Dangers of the Trail in 1865 - A Narrative of Actual Events
by Charles E Young
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We were at once off on the return trip and arrived at the stage ranch, where I was cared for the previous night at just six o'clock. On driving up to the door of the station all three of the reaches of the buggy broke and gently dropped us to the ground. Fortunately there was a blacksmith connected with the station and I assisted him through the long night, forging reaches and repairing the buggy. At daylight we were off, reaching Denver in safety at 3:30 that afternoon and making the trip in just three days.

Both of my chum's feet had to be amputated at the insteps. He was very grateful and quite conscious of the fact that true friendship still existed.

Before leaving the governor's employ, I accompanied a mule train of ten wagons with supplies for the Ute tribe of Indians who lived in one of the parks of the mountains in the vicinity of Pike's Peak. The Utes, at that particular time, were on friendly terms with the white men as there was a treaty of peace existing between them and the Government.



We took with us a Mr. Baker, who was conceded to be one of the best guides, hunters, trappers and interpreters of that day, with a heart as large as an American bison, and as tender as a child's. But when his anger was aroused by danger or treachery, the very devil seemed to possess him; he had the courage of a lion, and was a dead shot. We had been friends for a long time, and on more than one occasion he had proved a true one.

The park was an ideal summer resort, an extended plateau with acres of fresh green grass, wild flowers, and virgin soil. In the center was a beautiful lake, its ice cold water well stocked with the finny tribe of speckled mountain trout, the delight of the angler. The park was inclosed by mountains of great height and grandeur, their rocky slopes were dotted with spruce, pine, and cottonwood, and capped with ages of crystal snow, presenting a sight more pleasing to the eye than the Falls of Niagara, and a perfect haven for an Indian maiden's love dream.

We had been in camp but a few days when Mr. Baker informed me that the young bucks, as the men of the tribe were called, wanted us to join in shooting at a target. After Mr. Baker and myself had made a few bull's eyes, they proposed we two should choose sides, and we did so. The teams were very evenly matched, making the game interesting. In the meantime, I had been presented to the chief in true Indian fashion and in turn was made known by him to his squaw, young bucks and maidens. The Indians had their tribal laws and customs as well as the white man and were required to live up to them. The maidens were two in number, their ages fourteen and seventeen moons respectively; the latter a picture of Indian beauty, perfect in every feature, form and carriage, a rare model for an artist. They were nearly always found together. At first they were quite reserved, but finally we became fast friends; we would ramble, hunt, fish from canoes and sail the placid waters of the little lake.

Early on the morning of the tenth day Mr. Baker entered my tent with a troubled look. I bade him good-morning and inquired the cause. Without fencing, he asked me if I wanted to be a squaw man. I asked him what the devil he was getting at.


He replied, "All there is to it, the old chief has taken a great liking to you, and wants you to marry Weenouah, his oldest daughter. He has plenty of money, and his horses and cattle run into four figures."

"That is no inducement," I said, "and it could never be."

Mr. Baker asked, "How are you going to get out of it?"

I replied, "I have been in lots of tight places, as you know, and have always managed to squeeze through, and I'll get out of this one in some way."

Little did either of us dream at that time of the manner, or rather the sacrifice, that one of us was doomed to bear, for me to escape the wrath of the old chief, when informed I would not marry his daughter. Fate decreed he was never to be so informed, but instead, a most cruel and unfortunate accident was to provide the means.

That afternoon the young bucks were again anxious to test their skill at the target. We all used the same carbine, which contained seven cartridges, one in the gun barrel and six in a magazine in the butt of the gun. Mr. Baker and I always tossed up a pebble to see who had first shot. As Mr. Baker won the first chance, he took aim and pulled the trigger and such an explosion as took place will never be forgotten. Everyone was stunned by its force. When the smoke had cleared, poor Baker's body was found lying on the ground with the lower jaw torn from its place. On recovering from the shock the young bucks fairly flew for the Indian medicine man. I quickly reached the corral and informed the wagon boss of the accident. He at once ordered the mules brought up. The light wagon was supplied with straw, blankets, commissary bottle and grub. Six of the fastest mules were hitched to the wagon and selecting two of the mulewhackers gave instruction for his care en route. I took the lines and quickly drove to the spot where poor Baker had fallen. Just as soon as the flow of blood had been checked and his wounds dressed we raised him gently and placed him in the wagon. Without a word I mounted the driver's box and drove for all there was in those six mules, reaching Denver late the following night. Some who read this narrative may be skeptical, but it is a fact, nevertheless, that poor Baker recovered for I saw him a year later, but he could partake of liquid food only. The once stalwart form of that brave man, now emaciated and wasted to a mere skeleton, still stood erect.


