Harry T. (Harry Taylor) Gause.

Detailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 online

. (page 8 of 14)
Online LibraryHarry T. (Harry Taylor) GauseDetailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 → online text (page 8 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

roundings, seldom if ever intruded upon by any human beings,
that they are strangers to such a feeling as fear of man or
fire arms, and, supposing a person to be some harmless animal,
or not caring in the least for him, they scarcely move away
at his approach, but will sit perfectly still until almost cap-
tured. We shot six of them in nearly as many minutes and
then only stopped because our ammunition began to run low,
and we feared being left without any, especially as we had
antelope in prospect. Mr. Mills strung them together, and
Stapler volunteered to act in the capacity of game carrier
for the remainder of the day, to which we gladly assented,
being already burdened with our rifles.


On arriving at the mountain top overlooking the basin,
we caught a glimpse of some sheep, but were unsuccessful in
approaching them, they taking a fright for some unknown
cause and dashing up the side of the " divide" out of sight.

Further down we came in sight of a large herd of ante-
lope, and after crawling on our very faces, inch by inch, for a
hundred yards, we succeeded in obtaining three pretty fair
shots, and in wounding one. We hastily followed them, as
we supposed up a narrow gorge, leading to one of the two
little lakes of which I have spoken, but on arriving there, no
game was in sight. We then started out upon a long chase,
leaving Mr. Stapler lying lazily, in a ravine, about a mile back.
We returned after sometime, not having been able to discover
their whereabouts, so we started back to camp. As we were
leaving the basin, we noticed the tracks of a large herd that
had, apparently, just passed over the ground in a run. We
concluded immediately, that these were the animals we had
seen, so hastened on, lifting the trail as we proceeded ; but,
as it led us directly past the camp, we desisted there and
abandoned the pursuit of game of any description for the re-
mainder of the day, it then being nearly supper time.

On approaching, we found the mules in a state of wild
excitement. They snorted, stamped upon the ground with
their hoofs, and uneasily moved from one place to another, as
if in mortal terror of some, as yet, unseen danger. We did
not understand what it all meant until our guide informed us
that this was the surest indication of the presence of master
"bruin." This intelligence was not calculated to put us en-
tirely at our ease, especially when he took us out in the woods
a few steps and pointed out the bear's tracks in the yielding
soil, plainly noticeable by the bent and crushed reeds, and
fresh and clearly defined foot-marks.


We examined everything about camp carefully, but find-
ing that nothing was missing, were contented. Mr. Mills,
who up to this time had been in the best of spirits, now com-
plained of a severe headache and seemed so dejected, that his
indisposition cast a gloom over every one's feelings. He was
utterly unable to attend to the cooking, or indeed any other
little camp duties, so we relieved him as far as we could ; but,
in the midst of our bustle, Mr. Reed, who had been out shoot-
ing and prospecting all day, came in, and set about preparing
the supper. There were no stories nor bear yarns told at the
camp-fire that night. We all retired early, fatigued with the
day's tramp.

On the following morning, Mr. Mills felt so much better,
that Stapler and I were warranted in leaving him to take a
turn through the woods in search of deer and grouse. We
ascended the opposite mountain as far as the timber line, then
followed it down the ravine for some distance, without obtain-
ing a shot, except at a cony. By this time we were pretty
thoroughly tired of the chase ; and, feeling worn out by such
continued exertions, determined to sit down upon a fallen
tree trunk and spend the morning in a rather more quiet and
less wearisome manner.

Two short hours slipped insensibly away as we sat, chat-
ting and enjoying our wild surroundings, and upon consulting
our watches we could scarcely force ourselves to believe that
it was dinner time. However, not caring to disturb Mr. Mills'
slumber by a too early return, we amused ourselves by prac-
ticing with our rifles ; and we accomplished wonders as marks-
men. About noon, we crossed the valley, and returned under
cover of the forest, to the camp, when we ate some dry crack-
ers and drank some cold water, which was ' dinner." In the
afternoon, we found entertainment in target shooting, which


was carried on at some distance from camp, in order to be out
of hearing of Mr. Mills. We kept at this wanton fusilade
until supper time. After the meal had been finished, we did
not linger long about the fire, but very soon sought our blank-
ets and refreshing sleep.

