J. H. (John Hanson) Beadle.

Western wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... online

. (page 26 of 62)
Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 26 of 62)
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where we entered it, and a mile or two would have brought us to the
largest pueblo, one capable of containing a thousand people, situated
on a cliff fifteen hundred feet high and utterly inaccessible.

And who once inhabited these towns? Well, I am of opinion
the people were substantially of the same race as the present Pueblos.
The houses are an exact reproduction of those at Pueblo de Laguna,
including stone, mortar, towers, acquarra windows, and whitewashed
interior. From the lower valleys they retreated to these cliffs where
their mounted enemies could not pursue them. But the streams on
which they depended are dried up, and the little nooks they once cul-
tivated are fast being buried by the drifting sand. The disintegrating
cliffs are spreading barrenness over all the valleys; the cafion bed is
like a vast river of sand. As we journey down it a feeble stream
sometimes shows itself for a few rods, and is then lost; again our
animals' hoofs turn up moist sand. Occasionally bright meadows of
green grass appear; and again the sand river seems to divide and flow
around a fertile island a little higher than the main land, and con-
taining a few acres of dense wheat-grass, as high as a man's head.
Again we find the cliffs sinking from a perpendicular to a slope of
sixty degrees or so, and bordered by considerable foot-hills; and there
we see shrubby hemlock, bunch-grass, a few herds and Navajo ho-
gans. Above are their goats clambering up what appears the bare,
yellow face of stone ; but riding near we observe hundreds of little
gullies worn in the rock, each with a slight stain of soil and a few
bunches of yellow grass. Looking for camp early, we came upon a
green island "of some ten acres, containing three Navajo huts; my
guide shouted to the first shepherd girl he saw, who pointed to a peak
half a mile away, exclaiming, " Klohh, tokh!" We rode thither, and
to my surprise found that the cliffs gave back and inclosed a level


plat of a few acres, a sort of mountain cove, soddc'd with luxuriant
grass, and containing another Navajo settlement. Their goats were
kind enough to prefer the high gulches, leaving the green grass of
the plat in abundance for our stock. In the center was a dug spring,
but no running water. The community had abundance of goats'
milk and white roots nothing else.

While the Navajo prepared our supper, I went to the first liogan,
finding an old^man quite sick, who asked the only Spanish he knew
if I had any azucar y cafe, adding that he had not tasted food for a
week. His daughter went back to camp with me, after the sugar and
coifee, and all the other women in the settlement having arrived, they
waited to see us eat. Opening a tin box, to their great astonishment
I took out a sardine and jokingly held it out for them to see, then ate
it, when they turned away with such expressions of horror and dis-
gust that I w r as heartily ashamed of myself. Their feelings were
probably about the same as ours would be on seeing a Fejee chewing
on the corpse of his grandmother. Fish and turkeys either will be or
have been human beings, in their theology ; they never touch the
former, and the latter only to escape absolute starvation. I had been
warned that I would find my Navajo prone to disregard cleanliness; I
found him rather neat and careful. But imagine my astonishment
when I saw that all his native politeness could not entirely conceal
his disgust at eating with me. The sardines had done for my repu-
tation among the Navajoes.

Supper over, I climbed as far as possible up one of the side gulches,
lighted my pipe, and sat down to watch the line of sunshine and shadow
creep slowly up the sixteen hundred feet of the opposite cliff, while the
red sun sank behind the mountains. Sunlight gave place to dusk, and
the day's heat to a sharp air which made me draw my blanket close
around my shoulders ; then came on the brilliant night of this climate,
in which every silvery star seems to stand out from a firmament of
polished steel. But in a few minutes the moon rose above the east-
ward peaks, and poured a flood of glory on the barren rocks, trans-
forming the red peaks to shining mountains of gold, and the sand-flat
to a flowing, glittering stream of gems. The air held no trace of
moisture. I was weary, but the sight was too glorious to admit of
sleep. I sat and gazed ; tried to reason on the geology of these hills,
but soon nature compelled me from the domain of science to that of
imagination. It was a time to admire and enjoy, not to philoso-
phize ; for, though we go back in scientific fancy from age to age,
from cosmic process to cosmic process, we come at last to a mighty


void which reason can not pass, and can only think : " IN THE BEGIN-

There, in childhood, we began ; there, after ages of scientific con-
jecture, must we rest. Reason exhausted leans on faith, and learning's
last endeavor ends where revelation began.

