SEEING NO WAY of extricating myself from debt by any regular employment at home, I cast about for some other means of self preservation. John McKnight, who was to me a true and faithful friend, went to the mines to obtain for me a lucrative situation, but without success. He then proposed to make another venture among the Camanches, and endeavor to obtain from them the fulfilment of Cordaro's promise to remunerate my losses among his countrymen. McKnight was sanguine of success, and I fell in with his proposal. We procured goods in St. Louis, on credit, tr, the value of $5500, shipped them on a keel boat, and the two McKnights, John and Robert. with eight men, started with them in the fall of 1822 for the mouth of the Canadian, where I was to meet them in the winter following. I went by land to the place of rendezvous, with a company of twelve men, through the towns of Batesville, ( now Fredericktown, ) St. Francisville, and the Cherokee country, and joined McKnight in the latter part of February. We had five horses with packs and travelled the whole route afoot. McKnight had awaited us about six weeks. We found him with the boat frozen up, about four miles above the Canadian, on the north side of the Arkansas and about thirty miles below Barbour's trading house. On going up to Barbour's, McKnight and I found that he had secured the goods which we had cached on the island above in my former trip; but that the flour was damaged when he took it down to his house. He was just starting, when we arrived, for New Orleans, with furs and peltry on my keel-boat, which I had left with him the year before, and he promised to pay me, on his return, for the boat and goods. I never saw him again: he died on this trip in New Orleans. The ice being now gone, and our boat released, we prepared for ascending the Canadian. Robert McKnight with most of the men, descended the Arkansas with the boat, to enter the Canadian four miles below, while John, who was seldom separated from me, with the horses and a few men crossed the point and awaited them. After joining them we travelled in sight of the boat till we passed the falls about twenty five miles from the mouth, when we struck into the best farming country I had ever seen; a beautiful land of prairies and woods in fine proportion. Below the falls we passed a very salt spring. Elk, buffalo, deer, wild turkeys and black bears were very abundant, and we fared on the fat of the land. The soil is extremely fertile, judging from the heavy grass of the prairies and the large and valuable timber of the woods, which were composed of walnut, ash, hackberry, spice, pawpaw, and oaks of a very heavy growth and of every species. The Canadian is very crooked and bounded by extensive bottoms. After travelling five days through this fine region, we struck the North Fork of the Canadian at its mouth. This river, like the other, is exceedingly crooked, and numerous rapids greatly obstruct its navigation. Our ascent was slow and difficult, and the boat twice stopped at night within a hundred yards of our encampment of the night before, owing to the irregular course of the stream. Our progress in the boat was at length stopped entirely by a rapid which we could not ascend. We made fast the boat to trees with strong ropes, put our bear and deer skins into it, and buried the heaviest hardware in the ground, where it remains probably to this day, as I never returned to its place of concealment. We made three perouges, into which we put our remaining goods except such as could be packed on the horses, and with them, we continued our ascent of the Canadian North Fork. Game of every kind known to the country was extremely plenty. We killed on this and the main river about twenty black bears, all of which we found in the hollow of trees where they had remained in a torpid state all winter. In one tree four were found, a she and three yearling cubs, which the men killed with axes, after felling the tree and stopping up the top to prevent their escape. After proceeding with our perogues about ten days the game became scarce and the company began to suffer from want of food. We stopped and all sallied out to hunt: the first day furnished but one wild turkey. The second and third days produced nothing more, the turkey subsisting us all for three days. John McKnight and I then went about ten miles in search of game, and found a bear's track, but our pursuit of the bear was unsuccessful. Returning by a different route from that by which we came, we descried a herd of elk, lying down in the prairie. We crept on our hands and knees in the short grass to within two hundred yards of them, when one discovered us, leaped up, snorted and brought the rest to their feet. I instantly fired and wounded one, which we found and killed, and returned with a part of the meat to our companions, who were feasting on a wild horse. In the morning, after bringing in the remainder of my elk, we pursued our journey and in a few days the game, became plentiful. We had hitherto travelled through a very fertile and beautiful country, which will in a few years teem with a dense population. The prairies are interspersed with valuable woodland, and will make as fine a farming country as any in the Union. We now reached the vast and sterile prairie west of the Cross-Timbers, through the northern end of which we had passed, and we commenced our journey over the boundless plains beyond them. This is the region designated on the maps as the Great American Desert, though it is very different from those plains of sand in the Old World which bear that name. A short grass grows here, but no timber except the cottonwood and willows in the bends of the rivers. Our path had before lain through fine groves of oak, walnut and ash as we issued from one prairie and entered another, but now one vast plain extending on all sides to the horizon, presented no object to relieve the vision.
