Boone - the Early Years
Copyright© 2016 by Ernest Bywater
Christmas and the New Year
When rolling into town mid-morning Boone has a stray thought of, Something must be wrong! This is a Tuesday, not a Monday. We never get anywhere except on a Monday. He’s amused by the thought.
During the afternoon they talk while they unpack the wagons, and Boone says, “While in Council Bluffs I caught up on the news. There’s been a dozen or so battles between Army units in Missouri since April, hundreds of shootings and killings in Kansas, and militia attacking the people all over Kansas and near their borders. I’m glad we chose to take the more northern route.” The others all agree with him about that.
When they loaded the wagons at Council Bluffs, Iowa, they used the hoists at the stores where they made the purchases. Now they need to hoist the many barrels of grain out of the wagons, so they make a portable hoist Boone learned about at VMI. They use three long poles to hang a block and tackle from where they cross at the top. He sets it up with the lifting point over the seat of the wagon with two poles beside the wagon plus one in front of the wagon where the tongue and mules normally are. He ties the two poles beside the wagon to the wagon as well as each other. This means he doesn’t have to push or pull a heavy load too far to get it out of the wagon and onto the ground. The good block and tackle means one of the ladies can lift the load, so Boone can stay in the wagon to maneuver the barrels about to be ready to lift, and he can push the barrel out in front of the wagon. Naturally, he has to get down to roll the barrel away from the wagon, but he can get three of the barrels out of the wagon to place them on the ground before he has to get down to move them out of the way.
On Christmas day they rest after they exchange gifts, most of them were made by the giver, and only a few gifts are store bought items.
Boone only bought corn that had already been processed to make it safe, so the two mills are worked hard to turn most of the wheat and corn into flour. Two mills are used to not mix the flours. They process the grain in the barrels first, and fill them with flour. Once all the barrels are full they process the grain they have in bags. The space they take up after being ground is less than before they’re ground, and this confuses Lee.
Lee asks, “Boone, why does the ground corn and wheat take up less space than the original grain?”
He grins, gets a cup, scoops some grain up with it, and shows it to her while saying, “See there’s a little space between the grains?” When Lee nods yes he adds, “The same is true for the flour. But since the flour is a lot finer the amount of air around it is less. It also means the same cup of flour is heavier.” He gets another cup the same, and fills both to the same level, one with grain and one with flour, then hands them to Lee.
While holding both of the cups Lee says, “The flour is heavier than the grain is. Why’s that?”
“Because there’s less air in the cup there’s more of the flour in it. Thus it’s heavier.” Lee smiles, and nods to show she now understands.
The ladies take turns at the many tasks involved to grind the grain into flour while Boone works on finishing the new wagons. For now the flour is all stored along the side of the large barn until the wagons are ready for a full loading.
Near the end of January they’ve almost finished with all the grinding when a group of men and wagons stops outside the town for the night. It’s the Fort Laramie resupply train on their way to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to stock up. Boone talks to them about the trail to the fort, and is given a lot of good information about the trail, where it runs, and the current conditions on it. They also confirm it’s quicker than going along the Platte River, but this trail has a greater risk of less water being available.
The next week all the grain they’re going to turn into flour is ground, and they start loading the wagons. Wagons 3, 4, 5, and 6 are all empty and are now made to the latest configuration, so they start to load them first. The remaining bathtubs go into the center storage area of Wagon 3, along with the remaining unopened boxes of guns, hatchets, axes, and cutlery they still have. The center storage of Wagon 4 is loaded with the rest of the smaller trade goods, two double sets of millstones, and all but two cases of the bullets for their guns - the current open case and one unopened case are kept out for easy access during their travels.
