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Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 15.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Descent of Snow Mountains—Gun for a Walking-stick—Indian Tracks—Examination of Arms—Predicament of the Author—Lecture from Col. Fremont—Wild Horse Killed by Indians—Utah Indian Village—Encampment—Trade for Venison—Camp at Night—Surrounded by armed Indians—They Demand Payment for the Horse Killed by the Indians—Col. Fremont's Justice—Indians want Gunpowder—Their Demand Refused—Massacre of the Party Threatened—Defiance—Pacification—Author Trades for a Horse—He Leaves his Colt's Revolver in Camp—Runaway Horse—Author Finds himself in a Sage Bush—Pistol Recovered—Trouble in Perspective—Exchanges Horses—Lame Horse—Author on Foot—Regrets that he was not Educated for a Horse-Breaker.
 

AFTER descending a very steep mountain, on the snows of which we passed the coldest night I experienced during the journey, the thermometer, at daylight, being 30 degrees below zero, we camped on a creek fringed with willows and interspersed with cotton-wood. The country indicating that there might be game about, our Delawares sallied out in quest of some.

We at this time were on rations of meat-biscuit,* and had killed our first horse for food. Towards night, our hunters returned, and brought with them the choice parts of a fine fat, young horse that they had killed. He was one of three or four wild ones which they discovered grazing some four miles from camp.

* A preparation made by saturating flour with the juices of boiled beef, and then baked into biscuit.

Our men, in consequence, received a considerable addition to their stock of provisions, which, when cooked, proved much more palatable than our broken down horses.

The Delawares also discovered recent footprints of Utah Indians. This information caused Col. Fremont to double the guard and examine the arms of the whole party, who hitherto had been warned by him of the necessity there was for keeping them in perfect order.

Suddenly it occurred to me that my double-barrel gun might be out of order: I had used it as a walking-stick, in descending the mountain that day; the snow was so deep that I was obliged to resort to that course to extricate myself from the drifts.

I quietly went to the place where I had laid it down, and attempted to fire it off; both caps exploded, but the gun did not go off, the barrels being filled with frozen snow. The quick ear of Col. Fremont heard the caps explode. He approached me very solemnly and gave me a lecture, setting forth the consequences which might have ensued from a sudden attack of the Indians on our camp. "Under present circumstances, Mr. Carvalho," said he, "I should have to fight for you." His rebuke was merited, and had its effect throughout the camp, for all the men were most particular afterwards in keeping their arms in perfect order.

We travelled that day nearly twenty miles, and encamped outside of a Utah Indian village, containing a large number of lodges and probably several hundred persons.

The men were mostly armed with rifles, powderhorns, and also with their Indian implements of warfare. On our mules was packed the balance of our "fat horse" of the night before.

These Indians received us very kindly, and during the evening we exposed our wares, viz.: blankets, knives, red cloth, vermilion, etc., etc., which we brought along to conciliate the Indians, and also to trade with them for horses and venison.

We made several purchases, and traded for several small lots of fat venison.

About nine o'clock, after placing double guard around bur animals and while we were regaling on fat deer meat in Col. Fremont's lodge, we heard loud noises approaching the camp; voices of women were heard in bitter bewailment. I thought it was a religious ceremony of Indian burial, or something of the kind. Col. Fremont requested me to see from what it proceeded. I found the whole Indian camp in procession assembled around our lodge. The warriors were all armed, headed by a halfbreed, who had been some time in Mexico, and had acquired a smattering of the Spanish language; this man acted as interpreter. Understanding the Spanish language, I gleaned from him that the horse our Delawares had killed the evening before, some twenty miles away, belonged to one of the squaws then present, who valued it very highly, and demanded payment.

On informing Col. Fremont, who denied himself to the Indians, he remarked that "we had no right to kill their horse without remunerating them for it." The man in charge of the baggage was deputed to give them what was a fair compensation for it.

The Indians having seen our assortment, wanted a part of everything we had, including a keg of gunpowder.

To this demand Col. Fremont gave an absolute refusal, and at the same time emphatically expressed his desire that the men should not sell, barter, or give away a single grain of gunpowder, on pain of his severest displeasure.

