Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Counting Pawnee:

"A small party of whites on their cruise down the Platte with a cargo of furs, "lay by" to make meat, near the forks of that stream.  Buffalo being at some distance from camp, our adventurers were compelled to perform the duties of pack-horses in conveying the proceeds of their hunting excursions.  One day, four of them left for this object, and having proceeded some six or eight miles, a war-party of Pawnees suddenly emerged from behind an eminence, directly fronting them.  Alarmed at the unwelcome apparition, and imaging the whole country to be alive with Indians, they immediately ran, and were pursued towards camp.  One of the number, a big, lazy fellow, and rather "green" withal, soon became tired, and sang out to his companions:  

"Don't let's run so fast.  Blast me, if I can keep up!"

"Come on, Come on!" cried they.  "A thousand shaved heads are upon us, half frozen for hair!"

"Pooh! I'll bet five dollars there aint thirty!"

"Done! But, who'd count the bloody varmints?"

"Why, I'll do it, just for my own satisfaction." So saying, he wheeled and advanced towards the Pawnees, as his wondering companions halted a little distance off, to learn the result of his fool-daring.  

Surprised at this strange movement, the enemy also came to a stand, affording a fine opportunity to ascertain their number, which only amounted to nineteen!

"I've won!" exclaimed our hero.  "Let's charge, and give 'em the very devil!"

The word went for command, and the four hunters dashed boldly towards the terrified savages, who in turn fled, with greater velocity than they had called into exercise at any time during their advance.....They were out of sight in a few minutes, and were very careful not to stop until they had left their pursuers far in the rear."  

This was a story told to Rufus Sage, then on his first trip to the mountains, by one of the old hands in the autumn of 1841.  Sage was part of a supply train under the command of Lancaster Lupton traveling up the North Platte River to resupply Fort Platte.  (for the reference see Rocky Mountain Life)  The men in this tale didn't have horses, as they were traveling down river by boat. Fortunately for our heroes, the Pawnee were not mounted either or the story might have had a very different end.  Indian war parties often went out on foot.  It was far more impressive to sweep into camp at the end of a successful raid mounted on stolen horses.   

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