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   Chapter 6 ALONE

Scouting with Kit Carson By Everett T. Tomlinson Characters: 10555

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"What did he do then?" inquired Rat, who, for some reason which Reuben did not understand, appeared to be intensely interested in the life of the scout who had already become famous throughout the West.

"Why, they offered him a chance to go back with them, and be their hunter, so he joined the new party. He told me, though, that he didn't find any fun in his work. A good deal of the time he was driving a team, and that was the last thing in the world he wanted to do."

"I suppose he wanted to shoot buffaloes and hunt Indians?"

"That's exactly what he wanted to do. He didn't give up his plan, though, all that winter he was a cook for a man named Young, who had made a lot of money trapping. Kit said that was the worst winter he ever had. Sometimes he used to chase the rats out of the corn-bin and then he would say to himself, 'Here are poor Kit Carson's buffaloes.' When the winter was gone he still did not find any party of trappers that was willing that he should join them. You see he was such a slight, little fellow, and, as I told you, his voice was so soft and his manner was so gentle, that the men all thought he would not be able to stand the work and they would have a sick man on their hands.

"In the spring he made up his mind to go back home again. But that time, too, he met a party that was on its way to Santa Fé. They offered him a job which he took and went back with them. Finally he did find something worth doing. He went down into Mexico as an interpreter for a lot of men that were going to Chihuahua. When he got there he hired out again as a teamster for a man who was going to the copper mines. But he didn't really get his chance to begin his scouting and trapping until he came back to Taos. He had become so used to seeing parties of trappers start off without him that when at last this Mr. Young, the man for whom he had been working, told him that he could join a party he was sending out, he took up with the offer right away. The man that hired him knew that he wasn't afraid of anything on earth."

"Ho!" snorted Rat, breaking in upon the narrative. "I guess he wouldn't have felt that way if he had seen me. What do you suppose a little fellow like Kit Carson would do if a man like me got after him?"

"I'd feel sorry for you, if you tried to go 'after him.'"

"That's a good un! That's a good un!" roared Rat. "Do you think he could run away from me?"

"I don't think he would try."

"Well, if he didn't run and I once got my hands on him I would break his back as easily as I would a stick."

Reuben smiled and did not reply to the boastings of the braggart.

"How many men were in this party you are telling about?" demanded Rat.

"About forty."

"How old was Kit then?"

"About twenty."

"Ho, ho!" roared Rat again. "And yet you say he wasn't afraid of anything on earth? How do you know he wasn't? Because he told you so?"

Still Reuben refused to make any explanations to his companion. He was aware that Rat was deeply interested, although the cause of his interest was not yet apparent.

"Probably your wonderful Kit," suggested Rat, "caught more beaver, shot and scalped more redskins, killed more deer and buffalo than any other man in the band."

"I don't know about that. He never told me. He wasn't the one that told about these other things, either. He did say that scouts were always sent ahead of the men to find out whether any Indians were near. Every night they had guards for the camp."

"They didn't find any Indians, did they?"

"Not until they came to Salt River. There they found they were likely to be attacked by the same redskins that had killed the last party of trappers that had been there."

"This time I suppose Kit single-handed killed every one o' them?"

"I don't know; I suppose he did his part. This Mr. Young played a trick on the Indians."

"What did he do?"

"Why, he sent a few men ahead and hid the rest of them among the bushes and trees, and then when the Indians saw the little party they did not know there were any others, so they chased them clear back into the woods. When they came close to the place where the men were hiding the trappers all fired their rifles."

"And killed all the redskins?" laughed Rat.

"Kit Carson said they killed fifteen. Then the Indians ran and never once attacked them again. They did steal their ponies and traps, but they didn't make any more attacks on them. By the time the men had reached the headwaters of the San Francisco River they had so many beaver skins that Mr. Young sent some of the men back to Taos. He kept some of the best ones, though, to go on with him into California."

"I suppose he kept Kit Carson, of course?"

"Yes, sir, he did. It was a terrible time they had, too. There weren't many trails and they couldn't find much grass for the horses, or water for any one, or even wood enough to make a fire. Out there on the desert there weren't any buffaloes or deer, but there were enemies that were a good deal more dangerous than either of them."

"What were they?"

