Also, Granville Stuart’s Desirable Daughters, and Teddy’s Infatuation With a Dusky Maiden
BY TEDDY BLUE ABBOTT
When I was with the N Bar there was a fellow working for their Powder River outfit by the name of John Green. He was from Texas like the rest of them, but he had been everywhere and seen everything, to hear him tell it. One morning at the ranch house they brought in the mail and the boss’s wife was going after it.
“Good,” she says. “The catalogues have come. Now I can see what the Paris fashions are.”
Oh John wasn’t going to let anybody get ahead of him, so he spoke up. “I been to Paris.”
The lady says: “Hmph! How’d you ever get to Paris?”
“I went there with a beef herd.”
“That’s a likely story. How’d you get across the Atlantic Ocean with a beef herd?”
“Didn’t cross no Atlantic ocean. I went around the divide.”
Those old-time Texas fellows may have been green, but at that they weren’t much different from cowmen everywhere. In 1907, which wasn’t so long ago as I look at it, I took a trip to Chicago with a train load of beef, and there were a couple of other fellows along —one of them was named Sam Lawrence, and he come from somewhere south of the Red River originally, though he hadn’t seen Texas in years. After we got to Chicago we went out to see the sights, and first we had some drinks, and then we took a walk around, and we passed a sign that said: “Madame somebody’s waxworks. For men only.” Sam said: “let’s go in.” The rest of us were agreeable, so we went on inside. There was a man standing at the door and he handed me a box of snuff—I said: “No, thank you,” and walked on, before I noticed that he was part of the show. Pretty soon we came to a sort of show window, and inside it was a woman leaning away over, with one foot stuck straight up in the air and a globe spinning around on it, and the other foot stuck out behind her. And all she had on was a little black velvet G string.
I was standing right next to her and I could hear her tick. But Sam was further away, and his vision was blurred anyhow, and he thought it was real. He said: “Poor little girl! The idea of a man making a woman do a thing like that before all these men! Why, hanging’s too good for him.” And he went on like that, working himself up.
I said: “Hold on, Sam. You’re wrong. This is a waxworks layout. She’s wound up.” And I laid my hand on the leg that was stuck out behind her, to convince him.
He said: “The trouble with you [is] you’ve lived with these no’thern-raised sons of bitches so long you don’t respect a woman yourself.”
Well, you take them out of the saddle and that’s what they are.
Granville Stuart’s Daughters, Charlie Russell, The Cheyenne
It has taken me a long time to get back to the pretty girls at the DHS. The Stuart girls were half-breeds, but they were pretty, well-dressed, good dancers and very much sought after. By that time civilization was coming into the range, and there was parties several times a year at Lewistown and Fort Maginnis. In the spring you’d say to one of those girls: “What’s the show to take you to the dance Fourth of July?” “Oh, I am engaged for that. “”Well, what’s the show for the Thanksgiving dance?” “I’m engaged for that, too.” If you wanted to get her, you’d have to ask her eight months ahead.
I had to laugh when I thought about that story of Mr. Stuart offering five hundred head of cattle to whoever married Katie, the oldest.
He never did it. By the time I got over there he had to have a gun to keep them away. This wasn’t so true of Mary because she was too young, and the third girl was just a kid. But Katie and the oldest Anderson girl each could have married a dozen men.
Those girls had every advantage there was to be given in that place and time. Mr. Stuart always had a schoolteacher living at the ranch. His second wife, who survives him, held that position for years. Whenever he went to Helena he would bring back presents for them— a length of velvet for a dress, or jewelry, or a peacock-feather fan. There was a good deal of jealousy on account of it. The Stuart girls had prettier and more expensive clothes than any of the others in that country and was always dressed in the latest style, and it drove the white girls wild.
The Stuarts and the Andersons all lived there really as one family, though they had separate houses. I have heard Eastern people talk about the loneliness of ranch life. It makes me laugh when I think of the DHS. With all those boys and girls growing up there, and the cowboys coming and going even in winter, it was as lively a place as you’d want to live. There was always a lot going on. I remember one time when Mr. Stuart took the girls to Helena on a visit and they caught the roller skating craze. When they came back, they brought some skates with them, and they fixed up a handrail around the wall of the dining room in the ranch house, and turned that into a rollerskating rink.
