Publication Year: 2010
Published by: TCU Press
Prologue: Coup 1869
The horse was a two-year-old dark palomino, sixteen hands tall. Bose Ikard had picked him out first thing in the picket corral, his neck slung way up over the others in the milling and the dust. His eyes were wild but interested in all these creatures yelling, whistling, assaulting them with coils of rope. There weren’t many broncs of such promise in the Palo Pinto country, and the peelers wasted no time moving these through. ...
Part I: Dirt Luck, 1860-1868
If Bose Ikard had to labor another life, he hoped to be relieved of doctors. At fourteen he was the property of a physician who had given him his name in Noxubee County, Mississippi, while living along a stream called the Tombigbee—all those places as foreign to Bose’s ears as the Bight of Biafra, which was where his people probably came from, his owner once told him with a chuckle. ...
The home guard rangers styled themselves “the Frontier Regiment” and “Minute Men,” that last one encouraged by the legislature. About a hundred fifty plainsmen, cowboys, bail jumpers, Bible thumpers, a few Tonkawas, and two cavalry platoons had gone out on that punitive expedition. But it was no good sign that the riders from the Palo Pinto country answered to three different commands. Cornering a bunch of Comanches required discipline, and this bunch had none. ...
Nocona and his sons Quanah and Peanut had been up in canyons of the Little Red River hunting when the Texans raged through their camp. All the fighting men were. In prime coat the buffalo were moving south, driven by the cold weather, and the hunters were waiting for them in gullies and ravines as they came bucking and skidding down their ancestral trails off the flat and treeless grassland, the llano. ...
Nocona sat in the Canadian bottom until the moon was high. He’d missed his supper: a woman in the camp had offered, but he had little appetite these days. As he started back a sound of bulk erupted from a cottonwood, and a Great-Horned Owl, dark as charcoal in the light, beat its heavy wings to stay aloft and crossed the river right in front of him—gave him a terrible fright. Owl could be many things. ...
A few miles north of Fort Worth, in country that still lost some horses to the Indians but was largely secure from raiders, a newlywed man named Coho Smith drew wages as a dry goods store clerk in a hamlet called Azle. He got his name from the Spanish cojo, crippled or wobbly. Orphaned by a Dutch family, Smith had been adopted by Mexicans who brought him up in the village of Santa Rosa on the R
Praise the Lord and Abraham Lincoln—Bose Ikard was a free man. Which at the moment inclined him to believe he was crazy. Would a sane man of his own choosing be naked in the saddle with the Pecos River a flooding brown froth before him, and a norther blowing in? Charles Goodnight sat beside Bose stuffing boots and pistol and that day’s clothes in a rubber bag he claimed was waterproof. ...
Part II: Steal the Fire, 1870-1873
From a tear-shaped window of limestone a cascade fell into a pool of clear water that broadened out with the infant Acunacup Neovit into a canyon of tall woods and deep marshy grass. Filled with bass and perch, the river coursed over the white rock and then back and forth on a broad sand bed. In the spring, blankets of burnt red and yellow firewheels stretched between prickly pear and shin oak, and the air streamed and danced with wisps of floating cottonwood. ...
And so it was that Quanah smoked the pipe of a Kiowa offering to be headman of the raid. Dohasan had skin the rich dark color of a bay horse. His cheekbones and brow had little room for his eyes; he had a permanent squint. Some said Dohasan’s name meant Little Mountain—others, Top of the Cliff. In his lodge that night he wore a tangled mess of earrings and necklaces, a shirt decorated with pelts of ermine and strips of Navajo scalp, and an elk-skin sash dyed red. ...
Shot in the throat as it nosed into a clearing at first light, the mule deer had grown heavy and rank on Quanah’s shoulders as he followed José and his clabber-colored horse through mesquite and huisache. The country at the foot of the mountains was flat, the air dusty and stifling, and the deer was just gutted, legs and meat still in the skin, so it was heavy; but Quanah insisted on honoring the bargain. ...
Charles Goodnight’s new ranch in Colorado was the prairie floor of a canyon cut through foothills of the Greenhorn Mountains by twenty-five miles of Arkansas River. Cheyenne power that long dominated that country had been broken by the army that came with completion of the Union Pacific and Kansas Pacific railroads. Goodnight was always in search of netherworlds for his cattle growing, and this was an exceptional find. Blizzards howled across the tableland plains but left just traces of snow on the sheltered bunchgrass below. ...
