who had been absent at the time of the catastrophe, and
who arrived from time to time, with full cargoes from abroad. At first
they wheeled about in the air, in the place where the fallen tree had
once reared its head, astonished at finding it all a vacuum. At length,
as if comprehending their disaster, they settled down in clusters on a
dry branch of a neighboring tree, whence they seemed to contemplate the
prostrate ruin, and to buzz forth doleful lamentations over the downfall
of their republic. It was a scene on which the "melancholy Jacques" might
have moralized by the hour.

We now abandoned the place, leaving much honey in the hollow of the tree.
"It will all be cleared off by varmint," said one of the rangers. "What
vermin?" asked I. "Oh, bears, and skunks, and racoons, and ‘possums. The
bears is the knowingest varmint for finding out a bee-tree in the world.
They'll gnaw for days together at the trunk till they make a bole big
enough to get in their paws, and then they'll haul out honey, bees and



On returning to the camp, we found it a scene of the greatest hilarity.
Some of the rangers were shooting at a mark, others were leaping,
wrestling, and playing at prison bars. They were mostly young men, on
their first expedition, in high health and vigor, and buoyant with
anticipations; and I can conceive nothing more likely to set the youthful
blood into a flow, than a wild wood life of the kind, and the range of a
magnificent wilderness, abounding with game, and fruitful of adventure.
We send our youth abroad to grow luxurious and effeminate in Europe; it
appears to me, that a previous tour on the prairies would be more likely
to produce that manliness, simplicity, and self-dependence, most in
unison with our political institutions.

While the young men were engaged in these boisterous amusements, a graver
set, composed of the Captain, the Doctor, and other sages and leaders of
the camp, were seated or stretched out on the grass, round a frontier
map, holding a consultation about our position, and the course we were to

Our plan was to cross the Arkansas just above where the Red Fork falls
into it, then to keep westerly, until we should pass through a grand belt
of open forest, called the Cross Timber, which ranges nearly north and
south from the Arkansas to Red River; after which, we were to keep a
southerly course toward the latter river.

Our half-breed, Beatte, being an experienced Osage hunter, was called
into the consultation. "Have you ever hunted in this direction?" said the
Captain. "Yes," was the laconic reply.

"Perhaps, then, you can tell us in which direction lies the Red Fork?"

"If you keep along yonder, by the edge of the prairie, you will come to a
bald hill, with a pile of stones upon it."

"I have noticed that hill as I was hunting," said the Captain.

"Well! those stones were set up by the Osages as a landmark: from that
spot you may have a sight of the Red Fork."

"In that case," cried the Captain, "we shall reach the Red Fork
to-morrow; then cross the Arkansas above it, into the Pawnee country, and
then in two days we shall crack buffalo bones!"

The idea of arriving at the adventurous hunting grounds of the Pawnees,
and of coming upon the traces of the buffaloes, made every eye sparkle
with animation. Our further conversation was interrupted by the sharp
report of a rifle at no great distance from the camp.

"That's old Ryan's rifle," exclaimed the Captain; "there's a buck down,
I'll warrant!" Nor was he mistaken; for, before long, the veteran made
his appearance, calling upon one of the younger rangers to return with
him, and aid in bringing home the carcass.

The surrounding country, in fact, abounded with game, so that the camp
was overstocked with provisions, and, as no less than twenty bee-trees
had been cut down in the vicinity, every one revelled in luxury. With the
wasteful prodigality of hunters, there was a continual feasting, and
scarce any one put by provision for the morrow. The cooking was conducted
in hunter's style: the meat was stuck upon tapering spits of dogwood,
which were thrust perpendicularly into the ground, so as to sustain the
joint before the fire, where it was roasted or broiled with all its
juices retained in it in a manner that would have tickled the palate of
the most experienced gourmand. As much could not be said in favor of the
bread. It was little more than a paste made of flour and water, and fried
like fritters, in lard; though some adopted a ruder style, twisting it
round the ends of sticks, and thus roasting it before the fire. In either
way, I have found it extremely palatable on the prairies. No one knows
the true relish of food until he has a hunter's appetite.

Before sunset, we were summoned by little Tonish to a sumptuous repast.
Blankets had been spread on the ground near to the fire, upon which we
took our seats. A large dish, or bowl, made from the root of a maple
tree, and which we had purchased at the Indian village, was placed on the
ground before us, and into it were emptied the contents of one of the
camp kettles, consisting of a wild turkey hashed, together with slices of
bacon and lumps of dough. Beside it was placed another bowl of similar
ware, containing an ample supply of fritters. After we had discussed the
hash, two wooden spits, on which the ribs of a fat buck were broiling
before the fire, were removed and planted in the ground before us, with a
triumphant air, by little Tonish. Having no dishes, we had to proceed in
hunter's style, cutting off strips and slices with our hunting-knives,
and dipping them in salt and pepper. To do justice to Tonish's cookery,
however, and to the keen sauce of the prairies, never have I tasted
venison so delicious. With all this, our beverage was coffee, boiled in a
camp kettle, sweetened with brown sugar, and drunk out of tin cups: and
such was the style of our banqueting throughout this expedition, whenever
provisions were plenty, and as long as flour and coffee and sugar held

As the twilight thickened into night, the sentinels were marched forth to
their stations around the camp; an indispensable precaution in a country
infested by Indians. The encampment now presented a picturesque
appearance. Camp fires were blazing and smouldering here and there among
the trees, with groups of rangers round them; some seated or lying on the
ground, others standing in the ruddy glare of the flames, or in shadowy
relief. At some of the fires there was much boisterous mirth, where peals
of laughter were mingled with loud ribald jokes and uncouth exclamations;
for the troop was evidently a raw, undisciplined band, levied among the
wild youngsters of the frontier, who had enlisted, some for the sake of
roving adventure, and some for the purpose of getting a knowledge of the
country. Many of them were the neighbors of their officers, and
accustomed to regard them with the familiarity of equals and companions.
None of them had any idea of the restraint and decorum of a camp, or
ambition to acquire a name for exactness in a profession in which they
had no intention of continuing.

While this boisterous merriment prevailed at some of the fires, there
suddenly rose a strain of nasal melody from another, at which a choir of
"vocalists" were uniting their voices in a most lugubrious psalm tune.
This was led by one of the lieutenants; a tall, spare man, who we were
informed had officiated as schoolmaster, singing-master, and occasionally
as Methodist preacher, in one of the villages of the frontier. The chant
rose solemnly and sadly in the night air, and reminded me of the
description of similar canticles in the camps of the Covenanters; and,
indeed, the strange medley of figures and faces and uncouth garbs,
congregated together in our troop, would not have disgraced the banners
of Praise-God Barebones.

In one of the intervals of this nasal psalmody, an amateur owl, as if in
competition, began his dreary hooting. Immediately there was a cry
throughout the camp of "Charley's owl! Charley's owl!" It seems this
"obscure bird" had visited the camp every night, and had been fired at by
one of the sentinels, a half-witted lad, named Charley; who, on being
called up for firing when on duty, excused himself by saying, that he
understood owls made uncommonly good soup.

One of the young rangers mimicked the cry of this bird of wisdom, who,
with a simplicity little consonant with his character, came hovering
within sight, and alighted on the naked branch of a tree, lit up by the
blaze of our fire. The young Count immediately seized his fowling-piece,
took fatal aim, and in a twinkling the poor bird of ill omen came
fluttering to the ground. Charley was now called upon to make and eat his
dish of owl-soup, but declined, as he had not shot the bird.

In the course of the evening, I paid a visit to the Captain's fire. It
was composed of huge trunks of trees, and of sufficient magnitude to
roast a buffalo whole. Here were a number of the prime hunters and
leaders of the camp, some sitting, some standing, and others lying on
skins or blankets before the fire, telling old frontier stories about
hunting and Indian warfare.

As the night advanced, we perceived above the trees to the west, a ruddy
glow flushing up the sky.

"That must be a prairie set on fire by the Osage hunters," said the

"It is at the Red Fork," said Beatte, regarding the sky. "It seems but
three miles distant, yet it perhaps is twenty."

About half past eight o'clock, a beautiful pale light gradually sprang up
in the east, a precursor of the rising moon. Drawing off from the
Captain's lodge, I now prepared for the night's repose. I had determined
to abandon the shelter of the tent, and henceforth to bivouac like the
rangers. A bearskin spread at the foot of a tree was my bed, with a pair
of saddle-bags for a pillow. Wrapping myself in blankets, I stretched
myself on this hunter's couch, and soon fell into a sound and sweet
sleep, from which I did not awake until the bugle sounded at daybreak.



October 14th.--At the signal note of the bugle, the sentinels and patrols
marched in from their stations around the camp and were dismissed. The
rangers were roused from their night's repose, and soon a bustling scene
took place. While some cut wood, made fires, and prepared the morning's
meal, others struck their foul-weather shelters of blankets, and made
every preparation for departure; while others dashed about, through brush
and brake, catching the horses and leading or driving them into camp.

During all this bustle the forest rang with whoops, and shouts, and peals
of laughter; when all had breakfasted, packed up their effects and camp
equipage, and loaded the pack-horses, the bugle sounded to saddle and
mount. By eight o'clock the whole troop set off in a long straggling
line, with whoop and halloo, intermingled with many an oath at the
loitering pack-horses, and in a little while the forest, which for
several days had been the scene of such unwonted bustle and uproar,
relapsed into its primeval solitude and silence.

It was a bright sunny morning, with a pure transparent atmosphere that
seemed to bathe the very heart with gladness. Our march continued
parallel to the Arkansas, through a rich and varied country; sometimes we
had to break our way through alluvial bottoms matted with redundant
vegetation, where the gigantic trees were entangled with grape-vines,
hanging like cordage from their branches; sometimes we coasted along
sluggish brooks, whose feebly trickling current just served to link
together a succession of glassy pools, imbedded like mirrors in the quiet
bosom of the forest, reflecting its autumnal foliage, and patches of the
clear blue sky. Sometimes we scrambled up broken and rocky hills, from
the summits of which we had wide views stretching on one side over
distant prairies diversified by groves and forests, and on the other
ranging along a line of blue and shadowy hills beyond the waters of the

The appearance of our troop was suited to the country; stretching along
in a line of upward of half a mile in length, winding among brakes and
bushes, and up and down in the defiles of the hills, the men in every
kind of uncouth garb, with long rifles on their shoulders, and mounted on
horses of every color. The pack-horses, too, would incessantly wander
from the line of march, to crop the surrounding herbage, and were banged
and beaten back by Tonish and his half-breed compeers, with volleys of
mongrel oaths. Every now and then the notes of the bugle, from the head
of the column, would echo through the woodlands and along the hollow
glens, summoning up stragglers, and announcing the line of march. The
whole scene reminded me of the description given of bands of buccaneers
penetrating the wilds of South America, on their plundering expeditions
against the Spanish settlements.

At one time we passed through a luxuriant bottom or meadow bordered by
thickets, where the tall grass was pressed down into numerous "deer
beds," where those animals had couched the preceding night. Some oak
trees also bore signs of having been clambered by bears, in quest of
acorns, the marks of their claws being visible in the bark.

As we opened a glade of this sheltered meadow we beheld several deer
bounding away in wild affright, until, having gained some distance, they
would stop and gaze back, with the curiosity common to this animal, at
the strange intruders into their solitudes. There was immediately a sharp
report of rifles in every direction, from the young huntsmen of the
troop, but they were too eager to aim surely, and the deer, unharmed,
bounded away into the depths of the forest.

In the course of our march we struck the Arkansas, but found ourselves
still below the Red Fork, and, as the river made deep bends, we again
left its banks and continued through the woods until nearly eight
o'clock, when we encamped in a beautiful basin bordered by a fine stream,
and shaded by clumps of lofty oaks.

The horses were now hobbled, that is to say, their fore legs were
fettered with cords or leathern straps, so as to impede their movements,
and prevent their wandering from the camp. They were then turned loose to
graze. A number of rangers, prime hunters, started off in different
directions in search of game. There was no whooping nor laughing about
the camp as in the morning; all were either busy about the fires
preparing the evening's repast, or reposing upon the grass. Shots were
soon heard in various directions. After a time a huntsman rode into the
camp with the carcass of a fine buck hanging across his horse. Shortly
afterward came in a couple of stripling hunters on foot, one of whom bore
on his shoulders the body of a doe. He was evidently proud of his spoil,
being probably one of his first achievements, though he and his companion
were much bantered by their comrades, as young beginners who hunted in

Just as the night set in, there was a great shouting at one end of the
camp, and immediately afterward a body of young rangers came parading
round the various fires, bearing one of their comrades in triumph on
their shoulders. He had shot an elk for the first time in his life, and
it was the first animal of the kid that had been killed on this
expedition. The young huntsman, whose name was M'Lellan, was the hero of
the camp for the night, and was the "father of the feast" into the
bargain; for portions of his elk were seen roasting at every fire.

The other hunters returned without success. The Captain had observed the
tracks of a buffalo, which must have passed within a few days, and had
tracked a bear for some distance until the foot-prints had disappeared.
He had seen an elk, too, on the banks of the Arkansas, which walked out
on a sand-bar of the river, but before he could steal round through the
bushes to get a shot, it had re-entered the woods.

Our own hunter, Beatte, returned silent and sulky, from an unsuccessful
hunt. As yet he had brought us in nothing, and we had depended for our
supplies of venison upon the Captain's mess. Beatte was evidently
mortified, for he looked down with contempt upon the rangers, as raw and
inexperienced woodsmen, but little skilled in hunting; they, on the other
hand, regarded Beatte with no very complacent eye, as one of an evil
breed, and always spoke of him as "the Indian."

Our little Frenchman, Tonish, also, by his incessant boasting, and
chattering, and gasconading, in his balderdashed dialect, had drawn upon
himself the ridicule of many of the wags of the troop, who amused
themselves at his expense in a kind of raillery by no means remarkable
for its delicacy; but the little varlet was so completely fortified by
vanity and self-conceit, that he was invulnerable to every joke. I must
confess, however, that I felt a little mortified at the sorry figure our
retainers were making among these moss-troopers of the frontier. Even our
very equipments came in for a share of unpopularity, and I heard many
sneers at the double-barrelled guns with which we were provided against
smaller game; the lads of the West holding "shot-guns," as they call
them, in great contempt, thinking grouse, partridges, and even wild
turkeys as beneath their serious attention, and the rifle the only
firearm worthy of a hunter.

I was awakened before daybreak the next morning, by the mournful howling
of a wolf, who was skulking about the purlieus of the camp, attracted by
the scent of venison. Scarcely had the first gray streak of dawn
appeared, when a youngster at one of the distant lodges, shaking off his
sleep, crowed in imitation of a cock, with a loud clear note and
prolonged cadence, that would have done credit to the most veteran
chanticleer. He was immediately answered from another quarter, as if from
a rival rooster. The chant was echoed from lodge to lodge, and followed
by the cackling of hens, quacking of ducks, gabbling of turkeys, and
grunting of swine, until we seemed to have been transported into the
midst of a farmyard, with all its inmates in full concert around us.

After riding a short distance this morning, we came upon a well-worn
Indian track, and following it, scrambled to the summit of a hill, whence
we had a wide prospect over a country diversified by rocky ridges and
waving lines of upland, and enriched by groves and clumps of trees of
varied tuft and foliage. At a distance to the west, to our great
satisfaction, we beheld the Red Fork rolling its ruddy current to the
Arkansas, and found that we were above the point of junction We now
descended and pushed forward, with much difficulty, through the rich
alluvial bottom that borders the Arkansas. Here the trees were interwoven
with grape-vines, forming a kind of cordage, from trunk to trunk and limb
to limb; there was a thick undergrowth, also, of bush and bramble, and
such an abundance of hops, fit for gathering, that it was difficult for
our horses to force their way through.

The soil was imprinted in many places with the tracks of deer, and the
claws of bears were to be traced on various trees. Every one was on the
look-out in the hope of starting some game, when suddenly there was a
bustle and a clamor in a distant part of the line. A bear! a bear! was
the cry. We all pressed forward to be present at the sport, when to my
infinite, though whimsical chagrin, I found it to be our two worthies,
Beatte and Tonish, perpetrating a foul murder on a polecat, or skunk! The
animal had ensconced itself beneath the trunk of a fallen tree, whence it
kept up a vigorous defence in its peculiar style, until the surrounding
forest was in a high state of fragrance.

Gibes and jokes now broke out on all sides at the expense of the Indian
hunter, and he was advised to wear the scalp of the skunk as the only
trophy of his prowess. When they found, however, that he and Tonish were
absolutely bent upon bearing off the carcass as a peculiar dainty, there
was a universal expression of disgust; and they were regarded as little
better than cannibals.

Mortified at this ignominious debut of our two hunters, I insisted upon
their abandoning their prize and resuming their march. Beatte complied
with a dogged, discontented air, and lagged behind muttering to himself.
Tonish, however, with his usual buoyancy, consoled himself by vociferous
eulogies on the richness and delicacy of a roasted polecat, which he
swore was considered the daintiest of dishes by all experienced Indian
gourmands. It was with difficulty I could silence his loquacity by
repeated and peremptory commands. A Frenchman's vivacity, however, if
repressed in one way, will break out in another and Tonish now eased off
his spleen by bestowing volleys of oaths and dry blows on the
pack-horses. I was likely to be no gainer in the end, by my opposition to
the humors of these varlets, for after a time, Beatte, who had lagged
behind, rode up to the head of the line to resume his station as a guide,
and I had the vexation to see the carcass of his prize, stripped of its
skin, and looking like a fat sucking pig, dangling behind his saddle. I
made a solemn vow, however, in secret, that our fire should not be
disgraced by the cooking of that polecat.



We had now arrived at the river, about a quarter of a mile above the
junction of the Red Fork; but the banks were steep and crumbling, and the
current was deep and rapid. It was impossible, therefore, to cross at
this place; and we resumed our painful course through the forest,
dispatching Beatte ahead, in search of a fording place. We had proceeded
about a mile farther, when he rejoined us, bringing intelligence of a
place hard by, where the river, for a great part of its breadth, was
rendered fordable by sand-bars, and the remainder might easily be swam by
the horses.

Here, then, we made a halt. Some of the rangers set to work vigorously
with their axes, felling trees on the edge of the river, wherewith to
form rafts for the transportation of their baggage and camp equipage.
Others patrolled the banks of the river farther up, in hopes of finding a
better fording place; being unwilling to risk their horses in the deep

It was now that our worthies, Beatte and Tonish, had an opportunity of
displaying their Indian adroitness and resource. At the Osage village
which we had passed a day or two before, they had procured a dry buffalo
skin. This was now produced; cords were passed through a number of small
eyelet-holes with which it was bordered, and it was drawn up, until it
formed a kind of deep trough. Sticks were then placed athwart it on the
inside, to keep it in shape; our camp equipage and a part of our baggage
were placed within, and the singular bark was carried down the bank and
set afloat. A cord was attached to the prow, which Beatte took between
his teeth, and throwing himself into the water, went ahead, towing the
bark after him; while Tonish followed behind, to keep it steady and to
propel it. Part of the way they had foothold, and were enabled to wade,
but in the main current they were obliged to swim. The whole way, they
whooped and yelled in the Indian style, until they landed safely on the
opposite shore.

The Commissioner and myself were so well pleased with this Indian mode of
ferriage, that we determined to trust ourselves in the buffalo hide. Our
companions, the Count and Mr. L., had proceeded with the horses, along
the river bank, in search of a ford which some of the rangers had
discovered, about a mile and a half distant. While we were waiting for
the return of our ferryman, I happened to cast my eyes upon a heap of
luggage under a bush, and descried the sleek carcass of the polecat,
snugly trussed up, and ready for roasting before the evening fire. I
could not resist the temptation to plump it into the river, when it sunk
to the bottom like a lump of lead; and thus our lodge was relieved from
the bad odor which this savory viand had threatened to bring upon it.

Our men having recrossed with their cockle-shell bark, it was drawn on
shore, half filled with saddles, saddlebags, and other luggage, amounting
to a hundred weight; and being again placed in the water, I was invited
to take my seat. It appeared to me pretty much like the embarkation of
the wise men of Gotham, who went to sea in a bowl: I stepped in, however,
without hesitation, though as cautiously as possible, and sat down on the
top of the luggage, the margin of the hide sinking to within a hand's
breadth of the water's edge. Rifles, fowling-pieces, and other articles
of small bulk, were then handed in, until I protested against receiving
any more freight. We then launched forth upon the stream, the bark being
towed as before.

It was with a sensation half serious, half comic, that I found myself
thus afloat, on the skin of a buffalo, in the midst of a wild river,
surrounded by wilderness, and towed along by a half savage, whooping and
yelling like a devil incarnate. To please the vanity of little Tonish, I
discharged the double-barrelled gun, to the right and left, when in the
centre of the stream. The report echoed along the woody shores, and was
answered by shouts from some of the rangers, to the great exultation of
the little Frenchman, who took to himself the whole glory of this Indian
mode of navigation.

Our voyage was accomplished happily; the Commissioner was ferried across
with equal success, and all our effects were brought over in the same
manner. Nothing could equal the vain-glorious vaporing of little Tonish,
as he strutted about the shore, and exulted in his superior skill and
knowledge, to the rangers. Beatte, however, kept his proud, saturnine
look, without a smile. We had a vast contempt for the ignorance of the
rangers, and felt that he had been undervalued by them. His only
observation was, "Dey now see de Indian good for someting, anyhow!"

The broad, sandy shore where we had landed, was intersected by
innumerable tracks of elk, deer, bears, racoons, turkeys, and water-fowl.
The river scenery at this place was beautifully diversified, presenting
long, shining reaches, bordered by willows and cottonwood trees; rich
bottoms, with lofty, forests; among which towered enormous plane trees,
and the distance was closed in by high embowered promontories. The
foliage had a yellow autumnal tint, which gave to the sunny landscape the
golden tone of one of the landscapes of Claude Lorraine. There was
animation given to the scene, by a raft of logs and branches, on which
the Captain and his prime companion, the Doctor, were ferrying their
effects across the stream; and by a long line of rangers on horseback,
fording the river obliquely, along a series of sand-bars, about a mile
and a half distant.



Being joined by the Captain and some of the rangers, we struck into the
woods for about half a mile, and then entered a wild, rocky dell,
bordered by two lofty ridges of limestone, which narrowed as we advanced,
until they met and united; making almost an angle. Here a fine spring of
water rose among the rocks, and fed a silver rill that ran the whole
length of the dell, freshening the grass with which it was carpeted.

In this rocky nook we encamped, among tall trees. The rangers gradually
joined us, straggling through the forest singly or in groups; some on
horseback, some on foot, driving their horses before them, heavily laden
with baggage, some dripping wet, having fallen into the river; for they
had experienced much fatigue and trouble from the length of the ford, and
the depth and rapidity of the stream. They looked not unlike banditti
returning with their plunder, and the wild dell was a retreat worthy to
receive them. The effect was heightened after dark, when the light of the
fires was cast upon rugged looking groups of men and horses; with baggage
tumbled in heaps, rifles piled against the trees, and saddles, bridles,
and powder-horns hanging about their trunks.

At the encampment we were joined by the young Count and his companion,
and the young half-breed, Antoine, who had all passed successfully by the
ford. To my annoyance, however, I discovered that both of my horses were
missing. I had supposed them in the charge of Antoine; but he, with
characteristic carelessness, had paid no heed to them, and they had
probably wandered from the line on the opposite side of the river. It was
arranged that Beatte and Antoine should recross the river at an early
hour of the morning, in search of them.

A fat buck, and a number of wild turkeys being brought into the camp, we
managed, with the addition of a cup of coffee, to make a comfortable
supper; after which I repaired to the Captain's lodge, which was a kind
of council fire and gossiping place for the veterans of the camp.

As we were conversing together, we observed, as on former nights, a
dusky, red glow in the west, above the summits of the surrounding cliffs.
It was again attributed to Indian fires on the prairies; and supposed to
be on the western side of the Arkansas. If so, it was thought they must
be made by some party of Pawnees, as the Osage hunters seldom ventured in
that quarter. Our half-breeds, however, pronounced them Osage fires; and
that they were on the opposite side of the Arkansas.

The conversation now turned upon the Pawnees, into whose hunting grounds
we were about entering. There is always some wild untamed tribe of
Indians, who form, for a time, the terror of a frontier, and about whom
all kinds of fearful stories are told. Such, at present, was the case
with the Pawnees, who rove the regions between the Arkansas and the Red
River, and the prairies of Texas. They were represented as admirable
horsemen, and always on horseback; mounted on fleet and hardy steeds, the
wild race of the prairies. With these they roam the great plains that
extend about the Arkansas, the Red River, and through Texas, to the Rocky
Mountains; sometimes engaged in hunting the deer and buffalo, sometimes
in warlike and predatory expeditions; for, like their counterparts, the
sons of Ishmael, their hand is against every one, and every one's hand
against them. Some of them have no fixed habitation, but dwell in tents
of skin, easily packed up and transported, so that they are here to-day,
and away, no one knows where, to-morrow.

