James Swisher.

How I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience online

. (page 13 of 21)
Online LibraryJames SwisherHow I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience → online text (page 13 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

upon the magnificent scenes, the beauties and sublim-
ities of nature as they lay unrolled before me. I was
far above the valleys on either side of the river, and
could see far out in the direction we desired to go.

I kept climbing higher and higher until I wondered
if I would ever reach the top. I would sometimes
come up plump against the steep sides of a ledge.
Then I would have to meander up and down,' and
around, to get to the top of that, and there, most likely,
come up against another one. I saw numbers of
mountain sheep, and shot one of them. These sheep
are as noble-looking and as pretty a wild animal as I
ever saw. They are harmless. I have been told that
they will jump off of precipices, and strike on their
heads, on the rocks below, and then go bounding off


from danger. This may be true, but I never saw them
going through such any unpleasant performances. The
sheep are natives of i#cky places, so I think this
locality exactly suited to them. Their horns are at the
largest part six inches in diameter, are tapering and
curved, and from ten to fifteen inches in length.

I found the mountain barren of vegetation, and with
many deep wash-outs. The canon was very deep and
narrow, as far as I could see. When I returned to
camp I carried with me a quarter of the sheep I had
killed. I was tired and hungry when I got into camp,
but plenty of fish, bread and venison had been pre-
pared in good style, and I was soon seated on the front
end of the wagon, feasting as sumptuously as a king.

Beaver and otter are very numerous at this place.
Dozens of them could be seen in the evening carrying
sticks to form their houses or dams, or swimming in
the water, or climbing up the steep banks. All along
the river where there are little groves of trees, the
marks of their cuttings can be seen. Trees over one
foot across have been cut down with their teeth. I have
seen as many as three, all cutting on the same tree.
They are very cautious and cunning. The least noise
will drive them to the water, to be seen no more for
hours. They have their trails from the water to their
cuttings. Their slides in places are worn down several
feet in depth, on the edge of steep banks. When the
beaver travels on land, his trowel-shaped tail is so
heavy that it drags the ground, like a board dragged
along by one end. When swimming along in the water,


the least motion or noise will cause them to dive sud-
denly, striking the water at the same time with their
^flat tails, making a noise similar to striking on the water
'with a long paddle. At night they keep up a noise the
whole time, fighting, squealing and slapping the water
with their tails. They are sixty pounds and upward in
weight. They are easily trapped, if the trapper under-
stands his business, but unless he does know how to go
about it he will not catch any except by accident. It is
interesting and amusing to watch three or four beavers
cutting down a tree. They sit down, and twist their
heads a little sidewise, and then with their broad, chisel-
like teeth, they cut deep into the wood at every bite.
They cut round and round, equally on all sides. In
many places in the West, beavers are very numerous,
but a great many are caught every season. Their
houses are generally formed by burrowing in under
the deep banks, and then filling up in front with huge
piles of weeds, mud and sticks.

Here, on Green River, is the worst place for snakes I
know of. I did not see them corded up in piles, as
large as some people write about, and scores of feet in
length, but for numbers and varieties this locality can
not be surpassed. Often when one is not thinking of
them, they frighten him terribly by crawling up
against him. I am not afraid of a snake, but then I do
not like to be social with them.

The snakes live in colonies on Green River. I have
seen them crawling in every direction at the same time.
Some of them are very large, as much as seven feet


long. Rattlesnakes are numerous, and of all sizes,
from tiny ones up to three and one-half feet in length.
Some of these have lived to a good old age. I killed
one three feet long, that had twenty-two rattles,
and a button on the end of his tail, so that if I am
informed correctly, he was twenty-three years of age.
It is said that a rattlesnake has a button on the end of
his tail the first year, and for every succeeding year
a rattle. I think this is correct.