We soon discovered trails of Indians and came upon a deserted camp of what seemed a Camanche war party about five hundred strong. As we proceeded, the Indian "sign" increased. We next struck an Osage camp, also deserted, which seemed to have been made a few weeks before by a war party or a horse stealing party of Osages on their route northward from a plundering expedition against the Camanches. The country, as we proceeded, became more and more sterile, the grass shorter and the timber on the river banks smaller and more scarse than before. Travelling on, through a country nearly destitute of vegetation, in about ten days after passing the Osage camp, we arrived at the place of encampment of an immense Indian force in the summer previous, as we judged from the signs on the ground. The river had now became too shallow to be navigated any further without great difficulty, even by perogues. Here we stopped and commenced the building of a Fort. One of the men, now a near neighbor of mine, Justus Varnum, had taken a cold, so severe that it affected his hip and back and prevented him from walking. He was conveyed up the river in a perogue for several weeks previous to our stopping, and he had to be carried every night in a blanket from the boat to the fires of the camp, and back again to the boats in the morning. One of the men, when we had stopped to build a Fort, killed a large rattlesnake with the entire bodies of two prairie dogs, larger than squirrels, contained within the stomach of his snakeship. I advised Varnum to try out the oil of the snake and rub it on his joints as a remedy. He applied the oil as I recommended, and in consequence became so limber and supple as to render walking painful to him, when I told him to stop the applications. I have frequently tried the same remedy for stiffness of the joints and think it might be of service in rheumatism.
The Fort being nearly completed, I proposed to go out with two men and find the Camanches, in whose country we then were, and who, we supposed from "signs" around us, could not be very distant. John McKnight objected to my going out, saying that he or I must remain with the men and superintend the building of the Fort, as his brother Robert could not govern the company. "You, James," said he, "have a family. I have none, and therefore I can better afford to lose my life than you. As we cannot, both of us go, you must remain." At his urgent solicitation, I acquiesced, though unwillingly, in this arrangement, and agreed with him in the event of the river's rising before we finished the Fort, to put the goods in the perogues, and ascend the stream a hundred miles, after leaving a letter for him in a certain part of the Fort. I wished to get into the heart of the Camanche country with my goods, where I would sooner be able to open a trade with the nation. McKnight departed according to our arrangement towards the south, in company with Potter, Ivy, and Clark, the last of whom was an obstinate, disaffected man, and went against the desire of McKnight. He, poor fellow, never returned. He found a soldier's death and a brave man's grave from the hands of the Camanche warriors. He was my friend-- faithful and true to me--and I mourned his loss as that of one whose place could never be supplied to me or to society. I learned soon after this, the probable circumstances attending his death. A few days after McKnight left us, a heavy rain fell, causing the river to rise, and we thereupon abandoned the Fort about half completed, and with our perogues and goods ascended about the distance agreed upon, where the low water stopped our fur-progress. We encamped and commenced a Fort in an excellent position where the timber was abundant. We proceeded in building the Fort as expeditiously as possible, and with great labor soon completed it and a trading house, surrounded by stockades and defended by our swivel, which we mounted on wheels in an angle of the Fort. Before this, however, Potter and Ivy returned with the news that on the ninth day after their departure they fell in with Camanches and were conducted to one of their principal villages, (the bands in camp, are called by that name) and that McKnight called a counsel with their Chiefs, but could not, for want of an interpreter, make himself well understood; Potter knowing less of the language than was supposed. McKnight then gave them to understand that he had a good interpreter in Spanish, referring to his brother Robert, and requested leave to return to us for him, in company with one man. The Indians permitted him to start alone and kept the remaining three as hostages. They gave him five days for his journey to our camp and back to them, and he left them with the promise to return on the fifth day. After his departure, Clark made known to them by signs that McKnight's company had many guns and a cannon. This excited their fears and they gave evident symptoms of alarm. On the same day a party of Indians came in, as from a hunt, and the Americans were told that two Camanches of their village had just been killed by Osages. The whole army then decamped and removed fifteen miles further south. The three prisoners heard moaning and lamentation for the deceased in two lodges, during the whole night. For seven days they were kept awaiting McKnight, when the Indians upbraided them with his failure and pretended treachery, but permitted Potter and Ivy to go out for the Spanish interpreter. They came in much surprised that McKnight had not appeared. I instantly conjectured his fate. A man sent by me down to the unfinished Fort, returned with the information that the letter, I had left, was still there. Robert McKnight returned with Potter and Ivy to the Camanche village, and here he charged the Indians with the murder of his brother. His conduct among them was like a mad man's, storming and raging with no regard to consequences. At length they were persuaded, on the assurance that I was at the Fort, to send out forty mounted warriors, with McKnight, while the rest remained as hostages. On the third day after Robert McKnight went out, I saw an Indian on a mound, surveying our encampment. I hoisted the flag and fired the swivel, when he was soon joined by others, all splendidly mounted on the best of horses, and I noticed Robert McKnight on a mule in their midst, and guarded. They stopped on the hill as if waiting for a parley with us, and I took my pistols, placed a plume in my hat, and went out to them. McKnight pointed me to their Chief, who was a Towash, and whom I invited into the Fort. He advanced with his band very cautiously and when within two hundred yards of the Fort alighted and walked around to the river bank, looking for some traces of the Osages. Finding none, but still suspicious, he entered the Fort and examined every nook and corner of it, and then looked at my goods. He appeared satisfied and called to his company, who rode up; but before they would enter the Fort, they searched up and down the river bank for vestiges of their enemies. I entertained them with boiled buffalo meat, and while they were eating I enquired of McKnight if Big Star was at the village. He said no, and that these were another tribe whom I had not seen before. I remarked to him that I recognised one Indian among them, whom I had certainly seen before, and had endeavored to hire as an interpreter, at the village where we were robbed in my former trip. His name said I is Whon, ( from the Spanish John ). As I mentioned his name the Indian raised his head, looked at me and instantly cast his eyes on the ground. The Chief asked the interpreter what I said, and on hearing it, asked me where I had seen Whon. When I had told him of our former acquaintance, he and Whon conversed together a moment, when Whon arose and threw his arms around my neck and asked in Spanish how I had been. McKnight asked why he had not spoken to him in Spanish as he spoke it so well. He said he had come to see if I was really the man spoken of by John McKnight and that he had been commanded