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Full text of "The Oregon trail"

(thf S. B. Hill IGtbrary 




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Francis ParKman. 



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THE OREGON TRAIL t 
BY FRANCIS PARK- 
WAN 




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NEW YORK 

THOMAS Y. CROWELL 

AND COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



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The journey which the following narrative de- 
scribes was undertaken on the writer's part with a 
view of studying the manners and character of 
Indians in their primitive state. Although in the 
chapters which relate to them, he has only attempted 
to sketch those features of their wild and pictur- 
esque life which fell, in the present instance, under 
his own eye, yet in doing so he has constantly 
aimed to leave an impression of their character 
correct as far as it goes. « In justifying his claim to 
accuracy on this point, it is hardly necessary to 
advert to the representations given by poets and 
novelists, which, for the most part, are mere cre- 
ations of fancy. The Indian is certainly entitled 
to a high rank among savages, but his good quali- 
ties are not those of an Uncas or an Outalissi. 

The sketches were originally published in the 
"Knickerbocker Magazine," commencing in Feb- 
ruary, 1847. 

Boston, February 15, 1849. 



m 






" Let him who crawls enamor'd of decay, 
Cling to bis coach, and sicken years away ; 
Heave his thick breath, and shake his palsied head ; 
Ours — the fresh turf, and not the feveri^ bed.'" 

Byron. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. The Frontier i 

II. Breaking the Ice lo 

III. Fort Leavenworth 21 

rv. "Jumping Off" 25 

V. The "Big Blue" 38 

VI. The Platte and the Desert .... 58 

VII. The Buffalo 73 

VIII. Taking French Leave 91 

IX . Scenes at Fort Laramie 109 

X. The War-parties 127 

XI. Scenes at the Camp 152 

XII. Ill-luck 174 

XIII. Hunting Indians 182 

XIV. The Ogillallah Village 209 

XV. The Hunting Camp 233 

XVI. The Trappers 259 

XVII. The Black Hills 276 

XVIII. A Mountain Hunt 275 



vi 


CONTENTS. 










CHArt'KJt 
XIX. 


P.\SS.\GE OF THE MOUNTAINS . 








PAGS 

288 


XX. 


The Lonely Journey .... 








307 


XXI. 


The Pueblo and Bents Fort 








330 


XXII. 


Tete Rouge, the Volunteer 








339 


XXIII. 


Indl\n Alarms 








344 


XXIV. 


The Chase 








357 


XXV. 


The Bltffalo-camp 








367 


XXVI. 


Dovra the Arkansas .... 








385 


XXVII. 


The Settlements 








404 



INTRODUCTION. 



In no branch of literature during the century just 
passed have American writers secured such widely 
recognized distinction as in history. The conflu- 
ence, early in the century, of two strong currents 
of intellectual activity, the critical spirit and method 
of Wolf and Niebuhr, and the sympathetic con- 
templation of the past, its monuments and life, in- 
spired by the genius of Chateaubriand and Scott, 
gave a powerful impetus to historical research, and 
invested with a romantic charm times and peoples 
which to the eighteenth century seemed equally de- 
void of- interest and instruction. In consequence 
of the discovery of new sources and the more pene- 
trating and fruitful study of the old, the mass of ex- 
isting historical literature rapidly became antiquated, 
and the whole field of history stood ready for fresh 
exploration. The spirit and method of the new 
scholarship were soon communicated to the United 
States by such men as Ticknor, Everett, Bancroft, 
and others who returned from study at Gottingen, 
and the new historical movement in Europe was 
hardly in full swing, in the second decade of the 
century, before the younger generation of literary 
men in this country fell into line, and, one after an- 
other, offered to the world historical narratives that 
without misgiving could be ranked with the work of 
Ranke, Raumer, Thierry, or Guizot. The achieve- 
ments of Irving, Prescott, Ticknor, Bancroft, and 
Motley cannot but seem surprising if one compares 



S5^4- 



jr OL STAGTE COI^^ 



Vm i:,-TRODCCTION. 

our contemporary barrenness in the allied fields of 
Fhilasophy and Economics. 

11^ opportunity was, in &ct, unique. The com- 
plete renovation in historical studies forced European 
scholars to b^^ again at the b^inning, and Ameri- 
cans could enter the competition on an equality' with 
them. The pubhcation. for example, of Navar- 
lete's documents made Robertson obsolete, and 
opened the way for Irving to write his Columbus 
tnthout fearing the advent of any rival with su- 
periOT resources. Fresh fix>ni his studies in Gottin- 
gen. and from contact with the best minds in Eng- 
land and France, Ticknor could with e({ual confi- 
dence rear the solid &bric of his History of Spanish 
Lilanature. In like manner. Bancroft, trained in 
history and philosophy in the best German uni- 
versities, brought a greater breadth of knowledge to 
bear upon die story of the English Colonies than 
had before been b^towed on such a theme by an 
F-nglish wrriter. Prescott. too, fortunate in his 
wealth, enlisted in his senice to coUect material 
several of the most accomplished scholars in 
Europe, and wore their contributions to his store 
into a narrative which for literary charm none of 
them could equaL Then, following his Spaniards 
to the New World, in the colli^on of European 
ci\'ilization with the ancient culture of Mexico and 
Peru, he laid hold of two of the most dtamatic inci- 
dents in all history. In the meantime die long 
panorama of the life in die northern forests, of the 
clash of French and English, <rf ftir-trader and set- 
der, and both with die Indian, had been unfolded 
by Cooper in a series of romances that carried his 
name and &miliarized his theme throughout the 
ci\-ilized world. 

These examples naturally turned the minds of 
young men of literary ambitions toward history. 



INTRODUCTION. IX 

Such was the effect on Motley and Parkman, the 
most distinguished successors of Irving and Pres- 
cott. Motley was drawn by Prescott's succeajlinto 
the European field, and chose for his life-work the 
history of the struggle of the Dutch against Spanish 
rule. Parkman, on the other hand, under the spell 
of Cooper, and hardly less fascinated by Thierry's 
portrayal of the movements of contending races in 
his No7inan Conquest, found, in undertaking a 
companion picture to Prescott' s Conquest of Mexico 
and Peru, the opportunity to reconcile indulgence 
in his profound love of wild nature with the most 
conscientious elTolT'to give an adequate historical 
setting to the drama of the forest, with whiclvthe 
novelist had delighted both hemispheres. '^ 

For the details of Parkman' s life the reader must 
be referred to the recent biography by a friend of 
his later years, Mr. Charles H. Farnham, which 
contains his autobiography and considerable extracts 
from his diaries and letters, and from such of his 
minor writings as throw light on his life and 
opinions ; to the admirable " Memoir " of his college 
classmate and life-long friend, Mr. Edward Wheel- 
wright, in the first volume of the Proceedings of the 
Colonial Society of Massachusetts ; and for the rev- 
elation of character to Parkman' s novel, Vassal 
Algzton. 

<^H^e was bom in Boston, of parents of New Eng- 
lanH ancestry, September i6, 1823. His father, the 
Rev. Francis Parkman, was for many years a promi- 
nent Unitarian clergyman. The boyhood of the 
historian revealed the dominant tastes of his later 
life. Studious at school, and especially interested in 
poetn.' and in acquiring a varied command over his 
fhoniertomfwe, in vacation he spent his time in the 
_\viiads_and_i.n woodland sports. Later, in college, 
where he was a~ mernBef oFthe Harvard class of 



X INTRODUCTION. 

1 844, these two lines of activity absorbed his ener- 
gies, and as early as his sophomore year, when 
only eighteen, he had chosen history as his life- 
work, and selected as his particular subject one in 
which his dominant tastes could both be gratified to 
the full: "'The Old French War '—that is, the 
war that ended in the Conquest of Canada — for here, 
as it seemed to me, the forest-drama was more 
stirring and the forest-stage more thronged with ap- 
propriate actors than in any other passage of our 
history. It was not till some years later that I en- 
larged the plan to include the whole course of the 
American conflict between France and England, or, 
in other words, the history of the American forest ; 
for this was the light in which I regarded it. My 
theme fascinated me, and I was haunted with wil- 
derness-image's''day and night." 

No one of our American historians determined 
upon his career and selected his field so early in life, 
and no one of them made so intelligent and broadly 
planned a preparation for his chosen work. Irving 
knew Spain and Spaniards, but could not know the 
primitive inhabitants of the West Indies, nor did he 
follow the track of Columbus ; Prescott' s knowledge 
of Spain, as of Mexico and Peru, was derived 
wholly from books or conversation ; Bancroft's 
tastes did not lead him to study the frontier of his 
time where could be observed with slight variation 
the chief phases of colonial hfe ; Motley knew his 
Netherlands and numbered many Netherlanders 
among his friends, but he never saw Spain and ap- 
parently did not regard a first-hand study of the 
Spanish character as a part of his preparation. 
Parkman, on the other hand, while he was not less 
assiduous in the pursuit and analysis of documents, 
devoted extraordinary pains to the personal study 
of the actual phenomena with which he had to deal. 



INTRODUCTION. XI 

/ The scene of action was the frontier and the for- 
/ est ; the actors : French and EngHsh adventurers 
/ and explorers, bush-rangers and pioneers, mission- 
\ aries and wild Indians. Realizing the relative per- 
\ manence of these types — that frontier life and colo- 
nial life were essentially the same, and that an identi- 
cal environment acting on the same human factors 
would produce in the middle of the nineteenth cen- 
tur)- substantially what existed in the eighteenth — 
Parkman not only systematically studied these 
phases of human character where they could be 
found, unsophisticated by modern ideas, but he 
lived with them. / His most remarkable experience 
in this course of^elf-training is recounted in The 
Oregon Trail) He had already familiarized him- 
self with the \vilder parts of New England, and dur- 
ing his sojourn in I^ome, in. 1844, he had spent some 
days in a convent of the Passionist Fathers to see 
face to face the monk and oevotee, and now he re- 
solved to study the real I ndian neither bettered nor 
spoiled by civilization. 

The St. Louis, too, of 1846, would still preserve 
not a little that was like the Montreal of 1756. Fort 
Laramie would reproduce in some essentials the 
Machillimackinac of Pontiac's time, and in the 
Oregon pioneers could be seen the counterparts of 
the sturdy settlers of the forests of Pennsylvania and 
Ohio ; the French half-breed trappers and guides 
were still the same. 

The Indian literature of the day was prolific, and 
the most popular author in the country- had made 
three notable contributions to it. Yet The Oregon 
Trail differs essentially from Irving" s Tour on the 
Prairies, Astoria, or The Adi'entures of Captain 
Bonnei'il/e, for it not only records the vivid im- 
pressions by a most alert observer of a bygone 
phase of life, but it is, in addition, a fragment of 



XU INTRODUCTION. 

tke autobiography of an historian enjoying an 
almost unique experience. For to Parkman the 
[whole excursion was a journey into the past. Each 
/successive stage took him not merely farther west, 
but back in time. 

He was on the prairies about five months in all, 
about five weeks of which he spent in a village of 
the Ogillallah Sioux. Qiis travels extended as far 
west as the Black Hills in Wyoming, following in 
part the Oregon Trail, then turning toward the 
south, he went past Pike's Peak to Pueblo, and 
homeward in part by the Santa Fe Trail. ) 

Powwows, war-dances, feasts, buffaio-hunting, 
Oregon trains, Santa Fe caravans, and companies 
of frontier troops on the march to New Mexico : all 
the varied spectacle of a life now gone forever in 
this country passed before his eyes and was indeli- 
bly printed upon his mind. The influence of this 
experience can be traced throughout all his works, 
and in his latest volumes he recalls incidents of this 
summer. By a strange fatality, however, a course 
of life that has restored many invalids to health 
nearly cost him his life, and bequeathed him an 
accumulation of infirmities which attended him to 
the grave. He was taken ill soon after leaving St. 
Louis, and then, and later on during renewed at- 
tacks of the malady, when he should have rested, 
a seemingly imperative necessity of continued exer- 
tion overstrained a system by nature delicate and 
high-strung. Thenceforth he had to work impris- 
oned by diseases and all but entire ' loss of sight. 

Upon his return, while in search of health, he 
dictated from his notes and diary the story of the 
summer to his companion in the journey, Quincy 
Adams Shaw, and the publication of it began in 
the Knickerbocker Magazine in February, 1847",' 
with the title, ' ' The Oregon Trail, or a Summer 



/ 



INTRODUCTION. XIU 

Journey Out of Bounds." It was republished in 
book form in 184.9, ^hen the pubhsher, availing 
himself of the California excitement to catch the 
eye, enlarged the title into The California a?td 
Oregon Trail, being Skelehes of Prairie and Rocky 
Mountain Life. The secondary title precisely de- 
scribes the contents of the book, and the original 
name, " Oregon Trail," must have been selected in 
i8;t2-^©f- the same reasons which led the pubhsher, 
m 1849, to add " California" to the title-page. As 
far as the contents go, the name " Santa Fe Trail " 
would have been equally appropriate. 

Before the appearance of The Oregon Trail in 
book form Parkman began the composition of the 
Conspiracy of Pontiac. In the midst of obstacles, 
always apparently insurmountable, and for long 
stretches actually so, with heroic fortitude he kept 
at work when most men would have given up in 
despair. For many years he was unable to read 
or write for more than five minutes at a time, and 
the first part of Pontiac was written at the rate of 
six lines a day. His courage did not fail, and after 
three years of intermittent labor the completed 
work was offered to the public (185 1). 

With wise appreciation of his own powers and 
of the limitations under which he labored he had 
tried his hand on an episode of his main theme, 
the final struggle of the Indian, after the collapse 
of the power of France, to roll back the advancing 
tide of English civilization. The story of Pontiac 
required neither the mass of reading nor the critical 
insight and ripened judgment which the later works 
demanded. On the other hand, the range of action 
from Philadelphia to Mackinac, the varied scenes 
or frontier life and warfare, gave an ample canvas 
for vivid description, stamped with the fresh im- 
pressions of his western travels and recent sojourn 



)- 



XIV INTRODUCTION. 

among the Sioux. In the eariier chapters, as an 
introduction to his subject, he takes a broad survey 
of the whole history of New France, sketching in 
outHne what was to be his hfe-work. 

In the thirteen years that follow he labored on. 
under the same cruel shackles, varj'ing severer 
studies by gardening and by writing his only novel. 
Vassal Morton {\Z'^6). Of Vassal Morton '\\. is suf- 
ficient to say that its chief importance to-day lies 
in its reflection of Parkman's character. In parts 
it is a thinly disguised self-portrait. Parkman 
mentions in several of his prefaces his disabilities 
in a purely objective way, just as he recorded the 
other conditions of his work ; in the narratives 
there is, however, no odor of the sick-room, no 
feebleness, the artist's all-embracing memory and 
constructive imagination transport him to the woods, 
and the strain of the effort is betrayed only by a 
certain tenseness of style, but in Vassal Morton 
he let himself out, and, under the mask of Morton's 
agony in his dungeon, his own sufferings are re- 
ivealed. 
"^X The novel is full of sharply drawn portraits, vivid 
descriptions of nature, and life-like pictures of man- 
ners. It is a little melodramatic in plot, rather too 
brilliant in conversation, and unreal at critical junc- 
tures, but it is interesting and hardly deserves ob- 
livion. Parkman did not include it in his works, 
and is said not to have liked to hear it mentioned. 
One cannot help feeling that as he attained distinc- 
tion he felt a certain shame at having betrayed his 
feelings, even in that indirect fashion, and recov- 
ered his consistency of stoicism by ignoring this 
single lapse. 

In the Introduction to The Pioneers of France in 
the Ne'w World (1865) Parkman announces his plan 
of a series to be devoted to ' ' the attempt of Feudal 



INTRODUCTION. XV 

ism, Monarchy, and Rome to master a continent, 
where, at this hour, half a million bayonets are vin- 
dicating the ascendency of a regulated freedom." 
After contrasting in a few paragraphs of compressed 
but richly colored description the contending civ- 
ilizations, he declares the method of historical com- 
position which he has adopted : his aim ' ' was, 
while scrupulously and rigorously adhering to the 
truth of facts, to animate them with the life of the 
past, and so far as might be, clothe the skeleton 
with flesh. Faithfulness to the truth of histor\- in- 
volves far more than a research, however patient 
and scrupulous, into special facts. The narrator 
must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit 
of the time. He must study events in their bear- 
ings near and remote ; in the character, habits, and 
manners of those who took part in them. He must 
be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action 
he describes." 

In rapid succession, following The Pioneers, came 
The Jeszafs, in 1 867 ; The Discovery of the Great 
West, in 1869 ; The Old Regime in Canada, in 
1874; Frontenac, in 1877; Montcalm and Wolfe, 
in tvvo volumes, in 1884 ; and A Half Century of 
Conflict, also in two volumes, in 1892,' 

In addition to these labors, no mean achievement 
for the most vigorous and unhampered mind. Park- 
man found time to write a considerable body of 
magazine articles and reviews, to revise in suc- 
cession the earlier volumes of the series, and in the 
case of The Discoz'ery of the Great West, to recon- 
struct the work in the light of the abundant ma- 
terials on La Salle which were inaccessible to him 
when it was originally written. 

A detailed criticism of these works will hardly be 
expected in this place, yet something may well be 
said as to their range and distinctive features. 



XVI INTRODUCTION. 

I Sooie of the vdnmes, owing to the nature of the 
isal^ect, aic latlier a collection of detached narra- 
1 thres than a connected story. In T/ie Pioneers, for 
f rrample. the two main themes are the livalr)' of the 
f French and Spaniards for Florida, and the explora- 
tions di. Champlain, tmt both parts are appropriately 
introduced bjr vivid sketches of earlier voyages and 
exploiations. such as those of de Soto and \'erra- 
zano. To TJu Jesuiis is prefixed a con^pact mono- 
graph on the Algonquin Indians, which saves the 
nanadves in the maiB body of the work from being 
overloaded with explanatory commenL Most varied 
of all is The Half Cemiiay of Conflict, in which the 
reader ranges fimn Maine to Louisiana, and to the 
exploration of the western prairies, it is in these 
last vcdnmes. in those on Momicabm. and Wolfe and 
in Fnmiamc, that the history of the English Colo- 
nies comes in fiH" ^>ecial consideration. 

Parkman bdoi^^ to the narrative school of his- 
torians, and chose to picture the past rather than to 
reason about it. In his conception of the great 
drama of two rival and diverse ci^■ili^ations contend- 
ing for the mastay of the New World, in his near- 
ness to the action, and his personal exploration of 
the scene, and not least in the varied charm of his 
stXKy. Paikman is the Herodotus .of our Western 
World. 

Yet he does not ahogedier refrain from drawing 
the lesson for the politician w renounce philosophiz- 
ii^. and in one erf his volumes. The Old Regime in 
Camada, he has produced an admirable piece cf in- 
stitutional or social historj^ an examination, as he 
called it, of "the political and social machine," 
which is a fit counterpart and supplement to de 
Tocqueville's Ancien Rigittu en Fran£e. 

The most distinctive quality* of Parkman' s narra- 
tk^'c^ jg p^YliiiTiifi*"*^*'*"^"'"""' actionals set in a scene 



INTRODUCTION. XVll 

irtistically reproduced from the author's careful 
observation. Knowing his human agents from per- 
sonal study of the type as well as of their literary 
memorials, sensitive to all the varied aspects of 
nature, and familiar with each locality, he visualizes 
the whole action with extraordinary vividness. It 
passes his eyes like a panorama. The natural scene 
plays no such part in any other historical writer, 
and the search for such exquisite pictures of wild 
nature in Ameriea'as abound in his pages would not 
be an easy one even in our voluminous literature of 
outdoor life and nature-study. In illustration of 
this artistic gift his descriptions of such widely 
diverse scenes as a southern swamp, a prairie-river 
in summer-time, or a Canadian winter may be given. 
The first two are from The Pioneers ; the last, from 
La Salle. "The deep swamp, where, out of the 
black and root-encumbered slough, rise the huge 
buttressed trunks of the southern cypress, the gray 
Spanish moss drooping from every bough and twig, 
wrapping its victims like a drapery of tattered cob- 
webs, and slowly draining away their life ; for even 
plants devour each other, and play their silent parts 
in the universal tragedy of nature." "Here the 
self-exiled company were soon besieged by the 
rigors of the Canadian winter. The rocks, the 
shores, the pine trees, the solid floor of the frozen 
river, all alike were blanketed in snow, beneath the 
keen, cold rays of the dazzling sun." " They glided 
calmly down the tranquil stream. At night, the 
bivouac, the canoes inverted on the bank, the flicker- 
ing fire, the meal of bison-flesh or venison, the 
evening pipes, and slumber beneath the stars ; and 
when in the morning they embarked again, the mist 
hung on the river like a bridal veil ; then melted 
before the sun, till the glassy water and the languid 
woods basked breathless in the sultry glare. 

B 



%vm INTRODUCTION. 

To the study of human character and motives 
Parkman was drawn from his youth, and his pages 
are filled with sketches and portraits into the com- 
position of,*iKA went not only general knowledge 
of Jwiman nature, tut intimate knowledge of the 
"Individual, obtained by entering into his life and 
looking out upon the world with his eyes. That he 
achieved high success in delineating t\'pes of charac- 
ter and ideals far different from his own is evinced 
by the number of French Canadian scholars and 
Catholics that he numbered among his friends and 
admirers. Not that they were wholly satisfied with 
the story of the long effort to plant a new France in 
North America, orthodox and loyal, that came from 
the clear-headed New Englander, the Puritan 
rationalist, and aristocratic republican, for t\-pes of 
men so divergent cannot write each other's history 
altogether acceptably ; but to win each other's 
respect and to spur each other on in the noble race 
for truth was no mean achievement. 

In England Parkman is not infrequently accorded 
the first place among American historical writers 
for his rare combination of exact research with a 
narrative st^le so full of life and poetic beaut)'. On 
the Continent, however, owing, no doubt, to the 
remoteness of his theme, and to the fact that 
Frenchmen could hardly be expected to find in the 
story of failure and loss the same interest that the 
story of triumph inspires in the Englishman, Park- 
man has never attained the popularity which came 
to In-ing, Prescott, Bancroft, and Motley. Only 
The Pioneers and The Jesuits have been translated 
into French, and only these tsvo and The Old 
Regime into German. 

It is perhaps too soon to attempt an estimate of 
the probable permanence of Parkman' s fame, yet 
one or two factors in the problem may be indicated- 



INTRODUCTION. xix 

The breadth of his preparation, his occasional 
preservation of oral tradition, his personal knowl- 
edge of wild life and the American Indian, such as 
no successor can ever obtain, will always give his 
narratives in some measure the character of sources. 
The development of the science of ethnology, for 
example, has antiquated Prescott's Mexico and 
Peru, except as a charming reproduction of the 
impressions and exaggeration of the Spanish his- 
torians of the Conquest ; but Parkman grew up 
with the scientific study of American ethnology, 
was one of its promoters, and its results are in 
large measure embodied in his work. Making as 
conscientious an effort as ever hi-storian did by 
means of documents to understand and reclothe the 
past with the habiliments of life, his success will 
prove of a more permanent kind than that of 
Motley or Prescott, because of his completer equip- 
ment for a realistic grasp of that past which he was 
so near and which he caught as it faded away for- 
ever. Finally, with the growth of Canada and of 
the west, the number of people for whom Park- 
man's histories are the epic of the founders of the 
State is ever increasing. 

It is hardly rash, then, in view of these consider- 
ations and of the rare and varied charm of his 
narrative to conclude that for a far longer period 
than is likely to be the fortune of Prescott, Motley, 
or Bancroft, the work of Francis Parkman will be 
proof 

" 'gainst the tooth of time 
And razure of oblivion." 

Edward Gaylord Bourne. 



THE CALIFORNIA 
AND OREGON TRAIL. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE FRONTIER. 

" Away, away from men and towns 
To the silent wilderness." — SHELLEY. 

-Last ^pjios*- I-?46^ was a busy season in the city 
of St. Louis. Not only were emigrants from every 
part of the country preparing for the journey to 
Oregon and California, but an unusual number of 
traders were making ready their wagons and outfits 
for Santa Fe. Many of the emigrants, especially 
of those bound for California, were persons of 
wealth and standing. The hotels were crowded, 
and the gunsmiths and saddlers were kept con- 
stantly at work in providing arms and equipments 
for the different parties of travellers. Almost every 
day steamboats were leaving the levee and passing 
up the Missouri, crowded with passengers on their 
way to the frontier. 

In one of these, the "Radnor," since snagged 
and lost, my friend and relative, Quincy A. Shaw, 
and myself, left St. Louis on the^ twenty-eighth of 
April, on a tour of curiosity and arhiisement to the 
Rocky Mountains, . The boat was loaded until the 
water broke alternately over her guards. Her 



A^i- 



W. C State College 



2 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

upper deck was covered with large wagons of a 
peculiar form, for the Santa Fe trade, and her hold 
was crammed with goods for the same destination. 
There were also the equipments and provisions of 
a party of Oregon emigrants, a band of mules and 
horses, piles of saddles and harness, and a multi- 
tude of nondescript articles, indispensable on the 
prairies. Almost hidden in this medley one might 
have seen a small French cart, of the sort very 
appropriately called a "mule-killer" beyond the 
frontiers, and not far distant a tent, together with a 
miscellaneous assortment of boxes and barrels. The 
whole equipage was far from prepossessing in its 
appearance ; yet, such as it was, it was destined to 
a long and arduous journey, on which the persever- 
ing reader will accompany it. 

The passengers on board the ' ' Radnor ' ' corre- 
sponded with her freight. In her cabin were Santa 
Fe traders, gamblers, speculators, and adventurers 
of various descriptions, and her steerage was crowded 
with Oregon emigrants, " mountain men," negroes, 
and a party of Kansas Indians, who had been on a 
visit to St. Louis. 

Thus laden, the boat struggled upward for seven or 
eight days against the rapid current of the Missouri, 
grating upon snags, and hanging for two or three 
hours at a time upon sand-bars. We entered the 
mouth of the Missouri in a drizzling rain, but the 
weather soon became clear, and showed distinctly 
the broad and turbid river, with its eddies, its sand- 
bars, its ragged islands, and forest-covered shores. 
The Missouri is constantly changing its course ; 
wearing away its banks on one side, while it forms 
new ones on the other. Its channel is shifting con- 
tinually. Islands are formed, and then washed 
away ; and while the old forests on one side are un- 
dermined and swept off, a young growth springs up 



THE FRONTIER. 3 

from the new soil upon the other. With all these 
changes, the water is so charged with mud and sand 
that it is perfectly opaque, and in a few minutes 
deposits a sediment an inch thick in the bottom 
of a tumbler. The river was now high ; but when 
we descended in the autumn it was fallen very low, 
and all the secrets of its treacherous shallows were 
exposed to view. It was frightful to see the dead 
and broken trees, thick-set as a military' abattis, 
firmly imbedded in the sand, and all pointing down 
stream, ready to impale any unhappy steamboat 
that at high water should pass over that dangerous 
ground. 

In five or six days we began to see signs of the 
great (western movement that was then taking 
place. V Parties of emigrants, with their tents and 
wagons, would be encamped on open spots near 
the bank, on their way to the common rendezvous 
at Independence. On a rainy day, near sunset, we 
reached the landing of this place, which is situated 
some miles from the river, on the extreme frontier 
of Missouri. The scene was characteristic, for here 
were represented at one view the most remarkable 
features of this wild and enterprising region. On 
the muddy shore stood some thirty or forty dark 
slavish-looking Spaniards, gazing stupidly out from 
beneath their broad hats. They were attached to 
one of the Santa Fe companies, whose wagons 
were crowded together on the banks above. In the 
midst of .Jhese, crouching over a smouldering fire, 
was a group of Indians belonging to a remote 
Mexican tribe. One or two French hunters from 
the mountains, with their long hair and buckskin 
dresses, were looking at the boat ; and seated on a 
log close at hand were three men with rifles lying 
across their knees. The foremost of these, a tall, 
strong figure, with a clear blue eye and an open, in- 



4 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

telligent face, might very well represent that race 
of restless and intrepid pioneers whose axes and 
rifles have opened a path from the Alleghanies to 
the western prairies. He was on his way to Oregon, 
probably a more congenial field to him than any 
that now remained on this side the great plains. 

Early on the next morning we reached Kansas, 
about five hundred miles from the mouth of the 
Missouri. Here we landed, and leaving our equip- 
ments in charge of my good friend Colonel Chick, 
whose log-house was the substitute for a tavern, we 
set out in a wagon for Westport, where we hoped 
to procure mules and horses for the journey. 

It was a remarkably fresh and beautiful May 
morning. The rich and luxuriant woods through 
which the miserable road conducted us were lighted 
by the bright sunshine and enlivened by a multitude 
of birds. We overtook on the way our late fellow- 
^ travellers, the Kansas Indians, who, adorned with 
all their finery, were proceeding homeward at a 
round pace ; and whatever they might have seemed 
on board the boat, they made a very striking and 
picturesque feature in the forest landscape. 

Westport was full of Indians, whose little shaggy 
ponies were tied by dozens along the houses and 
fences. Sacs and Foxes, with shaved heads and 
painted faces, Shawanoes and Delawares, fluttering 
in calico frocks and turbans, Wyandots, dressed like 
white men, and a few wretched Kansas, wrapped 
in old blankets, were strolling about the streets or 
lounging in and out of the shops and houses. 

As 1 stood at the door of the tavern, I saw a re- 
markable looking person coming up the street. He 
had a ruddy face, garnished with the stumps of a 
bristly red beard and moustache ; on one side of 
his head was a round cap with a knob at the top, 
such as Scottish laborers sometimes wear ; his coat 



THE FRONTIER. 5 

was of a nondescript form, and made of a gray 
Scotch plaid, with the fringes hanging all about it ; 
he wore pantaloons of coarse homespun and hob- 
nailed shoes ; and, to complete his equipment, a 
little black pipe was stuck in one corner of his 
mouth. In this curious attire, I recognized Captain 
C. of the British army, who, with his brother 'an3^ 
Mr. R., an English gentleman, was bound on a 
hunting expedition across the continent. I had 
seen the Captain and his companions at St. Louis. 
They had now been for some time at Westpoit, 
making preparations for their departure, and wait- 
ing for a reinforcement, since they were too few in 
number to attempt it alone. They might, it is true. 
have joined some of the parties of emigrants who 
were on the point of setting out for Oregon and 
Cahfornia ; but they professed great disinclination 
to have any connection with the ' ' Kentucky fel- 
low.s.!ly 

The Captain now urged it upon us that we should ' 
join forces and proceed to the mountains in com- 
pany. Feeling no greater partiality for the society 
of the emigrants than they did, we thought the 
arrangement an advantageous one, and consented 
to it. Our future fellow-travellers had installed 
themselves in a httle log-house, where we found 
them all surrounded by saddles, harness, guns, 
pistols, telescopes, knives, and in short, their com- 
plete appointments for the prairie. R., who pro- 
fessed a taste for natural history, .sat at a table .stuff- 
ing a woodpecker ; the brother of the Captain, who 
was an Irishman, was splicing a trail-rope on the 
floor, as he had been an amateur sailor. The Cap- 
tain pointed out, with much comjilacency, the dif- 
ferent articles of their outfit. "You see," said he, 
"that we are all old travellers. I am convinced 
that no party ever went upon the prairie better pro- 



6 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

vided." The hunter whom they had employed, a 
surly looking Canadian, named Sorel, and their 
muleteer, an American from St. Louis, were loung- 
ing about the building. In a little log-stable close 
at hand were their horses and mules, selected by 
the Captain, who was an excellent judge. 

The alliance entered into, we left them to com- 
plete their arrangements, while we pushed our own 
to all convenient speed. The emigrants, for whom 
our friends professed such contempt, were encamped 
on the prairie about eight or ten miles distant, to the 
number of a thousand or more, and new parties 
were constantly passing out from Independence to 
join them. They were in great confusion, holding 
meetings, passing resolutions, and drawing up regu- 
lations, but unable to unite in the choice of leaders 
to conduct them across the prairie. Being at leisure 
one day, I rode over to Independence. The town 
was crowded. A miJtitu3e of shops had sprung up 
to furnish the emigrants and Santa Fe traders with 
necessaries for their journey; and there was an in- 
cessant hanmiering and banging from a dozen 
blacksmiths' sheds, where the hea^^■ wagons were 
being repaired and the horses and oxen shod. The 
streets were thronged with men, horses, and mules. 
WTule 1 was in the town, a train of emigrant wagons 
from Illinois passed through, to join the camp on 
the prairie, and stopped in the principal street. A 
multitude of healthy children's faces were peeping 
out from under the covers of the wagons. Here 
and there a buxom damsel was seated on horseback, 
holding over her sunburnt £ace an old umbrella or a 
parasol,' once gaudy enough, but now miserably 
feded. The men, very- sober-looking countrjmen, 
stood about their oxen ; and as I passed I noticed 
three old fellows, who, with their long whips in their 
hands, were zealously discussing the doctrine of 



THE FRONTIER. 7 

regeneration. The emigrants, however, are not all 
of this stamp. Among them are some of the vilest 
outcasts in the country. I have often perplexed 
mvself to divine the various motives that give im- 
pulse to this strange migration ; but whatever they 
may be, whether an insane hope of a better con- 
dition in life, or a desire of shaking off restraints of 
law and society, or mere restlessness, certain it is 
that multitudes bitterly repent the journey, and after 
they have reached the land of promise, are happy 
enough to escape from it. 

In the course of seven or eight days we had 
brought our preparations near to a close. Mean- 
while our friends had completed theirs, and becom- 
ing tired of Westport, they told us that they would 
set out in advance, and wait at the crossing of the 
Kansas till we should come up. Accordingly R. 
and the muleteer went forward with the wagon and 
tent, while the Captain and his brother, together 
with Sorel and a trapper named Boisverd, who had 
joined them, followed with the band of horses. 
The commencement of the journey was ominous, 
for the Captain was scarcely a mile from Westport, 
riding along in state at the head of his party, lead- 
ing his intended buffalo horse by a rope, when a 
tremendous thunder-storm came on, and drenched 
them all to the skin. They hurried on to reach the 
place about seven miles off, where R. was to have 
had the camp in readiness to receive them. But 
this prudent person, when he saw the storm ap- 
proaching, had selected a sheltered glade in the 
woods, where he pitched his tent, and was sipping 
a comfortable cup of coffee while the Captain gal- 
loped for miles beyond through the rain to look for 
him. At length the storm cleared away, and the 
sharp-eyed trapper succeeded in discovering his 
tent ; R. had by this time finished his coffee, and 



8 . THE OREGON TRAIL. 

was seated on a buffalo-robe smoking his pipe. The 
Captain was one of the most easy -tempered men in 
existence, so he bore his ill luck with great com- 
posure, shared the dregs of the coffee -with his 
brother, and laid down to sleep in his wet clothes. 

We ourselves had our share of the deluge. We 
were leading a pair of mules to Kansas when the 
storm broke. Such sharp and incessant flashes of 
lightning, such stunning and continuous thunder. I 
had never known before. The woods were com- 
pletely obscured by the diagonal sheets of rain that 
fell with a heavy roar, and rose in spray from the 
ground ; and the streams rose so rapidly that we 
could hardly ford them. At length, looming through 
the rain, we saw the log-house of Colonel Chick, 
who received us with his usual bland hospitality,- ; 
while his wife, who, though a little soured and 
stiffened by too frequent attendance on camp-meet- 
ings, was not behind him in hospitable feeling, sup- 
plied us \\ith the means of repairing our drenched 
and bedraggled condition. The storm clearing 
awav at about sunset, opened a noble prospect from 
the porch of the colonel's house, which stands upon 
a high hill. The sun streamed from the breaking 
clouds upon the swift and angr}' Missouri, and on 
the immense expanse of luxuriant forest that 
stretched from its banks back to the distant bluffs. 

Returning on the next day to Westport, we re- 
ceived a message from the Captam, who had ridden 
back to deliver it in person, but finding that we 
were in Kansas, had intrusted it with an acquaint- 
ance of his named \'ogel, who kept a small grocery 
and liquor shop. WTiiskey, by the way, circulates 
more freely in Westport than is altogether safe in a 
place where ever)' man carries a loaded pistol in his 
pocket. As we passed this establishment, we saw 
Vogel's broad German face and knavish-looking 



THE FRONTIER. 9 

eyes thrust from his door. He said he had some- 
thing to tell us, and invited us to take a dram. 
Neither his liquor nor his message was very pala- 
table. The Captain had returned to give us notice 
that R., who assumed the direction of his party, 
had determined upon another route from that agreed 
upon between us ; and instead of taking the course of 
the traders, to pass northward by Fort Leavenworth, 
and follow the path marked out by the dragoons 
in their expedition of last summer. To adopt such 
a plan without consulting us we looked upon as a 
very high-handed proceeding ; but, suppressing our 
dissatisfaction as well as we could, we made up our 
minds to join them at Fort Leavenworth, where they 
were to wait for us. 

Accordingly, our preparations being now com- 
plete, we attempted one fine morning to commence 
our journey. The first step was an unfortunate one. 
No sooner were our animals put in harness than the 
shaft-mule reared and plunged, burst ropes and 
straps, and nearly flung the cart into the Missouri. 
Finding her wholly uncontrollable, we e.xchanged 
her for another, with which we were furnished by 
our friend Mr. Boone of Westport, a grandson of 
Daniel Boone, the pioneer. This foretaste of prairie 
experience was very soon followed by another. 
Westport was scarcely out of sight when we en- 
countered a deep muddy gully, of a species that 
afterward became but too familiar to us ; and here, 
for the space of an hour or more, the cart stuck fast. 



CHAPTER n. 

BREAKING THE ICE. 

" Though sloggards deem it but a foolish chase. 
And marvel men should quit their easy chair. 
The weary way and long, long league to trace ; 

Oh there is sweetness in the prairie air. 
And life that bloated ease can never hope to share." 

Childe Harolde. 

Both Shaw and myself were tolerably inured to 
the %icissitudes of travelling. We had experienced 
them under various forms, and a birch canoe was as 
familiar to US as a Steamboat. The restlessness, the 
love of wilds and hatred of cities, natural perhaps in 
early years to ever)- unper\erted son of Adam, \*-as 
not oiu- only motive for undertaking the present jour- 
ney. My companion hoped to shake oft the effects 
of a disorder that had impaired a constitution origi- 
nally hardy and robust ; and I was anxious to pursue 
some inquiries relative to the character and usages 
of the remote Indian nations, being already familiar 
with many of the border tribes. 

Emerging firom the mud-hole where we last took 
leave of the reader, we piusued our way for some 
time along the narrow track, in the checkered sun- 
shine and shadow of the woods, till at length, issuing 
forth into the broad hght, we left behind us the far- 
thest outskirts of that great forest that once spread 
unbroken from the western plains to the shore of 
the Atlantic. Looking over an inter\-ening belt of 
shrubbers- we saw the green, ocean-Uke expanse 
of prairie, stretching swell over swell to the horizon. 

It was a nuld, calm spring day ; a day when one 
is more disposed to musing and reverie than to 
action, and the softest part of his nature is apt to 
10 



BKEAKIXG THE ICE. II 

gain the ascendency. I rode in advance of the 
party as we passed through the shrubbery, and as 
a nook of green grass offered a strong temptation, I 
dismounted and lay down there. All the trees and 
saplings were in flower, or budding into fresh leaf ; 
the red clusters of the maple-blossoms and the rich 
flowers of the Indian apple were there in profusion ; 
and I was half inclined to regret leaving behind the 
land of gardens, for the rude and stern scenes of 
the prairie and the mountains. 

Meanwhile the party came in sight from out of 
the bushes. Foremost rode Henry Chatillon, our 
guide and hunter, a fine athletfc figure, mounted on 
a hardy gray Wyandot pony. He wore a white 
blanket-coat, a broad hat of felt, moccasons, and 
pantaloons of deer-skin, ornamented along the 
seams with rows of long fringes. His knife was 
stuck in his belt ; his bullet-pouch and powder-horn 
hung at his side, and his rifle lay before him, resting 
against the high pommel of his saddle, which, like 
all his equipments, had seen hard ser\ace, and was 
much the worse for wear. Shaw followed close, 
mounted on a little sorrel horse, and leading a 
larger animal by a rope. His outfit, which resem- 
bled mine, had been provided with a view to use 
rather than ornament. It consisted of a plain, 
black Spanish saddle, with holsters of heavy pistols, 
a blanket rolled up behind it, and the trail-rope 
attached to his horse's neck hanging coiled in front. 
He carried a double-barrelled smooth-bore, while I 
boasted a rifle of some fifteen pounds' weight. At 
that time our attire, though far from elegant, bore 
some marks of civilization, and oftered a ver}- favor- 
able contrast to the inimitable shabbiness of our 
appearance on the return journey. A red flannel 
shirt, belted around the waist like a frock, then con- 
stituted our upper garment ; moccasons had sup- 



12 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

planted our failing boots ; and the remaining essen- 
tial portion of our attire consisted of an extraordi- 
nary article, manufactured by a squaw out of smoked 
buckskin. Our muleteer, Delorier, brought up the 
rear with his cart, wading ankle-deep in the mud, 
alternately puffing at his pipe, and ejaculating in 
his prairie patois : " Sucre cnfiDit dc ga}-ce !" as one 
of the mules would seem to recoil before some abyss 
of unusual profundity. The cart was of the kind 
that one may see by scores around the market-place 
in Montreal, and had a white covering to protect 
the articles within. These were our provisions»and 
a tent, with ammunition, blankets, and presents for 
the Indians. 

We were in all four men with eight animals; for 
besides the spare horses led by Shaw and myself, 
an additional mule was driven along with us as a 
reserve in case of accident. 

After this summing up of our forces, it. may not 
be amiss to glance at the characters of the two men 
who accompanied us. 

Delorier was a Canadian, with all the character- 
istics of the true Jean Bapti'ste. Neither fatigue, 
exposure, nor hard labor could ever impair his 
cheerfulness and gayety, or his obsequious polite- 
ness to his bourgeois; and when night came he 
would sit down by the fire, smoke his pipe, and tell 
stories with the utmost contentment. In fact, the 
prairie was his congenial element. Henry Ghatillon 
was of a different stamp. When we were at St. 
Louis, several of the gentlemen of the Fur Com- 
pany had kindly offered to procure for us a hunter 
and guide suited for our purposes, and on coming 
one afternoon to the office, we found there a tall 
and exceedingly well-dressed man, with a face so 
open and frank that it attracted our notice at once. 
We were surprised at being told that it was he who 



BREAKIXG THE ICE. 1 3 

wished to guide us to the mountains. He was bom 
in a httle French town near St. Louis, and from the 
age of fifteen years had been constantly in the 
neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains, employed 
for the most part by the company, to supply their 
forts with buffalo -meat. As a hunter, he had but 
one rival in the whole region, a man named Cimo- 
neau, with whom, to the honor of both of them, he 
was on terms of the closest friendship. He had 
arrived at St. Louis the day before fi-om the moun- 
tains, where he had remained for four years ; and 
he now only asked to go and spend a day with his 
motner before setting out on another expedition. 
His age was about thirty- ; he was six feet high, and 
verj- powerfully and gracefully moulded. The 
prairies had been his school ; he could neither read 
nor write, but he had a natural refinement and deli- 
cacy of mind, such as is ver\- rarely found even in 
women. His manly face was a perfect mirror of 
uprightness, simplicity, and kindness of heart ; he 
had, moreover, a keen perception of character, and 
a tact that would preserve him from flagrant error 
in any societ}-. Henry had not the restless energy 
of an Anglo-American. He was content to take 
things as he found them ; and his chief fault arose 
from an excess of easy generosity impelling him to 
give away too profusely ever to thrive in the world. 
Yet it was commonly remarked of him that what- 
ever he might choose to do with what belonged to 
himself, the property of others was always safe in his 
hands. His bravery was as much celebrated in the 
mountains as his skill in hunting ; but it is charac- 
teristic of him that in a countr>- where the rifle is 
the chief arbiter between man and man, Henr\- was 
ven," seldom involved in quarrels. Once or twice, 
indeed, his quiet good nature had been mistaken 
and presumed upon, but the consequences of the 



14 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

error were so formidable that no one was ever 
known to repeat it. No better evidence of the in- 
trepidity of his temper could be wished than the 
common report that he had killed more than thirty 
grizzly bears. He was a proof of what unaided 
nature will sometimes do. I have never, in the city 
or in the wilderness, met a better man than my 
noble and true-hearted friend, Henry Chatillon. 

We were soon free of the woods and bushes, and 
fairly upon the broad prairie. Now and then a 
Shawanoe passed us, riding his little shaggy pony 
at a " lope"; his calico shirt, his gaudy sash, and 
the gay handkerchief bound around his snaky hair, 
fluttering in the wind. At noon we stopped to rest 
not far from a little creek replete with frogs and 
young turtles. There had been an Indian encamp- 
ment at the place, and the framework of their lodges 
still remained, enabling us very easily to gain a 
shelter from the sun by merely spreading one or 
two blankets over them. Thus shaded, we sat upon 
our saddles, and Shaw for the first time lighted his 
favorite Indian pipe ; while Delorier was squatted 
over a hot bed of coals, shading his eyes with one 
hand, and holding a little stick in the other with 
which he regulated the hissing contents of the fry- 
ing-pan.<' The horses were turned to feed among 
the scattered bushes of a low, oozy meadow. A 
drowsy spring-like sultriness pervaded the air, and 
the voices of ten thousand young frogs and insects, 
just awakened into life, rose in varied chorus from 
the creek and the meadows. \ 

Scarcely were we seated when a visitor ap- 
proached. This was an old Kansas Indian ; a man 
of distinction, if one might judge from his dress. 
His head was shaved and painted rod, and from the 
tuft of hair remaining on the crown dangled several 
eagle's feathers, and the tails of two or three rattle- 



BREAKING THE ICE. 1 5 

snakes. His cheeks, too, were daubed with ver- 
milion ; his ears were adorned with green glass 
pendants ; a collar of grizzly bears' claws sur- 
rounded his neck, and several large necklaces of 
wampum hung on his breast. Having shaken us 
by the hand with a cordial gnmt of salutation, the 
old man, dropping his red blanket from his shoul- 
ders, sat down cross-legged on the ground. In the 
absence of licjuor, we offered him a cup of sweet- 
ened water, at which he ejaculated "Good!" and 
was beginning to tell us how great a man he was, 
and how many Pawnees he had killed, when sud- 
denly a motley concourse appeared wading across 
the creek toward us. They filed past in rapid suc- 
cession, men, women, and children : some were on 
horseback, some on foot, but all were alike squalid 
and wretched. Old squaws, mounted astride of 
shaggy, meagre little ponies, with perhaps one or 
two snake-eyed children seated behind them, cling- 
ing to their tattered blankets ; tall, lank young men 
on foot, with bows and arrows in their hands ; and 
girls whose native ugliness not all the charms of 
glass beads and scarlet cloth could disguise, made 
up the procession ; although here and there was a 
man who, like our visitor, seemed to hold some 
rank in this respectable community. They were 
the dregs of the Kansas nation, who, while their 
betters were gone to hunt the buffalo, had left the 
village on a begging expedition to Westport. 

When this ragamuffin horde had passed, we 
caught our horses, saddled, harnessed, and resumed 
our journey. Fording the creek, the low roofs of a 
number of rude buildings appeared, rising from a 
cluster of groves and woods on the left ; and riding 
up through a long lane, amid a profusion of wild 
roses and early spring flowers, we found the log- 
church and school-houses belonging to the Meth- 



^ 



1 6 THE OR EG OX TRAIL. 

odist Shawanoe Mission. The Indians were on the 
point of gathering to a rehgious meeting. Some 
scores of them, tall men in half-civilized dress, were 
seated on wooden benches under the trees ; while 
their horses were tied to the sheds and fences. 
Their chief, Parks, a remarkably large and athletic 
man, was just arrived from \Vestport, where he 
owns a trading establishment. Besides this, he has 
a fine farm and a considerable number of slaves. 
Indeed the Shawanoes have made greater progress 
in agriculture than any other tribe on the Missouri 
frontier ; and both in appearance and in character 
form a marked contrast to our late acquaintance, 
the Kansas. 

A few hours' ride brought us to the banks of the 
river Kansas. Traversing the woods that lined it, 
and ploughing through the deep sand, we encamped 
not far from the bank, at the Lower Delaware cross- 
ing. Our tent was erected for the first time on a 
meadow close to the woods, and the camp prepa- 
rations being complete, we began to think of sup- 
per. An old Delaware woman, of some three hun- 
dred pounds' weight, sat in the porch of a little log- 
house, close to the water, and a ver}^ pretty half- 
breed girl was engaged, under her superintendence, 
in feeding a large flock of turkeys that were flutter- 
ing and gobbling about the door. But no offers of 
money, or even of tobacco, could induce her to 
part with one of her favorites : so I took my rifle 
to see if the woods or the river could furnish us any- 
thing. A multitude of quails were plaintively whist- 
ling in the woods and meadows ; but nothing appro- 
priate to the rifle was to be seen, except three buz- 
zards, seated on the spectral limbs of an old dead 
sycamore, that thrust itself out o\er the river from 
the dense, sunny wall of fresh foliage. Their ugly 
heads were drawn down between their shoulders. 



BREAKING THE ICE. 1 7 

and they seemed to luxuriate in the soft sunshine 
that was pouring from the west. As they offered no 
epicurean temptations, I refrained from disturbing 
their enjoyment, but contented myself with ad- 
miring the calm beauty of the sunset, for the river, 
eddying swiftly in deep purple shadows between the 
impending woods, formed a wild but tranquillizing 
scene. 

When I returned to the camp I found Shaw and 
an old Indian seated on the ground in close con- 
ference, passing the pipe between them. The old 
man was explaining that he loved the whites, and 
had an especial partiality for tobacco. Delorier was 
arranging upon the ground our ser\-ice of tin cups 
and plates ; and as other viands were not to be had, 
he set before us a repast of biscuit and bacon, and 
a large pot of coffee. Unsheathing our knives, we 
attacked it, disposed of the greater part, and tossed 
the residue to the Indian. Meanwhile our horses, 
now hobbled for the first time, stood among the 
trees, with their fore-legs tied together, in great dis- 
gust and astonishment. They seemed by no means 
to relish this foretaste of what was before them. 
Mine, in particular, had conceived a mortal aversion 
to the prairie life. One of them, christened Hen- 
drick, an animal whose strength and hardihood 
were his only merits, and who yielded to nothing 
but the cogent arguments of the whip, looked toward 
us with an indignant countenance, as if he medi- 
tated avenging his wrongs with a kick. The other, 
Pontiac, a good horse, though of plebeian lineage, 
stood with his head drooping and his mane hanging 
about his eyes, with the grieved and sulky air of a 
lubberly boy sent off to school. Poor Pontiac ! his 
forebodings were but too just ; for when I last heard 
from him he was under the lash of an Ogillallah 
brave, on a war-party against the Crows. 
2 



1 8 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

As it grew dark, and the voices of the whippoor- 
wills succeeded the whistle of the quails, we re- 
moved our saddles to the tent, to serve as pillows, 
spread our blankets upon the ground, and prepared 
to bivouac for the first time that season. Each man 
selected the place in the tent which he was to 
occupy for the journey. To Delorier, however, 
was assigned the cart, into which he could creep in 
wet weather, and find a much better shelter than 
his bourgeois enjoyed in the tent. 

The river Kansas at this point forms the boun- 
dar)--line between the country of the Shawanoes and 
that of the Delawares. We crossed it on the fol- 
lowing day, rafring over our horses and equipage 
with much difficult}', and unloading our cart in 
order to make our way up the steep ascent on the 
farther bank. It was a Sunday morning ; warm, 
tranquil, and bright ; and a perfect stillness reigned 
over the rough inclosures and neglected fields of the 
Delawares, except the ceaseless hum and chirruping 
of myriads of insects. Now and then an Indian 
rode past on his way to the meeting-house, or, 
through the dilapidated entrance of some shattered 
log-house, an old woman might be discerned enjoy- 
ing all the luxur)- of idleness. There was no village 
bell, for the Delawares have none ; and yet upon 
that forlorn and rude settlement was the same spirit 
of Sabbath repose and tranquillity as in some little 
New England village among the mountains of New 
Hampshire or the \'ermont woods. 

Having at present no leisure for such reflections, 
we pursued our journey. A militar\- road led from 
this point to Fort Leavenworth, and for many miles 
the farms and cabins of the Delawares were scat- 
tered at short inter\-als on either hand. The little 
rude structures of logs, erected usually on the bor- 
ders of a tract of woods, made a picturesque feature 



BREAKING THE ICE. 1 9 

in the landscape. But the scenery needed no 
foreign aid. Nature had done enough for it ; and 
the alternation of rich green prairies and groves that 
stood in clusters, or lined the banks of the numerous 
little streams, had all the softened and polished 
beauty of a region that has been for centuries under 
the hand of man. At that early season, too, it was 
in the height of its freshness and luxuriance. The 
woods were flushed with the red buds of the maple ; 
there were frequent flowering shrubs unknown in 
the east ; and the green swells of the prairie were 
thickly studded with blossoms. 

Encamping near a spring, by the side of a hill, 
we resumed our journey in the morning, and early 
in the afternoon had arrived within a few miles of 
Fort Leavenworth. The road crossed a stream 
densely bordered with trees, and running in the 
bottom of a deep woody hollow. We were about to 
descend into it when a wild and confused procession 
appeared, passing through the water below, and 
coming up the steep ascent toward us. We stopped 
to let them pass. They were Delawares, just re- 
turned from a hunting expedition. All, both men 
and women, were mounted on horseback, and drove 
along with them a considerable number of pack- 
mules, laden with the furs they had taken, together 
with the buffalo-robes, kettles, and other articles of 
their travelling equipment, which, as well as their 
clothing and their weapons, had a worn and dingy 
aspect, as if they had seen hard service of late. At 
the rear of the party was an old man, who, as he 
came up, stopped his horse to speak to us. He 
rode a little tough, shaggy pony, with mane and tail 
well knotted with burs, and a rusty Spanish bit in 
its mouth, to which, by way of reins, was attached 
a string of raw hide. His saddle, robbed probably 
from a Mexican, had no covering, being merely a 



20 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

tree of the Spanish form, with a piece of grizzly 
bear's skin laid over it, a pair of rude wooden stir- 
rups attached, and in the absence of girth, a thong 
of hide passing around the horse's belly. The 
rider's dark features and keen snaky eye were 
unequivocally Indian. He wore a buckskin frock, 
which, like his fringed leggings, was well polished 
and blackened by grease and long service ; and an 
old handkerchief was tied around his head. Rest- 
ing on the saddle before him lay his rifle, a weapon 
in the use of which the Delawares are skilful, 
though, from its weight, the distant prairie Indians 
are too lazy to caxry it. 

"WTio's your chief?" he immediately inquired. 

Henr}' Chatillon pointed to us. The old Dela- 
ware fixed his eyes intently upon us for a moment, 
and then sententiously remarked : 

" No good ! Too young !" With this flattering 
comment he left us, and rode after his people. 

This tribe, the Delawares, once the peaceful allies 
of Wilham Penn, the tributaries of the conquering 
Iroquois, are now the most adventurous and dreaded 
warriors upon the prairies. They make war upon 
remote tribes, the very^ names of which were un- 
known to their fathers in their ancient seats in 
Pennsylvania ; and they push these new quarrels 
with true Indian rancor, sending out their little war- 
parties as far as the Rocky Mountains, and into the 
Mexican territories. Their neighbors and former 
confederates, the Shawanoes, who are tolerable farm- 
ers, are in a prosperous condition ; but the Dela- 
wares dwindle ever\- year from the number of men 
lost in their warlike expeditions. 

Soon after leaving this party we saw, stretching 
on the right, the forests that follow the course of the 
Missouri, and the deep woody channel through 
which at this point it runs. At a distance in front 



FORT LEAVENWORTH. 21 

were the white barracks of Fort Leavenworth, just 
visible through the trees upon an eminence above a 
bend of the river. A wide green meadow, as level 
as a lake, lay between us and the Missouri, and 
upon this, close to a line of trees that bordered a 
little brook, stood the tent of the Captain and his 
companions, with their horses feeding around it ; 
but they themselves were invisible. Wright, their 
muleteer, was there, seated on the tongue of the 
wagon, repairing his harness. Boisverd stood clean- 
ing his rifle at the door of the tent, and Sorel 
lounged idly about. On closer examination, how- 
ever, we discovered the Captain's brother. Jack, sit- 
ting in the tent, at his old occupation of splicing 
trail-ropes. He welcomed us in his broad Irish 
brogue, and said that his brother was fishing in the 
river, and R. gone to the garrison. They returned 
before sunset. Meanwhile we erected our own tent 
not far off, and after supper a council was held, in 
which it was resolved to remain one day at Fort 
Leavenworth, and on the next to bid a final adieu 
to the frontier ; or in the phraseology of the region, 
to "jump off." Our deliberations were conducted 
by the ruddy light from a distant swell of the prairie, 
where the long dry grass of last summer was on fire. 



CHAPTER III. 

FORT LEAVENWORTH. 

" I've wandered wide and wandered far. 
But never have I met, 
In all this lovely western land, 

A spot more lovely yet." — BRYANT. 

On the next morning we rode to Fort Leaven- 
worth. Colonel (now General) Kearney, to whom 



22 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

I had had the honor of an introduction when at St. 
Louis, was iust arrived, and received us at his quar- 
ters with the high-bred courtesy habitual to him. 
Fort Leavenworth is, in fact, no fort , being -without 
defensive works, except two Block -houses. No 
rumors of war had as yet disturbed its tranquillit)-. 
In the square grassy area, surrounded by barracks 
and the quarters of the officers, the men were pass- 
ing and repassing, or lounging among the trees ; 
although not many weeks afterward it presented a 
different scene ; for here the ver\" offscourings of 
the frontier were congregated, to be marshalled for 
the expedition against Santa Fe. 

Passing through the garrison, we rode toward the 
Kickapoo village^ five or six miles beyond. The 
pathT a rather dubious and uncertain one, led us 
along the ridge of high bluffs that border the Mis- 
souri ; and by looking to the right or to the left we 
could enjoy a strange contrast of opposite scenen,-. 
On the left stretched the prairie, rising into swells 
and undulations, thickly sprinkled with groves, or 
gracefully expanding into %vide grassy basins of 
miles in extent ; while its cun-atures. swelling 
against the horizon, were often surmounted by lines 
of sunny woods ; a scene to which the freshness of 
the season and the peculiar mellowness of the 
atmosphere gave additional softness. Below us, on 
the right, was a tract of ragged and broken woods. 
We could look down on the summits of the trees, 
some living and some dead ; some erect, others 
leaning at ever)- angle, and others still piled in 
masses together by the passage of a hurricane. 
Beyond their extreme verge the turbid waters of the 
Missouri were discernible through the boughs, rolling 
powerfully along at the foot of the woody dechvities 
on its farther bank. 

The path soon after led inland ; and as we crossed 



FORT LEAVENWORTH. 23 

an open meadow we saw a cluster of buildings on a 
rising ground before us, with a crowd of people sur- 
rounding them. They were the storehouse, cottage, 
and stables of the Kickapoo trader's establishment. 
Just at that moment, as it chanced, he was beset 
with half the Indians of the settlement. They had 
tied their wretched, neglected little ponies by dozens 
along the fences and out-houses, and were either 
lounging about the place or crowding into the trad- 
ing-house. Here were faces of various colors : red, 
green, white, and black, curiously intermingled and 
disposed over the visage in a variety of patterns. 
Calico shirts, red and blue blankets, brass ear-rings, 
wampum necklaces, appeared in profusion. The 
trader was a blue-eyed, open-faced man, who 
neither in his manners nor his appearance betrayed 
any of the roughness of the frontier ; though just 
at present he was obliged to keep a lynx eye on 
his suspicious customers, who, men and women, 
were climbing on his counter and seating them- 
selves among his boxes and bales. 

The village itself was not far off, and sufficiently 
illustrated the condition of its unfortunate and self- 
abandoned occupants. Fancy to yourself a little 
swift stream, working its devious way down a woody 
valley ; sometimes wholly hidden under logs and 
fallen trees, sometimes issuing forth and spreading 
into a broad, clear pool ; and on its banks, in little 
nooks cleared away among the trees, miniature log- 
houses in utter ruin and neglect. A labyrinth of 
narrow, obstructed paths connected these habitations 
one with another. Sometimes we met a stray calf, 
a pig, or a pony belonging to some of the villagers, 
who usually lay in the sun in front of their dwellings 
and looked on us with cold, suspicious eyes as we 
approached. Farther on, in place of the log-huts 
of the Kickapoos, we found the pukwi lodges of 



24 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

their neighbors, the Pottawattamies, whose condition 
seemed no better than theirs. 

Growing tired at last, and exhausted by the ex- 
cessive heat and sultriness of the day, we returned 
to our friend, the trader. By this time the crowd 
around him had dispersed and left him at leisure. 
He invited us to his cottage, a little white-and-green 
building, in the style of the old French settlements ; 
and ushered us into a neat, well-furnished room. 
The blinds were closed, and the heat and glare of 
the sun excluded : the room was as cool as a cavern. 
It was neatly carpeted, too, and furnished in a 
manner that we hardly expected on the frontier. 
The sofas, chairs, tables, and a well-filled book- 
case would not have disgraced an eastern city ; 
though there were one or two little tokens that indi- 
cated the rather questionable civilization of the 
region. A pistol, loaded and capped, lay on the 
mantel-piece ; and through the glass of the book- 
case, peeping above the works of John Milton, 
glittered the handle of a verj- mischievous-looking 
knife. 

Our host went out, and returned with iced water, 
glasses, and a bottle of excellent claret , a refresh- 
ment most welcome in the extreme heat of the day ; 
and soon after appeared a merr}-, laughing woman, 
who must have been, a year or two before, a very 
rich and luxuriant specimen of Creole beauty. She 
came to say that lunch was ready in the next room. 
Our hostess evidently lived on the sunny side of life 
and troubled herself with none of its cares. She 
sat down and entertained us while we were at table 
with anecdotes of fishing-parties, frolics, and the 
officers at the fort. Taking leave at length of the 
hospitable trader and his friend, we rode back to 
the garrison. 

Shaw passed on to the camp, while I remained to 



I^IBKABYOF 
ir. 0. STATE COLLE€t*; 



"JUMPING off:' 2$ 

call upon Colonel Kearney. I found him still at 
table. There sat our friend the Captain, in the 
same remarkable habiliments in which we saw him 
at Westport ; the black pipe, however, being for 
the present laid aside. He dangled his little cap 
in his hand, and talked of steeple-chases, touching 
occasionally upon his anticipated exploits in buffalo- 
hunting. There, too, was R., somewhat more ele- 
gantly attired. For the last time we tasted the lux- 
uries of civilization, and drank adieus to it in wine 
good enough to make us almost regret the leave- 
taking. Then, mounting, we rode together to the 
camp, where everything was in readiness for depart- 
ure on the morrow. 



CHAPTER IV. 

JUMPING OFF 



^' 



" We forded the river and clomb the high hill, 
Never our steeds for a day stood still ; 
Whether we lay in the cave or the shed, 
Our sleep fell soft on the hardest bed ; 
Whether we couched in our rough capote. 
On the rougher plank of our gliding boat, 
Or stretched on the sand, or our saddles spread 
As a pillow beneath the resting head. 

Fresh we woke upon the morrow ; 
All our thoughts and words had scope, 
We had health and we had hope, 

Toil and travel, but no sorrow." 

Siege of Corinth. 

The reader need not be told that John Bull never 
leaves home without encumbering himself wth the 
greatest possible load of luggage. Our companions 
were no exception to the rule. They had a wagon 
drawn by six mules, and crammed with provisions 



26 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

for six months, besides ammunition enough for a 
regiment ; spare rifles and fowhng-pieces, ropes and 
harness ; personal baggage, and a miscellaneous 
assortment of articles, which produced infinite em- 
barrassment on the journey. They had also deco- 
rated their persons with telescopes and portable 
compasses, and carried English double-barrelled 
rifles of sixteen to the pound calibre, slung to their 
saddles dragoon fashion. 

By sunrise on the twenty-third of May we had 
breakfasted ; the tents were levelled, the animals 
saddled and harnessed, and all was prepared. 
" Avance done ! get up !" cried Delorier from his 
seat in front of the cart. Wright, our friends' 
muleteer, after some swearing and lashing, got his 
insubordinate train in motion, and then the whole 
party filed from the ground. Thus we bade a long 
adieu to bed and board, and the principles of Black- 
stone' s Commentaries. The day was a most auspi- 
cious one ; and yet Shaw and I felt certain misgiv- 
ings, which in the sequel proved but too well 
founded. We had just learned that though R. had 
taken it upon him to adopt this course without con- 
sulting us, not a single man in the party was ac- 
quainted with it ; and the absurdity of our friend's 
high-handed measure very soon became manifest. 
His plan was to strike the trail of several companies 
of dragoons, who last summer had made an expe- 
dition under Colonel Kearney to Fort Laramie, and 
by this means to reach the grand trail of the Oregon 
emigrants up the Platte. 

We rode for an hour or two, when a familiar 
cluster of buildings appeared on a little hill. 
" Halloo !" shouted the Kickapoo trader from over 
his fence, ' ' where are you going ?' ' A few rather 
emphatic exclamations might have been heard 
among us when we found that we had gone miles 



"JUMPING off:' 27 

out of our way, and were not advanced an inch to- 
ward the Rocky Mountains. So we turned in the 
direction the trader indicated ; and, with the sun for 
a guide, began to trace a "bee-line" across the 
prairies. We struggled through copses and lines of 
wood ; we waded brooks and pools of water ; we 
traversed prairies as green as an emerald, expand- 
ing before us for mile after mile ; wider and more 
wild than the wastes Mazeppa rode over : 

" Man nor brute, 
Nor dint of hoof, nor print of foot, 
Lay in the wild luxuriant soil ; 
No sign of travel ; none of toil ; 
The verj- air was mute." 

Riding in advance, as we passed over one of these 
great plains, we looked back and saw the line of scat- 
tered horsemen stretching for a mile or more ; and 
far in the rear, against the horizon, the white wagons 
creeping slowly along. "Here we are at last!" 
shouted the Captain. And in truth we had struck 
upon the traces of a large body of horse. We 
turned joyfully and followed this new course, with 
tempers somewhat improved ; and toward sunset 
encamped on a high swell of the prairie, at the foot 
of which a lazy stream soaked along through 
clumps of rank grass. It was getting dark. We 
turned the horses loose to feed. " Drive down the 
tent-pickets hard," said Henr>- Chatillon, "it is 
going to blow." We did so, and secured the tent 
as well as we could ; for the sky had changed to- 
tally, and a fresh damp smell in the wind warned us 
that a stormy night was likely to succeed the hot, 
clear day. The prairie also wore a new aspect, and 
its vast swells had grown black and sombre under 
the shadow of the clouds. The thunder soon began 
to growl at a distance. Picketing and hobbling the 
horses among the rich grass at the foot of the slope 



28 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

where we encamped, we gained a shelter just as the 
rain began to fall ; and sat at the opening of the 
tent, watching the proceedings of the Captain. In 
defiance of the rain, he was stalking among the 
horses, wrapped in an old Scotch plaid. An ex- 
treme solicitude tormented him, lest some of his 
favorites should escape or some accident should 
befall them ; and he cast an anxious eye toward 
three wolves who were sneaking along over the 
drear\- surface of the plain as if he dreaded some 
hostile demonstration on their part. 

On the next morning we had gone but a mile or 
two when we came to an extensive belt of woods, 
through the midst of which ran a stream, wide, 
deep, and of an appearance particularly muddy 
and treacherous. Delorier was in advance with 
his cart ; he jerked his pipe from his mouth, lashed 
his mules, and poured forth a volley of Canadian 
ejaculations. In plunged the cart, but midway it 
stuck fast. Delorier leaped out knee-deep in water, 
and by dint of sacres and a vigorous application of 
the whip, he urged the mules out of the slough. 
Then approached the long team and heavy wagon 
of our friends ; but it paused on the brink. 

"Now my ad .ice is — " began the Captain, who 
had been anxiously contemplating the muddy gulf. 

" Drive on I" cried R. 

But Wright, the muleteer, apparently had not as 
yet decided the point in his own mind ; and he sat 
still in his seat on one of the shaft-mules, whistling 
in a low contemplative strain to himself. 

" My advice is," resumed the Captain, " that we 
unload ; for I'll bet any man five pounds that if we 
tr)' to go through we shall stick fast. ' ' 

"By the powers, we shall stick fasti" echoed 
Jack, the Captain's brother, shaking his large head 
with an air of firm conviction. 



"JCMP/A-G OFF.' 



29 



"Drive on ! drive on !" cried R., petulantly. 
"Well," observed the Captain, turning to 'us as 
we sat looking on, much edified bv this by-play 
among our confederates, "I can only give my ad- 
vice, and if people wont be reasonable, whv'thev 
won't, that's all!" ' 

Meanwhile, Wright had apparentlv made up his 
mmd : for he suddenly began to shout forth a volley 
of oaths and curses that, compared with the French 
imprecations of Delorier, sounded like the roaring 
of heavy cannon after the popping and sputtering of 
a bunch of Chinese crackers. At the same time he 
discharged a shower of blows upon his mules, who 
hastily dived into the mud and drew the wacron 
lumbenng after them. For a moment the islue 
was dubious. Wright writhed about in his saddle 
and swore and lashed like a madman ; but who can 
count on a team of half-broken mules? At the 
most critical point, when all should have been har- 
mony and combined elTort, the perverse brutes fell 
mto lamentable disorder, and huddled together in 
confusion on the farther bank. There was the 
wagon up to the hub in mud and visibly settlino- 
every instant. There was nothing for it but to 
unload ; then to dig away the mud from before 
the wheels with a spade, and lav a causeway of 
bushes and branches. This agreeable labor ac- 
complished, the wagon at length emerged ; but if 
I mention that some interruption of this sort oc- 
curred at least four or five times a dav for a fort- 
night, the reader will understand that our progress 
toward the Platte was not without its obstaclesj^ 

We travelled si.\ or seven miles fartherr and 
" nooned " near a brook. On the point of resum- 
ing our journey, when the horses were all driven 
down to water, my homesick charger Pontiac made 
a sudden leap across, and set off at a round trot for 



30 THE OR EG OX TRAIL. 

the settlements. I mounted my remaining horse, 
and started in pursuit. Making a circuit, I headed 
the runaway, hoping to drive him back to camp ; 
but he instantly broke into a gallop, made a -wide 
tour on the prairie, and got past me again. I tried 
this plan repeatedly, \nth the same result : Pontiac 
was evidently disgusted with the prairie ; so I aban- 
doned it, and tried another, trotting along gently 
behind him, in hopes that 1 might quietly get near 
enough to seize the trail-rope which was fastened to 
his neck, and dragged about a dozen feet behind 
him. The chase grew interesting. For mile after 
mile I followed the rascal. \\\\h the utmost care not 
to alarm him, and gradually got nearer, until at 
length old Hendrick's nose was fairly brushed by 
the whisking tail of the unsuspecting Pontiac. 
Without drawing rein I slid softly to the ground ; 
but my long heavy rifle encumbered me, and the 
low sound it made in striking the horn of the sad- 
dle startled him ; he pricked up his ears, and sprang 
off at a run. " My friend," thought I, remounting, 
" do that again, and I will shoot you !" 

Fort Leavenworth was about forty miles distant, 
and thither I determined to follow him. I made up 
my mind to spend a solitar\- and supperless night, 
and then set out again in the morning. One hope, 
however, remained. The creek where the wagon 
had stuck was just before us ; Pontiac might be 
thirsty with his run, and stop there to drink. I 
kept as near to him as possible, taking ever)- pre- 
caution not to alarm him again : and the result 
proved as 1 had hoped ; for he walked deliberately 
among the trees, and stooped down to the water. 
1 alighted, dragged old Hendrick through the mud, 
and with a feeling of infinite satisfaction picked up 
the slimy trail-rope, and twisted it three times round 
my hand. " Now let me see you get away again I" 



''JUMPING off:' 31 

I thought, as I remounted. But Pontiac was exceed- 
ingly rehictant to turn back ; Hendrick, too, who 
had evidently flattered himself with vain hopes, 
showed the utmost repugnance, and grumbled in a 
manner peculiar to himself at being compelled to 
face about. A smart cut of the whip restored his 
cheerfulness ; and dragging the recovered truant 
behind, I set out in search of the camp. An hour 
or two elapsed, when, near sunset, I saw the tents, 
standing on a rich swell of the prairie, beyond a 
line of woods, while the bands of horses were feed- 
ing in a low meadow close at hand. There sat 
Jack C, cross-legged, in the sun, splicing a trail- 
rope, and the rest were lying on the grass, smoking 
and telling stories. That night we enjoyed a sere- 
nade from the woh'es, more lively than any with 
which they had yet favored us ; and in the morning 
one of the musicians appeared, not many rods from 
the tents, quietly seated among the horses, looking 
at us with a pair of large gray eyes ; but perceiv- 
ing a rifle levelled at him, he leaped up and made 
off in hot haste. 

I pass by the following day or two of our journey, 
for nothing occurred worthy of record. Should any 
one of my readers ever be impelled to visit the 
prairies, and should he choose the route of the 
■Platte (the best, perhaps, that can be adopted), I 
can assure him that he need not think to enter at 
once upon the paradise of his imagination. A 
dreary preliminary, protracted crossing of the 
threshold awaits him before he finds himself fairly 
upon the verge of the "great American desert"; 
those barren wastes, the haunts of the buflalo and 
the Indian, where the ver)' shadow of civilization 
lies a hundred leagues behind him. The interven- 
ing country, the wide and fertile belt that extends 
for several hundred miles beyond the extreme 



^HE C REG ON TRAIL. 



t are 



may journey 
the hoof-pr!; 
prairie-hen : 
Yet, to cc : 
ficiencv of 




''JUMPING off:' 33 

glide away from under his horse's feet or quietly 
visit him in his tent at night ; while the perti- 
nacious humming of unnumbered mosquitoes will 
banish sleep from his eyelids. When thirsty with a 
long ride in the scorching sun over some boundless 
reach of prairie, he comes at length to a pool of 
water, and alights to drink, he discovers a troop of 
young tadpoles sporting in the bottom of his cup. 
Add to this that all the morning the sun beats upon 
him with a sultry, penetrating heat, and that, with 
provoking regularity, at about four o'clock in the 
afternoon a thunder-storm rises and drenches him 
to the skin. Such being the charms of this favored 
region, the reader will easily conceive the extent of 
our gratification at learning that for a week we had 
been journeying on the wrong track ! How this 
agreeable discovery was made I will presently ex- 
plain. 

One day, after a protracted morning's ride, we 
stopped to rest at noon upon the open prairie. No 
trees were in sight ; but close at hand a little drib- 
bling brook was twisting from side to side through a 
hollow ; now forming holes of stagnant water, and 
now gliding over the mud in a scarcely perceptible 
current, among a growth of sickly bushes and great 
clumps of tall rank grass. The day was excessively 
hot and oppressive. The horses and mules were 
rolling on the prairie to refresh themselves, or feed- 
ing among the bushes in the hollow. We had 
dined ; and Delorier, puffing at his pipe, knelt on 
the grass, scrubbing our service of tin-plate. Shaw 
lay in the shade, under the cart, to rest for awhile, 
before the word should be given to "catch up." 
Henry Chatillon, before lying down, was looking 
about for signs of snakes, the only living things that 
he feared, and uttering various ejaculations of dis- 
gust at finding several suspicious-looking holes close 

3 



34 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

to the carL I sat leaning against the wheel in a 
scanty strip of shade, making a pair of hobbles to 
replace those which my contumacious steed Pontiac 
had broken the night before. The camp of our 
friends, a rod or two distant, presented the same 
scene of lazy tranquiUit5\ 

" Halloo !" cried Henry, looking up fiiom his in- 
spection of the snake-holes, ' * here comes the old 
Captain !" 

Hie Captain approached, and stood for a moment 
contemplating us in silence. 

"I say, Parkinan," he began, "look at Shaw 
there, asleep under the cart, with the tar dripping 
off the hub of the wheel on his shoulder !" 

At this Shaw got up, with his eyes half opened, 
and feeling the part indicated, he found his hand 
glued &st to his red flannel shirt. 

" He'll look well, when he gets among the squaws, 
won't he "" observed the Captain, with a grin. 

He then crawled under die cart, and began to 
tell stories, of which his stock was inexhaustible. 
Yet every moment he would glance nervously at the 
horses. At last he jumped up in great excitement. 
'• See that horse ! There — that fellow just walking 
over the hill ! By Jove ! he's off. It's your big 
horse, Shaw : no it isn't, it's Jack's. Jack ! Jack ! 
halloo. Jack T' Jack, thus invoked, jumped op and 
stared vacandy at us. 

•* Go and catch your horse, if you don't want to 
lose him !" roared the Captain. 

Jack instantly set off at a run, through the grass, 
his broad pantaloons flapping about his feet. The 
Captain gazed anxiously till he saw that the horse 
was caught ; then he sat down, with a countenance 
of thoughthilness and care. 

" I tell you what it is," he said, "this will never 
do at alL We shall lose everv hcHse in the band 



"JUMPIXG OFF." 35 f 

some day or other, and then a pretty phght we 
should be in I Now I am convinced that the only 
way for us is to have ever}' man in the camp stand 
horse-guard in rotation whenever we stop. Sup- 
posing a hundred Pawnees should jump up out of 
that ravine, all yelling and flapping their buffalo- 
robes, in the way they do ? Why in two minutes 
not a hoof would be in sight. ' ' We reminded the 
Captain that a hundred Pawnees would probably 
demolish the horse-guard if he were to resist their 
depredations. 

" At any rate," pursued the Captain, evading the 
point, " our whole system is wrong ; I'm convinced 
of it ; it is totally unmilitary. W'hy the way we 
travel, strung out over the prairie for a mile, an 
enemy might attack the foremost men and cut them 
off before the rest could come up." 

"We are not in an enemy's country yet," said 
Shaw ; "when we are, we'll travel together." 

' ' Then, ' ' said the Captain, ' ' we might be attacked 
in camp. We've no sentinels ; we camp in dis- 
order ; no precautions at all to guard against sur- 
prise. My own convictions are that we ought to 
camp in a hollow-square, with the fires in the cen- 
tre ; and have sentinels and a regular password 
appointed for every night. Beside, there should be 
videttes, riding in advance, to find a place for the 
camp and give warning of an enemy. These are 
my convictions. I don't want to dictate to any man. 
I give advice to the best of my judgment, that's all ; 
and then let people do as they please. 

We intimated that perhaps it would be as well to 
postpone such burdensome precautions until there 
should be some actual need of them ; but he shook 
his head dubiously. The Captain's sense of mili- 
tary propriety had been severely shocked by what 
he considered the irregular proceedings of the 



36 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

pait>' ; and this -was not the first time he had ex- 
pressed himself upon the subject. But his con- 
victMHis seldom produced any practical results. In 
the present case he contented himself, as usual, -with 
enl^lgiiig on the importance of his suggestions and 
wondoing that they were not adopted. But his 
plan of sending out lidettes seemed particularly 
dear to him ; and as no one else was disposed to 
seccmd his \-iews on this point, he took it into his 
head to ride forward that afternoon himself. 

"Come, Parkman," said he, "will you go ■with 
me?" 

We set out together, and rode a mile or two in 
advance. The Captain, in the course of twenty 
years' service in the British army, had seen some- 
thing of hfe ; one extensive side of it, at least, he 
had enjoyed the best opportunities for stud},-ing ; 
and being naturally a pleasant fellow, he was a very 
entertaining companion. He cracked jokes and told 
Tories for an hour or two ; until, looking back, we 
saw the praiiie behind us stretching away to the 
horizon without a horseman or a wagon in sight. 

" Now," said the Captain, " I think the videttes 
had better stop till the main body comes up." 

I was of the same opinion. There was a thick 
growth of woods just before us with a stream run- 
ning through them. Having crossed this, we found 
on the other side a fine level meadow, half encircled 
by the trees ; and fastening our horses to some 
bushes, we sat down on the grass ; while, with an 
old stump of a tree for a target, I began to display 
the superiority' of the renowned rifle of the back- 
woods over the foreign innovation borne by the Cap- 
tain. At length voices could be heard in the dis- 
tance behind the trees. 

•'There they come!" said the Captain; "let's 
go and see how they get through the creek. 



''JUMPING off:' 37 

We mounted and rode to the bank of the stream 
where the trail crossed it. It ran in a deep hollow, 
full of trees : as we looked down we saw a confused 
crowd of horsemen riding through the water ; and 
among the dingy habiliments of our party glittered 
the uniforms of four dragoons. 

Shaw came whipping his horse up the bank, in 
advance of the rest, with a somewhat indignant 
countenance. The first word he spoke was a bless- 
ing fervently invoked on the head of R., who was 
riding, with a crest-fallen air, in the rear. Thanks 
to the ingenious devices of this gentleman, we had 
missed the track entirely, and wandered, not toward 
the Platte, but to the village of the Iowa Indians. 
This we learned from the dragoons, who had lately 
deserted from Fort Leavenworth. They told us that 
our best plan now was to keep to the northward 
until we should strike the trail formed by several 
parties of Oregon emigrants, who had that season 
set out from St. Joseph's in Missouri. 

In extremely bad temper we encamped on this 
ill-starred spot ; while the deserters, whose case 
admitted of no delay, rode rapidly forward. On 
the day following, striking the St. Joseph's trail, we 
turned our horses' heads toward Fort Laramie, then 
about seven hundred miles to the westward. 



THE "BIG BLUM. 

- A man so vaiioas. fhat he seemed to be 
Kot one, but aO mankind's ephorae. 
Stiff in opinions, always in die wroi^. 
Was eretydiing by starts, and nodiing kH^ 
Bat in the space of one rev<Jving moon. 
Was gamester, fhemist. fiddler, and buffoon." 

DKVDE38. 

The great medley of Or^non and California emi- 
granls. at their camps aroimd Independence, had 
heard rqmits that several additional paities were tm 
the point of settii^ out from St. Jos^h's. Cutho- to 
the noitfawanL The prevailii^ impression was diat 
these were Mormons, twenty-lhree hundred in num- 
ber, and a great alarm was excited in consequence. 
The people of niinms and Missonii, wfaocomposedby 
ferihe greater part of the onigrants. hare never been 
on the best tenns with the " Latter-day Saints"; and 
it is notorious throi^;hont the cotrntry how much Uood 
has been S|Hlt in their feuds, even bar within the 
limits of die settlements. No one could predict what 
would be the resnk wiien laige armed bodies cf 
these ^nalics shoidd encounto* the most impetuous 
and reckless (rf'dieir old enemies cm the broad prai- 
rie, far beyond the reach of law or militaiy fiorce. 
The women and children at Indqiendence raised a 
great outcry ; the men themselves were seriously 
alarmed ; and. as I learned, they sent to Colond 
Kearney, requesting an escort cf dragoons as far as 
the Platte. This was reliised : and as the sequel 
proved there was no occaaon for it. The SL Jo- 
seph's emigrants were as good Chitstians and as 
zealous Mormon-hateis as die rest ; and die very 
Z& 



THE ''BIG BLUEy 39 

few families of the ' ' saints ' ' who passed out this 
season by the route of the Platte remained behind 
until the great tide of emigration had gone by ; 
standing in quite as much awe of the ' • gentiles ' ' as 
the latter did of them. 

We were now, as I before mentioned, upon this 
St. Joseph's trail. It was evident, by the traces, 
that large parties were a few days in advance of us ; 
and as we too supposed them to be Mormons, we 
had some apprehension of interruption. 

The journey was somewhat monotonous. One 
day we rode on for hours without seeing a tree or a 
bush : before, behind, and on either side stretched 
the vast expanse, rolling in a succession of graceful 
swells, covered with the unbroken carpet of fresh 
green grass. Here and there a crow, or a raven, 
or a turkey -buzzard relieved the uniformity-. 

' • WTiat shall we do to-night for wood and 
water ?" ' we began to ask of each other : for the sun 
was within an hour of setting. At length a dark 
green speck appeared, far off on the right ; it was 
the top of a tree, peering over a swell of the prairie ; 
and leaving the trail, we made all haste toward it. 
It proved to be the vanguard of a cluster of bushes 
and low trees, that surrounded some pools of water 
in an extensive hollow ; so we encamped on the 
rising ground near it. 

Shaw and I were sitting in the tent when Delorier 
thrust his brown face and old felt hat into the open- 
ing, and dilating his eyes to their utmost e.xtent, 
announced supper. There were the tin cups and 
the iron spoons arranged in military- order on the 
grass, and the coffee-pot predominant in the midst. 
The meal was soon dispatched ; but Henr}- Chatillon 
still sat cross-legged, dallying with the remnant of 
his coffee, the beverage in universal use upon the 
prairie, and an especial favorite with him. He 



40 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

preferred it in its virgin flavor, unimpaired by sugar 
or cream : and on the present occasion it met his 
entire approval, being exceedingly strong, or as he 
expressed it, ' ' right black. 

It was a rich and gorgeous sunset — an American 
sunset ; and the ruddy glow of the sky was reflected 
from some extensive pools of water among the 
shadowy copses in the meadow below. 

"I must have a bath to-night," said Shaw. 
"How is it, Delorier? Any chance for a sw-im 
down there ?' ' 

*' Ah ! I cannot tell ; just as you please. Mon- 
sieur." replied Delorier, shrugging his shoulders, 
perplexed by his ignorance of English, and ex- 
tremely anxious to conform in all respects to the 
opinions and wishes of his bourgeois. 

" Look at his moccason." said I. It had evi- 
dently been lately immersed in a profound abyss of 
black mud. 

' ' Come, ' ' said Shaw ; "at any rate we can see 
for ourselves. 

We set out together ; and as we approached the 
bushes, which were at some distance, we found the 
ground becoming rather treacherous. We could 
only get along by stepping upon large climips of 
tall rank grass, with fathomless gulfs between, like 
innumerable little quaking islands in an ocean of 
mud, where a false step would have involved our 
boots in a catastrophe like that which had befallen 
Delorier' s moccasons. The thing looked desperate : 
we separated, so as to search in different directions, 
Shaw going off to the right, while I kept straight 
forward. At last I came to the edge of the bushes : 
they were young water- willows , covered with their 
caterpillar-like blossoms, but inten-ening between 
them and the last grass climip was a black and 
deep slough, over which, by a vigorous exertion, I 



THE ''BIG BLUE." 4 1 

contrived to jump. Then I shouldered my way- 
through the willows, trampling them down by main 
force, till I came to a wide stream of water, three 
inches deep, languidly creeping along over a bottom 
of sleek mud. My arrival produced a great com- 
motion. A huge green bull-frog uttered an indig- 
nant croak, and jumped off the bank with a loud 
splash : his webbed feet twinkled above the surface 
as he jerked them energetically upward, and I 
could see him ensconcing himself in the unresisting 
slime at the bottom, whence several large air- 
bubbles struggled lazily to the top. Some little 
spotted frogs instantly followed the patriarch's ex- 
ample ; and then three turtles, not larger than a 
dollar, tumbled themselves off a broad " lily pad," 
where they had been reposing. At the same time 
a snake, gayly striped with black and yellow, glided 
out from the bank, and writhed across to the other 
side ; and a small stagnant pool, into which my 
foot had inadvertently pushed a stone, was instantly 
alive with a congregation of black tadpoles. 

" Any chance for a bath, where you are ?" called 
out Shaw, from a distance. 

