by LEMON SQUEEZER, SAN SABA, TEXAS 1900
"Away back in the early sixties when a Redskin lurked in every brushy hollow and when men and women went horseback to church, often times fifteen miles away, when everybody knew everybody else, and when everyone was a true neighbor -- it was then our story began."
ohn Tod and family lived in Mason country near Spice Rock. One morning he and wife and older daughter - Alice by name - started to church several miles away. Mr. Tod was mounted on a good sized horse and his daughter rode behind him. Mrs. Tod rode a beautiful bay mare known the country over as John Tods race mare. It was one of those "airish" mornings in early April, and the riders, cantered along.
Some three miles on their road is a rough thicket of blackjacks, post oaks and briers. Through this thicket and near its edge next to the road ran a deep hollow. Just as our little party of church goers got to the blackjack thicket they slackened speed and Mrs. Tod began singing a "meeting" hymn and she was a "powerful hand to sing with spirit and understanding". Suddenly out from the brush a dozen redskins sprang, making the woods ring with their yells. It is said the yell of the Comanche will reanimate a dead Negro. Mrs. Tods pony shot forward like a bullet, and though she came near being unseated, Mrs. Tod was soon out of harms way. Mr. Tods bridle rein was seized by a giant buck who endeavored also to pull him from his horse.
John Tod was a powerful man and a good horseman as well. In the scuffle Tods pistol fell from the scabbard, but nothing daunted he used his heavy iron handled quirt as a club and knocked the Indian down while another blow on the redskins bare knuckles freed his bridle rein. His horse, a spirited one, no sooner free then he "got faster". During the struggle with the Indian in front, two other Indians from behind seized Alice and bore her into the thicket.
To return single handed and without arms would be madness.
Tod rode in a gallop till dark and summoned seven men well mounted and armed with cap and ball pistols also one double barrel muzzle loading shot gun and one citizen rifle.
Just as the moon rose these men left Tods house, taking with them "Old Maje" John Tods nigger dog. The dog was to trail the Indians during the night; when day light should come a dog was unnecessary, because our frontiers men, any of them, could follow an Indian trail in daytime.
After running here and there, and all through the black jack thicket Old Maje uttered a prolonged bark as much as to say "Come on boys," and started off at almost a due north course.
Day was breaking in the east when it was decided that a halt of a few hours was very necessary in order that man and beast might hold out for what was likely to prove a long chase. A meal of black coffee, jerked beef and cold biscuits was soon disposed of and all but one man lay down for rest and sleep. The lone watcher, was after two hours, to arouse on man to take his place and he in turn to sleep. Nine oclock AM was the hour to renew the chase. Each man spread his saddle blanket up on the thick mesquite grass for a bed, and turned his saddle bottom upwards for a pillow, for covering he had the blue sky above him. Two minutes and "Big Sam" was snoring. "Big Sam" was a nick name for Dave Gunter who stood seven feet two inches in his stocking feet and who could answer a question in one breath and be sleeping soundly in the next.
"Wake up, Bill, your time to stand guard," and the first guard shook Bill not very gently by the shoulder. Bill continued to sleep and the sleepy guard shook him again and this time so vigorously that Bill Yawned and growled, "Get away, I aint been asleep a minute." Bill was just about a sleep again when he was seized by the heels and drug off his pallet in short order. Stretching his limbs for a few moments, Bill said, "Alright, Im ready for business."
A pack of coyotes that had kept up an unceasing howl since our party first made camp sneaked away at the approach of day. Already the mocking birds were singing in the trees.
Bill saw a cloud of rapidly moving dust approaching camp from the west. It might be a bunch of mustangs coming to water or it might be Indians. Bill was just in the act of arousing his companions when a sudden wind blew the dust far to one side enabling the watcher to see a large "cava yard" of mustangs led by a high stepping gray stallion come racing along. Once they come within two hundred yards of the camp; the gray reared, squinted, pawed the earth with his forefoot, wheeled and the whole heard was gone like the wind.
It was now nine oclock and Bill made haste to awaken his companions. As no one had undressed on retiring but scant preparation was needed before all were again ready to renew the chase.
"Everybody ready? Mount!" Called out John Tod.
Old Maje a little sore at first soon warmed up and again took the lead on the Indian trail.
Tired and hot John Tod and men reined their thirsty horses in to the Goose pond.
Within less time than is taken in its telling saddles were off and the horses were staked on the green mesquite grass. A quick hot fire of small mesquite limbs was kindled in a trice and the little black coffee pot soon began sending up a cloud of steam. To a hungry tired man what is more delicious than the aroma from a pot of boiling coffee?
Old Maje had become so sore footed several hours back that it was only by being "clear grit all the way through" that he got as far as Jack Lathaus on Deer Creek. Where he was left in the care of these good people while John Tod pushed rapidly on.
As soon as a few mouthfuls of biscuits and broiled beef had been disposed of nearly every one stretched himself upon the rank grass and soon was in heavy slumber. Not so for John Tod: he walked around the Pond looking for any signs that the escaping redskins might have made. He counted some sixteen distinct and different horse or pony tracks around the edge of the water.
