The author of this book of collected anecdotes of the American West when it was at its wildest after the American Civil War, was well qualified for the task for he lived through its dangerous and exciting days and knew many of its most renowned characters personally. He was a cattleman and ranch owner, becoming in later life an enthusiastic author and this book is one of several which draw upon his western experiences. Those fascinated by the period will find much of interest here, Indian fights and fighters, the deeds of the trailblazers, the pioneer days of the great cattle drives, cowboys and the adventures of famous (and infamous) exponents of what some refer to as ‘triggernomitry.’ These larger than life men hail from both sides of law and some—particularly smitten with ‘triggerfingeritis’ as the author describes it—were driven to acts of terrible violence almost irrespective of the cause. Clay Allison, Boone May, Captain John Smith and a host of other six-gun killers all feature within these pages. Bronson was a widely travelled man and his western accounts are accompanied by interesting episodes from the days of balloon flight and from another frontier—that of darkest Africa. A highly entertaining read—which focuses on several characters who may be new to those interested in the subject—from an authentic voice.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Other riders were out that morning, riders with eyes keen as a hawk’s, eyes that never rested for a moment, eyes set in heads cunning as foxes and cruel as wolves. A war party of Comanches was out and on the move early, and, as is the crafty Indian custom, was riding out of sight in the narrow valley below the well-rounded hills that lined the river. But while hid themselves, their scouts were out far ahead, creeping along just beneath the edge of the Plain, scanning keenly its broad stretches, alert for quarry. And they soon found it.<br>
Loving and Jim hove in sight!<br>
To be sure they were only two specks in the distance, but the trained eyes of these savage sleuths quickly made them out as horsemen, and white men.<br>
Halting for the main war party to come up, they held a brief council of war, which decided that the attack should be delivered two or three miles farther up the river, where the trail swerved in to within a few hundred yards of the stream. So the scouts mounted, and the war party jogged leisurely northward and took stand opposite the bend in the trail.<br>
On came Loving and Jim, unwarned and unsuspecting, their animals jaded from the long night’s ride. They reached the bend. And just as Jim, pointing to a low round hill a quarter of a mile to the west of them, remarked, “Thar’d be a blame good place to stan’ off a bunch o’ Injuns,” they were startled by the sound of thundering hoofs off on their right to the east. Looking quickly round they saw a sight to make the bravest tremble.<br>
Racing up out of the valley and out upon them, barely four hundred yards away, came a band of forty or fifty Comanche warriors, crouching low on their horses’ withers, madly plying quirt and heel to urge their mounts to their utmost speed.<br>
Their own animals worn out, escape by running was hopeless. Cover must be sought where a stand could be made, so they whirled about and spurred away for the hill Jim had noted. Their pace was slow at the best. The Indians were gaining at every jump and had opened fire, and before half the distance to the hill was covered a ball broke Loving’s thigh and killed his mule. As the mule pitched over dead, providentially he fell on the bank of a buffalo-wallow—a circular depression in the prairie two or three feet deep and eight or ten feet in diameter, made by buffalo wallowing in a muddy pool during the rains.<br>
Instantly Jim sprang to the ground, gave his bridle to Loving, who lay helpless under his horse, and turned and poured a stream of lead out of his Henry rifle that bowled over two Comanches, knocked down one horse, and stopped the charge.<br>
While the Indians temporarily drew back out of range, Jim pulled Loving from beneath his fallen mule, and, using his neckerchief, applied a tourniquet to the wounded leg which abated the haemorrhage, and then placed him in as easy a position as possible within the shelter of the wallow, and behind the fallen carcass of the mule. Then Jim led his own horse to the opposite bank of the wallow, drew his bowie knife and cut the poor beast’s throat: they were in for a fight to the death, and, outnumbered twenty to one, must have breastworks. As the horse fell on the low bank and Jim dropped down behind him, Loving called out cheerily:<br>
“Reckon we’re all right now, Jim, and can down half o’ them before they get us. Hell! Here they come again!”<br>
A brief “Bet yer life, ole man. We’ll make ’em settle now,” was the only reply.<br>
Stripped naked to their waist-cloths and moccasins, with faces painted black and bronze, bodies striped with vermilion, with curling buffalo horns and streaming eagle feathers for their war bonnets, no warriors ever presented a more ferocious appearance than these charging Comanches. Their horses, too, were naked except for the bridle and a hair rope loosely knotted round the barrel over the withers.<br>
On they came at top speed until within range, when with that wonderful dexterity no other race has quite equalled, each pushed his bent right knee into the slack of the hair rope, seized bridle and horse’s mane in the left hand, curled his left heel tightly into the horse’s flank, and dropped down on the animal’s right side, leaving only a hand and a foot in view from the left. Then, breaking the line of their charge, the whole band began to race round Loving’s entrenchment in single file, firing beneath their horses’ necks and gradually drawing nearer as they circled.<br>
Loving and Jim wasted no lead. Lying low behind their breastworks until the enemy were well within range, they opened a fire that knocked over six horses and wounded three Indians. Balls and arrows were flying all about them, but, well sheltered, they remained untouched. The fire was too hot for the Comanches and they again withdrew.