Agnes C. (Agnes Christina) Laut.

Through our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert online

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Online LibraryAgnes C. (Agnes Christina) LautThrough our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert → online text (page 12 of 19)
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dom more than a few miles long. The Grand Canon
is nearly as long as from New York to Canada, as
wide as the city of New York is long, and as deep
straight as a plummet as the Canadian Rockies or
lesser Alps are high. In other words, it is 217
miles long, from thirteen to twenty wide, and has a
straight drop a mile deep, or seven miles as the trail


zigzags down. You think of a canon as a great
trench between mountains. This one is a colossal
trench with side canons going off laterally its full
length, dozens of them to each mile, like ribs along
a backbone. Ordinarily, to climb a 7,000 foot
mountain, you have to go up. At the Grand Canon,
you come to the brink of the sagebrush plain and
jump off to climb these peaks. Peak after peak,
you lose count of them in the mist of primrose fire
and lilac light and purpling shadows. To climb
these peaks, you go down, down 7,000 feet a good
deal steeper than the ordinary stair and in places
quite as steep as the Metropolitan Tower elevator.
In fact, if the Metropolitan Tower and the Singer
Building and the Flatiron and Washington's Shaft
in the Capital City were piled one on top of an-
other in a pinnacled pyramid, they would barely
reach up one-seventh of the height of these massive
peaks swimming in countless numbers in the color
of the Canon.

So much for dimensions ! Now as to time. If you
have only one day, you can dive in by train in the
morning and out by night, and between times go to
Sunrise Point or if you are a robust walker -
down Bright Angel Trail to the bank of the Colo-
rado River, seven miles. If you have two days
at your disposal, you can drive out to Grand View
fourteen miles and overlook the panorama of
the Canon twenty miles in all directions. If you
have more days yet at your disposal, there are good
trips on wild trails to Dripping Springs and to Ger-


trude Point and to Cataract Canon and by aerial
tram across the Colorado River to the Kaibab Pla-
teau on the other side. In fact, if you stayed at the
Grand Canon a year and were not afraid of trail-
less trips, you could find a new view, a new wonder
place, new stamping grounds each day. Remember
that the Canon itself is 217 miles long; and it has
lateral canons uncounted.

When you reach El Tovar you are told two of
the first things to do are take the drives three
miles each way to Sunrise and to Sunset Points.
Don't! Save your dollars, and walk them both.
By carriage, the way leads through the pine woods
back from the rim for three miles to each point
By walking, you can keep on an excellent trail close
to the rim and do each in twenty minutes; for the
foot trails are barely a mile long. Also by walk-
ing, you can escape the loud-mouthed, bull-voiced
tourist who bawls out his own shallow knowledge of
erosion to the whole carriageful just at the moment
you want to float away in fancy amid opal lights
and upper heights where the Olympic and Hindoo
and Norse gods took refuge when unbelief drove
them from their old resorts. In fact, if you keep
looking long enough through that lilac fire above
seas of primrose mists, you can almost fancy those
hoary old gods of Beauty and Power floating round
angles of the massive lower mountains, shifting the
scenes and beckoning one another from the wings
of this huge amphitheater. The space-filling talker
is still bawling out about " the mighty powers of


erosion " ; and a thin-faced curate is putting away a
figure of speech about " Almighty Power " for his
next sermon. Personally, I prefer the old pagan
way of expressing these things in the short cut of a
personifying god who did a smashing big business
with the hammer of Thor, or the sea horses of Nep-
tune or the forked lightnings of old loud-thundering

You can walk down Bright Angel Trail to the
river at the bottom of the Canon; but unless your
legs have a pair of very good benders under the
knees, you'll not be able to walk up that trail the
same day, for the way down is steep as a stair and
the distance is seven miles. In that case, better
spend the night at the camp known as the Indian
Gardens half-way down in a beautifully watered
dell ; or else have the regular daily party bring down
the mules for you to the river. Or you can join
the regular tourist party both going down and com-
ing up. Mainly because we wanted to see the
sunrise, but also because a big party on a narrow
trail is always unsafe and a gabbling crowd on a
beautiful trail is always agony, two of us rose at
four A. M. and walked down the trail during sunrise,
leaving orders for a special guide to fetch mules
down for us to the river. Space forbids details of
the tramp, except to say it was worth the effort,
twice over worth the effort in spite of knees that sent
up pangs and protests for a week.

