The Diary of Jake Thomas
The year was 1978 and was summer time. We were on vacation and driving out to the western states to see the sites. Driving through Wyoming and stopping at the little town of Briskin, Wyoming. We decided to stop and spend a couple of days there. Having been on the road for several days and the wife wanted to do some laundering. Briskin had one motel but we were able to get a room. There was one café and next to it was a Laundromat. Not having much to do and the kids all swimming in the pool, I walked through the town the next morning. Now I love reading books and when I take a spell to read, I can go through several books in a very short time. Next door to the drugstore, I spied a little bookstore, called Anna Belles Bookstore. Walking through the door and there was an elderly lady sitting behind the counter reading a book. Looking up she smiled and I said; “I just would like to browse around and see if I can find a couple of books to read”. “Fine, just help yourself”, she replied. There were three rows of shelving on each side of the counter and the books were stacked neatly and I started browsing. I found a couple of books and was on the third row at the back when looking up I spied a thick book and it looked like the cover was just cardboard and it was tied together with leather thongs. Setting up on the top shelf, I reached for it and pulled it down. The cover was just cardboard, but opening the book and I knew I had to have the book and read it. For the first page scrawled in pencil just said; This is my diary and account of my life. By Jake Thomas, Born Arkansaw, 1830………………………………………………………………………….
I took the books I had back up to the counter and laid them there. Anna Belle stopped reading and looking at the books I had picked out, smiled and said the; “The big one there is expensive; you might want to find another one”. “No, I would like to have all three”. I asked her where the big book had came from and she said; “Some old Indian brought the book in several years ago and wanted to sell the book and being kind hearted I paid him quite a bit for the book and the reason it is expensive today”. She rang up the sale for the three books and she was right the big one was expensive, but I paid her and walked out of Anna Belles Bookstore with my prize in a plastic sack…. Did not get to start reading that day as the wife had the children ready to leave after finishing the clothes, so I paid up at the office for the room and we started out on our vacation again… I will not bore you with the account of the rest of our vacation except to say I never got a chance to open and start reading the diary of Jake Thomas during the rest of our vacation……………………………………………………………………..
Back at work after vacation and a couple of weeks later, I set down one night to start reading the book. First just scanning though the many pages and was surprised that some of the pages seem to be made out of animal skin and others a coarse thick paper. The writing was not always legible and many of the words were spelled incorrectly. Some of the pages were done with a pencil and others were in a crude form of ink and many of these pages had words that were blurred as if they had been wet. In one place the pages were stuck together and trying every thing I could think of, I could not get the pages apart. I read the book during the next few nights and although there were parts that I could not make out, the account and diary of one Jake Thomas was a very interesting and through story of his life…….
What is this all about, well I decided to rewrite the story of Jake Thomas even though I will have to guess at some parts of the actual events that occurred and change the spelling to a more readable version… I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did, for I have kept this book in a safe place all these many years and always wanted to put it down on paper…Chapter one, The diary of Jake Thomas…………………………………………..
I started writing this diary or account of my life during all the years I spent in the mountains trapping beaver, otter and mink. Many lonely nights just by myself and it helped pass the time until I met my Cheyenne wife and then I still wrote in the book. Don’t know if anyone will ever read it but I wrote it anyway. Born on a small farm in Arkansaw in 1830, the only child of Dessie and Frank Thomas. From my first memories I helped my dad raise the crops and do the chores around the farm. Never did like farming but that was all I knew. My mom had education and taught me how to read and write during the evening before going to bed. Both mom and dad were good at music and dad taught me how to play the guitar and many nights one of us would play and we would sing all the songs they knew. Each year was a struggle for our family in growing the crops and vegetables we would need during the cold winters in Arkansaw. I grew up all alone with none to play with as the closest neighbor was several miles down a creek from our farm. The only good times I can remember were when we would hitch up the wagon and all go into the small town some 15 miles from our farm. There walking down the dirt streets while mom shopped and I had helped dad load up the supplies in the wagon. Sometimes he would give me a couple of pennies to spend on just what ever I could buy with the pennies. Then when I were fifteen years old in the coldest part of winter came a sickness to my dad, a fever that put him to the bed. Nothing mom could do seemed to help but she spent all her time in bathing dad with cool water trying to break the fever, but dad died that winter. I buried him close to the apple trees he was so proud of but then mom came down with the fever. I tried the best I could and went and got Mrs. Robbins to help with my mom, but nothing seemed to stop the fever and mom died just before the spring time. I buried her right next to dad by the apple trees… Now I were all alone on a farm and not caring about farming just were wondering what I would do for we had no next of kin that I knew about and although big for my age, I were only fifteen years old. As the weather warmed I started breaking the ground with our one mule as my dad had taught me. Don’t know why but it just seemed I should. Then one day while I was out plowing the ground, four wagons pulled up next to our house. I unhitched the mule and rode him back to the house. Seems these were settlers and having sold and loaded everything on there wagons were heading for Texas. The man in charge asked me if they could rest there a couple of days and feed and water there stock. I was so glad for the company and being able to talk to someone, I just said; “Yes”. The next couple of days were nice and I did not even try to plow or go back to the fields, but jest stayed and listen to all the talk of cheap land and going to Texas. That night around a fire, Arnold asked me; “Jake, why don’t you join us and come to Texas with the wagons”. Well, I thought about it for a little while and decided that maybe Texas is where I should be and came back and told them all that I would join there group. Weren’t much for me to load as I took dad’s mare and on the mule I loaded him down with all the things I could carry with me. Arnold asked if I had any weapons but the only weapon we had was a 38 caliber flintlock rifle, but I did bring it along…………………………………………
The trip south behind the wagons were very slow, some days making maybe 10 miles and other days none. A wagon losing a wheel and repairs took all day sometime. Then around the town of Hope, we picked up 3 more wagons that had been left behind from another group. Now we were a wagon train with live stock tied behind the wagons and chickens tied in crates at the back and on the side of the wagons. The one jersey cow that my mom had was tied behind the Robbins wagon and gave fresh milk all during that dern trip. But it were almost one month before reaching Texarkana and crossing the muddy Red River. Arnold declared on the other side; “Folks, you are now in Texas”. I would never have known as it looked the same on the other side as this side, but guess I was happy to be out of Arkansaw and seeing new territory….. Next part… Texas
