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Full text of "Twenty years on the trap line : being a collection of revised camp notes written at intervals during a twenty years experience in trapping, wolfing and hunting, on the great Northwestern plains"

Class -OlXgyL 
Book^__. - 



COPYRIGHT DEPOSIT 




A Trapped Coyote. 
(Fiom a photograph.) 



TV/ENTY YEARS 
ON THE 

TRAP LINE. 

Biii^a C):i?c-tion of Revised Camp Notes 

Written at Intervals During a Twenty 

Years Experience in Trapping. Wolf- 

i.ig and Hunting, on the Great 

Northwestern Plains. 

BY 

Joseph Henr/ Taylor. - ^' 

Aunio:: 07 '•fr:)Ntiek and indtan life/' etc. 



BT 



SMAKCK, N. D. and AVONDALE, PA. 



l^j'ii^'l a'.ul Puhlishpd by the Author. 

kSiU. 



rv 






Copyright, 1891, 

BY 

Joseph Henry Taylor. 



PRSFACS, 

AF rEK tlu' puhlicatloj < f my recent work, 
'-Frontier an.l Indian Life.- a young 
but observing class of readers and inquirers, 
felt a little disappointed, that I did not go more 
into details about the habits of fur bearing 
animals, and the methods employed in en- 
trapping them. Th'switha knowbi^e that 
for a long number of years I had folio .vei the 
vocations of trapper and wolfer in a profes- 
sional way, and must necessarily be familiar 
with the subjects to be treated. 

In sending forth this little book after its 
companion one, I have, therefore, endeavored 
to supply the omission, by giving some ac- 
count of a hunter's, trapper's and wolfer's 
life, as I observed and experienced it; written 
somewhat in a crude foim of a rambling nar- 
rative covering a record of the doings of 
mctny of those years; iut ^rsp.^rsad with some 
notmgs of theprin.-ipvl fur beirnr animils 
of the country, and the methods used in en- 
snaring and te^roying them; aho. smie fur- 
ther acounis of the doings an I undoings of 
mv Indian neighbours. 



CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER I. 

JSpirit Lake and tlie Little Sioux River — Ink 
paduta the Outlaw Chief. 11 

CHAPTER IL 

Santee Sioux Outbreak of 1862 — Valley of the 
Little Sioux in 1803— An ''Official" Wild 
Turkey Hunt. 19 

CHAPTER IIL 

An Autumn Trap on Mill Creek 18(35— Trap- 
per's Outfit— The Start— Meet a Winneba- 

f goe Chief — A Scare — Mink Leading Fur 
of the Season. 20 

CHAPTER IV. 

More About the Autumn Trap on Mill Creek 
— Mink Trapping — Minister of the Gospel 
in Bad Business— A Fur Dealer's ''Round 
Up." '34 



CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER V. 

The Final Trap on Mill Creek— A Spring ''Set 
Out'*— Ti-apper Hawthorne — ''Calling" the 
Beaver — Lost on the Prairie — Inkpaduta's 
Sons. 41 

CHAPTER VI. 

Ahout Beavers. 51 

CHAPTER VII. 

Along the Elkhoi'n River — Beaver ''Up to 
Trai)" — Camping Among the Wild Plums 

An Elk Hmit— A Clean Burn out. 59 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Wolfers and Wolfing. 69 

CHAPTER IX. 

On the Loup Fork of Platte River — Pawnee 
Indians as Guests — Bloody Trail — Baiting 
the Mink — Hunters and Trappers as 
Dreamers. 75 

CHAPTER X. 
Otter and Otter Trapping— A Mid Winter 
Trap OQ Shell Creek. 82 



CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XI. 

^ 'Old Dakota." 87 

CHAPTER XII. 

''Signing Up" the Niobrara — Paper Towns 
for Eas era Investors — A BeaaiLful Pros- 
pect—The PoQcas, 93 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Badgers. Raccoans, Skiinks and Muskrats, 
and iiow to Trap tbem. 105 

CHAPTER XIV. 

Trapping at Painted Woods Lake, Heart 
River, and Apple Cieek in North Dakota in 
1871. JU 

CHAPTER XV. 

Eagles and Eagle Trapping. 123 

CHAPTER XVI. 

Wolfing and Trapping Around the Upper 
White Earth Country — JSmart Beaver 
Again — Vic Smith as a Dime Novel Hero. 

129 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Lake Mandan— Tlie Last Winter Hunt— An 

\vv (lorge on the Missouri — Desti'uetion of 
the Deer — Lost Indian Boy. i'lo 

CHAPTER XVIII. 
At the Painted Woods. lU 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



A Trapped Coyote, * ' 

Lake of the Painted Woods, 

Massacre at the Spirit Lake, 

Santee Sioux Chief Little Crow, 

Sioux Chi(^f Rain in the Face, 

A Beaver, 

Loner Pog the Trapper Killer, 

Ljike Maiulan in Summer, 

L ! wyi'i Farley the White Owl Trapper, 

L j;i J Soldier the Trapper Scarer. 



TV7SKTY YUAriSO!! IIU T?J.? UM. 



CHAPTER I. 

Spirit lAke and the Little Sioux Paver— 
Inkpaduta the Outlaw Chief. 

N northwestern Iowa, near what was 
I t^^^t'^- known as the Do,<? Plains, lies the 
lar2:ost inland body of water in that State. 
Tt still ])oars its original Indian name of Spirit 
Lako, or as sometimes interpreted, ^'the lake 
Avliere spirits dwell." It is beautifully loca- 
ted near the southern part of this almost im- 
p-rreT>tible plateau, and although somewhat 
f^iiio-iilar in shape, the primitive groves of 
c,ott^^>>wood and oak that once lined the back- 
ground of its pebbly beach, made it a view of 
such romantic and rtriking picturesquencss 
as to early mnke famous this watery domicile 
of the ghosts. 

This Lake was the eirly homo of the Mde- 
wakontons one of the four groups of the 
Santees, the supposed parent stock of the 



12 TWENTY YEARS 

Sioux or Dakota nation of Indians. But in- 
cessant wars with the Omahas of the west 
Missouri River country and the lowas of the 
lower Des Moines River, with their confeder- 
ates, made the tenor of life so insecure to the 
Mdewakontons that they gave up that section 
as permanent residence, and made camp 
witli their brothers along the rivers of 
wliat is now western Minnesota. 

From tho southern shore of the Spirit Lake 
pours out a small stream that forms the Enah 
wakpa or Stone River of the Sioux, the Petite 
Riviere des Sioux or Uttle Sioux River of t\\^ 
early French traders, by which latter appell.i- 
tionit is now known. But a few yards in width 
as it Cvvnes from th*) Lake, it gathers v^jlumc 
as it mea-nders along for one huiidnui a?!;! 
twenty miles in a south western course wherei 
it mingles its waters with those of the wide 
Missouri. 

This river like its fountain head was once 
studded with groves of tall cottonwood along 
tlie bends of the lowlands, while on the great 
curved lines of the uplands with a northerrx 
exposure, groves of hardwood forests stood 
facing the outward plain. They had defied tho 
withering and scorching biasts of the annual 



ON TFTE TRAP LINE. 13 

fires from the prairies and stnbhornly held 
their own against evey element of destruc- 
tion, even in a count by centuries. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the Santees 
had ceased to permanently occupy the land 
around the Lake they still claimed the right of 
possession, and th^^ir right was so respected 
by the General (lovernmont, that in a treaty 
with them Au^i^ust r)th, 1851, recognized the 
claims of the Mdo Arakontons and Wapekuta 
bands and promised to pay them for their 
relinquishment of the Lake and the Little 
Sioux Valley as well. 

Some time prev ioiu^ to this treaty, in a local 
feud among the AV ipokuta Santees, the chief, 
Tosa>5:i, was slain by some discontents of 
his tribe. The leader of the chief's murderers, 
Inkpaduta or the Red Point, a man of some 
prominence, whoso friends and relatives 
gathered about hi'ii to share his punish- 
ment, that of bani'dimeiit and outlawry. 

Inkpaduta and bislittiti band betook them- 
selves fearlessly to the Littlo Sioux Valley, 
and occupied a section of country that the 
whole Sioux nation had liorotoforo regard- 
ed, at best, a perilous fronllor. But with 
hib handful of eleven warriors anrl their re- 



U TWENTY YKaRS 

spective families they moved southward 
making their first hunting camp on the 
stream now called Mill creek, nearly opposite 
the'iiresent city of Cherokee. 

Inkpaduta was at this time represented as 
an Indian somewhat deceptive in appearance* 
He was about forty years of age, of medium 
height, rather spare in build, his voice soft 
and undertoned; his e^^es weak, and near 
sighted; his face badly pitted with small pox 
and his whole make-up had the shov/inp; 
of an liumblo, ilVusei mendicant, and gava 
littlo promise of the man whose infiu- 
e7"iCo and action :n the r;eaj* future j-diould in- 
Volvo Ruch Widespread niin oa both friend 
and foe. 

He had counseled against transfoiiiig th.-ir 
lands to the whites and refused to be bound 
by tlie treaties made for this purpose. He had 
doggedly determined to re-occupy the Little 
Sioux Valley and hold it. With true diplo-^ 
matic skill he matle a truce with the Om.ahas, 
and .18 an honored i-^uest became an occasional 
partaker at their savory feasts. Indeed^ 
siK'.h a favorable impression did the out- 
jiw.ui and beggarly looking chi'^ftahi maV3 
oa tho BU3^eptn>!e hearts of hi^ wliiloiii ia- 



ON THS TRAP LINE. 15 

tertainers that himself and band were en- 
joined to make winter camp at the mouth of 
Maple river a neighboring stream, one of the 
lower branches of the Little Sioux, and with- 
in an easy days ride of the village of the 
Omahas. 

During the years 1855-6, and the summer of 
'57, some of the finest sections of land in the 
Little Sioux Valley were located upon by 
settlers from Ohio, Illinois and other States 
east. 

The soitloment of Smithland along the 
lovver part of this valley, was started one of 
the earlier of these years. It was, as the 
name implies, founded by of one the branches 
of the numerous family bearing that name. 
The settlement was located principally on the 
w(iSt side of Little Sioux river and but a few 
miles north of Inkpaduta's camp on the river 
Maple. 

A distrustful fooling, almost from first con- 
tact, grew up between the settlers and the In- 
dians, culminating some time late in Novem- 
ber 1857, in one of the settlers charging some 
of the Indians with stealing about one bushel 
of corn from his crib. 

The accusation was stoutly d i*iio I by the 



16 TWENTY YEARS 

Indians who claimed a want of motive, inas- 
much as their generous friends the Omahas 
had liberly supplied them witli that cereal. 

Some evidence was aftei v^ards adduced to 
show that the charge was really a trumped 
one, and that the actual cause a jealousy on 
t\\i) part of some of the settlers against the 
red men about the game along the streams ia 
the n.^i|^til>orhooi, us these red outlaws owing 
t 1 i]i»nr great proficiency in the art had often 
bcoii dubbed the ■'Tr.ii'pinglfid^ins," 

T >i( It fuio, early in DocoJiiber, a posse of 
the Sniithiand people after some ]>reiiiiiiiiary 
organization marched in a body to Inkpadu- 
ta's camp and after making a surround and 
c loping in on the wondering and surprised In- 
dians proceeded at once to disarm them, 
and with violent gestulations, ordered them 
in the emphatic dialect of the bordermen 
to "i u k-u-choe." 

'i ho out H\\ed chief made an earnest pro- 
te;.t aguiiiLt tuch action of his white noi^^h- 
Lois, and in a dispationate tone called their 
attention to his people's hapless fate in 
bciig deprived of their guns, which were 
uljuuHt, t .e only moans of obtaining food for 
til hl- I ; ) ),i 1 3'it fi.aiUioa. 



o:n^ the trap line. 17 

He also prophesied a cold winter coming 
upon them, as un thawed snow was laying 
deep upon the ground. As far as the weather 
w^as concerned tho chiefs predictions came 
to pass. The winter that followed is yet re- 
ijrred to by old lowans as the ''hard winter.** 

Inkpaduta'8 remonstrance had been in vain. 
With almost noiseless celerity the little band 
struck lodges and were off. Had the white 
trappers of the Smithland party understood 
''Higx\in^< up" the dying embers of an Indians 
r.inip fire as familiarly as they did a beaver 
f iide, tley might have at least made some 
attcn] t to stay the Btorm caused by their 
over-cfricicufir.ess. 

Tho **sign" left by the departing Indian 
were a few small upriifht sticks placed near 
the embers where tho chief's lodge stood. It 
would read to a party uf four absent hunters, 
on their return, tc avoid all parties cf white 
i;>rn, take care of their guns and join them as 
f^ooQ as possible further up the valley of the 
I ittle »Si<.ux. 

The Indi;j,ns joined forces near the Corroc- 
lioijville Brttleiriei.t, some thirty miles 
j '»rfh of the mouth ef Maple rivor, where 
they cuiiimcu< eJ a Bciies of dopn daiioi;B 



18 TWENTY YEARS 

against the settlers stock and appropriating 
their fire arms when an opportunity occurred. 
But after Cherokee, — a settlement thirty miles 
north of Correction ville — was passed, the 
killing of the whites commenced and ended 
in the total destruction of the vigorous young 
town of Spirit Lake 'and the exposed settle- 
ment at Pelican hikes, killing over sixty 
persons, men, women and children, carrying 
away witli them as captives two of the most 
comely of the young women, who were 
afterwards rescued by Government troops 
scut out to punish the murd(3rous band. 



^B I 




Massacre at Spirit Lake by Inkpaduta's Band. 



ox THE TEAP LI.N'E. 19 



CilAPTER II. 

S .ntoe Sioux Outbreak of i862~Valley of 
thcv Little Sioux in 1868— An "Offi- 
cial" Wild Turkey Hunt. 

ON Monday morning, August 18th, 1862, 
commenced what proved to be the most 
ivholesale killing of white settlers by Indians 
stnco tLe first settlement of our country. It had 
been generally termed the Minnesota massa- 
cre being principally confined to that State. 
It was brought ou' by disafiected members of 
the lower or Mdewakonton branch of the 
8:intee Sioux. 

According to the story of the surviving 
Mdowakontong, the act was precipitated by 
f<>nr (Usni^pointcd, lunigry hunters, two of 
Ihem being a part of the survivors of Ink- 
])a<luta'8 * 'Trapping Indians." 

This hunting party of four returned by the 
"way of a settlement, and nearing a farm- 
jhouso, stumbled on a m^pt of hen eggs. Two 



2") TWEXTY Yr:ARS 

of the pnrty were in for taking and eating- 
them, and two opposed. The result was a 
quarrel and smashino- tho (^g^^- They 
then proceeded to the house and asked for a 
loaf of hread. This was o^iven to thein by 
the housewife, but violently j(M'ked from their 
hands by the husband, who had followed from 
a fieldVlien he saw the Indians approach the 
place. This exasperated them and he was in- 
stantly shot dead. The wife also was murdered . 
Four other settlers were killed near by, and 
the intoxicated Indians returned to their 
agency at Rice Creek and reported to their 
chief, Little Six, what they had done. After 
much deliberation it was resolved that the 
die was cast, and early the next morning— * 
being the 18th of August, the awful slaughter 
and holocaust began. • 

From the beginning of the outbreak, some- 
of Inkpaduta'sband appeared along the Little 
Sioux Valley, and the destruction of the set- 
tlements at Jackson's and Lake Shetek, near 
the upper end of that valley, and the murders 
and outrages along the valleyitself was clear- 
ly the work of these desperate marauders. 

Early in 1863, a batallion of bordermeii 
was raised by Cob Jim Sawyer for the pic tee- 



ON THE TRAP LTNE. 21 

tion of the settlers and their homes in that 
part of the country. A chain of fortified 
bastions were erected and garrisoned between 
Sioux City on the Missouri, and Mankat^ 
near the junction of Blue Earth and Minne- 
sota Rivors. 

The writer of these pages made a six 
months enlistment as soldier in the Batallion 
in the month of September of that year. We 
were stationed at Fort White, located in the 
piulst of the Correctionville settlement. The 
fort had been christened in honor of our com- 
pany commander, and was built in the tri- 
angle shape with two over topping bastions at 
the north and south ends. 

Wild game were found in abundance, 
and ns the soldiers were kept constantly on 
scouting duty, great sport was afforded, and 
the moss room well supplied with fresh wild 
jiioaln. 

Now and t)»en a spice of danger would 
c^DTMO to a scouting party, by the ecfm 
i?igly ever-present painted and feathered fori;), 
OTi some dist.'int knoll, of one or more of Ink- 
]);i(]utn's Santees. An undying Ri)irit of un- 
satisfied vengenre seemed to inspire thcjii to 
try and rej>».'»in around the scenes of their en riy 



22 TWENTY YEARS 

trials and triumphs as long as tho spirit of 
bravado ruled in their unconqucred and mer- 
ciless breasts. 

The principal part of tho j;^arriBon at Fort 
White had been, before their enlistment as 
soldiers, old hunters and trappers, and when 
off post duty usually followed their old voca- 
tion along the neighboring stroairis, as pas- 
time. Beaver, otter, mink and muskr-it were 
found within a short distance from the poet 
grounds. Being an inquisitive * 'tenderfoot,'* 
I usually sought the trappers' company on 
these excursions to their baits and traps, and 
being a novice in the art had an im- 
patient yearning for the high honors of an 
expert. 

Captain White was a popuLar of!ic:^r with 
both soldiers and citizens. While a good disci- 
plinarian when the exigencies of tlio service 
required it, he also found time for relaxation, 
making garrison life less prosy tlian is usu- 
ally found at frontier posts. 

Sometime in November, a dressy young 
military coxcomb came from Iowa's ca}>ital 
on a mission of some sort to the various posts 
garrisoned by tlie batallion. 

He wore tho shoulder straps and uniforui of 




Little Crow. 

J.eader of the Santee Sioux during the Indian 

outbreak in Minnesota, in 1802. Killed 

by a trapper August 1803. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 23 

a lieutenant p^nd was aide-de-camp to the 
Governor, or some military dignitary at Des 
Moines. He was guest of the company com- 
mander while at our fort, and in a confiden- 
tial manner unfolded to the good natured 
senior a burning desire to take back some be- 
wildering souvenir of his skill among the wild 
beasts and birds. For this purpose he had 
brought all the way by stage coach from the 
capital, a blooded dog and a high priced gun. 
The captain suggested as Thanksgiving was 
norU- c)t hand he try his skill on wild turkeys, 
and pointing his index finger toward a grove, 
r^^marked ;tbot the ''woods was full of them." 

Tlio youT^g officer waited for nothing more, 
but girding bis hunting rig about him, 
gatlior'n^^- up liis gun and wliistling to his 
do:r, rushed of? in the direction indicated. 

Ifi loss i)\\u ail liour the gay hunter re- 
1urp'-d in.' (h( wring perspiration, with four 
hu'^o turkoys, and w)\en nearing the captain, 
eT^f^nf^lng therri at ;irn h length exclaimed ex- 
uHino:ly,^'tbisisofticial." 

E^irly t^'e t.ext morning, wit>i the agility of 
a min.'»f ^»u?-io"Rft, t)io M.idM-d'i-camp boxed uj) 
h'^r" ^l^r birrlM, >uil w;««j ofT for the capital, but 
njt v/lihout th i'lK-.irux tbe irood natured cap- 



24 TWENTY YEARS 

t-nii f'^r favors ^^xt^'iHlvv 4. ;^^''1 inv '1 ;ji^ liim 1(^ 
a wild turkey feast at Des Moiiios mi Tliaiiks- 
giving Day. 

Our conimaudant accepted the invita- 
tion, and found a gay company before a fine 
spread, with the young officer enthroned as 
master of ceremonies. He was recounting to 
a seemingly delighted, lestwise an apprecia- 
tively attentive audience, tlie ANorth of hiB val- 
uable dog, and the accuracy of his "laminated 
steel barrels." Indeed, what more proof than 
the well browned gobblers in the smoking pans 
before them. 

