The Hatred Of Big Buffalo
From: Far Past The Frontier
The last of the sap had been reduced to sugar and made into a fine solid
cake weighing nearly two pounds, the night that the foregoing
conversation took place. With this as a present to the chief of the
Delawares, Ree and John set out early the following morning for Capt.
Pipe's town on the lake.
It was a beautiful day. The red buds on the trees were bursting into
green, in places, and in many sunny spots the spring plants and flowers
were shooting forth. All nature seemed to feel the same joy and freedom
the young pioneers felt as they journeyed through the valley and over the
hills toward their destination. Birds were singing on every hand. Crows
were flying here and there and calling lustily to one another from all
Once a young deer bounded toward the boys, then, after standing for a
moment, gazing with great, timid, bright eyes, wheeled and was away
again, springing over bushes and logs with a showy vigor as though it
were out only for a spring frolic. A wild turkey hen, wandering about in
search of a place for nesting, scampered softly out of sight as it caught
sight of the lads. A big woodchuck, fat and lazy, even after its
all-winter nap, circled around a tree, to whose trunk it was clinging,
thinking, perhaps, that it was always keeping just out of sight of the
human intruders upon its forest home, though it was badly fooled if such
were its opinion. A dozen times either boy could have shot it had he been
A myriad of ducks flew noisily from a stream near the lake in which they
were feeding as John threw a stone among them. He and Ree could have
killed a score of the wild fowls had they wished to do so, but they were
in no mood for it. They had not set out to hunt, and moreover, the fresh,
balmy air and invigorating sunlight, together with the delightful odors
of the spring-time, put upon them both a spell--a joy in living which
made it seem inhuman to harm any living creature that day.
This sense of gladness, of friendship with every thing the woods
contained, did not, however, prevent the boys from laying plans for the
capture of certain denizens of the forest's waters--the fish. They had
already noticed that the lake beside which the Delawares lived, also
other lakes not far away, and their own river, contained great numbers of
the finny tribe, but they had been too busy with other things to try
their hands at fishing. The opportunity for this fine sport, however,
caused them to deeply regret that they had brought nothing in the line of
fishing tackle with them.
"The Indians will surely have hooks, and spears, though," John
"If they haven't, we can make nets and spears too; I shouldn't be
surprised if we could contrive hooks as well," Ree answered.
"I wish we had a big mess of fish for dinner!" John exclaimed. "I'm
hungry as a bear."
His wish was realized sooner than he expected. As was their custom, the
Indians at once placed food before their visitors, and the fare was just
what John had wanted. There was one objection--the savages cooked the
fish without cutting off the heads, but the boys did this for themselves.
That they could not be over-particular in the wilderness, they had long
They learned that the Delawares had caught the fish with hooks made of
bones--evidently small wish-bones, and readily saw how they could make
just such hooks for themselves.
Capt. Pipe himself had received the boys, and it was in his lodge that
they were eating. He sat nearby gravely smoking his pipe, seldom speaking
except when spoken to. Gentle Maiden, the chief's comely daughter, was
sitting in a pleasant, sunny place just outside the bark hut, sewing with
a coarse bone needle, on some sort of a frock, the cloth for which was
from the bolt her father had secured from the young traders.
"Pretty as a picture, isn't she?" John whispered, glancing toward the
Indian girl. "Honestly, I never saw a white person more beautiful."
Ree made no reply, for at that moment Big Buffalo put his head into the
lodge. The boys had not seen him since early winter and both arose to
greet him; but he ignored their action, and pausing only a second, strode
"What does that mean?" John asked in surprise.
"Has the Big Buffalo cause to be unfriendly?" inquired Ree of Capt. Pipe,
wishing to call the chief's attention to the Indian's apparent
"Buffalo heap big fool," Capt. Pipe grunted, and then in the Delaware
tongue he spoke to his daughter, and she arose and took a seat inside the
lodge, behind her father.
