William J.] 1829-1908 [Maltby.

Captain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life online

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Online LibraryWilliam J.] 1829-1908 [MaltbyCaptain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life → online text (page 2 of 14)
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but an old man by the name of Baker offered him his horse, which
was a good one, which he thankfully accepted. The change of saddles
was quickly made, and mounting Mr. Baker's horse, he said to the
fifteen men he had selected : "All that think they can ride ninety
miles in the next twenty-six or twenty-eight hours, follow me; for,
God helping me, I will ride it if I get there alone, and block Big
Foot's passage across the San Saba Eiver and kill him if I can, or be


killed/' He led off and all the fifteen followed him. They rode
steadily forward until noon; halted, and let their horses crop a
few mouthsful of grass while they ate a hasty lunch. In thirty
minutes they were again in their saddles, pressing forward, and
continued to do so until after dark when they came to a ranch
house where they got a feed of corn for their horses, and while
the horses were eating the men also ate their supper. Here the rest was
prolonged for an hour, at the expiration of which time they were
again in their saddles and pressing forward to the noted Indian
crossing on the San Saba River. They rode steadily on until the
new day was breaking when the Captain said "half" as they were
in a nice place to take a rest and let their tired horses rest and eat
grass for an hour while they ate a lunch themselves.

At sunrise they were again in their saddles pressing forward,
and in half an hour they struck the noted Indian trail that led
through narrow gaps in the mountains to the crossing of the San
Saba River. The Captain was in the lead when they struck the
trail. He raised his hat and smilingly said : "Come on, boys !" and
rode straight forward across the trail, which the men thought was
a strange proceeding, for they thought he would follow the trail.

He rode steadily forward for one mile, when he halted, and
when the men all came up he explained to them what they thought
was strange in him in riding straight across the trail.

He said: "Boys, when we struck the trail I could hardly keep
from hollowing, for I saw if Big Foot is aiming to cross the
San Saba at his regular crossing that we are ahead of him and<
time to spare; and if he is coming on the trail behind us, had we
taken the trail when he struck our fresh horse tracks ahead of
him he would have turned his course and crossed somewhere else.


So it is good luck for us, but puts us under the painful necessity of
riding several miles further in making a circle several miles further
around to the crossing." They all agreed that he had taken the
proper course.

They rode steadily forward making a circle of the crossing and
reached it in twenty-eight hours from the time of starting, making
ninety-five miles in twenty eight hours without change of horses or
a wink of sleep. And now with dispatch every thing was put in
proper shape to accomplish what they had ridden so hard for, should
the opportunity present itself in the coming of Big Foot and his band.
Two men were sent back to an elevated spot that commanded the
trail for some distance, and Captain Jeff felt sanguine that he, after
another hard effort, had set the trap that Big Foot would walk into.

As nothing further could be arranged or perfected, Liuet. Owens
insisted that Captain Jeff lie down and take a shdrt sleep,
for said he: "No man living can stand up longer than you have;
you have ridden one hundred and sixty-five miles without one wink
of sleep. An iron will and a nerve of steel can not stand any
more, and when the critical moment does come, we want you at
your best; so lay down and sleep just two hours, and I will wake
you up, and then I will lie down and sleep till you wake me up."
Feeling sure that everything was so arranged that should the Indians
come while he was asleep that they could not escape, he lay down
and in two minutes he was sound asleep, for the utmost of man's
endurance had been reached.

As all the men had been instructed to sleep two hours alter-
nately, Lieut. Owens let the Captain sleep three hours, when he
woke him. And when the Captain had bathed his face with a can-
teen of pure spring water that had just been brought from a cold


spring that gushed out of the bluff on the river, he said: "Lieut.,
I feel very much refreshed, and am in much better shape to tackle
that Big Foot Indian than when I got here. At all events, I wish
he would put in his appearance and let us decide the contest that
must be decided sooner or later, and he is not in sight yet. I want
you to lie down and sleep until I wake you, for I want you to stand
guard with me tonight a quarter of a mile from camp on the

At six o'clock there was no sign of the Indians, and Captain
Jeff roused up all the men and told them to prepare supper, so they
could eat and put out all the fire before dark, which was done.
And no Indians yet! Everything was properly arranged at the
crossing and the Captain took Lieut. Owens and went back on the
trail to a big liveoak tree that stood some three or four feet from
the trail. They sat down with their backs to the tree where they
had full view of the trail for some distance.

