Apicultura Wiki

THE morning following the adventure with the steak, found our little party rifles in hand, and bent upon a buffalo hunt. The animals, it would seem, for the especial benefit of "Breeches" and "Bags," had come "lower down" than usual, and we were among the buffalo much sooner than we expected to be.

So far, fortune favored us; and a gayer party never set out on a frolic, than followed the deer-skin inexpressibles on the fine December mornin', to which we have alluded.

As we jaunted along, crushing a thousand wild flowers under our horses' feet, the deer would bound like visions of grace and beauty from our presence; but we essayed not such small game. Our ideas and nostrils, expanded by the associations around us; we grew merry at the thought of killing bucks, turkeys, and other helpless, little game, and laughed so loudly, at the conceit of drawing a deadly weapon upon a thing as small as a woodcock, that the wild, half devil, and half Indian horses on which we were mounted, pricked up their ears and tails, as if they expected that the next salute would be the war-whoop and a fight.

Ahead of us we beheld the buzzards, circling in groups, whirling down in aerial flights to the earth, as if busy with their prey. We passed them at their gross repast over a mountain of meat, which had, the day before, been full of life and fire, but had fallen under the visitation of our guides and scarecrows; and provided the very steaks that had met with so little affection from our appetites. Soon we discovered signs of immediate vicinity of the buffalo, and on a little examination from the top of a "swell of land," we saw them feeding off towards the horizon, like vast herds of cattle quietly grazing within the inclosure of the farm-yard.

As distant as they were, our hearts throbbed violently as we contemplated the sanguinary warfare we were about to engage in, and the waste of life that would ensue.

Still, we were impelled on by an irresistible and overpowering instinct to begin the hunt.

"Breeches" and "Bags" carried over their shoulders poles about six feet long; but as they were destitute of any visible spear, we looked upon them as inoffensive weapons, and concluded that they had come out just to act as guides. In fact, we could not imagine that such wretched-looking fellows, so badly mounted, could hunt any thing.

For ourselves, we were armed with the terrible rifle; and so satisfied were we of its prowess, that we thought the very appearance of its muzzle more deadly than the demonstrated use of all other weapons beside.

Keeping to the windward of the buffalo, we skirted round until we got them between us and the shed wherein we passed the night.

Then the signal was given, and in a pell-mell manner we charged on, every man for himself. We approached within a quarter of a mile before the herd took the alarm.

Then, smelling us on the air, they turned their noses towards the zenith, gave a sort of rough snort, and broke simultaneously off at a full gallop. As soon as this noise was heard by our horses, they increased their speed, and entered into the sport as ardently as their riders.

The rough beasts rode by "Bags" and "Breeches" did wonders, and seemed really to fly, while their riders poised themselves gallantly, carrying their long poles in front of them with a grace, from the excitement of the moment, that would have honored a Cossack bearing his spear.

The buffalo, with their tails high in the air, ran close together, rattling their horns singularly loud; while the horses, used to the chase, endeavored to separate a single object for especial pursuit.

This once accomplished, it was easy to range along- side; and in this situation the members of our party severally found themselves; and drawing deadly aim, as they supposed, the crack of the sharp rifle was heard over the prairies, and yet nothing was brought to the ground. Contrary to all this, a noble bull lay helpless in the very track I took, the fruit of "Breeches' " murderous skill; and from the energetic manner with which he pressed on, we became satisfied that there was a magic in those sticks we had not dreamed of.

Our curiosity excited, we ran across the diameter of a circle he was forming, and came by his side. Soon he overtook his object of pursuit, and thrusting forward his pole, we saw glittering, for the first time, on its end a short blade; a successful thrust severed the hamstring, and a mountain of flesh and life fell helpless on the prairie. The thing was done so suddenly, that some moments elapsed before we could overcome our astonishment. My horse approached the animal, and thrusting forward his head and ears, snorted in his face, and then commenced quietly cropping the grass.

It would be impossible for me to describe my emotions as I, dismounting, examined the gigantic and wounded bull before me. There be lay - an animal, that from his singular expression of face and general appearance, joined with his immense size, looked like some animated specimen of the monsters of the antediluvian world.

Rising on his fore legs, he shook his mane and beard in defiance, and flashed from his eyes an unconquerable determination terrible to behold.

