Frank Bird Linderman.

Lige Mounts: free trapper online

. (page 7 of 21)
Online LibraryFrank Bird LindermanLige Mounts: free trapper → online text (page 7 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

was a ford, mebby. The shade of the big trees
down below me reached out to the middle of the
stream, so I knowed it was nigh four o'clock. It
was awful hot and still. When I knelt down to
drink a black shadow fell on the water. I looked
up and there was a big old buzzard sailing slow
against the blue sky, his wings spread out, and
never moving, like he could go where he wanted
to without trying. I watched him, still and sure
up yonder where he could see for miles. Just when
I was going to drink a band of antelope come down
to the water on the other side. They looked mighty
pretty if only we wa'n't in trouble. I watched them
a spell, but when I moved to get up they lit out in
a hurry.


Carpenter was stretched on the ground with his
telescope to his eye. "They're comin' !" he called.

"All of them?" I says, running to him, afraid of
his answer.

"Every damned one!"

I begun to laugh. It was too good to be true.
Then I thought of that other time when I figured
things was too fine to last, and it scared me. Meb-
by some of them was hurt. Dad mebby. I wanted
to saddle my hoss and ride out to meet up with
them, but Carpenter wouldn't hear to it. We stood
there watching and waiting till I couldn't stand it
any longer. I run out to meet them, in spite of

There was blood on Dad's legging. "You're
shot!" I says, grabbing Eagle's bridle to lead him

"Leggo, son, leggo. Git my duds an' I'll put 'em
on. It's only a scratch."

I let go. He didn't want no carrying on, though
his legging was soaked with blood. I ran for his
shirt, feeling like I'd acted silly.

He made light of his wound when I he'ped him
bind it up, but I knowed it was mighty sore and
hurt him. It was in the thigh a regular deep cut
made by a ball that plowed a groove clean 'cross
but didn't lodge.

He was plumb happy because Eagle wa'n't hurt
and said so more'n once. "Fink," he says while we
was eating, "that's a good animal, that roan of
yours. I'm sorry he stopped an arrow."

"Nothin' to hurt," says Mike, "an' I'll trade him
fer yer Eagle an' give good boot."

Dad laughed. "Ain't interested," he says. - "I


might want to get out of the country pretty fast
some day."

"Not as fast as me," says Fink. "Well, we're in
good shape here. I reckon I'll hev to adorn Betsy.
Five more notches," he laughs, cutting nicks in his
rifle stock. Dad had said he was a born rattle-
snake, and I knowed he was. But he wa'n't afraid
of anything. I was sure of that.

"How fer did ye run 'em?" Carpenter asked.

"Nigh an hour," says Bill with his mouth full of
dried meat.

"Put up any fight?"

"Only them that hed to."

"This rucus ain't over yit," says Dad. "I'm goin'
ter cut some grass fer Eagle, an' tie him handy
under the bank."

He got out his knife, and being through eating,
we all went at it and cut some grass for the war-
hosses while Bill and Joe turned the stock out of
the corral to let them fill up before dark.

There wa'n't any use to try to hide out, so we
built a good fire and cooked supper. At sundown
we watered the stock and then corralled them, all
but the war-hosses, which we tied under the bank,
saddled and ready for use. We piled the cut grass
where they could eat, and then we was ready and
begun to wait. We didn't even put out a guard,
but one of the men stayed close to the edge of the
bank where he could watch the corral.

Nobody wanted to sleep, although Dad said there
was time for a good nap if anybody wanted one.
The men sat around and talked and I listened. They
told of Injin medicine, mostly, and I was glad of
it. Dad said that he'd seen an Injin who was bent
on goin' to war or on a hoss-stealing raid, kill a


badger and bleed him on a rock. Then when the
rock was covered with the blood the Injin would
look in it quick. If he saw his own face reflected
clear, he'd go, but if his features was blurred, he
wouldn't budge.

Then Bill told of seeing one man beat off a whole
war-party by acting crazy. That set Mike Fink
off, and I didn't know whether to believe what he
said or not, but it was a good yarn anyway.

He said that once a war-party run onto tracks
in the snow, but not being able to tell which way
the man that made the tracks was going, and to be
sure to run him down, the party divided and one
half went one way and the rest the other. At last
one outfit run onto the man asleep by his fire. His
feet was sticking out from under his robe and he
was awful clubfooted so much so that one of his
feet was turned backwards. As soon's the In j ins
saw the man's feet they lit out.