The temporary hoist is erected to load the under-bed storage area of Wagon 3 with barrels of wheat. The water barrels in the back are three feet high and twenty inches in diameter, leaving just over a foot between them at their widest point. This hourglass space is used for storage. But the barrels for the grain are larger at four feet in height and twenty-six inches in diameter. When they start to load the barrels into the wagons Boone makes some shaped narrow boards to go between the barrels at their top and bottom to stop them from moving about. The ones to stop sideways shifts are a little wider than the ones to stop forward movement, because two of the barrels are two inches narrower than the wagon’s width, while the storage space is exactly three barrels deep. This close fitting means he has some trouble getting the last barrel into place.
The first barrel is lifted up and put into place, the second goes beside it, then Boone puts the two spacers in. The bottom spacer is put in place on its side, turned, and tapped into place with a hammer, while the top one is simply put in place and tapped down. The bottom spacers for the next barrel along the side are put in place before the barrel is moved into the area, and the side spacers are put in the same way as the first set. This works for the first four barrels, and the fifth barrel is a little harder due to the close fit. But all the bottom spacers have to be just right before he can lower the sixth barrel into place, and put in the top spacers. Wagon 3 is loaded with wheat flour, and Wagon 4 is loaded with corn flour.
It takes most of the day to load two wagons to the four foot mark, so they call it a day. Boone measures the space where four barrels come together, and smiles. That night he has some of the scraps of canvas left over from the wagon covers on hand to make some tubes to fit in the space between the barrels. Nellie asks, “What are they for, Boone?”
He replies, “I’m making tubes to go down between the barrels. I’ll store some of our loose gold coins in them with some cotton reels on top of the coins. That way we hide the money in plain sight. The space is just a bit bigger than the coins until almost to the most narrow point. We’ll have to stick a bit of cloth around the bottom and top to stop movement and noise. It hides some of the money, and it makes a better use of the storage space.” All of the ladies help with making the tubes for the wagons, and Boone starts loading the finished tubes with coins.
The next morning the first task is to load the two tubes of coins into each of the first two loaded wagons, and to place the bed boards on top of the loaded barrels. Boone even has bracing planks to hold the ends of the boards down while traveling.
After breakfast they put the rear gun-port access frame in place, then stack bags of flour around it and up to level with it. Boards are set on top of the load at that point, and bolts of materials are loaded on top of the boards. That takes most of the day, so Olive, Nellie, and Boone take the remaining time to move their bedding and personal gear into Wagon 3 while Lee and Sam move their gear into Wagon 4.
The next two days are spent loading Wagon 5 and Wagon 6 in the same way, except the center storage is loaded with bags of flour of the same sort as the rest of the wagon. When they start on Wagon 2 they unload everything. After Boone upgrades the wagon they load the center storage with the bags of salt, and the rest is loaded like the other wagons with wheat flour as the main item. Wagon 1 is upgraded, and salt is loaded into the center storage, the last of the barrels of corn flour is in the under-bed storage with bags of salt loaded beside the rear access frame before the last of the bolts of material are loaded on top.
About half of their loose money is now stored under the beds, while some is kept in accessible places of Wagon 1 and Wagon 3, the money hidden in the nail boxes is untouched. The gear they use each day is in the driver’s seat and rear storage areas of the wagons. Boone is surprised when he finds the driver seat storage areas of three of the wagons are stuffed with bags of coffee beans, yeast, and sugar.
The wagons are fully loaded, but some of the trade goods and bags of flour are still to be loaded. Boone makes extra storage frames to put in the sides of the sleeping areas for Wagons 2 and 6, he then loads another two feet of bags and goods on each side, puts the blankets and ticking on them, and ties them down. A dozen bags of flour, two dozen bags of salt, twenty bags of grain, several bales of hay, and a fair pile of firewood is stored in the bed area of Wagon 5, so all is now loaded. The last major task done is to drain, clean, and refill all of the water barrels, leaving the stocking up on perishable foods to be finally ready to go.
Boone still has a lot of boards, beams, and off-cuts lying around. The relevant tools to work on them are now packed in the ready access area of one of the wagons, so he thinks about what he can do with the wood. After a while he starts working with the wood to make a number of items.
