RANCHING, SPORT AND TRAVEL
THOMAS CARSON, F.R.G.S.
WITH SIXTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS
T. FISHER UNWIN
LONDON LEIPSIC Adelphi Terrace Inselstrasse 20
[All Rights Reserved]
This book is somewhat in the nature of an autobiography, covering as it does almost the whole of the Author's life. The main portion of the volume is devoted to cattle ranching in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Author has also included a record of his travels abroad, which he hopes will prove to be not uninteresting; and a chapter devoted to a description of tea planting in India.
I. TEA PLANTING 13
In Cachar—Apprenticeship—Tea Planting described—Polo —In Sylhet—Pilgrims at Sacred Pool—Wild Game—Amusements—Rainfall—Return to Cachar—Scottpore —Snakes—A Haunted Tree—Hill Tribes—Selecting a Location—Return to England.
II. CATTLE RANCHING IN ARIZONA 42
Leave for United States of America—Iowa—New Mexico—Real Estate Speculation—Gambling—Billy the Kid—Start Ranching in Arizona—Description of Country—Apache and other Indians—Fauna—Branding Cattle—Ranch Notes—Mexicans—Politics—Summer Camp—Winter Camp—Fishing and Shooting—Indian Troubles.
III. CATTLE RANCHING IN ARIZONA (continued) 81
The Cowboy—Accoutrements and Weapons—Desert Plants—Politics and Perjury—Mavericks—Mormons—Bog Riding.
IV. ODDS AND ENDS 103
Scent and Instinct—Mules—Roping Contests—Antelopes —The Skunk—Garnets—Leave Arizona.
V. RANCHING IN NEW MEXICO 117
The Scottish Company—My Difficulties and Dangers—Mustang Hunting—Round-up described—Shipping Cattle—Railroad Accidents—Close out Scotch Company's Interests.
VI. ODDS AND ENDS 152
Summer Round-up Notes—Night Guarding—Stampedes—Bronco Busting—Cattle Branding, etc.
VII. ON MY OWN RANCH 170
Locating—Plans—Prairie Fires and Guards—Bulls—Trading —Successful Methods—Loco-weed—Sale of Ranch.
VIII. ODDS AND ENDS 198
The "Staked Plains"—High Winds—Lobo Wolves—Branding —Cows—Black Jack—Lightning and Hail—Classing Cattle—Conventions—"Cutting" versus Polo—Bull-Fight—Prize-Fights—River and Sea Fishing—Sharks.
IX. IN AMARILLO 226
Purchase of Lots—Building—Boosting a Town.
X. FIRST TOUR ABROAD 234
Mexico—Guatemala—Salvador—Panama—Colombia—Venezuela —Jamaica—Cuba—Fire in Amarillo—Rebuilding.
XI. SECOND TOUR ABROAD 250
Bermudas—Switzerland—Italy—Monte Carlo—Algiers —Morocco—Spain—Biarritz and Pau.
XII. THIRD TOUR ABROAD 256
Salt Lake City—Canada—Vancouver—Hawaii—Fiji —Australia—New Zealand—Tasmania—Summer at Home.
XIII. FOURTH TOUR ABROAD 270
Yucatan—Honduras—Costa Rica—Panama—Equador—Peru —Chile—Argentina—Brazil—Teneriffe.
XIV. FIFTH TOUR ABROAD 287
California—Honolulu—Japan—China—Singapore—Burmah —India—Ceylon—The End.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
ONE OF THE "BOYS" (see page 125) Frontispiece
PLUCKING TEA LEAF 20
ROPING A GRIZZLY 70
A SHOOTING SCRAPE 76
ONE OF OUR MEN, TO SHOW HANG OF SIX-SHOOTER 78
1883 IN ARIZONA, AUTHOR AND PARTY 80
WOUND UP, HORSE TANGLED IN ROPE 106
WATERING A HERD 116
HERD ON TRAIL, SHOWING LEAD STEER 137
CHANGING HORSES 153
A REAL BAD ONE 164
BREAKING THE PRAIRIE 230
FIRST CROP—MILO MAIZE 230
LLAMAS AS PACK ANIMALS 279
DRIFTING SAND DUNE, ONE OF THOUSANDS 279
PERUVIAN RUINS. NOTE DIMENSIONS OF STONES AND LOCKING SYSTEM 281
PALACE OF MAHARANA OF UDAIPUR 310
RANCHING, SPORT AND TRAVEL
In Cachar—Apprenticeship—Tea Planting described—Polo—In Sylhet—Pilgrims at Sacred Pool—Wild Game—Amusements—Rainfall—Return to Cachar—Scottpore—Snakes—A Haunted Tree—Hill Tribes—Selecting a Location—Return to England.
Having no inclination for the seclusion and drudgery of office work, determined to lead a country life of some kind or other, and even then having a longing desire to roam the world and see foreign countries, I had arranged to accompany a friend to the Comoro Islands, north of Madagascar; but changing my mind and accepting the better advice of friends, my start was made, not to the Comoro Islands, but to India and the tea district of Cachar. Accordingly the age of twenty-two and the year 1876 saw me on board a steamer bound for Calcutta.
Steamers were slow sailers in those days, and it was a long trip via Gibraltar, Suez, Malta, the Canal and Point de Galle; but it was all very interesting to me.
Near Point de Galle we witnessed from the steamer a remarkable sight, a desperate fight, it seemed to be a fight and not play, between a sea-serpent, which seemed to be about fifteen feet long, and a huge ray. The battle was fought on the surface of the water and even out of it, as the ray several times threw himself into the air. How it ended we could not see. Anyway we had seen the sea-serpent, though not the fabulous monster so often written about, and yet whose existence cannot be disproved. The sea-serpent's tail is flattened.
At Calcutta I visited a tea firm, who sent me up to Cachar to help at one of the gardens till a vacancy should occur. Calcutta, by the way, is or was overrun by jackals at night. They are the scavengers of the town and hunt in packs through the streets, their wolfish yelling being a little disconcerting to a stranger.
It was a long twelve days, but again a very interesting journey, in a native river boat, four rowers (or towers), to my destination. I had a servant with me, who proved a good, efficient cook and attendant. It was rather trying to the "griffin" to notice, floating in the river, corpses of natives, frequently perched upon by hungry vultures.
The tea-garden selected for me was Narainpore, successfully managed by a fellow-countryman, who proved to be a capital chap and who made my stay with him very pleasant. Narainpore was one of the oldest gardens, on teelah (hilly) land and quite healthy. There I gave what little help I could, picked up some of the lingo, and learned a good deal about the planting, growth and manufacture of tea. Neighbours were plentiful and life quite sociable. Twice a week in the cold weather we played polo, sometimes with Munipoories, a hill tribe whose national game it is, and who were then the undoubted champions. The Regent Senaputti was a keen player, and very picturesque in his costume of green velvet zouave jacket, salmon-pink silk dhotee and pink silk turban. In Munipoor even the children have their weekly polo matches. They breed ponies specially for the game, and use them for nothing else, nor would they sell their best. Still, we rode Munipoor "tats" costing us from 50 rupees to 100. They were exceedingly small, averaging not eleven hands high, but wiry, active, speedy, full of grit, and seemed to love the game. As the game was there played, seven formed a side, the field was twice as large as now and there were no goals. The ball had to be simply driven over the end line to count a score.
It may be remarked here that the great Akbar was so fond of polo, but otherwise so busy, that he played the game at night with luminous balls.
These Munipoories were a very fine race of people, much lighter of colour than their neighbouring tribes, very stately and dignified in their bearing, and thorough sportsmen. Many of their women were really handsome, and the girls, with red hibiscus blossoms stuck in their jet-black hair, and their merry, laughing faces and graceful figures, were altogether quite attractive to the Sahib Log.
But to return to tea. Our bungalow was of the usual type, consisting of cement floor, roof of crossed bamboos and two feet of sun-grass thatch, supported by immense teak posts, hard as iron and bidding defiance to the white ants. The walls were of mats. Tea-gardens usually had a surface of 300 to 1000 acres; some were on comparatively level ground, some on hilly (teelah) land. These teelahs were always carefully terraced to prevent the wash of soil and permit cultivation. The plants were spaced about three to six feet apart, according to whether they were of the Chinese, the hybrid, or the pure indigenous breed, the last being the largest, in its native state developing to the dimensions of a small tree.
