William Perry Sanders.

Days that are done online

. (page 2 of 6)
Online LibraryWilliam Perry SandersDays that are done → online text (page 2 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tribute and the "piece conference" was at an end.
I have been slightly gray about the temples ever
since that session.

My father told me that it was quite customary
and good form to build up a good fire in camp
at night, and then take the bedding and retire to
some nearby bunch of trees or brush. This was
by way of protection from a surprise party, as it
was no easy matter to crawl up on a hunter, whose
sleep was of a necessity, what might be termed
in the "hair trigger class." It was much healthier
to be a light sleeper. Ye hunter must have been
more careless at other times, however, in proof
of this observation I will quote from one of my
fathci's reminiscences. He said:


"I was in camp on the Tongue River, in the
Devil Mountain Fork country, and was getting
breakfast one morning all the other men being
out after the horses. I remember that I was bend-
ing over the "dutch oven" turning the frying meat,
when suddenly a voice just behind me said "How,
John." Now my name wasn't John and I had
no reason to butt in, but looking over my shoulder
I saw about ten feet away the biggest, dirtiest,
ugliest Indian I had ever beheld. My loaded
Sharp's rifle was leaning against a wagon wheel
and beyond the fire, some twenty feet away. I
cleared the fire and covered the distance in about
two leaps, snatched up my gun and wheeled ready
for business. I found his nibs, Man-afraid-to-
wash, holding up one hand, palm outward, as with
a slight grin he proclaimed, "Me good Injun." He
certainly didn't look the part, but as he had omit-
ted to knock me in the head when he had every
opportunity, I couldn't argue the point with him.
With many preliminary grunts and false starts
and with many signs and elaborate drawings on
the ground, he gave me to understand that he
was looking for horses. I replied, "Yes, me no
see um." I didn't know just what he had up his
arm (he had no sleeve) so I passed him a cup
of coffee and after he had gulped it down I gave



him to understand that his presence was "ne coko
domo." He gravely stalked away and I ran to
the top of a small knoll to the rear of our camp to
have a "look-see." I saw the main band passing
down into a ravine about a mile away, and they
moved as though they had pressing business fur-
ther along the line. This single warrior had no
doubt been appointed a committee of one to inves-
tigate the column of smoke which must have been
rising from our camp fire. The fact that he must
have reasoned that I would not be alone in the
wilderness, and that he couldn't just figure out
where the others were probably saved my life.
My eyesight was very keen in those days, and I
had just a minute before, so it seemed to me,
raised up and looked all around me as was the
buffalo hunter's most common practice. It had
been discovered that men would live longer by
so doing. On this occasion I must have been
frying meat longer than I thought, and the com-
bination of the Indian 'moccasins' and general
cleverness was hard to beat on the 'pussy foot'
game at any time."

Now I am wondering if perhaps my father's
hair stood on end for just a minute or so, as
visions of death by tortue flashed before his eyes.
It may be that I inherited my unruly locks.


In speaking of another incident he said, "One
day when hunting had been bad for some time
I was out on foot and traveling across a strip of
level country with rough ravines on either side
at a distance of perhaps two miles away. I was
making for the head of one of these canyons,
hoping to find some deer shooting there as we
were out of fresh meat. I presently made out a
number of objects at some distance, which I soon
discovered to be Indians mounted on ponies and
moving so as to head me off from the canyon;
no doubt the idea was to settle my case out in
the open country. They probably thought that
they had me, and if I had become panic stricken
and tried to run my hair would have soon been
adorning some brave's tepee. I saw at once what
I was up against and realizing that I could not
possibly make the shelter of the rough places, I
seated myself upon the ground and placed my
'rest sticks' in position for some close shooting.

(Rest sticks were two selected sticks of some
light but strong wood, which were tied loosely
near one end and when opened out after the
fashion of shears they formed an ideal rest for
a rifle which weighed some twenty-two pounds.
This was especially desirable when shooting stead-
ily for some time at a herd of buffalo, when accur-


acy was desirable, as even one wounded animal
would sometimes stampede the entire herd.)

