Dead Man's Walk (1996)
during age of the Texas Republic, Texans attack Comanche and Mexicans; part of the Lonesome Dove mini-series; 1840s
Among the Comanche. Grandmother tells the youngster Buffalo Hump that one day a dark woman with a sword will come on a white mule. It will be the end of the Comanche. Do not turn your back on her. Beware of the dark woman on the white mule!
A young prostitute is riding with the Texas Rangers for awhile They are in camp and Matty (aka Matilda Jane) has caught a snapping turtle. Gus (aka August McCrae) and Woodrow (aka Woodrow F. Call), along with the two other rangers, Long Bill Coleman and small Johnny Carthage, are with their leader Major Chevallier.
Long Bill and Johnny are at the campfire. Matty comes up on the men and throws the snapping turtle in amongst them. Those two rangers scamper out of there like a rattlesnake had just been tossed to them. Matty has a good laugh about that.
Republic of Texas, 1842. Two men cross the river and come up to the encampment. Their names are Bigfoot Wallace and Shadrach and they are a couple of hunters. They found a dead Mexican, tortured and killed by the Comanche. The men talk about the Comanche and their use of torture. The Major comments that this sure is a cheery conversation.
Northern Mexico. Comanche under Buffalo Hump attack a group of Mexicans. They kill the men and take the women and children.
Two riders are coming from the west. They are two scalp hunters and the men don't like them. John gets down from his horse and shows the scalps they got from eight Comanche down by a water hole. Shadrach takes a close look at the scalps and tells the Major that it's mostly Mexican hair and it's lots of young hair. Wallace tells the Major that they should hang the two scalp hunters, but the Major says that they are out here only to scout out a road from San Antonio to El Paso. The Major does tell the two scalp hunters to finish their coffee and then leave, because the two are not welcome here.
Now an Indian woman and a little boy come up to the encampment. Shadrach tells the Mexican boy in Spanish to go get some food. He rushes over to the fire. Then Shadrach speaks to the woman, who is scared that Buffalo Hump is going to come and notch her nose. She was one of his wives and she misbehaved. And Buffalo Hump has already took the boy's tongue for stealing food.
With Buffalo Hump being near, the Major tells Gus and Woodrow to take the first shift of the night guard. At their post, Gus figures there's not going to be an Indian in sight anywhere's around here. Woodrow is not so sure. Later Gus decides to go out exploring, but Woodrow is going to stay put at the guard post. A little drunk, Gus starts exploring the surrounding area.
Walking around, a lightning bolt lights up the area and Gus sees a fierce-looking, very strong Buffalo Hump. The Indian gets up and starts running toward Gus. Gus takes off running as fast as he can. Woodrow hears the commotion and takes a shot at Buffalo Hump, but misses. Buffalo Hump is getting close and now he throws his lance at Gus.
Woodrow returns to camp and hears Gus screaming over the pain of being hit by a lance, probably in the buttocks. Woodrow says he thinks it was Buffalo Hump. Wallace says the lance has the markings of Buffalo Hump. Shadrach decides to take a horse ride around the area.
The next day the group goes along the trail toward El Paso. The men see in the distance what looks like goats to them. They take off riding to get some meat for supper. The men get closer and get off their horses. One of the men runs to a bush because nature calls. While there he looks through the bush and there on the other side is Buffalo Hump. He kills the ranger, named Josh, with an arrow to his chest.
Then the Major is hit by an arrow to his chest. Those so-called goats were just Comanche in camouflage. The rangers take cover and start returning fire. Johnny is hit in the right thigh with an arrow.
Now Buffalo Hump comes up from behind the rangers with the dead man draped over his horse. He pushes the body off his horse and then rides away. The partner of Josh, named Zeke, now gets on his horse to ride out to save Josh. A Comanche shoots the horse out from under the fellow. Zeke gets up and here comes Buffalo Hump on his horse riding as fast as he can after the ranger who stars walking backward, trips and falls with his pistol sliding out of his hand. The ranger start running for his life. Buffalo Hump catches up with him and scalps the ranger from his horse on the run. The ranger screams out in pain.
The others won't move from their positions, so Matty goes over to try and help Zeke. The Comanche are close, but they let Matty bring the man back to the group. Buffalo Hump and his men now leave the area. Coleman removes the arrow out of Johnny's thigh. Meanwhile, Zeke shoots himself in the head. The men now bury Josh and Zeke. The Comanche woman now shows up with her nose notched.
Austin, Texas. Three months later. Gus tells Woodrow that Texas is getting ready to take Santa Fe from the Mexicans. And Texas Rangers are welcome to come along. Texas wants to annex New Mexico and make it part of the Republic of Texas. Furthermore, Caleb Cobb is the leader of the expedition. Woodrow, however, wonders about Buffalo Hump. He says Buffalo Hump is out that way to Santa Fe and he may attack and defeat the Texans. The two argue until they get so frustrated that Gus quits arguing.
A bunch of the Texas Rangers are going to sign up, so Woodrow says he'll sign up to. The men walk over to sign up. Captain Billy Faulkner is a little snippy with the rangers, so the leader Caleb Cobb intervenes by making a joke that Captain Faulkner is such a tough soldier that he himself could beat the entire Mexican army. Wallace says if Faulkner is so great, then maybe he can take on Buffalo Hump. Faulkner is game for that. He wants to get a group of men together and go after Buffalo Hump. Cobb overrules Faulkner. He adds that they are just waiting for the arrival of General Lloyd and then they will start out. Wallace and Shadrach say that Gen. Lloyd has been drunk for the last twenty years. Nevertheless, Cobb is taking Lloyd with the expedition. Speak of the devil, Lloyd arrives drunk as a devil.
Gus and Woodrow go into Forsyth's General Merchandise store. There Gus is very taken by the daughter of the store owner. Gus is very good at charming the ladies and he pours it on for Clara. Clara seems to like Gus and she likes to tease him a bit too. She likes to laugh. Clara tells Gus to come around again.
Now Gus tells Woodrow that he would rather stay and marry Clara than go on the expedition. The guys all hear this and now start teasing Gus about going for the preacher after just meeting a girl.
Woodrow goes to a whore named Maggie. Maggie seems to really like Woodrow, but Woodrow is not so good with the ladies. He tells her if he doesn't see her before he leaves, then he says goodbye to her now. He puts his boots on and leaves a disappointed Maggie behind.
Gus still says he's not going on the expedition. He goes to walk along the river. Woodrow goes with him. Gus falls off a bluff by the river. Woodrow goes to get help. The only one available is Johnny. Johnny is so drunk that he fires off his weapon and asks who fired that shot? Woodrow's got real problems with the two misfits of the group.
At camp Wallace comes riding in fast telling the rangers that Buffalo Hump is on this side of the river and they mean to go after him. Gus has to stay behind with Johnny, Gus hurt his ankle in the fall and Johnny is still drunk.
Clara comes over to see Gus. She teases him again, but she does tell Gus that she expects to see him before he leaves on the expedition.
Brazos River, about 60 miles east of Austin and its Colorado River. The men stop to rest their horses. Some of the men go fishing. Woodrow sees a big piece of vegetation floating down the river. He keeps an eye on the vegetation and sees an Indian pop up. Woodrow shoots the Comanche before the Comanche can get at him. The Comanche rush out into the river and attack the fishermen. They kill several of the fishermen.
The Great Texas-Santa Fe Expedition. The expedition keeps on track for Santa Fe.
Back at the Brazos River, the rangers decide it's best that they leave the area. Another one of their men was killed. They leave.
Johnny is driving the wagon to catch up with the expedition. Love-struck Gus makes Johnny stop so he can says one last goodbye to Clara. Clara opens her second story window and talks with Gus. Gus tells her amidst all her teasing that he wants to marry her. She comes out to see him. He asks Clara to marry him once he gets back. She says she can't guarantee it, but she will kiss him if that will help. They kiss.
Matty arrives with a horse. She's going with them.
The men from the Brazos River now reach the expedition. Caleb makes Woodrow a corporal for being the only one to kill a Comanche. Gus learns that Woodrow is now a corporal. Gus is upset
and a bit jealous. He walks away for the group.
The Indian scouts report to Wallace and the guys that the buffalo are moving through the area. Wallace and their group decide to go see the buffalo. Caleb Cobb, is already there looking out over the herd. Across the valley they see the Comanche watching the buffalo. Caleb decides to hold a little powwow with the Comanche. The main Indian scout does the talking. When the talk is over the scout comes over to Gus and Woodrow to say that Buffalo Hump says that these two men belong to him -- Gus for cheating the chief's lance and Woodrow for killing his son at the Brazos River. But tonight he will powwow with Cobb and will bring his wives with him.
John, the meaner of the two scalp hunters, is told by Gus and Woodrow that he is not going with their four man group. John draws his weapon but Gus knocks the man off his horse. Woodrow quickly gets off his horse and uses his rifle butt to hurt John who is still on the ground. The men have to stop Woodrow or he would have killed the scalp hunter.
Back at camp Woodrow tells Cobb that Gus deserves to be a corporal to. He beat John the scalp hunter to the punch and knocked him off his horse. Gus becomes a corporal.
Buffalo Hump arrives with his three wives. They sit down across from Cobb and quite a few rangers. The chief says he wants Matty as his wife. Cobb has his interpreter say to the chief that Matty is Shadrachís wife. So the chief asks for Faulknerís fancy rifle. Faulkner refuses to give up the rifle saying that he spent six months of wages for the rifle and he had to special order it from England. Cobb tells Faulkner that ilt's elementary that one has to give a gift to a visiting chief. He tell Faulkner to give the chief the rifle. Faulkner refuses, so Cobb shoots the captain dead. Cobb says: "I wonít tolerate mutiny."
Everyone is absolutely shocked by this turn of events, even Buffalo Hump. But the chief does get his rifle. The Chief and his wives leave the area.
At night Gus and Woodrow talk about the killing of the Captain. They are still shocked at the event. Woodrow says: "I think the Colonelís insane."
In the morning Matty asks Shadrach if he would ever get hitched? He says it depends on the woman. Matty asks what if it was her that was the woman? Shadrach asks why would she want an old man like him? Matty answers that she would get hitched with Shadrach in a minute. So Shadrach says sure, heíll marry Matty.
A lot of the greenhorns are leaving the expedition. Even the prostitutes are leaving. Gus says at least they got Matty. Wallace says no they ainít got Matty. Sheís retired. Sheís Shadís woman now. He also warns Gus not to be making suggestions to Matty.
Gus, Woodrow and the Indian interpreter go out to hunt buffalo for the men, but they donít find any buffalo. Two Comanche on horses chase down a single buffalo. The three expedition fellows follow behind the Comanche.
A buffalo and the pursuing Comanche come right through the expedition encampment. Shadrach shoots the buffalo down and the Comanche race away.
The expedition moves out. Along the way, one of the wagons topples over spilling its contents all down hill. The expedition has to stop. Then along comes Charlie Goodnight, a Texas Ranger. He and his two men are returning two kidnapped girls to their worried parents.
Cobb explains that they are headed to Santa Fe. They mean to annex New Mexico to Texas. Goodnight says the expedition is not likely to reach Santa Fe. Up ahead is 400 miles of caprock, a layer of hard, impervious rock where thereís no water and nothing but grass.
Cobb says he was told that there was a passage along the Red River. Goodnight says thatís right, but the river here is not the Red. "Nope, thatís the big Wichita." [The Wichita is part of the Red River watershed. An expedition crossed the river at the site of present-day Wichita Falls in 1841 and found a large Wichita Indian village at the site.]
Two of the men steal ten horses and leave the expedition. Cobb sends Wallace and the two corporals after them. The men reach Palo Duro Canyon [now a national park]. There they find buffalo in the valley. Wallace sends Woodrow back to tell Cobb, while he and Gus look for a way down to the valley.
Woodrow runs into three Comanche and the ranger is hit in his left arm with an arrow. The ranger takes off with the Comanche following him. He manages to shoot one of the Comanche off his horse.
Woodrow drives his horse past some rattlesnakes and he runs into Coleman. Coleman starts shooting at the Comanche and that scares them off.
Woodrow now tells Cobb about the buffalo. Cobb says they will camp overnight and then in the morning, if the Comanche are not around, theyíll go get some buffalo meat. Overnight, the Comanche steal 20 horses from the expedition.
And now here comes a prairie fire started by the Comanche. The men have to head for the cliff edge. Gen Lloyd shots himself. The men race to the cliff but a number of them fall to their deaths.
