Early Rice County
Published, December, 1928
Anecdotes of the Plains
Within the past few years the pioneer has come into his own. Time was, and not so long ago, when the recitation by some venerable townsman of an Indian fight or a buffalo hunt would serve to thrill only the children. Men of fewer years would stand apart unmindful, or cast mild accusations of boastfulness at him.
Today, when the ranks of pioneers have become sufficiently thin to be noticeable, these same skeptics are eagerly devouring every story of the early day.
It is only naturally so. The unobtainable is the thing which most fascinates us. When history is in the making few realize it. It occurs about us every moment of our lives. But when the details have been dimmed by time we clamor for more and appreciate that little which we have.
Every community has allowed much of its history to die with its pioneers, and Rice county is no exception. Peter Robert, Jimmie Jones, Sam Steiner-these and many others-have passed away. And because of their modest natures and the failure of the rest of us to impress upon them the importance of their knowledge, have taken with them a thousand stories of adventure and hardship.
There remain a few to whom we may turn, and these old men are now hard pressed for facts to hand to posterity. Among them, and one of the most interesting, is George M. Hoffman of Little River.
Mr. Hoffman, who is past 85 years old, lives at the hospital he endowed and which bears his name-the Hoffman Memorial hospital.
He is not a pioneer of the county in a strict sense, since he came here from Ellsworth a number of years after settlement had begun. But he is more of a pioneer than any of the others in another respect. He saw Rice county longer ago than any other person now living within its confines.
"Buffalo Bill" Cody, "Buffalo Bill" Mathewson, Kit Carson, "Wild Bill" Hickock and Bill Comstock were all known to him, for he had met them on occasions as they came into Fort Harker, near Ellsworth, or as he traversed the old trails as a freighter.
Colonel Inman, author of "The Old Santa Fe Trail", was once a newspaperman at Ellsworth and was especially well known to Mr. Hoffman whom he interviewed several times while writing that book.
Mr. Hoffman was born in Indiana in 1843, coming to Kansas as a young man in 1859, locating first at To-peka and later at Salina.
He spent 11 years on the plains, during one of which alone he walked 3,500 miles as a "bull whacker", as ox drivers were then commonly called.
He first hauled freight from Leavenworth to Salt Lake City in 1864, and in 1867 while traveling through Nebraska territory engaged in an Indian battle the thrilling details of which he has never forgotten.
His train had started from Leavenworth for a fort on Powder river with 60 wagons of supplies. Siouan Indians, about 700 in number, attacked them at or near Crazy Woman's Fork, surrounded the train and placed it under a siege which lasted forty hours. During that time the Indians lost seventy killed and a much larger number of wounded, while the loss to the freighters was two killed and several wounded.
The red men of that period were in possession of some guns, but arrows flew thick and fast, giving evidence that they had not entirely discarded their aboriginal weapons.
During the battle the Indians would alternately advance and retreat, showering arrows upon the caravan at each attack. The squaws of the tribe would frequently come within fair rifle range, shouting words of encouragement to their braves. Once, when they ventured a little closer than usual the men of the wagon train turned their attention strictly to peppering them with lead, and, needless to say, they did not return. The white men had taken their appearance without concern at first, but the thing began to "peeve" them when they noticed that the braves seemed more fierce under the encouragement of the women.
It was during this fight that Mr. Hoffman acquired a couple of Indian scalplocks. On one of the attacks a pair of braves happened to ride unusually close to the caravan and were "picked off" by Mr. Hoffman and a man at his elbow.
When the lull came, Hoffman slipped out of the enclosure and, grabbing a handful of black hair, proceeded to "lift" that which lay between the Indian and heaven by the use of a sharp knife. He took the next one in the same manner, being sure that he got plenty. He did not have them long, for they were either stolen or lost from his wagon shortly after the train had proceeded.
