03 March 2020

A Friendly Smoke [guest post by Edward Fox, 1 March 1873 (pt. 2)]


[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox (continued)]
W
e now began to look out for Indians, as we were nearing the place where Whittle had held his first talk on the Saturday previous [22 February]. They did not appear to be on the look out, as we reached the top of the bluff overlooking the lava beds without coming across a single scout. The [women] immediately went to work and pulled up some sage brush and lit a fire, in order to let the Indians know we had arrived. In the meantime I took a look about and saw the lava beds below me and Tule Lake to the left.
The lava beds, seen from the bluffs, looked more like a flat plain, dotted over with sage brush shrubs, than the rocky, broken ground that those present in the fight had such difficulty in getting over. It lay right at the foot of the bluff, and about half way across the flat. … Matilda pointed out a little knoll, thinly covered with patches of juniper, which she said was close to Captain Jack’s cave. After waiting about a quarter of an hour Matilda said she saw a Modoc riding across the flat towards the foot of the bluff. We all looked in that direction, but, with the exception of the other [woman], Artena, nobody could see any sign of Indians. It was fully ten minutes before we were able to see what the keen eye of the [woman] had already discerned, and then the approaching horseman looked like a little black speck, moving rapidly across the plain. Presently another horseman was seen following after the first, and, when about half a mile from the foot of the bluff, we also discovered an Indian on foot, running along with the horses. The ascent of the bluff was very steep, but the mounted Indians rode their horses half way up, and then, tying them up to a juniper tree, came the remainder of the distance on foot. Before they arrived I asked Whittle what to do when they came up, and he said shake hands with them, give them a smoke, but do not appear too familiar.
In a few minutes the head of Dave, the Modoc that had been into the ranch on Saturday, appeared over the crest of the hill, followed shortly afterwards by Hooker Jim, one of the most notable ruffians in the tribe. Dave had no paint on and wore a pair of buckskin pants and a soldier’s overcoat. He carried on his arm an old Springfield muzzle-loader, and the necessary equipments were hung over his shoulder. I immediately stepped forward, shook hands with him, and a few seconds afterward my hand was grasped by Hooker Jim with a kind of sullen grip.
There was certainly no friendship evinced in that shake, and a look at the gentleman’s countenance did not tend to reassure me of his pacific intentions. He wore a flannel shirt and a pair of gray pants considerably the worse for wear; an old-fashioned muzzle-loading rifle rested on his arm and a buckhorn powder flask was suspended from his waist. Hooker Jim was in mourning, and if anything could make him more hideous and ruffianly this tribute to the memory of the departed, which consisted of a black, greasy paste laid on over the lower part of the face, close up to the eyes, was certainly a success. Hooker Jim I should take to be a man of about thirty years of age, five feet nine inches in height, 175 pounds in weight, and of stout and compact proportions. His name has become celebrated in this late war as one of the leaders of the band that murdered the Oregon settlers on the day of the first fight at Lost River. He has been indicted by the Oregon Grand Jury for murder in the first degree, but I think the Sheriff and his posse will have some trouble in arraigning him before the bar.
Both these Indians stood round the fire talking with the [women], and in the meantime Steamboat Frank walked up and joined the party. Frank is not a bad looking Indian, about twenty-three years of age, five feet eight in stature and weighing about one hundred and sixty pounds. He had on his war paint, smudged roughly on the cheeks and forehead, and was armed with a Spencer breech-loading carbine and equipments adorned with the letters U.S. This weapon was probably obtained from one of the cavalry killed in the fight of the 17th of January. He had a belt full of cartridges slung over his shoulder, and a revolver and knife in his belt. Both of the other Indians carried revolvers and sheath knives. Frank belongs to the Hot Creek band of Indians, and was one of that party that Fairchild and Dorris would have taken safely to Yainax reservation if they had not been stopped by the drunken Linkville roughs.
For a few minutes the conversation was confined to the [women] and the Indians, and in the meantime I filled and lit my pipe, and passing it round they all took two or three whiffs. Presently Frank began to talk to Fairchild in English, and we found that Captain Jack was very sick and would not be able to come out and talk, but he wanted Fairchild to come in and see him. Whittle then asked if he and the Paper Man (the name under which the Herald correspondent was introduced to the Indians) were to come along, and Frank responding in the affirmative, we all started, leading our horses down the bluff.
The descent was very steep, making nearly an angle of forty-five degrees, and it took us nearly twenty minutes to make the base. Arrived there we mounted and continued our journey at a walk, as I now began to realize the nature of the ground. The track led in an easterly direction, along the southerly edge of Tule Lake, and across a country that appeared one mass of broken rocks, firmly imbedded in a dark loamy soil. The rocks were all rough, with jagged edges; and on the track, although some were worn down a little, the travelling was very bad.
