Ollie Stewart
April 26, 1859-October 6, 1967




The White-Red Man of Oklahoma

submitted by granddaughter- Trisha Davis
(originally submitted to True West as told by Ollie Stewart  printed in this May-June 1965, Volume 12, No. 5 as told to Olevia E. Myers)

Ollie Stewart's faded blue eyes grow brighter and his quivery old voise seems to grow stronger as he peers back --far back--through the swirling mists of over a hundred years.  Ollie came to Indian Territory when he was eleven years ole, in 1870.  He now lives quietly with his memories in a little two-room home in West Tulsa, and does his own cooking and housework.  He saw the Old West as it really was.  He lived it and helped build it.

The Owl-Hoot Trail on which all the bad ones rode, Frank and Jesse James, the Younger brothers, Jim French, Verdigris Kid, Blue Duck, Belle Starr, Cherokee Bill, has no nook or cranny that Ollie Stewart does not know.  I sat with him on his 104th birthday and listened to his almost incredible tale of the old days, and I have tried hard to capture the colorful language in which he relates his experiences.

"Twas in the late fall of 1870 when Pappy at last pulled up the ox team and hollered, "Whoa, Whoa!"  We were on a purty, slow-sweeping hill in Injun country near where the town of Sallisaw, Oklahoma now stands.  There was a few old Injun huts there, but no town-nothing even looking like a town.  It was coming on night when we pulled up and Pappy looked around and lowed as hoow "this was the place."  We had come all the way from Indiana in this old wagon with all the housekeeping stuff and all Pappy's plunder in it, along with me and my brother.  We had Mammy with us part of the way, but it was a long hard trip, and Mammy never had been strong--I think she had lung fever--anyway, she died summers along with way.  Me and Pappy dug a grave and buried her.  My brother was poorely like Mammy was, and so he didn't help dig the grave, but he got some wild flowers and put at her head and her feet and we give her a Christian a burial as we was able to.  Then we went on.

It was coming on night when we stopped, and Pappy said to get some firewood together so's Brother could fix some supper while we fixed a shelter.  Soon as we had unhitched the oxen, Buck and Jude as we called 'em, we took the chopping ax and starting cutting purty good sized young trees for the corner posts of our shelter.  We got the corner posts cut that night and then slept in the wagon, after eating a good supper of sow belly and biscuits cooked in the old Dutch oven by the campfire.  Sometime that night I waked up to the God-awfullest screeching and hollering you ever heerd and the wagon was plumb surrounded by Injuns.  They was all on horseback and nary a one of 'em had a saddle--just a sort of bellyband around the horse's middle and a kind of stirrup fastened on to the bellyband.  I was skeered to death almost, but Pappy--Pappy waren't afeared of nothing, for he'd gone through the War without a scratch and had been a prisioner for awhile, so he was hard as nails and dangerous as a rattler if you crossed him.
 
Pappy got out of the wagon pulling his galluses up over his shoulders and making friendly motions toward the Injuns who was all 'round the wagon.  He pointed to the coffee pot near the fire and said, "Git down--we'll make coffee."  The injuns just stared at Pappy and then an old buck with long greasy hair and feathers all braided into it, said "Goody."  Pappy didn't know what in the world he meant, and shook his head in puzzlement to show he did not understand.  By now I had the old shotgun in my hands and had 'er eared back--she was double barreled, 12 gauge, and loaded with buckshot.  I would have let go sure as shooting if they had made a move, but I was skeered--God, I was skeered!

The old greasy-haired buck made a motion as though he was drinking, and now and then he'd let out a war-whoope. "Goody, Goody!" he demanded.  All of 'em was gitting restless now--there was 'bout seven as I recollect--and finally Pappy said, "Whiskey?"  "Goody, Goody!" the Injuns all yelled and Pappy turned to the endgate of the wagon and reached in, pulled out a gallon jug of redeye we'd hauled with us, and when them redskins saw that jug, they kept hollering, "Goody, Goody!" and ever'last one of ;em jumped off their ponies and gathered around the campfire.  The jug went round and round.  Each Injun would take a big swaller and then gobble like a wild turkey,.  They'd pass the jug to Pappy each time it went round, and he'd take a little swig jest to be friendly.  After a while, the jug was empty and the Injuns made motions to Pappy that they wanted himt o go with 'em.  Pappy didn't know jest what to do, but he stuck his head in the wagon and told us that he thought he'd better go 'long as he thought they was friendly.  Pappy told us to git some sleep, that he knowed what he was doing and there was a hard day's work ahead tomorrow, because didn't none of us figger to sleep in that wagon another night.  So there in the middle of nowhere with prairie grass plumb up to the top of my head, we was setting along, Brother and me.

