Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

The Pawnees Try to Frighten Us

We had camped in a slight depression of the prairie, and were just about eating the noonday meal, when the distant trampling of hoofs told me that a party of some considerable size was approaching.

I had barely time to spring to my feet before twenty-three mounted Pawnees, all armed with bows and arrows, rode up over the crest of land, halting there an instant as if to measure our strength.

Because they were not in full paint, I understood that it was a hunting party, and therefore I gave the word for our men to arm themselves without delay, for it is true that in the wilderness one expects the savages will take advantage of any opportunity to work mischief.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

John Mitchell was not disposed to obey the command, fearing lest if we made any show of warlike preparations it would only incite the Indians to anger, but, fortunately, the other men did as I told them.

Marshaling this little force, I moved out from among the wagons, bidding every fellow to stand firm, while I motioned for the savages to keep back. However, they urged their ponies on at full speed, riding toward us like fiends, and, as I knew very well, striving to throw us into a panic, in which case there is no question but that they would have plundered the camp.

Because I was the guide, it was necessary for me to take on the greater share of the danger, and, stepping four or five paces in advance of my comrades, I made signs for the savages to keep away, at the same time leveling my rifle.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

The band was coming down upon us at the full speed of their ponies, when I thus gave evidence that it was my intention to fire if they continued, and immediately the horses were checked, the band riding off toward the south, leaving the leader behind.