William Lewis Manly.

Death Valley in '49 online

. (page 21 of 36)
Online LibraryWilliam Lewis ManlyDeath Valley in '49 → online text (page 21 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


not come and take them away. About ten o'clock my companion began to
complain of pain in his stomach and bowels, and was soon vomiting at a
fearful rate; so violently, indeed, that I was apprehensive that he
might die. If I had had an emetic I would have given it to him to have
assisted nature in pumping those devilish little red berries out of him,
for I felt quite sure that they were the cause of his illness. Perhaps
it was fortunate that there was no medecine at hand, for if there had
been I might have killed him with it.

He suffered most intensely, and soon became very thirsty, and, there
being no water within many miles of us, he appealed to me to bleed one
of the animals and let him drink the blood; I refused: he insisted; I
again refused: he commanded; I still refused. He swore, and called me
almost everything except a good Christian; he even expressed the wish
that I, his friend, might be sent to a certain place where the heat is
most intense, and the fire is never quenched.

At about eleven o'clock, when his pains were most severe, a dark cloud,
the first we had seen for months, came over us, and a little rain began
to fall, when I at once opened our little camp kettle and turned the lid
upside down, and into both kettle and lid there fell perhaps two or
three teaspoonfuls of pure water, every drop of which I gave to the
sufferer, whereupon he expressed thanks for another God-send, and at
once apologized for bestowing unmerited abuse on me. He afterwards often
asserted that he believed that the little rain-cloud was sent by God for
his special benefit, and that the water caught from that cloud was the
sweetest and best that he had ever tasted. I did not doubt the latter
half of the above statement, but I did have some doubt about the truth
of the former half when I called to mind the scene which followed my
refusal to bleed the horse. Whether the small quantity of water gave him
much relief, or not, I do not know, but I do know that he soon became
better and slept some while I watched. He was quite feeble next morning
when I put him on the old sore-backed mule, where he rode most of the
time for the next four days, while the little horse carried our baggage,
and I led the way as usual, on foot.

For four days from the time Field ate the little red berries we did not
have a drop of water except the two or three teaspoonfuls which the
stingy cloud left to save the life of the "berry-eater." We were still
on the desert, or in the mountains east of the river, traveling hard
during the day, and burning up with fever in the night. There was plenty
of drying grass in places, but our poor animals could not eat it any
longer, for they, too, were burning up for want of water. Oh, how much I
did wish that we had some camels from Arabia, which could have gone so
much longer without water, and traveled so much faster.

On the morning of the third day of starvation, we determined to change
our course, and, if possible, reach the river once more. Bearing to the
left over a high, barren range of rocky mountains, and down into a plain
of sand, sage brush, and cactus. During the afternoon I shot a small
rabbit, not much larger than a rat, which we carried until night, then
broiled and tried to eat it, not because our appetites craved it, but
hoping that it might strengthen and sustain us, at least a little while
longer. We were, however, so nearly burned up that there was not a
sufficient flow of saliva to moisten the little bits of broiled meat in
the mouth. Late that afternoon we fancied that our fast failing brute
companions scented water, or that they instinctively knew that it was
not far away. They would raise their heads, and extend their noses as if
smelling, while their physical force and energy seemed renewed, and they
certainly traveled faster.

That night we ate the little, as before stated, more as a duty than as a
pleasure. There was some green grass round about where we camped, or,
more properly speaking, where we lay, for we did not erect our little
tent, - but the poor starving animals did not eat a bite of it, but stood
over us as if in sympathy with us in our deplorable condition. We rose
before the sun, being somewhat rested and refreshed, for the night had
been cool, and took up our line of march, I, as usual, in the lead, then
came the old mule guided by its precious owner, and lastly, the faithful
little horse with the pack on his still quite round back; - on over the
still dry and barren plain we went, without a Moses, cloud, or pillar of
fire to lead us.

