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When Buffalo Ran by  George Bird Grinnell


 

 

MY MARRIAGE

[109] THE next summer I went with a party to war against the Mexicans. There were seventeen men, and two of them, Howling Wolf and Red Dog, had taken their wives with them. We took many horses, and were coming back, when, while we were passing through the mountains, two of the young men who had been sent ahead as scouts came hurrying back and told us that they had been seen by a camp of enemies, and that many of them were coming. We had a little time, and perhaps if the leaders of the party had been willing to give up the horses we were driving and had told each man to catch his fastest horse, we might have run away, but the leaders did not like to leave the horses and determined to fight those who were coming. Before long we saw them, Utes and Mountain Apaches, a large party—too many for us to fight with. We started to run.

Our horses were tired, and it was not long before our enemies began to overtake us and some of them to strike us with their whips, counting coups. Howling Wolf, a brave man, rode behind us all, trying to defend us, riding back and forth fighting off the enemy and whipping up the slower horses. As we ran, partly surrounded by the enemy and all in confusion, the girth on the saddle of Howling Wolf's wife broke and she fell off her horse with the saddle, and was left behind and taken prisoner. [110] One of the Utes captured her and took her up behind him on his horse.

After they had taken this prisoner the enemy stopped, and presently one of our men called out to Howling Wolf, saying, "Look, look, there is your wife! They have taken her prisoner!" Howling Wolf said, "Can that be?" and then as he looked he threw down his empty gun, calling out, "Someone pick up that gun." He drew his bow and strung it, and alone charged back on the man who had his wife. The Utes had gathered in a little group about this woman, and Howling Wolf rode straight for this crowd, shooting right and left with his arrows, when he got close to them. He ran against one man, and his horse knocked down horse and rider. He passed through the crowd up to the man who had his wife as prisoner, and shot an arrow through him, and then shot another man who tried to lead off the horse the woman was riding. A third ran up to take the bridle and he shot an arrow through his head. Then all the Utes made a rush at Howling Wolf and his wife. Their horses were separated, and the woman pushed off to one side. All the Utes were shooting at Howling Wolf, and he fought until all his arrows were gone, and then he was pushed off further, and rode to us. We never knew how many of the Utes were wounded. Howling Wolf was not hurt, but his horse was shot through the mane with an arrow.

Long afterwards, we were told that the Utes said to this woman, "Who is that man who is doing all this fight- [111] ing?" She answered proudly, "That man is my husband." When she said that the Utes rushed upon her and shot her with arrows, so that she died.

The enemy did not follow us further. They had killed two more of our men and this woman, and had captured all the horses we were driving. Perhaps they were satisfied.

For the last year I had been thinking a great deal about Standing Alone. I saw and spoke to her sometimes, but in these later days not so often as when I had been younger and had not been so often going on the warpath against my enemies. Yet she knew how I felt and her family and my mother also knew how I felt. She was wearing a ring of horn that I had given her and I wore her ring.

Three times in the last two years when I had come back from my war journeys with horses I had driven the horses to Two Bulls' lodge and left them there, and had sent him a message telling him that those horses were his. I had not given any present to Standing Alone.

In summer of this year I spoke to my uncle and told him that I wished to send horses to Two Bulls, and to ask him to give me his daughter for my wife. My uncle felt that this would be good and advised me to do it, saying that if I had not so many horses as I wished to send I should go to his band and take any that I liked. I told him that this need not be done for I, myself, could furnish the horses. Besides, my relations would give such other presents as might be needed.

[112] So it happened that about the time the leaves of the cottonwoods began to turn yellow, my aunt, my mother's oldest sister, went to Two Bulls' lodge taking ten horses, which she tied before the lodge, and then, entering, gave the message, saying that Wikis wished Standing Alone for his wife. After she had said this, my aunt returned to her lodge.

That night Two Bulls sent for his relations and told them what I had said. They counseled together and agreed that the young woman should be given to me. When I learned this my heart was stirred.

The news came to my lodge through one of the women of Two Bulls' family, and my mother and sisters prepared our lodge for the coming of Standing Alone.

It was about the middle of the day when they told me that she was coming.

Standing Alone, finely dressed, was riding a handsome spotted horse led by one of her relations, and other women were coming behind, leading other horses which bore loads.

The horse ridden by Standing Alone was led up close to the lodge and my mother ran out to it. Standing Alone put her arms around my mother's neck and slipped out of the saddle on my mother's back. My sisters caught her feet and supported Standing Alone, who was thus carried on my mother's back into the lodge and her feet did not touch the ground. Then she was carried around to the back of the lodge where my sleeping place was and seated next to me on my bed. Presently food was prepared and [113] for the dish to be offered to Standing Alone my mother cut up the meat into small pieces, so that she should have no trouble in eating her food. Then Standing Alone and I ate together and so I took her for my wife.

Many of the gifts that Two Bulls had sent with Standing Alone were distributed among my relations.

That day all my near relations came, bringing gifts of many sorts to us who were newly married. They brought us a lodge and much lodge furniture—robes and bedding, backrests, mats and dishes—all the things that people used in the life of the camp. Of these presents some were sent to the relations of Standing Alone and they in turn sent other presents to us, so that as husband and wife Standing Alone and I began our life well provided with all that we needed.

I did not again go to war that year, but spent much of my time hunting—providing food for my own family and often leaving meat at my father-in-law's lodge.

Up to this time, as I look back on it to-day, it seems to me that life had been easy for me and for the tribe. We had many skins for robes, lodges and clothing. Food was plenty. If we needed horses we made journeys to war against our enemies to the south and took what we required—but hard times were coming.

It was but a few years after I took Standing Alone for my wife, when my oldest boy was four years old, that the wars were begun between the white people and my tribe.

This was a hard time. It is true we killed many white [114] people and captured much property, but though most of the tribe did not seem to see that it was so, my uncle and I felt that the Indians were being crowded out, pushed further and further away from where we had always been—where we belonged. After each expedition through the country by white troops and after each fight that we had with the white men, we felt as if some great hand that was all around my tribe and all the other tribes, was closing a little tighter about us all, and that at last it would grasp us and squeeze us to death.

Of that bad time and of what followed that time, I do not wish to speak, and so my story ends.


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