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

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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 8 of 62)
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of Man, away my cultivated
hatred of all the Spanish race;
any life was worthless that did
not include her. In this there was
no cold reasoning; there was no
thought that it was best, or why


it was best; it came as the hot

winds come from the desert, upon the green oasis.

" ( The Virgin be praised, he speaks and lives ! '

"' But where am I?'


" ' But my friends, my companions in arms ? '

" ' They are gone to their own country ; but never mind. Rest and

"I need not recount the progress of our attachment. Her home
was at a hacienda, some miles down the valley one of the outposts.
Her parents were rich only in flocks and herds ; their servants, peons
and Pueblo Indians. As the custom of these herders is to move higher



up the mountains with the advance of the Season, they were in this
hut at the time of our approach. It appeared that the rebound of my
horse from the opposite bank had hurled me back into the bushes
growing out from the side of the gorge some twenty feet down ; and
thence by a succession of falls among the shrubby growth, I had
reached the bottom sixty feet below, fearfully bruised and broken, but
not mortally hurt. The Mexicans saw no way of descending except

by making a long circuit,
and seeing my horse
crushed to jelly at the bot-
tom, they concluded I
was dead under him.
Fortunately I was found
by the Pueblo Gomez,
and brought to the cabin.
Had a Mexican found



" Had word gone to the
hacienda, the command
would have been prompt :
' Give him up ! " But she saw me first, and womanly pity sub-
ordinated all other thoughts to that of saving me. In secret the
medicine man of the nearest pueblo was brought to dress my wounds
and bandage my broken limbs, and at the end of ten days I slowly
struggled back to life and consciousness. Still the Mexican author-
ities were ignorant of my existence. Should they learn it, what would
be my fate? Perhaps to be honorably treated as a prisoner of Avar,
perhaps to be murdered at sight. It would depend entirely on the
first officer who took charge of me. So many are the castes among
these people, and so great the difference between different clans, that
with one the prisoner is treated as a guest, while by another he is
butchered like a wild beast. But I was for the present safe, and in
time took up the clew of my past life, and followed it down to the last
moment of consciousness slowly, painfully, as the wounded hunter
drags his bleeding limbs towards home, with many halts and stumblings.
The old life was gone ; the new life had grown up with Dolores, for
such, she told me, was her name. I seemed to have nothing I did not
owe to her, and for the present it was enough to live and love. She
taught me her language more perfectly, though we scarcely needed it ;
and the days of convalescence passed as a brief dream.

"At length I was able to leave the cabin, and, leaning upon the arm


of Dolores, walked to a projecting rock, which commanded a view of
the Mora pass. Then my past life seemed renewed, as familiar
thoughts were excited by the scenery. But Dolores was now my
arbiter. Of her people I knew little; for her religion I cared nothing.
It was hers, therefore it could not be bad. Doubtless it was true as
any other. I smiled at the Protestant prejudices of my youth; I gazed
into the radiant eyes of Dolores, and thought the old world mad that
all its religious differences had not yielded to the potent solvent of love.
Our love came unbidden. We thought not of the morrow; we made
no declarations ; we simply understood each other. But as we sat upon
the rocky point, sometimes exchanging a word, but oftener in silent
bliss, we saw a moving cloud of dust rise from the pass far below,
and had just time to gain a point secluded from observation when a
cavalcade came into full view. Imagine my horror when I saw my
old companions, and with them fifty more Americans, toiling wearily
through the dust and heat, bound elbow to elbow, and urged on by the
mounted Mexicans, who laughed and jeered at the captives. I was
mad with rage, but what could one do against so many? With tearful
eyes I watched them out of sight beyond the rock El Sentinel, then
turned with a fierce determination to hasten northward and bring
relief. Dolores met me with a smile, tinged with a shade of sadness.
It was enough. I easily found excuse for inaction. Again was the repub-
lic forgotten, again the eternal rights of man seemed of minor impor-
tance. I was happy here. What need of dwelling on the past ? Why
take such heavy thoughts for the future ? Love is a radically selfish
passion. Waking, I counted the moments till she should return ; sleep-
ing, her image glided through my dreams. By day she smiled upon
me in the landscape ; by night she beamed upon me from the starry

" The summer was now far advanced ; hot days were followed by dew-
less nights, and the grass was dried upon the ground. A new danger
confronted us. Dolores only made her daily visit from the hacienda
to the cabin at constant risk of attracting attention to my hiding-place;
she now announced with sobs that the season had come when the
Pueblos must remove the herds. Her father would return from the
capital; if I remained at the cabin, it must be at daily and hourly
risk. He? father was a caballerOj she said, brave and generous ; but
he was above all a Mexican. Duty and inclination alike would lead
him to surrender me. His servants were doubtful. The few Pueblos
she could trust ; the peons never.