After the dinner was over, toasts w^ere in 
order and one after another recited their piece, 
until it came to the frontier captain's turn 
who was expected to respond to the toast 
''Wild Turkeys." He excufcd hie inability to 
do justice to the occasi(>n. as he was no talk- 
er at all, and proceeded to read from a small 
scrap of paper. It was a receipt for pay- 
ment' by the captain, for four tuikeye, the 
property of a widow near his post, who had 
been dispoiled of her flock on the day the sioi- 
mentioned young officer made his big hunt 
on her premises. The rage and discomfiture 
of the host was great and the joking caj^- 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 25 

t:-.ijjj \-N«s ]c]iyJ I'it put titituiiC;:; bdt Wtrcr.D lowaW 
capital and hanii to himseli. 

In December an order came for the disband- 
ino; of the Batallion to enable such as desired 
to enter the regularlv organized regiments. 
Corporal Ordway ]ed a poese into the Fourth 
Iowa cavalry, but the main body v/as dis- 
chir^'i 1. 

Th'3 (orderly ser^^eant of the company, 
^t.nd the writer were made a special detail, 
and detained in the service some weeks 
longer when we, too, were mustered out. 

Haviri;^ now served as a soldier with but 
little irjterinission since the day after Fort 
Sumpt^^r fell. April 14, 18G1, 1 now resolved to 
f dlow i>i th^ wake of the dreams of my 
early boyhood — hunt for the homes and haunts 
of free wild Indians along the streams of 
the wide treeless and Fcmi-deeert plains, or 
amor.f.; the gorgcf-: ond canons of the eternal 
snow-capped mountains of the great Rocky 
chfiin. 



20 TWENTY YEARS 



CHAPTER III. 

An Autumn Trap on Mill Creek 1865— 

Trapper's Outfit— The Start— Meet a 

Winnebago Chief— A Scare— Mink 

Leading Fur of the S3aTon, 

AFTER nearly a year of wandering- along- 
the eastern base of the Rocky ^loun- 
tains I returned to the seehipicn of the quiet 
little viHage of Correctionville in the Litt]e 
Sioux Valley. It was in iiie month of Se] - 
temher, ISCo. and as that niontli inchuled the^ 
letter "r" the trapper's symbol for the open- 
ing of the fur season, a Ftir was r-bserved 
among the men of that ca]IiT)»v in '^ prepatory 
rush for choice g'ame preserves. 

'*Lime'* Oomstock one of th;^ m ^s;"; exjeit 
of those trapners was now mivl^ing re^dy. 
I accei'ted an cffer from Mr. CiJii^etock t«» 
accompany hnn as portner on a fall trap to 
the headwaters, (f Mill Creek, some s?zty 
miles north of the village. Cur llrbt pi:r.:lio.so 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 27 

aal v'v'd.go£i, also an wxira riding poiiy co at- 
tend the trap line. We then purchased a reg- 
ular western camp equipment, consi»ting of 
tent, cooking utensils for camp fire and about 
forty traps of the OneiJj. Cummunity manu- 
facture. About one half of thcj traps were 
number one's or single spring. They were 
fastened with light chains, but sufficient to 
hold nink, muskrat and skunk, for which 
they v/»ra intended. The balance of the kit 
W3rc aunibered two, three and four. The 
nur Ler two's were used to catch otter, foxes 
an wolves. The other numbers were used 
after the ])eavcr. The three last numbcr.5 
were double springs. The springs of all 
we e made of good springy Rt3'l with be!^ 
and chains of durable iron. 

We finally made a move one bright morn- 
ing about the middle of the month, and when 
fairly out of sight of our late rendezvous, 
my partner forgot liis ammunition sack, but 
would not return for it, avering that it would 
bring bad luck on him to Co so. 1 took the re- 
sponsibr.ty to return for 1dm, and when near- 
ing the ho S'>. the sight I had of a pale young 
f3nial3fac3 fai-ju-^h tli? window, gav^ a re" 



28 TWEXTY YEARS 

luiudcr that thorejwere Vtbcr f1t;^n tt»c super- 
stitious trapper who believed in the direful re- 
sults of the unlucky omen. 

At a small creek about eight miles from our 
starting point we unhitched our team and be- 
became dinner guests of Ed Haws, loc iliy 
nicknamed"8muttv Bear, "from some fancied 
facial resemblance to the noted Yankton chief. 
Haw6''wa8 a^wide-a-wake borderman and at 
one time over on the West Fork of the Little 
Sioux River, headed a euccorsful tight against 
Inkpadutas's band, led b> the chief's son. 
They were evenly numbered — fifteen on a 
side; all mounted. Three Indians fell. 

The road after having "Smulty Bear's" 
ranch, followed along the curved river, now 
and then passing through cottonwood and 
oak groves, with their beautiful varigated 
autumn-tinted leaves, throwing an appdrjnt 
halo on every thing around them. 

On entering one of th.^s^ orohii^i lojiia^ 
openings, our ponies gave a sudden snort. 
A commanding appearing Indian, with a n.ei- 
ancholly cast of countenance, etood by the 
roadside. We had met before and I knew bin-. 
It waa Little Breast the broken hearted chuf 
cf \he Wimiebagoes. He w-s waiid^nig 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 29 

among the groves. To all appearances, he had 
just walked down from a neighboring butte 
where he could survey the surrounding land- 
scape. From that pinnacle, out to the far- 
away blue, he could see the shadowy outlines 
of his former home on the Blue Earth River. 
From the Hre fingers of an extended hand, 
he counted the number of removels himself 
and tribe had passed from one reservation to 
another, in the vain hope of out-running and 
hiding from the cupidity of his pale faced 
brother. Though giving up his possessions as 
do nattd3i, in thoir rotation, with a vague 
hope in the equity of divine justice — that 
earthly possessions end3 with the earthly 
life — "that time right.s all things." 

About six miles further along the river trail, 
we observed a smoke curling up from a heavy 
patch of willows. Comstock left me with the 
team, and took his gun to reconnoiter. In 
about half an hour he returned. He said the 
smoke was from the camp fire of the noted 
Trapper Hawth( rne and partner. He further 
said'the trappers had ''strung out a line" and 
would put in the fall months at that place. 
They had ju{-t ivluir-cd from ''signing 



30 TWENTY YEARS 

up" Mill Creek, bnt ^vere bott-^r pUvK^ol with 
thoir prospects at the place \vlunc wo foiiml 
them. 

In comimmicatiiig those things to rue. Com. 
stock left out a very important item— a big- 
scare. Just the evening before, they had 
reached this camp after a hard drive of thirty 
miles, twenty miles of which they vrei^e fol- 
lowed, on the run. helter skelter— rp Irill Piui 
down, by six dismouted Indians — Inkpaduta's 
hostile Santees. This too from thej^very place 
we were now going. — the headwaters of Mill 
Creek. But all tliis I learned long afterward. 

As we resumed our journey. I cculd not 
but notice the extreme watclifuhuss that 
my partner manifested at objects ahead of 
us, tis we moved along the divide on the high 
praries."" and partly guessed he had not told 
all the nevrs he had learned from the two 
trappers. 

^Ve reached the liret grove up ^^lill Creek 
about sundown, and innncdiBt y went into 
camp for the night. After caring for our 
ponies, .^ach of us took a sej. arate hunting 
bout. Comstock returned at dusk with a 
nice iRt buck, while my evening trc]-hy con- 
sisted ( f a forlorn looking old golLIer. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 31 

Early the next morning we hitched up axi d 
started out to find the Second Forks, where we 
expected to hxlt and '*i3i^n up" the viciaity. 
Just above the Forks, to the right, stood an 
open grove of oak timber. As this article 
became more scarce as we ascended the creek 
we concluded to encamp there. Com.stock 
took his gun and a few traps, while I attended 
to the duties of the camp. 

While looking around, I observed by the 
bending of the grass the marks of a wagon; 
and that the horses feet led down stream 
after making a semicircle turn. I also no- 
ticed while watering the ponies at a beaver 
dam., several moccasin tracks in the soft mud 
and all leading one way, viz:, in the direction 
the waron had evidently taken. 

When Comstock returned, I informed him 
cf my d'Bcovery. He thought it might have 
been Hawthorne, but when reminded that 
trappers seldom use moccAsins in signing up a 
creek, be then suggested as an possibility that 
it might havfi been eik hunters from the fort 
atCherctee. ^ut Trapper Hawthorne after- 
v/ards inf( rmed me, it was at this very place 
they wer ^ ji:n!]:ed by that roving band of 
hostile Santejs. 



32 TWENTY YEARS 

That evening, aftsr a.3^i>*ting to put out a 
few traps, rny partner surprised mo by saying 
that as the weather was now favorable, and 
traveling good, he thought he had better re- 
turn to Correctionville for more supplies; 
as he thought we might need them. So bright 
and early the next morning, partner and team 
were ratting over the prairie divide toward 
the Little Sioux Valley. He did not return 
for two months after, and then left behind 
him the much needed "■grub box." 

Nothing was left for me to do now but; 
buckle down to a professional trapper's life. 
Not knowing what fur was "on the lead," I 
set out a ''diversified line." But the net re- 
sult seemed to be a specialty in wild ducks. 
Almost every morning I found a dozen or 
more of these fowls dead in the traps. The 
beaver dams W3r3 lit3rally covered with them 
having come in from their breediag places to 
''gather " before commencing their south- 
ward flight ^ 

After three weeks of solitary life, the mon- 
otony was broken one day by the appearance 
of two horsemen. It was the corporal com- 
manding the fort at Cherokee, and a trapper 
guide. The brusque young commander eoon 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 33 

rijiii^vhat irk 301113, ind by way of diver. 
iion from its oaarous duties, ami soms hop a 
jn the pro:ifc3 lik:3ly t^ aj3rii3 therefrom, he ; 
had concluded to buy furg^ 

He assured me further, that the latest re- 
ports from the London fur sales places' mink 
on the lead, and with no wish to take advant- 
age of my possible ignorance of the market. 
as a starter he would give, for good prime 
skins, ten dollars each, for all I had ready; 
aal th3 lat33t New York fur quotations on all 
ether prime hides and furs in my possession. 

With such a genen us offer, it is needless 
to add that the aspiring fur merchant returned 
down the valley with my late stock of pelt- 
liee. 



34 TWENTY YEARS 



• CHAPTER IV 

More About the Aiitiinm Trap en Mill 

Creek— Mink Trapping— Minister of 

tbe GoFF^l in Bad Eurinerr— A 

Fur Dealer's ''Eound Up." 

THE fur buyer and liis coiTipanion had 
hardly disappeared from view l^efore T 
set vig-orously to work re-oreanizing the trap 
line. The otter and heaver slides were at once 
abandoned and every available trap put alono;- 
mink runaways or set at the '"baits." Ten 
dollars for a prime mink hide. And now that 
the first snow in October had fallen, all furs 
were reckoned prime until the month of Mav, 
and beaver in this northern region held 9:ood 
until June. 

A trapper's first lesson to learn before ma- 
ingmuch of a success at his cftllipfr. is to'thor- 
oughlv understand the habits of the game he 
is trying: to catch. 

A light fall of cpow, followed by a calm 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 35 

iiig'ht iH hlri most opportune time to "signup." 
The tracl^ s are then fresh an( easy defined. 
Mink travel with a loping motion, making 
regular well measured jump8 of from twelve 
to fifteen inches apart. Both fore feet as well 
as both hind ones, while traveling, are kept 
close to^-ether, the left of each foot usually, 
slightly in advance. 

The habits of the mink vary but little in 
any part of North America, though in the 
extremes, north and south, there is some dis- 
tinction. The fur of the deep water aorthern 
mink, is almost jet black, while the southern 
ones are mostly of a reddish brown; the 
more northern, the finer the texture and thick- 
er the fur. For this reason all grades of 
north ^.ra furs leal in pric3 in ths main fur 
markets of the world. 

In seeking its food the mink often immi- 
trxtes the weasel in its throat-cutting destruc 
tiveness when it finds itself among a lot of 
unprotected or helpless brood of young fowls 
or birds. But when hungry it will return to 
the place of its last feast, and if nothing more 
inviting presents themselves will feed upon 
the cold carcasses of the former feast. And 
if this proves scant, after eating will hide 



T\VE.V'I V YK.AKS 

enough to find this cache, — n Pure catch 
then'olfers itself to his vision, for the mink, 
if nothing happens it in the meantime, will 
again return. Young muskrats, fish and fresh 
water clams, are als > a very palatable food 
for mink. 

As mink fur does not become prime even in 
norlhera latitudes, before the middle of Oc- 
tv^ber the mink trapper in making water sets, 
b>hould guard against a "freeze down" by 
putting his traps along the runway s in the 
swift running water or in a never freezing 
spring. In water sets for mink, the trap 
should not be set in the water over two or 
three inches deep. 

In winter, a good call is to a flesh bait, with 
a land or water set. If on land, the bait 
should be covered on every side except where 
the trap is set. This side should be exposed, 
and the trap set within four inches of the 
bait. The trap should be covered over thinly 
with feathers, or dry tree leaves well pulver- 
ized. Snow coverings can only be made with 
any hope of success in extreme freezing 
weather. 

In the spring, a combination of fall and 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 37 

wintor methods are best. When a mink is 
caught in a water runway at this season, the 
scent of the trapped mink draws others; and 
the trap should not be changed as long as 
* 'fresh sign" is found in the neighbourhood 

When not bupy with the traps or stretching 
and preserving the skins and furs, I found 
time to erect and tii up a comfortable cabin 
for fall quarters; with some little idea of de- 
fense, in case of being correlled by some stray 
war party. 

After Comstock'8 departure, my company 
consisted of two young fox hounds and the 
camp pony. A distemper shortly after 
killed the dogs, leaving me alone with the 
faithful little nag. I often clambered a 
neighbouring butte, saying with the redoubta- 
ble Robinson Chesnut : — 

"I am lord of all I survey 

My rights there are none to dispute, &:c." 

During one of the Indian summer days of 
early November, I made a journey up one 
of the creek's branches hunting after some 
elk. On looking back towards the camp, I saw 
great black clouds of smoke encircling the 
cabin on every side. The prairie was on fire 
and I hastened back to save my scant poRses- 



38 TWKxry YKAi;s 

sions. The pony was tied to a pickci rope aiul 
would be almoBt helpless. But on arriving 
there found him gone, and without looking 
furthei proceeded at once to save the cabin by 
extinguishing the flames on the inside circle. 
After this was done, I took up gun, ammu- 
nition and a lunch of johnny cake and venison 
and started to hunt up the pony. 

I soon came on a fresh wagon trail and 
C( ncluded to follow it. Noting that the hoofs 
of a led pony looked familiar, and guessing 
that the occupants wyre the starters of the 
tire, I redoubled my exertions to con:e up 
within reach of them. 

A full moon shed iti* silver light along the 
trail which enabled me to follow it for a 
distance of twenty miles or more when the 
settlement at Peterson- was reached. I here 
learned that the parties I was hunting; had 
passed through without stopping and were 
heading for Buena Vista some tweniy miles 
further on. 

I reached Buena Vista about sunrise.it being- 
a distance of something over forty miles 
from the plac(> of starting. At this place I 
jearned that my game was a minister of^the 
gospel and his tw^o sons. They had been out 



ON THE TRA.P TJNE.* 39 

elk iiuutiag aa.l had thought the pony Indian 
property, and therefore legitimate spoil. 

In attempting to give the preacher an ex- 
hibition of bad temper, when — 

"An answer to his whistle shrill, 
Was echoed back from every hill;" 

and I v^as glad to return to the camp on Mill 

Creek without other indemnification than the 

recovery of my pony and lariat 

Late in December, Comstock returned and 
a regular winter blizzcrd set in, and we con- 
cluded to pull up the traps and reach the Lit- 
tle Sioux Valley in time to save our stock 
from perishing in the storm. 

In croRsing an eight mile divide for this 
purpose, we had to face a bitter north wind; 
and when within a few hundred yards of the 
valley where the traps were strung, I suc- 
cumbed and fell, as in a blissful sleep, on the 
snow-covered ground. 

My partner, meantime, marking my ab- 
sence, retraced his steps discovering me^^proB- 
trate, gave me such an unmerciful thumping 
that I awoke maddened and followed him to- 
ward a bunch of dry grass which he immedi- 
ately ignited; and coming to my senses, all 
went well. That experience convinced me, 



T^VEXTY YEARS 

thnt <l*'aTh h\ irct^ziTi^- after a certain period 
of iiiu-eiTifortable cold is passed, is al)soiiitely 
painless. 

The balaiK-e of the Avinter we divided into 
vrolfing-, — with Hawthorn's abandoned cabin 
as lieadquarters. and turkey and deer hunting" 
around PkUo's ranch on Little Wolf Creek 

While at Plato' 8. we learned some news 
from our military fur buying friend of Chero- 
kee. He invested heavily in furs, relying 
upon steady markets and good profits on the 
final cut-: ome. Besides this. Christmas was 
the time set for him to wed one of the only 
two marriageable daughters, at the time in the 
village of fair Cherokee. 

Just before the holidays, adverse repot ts 
from the fur markets of London, reached 
him. and^he hastily gathered his furs in a 
pile, obtained a short furlough, and proceeded 
forthwith to Saint PauI. to unload before 
the crash came. Bui he was too late. He 
retiir ned to his post a busted furrier. And 
agaiij the old saw was verified, that "bad luck 
like crows never comes singjy." During 
the absence of the corporal commandJng. his 
expected bride, in an hour of tickleness or 
change of heart — after a lightning courtehip. 
— married another, and that other a plain 
'•buck "soldier of his own command. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 41 



CHAPTER V. 

The Final Trap on Mill Creek— A Spring 
"Set'Oat"— Trapper Hawthorne— "Call- 
ing" the Beaver— Lost on the 
Prairie- Inkpaduta's Sons. 

GREAT quantitiefl of gmow fell throughout 
northwestern Iowa, during the month 
of February .^8G0, followed by fierce wind 
storms in which Bome of the more exposed 
settlers loBt their liveB. "Trapper Joe" was 
found dead in his blankets under his wagon 
OE Waterman Creek. His^horses were tightly 
tied to his wagon wheels: one dead but its 
mate alive. Two trappers on Lake Shetek 
were b&dly frozen: one with both legs frozen 
stiff below the knees and his comrade frozen 
blind. It took them tw^elve days to travel 
thirty-five miles — the nearest settlement from 
their camp. 

As a consequence of the snow, the Febru- 
ary thaw in the latter part of the month, set 



42 Tv\ r:A i V V EAKB 

the ice ruiiuiug m Lht- stre/^ius. Again Coiu- 
etock^iiiid myself formed a trapping partner- 
ship; and again we headed for Mill Creek; 
and, he afters hivering around the camp fire for 
a fewdajB blessing the March winds, — as be- 
fore — deserted me. 

He had gone but a few days when Haw- 
thorne and Jackson, two trappers, appeared 
and aeked for mutual camp and a division of 
the grounds. The proposition I cheerfully 
acceded to, though by trappers rules my pri- 
ority gave me fur rights to the territory cover- 
ed by my traps, providing a charge of dog-in- 
the-manger style of holding conld not be sus- 
tained. 

Trapper Hawthorne, whom I casually in- 
troduced in a previous chapter, ^a as at that 
time reckoned one of the most succeseful 
beaver trappers in northwestern L wa. He 
usually sought places that had been — to use a 
trappers phase — ''trapped out." But he man- 
aged, as a rule, to take about as much fur 
from the place, as the ''skimmers" or first 
trappers. He was originally a Marylander. 
married young, brought his wife west, and 
were among the first settlers in Little Sioux 
Valley : in fact one of the earliest of the 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 43 

Sniithlandprs. but one who had refused to 
be a party to the diearniing of Inkpaduta's 
hunting camp, characterizing it as an unjusti- 
fiable proceeding, lacking cause. 

We made permanent camp at the Three 
Forks, and the following two months I be- 
came a diligont pupil in learning the noted 
trappers method of catching beaver by the 
sontod bait. 

The bait most generally used by beaver 
trappers consists, simply, of the bark castors 
of either sex — though used separately. The 
castors t?iken from the beavers late in the 
winter or early spring prefered. It is then 
]']ncf d in a bottle or horn and mixed with 
common molasses and wild garlic. 

The scent b-iit as Hawthorne prepared and 
used, 'contained the following ingredients: 
The? bark castor of a female beaver, taken in 
April; to thia , is added two spoonfullBof the 
oil of cinnamon, and about half a8 much of 
the oil of hnrgamont. To this mixture alcohol 
is added, when the bait is ready for use. Age 
adds to the vigor of the bait when properly 
cared for. 