The answer was not encouraging. I retreated 
through the willows, and rejoining my companion, 
we proceeded to push our researches in company. 
Not far on the right, a rising ground, covered with 
trees and bushes, seemed to sink down abruptly to 
the water, and give hope of better success ; so to- 
ward this we directed our steps. When we reached 
the place we found it no easy matter to get along 
between the hill and the water, impeded as we 
were by a growth of stiff, obstinate young birch 
trees, laced together by grape-vines. In the twilight 
we now and then, to support ourselves, snatched at 
the touch-me-not stem of some ancient sweet-brier. 
Shaw, who was in advance, suddenly uttered a 



42 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

somewhat emphatic monosyllable ; and, looking up, 
I saw him with one hand grasping a sapling and 
one foot immersed in the water, from which he had 
forgotten to withdraw it. his whole attention being 
engaged in contemplating the movements of a 
water-snake about five feet long, curiously check- 
ered with black and green, who was deliberately 
swimming across the pool. There being no stick 
or stone at hand to pelt him with, we looked at him 
for a time in silent disgust ; and then pushed for- 
ward. Our perseverance was at last rewarded ; for 
several rods farther on we emerged upon a little 
level grassy nook among the brushwood, and by an 
extraordinary- dispensation of fortune, the weeds and 
floating sticks, which elsewhere covered the pool, 
seemed to have drawn apart, and left a few yards 
of clear water just in front of this favored spot. We 
sounded it with a stick ; it was four feet deep : we lifted 
a specimen in our closed hands ; it seemed reason- 
ably transparent, so we decided that the time for ac- 
tion was arrived. But our ablutions were suddenly 
interrupted by ten thousand punctures, like poisoned 
needles, and the humming of myriads of overgrown 
mosquitoes, rising in all directions from their native 
mud and slime and swarming to the feast. We 
were fain to beat a retreat with all possible speed. 

We made toward the tents, much refreshed by the 
bath, which the heat of the weather, joined to our 
prejudices, had rendered very desirable. 

■ ' WTiat" s the matter with the Captain ? look at 
him I" said Shaw. The Captain stood alone on 
the prairie, swinging his hat violently around his 
head, and lifting first one foot and then the other, 
without moving from the spot. First he looked 
down to the ground with an air of supreme abhor- 
rence ; then he gazed upward with a perplexed and 
indignant countenance, as if trying to trace the flight 



THE ''BIG BLUE." 43 

of an unseen enemy. We called to know what was 
the matter ; but he replied only by execrations 
directed against some unknown object. We ap- 
proached, when our ears were saluted by a droning 
sound, as if twenty bee-hives had been overturned at 
once. The air above was full of large black insects_ 
in a state of great commotion, and multitudes were 
flying about just above the tops of the grass-blades. 
" Don't be afraid," called the Captain, observing 
us recoil. " The brutes won't sting." 
' At this I knocked one down with my hat, and 
discovered him to be no other than a "dor-bug"; 
and looking closer, we found the ground thickly 
perforated with their holes. 

We took a hasty leave of this flourishing colony, 
and walking up the rising ground to the tents, found 
Delorier's fire still glowing brightly. We sat down 
around it, and Shaw began to e.xpatiate on the ad- 
mirable facilities for bathing that we had discovered, 
and recommended the Captain by all means to go 
down there before breakfast in the morning. The 
Captain was in the act of remarking that he couldn't 
have believed it possible, when he suddenly inter- 
rupted himself and clapped his hand to his cheek, 
e.xclaiming that "those infernal humbugs were at 
him again." In fact, we began to hear sounds as 
if bullets were humming over our heads. In a 
moment something rapped me sharply on the fore- 
head, then upon the neck, and immediately 1 felt 
an indefinite number of sharp wir^- claws in active 
motion, as if their owner were bent on pushing his 
explorations farther. 1 seized him and dropped him 
into the fire. Our party speedily broke up, and we 
adjourned to our respective tents, where, closing the 
opening fast, we hoped to be exempt from invasion. 
But all precaution was fruitless. The dor-bugs 
hummed through the tent and marched over our 



44 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

faces until daylight ; when, opening our blankets, 
we found several dozen clinging there vs-ith the ut- 
most tenacit}-. The first object that met our eyes 
in the morning was Delorier, who seemed to be 
apostrophizing his fiying-pan, which he held by the 
handle, at arm's length. It appeared that he had 
left it at night by the fire ; and the bottom was now 
covered -with dor-bugs, firmly imbedded. Multi- 
tudes besides, curiously parched and shrivelled, lay 
scattered among the ashes. 

The horses and mules were turned loose to feed. 
We had just taken our seats at breakfast, or rather 
reclined in the classic mode, Mhen an exclamation 
from Henry- Chatillon, and a shout of alarm from 
the Captain, gave warning of some casualty, and 
looking up, we saw the whole band of animals, 
twenty-three in number, filing off for the settle- 
ments, the incorrigible ,Pontiac at their head, jump- 
ing along with hobbled feetr"?«t^ a gait much more 
rapid than graceful. Three or four of us ran to cut 
them off, dashing as best we might through the tall 
grass which was glittering with myriads of dew- 
drops. After a race of a mile or more Shaw caught 
a horse. TAing the trail-rope by way of bridle 
round the animal's jaw, and leaping upon his back, 
he got in advance of the remaining fugitives, while 
we, soon bringing them together, drove them in a 
crowd up to the tents, where each man caught and 
saddled his o-wn. Then were heard lamentations 
and curses : for half the horses had broke their 
hobbles, and many were seriously galled by attempt- 
ing to run in fetters. 

It was late that morning before we were on the 
march ; and early in the afternoon we were com- 
pelled to encamp, for a thunder-gust came up and 
suddenly enveloped us in whirling sheets of rain. 
With much ado we pitched our tents amid the tem- 



THE ''BIG blue:' 45 

pest, and all night long the thunder bellowed and 
growled over our heads. In the morning, light 
peaceful showers succeeded the cataracts of rain 
that had been drenching us through the canvas of 
our tents. About noon, when there vi'ere some 
treacherous indications of fair weather, we got in 
motion again. 

Not a breath of air stirred over the free and open 
prairie : the clouds were like light piles of cotton ; 
and where the blue sky was visible, it wore a hazy 
and languid aspect. The sun beat down upon us 
with a sultry penetrating heat almost insupportable, 
and as our party crept slowly along over the inter- 
minable level, the horses hung their heads as they 
waded fetlock deep through the mud, and the men 
slouched inio the easiest position upon the saddle. 
At last, toward evening, the old familiar black 
heads of thunder-clouds rose fast above the horizon, 
and the same deep muttering of distant thunder that 
had become the ordinary accompaniment of our 
afternoon's journey began to roll hoarsely over the 
prairie. Only a few minutes elapsed before the 
whole sky was densely shrouded, and the prairie 
and some clusters of woods in front assumed a 
purple hue beneath the inky shadows." Suddenly 
from the densest fold of the cloud the flash leaped 
out, quivering again and again down to the edge of 
the prairie ; and at the same instant came the sharp 
burst and the long rolling peal of the thunder. A 
cool wind, filled with the smell of rain, just then 
overtook us, levelling the tall grass by the side of 
the path. 

"Come on; we must ride for it!" shouted 
Shaw, rushing past at full speed, his led horse snort- 
ing at his side. The whole party broke into full 
gallop, and made for the trees in front. Passing 
these, we found beyond them a meadow which they 



46 THE O REG OX TRAIL. 

half inclosed. We rode pell-mell upon the ground, 
leaped from horseback, tore off our saddles ; and in 
a moment each man was kneeling at his horse's 
feet. The hobbles were adjusted, and the animals 
turned loose ; then, as the wagons came wheeling 
rapidly to the spot, we seized upon the tent-poles, 
and just as the storm broke we were prepared to 
receive it. It came upon us almost with the dark- 
ness of night : the trees which were close at hand 
were completely shrouded by the roaring tonents 
of rain. 

We were sitting in the tent, when Delorier, with 
his broad felt hat hanging about his ears and his 
shoulders glistening with rain, thrust in his head. 

" Voulez vous du souper, tout de suite? I can 
make fire, sous la charette — I b'lieve so — I try." 

" Never mind supper, man ; come in out of the 
rain. ' ' 

Delorier accordingly crouched in the entrance, 
for modest}- would not permit him to intrude farther. 

Our tent was none of the best defence against 
such a cataract. The rain could not enter bodily, 
but it beat through the canvas in a fine drizzle that 
wetted us just as effectually. We sat upon our 
saddles with faces of the utmost surliness, while the 
water dropped from the vizors of our caps and 
trickled down our cheeks. My india-rubber cloak 
conducted twenty little rapid streamlets to the 
ground ; and Shaw' s blanket coat was saturated 
like a sponge. But what most concerned us was the 
sight of several puddles of water rapidly accumu- 
lating ; one, in particular, that was gathering around 
the tent-pole, threatened to overspread the whole 
area within the tent, holding forth but an indifferent 
promise of a comfortable night's rest. Toward sun- 
set, however, the storm ceased as suddenly as it 
began. A bright streak of clear red sky appeared 



THE ''BIG blue:' 47 

above the western verge of the prairie, the horizon- 
tal rays of the sinking sun streamed through it, and 
ghttered in a thousand prismatic colors upon the 
dripping groves and the prostrate grass. The pools 
in the tent dwindled and sank into the saturated 
soil. 

But all our hopes were delusive. Scarcely had 
night set in when the tumult broke forth anew. The 
thunder here is not like the tame thunder of the 
Atlantic coast. Bursting with a terrific crash directly 
above our heads, it roared over the boundless waste 
of prairie, seeming to roll around the whole circle 
of the firmament with a peculiar and awful rever- 
beration. The lightning flashed all night, playing 
with its livid glare upon the neighboring trees, re- 
vealing the vast expanse of the plain, and then 
leaving us shut in as if by a palpable wall of dark- 
ness. 

It did not disturb us much. Now and then a peal 
awakened us, and made us conscious of the electric 
battle that was raging, and of the floods that dashed 
upon the stanch canvas over our heads. We lay 
upon india-rubber cloths, placed between our 
blankets and the soil. For a while they e.xcluded 
the water to admiration ; but when at length it accu- 
mulated and began to run over the edges, they 
served equally well to retain it, so that toward the 
end of the night we were unconsciously reposing in 
small pools of rain. 

On finally awakening in the morning the prospect 
was not a cheerful one. The rain no longer poured 
in torrents, but it pattered with a quiet pertinacity 
upon the strained and saturated canvas. We dis- 
engaged ourselves from our blankets, every fibre of 
which glistened with little bead-like drops of water, 
and looked out in the vain hope of discovering some 
token of fair weather. The clouds, in lead-colored 



48 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

volumes, rested upon the dismal verge of the prairi j, 
or hung sluggishly overhead, while the earth wore 
an aspect no more attractive than the heavens, ex- 
hibiting nothing but pools of water, grass beaten 
down, and mud well trampled by our mules and 
horses. Our companions" tent, with an air of for- 
lorn and passive miser\', and their wagons in like 
manner, drenched and woe-begone, stood not far 
off. The Captain was just returning from his morn- 
ing's inspection of the horses. He stalked through 
the mist and rain with his plaid around his shoulders, 
his little pipe, dingy as an antiquarian relic, pro- 
jecting from beneath his moustache, and his brother 
Jack at his heels. 

" Good morning. Captain." 

"Good morning to your honors," said the Cap- 
tain, affecting the Hibernian accent ; but at that 
instant, as he stooped to enter the tent, he tripped 
upon the cords at the entrance, and pitched forward 
against the guns which were strapped around the 
pole in the centre. 

"You are nice men, you are 1" said he, after an 
ejaculation not necessar)- to be recorded, "to set a 
man-trap before your door every morning to catch 
your visitors." 

Then he sat down upon Henr)- Chatillon's saddle. 
We tossed a piece of buffalo-robe to Jack, who was 
looking about in some embarrassment. He spread 
it on the ground, and took his seat, with a stolid 
countenance, at his brother's side. 

" Exhilarating weather. Captain." 

"Oh, delightful, delightful!" replied the Cap- 
tain ; "I knew it would be so ; so much for starting 
yesterday at noon I I knew how it would turn out ; 
and I said so at the time. " 

' ' You said just the contrar\^ to us. We were in no 
hurr\', and only moved because you insisted on it." 



THE "BIG BLUEr 49 

"Gentlemen," said the Captain, taking his pipe 
trom his mouth with an air of extreme crravit>- • ' it 
was no plan of mine. There's a man among us 
who is determined to have ever^■thing his own way 
\ ou may express your opinion ; but don't expect 
him to listen. You may be as reasonable as vou 
hke ; oh, it all goes for nothing 1 That man is're- 
solved to rule the roast, and he'll set his face a^^ainst 
any plan that he didn't think of himself." 

The Captain puffed for awhile at his pipe as if 
meditating upon his grievances ; then he 'becxan 
again. '^ 

' ' For twenty years I have been in the British 
army ; and in aU that time I never had half so 
much dissension, and quarrelHng, and nonsense as 
since I have been on this cursed prairie. He's the 
most uncomfortable man I ever met. ' ' 

"\es;" said Jack, "and don't vou know, BiU 
how he drank up all the coffee last' night, and put 
the rest by for himself till the morning !" 

"He pretends to know ever>-thing, '"• resumed the 
captain ; "nobody must give orders but he ' It's 
oh ! we must do this ; and. oh ! we must do that • 
and the tent must be pitched here, and the horses 
must be picketed there ; for nobodv knows as weU 
as he does. ' 

We were a little surprised at this disclosure of 
domestic dissensions among our allies, for though 
we knew of their existence, we were not aware 
of their extent. The persecuted Captain seeming 
wholly at a loss as to the course of conduct that he 
should pursue, we recommended him to adopt 
prompt and energetic measures ; but all his military 
expenence had failed to teach him the indispensable 
lesson, to be "hard" when the emergency re- 
quires it. 

"For twenty years." he repeated, " I have been 



50 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

in the Biitish anny, and in that time I have been in- 
timatdy acquainted with some two hundred <ri£cets, 
yoong and old. and I never yet quarrdled with 
any man. 'Oh, anything for a quiet: hfef Aat's 
my maxim." 

We intimated that the praiiie was hardly the 
place to enjoy a quiet life, hot that, in the presoit 
circumstance, die best diing he could do toward 
securing his wi^ed-for tranquillity was inmiediatdy 
to put a period to die nuisance that dtstmbed iL 
But again the Captain's easy good natnre recoiled 
from the task. The somewhat Tigmous measures 
necessary to gain die desired result were utteriy 
repi^nant to him ; he prefened to pocket his 
grievances, still retaining the privilege of gnnn- 
bling about them. "Oh. anythii^ for a quiet 
life :" he said again, aiding back to his fe^vcr'te 
maxim. 

Birt to glance at die previous history of our -;r r- 
atlandc confederate The Captain had 5 \ 
commission, and was fivii^ in bachelor ea f r :. ' ~ 
d^nity in his patonal halls, near Dubl:- He 
hunted, fidied, rode steeple-chases, ran ra : 
talked of his former expl<Hts. He was sun 
with the trophies of his rod and gun ; the wa . . 
plaitifoUy garnished, he told us. with mocsr-- 7^ ; 
and deer-^ioms, bear-skins and fox-tails : : ~ r 

Captain's double-bairdled rifle had seoi se- v - 
CanaHa and Jamaica ; he had kiDed safanon :: 
Scotia, and trout, by his own account, ir r 

streams of the three kingdoons. But inane . 
a seductive strainer came from Londmi ; r 
peison than R.; who. among other multir. r 
wandoings. had once been upon the western : 
and. naturally enoD^[fa. was anxious to vi- 
again. The Captain's imagination was infi^ 
the pictures of a hunto-'s paradise that his ...es: 



THE ''BIG blue:' 5 1 

held forth ; he conceived an ambition to add to his 
other trophies the horns of a buffalo and the claws 
of a grizzly bear ; so he and R. struck a league to 
travel in company. Jack followed his brother as 
a matter of course. Two weeks on board of the 
Atlantic steamer brought them to Boston ; in two 
weeks more of hard travelling they reached St. 
Louis, from which a ride of six days carried them to 
the frontier ; and here we found them, in the full 
tide of preparation for their journey. 

We had been throughout on terms of intimacy 
with the Captain, but R., the motive power of our 
companions' branch of the expedition, was scarcely 
known to us. His voice, indeed, might be heard 
incessantly ; but at camp he remained chiefly within 
the tent, and on the road he either rode by himself 
or else remained in close conversation with his friend 
Wright, the muleteer. As the Captain left the tent 
that morning I observed R. standing by the fire, 
and, having nothing else to do, I determined to 
ascertain, if possible, what manner of man he was. 
He had a book under his arm, but just at present 
he was engrossed in actively superintending the 
operations of Sorel, the hunter, who was cooking 
some corn-bread over the coals for breakfast. R. 
was a well-formed and rather good-looking man, 
some thirty years old ; considerably younger than 
the Captain. He wore a beard and moustache of 
the oakum complexion, and his attire was altogether 
more elegant than one ordinarily sees on the prairie. 
He wore his cap on one side of his head ; his checked 
shirt, open in front, was in ven.- neat order, consid- 
ering the circumstances, and his blue pantaloons, 
of the John Bull cut, might once have figured in 
Bond Street. 

" Turn over that cake, man ! turn it over quick ! 
Don't you see it burning ?" 



LIBRARY 



52 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

"It ain't half-done," growled Sorel, in the 
amiable tone of a whipped bull-dog. 

" It is. Turn it oyer, I tell you I" 

Sorel, a strong, sullen-looking Canadian, who, 
from having spent his life among the wildest and 
most remote of the Indian tribes, had imbibed 
much of their dark vindictive spirit, looked fero- 
ciously up, as if he longed to leap upon his bourgeois 
and throttle him ; but he obeyed the order, coming 
from so experienced an artist. 

"It was a good idea of yours," said I, seating 
myself on the tongue of the wagon, ' ' to bring Indian 
meal with you." 

"Yes, yes," said R., "it's good bread for the 
prairie — good bread for the prairie. I tell you 
that's burning again." 

Here he stooped down, and unsheathing the 
silver-mounted hunting-knife in his belt, began to 
perform the part of cook himself ; at the same time 
requesting me to hold for a moment the book under 
his arm, which interfered with the exercise of these 
important functions. I opened it ; it was Mac an lay s 
Lays; and I made some remark, expressing my 
admiration of the work. 

"Yes, yes ; a pretty good thing. Macaulay can 
do better than that, though. 1 know him very well. 
I have travelled with him. Where was it we met 
first — at Damascus ? No, no ; it was in Italy." 

"So," said I, "you have been over the same 
ground with your countr\-man, the author of Eothen ? 
There has been some discussion in America as to who 
he is. I have heard Milnes's name mentioned." 

" Milnes ? Oh, no, no, no; not at all. It was 
Kinglake ; Kinglake's the man. I know him verj- 
well ; that is, 1 have seen him." 

Here Jack C, who stood by, interposed a remark 
(a thing not common with him), observing that he 



THE "BIG BLUEV . 53 

thought the weather would become £air before twelve 
o'clock. 

" It's going to rain aU day," said R., "and clear 
up in the middle of the night." 

Just then the clouds began to dissipate in a very 
unequivocal manner ; but Jack, not caring to defend 
his point against so authoritative a declaration, 
walked away whisding, and we resumed our con- 
versation. 

"Borrow, the author of The Bible in Spain, I 
presume you know him, too?" 

" Oh, certainly ; I know aU those men. By the 
way, they told me that one of your .\merican writers. 
Judge Stor%-, had died lately. 1 edited some of his 
works in London ; not without faults, though." 

Here followed an erudite commentary- on certain 
points of law, in which he particularly animadverted 
on the errors into which he considered that the 
judge had been betrayed. At length, having 
touched successively on an infinite varietj.' of topics, 
I found that I had the happiness of discovering a 
man equally competent to enlighten me upon them 
all, equally an authority- on matters of science or 
literature, philosophy or fashion. The part I bore 
in the conversation was by no means a prominent 
one : it was only necessary- to set him going, and 
when he had run long enough upon one topic, to 
divert him to another, and lead him on to pour out 
his heaps of treasure in succession. 

' ' What has that fellow been saying to you ?' ' said 
Shaw, as 1 returned to the tent. ' ' I have heard 
nothing but his talking for the last half-hour." 

R. had none of the peculiar traits of the ordinary' 
' ' British snob ' ' ; his absurdities were all his own, 
belonging to no particular nation or chme. He was 
possessed with an active devil that had driven him 
over land and sea, to no great purpose, as it 



54 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

seemed ; for although he had the usual complement 
of eyes and ears, the avenues between these organs 
and his brain appeared remarkably narrow and un- 
trodden. His energy was much more conspicuous 
than his wisdom ; but his predominant character- 
istic was a magnanimous ambition to exercise on all 
occasions an awful rule and supremacy, and this 
propensity equally displayed itself, as the reader 
will have observed, whether the matter in question 
was the baking of a hoe-cake or a point of interna- 
' tional law. When such diverse elements as he and 
the easy-tempered Captain came in contact, no 
wonder some commotion ensued ; R. rode rough- 
shod, from morning till night, over his militar}' ally. 

At noon the sky was clear, and we set out, trail- 
ing through mud and slime six inches deep. That 
night we were spared the customary infliction of the 
shower-bath. 

On the next afternoon we were moving slowly 
along, not far from a patch of woods which lay on 
the right. Jack C. rode a little in advance, 

" The livelong day he had not spoke," 

when suddenly he faced about, pointed to the woods, 
and roared out to his brother : 

"Oh, Bill ! here's a cow !" 

The Captain instantly galloped forward, and he 
and Jack made a vain attempt to capture the prize ; 
but the cow, with a well-grounded distrust of their 
intentions, took refuge among the trees. R. joined 
them, and they soon drove her out. We watched 
their evolutions as they galloped around her, trying 
in vain to noose her with their trail-ropes, which 
they had converted into lariettcs for the occasion. 
At length they re'sorted to milder measures, and the 
cow was driven along with the party. Soon after 
the usual thunder-storm came up, the wind blowing 



THE ''BIG blue:' 55 

with such fury that the streams of rain flew almost 
horizontally along the prairie, roaring like a cat- 
aract. The horses turned tail to the storm, and 
stood hanging their heads, bearing the infliction 
with an air of meekness and resignation ; while we 
drew our heads between our shoulders, and crouched 
forward, so as to make our backs serve as a pent- 
house for the rest of our persons. Meanwhile, the 
cow, taking advantage of the tumult, ran off, to the 
great discomfiture of the Captain, who seemed to 
consider her as his own especial prize, since she had 
been discovered by Jack. In defiance of the storm, 
he pulled his cap tight over his brows, jerked a huge 
buffalo-pistol from his holster, and set out at full 
speed after her. This was the last we saw of them 
for some time, the mist and rain making an impene- 
trable veil ; but at length we heard the Captain's 
shout, and saw him looming through the tempest, 
the picture of a Hibernian cavalier, with his cocked 
pistol held aloft for safety's sake, and a countenance 
of anxiety and excitement. The cow trotted before 
him, but exhibited evident signs of an intention to 
run off again, and the Captain was roaring to us to 
head her. But the rain had got in behind our coat 
collars, and was travelling over our necks in numer- 
ous little streamlets, and being afraid to move our 
heads, for fear of admitting more, we sat stiff and 
immovable, looking at the Captain askance, and 
laughing at his frantic movements. At last the cow 
made a sudden plunge and ran off ; the Captain 
grasped his pistol firmly, spurred his horse, and gal- 
loped after, with evident designs of mischief. In a 
moment we heard the faint report, deadened by the 
rain, and then the conqueror and his victim reap- 
peared, the latter shot through the body, and quite 
helpless. Not long after the storm moderated and 
we advanced again. The cow walked painfully 



56 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

along under the charge of Jack, to whom the Cap- 
tain had committed her, while he himself rode for- 
ward in his old capacit\- of vidette. We were ap- 
proaching a long line of trees that followed a stream 
stretching across our path, far in front, when we 
beheld the vidette galloping toward us, apparently 
much excited, but with a broad grin on his face. 

" Let that cow drop behind !" he shouted to us ; 
"heres her owners 1" 

And in fact, as we approached the line of trees, 
a large white object, like a tent, was visible behind 
them. On approaching, however, we found, instead 
of the expected Mormon camp, nothing but the 
lonely prairie, and a large white rock standing by 
the path. The cow, therefore, resumed her place 
in our procession. She walked on until we en- 
camped, when R., firmly approaching with his 
enormous EngUsh double-barrelled rifle, calmly and 
deliberately took aim at her heart, and discharged 
into it first one bullet and then the other. She was 
then butchered on the most approved principles of 
woodcraft, and furnished a very welcome item to 
our somewhat limited bill of fare. 

In a day or two more we reached the river called 
the '..' Big Blue. ' ' By titles equally elegant almost 
all the streams of this region are designated. We 
had struggled through ditches and little brooks all 
that morning ; but on traversing the dense woods 
that lined the banks of the Blue we found that more 
formidable difficulties awaited us, for the stream, 
swollen by the rains, was wide, deep, and rapid. 

No sooner were we on the spot than R. had flung 
off his clothes, and was sn-imming across, or splash- 
ing through the shallows, with the end of a rope 
bet^veen his teeth. We all looked on in admira- 
tion, wondering what might be the design of this 
energetic preparation ; but soon we hepd him shout- 



THE ''BIG blue:' 5/ 

ing : "Give that rope a turn round that stump! 
You, Sorel ; do you hear? Look sharp, now, Bois- 
verd ! Come over to this side, some of you, and 
help me !" The men to whom these orders were 
directed paid not the least attention to them, though 
they were poured out without pause or intermission. 
Henry Chatillon directed the work, and it proceeded 
quietly and rapidly. R.'s sharp brattling voice 
might have been heard incessantly ; and he was 
leaping about with the utmost activity, multiplying 
himself, after the manner of great commanders, as 
if his universal presence and supervision were of 
the last necessity. His commands were rather 
amusingly inconsistent ; for when he saw that the 
men would not do as he told them, he wisely accom- 
modated himself to circumstances, and with the ut- 
most vehemence ordered them to do precisely that 
which they were at the time engaged upon, no 
doubt recollecting the story of Mahomet and the 
refractory mountain. Shaw smiled Significantly ; 
R. observed it, and approaching with a countenance 
of lofty indignation, began to vapor a little, but was 
instantly reduced to silence. 

The raft was at length complete. We piled our 
goods upon it, with the exception of our guns, which 
each man chose to retain in his own keeping. 
Sorel, Boisverd, Wright, and Delorier took their 
stations at the four corners, to hold it together, and 
swim across with it ; and in a moment more all 
our earthly possessions were floating on the turbid 
w^aters of the Big Blue. We sat on the bank, 
anxiously watching the result, until we saw the raft 
safely landed in a little cov^ far down on the oppo- 
site bank. The empty wagons were easily passed 
across ; and then, each man mounting a horse, we 
rode through the stream, the stray animals following 
of their own accord. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE PLATTE AND THE DESERT. 

" Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild, 
The seat of desolation?"— PARADISE LOST. 

" Here have we war for war, and blood for blood." 

King John. 

We were now arrived at the close of our solitary 
journeyings along the St. Joseph's trail. On the 
evening of the twenty-third of May we encamped 
near its junction with the old legitimate trail of the 
Oregon emigrants. We had ridden long that after- 
noon, trying in vain to find wood and water, until 
at length we saw the sunset sky reflected from a 
pool encircled by bushes and a rock or two. The 
water lay in the bottom of a hollow, the smooth 
prairie gracefully rising in ocean-like swells on every 
side. We pitched our tents by it • not, however, 
before the keen eye of Henry Chatillon had dis- 
cerned some unusual object upon the faintly defined 
outline of the distant swell. But in the moist, hazy 
atmosphere of the evening nothing could be clearly 
distinguished. As we lay around the fire after supper 
a low and distant sound, strange enough amid the 
loneliness of the prairie, reached our ears — peals 
of laughter and the faint voices of men and women. 
For eight days we had not encountered a human 
being, and this singular warning of their vicinity 
had an effect extremely wild and impressive. 

About dark a sallow-faced fellow descended the 

hill on horseback, and splashing through the pool, 

rode up to the tents. He was enveloped in a huge 

cloak, and his broad felt hat was weeping about his 

68 



THE PLATTE AND THE DESERT. 59 

ears with the drizzling moisture of the evening. 
Another followed, a stout, square-built, intelligent- 
looking man, who announced himself as leader 
of an emigrant party, encamped a mile in ad- 
vance of us. About twenty wagons, he said, were 
with him ; the rest of his party were on the other 
side of the Big Blue, waiting for a woman who was 
in the pains of child-birth, and quarrelling mean- 
while among themselves. 

These were the first emigrants that we had over- 
taken, although we had found abundant and melan- 
choly traces of their progress throughout the whole 
course of the journey. Sometimes we passed the 
grave of one who had sickened and died on the 
way. The earth was usually torn up and covered 
thickly with wolf-tracks. Some had escaped this 
violation. One morning a piece of plank, standing 
upright on the summit of a grassy hill, attracted our 
notice, and riding up to it, we found the following 
words very roughly traced upon it, apparently by a 
red-hot piece of iron ; • 

MARY ELLIS, 

DIED MAY 7th, 1845. 
AGED TWO MONTHS. 

Such tokens were of common occurrence. Noth- 
ing could speak more for the hardihood, or rather 
infatuation, of the adventurers, or the sufferings that 
await them upon the journey. 

We were late in breaking up our camp on the 
following morning, and scarcely had we ridden a 
mile when we saw, far in advance of us, drawn 
against the horizon, a line of objects stretching at 
regular intervals along the level edge of the prairie. 
An intervening swell soon hid them from sight, 



6o THE OREGON TRAIL. 

until, ascending it a quarter of an hour after, we 
saw close before us the emigrant caravan, with its 
heavy white wagons creeping on in their slow pro- 
cession, and a large drove of cattle following be- 
hind. Half a dozen yellow-visaged Missourians, 
mounted on horseback, were cursing and shouting 
among them ; their lank angular proportions, envel- 
oped in brown homespun, evidently cut and ad- 
justed by the hands of a domestic female tailor. 
As we approached, they greeted us with the pol- 
ished salutation : " How are ye, boys ? Are ye for 
Oregon or California ?' ' 

As we pushed rapidly past the wagons, children' s 
faces were thrust out from the white coverings to 
look at us ; while the care-worn, thin-featured ma- 
tron, or the buxom girl, seated in front, suspended 
the knitting on which most of them were engaged to 
stare at us with wondering curiosity. By the side 
of each wagon stalked the proprietor, urging on his 
patient oxen, who shouldered heavily along, inch 
by inch, on their interminable journey. It was easy 
to see that fear and dissension prevailed among 
them ; some of the men — but these, with one excep- 
tion, were bachelors — looked wistfully upon us as we 
rode lightly and swiftly past, and then impatiently 
at their own lumbering wagons and heavy-gaited 
oxen. Others were unwilling to advance at all until 
the party they had left behind should have rejoined 
them. Many were murmuring against the leader 
they had chosen, and wished to depose him ; and 
this discontent was fomented by some ambitious 
spirits, who had hopes of succeeding in his place. 
The women were divided between regrets for the 
homes they had left and apprehension of the deserts 
and the savages before them. 

We soon left them far behind, and fondly hoped 
that we had taken a final leave ; but unluckily our 



THE PLATTE AND THE DESERT. 6 1 

companions' wagon stuck so long in a deep muddy 
ditch, that before it was extricated the van of the 
emigrant caravan appeared again, descending a 
ridge close at hand. Wagon after wagon plunged 
through the mud ; and as it was nearly noon, and 
the place promised shade and water, we saw with 
much gratification that they were resolved to 
encamp. Soon the wagons were wheeled into a 
circle ; the cattle were grazing over the meadow, 
and the men, with sour, sullen faces, were looking 
about for wood and water. They seemed to meet 
with but indifferent success. As we left the ground 
I saw a tall slouching fellow, with the nasal accent 
of ' ' down east, ' ' contemplating the contents of his 
tin cup, which he had just filled with water. 

"Look here, you," said he ; "it's chock-full of 
animals !" 

The cup, as he held it out, exhibited in fact an 
extraordinary variety and profusion of animal and 
vegetable life. 

Riding up the little hill, and looking back on the 
meadow, we could easily see that all was not right 
in the camp of the emigrants. The men were 
crowded together, and an angry discussion seemed 
to be going forward. R. was missing from his 
wonted place in the line, and the Captain told us 
that he had remained behind to get his horse shod 
by a blacksmith who was attached to the emigrant 
party. Something whispered in our ears that mis- 
chief was on foot ; we kept on, however, and coming 
soon to a stream of tolerable water, we stopped to 
rest and dine. Still the absentee lingered behind. 
At last, at the distance of a mile, he and his horse 
suddenly appeared, sharply defined against the sky 
on the summit of a hill ; and close behind a huge 
white object rose slowly into view. 

' ' What is that blockhead bringing with him now ?' ' 



e 



62 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

A moment dispelled the mysten*. Slowly and 
solemnly, one behind the other, four long trains of 
oxen and four emigrant w-agons rolled over the crest 
of the decli%it\- and gravely descended, while R. 
rode in state in the van. It seems that during the 
process of shoeing the horse, the smothered dissen- 
sions among the emigrants suddenly broke into open 
rupture. Some insisted on pushing forward, some 
on remaining where they were, and some on grong 
back. Kearsley, their captain, threw up his com- 
mand in disgust. "And now, boys," said he, "if 
any of you are for going ahead, just you come along 
with me." 

Four wagons, -with ten men, one woman, and one 
small child, made up the force of the "go-ahead" 
faction, and R., with his usual proclivity toward 
mischief, in\-ited them to join our part\-. Fear of 
the Indians — ^for I can conceive of no other modve 
— ^must have induced him to court so burdensome 
an alliance. As may well be conceived, tliese 
repeated instances of high-handed dealing suffi- 
ciently exasperated us. In this case, indeed, the 
men who joined us were all that could be desired; 
rude, indeed, in manners, but frank, manly, and 
intelligent. To tell them we could not travel with 
them was of course out of the question. I merely 
reminded Kearsley that if his oxen could not ke^ 
up with our mules he must expect to be left behind. 
as we could not consent to be farther delayed on the 
journey •, but he immediately replied that his oxen 
"should keep up ; and if they couldn't, why he 
allowed he'd find out how to make 'em ]" Ha^-ing 
also a^•ailed myself of what satisfaction could be tie- 
rived from gJAT-ng R. to understand mj'' opinion tA 
his conduct, I returned to our own side of the camp. 

On the next day, as it chanced, our English com- 
panions broke the axle-tree of their wagon, and 



THE PLATTE AND THE DESERT. 63 

down came the whole cumbrous machine lumbering 
into the bed of a brook ! Here was a day's work 
cut out for us. Meanwhile, our emigrant associates 
kept on their way, and so vigorously did they urge 
forward their powerful oxen, that, with the broken 
axle-tree and other calamities, it was full a week 
before we overtook them ; when at length we dis- 
covered them, one afternoon, crawling quietly along 
the sandy brink of the Platte. But meanwhile 
various incidents occurred to ourselves. 

It was probable that at this stage of our journey 
the Pawnees would attempt to rob us. We began, 
therefore, to stand guard in turn, dividing the night 
into three watches, and appointing two men for 
each. Delorier and I held guard together. We 
did not march with military precision to and fro 
before the tents . our discipline was by no means so 
stringent and rigid. We wrapped ourselves in our 
blankets and sat down by the fire ; and Delorier, 
combining his culinary functions with his duties as 
sentinel, employed himself in boiling the head of 
an antelope for our morning's repast. Yet we were 
models of vigilance in comparison with some of the 
party ; for the ordinary practice of the guard was to 
establish himself in the most comfortable posture he 
could ; lay his rifle on the ground, and enveloping his 
nose in his blanket, meditate on his mistress or what- 
ever subject best pleased him. This is all well enough 
when among Indians who do not habitually proceed 
farther in their hostility than robbing travellers of 
their horses and mules, though, indeed, a Pawnee's 
forbearance is not always to be trusted ; but in 
certain regions farther to the west the guard must 
beware how he exposes his person to the light of 
the fire, lest perchance some keen-eyed skulking 
marksman should let fly a bullet or an arrow from 
amid the darkness. 



64 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

Among various tales that circulated around our 
camp-hre was a rather curious one, told by Boisverd, 
and not inappropriate here. Boisverd was trapping 
with several companions on the skirts of the Black- 
foot countr}-. The man on guard, well-knowing 
that it behooved him to put forth his utmost pre- 
caution, kept aloof from the fire-light, and sat 
•watching intently on all sides. At length he was 
aware of a dark, crouching figure, stealing noise- 
lessly into the circle of the light. He hastily cocked 
his rifle, but the sharp click of the lock caught the 
ear of Blackfoot, whose senses were all on the alert. 
Raising his arrow, already fitted to the string, he 
shot it in the direction of the sound. So sure was 
his aim, that he drove it through the throat of the 
unfortunate guard, and then, with a loud yell, 
bounded from the camp. 

As I looked at the partner of my watch, puffing 
and blowing over his fire, it occurred to me that he 
might not prove the most efficient auxiliary in time 
of trouble. 

" Delorier," said I, "would you run away if the 
Pawnees should fire at us ?' ' 

"Ah I oui, oui, Monsieur I" he replied ver\" de- 
cisively. 

I did not doubt the fact, but was a little surprised 
at the frankness of the confession. 

At this instant a most whimsical variet\' of voices 
— barks, howls, yelps, and whines — all mingled as 
it were together, sounded from the prairie, not far 
off. as if a whole conclave of wolves of every age 
and sex were assembled there. Delorier looked up 
from his work with a laugh, and began to imitate 
this curious medley of sounds with a most ludicrous 
accuracy. At this they were repeated with redoubled 
emphasis, the musician being apparently indignant 
at the successful efiorts of a rival. They all pro- 



THE PLATTE AND THE DESERT. 65 

ceeded from the throat of one little wolf, not larger 
than a spaniel, seated by himself at some distance. 
He was of the species called the prairie-wolf ; a grim- 
visaged, but harmless little brute, whose worst pro- 
pensity is creeping among horses and gnawing the 
ropes of raw-hide by which they are picketed around 
the camp. But other beasts roam the prairies far 
more formidable in aspect and in character. These 
are the large white and gray wolves, whose deep 
howl we heard at inter\als from far and near. 

At last I fell into a doze, and awaking from it, 
found Delorier fast asleep. Scandalized by this 
breach of discipline, I was about to stimulate his 
vigilance by stirring him with the stock of my rifle ; 
but compassion prevailing, I determined to let him 
sleep awhile, and then arouse him and administer a 
suitable reproof for such a forgetfulness of duty. 
Now and then I walked the rounds among the silent 
horses to see that all was right. The night was 
chill, damp, and dark, the dank grass bending 
under the icy dew-drops. At the distance of a rod 
or two the tents were invisible, and nothing could be 
seen but the obscure figures of the horses, deeply 
breathing, and restlessly starting as they slept, or 
still slowly champing the grass. Far off, beyond the 
black outline of the prairie, there was a ruddy light, 
gradually increasing like the glow of a conflagration ; 
until at length the broad disk of the moon, blood- 
red, and vastly magnified by the vapors, rose slowly 
upon the darkness, flecked by one or two little 
clouds, and as the light poured over the gloomy 
plain, a fierce and stern howl, close at hand, seemed 
to greet it as an unwelcome intruder. There was 
something impressive and awful in the place and 
the hour ; for I and the beasts were all that had 
consciousness for many a league around. 

Some 'days elapsed, and brought us near the 

5 



66 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

Platte. Two men on horseback approached us one 
morning, and we watched them with the cariosity 
and Interest that, upon the soUtude of the plains. 
such an encounter alwaj's excites. They were evi- 
dendy whites, from their mode <rf riding, diough, 
contian,- to the usage of that region, neither of them 
carried a rifle. 

"Fools!" remarked Henr\" Chatillon, "to ride 
that way on the prairie ; Pawnee find them — then 
they catch iL" 

Pawnee had found &em, and they had come 
very near "catching it" ; indeed, nothing saved 
them from trouble but the approach of our party. 
Shaw and 1 knew one of them ; a man named 
Turner, whom we had seen at Westport. He and 
his companion belonged to an emigrant party en- 
camped a few miles in advance, and had r^nmed 
to look for some stray oxen, lea\~ing their rifles, 
with chaiacteristic ra-shness or ignorance, behind 
them. Their neglect had neariy cost them dear ; 
for just before we came up half a dozen Indians 
approached, and seeing them apparendy defence- 
less, one of the rascals seized the bridle of Turner's 
fine horse, and ordered him to dismoonL Turner 
was wholly unarmed ; but die other jeiked a litde 
revolving pistol out of his pocket, at which the 
Pawnee recoiled ; and just then some of our men 
appearing in the distance, the whole part)' whipped 
their rugged little horses, and made off. In no 
way daunted. Turner foolishly persisting in going 
forward. 

Long after leading him, and late that afternoon, 
in the midst of a gloomy and barren prairie, we 
came suddenly upon the great Pawnee trail, leading 
from their villages <mi the Platte to their war and 
hunting grounds to the southward. Here every 
summer pass the modey concourse ; thousands of 



THE PLATTE AND THE DESERT. 6/ 

savages, men, women, and children, horses and 
mules, laden with their weapons and implements, 
and an innumerable multitude of unruly wolfish 
dogs, who have not acquired the civilized accom- 
plishment of barking, but howl like their wild 
cousins of the prairie. 

The permanent winter villages of the P'awnees 
stand on the lower Platte, but throughout the sum- 
mer the greater part of the inhabitants are wander- 
ing over the plains, a treacherous, cowardly ban- 
ditti who, by a thousand acts of pillage and murder, 
have deserved summary chastisement at the hands 
of government. Last year a Dahcotah warrior per- 
formed a signal exploit at one of these villages. He 
approached it alone, in the middle of a dark night, 
and clambering up the outside of one of the lodges, 
which are in the form of a half-sphere, he looked 
in at the round hole made at the top for the escape 
of smoke. The dusky light from the smouldering 
embers showed him the forms of the sleeping in- 
mates ; and dropping lightly through the opening, 
he unsheathed his knife, and stirring the fire, coolly 
selected his victims. One by one, "he stabbed and 
scalped them ; when a child suddenly awoke and 
screamed. He rushed from the lodge, yelled a 
Sioux war-cry, shouted his name in triumph and 
defiance, and in a moment had darted out upon the 
dark prairie, leaving the whole village behind him 
in a tumult, with the howling and baying of dogs, 
the screams of women, and the yells of the enraged 
warriors. 

Our friend Kearsley, as we learned on rejoining 
him, signalized himself by a less bloody achieve- 
ment. He and his men were good woodsmen, and 
well skilled in the use of the ritie ; but found them- 
selves wholly out of their element on the prairie. 
None of them had ever seen a buffalo ; and they 



68 THE ORE G OX TRAIL. 

had very vague conceptions of his nature and ap- 
pearance. On the day after they reached the 
Platte, looking toward a distant swell, they beheld a 
multitude of littie black specks in motion upon its 
surface. 

"Take your rifles, boys," said Kearsley, "and 
we'll have fresh meat for supper." This induce- 
ment was quite sufficient. The ten men left their 
wagons, and set out in hot haste, some on horse- 
back and some on foot, in pursuit of the sup- 
posed buitalo. Meanwhile a high grassy ridge shut 
the game from view ; but mounting it after half an 
hour's running and riding, they found themselves 
suddenly confronted by about thirty- mounted Paw- 
nees I The amazement and consternation were 
mutual. Having nothing but their bows and ar- 
rows, the Indians thought their hour was come, and 
the fate that they were no doubt conscious of richly 
deserving about to overtake them. So they began, 
one and all, to shout forth the most cordial saluta- 
tions of friendship, running up with extreme ear- 
nestness to shake hands \\-\xh the Missourians, who 
were as much rejoiced as they were to escape the 
expected conflict. 

A low undulating line of sand-hills bounded the 
horizon before us. That day we rode ten consecu- 
tive hours, and it was dusk before we entered the 
hollows and gorges of these gloomy little hills. At 
length we gained the summit, and the long-expected 
valley of the Platte lay before us. We all drew 
rein, and gathering in a knot on th§ crest of the 
hill, sat joyfully looking down upon the prospect. 
It was right welcome ; strange, too, and striking to 
the imagination, and yet it had not one picturesque 
or beautiful feature ; nor had it any of the feat- 
ures of grandeur, other than its vast extent, its 
sohtude, and its wildness. For league after league 



THE PLATTE AND THE DESERT. 69 

a plain as level as a frozen lake was outspread 
beneath us ; here and there the Platte, divided 
into a dozen thread-like sluices, was traversing it, 
and an occasional clump of wood, rising in the 
midst like a shadowy island, relieved the monotony 
of the waste. No hving thing was moving through- 
out the vast landscape, except the lizards that darted 
over the sand and through the rank grass and prickly- 
pear, just at our feet. And yet stern and wild asso- 
ciations gave a singular interest to the view ; for 
here each man lives by the strength of his arm and 
the valor of his heart. Here society is reduced to 
its original elements, the whole fabric of art and 
conventionality is struck rudely to pieces, and men 
find themselves suddenly brought back to the wants 
and resources of their original natures. 

We had passed the more toilsome and monoto- 
nous part of the journey ; but four hundred miles 
still inter\ened between us and Fort Laramie ; and 
to reach that point cost us the travel of three addi- 
tional weeks. During the whole of this time we 
were passing up the centre of a long narrow sandy 
plain, reaching, like an outstretched belt, nearly to 
the Rocky Mountains. Two lines of sand-hills, 
broken often into the wildest and most fantastic 
forms, flanked the valley at the distance of a mile 
or two on the right and left ; while beyond them lay 
a barren, trackless waste — "The Great American 
Desert" — extending for hundreds of miles to the 
Arkansas on the one side, and the Missouri on the 
other. IJefore us and behind' us the level monotony 
of the plain was unbroken as far as the eye could 
reach. Sometimes it glared in the sun, an expanse 
of hot, bare sand ; sometimes it was veiled by long 
coarse grass. Huge skulls and whitening bones of 
buffalo were scattered everywhere ; the ground was 
tracked by myriads of them, and often covered with 



70 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

the circiilar indentations where the bulls had wal- 
lowed in the hot weather. From every gorge and 
ra\~ine opening from the hills descended deep, 
weU-wom paths, where the bufialo issue twice a day 
in r^ular procession down to drink in the Platte. 
The river itself runs through the midst, a thin sheet 
of rapid, turbid water, half a imle wide, and scarce 
two feet deep. Its low banks, for the most part 
without a bush or a tree, are of loose sand, with 
which the stream is so charged that it grates on the 
teeth in drinking. The naked landsca^>e is of itself 
dreary and monotonous enough ; and yet the wild 
beasts and wild men that frequent the valley of the 
Hatte make it a scene of interest and excitement to 
the traveller. Of those who have journeyed there 
scarce one, perhaps, &ils to look back with fond 
regret to his horse and his rifle. 

Early in the morning after we reached the Hatte, 
a long procession of squahd sa\-ages approached our 
camp. Each was on foot, leading his horse by a 
rope of bull-hides. His attire consisted merely of a 
scant)" cincture, and an old buffido-robe, tattered 
and begrimed by use, which hung over his shoul- 
ders. His head was close -shaven, except a ridge 
of hair reaching over the crown from the centre of 
the forehead, very much like the long brisdes on 
the back of a hyena, and he carried his bow and 
arrows in his hand, while his meagre Utde horse was 
laden with dried bul&lo-meat, the produce of his 
hunting. Such were the first specimens that we 
met — and very indifferent ones they were — of the 
genuine sa\-ages of the prairie. 

They were the Pawnees whom Kearsley had en- 
countered the day before, and beloi^ed to a large 
huntii^ party, known to be ranging the prairie in 
the \icinit\-. They strode rapidly past, within a 
furlong of our tents, not pausing or looking toward 



THE PLATTE AXD THE DESERT. 7 1 

us, after the manner of Indians when meditating 
mischief or conscious of ill desert. I went out and 
met them ; and had an amicable conference with the 
chief, presenting him with half a pound of tobacco, 
at which unmerited bounty he expressed much grati- 
fication. These fellows, or some of their com- 
panions, had committed a dastardly outrage upon 
an emigrant party in advance of us. Two men, 
out on horseback at a distance, were seized by them, 
but lashing their horses, they broke loose and fled. 
At this the Pawnees raised the yell and shot at 
them, transfixing the hindermost through the back 
with several arrows, while his companion galloped 
away and brought in the news to his party. The 
panic-stricken emigrants remained for several days 
in camp, not daring even to send out in quest of the 
dead body. 

The reader will recollect Turner, the man whose 
narrow escape was mentioned not long since. We 
heard that the men, whom the entreaties of his wife 
induced to go in search of him, found him leisurely 
driving along his recovered oxen, and whistling in 
utter contempt of the Pawnee nation. His party 
was encamped within two miles of us ; but we passed 
them that morning, while the men were driving in 
the oxen, and the women packing their domestic 
utensils and their numerous offspring in the spacious 
patriarchal wagons. As we looked back we saw 
their caravan dragging its slow length along the 
plain ; wearily toiling on its way to found new em- 
pires in the West. 

Our New England climate is mild and equable 
compared with that of the Platte. This ver)- morn- 
ing, for instance, was close and sultry-, the sun rising 
with a faint oppressive heat ; when suddenly dark- 
ness gathered in the west, and a furious blast of sleet 
and hail drove full in our faces, icy cold, and urged 



72 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

with such demoniac vehemence that it felt Hke a 
storm of needles. It was curious to see the horses ; 
they faced about in extreme displeasure, holding 
their tails like whipped dogs, and shivering as the 
angr}' gusts, howling louder than a concert of wolves, 
swept over us. Wright's long train of mules came 
sweeping round before the storm, like a flight of 
brown snow-birds driven by a winter tempest. Thus 
we all remained stationar}- for some minutes, crouch- 
ing close to our horses' necks, much too surly to 
speak, though once the Captain looked up from be- 
tween the collars of his coat, his face blood-red, and 
the muscles of his mouth contracted by the cold into 
a most ludicrous grin of agony. He grumbled 
something that sounded like a curse, directed, as 
we believed, against the unhappy hour when he had 
first thought of leaving home. The thing was too 
good to last long ; and the instant the puffs of wind 
subsided we erected our tents, and remained in 
camp for the rest of a gloomy and lowering day. 
The emigrants also encamped near at hand. We 
being first on the ground, had appropriated all the 
wood within reach ; so that our fire alone blazed 
cheerily. Around it soon gathered a group of 
uncouth figures, shivering in the drizzling rain. 
Conspicuous among them were two or three of the 
half-savage men who spend their reckless lives in 
trapping among the Rocky Mountains, or in trading 
for the Fur Company in the Indian villages. They 
were all of Canadian extraction ; their hard, weather- 
beaten faces and bushy moustaches looked out from 
beneath the hoods of their white capotes with a bad 
and brutish expression, as if their owner might be 
the willing agent of any villany. And such in fact 
is the character of many of these men. 

On the day following we overtook Kearsley's 
wagons, and thenceforward, for a week or two, we 



THE BUFFALO. 73 

were fellow-travellers. One good effect, at least, 
resulted from the alliance ; it materially diminished 
the serious fatigues of standing guard ; for the party- 
being now more numerous, there were longer inter- 
vals between each man's turns of duty. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE BUFFALO. 

" Twice twenty leagues 
Beyond remotest smoke of hunter's camp, 
Roams the majestic brute, in herds that shake 
The earth with thundering steps."— BRY.A.NT. 

Four days on the Platte, and yet no buffalo ! 
Last year' s signs of them were provokingly .abun- 
dant ; and wood being extremely scarce, we found 
an admirable substitute in the bois de vache, which 
burns exactly like peat, producing no unpleasant 
effects. The wagons one morning had left the 
camp ; Shaw and I were already on horseback, but 
Henry Chatillon still sat cross-legged by the dead 
embers of the fire, playing pensively with the lock 
of his rifle, while his sturdy Wyandot pony stood 
quietly behind him, looking over his head. At last 
he got up, patted the neck of the pony (whom, from 
an exaggerated appreciation of his meiits, he had 
christened "Five Hundred Dollar"), and then 
mounted with a melancholy air. 

" What is it, Henry ?" - 

" Ah, I feel lonesome ; I never been here before ; 
but I see away yonder over the buttes, and down 
there on the prairie, black — all black with buffalo I" 

In the afternoon he and I left the party in search 
of an antelope ; until at the distance of a mile or 



74 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

two on the right, the tall white wagons and the lit- 
tle blciCk specks of horsemen were just visible, so 
slowly advancing that they seemed motionless ; and 
far on the left rose the broken line of scorched, 
desolate sand-hills. The vast plain waved with tall 
rank grass that swept our horses' bellies ; it swayed 
to and fro in billows with the light breeze, and far 
and near antelope and wolves were moving through 
it, the hairy backs of the latter alternately appear- 
ing and disappearing as they bounded awkwardly 
along ; while the antelope, with the simple curiosity 
peculiar to them, would often approach us closely, 
their little horns and white throats just visible above 
the grass tops, as they gazed eagerly at us with their 
round black eyes. 

I dismounted and amused myself with firing at 
the wolves. Henry attentively scrutinized the sur- 
rounding landscape ; at length he gave a shout, and 
called on me to mount again, pointing in the direc- 
tion of the sand-hills. A mile and a half from us 
two minute black specks slowly traversed the face 
of one of the bare glaring declivities, and disap- 
peared behind the summit. "Let us go!" cried 
Henry, belaboring the sides of "Five Hundred 
Dollar ' ' ; and I following in his wake, we galloped 
rapidly through the rank grass toward the base of 
the hills. 

From one of their openings descended a deep 
ravine, widening as it issued on the prairie. We 
entered it, and galloping up, in a moment were sur- 
rounded by the bleak sand-hills. Half of their 
steep sides were bare ; the rest were scantily clothed 
with clumps of grass and various uncouth plants, 
conspicuous among which appeared the reptile-like 
prickly-pear. They were gashed with numberless 
ravines ; and as the sky had suddenly darkened, 
and a cold gusty wind arisen, the strange shrubs 



THE BUFFALO. 75 

and the dreary hills looked doubly wild and deso- 
late. But Henry's face was all eagerness. He tore 
ofif a little hair from the piece of buffalo-robe under 
his saddle, and threw it up, to show the course of 
the wind. It blew directly before us. The game 
were therefore to windward, and it was necessary to 
make our best speed to get round them. 

We scrambled from this ravine, and galloping 
away through the hollows, soon found another, 
winding like a snake among the hills, and so deep 
that it completely concealed us. We rode up the 
bottom of it, glancing through the shrubber)- at its 
edge, till Henry abruptly jerked his rein and slid 
out of his saddle. Full a quarter of a mile distant, 
on the outline of the farthest hill, a long procession 
of buffalo— "-ere walking, in Indian file, with the 
utmost gravity and deliberation ; then more ap- 
peared, clambering from a hollow not far ofif, and 
ascending, one behind the other, the grassy slope 
of another hill ; then a shaggy head and a pair of 
short broken horns appeared issuing out of a ravine 
close at hand, and with a slow, stately step, one by 
one, the enormous brutes came into view, taking 
their way across the valley, wholly unconscious of 
an enemy. In a moment Henry was worming his 
way, lying flat on the ground, through grass and 
prickly-pears, toward his unsuspecting victims. 
He had with him both my rifle and his own. He 
was soon out of sight, and still the buffalo kept issu- 
ing into the valley. For a long time all was silent ; 
I sat holding his horse and wondering what he was 
about, when suddenly, in rapid succession, came 
the sharp reports of the two rifles, and the whole line 
of buffalo, quickening their pace into a clumsy trot, 
gradually disappeared over the ridge of the hill. 
Henry rose to his feet, and stood looking after them. 
"You have missed them," said I. 



76 THE OR EG OX TRAIL. 

"Yes," said Henn •; "let us go." He de- 
scended into the ravine, loaded the rifles, and 
mounted his horse. 

We rode up the hill after the buffalo. The 
herd was out of sight when we reached the top, 
but lying on the grass, not far off, was one quite 
lifeless, and another violently struggling in the 
death agony. 

"You see I miss him I ' remarked Henry. He 
had fired from a distance of more than a hundred 
and fifty yards, and both balls had passed through 
the lungs ; the true mark in shooting buffalo. 

The darkness increased, and a dri\ing storm 
came on. Tying our horses to the horns of the 
victims. Henry began the bloody work of dissection, 
slashing away with the science of a connoisseur, 
while I vainly endea\ ored to imitate him. Old 
Hendrick recoiled with horror and indignation when 
I endeavored to tie the meat to the strings of raw- 
hide, always carried for this purpose, dangling at 
the back of the saddle. After some difficulty we 
overcame his scruples ; and heavily burdened with 
the more eligible portions of the buffalo, we set out 
on our return. Scarcely had we emerged from the 
labyrinth of gorges and ravines, and issued upon 
the open prairie, when the prickling slfiet came 
driving, gust upon gust, directly in our faces. It 
was strangely dark, though wanting still an hour of 
sunset. The freezing storm soon penetrated to the 
skin, but the uneasy trot of our hea\y-gaited horses 
kept us warm enough, as we forced them unwillingly 
in the teeth of the sleet and rain by the powerful 
suasion of our Indian whips. The prairie in this 
place was hard and level. A flourishing colony of 
prairie-dogs had burrowed into it in every direction, 
and the little mounds of fresh earth around their 
holes were about as numerous as the hills in a corn- 



THE BUFFALO. yj 

field ; but not a yelp was to be heard ; not the nose 
of a single citizen was visible ; all had retired to the 
depths of their burrows, and we envied them their 
dry and comfortable habitations. An hour's hard 
riding showed us our tent dimly looming through 
the storm, one side puffed out by the force of the 
wind, and the other collapsed in proportion, while 
the disconsolate horses stood shivering close around, 
and the wind kept up a dismal whistling in the 
boughs of three old half-dead trees above. Shaw, 
like a patriarch, sat on his saddle in the entrance, 
with a pipe in his mouth, and his arms folded, con- 
templating, with cool satisfaction, the piles of meat 
that we flung on the ground before him. A dark 
and dreary night succeeded ; but the sun rose with 
a heat so sultry and languid that the Captain ex- 
cused himself on that account from waylaying an 
old buffalo-bull, who with stupid gravity was walking 
over the prairie to drink at the river. So much for 
the chmate of the Platte ! 

But it was not the weather alone that had pro- 
duced this sudden abatement of the sportsman-like 
zeal which the Captain had always professed. He 
had been out on the afternoon before, together with 
several members of his party ; but their hunting 
was attended with no other result than the loss of 
one of their best horses, severely injured by Sorel, 
in vainly chasing a wounded bull. The Captain, 
whose ideas of hard riding were all derived from 
transatlantic sources, expressed the utmost amaze- 
ment at the feats of Sorel, who went leaping ravines, 
and dashing at full speed up and down the sides of 
precipitous hills, lashing his horse with the reckless- 
ness of a Rocky Mountain rider. Unfortunately for 
the poor animal, he was the property of R., against 
whom Sorel entertained an unljounded aversion. 
The Captain himself, it seemed, had also attempted 



78 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

to ' ' run ' ' a buffalo, but though a good and practised 
horseman, he had soon given over the attempt, 
being astonished and utterly disgusted at the nature 
of the ground he was required to ride over. 

Nothing unusual occurred on that day ; but on 
the following morning, Henry Chatillon, looking 
over the ocean-like expanse, saw near the foot of 
the distant hills something that looked like a band 
of buffalo. He was not sure, he said, but at all 
events, if they were buffalo, there was a fine chance 
for a race. Shaw and I at once determined to try 
the speed of our horses. 

" Come, Captain ; we'll see which can ride hard- 
est, a Yankee or an Irishman." 

But the Captain maintained a grave and austere 
countenance. He mounted his led horse, however, 
though verj' slowly ; and we set out at a trot. The 
game appeared about three miles distant. As we 
proceeded, the Captain made various remarks of 
doubt and indecision ; and at length declared he 
would have nothing to do with such a break-neck 
business ; protesting that he had ridden plenty of 
steeple-chases in his day, but he never knew what 
riding was till he found himself behind a band of 
buffalo day before yesterday. " I am convinced," 
said the Captain, "that 'running' is out of the 
question.* Take my advice now, and don't attempt 
it. It's dangerous, and of no use at all." 

' ' Then why did you come out with us ? What do 
you mean to do ?' ' 

" I shall 'approach,' " replied the Captain. 

"You don't mean to 'approach' with your pis- 

* The method of hunting called "running" consists in 
attacking the buffalo on horseback, and shooting him with 
bullets or arrows when at full speed. In " approaching " 
the hunter conceals himself, and crawls on the ground to- 
ward the game, or Ues in wait to kill them. 



THE BUFFALO. 79 

tols, do you ? We have all of us left our rifles in 
the wagons." 

The Captain seemed staggered at this suggestion. 
In his characteristic indecision at setting out, 
pistols, rifles, '• running," and "approaching" were 
mingled in an inextricable medley in his brain. He 
trotted on in silence between us for a while : but at 
length he dropped behind, and slowly walked his 
horse back to rejoin the party. Shaw and I kept 
on ; when lo I as we advanced, the band of buffalo 
were transformed into certain clumps of tall busEes. 
dotting the prairie for a considerable" distance. At 
this ludicrous termination of our chase we foUowed 
the example of our late ally, and turned back 
toward the parr\-. We were skirting the brink of a 
deep ravine, when we saw Henr\- and the broad- 
chested pony coming toward us at a gallop. 

•* Here's old Papin and Frederic, down from Fort 
Laramie I" shouted Henr)-, long before he came up. 
We had for some days expected this encounter. 
Papin was the bourgtois of Fort Laramie. He had 
come down the river with the buffalo-robes and the 
beaver, the produce of the last winter' s trading. I 
had among our baggage a letter which I wished to 
commit to their hands ; so requesting Henr)- to 
detain the boats if he could until my return, I set 
out after the wagons. They were about four miles 
in advance. In half an hour I overtook them, got 
the letter, trotted back upon the trail, and looking 
carefully as I rode, saw a patch of broken, storm- 
blasted trees, and moving near them some little 
black specks like men and horses. .Arriving at the 
place, I found a strange assembly. The boats, 
eleven in number, deep-laden with the skins, 
hugged close to the shore to escape being borne 
down by the swift current. The rowers, swarthy 
ignoble Mexicans, turned their brutish faces upward 



80 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

to look as I reached the bank. Papin sat in the mid- 
dle of one of the boats, upon the canvas covering that 
protected the robes. He was a stout, robust fellow, 
with a little gray eye that had a peculiarly sly twinkle. 
" Frederic," also, stretched his tall raw-boned pro- 
portions close by the bourgeois, and ' ' mountain 
men" completed the group; some lounging in 
the boats, some strolling on shore ; some attired^ilT 
gayly painted buttalo-robes, like Indian dandies ;~ 
some with hair saturated with red paint, and be- 
plastered with glue to their temples ; and one be- 
daubed with vermilion upon the forehead and each 
cheek. They were a mongrel race ; yet the French 
blood seemed to predominate : in a few, indeed, 
might be seen the black, snaky eye of the Indian 
half breed, and one and all, they seemed to aim at 
assimilating themselves to their savage associates. 

I shook hands with the bourgeois, and deli\ered 
the letter : then the boats swung round into the 
stream and floated away. They had reason for 
haste, for already the voyage from Fort Laramie 
had occupied a full month, and the river was grow- 
ing daily more shallow. Fifty times a day the boats 
had been aground : indeed, those who navigate the 
Platte invariably spend half their time upon sand- 
bars. Two of these boats, the property- of private 
traders, afterward separating from the rest, got hope- 
lessly involved in the shallows, not ver\- far from 
the Pawnee villages, and were soon surrounded by 
a swarm of the inhabitants. They carried off every- 
thing that they considered valuable, including most 
of the robes ; and amused themselves by tying up 
the men left on guard and soundly whipping them 
with sticks. 

We encamped that night upon the bank of the 
river. Among the emigrants there was an over- 
grown boy, some eighteen years old, with a head 



THE BUFFALO. 8 1 

as round and about as large as a pumpkin, and 
fever^nd-ague fits had dyed his face of a corre- 
sponding color. He wore an old white hat, tied 
under his chin with a handkerchief ; his body was 
short and stout, but his legs of disproportioned and 
appalling length. I observed him at sunset breast- 
ing the hill with gigantic strides, and standing 
against the sky on the summit like a colossal pair 
of tongs. In a moment after we heard him scream- 
ing frantically behind the ridge, and nothing doubt- 
ing that he was in the clutches of Indians or grizzly 
bears, some of the party caught up their rifles and 
ran to the rescue. His outcries, however, proved 
but an ebullition of joyous e.xcitement ; he had chased 
tvvo little wolf pups to their burrow, and he was on 
his knees, grubbing away like a dog at the mouth 
of the hole, to get at them. 

Before morning he caused more serious disquiet 
in the camp. It was his turn to hold the middle- 
guard ; but no sooner was he called up than he 
coolly arranged a pair of saddle-bags under a wagon, 
laid his head upon them, closed his eyes, opened 
his mouth, and fell asleep. The guard on our side 
of the camp, thinking it no part of his duty to look 
after the cattle of the emigrants, contented himself 
with watching our own horses and mules ; the 
wolves, he said, were unusually noisy ; but still no 
mischief was anticipated until the sun rose, and not 
a hoof or horn was in sight 1 The cattle were gone ! 
While Tom was quietly slumbering, the wolves had 
driven them away. 

Then we reaped the fruits of R.'s precious plan 
of travelling in company with emigrants. To leave 
them in their distress was not to be thought of, and 
we felt bound to wait until the cattle could be 
searched for, and, if possible, recovered. But the 
reader may be curious to know what punishment 



82 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

awaited the faithless Tom. By the wholesome law 
of the prairie, he who falls asleep on gtiard is con- 
demned to walk all day, leading his horse by the 
bridle, and we found much fault with our companions 
for not enforcing such a sentence on the offender. 
Nevertheless, had he been of our own part>- 1 have 
no doubt that he would in like manner have escaped 
scot-free. But the emigrants went farther than mere 
forbearance : they decreed that since Tom couldn't 
stand guard without falling asleep, he shouldn't 
stand guard at all, and hencefonvard his slumbers 
were unbroken. Establishing such a premiiom on 
drowsiness could have no verv^ beneficial effect upon 
the vigilance of our sentinels ; for it is far from 
agreeable, after riding from sunrise to sunset, to 
feel your slumbers interrupted by the butt of a rifle 
nudging your side, and a sleepy voice growling in 
your ear that you must get up, to shiver and freeze 
for three wearv' hours at midnight. 

" Buffalo ! buffalo I" It was but a grim old bull, 
roaming the prairie by himself in misanthropic se- 
clusion ; but there might be more behind the hills. 
Dreading the monotony and languor of the camp, 
Shaw and I saddled our horses, buckled our holsters 
in their places, and set out with Henr\- Chatillon in 
search of the game. Henn', not intending to take 
part in the chase, but merely conducting us, carried 
his rifle with him, while we left ours behind as in- 
cumbrances. We rode for some five or six miles, 
and saw no living thing but wolves, snakes, and 
prairie-dogs. 

" This won't do at all," said Shaw. 

" ^^^lat won't do ?' ' 

' ' There' s no wood about here to make a litter for 
the wounded man : I have an idea that one of us 
will need something of the sort before the day is 
over." 



THE BUFFALO. 83 

There was some foundation for such an appre- 
hension, for the ground was none of the best for a 
race, and grew worse continually as we proceeded ; 
indeed it soon became desperately bad, consisting 
of abrupt hills and deep hollows, cut by frequent 
ravines not easy to pass. At length, a mile in ad- 
vance, we saw a band of bulls. Some were scat- 
tered grazing over a greendeclivity, while the rest 
were crowded more densely together in the wide 
hollow below. Making a circuit, to keep out of 
sight, we rode toward them, until we ascended a 
hill, \\-ithin a furlong of them, beyond which nothing 
intervened that could possibly screen us from their 
view. We dismounted behind the ridge just out of 
sight, drew our saddle-girths, examined our pistols, 
and mounting again, rode over the hill, and de- 
scended at a canter toward them, bending close to 
our horses' necks. Instantly they took the alarm ; 
those on the hill descended ; those below gathered 
into a mass, and the whole got in motion, shoul- 
dering each other along at a clumsy gallop. We 
followed, spurring our horses to full speed ; and as 
the herd rushed, crowding and trampling in terror 
through an opening in the hills, we were close at 
their heels, half sufifocated by the clouds of dust. 
But as we drew near their alarm and speed in- 
creased ; our horses showed signs of the utmost fear, 
bounding violently aside as we approached, and 
refusing to enter among the herd. The buffalo now 
broke into several small bodies, scampering over the 
hills in different directions, and I lost sight of Shaw ; 
neither of us knew where the other had gone. Old 
Pontiac ran like a frantic elephant up hill and down 
hill, his ponderous hoofs striking the prairie like 
sledge-hammers. He showed a curious mixture of 
eagerness and terror, straining to overtake the panic- 
stricken herd, but constantly recoiling in dismay as 



84 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

we drew near. The fi^ibres, indeed. <iflfeied no 
ver\' altiacdve ^lectade. with tfaeir enonnoos size 
and wdglit. their shaggy manes and the tatteied 
remnants of thor last winter''s hair cof^eiii^ their 
backs in irregular diieds and patches, and flying 
iM in the wind as th^ lan. At lex^th I mged my 
horse dose behind a bull, and afijO" trying in Tain, 
by Uows and s{Hirring, to biing him aloi^-side, I 
^ot a Imllet into the bofiblo fivm Ais disadvan- 
tageous position. At the report, Ponliac sw^^ed 
so much diat I was again thrown a little behind the 
game. The bullet entering too much in the rear, 
fedled to disable the bull, for a bu&lcrreqnires to be 
shot at particular pcnnts. at he will cotainly escape. 
The herd ran up a hill, and I fidlowed in pursuiL 
As Pontiac ntdied headlong down on the otl^ side. 
I saw Shaw and Henry flesoending the hfdlow cm the 
right at a lessurdy gallon * and in frimt the buffido 
were just disappearii^ bdhind the crest di. the next 
hill, tfaeir short fails oedt, and their hoo& i winHing 
thnx^i a cloud of dusL 

At that nuHnent I heard Shaw and Henry shout- 
ktg to me ; but the muscles of a stnn^;er aim dian 
mine could not have checked at once the finions 
course tA Pontiac, whose mouth was as insenable as 
leather. Added to this, I rode him that morning 
'n-ith a common snafSe. having the day before. i(x 
the benefit <rf my other horse, unbuckled frcnn my 
bridle the curb which I cadinaiily used. A stronger 
and haixSier brute never trod the prairie : but the 
novel sight of the bul&do filled him with tenor, and 
when at hill ^leed he was almost uncontrollable. 
Coining the tr^ iA die rii%e, I saw nothii^ cS. the 
bufiblo ; they haid all vani^ed amid the intiicades 
of the hills and ludlows. Reloadii^ my pistols, in 
the b^t way I could, I gaUc^ied on until I saw them 
again scutding jil«pig at the base fA the hiU, their 



THE BUFFALO. 85 

panic somewhat abated. Down went old Pontiac 
among them, scattering them to the right and left, 
and then we had another long chase. About a 
dozen bulls were before us. scouring over the hills, 
rushing down the declivities with tremendous weight 
and impetuosity, and then laboring with a weary 
gallop upward. Still, Pontiac, in spite of spurring 
and beating, would not close with them. One bull 
at length fell a little behind the rest, and by dint of 
mucheftbrt, I urged my horse within six or eight 
yards of his side. His back was darkened with 
sweat : he was panting heavily, while his tongue 
lolled out a foot from his jaws. Gradually 1 came 
up abreast of him, urging Pontiac with leg and rein 
nearer to his side, when suddenly he did what buf- 
falo in such circumstances will always do ; he slack- 
ened his gallop, and turning toward us, with an 
aspect of mingled rage and distress, lowered his 
huge shaggy head for a charge. Pontiac, with a 
snort, leaped aside in terror, nearly throwing me to 
the ground, as I was wholly unprepared for such an 
evolution. I raised my pistol in a passion to strike 
him on the head, but thinking better of it, tired the 
bullet after the bull, who had resumed his flight ; 
then drew rein, and determined to rejoin my com- 
panions. It was high time. The breath blew hard 
from Pontiac' s nostrils, and the sweat rolled in big 
drops down his sides ; I myself felt as if drenched in 
warm water. Pledging myself (and 1 redeemed the 
pledge) to take my revenge at a future opportunity-, I 
looked around for some indications to show me where 
I was, and what course I ought to pursue ; I might 
as well have looked for landmarks in the midst of 
the ocean. How many miles I had run. or in what 
direction, I had no idea ; and around me the prairie 
was rolling in steep swells and pitches, without a 
single distinctive feature to guide me. I had a little 



86 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

compass hung at my neck ; and ignorant that the 
Platte at this point diverged considerabh' from its 
easterly course, I thought that by keeping to the 
northward I should certainly reach it. So I turned 
and rode about two hours in that direction. The 
prairie changed as I advanced, softening away into 
easier undulations, but nothing like the Platte ap- 
peared, nor any sign of a human being ; the same 
wild endless expanse lay around me still ; and to all 
appearance I was as far from my object as ever. I 
began now to consider myself in danger of being 
lost ; and therefore, reining in my horse, summoned 
the scant}- share of woodcraft that I possessed (if 
that term be applicable upon the prairie) to extricate 
me. Looking around, it occurred to me that the 
buffalo might prove my best guides. I soon found 
one of the paliis made by them in their passage to 
the river ; it ran nearly at right angles to my 
course ; but turning my horse's head in the direc- 
tion it indicated, his freer gait and erected ears 
assured me that I was right. 

But in the meantime my ride had been by no 
means a solitary one. The whole face of the coun- 
tr\' was dotted far and wide with countless hundreds 
of buffalo. They trooped along in files and columns, 
bulls, cows, and calves, on the green faces of the 
declivities in front. They scrambled away over the 
hills to the right and left ; and far off, the pale blue 
swells in the extreme distance were dotted v^-ith 
innumerable specks. Sometimes I surprised shaggy 
old bulls grazing alone, or sleeping behind the ridges 
I ascended. They would leap up at my approach, 
stare stupidly at me through their tangled manes, 
and then gallop heavily away. The antelope were 
ven,- numerous ; and as they are always bold when 
in the neighborhood of buffalo, they would ap- 
proach quite near to look at me, gazing intently 



THE BUFFALO. 8/ 

with their great round eyes, then suddenly leap 
aside, and stretch lightly away over the prairie, as 
swiftly as a race-horse. Squalid, ruffian-like wolves 
sneaked through the hollows and sandy ravines. 
Several times I passed through \illages of prairie- 
dogs, who sat, each at the mouth of his burrow, 
holding his paws before him in a suppHcating attitude, 
and yelping away most vehemently, energetically 
whisking his little tail with every squeaking crj- he ut- 
tered. Prairie-dogs are not fastidious in their choice 
of companions ; various long, checkered snakes were 
sunning themselves in the midst of the village, and 
demure little gray owls, with a large white ring 
around each eye, were perched side by side with 
the rightful inhabitants. The prairie teemed with 
life. Again and again I looked toward the crowded 
hill-sides, and was sure I saw horsemen ; and riding 
near, with a mixture of hope and dread, for Indians 
were abroad, I found them transformed into a group 
of buffalo. There was nothing in human shape 
amid all this vast congregation of brute forms. 

When I turned down the buffalo-path the prairie 
seemed changed ; only a wolf or two glided past at 
intervals, like conscious felons, never looking to the 
right or left. Being now free from anxiety, I was at 
leisure to obser\-e minutely the objects around me ; 
and here, for the first time, I noticed insects wholly 
different from any of the varieties found farther to the 
eastward. Gaudy butterflies fluttered about my 
horse's head ; strangely formed beetles, glittering 
with metallic lustre, were crawling upon plants that 
I had never seen before ; multitudes of lizards, too, 
were darting like lightning over the sand. 

I had run to a great distance from the river. It 
cost me a long ride on the buffalo-path before I saw, 
from the ridge of a sand-hill, the pale surface of 
the Platte glistening in the midst of its desert val- 



«5 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

leys, and the faint outline of the hills beyond wav- 
ing along the sky. From where I stood not a tree 
nor a bush nor a hving thing was \-isible throughout 
the whole extent of the sun-scorched landscape. 
In half an hour 1 came upon the trail, not far fi-om 
the river ; and seeing that the party had not yet 
passed, I turned eastvvard to meet them, old Pon- 
tiac's long swinging trot again assuring me that I 
was right in doing so. Having been shghtly ill on 
leaving camp in the morning, six or seven hours of 
rough riding had fatigued me extremely. I soon 
stopped, therefore ; flung my saddle on the ground, 
and with my head resting on it, and my horse's 
trail-rope tied loosely to my arm, lay waiting the 
arrival of the party, speculating meanwhile on the 
extent of the injuries Pontiac had received. At 
length the white wagon coverings rose from the 
verge of the plain. By a singular coincidence, 
almost at the same moment two horsemen appeared 
coming down from the hills. They were Shaw and 
Henrj', who had searched for me awhile in the 
morning, but well knowing the futility of the at- 
tempt in such a broken countr\-, had placed them- 
selves on the top of the highest hill they could 6nd, 
and picketing their horses near them, as a signal to 
me, had laid down and fallen asleep. The stray 
cattle had been recovered, as the emigrants told 
us, about noon. Before sunset, we pushed forward 
eight miles farther. 

"June 7, 1846. — Four men are missing: R., Sorel. and 
two emigrants'. Fh cy GCt-tmt -dris morning after bafl&lo, and 
have not yet made their apjiearance ; whether killed or lost, 

we cannot tell." 

I find the above in my note -book, and well re- 
member the council held on the occasion. Our fire 
was the scene of it ; for the palpable superiorit)- of 
Henry Chatillon's experience and skill made him 



THE BUFFALO. 89 

the resort of the whole camp upon every question 
of difficulty. He was moulding bullets at the fire 
when the Captain drew near, with a perturbed and 
care-worn expression of countenance, faithfully re- 
flected on the heavy features of Jack, who followed 
close behind. Then emigrants came straggling 
from their wagons toward the common centre ; 
various suggestions were made to account for the 
absence of the four men ; and one or two of the 
emigrants declared that when out after the cattle, 
they had seen Indians dogging them, and crawling 
like wolves along the ridges of the hills. At this 
the Captain slowly shook his head with double 
gravity, and solemnly remarked : 

" It's a serious thing to be travelling through this 
cursed wilderness;" an opinion in which Jack 
immediately expressed a thorough coincidence. 
Henry would not commit himself by declaring any 
positive opinion : 

"Maybe he only follow the buffalo too far; 
maybe Indian kill him ; maybe he got lost ; I can- 
not tell !" 

With this the auditors were obliged to rest con- 
tent ; the emigrants, not in the least alarmed, 
though curious to know what had become of their 
comrades, walked back to their wagons, and the 
Captain betook himself pensively to his tent. 
Shaw and 1 followed his example. 

" It will be a bad thing for our plans," said he as 
we entered, "if these fellows don't get back safe. 
The Captain is as helpless on the prairie as a child. 
We shall have to take him and his brother in tow; 
they will hang on us like lead." 

"The prairie is a strange place," said I. "A 
month ago I should have thought it rather a start- 
ling affair to have an acquaintance ride out in the 
morning and lose his scalp before night, but here it 



90 THE OKEGOJV TRAIL. 

seems the most natural thiBg in the world ; not diat 
I believe that R. has lost his yet." 

If a man is constitutionally liable to nen^ous appre- 
hensions, a tour on the disl^t prairies would prove 
the best prescription ; for though when in the neigh- 
borhood of the Rocky Mountains he may at times find 
hiTn«M>lf placed in annnnstances of some danger, I be- 
lieve that few ever breathe that reckless atmosphere 
without bec(Hning almost, indifferent to any evnl 
chance that may be&ll themselves or their friends. 

Shaw had a propensity for luxurious indulgence. 
He spread his blanlcet with the utmost accuracy on 
the ground, picked up the sticks and stones that he 
thought might interfere with his comfort, adjusted 
his saddle to serve as a pillow, and composed him- 
self for his night's rest. I had the first guard that 
evening ; so, taking my rifle, 1 went out of the tent. 
It was perfectly dark. A brisk wind blew down 
firom the lulls, and the sparks from the fire were 
streaming over the prairie. One of the emigrants, 
named Morton, was my companion ; and la)-ing 
our rifles on the grass we sat down together by the 
fire. Morton was a Kentuckian^ an athletic fdlow, 
with a fine, intelligent &ce, and in his manners and 
conversation he showed the essential characteristics 
of a gendeman. Our conversation turned on the 
pioneers of his gallant native state. The three 
hours of our watch dragged away at last, and we 
went to call up the rehef. 

R.'s guard succeeded mine. He was absent ; 
but the Captain, anxious lest the camp should be 
left defenceless, had volunteered to stand in his 
place ; so 1 went to wake him up. There was no 
occasion for it, for the Captain had been awake since 
night&ll. A fire was blazing outside of the tent. 
and by the light which struck through the canvas I 
saw him and Jack l>"ing on their backs with their 



TAKIXG FREiXCH LEAVE. 9 1 

eyes wide open. The Captain responded instantly 
to my call ; he jumped up, seized the double-bar- 
relled rifle, and came out of the tent with an air of 
solemn determination, as if about to devote him- 
self to the safety of the party. I went and lay 
down, not doubting that for the next three hours our 
slumbers would be guarded with sufficient vigilance. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

TAKING FRENCH LEAVE. 
" Parting is such sweet sorrow !" — Romeo and Juliet. 

Ox the eighth of June, at eleven o'clock, we 
reached the South Fork of the Platte, at the usual 
fording-place. For league upon league the desert 
uniformity of the prospect was almost unbroken ; 
the hills were dotted with little tufts of shrivelled 
grass, but betwixt these the white sand was glaring 
in the sun ; and the channel of the river, almost on 
a level with the plain, was but one great sand-bed 
about half a mile wide. It was covered with water, 
but so scantily that the bottom was scarcelv hidden '; 
for, wide as it is, the average depth of the Platte 
does not at this point exceed a foot and a half. 
Stopping near its bank, we gathered bois de vac he, 
and made a meal of buffalo-meat. Far off, on the 
other side, was a green meadow, where we could 
see the white tents and wagons of an emigrant 
camp ; and just opposite to us we could discern a 
group of men and animals at the water's edge. 
Four or five horsemen soon entered the river, and 
in ten minutes had waded across and clambered up 
the loose sand-bank. They were ill-looking fellows, 



92 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

thin and swarthy, with care-wom, anxious fiaces, and 
lips rigidly compressed. They had good cause for 
anxiay ; it was three days since they first encamped 
here, and on the night of their arrival they had lost 
one hundred and twent}- -three of their best cattle, 
driven off by the wolves, through the neglect of the 
man on guard. This discouraging and alarming 
calaxnii}' was not the first that had overtaken them. 
Since leaving the s^tlements they had met vi-ith 
nothing but misfortune. Some of their party^ had 
died ; one man had been killed by the Pawnees ; 
and about a we^ brfore they had been plundered 
by the Dahcotahs of all their best horses, the 
wretched animals on which our visitors were moiinted 
boi^ die only ones that were left. They had en- 
camped, they told us, near sunset, by the side of 
the Flatte. and their oxen were scattered over the 
meadow, while the band of horses were feeding a 
little &rther off. Suddenly the ridges of the hills 
w^re aUve with a swarm of mounted Indians, at 
least ax hundred in number, who, w-ith a tremendous 
yell, came pouring down toward the camp, rushing 
up within a few rods, to the great terror of the emi- 
grants ; but suddenly wheehng, they swept aroimd 
flie band of horses, and in five minutes had dis- 
appeared with their prey through the openings of 
the hiUs. 

As diese em^rants were telling their story, we 
saw four other men approaching. They proved to 
be R- and his compaaiMis, who had encountered no 
mischance of any kind, but had only wandered too 
fer in pursuit of the game. They said they had 
seen no Indians, but only ' ' millions of buifalo " " ; 
and both R. and Sorel had meat danghng behind 
dieir saddles. 

TTie emigrants recrossed the river, and we pre- 
pared to follow. First the hea^y ox-wagons plunged 



TAKING FRENCH LEAVE. 93 

down the bank, and dragged slowly over the sand- 
beds ; sometimes the hoofs of the oxen were scarcely 
wetted by the thin sheet of water ; and the next 
moment the river would be boiling against their 
sides, and eddying fiercely around the wheels. Inch 
by inch they receded from the shore, dwindling 
every moment, until at length they seemed to be 
floating far out in the very middle of the river. A 
more critical experiment awaited us ; for our little 
mule-cart was but ill-fitted for the passage of so 
swift a stream. We watched it with anxiety till it 
seemed to be a little motionless white speck in the 
midst of the waters ; and it was motionless, for it 
had stuck fast in a quicksand. The little mules 
were losing their footing, the wheels were sinking 
deeper and deeper, and the water began to rise 
through the bottom and drench the goods within. 
All of us who had remained on the hither bank 
galloped to the rescue ; the men jumped into the 
water, adding their strength to that of the mules, 
until by much effort the cart was extricated and 
conveyed in safety across. 

As we gained the other bank a rough group of 
men surrounded us. They were not robust, nor 
large of frame, yet they had an aspect of hardy 
endurance. Finding at home no scope for their 
fier)' energies, they had betaken themselves to the 
prairie ; and in them seemed to be revived, with 
redoubled force, that fierce spirit which impelled 
their ancestors, scarce more lawless than them- 
selves, from the German forests, to inundate Europe 
and break to pieces the Roman Empire. A fort- 
night aftenvard this unfortunate party passed Fort 
Laramie while we were there. Not one of their 
missing oxen had been recovered, though they had 
remained encamped a week in search of them ; and 
they had been compelled to abandon a great part 



94 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

of their baggage and provisions, and yoke cows and 
heifers to their wagons to earn,' them forward upon 
their ioumey, the most toilsome and hazardous part 
of which lay still before them. 

It is worth noticing that on the Platte one may 
sometimes see the shattered wrecks of ancient claw- 
footed tables, well waxed and rubbed, or massive 
bureaus of caned oak. These, many of them no 
doubt the relics of ancestral prosperity in the colonial 
time, must have encountered strange vicissitudes. 
Imported, perhaps, originally from England ; then, 
with the dechning fortunes of their owners, borne 
across the Alleghanies to the remote -wilderness of 
Ohio or Kentucky ; then to lUinois or Missouri ; 
and now at last fondly stowed away in the family 
wagon for the interminable journey to Oregon. But 
the stem privations of the way are little anticipated. 
The cherished relic is soon flung out to scorch and 
crack upon the hot prairie. 

We resumed our journey ; but we had gone 
scarcely a mile when R. called out from the rear : 

"We'll 'camp here!" 

" \\Tiy do you want to 'camp ? Look at the sun. 
It is not three o'clock yet." 

" We'll 'camp here !" 

This was the only reply vouchsafed. Delorier 
was in advance with his cart. Seeing the mule- 
wagon wheeling from the track, he began to turn 
his own team in the same direction. 

"Go on, Delorier ;" and the little cart advanced 
again. As we rode on we soon heard the wagon 
of our confederates creaking and jolting on behind 
us, and the driver, Wright, discharging a furious 
volley of oaths against his mules ; no doubt venting 
upon them the wrath which he dared not direct 
against a more appropriate object. 

Something of this sort had frequently occurred. 