" It was a rude awakening. All that calm afternoon we discussed


our situation, at one moment mingling our tears, the next elate with
firm determination. A score of plans I proposed were in turn re-
jected. To regain American territory was simply impossible. The
irregular war with the Texans continued, and the country between us
and the Arkansas was swarming with scouts. Every point was
guarded. Starvation was possible, capture certain, death probable.
My late companions were now languishing in Mexican dungeons;
those who lived to return home would probably do so with broken
health. Death would certainly overtake many of them in prison.
From such a fate she prayed the Virgin to deliver me. Hour after
hour passed ; I would do or dare aught for her ; but to fly now was
to lose her forever. At last she spoke :

" ' Gomez is our hope. He is not a peon, but a free Pueblo. Many
years absent from his town, he is bound to no cacique. Far to the
west are other Pueblos who owe no duty to the Mexican Republic ;
but between them and ours there is a friendship. Once they had a
common ruler, and long kept the sacred fires burning for him. Gomez
will guide you to that people. In any of those pueblos you are
safe. Stay till there is peace with the Tejanos; then return, and
.' Her light smile changed to a deep blush.

"' May the Virgin bless and protect you ! Every night I shall look
upon the star that rises earliest above the peak where I first saw your
face. In one year I feel that you will return one year. Oh,
Santa Maria, is it eternity?'

"'No, to the young and ardent it is long; but it will pass at

"'Now, go to rest; and as soon as Gomez can supply his place
among the vacqueros, enter upon the journey. To him can I
intrust my chief treasure.'

"Three nights after, as I lay asleep, Gomez touched me, and said
in Spanish: 'The senorita waits; we start in an hour.' Down the
sharp caflon, and out upon the western plain we found the animals
tied ready for us, and in a little grove of algodones beyond the
hacienda I met Dolores. Need I recount our parting. It was a
short, delicious agony. I held her to my heart as we exchanged
vows of eternal constancy; then, pressing kiss after kiss upon her
lips, I hurried away for I knew not what in my ear her parting
words, ' May all the saints watch over my love.'

" Hastily crossing the narrow valley and ascending the slope west
of it, at daylight we reached the first pueblo, the nominal home
of Gomez, who maintained semi-allegiance to its cacique and fiscal;


and in its shaded recesses we remained for the day. The chief men
conversed readily in Spanish ; but, among themselves, they spoke a
language of which I could not catch a syllable. Nor is it known to
the Mexicans, even to the interpreters who speak the tongues of all
the wild tribes. They conduct all their trades in Spanish, and ex-
clude Mexicans as much as possible from their towns. There is
evidence that these people were once far more numerous than now,
as the country was far more fertile. Conquered by the Spaniards
nearly three centuries since, they revolted and with desperate bravery
expelled or exterminated their conquerors. But, in 1690, a new and
more powerful Spanish army reconquered the province ; the Quiros,
Tagnos, and kindred tribes submitted sullenly to the Spanish yoke,
but the more warlike retreated to the defensible valleys and walled
basins of the Sierra Madre Range, and maintained a fierce inde-
pendence. It was to those we were bound. Those near the Rio
Grande, compelled to give up their Montezumas religion and become
nominal Catholics, still held to many features of their ancient faith,
and long cherished plans of revolution and vengeance. But time,
which reconciles us to all things, had now led them to acquiesce in
the political control of the Spanish race, though they tenaciously
resisted all social intercourse, and maintained their own line of
priesthood and a distinct language.