This showed that the Indians had considerably increased their number since the chase began. He also found their camp fire behind a small patch of live oaks. Raking in the ashes he found live coals. Upon a still further search he found a childs shoe, a much torn testament, a metal spectacle case and sticking to a scraggy live oak bush the foot part of a ladys stocking. This last Tod recognized as belonging to his daughter Alice. Continuing to examine the ground round about Tom found that the Indians had divided themselves into two parties. One going in the direction of Roses Mill now Sloan and the other and the larger going in the direction of Cherokee.
The question now was, which trail must they follow? Their party contained too few to think of dividing it, was it not reasonable to suppose that the larger party of Indians kept the prisoners? Towards Cherokee would then be their course.
More than an hour had elapsed since Tod and men stopped for food and rest. Time was pressing, they must be off. Ten minutes more found them galloping over the hills towards Cherokee. A coyote ran out of a Sumac thicket seventy-five yards ahead, quick as a flash Big Sam drew his six shooter and the wolf rolled over snapping and biting his side.
"Pooty good shot, Sam!" Said one, "Could you do a red skin the same way?" "Jes give me a chance and Ill show you," said Sam.
For sometime the Indian trail had been getting dimmer and dimmer and John Tod had got to thinking that it was only a question of time and a short time, too, when the trail would entirely disappear.
Ben Davis, who had been silent until now, rode up from the rear to the side of Tod.
"Boss, did you know that our Indian Trail was just about played out? And its my opinion by the time we reach the bald hills just this side of Buffalo that our Indian trail will be clean played. What do you think?"
"Just what Ive been thinking for quite a while, Ben. Them red devils must have split up two and two and gone back. Curse the scoundrels, I wish that we could only come up with em!"
Back in the sixties when the Indians use to come raiding every bright moon, they had a regular route by which they always came into a community and also a like route to depart by. For instance, they would come in from the west if they were Comanches from Mexico, and from the Waluppe Mts. If they were Apaches. By one route they crossed to the south side of the river at the Barber crossing some three miles above the mouth of Deep Creek, then on through Llano and Burnet counties [in the last named county they usually staid longer than they did in any other county], sending out squads from the main band at intervals of time to depredate through the different settlements. In Burnet County their route began to bend back to the west on through Lampasas and this county. In this county they either came out by the mouth of Richland or crossed the river back of Tom Sloans field at what is known as the Comanche ford, and so they continued to bend their route until it ran into their first trail coming east. And then they returned to their homes. Sometimes they would reverse their route for a short distance. Usually three Indians on foot came on down the river as far as this place. It is said that one of these Indians made an immense track while the other two made small tracks. Before white men lived in this county the Indian had a big camp at the Twelve on what is generally known as the Henderson Springs; also one not quite so large on Turkey Creek. And at this last place they often encamped long years after they gave up this country to the white.
We must now get back to our Indian trailers. We left them on the bald hills were so many of our creeks have their heads.
"Well, yonder is the head of Buffalo and I aint seen any sign of the trail for a good many minutes." Ben Davis addressed this sentence to John Tod as if he were asking him a question. Tod understood him and replied.
"Its my opinion now that they the Indians have suddenly turned; some of them maybe, going as for as San Saba town while other have cut in higher up the San Saba River, and still others have gone back to the first part of the gang that split off from the main band this side of Deer Creek. I now feel perfectly satisfied that the smaller bunch of Indians had Alice, and now after it is too late to see that we should have followed the trail leading towards Roses Mill. Howsoever we will go on now until we strike Cherokee Creek. Maybe so we can find the trail again or, who knows. Perhaps the scamps have made a raid on the settlers of Cherokee and well be just in time to ketch em."
"I tell you Boss, them dare devils have played it old on us this time and mind what I say, well never no more, ketch em than a rabbit!"
"Hello! Look! Yonder is fire, Indians set the fire. Everybody ride up!" And away they galloped towards the burning prairie. Indians often set the grass on fire behind them to obliterate their trail.
The wind rose rapidly and the grass being rank and thick and dry the fire came swift as a race horse. Ever and anon a flame of red fire would shoot into the air, curve and strike the ground a hundred yards ahead of the burning grass. Almost instantly this would spread a hundred yards wide and ran ahead of the wind as madly as the fire behind.
Night was rapidly approaching and it then soon became evident to our Indian trailers that this fire was no trifling affair. It was a fact that should the fire overtake them, their death was almost a certainty.
Up spoke John Tod, "Quick! No time to lose, let us make for the Big Pond, (now the Henderson Pond near the head of Wallace). It is the nearest water that I know of. If the fire ketches us before we get to water somebody will shore get his whiskers singed!"
"Gee Whiz! John Tod, singed whiskers did you say! Some poor mothers boy will get a free pass to old Satans country and Sara Jane will be a widder or Ben Davis is a liar."
These tough old frontiersmen wheeled their already tired ponies and galloped rapidly towards Big Pond. If their horses had been fresh it would have been a different thing.
On came the mad flames roaring, leaping, bounding, rolling and sweeping everything before them. If the fire burned more slowly coming up the long, steep hillsides so must also these gallant riders also ride more slowly till they reach the crest of the hill.