Seme tiappers delight in a mysterious com- 
pound known only to themselves. But the 



U TWENTY YKAK8 

not result of their '"catoir' rarely ever attests^ 
any unusual povrer in •'drHwinur*" the inquis- 
itive beaver. 

In the spring months after the iee has went 
our and the water along the ereek beds s^ettle 
to its normal eondition. if the sign ju^titieB 
the trapper puts out his beaver ••ealls" or 
baits. At?> Hawthorne's methods^ were very" 
successful in this line, and not hf^ving the air 
of mystery that uaually Purround the "medi- 
cine catch* ' of the French Canadian. I will 
state thein: He takes asniail willow i r coc- 
tonwood stick cuts ii in two }n^<-'<^^ <^'t (Unut. 
six inches in length, and each slivered at one 
end. This slivered end is then daubed with 
the concoction, the slivering helping to retain 
the- scent in the wood. 

He then searcues up,- if ^x^ssible, j\ place 
where beaver use. though not on its rimvravi^ 
I r regular slides. He then seti^ the trap al- 
lowing for the beaver's wide tread, and runs, 
the unscented ends of the sticks in the mud at 
the water line, allowing the scented end^N 
to hang over the water in the direi ticu of 
and within eight or ten inches of the water 
covered traps. 
Trappers, sometimes, when unob:^erYed. treat 



ON THE TRAP LINP:. 45 

thvii- loo r.tMxliboiirly rivals hnit s^tickw to a 
c jat of the oil caHtora, therf^bj producing a 
rc'ire instead of a call to the pansing beaver. 

One March morning when the snow waK 
failing' fast, 1 Btarted ujj 4h© creek for an elk 
hunt, knowing that t?ie storm would bring 
tb'in in iht) brv^aks of the creek for shelter. 
I had not traveled fur before I Obpied a Ijand 
of al)oiit twenty, but having Bcented me were 
trotting out to the high prairies. I followed en 
tlie trail until drifting- »now obliterated their 
tr'jrksj-^o that 1 lo«t the game entirely. 

The ail* had became filled with drifting snow 
au'i I becatrie bewildered and loHt. 1 had no 
co7U5)%s» and waH (irifting out to the treeless 
and shell erleiiH ba^in of the upper Floyd's 
lliver. In th^ direction I wa^ going I could 
not hope to strike timber »hort of Biity miles; 
£.nd as the enow .was from one to three feet 
deep I UjUat 1 ecome exhaunted and pc^rish in 
a few more hours. 

In this dilemma, vvhile trying to take obser- 
vati( nn fr( rn a raise of ground, I saw oil my 
I ack trail v/iiat app(^ared, through a slight lull 
in tht^ still flying particiefl of snow, a grove of 
tiniber. I immediatley retraced my steps, but 
on arriving; wh«)re the suppoftod timber was, 



4(l 



rwPNTY YR.V^K 



l(^^^•t^i at n ^ rritiMw'uiul aftf r t^v(» iwoK^ luairs 
of siio^v rraJin,^' wats jo\ fully surprised to tiiul 
r ;» 5 « '^'^ w it) hi :i !• i^e c* tiir traj ring oan.}>. 
T< ware's lii^lit it tiini^^tl 1 Ui^tio is -jv.d bitter 
cold, aiul tl^»^ ojvn-}) ilr^' tent up a c l.eerful 
g'lMe khat bid tbe death } i :^ntoni thr.t I. act 
foliowed ill the woko of n.y rutwHrd trail. 

About the uiiddlo «-»f TTav, Ir;< wilioriu^ aii-i 
his jniitner broke- CAinp and started htniie- 
ward, while I remained u few da>^ loUkrer 
\o tra]Uhe beaver dam nini*'aTs. In di iii^ ><> 
I met with the sriTiie trouble t»f the } revicus 
autumn, namely, from the in n)ett?^e number of 
wild ducks. They were there in every variety 
of plumai-e — the ufre^n headed mftlUrd. tlu^ 
j-ed headed fish duck from the Arctie .^nd thi^ 
Avhite plumes from the Hudson Pay country. 
In my twenty years ^ftj^r experience on the. 
tr 'p line. I r ever recollected seeing" so many 
varieties of these fowls, and in such numbers. 
at any one time, a^ durin:< that spring c?mp 
on Mill Creek. 

As the rapidly chang-ing season commen-ced 
to -spot'" the furs. I made ready to pull v.i> 
traps and move down to the settlements. On 
the morning of my final departure; I noticed 




^\ ^^ ■ y 



Rain in the Face. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 47 

a n en f aFf^irg- akng the edge of the bluffs 
without ^« Iteming to «ee the camp. 

With gun in hand and a brace of pistols in 
my 'Svar" belt, I intercepted him with a^'hel- 
lo. " On approaching, I discovered him to be 
a half breed, and seemed trailing something. 

"Did you see nobody pass here?" he feaid 
in good English. 

"No." I answered. 
P'You were in luck they didn't see you !" 

"Why sol" 

"Because Inkpaduta's boys don't often let a 
chance slip." 
"Inkpadutas's boys, "I repeated mechanically. 

"Yes, Inkpaduta's sons!" 



. Inkpadutas's sons ! 

I well remember the cold chill that crept 
over my neryes at the half breed's men_ 
tion of thft dreaded name. As poon as he had 
disappeared down the winding valley I criti- 
cally i examined the trail he was following, and 
found* the moccasin tracktt of six different In- 
dians, allfpointing down the valley. 

After having taken up the traps, I moved 
. up' on the high divide and took a bee line for 

Correctionviile. A few days later news came 



4S TWENTY YEARS 

down the vallej that the Pettlemeni at Peter- 
son had beoD struck by r small baud of In- 
dians and the'sergeant commanding the sol" 
diers at that place had been killed. It was 
the work, of course, of the same little ynrtr 
that had passed mv camp, as thev w.re h fad- 
ing directN for Peterson settlement. 

Striking^.the vallev of the Little Sij:i^ ac 
least once a year on a hostile raid, seemed to 
le a fftuatical ubservence ci Inkpaduta's 
baud they could not AbandL'U . Whither fieh- 
ing pickeral around the shores of Lake Win- 
nipeg^or hunting antelope on the plains of the 
upper Jamep River, or butfalo in the Judith 
Baein'^or along the Muscelshell River, time and 
opportunity were found to start out hundreds 
of miles on a dreary foot journey to count a 
''coup" on their aggressive conquerors 



The Battle on the Little Big Horn is still 
rated the most important engagement be- 
tween the Whites and Indians since that day 
on the banks of the turgid Tippecanoe, when 
the sycamore forests hid the broken column*^ 
of Tecumseh and the Prophet, from Har. 
rison's victorious army. 

Various writers have ascribed Custer's 



ON TUE TRAP LINE. 49 

death, aH the ci.iliiiinatiii>;- (episode in this lat- 
ter d ly fight, and to highten the color of the 
picture, have Ic id his death to the personal 
prowess of Rain-in-the-Face, or on the field 
alter of the Chief Priest Sitting Bull. 

It has lon§f since been proved that Rain-in 
the-Fac0 was not on the field of battle that 
day, but liiih'S away in charge of the pony 
herd. About Sitting Bull's hand in the afi'air 
he has expresKed himself again and again, by 
saying in about these words to the charge: 

''They tell you I murdered Custer. It is a 
lie. I am not a war chief. I was not in the 
battle that day. His eyes were blinded that 
he could not see. He was a fool and rode to 
his death. He made the fight not I. Who 
ever t^llc* you I killed Custer is a liar." 

Setting Bull's defence was but justice to 
himself. He was the hunted, not the hunter. 
Custer rode down on the Indian village on 
the Little Big Horn, with a ciphered scroll 
l!<iating high above his feathery- winged gui- 
d).n. It his blazoned in many a mortal 
combat betwtjen armies of angry men in the 
past, and will again appear, — that *'he that 
liv(i8 by th© sword will die by the sword." 
Aa i Cust-^r's sword was his life. 



50 TWKXTY YEAT>S 

Any int*^l]i^:>tit TnTiVton, 8?\iite'\ Uiicp-\pa 

the fight against Ciiflter'R batallions on that 
'J-^th day < f Juiif* .' 87(>, will tell you it was 
difficult to tell jupt who killed Custer. They 
beliered he wae the laet to fall in the group 
where he was found — that the last leaden 
meBscngers of pwift death hurlod Amongst 
this same group of falling and dying soldiers, 
were belched forth from Winchesters held in 
the handi!^ of Inkpaduta's sons. 




Bea^ver. 
(Fi(m a lihotograpV.) 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 51 



CILA.PTER VI. 

About Beavers. 

THE common American beaver, the Castor 
Fiber, of the family Castoridae as classifi- 
ed by the naturalist, are yet occasionally found 
along some of the isolated, unsettled streams 
and rivers of portions of the Rocky Mountain 
country. 

The beaver has usually held their own in 
the battle for existence through the changing 
climatic conditions of past centuries. They 
have held their own against their carnivorous 
enemies that beset them on all sides, and only 
since their warm, glossy fur covering has at- 
tracted man to join in its destruction, has 
this intelligent and prolific animal of the or- 
der Rodentia been compelled to almost vacate 
its place from among the living animals 
of the oirth. 



52 TWENTY YEARS 

With the ©xceptionis of size, shape of the 
tail and a few other noticable peculiarities, 
the general appearance of the beaver ie that 
of a huge muskrat — the little rodent po com- 
mon on almost every rivulet, creek or river 
on the American Continant. 

The weight of a full grown beaver will av- 
erage about fcrty-tive pounds. though the wri- 
ter has trapped some that weighed over six- 
ty pounds. Their t-ars are small and short — 
80 short indeed, that they are hardly notica- 
ble among the thick fur. Their eyes are 
small and black with a dull, listless look. 
The nose ie of the pug order. Their head near- 
ly round, set to a thick neck. A pair of huge 
incisors, set in the front of maseive jaw p. 
s«rve** a variety of purposes — serves them as^ 
impliments of labor in* felling trees and wea- 
pons of defenee, prejiaring food, <S^c. 

The average length of an adult beaver i* 
about two feet with a trowel shaped tail of 
perhaps ten inches more. The tail is scaled 
like a nt^L. and is supported from the body by 
sinews of great strength. 

The fore legs — or properly arms — are short: 
not over four or live inches in length. The 
hind legs are also fchort j.ii.1 round. The 



ON THE TRAP LINE. ^^ 

hind parts of a beaver, when the fur and 
tail are taken off, very nearly resemble a fat 
goose. Their hind feet are webbed and they 
walk on their heeis somewhat like a raccoon. 

Their outside fur is a chesnut brown with a 
tendancy to change to a lead color near the 
skin. An occasional family of black fur 
bearer are met with, but they are only spor- 
adic or except! Dnal cases. 

The intelligence and Bagacit}^ ( f bearer i^ 
proverbial. While the author of this work 
does not rate their intellect as high as the fabled 
tales of Pumet, Olaus Magnus or George Her- 
iot among writers, or the tough yarns told by 
the average old trappers, ret during a clope 
study of their habits for a long number of 
years, I am prepared to accept with an ear to 
facts many of these seemingly improbable 
stories. 

In the construction of their dwellings they 
adapt themselves to their surroundings. If 
in a lake they build a conical shaped house out 
in the water a few feet from shore. The house 
is usually about five or six fees high with a 
oircumferance at the base of about twenty 
fe«t. Deep ditches are dug on all sides and 
a jdace dredged several feet near the outside 



54 TWENTY YEAES 

to sink and store their winter provisions 
which consists of the tender shoots and 
branches from the willow, cottonwood^ 
ash and other species of bark used by the 
beaver as food. 

The inside of the house is cosily plastered, 
and contains one or more rooms — usually two> 
an eating and sleeping apartment. The bed.-^ 
are built high, and consists of a material 
made from the inside bark of trees. It is built 
on an elavation to avoid an unpleasant nap 
during a sudden raise of water in the lake, 
But one family, occupy a houee, numb3iiig 
from four to seven members. Sometimes an 
outsider is admitted to the circle, his wolcorn^ 
brought about by his indefatigable industry in 
aidir g to repair the breakages in dams and 
replasterlng their house or assisting in drag- 
ing in the winter grub pile. 
They take their breakfast at sunrise and sup- 
per at rundown. Their dinner hour is irregu- 
lar. They sit ia a circle and handle their 
grub and eat like squirrels. I have often list- 
ened to them at their breakfast. They 
always seemed making » merr}' feast. The 
soft voice of tha female, the gruff notes from 
the head of the family and the shrill piping of 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 55 

the juniors could be heard in a happy con- 
fusion around the board of good cheer. After 
the meal — or bark — has been serred, Mother 
Beaver in the absence of a table cloth, gath- 
ers up the pealed stickg from which the bark 
h»d been eaten, 3 nd pushes them out in the 
canal current, when they all retire until the 
dull twilight calls them forth to prepare for 
another feast or begin their nocturnal labors. 

Along the rivers and streams the "bank 
beaver" predominates. They are reckoned 
by some writers on the beaver, as of a 
different family from, those of the house build- 
eis of the lakes, and n^ore nearly related to 
the European variety. 

My observations have led me to believe, 
however, that there is no difference whatever 
in the stock, but their surroundings only, and 
the ingenuity of the beaver to adapt them, 
selves to changed circumstances making 
whatever perceptible difference noticed in 
their changed habits. 

The ''grass ^beaver," hare a more distinct 
change ef habit and appearance from th^ 
other two. They live along the pond holes be- 
yond the timber lines of the creeks and run- 



§6 TWEI\^"TY YEAKS 

ning streams. ^htsy live tiioiic, or in small 
families... They burrow in the banks, and live 
on grass roots or buck brush. Their wii.ter 
''grub pile" has about the^ banu relation to 
the winter stores of the lake and dam beaver 
that the" distressed looking winter stores of 
the "bumble" bee compares with th(^ well 
filled combs of the little honf^y bee. 

The bank beaver of the running streams 
show a fine order of animal intellect. That 
they csn successfully d»m up wide rusliin*;- 
rivers Avith a breast w(,rk several feet in height 
and with such a network of masonry that 
defies the rush of the wildest torrents of mad 
waters. While in the construction of their 
houses they are not so elaborate, or have they 
th-^ fine iiui^li that adorn tha mud mansions of 
their brothers of the lakes, yet for uurability 
against the fangs of a pack of faaiishing- 
wolves. or ag^\inBt the grinding and ]<Ufhing 
of great masses of ice in the spring break-up, 
they are oqual to the emergency. These 
houses of the runniug ^treumn* are usually 
made against tht* hnnk, allowing a good sub- 
stantial finish to the front wliile the main 
part of the house is dug ou\i of the solid eartii. 



ox THE TRAP LINE. 57 

In the Upper Miss.ouri country whire the ice 
freezes during Ihe winter, to f ron^i three and a 
half to fv)ur feet in thickness, the watchful 
rod'^nts were kept busy keeping their feed 
beds from freezing down, by incessant work, 
and the canal must be kept open, otherwise 
th( y would be frozen up in their houses, and 
perish 1 y Ht£rva1»ion and cold. 

Il ififiei) r( narked that "a woman's work 
is never done." The same can truly be said 
cf the tireless industry of the beaver. Build- 
ing or replastering houses, repairing and 
building damn, digging and dredging canals, 
pn(] keeping their feed beds free from a solid 
frefze-down were, but a part of their tasks. 

With all Ihepe trials, added to their inoffen- 
sive ways — their gentle disposition, — their 
patience and forbearance in every form of 
persecution — their very meekness in the face 
of a cruel death, should force a pitying tear 
f rorn the ruling masters of the world, rather 
than man should lead in every wile, in every 
trick or subtle craft that ingenuity can in- 
vent or Iforce give to encompass the poor 
])ea,vers utter destruction. 

But Fashion's vagaries must be appeased. 



58 TWKISTTY YEARB 

Like tlio stouo-faeed image that eit en-. 
throned in regal magnificence on the cruel 
flesh-crushing car of Juggenaut, — painting 
itself with the blood of the weak, the meek 
and the innocent, as in pitiless, rigid-faced 
Sphinx-like serenity, it rides the aarth. 



ON THE THAP LINE. 59 



CHAPTER VII. 

Along the Elkhorn River— Beaver ''Up to 

Trap"— Camping Among the Wild 

Plums— An Elk Hunt— A 

Clean Burn Out. 

AUGUST 20th, 18f)0, found an Omaha hard- 
ware dealer .busy fitting out three in- 
thusiastic young men for s.n autumn hunt 
and trap along the headwaters of the famous 
Elkhorn River. Ballard rifles, pistols, plenty of 
ammunition, and a large kit of traps were pur- 
chased with a reckless disregard for the 
wealth in hand. Game was reported plenty 
and prices in raw furs good, so that no un- 
comfortable visions distressed the minds of 
the trio. 

The new formed hunting and trapping firm 
consisted of "Buffalo Ned," otherwise Mr. E. 
Minick, from the Peori bottoms of the Sucker 
State; Mr Jennings, or "The Gopher'' hailing 
from the State that bore his non de plume. 



60 TWENTY YEARS 

and the chronicler, who had reached a round 
in his professional ladder, was dubbed the 
"Trapper." These names had been applied as 
frontier custom, by the jovial lumbermen that 
made tne' welkin ring arouni tha far3Us of 
breezy Rockport. 

A contract with a teamster making- his obli- 
gation to (leliver/)ur luggage at some point 
on the North Fork of the Elkliorn River, was 
dul\ observed, 'and after an uneveatful trip> 
following the course of Logan Creek, thence 
along the main riv er until the North Fork 
was reached, when after following alojg the 
stream for a number of ^niiles. some beaver 
sign was observed and we concluded t ) g; in- 
to camp and tiyour ]uck with the traps in 
the vicinity. 

After pitching our ten t and marking so n3 
sort of order for the carop, the bright ne'/^ 
traps were brougt from the boxes and three 
enthusiastic fur catchers started out to sign up 
and put out^a line for beaver 

The <^aiiy season made sign huntiiig diili 
cult. But little work wai being done on th^ 
damB the beaver wisely waiting for the pas- 
sing of the sun;jner freahet.^. But suihoieiic* 
eign vras found to set out a three mile line. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. Ql 

The traps vvero mostly sat on the regular rail- 
ways leading over the breasts of the dams, or 
where the glide of the wood workere led out 
to lecentJy cut tree?. 

At dawn next JiurniLg Buffalo and the Go- 
pher started out to attend the traps, while I 
remained in ca-d.) In a few hours they re 
turned in bad humor. They had a muskrat or 
two and F.aid ;-oiiibody ]:ad stolc^n half of the 
traps and "monkey od with th3 balance." 

After the breakfast was over I returned 
w'th my partners on a visit to the trap line. 
A little observatiion and I was soon convinced 
\\ here t))e trouble la3^ It was simply a case 
of beaver '^up to trap." We were now loca- 
ted (m the trapping grounds of the Omaha In- 
dians, who were rated experts in that art. 

The few beaver that had survived through 
this constant waylaying, came f ut often with 
the loss of one or both fore feet, and a full 
knowledge of what a steel trap was, and be- 
came wary and suspicious in their evening 
peregrinatioiis. 

In this instftijce Cantor Fiber had made a 

demoralized looking trap line. The new traps 

s bin 'Hi; like silver through the water, so that 

even the dull eved beaver could descern them 



-2 TWENTY YEARS 

without much effort. Some of the traps were 
found sprung, with pealed sticks in the jaw^ 
of them. Some were found bottom side up 
but unsprung, while the "stolen" ones were 
found nicelj plastered against the breasts of 
the dams to do duty as material in making 
needed repairs. 

These observations led us to take up the 
line and bring the traps to camp as it was 
useless to contecd against old beaver with 
bright traps, and an exposure to the air and 
and a rust varnish became necessary. 

In the meantime while rambling around, we 
discovered a temporary balm from disappoint- 
ment at the shrewdness of Castor Fiber. It 
was finding an immense orchard of the wild 
plum. The fruit was ripe, and the trees 
thickly interspersed, with red and green, — the 
red fruit and green leaves, and some were of 
the yellow color. 

