Keith Murray was one of those people who could be used as a model for The Good Samaritan. He never met a stranger, and he was free and easy with all of his material possessions. His wife often smiled in wry tolerance as he handed out another free meal to some poor soul who hadn't eaten in days. On occasion, she had admonished him when he gave away his own food to help someone in need. His generosity was famous around the county, and he was often contacted for charitable donations, which he always tried to honor.
Keith worked a small farm in Parson County in southwest Texas. It was in the summer of 1858 that the world collapsed onto Keith Murray's head. As usual, Keith was spreading his kindness around, in this case handing out food to some Comanche women and children who came begging at his door. Most people would have looked askance at this, but not Keith—if you were hungry, he would feed you as long as he had the means to do so.
It was a trap! Keith and his wife were doling out food to the women when 4 Comanche braves suddenly swooped down upon the Murray family. The first one in was swinging a heavy war club. He aimed at Keith's head and would have smashed it to a bloody pulp but for a peculiar accident. Keith heard a strange noise and turned just as the brave swung. Keith's foot slipped and he started to fall just as the club made contact with his head. Instead of catching him over the ear, the club caught him in the top of the head. The blow tore Keith's scalp open and blood flowed everywhere; the blow also knocked Keith unconscious. He fell in the doorway, pouring blood from his head.
The brave who had swung the club started through the door and was met by a musket going off, putting a .76 caliber ball in his gut. The ball, in its progress through the Comanche's body also severed his spinal cord, causing him to fall on top of Keith. Keith's wife had fired the musket, but she had no time to reload before she was swarmed under by the Comanche women. Those women were past masters in the art of torture and kept the White woman alive for over 2 hours before she died.
The Murray children, a boy and a girl, were too young for the Comanches to consider them as enemies and they were taken by the Indians to be raised as Comanches. The Comanches assumed that Keith was killed by the blow to his head, and all of the blood from his torn scalp made everybody think that someone else had already scalped him; therefore, he was left where he lay when the Indians departed.
Not long after the Comanches left the vicinity, Keith finally regained consciousness and managed to struggle to his feet. He stumbled into the kitchen and saw what the Comanches had done to his wife, whereupon he fainted again. He was unconscious for only a few minutes this time, and he looked through the two rooms of his cabin for his children, fearing that he would find them dead, too. He could not decide whether he was relieved or not when he found no sign of the children; he had to assume that the Comanches had taken them.
Keith's wife's body was in such a mess that he could not bring himself to try to bury her. Instead, he collected those items that he thought would be useful before he burned down the cabin around her. He took no mementos or anything else to remind him of his wife or what had happened this horrible day. He didn't plan to forget, but he needed nothing beyond what he had seen in the house to remind him of his loss.
In those few hours, Keith Murray had changed completely from a loving, caring, compassionate person to a roiling, boiling mass of hatred! He hated all Comanches for what these few had done. He immediately subscribed to the saying that the only good Comanche was a dead Comanche, and he intended to make as many good Comanches as he possibly could.
Keith salvaged a change of clothes, some cooking utensils, and a little food. He had his bowie knife and the .44 caliber Dragoon Colt he had used in the Mexican war, but he wanted a rifle, too. He knew of a widow who might sell him her husbands '41 Mississippi rifle, which had been converted from flint lock to cap use, since she certainly would not be using it.
The Comanches had stolen his mule, so he was reduced to walking. He took the time to make a small sled which he could drag behind him as he walked. He packed his supplies and spare clothes on the sled and started walking toward the widow Jones' house. He had been walking for about 2 hours when he saw some smoke in the distance. He cached his sled in the bushes and ran toward the smoke.
The smoke was coming from the widow's barn, where it was a smoldering ruin. The house still had visible flames, but it was not burning fiercely, so Keith went inside. Inside the house, he found the widow Jones tortured to death much as his wife had been. There was evidence that she, too, had been feeding the Comanche women when she was attacked.
Keith went through her house to see if there was anything he could use. He found a little money in the form of gold coins and the Mississippi rifle he had been interested in buying. Obviously, no one else had any immediate use for these items, so Keith took them, along with some powder and shot he found. Out of pity for the widow, Keith rekindled the fire to cremate her sad remains. By this time, he had no more tears, but he did promise to avenge her murder!