Then Dad said, "But jest the same they will
fight, an' fight hard, if their medicine is good.
Their superstition saves us lots of times, an* nothin*

I've seen Injins bleed badgers like Dad said since
then, and I know that they won't bother a crazy
man. And likely the club-foot puzzled them and
made them turn back. But when any man says
Injins won't fight he's slandering folks he don't

The men talked less and less as it got darker and
darker, till finally they was still. After they was
quiet for a spell it 'peared like everybody was plumb
afraid to break in on the stillness. I got to think-
ing of Injin medicine, and of Little Pete. His camp
had been here mebby he'd slept where I was sit-


ting. Then I thought how he'd died; and then
Caley Byers come into my mind, and Aunt Lib. I
felt mighty uncomfortable and as skittish as I did
when I nigh stepped on the rattlesnake. No fire,
no noise, only the river rippling over the bar. Now
and again a hoss would snuffle under the bank,
and every time I heered it I thought it was some-
thing else for a second. Directly I saw a star, then
another. Then the wolves begun to howl back yon-
der. I reckoned mebby they was on the trail to
the coulee where Talbot's hoss was dead. Boaah!
a night-hawk swooped down over the river, letting
out a noise that sounded like anything but a bird.
Then I saw the Big Dipper and the North Star come
out clear and felt a breeze on my face, cool and
fine. Joe moved a pack a little, and Talbot next to
him, changed his position. I was glad they stirred.
It eased me up. But the hours dragged and
dragged, till at last the stars begun to fade out and
I knowed day wa'n't far off.

Suddenly Dad, who was close to me, raised his
rifle, and its flash nigh blinded me. "They're here,"
he says, reloading his gun.

Talbot fired and Fink and Bill. And seeing a
shadow moving, I let go one myse'f .

"Down low everybody!" says Dad.

Cracky! there was a passel of 'em. Next come
arrows, thud ! into the packs, and over us a cloud
of them. I could hear their feathers sing past like
bullets. Cracky! After them come a passel of
shots. I could see the flashes and heered a ball land
right under me in a pack. Then more arrows a
passel of 'em.

"Anybody hit?" asked Dad, sliding down to load



"Nope," says Fink. "I got two, shore's hell's

I saw something crawling towards the corral and
I let go.

"That was a good one, son," says Dad, cocking
his rifle. "You got that feller."

I couldn't see another thing. There wa'n't a
sound, except the water on the bar.

"They're restin', I reckon," says Dad after a
spell. "Joe, was the brown mute bleedin' much
when we corralled 'em? I forgot to look. Oh! Joe.
What's wrong with Joe, Talbot?"

"By God, he's dead ! Hit plumb in the forehead
with a ball." Talbot's voice was husky, like his
throat was dry.

I couldn't speak for a minute. It was too awful.
Everybody was still, thinking, I reckon, same's I

"Too bad, son," Dad whispered. "We'll make 'em
pay for Joe. That's all we kin do, now."

Seemed as though our voices had started them
again. There come a couple of shots and a passel
of arrows.

"I'm hit," says Talbot, but not stopping his shoot-

"Bad?" asked Dad.

"Nope shoulder arrow Look out, Dad!"

Dad's rifle flashed and a yell went up.

"My God, Dad, they's a whole passel of 'em,"
says Bill. "Yonder, yonder, Mike!" he says, load-
ing as fast as he could. "If we kin only stand 'em
off till day, we'll make 'em move."

"Here, son," said Dad, "move on the other side
of me. Look scatter in' down nigh the corral while
I load."


I crawled around Dad. Sure enough there was
four or five In j ins stealing towards the corral. I
fired and loaded and fired again. Dad kept popping
away, steady, as fast as he could load. Directly we
couldn't see a thing on the little flat down by the
corral. It was getting light fast and I could make
out the trees by the stream. Day was most there.
I could see the packs stuck full of arrows all around
us and poor Joe laying dead by Talbot. I was
stiff from staying still so long and stretched my

"Shoo! I reckoned they'd charge at daybreak,
but I don't see ary one/' says Dad at last. "Mebby
the fight's ours. But we'll wait a spell before we
move around."

"They don't know they hit any of us," says Fink.
"We got a mess of 'em last night. I know I got
several myse'f , so they've got a lot more respect for
us an' our medicine than they had before. I'll bet
a robe they've pulled out had enough."

"I reckon ye're right," says Dad, "but we'll best
sit tight till it gits good and light."

Fink stood up. "Come on," he says, "let's bury
Joe an' pack up."

"We'll bury Joe, that we will, an* do it right,"
says Dad. "Then we'll scout a bit. If it's safe
we'll move."

