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LIFE ON THE INDIAN FRONTIER,
BY A BACKWOODSMAN.
small space between the two ponds was over
shadowed by the most splendid magnolias, SETTLEMENT.
peca-nut trees, yuccas, evergreen oaks, &c., Y blockhouse was built at the foot of and begirt by a wall of cactuses, aloes, and
the mountain chain of the Rio Grande, other prickly plants. I often selected this on the precipitous banks of the River Leone. place for hunting, because it always offered a On three sides it was surrounded by a four- large quantity of game of every description, teen feet stockade of split trees standing per- and I was certain at any time of finding near pendicularly. At the two front corners of this water hundreds of wild turkeys, which the palisade were small turrets of the same constitute a great dainty in the bill of fare of material, whence the face of the wall could be the solitary hunter. held under fire in the event of an attack from After a very hot spring day I had sought hostile Indians. On the south side of the the ponds, as it was too late to ride home. river stretched out illimitable rolling prairies, The night was glorious ; the magnolias and while the northern side was covered with the large-flowered cactuses diffused their vanilla densest virgin forest for mauy miles. To the perfume over me; myriads of fire-flies connorth and west I had no civilised neighbours tinually darted over the plain, and a gallant at all, while to the south and east the nearest mocking-bird ponred forth its dulcet melody settlement was at least 250 miles distant. into the silent night above my head. The My small garrison consisted of three men, whole of nature seemed to be revelling in the who, whenever I was absent, defended the beauty of this night, and thousands of insects fort, and at other times looked after the small sported round my small camp fire. It was field and garden as well as the cattle.
such a night as the elves select for their As I had exclusively undertaken to provide gambols ; and for a long time I gazed intently my colony with meat, I rarely stayed at at the dark blue expanse above me. But, home, except when there was some pressing though the crystal springs incessantly bubbled field work to be done. The dawn saw me up to the surface, the Lurlies would not visit leave the fort with my faithful dog Trusty, me, for they have not yet strayed to America. and turn my horse either toward the bound- My dog and horse also played around me less prairie or the mountains of the Rio for a long time, until, quite tired, they lay Grande.
down by the fire side, and all three Very often hunting kept me away from slept till dawn, when the gobbling of the home for several days, in which case I used turkeys aroused us. The morning was as to bivouac in the tall grass by the side of lovely as the night. To the east that flat some prattling stream. Such cases, though prairie bordered the horizon like a sea; the not frequent, are found here and there on the dark sky still glistened with the splendour of prairies of the Far West, where the dark, all its jewels, while the skirt of its garment lofty magpolias offer the wearied traveller was dipped in brilliant carmine; the night refreshment beneath their thick foliage, and filed rapidly toward the mountains, and morn the stream at their base grants a cooling pursued it, clad in its festal robes. The sun draught. One of these favourite spots of rose like a mighty ball over the prairie, and mine lay near the mountains, about ten miles the heavy dew bowed the heads of the tevder from my abode. It was almost the only plants, as if they were offering their morning water far and wide, and here formed two thanksgiving for the refreshment which bad ponds, whose depths I was never able to been granted them. I too was saturated with sound, although I lowered large stones fastened dew, and was obliged to hang my deerskin to opwards of a hundred yards of lasso. The suit to dry at the fire; fortunately the leather
had been smoked over a wood fire, which prevents and urged on his horse with the whip; I fired, it growing hard in drying. I freshened up the and missed again, for I aimed too high in my fire, boiled some coffee, roasted the breast of a anxiety to spare the mustang. We went on turkey, into which I had previonsly rubbed thus at full gallop till we reached a very pepper and salt, and finished breakfast with broad ravine, over which the Indian conld Trusty, while Czar, my famous white stallion, not leap. He, therefore, dashed past my left was greedily browsing on the damp grass, hand, trying at the same moment to draw an and turned his head away when I went up to arrow from the quiver over his left shonlder. him with the bridle. I hung up the rest of I fired for the third time; with the shot the the turkey, as well as another I had shot on Comanche sank back on his horse's croup, the previous evening, and a leg of deer meat, hung ou with his feet, and went about in the shadow of a magnolia, as I did not a hundred yards farther, when he fell motionknow whether I might not return to the spot less in the tall grass. As he passed me, I that evening, saddled, and we were soun had noticed that he was bleeding from the under way for the nouutains, where I hoped right chest and mouth, and was probably to find buffalo.
