Buster De Graftenreid
JUN -6 1938
In 1864 I come to Texas in Grayson County and from what my Pa and Ma said, I give up the squack and bawled like two years old and they named me Buster. Pa and Ma moved to Stephen County and my first recollection I have is herding a small bunch of our cattle to keep them together and no one steal or run them off.
I rode a little pony mare and she always had a cold every year. When I would start out with the cattle, after ma had milked, she would hand me my lunch, which was a pone of corn bread, and say to me "Now you be sure and be a good boy and stay on your pony. If you don't you will get to playing and the Indians will catch you," and I want to say now, that fear is still with me. Also what she told me about Jesus and God taking care of all good boys. She planted the thoughts of Jesus in my heart and His goodness has been with me these many years. .
What I want to say, is this, how those families got by, I can't see. There were three families lived on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, it emptied its water in the main Brazos River about thirty miles below.
Now, in looking back and even what I knew at that time, as I must of been 9 or 10 years old, my uncle John Selman, my mother's brother and his wife, my Pa's sister, lived with his family about half a mile away. I thought at that time, uncle John was everything and could and did things. If it had not been for uncle John and a few men like him, the [Comanchie?] Indians would of got all of us. Uncle John was a fighter and they knew it and so did those thieving white men. As the Indians killed the Lee family, the old man, old lady and carried off two grown girls and a small boy about seven years old.
Uncle John went with the soldiers which were at Fort Griffin, twenty miles up the Clear Fork River. Uncle John got the neighbors, a few cowboys and when they were digging the grave, some one found a young girl dead, shot in the back with an arrow. I heard uncle John say he couldn't pull the arrow out so he cut if off and bent it over. They put the three in on big grave, just wrapped up in some old quilts, the Indians wouldn't take. They took the feather beds and emptied the feathers out and took the ticking as they needed the cloth for their own use.As it was only three miles below our house, I would take the cattle down that way so I could see the grave. My uncle John was a good man and stood for fair play. He went with the soldiers and different scouts after horse thieves.
I recall, one time, he come by where I was herding cattle.Him and three soldiers, negroes. They had two white soldiers as prisoners. They had deserted and as uncle John knew the country, it seems the captain sent uncle John to get them. He had them tied together so they couldn't run in the brush and get away. They had one pack mule and it was heavily packed with grub and some bedding. I was sure sorry for the two men as they was walking while uncle John and the negroes were riding.
They didn't seem to care one bit as they were anxious. They said they were sure glad to see a white man if he did have three negro soldiers with him as they were about to starve and had to stay hid and afraid to shoot to kill anything to eat as they saw Indians. One of them said, "I have still got my hair
and all I ask is to get back to the fort where I can eat and sleep in peace. The woods are full of Indians. We could see them in the day time and we would stay hid in the thick brush and briers. At night we could hear them grunt while looking for us."I was always glad when uncle John was around as he had a good gun and would kill deer and turkey. The woods were full of them. In the winter he would kill hogs and what a time we would have, as my two brothers, Creed and [Dick?], was going to school at Fort Griffin.
Twenty miles in those days was all day in a wagon drawn by a big yoke of steers, big and fat. The steers belonged to Pa and the wagon was uncle John's. It cost money to get a wagon. Pa raised the steers and us boys broke them to work when they were yearlings, dragging wood to cook with and keep warm. When the wood played out so we couldn't keep a good fire, Pa would move to more wood. Good idea, he did not have to worry one bit, see?
I think my Ma was the only one that worried as she was afraid the Indians would get me or I would get lost and starve. She didn't know how smart her boy was. I could and did out smart the Indians. I know they didn't want to kill me. They either wanted to see me run and hide or wanted to catch me just to see what I looked like. They might have thought I was one of them as all I had on in the summer time was a shirt three or four sizes too big, no shoes, no hat and my hair down to my shoulders. I would give anything if I had a picture of myself as I can see now in my imagination when I was a boy.
I never thought of getting lost as the milk cows would go back to the calves that were left in the pen and I would drive the others after them and get home in fine shape. If it hadn't been for one old line back, redheaded cow, we call old Nance, I don't know so much. When I got hungry I would suck her by miling the milk in my mouth, fill up on good warm milk as I had either eaten or lost my corn bread. My uncle John would go to Weatherford in Parker County, eighty miles to mill, they called it. If he had good luck, he would get back in fifteen days, but it nearly always rained and the creeks would get out of their banks and he couldn't ford them. I remember one time he was nearly a month. Both families run out of meal. Not one bit of bread. We had plenty meat such as chicken, squirrel and rabbit. Ma would make curd out of clabber milk and lots of butter. We could catch any size fish you wanted within thirty minutes.
If you wanted a big fellow, fish deep with a big bait. The big ones stayed on the bottom in water ten feet deep or more. I remember Uncle John caught a big, yellow cat fish that weighed 123 pounds. That was the biggest fish I have ever saw. My uncle John's wife, my aunt Edna, died in 1878 or 79. Uncle John left that part and moved his children, three boys and one girl up in the big ben country. My dad moved to Dickens County, and in 1882 Dad moved to New Mexico. My day herding was over. I was about fifteen years old in age and about twenty five in experience.
I saw in uncle John in 1884, as he had followed a horse thief from El Paso, Texas, to old [Tescoso?] on the Canadian River, 700 miles and was taking him back to El Paso. I never saw uncle John any more but I always held him high in my mind as his idea was, "Treat the other man right and make him treat you right or let you alone."
My dad never had a gun. If he had one, it was no account and he never had any ammunition to shoot with. I guess I took the idea from uncle John as I went to work for myself at fifteen years old and I have owned a good gun all my life. With luck I have never had to use it. The main thing is, be prepared, look the other fellow in the eye and be so you can tell him how the boss eat the cabbage and you are all right in any man's camp. I am 74 years old now and still like to feel the old girl as a pal.I want to say this, I have been in El Paso two years and have met several old timers. Everyone that knew John Selman spoke highly of him as a citizen. Every one said he was a good law officer and they didn't know he was any kin to me. He had lots of ups and downs and had a hard life. May his soul rest in peace. It took men like him to tame the west and they done a good job. Look, read of El Paso 50 years ago. Look at her today, 1938. John Selman helped tame her. He was my uncle both ways.
Buster De Graftenreid
Malrose, New Mexico
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