A Chronicle of Sport and Adventure in Glacier Park and the Cascade Mountains by
MARY ROBERTS RINEHART
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge 1918
COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE COMPANY (COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE)
COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY MARY ROBERTS RINEHART
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published April 1918
I. THE TRAIL 1
II. THE BIG ADVENTURE 10
III. BRIDGE CREEK TO BOWMAN LAKE 24
IV. A FISHERMAN'S PARADISE 39
V. TO KINTLA LAKE 50
VI. RUNNING THE RAPIDS OF THE FLATHEAD 63
VII. THE SECOND DAY ON THE FLATHEAD 71
VIII. THROUGH THE FLATHEAD CANON 80
IX. THE ROUND-UP AT KALISPELL 90
X. OFF FOR CASCADE PASS 100
XI. LAKE CHELAN TO LYMAN LAKE 111
XII. CLOUDY PASS AND THE AGNES CREEK VALLEY 129
XIII. CANON FISHING AND A TELEGRAM 142
XIV. DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE 150
XV. DOUBTFUL LAKE 158
XVI. OVER CASCADE PASS 167
XVII. OUT TO CIVILIZATION 180
CHIWAWA MOUNTAIN AND LYMAN LAKE Frontispiece
TRAIL OVER GUNSIGHT PASS, GLACIER NATIONAL PARK 2 Photograph by Fred H. Kiser, Portland, Oregon
THE AUTHOR, THE MIDDLE BOY, AND THE LITTLE BOY 6
LOOKING SOUTH FROM POLLOCK PASS, GLACIER NATIONAL PARK 14 Photograph by Kiser Photo Co.
LAKE ELIZABETH FROM PTARMIGAN PASS, GLACIER NATIONAL PARK 22 Photograph by A. J. Baker, Kalispell, Mont.
A MOUNTAIN LAKE IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK 36 Photograph by Fred H. Kiser
GETTING READY FOR THE DAY'S FISHING AT CAMP ON BOWMAN LAKE 40 Photograph by R. E. Marble, Glacier Park
THE HORSES IN THE ROPE CORRAL 44 Photograph by A. J. Baker
BEAR-GRASS 56 Photograph by Fred H. Kiser
A GLACIER PARK LAKE 60 Photograph by A. J. Baker
STILL-WATER FISHING 68 Photograph by R. E. Marble
MOUNTAINS OF GLACIER NATIONAL PARK FROM THE NORTH FORK OF THE FLATHEAD RIVER 74 Photograph by R. E. Marble
THE BEGINNING OF THE CANON, MIDDLE FORK OF THE FLATHEAD RIVER 82 Photograph by R. E. Marble
PI-TA-MAK-AN, OR RUNNING EAGLE (MRS. RINEHART), WITH TWO OTHER MEMBERS OF THE BLACKFOOT TRIBE 96 Photograph by Haynes, St. Paul
A HIGH MOUNTAIN MEADOW 100 Photograph by L. D. Lindsley, Lake Chelan
SITTING BULL MOUNTAIN, LAKE CHELAN 112 Photograph by L. D. Lindsley
LOOKING OUT OF ICE-CAVE, LYMAN GLACIER 126 Photograph by L. D. Lindsley
LOOKING SOUTHEAST FROM CLOUDY PASS 132 Photograph by L. D. Lindsley
STREAM FISHING 144 Photograph by Haynes, St. Paul
MOUNTAIN MILES: THE TRAIL UP SWIFTCURRENT PASS, GLACIER NATIONAL PARK 152 Photograph by A. J. Baker
WHERE THE ROCK-SLIDES START (GLACIER NATIONAL PARK) 156 Photograph by A. J. Baker
SWITCHBACKS ON THE TRAIL (GLACIER NATIONAL PARK) 160 Photograph by Fred H. Kiser
WATCHING THE PACK-TRAIN COMING DOWN AT CASCADE PASS 174
A FIELD OF BEAR-GRASS 182 Photograph by Fred H. Kiser
The trail is narrow—often but the width of the pony's feet, a tiny path that leads on and on. It is always ahead, sometimes bold and wide, as when it leads the way through the forest; often narrow, as when it hugs the sides of the precipice; sometimes even hiding for a time in river bottom or swamp, or covered by the debris of last winter's avalanche. Sometimes it picks its precarious way over snow-fields which hang at dizzy heights, and again it flounders through mountain streams, where the tired horses must struggle for footing, and do not even dare to stoop and drink.
It is dusty; it is wet. It climbs; it falls; it is beautiful and terrible. But always it skirts the coast of adventure. Always it goes on, and always it calls to those that follow it. Tiny path that it is, worn by the feet of earth's wanderers, it is the thread which has knit together the solid places of the earth. The path of feet in the wilderness is the onward march of life itself.
City-dwellers know nothing of the trail. Poor followers of the pavements, what to them is this six-inch path of glory? Life for many of them is but a thing of avenues and streets, fixed and unmysterious, a matter of numbers and lights and post-boxes and people. They know whither their streets lead. There is no surprise about them, no sudden discovery of a river to be forded, no glimpse of deer in full flight or of an eagle poised over a stream. No heights, no depths. To know if it rains at night, they look down at shining pavements; they do not hold their faces to the sky.
Now, I am a near-city-dweller. For ten months in the year, I am particular about mail-delivery, and eat an evening dinner, and occasionally agitate the matter of having a telephone in every room in the house. I run the usual gamut of dinners, dances, and bridge, with the usual country-club setting as the spring goes on. And each May I order a number of flimsy frocks, in the conviction that I have done all the hard going I need to, and that this summer we shall go to the New England coast. And then—about the first of June there comes a day when I find myself going over the fishing-tackle unearthed by the spring house-cleaning and sorting out of inextricable confusion the family's supply of sweaters, old riding-breeches, puttees, rough shoes, trout-flies, quirts, ponchos, spurs, reels, and old felt hats. Some of the hats still have a few dejected flies fastened to the ribbon, melancholy hackles, sadly ruffled Royal Coachmen, and here and there the determined gayety of the Parmachene Belle.
I look at my worn and rubbed high-laced boots, at my riding-clothes, snagged with many briers and patched from many saddles, at my old brown velours hat, survival of many storms in many countries. It has been rained on in Flanders, slept on in France, and has carried many a refreshing draft to my lips in my "ain countree."
I put my fishing-rod together and give it a tentative flick across the bed, and—I am lost.
The family professes surprise, but it is acquiescent. And that night, or the next day, we wire that we will not take the house in Maine, and I discover that the family has never expected to go to Maine, but has been buying more trout-flies right along.
As a family, we are always buying trout-flies. We buy a great many. I do not know what becomes of them. To those whose lives are limited to the unexciting sport of buying golf-balls, which have endless names but no variety, I will explain that the trout do not eat the flies, but merely attempt to. So that one of the eternal mysteries is how our flies disappear. I have seen a junior Rinehart start out with a boat, a rod, six large cakes of chocolate, and four dollars' worth of flies, and return a few hours later with one fish, one Professor, one Doctor, and one Black Moth minus the hook. And the boat had not upset.
June, after the decision, becomes a time of subdued excitement. For fear we shall forget to pack them, things are set out early. Stringers hang from chandeliers, quirts from doorknobs. Shoe-polish and disgorgers and adhesive plaster litter the dressing-tables. Rows of boots line the walls. And, in the evenings, those of us who are at home pore over maps and lists.
This last year, our plans were ambitious. They took in two complete expeditions, each with our own pack-outfit. The first was to take ourselves, some eight packers, guides, and cooks, and enough horses to carry our outfit—thirty-one in all—through the western and practically unknown side of Glacier National Park, in northwestern Montana, to the Canadian border. If we survived that, we intended to go by rail to the Chelan country in northern Washington and there, again with a pack-train, cross the Cascades over totally unknown country to Puget Sound.
We did both, to the eternal credit of our guides and horses.
The family, luckily for those of us who have the Wanderlust, is four fifths masculine. I am the odd fifth—unlike the story of King George the Fifth and Queen Mary the other four fifths. It consists of the head of the family, to be known hereafter as the Head, the Big Boy, the Middle Boy, the Little Boy, and myself. As the Big Boy is very, very big, and the Little Boy is not really very little, being on the verge of long trousers, we make a comfortable traveling unit. And, because we were leaving the beaten path and going a-gypsying, with a new camp each night no one knew exactly where, the party gradually augmented.
First, we added an optimist named Bob. Then we added a "movie"-man, called Joe for short and because it was his name, and a "still" photographer, who was literally still most of the time. Some of these pictures are his. He did some beautiful work, but he really needed a mouth only to eat with.
(The "movie"-man is unpopular with the junior members of the family just now, because he hid his camera in the bushes and took the Little Boy in a state of goose flesh on the bank of Bowman Lake.)
But, of course, we have not got to Bowman Lake yet.
During the year before, I had ridden over the better-known trails of Glacier Park with Howard Eaton's riding party, and when I had crossed the Gunsight Pass, we had looked north and west to a great country of mountains capped with snow, with dense forests on the lower slopes and in the valleys.
"What is it?" I had asked the ranger who had accompanied us across the pass.
"It is the west side of Glacier Park," he explained. "It is not yet opened up for tourist travel. Once or twice in a year, a camping party goes up through this part of the park. That is all."
"What is it like?" I asked.
So, sitting there on my horse, I made up my mind that sometime I would go up the west side of Glacier Park to the Canadian border.
Roughly speaking, there are at least six hundred square miles of Glacier Park on the west side that are easily accessible, but that are practically unknown. Probably the area is more nearly a thousand square miles. And this does not include the fastnesses of the range itself. It comprehends only the slopes on the west side to the border-line of the Flathead River.