On inquiring concerning Mr. Mills' health upon the fol-
lowing morning, we found him so much improved that he was
able to attend to the necessary preparations for leaving the
mountain and returning to Fair Play. We hastily packed the
wagon and started, taking a last, long look at the spot, which
perhaps we should never see again, and where we had derived
an experience that would remain with, and influence us during
the remainder of our lives. It was with .positive regret that
we bade adieu to the old camp, and instinctively we were
reminded of another farewell to the same rough but happy
life, that occurred three long years ago ; and how much has
transpired since then ! How many events have occurred in
our individual history to improve or mar our characters. Our
wagon, however soon jolted, unceremoniously, all thoughts of
a sentimental description out of us, and, as we enjoyed the
beauty of the scenery through which we were riding, we soon
forgot that such a camp had ever existed. We were passing
over the road which we had traversed in coming out from Fair
Play, so that it afforded us a source of continual interest to
recognize the different points of special beauty or singularity
as they appeared.

When we came to ascend the range, we found it utterly
impossible for the mules to drag the heavily loaded wagon up
after them. It was as much as a pedestrian could 'do to scale
this fearfully steep ascent. We were obliged to unpack the
wagon and carry each article up the hill upon our backs. It
was very warm down in the valley, so we had a rather sorry


time of it, especially as the path rose at an angle of more
than forty-five degrees. After having accomplished the
climb, we rested for sometime upon the summit and then con-
tinued our journey, soon reaching the Platte parks and glens,
of which I spoke when describing the " out-trip."

Steep, narrow canons, unmarked by any trail, abounded on
all sides, which, walled in by smooth, precipitous rocks, were
impassable for any quadruped less agile than a mountain goat.
Along the bottom of the gorge that led us down from the top
of the pass, a brook leaped and plashed over the rocks in a
sheet of silver. The overlooking hills were thickly studded
with shrubs of oak and tall trees of pine, spruce, and fir. Wild
cherries and clusters of purple berries, were noticeable upon
either side as we wound down among the steep, dangerous
gorges. We saw one or two antelopes, one of which we at-
tempted to kill but he saw us too soon and galloped up a side
ravine out of range.


In Fair Play Again. Three of Colorado's Great Men. The
Bakers Ranch Imposition. A Characteristic Spccc/i.
Miss Elegance. The View from the Summit of the Range.
One Link in the Chain of Western Life. The Ride down
Turkey Creek Canon. Denver once more.

We arrived in Fair Play at noon, in time fora good din-
ner at the Clinton House. Old Dave Miller and his busy lit-
tle wife, seemed right glad to see us again, and at once install-
ed us in a comfortable room, that needs no interrogation point
after it. We went as soon as we had finished dinner and en-
gaged our seats in the stage that was to leave for Denver,
upon the following morning. We were obliged to decline a
very kind invitation to visit the silver mines belonging to the
company of which Messrs. Mills and Reed were members,
also one from a Mr. Paul, graduate of Williams College, and at
present engaged in herding and mining, and in practicing law.

Notwithstanding the unattractiveness of Fair Play, we
have met some very kind and gentlemanly men there, and on
their account will ever put a diminuent expression in our
severe criticism of its hospitality.

Early on Thursday morning, we bade adieu to all our
friends, and rattled off in the roughest, jerkiest old stage
coach that can well be imagined. It was hardly worth the


name, but nevertheless, we hailed it with pleasure, as it was
the means by which we were to reach civilization once more.
We have come to the conclusion that there is nothing, after
all, like civilization for real pleasure.

