Two Braids, Ora Woodman

Two Braids, Ora Woodman

From the best evidence that the government has been able to secure, this man was born somewhere in western Texas before the Civil War. Whether he has any living relatives or not will probably never be known, and what his real name is will also remain veiled in mystery. Whether he had father, mother, brother, sister, massacred by the red men, no one knows; or perhaps, he was torn from his mother’s breast, leaving her to lament and bewail his loss.

In all probability, however, he was stolen by a warrior named Toey, since the warriors always kept the captives they took on a raid, and Ora’s first recollections are of lighting Toey’s pipe or doing other small chores for him about the camp. Doubtless, therefore, he was a captive secured in some manner by Toey on some raid.

But from this point Ora shall tell his own story:

As soon as I was large enough I began bringing in wood and water, herding ponies, and so on. As soon as my age permitted, I was placed, with the other warriors, at the pleasant tasks of learning to ride horseback, learning to swim, and jumping on and off a horse while it was on a dead run. I was shown how to defend myself with a shield. This shield was made of the hide of an old bull, sometimes of the thick part of a buffalo hide. A piece cut from the neck or shoulders was thrown over the fire and heated while green, and when it was as hot as it could be without burning-it was rubbed on a rough rock until all the meat had been scraped off. Then a smooth, stone was used until the hide became smooth, soft and pliable. A hickory withe is then made into a hoop and the raw hide is strapped on and sewed with thongs of leather. It looks like the head of a Mississippi banjo when it is finished and put away to dry. After it is thoroughly cured it is set up as a target, and if an arrow pierces it or a bullet goes through it, it finds a place among the debris of the camp. If, however, it proves war-proof, a string is placed through each side, so it can be worn on the arm, and it is never far from its warrior-owner thereafter. The hairy side is next the arm and the smooth side faces the enemy. The moon, stars, serpents, turtles and other things are painted on the shield, in such way that it serves as a compass to guide and direct its owner on a rainy day.

I was given one of these shields and placed about fifty yards from four braves, who took bows and blunt arrows and opened fire on me.

I knew what I had to do, for I had seen the performance before. I began moving the shield with all the caution I could, while the arrows rattled against it. I managed to ward them off for a while, but they were coming so fast that finally one of them passed just over the shield and took me squarely in the forehead. I saw stars, not those painted ones on my shield, but real fiery, flashy ones. It downed me, and my comrades ceased fire for a while. As soon as I was up again, however, they began at me again, and I simply had to learn my lesson. I was knocked down several times before I became an adept, but I finally learned. All the Indians are trained in this same fashion.

After this they taught me how to ride in horse races. I was tied on the horse in the way in which I was expected to sit, nearly straight, leaning a little forward, with my knees clamping the horse so as to cut the wind. After they quit tying me on I fell off several times. The horse sometimes would fly the track and have to be run down on the prairie, with me sometimes swinging beneath his belly. When I was tied on in training horses they would run around a lake, but in the gambling races a straight track was used, so neither horse would have the advantage.

When I had learned to ride a horse I was given a shield, made to mount a horse, and then to run between bunches of Indians with bows and blunt arrows, who would fire at me in volleys as I went by. Many times I was knocked from my horse, and I have several scars on my head yet to remind me of this part of my schooling.

I was next taught the Indian religion, which’ is about as follows: The Great Spirit collected dust from the four corners of the earth to make man, so that when he died the earth would not refuse him a burial place. He said to man, “Thou hast not been taken from me, hence I cannot receive you into my bosom.” When the Great Spirit created man the earth shook and trembled, and said unto the spirit, “How can I feed the vast multitude of men that will issue from this first created man?” And the spirit replied, “We will divide, the maintenance of man during the day time with all that thou producest, while when the night comes I will send my sleep upon man and he will rest and be fed by me with the peace of slumber and will awake refreshed in the morning.”