I may as well here at once give a short sketch of the principal features of tea planting and manufacture, which will show what the duties of a planter are, and how various are the occupations and operations embraced. One must necessarily first have labour (coolies). These are recruited in certain districts of India, usually by sending good reliable men, already in your employ, to their home country, under a contract to pay them so much a head for every coolie they can persuade (by lies or otherwise) to come to your garden. The coolies must then bind themselves to work for you for, say, three to four years. They are paid for their work, not much it is true, but enough to support them with comfort; the men about three annas (or fourpence) a day, the women two annas (or threepence). As they get to know their work and become expert, the good men will earn as much as six annas a day, and some of the women, when plucking leaf, about the same. This is more than abundant for these people. They not only have every comfort, but they become rich, so that in a few years they are able to rest on their earnings, and work only at their convenience and when they feel like it. They are supplied with nothing, neither food nor clothing; medicine alone is free to them. The native staff of a garden consists of, say, two baboos, or book-keepers and clerks, a doctor baboo, sirdars or overseers, and chowkidars or line watchmen. A sirdar accompanies and has charge of each gang of coolies on whatever branch of work. One is also in charge of the factory or tea-house.
Plant growth ceases about the end of October. Then cold-weather work begins, including the great and important operation of pruning, which requires a large force and will occupy most of the winter. Also charcoal-burning for next season's supply; road-making, building and repairing, jungle-cutting, bridge-building, and nursery-making: that is, preparing with great care beds in which the seed will be planted early in spring. Cultivation is also, of course, carried on; it can never be overdone. In the factory, some men are busy putting together or manufacturing new tea-boxes, lining them carefully with lead, which needs close attention, as the smallest hole in the lining of a tea-chest will cause serious injury to the contents.
When spring opens and the first glorious "flush" is on the bushes, there is a readjustment of labour. Pluckers begin to gather the leaf, and as the season advances more pluckers are needed, till possibly every man, woman and child may be called on for this operation alone, it being so important that the leaf flush does not get ahead and out of control, so that the leaf would get tough and hard and less fit for manufacture; but cultivation is almost equally important, and every available labourer is kept hard at it.
What a pleasure it is to watch a good expert workman, be he carpenter, bricklayer, ploughman, blacksmith, or only an Irish navvy. In even the humblest of these callings the evidence of much training, practice or long apprenticeship is noticeable. To an amateur who has tried such work himself it will soon be apparent how crude his efforts are, how little he knows of the apparently simple operation. The navvy seems to work slowly; but he knows well, because his task is a day-long one, that his forces must be economised, that over-exertion must be avoided. This lesson was brought home to me when exasperated by the seeming laziness of the coolie cultivators, I would seize a man's hoe and fly at the work, hoe vigorously for perhaps five minutes, swear at the man for his lack of strenuousness, then retire and find myself puffing and blowing and almost in a state of collapse.
If an addition or extension is being made to the garden, the already cut jungle has to be burnt and the ground cleared in early spring, the soil broken up and staked: that is, small sticks put in regular rows and intervals to show where the young plants are to be put. Then when the rains have properly set in the actual planting begins. This is a work that requires a lot of labour and close and careful superintendence. Imagine what it means to plant out 100 acres of ground, the plants set only three or four feet apart! The right plucking of the leaf calls for equally careful looking after. The women are paid by the amount or weight they pluck, so they are very liable to pluck carelessly and so damage the succeeding flush, or they may gather a lot of old leaf unsuited for manufacturing purposes. In short, every detail of work, even cultivation, demands close supervision and the whole attention of the planter.
When the new-plucked leaf is brought home it is spread out to wither in suitably-built sheds. (Here begins the tea-maker's responsibility.) Then it must be rolled, by hand or by machinery; fermented, and fired or dried over charcoal ovens; separated in its different classes, the younger the leaf bud the more valuable the tea. It is then packed in boxes for market, and sampled by the planter. He does this by weighing a tiny quantity of each class or grade of tea into separate cups, pouring boiling water on them, and then tasting the liquor by sipping a little into the mouth, not to be swallowed, but ejected again.
All this will give an idea of the variety of duties of a tea-planter. He has no time for shooting, polo, or visiting during the busy season. But at mid-winter the great annual Mela takes place at the station, the local seat of Government. The Mela lasts a couple of weeks, and it is a season of fun and jollity with both planters and natives. There were two or three social clubs in Silchar; horse and pony racing, polo, cricket and football filled the day, dinner and sociability the night; and what nights! The amount of liquor consumed at these meetings was almost incredible.
Nothing can look more beautiful or more gratifying to the eye of the owner than a tract of tea, pruned level as a table and topped with new fresh young leaf-shoots, four to eight inches high, in full flush, ready for the pluckers' nimble fingers.
At the end of one year I was offered and accepted the position of assistant at a Sylhet garden, called Kessoregool, the property consisting of three distinct gardens, the principal one being directly overseered by the manager, an American. He, of course, was my superior. My charge was the Lucky Cherra Gardens, some few miles away. There I spent two years, learning what I could of the business, but without the advantage of European society; in fact, the Burra Sahib and myself were almost the only whites in the district, and as he was drunk quite half the time, and we did not pull very well together, I was left to my own resources. I found amusement in various ways. There was no polo, but some of the native zemindars (landed proprietors) were always ready to get up a beat for leopards, tigers, deer and pig. Their method was simply to drive the game into a net corral and spear them to death. The Government Keddas, under Colonel Nuttal, were also not far away in hill Tipperah, and it was intensely interesting to watch operations. Close to my garden also was a sacred pool and a very beautiful waterfall. This was visited twice a year by immense numbers of natives, some from great distances, for it was a famous and renowned place of pilgrimage. It could only be approached through my garden; and as there was no wagon road, the pilgrims were always open to inspection, so to speak; and they were well worth inspection, as among them were many races, all ages, both sexes, every caste or jat; robes, turbans and cupras of every shape and colour; fakirs and wonder-workers, and beggars galore. Here, and on such an occasion only, could the sahib see face to face the harems of the wealthy natives, consisting of women who at no other time showed themselves out of doors. Being the only sahib present I had all the "fun of the fair" to myself, but always regretted the want of a companion to share it with me.
As to wild game, there were lots of jungle fowl (original stock of our familiar barn-door cocks and hens), a few pigeons, Argus pheasants, small barking deer, pigs, sambur, barrasingha, metnas, crocodiles, leopards, tigers, bears and elephants; but I had little time for shooting and it was expensive work, the jungle being so thick that riding elephants were quite necessary. If keen enough, one could sit all night on a machan in a tree near a recent "kill," on the chance of Stripes showing himself; but it never appealed to me much, that kind of sport. If a tiger was raiding the cattle I would poison the "kill" with strychnine. In this way I secured several very fine animals, getting two at one time, so successfully poisoned that their bodies actually lay on the dead bullock. One time I shot an enormous python, some eighteen feet in length, which took several men to carry home. Monkeys were plentiful and of several kinds. I was very fond of wandering amongst the high-tree jungle and quietly watching their antics. In the dense forest there is little undergrowth, so that one can move about freely and study the extraordinary forms of vegetation displayed. Ticks and leeches are to be dreaded—a perfect nuisance. If you sit down or pause for a few moments where no leeches are in sight, suddenly and quickly they will appear marching on you, or at you, at a gallop.
The popular idea of a wealth of flowers in tropical jungles is a misconception. In tree jungle no flowers are to be found, or at any rate they are not visible. But if one can by some means attain an elevation and so be able to overlook the tree-tops, he will probably be rewarded with a wonderful display, as many jungle trees are glorified with crowns of gorgeous colours. There will he also discover the honey-suckers, moths, butterflies, the beetles, and all the other insect brood which he had also vainly looked for before. The fruits are likewise borne aloft, and therefore at the proper time these tree-tops will be the haunt of the monkeys, the parrots, the bats, the toucans, and all frugivorous creation.
Of all fruits the durian is the most delicious. Such is the universal opinion of men, including A. R. Wallace, who have had the opportunity of becoming familiar with it. It is purely tropical, grows on a lofty tree, is round and nearly as large as a cocoanut. A thick and tough rind protects the delicacy contained within. When opened five cells are revealed, satiny white, containing masses of cream-coloured pulp. This pulp is the edible portion and has an indescribable flavour and consistence. You can safely eat all you want of it, and the more you eat the more you will want. To eat durian, as Mr Wallace says, is alone worth a voyage to the East. But it has one strange quality—it smells so badly as to be at first almost nauseating; some people even can never bring themselves to touch it. Once this repulsion is mastered the fruit will probably be preferred to all other foods. The natives give it honourable titles, exalt it, and even wax poetical over it.
Of course we all know the multitudinous uses of the bamboo. This grass is one of the most wonderful, beautiful and useful of Nature's gifts to uncivilized man. And yet one more use has been found for it. In the East a new industry has sprung up, viz., the making of "Panama" hats of bamboo strips or threads. In texture and pliability these hats are said to even surpass the genuine "Panamas," are absolutely impervious to rain, and can be produced at a much lower cost.
The Looshais killed pigs, and even tigers, by ingeniously setting poisoned arrows in the woods, which were released by the animals pressing on a string. One of my coolies was unfortunate enough to be shot and killed in this way.
