The dress of the Indians was a never-ending source of entertainment to us. The familiar costume of the Pawnees of the Kansas Plains, moccasins, breechclouts and blankets, we saw wherever we saw Indians. The wonderful feather headdresses of the Sioux, or the glittering beadwork of the western tribes, were varied at times, often with striking results. Whatever articles of clothing an Indian had, he wore.
Walking in the road ahead of us one day were three Indians. One was dressed in the regulation Indian style, but I'm sure he must have felt envious of the others, one of whom displayed above his moccasins a soldier's long dress coat. Bare-legged and shirtless he was a funny figure. The other's costume we liked better yet. On his head was a high top hat; about his neck was a stiff white celluloid collar but no shirt, then a breechclout and moccasins. Very proud and important they looked as they stalked along, unconscious of the laughter they caused.
More than one little girl we saw in clothing of strange materials. Big, bright-colored silk handkerchiefs were very popular. Sewed together they made a costume worthy of any chief's daughter. At one camp we saw a wonderfully clad little girl, a child of perhaps ten years. None of the white man's finery save masses of beads was used to deck this little princess. Around her head was a glittering beaded band. Flashing earrings reached her shoulders. Her fringed dress of creamy buckskin was ornamented in beautiful, strange designs, all of sparkling beads. On her feet were the most exquisite beaded moccasins imaginable, the prettiest little things I had ever seen. Much I longed for a pair like them, though I really didn't envy the little maid. So loaded was she, so weighted with beads, that without help she couldn't carry them. Bead chains graduated in length from her neck to her ankles, the longest chain being a string of sleigh bells. That costume was probably the pride of the tribe. Very carful of the little girl they were too. It was well that she didn't have to carry that weight alone. We were so delighted with her that we were called many times before we heeded and had to run to overtake the wagons.
At another Indian camp a mother proudly displayed her two little boys. She had dressed them like white children, had made them some trousers. Evidently she had used a pattern. The trousers were sewed to waistbands and the seams on the outside of the legs were sewed, but that was all. With the other necessary seams neglected, the little trousers flapped gaily. The proud mother did not know how funny they looked.
Some of the Indians left very pleasant memories. One morning while Mother was getting breakfast and the children playing about, I saw an Indian riding toward the camp. Tall and straight he looked on a beautiful horse that gleamed lack in the high yellow grass. One hand he carried across his breast, evidently holding some object with great care. As he came closer he looked about at the different groups of children. At last he rode toward Darius, who had stopped his play to watch him.
The little fellow drew back shyly as he came closer, but the Indian called to him saying, "Here, little boy, take this."
As Darius hesitated, looking at him uncertainly, he leaned far down from his horse and said, "Poor bird. Take it, little boy."
Darius started toward him eagerly and took from his hand a robin, a robin with a broken wing.
Delightedly the little boy, always the friend of every animal, cuddled the bird, cooing to it and holding it against his cheek. The big Indian sat back on his horse for a moment, watching him and smiling. Then throwing up his hands as if in a salute, he said, "Good," laughed a little as if well pleased and rode away through grass so high as to reach well up on the sides of his horse. That Indian and his gift were not among the things to be forgotten.
Poor little Darius; try as we would to care for the bird we could not save its life, and when it died a few days later, he was heartbroken.