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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express
AIDING AN INDIAN
Bill followed the trail up the gently sloping grade. He had been working his way northwest and was now in the heart of the Rockies. High above and all about him mountains towered.
Majors had commissioned him to make his way north to the Wyoming Valley on special duty. Bill had made this part of his journey uninterruptedly. It was a peaceful mission and he had found opportunity to spend some of his time hunting. The buffaloes were many and the grizzly still was monarch of that region.
It was a wild country and few white men had traversed it. At many points Bill had to make his way afoot, leading his horse through the thick vegetation and underbrush. Then, too, there had been sharp andsudden drops and he had need to be watchful.
He was alert for any quarry which might cross his track and which would appease his noonday appetite. Traveling light, he had planned that the country through which he was to make his way should supply his needs.
He heard a loud crashing in the dense woods close at hand Instantly on the alert, he made his way to the scene wondering what was causing the commotion.
A big grizzly, slashed and cut, was beating about. He had evidently been through at terrific battle with some other denizen of the forest and he seemed to have been blinded. His body was gashed in many places and his whole head had been fearfully cut.
Bill sent a bullet into the beast but such was its strong vitality that he had to use a second shot.
Bill then cut off a tender part of the beast for himself and set to work to prepare his noonday meal. He had long since become expert in the preparation of food and it was no great task for him.
He continued his way and had made more than thirty miles by four o'clock. The country still continued strange and wild and showed no sign of human visitation.
He was winding his way along a narrow trail below which yawned a dangerous precipice. None but a sure-footed animal would have dared to pass along this narrow lane. But there had been no hesitation on the part of boy or beast.
Then, suddenly, his horse shied and it was only the great skill of the rider which saved them both from going over the precipice. There, almost directly beneath him, was a horse lying prone. As Bill dismounted and investigated, he saw that the horse held his rider imprisoned beneath him. Bill made his way down to see what help he could give. A wounded Indian, who had miraculously escaped being crushed by his falling mount, lay groaning beneath the weight of the horse unable to move. Bill set to work to free the redskin. The boy had learned to consider an Indian as a natural enemy but he had also been taught by the law of the plain and forest not to desert the stricken and the needy.
The red man was finally freed from the weight of the animal. He gave no indication of pain and Bill could not tell how much he was hurt. He was able to move, so Bill helped him up to the trail.
The two men and the horse managed to make their way into a wider trail.
"Does my brother talk the language or the white man?" asked the boy.
The Indian nodded. His was a race of few words.
"Where does my brother wish to be taken?" Bill continued, and the Indian replied:
"My brother's goodness flows like the waters of yonder stream. Lonely Bear thanks him, but he can make his way without help, from yonder point."
Bill did not urge his assistance any further. He felt that the Indian understood that his offer had been made in all sincerity. On the other hand, he understood that the red man did not desire any further help.
They soon reached the point indicated. The redskin made a noble gesture.
"Lonely Bear makes a small voice of his gratitude. But the deeds he would do for his brother are many and he will remember."
"It is nothing and only what one man should do for another," Bill replied.
The Indian took one long look at the boy and was off. Bill watched his retreating figure. If the Indian suffered any or if he were hurt it was past Bill to judge.
Then he made his way to the Laramie and traveled along the river. A few days later found him at the Fort by that name.
Bill did not know that the message he carried was like an early flash of lightning which indicates the coming of a storm. The commandant at Laramie had been instructed to report to Washington with half the troops, leaving the second in command in charge.
For an all-seeing secretary of war was already preparing for the on-coming storm that was ready to break forth at any moment. Long before the firing on Sumter, wise men knew that it had to come.
Bill returned to Leavenworth with the troops. At that point other soldiers joined the first group and at Kansas City they entrained for Chicago.
Bill was glad to see his folks. His mother had been sick and had become an invalid. He decided he would stay home for a few months.
He kept to his decision for almost a week and enjoyed the quiet of home life. He found it a great joy to minister to his mother's needs -- and the two became even more closely attached in those few days.
"Bill," she begged him again, one day. "I want you to promise me that you will not became a soldier -- at least, not while I'm alive."
"I promise, mother," the boy assured her. It was important to keep her mind at rest. "I promise, mother," he repeated.
But man proposes only. Though it was Bill's intention to stay home for the time -- duty and adventure blew their bugle. It was a summons which Bill could never, in all his life, refuse to obey.