already gone to the happy hunting-grounds. I was riding slowly along a hollow in the I galloped after the mustang, which soon prairie, when a rapidly approaching sound surrendered, though with much trembling, to attracted my attention. In a few minutes a the pale face; I fastened its bridle to my very old buffalo, covered with foam, dashed saddle-bow, led both horses into a neighbourpast me, and almost at the same moment a ing thicket, and reloaded my revolver. Comanche Indian pulled up his horse on the I remained for abont half-an-hour in my rising ground about fifty yards from me. A8 hiding-place, whence I could survey the land. he had his bow ready to shoot the buffalo, scape around; but none of the Indiau's comthe savage made his declaration of war more rades made their appearance, and I, therefore, quickly than I, and his first arrow passed rode up to him to take his weapons. He was through my game-bag sling, leather jacket, dead. The bullet had passed through his and waistcoat to my right breast, while two chest. I took his bow, quiver, and buffalo others whizzed past my ear, To pluck out hide, and songht for the arrows he had shut the arrow, seize a revolver, and dig the spurs at me as I rode back. I resolved to pass the into my horse, were but one operation ; and a night at the ponds, not only to rest my second later saw me within twenty yards of animals, but also to conceal myself from the the Redskin, who had turned his horse round, Indians who, I felt sure, were not far off. I and was seeking safety in flight. After a was not alarmed about myself ; but in the chase of about two miles over awfnlly rongh event of pursuit by superior numbers, I ground, where the slightest mistake might should have Trusty to protect, and might have broken my deck, the Indian's borse easily lose the mustang again. However, began to be winded, while Czar still held his nothing occurred to hinder my journey, and I head and tail erect. I rapidly drew nearer, reached my settlement in safety. in spite of the terrible blows the Redskin dealt bis horse; and when about thirty paces behind the foe, I turned slightly to the left,
CHAPTER II. in order, if I could, to avoid wounding his horse by my shot. I raised my revolver and fired, but at the same instant the Indian dis. It is scarce possible to form an idea of the appeared from sight, with the exception of abundance of ganie with which the country bis left foot, with which be held on to the near me was blessed in those days. It really saddle, while the rest of his body was sns. seemed to be augmented with every year of peuded on the side away from me. With the my residence, for which I may account by the cessation of the blows, however, the speed of fact that the several vagabond bordes of his horse relaxed, and I was able to ride close Indians—who prefer the flesh of deer, anteup. Suddenly the Indian regained his seat, lope, and turkey to that of buffaloes, whose
enormous mass they cannot devour at once, and will easily melt in the hunter's hand while the smaller descriptions of game could while he is paunching a bear. This is chiefly be killed in the forests and coppices, without the case with the stomach fat, which is the revealing themselves to the enemy on the finest and best ; that on the back and the wide prairie—that these Indians, I say, more rest of the body, which at the fatting season or less avoided my neighbonrhood, while, for is a good six inches thick, is harder, and my part, I had greatly reduced the number of requires to be melted over a slow fire before wild beasts, especially of the larger sort. I it can be used in lamps. consumed a great quantity of meat in my These animals were very nnmerous in my household, owing to the number of dogs I neighbourhood. In spring and summer they kept; but I really procured it as if only visited the woods, where, with their cubs, amusing myself. There were certainly days they regaled upon wild plams, grapes, honey, on which I shot nothing. At times I did and young game of all sorts, and at times not get sight of a buffalo for a week, or the played the dence in my maize-field. In antumn prairie grass was burnt down to the roots, the rich crop of peca-nuts, walnuts, acorns, which rendered it extremely difficult to stalk chestnuts, and similar fruits, kept them in the
game; while just at this period, when the our forests; and in winter they sought rocky first green shoots spring up, the animals ravines and caves, where they hybernated. principally visit the open plains, whence they Very many took up their quarters in old can see their pursuers for a long distance. bollow trees, so that at this season I had For all that, though we had generally a hardly any difficulty in finding a bear in my superabundance of meat, and too often neighbourhood. Trusty was a first-rate hand behaved with unpardonable extravagance, at this, for he found a track, and kept to it I have frequently killed five or six buffaloes, as long as I pleased ; and at the same time each weighing from a thousand to fifteen possessed the great advantage that he never hundred pounds, in one chase, lasting per- required a leash, never went farther than I haps half-an-hour, and then merely carried off ordered him, and never foHowed game withtheir tongues and marrow-bones. Often, too, out my permission. When a bear rose before I have shot one or two bears, weighing from me it rarely got fifty paces away, unless it five to eight hundred pounds, and only taken was in thorny bushes, where the dog could home their paws and a few ribs, because the not escape its attack; for, 80 soon as the bear distance was too great to burden my horse bolted, Trusty dug his teeth so furiously into with a large supply of meat. I could always its legs, and slipped away with such agility, supply our stock in the vicinity of my fort, that the bear soon gave up all attempts at although at times we were compelled to put flight, and stood at bay. It was laughable to np with turkeys, or fish and tartle, with see the trouble the bear was in when I came which our river literally swarmed.