We had lots of good times, but Granville Stuart was always very strict with his daughters, even after Mary and I were engaged, we couldn’t hardly get out of the house alone after dark. If we walked out so we could have a little talk together, the father would come to the door and call out: “Children, it’s time to go to bed!” How sore it used to make me!
Mary was always my favorite, though I paid more attention to her older sister Katie at first. When I came to the ranch she was only 15, but I always called her my little wife.
I laid over at the DHS that first winter, and I knew what to do to make myself popular. I didn’t just sit around and eat my grub. I carried wood and water for the cook and wiped his dishes, and did any other little jobs that come along. About March, Percy Kennet, the foreman, said: “Say, I like your style.” And he put me to work early helping to round up the horses. All the cow outfits turned out most of their horses after the fall roundup was over, only keeping up a few gentle ones to use in the winter. That meant a lot to do in the early spring, rounding them up and riding them so as to be ready when the cow work started.
Our roundup commenced in June, 1886, and that was where we shone. We were a famous outfit. You know Charlie Russell always give the cowpunchers the best of it in his pictures, and one time I asked him where he found all those good-looking cowhands he drew. He said: “over at the DHS.”
We were known among the other cowpunchers as the white shirt brigade. I guess you could lay that to the feminine influence. Our outfit branded at Fritz’s Run corral about three miles from the ranch, and the girls would ride over to watch us. It was a great occasion for us, and so we would get all shaved up, put on our best clothes, and ride our top horses. And you would see damn fools like Teddy Blue and Perk Burnett wrastling calves and cutting ears, blood flying in every direction, down on the ground in a dusty old corral, with a white boiled shirt on, and twelve-dollar California pants. Light-gray ones, too. We were all hoping that when the branding was over, we’d get to ride home with one of the girls.
The First Time I Met Charlie Russell
When I left there that spring to follow the other roundups, Granville Stuart handed me a list of forty-two brands belonging to all the outfits of the Maginnis range, and I repped for those forty-two brands and had to keep all of them and all the earmarks in my head.
That was the spring I first met Charlie Russell. The DHS roundup and the Moccasin roundup was working together that year, doubling up on each other’s territory because they figured there had been a big drift. When we got back to the edge of Moccasin territory, we found the Judith Basin roundup waiting for us, and for ten days the three roundups was together. After they got to Dog Creek, our crowd pulled back, but we left a rep wagon there and I stayed with it, and they put me to wrangling horses. Russell was doing the wrangling for the Judith Basin roundup, and that was how me and him got so thick. He would leave his horses on one side of the creek and I’d leave mine the other, and we’d get up there on top of the hill, and lay in the shade of our saddle horses, and auger for hours. We talked about everything we’d ever known or done, and he told me all about Fort Benton, which I’d never been to, and I told him about my trips up the trail.
One day I rode down to Claggett, which was on the Missouri River at the mouth of the Judith River. A party of Assiniboine Sioux was just coming across the river on the ferry, seven lodges of them, and they was bent on a celebration. They had killed three bear in the Bear Paw Mountains, on the north side of the river, and they had sold the hides and meat to the captain of the steamboat Rosebud for seventy-five dollars and they was going to spend it for grub and clothes and ammunition and whisky.
The fellow that had the ferry was rowing the Indians across in a little boat, and I sat down in the shade of a big cottonwood tree to watch them. Pretty soon along, come a big Indian, and I said, “How,” and he said, “How,” and he sat down beside me. He knew a little English, and I knew some Sioux, and some sign, and he had been drinking and wanted to talk. I asked him where they were going, and he said they were going down the river with their women and just lay around, fishing and drinking whisky.
So we talked awhile about what they were going to do down there and then we got on the subject of the old days. I said: “You fellows used to have a pretty good time.”