This incident filled Ree with misgiving though he was not sure enough
that he had cause for such feeling to mention it at that time. John was
"Why," he exclaimed, "Big Buffalo is on a mighty high horse to-day! He
acts like a child that has been told it must wait till second table at a
dinner! I wonder if there is any love lost between him and the Gentle
Maiden?" he added in a whisper.
Ree did not answer, but now that they had finished dinner, signified
their wish to talk to Capt. Pipe about buying a canoe.
The chief said he would make a trade with them and asked what the boys
had to give. In return they asked to see the craft he proposed swapping,
and were then conducted to a hillside where a canoe had but recently been
dug out of the dry muck and earth in which it was buried over winter to
save it from drying, cracking or warping.
Ree and John examined the frail boat of bitter-nut hickory bark, with
much interest. It was about eleven feet in length, well constructed, and
water-tight. With it were a couple of light, nicely carved paddles.
John promptly pronounced the canoe a "regular macaroni" and laid down a
pair of brass buckles, signifying that he would give them for the skiff.
Capt. Pipe gravely shook his head.
"I'll add this," said Ree, and laid down a brand new hunting knife,
having a leather sheath.
The chief again shook his head, and a large number of Indians, who had
been lazily basking in the sun or idly paddling about the lake, and were
now gathered around to see the trade, also shook their heads.
"The thing isn't worth as much as we have offered," cried John, good
humoredly, "but I'll put in this," and he produced a large yellow silk
handkerchief, shaking it out, and holding it up to view in an attractive
Still Capt. Pipe shook his head and all his braves did the same, though
their eyes glistened.
Ree hesitated before adding more to their offer and while he did so, John
picked up the handkerchief and with no thought but to display it to good
advantage, turned to Gentle Maiden, who stood at her father's side. With
a quiet sweep of his hand he draped the bright cloth over the girl's
shoulder and arm.
The next instant a stinging blow struck him in the face and he staggered,
nearly falling. It was Big Buffalo's fist that had shot out at him.
John sprang toward the burly Indian and they grappled in a terrible
struggle. All had taken place so quickly that before Ree could reach
John's side, his friend's throat was in the redman's grasp and the breath
squeezed nearly out of him. Capt. Pipe also rushed in, and amid the yells
of the Indians, the chief and Ree soon separated the combatants.
The incident created so much excitement that the young Palefaces scarcely
knew what to do. But Ree's firm voice and quiet dignity, as he told the
chief that his friend had meant no offense, and should not have been
assaulted, had a quieting influence on the savages, and although John
could scarcely refrain from speaking the angry words he thought, he did
manage to hold his tongue, and Capt. Pipe soon restored order.
Big Buffalo slunk away like a whipped dog, as the chief berated him, and
the boys saw no more of him that day. How much better it would have been
had they never seen him again!
The bargain for the canoe was completed by Ree adding a second
handkerchief to their offer, as much as a peace offering as anything, and
then as it was growing late, and the disturbance had made the question of
buying more land a dangerous one to be brought up, at that time, the boys
departed. They shook hands with Capt. Pipe and the braves standing near,
and Fishing Bird went with them as they carried their canoe down to the
water and launched it.
While pretending to show the lads about handling the canoe, this friendly
Indian warned them to watch out for Big Buffalo; that he supposed them to
be admirers of Gentle Maiden, with whom he was in love, and would kill
them if he got a chance. Moreover, that he had set out to kill them when
they first arrived and would have done so but through fear of Capt. Pipe
with whom they had made peace.
The information Fishing Bird imparted, with the exception of the latter
part, was no news to the boys; but it was so disquieting that instead of
paddling about the lake until evening, as they had intended, they crossed
the water, carried their canoe overland to the river, and went directly
John was very blue over what had occurred, blaming himself for having
caused the trouble. Ree was not so much depressed. His nature was not one
of extremes; he was never hilariously merry, never completely dejected.
"It was no more your fault than my own, John," said he, as they talked of
Big Buffalo's display of malice. "You meant no harm, and if the ugly
fellow had not hated us to start with, he would not have taken offense so
easily. We may have some trouble with him, and again we may not. Capt.
