Thursday, 15 September 2011

life with the apaches and commanches part 3

When consciousness returned, I found myself lying on the ground, tied hand and foot with thongs of buffalo hide; I felt very sore and intensely thirsty. I had not quite yet collected my senses, and when my mind reverted to the scenes I had but just passed through, it was with a sickening sense of their horror that made me yearn for insensibility again.
If I could only know what had been done with my wife; had she met the same fate as my father and brother, or was she spared—spared, and for what—to be subjected to a captivity even worse than death, perhaps? It would have been a great relief to have moved even so much as a finger, but being bound so tightly it was impossible to stir, and the thongs had in a great measure impeded the circulation, so that as I lay on my back, gazing pathetically at my feet, it seemed as if they were the appendages of another person, and that my tortures had begun by my being deprived of all that part of my body below my knees.
 By dint of much turning, I managed to get myself partly on my side, which proved a great  affording an opportunity to look around me and gain an idea of the state of affairs.
Day was just breaking, and my captors were, with the exception of the sentinel, asleep. We were on the prairie, and I at once concluded that we must have left the scene of the fight and capture; a small fire had been built, and the warrior who mounted guard was sitting with his legs crossed beneath him, seemingly gazing into the smouldering embers; there was just enough light to discern his features, and I shuddered at their repulsiveness; the hideous war paint was streaked most fantastically across his cheeks and forehead and over his body, for, with the exception of a pair of abbreviated leggings he was quite nude.
 His scalp-lock was adorned with a profusion of eagles' feathers, and his wrists and arms were set off with bracelets. Dangling from his girdle was an object that thrilled me with anguish, as the long white hair covered here and there with dark red splashes, I knew at once to be the scalp of my dear, murdered mother. I had read of the noble red man, and like most romantic people, conceived a very touching picture of his manly beauty and majestic air. One needs but to be among them to have any such illusion dispelled. In my long residence with the tribe, I found some admirable traits, of which I will speak anon, but they had so many counterbalancing vices, that I do not think their best friends can say anything in their praise.

This book is a true narrative of my capture and sufferings, and if my readers do not find running thrh these pages, that sentimental gush about the noble red man, that we have been taught to believe was as much their attribute as they considered scalping their prerogative, it is because I have been disabused of these ideas, by the stern reality of an existence among them. I trust this digression will be excused, but when I stroke my chin, and feel the traces of their delicate attentions, my feelings are apt to get the better of my desire to entertain.Indian with Scalp
Soon, however, the camp was stirring, and my friend at the fire roused himself and advanced toward me; whipping out a knife from its sheath, he cut the thongs by which I was bound, and grasping my shoulder jerked me to an upright position and motioned me to follow him. I had not proceeded far, when, emerging from the coppice on the opposite side of the bivouac, I beheld my wife advancing towards me in the custody of an Indian. Reader, if you can imagine meeting the being you loved best, after having supposed her cruelly butchered, you may have a faint conception of my feelings. With a little cry of joy she rushed into my outstretched arms; sobbing like an infant. This demonstration of affection seemed not to the taste of our guards; and with an ugh, we were admonished to follow them, and we were soon in the midst of a group who were dispatching their breakfast. Food was offered us, of which I ate 
voraciously, after my long fast; not so my wife, however, who could not as yet accustom her palate to the dried buffalo meat.
Meantime preparations had been making to resume our journey. The horses were brought up, and in a shorter time than it takes to relate it we were under way, the party moving off in single file. I was allowed to ride my own horse, my wife following behind me on one of the mules.
 We were, as near as I could judge, about the centre of the party. In this fashion we proceeded during the forenoon. The prairie at this point was a succession of gentle undulations, covered with a rich velvety verdure; and, had not my present circumstances been of such a depressing character, the scene would have been inspiriting. Away to the far west, as far as the eye could see, this vast billowy plain extended, broken here and there by a grove of the stately cottonwood tree, whose long trunks, and silvery foliage was a pleasing contrast to the vivid green of the prairie. At intervals I had discerned dark objects on the horizon, but, being unaccustomed to note signs with that care and attention that is characteristic of those whose life is spent on the plains, I had paid no particular attention to them. Soon, however, I did observe a commotion at the head of the column, and after a brief halt and consultation among the chiefs, our speed was accelerated, and we struck into a canter. This "lope" as it is called, seems to be a gait peculiarly adapted to the
mustang, as they will break into, and keep it up the entire day; evincing no more distress than our ordinary horse does in trotting leisurely.
That something important was about to transpire, I felt certain, from the energetic way in which our captors spoke and gesticulated; I was not long left in doubt, as on reaching a slight eminence, a sight disclosed itself that I shall never forget; and my blood thrills even now with the remembrance of my first buffalo hunt.
It may seem odd to talk of my first buffalo hunt, as the question would naturally be asked, how could a prisoner participate in a hunt; the sequel will explain.Frederic Remington : The Buffalo Hunt 1890.
The chiefs had halted, and the rear coming up, we were soon clustered in a group on this rising ground. Directly in front of us, at the distance of about three miles
, I should judge, was an immense herd of buffaloes. The plain was positively black, so numerous were they. All unconscious of their foes, they were quietly grazing, while here and there a watchful old bull seemed to have stationed himself as an outpost, being in readiness, if needs were, to instantly communicate the signal of danger to the herd. It was a glorious sight; even the horses shared in the excitement, and evinced as great a desire to participate in the hunt as did their masters. Presently a warrior rode out from the main body a few paces and tossed the feather. This is done to note the direction
of the wind, for such is the keenness of scent possessed by these animals, that they will take the alarm and become aware of the approach of an enemy at great distances. If the drove had discovered us at this distance, our visions of fresh hump steak for supper would have resolved themselves into the dried meat of the morning.

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