" By the advice of Gomez, I here stained my face, hands, and arms
with a pigment, which gave them color like that of the Pueblos;
and the next night we crossed the Rio Grande, as it was well for us
to avoid observation till we left that neighborhood. After another
halt at Jemez, near the wonderful Hot Springs, we hastened on to
Dead Man's Canon and crossed into the land of the Navajoes. These
Indians hung upon the slopes of the Sierra Madre, a living threat
to the Mexican settlements. They waged a war, never intermitted
for two hundred years after their fierce ancestors were driven from
the fertile valleys and forced to find subsistence and refuge amid the
secluded canons and on the storm-swept mesas of the mountains. In-
genious, brave, and haughty, they called the Mexicans ' their herders/
and robbing without quite ruining the dwellers in the valley, they
took tribute alternately from different settlements, leaving time be-
tween raids for the sufferers to renew their stock and gather wealth
for future forays. But now a precarious peace existed, and each
Mexican hamlet secured protection by purchasing the friendship of
some Navajo chieftain.

"For the first two days of travel, I hung upon the neck of my


little burro, weak in body and sad at recent parting ; but soon
fresh air and exercise, with change of scene, brought new life,
and I felt a strange interest in the people we encountered. We
passed hot deserts, glistening with sand and alkali ; broad plateaus
of bare sandstone, and occasionally green dells or wooded coves,
where the natural beauty, by contrast with surrounding barrenness,
awakened emotions of keen delight. Sometimes we jogged on for
hours over a bare flat, then from the rocky rim walling an ancient
basin descended to the beds of lakes long since dry, to find in the
center and lowest depressions rich natural meadows or sullen pools,
bordered by a few sickly cotton woods. We traversed wild gorges,
where from every side red precipices frowned upon yellow sands;
we crossed sandy wastes where glittered quartz-crystals, garnets,
and flakes of mica, and saw upon the scarred peaks the awful evi-
dences of a thousand cosmic convulsions. We passed amid bands
of savage men, who grew gentle at our approach, after a few words
or signs from Gomez; and traveled for days along a valley strewn
with the ruins of abandoned towns. Again we turned to the hills,
crossed the lowest divide of the Sierra Madre, and traveled on
over sterile flats and treeless, grassless mesas. It seemed a land
accursed of God and forgotten of civilized men, where only hunt-
ers and herdsmen could wring a scant subsistence from unwilling
nature; a land which even the all-grasping Spaniard did not covet,
but left as a refuge for those who could not give him gold for blood,
and would not yield the sweat of unpaid toil for his religion.

" Beyond the last range of the Sierra Madre we descended to the
cafion of the Colorado Chiquito, rose again to the Mesa Calabasa,
and again cautiously threaded a defile down to an oval basin some
thirty miles in width, dotted with little oases rich in native grasses.
In the center of this vale Gomez pointed out the goal of our hopes.
A sharp mesa rose abruptly from the plain, and on its summit were
the Moqui towns. A few friendly JSTavajoes had accompanied us ;
for there was a temporary peace between them and their fierce
neighbors, the Apaches. Rushing down the rocky paths with wild
cries, the Moquis came to the foot of the mesa in disorder and
apparent anger at our approach ; but a few words from Gomez reas-
sured them, and I was conducted up the winding way by which
alone the place is accessible, and led into the presence of their
chief. He received me with civil dignity, assigned me a hoiise,
for many were vacant, and in a few days I was as much at home
with these strange people as if I had been there for years. The


Capitan, as their chief man was called, sought to cheer the hours,
as far as his simple pleasures and uneventful life could interest me,
and as I grew to understand the people, they were a strange study
to me. The government, if government it might be called, was a
pure paternalism ; but repression was unnecessary, because crime could
scarcely be said to exist.