My whole heart went out to him who, in years past, had hunted the antelope, deer, elk and buffalo; fought the cowardly savages and desperadoes on the thirsty plains and amidst the ragged slopes of the Rocky Mountains; penetrated the silent recesses of the dismal canyons and caves; crossed the snow covered divides; faced danger of every conceivable nature; and at last, although maimed for life, was grateful that he had escaped death and thankful in the thought that he had done his share in the settlement of the then Far West. As I gazed into his once keen eyes and beheld that shriveled face, my heart wrung with remorse, for I knew he had keenly suffered. Tears filled my eyes and trickled down my weather-beaten and sun-tanned boyish face, and I knew he accepted it as an emblem of my sorrow for being the innocent cause, in a measure, of his cruel misfortune. Thus, by the flip of a pebble was my life spared, but at the expense of a true friend.



The next summer I was not very well, and so I made a trip to Leavenworth, Kansas, by the Southern or Smoky Hill route. We made the trip by mule train of twenty wagons with six mules hitched to each. The driver rode the nigh mule and with one line guided the team. If he wanted the leaders to go to the right he simply jerked fast or slow, depending on how quick he wanted to make the turn; if to the left, a steady or quick pull. The Indians on this trail were more numerous than on the Platte and scarcely a day passed that they were not to be seen, and continually trying to drive off our stock. We did not receive any great scare until we reached the Big Blue River where on the fourth day of July at ten o'clock in the morning a large Concord coach filled with passengers and a small guard of the United States soldiers, which had previously passed us, were awaiting our arrival before daring to proceed. On reaching the crest of the bluff leading to the valley of the river we saw hundreds of Sioux Indians, in war paint and feathers, camped on the opposite side in the underbrush and woods, and in the main trail directly in our path.

We at once went into corral. Thirty men against a horde of savages, if they were there to dispute our right of progress, was not a pleasant position to be placed in nor a fitting manner in which to celebrate the glorious Fourth. Consultations were numerous and all took part. The redskins, camped in plain sight, were hurrying to and fro, evidently in council like ourselves. To the right of the trail was a dense wood close to the river bank; on the left was a high perpendicular bluff, its sides unscalable, so our route was a genuine death trap, should they attack us. After grub all gathered in a circle and with pipes we proceeded with our last council. The situation was talked over from every point as to what the Indians might do or might not do. We finally arrived to the conclusion that they had the best of us whatever move we made. A majority vote decided to proceed with every man for himself in case of attack. Our wagons were empty which was a little in our favor as we could go on a mule trot or gallop. The coach filled with passengers was placed in the lead; and, being the youngest of the party, they were considerate enough to let me follow, and I did so as closely as possible. On reaching the river bottom, the driver of the coach started his horses on a run and the lash was put to every mule. We were all yelling like demons and on our approach the Indians left the trail and took to the river, thinking that we were a hundred or more strong. All passed safely through that valley of what might have been a horrible massacre. The unearthly racket we made was undoubtedly our salvation, but we were not out of danger by any means and continued our flight until eleven P. M. when we went into corral for food and rest. At three A. M. we again struck the trail and it is well that we did, for those blood-thirsty redskins laid death and destruction in their wake and came very near overtaking us a day later. Arriving at Leavenworth, I boarded a Missouri River palace for St. Louis, thence to New Orleans.


On returning to St. Louis, I met a Westerner that I knew only by sight, and by him was induced to remain over a few days and take in the city. I did and was scooped. On the third morning I went through my pockets and the bed, piece by piece, dumping its contents in the center of the room, but my roll was gone. At once I sought my friend, but he was nowhere to be found. Plain case of misplaced confidence. He had made a touch. In my desperation, I made a confident of the caretaker of the hotel register. Being of a sympathetic nature, he consoled me with an invitation to stimulate, which I did. Being without a trunk, I was informed on my arrival it was customary to pay as you enter; fortunately I had a meal to my credit. I was in good condition, having had sufficient victuals to last the day, after which I proceeded to the river front and here discovered a boat bound for Omaha. I boarded her, sought out the steward, and applied for a position. He replied that he did not want any help.

"Well, I suppose you will let a fellow work his way, won't you?"

