Tracking Chief Tasacowadi And The Comanches

From the novel, The Texas Bounty Hunters

A sudden movement to the far left of the woods caught the cowboy’s attention and he reined in his mule. A horse and rider were slowly moving between the dogwoods and ash trees.
He removed the glass from his waistband and put it to his eye. The rider was an Indian. He was wearing a black stovepipe hat with a turkey feather stuck in the band and a light cotton shirt and deerskin leggings. He had a quiver of arrows on his back and a bow attached to his horse pad. The horse he was riding was a large spotted Appaloosa. It was his friend Shoots Plenty, a Lakota Sioux.
The cowboy nudged the mule and moved in the direction the Indian was traveling. He stopped behind a copse of pine trees and heavy brush and waited. Soon he heard Shoots Plenty approach. He was drinking Moccasin flower tea and softly chanting and speaking to himself.
When Shoots Plenty passed the rider yelled out, “ Inaji, halt. Raise your hands and slowly turn around.”
“Is that you, le mita-kohla, my friend?”
“Yeah, I thought it was supposed to be hard to sneak up on an Indian?”
“It is,” Shoots Plenty replied as he turned his horse around, “But I am old and civilized now. Why are you riding a one-eyed mule?”
“Because he is easy to sneak up on and the Seditionistas stole my horse.”
“So, you are easy to sneak up on too? I see they stole your pants and your guns also?”
“That’s true, but I’m gettin’ them back.”
“Of course you are, Wasichus, on this one-eyed mule. And when will you be doing this?”
“Soon, where are you headed?”
“I waited ten sleeps for your return. I figured you traded your old Lakota friend for a squaw so I am returning to my people.”
“I need to find Tasacowadi, the Comanche Chief. His people are in danger. Basilio Ramos and his Seditionistas are planning to raid the Comanche camp while Tasacowadi and his warriors are on their hunt. They will make it look like the Texians are responsible for the massacre. I have to warn him. Will you ride with me?”
“Nothing my brother asks of me is too great.” He took a swallow of his tea then replied, “Let us go before your one-eyed mule dies of old age.”
“Or you, Shoots Plenty.”
Soon the two riders reined their animals in and sat looking over their left shoulders to the northwest as a blue norther approached.
They listened as the muffled whistle of an elk floated on the breeze that seemed to rise from the earth behind them.
The cowboy’s back ached. He had seen more than forty winters and was well into approaching another as was his companion, Shoots Plenty. Neither man was no longer a young man.
They glanced around and spotted many pony tracks.
“No metal moccasins. No pony-drags. Most likely a war party; forty to fifty, possibly more. Comanche,” Shoots Plenty said.
“A Comanche war party can easily travel forty miles a day. Judging by the freshness of the dung piles the trail is no more than two days old. The stalks of grass stomped down by the ponies hooves are beginning to rise back toward the sky.”
Esben nodded and they kicked their mounts and rode upstream for a quarter mile looking for more signs of the war party before returning to the trail. It took another three hours before they finally found what they were looking for. To the left of the trail was a gathering of white stones set in the shape of the quarter moon.
“They passed this spot at the time of the first quarter moon which was three nights before. See over there?” Shoots Plenty remarked, pointing to his left. “The two sticks jutting from the ground, one higher than the other? The Comanche have been on the trail two days from their last camp. They are at ease; not concerned about enemy movements around them.”
Both riders continued to scour the ground for more signs. It didn’t take long before the old Lakota Sioux located a straight line of small pebbles pointing east, indicating the direction the war party was heading.
Rain and sleet began to pepper them for the next mile before letting up, failing to soak them and, more importantly, the Comanche pony tracks remained visible.
That evening they could smell the smoke from the Comanche fires. They dismounted and staked their ponies in a stand of Dogwood and cautiously approached on foot. They watched a mounted procession of warriors circling the fire, leading up to the Comanche scalp dance. One warrior rode through camp on his horse, his buffalo headdress on his head and freshly taken scalps tied to his tomahawk. One after another, riders arrived and dismounted at a large dance area where drums began to beat and the warriors began to dance in their elaborate costumes; some dressed up as antelope or deer, some as bear or mountain lions. It was fascinating to watch as they screamed, growled and roared, imitating the sounds of the different animals. Then they all screamed blood-curdling war cries.
“This will last most of the night,” Shoots Plenty whispered. “Let us go.”