He soon has six tables five feet long and three feet wide with three foot long legs, twenty-four tables three feet in diameter with three easily removed legs, six very short ladders, and a large pile of three-legged stools. The ladies wonder what he intends to do with them or how he’ll carry them, because the wagons are fully loaded. They aren’t near their maximum weight, but they’re all well stuffed. The ladies are further confused when he starts to work on the wagons again.
Things become much clearer when Boone sets one of the rectangular tables across the front of one of the wagons, and he uses the new fittings to hold the table in place while he covers it with a sheet of canvas, and ties it down well. The rest go across the front of the other five wagons. The six ladders are then placed in the middle of the front of each wagon to make it easier to get in and out; they’re tied to the box and the tongue of the wagon. Two of the round tables are secured to the back of each wagon, and another of the round tables is secured to each side of each wagon over the spare wheels. He stacks stools in the right side of the driver’s area, and ties them down. More stools are tied to the sides of the wagons, and everyone is given one to put in their sleep area. The loose ones will be in the wagons when moving, used when stopped, and on the seat when sleeping at night. Some of the round tables on the back of the storage area are taken off, and put out for use while they’re camped.
Boone is glad all of the packing is done. Then he spots the two small mills they set up to grind the grain, and he realizes he has to break them down and find a place for them. However, he decides to sell them to Mr Dale for what he paid for them back east, he still has the other millstone sets already packed away. Mr Dale is happy to buy them at what is a low price for this area, and it means he can now grind the farmers’ grain locally, instead of it having to go to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to be sold, and then flour bought.
The Trip to Fort Laramie
They’re ready to go on February 16th, 1862 when Heidi insists they go to church today and leave in the morning. When he starts to laugh the others look at Boone as if he’s crazy. When he calms down he says, “We were about two thirds of the way here when I realized most of the times we arrived at, or left, a town it was a Monday. We don’t plan it that way, but that’s how it’s been going. So, when you want to wait for the Monday to leave I think it’s funny we’re finally intentionally leaving on a Monday.” The others laugh as well, now it’s been explained to them.
Using the information the people from Fort Laramie gave them they travel beside the Elkhorn River. The wagons are heavier than they have been, but they’re still well within what the mule teams can pull. They don’t push the mules, especially while they still have water and good grazing on hand. They may push them a bit more when it looks like a lot drier and they’ll have to worry about having enough water. For the first seven days they’re in the river valley, and they can see the hills on each side of them, but during day eight the hills on their left gradually give way to open prairie. Two days later the hills on their right also turn into open prairie. However, there’s still good water in the river bed.
They continue to follow the course of the river bed in a north-west direction. Three days later they turn due west while still following the water course. During the day they know they must be on the right trail, because the Fort Laramie resupply wagon-train is in sight behind them. On finding a good campsite they stop early, and wait for the other wagons to join them at the camp for the night.
Both groups camp close to each other, but as two separate groups, and each has their own cook fire. After the evening meal Boone goes over to talk to the leader of the resupply train, and says, “Hello, my name’s Boone. Can you spare someone who knows the trail and Indian sign language to be our guide the rest of the way to Fort Laramie?”
The man looks at Boone for a moment, and replies, “I’m Ned. Why the concern about the Indians now?”
“Back in West Point I was told the Indians around here are friendly and shouldn’t be any trouble at all. However, for the last two days I’ve noticed a number of Indians watching us from well out on the prairie. They’re almost at the limit of sight, but I can just see them out there while they watch what we do, and follow us. I’d hate to have something bad happen because of a misunderstanding and things getting out of hand.”
“Most of the Indians you’ll see around here are Pawnee, and they’re friendly. They don’t mind you crossing their land, but they may get real upset if you pick a spot to homestead where they don’t want you to stay. It’s also customary to give them a gift for them letting you cross the land and to hunt the game for food.”