He said, “Yes,” and then he described the way they used to live before the white man came. They would go down a creek and camp where there was good grass and water, run a bunch of buffalo down and skin them and get the meat—then when the grass got a little short, they would just move on to a place where there was new grass, and keep that up, no troubles or worries, and when one wife got old, they’d marry another one.
Coming back up Dog Creek, I met Russell. I said: “God, I wish I’d been a Sioux Indian a hundred years ago,” and I told him the story.
He said: “Ted, there’s a pair of us. They’d been living in heaven for a thousand years, and we took it away from them for forty dollars a month.”
That was the reason I liked Russell so much. We felt the same way about pretty nearly everything, and he could always see the funny side of things and so could I.
Another time I got talking to some of these Indians and one old fellow offered me his wife, for twenty-two dollars. This was not to keep, you understand, just a temporary arrangement. Twenty-two dollars was too high. A dollar and a half was more like it. Of course he made a big talk about her being his favorite wife and so forth, but that was all bull. Most of the Indian tribes was doing a regular business of that kind with the white men, and some of them, especially the Crows and Sioux, had got so low they would offer you their wives. But the way they did it in most of the camps, they had special teepees for the purpose, and certain squaws that was just like sporting women among the whites. Only among the Indians it never seem to hurt their chances for marrying afterwards.
The Gros Ventres, Crow, and Sioux, and I think the Blackfeet were all doing this kind of business. But never the Northern Cheyenne’s, nor the Pawnees, down in Nebraska. You couldn’t touch one of their women unless you married her with a priest.
I tried hard to get a Cheyenne girl once. But she wouldn’t even marry me. She was one of a big band of Cheyennes that was camped all over our range, from Armall’s Creek to the Rosebud, in 1883. There was two lodges of them that came down to the FUF Ranch, and I told the old man it was a good idea to treat them well and give them a little grub once in a while, tea and coffee and sugar. They didn’t have any too much of it.
For these were the Indians that put up that great fight in ‘78, when they broke out of the reservation down in Indian territory where they had been sent for punishment after the Custer battle in ‘76. They broke out under Dull Knife and Little Wolf, and they fought their way clear up from Indian territory to Tongue River in Montana, because they was dying like flies down there, dying for a home. There was three hundred Indians, and less than one hundred of them was warriors, the rest women and old men and children. And with thirteen thousand troops out against them they fought their way across three railroads and five lines of defense, and they whipped everything they come to. And by God, half of them made it up here to Montana, and for a wonder they was allowed to stay. I tell you they was the greatest Indians on the plains—the Northern Cheyennes.
This girl I speak of was in one of their teepees that came down and camped near the ranch, and oh, but she was a good-looking girl. It wasn’t easy to see much of her. She was very modest. You had to hunt her. But she did come to the ranch house once or twice, for dinner, with the rest of them. You see, we put on kind of a party for them, cooked up some plum duff and so on; because two or three of us in the outfit was in Nebraska when they come through there like a prairie fire in ‘78, and we knew these Indians, what they were. We ought to know. They killed eighteen cowboys down there when they was making that break for home. They come pretty near getting me, too, but if I’d been in their place I’d have done the same.
One of the lodges that was camped on Armall’s Creek belonged to an Indian named High walking. He was one of the governments Cheyennes that was scouts with Miles during the Nez Percé campaign—because a lot of those Indians would fight with the government against their old enemies—and he could talk pretty good English. I used to sit and visit with him nights, in the teepee. You hear talk about Indians being dirty, and a lot of them are today, so it makes you sick sometimes to see them. But these modern reservation Indians are entirely different. Mrs. High Walking kept her lodge as neat and clean as any white woman I ever knew kept her house, and their kid was dressed like a little warrior. She was a manager, too. The Indians love coffee, and they had very little of it, and I have seen Mrs. High Walking take six beans of coffee and pound it up for coffee for her and her husband.
The girl would be in the teepee nights, with the rest of them. I never had much chance to talk to her. She would just sit there with her head down and wouldn’t say nothing. She didn’t have to. You knew all you needed to know, just looking at her. I did try to make up to her a couple of times, but she give me to understand she didn’t want a damn thing to do with me. She seemed a little bit freer when the men were not around. I think she was afraid of them. The Cheyennes were very strict with their women. They were one of the Indian tribes that would cut off a wife’s nose if she was unfaithful, and I have seen them that way around the camps. With the tips of their noses sliced off. It was an awful thing to see.
