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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 12, No. 1
March, 1934
REMINISCENCES OF CHARLES F. COLCORD

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Address Delivered — "Pioneer Reunion"
Medicine Lodge, Kansas
February 9, 1934

The name, "Medicine Lodge" brings to our minds recollections of the past. There are but few places in the west around which is woven more of the history and the romance of old frontier days. The name brings back the glamour of the days when the plains were covered with buffalo, which the Indians hunted and killed. The flesh of the buffalo was his meat and its hide was his raiment, and from the hide he also made his tepee, which was his shelter and his home. In fact, the buffalo was almost the sole dependence for every necessity of the Indian's life. But the white man came with his gun and slaughtered these buffalo by the thousands, not only for the meat, but for the hides which found a ready market.

Then again, we recall the great Medicine Lodge Peace Council when, in the fall of 1867, the representatives of the United States Government met here all the wild tribes that roamed the prairies, from the Platte to the Rio Grande. The purpose of this great council was to make treaties with the various tribes to stop predatory warfare that had waged since the closing of the Civil war. Every student of history has read about the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaties, that were never kept by either Indians or whites. No more interesting nor truthful article was ever written about this great Medicine Lodge Council than the story told by the last surviving white man who attended this historic gathering, Governor Alfred Taylor, of Tennessee. This article was written for the Chronicles of Oklahoma and published in volume II, page 98, 1924.

The Indian and the buffalo days were succeeded by the big cattle ranches, but as years went by the cattle ranches were succeeded by the home-steaders who have transformed these wide

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wild plains into well improved farms and have builded homes and schools, churches and cities; and many thousand American people live in peace thereon, and enjoy the blessings that "exults and embellishes civilized life," and this means more than when Washington Irving used this expression, for the people now have railroads, automobiles, telephones, radios and daily newspapers, and keep abreast with the progress of the world.

Those frontier days are only memories of the older people, and traditions to the younger generation. The people of Medicine Lodge have determined that these historic memories and traditions shall be kept alive in their part of the old west. A committee was appointed to arrange for a reunion of the pioneers and buffalo hunters to be held at Medicine Lodge, February 9, 1934. It was easy to find those who considered themselves pioneers, but the Indian fighters and buffalo hunters had most all passed on to the other side of the Great Divide.

Victor Murdock, editor of the Wichita Eagle, was active in promoting this reunion of pioneers, and delivered on this occasion a most interesting and historical address. He spoke eloquently of the spirit and sacrifices that made the great state of Oklahoma and western Kansas, and highly complimented those hardy pioneers, to whom this generation is so much indebted.

The guest of honor, from our state, was Charles F. Colcord, President of the Oklahoma Historical Society and one of the leading citizens of Oklahoma. The eloquent gentleman from Wichita, paid the highest encomium to the distinguished guest from Oklahoma who he said is not only the last of the real pioneers, but Oklahoma's "First Citizen." He also paid tribute to the great state of Oklahoma, not only to its pioneers, but to its progressive citizenship and its wonderful development. The Eagle had a page devoted to this reunion, including the pictures of a number of the older pioneers.

Colcord's Speech

Mr. Colcord delivered an address on this occasion that was not only reminiscent of his life on the frontier, but contains so much frontier history that the Chronicles is glad to have the opportunity to present it to its readers and to preserve for future genera-

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tions. Omitting the introduction, Mr. Colcord's speech was substantially as follows:1

"This Comanche Pool was the biggest outfit anywhere. It had from sixty to eighty thousand head of cattle belonging to the various pool members, which ran all over the country; in our annual roundup we used to come as far south as Sacred Heart Mission on the Little River, sometimes even to the Red River, for after a very severe winter the cattle would drift that far south, while they went west as far as the west end of the Panhandle.

"In the fall of 1877, father moved the rest of the family up from Texas and we built three or four fine big dugouts for them. This was near the mouth of Red Fork, about five miles from the head of Jug Mott Creek, three miles from Evansville, and about twenty-five miles southeast of Coldwater, Kansas, or where Coldwater was afterward built. Some of the prettiest cedars ever seen grew in those big creek canyons, sometimes sixty to eighty feet high. We built the dugouts out of this fine cedar.