They turned and crawled back to the stand of Dogwoods where they spread out their robes.
“You know, Wasichus, the earth’s soil is soothing and gives us strength. It is also cleansing and healing.”
“I feel one of your stories coming on, Shoots Plenty. Why do you tell me all these stories? Go to sleep.”
“Stories have a spirit. They continue to live and grow. It is how my people teach our young.
I am old and have learned much and know there is much more to learn. This is why I still sit upon the earth. I do not prop myself up away from its life giving forces. For me, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think and feel deeply; I can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about me. Then I can tell you stories.”
He placed a hand on the ground and explained: “We sit in the lap of our Mother. From her, we, and all other living things come. We shall soon pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.
My people come from the Mdewakanton, Water of the Great Spirit. Your people call it Rum River. My people call it Wakpa Wakan, Spirit River. It flows through Ogechie Lake in what your people call the Minnesota Territory.
Originally, my people came up from the center of the earth and found themselves near Mille Lacs Lake, from which the Spirit River comes. Many moons ago, after a flood, my people went into Mille Lacs Lake and lived as underwater people. Then a whirlpool pulled them up to the surface and threw them out onto the shore, where they lived as people who walked on land again. They hunted and fished near the Spirit River and at other places around the sacred lake
When there were many beaver and otter, the French people came and brought peace between my people and the Three Fires People, who called themselves Anishinabe, the first people. When our people were at peace the white man made more money on trading the fur of our beaver and otter because both tribes were bringing them furs for trade. But when the beaver and otter were no more, the French people armed the Three Fires People with bullet firing muskets and my people were forced from the Spirit River, our ancestral homeland.
I am now old. I am filled with peace and good will. I no longer wish to fight. No longer is anger and fury lodged in my mind.”
He looked in the direction of Esben and heard him softly snore. He was asleep. He heard nothing of what he said.
“Hmm, I try to teach you, Wasichus, but you fail to listen.” He rolled over and soon he too slept.
They were awake and saddled up before the sun rose and rode to the Comanche camp. They knew the Comanche sign to give when approaching their camp, to alert the Sentinel they were friends. They rode their mounts forward twenty steps and stopped. Then turned to the right and walked another twenty steps and stopped before returning to where they began. The Sentinel waved them forward.
Esben was told to sit to the right of the chief, Tasacowadi, wearing a cape made from a huge bear. Shoots Plenty sat to his left.
Tasacowadi looked at the white stranger for a moment and then at the Lakota and said, “Why do you travel with this white man riding a one-eyed mule?”
“I have known him for many moons. He was raised by my people. Also, I am old and he thinks I am a Lakota Chief. He rides that one-eyed mule because it is easy for him to sneak up on that mule.”
Tasacowadi grunted and turned to the white rider, and said, “Speak.”
“We followed you for three days since you crossed the Rio de los Brazos de Dios, The River of the Arms of God,” the white rider said. “You are brave. You weren’t concerned about enemies being in the area. We watched your scalp dance last night before spreading our robes and finding sleep.”
“And why should we be concerned? We are Comanche.”
“A hombre named, Basilio Ramos, and a group of his followers from Chihuahua Mexico, calling themselves Seditionistas, are planning to stir up trouble between the Comanche and the Texians. They are committing atrocious acts against women and children of the Texians and making it look like the Comanche committed the attacks and also on the Comanche making it look like the Texians were to blame.
I know the Comanche has no fear, but your women and children are left unattended and are in danger as the Seditionistas have been spotted east of the Brazos. We have come to let you know.”
“The Comanche will kill this Ramos if he comes near our women and children.”
“Now the Texas Rangers are coming and you must be careful so that you and your people do not get caught in the middle of this bloodletting.”
“ We do not fear the Texas Rangers nor do we fear the Mexicans. We drove off the Apaches and the Kiowas and will do the same to the Mexicans and Texians.
“Many are the warriors of the white man. If we take the war trail for revenge, we will need the help of Cochise and his warriors.
Where have these Mexicans been spotted?”
“We will show you. But we must leave before the sun moves a fist in the sky.”

