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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XXXVII

While joining in the hunt for Buffalo during the rutting season John described the sound caused by their incessant tramping mixed with the loud roaring and bellowing when the Bulls were outraged as “terrific and appalling”. The hunters knew that this occasioned less alarm among the herd and they rode directly towards them and as they neared them they killed a wounded Bull which scarcely made an effort to escape, he had wounds in his flanks into which a whole hand could disappear. The hunters knew that the flesh of Bulls was not good to eat during this time and he emphasized that they could have easily shot any number of them. The hunters dismounted and put their horses into the care of some Indians that were with them for that purpose and then crept into the herd to try and kill some cows. John had separated from the rest of them and got entangled among some Bulls and before he found an opportunity to shoot a cow the bulls began to fight near him and in their fury were totally unconscious of his presence and the next thing he knew they came running towards him with what he described as “with violence”. He became alarmed for his safety and took refuge in one of those holes which the Buffalo dig to wallow in, here he found that they were pressing directly upon him and was compelled to fire to disperse them in which he did not succeed until he had killed four of them. John regained his horse and rode to a distant part of the herd where the Indians had succeeded in killing a fat cow and the herd had all moved on except one Bull who was keeping the Indians at bay. John rode up and related to the Indians “you are warriors going far from your own county to seek an enemy but you cannot take a wife from that old Bull who has nothing in his hands” and with that rode directly towards the Bull who no sooner saw him approach when it came plunging towards to him with such fearsome force that John recognized the danger to both his horse and himself so turned and fled. This caused the Indians to laugh heartily at his actions but it did not cause them to give up their attempts to get at the cow, they diverted the attention of the Bull by creeping up to him from different directions and at last were able to shoot him. While they were cutting up the cow the herd was a short distance away and an old cow that the Indians surmised was the mother of the one that was killed took the odor of the blood and came charging as John put it “with great violence” directly at them, greatly alarmed the Indians fled many of them not having their guns in hand. John had re-loaded and was ready, he threw himself down behind the body of the dead cow and waited until it was only a few yards from the carcass when he fired upon her, she turned and made one or two jumps and fell dead.

John began attending some of the ceremonies of what may be called the initiation of warriors. For the first three times that a man accompanies a war-party the customs of the Indians require some in Johns words “peculiar and painful observances”, the young warrior must constantly paint his face black, wear a cap or headdress of some kind and must never precede the older warriors but follow them stepping in their tracks. He must never scratch his head or any other part of his body with his fingers and if he is compelled to he must use a small stick and the vessel he eats or drinks from or the knife he uses must be touched by no other person. The young warrior however long and fatiguing the march must neither eat, drink or sit down by the day, if he halts for a moment he must turn his face towards his own country so that the Great Spirit may see that it is his wish to return home again. At night they observe a certain order in their encampments, if there are bushes where they halt is enclosed it had a cooridor in one end which is always towards the enemy’s country with the principal chief near it then the older warriors followed by those according to age and reputations.


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