1 In a front page editorial published in the Wichita Eagle February 24, 1934, Victor Murdock, the editor, reviews at some length the speech of Mr. Charles F. Colcord at Medicine Lodge. The following is an excerpt:

"By far the most vivid invocation of my time of which I have knowledge was delivered by my pioneer friend, the distinguished Oklahoman, Charles Colcord, in the Cherokee Strip something over fifty years ago. It consisted of these words: "God, take care of these poor boys."

"I heard Mr. Colcord repeat those words at Medicine Lodge the other night before an assembly of veteran cattlemen. The phrase came out in the course of a narrative, serene in the simplicity with which big men invariably grace their recital of past events.

"The speaker, as he stood before me, was every inch the prairie pioneer—in set of capable shoulders, in wiry waist, in long, trim, riding legs. All the years and all the urban activities which have made Charles Colcord's career notable among the builders of the Southwest, had not erased a single one of those lines that the frontier had indelibly fixed in him.

"And time had not dimmed the spiritual impact with which the open, enveloping sky and the wide engulfing, empty plains had struck his youth. A clear eye and a resonant voice attested that, equally with the burden of the words he uttered.

"Those words were freighted with tremendous testimony to order in the universe. Earth, sky, mind, heart, everything corroborates that one unimpeachable principle, as convincing in the whirling constellations which never clash as in the invisible armies of microscopic bacteria which unfailingly keep their own kind in tact.

"Of all man's experiences, the spectacle of death, on the score of order, appears most to defy man's intellect. Death seems an ugly refutation of order, and if man admits death, as the end, he denies order."

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"We selected the first bench on the side of the hill, and excavated a good-sized room with dirt walls, about five feet deep, open at the down hill end. On the top of these dirt walls, we built up two, or sometimes three tiers of cedar logs, and on these logs we placed the roof. The open end we closed with these logs, and there we placed the door with the window beside it. At the other end we dug a fire place back into the earth, then dug upward toward the top of the hill to form a chimney. When we had gone as far up as we could, we dug part of the way down from the top, then took a pole and chugged a hole connecting the two excavations, which let the smoke come up from below, and made a fine flue. Then we burned some of the gypsum rock, which was plentiful there, and with it plastered the interior, dirt walls, log walls, and all. They were the prettiest, whitest walls one ever saw, and as we had real glass in the windows, ours were considered very fine houses.

"Each dugout was separate, each built in the bank the same way, each with one large room. Our home was a string of dugouts in which my mother, sister and younger brothers lived. Our barns were built in the same way, and the corrals were built of cedar poles.

"Father lived on this ranch for the next several years, during which time I was with him, in charge of the Jug Cattle Company. The Jug Company was composed of R. C. Campbell, Bob Campbell, Billy Carter, Frank Thornton, and my father. Father was one of the heaviest owners and I was range boss during the whole time. A little later he bought a ranch in southern Kingman County, Kansas, and stocked it with high grade and thoroughbred cattle from which he raised the bulls for the range herd below.

"The cowpunchers that worked this range were wonderful men, rugged, stout-hearted fellows. When you talked to one the greatest compliment you could pay his friend was, 'You bet your life you can tie to him. He has the nerve and he is a stayer.' And they were stayers. Any one of them would fight to death for a friend, and they had the most loathsome contempt for a coward. Many of them were experienced in business before they came to the range, and several of them were college-

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bred men. As a class they were as fine men as I have ever known, while for ability to meet emergencies and take care of themselves and their duty under the most unexpected circumstances, I have never known their equal. We lived very lonely lives and very hard ones, riding all day and sometimes doing night duty besides. Sometimes while cutting out cattle we rode three or four of our best horses down in a day. After being away from civilization for several months on this kind of life, you could not blame the cowboys for being a little wild when they hit town or a fort.

"On the general spring roundup, all the cattlemen from the Northwest for several hundred miles would participate. Each ranch would send a grub wagon with twelve or fifteen men, a remuda man to take care of the saddle horses, and a cook. These general roundups usually consisted of from two hundred and fifty to three hundred men, so it made a pretty formidable outfit, and we had very little trouble from the Indians. On these roundups the eastern wagon would come down from our range to Bickford Springs at the west end of the waterworks dam, six miles west of Oklahoma City, and there begin the roundup, working back west and taking our strays with them, while the western wagon would go out to the west end of the Panhandle country and work east.