"At last, said I, the Brotherhood of Man is found. Here. is no
scheming of man to supplant his fellow ; here all are equal, and
obedience to natural law, with mutual toleration, takes the place of
courts and statutes. But I soon saw that in parting with most of
the faults of a progressive race, they had parted with many of its
virtues and all of its advantages. There was no envy, for there was
110 emulation ; the weak were not trodden down by the strong in a
struggle for place, for there was no struggle. There was no caste,
for there was neither rank nor wealth ; a dead level of social medi-
ocrity took the place of our many distinctions in birth or condition.
They had not the petty vices of a trading people, as they had little in-
tercourse with the rest of mankind ; nor the faults of a manufacturing
town, for every family was its own manufacturer. Political strife
never disturbed them, for there was no choice as to the form of gov-
ernment, and no energy to change the ruler. The Capitan did not
rob his people, for they had nothing worth his taking; the people
did not envy their king, for he was poor as themselves. Luxury
and its attendant vices they knew not their land sufficed but for a
bare existence ; and unchastity was so rare as to be looked upon as
a monstrous phenomenon. But their chastity resulted from a lack
uf aggressive energy, and a sexual coldness with which kind nature
ever blesses an illy nourished and decaying race. No military am-
bition disturbed the placid current of their lives ; they scarcely knew
how to defend themselves against their savage neighbors, and retir-
ing to these rock-defended fastnesses, had left the open country to
their foes.

"Then I saw that energy is evolved only in conflict; that a vigor-
ous combat with evil develops the individual, and that a state from
which ambition should be banished to leave the citizen free from
conflict, would be a state in which moral vigor would in turn decay,
and social stagnation, as a living tomb, swallow up the proudest prod-
ucts of the march of mind. With these people one day passed as
another. Whether they had a belief in immortality I could never
learn ; but they might well ignore it, since even in this world they
were dead already. Beyond the narrow horizon of their hills, they


saw nothing; this basin was to them the world. Ambition had no
place in their dull emotions, and though central to a dozen warring
tribes, they were simple, civil and unwarlike.

"One year I abode with these people. It was rest; but for a life-
time ah, that would be consignment to a living tomb ! But Gomez
returned, and with a message from Dolores. There was peace at last ;
the captive Tejanos had been released, and I might safely return.
The journey was a long reverie of delightful anticipation. The meet-
ing I leave you to imagine. But all was not well; Colonel Warfield
and his brave companions had been released, and many Americans
were coming into Santa Fe; but the Mexican authorities felt that
peace was temporary, and armed parties still hovered along the front-
ier. We scarcely seemed nearer the fruition of our hopes, and
months of weary waiting were yet before us. Her father but I need
not tell you of Castilian pride. He was of the genie fina of New
Mexico, and, boasting of his saugre azul, an alliance with an unknown
foreigner would have seemed to him worse than her death. I urged
immediate flight; that we would seek the States, and there remain till
permanent peace should allow us to return and settle in Mexico, as I
hoped after the manner of sanguine youth we might soon do with the
wealth that I should earn. I abode at the adjacent pueblo, and as
often as possible saw and conferred with Dolores, never failing to
urge immediate flight. I need not recount the progress I made, if
you know aught of the female heart. She yielded, and in the midst
of all my distractions and uncertainties, I thought myself the happiest
of men. We were to set out the first opportunity. The distance was
great, and no guide to be had. In vain I sought for one in the
pueblo; the honest fellows shook their heads. In their own country,
among their own people, they were at my service, but not among los
Americanos, los diabolos Gringos! We could not retreat from our
project. Before a Pueblo priest we plighted our faith, and thus united
in * life and death, set out upon our northward route. One Pueblo
accompanied us the first night and till noon the next day; then point-
ing out our sa/est route along the higher part of the plateau to avoid
Mexican scouts bade us farewell, and we were alone upon the tierra

"The route led to a water-hole, where we paused exhausted, and
remained till midnight. Thence we rose to a dim trail higher up the
rocky slope, and toiled on till late next afternoon, when fatigue and
fear for our animals again compelled us to stop. A long rest, and
then on to the next pool, which we reached late at night, and soon


sank into a profound sleep. When we awoke late next morning, the
scene had changed. A dense mist, rare at that season, hung upon the
mountains, and heavy clouds drifted eastward over the plain. Never-
theless, I marked what I thought the right course, and we traveled
on. Before noon we were bewildered among the projecting ridges,
where the trail was obscured upon the rocky flats, and ere long
were completely lost.

