- Historic Sites
A Ride For Life In A Buffalo Herd
June 1970 | Volume 21, Issue 4
As the valley narrowed, I saw ahead, perhaps a mile distant, a low butte, a little to the left of the course we were taking. This gave me new courage, for if I could only reach it, it would afford shelter, as the herd must pass on either side of it. Drawing a revolver, I began to shoot at the nearest buffalo on my left, and this caused them to draw away as far as the others would let them, and when one went down, I gained so much ground. They were now really more afraid of me and my steed than we were of them, and for this reason did not charge, as a single wounded buffalo might have done. Continuing my shooting more rapidly as we approached the butte, I gradually swung to the left, and when we came to it, I pulled my pony sharp around behind it, and let the great herd pass on.
Dismounting, I saw why my pony had seemed so footheavy during the last mile. He was covered with dust, nearly exhausted, and with bleeding flanks, distended forelegs, and blazing nostrils, he stood there quivering and breathing heavily, while the buffalo were passing within a few feet. We could not move until the herd had gone by, and it was more than an hour before the last of them left us alone.…
The danger was now over, and the pangs of hunger reminded me of the supper I had promised to secure for my comrades. One of the last stragglers of the herd in the twilight was a young heifer, and a shot brought her to my feet. To draw my hunting knife and remove the tongue and hump steaks, sufficient for our small party, was the work of a few minutes; and thus laden, I was ready to start for camp, some half a dozen miles to the eastward.
Meanwhile, I had not forgotten my … Indian pony. He had saved my life, and I did all I could for him. I took off his saddle, and I offered him the scanty contents of my pocket flask, but this he declined, although needing it more than myself. I started to lead him slowly in the direction of camp, but he soon made me understand that he was himself again, and after mounting, I gave him his head, and he hurried on in the darkness to where he knew our comrades were waiting for us. It was late as we approached camp, and the signal guns to guide us had for some time been flashing in the distance. My first duty on arriving was again to my weary steed, and for once my striker was not permitted to relieve me. I sang Pawnee’s praises around the campfire that night.…
Poor Pawnee! He deserved a better fate than overtook him in his first campaign the next year. Grazing at night, he was bitten on the nose by a large rattlesnake. When found in the morning, his head was fearfully swollen, and all the whisky in camp could not save him. He was buried with military honors, and a double salute fired over his remains. If, in the happy hunting ground above, Pawnee does not have a place of honor, I shall lose all faith in the belief of the untutored Indian, who thinks—
admitted to that equal sky, His faithful dog shall bear him company.