"In 1878, on our spring roundup, Buffalo, one of the chiefs of the Northern Cheyennes, came to our camp, above Darlington and near Fort Reno on the Canadian River and wanted to match a race. We first wanted to see his horse and finally made Buffalo understand, so he sent an Indian boy after him. He was a rangy, mouse colored animal, the longest I have ever seen for his size, his mane and tail were full of burrs, and all in all, he was about the hardest looking horse that one could imagine.

"In order to accommodate Buffalo we matched him with Old Tim, our best three-hundred yard horse, but we were foolish enough to string it out to four hundred yards, a hundred yards over Tim's real distance. By the time we were ready to run, every Indian in the whole country was there, and one scarcely ever saw such a pile of stuff as those Indians brought in to bet. Our boys had great confidence in Old Tim; so we put up our

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last dollar and all the property we had in camp, even to our private horses.

"I rode Tim, and an Indian boy about seventeen years old rode the other horse; he had on nothing but a gee string and a buckskin string in the horse's mouth. The track was a two-track wagon road. In jockeying for a start I would ride farther up the road every time and get a running bulge on the Indian. Finally, the boy got excited, and I got a daylight start. Looking back I saw that he was going fast and was going to pass me on the right, so I gradually threw my horse over in his wagon track ahead of his horse. When he pulled back into the other track I pulled my horse in ahead of his again and did this two or three times. Finally the Indian pulled his horse entirely out of the road and went around me like the wind and beat Old Tim at least ten feet.

"I never saw anything like the excitement that followed. Those Indians simply went wild. They were the craziest bunch of Indians one ever saw, and we were the worst broke bunch that ever happened. There wasn't enough money left in the whole outfit to flag a bread wagon. We learned afterward that old Buffalo had gone to Arkansas and bought this horse, in order to clean up on us. And he sure did it. Some of the boys had even bet part of their blankets. The judges of this race were "Jack" Stillwell and Amos Chapman—two noted scouts.

"Wild Hog, another Cheyenne chief, was around the camp at this same time. He was wearing the prettiest pair of leggings I ever saw, made of elk hide and ornamented with elk teeth. These were the northern Cheyennes and they had come from the elk country. Wild Hog had saved the front teeth of the elk they had killed, the small ones that they used in decorations, and had a row of these teeth on each legging from the ground up to the waist, fastened so that they would rattle together.

"I noticed this pair of leggings and asked if he would sell them. I had a very fine and very beautiful hair quirt, plaited of horsehair and covered with leather, which somebody had given me. Wild Hog took hold of this quirt, looked at it carefully, and finally grunted out, "Trade, five dollars," holding up his hand with his fingers spread out. I talked with him awhile

Photo

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and finally gave him three dollars and the quirt for those leggings. I was wearing them later in that year when Wild Hog went on the raid with Dull Knife.

"This raid took place in the fall of 1878, when the Northern Cheyennes broke out under the leadership of those chiefs, Wild Hog and Dull Knife, left their reservation near Darlington; and killed a number of people, among others four of the cowboys on our range, Fred Clark, Frank Dow, Jim Lawson, and a cousin of mine, Reuben Bristow, who had come out to us from Kentucky.

"I had been up to Sun City on some kind of business and was on my way home to those dugouts on Red Fork where the family was living. On the way in I met one of our cowboys, who told me that the Indians had broken out and had killed everybody in their patch except three or four men. I hurried home as fast as I could, Kincheloe, a cowboy, with me.

"The mouth of Red Fork comes into the Salt Fork from the southeast, running northwest, and at that time there was a mass of tall blue stem grass and big elm trees extended down the creek. Near these elm trees we saw a fire and some figures moving around it. We stopped and watched it awhile and made up our minds that they were Indians, dancing a war dance, only a mile and a half or two miles from where my family lived. We knew that if they were Indians they had killed my whole family, so after talking it over we decided to ride back down the creek southeast of the Salt Fork and come up under the bank. This we did, left our horses there and came into the Red Fork, a low-bottomed, sandy creek, and walked up under this bank as close as we dared to these elm trees. The ground was covered with this big blue stem grass so we crawled up within a few feet of them before we could see clearly, and still we thought they were Indians. When we got pretty close we saw four or five wagons, then we knew that they were white men, so we got up and recognized the outfit as a bunch of English boys, several lords and dukes and titled fellows, out on a hunting expedition, with two or three old buffalo hunters along.