His answer was "Get off this craft," and without further talk, in not a very gentlemanly manner he assisted me.

On landing, I was mad clear through, and made up my mind I was going on that boat, and I did go. Just before the gang plank was pulled in I walked on board, keeping a sharp lookout for the steward. After I had avoided him for an hour and just as I was on the point of congratulating myself, I bumped into him.

"You on board?"

"It looks very much as if I were in evidence."

He grabbed me by the coat collar and hustled me before the captain. I told a straight story, and he, being a man, told the steward to take me up to the kitchen and set me to work. He did, and had his revenge in seeing that it was nearly continuous. After supper I worked the dish racket until twelve o'clock. At three the next morning he awoke me out of a sound sleep and set me to cleaning the woodwork of the cabin. Another of my desirable duties was to wash and polish the silver, throwing the water over the sides of the boat.


After dinner of the second day I proceeded with the tin bucket to the side of the boat and overboard went its contents, including three silver spoons. The spoons had no sooner left the bucket than I felt something of great force come in contact with the seat of my trousers. For a moment I thought surely perpetual motion had been discovered. Turning I was face to face with that infernal steward. Nor did that end my troubles for during the entire trip that particular locality of my person was the target for that fellow's boot. With a terrible oath, he informed me that my landing would be reached about midnight a day later and was called Wood Pile Landing. A short time before reaching the place, I was hustled from my bunk by the steward and in no gentle manner forced to the bow of the boat. The night was pitch dark, and produced a decidedly lonesome feeling in the one that was to be put off at a Wood Pile on the edge of an immense forest and undoubtedly miles from a dwelling. As the boat reached the bank, not even waiting for the gang plank to be shoved out, the old sinner gave me a push and at the same time applied the now familiar boot. I reached the earth on all fours. My first thought was to present him with a rock, but I curbed my temper, for I had no idea of deserting the old ship.

In those days the boilers of the boats were fired with cord wood purchased of the planters and delivered on the bank of the river. All boats plying on the Missouri River at that time were flat bottom with paddle wheel at the stern. Two long heavy poles were carried at the bow and worked with a windlass, being used to raise the bow of the boat when becoming fast on a sand bar. The pilot was obliged to keep a continuous lookout for these bars, as the channel was treacherous and changed often.

On approaching the river bank one of the deck hands would jump off with the bow line and make fast to a stump or tree, then the stern line was thrown to him and similarly connected. Then the negro deck hands would proceed to carry on the wood on their bare shoulders to the tune of a Southern plantation melody. When ready to start the bow line was cast off, the paddle wheel was started by the engine, and by means of the steering gear the craft was swung out into the stream, then the stern line was thrown aship, and the boat was off—but not without the steward's victim. No sooner had the colored gentlemen reached the deck, than I followed. Waiting until all was quiet aboard, I sought my berth. The next morning I proceeded with my work as if nothing had happened. I anticipated the steward's next move would be to throw me overboard, and in that belief told the cook of what he had done the previous night. At that point he came in, and on discovering me said, "You here again," his face purple with rage. His right foot at once became restless, he made a rush for me, but the cook with butcher-knife in hand prevented the action of said foot, and my troubles with that gentleman were over.


We soon reached Leavenworth, and I left the boat without regret, but a much wiser youth. I went to the First National Bank of Leavenworth, drew my money, and after a few days' rest, I again embarked for Denver astride a mule. We saw plenty of Indians, but as the train was a long one they did not molest us.

On reaching the city of the plains I at once hunted up my old friend, the Major, who introduced me to the head of a firm of contractors, who were at that time engaged in getting out ties in the "Black Hills," for a portion of the Union Pacific railroad, then under construction. He told me that he wanted a man to go there and straighten out a set of books that a former employee had left badly mixed. He also took the trouble to inform me that the country was alive with Indians, and that the man who went there took big chances; and, if I were at all timid, I had better not accept the position. My friend gave me a strong recommend and I clinched the matter by telling the gentleman that I was not afraid of man, ghost or Indian. He replied that I was just the man he was in search of, and would give me five hundred dollars in gold, a good horse and pay all expenses; that I should get my traps and be at the Planter's Hotel for dinner.

He expected his two partners from the east to inspect the camp and business, and everything was to be in readiness to depart on their arrival. Our conveyance was a full sized Concord coach with six good mules to draw it. The boot of the coach contained the best of everything to eat and drink—the latter being just as essential in that country as gun and ammunition. The partners were detained en route, and did not arrive until the second day, when they wished to rest and see the western sights, so we did not leave until the fourth day. Two Denverites accompanied us, making six in the party.

