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jicails and the river carrying wicker allas filled with muddy water, and the whole people seek the river and the system of irrigating ditches at evening time to turn the water over the parched ground and nourish the corn, wheat, and vegetables which grow there. Far up the valley the distant stump of a musket-shot reaches our ears; then another comes from a nearer point, and still another. Two or three women begin to take away the boards of an acequia dam near as the water rises to their knees, and with a final tug the deepening water rushes through. "Bang!" goes the Springfield carbine of an Indian standing at my elbow, and after some moments another gun-shot comes to our ears from below. As the minutes pass the reports come fainter and fainter, until we are
I bethink ourselves to go back to the camps of these people to spend an evening; so, leaving the troopers about their fires, we take our way in company with an old Government Indian scout to his own jicail. The frugal evening meal was soon disposed of, and taking our cigarettes we sat on the bluffs and smoked. A traveler in the valley looking up at the squatting forms of men against the sky would have remembered the great strength of chiaroscuro in some of Doré's drawings and to himself have said that this was very like it.
I doubt if he would have discerned the difference between the two white men who came from the bustling world so far away and the dark-skinned savages who seemed a sympathetic part of nature there, as mute as any of
just conscious of the sounds far off down the valley.
The pile of straw round which a mounted Indian has been driving half a dozen horses all day in order to stamp out the grain has lowered now until he will have but an hour's work more in the morning. He stops his beasts and herds them off to the hills to graze. The procession of barefooted men and of women bearing jars comes winding over the fields towards their humble habitations on the bluffs. The sun sinks behind the distant Sierras, and the beautiful quiet tones of the afterglow spread over the fields and the water. As I stand there watching the scene I can almost imagine that I see Millet's peasants; but, alas! I know too well the difference.
My companion, a lieutenant of cavalry, and
its rocks and as incomprehensible to the white man's mind as any beast which roams its barren wastes.
It grew dark, and we forbore to talk. Presently, as though to complete the strangeness of the situation, the measured "thump, thump, thump" of the tom-tom came from the vicinity of a fire some short distance away. One wild voice raised itself in strange discordant sounds, dropped low, and then rose again, swelling into shrill yelps, in which others joined. We listened, and the wild sounds to our accustomed ears became almost tuneful and harmonious. We drew nearer, and by the little flickering light of the fire discerned half-naked forms huddled with uplifted faces in a small circle around the tom-tom. The fire cut queer lights on their rugged outlines, the waves of sound
rose and fell, and the "thump, thump, thump, thump" of the tom-tom kept a binding time. We grew in sympathy with the strange concert, and sat down some distance off and listened for hours. It was more enjoyable in its way than any trained chorus I have ever heard.
The performers were engaged in making medicine for the growing crops, and the concert was a religious rite, which, however crude to us, was entered into with a faith that was attested by the vigor of the performance. All savages seem imbued with the religious feeling, and everything in nature that they do not comprehend is supernatural. Yet they know so much about her that one often wonders why they cannot reason further.
The one thing about our aborigines which interests me most is their peculiar method of thought. With all due deference to much scientific investigation which has been lavished upon them, I believe that no white man can ever penetrate the mystery of their mind or explain the reason of their acts.
The red man is a mass of glaring incongruities. He loves and hates in such strange fashions, and is constant and inconstant at such unusual times, that I often think he has no mental process, but is the creature of impulse. The searching of the ethnologist must not penetrate his thoughts too rapidly, or he will find that he is reasoning for the Indian, and not with him.
AFTER coming from the burning sands of Arizona the green stretches of grass and the cloud-flecked sky of northern Texas were very agreeable. At a little town called Henrietta I had entered into negotiations with a Texas cowboy to drive me over certain parts of the Indian Territory. He rattled up to my quarters in the early morning with a covered spring-wagon drawn by two broncos so thin and small and ugly that my sympathies were aroused, and I protested that they were not able to do the work.
The driver, a smart young fellow with his hat brim knocked jauntily back in front, assured me that "They can pull your freight, and you can bet on it." I have learned not to trust to appearances regarding Western ponies, and so I clambered in and we took up our way.