I could feel he didn't like the way Fink spoke.
And I didn't


It ain't no use to try to tell how we felt when we
buried Joe. Dad felt mighty bad. And Bill too. I
knowed it was plumb wicked, but I couldn't he'p
think what if it was Dad instead of Joe kinder
comparing how I'd feel if it had been him and I
felt mean and ornery for doing it. But you can't
fight off such thoughts once they get going, even
if you're ashamed of them and turn against them.
They keep hanging on like a shadow you're trying
to leave behind. I reckon I felt as bad's anybody
though, except mebby Dad. I could see how he felt
by his face. The lines hardened up and he looked
older. But I was a heap sorrier than I was when
my father was killed, and that kept pestering like
it was against decency. I couldn't even drive it
away by remembering how young I was then. That
and the thought that I'd be a heap sorrier if it was
Dad kept shaming me and making me feel worse all
the time we was digging the grave.

The men was mighty careful about the dirt they
dug. They put it on buffalo robes, and when the
grave was filled and levelled off and tramped solid,
they packed every bit of it to the river and dumped
it in. Then they built a fire on the grave so neither
wolves nor In j ins would know it held a body.

"Good-bye to ye, Joe," says Dad. "Ye was a man,
all man. Amen."

For more'n a minute nobody moved. A lump
come into my throat and nigh choked me. It wa'n't
much to say, but the way he said it made it seem
longer and better'n a whole funeral sermon



preached by Joshua Moulds. It made me feel that
it would be all I'd ask if a good man could say as
much for me when I quit. Seemed as though it held
a passel of praise, and a promise, too, some way,
without fussing, either.

"Come," he says, turning away. "It's a trail
we'll all take some day, some way. One place is as
good's another, too, I reckon. Nature kin use us,
and she will. I'd ruther go to he'p the wild roses
than garden flowers an' so would Joe. But when
the time comes we've got to lay 'em down, no mat-
ter where it may be, ner how."

Then right away he shook it off turned his talk
to ourse'fs. "We'll look 'round a bit, an' if the
In j ins hes left, an' I reckon they hev, we'll pack up
an' move," he says, walking fast towards the camp.

The Injins had gone. Fink and Dad rode out
while we cooked a breakfast, and Bill and me pulled
the arrows out of the packs and shaped up. Then
Talbot and Carpenter brought up the stock and we
packed and lit out. Dad and Bill gave me Joe's war-
hoss, and I walked with the other men and led him
with a pad on his back. He made me think of poor
Joe; but owning him someway put me up, like, in
spite of thinking it was low-down to profit by such
a thing as a pardner's death. I kept arguing with
myse'f that I'd willingly give a hundred hosses if
I had them to save Joe, but the ornery side kept
horning in all day long and kept me miserable.

Dad and Fink was ahead and I tried to take Joe's
place as good as I could and kept behind the pack
train. Carpenter and Talbot guarded the sides and
we traveled mighty fast, for we'd divided some of
the packs and used some of Fink's pack hosses, so
the loads was lighter.


We passed dog-town after dog-town; and always
there was coyotes sitting around to try and nail a
prairie dog. They'd sneak up and then make a rush
when a dog had strayed out from his hole a piece,
and sometimes they'd catch them but not often.
The dogs was curious little fellows, sitting up as
straight as ramrods and looking like a passel of
posts drove in the ground. They'd bark a funny
little chirping bark; and when we got too close
they'd pop down in their holes with a flip of their
tails. The towns was plumb clean of all grass, and
around every hole there was a pile of whitish dirt
the dogs had dug in making their burrows. I fig-
ured they was mighty wise in handling the dirt.
Piled the way they was the mounds made a good
place to sit and look for trouble, and besides they
kept the water of bad rains and storms from flood-
ing their holes. On nigh half the mounds, too, there
was little long-legged owls sitting and looking like
they knowed more'n anybody. They didn't pay any
attention to the prairie dogs nor the dogs didn't
mind them, but each tended to his own business,
whatever it was.

There was plenty of antelope again. And twice
we saw herds of buffalo feeding off to the north. I
was glad to see them, for I knowed it was a good
sign and meant there wa'n't any Injins close. But
we kept on careful till night and then camped on a
water-hole. There wa'n't a thing but buffalo-chips
to build a fire with if we'd wanted one, and the
water was warm and tasted bad. The rim of the
water-hole was tracked up with a thousand million
of antelope tracks, and buffalo, too. Just before
dark Bill killed a fat young buck.