The first afternoon we made thirty-two miles, and camped near a stage station, where they keep, for the weary pilgrims, supplies and the rankest kind of corn juice known to the professional drinker.

The following morning we made an early start, and before noon rolled into La Port, on the Cachella Pondre River, the only settlement on the trail to the hills. We put up at the stage station for the night. There we met a drover, and a party of cow boys with one thousand head of California bronchos bound for the States. Those cowboys were as wild as western life could make them, yet, a jolly good lot.

During the evening, at the suggestion of someone, a poker game was started which lasted all night, and in the morning those who had indulged in the game were not feeling any too good—especially the losers—but, nevertheless, they all strolled over to the large adobe corral to see our party off. Mr. A——, the head of the firm of contractors, had his large winnings safely concealed in a chamois bag placed close to his hide, where all wise men of the West carried their money in those days.

The drover had been a heavy but good loser. When about ready to hitch up our mules he called out to Mr. A——, "I'll go you six of my best bronchos against five hundred dollars that you haven't a man in your outfit that can drive the d——d brutes a mile and return."

The contractor approached me and asked if I thought I could do it. I told him that I was willing to take the chance.

Without another word he walked over to where the drover was standing and informed him that he would take the bet, provided he would have his cowpunchers hitch the little devils to the coach.

"Agreed," shouted the old fellow in no uncertain language.

The boys turned to the work with a will; for the fun expected, even if I received a broken neck for my daredevil recklessness, excited them to the highest pitch.

The reader has undoubtedly seen in the Wild West circuses the old-fashioned overland coach hung by heavy springs from front to rear axle. One of the most uncomfortable conveyances to ride in ever invented, especially for the driver, for, if the coach was not heavily loaded, when the front wheels dropped into a hole the old ramshackle thing was liable to topple over on the animals; and, if the driver was not securely strapped to the seat when the rear wheels reached the hole, he would land some distance in the rear. The contractor had the old ark properly balanced before starting, so I had no excuse to worry from that source.

The cowpunchers selected one broncho each and after a half hour's hawling, pulling and coaxing succeeded in hitching them to the coach. I climbed to the seat and was securely strapped with a large leather apron. Then I gathered up the lines and placed myself solidly for the start.

The whip socket contained a hickory stick five feet long with a lash twelve feet in length attached to one end. I gave the word to let them go, but the little bronchos thought different and balked. The number of times they bucked and threw themselves, started and bucked again, would be impossible to say. Finally the contractor accused the drover of being in collusion with his cowpuncher in order to win the wager by holding the bronchos back and a volley of words of not very mild character ensued, after which the six cowboys, three on either side of the team, stood off six feet. The noise made by the cracking of their whips their everlasting yelping made the excitement stronger than before, and I was off on the wildest ride I ever took. A hurdle jumper would not stand much of a chance with one of those wild bronchos.


It was a lovely June morning and the bracing air of Colorado made me feel as wild as the young animals that were fast wheeling me over the dangerous trail and possibly into a camp of hostile Indians. I gave no thought to danger for I was too busy keeping the fiery little beasts to the trail. They were going at breakneck speed with no sign of tiring, so I let them go enjoying the sport even more than they. My hat went flying with the wind, I looked back, but could not see the ranch. How far I had left it behind, or what distance I had covered, I knew not.

At last I came to myself and realized for the first time what terrible danger I was in. Slowly turning the team to the right, I began a circle, hardly perceptible at first, but finally again reaching the trail. On the return trip, I plied the long lash to the leading pair. They shot forward faster than ever, all steaming with foam and covered with lather. At a great distance to the south I could see a party of Indians riding in the same direction. This additional danger seemed fairly to intoxicate me and I plied the whip with all my strength. The corral loomed up and then the stage station. The others, with hands in their pockets and mouth agap, were holding their breath; and, as we wheeled past them, the cowboys lashing the bronchos, a mighty shout went up. I had won the wager and was the lion of the day.

We did not make a start until the following morning. We fastened the bronchos together and tied the leader to the rear of the coach, and thus resumed our journey to the hills, where we safely arrived two days later, but minus four of the treacherous brutes. At night we always picketed them with the mules and the four that were lost had pulled their picket irons and undoubtedly gone to join the much read of "wild horses of the plains."

