Bigfoot Wallace & the Hickory Nut Suit of Armor

Bigfoot Wallace in 1872.
Bigfoot Wallace, the infamous soldier, Indian fighter, Texas Ranger and teller of tales came to Texas in 1836 to avenge his brother who had been killed by Mexicans in the Goliad Massacre in March, 1836. There are many fantastic stories about Bigfoot, some told by himself, which might lead folks to believe he was larger than life. Large he was, standing 6 feet, 4 inches in his stocking feet and at least 240 pounds with not an once of fat on him. He was a direct descendant of the great Scottish Chief Wallace. was born into a prosperous Virginia family, had a good education and spoke excellent English. He could go for days without food or water, learned to track like an Apache and was every bit as good with a knife as Jim Bowie. A confirmed bachelor, he loved good company and loved to sit by an open range campfire telling yarns, drinking firewater and singing away the night. His favorite song? "If the ocean was whisky and I was a duck, I'd dive to the bottom and suck it all up."

Bigfoot was a great story teller and wherever he went people were always after him for one of his yarns. Later in life, one of the most frequent questions he was asked was, "what was your most remarkable experience with Indians?" He knew people were expecting something special from him so this is the story he would tell.

When the moon was full, the "Comanche Moon" as people called it, Indians were expected to be about. Bigfoot kept his horses shut up in a picket pen attached to the back of his cabin out west of the Medina River except for one which he would keep staked in a little brush clearing several hundred yards away. He had a pack of mean mongrel dogs that could be depended on to give him a warning anytime anyone got within smelling distance, especially Indians. Bigfoot himself was a light sleeper and he kept his rifle and pistols right next to his bunk bed so with his horses near, his light sleeping, his dogs on the alert and his reputation with the Indians of being a fierce warrior to be wary of, he never lost an animal. That is, he never lost one until one night in late November of 1865.

Early one morning Bigfoot awoke to find his horses gone from the picket pen behind his cabin. The dogs hadn't made a sound all night and Bigfoot himself hadn't heard a thing. He found the rawhide strips holding the picket boards together had been cut and the pickets pulled from the ground. Moccasin tracks were all around. He figured those Indians must have had a medicine man with them who mesmerized his dogs. The Indians had at least a couple of hours head start on him, but it was against his religion to let Indians get away with his horses so he put on his buckskins, packed a couple of pistols, his big knife and a rifle and set out for his horse, a gray mare he had named White Bean, which was still staked in the clearing 200 yards away.

 Bigfoot began following the trail of the thieving Indians and the further he got, the more moccasin tracks he found. He could tell it was a group of Comanches and evidently they had strung themselves out for a ways and only sent in a few to actually steal his horses. As the moccasin tracks became more numerous, he began to wonder just what he would do when he caught up with all those Comanches, but he kept going as fast as White Bean could gallop.

 That evening, just before the sun set beyond the horizon, Bigfoot topped a hill and saw smoke from a campfire about 1 1/2 miles further on. He knew there was a small lake just about there so the Indians must have stopped to have one of their favorite meals, stolen horse steak. He knew one of his fine colts was the main course and it riled him up to no end. He still didn't know what he would do with all them Indians once he caught up to them, but he kept on going anyway.

About half-a-mile from the Indians campfire, Bigfoot came up on some woods full of hickory trees. It was hickory nut time and those nuts were so thick on the ground you couldn't walk without stepping on them. That gave old Bigfoot an idea. One time when cornered in a cabin by Apaches. Bigfoot had hung two wooden window shutters on himself as protection against arrows and charged right into the thick of those Indians. When their arrows hadn't killed him or even stopped him from killing 4 warriors, the ones left beat a hasty retreat. Well, Bigfoot didn't have any window shutters with him that day, so he decided to armor himself with those hickory nuts.

Bigfoot always liked his clothes roomy so his buckskin shirt and pants had plenty of room between him and them. He pulled out some leather strings to tie off his pants legs above his big feet and the sleeves around his thick wrists and began filling his clothes with them nuts. He said he picked up so many hickory nuts he thought he'd go blind, but finally he was all padded out like a fat Santa Claus. There wasn't a sliver of his skin which wasn't protected by layers and layers of nuts. He even took off his old sweat-stained cowboy hat and filled it half-full of nuts to protect the top of his head.

