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David Crockett - Adventures on the Prairie

Soon after the bee-hunter had disappeared, all were startled by a strange sound, as of distant thunder. It was one of the most beautiful of summer days. There was not a cloud to be seen. The undulating prairie, waving with flowers, lay spread out before them, more beautiful under nature's bountiful adornings than the most artistic parterre, park or lawn which the hand of man ever reared. A gentle, cool breeze swept through the grove, fragrant and refreshing as if from Araby the blest. It was just one of those scenes and one of those hours in which all vestiges of the Fall seemed to have been obliterated, and Eden itself again appeared blooming in its pristine beauty.

Still those sounds, growing more and more distinct, were not sounds of peace, were not eolian warblings; they were mutterings as of a rising tempest, and inspired awe and a sense of peril. Straining their eyes toward the far-distant west, whence the sounds came, they soon saw an immense black cloud just emerging from the horizon and apparently very low down, sweeping the very surface of the prairie. This strange, menacing cloud was approaching with manifestly great rapidity. It was coming directly toward the grove where the travellers were sheltered. A cloud of dust accompanied the phenomenon, ever growing thicker and rising higher in the air.

"What can that all mean?" exclaimed Crockett, in evident alarm.

The juggler sprang to his feet, saying, "Burn my old shoes if I know."

Even the mustangs, which were grazing near by, were frightened They stopped eating, pricked up their ears, and gazed in terror upon the approaching danger. It was then supposed that the black cloud, with its muttered thunderings, must be one of those terrible tornadoes which occasionally swept the region, bearing down everything before it. The men all rushed for the protection of the mustangs. In the greatest haste they struck off their hobbles and led them into the grove for shelter.

The noise grew louder and louder, and they had scarcely brought the horses beneath the protection of the trees, when they perceived that it was an immense herd of buffaloes, of countless hundreds, dishing along with the speed of the wind, and bellowing and roaring in tones as appalling as if a band of demons were flying and shrieking in terror before some avenging arm.

The herd seemed to fill the horizon. Their numbers could not be counted. They were all driven by some common impulse of terror. In their head-long plunge, those in front pressed on by the innumerable throng behind, it was manifest that no ordinary obstacle would in the slightest degree retard their rush. The spectacle was sublime and terrible. Had the travellers been upon the open plain, it seemed inevitable that they must have been trampled down and crushed out of every semblance of humanity by these thousands of hard hoofs.

But it so chanced that they were upon what is called a rolling prairie, with its graceful undulations and gentle eminences. It was one of these beautiful swells which the grove crowned with its luxuriance.

As the enormous herd came along with its rush and roar, like the bursting forth of a pent-up flood, the terrified mustangs were too much frightened to attempt to escape. They shivered in every nerve as if stricken by an ague.

An immense black bull led the band. He was a few feet in advance of all the rest. He came roaring along, his tail erect in the air as a javelin, his head near the ground, and his stout, bony horns projected as if he were just ready to plunge upon his foe. Crockett writes:

"I never felt such a desire to have a crack at anything in all my life. He drew nigh the place where I was standing. I raised my beautiful Betsey to my shoulder and blazed away. He roared, and suddenly stopped. Those that were near him did so likewise. The commotion occasioned by the impetus of those in the rear was such that it was a miracle that some of them did not break their heads or necks. The black bull stood for a few moments pawing the ground after he was shot, then darted off around the cluster of trees, and made for the uplands of the prairies. The whole herd followed, sweeping by like a tornado. And I do say I never witnessed a sight more beautiful to the eye of a hunter in all my life."

The temptation to pursue them was too strong for Crockett to resist. For a moment he was himself bewildered, and stood gazing with astonishment upon the wondrous spectacle. Speedily he reloaded his rifle, sprung upon his horse, and set out in pursuit over the green and boundless prairie. There was something now quite ludicrous in the scene. There was spread out an ocean expanse of verdure. A herd of countless hundreds of majestic buffaloes, every animal very ferocious in aspect, was clattering along, and a few rods behind them in eager pursuit was one man, mounted on a little, insignificant Mexican pony, not much larger than a donkey. It would seem that but a score of this innumerable army need but turn round and face their foe, and they could toss horse and rider into the air, and then contemptuously trample them into the dust.

