Saturday, Aug 10. Arrived in the forenoon at the entrance of “Rocky Canon,” 255 miles from Salt Lake City. [Egan's Canyon] (Orion)
[Possibly the most illuminating example of Samuel Clemens’ racism.]
On the morning of the sixteenth day out from St. Joseph we arrived at the entrance of Rocky Canyon, two hundred and fifty miles from Salt Lake. It was along in this wild country somewhere, and far from any habitation of white men, except the stage stations, that we came across the wretchedest type of mankind I have ever seen, up to this writing. I refer to the Goshoot Indians. From what we could see and all we could learn, they are very considerably inferior to even the despised Digger Indians of California; inferior to all races of savages on our continent; inferior to even the Terra del Fuegans; inferior to the Hottentots, and actually inferior in some respects to the Kytches of Africa. Indeed, I have been obliged to look the bulky volumes of Wood’s “Uncivilized Races of Men” clear through in order to find a savage tribe degraded enough to take rank with the Goshoots. I find but one people fairly open to that shameful verdict. It is the Bosjesmans (Bushmen) of South Africa.
—a people whose only shelter is a rag cast on a bush to keep off a portion of the snow, and yet who inhabit one of the most rocky, wintry, repulsive wastes that our country or any other can exhibit.
[An attempt to find humor in racism]
There is an impression abroad that the Baltimore and Washington Railroad Company and many of its employees are Goshoots; but it is an error. There is only a plausible resemblance, which, while it is apt enough to mislead the ignorant, cannot deceive parties who have contemplated both tribes. But seriously, it was not only poor wit, but very wrong to start the report referred to above; for however innocent the motive may have been, the necessary effect was to injure the reputation of a class who have a hard enough time of it in the pitiless deserts of the Rocky Mountains, Heaven knows! If we cannot find it in our hearts to give those poor naked creatures our Christian sympathy and compassion, in God’s name let us at least not throw mud at them.
To "Robber's Roost.” 5th October.
We set out at 6 A.M. the next morning, through a mixture of snow and hail and howling wind, to finish the ravine, which was in toto eight miles long. The descent led us to Spring Valley, a bulge in the mountains about eight miles broad, which a sharp divide separates from Shell Valley, its neighbor. On the summit we fell into the line of rivulet which gives the low lands a name. At the foot of the descent we saw a woodman, and presently the station. Nothing could more want tidying than this log hut, which showed the bullet-marks of a recent Indian attack. The master was a Français de France, Constant Dubail, and an exLancier: his mother's gossip had received a remittance of 2000 francs from a son in California, consequently he had torn himself from the sein of sa pauvre mère, and with three others had started in search of fortune, and had nearly starved. The express riders were three roughs, of whom one was a Mormon. We passed our time while the mules were at bait in visiting the springs. There is a cold creek 200 yards below the station, and close by the hut a warm rivulet, said to contain leeches. The American hirudo, however, has a serious defect in a leech—it will not bite; the faculty, therefore, are little addicted to hirudination; country doctors rarely keep the villainous bloodsuckers, and only the wealthy can afford the pernicious luxury, which, imported from Spain, costs $12 per dozen, somewhat the same price as oysters at Nijni Novgorod.
The weather, which was vile till 10 A.M., when the glass showed 40° (F.), promised to amend, and as the filthy hole—still full of flies, despite the cold-offered no attraction, we set out at 2 P.M. for Egan's Station, beyond an ill-omened kanyon of the same name. We descended into a valley by a regular slope—in proportion as we leave distance between us and the Great Salt Lake the bench formation on this line becomes less distinct-and trayersed a barren plain by a heavy road. Hares and prairie-hens seemed, however, to like it, and a frieze of willow thicket at the western end showed the presence of water. We in the ambulance halted at the mouth of the kanyon; the stock and the boys had fallen far behind, and the place had an exceedingly bad name. But the cold was intense, the shades of evening were closing in, so we made ready for action, looked to the priming of gun and revolver, and then en avant! After passing that kanyon we should exchange the land of the Gosh Yuta for those of the more friendly Shoshonee.
An uglier place for sharp-shooting can hardly be imagined. The floor of the kanyon is almost flush with the bases of the hills, and in such formations, the bed of the creek which occupies the sole is rough and winding. The road was vile — now winding along, then crossing the stream–hedged in with thicket and dotted with boulders. Ahead of us was a rocky projection which appeared to cross our path, and upon this point Dangerous every eye was fixed.
Suddenly my eye caught sight of one fire—two fires under the black bunch of firs half way up the hill-side on our left, and as suddenly they were quenched, probably with snow. Nothing remained but to hear the war-whoop, and to see a line of savages rushing down the rocks. We loosed the doors of the ambulance, that we might jump out, if necessary, and tree ourselves behind it; and knowing that it would be useless to return, drove on at our fastest speed, with sleet, snow, and wind in our faces. Under the circumstances, it was cold comfort to find, when we had cleared the kanyon, that Egan's Station at the farther mouth had been reduced to a chimney-stack and a few charred posts. The Gosh Yutas had set fire to it two or three days before our arrival, in revenge for the death of seventeen of their men by Lieutenant Weed's party. We could distinguish the pits from which the wolves had torn up the corpses, and one fellow's arm projected from the snow. After a hurried deliberation, in which Kennedy swore, with that musical voice in which the Dublin swains delight, that "shure we were all kilt"—the possession of property not only actuates the mind, and adds industry to its qualities, it also produces a peculiar development of cautiousness—we unhitched the mules, tethered them to the ambulance, and planted ourselves behind the palisade, awaiting all comers, till the boys could bring re-enforcement. The elements fought for us: although two tongues of high land directly in front of us would have formed a fine mask for approach, the snow lay so even a sheet that a prowling coyote was detected, and the hail-like sleet which beat fiercely on our backs would have been a sore inconvenience to a party attacking in face. Our greatest disadvantage was the extreme cold; it was difficult to keep a finger warm enough to draw a trigger. Thomas, the judgeling, so he was called, was cool as a cucumber, mentally and bodily: youths generally are. Firstly, they have their "preuves” to make; secondly, they know not what they do.
After an hour's freezing, which seemed a day's, we heard with quickened ears the shouts and tramp of the boys and the stock, which took a terrible load off the exile of Erin's heart. We threw ourselves into the wagons, numbed with cold, and forgot, on the soft piles of saddles, bridles, and baggage, and under heaps of blankets and buffalos, the pains of Barahut. About 3 A.M. this enjoyment was brought to a close by arriving at the end of the stage, Butte Station. The road was six inches deep with snow, and the final ascent was accomplished with difficulty. The good station-master, Mr. Thomas, a Cambrian Mormon, who had, he informed me, three brothers in the British army, bade us kindly welcome, built a roaring fire, added meat to our supper of coffee and doughboy, and cleared by a summary process among the snorers places for us on the floor of "Robber's Roost,” or “Thieves' Delight," as the place is facetiously known throughout the country-side.