It had rained heavily all night and the path was
very slippery; but if rain brings out the colors of


the Petrified Forests, you can imagine what it does
to sunrise in a sea of blood-red mountain peaks.
Much of the trail is at an angle of forty-five de-
grees; but it is wide and well shored up at the outer
edge. The foliage lining the trail was dripping
wet; and the sunlight struck back from each leaf in
spangles of gold. An incense as of morning wor-
ship filled the air with the odor of cedars and cloves
and wild nutmeg pinks and yucca bloom. There
are many more birds below the Canon rim than
above it; and the dawn was filled with snatches of
song from bluebirds and yellow finches and water
ousels, whose notes were like the tinkle of pure
water. What looked like a tiny red hillock from the
rim above is now seen to be a mighty mountain,
four, five, seven thousand feet from river to peak,
with walls smooth as if planed by the Artificer of all
Eternity. In any other place, the gorges between
these peaks would be dignified by the names of
canons. Here, they are mere wings to the main
stage setting of the Grand Canon. We reached the
Indian Garden's Camp in time for breakfast and
rested an hour before going on down to the river.
The trail followed a gentle descent over sand-hills
and rocky plateaus at first, then suddenly it began
to drop sheer in the section known as the Devil's
Corkscrew. The heat became sizzling as you de-
scended; but the grandeur grew more imposing from
the stupendous height and sheer sides of the bril-
liantly colored gorges and masses of shadows above.
Then the Devil's Corkscrew fell into a sandy dell


where a tiny waterfall trickled with the sound of
the voice of many waters in the great silence. A
cloudburst would fill this gorge in about a jiffy; but
a cloudburst is the last thing on earth you need
expect in this land of scant showers and no water.
Suddenly, you turn a rock angle, and the yellow,
muddy, turbulent flood of the Colorado swirls past
you, tempestuous, noisy, sullen and dark, filling the
narrow canon with the war of rock against water.
What seemed to be mere foothills far above, now
appear colossal peaks sheer up and down, penning
the angry river between black walls. It was no
longer hot. We could hear a thunder shower re-
verberating back in some of the valleys of the
Canon; and the rain falling between us and the red
rocks was as a curtain to the scene shifting of those
old earth and mountain and water gods hiding in
the wings of the vast amphitheater.

And if you want a wilder, more eery trail than
down Bright Angel, go from Dripping Springs out
to Gertrude Point. I know a great many wild
mountain trails in the Rockies, North and South;
but I have never known one that will give more
thrills from its sheer beauty and sheer daring. You
go out round the ledges of precipice after precipice,
where nothing holds you back from a fall 7,000
feet straight as a stone could drop, nothing but the
sure-footedness of your horse; out and out, round
and round peak after peak, till you are on the tip
top and outer edge of one of the highest mountains
in the Canon. This is the trail of old Louis


Boucher, one of the beauty-loving souls who first
found his way into the center of the Canon and built
his own trail to one of its grandest haunts. Louis
used to live under the arch formed by the Dripping
Springs; but Louis has long since left, and the trail
is falling away and is now one for a horse that can
walk on air and a head that doesn't feel the sensa-
tions of champagne when looking down a straight
7,000 feet into darkness. If you like that kind of
a trail, take the trip; for it is the best and wildest
view of the Canon; but take two days to it, and
sleep at Louis' deserted camp under the Dripping
Springs. Yet if you don't like a trail where you
wonder if you remembered to make your will and
what would happen if the gravel slipped from your
horse's feet one of these places where the next turn
seems to jump off into atmosphere, then wait; for
the day must surely come when all of the Grand
Canon's 217 miles will be made as easily and safely
accessible to the American public as Egypt.


IT lies to the left of the city Plaza a long, low,
one-story building flanking the whole length of
one side of the Plaza, with big yellow pine
pillars supporting the arcade above the public walk,
each pillar surmounted by the fluted architrave pe-
culiar to Spanish-Moorish architecture. It is yellow
adobe in the sunlight very old, very sleepy, very
remote from latter-day life, the most un-American
thing in all America, the only governor's palace
from Athabasca to the Gulf of Mexico, from Sitka
to St. Lawrence, that exists to-day precisely as it
existed one hundred years ago, two hundred years
ago, three hundred years ago, four hundred years
ago back, back beyond that to the days when
there were no white men in America. Uncover the
outer plaster in the six-foot thickness of the walls
in the Governor's Palace of Santa Fe, and what do
you find? Solid adobe and brick? Not much!
The walled-up, conical fireplaces and meal bins and
corn caves of a pueblo people who lived on the site
of modern Santa Fe hundreds of years before the
Spanish founded this capital here in 1605. For
years it has been a dispute among historians
Bandelier, Hodge, Twitchell, Governor Prince, Mr.



