Volume 3, Number 2
Continued from Winter Quarterly
The dog jumped and hurled it back. I fired and shot it before it could regain its feet. It was a fine big panther that had trailed me all the way, smelling the warm blood from the hides, and had laid for me there on the creek. We examined the place the next day and found the panther had made a jump of from sixteen to eighteen feet.
"Another time I was in the woods with my gun and dog, and my dog ran onto a nest of something in a clump of grass. For the life of me I could not tell what he had found. I'd never seen any thing like them before or since. There were three little red and white speckled things that looked like fat puppies about a week after their eyes are open. They were the very prettiest little creatures I've ever seen, and I hadn't the least idea in the world what they were, but I soon found out. I was standing holding one of them in my hands examining it, when the brush rustled, and I looked up to see a huge she panther coming to her young ones. She was about forty yards away, and started to spring but the dog was on her and threw her off her feet and I shot her, killed her the first shot. That dog was always between me and any danger. That was a narrow escape, though. I was just fifteen years old then and had to act quickly. I took the kittens home and tried to raise them for pets, but couldn't tame them. I just felt hurt, because I couldn't too, for of all the little animals I have ever seen, they certainly were the prettiest.
"I've hunted 'possom and coons and caught a dozen of them many a night. You know you get a possum or a coon up a tree, then build a fire, and shoot him by the shine of his eyes.
"Wild turkeys were everywhere. You could hear them gobbling in the spring, and I could call a turkey until I'd make the turkey ashamed of him self. One day I was sitting at the foot of a tree calling for turkeys, and a fine gobbler was coming toward me. I was just aiming at him, when a big bobcat sprang on my back and then bounded back again. I shot the cat but lost the turkey. My back was badly scratched. After it was all over I found three little kittens lying in a nest of leaves, close by a log at the root of the tree where I had been sitting. I gave the kittens to a neighbor and he tamed them.
"Didn't I ever use tobacco, you say? Well, now I'll tell you. When I was thirteen years old, we raised a crop of tobacco, and took it over to Ozark to a factory near there, owned by a man named Mullins, a school friend of my father's from Tennessee. We drove there with a yoke of oxen. Mullins showed father through the factory, telling him what kind of tobacco was best to raise and so on, and he praised especially a tobacco that he called "honey dew'. It was so well flavored that it brought a big price, fifty cents a pound. I thought it sounded mighty fine and thought I'd buy a pound, but I didn't want father to know it, for father didn't use tobacco at all, being a Free-will Baptist preacher. We started home and I was still thinking of that honey dew tobacco, when father said, "Well I've fogotten to get that indigo your mother wanted. Here you ride back and get it and I'll get on home." So back I went, and I got not only indigo, but I got the honey dew as well. I got out of sight of the factory, and then I opened up my package and cut off a piece of tobacco big enough for a cud for a cow and began chewing. Twasn't long till I begin to feel a little sick and faint. I rode on to a spring, climbed from my horse, got a drink and then lay down by the spring just too weak and sick to get on my horse again. Father thought I would overtake him but I didn't; I didn't get home until a way on in the night. I wasn't hungry either; didn't want any supper for once. The next morning I cut the string from that package, and threw that honey dew tobacco as far as I could send it, and that ended tobacco using for me-never tasted it from that day to this.
"Well life went right on as usual after that. I just lived in the woods and knew every call of each animal-the whistle of the deer, the cry of the panther, the bark of the wolf, and the song of every bird.
"It was no uncommon thing to find any kind of stock torn to pieces by wild animals. There were some bears here, black ones and brown ones. They were not dangerous unless they were crippled by a shot, then they would fight. The bears were intelligent, too. One would often go into a corn field, cut down a lot of corn, pile the stalks up in a big pile, then lie down by the side of the pile and take his time eating the corn. They often killed the hogs, and one night after supper we heard the dogs barking and the pigs squealing in a terrible way. I lighted a pine torch took my gun, and started in the direction of the noise. A pig kept squealing and squealing. I met the dog coming back on the run, and just as I rounded
"Somebody once said that if a man wanted to be called the biggest liar in the world, let him tell a bunch of hunting stories, and I reckon I'm in for it" said Uncle Joe, "but these stories of mine are true alright, and it shows just what life twas like in the old days. They were good times we had, a heap better than we have now, and it was all the life I knew, just the life of wild nature, and wild scenery, and wild things in the woods up to the time the war broke out.
