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A STRANGER CAME TO TOWN
TALES OF AN ARIZONA RANGER
By NOLAN GENE FONDREN
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Nolan Gene Fondren
All rights reserved.
His parents named him Patrick William Graham, Jr. when he was born just outside of Gainesville, Texas to Patrick William Graham and Janene Graham. Janene was a five foot two and a half inch tall ninety pound girl of seventeen. Will was a twenty five year old quarter Cherokee who stood five foot six inches tall and weighed 130 pounds. With parents of such stature he was destined to be short. It was going to be one of the driving factors for much of his life.
Because of Will's relationship with the Cherokee Nation and the proximity of a Cherokee village the small boy, who was called Pat, was accepted as a future member of the tribe. He was the same age as the chief's son, Leaping Wolf, and they were closest friends and by the time they were four they had become blood brothers. They were trained by their fathers to sharpen their knives and keep them clean and polished. They kept them on their belts at all times. Leaping Wolf's mother's brother taught the boys to make a bow and bow string. He taught them that Osage Orange or horse apple trees made the best bows. He also taught them that cat tendons and cat gut made the best possible string but buffalo tendons was next best if no cats were available.
He showed them how to pick arrow shafts, make flint and obsidian arrowheads, mount them on the shafts, and put fletching on the shafts. They were taught to align the feathers with the arrowhead. Will taught them how to make metal arrow heads and keep them sharp. They were shown how to mark their arrows with their clan's mark and their personal mark. Pat's mark was two vertical lines crossed through by two diagonal lines followed by a horizontal line.
Then they were taught to shoot their bows and both became quite accurate. Then along with all the other boys in the village they were taught to track and stalk. They were taught to trap game or shoot it with bow and arrow. As they approached their fifth birthday they were taught to use a throwing stick and spear. Neither father accepted an empty hunting bag at the end of the day without a very strong reason. They made games out of practicing and whenever possible worked as a team. They did well on every hunt which made many of the older boys jealous. They became the butts of a lot of bullying, until one of the older boys used his newly prepared coup stick on them and left bruises that couldn't be hidden.
Not wanting to directly intervene, Will showed Pat how to make his own coup stick out of gnarled horse apple or Beau D'Arc root or a stem of the same tree where a thick root met a nodule or a stem twisted into knobby knot. He taught Pat how to round the nodule or the knot so that a strike on the head of an opponent usually caused a large goose egg sized knot on the head without killing the victim. Pat naturally passed this information on to Leaping Wolf. They each made a coup stick of their own approximately thirty inches long. They found that these were too long and heavy for them to swing properly at their age. They made a second stick that was twenty four inches long but found they could not wield it properly either so they made a shorter stick that was eighteen inches long with a slightly smaller knot or nodule so that the balance was better for their smaller wrists. They kept them hidden until both their fathers had taught them how to fight with them. Then Leaping Wolf's uncle taught them all the tricks, twists and turns that he had learned in fifteen years of fighting.
For three weeks they practiced in hiding with these three adults until they knew every trick that any of the adults could teach them. For the next three weeks they set their traps and snares then practiced with their coup sticks and bows. Then one day at the end of their third week of practice, the bullies found their trap line.
The bullies stole the game they had caught and smashed their traps. They were able to bring down a brace of rabbits before returning home but they were late. After they showed their fathers their traps their fathers told them to take care of it. The next day they made and set new traps and snares and waited for the bullies to return. Three of the bullies took the first trapped animal. When they started breaking up the trap Pat stepped out and challenged them. They lifted their coup sticks and prepared to beat the smaller boy. They were surprised to see him lift a coup stick of his own. They were not too concerned with three to one odds, but were startled to hear a second challenge from behind them as Leaping Wolf joined the fray.
Two of the bullies attacked Pat and the third attacked Leaping Wolf. Within seconds all three of the bullies had been disarmed, two were unconscious and the third was being pummeled as both of the two smaller boys chased him back to the village. When they reached the village, the bully's screams for help were answered by four of his friends. The four new attackers came at Pat and Leaping Wolf with their coup sticks only to find themselves being out fought by half their number of smaller, younger and weaker enemies. Then, at almost the same instant both Pat and Leaping Wolf found out why they needed to use Osage Orange or horse apple for their coup sticks. The two younger boys each blocked an overhead strike from one of the bullies and with a flick of their wrist and a tricky twist brought their sticks crashing down in their own overhead attacks. The two bullies blocked their strikes and were shocked as the littler boys sticks crashed through their sticks breaking their sticks and smacking them squarely on top of their heads. The two bullies dropped like felled trees. Seeing their comrades fall, the three remaining bullies, two armed and one unarmed, ran for cover.