We were off* next day at the first glimmer of dawn, hoping to reach
grass and water early in the afternoon, and knowing that at the best
we had a long day's ride before us. It is delightful for travel till
about 10 o'clock; then the morning breeze dies away, and, as the
afternoon breeze does not rise till about three, the intervening heat
is terrible. We are already nearly two thousand feet below Defiance,
and going a little lower every day, with corresponding change in the
climate. The grand scenery continues to the very mouth of the canon,
which we reached in two hours, then breaks down into a brief succes-
sion of foot-hills and ridges of loose sand, and brings us to an open
plain. Here were two or three sections of land under some sort of
cultivation by the Navajoes, but it was the most pitiable prospect for a
crop I ever saw. The feeble, yellow blades of corn, three or four
inches in height, had struggled along through drought and cold till
the heavy frost of June 17th, and now most of them lay flat on the
ground. My guide waved his hand over the field, exclaiming, mourn-
fully, " Muerto, muerto " (dead) ; " no chinneahgo Navajoes" A few of
the more resolute were out replanting,. which they did with a sharpened
stick, or rather paddle. They dig a hole some ten inches through the
dry surface sand to the moist layer underneath, in the edge of which
they deposit the grain. They plant wheat the same way, in little hills
a foot or so apart, and weed it carefully till it is grown enough to cul-
tivate. If there is water, they irrigate ; otherwise, it has to take its
chances ; and the guide informed me that the acecquia we saw issuing
from the canon had long been dry. Twenty bushels of'corn and ten
of wheat are extra crops. If any citizen of rural Ohio, who can de-
liberately sit down three times a day and recklessly eat all his appe-
tite craves, is dissatisfied, he ought to travel awhile in this country.

Crossing the dry arroyo we rose on the western side to a vast flood-
plain, ten miles wide, and running as far as I could see from north to
south. The surface showed that it had been flooded some time within
the last few years ; there was not a trace of alkali or other noxious
mineral, and the soil was of great natural fertility. But there was
not a spear of vegetation on it, simply for lack of moisture. Here are
at least a hundred square miles, formed of detritus and vegetable mold,
now utterly worthless for want of water. If artesian wells are possible,


the whole tract may be of great value. We rose thence by a succession
of white sand hills to a horrible desert, which extended some twenty
miles. Our horses suffered from both heat and thirst, and the water-
in our canteens was soon simmering warm. As we neared a low
range of gray and chalky-looking hills, the sage-brush appeared a
little more thrifty, and sometimes showed a faint green tinge, indicat-
ing there was water somewhere in the vicinity.

A faint track, as if made by sheep or goats, crossed our trail,
whereat the guide whirled his horse toward the ridge, ran his eye
along the peaks, and selecting one which to my eye in no way dif-
fered from the rest, exclaimed, " Toll!" and we started for* it. At the
mouth of the gorge was a sickly little cottonwood in a small depres-
sion, at which the guide remarked: " Toll pasar muchos anos " (water
many years ago), and we struck up the nearest gulch. The rock
every-where was crumbling away ; it was like riding up a mountain
of chalk. At the foot of, and partly underneath a large cliff, we found
two holes, scooped out by Indian hatchets, and containing a gallon or
so of water to each, the one almost cool and the other blood warm.
After treating ourselves to a quart or so each, my horse drank the cool
one and the burro the other, and we struck into the desert again. On
the western side, my guide had told me, we should see the last Nava-
joes; but we soon met most of the colony driving before them their
little herds, and to the guide's question they replied that the grass
there was gone, the water dried up to one spring, and that was hoh-
kawah ki wano (decidedly not good). Though I did not quite under-
stand this, I saw, by its effect on the guide, that it w r as bad news for
us, who had already ridden forty miles.

