#581 Daniel “Peaches” Davis
(a past member of Calgary Division)
(The following articles are from the RCMP Veterans’ Association, Calgary Division, File)
Many Mourn Late “Peaches” Davis (origin of newspaper article unknown)
The veteran Royal North West Mounted Policeman who escorted single-handed 1,100 hostile Indians on an 180-mile trek, made his last “journey” borne by the arms of fellow Mounted Police officers, on Wednesday afternoon.
He was Daniel “Peaches” Davis, pioneer Alberta resident, and one of the last members of the original Royal North West Mounted Police who “opened” up the west to civilization.
Scores of Alberta pioneers filed slowly past the casket at Leyden’s funeral home, where the funeral service was conducted. Many other pioneers living outside the province paid their last respects to the veteran, who was buried in his uniform as worn in the old force.
GUARD OF HONOR
Representatives of the Royal North West Mounted Police, Southern Alberta Pioneers’ and Old Timers’ Association, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police attended the funeral in a body. Following the service, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police formed a guard of honor, and as the casket passed between them, borne on the arms of fellow officers, members of the force saluted the veteran constable.
Rev. E.S. Mathews, who conducted the service, briefly spoke of the hardships the pioneer western residences endured while opening the west for civilization.
“Daniel ‘Peaches’ Davis was born in Southampton, England, in 1856, and came to Canada in 1871, settling near Ottawa.” Rev. Mathews said, “In 1876, a few weeks after the ‘Custer massacre,’ he came west and took his place in the ‘Pioneers of Justice,’ under the command of Major J.M. Walsh. This Mounted Policeman’s life was full of thrills and hardships, and he always carried out his duty efficiently,” the minister continued
“his long trek is ended, and he has gone to his last resting place full of faith. We offer our deepest sympathy to his wife and other members of his family,” the minister concluded.
Following the service, burial took place in the Mounted Police Veterans’ plot, in the Union cemetery. The six members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who acted as pall-bearers were: Corporal T. R. Bone, Constables R.C. McManus, C.T. Ross, J.C. Macham, M.L. Allen and L. White. Honorary pall-bearers were: Alfred S. McKay, L. McKinnon and Harold W. Riley, members of the Southern Alberta Pioneers’ and Old Timers’ Association, and E.B.D. Mitchell, Julian Nash and J.H. Manson, members of the Royal North West Mounted Police Veterans’ Association.
(Articles from Scarlet and Gold)
“Buffalo” Allen by Avalon (1932 handwritten on top of page)
Catching a Buffalo – A Chum of “Peaches” Davis Won His Lifelong Nickname by a Daring Raid on a Herd of Buffalo – Police Horses Stolen by Sitting Bull’s Indians
“We, Riders of the Plains, were as God made us, and sometimes a great deal worse.” – The Silent Force: L. Longstreth.
For seventy-five cents a day, board and clothes, the Riders of the Plains, few in number, had to guard 7000 famished warriors of one of the fiercest and most warlike tribes of Indians on the North American continent. These Riders were recruited from all classes of society, dukes’ sons and cooks’ sons, but all young, eager for adventure, and careless where it led.
Edward Allen was born in a suburb of London. Two of his brothers became market gardeners while he was apprenticed to a butcher. When his apprenticeship was over, he came to Canada, worked on a farm close to Ottawa. In a trip to the city, he noticed the posters asking for recruits for the Mounted Police. He at once applied. Being in perfect health, young (early twenties), tall and of athletic build, he easily passed muster. June 5th, 1877, was the day that led to a new and strange life. With thirty-four others, he was sent to Bismark, N.D. Here they were under the charge of Major Walsh and he was negotiating passage for them and certain government stores for the use of the police. Here Allen made the acquaintance of “Peaches” Davis, and they went out to see the town. Bismark had a reputation as a “tough” town, and the two chums saw a pistol duel between Flapping Bill and Jug-Handle Pete, both Black hill miners, out for a holiday and to have a little sport. Both scored a bull’s eye and “Boot Hill” received two more tenants.
Major Walsh had secured passage for all on the boat Peninab, bound for Fort Benton, whence they were to cross to Fort Macleod. But the Peninab stuck fast on a sandbar when about half way to her journey’s end. Major Walsh then decided to cross country to Fort Walsh. The distance would be about the same as would have to be traveled from Benton to Macleod. But men were needed at Wood Mountain and Fort Walsh was the next station. During this journey there were a few thrills. They met with a band of Crow Indians under Chief Slippery Arm. Major Walsh, however, easily avoided trouble. They wee being sent to stop the raids of Canadian Indians on the American tribes. Why stop this good work?
KNIFING A VUFFALO
They arrived at Fort Walsh in time. Big Bear (of rebellion fame) with a band of Crees was prepared to attack the fort. But the arrival of a fresh band of fighters (they had put on uniform as soon as out of the U.S.) changed Big Bear into a Friendly Bear coming to visit friends. From there Allen and Davis were transferred to Wood Mountain. It became Allen’s future home. Here he was to win the respect and trust of both white and red man by his straight-forward dealing, keen regard for his given word, and kindness to all in time of trouble. Davis and he were chums, each, in fact, nicknamed the other. Davis was very found of peach pie. It was his one great passion. Allen said that Davis would not be satisfied in Heaven unless he got peach pie regularly. Soon he was answering to the call of “Peaches” or “Peach Pie”.
Davis called Allen “Buffalo” after he had captured a young buffalo and killed it with a knife. This happened at a camping place north of the Frenchman River and not far from Snake Creek. Here a coulee leads down to the river, the wind was favorable, and while the rest lazily watched, Allen planned how to get some prime meat. It was growing towards evening; buffalo were still passing in a steady stream not far away.
“Boy,” said he, “how would it be if I went out and caught a buffalo?” They laughed at him, hooted the idea, said it could not be done. Finally, when it was dark enough to suit his plan, Allen started to catch his first buffalo. Taking a knife with him, he went quietly down a brushy coulee that led into the large one the buffalo were using to reach the river.
He crawled closer until a well-grown calf was crowded off the trail into the bushes close to him.
Rising swiftly, he caught it by the head and like a flash the other hand drove the knife point into that opening in the vertebrae where it joins the skull, and where the spinal cord is exposed if the head is in a certain position. The stroke paralyzes the animal. It falls instantly, makes no noise and struggles very little. Being a powerful man, he seized the tail and dragged it back in the bushes and bled it. Remember, the wind was right for his purpose. Soon he was dragging it nearer to the camp, with the help of willing hands. Buffalo for supper! Beach Davis said “ We will have to call him “Buffalo” after this.” Later it was shortened to “Buff.” It stuck to him for life.
POLICE HORSES STOLEN
During all this period, the Siouz were a constant source of worry. No one knew what might happen. The force at the Post were a mere handful compared to the number of Indians. Tact must be used, but a show of authority also. While the final outcome was beyond doubt, it was impressed on the leaders, especially on Sitting Bull, that any rupture on his part meant that Canada as a sanctuary was gone. Not only this, but in the event of a rupture that blood, and much of it Sioux blood, would flow. The Sioux could at best only kill a few, but those few, how many might they not kill?
