Roosting Out by
In 1837, after the capture of Santa Anna, by General Samuel Houston
and his little Spartan band, which event settled the war, and something
like tranquillity being restored to Texas, several of us adventurers
formed a small hunting party, and took to the woods, in a circuitous
tour up and across the Sabine, and so into the United States, homeward
There were seven men, two black boys, belonging to Dr. Clenen, one
of our voyageurs, and eleven horses and mules, in the party; and with
a tolerable fair camp equipage, plenty of ammunition, one or two old
campaigners and three monstrous clever dogs, it was naturally supposed
we should have a pleasant time. The first five days were cold, being
early Spring, wet, and not very interesting; but as all of the
party had seen some service, and not expecting the comforts and
delicacies of civilization, they were all the better prepared to take
things as they came, and by the smooth handle. The idea was to travel
slow, and reach Jonesboro' or Red River, or keep on the Arkansas, and
strike near Fort Smith, in twenty or thirty days. We left Houston in
the morning, passed Montgomery, and kept on W. by N. between the Rio
Brasos and Trinity River, the first five days, then stood off north for
the head of the Sabine.
Game was very sparse, and rather shy, but falling in with some wild
turkeys, and a bee tree, we laid by two days and lived like fighting
cocks. The turkeys were picked off the tall trees, as they roosted
after night, by rifle shots, and no game I ever fed on can exceed the
rich flavor of a well-roasted, fat wild turkey. The bee tree was a
crowdera large, hollow cyprus, about sixty feet high, straight as a
barber pole, and nearly seven feet in diameter at the base, and full
three feet through at the first branch, forty feet up. This must have
been the hive of many and many a swarm, for years past; the tree was
cut down, and contained from one to three hundred gallons of honey and
comb! Nor are such bee trees scarce about the head of the Sabine, Red
River, &c. Bears are very fond of honey. The weather then being much
improved, it was suggested that the camp should be moved a few miles
off, and leave the bee tree and its great surplus contents, to the
bears; and if they did come about, we should come back and have a few
pops at them. The plan was feasible, and all agreed; so, removing a few
gallons of the translucent delicacy, the camp was struck, and,
following an old trail a few miles, we found a delightful site for
recamping under some large oaks on a creek, a tributary of the Sabine
Some of the boys, as each styled the others, during the day had
found a deer lick, about three miles above the camp, and to vary the
viands a little, it was proposed that three of the boys should go
up after dark, lay about, and see if a shot could be had at some of the
visitors of the lick.
One of the old heads, and by-the-way we called him old traps, from
the fact of his always being so ready to explain the manner and uses of
all sorts of traps, and the inexhaustible adventures he had with them
in the course of twenty years' experience in the far west.
Well, old traps, Dr. C., and myself, were the deputed committee,
that night, to attend to the cases of the deer. Soon after dark we put
out, and in the course of a couple of hours, after some floundering in
a muddy bottom and through hazel brush, or chaparral, the lick was
found, and positions taken for raking the victims. Old traps took a
lodge in a clump of bushes. Dr. C. and I squatted on a dead tree, with
a few bushes around it, and in a particularly dark spot, from the fact
of some very heavy timber with wide-spreading tops standing around and
nearly over us.
The ability of keeping still in a disagreeable situation, for a long
time, is most desirable and necessary in the character of a
hunter;some men have a faculty for holding a fishing-rod hours at a
time over a fishless tide, with wondrous ardor; and I have known men to
watch deer, bear, and other game, in one position, for ten or twenty
hours. Sauntering up and down in the dark, with wind and rain, and a
musket in your arms for company, is not pleasant pastime; but my
patience revolted at the idea of squatting on the wet log, all cramped
up, three or four hours, and no deer making their appearance; Doctor
and I made up our minds to arouse old traps, and patter back to the
camp. Just as the resolution was about to be put in action, two deer,
fine antlered customers, made their appearance about three hundred
yards from us, out on a small plain, where their sprightly forms could
just be made out as they leisurely stepped along. Getting near old
traps, he soon convinced us that his eye was still open,
although we had concluded he was fast asleep. The sharp, whip-like
crack of old traps' rifle brought down one of the deer, and the
other, in bounds of thirty or forty feet at a spring, whisked nearly
over us, and the Doctor and I fired at the flying deer as he came;
neither shot took effect, and off he sped.