not to speak Spanish or let us know who he was. John McKnight had told them as plainly as he could by Potter, that I had visited their country the year before, and had now returned because I had promised Cordaro that I would do so, for the purpose of trading with them. The Chief now told me that the nation would not come to the Fort to trade, on account of the Osages, and I agreed to go with them in the morning with goods to their village. McKnight proposed in the night to put all the goods into the boats and escape down the river, as they had undoubtedly killed his brother and might do the same deed upon us all. He was an impulsive, passionate man, with but little cool reflection. His courage in the midst of danger was of the highest order and perfectly unyielding, but he was unfit for a leader or guide in critical situations, requiring coolness and presence of mind. I refused to attempt an escape as utterly impracticable, and the height of injustice to the men who were in custody with the Camanches. In the morning I started alone with four mules loaded with goods and escorted by the Indians under Alsarea, for the village, where we arrived in the evening and were met by the head Chief about two miles from the town. He appeared friendly and took the goods and deposited them in his lodge. Potter and the other hostages were all in safety and had been well treated. They informed me that my old and formidable enemy the One-Eyed Chief was in the village. On the next morning, I prepared for trading by making presents, according to custom, of knives, tobacco, cloths for breech garments, &c., which, though a large heap when together, made a small appearance when divided among all this band. The trade then began. They claimed twelve articles for a horse. I made four yards of British strouding at $5.50 per yard and two yards of calico at 62 cents to count three, and a knife, flint, tobacco, looking-glass, and other small articles made up the compliment. They brought to me some horses for which I refused the stipulated price. They then produced others, which were really fine animals, worth at least $100 each in St. Louis. I bought seventeen of these, but would not take any more at the same price, the rest being inferior. The refusal enraged the Chief, who said I must buy them, and on my presisting in my course, drove away the Indians from around me, and left me alone. After a short time he returned with a request that I should buy some buffalo and beaver skins, to which I acceded. He went away and the woman soon returned with the fur and skins, of which I bought a much larger quantity than I wished then to have on my hands. The Chief again came up and drove away all my women customers, and I was again left alone with the three who had come with McKnight. No Indian came near me for the rest of the day, and I sauntered around the village and amused myself as well as I could till night-fall. During this time and most of the night before I had heard moaning, lamentations and weeping from two lodges in the outskirts of the village, on account of the two Indians, killed, their countrymen said, by Osages, but who undoubtedly met their death from the hands of John McKnight, fighting desperately in his own defence. In the evening the old Chief in whose lodge I staid, entered my tent with five old Indians, and all with a grave and solemn air sat themselves down in silence. The Chief, who was a little, low flat headed and simple looking old man, soon arose, took a pipe which he filled with tobacco and presented it to each of his companions in succession. He passed me by unnoticed and all regarded me with lowering brows. This I knew portended evil, and I feared the worst. After they had all smoked, the Chief made them a speech in Camanche, which I knew nothing of, and then turned to me and spoke in Spanish fluently. I understood perfectly, every word he uttered and heard him with intense interest. He asked when I was going away. I replied that I was an American and had come from my own country, a great distance, to trade with his people, because I had promised the Chief Cordaro the year before that I would come; that I had done according to my promise and brought them guns, powder, knives, tomahawks, and other things which I knew his people wanted. The Chief replied that they did not want to trade, but wished me to go immediately out of their country. "We are going to the Nachatoshauwa, ( Red River) and you must leave us." I offered to accompany them. "No, no," said he, "our meat is scarce, the game is scarce; you must not go; away! away! (waving his hand) go out of our country." I felt that my fate and that of my men rested with this council, and that as they arose friendly or hostile, should we live or die the death of John McKnight. This old Chief evidently wished me to start on my way back to the Fort, and intended then to pursue me with his warriors and make my scalp and goods the prizes of the race or the spoil of the battle. I concealed all alarm in my demeanor, and reaching back as I sat to a tobacco keg, I broke off twelve plugs, and took out of a box six wampums, which are strings of long beads, variously colored, and greatly prized by the Indians. I then took out my calama or Indian pipe, and slowly filled it with tobacco, saying in an under tone and a musing manner, as if speaking to myself as much as to them, I shall have to go back to my own country after coming all this distance to trade with my red brethren, and when I tell the people of my nation how our red brothers have treated me, they will never come into this country. I have bought every thing that my red brothers want for war or for peace, guns and powder and ball, and clothes for their women, and now they are driving me out of their country like a spy or a thief, instead of a friend and brother as I am. When I had lighted the pipe, I presented it with one hand and the two plugs of tobacco and a wampum with the other, to the Chief, saying to him, this is better than you get from the Spaniards. I well knew the sacredness of this offer, and that the Indian dare not offend the Great Spirit by refusing a present of tobacco and wampum, even from his bitterest enemy. The Chief hesitated long, but at last slowly raised his hand, took my presents and smoked the pipe. Giving one puff to the skies, one to the earth, two to the winds and waters on the right and left, and then a few whiffs on his own and our accounts, he returned the pipe to me. In the same manner I presented it to an old Indian who sat beside me, and who kept his head down and his eyes shut. I held the presents close to his face for some time, when the Chief spoke to him, and he slowly raised his hand without looking up, took the presents, smelled of the tobacco, pressed it to his heart and raised his head with a smile. Then white man had gained the ascendant. The scene changed and all was friendly welcome where before was nothing but menacing and frowning coldness. All the others now received my presents and we smoked out the pipe in the friendship and confidence of brothers. The Chief then very earnestly asked me if I had seen the Osages. I said, I have not, but you know that this is their hunting ground and they may be in the country. They said they knew this, and some further conversation established our intimacy on a firm footing. The Chief then went out into the village and proclaimed in a loud voice that all should prepare to go next morning, over to the Canadian, to trade with the Tabbahoes, their white friends. Before this we were called Americanos, which was a less familiar and friendly appellation than the former. The proclamation was continued by the herald on horseback till late at night, each sentence ending with Tabbahoes. "Get up your horses and make ready to go over to the white man's and trade with the Tabbahoes. They have come a great way and brought us many good things--the Tabbahoes are good." This was loudly sounded before my lodge, and throughout the village all was preparation, joy and gladness.