The spirit took eight parts to form man: the body from the earth; bones from the stones; blood from the dew; the eyes from the depth of clear water; beauty from his own image; the light of the eyes from the sun; thoughts from the water falls; breath from the wind; strength from the storms. The first man was of such gigantic size that his head reached to heaven and his eyes looked from one end of the earth to the other. But manual labor and unwholesome food diminished his size and made him vulnerable. By proper food and the right kind of habits a warrior may become invulnerable, a medicine man.

When the Great Spirit created man he told all the inhabitants of the happy hunting ground to go and present themselves before him as one of his creation. All went except one, and he was cast out of the happy hunting grounds and made to range around on earth. This demon took refuge in the tooth of the serpent, the fang of the spider, the legs of the centipede, and other poisonous animals, insects and reptiles.

To an average ear Indian music has neither melody nor rhythm nor harmony, but that is because he who hears does not understand. If he would study Indian music and learn to understand and appreciate it he would find that it does contain as much melody, rhythm and harmony as any music, and anyone who studies the Indian religion and philosophy would know that we are not pagans nor savages, but that we know about as much of the unknowable as he does, and have seen perhaps even deeper. Perhaps we are from the same ancestors as the Comanches, and they also believe that when the great spirit is made the sun betrays it, and for the sun to set behind a cloud, or to have bad dreams, are sure signs of trouble, and that spider webs thick and low mean rain, and that spider webs high and thin mean dry weather, and that for a bunch of ponies to be unusually restless, throwing their heads, stomping and switching their tails, is a sure sign of an electric storm.

When all these facts have been closely observed, the instruction of the young warrior is complete. Herman Lehmann, the author of Indianology, gives about the same account as this in his experience with the Apaches. As the Apaches and Comanches were together a great deal he and I were boys together and were trained in exactly the same way. In my judgment it has not been many years ago that the Comanches and Apaches were one tribe. My first name was Two Braids. That was the name my master gave me, but time rolled on, and at last Toey died.

I put in most of my time hunting, fishing, and breaking horses for the tribe. Cowhides, horsehides and buffalo-hides were used in making tepees or wigwams. A deer’s blades were used for writing paper, after it was well dressed, and was always given in charge of the chief. Our chief was named Council Chief, as he transacted all the business between the white men and the tribe.

When we killed a horse the meat was eaten just as any other meat would have been. Friends, I would like to say that horse meat is very good to eat. You eat lots worse meat every day. Horses’ bladders were used for knapsacks for carrying meat. When we killed cattle the meat was packed in this way and the substance would stay with it. Cows’ bladders were dressed and used for water sacks. I have seen some so large that they would hold almost a barrel of water. In making long marches we would eat cactus, as it would serve for water many hours. In this way the Indians could travel for hundreds of miles without finding a water hole. When we did find a water hole we would remain there for several days. Water was very scarce on the plains of Texas, New Mexico and Indian Territory. The other tribes considered that this country belonged to the Comanches.

Sometimes bands of other tribes would range over our hunting grounds, and then a fight would follow. Sometimes we were victorious, sometimes the enemy. If they outnumbered us we would gather more of our warriors and run them off, and if we could capture them we took all their belongings away from them and divided them among all those of our warriors who were in the fight. When we returned to camp there would be a big stomp dance. If we lost the battle the squaws would mourn for three or four days. They would cut big gashes on their arms and legs. The old men who had lost sons in the battle would also cut big gashes in their legs, in order that the evil spirit who was working against them might cease his work.

In this life I continued until after the treaty was signed with the western tribes. After the Comanches were shown their land there was no more fighting. The tribe seldom left the reservation without the government’s consent. If they did they were punished by the government. After the treaty had been signed and the Indians had given up, an effort was made to restore to the white men all their property in the possession of the Indians. The white men came to Fort Sill and claimed their horses by the brands. The government took charge of the white children, three in number, a girl and three boys, of whom I was one.

We were taken by a troop of soldiers back to Texas and an effort was made to find our parents. The other boy’s mother was found near Corpus Christi, but the parents of the girl and myself were never found. We were bound out in Eratha County, she to a man named Heack, I to a man named Bybee. She remained there for some time afterwards, and then went to live with a family named Stevenson, where she remained until she married a telegraph operator, with whom she now lives at Las Cruces, N. M.