I wanted this girl so much that I asked her if she’d marry me, but she wouldn’t do that either. I asked her through old High Walking, and as I told him: “She’s good enough for me.”
Well, she was, or that was the way I felt about it at the time. And I wasn’t the only one by a long way, because there was plenty of cowpunchers in that early day who were not ashamed to marry an Indian girl. You couldn’t blame us. We were starving for the site of a woman, and some of these young squaws were awful good-looking, with their fringed dresses of soft deer or antelope skin that hung just below their knees—that was all they wore, just the dress—and their beaded leggings and wide beaded belts. Oh, boy, but they looked good to us. But I was always that way. I always wanted a dark -eyed woman.
There is one thing more I want to say about these mixed marriages that used to take place in the early days. Those Indian women made wonderful wives. The greatest attraction in a woman, to an Indian, was obedience. They were taught that and they inherited it. Their husband’s will was their law. Every white man I ever knew that was married to an Indian—like Granville Stuart—thought the world of them.
I was always different from the general run of the white men because I liked the Indians and could see their side of things. Well, no, not always. But from the time I was old enough to know the facts. After I got some sense in my head and saw the way things really was in that country, I was so sorry for the Indians and ashamed of the deal they got at the hands of the white man. But, as my mother used to say when she saw how I took to their way of living, I was pretty nearly one of them anyway.
The Heroic Cheyennes, Dull Knife and Little Wolf
They can’t show a place in history where the Indians ever broke the treaty. The white man always broke them because they always made a treaty they couldn’t keep and knew they couldn’t keep it. And that is something I know, not just the way you know anything you have read about, but the way you know it when you have seen it, and it stays with you always like a picture in your mind.
I told you how, after I run away from home that time when I was eighteen, I took a beef herd up to the Pine Ridge Indian agency in north western Nebraska. That herd was trailed up from Texas by Millett and Maybry under contract to the government, and they issued them to the Sioux Indians as part of a big celebration over signing another treaty, where the Indians ceded some more of their country. They drawed up the treaty fixing the new boundaries for the reservation, which had been cut down twice already, and they got some of these coffee-coolers [slang: petty crook, opportunist] to consent to it, and they had General Miles there with two thousands soldiers. Afterwards they issued out their herd of beef.
This was in November, 1878. After we delivered the beef up there, we heard about the big doings at the agency, and we went inside to watch what was going on. I remember there was an old fellow with a long white beard who sat in the middle, with the table in front of him; he must have been the Indian commissioner or a special government agent. General Miles was on one side of him and the interpreters on the other, and the Indians squatted in a semi circle on the ground. Each chief had his little speech to make before he put his mark to the treaty, and each one of them got up and talked, and what he said was interpreted to the commissioner, all with the most perfect decorum.
And the last one to get up was the chief they call John Grass. He was a young fellow, tall and fine-looking, and finely educated. He had a parfleche full of papers, and he kept pulling them out and reading from them, in English. They gave the history of all the government’s treaties with the Sioux. The first was the one they made after the big raids in Minnesota in ‘62. They made a treaty then putting all the Sioux west of the Mississippi and promising them that the land would be their’s “for all time to come.”
Then John Grass pulled out another paper, and the government had to move them again, and cut the reservation down again. This time they move them west to the Missouri. They were to have the Yellowstone River on the north, the Big Horn Mountains on the west, and the Platte River on the south, and again they promised them that the land would be their’s “for all time to come.”
“And now,” he said, “you want the Black Hills.” He said: “How would you like it if people go and take the land where you bury your dead?” He said: “I have been to Carlisle. I have as good an education as the white man will give me. And I still do not understand these treaties. I would ask some of you gentlemen to tell me what those words mean, “‘for all time to come.'”
