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Death Valley in '49
Leaving the little party whose wanderings we have followed so closely, safely arrived in Los Angeles, their further history in California will be taken up later on, and this narrative will go back to points when the original party was broken up and trace the little bands in their varied experience. It will be remembered that the author and his friends, after a perilous voyage down Green River, halted at the camp of the Indian chief, Walker, and there separated, the Author and four companions striking for Salt Lake, while McMahon and Field remained behind, fully determined to go on down the river.
The story of these two men is told by McMahon in the following interesting letter.
* * * * *
Yours requesting me to give you a synopsis of the history of incidents, experience, and observations of our mutual friend, Richard Field and myself, from the time you, John Rogers, Alfred Walton, and the Hazelrig brothers left us at the camp of the generous old chief Walker on the west bank of the river near the mouth of the "great seven days caņon" is at hand.
You no doubt distinctly, and with pleasure, remember that unbroken friendship which existed among us up to the time of our separation and that we parted warm and tried friends.
Well, after you and your companions had left us we set to work to prepare the canvas for the continuation of the voyage down the river. We drilled holes through the sides of the "Pilot"--you, I have no doubt remember which that was, yours and mine, in which we took so many fearful risks, and "No. 2," so that we might in case of necessity lash the two together. After a day or two Field lost courage and finally determined to go no further down the river. Walker in the meantime had repeated his friendly warnings appertaining to the great danger in going further down the river. You will remember what he had told us about it before you left us.
You know that I was the biggest coward of the whole seven; but I assumed courage and told Field that I would go down the river alone; and, for a time, I thought I would do so; but after some reflection I concluded that, perhaps, discretion was the better part of valor, and reluctantly gave it up. We now decided to follow you, or to take some other unknown route and try to make our escape out of this most perilous condition.
We then set about, as you had done, to trade with Walker for a pony or two, and after much dickering Field succeeded in getting the, afterwards famous, big, old, sore-backed mule. You may not remember him, but I do; and, notwithstanding his sore back, he made pretty good beef. I, with pins, needles, thread, a pocket-knife, a handkerchief, etc., succeeded in getting a very nice, round, three-year-old, iron-gray pony.
After making pack-saddles, and getting almost ready to start, we were, through Walker's kindness and persuasiveness, overcome, and consented to go with him, feeling confident that we would not starve to death while with him. We did not now have Manley with his long experience, and his old rusty, but always trusty, rifle as a sure defence against possible hunger and starvation.
The old chief, and, in fact, the whole tribe, seemed pleased when we consented to go with them. Preparations were now made, and all except the horses and four head of cattle, was conveyed across the river in the two canoes which were lashed together, while the horses and cattle were forced to swim to the other side where we camped for the night. Next morning the clever old chief had two good horses fitted up in good style for Field and I, which we rode all of the nine days that we remained with the band, while our own run with the herd. Our baggage was carried on some of the chief's pack-horses. We were, in fact, his honored guests, as will hereafter appear.
All were soon mounted and off to the buffalo fields, Walker having informed us that he intended going up into the buffalo country on the head-waters of Grand River where he would remain until snow fell, when he would go to Salt Lake City, or vicinity.
Leaving the river, we set out across a not entirely barren plain, for there was much sage-brush, and several varieties of cactus. Towards evening we came close up to the foot of a range of rugged, rocky mountains, where we found water and camped for the night. Field and I usually pitched our little muslin tent somewhere near our friends where we could sleep without fear of man or beast, for I think some one of the reds was always on guard.
All went well for four or five days, when we all got entirely out of food except a few ounces of flour which we had hidden away for a possible emergency. During the following two days and nights all were entirely without food except the two little children, whom you no doubt remember. We gave their mother a little flour now and then which she mixed with a little milk which one of the cows afforded, for the little ones. These Indians did not seem to suffer for want of food; even when we were starving, they appeared happy and contented; and one young fellow would sing all day long while we were starving. Daring the second day of starvation and hard traveling over hot and barren deserts, the Indians killed a wild-cat and two small rabbits. We got nothing. You will remember that all the arms of the seven men were lost in the river when the canoes were sunk, except your rifle and my double barreled shot-gun and revolver, so that Field and I had only the one gun, and neither of us knew anything about hunting. When we camped, one of the boys brought over to our tent a quarter of the cat, which was more than a fair share of the whole supply, as twenty-two of them had only the two little rabbits and three quarters of the unfortunate cat. We boiled and boiled and boiled that cat's hind leg, but never got it done. We waited as long as we possibly could, gave up in despair and put a little flour into the broth to thicken it, and drank it. It was not good, but much better the meat of the cat. That cat and the rabbits were all the twenty-four of us had to eat, after fasting two days, until late in the evening of the next day.
My people were religious, and when I was young the family was wont to observe fast days, but never did we have any such long fasts as these were. In the afternoon of the next day the old chief left the caravan and went on ahead of the train toward a chain of mountains, first giving some directions to the band, and taking one son with him. When we arrived in a small caņon in the edge of the mountains we found them with a fine mountain sheep which they had killed and brought down to the dim, little-used trail where we camped; and after we had set up our little tent as usual, a short distance away from our friends, one of the young men brought to us about one fourth of the sheep, while the twenty-two Indians had the rest.
You know that a good-sized mountain sheep would make a fair supper for twenty-four people, even though they had been starving three or four days; but this was a small one, and I think Field and I ate about half of the quarter. The twenty-two Indians soon devoured the three-fourths and all of the soft viscera, including the stomach and intestines, after which some of the boys came to our tent while we were stuffing our, what had been for several days empty, stomachs. We offered them part of our bounteous supply of mutton, having much more than we could eat; but no, they would not touch it until we were filled full, when they accepted what was left, and soon stowed it away. All were now pretty well filled up once more.
The next day was spent without food, traveling over rough mountains. Within a pass, late in the afternoon, we crossed the fresh trail of some other band of roving red-skins, and Walker suspected who they were, and went into camp early. The Indians had killed nothing that day, but I had killed a small rabbit which, unfortunately for it, came in my way during the day. This we offered to the women for themselves and the little children; but they positively refused to accept it, insisting that they did not want it or need it, and that the small supply of milk from the cow was quite sufficient for the little ones, and the others spurned the offer to divide so little a thing, so we had it all to ourselves.
It appeared that these people were accustomed to go for long periods without food, and with little apparent inconvenience; but Field and I began to feel as I suppose Dr. Tanner felt after a few days' fasting, and began to wish that the old chief would get hungry and kill one of his large, fat steers, but he still held them in reserve.
Early the next morning, now nine days from the time we had left the river, the old chief took two of the young men and left camp, as we afterwards learned, to go in search of the Indians whose trail we had crossed the evening before. Some time in the early part of the night, one of the young men returned and informed us that they had found the wandering tribe, and that we were to go back to their trail and follow it to their camp up in a Southeast direction, Walker and one of the young men having remained with their new-found friends.
