To Ruby Valley. 7th October.
A frosty night was followed by a Tuscan day: å cold tramontana from the south, and a clear hot sun, which expanded the mercury at 10 A.M. to 70° F. After taking leave of the hospitable station-master, we resumed the road which ran up the short and heavy ascent, through a country here and there eighteen inches deep in snow, and abounding in large sage and little rabbits. A descent led into Long Valley, whose northern end we crossed, and then we came upon a third ascent, where, finding a sinking creek, a halt was called for lunch. The formation of the whole country is a succession of basins and divides. Ensued another twelve miles' descent, which placed us in sight of Ruby Valley, and a mile beyond carried us to the station.
Ruby Valley is a half-way house, about 300 miles from Great Salt Lake City, and at the same distance from Carson Valley. It derives its name from the small precious stones which are found like nuggets of gold in the crevices of primitive rock. The length of the valley is about 100 miles, by three or four broad, and springs are scattered in numbers along the base of the western mountains. The cold is said to be here more severe than in any place on the line of road, Spring Valley excepted. There is, however, excellent bench-land for grazing. In this season the scenery is really pretty. The white peaks tower over hill-land black with cedar, and this looks down upon the green bottom scattered over with white sage—winter above lying by the side of summer below.
We were received at the Ruby-Valley Station by Colonel Rogers, better known as “Uncle Billy." He had served in the troublous days of California as marshal, and has many a hairbreadth escape to relate. He is now assistant Indian agent, the superintendent of a government model farm, and he lives en garçon, having left his wife and children at Frogtown. We were soon introduced to the chief of the country, Chýūkŭpĭchyă (the "old man'), a word of unpronounceable slur, changed by whites into Chokop (“earth”). His lands are long to the north and south, though of little breadth. He commands about 500. warriors, and, as Uncle Billy is returning to Frogtown, he is collecting a large hunting-party for the autumnal battue. In 1849 his sister was wantonly shot by emigrants to California. He attacked the train, and slew in revenge five men, a fact with which we were not made acquainted till after our departure. His father and grandfather are both alive, but they have abdicated under the weight of years and infirmities, reserving their voices for the powwow.
We dined in the colonel's stone hut, and then saw the lions feed; after us, Chokop and five followers sat down with knife and fork before a huge tureen full of soft pie, among which they did terrible execution, champing and chewing with the noisiness of wild beasts, and eating each enough for three able-bodied sailors. The chief, a young man twenty-five years old, had little to denote the Indian except vermilion where soap should have been; one of his companions, however, crowned with eagle's feathers disposed in tulip shape, while the claws depended gracefully down his back, was an object worthy of Guinea. All were, however, to appearance, happy, and for the first time I heard an Indian really laugh outright. Outside squatted the common herd in a costume which explains the prevalence of rheumatism. The men were in rags, yet they had their coquetry, vermilion streaked down their cheeks and across their foreheads—the Indian fashion of the omnilocal rouge. The women, especially the elders, were horrid objects, shivering and half dressed in breech-cloths and scanty capes or tippets of wolf and rabbit skin: the existence of old age, however, speaks well for the race. Both are unclean; they use no water where Asiatics would; they ignore soap, and rarely repair to the stream, except, like animals, in hot weather.
We then strolled about the camp and called upon the two Mistresses Chokop. One was a buxom dame, broad and strong, with hair redolent of antelope marrow, who boasted of a “wikeap" or wigwam in the shape of a conical tent. The other, much her junior, and rather pretty, was sitting apart in a bower of bushes, with a newly-born pappoose in a willow cage to account for her isolation: the poor thing would have been driven out even in the depth of winter, and were she to starve, she must do without meat. As among the Jews, whenever the Great Father is angry with the daughters of Red Men, they sit apart; they never touch a cooking utensil, although it is not held impure to address them, and they return only when the signs of wrath have passed away. The abodes of the poorer clansmen were three-quarter circles of earth, sticks, and sage-bush to keep off the southerly wind. A dog is usually one of the occupants. Like the African, the Indian is cruel to his brute, starves it and kicks it for attempting to steal a mouthful: “Love me, love my dog," however, is his motto, and he quarrels with the stranger that follows his example. The furniture was primitive. Upon a branch hung a dried antelope head used in stalking: concerning this sport Uncle Billy had a story of his nearly being shot by being mistaken for the real animal; and tripods of timber supporting cloths and moccasins, pans, camp-kettles, stones for grinding grass-seed, and a variety of baskets. The material was mostly willow twig, with a layer of gum, probably from the pine-tree. Some were watertight like the "Hán” of Somaliland; others, formed like the Roman amphora, were for storing grain; while others, in giant cocked-hat shape, were intended for sweeping in crickets and the grass seeds upon which these Indians feed. The chief gramineæ are the atriplex and chenopodaceous plants. After inspecting the camp we retired precipitately: its condition was that of an Egyptian army's last nighting-place.