I was standing at the back of the room with the other cowpunchers listening to all of this, and I thought the deal was all right at the time. I don’t think so now. Not that I was ever a special friend of the Sioux. Of all the Indians, the ones I admired the most were the Northern Cheyennes. That time they broke out in Oklahoma and fought their way north to this country up here was the greatest fight ever put up by a bunch of Indians in all history. And they were one hundred percent in the right all the time, because they were fighting to get back to their own country, that had been theirs for more years than the oldest Indian could remember. One U. S. Army officer who was out against them said it was the “greatest national movement ever made by any people since the Greeks marched to the sea.”
You can read about it in a very few books, the best account being in Reminiscences of a Rich Man by Edgar Beecher Bronson, in the chapter called “A Finish Fight for a Birthright.” But except for that and perhaps one or two others, you will seldom hear anything about the great fight made by Dull Knife and Little Wolf in ‘78, because the white man is such a damn poor loser he does not talk about the times when the Indians were victorious. Even the Custer fight is no exception to this statement, because, while the Indians cleaned up on Custer at the Little Big Horn, the government sent out more troops and cleaned up on the Indians later in that same year, 1876.
It was after the campaign in the fall of 1876 that Dull Knife and his tribe were sent down to Fort Reno in Indian territory, or the Nations as it was called at that time. This is a hot, low-lying country, and they was used to the High Plains. All through 1877 and the first half of 1878 the sickened and died. They begged the government to let them come back to their own home, but this was refused. In September, 1878, the whole tribe jumped the reservation and headed north. Going up through Kansas, they fought five battles in less than three weeks and fought the soldiers off every time, and where they didn’t fight, they slipped through and kept on going, and the United States Army couldn’t stop them.
They crossed the Kansas Pacific Railroad and burned down some houses near Dodge city, after they whipped two companies of cavalry first. They crossed the Union Pacific half a mile east of Ogallala. And, boy, those Indians were traveling. They were making 70 miles a day with women and children, and raiding on the cow outfits as they went along, to get fresh horses. They run on to a band of cowboys at the forks of Republican River and killed 18 of them, and everybody else that was in the country got out of the way. I know I run at least a hundred miles.
When they got up to the north Platte River, Bill Paxton’s ranch was on their line of march, and they stole some of his horses. From the way Bill talked about it he thought Johnny Stringfellow ought to have stood them off, or else followed them up and got back the horses. String told me about it. He said: “Bill Paxton wanted to know why I didn’t go after them Indians. I told him I hadn’t lost no Cheyennes.”
They killed quite a few people and burned some ranches, but you couldn’t blame them for that because they were only savages and were fighting for their freedom like savages. On all that long march they didn’t do but one really bad thing. I did hear that they come across a lonely school-house, and some of them took the teacher and one of the older girl pupils and abused them. They both got well and I believe got married afterwards. Sixty years is a long time to remember all the details of a thing like that and I am not sure this is right. But I believe it was done by a small bunch of young bucks who were raiding out from the main bunch. The Cheyennes were very moral Indians, and it was not like them to do a thing like that as a rule. The Apaches was the worst ones for that kind of stuff.
All this happened in October, after I left home and just before I went up to the Plain Ridge agency with that beef herd. I was up on the North Platte by this time, when the Indians got up there, a posse went out to chase them, and I was with the posse. They were scattered out in bunches of fifteen or twenty, raiding on the different ranches while the main bunch kept pushing on, and this band that we were following dropped back and stood us off, in an arroyo. I was lying down behind a little buck brush, trying to get a shot at an Indian, and one of them saw me and took a shot at me, and it kicked up the dust in my face. I can shiver yet when I think of it.
There was an Indian in this bunch they called Brave Wolf, who was a great warrior. They claim he danced thirteen dried buffalo heads off him before he started from the reservation, to make his medicine strong. And he got up there in the arroyo in front of us, all painted up, and he did a war dance to prove we couldn’t kill him. He was prancing around out there, going “Hi-ya, Hi-ya,” with sixteen of us shooting at him and all too excited to hit him, until finally somebody got him through the head. They picked him up by the arms and dragged him over the hills. We let them go. We had got our belly full of Cheyennes.
