A Texas Matchmaker
XVIII. An Indian Scare
Near the close of January, '79, the Nueces valley was stirred by an Indian scare.
I had a distinct recollection of two similar scares in my boyhood on the San
Antonio River, in which I never caught a glimpse of the noble red man. But
whether the rumors were groundless or not, Las Palomas set her house in order.
The worst thing we had to fear was the loss of our saddle stock, as they were
gentle and could be easily run off and corralled on the range by stretching lariats.
At this time the ranch had some ten _remudas_ including nearly five hundred
saddle horses, some of them ranging ten or fifteen miles from the ranch, and on
receipt of the first rumor, every _remuda_ was brought in home and put under a
general herd, night and day.
"These Indian scares," said Uncle Lance, "are just about as regular as drouths.
When I first settled here, the Indians hunted up and down this valley every few
years, but they never molested anything. Why, I got well acquainted with several
bucks, and used to swap rawhide with them for buckskin. Game was so
abundant then that there was no temptation to kill cattle or steal horses. But the
rascals seem to be getting worse ever since. The last scare was just ten years
ago next month, and kept us all guessing. The renegades were Kickapoos and
came down the Frio from out west. One Sunday morning they surprised two of
Waugh's vaqueros while the latter were dressing a wild hog which they had
killed. The Mexicans had only one horse and one gun between them. One of
them took the horse and the other took the carbine. Not daring to follow the one
with the gun for fear of ambuscade, the Indians gave chase to the vaquero on
horseback, whom they easily captured. After stripping him of all his clothing, they
tied his hands with thongs, and pinned the poor devil to a tree with spear thrusts
through the back.
"The other Mexican made his escape in the chaparral, and got back to the ranch.
As it happened, there was only a man or two at Waugh's place at the time, and
no attempt was made to follow the Indians, who, after killing the vaquero, went
on west to Altita Creek--the one which puts into the Nueces from the north, just
about twenty miles above the Ganso. Waugh had a sheep camp on the head of
Altito, and there the Kickapoos killed two of his _pastors_ and robbed the camp.
From that creek on westward, their course was marked with murders and horse
stealing, but the country was so sparsely settled that little or no resistance could
be offered, and the redskins escaped without punishment. At that time they were
armed with bow and arrow and spears, but I have it on good authority that all
these western tribes now have firearms. The very name of Indians scares women
and children, and if they should come down this river, we must keep in the open
and avoid ambush, as that is an Indian's forte."