Edmund Frederick Erk.

A merry crusade to the Golden Gate : under the banners of Allegheny Commandery, No. 35, Knights Templar, Allegheny, Pa. : a complete story of the Twenty-ninth Triennial Conclave, Grand Encampment, Knights Templar, U.S.A. ... and a tour of ten thousand miles through the wonderland of the West online

. (page 16 of 38)
Online LibraryEdmund Frederick ErkA merry crusade to the Golden Gate : under the banners of Allegheny Commandery, No. 35, Knights Templar, Allegheny, Pa. : a complete story of the Twenty-ninth Triennial Conclave, Grand Encampment, Knights Templar, U.S.A. ... and a tour of ten thousand miles through the wonderland of the West → online text (page 16 of 38)
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Arriving in a deep valley we viewed extensive plains stretched
out before us and caught a glimpse of Lakeview, although we were
not destined to reach that point for two hours. Every now and again
we caught a fleeting glimpse of the hostelry at that place, but before
we could take a prolonged look, another hill would loom up and hide
it from view.

Arriving at Lakeview everyone took a vigorous wash in a water-
trough. The writer uses the word "everyone" advisedly, as several
members of the party insisted that the public be fully informed on
this point and asked that the fact be given special prominence.

Entering the dining-room we at once became conscious of the
fact that a conclave of flies from every section in the United States,
Dominion of Canada and foreign points was in session. The muslin-
covered walls and ceiling of the rooms were covered, while flying
squadrons sailed about by the hundred.

It was amusing to an onlooker to see the gymnastics of the diners
at the table, although the participants could not appreciate the joke.
One hand only was used in eating while the other was continuously
engaged in a smacking and cracking that sounded like a military
engagement, for there were nearly a hundred seated at the tables.
Even the flies seemed to enjoy it, for none were injured, while bald
heads reddened under the blows until they shone like the sun. With
arms ever in motion in similar directions, the guests looked like a well-
drilled class going through an exercise in calisthenics, and enough
exercise was provided to digest the meal before leaving the table.

After a short rest we started on the last relay to Monida and our
"Allegheny Special." In making up our train of coaches we included
an elderly lady and gentleman. We nicknamed the couple Mr. and
Mrs. Santa Claus, and they occupied the last seat on the last coach.
Racing between the drivers was carried on with a fury in the run to
Monida, but Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus dozed peacefully and their

coach soon became known as the "bum coach" because of its antiquity
and weakness for breaking down and resting at frequent intervals.

Shortly after leaving Lakeview, one of the coaches containing
ten gentlemen and one lady, began creaking badly and the driver
stopping and making an examination, discovered that one of the
boxes had become quite hot. No water could be found for miles
about and a consultation was held. Meanwhile coach after coach
passed until one came along that contained a Sir Knight whose busi-
ness is coach and wagon building. He gave his seat to the lady of the
stranded party and offered some professional advice that soon over-
came the trouble, and after greasing the axle and replacing the wheel,
the wild ride to Monida began.

The coach ran smoothly and to insure against further delay some
"oil" was applied to the driver. Coach after coach was passed!
More "oil" to the driver and only one coach remained ahead ! More
"oil" and happy thought one of the passengers wagered with the
driver that he could not pass the single coach ahead. A bottle of
"oil" was passed up to the reinsman and the wild ride that followed
will ever linger in the memories of those who survived it. Suffice to
say the driver won the wager and reached Monida in the van of the

Another exciting race on this relay was between the "Him" coach
and the "Her" coach these names having been designated because
of the sex of the passengers. At one point when the "Her" coach
was two miles in the lead, a passenger on the "Him" coach made the
usual $1 wager with the driver. The race for $1 or death was begun
in earnest. On the left was a ravine of great depth with many turns
in the road. While making one of the curves the driver, in his frantic
cries and whip-lashings, dropped his lines. With a marvelous leap he
succeeded in regaining them to the very good fortune of the pas-
sengers as well as himself. On he kept without abatement of pace
and shortly after, in the valley below, earned his wager of $1 by suc-
cessfully passing the "Her" coach and holding the advantage. The
yelling and shouting and whipping and galloping by all interested
made the race exciting and exhilarating and particularly boisterous.