The wagons were heading for the town called Dallas, as Arnold said there were home steads to be had to the east of Dallas and away from the many cow ranches. But it was another month and a half before we were close to Dallas. I spent a lot of time riding out to the side of the train and sometimes would join Arnold riding in front to the next camping place for the wagons that night. Arnold always would warn me in riding by myself that there were Indians around these parts, but I never seen any. We did pass several wagons that had been left behind from some people for unknown reasons. Finally reaching the homestead office and the wagons formed up and then they all went in to claim some of the available land, one section for each wagon, which was left. Now I had no reason to stay for I did not like farming, so I bid them all bye, and decided to see what Dallas looked like. Sold the cow for two dollars and with my mare and mule started toward Dallas. The furst thing I noticed in reaching the town were I was not dressed like most of the folks I seen. There were many cowboys dressed in rugged jeans and big hats and boots walking on the wooden sidewalks. I took many a stare wearing my farm clothes but I just kept going until I found the livery stable. One of the things I found out right off were cowboys did not like farmers. Well, I weren’t one but just dressed like one. Stopping at the livery and asking how much to leave my mare and mule, the owner named Ben asked me; “Where you come from, boy”. “Arkansaw” was my reply. “You got folks here with you?” “Nope”. “Would you like a job?” “Yep”. “Pay be four dollars and you can bed down in the little room at the back, jest put your mare and mule in those back stalls”. I thought hey I just got here and have a job and a place to stay. The next few months went by fast as I tried to make that livery stable the best one in Dallas. I met many cowboys coming in from the ranches out of Dallas and always tried to give them the best treatment for there horses. Ben, never said much, just sometimes grunted, but I think he was liking the way I treated his customers. Then there were one day that changed my life for good. It be a Friday afternoon and I had taking a hanker to one beer on a Friday. I walked across the street to Jacks Saloon. Going inside there were a couple of poker games going on and a couple of cowboys standing at the end of the long bar. I went to the other end and Zeke the bartender knowing what I wanted brought the heavy mug of beer and set it in front of me. “Thanks”, but got no reply from Zeke. I slide my coin across the bar and took one sip of the cool beer. I now be 16 year old. Suddenly there was a shout from one of the gaming tables and a tall cowboy stood up and turned the table over and pulled out two pistols and shot up through the roof with each pistol in his hands. I ducked down but noticed the two cowboys at the other end of the bar both just had slight smiles on there face. Two cowboys had come in just before and were standing just about in the middle of the long bar. The tall one strode away from the overturned table and came up to the bar. He ordered a whiskey and looked over at the two standing at the end but then turned toward the other two. “What the hell you two doing here”. “Get out my sight”.
They both gulped down the rest of there drink and turned and left the saloon. He then turned toward me and said; “That means you to squirt”. Well guess I should have followed the other two, but I did not like being bullied and I jest stood my ground. Before I could have moved anyways he pulled a pistol out and shot right at me. The bullet smacked into the wall behind and I then ducked, but holding onto the handle of the heavy beer mug when I come up I threw it at him with all my might. They say the end of the heavy mug caught him square on the nose and pushed it up into his brain. Don’t know except he fell down and did not move again. My hands on the bar were trembling and shaking and there were nothing I could do to stop them. Then one of the cowboys at the other end walked down to the tall one lying on the floor and jest said; “Don’t think I have ever seen a gunfighter taken down with one shot from a beer mug”. Then; “Son, what’s your name?” “Jake”, was my reply. “Well, yu kilt this poor gunfighter”. “My name is Reb Wilson and that there at the other end of the bar is Walker Dean, and we both are Texas Rangers”. Now I thought I was in deep trouble for killing the gunfighter, but Reb said; “We are out recruiting for new Rangers, how you like to be one?”I think I might have nodded but then Reb said; “Come on down here and join Walker and me and I’ll buy you another beer”. I started around the end of the bar and Reb was unfastening the gun belt worn by the tall cowboy and slung them over his shoulder and joined me on the walk to the other end of the bar. Zeke brought another round for the Rangers and a fresh mug of beer and set them on the bar and started wiping up around the bar. Walker spoke for the first time; “Now Zeke, you are not invited in this here conservation”. Zeke scowling but turned away and left. Just then a deputy came into the bar and seeing the tall cowboy lying dead on the floor started asking questions, but Walker went around the bar and after just a minute the deputy left, only to return with two other deputies and they dragged the cowboy out of the bar. “How old are you son”, Reb asked. “I just turned 16” was my reply. “You mighty big for only being 16, you sure your just 16?” “Far as I know, I was born in 30”. Reb said; “Guess you be 16 then”. Then; “The offer still there if you want to be a Ranger?” “Guess so, why not?” Walker said; “Son, before you sign up you might want to know it is mighty dangerous life being a Ranger, for we fight Indians and outlaws all across Texas”. Guess I was just looking for a change and some excitement so I just stood my ground to the two Rangers. Reb then slide the gun belt with the two pistols across the bar to me and said; “Guess he won’t be needing these anymore so, Jake, you take them”. And that be the day that changed my life for good or bad can’t say, but it sure as hell changed from then on. Walker asked; “Jake, you have a horse?” “Nope, sold my mare and mule to Ben at the livery stable two months ago”. Reb then hollered over at the table now turned back over and the game going on again; “Anybody knows what horse that gunfighter was riding?” One answered; “That roan with the blaze were what he rode in on”. “Thanks, guess you now have a horse, Jake”. Then he reached for the gun belt and helped me strap it on and in a couple of weeks riding with them recruiting, I was sworn in and became a Texas Ranger………………………………………………………… Indians and Outlaws next…