When we would start out to look after the cattle,
we would cut a good, heavy club before we went far,
with which to kill snakes. I remember that one morn-
ing I was out looking up the cattle. I had a desire to
climb to the top of one of the rocky buttes. I had
not gone far up the hill-side when I could see snakes
lying coiled up, or stretched out in every shape, sun-
ning themselves on and among the rocks. I think
these were all rattlesnakes. I had not yet come
close enough to arouse them, for I saw them before
they began to rattle. I counted over twenty, without
moving from where I stood. I moved on toward
them, keeping a careful watch at my feet. They were
soon aroused, and, coiling themselves up, there was
immediately a great rattling along the lines on both
sides of me. Their eyes were glittering, and their
forked tongues protruding, and every one warning me
that I was then trespassing on forbidden ground. They
seemed to be more numerous on this slope than I had
ever before seen in any mountain country. In Rattlesnake
Gulch, California, there are thousands of them, but this



Green River slope leads in snakes. I retreated and left
them in possession of their stronghold. This was but a
small, rocky knoll or knob, rising about two hundred
feet above the plain, and covering perhaps, two acres.
There must be thousands of snakes there. On the

river bottom, a
long, yellow-spotted
snake is found in
great numbers. This
species can run like
a racer. These are
called bull-snakes, I

At another time
I had occasion to go
to the top of one of
the peaks ; for, if
cattle are not in
sight while you are
standing on the plain,
they may often be
seen from some ele-
vation, feeding in the
distance. I was sit-
ting on one of these
high points one morning, early. From this position
I could look to the east, and at the foot of the
butte running east, was a deep depression. The
butte had been rather difficult to climb, and I was
halting a little to rest my lungs, as a person finds



some difficulty in breathing, when climbing one of these
high peaks here in the mountains. This, however, was
a high peak in the valley between the mountains. I
could hear the distant howl of wolves in various direc-
tions. I noticed that they seemed to get nearer, and
more numerous. They soon were howling all around
me. I wondered what was up. Soon a number of
them came in sight. I now saw what was the matter.
They had started a deer, and were chasing it down. It
was out-running the wolves, but there were too many
closing in on all sides. They were at the far end of
the basin from me, but I could see the chase very
plain. The wolves took turns, running and heading off
the deer, until they finally succeeded in capturing it,
when they became so eager after the poor thing's car-
cass, that I could hear their teeth snapping together
two hundred yards away. There were twenty wolves
taking part in the feast.

When a hunter, wounds a deer, and, darkness coming
on stops the chase for the night, should it be renewed
next morning, he will often find where the deer has
been caught and devoured by wolves. They can scent
blood or fresh meat a long distance away. When
chasing game, their howling is very different from that
at other times, and is of such a nature that they
apparently all understand what is going on, for they
seem to come running together immediately, and to
form themselves into a circle. Once, later, when I was
in the Dolores country of Colorado, I remember seeing
them chasing a jack-rabbit. They would take turns


running. A single wolf would not run far at any one
time before he would be relieved by a fresh animal.
And so among all these varied scenes, and amid
the varied scenery, each successive day brought with it
some novelty, and such scenes and incidents as kept
up an unabating and lively interest in the minds of our
party, until the boat arrived from Manti, which was not
until the eleventh day of June.




r I ^HE boat having arrived, we began to unload, and
JL to take the wagons to pieces. The boat was
small, only three and one-half feet in width by fourteen
feet in length. It was flat-bottomed, built of three-
quarter inch pine lumber. With close packing it would
carry twelve hundred pounds. Everything had to be
adjusted very carefully, or else the boat would list
to the heavy side and become unmanageable. We got
along very well, however, carrying over two wagons
and their loads in a day. We left the cattle until the
last. We undertook to make them swim over by tying
a rope around the horns of one of them, and attaching
the other end of the rope to the boat, and thus towing
him over. One of us would row the boat, while the
rest would drive the other cattle into the water, and
then whoop and halloo until our throats were sore,
and throw clods and sticks and stones at them, trying
to make them follow across. The cattle would go well
enough until they struck the main current; then they
would begin to " mill," the current carrying them down
stream all the time, until they would finally strike back
for the same side they had started from. The current
would beat them back against the high banks, where
they remained struggling in the water, scattered nearly
all the way down to the canon. Then we would have

234 no w i KNO w.

to go to work and dig down the banks, so that they
could get out.