"Three-Fingered Mike," one of the drivers who bore that prosaic
title because he had lost two fingers of one hand in some wild es-
capade, was notorious for his fast and daring and yet skilful driving.
As he brought his coach to a sudden stop in front of the hotel at
Monida, one of the horses fell helpless to the ground.

"What a pity is he dead?" was asked by Sir Schwerd, while
others gathered about and offered words of sympathy for the animal.

"Naw," answered "Mike," "he ain't dead only tired. That there


hoss started to lay down at the top of the hill nine miles back, but I
wa'n't goin' to let him down till I got to the reg'lar stoppin' place."

"Home" again! for the first time in a week! Cheers and smiles
bespoke the sentiments of every pilgrim in the party. The conductor
"Woodzie," porters and "Faithful" Johnstone of the commissary
were loud in their welcome. Once more there was a full audience
aboard to hear the singing of the chorus and listen to the many
stories and incidents that were to be told. With a parting salute,
and waving a last adieu, we left Monida to speed onward to Ogden,

The seats were once more filled and the good, old commissary
car was again pressed into service. It was a night typical of old
times old times that were but a week old, but that week had been
so crowded with incidents, adventure and excitement that it seemed
like months.

Although we were fatigued from our long drive and exhausted
after facing the direct rays of the sun for so many hours, we found
comfort in the fact that the pleasant memories of our trip through
the Yellowstone National Park (with the exception of the inn on
the border) will grow with increasing interest as the years roll by,
memories which some day will become all the more beautiful when
the last annoyance that incumbers them shall have faded out of our
minds, never again to return.

Boyhood days are no happier than those of after life, but we look
back upon them regretfully because we forget our punishments ; such
as customarily follow a parent's knowledge of "hookey-playing."
How we grieved when our ball team lost, or our kites became de-
stroyed! Because we have forgotten all the sorrows and privations
of that epoch and remember only the orchard robberies, cellar side-
shows, wooden sword pageants and vacation time.

We were satisfied. We felt that our reward was yet to come.
To us Yellowstone Park and the experiences within it were destined
to have an enchanted memory a year hence a memory that was
sure to grow with time, and which to us would be priceless.

As our train glided silently along, the moon shed a silvery light
over the whole surrounding country; the steep mountain banks ap-
peared in most fantastical shapes, while the high oaks on either side
bowed their branches and cast deep shadows over the track as we
flew past.

Suddenly there was a violent sprinkling upon the window glass.
It sounded like the fury of a violent hail-storm. Investigation proved
that we were traveling through a sand desert and the velocity of the
train was sweeping the sand in clouds against the coaches. Though
the windows were kept tightly closed, the sand nevertheless pene-


trated the window sashes. The sensation of riding through a sand-
storm, even though you create it yourself, is a peculiar one, although
by no means alarming.


N the light of the newborn day, in the rock-walled pocket of the
mountain, the ghost of the dead night found shelter yet. Afar,
upon the mountain-tops, across the valley, the radiant morn
stepped lightly. Moment by moment she drew nearer, scat-
tering jewels as she passed, until every distant peak gleamed in deli-
cate array.

Old-fashioned home-life aboard the train was re-established. The
cheering and oft-repeated greeting of "good morning" was expressed
and re-expressed in all fullness of heart. The same mass meeting
comprised of the same members, was re-assembled in the commissary
car and, as ever, was full of speech-makers who were invariably inter-
rupted. Motions were made that did not survive sufficient seconds
to be seconded. Amendments were offered that were "born to blush
unseen" and unheard. Resolutions were offered that died from
sheer exhaustion in their efforts to get "before the house."

Two mass meetings a day were arranged for, but the custom was
not to adjourn one until the other was full under way. New chair-
men were elected almost with the tick of the clock. "Boxmen" they
were, rather than chairmen, if the nature of the furniture was to be
considered. We were earnestly engrossed in these labors delightful
labors to us for the greater portion of the time; and yet, so often
fallaciously, that whenever, at long intervals, we safely delivered a
resolution, it was cause for public rejoicing.

One of the disturbing elements of these deliberating conferences
was the "I don't want to hear that" double-sextette. This degree
team was possessed with powerful voices, and whenever some ambi-
tious narrator found courage to spin a story, or some talented his-
torian arose to expound sterling thoughts on the natural beauties of
the country, he had no sooner opened a new can of preserved and
difficult words that would have been an ornament to any collection,
when the chorus would enthusiastically and unitedly set forth the
discordant roar "I don't want to hear that, 'Kunnie!' Dou you?"
"No, no ! We don't want to hear that !" thundered a chorus of voices.