I was assigned along with Reb and Walker to the little town of Dennison, Texas. We patrolled to the south from east to west for any signs of Indians. Nothing much went on and one day Walker said; “Jake, you have been carrying that old flint lock rifle around and could not knock down a fly with it, get you a Winchester like Reb and me”. Well the two took me to the gun smith in Dennison and were showing me the 30 caliber Winchester liked they both carried in there side mounts. But I spied a different rifle hanging on the wall and asked to see it. “Not that one, Jake”. But when I took it in my hands, I just knew it was the rifle for me. A Henry, 17 shot repeating, 30 calibers and it just had the feel and was the only one I wanted. The Winchester being heavier and holding fewer cartridges just did not seem to be what I was looking for. They both laughed at me, but I walked out with the Henry and a scabbard for the saddle. Reb was an excellent shot with either rifle or pistol and kept on me to learn how to draw and shoot with my pistols. I practiced often in hitting what I was aiming at, but not at fast drawing as I never thought it would come into play. But it did one day… There were reports of Indian raids to our south and Reb, Walker and the sheriff and deputy of Dennison went to check it out and left me as the lone lawman in Dennison. Well, I never figured anything would happen as Dennison was really a pretty tame town. But, a red headed cowboy came into town and for two nights in one of the saloons hollered and raised all kinds of hell. The third night and the mayor of Dennison came into the sheriff’s office where I was and asked me to do something with the red head. Well, I just figured that him seeing my badge would stand down and be more peaceful, but that was not to be. When I walked through the swinging doors into Dollies saloon, he had one feller hung over the bar and was hitting him with his pistol over the head. Blood was spurting out and the poor cowboy was already knocked out and just slumped over the bar.Walking up to the bar and he saw me and jammed his pistol back in his belt and just sneered and grinned at me. We wernt’ ten feet apart and he went for his pistol jest like that, and I tried to outdraw him but he fired first, and the bullet went between my arm and hit a glancing blow against my rib cage. I spun around from the blow but with gun in hand came up and fired and the bullet caught him square in the chest and backward and down he begin falling in front of the bar. It happened so fast that I culd hardly believe what had just happened and then the pain took over in my side and I had to kneel down on one knee and try to catch my breath. It got deathly quite in the saloon and I knew I had to get up and show force or it might have gotten worse. Catching my breath and rising back up, I could see that the red head would not bother any one else. But I remember thinking I will be faster than anyone else if it ever comes to this again. It were almost a month before the ribs healed enough for me to even think about fast draw or shooting any rifle or pistol. But believe me, I did get fast on the draw and always a good shot got better and better at that part too. For Reb and Walker returning from a fruitless trip for Indian raids while glad I were ok, did say; “We told you”……………………………………………
Then one day I was told I had been transferred to El Paso and was to leave as soon as possible. I really hated to leave my two friends but still looking for excitement started out for El Paso. Little did I know that my year and half in El Paso woud sour me on Rangering and looking for some other way to make a living? There were Apaches, Comanche’s and Comancherios to deal with in that part of Texas. Deadly, wily and splendid horsemen and ruthless in there quest to stay as they once were. Now ifn you like sleeping on the hard ground for weeks at a time and eating beans and hard tack and hoping you could find water at the next water hole. Ifn you didn’t mind not knowing if the next time you met a band of Apaches you wuld still be living in the next day or so then it wernt so bad, but it were a hard life and the excitement I be looking fer got taken up in the next couple of years………………………………………………………….
It be hard to say which were the worse as I fought all three in the next year and half. I saw the atrocities they committed against the cowmen and settlers along the border and it turned your stomach in seeing some of there raids carried out against a settlers home and what they did to the people they captured. Our Captain of Rangers, Jeff Statler and the 20 Rangers under his command spent many months chasing and fighting first one then other tribe. For they were excellent in ambushes and for us being able to catch up and do battle with them on one of there deadly raids. But we learned how to be just as devious as any of the Apaches or Comanche’s and begin to turn the table and kill them during there raids. Sometimes just a couple of them but we knew they did not have a lot of warriors left and even though they would cross into Mexico to escape, they would return and we would be waiting. On one of there raids and being tipped off by a renegade Apache we were able to set up an ambush for there return to Mexico. Setting up the deadly ambush in an arroyo with deep sides and the 20 Apaches appeared and the accurate and deadly fire from the Rangers took out more than half of the Apaches before the rest could flee through and to safety. Going down into the arroyo, I spied a rifle that my dad had always wanted to own but never had the money to buy one. A perfect 50 caliber long barrel Hawkins rifle. Accurate at one thousand yards and was used by many of the buffalo hunter to knock down and kill buffalo with. But I picked it up for my dad and still have that rifle today in writing this part of my accounts………………………………………..For that Hawkins were going to be what I used to barter with for the only woman that I ever wanted to marry and spend my life with. But back to that Henry rifle I had bought in Dennison, Texas and that day I brought down eight Apaches in the ambush. I still had cartridges left in it and was firing as the Apaches rode off and the Winchesters were all reloading. Then in a couple of months after a killing battle with some Comanche’s and losing 4 Rangers, I decided I had enough of fighting and killing and it was probably when we came upon the homestead and found the blonde haired woman nikked having been raped repeatedly by the braves lying next to her husband tied to a wagon wheel and him having been skint from his shoulders to his toes and still alive, with the two children lying in front with there heads bashed in that upon hearing abut a cattle drive that were going to be leaving in a couple of months for the Kansas City railhead, I left the Rangers and joined the cattle drive.Now I had fights again, but I vowed that I would not be the one to cause them, for I had enough of killing and seeing anyone killed. Jest always felt those poor Indians were trying to preserve something we were taking away,but damn why did they always have to do that……………………………………………………….The Cattle drive next…
The cattle drive started north with almost 3000 head of long horn cows. Ornery, mean and hard to handle, but with 50 drovers we got the herd moving north. The outfit was the Booker T cattle ranch. I soon found out that I was not cut out to be a cowboy and pushing ornery cows, but like my dad always told me; “Son, when you start something, make sure you finish the job”. So I stayed and pulled swing, drag and sometimes at the front and the slow but steady movement north continued. Then one day the foreman rode up to me and said; “Jake, I see you have a Hawkins 50 caliber rifle, Howd you like to do the hunting for the drive, Seems the boys are getting tired of beef to eat”. Well, thet seemed right what I would like to do; “I be mighty proud to do the hunting and for anything that get me away from these cows for a little bit”. The next couple of months passed faster as I was sometimes away for a couple of days in locating and killing an occasionally buffalo for most time it wuld be a mule deer that I would get. I wuld range far out from the herd and then catch up that evening using a spare horse to carry the meat back to the wagon. The days were hot and sometimes my thoughts would range to how I would like to have the cold winters of Arkansaw again….. I did have that old battered guitar of my dads and many nights after eating, Clint Baker who played a mouth organ and me would set and play songs and sing and guess the other boys liked them fer they kept asking fer more. Editors note; Some of the writing in this part was illegible and in some parts it was just a couple of lines of the cattle drive to the Kansas City rail head.