"I walked into the circle of light and said, 'What the devil do you fellows mean. Get these fires out quick.'

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"One of them spoke up and said, 'Why, what's the matter?'

"I said to them, 'Why, the country is full of Indians, killing everybody they can get to.'

"Some of the boys were reckless devils, but most of them we greatly frightened when they heard this. The hunters put the fires out quickly enough; however, in a day or so, after they found that the Indians had gone on, they went on and finished their hunt.

"We went back, got our horses and rode on up to my home camp. About a hundred yards from the dugouts the road bends around the hill. We had an old dog that always met us at the bluff on this bend. When we came close to this bluff, I said to the fellow with me, "If that old dog comes out I'll know they are not killed." But he didn't come, not until we were past that bluff and half way up to the house; I don't know why, for he had never failed to meet us there before. We rode up, I called—and Mother answered! I never had so great a feeling of relief in my life!

"The only thing they had seen of the Indians was an Indian riata and a blanket at the big spring just over the hill. Some Indian had evidently stopped there to get a drink, but he had become frightened and gone on, leaving his rope and blanket.

"That night someone came to the house and told us that they were raising a lot of men to follow these Indians. We got on our horses at once and rode over to join the gang at Nelson's ranch. We rode on west, several bunches from neighboring ranches joining us from time to time, and followed the Indians.

We had been told that a number of people had been killed, but nobody knew just who. We suspected that Reuben Bristow and Fred Clark had been killed because they had not come back. We learned later that the first person killed was Tom Murray and his outfit, then the Indians came to our ranch, then they came to the Payne family, all of whom they shot but all of whom later got well. They then went off northwest and killed a cook and horse wrangler.

"Anderson Hilton and a boy we called Cotton had a camp near the mouth of Cavalry Creek. The boys both had started

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out after their horses that morning, before daylight, Cotton going north and Anderson east. After awhile, Anderson heard some shots, so he rode up on a high place and, as he thought, saw Cotton driving the horses toward camp. As a matter of fact, in the dim light of early dawn, the Indians had seen Anderson and had planned to trap and kill or capture him. Accordingly, with a single exception, each of them slipped over on the opposite side of his steed and, in that posture (in which most warriors of that day were adepts) rode at a rapid pace, while a single brave, sitting erect upon his pony, rode as if driving a bunch of loose horses. The little cavalcade disappeared into a deep ravine as if headed for camp. Anderson headed his horse to intercept it as it would emerge from the ravine. Just as he was approaching the ravine, his mare snorted and wheeled, as a bunch of Indians rushed out of a canyon, yelling and shooting. The mare he was riding was his own private animal, a racer and as fast as a bullet, and he ran right away from all the Indians but one who also had a fast horse. When Anderson saw he was a long way ahead of all the Indians but that one, he slowed his horse down and let the Indian come up, then when he thought he could get his Indian, he wheeled in the saddle with his six-shooter. Mr. Indian threw himself over to the side of his horse, but Anderson broke his back with his first shot. He could easily have gotten away, but the fool boy wanted the Indian's fine horse, so he tried to cut him off from the other Indians. When they got too close and wounded his mare in the left hip, he ran by the head of a hollow, jumped off, and found that he was in a big sink in the gypsum rock, which was good cover. The Indians stayed only a little while, then left. They had just sampled his markmanship, and that was all they wanted. This was part of the same bunch of Indians who killed our boys. They had just met poor Cotton and killed him a few moments before they discovered Anderson Hilton, so that, man for man, he had evened up a score with them, though he had a very narrow escape in the end.

"We started off as rapidly as possible to overtake these Indians and stopped for nothing. We first went over to Evans' camp, where the boys were gathered, but they had left before we got there. We soon overtook them and found that there

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were over fifty of our boys in the party. We overtook about forty men from Medicine Lodge, under Doctor Riggs, near the head of Cavalry Creek.