About ten o'clock, through the hot glimmer of the down-pouring rays of
the sun, we saw what appeared, and afterwards proved, to be a clump of
cottonwood trees. Our hopes and courage were renewed, for we well knew
the cottonwood usually grows near flowing water. There was no beaten
pathway, no signs of animal life, no quails, no manna in that desert;
but on we went, almost without a halt, and at one o'clock reached the
cottonwood grove, immediately on the bank of the great river down which
we had floated in our canoes more than a month before. On reaching the
bank of the river we recognized objects which we had seen while on our
way down.

We remembered that both men and horses might be water-foundered, and
that self-preservation is said to be the first law of nature; but it was
difficult to prevent the famishing brutes from plunging into the river.
We allowed them to take only a small quantity at first, and each of us
took only a small cupful; then after a little time all took more, and
the thirst was soon quenched. We were surprised to find how little water
it took to satisfy the raging thirst of four days of continued fasting.
The animals, after taking comparatively small quantities, seemed
satisfied, and went off in search of grass.

We now had an abundance of water, but we well knew that water alone
would not sustain life very long: therefore our next, and most serious
business was to determine how to prolong our lives. According to our
map, our recollections of different objects, and present appearances we
were now a little above the mouth of the Uinta river which comes in from
the northwest, all of which proved true. Our little map pictured Fort
Uinta on the Uinta river about one hundred miles from where we were; but
whether or not there were any human beings there, we did not know, and
in order to determine we must cross this great river and travel a
hundred miles, and this seemed a perilous undertaking for us in our
present starving condition; but after being refreshed by plenty of good
water we determined to undertake it, hoping that good fortune might
attend us.

After a little rest, the animals with grass, we packed up, and after
Field had put on his, once serviceable, life preserver he mounted the
old mule behind the small pack and started to swim across the river. He
took the lead in this instance for three reasons: first, we thought that
the mule, being much older than the horse, had probably had more
experience and therefore might be a much better swimmer; then Field had
the advantage in having the life preserver; but the last, and most
potent, reason was my fear of getting drowned. It was understood that I
was to remain on shore and be ready to assist him if necessary, or until
he had safely landed on the other side.

In he went, and the trusty old mule was swimming faithfully, and had
reached the middle of the river, when Field, as he afterwards told me,
to hurry the mule, gave a gentle jerk on the bridle, when, to his utter
astonishment, the mule made a complete somerset backwards plunging
Field, the pack, and himself entirely under the water, except his heels
which appeared above the water as his head went under. In a moment Field
popped up and, after shaking his head as a swimmer will do after taking
a plunge, cast about to take his bearings, or to determine just where he
was, and began to paddle with his hands, much as he did when the canoes
were upset on the river, or somewhat after the style of a swimming dog.
On coming to the surface, the mule cast a glance at the still living,
but unloaded portion of his cargo, then made a bee line for the shore
which he had so recently left. While Field continued to paddle and float
down the river, I dismounted and followed along the bank, trying to
encourage him to renewed efforts to float ashore. Finally he passed
behind a clump of willows out of sight; but soon I heard him call for
help and on going a little further down, found him stuck fast in the
mud. I waded waist deep into that mud, and literally dragged him out,
almost a mile below his starting point.

As we were struggling in this muddy swamp, Field said he wondered why
some of this superfluous water was not distributed over those dry
deserts from which we had so recently come. I told him, politely, that I
thought that a man of his age, ability, opportunities, and nationality,
(you know he was quite proud of being an Englishman) ought to know why
the moisture was not so distributed, and that I was too illiterate to
enlighten him on that point, but that, when opportunity offered, he
might consult some one who knew more of natural science than I did. I
informed him that I had an idea that if any considerable portion of the
water of that river had been distributed over that desert that we would
not have had the experience of the last fifteen days, whereupon he very
plainly intimated that I did not have much sense, or, in other words, he
called me a d - d fool.

After reaching solid ground and resting for a little while, we returned
to the place from which he had started out on his perilous voyage, and
where I had hastily left my horse. We found the horse and mule quietly
grazing with their packs on their backs. The faithful old mule had the
appearance of having been wet, but was now almost dry, yet not so dry,
internally, as he had been several days before.

