The Battle of Sassafras Creek

Damon Runyon

From what I hear my Grandpap Mugg say, and I guess I hear him say it a million times, more or less, our Western pioneers are in a very tough spot when they first light out around our country.

Of course they are now all old pappy guys such as are still alive, and nobody gives them much of a tumble when they start talking, but my Grandpap Mugg says things are certainly tough about fifty years back, what with Injuns and one thing and another.

When it is not Injuns it is the heat, and when it is not the heat it is the cold, or maybe nothing much to eat. If it is not one thing it is another, and my Grandpap Mugg says it is a sin and a shame how little respect the young squirts show the old boys after all they go through.

You take the battle of Sassafras Creek, my Grandpap Mugg says. That is a very terrible thing, he says, and, he says, if it is not for his wonderful strategy the chances are none of us will be here today.

This Sassafras Creek is a little Humpty Dumpty stream three or four miles from my home town, and why it is called a creek nobody knows, because there is never any water in it except when it rains, which is seldom.

Well, it seems that many years ago my Grandpap Mugg and a bunch of other guys and their wives and kids are camped along this creek. They are traveling in these prairie schooners, which are big covered wagons with women and tow-headed children sticking out the back ends, and the dogs running along underneath.

These people are all in the pioneer business and are looking for some place to settle down. Most of them come from Missouri, which to a very popular place to come from in those days, and they stop off at Sassafras Creek for the night.

Well, sir what happens, but along comes a gang of Kiowa Injuns, and they start to get very mussy with these pioneers. My Grandpap Mugg always says a Kiowa Injun is about the noaccountest guy in the world, but then my Grandpap Mugg is against all Injuns on general principles, so maybe he is prejudiced.

Anyway there are about a dozen Kiowas in this gang, and they start to sling arrows and tomahawks and one thing and another at the pioneers, besides yelling and carrying on something scandalous and waking up all the children.

Well, my Grandpap Mugg is asleep by a camp fire when this business starts, and the first thing he knows a big old arrow plucks him right where he lives, and sticks in an inch to an inch and a half.

Naturally my Grandpap Mugg wakes up right away and takes one look around, and he decides there is only one thing for him to do to save the situation, and he does it. My Grandpap Mugg hauls off and starts running to beat the cars, figuring to draw the Injuns away from that place.

Well, when the Kiowas see him going they take after him, because naturally they figure that my Grandpap Mugg is a sure thing for them, while if they monkey around those pioneers too much they are liable to get in trouble, because it seems these pioneers are very touchy about being woke up by Injuns in the middle of the night.

Well, my Grandpap Mugg is young and spry in those days, and he goes lickety-split across the prairie, with the Injuns following and hollering yip-yip at him. It is a moonlight night, so they can see my Grandpap Mugg, but not much of him at that, because he is throwing plenty heel dust behind him.

By the time daylight comes on my Grandpap Mugg is six miles ahead of the Injuns and still stepping. Before 8 a.m. the Kiowas are all run bow-legged, and they have to pull up, because an Injun cannot run much anyway.

It is three days before the rest of the pioneers catch up with my Grandpap Mugg, and then only because he has to take on gas. Naturally they are very grateful to him for his strategy in drawing the Injuns off.

That is, most of them are, but it seems that some of them are jealous guys, and for twenty years or more they go whispering around that there is a little ki-yi in my Grandpap Mugg, which is a way of saying a little hound, and that he runs because he is scared.

But, of course, my Grandpap Mugg is too big a man to pay any attention to such talk.