Roosting Out

In 1837, after the capture of Santa Anna, by General Samuel Houston and

his little Spartan band, which event settled the war, and something like

tranquillity being restored to Texas, several of us adventurers formed a

small hunting party, and took to the woods, in a circuitous tour up and

across the Sabine, and so into the United States, homeward bound.

There were seven men, two black boys, belonging to Dr. Clenen, on

our "voyageurs," and eleven horses and mules, in the party; and with a

tolerable fair camp equipage, plenty of ammunition, one or two "old

campaigners" and three monstrous clever dogs, it was naturally supposed

we should have a pleasant time. The first five days were cold, being

early Spring, wet, and not very interesting; but as all of the party

had seen some service, and not expecting the comforts and delicacies of

civilization, they were all the better prepared to take things as they

came, and by the smooth handle. The idea was to travel slow, and reach

Jonesboro' or Red River, or keep on the Arkansas, and strike near Fort

Smith, in twenty or thirty days. We left Houston in the morning, passed

Montgomery, and kept on W. by N. between the Rio Brasos and Trinity

River, the first five days, then stood off north for the head of the


Game was very sparse, and rather shy, but falling in with some wild

turkeys, and a bee tree, we laid by two days and lived like fighting

cocks. The turkeys were picked off the tall trees, as they roosted after

night, by rifle shots, and no game I ever fed on can exceed the rich

flavor of a well-roasted, fat wild turkey. The bee tree was a

crowder--a large, hollow cyprus, about sixty feet high, straight as a

barber pole, and nearly seven feet in diameter at the base, and full

three feet through at the first branch, forty feet up. This must have

been the hive of many and many a swarm, for years past; the tree was cut

down, and contained from one to three hundred gallons of honey and comb!

Nor are such bee trees scarce about the head of the Sabine, Red River,

&c. Bears are very fond of honey. The weather then being much improved,

it was suggested that the camp should be moved a few miles off, and

leave the bee tree and its great surplus contents, to the bears; and if

they did come about, we should come back and have a few pops at them.

The plan was feasible, and all agreed; so, removing a few gallons of the

translucent delicacy, the camp was struck, and, following an old trail a

few miles, we found a delightful site for recamping under some large

oaks on a creek, a tributary of the Sabine river.

Some of the "boys," as each styled the others, during the day had found

"a deer lick," about three miles above the camp, and to vary the

viands a little, it was proposed that three of the boys should go up

after dark, lay about, and see if a shot could be had at some of the

visitors of "the lick."

One of the old heads, and by-the-way we called him "old traps," from the

fact of his always being so ready to explain the manner and uses of all

sorts of traps, and the inexhaustible adventures he had with them in the

course of twenty years' experience in the far west.

Well, "old traps," Dr. C., and myself, were the deputed committee, that

night, to attend to the cases of the deer. Soon after dark we put out,

and in the course of a couple of hours, after some floundering in a

muddy "bottom" and through hazel brush, or chaparral, the "lick" was

found, and positions taken for raking the victims. "Old traps" took a

lodge in a clump of bushes. Dr. C. and I squatted on a dead tree, with a

few bushes around it, and in a particularly dark spot, from the fact of

some very heavy timber with wide-spreading tops standing around and

nearly over us.

The ability of keeping still in a disagreeable situation, for a long

time, is most desirable and necessary in the character of a

hunter;--some men have a faculty for holding a fishing-rod hours at a

time over a fishless tide, with wondrous ardor; and I have known men to

watch deer, bear, and other game, in one position, for ten or twenty

hours. Sauntering up and down in the dark, with wind and rain, and a

musket in your arms for company, is not pleasant pastime; but my

patience revolted at the idea of squatting on the wet log, all cramped

up, three or four hours, and no deer making their appearance; Doctor and

I made up our minds to arouse "old traps," and patter back to the camp.