"At first we had no trail to follow. We knew, however, exactly what they had done, and where they were going, so we just struck off in a general northwest direction, and the next day about noon, on a buffalo ridge in a prairie dog town, we found where a lot of Indians had dragged their tepee poles and left a trail. After this we could go on the trail in a dead run. We figured that there must have been three hundred Indians or more.

"It must have been the second day after the killing when we found the trail, and that evening we surrounded the Indians up in the sand hills somewhere southeast of Dodge City. The Indians had seen us coming about the time we were near enough to see them, so they selected the best place they could and dug in among these sand hills. We made rifle pits north of the stream and had just made contact with them when a troop of cavalry, under the command of a German captain named Mauck, which had been trailing the Indians ever since they had started out on the raid, arrived on the scene.

"We had a long-range fight with the Indians that evening. Doctor Riggs and three other of our men were shot, but only slightly hurt. We were quite a long distance from them, and everybody had short range guns, much shorter range than the Indians had. However, somebody got a big Creedmore buffalo gun, and when one of the Indians showed himself out of the rifle pit and raised his sheet, somebody shot him, and he rolled over and over down the hill. This Indian and one other are the only ones that I know positively to have been killed. The Indians always took their dead away with them, so we never knew how many were actually shot.

"Nelson and our crowd wanted to close in on the Indians and clean up that night, but that Captain Mauck the German army officer insisted on talking charge and waiting unil morning, so he stationed guards along the sand hills to watch the Indians. Nelson and all our crowd told the soldiers that the Indians would be gone before daylight, but this German said

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that he would keep them surrounded and attack them in the morning. We told him that those Indians could ride farther in one day than his soldiers could in two. Nelson protested vigorously; in fact, so vehemently that we cowmen all rode off and went into camp. Next morning, just as Nelson told him, those Indians were forty or fifty miles away. If that stubbornly conceited army officer had permitted us to have our way about it, the lives of the commanding officer and several soldiers of the Fort Wallace garrison, of the teacher and pupils of a school in Nebraska and of a number of other people (who were killed by this marauding band between where we were compelled to leave them and the place where they were finally rounded up in Northwestern Nebraska) might have been saved.

"The main body of our boys followed on with the soldiers after the Indians, but Charlie Martin, Mark Burke, and myself went back to bury our dead. Of course we did not know that this was a raid of but a single band of the Northern Cheyenne division, of which there were three that were virtually held as prisoners at the agency of their Southern Cheyenne kinsmen, at Darlington. Indeed, we were all inclined to believe that there had been a general outbreak similar to the one that had been staged in the western part of the Indian Territory, only four years before. Hence, we were apprehensive of raids from other war parties at any time, so we were constantly on the watch.

"The morning of the Indian raid, Reuben Bristow and Fred Clark left our ranch headquarters on Red Fork Creek, driving a team of mules, with a wagon, en route to the Cimarron Salt Plain, for a load of rock salt, for use elsewhere on the range. They had evidently just reached the high divide between the Cimarron and Salt Fork watersheds near Jug Mott, when they met the band of Northern Cheyenne warriors, by which they were quickly surrounded. From the tracks and marks around where we found them, we could tell that the Indians had come up all around the wagon and had shot Reuben Bristow in the head from behind. The mules the boys were driving were very much afraid of a gun and the marks in the ground where they had been standing showed that they had been very restless. The tracks of the Indian ponies indicated that the Indians were all around the wagon and one could see plainly where, at the crack

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of the gun, the mules had plunged forward and jerked the wheels off the ground. Then the Indians had chased the wagon, filling the bodies of both the boys full of arrows. The panic-stricken mules ran down the slope from the high divide into the valley of a small branch or ravine, where they were brought to a sudden stop by a thicket of willows which were of sufficient size and elasticity to lift its wheels from the ground when the mules could drag it no farther. The Indians had cut the traces and taken the mules, leaving the bodies of the two youths in the wagon bed, where they had fallen.

"I pulled four arrows out of Bristow's heart, shot in from the right side under the arm, and drew three or four out of Fred's body. My father later sent these arrows to Hon. James Beck, who was a United States senator from Kentucky.