TAKIXG FREXCH LEAVE. 95 

Our English friend was by no means partial to us, 
and we thought we discovered in his conduct a 
deliberate intention to thwart and annov us, es- 
pecially by retarding the movements of the part)-, 
which he knew that we. being Yankees, were anx- 
ious to quicken. Therefore he would insist on 
encamping at all unseasonable hours, saying that 
fifteen miles was a sufficient day's journey. Find- 
ing our wishes systematically disregarded, we took 
the direction of affairs into our own hands. Keep- 
ing always in advance, to the inexpressible indig- 
nation of R. , we encamped at what time and place 
we thought proper, not much caring whether the 
rest chose to follow or not. They always did so, 
however, pitching their tent near ours, with sullen 
and wrathful countenances. 

Travelling together on these agreeable terms did 
not suit our tastes ; for some time we had meditated 
a separation. The connection with this party had 
caused us various delays and inconveniences ; and 
the glaring want of courtesy and good sense dis- 
played by their virtual leader did not dispose us to 
bear these annoyances with much patience. We 
resolved to leave camp early in the morning, and 
push forward as rapidly as possible for Fort Laramie, 
which we hoped to reach, by hard travelling, in four 
or five days. The Captain soon trotted up between 
us, and we explained our intentions. 

"A ver)' extraordinary.- proceeding, upon my 
word 1" he remarked. Then he began to enlarge 
upon the enormity of the design. The most promi- 
nent impression in his mind evidently was that we 
were acting a base and treacherous part in deserting 
his party, in what he considered a very- dangerous 
stage of the journey. To palliate the atrocity of 
our conduct we ventured to suggest that we were 
only four in number, while his party still included 



96 



THE OREGON TRAIL. 



sixteen men ; and as, moreover, we were to go for- 
ward and they were to follow, at least a full propor- 
tion of the perils he apprehended would fall upon 
us. But the austerity of the Captain's features 
would not relax. " A ver)' extraoi'dinary proceed- 
ing, gentlemen !" and repeating this, he rode off to 
confer with his principal. 

By good luck we found a meadow of fresh grass 
and a large pool of rain-water in the midst of it. 
We encamped here at sunset. Plenty of buffalo 
skulls were lying around bleaching in the sun ; and 
sprinkled thickly among the grass was a great va- 
riety of strange flowers. I had nothing else to do, 
and so, gathering a handful, I sat down on a buffalo 
skull to study them. Although the oft'spring of a 
wilderness, their texture was frail and delicate, and 
their colors extremely rich : pure white, dark blue, 
and a transparent crimson. One travelling in this 
country seldom has leisure to think of anything but 
the stern features of the scenery and its accompani- 
ments, or the practical details of each day's jour- 
ney. Like them, he and his thoughts grow hard 
and rough. But now these flowers suddenly awak- 
ened a train of associations as alien to the rude 
scene around me as they were themselves ; and for 
the moment my thoughts went back to New England. 
A throng of fair and well-remembered faces rose, 
vividly as life, before me. ' ' There are good things, ' ' 
thought I, "in the savage life, but what can it offer 
to replace those powerful and ennobling influences 
that can reach unimpaired over more than three 
thousand miles of mountains, forests, and deserts?" 

Before sunrise on the ne.xt morning our tent was 
down ; we harnessed our best horses to the cart and 
left the camp. But first we shook hands with our 
friends the emigrants, who sincerely wished us a 
safe journey, though some others of the party might 



TAKIXG FRENCH LEAVE. 97 

easily have been consoled had we encountered an 
Indian war-party on the way. The Captain and his 
brother were standing on the top of a hill, wrapped 
in their plaids, like spirits of the mist, keeping an 
anxious eye on the band of horses below. We 
waved adieu to them as we rode off the ground. 
The Captain replied with a salutation of the utmost 
dignity, which Jack tried to imitate ; but being httle 
practised in the gestures of polite society, his effort 
was not a ver)- successful one. 

In five minutes we had gained the foot of the 
hills, but here we came to a stop. Old Hendrick 
was in the shafts, and being the very incarnation of 
per\'erse and brutish obstinacy, he utterly refused to 
move. Delorier lashed and swore till he was tired, 
but Hendrick stood like a rock, grumbhng to him- 
self and looking askance at his enemy, until he saw 
a favorable opportunity to take his revenge, when 
he struck out under the shaft with such cool malig- 
nity of intention that Delorier only escaped the blow 
by a sudden skip into the air, such as no one but a 
Frenchman could achieve. Shaw and he then 
joined forces, and lashed on both sides at once. 
The brute stood still for a while till he could bear it 
no longer, when all at once he began to kick and 
plunge till he threatened the utter demolition of the 
cart and harness. We glanced back at the camp, 
which was in full sight. Our companions, inspired 
by emulation, were levelling their tents and driving 
in their cattle and horses. 

" Take the horse out," said I. 

I took the saddle from Pontiac and put it upon 
Hendrick ; the former was harnessed to the cart in 
an instant. " .-Ji'izwtvt/cwr.'"' cried Delorier. Pon- 
tiac strode up the hill, twitching the little cart after 
him as if it were a feather's weight ; and though, as 
we gained the top, we saw the wagons of our de- 
7 



98 THE oreg::: 7 7. ail. 

serted comrade? . ;: rr" ^ ~:r - -e "; 

little fear that il;. ■: -^- - 1^:,.::.; 

trail, we struck direcily acr^^ss ijie couiitiy. anz : 
the shortest cut to reach the main stream ;; \:rz 
Platte. A deep lavine suddenly intercepted us. 
We skirted its sides until we found than less abrupt, 
and then plnnged tiuough the best way we : .' 
Passing behind the saody ravines called .-r. 
Hollow,"' we stepped fior a ^ort nooning i.: 
side of a pool of lain-water ; but soon resmtr 
journeT, and scone hours befere sunset wert ir- 
scending the ravines and goiges opening do^T. ri 
apon the Platte to die west of Ash Hollow, 
hoiseswaded to the fetlock in sand ; fliesunsccrr.T i 
like fire, and the air swarmed with sand-flies a- d 
mosquitoes. 

At last we gained the Flatte. Fidlowii^ ji ioi 
about five miles, we saw, just as tiie sun was sink- 
ing, a great meadow, dotted with hundreds of carJe. 
and beyond them an emigrant encampment A 
party of ab(K(t a dozen cadie out to meet as, 1 ; rr 
upon OS at first with cold and so^icioos : 
Seeing fotir men, difiereilt in appearance and t 
ment firom feemsehes, emerging from the hil " ; 
had taken ns for the van of die much-dreaded M:r- 
mons, whom they were very appreheusave rf eoc <" an- 
tering. We made known our true character 
then they greyed ns cordially. They exi: ^ 
much surprise that so anall a party sbonld ver:_re 
to traverse that r^on, though in &ct such atte~ z is 
are not unfrequently made by toappers and Indian 
traders. We rode with th^m to dior caonp. The 
wagons, some fifty in number, with here and in ere 
a tent intervening, were arranged as usual :r a 
circle ; in the area within the best horses were pick- 
eted, and the wh<4e drcumfaeilce was glowing v^iih 
the di:tsky light t& ^le fires, <&^]»ring the forms of 



TAKING FRENCH LEAVE. 99 

the women and children who were crowded around 
them. This patriarchal scene was curious and 
striking enough ; but we made our escape from the 
place with all possible dispatch, being tormented by 
the intrusive curiosity of the men, who crowded 
around us. Yankee curiosity was nothing to theirs. 
They demanded our names, where we came from, 
where we were going, and what was our business. 
The last quer\- was particularly embarrassing ; since 
travelling in that country, or indeed anywhere, from 
any other motive than gain, was an idea of which 
they took no cognizance. Yet they were fine-look- 
ing fellows, with an air of frankness, generosity, and 
even courtesy, having come from one of the least 
barbarous of the frontier counties. 

We passed about a mile beyond them and en- 
camped. Being too few in number to stand guard 
Avithout excessive fatigue, we extinguished our fire, 
lest it should attract the notice of wandering Indians ; 
and picketing our horses close around us, slept un- 
disturbed till morning. For three days we travelled 
without interruption, and on the evening of the third 
encamped by the well-known spring on Scott's 
Bluff. 

Henr)- Chatillon and I rode out in the morning, 
and descending the western side of the bluff, were 
crossing the plain beyond. Something that seemed 
to me a file of buffalo came into view, descending 
the hills several miles before us. But Henr)- reined 
in his horse, and keenly peering across the prairie 
with a better and more practised eye, soon discov- 
ered its real nature. " Indians ! " he said. " Old 
Smoke's lodges, I b'heve. Come I let us go ! 
Wah : get up, now, 'Five Hundred Dollar!''* 
And laying on the lash with good will, he galloped 
forward, and I rode by his side. Not long after a 
black speck became visible on the prairie, full two 



IX 



lOO THE OREGON TRAIL. 

miles oflf. It grew larger and larger ; it assumed 
the form of a man and horse ; and soon we could 
discern a naked Indian, careering at fuU gallop 
toward us. \Mien within a furlong he wheeled his 
horse in a wide circle, and made him describe 
\-arious mystic figures upon the prairie ; and Henry 
immediately compelled • ' Five Hundred Dollar ' ' to 
execute similar evolutions. "It is .01d._SmpJx^s 
village," said he, interpreting these signals \." didn't 
I say so ?' ' 

As the Indian approached we stopped to wait for 
him. when suddenly he vanished, sinking, as it 
were, into the earth. He had come upon one of 
the deep raWnes that everywhere intersect these 
prairies. In an instant the rough head of his horse 
stretched upward from the edge, and the rider and 
steed came scrambling out, and bounded up to us ; 
a sudden jerk of the rein brought the wild panting 
horse to a fiiU stop. Then followed the needfiil 
formality of shaking hands. I forget our \-isitor' s 
name. He was a young fellow, of no note in his 
nation ; yet in his i>erson and equipments he was a 
good specimen of a Dahcotah warrior in his ordinary 
travelling dress. Like most of his people, he was 
nearly sis feet high : hthely and gracefully, yet 
strongly proportioned ; and with a skin singularly 
clear and dehcate. He wore no paint ; his head was 
bare ; and his long hair was gathered in a clump 
behind, to the top of which was attached trans- 
versely, both by way of ornament and of talisman, 
the mystic whistle, made of the «ing-bone of the 
war-eagle, and endowed with various magic \"irtues. 
From the back of his head descended a line of 
ghttering brass plates, tapering from the size of a 
doubloon to that of a half dime, a cumbrous orna- 
ment, in high vogue among the Dahcotahs, and for 
which they pay the traders a mo3'©cliavs^nt"price ; 



TAKING FREXCH LEAVE. lOI 

his chest and arms were naked, the buffalo-robe 
worn over them when at rest had fallen about his 
waist, and was confined there by a belt. This, with 
the gay moccasons on his feet, completed his attire. 
For arms he carried a quiver of dog-skin at his back, 
and a rude but powerful bow in his hand. His 
horse had no bridle ; a cord of hair, lashed around 
his jaw, served in place of one. The saddle was of 
most singular construction ; it was made of wood 
covered with raw-hide, and both pommel and cantle 
rose perpendicularly full eighteen inches, so that the 
warrior was wedged firmly in his seat, whence noth- 
ing could dislodge him but the bursting of the girths. 
Advancing with our new companion, we found 
more of his people seated in a circle on the top of 
a hill ; while a rude procession came straggling down 
the neighboring hollow, men. women, and children, 
with horses dragging the lodge-poles behind them. 
All that morning, as we moved forward, tall savages 
were stalking silently about us. At noon we reached 
Horse Creek ; and as we waded through the shallow 
water we saw a wild and striking scene. The main 
body of the Indians had arrived before us. On the 
farther bank stood a large and strong man, nearly 
naked, holding a white horse by a long cord and eye- 
ing us as we approached. This was the chief, whom 
Henry called " Qld_^Smoke." Just behind him, his 
youngest and favonte squaw sat astride of a fine 
mule ; it was covered with caparisons of whitened 
skins, garnished with blue and white beads, and 
fringed with litde ornaments of metal that tinkled 
with every movement of the animal. The girl had 
a light clear complexion, enlivened by a spot of ver- 
milion on each cheek ; she smiled, not to say grinned, 
upon us, showing two gleaming rows of white teeth. 
In her hand she carried the tall lance of her unchiv- 
alrous lord, fluttering with feathers ; his round white 



I02 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

shield hung at the side of her mule : and his pipe 
was slung at her back. Her dress was a tunic of 
deer-skin, made beautifully white by means of a 
species of clay found on the prairie, and ornamented 
with beads, arrayed in figures more gay than taste- 
ful, and with long fringes at all the seams. Not far 
from the chief stood a group of stately figures, their 
white buttalo-robes thrown over their shoulders, 
gazing coldly upon us ; and in the rear, for several 
acres, the ground was covered with a temporan.- en- 
campment ; men, women, and children swarmed 
like bees ; hundreds of dogs, of all sizes and colors, 
ran restlessly about ; and close at hand, the wide 
shallow stream was alive with boys, girls, and young 
squaws, spl shing, screaming, and laughing in the 
water. At the same time a long train of emigrant 
wagons were crossing the creek, and dragging on in 
their slow, heavy procession, passed the encamp- 
ment of the people whom they and their descend- 
ants, in the space of a centur)-, are to sweep from 
the face of the earth. 

The encampment itself was merely a temporary' 
one during the heat of the day. None of the lodges 
were erected ; but their heavy leather coverings, and 
the long poles used to support them, were scattered 
evervwhere around, among weapons, domestic uten- 
sils, and the rude harness of mules and horses. The 
squaws of each lazy warrior had made him a shelter 
fi-om the sun by stretching a few buft'alo-robes or 
the comer of a lodge-covering upon poles ; and here 
he sat in the shade, with a favorite young squaw, 
perhaps, at his side, glittering \\-ith all imaginable 
trinkets. Before him stood the insignia of his rank 
as a warrior, his white shield of bull-hide, his medi- 
cine-bag, his bow and quiver, his lance and his pipe, 
raised aloft on a tripod of three poles. Except the 
dogs, the most active and noisy tenants of the camp 



TAKING FRENCH LEAVE. IO3 

were the old women, ugly as Macbeth' s witches, 
with their hair streaming loose in the wind, and 
nothing but the tattered fragment of an old bufl'alo- 
robe to hide their shrivelled wiry limbs. The day 
of their favoritism passed two generations ago ; now 
the heaviest labors of the camp devolved upon them ; 
they were to harness the horses, pitch the lodges, 
dress the buffalo-robes, and bring in meat for the 
hunters. With the cracked voices of these hags, 
the clamor of dogs, the shouting and laughing of 
children and girls, and the listless tranquillity of the 
warriors, the whole scene had an effect too lively 
and picturesque ever to be forgotten. 

We stopped not far from the Indian camp, and 
having invited some of the chiefs and warriors to 
dinner, placed before them a sumptuous repast of 
biscuit and coffee. Squatted in a half circle on the 
ground, they soon disposed of it. As we rode for- 
ward on the afternoon journey, several of our late 
guests accompanied us. Among the rest was a 
huge bloated savage, of more than three hundred 
pounds' weight, christened Zt' Cochon, in considera- 
tion of his preposterous dimensions, and certain 
corresponding traits of his character. ' ' The Hog 
bestrode a little white pony, scarce able to bear up 
under the enormous burden, though, by way of 
keeping up the necessary stimulus, the rider kept 
both feet in constant motion, playing alternately 
against his ribs. The old man was not a chief ; he 
never had ambition enough to become one ; he was 
not a warrior nor a hunter, for he was too fat and 
lazy ; but he was the richest man in the whole vil- 
lage. Riches among the Dahcotahs consist in 
horses, and of these " The Hog" had accumulated 
more than thirty. He had already ten times as 
many as he wanted, yet still his appetite for horses 
was insatiable. Trotting up to me, he shook me by 



IQ4 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

the hand, and gave me to understand that he was a 
ven- devoted friend ; and then he began a series of 
most earnest signs and gesticulations, his oily coun- 
tenance radiant with smiles, and his httle eyes {>eep> 
ing oxit with a cunning twinkle fit>m between the 
masses of flesh that almost obscured them. Know- 
ing nothing at that time of the sign-language of the 
Indians, I could only guess at his meaning. So 1 
called on Henry to explain it. 

' ■ The Hog, " ' it seems, was anxious to conclude a 
matrimonial bargain. "He said he had a verj- prett>' 
daughter in his lodge, whom he would give me. if 
I would ^ive him my horse. These flattering over- 
tures I chose to reject ; at which "The Hog." still 
laughing with undiminished good humor, gathered 
his robe about his shoulders and rode away. 

\Miere we encam|)ed that night an arm of the 
Platte ran between high bluffs ; it was turbid and 
swift as heretofore, but trees were growing on its 
crumbling banks, and there was a nook of grass 
between the water and the hill. Just before enter- 
ing this place we saw the emigrants encamping at 
two or three miles' distance on the right ; while the 
whole Indian rabble were pouring down the neigh- 
boring hiU in hope of the same sort of entertain- 
ment which they had experienced from us. In the 
sa\Tige landscape before oiu- camp nothing but the 
rushing of the Platte broke the alence. Through 
the ragged boughs of the trees, dilapidated and half 
dead, we saw the sun setting in crimson behind the 
peaks of the Black HUls ; the restless bosom of the 
river was suffused with red ; our white tent was 
tinged with it, and the sterile bluffs, up to the rocks 
that cro^med them, partook of the same fiery hue. 
It soon passed away : no Ught remained but that 
from our fire, blazing high among the dusky trees 
and bushes. We lay around it wrapped in our 



TAKING FRENCH LEA VE. I05 

blankets, smoking and conversing until a late hour, 
and then withdrew to our tent. 

We crossed a sun-scorched plain on the next 
morning, the line of old cotton-wood trees that 
fringed the bank of the Platte forming its extreme 
verge. Nestled apparently close beneath them, we 
could discern in the distance something like a build- 
ing. As we came nearer, it assumed form and di- 
mensions, and proved to be a rough structure of 
logs. It was a little trading fort, belonging to two 
private traders ; and originally intended, like all the 
forts of the country, to forni a hollow square, with 
rooms for lodging and storage opening upon the 
area within. Only two sides of it had been com- 
pleted ; the place was now as ill-fitted for the pur- 
poses of defence as any of those little log-houses 
which upon our constantly-shifting frontier have 
been so often successfully maintained against over- 
whelming odds of Indians. Two lodges were 
pitched close to the fort ; the sun beat scorching 
upon the logs ; no living thing was stirring except 
one old squaw, who thrust her round head from the 
opening of the nearest lodge, and three or four 
stout young pups, who were peeping with looks of 
eager inquiry from under the covering. In a 
moment a door opened, and a little swarthy, black- 
eyed Frenchman came out. His dress was rather 
singular ; his black curling hair was parted in the 
middle of his head, and fell below his shoulders ; 
he wore a tight frock of smoked deer-skin, very 
gayly ornamented with figures worked in dyed por- 
cupine-quills. His moccasons and leggings were 
also gaudily adorned in the same manner ; and the 
latter had in addition a line of long fringes, reach- 
ing down the seams. The small frame of Richard, 
for by this name Henry made him known to us, 
was in the highest degree athletic and vigorous. 



I06 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

There was no superfluity, and indeed there seldom 
is among the active white men of this countr)-, but 
ever)- hmb was compact and hard ; ever)- sinew had 
its full tone and elasticity, and the whole man wore 
an air of mingled hardihood and buoyancy. 

Richard committed our horses to a N'avaho slave, 
a mean-looking fellow, taken prisoner on the Mexi- 
can frontier ; and relieving us of our rifles with 
ready politeness, led the way into the principal 
apartment of his establishment. This was a room 
ten feet square. The walls and floor were of black 
mud, and the roof of rough timber ; there was a 
huge fireplace made of four flat rocks, picked up on 
the prairie. An Indian bow and otter-skin quiver, 
several gaudy articles of Rocky Mountain finer)^ 
an Indian medicine-bag, and a pipe and tobacco- 
pouch garnished the walls, and rifles rested in a 
comer. There was no furniture except a sort of 
rough settle, covered wvCa. buffalo-robes, upon which 
lolled a tall half-breed, with his hair glued in masses 
upon each temple, and saturated with vermilion. 
Two or three more ' ' mountain men ' ' sat cross- 
legged on the floor. Their attire was not unlike 
that of Richard himself; but the most striking 
figure of the group was a naked Indian boy of six- 
teen, with a handsome face, and fight, active pro- 
portions, who sat in an easy posture in the comer 
near the door. Not one of his limbs moved the 
breadth of a hair ; his eye was fixed immovably, 
not on any person present, but, as it appeared, on 
the projecting comer of the fireplace opposite to 
him. 

On these prairies the custom of smoking with 
friends is seldom omitted, whether among Indians 
or whites. The pipe, therefore, was taken from 
the wall, and its great red bowl crammed with the 
tobacco and shongsasha, mixed in suitable pro- 



TAKIXG FREXCH LEAVE. 10/ 

portions. Then it passed round the circle, each 
man inhahng a few whites and handing it to his 
neighbor. Having spent half an hour here, we 
took our leave ; first inviting our new friends to 
drink a cup of cofifee with us at our camp a mile 
farther up the river. 

By this time, as the reader may conceive, we had 
grown rather shabby ; our clodies had burst into 
rags and tatters : and what was worse, we had ver\- 
little means of renovation. Fort Laram.ie was but 
seven miles before us. Being totally averse to ap- 
pearing in such a plight among any society that 
could boast an appro.ximation to the civilized, we 
soon stopped by the ri\ er to make our toilet in the 
best way we could. We hung up small looking- 
glasses against the trees and shaved, an operation 
neglected for six weeks ; we performed our ablutions 
in the Platte, though the utility- of such a proceeding 
was questionable, the water looking exactly like a 
cup of chocolate, and the banks consisting of the 
softest and richest yellow mud, so that we were 
obliged, as a preliminary, to build a causeway of 
stout branches and tvngs. Having also put on 
radiant moccasons, procured from a squaw of 
Richard's establishment, and made what other im- 
provements our narrow circumstances allowed, we 
took our seats on the grass with a feeling of greatly 
increased respectability-, to await the arrival of our 
guests. They came ; the banquet was concluded, 
and the pipe smoked. Bidding them adieu, we 
turned our horses' heads toward the fort. 

An hour elapsed. The barren hills closed across 
our front, and we could see no farther, until having 
surmounted them ; a rapid stream appeared at the 
foot of the descent, running into the Platte ; beyond 
was a green meadow, dotted «-ith bushes, and in 
the midst of these, at the point where the two rivers 



I08 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

joined, were the low clay walls of a fort. This 
was not Fort Laramie, but another post of less 
recent date, which having sunk before its successful 
competitor, was now deserted and ruinous. A 
moiTient after, the hills seeming to draw apart as we 
advanced, disclosed Fort Laramie itself, its high 
bastions and perpendicular walls of clay crowning 
an eminence on the left beyond the stream, while 
behind stretched a line of arid and desolate ridges, 
and behind these again, towering aloft seven thou- 
sand feet, arose the grim Black Hills. 

We tried to ford Laramie Creek at a point nearly 
opposite the fort, but the stream, swollen with the 
rains in the mountains, was too rapid. We passed 
up along its bank to find a better crossing place. 
Men gathered on the wall to look at us. " There's 
Bordeaux !" called Henry, his face brightening as 
he recognized his acquaintance ; ' ' him there with 
the spy -glass ; and there's old Vaskiss, and Tucker, 
and May; and, by George! there's Cimoneau I" 
This Cimoneau was Henrj^'s fast friend, and the 
only man in the countrj' who could rival him in 
hunting. 

We soon found a ford. Henr)- led the way, the 
pony approaching the bank with a countenance of 
cool indifference, bracing his feet and sliding into 
the stream with the most unmoved composure : 

"At the first plunge the horse sunk low, 
And the water broke o'er the saddle-bow." 

We followed ; the water boiled against our sad- 
dles, but our horses bore us easily through. The 
unfortunate little mules came near going down with 
the current, cart and all ; and we watched them 
with some solicitude scrambling over the loose 
round stones at the bottom, and bracing stoutly 
against the stream. All landed safely at last ; we 



SCENES AT FORT LARAMIE. I09 

crossed a little plain, descended a hollow, and 
riding up a steep bank, found ourselves before the 
gateway of Fort Laramie, under the impending 
blockhouse erected above it to defend the entrance. 



CHAPTER IX. 

SCENES AT FORT LARAMIE. 

" 'Tis true they are a lawless brood, 

But rough in form, nor mild in mood." 

The Bride ok Abydos. 

Looking back, after the expiration of a year, 
upon Fort Laramie and its inmates, they seem less 
like a reality than like some fanciful picture of the 
olden time ; so different was the scene from any 
which this tamer side of the world can present. 
Tall Indians, enveloped in their white buffalo-robes, 
were striding across the area or reclining at full 
length on the low roofs of the buildings which in- 
closed it. Numerous squaws, gayly bedizened, sat 
grouped in front of the apartments they occupied ; 
their mongrel offspring, restless and vociferous, 
rambled in every direction through the fort ; and 
the trappers, traders, and ejigages of the establish- 
ment were busy at their labor or their amusements. 

We were met at the gate, but by no means cor- 
dially welcomed. Indeed, we seemed objects of 
some distrust and suspicion, until Henry Chatillon 
explained that we were not traders, and we, in con- 
firmation, handed to the bourgeois a letter of intro- 
duction from his principals. He took it, turned it 
upside down, and tried hard to read it ; but his 
literary attainments not being adequate to the task, 
he applied for relief to the clerk, a sleek, smiling 



no THE OREGON TRAIL. 

Frenchman, named Montalon. The letter read, 
Bordeaux (the bourgeois) seemed gradually to 
awaken to a sense of what was expected of him. 
Though not deficient in hospitable intentions, he 
was wholly unaccustomed to act as master of cere- 
monies. Discarding all formalities of reception, he 
did not honor us with a single word, but walked 
swiftly across the area, while we followed in some 
admiration to a jailing and a flight of steps opposite 
the entrance. He signed to us that we had better 
fasten our horses to the railing ; then he walked up 
the steps, tramped along a rude balcony, and kick- 
ing open a door, displayed a large room, rather 
more elaborately finished than a bam. For furni- 
ture it had a rough bedstead, but no bed ; two 
chairs, a chest of drawers, a tin pail to hold water, 
and a board to cut tobacco upon. A brass crucifi^x 
hung on the wall, and close at hand a recent scalp, 
with hair full a yard long, was suspended from a 
nail. I shall again have occasion to mention this 
dismal trophy, its history being connected with that 
of our subsequent proceedings. 

This apartment, the best iii Fort Laramie, was 
that usually occupied by the legitimate bourgeois, 
Papin ; in whose absence the command devolved 
upon Bordeaux. The latter, a stout, bluff little fel- 
low, much inflated by a sense of his new authority, 
began to roar for buffalo-robes. These being 
brought and spread upon the floor formed our 
beds ; much better ones than we had of late been 
accustomed to. Our arrangements made, we stepped 
out to the balcony to take a more leisurely survey 
of the long-looked-for haven at which we had ar- 
rived at last. Beneath us was the square area sur- 
rounded by little rooms, or rather cells, which 
opened upon it. These were devoted to various 
purposes, but served chiefly for the accommodation 



SC£X£S AT FORT LARAMIE. Ill 

of the men employed at the fort, or of the equally 
numerous squaws whom they were allowed to main- 
tain in it. Opposite to us rose the blockhouse above 
the gateway ; it was adorned with a figure which 
even now haunts my memor\- ; a horse at full speed, 
daubed upon the boards with red paint, and exhib- 
iting a degree of skill that might rival that displayed 
by the Indians in executing similar designs upon 
tneir robes and lodges. A busy scene was enacting 
in the area. The wagons of \'askiss, an old trader, 
•were about to set out for a remote post in the moun- 
tains, and the Canadians were going through their 
preparations with all possible busde. while here and 
there an Indian stood looking on with imperturbable 
gravity. 

Fort Laramie is one of the posts established by 
the ' ' Ameri can Fur Company," who well-nigh 
niohopohze the Indian trade of this whole region. 
Here their officials rule with an absolute sway ; the 
arm of the United States has little force ; for when 
we were there, the extreme outposts of her troops 
were about seven hundred miles to the eastward. 
The little fort is built of bricks dried in the sun, and 
externally is of an oblong form, with bastions of 
clay, in the form of ordinan.^ blockhouses, at two of 
the comers. The walls are about fifteen feet high, 
and surmounted by a slender palisade. The roofs 
of the apartments within, which are built close 
against the walls, serve the purpose of a banquette. 
Within, the fort is divided by a partition ; on one 
side is the square area, surrounded by the store- 
rooms, offices, and apartments of the inmates ; on 
the other is the corral, a narrow place, encompassed 
by the high clay walls, where at night, or in pres- 
ence of dangerous Indians, the horses and mules of 
the fort are crowded for safe keeping. The main 
entrance has two gates, with an arched passage 



112 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

inter\-ening. A little square ^\-indow, quite high 
above the ground, opens laterally from an adjoining 
chamber into this passage ; so that when the inner 
gate is closed and barred, a person without may 
still hold communication %\ith those within, through 
this narrow aperture. This obviates the neces£it>' 
of admitting suspicious Indians, for purposes of 
trading, into the body of the fort ; for when danger 
is apprehended the inner gate is shut fast, and all 
traffic is carried on by means of the little window. 
This precaution, though highly necessan,- at some 
of the company's posts, is now seldom resorted to 
at Fort Laramie ; where, though men are frequently 
killed in its neighborhood, no apprehensions are 
now entertained of any general designs of hostility 
from the Indians. 

We did not long enjoy our new quarters undis- 
turbed. The door was silently pushed open, and 
two eyeballs and a visage as black as night looked 
in upon us ; then a red arm and shoulder intruded 
themselves, and a tall Indian, ghding in, shook us 
by the hand, grunted his salutation, and sat down 
on the floor. Others followed, with faces of the 
natural hue ; and letting fall their heavy robes from 
their shoulders, they took their seats, quite at ease, 
in a semicircle before us. The pipe was now to be 
lighted and passed round from one to another ; and 
this was the only entertainment that at present 
they expected from us. These visitors were fathers, 
brothers, or other relatives of the squaws in the 
fort, where they were permitted to remain, loitering 
about in perfect idleness. All those who smoked 
with us were men of standing and repute. Two or 
three others dropped in also ; young fellows who 
neither by their years nor their exploits were en- 
titled to rank with the old men and warriors, and 
who, abashed in the presence of their superiors, 



SCENES AT FORT LARAMIE. II3 

stood aloof, never withdrawing their eyes from us. 
Their cheeks were adorned with vermiHon, their 
ears with pendants of shell, and their necks with 
beads. Never yet having signalized themselves as 
hunters, or performed the honorable exploit of kill- 
ing a man, they were held in slight esteem, and 
were diffident and bashful in proportion. Certain 
formidable inconveniences attended this influx of 
visitors. They were bent on inspecting everything 
in the room ; our equipments and our dress alike 
underwent their scrutiny ; for though the contrary 
has been carelessly asserted, few beings have more 
curiosity than Indians in regard to subjects within 
their ordinary range of thought. As to other mat- 
ters, indeed, they seem utterly indifferent. They 
will not trouble themselves to inquire into what 
they cannot comprehend, but are quite contented to 
place their hands over their mouths in token of 
wonder, and exclaim that it is " great medicine." 
With this comprehensive solution, an Indian never 
is at a loss. He never launches forth into specula- 
tion and conjecture ; his reason moves in its beaten 
track. His soul is dormant ; and no exertions of 
the missionaries, Jesuit or Puritan, of the Old World 
or of the New, have as yet availed to rouse it. 

As we were looking, at sunset, from the wall, 
upon the wild and desolate plains that surround the 
fort, we observed a cluster of strange objects, like 
scaffolds, rising in the distance against the red 
western sky. They bore aloft some singular-looking 
burdens ; and at their foot glimmered something 
white, like bones. This was the place of sepulture 
of some Dahcotah chiefs, whose remains their 
people are fond of placing in the vicinity of the 
fort, in the hope that they may thus be protected 
from violation at the hands of their enemies. Yet 
it has happened more than once, and quite recently, 



114 ^-^-^ OREGON TRAIL. 

that war-parties of the Crow Indians, ranging 
through the countn,-, have thrown the bodies from 
the scaffolds, and broken them to pieces, amid the 
yells of the Dahcotahs, who remained pent up in 
the fort, too few to defend the honored reUcs from in- 
sult. The white objects upon the ground were buffalo 
skulls, arranged in the mystic circle commonly 
seen at Indian places of sepulture upon the prairie. 

We soon discovered, in the twilight, a band of 
fifty or sixt}- horses approaching the fort. These 
were the animals belonging to the establishment ; 
who having been sent out to feed, under the care of 
armed guards, in the meadows below, were now 
being driven into the corral for the night. A little 
gate opened into this inclosure : by the side of it 
stood one of the guards, an old Canadian, with gray 
bushy eyebrows, and a dragoon-pistol stuck into his 
belt ; while his comrade, mounted on horseback, 
his rifle laid across the saddle in front of him, and 
his long hair blo\\-ing before his swarthy face, rode 
at the rear of the disorderly troop, urging them up 
the ascent. In a moment the narrow corral was 
thronged with the half-wild horses, kicking, biting, 
and crowding restlessly together. 

The discordant jingHng of a bell, rung by a 
Canadian in the area, summoned us to supper. 
This sumptuous repast was served on a rough table 
in one of the lower apartments of the fort, and con- 
sisted of cakes of bread and dried buffalo-meat — an 
excellent thing for strengthening the teeth. At this 
meal were seated the bourgeois and superior digni- 
taries of the estabhshment, among whom Henry 
Chatillon was worthily included. No sooner was it 
finished than the table was spread a second time 
(the luxur\- of bread being now, however, omitted) 
for the benefit of certain hunters and trappers of an 
inferior standing ; while the ordinar)- Canadian 



SCENES AT FORT LARAMIE. II5 

engages were regaled on dried meat in one of their 
lodging rooms. By way of illustrating the domestic 
economy of Fort Laramie, it may not be amiss to 
introduce in this place a story current among the 
men when we were there. 

There was an old man named Pierre, whose duty 
it was to bring the meat from the store-room for the 
men. Old Pierre, in the kindness of his heart, used 
to select the fattest and the best pieces for his com- 
panions. This did not long escape the keen-eyed 
bourgeois, who was greatly disturbed at such im- 
providence, and cast about for some means to stop 
it. At last he hit on a plan that exactly suited him. 
At the side of the meat-room, and separated from 
it by a clay partition, was another apartment, used 
for the storage of furs. It had no other communi- 
cation with the fort except through a square hole in 
the partition, and of course it was perfectly dark. 
One evening the bourgeois, watching for a moment 
when no one observed him, dodged into the meat- 
room, clambered through the hole, and ensconced 
himself among the furs and buffalo-robes. Soon 
after old Pierre came in with his lantern ; and, 
muttering to himself, began to pull over the bales 
of meat, and select the best pieces, as usual. Ikit 
suddenly a hollow and sepulchral voice proceeded 
from the inner apartment : " Pierre I Pierre ! Let 
that fat meat alone! Take nothing but lean!" 
Pierre dropped his lantern, and bolted out into the 
fort, screaming, in an agony of terror, that the devil 
was in the store-room ; but tripping on the thresh- 
old, he pitched over upon the gravel, and lay sense- 
less, stunned by the fall. The Canadians ran out 
to the rescue. Some lifted the unlucky Pierre ; and 
others, making an extempore crucifix out of two 
sticks, were proceeding to attack the devil in his 
stronghold, when the bourgeois, with a crestfallen 



Il6 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

countenance, appeared at the door. To add to the 
bourgeois s mortification, he was obliged to explain 
the whole stratagem to Pierre in order to bring the 
latter to his senses. 

We were sitting, on the following morning, in the 
passageway betAveen the gates, conversing with the 
traders \'askiss and May. These t^vo men, together 
with our sleek friend, the clerk Montalon, were, I 
believe, the only persons then in the fort who could 
read and write. May was telling a curious stor)' 
about the traveller Catlin. when an ugly, diminu- 
tive Indian, wTetchedly mounted, came up at a 
gallop, and rode past us into the fort. On being 
questioned, he said that Smoke" s village was close 
at hand. Accordingly only a few minutes elapsed 
before the hills beyond the river were covered with 
a disorderly swarm of savages, on horseback and 
on foot. May finished his ston." ; and by that time 
the whole array had descended to Laramie Creek, 
and commenced crossing it in a mass. I walked 
down to the bank. The stream is wide, and was 
then bet\veen three and four feet deep, with a verj- 
swift current. For several rods the water was alive 
with dogs, horses, and Indians. The long poles 
used in erecting the lodges are carried by the horses, 
being fastened by the heavier end, rvvo or three on 
each side, to a rude sort of pack-saddle, while the 
ether end drags on the ground. About a foot 
behind the horse a kind of large basket or pannier 
is suspended between the poles, and firmly lashed 
in its place. On the back of the horse are piled 
various articles of luggage ; the basket also is well 
filled with domestic utensils, or, quite as often, with 
a litter of puppies, a brood of small children, or a 
superannuated old man. Numbers of these curious 
vehicles, called, in the bastard language of the 
country, travaux, were now splashing together 



SCENES AT FORT LARAMIE. WJ 

through the stream. Among them swam countless 
dogs, often burdened with miniature travail x ; and 
dashing forward on horseback through the throng 
came the superbly formed warriors, the slender 
figure of some lynx-eyed boy clinging fast behind 
them. The women sat perched on the pack-saddles, 
adding not a little to the load of the already over- 
burdened horses. The confusion was prodigious. 
The dogs yelled and howled in chorus ; the puppies 
in the travaiix set up a dismal whine as the water 
invaded their comfortable retreat ; the little black- 
eyed children, from one year of age upward, clung 
fast with both hands to the edge of their basket, and 
looked over in alarm at the \\ater rushing so near 
them, sputtering and making wry mouths as it 
splashed against their faces. Some of the dogs, 
encumbered by their load, were carried down by the 
current, yelping piteously ; and the old squaws 
would rush into the water, seize their favorites by 
the neck and drag them out. As each horse gained 
the bank he scrambled up as he could. Stray 
horses and colts came among the rest, often break- 
ing away at full speed through the crowd, followed 
by the old hags, screaming, after their fashion, on 
all occasions of excitement. Buxom young squaws, 
blooming in all the charms of vermilion, stood here 
and there on the bank, holding aloft their master's 
lance as a signal to collect the scattered portions of 
his household. In a few moments the crowd melted 
away ; each family, with its horses and equipage, 
filing off to the plain at the rear of the fort ; and 
here, in the space of half an hour, arose sixty or 
seventy of their tapering lodges. Their horses were 
feeding by hundreds over the surrounding prairie, 
and their dogs were roaming everywhere. The fort 
was full of men, and the children were whooping 
and yelling incessantly under the walls. 



Il8 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

These new-comers were scarcely arrived, when 
Bordeaux was running across the fort, shouting to 
his squaw to bring him his spy-glass. The obedient 
Marie, the ver)- model of a squaw, produced the 
instrument, and Bordeaux hurried with it up to the 
wall. Pointing it to the eastward, he exclaimed, 
with an oath, that the families were coming. But a 
few moments elapsed before the heavy caravan of 
the emigrant wagons could be seen, steadily ad- 
vancing from the hills. They gained the river, and 
without turning or pausing plunged in ; they passed 
through, and slowly ascending the opposing bank, 
kept directly on their way past the fort and the 
Indian \-iUage, until, gaining a spot a quarter of a 
mile distant, they wheeled into a circle. For some 
time our tranquillity," was undisturbed. The emi- 
grants were preparing their encampment ; but no 
sooner was this accomplished, than Fort Laramie 
was fairly taken by storm. A crowd of broad- 
brimmed hats, thin %-isages, and staring eyes ap- 
peared suddenly at the gate. Tall, awkward men, 
in brown homespun ; women with cadaverous faces 
and long lank figures, came thronging in together, 
and, as if inspired by the very demon of curiosity", 
ransacked every nook and corner of the fort. Dis- 
mayed at this invasion, we withdrew in all speed to 
our chamber, vainly hoping that it might prove 
an in\iolable sanctuar>\ The emigrants prosecuted 
their investigations with untiring vigor. They pene- 
trated the rooms, or rather dens, inhabited by the 
astonished squaws. They explored the apartments 
of the men, and even that of Marie and the bour- 
geois. At last a numerous deputation appeared at 
our door, but were immediately expelled. Being 
totally devoid of any sense of delicacy or propriety, 
they seemed resolved to search every myster)^ to the 
bottom. 



SCENES AT FORT LARAMIE. I I9 

Having at length satisfied their curiosity, they 
next proceeded to business. The men occupied 
themselves in procuring supplies for their onward 
journey ; either buying them with money or giving 
in exchange superfluous articles of their own. 

The emigrants felt a violent prejudice against the 
/ Erench Indians, as they called the trappers and 
traders. They thought, and with some justice, that 
these men bore them no good will. Many of them 
were firmly persuaded that the French were insti- 
gating the Indians to attack and cut them off. On 
visiting the encampment we were at once struck 
with the extraordinary perplexity and indecision that 
prevailed among the emigrants. They seemed like 
men totally out of their element ; bewildered and 
amazed, like a troop of school-boys lost in the 
woods. It was impossible to be long among them 
without being conscious of the high and bold spirit 
with which most of them were animated. But the 
forest is the home of the backwoodsman. On the 
remote prairie he is totally at a loss. He differs as 
much from the genuine " mountain man," the wild 
prairie hunter, as a Canadian voyageur, paddling 
his canoe on the rapids of the Ottawa, differs from 
an American sailor among the storms of Cape Horn. 
Still my companion and I were somewhat at a loss 
to account for this perturbed state of mind. It could 
not be cowardice : these men were of the same stock 
with the volunteers of Monterey and Buena Vista. 
Yet, for the most part, they were the rudest and 
most ignorant of the frontier population ; they knew 
absolutely nothing of the country and its inhabitants ; 
they had already experienced much misfortune and 
apprehended more ; they had seen nothing of man- 
kind, and had never put their own resources to the 
test. 

A full proportion of suspicion fell upon us. Being 



I20 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

strangers, we were looked upon as enemies. Ha\-ing 
occasion for a supply of lead and a few other neces- 
sary articles, we used to go over to the emigrant 
camps to obtain them. After some hesitation, some 
dubious glances, and fumbling of the hands in the 
pockets, the terms would be agreed upon, the price 
tendered, and the emigrant would go off to bring 
the article in question. After waiting until our 
patience gave out, we would go in search of him, 
and find him seated on the tongue of his wagon. 

"Well, stranger," he would observe, as he saw 
us approach, " I reckon I won't trade !" 

Some friend of his had followed him from the 
scene of the bargain, and suggested in his ear that 
clearly we meant to cheat him, and he had better 
have nothing to do with us. 

This timorous mood of the emigrants was doubly 
unfortunate, as it exposed them to real danger. 
Assunie, in the presence of Indians, a bold bearing, 
self-confident yet vigilant, and you will find them 
tolerably safe neighbors. But your safety depends 
on the respect and fear you are able to inspire. If 
you betray timidit}- or indecision, you convert them 
from that moment into insidious and dangerous ene- 
mies. The Dahcotah saw clearly enough the per- 
turbation of the emigrants, and instantly availed 
themselves of it. They became extremely insolent 
and exacting in their demands. It has become an 
established custom with them to go to the camp of 
ever\- part}-, as it arrives in succession at the fort, 
and demand a feast. Smoke's village had come 
with this express design, having made several days' 
journey with no other object than that of enjojnng a 
cup of cofiee and two or three biscuits. So the 
' ' feast ' ' was demanded, and the emigrants dared 
not refuse it. 

One evening, about sunset, the v-illage was de- 



/ 



SCENES AT FORT LARAMIE. 121 

serted. We met old men, warriors, squaws, and 
children in gay attire, trooping off to the encamp- 
ment, with faces of anticipation ; and, arriving here, 
they seated themselves in a semicircle. Smoke 
occupied the centre, with his warriors on either 
hand ; the young men and boys next succeeded, 
and the squaws and children formed the horns of 
the crescent. The biscuit and coffee were most 
promptly dispatched, the emigrants staring open- 
mouthed at their savage guests. With each emi- 
grant party that arrived at Fort Laramie this scene 
was renewed ; and ever}- day the Indians grew more 
rapacious and presumptuous. One evening they 
broke to pieces, out of mere wantonness, the cups 
from which they had been feasted ; and this so ex- 
asperated the emigrants that many of them seized 
their rifles and could scarcely be restrained from 
firing on the insolent mob of Indians. Before we 
left the countn,- this dangerous spirit on the part of 
the Dahcotah had mounted to a yet higher pitch. 
They began openly to threaten the emigrants with 
destruction, and actually tired upon one or two par- 
ties of whites. A militar)' force and militar}- law 
are urgently called for in that perilous region ; and 
unless troops are speedily stationed at Fort Laramie, 
or elsewhere in the neighborhood, both the emi- 
grants and other travellers will be exposed to most 
imminent risks. 

The Ogillallah, the Brule, and the other western 
bands of the Dahcotah are thorough savages, un- 
changed by any contact with civilization. Not one 
of them can speak an European tongue, or has ever 
visited an American settlement. L'ntil within a 
year or two, when the emigrants began to pass 
through their country- on the way to Oregon, they 
had seen no whites except the handful employed 
about the Fur Company's posts. They esteemed 



122 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

them a wise people, inferior only to themselves, 
living in leather lodges, like their own, and sub- 
sisting on buffalo. But when the swarm of Menc- 
aska, with their oxen and wagons, began to invade 
them, their astonishment was unbounded. They 
could scarcely beheve that the earth contained such 
a multitude of white men. Their wonder is now 
giving way to indignation ; and the result, unless 
vigilantly guarded against, may be lamentable in 
the extreme. 

■ — But to glance at the interior of a lodge. Shaw 
and I used often to visit them. Indeed, we spent 
most of our evenings in the Indian village ; Shaw's 
assumption of the medical character giving us a fair 
pretext. As a sample of the rest I will describe 
one of these visits. The sun had just set, and the 
horses were driven into the corraL The Prairie 
Cock, a noted beau, came in at the gate with a bevy 
of young girls, with whom he began a dance in the 
area, leading them round and round in a circle, 
while he jerked up from his chest a succession of 
monotonous sounds, to which they kept time in a rue- 
ful chant. Outside the gate boys and young men 
were idly frolicking ; and close by, looking grimly 
upon them, stood a warrior in his robe, with his fece 
painted jet-black, in token that he had latelv taken 
a Pawnee scalp. Passing these, the tall dark lodges 
rose between us and the red western sky. We re- 
paired at once to the lodge of Old Smoke himself. 
It was by no means better than the others ; indeed, 
it was rather shabby ; for in this democratic com- 
munity the chief never assumes superior state. 
Smoke sat cross-legged on a buffalo-robe, and his 
grunt of salutation as we entered w-as unusually 
cordial, out of respect no doubt to Shaw's medical 
character. Seated around the lodge were several 
squaws, and an abundance of children. The com- 



SCEA'ES AT FORT LARAMIE. 1 23 

plaint of Shaw's patients was, for the most part, a 
severe inflammation of the eyes, occasioned by ex- 
posure to the sun, a species of disorder which he 
treated with some success. He had brought with 
him a homoeopathic medicine-chest, and was, I 
presume, the first who introduced that harmless 
system of treatment among the Ogillallah. No 
sooner had a robe been spread at the head of the 
lodge for our accommodation, and we had seated 
ourselves upon it, than a patient made her appear- 
ance ; the chiefs daughter herself, who. to do her 
justice, was the best-looking girl in the village. 
Being on excellent terms with the physician, she 
placed herself readily under his hands, and sub- 
mitted with a good grace to his applications, laugh- 
ing in his face during the whole process, for a squaw 
hardly knows how to smile. This case dispatched, 
another of a different kind succeeded. A hideous, 
emaciated old woman sat in the darkest comer of 
the lodge, rocking to and fro with pain, and hiding 
her eyes from the light by pressing the palms of 
both hands against her face. At Smoke's com- 
mand she came fonvard ven.- un%^'illingly, and ex- 
hibited a pair of eyes that had nearly disappeared 
from excess of inflammation. No sooner had the 
doctor fastened his grip upon her than she set up a 
dismal moaning, and writhed so in his grasp that he 
lost all patience, but being resolved to carry his 
point, he succeeded at last in applying his favorite 
remedies. 

" It is strange," he said, when the operation was 
finished, "that I forgot to bring any Spanish flies 
with me ; we must have something here to answer 
for a counter-irritant ! " 

So, in the absence of better, he seized upon a red- 
hot brand from the fire, and clapped it against the 
temple of the old squaw, who set up an unearthly 



124 ^-^^ OREGON TRAIL. 

howl, at which the rest of the family broke out into 
a laugh. 

During these medical operations Smoke's eldest 
squaw entered the lodge with a sort of stone mallet 
in her hand. I had observed some time before a 
litter of well-grown black puppies comfortably 
nestled among some buttalo-robes at one side, but 
this new-comer speedily disturbed their enjoyment ; 
for, seizing one of them by the hind paw, she 
dragged him out, and carrying him to the entrance 
of the lodge, hammered him on the head till she 
killed him. Being quite conscious to what this 
preparation tended, I looked through a hole in the 
back of the lodge to see the next steps of the 
process. The squaw, holding the puppy by the 
legs, was swinging him to and fro through the blaze 
of a fire, until the hair was singed off. This done, 
she unsheathed her knife and cut him into small 
pieces, which she dropped into a kettle to boil. In 
a few moments a large wooden dish was set before 
us, filled with this deUcate preparation. We felt 
conscious of the honor. A dog-feast is the greatest 
compliment a Dahcotah can offer to his guest ; and 
knowing that to refuse eating would be an affront, 
we attacked the little dog, and devoured him before 
the eyes of his unconscious parent. Smoke in the 
meantime was preparing his great pipe. It was 
lighted when we had finished our repast, and we 
passed it from one to another till the bowl was 
empt)'. This done, we took our leave without 
farther ceremony, knocked at the gate of the fort, 
and after making ourselves kno^\•n, were admitted. 

One morning, about a week after reaching Fort 
Laramie, we were holding our customary- Indian 
levee, when a bustle in the area below announced a 
new arrival ; and, looking down from our balcony, 
I saw a famUiar red beard and moustache in the 



SCEXES AT FORT LARAMIE. 1 25 

gateway. They belonged to the Captain, who, 
with his party, had just crossed the stream. We 
met him on the stairs as he came up, and congratu- 
lated him on the safe arrival of himself and his 
devoted companions. But he remembered our 
treachery, and was grave and dignified accordingly ; 
a tendency which increased as he observed on our 
part a disposition to laugh at him. After remaining 
an hour or two at the fort he rode away with his 
friends, and we have heard nothing of him since. 
As for R., he kept carefully aloof. It was but too 
evident that we had the unhappiness to have for- 
feited the kind regards of our London fellow-trav- 
eller. 

NOTE. 

Somewhat more than a year from this time Shaw hap- 
pened to be in New York, and coming one morning down 
the steps of the Astor House, encountered a small newsboy 
with a bundle of penny papers under his arm, who screamed 
in his ear, " Another great battle in ^^exico !" Shaw bought 
a paper, and having perused the glorious intelligence, was 
looking over the remaining columns, when the" following 
paragraph attracted his notice : 

" English Travelling Sportsmen.— .Among the nota- 
ble arrivals in town are two English gentlemen, William 
and John C, Esqrs., at the Clinton Hotel, on their return 
home after an extended buffalo-hunting tour in Oregon and 
the wild West. Their party crossed the continent in March, 
1846, since when our travellers have seen the wonders of 
our great West, the Sandwich Islands, and the no less 
agreeable Coast of Western Mexico, California, and Peru. 
With the real zeal of sportsmen they have pursued adven- 
ture whenever it has offered, and returned with not onlv a 
correct knowledge of the West, but with many a trophv that 
shows they have found the grand sport they sought. The 
account of 'Oregon,' given by those observing travellers, 
is most glowing, and though upon a pleasure trip, the advan- 
tages to be realized by commercial men have not been over- 
looked, and they prophesy for that " Western State' a pros- 
perity not exceeded at the east. The fisheries are spoken 
of as the best in the country, and only equalled by the rare 



126 THE OREGON TRAIL. 



farilitSes for agriciiltTire. A trip like this now closed is a 
rare ttmdeirtakiiig, bat as interesting as rare to those who are 
capable of a fell appreciation of all the wonders that met 
tbemin ti>e jnagnifioeBt region they have traversed. " 

la some admiratioB at the heroic light in which Jack and 
ih& Captain were here set forth, Shaw pocketed the news- 
paper, and proceeded to make inquiry after his old fellow- 
travellers. Jack was out of town, but the Captain was 
qnsetly established at his hotel. Except that the red mous- 
tache was shorn awav, he was in all respects the same man 
whom we bad left upon the South Fork of the Platte. Every 
recollection of former differences had vanished from his 
mind, and he greeted his visitor most cordially. ""Where 
is R-?" asked Shaw. "Gone to the de^il," hastily rephed 
tiae Captain; " that is, Jack and I parted from him' at Ore- 
gon O^.and haven't seen him since." He next proceeded 
to give an aicoount of his joume>-ings after leaving us at 
Fort Laiamie. No sooner, it seemed, had he done so, than 
he and Jadk began to slaughter the buffalo wth unrelenting 
fiity.batvfaen they reached the other side of the South Pass 
dieir rifles were l^id by asoseless, since there were neither 
Iiwiiaiw; nor game to exercise them upon. From this ptoint 
the jonmey. as the Captain expressed it, was a great bore. 
When they reached die mouth of the Columbia, he and Jack 
sailed for die Sandinch IsSands. «^ience they proceeded to 
Panama, across the Isttimns, and came by sea to New 
Oileans. 

Shaw and our friend ^>ent the evening together, and when 
they finalQr separated at two o'clock in the morning, the 
Captain's ruddy lace was ruddier than ever. 




CHAPTER X. 

THE WAR-PARTIES. 



" By the nine gods he swore it, 
And named a trysting-day, 
And bade his messengers ride forth, 
East and west and south and north, 
To summon his array." 

Lays of Ancient Rome. 

The s ummer oi iS^ was a season of much war- 
like excitement among all the western bands of the 
Dahcotah. In 1845 they encountered great re- 
verses. Many war-parties had been sent out ; some 
of them had been totally cut off, and others had 
returned broken and disheartened ; so that the 
whole nation was in mourning. Among the rest, 
ten warriors had gone to the Snake country, led by 
the son of a prominent Ogillallah chief, called the 
Whirlwind. In passing over Laramie Plains they 
encountered a superior number of their enemies, 
were surrounded, and killed to a man. Having 
performed this exploit, the Snakes became alarmed, 
dreading the resentment of the Dahcotah, and they 
hastened therefore to signify their wish for peace by 
sending the scalp of the slain partisan, together 
with a small parcel of tobacco attached, to his 
tribesmen and relations. They had employed old 
\'askiss, the trader, as their messenger, and the scalp 
was the same that hung in our room at the fort. 
But the Whirlwind proved inexorable. Though his 
character hardly corresponds with his name, he is 
nevertheless an Indian, and hates the Snakes with 
his whole soul. Long before the scalp arrived he 
had made his preparations for revenge. He sent 
messengers with presents and tobacco to all the 

127 



v" 



128 THE OR EG OX TRAIL. 

DahcC'iih 's-;ih:n ihree bundreti miles, proposing a 
grand coobinaiicri 10 ct25tise the Snakes, and 
naming a place and dme of rendezvous. The plan 
was readily adc^ted, and at this moment many vil- 
kiges. probably embiacing in the whole five or six 
thousand souls, were slowly creeping over the prai- 
ties and tending toward the common centre at " La 
Bonte's camp." on the Hatte. Here thor warlike 
rites were to be celebrated with more than ordinary 
solemnity, and a thousand warriors, as it was said, 
were to srt out for the enemy's country. The char- 
acteristic result of this preparation will appear in 
the sequeL 

I was gready rejoiced to hear of it. I had come 
into the c ountry almost exduavely w idi a view of 
nhjMMVing t^^ tnc^nrtMrartpr Having finom child- 
hood felt a curio^^^n this subject, and barii^ 
&iled completely to gratify it by readii^, I resolved 
to hare recourse to observation. I wished to satisfy 
myself widi n^^ard to the position of the Indians 
among the races of men ; tfee_vices and the virtues 
that have sprung from their innate character and 
from th^ modes of life, their government, their 
superstitions, and their domestic situation. To 
accomplish my purpose it was necessary- to live in 
die midst fA them, and become, as it were, one of 
them. I pnqiosed to join a village, and make my- 
self an inmate vi one tA thor lodges ; and hence- 
forward this narrative, so iar as I am concerned, 
will be chiefly a record of the progress of diis de- 
sign, apparendy so easy of accomplishment, and 
die unexpected impediments that opposed it. 

We resolved on no account to miss the rendezvous 
at "La Bonte's camp." Our plan was to leave 
Delorier at the fort, in charge of our equipage and 
die better part of our horses, while we took with us 
nothing bm o"jr weapons and the worst animals we 



THE WAR-PARTIES. 1 29 

had. In all probability jealousies and quarrels 
would arise among so many hordes of fierce impul- 
sive savages, congregated together under no com- 
mon head, and many of them strangers, from re 
mote prairies and mountains. We were bound in 
common prudence to be cautious how we e.xcited 
any feeling of cupidity. This was our plan, but 
unhappily we were not destined to visit " La Bonte's 
camp" in this manner; for one morning a young 
Indian came to the fort and brought us evil tidings. 
The new-comer was a dandy of the first water. His 
ugly face was painted with vermilion ; on his head 
fluttered the tail of a prairie-cock (a large species of 
pheasant, not found, as I have heard, eastward of 
the Rocky Mountains) ; in his ears were hung pen- 
dants of shell, and a flaming red blanket was 
wrapped around him. He carried a dragoon-sword 
in his hand solely for display, since the knife, the 
arrow, and the rifle are the arbiters of ever)- prairie 
fight ; but as no one in this countr)- goes abroad 
unarmed, the dandy carried a bow and arrows in an 
otter-skin quiver at his back. In this guise, and 
bestriding his yellow horse with an air of extreme 
dignity, " The Horse," for that was his name, rode 
in at the gate, turning neither to the right nor the 
left, but casting glances askance at the groups of 
squaws who, with their mongrel progeny, were sit- 
ting in the sun before their doors. The evil tidings 
brought by " The Horse " were of the following im- 
port : The squaw of Henr)' Chatillon, a woman with 
whom he had been connected for years by the 
strongest ties which in that country- exist between 
the sexes, was dangerously ill. She and her chil- 
dren were in the village of the Whirlwind, at the 
distance of a few days' journey. Henr>- was anx- 
ious to see the woman before she died, and provide 
for the safety and support of his children, of whom 
9 



130 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

he was extremely fond. To have refused him this 
would have been gross inhumanity. We abandoned 
our plan of joining Smoke's village and of proceed- 
ing with it to the rendezvous, and determined to 
meet the Whirlwind, and go in his company. 

I had been slightly ill for several weeks, but on 
the third night after reaching Fort Laramie a violent 
pain awoke me and I found myself attacked by the 
same disorder that occasioned such heavy losses to 
the army on the Rio Grande. In a day and a half 
I was reduced to extreme weakness, so that I could 
not walk -without pain and effort. Having within 
that time taken six grains of opium, without the 
least beneficial effect, and having no medical 
adviser, i>or any choice of diet, I resolved to throw 
myself upon Providence for recovery, using, without 
r^ard to the disorder, any portion of strength that 
might remain to me. So on the twentieth of June 
we set out from Fort Laramie to meet the A\Tiirl- 
wind's village. Though aided by the high-bowed 
* ' moiratain-saddle, ' ' I could scarcely keep my seat 
on horseback. Before we left the fort we hired 
another man, a long-haired Canadian, with a face 
like an owl's, contrasting oddly enough with 
Delorier's mercurial countenance. This was not 
the only reinforcement to our party. A vagrant 
Indian trader, named Reynal, joined us, together 
with his squaw, Margot, and her two nephews, our 
dandy friend, "The Horse," and his younger 
brother, " The Hail Storm." Thus accompanied, 
we betook ourselves to the prairie, leaving the 
beaten trail, and passing over the desolate hills that 
flank the bottoms of Laramie Creek. In all, 
Indians and whites, we counted eight men and one 
woman. 

Reynal, the trader, the image of sleek and selfish 
complacency, carried "The Horse's" dragoon- 



THE WAR-PARTIES. I3I 

sword in his hand, delighting apparently in this 
useless parade ; for, from spending half his life 
among Indians, he had caught not only their habits 
but their ideas. Margot, a female animal of more 
than two hundred pounds' weight, was couched in 
the basket of a traiuiil, such as I have before de- 
scribed ; besides her ponderous bulk, various domes- 
tic utensils were attached to the vehicle, and she 
was leading by a trail-rope a pack-horse, who carried 
the covering of Reynal's lodge. Delorier walked 
briskly by the side of the cart, and Raymond came 
behind, swearing at the spare horses which it was 
his business to drive. The restless young Indians, 
their quivers at their backs and their bows in their 
hands, galloped over the hills, often starting a wolf 
or an antelope from the thick growth of wild-sage 
bushes. Shaw and 1 were in keeping with the rest 
of the rude cavalcade, having, in the absence of 
other clothing, adopted the buckskin attire of the 
trappers. Henry Chatillon rode in advance of the 
whole. Thus we passed hill after hill and hollow 
after hollow, a country arid, broken, and so parched 
by the sun that none of the plants familiar to our 
more favored soil would flourish upon it, though 
there were multitudes of strange medicinal herbs, 
more especially the absanth, which covered every 
dechvity, and cacti were hanging like reptiles at the 
edges of every ravine. At length we ascended a 
high hill, our horses treading upon pebbles of flint, 
agate, and rough jasper, until, gaining the top, 
we looked down on the wild bottoms of Laramie 
Creek, which, far below us, wound like a writhing 
snake from side to side of the narrow interval, amid 
a growth of shattered cotton-wood and ash trees. 
Lines of tall cliffs, white as chalk, shut in this green 
strip of woods and meadow-land, into which we 
descended and encamped for the night. In the 



132 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

morning we passed a wide grass}- plain by the river ; 
there was a grove in front, and beneath its shadows 
the ruins <*f an old tiading-fort of logs. The grove 
bloomed with myriads of wild roses, with their sweet 
perfinne fraught with recollections of home. As we 
eanerged from the tre^. a rattlesnake, as large as a 
man's arm and more than four feet long, lay coiled 
on a rock, fiercely rattling and hissing at us ; a gra)' 
hare, double the size of those of New England, 
leaped up finom the tall ferns ; curlew were scream- 
ing over our heads, and a whole host of little piairie- 
dogs sat yelping at us at the mouths of their burrows 
on the dry plain beyond. Suddenly an antelof)e 
leaped up from the wild-sage bushes, gazed eagerly 
at us, and then, erecting his white toil, stretched 
away like a greyhound. The two Indian boys found 
a white wolf, as large as a calf, in a hollow, and 
giving a shaip yell, they ga]lc^>ed after him ; but 
the wolf leaped into the stream and s^^am across. 
Then came the crack of a rifle, the bullet whistling 
harmlessly ov^er his head, as he scrambled up the 
steep decUvity. rattling down stones and earth into 
the water below. Advancing a httle. we beheld, on 
the £uther bank oS. the stream, a spectacle not com- 
mon even in that r^;ion ; for, emerging fiY>m among 
the trees, a herd of some tn'o hundred elk came out 
upon the meadow, their antlers clattering as thev 
walked forward in a dense throng. Seeing us, they 
broke into a run, rushing across the opening and 
disappearing among the trees and scattered groves. 
On our left was a barren prairie, stretching to the 
horizon ; on our right, a deep gulf, with Laramie 
Creek at the bottom. We found ourselves at length 
at the edge of a steep descent ; a narrow valley, 
with long rank grass and scattered trees, stretching 
before us for a mile or more along the course of the 
stream. Reaching the &rther end, we stopped and 



THE WAR-PARTIES. I 33 

encamped. An old huge cotton-wood tree spread 
its branches horizontally over our tent. Laramie 
Creek, circling before our camp, half-inclosed us ; 
it swept along the bottom of a line of tall white cliffs 
that looked down on us from the farther bank. 
There were dense copses on our right ; the clitts, 
too, were half-hidden by shnibben*-, though behind 
us a few cotton-wood trees, dotting the green 
prairie, alone impeded the view, and friend or 
enemy could be discerned in that direction at a 
mile's distance. Here we resolve d to rem ain and 
await the arrival of the Whirlwind, who would cer- 
tainly pass this way in his progress toward 
La Bonte's camp. To go in search of him was not 
expedient, both on account of the broken and im- 
practicable nature of the countr}- and the uncertainty 
of his position and movements ; besides, our horses 
were almost worn out, and I was in no condition to 
travel. We had good grass, good water, tolerable 
fish from the stream, and plenty of smaller game, 
such as antelope and deer, though no buffalo. 
There was one little drawback to our satisfaction ; a 
certain extensive tract of bushes and dried grass, 
just behind us, which it was by no means advisable 
to enter, since it sheltered a numerous brood of rattle- 
snakes. Henr\- Chatillon again dispatched "The 
Horse" to the village, with a message to his squaw 
that she and her relatives should leave the rest and 
push on as rapidly as possible to our camp. 

Our daily routine soon became as regular as that 
of a well-ordered household. The weather-beaten 
old tree was in the centre ; our rifles generally rested 
against its vast trunk, and our saddles were flung on 
the ground around it ; its distorted roots were so 
twisted as to form one or two convenient arm-chairs, 
where we could sit in the shade and read or smoke ; 
but meal-times became, on the whole, the most 



134 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

interesting hours of the day, and a bountiful pro- 
vision was made for them. An antelope or a deer 
usually swung from a stout bough, and haunches 
were suspended against the trunk. That .gamp is 
daguerreotyped on my memory ; the old tree, the 
white tent, with Shaw sleeping in the shadow of it, 
and Reynal's miserable lodge close by the bank of the 
stream. It was a wretched oven-shaped structure, 
made of begrimed and tattered buffalo-hides stretched 
over a frame of poles ; one side was open, and at 
the side of the opening hung the powder-horn and 
bullet-pouch of tlie owner, together with his long 
red pipe, and a rich quiver of otter-skin, with a bow 
and arrows ; for Reynal, an Indian in most things 
but color, chose to hunt buffalo with these primitive 
weapons. In the darkness of this cavern-like habi- 
tation might be discerned Madame Margot, her 
overgrown bulk stowed away among her domestic 
implements, furs, robes, blankets, and painted cases 
oi par flee hc\ in which dried meat is kept. Here 
she sat from sunrise to sunset, a bloated impersona- 
tion of gluttony and laziness, while her affectionate 
proprietor was smoking, or begging petty gifts from 
us, or telling lies concerning his own achievements, 
or perchance engaged in the more profitable occu- 
pation of cooking some preparation of prairie deh- 
cacies. Reynal was an adept at this work ; he and 
Delorier have joined forces, and are hard at work 
together over the fire, while Raymond spreads, by 
way of table-cloth, a buffalo-hide carefully whitened 
with pipe-clay, on the grass before the tent. Here, 
with ostentatious display, he arranges the teacups and 
plates ; and then, creeping on all fours, like a dog, 
he thrusts his head in at the opening of the tent. 
For a moment we see his round owlish eyes rolling 
wildly, as if the idea he came to communicate had 
suddenly escaped him ; then collecting his scattered 



THE WAR- PARTIES. I 35 

thoughts, as if by an effort, he informs us that sup- 
per is ready, and instantly withdraws. 

When sunset came, and at that hour the wild and 
desolate scene would assume a new aspect, the 
horses were driven in. They had been grazing all 
day in the neighboring meadow, but now they were 
picketed close about the camp. As__tiie^ prairie 
darkened we sat and conversed around the fire, 
until becoming drowsy we spread our saddles on 
the ground, wrapped our blankets around us, and 
lay down. We never placed a guard, ha\ ing by 
this time become too indolent ; but Henr\- Chatillon 
folded his loaded rifle in the same blanket with him- 
self, obsersing that he always took it to bed with him 
when he camped in that place. Henry was too bold 
a man to use such a precaution without good cause. 
We had a hint now and then that our situation was 
none of the safest ; several Crow war-parties were 
known to be in the vicinits-, and one of them, that 
passed here some time before, had peeled the bark 
from a neighboring tree, and engraved upon the 
white wood certain hieroglyphics, to signify that they 
had invaded the territories of their enemies, the 
Dahcotah, and set them at defiance. One morning 
a thick mist covered the whole country. Shaw and 
Henn,- went out to ride, and soon came back with a 
startling piece of intelligence ; they had found 
within rifle-shot of our camp the recent trail of 
a bout thirty horsem en. They could not be whites, 
and they could not be Dahcotah, since we knew no 
such parties to be in the neighborhood ; therefore 
^hfy-f P"'^'^ hfc -C<;m>if; Thanks to that friendly mist, 
//'we had escaped a hard battle ; they would inevitably 
have attacked us and our Indian companions had they 
seen our camp. Whatever doubts we might have 
entertained were quite removed a day or two after 
bv two or three Dahcotah, who came to us with an 



136 THE C REG OX TRAIL. 

account of ha\'inj: hidden in a ra\-ine on that 
very morning, frcm whence they saw and counted 
the Crows ; they said that they followed them, 
careAilly keying out crf° s^ht. as they passed up 
Chugwat)Qr ; that here the Crows discoveied five 
dead bodies vH Dahcotah, placed according to the 
national cnstXHn in trees, and flinging tfaeDOi to the 
ground, they held their guns against than and Uenr 
them to atmns. 

If our camp were not ahogi^her safe, still it was 
comfcHtable enoi^fa ; at least it was so to Shaw, fin* 
I was tormented with illness and vexed by the delay 
in the acoMnplishmmt of my designs. Wlian a 
respite in my discMndo' gave me stnne returning 
strength, I rode out wdl armed upon the prairie. <»- 
bathed with Shaw in die stream, or waged a petty 
war&re with the inhalMtants erf' a neighboring 
piairJe-dog village. Around our fire at ni^ht we 
employed ourselves in invd^hing against the fickle- 
ness and inconstancy fA Indians, and execrating diie 
\Miirlwind and all his village. At last the dung 
grew insuiterable. 

" To-morrow nuHiiing," said I. " I will start few 
the fort, and see if I can hear any news there." 
Late that evening, when the fire had sunk low. and 
aH the camp were asleqi, a loud cry sounded from 
the darkness. Heiuy started up. recognized the 
voice, replied to it, and our dandy friend, "The 
Horse." rode in amoi^ us, just returned from his 
mission to the village. He coolly picketed his 
mare, without saying a word, sat down by the fire 
and began to eat, but his impoturbable phQosc^hy 
was too much few our patioice. Wliere was the 
vin^e ? — about fifiy miles soudi of us ; it was mov- 
ing slowly and would not arrive in less than awe^ ; 
and where \^"as Henry's squaw? coining as frtst as 
she could with Mahto-Tatonka, and the rest erf her 



THE WAR- PARTIES. 1 37 

brothers, but she would never reach us, for she was 
dying, and asking ever}- moment for Henn,-. Henr\'s 
manly face became clouded and downcast ; he said 
that if we were willing he would go in the morning 
to find her, at which Shaw oftered to accompany 
him. 

We saddled our horses at sunrise. Reynal pro- 
tested vehemently against being left alone, with no- 
body but the two Canadians and the young Indians, 
when enemies were in the neighborhood. Disre- 
garding his complaints, we left him. and coming to 
the mouth of Chugwater, separated, Shaw and 
Henry turning to the right, up the bank of the 
stream, while I made for the fort. 

Taking leave for a while of my friend and the 
unfortunate squaw, 1 will relate by way of episode 
what 1 saw and did at Fort Laramie. It was not 
more than eighteen miles distant, and I reached it 
in three hours ; a shrivelled little figure, wrapped 
from head to foot in a dingy white Canadian capote, 
stood in the gateway, holding by a cord of bull's 
hide a shaggy-* wild horse, which he had lately 
caught. His sharp prominent features and his little 
keen snake-like eyes looked out from beneath the 
shadowy hood of the capote, which was drawn over 
his head exactly like the cowl of a Capuchin friar. 
His face was extremely thin and like an old piece 
of leather, and his mouth spread from ear to ear. 
Extending his long win,- hand, he welcomed me 
with something more cordial than the ordinary- cold 
salute of an Indian, for we were excellent friends. 
He had made an exchange of horses to our mutual 
advantage ; and Paul, thinking himself well treated, 
had declared everywhere that the white man had a 
good heart. He was a Dahcotah from the Missouri, 
a reputed son of the half-breed interpreter, Pierre 
Dorion, so often mentioned in Irving' s "Astoria." 



^ 



138 THE O REG OX TRAIL. 

He said tliat he was going to Richard's trading- 
house to sell his horse to some emigrants who were 
encamped there, and asked me to go with him. We 
forded the stream together, Paul dragging his -wild 
charge behind him. As we passed over the sandy 
plains beyond, he grew quite communicative. Paul 
was a cosmopolitan in his way ; he had been to the 
settlements of the whites, and \isited in peace and 
war most of the tribes within the range of a thousand 
miles. He spoke a jargon of French and another 
of English, yet nevertheless he was a thorough In- 
dian ; and as he told of the bloody deeds of his own 
people against their enemies his little eye would 
glitter with a fierce lustre. He told how the Dah- 
cntah exterminated a village of the Hohays on the 
Upper Missouri, slaughtering men, women, and 
children ; and how an overwhelming force of them 
cut off sixteen of the brave Delawares, who fought 
like wolves to the last, amid the throng of their 
enemies. He told me also another stor\-, which I 
did not believe until I had heard it confirmed from 
so many independent sources that no room was left 
for doubt. I am tempted to introduce it here. 

Six years ago, a fellow named Jim Beck with, a 
mongrel of French, American, and negro blood, 
was trading for the Fur Company, in a very large 
village of the Crows. Jim Beckwith was last summer 
at St. Louis. He is a ruffian of the first stamp ; 
bloody and treacherous, without honor or honest)- ; 
such at least is the character he bears upon the 
prairie. Yet in his case all the standard rules of 
character fe.il, for though he will stab a man in his 
sleep, he will also perform most desperate acts of 
daring ; such, for instance, as the following : \Miile 
he was in the Crow village, a Elackfoot war-partv-, 
between thirty- s.nd fort)' in number, came stealing 
through the country, killing stragglers and carrying 



THE WAR- PARTIES. I 39 

off horses. The Crow warriors got upon their trail 
and pressed them so closely that they could not 
escape, at which the Blackfeet. throwing up a semi- 
circular breastwork of logs at the foot of a precipice, 
coolly awaited their approach. The logs and sticks, 
piled four or five feet high, protected them in front. 
The Crows might have" swept over the breastwork 
and exterminated their enemies ; but though out- 
numbering them tenfold, they did not dream of 
storming the little fortification. Such a proceeding 
would be altogether repugnant to their notions of 
warfare. Whooping and yelling, and jumping from 
side to side like devils incarnate, they showered 
bullets and arrows upon the logs ; not a Blackfoot 
was hurt, but several Crows, in spite of their leaping 
and dodging, were shot down. In this childish 
manner, the fight went on for an hour or two. Now 
and then a Crow warrior in an ecstasy of valor and 
vainglory would scream forth his war-song, boasting 
himself the bravest and greatest of mankind, and 
grasping his hatchet, would rush up and strike it 
upon the breastwork, and then as he retreated to 
his companions, fall dead under a shower of arrows ; 
yet no combined attack seemed to be dreamed of. 
The Blackfeet remained secure in their intrench- 
ment. At last Jim I5eckwith lost patience : 

"You are all fools and old women," he said to 
the Crows ; " come with me, if any of you are brave 
enough, and I will show you how to fight." 

He threw off his trapper's frock of buckskin and 
stripped himself naked hke the Indians themselves. 
He left his rifle or the ground, and taking in his 
hand a small light hatchet, he ran over the prairie 
to the right, concealed by a hollow from the eyes of 
the Blackfeet. Then climbing up the rocks, he 
gained the top of the precipice behind them. Forty 
or fifty young Crow warriors followed him. By the 



I40 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

cries and whoops that rose from below he knew that 
the Blackfeet were just beneath him ; and running 
forward he leaped down the rock into the midst of 
them. As he fell he caught one by the long loose 
hair, and, dragging him down, tornahawked him ; 
then grasping another by the belt at his waist, he 
struck him also a stunning blow, and gaining his 
feet, shouted the Crow war-cr)-. He sw^ng his 
hatchet so fiercely around him that the astonished 
Blackfeet bore back and gave him room. He might, 
had he chosen, have leaped over the breastwork 
and escaped ; but this was not necessar\-, for with 
devilish yells the Crow warriors came dropping in 
quick succession over the rock among their enemies. 
The main body of the Crows, too, answered the cr)- 
from the front, and rushed up simultaneously. The 
convulsive struggle within the breasr* ork was fright- 
ful : for an instant the Blackfeet fought and yelled 
like pent-up tigers ; but the butchery was soon com- 
plete, and the mangled bodies lay piled up together 
under the precipice. Not a Blackfoot made his 
escape. 

As Paul finished his stor\- we came in sight of 
Richard's fort. It stood in the middle of the plain ; 
a disorderl}" crowd of men around it, and an emi- 
grant camp a httle in front. 

"Now, Paul,"' said I, "where are your Minni- 
congew lodges ?' ' 

"Not come yet," said Paul, "maybe come to- 
morrow. 

Two large \-illages of a band of Dahcotah had 
come three hundred miles from the Missouri to join 
in the war. and they were expected to reach Rich- 
ard's that morning. There was as yet no sign of 
their approach ; so pushing through a noisj", drunken 
crowd, I entered an apartment of logs and mud, the 
largest in the fort : it was full of men of various 



THE WAR-PARTIES. I4I 

races and complexions, all more or less drunk. A 
company of California emigrants, it seemed, had 
made the discover}- at this late day that they had 
encumbered themselves with too many supplies for 
their journey. A part, therefore, they had thrown 
away or sold at great loss to the traders, but had 
determined to get rid of their verj- copious stock of 
Missouri whiskey by drinking it on the spot. Here 
were maudlin squaws stretched on piles of buffalo- 
robes ; squalid Mexicans, armed with bows and 
arrows ; Indians sedately drunk ; long-haired Cana- 
dians and trappers, and American backwoodsmen in 
brown homespun ; the well-beloved pistol and bowie- 
knife displayed openly at their sides. In the middle 
of the room a tall, lank man, with a dingy broad- 
cloth coat, was haranguing the company in the style 
of the stump orator. With one hand he sawed the 
air, and with the other clutched firmly a brown jug 
of whiskey, which he applied ever)' moment to his 
lips, forgetting that he had drained the contents 
long ago. Richard formally introduced me to this 
personage ; who was no less a man than Colonel R., 
once the leader of the party. Instantly the Colonel, 
seizing me. in the absence of buttons, by the leather 
fringes of my frock, began to define his position. 
His men, he said, had mutinied and deposed him ; 
but still he exercised over them the influence of a 
superior mind ; in all but the name he was yet their 
chief. As the Colonel spoke, 1 looked round on the 
wild assemblage, and could not help thinking that 
he was but ill qualified to conduct such men across 
the deserts to California. Conspicuous among the 
rest stoqd three tall young men, grandsons of Daniel 
Boone. They had clearly inherited the adventurous 
character of that prince of pioneers, but I saw no 
signs of the quiet and tranquil spirit that so remark- 
ably distinguished him. 



142 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

Fearful was the fate that months after overtook 
some of the members of that party. General 
Kearney, on his late return from California, brought 
in the account how they were inteiTupted by the 
deep snows among the mountains, and, maddened 
by cold and hunger, fed upon each other's flesh ! 

I got tired of the confusion. ' ' Come, Paul, " " said 
I, " we will be off."' Paul sat in the sun, under the 
wall of the fort. He jumped up, mounted, and we 
rode toward Fort Laramie. When we reached it. a 
man came out of the gate with a pack at his back 
and a rifle on his shoulder ; others were gathering 
about him, shaking him by the hand, as if taking 
leave. I thought it a strange thing that a man 
should set out alone and on foot for the prairie. I 
soon got an explanation. Perrault — ^this, if I recol- 
lect right, was the Canadian's name — ^had quarrelled 
with the bouj'g£ois, and the fort was too hot to hold 
him. Bordeaux, inflated with his transient author- 
ity', had abused him, and received a blow in return. 
The men then sprang at each other, and grappled 
in the middle of the fort. Bordeaux was down in 
an instant, at the mercy of the incensed Canadian ; 
had not an old Indian, the brother of his squaw, 
seized hold of his antagonist, he would have fared 
ill. Perrault broke loose from the old Indian, and 
both the white men ran to their rooms for their 
guns ; but when Bordeaux, looking from his door, 
saw the Canadian, gun in hand, standing in the 
area and calling on him to come out and tight, his 
heart failed him ; he chose to remain where he was. 
In vain the old Indian, scandalized by his brother- 
in-law's cowardice, called upon him to go upon the 
prairie and fight it out in the white man's manner ; 
and Bordeaux's own squaw, equally incensed, 
screamed to her lord and master that he was a dog 
and an old woman. It all availed nothing. Bor- 



THE WAR-PARTIES. 1 43 

deaux's prudence got the better of his valor, and he 
would not stir. Perrault stood showering oppro- 
brious epithets at the recreant bourgeois. Growing 
tired of this, he made up a pack of dried meat, and 
slinging it at his back, set out alone for Fort Pierre, 
on the Missouri, a distance of three hundred miles, 
over a desert country, full of hostile Indians. 

I remained in the fort that night. In the morn- 
ing as I was coming out from breakfast, conversing 
with a trader named McCluskey, I saw a strange 
Indian leaning against the side of the gate. He 
was a tall, strong man, with heavy features. 

' ' Who is he ?" I asked. 

• • That' s the Whirlwind, ' ' said McCluskey. "He 
is the fellow that made all this stir about the war. 
It's always the way with the Sioux ; they never stop 
cutting each other' s throats ; it' s all they are fit for ; 
instead of sitting in their lodges, and getting robes 
to trade with us in the winter. If this war goes on, 
we'll make a poor trade of it next season, I 
reckon." 

And this was the opinion of all the traders, who 
were vehemently opposed to the war, from the 
serious injury that it must occasion to their interests. 
The Whirlwind left his village the day before to 
make a visit to the fort. His warlike ardor had 
abated not a little since he first conceived the de- 
sign of avenging his son's death. The long and 
complicated preparations for the expedition were 
too much for his fickle, inconstant disposition. 
That morning Bordeaux fastened upon him, made 
him presents, and told him that if he went to war 
he would destroy his horses and kill no buffalo to 
trade with the white men ; in short, that he was a 
fool to think of such a thing, and had better make 
up his mind to sit quietly in his lodge and smoke 
his pipe, like a w;se man. The Whirlwind's pur- 



144 THE O REG OX TRAIL. 

pose was evidently shaken : he had become tired, 
like a child, of his favorite plan. Bordeaux exult- 
ingly predicted that he would not go to war. My 
philanthropy at that time was no match for my 
curiosit)-, and I was vexed at the possibilirv that 
after all I might lose the rare opportunity of seeing 
the formidable ceremonies of war. The Whirl- 
wind, however, had merely thrown the firebrand ; 
the contlagration was become general. All the 
western bands of the Dahcotah were bent on war ; 
and as I heard from McCluskey, six large \-illages 
were already gathered on a little stream, fort\- miles 
distant, and were daily calhng to the Great Spirit to 
aid them in their enterprise. McCluskey had just 
left them, and represented them as on their way to 
La Bonte's camp, which they would reach in a 
week, unless they should learn that there were no 
buffalo there. 1 did not like this condition, for 
buffalo this season were rare in the neighborhood. 
There were also the tvvo Minnicongew tillages that 
I mentioned before ; but about noon an Indian came 
fi-om Richard's fort with the news that they were 
quarrelling, breaking up, and dispersing. So much 
for the whiskey of the emigrants ! Finding them- 
selves unable to drink the whole, they had sold the 
residue to these Indians, and it needed no prophet 
to foretell the result : a spark dropped into a powder- 
magazine would not have produced a quicker effect. 
Instantly the old jealousies and rivalries and smoth- 
ered feuds that exist in an Indian ^"illage broke out 
into furious quarrels. They forgot the warUke en- 
terprise that had already brought them three hun- 
dred mUes. They seemed like imgovemed chil- 
dren inflamed with the fiercest passions of men. 
Several of them were stabbed in the drunken 
tumult : and in the morning they scattered and 
moved back toward the Missouri in small parties. 



THE WAR-PARTIES. I45 

I feared that, after all, the long-projected meeting 
and the ceremonies that were to attend it might 
never take place, and I should lose so admirable an 
opportunity of seeing the Indian under his most 
fearful and characteristic aspect ; however, in fore- 
going this, I should avoid a ver\- fair probability of 
being plundered and stripped, and, it might be, 
stabbed or shot into the bargain. Consoling myself 
with this reflection, I prepared to earn,- the news, 
such as it was, to the camp. 

I caught my horse, and to my vexation found he 
had lost a shoe and broken his tender white hoof 
against the rocks. Horses are shod at Fort Lara- 
mie at the moderate rate of three dollars a foot ; so 
I tied Hendrick to a beam in the corral, and sum- 
moned Roubidou, the blacksmith. Roubidou, with 
the hoof between his knees, was at work with ham- 
mer and file, and I was inspecting the process, 
when a strange voice addressed me. 

"Two more gone under 1 Well, there is more 
of us left yet. Here's Jean Gras and me off to the 
mountains to-morrow. Our turn will come next, I 
suppose. It's a hard life, anyhow I" 

I looked up and saw a little man, not much more 
than five feet high, but of ven.- square and strong 
proportions. In appearance he was particularly 
dingy ; for his old buckskin frock was black and 
polished with time and grease, and his belt, knife, 
pouch, and powder-horn appeared to have seen the 
roughest service. The first joint of each foot was 
entirely gone, having been frozen oft' several winters 
before, and his moccasons were curtailed in propor- 
tion. His whole appearance and equipment bespoke 
the "free trapper." He had a round ruddy face, 
animated with a spirit of carelessness and gayety 
not at all in accordance with the words he had just 
spoken. 

10 



146 



THE OREGON TRAIL. 



"'Two more gone,'" said I; "what do you 
mean by that ?' ' 

" Oh," said he, " the Arapahoes have just killed 
two of us in the mountains. Old Bull-Tail has 
come to tell us. They stabbed one behind his back, 
and shot the other with his own rifle. That' s the 
way we live here I 1 mean to give up trapping after 
this year. My squaw says she wants a pacing horse 
and some red ribbons : I'll make enough beaver 
to get them for her, and then I'm done ! I'll go 
below and live on a farm." 

"Your bones will dr}- on the prairie, Rouleau !" 
said another trapper, who was standing by ; a strong, 
brutal-looking fellow, wth a face as surly as a bull- 
dog's. 

Rouleau only laughed, and began to hum a tune 
and shuffle a dance on his stumps of feet. 

"You'll see us, before long, passing up your 
way, ' ' said the other man. 

"Well," said I, "stop and take a cup of coffee 
•with us ;" and as it was quite late in the afternoon, 
I prepared to leave the fort at once. 

As I rode out a train of emigrant wagons was 
passing across the stream. " \Miar are ye goin', 
stranger ?' ' Thus I was saluted by two or three 
voices at once. 

"About eighteen miles up the creek." 

"It's mighty late to be going that far! Make 
haste, ye'd better, and keep a bright lookout for 
Indians !" 

I thought the advice too good to be neglected. 
Fording the stream, I passed at a round trot over 
the plains beyond. But ' ' the more haste, the worse 
speed. ' ' I proved the truth of the proverb by the 
time I reached the hills three miles from the fort. 
The trail was faintly marked, and riding forward 
with more rapidit)* than caution, I lost sight of it. 