These wild plum groves are found along 
every considerable stream in the country of 
the Great Plains, and the fruit is highly prized 
by the housewives of the border, for jelly and 
preserves. The plums are of many excellent 
fiavors. f^nd range from the hickory nut to tbt^ 
walnut in size. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 63 

To eat plums and mora thoroii^iily on joy 
the prospect, we moved our camp to the grove. 
In this move we disturbed several wolves and 
covotes, who had themselves been camp- 
ing around and eating' the ripe fruit as a need- 
ed change from almost constant meat diet. 
They would sit around in the daytime on 
distant hills in silent watching, but when 
night came n^anifested their displeasure at 
our p es ^nce by moiirnf al howling. 

After spending about a week in the plum 
camp; we were surprised one morning by a new 
set of visitors — a band of elk. Tney were 
niuv^ in number, and taking their ti me feed- 
ing leasurly along the creek. 

The band had passed camp unnoticed, but 
as soon as we discovered them. Buffalo and 1 
armed ourselves and gave chase. They 
walked faster as they passed out on^ the ^ open 
prairie, and: it became difficult to come up 
with them. Their trail led south of th^^ forks 
of the main river, where their speed ware 
still further accelerated by the sound of axes 
among the timber. It w<..s from a p-irtv of 
Illinoisans — the founders of the after flourish" 
U)^ town of Norfolk. 

As tlie elk were "snuffing the vvii.(:'' it was 



M TWENTY YEARS 

itot difficult in keeping h \Hih> W>h\nd {\v>u\ 
uuobsorYed. About simdown wc wcitched 
them pass down on the ^^bottoms of a little 
stream, now called Union Creek. Thev tlien 
fed leasurly toward the water giving us time 
to reach f^ithin shooting distance just l s they 
were passing down to the creek bed for a 
drink. 

A magnificent buck, larger than nny of the 
rest, remained standing upon the bank, with 
head erect, and his huge autlered crown 
catching the crimson rays of the faft sinking 
sun. He stood, indeed, a monarchy of the 
woods, and with a h&ughty gallantry born of 
his kind, he measured with his eye the sur- 
rounding landscape with a suspicious unrcpr. 
Did his sense of smelbdetect the presence of 
his unsated enemies, as they lay crouching in 
the grass an hundred yards away ? We were 
divining his mind in about this way. whtii at 
a whispered signal we fired our unerring ri_ 
lies at his breast. Hiu disappearance was as 
sudden and ccnjplete as the traiiisilcf a ghost. 

We arose w^ith battled expressions on our 
countenances and started forward plainly 
hearing the departing animals criisliing 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 65 

through thii h^^yj underbrush acrosfl the 
HtJ-i.-aiij. Wheii . wt? i-»f ached whf*re th^^ hig 
elk had stood, crimson blood c^ots were found 
ppurted on the green grass, The trail of 
blood led across the stream where it min- 
gled"among the other tracks. Up over the 
bank we followed, wiien on a little island, 
phaded by a few big trees the proud beast was 
found stilled in death. 

As dark was creeping upon us, we conclu- 
ded to biiihi a lire and spend the night in car- 
ving vj) onv g?'nie<. The smell of blood again 
brought out the unmusical wolves, who 
whiicd the tedious night hours away in a bed- 
am of discordant noises from the bluffs. 

A little Irdian dog came timidly int<> our 
cam.p at n idnight. The little stray was evi- 
dently now iv consort of the coyotes, but 
being leKS timid or more hungry had ventured 
in on the chances of our pity and help or our 
inclination to destroy. He wagged his tail 
in glee, at our soft words accompanied by a 
chunk of meat, though the first streaks of 
light in the eastern bky found him trotting 
(jut with a lull belly to join his less fortunate 
but noisier (cmj anions. 

As it was easier, under the circumstances, 



66 TWENTY YEARS 

to move uur camp to the elk, as the meat to 
the camp, we soon brought down our effects 
and mad«^ permanent camp near the junction 
of the creek with the Elkhoin. Here on a 
grassy raise of ground near a grove of wiHow. 
a comfortable cabin was erected, for fall, and 
mayhap winter quarters. 

AVhen everything was completed and the 
united voice said "well done," we stored otir 
wealth within the cabin and felt a conscious 
security as the result of our work: but, alas! 

The chilly nights of October were tipon us. 
The surrounding prairies were fast ptitting on 
their yellow ccat, while trees were losing 
their leaves. Our trap line only brr.ught in a 
moderate reventie. for here as at the plum 
patch camp, Casto* Eiber undf^rstood how to 
circumvent the trappeis* arts. Now and then 
a kitten, or a two year old. loet their caution 
and their hide, but a four pound bide stretched 
on a grape vine, was a rarity about the cairp. 

Orre ^indy mcrning. we each irtarttd cut to 
attend seperate lirres. Al cut eleven o'ck ck 
as I reached my line's end cUid was returning 
toward canip, a great clcud cf black i-moke 
rose up t^uddenly in the diiectien Euf ale hr.d 
taken. AVhen trrst noticed it was manv jniks 



ON THE TRAP LINE. «r 

a'.%My, hilt I he wind then hlowjng at a velocity 
of ahuuL /orty miles an hour, f^oon hrought it 
.sweeping- down among the high and dry grass 
ftlong the bottom lands. The rank underbrush 
then cauglit fire, soon extending to the large 
whitened cottonwoods, that had been dead- 
ened by previous fires, and now quickly licked 
up by the hot flamep. The air became stifling 
and filled with black smoke, falling ashes 
i'lid burnt particles. 

' 1 had neglected to provide a necessary pre- 
caution in such an emergency, namely, a few 
matches to protect oneself by backfiring; so 
but one alternative was left — as the appalling 
mass came veering toward me — and that was 
to make speed for the river and stand a par- 
tial immersion until the danger was over. 

After the main sweep of fire had passed, I 
started for our cabin, and arrived at the place 
to find that the domicile had disappeared and 
a few charred logs were smouldering on its 
site. Everything was destroyed. The steel 
springs of the traps were overheated and 
ruined. The furs were all destroyed, even 
those that were drying in hoops, and hanging 
high up in limbs of trees. In truth our com- 
pany possessions were now limited to the few 
traps fortunately setting out along the water 
line. 



^^ TWENTY YEARS 



A consultatiou waB held by th« dishearieuei 
members of the firm. Buffalo annouuced his 
acceptancejOf the situation as presented, and 
speaking for himself, thought he had suffi- 
cient amusemeut|^in trapping off his summer's 
wages, and now would look up some other 
occupation. 

Our remaining traps were gathered together 
and deposited in cache on a point of bench 
and where they still remain, for all the writer 
knows, though the site that marks them 
teems with active life, — for here a flour- 
ishing county seat now stands — the hop 3 of 
its patrons and prey of its "boomers." 

The Gopher wended his way dovs^n therir^r 
to the West Point settlement, while Buffalo 
and myself, after thirty hours walking with 
''frog on toast" for grub, reached Columbus, 
the busy little town at the junction of Loup 
Fork and Platte River. Thus ended our 
autumn trap along the Elkhoin River. 



ox THE TRAP LINE. 69 



CHAPTES VIII. 

Wolfers and Wolfing. 

W(^LF bkin overcoats becoming a part of 
the uniform of soldiers of portions of 
the Russian army, and the popularity of the 
wolf robe in all fur ^rearing counirieb, made 
the demand steady and profitable to the fur 
dealer and^the wolf trapper, so that new and 
more systimaiic ways were devised to destroy 
wolves for their lur value. 

About the year 1865, those trappers who 
made wolf killing a specialty, became gei*- 
eraliy termed wolfers. In those day., 
large herdf of the buffalo still roamed ov--;' 
many parts of ti e Great Plains, though even 
at that date their range limits became so cir- 
cumscribed that they were divided into two 
great divihione, the northern and southern. 

The southern range constituted that portion 



7o TWENI^Y YEAH?? 

of the plaiiitt south ol' rUitli' River. rt*ai*)nn)^- 
down to the nortlieni bordt^rs of tlu^ St;;to of 
Texas, while the northern range, stretched 
from the Platte northward to the Saskatche- 
wan Valley, in Her Majesty's domain. 

Following every bulTalo herd, were packs 
of ravenous wolves that watched warily for 
wonnded or decrepit buffalo that would fall an 
©asy prey to their savage onslaught. Old 
bulls, no longer able to stRud the I liiffs and 
butts of their ytnmger fellows, were forced 
to the outskirts there in turn to meet the 
dreaded wolf. While buil'alo were ever care- 
ful to give protection to their young, their 
aged especially the males, were literally 
"turned out to die," when no longer able to 
hold their own in a single butting combat. 

Every band of buRalo groat or small, was. 
therefore, encircled by gangs or packs of 
wolves, coyotes, foxes and swifts. The three 
latter were ranged on the outer circle, and 
forced to wait, as it were, for second table. 

With a full knowledge of the movements 
of his game, the wolfer riggs up an 
outfit similar to that of the hunter or the 
trapper with the exception of traps and baits. 
In the place oC these, he supplies himself lib- 
erally with strychnine poison. 




K TiiAPPER Killer. 
band of Sioux outlaws 
wlio i-angod along tlio Ui)p(;i- Missouri 
bi.'twoeu tho years 18()5 and 18S5. 



LoNCi !)()(; T 
Chi(d' of a niixod 



ON THE TKAP LINE. 71 

If it was in the autamu, he inovud 4i\ow\j 
in the wake of a buffalo herd, makiugopen 
camp , and shooting down a few of the beaflts, 
and after ripping th«in open, saturating their 
warm blood and intestines with from one to 
thr«8 bottles of str^' -Ji liti-; to each carcass. 

After hia line of poison-.^ { biiffah) has been 
p ut out to his notion, iLo woifer makes camp 
in a raTine or coulee and prepares for the 
morrow. 

With the first giiniuier of light in the eaBt- 
ern Kky, ho rist-s. niakefc his lire, and cooks his 
ct'fTeo, then hitchewup, if he hart a tejAUi, orsad- 
dlcH up if with pa( kH, ftii<l follows his line to 
the f, nis^hi. .\ round eavh bulfalo carcass will 
probably be from throe to a dozen dead 
wolves, which ho pai'ks off some distance 
f i( ni his 1 HiU, aiid ttiiitt them. 

The most fr;V[euted winter nfrouuiH of 

the professional wolfers on the BOutLorn plains 

were along the Republican «%n(i Smi^ky Hill 

Uivrrs of western KanH»s, and the country 

al)out the neighborhoc^d of tl»o Staked Plains 

in r.orllurn '^l'( XcJk. '1 he ij< rlhern wolfer 
found their bewt tirouudw along the Milk:, Vlus- 
ceUhell and Juditli Riv^^rs, and nrcjund the 
Hm^tPhw MouiiiaiiK <;f Moctaii I, and the 
tii,. Peat'e ili v(;r (oLiui;'/ in JslaxiiLoba. 



'^^ TWENTY YEARS 



The northern v.-olfers had t;he business well 
gysteniized, and w^hile many lost their lives 
by Indian hostility, and the ©xpoaure inci- 
dent to that kind of life, yet many of them 
made small fortunes at times, but an iufatu- 
uation born of the calling h^^ld tho'u as in a 
serpents charm until 8om5 ^?v^»^s » in his af- 
fairs, left him where he began — in vigorous 
poverty. 

The wolfei's winter life was much the same 
in his general rounds as his autumn experi- 
ence. If on the plains near camps of hostile In- 
dians, a small piorty gets together, form a 
common camp. and erect a "dug out," a kiod 
of half underground house. These dug outs 
can be made warm and comfortable. Being 
thus partly below the prairie level they are 
enabled to resist the bitter c( Id, blowirg 
blizzards that sweep over the Great Plains 
with terrible fury at intervals during the win- 
ter UKUths. 

These undergroimd habitations are also used 
br the wclfers to thaw out the frozen oar- 
caresses of the wolves and foxes ftothat they 
could be skinned. 

A few days warm t^un often neutralizes the 
poison put in the buffalo ciroass, so that the 



o:n' the trap line. 73 

effect is only to sicken the wolf that eats the 
poisoned meat . It the^i wander^i ofT' alone 
to die by inches in some secluded place out of 
the lincR, and being undiscovered, a loss to tha 
wolfer. Other times these victims of the 
poiion recovers from its fits with the loss of 
their coat, and no phantom of horror pre- 
sented itself in Ruch ghastly way, as the 
reappearance of a sick and famifihed wolf, 
with a hide denude of fur or hair, stag- 
gering around in a dazed sort of way in 
search of food to prolong life. Such a sight 
will somotimoB hftunt a wolfer from his call- 
ing — callious though his nature to suffering 
mar he. 

The Indians have an especial ^♦ntipathy to 
the wolfer. Poisoned wolves and foxes in 
their dying fits often nlobber upon the grass, 
which, becoming sun dried holds its poison- 
ous properties a long time, often causing the 
death months or even years after, of the po- 
ny, antelope, buffalo or other animal feeding 
upon it. The Indians losing their stock in 
this way feel like making rei)risals, and oftfii 
did. 

The writer well remembers a case of strych- 
niuo 8 far roaching effocts. On one of the 



74 TWENTY YEARS 

closing days of my trapping experience, 
a companion and myself were wolfing and 
trapping around Lake Maudan. AVe were al- 
so accompanied by a large greyhound, form- 
erly the property of General Custer. While 
out attending some otter trapB, we came to a 
staked beaver skeleton, which I remembered 
of poisoning and putting out as a wolf bait 
fire winters before. The dog commenced to 
play with it, then to licking it, when we 
were pained to see him fall over in a lit and 
die. The houml had bern notable one. 
He had followcvl his form m- master on 
his last char ,e at tlie l^iitle Big Horn, and 
made his w^y aloae to F(>rt Abraham Lin_ 
coin. ^ here he e-rrivt'd ^u the st-cond night 
after that battle. 

Wolves and buiTalo pas^^evl olY tl^e face of 
the plniuH abc;ut the same time, though a few 
coyotM5 Htiii reuuiin, and an occasional Imflalo 
wolf. 'Ihfcse h.«ii;g around the great cattle 
herdi*, and tho profesfrional wolier has 
ii.trged i:.ii6 occupation with that of the cow 
Ivi.y and the blu"[heid. 



O:^ THE TRAP LINE. 75 



CHAPTER IX. 

On the Loup Pork of Platte River— Paw- 
nee Indians as Guests— Bloody Trail— 
Baiting the Mink— Hunters and 
Ti uppers Z.S Drcc.mers. 

AFTER fully recruiting from tlK3 misfor- 
tunesv incident to the Elkhoiii trapping 
ex pedition, I entered into a ccr tract with a 
busnesg firai to cut the timber from a small 
is]? nd on the Loup Fork, about six miles up 
fr( m its junction with Platte Pavei . 

A comfortable c^bin was constructed, but 
was hardly finished in its appointments be- 
fore a band of Pawnee Indian visitors made 
a crosrtin;^ on the ice — for it was now the 
month of Dx'ember — and proceeded to pitch 
their tents in semicircle, in front of my habi- 
tation. There were r.ix lodges of them or 
about thirtj. ^11 t(.l(l, in the pf^rty. 

The chief of the band answered to the 
nan.'^^^ of CcolaLoUKo, or "the old man." They 



woro of tiie Stt tHl;X> or \\\ If kind if l\\\v~ 
ut>es. who are inoiv nt»iirly relaitd to the Ar- 
iearee* of th^ Up^H>r Mi^ssouri, thjin either ot' 
the three rtMuaiuinij: division:^ of that Iniirtii 
nation. 

Many of tht* men wore their hair roaoh^vl. 
having the an^vearanoe of the familiar pietufv* 
of the hehi\»T orowued Roman in the days o:' 
the early Puuio wars. Rut in their elothinj:\ 
poor as u was. there weren.^ picking* forth> 
rag* man. Shin* thej h:\d none, or any s»i% 
^tituie i?ave the rv>lH> of the butTaUv Their 
n\oeeaiiu8 were of the iian\en\aieri%l. Taeir 
leg\:ou?i Nven^ of the »kin^ of aniKop^. ail 
xvith hugv ear rin*|p* g^i'y suspeniel, .heir 
dress was Ovnnplete. The women used the 
jjiame material, withaliule ditfervnit style in 
the general make-np. The children eve:i in 
the coldest days, dressed like Cupid shorn ^f 
his vrir^^ Init retaining his bow and arrv^w. 

In other wvvni* these Indianiwere miserahly 
piV>r. Th;Mr main vil age or toica wa^ oa 
Reaver Creek. Sv>mr tifie^^n miles above m*-^ 
it^land. whe;e three thousand of them were in 
training for civiisaviou and ^emi ttarvation. 

CiX^labvHise Und a } r iv »ition to ;. ake. 
His pev^ple, as 1 must ^.v were :x;ai>l::a^. 



I 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 7T 

liiiM" I'^s) ^.)i^ '>'m 1* / ()* 1) « iv T si.!^;i a!)!*; 
i\\^} ri\>'r, (iii-l wolves nnd c<)yv)tc^» on the 
I rttirirs. 1I(^ thnn 8ii>:g'esti'(i tli;U if I viould 
t-Mui ^t^!^•t!y to n y tr:*i^K s.ud I aits— :i ne>/ 
outlit I had lately boiiivht — he wouhi see thf\t 
iDv wooddittir.g iid !-^>\ii)g" would f:;o on 
jiiht the same. He would att«»nd to tliat. 
They wei-e in need of foovi and wuntod tlie 
c*?^r(,'a(*ses of «:11 tlie trapi)i)d and pois(^nt^d an- 
inmls. 

The Tawimo (hitftain 1 1( c d 1 r his r^crd. 

After oatehing my lirst bt-Av^T, I t<;ok the 

skinned cHrohts out to the prftii-io /muI ty lu; a 

Htout string to it stnrted <.;tf dri4<vdii.< 

ital( nj;- on the mow like a boy T*iil. liis sled. 

This is Tfbiit >volfer8 cull "ruiiiiv.g a hlti ey 

trail." It is If re rted to by thui. iiia.MMcity 

of druw baits. 

One freeh killed beaver li?.s ilie "di h\N in^" 

] ( wer of a dead lior&n^ < i 1 uiTnU . '1 ).v tvolvts 

or coyotes, ahvays ]i.itial for 1 eavvr fle^li, 

811(1 cwing to its ](( ulifir i:d< r, the ^c t nt is 

ft f-i'y fv ]k w( d. For this ren(-< n tbt- rrolfer 

]»refer« beaver carcasses to that of any[(.tlur 

wlien running out one of bis bloody trails. 

( n lliis (ccat-icn I niade semicircle tiail of 

a'jout throe milan, dropping *n oceasionjvl bit 



-3 T^VFXTY YEARS 

of iiK'iAt. and abvuit every two hundred yard:? 
or so. a poii^oned "pill." This pill is made 
by placing a few grains of stryclinine in 
some tried out grease, cooled and linrdened. 
Butimlefs the poison is fiist vsrrapptd in a lit 
of tissue or other soft paper, it is ^con apt to 
dessolve in the gre.-tseHud loj:.e its strength. 

Both water and wolf line* brought fair re- 
turns, and the Indians sten:ed to feel happy 
over eren a dish if }eiscnv.-olf I roth. The 
stomach of the wolf v. as always ren:ov»^d. ai:d 
the meat thoroUj^hly parboiled. It was a 
hard mess for hi:n:ar. stini&chs: yet it was 
life to theee »tarvii:g Indians. 

Mink skins weie ttill v.eith five dollars to 
fur buyers, and i>b I fi^iiid considerable sign 
of them ui cer ciiii ] ilts and around air holes 
I allcweci n.y :nt^.It.*l in \Lf Indians to lack a 
little. aiHt ^U'-\e tcii.e i,ti»nt:«.n to tii-ip-iis 
after prolitable fur bearers. 

By following Pome mink sign one day I 
trailed then: to an ice gorge inhere a pony 
had been drowned, and which the mink 
were feeding upon. An investigation and 
tn'al eccn ccn-^inccd n:e thit horse f.ekh was 
a good drawing winter bait for mink, ui.d Itr 
skunks and badrers as welL 



ON TPIE TRAP LINE. 7y 

While supeistition in some form enters 
larg-c']y in tlie life of every human being- — (h - 
ny as they may — yet 1 believe from my ob- 
servations and experience with hunters, trap- 
pers and wolfers, that as a class, they are 
fully up if not a little ahead of the average 
in their respect and reverence for the omena 
of rigid fate, and a glimpse of the future 
as unraveled through the interpretations of a 
clear headed dreamer. 