The troop of soldiers remained in camp for some time. I did not like the man to whom I was bound out, and I could not understand English very well. The man was always trying to get me to work around the place, so I got homesick to be back with the Comanches. Finally I ran off and went to where the soldiers were camped and told them that I wanted to go back to my people. But two of them took me back to the old man, and when they had returned to their camp he took a stick and, motioning like a medicine man, called upon the name of God and the devil, until I thought he was praying for me and having trouble with the Great Spirit. I had seen Indians sacrifice their children to the Great Spirit, and I thought that was what he was going to do with me. As he had no children, I thought he had sacrificed them all. He finally wore himself out trying to make me understand what he wanted me to do, and quit trying for a while. I was very well satisfied that I had been spared for another time.

I meant no harm; I simply wanted to go back to the Comanches, and this I thoroughly intended to do, no matter at what cost. I would dream at night of the Wichita Mountains and their clear running streams; of the deer and the rabbits and the horse races and the big Indian camps. And then, when I would wake to find myself on an old bedstead, shut up in a tight house, away down in Texas, well, this might have suited some people, but it did not suit me. So I watched the soldiers’ camp, and early one morning I discovered that they were preparing to move. I knew that they were going back to Fort Sill, so I slipped around them and got on the road ahead of them four or five miles. When they came up to me I went to the wagon, and they said I had to go back. But I. told them I was going to my people. They said I had no people. I told them that the Comanches were my people. Finally, after some rough words, they agreed to let me go back with them, that is, if I would take care of the horses and do other work around the camp. If ever you saw a fellow tickled, that was I. When they bound’ me out to the old man the soldiers gave me the name of Ora A. Woodman, and I still go by that name. When we got back to Fort Sill, in the fall of the year, none of the Indians were living about the forts; they were all living back in the mountains, camped around the big spring. I hung around the fort for about a month, waiting for some Indians to come in. One evening I was standing on the west side of the fort, looking across the flat between the fort and the sentinel, out on a high hill, when I saw, about two miles to the west, a cloud of dust rising. I knew it was either a bunch of Indians or a herd of buffalo, so 1 waited and watched the dust-cloud closely. As they passed through the gap the sun was very low, and I could see by the way the sun shone on them that they were sure enough Indians. So I took after them, following them on foot until night. Then I came upon them, camped on Beaver creek, and I could tell pretty well which tepee belonged to the chief. They were all laughing and talking, and I was so overjoyed that I ran and jumped right in the middle of the chief’s tepee. They all jumped up and ran out of the tepee, and there was a big stir among them for a while. But they soon found me and knew me, and they caught me and rubbed and petted me and I was indeed the center of attraction for some time. The whole camp listened to my story and shared in my joy. When they had finished rejoicing over my return two old women took me and scrubbed me and put a buckskin suit and moccasins on me and gave me a bow and some arrows, and I was a heap big Indian again.

One of these two old women was noted for her kind-heartedness. Once two Mexican gamblers, who had come to the camps and won about all that the Comanches had, were accused by the Indians of having played unfairly. So the Comanches caught the Mexicans and took from them all the possessions they had won, and, when they got ready to move camp, hung the Mexicans to a tree. But the tree was small, and the feet of one of the gamblers touched the ground. The old woman, after the crowd had left, slipped back and cut the Mexicans down. One of them revived, but the other was dead. The one made his escape, is alive to this day, and has in just the last few years visited the old woman and thanked her again for saving his life. When the Comanches found out that she had cut the Mexicans down they cut off the end of her nose. She lives on Cache creek, and is known as the Woman-That-Cut-the-Mexican-Down .

The year that General Sherman was visiting all the western forts a small band broke out and burned a wagon train and its contents. He came, past a short time afterwards, saw the remains of the wagons, and reported the affair to the government. Those Indians were hunted down and punished by the law, serving a long sentence. Lone Wolf was the war chief on that occasion. He was sent to the penitentiary, where, two weeks after his incarceration, he hung himself.