We had for company three lawyers ; the chief-justice of
the territory, an associate justice, and attorney general, all
high sounding titles, but, by no means, attached to correspond-
ingly high toned men, though they were rather "high toned"
in a certain way after all. They had \*tti\ fishing, but looked
as if they had been "somewhere else." Their conversation
savored of the horrible as they mirthfully recounted some of
the most sickening murders and crimes that had been com-
mitted in that neighborhood, and of the execution of the law,
&c., &c. A wholesale massacre that had occured some months
previous, on the road upon which we were then traveling,
seemed to afford them infinite satisfaction and relish, for they
discussed every particular with a gusto that rather struck us,
who were not lawyers, and did not know how to appreciate
a right clever manslaughter ; but we got along very well
together, for they shared their loose lap-blankets with us, and
we, in turn, listened most attentively to their learned

Unfortunately, (?) at a little place called Hamilton, we
lost our pleasant (?) companions, who there changed coaches
for Breckinridge, where, innocently I suppose, there had been
a great murder committed, for nothing would have drawn
them sooner from their rods and lines, I am convinced. I
would'nt venture to say that they went to ferret out the crim-
inal with all their lawyer's tact and sagacity, or to enjoy the
realization of their nearness to the real man who had had
bravery enough to be 'singular.' I should judge that strength
of character, (in a hanging operation,) was their hobby.


After their departure we were the sole occupants of the
stage, with a single exception in the person of an old man,
who sat out in front with the driver. We passed through the
entire length of South Park just as we had come out, and fol-
lowed the same road until we reached Hepborn's ranch,
where we received some additional company by the entrance
of a pleasant looking, elderly man with his daughter and her
little baby. She was quite young and very pretty, so that
this couple formed a most agreeable acquisition to the party.
Mr. Davis, the gentleman, was talkative and entertaining ;
and in a short time proved so genial, that we had not been
riding a mile, before we were chatting away in the most socia-
ble manner.

The road now became more uneven, although it ran
along between hills of much less magnitude than those we
had met with previously ; however, at about ten miles below
Hepborn's, we passed through some fearful gorges and steep-
sided ravines, that rivaled even the Clear Creek Canon.

At Baker's ranch, a man got in who had no business to
do so, as the "jerky" was already well filled, there being two
upon each of the three narrow seats. But he possessed that
characteristic very comonly and appropriately termed "brass,"
so that without further ado, he mounted the wheels and
climbed in beside Stapler, who sat next me on the second
seat, the back seat being given to the lady and her escort.
He was very officious in addressing the young mother in re-
gard to her baby, wanted to nurse "the little one," and asked
her a thousand questions concerning her child, her father,
herself, her home, and everything else which any light-headed
individual might think of, thoroughly disgusting us all there-
by. He proved to be a baptist minister stationed at Denver.
Every once in a while such a sentence as "Ah ! My dea' "itty"


one, will 'ou not "turn" to my awns?" 'would leave us in per-
plexing doubt, as to which of the two was the bigger baby.
He crowded us both in a most unmerciful manner, and pushed
me almost out of the stage, so much so, that I was obliged to
sit with my feet outside upon the brake. Every now and
then, however, he would turn slowly around, with much diffi-
culty unwedging his huge body, and observe with a meanly
sarcastic smile, ''I hope, gentlemen, I do not crowd you at
all?" or i4 I trust you are quite comfortable, sir." We always,
of course, thanked him quite curtly and returned the wish
with interest. He annoyed us excessively by his ill humor
and disgusting officiousness throughout the entire afternoon.

At a station called 4t White's Ranch " we gentlemen were
standing in the narrow door way of the half house, half hotel.
It had been raining and shining by turns, for sometime past,
but now had just cleared off as if it were going to remain so
during the rest of the day. We had taken dinner at a little
place just the other side of Hepborn's, and were mow looking
forward to the view that we should obtain from the summit
of the range, the base of which we had already reached. We
had been discussing the beauties and peculiarities of the ride,
when the driver came and informed us that we were to have
another passenger. We insisted upon his excluding said in-
dividual, as there were in the vehicle more than we could con-
veniently accommodate ; but we argued all to no purpose. He
was inexorable. What was our dismay when we were request-
ed, in a steeled hard voice to "please step aside", and let a
stiff ungainly somebody pass us. We now went in a body and
poured forth our grievances into the unsympathizing ear of
the driver. He listened attentively with a merry twinkle in
his blue eye, and then quietly replied, "Get in gentlemen,
make yourselves comfortable, put your arms around her and


squeeze her like the d 1. This was the most characteristic
speech that I had heard since entering the mountain.