As the men hug the rocks, Buffalo Hump watches them from across the canyon.
Now the expedition has less men and they have to walk to Santa Fe. Wallace and Shad take off to hunt something to eat.
Buffalo Hump is now chasing Kirker, the scalp Hunter. He captures the man and then they hang him up by his feet with his head downward. They then build a fire under him.
Back with the men Matty cries for fear that Shad has been killed by Buffalo Hump. The next morning Shad awakens Matty. She grabs Shad to welcome him back. Cobb is mad at the two hunters and soon he is in a knife fight with Wallace. Shad breaks up the fight with the use of two pistols.
Wallace and the corporals now go out hunting. They hit a buffalo numerous times, but it just jogs away from them.
About a third of the men now leave Cobb and his expedition.
Wallace and the corporals walk to a small Mexican village. They have no idea they are walking into a trap. The three are arrested by Captain Salazar and his men. The men are chained up and put into a primitive jail.
The three prisoners are taken out of the jail just in time to witness the execution of the expeditionís best scout, who had deserted the expedition. The fellow is placed in front of a firing squad and shot down.
Then the Captainís group starts heading out with the prisoners Wallace says at least they will get to see Santa Fe. Salazar says they wonít be seeing Santa Fe. They are heading south to catch up with the expedition and then they will be taken to San Lazaro. The total journey will be about 500 miles.
The group sets up camp for the night. In the dark a grizzly bear attacks the encampment. This provide the Texans a way out of their imprisonment. They are able to grab rifles for themselves equipped with bayonets. A couple of Mexican boys get lost and the three Texans take them along with them.
The group finds the expeditionĎs campfire and go on in. They get their irons taken off them.
In the morning Wallace discovers a nearby encampment of a Mexican army. Cobb decides to go over and talk with the Mexican general. He takes the corporals with them. Woodrow carries the Texas flag on his rifle.
The three men walk right into the encampment with a large crowd of soldiers following behind them. They run right into Captain Salazar. He takes Cobb over to meet the general.
After the talk with the general, Cobb comes to tell the two corporals that he has surrendered the expedition to the general. Woodrow is furious with Cobb. He calls the man a coward for surrendering. When Woodrow refuses to give up his rifle, Cobb pulls his pistol out and threatens to shoot Woodrow. Gus gives up his rifle and tells Woodrow to give up his. Woodrow gives up his rifle. With disgust, Cobb calls the two corporals "Texans".
Gus goes to tell the expedition members to surrender to the Mexicans and then they will all get fed.
Woodrow sees Cobb leaving with the Mexican general in a carriage. The carriage stops for a moment and Woodrow asks Cobb whereís he going? Cobb says to Santa Fe. The Governor wants to meet him. Cobb also says that he thinks the Governor wants to throw a banquet for him.
Woodrow gets so angry that he rushes Cobb knocking him and the general out of the carriage. Woodrow has Cobb on the ground and is beating him. Salazar comes to the rescue. He tells the troops to break up the fight. Someone throws a rope around Woodrow and they pull him off of Cobb. Cobb gets up, grabs a rifle and aims it at Woodrow. Salazar tells him to put hat rifle down because Woodrow is their prisoner not Cobbís.
Woodrow is now in chains again. Gus waits with the expedition to surrender to the Mexicans. They are looking forward to having breakfast.
For what Woodrow did, he receives 100 lashes. Matty nurses Woodrow after the lashing is over.
The next morning the expedition goes oft with Colonel Salazar, leaving the Mexican army behind. Now they are in Apache lands.
The next day, the Salazar group finds the Mexican Generalís little convoy all killed by the Apache chief Gomez and his braves. There is, however, one survivor. And itís Cobb.
Cobb walks with a stick for a cane and a bandana around his eyes. He says the Indians blinded him with thorns. They hamstrung his leg and left him here to starve. Salazar tells Cobb that they are on the Jornada del Muerto, the Dead Manís Walk. [The Jornada del Muerto is in New Mexico and it was the name for the Jornada del Muerto Desert basin with its 100-mile (160 km) route through it. It's a little southwest of Albuquerque along US 25 and next to the west side of Elephant Butte Lake State Park.]