“We won’t be setting up along here. We were heading to Oregon, but due to recent news we’re now thinking of going to California or along the Colorado River to live. We’ll find out more when we get closer to California, and know more about the places. Then we’ll decide what we’ll do, based on the current information of the situation there.”
“That’s good. I’m sorry, but I can’t spare anyone. When we reach the fort I’ll ask if anyone wants to come back to guide you in. But if you just follow our tracks you should be right. I’ve a spare rough map of the trail I’ll give you. With the Indians, just smile without showing your teeth, and offer them a gift if they approach you. If they’ve been following you I half expect them to speak to us both in the morning. They’re good at staying unseen, so either they want you to see them, or you’re very good at keeping an eye out for what’s around you.” They talk a bit longer before retiring for the night after Ned hands over the spare map.
Meeting the Locals
Five Indians ride into camp while they’re having breakfast. They first talk with Ned, then he leads them over to talk to Boone. Ned says, “Boone, I’m not sure if you want to get involved with this deal, or not. None of these braves speak English, but if you give them something they like they’ll take you to their village camped up on the Niobrara River to talk with their chief. He has people who speak English, and he may trade one of them to you.”
Boone asks, “Just exactly what do you mean by ‘trade one to me’?”
“Some of them are captives taken during wars or raids, and are now slaves. The chief may agree to trade one, but no promises. You’ll have to work out that trade.”
“OK. I understand the situation, now. I’m not happy with having a slave, but I can always make them a free person once I trade for them. What do I need to give these braves for them to lead me there?”
“Got any trade goods you can give him? Don’t give away anything you need for later.”
Boone laughs, “Most of what we have are trade goods or food. Since we weren’t sure what we’d do at the other end, or where, we loaded up with things we thought we could get good deals on in the west.”
Ned laughs, and asks, “What sort of things?”
“We’ve got a lot of corn flour and wheat flour, but also have knives, gunpowder, balls, lead, blankets, nails, sewing things, and even baths.”
“Damn, that’s a good mix. Well, Running Horse here is the leader of this group, and they all have old rifles in fifty caliber. If you give him a poke of balls in that size with a poke of gunpowder he’ll share them around, and they’ll all be your best friends. With the braves gun powder and balls are the best items, guns are, too, but the authorities don’t like that. With the chief a decent knife is a good idea, and things like flour and salt for the whole village are good, too.”
“Right. Give me a moment while I get some, and you can explain to him what’s going on when I hand them over.” Ned nods yes, so Boone goes to the wagon where they have some of the trade goods set for easy access. He puts together a pouch of suitable rifle balls, and a half pound pouch of gunpowder.
In a few minutes Boone is back with two pokes which he hands to the brave while Ned explains what the gifts are for. The brave opens the pokes, looks inside, smiles, nods yes, and talks to the other braves. After a moment Ned says, “He’ll lead the way and hunt for game, but you’ll have to provide the cooked food each night. I explained you’re in no big hurry, so he should go the way with the best water and grazing.”
“Thanks, Ned. Tell him I got a deer yesterday, and I’ll leave it up to him when and what he hunts for.”
Ned laughs, and says, “He already knows that, so I’ll leave it be. Just accept and deal with whatever he brings in. Also, just follow or go where he points. He won’t lead you astray, because he knows you’ll be seeing me later, and they don’t want to get the trading post angry with them. Oh, have you got any whiskey in your goods?”
Boone notices the braves come alert at the word whiskey, so he also shakes his head no when he says, “No. We didn’t bring any alcohol at all. But we do have some grain if you want to make your own.”
“That’s good. You’d be surprised how many fools think it’s easier and cheaper to trade alcohol to the Indians. Many end up dead when the drunks go on a killing spree.” They talk for a little longer before Ned goes back to get his group rolling now they’ve packed up after breakfast. Boone does the same with his family and wagons.
