Cross Wildcat Creek and other nullahs. Seven miles beyond Seneca lies Ash Point, a few wooden huts, thence to "Uncle John's Grocery," where liquor and stores are procurable. Eleven miles from Big Nemehaw; water, wood, and grass are found at certain seasons near the head of a ravine. Thence to Vermilion Creek, which heads to the NE and enters the Big Blue 20 miles above its mouth. The ford is miry after rain, and the banks are thickly wooded. Water is found in wells 40 - 43 feet deep.
Guittard's Station .[20 miles; Start: 8AM; Arrive: 12 Noon; Aug 8th]
This is a clump of board houses on the far side of a shady, well wooded creek -- the Vermilion, a tributary of the Big Blue River, -- so called from its red sandstone bottom, dotted with granitic and porphyritic boulders.
Our conductor had sprained his ankle, and the driver, being in plain English, drunk, had dashed like a Phaeton over the "chuck holes;" we willingly, therefore, halted at 11 30 AM for dinner. The host was a young Alsatian, who, with his mother and sister, had emigrated under the excitement of Californian fever, and had been stopped, by want of means, half way. The improvement upon the native was palpable: the house and kitchen were clean, the fences neat; the ham and eggs, the hot rolls and coffee, were fresh and good, and although drought had killed the salad we had abundance of peaches and cream, an offering of French to American taste which, in its simplicity, luxuriates in the curious mixture of lacteal with hydrocyanic acid.
At Guittard's I saw for the first time the Pony Express rider arrive.
Beyond Guittard's the prairies bore a burnt up aspect. Far as the eye could see the tintage was that of the Arabian Desert, sere and tawny as a jackal's back. It was still, however, too early; October is the month for those prairie fires which have so frequently exercised the Western author's pen. Here, however the grass is too short for the full development of the phenomenon, and beyond the Little Blue River there is hardly any risk. The fire can easily be stopped, ab initio, by blankets, or by simply rolling a barrel; the African plan of beating down with boughs might also be used in certain places; and when the conflagration has extended, travelers can take refuge in a little Zoar by burning the vegetation to windward. In Texas and Illinois, however where the grass is tall and rank, and the roaring flames leap before the wind with the stride of maddened horses, the danger is imminent, and the spectacle must be one of awful sublimity.
In places where the land seems broken with bluffs, like an iron bound coast, the skeleton of the earth becomes visible; the formation is a friable sandstone, overlying fossiliferous lime, which is based upon beds of shale. These undergrowths show themselves at the edges of the ground-waves and in the dwarf precipices, where the soil has been degraded by the action of water. The yellow brown humus varies from forty to sixty feet deep in the most favored places, and erratic blocks of porphyry and various granites encumber the dry water courses and surface drains. In the rare spots where water then lay, the herbage was still green, forming oases in the withering waste, and showing that irrigation is its principal if not its only want.