About sundown Potter entered our lodge with the greatest alarm depicted in his countenance, and gave me a gun barrel which the One Eyed Chief had just thrown down before him, and told him to carry to me. This was the last man on earth that I desired to see, for I regarded him my most deadly and most dangerous enemy, who had probably killed John McKnight and was now seeking my blood. I asked Potter what else he said, and as he answered, "nothing more," he looked out and exclaimed, "there he is now, sitting on his horse. What shall I say to him?" I walked out to my old enemy and offered my hand. He took it with a steady and piercing look into my very soul; I returned his glance with an air of calm consideration and requested him to alight and enter my lodge. He did so, after delivering his horse to a bystander. In the lodge I motioned to him to be seated on a heap of skins. He sat down in silence and deep gravity. I lighted and smoked out the pipe with him in utter silence, and then took a silver gorges or breast-plate, and with a ribbon attached I hung it around his neck and placed two silver arm bands just above the elbows, and two upon his wrists. The warrior submitted to all this in passive and abstracted silence, as if unconscious of what I was doing. I then put two plugs of tobacco, a knife and wampum, in his lap, while he preserved the rigid and inflexible appearance of a statue. I again lighted the pipe and smoked with him, when he arose, without a word, went out, and rode off with great rapidity.
In the morning, all was confusion and busy activity in the village, and one half of the band started for the Fort before me. I followed with the three men, and without a guard. In crossing a creek near the village, a horse became entangled and I told the men to hasten on and take care of the goods, while I loosened the horse, which I did, and on crossing the creek found sixty men drawn up in two lines on either side and who closed around me as I approached them. I asked the Chief--who was Alasarea, the Towash--what he meant by this conduct. "Kesh, kesh, kinsable," said he, "stop, stop; who knows but you are taking us over to your Fort to have us all killed by the Osages?" I asked him if he ever knew me to lie. He said he had not, but he knew that the Spaniards were great liars. That may be said I, but the Americans never lie. "I do not know the Americans, said he, but I know that the Spaniards are great liars. I then reiterated my bold assertion of American veracity and said, when your tribe robbed me on the South Fork and I promised to visit your village on the Canadian and trade with you, did I not go as I promised? "Yes," said the Chief. And when Cordaro came to see me in Santa Fe, I promised him to go home and return with goods this year to your country. You know this, and have I not performed my promise? "Yes you have," he said, and asked if I had not seen Osages. I told him I had not. With my words he appeared but partially satisfied, and reluctantly proceeded with me under a strong guard, but promised that my mules, horses, and goods, should be secured. In this manner I traveled all day, during which time the One Eyed spoke not a word to me. Late in the evening we crossed the Canadian and encamped on the bank. I was marched to the head Chief's lodge, where I found the men at liberty and my horses, &c., in good order. I went into the lodge to prepare for passing the night as comfortably as possible, and was engaged in looking at my goods, when my enemy the One Eyed rode up and to my surprise addressed me fluently in the Spanish language. This was the first time he had ever spoken to me. The man who had done me more injury than any other human being, from whose hands I had twice, narrowly escaped a bloody death, such, as I had every reason to suppose, McKnight had suffered from him--this man spoke to me kindly and invited me to go with him to his lodge. Suspecting treachery, I was loath to accept the invitation, and while I was hesitating, the old Chief came up, and called me to him. On hearing what the One Eyed wanted, he told me not to go, because "he is a bad man." Again the One Eyed came to me and repeated his request, which I refused peremptorily, and he walked a few steps away with an impatient, angry air, then suddenly turning around, he fixed his piercing black eye intently upon me, walked up to me and implored, with a beseeching look and tones, that I should go with him to his lodge. I saw that he was unarmed, while I had two pistols, a tomahawk, and knife in my belt, and could anticipate the first hostile motion from him; also, that we were four men, in the midst of three thousand, and entirely at their mercy should they design to do us any injury. I offered to visit the One Eyed on the following morning. "No, no," said he, "come now-- oh! do come--come with me," in a tone of supplication. I, at length, yielded and walked on towards his lodge, till the village dogs attacked me so furiously that he was obliged to dismount from his horse to my defence. He then offered me a seat on his horse, in front of him. I mounted behind him as the safest position, when he applied the whip and flew with me to his