About two miles from the station there is a lake covered with water-fowl, from the wild swan to the rail. I preferred, however, to correct my Shoshonee vocabulary under the inspection of Mose Wright, an express rider from a neighboring station. None of your "one-horse” interpreters, he had learned the difficult dialect in his youth, and he had acquired all the intonation of an Indian. Educated beyond the reach of civilization, he was in these days an oddity; he was convicted of having mistaken a billiard cue for a whip handle, and was accused of having mounted the post supporting the electric telegraph wire in order to hear what it was saying. The evening was spent in listening to Uncle Billy's adventures among the whites and reds. He spoke highly of his protégés, especially of their affection and fidelity in married life: they certainly appeared to look upon him as a father. He owed something to legerdemain; here, as in Algeria, a Houdin or a Love would be great medicine-men with whom nobody would dare to meddle. Uncle Billy managed to make the post pay by peltries of the mink, wolf, woodchuck or ground-hog, fox, badger, antelope, black-tailed deer, and others. He illustrated the peculiarities of the federal government by a curious anecdote. The indirect or federal duties are in round numbers $100,000,000, of which $60,000,000 are spent, leaving a surplus of forty for the purpose of general corruption: the system seems to date from the days of the “ultimus Romanorum,” President Jackson. None but the largest claimants can expect to be recognized. A few years ago one of the Indian agents in — was asked by a high official what might be about the cost of purchasing a few hundred acres for a government farm. After reckoning up the amount of beads, wire, blankets, and gunpowder, the total was found to be $240. The high official requested his friend to place the statement on paper, and was somewhat surprised the next morning to see the $240 swollen to $40,000. The reason given was characteristic: “What great government would condescend to pay out of £8,000,000 a paltry £48, or would refuse to give £8000 ?"
To “Chokop's" Pass. 8th October, 1860.
The morning was wasted in binding two loose tires upon their respective wheels; it was past noon before we were en route. We shook hands cordially with Uncle Billy, whose generosity—a virtue highly prized by those who, rarely practicing, expect it to be practiced upon them—has won for him the sobriquet of the “Bighearted Father.” He had vainly, however, attempted to rescue my silver pen-holder, whose glitter was too much for Indian virtue. Our route lay over a long divide, cold but not unpicturesque, a scene of light-tinted mountain mahogany, black cedar, pure snowy hill, and pink sky. After ten miles we reached the place where the road forks; that to the right, passing through Pine Valley, falls into the gravelly ford of the Humboldt River, distant from this point eighty to eighty-five miles. After surmounting the water-shed we descended over bench-land into a raw and dreary plain, in which greasewood was more plentiful than sage-bush. “Huntingdon Valley” is traversed by Smith's Fork, which flows northward to the Humboldt River; when we crossed it it was a mere rivulet. Our camping-ground was at the farther end of the plain, under a Pass called after the chief Chokop; the kanyon emitted a cold draught like the breathing caves of Kentucky. We alighted at a water near the entrance, and found bunch-grass, besides a little fuel. After two hours the wagon came up with the stock, which was now becoming weary, and we had the usual supper of dough, butter, and coffee. I should have slept comfortably enough upon a shovel and a layer of carpet-bags had not the furious south wind howled like the distant whooping of Indians.
To the Wilderness again. 9th October.
