It is impossible to trace with accuracy the course pursued by these different bands, neither is it a matter of any moment. Kit found himself at one time, left with but one man to guard the camp. He was fully conscious of his danger, and made every possible preparation for defence, should they be attacked. With food in abundance, loop-holes properly arranged, and a number of rifles ever ready loaded, no war-party, however numerous, could seize the fort without the loss of many of their men. And as we have said, the boldest of these warriors were never willing to expose themselves unprotected to rifle shot.
Neither of the men dared to venture far from their camp for game. Fortunately this was not necessary. Game existed in such abundance that, almost from the door of their fortification, they could shoot any quantity they needed. They always kept a careful guard. While one slept the other watched. For a month these two men were in this lonely position. At the end of that time Mr. Blackwell, one of the partners in one of these expeditions, arrived with fifteen fresh men, and a very thorough outfit. It was a joyful meeting, and the whole party, taking with them their furs, commenced a march to the Salt springs, near the head waters of the Platte river.
These adventurers had been but four days on their route, when one morning as they were breakfasting, the guard gave the startling cry of “Indians.” Every man was instantly on his feet, rifle in hand. The horses of the trappers were at but a short distance from the camp, turned loose to crop the grass, which was there scanty, wherever they could find it. But when Kit Carson was in a company nothing was ever left to chance. The animals were all carefully hobbled, a hind foot and a fore foot so bound together that they could not possibly run.
The Indians, on fleet horses, with flaunting pennons, hair streaming in the wind, and uttering demoniac yells, came down like the sweep of the tornado upon the animals. Their object was to cause a stampede, that is, to throw the animals into such a panic that they would break away from everything, and follow the Indian horses off into the boundless prairie. The trappers thus left without any steeds, would find pursuit impossible.
The movement was so sudden and so rapid that, though several shots were fired, but one Indian was struck. He fell dead upon the sod. One horse only was lost. One of the warriors, as he was passing by on the full run, succeeded in cutting the cord of a rearing, struggling steed, and the terrified animal disappeared with the mounted herd. Had it not been for the precaution of hobbling the horses, probably every one would have been lost in this attempted stampede. What is usually called good luck, is almost always the result of wise precautions. In reference to this adroit mode of horse-stealing adopted by the Indians, it is written: