Some Indian Lore

: Cow-country

Buddy knew Indians as he knew cattle, horses, rattlesnakes and

storms--by having them mixed in with his everyday life. He couldn't tell

you where or when he had learned that Indians are tricky. Perhaps his

first ideas on that subject were gleaned from the friendly tribes who

lived along the Chisolm Trail and used to visit the chuck-wagon, their

blankets held close around them and their eyes glancing everywhere while

y grinned and talked and pointed--and ate. Buddy used to sit in the

chuck-wagon, out of harm's way, and watch them eat.

Step-and-a-Half had a way of entertaining Indians which never failed

to interest Buddy, however often he witnessed it. When Step-and-a-Half

glimpsed Indians coming afar off, he would take his dishpan and dump

into it whatever scraps of food were left over from the preceding meal.

He used to say that Indians could smell grub as far as a buzzard can

smell a dead carcase, and Buddy believed it, for they always arrived at

meal time or shortly afterwards. Step-and-a-Half would make a stew, if

there were scraps enough. If the gleanings were small, he would use the

dishwater--he was a frugal man--and with that for the start-off he would

make soup, which the Indians gulped down with great relish and many

gurgly sounds.

Buddy watched them eat what he called pig-dinner. When Step-and-a-Half

was not looking he saw them steal whatever their dirty brown hands could

readily snatch and hide under their blankets. So he knew from very early

experience that Indians were not to be trusted.

Once, when he had again strayed too far from camp, some Indians riding

that way saw him, and one leaned and lifted him from the ground and rode

off with him. Buddy did not struggle much. He saved his breath for the

long, shrill yell of cow-country. Twice he yodled before the Indian

clapped a hand over his mouth.

Father and some of the cowboys heard and came after, riding hard and

shooting as they came. Buddy's pink apron fluttered a signal flag in the

arms of his captor, and so it happened that the bullets whistled close

to that particular Indian. He gathered a handful of calico between

Buddy's shoulders, held him aloft like a puppy, leaned far over and

deposited him on the ground.

Buddy rolled over twice and got up, a little dizzy and very indignant,

and shouted to father, "Shoot a sunsyguns!"

From that time Buddy added hatred to his distrust of Indians.

From the time when he was four until he was thirteen Buddy's life

contained enough thrills to keep a movie-mad boy of to-day sitting on

the edge of his seat gasping enviously through many a reel, but to Buddy

it was all rather humdrum and monotonous.

What he wanted to do was to get out and hunt buffalo. Just herding

horses, and watching out for Indians, and killing rattlesnakes was what

any boy in the country would be doing. Still, Buddy himself achieved now

and then a thrill.

There was one day, when he stood heedlessly on a ridge looking for a

dozen head of lost horses in the draws below. It was all very well to

explain missing horses by the conjecture that the Injuns must have got

them, but Buddy happened to miss old Rattler with the others. Rattler

had come north with the trail herd, and he was wise beyond the wisdom of

most horses. He would drive cattle out of the brush without a rider to

guide him, if only you put a saddle on him. He had helped Buddy to mount

his back--when Buddy was much smaller than now--by lowering his head

until Buddy straddled it, and then lifting it so that Buddy slid down

his neck and over his withers to his back. Even now Buddy sometimes

mounted that way when no one was looking. Many other lovable traits had

Rattler, and to lose him would be a tragedy to the family.

So Buddy was on the ridge, scanning all the deep little washes and

draws, when a bullet PING-G-GED over his head. Buddy caught the bridle

reins and pulled his horse into the shelter of rocks, untied his rifle

from the saddle and crept back to reconnoitre. It was the first time he

had ever been shot at--except in the army posts, when the Indians

had "broken out",--and the aim then was generally directed toward his

vicinity rather than his person.

An Indian on a horse presently appeared cautiously from cover, and

Buddy, trembling with excitement, shot wild; but not so wild that the

Indian could afford to scoff and ride closer. After another ineffectual

shot at Buddy, he whipped his horse down the ridge, and made for Bannock


Buddy at thirteen knew more of the wiles of Indians than does the

hardiest Indian fighter on the screen to-day. Father had warned him

never to chase an Indian into cover, where others would probably be

waiting for him. So he stayed where he was, pretty well hidden in the

rocks, and let the bullets he himself had "run" in father's bullet-mold

follow the enemy to the fringe of bushes. His last shot knocked the

Indian off his horse--or so it looked to Buddy. He waited for a long

time, watching the brush and thinking what a fool that Indian was to

imagine Buddy would follow him down there. After a while he saw the

Indian's horse climbing the slope across the creek. There was no rider.

Buddy rode home without the missing horses, and did not tell anyone

about the Indian, though his thoughts would not leave the subject.

He wondered what mother would think of it. Mother's interests seemed

mostly confined to teaching Buddy and Dulcie what they were deprived of

learning in schools, and to play the piano--a wonderful old square piano

that had come all the way from Scotland to the Tomahawk ranch, the very

frontier of the West.

Mother was a wonderful woman, with a soft voice and a slight Scotch

accent, and wit; and a knowledge of things which were little known in

the wilderness. Buddy never dreamed then how strangely culture was mixed

with pure savagery in his life. To him the secret regret that he had not

dared ride into the bushes to scalp the Indian he believed he had shot,

and the fact that his hands were straining at the full chords of

the ANVIL CHORUS on that very evening, was not even to be considered

unusual. Still, certain strains of that classic were always afterward

associated in his mind with the shooting of the Indian--if he had really

shot him.

While he counted the time with a conscientious regard for the rests, he

debated the wisdom of telling mother, and decided that perhaps he had

better keep that matter to himself, like a man.