Growing on decayed tree stumps I frequently found a saprophyte (hymenophallus), much larger than its English representative, indeed a monster in comparison, and possessing a vile and most odious smell, yet attractive to certain depraved insects.
I made a very fine collection of butterflies, moths and beetles, which, however, was entirely destroyed by worms or ants during its passage to England. The magnificent Atlas moth was common in Sylhet and Cachar. What an extraordinarily beautiful creature it is, sometimes so large as to cover a dinner-plate. I never was privileged to see it fly. It seemed to be always in a languid or torpid condition.
Thunderstorms occur almost daily during the wet season. By lightning I lost several people. In one case, whilst standing watching a man remove seedlings from a nursery bed, standing indeed immediately behind and close to him, there came a thrilling flash of lightning. It shook myself as well as several women who stood by. The man in front of me, who had been sitting on his haunches with a steel-ribbed umbrella over him, remained silent and still. At last I called on him to continue his work and pulled back the umbrella to see his face. He was stone dead. Examination showed a small blackish spot where the steel rib had rested and conveyed the fatal shock.
The approach of the daily rainstorm, usually about noon, was a remarkable sight. Immense fan-shaped, thunderous-looking clouds would come rolling up, billow upon billow, travelling at great speed and accompanied by terrific wind. A flash of lightning and a crashing peal of thunder and the deluge began, literally a deluge. The rainfall averaged about 180 inches in seven months. At Cherrapunji, in the Kassia Hills, within sight of my place and only about twenty miles distant, the rainfall was and is the greatest in the world, no other district approaching it in this respect, viz., averaging per annum 450 inches; greatest recorded over 900 inches; and there is a record of one month, July, of a fall of nearly 400 inches; yet all this precipitation takes place during the six or seven wet months, the rest of the year being absolutely dry and rainless. These measurements are recorded at the Government Observatory Station and need not be disputed. It may readily be supposed that the wet season, summer, with its high temperature and damp atmosphere, was very trying to the European, and even to the imported coolies. Imagine living for six continuous months in the hottest palm-house in Kew Gardens; yet the planter is out and about all day long; nearly always on pony back, however, an enormously thick solah toppee hat or a heavy white umbrella protecting his head. The dry, or cold season, however, was delightful.
Close to Lucky Cherra Garden was a tract of bustee land on which some Bengali cultivators grew rice and other crops. Our Company's boundary line in some way conflicted with theirs, and a dispute arose which soon developed into a series of, first, most comical mix-ups, and afterwards into desperate "lathi" fights. The land in dispute was being hurriedly ploughed by buffalo teams belonging to the Bengalis; to uphold our claim I also secured teams and put them to ploughing on the same piece of ground. This could only lead to one thing—as said before, terrific lathi fights between the teamsters. For several days I went down to see the fun, taking with me a number of the stoutest coolies on the garden. The men seemed to rather enjoy the sport, though a lick from a lathi (a formidable tough, hard and heavy cane) was far from a joke. Finally the bustee-wallahs agreed to stop operations and await legal judgment.
After eighteen months I was suddenly left in sole charge of all the Company's gardens, the Burra Sahib having finally succumbed to drink; but I was not long left in charge, being soon relieved by a more experienced man. Shortly after I was ordered to Scottpore Garden in Cachar, the manager of which, a particularly fine man and a great friend of mine, had suffered the awful death of being pierced by the very sharp end of a heavy, newly-cut bamboo, which he seems to have ridden against in the dark. He always rode at great speed, and he too, in this way, was a victim of drink. The tremendously high death-rate amongst planters was directly due to this fatal habit.
Scottpore was a new (young) garden, not teelah, but level land, having extremely rich soil. The bushes showed strong growth and there were no "vacancies"; indeed it was a model plantation. Unfortunately, it had the character of extreme unhealthiness. Of my three predecessors two had died of fever and one as before mentioned. The coolie death-rate was shocking; so bad that, during my management, a Government Commission was sent to look into the situation, and the absolute closing of the garden was anticipated. The result was that I was debarred from recruiting and importing certain coolies from certain districts in India, they being peculiarly susceptible to fever and dysentery. Almost every day at morning muster the doctor reported so and so, or so many, dead, wiped off the roll. Naturally the place suffered from lack of labour, a further draining of the force being the absconding of coolies, running off, poor devils, to healthier places, and the stealing of my people by unscrupulous planters.
On several occasions, when riding home on dark nights, have I detected white objects on the side of the road. Not a movement would be seen, not a sound or a breath heard, only an ominous, suspicious silence reigned; it meant that these were some of my people absconding, being perhaps led off by a pimp from another garden—and woe betide the pimp if caught. I would call out to them, and if they did not respond would go after them; but generally they were too scared to resist or to attempt further to escape; so I would drive them in front of me back to the garden, inspect them and take their names, try to find out who had put them up to it, etc., and dismiss them to the lines in charge of the night-watchman. You could not well punish them, though a good caning was administered sometimes to the men. Thus the plantation, instead of presenting a clean, well-cultivated appearance, had often that of an enormous hayfield; nevertheless the output and manufacture of tea was large and the quality good. All that I myself could and did take credit for was this "quality," as the prices obtained in Calcutta were the best of all the Company's gardens.
At Scottpore there was no lack of neighbours. My bungalow was on two cross-roads, a half-way house so to speak; consequently someone was continually dropping in. Frequently three or four visitors would arrive unannounced for dinner; the house was always "wide open." Whisky, brandy and beer were always on the sideboard, and in my absence the bearer or khansamah was expected, as a matter of course, to offer refreshments to all comers. The planter's code of hospitality demanded this, but it was the financial ruin of the Chota Sahib, depending solely on his modest salary.
At Scottpore I went in strong for vegetable, fruit and flower gardening, and not without success. Visitors came from a distance to view the flower-beds and eat my green peas, and I really think that I grew as fine pineapples and bananas as were produced anywhere. The pineapple of good stock and ripened on the plant is, I think, the most exquisite of all fruits. A really ripe pine contains no fibre. You cut the top off and sup the delicious mushy contents with a spoon.
In such a hot, steamy climate as we had in these tea districts, the rapidity of growth of vegetation is, of course, remarkable. Bamboos illustrate this better than other plants, their growth being so much more noticeable, that of a young shoot amounting to as much as four inches in one night. It sometimes appeared to my imagination that the weeds and grass grew one foot in a like period, especially when short of labour. The planter usually takes a pride in the well-cultivated appearance of the garden in his charge; but how can one be proud if the weeds overtop the bushes? It may be appropriate here to note that eighty-five per cent. of the twenty-four hours' growth of plants occurs between 12 p.m. and 6 a.m.; during the noon hours the apparent growth almost entirely ceases.
Garden coolies are generally Hindoos and are imported from far-off districts. The local peasantry of Bengal are mostly Mohammedans and do not work on tea-gardens, except on such jobs as cutting jungle, building, etc. They speak a somewhat different tongue, so that we had to understand Bengali as well as Hindustani. I may mention here that as Hindoos regard an egg as defiling, and Mohammedans despise an eater of pork, our love for ham and eggs alienates us from both these classes; what beasts we must be! The Hindoos and the Bengal Mussulmans are characterized by cringing servility, open insolence, or rude indifference. Contrast with this the Burmese agreeableness and affability, or the bearing of the Rajput and the Sikh. In those days the natives cringed before the Sahib Log much more than they do now. Then all had to put their umbrellas down on passing a sahib, and all had to leave the side-walk on the white man's approach; not that the law compelled them to do so, it was simply a custom enforced by their masters, in the large cities as well as in the mofussil.
We thought it advisable at all costs to keep the coolies in a proper state of subjection. Thus, when on a certain occasion a coolie of mine raised his kodalie (hoe) to strike me I had to give him a very severe thrashing. Another time a man appeared somewhat insolent in his talk to me and I unfortunately hit him a blow on the body, from the effects of which he died next day. Some of these people suffer from enlarged spleens and even a slight jar on that part of their anatomy may prove fatal.
A few more notes. Among the Sontals in Bengal the snake stone, found within the head of the Adjutant-bird, is applied to a snake bite exactly in the same way and with the same supposed results as the Texas madstone, an accretion found, it is said, in the system of a white stag. Many natives of India die from purely imaginary snake bites.
In Oude there have been many instances verified, or at least impossible of contradiction, of so-called wolf-children, infants stolen by wolves and suckled by them, that go on all fours, eat only raw meat, and, of course, speak no language.
The Nagas, a hill tribe and not very desirable neighbours, practise the refined custom of starving a dog, then supplying it with an enormous feed of rice; and when the stomach is properly distended, killing it, the half-digested mess forming the bonne-bouche of the tribal feast.