"Hunger and thirst. The men had a little deer meat and some water bags they had made of deerskin, and Kit said they were mighty careful every day when they measured out the water and divided up th

e meat. When they had been out four days, all at once the donkeys stretched out their necks and began to run. Everybody knew what that meant."

"What did it mean?"

"Why, they had sniffed water somewhere. Pretty soon they came to a stream. Kit said he never had anything in his life taste as good as that water. It didn't seem as if they could get enough. The men rested up a while and then started on again across the desert. On the fourth day they came to Colorado. There they stopped to rest and to cook an old horse which they had bought off the Indians."

"Pretty fine feast," laughed Rat. "Cold water and horse meat! Which did they take first-the water or the horse meat?"

"I don't know. What difference does it make?"

"Why, I know a man back East who lives on dried apples. He has dried apples for breakfast, cold water for dinner, and swells up for supper. Perhaps the horse meat served in the same way."

"By and by they came to a mission down in the San Gabriel Valley. The priests had taught the Indians there how to make farms. There was everything one wanted to eat."

"What did they do? Help themselves?"

"No, they didn't. They paid for what they took."

"That's a good un," laughed Rat.

"They did, for Kit Carson told me so. He said he paid four butcher's knives for a steer."

"He might just as well bought the steer without handing over the butcher's knives."

"Anyway, the trappers had a good time there. They found lots of beaver and the men had enough to eat and drink. When the warm weather came they went into camp down on the lower Sacramento. They had enough to do, hunting deer and antelope. Kit Carson then was the best shot in the whole band. All the men had somehow come to rely upon him."

"Did he say so?"

"No, sir, he didn't. He never told me about it, but some other men who were with him told me, and they said he was the one man the Indians were afraid of."

"That's a good un, too," laughed Rat.

"Well, the men thought so," retorted Reuben angrily. "One of the priests came over and told Mr. Young how some bad Indians had gone over to an Indian village and wouldn't come out. The priests wanted some of Mr. Young's men to get the runaways. Of course the men said they would, and they said right away that Kit would have to be their leader. So Kit took the men over to the village and told the Indians they must give up the men for whom they had come, but the big chief said they wouldn't do any such thing."

"So they had a fight, did they?"

"Yes, they did."

"And all the redskins were killed?"

"No, not all of them, but they lost so many that they gave up the bad Indians. One night not long afterward a lot of Indians came into the camp of the trappers and made off with sixty horses. Kit said most of the men were angrier to have their horses stolen than they were to have some of the men shot. They were mad through and through, and pretty soon twelve of them, with Kit Carson at their head, started after the thieves. They had a long ride across the mountains and through the valleys, and for a long time they couldn't find any signs of the men they were after. They went more than one hundred miles before they caught up with them."

"Then Kit Carson shot every one of them, I suppose?"

"No, he didn't. He found the Indians in camp, cooking and eating horse meat. Without stopping a minute, Kit called to his men, and they started straight for the camp. They shot eight the first time, and all the rest made for the woods."

"But they didn't get away because Kit Carson chased them into the forest and got them all?"

"No, he didn't; he told the men to get all the horses that had been stolen, and then they started straight back for camp. They were lucky to find some one who bought all their beaver skins. When the summer was over they all started back home, but they kept trapping all the way along. They made a lot of money, and every one got a share. He said he didn't know what to do with the money."

"Probably he found somebody to tell him?" laughed Rat.

"Yes, he did. He said he got into all sorts of bad ways that winter. I don't suppose he was doing anything different from the rest of them, but Kit Carson isn't the kind of a man that could ever find much fun in drinking and gambling. That was about all the other men seemed to care for."

"He must be a wonderful man. I think I must try to see him some time. He wouldn't scare me, would he?"

"No," replied Reuben seriously. "I told you he is as gentle as a girl."

"I am glad," laughed Rat. As he spoke he extended his huge arm, and as he clinched his hand Reuben was almost convinced that even Kit Carson would be powerless in its grasp.

"There's our camp," suggested Rat, as he pointed to the defile in the distance. "There I have got to leave you, if you won't go on with me."

"No, I have got to find Jean."

Not long after their arrival, Erastus True, as soon as he had packed his belongings on the backs of his ponies, bade farewell to Reuben and started on his lonely journey northward.

Reuben had his rifle, his bags of powder and shot, and a saddle and bridle. His pony was dead, but he was hopeful that soon he would find the missing Jean, and then all his troubles would be ended.

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