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 2 of 19)
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that one single specific fact was sufficient to refute
the broadest generality that was ever put in the form
of a syllogism. Well, then, for a few facts as to
that " no-game " lie !

In one hour you can catch in the streams of the
Pecos, or the Jemez, or the White Mountains, or
the Upper Sierras of California, or the New Glacier
Park of the North, more trout than you can put on
a string. If you want confirmation of that fact,
write to the Texas Club that has its hunting lodge
opposite Grass Mountain, and they will send you the
picture of one hour's trout catch. By measurement,



the string is longer than the height of a water barrel ;
and these were fish that didn't get away.

Last year, twenty-six bear were shot in the Sangre
de Christo Canon in three months.

Two years ago, mountain lions became so thick
in the Pecos that hunters were hired to hunt them
for bounty; and the first thing that happened to one
of the hunters, his horse was throttled and killed by
a mountain lion, though his little spaniel got revenge
by treeing four lions a few weeks later, and the hun-
ter got three out of the four.

Near Glorieta, you can meet a rancher who last
year earned $3,000 of hunting bounty scrip, if he
could have got it cashed.

In the White Mountains last year, two of the larg-
est bucks ever known in the Rockies were trailed by
every hunter of note and trailed in vain. Later,
one was shot out of season by stalking behind a
burro; but the other still haunts the canons defiant
of repeater.

From the caves of the cliff-dwellers along the Rio
Grande, you can nightly hear the coyote and the fox
bark as they barked those dim stone ages when the
people of these silent caves hunted here.

The week I reached Frijoles Canon, a flock of wild
turkeys strutted in front of Judge Abbott's Ranch
House not a gun length from the front door.

The morning I was driving over the Pajarito
Mesa home from the cliff caves, we disturbed a herd
of deer.

Does all this sound as if game was depleted? It


is if you follow the beaten trail, just as depleted as
it would be if you tried to hunt wild turkey down
Broadway, New York; but it isn't if you know where
to look for it. Believe me though it may sound
a truism you won't find big game in hotel rotundas
or pullman cars.

Or, if your quest is not hunting but studying game,
what better ground for observation than the Wichita
in Oklahoma? Here a National Forest has been
constituted a perpetual breeding ground for native
American game. Over twenty buffalo taken from
original stock in the New York Park are there
back on their native heath; and there are two or three
very touching things about those old furry fellows
taken back to their own haunts. In New York's
parks, they were gradually degenerating getting
heavier, less active, ceasing to shed their fur annually.
When they were set loose in the Wichita Game Re-
sort, they looked up, sniffed the air from all four
quarters, and rambled off to their ancestral pasture
grounds perfectly at home. When the Comanches
heard that the buffalo had come back to the Wichita,
the whole tribe moved in a body and camped outside
the fourteen-foot fence. There they stayed for the
better part of a week, the buffalo and the Coman-
ches, silently viewing each other. It would have
been worth Mr. Nature Faker's while to have known
their mutual thoughts.

There is another lie about not holidaying West,
which is not only persistent but cruel. When the
worker is a health as well as rest seeker, he is told


that the West docs not want him, especially if he is
what is locally called " a lung-er; " and there is just
enough truth in that lie to make it persistent. It is
true the consumptive is not wanted on the beaten
trail, in the big general hotel, in the train where
other people want draughts of air, but he can't stand
them. On the beaten trail, he is a danger both to
himself and to others especially if he hasn't money
and may fall a burden on the community; but that is
only a half truth which is usually a lie. Let the
other half be known! All through the West along
the backbone of the Rockies, from Montana to
Texas, especially in New Mexico and Arizona, are
the tent cities communities of health seekers living
in half-boarded tents, or mosquito-wired cabins that
can be steam-heated at night. There are literally
thousands of such tent dwellers all through the
Rocky Mountain States ; and the cost is as you make
it. If you go to a sanitarium tent city, you will have
to pay all the way from $15 to $25 a week for
house, board, nurse, medicine and doctor's attend-
ance ; but if you buy your own portable house and do
your own catering, the cost will be just what you
make it A house will cost $50 to $100; a tent, $10
to $20.

Still another baneful lie that keeps the American
from seeing America first is that our New World
West lacks "human interest;" lacks "the pictur-
esqueness of the shepherds in Spain and Switzer-
land," for instance; lacks " the historic marvels " of
church and monument and relic.


