At midnight it began to rain, and I never saw anything like it—indeed, I did not even see this, for it was too dark. We fastened down the curtains and even caulked them with clothing, but the rain streamed in in twenty places, notwithstanding. There was no escape. If one moved his feet out of a stream, he brought his body under one; and if he moved his body he caught one somewhere else. If he struggled out of the drenched blankets and sat up, he was bound to get one down the back of his neck. Meantime the stage was wandering about a plain with gaping gullies in it, for the driver could not see an inch before his face nor keep the road, and the storm pelted so pitilessly that there was no keeping the horses still. With the first abatement the conductor turned out with lanterns to look for the road, and the first dash he made was into a chasm about fourteen feet deep, his lantern following like a meteor. As soon as he touched bottom he sang out frantically:
“Don’t come here!”
To which the driver, who was looking over the precipice where he had disappeared, replied, with an injured air: “Think I’m a dam fool?”
The conductor was more than an hour finding the road—a matter which showed us how far we had wandered and what chances we had been taking. He traced our wheel-tracks to the imminent verge of danger, in two places. I have always been glad that we were not killed that night. I do not know any particular reason, but I have always been glad.
In the morning, the tenth day out, we crossed Green river, a fine, large, limpid stream—stuck in it, with the water just up to the top of our mail-bed, and waited till extra teams were put on to haul us up the steep bank. But it was nice cool water, and besides it could not find any fresh place on us to wet.
At the Green river station we had breakfast—hot biscuits, fresh antelope steaks, and coffee—the only decent meal we tasted between the United States and Great Salt Lake City, and the only one we were ever really thankful for. Think of the monotonous execrableness of the thirty that went before it, to leave this one simple breakfast looming up in my memory like a shot-tower after all these years have gone by!
To Green River, August 21st
We rose early, despite the cold, to enjoy once more the aspect of the Wind River Mountains, upon whose walls of the rays of the unrisen sun broke with a splendid effect; breakfasted, and found ourselves <cite>en route</cite> at 8 AM. The day did begin well: Mrs Dana was suffering severely from fatigue, and the rapid transitions from heat to cold; Miss May, poor child! was but little better, and the team was re-enforced by an extra mule returning to its proper station; this four footed Xantippe caused us, without speaking of the dust from her hoofs, an immensity of trouble. (p 166)
At the Pacific Creek, two miles below the springs, we began the descent of the Western water-shed, and the increase of temperature soon suggested a lower level. We were at once convinced that those who expect any change for the better on the counter slope of the mountains labor under a vulgar error. The land was desolate, a red waste, dotted with sage and greasebush, and in places pitted with large rain drops. But looking backward we could admire the Sweetwater's Gap heading far away, and the glorious pile of mountains which, disposed in crescent shape, curtained the horizon; their southern and western bases wanted however one of the principal charms of the upper view, the snow had well nigh been melted off. Yet, according to the explorer, they supply within the space of a few miles the Green River with a number of tributaries, which are all called the New Forks. We kept them in sight till they mingled with the upper air like immense masses of thunder cloud gathering for a storm. (p 166-7)
From Pacific Creek the road is not bad, but at this season the emigrant parties are sorely tried by drought, and when water is found it is often fetid or brackish. After seventeen miles we passed the junction of the Great Salt Lake and Fort Hall roads. Near Little Sandy Creek - a feeder of its larger namesake - which after rains is about 2.5 feet deep, we found nothing but sand, caked clay, sage, thistles, and the scattered fragments of camp fires, with large ravens picking at the bleaching skeletons, and other indications of a halting ground, an eddy in the great current of mankind, which, ceaseless as the Gulf Stream, ever courses from east to west. After a long stage of twenty nine miles, we made Big Sandy Creek, an important influent of the Green River; the stream, then shrunken, was in breadth not less than five rods, each=16.5 feet, running with a clear swift current through a pretty little prairillon, bright with the blue lupine, the delicate pink malvacea, the golden helianthus, purple aster acting daisy, the white mountain heath, and the green Asclepias tuberosa, a weed common throughout Utah Territory. The Indians, in their picturesque way, term this stream Wagahongopa, or the Glistening Gravel Water. We halted for an hour to rest and dine; the people of the station, man and wife, the latter very young, were both English, and of course Mormons; they had but lately become tenants of the ranch, but already they were thinking, as the Old Country people will, of making their surroundings "nice and tidy." (p 167)