What shall we do now? We are perhaps two hundred or more miles from any
white settlement. We do not know that Fort Uinta is occupied. Shall we
make another attempt to cross the river? I asked my brave friend if he
was willing to again mount the mule and make another attempt, when he
again exclaimed, "You must be a d - d fool!" I then, pretending to have a
little courage, asked him if he would follow provided I would lead,
whereupon he declared most emphatically that under no conditions would
he again attempt to swim across that river. I had not had his
experience, but fear of being drowned was quite sufficient to prevent me
from undertaking the perilous task, more especially after witnessing his
failure.

Well, what next? We could not depend upon fishing and hunting, for we
had no fish-hooks, nor means of catching fish, and not more than a dozen
loads of shot, and a little powder; so the matter of slaying one of our
animal friends was now seriously debated, and, after thoroughly
canvassing the whole situation, it was most reluctantly determined that,
however hard, this must be done. No doubt our starving condition at that
particular time had some weight in making this decision.

Then the question was, which of the animals shall be sacrificed? The
mule was quite thin, and probably tough, while the little horse was
young, and, notwithstanding the many days it had, with all of us,
starved and traveled without water, was still quite plump and round, and
probably tender, or, at the worst, not so tough as the poor old docile
mule; so, at length we decided to kill the innocent little creature,
jerk his flesh, pack it on the mule, and thereby try to save our own
lives, for a time at least, and endeavor to reach some place of safety.

The matter of slaying the horse was determined by casting lots, neither
being willing to perform that melancholy, but now absolutely necessary,
act. It fell to my lot, and that was one of, if not the most revolting
act in my whole life's experience, for I had, probably, become as
strongly attached to that little horse as man ever becomes attached to
animal. I most reluctantly took the bridle in my left hand, my revolver
in my right, stood directly in front of the poor, unsuspecting, innocent
creature with the murderous pistol close to, and a little above a line
extending from eye to eye, and fired. When the smoke of the powder had
cleared off a little, I saw at my feet the quivering, dying body. I
staggered off a few steps and sat down, sick at heart.

Field walked several steps away, and turned his back upon the scene
until after the fatal shot had been fired; then, after some little time,
he entered upon his share of the enforced duty, and, after having
removed a portion of the skin, cut off some slices of flesh and brought
them to a fire I had started. We broiled and ate a little of it, not
through desire or relish for it, but from a sense of duty, knowing that
our lives depended upon it.

It is said that for many years Dr. Franklin refrained from eating flesh,
having an idea that it was wrong to slay and eat the flesh of other
creatures; but that he changed his mind, and his diet, too, after having
seen large fish devour small ones. I strongly suspect that if the doctor
had been with us, or in a like condition, even before his conversion, he
would, more than likely have taken a little flesh, even though it had
been a piece of his own favorite horse.

I said we only ate a little at first: I only ate a little for two
reason; first, I did not relish the food; second, I had heard of persons
being killed by eating too much after fasting for a long time, and I had
no desire to commit suicide just then. Field ate too much. Night came
on, work was suspended, and we retired. The poor old lone, and, no
doubt, now lonely, mule, having filled himself with grass, came up near
the now terribly-mutilated remains of his late companion, and looked on
as Field continued his bloody work. Field, with an expression of sorrow,
said, "If that mule could reason and look forward to the time when his
body might be in a like condition as that of this horse, he would, no
doubt, take to his heels, bid us a final farewell, and seek other
society." But, fortunately for us, he did not know that he was to be
held in reserve for our future security. He was securely tied up every
night from that time until the day he was slain for our salvation.