THE WAR-PARTIES. 1 47 

I kept on in a direct line, guided by Laramie Creek, 
which I could see at intervals darkly glistening in 
the evening sun, at the bottom of the woody gulf 
on my right. Half an hour before sunset 1 came 
upon its banks. There was something exciting in 
the wild solitude of the place. An antelope sprang 
suddenly from the sage bushes before me. As he 
leaped gracefully not thirty yards before my horse, 
1 fired, and instantly he spun round and fell. Quite 
sure of him, I walked my horse toward him, leisurely 
reloading my rifle, when, to my surprise, he sprang 
up and trotted rapidly away on three legs into the 
dark recesses of the hills, whither I had no time to 
follow. Ten minutes after, I was passing along the 
bottom of a deep valley, and chancing to look 
behind me, I saw in the dim light that something 
was following. Supposing it to be a wolf, I slid 
from my seat and sat down behind my horse to 
shoot it ; but as it came up, I saw by its motions 
that it was another antelope. It approached within 
a hundred yards, arched its graceful neck, and 
gazed intently. I levelled at the white spot on its 
chest, and was about to fire, when it started off, ran 
first to one side and then to the other, like a vessel 
tacking aga,inst a wind, and at last stretched away 
at full speed. Then it stopped again, looked 
curiously behind it, and trotted up as before ; but 
not so boldly, for it soon paused and stood gazing 
at me. I fired ; it leaped upward and fell upon its 
tracks. Measuring the distance, I found it two 
hundred and four paces. When I stood by his side, 
the antelope turned his expiring eye upward. It 
was like a beautiful woman's, dark and rich. 
" Fortunate that I am in a hurry," thought I ; "I 
might be troubled with remorse, if I had time for 
it." 

Cutting the animal up, not in the most skilful 



148 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

manner, I hung the meat at the back of my saddle, 
and rode on again. The hills (I could not remem' 
ber one of them) closed around me. "It is too 
late," thought 1, "to go fonvard. I viill stay here 
to-night, and look for the path in the morning.". 
As a last effort, however, I ascended a high hill, 
from which, to my great satisfaction, I could see 
Laramie Creek stretching before me, tv^-isting from 
side to side amid ragged patches of timber ; and far 
off, close beneath the shadows of the trees, the ruins 
of the old trading-fort were visible. I reached them 
at twihght. It was far from pleasant, in that un- 
certain light, to be pushing through the dense trees 
and shrubber\- of the grove beyond. I listened 
anxiously for the foot-fall of man or beast. Nothing 
was stirring but one harmless brown bird, chirping 
among the branches. 1 was glad when 1 gained the 
open prairie once more, where I could see if any- 
thing approached. WTien I came to the mouth of 
Chugwater it was totally dark. Slackening the 
reins, I let my horse take his own course. He 
trotted on with unerring instinct, and by nine 
o'clock was scrambling down the steep descent into 
the meadows where we were encamped. While I 
was looking in vain for the light of the fire, Hen- 
drick, •with keener perceptions, gave a loud neigh, 
which was immediately answered in a shrill note 
from the distance. In a moment I was hailed from 
the darkness by the voice of Reynal, who had come 
out, rifle in hand, to see Avho was approaching. 

He, with his squaw, the t^vo Canadians, and the 
Indian boys, were the sole inmates of the camp, 
Shaw and Henr\- Chatillon being still absent. At 
noon of the folio-wing day they came back, their 
horses looking none the better for the journey. 
Henry seemed dejected. The woman was dead, 
and his children must henceforward be exposed, 

UBRABT OF 
H. C. STATE COLLEflB 



THE WAR-PARTIES. 1 49 

without a protector, to the hardships and vicissitudes 
of Indian life. Even in the midst of his grief he had 
not forgotten his attachment to his bourgeois, for he 
had procured among his Indian relatives two beauti- 
fully ornamented buffalo-robes, which he spread on 
the ground as a present to us. 

Shaw lighted his pipe, and told me in a few words 
the histor%- of his journey. When I went to the fort 
they left me, as I mentioned, at the mouth of 
Chugwater. They followed the course of the little 
stream all day, traversing a desolate and barren 
countr)-. Several times they came upon the fresh 
traces of a large war-party, the same, no doubt, 
from whom we had so narrowly escaped an attack. 
At an hour before sunset, without encountering a 
human being by the way, they came upon the 
lodges of the squaw and her brothers, who, in com- 
pliance with Henry's message, had left the Indian 
village, in order to join us at our camp. The lodges 
were already pitched, five in number, by the side 
of the stream. The woman lay in one of them, 
reduced to a mere skeleton. For some time she 
had been unable to move or speak. Indeed, noth- 
ing had kept her alive but the hope of seeing Henry, 
to whom she was strongly and fiiithfully attached. 
No sooner did he enter the lodge than she revived, 
and conversed with him the greater part of the 
night. Early in the morning she was lifted into a 
travail, and the whole party set out toward our 
camp. There were but five warriors : the rest were 
women and children. The whole were in great 
alarm at the proximity of the Crow war-party, "who 
would certainly have destroyed them without mercy 
had they met. They had advanced only a mile or 
two when they discerned a horseman, far off, on the 
edge of the horizon. They all stopped, gathering 
together in the greatest anxiety, from which they 



150 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

did not recover until long after the horseman disap- 
peared ; then they set out again. Henr\- was 
riding with Shaw, a few rods in advance of the In- 
dians, when Mahto-Tatonka, a younger brother of 
the woman, hastily called after them. Turning 
back, they foimd all the Indians crowded around 
the travail in which the woman was hing. They 
reached her just in time to hear the death- 
ratde in her throat. In a moment she lay dead 
in the basket of the vehicle. A complete stOl- 
ness succeeded ; then the Indians raised in con- 
cert their cries of lamentation over the corpse, and 
among them Shaw clearly distinguished those 
strange sounds resembling the word " HaUeluyah." 
which, together with some other accidental coinci- 
dences, has given rise to the absurd theorj- that 
the Indians are descended from the ten lost tribes 
of Israel. 

The Indian usage required that Henr\-. as weU as 
the other relatives of the woman, should make val- 
uable presents, to be placed by the side of the body 
at its last resting-place. Leaving the Indians, he 
and Shaw set out for the camp and reached it, as 
we have seen, by hard pushing, at about noon. 
Ha\-ing obtained the necessar\- articles, they imme- 
diately returned. It was ver\- late and quite dark 
when they again reached the lodges. They were 
aU placed in a deep hollow among the dreary hiUs. 
Four of them were just visible through the gloom, 
but the fifth and largest was illuminated by the ruddy 
blaze of a fire within, glowing through the half- 
tiansparent covering of raw -hides. There was a 
perfect stillness as they approached. The lodges 
seemed without a tenant. Not a UWng thing was 
stirring — there was something aw-ful in the scene. 
They rode up to the entrance of the lodge, and 
there was no sound but the tramp of their horses. 



THE WAR-PARTIES. 151 

A squaw came out and took charge of the animals, 
without speaking a word. Entering, they found 
the lodge crowded with Indians ; a fire was burning 
in the midst, and the mourners encircled it in a 
triple row. Room was made for the new-comers at 
the head of the lodge, a robe spread for them to sit 
upon, and a pipe lighted and handed to them in 
perfect silence. Thus they passed the greater part 
of the night. At times the fire would subside into 
a heap of embers, until the dark figures seated 
around it were scarcely visible ; then a squaw would 
drop upon it a piece of buffalo-fat, and a bright 
flame, instantly springing up, would reveal on a 
sudden the crowd of wild faces, motionless as 
bronze. The silence continued unbroken. It was 
a relief to Shaw when daylight returned and he 
could escape from this house of mourning. He and 
Henr)- prepared to return homeward ; first, how- 
ever, they placed the presents they had brought 
near the body of the squaw, which, most gaudily 
attired, remained in a sitting posture in one of the 
lodges. A fine horse was picketed not far off, des- 
tined to be killed that morning for the service of her 
spirit, for the woman was lame, and could not travel 
on foot over the dismal prairies to the villages of the 
dead. Food, too, was provided, and household im- 
plements, for her use upon this last journey. 

Henr)- left her to the care of her relatives, and 
came immediately with Shaw to the camp. It was 
some time before he entirely recovered from his 
dejection. 



V 



CHAPTER XI. 

SCENES AT THE C.V.rp. 



*■ Fierce are A' - r . vet --hey lack 

Not virtnes. wcr ■ "; re mature ; 

Where is the foe : : back? 

Who can so well : '. :-" r.dore?" 

Chllde Harold. 

Reynal heard guns fired one day at the distance 
of a mile or two from the camp. He grew nervius 
instantly. Visions of Crow war-parties began to 
haunt his imagination ; and when we returned (for 
we were aU absent) he renewed his complaints 
about being left alone with the Canadians and the 
squaw. The day after the cause of the alarm ap- 
peared. Four trappers, one called Moran. another 
Saraphin. and the others nicknamed ' ' Rouleau 
and "Jean Gras,"' came to our camp and joined 
us. They it was who fired the guns and disturbed 
the dreams of our confederate Re\"nal- They soon 
encamped by our side. Their rifles, ding\- and 
battereid with hard senice, rested with ours against 
the old tree ; their strong, rude saddles, their buffalo- 
robes, their traps, and the few rough and simple 
articles of their travelling equipment were piled 
near our tent. Their mountain-horses were turned 
to graze in the meadow among our own ; and the 
men themselves, no less rough and hardy, used to 
lie half the day in the shade of our tree, loUing on 
the grass, lazily smoking, and telling stories of their 
adventures ; and I def>- the annals of chi\-alr\' to 
fiimish the record of a life more wiH-aBd-perilous 
than that of a Rocky Moimtain trapper. 

With this efficient reinforcement the agitation of 
Revnal's nenes subsided. He beran to conceive 



V 



SCENES AT THE CAMP. I 53 

a sort of attachment to our old camping-ground ; yet 
it was time to change our quarters, since remaining 
too long on one spot must lead to certain unpleasant 
results, not to be borne with unless in a case of dire 
necessity. The grass no longer presented a smooth 
surface of turf; it was trampled into mud and clay. 
So we removed to another old tree, larger yet, that 
grew by the river side at a furlong's distance. Its 
trunk was full si.x feet in diameter ; on one side it 
was marked by a party of Indians with various inex- 
plicable hieroglyphics, commemorating some war- 
like enterprise, and aloft among the branches were 
the remains of a scaffolding, where dead bodies had 
once been deposited, after the Indian manner. 

"There comes Bull-Bear," said Henrj- Chatillon, 
as we sat on the grass at dinner. Looking up, we saw 
several horsemen coming over the neighboring hill, 
and in a moment four stately young men rode up 
and dismounted. One of them was Bull-Bear, or 
Mahto-Tatonka, a compound name which he in- 
herited from his father, the most powerful chief in 
the Ogillallah band. One of his brothers and two 
other young men accompanied him. We shook 
hands with the visitors, and when we had finished 
vQ iir me al — for this is the orthodox manner of enter- 
tainingTndians, even the best of them — we handed 
to each a tin cup of coffee and a biscuit, at which 
they ejaculated from the bottom of their throats, 
" How ! how !" a monosyllable by which an Indian 
contrives to express half the emotions that he is 
susceptible of. Then we lighted the pipe, and 
passed it to them as they squatted on the ground. 

' ' Where is the village ?' ' 

"There," said Mahto-Tatonka, pointing south' 
ward ; "it will come in two days." 

' ' Will they go to the w ar X ' 

"Yes." 



154 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

No man is a philanthropist on the prairie. We 
welcomed this news most cordially, and congratu- 
lated ourselves that Bordeaux's interested efforts to 
divert the WTiirlwind from his congenial vocation 
of bloodshed had failed of success, and that no addi- 
tional obstacles would interpose between us and our 
plan of repairing to the rendezvous at La Bonte's 
camp. 

For that and several succeeding days Mahto- 
Tatonka and his friends remained our guests. They 
devoured the relics of our meals ; they filled the 
pipe for us, and also helped us to smoke it. Some- 
times they stretched themselves side by side in the 
shade, indulging in raillery and practical jokes, ill 
becoming the dignity of bra\e and aspiring warriors, 
such as two of them in realit)- were. 

Two days dragged away, and on the morning of 
the third we hoped confidently to see the Indian 
village. It did not come ; so we rode out to look 
for it. In place of the eight hundred Indians we 
expected, we met one solitan- savage riding toward 
us over the prairie, who told us that the Indians had 
changed their plan, and would not come within 
three days ; still he persisted that they were going 
to the war. Taking along with us this messenger 
of evil tidings, we retraced our footsteps to the 
camp, amusing ourselves by the way with execrating 
Indian inconstancy. When we came in sight of our 
little white tent under the big tree we saw that it no 
longer stood alone. A huge old lodge was erected 
close by its side, discolored by rain and storms, 
rotten with age, with the uncouth figures of horses 
and men, and outstretched hands that were painted 
upon it, wellnigh obliterated. The long poles which 
supported this squalid habitation thrust themselves 
rakishly out from its pointed top, and over its en- 
trance were suspended a "medicine-pipe" and 



SCENES AT THE CAMP. I55 

various other implements of the magic art. While 
we were yet at a distance we observed a greatly 
increased population, of various colors and dimen- 
sions, swarming around our quiet encampment. 
RIoran, the trapper, having been absent for a day 
or two, had returned, it seemed, bringing all his 
family with him. He had taken to himself a wife, 
for whom he had paid the estabhshed price of one 
horse. This looks cheap at tirst sight ; but in truth 
the purchase of a squaw is a transaction which no 
man should enter into without mature deliberation, 
since it involves not only the payment of the first 
price, but the formidable burden of feeding and 
supporting a rapacious horde of the bride" s relatives, 
who hold themselves entitled to feed upon the indis- 
creet white man. They gather round like leeches 
and drain him of all he has. 

Moran, like Reynal, had not alhed himself to 
an aristocratic circle. His relatives occupied but 
a contemptible position in Ogillallah society ; for 
among these wild democrats of the prairie, as among 
us, there are virtual distinctions of rank and place ; 
though this great advantage they have over us. that 
wealth has no part in determining such distinctions. 
IMoran's partner was not the most beautiful of her 
sex, and he had the exceedingly bad taste to array 
her in an old calico gown, bought from an emigrant 
woman, instead of the neat and graceful tunic of 
whitened deer-skin worn ordinarily by the squaws. 
The moving spirit of the establishment, in more 
senses than one, was a hideous old hag of eighty. 
Human imagination never conceived hobgobhn or 
witch more ugly than she. You could count all her 
ribs through the wrinkles of the leather^- skin that 
covered them. Her withered face more resembled 
an old skull than the countenance of a living being. 
even to the hollow, darkened sockets, at the bottom 



156 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

of which ghttered her httle black eyes. Her arms 
had dwindled away into nothing but whip-cord and 
wire. Her hair, half black, half gray, hung in total 
neglect nearly to the ground, and her sole garment 
consisted of the remnant of a discarded buffalo-robe 
tied round her waist with a string of hide. Yet the 
old squaw's meagre anatomy was wonderfully strong. 
She pitched the lodge, packed the horses, and cm 
the hardest labor of the camp. From morning till 
night she bustled about the lodge, screaming like a 
screech-owl when anything displeased her. Then 
there was her brother, a "medicine-man," or 
magician, equally gaunt and sinewy wvCa. herself. 
His mouth spread from ear to ear, and his appetite, 
as we had full occasion to learn, was ravenous in 
proportion. The other inmates of the lodge were a 
young bride and bridegroom ; the latter one of those 
idle, good-for-nothing fellows who infest an Indian 
village as well as more civilized communities. He 
was fit neither for hunting nor for war ; and one 
might infer as much from the stolid, unmeaning 
expression of his face. The happy pair had just 
entered upon the honeymoon. They would stretch 
a buffalo-robe upon poles, so as to protect them 
from the fierce rays of the sun, and spreading be- 
neath this rough canopy a luxuriant couch of furs, 
would sit affectionately side by side for half the day, 
though I could not discover that much conversation 
passed between them. Probably they had nothing 
to say ; for an Indian's supply of topics for conver- 
sation is far from being copious. There were half 
a dozen children, too, playing and whooping about 
the camp, shooting birds with little bows and arrows, 
or making miniature lodges of sticks, as children of 
a different complexion build houses of blocks. 

A day passed and Indians began rapidly to come 
in. Parties of two or three or more w ould ride up 



/ 



SCENES AT THE CAMP. I 57 

and silently seat themselves on the grass. The 
fourth day came at last, when about noon horsemen 
suddenly appeared into view on the summit of the 
neighboring ridge. They descended, and behind 
them followed a wild procession, hurr)'ing in haste 
and disorder down the hill and over the plain below : 
horses, mules, and dogs, heavily burdened t7-avaux, 
mounted warriors, squaws walking amid the throng, 
and a host of children. For a full half-hour they 
continued to pour down ; and keeping directly to 
the bend of the stream, within a furlong of us, 
they soon assembled there, a dark and confused 
throng, until, as if by magic, a hundred and fifty 
tall lodges sprung up. On a sudden the lonely plain 
was transformed into the site of a miniature city. 
Countless horses were soon grazing over the mead- 
ows around us, and the whole prairie was animated 
by restless figures careering on horseback or sedately 
stalking in their long white robes. The Whirlwind 
was come at last ! One question yet remained to 
be answered : ' ' Will he go to the war, in order that 
we, with so respectable an escort, may pass over to 
the somewhat perilous rendezvous at La Bonte's 
camp ?' ' 

Still this remained in doubt. Characteristic in- 
decision perplexed their councils. Indians cannot 
act in large bodies. Though their object be of the 
highest importance, they cannot combine to attain 
it by a series of connected efforts. King Philip, 
Pontiac, and Tecumseh, all felt this to their cost. 
The Ogillallah once had a war-chief who could con- 
trol them, btit he was dead, and now they were left 
to the sway of their own unsteady impulses. 

This Indian village and its inhabitants will hold a 
prominent place in the rest of the narrative, and 
perhaps it may not be amiss to glance for an instant 
at the savage people of which they form a part. 



158 THE CREGOX TRAIL. 

The Dahcolali (I prefer this national designation to 
die unmeaning French name, Sioux) range over a 
vast tenitDTy. from the river St. Peter's to the 
Rocky Mountains tliemselves. They are divided 
into several independent bands, united under no 
central government and acknowledging no common 
head. The same language, usages, and superstitions 
form tlie sole bond between them. They do not 
unite even in thdr wars. The bands of the east 
fight the Objibwas on the Upper Lakes ; those (rf' 
the 'vcSi make incessant war upon the Snake Indians 
in the Rocky Mountains. As the whole people is 
divided into bands, so each band is di\'ided into 
villages. Each village has a chief, who is honored 
and obeyed only so iss as his personal qualities may 
command respect and fear. Som^imes he is a 
mere nominal chirf; sometimes his authority' is 
litde short <rf absolute, and his fame and influence 
reach even beyond his own village : so that the 
whole band to which he belongs is ready to acknowl- 
edge him as thar head. This was, a few years 
ance, the case with the Ogillallah . Courage, ad- 
dress, and enterprise may raise any warrior to the 
highest honor, especially if he be the son of a 
former chief, or a member of a numerous &mily. to 
support him and avenge Ids quarrels ; but when he 
has reached the dignity vS. chief, and the old men 
and warriors, by a peculiar ceremony, have formally 
installed him, let it not be imagined that he assumes 
any of the outward semblances of rank and honor. 
He knows too well on how fiail a tenure he holds 
his station. He must conoliate his uncertain sub- 
jects. Many a man in the village lives better, 
owns more squaws and more horses, and goes better 
dad than he. Like the Teutonic chiefs of old, he 
ingratiates himself with his young men by making 
diem presents, thereby often impoverishing himself. 



SCENES AT THE CAMP. I 59 

Does he fail in gaining their favor, they will set his 
authority at naught, and may desert him at any 
moment ; for the usages of his people have provided 
no sanctions by which he may enforce his authority. 
\er\ seldom does it happen, at least among these 
western bands, that a chief attains to much power, 
unless he is the head of a numerous family. Fre- 
quently the village is principally made up of his 
relatives and descendants, and the wandering com- 
munity assumes much of the patriarchal character. 
A people so loosely united, torn, too, with rankling 
feuds and jealousies, can have little power or effi- 
ciency. 

The western Dahcotah have no fixed habitations. 
Hunting and fighting, they wander incessantly, 
through summer and winter. Some are following 
the herds of buffalo over the waste of prairie ; 
others are traversing the Black Hills, thronging, on 
horseback and on foot, through the dark gulfs and 
sombre gorges, beneath the vast splintering preci- 
pices, and emerging at last upon the "Parks," 

j tjiose beautiful but most perilous hunting-grounds. 

I \^/^he buffalo supplies, them with almost all the neces- 

t' saries of life ; with habitations, food, clothing, and 
fuel ; with strings for their bows, with thread, cord- 
age, and trail-ropes for their horses, with coverings 
for their saddles, with vessels to hold water, with 
boats to cross streams, with glue, and with the 
means of purchasing all that they desire from the 
traders. When the buffalo are extinct, they too must 
dwindle away. 

War Js^the breath of their nostrils. Against most 
oFlHe neighboring ~trr5es"~They ctierish a deadly, 

t rancorous hatred, transmitted from father to son, 
and inflamed by constant aggression and retaliation. 
Many times a year, in every village, the Great 
Spirit is called upon, fasts are made, the war-parade 



l6o THE OREGON TRAIL. 

is cddnated. and the w a i ii oia> go out by handfuls at 
a time against the enemy. This fierce and evil 
^iiit awakois tfaeir most eager aspirations and calls 
forth their greatest energies. It is chiefly this that 
saves them from lethargy and utter abasement. 
Without its powerful stimulus they would be like the 
unwaiiike tribes beyond the mountains, who are 
scattered among the caves and rocks hke beasts, 
living on toots and rqitiles. These latter have little 
tA humanity except the fonn ; but the proud and 
ambitious Dahcotah wairior can sometimes boast of 
heroic virtues. It is very seldom that distinction 
and influence are attained among them by any other 
course than that of arms. Their superstition, how- 
ever, sometimes gives great power to those among 
diem who pretend to the character of magicians. 
Their wild hearts, too, can feel the power of orator>', 
and yield deference to the masters of it. 

But to return. Lodt into our tent, or enter, if 
you can bear Ae stifling smt^e and the close atmos- 
phere. Thoe. we^;ed close togedier, you will see 
a circle of stout warriors pasang the [Hpe aivmnd, 
jotdng. telling stories, and making themselves 
merry, after their Cishion. We were also infested 
by tittle cc^per-colored naked boys and snake-eved 
g^rls. They would come up to us muttering certain 
words, which, bang interpreted, conveyed the con- 
cise invitation, '^ jZome a nd gt-_^ Then we would 
rise, cursing thepertmacityof Dahcotah hospitahty, 
which allowed scarcely an hour of rest between sun 
and sun, and to which we were bound to do honor. 
imless we would offend our entertainers. This 
necessit}' was particularly burdensome to me, as I 
was scarcely able to walk from the effects of illness, 
and was, of course, pooriy qualified to dispose of 
twenty meals a day. Of these sumptuous banquets, 
I gave a ^lecimen in a fiormer chapter, where the 



SCENES AT THE CAMP. l6l 

tragical fate of the little dog was chronicled. So 
bounteous an entertainment looks like an outgushing 
of good-will ; but doubtless one-half, at least, of our 
kind hosts, had they met us alone and unarmed on 
the prairie, would have robbed us of our horses, 
and, perchance, have bestowed an arrow upon us 
besides. Trust not an Indian. Let your rifle be 
ever in your hand. Wear next your heart the old 
chivalric motto, " Semper paratus." 

One morning we were summoned to the lodge of 
an old man, m good truth the Nestor of his tribe. 
We found him half-sitting, half- reclining on a pile 
of buffalo-robes ; his long hair, jet-black even now, 
though he had seen some eighty winters, hung on 
either side of his thin features. Those most con- 
versant with Indians in their homes will scarcely 
believe me when 1 affirm that there was dignity in 
his countenance and mien. His gaunt but sym- 
metrical frame did not more clearly exhibit the 
wreck of by -gone strength than did his dark, wasted 
features, still prominent and commanding, bear the 
stamp of mental energies. I recalled, as I saw 
him, the eloquent metaphor of the Iroquois sachem : 
"I am an aged hemlock ; the winds of an hundred 
winters have whistled through my branches, and I 
am dead at the top !" Opposite the patriarch was 
his nephew, the young aspirant, Mahto-Tatonka ; 
and besides these there were one or two women in 
the lodge. 

The old man's story is peculiar, and singularly 
illustrative of a superstitious custom that prevails in 
full force among many of the Indian tribes. He 
was one of a powerful family, renowned for their 
warlike exploits. When a very young man he sub- 
mitted to the singular rite to which most of the tribe 
subject themselves before entermg upon life. He 
painted his face black ; then seeking out a cavern 
11 



l62 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

in a sequestered part of the Black Hills, he lay for 
several days, fasting and praying to the Great Spirit. 
In the dreams and visions produced by his weak- 
ened and excited state he fancied, like all Indians, 
that he saw supernatural revelations. Again and 
again the form of an antelope appeared before him. 
The antelope is the graceful peace-spirit of the 
Ogillallah ; but seldom is it that such a gentle vis- 
itor presents itself during the inidator>- fasts of their 
young men. The terrible grizzly bear, the divinity 
of war, usually appears to fire them with martial 
ardor and thirst for renown. At length the antelope 
spoke. He told the young dreamer that he was not 
to follow the path of war ; that a life of peace and 
tranquillity was marked out for him ; that thence- 
forward he was to guide the people by his counsels, 
and protect them from the evils of their own feuds 
and dissensions. Others were to gain renown by 
fighting the enemy ; but greatness of a different kind 
was in store for him. 

The visions beheld during the period of this fast 
usually determine the whole course of the dreamer's 
life, for an Indian is bound by iron superstitions. 
From that time Le Borgne, which was the only name 
by which we knew him, abandoned all thoughts of 
war, and devoted himself to the labors of peace. 
He told his vision to the people. They honored 
his commission and respected him in his novel 
capacity. 

A far different man was his brother, Mahto- 
Tatonka, who had transmitted his names, his feat- 
ures, and many of his characteristic qualities to his 
son. He was the father of Henry Chatillon's 
squaw, a circumstance which proved of some ad- 
vantage to us, as securing for us the friendship of a 
family perhaps the most distinguished and powerful 
in the whole Ogillallah band. Mahto-Tatonka, in 



sc£NJe:s at the camp. 163 

his rude way, was a hero. No chief could vie with 
him in warUke renown or in power over his people. 
He had a fearless spirit and a most impetuous and 
inflexible resolution. His will was law. He was 
poHtic and sagacious, and with true Indian craft he 
always befriended the whites, well knowing that he 
might thus reap great advantages for himself and his 
adherents. When he had resolved on any course 
of conduct, he would pay to the warriors the empty 
compliment of calling them together to deliberate 
upon it, and when their debates were over, he would 
quietly state his own opinion, which no one ever dis- 
puted. The consequences of thwarting his impe- 
rious will were too formidable to be encountered. 
Woe to those who incurred his displeasure ! He 
would strike them or stab them on the spot ; and 
this act, which if attempted by any other chief, 
would instantly have cost him his life, the awe in- 
spired by his name enabled him to repeat again 
and again with impunity. In a community where, 
from immemorial time, no man has acknowledged 
any law but his own will, Mahto-Tatonka, by the 
force of his dauntless resolution, raised himself to 
power little short of despotic. His haughty career 
came at last to an end. He had a host of enemies 
only waiting for their opportunity of revenge, and 
our old friend Smoke, in particular, together with all 
his kinsmen, hated him most cordially. Smoke sat 
one day in his lodge, in the midst of his own village, 
when Mahto-Tatonka entered it alone, and ap- 
proaching the dwelling of his enemy, called on him 
in a loud voice to come out, if he were a man, and 
fight. Smoke would not move. At this, Mahto- 
Tatonka proclaimed him a coward and an old 
woman, and striding close to the entrance of the 
lodge, stabbed the chiefs best horse, which was 
picketed there. Smoke was daunted, and even 



164 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

this insult feUed to call him forth. Mahto-Tatcnka 
moved haughtily away : aU made way for him, but 
his hour of reckoning was near. 

One hot day, five or six years ago, numerous 
lodges of Smoke's kinsmen were gathered around 
some of the Fur Company's men, who were trading 
in various articles with them, whiskey among the 
rest. Mahto-Tatonka was also there with a few of 
his people. As he lay in his owti lodge, a fray arose 
between his adherents and the kinsmen of his 
enemy. The war-whoop was raised, bullets and 
arrows began to fly. and the camp was in confusion. 
The chief sprang up, and rushing in a fiir)- from the 
lodge, shouted to the combatants on both sides to 
cease. Instantiy — for the attack was preconcerted — 
came the reports of t\vo or three guns, and the 
twanging of a dozen bows, and the savage hero, 
mortally wounded, pitched forward headlong to the 
ground. Rouleau was present, and told me the 
particulars. The tumult became general, and was 
not quelled until several had fallen on both sides. 
WTien we were in the country the feud between the 
two feimilies was still rankling, and not likely soon 
to cease. 

Thus died Mahto-Tatonka, but he left behind him 
a goodly army of descendants to perpetuate his re- 
nown and avenge his fate. Besides daughters, he 
had thirrs- sons, a number which need not stagger 
the creduht\- of those who are best acquainted with 
Indian usages and practices. We saw many of 
them, all marked by the same dark complexion, 
and the same peculiar cast of features. Of these, 
our \Tsitor, young Mahto-Tatonka, was the eldest, 
and some reported him as likely to succeed to his 
father's honors. Though he appeared not more 
than twenty -one years old. he had oftener struck the 
enemy, and stolen more horses and more squaws 



SCENES AT THE CAMP. 1 65 

than any young man in the village. We of the 
civilized world are not apt to attach much credit to 
the latter species of exploits ; but horse-stealing is 
well known as an avenue to distinction on the 
prairies, and the other kind of depredation is es- 
teemed equally meritorious. Not that the act can 
confer fame from its own intrinsic merits. Any one 
can steal a squaw, and if he chooses aftervvard to 
make an adequate present to her rightful proprietor, 
the easy husband for the most part rests content, 
his vengeance falls asleep, and all danger from that 
quarter is averted. Vet this is esteemed but a 
pitiful and mean-spirited transaction. The danger 
is averted, but the glor\- of the achievement also is 
lost. Mahto-Tatonka proceeded after a more gal- 
lant and dashing fashion. Out of several dozen 
squaws whom he had stolen, he could boast that he 
had never paid for one, but snapping his fingers in 
the face of the injured husband, had defied the e.\- 
tremity of his indignation, and no one yet had dared 
to lay the finger of violence upon him. He was 
following close in the footsteps of his father. The 
young men and the young squaws, each in their 
way, admired him. The one would always follow 
him to war, and he was esteemed to have an unri- 
valled charm in the eyes of the other. Perhaps 
his impunity may excite some wonder. An arrow 
shot from a ravine, a stab given in the dark, require 
no great valor, and are especially suited to the In- 
dian genius ; but Mahto-Tatonka had a strong pro- 
tection. It was not alone his courage and auda- 
cious will that enabled him to career so dashingly 
among his compeers. His enemies did not forget 
that he was one of thirty warlike brethren, all grow- 
ing up to manhood. Should they wreak their anger 
upon him, many keen eyes would be ever upon 
them, manv fierce hearts would thirst for their blood. 



1 66 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

The avenger would dog their footsteps everj-where. 
To kill Mahto-Tatonka would be no better than an 
act of suicide. 

Though he found such favor in the eyes of the 
fair, he was no dandy. As among us, those of 
highest worth and breeding are most simple in man- 
ner and attire, so our aspiring young friend was in' 
different to the gaudy trappings and ornaments of 
his companions. He was content to rest his chances 
of success upon his own warlike merits. He never 
arrayed himself in gaudy blanket and glittering 
necklaces, but left his statue-like form, limbed like 
an Apollo of bronze, to win its way to favor. His 
voice was singularly deep and strong. It sounded 
from his chest like the deep notes of an organ. 
Yet after all, he was but an Indian. See him as he 
lies there in the sun before our tent, kicking his 
heels in the air and cracking jokes with his brother. 
Does he look like a hero ? See him now in the 
hour of his glor\', when at sunset the whole village 
empties itself to behold him, for to-morrow their 
favorite young partisan goes out against the enemy. 
His superb head-dress is adorned with a crest of 
the war-eagle's feathers, rising in a waving ridge 
above his brow, and sweeping far behind him. His 
round white shield hangs at his breast, with feathers 
radiating from the centre like a star. His quiver 
is at his back ; his tall lance in his hand, the iron 
point flashing against the declining sun, while the 
long scalp-locks of his enemies flutter from the 
shaft. Thus, gorgeous as a champion in his panoply, 
he rides round and round within the great circle of 
lodges, balancing with a graceful buoyancy to the 
free movements of his war-horse, while with a sedate 
brow he sings his song to the Great Spirit. Young 
rival warriors look askance at him ; vermilion- 
cheeked girls gaze in admiration; boys whoop and 



SCEA'ES AT THE CAMP. 1 6/ 

scream in a thrill of delight, and old women yell 
forth his name and proclaim his praises from lodge 
to lodge. 

Mahto-Tatonka. to come back to him, was the 
best of all our Indian friends. Hour after hour and 
day after day, when swarms of savages of every 
age, se.K, and degree beset our camp, he would He 
in our tent, his lynx-eye ever open to guard our 
property from pillage. 

The Whirlwind invited us one day to his lodge. 
The feast was finished and the pipe began to circu- 
late. It was a remarkably large and fine one, and 
I e.xpressed my admiration of its form and dimen- 
sions. 

' ' If the Meneaska likes the pipe, ' ' asked the 
Whirlwind, ' ' why does he not keep it ?' ' 

Such a pipe among the Ogillallah is valued at the 
price of a horse. A princely gift, thinks the reader, 
and worthy of a chieftain and a warrior. The 
Whirlwind's generosity rose to no such pitch. He 
gave me the pipe, confidently expecting that I in 
return should make him a present of equal or 
superior value. This is the implied condition of 
every gift among the Indians as among the Orient- 
als, and should it not be compHed with, the pres- 
ent is usually reclaimed by the giver. So I ar- 
ranged upon a gaudy calico handkerchief an assort- 
ment of vermihon, tobacco, knives, and gunpow- 
der, and, summoning the chief to camp, assured 
him of my friendship, and begged his acceptance 
of a slight token of it. Ejaculating "how ! how !" 
he folded up the ofi"erings and withdrew to his lodge. 

Several days passed, and we and the Indians re- 
mained encamped side by side. They could not 
decide whether or not to go to the war. Toward 
evening scores of them would surround our tent, a 
picturesque group. Late one afternoon a party of 



1 68 THE ORE G OX TRAIL. 

them mounted on horseback came suddenly in sight 
from behind some clumps of bushes that lined the 
bank of the stream, leading with them a mule, on 
whose back was a wretched negro, only sustained 
in his seat by the high pommel and cantle of the 
Indian saddle. His cheeks were withered and 
shrunken in the hollow of his jaws ; his eyes were 
unnaturally dilated, and his lips seemed shrivelled 
and drawn back from his teeth hke those of a 
corpse. WTien they brought him up before our 
tent, and lifted him from the saddle, he could not 
walk or stand, but he crawled a short distance, and, 
M-ith a look of utter misen,, sat down on the grass. 
All the children and women came pouring out of 
the lodges around us, and with screams and cries 
made a close circle about him, while he sat support- 
ing himself with his hands, and looking from side 
to side with a vacant stare. The wretch was starr- 
ing to death I For thirty-three days he had wan- 
dered alone on the prairie, without weapon of any 
kind ; without shoes, moccasons, or any other 
clothing than an old jacket and pantaloons ; vith- 
out intelligence and skill to guide his course, or any 
knowledge of the productions of the prairie. All 
this time he had subsisted on crickets and hzards, 
wild onions, and three eggs which he found in the 
nest of a prairie-dove. He had not seen a human 
being. Utterly bewildered in the boundless, hope- 
less desert that stretched around him, offering to 
his inexperienced eye no mark by which to direct his 
course, he had walked on in despair, till he could 
walk no longer, and then crawled on his knees, until 
the bone was laid bare. He chose the night for his 
travelling, laying down by day to sleep in the glar- 
ing sun, always dreaming, as he said, of the broth 
and corn-cake he used to eat under his old master's 
shed in Missouri. Ever)- man in the camp, both 



SCEXES AT THE CAMP. 1 69 

white and red, was astonished at his wonderful 
escape, not only from star\ation, but from the grizzly 
bears which abound in that neighborhood, and the 
wohes which howled around him every night. 

Reynal recognized him the moment the Indians 
brought him in. He had run away from his master 
about a year before and joined the party of M. 
Richard, who was then leaving the frontier for the 
mountains. He had lived with Richard ever since, 
until in the end of May he, with Reynal and se\ eral 
other men, went out in search of some stray horses, 
when he got separated from the rest in a storm, and 
had never been heard of up to this time. Knowing 
his inexperience and helplessness, no one dreamed 
that he could still be living. The Indians had found 
him lying exhausted on the ground. 

As he sat there with the Indians gazing silently on 
him, his haggard face and glazed eye were disgust- 
ing to look upon. Delorier made him a bowl of 
gruel, but he suffered it to remain untasted before 
him. At length he languidly raised the spoon to 
his lips ; again he did so, and again ; and then his 
appetite seemed suddenly inflamed into madness, 
for he seized the bowl, swallowed all its contents in 
a few seconds, and eagerly demanded meat. This 
we refused, telling him to wait until morning ; but 
he begged so eagerly that we gave him a small 
piece, which he devoured, tearing it like a dog. 
He said he must have more. We told him that his 
life was in danger if he ate so immoderately at first. 
He assented, and said he knew he was a fool to do so. 
but he must have meat. This we absolutely refused, 
to the great indignation of the senseless squaws, 
who, when we were not watching him, would slyly 
bring dried meat and potntiics blanches, and place 
them on the ground by his side. Still this was not 
enough for him. When it grew dark he contrived 



170 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

to creep away ben\ een the legs of the horses and 
crawl over to the Indian village, about a furlong 
down the stream. Here he fed to his heart's con- 
tent, and was brought back again in the morning, 
when Jean Gras, the trapper, put him on horseback 
and carried him to the fort. He managed to sur- 
vi\ e the effects of his insane greediness, and though 
sUghdy deranged when he left this part of the 
country-, he was otherwise in tolerable health, and 
expressed his firm conviction that nothing could e\er 
kill him. 

When the sun was yet an hour high, it was a gay 
scene in the village. The warriors stalked sedately 
among the lodges, or along the margin of the 
streams, or walked out to \-isit the bands of horses 
that were feeding over the prairie. Half the \"illage 
population deserted the close and heated lodges and 
betook themselves to the water ; and here you might 
see boys and girls and young squaws splashing, 
swimming, and diving beneath the afternoon sun, 
with merrj- laughter and screaming. But when the 
sun was just resting above the broken peaks, and 
the purple mountains threw their prolonged shadows 
for miles over the prairie ; when our grim old tree, 
lighted by the horizontal rays, assumed an aspect 
of peaceful repose, such as one loves after scenes 
of timiult and excitement ; and when the whole land- 
scape of swelling plains and scattered groves was 
softened into a tranquil beaut\', then our encamp- 
ment presented a striking spectacle. Could Sal- 
vator Rosa have transferred it to his canvas, it would 
have added new renown to his pencil. Savage 
figures surrounded our tent, with quivers at their 
backs, and gvms, lances, or tomahawks in their 
hands. Some sat on horseback, motionless as 
equestrian statues, their arms crossed on their 
breasts, their eyes fixed in a steady, unwavering 



SCENES AT THE CAMP. I7I 

gaze upon us. Some stood erect, wrapped from 
head to foot in their long white robes of buftalo-hide. 
Some sat together on the grass, holding their shaggy- 
horses by a rope, with their broad dark busts ex- 
posed to view as they suffered their robes to fall 
from their shoulders. ' Others again stood carelessly 
among the throng, with nothing to conceal the 
matchless symmetry' of their forms ; and I do not 
exaggerate when 1 say that only on the prairie and 
in the \'atican have I seen such faultless models of 
the human figure. See that warrior standing by the 
tree, towering six feet and a half in stature. Your 
eyes may trace the whole of his graceful and majestic 
height, and discover no defect or blemish. With 
his'free and noble attitude, with the bow in his hand, 
and the quiver at his back, he might seem, but for 
his face, the Pythian Apollo himself. Such a figure 
rose before the imagination of West, when on first 
seeing the Belvidere in the Vatican, he exclaimed, 
" By God, a Mohawk !" 

When the sky darkened and the stars began to 
appear ; when the prairie was involved in gloom, 
and the horses were driven in and secured around 
the camp, the crowd began to melt away. Fires 
gleamed around, duskily revealing the rough trap- 
pers and the graceful Indians. One of the families 
near us would always be gathered about a bright 
blaze, that displayed the shadowy dimensions of 
their lodge and sent its hghts far up among the 
masses of foliage above, gilding the dead and ragged 
branches. Withered witch-like hags flitted around 
the blaze ; and here for hour after hour sat a circle 
of children and young girls, laughing and talking, 
their round mern,- faces glowing in the ruddy light. 
We could hear the monotonous notes of the drum 
from the Indian village, with the chant of the war- 
song, deadened in the distance, and the long chorus 



172 THE ORE G OX TRAIL. 

of quavering yells, where the war-dance was going 
on in the largest lodge. For several nights, too, we 
could hear wild and mournful cries, rising and dying 
away like the melancholy voice of a wolf. They 
came from the sisters and female relatives of Mahto- 
Tatonka, who were gashing their limbs -with knives 
and bewailing the death of Henn,- Chatillon's squaw. 
The hour would grow late before all retired to rest 
in the camp. Then the embers of the tires would 
be glowing dimly, the men would be stretched in 
their blankets on the ground, and nothing could be 
heard but the restless motions of the crowded horses. 

I recall these scenes with a mixed feehng of pleas- 
ure and pain. At this time I was so reduced by ill- 
ness that 1 could seldom walk without reehng like a 
drunken man, and when I rose from my seat upon 
the ground the landscape suddenly grew dim before 
my eyes, the trees and lodges seemed to sway to and 
fro, and the prairie to rise and fall like the swells of 
the ocean. Such a state of things is by no means 
enviable anywhere. In a country where a man's 
life may at any jnoment depend on the strength of 
his arm, or it may be on the acti\-it}- of his legs, it 
is more particularly inconvenient. Medical assist- 
ance, of course, there was none ; neither had 1 the 
means of pursuing a system of diet ; and sleeping 
on damp ground, with an occasional drenching from 
a shower, would hardly be recommended as bene- 
ficial. I sometimes suffered the extremit}- of lan- 
guor and exhaustion, and though at the time 1 felt 
no apprehensions of the final result, 1 have since 
learned that my situation was a critical one. 

Besides other formidable inconveniences, I owe it 
in a great measure to the remote effects of that un- 
lucky disorder that from deficient eyesight I am 
compelled to employ the pen of another in taking 
down this narrative from my lips ; and I have 



SCEXES AT THE CAMP. 1 73 

learned ven- effectually that a violent attack of 
dysenten- on the prairie is a thing too serious for a 
joke. I tried repose and a ver\- sparing diet. For 
a long time, with exemplary- patience, I lounged 
about the camp, or, at the utmost, staggered over to 
the Indian village, and walked faint and dizzy 
among the lodges. It would not do ; and I be- 
thought me of starvation. During five days I sus- 
tained life on one small biscuit a day. At the end 
of that time I was weaker than before, but the dis- 
order seemed shaken in its stronghold, and ver\' grad- 
ually I began to resume a less rigid diet. No sooner 
had I done so than the same detested symptoms re- 
visited me ; my old enemy resumed his pertinacious 
assaults, yet not with his former violence or con- 
stancy, and though before I regained any fair por- 
tion of my ordinary- strength weeks had elapsed, 
and months passed before the disorder left me, yet 
thanks to old habits of activity-, and a merciful 
Providence, I was able to sustain myself against it. 
I used to lie languid and dreamy before our tent, 
and muse on the past and the future, and when 
most overcome with lassitude, my eyes turned al- 
ways toward the distant Black Hills. There is a 
spirit of energ}- and vigor in mountains, and they 
impart it to all who approach their presence. At 
that time I did not know how many dark supersti- 
tions and gloomy legends are associated with those 
mountains in the minds of the Indians, but I felt 
an eager desire to penetrate their hidden recesses, 
to explore the awful chasms and precipices, the 
black torrents, the silent forests, that I fancied were 
concealed there. 



CHAPTER XII. 

ILL LUCK. 

" One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear, 
\\'hen they reach'd the hall-door, and the charger stood 

near; 
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung, 
So light to the saddle before her he sprung ! 
' She is won ! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur ; 
They'll have fleet steeds that follow," quoth young Loch- 
invar." — Marmion. 

A Canadian came from Fort Laramie and brought 
a curious piece of intelligence. A trapper, fresh 
from the mountains, had become enamored of a 
IMissouri damsel belonging to a family who ■w-ith 
other emigrants had been for some days encamped 
in the neighborhood of the fort. If braven,- be the 
most potent charm to win the favor of the fair, then 
no wooer could be more irresistible than a Rocky 
Mountain trapper. In the present instance the suit 
was not urged in vain. The lovers concerted a 
scheme, which they proceeded to carry' into effect 
with all possible dispatch. The emigrant party left 
the fort, and on the next succeeding night but one en- 
camped as usual, and placed a guard. A little after 
midnight the enamored trapper drew near, mounted 
on a strong horse, and leading another by the bridle. 
Fastening both animals to a tree, he stealthily moved 
toward the wagons, as if he were approaching a band 
of buffalo. Eluding the vigilance of the guard, who 
were probably half-asleep, he met his mistress by 
appointment at the outskirts of the camp, mounted 
her on his spare horse, and made off with her 
through the darkness. The sequel of the adventure 
174 



ILL LUCK. 175 

did not reach our ears, and we never learned how 
the imprudent fair one liked an Indian lodge for a 
dwelling and a reckless trapper for a bridegroom. 

At length the Whirlwind and his warriors deter- 
mined to move. They had resolved after all their 
preparations not to go to the rendezvous at La 
Bonte's camp, but to pass through the I51ack Hills 
and spend a few weeks in hunting the buffalo on the 
other side, until they had killed enough to furnish 
them with a stock of provisions and with hides 
to make their lodges for the next season. This 
done, they were to send out a small independent 
war-party against the enemy. Their linal deter- 
mination left us in some embarrassment. Should 
we go to La Bonte's camp, it was not impossible 
that the other villages should prove as vacillating 
and indecisive as the Whirlwind's, and that no as- 
sembly whatever would take place. Our old com- 
panion Reynal had conceived a liking for us, or 
rather for our biscuit and coffee, and for the occa- 
sional small presents which we made him. He was 
very anxious that we should go with the village 
which he himself intended to accompany. He de- 
clared he was certain that no Indians would meet at 
the rendezvous, and said, moreover, that it would 
be easy to convey our cart and baggage through the 
Black Hills. In saying this, he told, as usual, an 
egregious falsehood. Neither he nor any white man 
with us had ever seen the difficult and obscure de- 
files through which the Indians intended to make 
their way. I passed them afterward, and had much 
ado to force my distressed horse along the narrow 
ravines and through chasms where daylight could 
scarcely penetrate. Our cart might as easily have 
been conveyed over the summit of Pike's Peak. 
Anticipating the difficulties and uncertainties of an 
attempt to visit the rendezvous, we recalled the old 



\y6 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

proverb about ' ' A bird in the hand, ' ' and decided 
to follow the village. • 

Both camps, the Indians' and our own, br©ke_up_ 
on the morning of the first of July. I was so weak 
that the aid of a potent auxiliary, a spoonful of 
whiskey, swallowed at short intervals, alone enabled 
me to sit my hardy little mare Pauline through the 
short journey of that day. For half a mile before 
us and half a mile behind the prairie was covered 
far and wide with the moving throng of savages. 
The barren, broken plain stretched away to the 
right and left, and far in front rose the gloomy pre- 
cipitous ridge of the Black Hills. We pushed for- 
ward to the head of the scattered column, passing 
the burdened travaux, the heavily laden pack- 
horses, the gaunt old women on foot, the gay young 
squaws on horseback, the restless children running 
among the crowd, old men, striding along in their 
white bufifalo-robes, and groups of young warriors 
mounted on their best horses. Henr)- Chatillon, 
looking backward over the distant prairie, exclaimed 
suddenly that a horseman was approaching, and in 
truth we could just discern a small black speck 
slowly moving over the face of a distant swell, like 
a fly creeping on a wall. It rapidly grew larger as 
it approached. 

"White man, I b'lieve," said Henry; "look 
how he ride ! Indian never ride that way. Yes ; 
he got rifle on the saddle before him." 

The horseman disappeared in a hollow of the 
prairie, but we soon saw him again, and as he came 
riding at a gallop toward us thi'ough the crowd of 
Indian^, his long hair streaming in the wind behind 
him, we recognized the ruddy face and old buckskin 
frock of Jean Gras the trapper. He was just arrived 
from Fort Laramie, where he had been on a visit, 
and said he had a message for us. A trader named 



ILL LUCK. 177 

Bisonette, one of Henrj-'s friends, was lately come 
from the settlements, and intended to go with a 
party of men to La Bonte's camp, where, as Jean 
Gras assured us, ten or twelve villages of Indians 
would certainly assemble. Bisonette desired that 
we would cross over and meet him there, and 
promised that his men should protect our horses 
and baggage while we went among the Indians, 
Shaw and I stopped our horses and held a council, 
and in an evil hour resolved to go. 

For the rest of that day's journey our course and 
that of the Indians was the same. In less than an 
hour we came to where the high barren prairie ter- 
minated, sinking down abruptly in steep descent ; 
and standing on these heights, we saw below us a 
great level meadow. Laramie Creek bounded it on 
the left, sweeping along in the shadow of the de- 
clivities, and passing with its shallow and rapid 
current just below us. We sat on horseback, wait- 
ing and looking on, while the whole savage array 
went pouring past us, hurr)'ing down the descent, 
and spreading themselves over the meadow below. 
In a few moments the plain was swarming with the 
moving multitude, some just visible, like specks in 
the distance, others still passing on, pressing down, 
and fording the stream with bustle and confusion. 
On the edge of the heights sat half a dozen of the 
elder warriors, gravely smoking and looking down 
with jnmoved faces on the wild and striking spec- 
tacle. 

L'p went the lodges in a circle on the margin of 
the stream. For the sake of quiet we pitched our 
tent among some trees at half a mile's distance. 
In the afternoon we were in the village. The day 
was a glorious one, and the whole camp seemed 
lively and animated in sympathy. Groups of chil- 
dren and young girls were laughing gayly on the 
12 



178 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

outside of the lodges. The shields, the lances, and 
the bows were removed from the tall tripods on 
which they usually hung before the dwellings of 
their owners. The warriors were mounting their 
horses, and one by one riding away over the prajrie 
toward the neighboring hills. 

Shaw and 1 sat on the grass near the lodge of 
Reynal. An old woman, -with true Indian ho^i- 
talit}-, brought a bowl oi boiled venison and placed 
it before us. We amused ourselves with watching- 
half a dozen young squaws who were placing 
together and chasing each other in and out of one 
of the lodges. Suddenly the wild yell of the war- 
whoop came pealing from the hills. A crowd of 
horsemen appeared, rushing dovs-n their sides, and 
riding at full speed toward the village, each warrior's 
long hair flpng behind him in the wind hke a ship's 
streamer. As they approached, the confused throng 
assumed a regular order, and entering two by two, 
they circled round the area at full gallop, each 
warrior singing his war-song as he rode. Some of 
their dresses were splendid. They wore superb 
crests of feathers, and close tunics of antelope-skins, 
fringed with the scalp-locks of their enemies ; their 
shields too were often fluttering with the war-eagle's 
feathers. All had bows and arrows at their backs ; 
some carried long lances, and a few were armed 
\\"ith guns. The White Shield, their partisan, rode 
in gorgeous attire at their head, mounted on a black- 
and-white horse. Mahto-Tatonka and his brothers 
took no part in this parade, for they were in mourn- 
ing for their sister, and were all sitting in their 
lodges, their bodies bedaubed from head to foot with 
white clay, and a lock of hair cut from each of their 
foreheads. 

The warriors circled three times round the \Tllage ; 
and as each distinguished champion passed, the old 



ILL LUCK. 179 

women would scream out his name, in honor of his 
bravery, and to incite the emulation of the younger 
warriors. Little urchins, not two years old, followed 
the warlike pageant with glittering eyes, and looked 
with eager wonder and admiration at those whose 
honors were proclaimed by the public voice of the 
village. Thus early is the lesson of war instilled 
into the mind of an Indian, and such are the stimu- 
lants which excite his thirst for martial renown. 

The procession rode out of the village as it had 
entered it, and in half an hour all the warriors had 
returned again, dropping quietly in, singly or in 
parties of two or three. 

As the sun rose next morning we looked across 
the meadow, and could see the lodges levelled and 
the Indians gathering together in preparation to 
leave the camp. Their course lay to the westward. 
We turned toward the north with our three men, the 
four trappers following us, with the Indian family 
of Moran. We travelled until night. I suffered 
not a little from pain and weakness. We encamped 
among some trees by the side of a little brook, and 
here during the whole of the next day we lay wait- 
ing for Bisonette, but no Bisonette appeared. Here 
also two of our trapper friends left us, and set out 
for the Rocky Mountains. On the second morning, 
despairing of Bisonette' s arrival, we resumed our 
journey, traversing a forlorn and dreary monotony 
of sun-scorched plains, where no living thing ap- 
peared save here and there an antelope flying before 
us like the wind. When noon came we saw an un- 
wonted and most welcome sight ; a rich and luxuri- 
ant growth of trees, marking the course of a little 
stream called Horse-Shoe Creek. We turned gladly 
toward it. There were lofty and spreading trees, 
standing widely asunder, and supporting a thick 
canopy of leaves, above a surface of rich, tall grass. 



l8o THE ORE GO. V TRAIL. 

The stream ran smftly, as clear as crystal, through 
the bosom of the wood, sparkhng over its bed of 
white sand, and darkening again as it entered a 
deep cavern of leaves and boughs. I was thor- 
oughly exhausted, and flung myself on the ground, 
scarcely able to move. All that afternoon I lay in 
the shade by the side of the stream, and those 
bright woods and sparkling waters are associated in 
my mind with recollections of lassitude and utter 
prostration. WTien night came I sat down by the 
fire, longing, with an intensity of which at this 
moment I can hardly conceive, for some powerful 
stimulant. 

In the morning, as glorious a sun rose upon us 
as ever animated that desolate wilderness. We ad- 
vanced, and soon were surrounded by tall bare 
hills, overspread from top to bottom with prickly- 
pears and other cacti, that seemed like clinging 
reptiles. A plain, flat and hard, and with scarcely 
the vestige of grass, lay before us, and a line of 
tall misshapen trees bounded the onward view. 
There was no sight or sound of man or beast, or 
any living thing, although behind those'<- trees was 
the long-looked-for place of rendezvous, where we 
fondly hoped to have found the Indians congregated 
by thousands. We looked and hstened anxiously. 
We pushed forward with our best speed, and forced 
our horses through the trees. There were copses of 
some extent beyond, with a scant}- stream creeping 
through their midst ; and as we pressed through the 
yielding branches, deer sprang up to the right and 
left. At length we caught a glimpse of the prairie 
beyond. Soon we emerged upon it, and saw, not a 
plain covered with encampments and swarming 
with life, but a vast unbroken desert, stretching 
away before us league upon league, without a bush 
or a tree or anvthing that had life. We drew rein 



ILL LUCK. l8l 

and gave to the winds our sentiments concerning 
the whole aboriginal race of America. Our journey- 
was in vain, and much worse than in vain, tor 
myself, I was vexed and disappointed beyond 
measure ; as I well knew that a slight aggrava- 
tion of my disorder would render this false step 
irrevocable, and make it quite impossible to accom- 
plish effectually the design which had led me an 
arduous journey of between three and four thousand 
miles. To fortify myself as well as I could agamst 
such a contingency, I resolved that I would not 
under any circumstances attempt to leave the coun- 
try until my object was completely gained. 

And where were the Indians? They were as- 
sembled in great numbers at a spot about twenty 
miles distant, and there at that very moment they 
were engaged in their warlike ceremonies. The 
scarcity 'of'' buffalo in the vicinity of La Bonte's 
camp, which would render their supply of provisions 
scanty and precarious, had probably prevented them 
from assembling there ; but of all this we knew 
nothing until some weeks after. 

Shaw lashed his horse and galloped forward. I, 
though much more vexed than he, was not strong 
enough to adopt this convenient vent to my feel- 
ings ; so I followed at a quiet pace, but in no quiet 
mood. We rode up to a solitary old tree, which 
seemed the only place fit for an encampment. Half 
its branches were dead, and the rest were so scan- 
tily furnished with leaves that they cast but a meagre 
and wretched shade, and the old twisted trunk alone 
furnished sufficient protection from the sun. We 
threw down our saddles in the strip of shadow that 
it cast, and sat down upon them. In silent indig- 
nation we remained smoking for an hour or more, 
shifting our saddles with the shifting shadow, for the 
sun was intolerably hot. 



CHAPTER XIII. 



HUNTING INDIANS. 



" I tread, 
With fainting steps and slow. 
Where wilds immeasurably spread 

Seem lengthening as I go." — GOLDSMITH. 

At last we had reached La Bonte's^amp, toward 
which our eyes had turned so long. Of all weary 
hours, those that passed between noon and sunset 
of the day when we arrived there may bear away 
the palm of exquisite discomfort. I lay under the 
tree reflecting on what course to pursue, watching 
the shadows which seemed never to move, and thr 
sun which remained fixed in the sky, and hoping 
every moment to see the men and horses of Bison- 
ette emerging from the woods. Shaw and Henry 
had ridden out on a scouting expedition, and did 
not return until the sun was setting. There was 
nothing very cheering in their faces nor in the news 
they brought. 

" We have been ten miles from here," said Shaw. 
"We climbed the highest butte we could find, and 
could not see a buffalo or Indian ; nothing but prai- 
rie for twenty miles around us." Henry's horse 
was quite disabled by clambering up and down the 
sides of ravines, and Shaw's was severely fatigued. 

After supper that evening, as we sat around the 
fire, I proposed to Shaw to wait one day longer, in 
hopes of Bisonette's arrival, and if he should not 
come, to send Delorier with the cart and baggage 
back to Fort Laramie, while we ourselves followed 
the Whirlwind's village, and attempted to overtake 
it ' s it passed the mountains. Shaw, not having 
182 



HUNTING INDIANS. 1 83 

the same motive for huhting Indians that I had, was 
averse to the plan ; I therefore resolved to go alone. 
This design I adopted ver>- unwillingly, for I knew 
that in the present state of my health the attempt 
would be extremely unpleasant, and, as I considered, 
hazardous. I hoped that Bisonette would appear in 
the course of the following day, and bring us some 
information by which to direct our course, and en- 
able me to accomplish my purpose by means less 
objectionable. 

The rifle of Henr\- Chatillon was necessar)- for 
the subsistence of the party in my absence ; so I 
called Raymond, and ordered him to prepare to set 
out with me. Raymond rolled his eyes vacantly 
about, but at length, having succeeded in grappling 
with the idea, he withdrew to his bed under the 
cart. He was a heavy-moulded fellow, with a 
broad face, exactly like an owl's, expressing the 
most impenetrable stupidity and entire self-confi- 
dence. As for his good qualities, he had a sort of 
stubborn fidelity-, an insensibility to danger, and a 
kind of instinct or sagacity, which sometimes led 
him right, where better heads than his were at a 
loss. Besides this, he knew ver)- well how to han- 
dle a rifle and picket a horse. 

Through the following day the sun glared down 
upon us with a pitiless, penetrating heat. The dis- 
tant blue prairie seemed quivering under it. The 
lodge of our Indian associates was baking in the 
rays, and our rifles, as they leaned against the tree, 
were too hot for the touch. There was a dead si- 
lence through our camp and all around it, unbroken 
except by the hum of gnats and mosquitoes. The 
men, resting their foreheads on their arms, were 
sleeping under the cart. The Indians kept close 
within their lodge, except the newly married pair, 
who were seated together under an awning of buf- 



184 THE OREGOAT TRAIL. 

fklo-robes, and the old conjurer, who, with his hard, 
emaciated face and gaunt ribs, was perched aloft 
like a turkey-buzzard among the dead branches 
of an old tree, constandy on the lookout for ene 
mies. He would have made a capital shot. A 
rille bullet, skilfully planted, would have brought 
him tumbling to the ground. Surely, I thought, 
there could be no more harm in shooting such a 
hideous old \-illain, to see how ugly he would look 
when he was dead, than in shooting the detestable 
vulture which he resembled. We dined, and then 
Shaw saddled his horse. 

"I will ride back," said he, "to Horse-Shoe 
Creek, and see if Bisonette is there. 

" I would go wth you," I answered, " but I must 
reser\'e all the strength I have. 

The afternoon dragged away at lasL I occupied 
myself in cleaning my rifle and pistols, and making 
other preparations for the journey. After supper, 
Henr)- ChatiUon and I lay by the fire, discussing 
the properties of that admirable weapon, the rifle, 
in the use of which he could fairly out-rival Leath- 
erstocking himself. 

It was late before I wrapped myself in my blanket 
and lay down for the night, with my head on my 
saddle. Shaw had not returned, but this gave us 
no uneasiness, for we presumed that he had fallen 
in with Bisonette, and was spending the night with 
him. For a day or t«o past I had gained in 
strei^th and health, but about midnight an attack 
of pain awoke me, and for some hours I felt no in- 
clination to sleep. The moon was quivering on the 
broad breast of the Platte ; nothing could be heard 
except those low inexplicable sounds, like whisper- 
ings and footsteps, which no one who has spent the 
night alone amid deserts and forests will be at a loss 
to understand. As 1 was falling asleep, a famiUar 



HUiXTING INDIANS. 1 85 

voice, shouting from the distance, awoke me again. 
A rapid step approached the camp, and Shaw on 
foot, with his gun in his hand, hastily entered. 

" Where's your horse ?" said I, raising myself on 
my elbow. 

" Lost !" said Shaw. "Where's Delorier? " 

" There," I replied, pointing to a confused mass 
of blankets and buffalo-robes. 

Shaw touched them with the butt of his gun, and 
up sprang our faithful Canadian. 

"Come, Delorier; stir up the fire, and get me 
something to eat." 

"Where's Bisonette .'" asked I. 

"The Lord knows; there's nobody at Horse- 
Shoe Creek." 

Shaw had gone back to the spot where we had 
encamped two days before, and finding nothing 
there but the ashes of our fires, he had tied his 
horse to the tree while he bathed in the stream. 
Something startled his horse, who broke loose, and 
for two hours Shaw tried in vain to catch him. 
Sunset approached, and it was twelve miles to camp. 
So he abandoned the attempt, and set out on foot to 
join us. The greater part of his perilous and soli- 
tar\' work was performed in darkness. His mocca- 
sons were worn to tatters and his feet severely lac- 
erated. He sat down to eat, however, with the usual 
equanimity- of his temper not at all disturbed by his 
misfortune, and my last recollection before falling 
asleep was of Shaw, seated cross-legged before the 
fire, smoking his pipe. The horse, I may as well 
mention here, was found the next morning by 
Henr\- Chatillon. 

When I awoke again there was a fresh damp 
smell in the air, a gray twilight involved the prairie, 
and above its eastern verge was a streak of cold red 
sky. I called to the men, and in a moment a fire 



1 86 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

was blazing brightly in the dim morning light, and 
breakfast was getting ready. We sat down together 
on the grass, to the last civilized meal which Ra>-- 
mond and I were destined to enjoy for some time. 

' ' Now bring in the horses. 

My little mare Pauline was soon standing by the 
fire. She was a fleet, hardy, and gentle animal, 
christened after Paul Dorion, fi-om whom 1 had pro- 
cured her in exchange for Pontiac. She did not 
look as if equipped for a morning pleasure ride. 
In front of the black, high-bowed mountain-saddle, 
holsters, with heavy pistols, were fastened. A pair 
of saddle-bags, a blanket tightly rolled, a small 
parcel of Indian presents tied up in a buffalo-skin, 
a leather bag of flour, and a smaller one of tea were 
all secured behind, and a long trail-rope was wound 
round her neck. Raymond had a strong black 
mule, equipped in a similar manner. We crammed 
our powder-horns to the throat, and mounted. 

" I -will meet you at Fort Laramie on the first 
of August," said I to Shaw. 

" That is." replied he, " if we don't meet before 
that. I think I shall follow after you in a day or 
t«'o. 

This, in fact, he attempted, and he would have 
succeeded if he had not encountered obstacles 
against which his resolute spirit was of no avail. 
Two days after 1 left him he sent Delorier to the 
fort with the cart and baggage, and set out for the 
mountains with Henn,- ChatiUon ; but a tremendous 
thunder-storm had deluged the prairie, and nearly 
obliterated not only our trail but that of the Indians 
themselves. They followed along the base of the 
mountains, at a loss in which direction to go. They 
encamped there, and in the morning ShaAv found 
himself poisoned by i\"y in such a manner that it 
was impossible for him to travel. So they turned 



HUNTING INDIANS. 1 87 

back reluctantly toward Fort Laramie. Shaw's 
limbs were swollen to double their usual size, and 
he rode in great pain. They encamped again within 
twenty miles of the fort, and reached it early on the 
following morning. Shaw lay seriously ill for a 
week, and remained at the fort till I rejoined him 
some time after. 

To return to my own story. We shook hands 
with our friends, rode out upon the prairie, and 
clambering the sandy hollows that were channelled 
in the sides of the hills, gained the high plains 
above. If a curse had been pronounced upon the 
land it could not have worn an aspect of more 
dreary and forlorn barrenness. There were abrupt 
broken hills, deep hollows, and wide plains ; but all 
alike glared with an insupportable whiteness under 
the burning sun. The country, as if parched by 
the heat, had cracked into innumerable fissures and 
ravines, that not a little impeded our progress. 
Their steep sides were white and raw, and along 
the bottom we several times discovered the broad 
tracks of the terrific grizzly bear, nowhere more 
abundant than in this region. The ridges of the 
hills were hard as rock, and strewn with pebbles 
of flint and coarse red jasper ; looking from them, 
there was nothing to relieve the desert uniformity 
of the prospect, save here and there a pine tree 
clinging at the edge of a ravine, and stretching over 
its rough, shaggy arms. Under the scorching heat, 
these melancholy trees diffused their peculiar resin- 
ous odor through the sultry air. There was some- 
thing in it, as I approached them, that recalled old 
associations : the pine-clad mountains of New Eng- 
land, traversed in days of health and buoyancy, 
rose like a reality before my fancy. In passing 
that arid waste I was goaded with a morbid thirst 
produced by my disorder, and 1 thought with a long- 



1 88 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

ing desire on the crystal treasure poured in such 
wasteful profusion from our thousand hills. Shutting 
my eyes, I more than half-believed that I heard the 
deep plunging and gurgling of waters in the bowels 
of the shaded rocks. I could see their dark icy 
glittering far down amid the crevices, and the cold 
drops trickling from the long green mosses. 

When noon came, we found a little stream with a 
few trees and bushes ; and here we rested for an 
hour. Then we travelled on, guided by the sun, 
until, just before sunset, we reached another stream, 
called Bitter Cotton-wood Creek. A thick growth 
of bushes and old storm-beaten trees grew at inter- 
vals along its bank. Near the foot of one of the 
trees we flung down our saddles, and hobbling our 
horses, turned them loose to feed. The little stream 
was clear and swift, and ran musically over its white 
sands. Small water-birds were splashing in the 
shallows, and filling the air with their cries and flut- 
terings. The sun was just sinking among gold and 
crimson clouds behind Mount Laramie. I well 
remember how I lay upon a log by the margin 
of the water and watched the restless motions of 
the little fish in a deep still nook below. Strange 
to say, I seemed to have gained strength since 
the morning, and almost felt a sense of returning 
health. 

We built our fire. Night came, and the wolves 
began to howl. One deep voice commenced, and 
it was answered in awful responses from the hills, 
the plains, and the woods along the stream above 
and below us. Such sounds need not and do not 
disturb one's sleep upon the prairie. We picketed 
the mare and the mule close at our feet, and did 
not awake until daylight. Then we turned them 
loose, still hobbled, to feed for an hour before start- 
ing. We were getting ready our morning's meal. 



HUNTING INDIANS. 189 

when Raymond saw an antelope at half a mile' s dis- 
tance, and said he would go and shoot it. 

"Your business," said I, "is to look after the 
animals. I am too weak to do much if anything 
happens to them, and you must keep within sight 
of the camp." 

Raymond promised, and set out with his rifle in 
his hand. The animals had passed across the 
stream, and were feeding among the long grass on 
the other side, much tormented by the attacks of the 
numerous large green-headed flies. As I watched 
them, I saw them go down into a hollow, and as 
several minutes elapsed without their reappearing, 
I waded through the stream to look after them. To 
my vexation and alarm I discovered them at a great 
distance, galloping away at full speed, Pauline in 
advance, with her hobbles broken, and the mule, 
still fettered, following with awkward leaps. I fired 
my rifle and shouted to recall Raymond. In a 
moment he came running through the stream, with 
a red handkerchief bound round his head. I pointed 
to the fugitives, -and ordered him to pursue them. 
Muttering a " Sacre !" bet^veen his teeth, he set out 
at ftill speed, still swinging his rifle in his hand. I 
walked up to the top of a hill, and looking away 
over the prairie, could just distinguish the runaways, 
still at ftiU gallop. Returning to the fire. 1 sat down 
at the foot of a tree. Wearily and anxiously hour 
after hour passed away. The old loose bark dan- 
gling from the trunk behind me flapped to and fro in 
the wind, and the mosquitoes kept up their incessant 
drowsv humming ; but other than this, there was no 
sight nor sound of life throughout the burning land- 
scape. The sun rose higher and higher, until the 
shadows fell almost perpendicularly, and I knew 
that it must be noon. It seemed scarcely possible 
that the anim^sjiould be recovered. If they were 



A r— kXX 



190 THE ORE G OX TRAIL. 

not. ray situation was one of serious dimci:lt%'. Shaw, 
vs-hen I left him. had decided :c z:~.cve that morning, 
but whither he had not determined. To look for 
him would be a vain attempt. Fort Laramie was 
fort)- miles distant, and I could not walk a mile 
without great effort. Not then ha\-ing learned the 
sound philosophy of Welding to disproportionate 
obstacles. I resolved to continue in any event the 
pursuit of the Indians. Only one plan occurred to 
me : this was to send Raymond to the fort with an 
order for more horses, while I remained on the 
Sf>ot. awaiting his return, which might take place 
within three days. But the adoption of this resolu- 
tion did not wholly aUay my anxiet)', for it involved 
both uncertaint\" and danger. To remain stationary 
and alone for three days, in a countr^- fiall of dan- 
gerous Indians, was not the most flattering of pros- 
pects : and protracted as my Indian hunt must be by 
such delay, it was not eas\- to foretell its iJtimate 
result. Revolving these maners. I grew hungr\- ; 
and as our stock of pro\-isions. except four or five 
pounds of flour, was by this time exhausted, I left 
the camp to see what game I could find. Nothing 
could be seen except four or five large curlew, 
which, with their loud screaming, were wheeling 
over my head, and now and then alighting upon 
the prairie. I shot two of them, and was about re- 
turning, when a startling sight caught my eye. A 
small, dark object, hke a human head, suddenly 
appeared, and vanished among the thick bushes 
along the stream below. In that country- every- 
stranger is a suspected enemy. Instinctively I 
threw forward the muzzle of my rifle. In a moment 
the bushes were \iolently shaken, two heads, but 
not human heads, protruded, and to my great joy I 
recognized the downcast, disconsolate countenance 
of the black mule and the yeUow \-isage of Pauline. 



HUNTING INDIANS. I9I 

Raymond came upon the mule, pale and haggard, 
complaining of a fier\' pain in his chest. I took 
charge of the animals while he kneeled down by the 
side of the stream to drink. He had kept the run- 
aways in sight as far as the Side Fork of Laramie 
Creek, a distance of more than ten miles ; and here 
with great difficulty he had succeeded in catching 
them. I saw that he was unarmed, and asked him 
what he had done with his rifle. It had encumbered 
him in his pursuit, and he had dropped it on the 
prairie, thinking that he could find it on his return ; 
but in this he had failed. The loss might prove a 
ver)' formidable one. I was too much rejoiced, 
however, at the recover)^ of .the animals to think 
much about it ; and having made some tea for Ray- 
mond in a tin vessel which we had brought with us, 
I told him that I would give him two hours for rest- 
ing before we set out again. He had eaten nothing 
that day ; but having no appetite, he lay down im- 
mediately to sleep. 1 picketed the animals among 
the richest grass that I could find, and made fires of 
green wood to protect them from the flies ; then 
sitting down again h\ the tree, 1 watched the slow 
movements of the sun, begrudging ever)- moment 
that passed. 

The time I had mentioned expired, and I awoke 
Raymond. We saddled and set out again, but first 
we went in search of the lost rifle, and in the course 
of an hour Raymond was fortunate enough to find 
it. Then we turned westward, and moved over the 
hills and hollows at a slow pace toward the Black 
Hills. The heat no longer tormented us, for a cloud 
was before the sun. Yet that day shall never be 
marked with white in my calendar. The air began 
to grow fresh and cool, the distant mountains frowned 
more gloomily, there was a low muttering of thun- 
der, and dense black masses of cloud rose heavily 



192 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

behind the broken peaks. At first they were g"ay]y 
fringed ■with silver by the afternoon sun ; but soon 
the thick blackness overspread the whole sky, and 
the desert around us was "wrapped in deep gloom. 
I scarcely heeded it at the time, but now I cannot 
but feel that there was an awful sublimit}- in the 
hoarse murmuring of the thimder, in the sombre 
shadows that involved the mountains and the plain. 
The stor m hrnl-p It came upon us with a zigzag 
bSnding flash, "nith a terrific crash of thimder, and 
•with a hurricane that howled over the prairie, dash- 
ing floods of water against us. Ra}-mond looked 
around, and cursed the merciless elements. There 
seemed no shelter near, but we discerned at length 
a deep ra^-ine gashed in the level prairie, and saw 
half-way down its side an old pine tree, whose 
rough horizontal boughs formed a sort of pent- 
house against the tempest. We found a practi- 
cable passage, and hastily descending, fastened our 
animals to some large loose stones at the bottom ; 
then climbing up, we drew our blankets over our 
heads, and seated ourselves close beneath the old 
tree. Perhaps I was no competent judge of time, 
but it seemed to me that we were sitting there a fuU 
hour, while around us poured a deluge of rain, 
through which the rocks on the opposite side of the 
gulf were barely \'isible. The first burst of the 
tempest soon subsided, but the rain poured steadily. 
At length Raymond grew impatient, and scram- 
bling out of the ra\'ine, he gained the level prairie 
above. 

" \Miat does the weather look like?" asked I, 
from my seat under the tree. 

' ' It looks bad, ' ' he answered ; ' ' dark all around, 
and ag^ain he descended and sat down by my side. 
Some ten minutes elapsed. 

"Go up again," said I, "and take ancther 



HUXTTXG LVD TANS. 1 93 

look ;" and he clambered up the precipice. "Well, 
how is it ?' ' 

"Just the same, only 1 see one little bright spot 
over the top of the mountain." 

The rain by this time had begun to abate ; and 
going down to the bottom of the ravine, we loosened 
the animals, who were standing up to their knees m 
water. Leading them up the rocky throat of the 
ravine, we reached the plain above. "Am 1." 
1 thought to myself, "the same man who, a few 
months since, was seated, a quiet student of belles- 
lettres, in a cushioned arm-chair by a sea-coal 
fire?" 

All around us was obscurity ; but the bright spot 
above the mountain-tops grew wider and ruddier, 
unril at length the clouds drew apart, and a flood of 
sunbeams poured down from heaven, streaming 
along the precipices, and involving them in a thin 
blue haze, as soft and lovely as that which wraps 
the Apennines on an evening in spring. Rapidly 
the clouds were broken and scattered, like routed 
legions of evil spirits. The plain lay basking in 
sunbeams around us ; a rainbow arched the desert 
from north to south, and far in front a line of woods 
seemed inviting us to refreshment and repose. 
When we reached them they were glistening with 
prismatic dew-drops, and enlivened by the songs 
and flutterings of a hundred birds. Strange winged 
insects, benumbed by the rain, were clinging to the 
leaves and the bark of the trees. 

Raymond kindled a fire with great difficulty. 
The animals turned eagerly to feed on the soft rich 
grass, while 1, wrapping myself in my blanket, lay 
down and gazed on the evening landscape. The 
mountains, whose stern features had lowered upon 
us with so gloomy and awful a frown, now seemed 
lighted up with a serene, benignant smile, and the 

13 



194 T^E OR EG ox TRAIL. 

green waring undulations of the plain were glad- 
dened with the rich sunshine. Wet, ill, and wearied 
as I was, my spirit grew lighter at the view, and I 
drew from it an augur)- of good for my future pros- 
pects. 

^^^len moming came Raymond awoke coughing 
violently, though I had apparently received no in- 
jury. We mounted, crossed the little stream, pushed 
through the trees, and began our journey over the 
plain beyond. And now, as we rode slowly along, 
we looked anxiously on every hand for traces of the 
Indians, not doubting that the village had passed 
somewhere in that vicinity ; but the scanty shriv- 
elled grass was not more than three or four inches 
high, and the ground was of such unyielding hard- 
ness that a host might have marched over it and 
left scarcely a trace of its passage. Up hill and 
down hill, and clambering through ravines, we con- 
tinued our journey'. As we were skirting the foot 
of a hill I saw Raymond, who was some rods in 
advance, suddenly jerking the reins of his mule. 
Sliding from his seat, and running in a crouching 
posture up a hollow, he disappeared ; and then in 
an instant I heard the sharp quick crack of his rifle. 
A wounded antelope came nmning on three legs 
over the hill. 1 lashed Pauline and made after 
him. My fleet little mare soon brought me by his 
side, and after leaping and bounding for a few mo- 
ments in vain, he; stood still, as if despairing of 
escape. His glistening eyes turned up toward my 
face T\-ith so piteous a look that it was with feeUngs 
of infinite compunction that 1 shot him through the 
head with a pistol. Raymond skinned and cut him 
up, and we hung the fore-quarters to our saddles, 
much rejoiced that our exhausted stock of provisions 
was renewed in such good time. 

Gaining the top of a hill, we eould see along the 



HUNTING INDIANS. 1 95 

cloudy verge of the prairie before us lines of trees 
and shadowy groves, that marked the course of 
Laramie Creek. Some time before noon we reached 
its banks, and began anxiously to search them for 
footprints of the Indians. We followed the stream 
for several miles, now on the shore and now wading 
in the water, scrutinizing ever)- sand-bar and every 
muddy bank. So long was the search that we 
began to fear that we had left the trail undiscovered 
behind us. At length 1 heard Raymond shouting, 
and saw him jump from his mule to examine some 
object under the shelving bank. 1 rode up to his 
side. It was the clear and palpable impression of 
an Indian moccason. Encouraged by this, we con- 
tinued our search, and at last some appearances on 
a soft surface of earth not far from the shore at- 
tracted my eye'; and going to examine them, I 
found half a dozen tracks, some made by men and 
some by children. Just then Raymond observed 
across the stream the mouth of a small branch, 
entering it from the south. He forded the water, 
rode in at the opening, and in a moment I heard 
him shouting again ; so I passed over and joined 
him. The httle branch had a broad sandy bed, 
along which the water trickled in a scanty stream ; 
and on either bank the bushes were so close that the 
view was completely intercepted. 1 found Ray- 
mond stooping over the footprints of three or four 
horses. Proceeding, we found those of a man, then 
those of a child, then those of more horses ; and at 
last the bushes on each bank were beaten dow n and 
broken, and the sand ploughed up with a multitude 
of footsteps, and scored across with the furrows 
made by the lodgc-poles that had been dragged 
through. It was now certain that we had foundthfi- 
trail. I pushed through the bushes, and at a Tittle 
distance on the prairie beyond found the ashes of 



196 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

an hundred and fiSy lodge-fir^ widi banes and 
pieces of buffalo-robes scattered around them, and 
in s(Hne instances die pickets to which horses had 
been secixred sdll standing in the ground. Flated 
by our success, we selected a conrenient tree, and 
turning the animals loose, prqiared to make a meal 
from the fat haunch of om- victim. ' ^ 

Hardship and exposure had thirren with me 
wonderfully. 1 had gained both health and stxa^lh 
since lea%-ing La Bonte's camp. Raymond and I 
made a hearty meal together, in high spiiits ; tot 
we rashly presumed that having fioond one end vS. 
the trail we should have little difficulty in rparhing 
the other. But when the animals were led in, we 
found that our old ill luck had not ceased to follow 
us close. As I was '^Hdlincr Pamliny^ f saw that her 
eye was as duU as lead, and the hue fA her ydlow 
coat \-isibly darkened. I placed my foot in the stir- 
rup to mount, when instantly she staggered and fell 
fiat on her side. Gainii^ Ynex feet with an e£fbit, 
she stood by the fire with a diO(^nng head. Whether 
she had been bitten by a snake, or poisoned by 
some noxious plant, or attack^ by a sudden distx'- 
der. it was hard to say ; but at all events, her sick- 
nes; was sufficiently ill-timed and unfortunate. I 
succeeded in a second ailanpt to mount her. and 
with a slow jaace we mcived forward on the tiail of 
the Indians. It led us up a hill and over a drearj^ 
plain ; and here, to our great nuKtification. the 
traces almost disappeared, fitH* the ground was hard 
as adamant ; and if its flinty smibce had evo* re- 
tained the dint of a hooC the marks had been washed 
away by the deh^e of yesterday. An Indian 
-village, in its disordoly march, is scattoed over the 
prairie, often to the width fA foil half a mile ; so 
that i(s trail is nowhere deaily marked, and the task 
c^ following it is made doubly weaiisoine and diffi- 



HUNTING INDIANS. 1 97 

cult. By good fortune, plenty of large ant-hills, a 
yard or more in diameter, were scattered over the 
plain, and these were frequently broken by the foot- 
prints of men and horses, and marked by traces of 
the lodge-poles. The succulent leaves of the prickly- 
pear, also, bruised from the same causes, helped a 
little to guide us ; so. inch by inch, we moved along. 
Often we lost the trail altogether, and then would 
recover it again : but late in the afternoon we found 
ourselves totally at fault. We stood alone, without 
a clue to guide us. The broken plain expanded for 
league after league around us. and in front the long 
dark ridge of mountains was stretching from north 
to south. Mount Laramie, a httle on our right, 
towered high above the rest, and from a dark 
vallev just beyond one of its lower declivities, we 
discerned volumes of white smoke, slowly roUing 
up into the clear air. 

' ' I think. ' ' said Raymond. ' ' some Indians must be 
there. Perhaps we had better go. ' ' But this plan 
was not rashly to be adopted, and we determined 
still to continue our search after the lost trail. Our 
good stars prompted us to this decision, for we after- 
ward had reason to beheve, from information given 
us by the Indians, that the smoke was raised as a 
decoy by a Crow war-part\-. 

Evening was coming on, and there was no wood 
or water nearer than the foot of the mountains. So 
thither we turned, directing our course toward the 
point where Laramie Creek issues forth upon the 
prairie. When we reached it, the bare tops of the 
mountains were still brightened with sunshine. The 
little river was breaking, with a vehement and 
angr> current, from its dark prison. There was 
something in the near vicinit\- of the mountains, in 
the loud surging of the rapids, wonderfully cheering 
and e.xhilarating ; for although once as famiUar as 



198 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

home itself, they had been for months strangers to 
my experience. There was a rich grass-plot by the 
river's bank, surrounded by low ridges, which would 
effectually screen ourselves and our fire from the 
sight of wandering Indians. Here, among the 
grass, I observed numerous circles of large stones, 
which, as Raymond said, were traces of a Dahcotah 
winter encampment. We lay down, and did not 
awake till the sun was up. A large rock projected 
from the shore, and behind it the deep water was 
slowly eddying round and round. The temptation 
was irresistible. I threw off my clothes, leaped in, 
suffered myself to be borne once roimd with the 
current, and then, seizing the strong root of a water- 
plant, drew myself to the shore. The effect was so 
invigorating and refreshing that I mistook it for re- 
turning health. " Pauhne," thought I, as I led the 
little mare up to be saddled, " only thrive as 1 do, 
and you and I will have sport yet among the buffalo 
bevond these mountains." But scarcely were we 
mounted and on our way, before the momentary- 
glow passed. Again I hung as usual in my seat, 
scarcely able to hold myself erect. 

' ' Look yonder, ' ' said Raymond ; ' ' you see that 
big hollow there ; the Indians must have gone that 
way, if they went anywhere about here. 

We reached the gap, which was like a deep notch 
cut into the mountain-ridge, and here we soon dis- 
cerned an ant-hill furrowed with the mark of a lodge- 
pole. This was quite enough ; there could be no 
doubt now. As we rode on, the opening growing 
narrower, the Indians had been compelled to march 
in closer order, and the traces became numerous 
and distinct. The gap terminated in a rocky gate- 
way, leading into a rough passage upward, betiveen 
two precipitous mountains. Here grass and weeds 
were bruised to fragments by the throng that had 



HUNTING INDIANS. 199 

passed through. We moved slowly over the rocks, 
up the passage ; and in this toilsome manner we 
advanced for an hour or two. bare precipices hun- 
dreds of feet high, shooting up on either hand. 
Ravmond. with his hardy mule, was a few rods 
before me. when we came to the foot of an ascent 
steeper than the rest, and which I trusted might 
prove the highest point of the defile. Pauline 
strained upward for a few yards moaning and 
stumbling, and then came to a dead stop, unable to 
proceed 'farther. I dismounted, and attempted to 
lead her ; but my own exhausted strength soon gave 
out • so 1 loosened the trail-rope from her neck, and 
t^'in'g it round mv arm, crawled up on my hands 
and knees. I gained the top, totally exhausted, the 
sweat-drops trickling from my forehead Pauline 
stood like a statue by my side, her shadow falling 
upon the scorching rock ; and in this shade, for 
there was no other. I lay for some time, scarcely 
able to move a limb. All around the black crags, 
sharp as needles at the top, stood glowing m the 
sun, without a tree or a bush or a blade of grass to 
cover their precipitous sides. The whole scene 
seemed parched with a pitiless, insufferable heat. 

