A Night Adventure In Prairie Land

"I'll take a circuit around, and come out about the lower end of your

mot,"* said I to my companion. "You remain here; lie down flat, and

I'll warrant the old doe and her fawns will be found retracing their


[*] Mot is the name given small clumps of trees or woods, found

scattered over the prairie land of Texas.

We had started from camp about sunrise, to hunt, three of us; one

old hunter, who, after marking out our course, giving us the lay of the

land, and various admonitions as to the danger of getting too far from

camp, looking out for "Injin signs," &c., "Old Traps," as we called him,

took a tour southward, and left us. Myself and companion were each armed

with rifles; his a blunt "Yeager," by the way, and mine an Ohio piece,

carrying about one hundred and twenty balls to the pound, consequently

very light, and not a very sure thing for a distance over one hundred

yards. It was in the fall of the year, delightful weather: our wardrobe

consisted of Kentucky jean trousers, boots, straw hats, two shirts, and

jean hunting shirts--all thin, to be sure, but warm and comfortable

enough for a day's hunt. We trudged about until noon, firing but once,

and then at an alligator in a bayou, whose coat of mail laughed to

scorn our puny bullets, and, barely flirting his horny tail in contempt,

he slid from his perch back into the greasy and turbid stream. Seating

ourselves upon a dead cotton-wood, we made a slight repast upon some

cold pone, which, moistened with a drop of "Mon'galy," proved, I must

needs confess, upon such occasions, viands as palatable as a Tremont

dinner to a city gourmand. While thus quietly disposed, all of a sudden

we heard a racket in our rear, which, though it startled us at first,

soon apprised us that game was at hand. Dropping low, we soon saw, a few

yards above us, the large antlers of a buck. He darted down the slight

bluffs, followed by a doe and two well-grown fawns.

As they gained the water, and but barely stuck their noses into the

drink, we both let drive at them: but, in my rising upon my knee to fire

at the buck, he got wind of the courtesies I was about to tender him,

and absolutely dodged my ball. I was too close to miss him; but, as he

"juked"--to use an old-fashioned western word--down his head the moment

he saw fire, the bullet merely made the fur fly down his neck, and, with

a back bound or double somerset, he scooted quicker than uncorked


Our eyes met--we both grinned.

"Well, by King," says my friend Mat, "that's shooting!"

"Both missed?" says I.

"Better break for camp, straight: if we should meet a greaser or

Camanche here, they'd take our scalps, and beat us about the jaws with


It was thought to bear the complexion of a joke, and we both laughed

quite jocosely at it.

"Now," says I, "old Sweetener," loading up my rifle, "you and I can't

give it up so, no how." Tripping up a cup of the alligator fluid, we

washed down our crumbs, and started. We followed the deer about two

miles up the bayou; the land was low prairie bottom, ugly for walking,

and our track was slow and tedious. But, approaching a suspicious place

carefully and cautiously, we had another fair view of the doe and fawns,

feeding and watching on the side of a broad prairie. The distance

between us was quite extensive; we could not well approach within

shooting distance without alarming them. The only alternative was for

my friend Mat to deposit himself among the brush and stuff, and let me

circumvent the critters; one of us would surely get a whack at them. I

started; a slow, tedious scratch and crawl of nearly a mile got me to

the windward of the deer. As I edged down along the high grass and

chapperel, about a branch of the bayou, the old doe began to raise her

head occasionally, and scent the air: this, as I got still nearer, she

repeated more frequently, until, at length, she took the hint, and made

a break down towards my friend Mat, who, sharp upon the trigger, just as

the three deer got within fifty yards, raised and fired. 'Bout went the

deer, making a dash for my quarters; but before getting any ways near

me, down toppled one of the young 'uns. Mat had fixed its flint; but my

blood was up--I was not to be fooled out of my shot in that way; and

perceiving my only chance, at best, was to be a long shot, off hand, as

the doe and her remaining fawn dashed by, at over eighty yards, I let

her have the best I had; the bullet struck--the old doe jumped, by way

of an extra, about five by thirty feet, and didn't even stop to ask

permission at that. A sportsman undergoes no little excitement in

peppering a few paltry pigeons, a duck or a squirrel, but when an

amateur hunter gets his Ebenezer set on a real deer, bear, or flock of

wild turkeys, you may safely premise it would take some capital to buy

him off.

I forgot all about time and space, Mat, "Old Traps," greasers and

Injins--my whole capital was invested in the old doe, and I was after

her. She was badly wounded; I thought she'd "gin eout" pretty soon,

and I followed clear across the prairie. Time flew, and finally, feeling

considerably fagged, and getting no further view of my deer, and being

no longer able to trace the red drops she sprinkled along, I sat down,

wiped the salt water from my parboiled countenance, and began to----

think I'd gone far enough for old venison. In fact, I'd gone a little

too far, for the sun was setting down to his home in the Pacific, the

black shades of night began to gather around the timber, and I hurried

out into the prairie, to get an observation. But it was no go. I had

entirely reversed the order of things, in my mind; I had lost my

bearings. The evening was cloudy, with a first rate prospect of a wet

night, and neither moon nor stars were to be seen.