"I was fifteen in August after the war broke out, just a boy. People were about evenly divided here; and families were divided, too. Father and sons were often on different sides, and brother fought against brother. My oldest brother and I were on opposite sides; he went into the Union army and I was a Confederate. Some way I always seemed to take sides with the weakest, even in a dog fight. There was lots of trouble here during the war; men were killed and houses were burned, cattle and horses were taken, all kinds of depredations, by both sides till there was hardly a settlement left anywhere. One gang would come along and say "You d--d old sesesh you've got to get out of here', and another gang would come along and threaten the other side, 'You d--d old Union sun of a gun, you get, or", just fighting back and forth all of the time till nobody's life was safe. The southern sympathizers would go south for safety, and the Union men would escape to the North, and it all made a bad time. I stayed at home with mother 'till '64, when I just had to take sides on account of a terrible thing that happened at that time. There were three old gray-headed men here-Johnnie Campbell, whose farm is now a part of the game park; Eddie Williams, who lived down the river some distance; and John Bruden, who lived where I now live. They had lived quietly, disturbing nobody, but were threatened and were afraid for their lives. They were perfectly innocent in every way, but being in danger all the time they finally went together, and made themselves a camp under a ledge down near the head of Fox Creek. A man named Zimri Thomassen came through here, for no other reason in the world but just to plunder and went north and pretended he lived here, and could take them to a bushwacker's camp. Now of course you could not blame the soldiers, as that was their work if they knew of a bushwackers' camp, it was their duty to go after it; this man never served a day as a soldier; but he guided a gang to where these old men were camped and they were shot and left lying where they fell. We had to be mighty careful what we did in those days, and we hardly dared show sympathy for a neighbor in trouble, but mother and myself and one or two others went to that camp and buried the bodies the best we could hurriedly. A big tree had been uprooted and left a big hole, and some loose dirt. We placed a bed spread down in that hole, rolled the bodies on to it, wrapped them up, and covered them over as best we could with a little earth and brush and some logs. But this wasn't much protection, of course, where there were so many varmints. This happened in May, and in June when the leaves were out thick, and the under brush all leaved out, so that we could get around without being seen, two of Eddie Williams' boys, Newton and Jasper, myself and others took sheets and rolled the bodies in them, put them in pine boxes, put them in my wagon, with an ox team, and I drove eleven miles to Yannell's graveyard, where we buried them. I've been through war and bloodshed, and Indian warfare, all kinds of hard life since then, and I've never done anything that was as hard or that made the horrible impression on me as did that eleven mile drive, slipping through the woods like a fugitive with those bodies in the wagon by the side of me-it was a pretty severe experience for a boy of seventeen.
"This man Thomassen was afterwards shot by his own son, a half mile from where these old men had been shot down. Nobody knew for certain, but it was claimed to be an accident and the boy was never arrested, but it always seemed to me that this man got his just dues. Such things took place on both sides, as I have said, but it was this occurrence that made me go into the Confederate army at this time.
"We knew we might be shot at any time, were threatened, so when the recruiting officer came into the county I joined the Confederate army. I was in the Third Missouri Cavalry, under Col. Green of St. Louis, Marmaduke's old brigade, and Lafayette Snapp was Lieutenant of our company. We went from here to Croller's Ridge in Arkansas, and joined the company as it passed the Ridge on Price's Raid. I was in several light skirmishes, but my first battle was Pilot Knob, or Iron Mountain; then came Booneville, Glasgow, fighting every day now, till at least we reached Mine Creek, twenty-five miles above Fort Scott, where Marina- duke and five hundred or our men were taken prisoner. My horse was shot and I was a prisoner. We walked to Fort Scott that night. The whole country around there had been burned over, and everything to eat was mighty scarce, so scarce that we went five days and nights on two hard tacks. We were marched to Warrensburg, from there to Jefferson City, then by train to St. Louis, where we were placed in a Federal prison. Say did you know I had been through college? Well, I have, went through there in St. Louis in a few
"I walked from Shreveport back to Taney County after the war was over. We had no money, but several of the boys had horses and they told me that if I would take them into Shrevesport and sell them, I could have five dollars for each horse I sold. I made fifteen dollars, and had thirty cents of it left when I reached home. The folks were mighty surprised, too, when I walked in on them, because a man named Mattheson had told the folks that I had taken sick and died, and that he helped bury me. So, of course they could hardly believe their eyes when I walked in.
"One thing I remember on my trip home from Shreveport; Five of us were walking back together -Eddie William's two boys, Newton and Jasper, George Woods, Mark Beasley, and myself. Every thing along the way was burned up, and it was hard to get anything to eat. We had a light dinner one day in a little town, pulled out about two o'clock in the afternoon, and about ten the next day reached a little town below Buffalo Shoals on White River, a walk of forty miles. We were mighty hungry by this time, and the first thing we saw was two men carrying a catfish that weighed 125 pounds. They had a rail run through its gills, and the men carried the ends of the rails on their shoulders, and the fish's tail dragged on the ground. We inquired for a place to stay, and they said there was no hotel in town but said they would fix us a dinner of fish and corn bread for a dollar a piece. We asked if they would include coffee for the dollar, they said no the coffee would be ten cents a pint extra. Well, while they went in to cook the fish and cornbread, we decided that we'd sure eat our dollars worth. The fish was fried nice and brown and the corn bread was mighty fine. We kept eating and they kept frying. When we were through we asked one of them how much fish we had eaten, and he said
was left, he guessed it at about forty pounds judging from what he had cut off and from what That was eight pounds for each of us. And that fish was one of the really fat fish I have ever seen. I've seen but two in my time that would fry themselves, and they had to pour the grease from the frying pan as they cooked this one.