One of the veteran hunters gave several anecdotes of their mode of
fighting. Luckless, according to his account, is the band of weary
traders or hunters descried by them, in the midst of a prairie.
Sometimes, they will steal upon them by stratagem, hanging with one leg
over the saddle, and their bodies concealed; so that their troop at a
distance has the appearance of a gang of wild horses. When they have thus
gained sufficiently upon the enemy, they will suddenly raise themselves
in their saddles, and come like a rushing blast, all fluttering with
feathers, shaking their mantles, brandishing their weapons, and making
hideous yells. In this way, they seek to strike a panic into the horses,
and put them to the scamper, when they will pursue and carry them off in

The best mode of defence, according to this veteran woodsman, is to get
into the covert of some wood, or thicket; or if there be none at hand, to
dismount, tie the horses firmly head to head in a circle, so that they
cannot break away and scatter, and resort to the shelter of a ravine, or
make a hollow in the sand, where they may be screened from the shafts of
the Pawnees. The latter chiefly use the bow and arrow, and are dexterous
archers; circling round and round their enemy, and launching their arrows
when at full speed. They are chiefly formidable on the prairies, where
they have free career for their horses, and no trees to turn aside their
arrows. They will rarely follow a flying enemy into the forest.

Several anecdotes, also, were given, of the secrecy and caution with
which they will follow, and hang about the camp of an enemy, seeking a
favorable moment for plunder or attack.

"We must now begin to keep a sharp look-out," said the Captain. "I must
issue written orders, that no man shall hunt without leave, or fire off a
gun, on pain of riding a wooden horse with a sharp back. I have a wild
crew of young fellows, unaccustomed to frontier service. It will be
difficult to teach them caution. We are now in the land of a silent,
watchful, crafty people, who, when we least suspect it, may be around us,
spying out all our movements, and ready to pounce upon all stragglers."

"How will you be able to keep your men from firing, if they see game
while strolling round the camp?" asked one of the rangers.

"They must not take their guns with them unless they are on duty, or have

"Ah, Captain!" cried the ranger, "that will never do for me. Where I go,
my rifle goes. I never like to leave it behind; it's like a part of
myself. There's no one will take such care of it as I, and there's
nothing will take such care of me as my rifle."

"There's truth in all that," said the Captain, touched by a true hunter's
sympathy. "I've had my rifle pretty nigh as long as I have had my wife,
and a faithful friend it has been to me."

Here the Doctor, who is as keen a hunter as the Captain, joined in the
conversation: "A neighbor of mine says, next to my rifle, I'd as leave
lend you my wife."

"There's few," observed the Captain, "that take care of their rifles as
they ought to be taken care of."

"Or of their wives either," replied the Doctor, with a wink.

"That's a fact," rejoined the Captain.

Word was now brought that a party of four rangers, headed by "Old Ryan,"
were missing. They had separated from the main body, on the opposite side
of the river, when searching for a ford, and had straggled off, nobody
knew whither. Many conjectures were made about them, and some
apprehensions expressed for their safety.

"I should send to look after them," said the Captain, "but old Ryan is
with them, and he knows how to take care of himself and of them too. If
it were not for him, I would not give much for the rest; but he is as
much at home in the woods or on a prairie as he would be in his own
farmyard. He's never lost, wherever he is. There's a good gang of them to
stand by one another; four to watch and one to take care of the fire."

"It's a dismal thing to get lost at night in a strange and wild country,"
said one of the younger rangers.

"Not if you have one or two in company," said an elder one. "For my part,
I could feel as cheerful in this hollow as in my own home, if I had but
one comrade to take turns to watch and keep the fire going. I could lie
here for hours, and gaze up to that blazing star there, that seems to
look down into the camp as if it were keeping guard over it."

"Aye, the stars are a kind of company to one, when you have to keep watch
alone. That's a cheerful star, too, somehow; that's the evening star, the
planet Venus they call it, I think."

"If that's the planet Venus," said one of the council, who, I believe,
was the psalm-singing schoolmaster, "it bodes us no good; for I recollect
reading in some book that the Pawnees worship that star, and sacrifice
their prisoners to it. So I should not feel the better for the sight of
that star in this part of the country."

"Well," said the sergeant, a thorough-bred woodsman, "star or no star, I
have passed many a night alone in a wilder place than this, and slept
sound too, I'll warrant you. Once, however, I had rather an uneasy time
of it. I was belated in passing through a tract of wood, near the
Tombigbee River; so I struck a light, made a fire, and turned my horse
loose, while I stretched myself to sleep. By and by, I heard the wolves
howl. My horse came crowding near me for protection, for he was terribly
frightened. I drove him off, but he returned, and drew nearer and nearer,
and stood looking at me and at the fire, and dozing, and nodding, and
tottering on his fore feet, for he was powerful tired. After a while, I
heard a strange dismal cry. I thought at first it might be an owl. I
heard it again, and then I knew it was not an owl, but must be a panther.
I felt rather awkward, for I had no weapon but a double-bladed penknife.
I however prepared for defence in the best way I could, and piled up
small brands from the fire, to pepper him with, should he come nigh. The
company of my horse now seemed a comfort to me; the poor creature laid
down beside me and soon fell asleep, being so tired. I kept watch, and
nodded and dozed, and started awake, and looked round, expecting to see
the glaring eyes of the panther close upon me; but somehow or other,
fatigue got the better of me, and I fell asleep outright. In the morning
I found the tracks of a panther within sixty paces. They were as large as
my two fists. He had evidently been walking backward and forward, trying
to make up his mind to attack me; but luckily, he had not courage."

October 16th.--I awoke before daylight. The moon was shining feebly down
into the glen, from among light drifting clouds; the camp fires were
nearly burnt out, and the men lying about them, wrapped in blankets. With
the first streak of day, our huntsman, Beatte, with Antoine, the young
half-breed, set off to recross the river, in search of the stray horses,
in company with several rangers who had left their rifles on the opposite
shore. As the ford was deep, and they were obliged to cross in a diagonal
line, against a rapid current, they had to be mounted on the tallest and
strongest horses.

By eight o'clock, Beatte returned. He had found the horses, but had lost
Antoine. The latter, he said, was a boy, a greenhorn, that knew nothing
of the woods. He had wandered out of sight of him, and got lost. However,
there were plenty more for him to fall in company with, as some of the
rangers had gone astray also, and old Ryan and his party had not

We waited until the morning was somewhat advanced, in hopes of being
rejoined by the stragglers, but they did not make their appearance. The
Captain observed, that the Indians on the opposite side of the river,
were all well disposed to the whites; so that no serious apprehensions
need be entertained for the safety of the missing. The greatest danger
was, that their horses might be stolen in the night by straggling Osages.
He determined, therefore, to proceed, leaving a rear guard in the camp,
to await their arrival.

I sat on a rock that overhung the spring at the upper part of the dell,
and amused myself by watching the changing scene before me. First, the
preparations for departure. Horses driven in from the purlieus of the
camp; rangers riding about among rocks and bushes in quest of others that
had strayed to a distance; the bustle of packing up camp equipage, and
the clamor after kettles and frying-pans borrowed by one mess from
another, mixed up with oaths and exclamations at restive horses, or
others that had wandered away to graze after being packed, among which
the voice of our little Frenchman, Tonish, was particularly to be

The bugle sounded the signal to mount and march. The troop filed off in
irregular line down the glen, and through the open forest, winding and
gradually disappearing among the trees, though the clamor of voices and
the notes of the bugle could be heard for some time afterward. The
rear-guard remained under the trees in the lower part of the dell, some
on horseback, with their rifles on their shoulders; others seated by the
fire or lying on the ground, gossiping in a low, lazy tone of voice,
their horses unsaddled, standing and dozing around, while one of the
rangers, profiting by this interval of leizure, was shaving himself
before a pocket mirror stuck against the trunk of a tree.

The clamor of voices and the notes of the bugle at length died away, and
the glen relapsed into quiet and silence, broken occasionally by the low
murmuring tone of the group around the fire, or the pensive whistle of
some laggard among the trees; or the rustling of the yellow leaves, which
the lightest breath of air brought down in wavering showers, a sign of
the departing glories of the year.



Having passed through the skirt of woodland bordering the river, we
ascended the hills, taking a westerly course through an undulating
country of "oak openings," where the eye stretched over wide tracts of
hill and dale, diversified by forests, groves, and clumps of trees. As we
were proceeding at a slow pace, those who were at the head of the line
descried four deer grazing on a grassy slope about half a mile distant.
They apparently had not perceived our approach, and continued to graze in
perfect tranquillity. A young ranger obtained permission from the Captain
to go in pursuit of them, and the troop halted in lengthened line,
watching him in silence. Walking his horse slowly and cautiously, he made
a circuit until a screen of wood intervened between him and the deer.
Dismounting then, he left his horse among the trees, and creeping round a
knoll, was hidden from our view. We now kept our eyes intently fixed on
the deer, which continued grazing, unconscious of their danger. Presently
there was the sharp report of a rifle; a fine buck made a convulsive
bound and fell to the earth; his companions scampered off. Immediately
our whole line of march was broken; there was a helter-skelter galloping
of the youngsters of the troop, eager to get a shot at the fugitives; and
one of the most conspicuous personages in the chase was our little
Frenchman Tonish, on his silver-gray; having abandoned his pack-horses at
the first sight of the deer. It was some time before our scattered forces
could be recalled by the bugle, and our march resumed.

Two or three times in the course of the day we were interrupted by
hurry-scurry scenes of the kind. The young men of the troop were full of
excitement on entering an unexplored country abounding in game, and they
were too little accustomed to discipline or restraint to be kept in
order. No one, however, was more unmanageable than Tonish. Having an
intense conceit of his skill as a hunter, and an irrepressible passion
for display, he was continually sallying forth, like an ill-broken hound,
whenever any game was started, and had as often to be whipped back.

At length his curiosity got a salutary check. A fat doe came bounding
along in full view of the whole line. Tonish dismounted, levelled his
rifle, and had a fair shot. The doe kept on. He sprang upon his horse,
stood up on the saddle like a posture-master, and continued gazing after
the animal as if certain to see it fall. The doe, however, kept on its
way rejoicing; a laugh broke out along the line, the little Frenchman
slipped quietly into his saddle, began to belabor and blaspheme the
wandering pack-horses, as if they had been to blame, and for some time we
were relieved from his vaunting and vaporing.

In one place of our march we came to the remains of an old Indian
encampment, on the banks of a fine stream, with the moss-grown sculls of
deer lying here and there about it. As we were in the Pawnee country, it
was supposed, of course, to have been a camp of those formidable rovers;
the Doctor, however, after considering the shape and disposition of the
lodges, pronounced it the camp of some bold Delawares, who had probably
made a brief and dashing excursion into these dangerous hunting grounds.

Having proceeded some distance farther, we observed a couple of figures
on horseback, slowly moving parallel to us along the edge of a naked hill
about two miles distant; and apparently reconnoitring us. There was a
halt, and much gazing and conjecturing. Were they Indians? If Indians,
were they Pawnees? There is something exciting to the imagination and
stirring to the feelings, while traversing these hostile plains, in
seeing a horseman prowling along the horizon. It is like descrying a sail
at sea in time of war, when it may be either a privateer or a pirate. Our
conjectures were soon set at rest by reconnoitring the two horsemen
through a small spyglass, when they proved to be two of the men we had
left at the camp, who had set out to rejoin us, and had wandered from the

Our march this day was animating and delightful. We were in a region of
adventure; breaking our way through a country hitherto untrodden by white
men, excepting perchance by some solitary trapper. The weather was in its
perfection, temperate, genial and enlivening; a deep blue sky with a few
light feathery clouds, an atmosphere of perfect transparency, an air pure
and bland, and a glorious country spreading out far and wide in the
golden sunshine of an autumnal day; but all silent, lifeless, without a
human habitation, and apparently without a human inhabitant! It was as if
a ban hung over this fair but fated region. The very Indians dared not
abide here, but made it a mere scene of perilous enterprise, to hunt for
a few days, and then away.

After a march of about fifteen miles west we encamped in a beautiful
peninsula, made by the windings and doublings of a deep, clear, and
almost motionless brook, and covered by an open grove of lofty and
magnificent trees. Several hunters immediately started forth in quest of
game before the noise of the camp should frighten it from the vicinity.
Our man, Beatte, also took his rifle and went forth alone, in a different
course from the rest.

For my own part, I lay on the grass under the trees, and built castles in
the clouds, and indulged in the very luxury of rural repose. Indeed I can
scarcely conceive a kind of life more calculated to put both mind and
body in a healthful tone. A morning's ride of several hours diversified
by hunting incidents; an encampment in the afternoon under some noble
grove on the borders of a stream; an evening banquet of venison, fresh
killed, roasted, or broiled on the coals; turkeys just from the thickets
and wild honey from the trees; and all relished with an appetite unknown
to the gourmets of the cities. And at night--such sweet sleeping in the
open air, or waking and gazing at the moon and stars, shining between the

On the present occasion, however, we had not much reason to boast of our
larder. But one deer had been killed during the day, and none of that had
reached our lodge. We were fain, therefore, to stay our keen appetites by
some scrape of turkey brought from the last encampment, eked out with a
slice or two of salt pork. This scarcity, however, did not continue long.
Before dark a young hunter returned well laden with spoil. He had shot a
deer, cut it up in an artist-like style, and, putting the meat in a kind
of sack made of the hide, had slung it across his shoulder and trudged
with it to camp.

Not long after, Beatte made his appearance with a fat doe across his
horse. It was the first game he had brought in, and I was glad to see him
with a trophy that might efface the memory of the polecat. He laid the
carcass down by our fire without saying a word, and then turned to
unsaddle his horse; nor could any questions from us about his hunting
draw from him more than laconic replies. If Beatte, however, observed
this Indian taciturnity about what he had done, Tonish made up for it by
boasting of what he meant to do. Now that we were in a good hunting
country he meant to take the field, and, if we would take his word for
it, our lodge would henceforth be overwhelmed with game. Luckily his
talking did not prevent his working, the doe was skilfully dissected,
several fat ribs roasted before the fire, the coffee kettle replenished,
and in a little while we were enabled to indemnify ourselves luxuriously
for our late meagre repast.

The Captain did not return until late, and he returned empty-handed. He
had been in pursuit of his usual game, the deer, when he came upon the
tracks of a gang of about sixty elk. Having never killed an animal of the
kind, and the elk being at this moment an object of ambition among all
the veteran hunters of the camp, he abandoned his pursuit of the deer,
and followed the newly discovered track. After some time he came in sight
of the elk, and had several fair chances of a shot, but was anxious to
bring down a large buck which kept in the advance. Finding at length
there was danger of the whole gang escaping him, he fired at a doe. The
shot took effect, but the animal had sufficient strength to keep on for a
time with its companions. From the tracks of blood he felt confident it
was mortally wounded, but evening came on, he could not keep the trail,
and had to give up the search until morning.

Old Ryan and his little band had not yet rejoined us, neither had our
young half-breed Antoine made his appearance. It was determined,
therefore, to remain at our encampment for the following day, to give
time for all stragglers to arrive.

The conversation this evening, among the old huntsmen, turned upon the
Delaware tribe, one of whose encampments we had passed in the course of
the day; and anecdotes were given of their prowess in war and dexterity
in hunting. They used to be deadly foes of the Osages, who stood in great
awe of their desperate valor, though they were apt to attribute it to a
whimsical cause. "Look at the Delawares," would they say, "dey got short
leg--no can run--must stand and fight a great heap." In fact the Delawares
are rather short legged, while the Osages are remarkable for length of

The expeditions of the Delawares, whether of war or hunting, are wide and
fearless; a small band of them will penetrate far into these dangerous
and hostile wilds, and will push their encampments even to the Rocky
Mountains. This daring temper may be in some measure encouraged by one of
the superstitions of their creed. They believe that a guardian spirit, in
the form of a great eagle, watches over them, hovering in the sky, far
out of sight. Sometimes, when well pleased with them, he wheels down into
the lower regions, and may be seen circling with widespread wings against
the white clouds; at such times the seasons are propitious, the corn
grows finely, and they have great success in hunting. Sometimes, however,
he is angry, and then he vents his rage in the thunder, which is his
voice, and the lightning, which is the flashing of his eye, and strikes
dead the object of his displeasure.

The Delawares make sacrifices to this spirit, who occasionally lets drop
a feather from his wing in token of satisfaction. These feathers render
the wearer invisible, and invulnerable. Indeed, the Indians generally
consider the feathers of the eagle possessed of occult and sovereign

At one time a party of the Delawares, in the course of a bold excursion
into the Pawnee hunting grounds, were surrounded on one of the great
plains, and nearly destroyed. The remnant took refuge on the summit of
one of those isolated and conical hills which rise almost like artificial
mounds, from the midst of the prairies. Here the chief warrior, driven
almost to despair, sacrificed his horse to the tutelar spirit. Suddenly
an enormous eagle, rushing down from the sky, bore off the victim in his
talons, and mounting into the air, dropped a quill feather from his wing.
The chief caught it up with joy, bound it to his forehead, and, leading
his followers down the hill, cut his way through the enemy with great
slaughter, and without any one of his party receiving a wound.



With the morning dawn, the prime hunters of the camp were all on the
alert, and set off in different directions, to beat up the country for
game. The Captain's brother, Sergeant Bean, was among the first, and
returned before breakfast with success, having killed a fat doe, almost
within the purlieus of the camp.

When breakfast was over, the Captain mounted his horse, to go in quest of
the elk which he had wounded on the preceding evening; and which, he was
persuaded, had received its death-wound. I determined to join him in the
search, and we accordingly sallied forth together, accompanied also by
his brother, the sergeant, and a lieutenant. Two rangers followed on
foot, to bring home the carcass of the doe which the sergeant had killed.
We had not ridden far, when we came to where it lay, on the side of a
hill, in the midst of a beautiful woodland scene. The two rangers
immediately fell to work, with true hunters' skill, to dismember it, and
prepare it for transportation to the camp, while we continued on our
course. We passed along sloping hillsides, among skirts of thicket and
scattered forest trees, until we came to a place where the long herbage
was pressed down with numerous elk beds. Here the Captain had first
roused the gang of elks, and, after looking about diligently for a little
while, he pointed out their "trail," the foot-prints of which were as
large as those of horned cattle. He now put himself upon the track, and
went quietly forward, the rest of us following him in Indian file. At
length he halted at the place where the elk had been when shot at. Spots
of blood on the surrounding herbage showed that the shot had been
effective. The wounded animal had evidently kept for some distance with
the rest of the herd, as could be seen by sprinklings of blood here and
there, on the shrubs and weeds bordering the trail. These at length
suddenly disappeared. "Somewhere hereabout," said the Captain, "the elk
must have turned off from the gang. Whenever they feel themselves
mortally wounded, they will turn aside, and seek some out-of-the-way
place to die alone."

There was something in this picture of the last moments of a wounded
deer, to touch the sympathies of one not hardened to the gentle disports
of the chase; such sympathies, however, are but transient. Man is
naturally an animal of prey; and, however changed by civilization, will
readily relapse into his instinct for destruction. I found my ravenous
and sanguinary propensities daily growing stronger upon the prairies.

After looking about for a little while, the Captain succeeded in finding
the separate trail of the wounded elk, which turned off almost at right
angles from that of the herd, and entered an open forest of scattered
trees. The traces of blood became more faint and rare, and occurred at
greater distances: at length they ceased altogether, and the ground was
so hard, and the herbage so much parched and withered, that the
footprints of the animal could no longer be perceived.

"The elk must lie somewhere in this neighborhood," said the Captain, "as
you may know by those turkey-buzzards wheeling about in the air: for they
always hover in that way above some carcass. However, the dead elk cannot
get away, so let us follow the trail of the living ones: they may have
halted at no great distance, and we may find them grazing, and get
another crack at them."

We accordingly returned, and resumed the trail of the elks, which led us
a straggling course over hill and dale, covered with scattered oaks.
Every now and then we would catch a glimpse of a deer bounding away
across some glade of the forest, but the Captain was not to be diverted
from his elk hunt by such inferior game. A large flock of wild turkeys,
too, were roused by the trampling of our horses; some scampered off as
fast as their long legs could carry them; others fluttered up into the
trees, where they remained with outstretched necks, gazing at us. The
Captain would not allow a rifle to be discharged at them, lest it should
alarm the elk, which he hoped to find in the vicinity. At length we came
to where the forest ended in a steep bank, and the Red Fork wound its way
below us, between broad sandy shores. The trail descended the bank, and
we could trace it, with our eyes, across the level sands, until it
terminated in the river, which, it was evident, the gang had forded on
the preceding evening.

"It is needless to follow on any farther," said the Captain. "The elk
must have been much frightened, and, after crossing the river, may have
kept on for twenty miles without stopping."

Our little party now divided, the lieutenant and sergeant making a
circuit in quest of game, and the Captain and myself taking the direction
of the camp. On our way, we came to a buffalo track, more than a year
old. It was not wider than an ordinary footpath, and worn deep into the
soil; for these animals follow each other in single file. Shortly
afterward, we met two rangers on foot, hunting. They had wounded an elk,
but he had escaped; and in pursuing him, had found the one shot by the
Captain on the preceding evening. They turned back, and conducted us to
it. It was a noble animal, as large as a yearling heifer, and lay in an
open part of the forest, about a mile and a half distant from the place
where it had been shot. The turkey-buzzards, which we had previously
noticed, were wheeling in the air above it. The observation of the
Captain seemed verified. The poor animal, as life was ebbing away, had
apparently abandoned its unhurt companions, and turned aside to die

The Captain and the two rangers forthwith fell to work, with their
hunting-knives, to flay and cut up the carcass. It was already tainted on
the inside, but ample collops were cut from the ribs and haunches, and
laid in a heap on the outstretched hide. Holes were then cut along the
border of the hide, raw thongs were passed through them, and the whole
drawn up like a sack, which was swung behind the Captain's saddle. All
this while, the turkey-buzzards were soaring overhead, waiting for our
departure, to swoop down and banquet on the carcass.

The wreck of the poor elk being thus dismantled, the Captain and myself
mounted our horses, and jogged back to the camp, while the two rangers
resumed their hunting. On reaching the camp, I found there our young
half-breed, Antoine. After separating from Beatte, in the search after
the stray horses on the other side of the Arkansas, he had fallen upon a
wrong track, which he followed for several miles, when he overtook old
Ryan and his party, and found he had been following their traces.

They all forded the Arkansas about eight miles above our crossing place,
and found their way to our late encampment in the glen, where the
rear-guard we had left behind was waiting for them. Antoine, being well
mounted, and somewhat impatient to rejoin us, had pushed on alone,
following our trail, to our present encampment, and bringing the carcass
of a young bear which he had killed.

Our camp, during the residue of the day, presented a mingled picture of
bustle and repose. Some of the men were busy round the fires, jerking and
roasting venison and bear's meat, to be packed up as a future supply.
Some were stretching and dressing the skins of the animals they had
killed; others were washing their clothes in the brook, and hanging them
on the bushes to dry; while many were lying on the grass, and lazily
gossiping in the shade. Every now and then a hunter would return, on
horseback or on foot, laden with game, or empty handed. Those who brought
home any spoil, deposited it at the Captain's fire, and then filed off to
their respective messes, to relate their day's exploits to their
companions. The game killed at this camp consisted of six deer, one elk,
two bears, and six or eight turkeys.

During the last two or three days, since their wild Indian achievement in
navigating the river, our retainers had risen in consequence among the
rangers; and now I found Tonish making himself a complete oracle among
some of the raw and inexperienced recruits, who had never been in the
wilderness. He had continually a knot hanging about him, and listening to
his extravagant tales about the Pawnees, with whom he pretended to have
had fearful encounters. His representations, in fact, were calculated to
inspire his hearers with an awful idea of the foe into whose lands they
were intruding. According to his accounts, the rifle of the white man was
no match for the bow and arrow of the Pawnee. When the rifle was once
discharged, it took time and trouble to load it again, and in the
meantime the enemy could keep on launching his shafts as fast as he could
draw his bow. Then the Pawnee, according to Tonish, could shoot, with
unerring aim, three hundred yards, and send his arrow clean through and
through a buffalo; nay, he had known a Pawnee shaft pass through one
buffalo and wound another. And then the way the Pawnees sheltered
themselves from the shots of their enemy: they would hang with one leg
over the saddle, crouching their bodies along the opposite side of their
horse, and would shoot their arrows from under his neck, while at full

If Tonish was to be believed, there was peril at every step in these
debatable grounds of the Indian tribes. Pawnees lurked unseen among the
thickets and ravines. They had their scouts and sentinels on the summit
of the mounds which command a view over the prairies, where they lay
crouched in the tall grass; only now and then raising their heads to
watch the movements of any war or hunting party that might be passing in
lengthened line below, At night, they would lurk round an encampment;
crawling through the grass, and imitating the movements of a wolf, so as
to deceive the sentinel on the outpost, until, having arrived
sufficiently near, they would speed an arrow through his heart, and
retreat undiscovered. In telling his stories, Tonish would appeal from
time to time to Beatte, for the truth of what he said; the only reply
would be a nod or shrug of the shoulders; the latter being divided in
mind between a distaste for the gasconading spirit of his comrade, and a
sovereign contempt for the inexperience of the young rangers in all that
he considered true knowledge.