Amidst these diversities, and others which took more serious


form, in the coaches, we eventually found ourselves at Ogden, Utah,
shortly before 9 o'clock in the morning.

We were cordially and fraternally greeted at the station by a
delegation of local Sir Knights who had a car in waiting, that we
might inspect their city. We took advantage of their kind offer by
an hour's ride. Among those who greeted us at Ogden was Mr. C. A.
Henry, ticket agent at the Union depot, who showed our party special
attention and every courtesy.

We found Olgden to be a city of enterprise. It is located at the
base of the Wasatch Range on the Ogden River, midway between
the Missouri River and the Golden Gate, and 833 miles east of San
Francisco. It lies in a rich, fertile valley and shelters a population
of 17,000. The Mormon movement of 1848 under Brigham Young
included Ogden, while Corrinne, a short distance west, was at one time
the largest Gentile settlement in Utah. Irrigation has worked won-
derfully to develop Ogden into a rich grain and fruit growing region.
In importance as a commercial and railway center Ogden is second
only to Salt Lake City, in Utah. Its people are progressive and it is
assured of as prosperous a future as any city in the inter-mountain

Returning to the station we were informed that the time standard
again changed, this time to Pacific standard. The latter is one hour
slower than mountain time or three hours slower than Pittsburgh

Hanley complained that his watch could not become
acclimated to the many variations and had completely failed to "keep
the hang." It had grown discouraged and stopped. The owner con-
tended that if the standards kept going back much further we would
be living in the week before last by the time San Francisco was
reached. At any event, he found consolation in the fact that his
appetite contained a clock-work equal to any emergency and that he
could always feel assured that it was meal time when it struck, re-
gardless whether it struck 12 or not.

There was considerable delay in leaving Ogden station and we
were informed that preparations were being made to take our "Spe-
cial" over the new short line known as the "Ogden-Lucin Cut-off,"
and that our "Special" was to be the second passenger train to cross

The "cut-off" is on the Southern Pacific system, the admirable
"Sunset Route," and presently we were bound on our novel tour. The
"cut-off" is 102 miles long, 72 miles on land and 30 on water
over the great Salt Lake. It is a saving of 40 miles over the old route
which made a semi-circle over the northern shore of the lake. The
old route crossed two mountain ranges while the new road is almost


perfectly level. Reaching the lake proper, the train sped over a con-
tinuous single-track trestle that seemed to sway under its burden.
Gravel and sand from the newly constructed roadbed crumbled and
rolled into the lake while workmen, who were still employed at various
points, stood upon a narrow pathway on the outer edge of the trestle
and anxiously watched the passing of the train, eagerly noting its in-
fluence upon the "fill-ins" and roadbed. The "cut-off" is a triumph of
engineering skill and presented many intricate problems before its
construction was achieved. At one point, near Promontory Point, a
cut 3,000 feet long was made into the sand and rock of a barren bluff.

It was at Promontory station, on the old line, on May 10, 1869,
that the builders of the original transcontinental line, the Union
Pacific and Central Pacific joined their tracks. The last connecting
spike, which was of gold, was driven with a silver hammer amid im-
pressive exercises. Two locomotives, one coming from the east and
the other from the west, met here, welding the last link in the chain
of transcontinental travel. The Southern Pacific afterward absorbed
the old Central Pacific line.

We continued across the great lake at greatly reduced speed,
owing to the newness of the trestle and roadbed. Where the waters
of the lake were especially shallow, or where the water had departed
entirely, the sight was a most interesting one, giving the appearance
of an immense desert of snow, due to the enormous deposits of crys-
talized salt.

In the early days Salt Lake was a much larger body of water
than it appears today, and undisputable evidence of the fact is shown
by the old shore lines which are indelibly traced high up on the
mountain sides. Researchers have mapped out these old water lines
and named the ancient lake "Lake Bonneville."

Shortly after passing Lucin, Utah, we observed a small granite
monument supported by a mass of rock. This marks the Nevada state
line and passing it, we entered upon the Great American Desert (also
known as the Humboldt Desert) and the expansive alkaline waste
loomed drearily before us.