We moved early in the morning and every


morning for three days, traveling straight across
country that was mighty nigh level. The sun had
plumb baked the adobe flats along the streams we
crossed, though they was mighty few and far be-

It was the afternoon of the fourth day after the
fight when I saw a strip of cottonwood away ahead.
I thought fnebby it was a mirage, at first. But
directly Dad and Fink stopped and caught up their
regular saddle hosses and got on them. So we all
mounted, and I was glad to ride a spell.

"It's jest beyond that strip of timber yonder,
son," says Dad. "We'll make it by sundown."

He begun to slick up, combing out his hair with
his fingers and talking happy, like. I was sure glad
and perked up. It seemed like letting out a tight
cinch. We was all talking and laughing and riding
close and sociable. Everybody acted like he'd
stepped across a bad place lucky ; and even the stock
showed they knowed it. Fink begun to sing.

When we trotted over a little swell on the plain
I saw horsemen coming lickety split. At first I
thought it was Injins. But Dad says, "Here they
come to say 'howdy'; they've seen us a'ready," and
Fink and Bill rode ahead to meet them. Dad
stopped and got on Eagle, who begun to prance and
dance like he wanted to run. But Dad held him
in, talking to him quiet, till the men come up.

I never saw anything like it. Everybody was
talking at once and was especially glad to see Dad.
They called him everything cussed him and
slapped him on the back, laughing like boys. They'd
yell like Injins and shoot and ride circles around
us and sing. Everybody nagged and jabbered to
git a word in all talking and saying mighty little.
But they was sure glad to see us though no glad-


der, I'll bet, than I was to see them. Some kept at
it till Fink and Bill climbed up behind them on
their hosses; and the bucking and bawling and
laughing beat all time. One hoss threw himse'f
backward so Bill skinned his nose in the dirt. "Ride
in, you fellers!" somebody called above the jangle.
"Ride in! Me and Tom'll fetch in the train."

It was like a pistol-shot to start a race. Away
we went over the plains, through a dog-town,
among a million holes in the ground, like mad men.
I couldn't have held my bay if I'd tried. I figured
the Yellowstone would stop 'em, but it didn't. They
splashed in, ford or no ford. It was a race for the
other side. I knowed who'd win it, and he did.
Dad and Eagle was across long before anybody
else. And I wish you could have seen the hosses.
Every one! of them crazy wild for the race and stop-
ping at nothing, full of mettle and trembling like
leaves. I never did see the beat.

Dripping wet and singing any song we knowed,
we rode to the Post. The gate was wide open, and
someone let off a cannon as we turned in. The wind
of it hit my face like a slap and my hoss shied and
nigh upset me; but I yelled with the rest and rode
inside. Dogs was barking, Injin drums beating,
and if ever a man heered bedlam broke plumb loose,
it was me. One feller with rings in his ears run
out with a flat keg and a cup, singing in French and
offering liquor. They was sure glad to see us and
knowed how to show it, I reckoned.

By the time the pack train got in, Dad had got
a set of lodge poles from an Injin and had 'em up
and waiting for his lodge-skin. "Here we be, son,
as our officer friend said in St. Louis. An* now
we kin sleep an' sleep an* sleep," he says, filling his


The Ashley-Henry Post was inside a stockade of
cottonwood logs set in the ground on end so that
they was more'n ten feet high in a solid wall all
around a space two hundred feet by one hundred
and fifty feet. The logs was pinned together on the
inside with pegged girders, and resting on the
girders was a runway where men could stand and
defend the Post. The runway was high enough so
a man could see outside and shoot without showing
too much of himse'f to In j ins. The gate was big
and heavy, built of split logs and hung on wooden
hinges that made an awful fuss when it was opened
or shut. When it was open it allowed a passage-
way about seven or eight feet wide. In each of the
corners opposite from the gate there was two little
cannon, set so they could be turned loose on unwel-
come visitors; and between them seven little, dirt-
roofed cabins for the engagees was built against
the wall, the runway stopping against their ends so
that men could use their roofs to stand on in a fight.
On one end of the stockade the end on the right of
the gate, going in, and nigh the middle of the wall,
was the store a long, low, log building with loop-
holes cut in the logs and along the side, and in the
end towards the gate, windows that had hinged
shutters made so they could be closed on the inside.
Down along the right hand wall a little way from
the store itse'f was the storehouse, and further
down, with quite a space between them, the black-
smith shop, without any door. The roofs of all the



buildings joined onto the regular runway against
the walls, so men could walk on them the same as
on the runway. The corral was across from the
blacksmith shop and storehouse a good big one
that would hold considerable stock. Along that side
of the stockade, next to the river, there wa'n't any
buildings, but there was several Injin lodges, be-
sides some trappers' camps between the corral and
the ends of the enclosure.

