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LIGE MOUNTS



RAPPER




Frank B.
Linderman



OF THE

UNIVERSITY
OF




BY FRANK B. LINDERMAN

LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

Illustrated by Joe de Long

INDIAN WHY STORIES

Sparks from War Eagle's Lodge-Fire

Illustrated by C. M. Russell

INDIAN OLD-MAN STORIES

More Sparks from War Eagle's Lodge-Fire
Illustrated by C. M. Russell

HOW IT CAME ABOUT STORIES

Illustrated by Carle Michel Boog



BUNCH-GRASS AND BLUE- JOINT

ON A PASSING FRONTIER
Sketches from the Northwest



CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER




There never was another such a morning



[Page 150



\ I



LIGE MOUNTS:
FREE TRAPPER



BY

FRANK B. LINDERMAN



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOE DE YONG




NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

Printed in the United States of America




TO MY DAUGHTER

VERNE

WHO INSISTED THAT

LIGE MOUNTS
TELL HIS OWN STORY



M627144



FOREWORD

I came to Montana Territory when I was a boy.
The country was wild, and essentially a land of
youth. Men referred to as "old Bill" or "old
Hank" were often in their prime, and proud of
their strength and fitness. Their ways were those
of a wilderness unspoiled, and primitiveness tradi-
tional, a proof of character. An extra blanket or
frying-pan in their meagre packs was disgraceful,
and in the eyes of his fellows lessened the possessor's
worth as a "good man." The life they led fasci-
nated me, and I became a trapper with them, my
partner being a man who had grown gray in the
wilderness. He felt a pride in owning a fast horse, a
dead-centre rifle, the shortest camp-equipment, and
the scantiest bed-roll in the Territory; and nothing
stirred him as did the sight of a fence. I shall
never forget his displeasure and chagrin when he
learned that Montana had ceased to be a Territory
and had become a State in the Union. "Now she's
gone to hell for keeps," he sighed. And I believed
him.

He knew the ways of the Indian, and through
him I became the Indian's friend, learning more
than he had known of their customs and beliefs; al-
though after so many years of acquaintance the
Indian remains to me still a man of mystery.

In this book I have sought to tell of life in the
very early days of the fur trade on the upper Mis-
souri River, and to show something of the real cus-
toms of both the white and red men who lived on

vii



viii FOREWORD

the plains. I am indebted to Captain H. M. Chit-
tenden's " History of the American Fur Trade" for
many historical facts, especially for the details of
the quarrel between the partners, Fink, Talbot, and
Carpenter. The words of the voyageur's song and
the " Notice to Enterprising Young Men" have been
taken from that work verbatim.

For proof that the Hudson's Bay Company prac-
tised questionable methods in dealing with com-
petitors, I refer the reader to the "Journals of Cap-
tain Palliser" (1857), and to "Three Years Among
the Mexicans and Indians," by General Thomas
James (1846).

In order to give the reader an idea of the dignity
with which the old-tune Indian conversed, I have
assumed that in speaking the Cree language, which
he had learned perfectly, or in translating conver-
sations from the Cree, Lige Mounts used nearly
perfect English.



ILLUSTRATIONS

There never was another such a morning . . . Frontispiece

FACING PAGE

I yelled with the rest and rode inside 102

Out on a knoll-top under the stars Mac began to sing

Cree 164



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
CHAPTER I

I don't remember much about my parents. They
both died when I was little. My mother died first ;
but I was so young I don't remember her at all.
Then when I was six years old my father was
struck by lightning. I remember that, and how
scared I was when the men packed him in out of
the dark woods and the rain. The men was drip-
ping wet so wet the water from their boots left
blotches on the puncheon floor between the door and
the bed where they laid father. And where Lafe
Daws stood, near the foot of the bed, his clothes
dripped a regular puddle that ran through the
cracks in the floor. I remember I thought it would
be fine to be as wet as that.

Lafe Daws said, "He's done for, I reckon," and
when he moved a little, another puddle begun to
grow about his boots. Then the lightning flashed
right with an awful clap of thunder, and Lafe Daws
dodged like somebody had struck at him; and I
crawled under the bed. My! how the rain poured
down ! And how dark it was in the house ! I cried
from fright. But whenever there was a flash of
lightning, and that was right often, I could see the
big boots and the puddles through my tears.

I was under the bed when Aunt Lib came. She
was my mother's sister. And that night I went to
live with her and Uncle Eldin Muzzey. I slept with
my cousin Eben, who was only four years old ; and
all night he laid crosswise of the bed; and the

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2 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

neighbors was coming and going between our house
and Aunt Lib's.