The Indians then threatened to attack us. Col. Fremont defied them. After considerable parleying, we succeeded in pacifying them.

As it was the intention of Col. Fremont to leave camp at an early hour, I unpacked my daguerreotype apparatus, at daylight, and made several views.

While engaged in this way, one of the Utah Indians brought into camp a beautiful three-year-old colt, and offered to trade him with me; he was a model pony—dark bay color, in splendid order, sound in wind and limb, and full of life and fire. My poor buffalo Pungo had, three days before, been shot down for food, and in consequence I was literally on foot, although I was using one of the baggage animals for the time.

With permission of Col. Fremont I traded for him; I gave him in exchange one pair of blankets, an old dress coat, a spoiled daguerreotype plate, a knife, half an ounce of vermilion and an old exhausted pony, which we would have been obliged to leave behind; previous to the trade, I had never mounted him, but I saw the Indian ride him, and his movements were easy and graceful. The Indian saddled him for me, as I was otherwise engaged and did not notice him during the operation. By this time the rest of the party were all mounted, and I never jumped on him until the last moment; he winced a little under the bit, the first one he ever had in his mouth, but cantered off at a round pace, I would not at that moment have taken $500 for him. I considered myself safely mounted for the rest of the journey.

After we had proceeded about two miles, my pony prancing and caracoling to the admiration of the whole party, I discovered that I had left my Colt's navy revolver in camp. I told Col. Fremont of my carelessness, and he smilingly sent one of the men back with me to look for it. I must confess I had not the slightest hopes of finding it, nor had he.

At the time we started, there must have been two hundred Utah men, women, and children at our camp, and if one of them had picked it up, it was most unlikely I should ever receive it again. They had shown some hostility, and although I was not afraid to go back, I thought some danger attended it—Frank Dixon accompanied me.

My pony finding his head turned homeward, commenced champing at his bit, and working his head and body endeavoring to get away. I prided myself on being a good horseman, but this fellow was too much for me.

He got the bit between his teeth and off he started at a killing pace for camp. In less than five minutes I found myself in a wild sage bush on the road; the saddle had slipped round his body, which was as smooth as a cylinder, while I, losing my balance, slipped off.

My pony was quietly grazing in the Indian camp, when I, riding double with Frank, arrived there. The most important thing, was my pistol; I proceeded immediately to the spot, and, hidden in the long grass, where I laid it down, I found it.

With the assistance of the Utahs, my pony was captured, and doubling the saddle-blanket , I attempted to draw the girth tightly—he resisted, and gave considerable trouble; but I was finally mounted, and away we cantered after our party, which we overtook after a couple of hours' ride.

This animal continued to trouble me every morning afterwards. On one occasion, I was saddling him, to perform which operation, I had to tie him to a tree, if one was at hand; at the time I now describe, he was tied to a tree, and in vain I endeavored to place the saddle on him, finally, he reared, and planted both feet on my breast, and I barely escaped with my life, yet my pride never suffered me to complain about it. Sometimes one of my comrades would assist me, but on this occasion, Col. Fremont saw my predicament; in a few minutes, his servant, "Lee," came to me, and said, "he was more accustomed to break horses than I was," and offered to exchange with me, until mine was more manageable.

This man rode a cream colored pacer, which Col. Fremont wanted to take through to California, if possible, as a riding horse for his daughter. I need not say how gladly I accepted this offer. I rode out of camp that morning much lighter in spirits, although suffering somewhat from the bruises I received. The horse I exchanged for, was a pacer, he had no other gait; and unaccustomed to it, I did not notice, until one of the Delawares pointed out to me, that there was any defect in him.

Captain Wolff was riding by my side during the day, and expressed in his Indian manner, how surprised he was that I had exchanged my fresh pony for a lame pacer, "one day more, that horse no travel, Carvalho go foot again!"

His prognostications proved, alas, too true, for on the second day, he was so lame that I could not ride him, and I remained on foot, while my beautiful pony was gallantly bearing the cook.

The horse, he said, was not lame when he gave him to me, and I could not prove that he was, so I was constrained to submit, but I never saw this man galloping past me, while I was on foot, that I did not regret I was not brought up as an "ostler and professional horsebreaker."
 

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