The reason for the isolation of the west side of Glacier Park is easily understood. The park is divided into two halves by the Rocky Mountain range, which traverses it from northwest to southeast. Over it there is no single wagon-road of any sort between the Canadian border and Helena, perhaps two hundred and fifty miles. A railroad crosses at the Marias Pass. But from that to the Canadian line, one hundred miles, travel from the east is cut off over the range, except by trail.
To reach the west side of Glacier Park at the present time, the tourist, having seen the wonders of the east side, must return to Glacier Park Station, take a train over the Marias Pass, and get out at Belton. Even then, he can only go by boat up to Lewis's Hotel on Lake McDonald, a trifling distance. There are no hotels beyond Lewis's, and no roads.
Naturally, this tremendous area is unknown and unvisited.
It is being planned, however, by the new Department of National Parks to build a road this coming year along Lake McDonald. Eventually, this much-needed highway will connect with the Canadian roads, and thus indirectly with Banff and Lake Louise. The opening-up of the west side of Glacier Park will make it perhaps the most unique of all our parks, as it is undoubtedly the most magnificent. The grandeur of the east side will be tempered by the more smiling and equally lovely western slopes. And when, between the east and the west sides, there is constructed the great motor-highway which will lead across the range, we shall have, perhaps, the most scenic motor-road in the United States—until, in the fullness of time, we build another road across Cascade Pass in Washington.
THE BIG ADVENTURE
Came at last the day to start west. In spite of warnings, we found that our irreducible minimum of luggage filled five wardrobe-trunks. In vain we went over our lists and cast out such bulky things as extra handkerchiefs and silk socks and fancy neckties and toilet-silver. We started with all five. It was boiling hot; the sun beat in at the windows of the transcontinental train and stifled us. Over the prairies, dust blew in great clouds, covering the window-sills with white. The Big Boy and the Middle Boy and the Little Boy referred scornfully to the flannels and sweaters on which I had been so insistent. The Head slept across the continent. The Little Boy counted prairie-dogs.
Then, almost suddenly, we were in the mountains—for the Rockies seem to rise out of a great plain. The air was stimulating. There had been a great deal of snow last winter, and the wind from the ice-capped peaks overhead blew down and chilled us. We threw back our heads and breathed.
Before going to Belton for our trip with the pack-outfit, we rode again for two weeks with the Howard Eaton party through the east side of the park, crossing again those great passes, for each one of which, like the Indians, the traveler counts a coup—Mount Morgan, a mile high and the width of an army-mule on top; old Piegan, under the shadow of the Garden Wall; Mount Henry, where the wind blows always a steady gale. We had scaled Dawson with the aid of ropes, since snowslides covered the trail, and crossed the Cut Bank in a hailstorm. Like the noble Duke of York, Howard Eaton had led us "up a hill one day and led us down again." Only, he did it every day.
Once, in my notebook, I wrote on top of a mountain my definition of a mountain pass. I have used it before, but because it was written with shaking fingers and was torn from my very soul, I cannot better it. This is what I wrote:—
A pass is a blood-curdling spot up which one's horse climbs like a goat and down the other side of which it slides as you lead it, trampling ever and anon on a tender part of your foot. A pass is the highest place between two peaks. A pass is not an opening, but a barrier which you climb with chills and descend with prayer. A pass is a thing which you try to forget at the time, and which you boast about when you get back home.
At last came the day when we crossed the Gunsight Pass and, under Sperry Glacier, looked down and across to the north and west. It was sunset and cold. The day had been a long and trying one. We had ridden across an ice-field which sloped gently off—into China, I dare say. I did not look over. Our horses were weary, and we were saddle-sore and hungry.
Pete, our big guide, whose name is really not Pete at all, waved an airy hand toward the massed peaks beyond—the land of our dreams.
"Well," he said, "there it is!"
And there it was.
* * * * *
Getting a pack-outfit ready for a long trip into the wilderness is a serious matter. We were taking thirty-one horses, guides, packers, and a cook. But we were doing more than that—we were taking two boats! This was Bob's idea. Any highly original idea, such as taking boats where not even tourists had gone before, or putting eggs on a bucking horse, or carrying grapefruit for breakfast into the wilderness, was Bob's idea.
"You see, I figure it out like this," he said, when, on our arrival at Belton, we found the boats among our equipment: "If we can get those boats up to the Canadian line and come down the Flathead rapids all the way, it will only take about four days on the river. It's a stunt that's never been pulled off."
"Do you mean," I said, "that we are going to run four days of rapids that have never been run?"
I looked around. There, in a group, were the Head and the Big Boy and the Middle Boy and the Little Boy. And a fortune-teller at Atlantic City had told me to beware of water!
"At the worst places," the Optimist continued, "we can send Joe ahead in one boat with the 'movie' outfit, and get you as you come along."
"I dare say," I observed, with some bitterness. "Of course we may upset. But if we do, I'll try to go down for the third time in front of the camera."
But even then the boats were being hoisted into a wagon-bed filled with hay. And I knew that I was going to run four days of rapids. It was written.
It was a bright morning. In a corral, the horses were waiting to be packed. Rolls of blankets, crates of food, and camping-utensils lay everywhere. The Big Boy marshaled the fishing-tackle. Bill, the cook, was searching the town for the top of an old stove to bake on. We had provided two reflector ovens, but he regarded them with suspicion. They would, he suspected, not do justice to his specialty, the corn-meal saddle-bag, a sort of sublimated hot cake.
I strolled to the corral and cast a horsewoman's eye on my mount.
"He looks like a very nice horse," I said. "He's quite handsome."
Pete tightened up the cinch.
"Yes," he observed; "he's all right. He's a pretty good mare."
The Head was wandering around with lists in his hand. His conversation ran something like this:—
"Pocket-flashes, chocolate, jam, medicine-case, reels, landing-nets, cigarettes, tooth-powder, slickers, matches."
He was always accumulating matches. One moment, a box of matches would be in plain sight and the next it had disappeared. He became a sort of match-magazine, so that if anybody had struck him violently, in almost any spot, he would have exploded.
Hours went by. The sun was getting high and hot. The crowd which had been watching gradually disappeared about its business. The two boats—big, sturdy river-boats they were—had rumbled along toward the wilderness, one on top of the other, with George Locke and Mike Shannon as pilots, watching for breakers ahead. In the corral, our supplies were being packed on the horses, Bill Shea and Pete, Tom Sullivan and Tom Farmer and their assistants working against time. In crates were our cooking-utensils, ham, bacon, canned salmon, jam, flour, corn-meal, eggs, baking-powder, flies, rods, and reels, reflector ovens, sunburn lotion, coffee, cocoa, and so on. Cocoa is the cowboy's friend. Innumerable blankets, "tarp" beds, and war-sacks lay rolled ready for the pack-saddles. The cook was declaiming loudly that some one had opened his pack and taken out his cleaver.
For a pack-outfit, the west side of Glacier Park is ideal. The east side is much the best so far for those who wish to make short trips along the trails into the mountains, although as yet only a small part, comparatively, of the eastern wonderland is open. There, one may spend a day, or several days, in the midst of the wildest possible country and yet return at night to excellent hotels.
On the west side, however, a pack-outfit is necessary. There is but one hotel, Lewis's, on Lake McDonald. To get to the Canadian line, there must be camping facilities for at least eight days if there are no stop-overs. And not to stop over is to lose the joy of the trip. It is an ideal two to three weeks' jaunt with a pack-train. A woman who can sit a horse—and every one can ride in a Western saddle—a woman can make the land trip not only with comfort but with joy. That is, a woman who likes the outdoors.
What did we wear, that bright morning when, all ready at last, the cook on the chuck-wagon, the boats ambling ahead, with Bill Hossick, the teamster, driving the long line of heavily packed horses and our own saddlers lined up for the adventure, we moved out on to the trail?
Well, the men wore khaki riding-trousers and flannel shirts, broad-brimmed felt hats, army socks drawn up over the cuff of the breeches, and pack-shoes. A pack-shoe is one in which the leather of the upper part makes the sole also, without a seam. On to this soft sole is sewed a heavy leather one. The pack-shoe has a fastened tongue and is waterproof.
And I? I had not counted on the "movie"-man, and I was dressed for comfort in the woods. I had buckskin riding-breeches and high boots, and over my thin riding-shirt I wore a cloth coat. I had packed in my warbag a divided skirt also, and a linen suit, for hot days, of breeches and coat. But of this latter the least said the better. It betrayed me and, in portions, deserted me.
All of us carried tin drinking-cups, which vied with the bells on the pack-animals for jingle. Most of us had sweaters or leather wind-jammers. The guides wore "chaps" of many colors, boots with high heels, which put our practical packs in the shade, and gay silk handkerchiefs.
Joe was to be a detachable unit. As a matter of fact, he became detached rather early in the game, having been accidentally given a bucker. It was on the second day, I think, that his horse buried his head between his fore legs, and dramatized one of the best bits of the trip when Joe was totally unable to photograph it.
He had his own guide and extra horse for the camera. It had been our expectation that, at the most hazardous parts of the journey, he would perch on some crag and show us courageously risking our necks to have a good time. But on the really bad places he had his own life to save, and he never fully trusted Maud, I think, after the first day. Maud was his horse.
Besides, when he did climb to some aerie, and photographed me, for instance, in a sort of Napoleon-crossing-the-Alps attitude, sitting my horse on the brink of eternity and being reassured from safety by the Optimist—outside the picture, of course—the developed film flattened out the landscape. So that, although I was on the edge of a canon a mile deep, I might as well have been posing on the bank of the Ohio River.