Sitting Bull was a diplomat as much as a warrior. Doubtless he had thought over the matter. From the minds of both parties (the irresistible force would meet the immovable object) came the peaceful end to a four-year silent warfare. In this Allen bore his part and on one occasion with that intrepidity that he had shown in capturing the buffalo. There were little happenings that neither of the leaders could foresee. During the spring and summer, as soon as the grass became good, all the police horses not in immediate use were sent out to graze under the charge of a herder.
Stealing a horse was to a Sioux brave as honorable as winning a round of golf. But it was taboo, was forbidden, so far as Police stuff was concerned. But the word had been given, moons ago. So one day a dozen braves swept in on the herd and each rode off with a horse. The herder merely fired over their heads, for first blood must be shed by the Indians.
He rode in and reported the theft. “Buff” Allen was sent out with ten other police to demand the return of the horses from Sitting Bull. When theyh came within sight of the camp, they saw a body of men riding out to meet them. Finally Sitting Bull was seen to leave the rest and ride up alone.
“Wait for me here,” Allen told his men, “but be prepared to act if necessary.” He then rode out to meet the chief.
Why have your men stolen our horses?” he asked the chief. “We dod not think it right for you to allow your young men to act so. We have been good to you.”
“I do not want to interfere with my young men, said Sitting Bull.
“I want those horses. I have been sent by the chief at the Post to get them?”
“How are you going to get them?” sneered Sitting Bull, coming close to Allen.
SITTING BULL’S CHALLENGE
Allen replied: “If you do not send them to us we will come and take them. If the horse you are on was stolen from us. I would take it.” Allen had noticed the appearance of the horse, and a plan to astonish Sitting Bull flashed to his mind.
“You would?” challenged Sitting Bull. “The horse which I am on is one of the stolen horses.”
Allen moved closer, as if to examine the horse, and before Sitting Bull had time to make a move two powerful hands had caught him, he went up in the air, and before he touched the ground Allen was riding swiftly away with the horse. Allen’s convoy circled round him, and they galloped for the post. The other Indians dared not fire as the chief was in the line of fire, and very soon it was useless. The police reached the post, behind them a crowd of yelling, excited savages.
The gates were closed and preparations made to defend the post to the last. The men worked in relays when the Indians did not immediately attack. Farewell messages were written, all put together and buried at a point where the post above them had written on it, “Our last messages are under here.”
Night, and still the Sioux had not attacked. Major Walsh ordered all lights out and the Indians wondered, “Here is an enemy that is not afraid, perhaps we had better not attack them. Their medicine must be strong.”
Next morning a messenger comes from Sitting Bull – he is ready to smoke the pipe, and talk with his good friend. He will have the young men return the horses and he wants their foolish conduct pardoned.
This is only one incident of many in the long four-year drama. Is it any wonder that “Peach Pie” Davis sets out alone cheerfully as escort for a tribe of savages from Fort Walsh and bound for Battleford? Today very few of these men, tried and tested, are left. Allen died in 1906. Major Walsh is dead. Davis is still living in Calgary.
Chasing Horse Thieves by “Peach” Davis, Reg. No. 581 1876 – 1888
(1993 handwritten on top of page)
In the spring of 1878 I was on detachment, with fourteen others, at Wood Mountain, under Major J.K. Walsh. I was detailed to take charge of the horses on herd, my orders being to keep a sharp look-out and see that none of them were stolen by the Sioux Indians, horse-stealing being a religious fetish with these natives. If by chance I saw anyone wearing a blanket and hovering around the band of horses, I was to shoot him down. He was there for no good purpose – and these were the orders I got from the commanding officer. There were some forty horses in the band, and, as the pasture was good, they did not wander about very much. There was a sandstone butte near by the grazing grounds, so I used to picket my saddle-horse and then go on top of the butte, where I could get a splendid view of the horses on range. About half a mile away there was a camp of Sioux Indians, but they kept away from the horses when passing to and fro.
Everything was running smoothly with me until four extra horses were given in my charge. These animals had been stolen on the American side of the line, taken from the Indians by the police, and then my trouble commenced. The strange horses would not mix with our mounts, and would wander away from the band.
I had been on the job about three weeks, when I saw a bunch of about twenty horses being driven in by two Indians. As they came along, close by my herd, they captured the four stolen horses in my charge, and took them away with their own bunch.
I shouted at the marauders to stop, but they apparently took not the slightest notice of me. I did not relish the idea of shooting to kill, as there were so few of us as against so many Indians. But it was up to me to get those four horses, so I fired a shot wide of the mark in order to scare them. Still they did not take any notice of me, so I fired again. This time, however, they thought better and left all the horses behind them, and rode off sounding the “war-whoop” as they went towards their camp.
I wondered what was coming next. When I went down to mount my horse to go after the four stolen horses, I looked towards the fort and saw two of our men and a civilian riding towards me. I rode over to meet them. They were Major Walsh, Constable Daniels and the interpreter. The major asked me what all the shooting was about. I told him all that had happened. Then he asked me why I did not carry out his orders. Replying, I told him I thought it were better not to shoot to kill, ass there were so many Indians and so few police. The major then told me that I was not paid for thinking, and threatened to give me six months for direct disobedience of orders, but that owing to my youth and inexperience he would forgive me and that “the next time you fire at an Indian get him, or he’ll get you.”
I had orders to go back to my herd, and they went over to the camp and brought back the stolen horses. This was my first experience on herd at Wood Mountain.
Trading with the Indians at Wood Mountain by “Peaches” Davis
(1935 handwritten at top of page)
Dissatisfied with treatment given to trade, Indians rush the store – threaten to kill infant taken as hostage – Major Walsh restores order – dishonest clerk leaves country
In 1879 I was a member of the N.W.M.P., and stationed at Wood Mountain under Major Walsh.
The firm of Kendell & Smith, who were operating a trading post there at the time, offered me a position with them, and as the salary was twice the amount I received in the Police, I accepted, starting to work for them on October 1st, 1879.
The post consisted of a stockade built of logs in a square; one side occupied by the store, and in the yard living quarters where the manager lived with his wife and one child, and a stable where a couple of horses were kept. The staff consisted of Mr. Allen, the manager, two other men and myself. We three slept in the store, using new blankets every night, and trading them to the Indians next day; taking our meals in the living quarters outside in the stockade. The Indians – old men and women mostly – would crowd in. Then usually a squaw would come forward with one buffalo robe for which we gave her brass checks to the amount of $2.50. The checks called for $1.00 in trade or 75 cents in cash. Some of the Indians had money which they had taken from the bodies of men after the Custer massacre across the Line.
All cash transactions were handled by the manager, who took the cash and gave them an order to us for whatever goods they wanted. As each Indian made a purchase it was customary to throw in a small present, such as a small plug of tobacco or some other small article, thus the trading was a very slow business; and the Indians would be in the store smoking and trading from the time we opened until we closed at night.