In this way we kept on trying, never getting over
more than six at any one time, and often only the one
that was towed over. We were two days getting all
the cattle over. Some of them, while being towed,
would dive apparently straight down, and come up
almost under the boat. Towing the cattle across the
stream was a dangerous undertaking, for the little
boat was too light to hold them, and they could nearly
master the oarsman. I got out of patience, and tried
to ride some of them over; but all to no purpose. My
uncle and my other companions kept advising me to
be patient. Patience is a very good thing, and all well
enough; but how any man can have patience for many
days while trying, as we were, to swim cattle over
Green River, with, the mosquitoes eating him up all the
time, is more than I can tell.

We had everything safely over by the 23d of June.
We were very busy all that day fixing things in read-
iness for moving on the next morning. But during
the night a grizzly got down among the cattle where
the herder was tending them on the river bottom, and
frightened them off in all directions. Two yoke jumped
into the river, and crossed back to the other side again.
We could not see them, but could hear them on the
opposite side of the river, splashing in the water, and
bellowing. At this time, however, we did not know
how many had crossed over, but we felt confident that
these were some of our cattle. So we unloaded the

VEX A TIO US DEL A rs. 235

boat from the wagon, where we had it packed up to
haul to Grand River, and carried it down to the river,
and hunted up a lot of ropes, and some shovels. Then
four of us struck across in the darkness for the other
side, which we soon reached.

We felt sure that the cattle were below where we
landed. The banks of Green River are so undermined in
time of high water that there is a constant caving in, and
a consequent splashing and eddying of the water, and a
variety of noises. This seems to be particularly the
case when you are hunting for cattle in the darkness
that you know are in the water and needing assistance,
and are compelled to find them by hearing, instead of
seeing. This was our situation at this time. I was
keeping down close to the bank, while the other boys
were keeping off considerable distance from the river.
The noise of the rushing water often made me think
there was an ox where there was none. I was listen-
ing at the different sounds intently, trying to discern the
cause of each. I told my companions, if I found the
oxen I would sing out. We had waded through brush,
mud, bogs and everything else disagreeable, when I
thought I heard one of the cattle. At this point
the bank was about six feet high, and the willows and
brush were very thick. I doubt if they can be found as
thick at any other point along the river. Some of these
had drooped over until their tops were kept constantly
in motion by the agitated waters, which here had formed
a very deep, ugly-looking place, as I afterwards saw, and
had run in to a considerable distance under the bank. /


When I cautiously advanced to the edge of the stream
to ascertain the cause of the great splashing, the whole
bank gave way, and in I went. I did not go to the
bottom. I began to struggle for the bank as soon as I
struck the water, and as soon as I could get my mouth
open began to yell for the boys. The water was car-
rying me down all the time. I was badly frightened.
I soon managed, however, to catch hold of a long root
that was being dangled about through the water, and I
hung on to this until the boys came with a rope and
fished me out.

The cattle were finally found, and we tied them up
to trees, and pulled for camp. I was too mad to talk to
any one, and I do believe that at that time I would not
have re-crossed the river for the whole train. The next
morning we got the cattle back from where we had
tied them, and spent the day in camp. But on the
next day when the herder brought the cattle to camp,
there were seven of them missing. We thought, per-
chance, they were in the bush, and had been over-
looked; so we started out in various directions to find
them. I struck for the high buttes, so that I could
look back over the river. I had an idea that they had
re-crossed and gone back. About noon I returned to
camp, without any success.