I was kept by first one and then another of the Comanches, until finally, like all the other white children in the Comanche tribe when they had nowhere else to go, I wound up at Quanah Parker’s. Here I put in the time breaking horses and hunting for game. We had two modes of hunting, one by day, and one by night, with a light. The light was made by taking an old dry cow chip and pouring warm tallow over it until it was thoroughly saturated. Then it was placed on a stick and wrapped well in green bear grass. It was then ready to light. At the tepee one piece would last for several hours, and would make a big light all around. When hunting one person would carry the light and the other the gun. You could see the eyes of any animal that was anywhere in gun-shot by this means, and you could kill wild cattle, deer, antelope and even bear. The peculiar feature is that the light seems to take complete control of the bear. In looking at the light he forgets that he is a bear, or that he ever has been one and you can go right up to him and shoot him wherever you want to.

The Indians spent the winter in the Wichita Mountains on account of the abundance of game. In the spring the game would follow down the streams to where they would raise their young, as wild game of every kind takes to running streams and small creeks during the summer season. So the Indians did likewise, following up the same. During the summer the Indian squaws would cure and dress the hides that had accumulated throughout the winter, making the hides and furs into clothing for the coming winter. The meat that had been killed during the winter season was dried and served the same as bread. When we killed a deer or game of ally kind we drank the blood, filled our hides with raw meat, and then dressed the game, tied it on our horses, and pulled out for camp.

I stayed with the Indians a great deal, and especially with Quanah Parker, until the year 1889, when old Oklahoma was opened for settlement. I was stationed at Fort Reno, and the boomers were camped in big squads along the border of the promised land. They held a boomers’ meeting on April 21. I had been invited to attend the meeting several times but I had told them that I was not very well acquainted with the ways of the white man and didn’t care to attend. The leader said, “Scout, there are lots of pretty girls down there.”

“That’s what I am afraid of,” I said. On the third, they sent a party of ladies to see me. They talked and talked, and finally, when I got a chance to say something, I said, “Well, I will go, just to get rid of you.”

So we went, a distance of about nine miles. I never had a chance to put in a word edgeways. When we reached the camp we were met by about five hundred people. They threw their hats in the air and yelled and whooped, and the old women shook their aprons and laughed at the girls.

My feelings at this moment no human tongue could tell. I was just about to put spurs to my horse, in order to escape from such a mob, when two of the leaders made their way through the crowd and came up to me, as I was sitting on my horse. I guess I must have been frozen there. One of the men said, “I am Wagon Spoke Jim and that is my friend, Boomer like.” The men showed the effect of a long camp life. They invited me to dismount, saying that supper would soon be ready. Pretty soon I began to wish that I was back in my own camp. Wagon Spoke Jim mounted the front end of an eight horse trail wagon and, with a wagon hammer, began pounding on the wagon. When there was a fair degree of quiet he said:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this young man is Scout Woodman, or Two Braids, as he is called by the Indians. He knows every cow trail in this part of the country. He was recommended to us by the officers at Fort Reno. It is to our advantage, friends, to gain what information we can concerning the lands to be opened on the 29th.”

I was then asked to get up and tell them something about the lands in the new country. This I declined to do. I told them that I could not talk English very well, and that I did not care to talk. About this time dish pans began rattling and dogs began barking, and Wagon Spoke Jim said, “All hands to supper.”

It was about 5 o’clock in the evening. I was invited to take supper with them, and I sat down on the ground between Wagon Spoke Jim and Boomer Mike. I could see nothing but my plate, for every time I looked up every-body was looking at me. I sat there, having no appetite. They looked at my buckskin suit and moccasins and asked all sorts of questions. When supper was over and the ground had been cleared Boomer Mike jumped out in the cleared space, cracked his heels together, and shouted, “All hands for the dance.”

