1846-1917 Buffalo Bill.

Buffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; online

. (page 6 of 26)
Online Library1846-1917 Buffalo BillBuffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; → online text (page 6 of 26)
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snow had nearly disappeared, having been blown or melted away ,
so that we had no difficulty in finding a road. On the eighth day
out we came to a farmer's house, or ranch, on the Eepublican
river, where we stopped and rested for two days, and then went
on to the ranch where Harrington had obtained the yoke of cat-
tle. We gave the owner of the team twenty-five beaver skins,
equal to $60, for the use of the cattle, and he let us have them
until we reached Junction City, sending his boy with us to bring
them back.


At Junction City we sold our wagon and furs and went with a
government mule train to Lea venworth arriving there in March,
1860. I was just able to get around on crutches when I got into
Leavenworth, and it was several months after that before I en-
tirely recovered the use of my leg.

During the winter I had often talked to Harrington about my
mother and sisters, and had invited him to go home with me in
the spring. J now renewed the invitation, which he accepted,
and accompanied me home. When I related to mother my ad-
ventures and told her how Harrington had saved my life, she
thanked him again and again. I never saw a more grateful wom-
an than she was. She asked him to always make his home
with us, as she never could reward him sufficiently for what he
had done for her darling boy, as she called me. Harrington con-
cluded to remain with us through the summer and farm mother's
land. But alas ! the uncertainty of life. The coming of death
when least expected was strikingly illustrated in his case. Dur-
ing the latter part of April he went to a nursery for some trees,
and while coming home late at night he caught a severe cold and
was taken seriously sick, with lung fever. Mother did everything
in her power for him. She could not have done rnora had he
been her own son, but notwithstanding her motherly care and
attention, and the skill of a physician from Leavenworth, he
rapidly grew worse. It seemed hard, indeed, to think that a
great strong man like Harrington, who had braved the storms
and endured the other hardships of the plains all winter long,
should, during the warm and beautiful days of spring, when sur-
ivunded by friends and the comforts of a good home, be fatally
stricken down. But such was his fate. He died one week from
the day on which he was taken sick. We ail mourned his loss as
we would that of a loved son or brother, as he was one of the
truest, bravest, and best of friends. Amid sorrow and tears we
laid him away to rest in a picturesque spot on Pilot Knob. His
death cast a gloom over our household, and it was a lory time
before it was entirely dispelled. I felt very lonely without tun-
riagton, and I soon wished for e change of scene again.





the warm days of summer approached
I longed for the cool air of the moun-
tains ; and to the mountains I determined
to go. After engaging a man to take
care of the farm, I proceeded to Leaven-
worth and there met my old wagon-master
and friend, Lewis Simpson, who was
fitting out a train at Atchison and load-
ing it with supplies for the Overland
Stage Company, of which Mr. Russell,
my old employer, was one of the propri-
etors. Simpson was going with this train to Fort Laramie and
points further west.

" Come along with me, Billy, " said he, " I'll give you a good
lay-out. I want you with me."

"I don't know that I would like to go so far west as that
again," I replied, " but I do want to ride the pony express once
more; there's some life in that."

" Yes, that's so ; but it will soon shake the life out of you,'*
said he. " However, if that's what you've got your mind set
on, you had better ccme to Atchison with me and see Mr. Rus^
sell, who I'm pretty certain will give you a situation."

I replied that I would do that. I then went home and in-
formed mother of niy intention, and as her health was very poor
I had great difficulty in obtaining her consent. I finally con-
vinced her that as I was of no use on the farm, it would be bet-
ter and more profitable for me to return to the plains, So after
giving her all the money I had earned by trapping, I bade her
good-bye and set out for Atchison.

I met Mr. Russeil there and asked him for employment as a
pony express-rider; he gave me a letter to Mr. Slade, who was


then the stage agent for the division extending from Jules*
burg to Rocky Ridge. Slade had his headquarters at Horseshoe
Station, thirty-six miles west of Fort Laramie, and I made the trip
thither in company with Simpson and his train.

