Chapter VI -- Indians and Their Entertainment

The Indian of the past, like the Negro, liked company and it was seldom that one would come over in the state and work by himself. They would go in gangs. When they were hunting, cotton hoeing or picking, and usually after camping out and working for a week or more, one or two would carry off the price of all their labors.

They had a game peculiar to themselves, similar to our old game at school called thimble. In our language their game would be called bullet. A bullet, when it could be had, was used in the game, the players sitting in a circle around a blanket spread on the ground. Each of them had a hat, a handkerchief or something of the kind to hide the bullet under. When hidden, all would guess where it was hidden, the guessor pointing a finger at where he thought the bullet was hidden. After all had guessed the one hiding the bullet would point out where it was hidden. Each one would hold in his hand a bunch of small sticks or straws. With these they kept account of their game. After each guess there would be a general exchange of sticks. I have watched this game for hours and never could understand it, and never saw a white man that did, but an Indian would stake his all on this game of chance. While it was being played not a word was spoken but each player would be giving out a peculiar droning, humming sound, heard nowhere but at a bullet game. A stranger hearing this noise for the first time at a little distance would think he was entering the realm of lost souls.

Another interesting Indian game was their old time ball game which is not played any more on account of creating too many fights, and even bloodshed and death.

In the long ago it was not uncommon for a crowd of white men to ride fifty miles to see a ball game. A well-matched, well played game of baseball is a very tame affair when compared to an Indian game of ye olden times with fifty or more players on each side. The games were always played on a prairie; the players wearing nothing but a breech-cloth and a look of determination for his side to win. Each player was well decorated with paint applied in the most hideous fashion imaginable, but always with some peculiarity about it to show which side he belonged to. Usually one county played another.

The ball was always handled with the ball sticks; butting, kicking and striking each other with their fists was admissible in the game, but to strike another with a stick lost his side one point in the game, which was ten.

When a game was over the winning side carried off most of the wealth of the losers. Their money was always bet first, then came in beads, handkerchieves, ribbons and such with the women, for they always bet the same as men. The men would bet ponies, guns and anything that they had, for it was considered a case of disloyalty not to bet on your own side. I have seen the men going home after a ball game wearing nothing but a breech-cloth, having lost all their clothing on the game, yet jolly and full of life, regarding their misfortune as a huge joke. I never heard or knew of anyone trying to avoid paying anything he had lost on the game, but I have seen them hunting for one that had won in order to give him his honest winnings.

The Indian that I knew was the greatest optimist of any race that I know of, and this is where hope plays a strong hand. I have never seen an Indian, if he expressed himself at all, but what expected to get even and ahead at the next game.

Whether civilizing the Indian up, or down, as the case may be, up to the present standard of civilization is for his betterment, is an oft discussed but a non-decided question. In his half- civilized condition or less, as first I knew him his word was considered binding however scant his food, his wants were few and his life was content and happy. His ball games and different kinds of dances at different seasons of the year furnished him his amusements. The game and his little patch of corn furnished him most of his subsistence. If he needed more he would get a small crowd together, cross into Arkansas or Texas and work it out.

In the making of cane baskets most of the women were experts.

If an Indian were tried and found guilty of a crime in one of their courts and the death penalty was affixed against him, the day was fixed for his execution and he was turned loose to go and do as he pleased until the day of his execution, when he was always on hand to receive the execution of his sentence. Whether this was a matter of honor or bravado I do not know, but I do know that it was not an article of faith on the white man's calendar.

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