Many of the Indian superstitions are copied, 
especially whatever is inimical to their call- 
ing. Their various charms— the lucky gun, 
the lucky trap, is but another name for the 
luck bug or "medicine" of the Indians. 

The dreamer, probably? , enters more largely 
into, and influences their actions than the 
prognostics of the 'totem. Joseph's Eg^'p- 
tian occupation, as dream interpreter would 
never have taken root under the canopy of 
haughty Pharaoh had that august personage 
lived in the nineteenth century. Some 
hunter or trap])er of the western wild», and 
not Joseph would have held the light. 

While many of these frontiersmen inter- 
])rBt their own dreams or regulate the efficien- 
cy and power of their charms to suit them- 



.^0 TWENTY YEARS 

^T><es. vo! lii^rt;- i}f *Ji:'M> iaV<* a univrr^ul 
form A^ far as a hunter. tr»pper ninl wnlrViii 
calling ie* ooucernod. 

A hunter will not part with his lucky gun 
nor will a trapper ^ell his lucky trap, while 
the unlucky one in tlie absence of a 
ready purchai^er. is often coasig-aed to tha 
nuiddy bosom of the watery depth?, or 
smashed to pieces over a pile of rock^ 

To dr<^am of blood is general ly racoi;"aizdi 
as a symbol of good luck, and also to dream 
oi clear running water: while on the other 
hand muddy water means bad luck; also the 
di>?aming of U^g^ing teeth or the breaking or 
benoiiixg of a gun barrel, or a failure to tire 
the gun in en act of hunting. 

On tiio strength of their beliefs in omens» 
many of this class, ^ill arise in the morning 
to buy or soil their * 'chances" of the day's 
catch, to their camp partners — the offering or 
bidding regulated by the tthj the dreams 
were interpreted. 

Up to the time of my encampment on Cool- 
aliouse'8 Island for the Pawnee claimed »ov- 
erignty.^ 1 had not joined the trappers in 
their dream revelation theory, but an inci- 
dent of this kind occurred, thai if it did 



ON TllK THAT I.INR. 81 

not inake a (;onv(;rt, at leawt mii,\i iiv-i r<i- 
spectful to thoso wlio vvt^re. 

On my round» to tlie traps I often noticed a 
small grove or biincli of trees utandinj^ out 
alon© on the prairie level, and about a mil»< 
back from the river. So ne time the spring' 
foUowinj^, and after I returned from a mi 1 
winter traj) on Shell Creek, I dreamed of 
Koinjf to this bunch of trees and finding a 
c^ear pond of watei* filled with sun flsli, nnd 
five little spotted piK^, <^'8ich iu a trap, and all 
dead. 

The dream keeping uppermost in my mind, 
I gathered up a kit of traps and wont to in- 
vestigate. 1 found the pond and guntiih just 
as I had dreamed, but instead of dead i)ig«, 
there were })lenty of mink sign , so set 
the traps. I did not return for three 
mornings after, and then found five drowned 
mink in the traps. 



82 TWENTY YEARS 



CHAPT2R X. 

Otter and Otter Trapping— A Mid-Winter 
Trap on Shell Creek. 

LAND otter, < r the otter of the inland riv- 
ers, lakes and streams, so named in con- 
tradistinction to the sea otter or those that 
lire along the coivsts bordering the ocean, are 
like the be&ver fa»t disappearing, and from 
the same cause — their fur value. 

These inland otter are, or rather were found 
along every stream of water where fish, fowl 
and frogs abound, for on them they lire. 

A full grown otter will measure from its 
nose to the tip of its tail, from three to four 
feet and will weigh from thirty to thirty-five 
pounds Their legs are^ short and very sin- 
ewy and strong. The mouth is wide and 
in facial resemblance have much the appear- 
ance of an ordinary bull dog. The eyes are 
small, black and piercing. In proportion to 



ON THK TRAP LINE. 83 

its legB th« body ]> long-, though the taiJ, 
which has a p^'culiar flut iihapo tap^-jirjg- to 
the tip, is as long as the body proper. 

The females have a litter of from two to 
four every summer, which generally run about 
with the mother until the spring foUowmg. 
Ihe 3'oung then remain in a group by them- 
Felves, but after becoming grown, they seek 
other mates. 

The fur of an otter varies in color from a 
dark brow^n to a glossy black. As is the case 
witl nioht fur bearers, the more northern the 
darker the fur becomes. But sporadic cases 
of *'silk" otter are liable to l:e foand in most 
any latitude. Tbej^e "pilk ottf r" h^ve a glos- 
sy fur, highly prized by the wild Indiana for 
hair decorating purposes. A good horse ih a 
fair J rice for a silk otter skin. 

An otter's ev(ne?R in c(jlor is no^- so well 
distributed as that of the beaver, on account 
of a very light brow^n stripe under the throat 
extending down to the belly. But the fur 
will not fade by age and exposure as does the 
beaver after being tanned and "made up." 

AM otter fur finds value in the eyes of the 
wild Indian. The Sioux and other nations 
who wear their liair long, braid it with Btripg 



84 ^ .j,,^^.^^,^.^,^, VK.\R?i 



of i>uer skin. A VP^^'^'^i'^'* ^"<* Nvrsitl. > 

ter are lavishly display eil ftt niOi;t ot u.c r 

great ceremonial dances. 

The general habitsh of the r-tteris something- 
akin to the mink, but there is n'luch difference 
in their bign. Instead of jumping by even 
leaps, with but the visible gign of two tr*ckft 
as mink do, they seem to jump by fours sim- 
ilar to the skunk, whose sign to th© unprac- 
ticed eye. is often taken for otter. 

Another habit distinctly their own i^ that 
c»f "coasting."' every fe'^ yards when travel- 
ing or playing. They are great travelers, 
oft-n making land journeys of many miles in 
sesTch of a suitable fishing creek. 

In liihing a stream, they "cut bends/' and 
always select the narrow necks of land for 
their crossing places. These crossing trails 
are often worn smoothe by coasting, and ait- 
a glaring "sign" to the trapper. 

The otter have an eye. thft they can use 
readily to discover their game under the 
water. Thus they are successful fishers, and 
good ?ight under water. aUo stands them in 
need of the trapper's wile^. An old otter "up 
to trap" needs all the strategy a trapper can 
use to "fill a trap" with him. A mud coveied. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 85 

ti-np nti(!( J- nater. in tl^:' cciiti-t' ■ f his coju-tii)!.': 
rtiidt^ will oulvvii liiin. AUhou^-li wV(mi 
then old otter catcheis iipseit th< y (an t mell 
the iron. Youiif; luid iiu^xptrienced otter are, 
however, as easilj trKpped as in ink. 

When nndistiirbed, an oltrr in fishing a 
Hti-eani rrill tiavcl ni llu^ rate of about five 
miles per day, TIk y follow frcjni the mouth of 
the stream to the heaci. tht^n ri^turn by the 
same route. A trap])er on noticing fi-esli 
sign by o])sei viiig thf^ course taken, can,, if 
he is familiar witli the length of the streani, 
set his trap with a good guess wliat night he 
will catch it. 

When studying the future i>rospect of a 
western tra})per\s life, I concluded to make a 
fipecialty of otter trapping, (luring the winter 
thaws, and acting accordingly, on the Jan- 
uary thaw of 1807, 1 closad the doors of my 
cabin on Coolahouse Island, and hired a man 
with his team to take my outfit to the out- 
ward settlement on Shell Creek, the Tes- 
cah-peedutt Keets of the Pawnee.- 

This stream flowing into the l^latte River 

near the north bend, is about thirty mib^s in 
length, headwaterg lumrly o])])osite the Paw- 
ne(^ village and about eighteen miles distant, 
due east. 



^^ TWENTY YEARS 

I bad noticed^ ctter f>ign on croseing the 
cieoV fvoni iViB iiuliirky Elkhoni ('xp'^iition, 
and later confirmation in a talk with the Paw- 
nees.^ These Indians had represented the 
headwaters as a mass c f warm springs, well 
used by mink and otter as winter quarters. 
I. found the Indians correct, and made a^ 
good catch of both classes of furs. 

Two notches were cut in my ''coo" stick on 
this trip. One was on the almost providen- 
tial finding of a cave during a bitter blizzard; 
when otherwise I would have been without 
shelter. The other was the timely arrival of 
two trappers, Scully and St. Clair, who thereby 
saved me from an unfriendly raid of the edu- 
cated but bad Rodgers and his band of Peto- 
how-eli, or Republican Pawnees. They had 
just returned fronl the Republican River 
where they^were^ charged with killing four 
white trappers for their otter and other furs. 



ON THE TBAP LINE. 87 



CIAPrEIl XL 

"Old Dakota." 

MAY DAY, 1864, was urshered into the 
''Land of th^ Dakota s." with a chilly 
raw wind, ihat blew with v/dd fuiy ov^r its 
shelterlass pliins. 

For the two weeks previous, in the company, 
of Trapper Comstock, we fished the mouth 
of the Dakota, James or "Jim'' River, with 
canoe and s-pear for the buffalo fish, which 
were found in shoals in this neighbourhood. 

The buff ilo fish la that section are a favor- 
ite sprirg food. They usually weigh from six 
to ten pounds^ and are of good flavor. 

On this May day morning above referred to 
we had reached Stanage's Ferry from Mr. 
Comstock's residence, wl;ere his wife and 
a lady companion, were waiting in the chilly 
air for the drows> ferrymen to take them 

over the river to meet the outgoing Iowa 
stage. 



88 TWENTY YEARS 

While thus in discomfort, our attention was 
riTeted on an apparation gliding around a 
neighbouring bend. It was a canoe of light 
color and peculiar shape, with the rays of the 
morning sun streaming agaluFt it. The low 
was piled high with furs and skins, many of 
them still drying in hoops, and fantasticly 
arranged on larboard and starl)oard. On a 
pile of beaver pelts in the stern, set an old 
man with a long white beard, dud flowing 
locks of snowy hair, which followed his mo- 
tions as he deftly handled his glistening pad- 
dle in the wind-lashed waters. 

When nearly opposite us. and without a 
word being spuken. ihe car.oe suddenly 
pointed to the shore .where we were standing. 
and with a polite courtesy, the old man asked 
in broken English — with a French accent, 
if any of us desired to cross over the 
river. The ladies wire pointed out. when he 
invited tlieni on his well laden craft, and a 
few strokes of the paddle placed them on the 
opposite bank. Then with a wave of his 
hand and "good day'* he continued on hi8 
way singing snatches of French Canadian 
songs, until the curved liver hid the canoe 
and its strange occupant from view, and with 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 89 

this ended my last glimpse of ''Old Dakota." 
Of the early antec3ieats of ''Old Dakota/' 
littie or nothing is known to the early white 
settii r^ ( f the Dakotas, outside of the fact 
that he came to^the Si( ux country from Can- 
ada abort the year 1820; was a trapper by 
profession when he came, and first employed 
ly th^^ no/:5d E ninuil Liza, and then Pierre 
^''hnteau, after which he became a free trap- 
])er andTndian trader. His real name is un- 
known, even to the few with whom he asio- 
ciate I. an 1 the sobriquent by which the mem- 
ory - f him is now knowm was applied to him 
(luring the last twenty yeai-s of his life. 

As will be seen from a map. South Dakota, 
east of the Missouri River' is watered by 
three considerable streams, — the Big Sioux, 
Vermillion and Dakota or "Jim"' Rivers. 

These »tieams are not navigable except by 
small boats, such as skiffs and canoes, and 
even these find formidable obstructions in low 
water during the dry seasons. The Big Sioux 
and Dakota River are several hundred miles 
in length, and were navigated almost their 
entire distance by these small crafts, during 
the snring and early summer months. 



90 TWENTY YEARS 

In the earlier years of the reign of the fur 
companies, these streams were looked upon 
a? vahiable territory to tliem. and g-reat risks 
were sometimes run by the trappers to lih;h 
the gnme from them, unkiv. n totl.o Indians. 

AVhen "Oki Dakota" set up business for 
himself, he adopted the taetios of his French 
Canadi*n countrymen, by eliangi ig- tie 
lanii'uage. but not th.^ text of th.^ old saw — 
that "when among Indians To as il e Indians 
do/' Much of this old man's life had therefore 
been spent in their ca!n;)s aoaj thcv>j rivers 
above named. 

His dealings with the Indians was much in 
the nature of a commission merchant be- 
wern them and the regular fur companies 
with a very narrow margin in his own 
profits. 

From the early spring until late in the fall, 
he could be found in one of these rivers, either 
in solitary camp or with an Indian family. 
trappirg some choice fur bearers resort, or 
gliding along in a canoe as described in the 
opening of this chapter. In his earlier years 
he made his principal stay among the Sioux 
of the "Dirt Lodges** on Firesteel Oreek 
that puts into the Dakota River sixty miles 
from its junction with the ^lissouri. 



ON THE TRAP LINK. 91 

Immediately following the San tee Sioux 
outbreak in Minnesota, in 1862, several mur- 
ders were v< mmitt ^d in the southern part of 
Dakota Territory, by hostile Indians. In 
186:3, the Waterman family, living on the 
Nebraska side of the Missouri nearly opposite 
the m.outh of the Dakota River, were found 
to have been murdered. About the same 
time two men were found dead in their 
blankets at Greenway's Ferry, on the Dako- 
ta, some four miles from Yankton, the new 
territorial capital. And a few months later, 
the Sioux City and Fort Randall stage 
was attacked hy Indians at Choteau Creek. 

All of these depredations happening in the 
neighboihood of Yankton, the people were 
easily influenced to become suspicious of the 
friendly Yankton Sioux, and wild rumors of 
^^Old Dakota' ^ being a spy were freely circu- 
lated, breeding an ill feeling against him. 

But justice to the old Frenchman's niem- 
oiy, ar(^ of tl.e red Yanktons, compels me to 
s\y that these outrage's were committed by 
dlst-'int hauls of lOTing hostile^, with the 
possible rxcv'])tion of the attack on the stage. 
And further to the old man's credit, may it 
Le .^,iid. that of the Indians with whom he 



92 TWENTY YEAK8 

intimately associated, — the Sioux of the 
Dirt Lodg-es; none more faithfully kept the 
peace with their white neighbors during 
those troubleeome limes than they. * And yet 
when all was over, few suffered worse fiom 
the land grabber, — and none bore it with 
a, more patient re ignat'on. 

In truth their chief, the Stormy Goose — the 
Sioux Quakei—whose pleadings for his peo- 
ple's homes will livelong among the recoids 
of Dakota's Territorial land history. And 
StormyGoose had for a life long friend and 
counsellor, "'Old Dakota'" ihe veteran trap- 
per. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 93 



CHAPTER XII. 

'Signing Tp'; the NioLraia— Paper Towns 

for Is stern Investors— A Beautiful 

Prospect— The Poncas. 

JUNE loth, 18G8, I crossed the Missouri, and 
rodf out of sight from Dakota's capital 
on the back of a vigorous mule, taking a 
iiortheriijy direction, intending to ''sign up" 
the Ni()l)rara River as far west as the Piney 
oreeks. 

Seven miles along the Missouri, through 
heaut if ul groves of Cottonwood and oak — ^al- 
ternate with ()p(niiugs, with a marginal rim of 
<-hal]iy bluil.s, that hid ait times the morn 
ing sun. Beyond tlie chalk hue the path 
Lwds ovei- a "^eoc^ud bene h," where the ruins 
of Teep;' Ot i and Wakpominy, wliich bjried 
the financial hopes of the projectors of 
these "might have b.'cn"' towns among the 
dtibris. 



94 TWENTY YEARS 

Further along was ths town of Frankfort, 
that boasted of a lone log cabin. These with 
a ''city" on the raging EmaLual, across, and 
further up the "Fig Miiddj.'* that droo: ed 
frcm tie 1 cur cf its christening, though 
annoin ted in name wi.h bibi^al Askalon. 

Twenty miles or more, and Bon Homne 
Island is reached It vvas on th"s Islanl. that 
the ancient fortifications were found and des- 
cribed by the famous explorers — Lewis and 
Clark, in 1804. The works, most probably, 
being a fortified winter c imp of the Aricaree 
built upon great sanl dunes to tide over the 
spring floods. Almost all trace had now dis- 
appeared, as the Island h.d niovcvl further 
down the river. T( e:xplain more clearly, the 
channel cross currents had cut away the head 
of the Island, while a like counter movement 
had filled it in at the lower end. 

At thirty miles, I had entered and p.issc-d 
the Santee Agency, where the women and. 
children, and the surviving remnant of the 
men who had participated in the Sioux war 
of Minnesota, were now quietly located. 

Eight miles further and Bazille Creek, was. 
passed. Here the blue lodges of Big Eagle's, 
camp — also. Santee Sioux — were pitched and 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 95 

the inmates sweltering under temporary ar- 
bors cut f n m neighboring trees. 

The level plain markino^ the mouth of the 
Niobrara now came in view, and standing 
alone, like a castle v)f other days, stood the ten- 
entless, ten thousand dollar hotel, that was 
to have housed and fed the loiterers and way 
f arers of Niob rara City . 

Half a mile beyond the big building, were lo- 
cated two small trading stores, whose proprie- 
tors did a thrifty business trading their goods 
to passing Indians. At one of these places, 
I passed the night. 

Early the next morning, I again started on 
my journey, taking a westward Course follow- 
ing the windings of the Niobrara alc-ng a 
"blind" trail. When the sun rose snd cast 
its prismatic rays over the verdure of the 
wide vallc3y, it formed a beautiful picture 
for the eye and mind to rest on, and the heart 
to fill with gratitude to the all ru"ing; all see- 
ing power. There is a sermon given us 
that all can understand in any solitary 
ramble on a fine summer morning. 

The sweet smelling wild roses were in 
great profusion on every side; besides 

cluster upcn cluster of otl:er wild floweis 



96 TWENTY YEARS 

ei's of every shade and of every hue. Wiki 
strawberries reddened the unused trail, and 
sparkling, cool water gushed from wayside 
springs that would have rivaled those of the 
•'down east" land. In truth the tirst fe^w 
miks up the Niobrara valley from where 
it joins the great Missouri, comes nearer fill- 
ing the measure — or did at that time — of the 
extravagant language of the land "boomer.'' 
Here indeed, if anywhere in this western 
land the "summer's sun loves to linger." 

After the Verdegris Creek was passed. I 
took the range of bluffs following the river 
so that there would be less danger of meeting 
an Indian war party, as at this time nearly 
every neighboring tribe had parties out hunt- 
ing for each others scalps: and some of them 
would not object to taking ^^■hite men's espe- 
cially if returning homeward in dissappoint- 
ment. 

Fifteen miles froin the Missouri, and on the 
north side of the Niobrara, the ruins of the 
old Ponca Agvncy could be seen and beyond 
that site, the broken buttes that marked the 
line of the windings of theKeya Paha or 
Turtle Head River. Here I observed a baud 
of buffalo scampering over ihe distant prairie 



ON THE 1RAP LINE. 97 

in evident alarm, and though I watched with 
some suspense no Indians appeared to be fol- 
lowing them. 

Atter I'iding seveial miles further. I dis 
mounted at a water hole and put the night in. 
The musquitoes were so ravenous that I 
moved on the windy side of a high butte. but 
the move availed nothing after the calm at 
midnight. A reflection of the situation on 
the night's "wake" suggested if the future 
farmers of the Niobrara Valley, raised as 
large crops of grain in a ''wet season" as 
the musquito crop would be, they could laugh 
to scorn the mortgage sh rk and the county 
assessors levy. 

Bright and early on the morning of the 
17th, I rode out to the Little Piney and com- 
menced a systematic "sign up" for gime. 
Elk, black tailed deer and antek)})e were 
found to be plentiful: also some white tailed 
deer. As the priucip il object of the tr p was 
the water game, and especi illy otter. I ex- 
amined the creaks carefully with no v^ery 
flattering result There were some ott.'r «nd 
mink sign, but very little beaver. The result 
on the whole was a disappointment, so I re- 
traced mv route to the Niobnira River with 



•'iS 



TWKNTY YKAK8 



tho intention of inakin^- a oareful inspection, 
also, oi its banks for wator oanio sign. 