" Should we descend to the lower plain for a shorter route, or turn
toward the mountains to be sure of grass and water? I determined
to continue a due north course as far as possible, trusting either to
come again upon the trail, or find water in some of the limestone
' pockets/ which occur here and there even in the red sand hills. By
noon the water in the canteens I had provided was nauseating, having
been almost stagnant when taken from the pool ; before the next
morning it was all gone, while our animals gave unmistakable signs
of approaching exhaustion. Still we pressed on. It was now mid
August, and the hot, dry season was at its worst. The bunch-grass
was dried to a coppery hue, and though it nourished our animals, they
must have water also. The stinging plants and thorny cactus con-
stantly impeded our way, and we soon came to regard the broad flats
of bare rock as a glad relief. But water, water we must have. 1
was then too ignorant of wood-craft to know that in the Rockv
Mountains one hunts up-hill for water instead of down upon H>?.
plain ; and felt keenly my need of that sixth sense wherewith thfc
Indian and plainsman can discern the locality of a brook or pool by
the appearance of surrounding hills or vegetation.

"Night drew on. There was a
dead calm and oppressive air. The
animals at length refused to move
a step further, and I had barely time
to spring from my saddle and receive
her, when Dolores fainted in my
arms. For a moment my agony was
terrible the agony at once of fear
and indecision. But in a moment " DOLORES FAINTED ls MY ABMS '"
fierce energy returned; I raised her, recalled her to consciousness, and
now leading, now carrying her, toiled up and over the rocks to the
mouth of a gorge that opened upon the side of a precipice a thousand
feet above. Why, I scarcely knew, but had a vague hope of protection
and rest in the defile. Night came on suddenly, and its coolness greatly
revived us. We had as yet suffered little with actual thirst, and when


our first trouble was passed, sank to sleep upon a sand-heap at the
base of an immense rock. Soon after midnight we awoke stiff with
cold, and now beginning to feel the sharper promptings of thirst, I
proposed to search for water down the cafion, but on turning we saw
our animals, like us revived by the night air, slowly making their way
up the dry arroyo, as if they would seek relief near its head. Some-
thing in this manifestation of instinct decided me. The arroyo showed
plainly that at some seasons it contained a large stream ; might there
not remain a little near its source?

" For hours we toiled on up the dry channel, soon leaving the animals
far behind ; now stumbling over the immense stones which choked the
dry bed, and now searching every clump of grass that showed the
faintest tinge of green. The sun rose red and fiery, the air was filled
with light haze, and another sultry day began. But with every
hour's advance new signs encouraged us : there were clumps of
dwarfish pines, and occasionally a shrub of other timber ; the grass
in places had an unmistakably green tinge, and occasional tracks
showed that various small animals habitually made this passage. But
every moment our thirst increased. I glanced at Dolores; her eyes
gleamed with that unwholesome fire which is the precursor of delirium.
I felt my own head grow giddy ; my eyes were so dry it seemed I
could feel the balls grate as they turned in their sockets; my tongue
was swollen, my lips cracked, and I spoke with difficulty. Hastily
seeking the shade of an immense rock, I broke some splinters from a
mountain pine ; these, rolled about in the mouth, soon created a moist-
ure, which sensibly relieved our sufferings, and again we toiled on.

" It was now noon. The hot sun glared upon the white sand and red
rocks, and our sufferings rapidly increased. Almost exhausted, I hap-
pened to turn my gaze down the cafion, and saw our animals far below/
still feebly struggling up the ascent. The sight gave me renewed hope,
and, with fierce energy, I rushed from side to side of the gorge, search-
ing every spot that bore signs of the presence of moisture ; but in vain.
An hour longer we toiled on, then Dolores suddenly reeled, and sank,
apparently lifeless, in my arms. With loud cries, I bore her hastily to
the shade of a projecting rock; I chafed her hands, and implored her
to look up and live. She revived, only to relapse into a half-dead
condition, scarcely sensible of my presence, but babbling in Spanish
of green fields and the cool brooks about her home. I pressed her to
my heart, and prayed that death might come at once and end our in-
tolerable sufferings. An hour passed thus, then suddenly we seemed
to revive again Dolores with alternate sobs and hysterical laughter,


and I with renewed determination to push on. Soon we sank into
half-unconsciousness, and again revived as suddenly, but with all the
pangs of thirst and fatigue greater than before. Slowly this anguish
receded, and we sank into a condition of almost complete exemption
from suffering, to again revive as suddenly to fiercer pangs.

" But this time my vision seemed strangely cleared. The agony

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 8 of 62)