At another time, near the north fork of the Platte river, Hoffman and a party of others were riding horseback through what was known as "The Narrows". About twenty Indians "popped up" from behind a natural place of concealment. Someone of the six white men fired point-blank at the leader with a shotgun and the Indian fell from his horse. The other natives were so surprised that they hurriedly placed their chief on his animal and scampered away.
Hoffman once drove a stage coach between Ft. Lupton and Fremont's Orchard, a distance of forty miles. The coach was drawn by six jet-black horses, the finest obtainable and "faster than lightning". One day, while on his journey, he chanced to look back and saw, not more than a mile away, about 125 Sioux, all mounted, in readiness to attack him.
The six black horses were "let out" on a dead run and must have, he thinks, presented a beautiful sight as they scampered across the prairie with a horde of savage riders in hot pursuit.
At any rate the coach soon outdistanced its pursuers and reached a little station where there were some soldiers. There he took aboard four armed men- and was not bothered during the rest of his trip.
Several years later Mr. Hoffman was employed at a ranch near old Ft. Zarah, in Barton county. One day, while out hunting north of the ranch, he was surprised to see a white man riding toward him as fast as his pony could go. The country was at that time almost devoid of white population and the man's appearance startled him.
As the rider came up, he checked his horse momentarily to cry out: "Run for your life; the Indians are coming!"
Hoffman, who was apparently more familiar with the country than the alarmed rider, attempted to calm him by saying: "Why those are tame Indians. They won't hurt you."
"Tame, nothing!" came the reply as the man spurred his horse on toward the east, "They've been chasing me for two hours."
Hoffman hurried back to the ranch house, which was the abandoned barracks of Ft. Zarah, and got a man named Nate Hudson. Together they rode out toward the west, the direction from which the white man had come.
At the foot of a little slope they caught sight of the Indians and dismounting kneeled with their rifles leveled at the brow of the hill. As the red men came riding over it they found themselves confronted by a pair of wicked looking guns and upon first sight of these the leader threw up both hands and in perfect English shouted: "Don't shoot!"
"What's the idea of chasing that white man?" Hoffman demanded. To which the Indian whined in reply: "Aw, we were just having some fun with him."
And so they were. They proved to be, as Hoffman suspected, Raws-perfectly harmless-who were camped on Cheyenne Bottoms.
Mr. Hoffman was a buffalo hunter as occasion demanded, altho he did not go into that occupation on a commercial basis. During his stay at the Ft. Zarah ranch four men and two boys came out from Council Grove to get buffalo meat for those back home. They were having little luck, for they had no knowledge of the "art", and Mr. Hoffman volunteered to help them out. In a short time he had brought down eleven of the huge animals, and turned them over to the "easterners" who received them with profound gratitude. Money was scarce in those days and the men had but a few dollars among them. This they offered in payment for the help, but Mr. Hoffman refused to accept it.
It happened that these men were of some devout religious sect. When Mr. Hoffman would not take pay they first suggested that their people write to him occasionally. This too was declined since mail delivery was poor, if such a thing existed at all. So the men proposed that they pray for him, and this offer was graciously accepted by Mr. Hoffman who assured them that altho he might not be worthy of it he felt that it would do him no harm.
"Buffalo Bill" Cody is not taken very seriously by Mr. Hoffman, who knew him well. As a buffalo hunter he feels that Cody has not been overrated, for he was one of the best if not the very best "shot" on the plains. But as a scout and plainsman he is certain there were "a half dozen who could have taken him out and lost him in short order."
He accredits "Wild Bill" Hickock with having been the "quickest pistol puller on the plains." Hickock, he recalls, looked much like General Custer except that he was somewhat taller.
Mr. Hoffman journeyed over the Santa Fe trail on seven round-trips, the first being in 1864, as mentioned previously.
Among the Indians of Mr. Hoffman's acquaintance was "Satank", a chief of the Kiowas. Once when Hoffman was driving cattle down into the Indian territory, now Oklahoma, an Indian hailed him from the top of a hill in the vicinity of Ft. Sill. He stopped until the man had come up. The Indian wanted to borrow some tobacco and was successful in his "touch". Then he recognized the donor.
