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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




JUST beyond the breakfast-station we overtook a Mormon
emigrant train of thirty-three wagons; and tramping
wearily along and driving their herd of loose cows, were dozens
of coarse-clad and sad-looking men, women and children,
who had walked as they were walking now, day after day for
eight lingering weeks, and in that time had compassed the
distance our stage had come in eight days and three hours
seven hundred and ninety-eight miles! They were dusty and
uncombed, hatless, bonnetless and ragged, and they did look
so tired!

After breakfast, we bathed in Horse Creek, a (previously)
limpid, sparkling stream—an appreciated luxury, for it was
very seldom that our furious coach halted long enough for an
indulgence of that kind. We changed horses ten or twelve
times in every twenty-four hours—changed mules, rather—
six mules—and did it nearly every time in four minutes. It
was lively work. As our coach rattled up to each station six
harnessed mules stepped gayly from the stable; and in the
twinkling of an eye, almost, the old team was out, and the
new one in and we off and away again.

During the afternoon we passed Sweetwater Creek, Independence
Rock, Devil's Gate and the Devil's Gap. The latter
were wild specimens of rugged scenery, and full of interest—
we were in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, now. And we
also passed by “Alkali” or “Soda Lake,” and we woke up to
the fact that our journey had stretched a long way across the


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world when the driver said that the Mormons often came
there from Great Salt Lake City to haul away saleratus. He
said that a few days gone by they had shoveled up enough
pure saleratus from the ground (it was a dry lake) to
load two wagons, and that when they got these two wagonloads
of a drug that cost them nothing, to Salt Lake, they
could sell it for twenty-five cents a pound.

In the night we sailed by a most notable curiosity, and one
we had been hearing a good deal about for a day or two, and
were suffering to see. This was what might be called a natural
ice-house. It was August, now, and sweltering weather
in the daytime, yet at one of the stations the men could scrape
the soil on the hill-side under the lee of a range of boulders,
and at a depth of six inches cut out pure blocks of ice—hard,
compactly frozen, and clear as crystal!

Toward dawn we got under way again, and presently as
we sat with raised curtains enjoying our early-morning smoke
and contemplating the first splendor of the rising sun as it
swept down the long array of mountain peaks, flushing and
gilding crag after crag and summit after summit, as if the
invisible Creator reviewed his gray veterans and they saluted
with a smile, we hove in sight of South Pass City. The hotel-keeper,
the postmaster, the blacksmith, the mayor, the constable,
the city marshal and the principal citizen and property
holder, all came out and greeted us cheerily, and we gave him
good day. He gave us a little Indian news, and a little Rocky
Mountain news, and we gave him some Plains information
in return. He then retired to his lonely grandeur and we
climbed on up among the bristling peaks and the ragged clouds.
South Pass City consisted of four log cabins, one of which was
unfinished, and the gentleman with all those offices and titles
was the chiefest of the ten citizens of the place. Think of hotel-keeper,
postmaster, blacksmith, mayor, constable, city marshal
and principal citizen all condensed into one person and
crammed into one skin. Bemis said he was “a perfect Allen's
revolver of dignities.” And he said that if he were to die
as postmaster, or as blacksmith, or as postmaster and blacksmith


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 099. In-line image of a man leaning on a post in front of a store looking off into the distance. The signs on the store read, "post office", " "black smith", and "hotel".]
both, the people might stand it; but if he were to die all over,
it would be a frightful loss to the community.

Two miles beyond South Pass City we saw for the first
time that mysterious
marvel which
all Western untraveled
boys have
heard of and fully
believe in, but are
sure to be astounded
at when they
see it with their
own eyes, nevertheless
— banks of
snow in dead summer
time. We
were now far up
toward the sky, and
knew all the time
that we must presently
lofty summits clad in the “eternal snow” which was so commonplace
a matter of mention in books, and yet when I did see it glittering
in the sun on stately domes in the distance and knew the
month was August and that my coat was hanging up because it
was too warm to wear it, I was full as much amazed as if I never
had heard of snow in August before. Truly, “seeing is believing”—and
many a man lives a long life through, thinking
he believes certain universally received and well established
things, and yet never suspects that if he were confronted by
those things once, he would discover that he did not really
believe them before, but only thought he believed them.