Snake stories are always effective. I have none to tell. My bungalow roof, the thatch, was at all times infested by snakes, some quite large. At night one frequently heard them gliding between the bamboos and grass, chasing mice, beetles, or perhaps lizards, and sometimes falling on the top of the mosquito bar, or even on the dinner-table; but these were probably harmless creatures, as most snakes are. The cobra was not common in Cachar. It may be said here that a snake's mouth opens crossways as well as vertically, and each side has the power of working independently, the teeth being re-curved backwards. Prey once in the jaws cannot escape, and the snake itself can only dispose of it in one way—downwards.
At Scottpore I employed an elephant for certain work, such as hauling heavy posts out of the jungle. Sometimes his "little Mary" would trouble him, when a dose of castor oil would be effectively administered. Unfortunately, he misbehaved, ran amok, and tried to kill his mahout, and so that hatthi (elephant) had to be disposed of.
When clearing jungle for a tea-garden the workmen sometimes come on a certain species of tree, of which they are in great dread. They cannot be induced to cut it down and so the tree remains. Such a one stood opposite my bungalow, a stately, handsome monarch of the forest. It was a sacred, or rather a haunted tree, but as its shade was injurious to tea-plant growth I was determined to have it destroyed. None of my people would touch it; so I sent over to a neighbour and explained the facts to him, requesting him to send over a gang of his men to do the deed. I was to see that they had no communication with my own people. Well, his men came and were put to work with axes. The result? Two of them died that day and the rest bolted. Yet this is not more extraordinary than people dying of imaginary snake bites.
Shortly afterwards an incident occurred to still further strengthen the native belief that the tree was haunted. I had a very fine bull terrier which slept in the porch at night, the night-watchman also sleeping there. One time I was aroused by terrific yells from the dog, and called to the watchman to know the trouble. After apparently recovering from his fright he told me the devil had come from the tree and carried off the dog. The morning showed traces of a tiger's or leopard's pugs, and my poor terrier was of course never seen again.
The hill tribes surrounding the valley of Cachar were the Kassias, Nagas, Kookies, Munipoories and Looshais, all of very similar type, except that the Munipoories were of somewhat lighter skin, were more civilized and handsomer. The Kassias were noted for their wonderful muscular development, no doubt accounted for by their being mountaineers, their poonjes (villages) being situated on the sides of high and steep mountains. All their market products, supplies, etc., were packed up and down these hills in thoppas, a sort of baskets or chairs slung on the back by a band over the forehead. In this way even a heavy man would be carried up the steep mountain-side, and generally by a woman.
Once, in later years, whilst in Mexico, near Crizaba, I was intensely surprised to meet in the forest a string of Indios going to market and using this identical thoppa; the similar cut of the hair across the forehead, the blanket and dress, the physical features, even the peculiar grunt emitted when carrying a weight, settled for me the long-disputed question of the origin of the Aztecs. In Venezuela I saw exactly the same type in Castro's Indian troops, as also in the Indian natives of Peru.
The Kassias were fond of games, such as tossing the caber, putting the weight and throwing the hammer, apparently a tribal institution. The Kookies and Nagas were restless, warlike and troublesome, and addicted to head hunting. They periodically raided some tea-gardens to secure lead for bullets, and incidentally heads as trophies. Several planters had been thus massacred, and at outlying gardens there was always this dread and danger. On one occasion an urgent message was brought to me from such a garden, whose manager happened to be in Calcutta. His head baboo begged me to come over and take charge, if only to reassure the coolies, who had been running off into the jungle on the report of a threatened Naga raid. On going over I found the people tremendously excited, and most of them scared nearly to death. My presence seemed to allay their fright, though if the savages had come we could have done nothing, having only a few rifles in the place and the coolies totally demoralized. Luckily Mr Naga did not appear.
The Looshais were a particularly warlike race, and gardens situated near their territory were supplied by Government with stands of arms and had stockades for defence in case of attack.
The tea-planter's life was to me a very enjoyable one. There was lots of interesting work to be done, lots of sport and amusement, and lots of good fellows. The life promised to be an ideal one. For its enjoyment, however, indeed for its possibility, there is one essential—good health. Unfortunately that, during the whole period at Scottpore, was not mine; for the whole eighteen months fever had its grip on me; appetite was quite gone, and I subsisted on nothing but eggs, milk and whisky. Six months more would have done me up; but just at this time came the announcement of my father's death. For this reason and on account of my health I resigned the position and prepared to visit home, meaning to return, however, to India.
I determined before going to look out a piece of land suitable for a small plantation; and, after much consideration, decided to hunt for it in Eastern Sylhet. So bidding adieu to friends I hied me down to the selected district, secured a good man as guide (a man of intelligence and intimate knowledge of the country was essential), and hired an elephant to carry us and break a way through the jungle. In the course of our search we came to a piece of seemingly swampy ground; the high reeds which had once covered it had been eaten down and the surface of the bog trodden on till it became caked, firm and almost solid. Our path was across it, but on coming to the edge the elephant refused to proceed. On the mahout urging him he roared and protested in every way, so much so that I was somewhat alarmed and suggested to the mahout that the elephant knew better than he the danger of proceeding. Finally, however, the elephant decided to try the ground, and carefully and slowly he made his way across, his great feet at every step depressing the surface, which perceptibly waved like thin ice all around him. I was prepared and ready to jump clear at the first sign of danger, for had we broken through we should have probably all disappeared in the bog. Hatthi was as much relieved as myself on reaching terra firma. My guide told me that this land had no bottom, that under the packed surface there was twenty feet of soft, black, loamy mud. This set me thinking. I was after something of this nature. In the course of the next day we came upon a somewhat similar piece of ground, some 300 acres in extent, still covered with the original reeds and other vegetation. The soil was in places exposed and was of a rich, dark brown loamy character. Taking a long ten-foot bamboo and pressing it firmly on the ground it could be forced nearly out of sight. That was enough for me. The object sought for was found. Further tests with a spade and bamboo were made at different points; deep drainage seemed practicable, and, what was quite important, a small navigable river bounded the property. Then I hunted up a native surveyor, traced the proposed boundaries, got numbers and data, etc., to enable me to send my application to the proper quarter, which I soon afterwards did, making a money deposit in part payment to the Government. My task was completed, and I at once started for Calcutta and home.
As things turned out I never returned to the country and so had to abandon my rights, etc.; but in support of my judgment I was very much gratified to learn years afterwards that someone else had secured and developed this particular piece of land as a tea-garden, and that it had turned out to be the most valuable, much the most valuable, piece of tea land, acre for acre, in the whole country. Often and bitterly since then have I regretted not being able to return and develop and operate this ideal location. More than that, I had learned the tea-growing business, had devoted over three years to its careful study, felt myself in every way competent, and had found a life in many ways suited to my tastes. All this had to be abandoned. In India the white man lives in great luxury. He has a great staff of servants, his every whim and wish is anticipated and satisfied, his comfort watched over. To leave this, to go straight out to the West, the wild and woolly West, where servants were not! The very suggestion of such a thing to me on leaving India would have received no consideration whatever. It would have seemed utterly impossible, but "El Hombre propone y el Deos depone" as the Mexicans say.
During the whole four years' stay in India I was practically barred from ladies' society, nearly all the planters being unmarried men. Alas! for twenty years longer of my life this very unfortunate and demoralizing condition was to continue.
There were no railroads then to Cachar and no steamers, so I again performed the journey to Calcutta in a native boat, and there, by-the-bye, I witnessed the sight for the first time of an apparent lunatic playing a game called Golf; a game which later was to be more familiar to me, and myself to become one of the greatest lunatics of all. The run home was in no way remarkable, except for the intense anticipated pleasure of again seeing the old country.
CATTLE RANCHING IN ARIZONA
Leave for United States of America—Iowa—New Mexico—Real Estate Speculation—Gambling—Billy the Kid—Start Ranching in Arizona—Description of Country—Apache and other Indians—Fauna—Branding Cattle—Ranch Notes—Mexicans—Politics—Summer Camp—Winter Camp—Fishing and Shooting—Indian Troubles.
My health seemed to have reached a more serious condition than imagined; and so on the advice of my friends, but with much regret, I decided to henceforth cast my lot in a more bracing climate. Having no profession, and hating trade in any form, the choice was limited and confined to live stock or crop farming of one kind or another.
Accordingly, after six months at home and on complete recovery of health, I took my way to the United States of America, first to Lemars in Iowa, where was a well-known colony of Britishers, said Britishers consisting almost entirely of the gentlemen class, some with much money, some with little, none of them with much knowledge of practical business life or affairs, all of them with the idea of social superiority over the natives, which they very foolishly showed. Sport, not work, occupied their whole time and attention. Altogether it seemed that this was no place for one who had to push his fortunes. The climate, too, seemed to be far from agreeable, in summer being very hot, in winter very cold; so, with another man, I decided to go further west and south, to the sheep and cattle country of New Mexico; not that I had any knowledge of sheep or cattle, hardly knowing the one from the other; but the nature of Ranch life (Ranch with a big R) and the romance attaching to it had much to do with my determination.