The next morning I saw our clock and a candle-
stick and a picture piled on Aunt Lib's table in her
house. "Them's ours," I told her, right scornful,
I reckon. But she only sighed, and kissed me on
the cheek. "Yes," she said, "they're ours yers
and mine, for ye're goin' to be my little boy now."

That was in Kentucky ; but the next spring Uncle
Eldin and Aunt Lib moved west, and I went along
with them.

I don't remember much of the journey, nor how
long it took us to reach Coon Creek, where Uncle
Eldin took up land and settled. It was fall before
we got moved into the cabin, which was built about
thirty yards from the creek; and winter come on by
the time a decent patch of land had been cleared
for a garden in the spring.

The cabin wa'n't much, but Uncle Eldin said it
would have to do for a spell; and right away Aunt
Lib begun to plan on the new house. She used to
talk a heap about it at first, and I reckon she ac-
tually lived in it, too. And it done her good, mebby,
but it didn't last. She'd slave to lay by a little to-
wards it, always talking about the raising and the
neighbors that would be on hand to he'p when the
time come; but strive as she might, poverty hov-
ered about us like a shadow, and whenever her sav-
ings had growed to a worth-while, something she'd
never thought of would romp in and carry them off
long 'fore the amount was big enough to warrant
even a beginning. And the children kept coming,
too; so that when I was eleven there was six, the
oldest nine years; and them having to be fed and
clothed made it all the harder to save. Aunt Lib's



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 3

savings jar was mighty nigh always empty now,
and at last she give up ever having a new house.

The vines, as if to make it up to her, kept grow-
ing higher and higher over the little porch we'd
added to the old cabin ; and each fall when the hick-
ory leaves turned yellow Uncle Eldin or me re-
daubed the cracks between the rough logs to make
the place snug for winter.

Nobody worked harder than Uncle Eldin. I
he'ped him all I could from the beginning, and we'd
cleared quite a piece by the time I was twelve
cleared and fenced it, so that there was always crop
enough, but no money. Each year we added to the
clearing, too, pushing back the timber and grub-
bing and plowing from daylight to plumb dark, just
him and me.

There was a grist-mill at Coon Creek Crossing*,
and a store and a blacksmith shop, and quite a vil-
lage besides. Then there was the church where we
come sometimes of Sundays to hear Joshua Moulds,
the circuit rider, preach. I never let Aunt Lib
know but I never liked to go, myse'f , because it
seemed like Joshua Moulds never let people go home
happy if he could he'p it. I'd heered him say God
was love more'n once, but he never preached about
that only hell-fire and damnation. It seemed right
queer that Moulds didn't preach more about good
things and let the bad rest up. But he never did.

Coon Creek Crossing was four miles from our
place; and when I was eleven Mrs. Hawkins'
brother come there from Virginia. His name was
Abner Hastings, and he was a schoolmaster. Right
away Aunt Lib got me ready to go to school. That
winter and the next I walked 'most every day to
the Crossing, as we called it, and went to school



4 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

there with some other boys and girls. The oldest
was nigh to twenty and I was the youngest of the
lot.

Abner Hastings was a good man, and I liked him
from the start. He was tall and thin and had a
mighty bad cough that used to nigh wear him out
at times. Folks said he had lung trouble, and I
reckon he had. But he liked birds an^ flowers, and
that made me and him right friendly. It was him
that gave me Biddle's book about Captain Lewis
and Captain Clark and their trip up the Missouri
river.

I read it through at least a dozen times till I
knowed it 'most by heart. Aunt Lib read it too,
but she said it was trash, mostly, and lies that a boy
never ought to read. It fretted her so, I took the
book back to Abner Hastings after a while; and he
was glad to get it, I reckon, for books was mighty
scarce.

Just above us on Coon Creek about three miles
was the Byers' place. "The Plantation," we called
it. Nobody liked Caley Byers very well, and no-
body knowed much about him or his family. They
had a passel of slaves and come from further south,
folks said, and I reckon that was true. But none
of the Byerses ever talked about their past or the
place they come from to anybody, far as I know.
They considered themse'fs real quality-folks, and
mebby they was. But nobody ever come to the
plantation to visit a spell from further south, nor
the Byerses folks didn't go away from Coon Creek.
That was talked about some, for most folks hold a
hankering for old friends and old home-places ; but
Caley Byers didn't seem to have any. Leastways
he never showed it if he did. Some folks even



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 5

hinted there was reasons why the Byerses never
had no visitors nor went back to their old home.
There was a yarn that was supposed to have been
told by an old slave that died on the Plantation
quite a time before we come to live on Coon Creek.
And there was a woman in it, of course. But long
before I left, the garbled story was plumb wore out,
and, as nothing had been added to it since the old
nigger died, it wa'n't far from being dead itse'f.
The other slaves never talked nor told anything,
if they had anything to tell. But nobody liked
Caley Byers. And I didn't. I had my own rea-
sons not borrowed ones either.