If there be any degree in lies, this is the pastmaster
of them all. Will you tell me why " the human in-
terest " of a legend about Dick Turpin's head fes-
tering on Newgate, England, is any greater to Amer-
icans than the truth about Black Jack of Texas,
whose head flew off into the crowd, when the sup-
port was removed from his feet and he was hanged
down in New Mexico? Dick Turpin was a high-
wayman. Black Jack was a lone-hand train robber.
Will you tell me why the outlaws of the borderland
between England and Scotland are more interesting
to Americans than the bands of outlaws who used
to frequent Horse-Thief Canon up the Pecos, or
took possession of the cliff-dwellers' caves on the
Rio Grande after the Civil War? Why are Copt
shepherds in Egypt more picturesque than descend-
ants of the Aztecs herding countless moving masses
of sheep on our own sky-line, lilac-misty, Upper
Mesas? What is the difference in quality value be-
tween a donkey in Spain trotting to market and a
burro in New Mexico standing on the plaza before
a palace where have ruled eighty different governors,
three different nations? Why are skeletons and
relics taken from Pompeii more interesting than the
dust-crumbled bodies lying in the caves of our own
cliffs wrapped in cloth woven long before Europe
knew the art of weaving? Why is the Sphinx
more wonderful to us than the Great Stone Face
carved on the rock of a cliff near Cochiti, New Mex-
ico, carved before the Pharaohs reigned; or the stone
lions of an Assyrian ruin more marvelous than the


two great stone lions carved at Cochiti ? When you
find a church in England dating before William the
Conqueror, you may smack your lips with the zest
of the antiquarian; but you'll find in New Mexico
not far from Santa Fe ruins of a church at the
Gates of the Waters, Guardian of the Waters
that was a pagan ruin a thousand years old when
the Spaniards came to America.

You may hunt up plaster cast reproduction of
reptilian monsters in the Kensington Museum, Lon-
don; but you will find the real skeleton of the gen-
tleman himself, with pictures of the three-toed horse
on the rocks, and legends of a Plumed Serpent not
unlike the wary fellow who interviewed Eve all
right here in your own American Southwest, with the
difference in favor of the American legend; for the
Satanic wriggler, who walked into the Garden on his
tail, went to deceive; whereas the Plumed Serpent
of New Mexican legend came to guard the pools
and the springs.

To be sure, there are 400,000 miles of motor
roads in Europe; but isn't it worth while to climb a
few mountains in America by motor? That is what
you can do following the u Camino Real " from
Texas to Wyoming, or crossing the mountains of
New Mexico by the great Scenic Highway built for
motors to the very snow tops.

And if you take to studying native Indian life, at
Laguna, at Acoma, at Taos, you will find yourself
in such a maze of the picturesque and the legendary
as you cannot find anywhere else in the wide world

An Indian girl of Isleta, New Mexico, carrying a water jar


but America. This is a story by itself a beautiful
one, also in spots a funny one. For instance, one
summer a woman of international fame from Ox-
ford, England, took quarters in one of the pueblos at
Santa Clara or thereabout to study Indian arts and
crafts. One night in her adobe quarters, her or-
derly British soul was aroused by such a dire din of
shouting, fighting, screams, as she thought could come
only from some inferno of crime. She sprang out
of bed and dashed across the placito in her night-
dress to her guardian protector in the person of an
old Indian. He ran through the dark to see what
the matter was, while she stood in hiding of the wall
shadows curdling in horror of " bluggy deeds."

" Pah," said the old fellow coming back, " dat
not'ing I Young man, he git marry an' dey how
you call ? chiv-ar-ee-heem."

' Then, what are you laughing at? " demanded
the irate British dame ; for she could not help seeing
that the old fellow was literally doubling in suffo-
cated laughter. " How dare you laugh? "

" I laugh, Mees," he sputtered out, " 'cos you
scare me so bad when you call, I jomp in my coat
mistake for my pants. Dat's all."

It would pay to cultivate a little home sentiment,
wouldn't it? It would pay to let a little daylight in
on the abysmal blank regarding the wonder-land of
our own world wouldn't it?