And that was all I saw of them until I got up to Montana in ‘83 and they was here. But I heard the rest of the story from Hank Thompson, who was a government scout up at Fort Keogh for years, and new the Cheyennes very well and was married to a Cheyenne woman. And I also heard about it from some of the Indians who made the trip, especially Wolf Robe and High Walking. When they got up into the sand hills of western Nebraska, they run out of cow outfits, so they run out of horses. They knew they would never make it the way they were going, so Dull Knife and Little Wolf decided to separate. Little Wolf, the young chief, was to take the fighting men and most of the ammunition and the best horses, and try to get through. Dull Knife took the old men and women and children, and just a few warriors.
The country was full of soldiers patrolling up-and-down, ready to head them off. So Little Wolf and his band went up and show themselves on top of a high hill, and the soldiers saw them and surrounded the hill in the night and thought they had got them. When morning comes, there wasn’t an Indian—they was so much smarter than the troops at that kind of game. But that move by Little Wolf gave Dull Knife the only chance he had, and he and his women and his old men sneaked off into the brush down on White River. The soldiers captured them there a few days later and took them to Fort Robinson. They were all out of ammunition, they were starving, they didn’t have a horse that could travel. Of course, when they were taken prisoner, the soldiers took all their weapons away, but in spite of everything those Indians managed to take a few guns apart and hide them under the squaws dresses, and a few small knives, and when they got to the fort they hid them under the floorboards of the guardhouse.
And the post commander was going to send them back to the reservation down in Oklahoma, marching overland through that terrible will below-zero weather, and these Indians had no clothes, they were naked, they would have froze to death. So Dull Knife refused to go. So that fool of a commander ordered their rations cut off because they were disobedient, and for three days they were in the guard house with nothing to eat, just swaying back-and-forth and singing their war chants; and a third night they took their few poor weapons that they had hid and killed a couple of centuries and made a break for the hills. They had nothing to fight with, nothing, only sticks and a few guns and a few knives, but they fought anyway, women too; and one man who was there tells of seeing a big six-foot warrior dying, with a little three-inch skinning knife in his hand. That was all he had. Pretty nearly the whole band died fighting, women and all.
But Little Wolf and his followers won out, and that is one of the miracles of Indian history. They got clear up here almost to Tongue River, when General Miles come down from Fort Keogh with a big body of troops and demanded their surrender. They said no, they would never surrender. They said that before they would go back to the reservation in Oklahoma, they would kill each other with their knives. But then they told him that if the government would let them stay up here in their old country on Tongue River, they would lay down their arms and be good Indians and never make any more trouble. Miles knew it was a question of that, or else you would have to massacre these Indians and lose a lot of men himself, so he agreed.
And for a wonder the government backed him up, instead of double-crossing him and making a liar out of him the way they done when Chief Joseph surrendered after the Nez Percé campaign. And so Miles’ word was not broken, and the Indians was allowed to stay and keep their victory.
And that is the whole story of why the Northern Cheyenne were up here when I came to this country in ‘83, and why they are here today. They have a little bit of a reservation on Tongue River and the Rosebud, not half as big as the reservation next to it that the government gave the Crows. But the Crows were smart; they fought on the government side in the ‘70s. And so the Crows are well off; they drive cars and run race horses, but nobody ever heard of a Cheyenne with a racehorse. They are too poor.
But this reservation they are living on today is their country that they fought for in ‘78, and half of them died. In the old days, no matter how far they went on their hunting parties, they would always come back to Tongue River to winter. It was home to them. And no wonder. It is a beautiful country, well watered, with high hills and big yellow pines scattered over them, and grass everywhere, and lots of shelter. They were used to this, and that is why when they had to go down to that low, flat Oklahoma country they took sick and died.
But a lot more things happened even after they were allowed to stay up here in ‘78. Because wherever Indians and white men come together there is bound to be trouble, or there was until the Indians was completely broken. There was trouble with the Cheyennes up here in the season of ‘83-84 and I was mixed up in it though it was more or less against my will.
(From We Pointed Them North, Oklahoma University Press, originally published in 1939)
To be continued…