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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

The Comanche Rider

Title:     The Comanche Rider
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

The ways of disposing of the Indian dead are many. In some places ground sepulture is common; in others, the corpses are placed in trees. South Americans mummified their dead, and cremation was not unknown. Enemies gave no thought to those that they had slain, after plucking off their scalps as trophies, though they sometimes added the indignity of mutilation in killing.

Sachem's Head, near Guilford, Connecticut, is so named because Uncas cut a Pequot's head off and placed it in the crotch of an oak that grew there. It remained withering for years. It was to save the body of Polan from such a fate, after the fight on Sebago Lake in 1756, that his brothers placed it under the root of a sturdy young beech that they had pried out of the ground. He was laid in the hollow in his war-dress, with silver cross on his breast and bow and arrows in his hand; then, the weight on the trunk being released, the sapling sprang back to its place and afterward rose to a commanding height, fitly marking the Indian's tomb. Chief Blackbird, of the Omahas, was buried, in accordance with his wish, on the summit of a bluff near the upper Missouri, on the back of his favorite horse, fully equipped for travel, with the scalps that he had taken hung to the bridle.

When a Comanche dies he is buried on the western side of the camp, that his soul may follow the setting sun into the spirit world the speedier. His bow, arrows, and valuables are interred with him, and his best pony is killed at the grave that he may appear among his fellows in the happy hunting grounds mounted and equipped. An old Comanche who died near Fort Sill was without relatives and poor, so his tribe thought that any kind of a horse would do for him to range upon the fields of paradise. They killed a spavined old plug and left him. Two weeks from that time the late unlamented galloped into a camp of the Wichitas on the back of a lop-eared, bob-tailed, sheep-necked, ring-boned horse, with ribs like a grate, and said he wanted his dinner. Having secured a piece of meat, formally presented to him on the end of a lodge-pole, he offered himself to the view of his own people, alarming them by his glaring eyes and sunken cheeks, and told them that he had come back to haunt them for a stingy, inconsiderate lot, because the gate-keeper of heaven had refused to admit him on so ill-conditioned a mount. The camp broke up in dismay. Wichitas and Comanches journeyed, en masse, to Fort Sill for protection, and since then they have sacrificed the best horses in their possession when an unfriended one journeyed to the spirit world.

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Charles M. Skinner's short story: Comanche Rider