Submitted by scott on Fri, 05/15/2020 - 10:30

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.

 

Citations

Burton, Richard. 1861. The City Of The Saints. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.

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