Gazing upwards, we beheld, fearfully caricatured, the shaggy trappings of the lion, and the wild fierceness of a perfect savage, the whole rising above us in huge unwieldy proportions. He made no demonstration of attack, his usual expression of defiance had changed into that of seeming regret and heartsick pain; his small bright eye roamed over the beautiful prairie, and watched the retreating herds of his fellows, as would an old patriarch when about to bid adieu to the world; and as the dying creature gazed on, the tear struggled in his eye, rolled over the rough sunburnt hair, dashed like a bright jewel from his knotted beard, and fell to the ground.

This exhibition of suffering nature cooled the warm blood of the hunt within me; the instinct of destruction was, for the time, overpowered by that of better feelings, and could we have restored to health the wounded animal, it would have given us a thrill of real pleasure to have seen him again free, and bounding over the plain.

Instead of this, we took from our belt a pistol, called upon mercy to sanction our deed, and sent the cold lead through the thoughtful eye into the brain: the body sank upon its knees, in ready acknowledgment of the power of man; the heavy head plunged awkwardly to the ground; a tremulous motion passed through the frame - and the wild monarch was dead.

The momentary seriousness of my own feelings, occasioned by the incidents above related, was broken in upon by a loud exulting whoop, prolonged into a quavering sound, such as will sometimes follow a loud blast of a trumpet at the mouth of an expert player.

It was a joyous whoop, and vibrated through our hearts - we looked up, and saw just before us a young Indian warrior, mounted upon a splendid charger, and rushing across the plain, evidently in pursuit of the retreating buffalo.

As he swept by, he threw himself forward in his saddle, and placed his right hand over his eyes, as if to shade them from the sun, making a picture of the most graceful and eager interest.

His horse carried his head low down, running like a rabbit, while the long flowing mane waved in the wind like silk. Horse and rider were almost equally undressed; both wiry; and every muscle, as it came into action, gave evidence of youth and power. Over the horse's head, and inwrought in the hair of the tail, streamed plumes plucked from the gay flamingo. Every thing was life - moving, dashing life - gay as the sunshine that glistens on the rippling wave where the falcon wets his wing.

This soul-stirring exhibition warmed us into action, and, mounting our horses, we dashed after the red man Our direction soon brought us in sight of the retreating buffalo; and, with the Indian and myself, dashed on a third person, the valiant "Breeches."

I followed as a spectator, and keeping close to both, was enabled to watch two beings so widely different in form, looks, and action, while bent on the same exciting pursuit.

Fortunately, two buffalos of large size, cut off from the main body, were being driven towards us by some one of our party: a distant report of a rifle, and the sudden stopping of one of the animals, told the tale.

The remaining bull, alarmed by the report of the rifle, rushed madly on, with enemies in front and rear. Discovering its new danger, it wheeled almost on its heels and ran for life. Whatever might have been our vivid imaginings of the excitement of a buffalo chase, we now felt the fruition beyond our most sanguine hopes.

Before us ran the buffalo, then followed the Indian, and beside him "Breeches," so closely that you would have thought a dark Apollo on a mettled charger, had by some necromancy cast the shadow of a cornfield scarecrow. We soon gained on the buffalo, rapidly as he moved his feet under him. "Breeches" poised his rude instrument to make the fearful cut at the hamstrings, when the Indian, plucking an arrow from his quiver, bent his bow, and pointing it at "Breeches' " side, - , let it fly. The stick held by "Breeches" leaped from his grasp as if it had been struck by a club; another instant, and again the bow was bent; guiding his horse with his feet, the Indian came alongside of the buffalo, and drove the arrow to the feather into his side.

A chuckling guttural laugh followed this brilliant exploit, and as the animal, after a few desperate leaps, fell forward and vomited blood, again was repeated the same joyous whoop that so roused our stagnant blood at the beginning of the chase.

The instant that "Breeches" dropped his stick, his horse, probably from habit, stopped; and the one on which I rode followed the example. The Indian dismounted, and stood beside the buffalo the instant he fell. The shaggy and rough appearance of the dead animal - the healthy-looking and ungroomed horse with his roving eye and long mane - and the Indian himself, contemplating his work like some bronze statue of antique art - formed a group, the simplicity and beautiful wildness of which would have struck the eye of the most insensible.

"Breeches," alike insensible to the charms of the tailor's art, and to the picturesque - handed the Indian his first fired arrow, and then stooping down, with a gentle pressure, thrust the head of the one in the buffalo through the opposite side from which it entered, and handed it to its owner, with disgust marked upon


"There was a simplicity and beautiful wildness about the group, that would have struck the eye of the most insensible"--page 220.

his face, that displayed no great pleasure at the Indian's appearance and company.

