Read CHAPTER IX of The Life and Adventures of Nat Love Better Known in the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick", free online book, by Nat Love, on

En route to Wyoming. The Indians demand Toll. The fight. A buffalo stampede. Tragic death of Cal. Surcey. An eventful trip.

After getting the cattle together down on the Rio Grande and both man and beast had got somewhat rested up, we started the herd north. They were to be delivered to a man by the name of Mitchell, whose ranch was located along the Powder river, up in northern Wyoming. It was a long distance to drive cattle from Old Mexico to northern Wyoming, but to us it was nothing extraordinary as we were often called on to make even greater distances, as the railroads were not so common then as now, and transportation by rail was very little resorted to and except when beef cattle were sent to the far east, they were always transported on the hoof overland. Our route lay through southern Texas, Indian Territory, Kansas and Nebraska, to the Shoshone mountains in northern Wyoming. We had on this trip five hundred head of mostly four year old long horn steers. We did not have much trouble with them until we struck Indian Territory. On nearing the first Indian reservation, we were stopped by a large body of Indian bucks who said we could not pass through their country unless we gave them a steer for the privilege. Now as we were following the regular government trail which was a free public highway, it did not strike us as justifiable to pay our way, accordingly our boss flatly refused to give the Indians a steer, remarking that we needed all the cattle we had and proposed to keep them, but he would not mind giving them something much warmer if they interfered with us. This ultimatum of our boss had the effect of starting trouble right there. We went into camp at the edge of the Indian country. All around us was the tall blue grass of that region which in places was higher than a horse, affording an ideal hiding place for the Indians. As we expected an attack from the Indians, the boss arranged strong watches to keep a keen lookout. We had no sooner finished making camp when the Indians showed up, and charged us with a yell or rather a series of yells, I for one had got well used to the blood curdling yells of the Indians and they did not scare us in the least. We were all ready for them and after a short but sharp fight the Indians withdrew and every thing became quiet, but us cow boys were not such guys as to be fooled by the seeming quietness. We knew it was only the calm before the storm, and we prepared ourselves accordingly, but we were all dead tired and it was necessary that we secure as much rest as possible, so the low watch turned in to rest until midnight, when they were to relieve the upper watch, in whose hands the safety of the camp was placed till that time. Every man slept with his boots on and his gun near his hand. We had been sleeping several hours, but it seemed to me only a few minutes when the danger signal was given. Immediately every man was on his feet, gun in hand and ready for business. The Indians had secured reinforcements and after dividing in two bands, one band hid in the tall grass in order to pick us off and shoot us as we attempted to hold our cattle, while the other band proceeded to stampede the herd, but fortunately there were enough of us to prevent the herd from stringing out on us, as we gave our first attention to the cattle we got them to merling. Back and forward, through the tall grass, the large herd charged, the Indians being kept too busy keeping out of their way to have much time to bother with us. This kept up until daylight, but long before that time we came to the conclusion that this was the worst herd of cattle to stampede we ever struck, they seemed perfectly crazy even after the last Indian had disappeared. We were unable to account for the strange actions of the cattle until daylight, when the mystery was a mystery no longer. The Indians in large numbers had hid in the tall grass for the purpose of shooting us from ambush and being on foot they were unable to get out of the way of the herd as it stampeded through the grass, the result was that scores of the painted savages were trampled under the hoofs of the maddened cattle, and in the early gray dawn of the approaching day we witnessed a horrible sight, the Indians were all cut to pieces, their heads, limbs, trunk and blankets all being ground up in an inseparable mass, as if they had been through a sausage machine. The sight was all the more horrible as we did not know the Indians were hidden in the grass during the night, but their presence there accounted for the strange actions of the herd during the night. We suffered no loss or damage except the loss of our rest, which we sorely needed as we were all pretty well played out. However, we thought it advisable to move our herd on to a more desirable and safe camping place, not that we greatly feared any more trouble from the Indians, not soon at any rate, but only to be better prepared and in better shape to put up a fight if attacked. The second night we camped on the open plain where the grass was not so high and where the camp could be better guarded. After eating our supper and placing the usual watch the men again turned in, expecting this time to get a good night’s rest. It was my turn to take the first watch and with the other boys, who were to watch with me, we took up advantageous positions on the lookout. Everything soon became still, the night was dark and sultry. It was getting along toward midnight when all at once we became aware of a roaring noise in the north like thunder, slowly growing louder as it approached, and I said to the boys that it must be a buffalo stampede. We immediately gave the alarm and started for our herd to get them out of the way of the buffalo, but we soon found that despite our utmost efforts we would be unable to get them out of the way, so we came to the conclusion to meet them with our guns and try and turn the buffalo from our direction if possible, and prevent them from going through our herd. Accordingly all hands rode to meet the oncoming stampede, pouring volley after volley into the almost solid mass of rushing beasts, but they paid no more attention to us than they would have paid to a lot of boys with pea shooters. On they came, a maddened, plunging, snorting, bellowing mass of horns and hoofs. One of our companions, a young fellow by the name of Cal Surcey, who was riding a young horse, here began to have trouble in controlling his mount and before any of us could reach him his horse bolted right in front of the herd of buffalo and in a trice the horse and rider went down and the whole herd passed over them. After the herd had passed we could only find a few scraps of poor Cal’s clothing, and the horse he had been riding was reduced to the size of a jack rabbit. The buffalo went through our herd killing five head and crippling many others, and scattering them all over the plain. This was the year that the great buffalo slaughter commenced and such stampedes were common then. It seemed to me that as soon as we got out of one trouble we got into another on this trip. But we did not get discouraged, but only wondered what would happen next. We did not care much for ourselves, as we were always ready and in most cases anxious for a brush with the Indians, or for the other dangers of the trail, as they only went to relieve the dull monotony of life behind the herd. But these cattle were entrusted to our care and every one represented money, good hard cash. So we did not relish in the least having them stampeded by the Indians or run over by the buffaloes. If casualties kept up at this rate, there would not be very many cattle to deliver in Wyoming by the time we got there. After the buffalo stampede we rounded up our scattered herd and went into camp for a couple of days’ rest before proceeding on our journey north. The tragic death of Cal Surcey had a very depressing effect on all of us as he was a boy well liked by us all, and it was hard to think that we could not even give him a Christian burial. We left his remains trampled into the dust of the prairie and his fate caused even the most hardened of us to shudder as we contemplated it. After getting fairly rested we proceeded on our journey north and were soon out of the Indian Territory, though we often met small bands of roving bucks, but aside from exchanging a few shots at each other they caused us no trouble. We crossed Kansas and Nebraska and reached the end of our long journey without further incident worthy of note, and we delivered our herd only five head short which was not bad considering the distance we had travelled and the events that had happened. It was a wonder that we had been able to get through with half of our herd or men. Consequently it was with genuine relief that we turned the cattle over to their new owners and received our receipt therefor. We remained at the Mitchell ranch in Wyoming several days, fraternizing with our northern brothers, swapping yarns and having a good time generally. On the return journey to Arizona we were of course, able to make better time and we returned more direct by way of Colorado and Utah, taking note of the cattle trails and the country over which we passed. In that way we secured valuable information of the trails and the country that stood us in good stead in future trips north. Arriving home at the Pete Gallinger ranch, in Arizona, we became the heroes of the range, and we received unstinted praise from our boss, but the loss of Cal Surcey was universally regretted.