Arrived in New Mexico I went to live with a sheepman—a practical sheepman from Australia—to study the industry and see how I liked it. In the neighbourhood was a cattle ranch and a lot of cowboys. I saw much of their life, and was so attracted by it that the sheep proposition was finally abandoned as unsuitable. Still, I was very undecided, knew little of the ways of the country and still less of the cattle business. I moved to the small town of Las Vegas, then about the western end of the Santa Fe railroad. Here I stayed six months, making acquaintances and listening to others' experiences.
Las Vegas was then a true frontier town. It was "booming," full of life and all kinds of people, money plentiful, saloons, gambling-dens and dance-halls "wide open." Real Estate was moving freely, prices advancing, speculation rife, and—I caught the infection! A few successful deals gave me courage and tempted me further. I became a real gambler. On some deals I made tremendous profits. I even owned a saloon and gambling-hall, which paid me a huge rental and gave me my drinks free! The world looked "easy."
Not content with Las Vegas, I followed the road to Albuquerque and Socorro, had some deals there and spent my evenings playing poker, faro and monte with the best and "toughest" of them. Santa Fe, the capital, was then as much a "hell" as Las Vegas.
Let me try to describe one of these gambling resorts. A long, low room, probably a saloon, with the pretentious bar in front; tables on either side of the room, and an eager group round each one, the game being roulette, faro, highball, poker, crapps or monte. The dealers, or professional gamblers, are easily distinguished. Their dress consists invariably of a well-laundered "biled" (white) shirt, huge diamond stud in front, no collar or tie, perhaps a silk handkerchief tied loosely round the neck, and an open unbuttoned waistcoat. They are necessarily cool, wide-awake, self-possessed men. All in this room are chewing tobacco and distributing the results freely on the floor. Now and then the dealers call for drinks all round, perhaps to keep the company together and encourage play. But poker, the royal game, the best of all gambling games, is generally played in a retired room, where quietness and some privacy are secured. Mere idlers and "bums" are not wanted around; perhaps the room is a little cleaner, but the floor is littered, if the game has lasted long, with dozens of already used and abandoned packs of cards. At Las Vegas the majority of the players were cowboys and cattlemen; at Socorro miners and prospectors; at Albuquerque all kinds; at Santa Fe politicians and officials and Mexicans, but Chinamen, always a few Chinamen, everywhere; and what varied types of men one rubs shoulders with! The cowpunchers, probably pretty well "loaded" (tipsy), the "prominent" lawyer, the horny-handed miner, the inscrutable "John"; the scout, or frontier man, with hair long as a woman's; the half-breed Mexican or greaser elbowing a don of pure Castilian blood; the men all "packing" guns (six-shooters), some in the pocket, some displayed openly. The dealer, of course, has his lying handy under the table; but shooting scrapes are rare. If there is any trouble it will be settled somewhere else afterwards.
But things took a turn; slackness, then actual depression in Real Estate values set in, and oh! how quickly. Like many others, I got scared and hastened to "get out." It was almost too late, not quite. On cleaning up, my financial position was just about the same as at the beginning of the campaign. It was a lesson, a valuable experience; but I admit that Real Estate speculation threw a glamour over me that still remains. It is the way to wealth for the man who knows how to go about it.
About this time two Englishmen arrived in Las Vegas, and we soon got acquainted. One could easily see that they were not tenderfeet. On the contrary, they appeared to be shrewd, practical men of affairs. They had been cattle ranching up north for some years, had a good knowledge of the business, and were "good fellows." They had come south to look out a cattle ranch and continue in the business. They wanted a little more capital, which seemed my opportunity, and the upshot was that we formed a partnership, for good or for ill, which lasted for many years (over twelve), but which was never financially successful. Considering my entire ignorance of cattle affairs, and having abounding confidence in my two partners, I agreed to leave the entire control and management in their hands.
It was about this time (1883) that I was fortunate enough to meet at Fort Sumner the then great Western celebrity, "Billy the Kid." Billy was a young cowboy who started wrong by using his gun on some trivial occasion. Like all, or at least many, young fellows of his age he wanted to appear a "bad man." One shooting scrape led to another; he became an outlaw; cattle troubles, and finally the Lincoln County War, in which he took a leading part, gave him every opportunity for his now murdering propensities, so that soon the tally of his victims amounted to some twenty-five lives. The Lincoln County New Mexico "War," in which it is believed that first to last over 200 men were killed, was purely a cattleman's war, but the most terrible and bloody that ever took place in the West. New Mexico was at that time probably the most lawless country in the world.
Only a month after my meeting Billy in Fort Sumner he was killed there, not in his "boots," but in his stockings, by Sheriff Pat Garret. He was shot practically in his bed and given no "show." His age when killed was only twenty-three years. There were afterwards many other "kids" emulous of Billy's renown, because of which, and their youthfulness, they were always the most dangerous of men.
Our senior partner, not satisfied with New Mexico, went out to Arizona for a look round, liked the prospect, and decided to locate there, so we moved out accordingly. Arizona (Arida Zona) was at this time a practically new and unoccupied territory; that is, though there were a few Mexicans, a few Mormons and a great many Indians, a few sheep and fewer cattle, it could not be called a settled country, and most of the grazing land was in a virgin state.
My partner had bought out a Mexican's rights, his cattle, water-claims, ranches, etc., located at the Cienega in Apache county, near the head-waters of the Little Colorado River. To close the deal part payment in advance had to be made; and to ensure promptness the paper was given to my care to be delivered to the seller as quickly as possible. Accordingly I travelled by train to the nearest railroad point, Holbrook, found an army ambulance about to convey the commanding officer to Camp Apache, and he was good enough to allow me to accompany him part of the way. It was a great advantage to me, as otherwise there was no conveyance, nor had I a horse or any means of getting to the ranch, about eighty miles. Judging from the colonel's armed guard and the fact of travelling at night, it occurred to me that something was wrong, and on questioning him he told me that he would not take any "chances," that the Apaches were "out" on the war-path, but that they never attacked in the dark. This lent more interest to the trip, though it was interesting enough to me simply to see the nature of the country where we had decided to make our home. We got through all right. Next morning I hired a horse and reached the ranch the same day.
As this was to be our country for many years to come, it will be well to describe its physical features, etc. Arizona, of course, is a huge territory, some 400 by 350 miles. It embraces pure unadulterated desert regions in the west; a large forest tract in the centre; the rest has a semi-arid character, short, scattering grass all over it; to the eye of a stranger a dreary and desolate region! The east central part, where we were, has a general elevation of 4000 to 6000 feet above sea-level, so that the fierce summer heat is tempered to some extent, especially after sundown. In winter there were snowstorms and severe cold, but the snow did not lie long, except in the mountains, where it reached a depth of several feet.
The Little Colorado River (Colorado Chiquito), an affluent of the Greater River, had its headquarters in the mountains, south of our ranch. It was a small stream, bright and clear, and full of speckled trout in its upper part; lower down most of the time dry; at other times a flood of red muddy water, or a succession of small, shallow pools of a boggy, quicksandy nature, that ultimately cost us many thousands of cattle. The western boundary of Arizona is the Big Colorado River. Where the Santa Fe railroad crosses it at the Needles is one of the hottest places in North America. In summer the temperature runs up to as high as 120 degrees Fahr., and I have even heard it asserted to go to 125 degrees in the shade; and I cannot doubt it, as even on our own ranch the thermometer often recorded 110 degrees; that at an elevation of 4000 feet, whereas the Needles' elevation above sea-level is only a few hundreds. At Jacobabad, India, the greatest heat recorded is 126 degrees, and at Kashan, in Persia, a month—August—averaged 127 degrees, supposed to be the hottest place on earth.
Above the Needles begins or ends the very wonderful Grand Canon, extending north for 270 miles, its depth in places being as much as 6000 feet, and that at certain points almost precipitously. The wonderful colouring of the rocks, combined with the overpowering grandeur of it, make it one of the most impressive and unique sights of the world.
Now, stop and think what that is—2000 yards! say a mile; and imagine the effect on a stranger when he first approaches it, which he will generally do without warning—nothing, absolutely nothing, to indicate the presence of this wonderful gorge till he arrives at its very brink. Its aspect is always changing according to the hour of day, the period of the year, the atmospheric conditions. The air is dry and bracing at all times; and as pure, clear and free from dust or germs as probably can be found anywhere on earth. The panorama may be described as "wunderschoen." Anyone of sensibility will sit on the rock-rim for hours, possibly days, in dumb contemplation of the beauty and immensity. No one has yet, not even the most eloquent writer, been quite able to express his feelings and sentiments, though many have attempted to do so in the hotel register; some of the greatest poets and thinkers admitting in a few lines their utter inability. Our Colorado Chiquito in its lower parts has an equally romantic aspect.