There had been a number of hunters killed in
the vicinity where I was hunting as the Indians
coveted the good accurate shooting rifles with
which the buffalo hunters were armed, and no
doubt they had a special grievance against us.
I made out ten Indians by now, coming directly
toward me in single file. Making sure that "Old
Reliable" was ready for instant service, I was
tempted to see how many of the line I could kill
at one shot, but up to this time I had never killed
an Indian, so I was inclined to give them the
benefit of the doubt. Taking off my hat I waved
for them to go around me, giving them to under-
stand that I didn't care to make their acquaint-
ance at close quarters. After a brief parley among
themselves they swung off the course and passed
at a distance of some three hundred yards. I
could have easily killed the entire band and have
always regretted that I did not, as they killed
two hunters that evening not many miles away
from my neighborhood. I am sure it was this
same bunch, as the outfit's cook, who escaped,
afterward told me that he counted ten Indians
in the band.


There was at this time a frontier post or fort
out in this wild country. It was really more of a
supply station for hunters and a place of refuge
to which the few white people could turn when
the Indians were out on the war-path. The build-
ing was made of the article popularly known as
the "adobe" and the outpost was known as the
"Dobe Walls."

A great band of Commanches undertook at one
time to wipe this place off the map but unfortun-
ately for them they made their attack at a time
when there were a number of buffalo hunters
sheltered there. Among the hunters was Billy
Dixon, a crack shot and a man to whom the word
fear was unknown.

The Indians started the ball at their usual time,
just about daybreak, as it is a well known fact
that we sleep soundest at that time. The Indians
were no doubt wise to this "slumberous" fact; I
can think of no other good and sufficient reason
why they should pull off their surprise parties at
such an unseemly hour. On this occasion there
was a negro sleeping just outside the walls in a
wagon as it was summer and very hot inside the
adobe fortress. The Indians killed the negro
but not before he had raised the alarm and the
fight was on. The "Redskins" soon discovered


that they had gotten into the wrong pew, after
a number of their braves had been killed outright,
while they were able to do but little damage in
return. The Indian is no fool ; he will often tamper
with the buzz-saw but he wants it to be idle when
he does it

The hunters inside actually shot a particularly
energetic Indian off the roof over the kitchen,
where he was industriously digging a hole in the
dirt roof in order to get a pot shot at the men
below. Nearly every time one of the heavy Sharps
would crack some brave would get a through ticket
to the happy hunting ground, and as this was not
on the program, the Indians soon drew back over
a nearby ridge to "make medicine" or devise means
of getting at the hunters. They were having
a big war dance and cereral pow-wow, by the
sounds when Dixon climbed up on one of the
walls and remarked, "I'll just send them my com-
pliments," and elevating his rifle he pulled the
trigger. After about half a minute the pow-wow
broke up in great confusion, and then all
still as death. After waiting a couple of h
and rot hearing further from the meeting of the
red brotherhood, several of the boys rode out as
scouts to look into the long silence. They found
the little ravine deserted, with not an Indian in


sight. It afterward developed that Dixon's chance
shot was a lucky one, as the heavy bullet had
struck a brave squarely between the eyes, and
the warriors could not stand that as they had no
doubt thought themselves safe from the dreaded
rifles. A couple of years later an Indian who was
present at the fight was telling of it and he said
"Shoot um today; kill um tomorrow."

When out hunting I always wore two double
belts filled with cartridges to the number of three
hundred or thereabout. The cartridges in one
of these belts I never used for ordinary purposes,
such as shooting at buffalo or wolves, but reserved
them for the entertainment of the Commanches.
Many hunters had been killed through careless-
ness, by shcoting their last cartridge in the excite-
ment of trying to kill all the buffalo in sight. The
Indians would watch him from some far hiding
place and when the shooting ceased would come
up on the hunter. If he was fortunate he would
be killed outright, but if he was reserved for tor-
ture he was indeed playing in hard luck, as the
Commanches were most ingenious and could devise
some most devilish forms of torture. One of
their favorite pastimes was to take a sharp knife
and gently slice the skin or sole off the bottom
of their victims' feet and then compel them to