"What you doin' here?" Satank demanded gruffly. Mr. Hoffman explained his mission.
"But you got no business down here," Satank warned. "This country no good except for Injuns and hoss thieves."
Mr. Hoffman's last trip over the trail was in 1870, a short time after which it was closed.
Dan M. Bell of Lyons is another of the remaining pioneers. And he enjoys several unique distinctions. He is probably the only man now living in Rice county who came into it over the old Santa Fe trail for the purpose of homesteading. He was one of the county's first commissioners. He and Mrs. Bell were the first residents of the county to be married here and are probably the only ones to have been married on the old trail.
Aside from all this he was a pioneer merchant of the "lost town of Atlanta", having arrived there early in 1871 when it was little more than a townsite. And he was a pioneer settler of Great Bend, having moved there for a short time the following year.
What is still more, he is one of the few remaining buffalo hunters. He followed it as a sport and on a commercial scale, killing them in places ranging from the site of the present city of Lyons to many miles westward.
Mr. Bell is particularly interesting because he can supply the demand of the present generation for the little details of pioneer life. He can recount hundreds of interesting events of plains days, some of which will be given here.
In speaking of the buffalo, Mr. Bell brings out the fact that it was not the only animal on the plains. The beaver was to be found on nearly every little stream, he says, and there, too, the wild turkey. The gray wolf, coyote, badger, antelope and elk all lived as next door neighbor to man, and of these, he says the antelope was the most interesting.
Mr. Bell captured a young antelope one day while out hunting, and brought it back to Atlanta expecting to raise it. But he had scarcely reached the settlement before he realized he had made a mistake. There were no cows in those days, and consequently no milk for the "infant".
Then he had an idea. In the neighborhood was a negro woman who had a small baby. He explained the situation to her and managed to effect a bargain whereby she was to act as wet nurse for the little animal until it could be weaned. Her remuneration was to be $5, which was then a great deal of money.
The bargain was kept and the antelope eventually returned to Mr. Bell's custody. A short time later an eastern transient saw it and bought it for $10. Thus Mr. Bell realized a profit of $5 as a reward for his trouble and the result of the colored woman's tender care.
There were other experiences with animals. Among these were the thrills of being twice trailed by coyotes. Once while returning from Ellsworth with mail for Atlanta he heard first one yelp, then a score, immediately behind his horse. He began to worry for fear they might attack his animal, so proceeded to shoot into the pack. He killed a few, but they did not attack him.
The other occasion was at night while he was riding in a wagon with some fresh meat aboard. This, he felt sure, had attracted them, for they did a good job of "stalking" him for several miles. Coyotes were seldom, if ever, known to attack a man but nevertheless he felt considerably relieved when they dispersed.
Of experiences with the Indians Mr. Bell has had a share, altho never to a point of seriousness. One of the most humorous of these occurred at Atlanta where he was operating a general store.
A lone Indian "buck" walked into the place one afternoon and in a matter-of-fact way announced that he expected some "buff". This was the usual Indian effort at saying "buffalo meat". There was always plenty of jerked meat at the store where it was free to anyone who cared to ask for it.
Mr. Bell that day had a particularly fine buffalo ham on the cutting block and this he proceeded to divide with his caller. But when he started to use the axe to separate the halves, the Indian walked around to the large end and stood there, waiting for it to come loose.
Without comment, Mr. Bell flopped the piece end-for-end. The Indian was equally rude. He walked around to the big end again. Then Mr. Bell eyed him sternly and said: "Now listen here, if you want any of this you'll get the little end." The Indian grunted and took his place at the little end, grabbing it up and departing without the formality of anything that resembled "Thank you".
There was little trouble with the Indians at Atlanta. The Cheyennes were their closest neighbors, living across the Arkansas river where they had been impressed with the fact that they were to stay. They were not, under any circumstances, to venture across to the north side.
