Tale of Buckskin Pants

Tale of Buckskin Pants

by Margaret M. Fisher, in Utah and the Civil War (1800)

The sun was hot and tanned the faces of two youthful volunteers who were conversing as they strolled near camp.

With a glance of dismay at his apparel, the short one remarked to his tall companion, “My homespuns look so seedy I think I’ll go to yonder squaw. I hear she makes ‘wino’ buckskin pants. The boys tell me she has just finished a pair for her brave, Thunderhead. Maybe we can get her to sell them.”

The tall soldier accompanied his friend, being secretly anxious to possess the pants himself. All the way there each soldier entertained visions of himself decked out in picturesque array, his form the envy of the camp.

“Shorty” spent considerable time trying to persuade the dusky lady to accept a five dollar piece and hand over the coveted buckskins. But the gold piece looked very small to the squaw; she decidedly shook her head and muttered, “Me no swap.”

“Shorty” went away disconsolate. Not so his tall companion. A bright idea had popped into his head and he was very elated. Immediately upon reaching camp, he brought forth a five-dollar gold piece of his own and unknown to his disappointed comrade had it changed into silver half-dollars and quarters. With a beating heart and bounding step he soon made his way back to the Indian wickiup.

The bright coins in his outstretched palm impressed the squaw. She supposed the value of the silver much greater than the single gold piece and willingly took the money, parting with the handsome buckskins.

Early next morning, orders came to pack hastily and ride in pursuit of a band of Indians who had been raiding near there the night before and had escaped with horses and cattle. As he rode along proudly, clad in the buckskin pants, “Shorty” cast many an envious glance in his direction and wondered how “Slim” had obtained them from the Indian woman.

Advancing rapidly, they encountered the winding Snake River, which the company crossed and recrossed, hot on the Indians’ trail, often dashing into the tempestuous stream on one side as the Indians whom they were pursuing rushed out of the water on the opposite bank, far enough ahead to be out of danger. Each entry into the stream dampened the spirits of the buckskin pants to the utter dismay of the rider. The water soaked and lengthened them until they dangled below “Slim’s” feet. Interfering with the use of his stirrups, each time he emerged from the swollen stream “Slim” whipped out his pocket-knife and slashed off a strip.

As the afternoon wore on and the troops were still hot on their trail, the Indians decided to leave the stream and make for the mountain side. The soldiers pursued them over the dangerous cliffs where a false step would have hurled horse and rider hundreds of feet below. The sun shone from a cloudless sky, its burning rays reflecting from the barren rocky cliffs.

The troops longed for the shade of the trees in the distance.

The buckskin pants began to dry and simultaneously to shrink. When at last the company halted to encamp for the night, the buckskins halted in their upward flight—just above “Slim’s” knees. They made camp in a sylvan glade that was infested with mosquitos and the inroads they made on “Slim’s” legs were terrible. The insects tried to avoid the small branches he so vigorously switched about his limbs. But though some were slain, many went off well-satisfied. Needless to say, the heretofore envious glances of his comrades were now ones of mirth, accompanied by incessant guffaws.

Early next morning the bugle call echoed through the mountain peaks. At the sound of the bugle, “Slim” sprang to his feet, his heart sank as he looked at the remains of the buckskins. He caught them up angrily and threw them over the limb of a tree. A messmate gave him a discarded pair of homespuns which had been lined with ticking. But after the strenuous march through trees and underbrush, the lining only remained. He took them gladly, but with a sigh.

That night “Slim” was captured by the Indians and after two days’ imprisonment was brought before , chief of the Shoshones, fearing and trembling.

Washakie asked, “You Mormon?”

“Yes.”

“You after Indians!”

Here “Slim” saw a glimmer of light and gained courage. “Oh no, we don’t want to hurt the Indians, but Washakie, you must leave the mail and stage line alone. There is a wagonload of presents at Fort Bridger sent for you by . If you will pilot me safely back there, I will see to it that you receive these wonderful presents.” And he gave silent thanks to Brigham Young’s diplomacy.

Washakie’s face beamed with delight and he extended “Slim” a cordial invitation to dine at his neighbor’s, brave Rain-in-the-Face.

“Slim” soon found himself seated in the wickiup of the red-man, Rain-in-the-Face, holding in his hand a steaming bowl of soup. The broth tasted queer, but as he had not eaten for two days, he readily gulped it down. Upon rising to leave, he wished to please his host by complimenting him. So he told him how much he had enjoyed the soup and wondered what it could be made of.

Rain-in-the-Face explained how his eldest son, Wampu, two days previously, had discovered a piece of rawhide hanging over the limb of a tree.

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