After that all the boys in the village had to try their skills against the two small brothers. Soon, all the older boys, even many of the young braves just promoted to adult, had to try and defeat these two small upstarts. The boys took some lumps, handed out a few lumps but win, lose or draw they learned a new trick or technique with every fight. Their prowess became so renowned that braves would come from miles away to test these youngsters. When the Kiowa Apaches migrated through the area the fame of the two had already reached their tribe and everyone under sixteen had to try these youngsters. They were soon acknowledged as masters of the coup stick before they turned six. At seven they started using their twenty four inch sticks which increased their prowess enormously.
The bullying had stopped and the two youngsters were protecting those other small ones and teaching them how to protect themselves. The more they taught the more they learned. They were soon left undisturbed to hunt and trap and practice tracking and stalking. They were better trackers than all but the top scouts and could disguise their trails so that only the very finest trackers could follow them. Their hunting prowess was due in no small part to their ability to stalk to within feet of their prey.
Shortly after Pat's sixth birthday, Will and Janene took him into Gainesville on a supply trip. Shortly after they arrived in town two men got into an argument over the upcoming conflict between the North and the South. The argument escalated into a fight and they backed off to use their guns. His parents couldn't get him under cover fast enough to keep him from seeing the shooting. Pat watched the two men draw and fire. He thought their hands moved like striking snakes. Both had been drinking a bit too much so when they fired one man was shot in the leg and the other one was missed entirely. Because nobody was hurt badly he didn't feel traumatized at all. The glamour of the gunfight only caused him to want to learn to draw fast.
He started picking up any bent stick he could find and practice drawing. Will saw his interest in guns so, he carved a copy of his Bass .44 pistol out of a two by six piece of white pine and then he fashioned a holster and gun belt to fit the boy. It held his knife and his holster and toy gun. On his sixth birthday Will gave the gun and gun belt to Pat. He showed him how to draw, how to adjust it to improve the speed of his draw and how to point and shoot without any other aiming. Pat drew that toy pistol every second of every day that he wasn't doing his chores. He drew that toy Pistol more than a hundred times a day and it seemed he got faster with every draw.
Will also gave Pat a Sharps .50 caliber rifle and taught him how to aim and shoot it. He practiced with thirty shots a day for a week then went after game. The last four days he never missed a target closer than 400 yards. The last two days he didn't miss a target. He had already been shooting game with his bow and arrow or throwing stick and spear. Therefore, Pat was already an excellent tracker and stalker. So, he found shooting with the Sharps a breeze because instead of getting within twenty to fifty feet he only had to get within a hundred yards. He always crept up to within a hundred yards of the target instead of the five hundred yards that was the range of the gun because Will made it clear that he had better have a real good reason for not having a piece of game for every round of ammunition he used.
Just after his ninth birthday Pat and Leaping Wolf went on a "hunting trip". A herd of wild horses had come through the day before so Pat took his rifle, his riata, lariats made of braided leather strips, and his bow and quiver and Leaping Wolf took his bow and quiver, his riata and his spear and throwing stick. They both borrowed one of their father's ponies and started tracking the herd. Each of the boys found two horses whose prints were easily recognizable and followed the herd. They followed the herd for two days until they rode into steep walled box canyon. When they caught up with the herd they found it was backed into a corner by a mountain lion. The herd stallion, standing twenty feet in front of his mares was holding the big cat at bay. They stopped a hundred feet behind and to the right of the cat. Pat slid from his mount and taking his Sharps .50 propped the gun on a rock outcropping, took aim and shot the puma just under the right shoulder.
The big cat jumped straight up into the air, landed on its feet, spun around and dropped dead where it stood. Their horses with Leaping Wolf still mounted stood in a narrow place in the canyon where the stallion could not easily ride past. Pat remounted and opened up the lariat swung out the loop and rode in and lassoed a dapple gray yearling colt and Leaping Wolf who had ridden up beside him lassoed a roan mare. They led the two ponies back into the narrow place in the canyon. The stallion with ten or fifteen members of his herd slipped past them while they were catching their two ponies. There were still four or five ponies in the back of the canyon so they decided to try to catch a couple more.
