At Comanche Ford
"There's our ford," said Juan,--our half-blood trailer,--pointing to the slightest sag in a
low range of hills distant twenty miles.
We were Texas Rangers. It was nearly noon of a spring day, and we had halted on
sighting our destination,--Comanche Ford on the Concho River. Less than three days
before, we had been lounging around camp, near Tepee City, one hundred and seventy-
five miles northeast of our present destination. A courier had reached us with an
emergency order, which put every man in the saddle within an hour after its receipt.
An outfit with eight hundred cattle had started west up the Concho. Their destination was
believed to be New Mexico. Suspicion rested on them, as they had failed to take out
inspection papers for moving the cattle, and what few people had seen them declared that
one half the cattle were brand burnt or blotched beyond recognition. Besides, they had an
outfit of twenty heavily armed men, or twice as many as were required to manage a herd
of that size.
Our instructions were to make this crossing with all possible haste, and if our numbers
were too few, there to await assistance before dropping down the river to meet the herd.
When these courier orders reached us at Tepee, they found only twelve men in camp,
with not an officer above a corporal. Fortunately we had Dad Root with us, a man whom
every man in our company would follow as though he had been our captain. He had not
the advantage in years that his name would indicate, but he was an exceedingly useful
man in the service. He could resight a gun, shoe a horse, or empty a six-shooter into a
tree from the back of a running horse with admirable accuracy. In dressing a gun-shot
wound, he had the delicate touch of a woman. Every man in the company went to him
with his petty troubles, and came away delighted. Therefore there was no question as to
who should be our leader on this raid; no one but Dad was even considered.
Sending a brief note to the adjutant-general by this same courier, stating that we had
started with twelve men, we broke camp, and in less than an hour were riding southwest.
One thing which played into our hands in making this forced ride was the fact that we
had a number of extra horses on hand. For a few months previous we had captured quite a
number of stolen horses, and having no chance to send into the settlements where they
belonged, we used them as extra riding horses. With our pack mules light and these extra
saddlers for a change, we covered the country rapidly. Sixteen hours a day in the saddle
makes camp-fires far apart. Dad, too, could always imagine that a few miles farther on
we would find a fine camping spot, and his views were law to us.
We had been riding hard for an hour across a tableland known as Cibollo Mesa, and now
for the first time had halted at sighting our destination, yet distant three hours' hard
riding. "Boys," said Dad, "we'll make it early to-day. I know a fine camping spot near a
big pool in the river. After supper we'll all take a swim, and feel as fresh as pond-lilies."