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Nelson Armstrong.

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were active on the white man's trail in those days, and I
had no doubt the red gentry had become indignant in re-
gard to a misunderstanding in some business transaction
with Uncle Sam, and believing themselves ill treated, had
donned their decorations, and gone forth on the warpath,
to avenge their wrongs by appropriating a few scalps from
the heads of the pale faces. We now believed the Indians
in hostilities, and that war to the knife was to follow^
Seated on the box, I was a good deal like the Scotchman
who said nothing, but kept a deil-o^a-thinkm'. I could
devise no plan by which we could avoid an attack, as we
could not better the matter by fast driving. They at their
pleasure would rush upon us, stampede the horses, take our
hair and sneak away to their wigwams. Life I considered
only a matter of a few moments light on earth, and even
for that short space of time a thing we dare not call our
own.



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NUGGBTS OF EXTBRIBNCE 141

The horses were quietly walking, and as we intently
watched the savages, we could see them growing larger,
coming nearer and adding to their number, creeping cat-
like up the hill, as if to gain a better position before
charging upon their prey. Now that we had found the
Indians— or they had found us— our case was settled. In
my own mind, my head was hatless, my hair had risen on
end, preparatory for the Redskins' scalping knife, and all
that was necessary to complete the tragedy was that they
should leap from their place of concealment, sound their
war-whoop, and gather in the spoils. My thoughts were
many and followed in rapid succession ; none were perma-
nent among them. These words I remembered having
heard uttered by some eastern adventurer in the gold
regions in Dakota, and I regretted not having taken unto
myself this good advice: .

"Don't go away, stay at home if you can;
Stay tar from that city they call Cheyenne,
Where old Sitting Bull and Commanche Bill
WiU lift up your hair, in the dreary Bteck Hills."

While those wild and uncontrollable imaginings were
rushing through my brain, there appeared before us a
squadron of mounted soldiers, and so near us that we could
plainly see their United States Army uniform, the dark
blue blouse, and the bright blue trousers. There was a
bend in the road in front of us; I thought the distance
between us and that bend in the road about the same as



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142 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

the distance between us and the soldiers. We were mov-
ing to the southwest, the soldiers seemed to be in the road,
moving to the southeast, and we, (the soldiers and our-
selves) were all moving towards the bend in the road.
This we took to be a reconnoitering party sent out from
some of the military posts in search of the hostile Indians.
We saw them move up at a smart trot, then to an easy
gallop, and slowly descend as if to the valley. They dis-
appeared, one after the other, until all were hidden from
our sight. We were diligently watching, thinking each
moment to see them in the road in front of us, or riding in
some direction oh the prairie, but strange as it may ap-
pear, we never saw them again.

While we were watching and hoping that the sol-
diers would come our way, the strange figures over the
hill boldly appeared on the summit, and there, to our
great and very agreeable surprise, we beheld the forms
of nine, well matured, wild turkeys. To say I never was
more pleased to see turkeys does not express my gratitude.
Talk about Christmas and Thanksgiving turkeys! I never
saw anything that would in any way compare with those
gaudy-plumed dignitaries, and I considered being in com-
pany with those nine big chiefs, on the lonely prairies of
Dakota, a great deal safer and pleasanter than with all
the hostile Redskins of the Sioux nation. After ascertain-
ing the fact that we still lived, and congratulating our-
selves that we had met with no greater misfortune than



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 143

to have witnessed a mirage of troopers, and experienced
a hair-bristling scare by a school of grazing wild turkeys,
we were restored to our normal condition of understand-
ing and continued on our western tour.



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CHAPTER XIII



ELK GREEK VALLEY— MY REVERIE— BULL-DOG RANCH— SCOOP-
TOWN— BOWLDER PARK— METROPOLIS OP THE BLACK
HILL6— ARRIVAL AT THE RACE-TRACK— RUMORS ABOUT
CAMP — THE STRANGE HORSE — PRESIDENT OP THE TROT-
TING AND RACING ASSOCIATION— THE POSTPONEMENT-
CORPULENT BUTTER— MY VISIT— TWO GENTLEMEN BE-
COMB THE OWNERS OP MY TROTTER— EASTWARD BOUND—
CURLEY AND AULD LANG SYNE.