walk over the grass, rocks and sticks which might
be handy. Tying and leaving a luckless hunter to
die in a nest of infuriated ants was another little
pleasantry of theirs. r I didn't approve of either
custom or anything else which they might think
of and was fully determined not to be taken alive.
I preferred to be like the story which an old
hunter told me shortly after I went on the buffalo
ran^e. He said that once while out hunting, a
band of Indians who were on the war-path had
seen him and immediately started for him. This
was out in the open country where he had no
chance to make a stand, so he at once made for
shelter in a nearby canyon, which looked to be
rough. He rode hurriedly down into the gorge,
with an occasional bullet kicking up the dirt near
while the war whoops sounded uncomfortably
close. Upon reaching the bottom of the ravine
he looked on both sides for a place where he could
hope to make some resistance against the odds
which were against him, but seeing no such place
he rode at full speed up the canyon with the
Indians not far behind. He told me that the fur-
ther he went up toward the head of the gorge that
the steeper the sides became and that finally he
rode into a "box canyon" with no way out except
back the way he had come and that was filled
with Commanches, thirsty for his blood. The foxy


old hunter paused at this point to fill his pipe, and
as he did not resume his story to relieve my
suspense, I incautiously inquired "And what hap-
pened then?" He sadly answered, "Well, they
killed me." I had every reason to believe that
he was exaggerating, and I am sure that I wanted
to kill him, forthwith."

From general observation and statistics, we
know that the Indian is very much on the decline.
The Eastern tribes, the Iriquois, Mohawks, and
many other tribes have entirely vanished, while
in the middle West the Cherokees and Wyandottes
are rapidly disappearing. Here are also found
the Kiowas, Commanches, Modocs, and other
tribes of more or less prominence. In the far
West we have the Apaches, Navajos, Mohaves and
many other tribes, while the North and South
have their tribes. In traveling through Oklahoma,
the evidences of inter-marriage are quite common,
and "very satisfactory," apparently. However,
there are a number of tribes that will require
some renovation before our people will take much
stock in them. In this class would be found the
Navajos, Piutes, Seminoles and several others.
Beyond doubt the Indian has been of some service
to the country, and while he formerly retarded
the advancement of civilization, he is making some
amends at this late day.

Magdalina Mountains in the distance

The Passing of the Antelope

; HE most graceful of all the creatures,
which have passed from our Western
country into the "yesterdays," is the
antelope. With its beautiful buff-and-
white markings and its love for the
solitude of the great plains, it is not closely allied
with any of the other North American animals,
the nearest perhaps being the deer, but the na-
tures, customs, and general habits of the two
animals are as different as day and night.

While the deer is generally found in the fast-
ness of some deep, dark glen except when feeding,
where the trees and shadows abound, the antelope
will almost invariably be found right out where
the sun is shining brightest and where he can
go scurrying away for the distant horizon on short
notice. While the deer makes his "get-away" by
a series of tremendous, awe-inspiring leaps and
bounds, well suited to clear bushes and boulders,
of ordinary size, the antelope advertises his depar-
ture by a steady, honest-to-goodness run as a
horse runs, and without any frills whatsoever.
He can do a mile in something "flat," I have


never heard of their actual time being taken, but
they make a fast horse appear to be going in the
other direction.

It is true, we had stories of cow-boys roping
antelope, which might happen in a surprise attack,
or in the case of one being severely wounded, but
I am certain that it never happened in the case of
full grown, able bodied antelope in a straight-away
chase by a single rider. I have roped young
antelope and wounded ones, and my experience
is that an antelope with three legs still in com-
mission, is more than enough for the ordinary

Now hold your hat. * * * One morning I was
riding across our range, looking for horses, and
as it was almost all prairie, one could see for
miles in all directions. Suddenly a young antelope
sprang up out of the grass where its mother had
concealed it, no doubt, as their peculiar coloring
made concealment an easy matter. I had never
"roped" an antelope, other than wounded ones,
and as I was riding "Gold Dust," he of the dirt
removing qualities, we at once gave chase. The
average cow-pony seemed to like to "run" anything
and would follow its windings like a hawk after
his prey. Uncoiling my rope from the saddle
horn, I made ready for an early "throw" at that


