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“The Odyssey Ends”

by Eugene Chihuahua

Eve Ball settled near the Mescalero Apache Reservation in 1942. She spent over thirty years interviewing many of the old-timers who told stories of the Apaches under siege by the US Army.

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The Comanches, Kiowas, and Kiowa-Apaches hauled us and our handful of possessions to Cache Creek. What blankets and other things we’d put in the baggage cars were destroyed. So we set to work to make brush shelters the old way. Where saplings grew close together, we cut those in the way and tied the tops of growing ones together to form a framework. And the army gave us some canvas to use as covering. We’d lived in houses for almost eight years and learned to like some kind of roof. But, Indian way, we made use of what we could get and we were happy.

Mescalero Apache Tipis, ca. 1906“Mescalero Apache Tipis, ca. 1906,” H. F. Robinson (Photographer)

Captain Scott had not lied to us. We could see the mountains. They weren’t tall like ours but they were mountains. There were trees, and we didn’t have to climb one to see the sun. There was water in the creek—clear sparkling mountain water. There were mesquite beans, and we began gathering and shelling them. We hadn’t seen one since we were taken to Florida. We gathered several hundred bags of them. And there were deer—not so many as at Turkey Creek, but a good many.

You’ll laugh at this, but I don’t mind. The best of all was to hear the coyotes sing, and the cry of the quail too. We hadn’t heard them since we left Fort Bowie. And the smell of sage was good to us.

Captain Scott, as he had promised, issued food to us. He sent blankets, too. And he managed to supply some clothing. They took the children away from their parents and placed them in school at Anadarko. That was more than thirty miles away. At first the Apaches had no horses, and many of them walked to see their children.

George Wratten, with his Apache wife, was there; but we had a bad time talking without an interpreter because he lived so far away. The Kiowa-Apaches could not understand much of what we said, but there were some Comanche and Kiowa boys who had gone to Carlisle who were a great help. And some of us spoke a little English. Many of us also had a knowledge of Spanish, but the people at Fort Sill couldn’t understand it.

We got there too late to begin building houses, so we had a hard first winter. The next year we constructed two-room houses built by standing boards up and down. In most of them the rooms were separated by a "dog-trot"—between them and under the same roof—wide enough that a wagon could be driven through it. They afforded shade in hot weather.

“Captain Scott knew Indians and understood much of our needs.”

Captain Scott knew Indians and understood much of our needs. When the homes were built he let each chief, famous scout, or headman have a village far enough from others that he and his followers would have some privacy. These little settlements were strung out along Cache and Medicine Bluff creeks.

Apache Scouts, ca. 1885“Apache Scouts, ca. 1885,” Unidentified (Photographer)

They were located so that friendly people were close together and the scouts we disliked separated by distance. Nobody liked Chato. He was not far from Four Mile Crossing where Geronimo lived, but he knew better than to try anything with Geronimo. Everyone did. And he had sense enough to stay away from him.

Many of the prisoners had served in the infantry (Company I, Twelfth Infantry) and most of them enlisted in the Seventh Cavalry at Fort Sill—Custer’s old regiment.

Nearly all the village headmen enlisted in the army, and many who were of lesser rank served also. Some headmen were too old for military service but were recognized for service as scouts and paid to maintain village order.