The manager, Mr. Allen, was a big man and used the Indians in a very rough manner, taking advantage of them whenever possible. The Indians did not seem to resent this treatment at the time, but anyone could see that it all would be remembered and great things were in store for Mr. Allen if he ever fell into their hands.
In the winter of 1879-80 the buffalo were getting very scarce, and the Indians consequently were going hungry, even eating the dead carcasses off the prairie or anything else that was eatable which they could lay their hands on.
As the winter advanced it was getting worse, and they crowded into the store begging for a hardtack biscuit or anything else we could give them.
The Manager was always chasing them out, and they said, “We’ll go, but we’ll come back again,” which they always did. One night they came back yelling and hammering on the doors, telling us to open up or they would break it down. Thinking that they might do so we built a barricade in the store of boxes of hardtack and other trade goods, leaving loopholes through which we could shoot, and for our own protection as well.
The Indians kept up the din outside, but did not try to force the door; nevertheless we worked away to fortify ourselves inside.
Mr. Allen sent me out to the living quarters for some things we needed, and here I found Mrs. Allen and the child, which was in its cot. She was in a state bordering on collapse, and begged me to tell Mr. Allen to come and stay with her. I said I would tell him, and started to return to the store. As I stepped outside the door, a bullet lodged in the logs too near my head for comfort. Hurriedly stepping back, I grabbed up a blanket and threw it around me, thinking to use it as a disguise. Mrs. Allen begged me to stay with her, but this I could not do; so with the blanket around me, and hoping I would not be recognized in the dark, I started back to the store.
Mrs. Allen showed me a small revolver, but she had no ammunition and did not know how to use it. The first thing I did on getting back to the store was to get her some ammunition and run back intending to show her how to use it. This I found I could not do, as in her present state of mind she might shoot herself or the child. Instead, I sat down and talked to her a few minutes, and when she had calmed considerably I went back to the store where I told Mr. Allen the state she was in. I told him that it was a shame to leave her out there, and that he ought to be ashamed of himself. He answered, “If you think so much of them, go out there and stay with them yourself!” This I did, taking my rifle and plenty of ammunition. I stayed with them until daylight, then went back to the store. Allen opened the door and the Indians crowded in, numbering about two hundred and fifty, all painted up and ready for war.
Mr. Allen stood at one end of the store near the safe and where the ammunition was kept; we three clerks were spread along the side. The spokesman for the Indians told Mr. Allen that he had been cheating them, and that they had come to get their just rights to the amount they had been cheated. Allen blustered and bluffed, telling them that he had not cheated but had used them white, and had given them many presents. This had worked before, but the Indians were not having it this time. They told him that he was a liar and a crook; this they knew as some other traders they had visited had given them back four dollars in change when they had given them a bill marked with a five, for a dollar’s worth of goods; and now their women and children were starving and he had to give them the goods or they would kill him.
THREATENED TO KILL
At this one of the Indians burst through a side door and ran to the living quarters, where he took the child from Mrs. Allen and brought it back to the store. Here he handed it over to the crowd; one great Buck held it up and with his tomahawk raised told Allen to give them the stuff or he would kill the child. At this Allen seemed to be struck dumb and helpless; he did not seem able to speak. Mrs. Allen came rushing in, holding out her arms, screaming and pleading for her baby. As Allen seemed helpless I yelled for them to stop, and brought my rifle in line with the Indian who held the child; then Allen came to himself and shouted to me not to shoot, for if they hurt the child there would be the biggest mixture of canned goods and dead Indians ever known in the West.
He had a rifle with the muzzle trained into a powder keg; this held the Indians and gave us a breathing spell. I told Allen not to touch anything off, but to give me three minutes to get to the Fort. He answered, “You can never make it!” but by this time I was fighting my way to the door. One of the Indians struck at me with his war club and missed; the rest were so taken by surprise at my charge that I got through and reached the Fort, where I reported to Major Walsh, sick in bed at the time, but who on hearing of the situation immediately ordered Sergeant Hamilton, Constable Ed. Allen, Constable Chas. Thompson, Constable jack Dunn and Chi Kio Morow, halfbreed interpreter, to accompany me back to the store with orders to get Mrs. Allen and the baby and not come back without them, and to tell Allen to come while he had the chance; also to deliver the following message to the Indians: “All Indians to report to the Fort in fifteen minutes or he would come and blow them all up.”
When we arrived back at the post things were much the same as when I left. The Indians were still holding the child, and Allen was still standing with his rifle pointed at the powder kegs.
Constable Allen, a big well-built sis-footer, asked, “Where be the child?” I pointed it out, and when he saw where it was he began throwing Indians right and left making a passage to the child, calling out, “Follow me, Peach, and cover my back!” On reaching the Indian with the child, he grabbed him by the shoulders, placing his knee in the culprit’s back, bent him over until he released the child to me. He ordered, “Give the child to Mrs. Allen and get them out of here! I’ll finish this fellow.” Sergeant Hamilton interfered, however, which undoubtedly saved the Indian’s life. We all got safely back to the Fort, taking Allen along, the Indians following.
Although it had been a cold day, in March, Major Walsh, covered with robes, was sitting out on a packing box waiting for us, even though a very sick man.
He first addressed Allen, accusing him of being the cause of all the trouble we had had that winter by his crooked dealings; and that if the Indians had made a charge against him, he, Major Walsh, would have seen to it that he be placed where he belonged; but as his day as a trader in that country was over, a team was ready to take him to Cypress with his wife and child; adding that he would now talk with the Indians and hold them back until they got a good start, otherwise he would not be responsible for their actions. He was doing this, he said, not for Allen, but for his wife and child.
Major Walsh finally satisfied the Indians and Allen was never heard of again near Wood Mountain.
“Peaches’” Great Exploit by Lalie Becket (1932 handwritten on top of page)
Escorting 1,100 Hostile Indians for Three Weeks Called for a Prolonged Exercise of Daring, Courage and Wit by a Lone Policeman
The Victoria Cross displayed upon the breast of a British war veteran shows at once that he has performed some conspicuous act of bravery in the service of his King and country, and that they have recognized the fact, giving him this distinguished badge to single him out for special honor before all the world.
But there dwells in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a silver-haired man who, in the service of the Empire, carried through successfully an undertaking that was of specific importance at the time, which changed the current of events from threatened disaster to a safe issue, hindering a war between Indian tribes and probable trouble and bloodshed that, in the words of the then Commissioner of the N.W.M.P., “There would be no knowing where it would end.”
To this day he has received neither recognition nor reward for this outstanding “feat,” that meant the risk of his life every day for nearly three weeks, and a steadfast, enduring courage and diplomacy that a few can command, placing him on a higher plane for distinctive bravery than many who have received and wear the coveted decoration mentioned.
And there are those who would endeavor to raise a cheer, to gain some tangible recognition and benefit for the veteran Policeman, whose faithful adherence to duty, in a desperate strait, commands admiration and respect; when, by means of his wits and sheer dare-devil courage, he tamed and outwitted a large band of Indians and carried them where he would; his own modestly concise statement being “I only did my duty,”
What those five words meant of hazard and escape, effort and success, this story will tell.
