Captured: A Peek at Texas History
By Terri White
In The Captured, a True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier, Scott Zesch explores why child captives not only easily adapted to the Indian lifestyle, but also defended it when they returned to their families - many never fully readapting.
Further, it reveals a tragic insight into frontier parenting. In this post-Civil War era, pioneers eked out a living in the Texas hill country. The entire family worked sun-up to sun-down. Even though parents, recent immigrants from Europe, were literate, the children were not. No time for that. Wild West movies and TV programs glamorize that stretch of history, but, frankly, it was a miserable existence. Merely an existence.
"Frontier parents in central Texas, preoccupied with the necessities of life and their own daily toil, typically had little spare time to instruct their young. Although . . . parents in those days shared a close bond with their children and loved them dearly, few mothers and fathers gave their sons and daughters any formal education or even taught them practical skills such as swimming, hunting. . ."
However, the "Indians warmly received the child captives into their homes without prejudice and spent much time training them, making them feel significant in tribal society."
Thus, the Indian's intimate investment into the captives' lives starkly contrasted the life of hard labor back home. Indeed, the Indian way of life was no picnic, but the tribal culture lent itself to intimacy, family time, and instruction, all necessary to preserve their way of life.
Dozens of heartbreaking accounts fill Zesch’s book. Cynthia Parker, the most famous of the child captives, never readapted once the Texas Rangers restored her to her parents. After only living six months with the Indians, one boy committed suicide upon returning to his parents. As adults, many of these former child captives lived on the fringes of their communities – outcasts due to their failure to assimilate into society. Their grief was palpable, enduring a lifetime.
Fast forward to 2021. How are we relating to our own children? Have we fallen into the trap of being too preoccupied with making a living? Are we teaching our children life skills needed to function as adults? Are we fostering intimate family time that creates a foundation for forming healthy relationships? Will our children grow up to be healthy, productive members of our communities? I hope so.