Spring 1832 at the edge of the Little Island Mountains, the country
From our place of concealment, we silently watched the tribesman ease cautiously out of the draw and press up a steep slope littered with broken boulders and sparse-leafed mountain scrub, exposing himself to two warriors on sturdy Indian ponies methodically working the rims of the coulee below. One threw up a long gun and shattered a stone near the fleeing man’s shoulder. A third brave, nearer his quarry, loosed a wild yell and wheeled his pony, raising a tomahawk as the pinto churned awkwardly across the sharply pitched ground. His prey evaded the hatchet and snagged its wicked head, bringing down both man and mount.
The two adversaries tumbled in a dog-fall over the cruel, stony ground. Only one, the fugitive, staggered to his feet, swiped a bloody knife on his slain foe’s leggings, and broke for the scrambling pinto. A second shot roared; the pony screamed in pain and flopped to the ground, sliding in the loose scree.
The runner dropped behind the downed beast and clawed a weapon from beneath the heavy body. Easing the barrel over the horse’s side, he pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Abandoning the useless musket atop the dead horse, the brave slithered on his belly to the sanctuary of a narrow fold of rock and began a slow climb up the escarpment. The other two Indians, most likely believing their prey now armed, dismounted and carefully approached the fallen pony.
Hidden by a thin, serrated outcrop of granite crowning the ridge, we witnessed the deadly drama unfold below us. The lone Indian, clad only in breechcloth and moccasins, slipped through the thin cover of the slope, gaining significant advantage over his cautious pursuers in this ghastly game of hide-and-seek with human lives in the forfeit. I hold strongly to the view red Indians are human even though this brings me into conflict with much of society. I have the same opinion of black slaves. Neither conviction is often voiced aloud.
Beyond the promontory we occupied, the high plains stretched below puffy thunderheads to the northern horizon broken only by a distant, barren mamelle. These broad, short-grass champains cut a swath through the country four hundred miles wide from Canada to Tejas, interrupted by occasional ranges such as the Little Islands at our backs and the Great Shining Mountains rising well to the west.
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