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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




THE first thing we did on that glad evening that landed
us at St. Joseph was to hunt up the stage-office, and pay
a hundred and fifty dollars apiece for tickets per overland
coach to Carson City, Nevada.

The next morning, bright and early, we took a hasty breakfast,
and hurried to the starting-place. Then an inconvenience
presented itself which we had not properly appreciated before,
namely, that one cannot make a heavy traveling trunk stand
for twenty-five pounds of baggage—because it weighs a good
deal more. But that was all we could take—twenty-five
pounds each. So we had to snatch our trunks open, and
make a selection in a good deal of a hurry. We put our
lawful twenty-five pounds apiece all in one valise, and shipped
the trunks back to St. Louis again. It was a sad parting, for
now we had no swallow-tail coats and white kid gloves to wear
at Pawnee receptions in the Rocky Mountains, and no stovepipe
hats nor patent-leather boots, nor anything else necessary
to make life calm and peaceful. We were reduced to a war-footing.
Each of us put on a rough, heavy suit of clothing,
woolen army shirt and “stogy” boots included; and into the
valise we crowded a few white shirts, some under-clothing
and such things. My brother, the Secretary, took along about
four pounds of United States statutes and six pounds of
Unabridged Dictionary; for we did not know—poor innocents—that
such things could be bought in San Francisco on
one day and received in Carson City the next. I was armed


Page 23


[Description: 504EAF. Page 023. In-line images, one is of three men in black carrying a barrel, the other is of a gun, called the "Allen".]
to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith & Wesson's seven-shooter,
which carried a ball like a homœopathic pill, and it
took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult. But I
thought it was grand. It appeared
to me to be a dangerous
weapon. It only had one fault—
you could not hit anything with
it. One of our “conductors”
practiced awhile on a cow with
it, and as long as she stood still
and behaved herself she was safe;
but as soon as she went to moving
about, and he got to shooting
at other things, she came to grief.
The Secretary had a small-sized
Colt's revolver strapped around
him for protection against the
Indians, and to guard against
accidents he carried it uncapped.
Mr. George Bemis was dismally
formidable. George Bemis was our fellow-traveler. We had
never seen him before. He wore in his belt an old original
“Allen” revolver, such as irreverent people called a “pepper-box.”
Simply drawing the trigger back, cocked and fired the
pistol. As the trigger came back, the hammer would begin to
rise and the barrel to turn over,
and presently down would drop
the hammer, and away would
speed the ball. To aim along
the turning barrel and hit the
thing aimed at was a feat which
was probably never done with
an “Allen” in the world. But
George's was a reliable weapon,
nevertheless, because, as one of the stage-drivers afterward
said, “If she didn't get what she went after, she would fetch
something else.” And so she did. She went after a deuce of


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 024. In-line image of three men standing over a donkey. They are arguing and one man has a gun.]
spades nailed against a tree, once, and fetched a mule standing
about thirty yards to the left of it. Bemis did not want the
mule; but the owner came out with a double-barreled shot-gun
and persuaded him to buy it, anyhow. It was a cheerful
weapon—the “Allen.” Sometimes all its six barrels would
go off at once, and then there was no safe place in all the
region round about, but behind it.

We took two or three blankets for protection against frosty
weather in the mountains. In the matter of luxuries we were
modest—we took none along but some pipes and five pounds
of smoking tobacco. We had two large canteens to carry
water in, between stations on the Plains, and we also took with
us a little shot-bag of silver coin for daily expenses in the way
of breakfasts and dinners.


Page 25

By eight o'clock everything was ready, and we were on the
other side of the river. We jumped into the stage, the driver
cracked his whip, and we bowled away and left “the States”
behind us. It was a superb summer morning, and all the
landscape was brilliant with sunshine. There was a freshness
and breeziness, too, and an exhilarating sense of emancipation
from all sorts of cares and responsibilities, that almost made
us feel that the years we had spent in the close, hot city, toiling
and slaving, had been wasted and thrown away. We
were spinning along through Kansas, and in the course of an
hour and a half we were fairly abroad on the great Plains.
Just here the land was rolling—a grand sweep of regular
elevations and depressions as far as the eye could reach—like
the stately heave and swell of the ocean's bosom after a storm.
And everywhere were cornfields, accenting with squares of
deeper green, this limitless expanse of grassy land. But
presently this sea upon dry ground was to lose its “rolling”
character and stretch away for seven hundred miles as level as
a floor!