On the east side of the Park I had ridden Highball. It is not particularly significant that I started the summer on Highball and ended it on Budweiser. Now I had Angel, a huge white mare with a pink nose, a loving disposition, and a gait that kept me swallowing my tongue for fear I would bite the end off it. The Little Boy had Prince, a small pony which ran exactly like an Airedale dog, and in every canter beat out the entire string. The Head had H——, and considered him well indicated. One bronco was called "Bronchitis." The top horse of the string was Bill Shea's Dynamite, according to Bill Shea. There were Dusty, Shorty, Sally Goodwin, Buffalo Tom, Chalk-Eye, Comet, and Swapping Tater—Swapping Tater being a pacer who, when he hit the ground, swapped feet. Bob had Sister Sarah.
At last, everything was ready. The pack-train got slowly under way. We leaped into our saddles—"leaped" being a figurative term which grew more and more figurative as time went on and we grew saddle-weary and stiff—and, passing the pack-train on a canter, led off for the wilderness.
All that first day we rode, now in the sun, now in deep forest. Luncheon-time came, but the pack-train was far behind. We waited, but we could not hear so much as the tinkle of its bells. So we munched cakes of chocolate from the pockets of our riding-coats and went grimly on.
The wagon with the boats had made good time. It was several miles along the wagon-trail before we caught up with it. It had found a quiet harbor beside the road, and the boatmen were demanding food. We tossed them what was left of the chocolate and went on.
The presence of a wagon-trail in that empty land, unvisited and unknown, requires explanation. In the first place, it was not really a road. It was a trail, and in places barely that. But, sixteen years before, a road had been cleared through the forest by some people who believed there was oil near the Canadian line. They cut down trees and built corduroy bridges. But in sixteen years it has not been used. No wheels have worn it smooth. It takes its leisurely way, now through wilderness, now through burnt country where the trees stand stark and dead, now through prairie or creek-bottom, now up, now down, always with the range rising abruptly to the east, and with the Flathead River somewhere to the west.
It will not take much expenditure to make that old wagon-trail into a good road. It has its faults. It goes down steep slopes—on the second day out, the chuck-wagon got away, and, fetching up at the bottom, threw out Bill the cook and nearly broke his neck. It climbs like a cat after a young robin. It is rocky or muddy or both. But it is, potentially, a road.
The Rocky Mountains run northwest and southeast, and in numerous basins, fed by melting glaciers and snow-fields, are deep and quiet lakes. These lakes, on the west side, discharge their overflow through roaring and precipitous streams to the Flathead, which flows south and east. While our general direction was north, it was our intention to turn off east and camp at the different lakes, coming back again to the wagon-trail to resume our journey.
Therefore, it became necessary, day after day, to take our boats off the wagon-road and haul them along foot-trails none too good. The log of the two boats is in itself a thrilling story. There were days and days when the wagon was mired, when it stuck in the fords of streams or in soft places on the trail. It was a land flotilla by day, and, with its straw, a couch at night. And there came, toward the end of the journey, that one nerve-racking day when, over a sixty-foot cliff down a foot-trail, it was necessary to rope wagon, boats, and all, to get the boats into the Flathead River.
But all this was before us then. We only knew it was summer, that the days were warm and the nights cool, that the streams were full of trout, that such things as telegraphs and telephones were falling far in our rear, and that before us was the Big Adventure.
BRIDGE CREEK TO BOWMAN LAKE
The first night we camped at Bridge Creek on a river-flat. Beside us, the creek rolled and foamed. The horses, in their rope corral, lay down and rolled in sheer ecstasy when their heavy packs were removed. The cook set up his sheet-iron stove beside the creek, built a wood fire, lifted the stove over it, fried meat, boiled potatoes, heated beans, and made coffee while the tents were going up. From a thicket near by came the thud of an axe as branches were cut for bough beds.
I have slept on all kinds of bough beds. They may be divided into three classes. There is the one which is high in the middle and slopes down at the side—there is nothing so slippery as pine-needles—so that by morning you are quite likely to be not only off the bed but out of the tent. And there is the bough bed made by the guide when he is in a great hurry, which consists of large branches and not very many needles. So that in the morning, on rising, one is as furrowed as a waffle off the iron. And there is the third kind, which is the real bough bed, but which cannot be tossed off in a moment, like a poem, but must be the result of calculation, time, and much labor. It is to this bough bed that I shall some day indite an ode.
This is the way you go about it: First, you take a large and healthy woodsman with an axe, who cuts down a tree—a substantial tree. Because this is the frame of your bed. But on no account do this yourself. One of the joys of a bough bed is seeing somebody else build it.
The tree is an essential. It is cut into six-foot lengths—unless one is more than six feet long. If the bed is intended for one, two side pieces with one at the head and one at the foot are enough, laid flat on a level place, making a sort of boxed-in rectangle. If the bed is intended for two, another log down the center divides it into two bunks and prevents quarreling.
Now begins the real work of constructing the bough bed. If one is a good manager, while the frame is being made, the younger members of the family have been performing the loving task of getting the branches together. When a sufficient number of small branches has been accumulated, this number varying from one ton to three, judging by size and labor, the bough bed is built by the simple expedient of sticking the branches into the enclosed space like flowers into a vase. They must be packed very closely, stem down. This is a slow and not particularly agreeable task for one's loving family and friends, owing to the tendency of pine-and balsam-needles to jag. Indeed, I have known it to happen that, after a try or two, some one in the outfit is delegated to the task of official bed-maker, and a slight coldness is noticeable when one refers to dusk and bedtime.
Over these soft and feathery plumes of balsam—soft and feathery only through six blankets—is laid the bedding, and on this couch the wearied and saddle-sore tourist may sleep as comfortably as in his grandaunt's feather bed.
But, dear traveler, it is much simpler to take an air-mattress and a foot-pump. True, even this has its disadvantages. It is not safe to stick pins into it while disrobing at night. Occasionally, a faulty valve lets go, and the sleeper dreams he is falling from the Woolworth Tower. But lacking a sturdy woodsman and a loving family to collect branches, I advise the air-bed.
Fishing at Bridge Creek, that first evening, was poor. We caught dozens of small trout. But it would have taken hundreds to satisfy us after our lunchless day, and there were other reasons.
One casts for trout. There is no sitting on a mossy stone and watching a worm guilefully struggling to attract a fish to the hooks. No; one casts.
Now, I have learned to cast fairly well. On the lawn at home, or in the middle of a ten-acre lot, cleared, or the center of a lake, I can put out quite a lot of line. In one cast out of three, I can drop a fly so that it appears to be committing suicide—which is the correct way. But in a thicket I am lost. I hold the woman's record for getting the hook in my hair or the lobe of the Little Boy's ear. I have hung fish high in trees more times than phonographs have hanged Danny Deever. I can, under such circumstances (i.e., the thicket), leave camp with a rod, four six-foot leaders, an expensive English line, and a smile, and return an hour later with a six-inch trout, a bandaged hand, a hundred and eighty mosquito bites, no leaders, and no smile.
So we fished little that first evening, and, on the discovery that candles had been left out of the cook's outfit, we retired early to our bough beds, which were, as it happened that night, of class A.
There was a deer-lick on our camp-ground there at Bridge Creek, and during the night deer came down and strayed through the camp. One of the guides saw a black bear also. We saw nothing. Some day I shall write an article called: "Wild Animals I Have Missed."
We had made fourteen miles the first day, with a late start. It was not bad, but the next day we determined to do better. At five o'clock we were up, and at five-thirty tents were down and breakfast under way. We had had a visitor the night before—that curious anomaly, a young hermit. He had been a very well-known pugilist in the light-weight class and, his health failing, he had sought the wilderness. There he had lived for seven years alone.
We asked him if he never cared to see people. But he replied that trees were all the company he wanted. Deer came and browsed around his tiny shack there in the woods. All the trout he could use played in his front garden. He had a dog and a horse, and he wanted nothing else. He came to see us off the next morning, and I think we amused him. We seemed to need so much. He stared at our thirty-one horses, sixteen of them packed with things he had learned to live without. But I think he rather hated to see us go. We had brought a little excitement into his quiet life.
The first bough bed had been a failure. For—note you—I had not then learned of the bough bed de luxe. This information, which I have given you so freely, dear reader, what has it not cost me in sleepless nights and family coldness and aching muscles!
So I find this note in my daily journal, written that day on horseback, and therefore not very legible:—
Mem: After this, must lie over the camp-ground until I find a place that fits me to sleep on. Then have the tent erected over it.
There was a little dissension in the party that morning, Joe having wakened in the night while being violently shoved out under the edge of his tent by his companion, who was a restless sleeper. But ill-temper cannot live long in the open. We settled to the swinging walk of the trail. In the mountain meadows there were carpets of flowers. They furnished highly esthetic if not very substantial food for our horses during our brief rests. They were very brief, those rests. All too soon, Pete would bring Angel to me, and I would vault into the saddle—extremely figurative, this—and we would fall into line, Pete swaying with the cowboy's roll in the saddle, the Optimist bouncing freely, Joe with an eye on that pack-horse which carried the delicacies of the trip, the Big Boy with long legs that almost touched the ground, the Middle Boy with eyes roving for adventure, the Little Boy deadly serious and hoping for a bear. And somewhere in the rear, where he could watch all responsibilities and supply the smokers with matches, the Head.
That second day, we crossed Dutch Ridge and approached the Flathead. What I have called here the Flathead is known locally as the North Fork. The pack-outfit had started first. Long before we caught up with them, we heard the bells on the lead horses ringing faintly.
