Buckskin Sam's Tribute to Texas Jack
"Buckskin Sam," was the name given to Samuel Stone Hall by legendary Texas Rangers Bigfoot Wallace and John Ford when Sam served alongside those notables under the command of Ben McCullogh. Originally born on a farm near Leominster, Massachusetts, July 23, 1838, young Sam had tired of farming and his father's discipline and ran away from home and headed west.
He found work as a butcher aboard a train bound for New York, and in the city took a job as a hotel bellboy. He soon boarded a ship bound for Indianola, Texas, where he became a bullwhacker. A small man, weighing only 125 pounds, when Buckskin Sam joined Ben McCullough's Rangers. he impressed his fellow rangers with his gentle manner and his deadly accuracy with both pistol and rifle.
It was here, as a small man in the company of figurative and literal giants like Bigfoot Wallace and John Ford that Sam earned the nickname "Buckskin," for the fringed leathers he often wore. At the start of the Civil War, Sam along with the other Rangers were drafted into service with the Confederate army, but Sam, born in Massachusetts, resented being forced to fight for a cause he didn't believe in, and in July 1864, he became a Union scout with Donaldson's Rangers in the Army of the Southwest.
After the war, Sam tried his hand in hotel management, but eventually rejoined the Rangers for a short time before returning to New England, where he was cooly received by a family that didn't particularly relish his return. As a bullwhacker and later Ranger, Sam had acquired a taste for strong drink and a habit of "painting the town red", which shocked the staid New England village of Leominster. Same once again left his childhood home bound for New York, where for several years he worked as a hotel clerk. Here he became friends with other Western men who frequented the city, and soon Sam's new friends Texas Jack, Buffalo Bill, and Colonel Prentiss Ingraham persuaded Buckskin Same to write up some of his personal experiences for dime novel publisher Beadle & Adams.
Sam's first story was ostensibly about the actor hired to replace Wild Bill in the Scouts of the Prairie, an actor who pretended to be the son of the legendary scout Kit Carson. "Kit Carson, Jr.; or, The Crack Shot of the West," was published as No. 3, in Frank Starr's New York Library. Building on this success, Sam wrote many novelettes for Beadle and many short sketches for the Banner Weekly, among them a series on "Heroes and Outlaws of Texas."
Eventually, Sam's heavy drinking led him to leave New York, where he found himself beset by too many temptations to resist. He headed to Wilmington, Delaware, to live with a friend from his years in Texas. When that friend abruptly departed, leaving a wife and several small children without financial security, Buckskin Sam stood by them and remained their sole support. When Sam was stricken with pneumonia, his friend's abandoned wife took care of him until his death, February Ist or 2nd, 1886. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Leominster, his funeral expenses being paid by the publishers that had printed so many of his stories.
Buckskin Sam died six years after his friend and fellow Texas transplant Texas Jack Omohundro. Hearing of the death of his friend in the high mountains of Colorado, Buckskin Sam penned this ode in Omohundro’s memory:
Noble and brave, with a heart kind and free,
Erect and graceful as a pecan tree.
With open, fair face and an eye that told
Of a friendship more pure and lasting than gold
With a hand that would open to poverty’s child,
Or quickly grasp rifle ‘mid war cries wild;
With a love sincere and lasting as life
For that beautiful woman, his gifted wife --
Such was Texas Jack, a true prairie pard,
And his death it has struck me, struck mighty hard.
No more will he turn the wild stampede
With whoop and yell on galloping steed;
No more take the red man’s moccasined track,
‘Mid bowstrings’ twang and rifle’s crack;
No more with rare skill his lasso whirl,
Or through the air his dread bowie hurl;
No more be poised on mustang’s back,
And drive wild herds on the northern track;
No more the ‘black snake’ deftly swing;
Mo more on the Llanos will his rifle ring --
The far-away trails his feet have trod
Will know him no more--he has gone to God!
Moaning o’er prairies on the norther’s breath
Methinks I hear the weird call of death.
Sighing through canyon and chaparral
The muffled sound of Jack’s funeral knell.
Methinks that now the coyote’s sharp bark
And the howl of black wolf in the woodland dark
Is tempered with much more mournful sound,
And prairie flowers droop lower to the ground.
Methinks the warblers of the Rio Grande
Must sing less sweet as the mount the air,
And the maidens of that summery land
Must veil their faces in their raven hair.
Lay him to rest in his narrow home
Beneath the sky, earth’s natural dome
Where Southern verdure luxuriant grow,
Ne’er withered by icy northern snows
There, ‘neath the Spanish moss and vine,
Where myriads of flowering creepers twine,
Let him repose in Nature’s wild,
Fit resting place for Nature’s child.
There would I dig in grassy bank,
Afar from noisy cow bells’ clank,
Where oft the red man leaves his track,
A fitting grave for Texas Jack.
There would I lay him down to rest
Amid the scenes that he loved best
I’d dig his lone grave long and wide,
And lay his rifle by his side.
I’d coil his lariat ‘round his feet,
His serape use for a winding sheet;
And those brave hands which oft grasped mine,
In lonely watch on the picket line,
When yelling Sioux with hasty tramp
Strove to stampede the frontier camp;
Those hands that grasped in van of battle,
‘Mid cannon’s roar and sabre’s rattle,
The flag he thought waved over the right,
And bore it firm through bloody fight;
Those hands should clasp ‘round knife and ‘six.’
Yes, all his various prairie ‘tricks.’
Should lay beside him, until the horn
Of Gabriel waxes the eventful morn.
But, be his grave in wild woods made,
Or in the city’s busy mart,
Carve on the stone, in words of gold,
‘HERE LIES A NOBLE HEART.’