Early in the night following that eventful day, my companion began to
complain much as he had done on the night after he had eaten the little
red berries; but there was no lack of water now, no need of a special
rain-cloud. I got up, heated water in our little camp kettle, applied
hot cloths to his aching belly, and did everything else that either of
us could think of for his relief. The pain was intense, and we feared
that he would surely die, and earnestly prayed all the rest of the night
that he might be relieved, and get well. Towards morning most violent
vomiting came on, which continued for thirty hours, or more. He was not
able to walk for three days, and during that time I nursed him, finished
jerking the meat, and built a raft of some partly rotten logs, which I
found in the vicinity, on which we floated across the river, on the
fourth day after our arrival here. I also looked to the welfare of the
mule, and prepared some bags in which to carry our jerk. Manley, I am
sure that you know the meaning of the term "jerk" so that a definition
of the word is not at all necessary.

The old logs of which the raft was made were remnants of log cabins, a
number of which had been built and occupied more than half a century
before, but by whom I do not know. Field remarked that the finding of
these old rotting logs there was another "God send," as we then had
neither ax, hammer, nor any tool of iron with which to cut down a tree.
I bound these logs together with long strips cut from the hide of the
dead horse. Paddles and poles were also provided. The mule was with
difficulty driven across the river.

When the raft was landed on the west bank, the mule packed, and all
about ready to start, I took the long strip of raw-hide from the raft
and tied one end of it around the mule's neck, mounted Field on the mule
behind the large pack, which made the whole outfit look quite comical
indeed. Before leaving the other side of the river I had discovered that
the saddle girth was not very strong, so I cut a wide belt from the hide
of the lately slaughtered horse and fitted it to the saddle as a girth,
knowing that the pack, now containing all of our goods and a supply of
more than a bushel of jerk, would be quite bulky, if not heavy, and more
difficult to keep on the back of a mule than it is for the camel to
maintain his hump on his back. This girth afterwards made us two or
three pretty substantial meals, as did also the long strip of green, wet
hide, one end of which I had tied round the mule's neck, allowing it to
drag for a long distance through the hot dry sand.

All being ready, I, as usual, took the lead with my shot gun, which I
always carried, but with which I seldom killed anything, on my shoulder.
The old mule followed with his high, towering pack, and Field almost
hidden behind. It was noon, but we did not stop for dinner, but simply
reached into one of the great bulging sacks, took out a piece of jerk
and ate it as we went marching on; no more trouble now about cooking.
Late in the afternoon we reached Uinta river, and, as my two-legged
companion had grown very tired of the back of the four-legged one, we
went into camp early. Our objective point was Fort Uinta, where we hoped
to find military. We could not risk turning the mule loose at night, and
the long strip of raw-hide was designed and used to secure him, and yet
to afford him liberty to graze while we slept. As you will see a little
further on, both girth and lariat were used for a purpose not
anticipated.

The second, third, fourth, and fifth days came and went, and we were
trudging on, up the Uinta, through a mostly very barren country, with
some little rich and fertile land. We saw signs of Indians often, but no
Indians. There was much cottonwood, but little other timber. We saw some
fish in the river which we coveted, but could not get. The main course
of this river is from north-west to south-east. We traveled most of the
way to the fort on Indian trails, some of which were much worn, but
mostly at some much earlier period. Of course we had plenty of good
water, and food, such as it was. Field did not walk two miles during
those five days, but seemed to be fattening fast. I sometimes thought he
might be just a little lazy, but I never told him so, for I realized
that he had recently had a severe tussle with death.

Early in the morning of the sixth day we arrived at the abandoned old
fort. There were only three log buildings, and they were in the shape of
three sides of a hollow square, with port-holes on the outer faces of
the buildings, and doors entering each of them from the hollow square or
court. Facing the vacant side of the court, the port-hole from which I
shot the wolf on the night after we had killed the mule, would be on
right hand side. We were unable to determine whether this fort had been
constructed and occupied by Americans or Mexicans, but, from its
apparent age, we were inclined to the opinion that it was Mexicans. It
had not been occupied for, probably, three or four years. Some little
farming had been done immediately around the fort. Surrounding the fort
is a large body of fine, fertile land which I have no doubt has long
since been occupied by mormons, or other enterprising people.