Passing a pack-outfit on the trail is a difficult matter. The wise little horses, traveling free and looked after only by a wrangler or two, do not like to be passed. One of two things happens when the saddle-outfit tries to pass the pack. Either the pack starts on a smart canter ahead, or it turns wildly off into the forest to the accompaniment of much complaint by the drivers. A pack-horse loose on a narrow trail is a dangerous matter. With its bulging pack, it worms its way past anything on the trail, and bad accidents have followed. Here, however, there was room for us to pass.
Tiny gophers sat up beside the trail and squeaked at us. A coyote yelped. Bumping over fallen trees, creaking and groaning and swaying, came the boat-wagon. Mike had found a fishing-line somewhere, and pretended to cast from the bow.
"Ship ahoy!" he cried, when he saw us, and his instructions to the driver were purely nautical. "Hard astern!" he yelled, going down a hill, and instead of "Gee" or "Haw" he shouted "Port" or "Starboard."
An acquaintance of George and Mike has built a boat which is intended to go up-stream by the force of the water rushing against it and turning a propeller. We had a spirited discussion about it.
"Because," as one of the men objected, "it's all right until you get to the head of the stream. Then what are you going to do?" he asked. "She'll only go up—she won't go down."
Pete, the chief guide, was a German. He was rather uneasy for fear we intended to cross the Canadian line. But we reassured him. A big blond in a wide-flapping Stetson, black Angora chaps, and flannel shirt with a bandana, he led our little procession into the wilderness and sang as he rode. The Head frequently sang with him. And because the only song the Head knew very well in German was the "Lorelei," we had it hour after hour. Being translated to one of the boatmen, he observed: "I have known girls like that. I guess I'd leave most any boat for them. But I'd leave this boat for most any girl."
We were approaching the mountains, climbing slowly but steadily. We passed through Lone Tree Prairie, where one great pine dominated the country for miles around, and stopped by a small river for luncheon.
Of all the meals that we took in the open, perhaps luncheon was the most delightful. Condensed milk makes marvelous cocoa. We opened tins of things, consulted maps, eased the horses' cinches, rested our own tired bodies for an hour or so. For the going, while much better than we had expected, was still slow. It was rare, indeed, to be able to get the horses out of a walk. And there is no more muscle-racking occupation than riding a walking horse hour after hour through a long day.
By the end of the second day we were well away from even that remote part of civilization from which we had started, and a terrible fact was dawning on us. The cook did not like us!
Now, we all have our small vanities, and mine has always been my success with cooks. I like cooks. As time goes on, I am increasingly dependent on cooks. I never fuss a cook, or ask how many eggs a cake requires, or remark that we must be using the lard on the hardwood floors. I never make any of the small jests on that order, with which most housewives try to reduce the cost of living.
No; I really go out of my way to ignore the left-overs, and not once on this trip had I so much as mentioned dish-towels or anything unpleasant. I had seen my digestion slowly going with a course of delicious but indigestible saddle-bags, which were all we had for bread.
But—I was failing. Bill unpacked and cooked and packed up again and rode on the chuck-wagon. But there was something wrong. Perhaps it was the fall out of the wagon. Perhaps we were too hungry. We were that, I know. Perhaps he looked ahead through the vista of days and saw that formidable equipment of fishing-tackle, and mentally he was counting the fish to clean and cook and clean and cook and clean and—
The center of a camping-trip is the cook. If, in the spring, men's hearts turn to love, in the woods they turn to food. And cooking is a temperamental art. No unhappy cook can make a souffle. Not, of course, that we had souffle.
A camp cook should be of a calm and placid disposition. He has the hardest job that I know of. He cooks with inadequate equipment on a tiny stove in the open, where the air blows smoke into his face and cinders into his food. He must cook either on his knees or bending over to within a foot or so of the ground. And he must cook moving, as it were. Worse than that, he must cook not only for the party but for a hungry crowd of guides and packers that sits around in a circle and watches him, and urges him, and gets under his feet, and, if he is unpleasant, takes his food fairly out of the frying-pan under his eyes if he is not on guard. He is the first up in the morning and the last in bed. He has to dry his dishes on anything that comes handy, and then pack all of his grub on an unreliable horse and start off for the next eating-ground.
So, knowing all this, and also that we were about a thousand miles from the nearest employment-office and several days' hard riding from a settlement, we went to Bill with tribute. We praised his specialties. We gave him a college lad, turned guide for the summer, to assist him. We gathered up our own dishes. We inquired for his bruise. But gloom hung over him like a cloud.
And he could cook. Well—
We had made a forced trip that day, and the last five miles were agonizing. In vain we sat sideways on our horses, threw a leg over the pommel, got off, and walked and led them. Bowman Lake, our objective point, seemed to recede.
Very few people have ever seen Bowman Lake. Yet I believe it is one of the most beautiful lakes in this country. It is not large, perhaps only twelve miles long and from a mile to two miles in width. Save for the lower end, it lies entirely surrounded by precipitous and inaccessible peaks—old Rainbow, on whose mist-cap the setting sun paints a true rainbow day after day, Square Peak, Reuter Peak, and Peabody, named with the usual poetic instinct of the Geological Survey. They form a natural wall, round the upper end of the lake, of solid-granite slopes which rise over a mile in height above it. Perpetual snow covers the tops of these mountains, and, melting in innumerable waterfalls, feeds the lake below.
So far as I can discover, we were taking the first boat, with the possible exception of an Indian canoe long ago, to Bowman Lake. Not the first boat, either, for the Geological Survey had nailed a few boards together, and the ruin of this venture was still decaying on the shore.
There was a report that Bowman Lake was full of trout. That was one of the things we had come to find out. It was for Bowman Lake primarily that all the reels and flies and other lure had been arranged. If it was true, then twenty-four square miles of virgin lake were ours to fish from.
A FISHERMAN'S PARADISE
After our first view of the lake, the instant decision was to make a permanent camp there for a few days. And this we did. Tents were put up for the luxurious-minded, three of them. Mine was erected over me, when, as I had pre-determined, I had found a place where I could lie comfortably. The men belonging to the outfit, of course, slept under the stars. A packer, a guide, or the cook with an outfit like ours has, outside of such clothing as he wears or carries rolled in his blankets, but one possession—and that is his tarp bed. With such a bed, a can of tomatoes, and a gun, it is said that a cow-puncher can go anywhere.
Once or twice I was awake in the morning before the cook's loud call of "Come and get it!" brought us from our tents. I never ceased to view with interest this line of tarp beds, each with its sleeping occupant, his hat on the ground beside him, ready, when the call came, to sit up blinking in the sunlight, put on his hat, crawl out, and be ready for the day.
The boats had traveled well. The next morning, after a breakfast of ham and eggs, fried potatoes, coffee, and saddle-bags, we were ready to try them out.
And here I shall be generous. For this means that next year we shall go there and find other outfits there before us, and people in the latest thing in riding-clothes, and fancy trout-creels and probably sixty-dollar reels.
Bowman Lake is a fisherman's paradise. The first day on the lake we caught sixty-nine cut-throat trout averaging a pound each, and this without knowing where to look.
In the morning, we could see them lying luxuriously on shelving banks in the sunlight, only three to six feet below the surface. They rose, like a shot, to the flies. For some reason, George Locke, our fisherman, resented their taking the Parmachene Belle. Perhaps because the trout of his acquaintance had not cared for this fly. Or maybe he considered the Belle not sportsmanly. The Brown Hackle and Royal Coachman did well, however, and, in later fishing on this lake, we found them more reliable than the gayer flies. In the afternoon, the shallows failed us. But in deep holes where the brilliant walls shelved down to incredible depths, they rose again in numbers.
It was perfectly silent. Doubtless, countless curious wild eyes watched us from the mountain-slopes and the lake-borders. But we heard not even the cracking of brushwood under cautious feet. The tracks of deer, where they had come down to drink, a dead mountain-lion floating in a pool, the slow flight of an eagle across the face of old Rainbow, and no sound but the soft hiss of a line as it left the reel—that was Bowman Lake, that day, as it lay among its mountains. So precipitous are the slopes, so rank the vegetation where the forest encroaches, that we were put to it to find a ridge large enough along the shore to serve as a foothold for luncheon. At last we found a tiny spot, perhaps ten feet long by three feet wide, and on that we landed. The sun went down; the rainbow clouds gathered about the peaks above, and still the trout were rising. When at last we turned for our ten-mile row back to camp, it was almost dusk.
Now and then, when I am tired and the things of this world press close and hard, I think of those long days on that lonely lake, and the home-coming at nightfall. Toward the pin-point of glow—the distant camp-fire which was our beacon light—the boat moved to the long, tired sweep of the oars; around us the black forest, the mountains overhead glowing and pink, as if lighted from within. And then, at last, the grating of our little boat on the sand—and night.
During the day, our horses were kept in a rope corral. Sometimes they were quiet; sometimes a spirit of mutiny seemed to possess the entire thirty-one. There is in such a string always one bad horse that, with ears back and teeth showing, keeps the entire bunch milling. When such a horse begins to stir up trouble, the wrangler tries to rope him and get him out. Mad excitement follows as the noose whips through the air. But they stay in the corral. So curious is the equine mind that it seldom realizes that it could duck and go under the rope, or chew it through, or, for that matter, strain against it and break it.
At night, we turned the horses loose. Almost always in the morning, some were missing, and had to be rounded up. The greater part, however, stayed close to the bell-mare. It was our first night at Bowman Lake, I think, that we heard a mountain-lion screaming. The herd immediately stampeded. It was far away, so that we could not hear the horses running. But we could hear the agitated and rapid ringing of the bell, and, not long after, the great cat went whining by the camp. In the morning, the horses were far up the mountain-side.
