More Texans owned horses than automobiles in 1910, but when the middle-aged man
rode into Eagle Pass
that summer, people noticed. Something about the way he sat on his horse attracted
His dress alone caused second looks. He wore buckskin, not
store-bought clothes. Even more noticeable was the multi-colored streaks of paint
slashed across his leather-skinned face.
The man made it known that he
would be putting on a trick-8uriding performance in the vacant lots across the
street from the Rio Grande Hotel. He did not advertise in the local weekly, depending
on word of mouth to draw a crowd.
"His feats were clever," the Eagle
Pass News-Guide reported on Aug. 19, about three weeks after his one-man "Wild
West" show. "His 'life' would make refreshing reading-a few facts only are here
That the newspaper only provided those few facts is a shame,
because this man had quite a story. Unfortunately, much of it has been lost with
the passage of time, but the skeleton remains, along with some interesting questions.
On Sept. 28, 1870, rancher Thomas Wesley Stringfield, his wife Sarah Jane
and their three children - a girl and two boys - were traveling in their wagon.
About 15 miles from their home in McMullen County, a party of 21 Indians and Mexicans
surrounded them. The Stringfields bailed out of the wagon and ran to a nearby
stand of trees.
The twenty-eight-year-old father used his rifle to defend
his family until a bullet hit him in his arm. Gathering his family, Stringfield
tried to get them to a nearby house where he assumed the occupants would come
to their aid.
But the raiders encircled them, shooting Stringfield a
second time and then moving in on the rest of the family with knives and lances.
"About that time I saw them stab my mother in the heart," Ida Alice Stringfield
wrote years later. "I...screamed and started to my mother, but one of the men
jumped between me and my mother. At that time another man picked me up before
him on his horse and started to carry me away."
Ida Alice was only eight
years old, but she was not going to be captured without a fight. "While I was
on his horse," she continued, "I bit the hand he was holding me with. Then he
cursed me in Spanish and told me...that he was going to kill me. I understood
what he said."
The raider hurled the girl to the ground, apparently assuming
it would crush her skull. But the little girl caught herself with her hands and
was not hurt. Then another rider swooped her up.
Ida Alice grabbed the
brush trying to pull herself off the horse. Again, her would-be captor said he
would kill her if she did not stop.
"I told him I would rather die than
to go with them," she said. "He then said, 'All right, I will kill you then."
He threw her down and several of them ran their horses over her. Another
Indian thrust his lance into her seven times.
"The last one of the men
who rode his horse over me, stopped and caught hold of my hair, raised my head
by my hair, and said something I could not understand, as it was not in English
or Spanish. That was the last I knew for some time."
Eventually, a Mexican
family who lived nearby came to the scene of the attack and took Ida Alice to
their house. They cared for her until relatives came for her.
and six-year-old brother Adolphus were dead. The namesake of Ida Alice's dead
father, four-year-old Thomas, was more fortunate, at least to the extent that
his life was spared. Too young to resist to the extent that his sister had, he
was taken into captivity. Eventually, after harsh treatment, he assimilated into
the tribe of his captives. (Whether they were Apaches, Comanches, or Kickapoo
is unclear, though the Eagle Pass account says they were Apaches.)
Ida Alice never learned what had become of her youngest brother. "I and my relatives
and friends have tried every way possible to locate the two brothers (the Eagle
Pass account says Adolphus was killed)...but they have never been seen or heard
of since they were carried away," she said in a sworn statement in 1925, part
of the paperwork that led to a $25,000 settlement from Mexico.
was Stringfield who had ridden into Eagle Pass fifteen years before to make a
little money off the riding abilities he acquired as a white Indian.
As the Eagle Pass newspaper explained it, "Just before Gernonimo died he told
'Two Braids" (that was his Indian name) that he would find his people 100 miles
west of Corpus Christi....Last year  he obtained a permit through the commanding
officer at Fort Sill to go in quest of his people, and being partly successful
he was granted complete liberty by President Taft."
The newspaper continued
that "Two Braids" Stringfield "finds himself a free man without any clear notion
of what to do with his liberty now that he has it, for, needless to say, the Apaches
never taught any man a trade, nothing but hunting, theft and murder."
What Stringfield did with the rest of his life, and how long it lasted, is a mystery.
Published with author's permission