One day, however, a party of men from Atlanta happened to be down near the stream and saw a group of the Indians on the side opposite the reservation. This they accepted as a sign that the Cheyennes were on the war-path, and they hastened back to town with the news.
A meeting was called hastily and all the men in the community came. The purpose of the gathering was to decide what to do in preparation for what seemed a certain attack.
As a result Mr. Bell and a man named "Wash" Sallada were selected to ride to Ellsworth to solicit the aid of soldiers at the fort.
Upon reaching Ft. Harker they were received by the officer in command who read the petition from the people of Atlanta and immediately shook his head, saying: "I'm sorry but we can't help you."
"And why not?" the Atlanta men asked.
"Because," was the reply, "we have only enough soldiers for the regular scouting duty."
"Well, then, can you let us have some guns and ammunition? We are not prepared to protect ourselves," the men pleaded.
And the answer was: "We have none to spare."
It looked as tho their long ride was to be unavailing. And as a last hope for some sort of help Bell asked: "Can you tell us whether we are in danger?"
To which there came the unsympathetic reply: "Not a blamed bit, unless the Indians break loose." Which was far from reassuring.
The men hurried back toward home, expecting at any minute to see smoke from the burning village. But the town was still there when they reached it and no one had been massacred. It ultimately developed that the local panic was nothing more than that.
Sheriff Spencer and Mr. Bell, who was a deputy, rode back and forth between Atlanta and the river for several days without seeing another Indian.
In 1871 when Atlanta, Union City and Peace were the only towns in the county, the people decided that there should be some sort of a
Thanksgiving day that year. So when the time came they gathered together for a turkey shoot.
The shoot was held in the back yard of Mr. Bell's store. A box was set up and on this the turkeys were placed. The rules of the contest provided that the man shooting must shoot standing upright, "off hand", and that he must at least draw blood to get the bird.
On the banks of Cow creek near where it is now crossed by the paved highway between Sterling and Lyons, were camped about 500 Kaw Indians. By the time for the shoot to start, the Kaws had heard of it and had come to Atlanta hoping to enter. But the rules barred them for the Indians could not shoot standing. If they could kneel they were better marksmen than most white people, but they had simply never learned to shoot from an upright position.
The white men were fortunate in having made such rules. Once in a while when they would give in to the Kaws just for the sport of it, permitting them to drop to one knee, there was always one less turkey after the smoke had cleared away.
But the Indians fared well during the afternoon for they had "squirrel rifles" which were better than the carbines and needle guns of the settlers and were much in demand by those shooting. The Indians finally bargained with the white men to rent them their rifles at five cents a shot, with the services of loading and cleaning the gun thrown in.
From out of Mr. Bell's ample stock of reminiscences come stories of the range cattle and their cowboy guardians. The cattlemen, it must be remembered, were in this county even earlier than the settlers but were not homesteaders because they were merely occupying the open range where grass was free. They proceeded with none but "squatters' rights", which were sufficient so long as the settlers did not demand their country.
The cattlemen were likely to be found anywhere, altho ordinarily along some stream where the cattle could obtain water. They lived in camps of temporary location and for varying lengths of time.
Naturally, the cattlemen resented the coming of the homesteaders, who they realized, would soon alive them to other and probably less favorable grazing grounds. As a result they were the cause of many "Indian scares" and other disguised threats toward the newcomers.
Mr. Bell recalls that in the winter of 1871 and 72 the weather was particularly severe, resulting in the freezing up of streams and the subsequent inability of the cattle to get water. This, coupled with prairie fires which had hurt the pastures, caused the death of many of the animals and they were to be found along the streams, huddled together for warmth and large numbers of them on the verge of death if not already dead.
But the dying cattle provided an opportunity for the settlers who were ready to do almost anything to get what little money they needed. Dead cattle were skinned for their hides, which brought a reasonably good price if they were in good condition.