About twelve o'clock they saw something coming down the trail,
and as it came nearer, they saw that it was an old buck (deer).
Captain Jeff put his hand to his side and slowly d!rew his big Bowie
knife and slipped his arm slowly up the tree, and when the big buck
got just opposite to where he sat, he threw the knife with lightning
speed and its point went straight to the mark. The buck bounded
high in the air. and fell on his back dead, with the knife driven to the
handle square through his heart.

Lieut. Owens remarked: "Captain, that was well done. I think
Providence sent us that buck, for we are almost famished for meat,
and we are not allowed to shoot any for fear of driving off the game
of which we are in pursuit." They lifted the buck off of the trail,
extracted the knife from the heart, opened him with it and took out


his intestines and turned him over so that all the blood would drain
out. They had brought two canteens of water with them to use
through the night. Captain Jeff said: "Lieut., we will use one of
these to wash our hands for we can afford to be short on water, to
be long on such meat as this, for we are almost famished for one
square meal, and tomorrow we will have it, Big Foot or no Big
Foot," after which conversation they took their respective stations
at the big tree and sat out their lonely and silent vigil through the
remainder of the night, and no Indians yet.

When daylight was fully come they fastened their buck's legs
together, hunted up a suitable pole which they slipped through
them and each one took an end of the pole and they bore him into
camp in the same manner that Moses' spies brought grapes from the
Promised Land. When they reached camp there was much wonder
aiid surprise among the boys as to how such a fine deer could be
captured without the use of fire arms. Lieut. Owens replied: "We
got him as Abraham got the ram for his sacrifice, or in equally
as miraculous a manner. It was sent to us as an offering for
breakfast, and if you all feel like I do, the offering is truly and
thankfully received/'

As the camp was in good shape, the men rested. The only
thing necessary to make each of them half horse and half aligator
was just one more square meal, and that was plainly in sight.

As Captain Jeff had only slept three hours in the last three
days and nights, sleep was absolutely necessary before food. He
therefore turned the command of the company over to Lieut. Owens
for the next six hours. Be placed a rock against a tree for a pillow,
spread down his saddle blanket for a bed, told the boys that he
was going to sleep for six hours, and he hoped they would leave


enough of the buck for him a square meal when he was waked at
twelve o'clock, whereupon he stretched himself on his downy couch,
and was in the land of forgetfulness in two minutes.

Ah, Sleep ! Sleep, sweet sleep ! What a boon to us mortals !
The iron will, the nerve of steel must succumb in the absence of its
life and health-giving influence!

While Captain Jeff sleeps to gain strength for any emergency
that might arise, and all the rest are put on guard or picket duty
except two, who are detailed to cook, let us take a peep into how
Texas Rangers can cook good bread and get up a good meal without
any semblance of a cooking vessel.

The first our cooks do is to make a good fire out of dry wood,
and while it is burning down into good coals, they proceeded to
strip the hide off the buck; they then wash all the blood off the hide
and hang it up for a few minutes to drip. They then spread it down
and put the flour, salt and soda in sufficient quantities to make
it light and pliable, they then cut up fine a quantity of the inside
fat and put in sufficient water and knead it well, using the hide
as a bread pan. They then get some nice straight sticks three or
four feet long, the size of a man's thumb, peel off the bark, sharpen
one end. They then take some of the dough and wrap it around
the blunt end of the stick for one foot in length or more, and stick
the sharp end in the ground leaning it the proper angle over the
fire, so it will cook to a finish, the inside fat that was cut up in
the flour equally distributed the grease all through the bread,
and better bread could not be cooked anywhere or in anyway. They
cook the meat with the same stick process, only both ends of the
stick are sharpened and the stick is forced half way through the
piece of meat and the sharp ends of the stick alternately turned


and stuck in the ground, as the case may require. In this manner
a savory meal was gotten up, and all the men in turn got a meal
never to be forgotten.

