Chapter XVI.


Kindness of Indians in Providing Food--Express from Salt Lake

City--Visit from an Indian Chief--Scanty Food Supply

THE mail company again fitted up with packs, leaving their coaches. They took Brother Heywood with them. This time making the trip successfully. They left all the meat they could spare, taking only scant rations with them.

Brother Heywood, although very weak in body, manifested the spirit of a hero during the whole time of our suffering. I have always remembered him with the kindest of feelings. As he sometimes remarked, "rawhide makes a strong tie."

The Indian went away saying he would tell his people about us, and if they could find any meat they would divide.

It did not take long for twenty hungry man to eat up our supplies. About the 4th of March the last morsel had been eaten for breakfast. We went hunting daily, sometimes killing a little small game, but nothing of account.

Our provisions were exhausted and we had cleaned up everything before Jesse Jones came to our relief. We were now in a tight place. There was a set of harness an old pack saddle covered with rawhide still on hand, that some of the boys considered safe to depend upon for a few days, still we had great hopes of getting something better. Our faith had been much strengthened by receiving the supplies mentioned.

[87] As usual we went out to see what we could find in the way of game. After traveling through the snow for several miles at the foot of the mountains, we saw a drove of mountain sheep. They were standing, seemingly entirely off their guard. I was in front and saw the sheep, as I supposed before they did me. We dodged down out of sight. I crept to a large rock, fully expecting to get meat. When I looked to get a shot the game was gone, I could see it making for the top of the mountain. We watched them for a minute or two and they were soon too far for us to follow. My heart almost failed me, and I could have cried like a child, for I knew that nothing was in camp when we left and our comrades expected us to bring something for supper.

We were convinced that nothing could be attained this day by hunting, so we started for home. After traveling a few miles we struck the road below Devil's Gate and here we stopped to hold a council.

As will be remembered, our instructions from Brother Brigham were never to leave the fort with less than ten men. There never had been a time when we had that many man able to stand very hard service. Sometimes I felt like disregarding council and going out to try to get food, or perish in the attempt. But up to this time we had all followed instructions as nearly as possible. Now here was a trial for me. I firmly believed I could go on foot to Platte bridge and get something to say the lives of my comrades. Very few of the others were able, but all were willing to go with me. I told them if counsel had to be broken I would risk no one but myself, and would go alone. The boys thought they could live five days before starving. So it was arranged that I should start alone next morning for the Platte bridge. I had now been one day without food, it would [88] take two more to reach the bridge, where there were traders, as the snow was from eighteen inches to three feet deep. This looked a little hard, but I had fully made up my mind to try it.

On arriving in sight of camp we saw a number of horses; we knew some one had arrived but had no idea who it was. A shout of joy rang out from our crowd that made the hills ring. All mankind were friends to us then. I often wonder why people are enemies. My experience in life, with a few exceptions, has been more of the friendly than warlike nature. I have been fed and helped by all classes of people, and mankind in general are not so bad when properly approached.

The new arrivals proved to be the first company of the Y. X. Express, with William Hickman in charge. This was the first effort of this firm to send the mail through. Several old acquaintances were long, and of course we rejoiced to see them, especially so when we learned they had a good supper for us. Among the party were George Boyd of Salt Lake City and Joshua Terry of Draperville.

The day or two before their arrival Brother Terry had killed a large buffalo and they packed the whole of it into our camp.

I remember about the first thing I did after shaking hands, was to drink a pint of strong salty broth, where some salt pork had been boiled.

When Hickman's company arrived, some of our boys were getting the pack saddles soaked up ready for cooking the hide covering. Boyd always calls me the man that ate the pack saddle. But this is slander. The kindness of him and others prevented me from eating my part of it. I think if they had not arrived, probably [89] I would have taken a wing or leg, but don't think I would have eaten the whole of it. As it was, the saddle was allowed to dry up again, and may be in existence yet and doing well so far as I know.

In Hickman's book he says he found us starving with plenty of provisions in store houses, but did not dare to take them; that on his arrival he burst open the store houses and told us to help ourselves. Can anyone believe such stuff? If all his book is like this for truth, one would do well to believe the reverse. Hickman left about the 6th of March, going on east.