October 18th.--We prepared to march at the usual hour, but word was
brought to the Captain that three of the rangers, who had been attacked
with the measles, were unable to proceed, and that another one was
missing. The last was an old frontiersman, by the name of Sawyer, who had
gained years without experience; and having sallied forth to hunt, on the
preceding day, had probably lost his way on the prairies. A guard of ten
men was, therefore, left to take care of the sick, and wait for the
straggler. If the former recovered sufficiently in the course of two or
three days, they were to rejoin the main body, otherwise to be escorted
back to the garrison. Taking our leave of the sick camp, we shaped our
course westward, along the heads of small streams, all wandering, in deep
ravines, towards the Red Fork. The land was high and undulating, or
"rolling," as it is termed in the West; with a poor hungry soil mingled
with the sandstone, which is unusual in this part of the country, and
checkered with harsh forests of post-oak and black-jack.

In the course of the morning, I received a lesson on the importance of
being chary of one's steed on the prairies. The one I rode surpassed in
action most horses of the troop, and was of great mettle and a generous
spirit. In crossing the deep ravines, he would scramble up the steep
banks like a cat, and was always for leaping the narrow runs of water. I
was not aware of the imprudence of indulging him in such exertions,
until, in leaping him across a small brook, I felt him immediately falter
beneath me. He limped forward a short distance, but soon fell stark lame,
having sprained his shoulder. What was to be done? He could not keep up
with the troop, and was too valuable to be abandoned on the prairie. The
only alternative was to send him back to join the invalids in the sick
camp, and to share their fortunes. Nobody, however, seemed disposed to
lead him back, although I offered a liberal reward. Either the stories of
Tonish about the Pawnees had spread an apprehension of lurking foes, and
imminent perils on the prairies; or there was a fear of missing the trail
and getting, lost. At length two young men stepped forward and agreed to
go in company, so that, should they be benighted on the prairies, there
might be one to watch while the other slept.

The horse was accordingly consigned to their care, and I looked after him
with a rueful eye, as he limped off, for it seemed as if, with him, all
strength and buoyancy had departed from me.

I looked round for a steed to supply his place, and fixed my eyes upon
the gallant gray which I had transferred at the Agency to Tonish. The
moment, however, that I hinted about his dismounting and taking up with
the supernumerary pony, the little varlet broke out into vociferous
remonstrances and lamentations, gasping and almost strangling, in his
eagerness to give vent to them. I saw that to unhorse him would be to
prostrate his spirit and cut his vanity to the quick. I had not the heart
to inflict such a wound, or to bring down the poor devil from his
transient vainglory; so I left him in possession of his gallant gray; and
contented myself with shifting my saddle to the jaded pony.

I was now sensible of the complete reverse to which a horseman is exposed
on the prairies. I felt how completely the spirit of the rider depended
upon his steed. I had hitherto been able to make excursions at will from
the line, and to gallop in pursuit of any object of interest or
curiosity. I was now reduced to the tone of the jaded animal I bestrode,
and doomed to plod on patiently and slowly after my file leader. Above
all, I was made conscious how unwise it is, on expeditions of the kind,
where a man's life may depend upon the strength, and speed, and freshness
of his horse, to task the generous animal by any unnecessary exertion of
his powers.

I have observed that the wary and experienced huntsman and traveller of
the prairies is always sparing of his horse, when on a journey; never,
except in emergency, putting him off of a walk. The regular journeyings
of frontiersmen and Indians, when on a long march seldom exceed above
fifteen miles a day, and are generally about ten or twelve, and they
never indulge in capricious galloping. Many of those, however, with whom
I was travelling were young and inexperienced, and full of excitement at
finding themselves in a country abounding with game. It was impossible to
retain them in the sobriety of a march, or to keep them to the line. As
we broke our way through the coverts and ravines, and the deer started up
and scampered off to the right and left, the rifle balls would whiz after
them, and our young hunters dash off in pursuit. At one time they made a
grand burst after what they supposed to be a gang of bears, but soon
pulled up on discovering them to be black wolves, prowling in company.

After a march of about twelve miles we encamped, a little after mid-day,
on the borders of a brook which loitered through a deep ravine. In the
course of the afternoon old Ryan, the Nestor of the camp, made his
appearance, followed by his little band of stragglers. He was greeted
with joyful acclamations, which showed the estimation in which he was
held by his brother woodmen. The little band came laden with venison; a
fine haunch of which the veteran hunter laid, as a present, by the
Captain's fire.

Our men, Beatte and Tonish, both sallied forth, early in the afternoon,
to hunt. Towards evening the former returned, with a fine buck across his
horse. He laid it down, as usual, in silence, and proceeded to unsaddle
and turn his horse loose. Tonish came back without any game, but with
much more glory; having made several capital shots, though unluckily the
wounded deer had all escaped him.

There was an abundant supply of meat in the camp; for, besides other
game, three elk had been killed. The wary and veteran woodmen were all
busy jerking meat, against a time of scarcity; the less experienced
revelled in present abundance, leaving the morrow to provide for itself.

On the following morning (October 19th), I succeeded in changing my pony
and a reasonable sum of money for a strong and active horse. It was a
great satisfaction to find myself once more tolerably well mounted. I
perceived, however, that there would be little difficulty in making a
selection from among the troop, for the rangers had all that propensity
for "swapping," or, as they term it, "trading," which pervades the West.
In the course of our expedition, there was scarcely a horse, rifle,
powder-horn, or blanket that did not change owners several times; and one
keen "trader" boasted of having, by dint of frequent bargains, changed a
bad horse into a good one, and put a hundred dollars in his pocket.

The morning was lowering and sultry, with low muttering of distant
thunder. The change of weather had its effect upon the spirits of the
troop. The camp was unusually sober and quiet; there was none of the
accustomed farmyard melody of crowing and cackling at daybreak; none of
the bursts of merriment, the loud jokes and banterings, that had commonly
prevailed during the bustle of equipment. Now and then might be heard a
short strain of a song, a faint laugh, or a solitary whistle; but, in
general, every one went silently and doggedly about the duties of the
camp, or the preparations for departure.

When the time arrived to saddle and mount, five horses were reported as
missing; although all the woods and thickets had been beaten up for some
distance round the camp. Several rangers were dispatched to "skir" the
country round in quest of them. In the meantime, the thunder continued to
growl, and we had a passing shower. The horses, like their riders, were
affected by the change of weather. They stood here and there about the
camp, some saddled and bridled, others loose, but all spiritless and
dozing, with stooping head, one hind leg partly drawn up so as to rest on
the point of the hoof, and the whole hide reeking with the rain, and
sending up wreaths of vapor. The men, too, waited in listless groups the
return of their comrades who had gone in quest of the horses; now and
then turning up an anxious eye to the drifting clouds, which boded an
approaching storm. Gloomy weather inspires gloomy thoughts. Some
expressed fears that we were dogged by some party of Indians, who had
stolen the horses in the night. The most prevalent apprehension, however,
was that they had returned on their traces to our last encampment, or had
started off on a direct line for Fort Gibson. In this respect, the
instinct of horses is said to resemble that of the pigeon. They will
strike for home by a direct course, passing through tracts of wilderness
which they have never before traversed.

After delaying until the morning was somewhat advanced, a lieutenant with
a guard was appointed to await the return of the rangers, and we set off
on our day's journey, considerably reduced in numbers; much, as I
thought, to the discomposure of some of the troop, who intimated that we
might prove too weak-handed, in case of an encounter with the Pawnees.



Our march for a part of the day; lay a little to the south of west,
through straggling forests of the kind of low scrubbed trees already
mentioned, called "post-oaks" and "black-jacks." The soil of these "oak
barrens" is loose and unsound; being little better at times than a mere
quicksand, in which, in rainy weather, the horse's hoof slips from side
to side, and now and then sinks in a rotten, spongy turf, to the fetlock.
Such was the case at present in consequence of successive
thunder-showers, through which we draggled along in dogged silence.
Several deer were roused by our approach, and scudded across the forest
glades; but no one, as formerly, broke the line of march to pursue them.
At one time, we passed the bones and horns of a buffalo, and at another
time a buffalo track, not above three days old. These signs of the
vicinity of this grand game of the prairies, had a reviving effect on the
spirits of our huntsmen; but it was of transient duration.

In crossing a prairie of moderate extent, rendered little better than a
slippery bog by the recent showers, we were overtaken by a violent
thunder-gust. The rain came rattling upon us in torrents, and spattered
up like steam along the ground; the whole landscape was suddenly wrapped
in gloom that gave a vivid effect to the intense sheets of lightning,
while the thunder seemed to burst over our very heads, and was
reverberated by the groves and forests that checkered and skirted the
prairie. Man and beast were so pelted, drenched, and confounded, that the
line was thrown in complete confusion; some of the horses were so
frightened as to be almost unmanageable, and our scattered cavalcade
looked like a tempest-tossed fleet, driven hither and thither, at the
mercy of wind and wave.

At length, at half-past two o'clock, we came to a halt, and gathering
together our forces, encamped in an open and lofty grove, with a prairie
on one side and a stream on the other. The forest immediately rang with
the sound of the axe, and the crash of falling trees. Huge fires were
soon blazing; blankets were stretched before them, by way of tents;
booths were hastily reared of bark and skins; every fire had its group
drawn close round it, drying and warming themselves, or preparing a
comforting meal. Some of the rangers were discharging and cleaning their
rifles, which had been exposed to the rain; while the horses, relieved
from their saddles and burdens, rolled in the wet grass.

The showers continued from time to time, until late in the evening.
Before dark, our horses were gathered in and tethered about the skirts of
the camp, within the outposts, through fear of Indian prowlers, who are
apt to take advantage of stormy nights for their depredations and
assaults. As the night thickened, the huge fires became more and more
luminous; lighting up masses of the overhanging foliage, and leaving
other parts of the grove in deep gloom. Every fire had its goblin group
around it, while the tethered horses were dimly seen, like spectres,
among the thickets; excepting that here and there a gray one stood out in
bright relief.

The grove, thus fitfully lighted up by the ruddy glare of the fires,
resembled a vast leafy dome, walled in by opaque darkness; but every now
and then two or three quivering flashes of lightning in quick succession,
would suddenly reveal a vast champaign country, where fields and forests,
and running streams, would start, as it were, into existence for a few
brief seconds, and, before the eye could ascertain them, vanish again
into gloom.

A thunder-storm on a prairie, as upon the ocean, derives grandeur and
sublimity from the wild and boundless waste over which it rages and
bellows. It is not surprising that these awful phenomena of nature should
be objects of superstitious reverence to the poor savages, and that they
should consider the thunder the angry voice of the Great Spirit. As our
half-breeds sat gossiping round the fire, I drew from them some of the
notions entertained on the subject by their Indian friends. The latter
declare that extinguished thunderbolts are sometimes picked up by hunters
on the prairies, who use them for the heads of arrows and lances, and
that any warrior thus armed is invincible. Should a thunder-storm occur,
however, during battle, he is liable to be carried away by the thunder,
and never heard of more.

A warrior of the Konza tribe, hunting on a prairie, was overtaken by a
storm, and struck down senseless by the thunder. On recovering, he beheld
the thunderbolt lying on the ground, and a horse standing beside it.
Snatching up the bolt, he sprang upon the horse, but found, too late,
that he was astride of the lightning. In an instant he was whisked away
over prairies and forests, and streams and deserts, until he was flung
senseless at the foot of the Rocky Mountains; whence, on recovering, it
took him several months to return to his own people.

This story reminded me of an Indian tradition, related by a traveller, of
the fate of a warrior who saw the thunder lying upon the ground, with a
beautifully wrought moccason on each side of it. Thinking he had found a
prize, he put on the moccasons; but they bore him away to the land of
spirits, whence he never returned.

These are simple and artless tales, but they had a wild and romantic
interest heard from the lips of half-savage narrators, round a hunter's
fire, on a stormy night, with a forest on one side, and a howling waste
on the other; and where, peradventure, savage foes might be lurking in
the outer darkness.

Our conversation was interrupted by a loud clap of thunder, followed
immediately by the sound of a horse galloping off madly into the waste.
Every one listened in mute silence. The hoofs resounded vigorously for a
time, but grew fainter and fainter, until they died away in remote

When the sound was no longer to be heard, the listeners turned to
conjecture what could have caused this sudden scamper. Some thought the
horse had been startled by the thunder; others, that some lurking Indian
had galloped off with him. To this it was objected, that the usual mode
with the Indians is to steal quietly upon the horse, take off his
fetters, mount him gently, and walk him off as silently as possible,
leading off others, without any unusual stir or noise to disturb the

On the other hand, it was stated as a common practice with the Indians,
to creep among a troop of horses when grazing at night, mount one
quietly, and then start off suddenly at full speed. Nothing is so
contagious among horses as a panic; one sudden break-away of this kind,
will sometimes alarm the whole troop, and they will set off,
helter-skelter, after the leader.

Every one who had a horse grazing on the skirts of the camp was uneasy,
lest his should be the fugitive; but it was impossible to ascertain the
fact until morning. Those who had tethered their horses felt more secure;
though horses thus tied up, and limited to a short range at night, are
apt to falloff in flesh and strength during a long march; and many of the
horses of the troop already gave signs of being wayworn.

After a gloomy and unruly night, the morning dawned bright and clear, and
a glorious sunrise transformed the whole landscape, as if by magic. The
late dreary wilderness brightened into a fine open country, with stately
groves, and clumps of oaks of a gigantic size, some of which stood
singly, as if planted for ornament and shade, in the midst of rich
meadows; while our horses, scattered about, and grazing under them, gave
to the whole the air of a noble park. It was difficult to realize the
fact that we were so far in the wilds beyond the residence of man. Our
encampment, alone, had a savage appearance; with its rude tents of skins
and blankets, and its columns of blue smoke rising among the trees.

The first care in the morning, was to look after our horses. Some of them
had wandered to a distance, but all were fortunately found; even the one
whose clattering hoofs had caused such uneasiness in the night. He had
come to a halt about a mile from the camp, and was found quietly grazing
near a brook. The bugle sounded for departure about half past eight. As
we were in greater risk of Indian molestation the farther we advanced our
line was formed with more precision than heretofore. Every one had his
station assigned him, and was forbidden to leave it in pursuit of game,
without special permission. The pack-horses were placed in the centre of
the line, and a strong guard in the rear.



After a toilsome march of some distance through a country cut up by
ravines and brooks, and entangled by thickets, we emerged upon a grand
prairie. Here one of the characteristic scenes of the Far West broke upon
us. An immense extent of grassy, undulating, or, as it is termed, rolling
country, with here and there a clump of trees, dimly seen in the distance
like a ship at sea; the landscape deriving sublimity from its vastness
and simplicity. To the southwest, on the summit of a hill, was a singular
crest of broken rocks, resembling a ruined fortress. It reminded me of
the ruin of some Moorish castle, crowning a height in the midst of a
lonely Spanish landscape. To this hill we gave the name of Cliff Castle.

The prairies of these great hunting regions differed in the character of
their vegetation from those through which I had hitherto passed. Instead
of a profusion of tall flowering plants and long flaunting grasses, they
were covered with a shorter growth of herbage called buffalo grass,
somewhat coarse, but, at the proper seasons, affording excellent and
abundant pasturage. At present it was growing wiry, and in many places
was too much parched for grazing.

The weather was verging into that serene but somewhat arid season called
the Indian Summer. There was a smoky haze in the atmosphere that tempered
the brightness of the sunshine into a golden tint, softening the features
of the landscape, and giving a vagueness to the outlines of distant
objects. This haziness was daily increasing, and was attributed to the
burning of distant prairies by the Indian hunting parties.

We had not gone far upon the prairie before we came to where deeply worn
footpaths were seen traversing the country: sometimes two or three would
keep on parallel to each other, and but a few paces apart. These were
pronounced to be traces of buffaloes, where large droves had passed.
There were tracks also of horses, which were observed with some attention
by our experienced hunters. They could not be the tracks of wild horses,
as there were no prints of the hoofs of colts; all were full-grown. As
the horses evidently were not shod, it was concluded they must belong to
some hunting party of Pawnees. In the course of the morning, the tracks
of a single horse, with shoes, were discovered. This might be the horse
of a Cherokee hunter, or perhaps a horse stolen from the whites of the
frontier. Thus, in traversing these perilous wastes, every footprint and
dint of hoof becomes matter of cautious inspection and shrewd surmise;
and the question continually is, whether it be the trace of friend or
foe, whether of recent or ancient date, and whether the being that made
it be out of reach, or liable to be encountered.

We were getting more and more into the game country: as we proceeded, we
repeatedly saw deer to the right and left, bounding off for the coverts;
but their appearance no longer excited the same eagerness to pursue. In
passing along a slope of the prairie, between two rolling swells of land,
we came in sight of a genuine natural hunting match. A pack of seven
black wolves and one white one were in full chase of a buck, which they
had nearly tired down. They crossed the line of our march without
apparently perceiving us; we saw them have a fair run of nearly a mile,
gaining upon the buck until they were leaping upon his haunches, when he
plunged down a ravine. Some of our party galloped to a rising ground
commanding a view of the ravine. The poor buck was completely beset, some
on his flanks, some at his throat: he made two or three struggles and
desperate bounds, but was dragged down, overpowered, and torn to pieces.
The black wolves, in their ravenous hunger and fury, took no notice of
the distant group of horsemen; but the white wolf, apparently less game,
abandoned the prey, and scampered over hill and dale, rousing various
deer that were crouched in the hollows, and which bounded off likewise in
different directions. It was altogether a wild scene, worthy of the
"hunting grounds."

We now came once more in sight of the Red Fork, winding its turbid course
between well-wooded hills, and through a vast and magnificent landscape.
The prairies bordering on the rivers are always varied in this way with
woodland, so beautifully interspersed as to appear to have been laid out
by the hand of taste; and they only want here and there a village spire,
the battlements of a castle, or the turrets of an old family mansion
rising from among the trees, to rival the most ornamented scenery of

About midday we reached the edge of that scattered belt of forest land,
about forty miles in width, which stretches across the country from north
to south, from the Arkansas to the Red River, separating the upper from
the lower prairies, and commonly called the "Cross Timber." On the skirts
of this forest land, just on the edge of a prairie, we found traces of a
Pawnee encampment of between one and two hundred lodges, showing that the
party must have been numerous. The skull of a buffalo lay near the camp,
and the moss which had gathered on it proved that the encampment was at
least a year old. About half a mile off we encamped in a beautiful grove,
watered by a fine spring and rivulet. Our day's journey had been about
fourteen miles.

In the course of the afternoon we were rejoined by two of Lieutenant
King's party, which we had left behind a few days before, to look after
stray horses. All the horses had been found, though some had wandered to
the distance of several miles. The lieutenant, with seventeen of his
companions, had remained at our last night's encampment to hunt, having
come upon recent traces of buffalo. They had also seen a fine wild horse,
which, however, had galloped off with a speed that defied pursuit.

Confident anticipations were now indulged, that on the following day we
should meet with buffalo, and perhaps with wild horses, and every one was
in spirits. We needed some excitement of the kind, for our young men were
growing weary of marching and encamping under restraint, and provisions
this day were scanty. The Captain and several of the rangers went out
hunting, but brought home nothing but a small deer and a few turkeys. Our
two men, Beatte and Tonish, likewise went out. The former returned with a
deer athwart his horse, which, as usual, he laid down by our lodge, and
said nothing. Tonish returned with no game, but with his customary budget
of wonderful tales. Both he and the deer had done marvels. Not one had
come within the lure of his rifle without being hit in a mortal part,
yet, strange to say, every one had kept on his way without flinching. We
all determined that, from the accuracy of his aim, Tonish must have shot
with charmed balls, but that every deer had a charmed life. The most
important intelligence brought by him, however, was, that he had seen the
fresh tracks of several wild horses. He now considered himself upon the
eve of great exploits, for there was nothing upon which he glorified
himself more than his skill in horse-catching.



October 21st.--This morning the camp was in a bustle at an early hour: the
expectation of falling in with buffalo in the course of the day roused
every one's spirit. There was a continual cracking of rifles, that they
might be reloaded: the shot was drawn off from double-barrelled guns, and
balls were substituted. Tonish, however, prepared chiefly for a campaign
against wild horses. He took the field, with a coil of cordage hung at
his saddle-bow, and a couple of white wands, something like fishing-rods
eight or ten feet in length, with forked ends. The coil of cordage thus
used in hunting the wild horse, is called a lariat, and answers to the
lasso of South America. It is not flung, however, in the graceful and
dexterous Spanish style. The hunter after a hard chase, when he succeeds
in getting almost head and head with the wild horse, hitches the running
noose of the lariat over his head by means of the forked stick; then
letting him have the fully length of the cord, plays him like a fish, and
chokes him into subjection.

All this Tonish promised to exemplify to our full satisfaction; we had
not much confidence in his success, and feared he might knock up a good
horse in a headlong gallop after a bad one, for, like all the French
creoles, he was a merciless hard rider. It was determined, therefore, to
keep a sharp eye upon him, and to check his sallying propensities.

We had not proceeded far on our morning's march, when we were checked by
a deep stream, running along the bottom of a thickly wooded ravine. After
coasting it for a couple of miles, we came to a fording place; but to get
down to it was the difficulty, for the banks were steep and crumbling,
and overgrown with forest trees, mingled with thickets, brambles, and
grape-vines. At length the leading horseman broke his way through the
thicket, and his horse, putting his feet together, slid down the black
crumbling bank, to the narrow margin of the stream; then floundering
across, with mud and water up to the saddle-girths, he scrambled up the
opposite bank, and arrived safe on level ground. The whole line followed
pell-mell after the leader, and pushing forward in close order, Indian
file, they crowded each other down the bank and into the stream. Some of
the horsemen missed the ford, and were soused over head and ears; one was
unhorsed, and plumped head foremost into the middle of the stream: for my
own part, while pressed forward, and hurried over the bank by those
behind me, I was interrupted by a grape-vine, as thick as a cable, which
hung in a festoon as low as the saddle-bow, and dragging me from the
saddle, threw me among the feet of the trampling horses. Fortunately, I
escaped without injury, regained my steed, crossed the stream without
further difficulty, and was enabled to join in the merriment occasioned
by the ludicrous disasters.

It is at passes like this that occur the most dangerous ambuscades and
sanguinary surprises of Indian warfare. A party of savages well placed
among the thickets, might have made sad havoc among our men, while
entangled in the ravine.

We now came out upon a vast and glorious prairie, spreading out beneath
the golden beams of an autumnal sun. The deep and frequent traces of
buffalo, showed it to be one of their favorite grazing grounds, yet none
were to be seen. In the course of the morning; we were overtaken by the
lieutenant and seventeen men, who had remained behind, and who came laden
with the spoils of buffaloes; having killed three on the preceding day.
One of the rangers, however, had little luck to boast of; his horse
having taken fright at sight of the buffaloes, thrown his rider, and
escaped into the woods.

The excitement of our hunters, both young and old, now rose almost to
fever height; scarce any of them having ever encountered any of this
far-famed game of the prairies. Accordingly, when in the course of the
day the cry of buffalo! buffalo! rose from one part of the line, the
whole troop were thrown in agitation. We were just then passing through a
beautiful part of the prairie, finely diversified by hills and slopes,
and woody dells, and high, stately groves. Those who had given the alarm,
pointed out a large black-looking animal, slowly moving along the side of
a rising ground, about two miles off. The ever-ready Tonish jumped up,
and stood with his feet on the saddle, and his forked sticks in his
hands, like a posture-master or scaramouch at a circus, just ready for a
feat of horsemanship. After gazing at the animal for a moment, which he
could have seen full as well without rising from his stirrups, he
pronounced it a wild horse; and dropping again into his saddle, was about
to dash off full tilt in pursuit, when, to his inexpressible chagrin, he
was called back, and ordered to keep to his post, in rear of the baggage

The Captain and two of his officers now set off to reconnoitre the game.
It was the intention of the Captain, who was an admirable marksman, to
endeavor to crease the horse; that is to say, to hit him with a rifle
ball in the ridge of the neck. A wound of this kind paralyzes a horse for
a moment; he falls to the ground, and may be secured before he recovers.
It is a cruel expedient, however, for an ill-directed shot may kill or
maim the noble animal.

As the Captain and his companions moved off laterally and slowly, in the
direction of the horse, we continued our course forward; watching
intently, however, the movements of the game. The horse moved quietly
over the profile of the rising ground, and disappeared behind it. The
Captain and his party were likewise soon hidden by an intervening hill.

After a time, the horse suddenly made his appearance to our right, just
ahead of the line, emerging out of a small valley, on a brisk trot;
having evidently taken the alarm. At sight of us he stopped short, gazed
at us for an instant with surprise, then tossing up his head, trotted off
in fine style, glancing at us first over one shoulder, then over the
other, his ample mane and tail streaming in the wind. Having dashed
through a skirt of thicket, that looked like a hedge-row, he paused in
the open field beyond, glanced back at us again, with a beautiful bend of
the neck, snuffed the air, then tossing his head again, broke into a
gallop, and took refuge in a wood.