This continued thruout the several months without a thing to halt it, for the cattlemen were widely separated and could not know of what was taking place everywhere on the range. At length, however, the cowboys came to the conclusion that the settlers were not waiting for the animals to die but were killing some that might survive. Of course they were angry, and sent to the men of Atlanta an ultimatum which said that the first settler found skinning ah animal would be killed on he spot.
Another general assembly was held in Atlanta. All were certain that no one had killed any of the cattle, and that the decision of the range men was therefore unfair. As a result they, in turn, sent out an ultimatum, the substance of which was that if anv of the settlers should meet death at the hands of the cattlemen, the prairie would be fired.
It was a bad situation from either viewpoint. Each faction had the other at a decided disadvantage. Mr. Bell, who remembers that no violence occurred, regards it as the strangest "compromise" ever to be effected in Rice county.
It was during this time that the late W. H. Hopkins of Lyons was threatened with hanging.
He was engaged one day in skinning an animal which he had found dead along a stream. Looking up he saw a group of cowboys almost upon him.
"Well, stranger, I guess we have caught you at it," the spokesman said angrily.
"It looks like you might have," was Mr. Hopkins' reply. Then mustering up every bit of courage, he decided to take one long "shot" at a bluff.
"Now, if I have to be hung," he said, "it looks like it ought to be my privilege to choose the tree." To which he added: "I'll take that big limb right up there."
It worked. "What brand has that animal got on him?" the leader demanded. To which Mr. Hopkins, brandishing his long skinning knife replied:
Well, get down off your horse and come over and find out."
Eventually the spokesman smiled and said: "Now we don't happen to be that sort of fellows. We don't intend to hang you. All we want to know is that you aren't killing any of the cattle."
Further conversation ensued, during which Mr. Hopkins learned that the man to whom he was talking was the owner of many of the cattle in the region. He told Mr. Hopkins what his brand was and gave him permission to skin any dead animal he found bearing it. With that the men rode away.
Mr. Hopkins could never forget the fright of those first few minutes of contact with the cattlemen.
But to return to the experiences of Mr. Bell, it should be said that he was a successful buffalo hunter. He had come to the new country with that in mind, and since he was interested in learning all he could about it, soon acquired sufficient knowledge to warrant his becoming leader of a "group", which consisted of five men-two killers and three skinners.
He gives much of the credit to his horse, which he had brought with him and which had been trained as a cattle pony. The little animal did everything but shoot the buffalo, he says, never requiring the least bit of attention while working alongside a herd.
It is likely that no one who ever lived in Rice county has had closer contact with the "wild and wooly ways of the west" than Robert Millard, who until a few years ago resided on a farm northwest of Lyons.
During the year 1874, Mr. Millard with several other pioneers of the Rice county vicinity, set out on a long hunting trip into the southwest country.
They outfitted at Dodge City, which was then the "jumping off place", and proceeded mile after mile on a jaunt which finally took them to territory not far from the Mexican border.
While this was the longest and greatest of his buffalo hunting trips, Mr. Millard frequently roamed about the plains west of Rice county, and on his several expeditions came in contact with the notorious bad men as well as the heroes of the west at that period. As a result he speaks of most of them with an air of familiarity which is in itself convincing.
NOTE: Robert Millard died on Nov. 17, 1928, at the home of a nephew, Ray Millard, at Ellinwood, Kansas. Practically the only printed accounts of his many experiences are those related here. He took -with him to his grave a vast store of early reminiscences, for want of someone to convert them to the written word.
Of "Buffalo Bill" Cody his estimation is not very high. After referring to him in sundry derisive tones, Millard tells of the last time he met the old scout and plainsman.
It was in Cody's later life during the time he owned a circus. The show was playing a small town in Oklahoma where Millard chanced to be.
Coming upon Cody seated on top of one of the huge show wagons, Millard looked up at him and, catching his eye, said: "Bill, I don't suppose you remember me."
Cody searched his mind but could not place him, until Millard had mentioned several places and circumstances under which they had met.