"There were hard feelings and hard times here then for a number of years. Those who had been Confederates soldiers didn't have much show, it seemed like, and when the presidential election of '72 came around, there was lots of excitement. That was the first time that Confedarate soldiers had voted since the war. That was when Grant and Greeley were the presidential candidates, and on election day there were some shooting and cutting scrapes, and bad blood in many ways. I wanted to get away from it all, so I went to Texas, first to Belton County and after wards to Comanche County, where the Comanche Indian troubles were raging.
"Fort Graham was near where I located, and the government offered to furnish arms and ammunition to the settlers if we would form our selves into companies of Minute Men, ready to fight at a minutes notice when the Indians came in upon us. The government did this so that we might protect ourselves, you see. They furnished us with Sharp's carbines, and we gave bond for their return to the fort. The Minute Men were on the alert all the time-always ready for an emergency.
"When the rumor of an Indian raid went out, the first man to hear it took his gun, mounted his horse and, riding fast, roused the next man on the way, and so on, gathering a company as he went, just as they did in the Revolution. The principal object of these Indian raids was to steal horses. They would sulk into a settlement, scatter out, get a pony here and one there, then graudally gather together at some appointed place, and make their escape through the hills and across the Sabine River, often with several hundred head of horses; and always people were killed and property destroyed. The settlers had been harried in this way till they were desparate, and the organization of the Minute Men did much toward putting a stop to these depredations. We followed many an exciting trail, and had many skirmishes with the Indians.
"We had been at peace for some time, when all at once we found that the redskins were among us. There is a range of hills or low mountains between the Leon and Sabine Rivers, and there are three gaps in this range- Mercer's Gap, Rat tlesnake gap and Buffalo Gap. Through one of these the Indians came, and always made their escape through one or the other of them, but there was no telling which one of them they would make for.
"At the time I speak of, we gathered men as we went-Minute Men and cow boys-and Cap-
tain Hill ordered me (I was a lieutenant in our company) to go to Mercer's Gap
and guard that, sent another party to Rattlesnake Gap and he himself took the
trail. He soon lost the trail however, and sent for me to come back and take
it up and he hurried his men to Mercer's Gap. I was always a good trailer. I
had much experience in following trails in these Ozark hills; and besides the
Indian is the best trailer in the world, and the instinct was in my blood. I
traveled afoot and was soon on the trail of just one pony. I could trace that
out across the smooth prarie. It was early morning when the Indians had passed,
and the dew had been heavy on the grass. I could stoop and look ahead and see
the grass bending just a little and occasionally a foot print. We followed this
until we came to where they had joined the big bunch, about 500 we judged, and
we found where the band with the horses had crossed the Leon River some fifteen
miles from Mercer's Gap.
Our horses were about worn out, but we pushed them on, and we came across the bodies of two women and three children that had been scalped that morning, and these women and children belonged to some of the men in our company. We pushed on to the crest of the ridge and dismounted to rest our horses, and we could see a great cloud of dust some miles ahead of us. With our spy glass we could see this great cloud of dust racing on toward Mercer's Gap-the question was had Captain Hill reached there. I was watching through the field glasses at that time, and the cloud of dust seemed all at once to flatten out and scatter, and I said "Boys, they've beaten Captain Hall and gone through the Gap." My eyes were glued to the field glasses, and I could have cried for disappointment, when all at once I saw a blue smoke and another and another. I threw down the glass and cried, "He's there; he's there boys; Captain Hall's there ahead of the red devils and how they shouted, and every man took a look through those field glasses, and in less time than it takes to tell it we saw the cloud of dust again, then flying figures-and here came the Indians lying flat on their horses' backs- and Captain Hall in the rear keeping them on the dead run. They were making straight for our ridge, taking the shortest cut back to the timber along the Leon River. We had them ambushed.
"I had thirty-five men with me, and we dropped down the side of the hill, a short distance below the crest of the ridge, so they couldn't see us, and placed my men in a line about fifteen or twenty feet apart; they were thus protected but ready to charge up the hill in an instant. I said, "Boys, remember the women and children we found scalped this morning on the trail-Don't let a man of them escape". I ran back up the ridge, and peered over to be sure we had not mistaken their maneuver, and on they came, with our men quite a distance behind. You see the Indians had taken fresh horses after the attack at the Gap, and Captain Hall's horses were fagged. "All right boys", I shouted, "be ready for them, and remember the women and children".
(To be continued)
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