A little more'n half way between our place and
Coon Creek Crossing there was a small cleared
piece that folks called Dan's Clearing. Nobody
knowed who Dan had been; and only a deserted
cabin with a broken door was left to prove there
ever was such a man as Dan. I used to like to go
there, and once I found an old bullet-mould in the
fireplace of the rickety cabin. I prized my find
above everything I possessed, which wa'n't much.

There was a trail that followed along Coon Creek
clean to the Crossing and beyond. It mighty sel-
dom left the stream and even crossed it several
times where the way was bad, just to get to stay
by it, I reckon. It was longer than the wagon road,
quite a little, but when I went to the Crossing afoot,
which I mostly did, I took the Coon Creek trail be-
cause I liked it better than the stumpy wagon road.
It was an old deer trail and wa'n't made by men
nor laid out to save time.

There was a bad place on the trail, made by a
swamp fed from springs at the head of Dan's Clear-
ing; and there the old deer-trail, using the swamp



6 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

as an excuse, turned sharp and cut straight across
the cleared piece. Somebody had cut a big tree and
layed a log on the lower side at the bad place, and
while that he'ped some, it made the trail mighty
narrow for the length of the log.

One day I was coming home from school, afoot, of
course, and I had Jeff Hawkins* spelling book under
my arm. Just as I got to the bad place in the trail,
here come Caley Byers a-hoss-back, and he made
out like he didn't see me ; but I saw him see me
when he made the sharp turn. I turned out as far
as I could without stepping off into the creek to let
him by, but just at the narrowest place he pulled
his hoss over sudden, and crowded me into the
water. Crackey! but I was mad. I picked up a
stone and let him have it. It hit him in the back
and he turned and come at me. But I was in the
creek, and I rocked him good and plenty till he quit.
He didn't speak to me, nor I to him. I just pegged
him good and he rode off. He never did tell it; nor
neither did I. Most likely he was ashamed to. But
I got water on Jeff Hawkins' spelling book and give
him my bullet-mould to make it up to him, though
I didn't reckon he cared much about the book. I
never had liked Caley Byers, because other folks
didn't; but now I hated him on my own account.

I don't know if it was that Biddle's book, but
from the time I went to school to Abner Hastings I
begun to wish I was a man, and I wished it hard.
I only went part of two seasons, for Abner Hast-
ings died. And then I wished I'd kept the Biddle
book more'n ever.

I growed pretty fast. Hard work didn't hurt
me; and when I was eighteen I was right close to
six feet and about as thick's your finger, though



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 7

straight, I reckon, as anybody. But I knowed I
looked a heap older'n I was. One winter I split
rails for Mr. Hawkins at the crossing and earned a
rifle. It was brand new and though I didn't call it
mine, exactly, I was mighty proud of it. I fetched
it home, and Uncle Eldin used it as much as I did;
but I always had turned whatever I could earn to
Aunt Lib ; and so Uncle Eldin reckoned the weapon
Was part his, and it was. He had a rifle, but it
wa'n't half the gun that the new one was. And so
his didn't get much use or attention. I tell you, I
was proud of that rifle, and every flint I had was a
picked one. I reckon I found more pleasure in run-
ning bullets for that gun than in any other thing
that and reading a newspaper Mr. Hawkins give
me at the Crossing once when I went there with a
grist of corn.

The paper was a copy of the Missouri Gazette,
and it had a story in it about a bad fight General
Ashley had with the Arickara Indians 'way up the
river. I fetched the paper home and hid it in a
box under the bed. I was ashamed to hide it; but
everything about Indians fretted Aunt Lib, and so
I hid it. I bet I knowed that story by heart before
Aunt Lib found the paper. She give it back, scold-
ing a little about lies and foolish boys. She wa'n't
very big not up to my shoulder then but she
thought she'd ought to scold me, I reckon. Many a
night after they was all asleep I lit a tallow dip and
re-read that story not because I needed to, but be-
cause I was glad I had it and could read.