The camp in the hills consisted of shanties for fifteen hundred men, saw mill, and outfit store. The latter included in its stock plenty of the best kind of liquor. Each man was allowed three drinks a day and no more.

I had the books straightened out in due time and one day the contractor discovered he would soon be out of flour, and the nearest point at which it could be purchased was La Port, seventy-five miles distant. The Indians were troublesome, and each man who was asked refused to go, with one exception. The contractor finally made me a tempting offer to accompany a driver of a six mule team. I accepted, and at break of day the next morning we started. My companion on that dangerous trip was a plucky son of the Emerald Isle. We camped that night on Lodge Pole Creek. On the opposite side was an adobe ranch, and an immense stockade owned by a Frenchman with a Sioux squaw for a wife.

In our hurried start we had forgotten our tobacco, and without it my companion seemed lost. After grub I mounted my horse, and crossed over the creek to procure some. On making my wants known, I was freely supplied with tobacco, and was also informed that before we arrived they had been fighting the Indians for some time; that one of the cowboys had an arm badly shattered; and that they feared another attack the next morning. I returned to camp and told my companion of our danger.


After giving the animals plenty of feed and rest, we again took the trail at 4:30 A. M. As the day dawned, with the aid of a field glass, I discovered Indians swooping down on the ranch with the stockade at breakneck speed, and others coming in our direction. I told Patrick to urge the mules to a gallop. He suspected the cause and did so at once. Over the rolling ground we flew until the sun was well up in the heavens, and as each hour passed the redskins gained on us, until at last they could be seen with the naked eye. The harsh and cruel war-whoop of those blood-thirsty savages echoed and re-echoed back from the distant hills, and over the desolate plains until men and beasts were crazed to desperation. The lash was put to the already tired mules, and we strained every nerve to reach the crest of the next knoll, hoping against hope for succor. On they came, their warwhoops for scalps and the white man's blood was now continuous. The long feared report of their rifles was at last heard; bullets pierced our canvas covered wagon. We made a last desperate effort and reached the summit of the bluff. Not a half a mile from its base was a large corral of white covered wagons. Down the incline we flew, looking neither to the right nor the left, and, on reaching the corral, both men and beasts fell into a heap exhausted.

The red devils rode to the top of the hill, and the warwhoop of anger they sent up rings in my ears at times to this very day.

That evening we again took the trail and made the remainder of the trip by night drives. Reaching La Port the third morning, we secured our load and after giving the animals a much needed rest we started on the return trip. The fourth morning we arrived at the ranch with the stockade. Three mornings after we reached the foot of the hills where the company had a log cabin for their hunters and trappers, who, with their trusty rifles, furnished antelope, deer and buffalo meat for their small army of employees. On entering, a sight met our gaze too revolting to pass from memory. Upon the earthy floor lay two of those sturdy and warm-hearted dwellers of the plains and rockies, cold in death, scalped and mutilated almost beyond recognition—a deed committed by those dastardly red fiends of the Far West. Both were friends of mine and with uncovered head, in the presence of that gritty son of old Ireland, I vowed vengeance.

"At least, Charlie," said Patrick, "Let's give them a decent burial and move on."

We did so, reaching camp that evening just as the sun, with its beautiful tints of carmine, was bidding plains and hills goodnight, as if in memory of those stalwart and brave men who made the settlement and civilization of the West possible.



Two weeks later a strapping six-foot German, who was in charge of another camp further down the line, came for a visit. Shortly after his arrival, he proposed that we should go hunting, to which I agreed.

That morning, as usual, the men called for their liquor, and among them was a long lanky fellow with red hair and bushy beard. He certainly had the appearance of an outlaw. He had received one glass of grog and came for the second which I refused him. Without a word I was on my back. At that point the German came in and caught him with the left hand in the same locality. Suffering with pain and crazed with liquor, he left the store, secured his revolvers and returned. I was behind the counter at the time with my back to the door. The first thing I knew I heard the report of a revolver and a bullet whizzed past my ear and buried itself in a can of tomatoes not six inches from my head. As I turned around, I saw the fellow being propelled through the door by the German's right. At that point the contractor came in and after being told of what had happened, he discharged the fellow. He wished to retain his revolvers, but his request was not granted. He had an old-fashioned army musket and begged to be allowed to keep that. I told Mr. A—— not to let him have it for I was satisfied from the blow he gave me that he was a bad actor; but Mr. A——, being good natured and kind hearted, consented. He ordered four days' rations put up for him and he left camp in an ugly mood and was given no further thought.