We finally reached Kansas City and herding the dumb cows into pens by the rail way the herd was sold and us drovers were paid off. Jackson the foreman did ask me; “Jake why don’t you stay on with the outfit, we can use a good man like you”. But, I jest thanked him and left the Booker T cattle ranch. I figured to spend a little time in Kansas City and look around for some kind of work that I might want to take up. Got a room in a hotel and for several nights would try out one of the many saloons. Seems I also had taking a liking for whiskey as well as the beer. Tried the poker tables one time, but found out the others were better than me, so jest spent most time setting and drinking although did find a couple of girls working that interested me some. Then it seem that something or someone wuld always change what I was doing. For one night a blond headed man wearing heavy clothes for that time of the year set down at my table and begins talking. He was a gold miner and had hit a good spell of finding gold and had come to Kansas City to have a good time. Can’t say the digging in the ground was jest what I was looking for but I listened to hem during the night, talking, talking bout the gold he found. Can say it did stir up my interest for I had bout spent all the money I got from the cattle drive. Bill Jason were his name and hailed from Tennessee some years back. He was older than me but said he needed a partner and would I like to go back with him to his diggings. Never knew why he picked me out of all the others but like I said, I was getting short on money.
“Jest where are these digging you found, Bill?”“Just west of Briskin, Wyoming in the foothills of the Rockies”, he replied. “That’s Indian country aint it, Bill?” “Yup, Crow, Cheyenne and Sioux are around some, but they never have bothered me, and I been there for three years”. “Three years is that all the gold you found in three year?” “Jake, it jest gets in your blood the hunt for gold, but yep, these last find was my best”. The next couple of days found us re-supplying and getting ready for the long journey back to Briskin. We took along a pack animal each and food for us and the animals. I bought several boxes of cartridges for the Hawkins, Henry and the hand guns. Bill carried an old worn out Winchester only. The journey wuld be uneventful although twice we spied Indians along the way but they never came close to where we were riding. The land changed from the flat arid land that I had come to not care for from Texas up to Kansas City into rolling hills with much grass along the way for our animals. For me it was exciting in seeing new land and being where I never thought I would travel. We made good time but it was several weeks afore Bill claimed we were in Wyoming. The days would be hot but the nights turned cool but we always had a fire going for cooking and staying warm. Bill had talked me into buying a heavy coat before we left and at nights was sure glad he had. Then one afternoon way off in the distance you could make out the peaks of the mountains and Bill just said; “The Rockies”. But it be several more days before seeing anything but the peaks until one day coming up over a rise and down below were the town of Briskin, Wy. and the mountains were plain to see further west. Snow capped and looming high above the rolling hills we were traveling over. We rode into Briskin and Bill did not want to stay long so we bought additional supplies and rode on west. The closer we got to the mountains were seeing just how high up there were. But in a couple of days we reached a steep rise and late that morning came up on a small cabin next to a mountain stream. There was a small corral out to the side and we put the horses and pack animals in there. Feeding them and rubbing down the horses. Putting the supplies in one corner of the hut and then having to make a make shift bed for me to sleep on it was late afternoon afore Bill said; “Come on and let me show you the diggings”. Taking a small pick and shovel he started up the stream and then turned and said; “Jake, take your rifle with you, fer you never know what will be upstream”. Reaching a spot along the stream and he started digging with the pick and then would shovel what he had dug up and throw it close to the stream. After a while, he took a pan he carried and putting the dirt into the pan begin to wash the dirt out of the pan in the stream. Now I was not helping but just watching but soon he hollered; “Whoopee”.I scrambled down to where Bill was and he then showed me what he was jumping up and down fer. I really did not see anything to make him so excited until he showed just a few pieces of what he said be gold in the bottom of the pan. Taking out a small pouch, he dumped the gold in the pouch and pulled the string tight. Looking up at me, he said; “Now Jake, That’s all there is to it and between the two of us we should be able to take out a sizeable amount of this here gold”. So until late that evening we took turns in one digging and one washing out the dirt. When we finally quit the pouch had maybe a quarter of it filled with the gold. Were I excited, you bet as this seemed to be a easy way to make money and for just a little digging in the side of a mountain stream. The weather stayed warm and only cold at night and each morning we wuld eat and make our way back up to the diggings and work all day in pulling out the gold. The weather started turning nasty and we were getting snow on and off and it was getting colder. Then one morning about noon with over three of the pouches full of gold the diggings quit yielding any more gold. Digging all the rest of that day and were not able to wash up anymore. That evening in the hut we talked over what we should do next and Bill for one wanted to pack up and head back to Briskin afore it really turned bad weather. Now he had been there during bad weather before and I had not, but I wanted to keep digging a little longer as the mountains and colder weather seemed to suit me just fine. Can’t never describe the feelings I had but it for some reason just seemed like home to me in those mountains…..