The country was a beautiful rolling plain, covered with rank, green grass and dotted with dried flowers. Heavily timbered creeks interlaced the view and lessened its monotony. The sun was hot, and the driver would nod, go fast asleep, and nearly fall out of the wagon. The broncos would quiet down to a walk, when he would suddenly awake, get out his black snake whip, and roar "mule language" at the lazy creatures. He was a good fellow and full of interest, had made the Montana trail three times with the Hash Knife outfit, and was full of the quaint expressions and pointed methods of reasoning peculiar to Western Americans. He gave me volumes of information concerning Comanches and Indians in general; and while his point of view was too close for a philosophical treatment of the case, he had a knowledge of details which carried him through. Speaking of their diet, he "allowed anything's grub to an Injun, jus' so it hain't pisen."
We came at last to the Red River, and I then appreciated why it was called red, for its water is absolutely the reddest thing I ever saw in nature. The soil thereabouts is red, and the water is colored by it. We forded the river, and the little horses came so near sticking fast in the middle that my cowboy jumped out up to his waist and calmly requested me to do the same. I did, but to the ruin of a pair of white corduroys. We got through, however, and were in the Territory. Great quantities of plums, which the Indians gather, grow near the river.
In due course of time we came in sight of Fort Sill, which is built of stone, in a square around a parade of grass, and perched on rising ground. The plains about were dotted with the skulls of cattle killed for ration day. Sheds of poles covered with branches dotted the plains, and on our right the "big timber" of Catch Creek looked invitingly cool.
At Fort Sill I became acquainted with Mr. Horace P. Jones the Comanche interpreter, who has lived with that tribe for thirty-one years. He is an authority on the subject of Indians, and I tried to profit by his knowledge. He spoke of one strange characteristic of the Comanche language which makes their speech almost impossible to acquire. Nearly all Comanches are named after some object in nature, and when one dies the name of the object after which he was named is changed and the old word is never spoken again. Mr. Jones often uses one of the words which a recent death has made obsolete, and is met with muttered protestations from his Indian hearers. He therefore has to skirmish round and find the substitute for the outlawed word.
The Comanches are great travelers, and
wander more than any other tribe. Mr. Jones has known Comanches to go to California, and as far south as Central America, on trips extending over years. They are a jolly, roundfaced people, who speak Spanish, and often have Mexican blood in their veins-the result of stolen Mexican women, who have been ingrafted into the tribe.
The Comanches are less superstitious than Indians are generally. They apply an amount of good sense to their handling of horses which I have never seen among Indians elsewhere. They breed intelligently, and produce some of the most beautiful "painted" ponies imaginable. They take very good care of them, and in buying and selling have no lessons to learn from Yankee horse-traders. They still live in lodges, but will occupy a good house if they can obtain one. About this thing they reason rather well; for in their visits to the Caddoes and the Shawnees they observe the squalid
huts in the damp woods, with razor-back hogs contesting the rights of occupancy with their masters, and they say that the tepee is cleaner, and argue that if the Shawnees represent civilization, their own barbarism is the better condition of the two. However, they see the good in civilization and purchase umbrellas, babycarriages, and hats, and of late years leave the Winchester at home; although, like the Texan, a Comanche does not feel well dressed without a large Colt strapped about his waist. Personal effects are all sacrificed at the death of their owners, though these Indians no longer destroy the horses, and they question whether the houses which are built for them by the Government should be burned upon the death of the tenant. Three or four have been allowed to stand, and if no dire results follow the matter will regulate itself.
The usual corps of Indian scouts is camped under the walls of Fort Sill, and is equally di
vided between the Comanches and the Kiowas. They are paid, rationed, and armed by the Government, and are used to hunt up stray Government horses, carry messages, make arrests among their own people, and follow the predatory Texas cowboy who comes into the Territory to build up his fortunes by driving off horses and selling corn-juice to the Indians.