Among the Indian tribes there are certain styles of doing things, which are as essential to command the attention and win the favor of a real hunter, as there are peculiar manners and modes commended, and only acknowledged, by sportsmen.

A poor despicable tribe, bearing the name of Ta-wa-ki-na, inhabiting the plains of Texas, kill the buffalo by hamstringing them, and are, therefore, despised and driven out from among the "Indian men."

A young Comanche chief, fond of adventure, and friendly with "Breeches," had gone out of his way to join in our sport; and having shown to the white man his skill, and for "Breeches" his contempt for his imitations of a despised tribe, he passed on in pursuit of his own business, either of war or of pleasure.

The experience of our first buffalo hunt satisfied us that the rifle was not the most effective instrument in destroying the animal. The time consumed in loading the rifle is sufficient for an Indian to shoot several arrows, while the arrow more quickly kills than the bullet.

As the little party to which I was attached had more notions of fun than any particular method of hunting, a day was set apart for a buffalo hunt, "Ta-wa-ki-na fashion," and for this purpose rifles were laid aside, and poles about seven feet long, with razor blades fastened on them a few inches from the end, so as to form a fork, were taken in their place. Arriving in the vicinity of the buffalo, those who were disposed entered into the sport pell-mell.

Like a faithful squire I kept close at the heels of "Breeches," who soon brought a fine young heifer bellowing to the ground. As the animal uttered sounds of pain, one or two fierce-looking bulls that gallantly followed in the rear, exposing themselves to attack to preserve the weaker members of the herd, stopped short for an instant, and eyed us with most unpleasant curiosity. This roused the knight of the deer-skin breeches; and, brandishing his stick over his head with a remarkable degree of dexterity, he dashed off as if determined to slay both at once.

My two companions who started out as Ta-wa-ki-nas, had done but little execution, not understanding their work, or alarmed at so near an approach of the animals they wounded, without bringing them to the earth. As "Breeches" dashed on after the bulls, he severally crossed the route of all who were on the chase; and as he was unquestionably the hero of the day, all followed in his train, determined to see hamstringing done scientifically.

It is a singular fact in the formation of the buffalo, and the familiar cattle of the farm-yard, that, although so much alike in general appearance, the domesticated animal will, after being hamstrung, run long distances.

The buffalo, on the contrary, the moment that the tendon is severed, falls to the ground entirely helpless, and perfectly harmless to one beyond the reach of its horns. A very short chase in company with "Breeches," brought us up to one of the bulls; he poised his stick, thrust it forward, and the tendon Achilles, full of life and full of action, was touched by the sharp blade; its tension, as it sustained the immense bull in his upward leaps, made it, when severed, spring back as will the breaking string of the harp; and the helpless beast, writhing in pain, came to the ground.

One of our party on witnessing this exhibition, gave an exulting shout, and declared that he would bring a buffalo down or break his neck; he soon came beside a venerable bull, and as he made repeated thrusts, a thousand directions were given him as to the manner of proceeding. The race was a well contested one, and the heels of the pursued animal were strangely accelerated by the thrusts made at him in his rear.

A lunge was finally accomplished by the "Ta-wa-kina," that almost threw him from his horse; the fearful cut brought the huge bull directly under the rider's feet; the next instant the noble steed was impaled upon the buffalo's horns, and the unfortunate rider lay insensible on the ground. In the excitement, the wrong hamstring had been cut, and, as the animal always falls upon the wounded side, the mistake had caused the bull to become a stumbling block in his path.

We hastened to our unfortunate companion, chafed his temples, and brought him to his senses. Happily, save the loss of a generous steed, no great damage was done. The "Ta-wa-ki-na" acknowledged that hamstringing buffalo was as contemptible, as it was thought to be by the Comanche chief. Thus ended this novel and barbarian hunt, which afforded incidents for many rough jokes and amusing reflections on hamstringing buffalos.

As a reward for these frontier sports it is but just to say, that we feasted plentifully upon buffalo steaks, marrow bones, humps, and tongues; yet surfeited as was the body, the mind was not satisfied.

There was a waste of life and of food accompanying the hunting of the animal, that, like an ever-present spirit of evil, took away from our enjoyment that zest which is necessary to make it a favorite sport.