Our next stop was Tecoma, Nevada, where the celebrated silver
and lead mines were discovered in 1874. On the left of the station
is a famous landmark, Pilot Peak, a lofty pile of rock towering into
the clouds 2,500 feet above the sands and sagebrush. This peak was
regarded with welcoming reverence by the emigrant and pioneer who
crossed the plains in the early days, for it pointed his course into
valleys and streams where water and food were procurable after days
of weary travel over the desert.

Several small stations were passed with scarcely a house in sight ;
absolutely nothing to relieve the eye over miles and miles of barren



sandy plains, with here and there a cluster of sagebrush valiantly
fighting for life. The little frame buildings which serve as flag sta-
tions are probably the tribute to civilization of one of the mining
camps for which the state is noted, and occasionally a hopeful pros-
pector leaves the train at these points and wanders into the dismal
desert in hope of attaining wealth in the form of enchanting silver,
gold and lead.

Moor station, which at one time was a good-sized community of
frontiersmen and lumbermen (during the construction of the railroad)
is now a deserted village. At this point there is a down grade of 311
miles to the Nevada Desert. As we passed these numerous little
stations the monotony of the barren waste became stronger, while
the railroad tracks had a peculiar interest, in that we recognized in
them a connection with the world.

It was while passing these way-stations that an interesting mass
meeting was in session in the commissary car. Several had declared
their surprise at not having seen much of the wild game for which the
west is noted and which they had hoped to see upon their natural
playground. Following the expression of this sentiment Mr. Null
declared with pride that he had seen several "flocks" of coyotes and
urged his hearers to be upon the lookout, for his trained sportsman's
scent informed him that there were some in the neighborhood. With
eager eyes the "commissary delegation" scanned the country for
miles around from out the open door of the commissary car, as the
train sped its course. With drawn revolver (22 calibre, a bullet from
which wild game takes with pleasure, and begs for more) Null bravely
awaited the foe. Suddenly, with an exclamation of joy, he pointed
to a spot a short distance ahead, crying out: "There is a flock of
coyotes! See them!" Before answer could be made, we were upon
them, and with a bang! bang! bang! he had discharged his baritone
instrument upon upon a harmless community of prairie dogs.

It required a map and several allopathic doses of logic to con-
vince Null that coyotes and prairie dogs were "birds of a different
feather," and it was at his good-natured expense that much amuse-
ment was afforded in the commissary car, in a full and complete dis-
cussion of his "flock" of coyotes.

Gradually our eyes and minds reverted to the lonely and deserted
sands that ran out to meet the horizon on every side. Desolation was
complete and in its completeness drew an impressive picture that
led the onlooker into mysterious dreams. There were no ploughed
fields, very few settlements, no trees nor grass nor vegetation of any
kind save the few straggling patches of sagebrush. At times we rode
for scores of miles without even the sight of a hut or the faintest clue


of humanity, or even animal life. It was a complete blank an unin-
viting, smileless, appropriately named desert.

One becomes enwrapped in serious thought at first in glancing
o'er this hapless land an effect that many confound with weariness.
With a sky unchanged from horizon to horizon and a deadly silence
over all, one becomes lost in the solitude and the onlooker's very soul
seems to fade out into the nothingness that lies before him. Now
and again a sort of deserted village is swiftly passed ; then a little
verdure, sandy islets and lastly, a few reefs of whitish calcareous stone
on the outer edge of an ocean of sand. So much sameness ; so little
variety, with scarcely a motion but the slow steady passage of the
rising sun in the east to its setting beneath the sand limits in the west.

Scarcely a twilight smiles upon the scene of emptiness, though
occasionally there is a sudden expansion of light and warmth with
burning winds that momentarily give the landscape a melancholy
glare that causes grewsome sensations. Normally there prevails a
radiant immobility, a kind of impossibility that seemed to have fallen
from the sky upon lifeless things, and from them to reflect into human
faces. After a time the eye became accustomed to the endless ex-
panse as it glared under the flaring sun in the nakedness which was
relieved only by the sagebrush and the repulsive cactus, and if any
astonishment was experienced, it was over the still remaining sensi-
bility to such slightly changing effects and at being so deeply im-
pressed with that which was but so simple.

We rarely saw a moving creature on these pathless sands. But
for the telegraph poles stalking ghost-like across the desert, it would
seem as if we had passed the limits of civilization and were moving
o'er the threshold of a land unexplored.