Then Cody said: "Have you got time to talk for a few minutes?" Millard replied that he did and Cody, giving charge of the wagon and horses to a circus employee, entered a saloon with him where they sat down together to "reminisce".
"I just proceeded to tell him what kind of a rascal I knew him to be," Millard declares, "and instead of getting mad he just said: 'I know it. It's all the truth. And you can't say too much about it to suit me. I like to meet someone who knows and will tell me the truth about myself.'"
Together they sat for an hour or more, according to Millard, "crying like a couple of blamed kids and talking over the old days."
"But there were men on the plains who were all and more than they are now supposed to have been," Millard acknowledges. Chief among those of his acquaintance was a man in the southwest country known simply as "Hurricane Bill". Bill was a powerful man, everything his name implied when it came to drawing guns, and as capable once they were drawn. He was a gentleman in that he respected the law, but was rough as the next one when occasion demanded it.
At the little Texas town of Ft. Griffin a certain gang of desperadoes one day announced that at an appointed hour that night they would "shoot up the town". It was a warning or challenge, just as the individual citizen chose to take it. He might leave and escape trouble, or remain to "face the music".
There were a good many in the town who accepted it as a challenge and determined to do something to stop it.
"Hurricane Bill" either by voluntary action or selective draft was appointed the official reception committee of one, and a few minutes before the designated hour walked into one of the town's many saloons where the gang had congregated before sallying forth upon its spree.
As Bill entered, the gang wheeled around from the bar and glared at him in a manner of hostility, and at the same time wonderment that anyone would have ventured in.
"What do you want here?" the leader called out as he and two of his companions stepped forward toward the newcomer.
"Why, boys," said Bill calmly, "I just heard you were going to have a little shooting around here tonight and I wanted to be sticking around to see the fun."
The leader of the gang scowled viciously and snapped out: "You're right we are, and you're the first victim."
The echo of his last few words, according to Mil-lard, mingled with that of pistol shots, and three of the saloon crowd dropped dead. Neither of them was Bill. He had simply "beat them to the draw".
The town was not shot up.
In relating "Hurricane Bill's" many accomplishments, Millard tells of having seen him in pistol practice. Riding a horse at break-neck speed between two tall posts, Bill could plant three bullets in each one as he passed between-firing with a pistol in each hand.
His guns were carried in shoulder holsters, underneath a loose blouse where he felt they were more accessible and provided a quicker "draw", which they evidently did.
On one other occasion in the same region, a gang of ruffians in a town not far away had become unusually troublesome. They were known as the "Kangaroo Gang", and their chief stunt was to catch a stranger in their village and order him to buy drinks for the crowd. If he demurred, others would gather until at his second opportunity he would have several times as many to buy for.
To "Hurricane Bill" again fell the lot of one-man vigilance committee. He rode into their town one day and reined in his horse in front of the favorite saloon. As he stopped, two or three loafers stepped toward him and demanded that he dismount, come inside, and buy the drinks.
Bill refused. There ensued a lively wrangling in which the bad-men at length informed him they were the notorious "Kangaroo Gang".
"Well you're just the bunch of blankety blanks I've been looking for," was Bill's comment.
And with that he brought his two guns into action. When the smoke cleared away, seven "Kangaroos" were very, very quiet. He had not been content with making targets of those on his side of the street but had even picked off one or two across the road.
Millard was in the party some time later when Bill met his death. They were out hunting, miles from a settlement, and he was accidentally shot through the abdomen, just below the belt. They placed him in a wagon and set out across the plains toward a town where they could get a doctor. Mile after mile, day after day they traveled, without so much as even a little turpentine to put on the wound. They reached their destination with Bill still alive, but he died the same evening.
Another character of Millard's acquaintance was a man known as "Spotted Jack"-a mixture of negro, Mexican and Indian and, needless to say, a "hard egg". But "Spotted Jack" managed to get along with the better class of plainsmen and hunters.