My cousin Eben was most as big as I was now,
and strong as an ox. And Charles, too, had growed
to be a big stout boy. Besides, the girls could he'p
Aunt Lib a lot. And I begun to figure I wa'n't



8 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

needed much and that mine was another mouth to
feed. I'd set sometimes in Dan's Clearing on the
way to the mill and wonder if the wild country
would all be gone before I got to see it. I had spoke
about me doing something for myse'f a heap of
times, but Aunt Lib always made a fuss when I
did. "The place is plenty big enough, Lige," she'd
say, "an* ye're too young yit." Or, "Ye been readin'
more of that trash in that paper. I wished you'd
never fetched it home."

I didn't like to fret her, but I did wa*nt to start
out for myse'f and mebby he'p her and Uncle Eldin
in the end. I couldn't see any chance to he'p them
where I was; and every time I dreamed of doing
for myse'f it had to do with making up to Aunt Lib
and Uncle Eldin for being good to me. But 'twa'n't
no use to talk to Aunt Lib about it.

One day I was plowing corn. It was June and
the air was still, and sweet with the breath of grow-
ing things in the sunshine. Bees hummed straight
across the field to Aunt Lib's hive behind the house,
plumb loaded down with the sweet of flowers. And
the perfume from the big lilac bush by the gate
come clear over to where I was at work. Every
live thing was happy, and busy too, either working
or playing. If old Becky hadn't knowed her busi-
ness I'd sure plowed up the corn watching things
that was glad they was alive. I remember two
gray squirrels chasing each other up one tree and
down another, chattering and blackguarding awful.
Finally they come tearing across the field, so blind
in their play that they run plumb under Becky and
over into the yard where the hounds was sleeping.
Then one of them climbed the big shag-bark hickory



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 9

near the house and begun to bark at the dogs, qua-
qua-quaa ! like he wanted to drive them away. The
other squirrel wa'n't so brash, and I don't know
where he went. The fellow in the tree scolded and
barked quite a while, but the dogs didn't wake or
notice. I had just turned old Becky at the end of
a row or she turned herse'f ; and as I caught the
flash of Aunt Lib's red peonies in the yard, I heered
the gate creak on its wooden hinges. That set off
both the dogs. Bristling and barking like hounds
can, they made a rush for the gate, where I saw
Caley Byers getting down off his hoss. Then Aunt
Lib run out of the house. "You Bugle ! come back
yer ! Bing ! Bing ! Back with ye !" she called, and
ran down towards the gate to meet Byers, wiping
her hands on her apron as she went.

Both hounds was friendly, but any good hound
will bark. I saw that Caley Byers was squared
off to meet them and was looking ornery; although
Bugle was wagging his tail, and neither him nor
Bing was bristled then. Bugle was a cripple. He
only had three legs, having lost one in a trap when
he was a pup. He was my dog, and was friendly
to everybody. He tried to welcome Byers in good
earnest now; but the ornery trash kicked him, and
he went yelping back to the house. I didn't hear
what Byers was saying to Aunt Lib; but when he
kicked Bugle that way for nothing like he did, all
my old dislike for the man come loping back, and I
was mad clean through. I wrapped the lines
around the plow-handles and went down there.

I reckon I was expected anyway, for Aunt Lib
with her hand shading her eyes was watching me.
And so was Caley Byers.

He didn't wait for me to say a 'howdy/ but



10 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

pitched right in. "I want you to keep your damned
hawgs off my place," he says, lashing his boots with
a riding whip. I wa'n't within decent talking dis-
tance even. His chin was stuck out ornery-like,
and there was a sneer on his face that would have
kept a kitten away from milk.

"Hear me?" he says, louder'n ever.

All the meanness in me come a-surging up and I
could feel my hair prickle with it. But I hobbled
it quick.

"Yes, sir," I says. "I hear you right plain. But
when did our hawgs bother you?"

"Bother me!" he bellered. "Bother me! Why,
last night and every night. I won't put up with it
another minute. I'll have them killed, every damn-
ed one."

"Well," I says, "kill all the hawgs you've a mind
to for all o* me, 'cause our hawgs ain't bothered you
none. All we got is a sow an' seven pigs a week
old. I don't reckon they're able to travel so far as
your place yet."

I see him weaken plain. I reckon he believed me
all right, but he wa'n't the man to admit he was
wrong.

"They are your hawgs !" he says, making the dust
fly out of his boot with his whip. "They are your
hawgs, and you know it. And you will "

I stepped up right close. "That's all right, Caley
Byers," I says, "but kickin' Bugle the way you-all
did, ain't all right. That hound is mine, and he's a
cripple-dawg with only three laigs. I don't 'low
folks to abuse him no time. He never harmed no
person, an' he never will."