Taking, at a hazard, the supposed back track, across the broad prairie,

upon which flourished a stiff, tall grass, I plodded along, quite

chilly, and my thin garments, wet from perspiration, were cold as cakes

of ice to my flesh. I began to feel mad, swore some, hoped I was on the

right track back to Mat and his deer, but felt satisfied there was some

doubt about that. Mat had the flint and steel for raising a fire, and

the meat and what bread was left at our last repast. Night came right

down in the midst of my cares and tribulations. A slight drizzling rain

began to fall. The stillness of a prairie is a damper to the best of

spirits--the entire suspension of all noises and sounds, not even the

tick of an insect to break the black, dull, dark monotony, is a wet

blanket to cheerfulness. I really think the stillness of a large prairie

is one of the most painful sensations of loneliness, a man ever

encountered. The sombre and dreary monotony of a dungeon, is scarcely a

comparison; in fact, language fails to describe the essentially

double-distilled monotony of these great American grass-patches--you

can't call them deserts, for at times they represent interminable

flower-gardens, of the most elegant and voluptuous description.

Oh, how home and its comforts floated in my mind's eye; how I

envied--not for the first time either--the unthankful inmates of even a

second-rate boarding-house! A negro cabin, a shed, dog kennel, and a hoe

cake, had charms, in my thoughts, just then, enough to exalt them into

fit themes for the poets and painters. Having trudged along, at least

three miles, in one direction, I struck a large mot, that jutted out

into the prairie. Here I concluded it was best to hang up for the night.

I was soaking wet--hungry and wolfish enough. My utter desperation

induced me to work for an hour with some percussion caps, powder, and a

piece of greased tow linen, to get a blaze of fire, Ingins or no Ingins.

I began to wish I was a Camanche myself, or that the red devils would

surround me, give me one bite and a drink, and I'd die happy. All of a

sudden, I got sight of a blaze! Yes, a real fire loomed up in the

distance! It was Mat and his deer, in luck, doing well, while I was cold

as Caucasus, and hollow as a flute. I riz, stretched my stiff limbs, and

struck a bee line for the light. After wading, stumbling, and tramping,

until my weary legs would bear me no longer, I had the mortification to

see the fire at as great a distance as when I first started. This about

knocked me. I concluded to give up right in my tracks, and let myself be

wet down into papier mache by the descending elements. Blessed was he

that invented sleep, says Sancho Panza, but he was a better workman that

invented spunk. All of a sudden I plucked up my spunk, and by a sort

of martial command, ordered my limbs to duty, and marched straight for

the fire in the weary distance. A steady and toilsome perseverance over

brake and bush, mud, ravine, grass and water, at length brought me near

the fire. And then, suspicion arose, if I fell upon a Mexican or Indian

camp, the evils and perils of the night would turn up in the morning

with a human barbecue, and these impressions were nearly sufficient

inducement for me to go no further. It might be my friend Mat's fire,

and it might not be: it wasn't very likely he would dare to raise a

fire, and the more I debated, the worse complexion things bore.

Involuntarily, however, I edged on up towards the fire, which was going

down apparently. Coming to a bayou, I reconnoitered some time. All was

quiet, save the pattering of the rain in the grass, and on the

scattering lofty trees. I stood still and absorbed, watching the dying

fire, for an hour or two. I was within half a mile of it; the intense

darkness that usually precedes day had passed, and a murky, rainy

morning was dawning. Cheerless, fatigued, and hungry beyond all mental

supervision or fear, I marched point blank up to the fire, and there

lay--not a tribe of Mexicans or Camanches, but my comrade Mat, fast

asleep, under the lee of a huge dead and fallen cotton-wood, alongside

of the fire, warm, dry, and comfortable as a bug in a rug!

I gave one shout, that would have riz the scalp lock of any red skin

within ten miles, and Mat started upon his feet and snatched his

"Yeager" from under the log quicker than death.

"Ho-o-o-ld yer hoss, stranger," I yelled, "I'm only going to eat ye!"

Mat and I fraternized, quick and strong. A piece of his fawn was jerked

and roasted in a giffy. After gormandizing about five pounds, and

getting a few whiffs at Mat's old stone pipe, I took his nest under the

log, and slept a few hours sound as a pig of lead.

Waked up, prime--stowed away a few more pounds of the fawn, and then we

started for camp. Living and faring in this manner, for from three to

twelve months, may give you some idea of the training the heroes of San

Jacinto had.