Hoof Beats: Back in the saddle in Texas

(Editor’s note: This is Casey’s fourth segment in the “Hoof Beats” blog series, which describes her travels in Indian Country on horseback.)

As you may already know, Travois’ annual conference was in Austin, Texas, this year. I really wanted to ride a horse while in Texas, but I also really wanted my ride to be connected to Indian Country.

Through research, I learned that before European explorers arrived in Texas, many different tribes, including the Karankawa, Caddo, Apache, Comanche, Wichita, Coahuiltecan, Neches and Tonkawa had a long history and established ways of life.

Sadly, for myriad reasons, including disease, war, the encroachment of explorers and settlers, forced relocation and more, Texas has only three federally recognized tribes today, all located hundreds of miles from Austin.

As I continued looking near Austin for a connection to Indian Country, I discovered that the Battle of Plum Creek, a fight between the Comanches and the Texas militia, who allied with Tonkawa Indians, occurred near a little town 30 miles south of Austin called Lockhart. And it just so happened that I found a trail ride that took me right into the heart of that town and along the banks of Plum Creek.

The Battle of Plum Creek occurred just outside of Lockhart on August 12, 1840, five years before Texas was annexed into the United States. (Read more about the battle here.)

Architect Taylor Higgins joined me for the trail ride. As we embarked in Lockhart, I couldn’t help but imagine what things must have been like on that August day 177 years ago. Our horses’ hooves perhaps crossed the same terrain the warriors’ horses had more than a century and a half earlier.

As our horses descended into the cool waters of Plum Creek, the water occasionally rising above our horses’ bellies, I reflected on how these banks were both a site of refuge and trauma.

Our ride took us into downtown Lockhart and around the courthouse square, just a few blocks from where Battle of Plum Creek historical marker stands today.

It was incredible to experience this historically significant area on horseback. Today, the Comanches and the Tonkawa both reside in present day Oklahoma.

I hope to have a chance to someday visit the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center in Lawton, OK, and the Tonkawa Tribe in Tonkawa, OK, to learn more.

If you’re ever in Lockhart, Texas, I highly recommend a meal at Black’s Barbecue. I ate some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had in my life. And as a born and bred Kansas-Citian, that’s saying something!

References:

Books

“Indian Wars of Texas” by Mildred P. Mayhall

“Battles of Texas” by Peck Westmoreland, Jr.

“Lockhart” by Ronda Anton Reagan

Websites:

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