It was the first time I had ever seen a horse scouring his native
wilderness in all the pride and freedom of his nature. How different from
the poor, mutilated, harnessed, checked, reined-up victim of luxury,
caprice, and avarice, in our cities!

After travelling about fifteen miles, we encamped about one o'clock, that
our hunters might have time to procure a supply of provisions. Our
encampment was in a spacious grove of lofty oaks and walnuts, free from
underwood, on the border of a brook. While unloading the pack-horses, our
little Frenchman was loud in his complaints at having been prevented from
pursuing the wild horse, which he would certainly have taken. In the
meantime, I saw our half-breed, Beatte, quietly saddle his best horse, a
powerful steed of half-savage race, hang a lariat at the saddle-bow, take
a rifle and forked stick in hand, and, mounting, depart from the camp
without saying a word. It was evident he was going off in quest of the
wild horse, but was disposed to hunt alone.




We had encamped in a good neighborhood for game, as the reports of rifles
in various directions speedily gave notice. One of our hunters soon
returned with the meat of a doe, tied up in the skin, and slung across
his shoulders. Another brought a fat buck across his horse. Two other
deer were brought in, and a number of turkeys. All the game was thrown
down in front of the Captain's fire, to be portioned out among the
various messes. The spits and camp kettles were soon in full employ, and
throughout the evening there was a scene of hunters' feasting and

We had been disappointed this day in our hopes of meeting with buffalo,
but the sight of the wild horse had been a great novelty, and gave a turn
to the conversation of the camp for the evening. There were several
anecdotes told of a famous gray horse, which has ranged the prairies of
this neighborhood for six or seven years, setting at naught every attempt
of the hunters to capture him. They say he can pace and rack (or amble)
faster than the fleetest horses can run. Equally marvellous accounts were
given of a black horse on the Brazos, who grazed the prairies on that
river's banks in Texas. For years he outstripped all pursuit. His fame
spread far and wide; offers were made for him to the amount of a thousand
dollars; the boldest and most hard-riding hunters tried incessantly to
make prize of him, but in vain. At length he fell a victim to his
gallantry, being decoyed under a tree by a tame mare, and a noose dropped
over his head by a boy perched among the branches.

The capture of a wild horse is one of the most favorite achievements of
the prairie tribes; and, indeed, it is from this source that the Indian
hunters chiefly supply themselves. The wild horses which range those vast
grassy plains, extending from the Arkansas to the Spanish settlements,
are of various forms and colors, betraying their various descents. Some
resemble the common English stock, and are probably descended from horses
which have escaped from our border settlements. Others are of a low but
strong make, and are supposed to be of the Andalusian breed, brought out
by the Spanish discoverers.

Some fanciful speculatists have seen in them descendants of the Arab
stock, brought into Spain from Africa, and thence transferred to this
country; and have pleased themselves with the idea, that their sires may
have been of the pure coursers of the desert, that once bore Mahomet and
his warlike disciples across the sandy plains of Arabia.

The habits of the Arab seem to have come with the steed. The introduction
of the horse on the boundless prairies of the Far West, changed the whole
mode of living of their inhabitants. It gave them that facility of rapid
motion, and of sudden and distant change of place, so dear to the roving
propensities of man. Instead of lurking in the depths of gloomy forests,
and patiently threading the mazes of a tangled wilderness on foot, like
his brethren of the north, the Indian of the West is a rover of the
plain; he leads a brighter and more sunshiny life; almost always on
horseback, on vast flowery prairies and under cloudless skies.

I was lying by the Captain's fire, late in the evening, listening to
stories about those coursers of the prairies, and weaving speculations of
my own, when there was a clamor of voices and a loud cheering at the
other end of the camp; and word was passed that Beatte, the half-breed,
had brought in a wild horse.

In an instant every fire was deserted; the whole camp crowded to see the
Indian and his prize. It was a colt about two years old, well grown,
finely limbed, with bright prominent eyes, and a spirited yet gentle
demeanor. He gazed about him with an air of mingled stupefaction and
surprise, at the men, the horses, and the camp-fires; while the Indian
stood before him with folded arms, having hold of the other end of the
cord which noosed his captive, and gazing on him with a most
imperturbable aspect. Beatte, as I have before observed, has a greenish
olive complexion, with a strongly marked countenance, not unlike the
bronze casts of Napoleon; and as he stood before his captive horse, with
folded arms and fixed aspect, he looked more like a statue than a man.

If the horse, however, manifested the least restiveness, Beatte would
immediately worry him with the lariat, jerking him first on one side,
then on the other, so as almost to throw him on the ground; when he had
thus rendered him passive, he would resume his statue-like attitude and
gaze at him in silence.

The whole scene was singularly wild; the tall grove, partially illumined
by the flashing fires of the camp, the horses tethered here and there
among the trees, the carcasses of deer hanging around, and in the midst
of all, the wild huntsman and his wild horse, with an admiring throng of
rangers, almost as wild.

In the eagerness of their excitement, several of the young rangers sought
to get the horse by purchase or barter, and even offered extravagant
terms; but Beatte declined all their offers. "You give great price now;"
said he, "to-morrow you be sorry, and take back, and say d--d Indian!"

The young men importuned him with questions about the mode in which be
took the horse, but his answers were dry and laconic; he evidently
retained some pique at having been undervalued and sneered at by them;
and at the same time looked down upon them with contempt as greenhorns,
little versed in the noble science of woodcraft.

Afterward, however, when he was seated by our fire, I readily drew from
him an account of his exploit; for, though taciturn among strangers, and
little prone to boast of his actions, yet his taciturnity, like that of
all Indians, had its times of relaxation.

He informed me, that on leaving the camp, he had returned to the place
where we had lost sight of the wild horse. Soon getting upon its track,
he followed it to the banks of the river. Here, the prints being more
distinct in the sand, he perceived that one of the hoofs was broken and
defective, so he gave up the pursuit.

As he was returning to the camp, he came upon a gang of six horses, which
immediately made for the river. He pursued them across the stream, left
his rifle on the river bank, and putting his horse to full speed, soon
came up with the fugitives. He attempted to noose one of them, but the
lariat hitched on one of his ears, and he shook it off. The horses dashed
up a hill, he followed hard at their heels, when, of a sudden, he saw
their tails whisking in the air, and they plunging down a precipice. It
was too late to stop. He shut his eyes, held in his breath, and went over
with them--neck or nothing. The descent was between twenty and thirty
feet, but they all came down safe upon a sandy bottom.

He now succeeded in throwing his noose round a fine young horse. As he
galloped alongside of him, the two horses passed each side of a sapling,
and the end of the lariat was jerked out of his hand. He regained it, but
an intervening tree obliged him again to let it go. Having once more
caught it, and coming to a more open country, he was enabled to play the
young horse with the line until he gradually checked and subdued him, so
as to lead him to the place where he had left his rifle.

He had another formidable difficulty in getting him across the river,
where both horses stuck for a time in the mire, and Beatte was nearly
unseated from his saddle by the force of the current and the struggles of
his captive. After much toil and trouble, however, he got across the
stream, and brought his prize safe into camp.

For the remainder of the evening, the camp remained in a high state of
excitement; nothing was talked of but the capture of wild horses; every
youngster of the troop was for this harum-scarum kind of chase; every one
promised himself to return from the campaign in triumph, bestriding one
of these wild coursers of the prairies. Beatte had suddenly risen to
great importance; he was the prime hunter, the hero of the day. Offers
were made him by the best mounted rangers, to let him ride their horses
in the chase, provided he would give them a share of the spoil. Beatte
bore his honors in silence, and closed with none of the offers. Our
stammering, chattering, gasconading little Frenchman, however, made up
for his taciturnity, by vaunting as much upon the subject as if it were
he that had caught the horse. Indeed he held forth so learnedly in the
matter, and boasted so much of the many horses he had taken, that he
began to be considered an oracle; and some of the youngsters were
inclined to doubt whether he were not superior even to the taciturn

The excitement kept the camp awake later than usual. The hum of voices,
interrupted by occasional peals of laughter, was heard from the groups
around the various fires, and the night was considerably advanced before
all had sunk to sleep.

With the morning dawn the excitement revived, and Beatte and his wild
horse were again the gaze and talk of the camp. The captive had been tied
all night to a tree among the other horses. He was again led forth by
Beatte, by a long halter or lariat, and, on his manifesting the least
restiveness, was, as before, jerked and worried into passive submission.
He appeared to be gentle and docile by nature, and had a beautifully mild
expression of the eye. In his strange and forlorn situation, the poor
animal seemed to seek protection and companionship in the very horse
which had aided to capture him.

Seeing him thus gentle and tractable, Beatte, just as we were about to
march, strapped a light pack upon his back, by way of giving him the
first lesson in servitude. The native pride and independence of the
animal took fire at this indignity. He reared, and plunged, and kicked,
and tried in every way to get rid of the degrading burden. The Indian was
too potent for him. At every paroxysm he renewed the discipline of the
halter, until the poor animal, driven to despair, threw himself prostrate
on the ground, and lay motionless, as if acknowledging himself
vanquished. A stage hero, representing the despair of a captive prince,
could not have played his part more dramatically. There was absolutely a
moral grandeur in it.

The imperturbable Beatte folded his arms, and stood for a time, looking
down in silence upon his captive; until seeing him perfectly subdued, he
nodded his head slowly, screwed his mouth into a sardonic smile of
triumph, and, with a jerk of the halter, ordered him to rise. He obeyed,
and from that time forward offered no resistance. During that day he bore
his pack patiently, and was led by the halter; but in two days he
followed voluntarily at large among the supernumerary horses of the

I could not look without compassion upon this fine young animal, whose
whole course of existence had been so suddenly reversed. From being a
denizen of these vast pastures, ranging at will from plain to plain and
mead to mead, cropping of every herb and flower, and drinking of every
stream, he was suddenly reduced to perpetual and painful servitude, to
pass his life under the harness and the curb, amid, perhaps, the din and
dust and drudgery of cities. The transition in his lot was such as
sometimes takes place in human affairs, and in the fortunes of towering
individuals:--one day, a prince of the prairies--the next day, a



We left the camp of the wild horse about a quarter before eight, and,
after steering nearly south for three or four miles, arrived on the banks
of the Red Fork, about seventy-five miles, as we supposed, above its
mouth. The river was about three hundred yards wide, wandering among
sand-bars and shoals. Its shores, and the long sandy banks that stretched
out into the stream, were printed, as usual, with the traces of various
animals that had come down to cross it, or to drink its waters.

Here we came to a halt, and there was much consultation about the
possibility of fording the river with safety, as there was an
apprehension of quicksands. Beatte, who had been somewhat in the rear,
came up while we were debating. He was mounted on his horse of the
half-wild breed, and leading his captive by the bridle. He gave the
latter in charge to Tonish, and without saying a word, urged his horse
into the stream, and crossed it in safety. Every thing was done by this
man in a similar way, promptly, resolutely, and silently, without a
previous promise or an after vaunt.

The troop now followed the lead of Beatte, and reached the opposite shore
without any mishap, though one of the pack horses wandering a little from
the track, came near being swallowed up in a quicksand, and was with
difficulty dragged to land.

After crossing the river, we had to force our way, for nearly a mile,
through a thick canebrake, which, at first sight, appeared an impervious
mass of reeds and brambles. It was a hard struggle; our horses were often
to the saddle-girths in mire and water, and both horse and horseman
harassed and torn by bush and brier. Falling, however, upon a buffalo
track, we at length extricated ourselves from this morass, and ascended a
ridge of land, where we beheld a beautiful open country before us; while
to our right, the belt of forest land, called "The Cross Timber,"
continued stretching away to the southward, as far as the eye could
reach. We soon abandoned the open country, and struck into the forest
land. It was the intention of the Captain to keep on southwest by south,
and traverse the Cross Timber diagonally, so as to come out upon the edge
of the great western prairie. By thus maintaining something of a
southerly direction, he trusted, while he crossed the belt of the forest,
he would at the same time approach the Red River.

The plan of the Captain was judicious; but he erred from not being
informed of the nature of the country. Had he kept directly west, a
couple of days would have carried us through the forest land, and we
might then have had an easy course along the skirts of the upper
prairies, to Red River; by going diagonally, we were kept for many weary
days toiling through a dismal series of rugged forests.

The Cross Timber is about forty miles in breadth, and stretches over a
rough country of rolling hills, covered with scattered tracts of post-oak
and black-jack; with some intervening valleys, which, at proper seasons,
would afford good pasturage. It is very much cut up by deep ravines,
which, in the rainy seasons, are the beds of temporary streams, tributary
to the main rivers, and these are called "branches." The whole tract may
present a pleasant aspect in the fresh time of the year, when the ground
is covered with herbage; when the trees are in their green leaf, and the
glens are enlivened by running streams. Unfortunately, we entered it too
late in the season The herbage was parched; the foliage of the scrubby
forests was withered; the whole woodland prospect, as far as the eye
could reach, had a brown and arid hue. The fires made on the prairies by
the Indian hunters, had frequently penetrated these forests, sweeping in
light transient flames along the dry grass, scorching and calcining the
lower twigs and branches of the trees, and leaving them black and hard,
so as to tear the flesh of man and horse that had to scramble through
them. I shall not easily forget the mortal toil, and the vexations of
flesh and spirit, that we underwent occasionally, in our wanderings
through the Cross Timber. It was like struggling through forests of cast

After a tedious ride of several miles, we came out upon an open tract of
hill and dale, interspersed with woodland. Here we were roused by the cry
of buffalo! buffalo! The effect was something like that of the cry of a
sail! a sail! at sea. It was not a false alarm. Three or four of those
enormous animals were visible to our sight grazing on the slope of a
distant hill.

There was a general movement to set off in pursuit, and it was with some
difficulty that the vivacity of the younger men of the troop could be
restrained. Leaving orders that the line of march should be preserved,
the Captain and two of his officers departed at quiet a pace, accompanied
by Beatte, and by the ever-forward Tonish; for it was impossible any
longer to keep the little Frenchman in check, being half crazy to prove
his skill and prowess in hunting the buffalo.

The intervening hills soon hid from us both the game and the huntsmen. We
kept on our course in quest of a camping place, which was difficult to be
found; almost all the channels of the streams being dry, and the country
being destitute of fountain heads.

After proceeding some distance, there was again a cry of buffalo, and two
were pointed out on a hill to the left. The Captain being absent, it was
no longer possible to restrain the ardor of the young hunters. Away
several of them dashed, full speed, and soon disappeared among the
ravines; the rest kept on, anxious to find a proper place for encampment.

Indeed we now began to experience the disadvantages of the season. The
pasturage of the prairies was scanty and parched; the pea-vines which
grew in the woody bottoms were withered, and most of the "branches" or
streams were dried up. While wandering in this perplexity, we were
overtaken by the Captain and all his party, except Tonish. They had
pursued the buffalo for some distance without getting within shot, and
had given up the chase, being fearful of fatiguing their horses, or being
led off too far from camp. The little Frenchman, however, had galloped
after them at headlong speed, and the last they saw of him, he was
engaged, as it were, yard-arm and yard-arm, with a great buffalo bull,
firing broadsides into him. "I tink dat little man crazy--somehow "
observed Beatte, dryly.



We now came to a halt, and had to content ourselves with an indifferent
encampment. It was in a grove of scruboaks, on the borders of a deep
ravine, at the bottom of which were a few scanty pools of water. We were
just at the foot of a gradually-sloping hill, covered with half-withered
grass, that afforded meagre pasturage. In the spot where we had encamped,
the grass was high and parched. The view around us was circumscribed and
much shut in by gently swelling hills.

Just as we were encamping, Tonish arrived, all glorious, from his hunting
match; his white horse hung all round with buffalo meat. According to his
own account, he had laid low two mighty bulls. As usual, we deducted one
half from his boastings; but, now that he had something real to vaunt
about, there was no restraining the valor of his tongue.

After having in some measure appeased his vanity by boasting of his
exploit, he informed us that he had observed the fresh track of horses,
which, from various circumstances, he suspected to have been made by some
roving band of Pawnees. This caused some little uneasiness. The young men
who had left the line of march in pursuit of the two buffaloes, had not
yet rejoined us; apprehensions were expressed that they might be waylaid
and attacked. Our veteran hunter, old Ryan, also, immediately on our
halting to encamp, had gone off on foot, in company with a young
disciple. "Dat old man will have his brains knocked out by de Pawnees
yet," said Beatte. "He tink he know every ting, but he don't know
Pawnees, anyhow."

Taking his rifle, the Captain repaired on foot to reconnoitre the country
from the naked summit of one of the neighboring hills. In the meantime,
the horses were hobbled and turned loose to graze; and wood was cut, and
fires made, to prepare the evening's repast.

Suddenly there was an alarm of fire in the camp! The flame from one of
the kindling fires had caught to the tall dry grass; a breeze was
blowing; there was danger that the camp would soon be wrapped in a light
blaze. "Look to the horses!" cried one; "Drag away the baggage!" cried
another. "Take care of the rifles and powder-horns!" cried a third. All
was hurry-scurry and uproar. The horses dashed wildly about; some of the
men snatched away rifles and powder-horns, others dragged off saddles and
saddle-bags. Meantime, no one thought of quelling the fire, nor indeed
knew how to quell it. Beatte, however, and his comrades attacked it in
the Indian mode, beating down the edges of the fire with blankets and
horse-cloths, and endeavoring to prevent its spreading among the grass;
the rangers followed their example, and in a little while the flames were
happily quelled.

The fires were now properly kindled on places from which the dry grass
had been cleared away. The horses were scattered about a small valley,
and on the sloping hill-side, cropping the scanty herbage. Tonish was
preparing a sumptuous evening's meal from his buffalo meat, promising us
a rich soup and a prime piece of roast beef: but we were doomed to
experience another and more serious alarm.

There was an indistinct cry from some rangers on the summit of the hill,
of which we could only distinguish the words "The horses! the horses! get
in the horses!"

Immediately a clamor of voices arose; shouts, inquiries, replies, were
all mingled together, so that nothing could be clearly understood, and
every one drew his own inference.

"The Captain has started buffaloes," cried one, "and wants horses for the
chase." Immediately a number of rangers seized their rifles, and
scampered for the hill-top. "The prairie is on fire beyond the hill,"
cried another; "I see the smoke--the Captain means we shall drive the
horses beyond the brook."

By this time a ranger from the hill had reached the skirts of the camp.
He was almost breathless, and could only say that the Captain had seen
Indians at a distance.

"Pawnees! Pawnees!" was now the cry among our wild-headed youngsters.
"Drive the horses into camp!" cried one. "Saddle the horses!" cried
another. " Form the line!" cried a third. There was now a scene of clamor
and confusion that baffles all description. The rangers were scampering
about the adjacent field in pursuit of their horses. One might be seen
tugging his steed along by a halter; another without a hat, riding
bare-backed; another driving a hobbled horse before him, that made
awkward leaps like a kangaroo.

The alarm increased. Word was brought from the lower end of the camp that
there was a band of Pawnees in a neighboring valley. They had shot old
Ryan through the head, and were chasing his companion! "No, it was not
old Ryan that was killed--it was one of the hunters that had been after
the two buffaloes." " There are three hundred Pawnees just beyond the
hill," cried one voice. "More, more!" cried another.

Our situation, shut in among hills, prevented our seeing to any distance,
and left us a prey to all these rumors. A cruel enemy was supposed to be
at hand, and an immediate attack apprehended. The horses by this time
were driven into the camp, and were dashing about among the fires, and
trampling upon the baggage. Every one endeavored to prepare for action;
but here was the perplexity. During the late alarm of fire, the saddles,
bridles, rifles, powder-horns, and other equipments, had been snatched
out of their places, and thrown helter-skelter among the trees.

"Where is my saddle?" cried one. "Has any one seen my rifle?" cried
another. "Who will lend me a ball?" cried a third, who was loading his
piece. "I have lost my bullet pouch." "For God's sake help me to girth
this horse!" cried another: "he's so restive I can do nothing with him."
In his hurry and worry, he had put on the saddle the hind part before!

Some affected to swagger and talk bold; others said nothing, but went on
steadily, preparing their horses and weapons, and on these I felt the
most reliance. Some were evidently excited and elated with the idea of an
encounter with Indians; and none more so than my young Swiss
fellow-traveller, who had a passion for wild adventure. Our man, Beatte,
led his horses in the rear of the camp, placed his rifle against a tree,
then seated himself by the fire in perfect silence. On the other hand,
little Tonish, who was busy cooking, stopped every moment from his work
to play the fanfaron, singing, swearing, and affecting an unusual
hilarity, which made me strongly suspect there was some little fright at
bottom, to cause all this effervescence.

About a dozen of the rangers, as soon as they could saddle their horses,
dashed off in the direction in which the Pawnees were said to have
attacked the hunters. It was now determined, in case our camp should be
assailed, to put our horses in the ravine in the rear, where they would
be out of danger from arrow or rifle-ball, and to take our stand within
the edge of the ravine. This would serve as a trench, and the trees and
thickets with which it was bordered, would be sufficient to turn aside
any shaft of the enemy. The Pawnees, besides, are wary of attacking any
covert of the kind; their warfare, as I have already observed, lies in
the open prairie, where, mounted upon their fleet horses, they can swoop
like hawks upon their enemy, or wheel about him and discharge their
arrows. Still I could not but perceive, that, in case of being attacked
by such a number of these well-mounted and war-like savages as were said
to be at hand, we should be exposed to considerable risk from the
inexperience and want of discipline of our newly raised rangers, and from
the very courage of many of the younger ones who seemed bent on adventure
and exploit.

By this time the Captain reached the camp, and every one crowded round
him for information. He informed us, that he had proceeded some distance
on his reconnoitring expedition, and was slowly returning toward the
camp, along the brow of a naked hill, when he saw something on the edge
of a parallel hill, that looked like a man. He paused and watched it; but
it remained so perfectly motionless, that he supposed it a bush, or the
top of some tree beyond the hill. He resumed his course, when it likewise
began to move in a parallel direction. Another form now rose beside it,
of some one who had either been lying down, or had just ascended the
other side of the hill. The Captain stopped and regarded them; they
likewise stopped. He then lay down upon the grass, and they began to
walk. On his rising, they again stopped, as if watching him. Knowing that
the Indians are apt to have their spies and sentinels thus posted on the
summit of naked hills, commanding extensive prospects, his doubts were
increased by the suspicious movements of these men. He now put his
foraging cap on the end of his rifle, and waved it in the air. They took
no notice of the signal. He then walked on, until he entered the edge of
a wood, which concealed him from their view. Stopping out of sight for a
moment, he again looked forth, when he saw the two men passing swiftly
forward. As the hill on which they were walking made a curve toward that
on which he stood, it seemed as if they were endeavoring to head him
before he should reach the camp. Doubting whether they might not belong
to some large party of Indians, either in ambush or moving along the
valley beyond the hill, the Captain hastened his steps homeward, and,
descrying some rangers on an eminence between him and the camp, he called
out to them to pass the word to have the horses driven in, as these are
generally the first objects of Indian depredation.

Such was the origin of the alarm which had thrown the camp in commotion.
Some of those who heard the Captain's narration, had no doubt that the
men on the hill were Pawnee scouts, belonging to the band that had
waylaid the hunters. Distant shots were heard at intervals, which were
supposed to be fired by those who had sallied out to rescue their
comrades. Several more rangers, having completed their equipments, now
rode forth in the direction of the firing; others looked anxious and

"If they are as numerous as they are said to be," said one, "and as well
mounted as they generally are, we shall be a bad match for them with our
jaded horses."

"Well," replied the Captain, "we have a strong encampment, and can stand
a siege."

"Ay, but they may set fire to the prairie in the night, and burn us out
of our encampment."

"We will then set up a counter-fire!"

The word was now passed that a man on horseback approached the camp.

"It is one of the hunters! It is Clements! He brings buffalo meat!" was
announced by several voices as the horseman drew near.

It was, in fact, one of the rangers who had set off in the morning in
pursuit of the two buffaloes. He rode into the camp, with the spoils of
the chase hanging round his horse, and followed by his companions, all
sound and unharmed, and equally well laden. They proceeded to give an
account of a grand gallop they had had after the two buffaloes, and how
many shots it had cost them to bring one to the ground.

"Well, but the Pawnees--the Pawnees--where are the Pawnees?"

"What Pawnees?"

"The Pawnees that attacked you."

"No one attacked us."

"But have you seen no Indians on your way?"

"Oh yes, two of us got to the top of a hill to look out for the camp and
saw a fellow on an opposite hill cutting queer antics, who seemed to be
an Indian."

"Pshaw! that was I!" said the Captain.

Here the bubble burst. The whole alarm had risen from this mutual mistake
of the Captain and the two rangers. As to the report of the three hundred
Pawnees and their attack on the hunters, it proved to be a wanton
fabrication, of which no further notice was taken; though the author
deserved to have been sought out, and severely punished.