Quanah was shamed by how much he moaned and groaned over the mauling by that bull—his ribs and breastbone healed with a rapidity that amazed him. In a week he could mount a horse, and in two he could ride one at a lope. One day when they were riding through the ranch’s best grassland, John Parker asked him if he would consider staying on with them. “I’ve got some years on me, and I’m feeling them. ...
Old Wolf’s wife had died from some feverish malady that struck hard and fast, taking her in just three days. While still a child To-ha-yea cooked for her father, scraped and tanned deer hides, wove baskets. From her grandmother and other women in her clan she learned that the universe was composed of twelve black winds, that it was taboo to spill water on an eagle feather. And that she should say words of thanks to White Painted Woman whenever a child was born in good health and a lodge was put up. ...
Against his better judgment, Bose had joined the buffalo soldiers. After the journey down through Santa Fe and Las Cruces, the Medicine Hat paint and mule had gotten him safely over the Pecos wasteland to the Palo Pinto country, where he found that Doctor Ikard, his father, was dead of a heart attack. It didn’t matter to one soul that he had once fed soup to Cynthia Ann Parker...
A year had passed since Quanah had come into the canyon country with a fine herd of horses stolen out of Mexico and a beautiful young wife on the best one, a thick-chested bay. Quanah thought the stars had at last lined up with favor in his sky. That fall’s hunt had gone well. Parra-o-coom had approved of his bargaining with Old Wolf and had sent out young carriers and captive Mexican packers with one hundred buffalo robes for the Mescaleros in exchange for three hundred horses and mules that enriched his herd and those of his elder war chiefs. ...
William Tecumseh Sherman had distributed his command among officers who served with him and fought with valor in the War against the Southern Rabble, as he put it. He was not thrilled now by having to put down a guerrilla insurrection of horse thieves and nomads. “When they laugh at our credulity, rape our women, burn whole trains with their drivers to cinders, and send word that they never intended to keep their treaties, then we must submit or we must fight them,” Sherman told an audience in Chicago. ...
Unaware of General Sherman’s existence, Quanah and his wife were camped with the other Quohada in upper Blanco Canyon. It was a gentler place than Palo Duro and Tule and other breaks in the escarpment. The Clear Fork of the Brazos meandered from headwater springs through a corridor of cottonwoods and willows, rolling swells of bunchgrass, sloping bluffs marked by clinging juniper and other brush, canyon rims of caliche and sandstone. ...
Bad Hand Mackenzie’s troops moved up the canyon slowly, their progress impeded by hundreds of buffalo and the treacherous burrows of an endless prairie dog town. They passed a series of rag-tag adobes and lean-tos of brush, comanchero camps. The Tonks, who answered to names that included Lincoln, Grant, Old Henry, Job, and One Armed Charlie, took the lead among the scouts, having convinced the colonel that they could smell Comanches. ...
Quanah couldn’t remember taking so cold a bath. The pool he sat in now was the headwater of Acunacup Neovit, the river the Texans called the Pease. It was the second day after the norther and blizzard. The pool was stirred by the bubbling release of the springs and the thin waterfall pouring over the lip. The sky was cloudless and brilliant, melting icicles pattered on the translucent white rock that enclosed the pool, but the air was cold enough to pull up feathers of steam. ...
The smell of Comanches standing close around was not a comforting aroma. As the audience in the camp glared and snickered and curs growled between their ankles, Quanah ordered Bose to strip everything off Tricks and Juneteen. When the saddle, packsaddle, panniers, blankets, bridle, halters, and ropes were dumped in a pile, a dog ran up and bit a stirrup like it was a living thing. Quanah approached Bose’s nervous paint gelding and tall black mule. ...
Never letting Bose forget his exhibition on the honey-colored horse, Quanah put him to work breaking stolen colts and outlaw brutes that did not care to be ridden. Bose had to learn their way of staying on a horse, doing it the hard way. The saddles they used were at best pads with a bit of support for the backside; there were no stirrups. Many just rode bareback. ...
Weckeah and her women friends and kin twittered like chickadees over her pregnancy, but like all mothers born Comanche she had fits of dread about losing the baby. She quit riding her horses and ordered To-ha-yea and Bose to fetch things for her that a child could have carried. Weckeah had a ravenous appetite for the plums, sumac berries, onions, and sunchokes that women in the band foraged in the Concho bottom, but she had trouble keeping food down and suffered wrenching cramps...
