Statement of Steven Cartwright Broken Bow Ranch
Norwood, Colorado August 1919
I was born in 1898 on a ranch in the high country of southwestern Colorado. The ranch was dominated by a beautiful mountain, Lone Cone Peak, just to the south.
Lone Cone was my favorite mountain. Its northern slopes were the summer range of our ranch and so, as a boy, I rode over a great part of it. I recall that there was game everywhere, deer and elk and often bear.
It was still wild country in those days, although the Indians had been removed from the area some fifteen years before I was born. Like any boy I dreamed of the colorful tribes that once roamed through that country, and often liked to imagine, as I came around the shoulder of the mountain, that I could see some wandering Utes in the valley below looking for good hunting grounds, or perhaps a long line of Arapahoe warriors, bedecked with brilliant feathers and riding their painted horses, bent on serious business.
I explored the whole wild range as freely as an eagle wings through the clouds, in tune with it all--the bright greens of the quaking aspens in summer; their shiny gold in the fall; and in the winter the white crown of snow on Lone Cone, standing in all its majesty against the blue of the eastern sky.
I loved the dazzling sunsets of the desert country to the west; the shimmering mystery of the distant desert and the rumbling sound of theSan Miguel River, rushing fresh born from the rock springs of the glacial basin far above Telluride.
The lower slopes of Lone Cone were covered in oak brush. Midway up the shimmering aspen trees skirted the mountain, and higher still the towering blue spruce trees cast their deep shadows--shadows of a mysterious forest that stretched up to timberline at almost thirteen thousand feet.
I often climbed above timberline on Lone Cone to what I thought was the greatest view in the world. Northwest of the mountain, some forty miles away, stood the snowcapped peaks of the La Sals--the Salt Mountains of Utah. Due west lay the Blues. To the southwest lay the red stone sculptures of Monument Valley, and to the south--the mummylike mountain called the Sleeping Ute. When I turned to the east, the giant peaks of the San Juans towered in their snow-clad vastness, beckoning to an adventurous heart.
It was a wonderful place for anyone to live, particularly a young boy. Indeed, even now I recall my youthful wanderings in that country with a joyous heart.
Yet, of all my adventures, the most exciting, mysterious, and wonderful experience was my friendship with old Brules. Old Brules was my hero, a mysterious mountain man, Indian scout, perhaps an outlaw. He lived all alone in a cabin high on the southwest shoulder of Lone Cone.
To me Brules was a fascinating, original source of information on the Old West. On those rare occasions when I was in his presence, I could hear the thunder of the buffalo herds, the voices of the prairie wind, the beat of war drums, and the wild, shrill cry of an Indian charge. He could convey all the excitement and turmoil of that irresistible force that moved the frontier westward, across half the continent, to the Pacific shores in less than fifty years. In fact, he was a part of that turmoil; he had seen almost all of it and drawn his own conclusions. He was fair and honest when it came to passing judgment on the natives who resisted that force to the best of their ability.
He was keen to observe the vast differences in character of one Indian tribe from another. He would describe what separated the cruel and the kind, the ugly and the beautiful, the cowardly and the brave; he knew, too, the different ways these peoples lived in the wilderness.
I first came to know Brules in the spring of 1909 when, as a boy of eleven, I helped with the branding of slick calves--weeners--high up on our summer range on Lone Cone. When it was over and we were headed home, I hit out alone to see for myself if I could find the cabin of the old mountain man. Sure enough, it was where I had heard it would be, and nearby there was the old man himself, panning for gold in the little stream that ran past.
He seemed quite disturbed when I rode up. Clearly strangers were not welcome, but when he saw that his visitor was only a boy, he seemed to grow easier. I felt uncomfortable and left quickly, but I had actually seen and spoken to the legendary mountain man--the outlaw.
That summer I managed to go by his cabin a few more times. I would just wave a greeting and pass by. He never made a sign of recognition, until the last time, at the end of the summer, he waved back.
By late summer of the next year I had got to know old Brules pretty well; I stopped at his camp whenever I could, and he became more friendly, and took an interest in me. He began to show me things about trapping and the use of firearms. Most dramatically, that summer when I was twelve and he was an old man past sixty, he gave me an exhibition of his shooting. I had been around firearms all my life and had lots of instruction on how to use a rifle and handgun, but I had never seen anything like the exhibition Old Man Brules put on that day with his 1873 Winchester and his Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver.
The guns were old and obviously had seen better days, but their action was smooth and clean. Brules was absolutely astounding--he never missed! Whether he set up a small target at long range for his rifle, or I threw cans or bottles into the air (sometimes two at once) for his revolver, he blasted them with deadly accuracy. I had seen men do that with shotguns but never with a rifle or pistol.
Even more impressive was his speed. He could fan his revolver so rapidly that all six shots went off in a steady roar. What's more, each one was accurately placed.
He would complain that his timing had slowed with age and that his eyesight was dimming, but I saw little evidence of either. I wondered what Brules's shooting had been like when he was really in his prime.
Excerpted from The Scout by Harry Combs. . Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.