There being no longer any prospect of fighting, every one now thought of
eating; and here the stomachs throughout the camp were in unison. Tonish
served up to us his promised regale of buffalo soup and buffalo beef. The
soup was peppered most horribly, and the roast beef proved the bull to
have been one of the patriarchs of the prairies; never did I have to deal
with a tougher morsel. However, it was our first repast on buffalo meat,
so we ate it with a lively faith; nor would our little Frenchman allow us
any rest, until he had extorted from us an acknowledgment of the
excellence of his cookery; though the pepper gave us the lie in our

The night closed in without the return of old Ryan and his companion. We
had become accustomed, however, to the aberrations of this old cock of
the woods, and no further solicitude was expressed on his account.

After the fatigues and agitations of the day, the camp soon sunk into a
profound sleep, excepting those on guard, who were more than usually on
the alert; for the traces recently seen of Pawnees, and the certainty
that we were in the midst of their hunting grounds, excited to constant
vigilance. About half past ten o'clock we were all startled from sleep by
a new alarm. A sentinel had fired off his rifle and run into camp, crying
that there were Indians at hand.

Every one was on his legs in an instant. Some seized their rifles; some
were about to saddle their horses; some hastened to the Captain's lodge,
but were ordered back to their respective fires. The sentinel was
examined. He declared he had seen an Indian approach, crawling along the
ground; whereupon he had fired upon him, and run into camp. The Captain
gave it as his opinion, that the supposed Indian was a wolf; he
reprimanded the sentinel for deserting his post, and obliged him to
return to it. Many seemed inclined to give credit to the story of the
sentinel; for the events of the day had predisposed them to apprehend
lurking foes and sudden assaults during the darkness of the night. For a
long time they sat round their fires, with rifle in hand, carrying on
low, murmuring conversations, and listening for some new alarm. Nothing
further, however, occurred; the voices gradually died away; the gossipers
nodded and dozed, and sunk to rest; and, by degrees, silence and sleep
once more stole over the camp.



On mustering our forces in the morning (October 23rd), old Ryan and his
comrade were still missing; but the Captain had such perfect reliance on
the skill and resources of the veteran woodsman, that he did not think it
necessary to take any measures with respect to him.

Our march this day lay through the same kind of rough rolling country;
checkered by brown dreary forests of post-oak, and cut up by deep dry
ravines. The distant fires were evidently increasing on the prairies. The
wind had been at northwest for several days; and the atmosphere had
become so smoky, as in the height of Indian summer, that it was difficult
to distinguish objects at any distance.

In the course of the morning, we crossed a deep stream with a complete
beaver dam, above three feet high, making a large pond, and doubtless
containing several families of that industrious animal, though not one
showed his nose above water. The Captain would not permit this amphibious
commonwealth to be disturbed.

We were now continually coming upon the tracks of buffaloes and wild
horses; those of the former tended invariably to the south, as we could
perceive by the direction of the trampled grass. It was evident we were
on the great highway of these migratory herds, but that they had chiefly
passed to the southward.

Beatte, who generally kept a parallel course several hundred yards
distant from our line of march, to be on the lookout for game, and who
regarded every track with the knowing eye of an Indian, reported that he
had come upon a very suspicious trail. There were the tracks of men who
wore Pawnee moccasons. He had scented the smoke of mingled sumach and
tobacco, such as the Indians use. He had observed tracks of horses,
mingled with those of a dog; and a mark in the dust where a cord had been
trailed along; probably the long bridle, one end of which the Indian
horsemen suffer to trail on the ground. It was evident, they were not the
tracks of wild horses. My anxiety began to revive about the safety of our
veteran hunter Ryan, for I had taken a great fancy to this real old
Leatherstocking; every one expressed a confidence, however, that wherever
Ryan was, he was safe, and knew how to take care of himself.

We had accomplished the greater part of a weary day's march, and were
passing through a glade of the oak openings, when we came in sight of six
wild horses, among which I especially noticed two very handsome ones, a
gray and a roan. They pranced about, with heads erect, and long flaunting
tails, offering a proud contrast to our poor, spiritless, travel-tired
steeds. Having reconnoitred us for a moment, they set off at a gallop,
passed through a woody dingle, and in a little while emerged once more to
view, trotting up a slope about a mile distant.

The sight of these horses was again a sore trial to the vaporing Tonish,
who had his lariat and forked stick ready, and was on the point of
launching forth in pursuit on his jaded horse, when he was again ordered
back to the pack-horses. After a day's journey of fourteen miles in a
southwest direction, we encamped on the banks of a small clear stream, on
the northern border of the Cross Timber; and on the edge of those vast
prairies, that extend away to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. In turning
loose the horses to graze, their bells were stuffed with grass to prevent
their tinkling, lest it might be heard by some wandering horde of

Our hunters now went out in different directions, but without much
success, as but one deer was brought into the camp. A young ranger had a
long story to tell of his adventures. In skirting the thickets of a deep
ravine he had wounded a buck, which he plainly heard to fall among the
bushes. He stopped to fix the lock of his rifle, which was out of order,
and to reload it; then advancing to the edge of the thicket, in quest of
his game, he heard a low growling. Putting the branches aside, and
stealing silently forward, he looked down into the ravine and beheld a
huge bear dragging the carcass of the deer along the dry channel of a
brook, and growling and snarling at four or five officious wolves, who
seemed to have dropped in to take supper with him.

The ranger fired at the bear, but missed him. Bruin maintained his ground
and his prize, and seemed disposed to make battle. The wolves, too, who
were evidently sharp set, drew off to but a small distance. As night was
coming on, the young hunter felt dismayed at the wildness and darkness of
the place, and the strange company he had fallen in with; so he quietly
withdrew, and returned empty handed to the camp, where, having told his
story, he was heartily bantered by his more experienced comrades.

In the course of the evening, old Ryan came straggling into the camp,
followed by his disciple, and as usual was received with hearty
gratulations. He had lost himself yesterday, when hunting, and camped out
all night, but had found our trail in the morning, and followed it up. He
had passed some time at the beaver dam, admiring the skill and solidity
with which it had been constructed. "These beavers," said he, "are
industrious little fellows. They are the knowingest varment as I know;
and I warrant the pond was stocked with them."

"Aye," said the Captain, "I have no doubt most of the small rivers we
have passed are full of beaver. I would like to come and trap on these
waters all winter."

"But would you not run the chance of being attacked by Indians?" asked
one of the company.

"Oh, as to that, it would be safe enough here, in the winter time. There
would be no Indians here until spring. I should want no more than two
companions. Three persons are safer than a large number for trapping
beaver. They can keep quiet, and need seldom fire a gun. A bear would
serve them for food, for two months, taking care to turn every part of it
to advantage."

A consultation was now held as to our future progress. We had thus far
pursued a western course; and, having traversed the Cross Timber, were on
the skirts of the Great Western Prairie. We were still, however, in a
very rough country, where food was scarce. The season was so far advanced
that the grass was withered, and the prairies yielded no pasturage. The
pea-vines of the bottoms, also, which had sustained our horses for some
part of the journey, were nearly gone, and for several days past the poor
animals had fallen off wofully both in flesh and spirit. The Indian fires
on the prairies were approaching us from north, and south, and west; they
might spread also from the east, and leave a scorched desert between us
and the frontier, in which our horses might be famished.

It was determined, therefore, to advance no further to the westward, but
to shape our course more to the east, so as to strike the north fork of
the Canadian, as soon as possible, where we hoped to find abundance of
young cane, which, at this season of the year, affords the most
nutritious pasturage for the horses; and, at the same time, attracts
immense quantities of game. Here then we fixed the limits of our tour to
the Far West, being within little more than a day's march of the boundary
line of Texas.



THE morning broke bright and clear, but the camp had nothing of its usual
gayety. The concert of the farmyard was at an end; not a cock crew, nor
dog barked; nor was there either singing or laughing; every one pursued
his avocations quietly and gravely. The novelty of the expedition was
wearing off. Some of the young men were getting as way-worn as their
horses; and most of them, unaccustomed to the hunter's life, began to
repine at its privations. What they most felt was the want of bread,
their rations of flour having been exhausted for several days. The old
hunters, who had often experienced this want, made light of it; and
Beatte, accustomed when among the Indians to live for months without it,
considered it a mere article of luxury. "Bread," he would, say
scornfully, "is only fit for a child."

About a quarter before eight o'clock, we turned our back upon the Far
West, and set off in a southeast course, along a gentle valley. After
riding a few miles, Beatte, who kept parallel with us, along the ridge of
a naked hill to our right, called out and made signals, as if something
were coming round the hill to intercept us. Some who were near me cried
out that it was a party of Pawnees. A skirt of thickets hid the approach
of the supposed enemy from our view. We heard a trampling among the
brushwood. My horse looked toward the place, snorted and pricked up his
ears, when presently a couple of large buffalo bulls, who had been
alarmed by Beatte, came crashing through the brake, and making directly
toward us. At sight of us they wheeled round, and scuttled along a narrow
defile of the hill. In an instant half a score of rifles cracked off;
there was a universal whoop and halloo, and away went half the troop,
helter-skelter in pursuit, and myself among the number. The most of us
soon pulled up, and gave over a chase which led through birch and brier,
and break-neck ravines. Some few of the rangers persisted for a time; but
eventually joined the line, slowly lagging one after another. One of them
returned on foot; he had been thrown while in full chase; his rifle had
been broken in the fall, and his horse, retaining the spirit, of the
rider, had kept on after the buffalo. It was a melancholy predicament to
be reduced to; without horse or weapon in the midst of the Pawnee hunting

For my own part, I had been fortunate enough recently, by a further
exchange, to get possession of the best horse in the troop; a
full-blooded sorrel of excellent bottom, beautiful form, and most
generous qualities.

In such a situation it almost seems as if a man changes his nature with
his horse. I felt quite like another being, now that I had an animal
under me, spirited yet gentle, docile to a remarkable degree, and easy,
elastic, and rapid in all his movements. In a few days he became almost
as much attached to me as a dog; would follow me when I dismounted, would
come to me in the morning to be noticed and caressed; and would put his
muzzle between me and my book, as I sat reading at the foot of a tree.
The feeling I had for this my dumb companion of the prairies, gave me
some faint idea of that attachment the Arab is said to entertain for the
horse that has borne him about the deserts.

After riding a few miles further, we came to a fine meadow with a broad
clear stream winding through it, on the banks of which there was
excellent pasturage. Here we at once came to a halt, in a beautiful grove
of elms, on the site of an old Osage encampment. Scarcely had we
dismounted, when a universal firing of rifles took place upon a large
flock of turkeys, scattered about the grove, which proved to be a
favorite roosting-place for these simple birds. They flew to the trees,
and sat perched upon their branches, stretching out their long necks, and
gazing in stupid astonishment, until eighteen of them were shot down.

In the height of the carnage, word was brought that there were four
buffaloes in a neighboring meadow. The turkeys were now abandoned for
nobler game. The tired horses were again mounted, and urged to the chase.
In a little while we came in sight of the buffaloes, looking like brown
hillocks among the long green herbage. Beatte endeavored to get ahead of
them and turn them towards us, that the inexperienced hunters might have
a chance. They ran round the base of a rocky hill, that hid us from the
sight. Some of us endeavored to cut across the hill, but became entrapped
in a thick wood, matted with grape-vines. My horse, who, under his former
rider, had hunted the buffalo, seemed as much excited as myself, and
endeavored to force his way through the bushes. At length we extricated
ourselves, and galloping over the hill, I found our little Frenchman,
Tonish, curvetting on horseback round a great buffalo which he had
wounded too severely to fly, and which he was keeping employed until we
should come up. There was a mixture of the grand and the comic, in
beholding this tremendous animal and his fantastic assailant. The buffalo
stood with his shaggy front always presented to his foe; his mouth open,
his tongue parched, his eyes like coals of fire, and his tail erect with
rage; every now and then he would make a faint rush upon his foe, who
easily evaded his attack, capering and cutting all kinds of antics before

We now made repeated shots at the buffalo, but they glanced into his
mountain of flesh without proving mortal. He made a slow and grand
retreat into the shallow river, turning upon his assailants whenever they
pressed upon him; and when in the water, took his stand there as if
prepared to sustain a siege. A rifle-ball, however, more fatally lodged,
sent a tremor through his frame. He turned and attempted to wade across
the stream, but after tottering a few paces, slowly fell upon his side
and expired. It was the fall of a hero, and we felt somewhat ashamed of
the butchery that had affected it; but, after the first shot or two, we
had reconciled it to our feelings, by the old plea of putting the poor
animal out of his misery.

Two other buffaloes were killed this evening, but they were all bulls,
the flesh of which is meagre and hard, at this season of the year. A fat
buck yielded us more savory meat for our evening's repast.



We left the buffalo camp about eight o'clock, and had a toilsome and
harassing march of two hours, over ridges of hills, covered with a ragged
meagre forest of scrub-oaks, and broken by deep gullies. Among the oaks I
observed many of the most diminutive size; some not above a foot high,
yet bearing abundance of small acorns. The whole of the Cross Timber, in
fact, abounds with mast. There is a pine-oak which produces an acorn
pleasant to the taste, and ripening early in the season.

About ten o'clock in the morning, we came to where this line of rugged
hills swept down into a valley, through which flowed the north fork of
the Red River. A beautiful meadow about half a mile wide, enamelled with
yellow autumnal flowers, stretched for two or three miles along the foot
of the hills, bordered on the opposite side by the river, whose banks
were fringed with cottonwood trees, the bright foliage of which refreshed
and delighted the eye, after being wearied by the contemplation of
monotonous wastes of brown forest.

The meadow was finely diversified by groves and clumps of trees, so
happily dispersed, that they seemed as if set out by the hand of art. As
we cast our eyes over this fresh and delightful valley, we beheld a troop
of wild horses, quietly grazing on a green lawn, about a mile distant to
our right, while to our left, at nearly the same distance, were several
buffaloes; some feeding, others reposing and ruminating among the high
rich herbage, under the shade of a clump of cottonwood trees. The whole
had the appearance of a broad beautiful tract of pasture land, on the
highly ornamented estate of some gentleman farmer, with his cattle
grazing about the lawns and meadows.

A council of war was now held, and it was determined to profit by the
present favorable opportunity, and try our hand at the grand hunting
manoeuvre, which is called ringing the wild horse. This requires a large
party of horsemen, well mounted. They extend themselves in each
direction, singly, at certain distances apart, and gradually form a ring
of two or three miles in circumference, so as to surround the game. This
has to be done with extreme care, for the wild horse is the most readily
alarmed inhabitant of the prairie, and can scent a hunter at a great
distance, if to windward.

The ring being formed, two or three ride toward the horses, who start off
in an opposite direction. Whenever they approach the bounds of the ring,
however, a huntsman presents himself and turns them from their course. In
this way, they are checked and driven back at every point; and kept
galloping round and round this magic circle, until, being completely
tired down, it is easy for the hunters to ride up beside them, and throw
the lariat over their heads. The prime horses of most speed, courage, and
bottom, however, are apt to break through and escape, so that, in
general, it is the second-rate horses that are taken.

Preparations were now made for a hunt of the kind. The pack-horses were
taken into the woods and firmly tied to trees, lest, in a rush of the
wild horses, they should break away with them. Twenty-five men were then
sent under the command of a lieutenant, to steal along the edge of the
valley within the strip of wood that skirted the hills. They were to
station themselves about fifty yards apart, within the edge of the woods,
and not advance or show themselves until the horses dashed in that
direction. Twenty-five men were sent across the valley, to steal in like
manner along the river bank that bordered the opposite side, and to
station themselves among the trees. A third party, of about the same
number, was to form a line, stretching across the lower part of the
valley, so as to connect the two wings. Beatte and our other half-breed,
Antoine, together with the ever-officious Tonish, were to make a circuit
through the woods so as to get to the upper part of the valley, in the
rear of the horses, and to drive them forward into the kind of sack that
we had formed, while the two wings should join behind them and make a
complete circle.

The flanking parties were quietly extending themselves, out of sight, on
each side of the valley, and the residue were stretching themselves, like
the links of a chain, across it, when the wild horses gave signs that
they scented an enemy; snuffing the air, snorting, and looking about. At
length they pranced off slowly toward the river, and disappeared behind a
green bank. Here, had the regulations of the chase been observed, they
would have been quietly checked and turned back by the advance of a
hunter from among the trees, unluckily, however, we had our wild-fire
Jack-o'-lantern little Frenchman to deal with. Instead of keeping quietly
up the right side of the valley, to get above the horses, the moment he
saw them move toward the river, he broke out of the covert of woods, and
dashed furiously across the plain in pursuit of them, being mounted on
one of the led horses belonging to the Count. This put an end to all
system. The half-breeds and half a score of rangers joined in the chase.
Away they all went over the green bank; in a moment or two the wild
horses reappeared, and came thundering down the valley, with Frenchman,
half-breeds, and rangers galloping and yelling like devils behind them.
It was in vain that the line drawn across the valley attempted to check
and turn back the fugitives. They were too hotly pressed by their
pursuers; in their panic they dashed through the line, and clattered down
the plain. The whole troop joined in the headlong chase, some of the
rangers without hats or caps, their hair flying about their ears, others
with handkerchiefs tied round their heads. The buffaloes, who had been
calmly ruminating among the herbage, heaved up their huge forms, gazed
for a moment with astonishment at the tempest that came scouring down the
meadow, then turned and took to heavy-rolling flight. They were soon
overtaken; the promiscuous throng were pressed together by the
contracting sides of the valley, and away they went, pell-mell,
hurry-scurry, wild buffalo, wild horse, wild huntsman, with clang and
clatter, and whoop and halloo, that made the forests ring.

At length the buffaloes turned into a green brake on the river bank,
while the horses dashed up a narrow defile of the hills, with their
pursuers close at their heels. Beatte passed several of them, having
fixed his eye upon a fine Pawnee horse, that had his ears slit, and
saddle-marks upon his back. He pressed him gallantly, but lost him in the
woods. Among the wild horses was a fine black mare, far gone with foal.
In scrambling up the defile, she tripped and fell. A young ranger sprang
from his horse, and seized her by the mane and muzzle. Another ranger
dismounted, and came to his assistance. The mare struggled fiercely,
kicking and biting, and striking with her fore feet, but a noose was
slipped over her head, and her struggles were in vain. It was some time,
however, before she gave over rearing and plunging, and lashing out with
her feet on every side. The two rangers then led her along the valley by
two long lariats, which enabled them to keep at a sufficient distance on
each side to be out of the reach of her hoofs, and whenever she struck
out in one direction, she was jerked in the other. In this way her spirit
was gradually subdued.

As to little Scaramouch Tonish, who had marred the whole scene by his
precipitancy, he had been more successful than he deserved, having
managed to catch a beautiful cream-colored colt, about seven months old,
which had not strength to keep up with its companions, The mercurial
little Frenchman was beside himself with exultation. It was amusing to
see him with his prize. The colt would rear and kick, and struggle to get
free, when Tonish would take him about the neck, wrestle with him, jump
on his back, and cut as many antics as a monkey with a kitten. Nothing
surprised me more, however, than to witness how soon these poor animals,
thus taken from the unbounded freedom of the prairie, yielded to the
dominion of man. In the course of two or three days the mare and colt
went with the led horses, and became quite docile.



Resuming our march, we forded the North Fork, a rapid stream, and of a
purity seldom to be found in the rivers of the prairies. It evidently had
its sources in high land, well supplied with springs. After crossing the
river, we again ascended among hills, from one of which we had an
extensive view over this belt of cross timber, and a cheerless prospect
it was; hill beyond hill, forest beyond forest, all of one sad russet
hue--excepting that here and there a line of green cottonwood trees,
sycamores, and willows, marked the course of some streamlet through a
valley, A procession of buffaloes, moving slowly up the profile of one of
those distant hills, formed a characteristic object in the savage scene.
To the left, the eye stretched beyond this rugged wilderness of hills,
and ravines, and ragged forests, to a prairie about ten miles off,
extending in a clear blue line along the horizon. It was like looking
from among rocks and breakers upon a distant tract of tranquil ocean.
Unluckily, our route did not lie in that direction; we still had to
traverse many a weary mile of the "cross timber."

We encamped toward evening in a valley, beside a scanty pool, under a
scattered grove of elms, the upper branches of which wore fringed with
tufts of the mystic mistletoe. In the course of the night, the wild colt
whinnied repeatedly; and about two hours before day, there was a sudden
stampedo, or rush of horses, along the purlieus of the camp, with a
snorting and neighing, and clattering of hoofs, that startled most of the
rangers from their sleep, who listened in silence, until the sound died
away like the rushing of a blast. As usual, the noise was at first
attributed to some party of marauding Indians, but as the day dawned, a
couple of wild horses were seen in a neighboring meadow, which scoured
off on being approached. It was now supposed that a gang of them had
dashed through our camp in the night. A general mustering of our horses
took place, many were found scattered to a considerable distance, and
several were not to be found. The prints of their hoofs, however,
appeared deeply dinted in the soil, leading off at full speed into the
waste, and their owners, putting themselves on the trail, set off in
weary search of them.

We had a ruddy daybreak, but the morning gathered up gray and lowering,
with indications of an autumnal storm. We resumed our march silently and
seriously, through a rough and cheerless country, from the highest points
of which we could descry large prairies, stretching indefinitely
westward. After travelling for two or three hours, as we were traversing
a withered prairie, resembling a great brown heath, we beheld seven Osage
warriors approaching at a distance. The sight of any human being in this
lonely wilderness was interesting; it was like speaking a ship at sea.
One of the Indians took the lead of his companions, and advanced toward
us with head erect, chest thrown forward, and a free and noble mien. He
was a fine-looking fellow, dressed in scarlet frock and fringed leggings
of deer skin. His head was decorated with a white tuft, and he stepped
forward with something of a martial air, swaying his bow and arrows in
one hand.

We held some conversation with him through our interpreter, Beatte, and
found that he and his companions had been with the main part of their
tribe hunting the buffalo, and had met with great success; and he
informed us, that in the course of another day's march, we would reach
the prairies on the banks of the Grand Canadian, and find plenty of game.
He added, that as their hunt was over, and the hunters on their return
homeward, he and his comrades had set out on a war party, to waylay and
hover about some Pawnee camp, in hopes of carrying off scalps or horses.

By this time his companions, who at first stood aloof, joined him. Three
of them had indifferent fowling-pieces; the rest were armed with bows and
arrows. I could not but admire the finely shaped heads and busts of these
savages, and their graceful attitude and expressive gestures, as they
stood conversing with our interpreter, and surrounded by a cavalcade of
rangers. We endeavored to get one of them to join us, as we were desirous
of seeing him hunt the buffalo with his bow and arrow. He seemed at first
inclined to do so, but was dissuaded by his companions.

The worthy Commissioner now remembered his mission as pacificator, and
made a speech, exhorting them to abstain from all offensive acts against
the Pawnees; informing them of the plan of their father at Washington, to
put an end to all war among his red children; and assuring them that he
was sent to the frontier to establish a universal peace. He told them,
therefore, to return quietly to their homes, with the certainty that the
Pawnees would no longer molest them, but would soon regard them as

The Indians listened to the speech with their customary silence and
decorum; after which, exchanging a few words among themselves, they bade
us farewell, and pursued their way across the prairie.

Fancying that I saw a lurking smile in the countenance of our
interpreter, Beatte, I privately inquired what the Indians had said to
each other after hearing the speech. The leader, he said, had observed to
his companions, that, as their great father intended so soon to put an
end to all warfare, it behooved them to make the most of the little time
that was left them. So they had departed, with redoubled zeal, to pursue
their project of horse-stealing!

We had not long parted from the Indians before we discovered three
buffaloes among the thickets of a marshy valley to our left. I set off
with the Captain and several rangers, in pursuit of them. Stealing
through a straggling grove, the Captain, who took the lead, got within
rifle-shot, and wounded one of them in the flank. They all three made of
in headlong panic, through thickets and brushwood, and swamp and mire,
bearing down every obstacle by their immense weight. The Captain and
rangers soon gave up a chase which threatened to knock up their horses; I
had got upon the traces of the wounded bull, however, and was in hopes of
getting near enough to use my pistols, the only weapons with which I was
provided; but before I could effect it, he reached the foot of a rocky
hill, covered with post-oak and brambles, and plunged forward, dashing
and crashing along, with neck or nothing fury, where it would have been
madness to have followed him.

The chase had led me so far on one side, that it was some time before I
regained the trail of our troop. As I was slowly ascending a hill, a fine
black mare came prancing round the summit, and was close to me before she
was aware. At sight of me she started back, then turning, swept at full
speed down into the valley, and up the opposite hill, with flowing mane
and tail, and action free as air. I gazed after her as long as she was in
sight, and breathed a wish that so glorious an animal might never come
under the degrading thraldom of whip and curb, but remain a free rover of
the prairies.