There was but one family left, and the girl showed us a specimen
kettle of the water. It was horrible stuff, but we must have some of
it, and climbing an hour we reached the pool. All around it the sand-
stone had been trodden to powder and was drifting into the water,
which was green, slimy, full of vile pollywogs, and looked and smelt
as if ten thousand goats had waded through it. The horse and burro
drank with many sniffs and brute protests, and John and I downed a
pint or so each ; but it was a signal triumph of catholic stomachs over
protesting noses. We had no more than reached the plain till both
of us were sick, and in an hour I dismounted, unable to ride further.
John ran 'about in great distress, gathered some dry yellow flowers,
and burnt them under my nose, producing a violent sneezing and
retching. Placing his hand on my stomach, he indicated, by most
expressive signs, that " it must come up." Having lighted my pipe



and placed it in my mouth, he moistened some tobacco and placed it
under my arms and on the pit of my stomach. The convulsion was
terrible, but the. vile water did come up.

Two hours more and my thirst, aggravated by the previous sickness,
became intolerable. John decided that we must climb the mountain
to our right, to another "pocket" which contained good water. We
toiled upward for a thousand feet, to a point where a soft limestone
reef broke across the sand-mountain. Here he pointed out a black
pass between two rocks, and leaving our horses we entered it to find a
beautiful pool of cold, clear water, nearly a rod square and completely
covered by* overhanging rocks. Here we drank, filled the canteens,
and rested until the moon was high enough to light us back to the
plain. My horse either smelt the water or heard its splash, and
uttered a low pleading whinny that went to my heart. It was im-
possible to get him under the rocky arch into the cave, and I had no,
vessel but a tin-cup. I tried that, but could not even moisten, his
tongue; I wet my handkerchief and tried to "swab" his mouth; he
chewed it to rags and bit my finger in the operation. About to give
up in despair, I thought of my wool hat, and filled that for him. It
fitted his mouth admirably, and by eleven trips with it he was satis-
fied. Half a dozen hatfuls sufficed for the burro, and we worked our
way down hill again. But this time my Navajo's sense of locality
failed him, and on the steepest part he took the wrong chute, pulling
up his burro just in time to avoid his plunging head first into a ravine,
but not in time to save himself, as the saddle girth gave Avay just at
the wrong moment. As he went head first into a pile of bowlders and
sand, I looked on in horror, fully satisfied that I was left alone in this
terrible place ; but he sprang up instantly, and with a silly smile, and
" Vah, vah, Melicano, malo, malo!" remounted and rode on, only rub-
bing his crown occasionally.

Getting back to the plain, we continued our former course south-
west along the foot of the mesa. My eyelids began to droop with
weariness, and for fear I shojuld drop off my horse in sleep, I loosed
my feet, and raising the stirrup leathers, wrapped them about each
arm. The position was not favorable to sleep, nor could I keep en-
tirely awake ; and soon I suffered from that queer symptom of dream-
ing with the eyes wide open, and fixed upon the very object of my
dream. The bright moonlight fell upon the projecting peaks of the
ridge to our right, and I endeavored to keep awake by contemplating
their beauty ; but as I gazed I saw suddenly a score of bright, clear
streams dashing down as many gulches, and a broad savanna on the


plain below, rich and green with inviting grass. I shouted to the
guide: "Kloh! Toh!" (grass, water), and jerking up ray horse,
pitched forward on his neck and awoke. I braced myself more firmly
to keep awake, and in a few moments, looking on a rock a little ahead,
I saw a hideous painted Indian bound out from behind it and take
position in the sage-brush near the trail. I yelled to the guide and
grabbed my gun, and just as the hammer was clicking under my hand,
Indian and rock disappeared, and the answering shout of the guide
brought me to my waking senses. I knew there was hot a hostile
Indian in fifty miles, so, for fear I would shoot my own horse, I gave
the gun to the Navajo, and again resolved to keep awake. He still
pointed ahead for grass, but indicated that it was now "pokeeto" (a
little way). 'While gazing on a sand ridge we were crossing, I
seemed to see it covered with grass and flowers, and shouting that this
was the place, reined up my horse suddenly, and again butted him in
the back of the head, at the imminent risk of giving us both the poll-
evil. .