Sometime I shall write that article on "Wild Animals I Have Missed." We were in a great game-country. But we had little chance to creep up on anything but deer. The bells of the pack-outfit, our own jingling spurs, the accouterments, the very tinkle of the tin cups on our saddles must have made our presence known to all the wilderness-dwellers long before we appeared.
After we had been at Bowman Lake a day or two, while at breakfast one morning, we saw two of the guides racing their horses in a mad rush toward the camp. Just outside, one of the ponies struck a log, turned a somersault, and threw his rider, who, nothing daunted, came hurrying up on foot. They had seen a bull moose not far away. Instantly all was confusion. The horses were not saddled. One of the guides gave me his and flung me on it. The Little Boy made his first essay at bareback riding. In a wild scamper we were off, leaping logs and dodging trees. The Little Boy fell off with a terrific thud, and sat up, looking extremely surprised. And when we had got there, as clandestinely as a steam calliope in a circus procession, the moose was gone. I sometimes wonder, looking back, whether there really was a moose there or not. Did I or did I not see a twinkle in Bill Shea's eye as he described the sweep of the moose's horns? I wonder.
Birds there were in plenty; wild ducks that swam across the lake at terrific speed as we approached; plover-snipe, tiny gray birds with long bills and white breasts, feeding along the edge of the lake peacefully at our very feet; an eagle carrying a trout to her nest. Brown squirrels came into the tents and ate our chocolate and wandered over us fearlessly at night. Bears left tracks around the camp. But we saw none after we left the Lake McDonald country.
Yet this is a great game-country. The warden reports a herd of thirty-six moose in the neighborhood of Bowman Lake; mountain-lion, lynx, marten, bear, and deer abound. A trapper built long ago a substantial log shack on the north shore of the lake, and although it is many years since it was abandoned, it is still almost weather-proof. All of us have our dreams. Some day I should like to go back and live for a little time in that forest cabin. In the long snow-bound days after he set his traps, the trapper had busied himself fitting it up. A tin can made his candle-bracket on the wall, axe-hewn planks formed a table and a bench, and diagonally across a corner he had built his fireplace of stones from the lakeside.
He had a simple method of constructing a chimney; he merely left without a roof that corner of the cabin and placed slanting boards in it. He had made a crane, too, which swung out over the fireplace. All of the Rocky Mountains were in his back garden, and his front yard was Bowman Lake.
We had had fair weather so far. But now rain set in. Hail came first; then a steady rain. The tents were cold. We got out our slickers and stood out around the beach fire in the driving storm, and ate our breakfast of hot cakes, fried ham, potatoes and onions cooked together, and hot coffee. The cook rigged up a tarpaulin over his little stove and stood there muttering and frying. He had refused to don a slicker, and his red sweater, soaking up the rain, grew heavy with moisture and began to stretch. Down it crept, down and down.
The cook straightened up from his frying-pan and looked at it. Then he said:—
"There, little sweater, don't you cry; You'll be a blanket by and by."
This little touch of humor on his part cheered us. Perhaps, seeing how sporting we were about the weather, he was going to like us after all. Well—
Our new tents leaked—disheartening little drips that came in and wandered idly over our blankets, to lodge in little pools here and there. A cold wind blew. I resorted to that camper's delight—a stone heated in the camp-fire—to warm my chilled body. We found one or two magazines, torn and dejected, and read them, advertisements and all. And still, when it seemed the end of the day, it was not high noon.
By afternoon, we were saturated; the camp steamed. We ate supper after dark, standing around the camp-fire, holding our tin plates of food in our hands. The firelight shone on our white faces and dripping slickers. The horses stood with their heads low against the storm. The men of the outfit went to bed on the sodden ground with the rain beating in their faces.
The next morning was gray, yet with a hint of something better. At eight o'clock, the clouds began to lift. Their solidity broke. The lower edge of the cloud-bank that had hung in a heavy gray line, straight and ominous, grew ragged. Shreds of vapor detached themselves and moved off, grew smaller, disappeared. Overhead, the pall was thinner. Finally it broke, and a watery ray of sunlight came through. And, at last, old Rainbow, at the upper end of the lake, poked her granite head through its vapory sheathings. Angel, my white horse, also eyed the sky, and then, putting her pink nose under the corral-rope, she gently worked her way out. The rain was over.
The horses provided endless excitement. Whether at night being driven off by madly circling riders to the grazing-ground or rounded up into the corral in the morning, they gave the men all they could do. Getting them into the corral was like playing pigs-in-clover. As soon as a few were in, and the wrangler started for others, the captives escaped and shot through the camp. There were times when the air seemed full of flying hoofs and twitching ears, of swinging ropes and language.
On the last day at Bowman Lake, we realized that although the weather had lifted, the cook's spirits had not. He was polite enough—he had always been polite to the party. But he packed in a dejected manner. There was something ominous in the very way he rolled up the strawberry jam in sacking.
The breaking-up of a few days' camp is a busy time. The tents are taken down at dawn almost over one's head. Blankets are rolled and strapped; the pack-ponies groan and try to roll their packs off.
Bill Shea quotes a friend of his as contending that the way to keep a pack-pony cinched is to put his pack on him, throw the diamond hitch, cinch him as tight as possible, and then take him to a drinking-place and fill him up with water. However, we did not resort to this.
TO KINTLA LAKE
We had washed at dawn in the cold lake. The rain had turned to snow in the night, and the mountains were covered with a fresh white coating. And then, at last, we were off, the wagons first, although we were soon to pass them. We had lifted the boats out of the water and put them lovingly in their straw again. And Mike and George formed the crew. The guides were ready with facetious comments.
"Put up a sail!" they called. "Never give up the ship!" was another favorite. The Head, who has a secret conviction that he should have had his voice trained, warbled joyously:—
"I'll stick to the ship, lads; You save your lives. I've no one to love me; You've children and wives."
And so, still in the cool of the morning, our long procession mounted the rise which some great glacier deposited ages ago at the foot of what is now Bowman Lake. We turned longing eyes back as we left the lake to its winter ice and quiet. For never again, probably, will it be ours. We have given its secret to the world.
At two o'clock we found a ranger's cabin and rode into its enclosure for luncheon. Breakfast had been early, and we were very hungry. We had gone long miles through the thick and silent forest, and now we wanted food. We wanted food more than we wanted anything else in the world. We sat in a circle on the ground and talked about food.
And, at last, the chuck-wagon drove in. It had had a long, slow trip. We stood up and gave a hungry cheer, and then—Bill was gone! Some miles back he had halted the wagon, got out, taken his bed on his back, and started toward civilization afoot. We stared blankly at the teamster.
"Well," we said; "what did he say?"
"All he said to me was, 'So long,'" said the teamster.
And that was all there was to it. So there we were in the wilderness, far, far from a cook. The hub of our universe had departed. Or, to make the figure modern, we had blown out a tire. And we had no spare one.
I made my declaration of independence at once. I could cook; but I would not cook for that outfit. There were too many; they were too hungry. Besides, I had come on a pleasure-trip, and the idea of cooking for fifteen men and thirty-one horses was too much for me. I made some cocoa and grumbled while I made it. We lunched out of tins and in savage silence. When we spoke, it was to impose horrible punishments on the defaulting cook. We hoped he would enjoy his long walk back to civilization without food.
"Food!" answered one of the boys. "He's got plenty cached in that bed of his, all right. What you should have done," he said to the teamster, "was to take his bed from him and let him starve."
In silence we finished our luncheon; in silence, mounted our horses. In black and hopeless silence we rode on north, farther and farther from cooks and hotels and tables-d'hote.
We rode for an hour—two hours. And, at last, sitting in a cleared spot, we saw a man beside the trail. He was the first man we had seen in days. He was sitting there quite idly. Probably that man to-day thinks that he took himself there on his own feet, of his own volition. We know better. He was directed there for our happiness. It was a direct act of Providence. For we rode up to him and said:—
"Do you know of any place where we can find a cook?"
And this man, who had dropped from heaven, replied:
"I am a cook."
So we put him on our extra saddle-horse and took him with us. He cooked for us with might and main, day and night, until the trip was over. And if you don't believe this story, write to Norman Lee, Kintla, Montana, and ask him if it is true. What is more, Norman Lee could cook. He could cook on his knees, bending over, and backward. He had been in Cuba, in the Philippines, in the Boxer Rebellion in China, and was now a trapper; is now a trapper, for, as I write this, Norman Lee is trapping marten and lynx on the upper left-hand corner of Montana, in one of the empty spaces of the world.
We were very happy. We caracoled—whatever that may be. We sang and whistled, and we rode. How we rode! We rode, and rode, and rode, and rode, and rode, and rode, and rode. And, at last, just when the end of endurance had come, we reached our night camp.
Here and there upon the west side of Glacier Park are curious, sharply defined treeless places, surrounded by a border of forest. On Round Prairie, that night, we pitched our tents and slept the sleep of the weary, our heads pillowed on war-bags in which the heel of a slipper, the edge of a razor-case, a bottle of sunburn lotion, and the tooth-end of a comb made sleeping an adventure.
It was cold. It was always cold at night. But, in the morning, we wakened to brilliant sunlight, to the new cook's breakfast, and to another day in the saddle. We were roused at dawn by a shrill yell.
Startled, every one leaped to the opening of his tent and stared out. It proved, however, not to be a mountain-lion, and was, indeed, nothing more than one of the packers struggling to get into a wet pair of socks, and giving vent to his irritation in a wild fury of wrath.
As Pete and Bill Shea and Tom Farmer threw the diamond hitch over the packs that morning, they explained to me that all camp cooks are of two kinds—the good cooks, who are evil of disposition, and the tin-can cooks, who only need a can-opener to be happy. But I lived to be able to refute that. Norman Lee was a cook, and he was also amiable.