Naturally, the Comanches had stolen all her stock, so there was nothing to worry about there. Keith jogged back to his sled and set off in earnest to track the Comanches. These Comanches were so arrogant that they were making no effort to hide their trail, knowing that the women would fool any Whites who saw them into thinking that it was just a small family group on the move. The Comanche War had begun to wind down, but many Comanches had not given up the fight; witness this raiding party!
The Comanches were in no hurry; their speed was limited to what the women and children could do. Keith figured that he could catch up to them in a few days, depending somewhat on whether or not they found any more unsuspecting people to attack. Keith followed their trail as long as there was enough light to see the traces. He camped when it got dark and was up with the dawn. They did not attack anyone that day, so Keith was still following them when he ran out of daylight, again.
About mid-morning of the next day, Keith caught sight of the Comanche column as it marched steadily on. He raced to catch up and was close enough when they stopped to find shelter from the midday heat. He saw that there were 3 men, 5 women, and 4 children in the group. He agonized over what to do. Keith knew that he was going to kill the 3 men, but what was he going to do about the women and children? The women were as guilty as the men, but who would watch out for the children if he killed all of the women? He didn't know how to handle that; he would just have to work it out, later.
Keith's first project was to eliminate the men. This would be a little tricky, since the men never got off their horses except to eat, sleep, shit, or piss. He decided that his best bet would be to attack a lone man when he left the group to shit. If he used his knife, he could keep the noise down and have a better chance of getting away. Then he remembered the war club that had been used against him that fateful day. He kept an eye out and was able to find a stone which was near enough to the proper shape and weighed about 2 pounds. He found a suitable stick to use as a handle on his war club and set out to fashion what he needed. The result was a 2-pound pointed rock fastened to a handle about 1 inch in diameter and 24 inches long. Keith spent a day fashioning the club and getting used to swinging it. He knew that he did not have time to gain enough skill with the club to use it in battle, but it would be quite satisfactory for making a silent kill following a silent stalk.
Keith maintained his pursuit of the Comanche band while making and testing his club, so he was ready when one of the braves suddenly turned away from the band and made for a stand of trees. Keith followed at a safe distance until the Indian reached the trees. When the Indian dismounted and went among the trees, Keith abandoned his sled and carrying only his club and his pistol, hurried after the Comanche.
Keith arrived just as the Indian had finished defecating and was rising to a standing position. The trees were somewhat close together in this area, so the Indian did not see him as he rushed closer. The Indian had just stood up when Keith arrived behind him. There was no room for a sidearm swing, so Keith chopped straight down on the other man's head from behind him. The Indian literally never knew what hit him as the club head crashed down on his skull. There was a dull thud at impact and the man's skull split open like an egg shell. Keith took the time to remove the man's heart before leaving his body to its fate.
The warrior was not missed at first, but, eventually, one of the Comanche braves went to investigate. He found the body of his erstwhile companion and reacted in surprise. The man had been killed in the Indian manner, but not by an Indian, as evidenced by the fact that the scalp was not taken. The superstitious Comanche jumped to the conclusion that the man had been killed by a demon, since it was obviously not the work of a White man nor an Indian. He ran back to his horse and rode as fast as he could to return to his companions.
A long and heated conversation was held, and the news was so momentous that the women were included. They didn't know what to do, since there was no shaman around to advise them. They finally concluded that there was nothing that they could do, so they resumed their trek. The two men were particularly fearful, and constantly watched all about for enemies. This increased alertness forced Keith to drop back a bit farther in order to escape detection.
The next day, Keith decided that he needed to take a more drastic and forceful approach, so he hurried to get around the Indians and to set a trap for them. He found a good place for an ambush and loaded his rifle. The knew from his experience during the Mexican war that he could easily kill at 100 yards with this weapon, so he waited until one of the men had approached to within 50 yards before he fired. The bullet caught the Indian in the chest and knocked him tail over teakettle off the back of his horse.
The women and children scattered at the sound of the shot, and the remaining horseman reversed direction and rode away as fast as his horse could move. This was a prudent maneuver, since he had not seen where the shot had come from and had no idea which way to charge before the assailant had time to reload. Keith reloaded and looked for an opportunity to kill the other man.