Close to our ranch was another of Nature's wonders, a petrified forest, quite unique in that the exposed tree trunks are solid masses of agate, chalcedony, jasper, opal and other silicate crystals, the variety of whose colouring, with their natural brilliancy, makes a wonderfully beautiful combination. These trees are supposed to have been the Norfolk Island pine, a tree now extinct, are of large dimensions, all prostrate, lying in no particular order, and all broken up into large or smaller sections. Many carloads have been removed and shipped to Eastern factories, where the sections are sawn through and polished, and the most lovely table tops, etc., imaginable produced. One must beware of rattlesnakes when prowling about these "ruins."
To complete the physical description of Arizona territory something must be said of the pine-clad mountain range to the south of us. The bulk of this area constituted the Apache Indian Reservation. It was reserved for these Indians as a hunting-ground as well as a home. No one else was allowed to settle within its boundaries, or graze their sheep or cattle there. It was truly a hunter's paradise, being largely covered with forest trees, broken here and there by open parks and glades and meadow lands, drained by streams of clear cool water, which combining, produced a few considerable-sized rivers, "hotching" with trout, unsophisticated and so simple in their natures that it seemed a positive shame to take advantage of them. These mountains were the haunt of the elk, the big-horned sheep, black-and white-tailed deer, grizzly, cinnamon, silver tip, and brown and black bears; the porcupine, racoon and beaver; also the prong-horned antelope, though it is more of a plains country animal. But more of this some other time.
The Apache Indians (Apache is not their proper name, but Tinneh; the former was given to them by the Mexicans and signifies "enemy") were and are the most dreaded of all the redskin tribes. They always have been warlike and perhaps naturally cruel, and at the time of our arrival in the country they had about attained their most bloodthirsty and murderous character. Shocking ill-treatment by white skalawags and United States officials had changed their nature; but more about them also by-and-by.
North of us were the numerous and powerful Navajo Indians. They were not so much dreaded by us, their Reservation being further away, and they then being of a peaceful disposition, devoted to horse and sheep breeding and the manufacture of blankets.
These are the famous Navajo blankets so often seen in English homes, valued for the oddness of their patterns and colours, but used in Arizona mainly as saddle blankets. The majority of them are coarsely made and of little intrinsic value; but others, made for the chiefs or other special purposes, are finely woven, very artistic, and sell for large sums of money. Rain will not penetrate them and they make excellent bed coverings.
These Navajoes used to declare that they would never quit the war-path till a certain "Dancing Man" appeared, and that they would never be conquered till then. An American officer, named Backus, at Fort Defiance, constructed a dummy man, who danced by the pulling of wires, and showed him to the Indians. They at once accepted him as their promised visitor, and have since then never gone on the war-path. This may seem an incredible tale, but is a fact.
Also near us were the Zuni Indians, who, like the Pueblo Indians, lived in stone-built communal houses, had entirely different customs to those of the Apaches and Navajoes, and are perhaps the debased descendants of a once powerful and advanced nation. Whilst speaking of Indians, it may be said that the plains tribes, such as the Comanches, believe in the immortality of the soul and the future life. All will attain it, all will reach the Happy Hunting-Ground, unless prevented by such accidents as being scalped, which results in annihilation of the soul.
Is it not strange that though these barbarians believe in the immortality of the soul yet our materialistic Old Testament never even suggests a future life; and it seems that no Jew believes or ever was taught to believe in it.
Indian self-torture is to prove one's endurance of pain. A broad knife is passed through the pectoral muscles, and a horse-hair rope inserted, by which they must swing from a post till the flesh is torn through. Indians will never scalp a negro; it is "bad medicine." By the way, is not scalping spoken of in the Book of Maccabees as a custom of the Jews and Syrians? The tit-bits of a butchered carcass are, to the Indians, the intestines, a speciality being the liver with the contents of the gall bladder sprinkled over it! Horses, dogs, wolves and skunks are greatly valued for food.
Amongst certain tribes Hiawatha was a Messiah of divine origin, but born on earth. He appeared long ago as a teacher and prophet, taught them picture-writing, healing, etc.; gave them the corn plant and pipe; he was an ascetic; told them of the Isles of the Blessed and promised to come again. In Mexico Quetzalcohuatl was a similar divine visitor, prophet and teacher.
But to return to our own immediate affairs. At a reasonable price we bought out another cattleman, his ranches, cattle and saddle horses. As required by law, we also adopted and recorded a cattle brand. Our first business was to brand our now considerable herd, which entailed an immense amount of very hard work. This in later years would have been no very great undertaking, but at that time "squeezers" and branding "chutes" were not known. Our corrals were primitive and not suited for the work, and our cattle extraordinarily wild and not accustomed to control of any kind. Indeed, the men we had bought out had sold to us for the simple reason that they could not properly handle them. The four-legged beasties had got beyond their control, and many of them had almost become wild animals. These cattle, too, had very little of the "improved" character in them. Well-bred bulls had never been introduced.
Some of the bulls we found had almost reached their allotted span—crusty old fellows indeed and scarred in many a battle; "moss-heads" we called them, and the term was well applied, for their hoary old heads gave the idea of their being covered with moss.
Most of the cattle had never been in a corral in their lives, and some of the older steers were absolute "outlaws," magnificent creatures, ten to twelve years of age, with immense spreading horns, sleek and glossy sides, and quite unmanageable. They could not be got into a herd, or if got in, would very soon walk out again. Eventually some had to be shot on the range like any wild animal, simply to get rid of them; but they at least afforded us many a long and wild gallop.
There was one great steer in particular, reckoned to be ten or twelve years old, quite a celebrity in fact on account of his unmanageableness, his independence and boldness, which we had frequently seen and tried to secure, but hitherto without success. He had a chum, another outlaw, and they grazed in a particular part of the range far from the haunts of their kin and of man. Three of us undertook to make one more effort to secure him. At the headquarters ranch we had gathered a herd of cattle and we proposed to try and run the steer in that direction, where the other boys would be on the lookout and would head him into the round-up. Two of us were to go out and find the steer and start him homewards; I myself undertook to wait about half-way, and when they came in sight to take up the running and relieve them. They found him all right about twenty miles out, turned him and started him. No difficulty so far. He ran with the ease of a horse, and he was still going as he willed, without having the idea of being coerced. Meantime I had been taking it easy, lolling on the ground, my horse beside me with bridle down. Suddenly the sound of hoof-beats and a succession of yells warned me to "prepare to receive cavalry." Through a cleft in a hill I could see the quarry coming at a mad gallop directly for me, the two men pounding along behind. I had just time and no more to tighten girth and get into the saddle when he was on me, and my horse being a bit drowsy it needed sharp digging of the spurs to get out of the way. I forget how many miles the boys said they had already run him, but it was a prodigious distance and we were still eight miles from the ranch. The steer was getting hot, it began to suspect something, and to feel the pressure. As he came down on me he looked like a mountain, his eyes were bright, he was blowing a bit, and looked particularly nasty. When in such a condition it does not do to overpress, as, if you do, the chances are the steer will wheel round, challenge you and get on the fight. Much circumspection is needed. He will certainly charge you if you get too near, and on a tired horse he would have the advantage. So you must e'en halt and wait—not get down, that would be fatal—wait five minutes it may be, ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, till the gentleman cools off a bit. Then you start him off again, not so much driving him now, he won't be driven, but guiding his course towards the herd. In this case we succeeded beautifully, though at the end he had to be raced once more. And so he was finally headed into the round-up; but dear me, he only entered it from curiosity. No round-up for him indeed! no corral and no going to market! He entered the herd, took a look round, a sniff and a smell, and was off again out at the other side as if the devil was after him, and indeed he wasn't far wrong. The chase was abandoned and his majesty doomed later on to a rifle bullet wherever found.
Our principal and indeed only corral at that time was of solid stone walls, a "blind" corral, and most difficult to get any kind of cattle into. While pushing them in, each man had his "rope" down ready to at once drop it over the horns of any animal attempting to break back. Thus half our force would sometimes be seen tying down these truants, which were left lying on the ground to cool their tempers till we had time to attend to them; and it is a fact that some of these individuals, especially females, died where they lay, apparently of broken hearts or shame at their subjection. They showed no sign of injury by rough usage, only their damnable tempers, rage and chagrin were responsible for their deaths.