Mary drives Wagon 1 with Lee on her left wing, Heidi drives Wagon 3 with Olive on her right wing, Nellie drives Wagon 5 with Sam on her left wing, while Boone rides scout a mile in front of them. The Pawnee braves are much further out with one just in sight on each side, another well back behind them, and one well ahead of them. The two groups of wagons are on diverging paths with Boone’s group going more north.
In the mid-afternoon of two days later they top a low rise to see a large Indian village camped beside the Niobrara River. The lead scout rides ahead to the village while the one Boone thinks of as their leader rides back to Boone, and he points to a spot beside the village, it’s clear that’s where he wants Boone’s group to make camp. About an hour later they’ve their camp established, most of the animals are hobbled in a nice bit of grass, and the ladies are busy organizing the evening meal.
Some of the Indians watch Sam, Lee, and Boone care for the animals, and they pay special attention to the way Boone combs and cares for Morgan. When they finish the lead brave waves for Boone to join him to go to the main village. Boone holds up his hand, and he speaks to Lee. She races off, and soon returns with a bag Boone prepared when they stopped for the first night after leaving Ned’s group. He smiles at the brave while he slips the shoulder strap of the bag over his right shoulder, and starts to walk to the village. The brave grins, and gets in front to lead the way. Very soon they’re outside the entrance to a lodge with several of the Pawnee outside the lodge as if waiting for them. There’s a man and woman who appear to be in their late forties, a young man in his twenties with a woman of a similar age, two late teen girls, and a mid-teen white girl. The brave says something to the group, then he leaves.
Boone turns to face the older couple, and waits. After a moment they both smile, and the man says something. The white girl says, “Why do you wish to trade for someone who speaks the Pawnee tongue?”
“I tried to hire white men who spoke the Pawnee tongue or knew the sign language, but none were available at this time. They were all committed to other work. I had made a mistake in not trying to find a person to do this earlier, because I’d been told many people here spoke Pawnee. At a camp with a group of men from the trading post at Fort Laramie one of the men spoke with the brave who brought me here. The brave said I may be able to trade for a slave who knows the tongues of both the Pawnee and the white man. I’m here to see if I can make a trade. I do not wish to have any trouble start because of a misunderstanding, so I want a person who can speak both tongues.”
The girl speaks to the couple, and they all talk for a few minutes. When the girl turns back to him Boone says, “Before we get to talking trade I wish to make a gift to the leaders of this village for letting us cross their lands and to camp by their village.” He reaches into the bag to take out two knives. He holds them out while saying, “The thin one is a knife for skinning animals, and the thick one is a hunting knife. Please present these to them for me.”
The girl glances at the couple, then walks over, takes the two knives, goes to the couple, then presents the skinning knife to the woman and the other knife to the man. Both of them take their knife out of its sheath to look it over before nodding their acceptance of them. Boone says, “The big knife is what they call a Bowie Knife.“ He notices the man smiles at this before the girl can translate it, so Boone thinks, I wonder if they speak English, but go through the girl so I don’t know that for sure.
The girl asks Boone, “What can you offer in trade for me? They need to know to work out how much to ask for me, because I’ve been with them for many years.”
“I have a few more knives like those, but they are very expensive. I also have a lot of flour from wheat and maize, sugar, blankets, balls, gunpowder, hand axes, and long axes for trading with. If we go back to my wagons I can put out examples to look at.” Boone notices one of the late teen Pawnee girls also looks up at what he says.
The girl talks to the older couple, then everyone is on their way back to Boone’s camp. When he clears the village he makes some signals to Sam, who speaks to Olive, who climbs into one of the wagons. By the time the group reaches the wagons Olive has samples of everything to trade here put out on one of the round tables they set up.
While going through the small number of items set out on display the Pawnee girls talk and giggle while the older couple talk about the items. They test the quality of the ground flour and the blankets. One of the teen girls speaks with the woman for a while, and the woman has a long talk with the translator.
Olive slides over, and softly says, “I’d worry about what the older girls are up to, if I were you, Boone.”