Field and I both felt greatly disappointed in not being able to proceed north; and in the meantime we had become very tired of the society of these people, notwithstanding the fact that they were exceedingly clever; but we were almost starved to death, and had about come to the conclusion that we would be obliged to make some change. We were still on the east side of, and considerable distance from the river, and probably not more than one hundred, or one hundred and twenty miles from the place where we parted from you.
The chief had sent particular instructions for us to go with the tribe; but, after canvassing the whole situation, we decided to part company with our good friends, proceed northward, and try to reach Fort Bridger or some other settlement in the northwest, and so informed them, and requested the boys to bring in our mule and horse, which they did after failing to induce us to go with them.
Bright and early the next morning, they all, even the polygamous wives and little children, in apparent sorrow, bade us good-bye, and were off, leaving us alone with our two poor, lonely, four-footed companions, who were very anxious to follow the band of horses. After the rather melancholy parting we arranged our packs, and about ten o'clock started out on what then seemed, and afterwards proved, to be a perilous voyage through deserts, and over rough mountains. To avoid a high range of mountains, our course was for a time northeast but, after passing that range we bore to the northwest.
The days were quite warm, but the nights were cold. During the first day we killed and ate one small rabbit, and this, with a few seed buds gathered from wild rose bushes, constituted two days' rations. On the third we did not have even the rabbit or rose seed buds, but late in the afternoon we found some small red berries, similar in appearance to what I, in my childhood, knew and relished as Solomon's seal berries. I being a natural coward, and fearing that they might poison me, did not eat any of them, but generously allowed my good friend to eat them all.
We had now been almost entirely without water for two days and nights. When night came on we picketed our animals in a grass plot and lay down near them to see that they did not get tangled in the ropes and hurt, or that some red skin, not having the fear of the Lord in his heart, did not come and take them away. About ten o'clock my companion began to complain of pain in his stomach and bowels, and was soon vomiting at a fearful rate; so violently, indeed, that I was apprehensive that he might die. If I had had an emetic I would have given it to him to have assisted nature in pumping those devilish little red berries out of him, for I felt quite sure that they were the cause of his illness. Perhaps it was fortunate that there was no medecine at hand, for if there had been I might have killed him with it.
He suffered most intensely, and soon became very thirsty, and, there being no water within many miles of us, he appealed to me to bleed one of the animals and let him drink the blood; I refused: he insisted; I again refused: he commanded; I still refused. He swore, and called me almost everything except a good Christian; he even expressed the wish that I, his friend, might be sent to a certain place where the heat is most intense, and the fire is never quenched.
At about eleven o'clock, when his pains were most severe, a dark cloud, the first we had seen for months, came over us, and a little rain began to fall, when I at once opened our little camp kettle and turned the lid upside down, and into both kettle and lid there fell perhaps two or three teaspoonfuls of pure water, every drop of which I gave to the sufferer, whereupon he expressed thanks for another God-send, and at once apologized for bestowing unmerited abuse on me. He afterwards often asserted that he believed that the little rain-cloud was sent by God for his special benefit, and that the water caught from that cloud was the sweetest and best that he had ever tasted. I did not doubt the latter half of the above statement, but I did have some doubt about the truth of the former half when I called to mind the scene which followed my refusal to bleed the horse. Whether the small quantity of water gave him much relief, or not, I do not know, but I do know that he soon became better and slept some while I watched. He was quite feeble next morning when I put him on the old sore-backed mule, where he rode most of the time for the next four days, while the little horse carried our baggage, and I led the way as usual, on foot.
For four days from the time Field ate the little red berries we did not have a drop of water except the two or three teaspoonfuls which the stingy cloud left to save the life of the "berry-eater." We were still on the desert, or in the mountains east of the river, traveling hard during the day, and burning up with fever in the night. There was plenty of drying grass in places, but our poor animals could not eat it any longer, for they, too, were burning up for want of water. Oh, how much I did wish that we had some camels from Arabia, which could have gone so much longer without water, and traveled so much faster.
On the morning of the third day of starvation, we determined to change our course, and, if possible, reach the river once more. Bearing to the left over a high, barren range of rocky mountains, and down into a plain of sand, sage brush, and cactus. During the afternoon I shot a small rabbit, not much larger than a rat, which we carried until night, then broiled and tried to eat it, not because our appetites craved it, but hoping that it might strengthen and sustain us, at least a little while longer. We were, however, so nearly burned up that there was not a sufficient flow of saliva to moisten the little bits of broiled meat in the mouth. Late that afternoon we fancied that our fast failing brute companions scented water, or that they instinctively knew that it was not far away. They would raise their heads, and extend their noses as if smelling, while their physical force and energy seemed renewed, and they certainly traveled faster.
That night we ate the little, as before stated, more as a duty than as a pleasure. There was some green grass round about where we camped, or, more properly speaking, where we lay, for we did not erect our little tent,--but the poor starving animals did not eat a bite of it, but stood over us as if in sympathy with us in our deplorable condition. We rose before the sun, being somewhat rested and refreshed, for the night had been cool, and took up our line of march, I, as usual, in the lead, then came the old mule guided by its precious owner, and lastly, the faithful little horse with the pack on his still quite round back;--on over the still dry and barren plain we went, without a Moses, cloud, or pillar of fire to lead us.
About ten o'clock, through the hot glimmer of the down-pouring rays of the sun, we saw what appeared, and afterwards proved, to be a clump of cottonwood trees. Our hopes and courage were renewed, for we well knew the cottonwood usually grows near flowing water. There was no beaten pathway, no signs of animal life, no quails, no manna in that desert; but on we went, almost without a halt, and at one o'clock reached the cottonwood grove, immediately on the bank of the great river down which we had floated in our canoes more than a month before. On reaching the bank of the river we recognized objects which we had seen while on our way down.
We remembered that both men and horses might be water-foundered, and that self-preservation is said to be the first law of nature; but it was difficult to prevent the famishing brutes from plunging into the river. We allowed them to take only a small quantity at first, and each of us took only a small cupful; then after a little time all took more, and the thirst was soon quenched. We were surprised to find how little water it took to satisfy the raging thirst of four days of continued fasting. The animals, after taking comparatively small quantities, seemed satisfied, and went off in search of grass.
We now had an abundance of water, but we well knew that water alone would not sustain life very long: therefore our next, and most serious business was to determine how to prolong our lives. According to our map, our recollections of different objects, and present appearances we were now a little above the mouth of the Uinta river which comes in from the northwest, all of which proved true. Our little map pictured Fort Uinta on the Uinta river about one hundred miles from where we were; but whether or not there were any human beings there, we did not know, and in order to determine we must cross this great river and travel a hundred miles, and this seemed a perilous undertaking for us in our present starving condition; but after being refreshed by plenty of good water we determined to undertake it, hoping that good fortune might attend us.
After a little rest, the animals with grass, we packed up, and after Field had put on his, once serviceable, life preserver he mounted the old mule behind the small pack and started to swim across the river. He took the lead in this instance for three reasons: first, we thought that the mule, being much older than the horse, had probably had more experience and therefore might be a much better swimmer; then Field had the advantage in having the life preserver; but the last, and most potent, reason was my fear of getting drowned. It was understood that I was to remain on shore and be ready to assist him if necessary, or until he had safely landed on the other side.