Following dinner, the "warrior band" repaired to the commissary
car only to find it in semi-darkness owing to trouble with the Pintsch
lights. Johnstone was equal to the occasion, and at one of the little
stations where we stopped for a moment, he alighted and "borrowed"
a few lanterns. While there was a perceptible difference in the
lights, Sir Craig contended that the change was immaterial, and that
in place of Pintsch lights we had "pinched lights."

The customary entertainment was afforded in the commissary
car and among new diversities introduced was a "Con" clave. It
wasn't a triennial affair, but we were willing to try it on any and all.

As we reached Palisade we were somewhat startled to hear a
scramble of feet on the roof of the commissary car. Making an in-
vestigation, we discovered that two "knights of the road" were bask-
ing on the promenade deck. Realizing that the "professional travel-
ers" were compelled to take the first train in sight in a country where
two trains a day is the limit, we instructed Sir Harry W. Lowrie,


chairman of our committee, to present our compliments to the gentle-
men upstairs. The suggestion was carried out but received no re-
sponse, possibly that the tramps on the roof thought we were "beneath

Several towns of more or less interest were passed during the
evening and night. Leaving Palisade, and passing through a 12-mile
canyon, Cluro was reached. Beowawe, Shoshone and Battle Moun-
tain are stations in the Humboldt Valley, which serve as distributing
points for the mining camps both north and south of the railroad.
Passing through many ranches, we came to Stone House, a station
deriving its name from an old building that formerly served as an
eating house and stop-over in the days of the stage coach. Many
conflicts between the early settlers and Indians occurred at this point.
Passing Iron Point we came to Winnemucca, the county seat of
Humboldt county. It is a mining center of considerable importance
and is rife with traditions from the days of the emigrants.

It was considerably later than the midnight hour when we reach-
ed Humboldt, which is known as the oasis of the Great Desert. It
possesses a lake that has an altitude equal to that of the Great Salt
Lake in Utah. Almost in the midst of the desert, with barrenness and
desolation on every side, stands this oasis with its verdant green.

Most of the pilgrims had long since retired when Humboldt was
reached, although a few were still gathered in the commissary
car. "Bobbie" sang a few songs in "sugar-coated doses" which made
them easy to take. He was voted a nightingale ; for all were agreed
that he was at his best at night and in the gale. Just as he had com-
pleted his last song, we thought we heard a distant call coming from
over the desert. We listened and it was repeated. It was some
Indian warrior, responding to what he had mistaken in "Bobbie's"
song as the warcry of a rival tribe.

As we looked out into the stilly night with its deep shadows of
darkness stretched o'er the mighty expanse, our thoughts reverted to
the possible unwritten history of the years gone by, which the desert
could disclose if it would.

We thought of the present conditions and future possibilities as
compared with those in the same region in the days of our forefathers.
We sought into the "future with a hope to learn what coming enter-
prise could effect, in bringing water to relieve the thirst of this
parched waste and transform it into the flower garden of the middle

We had often looked up into the midnight skies ; at the Southern
Cross in the Pacific; and the Milky Way in the Tropics; at Mars
and the so-called canals and at the Opal widths of the moon ; from the
snowy tops of mountains, and down into the bowels of the earth ; but


never, never had we studied the past, the present and the future
under such extraordinary circumstances, and with such peculiar and
enchanted environments, as on this night, crossing the Great Ameri-
can Desert.

Meditating in the stilly and solemn night, what does not enter
the mind? As our thoughts wandered aimlessly o'er the vast realm
of space, what did the power of thinking convey of that arid and re-
pulsive desert, which for years upon years served only as a barrier
against the advancement of civilization.

Nor had Nature always been in the same mood as she prevailed
through the many years over this wide stretch of discouragement
and nothingness. For in winter she clothed the countless acreage
with a deep cloak of snow, and for a summer garb, applied the burn-

Online LibraryEdmund Frederick ErkA merry crusade to the Golden Gate : under the banners of Allegheny Commandery, No. 35, Knights Templar, Allegheny, Pa. : a complete story of the Twenty-ninth Triennial Conclave, Grand Encampment, Knights Templar, U.S.A. ... and a tour of ten thousand miles through the wonderland of the West → online text (page 16 of 38)