The Comanches are beginning to submit to arrests without the regulation exchange of fusillade; but they have got the worst of Texas law so long that one cannot blame them for being suspicious of the magistracy. The first question a Comanche asks of a white stranger is, "Maybe so you Texas cowboy?" to which I always assure them that I am a Kansas man, which makes our relations easy. To a Co
for the race, and the throng moves to some level plain near, where a large ring is formed by the Indians on horseback.
An elderly Indian of great dignity of presence steps into the ring, and with a graceful movement throws his long red blanket to the ground and drops on his knees before it, to receive the wagers of such as desire to make them. Men walk up and throw in silver dollars and every sort of personal property imaginable. A Winchester rifle and a large nickel-plated Colt's revolver are laid on the grass near me by a cowboy and an Indian, and then each goes away. It was a wager, and I thought they might well have confidence in their stakeholder
mother earth. Two ponies, tied head and head, were led aside and left, horse against
manche all bad men are "Texas cowboys," and all good people are "Kansas men."
At the scout camp I was allowed to sketch to my heart's content, and the people displayed great interest in the proceedings.
The morning of the Fourth of July found Mr. Jones and me in the saddle and on the way to the regulation celebration at the agency below the post. The Fourth of July and Christmas are the "white man's big Sundays" to the Indians, and they always expect the regular horse-race appropriations. The cavalrymen contribute purses and the Indians run their ponies. Extra beeves are killed, and the red men have always a great regard for the "big Sundays."
As we approach the agency it is the hour
horse. No excitement seemed to prevail. Near me a little half-Mexican Comanche boy began to disrobe until he stood clad only in shirt and breech-cloth. His father addressed some whispered admonition and then led up a roan pony, prancing with impatience and evidently fully conscious of the work cut out for him that day. With a bound the little fellow landed on the neck of the pony only half way up; but his toes caught on the upper muscles of the pony's leg, and like a monkey he clambered up and was in his seat. The pony was as bare as a wild horse except for a bridle, and loped away with his graceful little rider sitting like a rock. No, not like a rock, but limp and unconcerned, and as full of the motion of the horse as the horse's tail or any other part of him.
A Kiowa with loose hair and great coarse face broke away from the group and galloped up the prairie until he stopped at what was to be the starting-point, at the usual distance of "two arrow flights and a pitch." He was followed by half a dozen ponies at an easy lope, bearing their half-naked jockeys. The Indian spectators sat about on their ponies, as unmoved in countenance as oysters, being natural gamblers, and stoical as such should be, while the cowboys whispered among themselves.
"That's the bay stallion there," said one man to me, as he pointed to a racer, "and he's never been beaten. It's his walk-over, and I 've got my gun up on him with an Injun.”
It was to be a flying start, and they jockeyed a good deal and could not seem to get off. But presently a puff of smoke came from the rifle held aloft by the Kiowa starter, and his horse reared. The report reached us, and with a scurry the five ponies came away from the scratch, followed by a cloud of dust. The quirts flew through the air at every jump. The ponies bunched and pattered away at a nameless rate, for the quarter-race pony is quick of stride. Nearer and nearer they came, the riders lying low on their horses' necks, whipping and ki-yi-yi-ing. The dust in their wake.
FAR SILL T
swept backward and upward, and with a rush they came over the scratch, with the roan pony ahead and my little Mexican fellow holding his quirt aloft, and his little eyes snapping with the nervous excitement of the great event. He had beaten the invincible bay stallion, the pride of this Comanche tribe, and as he rode back to his father his face had the settled calm which nothing could penetrate, and which befitted his dignity as a young runner.
Far be it from these quaint people ever to lose their blankets, their horses, their heroism, in order to stalk behind a plow in a pair of canvas overalls and a battered silk hat. Now they are great in their way; but then, how miserable! But I have confidence that they will not retrograde. They can live and be successful as a pastoral people, but not as sheep herders, as some great Indian department reformer once thought when he placed some thousands of these woolly idiots at their disposal.
The Comanches travel about too much and move too fast for sheep; but horses and cattle they do have and can have so long as they retain possession of their lands. But if the Government sees fit to consecrate their lands to the "man with the hoe," then, alas! goodbye to all their greatness.
Bidding adieu to my friends at Fort Sill, I