Just as the resolution was about to be put in action, two deer, fine

antlered customers, made their appearance about three hundred yards from

us, out on a small plain, where their sprightly forms could just be made

out as they leisurely stepped along. Getting near "old traps," he soon

convinced us that his eye was still open, although we had concluded he

was fast asleep. The sharp, whip-like crack of "old traps'" rifle

brought down one of the deer, and the other, in bounds of thirty or

forty feet at a spring, whisked nearly over us, and the Doctor and I

fired at the flying deer as he came; neither shot took effect, and off

he sped.

"Hurrah! for the old boy!" shouted the Doctor, as we all bustled up to

where the deer lay kicking and plunging in his death throes. "By Jove,

'traps,' you've put a ball clean through his head!"

"Yes, sir," said traps; "I ollers fix game that way, myself."

"Except when you fix them with the traps, eh?" said I.

"'Zactly," said traps. "But now, boys," he continued loading up his

rifle, "now let's snatch off the creature's hide, quarter it, and travel

back to the camp, for we ain't gwoine to have any more deer to-night."

This was soon accomplished. Trap seized the hind quarters and hide, and

travelled; Doctor and I brought up the rear with the rest of the meat

and fat.

To avoid the muddy "bottom," in going back, we concluded to take a

little round-about way, and relieved one another by taking "spells" at

carrying the rifles and the meat. We jogged along, chatting away, for

some time, when it occurred to us that we were getting very near the

camp, or ought to be, for we had walked long and fast enough.

Doctor was trudging on ahead with the meat; I was behind some twenty

yards with both rifles; we were passing through some thin timber which

skirted a little prairie, out on which we could see quite distinctly;

Doctor made a sudden halt--

"Hollo! by Jove, what's that?"

"What? eh? where?" said I, bustling up to the Doctor, who made free to

drop the meat, wheeled about, snatched his rifle out of my fists and


"A grizzly bear coming, by thunder!"

Upon that hint there were two gentlemen seen hurrying themselves

somewhat, I reckon, on the back track. Doctor was what you might call

a fast trotter, but when he broke into a full gallop the odds against me

were dreadful! I was fairly distanced, and when perfectly blowed out

stopped to pull the briars out of my torn trowsers, scratched face and

dishevelled locks, listen to the enemy, and ascertain where the Doctor

had got to. No sound broke the reigning stillness, save the sonorous

"coo-hoot" of an owl. My rifle was empty, and a search satisfied me that

my caps were not to be found. My own cap had also disappeared in the

fright, and I was in a bad way for defence, and completely at a dead

loss as to the bearings of the camp.

"Well," thinks I, "it's no particular use crying over spilt milk--it's

no use to move when there is no idea existing of bettering one's self,

so here I'll roost until daylight, unless Doctor comes back to hunt me

up!" I judged it was not far from 2 o'clock, A. M., and believed it

possible that our venison might only whet a grizzly bear's appetite to

follow up the pursuit and gormandize me!--A proper site for a roost

was the next matter of importance, and a scrubby oak with a thick top,

close by, offered an inviting elevation to lodge.

A long, long time seemed the coming day; and the sharp air of its

approach, and heavy dew, made "perching" in a crotch very fatiguing


When light began to dawn, sliding down I took an observation that

convinced me, according to Indian signs, that Doctor and I had gone

South too far to hit the camp, and, to the best of my reckoning, the old

bee tree was not far out of my way, and that I now struck for.

About noon, and a lovely day it was, I discovered the bee tree, made a

dinner on honey, which was scattered about considerably, giving evidence

of its having been visited by our rugged Russian friends.

And now, feeling anxious to see human faces, and not linger about a spot

where troublesome customers might abound, I made tracks for the camp,

which was reached about sundown, and where I found, to my regret, the

Doctor had not come in yet.

"Old Traps" had returned all safe enough, and had been prophesying "the

boys" were lost, and would not soon be found again. However, the old

fellow put away his deer skin, which he had been cleaning, &c., to give

me a feed of the deer, a few remnants yet remaining, and from my

exercise and fasting, never was a rude meal more luxurious. Two of the

party, with one of the black boys, and a mule, had been out since noon

in quest of us, and about midnight they returned with the Doctor, who

congratulated me on what he had estimated as an escape. So did I. We all

concluded it was a DEER hunt! Though we "had a time" at the bee

tree, next night, that made us about square.