The preacher climbed over front, alongside the driver,
leaving the new arrival and our two selves as the occupants
of the second seat. She was the properest person in all the
world, I think. Primness is no name for it. She had a certain,
indescribable manner of her own, to perform even the slightest
movements. Her whole air was preciseness itself. Her in-
fluence, method and her appearance a mixture of everything
rigid and frigid. When, I, with difficulty repressing a smile,
innocently suggested that a seat between Stapler and myself
might be preferable, she drew up to her full hight and an-
swered through closed teeth, while casting her eyes askant on
the ground and almost biting her lip, ''No ! I thank you Sir,
I desire to be seated upon the extremity" ; and she was seat-
ed upon the extremity with a vengence. Verily, we perform-
ed her desire to the letter, for she was shoved as far out as she
could conveniently hang on, though not with malice prepense
but from the force of circumstances.

Stapler was sitting with both his feet out of the stage, and
I, turned side-wise, clinging with all my strength to his body
for fear of tumbling into Miss Elegance's rigid arms^ which
I am inclined to think would have taken some of the stiffness
out of them. Yet, withal, she was not bad looking. She prov-
ed to be a "school marm", which fact, explained her in-
tensely correct grammer and pronunciation even of a sigh.
I went so far as to notice that she breathed just twenty times
in every minute, by the watch. I guess this last feat must
have required long training and diligent practice. Mr. Davis,
the father of the young lady, was, I forgot to say, very corpu-
lent, and when he politely proposed changing with Miss
Elegance, and allowing her to occupy a place beside his daught-


er, we fairly trembled for the consequences. He rose with a
genial smile, and bowing to her as well as the rolling of the
"jerky" would permit, offered her his seat. It was fairly
suffocating to see her as she attempted to bow gracefully, at
the same time being almost pitched into the old gentleman's
arms by a sudden plunge of the wagon, then to hear her inco-
herent but fearfully correct answer. " I should esteem it both
a pleasure and a privilege to occupy a seat by the lady, but
would exceedingly regret having caused you such great in-
convenience by too hastily accepting an offer, made under
such disadvantageous circumstances." There was a scarcely
audible "whew !" went around the coach as she concluded ;
but I guess she did not notice it, for she remained as the
"Danseuse" in Hans Anderson's Tinsoldier, " steadfast and up-
right". We almost choked in our endeavors to suppress the
laughter caused by this speech ; but the fun was yet to come.
She, at last, with great "hauteur" and "empressement" ac-
cepted his offer (may she never have another !) and tried to
pass, without touching even a hem of his garments, in a space
which he already well filled. This was too amusing for any
one to repress his risibles. The old man's face lit up with a
jovial smile as he held out his hand to support her, but she
was all ice, refusing his proffered kindness and "squelching"
him with a look as if he had been a refractory school-boy.
Thinking that she could step over the loose carpet bags and
debris, littering the floor of the 'jerkey ' ; and imagining that
she could maintain her awful self possession amid the jolts and
tumblings of the rickety old box, she attempted the crossing,
but no sooner had she risen, than a quick lurch of the coach,
sent her this time, straight into the old gentleman's arms.
With almost inconceivable rapidity, extricating herself from
this dilemma, she only had time to turn into stone (granite at
that) again, when she went plunging over toward the back


seat, but missing it, would have gone out, had I not quickly
interposed an arm. Her motions now became surprisingly
rapid. No one could hold her. She went tumbling and
dancing about like a rubber-doll, not a bit stiff. At the
moment when the excitement was at its highest pitch,
there was suddenly an awful pause and we all looked
round to see whether she had fallen overboard or was under
the seat ; for we had stationed ourselves at each of the
openings between the standards, in order to head her off if
she attempted an escape through them. To our surprise
we saw her sitting beside the lady with the same imperturba-
ble expression and the same rigidity of position. I dont like
to be rash, but I would be willing to state my belief that that
woman or iron bar whichever she may be, might start at the
top and go rolling down Mount Vesuvius, clear to the bottom
and then rise up with a sublime composure, and go to teach-
ing a school-boy to calculate the velocity of her descent. At
one of the stations when we changed the horses or rather
mules, she absolutely did lean, yes, lean just a trifle toward
Mr. Davis and said to him in a voice, mathematically modu-
lated, "lam constrained Sir, to insist upon your again oc-
cupying this seat, and with many thanks for your protracted
kindness." It was very unkind in us to laugh, but there was
not one in the party who could command self possession
sufficient to help it. Nothing touched her feelings, though, if
we might judge by her expression of imbecile calmness. An
hour or two passed by in social good humor after the confu-
sion of seat changing, and we were all in high spirits, except
Miss Elegance, who was certainly some relation to Lot's
wife, if there is any virtue in inheritance.