While on one of the hunting trips they happened to be camping for several days close to another group of white men. In the other party was a man who owned an unusually large and noisey gun and this he had a habit of firing several times shortly after daylight each morning.
One morning they failed to hear the gun and decided they had better investigate. They found the neighboring hunting camp ransacked and looted and the three occupants dead. All had been scalped and otherwise mutilated.
With forty-seven recruits a party of hunters set out in pursuit of the Indians, trailing them for days with "Spotted Jack" as their guide.
Eventually they were assured by Jack that they were nearing the Indian village and the guide, dismounting, crawled to the top of a hill where he peered over. Then he signaled the others to do as he had, and flattened himself upon the ground to await their arrival.
By this time all but seven of the original forty-seven had returned to their camps, having dropped out one or two at a time, disgusted with the apparent hopelessness of ever overtaking the murderers.
The men picketed their horses in a little ravine and joined their guide where, peering over the brow of the hill they saw in the valley below, a string of tepees two blocks long. Indians-braves, squaws and papooses-were everywhere.
They had come a long way to avenge the deaths of their fellow hunters and in spite of their small force determined not to leave without at least attempting reprisal. They lined up, loaded their guns and started pouring lead into the village.
Some of the braves jumped upon horses and fled, while others hid behind their tepees to meet the attack. Squaws and papooses took cover as best they could.
During the fighting, "Spotted Jack" was shot in the finger with the same big gun taken from the camp of the unfortunate white men. The injured member clung to his hand, held there by Jack's tough hide, while that individual cursed and ranted as he attempted to twist it off.
At length the attacking party discovered that their efforts were not only futile but extremely foolish, for they were greatly outnumbered. "Spotted Jack" was the only one wounded. He had received a second bullet that had entered his leg just above and behind the knee and had lodged in the fleshy part of his thigh.
He called to the men to run, if they expected to get out alive, and to leave him to his fate. But they refused to do this and gathered him up.
When they reached the ravine where they had left their mounts, they found to their great dismay that the Indians who had fled on ponies had swept down this same little gully, stampeding their horses and driving them away with their own. They were in a bad predicament, miles from camp and with little ammunition, food or water. Most of their belongings had been left in the saddle-bags and had disappeared with the horses.
They rigged up a crude sling for helping "Spotted Jack" along and set out afoot on the weary march back to the home camp. They trudged four days and most of the time during as many nights. They knew the general direction but were frequently lost.
Their shoes wore out and they were obliged to use the skin of a buffalo for moccasins to replace the footwear.
At length, one night, they lay down in a valley thoroughly exhausted and expecting to die together. Their tongues were swollen from thirst until they were past the point of talking much. But they were not to die.
Early next morning, Millard remembers, they heard someone calling. Looking in the direction of the sound, a hundred yards or more beyond, they saw one of their party who had arisen earlier, standing up and waving his arms excitedly, urging them to join him.
They all trudged forward where they found he had discovered a pool of fresh, cold water. The famished men threw themselves face down along the water's edge, drinking their fill.
All day they remained near the little pond, drinking water and recuperating in general. Then they resumed the march and not long afterward came upon their camp.
On one of Millard's sojourns far into Texas his party came upon a plainsman who was driving a herd of wild horses. In those days everyone was a trader, either occasionally or professionally. Millard was of the former class and the lone plainsman of the latter.
Millard had a small gun which he kept about the wagon, and the horse-trader seeing this immediately wanted to "swap" for it. He offered Millard the pick of his herd.
Looking about through the animals, Millard spied a small broncho, a buckskin. He was about a two-year-old. It was Millard's choice and that he was a good judge of horseflesh was proven later.
In breaking the little animal it was almost necessary to break its neck, and as a result he was hauled for miles in the big wagon. But by the time the party had reached home, "Broncho", as he was promptly dubbed, was docile as a lamb and fast becoming an affectionate pet.