Two Braids, Ora Woodman

Then came an old gray-bearded man and took a seat on a wagon-tongue. He bowed his head towards his toes and began working his head and fingers, playing some kind of music. I had never seen such a thing before, nor heard such music. Then Boomer Mike began shouting, and they all whirled around and around in a circle, the men kicking first forwards and then backwards, and the girls sort of pausing and then going ahead again, and laughing all the time. After while they all stopped and Wagon Spoke Jim came up to me and I said to him, “What are all you people doing?”

I was somewhat better acquainted with him by this time than with any of the others, so I asked him, “What is that old man doing?”

He explained that they were dancing, and that the old man was playing the fiddle. That was the Arkansaw Traveler he had just played, he said, and Boomer Mike did the calling.

They danced until midnight, and then the women went to bed in the tents, or rag houses, as they called them, the men went to sleep in their wagons, and I wrapped myself in my saddle blankets and slept on the ground with my saddle for a pillow. Next morning we held another meeting, and for seven ponies I agreed to take them to the big flats known as the nine-mile flats and the 7-C flats, where the entire party afterwards located.

After the country had been opened, and I had filled my contract with these people, I returned to the reservation. I would like to say that I was well-treated in every respect by these people. The following fall and winter I trapped and hunted until spring, when I was called to the headquarters of the United States marshal at Guthrie, Oklahoma. From there I guided Captain A. Tilley and his posse to Sod Town in No-Man’s land.

I remained in that line of business sixteen months. Finally, growing tired of it, I quit, and went back to the reservation, where I remained, hunting and trapping, until the spring of 1893. Then Buffalo Bill came to Fort Sill for Indians, cowboys and guides for his big show, which was then in Chicago, for the World’s Fair. I entered his employ, and in Chicago saw many sights. When the show season closed the Indians and I returned to the reservation.

In the spring of 1894 I secured a job as deputy United States marshal for Oklahoma. That was the year that the Dalton gang and other outlaws were so active, holding up trains and robbing banks along the border. It was on September 9 that the Dalton gang held up a passenger train for an hour and a quarter. The chief marshal received a telegram from the station, saying that the train had been robbed. I happened to be in the office when the telegram was received. There was no chance to back out. The chief marshal said:

“Scout Two Braids, I am going to send nine of you men up there.” So eight more of the best men were called into the office. Said our chief: “I have received a telegram from Red Rock telling me that the Dalton gang has held the train there for an hour and fifteen minutes. Get your guns and horses ready, and I’ll have a car to load your horses in. You can start inside of forty minutes.”

While we were waiting for the engine to get our car ready, the chief gave us our instructions. He began by asking us what we expected to do when we got there. From our answers you would have been led to believe that our little party could have whipped a hundred men. Finally he said, “Scout Two Braids, what are you going to do?”

”Well, captain,” I said, “I know those men, and I had rather hunt them two months than find them in two minutes, for I don’t think it would take over a minute and a half to wind up all the business that we have with them.”

We loaded our horses and started, but fortune seemed to favor us, for hardly had we gone half a mile when the engine jumped the track. There were nine of us and five of the outlaws. They were the most dreaded gang in the territory.

On October 9, they were killed at Coffeyville, Kansas, a border town. They had just robbed two banks there, and were killed by citizens while trying to escape.

During this time the territory was full of outlaws. Some were caught and some were brought in. Often we got into tighter places than we had ever figured on.

During the following winter we took a trip to the Texas Panhandle. We were expecting serious trouble, but didn’t happen to meet it. The Guthrie Capital thus described the result: “A Grand Round-Up. Deputy United States Marshals brought back a bunch of westerners. Deputy United States Marshal Lilley and his outfit, C. W. Russell, Scout Two Braids, Judge Mosley, John Day, brought from the Cheyenne and Arapahoe country yesterday afternoon six-teen prisoners, charged with almost every kind of offense, from petit larceny to highway robbery. They had a rather interesting time taking their men out of the country, as they ranged all the way from a horse thief to a county clerk. When the officers were on their way here with their prisoners they were followed for three days by a mounted gang, but which never came close enough to make an attack.