Hurrah! for the old boy! shouted the Doctor, as we all bustled up
to where the deer lay kicking and plunging in his death throes. By
Jove, 'traps,' you've put a ball clean through his head!
Yes, sir, said traps; I ollers fix game that way, myself.
Except when you fix them with the traps, eh? said I.
'Zactly, said traps. But now, boys, he continued loading up his
rifle, now let's snatch off the creature's hide, quarter it, and
travel back to the camp, for we ain't gwoine to have any more deer
This was soon accomplished. Trap seized the hind quarters and hide,
and travelled; Doctor and I brought up the rear with the rest of the
meat and fat.
To avoid the muddy bottom, in going back, we concluded to take a
little round-about way, and relieved one another by taking spells at
carrying the rifles and the meat. We jogged along, chatting away, for
some time, when it occurred to us that we were getting very near the
camp, or ought to be, for we had walked long and fast enough.
Doctor was trudging on ahead with the meat; I was behind some twenty
yards with both rifles; we were passing through some thin timber which
skirted a little prairie, out on which we could see quite distinctly;
Doctor made a sudden halt
Hollo! by Jove, what's that?
What? eh? where? said I, bustling up to the Doctor, who made free
to drop the meat, wheeled about, snatched his rifle out of my fists and
A grizzly bear coming, by thunder!
Upon that hint there were two gentlemen seen hurrying
themselves somewhat, I reckon, on the back track. Doctor was
what you might call a fast trotter, but when he broke into a full
gallop the odds against me were dreadful! I was fairly distanced, and
when perfectly blowed out stopped to pull the briars out of my torn
trowsers, scratched face and dishevelled locks, listen to the enemy,
and ascertain where the Doctor had got to. No sound broke the reigning
stillness, save the sonorous coo-hoot of an owl. My rifle was empty,
and a search satisfied me that my caps were not to be found. My own cap
had also disappeared in the fright, and I was in a bad way for defence,
and completely at a dead loss as to the bearings of the camp.
Well, thinks I, it's no particular use crying over spilt
milkit's no use to move when there is no idea existing of bettering
one's self, so here I'll roost until daylight, unless Doctor
comes back to hunt me up! I judged it was not far from 2 o'clock, A.
M., and believed it possible that our venison might only whet a grizzly
bear's appetite to follow up the pursuit and gormandize me!A proper
site for a roost was the next matter of importance, and a
scrubby oak with a thick top, close by, offered an inviting elevation
A long, long time seemed the coming day; and the sharp air of its
approach, and heavy dew, made perching in a crotch very fatiguing
When light began to dawn, sliding down I took an observation that
convinced me, according to Indian signs, that Doctor and I had gone
South too far to hit the camp, and, to the best of my reckoning, the
old bee tree was not far out of my way, and that I now struck for.
About noon, and a lovely day it was, I discovered the bee tree, made
a dinner on honey, which was scattered about considerably, giving
evidence of its having been visited by our rugged Russian friends.
And now, feeling anxious to see human faces, and not linger about a
spot where troublesome customers might abound, I made tracks for the
camp, which was reached about sundown, and where I found, to my regret,
the Doctor had not come in yet.
Old Traps had returned all safe enough, and had been prophesying
the boys were lost, and would not soon be found again. However, the
old fellow put away his deer skin, which he had been cleaning, &c., to
give me a feed of the deer, a few remnants yet remaining, and from my
exercise and fasting, never was a rude meal more luxurious. Two of the
party, with one of the black boys, and a mule, had been out since noon
in quest of us, and about midnight they returned with the Doctor, who
congratulated me on what he had estimated as an escape. So did I. We
all concluded it was a DEER hunt! Though we had a time
at the bee tree, next night, that made us about square.