Keith waited patiently for over an hour before he got his chance. Apparently, the Indians assumed that the killer had moved on, since nothing had happened during this time. The whole group returned to examine the body of their slain companion; everybody was there, including the children. The man was the last to arrive, and Keith waited until he got very near the body. Before the man had a chance to do anything else, Keith fired and also hit him in the chest, which knocked him off his horse, killing him as he fell.
Keith stood up and started walking toward the women and children, still carrying his now empty rifle. The women acted out of pure fright, sure that a demon was about to descend upon them. Four of them each grabbed a child and slit its throat, apparently thinking that a demon could not harm a dead child. They then rushed at Keith with their knives drawn.
Keith was surprised at first, but recovered enough to drop his rifle and draw his pistol. He was so appalled that the women would kill the children that he had no compunction about shooting them. They were well within range by the time he had cocked his pistol, so he easily shot the first woman who got too close. He had expected the other women to try to escape, but, no, they continued to run toward him brandishing their knives. Keith had no choice but to shoot all of the women to save his own life, he knew what would happen if they succeeded in capturing him. He didn't kill all of the women with his pistol, but he did wound them sufficiently to stop their charge. Three out of the five were still alive, but so badly wounded that they would not live out the day. Before doing anything else, he reloaded his pistol and the rifle, then he walked away. He felt that any suffering the women endured before they died was well deserved.
Keith spent that night in sober reflection. He realized that his anger at the Comanches was not appeased, and he still desperately wanted to kill more of them before they had a chance to torture or murder more people. He knew that he had to accept the fact that he was going to hunt and kill every Comanche that he could find; he gave no thought to the fact that this put him in the same category as the Comanches—a wanton killer without mercy to his victims.
He decided that he wanted a trade mark so the Comanches would know who had killed their fellows. Keith concluded that removing the heart of his victim would make the kind of statement he wanted, so he resolved to do that whenever possible. The next morning, he returned to the scene of his last battle and cut the heart from each of the corpses, both men and women. The bodies had already been visited by scavengers, so there were not many complete bodies for him to work with. The children had been the main object of the scavengers interest. Keith could not identify his own children among the 4, so he buried them all in one shallow grave. Tears flowed again, but this was the last time Keith Murray was to cry for many years.
Keith spent the rest of the day planning the course of his hunt for Comanches. He decided that he was an experienced infantryman, so he would stick to that and forgo the use of a horse, except in an emergency. Keith knew that he was not a horseman, so he had no hope of matching the Comanches on horseback; therefore, he would stick to what he knew best. Besides, the Comanches thought that a man had to be mounted to be a threat, so this might give him an edge.
The range of the Mississippi rifle was far greater than any weapon the Comanches had. Their firearms consisted of a few muskets they had stolen from Mexicans, and their range and accuracy were no better than the arrows the Comanches already had. Keith's Dragoon pistol was that good, so he felt that his armament was up to the task.
Keith didn't know how he was going to handle to problem of food. He didn't have time to hunt food and Comanches, so he was going to have to choose. He finally decided that he would beg food at the farm houses he found along his way, offering to do some work in exchange. All successful farms had more work to be done than could be handled by one or two people, so he was confident that he could get enough to eat by this means. This would let him save his money for powder and shot, which he could not really make for himself.
With this in mind, Keith set out on an epic journey. He hoped that he would be lucky enough to kill a lot more Comanches before they finally killed him! Keith had come to terms with the hatred bottled up inside of him, and now he was out to work some of it off.
He didn't have long to wait! The next morning, Keith began looking for a farm where he could get a meal. He had not gone many miles when he heard gunshots and a lot of shouting, including Indian war whoops. He cached his sled, picked up his rifle and shot, and ran toward the source of the sound. When he got closer, he was treated to the sight of 5 Comanches riding around and around a small cabin, whooping and shooting arrows at the door and two windows. Occasionally, a musket would be fired from within the house, and occasionally an arrow would find its way through a window. Apparently, the person inside the house had been attacked too quickly to have a chance to close the shutters. Keith shook his head at the poor design of the defenses.
Keith found a good shooting position where he had a good field of fire toward the house, but a place where the Comanches would have trouble charging him on horseback. Keith knew that a rider racing by on horseback was unlikely to be hit, even by the best and most experienced marksman, so he planned to shoot at the horses, instead. The range was about 75 yards, so Keith was confident as he drew a bead on the attacking Comanches.