Almost the very first person I saw after dismounting from my
horse was Slade. I walked up to hin? and presented Mr. Rus-
sell's letter, which he hastily opened and read. With a sweeping
glance of his eye he took my measure from head to foot, and
then said :

" My boy, you are too young for a pony express-rider. It
takes men for that business."

"I rode two months last year on Bill Trotter's division, sir,
and filled the bill then; and I think I am better able to ride
now," said I.

"What! are you the boy that was riding there, and was called
the youngest rider on the road?"

" I am the same boy," I replied, confident that everything
was now all right for me.

" I have heard of you before. You are a year or so older now,
and I think you can stand it. I'll give you a trial anyhow and
if you weaken you can come back to Horse Shoe Station and tend

That ended our first interview. The next day he assigned me
to duty on the road from Red Buttes on the North Platte, to the
Three Crossings of the Sweetwater a distance of seventy-six
miles and I began riding at once. It was a long piece of road,
but I was equal to the undertaking; and soon afterwards had an
opportunity to exhibit my power of endurance as a pony express-

One day when I galloped into Three Crossings, my home sta-
tion, I found that the rider who was expected to take the trip
out on my arrival, had gotten into a drunken row the night be-
fore and been killed. This left that division without a rider and
as it was very difficult to engage men for the service in that un-
inhabited region, the superintendent requested me to make the
trip until another rider could be secured. The distance to the


next station, Rocky Ridge, was eighty-five miles and through a
very bad and dangerous country, but the emergency was great
and I concluded to try it. I therefore started proinptly from
Three Crossings without more than a moment's rest and pushed on
with usual rapidity, entering every relay station on time and ac-
complishing the round trip of three hundred and twenty-two miles
back to Red Buttes without a single mishap and on time. This
stands on the records as being the longest pony express journey
ever made.


A week after making this trip, and while passing over the
route again, I was jumped by a band of Sioux Indians who
dashed out from a sand ravine nine miles west of Horse creek.
They were armed with pistols and gave me a close call with several
bullets, but it fortunately happened that I was mounted on the
fleetest horse belonging to the Express Company, and one that
was possessed of remarkable endurance. Being cut off from re-
treat back to Horse Shoe, I put spurs to my horse, and lying flat
on his back, kept straight for Sweetwater, the next station,
which I reached without accident, having distanced my pursuers.
Upon reaching that place, however, I found a sorry condition of
affairs, as the Indians had made a raid on the station the morn-
ing of my adventure with them, and after killing the stock-tender
had driven off all the horses, so that I was unable to get a re-
mount. I therefore continued on to Ploutz's Station twelve
miles further thus making twenty- four miles straight run with
one horse. I told the people at Ploutz's what had happened a r *
Sweetwater Bridge, and with a fresh horse went on and finished
foe trip without any further adventure.


About the middle of September the Indians became very
troublesome on the line of the stage road along the Sweetwater.
Between Split Rock and Three Crossings they robbed a stage,
killed the driver and two passengers, and badly wounded Lieut.
Flowers, the assistant division agent. The red-skinned thieves



also drove off the stock from the different stations, and were
continually lying in wait for the passing stages and pony express

riders, so that we had to take many desperate chances in running
the gauntlet.


The Indians had now become so bad and had stolen so much
stock that it was decided to stop the pony express for at least six
weeks, and to run the stages only occasionally during that period ;
in fact, it would have been almost impossible to have continued
the enterprise much longer without restocking the line.

While we were thus nearly all lying idle, a party was organized
to go out and search for stolen stock. This party was composed
of stage-drivers, express-riders, stock-tenders, and ranchmen
forty of them altogether and they were well-armed and well-
mounted. They were mostly men who had undergone all kinds
of hardships and braved every danger, and they were ready and
anxious to "tackle" any number of Indians. Wild Bill (who
had been driving stage on the road and had recently come down
to our division) was elected captain of the company.

It was supposed that the stolen stock had been taken to the
head of Powder river and vicinity, and the party, of which I was
a member, started out for that section in high hopes of success.