We walked quietly along in single file and Mr. Hooker Jim kept close to me, and appeared very much taken by an Ulster overcoat I had on. He afterwards evinced such an interest in that article of apparel that he proposed a trade, offering me in exchange an old soldier’s overcoat. I certainly felt flattered at the proposal, and under the influence of the persuaders which Mr. Hooker Jim carried in his hand would probably have complied with his request, but I finally concluded that it would not be wise to give way to the avaricious desires of the wily savage, and told the [woman] to tell him the coat did not belong to me.
After riding slowly along for about half an hour we came upon half a dozen Modoc scouts, standing round a sage brush fire and talking and laughing among themselves. Fairchild dismounted and Whittle and I followed his example, and leaving our horses to browse on the bunch grass, we walked up and joined the party by the fire. They were a wild looking group, nearly all clad in woolen shirts and second hand soldiers’ clothes. They were all armed to the teeth and painted. Some were in mourning, but the majority had their faces daubed with the reddish-brown mixture which they use as war paint.
Fairchild, after shaking hands with the party, introduced me as the Paper Man from afar off, from the big town by the sea, in Boston Illihee. The Indians in the West call all the white men Bostons, and the word Illihee means country or land. After shaking hands with the entire party my pipe was again brought into requisition, and went the rounds of the group, each man taking a whiff, and then passing it to his neighbor. Some of these Modocs were quite young, and I noticed one boy in the group, certainly not more than fifteen years of age, with his face plentifully bedaubed with red paint, and armed with an old fashioned, muzzle-loading rifle.
After a short talk, we mounted our horses and rode on, escorted by our new friends. Some of them were riding their little Indian ponies and the others came along on foot. The trail then led to the border of the lake, and for a short distance we just skirted the water’s edge, passing through the tules or long bulrushes, from which the lake takes its name. After traversing about half a mile of a very rocky country we saw another Indian camp that at the distance made a picturesque scene. A large party of the Modocs were standing and lying around a fire, built on the summit of a rocky bluff rising about twenty feet above the surrounding country. There were about fifty or sixty [men], [women] and [children] in the group, and the [women], attired in their red petticoats, with their [children] tied up on their backs, gave the picture of what might be taken for a gypsey encampment.
When we got to the base of the rocks we all dismounted, and, after the usual form of introduction, I shook hands with about twenty more Modocs, including John Schonchin, the brother of Schonchin, the old chief of the tribe, now residing on the Yainax Reservation. John Schonchin is a fine-looking Indian, about fifty-five years of age, with an intelligent countenance, not disfigured with paint. He was unarmed and expressed himself very glad to see the Paper Man. I set my pipe going and handed it to Schonchin, who took a smoke and then passed it on to Long Jim, a fine-looking Indian, who had his right arm in a sling. He received a bad gunshot wound in the first fight, which shattered his arm pretty badly, but … Matilda told me it would be healed in a few days. Speaking of wounds, I may add that these Indians take a wonderful amount of killing. Shack Nasty Jim and Bogus Charley were both shot through the body at the first fight, and four days afterwards they were walking about, apparently in perfect health, with a patch of sticking plaster over the holes made by the bullets.
We only stopped about five minutes at this camp and then started off for Captain Jack’s headquarters, accompanied by the entire party, some riding, but the majority on foot. The trail now became very rocky and rough, and the horses had some trouble in keeping on their legs. The ground was rolling and completely covered with rocks, giving one the idea that the whole country had been suddenly upheaved and left nothing but rocks on the surface. The formation of the rocks is very curious, as there is no similarity between one pile of rocks and the other, as to the right we pass a deep hole filled with loose rocks and on the left there runs a trail leading into a chasm about fifteen or twenty feet deep, with walls so perpendicular that they gave me the impression of being the work of man rather than the work of nature.
About a quarter of a mile further on we were met by rather a nice-looking Indian, who immediately greeted Fairchild in English and shook hands with him in a friendly manner. The new comer, Mr. Bogus Charley, was rather a nice-looking boy, about twenty years of age, belonging to the Hot Creek party, and he appeared to speak English tolerably well. Our march was presently interrupted by the arrival of Charley Miller, a repulsive-looking Indian, who waived us back with his hand as he came. This young man, I have been given to understand, is one of the worst Indians in the tribe, and, certainly, first appearances did not give a favorable impression. He immediately commenced talking and gesticulating in a violent manner, and Bogus Charley, Steamboat Frank and Tame [William] answered him back somewhat sharply.