lodge, which we entered and were received by one of his wives with smiles and glad welcoming. A wife of the One Eyed took his horse as he alighted. In the lodge I took a seat opposite that of the Chief, and, facing his arms which hung over his bed or cot of buffalo robe. I could thus watch his motions and foil any murderous design that he might manifest, by shooting him on the spot and making my escape on his horse. He lighted a pipe, however, and we smoked till his wife brought in some buffalo meat, of which we ate, while she apologised to me very kindly and politely for its poorness. "We have no marrow to cook with the meat and the buffalo are poor. It is the best we have, and you are welcome," said this charming squaw. The One Eyed only urged me to eat heartily, and when the repast was over, we again smoked the pipe in silence. Shaking the ashes into his hand, he slowly raised his head, looked into my face and asked if I knew him. I replied, yes. "Where did you first see me?" On the Salt Fork of the Canadian. "Where, the second time?" At the village on the Canadian Fork. "Did you know then that I wanted to kill you?" Yes I knew it. "True, I sought your life, and but for Big Star, the head Chief of the Ampireka band, I should have killed you and your men. I knew that you were traders with the Osages; you had their horses, their ropes, their skins, their saddles. The Osages had come and taken about two hundred of our horses, and I went out with a war party to recover them and punish the robbers. We found them, and fought a battle with them, in which my brother was killed. My brother was a great warrior, a good hunter and a good man. I loved my brother." He then talked in a strain of mournful eulogy on his brother, while the tears coursed down his face, and he ended in violent weeping. Recovering himself, he said that he had gone out on a second expedition to revenge his brother's death, when he overtook me on the Salt Fork of the Canadian, and there intended to murder our company. He then put the ashes which he held in his hand, on the ground, and taking a handful of earth from the fire place, covered the ashes with it, patting it three times with his hand. Another handful he used in the same manner, and then a third, during which time he moaned and wept violently; so much so that I was uneasy for my own safety in this outbreak of grief. He then looked up with an altered countenance, and exclaimed, "there, I have now buried my brother; but I have found another. I will take you for my brother;" and in a transport of feeling he embraced me with the words, "my brother my brother." He then placed a charm around my neck, which he said would protect me from all enemies. It had been his brother's, but when going into his last battle with the Osages, the owner left it behind with his blanket, and therefore, was killed. He then asked if the old Chief had tried to dissuade me from coming to his lodge, and on hearing that he had, he said: "He is an old fool: he does not know whether he will kill you or not, and he wants me to be your enemy, so that he may have my assistance should he determine to destroy you. If he dreams a good dream he is pleasant and friendly to you; if a bad one, he is grum and gloomy and wishes me to join him in killing you. He is an old fool. He and his men expect to get back all the horses that you bought of them at the village, and that was the reason of their selling so many of the best to you; but you are now safe, you and your property. They shall not harm you or take back any of the horses. Though my men are few, yet every Indian in the nation fears me. They shall treat you well. I will describe you to all the nation, so that whenever you come among us you shall be safe from all danger. I will tell them you are my brother." We then conversed on various subjects, the battles he had fought, his ideas of religion, &c. He bore proofs of his courage on his person, in five wounds; some of them large and dangerous. An arrow had pierced his left eye and a lance his side; but owing to the charm, or "medicine," which he wore, his enemies had been unable to kill him. He had been christened in the Spanish country, and said, "I believe as you do in the Great Spirit. If I do well I shall go to a good place and be happy. If I do badly I shall go to the bad place and be miserable.
On taking leave, I requested him to accompany me to keep off the dogs. Take my horse said he. But how shall I return him? "You will not return him, you will keep him my brother--keep him in remembrance of me." I left with a lighter heart than I had brought to the lodge of the One Eyed Chief. I counted much on the benefit of his friendship, and subsequent events proved that I did not overrate its advantages. I met the old Chief on my return, who asked me if I had bought the horse of the One Eyed. His countenance fell on hearing the manner of my acquiring the animal, and he requested me to exchange for a fine spotted war horse of his own, and then offered to give two for that of "my brother's". I refused the insidious proposal, which was intended only to sow dissension between me and my new friend, and the Chief appeared very angry at his failure.