Daniel “Peaches” Davis may not have his name written in the annals of courts or kingly trains; but in matters where walking up to and shaking hands with Death meant the fulfillment of his duty, he takes a foremost place. He has made his mark in the history of the West.
* * *
When the North West Mounted Police came West in the “seventies” there were thousands of Redskins still hostile and murderous, in spite of the signing of treaties and the taking up of reserves from the government. And when, in 1876, the “Custer massacre” thrilled the continent with horror – a horror reaching out to the mother country; General Custer, the brave American, with seven hundred men, being cleaned out by the Sioux warriors – it increased the warlike feeling between the bloodlust that remained in the seemingly subdued and friendly Indians of Canada
* * *
“Pioneers of Justice”
Now it was in this year of 1876, just three weeks after the “Custer massacre,” that a youth of nineteen years came West, with twenty-nine others, to take his place in the “Noble Three Hundred,” less than a year after the first company of these “Pioneers of Justice,” as they have been fitly called; and he little thought of what the future held for him, or that he should be singled out for one of the most dangerous and responsible undertakings of those daring men – the N.W.M.P.
From the moment young Davis arrived in the Wild West, fresh from a good home near Ottawa, Death met him under such strange and nerve-racking circumstances that he wondered if he had been too rash in his desire for adventure. And in five years he had become so hard-boiled and so used to these persistent efforts of the ruthless destroyer to get him that he no longer gave him any consideration.
It was under the command of Major J. M. Walsh that he spent his first years in the famous force, and he pays highest tribute to that brave and astute officer for many a lesson in self-control and the carrying out of orders; and he believes that it was the cool, calm fearlessness of this man, combined with a ready tact in dealing with the Indians under desperate conditions and with an unremitting firmness and fairness to this men, that helped to mould an already courageous nature, serving both as an example and a restraining influence over one who might easily have become rash through a pronounced sense of the “fun of the thing” or a temper that might fire up and run into the most frightful danger uselessly.
On the way to the field of duty, young Davis gained the name by which he has sever since been known – “Peaches.” He well remembers how his partiality for the luscious fruit and the consequent “tit-for-tat” by-play at dessert on the steamer “Asia” brought about his christening by a waggish comrade, another member of the famous force. This took place nearly fifty-one years ago, and he has never been known by any other name.
* * *
Back to the Force
After three years of strange and hardening adventure – spells of taking his life in his hand to throw it away every five minutes or so – he, like others, left the force, but not the dangers; and he has many a stirring story to tell of even that short time, for he was back again in a year. Then came his crowning opportunity, when he took “Honors” in bravery, proving that his training and experience had sown seed that grew vigorously, bearing its fruit in due time, causing him to be chosen for a difficult and dangerous task, and enabling him to carry it out successfully, to the openly expressed astonishment of his comrades and commanding officer.
It was an emergency push, and he had to do it all ”by his lone,” a young man of twenty-three, in the year 1881.
Here is the tale:
Peaches stood before his commanding officer, Col. A.G. Irvine, Commissioner of the N.W.M.P., It was about four o’clock on the afternoon of a lovely day in the month of August, 1881.
A large band of Blackfeet had come down to Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, and were camped there. This part of the country was their own “hunting grounds” and at any time an Indian tribe would resent the intrusion of other Indians, for each tribe had their own particular “hunting grounds”; so when such a trespassing occurred, it usually meant a war between the two bands.
* * *
A Serious Outlook
These intruders were renegade Canadian Indians, who had from time to time slipped over to the States and had been wandering round Montana, committing all kinds of depredations – murdering, horse-stealing, and getting into contact with Sitting Bull, the notorious warrior chief of the Sioux, who had come to Canada some time after the “Custer massacre” but had been persuaded to go back again. These restless, wandering Redskins were composed of Assiniboines, Stonies and Crees, and they had caused so much trouble that the Americans were determined to get rid of them. It took two troops of cavalry to round them up, and Canadian permission to bring them over the line to Cypress Hills, which they did, the major portion of the escort returning to the States, leaving a few who remained on Canadian Territory for a short time.
The Blackfeet resented the coming of this band so much that they got ready for war, the result being that a series of quarrels ensued and three Indians were killed.
It was a very serious outlook. Col. Irvine realized that the Indians must be separated. There must be no delay a- there were thousands of them. The strange Indians must be removed from the grounds on which the Blackfeet were camped to a reservation at Battleford, 180 miles away. But how? By whom? A spark might lead to a conflagration; and now a fuse had been lighted by the killing of these men. If these two large bands of Indians were to go to war, there would be no telling where the thing would end. Men could not be spared, but it must be done. At any moment the blood-curdling war-cry might sound and the situation become unthinkable…. Yes, there must be no delay – not an instant.
There was one man whom he thought might be able to conduct the Indians; young, certainly, but he had the necessary qualifications of character and experience. Even at that, would he succeed? The Indians must be separated – that was a certainty. The Police must do it – must risk a life, perhaps. Well, that was what they were there for!
* * *
“Can you Do it?”
“Do you think you can do it Davis?” Col. Irvine’s face was stern and grave, but he thought he knew his men.
Dark of eye and bronzed of cheek, Peaches Davis was hard-boiled at twenty-three, and, as he met the eyes of his superior, he knew the hair’s-breadth chance he had of ever returning. But he replied in the same steady tone, as though asking leave:
I’ll do my best, sir.”
“Well,” said Col. Irvine, “”you understand the position; you know the Indians well, your knowledge of their language, their character, will all help you. I know of no other whom I could trust to carry it through. Do your best. Do it at once, and do it at any cost!” The last words were spoken with great emphasis. Two pairs of eyes were locked in a steady gaze – the blue of the hardy elder, stern yet kindly; those of the hardened young Mounted, dark as night and glowing with the fire of a dare-devil courage. He had voiced his reply, “I will, sir,” but it was in the inscrutable eyes that the real response lay, and the experienced officer saw the resolute determination behind the flame feeding it. He had chosen well. He was satisfied.
When the boys heard of it, they all thought that Peaches had “bitten” off more than he could swallow,” and none of them held out any hope of ever seeing him again once he had disappeared with the turbulent crowd. Remarks greeted him which were by no means optimistic.
“Old Peaches is goin’ to cash in now!”
* * *
There was much to be done, and done quickly. Peaches secured twenty-five Red River carts from the “breeds” in a camp near by, and laid in a stock of provisions from I.C. Baker’s store – cleaned it out! He had about 1,100 Indians to cater for during eighteen days or more, and a long journey before him through country where there was not a living soul. It would not do to go short. So he packed in scores of hams, sacks of flour and bacon, great quantities of tea and sugar, coffee and tobacco (plenty of that) and what not – everything that might be required that he could think of, until the carts were filled up. When everything was secure, it looked a pretty substantial outfit. What with a large band of Indians to feed and watch he wondered where he would find himself a little later.
