Sunday, May 2, 2010
Ruth’s Record About Her Father Written 1937
My father, David W. Hamaker came to Nebraska with his brother and family 49 years ago this December. They made the trip in a covered wagon from Marysville, Kansas, and first settled in the Deadman country close to Fort Robinson.
Dad worked at the Fort for awhile after he first came. He was there when there was so much trouble with the Indians. About the time, the band escaped from the guardhouse and were not caught until they had gained the Hat Creek Valley. Dad says he helped plant some of the trees now so stately swaying above the streets of Fort Robinson.
A few years later Dad moved out near Running Water with his mother, had taken a tree claim, and in 1900 Dad filed on his homestead, his present home.
Dad has told many interesting things of his early years in Sioux County, some of which I will relate.
One of the first years they were here, Dad’s sister was boarding the school teacher who taught in the district, known as No.1 now. She was very afraid of Indians so, insisted the gun be loaded and left handy. Dad loaded the gun (an old powder musket) and hung it over the door. It hung there nearly two years. The teacher never saw an Indian. Then, thinking it best not to have a loaded gun about, Dad took it out , put the stock against a tree and pulled the trigger. He says there was no bark left on that side of the tree in the immediate vicinity of the gun.
Dad tells of another family, who lived on the table south of Deadman, from Missouri who had a horror of an Indian attack. One windy, moonlite night someone went to the window and saw a figure, crouched low come slinking over the horizon, then another and another. With frantic hast they locked and barred windows and doors, got what protective means they had and waited, dying a thousand deaths before sunrise but, never an Indian came.
Next day, against the fence, was a pile of many big tumble weeds that had blown in and lodged during the night. This was the nearest that family came to being scalped. They went back to Missouri very soon.
Dad tells of hunting antelope in the timber on Deep Creek. He and another fellow started out very early one misty foggy morning to kill antelope. They tied their horses in a pocket near the top of a ridge and taking separate courses, they started out. By ten o’clock Dad decided his luck card was blank so he decided to go home. He walked to the top of the ridge where he had tied his horse? Only it was’t that one (ridge) but probably the one over beyond. Well, it was nearly dark; still the ridge where the horse was, must the that one right over there. He had walked all day from one hilltop to another, no dinner, wet clothes, looking for his horse. He heard a horse neigh and walking less than a quarter of a mile found his pony and headed homeward. The other man having gone (home) hours before.
Once while riding in a canyon, he ran onto a wolf den with signs of use. Dismounting, he went to investigate. Got down on his hands and knees, crawled into the mouth of the den.
About that time, Mrs. Wolf thought quarters were too crowded and took her exit through the only available place, the one Dad had partially blocked. He says it was hard to tell which was the (more) startled and mighty soon, neither was in the others way.
After Dad settled on his homestead he “batched” many years and spent much time riding range. Once he was caught in a bad storm out in the open and lost his bearing. He decided the horse would have to take him home. The horse was just in from the range and (Dad thought) “home” to him (the horse) was in the hills about four miles west of the homestead with his range bunch, but Dad kept urging him on in any direction he would go. He rode upon a hill with buildings below. Thankful for some sign of shelter, he rode to the barn, wondering where on earth he could be. He knew of no such place. He was tying his horse in the barn when he found his own harness and belongings. It was not until then the hills flopped to the right direction from the barn (that he realized where he was).
Another time Dad was looking for horses in the Rawhide country. His horse gave out so he borrowed a horse from a rancher out there for the day while his (horse) rested. The man told Dad the mare was broke and he could ride her alright. Everything went fine until he got about 12 or 15 miles from the ranch and then the mare wanted to go home. When Dad gave her to understand that wasn’t the program, she started bucking. He claims she was no amateur at that (bucking) and he was just ready to give-up but he could find no place to land. The elephant ear cactus was too thick so he says “There was nothing to do but ride and I did.” He learned afterward the horse was an outlaw.
Most of the old cowboys will tell you it was some job to break-in a new pair of boots in summer. Once Dad was riding a colt on a hot day and his boots got to hurting so he took them off and tied them behind the saddle.
About 10 miles from home, he got off the horse and the horse jerked away from him, boots and all. About a half mile, away but back of a knoll, was a bunch of wild horses. Dad claims he talked pretty nice to that horse for awhile. It must have worked because he caught the horse.
One hot summer morning Dad hitched up a team of colts and started to Harrison. While driving along on the flat about 10 miles southeast of Harrison, he looked back and about a half mile behind was a small prairie fire. Yes, his pipe was burning full blast too! About the only thing left to say is, “Did you ever try to hold a team of broncos and whip out a prairie fire? It can be done as was proved that time.