On the following day, Don Emillo Cortez came again and asked me to ride with him as a scout. He had brought a young man to drive the team in my stead. Gladly I accepted his invitation. He arranged a pillion for his saddle and mounted me behind him, facing the horse’s tail. Then he passed a broad strap around his waist and my body and armed me with a Henry repeating rifle, then a new invention and a very serviceable gun. In this manner I had both hands free and made him the best sort of a rear guard. We cantered toward a sandy hill on our left. A coyote came our way, appearing from the crest of the hill. The animal was looking back over its shoulder and veered off when it scented us. Don Emilio halted his horse. “That coyote is driven by Indians,” said he; “do you think you can hit it at this distance?” I thought I could by aiming high and a little forward. At the crack of my rifle the coyote yelped and bit its side, then rolling on the grass, expired. “Carajo! a dead shot, for Dios!” exclaimed Don Emilio. “That will teach the heathen Indians to keep their distance; they will not be over-anxious to meet these two Christians at close quarters!”
We were not molested on this day nor on the next, but on the day thereafter we were in terrible danger. The Indians fired the dry grass, and if the wind had been stronger we must have been burned to death. As it was we were nearly suffocated from traveling in a dense smoke for several hours. Then, fortunately, we reached the bottom lands of the Arkansas River and were safe from fire, as the valley was very wide and covered with tall green grass which could not burn; and no sooner was the last wagon on safe ground than the fire gained the rim of the green bottomland. Our oxen were exhausted and in a bad plight, so we fortified and camped here for several days to recuperate before we forded the river. This took up several days, as the water was quite high and the river bottom a dangerous quicksand. To stop the wheels of a wagon for one moment meant the loss of the wagon and the lives of the cattle, perhaps. The treacherous sands would have engulfed them. Forty yoke of oxen were hitched to every vehicle, and we had no losses. On the other side we found the prairie burned over, and we traveled all day until evening in order to reach a suitable camping place with sufficient grass for our animals. As there was no water and the cattle were suffering, we were compelled to drive our herd back to the river and return again that same night. The rising sun found us under way again, and by noon we came to good camping ground with an abundance of grass and water.
Now we were past the most dangerous part of our journey, leaving the Comanche country and entering the domain of the Ute Indians and other tribes, who were not as brave as the Arapahoes and Comanches. Here our caravan-formation was broken up and each outfit traveled separately at its own risk.