At last, near midniglit, we reached the little oasis I had anticipated
in so many fitful dreams. There was abundant bunch-grass but no
water, and we made a "dry camp." "While the Navajo hoppled the
horses, I wrapped my blankets about me, laid my head upon my sad-
dle, and in two minutes was sound asleep. It seemed that I had
scarcely closed my eyes when I was awakened by a " Hah-koh, Meli-
cano!" and, starting up, saw my Navajo holding the animals ready
to mount, and pointing to the east, already rosy with the coming dawn.
Moving his hand thence towards a point half way to the zenith,
he remarked: " IZloh, toll! No calor," Navajo, Spanish and sign-
language, meaning in full: "By starting now we shall reach grass and
water the middle of the forenoon, and before the heat of the day."
Nevertheless, I decided that a cup of coffee would help things, as
there was sage-brush enough for a fire, and a pint of water still in the

After coffee and bread, we found the morning ride delightful, and
through a better country which produced considerable grass. The
valley slowly narrowed to a mere pass ; beyond the rugged jaws of
this red canon there opened an extensive plain, and in its center rose
an oval mesa,, which the guide designated as Moqui. We made our
midday halt at the point of the mountain; but when the guide indi-
cated grass and water up and over a perfectly bare white sand-hill, I
shook my head. He only smiled, and led the way. With frequent
rests to our horses, we had toiled up and over the rising sand-hills for


something like a mile, when a sudden descent brought us into a cir-
cular hollow, containing half a dozen shrubs and nearly an acre of
densely matted grass. At the foot of the cliff was a slight moisture,
and pointing to a black rock which appeared nearly five hundred feet
straight above us, the guide intimated there was our spring. Every
thing was stripped from the animals except the lariats, but how we
ever got them up that hill is a mystery to me; but we did, and found
plenty of good water, brought down our supply, and remained in this
camp until 3 P. M. We cooked a fresh supply of bread, ate a big
dinner, and enjoyed a delightful "laze" in the shadow of a big rock.

We here overhauled our kit, brushed up a little, and put on our
best gear for a visit; and, when the afternoon breeze had sprung up,
entered upon the sandy plain, and followed a slight trail towards the
mesa. Occasional depressions were filled with yellow bunch-grass, but
most of the plain was of hard, bare white sand, seeming to literally
bake in the heat of the sun. Approaching the foot of the mesa we
found the sand a little more loose and dark. Here I noticed rows of
stones a foot or so apart, and was amazed to find, on examination, we
were in a Moqui field. By every little hill of corn or beans they had
laid a stone, the object being to mark the spot during the long period
between planting and the appearance of the shoot above ground.

From the foot-hills I gazed with astonishment upon the perpendic-
ular walls and projecting cliffs of the mesa, rising a thousand feet
above me. It is little over half a mile long and half as wide, and
rises abruptly from the plain on every side; around it run gal-
leries and foot-paths, winding in and out upon the crevices and p*ro-
jecting shelves of rock; and far above my head, as it seemed almost
in midair, I saw goat-pens upon the very face of the cliff, opening
back into dark cool caves, where the stock' is inclosed at night. Here
and there was to be seen a Moqui woman toiling wearily up the rocky
gallery with a water-jug strapped upon her back.

It was a strange sight. I was thrilled at the thought that I was
looking upon the chosen stronghold of the most peculiar race of Amer-
ican Indians: a city about which conjecture and romance had taken
the place of knowledge, a country vaguely described by hunters, but
never by careful writers, and therefore one the very existence of which
is often pronounced fabulous. It is perhaps the strongest natural
fortification in the world. Around the entire mesa there is but one
narrow Way that a horse can ascend, and on that, at a score of points,
a squad of boys with nothing but stones could defy the cavalry of the
world. The springs which supply the community are situated around


the base of the highest cliffs, where the foot-hills begin, but so far up
that most of them can not be reached by horses from below; and
even most of their little fields are hidden among the foot-hills, and
only to be found from above. From the general level of the plain t6
the flat top of the mesa I estimate at a thousand feet. Half of this
rise is by a succession of rolling sand ridges, and then we come to a
perpendicular cliff, only surmountable by these rock-hewn galleries.
The community owns neither horses nor cattle ; nothing but goats, and
equally agile burros, can surmount the obstacles of such a situation.