I found a part of the other searchers in camp, but
no cattle. They were having a big talk over some-
thing that William Stringan had seen. I made inquir-
ies in regard to the matter, and in reply heard a
rather curious story. It seemed, that, like the rest of


us, Mr. Stringan had had poor success in finding cattle,
but he had discovered a mysterious-looking track, which
he had easily traced for some distance. The track of
the right foot was in every particular like that of an
ox's foot, with the foot stepping sideways, pointing out
from the body, while that of the left foot was of a human
barefoot. I listened very intently to his description 01
the track, and of how he had followed it, until it led to
a certain thicket which he described, when he was
afraid to proceed further, and had come to camp. My
curiosity was now aroused. I must see that. track, for
I had never seen anything to compare with it. So,
as soon as dinner was over, Hess, Stringan and myself
started in search of the track, I wondering meanwhile
what on earth it could be. After w r alking a consider-
able distance, we reached the place where Stringan
had discovered the track, and, sure enough, there it
was, just as he had described it. It could be seen
plainly in the sandy soil; it led from the foot-hills at
the base of the mountain toward the river. Hess
and Stringan followed the track toward the river, while
I took the back track, to see where the half cloven-
footed "varmint" had come from. In the valley I
could follow the track as fast as I could travel. On
higher ground the track disappeared. In such places I
would follow the general course I had been coming,
and every time I found myself upon reaching the sand
again entirely off the track. I thought this was curious;
that a direct general course should be followed through
the soft sand, but, as soon as the hard earth was


reached, that then the course should turn in an entirely
different direction. Before I had been fooled very many
times, I made up my mind that this was a very cunning
animal, and once or twice I imagined that there might
be something or some body connected with the track,
foreboding no good. I followed the track over hills
and through hollows, and across gulches and gullies, for
three miles or more, when I came to a place where
it doubled on itself ; then I had the two tracks to fol-
low, one going and one coming. I followed these a
short distance across the bench land, and into another
deep gully, where I found a pony track, and near by
I found where the pony had been picketed.

This was convincing proof to me, satisfactory
enough of what was up; yet I thought it exceedingly
strange that one person should come here in this way,
and appear in such a peculiarly odd manner. The
thought flashed through my mind that something
unusual was going to happen, and it might be that
there were more connected with this strange move-
ment than one single individual. What could he want,
who could he be, and why were his feet so disguised?
It might be that he had confederates in league with
him, and that they had run off a part of the cattle
belonging to our train. Why had they not taken all ?
I could see no tracks of the cattle here ; but they
might have driven them in some other direction. A
thousand questions suggested themselves to my mind.
I finally came to the conclusion that there must be a
band of Indians in the neighborhood, who had got part


of our cattle, and were running them off. Of this, I
would soon assure myself. I struck for camp after my
horse. When I arrived at camp, it was already getting
late in the afternoon, being after four o'clock, but the
other boys had not returned.

My horse was picketed close to camp. It was the
work of a few minutes only to throw on my saddle and
make ready, and I was soon galloping out over the bench
land. I had made up my mind to find where the
cattle had been driven out, if they had been driven out
at all. So I rode to the upper end of the valley, care-
fully noticing everything, as a man naturally would
when looking for stock under such circumstances. I
made a circuit of the whole upper end of the valley,
and convinced myself that the cattle had not passed out
on the Colorado side of the river. When I arrived in
camp again it was dark. The company had all gathered
in, but without finding the lost cattle. I was then con-
vinced that the cattle had crossed the river.

So early the next morning, I saddled my horse and
rode down to the river. Here I dismounted, and taking
off my clothes, I tied them and my revolver in a bun-
dle, and secured it to the barrel of my rifle. I then
mounted my horse again, and started into the river.
It was a frightful undertaking, for the river was high,
and the current swift. At this time it was nearly one-
half mile in width. Logs, brush, drift-wood and whole
trees were sweeping along down the current, as
if in a race. Our whole party was at the bank to see
me across. It seemed to me at times as if I was