He glances at her, and is about to speak when the young teen girl says to Boone, “Gray Eagle isn’t happy with the proposed trade, but High Dove says for the two Indian ponies you have, ten skinning knives, a large bag of each flour, ten blankets, a keg of gunpowder, and a bar of lead you can have two who speak Pawnee, Cheyenne, Lakota, and the white man’s tongue as well as the two young whites we found out on the prairie beside a wagon of people dead of a sickness. The two white girls rarely speak, and when they do it is in a strange tongue.”
Boone is about to argue the price when he sees a Pawnee woman with two young white girls walking toward them. The girls are about the same ages as Lee and Sam. He asks, “How long have the two girls been with the village?”
“They were found just after the start of this last snow time.”
Mary is nearby listening to all this, and she says, “Tell them to add in two sets of buckskin clothes and moccasins for all in our camp, and we have a deal.”
The girl glances at Boone, and he simply says, “My grandmother is the leader of our lodge, and she has spoken. Tell them!” However, he saw the older Pawnee woman look up at what he said, so he’s now sure they all understand what he says. The trade is soon agreed to.
While Mary and Olive set the blankets, flour, and knives out on the table Sam gets the two ponies, and Boone gets the keg of powder, and bar of lead for making balls. It’s all checked by the Pawnee women before they pick it all up and carry it back to the village. The two young white girls are left with them, and the other two girls will collect their things before coming back to the wagons.
Olive is talking to the two girls, and getting only blank stares. Boone tries the French he learned at VMI, more blank stares. Then Heidi hits her leg on the side of the wagon, and says a few rude words in German, which gets giggles from the girls.
Boone immediately calls her to him, “Heidi, komm bitte her.” The eyes of both the young girls go wide, and they start to chatter away in German. Heidi has a huge smile when she hears them, and the three are soon chattering to each other in German. Boone looks at Mary, and says, “I think Heidi just adopted two more grandchildren to teach English to.”
Mary and Heidi vanish to make changes to the sleeping areas of the wagons. So Boone, as the only other German speaker, is left to talk to the girls and to get their story. He’s still chatting with them when a group of Pawnee arrive. The two translators have their things, and he’s not surprised to see one of them is the older teen Pawnee girl. The other Pawnee women have treated hides and what they need to make the sets of buckskins for them. They’re all amazed to see Boone chattering away to the girls in their strange tongue.
Boone is the first they measure, and some of the Pawnee women get busy trimming and sewing the clothes to fit him while the rest measure the others, starting with Olive. He turns to the older Pawnee teen, and asks, “What are your names? What should I offer as trade for an extra set of buckskins and moccasins for each of us?”
The older teen says, “I’m Dark Fawn, and White Fawn is the one who did all the talking earlier. If you offer the women a large bag of the flour for them to share between them they’ll make the buckskins.”
Mary says, “Get a bag of each, and a bag of sugar, Boone. I want us all to have three pairs of moccasins and four sets of buckskins. Tell them so, please, Dark Fawn.” The five women making the clothes are happy to make the trade for the extra clothes.
Dark Fawn asks, “Boone, is it true what Dark Buffalo heard in the traders’ camp when he visited them?”
“Tell me what he heard, and I’ll tell you if it’s true or not.”
“They said you are known in Council Bluffs for killing many bad men. A lot of the bad men keep away from you so they don’t die.”
“In our travels we’ve been attacked by a lot of bad men, and I’ve killed a lot of them. The last two groups were near Council Bluffs, so I took their bodies there to let those in authority know about it. Why is it important you know this?”
“Strong Horse wants me as his own woman, but he is violent with women, so I don’t want him as my mate. Mother agrees with me. Two other braves have asked to pay my bride price, and they died while out hunting with Strong Horse. When mother heard you kill bad men she included my bride price of two ponies and two blankets in the trade so I’m with you and not part of the village now. Strong Horse can no longer keep asking for me as his bride. But he may try to kill you for taking me.”