I don't know whether the affectation recognized
as " the foreign pose " comes foremost or hinder-


most as a cause of this neglect of the wonders of our
own land. When you go to our own Western Won-
der Land, you can't say you have been abroad with
a great long capital A; and it is wonderful what a
paying thing that pose is in a harvest of " fooleries."
There is a well-known case of an American author,
who tried his hand on delineating American life and
was severely let alone because he was too not
abroad, but broad. He dropped his own name, as-
sumed the pose of a grand dame familiar with the
inner penetralia and sacred secrets of the exclusive
circle of the American Colony in Paris. His books
have " gone off " like hot cross buns. Before, they
were broad. Now they are abroad; and, like the
tourist tickets, they are selling two to one.

The stock excuse among foreign poseurs for the
two to one preference of Europe to America is that
" America lacks the picturesque, the human, the his-
toric." A straightforward falsehood you can al-
ways answer; but an implied falsehood masking be-
hind knowledge, which is a vacuum, and superiority,
which is pretense is another matter. Let us take
the dire and damning deficiencies of America !

" America lacks the picturesque." Did the an-
cient dwelling of the Stone Age sound to you as if it
lacked the picturesque? I could direct you to fifty
such picturesque spots in the Southwest alone.

There is the Enchanted Mesa, with its sister mesa
of Acoma islands of rock, sheer precipice of yel-
low tufa for hundreds of feet amid the Desert
sand, light shimmering like a stage curtain, herds ex-


aggerated in huge, grotesque mirage against the lav-
ender light, and Indian riders, brightly clad and pic-
turesque as Arabs, scouring across the plain; all this
reachable two hours* drive from a main railroad.
Or there are the three Mesas of the Painted Desert,
cities on the flat mountain table lands, ancient as the
Aztecs, overlooking such a roll of mountain and
desert and forest as the Tempter could not show
beneath the temple. Or, there is the White House,
an ancient ruin of Canon de Chelly (Shay) forty
miles from Fort Defiance, where you could put a
dozen White Houses of Washington.

" But," your European protagonist declares, " I
don't mean the ancient and the primeval. I mean
the modern peopled hamlet type." All right!
What is the matter with Santa Fe? Draw a circle
from New Orleans up through Santa Fe to Santa
Barbara, California; and you'll find old missions
galore, countless old towns of which Santa Fe, with
its twin-towered Cathedral and old San Miguel
Church, is a type. Santa Fe, itself, is a bit of old
Spain set down in mosaic in hustling, bustling Amer-
ica. There is the Governor's Palace, where three
different nations have held sway; and there is the
Plaza, where the burros trot to market under loads
of wood picturesque as any donkeys in Spain; and
there is the old Exchange Hotel, the end of the Santa
Fe Trail, where Stephen B. Elkins came in cowhide
boots forty years ago to carve out a colossal fortune.
At one end of a main thoroughfare, you can see the
site of the old Spanish Gareta prison, in the walls of


which bullets were found embedded in human hair.
And if you want a little Versailles of retreat away
from the braying of the burros and of the humans,
away from the dust of street and of small talk
then of a May day when the orchard is in bloom and
the air alive with the song of the bees, go to the old
French garden of the late Bishop Lamy! Through
the cobwebby spring foliage shines the gleam of the
snowy peaks; and the air is full of dreams precious
as the apple bloom.

What was the other charge? Oh, yes "lacks
the human," whatever that means. Why are leg-
ends of border forays in Scotland more thrilling than
true tales of robber dens in Horse-Thief Canon and
the cliff houses of Flagstaff and the Frijoles, where
renegades of the Civil War used to hide? Why are
the multi-colored peasant workers of Brittany or Bel-
gium more interesting than the gayly dressed peons
of New Mexico, or the Navajo boys scouring up and
down the sandy arroyos ? Why is the story of Jack
Cade any more " human " than the tragedy of the
three Vermont boys, Stott, Scott and Wilson, hanged
in the Tonto Basin for horses they did not steal
in order that their assassins might pocket $5,000
of money which the young fellows had brought
out from the East with them? Why are not all
these personages of good repute and ill repute as
famous to American folklore hunters as Robin Hood
or any other legendary heroes of the Old World?

Driven to the last redoubt, your protagonist for
Europe against America usually assumes the air of


superiority supposed to be the peculiar prerogative
of the gods of Olympus, and declares : ' Yes
but America lacks the history and the art of the old
associations in Europe."