The frosty night was followed by a thaw in the morning. We hastened to ascend Chokop's Pass by a bad, steep dugway: it lies south of “Railroad Kanyon," which is said to be nearly flat-soled. A descent led into “Moonshine," called by the Yutas Pahannap Valley, and we saw with pleasure the bench rising at the foot of the pass. The station is named Diamond Springs, from an eye of warm, but sweet and beautifully clear water bubbling up from the earth. A little below it drains off in a deep rushy ditch, with a gravel bottom, containing equal parts of comminuted shells: we found it an agreeable and opportune bath. Hard work had begun to tell upon the temper of the party. The judge, who ever preferred monologue to dialogue, aweary of the rolling prairies and barren plains, the bald and rocky ridges, the muddy flats, saleratus ponds, and sandy wastes, sighed monotonously for the woodland shades and the rustling of living leaves near his Pennsylvanian home. The marshal, with true Anglo-American impetuosity, could not endure Paddy Kennedy's “slow and shyure" style of travel; and after a colloquy, in which the holiest of words were freely used as adjectives, participles, and exclamations, offered to fight him by way of quickening his pace. The boys—four or five in number—ate for breakfast a quarter of beef, as though they had been Kaffirs or Esquimaux, and were threatened with ration-cutting. The station folks were Mormons, but not particularly civil: they afterward had to fly before the savages, which, perhaps, they will be pleased to consider a "judgment” upon them.
Shortly after noon we left Diamond Springs, and carried on for a stretch of seven miles to our lunching-ground, a rushy water, black where it overlies mud, and bluish-green where light gravel and shells form the bottom : the taste is sulphury, and it abounds in confervæ and animalculæ like leeches and little tadpoles. After playing a tidy bowie-knife, we remounted, and passed over to the rough divide lying westward of Moonshine Valley. As night had closed in, we found some difficulty in choosing a camping place: at length we pitched upon a prairillon under the lee of a hill, where we had bunch-grass and fuel, but no water. The wind blew sternly through the livelong night, and those who suffered from cramps in cold feet had little to do with the "sweet restorer, balmy sleep."
To Sheawit Creek. 10th October, [Roberts Station]
At 6 A.M. the mercury was sunk only to 29° F., but the elevation and rapid evaporation, with the fierce gusty wind coursing through the kanyon, rendered the sensation of cold painful. As usual on these occasions, “George,” our chef, sensibly preferred standing over the fire, and enwrapping himself with smoke, to the inevitable exposure incurred while fetching a coffee-pot or a tea-kettle. A long divide, with many ascents and descents, at length placed in front of us a view of the normal “distance”— heaps of hills, white as bridal cakes, and, nearer, a sand-like plain, somewhat more yellow than the average of those salt-bottoms: instinct told us that there lay the station-house. From the hills rose the smokes of Indian fires: the lands belong to the Tusawichya, or White-Knives, a band of the Shoshonees under an independent chief. This depression is known to the Yutas as Sheawit, or Willow Creek: the whites call it, from Mr. Bolivar Roberts, the Western agent, “Roberts' Springs Valley.” It lies 286 miles from Camp Floyd: from this point “Simpson's Road" strikes off to the S.E., and as Mr: Howard Egan's rule here terminates, it is considered the latter end of Mormondom. Like all the stations to the westward, that is to say, those now before us, it was burned down in the late Indian troubles, and has only been partially rebuilt. One of the employés was Mr. Mose Wright, of Illinois, who again kindly assisted me with correcting my vocabulary.
About the station loitered several Indians of the White-Knife tribe, which boasts, like the old Sioux and the modern Flatheads, never to have stained its weapons with the blood of a white man. They may be a respectable race, but they are an ugly: they resemble the Diggers, and the children are not a little like juvenile baboons. The dress was the usual medley of rags and rabbit furs: they were streaked with vermilion; and their hair-contrary to, and more sensibly than the practice of our grandfathers - was fastened into a frontal pigtail, to prevent it falling into the eyes. These men attend upon the station and herd the stock for an occasional meal, their sole payment. They will trade their skins and peltries for arms and gunpowder, but, African-like, they are apt to look upon provisions, beads, and tobacco in the light of presents.