They hobbled and picketed the two ponies they had lassoed. They picketed their mounts and skinned the cougar, dressed it spread its blood across the narrow section of the canyon using its scent to keep the horses back. They lit three fires across that narrow section to further discourage the horses from trying to leave. They set one haunch of the big cat to roasting over one of their fires. Then one at a time they went and lassoed the five remaining ponies. One of them, it turned out, had a very young filly with her. They decide that each of them would take the first two horses he had caught, Pat would take the mother and filly and Leaping Wolf would take the other two. They wrapped the cougar meat in the skin, ate dinner of roasted cougar, prickly pear root and corndodgers. They took four hour watches and when morning came road back to the village. They bagged a javelina and a deer and a buffalo on the way back home so as not to return from a three day hunt empty handed. They draped the dead animals over the backs of two of their horses and made a travois for the buffalo from two poles they cut from a thicket near a creek running close to the spot where they shot the buffalo. They were told by the older bullies, that were even more jealous of them than before, when they got back to the village that they would have to give up three ponies to get the fourth one broken as they were too small to break the horses themselves.
There were two Nez Perce living with the Cherokee that year. The boys had assisted in finding the men who had taken two fine appaloosa horses. The horse thieves were white men. The boys led the sheriff, who had used the boys as trackers before, to the men and the horses and showed him how they had tracked them and how the Nez Perce had marked their horses' ears. The sheriff took the horse thieves into custody and returned the appaloosa ponies of the Nez Perce to their owners.
When they heard how the older boys were trying to mistreat their young benefactors, they came up and said "Nez Perce owe debt to young ones. Bring horses and we will teach you to train horses in Nez Perce way."
They had turned the buffalo over to Leaping Wolf's mother and the deer and javelina over to Janene. The remainder of the mountain lion they shared with the Nez Perce for the three days it took to train their horses. They went to the largest stock pond on the Graham ranch where the Nez Perce put a bridal, blanket and saddle on Pat's dapple grey. They attached the dapples reins to the pommels of the two appaloosas. When they said left the appaloosa on the left pulled that direction while the one on the right pushed into the right shoulder. When they said right the one on the right pulled and the one on the left pushed. After an hour of turning first one direction then the other, they moved in to the pond until the dapple was up to his withers. The Nez Perce had Pat swim out to the dapple grey and get into his saddle. They handed him the reins and told him to call out the direction he was going to turn. They continued to push when Pat pulled on the opposite rein. After an hour they no longer needed to push.
After the third hour they rode off to join Leaping Wolf and repeat the process with his roan mare. They told Pat to stay in deep water for another hour before moving into shallower and shallower water. By the end of five hours, Pat was out on dry land and Dap was responding to his every move of knee or rein or heel. Pat picketed the dapple and finished cooking the haunch of the cougar that Leaping Wolf had started and roasted a few potatoes from his mother's garden. When Leaping Wolf finished and walked his pony out of the water they ate lunch. Then, the boys mounted on dry land and though the horses both folded their ears back they didn't try to buck. The boys dismounted and picketed the horses with the others and got out two more ponies to train. Pat had put the remainder of the cougar in the smokehouse. He finally went to his parents and told them of the real hunt they had gone on. He asked his mother if she would fix supper for Leaping Wolf and the two Nez Perce.
When his father heard that the Nez Perce were teaching the boys their training techniques he was shocked. Those were secrets kept among the Nez Perce and a few rarely honored friends of the tribe. Janene said she would be glad to feed them. Will told his son he wanted to see the horses and wanted to thank the Nez Perce. When Will rode back to the pond with Pat the two Nez Perce became very stiff until Pat introduced his father and Will thanked them profusely and invited them to supper that night.
When they found out Will was Pat's father they began praising Pat and Leaping Wolf and how the boys had saved their bands top breeding studs. They told that colts from these two studs had won the Nez Perce endurance race for the last three years for all groups. And that the two years prior to that each of these two stallions had won the race. This made the stud fees for these two horses one of the clan's main sources of income and pride. These two tribal elders had been sent to retrieve their studs. Had it not been for the boys' reputation and their connections with the local law enforcement officers the two Nez Perce would have never had their claim recognized.
Excerpted from A STRANGER CAME TO TOWN by NOLAN GENE FONDREN. Copyright © 2013 Nolan Gene Fondren. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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