On overtaking the troop, I found it encamping in a rich bottom of
woodland, traversed by a small stream, running between deep crumbling
banks. A sharp cracking off of rifles was kept up for some time in
various directions, upon a numerous flock of turkeys, scampering among
the thickets, or perched upon the trees. We had not been long at a halt,
when a drizzling rain ushered in the autumnal storm that had been
brewing. Preparations were immediately made to weather it; our tent was
pitched, and our saddles, saddlebags, packages of coffee, sugar, salt,
and every thing else that could be damaged by the rain, were gathered
under its shelter. Our men, Beatte, Tonish, and Antoine, drove stakes
with forked ends into the ground, laid poles across them for rafters, and
thus made a shed or pent-house, covered with bark and skins, sloping
toward the wind, and open toward the fire. The rangers formed similar
shelters of bark and skins, or of blankets stretched on poles, supported
by forked stakes, with great fires in front.

These precautions were well timed. The rain set in sullenly and steadily,
and kept on, with slight intermissions, for two days. The brook which
flowed peacefully on our arrival, swelled into a turbid and boiling
torrent, and the forest became little better than a mere swamp. The men
gathered under their shelters of skins and blankets, or sat cowering
round their fires; while columns of smoke curling up among the trees, and
diffusing themselves in the air, spread a blue haze through the woodland.
Our poor, way-worn horses, reduced by weary travel and scanty pasturage,
lost all remaining spirit, and stood, with drooping heads, flagging ears,
and half-closed eyes, dozing and steaming in the rain, while the yellow
autumnal leaves, at every shaking of the breeze, came wavering down
around them.

Notwithstanding the bad weather, however, our hunters were not idle, but
during the intervals of the rain, sallied forth on horseback to prowl
through the woodland. Every now and then the sharp report of a distant
rifle boded the death of a deer. Venison in abundance was brought in.
Some busied themselves under the sheds, flaying and cutting up the
carcasses, or round the fires with spits and camp kettles, and a rude
kind of feasting, or rather gormandizing, prevailed throughout the camp.
The axe was continual at work, and wearied the forest with its echoes.
Crash! some mighty tree would come down; in a few minutes its limbs would
be blazing and crackling on the huge camp fires, with some luckless deer
roasting before it, that had once sported beneath its shade.

The change of weather had taken sharp hold of our little Frenchman. His
meagre frame, composed of bones and whip-cord, was racked with rheumatic
pains and twinges. He had the toothache--the earache--his face was tied
up--he had shooting pains in every limb; yet all seemed but to increase
his restless activity, and he was in an incessant fidget about the fire,
roasting, and stewing, and groaning, and scolding, and swearing.

Our man Beatte returned grim and mortified, from hunting. He had come
upon a bear of formidable dimensions, and wounded him with a rifle-shot.
The bear took to the brook, which was swollen and rapid. Beatte dashed in
after him and assailed him in the rear with his hunting-knife. At every
blow the bear turned furiously upon him, with a terrific display of white
teeth. Beatte, having a foothold in the brook, was enabled to push him
off with his rifle, and, when he turned to swim, would flounder after,
and attempt to hamstring him. The bear, however, succeeded in scrambling
off among the thickets, and Beatte bad to give up the chase.

This adventure, if it produced no game, brought up at least several
anecdotes, round the evening fire, relative to bear hunting, in which the
grizzly bear figured conspicuously. This powerful and ferocious animal is
a favorite theme of hunter's story, both among red and white men; and his
enormous claws are worn round the neck of an Indian brave as a trophy
more honorable than a human scalp. He is now scarcely seen below the
upper prairies and the skirts of the Rocky Mountains. Other bears are
formidable when wounded and provoked, but seldom make battle when allowed
to escape. The grizzly bear alone, of all the animals of our Western
wilds, is prone to unprovoked hostility. His prodigious size and strength
make him a formidable opponent; and his great tenacity of life often
baffles the skill of the hunter, notwithstanding repeated shots of the
rifle, and wounds of the hunting-knife.

One of the anecdotes related on this occasion, gave a picture of the
accidents and hard shifts to which our frontier rovers are inured. A
hunter, while in pursuit of a deer, fell into one of those deep
funnel-shaped pits, formed on the prairies by the settling of the waters
after heavy rains, and known by the name of sink-holes. To his great
horror, he came in contact, at the bottom, with a huge grizzly bear. The
monster grappled him; a deadly contest ensued, in which the poor hunter
was severely torn and bitten, and had a leg and an arm broken, but
succeeded in killing his rugged foe. For several days he remained at the
bottom of the pit, too much crippled to move, and subsisting on the raw
flesh of the bear, during which time he kept his wounds open, that they
might heal gradually and effectually. He was at length enabled to
scramble to the top of the pit, and so out upon the open prairie. With
great difficulty he crawled to a ravine, formed by a stream, then nearly
dry. Here he took a delicious draught of water, which infused new life
into him; then dragging himself along from pool to pool, he supported
himself by small fish and frogs.

One day he saw a wolf hunt down and kill a deer in the neighboring
prairie. He immediately crawled forth from the ravine, drove off the
wolf, and, lying down beside the carcass of the deer, remained there
until he made several hearty meals, by which his strength was much

Returning to the ravine, he pursued the course of the brook, until it
grew to be a considerable stream. Down this he floated, until he came to
where it emptied into the Mississippi. Just at the mouth of the stream,
he found a forked tree, which he launched with some difficulty, and,
getting astride of it, committed himself to the current of the mighty
river. In this way he floated along, until he arrived opposite the fort
at Council Bluffs. Fortunately he arrived there in the daytime, otherwise
he might have floated, unnoticed, past this solitary post, and perished
in the idle waste of waters. Being descried from the fort, a canoe was
sent to his relief, and he was brought to shore more dead than alive,
where he soon recovered from his wounds, but remained maimed for life.

Our man Beatte had come out of his contest with the bear very much
worsted and discomfited. His drenching in the brook, together with the
recent change of weather, had brought on rheumatic pains in his limbs, to
which he is subject. Though ordinarily a fellow of undaunted spirit, and
above all hardship, yet he now sat down by the fire, gloomy and dejected,
and for once gave way to repining. Though in the prime of life, and of a
robust frame, and apparently iron constitution, yet, by his own account,
he was little better than a mere wreck. He was, in fact, a living
monument of the hardships of wild frontier life. Baring his left arm, he
showed it warped and contracted by a former attack of rheumatism; a
malady with which the Indians are often afflicted; for their exposure to
the vicissitudes of the elements does not produce that perfect hardihood
and insensibility to the changes of the seasons that many are apt to
imagine. He bore the scars of various maims and bruises; some received in
hunting, some in Indian warfare. His right arm had been broken by a fall
from his horse; at another time his steed had fallen with him, and
crushed his left leg.

"I am all broke to pieces and good for nothing," said he; "I no care now
what happen to me any more." "However," added he, after a moment's pause,
"for all that, it would take a pretty strong man to put me down, anyhow."

I drew from him various particulars concerning himself, which served to
raise him in my estimation. His residence was on the Neosho, in an Osage
hamlet or neighborhood, under the superintendence of a worthy missionary
from the banks of the Hudson, by the name of Requa, who was endeavoring
to instruct the savages in the art of agriculture, and to make husbandmen
and herdsmen of them. I had visited this agricultural mission of Requa in
the course of my recent tour along the frontier, and had considered it
more likely to produce solid advantages to the poor Indians than any of
the mere praying and preaching missions along the border.

In this neighborhood, Pierre Beatte had his little farm, his Indian wife,
and his half-breed children; and aided Mr. Requa in his endeavors to
civilize the habits, and meliorate the condition of the Osage tribe.
Beatte had been brought up a Catholic, and was inflexible in his
religious faith; he could not pray with Mr. Requa, he said, but he could
work with him, and he evinced a zeal for the good of his savage relations
and neighbors. Indeed, though his father had been French, and he himself
had been brought up in communion with the whites, he evidently was more
of an Indian in his tastes, and his heart yearned toward his mother's
nation. When he talked to me of the wrongs and insults that the poor
Indians suffered in their intercourse with the rough settlers on the
frontiers; when he described the precarious and degraded state of the
Osage tribe, diminished in numbers, broken in spirit, and almost living
on sufferance in the land where they once figured so heroically, I could
see his veins swell, and his nostrils distend with indignation; but he
would check the feeling with a strong exertion of Indian self-command,
and, in a manner, drive it back into his bosom.

He did not hesitate to relate an instance wherein he had joined his
kindred Osages, in pursuing and avenging themselves on a party of white
men who had committed a flagrant outrage upon them; and I found, in the
encounter that took place, Beatte had shown himself the complete Indian.

He had more than once accompanied his Osage relations in their wars with
the Pawnees, and related a skirmish which took place on the borders of
these very hunting grounds, in which several Pawnees were killed. We
should pass near the place, he said, in the course of our tour, and the
unburied bones and skulls of the slain were still to be seen there. The
surgeon of the troop, who was present at our conversation, pricked up his
ears at this intelligence. He was something of a phrenologist, and
offered Beatte a handsome reward if he would procure him one of the

Beatte regarded him for a moment with a look of stern surprise.

"No!" said he at length, "dat too bad! I have heart strong enough--I no
care kill, but let the dead alone!"

He added, that once in travelling with a party of white men, he had slept
in the same tent with a doctor, and found that he had a Pawnee skull
among his baggage: he at once renounced the doctor's tent, and his
fellowship. "He try to coax me," said Beatte, "but I say no, we must
part--I no keep such company."

In the temporary depression of his spirits, Beatte gave way to those
superstitious forebodings to which Indians are prone. He had sat for some
time, with his cheek upon his hand, gazing into the fire. I found his
thoughts were wandering back to his humble home, on the banks of the
Neosho; he was sure, he said, that he should find some one of his family
ill, or dead, on his return: his left eye had twitched and twinkled for
two days past; an omen which always boded some misfortune of the kind.

Such are the trivial circumstances which, when magnified into omens, will
shake the souls of these men of iron. The least sign of mystic and
sinister portent is sufficient to turn a hunter or a warrior from his
course, or to fill his mind with apprehensions of impending evil. It is
this superstitious propensity, common to the solitary and savage rovers
of the wilderness, that gives such powerful influence to the prophet and
the dreamer.

The Osages, with whom Beatte had passed much of his life, retain these
superstitious fancies and rites in much of their original force. They all
believe in the existence of the soul after its separation from the body,
and that it carries with it all its mortal tastes and habitudes. At an
Osage village in the neighborhood of Beatte, one of the chief warriors
lost an only child, a beautiful girl, of a very tender age. All her
playthings were buried with her. Her favorite little horse, also, was
killed, and laid in the grave beside her, that she might have it to ride
in the land of spirits.

I will here add a little story, which I picked up in the course of my
tour through Beatte's country, and which illustrates the superstitions of
his Osage kindred. A large party of Osages had been encamped for some
time on the borders of a fine stream, called the Nickanansa. Among them
was a young hunter, one of the bravest and most graceful of the tribe,
who was to be married to an Osage girl, who, for her beauty, was called
the Flower of the Prairies. The young hunter left her for a time among
her relatives in the encampment, and went to St. Louis, to dispose of the
products of his hunting, and purchase ornaments for his bride. After an
absence of some weeks, he returned to the banks of the Nickanansa, but
the camp was no longer there; and the bare frames of the lodges and the
brands of extinguished fires alone marked the place. At a distance he
beheld a female seated, as if weeping, by the side of the stream. It was
his affianced bride. He ran to embrace her, but she turned mournfully
away. He dreaded lest some evil had befallen the camp.

"Where are our people?" cried he.

"They are gone to the banks of the Wagrushka."

"And what art thou doing here alone?"

"Waiting for thee."

"Then let us hasten to join our people on the banks of the Wagrushka."

He gave her his pack to carry, and walked ahead, according to the Indian

They came to where the smoke of the distant camp was seen rising from the
woody margin of the stream. The girl seated herself at the foot of a
tree. "It is not proper for us to return together," said she; "I will
wait here."

The young hunter proceeded to the camp alone, and was received by his
relations with gloomy countenances.

"What evil has happened," said he, "that ye are all so sad?"

No one replied.

He turned to his favorite sister, and bade her go forth, seek his bride,
and conduct her to the camp.

"Alas!" cried she, "how shall I seek her? She died a few days since."

The relations of the young girl now surrounded him, weeping and wailing;
but he refused to believe the dismal tidings. "But a few moments since,"
cried he, "I left her alone and in health; come with me, and I will
conduct you to her,"

He led the way to the tree where she had seated herself, but she was no
longer there, and his pack lay on the ground. The fatal truth struck him
to the heart; he fell to the ground dead.

I give, this simple story almost in the words in which it was related to
me, as I lay by the fire in an evening encampment on the banks of the
haunted stream where it is said to have happened.



On the following morning we were rejoined by the rangers who had remained
at the last encampment, to seek for the stray horses. They had tracked
them for a considerable distance through bush and brake, and across
streams, until they found them cropping the herbage on the edge of a
prairie. Their heads were in the direction of the fort, and they were
evidently grazing their way homeward, heedless of the unbounded freedom
of the prairie so suddenly laid open to them.

About noon the weather held up, and I observed a mysterious consultation
going on between our half-breeds and Tonish; it ended in a request that
we would dispense with the services of the latter for a few hours, and
permit him to join his comrades in a grand foray. We objected that Tonish
was too much disabled by aches and pains for such an undertaking; but he
was wild with eagerness for the mysterious enterprise, and, when
permission was give him, seemed to forget all his ailments in an instant.

In a short time the trio were equipped and on horseback; with rifles on
their shoulders and handkerchiefs twisted round their heads, evidently
bound for a grand scamper. As they passed by the different lodges of the
camp, the vainglorious little Frenchman could not help boasting to the
right and left of the great things he was about to achieve; though the
taciturn Beatte, who rode in advance would every now and then check his
horse, and look back at him with an air of stern rebuke. It was hard,
however, to make the loquacious Tonish play "Indian."

Several of the hunters, likewise, sallied forth, and the prime old
woodman, Ryan, came back early in the afternoon, with ample spoil, having
killed a buck and two fat does. I drew near to a group of rangers that
had gathered round him as he stood by the spoil, and found they were
discussing the merits of a stratagem sometimes used in deer hunting. This
consists in imitating, with a small instrument called a bleat, the cry of
the fawn, so as to lure the doe within reach of the rifle. There are
bleats of various kinds, suited to calm or windy weather, and to the age
of the fawn. The poor animal, deluded by them, in its anxiety about its
young, will sometimes advance close up to the hunter. "I once bleated a
doe," said a young hunter, "until it came within twenty yards of me, and
presented a sure mark. I levelled my rifle three times, but had not the
heart to shoot, for the poor doe looked so wistfully, that it in a manner
made my heart yearn. I thought of my own mother, and how anxious she used
to be about me when I was a child; so to put an end to the matter, I gave
a halloo, and started the doe out of rifle-shot in a moment."

"And you did right," cried honest old Ryan. "For my part, I never could
bring myself to bleating deer. I've been with hunters who had bleats, and
have made them throw them away. It is a rascally trick to take advantage
of a mother's love for her young."

Toward evening our three worthies returned from their mysterious foray.
The tongue of Tonish gave notice of their approach long before they came
in sight; for he was vociferating at the top of his lungs, and rousing
the attention of the whole camp. The lagging gait and reeking flanks of
their horses, gave evidence of hard riding; and, on nearer approach, we
found them hung round with meat like a butcher's shambles. In fact, they
had been scouring an immense prairie that extended beyond the forest, and
which was covered with herds of buffalo. Of this prairie, and the animals
upon it, Beatte had received intelligence a few days before, in his
conversation with the Osages, but had kept the information a secret from
the rangers, that he and his comrades might have the first dash at the
game. They had contented themselves with killing four; though, if Tonish
might be believed, they might have slain them by scores.

These tidings, and the buffalo meat brought home in evidence, spread
exultation through the camp, and every one looked forward with joy to a
buffalo hunt on the prairies. Tonish was again the oracle of the camp,
and held forth by the hour to a knot of listeners, crouched round the
fire, with their shoulders up to their ears. He was now more boastful
than ever of his skill as a marksman. All his want of success in the
early part of our march he attributed to being "out of luck," if not
"spell-bound;" and finding himself listened to with apparent credulity,
gave an instance of the kind, which he declared had happened to himself,
but which was evidently a tale picked up among his relations, the Osages.

According to this account, when about fourteen years of age, as he was
one day hunting, he saw a white deer come out from a ravine. Crawling
near to get a shot, he beheld another and another come forth, until there
were seven, all as white as snow. Having crept sufficiently near, he
singled one out and fired, but without effect; the deer remained
unfrightened. He loaded and fired again and missed. Thus he continued
firing and missing until all his ammunition was expended, and the deer
remained without a wound. He returned home despairing of his skill as a
marksman, but was consoled by an old Osage hunter. These white deer, said
he, have a charmed life, and can only be killed by bullets of a
particular kind.

The old Indian cast several balls for Tonish, but would not suffer him to
be present on the occasion, nor inform him of the ingredients and mystic

Provided with these balls, Tonish again set out in quest of the white
deer, and succeeded in finding them. He tried at first with ordinary
balls, but missed as before. A magic ball, however, immediately brought a
fine buck to the ground. Whereupon the rest of the herd immediately
disappeared and were never seen again.

October 29th.--The morning opened gloomy and lowering; but toward eight
o'clock the sun struggled forth and lighted up the forest, and the notes
of the bugle gave signal to prepare for marching. Now began a scene of
bustle, and clamor, and gayety. Some were scampering and brawling after
their horses, some were riding in bare-backed, and driving in the horses
of their comrades. Some were stripping the poles of the wet blankets that
had served for shelters; others packing up with all possible dispatch,
and loading the baggage horses as they arrived, while others were
cracking off their damp rifles and charging them afresh, to be ready for
the sport.

About ten o'clock, we began our march. I loitered in the rear of the
troop as it forded the turbid brook, and defiled through the labyrinths
of the forest. I always felt disposed to linger until the last straggler
disappeared among the trees and the distant note of the bugle died upon
the ear, that I might behold the wilderness relapsing into silence and
solitude. In the present instance, the deserted scene of our late
bustling encampment had a forlorn and desolate appearance. The
surrounding forest had been in many places trampled into a quagmire.
Trees felled and partly hewn in pieces, and scattered in huge fragments;
tent-poles stripped of their covering; smouldering fires, with great
morsels of roasted venison and buffalo meat, standing in wooden spits
before them, hacked and slashed by the knives of hungry hunters; while
around were strewed the hides, the horns, the antlers, and bones of
buffaloes and deer, with uncooked joints, and unplucked turkeys, left
behind with that reckless improvidence and wastefulness which young
hunters are apt to indulge when in a neighborhood where game abounds. In
the meantime a score or two of turkey-buzzards, or vultures, were already
on the wing, wheeling their magnificent flight high in the air, and
preparing for a descent upon the camp as soon as it should be abandoned.



After proceeding about two hours in a southerly direction, we emerged
toward mid-day from the dreary belt of the Cross Timber, and to our
infinite delight beheld "the great Prairie" stretching to the right and
left before us. We could distinctly trace the meandering course of the
main Canadian, and various smaller streams, by the strips of green forest
that bordered them. The landscape was vast and beautiful. There is always
an expansion of feeling in looking upon these boundless and fertile
wastes; but I was doubly conscious of it after emerging from our "close
dungeon of innumerous boughs."

From a rising ground Beatte pointed out the place where he and his
comrades had killed the buffaloes; and we beheld several black objects
moving in the distance, which he said were part of the herd. The Captain
determined to shape his course to a woody bottom about a mile distant,
and to encamp there for a day or two, by way of having a regular buffalo
hunt, and getting a supply of provisions. As the troop defiled along the
slope of the hill toward the camping ground, Beatte proposed to my
messmates and myself, that we should put ourselves under his guidance,
promising to take us where we should have plenty of sport. Leaving the
line of march, therefore, we diverged toward the prairie; traversing a
small valley, and ascending a gentle swell of land. As we reached the
summit, we beheld a gang of wild horses about a mile off. Beatte was
immediately on the alert, and no longer thought of Buffalo hunting. He
was mounted on his powerful half-wild horse, with a lariat coiled at the
saddle-bow, and set off in pursuit; while we remained on a rising ground
watching his manoeuvres with great solicitude. Taking advantage of a
strip of woodland, he stole quietly along, so as to get close to them
before he was perceived. The moment they caught sight of him a grand
scamper took place. We watched him skirting along the horizon like a
privateer in full chase of a merchantman; at length he passed over the
brow of a ridge, and down into a shallow valley; in a few moments he was
on the opposite hill, and close upon one of the horses. He was soon head
and head, and appeared to be trying to noose his prey; but they both
disappeared again below the hill, and we saw no more of them. It turned
out afterward that he had noosed a powerful horse, but could not hold
him, and had lost his lariat in the attempt.

While we were waiting for his return, we perceived two buffalo bulls
descending a slope, toward a stream, which wound through a ravine fringed
with trees. The young Count and myself endeavored to get near them under
covert of the trees. They discovered us while we were yet three or four
hundred yards off, and turning about, retreated up the rising ground. We
urged our horses across the ravine, and gave chase. The immense weight of
head and shoulders causes the buffalo to labor heavily up hill; but it
accelerates his descent. We had the advantage, therefore, and gained
rapidly upon the fugitives, though it was difficult to get our horses to
approach them, their very scent inspiring them with terror. The Count,
who had a double-barrelled gun loaded with ball, fired, but it missed.
The bulls now altered their course, and galloped down hill with headlong
rapidity. As they ran in different directions, we each singled out one
and separated. I was provided with a brace of veteran brass-barrelled
pistols, which I had borrowed at Fort Gibson, and which had evidently
seen some service. Pistols are very effective in buffalo hunting, as the
hunter can ride up close to the animal, and fire at it while at full
speed; whereas the long heavy rifles used on the frontier, cannot be
easily managed, nor discharged with accurate aim from horseback. My
object, therefore, was to get within pistol shot of the buffalo. This was
no very easy matter. I was well mounted on a horse of excellent speed and
bottom, that seemed eager for the chase, and soon overtook the game; but
the moment he came nearly parallel, he would keep sheering off, with ears
forked and pricked forward, and every symptom of aversion and alarm. It
was no wonder. Of all animals, a buffalo, when close pressed by the
hunter, has an aspect the most diabolical. His two short black horns,
curve out of a huge frontier of shaggy hair; his eyes glow like coals;
his mouth is open, his tongue parched and drawn up into a half crescent;
his tail is erect, and tufted and whisking about in the air, he is a
perfect picture of mingled rage and terror.

It was with difficulty I urged my horse sufficiently near, when, taking
aim, to my chagrin, both pistols missed fire. Unfortunately the locks of
these veteran weapons were so much worn, that in the gallop, the priming
had been shaken out of the pans. At the snapping of the last pistol I was
close upon the buffalo, when, in his despair, he turned round with a
sudden snort and rushed upon me. My horse wheeled about as if on a pivot,
made a convulsive spring, and, as I had been leaning on one side with
pistol extended, I came near being thrown at the feet of the buffalo.

Three or four bounds of the horse carried us out of the reach of the
enemy; who, having merely turned in desperate self-defence, quickly
resumed his flight. As soon as I could gather in my panic-stricken horse,
and prime the pistols afresh, I again spurred in pursuit of the buffalo,
who had slackened his speed to take breath. On my approach he again set
off full tilt, heaving himself forward with a heavy rolling gallop,
dashing with headlong precipitation through brakes and ravines, while
several deer and wolves, startled from their coverts by his thundering
career, ran helter-skelter to right and left across the waste.

A gallop across the prairies in pursuit of game is by no means so smooth
a career as those may imagine, who have only the idea of an open level
plain. It is true, the prairies of the hunting ground are not so much
entangled with flowering plants and long herbage as the lower prairies,
and are principally covered with short buffalo grass; but they are
diversified by hill and dale, and whore most level, are apt to be cut up
by deep rifts and ravines, made by torrents after rains; and which
yawning from an even surface are almost like pitfalls in the way of the
hunger, checking him suddenly, when in full career, or subjecting him to
the risk of limb and life. The plains, too, are beset by burrowing holes
of small animals, in which the horse is apt to sink to the fetlock, and
throw both himself and his rider. The late rain had covered some parts of
the prairie, where the ground was hard, with a thin sheet of water,
through which the horse had to splash his way. In other parts there were
innumerable shallow hollows, eight or ten feet in diameter, made by the
buffaloes, who wallow in sand and mud like swine. These being filled with
water, shone like mirrors, so that the horse was continually leaping over
them or springing on one side. We had reached, too, a rough part of the
prairie, very much broken and cut up; the buffalo, who was running for
life, took no heed to his course, plunging down break-neck ravines, where
it was necessary to skirt the borders in search of a safer descent. At
length we came to where a winter stream had torn a deep chasm across the
whole prairie, leaving open jagged rocks, and forming a long glen
bordered by steep crumbling cliffs of mingled stone and clay. Down one of
these the buffalo flung himself, half tumbling, half leaping, and then
scuttled along the bottom; while I, seeing all further pursuit useless,
pulled up, and gazed quietly after him from the border of the cliff,
until he disappeared amidst the windings of the ravine.

