PIONEER HISTORY OF KANSAS
Looking back over the gulf of sixty years I now know how little one is able to judge from the present what may be the outcome of the future. When I look upon the towns, churches, schoolhouses, the golden wheatfields and beautiful cultivated farms now found where once the buffalo roamed at will and the coyote howled a dismal dirge, I realize how sadly amiss was my idea of the future of the plains of Kansas. Even the men who passed many years in the great game region of Kansas never intended making it their permanent home, but come to hunt and to live the wild, free life of the frontiersman, expecting sometime to settle farther east in the region of more regular rainfall.
Finishing the kill with a butcher knife, the fore part of May, 1869
small of the back and it fell down on its haunches in a sitting posture. The remaining four came toward me and when I fired one came down, only to get on his feet the next moment. I had broken his shoulder but brought him to earth with my next shot.
Now the boys who had been watching from the dugout came running with the butcher knives and wheelbarrow to bring home the meat.
George Seely had just bought a new rifle and wanted to try it on the buffalo Cook had wounded. He fired at him, shot after shot without any visible effect. To put the brute out of his misery Cook said he would shoot him in the eye so the bullet would range upward into his brain, but after the shot the buffalo only blinked his eye and a few drops of blood trickled from the wound. The animal made several attempts to get on his feet whereupon the boys would scatter in all directions. I kept a safe distance in the rear, as I had heard of wounded buffaloes bounding to their feet and chasing the hunter. Now we were shown how great is the vitality of a buffalo, carrying a great number of apparently mortal wounds.
Charley Sylvester armed himself with a butcher knife and got behind the animal and upon his back. From this position he would drive the knife into the buffalos side. The poor beast, with fiery eyes and streaming nostrils endeavoring to throw off his tormentor, until after being stabbed repeatedly and the knife driven to the handle in his side he rolled over and expired, carrying beside the knife wounds half a dozen or more from the rifles.
Another band of five buffalo once approached the station from the east. Cook and I posted ourselves in the ravine, as usual, to intercept them. When they came within fifty yards they saw our heads above the bank and stopped, all standing abreast. I thought at that distance I could kill one by shooting
NOTE: As has been stated the buffaloes that were killed around Fossil Creek Station were nearly all killed from hiding places in the ravines. However, there were six or eight old buffalo carcasses lying on a large space of level ground northeast of the station where there were no hiding places to be used by hunters on foot. These certainly were killed by hunters mounted on horseback, I thought. As it was well known that Buffalo Bill (Cody) had been furnishing buffalo meat to railroad graders along the lines in 1867 while the road was being graded through here, I attributed these old carcasses as the remains of his work. In the winter time when we were poisoning wolves for their pelts I often set poison bait on these carcasses, as the wolves were in the habit of going to these carcasses, and from one to the other, when in search of food.
him in the breast. I have tried this several times but could not kill one by a direct front shot. While Cook was waiting for them to turn their sides to us, I fired and they all ran until nearly out of range and stopped, when we both fired. While I was stooping behind the bank reloading my rifle Cook called out, Johnnie, yours is down, and when I looked up, ready to fire again, both were down. The remaining three ran southwest, crossing the ravine, where the one I had wounded at the first shot laid down while the others continued running until out of sight. I crawled along in the ravine quite near to the wounded buffalo and was about to give him his death shot when Cook fired at long range from the higher ground. The shot failed to kill the animal, but had the astonishing effect of making him get up and lumber away at a good pace to rejoin his companions.
We walked up to the dead ones. Mine was a four or five-year-old bull, the largest of the two and in extra fine condition. I cut off the hindquarters, the hump and the best parts of the front quarters and shipped them to my brother-in-law in Manhattan, Kansas. He told me afterwards that he paid nine dollars express on the meat. It weighed 450 pounds. He sold one of the quarters to a local butcher for twelve dollars. The front quarters of a buffalo are much larger than the hind quarters. I thought I had shipped about half of the meat. Making allowance for offal I estimated the weight of the animal on foot to be about 1,600 pounds.
The honor, if I may be allowed to so name it, of killing the buffalo nearest to our dugout fell to me. It was in December after the fall exodus for the south was over and no buffalo had been seen for some time, that a lone animal was sighted coming across the prairie from the southwest and headed straight for the station. Cook and I got our rifles but waited at the dugout observing the buffalos course before retiring to the ravines. When he seemed to take an easterly direction, Cook got into the ravine while I was yet undecided. Presently he turned and came toward me. Cook fired and hit him in the hindquarters, when instead of running he turned slowly about with his side toward me. I was lying flat on the ground. It was getting dark so I could hardly see the sights of my rifle but I shot and killed him with the first shot.
As we gathered around the slain buffalo we were disappointed , judging from the rings on his horns his age must
have been forty years or more. He was a superannuated male who had been driven out of the herd, according to the buffalos custom, as they pass south and left as a prey to the wolves. His hide loked like that of an elephant, no hair or fur remaining. None of us wanted to eat the meat, however we thought it might go all right if sent to the inhabitants of Ellsworth. Cook had done some trading in that town with a man named Beebe, who handled provisions and meats, so we got him to make a sale for us.
In order to conceal, in a measure, the age and decreptitude of the buffalo we skinned him and instructed John Cook to say (it was not customary to skin buffalo in those days) that we wanted the hide for a robe. Now, of course, this was not according to scripture, but a lenient public will perhaps be kind enough, after the lapse of so many years to lay this little diversion to boys tricks, large boys, still full of tricks.
Well the hindquarters of the buffalo were shipped and sold to Beebe and the amount taken in tobacco for the boys, as I did not use the weed I got no benefit from the deal, but I was keenly anxious to know what satisfaction the meat had given. At my request Cook made inquiries on his next visit to Ellsworth and reported there was no complaint.
People have changed as well as the country. Nowadays half the beef sold is bought and eaten under peevish complaint yet how seldom does a butcher have an aged beef on his block.
NOTE: Jerome Beebe was one of the pioneer merchants who located at Ellsworth and there, for more than thirty years, his store of general merchandise stood open six days in the week until his death. Through thick and thin (and often there was more thin than thick) he conducted this commiserial for the people, and it is safe to say that much of the necessities of life that passed over his counter in those trying times was paid for only in the coin of a grateful and needy people, a currency that makes silver and gold as dead as autumn leaves in comparison.