But that morning, in spite of the bright sunlight, started ill. For seven horses were missing, and before they were rounded up, the guides had ridden a good forty miles of forest and trail. But, at last, the wanderers were brought in and we were ready to pack.
On a pack-horse there are two sets of rope. There is a sling-rope, twenty or twenty-five feet long, and a lash-rope, which should be thirty-five feet long. The sling-rope holds the side pack; the top pack is held by the lash-rope and the diamond hitch. When a cow-puncher on a bronco yells for a diamond, he does not refer to a jewel. He means a lash-rope. When the diamond is finally thrown, the packer puts his foot against the horse's face and pulls. The packer pulls, and the horse grunts. If the packer pulls a shade too much, the horse bucks, and there is an exciting time in which everybody clears and the horse has the field—every one, that is, but Joe, whose duty it was to be on the spot in dangerous moments. Generally, however, by the time he got his camera set up and everything ready, the bucker was feeding placidly and the excitement was over.
We rather stole away from Round Prairie that morning. A settler had taken advantage of a clearing some miles away to sow a little grain. When our seven truants were found that brilliant morning, they had eaten up practically the grain-field and were lying gorged in the center of it.
So "we folded our tents like the Arabs, and as silently stole away." (This has to be used in every camping-story, and this seems to be a good place for it.)
We had come out on to the foothills again on our way to Kintla Lake. Again we were near the Flathead, and beyond it lay the blue and purple of the Kootenai Hills. The Kootenais on the left, the Rockies on the right, we were traveling north in a great flat basin.
The meadow-lands were full of flowers. There was rather less Indian paint-brush than on the east side of the park. We were too low for much bear-grass. But there were masses everywhere of June roses, true forget-me-nots, and larkspur. And everywhere in the burnt areas was the fireweed, that phoenix plant that springs up from the ashes of dead trees.
There were, indeed, trees, flowers, birds, fish—everything but fresh meat. We had had no fresh meat since the first day out. And now my soul revolted at the sight of bacon. I loathed all ham with a deadly loathing. I had eaten canned salmon until I never wanted to see it again. And our provisions were getting low.
Just to the north, where we intended to camp, was Starvation Ridge. It seemed to be an ominous name.
Norman Lee knew a man somewhere within a radius of one hundred miles—they have no idea of distance there—who would kill a forty-pound calf if we would send him word. But it seemed rather too much veal. We passed it up.
On and on, a hot day, a beautiful trail, but no water. No little rivulets crossing the path, no icy lakes, no rolling cataracts from the mountains. We were tanned a blackish purple. We were saddle-sore. One of the guides had a bottle of liniment for saddle-gall and suggested rubbing it on the saddle. Packs slipped and were tightened. The mountain panorama unrolled slowly to our right. And all day long the boatmen struggled with the most serious problem yet, for the wagon-trail was now hardly good enough for horses.
Where the trail turned off toward the mountains and Kintla Lake, we met a solitary horseman. He had ridden sixty miles down and sixty miles back to get his mail. There is a sort of R.F.D. in this corner of the world, but it is not what I should call in active operation. It was then August, and there had been just two mails since the previous Christmas!
Aside from the Geological Survey, very few people, except an occasional trapper, have ever seen Kintla Lake. It lies, like Bowman Lake, in a recess in the mountains. We took some photographs of Kintla Peak, taking our boats to the upper end of the lake for the work. They are, so far as I can discover, the only photographs ever taken of this great mountain which towers, like Rainbow, a mile or so above the lake.
Across from Kintla, there is a magnificent range of peaks without any name whatever. The imagination of the Geological Survey seemed to die after Starvation Ridge; at least, they stopped there. Kintla is a curious lemon-yellow color, a great, flat wall tapering to a point and frequently hidden under a cap of clouds.
But Kintla Lake is a disappointment to the fisherman. With the exception of one of the guides, who caught a four-pound bull-trout there, repeated whippings of the lake with the united rods and energies of the entire party failed to bring a single rise. No fish leaped of an evening; none lay in the shallows along the bank. It appeared to be a dead lake. I have a strong suspicion that that guide took away Kintla's only fish, and left it without hope of posterity.
We rested at Kintla,—for a strenuous time was before us,—rested and fasted. For supplies were now very low. Starvation Ridge loomed over us, and starvation stared us in the face. We had counted on trout, and there were no trout. That night, we supped off our last potatoes and off cakes made of canned salmon browned in butter. Breakfast would have to be a repetition minus the potatoes. We were just a little low in our minds.
The last thing I saw that night was the cook's shadowy figure as he crouched working over his camp-fire.
And we wakened in the morning to catastrophe. In spite of the fact that we had starved our horses the day before, in order to keep them grazing near camp that night, they had wandered. Eleven were missing, and eleven remained missing. Up the mountain-slopes and through the woods the wranglers rode like madmen, only to come in on dejected horses with failure written large all over them. One half of the saddlers were gone; my Angel had taken wings and flown away.
We sat dejectedly on the bank and fished those dead waters. We wrangled among ourselves. Around us was the forest, thick and close save for the tiny clearing, perhaps forty feet by forty feet. There was no open space, no place to walk, nothing to do but sit and wait.
At last, some of us in the saddle and some afoot, we started. It looked as though the walkers might have a long hike. But sometime about midday there was a sound of wild cheering behind us, and the wranglers rode up with the truants. They had been far up on the mountain-side.
It is curious how certain comparatively unimportant things stand out about such a trip as this. Of Kintla itself, I have no very vivid memories. But standing out very sharply is that figure of the cook crouched over his dying fire, with the black forest all about him. There is a picture, too, of a wild deer that came down to the edge of the lake to drink as we sat in the first boat that had ever been on Kintla Lake, whipping a quiet pool. And there is a clear memory of the assistant cook, the college boy who was taking his vacation in the wilds, whistling the Dvořak "Humoresque" as he dried the dishes on a piece of clean sacking.
RUNNING THE RAPIDS OF THE FLATHEAD
It was now approaching time for Bob's great idea to materialize. For this, and to this end, had he brought the boats on their strange land-journey—such a journey as, I fancy, very few boats have ever had before.
The project was, as I have said, to run the unknown reaches of the North Fork of the Flathead from the Canadian border to the town of Columbia Falls.
"The idea is this," Bob had said: "It's never been done before, do you see? It makes the trip unusual and all that."
"Makes it unusually risky," I had observed.
"Well, there's a risk in pretty nearly everything," he had replied blithely. "There's a risk in crossing a city street, for that matter. Riding these horses is a risk, if you come to that. Anyhow, it would make a good story."
So that is why I did it. And this is the story:
We were headed now for the Flathead just south of the Canadian line. To reach the river, it was necessary to take the boats through a burnt forest, without a trail of any sort. They leaped and plunged as the wagon scrambled, jerked, careened, stuck, detoured, and finally got through. There were miles of such going—heart-breaking miles—and at the end we paused at the top of a sixty-foot bluff and looked down at the river.
Now, I like water in a tub or drinking-glass or under a bridge. I am very keen about it. But I like still water—quiet, well-behaved, stay-at-home water. The North Fork of the Flathead River is a riotous, debauched, and highly erratic stream. It staggers in a series of wild zigzags for a hundred miles of waterway from the Canadian border to Columbia Falls, our destination. And that hundred miles of whirlpools, jagged rocks, and swift and deadly canons we were to travel. I turned around and looked at the Family. It was my ambition that had brought them to this. We might never again meet, as a whole. We were sure to get to Columbia Falls, but not at all sure to get there in the boats. I looked at the boats; they were, I believe, stout river-boats. But they were small. Undeniably, they were very small.
The river appeared to be going about ninety miles an hour. There was one hope, however. Perhaps they could not get the boats down over the bluff. It seemed a foolhardy thing even to try. I suggested this to Bob. But he replied, rather tartly, that he had not brought those boats at the risk of his life through all those miles of wilderness to have me fail him now.
He painted the joys of the trip. He expressed so strong a belief in them that he said that he himself would ride with the outfit, thus permitting most of the Family in the boats that first day. He said the river was full of trout. I expressed a strong doubt that any trout could live in that stream and hold their own. I felt that they had all been washed down years ago. And again I looked at the Family.
Because I knew what would happen. The Family would insist on going along. It was not going to let mother take this risk alone; it was going to drown with her if necessary.
The Family jaws were set. They were going.
The entire outfit lowered the wagon by roping it down. There was one delicious moment when I thought boats and all were going over the edge. But the ropes held. Nothing happened.
They put the boats in the water.
I had one last rather pitiful thought as I took my seat in the stern of one of them.
"This is my birthday," I said wistfully. "It's rather a queer way to spend a birthday, I think."
But this was met with stern silence. I was to have my story whether I wanted it or not.
Yet once in the river, the excitement got me. I had run brief spells of rapids before. There had been a gasp or two and it was over. But this was to be a prolonged four days' gasp, with intervals only to sleep at night.
Fortunately for all of us, it began rather quietly. The current was swift, so that, once out into the stream, we shot ahead as if we had been fired out of a gun. But, for all that, the upper reaches were comparatively free of great rocks. Friendly little sandy shoals beckoned to us. The water was shallow. But, even then, I noticed what afterward I found was to be a delusion of the entire trip.
This was the impression of riding downhill. I do not remember now how much the Flathead falls per mile. I have an impression that it is ninety feet, but as that would mean a drop of nine thousand feet, or almost two miles, during the trip, I must be wrong somewhere. It was sixteen feet, perhaps.
But hour after hour, on the straight stretches, there was that sensation, on looking ahead, of staring down a toboggan-slide. It never grew less. And always I had the impression that just beyond that glassy slope the roaring meant uncharted falls—and destruction. It never did.