Nothing now remained but to turn my steed and rejoin my companions. Here
at first was some little difficulty. The ardor of the chase had betrayed
me into a long, heedless gallop. I now found myself in the midst of a
lonely waste, in which the prospect was bounded by undulating swells of
land, naked and uniform, where, from the deficiency of landmarks and
distinct features, an inexperienced man may become bewildered, and lose
his way as readily as in the wastes of the ocean. The day, too, was
overcast, so that I could not guide myself by the sun; my only mode was
to retrace the track my horse had made in coming, though this I would
often lose sight of, where the ground was covered with parched herbage.

To one unaccustomed to it, there is something inexpressibly lonely in the
solitude of a prairie. The loneliness of a forest seems noting to it.
There the view is shut in by trees, and the imagination is left free to
picture some livelier scene beyond. But here we have an immense extent of
landscape without a sign of human existence. We have the consciousness of
being far, far beyond the bounds of human habitation; we feel as if
moving in the midst of a desert world. As my horse lagged slowly back
over the scenes of our late scamper, and the delirium of the chase had
passed away, I was peculiarly sensible to these circumstances. The
silence of the waste was now and then broken by the cry of a distant
flock of pelicans, stalking like spectres about a shallow pool; sometimes
by the sinister croaking of a raven in the air, while occasionally a
scoundrel wolf would scour off from before me: and, having attained a
safe distance, would sit down and howl and whine with tones that gave a
dreariness to the surrounding solitude.

After pursuing my way for some time, I descried a horseman on the edge of
a distant hill, and soon recognized him to be the Count. He had been
equally unsuccessful with myself; we were shortly after rejoined by our
worthy comrade, the Virtuoso, who, with spectacles on nose, had made two
or three ineffectual shots from horseback.

We determined not to seek the camp until we had made one more effort.
Casting our eyes about the surrounding waste, we descried a herd of
buffalo about two miles distant, scattered apart, and quietly grazing
near a small strip of trees and bushes. It required but little stretch of
fancy to picture them so many cattle grazing on the edge of a common, and
that the grove might shelter some lowly farmhouse.

We now formed our plan to circumvent the herd, and by getting on the
other side of them, to hunt them in the direction where we knew our camp
to be situated: otherwise the pursuit might take us to such a distance as
to render it impossible to find our way back before nightfall. Taking a
wide circuit, therefore, we moved slowly and cautiously, pausing
occasionally, when we saw any of the herd desist from grazing. The wind
fortunately set from them, otherwise they might have scented us and have
taken the alarm. In this way we succeeded in getting round the herd
without disturbing it. It consisted of about forty head, bulls, cows, and
calves. Separating to some distance from each other, we now approached
slowly in a parallel line, hoping by degrees to steal near without
exciting attention. They began, however, to move off quietly, stopping at
every step or two to graze, when suddenly a bull that, unobserved by us,
had been taking his siesta under a clump of trees to our left, roused
himself from his lair, and hastened to join his companions. We were still
at a considerable distance, but the game had taken the alarm. We
quickened our pace, they broke into a gallop, and now commenced a full

As the ground was level, they shouldered along with great speed,
following each other in a line; two or three bulls bringing up the rear,
the last of whom, from his enormous size and venerable frontlet, and
beard of sunburnt hair, looked like the patriarch of the herd; and as if
he might long have reigned the monarch of the prairie.

There is a mixture of the awful and the comic in the look of these huge
animals, as they bear their great bulk forward, with an up and down
motion of the unwieldy head and shoulders; their tail cocked up like the
queue of Pantaloon in a pantomime, the end whisking about in a fierce yet
whimsical style, and their eyes glaring venomously with an expression of
fright and fury.

For some time I kept parallel with the line, without being able to force
my horse within pistol shot, so much had he been alarmed by the assault
of the buffalo in the preceding chase. At length I succeeded, but was
again balked by my pistols missing fire. My companions, whose horses were
less fleet, and more way-worn, could not overtake the herd; at length Mr.
L., who was in the rear of the line, and losing ground, levelled his
double-barrelled gun, and fired a long raking shot. It struck a buffalo
just above the loins, broke its back-bone, and brought it to the ground.
He stopped and alighted to dispatch his prey, when borrowing his gun,
which had yet a charge remaining in it, I put my horse to his speed,
again overtook the herd which was thundering along, pursued by the Count.
With my present weapon there was no need of urging my horse to such close
quarters; galloping along parallel, therefore, I singled out a buffalo,
and by a fortunate shot brought it down on the spot. The ball had struck
a vital part; it could not move from the place where it fell, but lay
there struggling in mortal agony, while the rest of the herd kept on
their headlong career across the prairie.

Dismounting, I now fettered my horse to prevent his straying, and
advanced to contemplate my victim. I am nothing of a sportsman; I had
been prompted to this unwonted exploit by the magnitude of the game, and
the excitement of an adventurous chase. Now that the excitement was over,
I could not but look with commiseration upon the poor animal that lay
struggling and bleeding at my feet. His very size and importance, which
had before inspired me with eagerness, now increased my compunction. It
seemed as if I had inflicted pain in proportion to the bulk of my victim,
and as if it were a hundred-fold greater waste of life than there would
have been in the destruction of an animal of inferior size.

To add to these after-qualms of conscience, the poor animal lingered in
his agony. He had evidently received a mortal wound, but death might be
long in coming. It would not do to leave him here to be torn piecemeal,
while yet alive, by the wolves that had already snuffed his blood, and
were skulking and howling at a distance, and waiting for my departure;
and by the ravens that were flapping about, croaking dismally in the air.
It became now an act of mercy to give him his quietus, and put him out of
his misery. I primed one of the pistols, therefore, and advanced close up
to the buffalo. To inflict a wound thus in cold blood, I found a totally
different thing from firing in the heat of the chase. Taking aim,
however, just behind the fore-shoulder, my pistol for once proved true;
the ball must have passed through the heart, for the animal gave one
convulsive throe and expired.

While I stood meditating and moralizing over the wreck I had so wantonly
produced, with my horse grazing near me, I was rejoined by my
fellow-sportsman, the Virtuoso; who, being a man of universal adroitness,
and withal, more experienced and hardened in the gentle art of "venerie,"
soon managed to carve out the tongue of the buffalo, and delivered it to
me to bear back to the camp as a trophy.



Our solicitude was now awakened for the young Count. With his usual
eagerness and impetuosity he had persisted in urging his jaded horse in
pursuit of the herd, unwilling to return without having likewise killed a
buffalo. In this way he had kept on following them, hither and thither,
and occasionally firing an ineffectual shot, until by degrees horseman
and herd became indistinct in the distance, and at length swelling ground
and strips of trees and thickets hid them entirely from sight.

By the time my friend, the amateur, joined me, the young Count had been
long lost to view. We held a consultation on the matter. Evening was
drawing on. Were we to pursue him, it would be dark before we should
overtake him, granting we did not entirely lose trace of him in the
gloom. We should then be too much bewildered to find our way back to the
encampment; even now, our return would be difficult. We determined,
therefore, to hasten to the camp as speedily as possible, and send out
our half-breeds, and some of the veteran hunters, skilled in cruising
about the prairies, to search for our companion.

We accordingly set forward in what we supposed to be the direction of the
camp. Our weary horses could hardly be urged beyond a walk. The twilight
thickened upon us; the landscape grew gradually indistinct; we tried in
vain to recognize various landmarks which we had noted in the morning.
The features of the prairies are so similar as to baffle the eye of any
but an Indian, or a practised woodman. At length night closed in. We
hoped to see the distant glare of campfires; we listened to catch the
sound of the bells about the necks of the grazing horses. Once or twice
we thought we distinguished them; we were mistaken. Nothing was to be
heard but a monotonous concert of insects, with now and then the dismal
howl of wolves mingling with the night breeze. We began to think of
halting for the night, and bivouacking under the lee of some thicket. We
had implements to strike a light; there was plenty of firewood at hand,
and the tongues of our buffaloes would furnish us with a repast.

Just as we were preparing to dismount, we heard the report of a rifle,
and shortly after, the notes of the bugle, calling up the night guard.
Pushing forward in that direction, the camp fires soon broke on our
sight, gleaming at a distance from among the thick groves of an alluvial

As we entered the camp, we found it a scene of rude hunters' revelry and
wassail. There had been a grand day's sport, in which all had taken a
part. Eight buffaloes had been killed; roaring fires were blazing on
every side; all hands were feasting upon roasted joints, broiled
marrow-bones, and the juicy hump, far-famed among the epicures of the
prairies. Right glad were we to dismount and partake of the sturdy cheer,
for we had been on our weary horses since morning without tasting food.

As to our worthy friend, the Commissioner, with whom we had parted
company at the outset of this eventful day, we found him lying in a
corner of the tent, much the worse for wear, in the course of a
successful hunting match.

It seems that our man, Beatte, in his zeal to give the Commissioner an
opportunity of distinguishing himself, and gratifying his hunting
propensities, had mounted him upon his half-wild horse, and started him
in pursuit of a huge buffalo bull, that had already been frightened by
the hunters. The horse, which was fearless as his owner, and, like him,
had a considerable spice of devil in his composition, and who, besides,
had been made familiar with the game, no sooner came in sight and scent
of the buffalo, than he set off full speed, bearing the involuntary
hunter hither and thither, and whither he would not--up hill and down
hill--leaping pools and brooks--dashing through glens and gullies, until he
came up with the game. Instead of sheering off, he crowded upon the
buffalo. The Commissioner, almost in self-defence, discharged both
barrels of a double-barrelled gun into the enemy. The broadside took
effect, but was not mortal. The buffalo turned furiously upon his
pursuer; the horse, as he had been taught by his owner, wheeled off. The
buffalo plunged after him. The worthy Commissioner, in great extremity,
drew his sole pistol from his holster, fired it off as a stern-chaser,
shot the buffalo full in the breast, and brought him lumbering forward to
the earth.

The Commissioner returned to camp, lauded on all sides for his signal
exploit; but grievously battered and way-worn. He had been a hard rider
perforce, and a victor in spite of himself. He turned a deaf ear to all
compliments and congratulations; had but little stomach for the hunter's
fare placed before him, and soon retreated to stretch his limbs in the
tent, declaring that nothing should tempt him again to mount that half
devil Indian horse, and that he had had enough of buffalo hunting for the
rest of his life.

It was too dark now to send any one in search of the young Count. Guns,
however, were fired, and the bugles sounded from time to time, to guide
him to the camp, if by chance he should straggle within hearing; but the
night advanced without his making his appearance. There was not a star
visible to guide him, and we concluded that wherever he was, he would
give up wandering in the dark, and bivouac until daybreak.

It was a raw, overcast night. The carcasses of the buffaloes killed in
the vicinity of the camp had drawn about it an unusual number of wolves,
who kept up the most forlorn concert of whining yells, prolonged into
dismal cadences and inflexions, literally converting the surrounding
waste into a howling wilderness. Nothing is more melancholy than the
midnight howl of a wolf on a prairie. What rendered the gloom and
wildness of the night and the savage concert of the neighboring waste the
more dreary to us, was the idea of the lonely and exposed situation of
our young and inexperienced comrade. We trusted, however, that on the
return of daylight, he would find his way back to the camp, and then all
the events of the night would be remembered only as so many savory
gratifications of his passion for adventure.



The morning dawned, and an hour or two passed without any tidings of the
Count. We began to feel uneasiness lest, having no compass to aid him, he
might perplex himself and wander in some opposite direction. Stragglers
are thus often lost for days; what made us the more anxious about him
was, that he had no provisions with him, was totally unversed in
"woodcraft," and liable to fall into the hands of some lurking or
straggling party of savages.

As soon as our people, therefore, had made their breakfast, we beat up
for volunteers for a cruise in search of the Count. A dozen of the
rangers, mounted on some of the best and freshest horses, and armed with
rifles, were soon ready to start; our half-breeds Beatte and Antoine
also, with our little mongrel Frenchman, were zealous in the cause; so
Mr. L. and myself taking the lead, to show the way to the scene of our
little hunt where we had parted company with the Count, we all set out
across the prairie. A ride of a couple of miles brought us to the
carcasses of the two buffaloes we had killed. A legion of ravenous wolves
were already gorging upon them. At our approach they reluctantly drew
off, skulking with a caitiff look to the distance of a few hundred yards,
and there awaiting our departure, that they might return to their

I conducted Beatte and Antoine to the spot whence the young Count had
continued the chase alone. It was like putting hounds upon the scent.
They immediately distinguished the track of his horse amidst the
trampings of the buffaloes, and set off at a round pace, following with
the eye in nearly a straight course, for upward of a mile, when they came
to where the herd had divided, and run hither and thither about a meadow.
Here the track of the horse's hoofs wandered and doubled and often
crossed each other; our half-breeds were like hounds at fault. While we
were at a halt, waiting until they should unravel the maze, Beatte
suddenly gave a short Indian whoop, or rather yelp, and pointed to a
distant hill. On regarding it attentively, we perceived a horseman on the
summit. "It is the Count!" cried Beatte, and set off at full gallop,
followed by the whole company. In a few moments he checked his horse.
Another figure on horseback had appeared on the brow of the hill. This
completely altered the case. The Count had wandered off alone; no other
person had been missing from the camp. If one of these horsemen were
indeed the Count, the other must be an Indian. If an Indian, in all
probability a Pawnee. Perhaps they were both Indians; scouts of some
party lurking in the vicinity. While these and other suggestions were
hastily discussed, the two horsemen glided down from the profile of the
hill, and we lost sight of them. One of the rangers suggested that there
might be a straggling party of Pawnees behind the hill, and that the
Count might have fallen into their hands. The idea had an electric effect
upon the little troop. In an instant every horse was at full speed, the
half-breeds leading the way; the young rangers as they rode set up wild
yelps of exultation at the thoughts of having a brush with the Indians. A
neck or nothing gallop brought us to the skirts of the hill, and revealed
our mistake. In a ravine we found the two horsemen standing by the
carcass of a buffalo which they had killed. They proved to be two
rangers, who, unperceived, had left the camp a little before us, and had
come here in a direct line, while we had made a wide circuit about the

This episode being at an end, and the sudden excitement being over, we
slowly and coolly retraced our steps to the meadow; but it was some time
before our half-breeds could again get on the track of the Count. Having
at length found it, they succeeded in following it through all its
doublings, until they came to where it was no longer mingled with the
tramp of buffaloes, but became single and separate, wandering here and
there about the prairies, but always tending in a direction opposite to
that of the camp. Here the Count had evidently given up the pursuit of
the herd, and had endeavored to find his way to the encampment, but had
become bewildered as the evening shades thickened around him, and had
completely mistaken the points of the compass.

In all this quest our half-breeds displayed that quickness of eye, in
following up a track, for which Indians are so noted. Beatte, especially,
was as staunch as a veteran hound. Sometimes he would keep forward on an
easy trot; his eyes fixed on the ground a little ahead of his horse,
clearly distinguishing prints in the herbage which to me were invisible,
excepting on the closest inspection. Sometimes he would pull up and walk
his horse slowly, regarding the ground intensely, where to my eye nothing
was apparent. Then he would dismount, lead his horse by the bridle, and
advance cautiously step by step, with his face bent towards the earth,
just catching, here and there, a casual indication of the vaguest kind to
guide him onward. In some places where the soil was hard and the grass
withered, he would lose the track entirely, and wander backward and
forward, and right and left, in search of it; returning occasionally to
the place where he had lost sight of it, to take a new departure. If this
failed he would examine the banks of the neighboring streams, or the
sandy bottoms of the ravines, in hopes of finding tracks where the Count
had crossed. When he again came upon the track, he would remount his
horse, and resume his onward course. At length, after crossing a stream,
in the crumbling banks of which the hoofs of the horse were deeply
dented, we came upon a high dry prairie, where our half-breeds were
completely baffled. Not a foot-print was to be discerned, though they
searched in every direction; and Beatte, at length coming to a pause,
shook his head despondingly.

Just then a small herd of deer, roused from a neighboring ravine, came
bounding by us. Beatte sprang from his horse, levelled his rifle, and
wounded one slightly, but without bringing it to the ground. The report
of the rifle was almost immediately followed by a long halloo from a
distance. We looked around, but could see nothing. Another long halloo
was heard, and at length a horseman was descried, emerging out of a skirt
of forest. A single glance showed him to be the young Count; there was a
universal shout and scamper, every one setting off full gallop to greet
him. It was a joyful meeting to both parties; for, much anxiety had been
felt by us all on account of his youth and inexperience, and for his
part, with all his love of adventure, he seemed right glad to be once
more among his friends.

As we supposed, he had completely mistaken his course on the preceding
evening, and had wandered about until dark, when he thought of
bivouacking. The night was cold, yet he feared to make a fire, lest it
might betray him to some lurking party of Indians. Hobbling his horse
with his pocket handkerchief, and leaving him to graze on the margin of
the prairie, he clambered into a tree, fixed his saddle in the fork of
the branches, and placing himself securely with his back against the
trunk, prepared to pass a dreary and anxious night, regaled occasionally
with the howlings of the wolves. He was agreeably disappointed. The
fatigue of the day soon brought on a sound sleep; he had delightful
dreams about his home in Switzerland, nor did he wake until it was broad

He then descended from his roosting-place, mounted his horse, and rode to
the naked summit of a hill, whence he beheld a trackless wilderness
around him, but, at no great distance, the Grand Canadian winding its way
between borders of forest land. The sight of this river consoled him with
the idea that, should he fail in finding his way back to the camp, or in
being found by some party of his comrades, he might follow the course of
the stream, which could not fail to conduct him to some frontier post, or
Indian hamlet. So closed the events of our hap-hazard buffalo hunt.



On returning from our expedition in quest of the young Count, I learned
that a burrow, or village, as it is termed, of prairie dogs had been
discovered on the level summit of a hill, about a mile from the camp.
Having heard much of the habits and peculiarities of these little
animals, I determined to pay a visit to the community. The prairie dog
is, in fact, one of the curiosities of the Far West, about which
travellers delight to tell marvellous tales, endowing him at times with
something of the politic and social habits of a rational being, and
giving him systems of civil government and domestic economy, almost equal
to what they used to bestow upon the beaver.

The prairie dog is an animal of the coney kind, and about the size of a
rabbit. He is of a sprightly mercurial nature; quick, sensitive, and
somewhat petulant. He is very gregarious, living in large communities,
sometimes of several acres in extent, where innumerable little heaps of
earth show the entrances to the subterranean cells of the inhabitants,
and the well beaten tracks, like lanes and streets, show their mobility
and restlessness. According to the accounts given of them, they would
seem to be continually full of sport, business, and public affairs;
whisking about hither and thither, as if on gossiping visits to each
other's houses, or congregating in the cool of the evening, or after a
shower, and gambolling together in the open air. Sometimes, especially
when the moon shines, they pass half the night in revelry, barking or
yelping with short, quick, yet weak tones, like those of very young
puppies. While in the height of their playfulness and clamor, however,
should there be the least alarm, they all vanish into their cells in an
instant, and the village remains blank and silent. In case they are hard
pressed by their pursuers, without any hope of escape, they will assume a
pugnacious air, and a most whimsical look of impotent wrath and defiance.

The prairie dogs are not permitted to remain sole and undisturbed
inhabitants of their own homes. Owls and rattlesnakes are said to take up
their abodes with them; but whether as invited guests or unwelcome
intruders, is a matter of controversy. The owls are of a peculiar kind,
and would seem to partake of the character of the hawk; for they are
taller and more erect on their legs, more alert in their looks and rapid
in their flight than ordinary owls, and do not confine their excursions
to the night, but sally forth in broad day.

Some say that they only inhabit cells which the prairie dogs have
deserted, and suffered to go to ruin, in consequence of the death in them
of some relative; for they would make out this little animal to be
endowed with keen sensibilities, that will not permit it to remain in the
dwelling where it has witnessed the death of a friend. Other fanciful
speculators represent the owl as a kind of housekeeper to the prairie
dog; and, from having a note very similar, insinuate that it acts, in a
manner, as family preceptor, and teaches the young litter to bark.

As to the rattlesnake, nothing satisfactory has been ascertained of the
part he plays in this most interesting household; though he is considered
as little better than a sycophant and sharper, that winds himself into
the concerns of the honest, credulous little dog, and takes him in most
sadly. Certain it is, if he acts as toad-eater, he occasionally solaces
himself with more than the usual perquisites of his order; as he is now
and then detected with one of the younger members of the family in his

Such are a few of the particulars that I could gather about the domestic
economy of this little inhabitant of the prairies, who, with his pigmy
republic, appears to be a subject of much whimsical speculation and
burlesque remarks among the hunters of the Far West.

It was toward evening that I set out with a companion, to visit the
village in question. Unluckily, it had been invaded in the course of the
day by some of the rangers, who had shot two or three of its inhabitants,
and thrown the whole sensitive community in confusion. As we approached,
we could perceive numbers of the inhabitants seated at the entrances of
their cells, while sentinels seemed to have been posted on the outskirts,
to keep a look-out. At sight of us, the picket guards scampered in and
gave the alarm; whereupon every inhabitant gave a short yelp, or bark,
and dived into his hole, his heels twinkling in the air as if he had
thrown a somersault.

We traversed the whole village, or republic, which covered an area of
about thirty acres; but not a whisker of an inhabitant was to be seen. We
probed their cells as far as the ram-rods of our rifles would reach, but
could unearth neither dog, nor owl, nor rattlesnake. Moving quietly to a
little distance, we lay down upon the ground, and watched for a long
time, silent and motionless. By and by, a cautious old burgher would
slowly put forth the end of his nose, but instantly draw it in again.
Another, at a greater distance, would emerge entirely; but, catching a
glance of us, would throw a somersault, and plunge back again into his
hole. At length, some who resided on the opposite side of the village,
taking courage from the continued stillness, would steal forth, and hurry
off to a distant hole, the residence possibly of some family connection,
or gossiping friend, about whose safety they were solicitous, or with
whom they wished to compare notes about the late occurrences.

Others, still more bold, assembled in little knots, in the streets and
public places, as if to discuss the recent outrages offered to the
commonwealth, and the atrocious murders of their fellow-burghers.

We rose from the ground and moved forward, to take a nearer view of these
public proceedings, when yelp! yelp! yelp!--there was a shrill alarm
passed from mouth to mouth; the meetings suddenly dispersed; feet
twinkled in the air in every direction; and in an instant all had
vanished into the earth.

The dusk of the evening put an end to our observations, but the train of
whimsical comparisons produced in my brain by the moral attributes which
I had heard given to these little politic animals, still continued after
my return to camp; and late in the night, as I lay awake after all the
camp was asleep, and heard in the stillness of the hour, a faint clamor
of shrill voices from the distant village, I could not help picturing to
myself the inhabitants gathered together in noisy assemblage and windy
debate, to devise plans for the public safety, and to vindicate the
invaded rights and insulted dignity of the republic.



While breakfast was preparing, a council was held as to our future
movements. Symptoms of discontent had appeared for a day or two past
among the rangers, most of whom, unaccustomed to the life of the
prairies, had become impatient of its privations, as well as the
restraints of the camp. The want of bread had been felt severely, and
they were wearied with constant travel. In fact, the novelty and
excitement of the expedition were at an end. They had hunted the deer,
the bear, the elk, the buffalo, and the wild horse, and had no further
object of leading interest to look forward to. A general inclination
prevailed, therefore, to turn homeward.

Grave reasons disposed the Captain and his officers to adopt this
resolution. Our horses were generally much jaded by the fatigues of
travelling and hunting, and had fallen away sadly for want of good
pasturage, and from being tethered at night, to protect them from Indian
depredations. The late rains, too, seemed to have washed away the
nourishment from the scanty herbage that remained; and since our
encampment during the storm, our horses had lost flesh and strength
rapidly. With every possible care, horses, accustomed to grain, and to
the regular and plentiful nourishment of the stable and the farm, lose
heart and condition in travelling on the prairies. In all expeditions of
the kind we were engaged in, the hardy Indian horses, which are generally
mustangs, or a cross of the wild breed, are to be preferred. They can
stand all fatigues, hardships, and privations, and thrive on the grasses
and the wild herbage of the plains.

Our men, too, had acted with little forethought; galloping off whenever
they had a chance, after the game that we encountered while on the march.
In this way they had strained and wearied their horses, instead of
husbanding their strength and spirits. On a tour of the kind, horses
should as seldom as possible be put off of a quiet walk; and the average
day's journey should not exceed ten miles.