* * *
A One-Man Job
So he packed his kit, had his carts ready, and went to fetch the unruly bunch. Coming upon the camp of about twenty of the American escort who had remained on Canadian soil for a few days, he spoke to them. When they say this lone and youthful policeman, they waited to hear what he had come for, but he soon enlightened them.
“I’ve come for the Indians,” he said, as a sort of introduction.
He looked quite sensible, but the cavalry officer to whom he spoke looked incredulous and queried:
“Where’s yer squad of police?” Peaches’ ready reply mystified them, until the American turned his query the other way: “Say, ye’re not taken’ that mob alone?” “I certainly am,” responded Peaches, with cool assurance.
The cavalry man showed his astonishment as he drawled:
“There’s no man livin’ can take those Indians to Saskatchewan alone.” And he looked across to where the Indian teepees could be seen.
“I’ll do it or bust1” ventured our gallant Mounted, with more earnestness than elegance.
The American had a “you-make-me-sick” air as he turned away, evidently thinking here was a fool, if a brave one. So his reply had a thin edge on it: “Then yer’ll bust!” he said.
* * *
Later on they saw the practical application of the young Mounted’s assertion, for he had to get the Indians on the move as quickly as possible, and as he informed the chief that they were to “Get a move on” and come along to the reservation, he saw the faces of those around, sulky and unwilling, while the chief grunted in disapproval.
“Huh,” he grunted, as he shook his head. “No, we not want to go.” He shook his head again. The other chiefs standing by joined in with grunts of disapproval also, shaking their heads. Through the camp young bucks were wildly riding about and one or two seemed going on a scout for adventure by the look of them. Here was a set-out! But Peaches was equal to it. He saw that the must use persuasion rather than threats or force; he had all the provisions that they were in need of, which was a powerful means of gaining his point, for he knew that the Indian was like a grown-up child, and the same method of persuasion one would use with a boy would serve. So, when he realized their great unwillingness to give up their freedom he thought he would show them what they were losing; so he turned away, telling them they could stay there for all he cared, and he would take away all the “grub” in the carts – and a few other remarks to himself. He went over to the carts and got ready to move, but when they saw that he meant to take away all the food, they came to him saying that they would come, but to give them their breakfast first. But here Peaches stood firm, for he knew the Indian well. He said;
“No food will be unpacked and no breakfast until the first stop.” But he talked a little more with them, and, as he spoke to Chiefs Bear Head, Loud Thunder and Red Cloud, he casually handed them plugs of tobacco, and soon he had them all persuaded that the best thing they could do was to go with him.
* * *
Young Braves Are Surly
Then they began to strike camp. He had to “jolly” them to hurry them up, for many of the young bucks stood round with fierce and scornful faces as the packing of the Indian lares et penates went on, and he guessed he was not going to have an easy time or a sure and certain arrival at Battleford if these men had their way. He gave four or five of the most amenable ones the job of driving some of the horses, though at the same time he did not know how he was going to keep his eyes on the crafty devils or the squaws, so that the provisions should not be depleted too rapidly, for the thieving propensities of the Indians were fully developed, and it was necessary to keep the sharpest lookout to detect them. He had seen, more than once, horses stolen in such a manner that only the keenest vision and oft-repeated experience could detect. A couple of Redskins would come riding with some horses, and lashing out widly, they would cunningly bring them into contact with a bunch that were grazing, then move off rapidly with several more than they had originally. One could hardly tell how they managed it, nor could they be caught, though afterwards the Mounted got them – provided they or the horses could be recognized.
Oh yes! He was in for a busy time; and perhaps more lively than he cared for. Well, as he said, when he was nearly shot down like a dog, almost the first moment he stepped on Western soil, and nearly every day after, coming up the Missouri en route for Fort Walsh, he would go through with it, “Sure, he would.”
Then the pandemonium set in.
After the lodges were taken down, they started packing, the women doing all the work.
* * *
The Disorderly Trek
Dust and disorder, clatter and confusion, young bucks loping round and in and out through the medley of living creatures and inanimate objects, youngsters yelling, dogs barking and snarling as they get a slash over the nose from one of the brown and half-naked small boys, while the old crones grunt out choice epithets at them and the young men who nearly ride them down, as they drag forward their dogs to a travois (that peculiar method of transport used by the Indians, being two poles crossed and lashed together at the top, while the ends drag along the ground, and across the wider space is placed a circular network basket in which the kettles and pans are placed with all sorts of living necessities, bedding and the like, with, perhaps, a papoose stuck in, too, somewhere – (comfortable enough, no doubt); while here and there a young and comely squaw places herself astride a pony, other squaws distributing themselves on the loads with papoose or puppy or both. Some of the men walk, others mount two on a pony; the old women shuffle along with an uneven gait, often burdened.
The train crawls off, tortuous an serpent-like, the Red River carts following each other in line, and, being entirely made of wood, they set up a creaking and squeaking worse than a hundred pigs being killed, and that can be heard miles away. As a set-off to this primitive orchestra, the less resonant miscellany add their quota to the general racket, which soon becomes “Bedlamic.” Occasional shouting comes from the bucks who careen wildly around on horseback, without the slightest regard for the old crones or smaller fry who are in their path. Talk of the Children of Israel crossing the desert! If Peaches looked as he felt, he must have been a startling libel on Moses. But he stifled his feelings, for his business was to get these Indians on the move and far away – to an unmentionable place, as his thoughts ran just then.
* * *
Bear Head, chief of the Stonies, rides a pinto pony, his long hair in two great plaits at each side, tied with otter skin, and his scalp lock hanging behind. He wears his bear’s head cap, snook in front, and round his neck is a string of immense bears’ claws, in the centre of which he has attached the face of a clock. On his arm is the nickel case and in his ears are large brass rings. His dirty white blanket, with its red and yellow border (the colors of his tribe) is thrown loosely around him. He carries a gun; and it is just as well to bear in mind that it is an armed band the lone policeman is conducting. Chief Bear Head is an Assiniboine or Stonie, which is the same thing – the northern Sioux. He is of medium height, solidly built, and has a reputation for wisdom with his tribe, who say “his medicine is strong,” for he speaks forcibly on occasions and his braves obey him. He is about sixty. It is hard to guess an Indian’s age.
The other Chiefs ride near by, and all are quiet, sulky and unresigned. Peaches feels as if he were dragging a heavy load with a rotten rope that may snap at any moment.
The going was necessarily slow – about ten miles a day.
* * * *
At the first camp the carts were drawn round in a circle, while the women got busy fetching water and making fires, and, as Peaches had instructed the head men, they gathered their families, who squatted in circles while the food was being distributed. It was a picnic for Peaches! Sometimes there came a complaint that there was not enough to go round, and though he had to be careful that the portioning out was equal, for fear of disputes, he did not ask many questions, so that his troublesome charges would be filled up and kept in subjection. The most serious proposition he was up against at the moment was that when the discontented bunch were so filled, they might turn, right about face, and go back.