After grub, the German proposed that we flip a coin to see who should go for the horses. The visitor losing, he at once started for the canyon below where the horses were grazing. Shortly after I heard a shot and then many more, but gave it no heed as it was a common occurrence there. Half an hour later one of the men came in and told me that the German lay dead in the canyon below. I, with the others in camp, proceeded to the point indicated, where we found the poor fellow lying on his back. A bullet from that villian's musket had pierced his heart. His watch, belt of cartridges, revolvers, and repeating carbine were gone. After we returned with the body, Mr. A—— had the mill whistle blown calling all hands to quarters and for three days and nights with little sleep or rest we searched those hills and trails leading to Salt Lake and Denver. We picketed men on each trail to search all passing trains; but the demon gave us the slip, and cheated that maddened crowd of a lynching, or something worse; perhaps a tug of war between two wild bronchos, which we had in camp, with that man's body as the connecting link.

I can to this day remember just how that poor fellow looked; cold in death, far from home and loved ones, with no mother to weep at his bier. With uncovered heads we lowered him in earth, in a rough box, at the foot of one of the tall sentinels of the hills, and placed a slab to mark the spot, that his friends might some day claim all that remained of as brave and honest a German as ever lived.


Thus by the toss of a coin was my life again spared. This last narrow escape from death was the fourteenth of which I positively knew, and how many more that I did not know of, it is impossible to tell; so I made up my mind to get out of the country alive, if possible. I informed Mr. A—— of my intentions and the following day closed my business and at dusk that evening I started, unaccompanied, on a two hundred mile ride over a trail watched by hundreds of blood-thirsty Indians. I knew that no Indian pony could overtake my fleet runner, and all that was to be feared was a surprise or have my horse shot from under me. I camped far from the trail, with lariat fastened to my wrist, never closing my eyes until my faithful animal had laid down for the day. His first move at dusk awoke me, and, after feed, we were off with the wind at breakneck speed.

At the close of the second day, while I lay sleeping on the desert sands with the saddle blanket for a pillow, and dreaming of my far away home, it seemed as if something of a slimy nature was slowly crawling over the calf of my bare leg. On gaining partial consciousness, too quickly did I realize that it was a reality and not a dream. A rattlesnake's long slimy body was crossing that bridge of flesh, squirming along for a couple of inches, then raising its repulsive body a foot or more and turning its insignificant head, would look straight towards my partly closed eyes and, with its hideous mouth agap, would dart its poisonous arrow-like tongue in and out like lightning, then lowering itself, it would resume the same tactics as before. How many times it repeated this, I shall never know. No words have ever been formed that can adequately express the feeling that took possession of me. I seemed powerless to move a muscle or twitch an eye-lid. The suspense was terrible, expecting each time that the slimy body descended the viper would thrust his poisonous lance into my leg and all would be over. The horror of it all cannot be imagined, and to this day, when I recall the incident, it sends a shiver through my entire body. As the coarse rattles of his tail left the bare flesh of my leg, my senses seemed to return; but it was only for a moment, for through the pant of my right leg I felt that same crawling sensation and I knew in an instant that it was a mate following the one that had just passed over the bridge of flesh. As soon as it reached the bare leg the dirty reptile went through the same horrible stunts as the first one. The agony seemed impossible to bear and when at last the thing had completed its journey and was at a safe distance away, I leaped into the air—how far I shall leave the reader to surmise. Crazed with anger and trembling from head to foot, I rushed for my revolvers and fired at random. I was considered a good shot in those days, but in this excited condition I would not have been able to hit a barn. I ran for my Henry Carbine and, grasping it by the barrel, made short work of ridding the earth of the cause that had produced the most terrifying scare experience during my western life.


