Gateway to the Classics: Buffalo Bill by Frank Lee Beals
Buffalo Bill by  Frank Lee Beals

Trapping on Prairie Creek

D AY after day, the wagon train pushed on over the rolling plains. Day after day, Bill Cody rode the trail keeping watch for signs of trouble. At last the train neared Leavenworth.

"Bill," asked Simpson, "don't we pass your cabin on this trail?"

"Yes, sir," answered Bill. "We are only a few miles from my home."

"There is no need for you to go on with the train," said Simpson. "Ride on home. Someone is there who will be glad to see you."

"Thank you, Mr. Simpson."

Bill touched Prince lightly. The horse broke into a long, easy gallop. When they reached the turn in the trail the Cody cabin came into view. A smile flashed across Bill's suntanned face and he leaned forward in the saddle. He urged Prince to greater speed. Prince laid back his ears and raced down the old familiar path toward the cabin.

"Mother," called Bill. "Mother!"

In an instant Mrs. Cody appeared in the doorway of the cabin. Four little girls in long blue dresses crowded around her.

"Billy!" the girls cried as they ran to meet their brother.

"Billy, my son!" called Mrs. Cody. Her gentle happy smile met the laughter in her son's brown eyes. She held out her arms. Billy reined in Prince and sprang from the saddle.

It was late that night before the Cody family went to sleep. Bill told his mother and sisters about the trip,—how Kit Carson made the Indians return Prince, how he and Red Hawk warned the settlers' train, and many other stories about the men with the wagon trains and about Lew Simpson.

"Mr. Simpson gave me these revolver's because I—" He stopped and said to himself, "If I tell Mother about the Indian fight she would worry even more about me. I know my sisters would enjoy the excitement but I don't want to frighten Mother."

"Why did Mr. Simpson give you the revolvers?" asked Mrs. Cody.

"Because I am to be a scout," answered Bill.

Mrs. Cody was silent. Bill and his sisters laughed and talked. When the girls had gone to bed his mother asked, "Billy, do you really want to be a scout?"

"Yes, Mother, I do."

"Then promise me one thing, Billy: be a good scout." She smiled, but there were tears in her eyes.

Bill loved his mother and sisters. He was glad to be home again. But the life on the plains had filled his restless young heart.

One day when he returned from Leavenworth he said to his mother, "I saw Dave Harrington today. You remember him, don't you?"

Mrs. Cody nodded. "Yes, Dave is a fine young man. He is a trapper, isn't he?"

"Yes, and this winter he wants to trap at Prairie Creek about two hundred miles west of here. He needs someone to go with him who knows the trails."

"And he asked you to go with him," smiled Mrs. Cody. "And you told him you would go."

"How did you know?"

Mrs. Cody laughed, "Oh, Billy," she said, "I can see the light in your eyes whenever you speak of the plains. When do you and Dave plan to leave?"

"As soon as we can buy the supplies we need," answered Bill. "We will be gone all winter. You see, Mother, I won't have another job with a wagon train until spring. But if I go with Dave I will earn some money this winter, and that will make it easier for you."

"Billy, you gave me all the money you earned on your trip with Mr. Simpson and it is enough for a long time."

"I know, Mother, but I want to take good care of you and my sisters."

"I am very proud of you, my son."

The next few days were busy days for Bill and Dave. They bought a wagon and a yoke of oxen. They bought flour, bacon, beans, and other food supplies. They loaded the wagon with their supplies, with traps of many kinds, and with barrels of salt to cure the hides of the animals they would trap.

Dave stayed with the Cody family the night before the boys left on their trip. Mrs. Cody and the girls packed several boxes of cookies and bread for the boys.

Bill and Dave were sitting in front of the fireplace oiling their rifles.

"Do you want to take some books with you, Billy?" asked Mrs. Cody.

"Oh, yes," answered Bill. "We will have a lot of time to read during the long winter nights."

"Pick out the books you want to take," said Mrs. Cody, "and I will put them in this box."

"I'll pack them, Mother," said Bill jumping to his feet. "You sit here and rest awhile."

In the morning Bill and Dave were on their way to Prairie Creek. The boys had a good time as they traveled slowly westward. They met a number of wagon trains returning to Leavenworth for the winter months. Stagecoaches, with their horses galloping at full speed, rattled by them on the trail. The clatter of the horses' hoofs and the cheery

greetings of the drivers as they dashed by always thrilled Bill. Now and then, they met a wagon train of weary settlers who had become discouraged and were returning to their homes in the East.

One night the boys stopped at a settler's cabin near the trail. The man, his wife, and children asked the boys to eat supper and spend the night with them. Bill and Dave readily accepted the invitation.

"Where are you going?" asked the man.

"We are headed for Prairie Creek," answered Bill. "We are going to trap there this winter."