Crockett was almost beside himself with excitement. Looking neither to the right nor the left, unconscious in what direction he was going, he urged forward, with whip and spur, the little mustang, to the utmost speed of the animal, and yet scarcely in the least diminished the distance between him and the swift-footed buffaloes. Ere long, it was evident that he was losing in the chase. But the hunter, thinking that the buffaloes could not long continue their flight at such a speed, and that they would soon, in weariness, loiter and stop to graze, vigorously pressed on, though his jaded beast was rapidly being distance by the herd.

At length the enormous moving mass appeared but as a cloud in the distant horizon. Still, Crockett, his mind entirely absorbed in the excitement of the chase, urged his weary steed on, until the buffalos entirely disappeared from view in the distance. Crrickett writes:

"I now paused to allow my mustang to breathe, who did not altogether fancy the rapidity of my movements; and to consider which course I would have to take to regain the path I had abandoned. I might have retraced my steps by following the trail of the buffaloes, but it had always been my principle to go ahead, and so I turned to the west and pushed forward.

"I had not rode more than an hour before I found, I was completely bewildered. I looked around, and there was, as far as the eye could reach, spread before me a country apparently in the highest state of cultivation--extended fields, beautiful and productive, groves of trees cleared from the underwood, and whose margins were as regular as if the art and taste of man had been employed upon them. But there was no other evidence that the sound of the axe, or the voice of man, had ever here disturbed the solitude of nature. My eyes would have cheated my senses into the belief that I was in an earthly paradise, but my fears told me that I was in a wilderness.

"I pushed along, following the sun, for I had no compass to guide me, and there was no other path than that which my mustang made. Indeed, if I had found a beaten tract, I should have been almost afraid to have followed it; for my friend the bee-hunter had told me, that once, when he had been lost in the prairies, he had accidentally struck into his own path, and had travelled around and around for a whole day before he discovered his error. This I thought was a poor way of going ahead; so I determined to make for the first large stream, and follow its course."

For several hours Crockett rode through these vast and lonely solitudes, the Eden of nature, without meeting with the slightest trace of a human being. Evening was approaching, still, calm, and bright. The most singular and even oppressive silence prevailed, for neither voice of bird nor insect was to be heard. Crockett began to feel very uneasy. The fact that he was lost himself did not trouble him much, but he felt anxious for his simple-minded, good-natured friend, the juggler, who was left entirely alone and quite unable to take care of himself under such circumstances.

As he rode along, much disturbed by these unpleasant reflections, another novelty, characteristic of the Great West, arrested his attention and elicited his admiration. He was just emerging from a very lovely grove, carpeted with grass, which grew thick and green beneath the leafy canopy which overarched it. There was not a particle of underbrush to obstruct one's movement through this natural park. Just beyond the grove there was another expanse of treeless prairie, so rich, so beautiful, so brilliant with flowers, that even Colonel Crockett, all unaccustomed as he was to the devotional mood, reined in his horse, and gazing entranced upon the landscape, exclaimed:

"O God, what a world of beauty hast thou made for man! And yet how poorly does he requite thee for it! He does not even repay thee with gratitude."

The attractiveness of the scene was enhanced by a drove of more than a hundred wild horses, really beautiful animals, quietly pasturing. It seemed impossible but that the hand of man must have been employed in embellishing this fair creation. It was all God's work. "When I looked around and fully realized it all," writes Crockett, "I thought of the clergyman who had preached to me in the wilds of Arkansas."

Colonel Crockett rode out upon the prairie. The horses no sooner espied him than, excited, but not alarmed, the whole drove, with neighings, aud tails uplifted like banners, commenced coursing around him in an extended circle, which gradually became smaller and smaller, until they came in close contact; and the Colonel, not a little alarmed, found himself completely surrounded, and apparently the prisoner of these powerful steeds.