Beyond the Glistening Gravel Water lies a <cite>mauvaise terre</cite>, sometimes called the First Desert, and upon the old road water is not found in the dry season within forty nine miles - a terrible <cite>jornada</cite> for laden wagons with tired cattle. We prepared for drought by replenishing all our canteens - one of them especially, a tin flask, covered outside with thick cloth, kept the fluid deliciously cold - and we amused ourselves by the pleasant prospect of seeing wild mules taught to bear harness. The tricks of equine viciousness and asinine obstinacy played by the mongrels were so distinct, that we had no pains in determining what was inherited from the father and what from the other side of the house. Before they could be hitched up they were severally hustled into some thing like a parallel line with the pole, and were then forced into their places by a rope attached to the fore wheel and hauled at the other end by two or three men. Each of these pleasant animals had a bell; it is sure, unless corraled, to run away, and at night sound is necessary to guide the pursuer. At last, being "all aboord" we made a start, dashed over the Big Sandy, charged the high stiff bank with an impetus that might have carried us up an otter slide or a Montagne Russe, and took the right side of the valley, leaving the stream at some distance. (p 168)
After twelve miles driving we passed through a depression called Simpson's Hollow, and somewhat celebrated in local story. Two semicircles of black still charred the ground; on a cursory view they might have been mistaken for burnt out lignite. Here, in 1857, the Mormons fell upon a corraled train of twenty three wagons, laden with provisions and other necessaries for the federal troops, then halted at Camp Scott awaiting orders to advance. The wagoners, suddenly attacked, and as usual, unarmed, - their weapons being fastened inside their awnings, - could offer no resistance, and the whole convoy was set on fire except two conveyances, which were left to carry back supplies for the drivers till they could reach their homes. On this occasion the <cite>dux facti</cite> Lot Smith, a man of reputation for hard riding and general gallantry. The old Saint is always spoken of as a good man who lives by "Mormon rule of wisdom." As at Fort Sumter, no blood was spilled. So far the Mormons behaved with temper and prudence; but this their first open act of rebellion against, or secession from, the federal authority, nearly proved fatal to them; had the helm of government been held by a firmer hand than poor Mr Buchanan's the scenes of Nauvoo would have been acted again at Great Salt Lake City. As it was, all turned out <cite>a merveille</cite> for the saints militant. They still boast loudly of the achievement, and on the marked spot where it was performed, the juvenile emigrants of the creed erect dwarf graves and nameless "wooden" tomb-"stones" in derision of their enemies. (p 168-9)
As sunset drew near we approached the banks of the Big River. The bottom through which it flowed was several yards in breadth, bright green with grass, and thickly feathered willows and cotton wood. It showed no sign of cultivation; absence of cereals may be accounted for by its extreme cold; it freezes there every night, and none but the hardiest grains, oats and rye, which here are little appreciated, could be made to grow. We are now approaching the valley of the Green River, which, like many of the rivers in the Eastern States, appears formerly have filled a far larger channel. Flat tables and elevated terraces of horizontal strata, - showing that the deposit was made in still waters - with layers varying from a few lines to a foot in thickness, composed of hard clay, green and other sandstones, and agglutinated conglomerates, rise like islands from barren plains, or form escarpments that buttress alternately either bank of the winding stream. Such, according to Captain Stansbury, is the formation of the land between the South Pass and the "Rim" of the Utah Basin. (p 169)
Advancing over a soil alternately sandy and rocky - an iron flat that could not boast of a spear of grass - we sighted a of coyotes, fittest inhabitants of such a waste, and a long distant line of dust, like the smoke of a locomotive, raised by a herd of mules which were being driven to the corral. We were met by the Pony Express rider; he reined in to exchange news, which <cite>de part el d'autre</cite> were simply <cite>nil</cite>. As he pricked onwards over the plain, the driver informed us, with a portentous of the head, that Ichabod was an a'mighty fine "shyoot." Within five or six miles of Green River we passed the boundary stone which bears Oregon on one side and Utah on the other. We now traversed the southeastern corner of the country of Long-eared men, and were entering Deseret, the Land of the Honey bee. (p 169)