I finally talked Bill into staying for one more week, jest wish I had kept my mouth shut and went back to Briskin when he wanted to. For another change would happen in my life and it be something I always look back on with regret… The next morning it dawned, cold and spitting snow but we trekked up the stream to another place that Bill wanted to look over. I started digging while Bill washed but I had laid my Hawkins and Henry off to one side. Never knew what caused the things that happened next as like most bad events they happen so fast that reaction is the only thing you can do to change the event.
Jest wish I had been faster, for out of nowhere came a huge bear and it charged into Bill standing in the water. I dropped the pick and ran for the rifle but it were to late for Bill as with one swipe of a huge paw he opened Bill up across his chest. Then the bear started for me and I had just reached my Hawkins and turned to fire when he plowed into and across me, swinging a paw that just missed my head. It turned and started back, but I fired the Hawkins straight into his head and the creature tumbled into the stream. I dropped the Hawkins and rushed to Bill lying in the water and pulled him up on the side but it were to late except for his dying words; “Damn, Jake that Grizzle bar done kilt me”…….
I buryed Bill next to the little cabin and then went back and skint that dang bear and hung the skin up to dry some. Stayed a couple more days there, but it jest weren’t the same without Bill, so I packed up our things and headed back down to Briskin. The donkey did not like carrying that bear skin but I wernt going to leave it there. Reaching Briskin, I was able to get a room over one of the saloons and found a stable to keep the animals. Took that damn skint bear to a furrier to see if’n I could get anything for it, but there be no market for bear skins. He did say; “Now those skins make good coats for the weather around here and my wife can make you a coat if you not be in any hurry”. “That’s fine to me as guess I be here till spring”. But that were not to be for the whole winter as I finally were to find what I had always been looking for to do…………………………………….
Mountain Man next…
Editors note on the writers note: The rest of the book was where some of the pages were stuck together and I was not always able to read some of the accounts But as Jake Thomas wrote at the beginning of this part of his diary and accounts. Jake Thomas;
“This were the beginning of the happiest time of my life for I found what I loved to do and found happiness in my life with that and my wife and children”……………………………
That winter in Briskin were the coldest in a long time some of the folks there said, “don’t know but it sure was cold”. I stayed in the little room that I was in over the saloon and could walk down the stairs into the saloon. There was a big stove sitting in the middle of the saloon and that’s where most folks wuld be. The wind howled and the snow was blowing side ways and the drifts would pile up through the roads and buildings. Every day I would make my way down to the livery stable to check on my roan and the donkeys and then spend most the time sipping whiskey in the saloon. Some days it wuld jest be me and Tom, the bartender, and a old Cheyenne Indian that swept up. Asked Tom about the Indian one day and he just said; “He drifted in here a couple of years ago and Arthur the owner let him stay on and do the cleaning, so don’t know much about him”. Started to buy him a whiskey one day but Tom shook his head and said; “He can have a beer but Arthur wuld kill me if I let that Indian have whiskey”. There was a place to eat next door to the saloon with a doorway between them, ran by Arthurs wife. So eating wernt not a problem. The days passed slowly and it were nice when someone else would come into the saloon jest to have some talk. Then for several days it did not snow and the furrier came into the saloon and said; “The wife has your coat ready, you can pick it up anytime”.
But I walked back with him and paid for the coat and it were a dandy. For it fit good and like he had said it were very warm coat. The morning was cold but I decided to take the roan out for a good gallop as he had been in the stable for a spell. I headed out toward the mountains and had rode several miles when I seen something in the distance. Riding on and coming up on a man trying to get a donkey back on its feet but the donkey was done and would not get up. The man were wearing a buffalo coat, some kinda of animal boots and wearing a beaver cap. Jest his face showing as he frantically pulled on the rope around the donkey loaded down with fur pelts. Seeing me he looked up and with a wide toothless grin said; “Howdy, believe this critter has walked his last mile”. “My name be Archibald Roberts, but most folks just call me Archie, what be yourn name?” “Jake Thomas”. Archie; “I come down from them there mountains cause a fire got out in my little hut and burnt it down, so I jest figured on coming in a little earlier stead of making another hut in all that snow”. “This animal done good until right here fer he was carrying a heavy load”.
Jake; “You be a mountain man then”. “That be what I am”. “Well, I have a couple of donkeys stabled back in Briskin and if you want to wait I can go get them”. “Well now, that’s mighty neighborly of you, Jake Thomas”. Later after Archie and me got his load of furs back and to the furrier, we went into Arthur’s saloon and had a whiskey and then next door to have a good meal. “What you be doing in Briskin fer, Jake?” I told him about the diggings and the fate of Bill and then just said; “Guess I’m looking for something else to do now”. Now Archie had a grin that jest wuld make you want to grin too and he said; “Well now, lets me and you hook up and you be a mountain man come the spring”. And that’s what we did come early spring…………………………………..
Guess Archie was in his 60’s although I never asked him how old he really was but he did say he had been in the mountains since 38. I was now 21 years old but it seemed to have been forever since I left the farm in Arkansaw……………………………………
Archie and me went to the mercantile store in Briskin and he helped me pick and buy all the things I would be needing being a mountain man. We bought supplies, traps, and a good pair of snow shoes and many other items. Used a little of the gold from the diggings but guess I was able to get all that was needed. Archie was able to purchase a mule and a donkey at the livery stable and suggested that I sell the roan and get me a mule, but I had that roan since my rangering days and wernt going to part with him. The next day we started out for the mountains to our west, “The Rockies” some of the prettiest places and sites I would ever see. Archie took a more northly route than what Bill had used in going to the diggings and it were a couple of days before we started up into the mountain. He knew the trail and the route we would take but it got steeper and steeper along the way. Many times holding onto the reins and leading the animals up a steep incline or through a canyon to reach another level. Camping out whenever it would get dark and starting out the next morning we worked our way upward. One place riding over a ridge and down below was a huge meadow along side of the mountain. Archie; “That there be where the roundup is held each spring for the buyers come up and you can sell your pelts and furs here instead of going down to the flatland”. “Looks like the boys have been here and gone now”. For there were signs that a large group had been here recently and in one spot there was a crudely built building standing alone. “That be where the buyers stay while they are here”. “Mighty fine place is the roundup for you see mountain men you aint seen in awhile and they have Indian squaws come in for your pleasure and plenty of whiskey”.