We were now almost to the end of the long and arduous
ascent of the range, and were on the qiti vivc to behold the


view that we were confident would greet us upon the crest.
The mules were taxed about as heavily as their strength
would bear, and yet we only dragged slowly up the winding
and rock-obstructed road. At last we stopped upon the high-
est spot. We were fortunate in having a clear day, which
gave us the view in its full sublimity. Eastward, for eighty
miles, our eyes wandered over dim, dreamy prairies, spotted
by dark shadows of the clouds and the deeper green of the
pineries, intersected by faint, gray lines of road, and emerald
threads of timber along the streams, and banded on the far
horizon with a broad, fading girdle of gold. Looking back
to the west, we gazed upon South Park, and other amphithea-
ters of rich floral and grassy beauty gardens amid the utter
desolation of the mountains that were spread thousands of
feet below us ; and beyond, peak upon peak, until the pure
white wall of the snowy range rose to the infinite blue of the
sky. Eight or ten miles away, still to the westward, two
little gems of lakes were set among the rugged mountains,
holding the shadows of the rocks and pines in their transparent
waters. Far beyond, a group of tiny lakelets, eyes of the
landscape, glittered and sparkled in their dark surroundings
like a cluster of stars. Toward the northeast, we could trace
the timbers of the Platte, for thirty miles, almost to Denver.
North, south, and west swept one vast wilderness of mountains
of diverse forms and mingling colors, with clouds of fleecy
white, sailing airily among their scarred and wrinkled summits.

After enjoying this grand picture for almost a quarter of
an hour, we descended by the rough route over hillsides
crossed and recrossed by tracks of the grizzly bear, and
through canons surprising us constantly with a new wealth of
beauty, which, however, we were hardly in a proper condition
to appreciate, owing to the cramped and uncomfortable posi-
tion in which we had been sitting for so long. We now be-


gan to experience, not the gnawings of hunger, but that ir-
resistible faintness which the Irishman so exactly described
as " a sense of goneness." Endeavors to talk and think of
other matters were fruitless ; the odorous ghosts of well re-
membered dinners would stalk unbidden through the halls of
memory ; and in vain we sought to entertain ourselves and
each other with remarks and deft criticisms upon our circum-
stances and experiences. We all had one overwhelming, all
absorbing experience just then, that of "want," so that all
conversation proved worse than a failure.

The dusk of a mountain twilight had settled down among
the ravines, and the darkness of a moonless night was already
brooding over us ; but we were now approaching a small
tavern ranch, where we were to get supper. Soon we drew
up before the door and alighted. Several rough-looking
backwoodsmen were lounging around the bar, or sitting upon
the angled stretch of hard wooden benches that lined the
rickety old porch. They had just returned from their day's
work, and were awaiting any news that might be learned of
the driver concerning matters over the range.

It was a full half hour before, having finished the meal
and having satisfied the " goneness," we emerged again to
enjoy the scene about us. We noticed two immense ox-
wagons coming along ; the first drove through the narrow
opening between the stage and the corner of the porch, but
the second teamster being either negligent or careless of his
duty, whipped up his oxen and came rumbling along regard-
less of consequences. The front wheel of the wagon ran in-
side the corner post, carrying it completely away and letting
in the porch roof. But the oxen went on, dragging every-
thing with them, the wheel struck the second post, tearing it
almost out, and down came the roof about our ears. It was


with the utmost difficulty, and only after hitching his team
to the opposite end of the wagon, that the driver could extri-
cate his vehicle from among the debris. I merely mention
this little episode in view of its being one link in my
chain of western life.

In a few moments we were jolting away again with fresh
mules, whose spirit gave consoling evidence of a quick stage ;

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryHarry T. (Harry Taylor) GauseDetailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 → online text (page 8 of 14)