The outfit, following along the trail, was to meet us at night and have camp ready when we appeared—if we appeared. Only a few of us could use the boats. George Locke in one, Mike Shannon in the other, could carry two passengers each. For the sake of my story, I was to take the entire trip; the others were to alternate.
I do not know, but I am very confident that no other woman has ever taken this trip. I am fairly confident that no other men have ever taken it. We could find no one who had heard of it being taken. All that we knew was that it was the North Fork of the Flathead River, and that if we stayed afloat long enough, we would come out at Columbia Falls. The boatmen knew the lower part of the river, but not the upper two thirds of it.
Now that it is over, I would not give up my memory of that long run for anything. It was one of the most unique experiences in a not uneventful career. It was beautiful always, terrible occasionally. There were dozens of places each day where the boatmen stood up, staring ahead for the channel, while the boats dodged wildly ahead. But always these skillful pilots of ours found a way through. And so fast did we go that the worst places were always behind us before we had time to be really terrified.
The Flathead River in these upper reaches is fairly alive with trout. On the second day, I think it was, I landed a bull-trout that weighed nine pounds, and got it with a six-ounce rod. I am very proud of that. I have eleven different pictures of myself holding the fish up. There were trout everywhere. The difficulty was to stop the boat long enough to get them. In fact, we did not stop, save in an occasional eddy in the midst of the torrent. We whipped the stream as we flew along. Under great boulders, where the water seethed and roared, under deep cliffs where it flew like a mill-race, there were always fish.
It was frightful work for the boatmen. It required skill every moment. There was not a second in the day when they could relax. Only men trained to river rapids could have done it, and few, even, of these. To the eternal credit of George and Mike, we got through. It was nothing else.
On the evening of the first day, in the dusk which made the river doubly treacherous, we saw our camp-fire far ahead.
With the going-down of the sun, the river had grown cold. We were wet with spray, cramped from sitting still and holding on. But friendly hands drew our boats to shore and helped us out.
THE SECOND DAY ON THE FLATHEAD
In a way, this is a fairy-story. Because a good fairy had been busy during our absence. Days before, at the ranger's cabin, unknown to most of us, an order had gone down to civilization for food. During all those days under Starvation Ridge, food had been on the way by pack-horse—food and an extra cook.
So we went up to camp, expecting more canned salmon and fried trout and little else, and beheld—
A festive board set with candles—the board, however, in this case is figurative; it was the ground covered with a tarpaulin—fried chicken, fresh green beans, real bread, jam, potatoes, cheese, cake, candy, cigars, and cigarettes. And—champagne!
That champagne had traveled a hundred miles on horseback. It had been cooled in the icy water of the river. We drank it out of tin cups. We toasted each other. We toasted the Flathead flowing just beside us. We toasted the full moon rising over the Kootenais. We toasted the good fairy. The candles burned low in their sockets—this, also, is figurative; they were stuck on pieces of wood. With due formality I was presented with a birthday gift, a fishing-reel purchased by the Big and the Middle and the Little Boy.
Of all the birthdays that I can remember—and I remember quite a few—this one was the most wonderful. Over mountain-tops, glowing deep pink as they rose above masses of white clouds, came slowly a great yellow moon. It turned the Flathead beside us to golden glory, and transformed the evergreen thickets into fairy glades of light and shadow. Flickering candles inside the tents made them glow in luminous triangles against their background of forest.
Behind us, in the valley lands at the foot of the Rockies, the horses rested and grazed, and eased their tired backs. The men lay out in the open and looked at the stars. The air was fragrant with pine and balsam. Night creatures called and answered.
And, at last, we went to our tents and slept. For the morning was a new day, and I had not got all my story.
That first day's run of the river we got fifty trout, ranging from one half-pound to four pounds. We should have caught more, but they could not keep up with the boat. We caught, also, the most terrific sunburn that I have ever known anything about. We had thought that we were thoroughly leathered, but we had not passed the primary stage, apparently. In vain I dosed my face with cold-cream and talcum powder, and with a liquid warranted to restore the bloom of youth to an aged skin (mine, however, is not aged).
My journal for the second day starts something like this:—
Cold and gray. Stood in the water fifteen minutes in hip-boots for a moving picture. River looks savage.
Of that second day, one beautiful picture stands out with distinctness.
The river is lovely; it winds and twists through deep forests with always that marvelous background of purple mountains capped with snow. Here and there, at long intervals, would come a quiet half-mile where, although the current was incredibly swift, there were, at least, no rocks. It was on coming round one of these bends that we saw, out from shore and drinking quietly, a deer. He was incredulous at first, and then uncertain whether to be frightened or not. He threw his head up and watched us, and then, turning, leaped up the bank and into the forest.
Except for fish, there was surprisingly little life to be seen. Bald eagles sat by the river, as intent on their fishing as we were on ours. Wild ducks paddled painfully up against the current. Kingfishers fished in quiet pools. But the real interest of the river, its real life, lay in its fish. What piscine tragedies it conceals, with those murderous, greedy, and powerful assassins, the bull-trout, pursuing fish, as I have seen them, almost into the landing-net! What joyous interludes where, in a sunny shallow, tiny baby trout played tag while we sat and watched them!
The danger of the river is not all in the current. There are quicksands along the Flathead, sands underlain with water, apparently secure but reaching up clutching hands to the unwary. Our noonday luncheon, taken along the shore, was always on some safe and gravelly bank or tiny island.
Our second camp on the Flathead was less fortunate than the first. Always, in such an outfit as ours, the first responsibility is the horses. Camp must be made within reach of grazing-grounds for them, and in these mountain and forest regions this is almost always a difficult matter. Here and there are meadows where horses may eat their fill; but, generally, pasture must be hunted. Often, long after we were settled for the night, our horses were still ranging far, hunting for grass.
So, on this second night, we made an uncomfortable camp for the sake of the horses, a camp on a steep bluff sloping into the water in a dead forest. It had been the intention, as the river was comparatively quiet here, to swim the animals across and graze them on the other side. But, although generally a horse can swim when put to it, we discovered too late that several horses in our string could not swim at all. In the attempt to get them across, one horse with a rider was almost drowned. So we gave that up, and they were driven back five miles into the country to pasture.
There is something ominous and most depressing about a burnt forest. There is no life, nothing green. It is a ghost-forest, filled with tall tree skeletons and the mouldering bones of those that have fallen, and draped with dry gray moss that swings in the wind. Moving through such a forest is almost impossible. Fallen and rotten trees, black and charred stumps cover every foot of ground. It required two hours' work with an axe to clear a path that I might get to the little ridge on which my tent was placed. The day had been gray, and, to add to our discomfort, there was a soft, fine rain. The Middle Boy had developed an inflamed knee and was badly crippled. Sitting in the drizzle beside the camp-fire, I heated water in a tin pail and applied hot compresses consisting of woolen socks.
It was all in the game. Eggs tasted none the worse for being fried in a skillet into which the rain was pattering. Skins were weather-proof, if clothes were not. And heavy tarpaulins on the ground protected our bedding from dampness.
The outfit, coming down by trail, had passed a small store in a clearing. They had bought a whole cheese weighing eleven pounds, a difficult thing to transport on horseback, a wooden pail containing nineteen pounds of chocolate chips, and six dozen eggs—our first eggs in many days.
In the shop, while making the purchase, the Head had pulled out a box of cigarettes. The woman who kept the little store had never seen machine-made cigarettes before, and examined them with the greatest interest. For in that country every man is his own cigarette-maker. The Middle Boy later reported with wide eyes that at her elbow she kept a loaded revolver lying, in plain view. She is alone a great deal of the time there in the wilderness, and probably she has many strange visitors.
It was at the shop that a terrible discovery was made. We had been in the wilderness on the east side and then on the west side of the park for four weeks. And days in the woods are much alike. No one had had a calendar. The discovery was that we had celebrated my birthday on the wrong day!
That night, in the dead forest, we gathered round the camp-fire. I made hot compresses. The packers and guides told stories of the West, and we matched them with ones of the East. From across the river, above the roaring, we could hear the sharp stroke of the axe as branches were being cut for our beds. There was nothing living, nothing green about us where we sat.
I am aware that the camp-fire is considered one of the things about which the camper should rave. My own experience of camp-fires is that they come too late in the day to be more than a warming-time before going to bed. We were generally too tired to talk. A little desultory conversation, a cigarette or two, an outline of the next day's work, and all were off to bed. Yet, in that evergreen forest, our fires were always rarely beautiful. The boughs burned with a crackling white flame, and when we threw on needles, they burst into stars and sailed far up into the night. As the glare died down, each of us took his hot stone from its bed of ashes and, carrying it carefully, retired with it.
THROUGH THE FLATHEAD CANON
The next morning we wakened to sunshine, and fried trout and bacon and eggs for breakfast. The cook tossed his flapjacks skillfully. As the only woman in the party, I sometimes found an air of festivity about my breakfast-table. Whereas the others ate from a tarpaulin laid on the ground, I was favored with a small box for a table and a smaller one for a seat. On the table-box was set my graniteware plate, knife, fork, and spoon, a paper napkin, the Prince Albert and the St. Charles. Lest this sound strange to the uninitiated, the St. Charles was the condensed milk and the Prince Albert was an old tin can which had once contained tobacco but which now contained the sugar. Thus, in our camp-etiquette, one never asked for the sugar, but always for the Prince Albert; not for the milk, but always for the St. Charles, sometimes corrupted to the Charlie.
I was late that morning. The men had gone about the business of preparing the boats for the day. The packers and guides were out after the horses. The cook, hot and weary, was packing up for the daily exodus. He turned and surveyed that ghost-forest with a scowl.