Pipe will be on our side, I'm sure, for you heard what the chief said
about the rascal. The fact is, that in spite of all the stories we have
heard about Capt. Pipe and his cruelty, he has certainly been friendly
with us, and honest."
By talking in this way Ree restored John to a happier mood, and they were
both quite jolly again as they prepared and ate their supper. They looked
forward to many happy days in their canoe on the lake and river, and John
proposed to rig up a sail with the canvas which had been over their cart,
and by doing so to give the Indians quite a surprise.
That evening the boys turned their attention to making spears for
fishing. They used some seasoned hickory which Ree had put in the loft
during the winter for the making of bows, and were able to whittle stout,
sharp prongs out of that hard, tough wood. It was too late when the task
was completed, however, to try the spears that night, but the boys went
to bed promising themselves good sport the next evening.
Although it was still the month of March, the early spring of that year
enabled the young pioneers to begin at once active preparations for
planting corn, potatoes, beans and squashes. The brush cut during the
winter was so dry that it burned readily, and the green brush was easily
disposed of also, when piled upon the hot fires the dry wood made. In
this way the natural clearing was soon rid of the scattered undergrowth
In a week or two the boys were ready to put the seed into the ground,
digging up a space a foot square wherever they planted a hill of beans,
corn, potatoes or squashes. It was slow work, nevertheless, and the
sturdy, youthful farmers were obliged to toil early and late.
The coming of Indians frequently interrupted the boys at their work, and
they came at last to continue their labor after greeting their visitors,
unless the latter wished to trade. This the redmen liked none too well.
They seemed to think their Paleface neighbors were devoting too much time
to agricultural pursuits, and they feared and hated any and all things
which threatened to turn their forests into farm lands. But Ree and John
agreed that, since they had bought the land of the Indians, they might as
well give the former owners to understand, first and last, that they
meant to do with it as they liked.
Big Buffalo was among a party which stopped at the cabin one day. He
refused food and made himself generally disagreeable. The boys, however,
ignored his ill humor and by paying no attention to him, showed that they
neither cared for his hatred nor feared him, even though they knew there
was murder in his heart.
Frequently strange Indians were among those who called and they asked the
boys to visit their towns, some of which were not many miles away, to
trade. As all of those Indians traversed the Portage trail or path, the
boys were reminded almost daily of the desirability of securing land for
a trading post, at the junction of the trail and the river. As they
talked the matter over and looked into the future, more and more did they
regret that the violent conduct of Big Buffalo had prevented their
prolonging their bargaining with Capt. Pipe on the occasion of their last
visit to him.
About this time, also, another reason arose for the two friends wishing
to visit Capt. Pipe again. It was the discovery that he had secured some
horses. During the winter he had had none of which the boys knew. Now,
they reasoned, if they could buy a horse, they would rig up their cart
and carry their furs to Pittsburg. It would be a much shorter and safer
trip than to undertake to reach Detroit, and they would require no
assistance. There was some probability, too, that among their friends in
Pittsburg they might get some word concerning Tom Fish.
It was one night when they had returned from fishing, bringing in a great
string of rock bass, that the lads talked this over, and at last
concluded to go again to the Delaware town, even at the risk of having
more trouble with Big Buffalo.
It seemed like a holiday after their hard work when, next day, the boys
found themselves in their canoe, gliding over the river's rippling waters
on their way to Capt. Pipe's home. They carried the craft overland to the
lake and soon approached the Indian village.
But suddenly as they drew near, the noise of many voices was borne to
them by the breeze. First loud, then low, the sounds came across the
water. Ree's face grew grave, and John, who had been whistling, abruptly
"Ree," he exclaimed, "that is the song of the war dance!"
"It means that the Indians are going on the warpath, as surely as we hear
it," was the answer. "Be on your guard, John. We will soon find out just
what it means; for we won't turn back now, even if we see the whole tribe
in war paint."
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