They ate and thanked kind Providence /that ^sent them the
fine buck, went and relieved those who stood on guard, and' they
came and did likewise.

By the time all had been boutifully fed, Captain Jeff had
slept his six hours, and Lieut. Owens awoke him and poured water
out of a canteen while he washed and bathed his face and head,
after which he said : "I am as hurgry as a bear," and casting his
eyes towards the fire he said that his boys in their feast had not
forgotten him, for there on a stick was one full side of ribs of the
big buck, cooked to a turn and two stickes of as good bread as was
f^er eaten; and one of the cooks coming up with a canteen of pure,
cold spring water. The Captain sat down and did not rise
until the last rib was picked and the last mouthful of bread was eaten.
He rose, picked up the canteen and washed it all down with a quart
of the cold spring water; he then began humming:

"The Big Foot Indian, with his pretty little squaw,
He can't feel better than I do now;"

after which he filled his big pipe, lit it, sat down, leaned back
against a tree a perfect picture of physical manhood and content-
ment. After he had finished his pipe, he got up and began to walk
the camp. Stopping suddenly where some of the men were lounging
on the grass, he said : "Boys, these things are getting very monot-
onous to me, and I reasonably suppose it is to you, but let us bear
it with all the patience we can for twenty-four hours more; we may
yet be rewarded for our perseverance, vigilance and patience.'"

The same routine of duties were kept up until nine o'clock the



next day, and no Indians yet, at which time a man strode into camp
heavily armed with two army six-shooters and a government musket.
His appearance caused every man to rise to his feet. His general
appearance fully denoted that he was a son of "old Erin's green
Isle." He saluted the party with "Gude morning, gintlemen, and
is this Captain Giff's camp?" (to which he was answered in the
affirmative), "and, thin, is the gintleman prisent?" The Captain
stepped forward and said, "I am the man." "Will, thin, yer honor,
I have bin sint here to inform ye that the Ingins crost the river
six miles beyant here two days ago." "Pat are you sure the Indians
crossed the river six miles above here two days ago?" "I am, sor,
for don't ye think the domn bludy bugar of a Big Fute chafe was
musket," at which the boys set up a laugh that reverberated
after following me about four miles up the river, and he fired a ball
at me, and it struck jist firninst me hale; and I didn't have a domn
thing to defind meself wid but these two large six-shooters and the
for miles up and down the San Saba river. The Captain joined in
the laugh with the boys and made a full hand. After the merri-
ment had somewhat subsided, the Captain said : "Pat, had you been
armed, you would have 'mixed' it with the chief, wouldn't you?" to
which Pat replied, "And sure I would, sor." "And what sort of
arms did you want, Pat?" "I think, sor, the way that big chafe
looked while he was chasing me up the river, that I wanted about
three Gatlin guns that could shoot 990 times in a minute, sor;
why, sor, he is the biggest mon ye ever saw, and his fute is two fate
long." Just at this juncture a bunch of cattle came down the trail.
The Captain drew his big six-shooter and shot down a fat yearling,
and said : "Boys, dress that fellow and barbecue him as soon as you
can, and we will leave this camp of disappointment just as soon as


that is done." Pat picked up his gun that had been standing by a
tree, threw it on his shoulder,, and said: "Well, gintlemen, I'll be
after bidding yous the time of day, and gude luck to yous all." The
Captain said: "Why, Pat, you ain't a-going to leave before dinner?
We are going to have a fine barbecued beef for dinner." He replied :
"Thank ye, sor; I have a lunch wid me, and I'd rather maKe my
journey while yous are here than to make it when yous are gone,"
and he walked off. When he reached the river bank the Captain
called after him: "I say, Pat, you'd better get you one of them
Gatlin guns, for you don't know when you may meet that Big Foot
fellow." Pat stopped, faced around, and replied : "And sure you
are right, yer honor, and I'll be after gettin' me one at me first con-
venience." He turned and stepped down the bank, and was never
seen any more, but he had the sympathies of all that knew him in
his supposed tragic death.