In a little while quite a number of peaks swung into view
with long claws of glittering snow clasping them; and with
here and there, in the shade, down the mountain side, a little
solitary patch of snow looking no larger than a lady's pocket-handkerchief,
but being in reality as large as a “public square.”

And now, at last, we were fairly in the renowned South


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Pass, and whirling gayly along high above the common world.
We were perched upon the extreme summit of the great
range of the Rocky Mountains, toward which we had been
climbing, patiently climbing, ceaselessly climbing, for days
and nights together—and about us was gathered a convention
of Nature's kings that stood ten, twelve, and even thirteen
thousand feet high—grand old fellows who would have to
stoop to see Mount Washington, in the twilight. We were in
such an airy elevation above the creeping populations of the
earth, that now and then when the obstructing crags stood
out of the way it seemed that we could look around and
abroad and contemplate the whole great globe, with its dissolving
views of mountains, seas and continents stretching
away through the mystery of the summer haze.

As a general thing the Pass was more suggestive of a valley
than a suspension bridge in the clouds—but it strongly
suggested the latter at one spot. At that place the upper
third of one or two majestic purple domes projected above our
level on either hand and gave us a sense of a hidden great
deep of mountains and plains and valleys down about their
bases which we fancied we might see if we could step to the
edge and look over. These Sultans of the fastnesses were turbaned
with tumbled volumes of cloud, which shredded away
from time to time and drifted off fringed and torn, trailing
their continents of shadow after them; and catching presently
on an intercepting peak, wrapped it about and brooded there
—then shredded away again and left the purple peak, as they
had left the purple domes, downy and white with new-laid
snow. In passing, these monstrous rags of cloud hung low
and swept along right over the spectator's head, swinging their
tatters so nearly in his face that his impulse was to shrink
when they came closest. In the one place I speak of, one
could look below him upon a world of diminishing crags and
canyons leading down, down, and away to a vague plain with
a thread in it which was a road, and bunches of feathers in it
which were trees,—a pretty picture sleeping in the sunlight—
but with a darkness stealing over it and glooming its features



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[Description: 504EAF. Page 101. In-line image of a man crossing a river in front of a mountain.]
deeper and deeper under the frown of a coming storm; and
then, while no film or shadow marred the noon brightness of
his high perch, he could watch the tempest break forth down
there and see the lightnings leap from crag to crag and the
sheeted rain drive along the canyon-sides, and hear the thunders
peal and crash and roar. We had this spectacle; a familiar
one to many, but to us a novelty.

We bowled along cheerily, and presently, at the very summit
(though it
had been all
summit to us,
and all equally
level, for half
an hour or more),
we came to a
spring which
spent its water
through two outlets
and sent it
in opposite directions.
conductor said that one of those
streams which we were looking
at, was just starting on a journey
westward to the Gulf of
California and the Pacific Ocean, through hundreds and even
thousands of miles of desert solitudes. He said that the
other was just leaving its home among the snow-peaks on
a similar journey eastward—and we knew that long after we
should have forgotten the simple rivulet it would still be plodding
its patient way down the mountain sides, and canyon-beds,
and between the banks of the Yellowstone; and by and
by would join the broad Missouri and flow through unknown
plains and deserts and unvisited wildernesses; and add a long
and troubled pilgrimage among snags and wrecks and sandbars;
and enter the Mississippi, touch the wharves of St.
Louis and still drift on, traversing shoals and rocky channels,


Page 102
then endless chains of bottomless and ample bends, walled
with unbroken forests, then mysterious byways and secret pasages
among woody islands, then the chained bends again, bordered
with wide levels of shining sugar-cane in place of the
sombre forests; then by New Orleans and still other chains
of bends—and finally, after two long months of daily and
nightly harassment, excitement, enjoyment, adventure, and
awful peril of parched throats, pumps and evaporation, pass
the Gulf and enter into its rest upon the bosom of the tropic
sea, never to look upon its snow-peaks again or regret them.

