Chapter XVIII.


Pulling Sticks--"Rawhide Against Corn"--Our Buffalo Hunt--

Dissatisfaction at the Food Rations--Permission Given to Eat all that was Wanted--Ben Hampton's Prophecy--Its Fulfillment--A Relief Party Arrives--Tom Williams' Party of Apostates--He demands the Goods Under our Care but Does not get Them

ABOUT this time another Y. X. company under Porter Rockwell and John Murdock, arrived going east. They gave us a little flour and other provisions; they also brought us letters telling us when the relief train would arrive. With the three head of cattle and what this company furnished us we felt safe for supplies until time for the relief trains.

Here I will give an account of a little personal matter that may seem like boasting, but I did not intend it so. This company stayed with us two nights. They were picked men, thirty in number, able-bodied, tough boys. On hearing of our sufferings many remarks were made showing deep sympathy for us.

At this time we were well recruited, having had plenty of meat for some time but scarcely any flour for some five months. Bread we had hardly tasted. In fact, the first biscuit I got almost choked me, I had entirely lost my appetite for it.

[103] The morning the Y. X. company were getting ready to start on, a young man, Mr. Eldredge, who was going down as a passenger, expressed much indignation, saying that there could be no excuse for leaving men to suffer as we had. I did not like to hear this said, for I knew there were justifiable reasons for leaving us to take care of the goods. I also new Brothers Grant and Burton would have sent us help if they could. It was expected that the cattle left would have been better beef than they turned out to be.

I had neither time nor disposition to explain all these things, so to stop the talk that I had got a little tired of hearing, I said to Mr. Eldredge, "We do not need your sympathy; we are all right now; none of us have died, and I am a better man than any of your company, picked men as you are."

"How do you propose to prove this, Mr. Jones? Will you pull sticks with our best man? I will not allow you rawhide-fed fellows to banter the corn-fed boys that way."

I was a little fearful that I was "sold," for I knew there were some stout man in their company; but as the banter was made, to back out would be worse than to get beat, so I said, "Bring him on; I will hoist him."

Mr. Eldredge came back with John Murdock, who was smiling. Now I really wished I had not made the banter, for John was an old friend who was hard to pull up.

A ring was formed, both companies helping to form a circle. "Rawhide against corn" was the cry. We sat down and got an even start. It was a hard pull, but "Rawhide" won, and we got no more pity from that company.

Making a close estimate of the food we now had, [104] we found it would last us to till the promised provisions could arrive, which would be about the 1st of May.

There were twenty of us now. We quit rationing and ate all we wanted. As may be imagined, some big eating was done. Now the food soon began to diminish very fast. At this time we could go to the Platte bridge and get provisions, but on calling the company together all hands agreed to make the meat last by again rationing. We could do this quite easily, allowing one and a half pounds per day. We lived a few days on these rations and all seemed content.

One day Brother Hampton and I were out and on returning to the fort we learned that a small herd of buffalo had been seen passing within three miles of the fort. All hands were excited, as they were the first seen for a long time. The boys were all sure that Ben and I could get meat and we could again go to feasting. We started out and soon came in sight of the buffalo feeding. We dismounted and crept close to them, but just as we got in shooting distance it commenced to snow so hard that we could not see to shoot with any certainty. We sat there trying to get sight of a buffalo until our painters were too much benumbed to hold our guns. I had brought an extra gun in anticipation of having to chase the buffalo on horseback. We concluded to blaze away, hit or miss, and then take to our horses and have the running shot. At the crack of our guns all the herd ran away. We mounted and started in pursuit.

The horse I was riding could easily outrun the buffalo, but for the life of me I could not get him up along side of one. When I would follow straight behind he would get within about twenty-five yards, but when I would try to get him up nearer he would bolt and run off to one side. This game we kept up for some time. [105] Occasionally the buffalo would get two or three hundred yards away from me, when the horse would start in after them and soon run up to about the same distance, then he would bolt again. I felt almost like blowing his brains out. I finally commenced shooting at the buffalo, but to no purpose. As none were killed we had to give up the chase and go home without meat, feeling quite chagrined.

We had not been in camp long until I was informed that there was a great dissatisfaction being manifested by some of the company about the rations. I immediately called the company together to see what was the trouble. Several expressed themselves quite freely, finding fault for being rationed when provisions could now be had, and saying that they thought I ought to go and get something to eat and not have them suffer any more. This grieved me very much as I had a kindly feeling towards all the company. We had suffered everything that men could suffer and live. We had often been on the point of starvation. Sometimes becoming so weak that we could scarcely get our firewood, having to go some distance to the mountain for it. We were now all in good health and had, as I understood, willingly agreed to be rations for a few days, until relief came from Salt Lake City. I did not care so much for the trouble of going for provisions, but I felt a great deal of pride in the grit of the company and this was a sore disappointment for me, for no one had just reason to find fault. All I said was, "Well, brethren, I will go and get you all you want. Now pitch in and eat your fill. I will have more by the time you eat up what is on hand."