In he went, and the trusty old mule was swimming faithfully, and had reached the middle of the river, when Field, as he afterwards told me, to hurry the mule, gave a gentle jerk on the bridle, when, to his utter astonishment, the mule made a complete somerset backwards plunging Field, the pack, and himself entirely under the water, except his heels which appeared above the water as his head went under. In a moment Field popped up and, after shaking his head as a swimmer will do after taking a plunge, cast about to take his bearings, or to determine just where he was, and began to paddle with his hands, much as he did when the canoes were upset on the river, or somewhat after the style of a swimming dog. On coming to the surface, the mule cast a glance at the still living, but unloaded portion of his cargo, then made a bee line for the shore which he had so recently left. While Field continued to paddle and float down the river, I dismounted and followed along the bank, trying to encourage him to renewed efforts to float ashore. Finally he passed behind a clump of willows out of sight; but soon I heard him call for help and on going a little further down, found him stuck fast in the mud. I waded waist deep into that mud, and literally dragged him out, almost a mile below his starting point.
As we were struggling in this muddy swamp, Field said he wondered why some of this superfluous water was not distributed over those dry deserts from which we had so recently come. I told him, politely, that I thought that a man of his age, ability, opportunities, and nationality, (you know he was quite proud of being an Englishman) ought to know why the moisture was not so distributed, and that I was too illiterate to enlighten him on that point, but that, when opportunity offered, he might consult some one who knew more of natural science than I did. I informed him that I had an idea that if any considerable portion of the water of that river had been distributed over that desert that we would not have had the experience of the last fifteen days, whereupon he very plainly intimated that I did not have much sense, or, in other words, he called me a d--d fool.
After reaching solid ground and resting for a little while, we returned to the place from which he had started out on his perilous voyage, and where I had hastily left my horse. We found the horse and mule quietly grazing with their packs on their backs. The faithful old mule had the appearance of having been wet, but was now almost dry, yet not so dry, internally, as he had been several days before.
What shall we do now? We are perhaps two hundred or more miles from any white settlement. We do not know that Fort Uinta is occupied. Shall we make another attempt to cross the river? I asked my brave friend if he was willing to again mount the mule and make another attempt, when he again exclaimed, "You must be a d--d fool!" I then, pretending to have a little courage, asked him if he would follow provided I would lead, whereupon he declared most emphatically that under no conditions would he again attempt to swim across that river. I had not had his experience, but fear of being drowned was quite sufficient to prevent me from undertaking the perilous task, more especially after witnessing his failure.
Well, what next? We could not depend upon fishing and hunting, for we had no fish-hooks, nor means of catching fish, and not more than a dozen loads of shot, and a little powder; so the matter of slaying one of our animal friends was now seriously debated, and, after thoroughly canvassing the whole situation, it was most reluctantly determined that, however hard, this must be done. No doubt our starving condition at that particular time had some weight in making this decision.
Then the question was, which of the animals shall be sacrificed? The mule was quite thin, and probably tough, while the little horse was young, and, notwithstanding the many days it had, with all of us, starved and traveled without water, was still quite plump and round, and probably tender, or, at the worst, not so tough as the poor old docile mule; so, at length we decided to kill the innocent little creature, jerk his flesh, pack it on the mule, and thereby try to save our own lives, for a time at least, and endeavor to reach some place of safety.
The matter of slaying the horse was determined by casting lots, neither being willing to perform that melancholy, but now absolutely necessary, act. It fell to my lot, and that was one of, if not the most revolting act in my whole life's experience, for I had, probably, become as strongly attached to that little horse as man ever becomes attached to animal. I most reluctantly took the bridle in my left hand, my revolver in my right, stood directly in front of the poor, unsuspecting, innocent creature with the murderous pistol close to, and a little above a line extending from eye to eye, and fired. When the smoke of the powder had cleared off a little, I saw at my feet the quivering, dying body. I staggered off a few steps and sat down, sick at heart.
Field walked several steps away, and turned his back upon the scene until after the fatal shot had been fired; then, after some little time, he entered upon his share of the enforced duty, and, after having removed a portion of the skin, cut off some slices of flesh and brought them to a fire I had started. We broiled and ate a little of it, not through desire or relish for it, but from a sense of duty, knowing that our lives depended upon it.
It is said that for many years Dr. Franklin refrained from eating flesh, having an idea that it was wrong to slay and eat the flesh of other creatures; but that he changed his mind, and his diet, too, after having seen large fish devour small ones. I strongly suspect that if the doctor had been with us, or in a like condition, even before his conversion, he would, more than likely have taken a little flesh, even though it had been a piece of his own favorite horse.
I said we only ate a little at first: I only ate a little for two reason; first, I did not relish the food; second, I had heard of persons being killed by eating too much after fasting for a long time, and I had no desire to commit suicide just then. Field ate too much. Night came on, work was suspended, and we retired. The poor old lone, and, no doubt, now lonely, mule, having filled himself with grass, came up near the now terribly-mutilated remains of his late companion, and looked on as Field continued his bloody work. Field, with an expression of sorrow, said, "If that mule could reason and look forward to the time when his body might be in a like condition as that of this horse, he would, no doubt, take to his heels, bid us a final farewell, and seek other society." But, fortunately for us, he did not know that he was to be held in reserve for our future security. He was securely tied up every night from that time until the day he was slain for our salvation.
Early in the night following that eventful day, my companion began to complain much as he had done on the night after he had eaten the little red berries; but there was no lack of water now, no need of a special rain-cloud. I got up, heated water in our little camp kettle, applied hot cloths to his aching belly, and did everything else that either of us could think of for his relief. The pain was intense, and we feared that he would surely die, and earnestly prayed all the rest of the night that he might be relieved, and get well. Towards morning most violent vomiting came on, which continued for thirty hours, or more. He was not able to walk for three days, and during that time I nursed him, finished jerking the meat, and built a raft of some partly rotten logs, which I found in the vicinity, on which we floated across the river, on the fourth day after our arrival here. I also looked to the welfare of the mule, and prepared some bags in which to carry our jerk. Manley, I am sure that you know the meaning of the term "jerk" so that a definition of the word is not at all necessary.
The old logs of which the raft was made were remnants of log cabins, a number of which had been built and occupied more than half a century before, but by whom I do not know. Field remarked that the finding of these old rotting logs there was another "God send," as we then had neither ax, hammer, nor any tool of iron with which to cut down a tree. I bound these logs together with long strips cut from the hide of the dead horse. Paddles and poles were also provided. The mule was with difficulty driven across the river.