All armored up, he was ready to attack the horse thieves, but when he tried to climb up on White Bean, the mare started bucking and snorting and her eyes got all wide and wild and Bigfoot found he could barely walk, much less hold onto a scared horse and mount her. He had to talk to White Bean for a good while before his familiar voice finally calmed her down enough that he could lead her over to a fallen log and gently step from it up onto her back. He finally got himself situated and with all those nuts rubbing against his skin, he headed straight for the Indian's camp.

About 500 yards from the camp, Bigfoot rolled off White Bean into the waist-high prairie grass. He began crawling as best he could, but with his guns and knife around his waist and all them nuts in his clothes, it took a considerable while before finally getting within about 100 yards of the campfire. He raised his head just enough to count and found there were 42 Comanche, most lying around in a stupor after their big meal of horse meat and 3 lookouts standing a little ways out guarding the horses.

Keeping well hid, Bigfoot aimed his trusty rifle, fired a shot and one of the lookouts went to warrior heaven. Looking around but not knowing where the shot came from, the other 2 lookouts crouched down, but remained where they were. Pouring another charge of powder into the barrel and ramming a bullet home, Bigfoot quickly took aim and another Indian went down with a yell. Now alert though, all 40 of them Comanches who were left saw where the rifle smoke came from, grabbed their bows and arrows and came charging. Bigfoot had just enough time to load his rifle one more time and give another Indian the kiss of death. Knowing he now needed to keep a bullet for himself or those Comanche would have a grand old time torturing him to death, Bigfoot rose up in all his stature and all his hickory nuts ready to take down as many of them as he could before taking himself out of the fight, but to his amazement, those Indians halted "like they'd been paralyzed by Davy Crockett's grin." They didn't seem to know whether they were going up against some unknown supernatural giant or if it was just a swollen up "Old Big" whose horses they had stolen. They talked among themselves for several seconds before deciding it must be the man they had so often tangled with. They didn't know why he was all swollen up like a long dead mule, but they decided to charge.

Bigfoot claimed he was a mighty lucky feller that none of them Indians had a gun, but they all had bows and arrows and all were fine marksmen with them. Every arrow hit old Bigfoot with unerring accuracy, but every time an arrow pierced his buckskins it would hit a hickory nut, split it and fall harmlessly to the ground. Wary of the pistols he still carried in his hands, the Indians didn't charge into him, but stood a ways out and fired arrow after arrow. Bigfoot claimed so many arrows got stacked up in front of him that he stepped up on the pile and got 3 inches taller. The warriors made a right flank movement and bombarded him from that angle for a while. Some of them broke off, ran to the left side and began firing arrows at him from there. Every once in a while, Bigfoot would see an arrow aimed high so he'd duck his head and the arrow would split a nut up there in his hat. Hickory nuts were getting split faster than a Missouri mule can bite the grains of an ear of corn.

Finally, the Indians concentrated their attack in a rear assault. So many arrows split nuts under his knee joints that it started tickling and Bigfoot just burst out laughing. He felt one final arrow split a nut by his waist and when no more arrows came, he whirled around as fast as he could to face his attackers. The Indians had fired every last arrow they had and not one had missed its target, but not only was their enormous foe still standing unharmed, he was laughing! When those fierce Comanche warriors saw that, they acted like lightning had struck the ground among them. They stood for almost a full minute with their eyes rolling around in their heads and their tongues all hanging out. Then all of a sudden they all took off running toward the Rio Grande 70 miles away like the devil himself was after them. "They never even gave the horses or their dead friends a single look."

"I stood there in my tracks," Bigfoot said, "as still and solemn as a cigar Indian until those devils were clean out of sight. Then I untied the strings around my wrists and ankles and those hickory nuts just poured out and you can kick me to death with grasshopper legs if a single solitary nut in the whole passel hadn't been split open. I thought what a pity to lose all those nuts when they were so good at fattening hogs so I walked back to White Bean where I'd hid her in the brush and got on her and rode up to the battleground. Then I tied up the colt skin the Indians had peeled off and filled it with them nuts until it looked like a Mexican's goatskin full of milk. I loaded it on White Bean and got home with them nuts and all my horses except the eaten colt that same night. My pigs ate on them nuts all winter long."

"I reckon that was the most remarkable experience I ever had with Indians."

For another story about Bigfoot Wallace, see The Headless Horseman.