The Plight of the Buffalo

While I was riding toward the buffalo, I observed five horsemen coming out from the fort, who had evidently seen the buffalo from the post, and were going out for a chase. They proved to be some newly arrived officers in that part of the country, and when they came up closer I could see by the shoulder-straps that the senior was a captain, while the others were lieutenants.

“Hello! my friend,” sang out the captain; “I see you are after the same game we are.”

“Yes, sir; I saw those buffalo coming over the hill, and as we were about out of fresh meat I thought I would go and get some,” said I.

They scanned my cheap-looking outfit pretty closely, and as my horse was not very prepossessing in appearance, having on only a blind bridle, and otherwise looking like a work horse, they evidently considered me a green hand at hunting.

“Do you expect to catch those buffalo on that Gothic steed?” laughingly asked the captain.

“I hope so, by pushing on the reins hard enough,” was my reply.

“You’ll never catch them in the world, my fine fellow,” said the captain. “It requires a fast horse to overtake the animals on the prairie.”

“Does it?” asked I, as if I didn’t know it.

“Yes; but come along with us, as we are going to kill them more for pleasure than anything else. All we want are the tongues and a piece of tenderloin, and you may have all that is left,” said the generous man.

“I am much obliged to you, captain, and will follow you,” I replied.

There were eleven buffalo in the herd, and they were not more than a mile ahead of us. The officers dashed on as if they had a sure thing on killing them all before I could come up with them; but I had noticed that the herd was making toward the creek for water, and as I knew buffalo nature, I was perfectly aware that it would be difficult to turn them from their direct course. Thereupon, I started toward the creek to head them off, while the officers came up in the rear and gave chase.

Buffalo Herd in Montana

Buffalo Herd in Montana

The buffalo came rushing past me not a hundred yards distant, with the officers about three hundred yards in the rear. Now, thought I, is the time to “get my work in,” as they say; and I pulled off the blind bridle from my horse, who knew as well as I did that we were out after buffalo, as he was a trained hunter. The moment the bridle was off he started at the top of his speed, running in ahead of the officers, and with a few jumps he brought me alongside the rear buffalo. Raising old Lucretia Borgia to my shoulder, I fired, and killed the animal at the first shot. My horse then carried me alongside the next one, not ten feet away, and I dropped him at the next fire.

As soon as one of the buffalo would fall, Brigham would take me so close to the next that I could almost touch it with my gun. In this manner I killed the eleven buffalo with twelve shots; and as the last animal dropped, my horse stopped. I jumped off to the ground, knowing that he would not leave me–it must be remembered that I had been riding him without bridle, reins, or saddle–and, turning around as the party of astonished officers rode up, I said to them:

“Now, gentlemen, allow me to present to you all the tongues and tenderloins you wish from these buffalo.”

Captain Graham, for such I soon learned was his name, replied: “Well, I never saw the like before. Who under the sun are you, anyhow?”

 “My name is Cody,” said I.

Captain Graham, who was considerable of a horseman, greatly admired Brigham, and said: “That horse of yours has running points.”

“Yes, sir; he has not only got the points, he is a runner and knows how to use the points,” said I.

“So I noticed,” said the captain.

They all finally dismounted, and we continued chatting for some little time upon the different subjects of horses, buffalo, hunting, and Indians. They felt a little sore at not getting a single shot at the buffalo; but the way I had killed them, they said, amply repaid them for their disappointment. They had read of such feats in books, but this was the first time they had ever seen anything of the kind with their own eyes. It was the first time, also, that they had ever witnessed or heard of a white man running buffalo on horseback without a saddle or bridle.

Shooting buffalo from the train

Shooting buffalo from the train

I told them that Brigham knew nearly as much about the business as I did, and if I had twenty bridles they would have been of no use to me, as he understood everything, and all that he expected of me was to do the shooting. It is a fact that Brigham would stop if a buffalo did not fall at the first fire, so as to give me a second chance; but if I did not kill the animal then, he would go on, as if to say, “You are no good, and I will not fool away my time by giving you more than two shots.” Brigham was the best horse I ever saw or owned for buffalo chasing. – (Buffalo Bill Cody)

At one time an old, experienced buffalo hunter was following at the heels of a small herd with that reckless rush to which in the excitement of the chase men abandon themselves, when a great bull just in front of him tumbled into a ravine. The rider’s horse fell also, throwing the old hunter over his head sprawling, but with strange accuracy right between the bull’s horns! The first to recover from the terrible shock and to regain his legs was the horse, which ran off with wonderful alacrity several miles before he stopped.

Next the bull rose, and shook himself with an astonished air, as if he would like to know “how that was done?” The hunter was on the great brute’s back, who, perhaps, took the affair as a good practical joke; but he was soon pitched to the ground, as the buffalo commenced to jump “stiff-legged,” and the latter, giving the hunter one lingering look, which he long remembered, with remarkable good nature ran off to join his companions. Had the bull been wounded, the rider would have been killed, as the then enraged animal would have gored and trampled him to death.

An officer of the old regular army told me many years ago that in crossing the plains a herd of buffalo were fired at by a twelve-pound howitzer, the ball of which wounded and stunned an immense bull.

Nevertheless, heedless of a hundred shots that had been fired at him, and of a bulldog belonging to one of the officers, which had fastened himself to his lips, the enraged beast charged upon the whole troop of dragoons, and tossed one of the horses like a feather. Bull, horse, and rider all fell in a heap. Before the dust cleared away, the trooper, who had hung for a moment to one of the bull’s horns by his waistband, crawled out safe, while the horse got a ball from a rifle through his neck while in the air and two great rips in his flank from the bull.

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