When the raft was landed on the west bank, the mule packed, and all about ready to start, I took the long strip of raw-hide from the raft and tied one end of it around the mule's neck, mounted Field on the mule behind the large pack, which made the whole outfit look quite comical indeed. Before leaving the other side of the river I had discovered that the saddle girth was not very strong, so I cut a wide belt from the hide of the lately slaughtered horse and fitted it to the saddle as a girth, knowing that the pack, now containing all of our goods and a supply of more than a bushel of jerk, would be quite bulky, if not heavy, and more difficult to keep on the back of a mule than it is for the camel to maintain his hump on his back. This girth afterwards made us two or three pretty substantial meals, as did also the long strip of green, wet hide, one end of which I had tied round the mule's neck, allowing it to drag for a long distance through the hot dry sand.
All being ready, I, as usual, took the lead with my shot gun, which I always carried, but with which I seldom killed anything, on my shoulder. The old mule followed with his high, towering pack, and Field almost hidden behind. It was noon, but we did not stop for dinner, but simply reached into one of the great bulging sacks, took out a piece of jerk and ate it as we went marching on; no more trouble now about cooking. Late in the afternoon we reached Uinta river, and, as my two-legged companion had grown very tired of the back of the four-legged one, we went into camp early. Our objective point was Fort Uinta, where we hoped to find military. We could not risk turning the mule loose at night, and the long strip of raw-hide was designed and used to secure him, and yet to afford him liberty to graze while we slept. As you will see a little further on, both girth and lariat were used for a purpose not anticipated.
The second, third, fourth, and fifth days came and went, and we were trudging on, up the Uinta, through a mostly very barren country, with some little rich and fertile land. We saw signs of Indians often, but no Indians. There was much cottonwood, but little other timber. We saw some fish in the river which we coveted, but could not get. The main course of this river is from north-west to south-east. We traveled most of the way to the fort on Indian trails, some of which were much worn, but mostly at some much earlier period. Of course we had plenty of good water, and food, such as it was. Field did not walk two miles during those five days, but seemed to be fattening fast. I sometimes thought he might be just a little lazy, but I never told him so, for I realized that he had recently had a severe tussle with death.
Early in the morning of the sixth day we arrived at the abandoned old fort. There were only three log buildings, and they were in the shape of three sides of a hollow square, with port-holes on the outer faces of the buildings, and doors entering each of them from the hollow square or court. Facing the vacant side of the court, the port-hole from which I shot the wolf on the night after we had killed the mule, would be on right hand side. We were unable to determine whether this fort had been constructed and occupied by Americans or Mexicans, but, from its apparent age, we were inclined to the opinion that it was Mexicans. It had not been occupied for, probably, three or four years. Some little farming had been done immediately around the fort. Surrounding the fort is a large body of fine, fertile land which I have no doubt has long since been occupied by mormons, or other enterprising people.
Having no means of subsistence here we soon decided to push on towards Fort Bridger, and, after resting a few hours set out following the larger fork of the river which comes almost directly from the north. We now believed that we were almost, if not exactly, due south of Fort Bridger. The river is small, and very crooked; we crossed it many times within three days, and, at the end of that time, found ourselves in the mouth of a rocky caņon, and after struggling for one whole day, we came to where the steep, high, stone walls closed the little river in on both sides, rendering it impossible for us to proceed any further.
We were now nearly out of food; the jerk was almost gone. A council was held, and it was decided that we should return to the fort and take chances of being rescued, or scalped by some roving band of reds, or starving to death. We at once set out on our return, full of disappointment and melancholy forebodings.
The next day found us without food: and now came into use the long, narrow strip of raw-hide which first bound together the old, rotting logs of which the raft was made, then to secure the mule of nights. It was now almost as hard as bone, and nearly round, having been dragged through the hot sand while it was yet green and wet, closed up like a hollow tube with sand inside. Two or three yards of it at a time, was cut into pieces about five inches long, the hair singed off, the sand scratched out, and these pieces were dropped into our camp kettle and cooked until the whole formed one mass of jelly or gluten which was, to us, quite palatable. When the lasso had all been thus prepared and eaten, the broad girth which had served so well in holding the pack-saddle on the mule's back, was cleaned, cooked, and eaten. These substitutes for jerk sustained us very well till we again arrived at the fort.
Another consultation was now held, and the question was--what shall we do now? We were again, apparently, at the starting point of another long, enforced fast. Our path seemed hedged in. The prospect was, indeed, very gloomy. Our only reasonable hope for even the temporary prolongation of our lives was centered in our ever faithful, and always reliable old mule. We revolted at the idea of killing and eating him, but the last bit of the girth was gone. After canvassing the whole situation over and over, again and again, we finally, but most reluctantly decided to kill the mule, and preserve all the soft parts, even the skin with all of its old scars, and then gather in whatever else we could find, and stay here until spring, or until good fortune might afford us some means escape; till some Moses might come and lead us out of this wilderness, notwithstanding the fact that we had not borrowed any jewelry which we had failed to return.
There were signs of wolves in that vicinity, and it was decided that the mule be slain about ten paces distant and directly in front of one of the port-holes of the fort, with the idea that wolves might smell the blood and come there and subject themselves to being shot, and thereby afford us a chance to increase our stock of winter supplies in the form of wolf steak, or jerk. Accordingly the victim was lead to the spot indicated, and there slain in the same manner, and with quite as much reluctance on the part of the slayer, as on the occasion of the sacrifice of the little horse, more than three weeks before. The body was skinned, cut up, and all taken within the building, nothing being left except the blood which had been spilled on the ground, and which was intended to attract wolves or, possibly, bears or other animals.
My now only living associate ridiculed the idea of killing wolves, and insisted that the flesh could not be eaten, stating the fact that even hogs would not eat the dead body of a dog, and insisted that a dog was only a tamed wolf. I reminded him of a cat which had been eaten. He finally agreed that, if I killed a wolf, he would get up and dress it, but said most emphatically that he would not sit up and watch for it; so he went to bed, that is, rolled himself up in a blanket on the ground in front of a good fire inside of the fort, and went to sleep, while I sat with my rather untrustworthy double barreled shot-gun protruding through the port-hole in full view of the spot before indicated. The night was clear, and the moon was shining in full splendor. It was probably eleven o'clock; Field had been snoring for a long time, when I heard something in the tall, dry grass, and soon a large, brownish-gray wolf came into full view, with head up, apparently sniffing, or smelling, and cautiously approaching the fatal spot. When he reached it, and began to lick up the blood which was still on the surface of the ground, standing with his left side toward the fort, and in full view, I took deliberate aim, and fired, and he fell upon the ground without making any considerable noise.
The tired, sleeping man was aroused by the report of the gun, and rushed into the room where I was in great excitement, thinking, perhaps, that some enemy had appeared, and had just then commenced to bombard the fort; but when I explained to him that I had simply killed a wolf, he ran out towards it, and, arriving close to it, the wounded creature rose up on its hind feet and growled quite vigorously, which seemed to frighten Field as much as did the noise of the gun. He dashed back to the fort, and, after having time to recover from his speechless condition, abused me most fearfully for having told him that I had killed a wolf. I then went out and put a load of shot into the wolf's head, and found that my first charge had passed through and broke both of its fore legs near the body. Field was so thoroughly frightened that I could not induce him to approach the dead animal for some time, and I do believe that that wolf haunted him as long as I knew him, for he seemed never to forget it. After dressing it by the light of the moon assisted by a torch, we retired. On viewing the plump body next morning Field exclaimed, "That's another God-send!" and notwithstanding his opinion that wolf could not be eaten, he found that wolf to be the best food we had eaten since we had assisted Walker and his tribe in eating the mountain sheep.