Early the following morning, I saw the One Eyed Chief coming with two ribs of buffalo meat, and calling to me moneta, moneta, (my brother) "your sister has sent some buffalo meat for your breakfast." The Chiefs of the army, who were all present and heard this unexpected salutation, looked at each other in astonishment at this extraordinary treatment of me by their greatest brave, who so lately appeared so implacable in his hostility to me. Their conduct towards me and the men immediately changed. No guard was, after this, kept over us, and we were treated with respect and kindness. My powerful "brother," put a new face on our affairs and very probably saved us from the fate of McKnight. We now proceeded towards the Fort, the One Eyed riding by my side and talking very good humoredly and with great animation on a variety of topics. About the middle of the day I noticed preparations making by the warriors as for battle. I asked the One Eyed what this signified, and before he could reply, Alasarea rode up and exclaimed, "Osages, Osages, a heap," and asked me whether I would stay or go over to them. I will stay said I. 'Will you fight for us?" I will, said I, and the One Eyed laughed and said they were only wild horses that had caused the alarm. I ascended a mound with him, whence I could observe the manner of catching these animals. In an incredible short time one hundred were captured and tamed so as to be nearly as subject to their masters as domestic horses reared on a farm. A small party of less than a hundred well mounted Indians were in ambush, while a multitude scattered themselves over the prairie in all directions and drove the wild horses to the place where the others were concealed, which was a deep ravine. As soon as the wild drove were sufficiently near, these last rushed among them and every Indian secured his horse with his lassoo or noosed rope, which he threw around the neck of the animal, and by a sudden turn brought him to the ground and there tied his heels together. This was the work of a few minutes, during which both horses and men were intermingled together in apparently inextricable confusion. The whole drove was taken at the first onset, except a fine black stud which flew like the wind, pursued by a hundred Indians, and in about two hours was brought back tamed and gentle. He walked close by the Indian who had captured him, and who led him by a rope and wished to sell him to me. I feared his wild look and dilated eye, but his Indian master and protector said he was gentle and gave me the end of the rope with which he led him, when the noble animal immediately came near to me as to a new friend and master. He seemed by his manner to have ratified the transfer and chosen me in preference to the Indian. In twenty-four hours after their capture these horses became tamed and ready for use, and keep near to their owners as their only friends. I could perceive little difference between them and our farm horses. The Indians use their fleetest horses for catching the wild ones, and throw the lassoo with great dexterity over their necks, when by turning quickly round and sometimes entangling their feet in the rope, they throw them on the ground, and then tie their legs together two and two, after which they release the neck from the tightened noose which in a short time would produce death by strangling. The sport is attended with the wildest excitement, and exceeds in interest and enjoyment all other sports of the chase that I ever saw.
A thunder shower now blew up, and the army stretched their lodges and encamped. After the shower, a war party of about seven hundred men, under the command of Alasarea, started with me for the Fort, where we arrived about sundown. Each Indian was armed with a short gun, a bow and arrows, and a lance; some had pistols, and each had two horses, one of which he rode for marching, and one, his war horse, which he led, for the battle. Their appearance was formidable indeed as they approached the Fort, and somewhat alarmed the garrison. They encamped for that night outside of the Fort, and in the morning I made them presents with which they were greatly pleased. At about ten o'clock the whole Camanche army came in sight, when some of my company were still more alarmed than they had been the day before. Several who before starting, talked boastingly of making a razor strap of an Indian's skin, now lay in their tents quaking with fear and sweating cold drops. This was the first Indian army they had ever seen, and their courage fast melted away before the spectacle. Come out, said I to them, now is your time to get a razor strap. The Camanches encamped in front of the Fort, on a space a mile and a half in length and about half a mile wide, and exhibited a friendly disposition. I traded with them for horses, mules, beaver fur, and buffalo robes. The former I sent as fast as I bought them, to a drove about a mile from the village, under charge of three men. On the morning of the third day four Indians, armed, went to the drove and took four of the best horses, in spite of the resistance of the guard, who were intimidated by their violence. I immediately went to my "brother," the One Eyed, and informed him of the robbery. He mounted his horse, with whip in hand, and in about two hours returned with two of the stolen horses. In the afternoon he brought back a third, and at night, came up with the fourth. His whip was bloody, and his face distorted with rage. He was in a mood to make men tremble before him, when none but the boldest spirits would dare to cross his path or oppose his will. After he had left the last horse with me, I heard his voice in every part of the camp, proclaiming what, the interpreter told me was a warning for the protection of my property. "Your horses are yours," said he, "to sell or keep as you please; but when you once sell them you cannot take them back. My brother has come from afar to trade with you and brought things that are good for you; and when you have sold him your horses and got your pay, you must not take them back." After this I was not molested again in a similar manner. The One Eyed Chief spent much of his time in my trading house, and assisted me by his advice and influence over the Indians. He allowed me to judge of the horses for myself, but selected the buffalo robes for me and settled their prices. I bought many more of the latter than I brought back with me and might have purchased thousands. One plug of tobacco, a knife and a few strings of beads, in all worth but little more than a dime, bought one of these valuable skins or "rober," worth at least five dollars in any of the States.
The Indians had with them a great many young Spaniards as prisoners, one of whom, an excellent interpreter, wished me to purchase him. I offered the price of ten horses for him, but without success. I gave him many presents, which, he said, his masters took from him as soon as they saw them, and he requested me to give him no more, as said he, "it is of no use." He was an intelligent and interesting boy.
The Indians spent much time in drilling and fighting mock battles. Their skill and discipline would have made our militia dragoons blush for their inferiority. They marched and countermarched, charged and retreated, rapidly and in admirable order. Their skill in horsemanship is truly wonderful, and I think, is not surpassed by that of the Cossacks or Mamelukes. I frequently put a plug of tobacco on the ground for them to pick up when riding at full speed. A dozen horsemen would start in a line for the prize, and if the leader missed it, the second or third was always successful in seizing it, when he took the rear to give the others fair chance in the next race.