Twenty miles out from Sweetwater Bridge, at the head of
Horse creek, we found an Indian trail running north towards
Powder river, and we could see by the tracks that most of the
horses had been recently shod and were undoubtedly our stolen
stage-stock. Pushing rapidly forward, we followed this trail to
Powder river ; thence down this stream to within about forty
miles of the spot where old Fort Keno now stands. Here the
trail took a more westerly course along the foot of the mountains,
leading eventually to Crazy Woman's fork a tributary of
Powder river. At this point we discovered that the party whom
we were trailing had been joined by another band of Indians, and,
judging from the fresh appearance of the trail, the united body
could not have left this spot more than twenty- (bur hours before.


Being aware that we were now in the heart of the hostile coun-
try and might at any moment find more Indians than we had
" lost," we advanced with more caution than Usual and kept a
sharp lookout. As we were approaching Clear creek, another


tributary of Powder river, we discovered Indians on the opposite
side of the creek, some three miles distant ; at least we saw horses
grazing which was a sure sign that there were Indians there.

The Indians thinking themselves in comparative safety never
before having been followed so far into their own country by
white men had neglected to put out any scouts. They had no
idea that there were any white men in that part of the country.
We got the lay of their camp, and then held a council to consider
and mature a plan for capturing it. We knew full well that the
Indians would outnumber us at least three to one, and perhaps
more. Upon the advice and suggestion of Wild Bill, it was
finally decided that we should wait until it was nearly dark, and
then, after creeping as close to them as possible, make a dash
through their camp, open a general fire on them, and then stam-
pede the horses.

This plan, at the proper time, was most successfully executed.
The dash upon the enemy was a complete surprise to them.
They were so overcome with astonishment that they did not know
what to make of it. We could not have astounded them any more
had we dropped down into their camp from the clouds. They did
not recover from the surprise of this sudden charge until after
we had ridden pell-mell through their camp and got away with
our own horses as well as theirs. We at once circled the horses
around towards the south, and after getting them on the south
side of Clear creek, some twenty of our men just as the dark-
ness was coming on rode back and gave the Indians a few part-
ing shots. We then took up our line of march for Sweetwater
Bridge, where we arrived four days afterwards with all our own
horses and about one hundred captured Indian ponies.


The expedition had proved a grand success, and the event was
celebrated in the usual manner by a grand spree. The only
store at Sweetwater Bridge did a rushing business for several
days. The returned stock -hunters drank and gambled and
fought. The Indian ponies, which had been distributed among


the captors, passed from hand to hand at almost every deal of
the cards. There seemed to be no limit to the rioting and ca-
rousing; revelry reigned supreme. On the third day of the
orgie, Slade, who had heard the news, came up to the bridge and
took a hand in the " fun," as it was called. To add some varia-
tion and excitement to the occasion, Slade got into a quarrel with
a stage-driver and shot him, killing him almost instantly.

The "boys" became so elated as well as "elevated" over
their success against the Indians that most of them were in favor
of going back and cleaning out the whole Indian race. One old
driver especially, Dan Smith, was eager to open a war on all the
hostile nations, and had the drinking been continued another
week he certainly would have undertaken the job, single-handed
and alone. The spree finally came to an end; the men sobered
down and abandoned the idea of again invading the hostile coun-
try. The recovered horses were replaced on the road and the
stages and pony express again began running on time.

Slade, having taken a great fancy to me, said: " Billy, I want
you to come down to my headquarters, and I'll make you a sort
of supernumerary rider, and send you out only when it is neces-


I accepted the offer and went with him down to Horseshoe,
where I had a comparatively easy time of it. I had always been
fond of hunting, and I now had a good opportunity to gratify
my ambition in that direction, as I had plenty of spare time on
my hands. In this connection I will relate one of my bear-hunt-
ing adventures. One day, when I had nothing else to do, I
saddled up an extra pony express horse, and arming myself with
a good rifle and pair of revolvers, struck out for the foot-hills of
Laramie Peak for a bear-hunt. Riding carelessly along, and
breathing the cool and bracing autumn air which came down from
the mountains, I felt as only a man can feel who is roaming over
the prairies of the far West, well armed and mounted on a fleet
and gallant steed. The perfect freedom which he enjoyn is in
itself a refreshing stimulant to the mind as well as to the body.