The French may eat their horses, but I do not want more horse flesh. The old mule made fair but quite coarse beef. While out on this little pleasure excursion we ate horse, mule, wolf, wild-cat, mountain sheep, rose seed buds, raw-hide, a squirrel, fatty matter from the sockets of the mule's eyes and the marrow from his bones; but that ham of wild-cat was certainly the most detestable thing that I ever undertook to eat. The marrow from the mule's bones was a real luxury. We now had a pretty good stock of food, such as it was, but not enough to carry us through the winter on full rations; therefore we determined to try to add to it by hunting. One was to go out and hunt while the other would remain at home: we now had undisputed possession of the fort and it was our home. Field took the first day's outing while I occupied my time in drying and smoking meat. Late in the evening he returned, tired and worn out, having seen nothing worth shooting.
Next day came my turn to hunt. I took a lunch, as he had done, consisting of jerked mule. I did not tell him so, but I had determined to make an excursion up the river to a point where we had seen some fresh trails and deer tracks some days before. When I was putting up my lunch my friend intimated that I was taking a very large amount for one lunch, but I told him that I might stay out late and that I did not intend to starve. I went, stayed all day, all night, and part of the next day, and returned as he had done, tired and discouraged, not having seen anything worth bringing in. In the evening of the first day out I found a trail which appeared to have been used daily by deer going to and from the river.
It occurred to me that they might go out early in the morning, so I secreted myself within gun shot of the trail behind an old, moss-covered log where I slept comfortably; and when it was light enough in the morning to see a deer, I leveled my gun across the log in a position commanding the trail and waited and watched until nine o'clock, but nothing came upon that pathway that morning. After getting tired of watching and waiting I went down to the trail where, to my astonishment, I found the fresh tracks of a large bear which must have passed by that way while I was sleeping. As a rule I do not like to be treated discourteously, but in this instance I felt glad that this stranger had passed me by.
On arriving at the fort late in the evening I found my friend in a terrible state of mental excitement. He said that he had not slept a minute during the whole of the night before. He had filled the door of his room with rails, and sharpened one end of a long stick, which he intended to use if necessary as a weapon of defence. When I arrived he was again filling the door with rails. I had the gun, pistol and big knife with me so this was his only means of defence. He said he would not stay alone another night for all the gold in California.
I was much discouraged by our failures in hunting, and after a lengthy discussion we decided to make another attempt to cross the mountains and escape from what then seemed to us certain starvation. This was Thursday night and we set Monday as the time for starting. By Saturday night everything was in readiness for the start and Sunday we devoted to Bible reading, for we each still had a pocket Bible. As much of the flesh of the wolf and the lamented mule as we thought we could carry had been thoroughly jerked, and finding that we would not be overburdened by it, we economized by roasting and eating little scraps of flesh, the marrow from the bones, and even the head of the mule was roasted, the fragments of flesh scraped off and eaten, and Field found a rich fatty substance in behind the eyes, which he ate.
We had a canteen in which our powder was carried, but the powder was nearly all gone so we emptied it and used the canteen to carry water in. Early Monday morning we loaded ourselves, mostly with jerked mule and wolf, leaving many useful things behind, bid adieu to Fort Uinta and took up our line of march rather reluctantly.
My companion was not strong and we soon found it expedient for me to take on part of his burden. We rested often and yet long before night he became so tired that we had to go into camp. Most of the day we had traveled on an old deserted trail. The nights being cold we were under the necessity of keeping up a fire as we had left our blankets at the fort. The next morning we made an early start and rested often. At about noon we found good shade and water, and the sun being quite hot we stopped and rested in the shade for more than three hours, then trudged on till nearly night when we found water, and plenty of old dry timber for fuel and camped. Field expressed a wish that he had his old mule again, and I reminded him that he had a portion of it left in his knapsack, and that turn about was fair play: as the mule had carried him for a long time when he was unable to walk he should not object to carrying a portion of the mule now; whereupon he again plainly intimated that he thought I was a d--- d fool. I kept up the fire and he slept until morning.
Another day was passed without any unusual occurrence; we traveled and ate at the same time as usual. Another day of pretty hard travel over sandy plains and rocky hills brought us to the foot of the mountain where we had plenty of good water and an abundance of fuel. A little sprinkle of rain early in the evening was the first we had seen since the memorable night after Field had eaten the little red berries.
Early Saturday morning we filled our canteen with water and started up the mountain. I had been carrying most of the jerk, but the stock was running down quite rapidly. My companions bag now being almost empty, and as he had little else to carry while I had the gun and some other things, including his heavy overcoat, I divided the jerk, putting about half of it into his sack. All day long we were climbing the mountain. Late in the afternoon I was several rods ahead of Field when he called to me to stop: I did so and when he came up he appeared to be a little cross and insisted that we were not traveling in the direction formerly agreed upon. I requested him to let me see the little compass which he had in his pocket, and on examining it he found that he was mistaken; whereupon he muttered something which I thought was "swear words," and then we went marching on. In a little while we were within the old snow limits where we found large bodies of old icy looking snow in places shaded by trees and rocks, and a little before dark went into camp. We gathered some old dry timber and made a large fire, then some green fir limbs for a bed. When I began to prepare our bed on one side of the flaming logs, to my surprise Field began to prepare one on the other side of the fire. Neither had spoken since the occurrence of the little unpleasantness in the afternoon about the course of travel. Mutely each took his side of the fire.
We had always slept together except when he was sick and the night I had left him alone at the fort. Some time in the night I became thirsty and got up and procured some snow, put it in our only tin cup and set it on some live coals to melt and went to sleep. The snow melted, the water evaporated, the solder melted and left the tin. While I slept, my dumb friend woke up thirsty, took the tin cup, filled it with snow and put it on coals. The snow melted and the water run out on the coals; his tongue let loose and he then denounced me as a knave, an ass, a fool, an unregenerate heathen, and what else I don't want to remember. I woke up alarmed and did not at first fully understand what had created the storm, but after having the bottomless cup dashed at my head I realized the situation, and began to try to apologize and explain the unavoidable and unfortunate circumstance; but no explanation would satisfy his now thoroughly "Johnny Bull" temper. After this little nocturnal disturbance had subsided, I, on my bed of fir branches with my feet towards the fire, soon fell into a sound sleep and knew nothing more of the world until the sun was shining. Whether or not my friend had cooled off I did not inquire; but I do know that there was an unusual coldness between us, for neither spoke to the other until about twelve o'clock and then, as will appear, our conversation was very short.