Our road west from the Cheyenne River a good por-
tion of the way led through a valley south and in seeing
distance of the growing timber along the Elk Creek, where
I am told is fine grazing land, and stock raising was ex-
tensively pursued. I shall not soon forget my desires
when I beheld that beautiful country, as it was the first
timber to meet my eye since leaving the Missouri River,
As we moved along over those dry and dusty roads and
sun-scorched prairies, how I longed for a few hours visit
and rest at that inviting spot. I believed it the most in-
teresting part of country that I had seen from the begin-
ning of our journey. Now and again we could see a build-
ing, seemingly a dwelling, peering through the forest, and
I was thinking what a feast of pleasure I could enjoy



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 145

seated on the creek bank in the shade of those sturdy old
oaks and cottonwoods, looking into that bubbling stream of
clear cold water, protected by the apparently affectionate,
out-reaching branches of the trees on each side, as it went
dancing merrily along on its way to the Cheyenne River,
when I was aroused from my reverie by recalling the fact
that we could not delay now for such luxuries. We had
started for the races in the Hills, and the fair was already
going on at Deadwood.

"It is a good idea," said my friend, "to take time by
the forelock." I answered: "I think that time has taken
us by the fetlock, and possibly we shall arrive too late for
any part of the fair." My friend thought we would be
in good time, as this was only the second day, and the fair
would continue through the six days of the week.

We halted a few minutes one morning at a place
about eight miles from the foothills, a comfortable looking
log house, with a barn of hewn cottonwood logs on the
opposite side of the road, and two large white bulldogs who
seemed to be the patrol of the premises. A lady appeared
in front of the house whose avoirdupois would balance the
scales at about one eighth of a ton. She was sole propri-
etress of the place, and informed us that she was compelled
to keep the dogs to induce the freighters not to steal her
chickens. This place had gained some notoriety in the
early days of the gold excitement in the Black Hills; it
was yet famous at the time of our arrival, and I believe at



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146 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

the present time it retains the dignified title of Bull Dog
Ranch.

We next came to Sturgis, better known in those days
as Scooptown ; a quiet little hamlet nestling in the foothills
and ten miles from Dead wood; quiet, I say, for that region.
I had occasion to visit it later, and during my last night
in the place there was but one man shot

We now passed through the village of Sturgis, and at
the first tollgate we took our way up the mountain on the
new toll road through Bowlder Park. We had been so
many days on the unsettled and untimbered prairie, that
it seemed fts if we had crossed a great desert, and were
entering a new world, and I was filled with enjoyment of
the scene. The road led us along by the side of a creek,
of which rough, precipitous banks formed each side. The
clear water dripped carelessly over the clean washed gray
shelved rocks, on its descent to the mountain's base. The
old trees that had fallen into and across the stream, years
before, were still holding their position and retaining
their heavy mosqy robes. The vines of different kinds that
had crept over the old logs and climbed the standing trees,
were in their pendulous and drapery-like manner adding
to the picturesque scenery. The creek was densely shad-
owed from the bright sun by the overhanging branches of
the natural growing timber, and quiet and harmony in
sublimity reigned.

Farther on men were laboring on the grounds, beauti-
fying the new highway, and the feathered songsters of the



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 147

forest occasionally chimed in their sweet musical voices
with the echoings of the merry woodman's axe,— -as west-
ward, upward and onward we went, admiring the beauties
of that natural pleasure park, until we reached the sum-
mit where the Deadwood Trotting Park was located. The
horses were called for the pacing race, and I could not
resist being a spectator. When the heat was finished we
began our three miles descent to the metropolis of the
Black Hills, and after twenty-two days on the uninhabited
plains, we entered the City of Deadwood, completing the
longest drive I have ever made to reach a race meeting.

