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Arizona Sketches By J. A. Munk Characters: 13433

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

Ranch life is often full of thrilling incidents and adventures. The cowboy in his travels about the country looking after cattle, hunting wild game or, in turn, being hunted by yet wilder Indians, finds plenty of novelty and excitement to break any fancied monotony which might be considered as belonging to ranch life. In a number of visits to the range country during the past twenty years, the writer has had an opportunity to observe life on a ranch, and experience some of its exciting adventures.

One day in the summer of 1891, Dave Drew, our foreman, Tedrow, one of the cowboys, and myself, made a trip into East Canon in the Dos Cabezas mountains, in search of some large unbranded calves which had been seen running there. We rode leisurely along for some time and passed several small bunches of cattle without finding what we were looking for. As we neared a bend in the canon, Dave, who rode in advance, saw some cattle lying in the shade of a grove of live oak trees. Instantly he spurred his horse into a run and chased after the cattle at full speed, at the same time looking back and shouting that he saw two mavericks and for us to hurry up and help catch them. It was a bad piece of ground to cover and we found it difficult to make progress or to even keep each other in sight. Tedrow hurried up as fast as he could while I brought up the rear.

In trying to get through in the direction that Dave had gone, we tried to make a short cut in order to gain time, but soon found our way completely blocked by immense boulders and dense thickets of cat-claw bushes, which is a variety of mesquite covered with strong, sharp, curved thorns. We turned back to find a better road and after some time spent in hunting an opening we discovered a dim trail which soon led us into a natural park of level ground hidden among the foothills. Here we found Dave who alone had caught and tied down both the calves and was preparing to start a fire to heat the branding irons. What he had done seemed like magic and was entirely incomprehensible to an inexperienced tenderfoot.

Dave explained afterwards that to be successful in such a race much depended on taking the cattle by surprise, and then by a quick, bold dash start them running up the mountain, when it was possible to overtake and rope them; but if once started to running down hill it was not only unsafe to follow on horseback but in any event the cattle were certain to escape. Taking them by surprise seemed to bewilder them and before they could collect their scattered senses, so to speak, and scamper off, the work of capture was done.

Another adventure, which did not end so fortunately for met happened in the fall of I 887 when the country was yet comparatively new to the cattle business. I rode out one day in company with a cowboy to look after strays and, incidentally, to watch for any game that might chance to cross our path. We rode through seemingly endless meadows of fine gramma grass and saw the sleek cattle feeding on plenty and enjoying perfect contentment. Game, also, seemed to be abundant but very shy and as we were not particularly hunting that kind of stock, we forebore giving chase or firing at long range.

After riding about among the hills back of the Pinaleno ranch and not finding anything we concluded to return home. On starting back we separated and took different routes, going by two parallel ravines in order to cover more ground in our search. I had not gone far until I found the cattle we were looking for going to water on the home trail. Jogging on slowly after them and enjoying the beauty of the landscape, I unexpectedly caught a glimpse of a deer lying down under a mesquite tree on the brow of a distant hill. I was in plain sight of the deer, which was either asleep or heedless of danger as it paid no attention whatever to my presence.

Deer and antelope soon become accustomed to horses and cattle and often mix and feed familiarly with the stock grazing on the open range. The deer did not change its position as I quietly rode by and out of sight behind the hill. There I dismounted and stalked the quarry on foot, cautiously making my way up the side of the hill to a point where I would be within easy shooting distance. As I stood up to locate the deer it jumped to its feet and was ready to make off, but before it could start a shot from my Winchester put a bullet through its head, and it scarcely moved after it fell. The deer was in good condition and replenished our depleted ranch larder with some choice venison steaks. The head, also, was a fine one the horns being just out of velvet and each antler five pointed, was saved and mounted.

The shot and my lusty halloo soon brought my cowboy friend to the spot. Together we eviscerated the animal and prepared to pack it to camp on my horse. As we were lifting it upon his back the bronco gave a vicious kick which hit me in the left knee and knocked me down. The blow, though severe, glanced off so that no bone was broken. What made the horse kick was a mystery as he was considered safe and had carried deer on other occasions. But a bronco, like a mule, is never altogether reliable, particularly as to the action of its heels. With some delay in getting started and in somewhat of a demoralized condition we mounted and rode home.

Soon after the accident I had a chill which was followed by a fever and there was much pain and swelling in the knee that was hit. A ranch house, if it happens to be a "stag camp" as ours was, is a cheerless place in which to be sick, but everything considered, I was fortunate in that it was not worse. By the liberal use of hot water and such other simples as the place afforded I was soon better; but not until after several months' treatment at home did the injured knee fully recover its normal condition.

The excitement of running cattle or hunting game on the open range in those days was mild in comparison to the panicky feeling which prevailed during every Indian outbreak. The experience of many years had taught the people of Arizona what to expect at such a time and the utter diabolical wickedness of the Apaches when out on the warpath. During the early eighties many such raids occurred which were accompanied by all the usual horrors of brutality and outrage of which the Apaches are capable.