"You will have a good season," said the man. "The creeks and streams are full of beaver and otter. Better watch out for Indians though."

The boys laughed. "We will," they promised.

"How far is it to Prairie Creek?" asked Bill.

"Well," the man scratched his head, "you are a hundred miles from Leavenworth. You are still about a hundred and twenty-five miles from Prairie Creek."

"Will we pass any more cabins on the way?" asked Bill.

"No, sir," answered the settler. "Ours is the last cabin on the trail. When you come back, plan to stay with us for a few days. We get lonely sometimes. But," he added quickly, "we wouldn't trade our cabin for the finest house in Leavenworth."

The next morning, Bill and Dave said good-by to their friends and set out for Prairie Creek.

When the boys reached the place they had chosen for their trapping ground, they built a dugout to use for their living quarters, and a corral for their oxen.

The dugout was built in the side of a hill. It had two small windows and a door. Its roof was made of brush and long grass with a covering of earth. There was a small fireplace in one wall of the dugout to be used for both heating and cooking.

When the boys had completed the corral for the oxen, they set their traps along the creek banks. Early each morning they inspected their traps. They reset those that had been sprung and carried back to the dugout the beaver and otter caught during the night. Then they spent the rest of the day skinning the animals and salting the hides.

One night after supper, Bill and Dave were lying in front of the fireplace reading.

Suddenly Dave jumped to his feet. "What was that?" he asked. He grabbed his rifle and ran outside.

Bill, gun in hand, followed quickly. As he ran around the corner of the dugout Dave's rifle flashed. Down by the corral a growling bear turned and standing on his hind legs charged toward Dave. Instantly Bill raised his gun and fired. The bear fell dead at Dave's feet.

"Good shot, Bill," said Dave. "Thanks for saving my hide."

"You can do the same for me sometime," laughed Bill. "Come, let's see what happened to our oxen."

The boys hurried to the corral. One ox was badly torn by the bear's sharp claws and had to be shot.

"We will have to get another ox before we can get our furs home," said Dave as they walked back to the dugout. "But we don't have to worry about that now."

"I am sure the old settler with whom we spent the night will sell us an ox," said Bill. "I will go to him later and ask him to help us."

In the morning as usual, the boys were up early. They ate breakfast and left the dugout to inspect their traps. On the way, they sighted a large herd of elk.

"Let's get one," said Bill.

They crept along the creek bank to get close enough to the herd to get a good shot. Bill tripped over a stone and fell to the ground. He started to rise, but fell back groaning with pain.

"Bill, what's the matter?" called Dave.

"I think I have broken my leg."

Dave examined Bill's leg. "You are right," he said shaking his head, "your leg is broken."

Dave carried Bill back to the dugout. He made a splint out of a wagon bow and set Bill's leg. Dave was careful, but Bill winced with pain whenever Dave moved his leg.

"This accident changes our plans," said Dave. "I must get you out of here as soon as I can."

"Why?" asked Bill. "I know I can't help with the traps, but I can work here in the dugout. Can't we stay a few more weeks and try out my plan?"

"No," was Dave's firm reply. "If Indians attack they could kill both of us. As long as we could both leave the dugout and travel on foot we could take care of ourselves. Now, it's different."

"I guess you are right," replied Bill, "and I won't insist on our staying. I don't want to endanger your life, nor mine either."

"Good. Now this is what I plan to do," said Dave. "I will go back to the old settler to see if I can buy a yoke of oxen from him. We must return to Leavenworth before we get snowed in. I'll let our ox out of the corral before I leave. You won't be able to feed and water him so he will have to shift for himself. I don't like to leave you here alone."

"Don't bother about me," broke in Bill, "I'll be all right."

"I am not so sure. I am afraid that I may be gone about three weeks."

"I know," nodded Bill. "But I can take care of myself. Before you leave you can put everything I will need near my bunk so I can reach it."

"Good for you, Bill."

Dave went to work to make the dugout comfortable for Bill while he was gone. He pulled Bill's bunk over to the fireplace and put the food supplies within easy reach. He chopped wood and piled it beside the fireplace. Extra blankets and the box of books were also placed within reach of the bunk.

"Well," he said when he had finished, "I guess I have taken care of everything. And the sooner I get started the sooner I will return."

Bill, lying on the bunk, looked up at Dave. "I am sorry that you have to take this long, hard trip alone," he said. "J'll be thinking about you."

Dave grinned. "Wait until next winter. I'll send you out to bring in the skins and set all the traps while I lie in bed. Good-by, Bill."

"Good-by and good luck, Dave."

The door closed and Bill was alone. For awhile he lay staring up at the roof of the dugout. The room was very quiet and he soon fell asleep. It was dark when he awakened. Far away the howl of a wolf echoed and died away.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: A Narrow Escape  |  Next: Alone in a Blizzard
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.