flying streak of long outstretched neck and thin,
white legs. There was very little body in evidence.
The surprise was ours, we in the rear, or the
party of the second part. We didn't pull up as
promptly as was customary when chasing cattle.
At the end of the first mile or so our gain was
nothing to "brag" of. In the meantime we had
been traveling some, wind singing a la Caruso,
while cactus, badger and prairie dog holes flew
toward the rear as though sent for. Finally, by
taking a number of short cuts, and by carrying
Gold Dust across several wash-outs on my long-
handled spurs, we drew up on our quarry, to the
great relief of my charger, perhaps. The rest
was easy, when you know how, and the holding
was easier, as there was very little resistance in
the trembling, lamb like creature on the negative
end of the lariat. However, the little chap had
good lungs and how he did bleat! Dismounting
and holding the rope in my hands I drew the
shrinking antelope up to me and took the rope
from its neck which seemed too delicate for any-
thing so coarse. I knelt down and put my arms
around the little body to prevent any sudden leave
taking, while I admired the wonderful markings
and coloring, especially on the neck; however, I
doubt if that admiration society was mutual. Gold


Dust stood near by, puffing like a Southern Pacific
mogul, his ears cocked forward and probably won-
dering what manner of calf that could be, with
the distressing voice.

I was pretty well pleased with life in general
those days and as I sat there I looked about me,
pondering on the "how, why and wherefore/'
Through the crystal clear distance I could see
the blue Ladrone Mountains, and to the East the
Lemitars; across the plains to the South the
purple Magdalenas towered majestically, while
the foot-hills of the Bear Mountains were only
a mile or so away at my back and looked just
ordinary brown, by reason of their nearness. A
great plain, entirely surrounded by mountains of
blues, purples and browns while overhead a sky
of real blue put the others to shame. By now the
antelope was readjusting some views of life, per-
haps, on finding that I did not eat him right away
as he was flipping first one ear, then the other,
while he stamped his feet and "sized" us up. It-
was customary to in some way mark the ears or
put some distinguishing mark on anything so
captured, for future reference, but I could not do
that, but unclasped my arms and in a surprisingly
short time the little fellow melted or blended into
the waving brown grass.


On the great San Augustine Plains in New
Mexico there were, prior to 1888, thousands of
antelope to be seen at all times, in bands of a few
hundred to several thousand. They were much
more common than cattle. During the Winter of
'88 there came an unusual snowfall of several feet,
and as the feed was covered deep and the snow
did not melt rapidly, the antelope as well as cattle
and horses perished by thousands.

That was the beginning of the end for the ante-
lope, seemingly, as while there are a few small
bands to be seen in certain localities, they are
very few and will soon be entirely extinct, except
the few in parks and game preserves.

I remember very distinctly, the first antelope
I killed, which was when I was thirteen. I was
said to be a good shot, "for a boy," but this killing
of the prong-horn may have been an accident,
though I know that my intentions were "plumb
fatal." This was a lone buck, running his very
best at 125 yards while I took a snap shot at him
off hand with a 45-65 Winchester, the ball passing
through him from his "slats" on one side, striking
his heart and out the opposite shoulder. No, I
wouldn't have traded places with Grover Cleve-
land just then; 'in fact I have always been a
Republican, anyway, and believe in letting the
tariff strictly alone.


Since that time I have killed many antelopes,
but that wonderful elation has been somewhat
lacking, like the lines in the old school book,

"That swelling and that feeling of the heart,

You ne'er can feel again/'

The barbed-wire fence of our so-called civiliza-
tion was one of the antelope's greatest enemies,
as they would often be cut almost in two when
traveling at express speed and happening to col-
lide with a three or four wire fence. If they were
fortunate enough to strike the fence squarely they
would generally break through, but if they ran
against the fence "slantingly" the barbs on the
wire would cut and tear into their flesh like a
circular saw cutting sugar pine.

It is said that great minds run in the same chan-
nels, I wonder. Now for example. The ante-
lopes had a peculiarity of trying to pass across in
front of you, or would even change his course or
line of travel to conform, to some extent, with
yours. Just why I am not ready to explain. Take
their very name; I could never figure out why
they should be called "antelope" unless we should
go into Latin, or poker, and take the word "ante"
meaning before and "lope," to just fly. At any
rate they were generally to be found at the head
of the class, and the more you pressed their line
of flight the flatter the "trajectory" became.


