Submitted by scott on Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:38

From Clemens: We could not eat, and there was no conversation among the hostlers and herdsmen—we all sat at the same board. At least there was no conversation further than a single hurried request, now and then, from one employee to another. It was always in the same form, and always gruffly friendly. Its western freshness and novelty startled me, at first, and interested me; but it presently grew monotonous, and lost its charm. It was: Pass the bread, you son of a skunk!” No, I forget—skunk was not the word; it seems to me it was still stronger than that; I know it was, in fact, but it is gone from my memory, apparently. However, it is no matter—probably it was too strong for print, anyway. It is the landmark in my memory which tells me where I first encountered the vigorous new vernacular of the occidental plains and mountains. We gave up the breakfast, and paid our dollar apiece and went back to our mail-bag bed in the coach, and found comfort in our pipes. Right here we suffered the first diminution of our princely state. We left our six fine horses and took six mules in their place. But they were wild Mexican fellows, and a man had to stand at the head of each of them and hold him fast while the driver gloved and got himself ready. And when at last he grasped the reins and gave the word, the men sprung suddenly away from the mules’ heads and the coach shot from the station as if it had issued from a cannon. How the frantic animals did scamper! It was a fierce and furious gallop—and the gait never altered for a moment till we reeled off ten or twelve miles and swept up to the next collection of little station-huts and stables. So we flew along all day. At 2 P.M. the belt of timber that fringes the North Platte and marks its windings through the vast level floor of the Plains came in sight. At 4 P.M. we crossed a branch of the river, and at 5 P.M. we crossed the Platte itself, and landed at Fort Kearney, fifty-six hours out from St. Joe—THREE HUNDRED MILES! Now that was stage-coaching on the great overland, ten or twelve years ago, when perhaps not more than ten men in America, all told, expected to live to see a railroad follow that route to the Pacific.  (Roughing It)

From Burton:  Changing mules at Kiowa, about 10 AM, we pushed forward through the sun, which presently was mitigated by heavy nimbi, to Liberty Farm, where a station supplied us with the eternal eggs and bacon of these mangeurs de lard. It is a dish constant in the great West, as the omelet and pigeon in the vetturini days of Italy, when, prompted by the instincts of self-preservation, the inmates of the dove-cot, unless prevented in time, are said to have fled their homes at the sight of Milordo's traveling carriage, not to return until the portent had disappeared. The Little Blue ran hard by, about fifty feet wide by three or four deep, fringed with emerald green oak groves, cottonwood and long-leaved willow: its waters supply catfish, suckers, and a soft shelled turtle, but the fish are full of bones, and taste, as might be imagined, much like mud. The country showed vestiges of animal life, the prairie bore signs of hare and antelope: in the valley coyotes, wolves, and foxes, attracted by the carcasses of cattle, stared us in the face, and near the stream, plovers, jays, the bluebird (sialia), and a kind of starling called the swamp or redwinged blackbird, twittered a song of satisfaction. We then resumed our journey over a desert, waterless save after rain, for twenty three miles, it is the divide between the Little Blue and the Platte rivers, a broken table land rising gradually toward the west, with, at this season, a barren soil of sand and clay. As the evening approached, a smile from above lit up into absolute beauty the homely features of the world below. The sweet commune with nature in her fairest hours denied to the sons of cities -- who must contemplate her charms through a vista of brick wall, or over a foreground of chimney pots -- consoled us amply for all the little hardships of travel.  Strata upon strata of cloud banks, burnished to golden red in the vicinity of the setting sun, and polished to dazzling silvery white above,  lay piled half way from the horizon to the zenith, with a distinct strike toward a vanishing point in the west, and dipping into a gateway through which the orb of day slowly retired. Overhead floated in a sea of amber and yellow, pink and green, heavy purple nimbi, apparently turned upside down, --  their convex bulges below, and their horizontal lines high in the air, --  whilst, in the east, black and blue were so curiously blended, that the eye could not distinguish whether it rested upon darkening air or upon a lowering thunder cloud. We enjoyed these beauties in silence, not a soul said "Look there"or "How pretty!"

 At 9 PM, reaching "Thirty-two Mile Creek," we were pleasantly surprised to find an utter absence of the Irishry. The station master was the head of a neat handed and thrifty family from Vermont, the rooms such as they were, looked cosy and clean, and the chickens and peaches were plump and well "fixed." Soldiers from Fort Kearney loitered about the adjoining store, and from them we heard past fights and rumors of future wars which were confirmed on the morrow. Remounting at 10:30 PM and before moonrise, we threaded the gloom without other accident than the loss of a mule, that was being led to the next station. The amiable animal, after breaking loose, coquetted with its pursuers for a while, according to the fashion of its kind, and when the cerne or surround was judged complete, it dashed through the circle and gave leg-bail, its hoofs ringing over the stones till the sound died away in the distant shades.


Twain, Mark. 1872. Roughing It. American Publishing Company.
Burton, Richard. 1861. The City Of The Saints. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.