The next day we came upon a valley spread out below us and the stream down the center sparkled in the morning sun. “This be my valley here, Jake, plenty of beaver and mink all the way up the valley”. “See them two peaks yonder?” “Between them is a way to get at another valley like this one but I never could trap in both, but after a spell and you learn what you are doing, I figured you could take that valley fer your own, hows that sound to you Jake Thomas?” Guess that were the first time I felt like I would become a real mountain man……………………………………………………………………….
We rode up through the valley about a third of the way, through aspen groves and pines along the way. Near one thick stand of aspens, I could see the shack that had burnt down on Archie. He rode on just a little further and turned into the tree line and up against a bluff bank there was a scooped out place with an overhang above. Archie; “Always wanted to build in there but needed help in cutting and putting up the timbers, maybe between the two of us, we can make that place quite cozy”. The next few days we cut and sized the aspen trees and built a front across the opening and even put up a crude door in the middle. Moving all our stuff inside and then making beds and fixing a place for the fire, we could step back and think; hey this is not so bad. The bluff was on the northern side and Archie felt the wind and snow would blow over the bluff and not drift up against our newly built home. Then just down from there were another place like this one and we fashioned a corral for the animals and a place to store all the grain we had hauled up here for there feed. During the summer the valley would supply all the grass and feed they would need. With those chores out of the way, Archie said; “Jake, it be time you learn how to become a mountain man”. It took another day getting all the traps ready but one morning we started out with two donkeys carrying the traps. Stayed out two days and Archie showed me how and where to put out the traps for beaver and then for mink. It would be sometime before I got as good as he, but I was a quick learner and I knowed I would be as good as Archie. Spring turned into early summer and the days grew warmer and Archie explained how we were very early for trapping but he felt I would learn during the summer months and be ready by the fall to move into the other valley. One day, I saddle the roan and rode toward the two peaks and after a time found the opening he had told me about. It were not that far through but it was a tight fit in getting the roan to the other side. But like Archie had said it was a beautiful valley and I spent two days riding down one side and then two more coming back. I jest figured the mountains were huge and the valleys be the same way. Several times I saw huge animals grazing around a pool along side the stream and later Archie told me they were Elk. They would feed a person for awhile though. Summer passes fast up in the mountains so we spent some time finding a place in my valley for a cabin but never could find the overhang like Archie’s. But up in an aspen grove we built a one room cabin and put up a corral for my roan and donkeys. It were crude but I would make it better and better in the years ahead. Then at the first snow I said goodbye to Archie and moved all my stuff in the valley. Spent several days looking and putting out the traps in the most likely place I could find. Will have to admit that even though I thought I was a mountain man now, I wernt no trapper yet. Seemed everything I did would turn out wrong and I only got a few pelts that whole winter. Archie came over twice and tried to help but after he left the only beaver I got were where he showed me. One heavy snow time and it snowed for four days I jest stayed in the cabin but when I tried to open the door I was snowed in. Had to knock a hole in the roof to get out and used that hole for several weeks until I could dig the door out to be able to use it again. Oh the things I learned all alone my first year in the mountains but don’t think I would have had it any other way, fer it taught me many lessons and like I’d said; “I’m a fast learner”. Another thing were them dern snow shoes in learning how to walk in them and stay above the snow but that too I learned……………
Then one morning, Archie showed up and said; “It’s about time for the roundup and I’ll wait for you on the other side but wuld like to leave in the morning”. “Fine, I’ll be there”.
The next morning early I got up and packed everything and left for Archie’s. I only took one of the donkeys for I did not have that many pelts to haul out. When I reached his place he was ready to go and both his donkeys were loaded with pelts. “Where is your other pack animal?” “Hell, no more pelts I had did not see any reason to bring it along”.
Archie jest grunted; “you probably should have brought it along anyway”. Another lesson I would be learning…On the way to the roundup he told me that he was not going back down to the flatland but going to stay up here for the coming summer. They would bring up supplies to be bought at the roundup and jest didn’t make sense to go all the way back to Briskin. The thought ran through my head of sure glad I brought some of that gold along and not put it all in the bank of Briskin. For I didn’t think I had enough beaver and mink pelts to buy much with. The Roundup were a glorious seven or eight days of gambling, bartering, buying and pleasure from the Indian squaws. Where all those mountain men came from I don’t know but they must have been over one hundred and then the fur buyers and the traders with there goods for sell. They be dressed in all sorts of garb and some seemed outlandish to me but they all treated me as one of them and for that I was glad. Archie had me meet many of them and tried to explain jest where they were trapping at by pointing at some mountain and then saying over there is Zeb’s or Johnsons mountain. Jest seemed like this was the happiest week I had ever spent and hated when it were time to leave. Archie and me were one of the last group that left and he said; “Jake, ifen I were you I buy me another pack animal fer I fear what might have happened to yours while we were gone. Always listening to what I considered good advice from them that knows, I bought a donkey to take back to our valleys……….