Ben Hampton and myself started to go on to Platte bridge with this party, intending to get some supplies if possible. Hickman left us two animals and with one of ours (the other three had long since been eaten by the wolves) found near by we felt ourselves rich.

We had gone but a few miles when we met some men from the Platte bringing us some beef. They had heard in some way that we were still alive. I think the Indians must have passed the word. They could not get buffalo meat, so had killed some cattle and were bringing them to us. They had been four days on the road, tramping snow and working through drifts, expecting to find us starving. I often think of these old pioneers, who were always so ready to help a fellow-man in need.

We bade good-by to Hickman and party and returned to the fort with the meat. We paid for it in goods from Brother Van Cott's boxes, paying mostly calico and domestic. They charged us ten cents per pound, which was very cheap considering.

With our animals and meat we felt quite well fitted out; for we had now become so used to taking what we [90] could get thankfully, that we looked upon these two mules left us as sure food when all else failed.

While Jesse Jones was in camp, one of his men gave me a small book of words in the Snake language. I expected the Indians around and studied hard every day. Soon they commenced coming in to see us. There were over one hundred lodges of Snakes and Bannocks came in from the Wind river country and camped about fifteen miles from us. Small bands camped around us in different directions. They soon learned we were short of provisions.

The first party that brought meat to us wanted to charge an unreasonable price for it. I talked with them quite a while before they would consent to sell it cheaper. They said that they themselves were hungry, showing us their bare arms, how lean they were. But I told them it was not just to take advantage of our circumstances. I weighed out a dollar's worth of meat, on a pair of spring balances, marked the scales plainly and told them I would give no more. They consented, and we bought hundreds of pounds afterwards without more trouble. In buying we had to weigh one dollar's worth at a time, no matter how much they sold us.

We exchanged various articles with them, many of the company trading shirts, handkerchiefs and such things as they could spare. We had some coffee, for which the Indians traded readily. This helped us out for a short season; but game became so scarce that this camp of natives (several hundred) had to move out or starve. They came up the first day and pitched their lodges near us. We had but little provisions on hand, some meat and a few pounds of flour that we used to thicken our broth was all. We had about lost our appetite for bread. We were a little uneasy to have all these hungry [91] Indians come upon us at once; the greatest care had to be taken to avoid trouble.

They were not of the best class, being a party made up of Snakes and Bannocks, who had left their regular tribes and chiefs and joined together under an ambitious young fellow named Tabawantooa. Washakie, the old Snake chiefs, called them bad men.

There was one little party under an old petty chief, Toquatah, who kept apart from the main band. From them we had procured most of our meat. Toquatah had informed us that the main band and his were not on the best of terms, and that Tabawantooa was "no good." This naturally made us feel a little uneasy. We had some two hundred wagon loads of valuable goods under our charge, and only twenty men, the greater portion of them with no frontier experience.

The store rooms were blocked up with logs, and had been all winter.

By this time I could talk considerable Snake and many of these Indians understood Ute.

Tabawantooa and his band came in sight of our quarters about noon. They were all mounted and well armed. The chief with many others rode up in quite a pompous style, no doubt expecting to be looked upon with awe and treated with great deference.

I had time to get my wits together before they got to our gate where an armed guard was stationed. Brother Alexander was to be chief cook. Knowing that from such as we had we would have to make a great showing of hospitality, we concluded to make up in ceremony what was lacking in food. So all the camp-kettles and coffee-pots were failed and put on. The one for weak soup the other for strong coffee. We had plenty of the latter on hand.

[92] The company were instructed to go into their rooms, shut the doors, keep quiet, and not to show themselves unless ordered to do so. Brother Hampton was to be general roust-a-bout, ready for any emergency; I was to meet these Indians outside and invite them in the gate, as we knew the chief and grandees of the band would expect to be entertained.

Soon the chief with some us fifty others rode up to the fort, while hundreds more passed on a short distance and commenced to put up their lodges. I met the chief, shook hands, and asked him to get down and come in. He wanted to know if they could not ride inside. I told him no, and explained to him that we had a lot of men in the fort who were afraid of Indians; that they had gone into their houses and shut the doors; but the door of my house was opened for them, but that these men, who were afraid, should not be frightened; they must leave their horses and arms outside the fort.