The little mustang upon which the Colonel was mounted seemed very happy in its new companionship. It turned its head to one side, and then to the other, and pranced and neighed, playfully biting at the mane of one horse, rubbing his nose against that of another, and in joyous gambols kicking up its heels. The Colonel was anxious to get out of the mess. But his little mustang was not at all disposed to move in that direction; neither did the other horses seem disposed to acquiesce in such a plan.

Crockett's heels were armed with very formidable Spanish spurs, with prongs sharp and long. The hunter writes:

"To escape from the annoyance, I beat the devil's tattoo on his ribs, that he might have some music to dance to, and we went ahead right merrily, the whole drove following in our wake, head up, and tail and mane streaming. My little critter, who was both blood and bottom, seemed delighted at being at the head of the heap; and having once fairly got started, I wish I may be shot if I did not find it impossible to stop him. He kept along, tossing his head proudly, and occasionally neighing, as much as to say, "Come on, my hearties, you see I ha'n't forgot our old amusement yet." And they did come on with a vengeance, clatter, clatter, clatter, as if so many fiends had broke loose. The prairie lay extended before me as far as the eye could reach, and I began to think that there would be no end to the race.

"My little animal was full of fire and mettle, and as it was the first bit of genuine sport that he had had for some time, he appeared determined to make the most of it. He kept the lead for full half an hour, frequently neighing as if in triumph and derision. I thought of John Gilpin's celebrated ride, but that was child's play to this. The proverb says, 'The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,' and so it proved in the present instance. My mustang was obliged to carry weight, while his competitors were as free as nature had made them. A beautiful bay, who had trod close upon my heels the whole way, now came side by side with my mustang, and we had it hip and thigh for about ten minutes, in such style as would have delighted the heart of a true lover of the turf. I now felt an interest in the race myself, and, for the credit of my bit of blood, determined to win it if it was at all in the nature of things. I plied the lash and spur, and the little critter took it quite kindly, and tossed his head, and neighed, as much as to say, 'Colonel, I know what you're after--go ahead!'--and he cut dirt in beautiful style, I tell you."

This could not last long. The wild steed of the prairie soon outstripped the heavily burdened mustang, and shooting ahead, kicked up his heels as in derision. The rest of the herd followed, in the same disrespectful manner. Crockett jogged quietly on in the rear, glad to be rid of such troublesome and dangerous companions. The horses soon reached a stream, which Crockett afterward learned was called the Navasola River. The whole herd, following an adventurous leader, rushed pell-mell into the stream and swam to the other side. It was a beautiful sight to behold these splendid animals, in such a dense throng, crossing the stream, and then, refreshed by their bath, sweeping like a whirlwind over the plain beyond.

Crockett's exhausted pony could go no further. He fairly threw himself upon the ground as if in despair. Crockett took from the exhausted animal the saddle, and left the poor creature to roll upon the grass and graze at pleasure. He thought it not possible that the mustang could wander to any considerable distance. Indeed, he fully expected to find the utterly exhausted beast, who could no longer stand upon his legs, dead before morning.

Night was fast closing around him. He began to look around for shelter. There was a large tree blown down by the side of the stream, its top branching out very thick and bushy. Crockett thought that with his knife, in the midst of that dense foliage with its interlacing branches, he could make himself a snug arbor, where, wrapped in his blanket, he could enjoy refreshing sleep. He approached the tree, and began to work among the almost impervious branches, when he heard a low growl, which he says he interpreted to mean, "Stranger, these apartments are already taken."

Looking about to see what kind of an animal he had disturbed, and whose displeasure he had manifestly encountered, he saw the brilliant eyes glaring through the leaves of a large Mexican cougar, sometimes called the panther or American lion. This animal, endowed with marvellous agility and strength, will pounce from his lair on a deer, and even a buffalo, and easily with tooth and claw tear him to pieces.