At 6 30 PM we debouched upon the bank of the Green River. The station was the home of Mr Macarthy, our driver. The son of a Scotchman who had settled in the United States he retained many signs of his origin, especially freckles, and hair which one might almost venture to describe as sandy; perhaps also at times he was rather o'er fond of draining "a cup o' kindness yet." He had lately taken to himself an English wife, the daughter of a Birmingham mechanic, who, before the end of her pilgrimage to "Zion on the tops of the mountains," had fallen considerably away from grace, and had incurred the risk of being buffeted by Satan for a thousand years - a common form of commination in the New Faith - by marrying a Gentile husband. The station had the indescribable scent of a Hindoo village, which appears to result from the burning of <cite>bois de vache</cite> and the presence of cattle: there were sheep, horses, mules, and a few cows, the latter so lively that it was impossible to milk them. The ground about had the effect of an oasis in the sterile waste, with grass and shrubs, willows, and flowers, wild geraniums, asters, and various <cite>cruciferce</cite>. A few trees, chiefly quaking asp, lingered near the station, but dead stumps were far more numerous than live trunks. In any other country their rare and precious shade would have endeared them to the whole settlement; here they were never safe when a log was wanted. The Western man is bred and perhaps born - I believe devoutly in transmitted and hereditary qualities - with an instinctive dislike to timber in general. He fells a tree naturally as a bull terrier worries a cat, and the admirable woodsman's axe which he has invented only serves to whet his desire to try conclusions with every more venerable patriarch of the forest. Civilized Americans, of course, lament the destructive mania, and the Latter Day Saints have learned by hard experience the inveterate evils that may arise in such a country from disforesting the ground. We supped comfortably at Green River Station, the stream supplying excellent salmon trout. The kichimichi, or buffalo berry, makes tolerable jelly, and alongside of the station is a store where Mr Burton (of Maine) sells "Valley Tan" whisky. (p 170)
The Green River is the Rio Verde of the Spaniards, who named it from its timbered shores and grassy islets: it is called by the Yuta Indians Piya Ogwe, or the Great Water, by the other tribes Sitskidiagf, or "Prairie grouse River." It was nearly at its lowest when we saw it: the breadth was not more than 330 feet. In the flood time it widens to 800 feet, and the depth increases from three to six. During the inundation season a ferry is necessary, and when transit is certain the owner sometimes nets $500 a week, which is not unfrequently squandered in a day. The banks are, in places, thirty feet high, and the bottom may average three miles from side to side. It is a swift flowing stream, running as if it had no time to lose, and truly it has a long way to go. Its length, volume, and direction entitle it to the honor of being called the head water of the great Rio Colorado, or Colored River, a larger and more important stream than even the Columbia. There is some grand exploration still to be done upon the line of the Upper Colorado, especially the divides which lie between it and its various influents, the Grand River and the Yaquisilla, of which the wild trapper brings home many a marvelous tale of beauty and grandeur. Captain TA Gove, of the 10th Regiment of Infantry, then stationed at Camp Floyd, told me that an expedition had often been projected: a party of twenty five to thirty men, well armed and provided with inflatable boats, might pass without unwarrantable risk through the sparsely populated Indian country: a true report concerning regions of which there are so many false reports, all wearing more or less the garb of fable - beautiful valleys inclosed in inaccessible rocks, Indian cities and golden treasures - would be equally interesting and important. I can not recommend the undertaking to the European adventurer: the United States have long since organized and perfected what was proposed in England during the Crimean war, and which fell, as other projects then did, to the ground, namely a corps of Topographical Engineers, a body of well trained and scientific explorers, to whose hands the task may safely be committed. (p 171)
We passed a social evening at Green River Station. It boasted of no less than three Englishwomen, two married and one, the help, still single. Not having the Mormonite <cite>retenue</cite>, the dames were by no means sorry to talk about Birmingham and Yorkshire, their birthplaces. At 9 PM arrived one of the road agents, Mr Cloete, from whom I gathered that the mail wagon which once ran from Great Salt Lake City had lately been taken off the road. The intelligence was by no means consolatory, but a course of meditation upon the saying of the sage, "in for a penny in for a pound," followed by another visit to my namesake's grog shop, induced a highly philosophical turn, which enabled me - with the aid of a buffalo - to pass a comfortable night in the store. (p 172)