Altogether, there was fifteen men in the Post,
regular hired men. Engagees, they called them,
and they was all white except two interpreters, who
was half-breeds that got drunk whenever they could
and had a passel of little, sharp-eyed boys and girls
that was everywhere and full of mischief.

Bill went off with Fink and his pardners as soon
as we got unpacked; so Dad and I was alone. We
got everything inside the lodge, making it so full
there wa'n't a heap of room left even after we'd
piled everything as high as we could to save space.
"Gone to git drunk," says Dad, not grumbling, but
thinking, like. "Good pardner," he says, "none bet-
ter, but he hankers for liquor. His flat keg's nigh
half -full yit, an' he'll pack it month in an' month
out an' never tetch it. Never knowed him to tetch
it by himse'f ; but I reckoned him an' Fink's crowd
would finish it down the river there. The buffalo
herd sobered 'em, and the movin* broke up the

"Seems good to be able to set around an' know
we kin sleep an' be keerless," he says, sipping a cup
of tea. "Reckon we'll stay where we be, son." A
gun cracked and he sat up straight with the cup
nigh to his lips. But a loud laugh followed from
over at the store, and he begun to sip again.


"Drunk," he says, "drunk an' singin.' They'll
likely be fightin' before mornin'."

It was hot in the lodge and I raised the lodge-skin
higher on the breezy side so the cool would come in.
"Tomorrow," I says, "I'm going to write that

"Yes, tomorrow ye kin do it, son." He pulled off
his head-silk and smoothed his hair; and then as
though he half wanted to blame Bill and excuse him
at the same time, he begun: "Son, I don't aim fer
to hev ye think I was always a teetotaler, 'cause I
wa'n't. I've drinked enough liquor to float a keel-
boat an* shot away more lead showin' off than
would sink one of 'em, in my time. Experience
finally weaned me from liquor, but I figure she was
goin' an extra gait when she done it. Anyway it
took, good an* plenty, an* I ain't drinked a drop in
goin' on twelve years." He stopped to light his

"Eleven years ago last May," he went on, "me
an' my pardner, Dug Tiley, cut into St. Louis with
our ketch. It was a good one one of the best I
ever hed a share in. The town was full of trap-
pers an' river men, like it always is. Everybody
was havin' a frolic. We sold out good, an' jest as
soon as we hed bought our outfit an' paid fer it, we
got drunk, as usual. It was Tuesday mornin' when
we took in the taverns, an' it was Tuesday night
when we called on the dance houses. Before mid-
night I lost all reckonin', an' aside from spots
where there was fights er fires, I don't remember
much. Even them's dim.

"Dug had a bad row with a river-pirate in a
hurdy-gurdy house an' the feller cut him mighty
bad cut his right ear clean off an' sliced his cheek


like a beefsteak. I kin see him now with his
wounds undressed an* bleedin' into his liquor. I
may hev been there when the fuss started, but if I
was, it's shore my senses wa'n't. Seems like I
must hev been outside a spell. Anyhow, when I
saw Dug to remember it, he was cut like I tell ye,
holdin' a glass of whiskey in his hand an* walkin' in
a circle, nigh blind with blood ; an' f ollerin' was the
man with the knife. I took it up for Dug an* recol-
lect nigh killin' the devil that cut him. Mebby I
did. I know he cut me up some before they pulled
me off him."

He stopped, and I could see he was hating to tell
the yarn; but he went on, talking slower'n ever.
"After that I remember of goin' outside. It was
a-pourin' rain an' the night was black dark. I
started f er a hitch-rack in the middle of the street.
The light from the dance-house streaked out to it
an' fell upon a big puddle that surrounded it. I
made fer the rack like I tell ye, most likely with a
drunken idee of ridin'. Anyway, I went up to a
hoss tied there, but he snorted an' thrashed about
till he knocked me down in the mud puddle. All the
ponies pulled back, an' while they was still snortin'
at me I went to sleep there in the water an' mud.

"That's the last I remember the snortin' of the
hosses till I waked up stiff an' sore an' ugly as a
crippled buffalo-bull. There was a buffalo robe over
my face; an' a man was layin' on my arm on one
side, while on the other, another feller was jammed
up tight agin my side like a bed-hawg. 'Lay over,
damn ye,' I growled, an' dug my elbow agin his
belly. But he didn't move. I give him a couple

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryFrank Bird LindermanLige Mounts: free trapper → online text (page 7 of 21)