"He was not more than five or six paces from me," writes Crockett, "and was eying me as an epicure surveys the table before he selects his dish, I have no doubt the cougar looked upon me as the subject of a future supper. Rays of light darted from his large eyes, he showed his teeth like a negro in hysterics, and he was crouching on his haunches ready for a spring; all of which convinced me that unless I was pretty quick upon the trigger, posterity would know little of the termination of my eventful career, and it would be far less glorious and useful than I intend to make it."

The conflict which ensued cannot be more graphically described than in Crocket's own words:

"One glance satisfied me that there was no time to be lost. There was no retreat either for me or the cougar. So I levelled my Betsey and blazed away. The report was followed by a furious growl, and the next moment, when I expected to find the tarnal critter struggling with death, I beheld him shaking his head, as if nothing more than a bee had stung him. The ball had struck him on the forehead and glanced off, doing no other injury than stunning him for an instant, and tearing off the skin, which tended to infuriate him the more. The cougar wasn't long in making up his mind what to do, nor was I neither; but he would have it all his own way, and vetoed my motion to back out. I had not retreated three steps before he sprang at me like a steamboat; I stepped aside and as he lit upon the ground, I struck him violently with the barrel of my rifle, but he didn't mind that, but wheeled around and made at me again. The gun was now of no use, so I threw it away, and drew my hunting-knife, for I knew we should come to close quarters before the fight would be over. This time he succeeded in fastening on my left arm, and was just beginning to amuse himself by tearing the flesh off with his fangs, when I ripped my knife into his side, and he let go his hold, much to my satisfaction.

"He wheeled about and came at me with increased fury, occasioned by the smarting of his wounds. I now tried to blind him, knowing that if I succeeded he would become an easy prey; so as he approached me I watched my opportunity, and aimed a blow at his eyes with my knife; but unfortunately it struck him on the nose, and he paid no other attention to it than by a shake of the head and a low growl. He pressed me close, and as I was stepping backward my foot tripped in a vine, and I fell to the ground. He was down upon me like a night-hawk upon a June-bug. He seized hold of the outer part of my right thigh, which afforded him considerable amusement; the hinder part of his body was towards my face; I grasped his tail with my left hand, and tickled his ribs with my haunting-knife, which I held in my right. Still the critter wouldn't let go his hold; and as I found that he would lacerate my leg dreadfully unless he was speedily shaken off, I tried to hurl him down the bank into the river, for our scuffle had already brought us to the edge of the bank. I stuck my knife into his side, and summoned all my strength to throw him over. He resisted, was desperate heavy; but at last I got him so far down the declivity that he lost his balance, and he rolled over and over till he landed on the margin of the river; but in his fall he dragged me along with him. Fortunately, I fell uppermost, and his neck presented a fair mark for my hunting-knife. Without allowing myself time even to draw breath, I aimed one desperate blow at his neck, and the knife entered his gullet up to the handle, and reached his heart. He struggled for a few moments and died. I have had many fights with bears, but that was mere child's play. This was the first fight ever I had with a cougar, and I hope it may be the last."

Crockett, breathless and bleeding, but signally a victor, took quiet possession of the treetop, the conquest of which he had so valiantly achieved. He parted some of the branches, cut away others, and intertwining the softer twigs, something like a bird's nest, made for himself a very comfortable bed. There was an abundance of moss, dry, pliant, and crispy, hanging in festoons from the trees. This, spread in thick folds over his litter, made as luxuriant a mattress as one could desire. His horse-blanket being laid down upon this, the weary traveller, with serene skies above him and a gentle breeze breathing through his bower, had no cause to envy the occupant of the most luxurious chamber wealth can furnish.

He speedily prepared for himself a frugal supper, carried his saddle into the treetop, and, though oppressed with anxiety in view of the prospect before him, fell asleep, and in blissful unconsciousness the hours passed away until the sun was rising in the morning. Upon awaking, he felt very stiff and sore from the wounds he had received in his conflict with the cougar. Looking over the bank, he saw the dead body of the cougar lying there, and felt that he had much cause of gratitude that he had escaped so great a danger.