While tho time o( the year was against an 
aeeurate sii;n up. yet if the i;aine was there 
they wvuiUl leave sonuMuarks tv^ niakt' thrir 
presenee knv^wn. 

1 luul follvuved the banks along- for prob- 
ably ten n\iles. wlien about to eutei* a e<U- 
tonwood grove 1 sntelleii smoke and n\y mule 
too. beeame uneasy. Thinking it a war 
part\ . who often hide during the day wheu 
approaeliuig an enemies eamp.— so turned 
about and thought to retreat ui good order 
while ther^.' was an evti vlianee. Hut t* my 
dismay the nude set U[> a •'oali" with ui- 
tonations louJ and deep, aui was aa>A\-*/el 
by nuilt^s and pomes fa the tanber. 

To attempt an escape nv>N\ w\.ulvl bj out o;" 
the question, as the uuile was tu\'d. aad tiiosji 
of tlie war party, if ^u.•lx laey w.'r.\ won 11 
be tresh j\nd re>tea. I wab in buspen>e. but 
had LO. long to wait. 

First a cautious n.^'Vemout v.lis observed in. 
a clump ot bushes, aud a f.tiing- \h..i tiic\ 
had llu' Ueaa oa lue, a.- ui^.tter^ ^tood. >.exi 
came a glistening- gun barrel, then a bronze 
form. Standing- erect, and patting his naked 



ON TIfK TRAP LINK. 99 

breast with his disengaged hand, he ex- 
cdaimed in a l)a«H voicxi : 

''Meah Ponca." 

Hut the bjiss voice liad the sweetness of 
tenor just then. He was of the friendly Pon- 
r:i Iii(li;m t !•!!)<'. ;iii(! Ihat its(-'lf was a relief 
for tlie nerves. He lost no time, in parley- 
iiv^ l)ut invited me t«: dismount and follow his 
way. 'J'hat way l(;d to a sand hill opening, 
■where were pitched two skin lodges, and 
half a dozen Indians of both sexes, scattered 
about. No sto(!k were at first seen, but 
a ff;w mules and poni(^s wm-o soon 1(m1 forth 
to th(nr accustomed j)lac(; with picket j)ir and 
1 area I The good natured women of tlu^ ])ar- 
ty now assured me, that my loud voiced niul<^ 
]iad thrown th(^m in a panic. Tl;ey were on 
the 1( okout for a (!amp of Brule Sioux, wliose 
ti^n thev had noticed across the river, and 
froiM whom they w(u-e now in hiding. My 
])n.'sence was now looked U[)()n as a welcome 
reinforcement, and (jvery attention was giv(;n 
ni^ bv a p M)ple, (^ver generous in their homes 
to a friendly strang<'i-. I was ])resingly in- 
A^eti to remain their guest for the ni^ht. 
No host over acc(pitted himself better than 
tlil.3 b/^t'iT o: t'l ' l^>:)•^ ciii'f. St m iiu''- 



100 TWENTY YEAR8 

Bear. Feasts of strawberries, pemniican for 
lunch, and a bed of newly tanned buffalo 
robes for a royal roost. 

There is a saying, "after the feast the giver 
shakes his head." Not ao with my Ponca 
friends. The whole family gathered about 
me on my departure next morning, and made 
prodigal offers of a continuence of attention 
and good cheer, if I would remain their guest 
during the remainder of the hunt. 

I continued my homeward route along the 
river's course. Evidence was not wanting to 
show that the scarcity of water game, was 
due to the skill of my Ponca friends and 
their Omaha relatives. Th»^ castaway trap 
stake and tcggle. n:arked the sign of tht^ 
trapper plainly. 

In a clump of cedars near the mouth of 
Verdegris Creek. I noticed, cu my way up 
some one building a cabin. Stopping on my 
return. I found a white settler buildinix ^^ 
place for himself. He w8s alone, well up in 
vears. but in a cheerful vein. Two milts I e> 
low was the cowboys crossing Tliree Texan 
herders were killed at thiis place six Aveel s 
later, bv a Sioux war party. The old Uii\n iu 
tie cedars was found shct to death cind 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 101 

scalped about the same time, and most prob- 
ably by the same raiders. 



A few words more about the Poncas before 
I leave them ami their country. A smalj 
tribe, numbering less than a thousand, with 
language similar to the Omahas, the Poncas 
had been able to call the lower Niobrara 
Valley their own for two hundred years 
or more. A. compact built and healthy people 
they have little to ask. Generous in peace, 
brave and self reliant in war, plodding along 
in the line marked out by their grand parents; 
accepting new conditions slowly. They loved 
their wild life; had plenty, and saw no neces- 
sity for change. They courted the frendship 
of their white neighbors wherever practical. 
In short the Poncas as a tribe are, or were, of 
the better class of wild Indians. 

In April 1869, on my way to Fort Berth- 
old, I took a spin to the Ponca Agency before 
engaging passage on an up bound steamer. 
The Gregory brothers, two of President Lin- 
coln's appointments, had been serving the 
Government as agent and trader there and 
left the alfairs of the agency in fair shape to 



K'J TVVKN rv VKAKS 

Dr. Potter. President Johnson's aj^pointee. 
In all my rounds of the ageneies I never ree- 
lect of seeino- such a happy condition of af- 
fairs between ag<Mit and Indians, as at that 
place. Few school rooms were bn:)ught under 
more uniform decipline than tliere. No ped- 
aj^i'Liiie. e\'er received nu>re ImiuL;" obedience 
from his scholars, than was awarded the agent 
by these simple minded Poncas. These im- 
pressions, were! not alon? min \ but the seati 
ment universal among visitors. The Poncas 
had plenty to eat and eared carefully for 
th.eir herds, and did some farming— to be 
sure, in ^ small way. 



We will pass on a few years. We wi^! 
pass to the admiaistration ot PresicLnit Hayes 
— an excellent executive in some respects, but 
the worst administration for the helpless In- 
dian, of any of the Presidents since the (tov- 
ernmeiit was founded, riiis might have 
been laid upon his Secretary of tlii^ Interior^ 
whose zeal to mak^^ places for his nation dty,. 
overlooked their fitness for the work assigned. 
Or it may have been the fault of his (.Hunmis- 
sioner of Indian AlTairs. who had the iu- 
stincts of a brute. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 103 

The Ponnas suffered in common with other 
friendly trihes. They had already given up 
all their land hut a small stip; hut now, this 
too, wa,s wanted. Contractors, who fatten on 
Govern tnf.'nt jobs, were ready — they nre al- 
ways ready. To the Indian Territory the 
j^jncas must he sent. Vain were their pro- 
tests. Soldiers were used, and the hapless 
j)eople forced into the contractors wagons with 
ropes, bayonets and sabres. They were placed 
in a milarial spot, in that southern land and 
missionaries invited to look after them. 

Many tried to escape and make their way 
to their old home. My intertainer of the "sign 
up" was among the first killed that was 
trying the desperative alternative of escape. 
His brother with a small yjarty finally reached 
th(- Omahas after fifty days journey ihrr)ugh 
midwinter snow. The generous Omahas once 
mor.^ C'vnii^ to the rescue. Once more they 
donated land to plundered members of their 
uihappy r ice. and the disheartened band en- 
joined from attempting to proceed further in 
the direction of their old village. They were 

advised against trying to relocate on land 

jiow probaly o'/cu[)ieii by white settlris in the 

Kiclrara c<nmti'v . 



1U4 TWENTY YEARS 

While busy plowing his new lands, the 

Ponea chief was arrested for escaping from 

the Indian Territory. He was taken to the 

house to prepare for the return journey. Many 

of his things were still unpacked. To an otti^ 

cer explaining why he left this reservation 

in the Indian Territory, the Indian said :— 

•'We counted oui' dead for awhile, but when 
all my children and half of the tribe were 
dead, we did not take any notice of any- 
thing much. When my son was dying, he 
begged me to take his bouL^s biick to his old 
home, if ever I got away. In that little box 
are the bones of my son; 1 hive trie 1 to tik3 
them back to be buried with our fathers." 

To some fair minded and generous hearted 

citizens of Omaha, it is but justice to say. a 

stay of proc^eedings was entered in court ou 

the Ponca's behalf, and the few survivors of 

the tribe, now tend tbeir litlle flocks and 

herds once more, in tbe beautiful valley of 

the Niobrara. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 105 



CHAPTER XIII. 

Badgers, Racccons. Skunks and Muskrats, 
an I How to Trap them. 

BADGERS are found scattered about in 
( ut ^)f the way places in nearly every 
western State and Territory. They have 
much the general characteristics ot the 
common ground hog, found so plentifully in 
many of the eastein states, and like them 
aje a help rather than a liarm to any vacant 
tr^ct they may chance to occupy. 

The badger is a heavy set. sliort legged 
quadruped, about eighte-«*n inche?^ in length, 
when fu I grown. an<l wdghs near thirty 
pjunds. The fur is an iron grey coh^r with a 
yelloA'ish tinge under the belly and on its 
sides. A white stripe commencing between 
the ev.-s running party down the back, with 
a dirk lin-oieach sidc> of this stripe. The 
l.ir is lunger on the sides than on the back, 
giving the animal a Hat appearance. 



1(>; TWENTY YEAR8 

The fore feet of the hadgor is thick and 
very stout, and with fore claws an inch long. 
With such instruments they can dig very 
fast and deep in the hardest and dryest of 
soils. The are tenacious and hard fighters 
and will flee on man's approach but will turn 
and fight a dog. 

I remember a case of the badger's fighting 
qualities at Fort Stevenson, during the sum- 
mer of 1872. Interpreter Brown captured a 
half grown badger and brought it to the post 
w^here it was turned loose among the dogs, 
cleaning out all the worthless curs of the 
garrison. It fought for life and liberty, and 
and well deserved both, but among the vic- 
tims of its prowess, was the interpreter's 
blooded bull terrier for which oifensepoor bad- 
ger was slain. 

The badger is solitary in its nature, an I 
is generally seen traveling alone. Ldk^ tha 
ground hog they are good weather prognostic 
cators, and know enough to tak e advantage of 
and spin around in every thaw in winter. 
They are not a very prolific animal, the female 
seldom bearing or raising more than two each 
year. Its food consists principally of meat 
when it can get it.. Other ^vise it wiU Uve ou 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 107 

certain roots and plants. They are inveter- 
ate foes of moles, field mice and gophers, and 
thus protects the farmers from being over 
run b/ these pests where badgers are allowed 
to live undisturbed. 

The trapping of a badger \t^ easily accom- 
})lished. A number tw(. trap, set in the mouth 
of the hole they are using, is one of the suc- 
cessful ways. The trap, chain and stake, 
should be coverel with loose earth, and care 
taken to allow the pan a chance to give, so 
that the trap can spring when trod upon. 
Another way to trap them and the method I 
umally fvollowad, was a "call" to a flesh bait 
The bait should be staked down in the neigh- 
borhood ot their burrow, and the trap and 
chain covered. 

As the fur of the badger is reckoned among 
the furs of the lower grade, the market price 
for a clean well strefched skin is from sixty 
cents to one dollar. 

The raccoon is so well known that a descrip- 
tion of them is almost unnecessary, as they 
are found in almost any considerable timber 
tract between the Great Plains and the At- 
lantic coast, as well as in some of the Pacific 
States. 



iw TWENTY YEARS 

They are somewhat smaller than a badger, 
with a short bulky body; a long tail encircled 
with rirgs. The fur is long and thick; grey 
near the roots, turning to a kind of a blackish 
color toward the surface. 

The nose of the raccoon is long and pointed; 
eyes large and ears catlike. They have tirm 
legs, and with their hind ones make a flait 
track similar to a porcupine or bear. 

Raccoon are flesh eaters, but aie also fond 
of certain fruits, nuts and corn. In fact they 
have epicurian tastes of no mean pretentions. 

Notwithstanding that their na.ns has 
passe.l into a proverb as typical of all 
that is cunning and crafty, his coonship 
often finds himself inveigled in a trapper's 
cold steel clasps; yet he neither shows the 
ingenuity of the fox or beaver, similarly 
caught, in his efl*orts to escape. He imitates 
the muskrat, rather, in a patient resignation 
to accept his fate. 

The raccoon's habits are in many respects 
similar to the mink; following along water 
courses in wild or timbered sections in search 
of their prey. In settled districts they occa- 
sionaly raid the poultry yard, and during the 
"roasting ear'' season sometimes make havoc 



ox THE TRAP LINK. 109 

in a farmer's cornfield, especially if it bor- 
ders a timber tract. The frisky squirrel 
often suffers in reputation, for the raccoon's 
mischief in the cornfield. 

The trap usually set for coon is m nnmlx-r 
two. They are set in narrow passages in runs 
or small creeks near their known haunts. 
A fresh meat bait, partly covered and hidden 
as in mink trapping is a successful way. 
But such a bait is as likely to catch a mink 
or a skunk, as a coon. To bait with a half 
husked ear of corn, would be more of a spe- 
cialty for coon. In either set, for a front foot 
catch, the pan of the trap should not be 
placed further than five inches from the bait. 
The average paid by buyers for a well dried 
coon skin is from fifty cents to one dollar. 

The fur of the skunk follows along on the 
fur buyer's lists with the badger and raccoon; 
with a tend mcy, of late years to lead them 
in price. The skunk or polecat is as common 
as raccoon or groundhog. And although not 
so destructive to poultry as mink or weasels, 
still the skunk is not very far behind them. 
Their average^ weight is about eight 
or ten pounds. They have a black fur 



no TWENTY YEARS 

with two wide white stripes its full length. 
The width of stripe varies, while some are 
stripeless. Their tail is long and bushy. They 
have feet shaped much the same as raccoons 
and porcupines, but have a peculiar short 
: oping motion by fours, easily distinguished 
from the tracks of any other animal, in ra-id 
mud or snow. 

Among the Sioux, Winnebrgc e^^ and some 
other Indian nations; the flesh of skunks is 
esteemed a great delicacy, and next to a fat 
dog ranks highest in the menu at their epi- 
curian feasts. A.t ceremor.ial dances, no well 
regulated jumping artist of scaring j re- 
tensions, could enter the ring, keep time to 
the music of rattles aiid drum and sonorious 
song, without dragging a beaded polecat 
skin to his lively hopping heels 

The skunk is trapped in about the same 
manner as mink are caught. In fact when 
both classes of animals are plentiful in the 
same neighborhood, a trap set for them is 
just as likely to catch a mink as a skunk. 
This is especially the case with a ''call" to a 
fresh meat bait. 

The musk rat need but little introduction. 
The little rodent being an inhabitant of every 



ON THE TRAP LINE. Ill 

creek, river and lake on the North American 
Continent. Though of the lower grade of 
fur bearing animals, their pelts seldom bring- 
ing over twenty-five cents in the markets, yet 
so proific are they, that more money is made 
by trappers in geneial, from them than of 
any other special class of furs in the country. 
This is particularly the case in the lake regions 
of Minnesota where many thousands of dol- 
lars of raw muskral furs are bought yearly 
from the trappers of that section. 

And we might add further, that more 
money is made by furriers in general from 
the muskrat than of any other furs. Its pli- 
ability, softness and fine texture, renders it 
a fur when placed in the hands of an adept 
finisher, a good subject in the imitation of 
furs of a higher grade, so that it is often 
made to do duty in the furriers' show win- 
dows as elegant substitutes for fine and costly 
beaver, otter and pine martin "make ups.'' 

The muskrat is considered next to the rab- 
bit the easiest animal caught, on the trapper's 
catalo;^ue. Like the rabbit in size, a small 
single spring trap is sufficient to hold them. 
They feed along the shores on flag, rush and 
other roots. In hunting feed they have cer- 



112 TWENTY YEARS 

tain paths and routes which they are con- 
stantly using. It is on these paths leadmg 
out to the bank the trapper sets his traps. 
They are placed on the trail in the water, 
and submerged about two inches. 

In the sprnig they often congregate on a 
mound which can be readily noticed from the 
reddish stain of ground there. This will be 
found to be a successful place for the traps, 
and muskrats can be caught there nightly 
without scaring them. In shallow creeks, 
there are certain stones they frequently use 
which are also good places to set submerged 

traps. The oil of anise seed, obtainable in 
drug stores, is a gocvd spring bait, used in a 
similar m inner to that of baiting the beaver. 
The general habits of the musk rat is sim- 
ilar to tl at cf the beaver. In the lakes and 

lagoons of the north i.nd west they live in 
large cammunities or villages. They build 
l)artly subire'gad houses in shallow places, 

(adiuarily abcut three or four feet in height, 
l)ee hive shaped. When froze down by the 
rio-ors of winter, which is often the case, and 
can no longer use their subteranian passage 
ways, they literally '-eat themselves out of 
house and home" by masticating the strua- 



ON THE TRAP LINE. Il3 

ture itself, which is made of a composition of 
rushes float weed and blue mud. 

When th ^ improvident little rodent is thus 
in hard luck the •"spearing-" trap})er appears. 
This individual armed with a sharp pointed 
spear walks on the ice and thursts his weapon 
through the frail houses of the imprisoned 
aDima^s and thus destroys them. 

The bank musk rats are more fortunate in 
the winter as they cannot be so readily loca- 
ted as their kindred of the houses, though 
like'them 'often suffer in a shortage of win- 
ter provender. 



lU TWENTY YEARS 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Trapping at Painted Woods Lake, Heart 

River and Apple Creek, in 

North Dakota, 1871. 

WHILE at odd intervals, during t-h© 
two years of 1860-70, I had been 
giving some attention to hunting wolfing and 
trapping along the neutral or fighting 
grounds of heligerant Indians on the Missou- 
ri, between Forts Rice and Stevenson, it was 
not until the month of September 1871, that 
I became one of a party of threj in a trap- 
ping and trading firm, thoroughly equipped 
to follow the business in a system.atic way. 

The two young members of the new firm 
were of varied experience. First we intro- 
duce Trapper Williams a whilom rafting 
pilot from the eddies and swirls of Wiscon 
sin's turbulent rivers, and the other partner- 
passed in his card as Hunter Mercer, who> 
liad taught school, killed deer, and hunted 
huckleberries iu Pennsylvania's mountains. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 115 

On the evening of the 17th, of that month, 
we arrived at the prairie banks of the Lake 
of the Painted, Woods, from our late rendez- 
vous on the Missouri, some four miles below. 

We made camp near a bunch of bushes 
facing the lake with a good view of the 
greater part of it. With the going down of the 
sun we etcod locking upon scenes that never 
was our fortune but the once to see — an 
animal's earthly paradise. 

The slanting rays of the sun shone full 
upon the shining fresh plastered houses of the 
industrious beaver, that stood upon the 
lake's edge like the gorgeous castles of It- 
aly's watery Venice, of a past age. 

Otter were swimm.ing in plain sight, and 
without fear. Wild ducks, geese and brants, 
proudly crested the fanning waves in front of 
camp, unconcerned at our prescence. Even 
the antelope losi their timidity and stood in 
a soldierly line, on a bluff near by and 
watched in wonderment our movements about 
th3 fire an J smoke. 

In fact, "generations of animals and birds 
had been born and reared there, since the 
last tropper. white or red, had put out trap 
and t )^gle around this lake's shore. Bu- 



116 TWENTY YEARS 

chaump, old and decrepit, was, like Cooper's 
hero of the Prairie, closing his remaining 
days in the lodges of his Indian friends. Jeff 
Smith was hopelessly blind; Bush was killed 
by the Yanktoneys; and poor old LaFrance 
had fallen across the trap he was setting 
by a pistol shot supposed to be fired b}' Bloody 
Knife. These were the last trappers of the 
old fur company days, and thirty years had 
now passed since the sign of their calling 
was last seen around the shores of this beau- 
tiful body of water. 

The night with a moon clear -faced and in 
its full, threw its beams upon us as we lay 
within the folds of our blankets. The breeze 
of the day went down with the sun, and the 
air was calm and fros.t-laden. Our camp fire 
continued to blaze and seemed a danger sig- 
nal for all the beasts and fowls within 
sight of its glare. 