He saw the simmering and the small bubbles that, from time to time, appeared on the surface, but to which he shut his eyes while keeping them open (get that), and he knew the simmering might become a seething pot, through the blood of the young bucks getting hot at the slightest provocation. And here was where he found Bear Head of great use, for he had influence with the young men.
* * *
They set up the camp in the usual way, the lodges in a circle, dancing taking place in the centre, and at night there was plenty of noise and excitement. He made them corral the horses each night inside the circle of carts, for he had a hunch that the Blackfeet were following them up, and though he knew they were after the horses, there was a possibility that when they sneaked round during the night some of these Indians might detect them and there would be a flare-up. Then he would have a part in the proceedings. It was disquieting, to say the least. To “fall asleep, perchance to dream” – but Shakespeare wasn’t in it when it came to Redskins; and it was the sequel that concerned Peaches. To wake and find a dark and sinister figure over him with a knife. (It is opportune to remark that, as a matter of fact, this very thing happened to him on another occasion.) And indeed, leaving the Blackfeet out of it, this was in foreground of the perspective every night. Well, he would keep his small but effective means of defence ready, and, whatever happened, give a good account of himself, But, if ever Peaches felt the need of an overruling Power, it was during these days and nights of “taking chances,” when a shadowy spectre stalked him, and the “sword of Damocles” hung over his head. (Oh, how he watched that fine hair-thread!)
There was not much sleep for him in any case, for he had to keep a sharp lookout to see that no food was stolen. So, he would don his blanket, leaving one eye out like a genuine Sioux, for not only did he wish to hide his identity from the Indians, but there were wretched curs about who were quite capable of attacking anything that looked strange, or make enough noise to reveal his detective role and cause unwarranted suspicion, thereby increasing the danger of his position amongst them.
One night he caught sight of something moving in the neighborhood of the carts – which he recognized as one of the dogs that were used for drawing a travois – in the act of dragging a side of bacon from one of them. To be certain was to act with Peaches. There was a quick movement on his part and a sudden cessation of movement on the part of the dog.
Though the Indians must have heard the shot, he wasn’t worrying, and a few hours later the result reached him.
* * *
Each day there was a tremendous strain upon his nerve, his chief danger being from the fierce and restive young bucks; and sometimes if a bunch of them were near, he was ready to draw quickly, though it was during the night lay the real danger. Word painting is inadequate to picture the sinister shadow that hovered – sometimes too close for comfort; sometimes almost disappearing. It meant a vigilance such as only those able to see further than their own nose and capable of nerve patience could keep up, and there is no doubt whatever that if Peaches Davis had been of an ordinary caliber – just a very brave young fellow – it would not have sufficed to keep this large bunch of partially hostile Redskins in subjection. Expert knowledge of the Indian character and high courage there had to be; but to carry out a prolonged intercourse with such a bunch – at such a time, absolutely alone – took more than these. Quick wits, diplomatic speech and action, and, above all, perhaps, control of one’s own spirit, were necessary. His wife’s remark (and she has known him nearly all his life): “Yes, Dan has a temper, but it takes an ‘awful’ long time to rouse it,” makes one think that sometimes the glow of a rising fire shone through dark eyes, emphasizing the courage that, in any white man, gained the admiration of an Indian and invariably subdued him – for the time.
Hairbreadth escapes, thrills “sufficient to the day” he had, not to mention the discomfort of never removing his clothes (although a policeman was used to that), and at night, when going round in a blanket, he kept his eyes where they ought to be and his hand on his hip, if there were any of the young men moving about. Some of these were not unfriendly, and he went with them to a tent where there were others gambling. Of course he knew their ways well, but he had never lived day after day in an Indian camp before – nor did he wish to ever again. No siree! Yet, when perforce he had to be there, he tried to get on the best side of circumstances.
It may not be out of place to describe one of these “games of chance” here. One of the Indians would take some small article – a bead or a button – and, showing it on the palm of his hand, would then slap his hands together, close them and wave both arms round, behind and before him, while he chanted a sing-song ending with a staccato on a higher note and holding out both fists. The others would make a sign, signifying “Ahkota” or “Eetyanah,” though silently, which hand held the bead, but when the sleigh-of-hand performer, opened them, he opened his mouth also, showing it on his tongue! This, counting to his score, he thereupon pushed a stick into the ground, and vice versa.
* * *
Most of the young squaws were friendly to him, and it was by their invitation that he visited the tent where they were singing. As they stood in line, the women before the men, he slipped in beside a tall young Stonie, and as the song rose and fell in the peculiar chanting style of Indian music, he rose and fell with it – vocally. He thought he was well up n this kind of thing, but suddenly hit a wrong note! Consternation! He saw the start of his tall neighbor, the glance of eye; so, quick as wink, he was outside the ent and, with the speed of a frightened gopher, into his (tent) hole. It would have been no joke a moment late, and he knew it. The slogan for Peaches at the fort was: “He was either getting into trouble or out of it,” and here he was at it again.
Even though it was a risky business he was on, he saw the humorous side. One thing struck him funny – the way a young brave made love, covering his sweetheart with his blanket, when both would stand still for a long time. The temptation got him to bump a pair of these, and as he passed “two as one” in a blanket, he careless shouldered the brave, and with the corner of his eye he saw the lover turn as he quickly looked out from the blanket and gave a snarl of displeasure; but, passing on, Peaches show no sign of being aware that he had done anything wrong. He felt a slight satisfaction that he had given them a waking up.
Another inside view he got of Indian life was when, one night, passing the Medicine Man’s lodge, he heard such a shouting and hubbub that made him wonder what kind of doctoring was going on. Well knowing that he had no right to pry into these things, but curiosity getting the better of wisdom, he stealthily drew near, venturing to peer in through the opening. The sight that met his gaze drew him inside immediately and near enough to see the whole proceedings. On the ground lay a naked boy, with ashes on his chest, moaning as if in pain; while over him was the Medicine Man, shouting and waving his arms in dramatic way as if he were chasing invisible beings away; his eyes wild and glaring and his face all painted up in a hideous manner, as was also his body. It was enough to scare a host of friends away, in Peaches opinion. Fascinated, he stood, feeling he would like to give this frenzied creature a scare himself, but just then the wild eyes turned in his direction, and, without waiting to see the results, he thought it best to slip out again, as it was against the religion of the Indians that anyone should enter the Medicine Man’s lodge, especially if he were exorcising devils. Peaches’ curiosity led him so far, but not too far.
* * *
The Indians Balk
When they got to the banks of the South Saskatchewan, the Indians refused to go any further. Here was Peaches up against the same difficulty as the at the start – Blackfeet included. He had reason to think that they would soon make their presence known and were only watching their opportunity. If he could only get this bunch on the opposite side, it would be a great advantage; but no, they would not budge. He was in a dilemma, and wished that he could get the Blackfeet out of his head, but he couldn’t. He had succeeded in bringing the Indians so far; a journey of ten days. They were a hundred miles from Fort Walsh and had nearly the same distance to go. They were surely a troublesome set. He felt not an iota of fear, but he was not blind to the fact that they were armed, and if he or they took a threatening or hostile attitude, anything might happen, and his chance would be nil. He must think.