He then began to look around for his horse. But the animal was nowhere to be seen. He ascended one of the gentle swells of land, whence he could look far and wide over the unobstructed prairie. To his surprise, and not a little to his costernation, the animal had disappeared, "without leaving trace of hair or hide." At first he thought the mustang must have been devoured by wolves or some other beasts of prey. But then it was manifest they could not have eaten his bones, and something would have remained to indicate the fate of the poor creature. While thus perplexed, Crockett reflected sadly that he was lost, alone and on foot, on the boundless prairie. He was, however, too much accustomed to scenes of the wildest adventure to allow himself to be much cast down. His appetite was not disturbed, and he began to feel the cravings of hunger.

He took his rifle and stepped out in search of his breakfast. He had gone but a short distance ere he saw a large flock of wild geese, on the bank of the river. Selecting a large fat gander, he shot him, soon stripped him of his feathers, built a fire, ran a stick through the goose for a spit, and then, supporting it on two sticks with prongs, roasted his savory viand in the most approved style. He had a little tin cup with him, and a paper of ground coffee, with which he made a cup of that most refreshing beverage. Thus he breakfasted sumptuously.

He was just preparing to depart, with his saddle upon his shoulder, much perplexed as to the course he should pursue, when he was again alarmed by one of those wild scenes ever occurring in the West. First faintly, then louder and louder came the sound as of the trampling of many horses on the full gallop. His first thought was that another enormous herd of buffaloes was sweeping down upon him. But soon he saw, in the distance, a band of about fifty Comanche Indians, well mounted, painted, plumed, and bannered, the horse and rider apparently one animal, coming down upon him, their horses being urged to the utmost speed. It was a sublime and yet an appalling spectacle, as this band of half-naked savages, their spears glittering in the morning sun, and their long hair streaming behind, came rushing on.

Crockett was standing in full view upon the banks of the stream. The column swept on, and, with military precision, as it approached, divided into two semicircles, and in an instant the two ends of the circle reached the river, and Crockett was surrounded. Three of the savages performed the part of trumpeters, and with wonderful resemblance, from their lips, emitted the pealing notes of the bugle. Almost by instinct he grasped his rifle, but a flash of thought taught him that, under the circumstances, any attempt at resistance would be worse than unavailing.

The chief sprang from his horse, and advancing with proud strides toward Crockett, was struck with admiration at sight of his magnificent rifle. Such a weapon, with such rich ornamentation, had never before been seen on the prairies. The eagerness with which the savage regarded the gun led Crockett to apprehend that he intended to appropriate it to himself.

The Comanches, though a very warlike tribe, had held much intercourse with the Americans, and friendly relations then existed between them and our Government. Crockett, addressing the chief, said:

"Is your nation at war with the Americans?"

"No," was the reply; "they are our friends."

"And where," Crockett added, "do your get your spear-heads, your rifles, your blankets, and your knives?"

"We get them from our friends the Americans," the chief replied.

"Well," said Crockett, "do you think that if you were passing through their country, as I am passing through yours, they would attempt to rob you of your property?"

"No," answered the savage; "they would feed me and protect me. And the Comanche will do the same by his white brother."

Crockett then inquired of the chief what had guided him and his party to the spot where they had found him? The chief said that they were at a great distance, but had seen the smoke from his fire, and had come to ascertain the cause of it.

"He inquired," writes Crockett, "what had brought me there alone. I told him I had come to hunt, and that my mustang had become exhausted, and, though I thought he was about to die, that he had escaped from me. At this the chief gave a low chuckling laugh, and said that it was all a trick of the mustang, which is the most wily and cunning of all animals. But he said that as I was a brave hunter, he would furnish me with another. He gave orders, and a fine young horse was immediately brought forward."

The savages speedily discovered the dead body of the cougar, and commenced skinning him. They were greatly surprised on seeing the number of the stabs, and inquired into the cause. When Crockett explained to them the conflict, the proof of which was manifest in his own lacerated skin, and in the wounds inflicted upon the cougar, they were greatly impressed with the valor he had displayed. The chief exclaimed several times. in tones of commingled admiration and astonishment, "Brave hunter! brave man!" He also expressed the earnest wish that Crockett would consent to be adopted as a son of the tribe. But this offer was respectfully declined.

