Last of the Great Scouts
A Short But Dashing Indian Campaign
AS Will was one of the laid-off riders, he was allowed to join the expedition against the
Indian depredators, though he was the youngest member of the company.
The campaign was short and sharp. The Indian trail was followed to Powder River, and
thence along the banks of the stream the party traveled to within forty miles of the spot
where old Fort Reno now stands; from here the trail ran westerly, at the foot of the
mountains, and was crossed by Crazy Woman's Fork, a tributary of the Powder.
Originally this branch stream went by the name of the Big Beard, because of a peculiar
grass that fringed it. On its bank had stood a village of the Crow Indians, and here a half-
breed trader had settled. He bought the red man's furs, and gave him in return bright-
colored beads and pieces of calico, paints, and blankets. In a short time he had all the furs
in the village; he packed them on ponies, and said good by to his Indian friends. They
were sorry to see him go, but he told them he would soon return from the land of the
paleface, bringing many gifts. Months passed; one day the Indian sentinels reported the
approach of a strange object. The village was alarmed, for the Crows had never seen ox,
horse, or wagon; but the excitement was allayed when it was found that the strange outfit
was the property of the half-breed trader.
He had brought with him his wife, a white woman; she, too, was an object of much
curiosity to the Indians.
The trader built a lodge of wood and stones, and exposed all his goods for sale. He had
brought beads, ribbons, and brass rings as gifts for all the tribe.
One day the big chief visited the store; the trader led him into a back room, swore him to
secrecy, and gave him a drink of black water. The chief felt strangely happy. Usually he
was very dignified and stately; but under the influence of the strange liquid he sang and
danced on the streets, and finally fell into a deep sleep, from which he could not be
wakened. This performance was repeated day after day, until the Indians called a council
of war. They said the trader had bewitched their chief, and it must be stopped, or they
would kill the intruder. A warrior was sent to convey this intelligence to the trader; he
laughed, took the warrior into the back room, swore him to secrecy, and gave him a drink
of the black water. The young Indian, in his turn, went upon the street, and laughed and
sang and danced, just as the chief had done. Surprised, his companions gathered around
him and asked him what was the matter. "Oh, go to the trader and get some of the black
water!" said he.
They asked for the strange beverage. The trader denied having any, and gave them a
drink of ordinary water, which had no effect. When the young warrior awoke, they again
questioned him. He said he must have been sick, and have spoken loosely.