After awhile 1 could mount again, and we moved 
on, descending the rocky defile on its western side. 
Thinking of that morning's journey, it has some- 
times seemed to me that there was something ridic- 
ulous in mv position : a man, armed to the teeth, 
but whoUv' unable to fight, and equally so to run 
away, traversing a dangerous wilderness, on a sick 
horse But these thoughts were retrospective, tor at 
the time 1 was in too grave a mood to entertain a 
ven*- Uvely sense of the ludicrous. , •, t 

Ravmond- s saddle-girth slipped; and while 1 
proceeded he was stopping behind to repair the mis- 
chief I came to the top of a little declivity, where 



200 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

a mc'St Avelcome siglit greeted my eye ; a nook of 
fresh green grass nestled among the difi^ sunny 
clumps of bushes on one side, and shaggy old |Mne 
trees leaning forward from die rocks on tiae odier. 
A shrill, familiar voice saluted me, and recalled me 
to days of boyhood ; that of the insect called the 
' ' locust ' ' by New England school-boys, which 
was fast cHnging among the heated boti^;lis dL the 
old pine trees. TTien, too. as I passed the bushes. 
the low sound of felling water reached my ear. 
Pauline turned oi her own accord, and pudiing 
through the boughs, we found a black lock, over- 
arched by the cool green canopy. An icy stream 
was pouring from its side into a wide basin erf* white 
sand, from whence it had no visible outlet, but 
filtered throv^ into the scnl bdow. Wliile 1 filled 
a tin cup at die spring, FauMne was eageriy plm^ii^ 
her head deqp in die pooL Other visadbors had been 
there before us. All around in the stdbi s«l wete the 
footprints of elk. deer, and die Rocky Mountain 
sheep ; and the grizzl}' bear too had left die recent 
prints of his broad foot, widi its frightfid anay of 
claws. Among these mountains was his home. 

Soon after leaving the ^ling we found a little 
grassy plain, encircled by the mountains, and 
marked, to our great joy. with all the traces vA an 
Indian camp. Ra\-mond's practised eye detected 
certain signs, by which he recognized the ^)ot where 
Reynal's lodge had bem pitched and his horses 
picketed. I approached, and stood lookii^ at the 
place. Re}TiaJ and I had. I belie^'e, hardly a fisd- 
ing in common. I HidilrtHl die fellow, and it per- 
plexed me a good deal to understand why I ^onld 
look with so much interest on the ashes o€ his fire. 
when between him and me there seemed no other 
bond of sxTnpathy than the slender and precarious 
one of a kindred race. 



HUNTING INDIANS. 20I 

In half an hour from this we were clear of the 
mountains. There was a plain before us. totally 
barren and thickly peopled in many parts with the 
little prairie-dogs, who sat at the mouths of their 
burrows and velped at us as we passed. The plain 
as we thought, was about six miles wide ; but it cost 
us two hours to cross it. Then another mountain- 
ranc^e rose before use, grander and more wild than 
the'iast had been. Far out of the dense shrubbery 
that clothed the steeps for a thousand feet shot up 
black crags, all leaning one way. and shattered by 
storms and thunder into grim and threatening 
shapes. As we entered a narrow Passage on the 
trail of the Indians, they impended fnghtfully on 
one side, above our heads. i, j ^-^ 

Our course was through dense woods, in the shade 
and twinkling sunlight of overhanging boughs. 
I would 1 could recall to mind all the startling combi- 
nations that presented themselves, as winding from 
side to side of the passage, to avoid its obstructions. 
we could see. glancing at intervals through the foli- 
acre the awful forms of the gigantic clitfs, that 
seemed at times to hem us in on the nght and on 
the left, before us and behind : Another scene in 
a few moments greeted us ; a tract of gay and 
sunnv woods, broken into knolls and hollows, en- 
livened bv birds and interspersed with flowers 
Amon- the rest 1 recognized the mellow whistle ot 
the rolDin. an old familiar friend, whom I had scarce 
expected to meet in such a place. Bumble-bees too 
v'ere buzzing heavily about the flowers; and of 
these a species of larkspur caught my eye. more 
appropriate, it should seem, to cultivated gardens 
than to a remote wilderness. Instantly it recalled a 
multitude of dormant and delightful recollections. 

Leavin- behind us this spot and its associations, 
a si-ht soon presented itself characteristic of that 



202 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

warlike region. In an open space, fenced in by 
high rocks, stood two Indian forts, of a square form, 
rudely built of sticks and logs. They were some- 
what ruinous, ha\'ing probably been constructed the 
year before. Each might have contained about 
twent\- men. Perhaps in this gloomy spot some 
party had been beset by their enemies, and those 
scowling rocks and blasted trees might not long 
since have looked down on a conflict unchronicled 
and unknown. Yet if any traces of bloodshed re- 
mained they were completely hidden by the bushes 
and tall rank weeds. 

Gradually the mountains drew apart, and the pas- 
sage e.xpanded into a plain, where again we found 
traces of an Indian encampment.,. There were trees 
and bushes just before us, and we stopped here for 
an hours rest and refreshment, ^\^len we had fin- 
ished our meal, Raymond struck fire, and lighting 
his pipe, sat down at the foot of a tree to smoke. 
For some time I obsened him puffing away with a 
face of unusual solemnity. Then, slowly taking the 
pipe from his lips, he looked up and remarked that 
we had better not go any farther. 

"Why not?" asked I. 

He said that the countr}- was becoming ven,' dan- 
gerous, that we were entering the range of the .Snakes, 
Arapahoes, and Gros- ventre Blackfeet, and that if 
any of their wandering parties should meet us, it 
would cost us our lives ; but he added, with a blunt 
fidelit)- that nearly reconciled me to his stupiditj-, 
that he would go anywhere I wished. I told him to 
bring up the animals, and mounting them we pro- 
ceeded again. I confess that, as we moved for- 
ward, the prospect seemed but a drearj- and doubtful 
one. I would have given the world for my ordinary- 
elasticity- of body and mind, and for a horse of 
such strength and spirit as the journey required. 



HUNTIXG IXDIAXS. 203 

Closer and closer the rocks gathered around us, 
growino- taller and steeper, and pressing more and 
more upon our path. We entered at length a defile 
which I never have seen rivalled. The mountam 
was cracked from top to bottom, and we were creep- 
ing along the bottom of the fissure, in dampness and 
gloom, with the clink of hoofs on the loose shingly 
rocks, and the hoarse murmuring of a petulant brook 
which kept us company. Sometimes the water, 
filming among the stones, overspread the whole 
narrow" passage ; sometimes, withdrawing to one 
side, it gave us room to pass dn,-shod. Looking 
up, we could see a narrow ribbon of bright blue sky 
between the dark edges of the opposing cUflTs. This 
did not last long. The passage soon widened, and 
sunbeams found their way down, flashing upon the 
black waters. The defile would spread out to many 
rods in width : bushes, trees, and flowers would 
spring bv the side of the brook ; the cliffs would be 
feathered with shrubber)- that clung in ever\- crev- 
ice, and fringed with trees that grew along their 
sunny edges. Then we would be moving again in 
the darkness. The passage seemed about four miles 
long, and before we reached the end of it the unshod 
hoo'fs of our animals were lamentably broken, and 
their legs cut by the sharp stones. Issuing from the 
mountain we found another plain. All around it 
stood a circle of lofty precipices, that seemed the 
impersonation of Silence and Solitude. Here again 
the Indians had encamped, as well they might, after 
passing, with their women, children, and horses, 
through the gulf behind us. In one day we had 
made'' a journey which had cost them three to 
accomplish. 

The onlv outlet to this amphitheatre lay over a 
hill some two hundred feet high, up which we moved 
with difficult^-. Looking from the top, we saw that 



204 THE OREGO.V TRAIL. 

at last we were free of the mountains. The prairie 
spread before us, but so wild and broken that the 
view was everywhere obstructed. Far on our left 
one tall hill swelled up against the sky, on the 
smooth, pale-green surface of which four slowly 
moving black specks were discernible. They were 
evidently buffalo, and we hailed the sight as a good 
augur}- ; for where the buffalo were there too the 
Indians would probably be found. We hoped on 
that ver\' night to reach the village. We were anx- 
ious to do so for a double reason, wishing to bring 
our wearisome journey to an end, and knowing, 
moreover, that though to enter the village in broad 
daylight would be a perfectly safe experiment, yet 
to encamp in its vicinity would be dangerous. But 
as we rode on the sun was sinking, and soon was 
within half an hour of the horizon. We ascended 
a hill and looked around us for a spot for our en- 
campment. The prairie was like a turbulent 
ocean, suddenly congealed when its waves were at 
the highest, and it lay half in light and half in 
shadow, as the rich sunshine, yellow as gold, was 
pouring over it. The rough bushes of the wild 
sage were growing ever\ where, its dull pale green 
overspreading hill and hollow. Yet a little way 
before us a bright verdant line of grass was winding 
along the plain, and here and there throughout its 
course water was glistening darkly. We went down 
to it, kindled a hre, and turned our horses loose to 
feed. It was a little trickling brook, that for some 
yards on either bank turned the barren prairie into 
fertility, and here and there it spread into deep 
pools, where the beaver had dammed it up. 

We placed our last remaining piece of the ante- 
lope before a scanty fire, mournfully reflecting on 
our exhausted stock of provisions. Just then an 
enormous gray hare, peculiar to these prairies, came 



HUNTING INDIANS. 20$ 

jumping along, and seated himself within fifty yards 
to look at us. I thoughtlessly raised my rifle to 
shoot him, but Raymond called out to me not to fire 
for fear the report should reach the ears of the In- 
dians. That night for the first time we considered 
that the danger to which we were exposed was 
of a somewhat serious character ; and to those 
who are unacquainted with Indians it may seem 
strange that our chief apprehensions arose from the 
supposed proximity of the people whom we intended 
to visit. Had any straggling party of these faithful 
friends caught sight of us from the hill-lop, they 
would probably have returned in the night to plun- 
der us of our horses and perhaps of our scalps. But 
we were on the prairie, where the genius loci is at 
war with all nervous apprehensions ; and 1 presume 
that neither Raymond nor 1 thought twice of the 
matter that evening. 

While he was looking after the animals, I sat by 
the fire, engaged in the novel task of baking bread. 
The utensils were of the most simple and primitive 
kind, consisting of two sticks inclining over the bed 
of coals, one end thrust into the ground while the 
dough was twisted in a spiral form around the other. 
Under such circumstances all the epicurean in a 
man's nature is apt to awaken within him. I re- 
visited in fancy the far-distant abodes of good fare, 
not, indeed, Frascati's or the Trois Freres Proven- 
^aux, for that were too extreme a flight ; but no 
other than the homely table of my old friend and 
host, Tom Crawford, of the White Mountains. By 
a singular revulsion, Tom himself, whom 1 well 
remember to have looked upon as the impersonation 
of all that is wild and backwoodsman-like, now ap- 
peared before me as the ministering angel of com- 
fort and good living. Being fatigued and drowsy, I 
began to doze, and my thoughts, following the same 



206 THE ORE G OX TRAIL. 

train of association, assumed another form. Half- 
dreaming, I saw myself surrounded -with the moun- 
tains of New England, alive -vnxh. water-falls, their 
black crags cinctured with nulk-white mists. For 
diis reverie I paid a speedy penaltj* ; for the bread 
was black on one side and soft on the other. 

For eagfat hours Ra\-m ond and I, pillowed on our 
5ai^)e ^ lay in sensible as^ogs. Pauline's yellow 
head wasstre^hed over me when I awoke. I got up 
and examined her. Her feet, indeed, were bruised 
and swollen by the accidents of yesterday, but her 
eye was brighter, her motions livelier, and her mys,- 
terious malad}' had \-isibly abated. We moved on, 
hopii^ widiin an hour to come in sight of the In- 
dian village ; but again disappointment awaited us. 
The trail disappeared, melting away upon a hard 
and stony plain. Raymond and 1 separating, rode 
frcMn side to side, scrutinizing ever)- yard of ground, 
until at \eoglii. I discerned traces of the lodge-poles, 
pacqng by the side of a ridge of rocks. We began 
again to fidlow them. 

■* * What is that black spot out there on the prairie X ' 

'-It looks hke a dead buffalo," answered Ray- 
mond. 

We rode out to it, and found it to be the huge 
carcass of a bull killed by the hunters as they had 
passed. Tangled hair and scraps of hide were 
scadeted all aroond, for the wolves had been mak- 
ing meny over it, and had hollowed out the entire 
carcass. It was covered vtith myriads of large 
Mack crickets, and from its appearance must cer- 
tainly have lain there for four or five days. The 
9ght was a most disheartening one, and I observed 
to Raiinond diat the Indians might still be fifty 
or axty miles before us. But he shook his head, 
and rq>lied that they dared not go so far for fear of 
dior enemies, the Snakes. 



HUXTIXG IXDIAXS. 20/ 

Soon after this we lost the trail again, and ascended 
a neighboring ridge, totally at a loss. Before us 
lay a plain perfectly flat, spreading on the right and 
left, without apparent limit, and bounded in front 
by a long broken line of hills, ten or twelve miles 
distant. All was open and exposed to view, yet 
not a buffalo nor an Indian was visible. 

' • Do you see that ?' ' said Raymond ; ' ' now we 
had better turn around. 

But as Raymond's bourgeois thought otherwise, 
we descended the hill and began to cross the plain. 
We had come so far that 1 knew, perfectly well, 
neither Pauline's hmbs nor my own could carr^- me 
back to Fort Laramie. I considered that the lines 
of expediency and inclination tallied exactly, and 
.. that the most prudent course was to keep forward. 
The gFOtmd— immediately around us was thickly 
strewn with- the skulls and bones of buffalo, for here 
a year or two before the Indians had made a " sur- 
round ' ' ; yet no living game presented itself. At 
length, however, an antelope sprang up and gazed 
at us. We fired together, and by a singular fatalit>' 
we both missed, although the animal stood, a fair 
mark, within eighty yards. This ill success might 
perhaps be charged to our own eagerness, for by 
this time we had no provision left except a little 
flour. We could discern several small lakes, or 
rather extensive pools of water, glistening in the 
distance. As we approached them, wolves and an- 
telope bounded away through the tall grass that 
gre%v in their vicinity, and flocks of large white 
plover flew screaming over their surface. Having 
failed of the antelope. Raymond tried his hand at 
the birds, with the same ill success. The water 
also disappointed us. Its muddy margin was so 
beaten up by the crowd of buffalo that our timorous 
animals were afraid to approach. So we turned 



2o8 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

away and moved toward the hills. The rank grass, 
where it was not trampled down by the buffalo, 
fairly swept our horses" necks. 

Again we found the same execrable barren prai- 
rie, offering no clue by which to guide our way. 
As we drew near the hills, an opening appeared, 
through which the Indians must have gone if they 
had passed that way at all. Slowly we began to 
ascend it. I felt the most drean,- forebodings of ill 
success, when, on looking around, I could discover 
neither dent of hoof nor footprint nor trace of lodge- 
pole, though the passage was encumbered by the 
ghastly skulls of buffalo. We heard thunder mut- 
tering ; a storm was coming on. 

As we gained the top of the gap, the prospect 
beyond began to disclose itself. First, we saw a 
long dark hne of ragged clouds upon the horizon, 
while above them rose the peak of the Medicine- 
Bow, the vanguard of the Rocky Mountains : then 
little by little the plain came into \aew, a vast green 
uniformit\-, forlorn and tenantless, though Laramie 
Creek glistened in a wa\ing line over its surface, 
without a bush or a tree upon its banks. As yet, 
the round projecting shoulder of a hill intercepted a 
part of the \dew. I rode in advance, when sud- 
denly I could distinguish a few dark spots on the 
prairie, along the bank of the stream. 

*• Buffalo !" said I. Then a sudden hope flashed 
upon me. and eagerly and anxiously 1 looked again. 

" Horses I" exclaimed Raymond, with a tre- 
mendous oath, lashing his mule forward as he 
spoke. More and more of the plain disclosed 
itself, and in rapid succession more and more horses 
appeared, scattered along the river -bank, or feeding 
in bands over the prairie. Then, suddenly stand- 
ing in a circle by the stream, swarming with their 
savage inhabitants, we saw rising before us the tall 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 2O9 

lodges of the Ogillallah. Never did the heart of 
wanderer moregTadden at the sight of home than 
did mine at the sight of those wild habitations ! 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 

" They waste as — ay — like April snow. 
In the warm noon, we shrink away ; 
And fast they follow, as we go 

Towards the setting day." — BRYANT. 

Such a narrative as this is hardly the place for 
portraying the mental features of the Indians. The 
same picture, slightly changed in shade and color- 
ing, would serve, with ven,- few exceptions, for all 
the tribes that He north of the Mexican territories. 
But with this striking similaritv' in their modes of 
thought, the tribes of the lake and ocean shores, of 
the forests and of the plains, differ greatly in their 
manner of life. Having been domesticated for 
several weeks among one of the wildest of the wild 
hordes that roam over the remote prairies, I had 
extraordinary' opportunities of observing them, and 
I flatter myself that a faithful picture of the scenes 
that passed daily before my eyes may not be de\oid 
of interest and value. These men were thorough 
savages. Neither their manners nor their ideas 
were ih the slightest degree modified by contact with 
civilization. They knew nothing of the power and 
real character of the white men, and their children 
would scream in terror at the sight of me. Their 
religion, their superstitions, and their prejudices 
were the same that had been handed down to them 
from immemorial time. They fought with the same 
rt — ■' 



210 THE OREGO.y TRAIL. 

weapons that their fathers fought \\'ith, and wore the 
same rude garments of skins. 

Great changes are at hand in that region. With 
the stream of emigration to Oregon and Cahfomia, 
the buffalo will dwindle away, and the large wan- 
dering communities who depend on them for sup- 
port must be broken and scattered. The Indians 
will soon be corrupted by the example of the whites, 
abased by whiskey, and overawed by military posts ; 
so that within a few years the tra\eller may pass in 
tolerable securit)- through their countn,- on the Pacific 
Railroad. Its danger and its charm will have disap- 
peared together. 

As soon as Raymond and I discovered the village 
from the gap in the hills, we were seen in our turn ; 
keen eyes were constantly on the watch. As we 
rode down upon the plain, the side of the A-illage 
nearest us was darkened ^^■ith a crowd of naked 
figures gathering around the lodges. Several men 
came forward to meet us. I could distinguish among 
them the green blanket of the Frenchman Reynal. 
^^^len we came up the ceremony of shaking hands 
had to be gone through with in due form, and then 
all were eager to know what had become of the rest 
of my part)-. I satisfied them on this point, and we 
all moved forward together toward the village. 

"You've missed it," said Reynal; "if you'd 
been here day before yesterday, you'd have found 
the whole prairie over yonder black with buffalo as 
far as ycu could see. There were no cows, though ; 
nothing but bulls. We made a ' surround ' every- 
day till yesterday. See the village there ; dont 
that look like good hving ?' ' 

In fact, I could see, even at that distance, that 
long cords were stretched from lodge to lodge, over 
which the meat, cut by the squaws into thin sheets, 
was hanging to drv in the sun. I noticed, too, that 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 211 

the village was somewhat smaller than when I had 
last seen it, and 1 asked Reynal the cause. He 
said that old Le Borgne had felt too weak to pass 
over the mountains, and so had remained behind 
with all his relations, including Mahto-Tatonka and 
his brothers. The Whirlwind, too. had been un- 
willing to come so far, because, as Reynal said, he 
was afraid. Only half a dozen lodges had adhered 
to him. the main body of the village setting their 
chiefs authority- at naught, and taking the course 
most agreeable to their inclinations. 

' ' What chiefs- are there in the village now ?' ' 
said 1. 

"Well," said Reynal, "there's old Red- Water, 
and the Eagle-Feather, and the Big Crow, and the 
Mad Wolf, and the Panther, and the White-Shield, 
and — what' s his name ? — the half-breed Shienne. 

By this time we were close to the village, and I 
obser\-ed that while the greater part of the lodges 
•were ven.- large and neat in their appearance, there 
was at one side a cluster of squalid, miserable huts. 
I looked toward them, and made some remark 
about their wretched appearance. But I was touch- 
ing upon delicate ground. 

"My squaw's relations live in those lodges," 
said Reynal, very warmly, "and there isn't a better 
set in the whole village. 

" Are there any chiefs among them ?" asked I. 

"Chiefs?" said Reynal : " yes, plent\' !" 

" What are their names ?" I inquired. 

"Their names? Why, there's the Arrow-Head. 
If he isn't a chief he ought to be one. And there's 
the Hail-Storm. He's nothing but a boy, to be 
sure ; but he's bound to be a chief one of these days I" 

Tust then we passed between two of the lodges, 
and entered the great area of the village. Superb, 
naked figures stood silently gazing on us. 



212 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

"^^^lere's the Bad Wound's lodge?" said I to 
Reynal. 

' ' There you' ve missed it again I The Bad Wound 
is away with the Whirlwind. If you could have 
found him here, and gone to hve in his lodge, he 
would have treated you better than any man in the 
village. But there's the Big Crow's lodge yonder, 
next to old Red- Water's. He's a good Indian for 
the whites, and I advise you to go and live ^dtb 
him. 

• ' Are there many squaws and children in his 
lodge?" said I. 

' ' No ; only one squaw and tvvo or three children. 
He keeps the rest in a separate lodge by them- 
selves. 

So, still followed by a crowd of Indians, Raymond 
and I rode up to the entrance of the Big Crow's 
lodge. A squaw came out immediately and took 
our horses. I put aside the leather flap that cov- 
ered the low opening, and stooping, entered the Big 
Crow' s dwelling. There I could see the chief in the 
dim light, seated at one side, on a pile of buffalo- 
robes. He greeted me with a guttural ■ • How, cola !" 
I requested Reynal to tell him that Raymond and I 
were come to live with him. The Big Crow gave 
another low exclamation. If the reader thinks that 
we were intruding somewhat cavalierly, I beg him 
to observe that ever)- Indian in the village would 
have deemed himself honored that white men should 
give such preference to his hospitalit}-. 

The squaw spread a buffalo-robe for us in the 
guest' s place at the head of the lodge. Our saddles 
were brought in, and scarcely were we seated upon 
them before the place was thronged w-ith Indians, 
who came crowding in to see us. The Big Crow 
produced his pipe and filled it -with the mixture of 
tobacco and shoijgsasha, or red willow bark. Round 



THE OG ILL ALL AH VILLAGE. 2I3 

and round it passed, and a lively conversation went 
forward. Meanwhile a squaw placed before the t\vo 
guests a wooden bowl of boiled buffalo-meat, but, 
unhappily, this was not the only banquet destined 
to be inflicted on us. Rapidly, one after another, 
boys and young squaws thrust their heads in at the 
opening, to invite us to various feasts in ditterent 
parts of the village. For half an hour or more we 
were actively engaged in passing from lodge to 
lodge, tasting in each of the bowl of meat set before 
us, and inhaling a whiff or two from our entertainer" s 
pipe. A thunder-storm that had been threatening 
for some time now began in good earnest. We 
crossed over to Reynals lodge, though it hardly 
deserved this name, for it consisted only of a few 
old buffalo-robes supported on poles, and was quite 
open on one side. Here we sat down, and the In- 
dians gathered around us. 

' ' What is it, ' ' said I , " that makes the thunder ?' ' 
"It's my belief," said Reynal, "that it is a big 
stone roUing over the sky." 

" Verv- likely," 1 replied ; "but I want to know 
what the Indians think about it." 

So he interpreted my question, which seemed to 
produce some doubt and debate. There was evi- 
dently a difference of opinion. At last old Mene- 
Seela, or Red- Water, who sat by himself at one 
side, looked up ^\-ith his withered face, and said he 
had always kno\\-n what the thunder was. It was a 
great black bird ; and once he had seen it, in a 
dream, swooping down from the Black Hills, ^^^th 
its loud roaring wings ; and when it flapped them 
over a lake, they struck hghtning from the water. 

"The thunder is bad," said another old man, 
who sat muffled in his buffalo-robe ; "he killed my 
brother last summer." 

Reynal, at my request, asked for an explanation ; 



214 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

but the old man remained doggedly silent, and 
would not look up. Some time after I learned how 
the accident occurred. The man who was killed 
belonged to an association which, among other 
mystic functions, claimed the exclusive power and 
privilege of fighting the thunder. Whenever a 
storm which they wished to avert was threatening, 
the thunder fighters would take their bows and 
arrows, their guns, their magic drum, and a sort of 
whistle, made out of the wing-bone of the war- 
eagle. Thus equipped, they would run out and fire 
at the rising cloud, whooping, yelling, whistling, 
and beating their drum to frighten it down again. 
One afternoon a heavy black cloud was coming up, 
and they repaired to the top of a hill, where they 
brought all their magic artillery into play against it. 
But the undaunted thunder, refusing to be terrified, 
kept moving straight onward, and darted out a 
bright flash which struck one of the party dead, as 
he was in the verj' act of shaking his long iron- 
pointed lance against it. The rest scattered and 
ran yelling in an ecstasy of superstitious terror back 
to their lodges. 

The lodge of my host, Kongra Tonga, or the Big 
Crow, presented a picturesque spectacle that even- 
ing. A score or more of Indians were seated 
around it in a circle, their dark naked forms just 
visible by the dull light of the smouldering fire in 
the centre. The pipe glowing brightly in the gloom 
as it passed from hand to hand around the lodge. 
Then a squaw would drop a piece of buffalo-fat on 
the dull embers. Instantly a bright glancing flame 
would leap up, darting its clear light to the very 
apex of the tall conical structure, where the tops of 
the slender poles that supported its covering of 
leather were gathered together. It gilded the feat- 
ures of the Indians, as with animated gestures they 



rilE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 21$ 

sat around it, telling their endless stories of war and 
hunting. It displayed rude garments of skins that 
hung around the lodge ; the bow, quiver, and lance, 
suspended over the resting-place of the chief, and 
the rifles and powder-horns of the two white guests. 
For a moment all would be bright as day ; then the 
flames would die away, and fitful flashes from the 
embers would illumine the lodge, and then leave it 
in darkness. Then all the light would wholly fade, 
and the lodge and all within it be involved again in 
obscurity. — --" 

As I left the lodge next morning 1 was saluted by 
howling and yelping from all around the village, 
and half its canine population rushed forth to the 
attack. Being as cowardly as they were clamorous, 
they kept jumping around me at the distance of a 
few yards, only one little cur, about ten inches long, 
having spirit enough to make a direct assault. He 
dashed valiantly at the leather tassel which in the 
Dahcotah fashion was traihng behind the heel of my 
moccason, and kept his hold, growling and snarling 
all the while, though every step I made almost 
jerked him over on his back. As I knew that the 
eyes of the whole village were on the watch to see 
if I showed any sign of apprehension, I walked for- 
ward without looking to the right or left, surrounded 
wherever I went by this magic circle of dogs. When 
I came to Reynal's lodge I sat down by it, on which 
the dogs dispersed growling to their respective quar- 
ters. Only one large white one remained, who kept 
running about before me and showing his teeth. I 
called him, but he only growled the more. I looked 
at him well. He was fat and sleek ; just such a 
dog as I wanted. " My friend," thought I, "you 
shall pay for this ! I will have you eaten this very 
morning !" 

I intended that day to give the Indians a feast, by 



I 



2J6 TI/£ OREGON TRAIL. 

way of conveying a favorable impression of my 
character and dignity ; and a white dog is the dish 
which the customs of the Dahcotah prescribe for all 
occasions of formality and importance. I consulted 
Reynal ; he soon discovered that an old woman in 
the next lodge was owner of the white dog. I took 
a gaudy cotton handkerchief, and laying it on the 
ground, arranged some vermilion, beads, and other 
trinkets upon it. Then the old squaw was sum- 
moned. I pointed to the dog and to the handkerchief. 
She gave a scream of delight, snatched up the prize, 
and vanished with it into her lodge. For a few 
more trifles I engaged the services of two other 
squaws, each of whom took the white dog by one 
of his paws, and led him away behind*llre Todges, 
while he kept looking up at them with a face of in- 
nocent surprise. Having killed him they threw him 
into a fire to singe ; then chopped him up and put 
him into two large kettles to boil. Meanwhile I told 
Raymond to irs in buffalo-fat what little flour we had 
left, and also to make a kettle of tea as an addi- 
tional item of the repast. 

The Big Crow's squaw was briskly at work sweep- 
ing out the lodge for the approaching festivity. I 
confided to my host himself the task of inviting the 
guests, thinking that 1 might thereby shift from my 
own shoulders the odium of fancied neglect and 
oversight. 

\Mien feasting is in question, one hour of the day 
serves an Indian as well as another. My enter- 
tainment came off about eleven o'clock. At that 
hour, Reynal and Raymond walked across the area 
of the village, to the admiration of the inhabitants, 
carrying the two kettles of dog-meat slung on a pole 
between them. These they placed in the centre of 
the lodge, and then went back for the bread and 
the tea. Meanwhile I had put on a pair of brilliant 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 21/ 

moccasons, and substituted for my old buck-skin 
frock a coat which I had brought with me in view of 
such pubhc occasions. I also made careful use of 
the razor, an operation which no man will neglect 
who desires to gain the good opinion of Indians. 
Thus attired, I seated myself between Reynal and 
Raymond at the head of the lodge. Only a few 
minutes elapsed before all the guests had come in 
and were seated on the ground, wedged together in 
a close circle around the lodge. Each brought with 
him a wooden bowl to hold his share of the repast. 
When all were assembled, two of the officials, called 
"soldiers" by the white men, came forward with 
ladles made of the horn of the Rocky Mountain 
sheep, and began to distribute the feast, always as- 
signing a double share to the old men and chiefs. 
The dog vanished with astonishing celerity, and 
each guest turned his dish bottom upward to show 
that all was gone. Then the bread was distributed 
in its turn, and finally the tea. As the soldiers 
poured it out into the same wooden bowls that had 
served for the substantial part of the meal, 1 thought 
it had a particularly curious and uninviting color. 

" Oh !" said Reynal, " there was not tea enough, 
so I stirred some soot in the kettle, to make it look 
strong." 

Fortunately an Indian's palate is not very dis- 
criminating. The tea was well sweetened, and that 
was all they cared for. 

Now, the former part of the entertainment being 
concluded, the time for speech-making was come. 
The Big Crow produced a flat piece of wood on 
which he cut up tobacco and s/iont^^saska, and mixed 
them in due proportions. The pipes were filled and 
passed from hand to hand around the company. 
Then I began my speech^ each sentence being in- 
terpreted by ReynaT as'l went on, and echoed by 



fl8 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

the whole audience with the usual exclamations of 
assent and approval. As nearly as I can recollect, 
it was as follows : 

" I had come, I told them, from a countrj^ so far 
distant, that at tie rate they travel, they could not 
reach it in a year. 

" How ! how !" 

" There the Meneaska were more niunerous than 
the blades of grass on the prairie. The squaws 
were far more beautiful than any they had ever seen, 
and all the men were brave warriors." 

" How 1 how ! how !" 

Here I was assailed by sharp twinges of con- 
science, for I fancied I could perceive a frag^rance 
of perfumer}' in the air, and a vision rose before me 
of white-kid gloves and silken moustaches with the 
mild and gentle countenances of numerous fair- 
haired young men. But I recovered myself and 
began again. 

' ' While I was hAing in the Meneaska lodges, I 
had heard of the Ogillallah, how great and brave a 
nation they were, how they loved the whites, and 
how well they could hunt the bufifalo and strike 
their enemies. I resolved to come and see if all 
that I heard was true." 

" How ! how 1 how ! how !"' 

"As I had come on horseback through the 
mountains, I had been able to bring them only a 
very- few presents." 

" How !" 

" But I had enough tobacco to give them all a 
small piece. They might smoke it, and see how 
much better it was than the tobacco which they got 
from the traders." 

" How ! how I how !" 

"I had plent}' of j>owder, lead, knives, and 
tobacco at Fort Laramie. These I was anxious to 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 219 

give them, and if any of them should come to the 
fort before I went away, I would make them hand- 
oome presents." 

" How ! how ! how I how !" 

Raymond then cut up and distributed among 
them two or three pounds of tobacco, and old 
Mene-Seela began to make a reply. It was quite 
long, but the following was the pith of it : 

" He had always loved the whites. They were 
the wisest people on earth. He believed they could 
do everything, and he was always glad when any 
of them came to hve in the Ogillallah lodges. It 
was true I had not made them many presents, but 
the reason of it was plain. It was clear that I liked 
them, or I never should have come so far to find 
their village." 

Several other speeches of similar import followed, 
and then this more serious matter being disposed of, 
there was an interval of smoking, laughing, and 
conversation ; but old Mene-Seela suddenly inter- 
rupted it with a loud voice : 

"Now is a good time," he said, "when all the 
old men and chiefs are here together, to decide 
what the people shall do. We came over the 
mountain to make our lodges for next year. Our 
old ones are good for nothing ; they are rotten and 
worn out. But we have been disappointed. We 
have killed buffalo-bulls enough, but we have found 
no herds of cows, and the skins of bulls are too 
thick and heavy for our squaws to make lodges of. 
There must be plenty of cows about the Medicine- 
Bow Mountain. We ought to go there. To be 
sure, it is farther westward than we have ever been 
before, and perhaps the Snakes will attack us, for 
those hunting-grounds belong to them. But we 
must have new lodges at any rate ; our old ones 
will not serve for another year. We ought not to be 



220 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

afraid of the Snakes. Our warriors are brave, and 
they are all ready for war. Besides, we have three 
white men with their rifles to help us." 

I could not help thinking that the old man relied 
a little too much on the aid of allies, one of whom 
was a coward, another a blockhead, and the third 
an invaUd. This speech produced a good deal of 
debate. As Reynal did not interpret what was said, 
I could only judge of the meaning by the features 
and gestures of the speakers. At the end of it, 
however, the greater number seemed to have fallen 
in with Mene-Seela's opinion. A short silence fol- 
lowed, and then the old man struck up a discordant 
chant, which I was told was a song of thanks for the 
entertainment I had given them. 

"Now," said he, "let us go and give the white 
men a chance to breathe." 

So the company all dispersed into the open air, 
and for some time the old chief was walking around 
the village, singing his song in praise of the feast, 
after the usual custom of the nation. 

At last the day drew to a close, and as the sun 
went down the horses came trooping from the sur- 
rounding plains to be picketed before the dwellings 
of their respective masters. Soon within the great 
circle of lodges appeared another concentric circle 
of restless horses ; and here and there fires were 
glowing and flickering amid the gloom, on the 
dusky figures around them. 1 went over and sat by 
the lodge of Reynal. The Eagle-Feather, who was 
a son of Mene-Seela, and brother of my host the 
Big Crow, was seated there already, and I asked 
him if the village would move in the morning. He 
shook his head, and said that nobody could tell, for 
since old Mahto-Tatonka had died, the people had 
been like children that did not know their own 
minds. Thev were no better than a bodv without a 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 221 

head. So I, as well as the Indians themselves, fell 
asleep that night without knowing whether we 
should set out in the morning toward the countr)- of 

the Snakes. 

ATHaybreak, however, as I was coming up from 
the river after my morning's ablutions, 1 saw that a 
movement was contemplated. Some of the lodges 
were reducea~to nothing but bare skeletons of poles ; 
the leather covering of others was flapping in the 
wind as the squaws were pulling it off. One or 
two chiefs of note had resolved, it seemed, on 
moving ; and so having set their squaws at work, 
the example was tacitly followed by the rest of the 
village. One by one the lodges were sinking down 
in rapid succession, and where the great circle of 
the village had been only a moment before, nothing 
now remained but a ring of horses and Indians, 
crowded in confusion together. The ruins of the 
lodges were spread over the ground, together with 
kettles, stone mallets, great ladles of horn, buffalo- 
robes, and cases of painted hide, filled with dried 
meat. Squaws bustled about in their busy prepara- 
tions, the old hags screaming to one another at the 
stretch of their leathern lungs. The shaggy horses 
were patiently standing while the lodge-poles were 
lashed to their sides, and the baggage piled upon 
their backs. The dogs, with their tongues lolling 
out, lay lazily panting and waiting for the time of 
departure. Each warrior sat on the ground by the 
decaying embers of his fire, unmoved amid all the 
confusion, while he held in his hand the long trail- 
rope of his horse. 

As their preparations were completed, each 
family moved off the ground. The crowd was 
rapidly melting away. 1 could see them crossing 
the river, and passing in quick succession along the 
profile of the hill on the farther bank. When all 



222 THE OR EG OX TRAIL. 

were gone, I mounted and set out after them, fol- 
lowed by Raymond, and as we gained the summit, 
the whole village came in view at once, straggling 
away for a mile or more over the barren plains be- 
fore us. Everywhere the iron points of lances were 
glittering. The sun never shone upon a more 
strange array. Here were the heavy-laden pack- 
horses, some wretched old women leading them, 
and tivo or three children clinging to their backs. 
Here were mules or ponies covered from head to 
tail with gaudy trappings, and mounted by some 
gay young squaw, grinning bashfulness and pleas- 
ure as the Meneaska looked at her. Boys with 
miniature bows and arrows were wandering over 
the plains, little naked children were running 
along on foot, and numberless dogs were scam- 
pering among the feet of the horses. The young 
braves, gaudy with paint and feathers, were riding 
in groups among the crowd, and often galloping, 
t^vo or three at once along the line, to tr)- the 
speed of their horses. Here and there you might 
see a rank of sturdy pedestrians stalking along 
in their white buffalo-robes. These were the 
dignitaries of the village, the old men and war- 
riors, to whose age and experience that wandering 
democracy pelded a silent deference. With the 
rough prairie and the broken hills for its back- 
ground, the restless scene was striking and pic- 
turesque beyond description. Days and weeks 
made me familiar with it, but never impaired its 
eft'ect upon my fancy. 

As we moved on, the broken column grew yet 
more scattered and disorderly, until, as we ap- 
proached the foot of a hill, 1 saw the old men be- 
fore mentioned seating themselves in a hne upon 
the ground, in advance of the whole. They 
lighted a pipe and sat smoking, laughing, and tell- 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 223 

ing stories, while the people, stopping as they suc- 
cessively came up, were soon gathered in a crowd 
behind them. Then the old men rose, drew their 
buffalo-robes over their shoulders, and strode on as 
before. Gaining the top of the hill, we found a 
very steep declivity before us. There was not a 
minute's pause. The whole descended in a mass, 
amid dust and confusion. The horses braced their 
feet as they slid down, women and children were 
screaming, dogs yelping as they were trodden upon, 
while stones and earth went rolling to the bottom. 
In a few moments I could see the village from the 
.summit, spreading again far and wide over the 
plain below. 

At our encampment that afternoon 1 was attacked 
anew by my old disorder. In half an hour the 
strength that I had been gaining for a week past 
had vanished again, and I became like a man in a 
dream. But at sunset I lay down in the Big Crow's 
lodge and slept, totally unconscious till the morning. 
The first thing that awakened me was a hoarse flap- 
ping over my head, and a sudden light that poured 
in upon me. The camp was breaking up, and the 
squaws were moving the covering from the lodge. 
I arose and shook off my blanket with the feeling 
of perfect health ; but scarcely had I gained my 
feet when a sense of my helpless condition was 
once more forced upon me, and 1 found myself 
scarcely able to stand. Raymond had brought up 
Pauline and the mule, and 1 stooped to raise my 
saddle from the ground. My strength was quite in- 
adequate to the task. "You must saddle her," 
said I to Raymond, as I sat down again on a pile 
of buffalo-robes : 

" Et hoec etiam fortasse meminisse juvabit," 
I thought, while with a painful effort I raised my- 



224 "^HE OREGON TRAIL. 

self into the saddle. Half an hour after even the 
expectation that Virgil's line expressed seemed des- 
tined to disappointment. As we were passing over 
a great plain, surrounded by long broken ridges, I 
rode slowly in advance of the Indians, with thoughts 
that wandered far from the time and from the place. 
Suddenly the sky darkened, and thunder began to 
mutter. Clouds were rising over the hills, as dreary 
and dull as the first forebodings of an approaching 
calamity ; and in a moment all around was ^^-rapped 
in shadow. I looked behind. The Indians had 
stopped to prepare for the approaching storm, and 
the dark, dense mass of savages stretched far to 
the right and left. Since the first attack of my 
disorder the effects of rain upon me had usually 
been injurious in the extreme. I had no strength 
to spare, having at that moment scarcely enough to 
keep my seat on horseback. Then, for the first 
time, it pressed upon me as a strong probabilit\' 
that I might never leave those deserts. "Well," 
thought I to myself, "a prairie makes quick and 
sharp work. Better to die here, in the saddle to 
the last, than to stifle in the hot air of a sick cham- 
ber ; and a thousand times better than to drag out 
life, as many have done, in the helpless inaction of 
lingering disease." So, drawing the buffalo-robe 
on which I sat over my head, I waited till the storm 
should come. It broke at last with a sudden burst 
of fur}-, and. passing away as rapidly as it came, 
left the sky clear again. My reflections serv-ed me 
no other purpose than to look back upon as a piece 
of curious experience ; for the rain did not produce 
the ill effects that I had expected. We encamped 
within an hour. Having no change of clothes, I 
contrived to borrow a curious kind of substitute from 
Reynal ; and this done, I went home, that is, to 
the Big Crow's lodge, to make the entire transfer 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 225 

that was necessan-. Half a dozen squaws were in 
the lodge, and one of them taking my arm held it 
against her own. while a general laugh and scream 
of admiration was raised at the contrast in the color 
of the skin. 

Our encampment that afternoon was not far dis- 
tant from a spur of the Black Hills, whose ridges, 
bristling with fir trees, rose from the plains a mile or 
tvvo on our right. That they might move more 
rapidly toward their proposed hunting-grounds, the 
Indians determined to leave at this place their stock 
of dried meat and other superfluous articles. Some 
left even their lodges, and contented themselves 
with earning a few hides to make a shelter from the 
sun and rain. Half the inhabitants set out in the 
afternoon, with loaded pack-horses, toward the 
mountains. Here they suspended the dried meat 
upon trees, where the wolves and grizzly bears could 
not get at it. All returned at evening. Some of 
the young men declared that they had heard the re- 
ports of guns among the mountains to the eastward, 
and many surmises were thrown out as to the origin 
of these sounds. For my part, I was in hopes that 
Shaw and Henn.- Chatillon were coming to join us. 
I would have welcomed them cordially, for I had no 
other companions than tvvo brutish white men and 
five hundred savages. I little suspected that at that 
very- moment my unlucky comrade was lying on a 
buttalo-robe at Fort Laramie, fevered with ivy poison, 
and solacing his woes with tobacco and Shakspeare. 

As we moved over the plains on the next morning, 
several young men were riding about the countr\- as 
scouts ; and at length we began to see them occasion- 
ally on the tops of the hills, shaking their robes as a 
signal that they saw buffalo. Soon after some bulls 
came in sight. Horsemen darted away in pursuit, and 
we could see from the distance that one or two of the 
15 



226 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

buffalo were killed. Raymond suddenly became 
inspired. I looked at him as he rode by my side ; 
his face had actually grown intelligent 1 

"This is the country for me I" he said; " if I 
could only carr)' the buffalo that are killed here 
ever)^ month down to St. Louis, I'd make my for- 
tune in one winter. I'd grow as rich as old Papin 
or Mackenzie, either. I call this the poor man's 
market. When I'm hungry, I have only got to take 
my rifle and go out and get better meat than the 
rich folks down below can get, with all their money. 
You won't catch me living in St. Louis another 
Avinter." 

"No,*' said Reynal, "you had better say that, 
after you and your Spanish woman almost starved 
to death there. What a fool you were ever to take 
her to the settlements." 

' ' Your Spanish woman ?' "" said I ; " I never heard 
of her before. Are you married to her ?' ' 

"No," answered Raymond, again looking intel- 
ligent ; "the priests don't marry their women, and 
why should I marry mine f ' 

This honorable mention of the Mexican clerg)' 
introduced the subject of religion, and 1 found that 
my two associates, in common with other white men 
in the countr}-, were as indifferent to their future wel- 
fare as men whose lives are in constant peril are apt 
to be. Raymond had never heard of the Pope. A 
certain bishop, who lived at Taos or at Santa Fe, 
embodied his loftiest idea of an ecclesiastical dig- 
nitary. Reynal observed that a priest had been at 
Fort Laramie two years ago, on his way to the Xez 
Perce Mission, and that he had confe-ssed all the 
men there, and given them absolution. "I got a 
good clearing out myself, that time," said Reynal, 
' ' and 1 reckon that will do for me till' I go- down to 
the settlements again." 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 22/ 

Here he interrupted himself with an oath, and 
exclaimed : " Look ! look ! The ' Panther' is run- 
ning an antelope !" 

The Panther, on his black-and-white horse, one 
of the best in the village, came at full speed over 
the hill in hot pursuit of an antelope, that darted 
away like lightning before him. The attempt was 
made in mere sport and bravado, for ven- few are 
the horses that can for a moment compete in swift- 
ness with this little animal. The antelope ran down 
the hill toward the main body of the Indians, who 
were moving over the plain below. Sharp yells 
were given, and horsemen galloped out to intercept 
his flight. At this he turned sharply to the left, and 
scoured away with such incredible speed that he dis- 
tanced all his pursuers, and even the vaunted horse 
of the Panther himself. A few moments after, we 
witnessed a more serious sport. A shaggy buffalo- 
bull bounded out from a neighboring hollow, and 
close behind him came a slender Indian boy, riding 
without stirrups or saddle, and lashing his eager 
little horse to full speed. Yard after yard he drew 
closer to his gigantic victim, though the bull, with 
his short tail erect and his tongue lolling out a foot 
from his foaming jaws, was straining his unwieldy 
strength to the utmost. A moment more, and the 
boy was close alongside of him. It was our friend 
the Hail-Storm. He dropped the rein on his horse's 
neck, and jerked an arrow like lightning from the 
quiver at his shoulder. 

" I tell you," said Reynal, " that in a year's time 
that boy will match the best hunter in the village. 
There, he has given it to him ! — and there goes an- 
other ! You feel well, now, old bull, don't you, 
with two arrows stuck in your lights ? There, he 
has given him another ! Hear how the Hail-Storm 
yells when he shoots ! Yes, jump at him ; try it 



22S THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

again, old fellow I You may jump all day before 
you get your horns into that pony !" 

The bull sprang again and again at his assailant, 
but the horse kept dodging with wonderful celerirj-. 
At length the bull followed up his attack \sith a fu- 
rious rush, and the HaU-Storm was put to flight, the 
shagg\- monster following close behind. TTie boy 
clung to his seat like a leech, and secure in the 
speed of his hltle pony, looked around toward us 
and laughed. In a moment he was again alongside 
of the bull, who was now driven to complete des- 
peration. His eyeballs glared through his tangled 
mane, and the blood flew from his mouth and nos- 
trils. Thus, still battling with each other, the two 
enemies disappeared over the hill. 

Many of the Indians rode at full gallop toward 
the spot. We followed at a more moderate pace, 
and soon saw the bull lying dead on the side of the 
hUl. The Indians were gathered around him. and 
several knives were already at work. These little 
instruments were plied mth such wonderful address 
that the twisted sinews were cut apiart. the ponderous 
bones fell asunder as if by magic, and in a moment 
the vast carcass was reduced to a heap of bloody 
ruins. The surrounding group of savages offered 
no ver\- attractive spectacle to a civilized eye. Some 
were cracking the huge thigh-bones and devouring 
the marrow within ; others were cutting away pieces 
of the liver and other approved morsels, and swal- 
lowing them on the spot with the appetite of wolves. 
The feces of most of them, besmeared with blood 
from ear to ear, looked grim and horrible enough. 
My friend, the ^^'hite Shield, proffered me a marrow- 
bone, so skilfully laid open that all the rich sub- 
stance within was e.xposed to view at once. Another 
Indian held out a large piece of the dehcate lining 
of the paunch, but these courteous offerings 1 begged 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 229 

leave to decline. I noticed one little boy who was 
ver)' busy with his knife about the jaws and throat 
of the buffalo, from which he extracted some morsel 
of peculiar dehcacy. It is but fair to say that only 
certain parts of the animal are considered eligible 
in these extempore banquets. The Indians would 
look with abhorrence on any one who should par- 
take indiscriminately of the newly-killed carcass. 

We encamped that night, and marched westward 
through the greater part of the following day. On 
the next morning we again resumed our journev. 
It was the seventeenth of July, unless my note-book 
misleads me. At noon we stopped by some pools 
of rain-water, and in the afternoon again set forward. 
This double movement was contrary to the usual 
practice of the Indians, but all were very anxious to 
reach the hunting-ground, kill the necessan,- num- 
ber of buffalo, and retreat as soon as possible from 
the dangerous neighborhood. 1 pass by for the 
present some curious incidents that occurred during 
these marches and encampments. Late in the after- 
noon of the last-mentioned day we came upon the 
banks of a little sandy stream, of which the Indians 
could not tell the name ; for they were verj- ill ac- 
quainted with that part of the country-. So parched 
and arid were the prairies around that they could 
not supply grass enough for the horses to feed upon, 
and we were compelled to move farther and farther 
up the stream in search of ground for encampment. 
The country was much wilder than before. The 
plains were gashed with ravines and broken into 
hollows and steep declivities, which flanked our 
course, as, in long scattered array, the Indians ad- 
vanced up the side of the stream. Mene-Seela 
consulted an extraordinary- oracle to instruct him 
where the buffalo were to be found. When he with 
the other chiefs sat down on the grass to smoke and 



230 THE OR EG OX TRAIL. 

converse, as they often did during the march, the 
old man picked up one of those enormous black and 
green crickets, which the Dahcotah call by a name 
that signifies ' ' They who point out the buffalo. 
The " Root-Diggers," a wretched tribe beyond the 
mountains, turn them to good account by making 
them into a sort of soup, pronounced by certain un- 
scrupulous trappers to be extremely rich. Holding 
the bloated insect respectfully between his fingers 
and thumb, the old Indian looked attentively at him 
and inquired, " Tell me, my father, where must we 
go to-morrow to find the buflfalo ?' ' The cricket 
tv\"isted about his long horns in evident embarrass- 
ment. At last he pointed, or seemed to point, them 
westward. Mene-Seela, dropping him gently on the 
grass, laughed with great glee, and said that if we 
went that way in the morning we should be sure to 
kill plenty of game. 

Toward evening we came upon a fresh green 
meadow, traversed by the stream, and deep-set 
among tall sterile bluffs. The Indians descended 
its steep bank ; and as I was at the rear, I was one 
of the last to reach this point. Lances were glitter- 
ing, feathers fluttering, and the water below me was 
crowded with men and horses passing through, 
while the meadow beyond was swarming with the 
restless crowd of Indians. The sun was just setting, 
and poured its softened light upon them through an 
opening in the hills. 

I remarked to Reynal that at last we had found 
a good 'camping-ground. 

"Oh, it is very good," replied he, ironically, 
' ' especially if there is a Snake war-part\' about, and 
they take it into their heads to shoot down at us 
from the top of these hills. It is no plan of mine, 
'camping in such a hole as this I" 

The Indians also seemed apprehensive. High up 



THE OGILLALLAH VILLAGE. 23 1 

on the top of the tallest blufif, conspicuous in the 
bright evening sunlight, sat a naked warrior on 
horseback, looking around, as it seemed, over the 
neighboring country ; and Raymond told me that 
many of the young men had gone out in different 
directions as scouts. 

The shadows had reached to the very summit of 
the bluffs before the lodges were erected and the 
village reduced again to quiet and order. A cry 
was suddenly raised, and men, women, and chil- 
dren came running out with animated faces, and 
looked eagerly through the opening on the hills by 
which the stream entered from the westward. I 
could discern afar off some dark, heavy masses, 
passing over the sides of a low hill. They disap- 
peared, and then others followed. These were 
bands of buffalo-cows. The hunting-ground was 
reached at last, and everything promised well for 
the morrow's sport. Being fatigued and exhausted, 
I went and lay down in Kongra-Tonga's lodge, 
when Raymond thrust in his head, and called upon 
me to come and see some sport. A number of In- 
dians were gathered, laughing, along the line of 
lodges on the western side of the village, and at 
some distance, I could plainly see in the twihght 
two huge black monsters stalking, heavily and sol- 
emnly, directly toward us. They were buffalo-bulls. 
The wind blew from them to the village, and such 
was their blindness and stupidity, that they were 
advancing upon the enemy without the least con- 
sciousness of his presence. Raymond told me that 
two young men had hidden themselves with guns in 
a ravine about twenty yards in front of us. The 
two bulls walked slowly on, heavily swinging from 
side to side in their pecuhar gait of stupid dignity. 
They approached within four or five rods of the 
ravine where the Indians la) in ambush. Here at 



232 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

last they seemed conscious that something was 
•wrong, for they both stopped and stood perfectly 
still, -without looking either to the right or to the 
left- Nothing of them was to be seen but two huge 
black masses of shaggy mane, with horns, eyes, and 
nose in the centre, and a pair of hoofs \isible at the 
bottom. At last the more intelligent of them seemed 
to have concluded that it was time to retire. \"er>' 
slowly, and with an air of the gra\ est and most 
majestic deliberation, he began to turn round, as if 
he were revohing on a pivoL Litde by httle his 
ugly bro-wn side was exjxised to N-iew. A white 
smoke sprang out, as it were, from the ground ; a 
sharp report came with it. The old bull gave a 
very undignified jump, and galloped off. At this 
his comrade wheded about A^ith considerable expe- 
dition. The other Indian shot at him from the 
ravine, and then both the bulls were running away 
at fiill speed, while half the juvenile population of 
the village raised a yell and ran after them. The 
first bull soon stopped, and while the crowd stood 
looking at him at a respectfiil distance, he reeled 
and roUed over on his side. The other, wounded in 
a less %-ital part, galloped away to the hills and 
escaped. 

In half an hour it was totaUj' dark. I lay down 
to sleep, and ill as I was, there vi"as something \^r\ 
animarifig in the prospect of the general hunt that 
was to take place on the morrow. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE HUNTING CAMP. 

" The Perse owt of Northamberlande, 
And a vowe to God mayde he, 
That he wolde hunte in the mountayns 

Off Chyviat within dayes thre, 

In the mauger of doughte Dogles, 

.'\nd all that ever with him be." 

Chevy Chase. 

Long before daybreak the Indians broke up their 
camp. The women of Mene-Seela's lodge were, as 
usual, among the first that were ready for departure, 
and I found the old man himself sitting by the 
embers of the decayed fire, over which he was 
warming his withered fingers, as the morning was 
ver)' chilly and damp. The preparations for moving 
were even more confused and disorderly than usual. 
While some families were leaving the ground the 
lodges of others were still standing untouched. At 
this, old Mene-Seela grew impatient, and walking 
out to the middle of the village stood with his robe 
wrapped close around him, and harangued the 
people in a loud, sharp voice. Now, he said, when 
they were on an enemy's hunting-grounds, was not 
the time to behave like children ; they ought to 
be more active and united than ever. His speech 
had some effect. The delinquents took down their 
lodges and loaded their pack-horses ; and when the 
sun rose, the last of the men, women, and children 
had left the deserted camp. 

This movement was made merely for the purpose 
of finding a better and safer position. So we ad- 
vanced only three or four miles up the little stream, 
before each family assumed its relative place in the 

233 



234 THE O REG OX TRAIL. 

great ring of the \-illage, and all around the squaws 
were actively at work in preparing the camp. But 
not a single warrior dismounted from his horse. 
All the men that morning were mounted on inferior 
animals, leading their best horses by a cord, or con- 
fiding them to the care of boys. In small parties 
they began to leave the ground and ride rapidly 
away over the plains to the westward. I had taken 
no food that morning, and not being at all ambitious 
of farther abstinence. 1 went into my host's lodge, 
which his squaws had erected with wonderful 
celerit)', and sat dowTi in the centre, as a gentle hint 
that 1 was hungry- . A wooden bowl was soon set 
before me, filled with the nutritious preparation of 
dried meat, called pemmican by the northern voy- 
agers, and ■wcisna by the Dahcotah. Taking a 
handful to break my fest upon, 1 left the lodge just 
in time to see the last band of hunters disappear 
over the ridge of the neighboring hill. I mounted 
Pauline and galloped in pursuit, riding rather by the 
balance than by any muscular strength that remained 
to me. From the top of the hili I could overlook a 
wide extent of desolate and unbroken prairie, over 
which, far and near, httle parties of naked horse- 
men were rapidly {sassing. I soon came up to the 
nearest, and we had not ridden a mile before all 
were united into one large and compact body. .All 
was haste and eagerness. Each hunter was whip- 
ping on his horse, as if anxious to be the first to 
reach the game. In such movements among the 
Indians this is always more or less the case ; but it 
was especially so in the present instance, because 
the head chief of the village was absent, and there 
were but few ' ' soldiers, ' ' a sort of Indian poUce, 
who among their other ftmctions usually assimie the 
direction of a buffalo-hunt. No man turned to the 
right hand or to the left. We rode at a swift canter 



THE Hi'XTIXG CAMP. 21^ 

straight fonvard, up hill and down hill, and through 
the stiff, obstinate growth of the endless wild-sage 
bushes. For an hour and a half the same red 
shoulders, the same long black hair rose and fell 
with the motion of the horses before me. ^'ery 
little was said, though once I observed an old man 
severely reproving Raymond for having left his rifle 
behind him, when there was some probabilitj- of 
encountering an enemy before the day was over. 
As we galloped across a plain thickly set with sage 
bushes, the foremost riders vanished suddenly from 
sight, as if diving into the earth. The arid soil was 
cracked into a deep ravine. Down we all went in 
succession and galloped in a line along the bottom, 
until we found a point where, one by one, the horses 
could scramble out. Soon after, we came upon a 
wide shallow stream, and as we rode swiftly over the 
hard sand-beds and through tne thin sheets of rip- 
pling water, many of the savage horsemen threw 
themselves to the ground, knelt on the sand, 
snatched a hasty draught, and leaping back again 
to their seats, galloped on again as before. 

Meanwhile scouts kept in advance of the party ; 
and now we began to see them on the ridge of the 
hills, waving their robes in token that buffalo were 
visible. These, however, proved to be nothing 
more than old straggling bulls, feeding upon the 
neighboring plains, who would stare for a moment 
at the hostile array and then gallop clumsily off. 
At length we could discern several of these scouts 
making their signals to us at once ; no longer 
waving their robes boldly from the top of the hill, 
but standing lower down, so that they could not be 
seen from the plains beyond. Game worth pursuing 
had evidently been discovered. The excited Indians 
now urged forward their tired horses even more 
rapidly than before. Pauline, who was still sick 



236 THE O REG OX TRAIL. 

and jaded, began to groan hea\Tly ; and her yellow 
sides were darkened with sweat. As we were 
crowding together over a lower intenening hill, I 
heard Reynal and Ra>Tnond shouting to me from 
the left ; and looking in that direction, I saw them 
riding away behind a part)" of about twent\" mean- 
looking Indians. These were the relatives of 
Reynal* s squaw, Margot, who not wishing to take 
part in the general hunt, were riding toward a dis- 
tant hollow, where they could discern a small band 
of bufialo which they meant to appropriate to them- 
selves. I answered to the call by ordering Ray- 
mond to turn back and follow me. He reluctantly 
obeyed, though Reynal, who had relied on his 
assistance in skinning, cutting up, and carrying to 
camp the buffalo that he and his party should kill, 
loudly protested and declared that we should see 
no spKjrt if we went with the rest of the Indians. 
Followed by Raymond. 1 pursued the main body of 
hunters, while Reynal. in a great rage, whipped his 
horse over the hill after his ragamuffin relatives. 
The Indians, still about a hundred in number, rode 
in a dense body at some distance in advance. They 
galloped forward, and a cloud of dust was flving in 
the wind behind them. 1 could not overtake them 
imtU they had stopped on the side of the hill where 
the scouts were standing. Here each hunter sprang 
in haste from the tired animal which he had ridden, 
and leaped upon the fresh horse that he had brought 
with him. There was not a saddle or a bridle in 
the whole party. A piece of buffalo-robe, girthed 
over the horse's back, ser\-ed in the place of the 
one, and a cord of twisted hair, lashed firmly round 
his lower jaw. answered for the other. E^le 
feathers were dangUng from even,- mane and tail, as 
insignia of courage and speed. As for the rider, he 
wore no other clothing than a light cincture at his 



THE HUNTING CAMP. 237 

waist, and a pair of moccasons. He had a heavy- 
whip, with a handle of solid elk-horn, and a lash 
of knotted bull-hide, fastened to his wrist by an 
ornamental band. His bow was in his hand, and 
his quiver of otter- or panther -skin hung at his 
shoulder. Thus equipped, some thirty of the hun- 
ters galloped away toward the left, in order to make 
a circuit under cover of the hills, that the buffalo 
might be assailed on both sides at once. The rest 
impatiently waited until time enough had elapsed 
for their companions to reach the required position. 
Then riding upward in a body, we gained the ridge 
of the hill, and for the first time came in sight of 
the buffalo on the plain beyond. 

They were a band of cows, four or five hundred 
in number, who were crowded together near the 
bank of a wide stream that was soaking across the 
sand-beds of the valley. This was a large circular 
basin, sun scorched and broken, scantily covered 
with herbage and encompassed with high barren 
hills, from an opening in which we could see our 
allies galloping out upon the plain. The wind blew 
from that direction. The buffalo were aware of 
their approach, and had begun to move, though 
very slowly and in a compact mass. I have no 
farther recollection of seeing the game until we were 
in the midst of them, for as we descended the hill 
other objects engrossed my attention. Numerous 
old bulls were scattered over the plain, and ungal- 
lantly deserting their charge at our approach, began 
to wade and plunge through the treacherous quick- 
sands of the stream, and gallop away toward the 
hills. One old veteran was struggling behind all 
the rest with one of his forelegs, which had been 
broken by some accident, dangling about uselessly 
at his side. His appearance, as he went shambling 
along on three legs, was so ludicrous that I could 



238 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

not help pausing for a moment to look at him. As 
I came near, he would try to rush upon me, nearly 
throwing himself down at every awkward attempt. 
Looking up, I saw the whole body of Indians fully 
an hundred yards in advance. I lashed Pauline in 
pursuit and reached them but just in time ; for as we 
mingled among them, each hunter, as if by a com- 
mon impulse, violently struck his horse, each horse 
sprang forward convulsively, and scattering in the 
charge in order to assail the entire herd at once, we 
all rushed headlong upon the butfalo. We were 
among them in an instant. Amid the trampling 
and the yells I could see their dark figures running 
hither and thither through clouds of dust, and the 
horsemen darting in pursuit. While we were charg- 
ing on one side, our companions had attacked the 
bewildered and panic-stricken herd on the other. 
The uproar and confusion lasted but for a moment. 
The dust cleared away, and the buffalo could be 
seen scattering as from a common centre, flying 
over the plain singly, or in long files and small 
compact bodies, while behind each followed the 
Indians, lashing their horses to furious speed, forcing 
them close upon their prey, and yelling as they 
launched arrow after arrow into their sides. The 
large black carcasses were strewn thickly over the 
ground. Here and there wounded buffalo were 
.standing, their bleeding sides feathered with arrows ; 
and as I rode past them their eyes would glare, they 
would bristle like gigantic cats, and feebly attempt 
to rush up and gore my horse. 

I left camp that morning with a philosophic reso- 
lution. Neither 1 nor my horse was at that time fit 
for such sport, and I had determined to remain a 
quiet spectator ; but amid the loish of horses and 
buffalo, the uproar and the dust, I found it impos- 
sible to sit still ; and as four or five buffalo ran past 



THE HUNTING CAMP. 239 

me in a line, I drove Pauline in pursuit. We went 
plunging close at their heels through the water and 
the quicksands, and, clambering the bank, chased 
them through the wild-sage bushes that covered the 
rising ground beyond. But neither her native spirit 
nor the blows of the knotted bull-hide could supply 
the place of poor Pauline's exhausted strength. We 
could not gain an inch upon the poor fugitives. At 
last, however, they came full upon a ravine too wide 
to leap over ; and as this compelled them to turn 
abruptly to the left, I contrived to get within ten or 
twelve yards of the hindmost. At this she faced 
about, bristled angrily, and made a show of charg- 
ing. I shot at her with a large holster pistol, and 
hit her somewhere in the neck. Down she tumbled 
into the ravine, whither her companions had de- 
scended before her. I saw their dark backs appear- 
ing and disappearing as they galloped along the 
bottom ; then, one by one, they came scrambling 
out on the other side, and ran off as before, the 
wounded animal following with unabated speed. 

Turning back, I saw Raymond coming on his 
black mule to meet me ; and as we rode over the 
field together, we counted dozens of carcasses lying 
on the plain, in the ravines, and on the sandy bed 
of the stream. Far away in the distance, horses 
and buffalo were still scouring along, with little 
clouds of dust rising behind them ; and over the 
sides of the hills we could see long files of the 
frightened animals rapidly ascending. The hunters 
began to return. The boys, who had held the horses 
behind the hill, made their appearance, and the work 
of flaying and rutting up began in earnest all over 
the field. I noticed my host, Kongra-Tonga, beyond 
the stream, just alighting by the side of a cow which 
he had killed. Riding up to him, 1 found him in 
the act of drawing out an arrow, which, with the 



240 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

exception of the notch at the end, had entirely dis- 
appeared in the animal. I asked him to give it to 
me, and I still retain it as a proof, though by no 
means the most striking one that could be offered, 
of the force and dexterit)- wnth which the Indians 
discharge their arrows. 

The hides and meat were piled upon the horses, 
and the hunters began to leave the ground. Ray- 
mond and I, too, getting tired of the scene, set out 
for the \-illage, riding straight across the intervening 
desert. There was no path, and, as far as I could 
see, no landmarks sufficient to guide us ; but Ray- 
mond seemed to have an instinctive perception of 
the point on the horizon toward which we ought to 
direct our course. Antelope were bounding on all 
sides, and as is always the case in the presence of buf- 
fcdo, they seemed to have lost their natiu^ shyness 
and timidit}-. Bands of them would run Ughdy up 
the rockA- decli\ities, and stand gazing down upon 
us from the summit. At length we could distin- 
guish the tall white rocks and the old pine trees that, 
as we well remembered, were just above the site 
of the encampment. Still, we could see nothing 
of the \"illage itself until, ascending a grass}- hUl, 
we found the circle of lodges, dingy with storms 
and smoke, standing on the plain at our ver}- feet. 

I entered the lodge of my host. His squaw in- 
stantly brought me food and water, and spread a 
buffalo-robe for me to he upon : and, being much 
fatigued, I lay down and fell asleep. In about an 
hour the entrance of Kongra-Tonga. with his arms 
smeared with blood to the elbows, awoke me. He 
sat down in his usual seat, on the left side of the 
lodge. His squaw gave him a vessel of water for 
washing, set before him a bowl of boiled meat, and 
as he was eating, pulled off his bloody mocca- 
sons and placed fresh ones on his feet ; then, out- 



THE HiWTIXG CAMP. 24 1 

stretching his limbs, my host composed himself to 
sleep. 

And now the hunters, two or three at a time, 
began to come rapidly in, and each, consigning his 
horses to the squaws, entered his lodge with the air 
of a man whose day's work was done. The squaws 
flung down the load from the burdened horses, and 
vast piles of meat and hides were soon accumulated 
before ever)- lodge. By this time it was darkening 
fast, and the whole village was illumined by the 
glare of fires blazing all around. All the squaws 
and children were gathered about the piles of meat, 
exploring them in search of the daintiest portions. 
Some of these they roasted on sticks before the fires, 
but often they dispensed with this superfluous opera- 
tion. Late into the night the fires were still glow- 
ing upon the groups of feasters engaged in this sav- 
age banquet around them. 

Several hunters sat down by the fire in Kongxa- 
Tonga's lodge to talk over the day's exploits. 
Among the rest, Mene-Seela came in. Though he 
must have seen full eighty winters, he had taken an 
active share in the day's sport. He boasted that he 
had killed two cows that morning, and would have 
killed a third if the dust had not blinded him so that 
he had to drop his bow and arrows and press both 
hands against his eyes to stop the pain. The fire- 
light fell upon his wrinkled face and shrivelled 
figure as he sat telling his stor}- with such inimitable 
gesticulation that every man in the lodge broke into 
a laugh. 

Old Mene-Seela was one of the few Indians in 
the village with whom I would have trusted myself 
alone without suspicion, and the only one from 
whom I should have received a gift or a service 
without the certainty that it proceeded from an in- 
terested motive. He was a great friend to the 

16 



242 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

whites. He liked to be in their society, and was 
very vain of the favors he had received from them. 
He told me one afternoon, as we were sitting to- 
gether in his son's lodge, that he considered the 
beaver and the whites the wisest people on earth ; 
indeed, he was convinced they were the same ; and 
an incident which had happened to him long before 
had assured him of this. So he began the follow- 
ing ston,-, and as the pipe passed in turn to him, 
Reynal availed himself of these interruptions to 
translate what had preceded. But the old man 
accompanied his words with such admirable panto- 
mime that translation was hardly necessan,-. 

He said that when he was very young, and had 
never yet seen a white man, he and three or four of 
his companions were out on a beaver-hunt, and he 
crawled into a large beaver-lodge to examine what 
was there. Sometimes he was creeping on his 
hands and knees, sometimes he was obliged to 
swim, and sometimes to lie flat on his face and drag 
himself along. In this way he crawled a great dis- 
tance under ground. It was \tx\ dark, cold, and 
close, so that at last he was almost suffocated, and 
fell into a swoon. When he began to recover, he 
could just distinguish the voices of his companions 
outside, who had given him up for lost, and were 
singing his death-song. At first he could see noth- 
ing, but soon he discerned something white before 
him, and at length plainly distinguished three 
people, entirely white, one man and two women, 
sitting at the edge of a black pool of water. He 
became alarmed and thought it high time to retreat. 
Having succeeded, after great trouble, in reaching 
daylight again, he went straight to the spot directly 
above the pool of water where he had seen the 
three mysterious beings. Here he beat a hole with 
his war-club in the ground, and sat down to watch. 



THE HUNTING CAMP. 243 

In a moment the nose of an old male beaver ap- 
peared at the opening. Mene-Seela instantly seized 
him and dragged him up, when two other beavers, 
both females, thrust out their heads, and these he 
served in the same way. "These," continued the 
old man, " must have been the three white people 
whom I saw sitting at the edge of the water." 

Mene-Seela was the grand depositary of the 
legends and traditions of the village. I succeeded, 
however, in getting from him only a few fragments. 
Like all Indians, he was excessively superstitious, 
and continually saw some reason for withholding his 
stories. "It is a bad thing," he would say, "to 
tell the tales in summer. Stay with us till next 
winter, and I will tell you everything I know ; but 
now our war-parties are going out, and our young 
men will be killed if I sit down to tell stories before 
the frost begins." 

But to leave this digression. We remained en- 
camped on this spot five days, during three of which 
the hunters were at work incessantly, and immense 
quantities of meat and hides were brought in. 
(Ireat alarm, however, prevailed in the village. All 
were on the alert. The young men were ranging 
through the country as scouts, and the old men paid 
careful attention to omens and prodigies, and 
especially to their dreams. In order to convey to 
the enemy (who, if they were in the neighborhood, 
must inevitably have known of our presence) the im- 
pression that we were constantly on the watch, piles 
of sticks and stones were erected on all the sur- 
rounding hills, in such a manner as to appear, at a 
distance, like sentinels. Often, even to this hour, 
that scene will rise before my mind like a vi.sible 
reality : the tall white rocks ; the old pine trees on 
their summits ; the sandy stream that ran along 
their bases and half encircled the village ; and the 



244 ^-^^ OREGON TRAIL. 

wild-sage bushes, with their dull green hue and their 
medicinal odor, that covered all the neighboring 
declivities. Hour after hour the squaws would pass 
and repass with their vessels of water between the 
stream and the lodges. For the most part, no one 
was to be seen in the camp but women and chil- 
dren, two or three superannuated old men, and a few 
lazy and worthless young ones. These, together 
with the dogs, now grown fat and good-natured 
with the abundance in the camp, were its only ten- 
ants. Still it presented a busy and busthng scene. 
In all quarters the meat, hung on cords of hide, was 
drying in the sun, and around the lodges the squaws, 
young and old, were laboring on the fresh hides that 
were stretched upon the ground, scraping the hair 
from one side and the still -adhering flesh from the 
other, and rubbing into them the brains of the buf- 
falo, in order to render them soft and pliant. 

In mercy to myself and my horse, I never went 
out with the hunters after the first day. Of late, 
however, I had been gaining strength rapidly, as 
was always the case upon every respite of my dis- 
order. I was soon able to walk with ease. Ray- 
mond and I would go out upon the neighboring 
prairies to shoot antelope, or sometimes to assail 
straggling buffalo, on foot ; an attempt in which we 
met with rather indifferent success. To kill a bull 
with a rifle-ball is a difficult art, in the secret of 
which 1 was as yet very imperfectly initiated. As I 
came out of Kongra-Tonga's lodge one morning, 
Reynal called to me from the opposite side of the 
village, and asked me over to breakfast. The 
breakfast was a substantial one. It consisted of the 
rich, juicy hump-ribs of a fat cow ; a repast abso- 
lutely unrivalled. It was roasting before the fire, 
impaled upon a stout stick, which Reynal took up 
and planted in the ground before his lodge ; when 



THE HUNTING CAMP. 245 

he, with Raymond and myself, taking our seats 
around it, unsheathed our knives and assailed it 
with good will. In spite of all medical experience, 
this solid fare, without bread or salt, seemed to 
agree with me admirably. 

' ' We shall have strangers here before night, 
said Reynal. 

" How do you know that ?" I asked. 

" I dreamed so. I am as good at dreaming as an 
Indian. There is the Hail-Storm ; he dreamed the 
same thing, and he and his crony, the Rabbit, have 
gone out on discovery." 

I laughed at Reynal for his credulity, went over 
to my host's lodge, took down my rifle, walked out 
a mile or two on the prairie, saw an old bull stand- 
ing alone, crawled up a ravine, shot him, and saw 
him escape. Then, quite exhausted and rather ill- 
humored, I walked back to the village. By a strange 
coincidence, Reynal' s prediction had been verified ; 
for the first persons whom I saw were the two trap- 
pers. Rouleau and Saraphin, coming to meet me. 
These men, as the reader may possibly recollect, had 
left our party about a fortnight before. They had 
been trapping for a while among the Black Hills, and 
were now on their way to the Rocky Mountains, 
intending in a day or two to set out for the neigh- 
boring Medicine Bow. They were not the most 
elegant or refined of companions, yet they made a 
very welcome addition to the limited society of the 
village. For the rest of that day we lay smoking 
and talking in Reynal' s lodge. This, indeed, was 
no better than a little hut, made of hides stretched 
on poles, and entirely open in front. It was well 
carpeted with soft buffalo-robes, and here we re- 
mained, sheltered from the sun, surrounded by 
various domestic utensils of Madame Margot's 
household. All was quiet in the village. Though 



246 THE OREGOy TRAIL. 

the hunters had not gone out that day, they lay 
sleeping in their lodges, and most of the women 
were silendy engaged in their heavy tasks. A few 
young men were playing at a lazy game of ball in 
the centre of the \ illage : and when they became 
tired, some girls supphed their place with a more 
boisterous sport. At a little distance, among the 
lodges, some children and half-grown squaws were 
playfuUy tossing up one of their nxmiber in a buffalo- 
robe,- an exact counterpart of the ancient pastime 
from which Sancho Panza suffered so much. Farther 
out on the prairie, a host of little naked boys were 
roaming about, engaged in various rough games, or 
pursuing birds and ground-squirrels w-ith their bows 
and arrows ; and woe to the unhappy little animals 
that fell into their merciless, torture-lo\-ing hands ! 
A squaw from the next lodge, a notable active 
housewife, named Weah Washtay, or the Good 
Woman, brought us a large bowel oi wasna, and 
went into an ecstasy of dehght when I presented 
her with a green glass ring, such as I usually wore 
with a view to similar occasions. 

The sun went down, and half the sky was glow- 
ing fier}' red, reflected on the Uttle stream as it 
wouiid away among the sage bushes. Some young 
men left the village, and soon returned, driving in 
before them aU the horses, hundreds in number, 
and of every size, age, and color. The hunters 
came out, and each securing those that belonged to 
him, examined their condition, and tied them fast 
by long cords to stakes driven in front of his lodge. 
It was half an hour before the bustle subsided and 
tranquillit}' was restored again. By this time it was 
nearly dark. Kettles were hung over the blazing 
fires, around which the squaws were gathered with 
their children, laughing and talking merrily. A 
circle of a different kind was formed in the centre 



THE HUNTING CAMP. 24/ 

of the village. This was composed of the old 
men and warriors of repute, who with their white 
buffalo-robes drawn close around their shoulders, 
sat together, and as the pipe passed from hand to 
hand, their conversation had not a particle of the 
gravity and reserve usually ascribed to Indians. I 
sat down with them as usual. I had in my hand 
half a dozen squibs and serpents, which I had made 
one day when encamped upon Laramie Creek, out 
of gunpowder and charcoal, and the leaves of ' ' Fre- 
mont's Expedition," rolled round a stout lead- 
pencil. I waited till I contrived to get hold of the 
large piece of burning bois-dc-vachc which the In- 
dians kept by them on the ground for lighting their 
pipes. With this I lighted all the fireworks at once, 
and tossed them whizzing and sputtering into the air, 
over the heads of the company. They all jumped 
up and ran off with yelps of astonishment and con- 
sternation. After a moment or two, they ventured 
to come back one by one, and some of the boldest, 
picking up the cases of burnt paper that were scat- 
tered about, examined them with eager curiosity to 
discover their mysterious secret. From that time 
forward I enjoyed great repute as a " fire-medicine." 
The camp was filled with the low hum of cheer- 
ful voices. There were other sounds, however, of a 
very different kind, for from a large lodge, lighted 
up like a gigantic lantern by the blazing fire within, 
came a chorus of dismal cries and wailings, long 
drawn out, like the howling of wolves, and a woman, 
almost naked, was crouching close outside, crying 
violently, and gashing her legs with a knife till they 
were covered with blood. Just a year before, a 
young man belonging to this family had gone out 
with a war-party and had been slain by the enemy, 
and his relatives were thus lamenting his loss. Still 
other sounds might be heard ; loud earnest cries 



248 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

often repeated from amid the gloom, at a distance 
beyond the village. They proceeded from some 
young men who, being about to set out in a few days 
on a warlike expedition, were standing at the top of 
a hill, calling on the Great Spirit to aid them in 
their enterprise. \\'hile I was listening. Rouleau, 
wnth a laugh on his careless face, called to me and 
directed my attention to another quarter. In front 
of the lodge where Weah Washtay lived another 
squaw was standing, angrily scolding an old yellow 
dog, who lay on the ground with his nose resting 
betvveen his paws, and his eyes turned sleepily up 
to her face, as if he were pretending to give re- 
spectful attention, but resolved to fall asleep as soon 
as it was all over. 

' ' You ought to be ashamed of yourself !" said the 
old woman. ' ' I ha\e fed you well, and taken care 
of you ever since you were small and blind, and 
could only crawl about and squeal a little, instead 
of howling as you do now. When you grew old, I 
said you were a good dog. You were strong and 
gentle when the load was put on your back, and you 
never ran among the feet of the horses when we 
were all travelling together over the prairie. But 
you had a bad heart I \\'henever a rabbit jumped 
out of the bushes, you were always the first to run 
after him and lead away all the other dogs behind 
you. You ought to have known that it was ver>' 
dangerous to act so. When you had got far out on 
the prairie, and no one was near to help you, per- 
haps a wolf would jump out of the ravine ; and then 
what could you do ? You would certainly have been 
killed, for no dog can fight well with a load on his 
back. Only three days ago you ran off in that way, 
and turned over the bag of wooden pins with which 
I used to fasten up the front of the lodge. Look up 
there, and you will see that it is all flapping open. 



THE HUNTIXG CAMP. 249 

And now to-night you have stolen a great piece of 
fat meat which was roasting before the fire for my 
children. I tell you, you have a bad heart, and 
you must die ?' ' 

So saying, the squaw went into the lodge, and 
coming out with a large stone mallet, killed the un- 
fortunate dog at one blow. This speech is worthy 
of notice, as illustrating a curious characteristic of 
the Indians ; the ascribing intelligence and a power 
of understanding speech to the inferior animals ; to 
whom, indeed, according to many of their tradi- 
tions, they are Hnked in close affinity ; and they 
even claim the honor of a lineal descent from bears, 
wolves, deer, or tortoises. 

As it grew late, and the crowded population began 
to disappear, I too walked across the village to the 
lodge of my host, Kongra-Tonga. As I entered I 
saw him, by the flickering blaze of the fire in the 
centre, reclining half asleep in his usual place. His 
couch was by no means an uncomfortable one. It 
consisted of soft buft'alo-robes, laid together on the 
ground, and a pillow made of whitened deer-skin, 
stuffed with feathers and ornamented with beads. 
At his back was a light framework of poles and 
slender reeds, against which he could lean with ease 
when in a sitting posture ; and at the top of it, just 
above his head, his bow and quiver were hanging. 
His squaw, a laughing, broad-faced woman, ap- 
parently had not yet completed her domestic 
arrangements, for she was bustling about the lodge, 
pulling over the utensils and the bales of dried 
meats that were ranged carefully around it. Un- 
happily, she and her partner were not the only 
tenants of the dwelling ; for half a dozen children 
were scattered about, sleeping in every imaginable 
posture. My saddle was in its place at the head of 
the lodge, and a buffalo-robe was spread on the 



250 THE OR EG OX TRAIL. 

ground before it. Wrapping myself in my blanket, 
I lay down ; but had I not been extremely fatigued, 
the noise in the next lodge would have pre^•ented 
my sleeping. There was the monotonous thumping 
of the Indian drum, mixed with occasional sharp 
yells, and a chorus chanted by tvvent)- voices. A 
grand scene of gambling was going fonvard with 
all the appropriate formahties. The players were 
staking on the chance issue of the game their orna- 
ments, their horses, and as the excitement rose, 
their garments, and even their weapons ; for desper- 
ate gambling is not contined to the hells of Paris. 
The men of the plains and the forests no less resort 
to it as a violent but grateful relief to the tedious 
monotony of their lives, which alternate between 
fierce excitement and listless inaction. 1 fell asleep 
with the dull notes of the drum still sounding on my 
ear ; but these furious orgies lasted without inter- 
mission tiU daylight. I was soon awakened by one 
of the children crawling over me, while another 
larger one was tugging at my blanket and nestling 
himself in a ver)' disagreeable proximity. I im- 
mediately repelled these advances by punching the 
heads of these miniature savages with a short stick 
which I always kept by me for the purpose ; and as 
sleeping half the day and eating much more than 
is good for them makes them extremely restless, 
this operation usually had to be repeated four or five 
times in the course of the night. My host himself 
was the author of another most formidable annoy- 
ance. All these Indians, and he among the rest, 
think themselves bound to the constant performance 
of certain acts as the condition on which their suc- 
cess in life depends, whether in war, love, hunting, 
or any other employment. These "medicines," 
as they are called in that countn,-, which are usually 
communicated in dreams, are often absurd enough. 



THE HCXTIXG CAMP. 2$ I 

Some Indians will strike the butt of the pipe against 
the ground even.- time they smoke ; others will 
insist that everything they say shall be interpreted 
by contraries ; and Shaw once met an old man who 
conceived that all would be lost unless he compelled 
ever>- white man he met to drink a bowl of cold 
water. My host was particularly fortunate in his 
allotment. The Great Spirit had told him in a 
dream that he must sing a certain song in the 
middle of every night ; and regularly at about 
twelve o' clock his dismal monotonous chanting would 
awaken me, and I would see him seated bolt up- 
right on his couch, going through his dolorous per- 
formance with a most business-hke air. There 
were other voices of the night, still more inhar- 
monious. Twice or thrice, between sunset and 
dawn, all the dogs in the village, and there were 
hundreds of them, would bay and yelp in chorus ; 
a most horrible clamor, resembling no sound that I 
have ever heard, except perhaps the frightful howl- 
ing of wolves that we used sometimes to hear, long 
afterward, when descending the Arkansas on the 
trail of General Kearney" s army. The canine 
uproar is, if possible, more discordant than that of 
the wolves. Heard at a distance, slowly rising on 
the night, it has a strange unearthly effect, and 
would fearfully haunt the dreams of a nervous 
man ; but when you are sleeping in the midst of it, 
the din is outrageous. One long loud howl from the 
next lodge perhaps begins it, and voice after voice 
takes up the sound, till it passes around the whole 
circumference of the village, and the air is filled 
with confused and discordant cries, at once fierce 
and mournful. It lasts but for a moment, and then 
dies away into silence. 

Morning came, and Kongra-Tonga, mounting his 
horse, rode out with the hunters. It may not be 



252 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

amiss to glance at him for an instant in his domestic 
character of husband and father. Both he and his 
squaw, hke most other Indians, were ver)' fond of 
their children, whom they indulged to excess, and 
never punished, except in extreme cases, when they 
would throw a bowl of cold water over them. Their 
offspring became sufficiently undutiful and dis- 
obedient under this system of education, which 
tends not a little to foster that wild idea of liberty 
and utter intolerance of restraint which lie at the 
ver)- foundation of the Indian character. It would 
be hard to find a fonder father than Kongra-Tonga. 
There was one urchin in particular, rather less than 
two feet high, to whom he was exceedingly attached ; 
and sometimes spreading a buffalo-robe in the lodge, 
he would seat himself upon it, place his small favor- 
ite upright before him, and chant in a low tone some 
of the words used as an accompaniment to the war- 
dance. The little fellow, who could just manage to 
balance himself by stretching out both arms, would 
lift his feet and turn slowly round and round in time 
to his father's music, while my host would laugh 
with delight, and look smiling up into my face to 
see if I were admiring this precocious performance 
of his offspring. In his capacity of husband he 
was somewhat less exemplar}-. The squaw who 
lived in the lodge with him had been his partner for 
many years. She took good care of his children 
and his household concerns. He liked her well 
enough, and, as far as I could see, they never 
quarrelled ; but all his warmer affections were re- 
served for younger and more recent favorites. Of 
these he had at present only one, who lived in a 
lodge apart from his own. One day while in his 
camp, he became displeased with her, pushed her 
out, threw after her her ornaments, dresses, and 
ever)-thing she had, and told her to go home to her 



THE HUNTING CAMP. 253 

father. Having consummated this summary divorce, 
for which he could show good reasons, he came 
back, seated himself in his usual place, and began 
to smoke with an air of the utmost tranquillity and 
self-satisfaction. 

I was sitting in the lodge with him on that very 
afternoon, when I felt some curiosity to learn the 
history of the numerous scars that appeared on his 
naked body. Of some of them, however, I did not 
venture to inquire, for I already understood their 
origin. Each of his arms was marked as if deeply 
gashed with a knife at regular intervals, and there 
were other scars also, of a ditferent character, on 
his back and on either breast. They were the traces 
of those formidable tortures which these Indians, in 
common with a few other tribes, inflict upon them- 
selves at certain seasons ; in part, it may be, to gain 
the glorj' of courage and endurance, but chiefly as 
an act of self-sacrifice to secure the favor of the 
Great Spirit. The scars upon the breast and back 
were produced by running through the flesh strong 
splints of wood, to which ponderous buffalo skulls 
are fastened by cords of hide, and the wretch runs 
forward with all his strength, assisted by two com- 
panions, who take hold of each arm, until the flesh 
tears apart and the heavy loads are left behind. 
Others of Kongra-Tonga' s scars were the result of 
accidents ; but he had many which he received in 
war. He was one of the most noted warriors in the 
village. In the course of his life he had slain, as he 
boasted to me, fourteen men ; and though, like other 
Indians, he was a great braggart and utterly regard- 
less of truth, yet in this statement common report 
bore him out. Being much flattered by my inquiries, 
he told me tale after tale, true or false, of his war- 
like exploits ; and there was one among the rest illus- 
trating the worst features of the Indian character too 



254 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

well for me to omit it. Pointing out of the opening 
of the lodge toward the Medicine-Bow Mountains, 
not many miles distant, he said that he was there a 
few summers ago with a war-party of his young men. 
Here they found two Snake Indians hunting. They 
shot one of them with arrows, and chased the other 
up the side of the mountain till they surrounded him 
on a level place, and Kongra-Tonga himself jumping 
forward among the trees, seized him by the arm. 
Two of his young men then ran up and held him 
fast while he scalped him alive. They then built a 
great fire, and cutting the tendons of their captive's 
wrists and feet, threw him in, and held him down 
with long poles until he was burnt to death. He 
garnished his story with a great many descriptive 
particulars much too revolting to mention. His 
features were remarkably mild and open, without 
the fierceness of expression common among these 
Indians ; and as he detailed these devilish cruelties, 
he looked up into my face wVCa the same air of 
earnest simplicity which a little child would wear 
in relating to its mother some anecdote of its youth- 
ful experience. 