When it became known in the fall of 1885 that Geronimo was again off the reservation and out on another one of his bloody raids the people became panic-stricken. Some left the Territory until such time when the Indian question would be settled and the Government could guarantee freedom from Indian depredations. Those who remained either fled to some near to

wn or fort for protection, or prepared to defend themselves in their own homes as best they could.

What else could the settlers in a new country do? They had everything invested in either mines or cattle and could not afford to leave their property without making some effort to save it even if it had to be done at the risk of their own lives. They had no means of knowing when or where the stealthy Apaches would strike and could only wait for the time in uncertainty and suspense. Many who were in this uncomfortable predicament managed to escape any harm, but others fell victims to savage hatred whose death knell was sounded in the crack of the deadly rifle.

Some personal experiences may help to illustrate this feeling of panic, as I happened to be at the ranch during the time and know how it was myself.

One day in the month of October, 1885, while Geronimo was making his raid through southern Arizona, my brother and I rode through Railroad Pass from Pinaleno ranch to the Lorentz Place, a distance of fifteen miles. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon that we ascended to the top of a hill to take observations and see if anything was happening out of the ordinary. We saw nothing unusual until we were about to leave when we noticed somewhat of a commotion on the old Willcox and Bowie wagon road which parallels the Southern Pacific track. The distance was too great to see distinctly with the naked eye, but looking through our field glasses, which we always carried when out riding, we could plainly see three loaded wagons standing in the road. The drivers had evidently unhitched their teams and, mounted upon the horses' backs, were riding furiously in a cloud of dust down the road towards Bowie.

I asked the judge, who was a resident and supposed to be familiar with the customs of the country while I was only a tenderfoot, what their actions meant. He admitted that he did not understand their conduct unless it was that they had concluded that they could not make Willcox on that day and were returning to some favorable camp ground which they had passed on their way up, to spend the night; but the manner of their going was certainly peculiar. After watching them disappear down the road we rode on and reached our destination in safety.

The incident was forgotten until a few days later when we were in Willcox a friend inquired what had become of the Indians which had lately been seen on our range. We replied that we had not seen any Indians nor known of any that had been there. He then related to us how only a few days before three freighters had seen two Indians ride upon a hill and halt. The sight of Indians was enough and their only care after that was to get away from them. They quickly unhitched their horses from the wagons and rode ten miles to Bowie where they gave the alarm and spent the night. The next morning, having heard nothing more from the Indians during the night, they took fresh courage and ventured to return to their wagons, which they found as they had left them unmolested, when they continued their journey. When the freighters were asked why they did not stand off the

Indians they said that they only had one gun and not knowing how many more redskins there might be decided that to retreat was the better part of valor. It was my brother and I whom they had seen and mistaken for Indians.

A few days after this event I had a similar scare of my own and after it was over I could sympathize with the poor, frightened freighters. I was alone at the ranch house packing up and preparing to leave for home. While thus occupied I chanced to go to the open door and looking out, to my dismay, I saw Indians. "My heart jumped into my mouth" and for a moment I felt that my time had surely come. Two men were seen riding horseback over the foot hills followed by a pack animal. As I stood watching them and took time to think, it occurred to me that I might be mistaken, and that the men were not Indians after all. As they drew nearer I saw that they were dressed like white men and, therefore, could not be Indians; but my scare while it lasted was painfully real. The men proved to be two neighboring ranchmen who were out looking for lost cattle.

In this raid, the Apaches, after leaving their reservation in the White mountains, traveled south along the Arizona and New Mexico line, killing people as they went, until they reached Stein's Pass. From there they turned west, crossed the San Simon valley and disappeared in the Chiricahua mountains. When next seen they had crossed over the mountains and attacked Riggs' ranch in Pinery canon, where they wounded a woman, but were driven off.

The next place that they visited was the Sulphur Spring ranch of the Chiricahua Cattle Company, where they stole a bunch of horses. The cowboys at the ranch had received warning that there were Indians about and had brought in the horse herd from the range and locked them in the corral. The Apaches came in the night and with their usual adroitness and cunning stole the corral empty. The first intimation which the inmates had that the ranch had been robbed was when the cowboys went in the morning to get their horses they found them gone.

From the Sulphur Spring ranch they crossed the Sulphur Spring valley in the direction of Cochise's stronghold in the Dragoon mountains. Before reaching the mountains they passed Mike Noonan's ranch where they shot its owner, who was a lone rancher and had lived alone in the valley many years. He was found dead in his door yard with a bullet hole in the back of his head. He evidently did not know that the Indians were near and was seemingly unconscious of any danger when he was killed.

The Indians were not seen again after entering the stronghold until they crossed the line into Mexico, where they were pursued by United States soldiers. After a long, stern chase Geronimo surrendered himself and followers to General Miles, who brought them back to Arizona. As prisoners they were all loaded into cars at Bowie and taken to Florida. The general in command thought it best to take them clear out of the country in order to put an effectual stop to their marauding. Later they were removed to the Indian Territory where they now live.

The rest of the Apaches remain in Arizona and live on the San Carlos reservation on the Gila river where they are being inducted into civilization. Since the disturbing element among them has been removed there has been no more trouble. They seem to have settled down with a sincere purpose to learn the white man's way and are quiet and peaceable. They are laborers, farmers and stockmen and are making rapid progress in their new life.

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