I was jogging along on my favorite horse one
fine day, not necessarily in June. While I don't
care anything about crowned heads or royalty,
now less than ever, I had named this steed
"Prince" and he was everything the name implies,
with most of the common princely short-comings
cut out.

Prince was the most satisfying horse I have
ever ridden, and I am told that I have ridden
several, quite out of the rocking-horse class. How-
ever, this is not shedding enough blood ; now hold
your bonnet once more. As I rode in toward the
ranch and while yet several miles out I observed
(I beg your indulgence for using the "I" so much,
but there was really no one else present to "lay
it onto") a band of antelope standing looking at
me, from some 800 yards distance. As we were
out of fresh meat at the ranch this was a tempta-
tion almost equal to Eve and the "pippin." I knew
it would be a waste of time and ammunition
besides quite a strain on my rifle, to attempt kill-
ing one at that distance, as they were mere cream-
colored specks, seemingly suspended in mid-air,
their slender legs not being in evidence. As they
were almost in my line of march, I rode anglingly,
so as to pass them at some 200 yards, with their
permission. They permitted my clumsy pretext


for about one minute, then away they, sailed, but
as usual so as to pass in front of me though at a
great distance. I went them one better, let Prince
out and did some flying myself, and at almost
right angles to their course, which was subject to
change without notice. But I did notice that they
couldn't permit me to do anything like that, as
they at once changed their line of flight which
was just what I expected. Of course they beat
me to the point where our lines would form a
junction, but only by a scant hundred yards. I
quickly stopped Prince, sprang to the ground yank-
ing my rifle, a 35-250 cal. Winchester from the
scabbard as I did so. The velocity of this gun's
projectiles was considerable, enough to overtake
an antelope anyway, or in technical terms the bul-
let was said to ramble along at some 2500 feet
per second. At the first shot the leader, a vener-
able buck, lost step, threw up his head and crashed
to the ground in a rolling heap, while the remain-
der rushed onward. My second shot was a beau-
tiful miss, tearing up some perfectly good sod over
and far beyond. Realizing that "opportunity"
wouldn't be with me all day but would soon be
in the next township, I settled down to my "knit-
ting," brought the ivory front sight down to just
in front of the vice-president, and pulled the trig-


ger. Almost instantly there was a dull thud,
something like striking a pillow with your
clenched fist, if you ever do anything so cowardly ;
some do, some don't.

Antelope number two plowed up the soil much
as the other had done while the air was filled
with brick-colored hair. The antelope's hair is
very coarse almost like grass, and comes out read-
ily, literally by handfuls.

At another time I had shot and wounded a great
buck, and after watching him lie down, I rode
into the ranch for a pack-horse, thinking to find
the antelope dead on my return. My nephew
asked to go back with me, so we put a pack-saddle
on a gentle horse, Leland saddled up a horse for
himself and we were off. Riding up near where
the "dead" antelopes were we were somewhat sur-
prised to see one rise stiffly from the ground, and
go slowly loping away. I told the boy that I
would just rope "that party/' so we tied our pack-
horse to a convenient soap-weed, I took down my
cable and the neck-tie party was on, as we thought.
However, before we got in roping distance our
horses were completely "winded" while that buck
continued to lope along in front. Leland, being
much lighter, had ridden closer to the prong-horn
than I could get, but I saw it was no use so drew


up short and at the crack of the rifle the antelope
suddenly put on more steam, then rolled along the
ground. As I came walking up, quite well pleased
with my "deadly eye" Leland said, "Say, Uncle
Will, you look a little out. That bullet whistled
right by my ear."

That buck's noble head now adorns our living
room, another of our barbaric, civilized customs.
As I look up at his soft dark eyes, the taxiderm-
ists' best effort I suspect, I can fancy there is some
reproach there, or he seems to be looking across
his beloved plains which he will see no more, but

2 4 5 6

Online LibraryWilliam Perry SandersDays that are done → online text (page 2 of 6)