This the chief agreed to do and appointed a man to see that no one came in with arms. Soon my room was full. I explained to the chief that we had but little to eat and could not entertain many; but half we had they were welcome to. I talked and acted as though we were glad to see them, still I, with all my friendship for Indians, would have been willing for this band to have taken another road.

Brother Alexander soon had plenty of weak soup and strong coffee ready; cups were filled and the feast commenced. The chief sent word for those outside to go on to camp, probably seeing his rations would be short if many more came in.

Brother Hampton kept his eye on things in general and would come in and report from time to time. All except one respected our arrangements. Indians, like [93] white men, have their bullies. One fellow in spite of the guards rode into fort armed. Brother Hampton kept his horse by the bit, and guided him back out of the gate. He was quite saucy but went out all right.

We were asked how many men were in the houses. I told them shonts (great many). They then wanted to know if the man had guns. We told them "lots," which was a fact as there were more guns than men.

Indians, when hungry relish anything that tightens their belts, so our friends filled and emptied their cups many times. Soon all who had remained were satisfied, bade us good-by, mounted their horses and started to their camp, the chief inviting us to go up and take supper with him. Went up late in the day. Some coffee had been given the chief and at supper we feasted on poor antelope meat and coffee. We were told that but one antelope had been killed that day and the chief had been presented with it.

The whole camp were about out of food except thistle roots. These were not very plentiful, as we had already dug and eaten the most that could be found for miles around our quarters.

These natives moved on next morning. Toquatah's band being still in the rear. In a day or two the last band came along and camped near us. We were glad to see them and wanted them to remain near us, but they were afraid of the Crow Indians and desired to keep in the vicinity of the larger band for protection against their common enemy.

We explained to them our destitute condition, telling them that we were again about out of provisions, and would be sorry to have them leave, for while they were near they had never let us suffer for meat.

Next morning the old chief said he would go out [94] twelve miles to a gap in the mountains and camp, and if he could find any game he would let us have some dried meat he had reserved.

We waited a day and then went to see if our friends were prospered. Nothing had been found. Ten of us stayed all night with the Indians and we barely got enough for supper and breakfast. The chief told us to go back home; he would move on a little farther; if he found anything he would send it to us. His spirit towards us was something like a mother's with a lot of hungry children.

Now some might ask why we did not do our own hunting and not depend on the Indians. An Indian will manage to kill game where it is so scarce and wild that but few white men would even see it. We were much safer to depend upon the Indians as long as they were around in the country. Again, they considered it their business to hunt, and if we had made the attempt it would have been resented by them.

We went home feeling a little sad. We had our animals, but did not wish to kill them; still we felt safe as long as mule flash was on hand. To our joy, next day some Indians came from their camp, bringing us some three hundred pounds of buffalo meat and informing us that they had seen signs of game; and if we would come to them the next morning, they might let us have some more.

Brother Hampton and I saddled up taking our extra animal, a large mule, and started for our friends. The weather was still cold, but the snow was mostly gone from the lowlands, it being now near the first of April. When we arrived at their camp the Indians were just starting out to move a few miles further towards where the signs of buffalo had been seen. Brother H. [95] and I rode along with them, chatting with the old chief. We had taken a few things with us to trade for the meat. We camped in the afternoon some thirty miles from home. The old chief called out and soon the squaws commenced bringing in a few pounds each of good dried meat. We traded for about three hundred pounds--all our mule could pack and about all the Indians could spare. This, of course, was all we could expect, but the old chief said maybe they could do more for us in the morning.

I think Brother Hampton and I really enjoyed ourselves that night. We slept in the lodge, ate meat, and drank coffee. The squaws' dirt, or dogs sticking their noses into the meat dishes, made no difference to us; or if it did we ate all the same.

Next morning after breakfast, we saddled up, packing our dried meat on the mule. As we were about ready to start there was quite a commotion in camp. We thought at first the Crow Indians were upon us, but the old chief, looking in an easterly direction said, "It is some of the young man driving a buffalo. Now good-by. You go on your road (our track was to the north) and you will find some more meat ready for you soon."

We started and had gone but a short distance, probably three miles, when we found the buffalo that was being chased had been run into our trail, killed and made ready to deliver to us. We gave them some few things we had left and they loaded both of our saddle animals. This left us nearly thirty miles to go afoot. We did not mind this on the start, but did before we got home.

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