Although the conversation was carried on in the Modoc language I could easily perceive that rather an animated discussion was being carried on and that we were in some way or other the origin of the row. I must say that I did not like the look of things, as the Modocs were evidently getting very hot over their talk, and it did not appear improbable that they would wind up with a fight. Such a conclusion I did not desire, as an Indian with his blood up might not have much respect for a newspaper correspondent, especially for one who had hair about ten inches long. I asked Matilda what was the matter, and she said that Charley Miller had come down with a message from Captain Jack, that we were to camp where we were, and that Fairchild alone would be received by him. Although the evening was bitterly cold and the prospect not inviting I displayed unusual alacrity, and immediately jumped off my horse and expressed my readiness to camp anywhere that Captain Jack desired. Matilda told me not to be in a hurry, as Tame, who was living with his cousin, Wild Gal, insisted that we should go to his house for the night. Although Mr. Tame certainly displayed the greatest zeal in our behalf, I inwardly cursed his well-meant hospitality, as Charley Miller looked more savage every minute, and felt nervous for fear the Springfield resting on his arm might go off “accidentally in earnest.”
The pressure brought to bear by Bogus Charley, Frank and Tame finally succeeded in squelching Mr. Miller, and we resumed our march without further let or hinderance. Scar-faced Charley presently rode up and settled all doubts on the matter by telling us to come on. At this juncture Scar-faced Charley, Bogus Charley, Frank, Fairchild and Artena took the trail to the left, and Tame took Whittle, Matilda and the Herald correspondent straight ahead. We were now evidently approaching Captain Jack’s headquarters, as we passed through two or three gulches about fifty feet in width and walls of broken rock about twenty feet high. In each of these natural fortifications were one or two Indian rancheries or wickkeups. After climbing up out of one of these rocky canyons we suddenly descended into the largest of the kind I had yet seen, being about one hundred feet square and with walls about forty feet in height. There were four or five rancheries in this place, and at one of these Tame stopped, and, lifting up the blanket that served as a door, went inside. We all dismounted, and, after tying up our horses to some safe [=sage] brush stumps that had escaped the fire, took off our saddles and bridles and went in to the hotel de Tame.
The accommodation was certainly limited, as the reed matting hung over a few tent poles, stuck in the ground in an oval shape, did not cover an area of more than ten feet by eight. The fire was built against the rocks, in the open air, and under two sides of an equilateral triangle. Indians do not appear to care for a genial warmth, but prefer a system of roasting that requires something of the nature of a salamander to endure. On entering the wickkeup I was introduced to my hostess, Mrs. Wild Gal Tame, who appeared rather better looking than the average run of Modoc [women]. Miss Wild Gal Tame, a pretty little [child] about three or four years of age, sat on her knee, playing with a dead mouse.
We all sat down on the matting round the fire, and Whittle then told me that there was a difference of opinion among the Modocs as to whether I should be admitted to the council.  Several of the [men] came around and were introduced, and nearly all of them carried their guns as if suspicious of treachery. I pulled out my pipe and set it going the rounds and then cut up a plug of tobacco in small pieces and divided it among them. This bribery and corruption, I believe, defeated the opposition, as a few minutes afterwards Long Jim came up and told us to come along to the council.
We then followed our guide across the canyon and after a scramble up one of its rocky walls came out upon a table of broken scoria which we crossed with some difficulty, and then our guide suddenly disappeared down a deep hole. When I came up to the spot where he so mysteriously disappeared I found a deep hole, with foot tracks leading down about twelve feet; I let myself down gently, and then, after about ten paces down an inclined plane, found myself in a large cave filled with Indian [men] and [women]. The coup d’oeil was striking, as the fire shed a glare over the faces of the brown warriors, who were seated round in circles. The light also flashed on their musket barrels, showing that not even in council did they leave their treasured weapons.
The cave was lofty and the walls ran round in circular form about forty feet apart. The fire was in the centre, and sitting up with a blanket wrapped round his lower limbs was Captain Jack, the chief of these few Indians that have given such practical evidence of their fighting capacity. He had a white handkerchief round his head, and wore a gray flannel shirt. His left hand rested upon the handle of a root digger that was planted in the ground before him, and when I stepped into the circle he put out his right and shook me a cordial welcome. I then shook hands with Scar-faced Charley, Shack Nasty Jim, Black Jim and some half a dozen others and took a seat in the front circle to the left of Scar-face, and with Whittle on my right. On the opposite side of the fire reclined a fine looking Indian, who had been shot through both arms, and was then under treatment of the Curley-Headed Doctor. Two long arrows stood in the ground, one at each side of his head, and the doctor’s wife sat alongside of him, ministering to his wants. On Jack’s right sat Bogus Charley, Steamboat Frank, John Schonchin and Hooker Jim, in the order named, and on his left were Shack Nasty Jim, John Fairchild, Scar-faced Charley, the Herald correspondent, Whittle and the two [women], Matilda and Artena.

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