A long march of thirty-five miles lay before us. Kennedy resolved to pass the night at Sheawit Creek, and, despite their grumbling, sent on the boys, the stock, and the wagons, when rested from their labor, in the early afternoon. We spent a cosy, pleasant evening_such as I have enjoyed in the old Italian days before railroads — of travelers' tittle and Munchausen tattle, in the ingle corner and round the huge hearth of the half-finished station, with its holey walls. At intervals, the roarings of the wind, the ticking of the death-watch (a well-known xylophagus), boring a home in the soft cotton-wood rafters, and the howlings of the Indians, who were keening at a neighboring grave, formed a rude and appropriate chorus. Mose Wright recounted his early adventures in Oregon; how, when he was a greenhorn, the Indians had danced the war-dance under his nose, had then set upon his companions, and, after slaying them, had displayed their scalps. He favored us with a representation of the ceremony, an ursine performance—the bear seems every where to have been the sire of Terpsichore—while the right hand repeatedly clapped to his lips quavered the long loud howl into broken sounds: “Howh! howh! howb! ow! ow! ough! ough! aloo! aloo! loo! loo! oo !" We talked of a curious animal, a breed between the dog and the bear, which represents the semi-fabulous jumard in these regions : it is said to be a cross far more savage than that between the dog and the wolf. The young grizzly is a favorite pet in the Western hut, and a canine graft is hardly more monstrous than the progeny of the horse and the deer lately exhibited in London. I still believe that in A'frica, and indeed in India, there are accidentally mules bimanous and quadrumanous, and would suggest that such specimens should be sought as the means of settling on a rational basis the genus and species of "homo sapiens."
Mose Wright described the Indian arrow-poison. The rattlesnake—the copperhead and the moccasin he ignored—is caught with a forked stick planted over its neck, and is allowed to fix its fangs in an antelope's liver. The meat, which turns green, is carried upon a skewer when wanted for use: the flint-head of an arrow, made purposely to break in the wound, is thrust into the poison, and when withdrawn is covered with a thin coat of glue. Ammonia is considered a cure for it, and the Indians treat snakebites with the actual cautery. The rattlesnake here attains a length of eight to nine feet, and is described as having reached the number of seventy-three rattles, which, supposing (as the theory is) that after the third year it puts forth one per annum, would raise its age to that of man: it is much feared in Utah Territory. We were also cautioned against the poison oak, which is worse than the poison vine east of the Mississippi. It is a dwarf bush with quercine leaves, dark colored and prickly like those of the holly: the effect of a sting, of a touch, or, it is said, in sensitives of its proximity, is a painful itching, followed by a rash that lasts three weeks, and other highly inconvenient consequences. Strong brine was recommended to us by our prairie doctor.
Among the employés of the station was an intelligent young mechanic from Pennsylvania, who, threatened with consumption, had sought and soon found health in the pure regions of the Rocky Mountains. He looked forward to revisiting civilization, where comforts were attainable. In these wilds little luxuries like tea and coffee are often unprocurable; a dudeen or a cutty pipe sells for a dollar, consequently a hollowed potato or corn-cob with a reed tube is often rendered necessary; and tobacco must be mixed with a myrtaceous leaf called by the natives “timaya,” and by the mountaineers“larb”—possibly a corruption of "l'herbe” or"la yerba.” Newspapers and magazines arrive sometimes twice a year, when they have weathered the dangers of the way. Economy has deprived the stations of their gardens, and the shrinking of emigration, which now dribbles eastward, instead of flowing in full stream westward, leaves the exiles to amuse themselves.
To Dry Creek. 11th October.
We arose early, and found that it had not " frosted;" that flies were busy in the station-house; and that the snow, though thick on the northern faces, had melted from the southern shoulders of the hills—these were so many indices of the St. Martin's, or Indian summer, the last warm glow of life before the cold and pallid death of the year. At 6 A.M. we entered the ambulance, and followed a good road across the remains of the long, broad Sheawit Valley. After twelve miles we came upon a water surrounded by willows, with dwarf artemisia beyond—it grows better on the benches, where the subsoil is damper, than in the bottom sand there we found our lazy boys, who, as Jim Gilston said, had been last night "on a drunk.” Resuming our way, after three miles we reached some wells whose alkaline waters chap the skin. Twenty miles farther led to the west end of the Sheawit Valley, where we found the station on a grassy bench at the foot of low rolling hills. It was a mere shell, with a substantial stone corral behind, and the inmates were speculating upon the possibility of roofing themselves in before the winter. Water is found in tolerable quantities below the station, but the place deserved its name, “ Dry Creek.”
A fraternal recognition took place between Long Jim and his brother, who discovered each other by the merest accident. Gilston, the employé, was an intelligent man: at San Francisco he had learned a little Chinese, and at Deep Creek he was studying the Indian dialects. He had missed making a fortune at Carson Valley, where, in June or July, 1859, the rich and now celebrated silver mines were discovered; and he warned us against the danger of tarrying in Carson City, where revolvers are fired even into houses known to contain ladies.” Colonel Totten, the station-master, explained the formation of the gold diggings as beds of gravel, from one to 120 feet, overlying slate rock.
