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John Cudahy's Big Adventure

Seated at far right is Chief White Eagle.
Standing to his right is Chief Horse Eagle, the man saved by John Cudahy.

      The 101 Ranch, located about 8 miles southwest of Ponca City, in the early days, was visited by many eastern businessmen, for the purpose of rest and relaxation. In February of 1908, one John Cudahy, Jr., son of Chicago meat packer, came to the ranch to restore his nerves and equip himself physically for the serious business responsibilities which his father wished him to assume. Being a greenhorn from back east, the ranch life was exciting, but on one early morning ride, he had one of the biggest adventures of his life.

      Young Cudahy has spent most of his time on horseback, riding among the roundup camps and galloping alone over the range and trails. One morning, as he cantered away from the ranch house, he noticed that a coating of ice had formed during the night on the waterways. For four miles he followed the winding Salt Fork, when an abrupt turn brought him full upon a great commotion in the middle of the stream.

      Chief Horse Eagle, chief of the Ponca Indians, and his pony were struggling in a great gap of open water. The ice had broken under their weight as they had attempted to cross on its surface. The easterner sprang from his horse to the rescue. Yachting and ice boat experience had taught him coolness and skill in such emergencies.

      He saw the chief was entangled in the stirrups and reins, and as he moved to the rescue his knife was open and ready. Immediately the ice crumbled and he too was submerged. A few strokes carried him to the plunging horse and the now exhausted Indian. In the chilling depths he hacked frantically at the restraining straps, while the panic stricken horse lunged and kicked in his effort to free himself from his human burden. Blood was pouring from Cudahy's head as he wrestled the red man free and swam laboriously with him to the shore. The horse, exhausted from his efforts, sank after a gallant attempt to reach shallow water.

      Cudahy and Chief Horse Eagle mounted the ranch horse and hurried to the 101 Ranch house. The nearest civilian physician was at Ponca City, eight miles distant, so the Miller brothers, owners of the ranch, secured the immediate attendance of Dr. Robinson from the government Indian agency three miles away.

      Chief Horse Eagle was found in good condition with only the need of warmth. Cudahy wasn't so lucky, for he suffered two broken ribs and his face and scalp were badly lacerated. The doctor dressed the young man's injuries, which he decided were not necessarily dangerous, but pneumonia was feared. Cudahy was taken to his room and put to bed.

      Chief Horse Eagle reappeared at the ranch with a hundred members of his tribe, his medicine men and his loveliest daughter, the last his gift of gratitude to the man who had saved his life. Cudahy sent word from his room that he was deeply honored, but pale face conventialities forbade acceptance.

      On the vast expanse of prairie which surrounds the ranch house the red men, that night, were performing a dance that appealed to the Great Father for Cudahy's recovery. Within weeks young Cudahy was up and around, and was soon on a train heading back east. In reaching Chicago he would soon sit down with his friends and family and tell of his big adventure in the wild and wooly Oklahoma Territory.

The 101 Ranch White House where Cudahy was taken to recuperate.