We had hoped, by pushing forward, to reach the bottoms of the Red River,
which abound with young cane, a most nourishing forage for cattle at this
season of the year. It would now take us several days to arrive there,
and in the meantime many of our horses would probably give out. It was
the time, too, when the hunting parties of Indians set fire to the
prairies; the herbage, throughout this part of the country, was in that
parched state, favorable to combustion, and there was daily more and more
risk that the prairies between us and the fort would be set on fire by
some of the return parties of Osages, and a scorched desert left for us
to traverse. In a word, we had started too late in the season, or
loitered too much in the early part of our march, to accomplish our
originally intended tour; and there was imminent hazard, if we continued
on, that we should lose the greater part of our horses; and, besides
suffering various other inconveniences, be obliged to return on foot. It
was determined, therefore, to give up all further progress, and, turning
our faces to the southeast, to make the best of our way back to Fort

This resolution being taken, there was an immediate eagerness to put it
into operation. Several horses, however, were missing, and among others
those of the Captain and the Surgeon. Persons had gone in search of them,
but the morning advanced without any tidings of them. Our party, in the
meantime, being all ready for a march, the Commissioner determined to set
off in the advance, with his original escort of a lieutenant and fourteen
rangers, leaving the Captain to come on at his convenience, with the main
body. At ten o'clock we accordingly started, under the guidance of
Beatte, who had hunted over this part of the country, and knew the direct
route to the garrison.

For some distance we skirted the prairie, keeping a southeast direction;
and in the course of our ride we saw a variety of wild animals, deer,
white and black wolves, buffaloes, and wild horses. To the latter, our
half-breeds and Tonish gave ineffectual chase, only serving to add to the
weariness of their already jaded steeds. Indeed it is rarely that any but
the weaker and least fleet of the wild horses are taken in these hard
racings; while the horse of the huntsman is prone to be knocked up. The
latter, in fact, risks a good horse to catch a bad one. On this occasion,
Tonish, who was a perfect imp on horseback, and noted for ruining every
animal he bestrode, succeeded in laming and almost disabling the powerful
gray on which we had mounted him at the outset of our tour.

After proceeding a few miles, we left the prairie, and struck to the
east, taking what Beatte pronounced an old Osage war track. This led us
through a rugged tract of country, overgrown with scrubbed forests and
entangled thickets, and intersected by deep ravines, and brisk-running
streams, the sources of Little River. About three o'clock, we encamped by
some pools of water in a small valley, having come about fourteen miles.
We had brought on a supply of provisions from our last camp, and supped
heartily upon stewed buffalo meat, roasted venison, beignets, or fritters
of flour fried in bear's lard, and tea, made of a species of the
golden-rod, which we had found, throughout our whole route, almost as
grateful a beverage as coffee. Indeed our coffee, which, as long as it
held out, had been served up with every meal, according to the custom of
the West, was by no means a beverage to boast of. It was roasted in a
frying-pan without much care, pounded in a leathern bag, with a round
stone, and boiled in our prime and almost only kitchen utensil, the camp
kettle, in "branch" or brook water; which, on the prairies, is deeply
colored by the soil, of which it always holds abundant particles in a
state of solution and suspension. In fact, in the course of our tour, we
had tasted the quality of every variety of soil, and the draughts of
water we had taken might vie in diversity of color, if not of flavor,
with the tinctures of an apothecary's shop. Pure, limpid water is a rare
luxury on the prairies, at least at this season of the year. Supper over,
we placed sentinels about our scanty and diminished camp, spread our
skins and blankets under the trees, now nearly destitute of foliage, and
slept soundly until morning.

We had a beautiful daybreak. The camp again resounded with cheerful
voices; every one was animated with the thoughts of soon being at the
fort, and revelling on bread and vegetables. Even our saturnine man,
Beatte, seemed inspired on this occasion; and as he drove up the horses
for the march, I heard him singing, in nasal tones, a most forlorn Indian
ditty. All this transient gayety, however, soon died away amidst the
fatigues of our march, which lay through the same kind of rough, hilly,
thicketed country as that of yesterday. In the course of the morning we
arrived at the valley of the Little River, where it wound through a broad
bottom of alluvial soil. At present it had overflowed its banks, and
inundated a great part of the valley. The difficulty was to distinguish
the stream from the broad sheets of water it had formed, and to find a
place where it might be forded; for it was in general deep and miry, with
abrupt crumbling banks. Under the pilotage of Beatte, therefore, we
wandered for some time among the links made by this winding stream, in
what appeared to us a trackless labyrinth of swamps, thickets, and
standing pools. Sometimes our jaded horses dragged their limbs forward
with the utmost difficulty, having to toil for a great distance, with the
water up to the stirrups, and beset at the bottom with roots and creeping
plants. Sometimes we had to force our way through dense thickets of
brambles and grapevines, which almost pulled us out of our saddles. In
one place, one of the pack-horses sunk in the mire and fell on his side,
so as to be extricated with great difficulty. Wherever the soil was bare,
or there was a sand-bank, we beheld innumerable tracks of bears, wolves,
wild horses, turkeys, and water-fowl; showing the abundant sport this
valley might afford to the huntsman. Our men, however, were sated with
hunting, and too weary to be excited by these signs, which in the outset
of our tour would have put them in a fever of anticipation. Their only
desire, at present, was to push on doggedly for the fortress.

At length we succeeded in finding a fording place, where we all crossed
Little River, with the water and mire to the saddle-girths, and then
halted for an hour and a half, to overhaul the wet baggage, and give the
horses time to rest.

On resuming our march, we came to a pleasant little meadow, surrounded by
groves of elms and cottonwood trees, in the midst of which was a fine
black horse grazing. Beatte, who was in the advance, beckoned us to halt,
and, being mounted on a mare, approached the horse gently, step by step,
imitating the whinny of the animal with admirable exactness. The noble
courser of the prairie gazed for a time, snuffed the air, neighed,
pricked up his ears, and pranced round and round the mare in gallant
style; but kept at too great a distance for Beatte to throw the lariat.
He was a magnificent object, in all the pride and glory of his nature. It
was admirable to see the lofty and airy carriage of his head; the freedom
of every movement; the elasticity with which he trod the meadow. Finding
it impossible to get within noosing distance, and seeing that the horse
was receding and growing alarmed, Beatte slid down from his saddle,
levelled his rifle, across the back of his mare, and took aim, with the
evident intention of creasing him. I felt a, throb of anxiety for the
safety of the noble animal, and called out to Beatte to desist. It was
too late; he pulled the trigger as I spoke; luckily he did not shoot with
his usual accuracy, and I had the satisfaction to see the coal-black
steed dash off unharmed into the forest.

On leaving this valley, we ascended among broken hills and rugged, ragged
forests, equally harassing to horse and rider. The ravines, too, were of
red clay, and often so steep that, in descending, the horses would put
their feet together and fairly slide down, and then scramble up the
opposite side like cats. Here and there, among the thickets in the
valleys, we met with sloes and persimmon, and the eagerness with which
our men broke from the line of march, and ran to gather these poor
fruits, showed how much they craved some vegetable condiment, after
living so long exclusively on animal food.

About half past three we encamped near a brook in a meadow, where there
was some scanty herbage for our half-famished horses. As Beatte had
killed a fat doe in the course of the day, and one of our company a fine
turkey, we did not lack for provisions.

It was a splendid autumnal evening. The horizon, after sunset, was of a
clear apple green, rising into a delicate lake which gradually lost
itself in a deep purple blue. One narrow streak of cloud, of a mahogany
color, edged with amber and gold, floated in the west, and just beneath
it was the evening star, shining with the pure brilliancy of a diamond.
In unison with this scene, there was an evening concert of insects of
various kinds, all blended and harmonized into one sober and somewhat
melancholy note, which I have always found to have a soothing effect upon
the mind, disposing it to quiet musings.

The night that succeeded was calm and beautiful. There was a faint light
from the moon, now in its second quarter, and after it had set, a fine
starlight, with shooting meteors. The wearied rangers, after a little
murmuring conversation round their fires, sank to rest at an early hour,
and I seemed to have the whole scene to myself. It is delightful, in thus
bivouacking on the prairies, to lie awake and gaze at the stars; it is
like watching them from the deck of a ship at sea when at one view we
have the whole cope of heaven. One realizes, in such lonely scenes, that
companionship with these beautiful luminaries which made astronomers of
the eastern shepherds, as they watched their flocks by night. How often,
while contemplating their mild and benignant radiance, I have called to
mind the exquisite text of Job: "Canst thou bind the secret influences of
the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" I do not know why it was, but
I felt this night unusually affected by the solemn magnificence of the
firmament; and seemed, as I lay thus under the open vault of heaven, to
inhale with the pure untainted air, an exhilarating buoyancy of spirit,
and, as it were, an ecstasy of mind. I slept and waked alternately; and
when I slept, my dreams partook of the happy tone of my waking reveries.
Toward morning, one of the sentinels, the oldest man in the troop, came
and took a seat near me; he was weary and sleepy, and impatient to be
relieved. I found he had been gazing at the heavens also, but with
different feelings.

"If the stars don't deceive me," said he, "it is near day-break."

"There can be no doubt of that," said Beatte, who lay close by. "I heard
an owl just now."

"Does the owl, then, hoot toward daybreak?" asked I.

"Aye, sir, just as the cock crows."

This was a useful habitude of the bird of wisdom, of which I was not
aware. Neither the stars nor owl deceived their votaries. In a short time
there was a faint streak of light in the east.



The country through which we passed this morning (November 2d), was less
rugged, and of more agreeable aspect than that we had lately traversed.
At eleven o'clock, we came out upon an extensive prairie, and about six
miles to our left beheld a long line of green forest, marking the course
of the north fork of the Arkansas. On the edge of the prairie, and in a
spacious grove of noble trees which overshadowed a small brook, were the
traces of an old Creek hunting camp. On the bark of the trees were rude
delineations of hunters and squaws, scrawled with charcoal; together with
various signs and hieroglyphics, which our half-breeds interpreted as
indicating that from this encampment the hunters had returned home.

In this beautiful camping ground we made our mid-day halt. While reposing
under the trees, we heard a shouting at no great distance, and presently
the Captain and the main body of rangers, whom we had left behind two
days since, emerged from the thickets, and crossing the brook, were
joyfully welcomed into the camp. The Captain and the Doctor had been
unsuccessful in the search after their horses, and were obliged to march
for the greater part of the time on foot; yet they had come on with more
than ordinary speed.

We resumed our march about one o'clock, keeping easterly, and approaching
the north fork obliquely; it was late before we found a good camping
place; the beds of the streams were dry, the prairies, too, had been
burnt in various places, by Indian hunting parties. At length we found
water in a small alluvial bottom, where there was tolerable pasturage.

On the following morning there were flashes of lightning in the east,
with low, rumbling thunder, and clouds began to gather about the horizon.
Beatte prognosticated rain, and that the wind would veer to the north. In
the course of our march, a flock of brant were seen overhead, flying from
the north. "There comes the wind!" said Beatte; and, in fact, it began to
blow from that quarter almost immediately, with occasional flurries of
rain. About half past nine o'clock, we forded the north fork of the
Canadian, and encamped about one, that our hunters might have time to
beat up the neighborhood for game; for a serious scarcity began to
prevail in the camp. Most of the rangers were young, heedless, and
inexperienced, and could not be prevailed upon, while provisions
abounded, to provide for the future, by jerking meat, or carry away any
on their horses. On leaving an encampment, they would leave quantities of
meat lying about, trusting to Providence and their rifles for a future
supply. The consequence was, that any temporary scarcity of game, or
ill-luck in hunting, produced almost a famine in the camp. In the present
instance, they had left loads of buffalo meat at the camp on the great
prairie; and, having ever since been on a forced march, leaving no time
for hunting, they were now destitute of supplies, and pinched with
hunger. Some had not eaten anything since the morning of the preceding
day. Nothing would have persuaded them, when revelling in the abundance
of the buffalo encampment, that they would so soon be in such famishing

The hunters returned with indifferent success. The game had been
frightened away from this part of the country by Indian hunting parties,
which had preceded us. Ten or a dozen wild turkeys were brought in, but
not a deer had been seen. The rangers began to think turkeys and even
prairie-hens deserving of attention; game which they had hitherto
considered unworthy of their rifles.

The night was cold and windy, with occasional sprinklings of rain; but we
had roaring fires to keep us comfortable. In the night, a flight of wild
geese passed over the camp, making a great cackling in the air; symptoms
of approaching winter.

We set forward at an early hour the next morning, in a northeast course,
and came upon the trace of a party of Creek Indians, which enabled our
poor horses to travel with more ease. We entered upon a fine champaign
country. From a rising ground we had a noble prospect, over extensive
prairies, finely diversified by groves and tracts of woodland, and
bounded by long lines of distant hills, all clothed with the rich mellow
tints of autumn. Game, too, was more plenty. A fine buck sprang up from
among the herbage on our right, and dashed off at full speed; but a young
ranger by the name of Childers, who was on foot, levelled his rifle,
discharged a ball that broke the neck of the bounding deer, and sent him
tumbling head over heels forward. Another buck and a doe, besides several
turkeys, were killed before we came to a halt, so that the hungry mouths
of the troop were once more supplied.

About three o'clock we encamped in a grove after a forced march of
twenty-five miles, that had proved a hard trial to the horses. For a long
time after the head of the line had encamped, the rest kept straggling
in, two and three at a time; one of our pack-horses had given out, about
nine miles back, and a pony belonging to Beatte, shortly after. Many of
the other horses looked so gaunt and feeble, that doubts were entertained
of their being able to reach the fort. In the night there was heavy rain,
and the morning dawned cloudy and dismal. The camp resounded, however,
with something of its former gayety. The rangers had supped well, and
were renovated in spirits, anticipating a speedy arrival at the garrison.
Before we set forward on our march, Beatte returned, and brought his pony
to the camp with great difficulty. The pack-horse, however, was
completely knocked up and had to be abandoned. The wild mare, too, had
cast her foal, through exhaustion, and was not in a state to go forward.
She and the pony, therefore, were left at this encampment, where there
was water and good pasturage; and where there would be a chance of their
reviving, and being afterward sought out and brought to the garrison.

We set off about eight o'clock, and had a day of weary and harassing
travel; part of the time over rough hills, and part over rolling
prairies. The rain had rendered the soil slippery and plashy, so as to
afford unsteady foothold. Some of the rangers dismounted, their horses
having no longer strength to bear them. We made a halt in the course of
the morning, but the horses were too tired to graze. Several of them lay
down, and there was some difficulty in getting them on their feet again.
Our troop presented a forlorn appearance, straggling slowly along, in a
broken and scattered line, that extended over hill and dale, for three
miles and upward, in groups of three and four, widely apart; some on
horseback, some on foot, with a few laggards far in the rear. About four
o'clock, we halted for the night in a spacious forest, beside a deep
narrow river, called the Little North Fork, or Deep Creek. It was late
before the main part of the troop straggled into the encampment, many of
the horses having given out. As this stream was too deep to be forded, we
waited until the next day to devise means to cross it; but our
half-breeds swam the horses of our party to the other side in the
evening, as they would have better pasturage, and the stream was
evidently swelling. The night was cold and unruly; the wind sounding
hoarsely through the forest and whirling about the dry leaves. We made
long fires of great trunks of trees, which diffused something of
consolation if not cheerfulness around.

The next morning there was general permission given to hunt until twelve
o'clock; the camp being destitute of provisions. The rich woody bottom in
which we were encamped abounded with wild turkeys, of which a
considerable number were killed. In the meantime, preparations were made
for crossing the river, which had risen several feet during the night;
and it was determined to fell trees for the purpose, to serve as bridges.

The Captain and Doctor, and one or two other leaders of the camp, versed
in woodcraft, examined, with learned eye, the trees growing on the river
bank, until they singled out a couple of the largest size, and most
suitable inclinations. The axe was then vigorously applied to their
roots, in such a way as to insure their falling directly across the
stream. As they did not reach to the opposite bank, it was necessary for
some of the men to swim across and fell trees on the other side, to meet
them. They at length succeeded in making a precarious footway across the
deep and rapid current, by which the baggage could be carried over; but
it was necessary to grope our way, step by step, along the trunks and
main branches of the trees, which for a part of the distance were
completely submerged, so that we were to our waists in water. Most of the
horses were then swam across, but some of them were too weak to brave the
current, and evidently too much knocked up to bear any further travel.
Twelve men, therefore, were left at the encampment to guard these horses,
until, by repose and good pasturage, they should be sufficiently
recovered to complete their journey; and the Captain engaged to send the
men a supply of flour and other necessaries, as soon as we should arrive
at the fort.



It was a little after one o'clock when we again resumed our weary
wayfaring. The residue of that day and the whole of the next were spent
in toilsome travel. Part of the way was over stony hills, part across
wide prairies, rendered spongy and miry by the recent rain, and cut up by
brooks swollen into torrents. Our poor horses were so feeble, that it was
with difficulty we could get them across the deep ravines and turbulent
streams. In traversing the miry plains, they slipped and staggered at
every step, and most of us were obliged to dismount and walk for the
greater part of the way. Hunger prevailed throughout the troop; every one
began to look anxious and haggard, and to feel the growing length of each
additional mile. At one time, in crossing a hill, Beatte climbed a high
tree, commanding a wide prospect, and took a look-out, like a mariner
from the mast-head at sea. He came down with cheering tidings. To the
left he had beheld a line of forest stretching across the country, which
he knew to be the woody border of the Arkansas; and at a distance he had
recognized certain landmarks, from which he concluded that we could not
be above forty miles distant from the fort. It was like the welcome cry
of land to tempest-tossed mariners.

In fact we soon after saw smoke rising from a woody glen at a distance.
It was supposed to be made by a hunting-party of Creek or Osage Indians
from the neighborhood of the fort, and was joyfully hailed as a harbinger
of man. It was now confidently hoped that we would soon arrive among the
frontier hamlets of Creek Indians, which are scattered along the skirts
of the uninhabited wilderness; and our hungry rangers trudged forward
with reviving spirit, regaling themselves with savory anticipations of
farmhouse luxuries, and enumerating every article of good cheer, until
their mouths fairly watered at the shadowy feasts thus conjured up.

A hungry night, however, closed in upon a toilsome day. We encamped on
the border of one of the tributary streams of the Arkansas, amidst the
ruins of a stately grove that had been riven by a hurricane. The blast
had torn its way through the forest in a narrow column, and its course
was marked by enormous trees shivered and splintered, and upturned, with
their roots in the air; all lay in one direction, like so many brittle
reeds broken and trodden down by the hunter.

Here was fuel in abundance, without the labor of the axe; we had soon
immense fires blazing and sparkling in the frosty air, and lighting up
the whole forest; but, alas! we had no meat to cook at them. The scarcity
in the camp almost amounted to famine. Happy was he who had a morsel of
jerked meat, or even the half-picked bones of a former repast. For our
part, we were more lucky at our mess than our neighbors; one of our men
having shot a turkey. We had no bread to eat with it, nor salt to season
it withal. It was simply boiled in water; the latter was served up as
soup, and we were fain to rub each morsel of the turkey on the empty
salt-bag, in hopes some saline particle might remain to relieve its

The night was biting cold; the brilliant moonlight sparkled on the frosty
crystals which covered every object around us. The water froze beside the
skins on which we bivouacked, and in the morning I found the blanket in
which I was wrapped covered with a hoar frost; yet I had never slept more

After a shadow of a breakfast, consisting of turkey bones and a cup of
coffee without sugar, we decamped at an early hour; for hunger is a sharp
quickener on a journey. The prairies were all gemmed with frost, that
covered the tall weeds and glistened in the sun. We saw great flights of
prairie-hens, or grouse, that hovered from tree to tree, or sat in rows
along the naked branches, waiting until the sun should melt the frost
from the weeds and herbage. Our rangers no longer despised such humble
game, but turned from the ranks in pursuit of a prairie-hen as eagerly as
they formerly would go in pursuit of a deer.

Every one now pushed forward, anxious to arrive at some human habitation
before night. The poor horses were urged beyond their strength, in the
thought of soon being able to indemnify them for present toil, by rest
and ample provender. Still the distances seemed to stretch out more than
ever, and the blue hills, pointed out as landmarks on the horizon, to
recede as we advanced. Every step became a labor; every now and then a
miserable horse would give out and lie down. His owner would raise him by
main strength, force him forward to the margin of some stream, where
there might be a scanty border of herbage, and then abandon him to his
fate. Among those that were thus left on the way, was one of the led
horses of the Count; a prime hunter, that had taken the lead of every
thing in the chase of the wild horses. It was intended, however as soon
as we should arrive at the fort, to send out a party provided with corn,
to bring in such of the horses as should survive.

In the course of the morning, we came upon Indian tracks, crossing each
other in various directions, a proof that we must be in the neighborhood
of human habitations. At length, on passing through a skirt of wood, we
beheld two or three log houses, sheltered under lofty trees on the border
of a prairie, the habitations of Creek Indians, who had small farms
adjacent. Had they been sumptuous villas, abounding with the luxuries of
civilization, they could not have been hailed with greater delight.

Some of the rangers rode up to them in quest of food; the greater part,
however, pushed forward in search of the habitation of a white settler,
which we were told was at no great distance. The troop soon disappeared
among the trees, and I followed slowly in their track; for my once fleet
and generous steed faltered under me, and was just able to drag one foot
after the other, yet I was too weary and exhausted to spare him.

In this way we crept on, until, on turning a thick clump of trees, a
frontier farmhouse suddenly presented itself to view. It was a low
tenement of logs, overshadowed by great forest trees, but it seemed as if
a very region of Cocaigne prevailed around it. Here was a stable and
barn, and granaries teeming with abundance, while legions of grunting
swine, gobbling turkeys, cackling hens and strutting roosters, swarmed
about the farmyard.

My poor jaded and half-famished horse raised his head and pricked up his
ears at the well-known sights and sounds. He gave a chuckling inward
sound, something like a dry laugh; whisked his tail, and made great
leeway toward a corn-crib, filled with golden ears of maize, and it was
with some difficulty that I could control his course, and steer him up to
the door of the cabin. A single glance within was sufficient to raise
every gastronomic faculty. There sat the Captain of the rangers and his
officers, round a three-legged table, crowned by a broad and smoking dish
of boiled beef and turnips. I sprang off my horse in an instant, cast him
loose to make his way to the corn-crib, and entered this palace of
plenty. A fat good-humored negress received me at the door. She was the
mistress of the house, the spouse of the white man, who was absent. I
hailed her as some swart fairy of the wild, that had suddenly conjured up
a banquet in the desert; and a banquet was it in good sooth. In a
twinkling, she lugged from the fire a huge iron pot, that might have
rivalled one of the famous flesh-pots of Egypt, or the witches' caldron
in Macbeth. Placing a brown earthen dish on the floor, she inclined the
corpulent caldron on one side, and out leaped sundry great morsels of
beef, with a regiment of turnips tumbling after them, and a rich cascade
of broth overflowing the whole. This she handed me with an ivory smile
that extended from ear to ear; apologizing for our humble fare, and the
humble style in which it was served up. Humble fare! humble style! Boiled
beef and turnips, and an earthen dish to eat them from! To think of
apologizing for such a treat to a half-starved man from the prairies; and
then such magnificent slices of bread and butter! Head of Apicius, what a

"The rage of hunger" being appeased, I began to think of my horse. He,
however, like an old campaigner, had taken good care of himself. I found
him paying assiduous attention to the crib of Indian corn, and
dexterously drawing forth and munching the ears that protruded between
the bars. It was with great regret that I interrupted his repast, which
he abandoned with a heavy sigh, or rather a rumbling groan. I was
anxious, however, to rejoin my travelling companions, who had passed by
the farmhouse without stopping, and proceeded to the banks of the
Arkansas; being in hopes of arriving before night at the Osage Agency.
Leaving the Captain and his troop, therefore, amidst the abundance of the
farm, where they had determined to quarter themselves for the night, I
bade adieu to our sable hostess, and again pushed forward.

A ride of about a mile brought me to where my comrades were waiting on
the banks of the Arkansas, which here poured along between beautiful
forests. A number of Creek Indians, in their brightly colored dresses,
looking like so many gay tropical birds, were busy aiding our men to
transport the baggage across the river in a canoe. While this was doing,
our horses had another regale from two great cribs heaped up with ears of
Indian corn, which stood near the edge of the river. We had to keep a
check upon the poor half-famished animals, lest they should injure
themselves by their voracity.

The baggage being all carried to the opposite bank, we embarked in the
canoe, and swam our horses across the river. I was fearful, lest in their
enfeebled state, they should not be able to stem the current; but their
banquet of Indian corn had already infused fresh life and spirit into
them, and it would appear as if they were cheered by the instinctive
consciousness of their approach to home, where they would soon be at
rest, and in plentiful quarters; for no sooner had we landed and resumed
our route, than they set off on a hand-gallop, and continued so for a
great part of seven miles, that we had to ride through the woods.

It was an early hour in the evening when we arrived at the Agency on the
banks of the Verdigris River, whence we had set off about a month before.
Here we passed the night comfortably quartered; yet, after having been
accustomed to sleep in the open air, the confinement of a chamber was, in
some respects, irksome. The atmosphere seemed close, and destitute of
freshness; and when I woke in the night and gazed about me upon complete
darkness, I missed the glorious companionship of the stars.

The next morning, after breakfast, I again set forward, in company with
the worthy Commissioner, for Fort Gibson, where we arrived much tattered,
travel-stained, and weather-beaten, but in high health and spirits;--and
thus ended my foray into the Pawnee Hunting Grounds.

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A Tour on the Prairies by Washington Irving

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