The riders who came over the rise above the camp weren’t Bad Hand’s soldiers. Their faces and horses were war-painted and they wore hats of buffalo scalp and horns; they were Eckitoacup, his son Tannap, and young Quohada who envied Quanah and his bunch and all the horses they had and were spoiling for a fight that would decree the band’s future. But in passing the pipe, Eckitoacup said his purpose was to reclaim his honor and avenge Quanah’s eloping with his son Tannap’s rightfully claimed bride. ...
Quanah had never before asked permission to come inside Bose’s lodge—courtesy wasn’t part of his nature—but he had also never before come through the flap pointing a .44 Colt. “She’s doing this because of you!” he yelled. ...
Capulin Mountain looked like half the summit had been blown off, and lava cinders were indeed strewn all over northeast New Mexico Territory. White men claimed the volcano was dead now, but people who knew and lived around the mountain were certain it could erupt anytime, because sleet and snow would not stick to the rocks and ground. ...
Into his adobe, in that time and place where he clung to hopes and illusions, came the joy of children singing. The Americans had changed the name of the cluster of riverside hamlets to Lincoln, but the Mexicans continued to call them Placitas del R
Part III: The Blood-Stained Grass, 1874-1875
Quanah thought the Cheyennes were haughty and vain. Their presence always made him edgy. All peoples thought spring grass and flowers sprouted anywhere they left a footprint, but the Cheyennes were arrogant to an extreme. They would go around shirtless with an inch of ice on the water in order to show off their Sun Dance scars. Quanah had several times been a guest at these affairs, when the Cheyennes made their camps on the Canadian and the Washita. ...
The hunters called themselves hide men. On the boardwalks of Dodge City they advertised their profession by never cutting their hair. They styled around in dungarees and knee boots, the grime and stench of themselves made acceptable by the money they lavished on the whores and whiskey and faro games. The busiest and most efficient of them were making a hundred and fifty dollars a day. ...
Through the night the warriors of the five peoples strung out smoking and waiting in a long grove of cottonwoods in the Canadian bottom, with their leaders and Bose gathered at the rear. After seeing what Quanah’s signals and Bose’s bugle could do with their horsemen in practice maneuvers away from the Walls—it turned into a game, of course—the war leaders generally if grudgingly consented that his bugle was the best way to bridge the languages and maintain communication. ...
The horses had been snorting and sidestepping, anxious to go. Quanah aimed his black forward, then banged his heels against its ribs and raised the lance. The war whoop erupted at the center of the column and as thousands of hooves thudded it billowed upward and out and reached full cry. Prairie dogs skedaddled; meadowlarks and a covey of quail blew upward, followed by the ungainly flapping of the buzzards. ...
Quanah’s horse coughed, staggered, and fell. There was no chance to mourn the black, for it couldn’t have happened in a worse place. They were out in the open, far from any wagons or hide ricks, and the eagle-feathered bonnet clearly marked Quanah for who he was. The hunters’ bullets chewed up ground and grass everywhere around him. ...
Part IV: Peyote Road, 1909
An old man dozed in the front porch shade. Two legs of the cane-bottomed chair, and both of his, were poised in the air. A dark hand rose and brushed off a fly that scrabbled in coils of white beard. Actually a bee, judging from the thump against his hatbrim. A bead of sweat caught a rib and slid all the way to his spine. Annoyances. ...
As Garrett’s buggy came into the outskirts of Mineral Wells, they were overtaken by a jackass party in a merry hurry. Concessionaires had taken to renting donkeys to health faddists for scenic outings up in the hills. The women in this bunch jiggled on sidesaddles; their hats were laden with paper flowers and waxed fruit. The suited men whacked their burros into a trot with riding crops. ...
...“Oh, that’s a shame.” She stood and with a rustle of her skirt moved between chairs toward him. He remembered a hoyden grabbing a fistful of buckskin and with a show of young bare legs leaping on a horse with a blanket for a saddle. She lifted his hat from his hands, placed it aside, and took the chair next to him. ...
I grew up in country along the Texas side of the Red River that was not peaceably settled until the Comanches and Kiowas gave up their resistance in the 1870s. Nearby small towns named Quanah and Nocona honored our history with the names and steadily percolating lore, but not with statues. One day a friend and I clambered across the eerie Medicine Mounds and explored the bend of the Pease River where the rangers of Sul Ross and Charles Goodnight captured the Comanche woman who turned out to be Cynthia Ann Parker. ...
Page Count: 404
Publication Year: 2010
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Comanche Sundown