He wandered away fro a while, coming back with his mind made up as to the course he would take.
When the Indians asked for the next meal, he told them that they would have it on the other side. They shook their heads; they would not cross.
“We want breakfast,” Bear Head said, as he approached with a scowling face and threatening gesture. “We go no further. Our young men want to go hunting – they need food – you have plenty, give them some.
“I told you that there would be no food on this side of the river,” he said. His countenance bore a cool and cast iron appearance, but he was far from feeling that he could overcome the unwilling spirit that seemed to possess these dissatisfied Redskins.
As Bear Head walked away, looking black and sulky, Peaches put on his considering cap again, and, going down to the river, where there was a dugout, he packed it with the necessary articles for making tea, got in and rowed across. There, he made a fire, boiled water in the big camp kettles and came back to the hungry and hostile bunch, who were clamoring for food.
Covering his feelings with a blanket of cool assurance and good humor, he pointed to the smoke of the fire and the steam of the boiling kettles, saying:
“Over there is the fire, place for camping and tea, all ready and waiting.’
Peaches won. It was too much for them. They ran to gather their things together, some of the women being the first to be astride a horse or on a cart, and it was amazing how quickly the whole paraphernalia of men, women, children carts, horses, dogs and sundry, that made up the composite of sufficient worry, risk and responsibility to last Peaches for the rest of his life, had crossed, and were on the other side, satisfying their hunger.
* * *
Camping on the other side, they became perfectly at their ease, and, throwing off all responsibility, refused to corral the horses that night, despite repeated orders from Peaches that they should do so. The day had been an exceptionally tiring one and he slept well. The consequence wa that, as he had sensed, a war party of Blackfeet had crossed the river during the dark hours, and stolen every horse in the camp! When Peaches became aware of it, his feelings beggar description. We leave it at that, for this was the position:
“So much” provisions;
Not a single horse to ride nor draw a wagon;
Geographical position, a hundred miles from nowhere; and, it might be added with special reference to Peaches, more than a thousand Redskins, a few hundred of whom were braves who wanted their own way, and that was not to take the trail to the reservation!
A lone hand –
It needed self-control, for he had been provoked more than once by the young men in their efforts to circumvent his mission, and this last contempt of his orders and advice was enough to cause even one trained to discipline to see red, throw discretion to the winds and let go! He was not altogether without resource, and could have used a means of persuasion, but courage and tact were belted together by the steel band of self-control, preventing a mix-up.
Now what was he to do? What could he do? Just what came to him – go on a scouting expedition, alone, which he did. After scouting about three miles, he came upon a half-breed camp. They had four or five horses, but he had the greatest trouble to secure one from the owner, who refused point blank. Peaches had to threaten him, commandeering the horse in the Queen’s name, telling the man that he would be fully compensated and that if he gave further trouble he would have to take him along too. Here, again, the young policeman showed commendable self-control and humane spirit, adding to the fine traditions of the “Mounted,” for he could have acted in a curt and very much more conclusive manner.
* * *
His Messenger Vanishes
When he got back he selected the best rider in the camp, a young buck who was only too delighted to escape, as events proved. This man took a dispatch to Fort Walsh –
“Please send relay of horses, Indians hard to hold.”
“Fleet Wing,” said Peaches, “you ride like h—l for the fort and come back as quick as you can, with the horses.” But he never saw Fleet Wing any more. He was a fine young brave and he liked his freedom too well. His face was more friendly than it had been, when he was given this opportunity for flight. Peaches thought him a splendid scout and found him trustworthy, for he must have reached the fort in double-quick time, as the horses came the next day, brought by Sgt. John Ward.
During the short delay, an interesting event took place, a boy being born to White Gut, an Indian who was friendly to Peaches, and who asked him to give the new arrival a name, making a special request that it would be his own – Peaches. But he thought this was bringing it a bit too close.
Now it is an interesting fact that, in naming a child, the Indian takes notice of some outstanding feature in Nature or something that catches the eye; sometimes the circumstances, as Rain-in-the-Face, Red Cloud, Falling Waters.
Anxious to keep the Indians pleased and pacified, he conceded to their desire that he should name the child, and, being on the banks of the river called “Swift Current,” Saskatchewan, he could think of no better name for the boy. He didn’t baptize him in the name of the Father; but he called him “Swift Waters” and thought he had done quite well, the parents and everyone round being pleased. Then there was nothing for it but that he should go right in to the celebrations that night. He found it an entertainment to watch them, and these few hours were a relief from strain. When the fun was at its height, an old man would jump up and join in - .
“Ahkay – Whcheepe!” he would shout, and as the dance went on “Wanah! Wycheepee!” getting excited so that he looked wild and even dangerous as his excitement increased, holding a koo-ey stick or war club poised threateningly, as though in the act of killing. And when one understands that this war club has a long egg-shaped stone at one end, while at the other hangs a scalp or two – to see this wicked looking weapon circling towards one, well ---
So Peaches was careful to keep out of the way of accidents, while taking part in the dance. Some of the men had buffalo horns fastened on the upper arm, feathers in their hair, and were all painted up. The women wore very wide leather belts studded with brass tacks, and their large brass wire ear-rings were at least an inch and a half long. In the belt they usually carried a bit of tea, tobacco, or anything else they fancied, also a sheathknife for skinning purposes, for, while it was the part of the men to hunt and kill, the women did all the work. They wore plain full skirts, moose skin leggings up to the knees, and moccasins. Some had a streak of bright red paint all along the scalp from brow to nape, the hair being parted at this line and drawn to each side, while more streaks of paint – blue this time – ran down the chin from the upper lip, giving them a hideous appearance. Some young squaws were quite presentable, and Peaches made a hit with them.
* * *
Now, here is Peaches with his relay of horses, ready to start off again. He feels glad that nothing worse than horse-stealing occurred. But again the bucks look fierce and sulky, and this time they absolutely refuse to go to Battleford. They want to go after the Blackfeet or go hunting and cut Battleford out altogether. Peaches feels that there is a crisis and the shadow draws so close that it envelopes him. The chances are that he cannot hold them this time. He is well aware that in a few moments he may be making a last stand, picking as many of these “Niches” as he can before he falls to be left as a prey for the buzzards – and the place that knew him well will know him no more. Well, “never say die” is a good maxim to act on; he must do as he thinks best. And with that thought, he packed up all the carts, while the bucks were no doubt seeing that their guns were loaded. When he had finished he told the turbulent crowd that he was going – with the grub. He then said “Goodbye” and left them.
There was more danger for him at that moment than perhaps at any previous crisis, for the young bucks would probably resent his taking the “grub pile” – take the matter into their own hands, break loose, seize the grub and finish him off. Though not before he had shown them how to do it! He had a slim chance. He was doing the best he could –
They let him go. But when he had gone about two miles, he heard them following up like a horde of cannibals. They could not bear to see the food taken away from them.