We were relieved of all duty until we got thoroughly rested up, while our horses had the best the ranch afforded. But at a large cattle ranch there is always something doing and it was not long before we were again in the saddle and preparing for another trip on the trail. To the cow boy accustomed to riding long distances, life in the saddle ceases to be tiresome. It is only the dull monotony of following a large herd of cattle on the trail day after day that tires the rider and makes him long for something to turn up in the way of excitement. It does not matter what it is just so it is excitement of some kind. This the cow boy finds in dare-devil riding, shooting, roping and such sports when he is not engaged in fighting Indians or protecting his herds from the organized bands of white cattle thieves that infested the cattle country in those days. It was about this time that I hired to Bill Montgomery for a time to assist in taking a band of nine hundred head of horses to Dodge City. The journey out was without incident, on arriving at Dodge City we sold the horses for a good price returning to the old ranch in Arizona by the way of the old lone and lonesome Dodge City trail. While en route home on this trail we had a sharp fight with the Indians. When I saw them coming I shouted to my companions, “We will battle them to hell!” Soon we heard their yells as they charged us at full speed. We met them with a hot fire from our Winchesters, but as they were in such large numbers we saw that we could not stop them that way and it soon developed into a hand to hand fight. My saddle horse was shot from under me; at about the same time my partner James Holley was killed, shot through the heart. I caught Holley’s horse and continued the fight until it became evident that the Indians were too much for us, then it became a question of running or being scalped. We thought it best to run as we did not think we could very well spare any hair at that particular time, any way we mostly preferred to have our hair cut in the regular way by a competent barber, not that the Indians would charge us too much, they would have probably done the job for nothing, but we didn’t want to trouble them, and we did not grudge the price of a hair cut any way, so we put spurs to our horses and they soon carried us out of danger. Nearly every one of us were wounded in this fight but Holley was the only man killed on our side though a few of the Indians were made better as the result of it. We heard afterwards that Holley was scalped and his body filled with arrows by the red devils. This was only one of the many similar fights we were constantly having with the Indians and the cattle thieves of that part of the country. They were so common that it was not considered worth mentioning except when we lost a man, as on this occasion. This was the only trouble we had on this trip of any importance and we soon arrived at the Montgomery ranch in Texas where after a few days rest with the boys, resting up, I made tracks in the direction of my own crib in Arizona.