Old Mene-Seela's lodge could offer another illus- 
tration of the ferocin- of Indian warfare. A bright- 
eved active little boy was living there.- He had be- 
longed to a village of the Gros-Ventre Blackfeet, a 
small but bloody and treacherous band, in close 
alliance with the Arapahoes. About a year before, 
Kongra-Tonga and a party of warriors had found 
about twenty lodges of these Indians upon the plains 
a little to the eastward of our present camp ; and 
surrounding them in the night, they butchered men, 
women, and children without mercy, preserving 
only this little boy alive. He was adopted into the 
old man's family, and was now fast becoming iden- 
tified with the Ogillallah children, among whom he 



THE HUNTING CAMP. 255 

mingled on equal terms. There was also a Crow 
warrior in the village, a man cf gigantic stature and 
most symmetrical proportions. Having been taken 
prisoner many years before and adopted by a squaw 
in place of a son whom she had lost, he had forgot- 
ten his old national antipathies, and was now both 
in act and inclination an Ogillallah. 

It will be remembered that the scheme of the 
grand warlike combination against the Sjiake and. 
Crow Indians originated in this village ; and though 
this plan had fallen to the ground, the embers of 
the martial ardor continued to glow brightly. Eleven 
young men had prepared themselves to go out 
against the enemy. The fourth day of our stay in 
this camp was fixed upon for their departure. At the 
head of this party was a well-built, activ6 little In- 
dian, called the White Shield, whom I had always 
noticed for the great neatness of his dress and ap- 
pearance. His lodge too, though not a large one, was 
the best in the village ; his squaw was one of the 
prettiest girls, and altogether his dweUing presented 
a complete model of an Ogillallah domestic estab- 
lishment. I was often a visitor there, for the White 
Shield being rather partial to white men, used to 
invite me to continual feasts at all hours of the day. 
Once when the substantial part of the entertainment 
was concluded, and he and 1 were seated cross- 
legged on a buffalo-robe, smoking together very 
amicably, he took down his warlike equipments, 
which were hanging around the lodge, and displayed 
them with great pride and self-importance. Among 
the rest was a most superb head-dress of feathers. 
Taking this from its case, he put it on and stood 
before me, as if conscious of the gallant air which 
it gave to his dark face and his vigorous graceful 
figure. He told me that upon it were the feathers 
of three war-eagles, equal in value to the same 



256 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

number of good horses. He took up also a shield 
gayly painted and hung -vWth feathers. The effect 
of these barbaric ornaments was admirable, for they 
were arranged with no little skill and taste. His 
quiver was made of the spotted skin of a small 
panther, such as are common among the Black 
Hills, from which the tail and distended claws were 
still allowed to hang. The White Shield concluded 
his entertainment in a manner characteristic of an 
Indian. He begged of me a little powder and ball, 
for he had a gun as well as bow and arrows ; but 
this I was obliged to refuse, because I had scarcely 
enough for my own use. Making him, however, a 
parting present of a paper of vermihon, I left him 
apparently quite contented. 

Unhappily, on the next morning the \Miite Shield 
took cold, and was attacked with a violent inflam- 
mation of the throat. Immediately he seemed to 
lose all spirit, and though before no warrior in the 
village had borne himself more proudly, he now 
moped about from lodge to lodge with a forlorn and 
dejected air. At length he came and sat down, 
closely wrapped in his robe, before the lodge of Rey- 
nal, but when he found that neither he nor 1 knew 
how to relieve him, he arose and stalked over to 
one of the medicine-men of the village. This old 
impostor thumped him for some time with both fists, 
howled and yelped over him, and beat a drum close 
to his ear to expel the evil spirit that had taken pos- 
session of him. This vigorous treatment failing of 
the desired effect, the White Shield withdrew to his 
own lodge, where he lay disconsolate for some 
hours. Making his appearance once more in the 
afternoon, he again took his seat on the ground be- 
fore Revnal's lodge, holding his throat with his hand. 
For some time he sat perfectly silent with his eyes 



THE HUNTING CAMP. 257 

fixed mournfully on. the ground. At last he began 
to speak in a low tone : 

" I am a brave man," he said ; "all the young 
men think me a great warrior, and ten of them are 
ready to go with me to the war. I will go and show 
them the enemy. Last summer the Snakes killed 
my brother. I cannot live unless I revenge his 
death. To-morrow we will set out and I will take 
their scalps." 

The White Shield, as he expressed this resolu- 
tion, seemed to have lost all the accustomed fire 
and spirit of his look, and hung his head as if in a 
fit of despondency. 

As I was sitting that evening at one of the fires, I 
saw him arrayed in his splendid war-dress, his 
cheeks painted with vermilion, leading his favorite 
war-horse -to the front of his lodge. He mounted 
and rode around the village, singing his war-song 
in a loud hoarse voice amid the shrill acclamations 
of the women. Then dismounting, he remained 
for some minutes prostrate upon the ground, as if in 
an act of supplication. On the following morning I 
looked in vain for the departure of the warriors. 
All was quiet in the village until late in the fore- 
noon, when the White Shield issuing from his lodge, 
came and seated himself in his old place before us. 
Reynal asked him why he had not gone out to find 
the enemy ! 

" I cannot go," answered the White Shield in a 
dejected voice. "I have given my war-arrows to the 
Meneaska." 

' ' You have only given him two of your arrows, ' ' 
said Reynal. " If you ask him, he will give them 
back again." 

For some time the White Shield said nothing. 
At last he spoke in a gloomy tone : 

"One of my young men has had bad dreams. 
17 



258. THE OREGON TRAIL. 

TTie spirits of the dead came and threw stones at 
him in his sleep." 

If such a dream had actually taken place it might 
have broken up this or any other war-party, but 
both Reynal and I were convinced at the time that it 
was a mere fabrication to excuse his remaining at 
home. 

The WTiite Shield was a warrior of noted prowess. 
A'ery- probably he would have received a mortal 
wound without the show of pain, and endured without 
flinching the worst tortures that an enemy could in- 
flict upon him. TTie whole power of an Indian's 
nature would be summoned to encounter such a 
trial ; ever\' influence of his education from child- 
hood would have prepared him for it ; the cause of 
his suffering would have been visibly and palpably 
before him, and his spirit would rise to set his 
enemy at defiance, and gain the highest glor}- of a 
warrior b}' meeting death with fortitude. But when 
he feels himself attacked by a mysterious evil, be- 
fore whose insidious assaults his manhood is wasted, 
and his strength drained away, when he can see no 
enemy to resist and def\-, the boldest warrior falls 
prostrate at once. He believes that a bad spirit has 
taken possession of him, or that he is the victim of 
some charm. WTien suffering from a protracted 
disorder an Indian ^^-ill often abandon himself to his 
supposed destiny, pine away and die, the victim of 
his own imagination. The same effect will often 
follow from a series of calamities, or a long run of 
ill success, and the sufferer has been known to ride 
into the midst of an enemy's camp, or attack a 
grizzly bear single-handed, to get rid of a life which 
he supposed to lie under the doom of misfortune. 

Thus after all his fasting, dreaming, and calling 
upon the Great Spirit, the WTiite Shield's war-party 
was pitifully broken up. 



CHAPTER x^^. 

THE TRAPPERS. 

" Ours the wild life, in tumult still to range. 
From toil to rest, and joy in every change; 
The exulting sense, the pulses maddening play, 
That thrills the wanderer of the trackless way ; 
That for itself can woo the approaching fight. 
And turn what some deem danger to delight : 
Come when it will we snatch the life of life ; 
When lost, what recks it by disease or strife?" 

The Corsair. 

In speaking of the Indians, I have almost forgot- 
ten two bold adventurers of another race, the trap- 
pers Rouleau and Saraphin. These men were bent 
on a most hazardous enterprise. A day's joumey 
to the westward was the country- over which the 
Arapahoes are accustomed to range, and for which 
the tvvo trappers were on the point of setting out. 
These Arapahoes, of whom Shaw and I afterward 
fell in with a large village, are ferocious barbarians, 
of a most brutal and wolfish aspect ; and of late 
they had declared themselves enemies to the whites, 
and threatened death to the first who should venture 
within their territorj-. The occasion of the declara- 
tion was as follows : 

In the previous spring, 1S45, Col. Kearney left 
Fort Leavenworth with several companies of dra- 
goons, and marching with extraordinary- celerit\-, 
reached Fort Laramie, whence he passed along the 
foot of the mountains to Bents Fort, and then, 
turning eastward again, returned to the point from 
whence he set out. While at Fort Laramie he sent 
a part of his command as far westward as Sweet- 
water, while he himself remained at the fort, and 

269 



26o THE OREGON TRAIL. 

dispatched messages to the surrounding Indians to 
meet him there in council. Then for the first time 
the tribes of that vicinit\" saw the white warriors, 
and, as might have been expected, they were lost in 
astonishment at their regular order, their gay attire, 
the completeness of their martial equipment, and 
the great size and power of their horses. Among 
the rest, the Arapahoes came in considerable num- 
bers to the fort. They had lately committed numer- 
ous acts of outrage, and Col. Kearney threatened 
that if they killed any more white men he would 
turn loose his dragoons upon them, and annihilate 
their whole nation. In the evening, to add effect to 
his speech, he ordered a hov^itzer to be fired and a 
rocket to be thrown up. Many of the Arapahoes 
fell prostrate on the ground, while others ran away 
screaming with amazement and terror. On the fol- 
lowing day they withdrew to their mour'ains, con- 
founded with awe at the appearance cf the dra- 
goons, at their big gun which went off twice at one 
shot, and the fier^- messenger which they had sent 
up to the Great Spirit. For many months they re- 
mained quiet, and did no farther mischief. At 
length, just before we came into the country-, one 
of them, by an act of the basest treachers'. kiUed 
two white men. Boot and May, who were trapping 
among the mountains. For this act it was impossi- 
ble to discover a motive. It seemed to spring from 
one of those inexphcable impulses which often 
actuate Indians, and appear no better than the 
mere outbreaks of native ferocit)'. No sooner was 
the murder committed than the whole tribe were in 
extreme consternation. They expected every day 
that the avenging dragoons would arrive, little think- 
ing that a desert of nine hundred miles in extent lay 
between the latter and their mountain fastnesses. 
A large deputation of them came to Fort Laramie, 



THE TRAPPERS. 26 1 

bringing a valuable present of horses, in compensa- 
tion for the lives of the murdered men. These 
Bordeaux refused to accept. They then asked him 
if he would be satisfied with their delivering up the 
murderer himself ; but he declined this otter also. 
The Arapahoes went back more terrified than ever. 
Weeks passed away, and still no dragoons appeared. 
A result followed which all those best acquainted 
with Indians had predicted. They conceived that 
fear had prevented Bordeaux from accepting their 
gifts, and that they had nothing to apprehend from 
the vengeance of the whites. From terror they rose 
to the height of insolence and presumption. They 
called the white men cowards and old women ; and 
a friendly Dahcotah came to Fort Laramie and 
reported that they were determined to kill the 
first of the white dogs whom they could lay hands 
on. 

Had a militar}- officer, intrusted with suitable 
powers, been stationed at Fort Laramie, and having 
accepted the ofter of the Arapahoes to deliver up 
the murderer, had ordered him to be immediately 
led out and shot, in presence of his tribe, they 
would have been awed into tranquillit>, and much 
danger and calamity averted ; but now the neigh- 
borhood of the Medicine-Bow Mountain and the \ 
region beyond it was a scene of extreme peril. 
Old Mene-Seela, a true friend of the whites, and 
many other of the Indians, gathered about the two 
trappers, and vainly endeavored to turn them from 
their purpose ; but Rouleau and Saraphin only 
laughed at the danger. On the morning preceding 
that on which they were to leave the camp, we 
could all discern faint white columns of smoke ris- 
ing against the dark base of the Medicine Bow. 
Scouts were out immediately, and reported that * 
these proceeded from an Arapahoe camp, aban- 



262 THE REG OX TRAIL. 

doned only a few hours before. Still the t\vo trap- 
pers continued their preparations for departure. 

Saraphin was a tall, powerful fellow, with a sullen 
and sinister countenance. His rille had \&x\ prob- 
ably drawn other blood than that of buffalo or even 
Indians. Rouleau had a broad, ruddy face, marked 
with as few traces of thought or of care as a child" s. 
His figure was remarkably square and strong, but 
the first joints of both his feet were frozen off. and 
his horse had lately thrown and trampled upon him. 
by which he had been severely injured in the chest. 
But nothing could check his inveterate propensity 
for laughter and gayet\-. He went all day rolhng 
about the camp on his stumps of feet, talking and 
singing and frolicking with the Indian women as 
they were engaged at their work. In feet, Rouleau 
had an unlucky partiality for squaws. He always 
had one, whom he must needs bedizen with beads, 
ribbons, and all the finen.- of an Indian wardrobe ; 
and though he was. of course, obliged to leave her 
behind him during his expeditions, yet this hazard- 
ous necessity did not at all trouble him, for his dis- 
position was the ver^• reverse of jealous. If at any 
time he had not lavished the whole of the precarious 
profits of his vocation upon his dark favorite, he 
always devoted the rest to feasting his comrades. 
If hquor was not to be had — and this was usually 
the case — strong coffee would be substituted. As 
the men of that region are by no means remark- 
able for providence or self-restraint, whatever was 
set before them on these occasions, however ex- 
travagant in price or enormous in quantity', was 
sure to be disposed of at one sitting. Like other 
trappers', Rouleau's life was one of contrast and 
variet>-. It was only at certain seasons, and for a 
liinited time, that he was absent on his expeditions. 
For the rest of the vear he would be lounging about 



THE TRAPPERS. 263 

the fort, or encamped with his friends in its vicinity, 
lazily hunting or enjoying all the luxur\' of inaction ; 
but when once in pursuit of the beaver, he was in- 
volved in extreme privations and desperate perils. 
When in the midst of his game and his enemies, 
hand and foot, eye and ear, are incessantly active. 
Frequently he must content himself with devouring 
his evening meal uncooked, lest the light of his 
fire should attract the eyes of some wandering 
Indian ; and sometimes having made his rude 
repast, he must leave his fire still blazing, and with- 
draw to a distance under cover of the darkness, 
that his disappointed enemy, drawn thither by the 
light, may find his victim gone, and be unable to 
trace his footsteps in the gloom. This is the life led 
by scores of men in the Rocky Mountains and their 
vicinity. I once met a trapper whose breast was 
marked with the scars of six bullets and arrows, 
one of his arms broken by a shot, and one of his 
knees shattered ; yet still, with the undaunted met- 
tle of New England, from which part of the country 
he had come, he continued to follow his perilous 
occupation. To some of the children of cities it 
may seem strange that men with no object in view 
should continue to follow a life of such hardship and 
desperate adventure, yet there is a mysterious, re- 
sistless charm in the basilisk eye of danger, and few 
men perhaps remain long in that wild region with- 
out learning to love peril for its own sake, and to 
Iciugh carelessly in the face of death. 

On the last day of our stay in this camp the trap- 
pers were ready for departure. WTien in the Black 
Hills they had caught seven beaver, and they now 
left their skins in charge of Reynal, to be kept until 
their return. Their strong, gaunt horses were 
equipped with rusty Spanish bits and rude Mexican 
saddles, to which wooden stirrups were attached. 



264 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

wiule.a buSalo-robe was rolled up behind them, and 
a bundle of beaver baps slung at the pommel. 
These, together with their rifles, their knives, their 
powder-horns and buU^-pouches. flint and steel, and 
a tin cup, composed their whole travelling equip- 
ment. They shook hands with us and rode away ; 
Saraphin. with his grim countenance, like a surly 
bull-dog's, was in advance ; but Rouleau, clamber- 
ing gayly into his seat, kicked his horse's sides, 
flourished his whip in the air. and trotted briskly 
over the prairie, trolling forth a Canadian song at 
the top of his lungs. Rex-nal looked after them 
with his fece of brutal selfishness. 

"WeU," he said, "if they are killed, 1 shall 
have the beaver. Tliej-'ll fetch me fifh" dollars at 
the fort, anyhow." 

This was the last I saw of them. 

We had been for five days in the hunting camp, 
and the meat, which all this time had hung drying 
in the sun, was now fit for transportation. Bu^lo- 
hides also had^been procured in sufficient quantities 
for maVing the next season's lodges ; but it re- 
mained to provide the long slender poles on which 
they were to be supported. These were only to be 
had among the tall pine woods of the Black Hills, 
and in that direction, therefore, our next move was 
to be made. It is worthy of notice that amid the 
general abundance which during this time had pre- 
vailed in the camp, there were no instances of indi- 
vidual privation ; for although the hide and the 
tongue of the buffido belong by exclusive right to 
the hunter who has killed it, yet anyone else is 
equally entitled to help himself bova. the rest of the 
carcass. Thus the weak, the aged, and even the 
indolent come in for a share of the spoils, and many 
a helpless old woman, who would otherwise perish 
from starvation, is sustained in profiise abundance. 



THE TRAPPERS. 265 

On the twenty-fifth of July, late in the afternoon, 
the camp broke up, with the usual tumult and con- 
fusion, and we were all moving once more, on 
horseback and on foot, over the plains. We ad- 
vanced, however, but a few miles. The old men, 
who during the whole march had been stoutly strid- 
ing along on foot in front of the people, now seated 
themselves in a circle on the ground, while all the 
families erecting their lodges in the prescribed order 
around them, formed the usual great circle of the 
camp ; meanwhile these village patriarchs sat 
smoking and talking. 1 threw my bridle to Ray- 
mond, and sat down as usual along with them. 
There was none of that reserve and apparent dignity 
which an Indian always assumes when in council, 
or in the presence of white men whom he distrusts. 
The party, on the contrary, was an extremely merry 
one, and as in a social circle of a Cjuite different 
character, ' ' if there was not much wit, there was at 
least a great deal of laughter. 

When the first pipe was smoked out, I rose and 
withdrew to the lodge of my host. Here I was 
stooping, in the act of taking off my powder-horn 
and bullet-pouch, when suddenly, and close at hand, 
pealing loud and shrill, and in right good earnest, 
came the terrific yell of the war-whoop. Kongra- 
Tonga's squaw snatched up her youngest child, and 
ran out of the lodge. I followed, and found the 
whole village in confusion, resounding with cries and 
yells. The circle of old men in the centre had 
vanished. The warriors with glittering eyes came 
darting, their weapons in their hands, out of the low 
openings of the lodges, and nmning with wild yells 
toward the farther end of the village. Advancing 
a few rods in that direction, I saw a crowd in furious 
agitation, while others ran up on every side to add 
to the confusion. Just then I distinguished the 



266 THE OREGCX TRAIL. 

voices of Raymond and Reynal. shouting to me 
from a distance, and looking back I saw the latter 
with his rifle in his hand, standing on the farther 
bank of a httle stream that ran along the outskirts 
of the camp. He was calling to Raymond and 
myself to come over and join him, and Raymond, 
with his usual deUberate gait and stohd countenance, 
was already moving in that direction. 

This was clearly the wisest course, unless we 
wished to involve ourselves in the fi^y ; so 1 turned 
to go. but just then a pair of eyes, gleaming like a 
snake's, and an aged familiar countenance was 
thrust from the opening of a neighboring lodge, and 
out bolted old Mene-Seela, fuU of fight, clutching 
his bow and arrows in one hand and his knife in the 
other. At that instant he tripped and feU sprawl- 
ing on his face, while his weapons flew scattering 
away in ever)- direction. The women, with loud 
screams, were hurrying with their children in their 
arms to place them out of danger, and I observed 
some hastening to prevent mischief by carr}ing 
away all the weapons they could lay hands on. On 
a rising ground close to the camp stood a line of 
old women singing a medicine-song to allay the 
tumulL As I approached the side of the brook, I 
heard gun-shots behind me, and turning back, I 
saw that the crowd had separated into two long 
lines of naked warriors confronting each other at a 
res|>ectful distance, and yelling and jumping about 
to dodge the shot of their adversaries, while they 
discharged bullets and arrows against each other. 
At the same time certain sharp, humming sounds in 
the air over my head, like the flight of beeties on a 
summer evening, warned me that the danger was 
not wholly confined to the immediate scene of the 
ftay. So, wading through the brook. I joined 
Reynal and Ravmond, and we sat down on the 



THE TRAPPERS. 267 

grass, in the posture of an armed neutrality, to 
watch the result. 

Happily it may be for ourselves, though quite 
contrarv- to our expectation, the disturbance was 
quelled almost as soon as it had commenced. 
\\'hen I looked again, the combatants were once 
more mingled together in a mass. Though yells 
sounded occasionally from the throng, the firing had 
entirely ceased, and' I observed five or si.x persons 
moving busily about, as if acting the part of peace- 
makers. One of the village heralds or criers pro- 
claimed in a loud voice something which my two 
companions were too much engrossed in their own 
obsenations to translate for me. The crowd began 
to disperse, though many a deep-set black eye still 
glittered with an unnatural lustre, as the warriors 
slowly withdrew to their lodges. This fortunate 
suppression of the disturbance was owing to a few 
of the old men, less pugnacious than Mene-Seela, 
who boldly ran in between the combatants, and, 
aided by some of the " soldiers," or Indian pohce, 
succeeded in effecting their object. 

It seemed ven,- strange to me that although many 
arrows and bullets were discharged, no one was 
mortally hurt, and 1 could only account for this by 
the fact that both the marksman and the object of 
his aim were leaping about incessantly during the 
whole time. By far the greater part of the villagers 
had joined in the fray, for although there were not 
more than a dozen guns in the whole camp, I heard 
at least eight or ten shots fired. 

In a quarter of an hour all was comparatively 
quiet. A large circle of warriors was again seated 
in the centre of the village, but this time I did not 
' venture to join them, because I could see that the 
pipe, contrar\- to the usual order, was passing from 
the left hand to the right around the circle ; a sure 



268 THE O REG OX TRAIL. 

sign that a " medicine-smoke " of reconciliation was 
going forward, and that a white man would be an 
Bnwelcome intruder, ^^'hen I again entered the 
still agitated camp it was nearlj* dark, and mournful 
cries, howls, and wailirgs resounded from many 
female vchccs. WTiether these had any connection 
witb the late disturbance, or were merely lamenta- 
tknis for relatiA^es slain in some former war expedi- 
tions, I could not distinctly ascertain. 

To inquire too closely into the cause of the quarrel 
was by no means prudent, and it was not until some 
time after that 1 discovered what had gi\"en rise to 
it. Among the Dahcotah there are many associa- 
tions, or fraternities, connected vi-ith the purposes 
<rf tfaor superstitions, their warfare, or their social 
Kbb. There was one called ' ' The .\rrow-Breakers, 
now in a great measure disbanded and dispersed. 
In the village there were, however, four men be- 
loi^[ing to it, distinguished by the pecuhar arrange- 
lossA. dL their hair, which rose in a high bristling 
mass above their foreheads, adding greatly to their 
apparent height, and giving them a most ferocious 
appearance. The principal among them was the 
]\lad Wolf, a warrior of remarkable size and strength, 
great courage, and the fierceness of a demon. I 
had always looked upon him as the most dangerous 
man in the A-illage ; and though he often in\-ited 
me to feasts, I never entered his lodge unarmed. 
The Mad Wolf had taken a fancy to a fine horse 
belonging to another Indian, who was called the 
Tall Bear ; and anxious to get the animal into his 
possession, he made the owner a present of another 
h'-— ----ly equal in value. According to the cus- 
T :e Dahcotah, the acceptance of this gift 

iii . , . ea a sort of obligation to make an equitable 
return ; and the Tall Bear well understood that the 
other had in ^"iew the oblainincr of his favorite buffalo- 



THE TRAPrERS. 269 

horse. He, however, accepted the present without 
a word of thanks, and having picketed the horse 
before his' lodge, he suffered day after day to pass 
without making the expected return. The Mad 
Wolf grew impatient and angry ; and at last, seeing 
that his bounty was not likely to produce the desired 
return, he resolved to reclaim it. So this evening, 
as soon as the village was encamped, he went to the 
lodge of the Tall Bear, seized upon the horse that 
he had given him, and lead him away. At this the 
Tall Bear broke into one of those fits of sullen rage 
not uncommon among the Indians. He ran up to 
the unfortunate horse, and gave him three inortal 
stabs with his knife. Quick as lightning the Mad 
Wolf drew his bow to its utmost tension, and held 
the arrow quivering close to the breast of his adver- 
sary. The Tall Bear, as the Indians who were near 
him said, stood with his bloody knife in his hand, 
facing the assailant with the utmost calmness. Some 
of his friends and relatives, seeing his danger, ran 
hastily to his assistance. The remaining three 
Arrow-Breakers, on the other hand, came to the 
aid of their associate. Many of their friends joined 
them, the war-cr)' was raised on a sudden, and the 
tumult became general. 

The "soldiers," who lent their timely aid in put- 
ting it down, are by far the most important executive 
functionaries in an Indian village. The office is 
one of considerable honor, being confided only to 
men of courage and repute. They derive their 
authority from the old men and chief warriors of the 
village, who elect them in councils occasionally 
convened for the puipose, and thus can exercise a 
degree of authority which no one else in the village 
would dare to assume. While \cry few Ogillallah 
chiefs could venture without instant jeopardy of their 
lives to strike or lay hands upon the meanest of their 



2/0 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

people, the "soldiers," in the discharge of their 
appropriate functions, have fall hcense to make use 
of these and similar acts of coercion. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

THE BLACK HILLS. 

" To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell, 
To slowly trace the forest's shady scene, 
^^^lere things that own not man's dominion dweU, 
And mortal foot hath ne'er, or rarely been ; 
To climb the trackless mountain all unseen. 
With the wild flock that never needs a fold ; 
Alone o'er steeps and foaming tails to lean ; 
This is not sohtude ; 'tis but to hold 

Converse with Nature's charms, and view her stores un- 
rolled." — Childe Harold. 

We travelled eastward for two days, and then the 
gloomv ridges of the Black Hills rose up before us. 
The village passed along for some miles beneath 
their declivities, traihng out to a great length over 
the arid prairie, or winding at times among small 
detached hills of distorted shapes. Turning sharply 
to the left, we entered a wide defile of the moun- 
tains, down the bottom of which a brook came 
winding, lined with tall grass and dense copses, 
amid which were hidden many beaver-dams and 
lodges. We passed along bet^veen two lines of 
high precipices and rocks, piled in utter disorder 
one upon another, and with scarcely a tree, a bush, 
or a clump of grass to veil their nakedness. The 
restless Indian boys were wandering along their 
edges and clambering up and down their rugged 
sides, and sometimes a group of them would stand 



THE BLACK HILLS. 2/1 

on the verge of a cliff and look down on the array 
as it passed in review beneath them. As we ad- 
vanced, the passage grew more narrow ; then it 
suddenly expanded into a round grassy meadow, 
completely encompassed by mountains ; and here 
the families stopped as they came up in turn, and 
the camp rose like magic. 

The lodges were hardly erected when, with their 
usual precipitation, the Indians set about accom- 
plishing the object that had brought them there ; 
that is, the obtaining poles for supporting their new 
lodges. Half the population, men, women, and boys, 
mounted their horses and set out for the interior of 
the mountains. As they rode at full gallop over the 
shingly rocks and into the dark opening of the defile 
beyond, 1 thought 1 had never read or dreamed of a 
more strange or picturesque cavalcade. We passed 
between precipices more than a thousand feet high, 
sharp and splintering at the tops, their sides beethng 
over the defile or descending in abrupt declivities, 
bristling with black fir trees. On our left they rose 
close to us like a wall, but on the right a winding 
brook with a narrow strip of marshy soil inter\ened. 
The stream was clogged with old beaver-dams and 
spread frequently into wide pools. There were thick 
bushes and many dead and blasted trees along its 
course, though frequently nothing remained but 
stumps cut close to the ground by the beaver, and 
marked with the sharp chisel-like teeth of those 
indefatigable laborers. Sometimes we were diving 
among trees, and then emerging upon open spots, 
over which, Indian-like, all galloped at full speed. 
As Pauline bounded over the rocks I felt her saddle- 
girth slipping, and alighted to draw it tighter ; when 
the whole array swept past me in a moment, the 
women with their gaudy ornaments tinkling as they 
rode, the men whooping and laughing and lash- 



272 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

ing forward their horses. Two black-tailed deer 
bounded away among the rocks ; Raymond shot at 
them from horseback ; the sharp report of his rifle 
was answered by another equally sharp from the 
opposing cliffs, and then the echoes, leaping in 
rapid succession from side to side, died away, rat- 
tling far amid the mountains. 

After haAing ridden in this manner for six or eight 
miles, the appearance of the scene began to change, 
and all the declivities around us were covered with 
forests of tall, slender pine trees. The Indians be- 
gan to fall off to the right and left, and dispersed 
with their hatchets and knives among these woods, 
to cut the poles which they had come to seek. Soon 
1 was left almost alone ; but in the deep stillness of 
those lonely mountains the stroke of hatchets and 
the sound of voices might be heard from far and 
near. 

Reynal, who imitated the Indians in their habits 
as well as the worst features of their character, had 
killed buffalo enough to make a lodge for himself 
and his squaw, and now he was eager to get the 
poles necessan,- to complete it. He asked me to 
let Raymond go with him and assist in the work. 
I assented, and the two men immediately entered 
the thickest part of the wood. Having left my 
horse in Raymond's keeping, I began to climb the 
mountain. I was weak and wean", and made slow 
progress, often pausing to rest, but after an hour had 
elapsed, I gained a height, whence the httle valley 
out of which I had climbed seemed like a deep, 
dark gulf, though the inaccessible peak of the moun- 
tain was still towering to a much gn"eater distance 
above. Objects familiar from childhood surrounded 
me : crags and rocks, a black and sullen brook that 
gurgled with a hollow voice deep among the crev- 
ices, a wood of mossy, distorted trees and prostrate 



*«^e 



t^t^^gl^x^^ 



THE BLACK HILLS. 2/3 

trunks flung down by age and storms, scattered 
among the rocks or damming the foaming waters 
of the little brook. The objects were the same, yet 
they were thrown into a wilder and more startling 
scene, for the black crags and the savage trees 
assumed a grim and threatening aspect, and close 
across the valley the opposing mountain confronted 
me, rising from the gulf for thousands of feet, with 
its bare pinnacles and its ragged covering of pines. 
Yet the scene was not without its milder features. 
As I ascended, I found frequent little grassy ter- 
races, and there was one of these close at hand, 
across which the brook was stealing, beneath the 
shade of scattered trees that seemed artificially 
planted. Here I made a welcome discovery- , no 
other than a bed of strawberries, with their white 
flowers and their red fruit, closely nestled among the 
grass by the side of the brook, and I sat down by 
them, hailing them as old acquaintances ; for among 
those lonely and perilous mountains, they awakened 
delicious associations of the gardens and peaceful 
homes of far-distant New England. 

Yet, wild as they were, these mountains were 
thickly peopled. As I chmbed farther, I found the 
broad dust)' paths made by the elk, as they filed 
across the mountain side. The grass on all the 
terraces was trampled down by deer ; there were 
numerous tracks of wolves, and in some of the 
rougher and more precipitous parts of the ascent, I 
found foot-prints different from any that I had ever 
seen, and which I took to be those of the Rocky 
Mountain sheep. I sat down upon a rock ; there 
was a perfect stillness. No wind was stirring, and 
not even an insect could be heard. I recollected 
the danger of becoming lost in such a place, and 
therefore 1 fixed my eye upon one of the tallest 
pinnacles of the opposite mountain. It rose sheer 
13 



274 ^-^^ OREGON TRAIL. 

upright from the woods below, and by an extraor- 
dinan.- freak of nature, sustained aloft on its very 
summit a large loose rock. Such a landmark could 
never be mistaken, and feehng once more secure, I 
began again to move forward. A white wolf jumped 
up from among some bushes, and leaped clumsily 
away ; but he stopped for a moment, and turned 
back his keen eye and his grim bristhng muzzle. I 
longed to take his scalp and carr}- it back with me, 
as an appropriate trophy of the Black Hills, but be- 
fore I could fire, he was gone among the rocks. 
Soon after I heard a rustling sound, with a cracking 
of rv\igs at a little distance, and saw moving above 
the tall bushes the branching antlers of an elk. I 
was in the midst of a hunter's paradise. 

Such are the Black Hills as 1 found them in July ; 
but they wear a different garb when winter sets in, 
when the broad boughs of the fir tree are bent to 
the ground by the load of snow, and the dark 
mountains are whitened w\ih it. At that season 
the mountain -trappers, returned from their autumn 
expeditions, often build their rude cabins in the 
midst of these solitudes, and live in abundance and 
luxur)- on the game that harbors there. I have heard 
them relate how, with their tawny mistresses, and 
perhaps a few young Indian companions, they have 
spent months in total seclusion. They would dig pit- 
falls, and set traps for the white wolves, the sables, 
and the martens, and though through the whole 
night the awful chorus of the wolves would resound 
from the frozen mountains around them, yet within 
their massive walls of logs they would lie in careless 
ease and comfort before the blazing fire, and in the 
morning shoot the elk and the deer from their very 
door. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

A MOUXTAIX HUNT. 

" Come, shall we go and kill us venison ? 
And yet it irks me. the poor dappled fools. 
Being native burghers of this desert city. 
Should in their own confines, with forked heads. 
Have their round haunches gored." 

As You Like It. 

^ The camp was full of the newly cut lodge-poles ; 
some, already prepared, were stacked together, 
white and glistening, to dr>- and harden in the sun ; 
others were lying on the ground, and the squaws, 
the boys, and even some of the warriors, were 
busily at work peeUng off the bark and paring them 
^^^th their knives to the proper dimensions. Most 
of the hides obtained at the last camp were dressed 
and scraped thin enough for use, and many of the 
squaws were engaged in fitting them together and 
sewing them with sinews, to form the coverings for 
the lodges. .Men were wandering among the 
bushes that lined the brook along the margin 
of the camp, cutting sticks of red willow, or shong- 
sasha, the bark of which, mixed with tobacco, 
they use for smoking. Reynals squaw was hard at 
work with her awl and buffalo-sinews upon her 
lodge, while her proprietor, having just finished an 
enormous breakfast of meat, was smoking a social 
pipe along with Raymond and myself. He proposed 
ex length that we should go out on a hunt. ' " Go to 
the Big Crow's lodge," said he. " and get your rifle. 
I'll bet the gray Wyandot pony against your mare 
that we start an elk or a black-tailed deer, or likely 
as not, a big-horn, before we are two miles out of 
camp. I'll take my squaws old yellow horse; 

275 



276 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

you can't whip her more than four miles an hour, 
but she is as good for the mountains as a mule. ' ' 

I mounted the black mule which Raymond usually 
rode. She was a ver\- fine and powerful animal, 
gentle and manageable enough by nature ; but of 
late her temper had been soured by misfortune. 
About a week before 1 had chanced to offend some 
one of the Indians, who, out of revenge, went se- 
cretly into the meadow and gave her a severe stab 
in the haunch with his knife. The wound, though 
partially healed, still gaUed her extremely, and 
made her even more per\-erse and obstinate than 
the rest of her species. 

The morning was a glorious one, and I was in 
better health than I had been at any time for the 
last two months. Though a strong frame and well- 
compacted sinews had borne me through hitherto, it 
was long since 1 had been in a condition to feel the 
exhilaration of the fresh mountain-wind and the gay 
sunshine that brightened the crags and trees. We 
left the little valley and ascended a reeky hollow in 
the mountain. \'ery soon we were out of sight of 
the camp, and of ever\- living thing, man, beast, 
bird, or insect. I had never before, except on foot, 
passed over such execrable ground, and I desire 
never to repeat the experiment. The black mule 
grew indignant, and even the redoubtable yellow- 
horse stumbled ever\- moment, and kept groaning 
to himself as he cut his feet and legs among the 
sharp rocks. 

It was a scene of silence and desolation. Little 
was \-isible except beetling crags and the bare 
shingly sides of the mountains, relieved by scarcely 
a trace of vegetation. At length, however, we 
came upon a forest tract, and had no sooner done 
so than we heartily wished ourselves back among 
the rocks again ; for we were on a steep descent. 



.4 MOi'XTAIX HUXT. 2// 

among trees so thick that we could see scarcely a 
rod in any direction. 

If one is anxious to place himself in a situation 
where the hazardous and the ludicrous are combined 
in about equal proportions, let him get upon a 
vicious mule, with a snaffle-bit, and \x\ to drive her 
through the woods down a slope of forty -five de- 
grees. Let him have a long rille, a buckskin frock 
with long fringes, and a head of long hair. These 
latter appendages will be caught ever)- moment and 
twitched away in small portions by the t\%igs, which 
will also whip him smartly across the face, while 
the large branches above thump him on the head. 
His mule, if she be a true one, will alternately stop 
short and dive violently forward, and his positions 
upon her back will be somewhat diversified and 
extraordinar)-. At one time he will clasp her affec- 
tionately, to avoid the blow of a bough overhead ; 
at another, he will throw himself back and fling his 
knee forward against the side of her neck, to keep 
it from being crushed between the rough bark of a 
tree and the equally unyielding ribs of the animal 
herself Reynal was cursing incessantly during the 
whole way down. Neither of us had the remotest 
idea where we were going ; and though I have seen 
rough riding, I shall always retain an evil recollec- 
tion of that five minutes' scramble. 

At last we left our troubles behind us, emerging 
into the channel of a brook that circled along the 
foot of the descent ; and here, turning joyfully to 
the left, we rode in luxury- and ease over the white 
pebbles and the rippling water, shaded from the 
glaring sun by an overarching green transparency. 
These halcyon moments were of short duration. 
The friendly brook, turning sharply to one side, 
went brawling and foaming down the rocky hill into 
an abyss, which, as far as we could discern, had 



2/8 THE O REG OX TRAIL. 

no bottom ; so once more we betook ourselves to the 
detested woods. When next we came forth from 
their dancing shadow and sunhght, we found our- 
selves standing in the broad glare of day, on a high 
jutting point of the mountain. Before us stretched 
a long, wide, desert valley, winding away far amid 
the mountains. No civihzed eye but mine had ever 
looked upon that virgin waste. Reynal was gazing 
intently ; he began to speak at last : 

' ' Many a time, when 1 was with the Indians, I 
have been hunting for gold all through the Black 
Hills. There's plenty of it here ; you may be 
certain of that. I have dreamed about it fifh" rimes, 
and I nexer dreamed yet but what it came out true. 
Look over yonder at those black rocks piled up 
against that other big rock. Don't it look as if 
there might be something there ? It woji't do for a 
white man to be rummaging too much about these 
mountains ; the Indians say they are full of bad 
spirits ; and I believe myself that it's no good luck 
to be hunting about here after gold. Well, for all 
that, 1 would like to have one of these fellows up 
here from down below, to go about with his witch- 
hazel rod, and I'll guarantee that it would not be 
long before he would light on a gold-mine. Never 
mind ; we'll let the gold alone for to-day. Look at 
those trees down below us in the hollow ; we'll go 
down there, and I reckon we'll get a black -tailed 
deer. 

But Reynal' s predictions were not verified. We 
passed mountain after mountain, and valley after 
valley ; we explored deep ravines ; yet still, to my 
companion's vexation and evident surprise, no game 
could be found. So, in the absence of better, we 
resolved to go out on the plains and look for an 
antelope. With this view we began to pass down a 
naiTOw vallev, the bottom of which was covered 



A MOUNTAIN HUNT. 279 

with the stiff wild-sage bushes, and marked with 
deep paths made by the buffalo, who, for some in- 
explicable reason, are accustomed to penetrate, in 
their long grave processions, deep among the gorges 
of these sterile mountains. 

Reynal's eye was ranging incessantly among the 
rocks and along the edges of the black precipices, 
in hopes of discovering the mountain-sheep peering 
down upon us in fancied security from that giddy 
elevation. Nothing was visible for some time. At 
length we both detected something in motion near 
the foot of one of the mountains, and in a moment 
afterward a black-tailed deer, with his spreading 
antlers, stood gazing at us from the top of a rock, 
and then, slowly turning away, disappeared behind 
it. In an instant Reynal was out of his saddle, and 
running toward the spot. I, being too weak to fol- 
low, sat holding his horse and waiting the result. 
I lost sight of him, then heard the report of his rifle 
deadened among the rocks, and finally saw him re- 
appear, with a surly look, that plainly betrayed his 
ill success. Again we moved forward down the 
long valley, when soon after we came full upon 
what seemed a wide and very shallow ditch, in- 
crusted at the bottom with white clay, dried and 
cracked in the sun. Under this fair outside, Rey- 
nal's eye detected the signs of lurking mischief. 
He called me to stop, and then alighting, picked up 
a stone and threw it into the ditch. To my utter 
amazement it fell with a dull splash, breaking at 
once through the thin crust, and spattering round 
the hole a yellowish creamy fluid, into which it 
sank and disappeared. A stick, five or six feet 
long, lay on the ground, and with this we sounded 
the insidious abyss close to its edge. It was just 
possible to touch the bottom. Places like this are 
numerous among the Rocky Mountains. The 



28o THE OREGON TRAIL. 

buffalo, in his blind and heedless walk, often plunges 
into them unawares. Down he sinks ; one snort of 
terror, one convulsive struggle, and the slime calmly 
flows above his shaggy head, the languid undula- 
tions of its sleek and placid surface alone betraying 
how the powerful monster writhes in his death-throes 
below. 

We found, after some trouble, a point where we 
could pass the abyss, and now the valley began to 
open upon the plains which spread to the horizon 
before us. On one of their distant swells we dis- 
cerned three or four black specks, which Reynal 
pronounced to be buffalo. 

"Come," said he, "we must get one of them. 
My squaw wants more sinews to finish her lodge 
with, and 1 want some glue myself." 

He immediately put the yellow horse to such a 
gallop as he was capable of executing, while I set 
spurs to the mule, who soon far outrun her plebeian 
rival. When we had galloped a mile or more a 
large rabbit, by ill luck, sprang up just under the 
feet of the mule, who bounded violently aside in full 
career. Weakened as 1 was 1 was flung forcibly to 
the ground, and my rifle falling close to my head, 
went off with the shock. Its sharp, spiteful report 
rang for some moments in my ear. Being slightl)'* 
stunned, 1 lay for an instant motionless, and Reynal, 
supposing me to be shot, rode up and began to curse 
the mule. Soon recovering myself, 1 arose, picked 
up the rifle, and anxiously examined it. It was 
badly injured. The stock was cracked and the main 
screw broken, so that the lock had to be tied in its 
place with a string ; yet, happily, it was not rendered 
totally unserviceable. I wiped it out, reloaded it, 
and handing it to Reynal, who meanwhile had 
caught the mule and led her up to me, I mounted 
again. No sooner had I done so, than the brute 



A MOUNTAIN HUNT. 28 1 

began to rear and plunge with extreme violence ; 
but being now well prepared for her, and free from 
incumbrance, I soon reduced her to submission. 
Then taking the rifle again from Reynal, we galloped 
forward as before. 

We were now free of the mountains and riding 
far out on the broad prairie. The buffalo were still 
some two miles in advance of us. When we came 
near them we stopped where a gentle swell of the 
plain concealed us from their view, and while 1 held 
his horse Reynal ran forward with his rifle, till I 
lost sight of him beyond the rising ground. A few 
minutes elapsed : I heard the report of his piece, 
and saw the buffalo running away at full speed on 
the right, and immediately after, the hunter him- 
self, unsuccessful as before, came up and mounted 
his horse in excessive ill humor. He cursed the 
Black Hills and the buffalo, swore that he was a 
good hunter, which, indeed, was true, and that he 
had never been out before among those mountains 
without killing two or three deer at least. 

We now turned toward the distant encampment. 
As we rode along, antelope in considerable numbers 
were flying lightly in all directions over the plain, 
but not one of them would stand and be shot at. 
When we reached the foot of the mountain-ridge 
that lay between us and the village, we were too 
impatient to take the smooth and circuitous route ; 
so turning short to the left, we drove our wearied 
animals directly upward among the rocks. Still 
more antelope were leaping about among these 
flinty hill-sides. Each of us shot at one, though 
from a great distance, and each missed his mark. 
At length we reached the summit of the last ridge. 
Looking down, we saw the bustling camp in the 
valley at our feet, and ingloriously descended to it. 
As we rode among the lodges, the Indians looked 



282 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

in vain fin* the fresh meat that ditxdd have hm^ 
bdiind our saddles, and the squaws nttoed Tarious 
suppressed qacniaticms. to the gieat indignadon of 
ReynaL Our moitification was increased whoi we 
rode up to his loc^e. Hoe we saw his yom^ In- 
dian relative, die Hail-SticHm. his li^^ giacefid 
figure reclining <m the ground in an easy attitude, 
while with his friend, the Rabbit, who sat by his 
side, he was making an abundant meal from a 
wooden bowl of fieusmf, which the squaw had placed 
between them. Near him lay the fre^ din fA a 
female dDk, mhich he had just killed amfn^ the 
mountains, only a mile or two from the camp. No 
doubt the boy's heart was dbled with triumph, but 
he betrayed no sign of iL He even seemed totally 
unconscioos of our approach, and his handsome 
bat had all die tianqmOity of IndBan sdf-contnd ; 
a self-coatrol which pievoits the exhibition of emo- 
tion widiont restraining die emotion itsd£ It was 
about two months since I had known the Hail- 
Storm, and within that time his character had 
remarkably developed. When I fiist saw him he 
was just emagii^ froan the halnts and Ibdii^s of 
the boy into the amlntian of die hunter and warrior. 
He had latdy killed his fiist deer, and this had 
excited his aspirations after distinction. Snce that 
time he had beoi continually in search i£ game, 
and no yom^ hunter in the village had been so 
acdve <h- so fntunate as he. It will pohaps be 
remembered how fieariessly he attacked die bu&lo- 
boll as we were movii^ toward our camp at die 
Medicine-Bow Mountain. AH this success had pro- 
duced a maAfitl change in his character. As I 
fiist remonbexed him he always shunned the society 
of the yom^ squaws, and was extremeiy ba.'shfiil 
and sheepish in their presence : but now. in the 
confidence of his own repntali<m. he began to as- 



A MOUNTAIN HUNT. 283 

sume the airs and the arts of a man of gallantry. 
He wore his red blanket dashingly over his left 
shoulder, painted his cheeks ever)' day with ver- 
milion, and hung pendants of shells in his ears. If 
I observed aright, he met with very good success in 
his new pursuits ; still the t^il-Storm had much to 
accomplish before he attained tHe full standing of a 
warrior. Gallantly as he began to bear himself 
among the women and girls, he still was timid and 
abashed in the presence of the chiefs and old men ; 
for he had never yet killed a man or stricken the 
dead body of an enemy in battle. I have no doubt 
that the handsome smooth-faced boy burned with 
a keen desire to flesh his maiden scalping-knife, 
and I would not have encamped alone with him 
without watching his movements with a distrustful 
eye. 

His elder brother, the Horse, was of a different 
character. He was nothing but a lazy dandy. He 
knew very well how to hunt, but preferred to live 
by the hunting of others. He had no appetite for 
distinction, and the Hail-Storm, though a few years 
younger than he, already surpassed him in reputa- 
tion. He had a dark and ugly face, and he passed 
a great part of his time in adorning it with ver- 
milion, and contemplating it by means of a little 
pocket looking-glass which I gave him. As for the 
rest of the day, he divided it between eating and 
sleeping, and sitting in the sun on the outside of a 
lodge. Here he would remain for hour after hour, 
arrayed in all his finer\-, with an old dragoon's 
sword in his hand, and evidently flattering himself 
that he was the centre of attraction to the eyes of 
the surrounding squaws. Yet he sat looking straight 
for\vard with a face of the utmost gravity, as if 
wrapped in profound meditation, and it was only by 
the occasional sidelong glances which he shot at his 



284 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

supposed admirers that one could detect the true 
course of his thoughts. 

Both he and his brother may represent a class in 
the Indian community ; neither should thf Hail- 
Storm's friend, the Rabbit, be passed by without 
notice. The Hail-Storm and he were inseparable ; 
they ate, slept, and hunted together, and shared with 
one another almost all that they possessed. If there 
be anything that deserves to be called romantic in 
the Indian character, it is to be sought for in friend- 
ships such as this, which are quite common among 
many of the prairie-tribes. 

Slowly, hour after hour, that weary afternoon 
dragged away. I lay in Reynal's lodge, overcome 
by the listless torpor that pervaded the whole en- 
campment. The day's work was finished, or if it 
were not, the inhabitants had resolved not to finish 
it at all, and all were dozing quietly within the shel- 
ter of the lodges. A profound lethargy, the very- 
spirit of indolence, seemed to have sunk upon the 
village. Now and then I could hear the low laugh- 
ter of some girl from within a neighboring lodge, or 
the small shrill voices of a few restless children, 
who alone were moving in the deserted area. The 
spirit of the place infected me ; I could not even 
think consecutively ; I was fit only for musing 
and reverie, when at last, like the rest, 1 fell 
asleep. 

When evening came, and the fires were lighted 
round the lodges, a select family circle convened in 
the neighborhood of Reynal's domicile. It was com- 
posed entirely of his squaw's relatives, a mean and 
ignoble clan, among whom none but the Hail-Storm 
held forth any promise of future distinction. Even 
his prospects were rendered not a little dubious by 
the character of the family, less, however, from any 
principle of aristocratic distinction than from the 



A MOUNTAIN HUNT. 285 

want of powerful supporters to assist him in his 
undertakings, and help to avenge his quarrels. 
Raymond and I sat down along with them. There 
were eight or ten men gathered around the fire, to- 
gether with about as many women, old and young, 
some of whom were tolerably good-looking. As the 
pipe passed around among the men a lively conver- 
sation went forward, more merry than delicate, and 
at length two or three of the elder women (for the 
girls were somewhat diffident and bashful) began to 
assail Raymond with various pungent witticisms. 
Some of the men took part, and an old squaw con- 
cluded by bestowing on him a ludicrous nickname, 
at which a general laugh followed at his e.xpense. 
Raymond grinned and giggled, and made several 
futile attempts at repartee. Knowing the impolicy 
and even danger of suffering myself to be placed 
in a ludicrous light among the Indians, 1 maintained 
a rigid inflexible countenance, and wholly escaped 
their sallies. 

In the morning 1 found, to my great disgust, that 
the camp was to retain its position for another day. 
I dreaded its languor and monotony, and to escape 
it 1 set out to explore the surrounding mountains. 
I was accompanied by a faithful friend, my rifle, 
the only friend, indeed, on whose prompt assistance 
in time of trouble I could implicitly rely. Most of 
the Indians in the village, it is true, professed good 
will toward the whites, but the experience of others 
and my own observation had taught me the extreme 
folly of confidence, and the utter impossibility of 
foreseeing to what sudden acts the strange unbridled 
impulses of an Indian may urge him. When among 
this people danger is never so near as when you are 
unprepared for it, never so remote as when you are 
armed and on the alert to meet it at any moment. 
Nothing offers so strong a temptation to their fero- 



286 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

cious instincts as the appearance of timidity, weak- 
ness, or insecurity. 

Many deep and gloomy gorges, choked with trees 
and bushes, opened from the sides of the hills, 
which were shaggy with forests wherever the rocks 
permitted vegetation to spring. A great number of 
Indians were stalking along the edges of the woods, 
and boys were whooping and laughing on the moun- 
tain-sides, practising eye and hand, and indulging 
their destructive propensities by following birds and 
small animals and killing them with their little 
bows and arrows. There was one glen stretching 
up between steep cliffs far into the bosom of the 
mountain. I began to ascend along its bottom, 
pushing my way onward among the rocks, trees, 
and bushes that obstructed it. A slender thread of 
water trickled along its centre, which since issuing 
from the heart of its native rock could scarcely have 
been warmed or gladdened by a ray of sunshine. 
After advancing for some time, I conceived myself 
to be entirely alone ; but coming to a part of the 
glen in a great measure free of trees and under- 
growth, I saw at some distance the black head and 
red shoulders of an Indian among the bushes above. 
The reader need not prepare himself for a startling 
adventure, for 1 have none to relate. The head 
and shoulders belonged to Mene-Seela, my best 
friend in the village. As I had approached noiselessly 
with my moccasoned feet, the old man was quite 
unconscious of my presence ; and turning to a point 
where I could gain an unobstructed view of him, 1 saw 
him seated alone, immovable as a statue, among 
the rocks and trees. His face was turned upward, 
and his eyes seemed riveted on a pine tree springing 
from a cleft in the precipice above. The crest of 
the pine was swaying to and fro in the wind, and its 
long limbs waved slowly up and down, as if the tree 



A MOUNTAIN HUNT. 287 

had life. Looking for a while at the old man, I was 
satisfied that he was engaged in an act of worship, 
or prayer, or communion of some kind with a super- 
natural being. I longed to penetrate his thoughts, 
but I could do nothing more than conjecture and 
speculate. I knew that though the intellect of an 
Indian can embrace the idea of an all-wise, all- 
powerful Spirit, the Supreme Ruler of the universe, 
yet his mind will not always ascend into communion 
with a being that seems to him so vast, remote, and 
incomprehensible ; and when danger threatens, when 
his hopes are broken, when the black wing of sorrow 
overshadows him, he is prone to turn for relief to 
some inferior agency, less removed from the ordi- 
nary scope of his faculties. He has a guardian 
spirit, on whom he relies for succor and guidance. 
To him all nature is instinct with mystic influence. 
Among those mountains not a wild beast was prowl- 
ing, a bird singing, or a leaf fluttering, that might 
not tend to direct his destiny or give warning of 
what was in store for him ; and he watches the world 
of nature around him as the astrologer watches the 
stars. So closely is he linked with it that his guar- 
dian spirit, no unsubstantial creation of the fancy, 
is usually embodied in the form of some living thing : 
a bear, a wolf, an eagle, or a serpent ; and Mene- 
Seela, as he gazed intently on the old pine tree, 
might believe it to inshrine the fancied guide and 
protector of his life. 

Whatever was passing in the mind of the old man, 
it was no part of sense or of delicacy to disturb him. 
Silently retracing my footsteps, I descended the glen 
until I came to a point where 1 could climb the steep 
precipices that shut it in, and gain the side of the 
mountain. Looking up, I saw a tall peak rising 
among the woods. Something impelled me to chmb ; 
I had not felt for many a day such strength and 



288 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

elasticity of limb. An hour and a half of slow and 
often intermitted labor brought me to the very 
summit ; and emerging from the dark shadows of 
the rocks and pines, I stepped forth into the light, 
and walking along the sunny verge of a precipice, 
seated myself on its extreme point. Looking be- 
tween the mountain-peaks to the westward, the pale 
blue prairie was stretching to the farthest horizon, 
like a serene and tranquil ocean. The surrounding 
mountains were in themselves sufficiently striking 
and impressive, but this contrast gave redoubled 
effect to their stem features. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

PASSAGE OF THE MOUNTAINS. 

" Dear Nature is the kindest mother still, 
Though always changing, in her aspect mild; 
From her bare bosom let me take my fill, 
Her never-weaned, though not her favored child. 
O, she is fairest in her features wild. 
When nothing polished dares pollute her path ; 
On me by day and night she ever smiled. 
Though I have marked her where none other hath, 

And sought her more and more, and loved her best in 
wrath." — Childe Harold. 

When I took leave of Shaw at La Bonte's camp 
I promised that I would meet him at Fort Laramie 
on the first of August. That day, according to my 
reckoning, was now close at hand. It was impos- 
sible, at best, to fulfil my engagement exactly, and 
my meeting with him must have been postponed 
until many days after the appointed time had not 
the plans of the Indians ven,' well coincided with 
my own. They, too, intended to pass the moun- 



PASSAGE OF THE MOUNTAINS. 289 

tains and move toward the fort. To do so at this 
point was impossible, because there was no opening ; 
and in order to find a passage we were obliged to go 
twelve or fourteen miles southward. Late in the 
afternoon the camp got in motion, defiHng back 
through the mountains along the same narrow pas- 
sage by which they had entered. I rode in company 
with three or four young Indians at the rear, and 
the moving swarm stretched before me, in the ruddy 
light of sunset, or in the deep shadow of the moun- 
tains, far beyond my sight. It was an ill-omened 
spot they chose to encamp upon. When they were 
there just a year before, a war-part}- of ten men, 
led by the Whirlwind's son, had gone out against 
the enemy, and not one had ever returned. This 
was the immediate cause of this season's warlike 
preparations. I was not a little astonished when I 
came to the camp at the confusion of horrible sounds 
with which it was filled ; howls, shrieks, and wail- 
ings were heard from all the women present, many 
of whom, not content with this exhibition of grief 
for the loss of their friends and relatives, were gash- 
ing their legs deeply with knives. A warrior in the 
village, who had lost a brother in the expedition, 
chose another mode of displaying his sorrow^ 
The Indians, who though often rapacious, are utterly 
devoid of avarice, are accustomed in times of mourn- 
ing, or on other solemn occasions, to give away the 
whole of their possessions, and reduce themselves 
to nakedness and want. The warrior in question 
led his two best horses into the centre of the village 
and gave them away to his friends ; upon which, 
songs and acclamations in praise of his generosity 
mingled with the cries of the women. 

On the next morn ing we entered once more among 
the mountains. There^ waF nothing Tn their appear- 
ance either grand or picturesque, though they were 

19 



air. and my un- 
• 1 ver her ears. 



290 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

desclatr :: :.- r 1;: legree, being^ xaexc piles of 
Uack \ r : • t r r : ; -^etiioat trees or T^etation 
afar. - .- : among them along a 

wide 1 -r ..ond riding by the side 

frf a r . f-:jiiaw. to whom he was addiesang 

vari-::; r - jatriig compUments. All the old 
sqna rhborhood watched his proceed- 

ings .: . ^tion, aad fhegiil heisdf would 

tmB 3; :;r ':.-: vr 1 -d la^ih. Jnst dien the old 
mide ■-- t display her vicious pranks ; 

she": ^ ^r 1 : !:-_e most farioasly. Ray- 

mor _ — t - ■ r ^ r r and at first he sbjck 

&st .r - r : t-jt after I saw the 

mule 

\xxc\-. :' _ _ _ . : 

Ther- _ . - _ hter fexjin all 

thev,::rtr. :n /..:;. _. ■::kpart, 

a-d }i; — :r. :: ;— such a 

;h er :' : :::; :/ i: /t - :.; j.il :. rrde for- 

- -■ - "It -ea- hjin, I heard him 

T - ' -- r ,- :c-»rard a detached 

r • — : r of the valley 

': : : - -e of elk came 

/ - :he side 
- T vrricared 

nfh- 
I'rcm 
:'-robes, 

£-. - r:i- 1- -'.:.'. - tt : : - _ ;/ - ; t nearest 

rr :r:i - ? broke aviay az a gallop in 

t-.r rir:.t : - ^ome on! come on!" he 

called to us. " Do jo»u see that band of big-horn 
up yonder? If there's one erf them, there's a 
hundred !" 

In iaxX, near the summit c/l die mountain, I could 
see a laige Buraber of sraaE wlute ot^ects-, moving 



PASSAGE OF THE MOUNTAINS. 29 1 

rapidly upward among the precipices, while others 
were filing along its rocky profile. Anxious to see 
the sport, I galloped for^vard, and entering a pas- 
sage in the side of the mountain, ascended among 
the loose rocks as far as my horse could carr)' me. 
Here I fastened her to an old pine tree that stood 
alone, scorching in the sun. At that moment Ray- 
mond called to me from the right that another band 
of sheep was close at hand in that direction. I ran 
up to the top of the opening, which gave me a full 
view into the rocky gorge beyond ; and here I 
plainly saw som e fifty or sixty shee p, almost within 
rifle-shot, clattering upward among the rocks, and 
endeavoring, after their usual custom, to reach the 
highest point. The naked Indians bounded up 
lightly in pursuit. In a moment the game and 
hunters disappeared. Nothing could be seen or 
heard but the occasional report of a gun, more and 
more distant, reverberating among the rocks. 

I turned to descend, and as I did so I could see 
the valley below alive with Indians passing rapidly 
through it, on horseback and on foot. A little far- 
ther on, all were stopping as they came up ; the 
camp was preparing, and the lodges rising. I de- 
scended to this spot, and soon after Reynal and 
Raymond returned. They bore between them a 
sheep which they had pelted to death with stones 
from the edge of a ravine, along the bottom of 
which it was attempting to escape. One by one the 
hunters came dropping in ; yet such is the activity 
of the Rocky Mountain sheep, that although sixty 
or seventy men were out in pursuit, not more than 
half a dozen animals were killed. Of these only 
one was a full grown male. He had a pair of horns 
twisted like a ram's, the dimensions of which were 
almost beyond belief. I have seen among the 
Indians ladles with long handles, capable of con- 



292 THE OREGON TRAIL, 

taining more than a quart, cut out from such 
horns. 

There is something peculiarly interesting in the 
character and habits of the mountain-sheep, whose 
chosen retreats are above the region of vegetation 
and of storms, and who leap among the giddy 
precipices of their aerial home as actively as the an- 
telope skims over the prairies below. 

Through the whole of the next morning we were 
moving forward among the hills. On the follo-w-ing 
day the heights gathered around us, and the passage 
of the mountains began in earnest. Before the vil- 
lage left its camping-ground, 1 set forward in com- 
pany \^-ith the Eagle-Feather, a man of pow^erful 
frame, but of bad and sinister face. His son, a 
light-limbed boy, rode with us, and another Indian, 
named the Panther, was also of the party. Leav- 
ing the village out of sight behind us. we rode to- 
gether up a rocky defile. After a while, however, 
the Eagle-Feather discovered in the distance some 
appearance of game, and set off with his son in 
pursuit of it, while I went forward with the Panther. 
This was a mere nam dc gurrre ; for, like many In- 
dians, he concealed his real name out of some 
superstitious notion. He was a ven- noble looking 
fellow. As he suffered his ornamented buffalo-robe 
to fall in folds about his loins, his stately and grace- 
ful figure was fully displayed ; and while he sat his 
horse in an easy attitude, the long feathers of the 
prairie-cock fluttering from the crown of his head, 
he seemed the very model of a wild prairie-rider. 
He had not the same features with those of other 
Indians. Unless his handsome face greatly behed 
him, he was free from the jealousy, suspicion, and 
malignant cunning of his people. For the most 
part, a civihzed white man can discover but verv^ 
few points of sympathy between his own nature and 



PASSAGE OF THE MOUXTAIXS. 293 

that of an Indian. With ever>- disposition to do 
justice to their good qualities, he must be conscious 
that an impassable gulf lies between him and his 
red brethren of the prairie. Nay, so alien to him- 
self do they appear, that having breathed for a few 
months or a few weeks the air of this region, he 
begins to look upon them as a troublesome and dan- 
gerous species of wild beast, and if expedient, he 
could shoot them with as little compunction as they 
themselves would e.xperience after performing the 
same office upon him. Yet, in the countenance of 
the Panther, 'I gladly read that there were at least 
some points of sympathy between him and me. 
We were excellent friends, and as we rode forward 
together through rocky passages, deep dells, and 
little barren plains, he occupied himself very zeal- 
ously in teaching me the Dahcotah language. After 
a while we came to a little grassy recess, where some 
gooseberry- -bushes were growing at the foot of a 
rock : and these offered such temptation to my com- 
panion, that he gave over his instruction, and 
stopped so long to gather the fruit that before we 
were in motion again the van of the village came in 
view. An old woman appeared, leading down her 
pack-horse among the rocks above. Savage after 
savage followed, and the little dell was soon crowded 
with the throng. 

That morning's march was one not easily to be 
forgotten. It led us through a sublime waste, a 
wilderness of mountains and pine forests, over 
which the spirit of loneliness and silence seemed 
brooding. Above and below little could be seen 
but the same dark green foliage. It overspread the 
valleys, and the mountains were clothed with it, 
from the black rocks that crowned their summits to 
the impetuous streams that circled round their base. 
Scenerv like this, it might seem, could have no 



294 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

very cheering effect on the mind of a sick man (fof 
to-day my disease had again assailed me) in the 
midst of a horde of savages ; but if the reader has 
ever wandered, with a true hunter's spirit, among 
the forests of Maine, or the more picturesque soli- 
tudes of the Adirondack Mountains, he will under- 
stand how the sombre woods and mountains around 
me might have awakened any other feelings than 
those of gloom. In truth, they recalled gladdening 
recollections of similar scenes in a distant and far 
different land. 

After we had been advancing for several hours, 
through passages always narrow, often obstructed 
and difficult, I saw at a Uttle distance on our right 
a narrow opening between two high, wooded prec- 
ipices. All within seemed darkness and mystery. 
In the mood in which I found myself, som^hing 
strongly impelled me to enter. Passing over the 
inten-ening space, I guided my horse through the 
rock>' porl^, and as 1 did so, instinctively drew the 
covering from my rifle, half expecting that some 
unknown eiil lay in ambush nithin those dreary 
recesses. The place was shut in among tall cUffs. 
and so deeply shadowed by a host of old pine trees, 
that though the sun shone bright on the side of the 
mountain, nothing but a dim twilight could penetrate 
within. .As far as 1 could see it had no tenants 
except a few hawks and owls, who, dismayed at 
my intrusion, flapped hoarsely away among the 
shaggy- branches. 1 moved forward, determined to 
explore the mystery to the bottom, and soon became 
involved among the pines. The genius of the place 
exercised a strange influence upon my mind. Its 
Acuities were stimulated into extraordinary activity', 
and as I passed along many half-forgotten inci- 
dents, and the images of persons and things £ir dis- 
tant, rose rapidly before me nith surprising dis- 



PASSAGE OF THE MOL'XTAIXS. 295 

tinctness. In that perilous wilderness, eight hundred 
miles removed beyond the faintest vestige of civiliza- 
tion, the scenes of another hemisphere, the seat of 
ancient retinement passed before me, more hke a 
succession of vivid paintings than any mere dreams 
of the fancv. I saw the church of St. Peter" s illumined 
on the evening of Easter-day, the whole majestic pile 
from the cross to the foundation-stone, pencilled in 
fire, and shedding a radiance, like the serene light 
of the moon, on the sea of upturned faces below. I 
saw the peak of Mount Etna towering above its 
inky mantle of clouds, and lightly curling its 
wreaths of milk-white smoke against the soft sky. 
flushed with the Sicilian sunset. I saw also the 
gloomy vaulted passages and the narrow cells of 
the Passionist convent, where I once had sojourned 
for a few days with the fanatical monks, its pale 
stem inmates, in their robes of black ; and the 
grated windows from whence I could look out, a for- 
bidden indulgence, upon the melancholy CoUseum 
and the crumbling ruins of the Eternal Cit\-. The 
mightv glaciers of the Splugen, too, rose before me, 
gleaming in the sun like pohshed silver, and those 
terrible solitudes, the birth-place of the Rhine, where, 
bursting from the bowels of its native mountain, it 
lashes and foams down the rocky abyss into the 
little valley of Andeer. These recollections, and 
many more crowded upon me. until, remembering 
that it was hardly wise to remain long in such a 
place. I mounted again and retraced my steps. 
Issuing from bet^veen the rocks. I saw, a few rods 
before me, the men, women and children, dogs and 
horses, still filing slowly across the little glen. A 
bare round hill rose directly above them. I rode to 
the top. and from this point I could look down on 
the savage procession as it passed just beneath my 
feet, and far on the left I could see its thin and 



296 THE ORE G OX TRAIL. 

broken line, \isible only at intervals, stretching 
away for miles among the mountains. On the 
farthest ridge horsemen were still descending, like 
mere specks in the distance. 

I remained on the hill until all had passed, and 
then, descending, followed after them. A little 
farther on 1 found a \er\ small meadow, set deeply 
among steep mountains ; and here the whole \ illage 
had encamped. The little spot was crowded with 
the confused and disorderly host. Some of the 
lodges were already completely prepared, or the 
squaws perhaps were busy in drawing the heavy 
coverings of skin over the bare poles. Others were 
as yet mere skeletons, while others still, poles, 
covering, and all, lay scattered in complete disorder 
on the ground among buffalo-robes, bales of meat, 
domestic utensils, harness, and weapons. Squaws 
were screaming to one another, horses rearing and 
plunging, dogs yelping, eager to be disburdened of 
their loads, while the fluttering of feathers and the 
gleam of barbaric ornaments added livehness to the 
scene. The small children ran about amid the 
crowd, while many of the boys were scrambling 
among the overhanging rocks, and standing, with 
their little bows in their hands, looking down upon 
the restless throng. In contrast with the general 
confusion, a circle of old men and warriors sat in 
the midst, smoking in profound indifference and 
tranquillity. The disorder at length subsided. The 
horses were driven away to feed along the adjacent 
valley, and the camp assumed an air of listless 
repose. It was scarcely past noon ; a vast white 
canopy of smoke from a burning forest to the east- 
ward overhung the place, and partially obscured 
the rays of the sun ; yet the heat was almost in- 
supportable. The lodges stood crowded together 
without order in the narrow space. Each was a 



PASSAGE OF THE MOUNTAINS. 297 

perfect hot-house, within which the lazy proprietor 
lay sleeping. The camp was silent as death. 
Nothing stirred except now and then an old woman 
passing from lodge to lodge. The girls and young 
men sat together in groups, under the pine trees 
upon the surrounding heights. The dogs lay pant- 
ing on the ground, too lazy even to growl at the 
white man. At the entrance of the meadow there 
was a cold spring among the rocks, completely 
overshadowed by tall trees and dense undergrowth. 
In this cool and shady retreat a number of the girls 
were assembled, sitting together on rocks and fallen 
logs, discussing the latest gossip of the village, or 
laughing and throwing water with their hands at the 
intruding Meneaska. The minutes seemed length- 
ened into hours. I lay for a long time under a tree, 
studying the Ogillallah tongue, with the zealous in- 
structions of my friend the Panther. When we 
were both tired of this, I went and lay down by the 
side of a deep, clear pool, formed by the water of 
the spring. A shoal of little fishes of about a pin's 
length were playing in it, sporting together, as it 
seemed, very amicably ; but on closer observation, 
I saw that they were engaged in a cannibal warfare 
among themselves. Now and then a small one 
would fall a victim, and immediately disappear 
down the maw of his voracious conqueror. Every 
moment, however, the tyrant of the pool, a mon- 
ster about three inches long, with staring goggle- 
eyes, would slowly issue forth with quivering fins 
and tail from under the shelving bank. The small 
fry at this would suspend their hostilities, and scat- 
ter in a panic at the appearance of overwhelming 
force. 

"Soft-hearted philanthropists," thought I, "may 
sigh long for their peaceful millennium ; for, from 
minnows up to men. life is an incessant battle." 



298 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

Evening approached at last, the tall mountain-tops 
around were still gay and bright in sunshine, while 
our deep glen was completely shadowed. I left 
the camp and ascended a neighboring hill, whose 
rocky summit commanded a wide view over the 
surrounding wilderness. The sun was still glaring 
through the stifif pines on the ridge of the western 
mountain. In a moment he was gone, and as the 
landscape rapidly darkened, 1 turned agam toward 
the village. As 1 descended the hill the howling 
of wolves and the barking of foxes came up out of 
the dim woods from far and near. The camp was 
glowing with a multitude of fires and alive with 
dusky naked figures, whose tall shadows flitted 
among the surrounding crags. 

I found a circle of smokers seated in their usual 
place ; that is, on the ground before the lodge of a 
certain warrior, who seemed to be generally known 
for his social qualities. 1 sat down to smoke a 
parting pipe with my savage friends. That day 
was the first of August, on which I liad promised to 
meet Shaw at Fort Laramie. The fort was less 
than two days' journey distant, and that my friend 
need not suffer anxiety on my account, 1 resolved to 
push fonvard as rapidly as possible to the place of 
meeting. I went to look after the Hailj^t^m»_and 
having found him, 1 offered him a handful of 
hawks' -bells and a paper of vermilion, on condition 
that he would guide me in the morning through the 
mountains within sight of Laramie Creek. 

The Hail-Storm ejaculated "How!" and ac- 
cepted the gift. Nothing more was said on either 
side ; the matter was settled, and I lay down to 
sleep in Kongra-Tonga's lodge. 

Long before daylight, Raymond shook me by the 
shoulder : 

" Ever)thing is ready," he said. 



PASSAGE OF THE MOUNTAINS. 299 

I went out. The morning was chill, damp, and 
dark ; and the whole camp seemed asleep. The 
Hail-Storm sat on horseback before the lodge, and 
my mare Pauline and the mule which Raymond 
rode were picketed near it. We saddled and made 
our other arrangements for the journey, but before 
these were completed the camp began to stir, and 
the lodge-coverings fluttered and rustled as the 
squaws pulled them down in preparation for de- 
parture. Just as the light began to appear we left 
the ground, passing up through a narrow opening 
among the rocks which led eastward out of the 
meadow. Gaining the top of this passage, I turned 
round and sat looking back upon the camp, dimly 
visible in the gray light of the morning. All was 
alive with the bustle of preparation. I turned away, 
half unwilling to take a final leave of my savage 
associates. We turned to the right, passing among 
rocks and pine trees so dark that for a while we 
could scarcely see our way. The country in front 
was wild and broken, half hill, half plain, partly 
open, and partly covered with woods of pine and 
oak. Barriers of lofty mountains encompassed it ; 
the woods were fresh and cool in the early morn- 
ing ; the peaks of the mountains were wreathed 
with mist, and sluggish vapors were entangled 
among the forests upon their sides. At length the 
black pinnacle of the tallest mountain was tipped 
with gold by the rising sun. About that time the 
Hail-Storm, who rode in front, gave a low exclama- 
tion. Some large animal leaped up from among 
the bushes, and an elk, as I thought, his horns 
thrown back over his neck, darted past us across 
the open space, and bounded like a mad thing away 
among the adjoining pines. Raymond was soon out 
of his saddle, but before he could fire, the animal 
was full two hundred yards distant. The ball struck 



300 THE O REG OX TRAIL. 

its mark, though much too low for mortal effect. 
The elk, however, wheeled in his flight, and ran at 
fijll speed aniong the trees, nearly at right angles to 
his former course. I fired and broke his shoulder ; 
still he moved on. limping down into a neighboring 
woody hollow, whither the young Indian followed 
and killed him. When we reached the spot we 
discovered him to be no elk. but a black -tailed 
deer, an animal nearly t^vice the size of the common 
deer, and quite unknown in the east. We b^an to 
cut him up : the reports of the rifles had reached 
the ears of the Indians, and before our task was fin- 
ished several of them came to the spot. Lea\ ing 
the hide of the deer to the Hail-Storm, we hung as 
much of the meat as we wanted behind our saddles, 
left the rest to the Indians, and resimied our jour- 
ney. Meanwhile the village was on its way, and 
had gone so for that to get in advance of it was im- 
possible. Therefore we directed our course so as to 
strike its line of march at the nearest point. In a 
short time, through the dark trunks of the pines, we 
could see the figures of the Indians as they passed. 
Once more we were among them. They were mov- 
ing with even more than their usual precipitation, 
crowded close together in a narrow pass between 
rocks and old pine trees. We were on the eastern de- 
scent of the mountain, and soon came to a rough and 
difficult defile, leading down a \er)- steep dechvity. 
The whole swaim poured down together, filling the 
rocky passage-way like some turbulent mountain- 
stream. The mountains before us were on fire, and 
had been so for weeks. The view in front was ob- 
scured by a vast dim sea of smoke and vapor, while 
on either hand the tall cliffs, bearing aloft their crest 
of pines, thrust their heads boldly through it, and 
the sharp pinnacles and broken ridges of the moun- 
tains bevond them were faintlv traceable as through 



PASSAGE OF THE MOUNTAIXS. 3OI 

a veil. The scene in itself was most grand and 
imposing, but with the savage multitude, the armed 
warriors, the naked children, the gayly apparelled 
girls, pouring impetuously down the heights, it 
would have formed a noble subject for a painter, 
and only the pen of a Scott could have done it jus- 
tice in description. 

We passed over a burnt tract where the ground 
was hot beneath the horses' feet, and between the 
blazing sides of two mountains. Before long we 
had descended to a softer region, where we found a 
succession of little valleys watered by a stream, along 
the borders of which grew an abundance of wild 
gooseberries and currants, and the children and 
many of the men straggled from the line of march 
to gather them as we passed along. Descending 
still farther, the view changed rapidly. The burn- 
ing mountains were behind us, and through the 
open valleys in front we could see the ocean-like 
prairie, stretching beyond the sight. After passing 
through a line of trees that skirted the brook, the 
Indians filed out upon the plains. I was thirsty and 
knelt down by the little stream to drink. As I 
mounted again, I \^r\ carelessly left my rifle among 
the grass, and my thoughts being otherwise ab- 
sorbed, I rode for some distance before discovering 
its absence. As the reader may conceive, I lost 
no time in turning about and galloping back in 
search of it. Passing the line of Indians, I watched 
even.- warrior as he rode by me at a canter, and at 
length discovered my rifle in the hands of one of 
them, who, on my approaching to claim it, imme- 
diately gave it up. Having no other means of 
acknowledging the obligation, I took off one of my 
spurs and gave it to him. He was greatly delighted, 
looking upon it as a distinguished mark of favor, and 
immediately held out his foot for me to buckle it on. 



302 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

As soon as I had done so, he struck it with all his 
force into the side of his horse, who gave a violent 
leap. The Indian laughed and spurred harder than 
before. At this the horse shot away like an arrow, 
amid the screams and laughter of the squaws, 
and the ejaculations of the men, who exclaimed : 
" Washtay ! — Good!" at the potent effect of my 
gift. The Indian had no saddle, and nothing in 
place of a bridle except a leather string tied round 
the horse's jaw. The animal was, of course, wholly 
uncontrollable, and stretched away at full speed over 
the prairie, till he and his rider vanished behind a 
distant swell. I never saw the man again, but I 
presume no harm came to him. An Indian on 
horseback has more lives than a cat. 

The village encamped on the scorching prairie, 
close to the foot of the mountains. The heat was 
most intense and penetrating. The coverings of the 
lodgings were raised a foot or more from the ground, 
in order to procure some circulation of air ; and 
Reynal thought proper to lay aside his trapper's 
dress of buckskin and assume the very scanty cos- 
tume of an Indian. Thus elegantly attired, he 
stretched himself in his lodge on a buffalo-robe, 
alternately cursing the heat and puffing at the pipe 
which he and I passed between us. There was 
present also a select circle of Indian friends and 
relatives. A small boiled puppy was served up as 
a parting feast, to which was added, by way of 
dessert, a wooden bowl of gooseberries, from the 
mountains. 

"Look there," said Reynal, pointing out of the 
opening of his lodge; "do you see that line 
of buttes about fifteen miles off? Well, now do 
you see that farthest one, with the white speck 
on the face of it ? Do you think you ever saw 
it before ?' ' 



PASSAGE OF THE MOUNTAINS. 303 

" \\. looks to me," said I. "like the hill that we 
were 'camped under when we were on Laramie 
Creek, six or eight weeks ago." 

"You've hit it," answered Reynal. 

"Go, and bring in the animals, Raymond," said 
I ; "we'll camp there to-night, and start for the fort 
in the morning." 

The mare and the mule were soon before the 
lodge. We saddled them, and in the meantime a 
number of Indians collected about us. The virtues 
of Pauline, my strong, fleet, and hardy little mare, 
were well known in camp, and several of the visitors 
were mounted upon good horses which they had 
brought me as presents. I promptly declined their 
offers, since accepting them would have involved 
the necessity of transferring poor Pauline into their 
barbarous hands. We took leave of Reynal, but 
not of the Indians, who are accustomed to dispense 
with such superfluous ceremonies. Leaving the 
camp, we rode straight over the prairie toward the 
white-faced bluff, whose pale ridges swelled gently 
against the horizon, like a cloud. An Indian went 
with us, whose name 1 forget, though the ugliness 
of his face and the ghastly width of his mouth dwell 
vividly in my recollection. The antelope were numer- 
ous, but we did not heed them. We rode directly 
toward our destination, over the arid plains and 
barren hills ; until, late in the afternoon, half-spent 
with heat, thirst, and fatigue, we saw a gladdening 
sight : the long line of trees and the deep gulf that 
mark the course of Laramie Creek. Passing through 
the growth of huge dilapidated old cotton-wood trees 
that bordered the creek, we rode across to the other 
side. The rapid and foaming waters were filled with 
fish playing and splashing in the shallows. As we 
gamed the farther bank, our horses turned eagerly 
to drink, and we, kneeling on the sand, followed 



304 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

their example. We had not gone far before the 
scene began to grow famihar. 

" We are getting near home, Raymond," said I. 

There stood the big tree under which we had en- 
camped so long ; there were the white chffs that used 
to look down upon our tent when it stood at the bend 
of the creek ; there was the meadow in which our 
horses had grazed for weeks, and a little farther on, 
the prairie-dog %-illage, where I had beguiled many 
a languid hour in persecuting the unfortunate inhab- 
itants. 

"We are going to catch it now," said Raymond, 
turning his broad, vacant face up toward the sky. 

In truth the landscape, the cliffs, and the meadow, 
the stream and the groves, were darkening fast. 
Black m-asses of cloud were swelhng up in the south, 
and the thunder was growling ominously. 

"We ■will 'camp there," 1 said, pointing to a 
dense grove of trees lower down the stream. Ray- 
mond and I turned toward it, but the Indian stopped 
and called earnestly after us. AMien we demanded 
what was the matter, he said that the ghosts of two 
warriors were always among those trees, and that 
if we slept there they would scream and throw 
stones at us all night, and perhaps steal our horses 
before morning. Thinking it as well to humor him, 
we left behind us the haunt of these extraordinar^'^ 
ghosts, and passed on toward Chug^Aater. riding at 
fiill gallop, for the big drops began to patter down. 
Soon we came in sight of the poplar saplings that 
grew about the mouth of the little stream. We 
leaped to the ground, threw off our saddles, turned 
our horses loose, and, draviing our knives, began to 
slash among the bushes to cut tvWgs and branches 
for making a shelter against the rain. Bending 
down the taller saplings as they grew, we piled the 
young shoots upon them, and thus made a con- 



PASSAGE OF THE MOUNTAINS. 305 

venient pent-house ; but all our labor was useless. 
The storm scarcely touched us. Half a mile on 
our right the rain was pouring down like a cataract, 
and the thunder roared over the prairie like a bat- 
tery of cannon ; while we, by good fortune, received 
only a few heavy drops from the skirt of the pass- 
ing cloud. The weather cleared and the sun set 
gloriously. Sitting close under our leafy canopy, 
we proceeded to discuss a sul^stantial meal of wasna 
which Weah-Washtay had given me. The Indian 
had brought with him his pipe and a bag of shojig- 
sasha ; so before lying down to sleep, we sat for 
some time smoking together. Previously, however, 
our wide-mouthed friend had taken the precaution 
of carefully examining the neighborhood. He re- 
ported that eight men, counting them on his fingers, 
had been encamped there not long before. Bison- 
ette, Paul Dorion, Antoine Le Rouge, Richardson, 
and four others, whose names he could not tell. 
All this proved strictly correct. By what instinct he 
had arrived at such accurate conclusions, 1 am 
utterly at a loss to divine. 

It was still ciuite dark when I awoke and called 
Raymond. The Indian was already gone, having 
chosen to go on before us to the fort. Setting out 
after him, we rode for some time in complete dark- 
ness, and when the sun at length rose, glowing like 
a fiery ball of copper, we were ten miles distant 
from the fort. At length, from the broken summit 
of a tall sandy bluff, we could see Fort Laramie, 
miles before us, standing by the side of the stream, 
like a little gray speck, in the midst of the bound- 
less desolation. I stopped my horse, and sat for a 
moment looking down upon it. It seemed to me 
the very centre of comfort and civilization. We 
were not long in approaching it, for we rode at 
speed the greater part of the way. Laramie Creek 
20 



306 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

still intenened between us and the friendly walls. 
Entering the water at the point where we had struck 
upon the bank, we raised our feet to the saddle be- 
hind us, and thus kneeling, as it were, on horseback, 
passed dr>"-shod through the swift current. As we 
rode up the bank, a number of men appeared in 
the gateway. Three of them came forw ard to meet 
us. In a moment I distinguished Shaw ; Henrj' 
ChatOlon followed with his face of manly simphcitj- 
and frankness, and Delorier came last, with a broad 
grin of welcome. The meeting was not on either 
side one of mere ceremony. For my own part, the 
change was a most agreeable one, from the society' 
of savages and men little better than savages, to 
that of my gallant and high-minded companion, 
and our noble-hearted guide. My appearance was 
equally gratifjing to Shaw, who was beginning to 
entertain some ver}- uncomfortable surmises con- 
cerning me. 

Bordeaux greeted m.e ver\- cordially, and shouted 
to the cook. This functionan,- was a new acquisi- 
tion, ha^-ing lately come from Fort Pierre with the 
trading-wagons. Whatever skill he might ha\e 
boasted, he had not the most promising materials 
to exercise it upon. He set before me, however, a 
breakfast of biscuit, coiTee, and salt pork. It seemed 
like a new phase of existence to be seated once 
more on a bench, v^ith a knife and fork, a plate and 
tea-cup, and something resembhng a table before 
me. The coffee seemed dehcious, and the bread 
was a most welcome novelty, since for three weeks 
I had eaten scarcely am-thing but meat, and that 
for the most part vdthout salt. The meal also had 
the reUsh of good company, for opposite to me sat 
Shaw in elegant dishabiUe. If one is anxious 
thoroughly to appreciate the value of a congenial 
companion, he bias only to spend a few weeks by 



THE LONELY JOURXEY. 307 

himself in an Ogillallah village. And if he can 
contrive to add to his seclusion a debilitating and 
somewhat critical illness, his perceptions upon this 
subject will be rendered considerably more vivid. 

Shaw had been upward of two weeks at the fort. 
I found him established in his old quarters, a large 
apartment usually occupied by the absent bourgeois. 
In one corner was a soft and luxurious pile of excel- 
lent bufifalo-robes, and here 1 lay down. Shaw 
brought me three books. 

" Here," said he, " is your Shakespeare and By- 
ron, and here is the Old Testament, which has as 
much poetr\- in it as the other two put together." 

I chose the worst of the three, and for the greater 
part of that day 1 lay on the buffalo-robes, fairly 
revelling in the creations of that resplendent genius 
which has achieved no more signal triumph than 
that of half beguiling us to forget the pitiful and un- 
manly character of its possessor. 



CHAPTER XX. 



THE LONELY JOURNEY. 

" Of antres vast, and deserts idle. 
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven." 

Othello. 

On the day of my arrival at Fort Laramie, Shaw 
and I were lounging on two buffalo-robes in the large 
apartment hospitably assigned to us ; Henry Cha- 
tillon also was present, busy about the harness and 
weapons, which had been brought into the room, 
and two or three Indians were crouching on the 
floor, eyeing us with their fixed unwavering gaze. 

' ' I have been well off here, ' ' said Shaw, " in all 



308 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

respects but one : there is no good shongsasht^ to be 
had for love or money. 

I gave him a small leather bag containing some 
of excellent qualit\', which I had brought fiomi the 
Black HOls. "Now, Henry," said he, "hand me 
Paoin's chopping-board. or give it to that Indian, 
and let him cut the mixture ; they understand it 
b^ter than any white man." 

The Indian, without saying a word, mixed the 
bark and the tobacco in due proportions, filled the 
pipe, and lighted iL This done, my companion 
and I proceeded to deliberate on our fiiture course 
of proceeding ; first, however, Shaw acquainted me 
with some incidents which had occurred at the fort 
ciuring my absence. 