It was Thursday night, four days of the fair had
passed; the free-for-all race would be trotted Saturday,
and I must devote my entire time and attention to the wel-
fare of my old trotter. Gold-dust had been right on his
feed all the way; he had eaten a good quantity of oats,
plenty of grass and several holes in the wagon cover. He
much desired when tied up to amuse himself by taking
hold of something with his teeth, and making a moanful
noise, but the old horse was feeling like a hound, eager
for a chase. On examination I found his shoes entirely
worn out, and put him away to await another rising of the
sun.

Gold-dust came into my possession some time after
being shipped from the east. He was a horse of good
conformation, kindly disposed, and of more than ordinary
intelligence, with as handsome a pair of eyes as I have
ever seen in a horse's head. He had but little mane and



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148 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

was an inveterate cribber. He had one inflexible ankle
joint, and the hair had fallen from his tail until it was left
a spike. With some practice on his ankle, it was restored
almost to a normal condition. He grew fine in flesh and
he was a good actor, but while he had received careful
treatment, and many of his ailments had been success-
fully and satisfactorily repaired, there still remained with
him two lamentable faults; I never could put a new tail
on him or cure him of his cribbiting. After finding a smith
the following day, I got some shoes on the horse, and we—
myself and Gold-dust— made our appearance at the fair
ground. We aroused curiosity from our arrival at the
gate, and I met many quizzers. I succeeded in reaching
the stables at the farther side of the grounds, but could
find no place for the horse, the stalls were occupied by
farmers who had driven to the fair, and no one seemed
willing to vacate for my benefit.

We had been waiting but a few minutes when the
people began to leave the grand-stand while the races
were yet going on, to come over to us, and many ques-
tions were asked. The president of the fair came and
questioned me skillfully, but he did not succeed in ex-
tracting any information from me. I had brought the
horse over the country with a load of butter; I thought
he could go some, and I wanted to start him in the trot.
The president looked him over carefully; said something
about a dangerous horse, and walked away. The chances
for getting a stall appeared more and more doubtful. For-



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NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE 149

tunately, I met a young man with whom I had had some
acquaintance before going to the Hills, who was known
on the turf as Curley. Curley was handling some horses
for a Mr. Fyler who resided at Central City. Their horse
having trotted his race, they concluded to send him home,
thereby providing for me a stall.

When the races for the day were over, I hitched to
the sulky and drove onto the race track. The president
addressed me from the Judge's stand, saying there were
too many people on the track to exercise horses, but he
would permit me to go to the Back Stretch. Some gentle-
men had come to the ground to see my horse in his exer-
cise, and I walked him to the part of the track assigned to me
and brushed him back and forth a few times; to the satis-
faction of my new friends, who came to the conclusion
that he was a sleek fellow and would do to speculate on.
During the evening and the following morning, there were
many rumors in circulation about the camp concerning
the strange horse. A report was current of a telegram
being received, stating that a horse, answering the descrip-
tion of mine and named Gold-dust, had trotted at Lincoln,
Nebraska, and at Denver, Colorado, winning everything
with a record of two twenty-one and that he had started
for the Black Hills. The natural inference was that this
must be the horse. It was found that Curley had known
me before going to the Hills, and it was believed he could
tell something about the horse, so Curley became a victim
of question and consultation. He could be seen at almost

13



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ISO NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

any time, cornered and in close conversation with some of
his anxious inquiring friends of the Hills. Curley did
not know the horse well, but believed he could defeat any
horse in a race in the West.

Saturday morning was cold. After harnessing my
horse, and applying all the turf goods I had with me, con-
sisting of quarter boots, elastic stockings in front, scalp-
ers, and shin boots in the rear, I reached the course and
found all horses had gone to the stable, and every man
on the ground was out in the grand-stand or quarter-
stretch, with watch in hand, waiting the exhibition of
speed to be shown by Gold-dust. After exercising, I took
him to the distance stand and turned, when he went away
more like a trotter than I had ever seen him. He was as
open as the smile of an alligator, and as active as a flock
of scared bats.