Mary, Olive, and Nellie are all nearby, and they hear this. They start to laugh, so Dark Fawn asks, “Why do they laugh?”
“My two wives and my grandmother think it very funny I paid your bride price without knowing what it was for.” This makes Dark Fawn laugh as well, and when she tells the other Pawnee women they laugh too. Boone simply shrugs his shoulders at being the butt of their joke.
Boone asks, “Dark Fawn, I need to hunt tomorrow, is there a herd of buffalo close by?”
“Now we have more balls and gunpowder the men can load their guns to hunt the buffalo. So they will hunt tomorrow. We need ten or more, because we are out of meat. But we’ll be lucky to get four or five before all the buffalo run away.”
Boone turns to Mary, and says, “If we use the tent as the portable smokehouse we should be able to stay here for a couple of days to see the meat properly smoked. Should we ask about it, Gran?”
“You go and ask, Boone. We’ll get the tent out, and collect plenty of wood to do the smoking with. I’d like a few buffalo hides, too.”
“Right, Dark Fawn, we’ve got our orders. Let’s go talk to your father about a trade related to hunting.” She smiles, and leads the way.
When the two reach the lodge of the village leaders again the older couple walk out to speak with them. Boone faces them, and says, “I know they understand what I say, but you may continue to translate if they wish. If you agree to let me, tomorrow I will go hunt the buffalo. My grandmother wants the hides of many buffalo while we need the meat of only two. I will kill fifteen buffalo, and trade the meat from all but two for your help in skinning and cutting up the meat, and the approval to stay where we are for a few days to smoke the meat we take.”
Gray Eagle smiles, and says, in English, “You will be many days chasing the herd to kill that many.”
Boone smiles, and says, “In the dirt, draw me a picture of where best to shoot a buffalo from the front, the side, and the back, and I will kill fifteen buffalo in the time it takes you to count the shots.”
The man drops to a squat, draws pictures of a buffalo, and places a mark where it’s best to shoot them while saying, “The heart is big and the best place to shoot them, or the head when behind them.”
They stand, and Boone says, “In the morning I’ll bring my mules to carry the meat. Your people can ride them to where the herd is.”
Boone notices a young woman walking out of the lodge has her eyes wide open while opening her mouth, so he spins around, and sees a young brave racing at him with a hatchet in his right hand. The man throws the hatchet, Boone’s left arm swings up to knock the hatchet to the side while his right hand goes for a pistol. He has a bit of time, so he grabs the one on his thigh, lifts it, and fires at the chest of his attacker at the same moment his forearm hits the side of the hatchet to knock it to the side to go wide of everyone. The brave goes down with a bloody chest. Boone walks over, sees he’s still alive, takes careful aim, and fires.
Gray Eagle asks, “Why the second shot? He was dying!”
A grinning Boone says, “The next life won’t be so happy for him without his balls, which I blew apart before he died.”
When Dark Fawn translates what he said all those who gathered on hearing the scream and shots laugh. She says, “What my brother heard is true. You are quick to kill bad men. No one need worry about Strong Horse now! What do you wish to do with his rifle, horse, and knife?”
“Is there a young man in the lodge he’s in who will make good use of them?” High Dove nods yes. “Give them to him, and see he’s taught how to be a better man than Strong Horse was.” Gray Eagle nods yes, turns, and speaks to one of the men. The man collects the weapons from Strong Horse, and walks away with them. Boone nods to Gray Eagle and High Dove, turns, and walks to his camp, followed by Dark Fawn.
Naturally, the shooting is the main item of talking during their meal that night. Boone hands each of his new family members a skinning knife to carry on their belt so they’ll have it to use when needed.
In the morning Boone leads Olive, Nellie, Dark Fawn, White Fawn, and Sam on horses bringing thirty mules on leads to where Gray Eagle is waiting outside his camp with a large group of women and several braves on horses. When they stop the women climb on the mules, and Gray Eagle leads the way across the river and around a few hills.