Devil’s Tower But The Sioux Know it By Another Name

 

Sioux Warrior

The two men sat their horses facing west. One was a white man who came from Sweden to the western states to hunt beaver pelts many years ago when beaver hats were all the rage in Europe. The other an Indian, an old Lakota Sioux warrior whose people had hunted the land for many years, ever since the Anishinabe, the First People, forced them from the Minnesota Territory. The two had been friends a long time. They met a few moons after the great victory of ’73, when the Sioux along with their brothers the Cheyenne, defeated Yellow Hair Custer and his men at the Little Big Horn. Neither man had liked General Custer. The white man had worked as a scout out of Fort Laramie under the command of General Crook when Custer was under Crooks command as well. He rode with Custer a few times and considered him incompetent as well as arrogant. He felt Custer got his due. The years since then had passed quickly and they saw many people arrive and a change come over the land. They knew people like them would soon be forced to flee or die.
They were watching the sun fade in the west behind a tall rock jutting out over the Wyoming plains.
“Do you see that rock?” The old warrior asked his friend.
“Of course I see that rock. I ain’t blind. It’s Devil’s Tower.”
“That is the white man’s name. We have no devil in our beliefs. We got along well all these many centuries without him. You people invented the devil and, as far as I am concerned, you can keep him. But everybody these days knows that towering rock by this name, so Devil’s Tower it is.”
“So, what about it?”
“My people have another name for it. We know it as Bear Rock and there is a story to that.”
“Ain’t there always with you Indians?”
“I suppose. When you get close you will see on its sides there are many, many streaks and gashes running straight up and down, like scratches made by giant claws, bear claws.
Well, long, long ago, two young Indian boys found themselves lost in the prairie. You know how it is. You Wasichas get lost all the time. The boys shot their toy bows out into the sagebrush and went to retrieve them. They heard a small animal make a noise and went to investigate.
They came to a stream with many colorful pebbles and followed that for a while. Then they came to a hill and wanted to see what was on the other side. You know how that is, you Wasichus are always curious. Well, on the other side they saw a herd of antelope and, of course, they had to track them for a while.”
“Is there a purpose to this story, or are you just having fun at my expense?”
“That too. When the boys got hungry they knew it was time to go home but found they did not know where they were. They started off in the direction they thought their village was but ended up farther away from it. At last, being very tired from all that walking, they curled up beneath a tree and went to sleep.
The next morning they rose and walked some more, still headed the wrong way. They ate some wild berries and dug up wild turnips, found some chokecherries, and drank water from streams. For three days they walked toward the west.
On the fourth day, the boys had a feeling that they were being followed. They looked around and in the distance saw Mato, the bear. This was no ordinary bear, but a giant grizzly so huge that the two boys would only make a small mouthful for him, but he had smelled the boys and wanted that mouthful. The earth trembled as he gathered speed and got closer to the boys.
The boys started running, looking for a place to hide, but there was no such place and Mato was much faster than they were. They stumbled, and the bear was about to pounce upon them. They could see his enormous, wicked teeth. They could smell his hot, evil breath. The boys were old enough to have learned to pray, and they called upon Wakan Tanka, the Creator:
“Tunkashila, Grandfather, have pity, save us,” they prayed.
“All at once the earth shook and began to rise. The boys rose with it. Out of the earth came a cone of rock going up, up until it was more than a thousand feet high. And the boys were on top of it. Mato the bear was disappointed to see his meal disappearing into the clouds.
Have I said he was a giant bear? This grizzly was so huge that he could almost reach to the top of the rock, trying to get up, trying to get those boys. As he did so, he made big scratches on the sides of the towering rock. But the stone was too slippery; Mato could not get up. He tried every side. He scratched up the rock all around, but it was no use. The boys watched him wearing himself out, getting tired and finally giving up. Soon Mato left, growling, and grunting as he disappeared over the horizon.
The boys were saved.”
“How did they get down, old man? They were not birds. They could not fly. I suppose you are going to tell me that father Coyote came to save the day again?”
“No, not this time, Washichus, it was Wanblee, the eagle, he has always been a friend to our people. So it must have been the eagle that let the boys grab hold of him and he carried them safely back to their village.”
“Yeah? So why are you telling me this?”
“To let you know that the Sioux have been to the top of that rock and back down again. Wakan Tanka made it so. No white man has been there.”