Such indeed were iny feelings on this beautiful day as I rode up
the valley of the Horseshoe. Occasionally I scared up a flock
of sage-hens or a jack-rabbit. Antelopes and deer were almost
always in sight in any direction, but as they were not tba kind
of game I was after on that day I passed them by and k apt on
towards the higher mountains. The further I rode the rougher
and wilder became the country, and I knew that I was approach-
ing the haunts of the bear. I did not discover any, however,
although I saw plenty of tracks in the snow.

About two o'clock in the afternoon, my horse having become
tired, and myself being rather weary, I shot a sage-hen and, dis-
mounting, I unsaddled my horse and tied him to a small tree,
where he could easily feed on the mountain grass. I then built
a little fire, and broiling the chicken and seasoning it with salt
and pepper, which I had obtained from my saddle-bags, I soon
sat down to a " genuine square meal," which I greatly relished.

After resting for a couple of hours, I remounted and resumed
my upward trip to the mountain, having made up my mind to
camp out that night rather than go back without a bear, which
my friends knew I had gone out for. As the days were growing
short, night soon came on, and I looked around for a suitable
camping place. While thus engaged, I scared up a flock of sage-
hens, two of which I shot, intending to have one for supper and
the other for breakfast.

By this time it was becoming quite dark, and I rode down to
one of the little mountain streams, where I found an open place
in the timber suitable for a camp. I dismounted, and after un-
saddling my horse and hitching him to a tree, I prepared to start
a fire. Just then I was startled by hearing a horse whinnying
further up the stream. It was quite a surprise to me, and I im-
mediately ran to my animal to keep him from answering, as
horses usually do in such cases. I thought that the strange horse
might belong to some roaming band of Indians, as I knew of no
white men being in that portion of the country at that time. I
was certain that the owner of the strange horse could not be fai
distant, and I was very anxious to find out who my neighbor was,


before letting him know that I was in his vicinity. I therefore
re-saddled my horse, and leaving him tied so that I could easily
reach him I took my gun and started out on a scouting expedition
up the stream. I had gone about four hundred yards when, in
a bend of the stream, I discovered ten or fifteen horses grazing.


On the opposite side of the creek, a light was shining high up
the mountain bank. Approaching the mysterious spot as cau-
tiously as possible, and when within a few yards of the light
which I discovered came from a dug-out in the mountain side
I heard voices, and soon I was able to distinguish the words, as
they proved to be in my own language. Then I knew that the
occupants of the dug-out, whence the voices proceeded, were
white men. Thinking that they might be a party of trappers, I
boldly walked up to the door and knocked for admission. The
voices instantly ceased, and for a moment a death-like silence
reigned inside. Then there seemed to follow a kind of hurried
whispering a sort of consultation and then some one called
out :

"Who's there?"

" A friend and a white man," I replied.

The door opened, and a big, ugly-looking fellow stepped forth
and said :

"Come in."

I accepted the invitation with some degree of fear and hesita-
tion, which I endeavored to conceal, as I saw that it was too late
to back out, and that it would never do to weaken at that point,
whether they were friends or foes. Upon entering the dug-out
my eyes fell upon eight as rough and villainous looking men as I
ever saw in my life. Two of them I instantly recognized as
teamsters who had been driving in Lew Simpson's train, a few
months before, and had been discharged.

They were charged with the murdering and robbing of a ranch-
man ; and having stolen his horses it was supposed that they had
left the country, I gave them no signs of recognition however,


deeming it advisable to let them remain in ignorance as to who 1
was. It was a hard crowd, and I concluded that the sooner 1
could get away from them the better it would be for me. I felt
confident that they were a band of horse-thieves.

"Where are you going, young man; and who's with you?"
asked one of the men who appeared to be the leader of the gang.