Elk whistled and d^er sn:)rted continuously 
from the dense jungle between the lake and 
the Missouri Ever^^ living thing seemed as 
sleepless as ourselves. The coyote with his 
sharp bark and the wolf wth the art of a 
yoice throwing yentriloquist. help swell the 
din and confusion. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. H'^ 

Strange noises now strain our waking ears. 
It sounds like some one beating the water 
with a huge b:)ard. Thisa sounds multiply. 
It is the beaver's alarm, and the fowls and 
animals seem to understand it. 

When the beaver commenced alarming 
each other, I felt no ^lalion. No buoyancy 
of spirits at the good trapping prospects be- 
fore us. Rather a feeling of regret at this 
self -assigned work. I would gladly have left 
this animal paradise undisturbed could 
I but know that it would remain so. But we 
were but an advance guard. We were on 
\hj proposed route of the Northern Pacific 
railway and soon this valley would be filled 
froxn every nation of peop e in northern Eu- 
rope. And if thj beaver was to be dojmed 
we vvrould make the first strike. If we could 
not save we would destt-oy. 

At daybreak the next morning Williams 
and myself loaded the bull boat with traps 
and guns, took our seats and paddled up the 
lake through the flocks, which on oar ap- 
proach moved leasurly out of the way. Five 
otter followed in our wake, puffing, snorting 
and diving. 

A heavy fog hung low, ani thi.^ k^pt three 



118 TWENTY YEARS 

elk, bathing in a bayou from seeing- us. Wil- 
liams steadied the boat, while I reached a 
rifle and shot a large pronged buck dead. The 
other two being cows were permitted to es- 
cape. 

On our return from signing up and setting 
out the traps, we boated the dead elk to the 
camp and commenced to cut it up and jerk or 
sun dry the meat. While all three were busy 
we were startled by shots and yells. We 
looked in the direction of our poor pony and 
saw that he was surrounded by about tvv^enty 
Indians yelling with a loud uproar. 

On discovering us they spread out like a 
fan and made toward us. At this, we jumped 
for our rifles and plunked ourselves in the 
grass. Some of the Indians commenced to 
yell "pah-don -ee" (Sioux name for Arricaree,) 
and they all halted but one. He advanced 
slowly bearing aloft a white flag. They were 
a war party o: Gios Ventres and Mandans, 
looking for the scalps of Sioux stragglers. 
We presented them half of the fresh meat, 
when they all rode up in grand style, dis- 
mounted, and each broiled his own allotted 
share over the camp fire. After the lunch 
they remounted and rode away. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 119 

After having spent about one week with 
our trap line, well attended, we counted our 
pelts, and found about thirty beaver: onr 
dozen otter: alxnit twenty five wolves nnd 
foxes, and a lot of mink and otl-er miscella- 
neous furs. Among the wolves, was a black 
bufPalo wolf, a very rare animal in that sec- 
tion of country. 

The week following was occupied by the 
Trapper and myself in a journey to Fort Ber- 
thold, described in Frontier and Indian Life, 
under ihe caption, ''With a Gros Ventre War 
Party." About the 1st of October we re- 
set the traps at the lake with profitable re- 
sults: after which we freighted down our 
boats and packed the pony and commenced 
a journey "by land and sea" to the mouth of 
Heart River, some twenty-five miles down 
the Missouri; coming in on the west side. 
The morning of our departure a dead calm 
and a light mist hung over the river, so that 
a continual roar could be heard apparently 
coming from underneath the surface. At a 
little Cottonwood point a mile below the place 
of starting we saw and heard what we 
thought was a man caught on a sawyer— a 
movino- sna-;?. When wj came nearer the 



120 TWENTY YEARS 

strange object disappeared, and as we moved 
along, nothing but the sawyer in its per- 
petual motion could be observed. We then 
concluded that, perhaps it was some solitary 
boatman coming down from the mountains, 
and being asleep, his skiff ran foul of the 
moving snag and was capsized. But the Indi- 
ans call the place Ghost i'oint^ from strange^ 
unaccountable objects being seen, or as they 
sometimes express it, "'where people have 
medicine put over their eyes." 

That evening we reached Heart River ^ 
when after landing I took a gun and tra])^^ 
to reconnoiter, At the edge of the willows. 
I struck a band of elk and killed two large 
bucks. In the meantime Hunter xJercer 
could be seen riding down a band of antelope 
on the bluffs on the east side of the Missouri,, 
on same ground where North Dakota's capital 
now stands. 

We used much caution in trapping Heart 
Rirer. General Whistler's military expedi- 
tion to the Yellowstone River had returned 
followed closely by some of Chief Gall's, 
Uncapapa Sioux. They had shot oae officer 
and lassoed another to deaj^l;. A colored 
cook was also caught and put tj to.-tLir.\ AIL 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 121 

happened on this stream ahove us; and the 
servant's take cff was but a short distance 
from our trap line. 
Tv> did not swim onr pony across the Missouri 
having finally concluded to encamp at the 
oner Tail Crossing, on the east side, opposite 
the mouth of Heart. This was the crossing 
place of the Minnesota Santees when flying 
from General Sibley's pursuing column. Hun- 
dreds of carts a id Avagons abandoned by the 
Indie ns, were cut to pieces by the soldiers. 
This happened in July 1863. The cart rem- 
nants were now made to do duty in our camp 
arrangements. 

While m.y partners would cross the river 
and tend the Heart River traps, I took charge 
of the company pony and put out a line of 
otter traps near the upper military crossing of 
Apple Creek, some ten miles away. 

About tha 20th of October, we pulled in 
both lines, Mercer returning to our headquar- 
ters at Painted Woods, while the Trapper and 
I continued with our bull boats to Sibley 
Island. Here Suttles and Miller, two young 
Canadians owned a successful woody ard. 
They had a strong stockade; horses and cat. 
tie, plenty of provisions and a celler full of 



122 TWENTY YEARS 

wine made from the native grape, of which 
the island abounded; and no neighbors within 
twenty-five miles. 

After enjoying a short stay with these na- 
bobs of the wilderness we continued trapping 
to within a few miles of Fort Rice, Avhen 
our absent partner came to us with a newly 
purchased team, so closing up a successful 
autumn trap, we returned to the Painted 
Woods for winter quarters. 



ON THE TRAP LIXE. 



123 



CHAPTER XV. 

Eagles and Ea^le Trapping. 

EAGLES of the difPerant American vari- 
eties ar^ found in considerable numbers 
in many parts of the Great Northwestern 
Plains. Along the Upper Missouri Riv-er, 
and eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, the 
famous war eagle holds sway, and rates that 
section his native heath. 

This eagle, also sometimes called the calu- 
met eagle, are the most beautiful of 
all the American eagles. They have a richly 
variegated color ot black and white. Each 
wing have good sized circular spot in the' 
jniddle, which is only visible when they 
are extended. The body is variously marked 
l)y black and white. The tail feathers are 
twelve in number and of unequal length 
"i'hey are pure white except about two inches 
«'f the tip. which is jet black, Thes- tail 



124 TWENTY YEARS 

feathers made into a war bonnet is the proud- 
est possession known to the wild Indian. 

These war eagles are s.inaller than the bald 
or black eagle, are swifter in flight and more 
pugnacious. Their principal breeding places. 
were formerly in the Black Hilis^ or inaces- 
sible parts of ihe Little Missouri or Yellow- 
stone Bad Lands. While the tail feathers of 
the others are used for decorative purposes, 
they have not the value of a war eagle's, 
pluckings. The money market rate for 
these favored birds is one dollar for each tail 
feather, or a pony for a whole bird. A war 
bonnet of thirty six tail feathers will find 
a ready exchange from the Indians for a two 
hundred dollar mule.. 

War eagles do not appear on the Missouri 
fiom their breeding places' unti" about Sep- 
tember. Then small parties of Indians sally 
out to a place f L-equented by^ these kings of 
birds, and a ceremony gone though with to 
bring them to bait. 

After a dream tells them the eagles will 
come, a deer is hmited up and killed, the 
trappers fasting the mean while. A pit is then 
dug in some pinnacle or high point, and one^ 
of the trappers therein ensconsed. The su.~ 



ON th:^ !rap li:;e ^zo 

face is then covered over with brush, hvavinvr 
an apperture for observation. The deer is 
then carefully laid u])ou tlie brusli. Tlie rest 
of til ' i)a]'ty u(»\v retire to some secluded 
place and ''make medicine." 

If a hungry eagle sights the d ^ad deer in 
his soaring rounds he very .^l)\vly circles 
round and round, and if hisk^^en eyes sees no 
danger he alights and sinks his talons in the 
flesh at once. A quick red hand is tliurst out 
and the eagle's legs are clasp.^d firmly and'an- 
otherred hand is tugging at the tail feathers 
until he is plucked of the coveted black tips, 
when he is released to grow a new set. 

''Man's inhumanity to man," sometimes 
turns the tables upon the eagle trapper. Sharp 
eyes are w^atching the soaring of the big 
birds until an eagle catchers camp is located. 
It is a war party; and a trapper is trapped. 
His own locks become a trophy and the brush 
pit his grave. 

The Indians are firm believers in the eagles 
strength of talons and invulnerable to many 
leaden balls of death sped after them. 
Indeed, when many Indians shoot at a flying 
eagle, they are prepared to juke the return 



12G TWENTY YEARS 

bullet, they believing it caught by the eagle's 
talons to be hurled back defiantly on the 
head of its would be destroyer. 

The Aricaree and Gros Ventre Indians in 
earlier days, sent out small parties in June to 
locate war eagles nests and rob them of the 
young eagles, take them to their villages, 
and^tame them for the annual crop of the. 
tail feathers. 

When I -came to the Painted Woods in 18G0, 
there were several black and bald eagles nests. 
on the top of the tallest of the cottonwoods. 
Two in particula-r v/ere occupied the first few 
years following. One of these, a black eagle 
had her nest at the mouth of Otter Creek, and 
a bald eagle had its nest at the famous group 
of big Cottonwood^, that was formerl}' the- 
place where war parties painted the trees, 
that kept alive its legendary name. This* 
group surrounded by old oaks and elms, stood 
near where, the Like empties into the Missouri^ 
One noticeable peculiarity in the nesting hab- 
its of the eagles, that they avoid bulking 
in large groves, but always chose an old tall:. 
Cottonwood, either in a small group or entire] y 
aloEe near the bank of the river, with a clear 
view in every direction, wdiile perched uponi 
their- big and show^y nest.. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 127 

Several eagles, both bald and black, were 
poisoned at the wolf baits or caught at the 
fox traps that I had set out on both F^ide> nf 
the MissiHiri, duj-ing tlie v/iiitri> i-f ls71-lj. sc 
tluU but ciU' lU'^t was («ccupied in the bpiing 
of 1873, around the Painted Woods, and that 
one was at the painted tree group. 

About the first of June of that year, Rich- 
mond and Raney — two hunters, and myself, 
rigged up and went to this bald ^eagle's nest 
to capture the young birds if possible, for 
the purpose of rearing and taming them. 

We found the eagl^ on her nest, but the 
distance from the ground was fully one hun- 
dred feet, with no branches to assist in 
climbing the first forty feet. An oak was cut 
to fall against the big Cottonwood, and Raney 
mounted this as a ladder and " by some ropes 
to £ssist, reached within a few yards of the 
nest. 

Up to the time of the climber's near approach 
the eagle had remained quietly on her nest. 
But she now seemed to get frightened and 
darted out and commenced soaring toward the 
clouds. Meanwhile, at Raney's request, I 
stood watching the eagle while he continued 
his cliiid)ing and had readied and was stand- 



128 TWENTY YEARS 

ing on a limb, baffled and resting. A mothers 
fur J at the peril of her young seemed now to 
possess the bird for after a few lowering cir- 
cles she darted downward with terrible rapid- 
ity, evidently aiming to dash herself against 
Raney's back and would have knocked hin\ 
from the tree at the probable expense <tf Iut 
own life. 

Having my rifle ready at the commencement 
of her descent, and tliough with rapid guess; 
work for aim. fired toward her as she fluttered 
through the tree tops, and an accidental but 
lucky shot was the I'esult. The ball struck 
the tip of her wing, throwing h3r from tb3; 
accuracy of hsr dascendiiij liii3, ail s!i > 
crashed through the lower limbs to the earth- 
She was then made captive, andRiney fail- 
ing to reach the nest, as a last resort the 
giant Cottonwood was felled to tli3 earthy 

with no accumulated trophies save a few 
dead birds. The eag'le got well and escaped 
after a few days of morose captivity. She 
was seen to circle around the fallen monarch 
of this ancient group of cottonwoods, after 
which she and her kind disapperecl never 
a^ain to nest in that section of country. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 129 



CHAPTKR XVL 

Wolfing and Trapping Around the Upper 

Whi'3 Eartli Country— Smart Baa- 

ver Again— Vic Smith as a 

Dime Novel Hero. 

U?PFR Whits Earth River flows into the 
Missouri a few miles above the great 
bend of this mig-hty watery thoroughfare, and 
has its source in the neighborhood of the 
boundary line bordering the British posses- 
sions. 

The White Earth, so named from its chail^y 
bluffs, is a narrow river with a cramped, deep 
cut valley as it approaches the bluffs of the 
Missouri. The water of the stream is compar- 
atively free from alkali, considering the sec- 
tion of country, and is fed by numerous clear 
water springs. The timber is scarce and in 
patches mostly in deep, side ravines. 

The country aroun<l the White Earth was 
luor? noted for its ] unling tlian trnT)]>ipg 



130 TWENTY YEARS 

grounds. Elk and bear were plentiful, also 
deer and antelope. Buffalo were likewise 
found there before their extermination. 

The Red River half breeds made the stream 
a frequent camping place. They were good 
trappers and kept ihe water game well down. 

While having frequently passed up and 
down the military trail crossing this river, yet 
I did not commence trapping there until the 
autumn of 1874. On this occasion three of us; 
fitted out with four ponies and traps at 
Painted Woods and struck across the divides^ 
signing up Snake Creek^ Sully ^s. L?ike and 
Upper Knife River on the route. 

The new members of this trapping trip 
were Raney the eagle trapper^ and a young 
man named Buck, who was afte-rwards killed 
by Joseph's Nez Perces. We spent most of 
our time hunting, wolfing and foxing witk 
varied fortunes. 

The spring following^ in the company of 
Vic Smith, I again visited the ^^ kite Earth 
Smith next to Reynol is, was the heading hun- 
ter that had appeared on tl e Upper Missoui-i». 
Our business on this trip was to k c ite a band 
of elk, and capture the calves. 

We fonnd a small band of thenx n.ea.r tLe 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 131 

Trappers Buttes, but flnding no calves, we 
concluded it was probably too early, therefore 
went into camp in a timbered ravine keeping 
the elk herd continually in sight, though re- 
maining our;'.elves unseen to tliem. 

But shortly after a not entirely unexpected 
state of affairs ended the novel hunt. A 
band of White Hat's wandering Santees 
came along and skughtered every elk in the 
band. It was a disappointment in a financial 
way to us as we had been offered five hundred 
dollars for a pair of healthy young elks, to be 
delivered at a Northern I'acific railway sta- 
tion. 

After the elk fiasco, Smith saddled up and 
started for the Yellowstone, whil^ I remained 
and run out a li::e of beaver traps between 
the Buttes and the Missouri. Here again 
Castor Fiber, exhibited his wit as bought by 
experience. Alter catching two or three the 
first night, they seemed to be thoroughly on 
their guard. Besides the usual trick of spring- 
ing the trap with peeled sticks, or turning 
them bottom side up, they piled stones on 
them, some weighing several pounds. These 
beavers, having been educated at the Half 
Breeds expense, I cheerfu ly yielded to them 



132 TWENTY YEARS 

the advantages derived and pulled out for 
GrinnelPs ranch near Strawberry Island on 
the Missouri. 

In the autumn of 1875^ I made my last 
trapping raid to the White Earth country^ 
"Sioux*' Jack and Dickens were my escort on 
this occasion. We signed and trapped the 
Little Muddy Riv^er and other streams around 
Fort Buford. 

We turned our ponies into the Gros Ventre 
camp at Old Fort Union, giving their care to 
"Bony part" their chief. Our intention was. 
to charter or buy a skiff and trap the Muddy 
Shute, Strawberry Island and other beaver 
resorts along the Missouri. The chief as- 
sured us on leavetaking that the ponies were a. 
present, that they would not be called for. 
Setting Bull was just acoss on Cherry Creek 
with eighty lodges, and Long Dog the Trapper 
Killer was perambulating along the west side 
of the Missouri with some "bad young men.'" 

Believing that the Gros Ventre had some 
foundation for his earnesi talk, we concluded 
to notify the woody ard men as we passed 
along, especially the we«t siders. 

The first woodyard we touched on our pas- 
sage was Scotts. on the west side !-ome tc^ 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 133 

miles below Fort Buford. As the day was 
waning on our arrival, we concluded to camp 
there. Besides proprietor Scott, we f(nmd 
Yic Smith the hunter aud Deacon Henmiing- 
way the tidier, the latter formerly of the 
Painted Woods. Smith invited me to look 
over his hunting grounds, and while doing 
so I explained the Indian situat'on. 

On the next day after our departure, while 
the Deacon was busy putting some after din- 
ner licks into his growing wood pile he was 
startled by a shot; a painted Indian filling- 
from behind a tree in fj-ont of him, and a yell 
from Smith. It was a (Wnie novel episode in 
its startling actuality. 

It appears Smith, who had been restingin ll e 
Deacon's cabin, concluded to go to the };iaiiie 
edge and kill a deer. He followed the (Id 
man's path to where he was chopping. He 
wasglidmg noiselessly along in his moccasins 
when his quick eye noticed a red object near 
a tree. He saw that it was a painted Indian 
and that he was taking a deliberate aim at 
the Deacon, and was tuo absorbed to notice 
Smith's approach. What then happened has 
l,een already described. A -war party of 
ti<ht i.t the cdje of the timber findiuj;- tlieir 



134 TWENTY YEARS 

comrade shot retreated. They were doubtless 
Long Dog's bushwhacker's, though white 
men who claimed to know pronounced the 
dead Indian a Gros Ventre. 

Some two weeks later, while at Grinneirs^ 
I noticed the Deacon among the stage passen- 
gers. He informed me he had been attacked 
three diflerent times and shot at by Indians 
in that interval. But the first attack learned 
his eyes a wandering habit and the "salv- 
ages"' were obliged to take him at long range; 
and hereafter he would put them to more; 
trouble to hunt him up. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 135 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Lake Mandan— The Last Winter Huat- 
An Ice Gorge on the Missouri— Des- 
truction of the Deer.— Lost 
Indian Boy. 

LAKE Mandan, a former bed of the great riv- 
er Missouri, lies north west of the Painted 
Woods about twelve mile?*; bein<>" interme- 
diate between that point arjd I ower or Big 
Knife River. It is a place of historic interest 
as being the vicinity of old camping grounds 
of confederated Indians. It was near this 
place where the explorers Lewis and Clarn , 
found the lower village of the Mandans. in 
October 1804. 

The shores and neighboring plain is still 
well marked by the raised circles of eartli 
where savage life had its time of joys and sor- 
rows—where the soft voiced maidens danced 
and sang their wild lullabies in circles in the 
shadowy twilight of sumniv^r days. Whera 
the ambitious vv^arrior returned from tlu wjr 



13G TWENTY YEARS 

path to show his spoil and vaunt his deeds; 
or Fome heart broken mother or wife wail- 
in<;"ni()nrnfully from some bluff's pinnacle for 
he wlio went forth to hunt, or do battle, and 
returned no more. 

After the remnants of the Mar dans and 
Ariearees moved to the vicinity of Fort Ber- 
thold in 185G, the large brush bottoms south 
of Lake Mandan bectame a resort for numer- 
ous herds of elk and deer, while the broken 
buttes west were favarite s-uiRtner pas- 
ture grounds of the gazelle like antelope 

Otter, too, though remorcelesslj hunted by 
the red men, began to appear on a body of 
water well suited to them. Here, also, im 
hiding like the deer he huntecl, — passing his. 
last days in the quiet* of a hermit's life, hid 
den among the thick willows, — scrowling and 
soured — wasPartizan, the last heriditary chief 
of the Wanderers a defunci band of the once 
numerous Aricarees^. 