Brother Hampton felt very indignant at the fault-finders. He told them that they would soon be ashamed of themselves; spoke of the hardships we had endured [106] uncomplainingly, and of the hard labors in hunting, and many efforts made to keep alive. Now when we were about through and no one suffering, some had shown their true colors, and marred their credit for being true men. Ben got warm and finally said, "You will regret this. Instead of having to wait twelve days there will be plenty of provisions here inside of twelve hours, and then you will wish you had kept still." At this he ceased talking, sat down and turned to me saying a little excitedly, "What do you think? Will it come?"

I said "Yes," for I felt the prophecy would be fulfilled. Sure enough that same evening twenty men arrived at our camp bringing nearly a ton of flour and other provisions.

This company had been sent to strengthen our post. The informed us that there was a large company of apostates on the road led by Tom S. Williams. Before leaving Salt Lake some of this company had made threats that indicated danger to us.

The circumstances leading to the threats were these. The goods we were guarding belonged to the last season's emigrants. The wagon companies freighting them through agreed to deliver them in Salt Lake City. These goods were to be taken in and delivered as by contract. Some of the owners had become dissatisfied with "Mormonism" and were going back to the States. As their goods had not arrived in Salt Lake City they demanded that they should be delivered at Devil's Gate. Quite a number settled their freight bills and brought orders for their goods and received them all right. Others refused to settle, but threatened that if the goods were not given up they would take them by force. Tom Williams' company was composed largely of this class and their backers. They numbered about fifty men. [107] The twenty men coming to our relief were sent under the emergency. This is the way Brother Hampton's prophecy came to be fulfilled.

Tom Williams knew nothing of this company, as they had slipped out and got ahead of him and arrived long enough before him for us to get everything ready. We now had forty men well armed, the twenty sent us being picked for the occasion. As I cannot remember all their names I will simply say for the purpose they were all first-class men. Our old company were reliable. As Ben had said they would be, they were a little ashamed, but nothing farther was said, and the boys showed their repentance by doing their duties now.

Our instructions were to deliver no goods to anyone unless they presented an order from the right parties.

When Williams' company arrived they made camp near our fort. Most of our men were kept out of sight. There were rooms each side of the front door, where we had a guard placed.

A person that claimed a lot of goods had come on the evening before and presented an order that was not genuine. He had reported to his friends our refusing to let him have his goods. Soon Williams and a few others came up and said if we did not give up the goods that they would tear down the fort or have them. Williams was well-known to most of us; by marriage he was my wife's uncle. I informed him that we intended to obey instructions. He braved and threatened considerable, but no purpose. He started to his camp with the avowed intention of returning and taking the goods.

I now got my company ready for fight if necessary. We had prepared port holes in front of the fort and here I stationed some of the best shots.

Brothers Hampton and Alexander took charge of our [108] company. The company that came to strengthen us working together under their leader. Soon we saw Tom Williams approaching with his backers. As he supposed double our number, that in reality near the same. I did not wish blood shed, and fully believed that Tom was playing a "bluff," so concluded to try and beat him at the game. I instructed some of the best marksmen what to do in case shooting had to be done.

As Williams approached I went out alone and stood about thirty yards from the fort, having only my pistol. As the company came up near me I placed my hand on my pistol and told them to halt. They halted but commenced to threaten and abuse the whole fraternity sparing none. I explained our situation, being simply custodians of the goods, not knowing whose they were; but only knew who left us there, and we could not consistently recognize any orders except from those under whose instructions we were acting. My reasoning had no effect whatever, but Tom called on his crowd to say if the goods should be taken. The vote was to take them.

Now that no one may suppose that I wish to appear brave, I will say that the way I had my men placed, and the instructions given, if a weapon had been drawn on me, half Williams' company would have been shot dead before I could have been harmed.

I said to Williams just hold on one minute and hear what I have to say: "We have been here all winter eating poor beef and raw hide to take care of these goods. We have had but little fun, and would just as soon have some now as not; in fact would like a little row. If you think you can take the fort just try it. But I don't think you can take me to commence with; and the first one that offers any violence to me is a dead man. Now I [109] dare you to go past me towards the fort." This seemed to take them back. I meant what I said, and some of them knew my disposition, which in those days, was not the most Christian-like when a white man was before me as an enemy.

After looking at me for moment Tom said, "For your family's sake I will spare you, for I think you d----d fool enough to die before you would give up the goods." I thanked him and said I believed as he did.

After this we had no more trouble. Many times I thought I should have shown our force openly to have deterred Williams, but he was such a known bully and so conceited that I felt just like "taking him down a notch," and this did it.

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