Inside the corral everything, of course, had to be roped and thrown to be branded. It was rough and even dangerous work, and individual animals, again generally cows, would sometimes make desperate charges, and even assist an unfortunate "puncher" in scaling the walls. In after years we built proper corrals, and in the course of time, by frequent and regular handling, the cattle became more docile and better-mannered. For one thing, they were certainly easily gathered. When we wanted to round them up we had only to ride out ten or twenty miles, swing round and "holler," when all the cattle within sight or hearing would at once start on the run for the ranch. These were not yet domesticated cattle in that they always wanted to run and never to walk. Indeed, once started it was difficult to hold them back. This was not very conducive to the accumulation of tallow on their generally very bare bones.
I well remember the first bunch of steers sold off the ranch, which were driven to Fort Wingate, to make beef for the soldiers. About two hundred head of steers, from six to twelve years of age, all black, brown, brindle or yellow, ne'er a red one amongst them; magnificently horned, in fair flesh, perfect health and spirits; such steers you could not "give away" to-day; but we got sixty dollars apiece for them and were well rid of them; and how they walked! The ponies could hardly keep up with them; and what cowman does not know the pleasure of driving fast walking beef cattle? Ne'er a "drag" amongst them! You had only to "point" them and let them "hit the trail"; but a stampede at night was all the more a terrific affair, though even in such a case if they got away they would keep together, and when you found one you found them all. Such a bunch of magnificent, wild, proud-looking steer creatures will never be seen again, in America at least, because you cannot get them now of such an age, nor of such primitive colours; colours that, I believe, the best-bred cattle would in course of long years and many generations' neglect revert to.
The method adopted when an obstreperous steer made repeated attempts to leave the herd was to send a bullet through his horn, which gave him something to think about and shake his head over. No doubt it hurt him terribly, but it generally was an effective check to his waywardness. And when some old hoary-headed bull wanted to "gang his ain gait" a piece of cactus tossed on to his back, whence it was difficult to shake off, would give him also something to think about.
Another small herd we some time later disposed of were equally good travellers, and indeed were driven from the ranch in one day to Camp Apache, another military post, a distance of over 40 miles. In this case the trail was through forest country where there was no "holding" ground, so they had to be pushed through.
Our herd increased and throve fairly well for a number of years till other "outfits" began to throw cattle into the country, and sheepmen began to dispute our right to certain grazing lands. We did not quite realize it at the time, but it was the beginning of the end. We had gone into a practically virgin country, controlled an immense area, and the stock throve accordingly. But others were jealous of our success, threw in their cattle as already said, and their sheep, and ultimately we swamped one another. The grass was eaten down, over-grazed, droughts came, prices broke, and so the end. From 500 our annual calf brand mounted to 4000; halted there, and gradually dropped back to the original tally. Our cattle, from poverty, bogged in the river, or perished from hunger. This was all due to the barbarous grazing system under which we worked, the United States refusing to sell or lease land for grazing purposes; consequently, except at the end of a gun, one had no control over his range. Cattle versus sheep wars resulted, stealing became rampant and success impossible.
Among other sales made was that of some 1500 steers, of all ages, which we drove right up to the heart of Colorado and disposed of at good prices. This drive was marked by a serious stampede, on a dark night in rough country, by which two of the boys got injured, though happily not seriously. Then another time we made an experimental shipment of 500 old steers to California, to be grazed and fattened on alfalfa. They were got through all right and put in an alfalfa field, and I remained in charge of them. Our cattle were not accustomed to wire fences, or being penned up in a small enclosure, and of course had never seen alfalfa; so for a week or more they did nothing but walk round the fence, trampling the belly-high lucerne to the ground. Gradually, however, they got to eating it, and in six weeks began to pick up. Briefly stated, this adventure was a financial failure. Like the cattle I had been myself an entire stranger to the wonderful alfalfa plant, and I never tired marvelling at its exuberance of growth and its capacity for supporting animal life. The heat in San Joachin Valley in high summer is almost overpowering, and vegetable growth under irrigation quite phenomenal. Alfalfa was cut some six or seven times in the season; each time a heavy crop. After taking cattle out of one pasture, then grazed bare, it was only three weeks till the plant was in full growth again, in full flower, two feet high and ready for the reception of more live stock. The variety of animal life subsisting on alfalfa was extraordinary. All kinds of domestic stock throve on it and liked it. In our field, besides cattle, were geese, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and hares in thousands, doves and quails in flocks, and gophers innumerable; frogs, toads, rats and mice; while bees, wasps, butterflies and moths, and myriads of other insects were simply pushing one another out of the way. It was a wonderful study.
In Utah much difficulty was found in growing clover. This was accounted for by the fact that there were no old maids in that polygamous country. Old maids naturally were not allowed! And there being none, there were of course no cats to kill the mice that eat the bumble-bees' nests; thus, no bumble-bees to fertilize it, therefore no clover. Old maids have found their function.
Figs could not be grown successfully in California till the Smyrna wasp had been imported to fertilize the flower.
And while talking of bees: on the Mississippi River bee-keepers are in the habit of drifting their broods on rafts up the river, following the advance of spring and thus securing fresh fields and pastures new of the young spring blossoms; which is somewhat similar to the Chinaman's habit of carrying his ducks (he does love ducks), thousands of them, on rafts and boats up and down the broad Yangtse to wherever the richest grazing and grub-infested beds may be found.
I should not forget to say that care must be used in putting cattle on alfalfa. At some seasons it is more dangerous than at others. A number of these steers "bloated," and I had to stick them with a knife promptly to save their lives. A new experience to me, but I soon "caught on."
But something must be said about our little county town, San Juan, county seat of Apache County in which we were located. St Johns consisted of one general store, three or four saloons, a drug store, a newspaper office, court-house, jail, etc. A small settlement of Mormons, who confined themselves to farming on the narrow river bottom, and an equal number of Mexicans, an idle and mischievous riffraff, though one or two of them had considerable herds of sheep, and others were county officials. County affairs were dreadfully mismanaged and county funds misused. For our own protection we had to take part in politics, form an Opposition, and after a long struggle, in which my partners did noble service, we carried an election, put in our own officials, secured control of the county newspaper, and had things as we wanted them. But it was a bitter fight, and the old robber gang, who had run the county for years, were desperate in their resentment. Unfortunately, this resentment was basely and maliciously shown by an attempt, successful but happily not fatal, to poison one of my partners. He had a long and grim fight with death, but his indomitable will pulled him through. I myself, though I had little to do with politics, had a narrow escape from a somewhat similar fate. Living at that time, in winter, at what was called the Meadows Camp, I usually had a quarter of beef hung in the porch. Frost kept it sweet and sound for a long period, and every day it was my practice to cut off a steak for consumption. There were two cats, fortunately, and a slice was often thrown to them. One morning I first gave them their portion, then cut my own. In a few minutes the unfortunate animals were in the throes of strychnine poisoning and died in short order. It was a shock to me and a warning.
The Mexicans continued for some time to be mean and threatening. Bush-whacking at night was attempted, and they even threatened an attack on our headquarters ranch; but we were a pretty strong outfit, had our own sheriff, and by-and-by a number of good friends.
In our district rough country and timber prevented the cattle drifting very much. In winter they naturally sought the lower range; in summer they went to the mountains. Headquarters was about half-way between. It was finally arranged that I should take charge of the lower winter camp during winter and the mountain camp during summer. My partners mostly remained at headquarters. In summer time, from April to the end of October, this arrangement suited me very well indeed; in fact, it was made at my own suggestion; and the life, though a solitary one for long periods, suited me to the ground and I enjoyed it immensely. Practically I lived alone, which was also my own wish, as it was disagreeable to have anyone coming into my one-roomed cottage, turning things over and making a mess. I did my own cooking, becoming almost an expert, and have ever since continued to enjoy doing so. Of course I could have had one of the boys to live with me; but no matter what good fellows cowboys generally are, their being in very close companionship is not agreeable, some of their habits being beastly. Thus it came about that my life was a very solitary one, as it had been in India, and as it afterwards continued to be in New Mexico and Texas. Few visitors came to my camp in summer or winter. Now and then I was gladdened by a visit of one or other of my partners, one of whom, however, cared nothing for fishing or shooting, and the other was much of the time entirely absent from the country. During our short periodical round-ups of course I attended the "work" with the rest; but to spend one whole month, as I did once, without not only not conversing with, but absolutely not seeing a human being, is an experience that has probably come to very few men indeed. However, as said before, life in the White Mountains of Arizona was very enjoyable. Peaks ran up to 10,000 feet; and the elevation of my camp was about 8000 feet. Round about were extensive open parks and meadows, delightfully clear creeks and streams; grass a foot high, vast stretches of pine timber, deep and rocky canons, etc., etc.