About a week previous four men had arrived from 
beyond the mountains : Sublette, Reddick, and two 
others. Just brfore reaching the fort they had m^ 
a large party of Indians, chiefly young men. All 
of them belonged to the tillage of our old fiiiend 
Smoke, wh o^^wifli^sw ^ole ^ nd of adherents, 
professed Ae greatest tnencishifi--fep-tfa t> - w hit es. 
The travellers therefore approached, and began to 
converse without the least suspicion. Suddenly, 
however, their bridles were violently seized, and 
they were ordered to dismount. Instead of com- 
plying, they struck their horses with full force and 
broke away from the Indians. As they galloped oflT 
they heard a yeU behind them, mixed with a burst 
of deri^ve laughter, and the reports of several guns. 
None of them were hurt, thot^h Reddick' s bridle- 
rein was cut by a bullet within an inch of his hand. 
After this taste of Indian hostiht)-. they felt for the 
moment no disposition to encounter &rther risks. 
They intended to pursue the route southward along 
the foot of the mountains to Bent's Fort : and as 
our plans coincided with theirs they proposed to 



THE LONELY JOURNEY. 309 

join forces. Finding, however, that I did not re- 
turn, they grew impatient of inaction, forgot their 
late escape, and set out without us, promising to 
wait our arrival at Bent's Fort. From thence we 
were to make the long journey to the settlements in 
company, as the path was not a little dangerous, 
being infested by hostile Pawnees and Comanches. 

We expected, on reaching Bent's Fort, to find 
there still another reinforcement. A young Ken- 
tuckian, of the true Kentucky blood, generous, im- 
petuous, and a gentleman withal, had come out to 
the mountains with Russel's party of California 
emigrants. One of his chief objects, as he gave 
out, was to kill an Indian ; an exploit which he 
afterward succeeded in achieving, much to the 
jeopardy of ourselves and others who had to pass 
through the country of the dead Pawnee's enraged 
relatives. Having become disgusted with his emi- 
grant associates, he left them, and had some time 
before set out with a party of companions for the 
head of the Arkansas. He sent us previously a 
letter, intimating that he would wait until we arrived 
at Bent's Fort, and accompany us thence to the set- 
tlements. When, however, he came to the fort he 
found there a party of forty men about to make the 
homeward journey. He wisely preferred to avail 
himself of so strong an escort. Mr. Sublette and 
his companions also set out, in order to overtake 
this company ; so that on reaching Bent's Fort, 
some six weeks after, we found ourselves deserted 
by our allies and thrown once more upon our own 
resources. 

But I am anticipating. When, before leaving 
the settlements, we had made inquiries concerning 
this part of the country of General Kearney, Mr. 
Mackenzie, Captain Wyeth, and others well ac- 
quainted with it, they had all advised us by no 



3IO THE OREGON TRAIL. 

means to attempt this southward journey with fewer 
than fifteen or tw-enty men. The danger consists 
in the chance of encountering Indian war-parties. 
Sometimes, throughout the whole length of the 
journey (a distance of three hundred and fifty 
miles), one does not meet a singleTuinian being ; 
fi^uently, however, the route is beset by Arapa- 
hoes and other unfriendly tribes ; in which case the 
scalp of the adventurer is in imminent peril. As 
to the escort of fifteen or twenty men, such a force 
of whites could at that time scarcely be collected in 
the whole countn,' ; and had the case been other- 
N^ase, the expense of securing them, together with 
the necessan,- number of horses, would have been 
extremely hea\y. We had resolved, however, upon 
pursuing this southward course. There were, in- 
deed, two other routes from Fort Laramie ; but both 
of these were less interesting, and neither was free 
from danger. Being unable, therefore, to procure 
the fifteen or twenty men recommended, we deter- 
mined to set out with those we had already in our 
employ — Henn,^ Chatillon, Delorier, and Raymond. 
The men themselves made no objection, nor would 
they have made any had the journey been more 
dangerous ; for Henr)" was without fear, and the 
other two without thought. 

Shaw and I were much better fitted for this mode 
of travelling than we had been on betaking our- 
selves to the prairies for the first time a few months 
before. The daily routine had ceased to be a nov- 
elt\-. All the details of the journey and the camp 
had become familiar to us. We had seen life under 
a new aspect ; the human biped had been reduced 
to his primitive condition. We had lived without 
law to protect, a roof to shelter, or garment of cloth 
to cover us. One of us, at least, had been without 
bread, and without salt to season his food. Our idea 



THE LOXELY JOURXEY. 311 

of what is indispensable to human existence and 
enjoyment had been wonderfully curtailed, and a 
horse, a rifle, and a knife seemed to make up the 
whole of life's necessaries. For these once ob- 
tained, together with the skill to use them, all else 
that is essential would follow in their train, and a 
host of luxuries besides. One other lesson our 
short prairie experience had taught us : that of pro- 
found contentment in the present, and utter con- 
tempt for what the future might bring forth. 

These principles established, we prepared to leave 
Fort Laramie. On the fourth day of August, early 
in the afternoon, we bade a final adieu to its hos- 
pitable gateway. Again Shaw and I were riding 
side by side on the prairie. For the first fifty miles 
we had companions with us : Troche, a little trap- 
per, and Rouville, a nondescript in the employ of 
the Fur Company, who were going to join the trader 
Bisonette, at his encampment near the head of 
Horse Creek. We rode only six or eight miles that 
afternoon before we came to a little brook trav- 
ersing the barren prairie. All along its course grew 
copses of young wild-cherry trees, loaded with ripe 
fruit, and almost concealing the gliding thread of 
water with their dense growth, while on each side 
rose swells of rich green grass. Here we en- 
camped ; and being much too indolent to pitch our 
tent, we flung our saddles on the ground, spread a 
pair of buffalo-robes, lay down upon them, and 
began to smoke. Meanwhile, Delorier busied him- 
self with his hissing frying-pan. and Raymond 
stood guard over the band of grazing horses. Delo- 
rier had an active assistant in Rouville, who pro- 
fessed great skill in the culinan,- art, and. seizing 
upon a fork, began to lend his zealous aid in making 
ready supper. Indeed, according to his own belief, 
Rouville was a man of universal knowledge, and he 



lost no opportunity to display his manifold accom- 
plishments. He had been a circus-rider at St. 
Louis, and once he rode round Fort Laramie on his 
head, to the utter bewilderment of all the Indians. 
He was also noted as the wit of the fort ; and as he 
had considerable humor and abundant vivacit}-, he 
contributed more that night to the liveliness of the 
camp than all the rest of the party put together. 
At one instant he would be kneeling by Delorier, 
instructing him in the true method of frj^ing ante- 
lope-steaks, then he would come and seat himself 
at our side, dilating upon the orthodox fashion of 
braiding up a horse's tail, telling apocryphal stories 
how he had killed a bufifalo-bull with a knife, having 
first cut off his tail when at full speed, or relating 
whimsical anecdotes of the boia-geots Papin. At 
last he snatched up a volume of Shakespeare that 
was lying on the grass, and halted and stumbled 
through a line or two to prove that he could read. 
He went gambolling about the camp, chattering 
like some frolicsome ape ; and whatever he was 
doing at one moment, the presumption was a sure 
one that he would not be doing it the next. His 
companion Troche sat silently on the grass, not 
speaking a word, but keeping a vigilant eye on a 
very ugly little Utah squaw, of whom he was ex- 
tremely jealous. 

On the next day we travelled farther, crossing 
the wide sterile basin called "Goche's Hole." 
Toward night we became involved among deep 
ravines ; and being also unable to find water, our 
journey was protracted to a ver}- late hour. On 
the next morning we had to pass a long line of 
bluffs, whose raw sides, wrought upon by rains and 
storms, were of a ghastly whiteness most oppressive 
to the sight. As we ascended a gap in these hills, 
the way was marked by huge footprints, like those 



THE LONELY JOURNEY. 313 

of a human giant. They were the track of the 
grizzly bear ; and on the previous day also we had 
seen an abundance of them along the dr\' channels of 
the streams we had passed. Immediately after this 
we were crossing a barren plain, spreading in long 
and gentle undulations to the horizon. Though the 
sun was bright, there was a light haze in the atmo- 
sphere. The distant hills assumed strange, distorted 
forms, and the edge of the horizon was continually 
changing its aspect. Shaw and I were riding 
together, and Henry Chatillon was alone, a few 
rods before us ; he stopped his horse suddenly, and 
turning round with the peculiar eager and earnest 
expression which he always wore when excited, he 
called us to come forward. We galloped to his 
side. Henry pointed toward a black speck on the 
gray swell of the prairie, apparently about a mile 
off. ' ' It must be a bear, ' ' said he ; " come, now 
we shall all have some sport. Better fun to fight 
him than to fight an old buffalo-bull ; grizzly bear 
so strong and smart." 

So we all galloped forward together, prepared for 
a hard fight ; for these bears, though clumsy in ap- 
pearance and extremely large, are incredibly fierce 
and active. The swell of the prairie concealed the 
black object from our view. Immediately after it 
appeared again. But now it seemed quite near to 
us ; and as we looked at it in astonishment, it sud- 
denly separated into two parts, each of which took 
wing and flew away. We stopped our horses and 
looked round at Henr\-, whose face exhibited a 
curious mixture of mirth and mortification. His 
hawk's eye had been so completely deceived by the 
peculiar atmosphere, that he had mistaken two 
large crows at the distance of fifty rods for a grizzly 
bear a mile off. To the journey's end Henr>' never 
heard the last of the grizzly bear with wings. 



314 THE^ OR EG OX TRAIL. 

In the afternoon we came to the foot of a consid- 
erable hill. As we ascended it, Rouville began to 
ask questions concerning our condition and pros- 
pects at home, and Shaw was edifying him with a 
minute account of an imaginan.- wife and child, to 
which he listened with implicit faith. Reaching the 
top of the hill, we saw the ■v^'indings of Horse Creek 
on the plains below us, and a little on the left we 
could distinguish the camp of Bisonette among the 
trees and copses along the course of the stream. 
Rouville" s face assumed just then a most ludicrously 
blank expression. We inquired what was the matter ; 
when it appeared that Bisonette had sent him from 
this place to Fort Laramie with the sole object of 
bringing back a supply of tobacco. Our ratdebrain 
friend, from the time of his reaching the fort up to 
the present moment, had entirely forgotten the ob- 
ject of his journey, and had ridden a dangerous 
hundred miles for nothing. Descending to Horse 
Creek, we forded it, and on the opposite bank a soli- 
tan.- Indian sat on horseback under a tree. He said 
nothing, but turned and led the way toward the 
camp. Bisonette had made choice of an admirable 
position. The stream, with its thick growth of trees, 
inclosed on three sides a wide green meadow, where 
about fort}- Dahcotah lodges were pitched in a circle, 
and beyond them half a dozen lodges of the friendly 
Shienne. Bisonette himself lived in the Indian 
manner. Riding up to his lodge, we found him 
seated at the head of it, surrounded by various ap- 
pliances of comfort not common on the prairie. 
His squaw was near him, and rosy children were 
scrambling about in printed-calico gowns ; Paul 
Dorion also, with his leathery face and^ old white 
capote, was seated in the lodge, together with An- 
toine Le Rouge, a half-breed Pawnee, Sibille, a 
trader, and several other white men. 



THE LONELY JOURNEY. 315 

"It will do you no harm," said_J3isonette, "to 
stay here with us for a day or two before you start 
for the Pueblo. ' ' 

We accepted the invitation, and pitched our tent 
on a rising ground above the camp and close to the 
edge of the trees. Bisonette soon invited us to a 
feast, and we suffered an abundance of the same sort 
of attention from his Indian associates. The reader 
may possibly recollect that when I joined the Indian 
I'illage, beyond the Black Hills, I found that a few 
families were absent, having declined to pass the 
mountains along with the rest. The Indians in 
Bisonette' s camp consisted of these very famihes, 
and many of them came to me that evening to in- 
quire after their relatives and friends. They were 
not a httle mortified to learn that while they, from 
their own timidity and indolence, were almost in a 
starving condition, the rest of the village had pro- 
vided their lodges for the ne.xt season, laid in a great 
stock of provisions, and were living in abundance 
and luxur>'. Bisonette' s companions had been sus- 
taining themselves for some time on wild cherries, 
which the squaws pounded up, stones and all, and 
spread on buffalo-robes, to dry in the sun ; they 
were then eaten without farther preparation, or used 
as an ingredient in various delectable compounds. 

On the next day the camp was in commotion with 
a new arrival. A single Indian had come with his 
family the whole way from the Arkansas. As he 
passed among the lodges he put on an expression of 
unusual dignity and importance, and gave out that 
he had brought great news to tell the whites. Soon 
after the squaws had erected his lodge, he sent his 
little son to invite all the white men and all the 
more distinguished Indians to a feast. The guests 
arrived and sat wedged "together, shoulder to shoul- 
der, within the hot and suffocating lodge. The 



1 6 THE OREGON TRAIL. 



Stabber, for that was our entertainer's name, had 
killed an old buffalo-bull on his way. This veteran' s 
boiled tripe, tougher than leather, formed the main 
item of the repast. For the rest, it consisted of wild 
cherries and grease boiled together in a large copper 
kettle. The feast was distributed, and for a mo- 
ment all was silent, strenuous exertion ; then each 
guest, with one or two exceptions, however, turned 
his wooden dish bottom upward to prove that he had 
done full justice to his entertainer' s hospitality. The 
Stabber next produced his chopping-board, on which 
he prepared the mixture for smoking, and filled 
several pipes, which circulated among the company. 
This done, he seated himself upright on his couch, 
and began with much gesticulation to tell his story. 
I will not repeat his childish jargon. It was so en- 
tangled, like the greater part of an Indian's stories, 
with absurd and contradictory- details, that it was 
almost impossible to disengage from it a single par- 
ticle of truth. All that we could gather was the 
following : 

He had been on the Arkansas, and there he had 
seen six great war-parties of whites. He had never 
believed before that the whole world contained half 
so many white men. They all had large horses, 
long knives, and short rifles, and some of them 
were attired alike in the most splendid war-dresses 
he had ever seen. From this account it was clear 
that bodies of dragoons and perhaps also of volun- 
teer cavaln.- had been passing up the Arkansas. 
The Stabber had also seen a great many of the white 
lodges of the Meneaska, drawn by their long-horned 
buffalo. These could be nothing else than covered 
ox-wagons, used, no doubt, in transporting stores for 
the troops. Soon after seeing this, our host had 
met an Indian who had lately come from among the 
Comanches. The latter had told him that all the 



THE L ONEL Y JO URNE Y. 3 1 7 

Mexicans had gone out to a great buffalo-hunt ; 
that the Americans had hid themselves in a ravine. 
When the Mexicans had shot away all their arrows, 
the Americans had fired their guns, raised their war- 
whoop, rushed out, and killed them all. We could 
only infer from this that war had been declared 
with Me.xico, and a batde fought in which the 
Americans were victorious. When, some weeks 
after, we arrived at the Pueblo, we heard of General 
Kearney's march up the Arkansas, and of General 
Taylor's victories at INIatamoras. 

As the sun was setting that evening a great crowd 
gathered on the plain, by the side of our tent, to try 
the speed of their horses. These were of every 
shape, size, and color. Some came from California, 
some from the States, some from among the moun- 
tains, and som.e from the wild bands of the prairie. 
They were of every hue — white, black, red, and 
gray, or mottled and clouded with a strange variety 
of colors. They all had a wild and startled look, 
very different from the staid and sober aspect of a 
well-bred city steed. Those most noted for swift- 
ness and spirit were decorated with eagle feathers 
dangling from their manes and tails. Fifty or sixty 
Dahcotah were present, wrapped from head to foot 
in their heavy robes of whitened hide. There were 
also a considerable number of the Shienne, many 
of whom wore gaudy Mexican ponchos, swathed 
around their shoulders, but leaving the right arm 
bare. Mingled among the crowd of Indians were 
a number of Canadians, chiefly in the employ of 
Bisonette ; men whose home is the wilderness, and 
who love the camp-fire better than the domestic 
hearth. They are contented and happy in the 
midst of hardship, privation, and danger. Their 
cheerfulness and gayety is irrepressible, and no 
people on earth understand better how ' ' to daff the 



3l8 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

world aside and bid it pass." Besides these, were 
two or three half-breeds, a race of rather extraordi- 
nary- composition, being, according to the common 
sajii^, half Indian, half white man, and half 
devil. Antoine Le Rouge was the most conspicuous 
among them, viith his loose pantaloons and his 
fluttering calico shirt. A handkerchief was bound 
round his head to confine his black snaky hair, and 
his small eyes twinkled beneath it with a mis- 
chievous lustre. He had a fine cream-colored 
horse, whose speed he must needs Xxs along with 
the rest. So he threw off the rude high-peaked 
saddle, and substituting a piece of buffalo-robe, 
leaped lightly into his seat. The space was cleared, 
the word was given, and he and his Indian rival 
darted out like lightning from among the crowd, 
each stretching forward over his horse's neck and 
plying his hea%-}' Indian whip with might and main. 
A moment, and both were lost in the gloom ; but 
Antoine soon came riding back victorious, exult- 
ingly patting the neck of his quivering and panting 
horse. 

About m.idnight, as I lay asleep, wrapped in a 
bufifalo-robe on the ground by the side of our cart, 
RaNinond came up and woke me. Something, he 
said, was going forward which I would like to see. 
Looking down into the camp I saw, on the farther 
side of it. a great number of Indians gathered 
around a fire, the bright glare of which made them 
visible through the thick darkness ; while from the 
midst of them proceeded a loud, measured chant 
which would have killed Paganini outright, broken 
occasionally by a burst of sharp yells. I gathered 
the robe around me, for the night was cold, and 
walked down to the spot. The dark throng of 
Indians was so dense that they almost intercepted 
the light of the flame. As I was pushing among 



THE LOXELY JOURNEY. 319 

them with but little ceremony, a chief interposed 
himself, and I was given to understand that a white 
man must not approach the scene of their solemni- 
ties too closely. By passing around to the other side 
where there was a little opening in the crowd, 1 
could see clearly what was going forward without 
intruding my unhallowed presence into the inner 
circle. The society of the "Strong Hearts" were 
engaged in one of their dances. The "Strong 
Hearts" are a warlike association, comprising men 
of both the Dahcotah and Shienne nations, and 
entirely composed, or supposed to be so, of young 
braves of the highest mettle. Its fundamental 
principle is the admirable one of never retreating 
from any enterprise once commenced. All these 
Indian associations have a tutelary spirit. That of 
the " Strong Hearts " is embodied in the fo.\, an ani- 
mal which white men would hardly have selected for 
a similar purpose, though his subtle and cautious 
character agrees well enough with an Indian's 
notions of what is honorable in warfare. The 
dancers were circling round and round the fire, each 
figure brightly illumined at one moment by the 
yellow light, and at the next drawn in blackest 
shadow as it passed between the flame and the 
spectator. They would imitate with the most ludi- 
crous exactness the motions and the voice of their 
sly patron the fox. Then a startling yell would be 
given. Many other warriors would leap into the 
ring, and with faces upturned toward the starless 
sky, they would all stamp, and whoop, and brandish 
their weapons like so many frantic devils. 

Until the next afternoon we were still remaining 
with Bisonette. My companion and I with our 
three attendants then left his camp for the Pueblo, 
a distance of three hundred miles, and we supposed 
the journey would occupy about a fortnight. During 



320 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

this time we all earnestly hoped that we might not 
meet a single human being, for should we encounter 
any, they would in all probabiht)' be enemies, fero- 
cious robbers and murderers, in whose eyes our 
rifles would be our only passports. For the first 
t^vo days nothing worth mentioning took place. On 
the third morning, however, an untoward incident 
occurred. We were encamped by the side of a 
little brook in an extensive hollow of the plain. 
Delorier was up long before daylight, and before 
he began to prepare breakfast he turned loose all 
the horses, as in dut}' bound. There was a cold 
mist clinging close to the ground, and by the time 
the rest of us were awake the animals were invisible. 
It was only after a long and anxious search that we 
could discover by their tracks the direction they had 
taken. They had all set off for Fort Laramie, fol- 
lowing the guidancencrf'a murinousold mule, and 
though many of them were hobbled, they had 
travelled three miles before they could be over- 
taken and driven back. 

For the following tvvo or three days we were pass- 
ing over an arid desert. The only vegetation was a 
few tufts of short grass, dried and shrivelled by the 
heat. There was an abundance of strange insects 
and reptiles. Huge crickets, black and bottle-green, 
and wingless grasshoppers of the most extravagant 
dimensions, were tumbling about our horses' feet, 
and hzards without number were darting like light- 
ning among the tufts of grass. The most curious 
animal, however, was that commonly called the 
horned-frog. I caught one of them and consigned 
Eim to the' care of Delorier, who tied him up in a 
moccason. About a month after this I examined 
the prisoner's condition, and finding him still lively 
and active, I provided him with a cage of buffalo- 
hide, which was himg up in the cart. In this man- 



THE LONELY JOURNEY. 32 1 

ner he arrived safely at the settlements. From 
thence he travelled the whole way to Boston, packed 
closely in a trunk, being regaled with fresh air regu- 
larly every night. When he reached his destina- 
tion he was deposited under a glass case, where he 
sat for some months in great tranquillity and com- 
posure, alternately dilating and contracting his white 
throat to the admiration of his visitors. At length, 
one morning about the middle of winter, he gave 
up the ghost. His death was attributed to starva- 
tion, a ven.- probable conclusion, since for six 
months he had taken no food whatever, though the 
sympathy of his juvenile admirers had tempted his 
palate with a great variety of delicacies. We found 
also animals of a somewhat larger growth. The 
number of prairie-dogs was absolutely astounding. 
Frequently the hard and dr)- prairie would be thickly 
covered, for many miles together, with the little 
mounds which they make around the mouth of their 
burrows, and small squeaking voices yelping at us 
as we passed along. The noses of the inhabitants 
would be just visible at the mouth of their holes, 
but no sooner was their curiosity satisfied than they 
would instantly vanish. Some of the bolder dogs — 
though, in fact, they are no dogs at all — but little 
marmots, rather smaller than a rabbit — would sit 
yelping at us on the top of their mounds, jerking 
their tails emphatically with ever}' shrill cr)^ they 
uttered. As the danger drew nearer they would 
wheel about, toss their heels into the air, and dive 
in a twinkling down into their burrows. Toward 
sunset, and especially if rain were threatening, the 
whole community would make their appearance 
above ground. \\'e would see them gathered in 
large knots around the burrow of some favorite citi- 
zen. There they would all sit erect, their tails 
spread out on the ground, and their paws hanging 
21 



322 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

down before their white breasts, chattering and 
squeaking wvCa. the utmost vivacity upon some topic 
of common interest, while the proprietor of the bur- 
row, with his head just visible on the top of his 
mound, would sit looking down with a complacent 
countenance on the enjoyment of his guests. Mean- 
while, others would be running about from burrow to 
burrow, as if on some errand of the last importance 
to their subterranean commonwealth. The snakes 
are apparently the prairie-dog's worst enemies ; at 
least, 1 think too well of the latter to suppose that they 
associate on friendly terms with these slimy intrud- 
ers, who may be seen at all times basking among 
their holes, into which they always retreat when dis- 
turbed. Small owls, with wise and grave counte- 
nances, also make their abode with the prairie-dogs, 
though on what terms they live together I could 
never ascertain. The manners and customs, the 
political and domestic economy of these little mar- 
mots are worthy of closer attention than one is able 
to give when pushing by forced marches through 
their country, with his thoughts engrossed by objects 
of greater moment. 

On the fifth day after leaving Bisonette" s camp we 
saw, late in the afternoon, what we supposed to be 
a considerable stream, but, on our approaching.it, 
we found to our mortification nothing but a dr)- bed 
of sand, into which all the water had sunk and dis- 
appeared. We separated, some riding in one di- 
rection and some in another, along its course. Still, 
we found no traces of water, not even so much as a 
wet spot in the sand. The old cotton-wood trees 
that grew along the bank, lamentably abused by 
lightning and tempest, were withering with the 
drought, and on the dead limbs, at the summit of the 
tallest, half a dozen crows were hoarsely cawing, 
like birds of evil omen, as they were. We had no 



THE LONELY JOURNEY. 323 

alternative but to keep on. There was no water 
nearer than the South Fork of the Platte, about ten 
miles distant. We moved forward, angry and 
silent, over a desert as flat as the outspread ocean. 

The sky had been obscured since the morning by 
thin mists and vapors, but now vast piles of clouds 
were gathered together in the west. They rose to a 
great height above the horizon, and looking up 
toward them, I distinguished one mass darker than 
the rest, and of a peculiar conical form. I hap- 
pened to look again, and still could see it as before. 
At some moments it was dimly seen, at others its 
outline was sharp and distinct ; but while the clouds 
around it were shifting, changing, and dissolving 
away, it still towered aloft in the midst of them, 
fixed and immovable. It must, thought 1, be the 
summit of a mountain ; and yet its height staggered 
me. My conclusion was right, however. It was 
Long's Peak, once believed to be one of the high- 
est of the Rocky Mountain chain, though more 
recent discoveries have proved the contrary. The 
thickening gloom soon hid it from view, and we 
never saw it again, for on the following day, and 
for some time after, the air was so full of mist that 
the view of distant objects was entirely intercepted. 

It grew very late. Turning from our direct 
course, we made for the river at its nearest point, 
though in the utter darkness it was not easy to di- 
rect our way with much precision. Raymond rode 
on one side and Henry on the other. We could 
hear each of them shouting that he had come upon 
a deep ravine. We steered at random between 
Scylla and Charybdis, and soon after became, as it 
seemed, inextricably involved with deep chasms all 
around us, while the darkness was such that we 
could not see a rod in any direction. We partially 
extricated ourselves by scrambling, cart and all, 



324 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

througii a shallow ravine. We came next to a steep 
descent, down which we plunged without well know- 
in£^ what was at the bottom. There was a great 
cracking <rf sticks and dry tw%s. Cher our heads 
were certain large shadowy objects ; and in front 
scnnething like the fiiint gieaxning of a dark sheet 
of water. Raymond ran his horse against a tree ; 
Henry alighted, and feeUng on the ground, declared 
that there was grass enough for the horses. Before 
takii^ off his saddle, each man led his own horses 
down to the water in the best n^ay he could. Then 
picketing two or three of die evil-di^>osed, we 
turned the rest loose, and lay down among the dry 
sticks to sleqp. In the morning we found ourselves 
close to the South Fork of the Hatte, on a spot sur- 
nmnded by bu^es and rank grass. Compensating 
ourselves with a hearty breakfast for the ill fare of 
the previous night, we set forward again on our 
journey. When only two or three rods from the 
camp I saw Shaw stop his mule, level his gun, and 
afier a long aim fire at some object in the grass. 
Delorio- next jumped forward, and b^[an to dance 
about, bdaboring Ae unseen enemy ^nth a whip. 
Then he stooped down, and drew out of the grass 
by the neck an encmnous rattlesnake, with his head 
ccHnpIefsdy shattered by Shaw's bulleL As Del oner 
held him out at arm's length with an exulting grin, 
his tail, which still kept slowly writhing about, almost 
touched the ground ; and the body in the largest 
part was as diick as a stout man's arm. He had 
fourteen rattles, but the end of his tail was blunted, 
as if he could once have boasted of many more. 
From tlus time tfll we reached the Pueblo, we killed 
at least four or five of these snakes eveiT,- day. as 
diey lay coiled and rattling on the hot sand. Shaw 
was the Saint Patrick of the part\-, and whenever 
he or anyone else killed a snake he always pulled 



THE LOXELY JOURNEY. 325 

oflF its tail and stored it away in his bullet-pouch, 
which was soon crammed with an edifying collec- 
tion of rattles, great and small. Delorier with his 
whip also came in for a share of the praise. A day 
or two after this he triumphantly produced a small 
snake about a span and a half long, with one infant 
rattle at the end of its tail. 

We forded the South Fork of the Platte. On its 
farther bank were the traces of a ver)' large camp 
of Arapahoes. The ashes of some three hundred 
fires were visible among the scattered trees, together 
with the remains of sweating lodges, and all the 
other appurtenances of a permanent camp. The 
place, however, had been for some months deserted. 
A few miles farther on we found more recent signs 
of Indians ; the trail of two or three lodges, which 
had evidently passed the day before, where every 
footprint was perfectly distinct in the dry, dusty soil. 
We noticed in particular the track of one moccason, 
upon the sole of which its economical proprietor 
had placed a large patch. These signs gave us but 
little uneasiness, as the number of the warriors 
scarcely exceeded that of our own party. At noon 
we rested under the walls of a large fort, built in 
these solitudes some years since by M. St. Vrain. 
It was now abandoned and fast falling into ruin. 
The walls of unbaked bricks were cracked from top 
to bottom. Our horses recoiled in terror from the 
neglected entrance, where the heavy gates were torn 
from their hinges and flung down. The area within 
was overgrown with weeds, and the long ranges of 
apartments once occupied by the motley concourse 
of traders, Canadians, and squaws, were now 
miserably dilapidated. Twelve miles farther on, 
near the spot where we encamped, were the remains 
of still another fort, standing in melancholy deser- 
tion and neglect. 



326 THE OREGOy TRAIL. 

Early on the following morning we made a start- 
ling discovery. We passed close by a large deserted 
encampment of Arapahoes. There were about fifty 
fires still smouldering on the ground, and it was 
evident from numerous signs that the Indians must 
have left the place within two hours of our reaching 
it. Their trail crossed our own at right angles, 
and led in the direction of a line of hills, half a 
mile on our left. There were women and children 
in the part)", which would have greatly diminished 
the danger of encountering them. Henry Chatillon 
examined the encampment and the trail with a very 
professional and business-like air. 

" Supposing we had met them, Henr}- ?" said I. 

"Why," said he, "we hold out our hands to 
them, and give them all we've got ; they take away 
ever\-thing, and then I believe they no kill us. 
Perhaps," added he, looking up with a quiet un- 
changed face, "perhaps we no let them rob us. 
Maybe before they come near, we have a chance to 
get into a ravine, or under the bank of the river ; 
then, you know, we fight them." 

About noon on that day we reached Cherr\- Creek. 
Here was a great abundance of wild-cherries, plums, 
gooseberries, and currants. The stream, however, 
like most of the others which we passed, was dried 
up with the heat, and we had to dig holes in the; 
sand to find water for ourselves and our horses. 
Two days after we left the banks of the creek which 
we had been following for some time, and began to 
cross the high dividing ridge which separates the 
waters of the Platte from thosS of the Arkansas. 
The scener\' was altogether changed. In place of 
the burning plains, we were passing now through 
rough and savage glens, and among hills crowned 
with a drear\- growth of pines. We encamped 
among these solitudes on the night of the sixteenth 



THE L ONEL V JOURNE Y. 327 

of August. A tempest was threatening. The sun 
went down among volumes of jet-black clouds, 
edged with a bloody red. But in spite of these 
portentous signs we neglected to put up the tent, 
and being extremely fatigued, lay down on the ground 
and fell asleep. The storm broke about midnight, 
and we erected the tent amid darkness and confusion. 
In the morning all was fair again, and Pike's Peak, 
white with snow, was towering above the wilderness 
afar off. 

We pushed through an extensive tract of pine 
woods. I^rge black squirrels were leaping among 
the branches. From the farther edge of this forest 
we saw the prairie again, hollowed out before us 
into a vast basin, and about a mile in front we could 
discern a little black speck moving upon its surface. 
It could be nothing but a buffalo. Henry primed 
his rifle afresh and galloped forward. To the left 
of the animal was a low rocky mound, of which 
Henr)'^ availed himself in making his approach. 
After a short time we heard the faint report of the 
rifle. The bull, mortally wounded from a distance 
of nearly three hundred yards, ran wildly round and 
round in a circle. Shaw and 1 then galloped for- 
ward, and passing him as he ran foaming with rage 
and pain, we discharged our pistols into his side. 
Once or twice he rushed furiously upon us, but his 
strength was rapidly exhausted. Down he fell on 
'his knees. For one instant he glared up at his 
enemies, with burning eyes, through his black 
tangled mane, and then rolled over on his side. 
Though gaunt an^ thin, he was larger and heavier 
than the largest ox. Foam and blood flew together 
from his nostrils as he lay bellowing and pawing the 
ground, tearing up grass and earth with his hoofs. 
His sides rose and fell like a vast pair of bellows, 
the blood spouting up in jets from the bullet-holes. 



328 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

Suddenl)' his glaring eyes became like a lifeless 
jelly. He lay motionless on the ground. Henry 
stooped over him, and making an incision ■with his 
knife, pronounced the meat too rank and tough for 
use ; so, disappointed in our hopes of an addition 
to our stock of pro\"isions, we rode away and left 
the carcass to the wolves. 

In the afternoon we saw the mountains rising like 
a gigantic wall at no great distance on our right. 
'' Dcs sauvages .' des sanvages ' "^ e.xclaimed Delo- 
rier, looking around -with a frightened face, and point- 
ing with his whip toward the foot of the mountains. 
In fact, we could see at a distance a number of httle 
black specks, like horsemen in rapid motion. Henry 
Chatillon. with Shaw and myself, galloped toward 
them to reconnoitre, when, to our amusement, we 
saw the supposed Arapahoes resolved into the black 
tops of some pine trees which grew along a ra^^ne. 
The summits of these pines, just visible above the 
verge of the prairie, and seeming to move as we 
ourselves were advancing, looked exactiy like a Une 
of horsemen. 

We encamped among ra\'ines and hollows, through 
which a littie brook was foaming angrily. Before 
sunrise in the morning the snow-covered mountains 
were beautifully tinged with a delicate rose color. 
A noble spectacle awaited us as we moved forward. 
Six or eight miles on our right, Pike's Peak and his 
giant brethren rose out of the level prairie, as if 
springing from the bed of the ocean. From their 
summits down to the plain below they were in- 
volved in a mantle of clouds, in restless motion, as 
if urged by strong winds. For one instant some 
snowy peak, towering in awful solitude, would be 
disclosed to view. As the clouds broke along the 
mountain, we could see the drean,- forests, the tre- 
mendous precipices, the white patches of snow, the 



THE LONELY JOURNEY. 329 

gulfs and chasms as black as night, all revealed 
for an instant, and then disappearing from the 
view. One could not but recall the stanza of 
Childe Harold : 

" Morn dawns, and with it stern Albania's bills. 
Dark Soli's rocks, and Pindus' inland peak, 
Robed half in mist, bedewed with snowy rills, 
Array'd in many a dun and purple streak. 
Arise; and, as the clouds along them break. 
Disclose the dwelling of the mountaineer : 
Here roams the wolf, the eagle whets his beak. 
Birds, beasts of prey, and wilder men appear. 

And gathering storms around convulse the closing year." 

Every line save one of this description was more 
than verified here. There were no "dwellings of 
the mountaineer" among these heights. Fierce 
savages, restlessly wandering through summer and 
winter, alone invade them. "Their hand is 
against every man, and every man's hand against 
them." 

On the day after we had left the mountains at 
some distance. A black cloud descended upon 
them, and a tremendous explosion of thunder fol- 
lowed, reverberating among the precipices. In a 
few moments everything grew black, and the rain 
poured down like a cataract. We got under an old 
cotton-wood tree, which stood by the side of a 
stream, and waited there till the rage of the torrent 
had passed. 

The clouds opened at the point where they first 
had gathered, and the whole sublime congregation 
of mountains was bathed at once in warm sun- 
shine. They seemed more like some luxurious 
vision of eastern romance than like a reality of that 
wilderness ; all were melted together into a soft 
delicious blue, as voluptuous as the sky of Naples 
or the transparent sea that washes the sunny cliffs 



330 THE OREGOX TRAIL. 

of Capri. On the left the whole sky was still of an 
inky blackness ; but two concentric rainbows stood 
in brilliant relirf against it, while £ar in front the 
ragged cloud still streamed before the wind, and the 
r^ieating thunder muttered angrily. 

Through that afternoon and die next morning we 
were passing down the banks of the stream called 
" La Fontaine qui Bouille," from the boiling spring 
whose waters flow into it. When we stopped at 
noon we were within ax or eight miles of the 
Pueblo. Setting out again, we found by the fresh 
tracks that a horseman had just been out to recon- 
noitre us ; he had circled half round the camp, and 
then gallc^ied back fiill speed for the Pueblo. \Miat 
made him so shy of us we could not conceive. After 
an hour's ride we reached the edge of a hill, from 
which a welcome saght greeted us. The Arkansas 
lan along tiie ralley below, among woods and 
groves, and closely nesded in the midst of wide 
corn-fields and green meadows, where cattle were 
glaring, rose the low mud walls of the Pueblo. 



CIL\PTER XXI. 

THE PUEBLO A2ifD BEKT'S FORT. 

" It came to pass^ that wiien he did address 

Himself to quit at length this moTintain land. 
Combined mara-nders half-way barred egress, 

.■Vnd wasted far and near ■»nth glaive and brand." 
Childe Harold. 

We approached the gate of the Pueblo. It was a 
wretched sf>ecies of fort, of most primitive con- 
struction, being nothing more than a large square 
ii»^losure, surrounded by a wall of mud, miserably 



THE PUEBLO AXD BEXT'S FORT. 33 1 

cracked and dilapidated. The slender pickets that 
surmounted it were half-broken down, and the gate 
dangled on its wooden hinges so loosely that to 
open or shut it seemed likely to fling it down alto- 
gether. Two or three squahd Mexicans, with their 
brdadhats, and their vile faces overgrown with hair. 
were lounging about the bank of the river in front of it. 
They disappeared as they saw us approach ; and as 
we rode up to the gate, a light, active, little figure 
came out to meet us. It was our old friend Richard. 
He had come from Fort Laramie on a trading expe- 
dition to Taos ; but finding when he reached the 
Pueblo that the war would prevent his going farther, 
he was quietly waiting till the conquest of the coun- 
try should allow him to proceed. He seemed to 
consider himself bound to do the honors of the 
place. Shaking us warmly by the hand, he led the 
way into the area. 

Here we saw his large Santa Fe wagons standing 
together. A few squaws and Spanish women, and 
a few Mexicans, as mean and miserable as the place 
itself, were lazily sauntering about. Richard con- 
ducted us to the state apartment of the Pueblo. A 
small mud room, ver)-. neatly finished, considering 
the material, and garnished with a crucifix, a look- 
ing-glass, a picture of the Virgin, and a rusty horse- 
pistol. There were no chairs, but instead of them 
a number of chests and boxes ranged about the 
room. There was another room beyond, less 
sumptuously decorated, and here three or four 
Spanish girls, one of them very pretty, were baking 
cakes at a mud fireplace in the comer. They 
brought out a poncho, which they spread upon the 
floor by way of table-cloth. A supper, which 
seemed to us luxurious, was soon laid out upon it, 
and folded buffalo-robes were placed around it to 
receive the guests. Two or three Americans besides 



332 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

ourselves were present. We sat down Turkish 
fashion, and began to inquire the news. Richard 
told us that about three weeks before General Kear- 
ney's army had left Bent's Fort to march against 
Santa Fe : that when last heard from they were 
approaching the naountainous defiles that led to the 
city . One of the Americans produced a dingj- news- 
paper containing an account di the battles cX. Palo 
Alto and Resaca de la Palma. WTiile we were dis- 
cussing these matters, the doorway was darkened 
by a tall, shambling fellow, who stood with his 
hands in his pockets, taking a losurely surre^' dL the 
premises before he entered. He wore brown home- 
spun pantaloons, much too short for his legs, and a 
pistol and ^Bowie-knife stuck in his beh. His head 
and one eye were enveloped in a huge bandage oi 
white linen. Having completed his obsen-ations. 
he came slouching in, and sat down on a chesL 
Eight or ten more of the same stamp followed, and, 
ver\- coolly arranging themselves about the rocnn, 
began to stare at the company. Shaw and I locked 
at each other. We were forcibly reminded <rf the 
Oregon emigrants, though these unwdicome visitors 
had a certain ghtter of the eye. and a compresaon 
of the lips, which distinguished than from oar old 
acquaintances of the prairie. They b^an to cate- 
chise us at once, inqmring whence we had come. 
what we meant to do next, and what were our fiiture 
prospects in life. 

The man ■with the bandaged head had met with an 
untoward accident a few da^'s brfore. He was gvnng 
down to the river to bring water, and was pushing 
through the young willows which covered the low 
ground, when he came unawares upon a grizzly 
bear, which haA-ing just eaten a bn&lo-bull, had 
Iain do-ivn to sleep off the meaL The bear rose on 
his hind legs, and gave the intruder such a blow 



THE PUEBLO AND BENT'S FORT. 333 

with his paw that he laid his forehead entirely bare, 
clawed off the front of his scalp, and narrowly missed 
one of his eyes. Fortunately he was not in a very 
pugnacious mood, being surfeited with his late meal. 
The man's companions, who were close behind, 
raised a shout, -and the bear walked away, crushing 
down the willows in his leisurely retreat. 

These men belonged to a party of Mormons, who-,— — j 
out of a well-grounded fear of the other emigrants, \ 
had postponed leaving the settlements until all the 
rest were gone. On account of this delay they did 
not reach Fort Laramie until it was too late to con- 
tinue their journey to California. Hearing that there 
was good land at the head of the Arkansas, they 
crossed over under the guidance of Richard, and 
were now preparing to spend the winter at a spot 
about half a mile from the Pueblo. 

When we took leave of Richard it was near sun- 
set. Passing out of the gate, we could look down 
the little valley of the Arkansas ; a beautiful scene, 
and doubly so to our eyes, so long accustomed to 
deserts and mountains. Tall woods lined the river, 
with green meadows on either hand ; and high bluffs, 
quietly basking in the sunlight, flanked the narrow 
valley. A Mexican on horseback was driving a 
herd of cattle toward the gate, and our little white 
tent, which the men had pitched under a large tree 
in the meadow, made a very pleasing feature in the 
scene. When we reached it, we found that Richard 
had sent a Mexican to bring us an abundant supply 
of green com and vegetables, and invite us to help 
ourselves to whatever we wished from the fields 
around the Pueblo. 

The inhabitants were in daily apprehension of an 
inroad from more formidable consumers than our- 
selves. Every year, at the time when the com 
begins to ripen, the Arapahoes, to the number of 



334 "^HE OREGON TRAIL. 

several thousands, come and encamp around the 
Pueblo. The handful of white men, who are en- 
tirely at the mercy of this swarm of barbarians, 
choose to make a merit of necessity ; they come for- 
ward ven.- cordially, shake them by the hand, and 
intimate that the harvest is entirely at tneir disposal. 
The Arapahoes take them at their word, help them- 
selves most liberally, and usually turn their horses 
into the cornfields afterward. They have the fore- 
sight, however, to leave enough of the crops un- 
touched to serv^e as an inducement for planting the 
fields again for their benefit in the next spring. 

The human race in this part of the world is sepa- 
rated into three divisions, arranged in the orrier of 
their merits : white men, Indians, and Mexicans ; to 
the latter of whom the honorable title of " whites " 
is by no means conceded. 

In spite of the warm sunset of that evening, the 
next morning was a dreary and cheerless one. It 
rained steadily, clouds resting upon the ver}- tree- 
tops. We crossed the river to visit the IMormon 
settlement. As we passed through the" water, -sev- 
eral trappers on horseback entered it from the other 
side. Their buckskin frocks were soaked through 
by the rain, and clung fast to their hmbs with a 
most clammy and uncomfortable look. The water 
was trickling down their faces, and dropping from 
the ends of their rifles and from the traps which 
each carried at the pommel of his saddle. Horses 
and all, they had a most disconsolate and woebe- 
gone appearance, which we could not help laughing 
at, forgetting how often we ourselves had been in a 
similar plight. 

After half an hour's riding we saw the white 
wagons of the Mormons dfaw-n xrp -among the trees. 
Axes were sounding, trees were falling, and log-huts 
going up along the edge of the woods and upon the 



THE PUEBLO AXD BEXT'S FORT. 335 

adjoining meadow. As we came up tiie Mormons 
left their work and seated themselves on the timber 
around us, when they began earnestly to discuss 
points of theolog}.-, complain of the ill usage they 
had received from the "Gentiles," and sound a 
lamentation over the loss of their great temple of 
Nauvoo. After remaining with them an hour we 
rode back to our camp, happy that the settlements 
had been delivered from the presence of such blind 
and desperate fanatics. 

On the morning after this we left the Pueblo for 
Bent's Fort. The conduct of Raymond had lately 
been less satisfactor>- than before, and we had dis- 
charged him as soon as we arrived at the former 
place ; so that the party, ourselves included, was 
now reduced to four. There was some uncertainty 
as to our future course. The trail between Bent's 
Fort and the settlements, a distance computed at 
six hundred miles, was at this time in a dangerous 
state; for, since the passage of General Kearney's 
army, great numbers of hostile Indians, chiefly 
Pawnees and Comanches, had gathered about some 
parts of it. A little after this time they became so 
numerous and audacious that scarcely a single 
part}-, however large, passed between the fort and 
the frontier without some token of their hostilit}". 
The newspapers of the time sufficiently display this 
state of things. Many men were killed, and g^eat 
numbers of horses and mules carried off. Not long 
since I met with a gendeman, who, during the au- 
tumn, came from Santa Fe to Bent's Fort, where he 
found a party of seventy- men. who thought them- 
selves too weak to go down to the settlements alone, 
and were waiting there for a reinforcement. Though 
this excessive timidity fully proves the ignorance and 
credulity- of the men, it may also evince the state of 
adarm which prevailed in the countr)-. When we 



X 



336 THE ORE G OX TRAIL. 

were tliere in the month of August the danger had 
not become so great. There was nothing very 
attractive in the neighborhood. We supposed, more- 
over, that we might wait there half the winter with- 
out finding any part\- to go down with us ; for Mr. 
Sublette and the others whom we had relied upon 
had, as Richard told us, already left Bent's Fort. 
Thus far on our journey fortune had kindly be- 
friended us. We resolved, therefore, to take ad^■an- 
tage of her gracious mood, and trusting for a con- 
tinuance of her favors, to set out -w-ith Henr\- and 
Delorier, and run the gauntlet of the Indians in the 
best way we could. 

Bent's Fort stands on the river, about sevent^•- 
five miles bel©w-theJEiaeblQ__At noon of the third 
day we arriAed within three or four miles of it, 
pitched our tent under a tree, hung our looking- 
glasses against its trunk, and having made our 
primitive toilet, rode toward the fort. We soon 
came in sight of it, for it is visible from a considerable 
distance, standing ^nth its high clay walls in the 
midst of the scorching plains. It seemed as if a 
swarm of locusts had invaded the countn,-. The 
grass for miles around was cropped close by the 
horses of General Kearney's soldier}-. When we 
came to the fort we found that not only had the 
horses eaten up the grass, but their owners had 
made way with the stores of the little trading-post ; 
so that we had grreat difficult}- in procuring the few 
articles which we required for our homeward jour- 
ney. The army was gone, the life and bustle 
passed away, and the fort was a scene of dull and 
lazy tranquillit}-. A few invalid officers and soldiers 
sauntered about the area, which was oppressively 
hot ; for the glaring sun was reflected down upon it 
from the high white walls around. The proprietors 
were absent, and we were received bv Mr. Holt, 



THE PUEBLO AND BENT'S FORT. 337 

who had been left in charge of the fort. Fie invited 
us to dinner, where, to our admiration, we found a 
table laid with a white cloth, with castors in the 
centre and chairs placed around it. This unwonted 
repast concluded, we rode back to our camp. 

Here, as we lay smoking round the fire after 
supper, we saw through the dusk three men ap- 
proaching from the direction of the fort. They 
rode up and seated themselves near us on the 
ground. The foremost was a tall, well-formed man, 
with a face and manner such as inspire confidence 
at once. He wore a broad hat of felt, slouching 
and tattered, and the rest of his attire consisted of a 
frock and leggings of buckskin, rubbed with the 
yellow clay found among the mountains. At the 
heel of one of his moccasons was buckled a huge 
iron spur, with a rowel five or six inches in diame- 
ter. His horse, who stood quietly looking over his 
head, had a rude Mexican saddle, covered with a 
shaggy bear-skin, and furnished with a pair of 
wooden stirrups of most preposterous size. The 
next man was a sprightly, active little fellow, about 
five feet and a quarter high, but very strong and 
compact. His face was swarthy as a Mexican's, 
and covered with a close, curly, black beard. An 
old, greasy calico handkerchief was tied round his 
head, and his close buckskin dress was blackened 
and polished by grease and hard service. The last 
who came up was a large, strong man, dressed in 
the coarse homespun of the frontiers, who dragged 
his long limbs over the ground as if he were too 
lazy for the effort. He had a sleepy gray eye, a 
retreating chin, an open mouth, and a protruding 
upper lip, which gave him an air of exquisite indo- 
lence and helplessness. He was armed with an 
old United States yager, which redoubtable weapon, 
though he could never hit his mark with it, he was 



338 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

accustomed to cherish as the ver\- sovereign of fire- 
arms. 

The first two men belonged to a part}^ who had 
just came from California, with a large band of 
hoises, which the}- had disposed of at Bent's Fort. 
Munroe, the taller of the two, was from Iowa. He 
was an excellent fellow, open, warm-hearted, and 
intffffigent. Jim Gumey, the short man, was" a Bos- 
fioii sa2or, who had come in a trading-vessel to 
Cal if ornia, and taken the fancy to retiim across the 
continent. The jomuey had already made him an 
expert "mountain man," and he presented the 
extraordinary phenomenon of a sailor who under- 
stood how to manage a horse. The third of our 
visitors, named Ellis, was a Missourian, who had 
cone oat with a party of Oregon emigrants, but 
having- got as far as Bridge's Fort, he had fallen 
home-sick, or as Jim averred, love-sick — and Ellis 
was just the man to be balked in a lo^•e adventure. 
He thought proper, therefore, to join the Cahfomia 
men, and return homeward in their company. 

They now requested that they might unite with 
oorpaity, and make the journey to the settlements 
in company with us. We readily assented, for we 
Eked the ^[^eaiance of the first two men, and were 
very g^ad to gain so efficient a reinforcement. We 
tx^ them to meet us on the next evening at a spot 
on the liver side, about six miles below the fort. 
Having san<^ed a pipe together, our new allies left 
us, and we lay down to sleep. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

tSte rouge, the volunteer. 

" Ah me ! what evils do environ 
The man that meddles with cold iron." 

HUDIBRAS. 

The next morning, having directed Delorier to 
repair with his cart to the place of meeting, we came 
again to the fort to make some arrangements for 
the journey. After completing these, we sat down 
under a sort of porch, to smoke with some Shienne 
Indians whom we found there. In a few minutes 
we saw an extraordinary little figure approach us 
in a military dress. He had a small, round coun- 
tenance, garnished about the eyes with the kind of 
wrinkles commonly known as crow's feet, and sur- 
mounted by an abundant crop of red curls, with a 
little cap resting on the top of them. Altogether, 
he had the look of a man more conversant with 
mint-juleps and oyster-suppers than with the hard- 
ships of prairie-service. He came up to us and 
entreated that we would take him home to the settle- 
ments, saying that unless he went with us he should 
have to stay all winter at the fort. We liked our 
petitioner's appearance so little that we excused our- 
selves from complying with his request. At this he 
begged us so hard to take pity on him, looked so 
disconsolate, and told so lamentable a story, that at 
last we consented, though not without many mis- 
givings. 

The rugged Anglo-Saxon of our new recruit's real 
name proved utterly unmanageable on the lips of 
our French attendants, and Henrj' Chatillon, after 
various abortive attempts to pronounce it, one day 



340 

cool!; 

red : 

a :.:. 

esta": 



'.eers. 

of us." said Tele 
r i.- d Joiin Hof^r 

: "Jt with the ar: 

::.t : : _3try, we "r 
ou knfnr 



T^TE ROUGE, THE VOLUNTEER. 34 1 

above with the glassy stare of a dead man. At this 
the unfortunate volunteer lost his senses outright. 
In spite of the doctor, however, he eventually re- 
covered ; though between the brain-fever and the 
calomel, his mind, originally none of the strongest, 
was so much shaken that it had not quite recovered 
its balance when we came to the fort. In spite of 
the poor fellow's tragic storj-, there was something 
so ludicrous in his appearance, and the whimsical 
contrast between his military dress and his most 
unmilitary demeanor, that we could not help smiling 
at them. We asked him if he had a gun. He said 
they had taken it from him during his illness, and 
he had not seen it since ; but perhaps, he observed, 
looking at me with a beseeching air, you will lend 
me one of your big pistols if we should meet with 
any Indians. I next inquired if he had a horse ; 
he declared he had a magnificent one, and at 
Shaw's request, a Mexican led him in for inspec- 
tion. He exhibited the outline of a good horse, 
but his eyes were sunk in the sockets, and every 
one of his ribs could be counted. There were 
certain marks, too, about his shoulders, which could 
be accounted for by the circumstance that, during 
Tete Rouge's illness, his companions had seized 
upon the insulted charger, and harnessed him to a 
cannon along with the draft horses. To Tete 
Rouge's astonishment, we recommended him by all 
means to exchange the horse, if he could, for a 
mule. Fortunately the people at the fort were so 
anxious to get rid of him that they were willing to 
make some sacrifice to effect the object, and he 
succeeded in getting a tolerable mule in exchange 
for the broken-down steed. 

A man soon appeared at the gate, leading in the 
mule by a cord, which he placed in the hands of 
Tete Rouge, who, being somewhat afraid of his new 



342 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

axrquisition, tried various flatteries and blandishments 
to induce her to come forward. The mule, knowing 
that she was expected to advance, stopped short in 
consequence, and stood fast as a rock, looking 
straight forward mth immovable composirre. Being 
stimulated by a blow from behind, she consented to 
move, and walked nearly to the other side of the 
fort before she stopf>ed again. Hearing the by- 
standers laugh, Tete Rouge plucked up spirit and 
tugged hard at the rope. The mule jerked back- 
ward, spim herself round, and made a dash for the 
gate. Tete Rouge, who clung manfiilly to the rope, 
went whiskii^ through the air for a few rods, when 
he let go and stood with his mouth open, staring 
after the mule, who galloped away over the prairie. 
She was soon caught and brought back by a Mexi- 
can, who mounted a horse and went in pursuit of 
her with his lasso. 

Ha\'ing thus displayed his capacities for prairie 
traveUing, Tete proceeded to supply himself with 
pro^^sions for the journey, and with this view he 
applied to a quarter-master's assistant who was in 
the fort. This official had a fiace as sour as \-inegar, 
being in a state of chronic indignation because he 
had been left behind the army. He was as anxious 
as the rest to get rid of Tete Rouge. So, producing 
a rust\- key, he opened a low door which led to a 
half-subterranean apartment, into which the two 
disappeared together. After some time they came 
out again, Tete Rouge greatly embarrassed by a 
multiplicity- of paper parcels containing the different 
articles of his fort>- days' rations. They were con- 
signed to the care of Delorier, who about that time 
passed by with the cart on his way to the appointed 
place of meeting with Munroe and his companions. 

We next urged Tete Rouge to pro\ide himself, if 
he could, with a gun. He accordingly made earnest 



Ti:TE ROUGE, THE VOLUNTEER. 343 

appeals to the charity of various persons in the fort, 
but totally without success, a circumstance which 
did not greatly disturb us, since, in the event of a 
skirmish, he would be much more apt to do mis- 
chief to himself or his friends than to the enemy. 
When all these arrangements were completed we 
saddled our horses, and were preparing to leave 
the fort, when, looking around, we discovered, that 
our new associate was in fresh trouble. A man was 
holding the mule for him in the middle of the fort, 
while he tried to put the saddle on her back, but 
she kept stepping sideways and moving round and 
round in a circle, until he was almost in despair. 
It required some assistance before all his difficulties 
could be overcome. At length, he clambered into 
the black war-saddle on which he was to have car- 
ried terror into the ranks of the Mexicans. 

"Get up I" said Tete Rouge; "come now, go 
along, will you ?" 

The mule v/alked deliberately forward out of the 
gate. Her recent conduct had inspired him with so 
much awe that he never dared to touch her with his 
whip. We trotted forward toward the place of meet- 
ing, but before we had gone far we saw that Tete 
Rouge's mule, who perfectly understood her rider, 
had stopped and was quietly grazing, in spite of his 
protestations, at some distance behind. So, getting 
behind him, we drove him and the contumacious 
mule before us, until we could see through the twi- 
light the gleaming of a distant fire. Munroe, Jim, 
and Ellis were lying around it ; their saddles, packs, 
and weapons were scattered about and their horses 
picketed near them. Delorier was there, too, with 
our little cart. Another fire was soon blazing high. 
We invited our new allies to take a cup of coffee 
with us. When both the others had gone over to 
their side of the camp, Jim Gurney still stood by 



344 ^^^ OREGON TRAIL. 

the blaze, puffing hard at his httle black pipe, as 
short and weather-beaten as himself. 

"Weill" he said, "here are eight of us ; we'll 
call it six — for them t^vo boobies, Ellis over yonder, 
and that new man of yours, won't count for any- 
thing. We'll get through well enough, never fear 
for that, unless the Comanches happen to get foul 
of us." 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

INDIAN ALARMS. 

" To all the sensual world proclaim. 
One crowded hour of glorious life 
Were worth an age without a name." — ScOTT. 

We began our journey for the frontier settlements 
on the twenty-seventh of August, and certainly" a 
more ragamuffin cavalcade never was seen on the 
banks of the Upper Arkansas. Of the large and 
fine horses with which we had left the frontier in the 
spring, not one remained : we had supplied their 
place with the rough breed of the prairie, as hardy 
as mules and almost as ugly ; we had also with us 
a number of the latter detestable animals. In spite 
of their strength and hardihood, several of the band 
were already worn down by hard service and hard 
fare, and as none of them were shod, they were fast 
becoming foot-sore. Ever}- horse and mule had a 
cord of twisted bull-hide coiled around his neck, 
which by no means added to the beaut}' of his ap- 
pearance. Our saddles and all our equipments 
were by this time lamentably worn and battered, 
and our weapons had become dull and rust}'. The 
dress of the riders fully corresponded with the 



INDIAX ALARMS. 345 

dilapidated furniture of our horses, and of the whole 
party none made a more disreputable appearance 
than my friend and I. Shaw had for an upper gar- 
ment an old red flannel shirt, flying open in front, 
and belted around him hke a frock ; while I, in ab- 
sence of other clothing, was attired in a time-worn 
suit of leather. 

Thus, happy and careless as so many beggars, 
we crept slowly from day to day along the monoto- 
nous banks of the Arkansas. Tete Rouge gave 
constant trouble, for he could never catch his mule, 
saddle her, or, indeed, do anything else without 
assistance. Every day he had some new ailment, 
real or imaginar}-, to complain of. At one moment 
he would be woe-begone and disconsolate, and at 
the next he would be visited with a violent flow of 
spirits, to which he could only give vent by inces- 
sant laughing, whistling, and telling stories. When 
other resources failed we used to amuse ourselves 
by tormenting him ; a fair compensation for the 
trouble he cost us. Tete Rouge rather enjoyed 
being laughed at, for he was an odd compound of 
weakness, eccentricity, and good nature. He made 
a figure worthy of a painter as he paced along 
before us, perched on the back of his mule, and 
enveloped in a huge buffalo-robe coat, which some 
charitable person had given him at the fort. This 
extraordinan.- garment, which would have contained 
two men of his size, he chose, for some reason best 
known to himself, to wear inside out. and he never 
took it off, even in the hottest weather. It was flut- 
tering all over with seams and tatters, and the hide 
was so old and rotten that it broke out even,- day in 
a new place. Just at the top of it a large pile of red 
curls was visible, with his little cap set jauntily upon 
one side, to give him a militan.- air. His seat in the 
saddle was no less remarkable than his person and 



346 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

equipment. He pressed one leg close against his 
mule's side, and thrust the other out at an angle of 
forty-five degrees. His pantaloons were decorated 
with a military red stripe, of which he was ex- 
tremely vain ; but being much too short, the whole 
length of his boots was usually visible below them. 
His blanket, loosely rolled up into a large bundle, 
dangled at the back of his saddle, where he carried 
it tied with a string. Four or five times a day it 
would fall to the ground. Ever>' few minutes he 
would drop his pipe, his knife, his flint and steel, or 
a piece of tobacco, and have to scramble down to 
pick them up. In doing this he would contrive to 
get in everj-body's way ; and as the most of the 
party were by no means remarkable for a fastidious 
choice of language, a storm of anathemas would 
be showered upon him, half in earnest and half in 
jest, until Tete Rouge would declare that there was 
no comfort in life, and that he never saw such fel- 
lows before. 

Only a day or two after leaving Bent' s Fort, Henry 
Chatillon rode forward to hunt, and took Ellis along 
with him. After they had been some time absent 
we saw them coming down the hill, driving three 
dragoon-horses, which had escaped from their own- 
ers on the march, or perhaps had given out and 
been abandoned. One of them was in tolerable 
condition, but the others were much emaciated and 
severely bitten by the wolves. Reduced as they 
were, we carried two of them to the settlements, and 
Henry exchanged the third with the Arapahoes for 
an excellent mule. 

On the day after, when we had stopped to rest at 
noon, a long train of Santa Fe wagons came up and 
trailed slowly past us in their picturesque procession. 
They belonged to a trader named Magoffin, whose 
brother, with a number of other men, came over and 



INDIAN ALARMS. 347 

sat down around us on the grass. The news they 
brought was not of the most pleasing complexion. 
According to their accounts the trail below was in a 
very dangerous state. They had repeatedly detected 
Indians prowling at night around their camps ; and 
the large party which had left Bent's Fort a few 
weeks previous to our own departure had been at- 
tacked, and a man named Swan, from Massachu- 
setts, had been killed. His companions had buried 
the body ; but when Magoffin found his grave, which 
was near a place called " The Caches," the Indians 
had dug up and scalped him, and the wolves had 
shockingly mangled his remains. As an offset to 
this intelligence, they gave us the welcome informa- 
tion that the buffalo were numerous at a few days' 
journey below. 

On the next afternoon, as we moved along the 
bank of the river, we saw the white tops of wagons 
on the horizon. It was some hours before we met 
them, when they proved to be a train of clumsy ox- 
wagons, quite different from the rakish vehicles of 
the Santa Fe traders, and loaded with government 
stores for the troops. They all stopped, and the 
drivers gathered around us in a crowd. I thought 
that the whole frontier might have been ransacked 
in vain to furnish men worse fitted to meet the dan- 
gers of the prairie. Many of them were mere boys, 
fresh from the plough, and devoid of knowledge 
and experience. In respect to the state of the trail, 
they confirmed all that the Santa Fe men had told 
us. In passing between the Pawnee Fork and ' ' The 
Caches," their sentinels had fired every night at real 
or imaginary Indians. They said also that Ewing, a 
young Kentuckian in the party that had gone down 
before us, had shot an Indian who was prowling at 
evening about the camp. Some of them advised us 
to turn back, and others to hasten forward as fast as 



348 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

we could ; but they all seemed in such a state of 
feverish anxiet)% and so little capable of cool judg- 
ment, that we attached slight weight to what they 
said. They next gave us a more definite piece of 
intelligence ; a large village of Arapahoes w as en- 
camped on the river below. They represented them 
to be quite friendly ; but some distinction was to be 
made between a party of thirt}- men, traveUing with 
oxen, which are of no value in an Indian's eyes, and 
a mere handful like ourselves, with a tempting band 
of mules and horses. This story- of the Arapahoes, 
therefore, caused us some anxiety-. ' 

Just after leaving the government wagons, as Shaw 
and I were riding along a narrow passage between 
the river-bank and a rough hill that pressed close 
upon it, we heard Tete Rouge's voice behind us. 
' ' Halloo I' ' he called out ; " I say, stop the cart just 
for a minute, wiU you ?' ' 

"WTiat's the matter, Tete ?" asked Shaw, as he 
came riding up to us with a grin of exultation. He 
had a bottle of molasses in one hand, and a large 
bundle of hides on the saddle before him, contain- 
ing, as he triumphantly informed us, sugar, biscuits, 
coffee, and rice. These supplies he had obtained by 
a stratagem on which he greatly plumed himself, and 
he was extremely vexed and astonished that we did 
not fall in ^\■ith his \-iews of the matter. He had told 
Coates, the master-wagoner, that the commissan,- at 
the fort had given him an order for sick-rations, di- 
rected to the master of any government train which 
he might meet upon the road. This order he had 
unfortunately lost, but he hoped that the rations 
would not be refused on that account, as he was suf- 
fering from coarse fare and needed them ven.- much. 
As soon as he came to camp that night, Tete Rouge 
repaired to the box at the back of the cart, where 
Delorier used to keep his culinary apparatus, took 



INDIAN ALARMS. 349 

possession of a saucepan, and after building a little 
fire of his own, set to work preparing a meal out of 
his ill-gotten booty. This done, he seized upon a 
tin plate and spoon, and sat down under the cart to 
regale himself. His preliminary repast did not at 
all prejudice his subsequent exertions at supper ; 
where, in spite of his miniature dimensions, he made 
a better figure than any of us. Indeed, about this 
time his appetite grew quite voracious. He began 
to thrive wonderfully. His small body visibly ex- 
panded, and his cheeks, which when we first took 
him were rather yellow and cadaverous, now dilated 
in a wonderful manner, and became ruddy in pro- 
portion. Tete Rouge, in short, began to appear like 
another man. 

Early in the afternoon of the next day, looking 
along the edge of the horizon in front, we saw that 
at one point it was faintly marked with pale inden- 
tations, like the teeth of a saw. The lodges of the 
Arapahoes, rising between us and the sky, caused 
this singular appearance. It wanted still two or three 
hours of sunset when we came opposite their camp. 
There were full two hundred lodges standing in the 
midst of a grassy meadow at some distance beyond 
the river, while for a mile around and on either bank 
of the Arkansas were scattered some fifteen hundred 
horses and mules, grazing together in bands, or 
wandering singly about the prairie. The whole were 
visible at once, for the vast expanse was unbroken 
by hills, and there was not a tree or a bush to inter- 
cept the view. 

Here and there walked an Indian, engaged in 
watching the horses. No sooner did we see them 
than Tete Rouge begged Delorier to stop the cart 
and hand him his little military jacket, which was 
stowed away there. In this he instantly invested 
himself, having for once laid the old buffalo coat 



J 



350 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

aside, assumed a most martial posture in the saddle, 
set his cap over his left eye with an air of defiance, 
and earnestly entreated that somebody would lend 
him a gun or a pistol only for half an hour. Being 
called upon to explain these remarkable proceedings, 
Tete Rouge observed that he knew from experience 
what effect the presence of a military man in his 
uniform always had upon the mind of an Indian, 
and he thought the Arapahoes ought to know that 
there was a soldier in the party. 

Meeting Arapahoes here on the Arkansas was a 
ver\- different thing from meeting the same Indians 
among their native mountains. There was another 
circumstance in our favor. General Kearney had 
seen them a few weeks before, as he came up the 
river with his army, and renewing his threats of the 
previous year, he told them that if they ever again 
touched the hair of a white man's head he would 
exterminate their nation. This placed them for the 
time in an admirable frame of mind, and the effect 
of his menaces had not yet disappeared. I was 
anxious to see the village and its inhabitants. We 
thought it also our best policy to visit them openly, 
as if unsuspicious of any hostile design ; and Shaw 
and I, with Henn.- Chatillon, prepared to cross the 
river. The rest of the party meanwhile moved for- 
ward as fast as they could, in order to get as far as 
possible from our suspicious neighbors before night 
came on. 

The Arkansas at this point, and for several hun- 
dred miles below, is nothing but a broad sand-bed, 
over which a few scanty threads of water are swiftly 
gliding, now and then expanding into wide shallows. 
At several places, during the autumn, the water 
sinks into the sand and disappears altogether. At 
this season, were it not for the numerous quicksands, 
the river might be forded almost anvwhere without 



INDIAX ALARMS. 35 I 

difficulty, though its channel is often a quarter of a 
mile wide. Our horses jumped down the bank, and 
wading through the water, or galloping freely over 
the hard sand-beds, soon reached the other side. 
Here, as we were pushing through the tall grass, we 
saw several Indians not far off ; one of them waited 
until we came up, and stood for some moments in 
perfect silence before us, looking at us askance with 
his little snake-like eyes. Henr)- explained by 
signs what we wanted, and the Indian, gathering his 
buffalo-robe about his shoulders, led the way toward 
the village without speaking a word. 

The language of the Arapahoesia^se difficult, and 
its pronunciation so harsh and guttural, that no white 
man, it is said, has ever been able to master it. 
Even Maxwell, the trader, who has been most among 
them, is compelled to resort to the curious sign- 
language common to most of the prairie-tribes. 
With this Henr\- Chatillon was perfectly acquainted. 

Approaching the village, we found the ground all 
around it strewn with great piles of waste buffalo- 
meat in incredible quantities. The lodges were 
pitched in a verj- wide circle. They resembled 
those of the Dahcotah in everything but cleanliness 
and neatness. Passing between tvvo of them, we 
entered the great circular area of the camp, and 
instantly hundreds of Indians — men, women, and 
children — came flocking out of their habitations to 
look at us ; at the same time the dogs all around 
the village set up a fearful baying. Our Indian 
guide walked toward the lodge of the chief Here 
we dismounted ; and loosening the trail-ropes from 
our horses' necks, held them securely, and sat down 
before the entrance, with our rifles laid across our 
laps. The chief came out and shook us by the 
hand. He was a mean-looking fellow, very tall, 
thin-visaged, and sinewy, like the rest of the nation, 



352 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

and with scarcely a vestige of clothing. We had 
not been seated half a minute before a multitude of 
Indians came crowding around us from ever}" part 
of the village, and we were shut in by a dense 
wall of savage faces. Some of the Indians crouched 
around us on the ground ; others again sat behind 
them ; others, stooping, looked over their heads ; 
while many more stood crowded behind, stretching 
themselves upward, and peering over each other's 
shoulders, to get a view of us. I looked in vain 
among this multitude of faces to discover one manly 
or generous expression ; all were wolfish, sinister, 
and malignant, and their complexions, as well as 
their features, unlike those of the Dahcotah, were 
exceedingly bad. The chief, who sat close to the 
entrance, called to a squaw within the lodge, who 
soon came out and placed a wooden bowl of meat 
before us. To our surprise, however, no pipe was 
offered. Having tasted of the meat as a matter of 
form, I began to open a bundle of presents — ^tobacco, 
knives, veniiilion, and other articles which I had 
brought with me. At this there was a grin on ever}' 
countenance in the rapacious crowd ; their eyes 
began to glitter, and long, thin arms were eagerly 
stretched toward us on all sides to receive the gifts. 
The Arapahoes set great value upon their shields, 
which they transmit carefully from father to son. I 
wished to get one of them ; and displaying a large 
piece of scarlet cloth, together with some tobacco 
and a knife, I offered them to anyone who would 
bring me what I wanted. After some delay a toler- 
able shield was produced. They were very anxious 
to know what we meant to do with it, and Henr}' 
told them that we were going to fight their enemies, 
the Pawnees. This instantly produced a visible 
impression in our favor, which was increased by the 
distribution of the presents. Among these was a 



IXDIAX ALAHMS. 



030 



large paper of awls, a gift appropriate to the women ; 
and as we were anxious to see the beauties of the 
Arapahoe village, Henn.- requested that they might 
be called to receive them. A warrior gave a shout, 
as if he were calling a pack of dogs together. The 
squaws, young and old, hags of eighty and girls of 
sixteen, came running with screams and laughter 
out of the lodges ; and as the men gave wav for 
them, they gathered around us and stretched out 
their arms, grinning with delight, their native ugli- 
ness considerably enhanced by the excitement of 
the moment. 

Mounting our horses, which during the whole inter- 
view we had held close to us, we prepared to leave 
the Arapahoes. The crowd fell back on each side, 
and stood looking on. WTien we were half-across the 
camp an idea occurred to us. The Pawnees were 
probably in the neighborhood of ' • The Caches" ' ; we 
might tell the Arapahoes of this, and instigate them to 
send down a war-part>- and cut them off, while we 
ourselves could remain behind for a while and hunt 
the buffalo. At first thought this plan of setting our 
enemies to destroy one another seemed to us a 
masterpiece of policy ; but we immediately recol- 
lected that, should we meet the Arapahoe warriors 
on the river below, they might prove quite as dan- 
gerous as the Pawnees themselves. So, rejecting 
our plan as soon as it presented itself, we passed 
out of the village on the farther side. We urged 
our horses rapidly through the tall grass, which rose 
to their necks. Several Indians were walking through 
it at a distance, their heads just visible above its 
waving surface. It bore a kind of seed, as sweet 
and nutritious as oats ; and our hungry- horses, in 
spite of whip and rein, could not resist the tempta- 
tion of snatching at this unwonted luxury- as we 
passed along. When about a mile from the village, 
23 



354 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

I turned and looked back over the undulating ocean 
of grass. The sun was just set ; the western sky 
was all in a glow, and sharply defined against it, on 
the extreme verge of the plain, stood the numerous 
lodges of the Arapahoe camp. 

Reaching the bank of the river, we followed it for 
some distance farther, until we discerned through 
the twilight the white covering of our little cart on 
the opposite bank. When we reached it we found 
a considerable number of Indians there before us. 
Four or five of them were seated in a row upon the 
ground, looking like so many half-staned vultures. 
Tete Rouge, in his uniform, was holding a close col- 
loquy with another by the side of the cart. His 
gesticulations, his attempts at sign-making, and the 
contortions of his countenance, were most ludicrous ; 
and finding all these of no avail, he tried to make 
the Indian understand him by repeating English 
■words ver)- loudly and distinctly again and again. 
The Indian sat with his eye fixed steadily upon him, 
and in spite of the rigid immobilit\- of his features, 
it was clear at a glance that he perfectly understood 
his militar\- companion's character and thoroughly 
despised him. The exhibition was more amusing 
than politic, and Tete Rouge was directed to finish 
what he had to say as soon as possible. Thus re- 
buked, he crept under the cart and sat down there ; 
Henn^ Chatillon stooped to look at him in his retire- 
ment, and remarked in his quiet manner that an 
Indian would kill ten such men and laugh all the 
time. 

One by one onr visitors arose and stalked away. 
As the darkness thickened we were saluted by dis- 
mal sounds. The wolves are incredibly numerous 
in this part of the countn-, and the offal around the 
Arapahoe camp had drawn such multitudes of them 
together that several hundreds were howling in con- 



INDIAN ALARMS. 355 

cen in our immediate neighborhood. There was an 
island in the river, or rather an oasis in the midst 
of the sands, at about the distance of a gun-shot, 
and here they seemed gathered in the greatest num- 
bers. A horrible discord of low, mournful waihngs, 
mingled with ferocious howls, arose from it inces- 
sanriy for several hours after sunset. We could 
distinctly see the wolves running about the prairie 
within a few rods of our fire, or bounding over the 
sand-beds of the river and splashing through the 
water. There was not the shghtest danger to be 
feared from them, for they are the greatest cowards 
on the prairie. 

In respect to the human wolves in our neighbor- 
hood we felt much less at our ease. We sddom 
erected our tent except in bad weather, and that 
night each man spread his bunalo-robe upon the 
ground, with his loaded rifle laid at his side or 
clasped in his arms. Our horses were picketed so 
close around us that one of them repeatedlv stepped 
over me as I lay. We were not in the' habit of 
placing a guard, but ever>- man that night was 
an.xious and watchful : there was litde sound sleep- 
ing in camp, and some one of the parrs- was on his 
feet during the greater part of the time. For my- 
self, I lay alternately waking and dozing until mid- 
night. Tete Rouge was reposing close to the river- 
bank, and about this time, when half-asleep and 
h^Jf-awake, I was conscious that he shifted his posi- 
tion and crept on all-fours under the cart. Soon 
after I fell into a sound sleep, from which I was 
aroused by a hand shaking me by the shoulder. 
Looking up, I saw Tete Rouge stooping over me 
^\-ith his face quite pale and his eyes dilated to their 
utmost expansion. 

"\Miat's the matter?" said I. 

Tete Rouge declared that as he lay on the river- 



35<5 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

bank something caught his eye which excited his 
suspicions. So, creeping under the cart for safetj^'s 
sake, he sat there and watched, when he saw two 
Indians, wrapped in white robes, creep up the bank, 
seize upon two horses, and lead them off. He 
looked so frightened and told his stor)^ in such a 
disconnected manner that I did not believe him, 
and was unwilling to alarm the party. Still it might 
be true, and in that case the matter required instant 
attention. There would be no time for examination, 
and so directing Tete Rouge to show me which way 
the Indians had gone, I took my ritle, in obedience 
to a thoughtless impulse, and left the camp. I fol- 
lowed the river back for two or three hundred yards, 
listening and looking anxiously on eveiy side. In 
the dark prairie on the right I could discern nothing 
to excite alarm ; and in the dusky bed of the river 
a wolf was bounding along in a manner which no 
Indian could imitate. I returned to the camp, and 
w-hen within sight of it saw that the whole part}' was 
aroused. Shaw called out to me that he had counted 
the horses, and that even,' one of them was in his 
place. Tete Rouge, being examined as to what he 
had seen, only repeated his former story with many 
asseverations, and insisted that two horses were cer- 
tainly carried off. At this Jim Gumey declared that 
he was crazy ; Tete Rouge indignantly denied the 
charge, on which Jim appealed to us. As we 
declined to give our judgment on so delicate a mat- 
ter, the dispute grew hot between Tete Rouge and 
his accuser, until he was directed to go to bed and 
not alarm the camp again if he saw the whole 
Arapahoe village coming. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE CHASE. 

" Mightiest of all the beasts of chase, 
That roam in woody Caledon, 
Crashing the forest in his race, 

The mountain Bull comes thundering on." 

Cadyow Castle. 

The countr)- before us was now thronged with 
buffalo, and a sketch of the manner of hunting 
them will not be out of place. There are two 
methods commonly practised — "running" and 
"approaching." The chase on horseback, which 
goes by the name of "running," is the more vio- 
lent and dashing mode of the two. Indeed, of all 
American wild sports this is the wildest. Once 
among the buffalo, the hunter, unless long use has 
made him familiar with the situation, dashes for- 
ward in utter recklessness and self-abandonment. 
He thinks of nothing, cares for nothing, but the 
game ; his mind is stimulated to the highest pitch, 
yet intensely concentrated on one object. In the 
midst of the flying herd, where the uproar and the 
dust are thickest, it never wavers for a moment ; he 
drops the rein and abandons his horse to his furious 
career ; he levels his gun, the report sounds faint 
amid the thunder of the buffalo ; and when his 
wounded enemy leaps in vain fury upon him, his 
heart thrills with a feeling like the fierce delight of 
the battlefield. A practised and skilful hunter, well 
mounted, will sometimes kill five or six cows in a 
single chase, loading his gun again and again as 
his horse rushes through the tumuh. An exploit 
like this is quite beyond the capacities of a novice. 

357 



358 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

In attacking a small band of buffalo, or in sepa- 
rating a single animal from the herd and assailing it 
apart from the rest, there is less excitement and less 
danger. With a bold and well -trained horse the 
hunter may ride so close to the buffalo that, as they 
gallop side by side, he may reach over and touch 
him -with his hand ; nor is there much danger in 
this as long as the buffalo's strength and breath 
continue unabated : but when he becomes tired and 
can no longer run with ease, when his tongue lolls 
out and the foam flies from his jaws, then the hunter 
had better keep a more respectful distance ; the 
distressed brute may turn upon him at any instant ; 
and especially at the moment when he fires his gun. 
The wounded buffalo springs at his enemy : the 
horse leaps \nolently aside ; and then the hunter 
has need of a tenacious seat in the saddle, for if he 
is thrown to the ground there is no hope for him. 
"When he sees his attack defeated the buffalo re- 
sumes his flight, but if the shot be well directed he 
soon stops ; for a few moments he stands still, then 
totters and falls heavily upon the prairie. 

The chief difficult}' in running buffalo, as it seems 
to me, is that of loading the gun or pistol at full 
gallop. Many hunters, for convenience' sake, carry 
three or four bullets in the mouth ; the powder is 
poured dowTi the muzzle of the piece, the bullet 
dropped in after it, the stock struck hard upon the 
pommel of the saddle, and the work is done. The 
danger of this method is obvious. Should the blow 
on the pommel fail to send the bullet home, or 
should the latter, in the act of aiming, start from its 
place and roll toward the muzzle, the gun would 
probably burst in discharging. Many a shattered 
hand and worse casualties besides have been the 
result of such an accident. To obviate it, some 
hxmters make use of a ramrod, usually hung by a 



THE CHASE. 359 

string from the neck, but this materially increases 
the dit¥iculty of loading. The bows and arrows 
which the Indians use in running buffalo have many 
advantages over fire-arms, and even white men 
occasionally employ them. 

The danger of the chase arises not so much from 
the onset of the wounded animal as from the nature 
of the ground over which the hunter must ride. 
The prairie does not always present a smooth, level, 
and uniform surface ; very often it is broken with 
hills and hollows, intersected by ravines, and in the 
remoter parts studded by the stiff wild-sage bushes. 
The most formidable obstructions, however, are the 
burrows of wild animals — wolves, badgers, and par- 
ticularly prairie-dogs — with whose holes the ground 
for a ver\' great extent is frequently honey-combed. 
In the blindness of the chase the hunter rushes over 
it unconscious of danger ; his horse, at full career, 
thrusts his leg deep into one of the burrows ; the 
bone snaps, the rider is hurled forvvard to the ground 
and probably killed. Yet, accidents in buffalo run- 
ning happen less frequently than one would sup- 
pose ; in the recklessness of the chase the hunter 
enjoys all the impunity of a drunken man, and may 
ride in safety over the gullies and declivities, where, 
should he attempt to pass in his sober senses, he 
would infallibly break his neck. 

The method of "approaching," being practised 
on foot, has many advantages over that of ' ' run- 
ning " ; in the former, one neither breaks down his 
horse nor endangers his own life ; instead of yield- 
ing to excitement, he must be cool, collected, 
and watchful ; he must understand the buffalo, 
observe the features of the country- and the course 
of the wind, and be well skilled, moreover, in using 
the rifle. The buffalo are strange animals ; some- 
times they are so stupid and infatuated that a man 



360 



THE OREGON TRAIL. 



may walk up to them in full sight on the open 
prairie, and even shoot several of their number 
before the rest will think it necessary' to retreat. 
Again, at another moment, they will be so shy and 
wary that in order to approach them the utmost 
skill, experience, and judgment are necessary. 
Kit Carson, I believe, stands pre-eminent in running 
bufifalo ; in approaching, no man living can bear 
away the palm from Henr}' Chatillon. 

To resume the stor)-. After Tete Rouge had 
alarmed the camp, no fijrther disturbance occurred 
during the night. The Arapahoes did not attempt 
mischief, or if they did the wakefulness of the party 
deterred them from efifecting their purpose. / The 
next day was one of activity and excitement, for 
about ten o'clock the man in advance shouted the 
gladdening crj- of buffalo ! biffalo ! and in the hollow 
of the prairie just below us, a band of bulls were 
grazing. The temptation was irresistible, and Shaw 
and I rode down upon them. We were badly 
mounted on our travelling horses, but by hard lash- 
ing we overtook them, and Shaw, running alongside 
of a bull, shot into him both balls of his double- 
barrelled gun. Looking around as 1 galloped past 
I saw the bull in his mortal fury rushing again and 
again upon his antagonist, whose horse constantly 
leaped aside, and avoided the onset. My chase 
was more protracted, but at length I ran close to 
the bull and killed him with my pistols. Cutting oflf 
the tails of our victims by way of trophy, we re- 
joined the part%^ in about a quarter of an hour after 
we left it. Again and again that morning rang out 
the same welcome en.- of buffalo ! buffa/o ' Every 
few moments, in the broad meadows along the river, 
we would see bands of bulls, who, raising their 
shagg\- heads, would gaze in stupid amazement at 
the approaching horsemen, and then breaking into 



THE CHASE. 361 

a clumsy gallop, would file off in a long line across 
the trail in front, toward the rising prairie on the 
left. At noon the whole plain before us was alive 
with thousands of buffalo — bulls, cows, and calves — 
all moving rapidly as we drew near ; and far-off 
beyond the river the swelling prairie was darkened 
with them to the ver>- horizon. The part\- was in 
gayer spirits than ever. We stopped for a " noon- 
ing " near a grove of trees by the river-side. 

' ' Tongues and hump-ribs to-morrow, ' ' said Shaw, 
looking with contempt at the venison steaks which 
Delorier placed before us. Our meal finished, we 
lay down under a temporar)' awning to sleep. A 
shout from Henr)' Chatillon aroused us, and we saw 
him standing on the cart-wheel, stretching his tall 
figure to its full height while he looked toward the 
prairie beyond the river. Following the direction 
of his eyes, we could clearly distinguish a large 
dark object, like the black shadow of a cloud, 
passing rapidly over swell after swell of the distant 
plain : behind it followed another of similar appear- 
ance, though smaller. Its motion was more rapid, 
and it drew closer and closer to the first. It was the 
hunters of the Arapahoe camp pursuing a band of 
buffalo. Shaw and 1 hastily caught and saddled 
our best horses, and went plunging through sand 
and water to the farther bank. We were too late. 
The hunters had already mingled with the herd, 
and the work of slaughter was nearly over. When 
we reached the ground we found it strewn far and 
near with numberless black carcasses, while the 
remnants of the herd, scattered in all directions, were 
flying away in terror, and the Indians still rushing 
in pursuit. Many of the hunters, however, remained 
upon the spot, and among the rest was our yester- 
day's acquaintance, the chief of the village, He 
had alighted by the side of a cow, into which he 



362 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

had shot five or six arrows, and his squaw, who had 
followed him on horseback to the hunt, was giving 
him a draught of water out of a canteen, purchased 
or plundered from some volunteer soldier. Re- 
crossing the river, we overtook the part)-, who were 
already- on their way. 

We had scarcely gone a mile when an imposing 
spectacle presented itself. From the river-bank on 
the right, away over the swelling prairie on the left, 
and in front as far as we could see, extended one 
vast host of buffalo. The outskirts of the herd 
were within a quarter of a mile. In many parts 
they were crowded so densely together that in the 
distance their rounded backs presented a surface of 
uniform blackness ; but elsewhere they were more 
scattered, and from amid the multitude rose little col- 
umns of dust where the bufiEalo were roUing on the 
ground. Here and there a great confusion was per- 
ceptible, where a battle was going forward among the 
bulls. We could distinctly see them rushing against 
each other, and hear the clattering of their horns and 
their hoarse bellowing. Shaw was riding at some 
distance in advance with Henrj- Chatillon. I saw 
him stop and draw the leather covering from his 
gun. Indeed, with such a sight before us, but one 
thing could be thought of. That morning I had 
used pistols in the chase. I had now a mind to try 
the virtue of a gun. Delorier had one, and I rode 
up to the side of the cart ; there he sat under the 
white covering, biting his pipe between his teeth and 
grinning with excitement. 

" Lend me your gun, Delorier," said I. 

" Oui, Monsieur, oui," said Delorier, tugging 
with might and main to stop the mule, which seemed 
obstinately bent on going forward. Then everything 
but his moccasons disappeared as he crawled into 
the cart and pulled at the gun to extricate it. 



THE CHASE. 363 

" Is it loaded ?" I asked. 

" Oui, bien charge, you'll kill, mon bourgeois; 
yes, you'll kill — c'est un bon fusil." 

I handed him my rifle and rode forward to Shaw. 

' ' Are you ready ?' ' he asked. 

" Come on," said I. 

"Keep down that hollow," said Henry-, "and 
then they won't see you till you get close to them." 