As we did not rise until late no delay was made, but when each had his bag on his back and a nugget of jerk in his hand we started up the side of the mountain as quiet as two deaf mutes. There was no water to be had; our camp kettle had been left at the fort, and through my stupidity the cup had become useless, therefore we were obliged to eat the icy snow or endure the thirst. No new snow had yet fallen in this high altitude although it was now nearing the end of October. These mountains were then heavily covered with pine and fir but the timber was not large. In some places where the snow had melted away, short green grass was found quite close to great banks of snow.
At about twelve o'clock we reached the summit of the great Uinta range, and I, being a little in advance of my still mute companion, halted to take a survey of the field before me. The top of the range here is bare of timber and there was no snow. When Field came up I broke the silence which had lasted since the little unpleasantness of the night before, by suggesting that we attempt to cross the snow-covered range of mountains which now appeared north of us and probably fifty miles away, through what appeared to be a gap or low place in the great range of mountains. He replied, "You may go that way if you want to, but I am going this way," pointing in another direction and quickly started off at an angle of about 45 degrees to the right, or directly north-east. I also started immediately, and when we were a few rods apart I said, "Good-by; we may not meet again very soon." He replied "Good-by," and within a few minutes we were out of sight, and in a very short time beyond hailing distance.
This was the last I saw or heard of him until after each of us had undergone many more hardships, so I will now drop my friend but will hereafter devote a chapter to him, and give you an account of his experience as he afterwards gave it to me, detailing an account of many most interesting incidents. Fortunately we had divided the jerk, for nothing was said at this sudden and unexpected parting about anything which either had in his possession. I had an idea when I bade him good-by that he would soon turn about and follow me.
After the unceremonious parting I immediately began to descend the north side of the mountain which was very rough, rocky and steep; but down, down, down I went into a deep, dark caņon where I slept on the leaves under a fir tree, after having taken some landmarks. When it was light enough to see the objects I had noted to guide me, I set out and spent the day in crossing over hills and through deep caņons. In the evening I arrived at the foot of the range of mountains which I had seen from the point of our parting. The sun disappeared, dark clouds began to float over the mountains and it was evident that a storm was approaching.
While it was yet light enough I took some landmarks or guiding points; and it was well I did so, for on the following morning when I woke I found it snowing quietly but heavily, and before it was light enough for me to see my guiding objects there must have been six or more inches of new snow on the ground beyond my snug retreat under a sheltering pine. When it was light enough I rose from my comfortable bed, took my bearings as best I could without a compass and started up the mountain through the rapidly accumulating bed of snow. The snow continued to fall nearly all day, and before night it was more than a foot deep.
All day long I struggled through a dense forest. Some time in the forenoon I crossed the fresh trail of a large herd of elk which forcibly reminded me that my sack was almost empty, and I vainly wished that one of these wild creatures might come in my way, but I did not dare to follow the herd with the uncertainty of killing one, and the certainty of losing my way this dark, snowy day. In order to maintain my course during such dark days I was under the necessity of looking ahead and observing trees or other objects in my line of travel.
That night I, as usual, slept under a pine tree where there was no snow. I saw no sign of fire in either of these ranges of mountains, nor did I see any signs of Indians on my trip over these two ranges. The next day as I approached the top of the mountain I found the timber much smaller, and mostly pine. There is much fertile land in some of the valleys between the two great ranges of mountains.
Early on the following morning I arrived at the bald, snow-covered summit. On my right and on my left were high, untimbered, snow-covered peaks. From this point I could overlook a vast territory extending over many hills, valleys, and smaller mountains where there was no snow; in fact, the snow only extended a few miles down the steep sides of the great range. As a rule there is more timber on the north than on the south side of mountains west of the Rockies; but it was the reverse here, for there was little timber on the north side of this range.
One more day's tramping brought me down into a large barren plain where I gathered some dry weeds for a bed, and slept, without food or water; the last bit of the mule or wolf, I know not which, I had eaten during the afternoon. I had had very little jerk for the last two or three days, and began to wish that I had another horse, mule, or even a wolf. For many days I had seen no living thing except when I looked into a small glass which I carried in my pocket, and then only saw a familiar shadow.
I spent another day without food, but had plenty of water; another night on a bed of green brush beside a good fire. The next day was bright and sunny, quite a contrast to the gloomy days I had spent in the mountains. For want of food I was becoming quite weak and was not able to travel as fast as usual. During the early part of the day I saw some tracks of an unshod horse, which renewed my courage and hope of redemption; and at about two o'clock in the afternoon I saw some dark spots on the plain a long distance away, but almost in the direction I was going. Hoping that these objects might be living creatures, I hurried on for a time, then sat down and after having watched them for a time I found that they changed positions and that satisfied me to a moral certainty that they were living creatures, but what I could not tell. They might be horses, cattle, elk, deer, antelope or buffalo; but no matter what, I must hurry on and try to reach them before night.
Late in the evening I determined that they were horses but could not yet tell whether they belonged to whites or Indians, or were wild. As I approached them they stopped grazing and started toward me, but soon disappeared in a deep gulch between us which I had not noticed before. On arriving at the edge of the gulch or narrow valley I saw the horses in the vicinity of about fifteen or twenty wigwams which were all in a row on the bank of a little creek that ran through the gulch. Many Indians were sitting outside of their lodges, the weather being warm.
On first sight of the village, being not more than 200 yards away, my heart fluttered just a little, not knowing whether the savages would scalp me or not; but, notwithstanding my natural cowardice, I at once determined to "beard the lion in his den," and walked as boldly as I could up to the lower end of the row of wigwams. Within a few feet of the nearest one three young bucks met me and seemed to be anxious to know whence I came and whither I was going; whether right down from Heaven, and if so what was my mission. They seemed as much surprised at my sudden appearance as I was on coming so suddenly upon them. My first and most important business was to determine whether they would give me something to eat, or eat me.
As the men, women, and children began to gather around me I heard some one half way up the line of lodges call out saying something which I did not understand, but on looking that way saw a man beckoning to me, as I thought, when the young men motioned for me to move on up the line. On arriving at the place indicated I found myself in the presence of one whom I then suspected, and afterwards found to be the chief, who extended to his royal right hand and greeted me in a most courteous and polite manner, and then with a graceful wave of his hand and a slight bow indicated that I should precede him at the low open door into his Royal Palace where he very politely introduced me to his wife who proved to be a sensible, clever, courteous woman. She soon prepared some thing for me to eat, and after I had finished my supper an Indian brought in two pistols and wanted me to take the cap tube from one and put it into the other, which I soon accomplished. He was much pleased, went out, and soon returned with ten or more pounds of elk meat which he tendered to me as compensation for my work, but the chief objected, and insisted, as I understood him, that he had plenty and that I was his guest, but finally consented for me to accept part of the meat. I gave him to understand that I wanted to go to Fort Bridger.