About an hour later they come up behind another low hill with a brave just below the ridge while looking over the top of it. The braves dismount, and quietly walk up the hill with their rifles in hand. Boone takes his Henry out of its boot, tells Morgan to wait there, and follows.
Stopping just below the top of the hill, but where he can see over it, Boone sees a huge herd of buffalo stretching for what looks like miles in the other three directions. He point to two young bulls a bit to the side of the herd about forty degrees down to his left, and says, “I’ll start with those two young bulls off to the side, and then work my way up along the herd until I’ve shot fifteen. I shouldn’t need to fire at any beyond those straight in front of me. If you want more than that aim at the buffalo closer to the front of the herd, and fire when I do.” All the braves look stunned when Gray Eagle tells them Boone’s plan.
Gray Eagle says, “The braves will not shoot until the herd starts to move away after you start to shoot at the buffalo.”
Boone checked his rifle this morning, so he has one in the breech and sixteen rounds in the magazine to give him two extra shots if he needs them. He moves up the hill a little more, drops to one knee, and turns a little to his left to aim at the first buffalo. He checks he has a free swing from his left to his right, and returns to aim at the furthest buffalo he’s intending to shoot, which is about one hundred yards away. Having said he can shoot so many buffalo means he now has to deliver. He takes a deep breath, lets a little out, then fires, levers in a new round while shifting target, and fires, again, and again. The herd all look up at the first shot. They look around the sky when the thunder of the shots continues. By the seventh shot they’re getting nervous about the odd thunder. They start to move, and the braves fire at the front of the herd. The buffalo may not be smart, but they do pick up a lot of speed really fast. Boone has twelve down and has to lead the last three he shoots. The fifteenth one staggers but keeps moving, so he shoots it again, and it goes down.
While shaking his head in wonder Gray Eagle says, “I didn’t think it could be done so fast. That is a good rifle.”
“Yes, it’s a good one,” is Boone’s reply while looking for the sixteen cases he fired and levered out, the last round is in the chamber ready to fire. “However, there are very few of them, each is specially made far to the east. They also need special bullets you can’t buy here, so I have to make new ones from the old ones. If you don’t make them right they can damage the gun to stop it working, and it may even kill you.” While he talks he picks up all but one casing, then he sees it, smiles, and picks it up. He shows it to Gray Eagle, “See, this is what it’s like after being fired,” he then gets a cartridge out of his pouch of rounds to show him, “and this is what they’re like when ready to be used. The powder and ball are one, so it’s faster to load.”
Gray Eagle nods, and says, “Anyone stealing it would soon run out of the balls, and not be able to make more. Good for one who knows what to do and can make the special balls, but not for anyone else.” He translates the conversation to the other Pawnee so they understand.
When the firing stops the women start forward with the mules, and are now down at the buffalo cutting them up while they skin them. The braves reload their guns, and move out to keep an eye out for any predators who may come calling. Boone whistles, and Morgan trots up for a pat before Boone mounts him to ride down to the buffalo. He reloads the rifle before he mounts Morgan.
The rest of the morning is spent watching over the women doing the work on the buffalo before they all go back to the village. Everyone is smiling about all the meat they now have. The afternoon is spent with everyone hard at work slicing up the buffalo for cooking, drying, and smoking so they’ll have meat for many days to come.
Mid-afternoon the Pawnee women return with all of the buckskins for the members of Boone’s group to try on. White Fawn says, “In the morning put on a set of the buckskin trousers, then sit in the river until they’re soaking wet. Then you walk around with them wet so they can dry out on you to fit well. Do the same with another set the next day, and continue until all are done, and fit well.”
It takes five days for Mary and Heidi to be happy the buffalo meat is all properly smoked and treated. Then it’s hung up in the wagons not used for sleeping. With that done they pull the tent down, put it back into storage, and ready their camp for departure the next day.