I freighted a leaf with a mental message for the friends at
home, and dropped it in the stream. But I put no stamp on
it and it was held for postage somewhere.

On the summit we overtook an emigrant train of many
wagons, many tired men and women, and many a disgusted
sheep and cow. In the wofully dusty horseman in charge of
the expedition I recognized John —. Of all persons in the
world to meet on top of the
Rocky Mountains thousands
of miles from home, he was the
last one I should have looked
for. We were school-boys
together and warm friends
for years. But a boyish
prank of mine had disruptured
this friendship and
it had never been renewed.
The act of which I speak
was this. I had been accustomed
to visit occasionally
an editor whose room
was in the third story of a
building and overlooked the
street. One day this editor
gave me a watermelon
which I made preparations
to devour on the spot, but chancing to look out of the


Page 103
window, I saw John standing directly under it and an
irresistible desire came upon me to drop the melon on his
head, which I immediately did. I was the loser, for it spoiled
the melon, and John never forgave me and we dropped
all intercourse and parted, but now met again under these

We recognized each other simultaneously, and hands
were grasped as warmly as if no coldness had ever existed
between us, and no allusion was made to any. All animosities
were buried and the simple fact of meeting a familiar face in
that isolated spot so far from home, was sufficient to make us
forget all things but pleasant ones, and we parted again with
sincere “good-byes” and “God bless you” from both.

We had been climbing up the long shoulders of the Rocky
Mountains for many tedious hours—we started down them,
now. And we went spinning away at a round rate too.

We left the snowy Wind River Mountains and Uinta
Mountains behind, and sped away, always through splendid
scenery but occasionally through long ranks of white skeletons
of mules and
oxen — monuments
of the huge
emigration of
other days—and
here and there
were up-ended
boards or small
piles of stones
which the driver
said marked the
resting-place of
more precious
remains. It was the loneliest land for a grave! A land given
over to the cayote and the raven—which is but another name
for desolation and utter solitude. On damp, murky nights,
these scattered skeletons gave forth a soft, hideous glow, like
very faint spots of moonlight starring the vague desert. It


Page 104


[Description: 504EAF. Page 104. In-line image of a frightened man in the dark, with rain pouring down from the sky.]
was because of the phosphorus in the bones. But no scientific
explanation could keep a body from shivering when he drifted
by one of those ghostly lights and knew that a skull held it.

At midnight it began to rain, and I never saw anything
like it—indeed, I did not even see this, for it was too dark.
We fastened down the curtains and even caulked them with
clothing, but the rain streamed in in twenty places, notwithstanding.
There was no escape. If one moved his feet out
of a stream, he brought his body under one; and if he moved
his body he caught one somewhere else. If he struggled out
of the drenched blankets and sat up, he was bound to get one
down the back of his neck. Meantime the stage was wandering
about a plain with gaping gullies in it, for the driver could
not see an inch before his face nor keep the road, and the
storm pelted so pitilessly that there was no keeping the horses
still. With the first abatement the conductor turned out with
lanterns to look for the road, and the first dash he made was
into a chasm about fourteen feet deep, his lantern following
like a meteor. As soon as
he touched bottom he sang
out frantically:

“Don't come here!”

To which the driver, who
was looking over the precipice
where he had disappeared,
replied, with an injured
air: “Think I'm a
dam fool?”

The conductor was more
than an hour finding the road
—a matter which showed us
how far we had wandered and what chances we had been
taking. He traced our wheel-tracks to the imminent verge of
danger, in two places. I have always been glad that we were
not killed that night. I do not know any particular reason, but
I have always been glad.