Dry-Creek Station is on the eastern frontier of the western agency; as at Roberts' Creek, supplies and literature from Great Salt City east and Carson City west are usually exhausted before they reach these final points. After a frugal feed, we inspected a grave for two, which bore the names of Loscier and Applegate, and the date 21st of May. These men, employés of the station, were attacked by Indians — Panaks or Shoshonees, or possibly both: the former was killed by the first fire; the latter, when shot in the groin, and unable to proceed, borrowed, under pretext of defense, a revolver, bade good-by to his companions, and put a bullet through his own head: the remainder then escaped. Both these poor fellows remain unavenged. The Anglo-American, who is admirably protected by the officials of his government in Europe, Asia, and Africa, is systematically neglected — teste Mexico - in America. The double grave, piled up with stones, showed gaps where the wolves had attempted to tunnel, and blue-bottle flies were buzzing over it in expectation. Colonel Totten, at our instance, promised that it should be looked to.
The night was comfortably passed at Dry Creek, under the leeward side of a large haystack. The weather was cold, but clear and bright. We slept the sleep of the just.
To Simpson's Park. 12th October.
At the time of the cold clear dawn, whose gray contrasted strongly with the blush of the most lovely evening that preceded it, the mercury stood at 45° F. Shortly after 8 A.M. we were afield, hastening to finish the long divide that separates Roberts Creek Valley from its western neighbor, which, as yet unchristened, is known to the b’hoys as Smoky Valley. The road wound in the shape of the letter U round the impassable part of the ridge. Crossing the north end of Smoky Valley, we came upon rolling ground, with water-willows and cedars “blazed”—barked with a gash—for sign-posts. Ensued a long kanyon, with a flat sole, not unlike Egan's, a gate by which the swift shallow stream had broken through the mountains: in places it was apparently a cul de sac; in others, shoulder after shoulder rose in long perspective, with points and projections behind, which an enemy might easily turn. The granite walls were of Cyclopean form, with regular lines of cleavage, as in the Rattlesnake Hills, which gave a false air of stratification. The road was a mere path along and across the rivulet bed, and the lower slopes were garnished with the pepper-grass and the everlasting bunch-grass, so truly characteristic of the “Basin State.” Above us, in the pellucid sky, towered the eagle in his pride of place; the rabbit ran before us from the thicket; the ground-squirrel cached himself in the sage-bush; and where distance appeared, smokes upcurling in slow, heavy masses told us that man was not far distant. A second divide, more abrupt than the former, placed us in sight of Simpson's Park—and such a park! a circlet of tawny stubble, embosomed in sage-grown hills, the “Hire” or “Look-out," and others, without other tree but the deformed cedars. The bottom is notorious for cold; it freezes even in June and July; and our night was, as may be imagined, none of the pleasantest.
The station-house in Simpson's Park was being rebuilt. As we issued from Mormondom into Christendom, the civility of our hosts perceptibly diminished; the judge, like the generality of Anglo-Americans, did unnecessary kow-tow to those whom republicanism made his equals, and the “gentlemen," when asked to do anything, became exceedingly surly. Among them was one Giovanni Brutisch, a Venetian, who, flying from conscription, had found a home in Halifax: an unfortunate fire, which burned down his house, drove him to the Far West. He talked copiously of the Old Country, breathed the usual aspirations of Italia una, and thought that Garibaldi would do well "se non lo molestano”— a euphuism accompanied by a look more expressive than any nod. The station was well provided with good miniés, and the men apparently expected to use them; it was, however, commanded by the neighboring heights, and the haystacks were exposed to fire at a time of the year when no more forage could be collected. The Venetian made for us some good light bread of wheaten flour, started or leavened with hop-water, and corn-bread" shortened” with butter, and enriched with two or three eggs. A hideous Pa Yuta and surly Shoshonee, whom I sketched, loitered about the station: they were dressed in the usual rabbit-skin cape, and carried little horn bows, with which they missed small marks at fifteen paces. The boys, who were now aweary of watching, hired one of these men for a shirt - tobacco was not to be had, and a blanket was too high pay - to mount guard through the night. Like the Paggi or Ramoosee of Western India, one thief is paid to keep off many: the Indian is the best of wardens, it being with him a principle not to attack what the presence of a fellow-tribesman defends.