We entered upon the ascent in a hot and narrow pass between two
sand ridges, and soon reached the first spring, below which was a suc-
cession of walled fields. Each field was about three rods wide and six
long, and contained some three hundred hills of corn; they were
built up against the sand ridge, a stone wall four or five feet high
forming at once the division for one and support for the dirt in the
next, the fields rising in a succession of terraces. The feeble stream
was exhausted before it passed the second field, and it is only in the
night that the lower ones can be irrigated. Farther down, where there
is no water, the Moqui digs a hole in the sand eighteen o.r twenty
inches deep, and plants his corn where a slight moisture has perco-
lated from above. We passed the slope, and were about to enter
on the gallery road, when a Moqui shouted to us from directly over-
head, and in obedience to his directions, though at the imminent risk
of our necks, the guide turned down a rocky foot-path to another gal-
lery. A few steps showed us that a vast sand-rock had fallen across
the other road, and a new one had been built.

As \ve turned the last groove in the gallery, and, almost before we
were aware of it, the houses looking so much like stone, we were
right in the first town, all the men of which seemed to be absent. At
Defiance I was told to ask for Chino, the Capitan of this mesa, before
I talked to any one else ; so I shouted to call out some one. A woman
came on top of the nearest house, and seeing me immediately set up
a cry of jokow ! jokow! Then from every house women and children,
with occasionally a man or good-sized boy, came running on to the
house-tops and down -the ladders to the street, while the cry went
ahead from house to house, jokow! jokow! jokow! A population of
several hundred was soon crowding about me, or gazing in astonish-
ment from the house-tops ; the women were chattering and exclaiming,
and the children when I rode near a house yelling with fright, and
altogether we were creating a decided sensation. Again I called for
Chino, and a dozen boys jumped into the road and ran along the


cliff, beckoning me to follow. We passed through the first town, the
whole population following in a tumultuous mass, and in the second
town a hundred yards on found and were admitted to the lower
part of Chino's house. He was not at home, but they let us into an
extension of his dwelling, containing but one story, where we de-
posited our packs. Twenty boys and women were already on the
house-top, jostling each other to look through the square opening at
us; as many more were crowding into the room, and about four hun-
dred were outside struggling for a good place.

It is not pleasant to be stared at, even by barbarians, and I was
greatly relieved when a tall old fellow, with a merry twinkle in his
eye, arrived, addressed me in pretty good Spanish, and intimated that
he did the talking for Chino when strangers came. ' His name, which
he had on a card written by some white" man, was Misiamtewah; he
had visited the Mormon settlements and Santa Fe, and could speak
Spanish, Moqui, Tcgna and a little English and Navajo, besides being
fluent in the sign language. I cultivated his acquaintance at once.

Chino soon arrived, and assured me, per Misiamtewah, that this was
my town, my house, my country as long as I wanted to stay, and
assigned me quarters in a very comfortable room, one they usually
reserve for white visitors. We stored our baggage, sent out our
animals to graze with the common herd, opened our provisions and
took supper with Chino and his son. I was in pleasant quarters again,
and devoted a few days to rest, study of these peculiar people, and
jotting down notes on my trip through the two Territories, for all of
which see next chapter.



ARIZONA and the western half of New Mexico constitute a vast par-
allelogram, down the center of which, as dividing water-shed, runs
the Sierra Madre range. From its summit, varying from seven to
ten thousand feet high, the country falls off' each way in a succession
of plateaus to the two great rivers. The traveler proceeding west-
ward from the Rio Grande, over an almost level mesa, sees rising be-
fore him a range of rocky hills from a hundred to a thousand feet-
high, and naturally looks for a corresponding descent on the western
side. Instead, on reaching the summit, he finds again the level, bar-
ren mesa spreading away before him, till its sandy and glistening sur-
face fades into the blue horizon. Across this succession of terraced
plateaus a few valleys put out eastward, and in the loAvest portions of
these, where some running water is found, are the only cultivable
lands. A series of such valleys, connected by singular natural passes,
furnish a feasible route for the Thirty-fifth Parallel Road.

Still, there is a sort of regularity on the New Mexican side; but
far otherwise west of the summit. There the high plateaus are broken
across by awful chasms ; gorges with perpendicular sides go winding
tortuously through the formation ; all the streams run in great cafions
from two to five thousand feet in depth, with bottoms from one to
four thousand feet above the level of the sea. Here and there the
barren plateau appears to drop suddenly to a level plain, and rocky
ranges of hills inclose an oval valley, walled in on every side by inac-
cessible mountains, and with passes out only up or down the beds of

Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 26 of 62)