Tom Horn spent the majority of his life among the Apache and the bulk of his autobiography is taken up with the campaign against them in the late 1800's. He went west as did so many of the young men of his day, and at sixteen Al Sieber, the chief of the cavalry scouts, employed him:
I was young and active and could travel with him all day and herd the horses at night, and do the cooking and tend to the packs and clean his gun every night; and all of this was fun for me. The San Carlos, or Apache, Reservation was 60 miles wide and 130 miles long…Sieber was keeping an eye on the peace and conduct of the Indians. Sieber spoke Apache and Mexican both, and as there were always Indians with us, I began to learn the language very rapidly. That was a glorious time for me, as I could hunt deer and turkey to my heart's content, and if I would leave camp and be gone all night to some Indian camp, Sieber never said a word against it…
What a wonderful way to live at that age! He became a scout himself and when war was officially declared against the Apache, he often tracked and fought them. He knew Geronimo, whom he described as the “biggest chief, the best talker, and the biggest liar in the world.” Horn does give us a record of Geronimo's words, which enable the reader to make up his own mind — here is Geronimo's conversation with a cavalry general in 1883:
“…I listened to your talk yesterday,” said Geronimo, “and it made me feel that I had done some great wrong. Perhaps I have done wrong, as a white man looks at my actions. I know that a white man does not see as an Apache sees, and I know what is life to a white man is death to an Apache. My influence with my people is great, as you have said, but there are warriors here whom no one can control… You complain of my people raiding and killing up in the American's country. Do you not think I should complain of your war chief killing my warriors?”
Horn became a deputy sheriff, tracked cattle rustlers and worked for the Pinkertons.
Horn was later charged with the murder of a fourteen year old boy (Horn claims he was framed) and hanged for the crime. Many believed him innocent, and he became a legend in the west. In fact, this autobiography and appended material is put forth as a vindication of Horn's character. Although the original publisher, rancher John Cole, claimed that “…no sentence has been added and no alterations have been made, save to avoid ambiguity…” it's pretty clear that the spoken dialogue has been edited to conform with standard usage. Captivating nonetheless!
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