Part 1 of Benton Canon’s story by Carolyn Newman HUERFANO — If you accidentally shot yourself in
by Carolyn Newman
HUERFANO — Last week the History Detective recounted, in his own words, how Benton Canon accidentally shot himself in the chest. He was alone in 1866, blood was spurting from the wound with each breath, and this 20-year-old wanted to reach his camp and his friend. This is the second part.
“There was a large flat rock near a big pine tree, and upon it I laid down in sort of a stupor. When I awoke there stood Buckskin (Benton’s horse), looking at me and acting as though he wanted to say something.
“Remembering the old saying, ‘where there is life, there is hope’, I made another effort to get to camp. I took the stirrup strap from my horse’s neck and got him to the rock, managing at last to climb into the saddle and turned him toward the camp. With every step Buckskin took was like sticking a dagger in to my breast. I gave him the rein and held to the horn of my saddle with both hands, suffering a torture that no one can describe.
“By this time I was famished for a drink of water, and with none in sight, I realized that if there was any chance to save my life, I would have to keep my seat in the saddle and let Buckskin take me to camp where I was sure to meet Mr. Patterson. WATER! WATER! I must have! Fever burned me up and no water was in sight! But Buckskin was picking his way through rocks and brush, and held the right direction to camp.
“At that moment I would have given all my worldly possessions and even mortgage my future for one sup of pure mountain water. A few minutes later I came to a deep gulch, and I imagined I could hear the gurgle of a stream at the bottom.
“The trail went around and through oak brush for about one hundred feet before I reached the edge of the brook. Here I realized that I was up against another serious problem. Could I get off Buckskin and back into the saddle?
“I decided that the ordeal must be attempted – water procured at any cost. I urged my horse forward, but could not move hand or foot on my left side without the most excruciating pain. Every breath I took tortured me. Only a few feet separated my lips and clear running water; a fever burned me like the hot blast from a furnace.
“I managed to get out of the saddle and down to the ground. Water there was in plenty – only a few feet away – and the crazy notion seized me that perhaps Buckskin could help me. That true and tried friend acted like he wanted to assist me, but knew not how. I was unable to stoop down in order to get my mouth to the water. My hat I had left on the mountain. Then I thought of my shoe! With my right hand I untied the laces and rinsed out the blood with which it was half filled from the wound in my breast!
“No living mortal ever appreciated a drink of water more than I did during the next moment. The cool water revived me and I felt grateful enough to be willing to give up the ghost, and quit the battle for life. But the fresh breeze of evening cooled my body, and with a superhuman effort I succeeded at last in regaining the saddle.”
To be continued next week.
Information is from Benton Canon’s writings, now with the Sporleder papers in the Huerfano County Heritage Center and Archives. 114 W. Sixth, Walsenburg, CO 81089. 719-738-2346.
The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society.