By two o'clock the meat was well barbecued, and the orders were
given to pack up, and the homeward march was begun. They rode
silently and sullenly, with a dazed expression of countenance, for
they fully realized that the opportunity to meet the big chief in
deadly conflict was to be deferred to some indefinite time, for by this
time he and his band were safely housed in his mountain fastness,
surrounded by his many braves, his many wives and numerous


The Disobedience of Orders and the Timidity of the Women, Doubtless
Prolonged the Wily Chief's Existance.

They reached home the third day after they broke camp, and
nothing worthy of note had transpired during their absence. They
found their families all well, and no report of Indians. The
next morning Captain Jeff mounted his horse and rode around to
inquire why his orders had been disobeyed, and why the fifteen men
that he had put on the trail with orders to folow it six days,
failed to do so. Their only -excuse was, they had no one
to leave with their wives, who refused to be left alone. Mark the
contrast between those women and the wife of our hero on the same
occasion, when she kissed him good-bye, and said : "Jeff, go and
avenge the death of those good and noble people." Had other
wives been possessed of the same spirit, the opportunity was then
offered to overtake Big Foot and mete out to him the punishment he


so justly deserved for the base murder of so many defenseless women
and children. In this instance, in place of Big Foot going out of
the neighborhood the same direction he went many times before,
that went to the crossing on the San Saba river, after some ten
miles he tacked back due south through the cedar brakes of Burnet
County, went north through Llano County and killed two men that
were ploughing, and leisurely went on and crossed the San Saba
river six miles above where Captain Jeff had been lying in wait for
him twenty-four hours in his advance.

The disobedience of orders in all probability prolonged the wily
chiefs existence to an indefinite time to commit many more horrible
crimes on defenseless women and children.

After this raid Burnet County had immunity from the visits of
Indians for three light moons, and the constant and daily fear began
to somewhat subside. At the expiration of this time Captain Jeff
had retired for the night, when a "Hello !" was heard at his front
gate. He sprang out of bed, opened the door and inquired, "What is
wanting?" His caller informed him that the Indians were in, and
that the settlement would be raided that night. He quickly donned
his clothes, kissed his wife an affectionate "bye-bye," as if he were
going to a picnic, went and saddled his horse, and as he rode by the
gate, she hollered after him : "Jeff, I hope you will catch that big
rascal this time." This was the kind of metal that rescued the
bleeding frontier from the merciless savages and made it a fit abode
for those that came after them, and they were never honored for
their hardships, dangers and privations incident thereto.

We return to follow Captain Jeff after he left his home on this
occasion. His experience had taught him that it was almost im-
possible to trail the Indians and overtake them, therefore it was


necessary to get ahead of them and lie in wait at some noted pass that
was known to be their passway; so thinking the matter over as he
rode, he found that nine of his men lived in the direction or partial
direction of one of the Indians' noted pass-ways. He therefore
pressed forward to the first 'and roused him up, and he saddled his
horse, got his arms and started with him, and they two rode to the
next house, where the same program was carried out, and so on until
the nine men were in their saddles and pressing forward to the noted
Spy Mountain pass, thirty miles from the Captain's home, which
they reached by hard riding at six o'clock in the morning.

They had no provisions with them, only what little cold bread
that was left at their different homes the evening before and a lii tie
sack of salt that Captain Jeff always carried in his saddle pocket so
as to have salt in an emergency, for good beef could be obtained at
any time or place, with nothing but the trouble to pick out the
size wanted and kill it, for the Captain's Company held a carte-
blanche to use beef out of any mark or brand when in pursuit of
Indians. So, when reaching Spy Mountain, they found that they
were ahead of the Indians.

A buch of cattle was grazing near by. The Captain ordered Bill
Donivan, who was an expert roper, to rope a fat calf for breakfast,
for their appetites were whetted to a razor edge, after their hard
ride through the night. Captain Jeff had ridden fifty or sixty miles
from ten o'clock at night to six o'clock that morning, the zig-zag
course taken to collect his men. The calf was soon roped, killed and

Two men were put on Spy Mountain to watch for the approach
of the Indians. The horses were tied behind a thicket that hid
them from view, with their saddles and bridles on, so that they


could be mounted at a moment's warning. Everything was put in
perfect readiness to welcome the Indians with hospitable hands to
bloody graves should they come.