This friendly chief kindly consented to escort Crockett as far as the Colorado River. Crockett put his saddle on a fresh horse, and having mounted, the chief, with Crockett at his side, took the lead, and off the whole band went, scouring over the pathless prairie at a rapid speed. Several of the band were squaws. They were the trumpeters. They made the prairie echo with their bugle-blasts, or, as Crockett irreverently, but perhaps more correctly says, "The old squaws, at the head of the troop, were braying like young jackasses the whole way."

After thus riding over the green and treeless expanse for about three hours, they came upon a drove of wild horses, quietly pasturing on the rich herbage. One of the Indians immediately prepared his lasso, and darted out toward the herd to make a capture. The horses did not seem to be alarmed by his approach, but when he got pretty nigh them they began to circle around him, keeping at a cautious distance, with their heads elevated and with loud neighings. They then, following the leadership of a splendid stallion, set off on a brisk canter, and soon disappeared beyond the undulations of the prairie.

One of the mustangs remained quietly grazing. The Indian rode to within a few yards of him, and very skilfully threw his lasso. The mustang seemed to be upon the watch, for he adroitly dodged his head between his forefeet and thus escaped the fatal noose. The Indian rode up to him, and the horse patiently submitted to be bridled and thus secured.

"When I approached," writes Crockett," I immediately recognized, in the captive, the pestilent little animal that had shammed sickness and escaped from me the day before. And when he caught my eye he cast down his head and looked rather sheepish, as if he were sensible and ashamed of the dirty trick he had played me. I expressed my astonishment, to the Indian chief, at the mustang's allowing himself to be captured without any effort to escape. He told me that they were generally hurled to the ground with such violence, when first taken with the lasso, that they remembered it ever after; and that the sight of the lasso will subdue them to submission, though they may have run wild for years."

All the day long, Crockett, with his convoy of friendly savages, travelled over the beautiful prairie. Toward evening they came across a drove of fat buffaloes grazing in the richest of earthly pastures. It was a beautiful sight to witness the skill with which the Indians pursued and hunted down the noble game. Crockett was quite charmed with the spectacle. It is said that the Comanche Indians are the finest horsemen in the world. Always wandering about over the boundless prairies, where wild horses are found in countless numbers, they are ever on horseback, men, women, and children. Even infants, almost in their earliest years, are taught to cling to the mane of the horse. Thus the Comanche obtains the absolute control of the animal; and when scouring over the plain, bareheaded and with scanty dress, the horse and rider seem veritably like one person.

The Comanches were armed only with bows and arrows. The herd early took fright, and fled with such speed that the somewhat exhausted horses of the Comanches could not get within arrow-shot of them. Crockett, however, being well mounted and unsurpassed by any Indian in the arts of hunting, selected a fat young heifer, which he knew would furnish tender steaks, and with his deadly bullet struck it down. This was the only beef that was killed. All the rest of the herd escaped.

The Indians gathered around the slain animal for their feast. With their sharp knives the heifer was soon skinned and cut up into savory steaks and roasting-pieces. Two or three fires were built. The horses were hobbled and turned loose to graze. Every one of the Indians selected his own portion, and all were soon merrily and even affectionately engaged in this picnic feast, beneath skies which Italy never rivalled, and surrounded with the loveliness of a park surpassing the highest creations of art in London, Paris, or New York.

The Indians were quite delighted with their guest. He told them stories of his wild hunting excursions, and of his encounters with panthers and bears. They were charmed by his narratives, and they sat eager listeners until late into the night, beneath the stars and around the glowing camp-fires. Then, wrapped in their blankets, they threw themselves down on the thick green grass and slept. Such are the joys of peace and friendship.

They resumed their journey in the morning, and pressed along, with nothing of special interest occurring until they reached the Colorado River. As they were following down this stream, to strike the road which leads to Bexar, they saw in the distance a single column of smoke ascending the clear sky. Hastening toward it, they found that it rose from the centre of a small grove near the river. When within a few hundred yards the warriors extended their line, so as nearly to encircle the grove, while the chief and Crockett advanced cautiously to reconnoitre. To their surprise they saw a solitary man seated upon the ground near the fire, so entirely absorbed in some occupation that he did not observe their approach.

