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William K. and the Woods Colt

While he lived in Texas, W.K. had taken in a retarded boy to live with his family in their wilderness home. This boy, Wilbur, about seventeen, was what was then called a "woods colt" -- a homeless waif who had just wandered in, his parents perhaps killed by Indians.

Wilbur loved hunting and woodsmanship: he followed Billy everywhere, practically becoming his shadow. W.K. and Wilbur were out in the woods one late fall afternoon hunting turkeys, having loaded their big fifty caliber flintlocks with birdshot for the purpose. Their keen eyes searched the low trees.

The older man's dark brown hair under his plainsman's hat was trimmed just short of his powerful shoulders, which were set on a muscular six-foot four-inch frame, the fringed buckskin shirt enhancing his handsome appearance. The younger man, too, was dressed in smoke-brown fringed buckskin, wearing on his round-shaped head a coonskin cap and a childlike expression on his moom face.

Suddenly, as they passed through a glade, Billy pivoted his lithe body to the right, freezing into an action-ready, listening posture. Wilbur whispered as he, too, immobilized himself, "What is it, Uncle Billy?" At this moment, six scurrying wolf-like shapes shot through the small clearing in eery silence, their yellow eyes appraising the man-things as they passed.

Cautioning the lad to silence with a hand signal, W.K. moved close to him and whispered, "Them's Injun scoutin dogs -- thar's prob'ly a Commanche raidin' party near. We'll have tuh make fer the river. Ah knows whar thar's a drift we can fort up in." If his ruse worked, he reasoned, they would not only elude the war party, but would lead the Indians further away from discovering his family in the log fortress compound.

After several miles of running, Wilbur gasped, "Uncle Billy, Ah'm a gittin' tard." W.K. clutched his arm and yanked him onward, growling, "Keep them short laigs a locomotin' if yo' wont tuh keep yore ha'ar." As they kept up the swift jog, their moccasined feet treading silently over the frosty ground, W.K.'s frontier-trained ear detected faint sounds of pursuit behind them. Exultant yelps of the warriors came as the scout dogs led them to the white-eyes' trail.

As they neared the Palo Pinto River, the pair put on an extra burst of speed. Billy warned Wilbur, "Now when we git tuh the river thar's a big driftwood bar we can wade out to. Don't stop. Hold yer rifle and powder horn high and wade right out thar. Hide durned good in them drift logs, but hold yore far and don't do no shootin' less'n ah tell yuh to."

On coming to the river's edge, they slowed their pace so as not to splash as they entered the icy water; wading out shoulder deep in the swift current about one hundred feet to the bar in the middle of the river where they crawled in among the logs. Instantly, they unloaded the birdshot from their rifles and rammed down the fifty-caliber balls. Then they found natural loopholes for their rifles and settled down to wait.

In a short time, a party of about a dozen gaudily painted and feather-bedecked warriors burst out of the timber and onto the river's edge. They searched up and down the shore for a while and then gestured and pointed at the driftbar. Billy swiftly noted that none of the braves had firearms, being equipped only with yew bows and obsidian-headed lances. (It is not known why these Indians, who were great horsemen were on foot, but possibly their horses had been stolen by Apaches as horse stealing was a perpetual game among Indian tribes.)

As the bold Red Men entered the water and began to wade toward the white-eyes' hiding place, Billy studied the demeanor of the oncoming braves for a moment, making a split-second calculation as to which of the attackers was the leader. His practiced eye unerringly picked him out as he aligned the sights of the big rifle on the hapless warrior's head. The Indian's fierce eyes glared like those of an eagle as he boldly waded the strong current toward their driftwood ambuscade, his bow at the ready.

W.K. let the dauntless brave get half the distance to his driftwood breastworks before "teching off" his long-barreled Tennessee rifle. At the thunderous boom, the chief disappeared into the water as the cloud of black powder smoke rose in the air. Pandemonium broke loose as the dismayed warriors clutched their fallen leader and dragged him to shore, where for a time they scurried and darted about aimlessly. But the tumult gradually subsided as a new war leader took charge.

As W.K. swiftly reloaded his rifle in the gathering dusk, he pondered a scheme for escape. They could probably hold out till darkness, for the braves would not very likely wish to face the two powerful rifles again in daylight.

The Indians dispersed, gathered wood, and made a big fire around which a wild and furious war dance began. Billy soon deduced their intentions and told Wilbur, "The devils air a goin' tuh th'o' far brands out hyar and burn us out." Darkness came, and as the war dance gained momentum, shrill yells and blood-curdling war cries rent the air. Billy knew the dance would soon reach its crescendo and the firebrand-throwing stage. He instructed Wilbur to roll into the water on the side away rom the firelight -- to drift and wade silently, letting the current carry them down stream, low in the water, carrying his rifle and powder horn high. The vengeance-crazed Commanches launched their brands amid shrill war cries as the grim pair drifted in the icy water. After half a mile of drifting down river, under the moonless sky, Billy said, "We cain't last any longer in this cold warter, we'll have tuh chance it on gittin' out hyar."

As they crawled from the river, the cold closed down on the miserable pair like a frigid vise. "We'll have tuh run for it or we'll freeze," warned Billy. As they ran through the frosty wilderness, their water-soaked buckskins, froze on them, becoming like clanking armor. As the miles reeled off, Wilbur tired and began to stagger and wobble. Billy grabbed his arm, supporting and steadying him with his great strength, saying, "Slow the pace a bit, boy, we cain't quit now when we hain't got much further to go." With this encouragement, the lad got his "second wind" and they soon saw the welcome light inside the palisade wall.

After being admitted by the frightened family, Billy's anxious wife quickly heated tubs of water, directing W.K. and Wilbur to get in the wooden horse trough where she poured warm water over their frozen buckskins so they could get out of them. She wrapped them in blankets, gave each a shot of whiskey and put them to bed, saying, "Paw, don't you worry none about them Injuns attackin' us. Me and the boys will stand guard tonight with the rifle guns."

This story was written by Bill Stubblefield.