" I am entirely alone. I left Horseshoe Station this morning
for a bear-hunt, and not finding any bears, I had determined to
camp out for the night and wait till morning," said I ; " and just
as I was going into camp, a few hundred yards down the creek
I heard one of your horses whinnying, and then I came to your

I was thus explicit in my statement in order, if possible, to
satisfy the cut-throats that I was not spying upon them , but that
my intrusion was entirely accidental.

" Where's your horse? " demanded the boss thief.

" I left him down the creek," I answered.


They proposed going after the horse, but I thought that that
would never do, as it would leave me without any means oi
escape, and I accordingly said, in hopes to throw them off the
track, " Captain, I'll leave my gun here and go down and get
my horse, and come back and stay all night."

I said this in as cheerful and as careless a manner as possible, so
as not to arouse their suspicions in any way or lead them to
think that I was aware of their true character. I hated to part
with my gun, but my suggestion of leaving it was a part of the
plan of escape which I had arranged. If they have the gun,
thought I, they will surely believe that I intend to come back.
But this little game did not work at all, as one of the despera-
does spoke up and said :

" Jim and I will go down with you after your horse, and you
can leave your gun here all the same, as you'll not need it."

" All right," I replied, for I could certainly have said nothing
else. It became evident to me that it would be better to trust


myself with two men than with the whole party. It was appa-
rent from this time on I would have to be on the alert for some
good opportunity to give them the slip.

" Come along," said one of them, and together we went down the
creek, and soon came to the spot where my horse was tied. One
of the men unhitched the animal and said : "I'll lead the horse."

" Very well," said I, "I've got a couple of sage-hens here.
Lead on." '

I picked up the sage-hens, which I had killed a few hours be-
fore, and followed the man who was leading the horse, while his
companion brought up the rear. The nearer we approached the
dug-out the more I dreaded the idea of going back among the
villainous cut-throats. My first plan of escape having failed, I
now determined upon another. I had both of my revolvers with
me, the thieves not having thought it necessary to search me. It
was now quite dark, and I purposely dropped one of tne sage-hens,
and asked the man behind me to pick it up. While he was hunt-
ing for it on the ground, I quickly pulled out one of my Colt's
revolvers and struck him a tremendous blow on the back of the
head, knocking him senseless to the ground. I then instantly
wheeled around, and saw that the man ahead,who was only a few
feet distant, had heard the blow and had turned to see What was
the matter, his hand upon his revolver. We faced each other at
about the same instant, but before he could fire, as he tried to do,
I shot him dead in his tracks. Then jumping on my horse, I rode
down the creek as fast as possible, through the darkness and over
the rough ground and rocks.

The other outlaws in the dug-out, having heard the shot which
I had fired, knew there was trouble, and they all came rushing
down the creek. I suppose by the time they reached the man
whom I had knocked down, that he had recovered and hurriedly
told them of what had happened. They did not stay with the
man whom I had shot, but came on in hot pursuit of me. They
were not mounted, and were making better time down the rough
mountain than I was on horseback. From time to time I heard
them gradually gaining on me.



At last they had come so near that I saw that I must abandon
zny horse. So I jumped to the ground, and gave him a hard
slap with the butt of one of my revolvers, which started him on
down the vaHey, while I scrambled up the mountain side. I had
not ascended more than forty feet when I heard my pursuers
coming closer and closer ; I quickly hid behind a a large pine
tree, and in a few moments they all rushed by me, being led on by
the rattling footsteps of my horse, which they heard ahead of


them . Soon they began firing in the direction of the horse, as they
no doubt supposed I was still seated on his back. As soon as
they had passed me I climbed further up the steep mountain,
and knowing that I had given them the slip, and feeling certain
I could keep out of their way, I at once struck out for Horse-
shoe Station, which was twenty-five miles distant. I had hard
traveling at first but upon reaching lower and better ground I
made good headway, walking all night and getting into the station
just before daylight, foot-sore, weary, and generally played out,

Online Library1846-1917 Buffalo BillBuffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; → online text (page 6 of 26)