Salazar says they canít take Cobb along. They have to look to themselves. Cobb says he wonít be left behind. Heís only crippled. Salazar gives Cobb his weapon to kill himself, but Salazar starts shooting the people around him including Salazar. He wounds Salazar and some other men and kills Shad.. Matty cries over her man.
The men are on the move again. Johnny says his foot hurts so bad that he doesnít think he can make the trek. Long Bill tells him then heíll carry Johnny out of the desert. Itís cold and itís raining and it's miserable.
The men set up camp for the night. Long Bill Coleman says he's got to go out again and get Johnny and bring him in. He finds Johnny and brings him in.
The men are now walking over hot white sands. They have to huddle down to out last a nasty sand storm. During the night Gomez steals all their horses plus the mules and supplies. At night it's bitter cold again and Johnny is up because of the pain in his leg. He thinks about cutting his juggler vein to end it all, but can't do it. So he takes a walk over to a rock and tries to cut his throat. Gomez shows up and kills Johnny then strips him of his clothes and mutilates his body: throat cut and castrated. The men find Johnny's body in the morning. Long Bill takes it hard.
A man named Joe can't go on. Salazar cannot let him stop. Joe says he's just too tired. Salazar says he's sorry to the fellow and shoots him in the back of the head.
The group finds two more dead and scalped bodies on the rail. Wallace tells Salazar that Gomez is nibbling at them. Let everybody go free and maybe one or two of them may make it out. Salazar goes over and says to Wallace that if he wants to be free, then kill him. Wallace says he doesn't want to shoot the Captain. And the others say the same thing. So they continue on.
The men find dead horses and eat some of the meat. They also find some water in the area.
The Apaches kill two more of the group. Wallace says to Salazar that half his men are so scared of Gomez that they can't fire their weapons. He asks that Salazar trust him with a rifle and he just might shoot Gomez. Salazar lets him have a rifle.
The two boys with the group now can't go on. They are left behind.
The men climb up the mountains and see the Rio Grande below them.
The men reach the Rio Grande. They also reach a small village by the river.
A detachment of the Mexican army comes to the village. The leader is Major Laroche. The Major is contemptuous of Salazar for not chaining his prisoners and losing most of his men and all his horses. As punishment, the Major says the Captain and his men will walk back all the way to Santa Fe. Laroche, however, doesn't want to give Salazar the necessary supplies to make it back to Santa Fe. Laroche relents a little by giving the men some extra ammunition.
Laroche tells his prisoners to go into the Rio Grande and get cleaned up. Matty goes into the river first. The others follow her. And now the Mexicans starts practicing their charges. This scares the expedition men and they start running. The cavalry thinks they are trying to escape and goes after them. They kill quite a few of the prisoners of war.
Now the prisoners are taken to San Lazaro. San Lazaro turns out to be a leper institution. The mayor arrives. Woodward says that they are going to shoot the prisoners. For further prove of this, he says there's a priest here also.
Laroche says now that the mayor is here they can have their little ceremony. They are going to execute only some of the men. In the jar there are white beans and black beans. If the prisoner selects a white bean, he lives. If he selects a black bean, he dies. Woodward draws a bean and it's white. Another prison draws a bean and it too is white. The third man draws a black bean. The next man draws another black bean. Coleman draws a white bean. The next man, Wallace, draws a black bean. Wallace says goodbye to his friends. The three men are put before a firing squad and are shot dead.
A woman sings an operatic song after the death of the prisoners. Laroche tells the still living prisoners that was Lady Kerry, an English prisoner of war. The next day, a black woman who works for Lady Kerry comes down to the prisoners and says Lady Kerry is inviting them to tea. Everyone goes up to have tea. Lady Kerry wears a veil because she has leprosy too. She tells the prisoners that the Mexicans have agreed to release them, but they won't provide them with an escort. Lady Kerry hopes that the prisoners will be their escorts. The men agree to be her escorts. Now they eat their cucumber sandwiches and drink their tea.
The next day the former prisoners leave San Lazaro. Buffalo Hump captures Mexican women. He says that the pretties of them is his new wife.
Buffalo Hump trades his new wife for a crystal ball. But later he doubles back and kills the two white traders and takes his new wife back again.