Broncho took many hunting trips with Millard. When out after buffaloes it was necessary to tie the little fellow (he stood something like (12 hands high) to a wagon before starting away from camp to avoid having Broncho trailing at his heels like a pup.
On the plains at night when the men slept upon the ground with only the starry heavens above them, Broncho was allowed to roam about as he pleased. Ordinarily he would graze in close proximity to the camp until he had his fill and would then return to lie down close by his master, to sleep the rest of the night. In that, too, he was more like a dog than a horse, but this was attributed to the fact that Broncho was of the wild variety which, under domestication, responds to the master alone and to him is exceptionally faithful.
It was likely that not all of Broncho's affection was due to his natural instinct. Millard was, and is, a kindly man. Always a bachelor he came to shower upon his pets the little attentions, kindness and patient understanding that the average man bestows upon those of his own family.
Broncho was a fortunate slave-and appreciative.
At Millard's farm, nine miles northwest of Lyons, he had a racing horse-Orphan Boy-for which he had paid $1,000. In training the animal, he cast about for a horse to run with him, and because of his alertness picked on Broncho. The pony made a splendid showing at the very start, but was outdistanced by the more rangy thorobred. Eventually the distance between them at the finish was narrowed down, and at last Broncho was the better of the two.
In fact it was noticed that he was running the half mile in about fifty seconds, and on the prairie at that! He was outclassing many "fancy" animals-horses bred to the game.
So, with Broncho in his possession, there was only one logical thing for Millard to do. That was to let him run.
Millard went out on a trip and with him went Broncho. They would slip into a community known to harbor racing horses and cast about for a race.
There were four in Millard's party: Orphan Boy, the aristocrat, who trailed behind the wagon and looked like the main show, Broncho and a larger horse who worked side by side in the wagon harness, and Millard.
In challenging race horse owners, Orphan Boy would be shown first, and his appearance was often sufficient to produce "cold feet", for there were not many of his fine type to be found out on the plains. If the prospective competitors were reluctant to enter their animals against Orphan Boy, and they usually were, Broncho was ultimately chosen by both parties through a little diplomatic manipulation on Millard's part.
Broncho looked like anything but a racing horse and no one with a half-way decent animal would hesitate in matching him with the mischievous buckskin. But Broncho in all his life never lost a race that he and his master wanted to win.
At Cheyenne one year, for instance, he made Mil-lard richer by $3,000. At another place he entered in a consolation affair in which money was offered at the eighth, quarter, half, three-quarters and mile. He was never so much as a nose behind, sweeping the field.
One of the most unusual races of Broncho's career was run in Oklahoma against a camp of Indians who were positive they had a horse that could beat him.
Millard was reluctant to bet much, not wishing to antagonize the Indians, but they insisted. Buffalo robes, deer skins and hides of smaller animals were brought out, one or two or three at a time and piled up in a great stack. Millard was called upon to pile alongside a cash equivalent, until almost every hide in the camp was on the ground in front of him.
Even then the Indians were not satisfied. They began disrobing, placing their blankets and other wearing apparel on top of the furs, until they had nothing left but their breech clouts.
Then the race was on. It was a fast affair with Broncho shaking his heels under the nose of the Indians' entry right at the start and finishing far ahead of him.
Millard, in possession of all sorts of Indian goods, took the furs but placed the clothing to one side and invited the red men to come and get it. But they were good sports. They were whipped squarely and asked no sympathy. With numerous grunts they turned about and walked away.
When almost out of sight of the camp, Millard looked back to see what was taking place. He saw nothing. The Indians had not gone back after their clothing, and so far as he knows, never did.
The presumption is, however, that they weakened when certain he was gone for good.
Broncho lived for more than twenty years. Then he became sick and it was Millard's painful duty to put him out of his misery, which he did but not with a dry eye.
Broncho had a decent burial, as would befit a true friend and companion, being placed under the sod in a pasture near Millard's Rice county home. And over his grave was erected a stone marker in recognition of the noble character of this little buckskin mustang.