"A site for a grave for the burial of the remains of our slain friends and companions was selected, back up the slope, near the divide where they had met their tragic fate. The September weather was intensely hot and dry, there having been no rains for several weeks. It surely was a hard job to dig that gravel with shovel and spade in that dry joint clay. Always, two of us would dig while the third member of our party would remain on watch at the highest point on the near-by divide. When one of the two diggers would get tired, he would mount guard on the high point, while the one thus relieved would go down and take his turn at helping to excavate the grave. Finally, when the grave was large enough to hold the two bodies, our next effort was to extricate the wagon which was resting on those bent willow saplings. Some of the largest of these had to be cut and the vehicle was released from the thicket. Then, with riatas tied from saddle-horns to wagon tongue, it was pulled up the slope, out of the ravine and into position at the grave. The transfer of these remains from the wagon into the grave—swollen as they were by decomposition to twice their natural size—was a gruesome task as well as a sad duty.

"When we had finished covering the bodies in the grave some one said that a prayer should be offered. All three of us were uneducated cowboys who had had no chance to attend church services or Sunday school, so none of us knew what to say or

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do under the circumstances. Both of the other two declined to do what all of us thought should be done, so both said to me, 'Charley, you will have to say something.' Now we all believed, as all men who are reared out in the open must and always will believe, that there is a God, who rules and overrules in the affairs of men. We had watched the sun, moon and stars in their courses; we had night-herded by the north star, for years, using it as a time-piece; every spear of grass in the prairie verdure, every flower that spangled its face, every wind that swept the plain and every note sung by the birds bore witness to the existence of a great, unseen, Divine Power. So, knowing in my own soul the existence of such a Supreme Being, I took off my hat and raised my face to the skies as I said, 'God, take care of these poor boys.' Such was the prayer that I offered.

"The Cheyenne tribe had separated into two divisions, near the Platte River, more than forty years before. The Southern Division had drifted southward, first to the Arkansas and, later, to the Canadian, while the Northern Division had drifted northward to the Yellowstone River country. After the close of the Sioux war, in Dakota, in 1877, the Government decided to reunite these two branches of the Cheyenne tribe in the Indian Territory, the Northern Cheyenne people having made a common cause with the Sioux in that last great war. The experiment was not a success, as the Northern Cheyenne people were never reconciled to it. This band of Northern Cheyenne which went north under the leadership of Little Wolf, Dull Knife and Wild Hog, in the early autumn of 1878 consisted of about 300 people, not over eighty of whom were warriors, the rest being old men, women and children. Many of them were killed but eventually, the rest of the members of the band were permitted to remain in the north. Two other Northern Cheyenne bands were held at the Darlington Agency until 1881 and 1883, respectively, when they, too, were permitted to return to the north, where a reservation was set aside for them in Montana.

"As stated before, Reuben Bristow was my cousin and we had been boyhood playmates. He had come to our range on the Comanche Pool on a visit from Kentucky, which was as enjoyable to us as it was to him. Fred Clark was a young Virginian of a prominent family and of the highest type of manhood.

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"Reuben Bristow had a brother, Bill Bristow, a cow-puncher in Montana. When he heard of Reuben's death he came down to our ranch. The Indians were still unsettled and a good many of them hunted on the range south of us.

"While Bill Bristow and I were out hunting one day, we saw a little smoke and knew that it must be from an Indian camp. This was somewhere on the head of Whitehorse Creek, just north of the Cimarron River. The camp was under the bluff in the thick timber on the low bottom. We left our horses in the canyon east of the camp, walked as far as we could, then crawled up behind some sumac bushes to the edge of the brush almost over this camp. Three Indians were lying on a pallet and two were cooking around a small fire. Bill thought this was a good time to get even for his brother and the men that the Cheyennes had killed on our range.

"We had made our plans, and just about the time we were ready to shoot the two who were standing and then kill the other three as they jumped up, we heard a noise to the left. When we looked in that direction, here came a great string of Indians a half-mile long. There must have been a hundred of them. We let the hammers of our Winchesters down, backed out, and got on our horses and left just as quietly as we could."

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