Glad I did for getting back to my valley and the corral was knocked down and what were left of that little donkey wernt much. The front of the cabin had been pushed in and the meat from a deer I had hanging was also gone. Archie who had probably known had came with me and just shook his head; “That be a baer that done that work and I would look closely fer I be afraid that he will return”. My mind went quickly to Bill and the grizzle baer that done him in. Archie stayed for a week and helped rebuild and make the cabin bigger and stronger. He then wanted to see where I had been setting my traps and for three days we went down and back through the valley and he showed me where I had put good traps and where I had set out bad ones. “I could have done some of this last summer but I figured it was best you learned and found out fer yourself” was the way he explained it to me………Some might have been angry with that reasoning but for me it was another lesson learned and a valuable one at that. But sure was glad I had the gold to re-supply with. Archie got ready to leave and said; “Don’t figure that baer will come back anytime soon or at least until he get hungry but always hang your meat up in a tree”. “Come over and see me in a couple of weeks as I’ll be gone for a spell looking in on a friend from the roundup that didn’t show up”. And with that I were all alone once again but it were something I found that I really enjoyed. I spent a day making the corral higher and as strong as I could in hope it might keep the baer away when I was gone. Then I put some supplies in a pack and saddled up the roan to really look over my valley and maybe look else where too. I headed across the valley to the south side and started down and found several streams that fed into the one down the middle and the one I was trapping on and several of them showed good signs of both beaver and mink.Then finding a narrow opening one morning I started following it and just before noon came out in another valley that looked like mine and Archie’ although not as wide. I rode out a ways and then saw a small cabin and smoke coming up around the cabin. Approaching it and hollering “hello, hello”, two men stepped out of the cabin and hailed me in. The two were brothers that I had met at the roundup and told me to get off and stay a spell. Bob and Doug Johnson and they had been in the mountains for they said seven years. I spent the night with them and we shared some of the whiskey they had brought back from the roundup and we just had a rousing good ole time that night. The next morning I left but told the brothers to come over sometime as I was just a valley away. “You bet”, was there answer. I made it back to my valley and spent another few days riding and looking and learning and thinking jest how lucky I had been in finding a life that wuld be mine for so many year never thinking it wuld end someday
Editor’s note: It seems during this part of the diary of Jake Thomas it was indeed some of the happiest times in his accounts. But here were parts that were hard to read and there were even a few pages with maybe just a line or two written on them………………….
Those next winters in trapping were good for both Archie and me. Fer I had learned my lessons well and took in many pelts fer that season. It was two years before we ever went down the mountain to Briskin and that were just to buy items not sold at the roundup. Archie on the way back said; “Jake, you want to see something?” “Sure”. So instead of going back up jest then we rode along the foothills until coming up on a Indian camp set out in a meadow by a fast flowing stream from the mountains. “This be a Cheyenne camp and I knowed the chief, Running Horse, right well”. As we rode up to the camp there were several braves that rode out to meet us and Archie doing signs with his hand seemed to make everything ok and they rode beside us into the Indian camp. Riding up to a large tepee and there was a large Indian standing in front. Archie got down and the two at first made hand signs and then started talking in a speech I never heard before. Archie turned to me and said; “Running Horse wants to know where I found you at and I told him you be a mountain man and a mighty hunter”. Jest looking at the chief I figured he and Archie be about same age, for the chiefs black hair was streaked with white. I got off my roan and the chief walked up to me and extended his arm out and Archie said; “Take hold of his arm for that is a sign of friendship”. Just then coming out of the tepee were a beauty I not seen ever before. Jest took my breathe away for a beautiful girl she was and I knowed she looked at me for just a bit before turning and walking away. Archie hit me on the shoulder, grinning and saying; “Close your mouth, Jake, That be the chiefs daughter and you shouldn’t stare with your mouth open liked that”. But that be the day I fell in love and would never want another woman but her. I never thought that be possible but it still ran through my mind all the rest of the time we stayed with the Cheyenne. Which was for two weeks and some of the Indian squaws put up a tepee off to the side of the camp for Archie and me. It were several days before I saw the girl again although I had asked Archie what her name be. “Sparkling Water”, was his answer. For one afternoon the young braves were having a wrestling match next to where they would have a fire each night. Archie and Running Horse were talking and not paying any attention, but I walked over and were watching. Then one large brave walked up to me and pointed a finger and then shoved me back. Running Horse started laughing and Archie said; “Jake, you have been challenged by Swift Deer to a match”. “Archie, I don’t want to be wrestling with anyone”. “Jake, you have no choice for not to and they will think you be afraid”. Well, that didn’t bother me much but then I spied Sparkling Water standing with a group of squaws off to the side, so I pulled off my shirt and stepped up to Swift Deer. He threw me to my back so fast I didn’t have time to think but I come up and was able to get a good hold and a foot behine his and throwed him down. We were both bout the same size and it looked like no one was going to win this match but at last I were able to reach between his legs while lifting up with the other arm and slammed him down on the ground and you could hear the breathe leaving his body. He layed there a while and then jumped up with a knife and started for me but he stopped and a big grin he showed and then took the knife and cut his wrist and then held the knife out to me and the other arm. Archie; “Dang Jake, he wants to be your blood brother, take the knife and make the cut and join your arm with his”. That be how I joined with the Cheyenne for the rest of my life…Not always to live with them but be welcome in a Cheyenne camp. After that I looked for Sparkling Water but she were not there now. After leaving the Cheyenne, I had many questions to ask from Archie bout the Cheyenne. I knew I wanted to learn to speak there language and more bout how they lived and customs. The ride back to Archie’s cabin was filled with me asking and him answering, best he could……………
Editor’s note: The next few pages of the book were filled with Cheyenne language and with the English version. This is just a few of them: mahpe-water…ehane-our father…hese-fly…kosa-goat…he’eo’o-woman…me’ko-head…nahkole-bear…okolke-crow…tosa’e-where?...vee’e-tepee…xao’o-skunk……………………………………..