For the first time during the excitement my thoughts turned to my faithful horse, but he was nowhere to be seen. The horror of the situation began to dawn upon me and I realized at once that I was lost on that desolate plain—one hundred miles from any camp that I knew of and apparently alone. I cried out, "My God, what can be done!" The thought was enough to drive one crazy. Can I ever forget it? I think not; nor could anyone. Even to see or talk to an Indian would have been a comfort. Driven to agonizing despair I ran for my field glass and scanned the rolling ground in every direction. Buffalo, deer, antelope, coyote, and a small party of horsemen were visible, but the latter too far away to make out if they were United States Cavalrymen or Indians. Looking again, without my glass, I discovered my horse standing on a high knoll not more than a half mile away with head and tail erect; the breath from his dilated nostrils ascending heavenward in the cold October air and presenting a picture for an artist. I called loudly, "Billie, Billie," and with outstretched hand walked slowly toward him, but he looked not in my direction. All of a sudden he made a quick bound and was off. My heart seemed to stop beating. A minute seemed an hour; but I kept walking after him and he finally stopped, turned around and faced me. That look can never be forgotten. With ears thrown back, he came slowly toward me. Again, I called "Billie, Billie," and held out both hands and with a whinner he came on a gallop, trembling in every muscle, seemingly as frightened as myself. I patted his neck, straightened out his rich heavy mane, rubbed his face and nose and kissed him. He licked my cheek and hand in appreciation of my welcome; moisture gathered in his large eyes and I cried with joy—like a child that I was—and then we both felt better. I coiled up the lariat and placed my right arm over his perfectly formed neck and slowly walked to our little camp. I rubbed him down until he was perfectly dry; then curried, brushed and rubbed until I could almost see myself in his coat of silky hair. Then I made him lay down and did the same thing myself, using his withers and mane for a pillow. When I awoke the moon shown full in our faces. I patted his neck and soon those large eyes were looking affectionately into mine. I sprang to my feet and he did the same. After brushing off the side on which he had laid, I placed the saddle blanket, buckled taut the saddle, gathered up my small camp kit and fastened it to the rear of the saddle, coiled the lariat and hung it on the pommel of the saddle, fastened on my spurs—from which he had never felt even the slightest touch—threw my field glass over my left shoulder, buckled on my cartridge belt and revolvers, swung my canteen and Henry Carbine over my right shoulder, and with a leap, landed astride the saddle, and was off with the wind in search of the trail two full miles away.


Early on the morning of the third day, I stopped at a stage station, where I met the assistant wagon boss who was with the bull train during my first trip across the plains. He was a genuine Missouri Bushwacker and a desperate fellow. Like all others of his class he wore his hair long, making it a much coveted prize for the Indians. After the days visit and relating our experience of western life, he told me that he was on his way to the Black Hills. I reluctantly volunteered the information to him that I did not think he would ever reach there on the old skate he was riding, and that he should not venture on the trail until after dark, but he knew it all and started at sundown. I was sure the fellow would never reach the Hills, nor was I mistaken, for in less than an hour the Salt Lake Coach rolled up to the door of the station, and the driver asked if a horseman had put up at the place, and being informed that there had, told us the Indians had captured him and tied him to one of their own ponies and was rapidly going north, leaving his old nag to be picked up by any one who would care for it. Not a day passed that the unwelcome savages were not to be seen, and we were chased many times, but the faithful animal reached Denver in safety.

The Union Pacific railroad had then reached Julesburg and I conceived the hazardous idea of reaching that point by navigating the Platte River—a distance of three hundred miles—so I at once ordered a flat bottomed boat built of material in the rough.


I next went in quest of my aged chum, the ex-pig dealer, who, when found, revealed by a twinkle in his eye another dare-devil scheme, which he was quite capable of concocting when alone in his warehouse den. He exclaimed, with much feeling and a forced tear, that he was right down glad to see me safely back and gave me little rest until I had related my experiences in the hills. He then unfolded his diabolical scheme, whereby both of us could lay a foundation for a fortune. I was in need of the latter, without any question, but not by this method.

Cheyenne had just been surveyed, mapped and laid out, and the proposition was for him to furnish a man, two mule teams, wagons, tents, provisions and all other necessities; and this man and myself were to go there and squat or take possession of two sections of Government land, consisting of one hundred and sixty acres each, located just outside the city limits. The offer was promptly rejected, and it destroyed the last particle of friendship that had existed between us as far as I was concerned. I had just been through that part of the country and had narrowly escaped death many times, and for us to carry out this scheme, I knew would be impossible, for the tricky redskins would be certain to capture us. I cannot recollect the exact reply that I made him, but am positive I requested him to go to Hades by the shortest possible route. We parted in anger after three long years of friendship. The old major's love for the almighty dollar was the cause. I never did have a very strong desire to furnish material to the cruel savages for one of their home scalp dances, and besides my mind was made up to leave Colorado, which I did.