In the centre of Lake Mandan with its 
growth of sand ridged cottonwood, — a black 
eagle's nest on the top of the oldest and tall- 
est, — stands o-ut in bold relief the Haunted 
Island. An Indian mermaid once floatinl here: 
to beguile and betray. Assuming all forms^ 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 137 

and appearing sometimes as trysting maid 
and' sometimes as gay feathered hunter. 
Could it 1).' t]i:\t t]i(' yoiin.-- clerk McCh-ll;in(l. 
wli'-ii lif \rl'\ lilt' l;:i!i,h' pliilik of i\ sfrainei- 
r"u'(l lip foi- ill" uighl oil the Mi«suuri"s bank 
facing this Islar.d, walked out in the dark- 
ness to meet the guiles of the watery nymp, 
decked out as pretty maid ; or w^as seized and 
dragged through the m'ry depths to the 
myeteiicus subteranian al cde of the morose 
but feathery dressed hunter At any event, 
after he passed beyond the glare of the boats 
landing torches on that November night 1870 
he passed from human sight forever. 

During the winter of 1S77-8, I visited this 
lake for mink and otter, aad made profit> - 
ble catches. These animals liad left the lake 
and were wintering, as their wont, on the 
small spring branches. 

In December 183 ), a h i iti.i ; a 1 1 tr.ip^^'n ; 
party of five of us making two camps, pro- 
ceeded to try for a final clean up of water 
game'. The winter was severe by spells, but 
deep snows and melting thaws enabled us to 
kill several deer and trap some foxes, wolves, 
catamounts, mink and beaver. 

The writing m3mb3r of th3 firm. Lxwyar 



138 



TWENTY YEARS 




If/ ^- 



< 




OiSr THE TRAP LINE. 139 

Farley, received word from Periot, the Chi- 
cago furriers, that the large snowy owl was 
ill demand, and if eanoht. carefully skinned 
and sln])|)(Ml. llu\\' 1),miil;- woi-th fi-(Mii two to 
live (lollai'.-> lo!" each l)ii-(1. The White Owl 
Mountains east of the Missouri, Avas visited 
for this purpose without success. In Febru- 
ary the party, less myself, pulled out for 
Kill De.^r Mountains, in the Little Missouii 
Bad Lsnds to look for otter sign and kill bear, 
wliich were reported plenty there. 

I now remained back to close up the trap- 
ping and recross the river before the sjDring 
break up. I was not altogether alone. About 
one mile above camp; along the river, were 
two lodges of Aricarees. One lodge was pre- 
sided over by Good Heart, an Arapahoe, cap- 
tured when a child by the Aricarees, adopted 
and brought up as one of their own. The 
other lodge had for its master Little Bull, a 
good hunter, who had for his wife the sister 
of Bob Tailed Bull, the bravest warrior and 
most noted hunter among all the Aricarees. 

Little Bull was a frequent visitor to my 
camp, bringing along his wife and an 
only son, a bright eyed little fellow of seven 
or^ight summers. Some picture books I had 



110 TWENTY YEARS 

with me claimed the little fel'ow's attention, 
and he would hardly enter the cabin before 
he would ask for the books and pour intently 
over them during the parents stay. 

Finally an early March thaw started the 
water running' over the i;-e. thus obstructing* 
for a time the ice trail of my visitors. 

One night soon after, I was awakened by 
the terrible sounds on the still air of a moun- 
tain lion. The sounds were located on a low 
piece of ground, and a visit to the river bank 
told me the Iion*s trouble. The river was 
rising rapidly and the animal submerged. 
The camp was between the river and lake, a 
dangerous place in a flood. My two ponies 
were already on the prairie, so tumbled the 
effects in a bull boat, made out for higher 
ground . 

In a day or two the water receded, but I 
never returned to the cabin. Early one morn- 
ing while attending some fox baits I saw a 
band of seven deer and at one stand killed 
them alL Hunting up the Indians I Tnade 
them a present of the meat, reserving myself 
the hides only. I had killed two and three 
at a stand quite often; had once killed five 
at one time but tliis was my highest hunter" ci 



ON THE TRAP LINE. Ul 

notch. Unknown to the Indians I saddled up 
the ponies and moved along the river to the 
Burnt Woods— seven miles below. 

The new camp was in a laiid slide opposite 
the Painted Woods bottoms, wliere w^ere 
Ranchman Merry's cattle and horse herds. 

One mornmg I awoke, threw off the cover- 
ing and saw a vast field of ice. It was a gorge 
caused by the ice of the Yellowstone running 
under the solid unthawed ice of the Missouri, 
then four feet thick. It was a prodigous up- 
heavel spreading out tor miles on either side 
of the river's natural bed, bearing down and 
crushing mighty forests of cottonwoods like 
reeds in a mill pond. 

A cold wave followed, the river kept rising- 
higher and extending its banks. About mid- 
night after gradual raise of forty -eight hours 
I could hear the dying bellowings, neighs and 
moar.s, of the freezing and drowning horses 
and cattle, intermingled with the crash of 
trees and craunching of ice floes. 

At daylight the deer, now driven from their 
Lisi: p3rch.KS on the ' sandhills in the timber, 
v/ere vainly striving to swim ashore, break- 
ing the newly frozen ice as they slowdy strug- 
ling along. Nunibeis haJ reached the bank 



142 TWENTY YEARS 

but others finaly tired out sank down out oi 
sight. 

When the channel ice commenced moving, 
a large floe of it came down witli a])(nit ten 
deerhangingon the sidt's. Xow and tlien the 
floe would roll round and loand. or break 
eachmoveone after another deer disappeared. 
The silent supplication for life, and the earn- 
est struggle, was a pitying spectacle. 

Nor were the troubles of those safely ashore 
over. Burnt prairies and bitter cold wind kept 
them close to the bank. They came around 
my camp, like pleading lambs. They were 
safe. I harmed none of them, though had I 
so willed could have probably killed fifty. 
The truth was my heart softened at the sight. 
My hunting days were about to end. 

A few day later I returned to Lake Mandan 
for a cache of traps. While their the Bear, one 
of the'members of Good Heart's lodge came 
to the place where the traps where buried. 
He told me he almost alone now. Good Hait 
was taken to the agency, snow blind. Point- 
my finger to an object like a shaft of stone on 
a high point of bluffs— a something my eyes 
had not seen there before. "What is that?" I 
said. "Oh I that is Little Bull looking for hi& 




Lawyer Farley, 
The White Owl Trapper. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 143 

son," "Looking for his son." I answered. 
'•Yes he is almost crazy now." Bear replied. 
Bear then sit down to tell me Avliat had 
happened. Tlie day after 1 gave thcni tlie 
seven deer, the ice still firm, rose on the river 
turtle shaped, giving it a solid appearance be- 
tween my cabin and ihe Indian lodges. Bull 
was out and mother and son were alone. 

"I am going to see Pawnee Talker's books," 
said the boy, and out the door flap he bolted. 
The mother thinking him jesting paid no at- 
tention for some time Becoming uneasy she 
followed out and took his trail. His little 
tracks led along the ice ridge until a.n open 
fissure through the ice to the water was 
reached and there they suddenly ended. 

The mother's agonizing screams brought 
the husband and father. He led His wife 
away a maniac and in three days she was 
dead Hanging herself to a lodge pole. 

"Do you know what I think," said the Bear 
gravely to me in concluding, "I think that 
tiiJ Mer.naid stole that boy." 



lU TWENTY YEARS 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

At the Painted Woods. 

HEADQUARTERS or inore properly, in the 
trappers' vernacular, ''rendezvous," dur- 
ing the cksing years of niy trapping experi- 
ence. ^^-8Sttthe tainted Wocds. Here ina 
heavy cottonwood forest I erected a stoc- 
kaded dwelling in 1873, but was destroyed by 
a great ice gorge froii; the Missouri, the year 
following. Another less preten^^ious building 
was erected on its site. This latter stockade 
passed the iloods and inundations unscathed 
until 1881, when it followed its predecessor., 
and by the same route. 

A part of^each. year was jut in at the let.- 
desvous, as the game^in tliat neigh boih(.(./d 
was as plentiful as elsewhere in th. t scciioii 
of country. Deer, elk and antelope wtie iu 
abundance up to about the year 187G. 

Elk, were mostly contioed to the timbv-ie.t 
bends. Every considerable timber point had. 
a herd of from ten to twenty, and sometimes 
as many as forty. Ihey lemained in a i)oiiit 



(m THE TRAP LINE. Uo 

until scared, when they were liable to trot off 
into another section of country altogether. 
These elk around tli^ Painted Woods, were 
foi- tlie most i)ai-t netMflessly and wantonlv 
destroyed. U}) to tJie summer of JS7t. tliere 
resided in a clump of ehns. now called Fair- 
man's Homestead, an immense buck elk, 
vv^ith a heavy pair of horns. Unlike his fel- 
lows, he refused to be scared away. 

Reynolds, Blanchard, Little Dan, Archy 
and hosts of others had ''pumped lead" into 
the patient heast, but he refused to down. 
He was named "Bull of the Woods" by some; 
also "hunters' lead mine." He was believed 
to lead a charmed life. But the spell was 
broken. Bull of the Woods was slaughtered. 
Not by one of these "mighty hunters'^ but by 
a green little L'ish boy, who fired the first 
shot of his life, at this woods monarch, and 
the giant dropped dead from a broken neck. 

A short distance above the abode of the 
Bull of ths Woods, lived another wonder to 
the professional hunter, and this was the 
"Daer's GlioKt/'or sometimes called the Hid- 
den v/ood buck, fi'om his appearing Gucasion- 
.-iJly along the banks" of Hiddenwood Creek, 
l-.ck on the high prairies, He was crowned 



146 TWENTY YEARS 

with a mighty pair of antlers, and wore a 
hairy suit of never changing iron grey. 

Like the Bull of the Woods, he seemed ini- 
pervious to the leaden showers of the hunter's 
rifles. One of these nimrods — Garrett Howe, 
a-verred the Deer's Ghost circled around him 
continually on one of his hunts and drew his 
shots often enough to scare other deer away, 
thereby keeping him from killing any "•real"' 
deer. Unlike the eik, he' did not fall from an 
amateurs rifle, or from any hunter's rifle — 
white or red, as far as ever known. He dis- 
appeared from his haunts during the year of 
the Custer massacre, and about the same time 
of that event. 



Antelope, during the flrst few years of my 
residence at the Woods, were frequently seen 
around there in large and numei-ous herds. 
The introduction of long range repeating 
rifles into that country was death to antelope 
and buffalo alike. 

The Missouri river was dividing line for two 
great communities of antelopes. Those of 
them that wintered in the Bad Lands west of 
the river, came to the biutf s and banks near 
that stream tor early spring feed, and the 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 147 

the females to care for there young. They 
soon fattened by the nutritious buffalo grass, 
cincl wQYs the chief early summer food supply 
of Indians and woudynrd men. 

Around the Square Buttes. and along the 
-Missouri, opposite the Painted Woods, were a 
favorite resort in early summer for the an- 
tjlope. I had noticed as many as twenty 
seperate flocks or herds at one time feeding as 
quietly as sheep. The two hunters Reynolds 
and Diamond made frequent summer camp 
to kill these animals and sun dry the meat. 
It was a wasteful way as but little more than 
a part of the hams could be used. 

The antelope on the east side come only to 
the Missouri, in autumn and winter exactly 
leversing those en the west side. When 
the prairies are burned and the snow deep, the 
poor brutes became starved and poor. In 
this condition a few winters ago, the east 
river jintelgpe were destroyed. Starving and 
weakened antelope saw no mercy in the eyes 
of starving settlers with long range repeaters 
a.iicl this beautiful ai.imal has passed out of 
tlie. pale of game laws enacte I ^ifter their 
virtual c x'( rnjinaiion in the Dakotc.s. 



148 TWENTY YEARS^ 

The meat eating mcgp"e, were the most nu- 
merous of the bird kind on my first advent in 
northern Dakota. They remained all winter 
and shared with the eagles, ravens and wolves, 
and foxes, the pickings, from offalst of Inmt- 
ing eamps. They are birds of neai-ly pigeon 
size, long tailed, variegated with white, black, 
and 1) ue plumage. They are very intelligent 
and great chattei'ers. Tliey often served a. 
himter instead of a dog: would fly over 
and ahead of him while hunting, and when 
deer or elk were located, set up a gTeiit uDisa* 
wliicli the observing hunter well understood.. 
Of course the bird expected the entrails for its- 
services. 

But laier on when tlie poisoner and the 
trapper came, these choice bits oi meat th? 
magpie formerly cluittered so loquatiously 
over, were turned into instruments of (Unith 
for tho poor bird. It was not intended for 
them of coiu'se, bui being a sharer of the 
subtle banquet speal for th3 foxaaith? wolf^ 
he unwittingly died for their sake. 

_About 'the year I87U, every solitary m.xgpiv?= 
left tliat section of country. They seemed t> 
to have gone to stay for none have be.^n b.Aclv 
siuce tlieir heLi,"ira. 



ON THE TRAP LINE. 149 

After the high water had subsided follow- 
ing- the break-up of 1882, the water in the 
low point around the stockade remained darned 
u]> and as a consequence. I made open camp 
ou a (li-v knoll among the hard wood. Thr 
water between the camp and residence in 
consequence of the cold became a mass of 
ice. While preparing breakfast one morning 
I heard sounds in the brush above camp about 
one hundred yards away. The sounds bore 
on my ears at the time, as that of a combat 
between two badgers. Breakfast over the 
!•;( uEcs had ccaeed, Ihcr.gh I took up the rifle 
to reconnoiter. On the ice lay an immense 
buck deer just killed, apparently, with his 
liams partly eaten. Around and about was 
the marks of a terrible struggle on the ice, 
and the huge tracks of two mountain lions. 
They had run the deer on the ice, where they 
mastered him, though he made a desperately 
brave light for his life. The lions satisfied, 
tied ia dense brush as I came in sijfht. 



Vriiiie tra})ping along Painted Woods 
Oreek. in 187(3. I discovered two immense 
snap])ing turtles near the old military cross- 
ing, and ^,^]:ot them. Tlu' weight of each 



150 TWENTY YEARS 

luitle was OAxr sixty pounds. I hauled Ihcm 
to Rhude's Tuitle Valley Ranch where the 
genial pu I'liftcr gave the meat a t\^ o d } s 
boilmg without any perceptible effect. The 
Indians considered their killing almost a. 
sacrilege. They claimed that tlu^se same two 
turtles w^ere living and known to their grand- 
fathers. They believed their destruction 
boded ill to future poople living along thj 
banks of these tw^o turtle's former liaunts. ; 
The fall of 1880, another shot from my rifle, 
if not so far reaching in its eflacts, w^as at 
least an odd one. This happened on Lookout 
Point, back on the bluffs from my residence. 
A light snow had fallen, and w^iile out hunt; 
ing spied a fox and shot it. On going to it a 
mutilated $20 bill dropped from ats jnoiith. 
I took its back trail, an d in about half of a 
mile found the place where the fox had picked 
it up. The smell of grease on the bill had 
attracted the fox's appetite. Ashufllingof the 
snow turned up nearly §100 in bills.. Ic bud 
been lost by a w^agon master of the Fort B.r- 
holel Agency, two months previous. 



From the building of the first stockade at 
the Rendezvous J the place became a c^.-^iij^^- 




Long Soldier, the Trapper Scarer. 
War chief of tlie h >.itilo Sioux during the 
expeditions of Generals Sibley and Sullj 
into the Sioux country, in 1863-4. 



ON THE TRAP LIKE. l51 

for Indians of different tribes, while passing 
along the river. 

During the closing days of the hereditary 
war l)ptwepn tlie Sioiix and the Tuclians of 
Foit lu'i-tliold. the ^\•ar piu'tius of the latter 
frequently stopped there to rest and dry their 
bull boats. 

When the war was ended, both parties 
made it their passing camping ground. — 
Among the occassional campers was Long Sol- 
dier the giant chief of the lower Uncpapa 
Sioux. He was a prominent war chief during 
the expeditions of General Sully in ISGo-i. 
H3 said that in the days of his power, 
he fought to kill soldiers only. With citizens, 
ti-appers and woodchoppers, he was sat- 
isfied when he gave them a good scare occa- 
sionally. He claimed to have frequently 
interfered to save their lives from the ven- 
geance of his followers. 



One dark night in October, 1870, while 
alone at the Rendezvous, I was disturbed from 
late reading by the violent barking^of the 
wntrh dog: but on going out to investigate 
found nothing. After a short time the bark- 
ing was lefr.med again, more violent than 



lo'2 TWEXTY YEARS 

over. I took up the i^'un. aiui after ninking- a 
eirolo arouml the stockade, went to the river 
bank hut nothing- coiiki be seen. At tliisi re- 
tririTtYl and entered the lumse. when someone 
with head niutHed in a bhniket was setting- 
beft-ire the lighted tirej.vh\ee. and deii^ned not 
to notire n»y approach. 

I knew tliat habit was Indian, though I 
quirt ly asked in En^-Jish who was there. Xo 
answtM'. 1 tlien asked the same in Sioux, still 
tu^ answer. 'Hun in Ariearee. At this the 
iloure ariose. dr(>pped the bUu>ket UKisk. and 
reverded an Indian woman in tears. **nv)n'r 

voukui^w me:*' she s(4>biHl. "I am Mrs. ." 

1 knew her. I remembt^'ed her. as but 
vesteuhiy tlie liandsome luvlian wife of a rich 
white trader: a position where every her want 
antieipatevl. every whim ^-ratified- A pv>sitioiu 
too. Ml at brought envy that ;\i>ened on tlie 
reckoning:. 

Her luisband was ambitious and proud. He 
was brave as a lion in batth\ but in t'acii:g- 
the social worhi and its imperious h\w, a c.nv- 
ard. When that section was liulian hmd and 
under Indian d*.>minion. his Indian wife who. 
as a queen among her tribe, he delighted to di> 
her honor. But now with his own race h^ ii- 



inaiit aiifl thf^y tht5 n^fi racj', <lispis^'f]. A 
frivolous oxcuso ho cast tho mothor of his 
(;\\\\'\i"t] from liiin, nnrl jDai'iiofl ono of his 
own race that liis business prosix^cts mi<>}it not 
l)f' l^'ssojieil oc })is sori.'iJ st;iiHlin<4' impaired. 

Tonr lii(li;ii) \vl;;it of licr. She li;i(| rciturned 
to \\ 'V |)'M)})le to \)('y r(Mii(;uled— misfortune 
nior ; oft ;n l)rin;^s that, tlian sirnpathy — 
from e](;^aiit mansion or Truiian ]<j(l.i^e. 

This Irnh'ari woman had just bf^eri trying 
to se(; h(.'r children, hut failed. On her 
gloomy leturn she had been [>(;s(5t by drunken 
men; had fled in deep timber and lay hi(Jir)^- 
witliout (.'atiii;^ for two days. 

Sfi ; remain (3d at rny jdace until I could 
cojrnnunicate with her friends, when she Avas 
'^ taken to the a;^ency. 

If f'vcr- I w IS tl r jwn in tlie preseence of a 
broken h(3art, it was during the few chiys stay 
of this Indian woman at the stockad(3. Her 
])!f';eliri;^s that she might see her children 
once again — for they had been taken long 
ago to a distant Stat j— ring yet in my ears \u 
i'li Hess c'lim'^. 

'Hiough sh<' was at this time comparatively 
young, healthy and strong, y(!t but a few 
I .oiitlis pnss(-l whfn Sharj) Hot-fi, the medi- 



; 

154 TWENTY YEARS "^^^^ - 

cine man or chief priest of the Aricareesr, 
came to me to say tiie woman was dead. 
''She cried herself," he said ''into her grave." 



In some of these closing- pagvs 1 
shown how the deer, elk, and antelop 
destroyed in one section. Throughout t 
west, it was very much the same u 
Great Plains are no long-er reckoned 
one of the wild game preserves in the 1 
Wild buffalo have many years since, 
out of the wild game lists forever. 

In the Dakotas, the poisoning of the little 
fox-like swift, g^ave the gT)phers a chance to 
mutiply by the million, and thousands of 
acres of grain are annually destroyed. To save 
their crops poisoned seeds are sown broadcast, 
and birds of all kinds must suffer. 

Among the birds thus disappearing is the 
little yellow breasted prairie lark, prized for its 
song of four notes, which it sings so s^weetly 
every suim^iier morning. It will be sadly 
missed by the lonely prairie denizens in 
that half desert land. 

THE. END,