Cracky! he was mad. "He'll never harm me, if



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 11

I can catch him off this place once," he cried. "1*11
kill him on sight. Hear me?"

I knowed I was mighty nigh a fuss, but I kept
hold of myse'f . "I reckon you'd best do the hawg-
killin', Caley Byers," I says. And I looked him
square in the eyes, so's he'd know I wa'n't fooling.

Then I waited a bit, for it seemed to me it was
his say; but he begun to back towards his hoss; and
old Becky getting nervous and fighting flies, I went
back to the corn.

Byers was muttering to himse'f when he got on
and rode off. And I saw Aunt Lib shut the gate
and go back to the house. I knowed she was plumb
scared and fretting, for she was always afraid of
Caley Byers, somehow. He was so high and mighty,
I reckon.

I fixed myse'f for a scolding. I never said noth-
ing to Aunt Lib when she scolded me, 'cause I
knowed she was trying to do right by me, and
everybody else, for that matter. But when at noon
I went to the house for dinner, she didn't say a
word. I knowed she'd told Uncle Eldin, though. I
could tell by his looks; but he never mentioned it
and neither did I. All he said was, "How's the co'n
looking, Lige?"

I told him it would make a good crop, I reckoned,
and that I was nigh done plowing.

Somehow my little rucus with Caley Byers made
me want to get away and do for myse'f more'n ever.
I was nigh to nineteen and living with other folks
yet. It didn't seem right. Something inside me
kept saying, "Tell 'em you're going to strike out."
But I waited till dinner was pretty nigh over ; then
I said:

"Uncle Eldin, don't you-all reckon I'd best be up



12 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

and doing for myse'f ? I'm goin' on for nineteen
now and can take care of myse'f. You and Aunt
Lib's been powerful good to me, and some day I'll
shore make it up to you. But the work's about
done, and when it's finished I'd just like to have a
look 'round a spell. I've said so before, but you and
Aunt Lib reckoned I was too young. Eben's 'most
a man, an' can do a man's work a'ready."

"Now Lige, I wished you-all wouldn't talk that a-
way," Aunt Lib said, brushing back her hair like
she was scared. I knowed just what she would say
every word ; and so I says :

"But Aunt Lib, I figure I have been about worth
my board and keep up to now. You-all won't need
me after this crop's plowed, and the garden weeded.
I just itch to be a-findin' a place for myse'f. And
I've sure got it to do before I get too old to want
to."

I see I was fretting her again, and I quit. But
she says, "You talk to him, Eldin. You're a man,
and mebby he'll listen to you."

I knowed she was scared I'd go up the river. I
knowed too she'd talked a heap about it to Uncle
Eldin.

"Better stay where you be till you find some good
chance, Lige," he said, shoving his chair back from
the table. "I don't figger you owe us anything,
boy not a red cent," he says. "You've been a big
he'p to me, and I don't know what I'd a-done with-
out you. When the time comes for you to go, I
won't lay a straw in your way, no matter where it
p'ints, so long's it's honest." Then he got up for
his hat and went back to the timber where he was
splitting rails for fencing.



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 13

Cracky ! There didn't seem to be any use to talk,
and I sure did hate to fret Aunt Lib.

I set there a spell, thinking hard. I could see the
big lilac bush, all full of purple blossoms, and the
cornfield, and the garden, and the wood pile, and
Aunt Lib's flowers and vines. What a change we'd
made there in the wilderness with two axes and a
team since we settled on Coon Creek. It had all
took work. And there'd always been the struggle
with poverty, ever since I could remember. My
mind run on back to chore days and follered along
to that very day. I was right sure I hadn't shirked
none nor bothered only mebby fretting Aunt Lib
with my talk. Many a time when Uncle Eldin
could spare me I'd split rails or cut cord-wood for
Hawkins, the storekeeper at the Crossing, and never
once kept a red cent of what I'd earned. Well,
once, mebby I did, but it was winter time, and Mor-
gan Jackson didn't have no money, noway. I cut
eight cords of wood for him. He give me a silver
ring to pay for it, and I kept it for myse'f . It had
a shield engraved on it, and was mighty pretty.
But mostly I'd always turned everything over to
Aunt Lib, though I knowed it wa'n't a heap. I
was glad I'd done it, too I'd always a heap ruther
work than be idle; for of late when I was loafing I
couldn't keep from thinking of the wild country up
the big river. And I was mighty afraid it would


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