A scout tells Buffalo Hump that there is a camp of white-eyes about three miles west. The man who killed Buffalo Hump's son is one of the four men. The chief says he will kill Woodrow (who he knows as Gun-in-the-Water).
The next morning Buffalo Hump and his men show up at Lady Kerry's camp. She tells the others that she is going to get naked now, so they must not look. As she disrobes, she starts warming up her voice. She is naked but wears her top hate and veil. The two groups approach each other. Kicking wolf gets scared of possible bad medicine and runs away. The others run away with Kicking Wolf too. Only Buffalo Hump stands his ground and prepares to throw his lance. But then he sees a black woman holding a sword upright, while riding on a mule. He remembers what his grandmother told him Beware of the black woman on a white mule. The group rides right past Buffalo Hump. The chief has his horse keep walking backwards, obeying his grandmother's instructions.
The group reaches Austin. Lady Kerry goes on to San Francisco with her son and maid.
Gus and Woodrow go to see Clara. Woodrow sees Maggie at the store too. Clara puts Corporal Call on the spot by asking him if he thinks she should kiss Gus. Woodow says seeing as how Clara was the only topic Gus talk about for 2,000 miles, yes she should kiss Gus. Clara laughs and kisses Gus. Woodrow looks away and watches Maggie. Maggie turns around and smiles at Woodrow.
This is chronologically the first in writer Larry McMurtry's mini-series series know as the Lonesome Dove Series. My wife and I really liked all five of the series. The second one is Comanche Moon and then comes Lonesome Dove. There is a fourth series called The Streets of Laredo, but it's not as historical as the other ones. Then there is a fifth one known as Return to Lonesome Dove, but it was not written by Larry McMurtry. It's a good movie and worth watching, but not as historical as the first three of McMurtry's mini-series. It deals more with Montana than Texas.
Historical speaking the series Dead Man's Walk is set against five or six historical incidents in Texas history: the Council House fight; the Great Indian Raid of 1840; the Battle of Plum Creek; the Texas-New Mexico Expedition; and the Somevell and Mier Expeditions. Read about these incidents in the historical background below.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
1840 (March 19) -- Council House Fight between Republic of Texas officials and a Comanche peace delegation in San Antonio, Texas, in which almost all the great chiefs of the Penateka band of Comanche were killed. The only big chief left was Buffalo Hump (ca. late 1790s to early 1800s to 1870), a War Chief of the Penateka band of the Comanche Indians. He came to prominence after the Council House Fight when he led the Comanche on the Great Raid of 1840. Buffalo Hump raised a huge war party of many of the bands of the Comanche, and raided deep into white-settled areas of Southeast Texas. The Comanche attacked the towns of Victoria and Linnville. The Texas Rangers defeated the Comanche at the Battle of Plum Creek.
1841 -- the Texan Santa Fe Expedition set out for New Mexico. Near Sante Fe, they were intercepted by Mexican forces led by the Governor of New Mexico. The Mexicans defeated the Texans. The prisoners were marched 2000 miles to prison in Mexico City.
The Texans led by Hugh McLeod numbered 320 men. The Mexicans with 1,500 men were led by New Mexico Governor Manuel Armijo. Texas traitor Captain William G. Lewis persuaded the Texans to surrender to Armijo's forces.
fall of 1842 -- Givsernor Sam Huston of Texax wend Alexander Somervell on a retaliatory raid into Mexico against Mexicans. This was called the Somervell Expedition. They took the border towns of Laredo and Guerreo, but that was it.
1842 (December 20) -- some of Somevell's men were not happy with the expedition. They wanted to strike harder at Mexico. So around 300 men set out to continue raids into Mexico. This was called the Mier Expedition. Within ten day and only 20 miles, the Mier Expedition surrendered at the Mexican town of Mier. It was a Mexican victory, but a costly one. The Mier battle was partly in retaliation for the Dawson Massacre, in which thirty-six Texans were killed by the Mexican Army.
1843 (March) -- The Black Bean incident. A compromise was reached that only one in ten of the Mier Expedition prisoners would be executed by the Mexicans. Colonel Domingo Huerta had 159 white beans and seventeen black beans placed in a pot. The prisoners drew out the beans. The seventeen men with the black beans were executed. Lots of officers died because Huerta put the black beans on top of the beans and had the officers pick first.
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