When I waked up pretty early next morning, Pappy was back and already drinking coffee by the chunk-up campfire.  Pappy told us the Injuns had taken him home with 'em and had built up a fire outside a shelter where the old Injun lived and then had called the squaws out of bed to cook for 'em.  Then they rosted a fat dog for Pappy!  You see-the fat dog was their way of being nice, jest like we will cook up a mess of stead or the best we've got for company.

Well, Pappy had never eat dog, but he said he figgered that iffen we was gonna git along with these folks we'd have to eat what they put before us jest the same as we'd expect 'em to do when they come to our house.  Soon as it was good daylig, we started on that shelter for us to live in, and know what we done?  We took the corner posts we'd cut the day before--they all had forks at the top--and we set 'em good and deep in the ground, then we took smaller poles and laid in the forks, then took still smaller poles and lad 'em across these poles and kivered the whole she-bang with grass and lims and we had a purty good shelter after we'd leaned some poles up to three sides and kivered them the same way.

We lived there for two years.  Always in the winter we kept a big fire going on the side that was open and it was plenty warm all the time, but I tell you we used a help of wood to keep that fire going.  Course there was always plenty of red coals to use in cooking the wild game we killed, and many a good pot of deer, bear, squirrel, rabbit, turkey--Good Loved, at the wild turkeys!--and then there was the pigeon roosts along the river banks.  You can't ever imagine the swarms of pigeons roosting on the limbs of trees.  I've seed big limbs broke off by the roosting pigeons.  Know how we killed 'em?  Well, we'd take a big stick--usually we whittled a hand-hold on a good hickory limb-and then we'd jest go down to the pigeon roosts, taking a good rich pine torch which seems to sort of blind 'em and start knocking 'em off the limbs.  You could swing that club and a down would fall.  After we'd killed what we thought we'd want for the winter (we salted 'em down inbarrels), we'd gather 'em up into the wagon and haul 'em home.  Took a whole day to clean 'em, too, but we'd all pitch in and they was shore good eating when the winter was on.  All the time while we lived in the shelter, Pappy was working up a good trade in Whiskey.  He had a good scheme.  He'd go acrost the river to Fort Smith or Van Buren and go 'round gitting a few gallons here and there--a gallon or two at a time--and hide it in the river bottom.  Then after night he would go to the Arkansas Rive to a place where he always forded--away from the regular ford, and he would swim acrost with a load on his horse's back, then go right back acrost the river to where he had his hid whiskey in the thick bottoms, and get another load.  Sometimes he'd work all night gitting his load to redeye acrost into the Territory.  Then he would load it up in the wagon and bring it on home. 

The Injuns all knowed him by now, and not a one of 'em but would've died before he'd betray him.  Funny how an Injun would never go back on his work.  They would all watch for the U.S. Marshals and warn Pappy if one was in the Nations and Pappy could have all that whiskey hid in no time a'tall.  We was real friendly with all the tribes.  You see, this was Cherokee country, but there was a awful lot of both Creeks and Osages lived here too, and ever'one got along fine.

There was no doctors, but the Injuns didn't didn't need a doctor-they knowed about remedies for ever'thing. and they wored, too-most of the time.  I remember when Pappy got a big running sore on his shin, a set-fast we called it, and he had rode to Fort Smith several times trying to git it cured.  Then this old Injun named Walking Stick come along, looked at Pappy's leg, shook his head and muttered, "Me cure. You want 'em me cure?"  "I shore do, Walking Stick," Pappy replied.  Walking Stick walked out into the woods, me trailing along, and found a dried cow chip-got a handful of that--and walked on to where a big old cottonwood tree stood and picked up a handful of the dead white bark that is always on the ground under a cottonwood tree.  He then took the cow-chip and cottwood bark and, finding a smooth rock, he spread this stuff out.  Taking a smaller rock, he pounded and pounded, and he'd sift it 'round and pound some more 'til it was just like flour.  Then he took some bear grease and mixed into it 'til he had a thick salve.  He told Pappy to not let his pants leg touch him for three days.  He then took great gobs of this stuff and made a real thick blanket of it all 'round Pappy's leg.  Three days later he come back, removed real careful the stuff that had hardened lake plaster almost.  He wet it with warm water, peeled it off, and we could see the leg was healing.  Walking Stick went throught the same process again, he sait it had to be fresh made--and three days later when he come back, the leg was healing a lot more and was all pink 'round the sore instead of grey runny matter like it had been for so long.  He told Pappy to let it air for three days, then again he applied the stuff and that was it.  Pappy never had no more trouble with that set-fast. 


 

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