A Hunting Adventure by Unknown

TIRED of the heat and confusion of the city, my friend Clarke and I left New York one fine morning for a hunting excursion on the prairies.

At Galena, on the Mississippi, we went aboard a steamer which conveyed us to St. Paul. Here we fitted out for the trip, and finally, at Sauk Rapids set our foot for the first time on the prairie.

From the Mississippi, at Sauk Rapids, we struck about north-west across the prairie for Fort Garry, a Hudson Bay Company’s fort, at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red River, where we replenished some of our stores; and thence we travelled through the Sioux, or Da-ko-tah country, until we reached Turtle Mountain.

Our party consisted of Clarke and myself, two French Canadians, whom we had engaged at St. Paul, and a half-breed, whom we had met on the frontier before reaching Fort Garry.

One evening, before camping at the base of Turtle Mountain, Clarke and I gave chase to some buffalo, and I killed one, which I proceeded to cut up at once by removing the tongue and undercut of the fillet. The meat I tied to the thongs of my saddle, placed there especially for that purpose, and I rejoined the camp before nightfall. Clarke came back shortly afterwards, having killed his buffalo in three or four shots, and after a long chase. This had delayed him so much, that he lacked time to cut up his animal; so he marked the spot as well as he could by its bearings with Turtle Mountain, and he rode homewards to the camp, intending to go on the following morning, and get the meat for home consumption.

We cooked and ate our dinners, and rolling ourselves up in our buffalo robes, we slept most soundly. The following morning, Clarke went out and fetched his pony, which was picketed near the camp, saddled it, took his rifle and hunting-knife, and then off he started to look for the dead buffalo of the previous evening, cut it up, and bring home some of the meat.

I remained in camp; and as my wardrobe was rather dilapidated from constant hunting, and the limited number of clothes I had with me, I proceeded to mend my trousers, which were worn through just where it might naturally be expected they would first give way. This I could only do by shortening the legs of the garment. However, the end justified the means in this case.

These repairs, with other necessary work about our rifles and guns, occupied the morning very pleasantly; and about midday I went up the hill behind our camp, where a small bluff, or headland, projected from it over the vast grassy plain. I took my telescope with me, as every traveller in those wild regions should always do, when spying out either the fatness of the land or the possible surrounding dangers. Far and wide my eye fell over the gentle undulations of the prairie, but no deer or buffalo could I see.

No; instead of quietly feeding game, I discovered my friend Clarke, some three or four miles from camp, galloping at the top of his horse’s speed towards us, and five Indians in hot pursuit of him.

Knowing his danger, I of course ran down the bluff as hard as I could to the camp, and holloaed to the men to make haste and come to the rescue. I then ran for my pony, which was picketed at a short distance from our tent; but he was difficult to catch, or had drawn his peg out of the ground. At any rate, I  could not get hold of him; so I gave him up, and seizing my rifle, darted off as hard as I could to meet my friend.

Clarke being pursued by the Indians

The men also turned out with their guns; and soon afterwards Clarke rode up, both he and his pony looking much distressed. Clarke was as white as a sheet, and his pony was completely blown. The Indians sheered off on seeing us ready with our rifles. So no shot was fired; for they never came within range.

I then asked Clarke what had happened; and I give you his story of the affair.

On leaving camp in the morning, he had gone in search of the dead buffalo of the previous night. He soon found the carcass; and wishing to bring home the meat, he got off his pony, tied the animal to the horns of the buffalo,—as you are always taught to do in the Indian country,—and straightway began to cut off the pieces of meat which he wished to bring back to camp. Whilst so employed, he thought he saw another herd of buffalo not far away; so he finished cutting off the meat, and rode towards the new herd, on murderous thoughts intent.

He stalked the herd for some distance, until he thought himself tolerably near, when he looked round the corner of a hillock, and then to his horror found he had been carefully approaching five  Indians, who were congregated round a dead buffalo, their horses close by, and the men occupied in cutting up the beast.

Before he could turn to flee out of sight the Indians discovered him. They were Sioux, and at war with the whites. Instantly they jumped on their horses and gave chase, fired, no doubt, with the noble zeal to hang a white scalp in a Sioux lodge. Off went Clarke as hard as his little pony could carry him, the Indians shouting behind, and brandishing their guns in the air as they became excited by the chase, whilst he was thinking of the probability that existed of his scalp returning to camp, or dangling at the saddle-bow of one of these bloodthirsty savages.

Clarke supposes that he was five or six miles from camp when the chase began; and he recollected well throwing the cover away from his rifle, in preparation for a fight should his pony fall, or the Indians catch him through the superior speed of their animals.

Imagine the horrible feelings of a young fellow galloping away from five wild redskins, who not only desire to kill him then and there, but have, further, the sportsman-like anxiety to strip his scalp, and hang the dearly-beloved trophy in some filthy lodge, where it will gradually dry up, and remain the most valued heirloom in the family of the “Big Snake,” or the “Screeching Eagle,” or some other no less happily-named Sioux.

Their horrible shrieks ring in his ears, whilst he anxiously measures with his eyes the distance betwixt himself and his bloodthirsty pursuers; he endeavors to estimate his chances of escape, and longs for the protection of the camp, as Wellington longed for night or Blucher, knowing that if he falls he will be shot, or tomahawked and scalped, in the course of a couple of minutes.

No wonder, then, that poor Clarke did look as if he had seen a ghost, or encountered something even much worse; nor do I believe that during his subsequent army service he was ever much nearer a horrible death than during the few minutes which that pursuit lasted.

To conclude the account of this adventure, we covered his return to camp with our rifles, as I mentioned in the earlier part of this story; and you may conceive that we kept a very strict watch in the camp during the night, fearing lest the Sioux should either stampede us with an increased number of their friends after nightfall, or try to carry off our horses, and leave us deserted in the midst of the prairie. However, the night passed off quietly; and often since then have Clarke and I talked over this memorable adventure.

ONE step and then another,
And the longest walk is ended;
One stitch and then another,
And the largest rent is mended.
One brick upon another,
And the highest wall is made;
One flake upon another,
And the deepest snow is laid.