There were six Pawnees from the river Platte, among these Camanches; one of whom came to me and said he knew me. Where did you ever see me? "At the Osage village, said he, when you were buying horses." I then recollected that this Pawnee with several others had come into the village to make a treaty. He knew O'Fallan, of Council Bluff, very well, and gave me some news of the Upper Missouri, and the traders there. He went off and soon returned with several Camanches, and again talked about the Osages and my trading with them. Perceiving his treacherous purpose, I made no reply to his remarks which were as follows: "I saw you with the Osages; you bought horses of the Osages. Do you know where Osage village is? Is it not here?" marking on the ground the courses of the Arkansas, the Grand and the Verdigris rivers, and pointing to the place of their enemies' village. At last I told him I knew nothing about the Osages or their villages, which seemed to enrage him greatly, and he reiterated his assertions about having met me among the hereditary enemies of the Pawnees and Camanches. Seeing the evil suspicions produced by his talk among the Indians, and the necessity of putting down the bad report without delay, I went to my "brother" and told him the Pawnee was setting his countrymen against me. He immediately went with me to the head Chief's lodge and had my Pawnee enemy brought before him. Fixing his dark eye upon him, the One Eyed Chief regarded him a moment in silence, and then said, "we have treated you well ever since you came among us. You lied to us when you said that you had seen the 'white haired man' (meaning John McKnight) at the village of the Osages. And now you say you have seen my brother, too, among the Osages. This is all a lie. You are trying to make mischief between our people and my brother, and if you say any thing more against him I will drive you out of the nation. You shall not stay with us." The Pawnee trembled under this rebuke and walked off in silence, with the manner of a whipped spaniel. I heard no more from him.
On one occasion my "brother" asked permission to bring, in the evening, a party of his friends into the Fort to dance, and I consenting to the proposal, a party of forty, headed by the One Eyed, entered the Fort and danced for several hours, to their own singing and the sound of bells on a wand, carried by their leader. They were gorgeously attired in the height of Indian fashion and bon ton. They wore eagle and owl feathers, and were gaudily painted in every conceivable manner. The One Eyed wore a showy head dress of feather work, from under which, the false hair fell to the ground; they all danced with wonderful agility and grace, and kept time better than most of dancers in more civilized and fashionable life. At the close they danced backward out of the gate, the Chief in front driving them with his wand, and they, in compliment to their host, feigning reluctance to go. With a loud shout of pleasure they at last went out together with regularity and order.
At night we were aroused by shouting and singing on all sides of the Fort, and we took our arms to repel an attack. I saw hundreds of Indians, most of them young men, clambering up the sides of the Fort and trying the doors to get in. The noise suddenly ceased and in the morning the One Eyed told me that the young men had taken the opportunity when the old men were asleep to improve their acquaintance with me and to get some presents of tobacco as the dancing party had done in the evening before, and that he had quelled the disturbance and driven them off. I heard among this party, both here and at the village where I first met them, the sound of moaning and loud wailing in two lodges, from a short time before sun set till dark. I had made a present of a gorges and arm bands to the Chief who befriended me so much on the Salt Fork of the Canadian in my former expedition, and who was now in the village. A young Indian came to me, one evening, with the gorges and arm bands as a token, and requested me to go and see this Chief in his tent. I went with the young man towards the tent whence the sound of weeping was heard, and when within thirty steps, the messenger stopped and looked at my feet. I noticed that he was bare-footed; he took off my shoes, and with me approached the Chief, who was sitting in front of his lodge with bare feet, like the spectators who were standing deferentially around; and on the ground I saw two women and two girls, also barefooted and smeared over the heads and faces, with mud and ashes. These were the same, whose voices I had heard on first entering the Camanche village. They were now rolling on the ground from side to side and weeping violently. Occasionally they scattered ashes over their heads, and after short intervals of quiet, arising from exhaustion, they would burst out afresh in irrepressible fits of weeping and sobbing. The Chief arose, took me aside, and said that I could make these women stop crying. On my enquiring how I could do this, he replied, "by covering them with cloth;" meaning calico. I went to the store and got four pieces of calico, with which I returned, and covered each with a piece. The Chief now spoke to them in his language, and appeared to console them, and remonstrated against any further exhibition of grief. Their crying gradually subsided into deep, long drawn sobs and hiccoughs, like those of children after violent weeping. From this night forth I heard their lamentations no more, and a few Indians who had heretofore been cold and distant, now became friendly to me. I concluded that McKnight, in fighting for his life, had killed the husbands of the women and fathers of the two girls who were thus lamenting, and that they required a token of friendship from me as an atonement and sign of reconciliation. The Indians had now discovered their mistake; that in killing McKnight they had destroyed a friend instead of an enemy, and all regarded me more kindly on account of their own injustice to my friend. The One Eyed Chief, who was probably foremost in the murder, had taken me to his heart as his only brother, and was now ready to die for me, to atone for depriving me of my bosom friend, McKnight--"the white haired Tabbaho." The Pawnee's tale of having seen McKnight at the Osage village, was, I suppose, the reason for dispatching him; and in doing this, they had met with a desperate resistance from their victim, who was well armed and a most excellent marksman. The One Eyed did all in his power to recompense me for his loss. He was my fast friend, and exerted himself to the utmost to advance all my interests and wishes. His wife daily sent to her "brother" some delicacy, such as buffalo tongue, carefully cooked by herself. I began to be reconciled to a savage life and enamored with the simplicity of nature. Here were no debts, no Sheriffs or Marshals; no hypocricies or false friendships. With these simple children of the mountains and prairies, love and hate are honestly felt and exerted in their full intensity. No half-way passions, no interested feelings govern their attachments to their friends. When once enlisted for or against you, little short of Omnipotence can reverse the Indian's position. He loves and hates with steady persistence and consistency, and generally carries his first feelings regarding you, to his grave. His revenge is sure, his love is true and disinterested. You can count upon either with certainty, and need entertain no fear of being deceived as to their operations.