In the morning, the tenth day out, we crossed Green


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 105. In-line image of a man squatting down on a rock staring off into the distance, while it rains all over him.]
River, a fine, large, limpid stream—stuck in it, with the water
just up to the top of our mail-bed, and waited till extra teams
were put on to haul us up the steep bank. But it was nice
cool water, and besides it could not find any fresh place on us
to wet.

At the Green River station we had breakfast—hot biscuits,
fresh antelope steaks, and coffee—the only decent meal we
tasted between the United States and Great Salt Lake City,
and the only one we were
ever really thankful for.
Think of the monotonous
execrableness of the thirty
that went before it, to leave
this one simple breakfast
looming up in my memory
like a shot-tower after all
these years have gone by!

At five P.M. we reached
Fort Bridger, one hundred
and seventeen miles from
the South Pass, and one
thousand and twenty-five miles from St. Joseph. Fifty-two
miles further on, near the head of Echo Canyon, we met sixty
United States soldiers from Camp Floyd. The day before, they
had fired upon three hundred or four hundred Indians, whom
they supposed gathered together for no good purpose. In
the fight that had ensued, four Indians were captured, and
the main body chased four miles, but nobody killed. This
looked like business. We had a notion to get out and join the
sixty soldiers, but upon reflecting that there were four hundred
of the Indians, we concluded to go on and join the Indians.

Echo Canyon is twenty miles long. It was like a long,
smooth, narrow street, with a gradual descending grade, and
shut in by enormous perpendicular walls of coarse conglomerate,
four hundred feet high in many places, and turreted like
mediæval castles. This was the most faultless piece of road
in the mountains, and the driver said he would “let his team


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 106. In-line image of a man leaning against a table, smoking a pipe, and looking at the floor.]
out.” He did, and if the Pacific express trains whiz through
there now any faster than we did then in the stage-coach, I
envy the passengers the exhilaration of it. We fairly seemed
to pick up our wheels and fly—and the mail matter was lifted
up free from everything and held in solution! I am not given
to exaggeration, and when I say a thing I mean it.

However, time presses. At four in the afternoon we
arrived on the summit of
Big Mountain, fifteen miles
from Salt Lake City, when
all the world was glorified
with the setting sun, and
the most stupendous panorama
of mountain peaks yet
encountered burst on our
sight. We looked out upon
this sublime spectacle from
under the arch of a brilliant
rainbow! Even the overland
stage-driver stopped his
horses and gazed!

Half an hour or an hour
later, we changed horses, and
took supper with a Mormon
“Destroying Angel.” “Destroying
Angels,” as I understand
it, are Latter-Day Saints who are set apart by the
Church to conduct permanent disappearances of obnoxious
citizens. I had heard a deal about these Mormon Destroying
Angels and the dark and bloody deeds they had done, and
when I entered this one's house I had my shudder all ready.
But alas for all our romances, he was nothing but a loud,
profane, offensive, old blackguard! He was murderous enough,
possibly, to fill the bill of a Destroyer, but would you have any
kind of an Angel devoid of dignity? Could you abide an Angel
in an unclean shirt and no suspenders? Could you respect
an Angel with a horse-laugh and a swagger like a buccaneer?


Page 107

There were other blackguards present—comrades of this
one. And there was one person that looked like a gentleman
—Heber C. Kimball's son, tall and well made, and thirty years
old, perhaps. A lot of slatternly women flitted hither and
thither in a hurry, with coffee-pots, plates of bread, and other
appurtenances to supper, and these were said to be the wives
of the Angel—or some of them, at least. And of course they
were; for if they had been hired “help” they would not have
let an angel from above storm and swear at them as he did,
let alone one from the place this one hailed from.

This was our first experience of the western “peculiar institution,”
and it was not very prepossessing. We did not
tarry long to observe it, but hurried on to the home of the
Latter-Day Saints, the stronghold of the prophets, the capital
of the only absolute monarch in America—Great Salt Lake
City. As the night closed in we took sanctuary in the Salt
Lake House and unpacked our baggage.