You Can Make A Difference

One Lady Who Made A Difference

Don’t ever think because you are only one person that you can’t make a difference because you can, and this lady did.
Her husband, Charlie, told her to forget about it. To let it go she would only be riling up the neighbors and nobody would do anything anyway. Nobody cares.
But she couldn’t let it go. It was too horrific; all the blood. It made her shudder just thinking about it. That was two years ago and since that day, she reached out to people of all economic and social strata of society.
She adroitly cultivated many contacts, from school children to businessmen and politicians gathering information to lead the fight. It was a lot of work but it was passionate work and now…
The sun was beginning to rise over the Nevada Mountains as the diminutive woman limped with determination out her front door in Reno. The limp was leftover from a bout with childhood polio that left her crippled. Her purse hung from her left shoulder and in her right hand was a briefcase filled with all the documents she had gathered over the past two years. Her job as an executive secretary gave her the skills needed to put together the multitude of facts and evidence into the organized presentation that she hoped would right a wrong, a wrong that, for years, nothing had been done about; but she was determined to change that today.
She was scheduled to give her presentation that morning in Storey County, Nevada. She had no idea that she was about to set off a firestorm of hatred, scorn, and threats against her that would last her lifetime by the very people she was about to speak to.
As she arrived at the meeting, she was greeted by her boss, Gordon Harris, a Reno insurance executive.
“Hi, Velma, I want you to meet someone, State Senator James Slattery. Senator, this is the lady I was telling you about, Velma Johnston. She’s an incredible young woman and I think you will find what she is about to say very interesting.”
“Pleased to me you, Velma. Aren’t you one of Joseph Bronn’s kids?”
“Yessir, I’m his oldest. I have lived here all my life. He and my mother brought me out here in a covered wagon. I crossed the desert as an infant and was kept alive on mustang mare milk. Many of the horses my father used in his freighting service were mustangs.”
“Well, I’ll be. Your daddy was a good man. I look forward to hearing what you have put together.”
As Velma walked down the aisle to the podium where she would give her presentation, the men in the audience began to jeer her and finally one redneck rancher who looked like he was chewing on a golf ball, rolled his chaw of chewing tobacco to the other cheek and spit into a cup, before yelling out to his friends and fellow ranchers, “Well look it here boys, here comes Wild Horse Annie.”
Catcalls and laughter echoed throughout the hall before the county commission chairman was able to call everyone to order.
What started out as a divisive sobriquet became a rallying cry for her supporters and she wore it with pride for the rest of her life.
As it turned out, she was forceful and compelling as a public speaker and was able to charm and inspire others as she delivered her message about the indiscriminate slaughter and brutalization of America’s living legends, the mustang horse.
She fought for years to preserve the wild horses on the public lands in Western states. They and the burros were threatened by ranchers or others wanting to kill them for pet food.
It all began in 1950, as she left her office she noticed something that didn’t seem right; blood pouring out of the back of a stock trailer as it drove down the highway. She got into her car and followed it and it wasn’t long before she realized it was crammed full of wild horses destined for a pet food slaughterhouse. When they opened the trailer door to let out all the horses, she saw a yearling being trampled to death There and then she decided to expose this to the public eye.
In the mid-1900’s, massive wild horse and burro roundups were taking place on the Western public lands. These roundups involved airplanes flown by WWII pilots. They operated in conjunction with truck drivers and were aided by cowboys with lassoes and heavy truck tires. The 1961 movie, “The Misfits,” directed by John Huston and starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Montgomery Cliff, and Eli Wallach, who played a former World War II aviator named Guido Racanelli, depicted these brutal gatherings.
Velma Johnston led the drive in 1959 when Congress passed a bill to prohibit planes and trucks from rounding up the animals and it was through her hard work and dedication, that thousands of people of all ages became advocates for the wild horses. Congress received more letters on this issue than any other, save the Vietnam War.
Her testimony before Congress led to the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act (P.L. 92-195) which was unanimously passed and signed into law in 1971. This gave the wild horses and burros protection on BLM and Forest Service lands “where found” at the time of the passage of the Act in 303 areas.
She was president of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros and of Wild Horse Organized Assistance Inc. She also wrote her autobiography, “Mustang—Wild Spirit of the West.”

In 1973, she played herself in the Western, “Running Wild” starring alongside  Lloyd Bridges and Dina Merrill.
It was true that her efforts touched off controversy. Ranchers said that the wild horses were destroying grazing lands for domesticated animals. In 1974, she received a warning from an Idaho vigilante group, but she took the threat lightly and hung it on her wall of mementos, saying: “There aren’t too many people who have been threatened by vigilantes in the 1970’s.”
At the roundups of wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management, Wild Horse Annie was often present to assure that the horses were not harmed. And once captured, she led an adoption program to find homes for the animals.
Wild Horse Annie received a public service award in 1972 from Rogers C. B. Morton, Secretary of the Interior, for her fight on behalf of the horses. Her death was apparently caused by cancer.
So, when someone says to you, “You are only one person, you can’t make a difference.”
Just go out and show them, like little Wild Horse Annie did!

“They ran
 like they were running
 through the winds of time 
past the dry river gulch
 where the waters once 
ran swift and deep
 and many tribes camped
 along her banks
 and the children played
 and the deer and elk grazed
 they ran 
free and wild and 
with no idea that 
it would ever 
change.”
~ Michael Traveler, author of Postcards from the Past