The Diary of Lizzie Dopps





Chapter VII

We had been in this pioneer country several months, but as yet we had seen no Indians, although we knew they roamed these prairie plains.

One Monday morning as Eli and I were finishing our breakfast, we heard the chickens squawking and raising a disturbance.  I rushed out and down the bank of the creek to where the chickens were kept, Eli following.

We hunted around but could find nothing that could have disturbed them, so started back to the house.  Upon looking up towards the house, I saw a huge Indian on horseback at the brink of the bank, silhouetted against the sky.

"Law, Eli, look up yonder!" I gasped.

The Indian began to beckon to us and shouted, "Coom on, coom on! Heap-good Pawnee, no bad Sioux."  There was nothing for us to do but to go on up and meet him, and not let him guess of the qualms we felt.  

When we came up to him he had dismounted by this time--he followed us for a while, but as we neared the house, he rushed in front of us, entered and sitting down to the deserted breakfast table, slapped his big dirty hands on all the food including a cake I had baked the Saturday before, and had placed on the back of the table.  He knew, probably from previous experience, that if he touched the food with his dirty hands, it would be his.  We certainly did not want it after his handling it.

He demanded coffee.  As I did not drink coffee and Eli liked tea, we had no coffee but drank tea.  Eli poured out the rest of the tea but he demanded more. Eli said there was no more.  The Indian pointed to the tea-kettle on the stove. Eli poured the water out of it into the tea-pot and then out of the tea-pot into his cup.  This seemed to satisfy him.  

In later years my children hearing me tell this story, always called hot water with cream and sugar in it "Indian tea."

After our Indian guest had gorged himself with the remains of breakfast and cake, he got up and started to observe all things in the dugout. By this time we had built in a partition in our dugout sod house. The Indian roamed into the other room where there was a mirror.  Upon seeing it, he stood in front of it, making all kinds of grimaces, laughing and pointing at his ugly face exclaiming, "Pretty, pretty!”

He then spied a piece of blue ribbon I had worn to church the day before and started to cram it into his pocket.  I simply couldn't think of losing this piece of finery which was so hard to get, and before realizing what I was doing, I grabbed him by the arm and cried, "That's mine!"  

This seemed to amuse him rather than anger him and he slowly put it back on the little dressing table.

He picked up Eli's hat and wanted to "Swap" it for the dilapidated cap he wore, saying, "Sun burn nose.  Swap, swap,”  

Eli said, "Well, the sun would burn my nose if I gave you that hat and wore that cap.  No, you can't have the hat."  He was a rather good-natured Indian and just laughed.

Just then Eli glanced out of the door and saw two other Indians approaching.  We couldn’t have this, so he persuaded this old fellow he had been there in the house long enough and to go on out.  This he did.  

I think the reason it was easy to persuade him to go out was that before we entered the house we had had to pass the dugout smoke-house where we were smoking buffalo meat.  The Indian evidently had smelled this and now began to ask for it.  "Buffalo meat for heaps hungry squaws and papoose, heap hungry," said he.

"Well," Eli replied, "I can’t give it all to you or my squaw would go "heap hungry," but I'll give you part of it."

He thought by so doing he might be able to get rid of him and the two Indians who had now joined them.

We were also quite anxious about some fresh buffalo meat we had hanging in the well--afraid they might detect this.  They had already asked for a drink of water, but Eli drew up the water himself and gave them a drink so that they would not know about it.

The last two Indians that came up sat down by the smoke-house, unrolled some blankets that contained food and proceeded to have a feast, probably food they had collected from other settlers, and seemed perfectly oblivious and unconcerned about the "heap hungry squaws and papoose, heap hungry."

They seemed to be having a wonderful time laughing and grunting out their guttural language.  I think the Indian that had been in the house was telling them about me snatching the ribbon away from him.

He was a big follow and I am very small.  Furthermore, many settlers were afraid of Indians and they know it, so they thought it a good joke that little me had the courage to take away from this big Indian what belonged to me.  After he related something in their own language, they looked at me and burst into much merriment.

We were anxious for them to leave, but did not wish to make them angry.  Finally, when their repast seemed to be finished, they got up and came towards us.

The first Indian said to Eli, pointing at me, "That your squaw?"  

"Yes," Eli replied, "That's my squaw."  

"How much take for squaw, one pony?" holding up one hand with one finger raised.  

"No, I don’t want to sell my squaw,"  

"Two ponies?"  Two fingers going up.

"No, I don't want to sell my squaw," Eli putting his arm around me. 

"Three ponies?”  Three fingers going up, and Eli, of course, still telling him a little more emphatically each time that he did not want to sell his squaw.

Finally the Indian's two hands went up all fingers raised, and raised again and he said, "Heaps and heaps of ponies?"

Eli said very, very decisively, "No!  I tell you I won't sell my squaw for any amount of ponies,  Now get out!"

I was getting rather nervous.  Of course, I know my husband would not sell me, but he was getting angry and what if he should make them angry and they would take me away with them in spite of everything I

However, the old follow saw it was of no use, I guess, Then he asked, "Any papoose?"

Eli replied, "No,  No papoose," although it was not to be many months until we expected to have a little "papoose" of our own.

The Indians may have suspected this.  At any rate, they all began to laugh and one of them exclaimed, "Ha! Ha!  You 'fraid of papoose."

They finally left, much to our relief, and it was only a short time afterwards that we saw hundreds of Indians, bucks, squaws, and papooses, stringing along in passing by, a short distance away, but there were no more Indians for us that day.

I suppose I must have written home about this experience, and as it was related from one to another the story grew.

At any rate, years later, I was told that it was reported in the east that the Indians had scalped all the Dopps family except Eli's wife and she had been taken captive by the chief for his squaw,

The people in the east were just about to form a posse to rescue me when a girl friend of mine received a letter from me and she got them right as to the episode.  She said it was like receiving a letter from the dead when she got my letter.


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 © 2006 Laurie Arnold.  All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy.  She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders.  web design © 2006 Ardie Grimes