|Fight Between Indians and Rangers
From A. J. Sowell's "Texas Indian Fighters"
Published in the Frontier Times
In 1897, in Frio Canyon the writer interviewed Mr. B. F. Payne, an ex-ranger, who had some interesting experiences while serving on the frontier. Mr. Payne is a native Texas boy, and was raised near Austin, Travis County, being born there in the early '50's.
In 1866 he, in company with his father and several others, among whom was William Rutledge, went out on a cow hunt. At this time the Indians still raided the western portion of the counties bordering Travis on the west and northwest, and cowhunters going in that direction generally went armed, especially with revolvers. One day about noon, before the cowhunt terminated, the party came upon a band of Indians who had stopped in the bed of a dry ravine and were eating dinner. The white men, who were on the high ground above the Indians, were not discovered by them, and they kept on with their repast, which consisted of meat of some animal, wild or domestic, slaughterd by them. The white men at once made preparations to attack them and drew back under cover and held a council. They did not wish to let the Indians escape without a fight, but Mr. Payne was concerned about his young son, Frank, for fear that he would get hurt. The boy was twelve years of age, and was not carrying any arms. The elder Payne finally told his son to remain where he was and not to leave the spot until the fight was over and some of them came back to him.
These arrangements being agreed upon, the white men advanced and charged the Indians, who at once mounted their horses and fled. The whole party of whites and Indians soon lost to sight of Frank across a low range of hills. The cowmen, being on good horses, soon came within pistol shot and the fight commenced, the Indians giving shot for shot and war whooping as they went. Young Payne from his position in the rear, heard all the commotion and became very anxious to witness the combat. Accordingly he put spurs to his pony and galloped to the top of the ridge where he could have a plain view, not intending to go any further. When he arrived at the crest of the elevation, however, he met a loose and terror stricken horse coming out of the fight, and the boy's horse took fright at him and ran away, and instead of going back the way he came, ran straight ahead and followed in the wake of the Indians. The white men were scattered and one of them unhorsed, and the boy soon passed all of them and ran into the Indians. Mr. Payne saw the peril his son was in, and when he passed called out, "Hold up, Frank, hold up!" That was what the boy was trying to do with all his strength, but the pony had the bit in his teeth and was beyond control. The Indians evidently thought this a daring and intentional charge on the part of the young white brave, and yelling loudly, prepared to fight him. The boy passed some of the Indians, who shot at him and threw lances from all sides. Finally a bullet, arrow or lance cut his bridle rein in two. His horse then increased his speed and soon got clear of all the Indians. Frank now took the rope from the horn of his saddle, and making a loop, leaned forward and secured it over the nose of his horse, finally stopping him.
In the meantime, the elder Payne had followed his son as fast as he could in order to try and save him, and fought his way through the Indians, assisted by some of his companions. He succeeded in killing some of the Indians and scattering the balance. Young Frank made a circle and came back. Besides having his bridle reins severed, two arrows were sticking in the saddle. One one of the cow hunters was wounded. He was able to ride, and when his horse was brought back he mounted, and the party arrived at home without further incident.
In 1870 Frank Payne, although still young, joined a company of rangers commanded by Capt. Rufus Perry. The captain was an old Jack Hays ranger, and was the same who had such a fearful experience in Nueces Canyon when he and Kit Ackland were so severly wounded. Captain Perry's company stationed at a place called Little Red River, near Camp San Saba Springs. Where there the rangers received information that a large body of Indians were raiding below and had carried of a drove of horses near Dripping Springs, in Hays County. The rangers lost no time and were soon at the scene of the raid and on the trail of the redskins. The trail was discovered near Shovel Mountain, and was so plain and fresh the rangers knew the Indians could not be far ahead, and dashed on as rapidly as the nature of the ground would permit, all eager for the battle. When nearing the base of the mountain a white man was discovered running full speed and being pursued by Indians. The latter stopped on seeing the rangers and turned back, and the hard pressed settler made his escape to the ranger boys. The Indians had 100 head of horses, and were going slow on account of the rough country. The rangers now made a flank movement to the right, kept under cover of the brush until near the horses, and then making a sudden dash cut them off from the Indians in a narrow place. They ran them back south against the foot of Shovel Mountain, and left three men to hold them there until the battle was over. The rangers knew that they would have to fight the Indians, as they were in large force and yelling loudly. It seems that during the excitement of running the settler the Indians and horses had become scattered, and the rangers, taking cover and coming out in an unexpected place, by a bold quick move had secured the horses. The Indians collected in plain view of the rangers and begain to divest themselves of blankets and outrigging and to pile them up on the ground. The rangers now advanced and dismounted in a post oak ravine, tied their horses, and filled the magazines of their winchesters full of cartridges, and awaited the charge which they saw the Comanches were about to make. The Indians numbered 125, as near as could be ascertained, and the rangers 28, besides the three who were holding the horses against the mountain. The Indians when they did charge made a turn and tried to recapture the horses, but the rangers charged in turn and opened such a rapid fire that the savage warriors retreated back to their position. The three plucky fellows who were with the horses remained at their post and also opened fire. The indians could not get the horses without passing in gunshot of the position occupied by the main body of rangers. The next charge of Indians came close to the rangers, and a short but desperate fight took place. The Comanches, however, soon gave back before the galling fire of the winchesters. They fought with muzzle loading guns, bows and lances. Captain Perry was a good Indian fighter and handled his men well. The Indians killed in the charge were carried off by daring fellows on horseback, who would lean from the saddle, and taking them by their long hair would drag them back to cover. In the third charge the Indian chief was killed and his horse ran in among the rangers with the dead body, which was held by a strong strap of leather. If the horse had gone back the other way the body of the chief would not have been captured. The Indians evidently overrated the force of the rangers on account of the number of shots fired. The Comanches finally left after suffering heavy loss. The dress and rigging of the dead chief were taken to Austin and placed in the capitol building. Of the men in the fight the writer can only get the names of Captain Perry, B. F. Payne, Frank Enoch, the three Bird Brothers, Griffin from Austin, Page from Blanco and a man named Cox.
The three Bird Brothers displayed great bravery and exposed themselves in every charge to the enemy's fire. One of them was killed and the other two wounded, one in the nose, and the other in the ear with arrows. Other rangers and horses were wounded. The dead ranger was carried to Birdtown and buried. The stolen horses numbered 100 head, and were carried back and turned over to the owners. The rangers in this fight were all young men, none being over 25 years of age.