Reed whether any prehistoric race dwelt where
Santa Fe now stands. Only in the summer of 1912,
when it was necessary to replace some old beams and
cut some arches through the six-foot walls was it
discovered that the huge partitions covered in their
centers walls antedating the coming of the Span-
iards walls with the little conical fireplaces of In-
dian pueblos, with such meal bins and corn shelves
as you find in the prehistoric cave dwellings.

We have such a passion for destroying the old
and replacing it with the new in America that you
can scarcely place your hand on a structure in the
New World that stands intact as it was before
the Revolution. We somehow or other take it for
granted that these mute witnesses of ancient heroism
have nothing to teach us with their mossed walls
and low-beamed ceilings and dumb, majestic dignity.

To this, the Governor's Palace of Santa Fe is the
one and complete exception in America. It flanks
the cottonwoods of the Plaza, yellow adobe in the
sunlight very old, very sleepy, very remote from
latter-day life, but with a quaint, quiet atmosphere
that travelers scour Europe to find. Look up to
the vigas, or beams of the ceiling, yellowed and
browned and mellowed with age. Those vigas
have witnessed strange figures stalking the spacious
halls below. If the ceiling beams could throw their
memories on some moving picture screen, there
would be such a panorama of varied personages as
no other palace in the world has witnessed. Leave
out the hackneyed tale of General Lew Wallace


writing " Ben Hur " in a back room of the Palace;
or the fact that three different flags flung their folds
over old Santa Fe in a single century. He who
knows anything at all about Santa Fe, knows that
Spanish power gave place to Mexican, and the Mex-
ican regime to American rule. Also, that General
Lew Wallace wrote " Ben Hur " in a back room of
the Palace, while he was governor of New Mexico.
And you only have to use your eyes to know that
Santa Fe, itself, is a bit of old Spain set down in
the modern United States of America. The don-
keys trotting to market under loads of wood, the
ragged peon riders bestriding burros no higher than
a saw horse, the natives stalking past in bright
scrape or blanket, moccasined and hatless all
tell you that you are in a region remote from latter-
day America.

But here is another sort of picture panorama ! It
is between 1680 and 1710.

A hatless youth, swarthy from five years of terri-
ble exposure, hair straight as a string, gabbling
French but speaking no Spanish, a slave white traded
from Indian tribe to Indian tribe, all the way from
the Gulf of Mexico to the interior of New Spain, is
brought before the viceroy. Do you know who he
is? He is Jean L'Archeveque, the French-Canadian
lad who helped to murder La Salle down on Trinity
Bay in Texas. What are the French doing down
on Trinity Bay? Do they intend to explore and
claim this part of America, too? In the abuses of
slavery among the Indians for five years, the lad


has paid the terrible penalty for the crime into which
he was betrayed by his youth. He is scarred with
wounds and beatings. He is too guilt-stricken ever
to return to New France. His information may be
useful to New Spain; so he is enrolled in the guards
of the Spanish Viceroy of Santa Fe; and he is sent
out to San Ildefonso and Santa Clara, where he
founds a family and where his records may be seen
to this day. For those copy-book moralists who
like to know that Divine retribution occasionally
works out in daily life, it may be added that Jean
L'Archeveque finally came to as violent a death as
he had brought to the great French explorer, La

Or take a panorama of a later day. It is just
before the fall of Spanish rule. The Governor sits
in his Palace at Santa Fe, a mightier autocrat than
the Pope in Rome; for, as the Russians say, u God is
high in His Heavens," and the King is far away,
and those who want justice in Santa Fe, must pay
pay pay pay in gold coin that can be put in
the iron chest of the viceroy. (You can see speci-
mens of those iron chests all through New Mexico
yet chests with a dozen secret springs to guard
the family fortune of the hidden gold bullion.) A
woman bursts into the presence of the Viceroy, and
throws herself on her knees. It is a terrible tale
the kind of tale we are too finical to tell in these
modern days, though that is not saying there are not
many such tales to be told. The woman's young
sister has married an officer of the Viceroy's ring.