In a moment, Crockett, much to his joy, perceived that it was his lost friend the juggler. He was all engaged in practising his game of thimbles on the crown of his hat. Crockett was now restored to his companion, and was near the plain road to Bexar. In describing this scene and the departure of his kind Indian friends, the hunter writes:

"The chief shouted the war-whoop, and suddenly the warriors came rushing in from all quarters, preceded by the old squaw trumpeters squalling like mad. The conjurer sprang to his feet, and was ready to sink into the earth when he beheld the ferocious-looking fellows that surrounded him. I stepped up, took him by the hand, and quieted his fears. I told the chief that he was a friend of mine, and I was very glad to have found him, for I was afraid that he had perished. I now thanked him for his kindness in guiding me over the prairies, and gave him a large bowie-knife, which he said he would keep for the sake of the brave hunter. The whole squadron then wheeled off and I saw them no more. I have met with many polite men in my time, but no one who possessed in a greater degree what may be called true spontaneous politeness than this Comanche chief, always excepting Philip Hone, Esq. of New York, whom I look upon as the politest man I ever did see; for when he asked me to take a drink at his own sideboard, he turned his back upon me, that I mightn't be ashamed to fill as much as I wanted. That was what I call doing the fair thing."

The poor juggler was quite overjoyed in meeting his friend again, whom he evidently regarded with much reverence. He said that he was very much alarmed when he found himself alone on the pathless prairie. After waiting two hours in much anxiety, he mounted his mustang, and was slowly retracing his steps, when he spied the bee-hunter returning. He was laden with honey. They had then journeyed on together to the present spot. The hunter had just gone out in search of game. He soon returned with a plump turkey upon his shoulders. They built their fire, and were joyously cooking their supper, when the neighing of a horse near by startled them. Looking up, they saw two men approaching on horseback. They proved to be the old pirate and the young Indian with whom they had lodged a few nights before. Upon being hailed they alighted, and politely requested permission to join their party. This was gladly assented to, as they were now entering a region desolated by the war between the Texans and the Mexicans, and where many small bands of robbers were wandering, ready to plunder any weaker party they might encounter.

The next morning they crossed the river and pushed on for the fortress of Alamo. When within about twenty miles of San Antonio, they beheld about fifteen mounted men, well armed, approaching them at full speed. Crockett's party numbered five. They immediately dismounted, made a rampart of their horses, and with the muzzles of their rifles pointed toward the approaching foe, were prepared for battle.

It was a party of Mexicans. When within a few hundred yards they reined in their horses, and the leader, advancing a little, called out to them in Spanish to surrender.

"We must have a brush with those blackguards," said the pirate. "Let each one single out his man for the first fire. They are greater fools than I take them for if they give us a chance for a second shot. Colonel, just settle the business with that talking fellow with the red feather. He's worth any three of the party."

"Surrender, or we fire!" shouted the fellow with the red feather. The pirate replied, with a piratic oath, "Fire away."

"And sure enough," writes Crockett, "they took his advice, for the next minute we were saluted with a discharge of musketry, the report of which was so loud that we were convinced they all had fired. Before the smoke had cleared away we had each selected our man, fired, and I never did see such a scattering among their ranks as followed. We beheld several mustangs running wild without their riders over the prairie, and the balance of the company were already retreating at a more rapid gait than they approached. We hastily mounted and commenced pursuit, which we kept up until we beheld the independent flag flying from the battlements of the fortress of Alamo, our place of destination. The fugitives succeeded in evading our pursuit, and we rode up to the gates of the fortress, announced to the sentinel who we were, and the gates were thrown open; and we entered amid shouts of welcome bestowed upon us by the patriots."

Back to: Biography of David Crockett

Source: David Crockett: His Life and Adventures by John S. C. Abbott

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