Sometime after that and me working on putting up another room on my cabin I heard someone riding up and if it wernt Swift Deer riding alone. I had been practicing the language and found out that there had been trouble below and a Crow war party coming from the north had struck the camp of the Cheyenne. Running Horse taking up Archie’s offer of coming to visit had moved the camp into the valley and Swift Deer had come to tell me about it and to join them at Archie’s. Swift Deer on the way back to Archie’s told bout the Crow party attacking there camp and afore they could drive them off had wounded 4 braves and taken a maiden off with them. I could not bring myself to ask wher it be Sparkling Water that had been abducted so jest rode in silence till we got there. Leaving Swift Deer at there camp set up down by the creek and riding on up to Archie’s place and finding him and Running Horse in quite talk. I set down beside them and listened. Seems there was bad blood from some of the Crow tribe and the northern Cheyenne from the past but Running Horse had no idea why they wuld attack now. Jest then out of Archie’s cabin carrying food to the two walked Sparkling Water and my heart were in my mouth and I almost jumped up and shouted but just looked at the beauty of her. Sparkling Water set the food down between them and head bowed down but jest before leaving looked up and there were the faintest smile thrown my way and I almost fell over backwards and my heart started thumping wildly. Being in love sure be hard on a feller was my thoughts. Archie then asked me; “Jake, the people need meat as they bout exhausted all the food coming up here, you think you could do a little hunting and help them out, seeing as how I done told Running Horse you be a mighty hunter?” “You bet, Archie”. Early the next morning I stopped at there camp and Swift Deer and a couple more braves with pack animals went with us to do some hunting. I figured there might be some of the large Elk close to a large pond not to fer away and carrying my Hawkins with them strung out behind we made our way toward the pond. I had bought a pair of looking glasses the last time in Briskin and from over 200 yards I could see several of the Elks grazing in the short grass at the edge of the pond. Dismounting and taking the Hawkins with Swift Deer standing beside me, I knelt down and dropped one of the Elk at that distance. Guess they all said something but I could hear Swift Deer as he went Ohoooha.
The rest ran off a little ways and then started back to the pond and I picked out a large bull and dropped him next. It took the rest of the morning for us to quarter the two Elk enough to load on the pack horses and start back. Swift Deer kept wanting to shoot the Hawkins and finally I let him shoot a couple of times at a large rock some distance away. He was happy and then we carried the meat back to there camp and the squaws started cutting it up to cook. It were a large amount of meat and would hold the camp for a couple of days anyway. The Cheyenne were good fishermen and farmers and caught a lot of fish out of the stream and from the pond. They started growing a large field of corn next to the stream and other vegetables along side. I went back to my valley and started again working on the new room to my cabin so it was several days before going back to Archie’s. The summer passed and several times I would hunt and take them a mule deer and the braves also excellent hunters were supplying the camp with meat………………
Editor’s note: This part is hard to understand if you have ever read any history of the Cheyenne Indians. For the courtship between a brave and maiden was a long and drawn out ordeal. Many gifts had to be offered and accepted by the family of the maiden before they would be allowed to marry and this took several years. Just have to think that Jake being white and Sparkling Water being Cheyenne this was not followed and maybe caused by the unrest at that time on the plains and mountains of the northern Cheyenne…………………………………
Late one evening, Archie and me were sitting outside his cabin by a small fire and he looked over at me and said; “Jake, Would you ever part with that Hawkins or the roan for anything?” “ Nope, Archie don’t think there would be much that would make me do that”. “Why do you ask?” “Well it seems Sparkling Water has mentioned you to her father and he has a notion that she cares for you”. “Swift Deer has told him about the Hawkins and Running Horse has seen the roan”. “Now ifn you were to offer Running Horse the Hawkins and the roan for Sparkling Water jest believe a trade could be made”. My mind went blank but do remember getting up and getting the Hawkins and tell Archie; “Lets go now”. Archie laughing said; “In the morning will be soon enough for this has to be done in the proper way”. I knowed I did not sleep much that night waiting for the morning sun. Early the next morning I cleaned up as best I could and woke Archie; “Now, Archie”. We mounted up and rode down to Running Horse’s tepee and he stepped outside. Archie got down first and in Cheyenne told Running Horse that a mighty hunter and mountain man were looking to wed his daughter, Sparkling Water, and had brought gifts to be allowed to do so. Running Horse was standing with his arms folded and just nodded and then I got off the roan and stuck out the Hawkins to him and he took it and then I handed him the reins to the roan and smiling he took both things I valued more than most but were willing to give up for the hand of Sparkling Water. Then he spoke and Sparkling Water came out of the tepee and were dressed in a soft white deer skin with beads and braids down the side. Her leggings were made from soft rabbit fur and it jest took my breathe away looking at the beautiful Cheyenne maiden standing afore me… She moved around to my side and then Swift Deer appeared from nowhere and stood beside me. Running Horse in there language begin the Cheyenne marriage ceremony and although short it made Sparkling Water and one Jake Thomas, man and wife for life… But dang it were three days and nights before we would be alone as the ritual and celebration started then and all the Cheyenne squaws came around to Sparkling Water and me and took her away and I had to join the braves in a three day and night party. Swift Deer and the others would drink a concoction they made and I would have to drink beside them, the squaws fixed meals of deer, fish and vegetables and on and on it went for three whold days and nights. I were plum worn out by the time it were over….
The morning we were leaving to go to my valley and Swift Deer rode up and had two horses with him. Sliding off and looking at me he said; “My brother it is not good that you have to walk back to your valley so from my horses I have brought you these gifts as my way of wishing you and Sparkling Water a happy life”. I almost choked up but reached out and grabbed him in a bear hug and laughing he hollered; “Let go, let go my brother”…………………………………..
The next month were some of the happiest days of my life as Sparkles, (as I started calling her) and I shared, loved, laughed and just enjoyed the days and nights together. I started putting out my traps and would be gone for a day or so but could not wait to get back to Sparkles and my love for her. But then we made the trip back to see Archie and the Cheyenne camp was gone. Archie said; “They left just after you two did”. That bothered me some, but then Archie; “Running Horse left you this”, and under a cover he showed me my saddle as Running Horse never used a saddle…………………………….
Editor’s note: Although Jake Thomas never mentio