Our coach was a great swinging and swaying stage, of the
most sumptuous description
—an imposing cradle on
wheels. It was drawn by
six handsome horses, and
by the side of the driver
sat the “conductor,” the
legitimate captain of the
craft; for it was his business
to take charge and
care of the mails, baggage,
express matter, and passengers.
We three were the
only passengers, this trip.
We sat on the back seat,
inside. About all the rest of the coach was full of mail
bags—for we had three days' delayed mails with us. Almost
touching our knees, a perpendicular wall of mail matter rose up


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 026. In-line image of a Native American reading a book and smoking a peace pipe.]
to the roof. There was a great pile of it strapped on top of
the stage, and both the fore and hind boots were full. We
had twenty-seven hundred pounds of it aboard, the driver
said—“a little for Brigham, and Carson, and 'Frisco, but the
heft of it for the Injuns, which is powerful troublesome
'thout they get plenty of truck to read.” But as he just then
got up a fearful convulsion of his countenance which was suggestive
of a wink being swallowed by an earthquake, we
guessed that his remark was intended to be facetious, and to
mean that we would unload the most of our mail matter
somewhere on the Plains and leave it to the Indians, or
whosoever wanted it.

We changed horses every ten miles, all day long, and fairly
flew over the hard, level road. We jumped out and stretched
our legs every time the coach stopped, and so the night found
us still vivacious and unfatigued.

After supper a woman got in, who lived about fifty miles


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further on, and we three had to take turns at sitting outside
with the driver and conductor. Apparently she was not a
talkative woman. She would sit there in the gathering twilight
and fasten her steadfast eyes on a mosquito rooting into
her arm, and slowly she would raiser her other hand till she
had got his range, and then she would launch a slap at him
that would have jolted a cow; and after that she would sit and
contemplate the corpse with tranquil satisfaction—for she
never missed her mosquito; she was a dead shot at short range.
She never removed a carcase, but left them there for bait. I
sat by this grim Sphynx and watched her kill thirty or forty
mosquitoes—watched her, and waited for her to say something,
but she never did. So I finally opened the conversation myself.
I said:

“The mosquitoes are pretty bad, about here, madam.”

“You bet!”

“What did I understand you to say, madam?”

“You BET!”

Then she cheered up, and faced around and said:

“Danged if I didn't begin to think you fellers was deef
and dumb. I did, b'gosh.
Here I've sot, and sot, and
sot, a-bust'n muskeeters and
wonderin' what was ailin'
ye. Fust I thot you was
deef and dumb, then I thot
you was sick or craxy, or
suthin', and then by and by
I begin to reckon you was
a passel of sickly fools that
couldn't think of nothing
to say. Wher'd ye come

The Sphynx was a
Sphynx no more! The fountains of her great deep were
broken up and she rained the nine parts of speech forty days
and forty nights, metaphorically speaking, and buried us under


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a desolating deluge of trivial gossip that left not a crag or pinnacle
of rejoinder projecting above the tossing waste of dislocated
grammar and decomposed pronunciation!

How we suffered, suffered, suffered! She went on, hour
after hour, till I was sorry I ever opened the mosquito question
and gave her a start. She never did stop again until she
got to her journey's end toward daylight; and then she stirred
us up as she was leaving the stage (for we were nodding, by
that time), and said:

“Now you git out at Cottonwood, you fellers, and lay over
a couple o' days, and I'll be along some time to-night, and if
I can do ye any good by edgin' in a word now and then, I'm
right thar. Folks 'll tell you 't I've always ben kind o' offish
and partic'lar for a gal that's raised in the woods, and I am,
with the rag-tag and bob-tail, and a gal has to be, if she wants
to be anything, but when people comes along which is my
equals, I reckon I'm a pretty sociable heifer after all.”

We resolved not to “lay by at Cottonwood.”