The North Fork is set in the place of the author's youth. Don Butler attended various public schools across his native
state, including Friendship High School and Connors State College, before becoming a Navy pilot and attending Baylor Law School.
After retiring from the practice of public utility and municipal law, he turned to historical research and writing. Don and
his wife of fifty-two years, the former Joyce Sanders, live in Austin, where he once served as City Attorney. They have three
children and two grandchildren.
He can be contacted at email@example.com
EXCERPTS FROM THE NORTH FORK
In September of 1863, Kiowa warriors cross the North Fork of the Red River, bound for the Texas frontier. They intend to pillage
the settlements along the Brazos, making off with horses and anything else they can--killing as many whites as they wish and
taking the rest captive.
Twenty-one years later, cattle drovers from South Texas cross the North Fork at the same location; but they are traveling
in the opposite direction. Their destination is Dodge City, where they will deliver three thousand Texas Longhorns to market.
This is an account of the raid and the cattle drive and some of the people who will be affected by both when they come to
live along the North Fork--a place where their cultures will collide as their lives become even further intertwined.
Out beyond the ninety-ninth meridan, in that vast, forbidding part of the Indian country the whites call Comancheria,
two streams converge to form the Red River. The Spanish named the river the Rio Rojo because the reddish soil drained
by the two tributaries color its waters until, a thousand miles later, it empties into the Mississippi.
Wide and treacherous, both branches of the river contain more sand than water. Their currents are ordinarily shallow and
often nonexistent--but never predictable. After a heavy rain, they can suddenly become raging torrents, spilling out of their
banks and cutting new channels overnight.
A no-man's land of more than 1,500,000 acres--the stake in a boundary dispute between the United States and Texas--lies between
the Prairie Dog Town Fork and the North Fork. The argument is over which fork is the main channel of the Red River, marking
the boundary between Texas and Indian Territory. The United States contends the Prairie Dog Town Fork is the main channel;
Texas says it is the North Fork.
For the moment, the conflicting claims of the white men are meaningless. Comancheria, which encompasses all the South
Plains including one-half of Texas, is the exclusive domain of the Comanches and Kiowas--an endless sea of grass, stretching
as far as the eye can see, populated by millions of buffalo, unsafe for the white man or any other Native American tribe.
Daybreak reveals the outlines of a dozen mounted Kiowas, followed by a string of spare ponies, moving steadily southward across
the prairie. The riders' immediate destination is the North Fork where it flows past a gap in Wichitas, the granite shapes
becoming faintly visible through the morning mist. The Kiowas will stop at the river only to water their horses and to eat
before proceeding to their ultimate goal, the Texas frontier.
A muscular, middle-aged chief named Red Eagle, holding a pipe in his right hand to indicate he is the leader of the group,
rides at the head of the column. He will carry the pipe throughout the raid, placing it within its quiver only when necessary
to free both hands.
Red Eagle has ridden this trail into Texas many times to raid the Tejanos and to hunt the buffalo. It follows a path
as familiar to Red Eagle as the feel of a good pony, something he has know as long as he can remember.
The rest of the Kiowas are mostly young warriors, anxious to make names for themselves through their exploits against the
Texans. As they ride, their exuberant voices, singing the Kiowa Journey Song, carry through the crisp autumn air, breaking
the silence of the grassy plain.
Halfway through his first day on the cattle trail, Tom Carter can't say he's improved his lot a great deal. Instead of walking
behind a plow, looking at the rear ends of a team of mules, he is on his way to Dodge City on the back of a balky roan, peering
through a thick fog of heavy dust at the rear ends of about three thousand Texas Longhorns.
It is surprising Tom can see anything at all as he squints through the narrow opening between his hat brim, which is pulled
low on his forehead, and the dirt-caked bandana, which is pulled high up over his nose--all in a futile effort to protect
himself from the dust clogging his nostrils and finding its way into his lungs.
Tom Carter is not making this trip because he wants to improve his station in life though. He is just trying to get away
from his old man and the rock pile of a farm where he has lived his entire life. Seventeen years old and illiterate, Tom
has never set foot inside a schoolhouse or outside Atascosa County. Of average height and on the skinny side, Tom is the
oldest of eight surviving children born to one of the most worthless men in the county, who has done little since he got back
from the war--except drink, raise hell and get Tom's mother pregnant.
Although Tom has never seen a finer meal, the food does not compare with the Hardings' daughter. Molly Harding has plain
brown hair, but her hair is the only thing ordinary about her. Tom and Molly exchange no words during the meal. But the
glare Tom received earlier from Mrs. Harding, when he dug into the platter of chicken, doesn't come close to matching the
look given Molly when Mrs. Harding catches her daughter cutting her flirtatious green eyes toward Tom. For the rest of the
meal, Molly pays more attention to her food and less attention to Tom Carter.