Parker County Today September 2016 - Page 95

Contined from page 86 on horseback, the Comanche often used his mount as a shield, presenting only a leg or perhaps just the sole of a foot to his befuddled foe as he loosed arrows from beneath his horse’s neck. Placing a loop of rope over the cantle, the warrior passed it over his head and under his outside arm for support, freeing both hands to draw and fire his bow or rifle. If riding bareback, the rider plaited the rope into his horse’s mane. Either way, the Comanche’s almost magical mastery of mounted warfare stoked the fires of fear burning up and down the frontier. From horseback, the Comanches dominated the South Plains and Comancheria, a huge swath of land stretching south from southern Colorado and Kansas through western Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico and into north and central Texas, its eastern border lying just west of Fort Worth. Throughout this region they raided and hunted the buffalo, another plains animal that became central to the Plains Indians once they gained equestrian mobility. (See next month’s PCT for part two.) PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY Sources: • The Comanches: Lords of the South Plains, Ernest Wallace and E. Adamson Hoebel, University of Oklahoma Press, 1952. • The Plains of the Great West and Their Inhabitants, Being a Description of the Plains, Game, Indians, &c., of the Great North American Desert, Lt. Col. Richard Irving Dodge, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1877. • The Impact of Horse Culture, Elliot West, www.gilderlehrman.org, 2011. SEPTEMBER 2016 Traveling the South Plains in 1853, German scientist Baldwin Mollhausen noted that from earliest childhood to the waning days of life a Comanche was “continually on horseback.” “Indeed, he makes but an awkward figure enough on foot, though he is no sooner mounted than he is transformed; and … with no other aid than that of the rein and heavy whip he makes his horse perform the most incredible feats.” Texas historian Homer Thrall described the Comanche as “the Arab of the Prairie — the model of the fabled Thessalian ‘Centaur,’ half horse, half man, so closely joined and so dexterously managed that it appears but one animal, fleet and furious.” One almost begins to wonder how they were ever subdued. One of the first things a Comanche child learned was to ride, initially strapped to his mother’s saddle straddling a tame mare. Both boys and girls learned to ride both bareback and with a saddle, with the girls becoming almost as adept as the boys. But according to Wallace and Hoebel, “It was not enough for the Comanche boy to merely learn to ride. He had to be a trick rider. Day after day, month after month, he practiced in drill. He learned to pick up objects from the ground while his mount was traveling at full speed. At first, small and light objects were selected, but as the boy grew older and more proficient, heavier and more bulky objects were exchanged for the lighter ones, until at last, unassisted and at full speed he might be able to pick up from the ground and swing across his horse the body of the heaviest man... .” Rescuing a fallen comrade was obligatory for the Comanche brave, leaving a downed man to the devices of his enemy a disgrace. A formidable enemy 93