When we first shoved our cattle up there the whole country was a virgin one, no settlements or houses, no roads of any kind, except one or two Indian hunting trails, no cattle, sheep or horses. There were, as already stated, elk, mountain sheep, antelope, deer, bears, panthers, porcupines, coons, any amount of wild turkey, spruce grouse, green pigeons, quail, etc., etc. There were virgin rivers of considerable size, swarming with trout, many of which it was my luck to first explore and cast a fly into. Most of this lovely country, as said before, was part of the Apache Indian Reservation, on which no one was allowed to trespass; but the boundary line was ill-defined and it was difficult to keep our cattle out of the forbidden territory. Indeed, we did not try to do so.
The Indian settlement was at Fort Apache, some thirty miles from my camp. These people, having such an evil reputation, are worthy of a few more notes. Such tales of cruelty and savagery were told of them as to be almost incredible. They were the terror of Arizona and New Mexico, yet they were not entirely to blame. Government ill-treatment of Cochise, the great chief of the Chiricaua Apaches, had set the whole tribe on the war-path for ten years. A military company, called the Tombstone Toughs, was organized in Southern Arizona to wipe them out, but accomplished nothing. Finally, America's greatest Indian fighter, General Crook, was sent to campaign in Arizona in 1885. The celebrated chiefs, Geronimo and Natchez, broke out again and killed some twenty-nine white people in New Mexico and thirty-six in Arizona before Crook pushed them into the Sierra Madre Mountains in Sonora, where at last Geronimo surrendered. Victorio was an equally celebrated Apache war-chief and was out about the same time. Fortunately these last raids were always made on the south side of the Reservation. We were happily on the north side, and though we had frequent scares they never gave us serious trouble. So here were my duties and my pleasures.
The saddle horses when not in use were in my care. The cattle also, of course, needed looking after. I was in the saddle all day. Frequently it would be my delight to take a pack-horse and go off for a week or two into the wildest parts of the Reservation, camp, and fish and shoot everything that came along, but the shooting was chiefly for the pot. Young wild turkeys are a delicacy unrivalled, and I became so expert in knowing their haunts that I could at any time go out and get a supply. One of my ponies was trained to turkey hunting. He seemed to take a delight in it. As soon as we sighted a flock, off he would go and take me up to shooting range, then stop and let me get two barrels in, and off again after them if more were needed. Turkeys run at a great rate and will not rise unless you press them.
Big game shooting never appealed to me much. My last bear, through lack of cartridges to finish him, went off with a broken back, dragging himself some miles to where I found him again next morning. It so disgusted me as to put me off wishing to kill for killing's sake ever afterwards. A wounded deer or antelope, or a young motherless fawn, is a most pitiable sight.
There was, and perhaps still is, no better bear country in America than the Blue River district on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. On these shooting and fishing trips I was nearly always alone, and many times experienced ridiculous scares. Camping perhaps in a deep canon, a rapid stream rushing by, the wind blowing through the tall pines, the horses tethered to tree stumps, a menagerie-like smell of bears frequently quite apparent, your bed on Mother Earth without tent or covering, if your sleep be not very sound you will conjure up all sorts of amazing things. Perhaps the horses take fright and run on their ropes.
You get up to soothe them and find them in a lather of sweat and scared to a tremble. What they saw, or, like men, imagined they saw or heard in the black darkness, you cannot tell. Still you are in an Indian country and perhaps thirty miles from anywhere. Many a night I swore I should pack up and go home at daylight, but when daylight came and all again seemed serene and beautiful—how beautiful!—all fear would be forgotten; I would cook my trout or fry the breast of a young turkey, and with hot fresh bread and bacon grease, and strong coffee.—Why, packing up was unthought of!
One of my nearest neighbours was an old frontiers-man and Government scout. He had married an Apache squaw, been adopted into the tribe (White Mountain Apaches) and possessed some influence. He liked trout-fishing, so once or twice I accompanied him with his party, said party consisting of his wife and all her relatives—indeed most of the tribe. The young bucks scouted and cut "sign" for us (another branch of the Apaches being then on the war-path), the women washed clothes, did the cooking, cleaned and smoked the fish, etc. These Indians were rationed with beef by the Government, while they killed no doubt quite a number of our cattle, and even devoured eagerly any decomposed carcass found on the range; but they preferred the flesh of horses, mules and donkeys, detesting pork and fish.
In these mountains in summer a serious pest was a green-headed fly, which worried the cattle so much that about noon hour they would all congregate in a very close herd out in the open places for self-protection. No difficulty then in rounding up; even antelope and deer would mix with them. When off on a fishing and hunting trip it was my custom to set fire to a dead tree trunk, in the smoke of which my horses would stand for hours at a time, even scorching their fetlocks.
In these mountains, too, was a place generally called the "Boneyard," its history being that some cattleman, stranger to the country, turned his herd loose there and tried to hold them during the winter. A heavy snowfall of several feet snowed the cattle in so that they could not be got out or anything be done with them. The whole herd was lost and next spring nothing but a field of bones was visible.
At another time and place a lot of antelope were caught in deep snow and frozen to death. A more remarkable case was that of a bunch of horses which became snowed in, the snow being so deep they could not break a way out. The owner with great difficulty managed to rescue them, when it was found they had actually chawed each other's tails and manes off.
Indian dogs have a great antipathy to white men, likewise our own dogs towards Indians, which our horses also share in. Horses also have a dread of bears. Once when riding a fine and high-strung horse a bear suddenly appeared in front. Knowing that my mount, as soon as he smelt the bear, would become uncontrollable, I quickly shot the bear from the saddle, and immediately the scared horse bolted.
To preserve trout I sometimes kippered them and hung them up to dry. Quickly the wasps would attack them, and, if not prevented, would in a short space of time leave absolutely nothing but a skeleton hanging to the string. It was later demonstrated that cattle, too, thought them a delicacy, no doubt for the salt or sugar ingredients. Snakes also have a weakness for fish, and I have seen them approach my trout when thrown on the river bank and drag them off for their own consumption.
While fishing or shooting one must always be on the careful lookout for rattlesnakes. In the rough canons and river banks the biggest rattlers are found, and you may jump, tumble or scramble on the back of one and run great chance of being bitten. On the open prairie, where smaller rattlers are very plentiful, they always give you warning with their unique, unmistakable rattle. Once, on stooping down to tear up by the roots a dangerous poison weed, in grasping the plant my hand also grasped a rattlesnake. I dropped it quick enough to escape injury, but the cold sweat fairly broke out all over me. The bite is always painful, but not always necessarily fatal.
"Rustlers" is the common name given to cattle or horse thieves. Arizona had her full share of them. That territory was the last resort of outlaws from other and more civilized states. Many of our own "hands" were such men. Few of them dare use their own proper names; having committed desperate crimes in other states, such as Texas, they could not return there. Strange to say, the worst of these "bad" men often made the best of ranch hands. Cowboys as a class, that is, the genuine cowboys of days gone by, were a splendid lot of fellows, smart, intelligent, self-reliant and resourceful, also hard and willing workers. If they liked you, they would stay with you in any kind of trouble and be thoroughly loyal. No such merry place on earth as the cow camp, where humour, wit and repartee abounded. The fact of every man being armed, and in these far-off days probably a deadly shot, tended to keep down rowdyism and quarrelling. If serious trouble did come up, it was settled then and there quickly and decisively, wrongly or rightly. Let me instance a case.
In round-up camp one day a few hot words were suddenly heard, guns began to play, result—one man killed outright and two wounded. The case of one of the wounded boys was rather peculiar. His wound was in the thigh and amputation was necessary. Being a general favourite, we, myself and partners, took turns nursing him, dressing his wounds and cheering him up as well as we could. He rapidly recovered, put on flesh and was in high spirits, and, as the doctor said, quite out of danger; but one day this big strong young fellow took it into his foolish head that he was going to die. Nothing would persuade him to the contrary, and so die he did, and that without any waste of time. In preparing a body for burial it is the custom, a burial rite indeed, not to wrap the corpse in a shroud, but to dress it in a complete ordinary costume, a brand-new suit of black clothes, white shirt, socks, etc., etc.—whether boots or not I forget, but rather think so—dress him probably better than the poor fellow was ever dressed before, and in this manner he was laid in the ground. The man who started the shooting was named "Windy M'Gee," already an outlaw, but then cook for our mess wagon. Shortly afterwards he killed a prominent lawyer in our little town, or at least we suspected him strongly, though another man suffered for the crime; but such incidents as these were too common to attract world-wide attention.
On another occasion one of our men got shot in the thigh, by whom or how I do not now remember, but he was a different sort of man from the boy just mentioned. We knew him to be quite a brave, nervy man in action, having been in one of our fighting scrapes with rustlers; but as a patient he showed a most cowardly disposition, developing a ferocious temper, rejecting medical advice, cursing everybody who came around, so that he lay for months at our charge, until we really got to wish that he would carry out his threat of self-destruction. He did not, but he was crippled for life and did not leave a friend behind.