"Lacks history?" Go back fifty years in our
own West to the transition period from fur trade
to frontier, from Spanish don living in idle baronial
splendor to smart Yankeedom invading the old ex-
clusive domain in cowhide boots! Go back another
fifty years ! You are in the midst of American feu-
dalism fur lords of {he wilderness ruling domains
the area of a Europe, Spanish Conquistadores march-
ing through the desert heat clad cap-a-pie in burnished
mail; Governor Prince's collection at Santa Fe has
one of those cuirasses dug up in New Mexico with
the bullet hole through the metal right above the
heart. Another fifty years back and the century
war for a continent with the Indians, the downing
of the old civilization of America before a sort of
Christian barbarism, the sword in one hand, the cross
in the other, and behind the mounted troops the big
iron chest for the gold iron chests that you can
see to this day among the Spanish families of the
Southwest, rusted from burial in time of war, but
strong yet as in the centuries when guarded by secret
springs such iron treasure boxes hid all the gold
and the silver of some noble- family in New Spain.
When you go back beyond the days of New Spain,
you are amid a civilization as ancient as Egypt's
an era that can be compared only to the myth age
of the Norse Gods, when Loki, Spirit of Evil, smiled


with contempt at man's poor efforts to invade the
Realm of Death. It was the age when puny men
of the Stone Era were alternately chasing south be-
fore the glacial drift and returning north as the
waters receded, when huge leviathans wallowed amid
sequoia groves; and if man had domesticated crea-
tures, they were three-toed horses, and wolf dogs,
and wild turkeys and quail. Curiously enough, rem-
nants of some sort of domesticated creatures are
found in the cave men's houses, centuries before the
coming of horses and cattle and sheep with the Span-
ish. The trouble is, up to the present when men
like Curtis and dear old Bandelier and Burbank, and
the whole staff of the Smithsonian and the School
of Santa Fe have gone to work, we have not taken
the trouble in America to gather up the prehistoric
legends and ferret out their race meaning. We have
fallen too completely in the last century under the
blight of evolution, which presupposes that these cave
races were a sort of simian-jawed, long-clawed, gib-
bering apes spending half their time up trees throw-
ing stones on the heads of the other apes below, and
the other half of their time either licking their chops
in gore or dragging wives back to caves by the hair
of their heads. You remember Kipling's poem on
the neolithic man, and Jack London's fiction. Now
as a matter of fact which is a bit disturbing to all
these accretions of pseudo-science the remains of
these cave people don't show them to have been sim-
ian-jawed apes at all. They had woven clothing
when our ancestors were a bit liable to Anthony


Comstock's activities as to clothes. They had dec-
orated pottery ware of which we have lost the pig-
ments, and a knowledge of irrigation which would
be unique in apes, and a technique in basketry that I
never knew a monkey to possess. Some day, when
the evolutionary piffle has passed, we'll study out these
prehistoric legends and their racial meaning.

As to the "lack of art," pray wake up! The
late Edwin Abbey declared that the most hopeful
school of art in America was the School of the South-
west. Look up Lotave's mural drawings at Santa
Fe, or Lungrun's wonderful desert pictures, or Mo-
ran's or Gamble's, or Harmon's Spanish scenes
then talk about " lack of decadent art " if you will,
but don't talk about "lack of art." Why, in the
ranch house of Lorenzo Hubbell, the great Navajo
trader, you'll find a $200,000 collection of purely
Southwestern pictures.

How many of the two to one protagonists of Eu-
rope know, for instance, that scenic motor highways
already run to the very edge of the grandest scenery
in America? You can motor now from Texas to
Wyoming, up above 10,000 feet much of it, above
cloud line, above timber line, over the leagueless
sage-bush plains, in and out of the great yellow pine
forests, past Cloudcroft the skytop resort up
through the orchard lands of the Rio Grande, across
the very backbone of the Rockies over the Santa Fe
Ranges and on north up to the Garden of the Gods
and all the wonders of Colorado's National Park.


With the exception of a very bad break in the White
Mountains of Arizona, you can motor West past the
southern edge of the Painted Desert, past Laguna
and Acoma and the Enchanted Mesa, past the Petri-
fied Forests, where a deluge of sand and flood has
buried a sequoia forest and transmuted the beauty
of the tree's life into the beauty of the jewel, into
bars and beams and spars of agate and onyx the
color of the rainbow. Then, before going on down
to California, you can swerve into Grand Canon,
where the gods of fire and flood have jumbled and
tumbled the peaks of Olympus dyed blood-red into
a swimming canon of lavender and primrose light
deep as the highest peaks of the Rockies.