As yet no indications from the spies. The Captain told his men
to cut and broil beef to suit themselves; he chose for his part a
half side of ribs. So in less time than it takes to write it, sticks were
cut and run through pieces of meat, Eanger style, and stuck up
around the fire that had been built at the start so as to have the
coals in readiness. The men were not forgotten that were on guard,
and two big, fine hunks were put up to roast for them. The meat
was soon cooked to a rare state just to suit the taste of a Texas
Ranger. All the cold bread was brought forward, which was ample
foi one meal, and this meal of cold bread and broiled beef was enjoyed
as much as any meal that was ever eaten at the famous Delmonico
restaurant in the city of New York. After they had finished their
meal the spies were kept up alternately every two hours through the
entire day until near sundown, the horses standing just as they were
placed, without feed or drink the entire day, which was really hard
on the poor, faithful creatures, but the necessity required it, and it
had to be done.

Just as the sun was setting the spies discovered a lone horseman
coming through the gap in the mountain the Indians were expected
to come through, which was quickly reported, and every
man mounted his horse and stood ready to receive the report of the
lone horseman, who soon came up with the speed of a frightened
deer. It proved to be Eheuben Senterfit, well-known to all our party
as a fearless rider, and he was mounted on a superb West Texas
horse that had the wind and sure foot equal to any horse in the
world. He reined up his horse and said: "Boys, I knew you were


here, and I have ridden for life to be in at the killing. The Indians
left the trail south of the gap and have gone south of you." At that
moment he looked in a southwesterly direction, and said : "There
go the damn rascals now ! Boys, look on the top of that bald hill,"
which was a mile or more distant from where they stood. He led,
with all the others close at his horse's heels, in this race, the most
headlong and furious riding that the writer has ever witnessed.

Their speed soon brought them to the top of the hill that they
saw the Indians go over. Here they halted, and Senterfit's dog struck
the trail and gave them the direction they had gone. They looked
and discovered them below the base of the mountain, some half a mile
distant, or more. They were riding like dare-devils, driving a bunch
of about forty horses, over ground that didn't look safe to ride over
in a wallk.

The plunge down that mountain in pursuit was fearful
indeed. They reached its base in safety, and on and on, with the
same headlong speed, over honey-comb rock that did not seem possible
for horses to be driven over faster than a walk. The Indians saw
that they were hotly and closely pursued, when one of them cried
out, "Jeffa ! Jeffa ! Jeffa !" at which time they abandoned the horses
they were driving and rode for life. That "Jeffa" "Jefa," "Jefa,"
as they pronounced it struck double terror to their hearts and, if
possible, lent power to their exertions for safety.

But our pursuers of nine men gained steadily upon the nine
savages, and when there was only a space of forty yards between the
pursuers and the pursued two shots rang out, and at that instant the
savages disappeared as if the earth had opened and swallowed them,
all but two horses that were standing stock still on the spot where
the pursued had disapepared.


The writer here wishes to explain the wherefore of this strange
occurrence. Just as the two shots range out from Captain Jeff's
party the Indians' horses had reached the very brink of a perpen-
dicular bank of a deep ravine, whose banks were all of ten feet high
or deep ; its bottom was covered with a dense growth of small native
timber, and its real presence would not be discovered until you were
on its very brink, particularly if you were riding fast and going di-
rectly to it.

The two shots fired as mentioned may have lent an additional
impetus to both the Indians and their' horses in making such a head-
long leap; be that as it may, the leap was successfully made, and
just at that propitious moment for the Indians, the darkness of night
spread her black mantle over the scene and heavy rain commenced
pouring down.

The writer helre wishes to ask, "Was this occurrence, and many
more similar to it, yet to be recorded in this little narrative of facts,
(yes, positive facts, that are recorded just as they occurred) providen-
tial?" Truly, I ask, "Were the Indians on this occasion protected by
a special Providence, and many similar occasions, as the further pe-
rusal of this narrative will show?"

When the pursuers reached the bank of the canyon where the two
horses stood, they could plainly hear Big Foot giving orders to his

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Online LibraryWilliam J.] 1829-1908 [MaltbyCaptain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life → online text (page 2 of 14)