He has beaten her as he would a slave. He has
treated her to vile indecencies pf which only Hell
keeps record. She had fled to her father; but the
father, fearing the power of the Viceroy, had sent
her back to the man; and the man has killed her
with his brutalities. (I have this whole story from
a lineal descendant of the family.) The woman
throws back her rebozo, drops to her knees before
the Viceroy, and demands justice. The Viceroy
thinks and thinks. A woman more or less! What
does it matter? The woman's father had been
afraid to act, evidently. The husband is a member
of the government ring. Interference might stir up
an ugly mess revelations of extortion and so on !
Besides, justice is worth so much per; and this
woman what has she to pay? This Viceroy will
do nothing. The woman rises slowly, incredulous.
Is this justice? She denounces the Viceroy in fiery,
impassioned speech. The Viceroy smiles and twirls
his mustachios. What can a woman do? The
woman proclaims her imprecation of a court that
fails of justice. (Do our courts fail of justice? Is
there no lesson in that past for us?) Do you know
what she did? She did what not one woman in a
million could do to-day, when conditions are a thou-
sand fold easier. She went back to her home. It
was just about where the pretty Spanish house of
Mr. Morley of the Archaeological School stands to-
day. She gathered up all the loose gold she could
and bound it in a belt around her waist. Then she
took the most powerful horse she had from the kraal,


saddled him and rode out absolutely alone for the
city of Old Mexico 900 miles as the trail ran.
Apaches, Comanches, Navajos, beset the way. She
rode at night and slept by day. The trail was a
desert waste of waterless, bare, rocky hills and quick-
sand rivers and blistering heat. God, or the Virgin
to whom she constantly prayed, or her own dauntless
spirit, must have piloted the way; for she reached
the old city of Mexico, laid her case before the
King's representatives, and won the day. Her sis-
ter's death was avenged. The husband was tried
and executed: and the Viceroy was deposed. Most
of us know of almost similar cases. I think of a
man who has repeatedly tried for a federal judge-
ship in New Mexico, who has literally been guilty
of every crime on the human calendar. Yet we
don't at risk of life push these cases to retribution.
Is that one of the lessons the past has for us? Span-
ish power fell in New Mexico because there came a
time when there was neither justice nor retribution
in any of the courts.

Other panoramas there were beneath the age-
mellowed beams of the Palace ceiling, panoramas
of Comanche and Navajo and Ute and Apache
stalking in war feathers before a Spanish governor
clad in velvets and laces. Tradition has it that a
Ute was once struck dead in the Governor's pres-
ence. Certainly, all four tribes wrought havoc and
raid to the very doors of the Palace. Within only
the last century, a Comanche chief and his warriors
came to Santa Fe demanding the daughter of a lead-


ing trader in marriage for the chief's son. The
garrison was weak, in spite of fustian and rusty
helmets and battered breastplates and velvet doublets
and boots half way to the waist there were sel-
dom more than 200 soldiers, and the pusillanimous
Governor counseled deception. He told the Co-
manche that the trader's daughter had died, and or-
dered the girl to hide. The only peace that an
Indian respects or any other man, for that matter
is the peace that is a victory. The Indian sus-
pected that the answer was the answer of the coward,
a lie, and came back with his Comanche warriors.
While the soldiers huddled inside the Palace walls,
the town was raided. The trader was murdered
and the daughter carried off to the Comanches,
where she died of abuse. When these tragedies fell
on daughters of the Pilgrims in New England, the
Saxon strain of the warrior women in their blood
rose to meet the challenge of fate ; and they brained
their captors with an ax; but no such warrior strain
was in the blood of the daughters of Spain. By re-
ligion, by nationality, by tradition, the Spanish girl
was the purely convent product: womanhood pro-
tected by a ten-foot wall. When the wall fell away,
she was helpless as a hot-house flower set out amid
violent winds.