Having no means of subsistence here we soon decided to push on towards
Fort Bridger, and, after resting a few hours set out following the
larger fork of the river which comes almost directly from the north. We
now believed that we were almost, if not exactly, due south of Fort
Bridger. The river is small, and very crooked; we crossed it many times
within three days, and, at the end of that time, found ourselves in the
mouth of a rocky cañon, and after struggling for one whole day, we came
to where the steep, high, stone walls closed the little river in on both
sides, rendering it impossible for us to proceed any further.

We were now nearly out of food; the jerk was almost gone. A council was
held, and it was decided that we should return to the fort and take
chances of being rescued, or scalped by some roving band of reds, or
starving to death. We at once set out on our return, full of
disappointment and melancholy forebodings.

The next day found us without food: and now came into use the long,
narrow strip of raw-hide which first bound together the old, rotting
logs of which the raft was made, then to secure the mule of nights. It
was now almost as hard as bone, and nearly round, having been dragged
through the hot sand while it was yet green and wet, closed up like a
hollow tube with sand inside. Two or three yards of it at a time, was
cut into pieces about five inches long, the hair singed off, the sand
scratched out, and these pieces were dropped into our camp kettle and
cooked until the whole formed one mass of jelly or gluten which was, to
us, quite palatable. When the lasso had all been thus prepared and
eaten, the broad girth which had served so well in holding the
pack-saddle on the mule's back, was cleaned, cooked, and eaten. These
substitutes for jerk sustained us very well till we again arrived at the
fort.

Another consultation was now held, and the question was - what shall we
do now? We were again, apparently, at the starting point of another
long, enforced fast. Our path seemed hedged in. The prospect was,
indeed, very gloomy. Our only reasonable hope for even the temporary
prolongation of our lives was centered in our ever faithful, and always
reliable old mule. We revolted at the idea of killing and eating him,
but the last bit of the girth was gone. After canvassing the whole
situation over and over, again and again, we finally, but most
reluctantly decided to kill the mule, and preserve all the soft parts,
even the skin with all of its old scars, and then gather in whatever
else we could find, and stay here until spring, or until good fortune
might afford us some means escape; till some Moses might come and lead
us out of this wilderness, notwithstanding the fact that we had not
borrowed any jewelry which we had failed to return.

There were signs of wolves in that vicinity, and it was decided that the
mule be slain about ten paces distant and directly in front of one of
the port-holes of the fort, with the idea that wolves might smell the
blood and come there and subject themselves to being shot, and thereby
afford us a chance to increase our stock of winter supplies in the form
of wolf steak, or jerk. Accordingly the victim was lead to the spot
indicated, and there slain in the same manner, and with quite as much
reluctance on the part of the slayer, as on the occasion of the
sacrifice of the little horse, more than three weeks before. The body
was skinned, cut up, and all taken within the building, nothing being
left except the blood which had been spilled on the ground, and which
was intended to attract wolves or, possibly, bears or other animals.

My now only living associate ridiculed the idea of killing wolves, and
insisted that the flesh could not be eaten, stating the fact that even
hogs would not eat the dead body of a dog, and insisted that a dog was
only a tamed wolf. I reminded him of a cat which had been eaten. He
finally agreed that, if I killed a wolf, he would get up and dress it,
but said most emphatically that he would not sit up and watch for it; so
he went to bed, that is, rolled himself up in a blanket on the ground in
front of a good fire inside of the fort, and went to sleep, while I sat
with my rather untrustworthy double barreled shot-gun protruding through
the port-hole in full view of the spot before indicated. The night was
clear, and the moon was shining in full splendor. It was probably eleven
o'clock; Field had been snoring for a long time, when I heard something
in the tall, dry grass, and soon a large, brownish-gray wolf came into
full view, with head up, apparently sniffing, or smelling, and
cautiously approaching the fatal spot. When he reached it, and began to
lick up the blood which was still on the surface of the ground, standing
with his left side toward the fort, and in full view, I took deliberate
aim, and fired, and he fell upon the ground without making any
considerable noise.

The tired, sleeping man was aroused by the report of the gun, and rushed



Online LibraryWilliam Lewis ManlyDeath Valley in '49 → online text (page 21 of 36)