This story was included as a part of the series Prairie Pards; Or, Tails of Border Trails in Beadle & Adams' New York Saturday Journal. The series was written as a series of stories shared by a group of hunters ranging through the wilds of the West.
Prairie Pards; Or, Tales of Border Trails.
Told By a Plainsman.
Texas Jack’s Leap For Life*
“PARDS, you have been telling of two border kinds of the northern prairies, so, with your leave, as I’m called on tonight to plan chin-music around the campfire, I’ll speak of one whom I knew on the Texas plains, and one who was a comrade of both Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill,” and Dick Dorset, the team and wagon boss of the hunting party, looks around for an answer.
“Speak out o’ who yer pleases, Boss Dick, an’ I’m swearin’ yer pleases us,” remarked the guide, and a general assent being given, the wagon boss began his story:
“Texas Jack on ther plains, but J. B. Omohundro when in polite society, is the man of my story tonight, pards, and you all have heard of him too.
“When I was in Texas some years ago, Jack was living in a small ranch upon the border of the Injun country, and he had around him a pretty sight o’ cattle, both horses and steers, and the Injuns had the’r eyes on him, but was awful careful how they scouted near his lay-out, for several had been known to start out to get a pony out of Jack’s drove, and they never came back, and the whole red-skin tribe couldn’t find out what they had died with, or where they’d left their bodies.
“Well, things went on pretty quiet at the ranch for some time, Jack havin’ two pards livin’ with him, who were as death on Injuns as he were, so they were a bad lot to stir up, as the Comanches knew.
“But one day these two lads, who were brothers, got wind, through a letter send to ‘em, that a fortin’ had been left ‘em in New Orleans, and they must come after it.
“Of course they was delighted, but swore they’d bring the money back and invest it in cattle and sheep, and they left, to be gone several weeks, Jack saying he wasn’t afraid to stay alone.
“So that no one should know they had gone, they departed at night, and Jack thought nothing more about it, but slept with one eye open on the prairie, watchin’ his ponies and cattle.
“But of course some pesky red-skin had seen ‘em go, and he trailed ‘em far enough to know they were going to be gone for some time, and off he goes to the village of his tribe and spreads the news.
“This was just what the reds wanted, and about a hundred warriors mounted and started for Jack’s ranch, and arrived there about midnight the second night after the Magruder boys had left.
“Jack’s dog, Brindle, was nosing round, and he smelt the Injuns and runs off to the log cabin and tells Jack.”
“A dog tell, Dick?” asked one of the hunters.
“Why, certain: he told, almost as plain as I can, that the reds were coming, and understanding Brindle’s signs, Jack just got up and scouted round, and what he saw didn’t please him, for the Injuns had lariated their horses over a little rise near the river, and were creeping up toward the cabin.
“Now, I must tell you, pards, that Jack’s cabin stood on a cliff that overhung the river, rolling forty feet below, and back from the bank the land sloped to the prairie.
“There was a few trees around the cabin, and it was a pleasant place, and a pretty view all round for a man, especially when the prairie was covered with his own stock.
“The cabin was of stout logs, and had three rooms, in a row, the one nearest to the river being kept as a stable, in which several horses were kept for sudden use at night.
“Then there were rifle-ports on all sides, and they commanded the approach for several hundred yards.
“Watch ‘em, Brindle!” said Jack, and they needed watching, for they came up the slope mighty quiet.
“But Jack opened lively with his repeating rifle, and some Injuns never recovered from the complaint they caught then and there.
“Then they started on a run up the hill, but Jack made his repeater sing lively, and they fell back; but watching them, Jack soon saw that they had played a new trick on him, for he saw a big log, half a tree he had cut down some weeks before, rolling up the hill.
“Of course he knew that there must be some twenty reds behind it to push it up, and he opened lively; but still it came nearer, and Jack knew things were gone up with him.
“But he went to the stable, saddled his road stallion, Savage, and collecting what he could carry with him, called to Brindle:
“‘Old fellow, we have ter go, and there is but one way to do it.’
“Brindle wagged his tail, and seeing that the log was now within forty yards of the cabin, Jack raised the large door that divided the sleeping-cabin from his stable off the hinges and tied a rope around it.
“Then he unbarred the cliff dorr and mounted Savage, and drew the stout door up over the back of his horse, and calling to Brindle to follow he rode out.
“Of course the Injuns saw him, and they raised a mighty yell; but Jack headed right for the cliff, and over it he went, Brindle following.
“Down went horse, rider, door and dog, and they struck heavy, Jack says, but unhurt they swam for the other shore, while Jack drew the door over him so as the protect the horse and himself.
“Down upon them the Injuns rained showers of arrows, and they killed poor Brindle, but neither Savage nor Jack was hurt, though there was one hundred and three sticking in the door, for I counted ‘em next day.
“Once across the river, Jack headed Savage for the nearest settlement, and just before daylight ran upon an army camp of which I was wagon-boss.
“He soon told his story to the officer in command, who was going up the river, some miles above Jack’s ranch, to establish a post, and he sent a captain and fifty men with Jack, who headed for a point above, where, as he had expected, he headed off the reds driving his ponies and cattle to their village.
“It was a surprise to them reds, I can tell you, for I went along, and we killed nearly half of ‘em and got back all of Jack’s cattle.
“Of course Jack’s cabin was burned down; but he didn’t seem to care, and told us to come over and see his door-shield, and there it was on the other bank of the river with the arrows sticking in it, and Brindle was lodged ag’in’ a tree-stump with five in him.
“Well, we helped Jack rebuild his cabin, and when the Magruder brothers came back they didn’t know the place, no more than I could now, for they do say that there’s a fine mansion there now, and many a man has gone a long way to see the cliff where Jack made Savage take the leap, and the door is kept by Bob Magruder as one of his curiosities, but we have to make an early start in the morning, so good-night, pards,” and thanking Dick Dorsey for his story,
“To sleep, perchance to dream,”
was at once the desire of the hunters.
*Texas Jack (J. B. Omohundro) died in Leadville, 1880.