DUG OUT DAYS ON THE BLUE
By Mrs. Lydia M. McGregor
In the year 1869 my parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Mann, with a family of seven, all sick with fever and ague, came from Knox county, Illinois, and after a month and a few days of weary plodding arrived at their destination, a little dugout near the old Jack Gilmore place on the Blue. An elderly couple lived there by the name of Barnes. They left shortly after we arrived, returning to the East. The day we arrived there arrived also a band of 500 Indians in war paint and feathers and set their tepees up along the river. The warriors, big fellows, began to come into the dugout. My sister, about four, was sitting on the floor. My eldest sister picked her up and tossed her on the bed. The warriors filed in until there was not room to turn. Mr. Barnes and my father returned about that time. The former was armed with a pitchfork and soon rid the house of the intruders. We were all very much frightened, mother crying and wanting to go back. The Indians moved on in a week or so.
The winter came on and we had twenty-five cents in money to go on. My father took an 80-acre homestead two and a half miles northwest and built a dugout. It had the front logged up and a floor made of elm wood cut from timber along the Blue and planed at the Elias Gilmore sawmill. I remember my father wanted to get some prairie broken for garden and farming and finally located a breaking plow. A man by the name of Cap. Wyman, lived over on Beaver creek. My father sent my two brothers over to find him They looked up and down the steam and were about to give up in despair when they saw smoke coming out of the ground. On investigation they found this marked the Wyman abode. He had a tunnel from the creek bank and his house at the other end of it. Well they got the plow and we planted garden, sod corn, pumpkins and squashes.
The Indians used to go on what they called their hunt. They would go west in the fall and east in the spring. One Sunday morning my mother and two of my sisters went to a neighbor's. My father and I were home alone. Father got up to fix the fire and glanced out of the window. I caught the look on his face and he said, "Well, Lyd, it looks like we are going to have company." I was on my feet in an instant. Five or six Pawnees, with their poles dragging and backs loaded, had just stopped. Five big, fat squaws and two girls about 16 started for the house. They came in and sat around the stove warming themselves. Then about a dozen or more of men came. Imagine my hair going straight up when my father said, "Well, you watch them in here and I'll go outside and see they don't mean anything."
The men all came up in line. The first took out his pipe, filled it, drew on it, and offered it to my father. He did not take it, so it went down the line, then back again. The first man put his pipe away and very orderly they began to move off. The women came out of the house. They went to their ponies, fixed their blankets, and quietly moved on, after smoking the pipe of peace.
We had a great fear of herds of Texas cattle. One spring a herd stopped one night on the Blue about six miles east. One got left behind in the timber near Peter Heller's. My brother was working for Hellers. Their son Miller and my brother went down to bring the cows up. They discovered the stray. The boys heard the brush cracking and the animal coming. Miller said, "Get for the foot log!" They beat him to it and were safe. Miller then went across the stream, climbed up a tree, and called for help. My father took his gun, went down, and one crack of the rife stopped the beast suddenly. Next morning my brother came bringing a quarter of fresh beef, some salt and suet the good woman of the house shared with us.