riding on my last trip. But a horse is a noble swimmer,
and mine faithfully carried me across one of the worst
streams in North America. I immediately struck back
on the road we had come. After going nearly a mile,
I discovered the trail of the lost cattle, and, after
riding fast, I caught up with them at the Rock Wells.
They were all together. Here I met one of the Tay-
lors from Utah. He was on his way to the Green
brothers, at the old Mormon fort, near the junction of
Green and Grand Rivers. We pushed the cattle back
at a lively gait, and drove them across the river without
much trouble. We stripped off our clothes and crossed
the river the same way I had crossed in the morning.
The next morning, another of the younger Taylor boys,
who had been with the Green brothers, came into
camp and reported the Greens killed, and their stock
driven off.

There were two of these brothers ; one named
Cyrus, and the other W. T. Green. They had come
to Utah a few years prior to this time. They had con-
siderable money with them, which they invested in
cattle and horses, until they had over two hundred
head of cattle, and one hundred and forty head of
horses. A greater portion of Utah is unsettled, and
consequently the land is unclaimed, and belongs to
Uncle Sam. So the boys drove their stock into the
upper end of Castle Valley, or rather between Castle
Valley and Fish Lake. Here they remained only a
short time, as some other parties claimed a prior herd
right, and notified them to that effect.



Now, these Green brothers, like hundreds of others
who have come into the territory of the Saints, de-
nounced them and their notions as wrong; and the gen-
eral judgment of mankind likewise so denounces them.
For the disciples of Brigham Young constantly pro-
claim their conscientiousness in accepting the dogma
of polygamy, and one cannot oppose them in this par-
ticular without denying the validity of the authority
they set up, both in
and out of church.
This is always the case
with every doctrine
that runs counter to
the general human
sense of right. The
public judgment of
what is proper, is that
it must square with
the generally accepted
ideas of truth and
right. What the Mor-
mons call faith has
been pronounced
credulity. What they dignify as a religion has been de-
cided to be a superstition. Injustice has been done to all
classes not believing in their wild and fanciful notions.
Men have been compelled to either leave the Territory or
to part with every earthly possession they had accumu-
lated. And this Church works in co-operation together
throughout the whole country. It has proved itself a



242 HO W I KNO W.

power in the hands of dangerous men. Their leaders
have honors paid them by all their followers, and the
more virulence -with which their character is attacked,
the greater the esteem in which they are held among
their own people. They have lived, however, to see
the beginning of an exodus, which may yet involve con-
sequences of political significance. Their career has
been a marvelous one in its devotion to an absurd idea
marvelous in its extravagant notions, especially in
reference to the doctrines of their religion. The men
who founded these iniquitious institutions are passing
away one by one. Those who are left pause in their
busy work to clo honor to their dead prophets. They
seldom yield to any sense of justice. They scorn any
policy based only on just principles. They follow their
false premises to their logical conclusions. If they
listen at all to reason or justice, they listen only to
laugh or despise. The poorer classes make but little pro-
vision for their own support. They take a liberal view
of the promises of their prophets, and obey their so-
called divine injunction. If they fail to obey these,
they call down upon themselves the guilt of unpardon-
able sin. They ponder and debate, in their weak way,
the awful mysteries spoken by their prophets. How
often in the course of their career must the doubt have
come to them whether they were acting in the spirit
of love and obedience, or in that of superstition and
credulity. Unrestrained in their traffic, they almost
control all that part of the country. A tremendous
power is concentrated in the hands of the rulers of the



Mormon Church. They wield a power that any other
people would hesitate to exercise. It is clear that it
will not answer, even for those who hold the right of
private judgment in matters of religion, to allow all to
indulge in their vagaries. Wild and untutored notions
will soon come to possess many, and the result will be
that superstition will grow rife, and, in the name of
faith, deeds will be done that will shock the common
sense and the conscience of mankind. This, indeed, has


been the case time and time again in Utah. The stran-
ger and the Saint are frequently dickering together
and oftentimes the pretended divine leads his newly

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryJames SwisherHow I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience → online text (page 13 of 21)