Last of the Great Scouts
THE Fifth Cavalry at Fort McPherson had been ordered to Arizona, and was replaced by
the Third Cavalry under command of General Reynolds. Upon Will's return to
McPherson he was at once obliged to take the field to look for Indians that had raided the
station during his absence and carried off a considerable number of horses. Captain
Meinhold and Lieutenant Lawson commanded the company dispatched to recover the
stolen property. Will acted as guide, and had as an assistant T. B. Omohundro, better
known by his frontier name of "Texas Jack."
Will was not long in finding Indian tracks, and accompanied by six men, he went forward
to locate the redskin camp. They had proceeded but a short distance when they sighted a
small party of Indians, with horses grazing. There were just thirteen Indians-- an unlucky
number--and Will feared that they might discover the scouting party should it attempt to
return to the main command. He had but to question his companions to find them ready
to follow wheresoever he might lead, and they moved cautiously toward the Indian camp.
At the proper moment the seven rushed upon the unsuspecting warriors, who sprang for
their horses and gave battle. But the rattle of the rifles brought Captain Meinhold to the
scene, and when the Indians saw the reinforcements coming up they turned and fled. Six
of their number were dead on the plain, and nearly all of the stolen horses were
recovered. One soldier was killed, and this was one of the few occasions when Will
received a wound.
And now once more was the versatile plainsman called upon to enact a new role.
Returning from a long scout in the fall of 1872, he found that his friends had made him a
candidate for the Nebraska legislature from the twenty-sixth district. He had never
thought seriously of politics, and had a well-defined doubt of his fitness as a law-maker.
He made no campaign, but was elected by a flattering majority. He was now privileged to
prefix the title "Honorable" to his name, and later this was supplanted by "Colonel"--a
title won in the Nebraska National Guard, and which he claims is much better suited to
Will, unlike his father, had no taste for politics or for political honors. I recall one
answer--so characteristic of the man--to some friends who were urging him to enter the
political arena. "No," said he, "politics are by far too deep for me. I think I can hold my
own in any fair and no foul fight; but politics seem to me all foul and no fair. I thank you,
my friends, but I must decline to set out on this trail, which I know has more cactus burs
to the square inch than any I ever followed on the plains."
Meantime Ned Buntline had been nurturing an ambitious project. He had been much
impressed by the fine appearance made by Will in the New York theater, and was
confident that a fortune awaited the scout if he would consent to enter the theatrical
profession. He conceived the idea of writing a drama entitled "The Scout of the Plains,"
in which Will was to assume the title role and shine as a star of the first magnitude. The