But shortly after his return his father died, and having to aid in the support of his mother and sisters, Billy accepted a position as herder for a drove of Government cattle to be driven to the Army of General Albert Sydney Johnson, that was marching against the Mormons at Salt Lake.
Killing his first Indian.
When the train and beef-herd, with which Billy Cody had gone, arrived in the vicinity of old Fort Kearney their first serious adventure occurred, and for a while the boy thought of his mother’s prediction, that he “would be killed or captured by Indians.”
Not expecting an attack from red-skins in that vicinity, the party had camped for dinner, and most of them were enjoying a siesta under the wagons, Billy being among the latter number, while but three men were on duty as herders.
But suddenly they were aroused by shots, wild yells, and rapid hoof-falls, and down upon them dashed a band of mounted warriors, while others had killed the three guards and the cattle were stampeding in every direction. But the train hands quickly sprung to their feet, rallied promptly for the fight, and met the advancing red-skins with a volley from their Mississippi yagers, which were loaded with ball and buck-shot, and checked their advance.
Knowing that they could not hold out there the train-master called out:
“Boys, make a run for the river, and the banks will protect us.”
All started, when Billy called out:
“Don’t let us leave these wounded boys.”
They turned at his word, to find that two of their number had been wounded, one seriously in the side and the other in the leg.
Raising them in their arms they started at a run for the bank, ere the Indians had rallied from the fire that met them, and reached it in safety, though the man who had been shot in the side was dead ere they got there.
A short consultation was then held, and it was decided to make their way back to Fort Kearney, by wading in the river and keeping the bank as a breast work.
A raft of poles was constructed for the wounded man, and the party started down the stream, protected by the bank, and keeping the Indians at bay with their guns, for they followed them up closely.
As night came on, utterly worn out with wading and walking, Billy dropped behind the others; but trudged manfully along until he was suddenly startled by a dark object coming down over the bank.
It was moonlight, and he saw the plumed head and buckskin-clad form of an Indian, who, in peering over the bank to reconnoiter had lost his balance, or the earth had given way, and sent him down into the stream.
He caught sight of Billy as he was sliding down, and gave a wild war-whoop, which was answered by a shot from the boy’s rifle, for though taken wholly by surprise he did not lose his presence of mind.