Diagonally across the Plaza from the Governor's
Palace stands the old Fonda, or Exchange Hotel,
whence came the long caravans of American traders
on the Santa Fe Trail. Behind the Palace about a
quarter of a mile, was the Gareta, a sort of com-


bincd custom house and prison. The combination
was deeply expressive of Spanish rule in those early
days, for independent of what the American's white-
tented wagon might contain baled hay or price-
less silks or chewing tobacco a duty of $500 was
levied against each mulMeam wagon of the Ameri-
can trader. Did a trader protest, or hold back, he
was promptly clapped in irons. It was cheaper to
pay the duty than buy a release. The walls of
both the Fonda and the Gareta were of tremendous
thickness, four to six feet of solid adobe, which was
hard as our modern cement. In the walls behind
the Gareta and on the walls behind the Palace, pitted
bullet holes have been found. Beneath the holes
was embedded human hair.

Nothing more picturesque exists in America's past
than the panorama of this old Santa Fe Trail.
Santa Fe was to the Trail what Cairo was to the
caravans coming up out of the Desert in Egypt.
Twitchell, the modern historian, and Gregg, the old
chronicler of last century's Trail, give wonderfully
vivid pictures of the coming of the caravans to the
Palace. " As the caravans ascended the ridge which
overlooks the city, the clamorings of the men and
the rejoicings of the bull whackers could be heard
on every side. Even the animals seemed to par-
ticipate in the humor of their riders. I doubt
whether the first sight of Jerusalem brought the
crusaders more tumultuous and soul-enrapturing

We talk of the picturesque fur trade of the North,


when brigades of birch canoes one and two hundred
strong penetrated every river and lake of the wil-
derness of the Northwest. Let us take a look at
these caravan brigades of the traders of the South-
west! Teams were hitched tandem to the white-
tented wagons. Drivers did not ride in the wagons.
They rode astride mule or horse, with long bull
whips thick as a snake skin, which could reach from
rear to fore team. I don't know how they do it;
but when the drivers lash these whips out full length,
they cause a crackling like pistol shots. The owner
of the caravan was usually some gentleman adven-
turer from Virginia or Kentucky or Louisiana or
Missouri; but each caravan had its captain to com-
mand, and its outriders to scout for Indians. These
scouts were of every station in life with morals of
as varied aspect as Joseph's coat of many colors.
Kit Carson was once one of these scouts. Governor
Bent was one of the traders. Stephen B. Elkins
first came to New Mexico with a bull whacker's cara-
van. In the morning,, every teamster would vie
with his fellows to hitch up fastest. Teams ready,
he would mount and call back "All's set." An
uproar of whinnying and braying, the clank of
chains, and then the captain's shout " Stretch out,"
when the long line of twenty or thirty white-tented
wagons would rumble out for the journey of thirty
to sixty days across the plains. Each wagon had
five yoke of oxen, with six or eight extra mule teams
behind in case of emergency. About three tons
made a load. Twenty miles was a good day's


travel. Camping places near good water and pas-
turage were chosen ahead by the scouts. Wagons
kept together in groups of four. In case of attack
by Comanche or Ute, these wagons wheeled into a
circle for defense with men and beasts inside the
extemporized kraal. Campfires were kept away
from wagons to avoid giving target to foes. Blan-
kets consisted of buffalo robes, and the rations " hard
tack," pork and such game as the scouts and sharp-
shooters could bring down. A favorite trick of
Indian raiders was to wait till all animals were teth-
ered out for pasturage, and then stampede mules
and oxen. In the confusion, wagons would be
overturned and looted.

As the long white caravans came to their jour-
ney's end at Santa Fe, literally the whole Spanish
and Indian population crowded to the Plaza in front
of the Palace. " Los Americanos 1 Los Carros !
La Caravana ! " were the shouts ringing through
the streets; and Santa Fe's perpetual siesta would
be awakened to a week's fair or barter. Wagons
were lined up at the custom house; and the trader
presented himself before the Spanish governor,
trader and governor alike dressed in their best regi-
mentals. Very fair, very soft spoken, very pro-
fuse of compliments was the interview; but divested
of profound bows and flowery compliments, it ended
in the American paying $500 a wagon, or losing his
goods. The goods were then bartered at a stag-
gering advance. Plain broadcloth sold at $25 a
yard, linen at $4 a yard, and the price on other


goods was proportionate. Goods taken in exchange
were hides, wool, gold and silver bullion, Indian
blankets and precious stones.

Travelers from Mexico to the outside world went
by stage or private omnibus with outriders and
guards and sharpshooters. Young Spanish girls
sent East to school were accompanied by such a

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Online LibraryAgnes C. (Agnes Christina) LautThrough our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert → online text (page 12 of 19)