I pondered on the carnival I could have in a race
with that speed with substance to carry it, but detected
sufficient evidence to justify me in believing that all was
not quite right with us. The altitude of seven miles was
too high; the air was either too light for Gold-dust, or
his wind was too heavy for the air; surely something was
out of kilter, for his breathing apparatus did not harmonize
with the mountainous atmosphere. "When taken back,
however, after leaving the score, until turning the home-
stretch, he had the appearance of a race horse to the finish,
and showed the boys a high rate of speed. This I discov-
ered caused some uneasiness among owners and drivers,



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 151

and some were desirous to buy Gold-dust. With one man
I bargained at a fair price, with the understanding, at
his request, that I would drive the horse in his race, but
owing to his inability to get the cash on his collateral,
the case went by default.

The free-for-all race filled with five entries, pacers
and trotters, Gold-dust and Bill Morgan being the trot-
ters. Coyote was the name of one pacer; the names of the
others I do not recall. There had been a dash of rain in
the morning, accompanied by a cold northwest wind, but
it passed over and we thought the day a passably fair one,
considering the altitude and season of the year. The
track was in fine condition. The fair had been carried on
for five consecutive days, and the people of the Hills look-
ed farward to the sixth and last day as a day of crowning
efforts. A strange horse was known to be in their midst,
and the free-for-all was looked for as a race of great in-
terest.

Dinner was over and the time for the race had drawn
near. The horses were not yet called, and some of us
walked to the stretch to learn the cause. In the judge's
stand, like a statue, stood a man whose height was about
four feet; his weight two hundred pounds; he was robed
in a suit of navy blue broadcloth; his left hand was hid-
den in his pantaloons pocket; his right hand grasped the
bell cord ; two small American flags adorned his left breast,
and the cover on his head resembled a Japanese soup
bowl. This man was the president of the Trotting and



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152 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

Racing Association of the Black Hills. The president rang
the bell for quietness, that he might speak unto the multi-
tude; when all was still, he said:

"Ladies and gentlemen: I regret that owing to the
inclemency of the weather, and the bad attendance during
the several days of the fair, we are obliged to postpone
the free-for-all race. We will at some future time, not far
distant, give the purse, and more with it, for a trotting
race. Ladies and gentlemen the fair is now closed at
Deadwood Trotting Park."

As the race (Gold-dust, rather) was postponed and
there was no more amusement on the turf, I betook myself
to Central City, where I became better acquainted with
Mr. Pyler, whom I found to be one of the noblest hearted
men of the age. Curley was with him and I spent many
pleasant days with them.

Soon after reaching Deadwood, my friend with whom
I crossed the plains engaged to carry an electioneering
party, with his team, to the different towns in the Hills,
and I did not have the opportunity of seeing him again
before my departure. I never knew with what success he
disposed of his property, but I thought he should have
sold to good advantage. The horses were fat and strong,
and the butter would very favorably compare with the
horses. Talk about butter—this was the highest, corpu-
lent grade, and required the united dexterity of four able-
bodied men to land it in the warehouse. It was my opinion
that ingenuity enough to remove it from its quarters did



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 153

not exist in the hills; with last report, it was successfully
holding the fort.

I visited a number of villages in the Hills, but was a
greater part of my time in Deadwood, where dwelt two
gentlemen who had become the owners of my trotter, at a
very satisfactory figure. They considered him a fine pros-
pect for the next year's racing circuit in the Black Hills,
but the winter was a frosty one, and I am told that long
before his next racing season appeared, the old trotter
cashed up his checks and passed over the range to race no
more. Snow had fallen and my visit in the Hills termin-
ated. The season had grown late; it was well on towards
winter; the weather was wet and cold in the gulches. I
concluded that I did not wish to remain longer; having
disposed of my horse I was lonely, and being free to go
at my pleasure, one wintry day, after saying farewell to
my friend Curley and new acquaintances, I engaged pass-
age to Fort Pierre with a mule train, and departed, east-
ward bound, from the dreary Black Hills.

The weather changed for the better; the snow disap-
peared; the sun shone brightly on the open country, and
I enjoyed an exceedingly pleasant trip over the prairie
with the mule skinners, that being the title assigned to the
drivers of mules in that country. I was kindly given
room in the tent at night. I maintained a magnificent ap-
petite, and did justice to the coffee, warm biscuit and ba-
con. I sometimes sat on a wagon and drove a team of
eight mules with one jerk rein. Again, I was on horse-



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154 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

back with the boys, driving the loose stock in front. So
enjoyable were the days, and evenings passed with song
and joke, that when we reached Port Pierre at the end
of nine days, all expressed regrets at being obliged to
separate. For a short time I felt as if I would like to be
a mole driver and always dwell on the prairies.