A scouting war party on one occasion, brought in seven American horses, shod and branded, a tent, a kettle, an axe, and some other articles, which I knew must have belonged to a trading party. They brought up the horses to the Fort to have the shoes taken off by our blacksmith, when I charged them with the robbery of my countrymen. They denied the charge, and said that they had taken this spoil from a party of Osages with whom they had had a battle, and exhibited, in proof of their operations, two scalps as those of their deadly enemies, the Osages. I learned, at Barbour's, on my return that they told me the truth. The Osages had robbed a Santa Fe company and were themselves attacked in the night, by a party they knew not of what tribe, who killed two men and robbed them of the booty I have mentioned. It was a fair instance of the biters being bitten, the game played by Prince Hal upon Falstaff, who, after robbing four travellers was attacked by the Prince and plundered of his spoil. From the warriors of this scouting party we learned that the whole nation of Osages was very near to us; being encamped on the Salt Fork at the distance of about a day's journey, and they advised us to leave our present position for one of more safety. The Camanche Chiefs held a council of war, or grand talk, and determined to go out and give battle to their enemies. On the next day they sent all their women and children up the river and went themselves, with their warriors, towards the Salt Fork in quest of the Osages. When the last of the nation were about going, an Indian came to me and claimed his horse, which another Indian had sold to me without his authority. I was about to give him the horse, when the One Eyed came up and enquired into the case, which he decided at once in my favor and told the claimant he must look to the Indian who sold him, for his indemnity. Not liking the law of this decision, I paid the Indian for his horse, and he went away satisfied and highly pleased. Before starting, the Chiefs in a body, came and expressed great friendship for me and regret at leaving me as they were compelled to do. They said they wanted the American trade, and united in requesting me to encourage my countrymen to visit them with goods and trade with them. Trade with the Spaniards they said, was unprofitable; they had nothing to give them for their horses except amunition, and this they refused to sell to the Indians They wished the Americans to be friendly and intimate with them, and complained bitterly that we supplied their enemies, the Osages, with arms and amunition with which they made war upon the Camanches. "The Osages" said they, "get their powder, balls and guns from the Americans, but we can get none, or very few from them; this is wrong, very wrong." The One Eyed, and several other Chiefs wished to visit their "Great Father," the President, and have a talk with him. They would have offered to accompany me to my "village" to see the Great Father, but said they, "you cannot defend us from the Osages, the Cherokees, and the Choctaws; these nations are all at war with us, and we should have to go through their country. But tell our Great Father when you go back to your village, that we want him to stop these nations from stealing our horses and killing our people, as they have been doing for many years! Tell him to protect us and send his people out to trade with us. We will not hurt his people, but will defend them when they come among us. We will be brothers with the Americans." The Chief of the Towashes told me that his tribe lived on the head waters of the Red River, and owned sixteen thousand horses, which were better than any I had bought of them. Judging from those which his warriors rode, I could believe what he said respecting the quality of their horses. He wished me to visit his tribe and trade with them. Many things did these wild Chiefs tell me to say for them to the "Great Father" when I reached my "village," and all insisted very earnestly that I should return to them in the Fall with goods, and bring the answer of their Great Father and all he said about them. "Then," said they, "we will go back with you and talk with him face to face." My "brother" told me to ascend the Red River in the Fall, and I should find the nation not far from the three big mounds near the head of that river, by which I suppose he meant some spurs of the Rocky mountains. "And when you reach these mounds," said he, "you will see the smoke from the grass that we will burn every day so that you may find us. You can come with but two men and you shall be safe. I will speak of you to all the Camanches, and tell them you are my brother: and none will hurt you. You can travel without fear through all our country; no one will dare to injure you or take your property." At parting with the Chiefs, they all embraced me most affectionately. My "brother," especially, showed all the feeling of a real brother; he threw his arms around my neck and burst into tears. Alasarea, the Towash, came to me last, and sat down with a grave and serious countenance. He several times struck his breast and said his heart was troubled. On my asking him the cause of his trouble, he said "when you came here, you had twenty-three men and now you have but twenty-two; one is dead. You say he was a good man." Yes, said I, he was a very good man. "You do not know how he was killed." No, I do not, but perhaps I shall know one day. "Many Camanches," said he, "are bad; many Quampas are bad; many of the Arripahoes are bad; many Towashes are bad, and so are many Pawnees. Some of all these are bad and they all hunt in this country. They might have killed the white haired man. He might have wounded a buffalo and been killed by him. A rattlesnake might have bit him. He is dead and you know not how. Here is my war horse Checoba. I give him to you: no horse among the Camanches will catch him. He will carry you away from every enemy and out of any danger." With this he led up a splendid black horse, worthy and fit to have borne a Richard Coeur De Leon, or a Saladin, into their greatest battles. No Arab could ever boast a finer animal than this; the finest limbed, the best proportioned, the swiftest and the most beautiful I ever saw. I brought him home, but before leaving the wilderness, his speed was greatly impaired by the bite of a rattlesnake.