I afterwards made the acquaintance of a young fellow, a college graduate who had been unable to secure a position to his liking and was anxious to return to the States. After a few days of good fellowship, and finding him of the right material, I made my plans known to him. He at once fell in with them, and a week later we embarked on our perilous journey. We started at full moon drifting with a comparatively strong current using paddles to guide our roughly constructed craft. We made nightly rides of about fifty miles, and at dawn would land on one of the small islands of the river, conceal ourselves and the boat in the tall grass from which we were able to see all that passed by trail and bluffs, and not be seen ourselves. Our greatest danger was in being discovered by the Indians on the high bluffs, or a visit from them to the island we occupied. The first scare we had was when a party of a dozen or more rode to the bank of the river for the purpose, as we supposed, of crossing. They seemed, however, undecided as to their course, but finally urged their ponies down the bank and into the river. To describe our feelings would be impossible. Just then, to us, a minute seemed an hour. Cold beads of perspiration stood out on both, not exactly from fear, but a sort of yearning to be elsewhere; and I wondered, after all that I had passed through, if I was to be cut down on my homeward journey by those fiendish red devils. "Saved!" whispered my friend, "they are leaving the river." And sure enough those little prairie ponies were climbing the bank on a dead run for the bluffs.

The last night of that eventful ride lasted long until after the sun was up. The large Concord coach filled with passengers passed close to the river bank a short time before, and from the driver we learned we were ten miles from Julesburg. We proceeded, keeping close to the bank, and with field glass continually swept the valley and bluffs in every direction. We were facing a mild and depressing wind. All of a sudden dismal sounds reached our ears, and as the noiseless current of the river rounded the projecting points in its banks, it bore our staunch old craft to a place of safety, or ourselves to a cruel death, we knew not which. The sounds became more distinct until both of us were satisfied that the Indians had captured the overland coach with its load of human freight. As we rounded the next bend the river took a straight course, but there was no island in sight.

"No island in sight," said my friend. "Where can we go?" And turning around I discovered he was as white as a sheet. As for myself, I was hanging to the edge of the bank trying hard to collect my wits and recover from a fainting spell. We finally managed to get the boat back and around the bend where we lay concealed for some time, suffering the torture of Hades. I finally crawled to the top of the bank and with field glass surveyed the locality in every direction. No life was visible, still the unearthly noise kept up, and the feeling of those two lone travelers would be impossible to describe. The thought at last came to me that we must be somewhere in the vicinity of the old California Crossing. I crawled back to the boat and told my companion to go ahead, while I continually used the field glass. After fifteen minutes, I discovered a white speck in the eastern horizon. We were soon over our fright, and with light hearts were sailing over the rippling waters of the old Platte feeling assured that we would soon reach a place of safety, as far as the Indians were concerned.

On arriving at the crossing, which it proved to be, we found one of those large white covered prairie schooners stalled in the middle of the stream, and fifty Greasers, as the Mexican drivers were called, and as many yoke of oxen trying to haul it out.


We sailed merrily along and at two P. M. reached Julesburg, the then terminus of the Union Pacific railroad and overland shipping point for all territory west, north and south. The Union Pacific railroad, when under construction, made a terminus every two or three hundred miles. The houses were built in sections, so they were easily taken apart, loaded on flat freight cars, and taken to the next terminus completely deserting the former town, Julesburg was rightfully named "The Portable Hell of the Plains." My finer feelings cannot, if words could, attempt a description. Suffice to say that during the three days we were there four men and women were buried in their street costumes. The fourth day we boarded a Union Pacific train and were whirled to its Eastern terminus, Omaha, thence home, arriving safely after an absence of four years.

The habits formed during those western years were hard to change, and the fight of my life to live a semblance of the proper life, required a will power as irresistible as the crystal quartz taken from the lofty snow capped mountain sides, taking tons of weight to crush it, that the good might be separated from the worthless.

* * * * *

Transcriber's Notes

Original spelling has been preserved. Some illustrations have been moved to avoid breaking up the text. The following typos have been corrected:

Contents: Markmanship changed to Marksmanship: (Chapter V—A Proof of Markmanship)

Page 12: Holliday changed to Holiday: (We at once called at the Ben Holliday Stage Office).

Page 104: ther changed to their: (had ther tribal laws and customs).

Page 106: added closing quotes: (I'll get out of this one in some way.)

Page 128: added comma after Charlie: ("At least, Charlie" said Patrick, "Let's give them a decent).

Page 137: added comma after second Billie: (loudly, "Billie, Billie" and with outstretched hand walked).


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