up; how it danced round Trusty, and with Bear-meat formed an important item in the most ridiculous entrechats upbraided his our larder, or, more correctly speaking, impudence; while Trusty continually sprang bear's- grease, which was of service in a away, lay down before Bruin, and made the great many ways. We employed it to fry wood ring with his bass voice. Frequently, our food, for which buffalo or deer fat was however, the honest dog incurred great peril not so good ; we ased it to burn in our during this sport, and his life more than once lamps, to rub all our leather with, and keep it depended on my opportune arrival. supple; we drank it as a medicine: in a In this way I followed one warm autumn word, it answered a thousand demands in our day a remarkably broad bear trail on the small household. This is the sole fatty sub- mountains of the Rio Grande. Trusty halting stance, an immoderate use of which does not fifty yards ahead of me, showed me that it turn the stomach, or entail any serious conse- stopped at a small torrent, where the bear quences. The transport of this article, though, had watered on the previous night. I diswas at times rather difficult, especially on a mounted, examined the trail carefully, and warm day; as this fat sasily becomes liquid, saw that it was made by a very old fat bear;
it was in the fatting season, when the bear fre- dous exertions, the noble fellow sprang ashore, qnently interrupts its sleep and pays a noctur- trembling all over. Trusty's barking, as if pal visit to the water. At this season these for help, continnally reached me as I galloped animals are very clumsy and slow, and can. up the steep hill-side; I arrived on the surnnot run far, as they soon grow scant of mit at the moment when the bear sprang at breath; they soon stop, and can be easily Trusty, and buried him beneath its enormons killed by the hunter-always supposing that weight. My alarm for the faithful dog-my he can trust to his dog and horse, for any best friend in these solitudes—made me urge mistake might expose the rider to great Czar on. He bounded like a cat over the danger. I ordered Trusty to follow the trail ; remaining rocks, and I saw Trusty slip out it ran for some distance up the ravine, then from under the bear in some miraculous way, went up the bare bill-side, which was covered and attack it agaiu on the flank. I balted with loose boulders and large masses of rock, about ten paces from the scene of action, held into the valley on the opposite side, in the my rifle between the little red, fiery eyes of middle of which was a broad but very the bright black monster, and laid it lifeless swampy pool, girdled by thick, thorny on the bare rocks. The greatest peril for bushes. Trusty halted in front of this dogs is at the moment when the bear is shot ; thicket, looked round to me, and then again for they are apt to attack it as it falls, and at the bushes, while wagging his long tail. I get crushed in its last convulsive throes. I koew the meaning of this signal, and that the leapt off Czar, who was greatly excited by the bear was not far off. I ordered the dog on, sharp ride, went up to Trusty, who was ventand drew a revolver from my belt; feeling ing his fury on Bruin's throat, examined bim, assured that the bear would soon leave the and found that he had received three very underwood and seek safety in flight. Trusty serious wounds—two on the back and one disappeared in the bushes, and his powerful over the left shoulderblade-- which were bark soon resounded through the narrow bleeding profusely, though in his fury he did valley. It was an impossibility for me to not seem to notice them. I took toy case ride through the thicket, hence I galloped to from the holster and sewed up his wounds, the end of the coppice, and saw there the during which operation he lay very patiently bear going at a rapid pace up the opposite before me, and looked at me with his large steep hill, with Trusty close at his heels. I eyes, as if asking whether this were necessary. tried to cross the swamp; but Czar retreated Then I took off my jacket, and set to work on with a snort, as if to show me the danger of the bear, stripped it, and put the hide, as well the enterprise. By this time Trusty had as a hundred pounds' weight of the flesh, on caught up to the bear at the top of the hill, Czar's back. If my readers will bear in and furiously attacked it in the rear. The mind that the sun was shining on my back bear darted round with extraordinary agility, furiously, and that I was on a bare blazing and was within an ace of seizing Trusty; but rock, they will understand that I was worn after making a few springs at the dog, it con- out, and longed for a cool resting place. The tinued its hurried flight, and disappeared with bear weighed at least 800 lbs., and it reqnires Trusty over the hill-top. I had ridden farther a great effort to turn such an animal over. up the water, when I heard my dog baying; I was a good hour's ride from the shade of I drove the spurs into my horse, and with the Leone, and only half that distance to the one immense leap, we were both in the mountain springs I have already described. middle of the swamp up to the girths; then, I therefore selected the latter, although they with an indescribable effort, Czar gave three took me rather farther from home. I walked, tremendous leaps, which sent black mud although I made Czar carry my jacket, weaflying round us, and reached the opposite pons, and pouch, and reached my destination firm ground with his fore feet, while his hind in the afternoon, with my two faithful com. quarters sunk in the quiveriug morass. With panions at my heels. Czar had a hearty meal one spring I was over his head, when I sank after I had bathed him in the pond, and poor in up to the knees, and after several tremen. Trusty, whose wounds had dried in the sun,