“On the third day they suddenly approached on the top of a neighboring hill, their guns and revolvers glistening in the sunshine. Two men rode forward and demanded the release of the prisoners. They were told that it would take a fight to get them released, and if the gang thought they had better men than the posse, then they could take the prisoners and turn them loose. So the fight never came off. It was a test of nerve, however. They say that Judge Mosley crawled into a bread box and pulled the lid down after him, when the glistening of the enemy’s guns blinded him. Threatening letters had been sent that the officers would be attacked and would not be allowed to take the prisoners out of the country, and trouble was expected at any moment.”

Judge Mosley was a government inspector. One trip of this kind satisfied him. As soon as he got back to the railroad he took a train for Washington, D. C, and I have never seen him from that day since.

I served my time as a deputy United States marshal until my term was up. Then I returned to the reservation. In the following spring the troops left Fort Sill to go to the Sac and Fox agency. I was detailed to pilot the troops through. We remained at the agency for some time, until the troops were ordered back to Fort Sill. I was not ready to go back with them, for during the time that I was stationed there I met one of the prettiest cowgirls that ever rode the range. She was a white girl, and we were married the following winter, on February 16th.

It was in the following spring that a city election was held at Chandler, Oklahoma. I attended it, for it was the first election I had the chance to see. First one and then another and another was nominated, until finally the mayor of the town said, “Gentleman, I place in nomination O. A. Woodman, better known as Two Braids, for the office of city marshal, to be voted for at the city election on the first clay of May, 1895.”

Every man that had been nominated had to make his little speech. They told what they would do if they were elected. Finally it came my turn to talk. I said, “Gentlemen, I appreciate all that you have done for me. I am no orator, so I haven’t much of a talk to make, but if I am elected marshal of this city I will do my duty as a marshal and carry the law out to the letter.”

They stamped the floor and shouted, “He is the man for the place.” I was closely followed down the street by the mob until we reached Mayor Reeves’ saloon. Here they all turned in. I told the saloon-keeper to give them what they wanted, and said that I would pay the bill. There were three of us in the race, a gentleman by the name of Lawn Polen, on the Independent ticket, and Billy Randolph, on the Democratic ticket. When Election Day came I was elected by a large majority. After I had taken the office nothing of interest occurred until June 19, when the Cook gang rode into town and robbed the bank. A fight followed. It was almost seven against nothing. I was standing almost opposite the bank when Jim Frank and Tulsa Jack rode down the middle of the street. Bill Cook and the Kid, as he was called, and Sam McWilliams, entered the bank from the back way. The first that I knew they were in town was when Jim Frank called in a loud voice, “Scout Two Braids you, we’ve got you this time.”

At the crack of his gun I must have jumped fourteen feet, and immediately I started on the run for my house, about a block and a half away. My wife met me with my Winchester and two boxes of cartridges, and then she went back to the house, and with our seven months old baby lay flat on the floor until the fight was over.

Tulsa Jack told in jail after his arrest that he took two straight shots at that woman, my wife. That house seemed to be a target for the gang, for they shot volley after volley into it. They lost three men in that battle, and there was one citizen killed and four wounded. I also received a wound in my side during this engagement. The gang was followed to the Creek nation, where they were captured the following winter.

After the fight things were very peaceable for a frontier town. So, when I had served my term as city marshal, I returned to the reservation. Then I. joined the buffalo show that traveled during the summer in the Northern and Eastern states. I came back to the reservation and hunted and trapped until the year of the St. Louis World’s Fair, when I took a bunch of Comanches and cowboys to Colonel F. T. Cummings’ Wild West show, stationed at St. Louis. We remained there until the fair was over. We then went back to the reservation, where we remained until April 1, 1906, when I took a bunch of Indians and cowboys to Younger Brothers’ Oklahoma Wild West show opening at Dallas, Texas.

On August 12, 1906. Two Braids was living at Lawton, Oklahoma.

Source: Puckett, J. L. and Ellen. History of Oklahoma and Indian Territory and Homeseeker’s guide. Vinita, Oklahoma, Chieftain Publishing Company, 1906.

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