A case of nice new blankets was opened, as it appeared to me, for my especial benefit. The chief, his lady, two sons almost grown, two or three wolfish looking dogs which forcibly reminded me of Field's terrible scare, and myself made up the number of lodgers in that mansion that night. Late that night some warriors who had been out on a campaign came home, and learning that there was a stranger within the gates came to the king's palace to see him, and also to report that they had discovered some white barbarians in the vicinity who had dared to enter his domain without a special permit, and that they had sent a message to his highness informing him that they had a good assortment of blankets, cutlery, pins, needles, beads, etc., which his people might need or desire, and also a limited amount of "fire-water," and that they would be pleased to receive his order for anything he might desire.
The fact of the presence of these pale-faces in the vicinity was at once communicated to me, and early on the following morning I was informed that if it was my desire to cut short my stay at the palace, the king would take great pleasure in furnishing me means of conveyance, a proper escort, and a reliable guide who would safely conduct me to the camp of the accommodating merchants or Indian traders, (but, in fact, Indian robbers.) Notwithstanding my reluctance in leaving the society of the noble ruler and his people I most readily accepted his generous offer, and after breakfast, which consisted of elk meat and tobacco root in a combination stew which was very palatable, a fine steed with a good Mexican saddle and bridle was at the door. My escort, consisting of four mounted warriors, was ready, and after bidding my good friends farewell, I with some assistance mounted my charger and we were all off on a full run, up and down hill and across valley, at what seemed to me a fearful rate.
In less than two hours we entered the camp of the traders at full speed, dismounted, and found one man, a long Jake from Illinois, who could speak English. He had two wives, (squaws,) and several children which he claimed, but some of them were quite dark. His name was John Smith; not a very uncommon one. He was a very clever man, about 35 years old, was not a Mormon, but had taken the women in order to become popular with the Indians and to improve his opportunities for trade.
After getting something to eat, and learning something, through Smith, of my adventures, my escort made ready to return to their camp. Their trip, as Smith told me, was made solely for my accommodation and now I had nothing with which to compensate them; but as they were about to leave I took a large "bandanna," the only one I had left, and tied it around the neck of the chief's son, he being one of the clever escorts. He at first refused to accept it, but when Smith told him that I desired him to take it as a token of regard, he accepted it with an expression of thanks, and after I had bidden them all good-bye, they rode away as rapidly as we had come. I will always hold that chief and his people in kindly remembrance.
All of the other white men with Smith were French, and all had plenty of wives (squaws) and numerous slaves. The wives were not slaves, but they had slaves all around them. The whole tribe traveled about and lived much as other tribes did, only much better, for they lived by trading while the others lived by hunting and fishing. In this camp I ate bread for the first time in many weeks. At the end of three days after my arrival here a caravan was ready to start for Fort Bridger for winter supplies for the traders. I was furnished with a good horse and saddle, and Smith, one of the Frenchmen, five slaves, 20 horses, and myself made up the caravan, and on the evening of the third day we reached the fort where I was very kindly received.
Smith was a large man, had a good head, and some cultivation and apparent refinement, and treated his women and children well. He said he had been to his old home in Illinois since he had entered upon this kind of life, but was not contented there and soon returned to his Indian friends. He and those Frenchmen were as generous and hospitable as old Southern planters, and their kindness to me will not be forgotten while my memory lasts.
I was well treated at the fort which is 116 miles from the point where the seven dug up the little flat-boat from its sandy bed on the fifth day of August, just three mouths before, since which I had undergone many hardships, took many fearful risks, and traveled more than a thousand miles, far enough to have taken me from Green River to San Francisco.
On the morning of the seventh day of November I started with a Government train for Salt Lake City where I arrived on the fifteenth. I soon found a home with a prominent Mormon, a Scotchman named Archie Gardner, living in the fifth ward, on Mill Creek, one of the many small streams coming down from the mountains east of the city. Mr. Gardner was a clever gentleman about 45 years old, had a saw-mill up in, the mountains, and was then building a flour mill only a few rods from his dwelling. I assisted him in completing the little flour mill and in attending it during the winter. Mr. Gardner had three wives, all living in one house, but occupying separate rooms at night. I usually attended the little mill until midnight, and Gardner made it part of my duty to go to his house and call him. He usually told me where I could find him, but not always, so at times I was under the necessity of rapping at more than one door before I found him.
He had the largest house in the ward, and the religious services were held there by Bishop Johnson who also acted as Justice of the Peace in that ward. Gardner's family all ate at the same table over which the first wife presided. She was, indeed, mistress of the house, the other wives treating her with great respect, and all were, to all outward appearance, quite friendly. Gardner bestowed much attention on his first wife, though I always suspected that he was just a little more fond of the youngest one, and I did not blame him much for she manifested strong affection for him even in the presence of the others, and yet there was no outward manifestation of jealousy.
The second, or the one I will call the second because she was in age between the others, and was the mother of the third or youngest, a widowed mother and her daughter having been sealed to Gardner at the same time, the first wife having given her consent and standing with them at the triple matrimonial altar, and then and there joining in the sacred ceremony. As I was about to say, the second wife seemed to be pleased at the manifestation of affection for the common husband by the youngest wife, and No. 1 would in a good-humored way say:--"My, Annie, don't be so demonstrative in the presence of other people," when the husband would laugh and go and kiss No. 1.
Gardner spent most of his leisure time, particularly during the day and evening, in his first wife's apartments with her and her children. He was a very religious man, and always had family prayers before retiring at night, and all persons about the house were expected to join, at least formally, in this service. The use of profane language was not allowed in or about the house.
Many of the higher church officers were entertained at Gardner's house and table, among whom were Brigham Young, George A. Smith, Heber C. Kimble, George Taylor, and Parley P. Pratt, with all of whom I formed some acquaintance. Brigham was a dignified, clever gentleman, not austere but kind and affable. Kimble was also a nice, genteel, genial, redheaded gentleman. Smith was a heavy man with a very large abdomen, dark hair full beard, exceedingly jovial and apparently always happy. Pratt was a small, rather slim, quick and athletic man, rather austere, refined, active and energetic. Taylor was a large man, highly intellectual, and rather unsocial. Kimble was my favorite notwithstanding the fact that he had fifteen wives, mostly young and handsome, all in one house, and my impression is that none of them had any children. I think it was conceded that his was the finest harem in Utah. He called me his young Gentile, was very kind and affable, but he never invited me to inspect his harem.
About the first of December, 1849, Field arrived in Salt Lake City, and I will allude to a little matter in which he was concerned, after which I will give you a short account of his trip from the time we parted company until he arrived in Salt Lake as he afterwards gave it to me. Soon after he arrived in the City of the Saints he heard of another who had recently arrived from the south and that he was located in the fifth ward on Mill creek at the house of one Gardner, and at which house he soon arrived.
After staying with me for two or three days he found employment in the family of the Apostle John Taylor. The family consisted of seven wives living in seven different houses. How many children there were I never knew, but there was one wife who did not have any. She was a fine specimen of English beauty. Taylor's women were nearly all English. It was the business of my friend to cut wood, and do chores generally for the Taylor family living in seven different places at the same time. Taylor was in Europe that winter looking after the interest of the church, and possibly after a few more wives, and consequently could not, in person, attend to all of the necessities of the seven branches of his family. In his daily rounds looking after the seven wood-piles and other little matters appertaining to the comfort of the family in so many places Field happened to come in contact with the English beauty, and the result was, mutual love at first sight, notwithstanding the fact that this woman had passed, and taken all of the solemn vows of the Lym house with the Apostle and his six other wives.