When they caught up to the outfit they were in a very ugly mood and wanted to camp there and then and eat; but Peaches was equally determined to keep going until they reached Eagle Lake, a few miles ahead.
The Young Bucks Threaten
Then Bear Head came to him, saying; “My young men are very sore at you. They threatened to cut loose and help themselves to the grub.”
“If they start anything like that,” replied Peaches, “although I am alone among you, there will be a few ‘good’ Indians lying around before I’ve finished.”
Bear Head looked at him and shook his head;
“I will do my best to stop that,” he said, gravely, “for we do not want the Redcoats on our trail. I told them that if we killed you, the ‘Great Mother’ would send her soldiers here thicker than the grass. Then we could not sleep in peace anymore. That seemed to bring them to their senses. They gave their sign of approval.”
So he had escaped by the skin of his teeth, thanks to Bear Head’s influence with the young men. He felt pleased, for, if they had started in, they would have cooked his goose for him.
The Indians had their council ring, and Peaches could picture them as they sat, and the pipe was passed round, the chief first pointing it to the North, South, East, West, and to the ground – for the dead. Then he would take the first pull at it, before passing it on. His life had been in real danger and Bear Head had found it hard to overcome them; and even now he was advising them of the trouble that would come upon them if they harmed the Redcoat.
When he saw Bear Head again there was a wonderful look in his eyes –
“Masunka,” he said, “you are my brother! I must tell you that you are a man to stand alone and speak such strong words as you have done to my people. I am going to call you ‘Lone Wolf,’ because you would have fought till you died.” And he gripped Peaches’ hand.
* * *
Grub Carts Robbed
After this things ran smoothly for a while. But, one morning, when he took a look at the outfit as usual, Peaches found that some of the carts were almost empty. He did not mention this just then, but he was determined to put an end to this pilfering, otherwise there would not be enough to last to the end of the journey. During the day he noticed that some of the old squaws had put their papooses on a travois, yet there was evidently a bulky load under their blankets where the papoose was carried. He, however, allowed them to pack their load and when they camped at night and the rations were being served out, he called the headmen over to speak to them.
“There is stealing going on while I am asleep,” he said. “I wish to speak plain to you. You are stealing your own food. It is for you all, not a few. When we arrived at the reservation it is my intention to hand you over the remains of the provisions to give to your people, and if the food stolen is not put back into the carts, I will arrest all the squaws and bucks who have any provisions and take them to the tie-up house.”
When he had told them this, Old Bear Head got busy. He went through the camp shouting this threat, the result being that all the stolen stuff was put back that night and, as far as Peaches knew, there was no more stealing. It was quite a large amount, consisting of hardtack, flour, green bacon, pemmican, tea and tobacco, and, in addition to these, some fresh meat killed on the way over the prairie. Each day the young bucks were on the lookout for game, and would often go a-hunting, when Peaches might not see them for a whole day. They generally brought in a couple of antelope and would arrive at the camping place in the evening, sometimes before the main bunch got there. It was a sight to see the squaws putting up the teepees, hustling after wood and buffalo chips, others carrying water, while the bucks sat and smoked, it being against their religion to work. Some of them had two or three wives to attend to the work – squaws being bought or traded for a horse, bacon, flour, etc., in those days.
* * *
A New Danger – Matrimony
Towards the end of the journey, Peaches was presented with a pretty young Stonie squaw, Tim-too-tal, who was herself very anxious to find favor in his eyes; but he told them he was not marrying them, and refused her with thanks. (Very sap. It meant marrying the whole family!) But it was not so easy to shake her off, and her parents were keen on getting Peaches for her, giving him another chance when they got to Battleford, when they asked him what he was going to do with his wife. He said he was not aware that he had a wife. “You had better trade her off to one of your young men; I have no place to keep her here,” was his advice to them, supplementing it with a present of some tea and tobacco, as well as giving the young squaw something to buy a dress and blanket with, which perhaps helped to appease them for his refusal of a bride as a present! So ended the divorce proceedings of a senseless affair. But not on the squaw’s side; for, just before he left Battleford, she sent him word that she was going to be married, but that if he wanted her, to come and fetch her! Peaches left it at that. She got married and he did not see much of her after that. But it was a standing joke with the boys, and he was often teased about Mrs. Peaches as long as he was in the force.
Two days before arriving at the Indian reservation, when breaking camp, as he took his usual observation round, he found three old women and two boys lying on the ground, sick. He called two of the chiefs, Bear Head and Loud Thunder, to ask what it meant.
“The Medicine Man said that they were going to die, and they might as well die there as anywhere,” was the amazing reply.
But Peaches’ reply was as much to the point, for he said: “There will not be a bite of food given out until those sick people are loaded into the transport wagon.” And it was only after a considerable amount of grunting that the poor creatures were bundled into the wagon. The three old women died the next day and were buried on a rack, or Indian grave, elevated five feet above the ground, wrapped in blankets and left there. The two young boys recovered, and were so grateful to their rescuer that they made him a present of some finely worked moccasins. One good point about an Indian is that he never forgets a kindness.
After this delay the camp then proceeded to Eagle Hills without any outstanding incident, and Peaches was glad to think that soon this risky and troublesome business would be through.
* * *
A Promised Reward
When they arrived at the Indian reservation, Peaches surrendered a tamed and subdued bunch of Redskins to the Indian agent, receiving a receipt. He had been eighteen days in the company of more than a thousand of these people, who were by no means easy to manage and had in their ranks young men who had no intention of arriving at the reservation and who during that 180 miles had been, to his knowledge, on the point of killing him more than once.
Tired, fed up, but very much alive! Sore, for his clothes had to be removed from him at a necessary distance from the other members of the force – and burned immediately! To rub shoulders with a thousand Redskins meant a living multiplication table!
Peaches then went to Fort Battleford and handed his dispatches, with the receipt for the Indians, to Lieut.-Col. W. Herchmer, the officer commanding.
To quote Peaches’ own words: “I’ll never forget Col. Herchmer’s face when he read the dispatches. He looked me full in the face for a least two minutes. Then he said “’Did you do it alone, Davis? By gad, you did dam well; the force is proud of you. I wish I had fifty men like you.’ He grasped my hand, adding cordially, ‘ I will see that you get recognition for this!’”
Just then Peaches’ sole desire was for a bath and clean raiment. But now he is seventy-seven years of age, and that was fifty-two yeas ago. He is beginning to think that the recognition must have lost the trail.
* * *
Four years after these events Peaches had the mixed pleasure of meeting with these Indians again, when the N.W.M.P. fought in the Riel rebellion of 1885. A few of them took part in the historical “Neck-tie social,” November 25th, 1885.
Ex-Constable D. Davis (“Peaches”) hold the medal for the rebellion 1881. It brought him to the notice of the Prince of Wales on the occasion of his first visit to the Dominion, 1919, when His Royal Highness had a short conversation with and shook hands. Peaches is said to be the only Mounted veteran who possesses a complete uniform of the old days.