Again I said farewell, crossed the Big Muddy, en-
gaged state room on the last steamer of the season for
Yankton, where, after three days, I was safely landed,
and remained through the winter.

Curley informed me later that he left the Hills in
the following February, and when we occasionally meet
on the turf, we invariably indulge in a pleasant chat,
while smoking the Havana weed, in remembrance of oc-
currences in the Black Hills, and days of "Auld Lang
Syne."



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Ten Days in the Flood on the
Missouri River

A NARRATIVE OF THE EXPERIENCE OF A RESCUING PARTY

ON THE SUBMERGED BOTTOMS BELOW YANKTON.

GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF THE GREAT OVERFLOW— WONDERFUL

SIGHTS AND SCENES-THRILLING ADVENTURES.

MIRACULOUS ESCAPES AND AGONIZING SUFFERING.



March, 1881.



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CHAPTER XIV



the coii) winter— breaking op the ice— a venturesome
people— the steamer western— the gorge unbroken
—hanson's landing— our first duty as rescuers—
the blessings of a delighted young wife— the house
that became historic.

The winter of 1880-81 was a severe one in Dakota;
it is said by the older inhabitants to be the coldest winter,
with the greatest amount of snow-fall, ever known in that
country. As my memory serves me, there was almost con-
tinuous snow, with blizzard accompaniment, from about
the 15th of December until the last days of February,
making travel, either by rail or team, an impossibility
a great deal of the time.

The calendar informed us that the winter days had
passed away, but the great solid piles of snow that had
drifted during the cold month* were yet remaining with
us, and presenting an appearance of having recently been
made.

The breaking up of the ice in the Missouri River had
been looked for for many days, but the cold winter had
made the ice very thick and strong, and no evidence of its
failing strength was yet visible; under the prevailing cir-



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158 NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE

eumstances, something more than the ordinary, unforeseen
happenings were expected at the break-up.

The citizens of Yankton were much concerned regard-
ing the safety of the people residing on the Missouri and
Jim (James) River bottom lands in case of an overflow. Al-
though those people had never, in former years, experi-
enced a destructive overflow, they were constantly, when
opportunity permitted advising and soliciting the farm-
ers to move their families to the highlands.

We, who have lived in a land of plenty, know but
little of the numerous privations that had to be taken
into consideration and submitted to, before a comfortable
living condition could be successfully reached in an un-
settled country in the far West in the early days, by the
people who migrated there in search of better fortunes
for themselves and homes for their families. To endure
the many difficulties they well knew, and many they did
not know which must be endured in an uncivilized world,
where all things were of the wildest and nature still un-
tamed, not forgetting their continuous exposure to the
ever barbarious scalping knife of the life-seeking wild In-
dian; they were surely a venturesome people.

Such was the class of people who settled on the
bottom lands of the Missouri and " Jim" River in the early
days of Dakota; consequently they were not moved at
warning of danger in times of peace and prosperity. It
was their home— their all— the small accumulations of
long and toilsome years; they could not go; they chose to



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 159

remain, let fortune be what it would, and the long looked
for day came.

On Sunday, March 27th, the ice gave way in the river
at Yankton. Hundreds of people were on the banks to
witness its going out, and the sight was grand; but as
I stood there in silence, gazing upon those acres of ice
moving down in a gigantic body, sweeping all before it,
a tremulous sensation seemed to creep over me, as if I were
dreading an approaching calamity.

The steamer " Western/ ' the only boat not placed
on the repair ways, was caught with the earliest moving
ice, and held so close to the bank as to make her unable
to rise with the tide. Men labored with her as in case
of saving human life, but she sprang aleak, sank partly
under water and was pulverized on the spot.

The ice moved out, leaving the river below clear as far
as could be seen from the city. The people rejoiced that
no more damage had been done; they evidently thought


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