The hollow was a kind of ravine, ver}' wide and 
shallow ; it ran obliquely toward the buttalo, and 
we rode at a canter along the bottom until it became 
too shallow ; when we bent close to our horses' 
necks, and then finding that it could no longer con- 
ceal us, came out of it and rode directly toward the 
herd. It was within gunshot ; before its outskirts 
numerous grizzly old bulls were scattered, holding 
guard over their females. They glared at us in 
anger and astonishment, walked toward us a few 
yards, and then turning slowly around retreated at a 
trot, which afterward broke into a clumsy gallop. 
In an instant the main body caught the alarm. The 
buffalo began to crowd away from the point toward 
which we were approaching, and a gap was opened 
in the side of the herd. We entered it, still re- 
straining our excited horses. Ever\- instant the 
tumult was thickening. The buffalo, pressing to- 
gether in large bodies, crowded away from us on 
ever\' hand. In front and on either side we could 
see dark columns and masses, half-hidden by clouds 
of dust, rushing along in terror and confiision, and 
hear the tramp and clattering of ten thousand hoofs. 
That countless multitude of powerful brutes, igno- 
rant of their own strength, were flying in a panic 
from the approach of tvvo feeble horsemen. To 
remain quiet longer was impossible. 

" Take that band on the left," said Shaw ; " I'll 
take these in front." 



364 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

He sprang off, and I saw no more of him. A 
heavy Indian whip was fastened by a band to my 
wrist ; I swung it into the air and lashed my horse's 
flank with all the strength of my arm. Away she 
darted, stretching close to the ground. I could see 
nothing but a cloud of dust before me, but 1 knew 
that it concealed a band of many hundreds of buf- 
falo. In a moment 1 was in the midst of the cloud, 
half-suffocated by the dust and stunned by the tram- 
pling of the flying herd ; but I was drunk with the 
chase and cared for nothing but the buffalo. Very 
soon a long dark mass became visible, looming 
through the dust ; then 1 could distinguish each 
bulky carcass, the hoofs flying out beneath, the 
short tails held rigidly erect. In a moment 1 was 
so close that I could have touched them with my 
gun. Suddenly, to my utter amazement, the hoofs 
were jerked upward, the tails flourished in the air, 
and amid a cloud of dust the buftalo seemed to sink 
into the earth before me. One vivid impression of 
that instant remains upon my mind. I remember 
looking down upon the backs of several buffalo 
dimly visible through the dust. We had run un- 
awares upon a ravine. At that moment I was not 
the most accurate judge of depth and width, but 
when I passed it on my return, I found it about 
twelve feet deep and not quite twice as wide at the 
bottom. It was impossible to stop ; 1 would have 
done so gladly if I could ; so, half-sliding, half- 
plunging, down went the little mare. I believe she 
came down on her knees in the loose sand at the 
bottom ; 1 was pitched forward violently against her 
neck and nearly throii'n over her head among the 
buffalo, whoT~amid dust and confusion, came tum- 
bling in all around. The mare was on her feet in 
an instant, and scrambling like a cat up the opposite 
side. I thought for a moment that she would have 



THE CHASE. 365 

fallen back and crushed me, but with a violent 
effort she clambered out and gained the hard prairie 
above. Glancing back I saw the huge head of a 
bull clinging, as it were, by the forefeet at the edge 
of the dusty gulf. At length I was fairly among the 
butifalo. They were less densely crowded than be- 
fore, and I could see nothing but bulls, who aUvays 
run at the rear of a herd. As I passed amid rhem 
they would lower their heads, and turning as they 
ran, attempt to gore my horse ; but as they were 
already at full speed there was no force in their 
onset, and as Pauline ran faster than they, they 
were always thrown behind her in the effort. I soon 
began to distinguish cows amid the throng. One 
just in front of me seemed to my liking, and I 
pushed close to her side. Dropping the reins, I 
fired, holding the muzzle of the gun within a foot of 
her shoulder. Quick as hghtning she sprang at 
Pauline ; the little mare dodged the attack, and I 
lost sight of the wounded animal amid the tumult- 
uous crowd. Immediately after I selected another, 
and urging forward Pauline, shot into her both pis- 
tols in succession. For a while 1 kept her in view, 
but in attempting to load my gun, lost sight of her 
also in the confusion. Believing her to be mortally 
wounded and unable to keep up with the herd, I 
checked my horse. The crowd rushed onward. 
The dust and tumult passed away, and on the prai- 
rie, far behind the rest, I saw a solitary buffalo gal- 
loping heavily. In a moment I and my victim 
were running side by side. My fireamis were all 
empty, and I had in my pouch nothing but rifle- 
bullets, too large for the pistols and too small for the 
gun. I loaded the latter, however, but as often as I 
levelled it to fire, the little bullets would roll out of 
the muzzle and the gun returned only a faint report 
like a squib, as the powder harmlessly e.xploded. I 



366 



THE OREGON TRAIL. 



galloped in front of the buffalo and attempted to 
turn her back ; but her eyes glared, her mane 
bristled, and lowering her head, she rushed at me 
with astonishing fierceness and activity. Again and 
again 1 rode before her, and again and again she 
repeated her furious charge. But little Pauline was 
in her element. She dodged her enemy at every 
rush, until at length the buffalo stood still, exhausted 
with her own efforts ; she panted, and her tongue 
hung lolling from her jaws. 

Riding to a little distance, 1 alighted, thinking to 
gather a handful of dry grass to serve the purpose 
of wadding, and load the gun at my leisure. Xo 
sooner were my feet on the ground than the buffalo 
came bounding in such a rage toward me that I 
jumped back again into the saddle with all possible 
dispatch. After waiting a few minutes more, I 
made an attempt to ride up and stab her with my 
knife ; but the experiment proved such as no wise 
man would repeat. At length, bethinking me of 
the fringes at the seams of my buckskin pantaloons, 
I jerked off a few of them, and reloading the gun, 
forced them down the barrel to keep the bullet in 
its place ; then approaching, I shot the wounded 
buffalo through the heart. Sinking to her knees, 
she rolled over lifeless on the prairie. To my aston- 
ishment I found that instead of a fat cow I had 
been slaughtering a stout yearling bull. No longer 
wondering at the fierceness he had shown, I opened 
his throat, and cutting out his tongue, tied it at the 
back of my saddle. My mistake was one which a 
more experienced eye than mine might easily make 
in the dust and confusion of such a chase. 

Then for the first time 1 had leisure to look at the 
scene around me. The prairie in front was dark- 
ened with the retreating multitude, and on the other 
hand the buffalo came filing up in endless unbroken 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 367 

coliunns from the low plains upon the river. The 
Arkansas was three or four miles distant. I turned 
and moved slowly toward it. A long time passed 
before, far down in the distance, I distinguished the 
white covering of the cart and the Uttle black specks 
of horsemen before and behind it. Drawing near, I 
recognized Shaw's elegant tunic, the red flannel 
shirt conspicuous far off. I overtook the party, and 
asked him what success he had met with. He had 
assailed a fat cow, shot her with two bullets, and 
mortally wounded her. But neither of us were pre- 
pared for the chase that afternoon, and Shaw, like 
myself, had no spare bullets in his pouch ; so he 
abandoned the disabled animal to Henr\- Chatillon, 
who followed, dispatched her «"iih his rifle, and 
loaded his horse with her meat. 

We encamped close to the river. The night was 
dark, and as we lay do%%"n we could hear mingled 
\\-ith the bowlings of wolves the hoarse bellowing of 
the buffalo, like the ocean beating upon a distant 
coast. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 

" In pastures measureless as air. 
The bison is my noble game." — Bry.\NT. 

No one in the camp was more active than Jim 
Gumey, and no one half so lazy as Ellis. Between 
these two there was a great antipathy. Ellis never 
stirred in the morning until he was compelled to, 
but Jim was always on his feet before daybreak ; 
and this morning, as usual, the sound of his voice 
awakened the party. 



368 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

"Get up, you booby ! up with you now, you're 
fit for nothing but eating and sleeping. Stop your 
grumbling and come out of that buffalo-robe or Til 
pull it off for you." 

Jims words were interspersed with numerous 
expletives, which gave them great additional effect. 
Ellis drawled out something in a nasal tone from 
among the folds of his buffalo-robe ; then slowly 
disengaged himself, rose into a sitting-posture, 
stretched his long arms, yawned hideously, and, 
finally raising his tall person erect, stood staring 
around him to all the four quarters of the horizon. 
Deloriers fire was soon blazing, and the horses and 
mules, loosened from their pickets, were feeding on 
the neighboring meadow. When we sat down to 
breakfast the prairie was still in the dusky hght of 
morning ; and as the sun rose we were moimted 
and on our way again. 

" A white buffalo I" exclaimed Munroe. 

"I'll have that fellow," said Shaw, " if I run my 
horse to death after him." 

He threw the cover of his gun to Delorier and 
galloped out upon the prairie. 

" Stop, Mr. Shaw, stop !" called out Henn.- Cha- 
tillon, "you'U run down your horse for nothing; 
it' s only a white ox. 

But Shaw was already out of hearing. The ox, 
who had no doubt strayed away from some of the 
government wagon-trains, was standing beneath 
some low hills which bounded the plain in the dis- 
tance. Not far from him a band of veritable buffalo- 
bulls were grazing ; and startled at Shaw's approach, 
they all broke into a run, and went scrambhng up 
the hillsides to gain the high prairie above. One of 
them in his haste and terror involved himself in a 
fatal catastrophe. Along the foot of the hills was a 
narrow strip of deep marshy soil, into which the 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 369 

bull plunged and hopelessly entangled himself. 
We all rode up to the spot. The huge carcass was 
half-sunk in the mud which flowed to his very chin, 
and his shaggy mane was outspread upon the sur- 
face. As we came near the bull began to struggle 
with convulsive strength ; he writhed to and fro, 
and in the energy of his fright and desperation 
would lift himself for a moment half out of the 
slough, while the reluctant mire returned a sucking 
sound as he strained to drag his limbs from its tena- 
cious depths. We stimulated his exertions by get- 
ting behind him and twisting his tail ; nothing 
would do. There was clearly no hope for him. 
After every effort his heaving sides were more 
deeply imbedded and the mire almost overflowed his 
nostrils ; he lay still, at length, and looking around at 
us with a furious eye, seemed to resign himself to 
his fate. Ellis slowly dismounted, and deliberately 
levelling his boasted yager, shot the old bull through 
the heart ; then he lazily climbed back again to his 
seat, pluming himself, no doubt, on having actually 
killed a buffalo. That day the invincible yager 
drew blood for the first and last time during the 
whole journey. 

The morning was a bright and gay one, and the 
air so clear that on the farthest horizon the outline 
of the pale-blue prairie was sharply drawn against 
the sky. Shaw felt in the mood for hunting ; he 
rode in advance of the party, and before long we 
saw a file of bulls galloping at full speed upon a' 
vast green swell of the prairie at some distance in 
front. Shaw came scouring along behind them, 
arrayed in his red shirt, which looked very well in 
the distance ; he gained fast on the fugitives, and as 
the foremost bull was disappearing behind the sum- 
mit of the swell, we saw him in the act of assailing 
the hindmost ; a smoke sprang from the muzzle of 
24 



370 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

his gun, and floated away before the ■n-ind Hke a 
little white cloud ; the bull turned upon him, and 
just then the rising ground concealed them both 
from view. 

We were moving fonvard until about noon, when 
we stopped by the side of the Arkansas. At that 
moment Shaw appeared riding slowly down the side 
of a distant hill ; his horse was tired and jaded, 
and when he threw his saddle upon the ground, I 
obser\-ed that the tails of two bulls were dangling 
behind it. No sooner \vere the horses turned loose 
to feed than Henr}-, asking Munroe to go with him, 
took his rifle and walked quietly away. Shaw, 
Tete Rouge, and 1 sat down by the side of the cart 
to discuss the dinner which Delorier placed before 
us ; we had scarcely finished when we saw Munroe 
walking toward us along the river-bank. Henry, 
he said, had killed four £at cows, and had sent him 
back for horses to bring in the meat. Shaw took a 
horse for himself and another for Henry, and he 
and Munroe left the camp together. Afier a short 
absence all three of them came back, their horses 
loaded with the choicest parts of the meat ; we kept 
tivo of the cows for ourselves and gave the others to 
I^Iunroe and his companions. Delorier seated him- 
self on the grass before the pile of meat, and worked 
industriously for some time to cut it into thin broad 
sheets for dr^^ng. This is no easy matter, but 
Delorier had all the skill of an Indian squaw. 
Long before night cords of raw-hide were stretched 
around the camp, and the meat was hung upon 
them to drj' in the sunshine and pure air of the 
prairie. Our California companions were less suc- 
cessful at the work ; but they accomplished it after 
their own fashion, and their side of the camp was 
soon garnished in the same manner as our own. 

We meant to remain at this place long enough to 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 37 1 

prepare provisions for our journey to .the frontier, 
which, as we supposed, might occupy about a month. 
Had the distance been twice as great and the party 
ten times as large, the unerring rifle of Henr)- Cha- 
tillon would have supplied meat enough for the 
whole within two days ; we were obliged to remain, 
however, until it should be dr}- enough for trans- 
portation ; so we erected our tent and made the 
other arrangements for a permanent camp. The 
California men, who had no such shelter, contented 
themselves with arranging their packs on the grass 
around their fire. In the meantime we had nothing 
to do but amuse ourselves. Our tent was within a 
rod of the river, if the broad sand-beds, with a 
scanty stream of water coursing here and there 
along their surface, deserve to be dignified with the 
name of river. The vast flat plains on either side 
were almost on a level with the sand-beds, and they 
were bounded in the distance by low, monotonous 
hills, parallel to the course of the Arkansas. All 
was one e.xpanse of grass ; there was no wood in 
view, except some trees and stunted bushes upon 
two islands which rose from amid the wet sands of 
the river. Yet far from being dull and tame, this 
boundless scene was often a ^^■ild and animated 
one ; for twice a day, at sunrise and at noon, the 
buffalo came issuing from the hills, slowly advanc- 
ing in their grave processions to drink at the river. 
All our amusements were to be at their expense. 
Except an elephant, I have seen no animal that can 
surpass a buffalo-bull in size and strength, and the 
world may be searched in vain to find anything of a 
more ugly and ferocious aspect. At first sight of 
him every feehng of sympathy vanishes ; no man 
who has not experienced it can understand with what 
keen relish one inflicts his death-wound, with what 
profound contentment of mind he beholds him fall. 



372 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

The cows are much smaller and of a gentler appear- 
ance, as becomes their sex. While in this camp we 
forebore to attack them, leaving to Henry Chatillon, 
who could better judge their fatness and good 
quality, the task of killing such as we wanted for 
use ; but against the bulls we waged an unrelenting 
war. Thousands of them might be slaughtered 
without causing any detriment to the species, for 
their numbers greatly exceed those of the cows ; it 
is the hides of the latter alone which are used for 
the purpose of commerce and for making the lodges 
of the Indians ; and the destruction among them is 
therefore altogether disproportioned. 

Our horses were tired, and we now usually hunted 
on foot. The wide, flat sand-beds of the Arkansas, 
as the reader will remember, lay close by the side 
of our camp. While we were lying on the grass 
after dinner, smoking, conversing, or laughing at 
Tete Rouge, one of us would look up and obser\'e. 
far out on the plains beyond the river, certain black 
objects slowly approaching. He would inhale a 
parting whiff from the pipe, then rising lazily, take 
his rifle, which leaned against the cart, throw 
over his shoulder the strap of his pouch and pow- 
der-horn, and with his moccasons in his hand, walk 
quietly across the sand toward the opposite side of 
the river. This was very easy ; for though the 
sands were about a quarter of a mile wide, the 
water was nowhere more than two feet deep. The 
farther bank was about four or five feet high, and 
quite perpendicular, being cut away by the water in 
spring. Tall grass grew along its edge. Putting it 
aside Avith his hand, and cautiously looking through 
it, the hunter can discern the huge shaggy back of 
the buffalo slowly swaying to and fro, as, with his 
clumsy, swinging gait, he advances toward the 
water. The buffalo have regular paths by which 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 373 

they come down to drink. Seeing at a glance along 
which of these his intended victim is moving, the 
hunter crouches under the bank within fifteen or 
twenty yards, it may be, of the point where the 
path enters the river. Here he sits down quietly on 
the sand. Listening intently, he hears the heavy 
monotonous tread of the approaching bull. The 
moment after, he sees a motion among the long 
weeds and grass just at the spot where the path is 
channelled through the bank. An enormous black 
head is thrust out, the horns just visible amid the 
mass of tangled mane. Half-shding, half-plunging, 
down comes the buffalo upon the river-bed below. 
He steps out in full sight upon the sands. Just 
before him a runnel of water is gliding, and he 
bends his head to drink. You may hear the water 
as it gurgles down his capacious throat. He raises 
his head, and the drops trickle from his wet beard. 
He stands with an air of stupid abstraction, uncon- 
scious of the lurking danger. Noiselessly the hunter 
cocks his rifle. As he sits upon the sand, his knee 
is raised, and his elbow rests upon it, that he may 
level his heavy weapon with a steadier aim. The 
stock is at his shoulder ; his eye ranges along the 
barrel. Still he is in no haste to fire. The bull, 
with slow deliberation, begins his march over the 
sands to the other side. He advances his fore-leg, 
and exposes to view a small spot, denuded of hair, 
just behind the point of his shoulder ; upon this the 
hunter brings the sight of his rifle to bear ; lightly 
and delicately his finger presses upon the hair- 
trigger. Quick as thought the spiteful crack of the 
rifle responds to his slight touch, and instantly in 
the middle of the bare spot appears a small red dot. 
The buffalo shivers ; death has overtaken him, he 
cannot tell from whence ; still he does not fall, but 
walks heavily forward, as if nothing had happened. 



374 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

Yet before he has advanced ba out upon die sand, 
you see him stop ; he totters ; his knees bend imder 
him. and his head anks farward to the gitNmd. 
Then his whole vast bulk swa^'^s to one side ; he 
rolls over on the sand, and dies with a scarcely po'- 
c^rtible stn^gle. 

Waylaying the bu&lo in diis manner, and shoot- 
ing them as they come to water, is the easiest and 
laziest m^hod of hunting them. They may also 
be approached by crawling up ravines, or bdiind 
hills, or even over the (q>en prairie. This is often 
surprisingly easy ; but at other times it requires the 
utmost ^ill of the most experienced hunto'. Henry 
Chalillon was a man vX. extraordinary strength and 
hardihood ; but I have seen him return to camp 
quite exhausted with his efforts, his limbs scratched 
and wounded, and his buckskin dress stuck full vX. 
the thorns <rf' the prickly-pear, amoi^ wiiich he had 
been crawling. Sometime he would lay flat upon 
his &ce, and drag himself along in tins poation for 
many rods together. 

On the second day <rf' our stay at this place. 
Henry went out for an afternoon hunt. Shaw and 
I remained in camp, until, observii^ some bulls ap- 
proaching the wato- upon the odier side of the river, 
we crossed over to attack them. They were so 
near, however, that before we could get under cover 
of the bank, our appearance as we walked over die 
sands alarmed than. Turning around b^ne coming 
within gun^ot, diey began to move off to the right, 
in a direction paraUel to the river. I climbed up 
the bank and lan after them. They were walking 
sv.-ift]y, and before I could come^witlun gunshot dis- 
tance, they dowly wheded about and &ced toward 
me. Before diey had turned fax enough to see me 
I had fedlen flat on my &ce. For a moment diey 
stood and stared at the strange object upon the 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 375 

grass ; then turning away, again they walked on as 
before ; and I, rising immediately, ran once more 
in pursuit. Again they wheeled about, and again I 
fell prostrate. Repeating this three or four times, I 
came at length within a hundred yards of the fugi- 
tives, and as 1 saw them turning again I sat down 
and levelled my rifle. The one in the centre was 
the largest I had ever seen. I shot him behind 
the shoulder. His two companions ran off. He 
attempted to follow, but soon came to a stand, and 
at length lay down as quietly as an ox chewing the 
cud. Cautiously approaching him, I saw by his 
dull and jelly-like eye that he was dead. 

When I began the chase the prairie was almost 
tenantless ; but a great multitude of buffalo had 
suddenly thronged upon it, and looking up I saw 
within fifty rods a heavy, dark column stretching to 
the right and left as far as I could see. I walked 
toward them. My approach did not alarm them in 
the least. The column itself consisted almost en- 
tirely of cows and calves, but a great many old bulls 
were ranging about the prairie on its flank, and as I 
drew near they faced toward me with such a shaggy 
and ferocious look that 1 thought it best to proceed 
no farther. Indeed, 1 was already within close rifle- 
shot of the column, and I sat down on the ground 
to watch their movements. Sometimes the whole 
would stand still, their heads all facing one way ; 
then they would trot forward, as if by a common 
impulse, their hoofs and horns clattering together as 
they moved. I soon began to hear at a distance on 
the left the sharp reports of a rifle, again and again 
repeated ; and not long after, dull and heavy sounds 
succeeded, which I recognized as the familiar voice 
of Shaw's double-barrelled gun. When Henr)''s 
rifle was at work there was always meat to be 
brought in. I went back across the river for a 



3/6 



THE OREGON TRAIL. 



horse, and returning, reached the spot where the 
hunters were standing. The buffalo were visible on 
the distant prairie. The living had retreated from 
the ground, but ten or twelve carcasses were scat- 
tered in various directions. Henn.', knife in hand, 
was stooping over a dead cow, cutting away the best 
and fattest of the meat. 

When Shaw left me he had walked down for some 
distance under the river-bank to find another bull. 
At length he saw the plains covered with the host 
of buffalo, and soon after heard the crack of Henri's 
rifle. Ascending the bank, he crawled through the 
grass, which for a rod or two from the river was 
ver}' high and rank. He had not crawled far before, 
to his astonishment, he saw Henr\' standing erect 
upon the prairie, almost surrounded by the buffalo. 
Henn.- was in his appropriate element. Nelson, on 
the deck of the "Victory," hardly felt a prouder 
sense of mastery than he. Quite unconscious that 
any one was looking at him, he stood at the full 
height of his tall, strong figure, one hand resting 
upon his side, and the other arm leaning carelessly 
on the muzzle of his rifle. His eyes were ranging 
over the singular assemblage around him. Now 
and then he would select such a cow as suited him, 
level his rifle, and shoot her dead ; then, quietly 
reloading, he would resume his former position. 
The butfalo seemed no more to regard his presence 
than if he were one of themselves ; the bulls were 
bellowing and butting at each other, or else rolling 
about in the dust. A group of buffalo would gather 
about the carcass of a dead cow, snufling at her 
wounds ; and sometimes they would come behind 
those that had not yet fallen and endeavor to push 
them from the spot. Now and then some old bull 
would face toward Henry with an air of stupid 
amazement, but none seemed inclined to attack or 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 377 

fly from him. For some time Shaw lay among the 
grass, looking in surprise at this extraordinary sight ; 
at length he crawled cautiously forward, and spoke 
in a low voice to Henry, who told him to rise and 
come on. Still the buffalo showed no sign of fear ; 
they remained gathered about their dead com- 
panions. Henry had already killed as many cows 
as we wanted for use, and Shaw, kneeling behind 
one of the carcasses, shot five bulls before the rest 
thought it necessan." to disperse. 

The frequent stupidity and infatuation of the 
buftalo seems the more remarkable from the con- 
trast it offers to their wildness and wariness at other 
times. Henry knew all their peculiarities ; he had 
studied them as a scholar studies his l)Ooks, and he 
derived quite as much pleasure from the occupation. 
The buffalo were a kind of companions to him, and, 
as he said, he never felt alone when they were about 
him. He took great pride in his skill in hunting. 
Henry was one of the most modest of men ; yet, in 
the simplicity and frankness of his character, it was 
quite clear that he looked upon his pre-eminence in 
this respect as a thing too palpable and well-estab- 
lished ever to be disputed. But whatever may have 
been his estimate of his own skill, it was rather 
below than above that which others placed upon it. 
The only time that I ever saw a shade of scorn 
darken his face was when two volunteer soldiers, 
who had just killed a buffalo for the first time, un- 
dertook to instruct him as to the best method of 
"approaching." To borrow an illustration from 
an opposite side of life, an Eton boy might as well 
have sought to enlighten Porsons on the formation 
of a Greek verb, or a Fleet Street shopkeeper to 
instruct Chesterfield concerning a point of etiquette. 
Henn,' always seemed to think that he had a sort 
of prescriptive right to the buffalo, and to look upon 



378 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

diem as something belonging peculiarly to himself. 
Nothing excited his indignation so much as any 
wanton destruction committed among the cows, and 
in his \aew shooting a calf was a cardinal sin. 

Henr\' Chatillcn and Tete Rouge were of the 
same age ; that is, about thirt\'. Henr\- was twice 
as large, and fiilly six times as strong as Tete Rouge. 
Henry's fcu:e was roughened by winds and storms ; 
Tete Route's was bloated by shern,- -cobblers and 
biandy-toddy. Henry talked of Indians and buffalo ; 
Tete Rouge of theatres and oyster-cellars. Henrj' 
had led a life of hardship and privation ; Tete Rouge 
never had a whim which he would not gratifv- at the 
first moment he was able. Henr\", moreover, was 
the most disinterested man I e^ er saw ; while Tete 
Rouge, though equally good-natured in his way , cared 
for nobody but himsel£ Yet we would not have lost 
him on any account ; he admirably sen ed the pur- 
pose <rf a jester in a feudal castle ; our camp would 
have been lifeless without him. For the past week 
he had £utened in a most amazing manner ; and, in- 
deed, this was not at all suiprising, since his appetite 
was most inordinate. He was eating from morning 
till night ; half the time he would be at work cook- 
ing some private repast for himself, and he paid a 
visit to the coffee-pot eight or ten times a day. His 
ru^iil and disconsolate fiice became jo\'ial and rubi- 
cund, his eyes stood out like a lobster's, and his 
spirits, whidh before were sunk to the depths of 
despondency, were now elated in proportion ; all 
day he was singing, whistling, laughing, and telling 
stories. Being mortally afraid of Jim Gumey, he 
k^t dose in the neighborhood of our tent. As he 
had seen an abundance of low, dissipated life, and 
had a considerable fimd of humor, his anecdotes 
were extremely amusing, especially since he never 
hesitated to place himself in a ludicrous point of 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP, 379 

view, provided he could raise a laugh by doing so, 
Tete Rouge, however, was sometimes rather trouble- 
some ; he had an inveterate habit of pilfering pro- 
visions at all times of the day. He set ridicule at 
utter defiance ; and being without a particle of self- 
respect, he would never have given over his tricks, 
even if they had drawn upon him the scorn of the 
whole party. Now and then, indeed, something 
worse than laughter fell to his share ; on these occa- 
sions he would exhibit much contrition, but half an 
hour after we would generally observe him stealing 
around to the box at the back of the cart, and slyly 
making off with the provisions which Delorier had 
laid by for supper. He was very fond of smoking, 
but having no tobacco of his own, we used to pro- 
vide him with as much as he wanted, a small piece 
at a time. At first we gave him half a pound to- 
gether ; but this experiment proved an entire failure, 
for he invariably lost not only the tobacco, but the 
knife intrusted to him for cutting it, and a few 
minutes after he would come to us with many apolo- 
gies and beg for more. 

We had been two days at this camp, and some 
of the meat was nearly fit for transportation, when 
a storm came suddenly upon us. About sunset the 
whole sky grew as black as ink, and the long grass 
at the river's edge bent and rose mournfully with 
the first gusts of the approaching hurricane. Mun- 
roe and his two companions brought their guns 
and placed them under cover of our tent. Having 
no shelter for themselves, they built a fire of drift- 
wood that might have defied a cataract, and wrapped 
in their buffalo-robes, sat on the ground around it to 
bide the iuxy of the storm. Delorier ensconced 
himself under the cover of the cart. Shaw and I, 
together with Henry and Tete Rouge, crowded into 
the' little tent ; but, first of all, the dried meat was 



38o 



THE OREGON TRAIL. 



piled together and well protected by buffalo-robes 
pinned firmly to the ground. About nine o'clock 
the storm broke, amid absolute darkness ; it blew a 
gale, and torrents of rain roared over the boundless 
expanse of open prairie. Our tent was filled with 
mist and spray beating through the canvas, and 
saturating everything within. We could only dis- 
tinguish each other at short intervals by the dazzling 
flash of lightning, which displayed the whole waste 
around us with its momentary glare. We had our 
fears for the tent ; but for an hour or two it stood 
fast, until at length the cap gave way before a furi- 
ous blast ; the pole tore through the top, and in an 
instant we were half-suffocated by the cold and 
dripping folds of the canvas, which fell down upon 
us. Seizing upon our guns, we placed them erect, 
in order to lift the saturated cloth above our heads. 
In this agreeable situation, involved among wet 
blankets and buffalo-robes, we spent several hours 
of the night, during which the storm would not 
abate for a moment, but pelted down above our 
heads with merciless fury. Before long the ground 
beneath us became soaked with moisture, and the 
water gathered there in a pool two or three inches 
deep ; so that for a considerable part of the night 
we were partially immersed in a cold bath. In 
spite of all this, Tete Rouge's flow of spirits did not 
desert him for an instant ; he laughed, whistled, 
and sung in defiance of the storm, and that night 
he paid off the long arrears of ridicule which he 
owed us. While we lay in silence, enduring the 
infliction with what philosophy we could muster, 
Tete Rouge, who was intoxicated with animal spirits, 
was cracking jokes at our expense by the hour 
together. At about three o'clock in the morning, 
" preferring the tyranny of the open night " to such 
a wretched shelter, we crawled out from beneath the 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 38 1 

fallen canvas. The wind had abated, but the rain 
fell steadily. The fire of the California men still 
blazed amid the darkness, and we joined them as 
they sat around it. We made ready some hot coffee 
by way of refreshment ; but when some of the 
party sought to replenish their cups, it was found 
that Tete Rouge, having disposed of his own share, 
had privately abstracted the coffee-pot and drank 
up the rest of the contents out of the spout. 

In the morning, to our great joy, an unclouded 
sun rose upon the prairie. We presented rather a 
laughable appearance, for the cold and clammy 
buckskin, saturated with water, clung fast to our 
limbs ; the light wind and warm sunshine soon 
dried them again, and then we were all incased in 
armor of intolerable rigidity. Roaming all day 
over the prairie and shooting two or three bulls was 
scarcely enough to restore the stiffened leather to 
its usual pliancy. 

/'Besides Henry Chatillon, Shaw and I were the 
only hunters in the party. Munroe this morning 
made an attempt to run a buffalo, but his horse 
could not come up to the game. Shaw went out 
with him, and, being better mounted, soon found 
himself in the midst of the herd. Seeing nothing 
but cows and calves around him, he checked his 
horse. An old bull came galloping on the open 
prairie at some distance behind, and turning, Shaw 
rode across his path, levelling his gun as he passed, 
and shooting him through the shoulder into the 
heart. The heavy bullets of Shaw's double-bar- 
relled gun made wild work wherever they struck. 

A great flock of buzzards were usually soaring 
about a few trees that stood on the island just below 
our camp. Throughout the whole of yesterday we 
had noticed an eagle among them , to-day he was 
still there ; and Tete Rouge, declaring that he would 



382 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

kill the bird of America, borrowed Delorier's gun 
and set out on his unpatriotic mission. As might 
have been expected, the eagle suffered no great 
harm at his hands. He soon returned, saying that 
he could not find him, but had shot a buzzard 
instead. Being required to produce the bird in 
proof of his assertion, he said he believed that he 
was not quite dead, but he must be hurt, from the 
swiftness with which he ilew off. 

"If you want," said Tete Rouge, "I'll go and 
get one of his feathers ; I knocked off plent)- of 
them when I shot him. 

Just opposite our camp was another island covered 
with bushes, and behind it was a deep pool of water, 
while two or three considerable streams coursed over 
the sand not far off. I was bathing at this place in 
the afternoon, when a white wolf, larger than the 
largest Newfoundland dog, ran out from behind the 
point of the island, and galloped leisurely over the 
sand not half a stone's throw distant. I could 
plainly see his red eyes, and the brisdes about his 
snout ; he was an ugly scoundrel, %Wth a bushy tail, 
large head, and a most repulsive countenance. 
Having neither rifle to shoot nor stone to pelt him 
with, I was looking eagerly after some missile for his 
benefit, when the report of a gun came from the 
camp, and the ball threw up the sand just beyond 
him ; at this he gave a slight jump, and stretched 
away so su-iftly that he soon dwindled into a mere 
speck on the distant sand-beds. The number of 
carcasses that by this time were lying about the 
prairie all around us summoned the wolves from 
every quarter ; the spot where Shaw and Henr\- had 
hunted together soon became their favorite resort, 
for here about a dozen dead buffalo were fermenting 
under the hot sun. I often used to go over the 
river and watch them at their meal ; bv lying undei 



THE BUFFALO-CAMP. 383 

the bank it was easy to get a full view of them. 
Three ditferent kinds were present : there were the 
white wolves and the gray wolves, both extremely 
large, and besides these the small prairie-wolves, 
not much bigger than spaniels. They would howl 
and fight in a crowd around a single carcass, yet 
they were so watchful, and their senses so acute, 
that I never was able to crawl within a fair shooting- 
distance ; whenever I attempted it, they would all 
scatter at once and glide silently away through the 
tall grass. The air above this spot was always full 
of buzzards or black vultures ; whenever the wolves 
left a carcass they would descend upon it, and cover 
it so densely that a rifle-bullet shot at random among 
the gormandizing crowd would generally strike down 
two or three of them. These birds would now be 
sailing by scores just above our camp, their broad 
black wings seeming half-transparent as they ex- 
panded them against the bright sky. The wolves 
and the buzzards thickened about us with every 
hour, and two or three eagles also came into the 
feast. I killed a bull within rifle-shot of the camp ; 
that night the wolves made a fearful howling close 
at hand, and in the morning the carcass was com- 
pletely hollowed out by these voracious feeders. 

•After we had remained four days at this camp we 
prepared to leave it. We had for our own part 
about five hundred pounds of dried meat, and the 
California men had prepared some three hundred 
more ; this consisted of the fattest and choicest 
parts of eight or nine cows, a ver\' small quantity 
only being taken from each, and the rest abandoned 
to the wolves. The pack-animals were laden, the 
horses were saddled, and the mules harnessed to 
the cart. Even Tete Rouge was ready at last, and 
slowly moving from the ground, we resumed our 
journey eastward. When we had advanced about a 



384 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

mile, Shaw missed a valuable hunting-knife and 
turned back in search of it, thinking that he had left 
k at the camp. He approached the place cautiously, 
fearful that Indians might be lurking about, for a 
deserted camp is dangerous to return to. He saw 
no enemy, but the scene was a wild and drean- one ; 
the prairie was overshadowed by dull, leaden clouds, 
for the day was dark and gloomy. The ashes of 
the fires were still smoking by the river-side ; the 
grass around them was trampled down by men and 
horses, and strewn -with all the htter of a camp. 
Our departure had been a gathering-signal to the 
birds and beasts of prey ; Shaw assured me that 
literally dozens of wolves were prowling about the 
smouldering fires, while multitudes were roaming 
over the prairie around ; they all fled as he ap- 
proached, some running over the sand-beds and 
some over the grassy plains. The vultures in great 
clouds were soaring overhead, and the dead bull 
near the camp was completely blackened by the 
flock that had alighted upon it ; they flapped their 
broad wings, and stretched upward their crested 
heads and long, skinny necks, fearing to remain, 
yet reluctant to leave their disgusting feast. As he 
searched about the fires he saw the wolves seated 
on the distant hills, waiting for his departure. Hav- 
ii^ looked in vain for his knife, he mounted again, 
and I^ the wolves and the ^Tiltures to banquet 
freely upon the carrion of the camp. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

DOWN THE ARKANSAS. 

" They quitted not their harness bright, 
Neither by day nor yet by night ; 
They lay down to rest 
With corslet laced, 
Pillowed on buckler cold and hard. 
They carved at the meal 
With gloves of steel, 
And thev drank the red wine through the helmet barred." 
The Lay of the Last Minstrel. 

In the summer of 1846 the wild and lonely banks 
of the Upper Arkansas beheld, for the first time, 
the passage of an army. General Kearney, on his 
march to Santa Fe, adopted this route in preference 
to the old trail of the Cimarron. When we came 
down, the m.ain body of the troops had already 
passed on ; Price's Missouri regiment, however, was 
still on the way, having left the frontier much later 
than the rest ; and about this time we began to meet 
them moving along the trail, one or two companies 
at a time. No men ever embarked upon a military 
expedition with a greater love for the work before 
them than the Missourians ; but if discipline and 
subordination be the criterion of merit, these soldiers 
were worthless indeed. Yet, when their exploits 
have rung through all .Vmerica, it would be absurd 
to deny that they were excellent irregular troops. 
Their victories were gained in the teeth of every 
established precedent of warfare ; they were owing 
to a singular combination of militar\- quahties in the 
men themselves. Without discipline or a spirit of 
subordination, they knew how to keep their ranks 
and act as one man. Doniphan's regiment marched 

3S5 



386 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

through New Mexico more like a band of free com- 
panions than like the paid soldiers of a modem 
government. WTien General Taylor complimented 
Doniphan on his success at Sacramento and else- 
where, the Colonel's reply ven,- well illustrates the 
relations which subsisted between the officers and 
men of his command : 

" I don't know anything of the manoeuvres. The 
boys kept coming to me to let them charge ; and, 
when I saw a good opportunity, I told them they 
might go. They were off like a shot, and that's all 
I know about it. " " 

The backwoods lawyer was better fitted to con- 
ciliate the good %\"ill than to command the obedience 
of his men. There were many sening under him 
who, both from character and education, could better 
have held command than he. 

At the battle of Sacramento his frontiersmen 
fought under even- possible disadvantage. The 
[Mexicans had chosen their own position ; they were 
drawn up across the valley that led to their native 
city of Chihuahua ; their whole front was covered 
by intrenchments and defended by batteries of heavy 
cannon ; they outnumbered the invaders five to one. 
An eagle flew over the Americans, and a deep 
murmur rose along their lines. The enemy's bat- 
teries opened ; long they remained under fire, but 
when at length the word was given they shouted 
and ran fonvard. In one of the divisions, when 
midway to the enemy, a drunken officer ordered a 
halt ; the exasperated men hesitated to obey. 

"Fonvard, boys I" cried a private from the 
ranks ; and the Americans, rushing like tigers upon 
the enemy, bounded o^er the breastwork. Four 
hundred Mexicans were slain upon the spot, and 
the rest fled, scattering over the plain like sheep. 
The standards, cannon, and baggage were taken. 



DOIVX THE ARA'AXSAS. 387 

and among the rest a wagon laden with cords, 
which the Mexicans, in the fulness of their confi- 
dence, had made ready for tying the American 
prisoners. 

Doniphan's volunteers, who gained this victory, 
passed up with the main army ; but Price" s soldiers, 
whom we now met, were men from the same neigh- 
borhood, precisely similar in character, manners, 
and appearance. One forenoon, as we were de- 
scending upon a ver)- wide meadow, where we 
meant to rest for an hour or two, we saw a dark 
body of horsemen approaching at a distance. In 
order to find water we were obliged to turn aside to 
the river-bank, a full half-mile from the trail. Here 
we put up a kind of awning, and spreading buffalo- 
robes on the ground, Shaw and 1 sat down to smoke 
beneath it. 

• • We are going to catch it now, ' ' said Shaw ; 
" look at those fellows ; there'll be no peace for us 
here. 

And in good truth about half the volunteers had 
straggled away from the line of march, and were 
riding over the meadow toward us. 

"How are you?" said the first who came up, 
alighting from his horse and throwing himself upon 
the ground. The rest followed close, and a score 
of them soon gathered about us, some lying at full 
length, and some sitting on horseback. They all 
belonged to a company raised in St. Louis. There 
were some ruffian faces among them, and some 
haggard with debaucher\- , but on the whole they 
were e.xtremely good-looking men, superior beyond 
measure to the ordinary- rank and file of an army. 
Except that they were booted to the knees, they 
wore their belts and military trappings over the 
ordinan.- dress of citizens. Besides their swords 
and holster-pistols, they carried, slung from their 



388 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

saddles, the excellent Springfield carbines, loaded 
at the breech. They inquired the character of our 
party, and were anxious to know the prospect of 
killing buSialo, and the chance that dieir horses 
would stand the ioumey to Santa Fe. .\11 this was 
well enough, but a moment after a worse visita- 
tion came upon us. 

"How are you, strangers? whar are you going 
and whar are vou fi-om ?" said a fellow, who came 
trotting up with an old straw hat on his head. He 
was dressed in the coarsest brown homespun cloth. 
His fcu:e was rather sallow^ from fever and ague, and 
his tall figure, though strong and sinewy, was quite 
thin, and had besides an angular look, which, to- 
gether with his boorish seat on horseback, gave him 
an appearance an*^ing but giacefid. Plenty more 
of the same stamp were close behind him. Their 
company was raised in one of the frontier counties, 
and we soon had abundant e\idence of their rustic 
breeding ; dozens of them came crowding around, 
pushing between our first \Tsitors, and staring at us 
with unabashed &ces. 

• • Are you the captain ?' ' asked one fellow. 

* ' WTiat" s your business out here ?" ' asked an- 
other. 

' ' \\Tiar do you Uve when you' re at home ?' " said 
a third. 

• • 1 reckon you' re traders, ' ' surmised a fourth ; 
and to crown the whole, one of them came confi- 
dently to my side and inquired in a low voice, 
* * WTiat" s your partner' s name ?' " 

As each new-comer repeated the same questions 
the nuisance became intolerable. Our militar\' \-is- 
itors were soon di^usted at the concise nature of 
our repUes, and we could overhear them muttering 
curses against us. AMiile we sat smoking, not in 
the best imaginable humor, Tete Rouge" s tongue 



DOIVX THE AKA'AXSAS. 389 

was never idle. He never forgot his militar\- char- 
acter, and during the whole irteniew he was inces- 
santly busy among his fellow-soldiers. At length 
we placed him on the ground before us. and told 
him that he might play the part of spokesman for 
the whole. Tete Rouge was delighted, and we soon 
had the satisfaction of seeing him talk and gabble at 
such a rate that the torrent of questions was in a 
great measure diverted from us. A little while after, 
to our amazement, we saw a large cannon with four 
horses come lumbering up behind the crowd ; and 
the driver, who was perched on one of the animals, 
stretching his neck so as to look over the rest of the 
men, called out : 

" Whar are you from, and what's your busi- 
ness ?' ' 

The captain of one of the companies was among 
our visitors, drawn by the same curiosity that had 
attracted his men. Unless their faces belied them, 
not a few in the crowd might with great advantage 
have changed places with their commander. 

"Well, men." said he, lazily rising from the 
ground where he had been lounging, " it's getting 
late, I reckon we had better be moving." • 

" I shan't start yet, anyhow." said one fellow, 
who was lying half-asleep, with his head resting on 
his arm. 

" Don't be in a hurn-, captain," added the lieu- 
tenant. 

" Well, have it your own way : we'll wait awhile 
longer," replied the obsequious commander. 

At length, however, our visitors went straggling 
away as they had come, and we, to our great relief, 
were left alone again. 

No one can deny the intrepid braver\- of these 
men. their intelligence and the bold frankness of 
their character, free from all that is mean and sor- 



390 



EGOX TRAIL. 



of tht -1 
her 
lea-, 
am : r _ 

vaoj.r 1 : 7 V 
mes "atspeAjL ^ 
No one wai 
depaitnie of '. 
odder cvefj : 
ba&Io-liide -^'. 
tlie juicy liiiir:: 
plates and cr 
ready. Tete 

fimner capac ". 
to piefix the : 
wfaedier of k. . 
Mr. Gomey, I- 
nex, ftx die £r 
dressed as Mr 
conceivh^ a 
who. in his f. 
make himsel: 
widi cofAsaz 
knew no mec 
a. duwur^ht '. 
Tele Roi^e, : 
Tete Roi^e r 
his happiest r 
bnflUo-coat. : 
die work^ar.' 
before him ; 
his knife re^ : 
npon the bt r 
pation. De~ 
rest of us bv : 



'.ent, the extreme toughness 

T^clines one to finget their 

:'nem seon without the 

;~ f^r propnety. thoi^i 

:>e found in whotse 

- wh3e their feat- 

iny enteiprise. 

elorier hf the 

i; gettii^ 

■vhitened 

r " ddle 

; : : e tin 



DOWN THE ARA'ANSAS. 39 1 

" How is this, Delorier ? You haven't given us 
bread enough." 

At this Delorier' s placid face flew instantly into a 
paroxysm of contortions. He grinned with wrath, 
chattered, gesticulated, and hurled forth a volley of 
incoherent words in broken English at the astonished 
Tete Rouge. It was just possible to make out that 
he was accusing him of having stolen and eaten four 
large cakes which had been laid by for dinner. Tete 
Rouge, utterly confounded at this sudden attack, 
stared at Delorier for a moment in dumb amaze- 
ment, with mouth and eyes wide open. At last he 
found speech, and protested that the accusation was 
false ; and that he could not conceive how he had 
offended Mr. Delorier, or provoked him to use such 
ungentlemanly expressions. The tempest of words 
raged with such fury that nothing else could be heard. 
But Tete Rouge, from his greater command of Eng- 
lish, had a manifest advantage over Delorier, who, 
after sputtering and grimacing for awhile, found his 
words quite inadequate to the expression of his 
wrath. He jumped up and vanished, jerking out 
between his teeth one furious sacra enfan de grace, 
a Canadian title of honor, made doubly emphatic by 
being usually applied together with a cut of the whip 
to refractory mules and horses. 

The next morning we saw an old buffalo-bull 
escorting his cow with two small calves over the 
prairie. Close behind came four or five large white 
wolves, sneaking stealthily through the long meadow- 
grass, and watching for the moment when one of the 
children should chance to lag behind his parents. 
The old bull kept well on his guard, and faced about 
now and then to keep the prowling ruffians at a 
distance. 

As we approached our nooning-place we saw five 
or six buffalo standing at the very summit of a tall 



392 THE ORE G OX TRAIL. 

Muff. Trotting fomaid to the :^>ot where we meant 
to stiop, I flung off my saddle and turned my h<Hse 
looser By malring a cucoit under cxsvcc ai some 
rising ground, I reached die foot oi the bfaiff unno- 
ticed, and cfimbed up its steep side. Lying under 
the brow cf the declivity, I prepared to fire at the 
bufl^o, who stood on die flat sur£ice above, not 
five yards distant Feiliaps I was too hasty, for the 
gleaming rifle-barrd levdled over the edge caught 
their notice ; diey turned and ran. Close as they 
woe. it was impossiUe to kill them when in that 
position, and. steppii^ upon the sununit, I pursued 
them over the lugfa arid table-land. It was ex- 
tremdy ringed and tntdcen ; a great sandy la^-ine 
was channelled diroi^[h it, with smaUo- ravine enter- 
ing 4m each side, like tributary streams. Thebuffido 
scattexed, and I soon lost si^;ht of most of them as 
they scutded away dirof^;fa the sandy rJunan*; ; a 
boll and a cow alone kept in view. Forawhilethey 
ran aloi^ the edge of the great ravine, appearing 
and disaf^iearing as they dived into some r-lia«aii 
and again ennerged hmn it. At last diey stretched 
out iqMHi the Inoad prairie, a plain neariy flat and 
almost devoid of verdure, for every short grass-Uade 
was dried and shrivdled by the glaring sun. Now 
and then the aid bull would face toward me ; what- 
ever he did so I fidl to the ground and lay motion- 
less. In tibas manner I chased them for about two 
miles, until at length I heard in front a de^ hoarse 
beilowii^. Amomentafier. a band (rf* about a hun- 
dred bulls, before hidden by a slight swdil of the 
plain, came at once into view. The li^[itives ran 
toward them. Instead oif mingling widi the band. 
as I expected, diey passed direcdy throngh, and 
contirmed their fli^;hL At diis 1 gave up the chase, 
and kneeling down, crawled to within gun-shot of 
the bull^ and with panting breath and trJckling Ihow 



DOJl'.V THE ARKANSAS. 393 

sat down on the ground to watch them ; my presence 
did not disturb them in the least. They were not 
feeding, for, indeed, there was nothing to eat ; but 
they seemed to have chosen the parched and scorch- 
ing desert as the scene of their amusements. Some 
were roHing on the ground amid a cloud of dust ; 
others, with a hoarse, rumbling bellow, were butting 
their large heads together, while many stood motion- 
less, as if quite inanimate. Except their monstrous 
growth of tangled, grizzly mane, thev had no hair ; 
for their old coat had fallen off in the spring, and 
their new one had not as yet appeared. Sometimes 
an old bull would step forward, and gaze at me with 
a grim and stupid countenance ; then he would turn 
and butt his next neighbor ; then he would lie down 
and roll over in the dirt, kicking his hoofs in the 
air. When satisfied with this amusement, he would 
jerk his head and shoulders upward, and resting on 
his forelegs, stare at me in this position, half-blinded 
by his mane, and his face covered with dirt ; then 
up he would spring upon all-fours, and shake his 
dust\- sides ; turning half-around, he would stand with 
his beard touching the ground, in an attitude of pro- 
found abstraction, as if reflecting on his puerile con- 
duct. "You are too ugly to live," thought 1 ; and 
aiming at the ugliest, 1 shot three of them in succes- 
sion. The rest were not at all discomposed at this ; 
they kept on bellowing and butting and rolling on 
the ground as before. Henry Chatillon always cau- 
tioned us to keep perfectly quiet in the presence of 
a wounded buffalo, for any movement is apt to 
excite him to make an attack ; so I sat still upon the 
ground, loading and firing with as little motion as 
possible. While 1 was thus employed, a spectator 
made his appearance : a little antelope came run- 
ning up with remarkable gentleness to within fifty 
yards ; and there it stood, its slender neck arched. 



394 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

its small horns thrown back, and its large dark eyes 
gazing on me with a look of eager curiosity. By 
the side of the shaggy and brutish monsters before 
me, it seemed like some lovely young girl wander- 
ing near a den of robbers or a nest of bearded 
pirates. The buffalo looked uglier than ever. "Here 
goes for another of you," thought 1, feeling in my 
pouch for a percussion-cap. Not a percussion-cap 
was there. My good rifle was useless as an old iron 
bar. One of the wounded bulls had not yet fallen, 
and I waited for some time, hoping every moment 
that his strength would fail him. He still stood firm, 
looking grimly at me, and disregarding Henry's 
advice, I rose and walked away. Many of the bulls 
turned and looked at me, but the wounded brute 
made no attack. I soon came upon a deep ravine 
which would give me shelter in case of emergency ; 
so I turned around and threw a stone at the bulls. 
They received it with the utmost indifference. Feel- 
ing myself insulted at their refusal to be frightened, 
I swung my hat, shouted, and made a show of run- 
ning toward them ; at this they crowded together 
and galloped off, leaving their dead and wounded 
upon the field. As 1 moved toward the camp I saw 
the last survivor totter and fall dead. My speed in 
returning was wonderfully quickened by the reflec- 
tion that the Pawnees were abroad, and that I was 
defenceless in case of meeting with an enemy. I 
saw no living thing, however, except two or three 
squalid old bulls scrambling among the sand-hills 
that flanked the great ravine. When I reached 
camp the party were nearly ready for the afternoon 
move. 

We encamped that evening at a short distance 
from the river-bank. About midnight, as we all lay 
asleep on the ground, the man nearest to me, gently 
reaching out his hand, touched my shoulder, and 



DOIVN THE ARKANSAS. 395 

cautioned me at the same time not to move. It was 
bright starlight. Opening my eyes and slightly turn- 
ing, I saw a large white wolf moving stealthily 
around the embers of our fire, with his nose close 
to the ground. Disengaging my hand from the 
blanket, 1 drew the cover from my rifle, which lay 
close at my side ; the motion alarmed the wolf, and 
with long leaps he bounded out of the camp. Jump- 
ing up, 1 fired after him, when he was about thirty 
yards distant ; the melancholy hum of the bullet 
sounded far away through the night. At the sharp 
report, so suddenly breaking upon the stillness, all 
the men sprang up. 

" You've killed him," said one of them. 

"No, I haven't," said I ; "there he goes, run- 
ning along the river." 

" Then there's two of them. Don't you see that 
one lying out yonder ?' ' 

We went out to it, and instead of a dead white 
wolf, found the bleached skull of a buffalo. 1 had 
missed my mark, and what was worse, had grossly 
violated a standing law of the prairie. When in a 
dangerous part of the countr)-, it is considered 
highly imprudent to fire a gun after encamping, 
lest the report should reach the ears of the Indians. 

The horses were saddled in the morning, and the 
last man had lighted his pipe at the dying ashes of 
the fire. The beauty of the day enlivened us all. 
Even Ellis felt its influence, and occasionally made 
a remark as we rode along ; and Jim Gurney told 
endless stories of his cruisings in the United States 
service. The buffalo were abundant, and at length 
a large band of them went running up the hills on 
the left. 

"Do you see them buffalo?" said Ellis, "now, 
I'll bet any man I'll go and kill one with my yager." 

.And leaving his horse to follow on with the party, 



396 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

he strode up the hill after them. Henn,' looked at 
us with his peculiar humorous expression, and pro- 
posed that we should follow Ellis to see how he 
would kill a fat cow. As soon as he was out of 
sight we rode up the hill after him, and waited be- 
hind a little ridge till we heard the report of the 
unfailing yager. Mounting to the top. we saw EHis 
clutching his favorite weapon with both hands, and 
staring after the bulialo, who, one and all, were gal- 
loping off at full speed. As we descended the hill 
we saw the party straggling along the trail below. 
When we joined them, another scene of amateur 
hunting awaited us. I forgot to say that when we 
met the volunteers Tete Rouge had obtained a horse 
from one of them, in exchange for his mule, whom 
he feared and detested. This horse he christened 
James. James, though not worth so much as the 
mule, was a large and strong animal. Tete Rouge 
was ver)' proud of his new acquisition, and sud- 
denly became ambitious to run a buffalo with him. 
At his request I lent him my pistols, though not 
without great misgivings, since when Tete Rouge 
hunted buffalo the pursuer was in more danger than 
the pursued. He hung the holsters at his saddle- 
bow ; and now, as we passed along, a band of bulls 
left their grazing in the meadow and galloped in a 
long file across the trail in front. 

"Now's vour chance, Tete ; come, let's see vou 
kill a bull."' 

' Thus urged, the hunter cried, "get up!" and 
James, obedient to the signal, cantered deliberately 
forward at an abominably uneasy gait. Tete Rouge, 
as we contemplated him from behind, made a most 
remarkable figure. He still wore the old bufialo- 
coat ; his blanket, which was tied in a loose bundle 
behind his saddle, went jolting from one side to the 
other, and a large tin canteen, half-full of water, 



UBRABT or 



DOWN THE ARKANSAS. 39/ 

which hung from his pommel, was jerked about his 
leg in a manner which greatly embarrassed him. 

" Let out your horse, man ; lay on your whip !" 
we called out to him. The buffalo were getting 
farther off at every instant. James, being am- 
bitious to mend his pace, tugged hard at the rein, 
and one of his rider's boots escaped from the stirrup. 

"Whoa! I say, whoa!" cried Tete Rouge, in 
great perturbation, and after much effort James's 
progress was arrested. The hunter came trotting 
back to the party, disgusted with buffalo-running, 
and he was received with overwhelming congratula- 
tions. 

"Too good a chance to lose," said Shaw, point- 
ing to another band of bulls on the left. We lashed 
our horses and galloped upon them. Shaw killed 
one with each barrel of his gun. I separated an- 
other from the herd and shot him. The small bul- 
let of the rifle-pistol striking too far back, did not 
immediately take effect, and the bull ran on with 
unabated speed. Again and again I snapped the 
remaining pistol at him. 1 primed it afresh three 
or four times, and each time it missed fire, for the 
touch-hole was clogged up. Returning it to the 
holster, 1 began to load the empty pistol, still gal- 
loping by the side of the bull. By this time he was 
grown desperate. The foam flew from his jaws and 
his tongue lolled out. Before the pistol was loaded 
he sprang upon me, and followed up his attack with 
a furious rush. The only alternative was to run 
away or be killed. I took to flight, and the bull, 
bristling with fury, pursued me closely. The pistol 
was soon ready, and then looking back, 1 saw his 
head five nr six yards behind my horse's tail. To 
fire at it would be useless, for a bullet flattens against 
the adamantine skull of a buffalo-bull. Inclining 
my body to the left, I turned my horse in that direc- 



t-FBRARY 



398 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

tion as sharply as his speed would permit. The 
bull, rushing blindly on with great force and weight, 
did not turn so quickly. As I looked back, his 
neck and shoulder were exposed to view ; turning in 
the saddle, I shot a bullet through them obliquely 
into his vitals. He gave over the chase and soon 
fell to the ground. An English tourist represents a 
situation like this as one of imminent danger ; this 
is a great mistake ; the bull never pursues long, 
and the horse must be wretched, indeed, that cannot 
keep out of his way for two or three minutes. 

We were now come to a part of the country 
where we were bound in common prudence to use . 
every possible precaution. We mounted guard at 
night, each man standing in his turn ; and no one 
ever slept without drawing his rifle close to his side 
or folding it with him in his blanket. One morning 
our vigilance was stimulated by our finding traces 
of a large Comanche encampment. Fortunately 
for us, however, it had been abandoned nearly a 
week. On the next evening we found the ashes of 
a recent fire, which gave us at the time some un- 
easiness. At length we reached "The Caches," a 
place of dangerous repute ; and it had a most dan- 
gerous appearance, consisting of sand-hills every- 
where broken by ravines and deep chasms. Here 
we found the grave of Swan, killed at this place, 
probably by the Pawnees, two or three weeks before. 
His remains, more than once violated by the Indians 
and the wolves, were suffered at length to remain 
undisturbed in their wild burial-place. 

For several days we met detached companies of 
Price's regiment. Horses would often break loose 
at night from their camps. One afternoon we picked 
up three of these stragglers quietly grazing along 
the river. After we came to camp that evening, 
Jim Gurney brought news that more of them were 



DOIVX THE ARKANSAS. 399 

in sight. It was nearly dark, and a cold, drizzling 
rain had set in ; but we all turned out, and after an 
hour's chase nine horses were caught and brought 
in. One of them was equipped with saddle and 
bridle ; pistols were hanging at the pommel of the 
saddle, a carbine was slung at its side, and a blanket 
rolled up behind it. In the morning, glorying in 
our valuable prize, we resumed our journey, and 
our cavalcade presented a much more imposing 
appearance than ever before. We kept on till the 
afternoon, when, far behind, three horsemen ap- 
peared on the horizon. Coming on at a hand- 
gallop, they soon overtook us, and claimed all the 
horses as belonging to themselves and others of 
their company. They were, of course, given up, 
very much to the mortification of Ellis and Jim 
Gurney. 

Our own horses now showed signs of fatigue, and 
we resolved to give them half a day's rest. We 
stopped at noon at a grassy spot by the river. After 
dinner Shaw and Henry went out to hunt ; and 
while the men lounged about the camp, I lay down 
to read in the shadow of the cart. Looking up, I 
saw a bull grazing alone on the prairie, more than a 
mile distant. 1 was tired of reading, and taking my 
rifle I walked toward him. As I came near, I 
crawled upon the ground until I approached to 
within a hundred yards ; here I sat down upon the 
grass and waited till he should turn himself into a 
proper position to receive his death-wound. He 
was a grim old veteran. His loves and his battles 
were over for that season, and now, gaunt and war- 
worn, he h.id withdrawn from the herd to graze by 
himself and recruit his exhausted strength. He was 
miserably emaciated ; his mane was all in tatters ; his 
hide was bare and rough as an elephant's, and cov- 
ered with dried patches of the mud in which he had 



400 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

been wallowing. He showed all his ribs whenever 
he moved. He looked like some grizzly old ruffian 
grown gray in blood and violence, and scowling on 
all the world from his misanthropic seclusion. The 
old savage looked up when 1 first approached, and 
gave me a fierce stare ; then he fell to grazing again 
with an air of contemptuous indifference. The mo- 
ment after, as if suddenly recollecting himself, he 
threw up his head, faced quickly about, and, to my 
amazement, came at a rapid trot directly toward me. 
I was strongly impelled to get up and run, but this 
would have been very dangerous. Sitting quite 
still, I aimed, as he came on, at the thin part of the 
skull above the nose. After he had passed over 
about three-quarters of the distance between us, I 
was on the point of firing, when, to my great satis- 
faction, he stopped short. 1 had full opportunity of 
studying his countenance ; his whole front was cov- 
ered with a huge mass of coarse, matted hair, which 
hung so low that nothing but his two forefeet were 
visible beneath it ; his short, thick horns were blunted 
and split to the very roots in his various battles, and 
across his nose and forehead were two or three large 
white scars, which gave him a grim, and, at the 
same time, a whimsical appearance. It seemed to 
me that he stood there motionless for a full quarter 
of an hour, looking at me through the tangled locks 
of his mane. For my part, I remained as quiet as 
he, and looked quite as hard ; I felt greatly inclined 
to come to terms with him. " My friend," thought 
I, "if you'll let me off, I'll let you off." At length 
he seemed to have abandoned any hostile design. 
Ver)' slowly and deliberately he began to turn about ; 
little by little his side came into view, all beplastered 
with mud. It was a tempting sight. I forgot my 
prudent intentions, and fired my rifle ; a pistol would 
have sened at that distance. Round spun old bull 



DOWN THE ARKANSAS. 4OI 

like a top, and away he galloped over the prairie. 
He ran some distance, and even ascended a con- 
siderable hill, before he lay down and died. After 
shooting another bull among the hills, I went back 
to camp. 

At noon, on the fourteenth of September, a very 
large Santa Fe caravan came up. The plain was 
covered with the long files of their white-topped 
wagons, the close black carriages in which the 
traders travel and sleep, large droves of animals, 
and men on horseback and on foot. They all 
stopped on the meadow near us. Our diminutive 
cart and handful of men made but an insignificant 
figure by the side of their wide and bustling camp. 
Tete Rouge went over to visit them, and soon came 
back with half a dozen biscuits in one hand, and a 
bottle of brandy in the other. I inquired where he got 
them. "Oh," said Tete Rouge, " 1 know some of 
the traders. Dr. Dobbs is there besides. " 1 asked 
who Dr. Dobbs might be. "One of our St. Louis 
doctors," replied Tete Rouge. For two days past I 
had been severely attacked by the same disorder 
which had so greatly reduced my strength when at 
the mountains ; at this time 1 was suffering not a 
little from the sudden pain and weakness which it 
occasioned. Tete Rouge, in answer to my inquiries, 
declared that Dr. Dobbs was a physician of the 
first standing. Without at all believing him, 1 re- 
solved to consult this eminent practitioner. Walk- 
ing over to the camp, 1 found him lying sound 
asleep under one of the wagons. He ofifered in his 
own person but an indifferent specimen of his skill, 
for it was five months since I had seen so cadaverous 
a face. His hat had fallen off, and his yellow hair 
was all in disorder ; one of his arms supplied the 
place of a pillow ; his pantaloons were wrinkled 
half-way up to his knees, and he was covered with 
26 



402 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

little bits of grass and straw, upon which he had 
rolled in his uneasy slumber. A Mexican stood 
near, and I made him a sign that he should touch 
the doctor. Up sprang the learned Dobbs, and 
sitting upright, rubbed his eyes and looked about 
him in great bewilderment. I regretted the neces- 
sity of disturbing him, and said 1 had come to ask 
professional advice. 

"Your system, sir, is in a disordered state," said 
he, solemnly, after a short examination. 

I inquired what might be the particular species of 
disorder. 

' ' Evidently a morbid action of the hver, ' ' replied 
the medical man ; " I will give you a prescription. 

Repairing to the back of one of the covered 
wagons, he scrambled in ; for a moment 1 could see 
nothing of him but his boots. At length he pro- 
duced a box which he had extracted from some dark 
recess within, and opening it, he presented me ■with 
a folded paper of some size. "WTiat is it?" said 
I. " Calomel," said the doctor. 

Under the circumstances I would have taken 
almost anything. There was not enough to do me 
much harm, and it might possibly do good ; so at 
camp that night I took the poison instead of supper. 

That camp is worthy of notice. The traders 
warned us not to follow the main trail along the 
river, ' ' unless, ' ' as one of them observed, ' ' you 
want to have your throats cut I" The river at this 
place makes a bend ; and a smaller trail, known as 
" the Ridge-path," leads directly across the prairie 
from point to point, a distance of sixt}- or seventh' 
miles. 

We followed this trail, and after travelling seven 
or eight miles, we came to a small stream, where 
we encamped. Our position was not chosen with 
much forethought or military skill. The water was 



DOIVN THE AHA'AXSAS. 403 

in a deep hollow, with steep, high banks ; on the 
grassy bottom of this hollow we picketed our horses, 
while we ourselves encamped upon the barren prairie 
just above. The opportunity- was admirable either 
for driving off our horses or attacking us. After 
dark, as Tete Rouge was sitting at supper, we 
obser\ed him pointing, with a face of speechless 
horror, over the shoulder of Henr\-, who was oppo- 
site to him. Aloof amid the darkness appeared a 
gigantic black apparition, solemnly swaying to and 
fro as it advanced steadily upon us. Henn,-, half- 
vexed and half-amused, jumped up, spread out his 
arms, and shouted. The invader was an old buffalo- 
bull, who, with characteristic stupidit}-, was walking 
directly into camp. It cost some shouting and 
swinging of hats before we could bring him first to 
a halt and then to a rapid retreat. 

That night the moon was full and bright ; but as 
the black clouds chased rapidly over it, we were at 
one moment in hght and at the next in darkness. 
As the evening advanced, a thunder-storm came up ; 
it struck us with such violence that the tent would 
have been blown over if we had not interposed the 
cart to break the force of the wind. At length it 
subsided to a steady rain. I lay awake through 
nearly the whole night, listening to its dull patter 
upon the canvas above. The moisture, which filled 
the tent and trickled from ever}thing in it, did not 
add to the comfort of the situation. About twelve 
o'clock Shaw went out to stand guard amid the rain 
and pitch darkness. Munroe, the most vigilant as 
well as one of the bravest among us, was also on 
the alert. When about two hours had passed, Shaw 
came silently in, and touching Henr\-, called him in 
a low, quick voice to come out. " What is it?" I 
asked. "Indians, I believe, " whispered Shaw; 
" but lie still ; I'll call you if there's a fight." 



404 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

He and Henry went out together. I took the 
cover from my rifle, put a fresh percussion-cap upon 
it, and then, being in much pain, lay down again. 
In about five minutes Shaw came in again. "All 
right," he said, as he lay down to sleep. Henry 
was now standing guard in his place. He told me 
in the morning the particulars of the alarm. 
Munroe's watchful eye discovered some dark objects 
down in the hollow, among the horses, like men 
creeping on all-fours. Lying flat on their faces, he 
and Shaw crawled to the edge of the bank, and 
were soon convinced that what they saw were 
Indians. Shaw silently withdrew to call Henry, 
and they all lay watching in the same position. 
Henry's eye is one of the best on the prairie. He 
detected after a while the true nature of the moving 
objects ; they were nothing but wolves creeping 
among the horses. 

It is ver)' singular that when picketed near a camp 
horses seldom show any fear of such an intrusion. 
The wolves appear to have no other object than 
that of gnawing the trail-ropes of raw-hide by which 
the animals are secured. Several times in the 
course of the journey my horse's trail-rope was 
bitten in two bv these nocturnal visitors. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

THE SETTLEMENTS. 

" And some are in a far countree. 
And some all restlessly at home ; 
But never more, ah never, we 

Shall meet to revel and to roam." 

Siege of Corinth. 

The next day was extremely hot, and we rode 
from morning till night without seeing a tree or a 



THE SETTLE MEXTS. 405 

bush or a drop of water. Our horses and mules 
sutfered much more than we, but as sunset ap- 
proached, they pricked up their ears and mended 
their pace. Water was not far otT. When we came 
to the descent of the broad, shallow valley where it 
lay, an unlooked-for sight awaited us. The stream 
ghstened at the bottom, and along its banks were 
pitched a multitude of tents, while hundreds of 
cattle were feeding over the meadows. Bodies of 
troops, both horse and foot, and long trains of 
wagons, with men, women, and children, were 
moving over the opposite ridge and descending the 
broad declivity in front. These were the Mormon 
battalion in the service of the government, together 
with a considerable number of Missouri volunteers. 
The Mormons were to be paid off in California, and 
they were allowed to bring with them their families 
and property. There was something ven,- striking 
in the half-military, half-patriarchal appearance of 
these armed fanatics, thus on their way, with their 
wives and children, to found, it might be, a Mormon 
empire in California. We were much more aston- 
ished than pleased at the sight before us. In order 
to find an unoccupied camping-ground we were 
obliged to pass a quarter of a mile up the 
stream, and here we were soon beset by a 
swarm of Mormons and Missourians. The United 
States officer in command of the whole came 
also to visit us, and remained some time at our 
camp. 

In the morning the country- was covered with 
mist. We were always early risers, but before we 
were ready the voices of men driving in the cattle 
sounded all around us. As we passed above their 
camp we saw, through the obscurity, that the tents 
were falling and the ranks rapidly forming ; and 
mingled with the cries of women and children, the 



406 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

rolling of the Mormon drums and the clear blast of 
their trumpets sounded through the mist. 

From that time to the journey' s end we met almost 
ever}' day long trains of government wagons laden 
■with stores for the troops, and crawhng at a snail's 
\y' pace toward Santa Fe. 

Tete Rouge had a mortal antipathy to danger, but 
on a foraging expedition one evening he achieved an 
adventure more perilous than had yet befallen any 
man in the party. The night after we left ' ' the Ridge- 
path ' ' we encamped close to the river. At sunset we 
saw a train of wagons encamping on the trail, about 
three miles off ; and though we saw them distinctly, 
our little cart, as it afterward proved, entirely escaped 
their view. For some days Tete Rouge had been 
longing eagerly after a dram of whiskey. So, re- 
solving to improve the present opportunity, he 
mounted his horse James, slung his canteen over 
his shoulder, and set forth in search of his favorite 
liquor. Some hours passed without his returning. 
We thought that he was lost, or perhaps that some 
stray Indian had snapped him up. \Miile the rest 
fell asleep I remained on guard. Late at night a 
tremulous voice saluted me from the darkness, and 
Tete Rouge and James soon became visible ad- 
vancing toward the camp. Tete Rouge was in 
much agitation and big with some important tidings. 
Sitting down on the shaft of the cart, he told the 
following stor}- : 

When he left the camp he had no idea, he said, 
how late it was. By the time he approached the 
wagoners it was perfectly dark ; and as he saw them 
all sitting around their fires within the circle of 
wagons, their guns laid by their sides, he thought 
he might as well give warning of his approach, in 
order to prevent a disagreeable mistake. Raising 
his voice to the highest pitch, he screamed out in 



THE SETTLEMENTS. 407 

prolonged accents, " camp ahoy !" This eccentric 
salutation produced anything but the desired result. 
Hearing such hideous sounds proceeding from the 
outer darkness, the wagoners thought that the whole 
Pawnee nation were about to break in and take 
their scalps. Up they sprang, staring with terror. 
Each man snatched his gun ; some stood behind the 
wagons ; some threw themselves flat on the ground, 
and in an instant twenty cocked muskets were lev- 
elled full at the horrified Tete Rouge, who just then 
began to be visible through the darkness. 

" Thar they come !" cried the master-wagoner; 
" fire ! fire ! Shoot that feller." 

" No, no !" screamed Tete Rouge, in an ecstasy 
of fright ; " don't fire, don't ; I'm a friend, I'm an 
American citizen !" 

" You're a friend, be you .''" cried a gruff voice 
from the wagons ; ' ' then what are you yelling out 
thar for, like a wild Injun ? Come along up here if 
you're a man." 

" Keep your guns p'inted at him," added the 
master-wagoner ; " maybe he's a decoy, like." 

Tete Rouge, in utter bewilderment, made his ap- 
proach, with the gaping muzzles of the muskets 
still before his eyes. He succeeded at last in ex- 
plaining his character and situation, and the Missou- 
rians admitted him into camp. He got no whiskey ; 
but as he represented himself as a great invalid, and 
suffering much from coarse fare, they made up a 
contribution for him of rice, biscuit, and sugar from 
their own rations. 

In the morning, at breakfast, Tete Rouge once 
more related this story. We hardly knew how 
much of it to believe, though, after some cross- 
questioning, we failed to discover any flaw in the 
narrative. Passing by the wagoner's camp, they 
confirmed Tete Rouge's account in every particular. 



408 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

"I wouldn't have been in that feller's place," 
said one of them, ' ' for the biggest heap of money 
in Missouri." 

To Tete Rouge's great wrath they expressed a 
firm conviction that he was crazy. We left them 
after giving them the advice not to trouble them- 
selves about war-whoops in the future, since they 
would be apt to feel an Indian's arrow before they 
heard his voice. 

A day or two after we had an adventure of an- 
other sort with a party of wagoners. Henr}- and I 
rode forward to hunt. After that day there was no 
probability that we should meet with buffalo, and 
we were anxious to kill one, for the sake of fresh 
meat. They were so wild that we hunted all the 
morning in vain, but at noon, as we approached 
Cow Creek, we saw a large band feeding near its 
margin. Cow Creek is densely lined with trees 
which intercept the view beyond, and it runs, as we 
aftenvard found, at the bottom of a deep trench. 
We approached by riding along the bottom of a 
ravine. When we were near enough, I held the 
horses while Henr\' crept toward the buffalo. 1 saw 
him take his seat within shooting distance, prepare 
his rifle, and look about to select his victim. The 
death of a fat cow was certain, when suddenly a 
great smoke arose from the bed of the creek, with a 
rattling volley of musketn,-. A score of long-legged 
jNIissourians leaped out from among the trees and 
ran after the buffalo, who one and all took to their 
heels and vanished. These fellows had crawled up 
the bed of the creek to within a hundred yards of 
the buffalo. Never was there a fairer chance for a 
shot. They were good marksmen ; all cracked 
away at once, and yet not a buffalo fell. In fact, the 
animal is so tenacious of life that it requires no little 
knowledge of anatomy to kill it, and it is verj^ sel- 



THE SETTLE ME XTS. 409 

dom that a novice succeeds in his first attempt at 
' ' approaching." The balked Missourians were ex- 
cessively mortified, especially when Henr\- told them 
that if they had kept quiet he would have killed 
meat enough in ten minutes to feed their whole 
party. Our friends, who were at no great distance, 
hearing such a formidable fusilade, thought the In- 
dians had fired the volley for our benefit. Shaw 
came galloping on to reconnoitre and learn if we 
were yet in the land of the living. 

At Cow Creek we found the very welcome 
novelty of ripe grapes and plums, which grew 
there in abundance. At the Little Arkansas, not 
much farther on, we saw the last buffalo, a miser- 
able old bull, roaming over the prairie alone and 
melancholy. 

From this time forward the character of the coun- . 
tr}' was changing every day. We had left behind 
us the great arid deserts, meagerly covered by 
the tufted buffalo-grass, with its pale green hue and 
its short shrivelled blades. The plains before us were 
carpeted with rich and verdant herbage sprinkled 
with flowers. In place of buffalo we found plenr\- of 
prairie-hens, and we bagged them by dozens without 
leaving the trail. In three or four days we saw before 
us the broad woods and the emerald meadows of 
Council Grove, a scene of striking luxuriance and 
beauty. It seemed like a new sensation as we rode 
beneath the resounding arches of these noble woods. 
The trees were ash, oak, elm, maple, and hickor}-, 
their mighty limbs deeply overshadowing the path, 
while enormous grape-vines were entwined among 
them, purple with fruit. The shouts of our scattered 
part)-, and now and then a report of a rifle rang 
amid the breathing stillness of the forest. We rode 
forth again with regret into the broad light of the 
open prairie. Little more than a hundred miles now 



4IO THE OREGON TRAIL. 

sqmated us from die frontier settkanents. The 
whole intervenii^ coontnr was a succesaon erf ver- 
dant prairies, riang in broad swells and relieved bjr 
trees clustering like an oaas around smne spring, or 
frillowing die course d a. stream along some fertile 
hollow. These are the prairies of the poet and the 
novelist. We had left danger behind us. Xodiing 
was to be fieared from die Indians of this r^on — the 
Sacs and FatseSkJb^-Kansas, an4tb£LDsag£s. We 
had met with signal good fortune. Althot^;h for five 
months we had been travelling with an insufficient 
force duongh a country where we woe at any nio- 
ment liable to dep redationp not a si ngle jmimal had 
been stolen frmn. us. And our only loss had been 
one old mule bitten to death.b)- a ratdesnake. Three 
weeks after we reached the frontier, the Pawnees 
and the Comanches b^an a regular series cS hostili- 
ties on the Arkansas jiail. killing men and driving 
off horses. They attacked, without excqibon, every 
party, laige or small, that passed during the next 
six months. 

Diamond Spring, Rock Creek. Elder Grove, and 
other camping-places besides wete passed, all in 
quick succession. At Rock Creek we found a train 
of government provision wagons under the charge 
of an emaoated old man in his seventy-first year. 
Some resdess American devil had driven him into 
the wilderness at a time when he should have been 
seated at his fireside with his grandchildren on his 
kne^ I am convinced that he never returned : he 
was complaining dial night of a disease, the wasting 
effects of which upon a younger and stronger man. I 
mysdf had pro%'ed from severe experience. Long ere 
dais, no doubt, the wolves have howled their moon- 
I^ht carnival over die old man's attenuated remains. 

Not long after we came to a smaD trail leading to 
Fort Leavenworth, distant but one day's journey. 



THE SETTLEMENTS. 4II 

Tete Rouge here took leave of us. He was anxious 
to go to the fort in order to receive payment for his 
valuable mihtar>- services. So he and his horse 
James, after bidding an affectionate farewell, set 
out together, taking with them as much provision as 
they could conveniently carry, including a large 
quantity of brown sugar. On a cheerless, rainy 
evening we came to our last encamping ground. 
Some pigs belonging to a Shawanoe farmer were 
grunting and rooting at the edge of the grove. 

' ' I wonder how fresh pork tastes ?' ' murmured 
one of the part}', and more than one voice munnured 
in response. The fiat went forth, "That pig must 
die," and a rifle was levelled forthwith at the coun- 
tenance of the plumpest porker. Just then a wagon- 
train, with some twenty Missourians, came out from 
among the trees. The marksman suspended his 
aim, deeming it inexpedient under the circum- 
stances to consummate the deed of blood. 

In the morning we made our toilet as well as cir- 
cumstances would permit, and that is saying but 
ven,- little. In spite of the drear)- rain of yesterday, 
there never was a brighter and gayer autumnal 
morning than that on which we returned to the set- 
tlements. We were passing through the countn.- of 
the half-civilized Shaw»inoes. It was a beautiful 
alternation of fertile plains and groves, whose foli- 
age was just tinged with the hues of autumn, while 
close beneath them rested the neat log-houses of the 
Indian fanners. Even,- field and meadow bespoke 
the exuberant fertility of the soil. The maize 
stood rustling in the wind, matured and dry, its 
shining yellow ears thrust out between the gaping 
husks. Squashes and enormous yellow pumpkins 
lay basking in the sun in the midst of their brown 
and shrivelled leaves. Robins and blackbirds flew 
about the fences ; and evervthing, in short, beto- 



412 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

kened our near approach to home and civilization. 
The forests that border on the Missouri soon rose 
before us, and we entered the wide tract of shrub- 
bery- which forms their outskirts. We had passed 
the same road on our outward journey in the spring, 
but its aspect was totally changed. The young wild 
apple trees, then tlushed with their fragrant blos- 
soms, were now hung thickly with ruddy fruit. Tall 
grass flourished by the roadside in place of the 
tender shoots just peeping from the warm and oozy 
soil. The vines were laden with dark purple 
grapes, and the slender tvvigs of the maple, then 
tasselled with their clusters of small red flowers, now- 
hung out a gorgeous display of leaves stained by 
the frost with burning crimson. On ever\' side we 
saw the tokens of maturity and decay, where all had 
before been fresh and beautiful. \Ve entered the 
forest, and ourselves and our horses were checkered, 
as we passed along, by the bright spots of sunlight 
that fell between the opening boughs. On either 
side the dark, rich masses of foliage almost excluded 
the sun, though here and there its rays could find 
their way down, striking through the broad leaves 
and lighting them with a pure transparent green. 
Squirrels barked at us from the trees ; coveys of 
young partridges ran rustling over the leaves below, 
and the golden oriole, the blue-jay, and the flaming 
red-bird darted among the shadowy branches. We 
hailed these sights and sounds of beauty by no 
means with an unmingled pleasure. Many and 
powerful as were the attractions which drew us 
toward the settlements, we looked back even at 
that moment with an eager longing toward the 
wilderness of prairies and mountains behind us. 
For myself, I had suffered more that summer from 
illness than ever before in my life, and yet to 
this hour I cannot recall those savage scenes and 



THE SETTLEMENTS. 413 

savage men without a strong desire again to visit 
them. 

At length, for the first time during about half a 
year, we saw the roof of a white man's dwelling 
between the opening trees. A few moments after 
we were riding over the miserable log-bridge that 
leads into the centre of Westport. Westport had 
beheld strange scenes, but a rougher looking troop 
than ours, with our worn equipments and broken- 
down horses, was never seen even there. We 
passed the well-remembered tavern, Boone's gro- 
cery, and old Vogle's dram-shop, and encamped on 
a meadow beyond. Here we were soon visited by 
a number of people, who came to purchase our 
horses and equipage. This matter disposed of we 
hired a wagon and drove on to Kansas Landmg. 
Here we were again received under the hospitable 
roof of our old friend. Colonel Chick, and seated 
under his porch, we looked down once more on the 
eddies of the Missouri. 

Uelorier made his appearance in the morning, 
strangely transformed by the assistance of a hat, a 
coat, and a razor. His little log-house was among 
the woods not far off. It seemed he had meditated 
giving a ball on the occasion of his return, and had 
consulted Henry Chatillon as to whether it would 
do to invite his boii7-geois. Henry expressed his 
entire conviction that we would not take it amiss, 
and the invitation was now proffered accordingly, 
Delorier adding as a special inducement that An- 
toine Lajeunesse was to play the fiddle. We told 
him we would certainly come, but before the even- 
ing arrived a steamboat, which came down from 
Fort Leavenworth, prevented our being present 
at the expected festivities. Delorier was on the 
rock at the landing-place, waiting to take leave 
of us. 



414 ^^^ OREGON TRAIL. 

"Adieu ! mes bourgeois, adieu ! adieu I" he cried 
oat as the boat put off ; "when you go another time 
to de Rocky Montagnes I will go with you ; yes, I 
will go !" 

He accompanied this patronizing assurance by 
jumping about, swinging his hat, and grinning from 
ear to ear. As die boat nMinded a distant point, 
the last object that met our eyes was Delorier, still 
lifting his hat and skipping about the rock. We 
had taken leave of Munioe and Jim Gumey at West- 
port, and Henry Chatillon went down in the boat 
with us. 

The passage to St. Louis occupied eight days, 
during about a third erf* which time we were fast 
aground on sand-bars. We passed the steamer 
' 'Amelia, ' ' crowded ^th a roaring crew of disbanded 
volunteers swearing, drinMi^. gambling, and fight- 
ing. At length one evening we reached the crowded 
levee of St. Loins. R^iairing to die Planters' House 
we caused diligent search to be made for our trunks, 
which, after some time, were discovered stowed 
away in the &rtfaest comer of the store-room. In 
the morning we hardly recognized each <^er; a 
Crock of broadcloth had supplanted the frock of 
buckskin ; well-fitted pantaloons took the place of 
the Indianl^gings. and polished boots were substi- 
tuted for the gaudy moccasons. 

After we had been several days at Sl Louis we 
heard news c& Tete Roi^e. He had contrived to 
reach Fort Leavenworth, whoe he had found the 
paymaster and recaved his money. As a boat was 
just ready to start for St. Loms he went on board 
and engaged his passage. This done, he imme- 
diatdy got drunk on shore, and the boat went off 
widiout him. It was some days b^ore another 
oppcHtunity occurred, and meanwhile the sutler's 
stores fijmished Mm with abundant means of keep- 



THE SETTLEMENTS. 415 

ing up his spirits. Another steamboat came at last, 
the clerk of which happened to be a friend of his, 
and by the advice of some charitable person on 
shore, he persuaded Tete Rouge to remain on board, 
intending to detain him there until the boat should 
leave the fort. At first Tete Rouge was well con- 
tented with this artangement, but on applying for a 
dram, the bar-keeper, at the clerk's instigation, 
refused to let him have it. Finding them both in- 
flexible in spite of his entreaties, he became des- 
perate and made his escape from the boat. The 
clerk found him, after a long search, in one of the 
barracks ; a circle of dragoons stood contemplating 
him as he lay on the floor, maudlin drunk and 
crying dismally. With the help of one of them the 
clerk pushed him on board, and our informant, who 
came down in the same boat, declares that he re- 
mained in great despondency during the whole pas- 
sage. As we left St. Louis soon after his arrival, 
we did not see the worthless, good-natured little 
vagabond again. 

On the evening before our departure, Henry 
Chatillon came to our rooms at the Planters' House 
to take leave of us. No one who met him in the 
streets of St. Louis would have taken him for a 
hunter fresh from the Rocky Mountains. He was 
very neatly and simply dressed in a suit of dark 
cloth ; for although since his sixteenth year he had 
scarcely been for a month together among the abodes 
of men, he had a native good taste and a sense of 
propriety which always led him to pay great attention 
to his personal appearance. His tall athletic figure, 
with its easy flexible motions, appeared to advantage 
in his present dress ; and his fine face, though rough- 
ened by a thousand storms, was not at all out of 
keeping with it. We took leave of him with much 
regret ; and unless his changing features, as he 



4l6 THE OREGON TRAIL. 

shook us by the hand, behed him, the feeling on 
his part was no less than on ours.* Shaw had given 
him a horse at Westport. My rifle, which he had 
always been fond of using, as it was an excellent 
piece, much better than his own, is now in his 
hands, and perhaps at this moment its sharp voice 
is startling the echoes of the Rocky Mountains. On 
the next morning we left town, and after a fortnight 
of railroads and steamboats we saw once more the 
familiar features of home. 

* I cannot take leave of the reader without adding a word 
of the guide who had served us throughout with such zeal 
and fidelity. Indeed, his services had far surpassed the terms 
of his engagement. Yet, whoever had been his employers, 
or to whatever closeness of intercourse they might have 
thought fit to admit him, he would never have changed the 
bearing of quiet respect which he considered due to his bour- 
geois. If sincerity and honor, a boundless generosity of 
spirit, a delicate regard to the feelings of others, and a nice 
perception of what was due to them, are the essential char- 
acteristics of a gentleman, then Henry Chatillon deserves the 
title. He could not write his own name, and he had spent 
his life among savages. In him sprang up spontaneously 
those qualities which all the refinements of life and inter- 
course with the highest and best of the better part of man- 
kind fail to awaken in the brutish nature of some men. In 
spite of his bloody calling, Henry was always humane and 
merciful; he was gentle as a woman, though braver than a 
lion. He acted aright from the free impulses of his large 
and generous nature. A certain species of selfishness is 
essential to the sternne.ss of spirit which bears down opposi- 
tion and subjects the will of others to its own. Henry's 
character was of an opposite stamp. His easy good-nature 
almost amounted to weakness ; yet, while it imfitted him for 
any position of command, it secured the esteem and good- 
will of all those who were not jealous of his skill and repu- 
tation. 

THfi END. ''- 






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