I do not think that my English friend had lost one iota of the fond recollection of his long since dead English wife, the picture of whom he still carried near his heart; but, nevertheless, he and this seventh wife of the noted Apostle fell heels over head in love. Field, as you know, was a well developed, good-looking, intelligent man of forty. The woman was well developed, good-looking, and as smart as a steel-trap, and both being English I was not at all surprised at their mutual admiration and infatuation, nor did I blame them much. I was entrusted with many closely-sealed envelopes which I carried from one to the other. With my feeble assistance they tried to devise some method by which they might escape from the city before the Apostle should return home; but the Danites were always on the alert, and they well knew that detection by the Danites of an attempt to get away together would lead to certain death to him, and if not to her she would certainly have been returned to her polygamous state of bondage. Spring came with little hope of escape, and they reluctantly parted with the mutual understanding that, if possible, she would make her escape and go to Sacramento where he promised to keep his address. Ten months after the parting they had not met yet, and if they ever did it was after I had lost all further knowledge of him.
Mormon morals, exclusive of polygamy, are very good. I never saw a drunken man in Salt Lake City, and heard very little profane language there. The people were industrious and seemed happy. Their hospitality rivaled that of the old Southern planters, and their charity was equal to that of other Christians.
I will now go back to the place where Field and I separated on the mountain top and give you a short statement as he gave it to me, and while some things may border on the miraculous, and seem somewhat incredible, I do not question the truth of his statements. When we parted so unexpectedly he had about half of the jerked wolf and mule combined. I went north while he bore off in a northeasterly direction, and after traveling for three days came to the river at a point above where we lost our flat-boat. He struggled on up the river without road or trail, and nothing to guide him except the little compass which he still carried in his pocket.
Two days more and his last bit of jerk was gone, starvation began to stare him in the face once more. He saw signs of Indians having crossed his pathless course which gave him renewed courage. Soon after starting out next morning he was delighted to see a pony in the distance grazing, and on coming up to it found one of its front legs broken. This, he said was another God-send. The poor pony seemed to fear him. It was probably an Indian pony, had its leg broken and was left to die. He followed it for some time and finally got close to it and fired his revolver at its chest and wounded it, but it then left him with the blood flowing from its wound. After resting for a time he followed on and soon found it lying down, but not dead. He told me how innocent and helpless it appeared, and looked at him as if pleading with him not to inflict any more pain; but he felt that his life was in a balance with its, and after a little meditation he put the revolver to its forehead and ended its life and suffering. Then came the usual process of skinning, cutting up and jerking which took the balance of that day and part of the next.
Eight days more and he was again starving. On the ninth he arrived at the spot where we had dug up the little ferry-boat which carried the seven adventurers far down the river more than three very long dreary months before. Snow now covered the entire country, and all emigrants had long since gone by. His strength was failing fast but it would not do to linger there, so he arose and was about to start when he saw a poor old ox slowly coming towards him, and when it had come up near to him he discovered a wolf not far behind which seemed to be following the ox, but it soon turned and went away. Night was coming on and he was very hungry. Something must be done. The last cartridge had been exploded in killing the poor, broken legged Indian pony, and the revolver was no longer of use. The ox, though feeble, was probably yet stronger than the starving man.
Field feared that he was not able to catch the ox by the horns and hold it until he could cut its throat, so the next plan was to get hold of the animal's tail with one hand, and with the big knife in the other cut his hamstrings so as to disable him, and then cut his throat. The ox seemed fond of being rubbed and petted, so after a little time a firm hold on the tail was secured, and the big knife vigorously applied, but it was so very dull that he could not sever the tough old tendons. After sawing with the dull knife and being literally dragged for some distance, he became so much exhausted that he was obliged to relinquish his hold and see the excited old ox disappear.
In almost complete despair Field spent the night beside a fire under one of those large cottonwoods which I have no doubt you will remember even though it is now more than forty years since you saw them. He rose early next morning and started out on the well beaten road towards the Golden West, but had only gone a few hundred yards when he was agreeably surprised to again behold the old ox approaching him, but so much exhausted that it could scarcely walk. The same, or some other, wolf was near by, and had probably followed the poor old ox all night. When the ox came close to Field the wolf growled and again turned away as on the evening before. After the wolf had left the ox seemed to be relieved.
It then occurred to the starving emigrant that he had a sharp razor in his "kitt" with which he knew he could cut those tough tendons, provided he could get another hold on that tail. Field, as you probably remember, always kept his face cleanly shaved. Even while we were starving he would shave almost every day. The ox was tired and worn out and so was Field; but he got the razor ready and soon had hold of that tail again. Off went the ox, the keen razor was applied, soon the tendons parted and down went the ox. But only half the victory was won, for the ox would raise up on his front feet and show fight; but after resting awhile the would-be victor rushed up, caught the poor beast by the horns, pushed him over on his side, held him down and cut his throat.
After a long, much needed rest he cut out a piece of the poor beef, broiled and ate it, and then spent the remainder of the day in hunting out the small, lean muscles that still remained between the skin and bones of the poor old ox. The poor beef was jerked and put into the sack which on the following morning was thrown upon the back of its owner, and from which he fed for the next six days, at the end of which he arrived at Fort Bridger. From there he soon obtained a passage for Salt Lake City, arriving there on the second day of December, seventeen days after I had reached there, and finding me as before stated.
Some time in the winter we formed an acquaintance of a gentleman named Jesse Morgan, a Gentile, who had left Illinois in the spring of 1849 for California, but for some cause had been delayed and obliged to winter in the city of the Latter Day Saints. Morgan had a wife, a little child, a wagon and two yoke of oxen, but no food nor money. Field and I arranged to furnish food for all for the trip from there to Sacramento, and assist in camp duties, drive the team, &c. We made the trip together and arrived in Sacramento in good condition on the fourth day of July, 1850, and pitched our tent under a large oak tree where the State Capitol now stands.
I spent five months with a wholesale grocery and miners supply firm, Elder and Smith, Fourth and J streets, Sacramento, and three months in the mines as a drummer, or solicitor and collector for the same firm. I returned to Sacramento and was almost ready to start home when the Scots River excitement broke out. I then went to the mines on Trinity River and associated myself in mining with Hiram Gould, a young Presbyterian clergyman who had laid aside the "cloth" for the time and engaged in mining. I remained in the mines until July fourth, 1851, exactly one year from the time I entered Sacramento, when I started home by way of Nicaragua. In due time, after an interesting trip, I arrived home and again entered upon the study of my chosen profession, graduated from an honorable college, and am now, as you know, practicing my profession on the sea shore.
Death Valley in '49 - Table of Contents - Chapter 12 - Previous < > Next