In California, you can either motor up along the
coast past all the old Spanish Missions, or go in be-
hind the first ridge of mountains and motor along the
edge of the Big Trees and the Yosemite and Tahoe.
You can't take your car into these Parks; first, be-
cause you are not allowed; second, because the risks
of the road do not permit it even if you were allowed.

Is it safe? As I said before, that question is a
joke. I can answer only from a life-time knowledge
of pretty nearly all parts of the West and that
from a woman's point of view. Believe me the days
of " shootin' irons " and " faintin' females " are for-
ever past, except in the undergraduate's salad dreams.
You are safer in the cave dwellings of the Stone
Age, in the Pajarito Plateau of the cliff " bird peo-
ple," in the Painted Desert, among the Indians of


the Navajo Reserve than you are in Broadway, New
York, or Piccadilly, London. I would trust a young
friend of mine boy or girl quicker to the West-
ern environment than the Eastern. You can get into
mischief in the West if you hunt for it; but the mis-
chief doesn't come out and hunt you. Also, danger
spots are self-evident on precipices of the Western
wilds. They aren't self-evident; danger spots are
glazed and paved to the edges over which youth
goes to smash in the East.

What about cost? Aye, there's the rub!

First, there's the steamboat ticket to Europe, about
the same price as or more than the average round trip
ticket to the Coast and back; but please note,
please note well the agent who sells the steamboat
ticket gets from forty to 100 per cent, bigger com-
mission on it than the agent who sells the railroad
tickets; so the man who is an agent for Europe can
afford to advertise from forty to 100 per cent, more
than the man who sells the purely American ticket.

Secondly, European hotel men are adepts at
catering to the lure of the American sightseer. (Of
course they are: it's worth one hundred to two hun-
dred million dollars to them a year.) In the Amer-
ican West, everybody is busy. Except for the real
estate man, they don't care one iota whether you
come or stay.

Thirdly, when you go to Europe, a thousand hands
are thrust out to point you the way to the interesting
places. Incidentally, also, a thousand hands are


thrust out to pick your pocket, or at least relieve it of
any superfluous weight. In our West, who cares a
particle what you do; or who will point you the way?
The hotels are expensive and for the most part lo-
cated in the most expensive zone the commercial
center. It is only when you get out of the expense
zone away from commercial centers and railway, that
you can live at $i or $2 a day, or if you have your
own tent at fifty cents a day; but it isn't to the real es-
tate agent's interests to have you go away from the
commercial center or expense zone. Who is there
to tell you what or where to see off the line of heat
and tips? Outside the National Park wardens and
National Forest Rangers, there isn't anyone.

How, then, are you to manage? Frankly, I
never knew of either monkeys or men accomplishing
anything except in one way just going out and
doing it. Choose what you want to see; and go
there! The local railroad agent, the local Forest
Ranger, the local ranch house, will tell you the rest;
and naturally, when you go into the wilderness, don't
leave all your courtesy and circumspection and com-
mon-sense back in town. Equipped with those three,
you can " See America First," and see it cheaply.



IF a health resort and national playground were
discovered guaranteed to kill care, to stab apathy
into new life, to enlarge littleness and slay list-
lessness and set the human spirit free from the
nagging worries and toil-wear that make you feel
like a washed-out rag at the end of a humdrum
year imagine the stampede of the lame and the
halt in body and spirit; the railroad excursions and
reduced fares; the disputations of the physicians and
the rage of the thought-ologists at present coining
money rejuvenating neurotic humanity!

Yet such a national playground has been discov-
ered; and it isn't in Europe, where statisticians com-
pute that Americans yearly spend from a quarter to
half a billion dollars; and it isn't the Coast-to-Coast
trip which the president of a transcontinental told
me at least a hundred thousand people a year tra-
verse. A health resort guaranteed to banish care,
to stab apathy, to enlarge littleness, to slay listless-
ness, would pretty nearly put the thought-ologists
out of commission. Yet such a summer resort exists
at the very doors of every American capable of
scraping together a few hundred dollars $200 at


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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 2 of 19)