"Another camping-place like this, and I'll be braying like a blooming burro."
On the third day, we went through the Flathead River canon. We had looked forward to this, both because of its beauty and its danger. Bitterly complaining, the junior members of the family were exiled to the trail with the exception of the Big Boy.
It had been Joe's plan to photograph the boat with the moving-picture camera as we came down the canon. He meant, I am sure, to be on hand if anything exciting happened. But impenetrable wilderness separated the trail from the edge of the gorge, and that evening we reached the camp unphotographed, unrecorded, to find Joe sulking in a corner and inclined to blame the forest on us.
In one of the very greatest stretches of the rapids, a long straightaway, we saw a pigmy figure, far ahead, hailing us from the bank. "Pigmy" is a word I use generally with much caution, since a friend of mine, in the excitement of a first baby, once published a poem entitled "My Pigmy Counterpart," which a type-setter made, in the magazine version, "My Pig, My Counterpart."
Nevertheless, we will use it here. Behind this pigmy figure stretched a cliff, more than one hundred feet in height, of sheer rock overgrown with bushes. The figure had apparently but room on which to stand. George stood up and surveyed the prospect.
"Well," he said, in his slow drawl, "if that's lunch, I don't think we can hit it."
The river was racing at mad speed. Great rocks caught the current, formed whirlpools and eddies, turned us round again and again, and sent us spinning on, drenched with spray. That part of the river the boatmen knew—at least by reputation. It had been the scene, a few years before, of the tragic drowning of a man they knew. For now we were getting down into the better known portions.
To check a boat in such a current seemed impossible. But we needed food. We were tired and cold, and we had a long afternoon's work still before us.
At last, by tremendous effort and great skill, the boatmen made the landing. It was the college boy who had clambered down the cliff and brought the lunch, and it was he who caught the boats as they were whirling by. We had to cling like limpets—whatever a limpet is—to the edge, and work our way over to where there was room to sit down.
It reminded the Head of Roosevelt's expression about peace raging in Mexico. He considered that enjoyment was raging here.
Nevertheless, we ate. We made the inevitable cocoa, warmed beans, ate a part of the great cheese purchased the day before, and, with gingersnaps and canned fruit, managed to eke out a frugal repast. And shrieked our words over the roar of the river.
It was here that the boats were roped down. Critical examination and long debate with the boatmen showed no way through. On the far side, under the towering cliff, was an opening in the rocks through which the river boiled in a drop of twenty feet.
So it was fortunate, after all, that we had been hailed from the shore and had stopped, dangerous as it had been. For not one of us would have lived had we essayed that passage under the cliff. The Flathead River is not a deep river; but the force of its flow is so great, its drop so rapid, that the most powerful swimmer is hopeless in such a current. Light as our flies were, again and again they were swept under and held as though by a powerful hand.
Another year, the Flathead may be a much simpler proposition to negotiate. Owing to the unusually heavy snows of last winter, which had not commenced to melt on the mountain-tops until July, the river was high. In a normal summer, I believe that this trip could be taken—although always the boatmen must be expert in river rapids—with comparative safety and enormous pleasure.
There is a thrill and exultation about running rapids—not for minutes, not for an hour or two, but for days—that gets into the blood. And when to that exultation is added the most beautiful scenery in America, the trip becomes well worth while. However, I am not at all sure that it is a trip for a woman to take. I can swim, but that would not have helped at all had the boat, at any time in those four days, struck a rock and turned over. Nor would the men of the party, all powerful swimmers, have had any more chance than I.
We were a little nervous that afternoon. The canon grew wilder; the current, if possible, more rapid. But there were fewer rocks; the river-bed was clearer.
We were rapidly nearing the Middle Fork. Another day would see us there, and from that point, the river, although swift, would lose much of its danger.
Late the afternoon of the third day we saw our camp well ahead, on a ledge above the river. Everything was in order when we arrived. We unloaded ourselves solemnly out of the boats, took our fish, our poles, our graft-hooks and landing-nets, our fly-books, my sunburn lotion, and our weary selves up the bank. Then we solemnly shook hands all round. We had come through; the rest was easy.
On the last day, the river became almost a smiling stream. Once again, instead of between cliffs, we were traveling between great forests of spruce, tamarack, white and yellow pine, fir, and cedar. A great golden eagle flew over the water just ahead of our boat. And in the morning we came across our first sign of civilization—a wire trolley with a cage, extending across the river in lieu of a bridge. High up in the air at each end, it sagged in the middle until the little car must almost have touched the water. We had a fancy to try it, and landed to make the experiment. But some ungenerous soul had padlocked it and had gone away with the key.
For the first time that day, it was possible to use the trolling-lines. We had tried them before, but the current had carried them out far ahead of the boat. Cut-throat trout now and then take a spoon. But it is the bull-trout which falls victim, as a rule, to the troll.
I am not gifted with the trolling-line. Sometime I shall write an article on the humors of using it—on the soft and sibilant hiss with which it goes out over the stern; on the rasping with which it grates on the edge of the boat as it holds on, stanch and true, to water-weeds and floating branches; on the low moan with which it buries itself under a rock and dies; on the inextricable confusion into which it twists and knots itself when, hand over hand, it is brought in for inspection.
I have spent hours over a trolling-line, hours which, otherwise, I should have wasted in idleness. There are thirty-seven kinds of knots which, so far, I have discovered in a trolling-line, and I am but at the beginning of my fishing career.
"What are you doing," the Head said to me that last day, as I sat in the stern busily working at the line. "Knitting?"
We got few fish that day, but nobody cared. The river was wide and smooth; the mountains had receded somewhat; the forest was there to the right and left of us. But it was an open, smiling forest. Still far enough away, but slipping toward us with the hours, were settlements, towns, the fertile valley of the lower river.
We lunched that night where, just a year before, I had eaten my first lunch on the Flathead, on a shelving, sandy beach. But this time the meal was somewhat shadowed by the fact that some one had forgotten to put in butter and coffee and condensed milk.
However, we were now in that part of the river which our boatmen knew well. From a secret cache back in the willows, George and Mike produced coffee and condensed milk and even butter. So we lunched, and far away we heard a sound which showed us how completely our wilderness days were over—the screech of a railway locomotive.
Late that afternoon, tired, sunburned, and unkempt, we drew in at the little wharf near Columbia Falls. It was weeks since we had seen a mirror larger than an inch or so across. Our clothes were wrinkled from being used to augment our bedding on cold nights. The whites of our eyes were bloodshot with the sun. My old felt hat was battered and torn with the fish-hooks that had been hung round the band. Each of us looked at the other, and prayed to Heaven that he looked a little better himself.
THE ROUND-UP AT KALISPELL
Columbia Falls had heard of our adventure, and was prepared to do us honor. Automobiles awaited us on the river-bank. In a moment we were snatched from the jaws of the river and seated in the lap of luxury. If this is a mixed metaphor, it is due to the excitement of the change. With one of those swift transitions of the Northwest, we were out of the wilderness and surrounded by great yellow fields of wheat.
Cleared land or natural prairie, these valleys of the Northwest are marvelously fertile. Wheat grows an incredible number of bushels to the acre. Everything thrives. And on the very borders of the fields stands still the wilderness to be conquered, the forest to be cleared. Untold wealth is there for the man who will work and wait, land rich beyond the dreams of fertilizer. But it costs about eighty dollars an acre, I am told, to clear forest-land after it has been cut over. It is not a project, this Northwestern farming, to be undertaken on a shoestring. The wilderness must be conquered. It cannot be coaxed. And a good many hearts have been broken in making that discovery. A little money—not too little—infinite patience, cheerfulness, and red-blooded effort—these are the factors which are conquering the Northwest.
I like the Northwest. In spite of its pretensions, its large cities, its wealth, it is still peopled by essential frontiersmen. They are still pioneers—because the wilderness encroaches still so close to them. I like their downrightness, their pride in what they have achieved, their hatred of sham and affectation.
And if there is to be real progress among us in this present generation, the growth of a political and national spirit, that sturdy insistence on better things on which our pioneer forefathers founded this nation, it is likely to come, as a beginning, from these newer parts of our country. These people have built for themselves. What we in the East have inherited, they have made. They know its exact cost in blood and sweat. They value it. And they will do their best by it.
Perhaps, after all, this is the end of this particular adventure. And yet, what Western story is complete without a round-up?
There was to be a round-up the next day at Kalispell, farther south in that wonderful valley.
But there was a difficulty in the way. Our horses were Glacier Park horses. Columbia Falls was outside of Glacier Park. Kalispell was even farther outside of Glacier Park, and horses were needed badly in the Park. For last year Glacier Park had the greatest boom in its history and found the concessionnaires unprepared to take care of all the tourists. What we should do, we knew, was to deadhead our horses back into the Park as soon as they had had a little rest.
But, on the other hand, there was Kalispell and the round-up. It would make a difference of just one day. True, we could have gone to the round-up on the train. But, for two reasons, this was out of the question. First, it would not make a good story. Second, we had nothing but riding-clothes, and ours were only good to ride in and not at all to walk about in.
After a long and serious conclave, it was decided that Glacier Park would not suffer by the absence of our string for twenty-four hours more.
On the following morning, then, we set off down the white and dusty road, a gay procession, albeit somewhat ragged. Sixteen miles in the heat we rode that morning. It was when we were halfway there that one of the party—it does not matter which one—revealed that he had received a telegram from the Government demanding the immediate return of our outfit. We halted in the road and conferred.
It is notorious of Governments that they are short-sighted, detached, impersonal, aloof, and haughty. We gathered in the road, a gayly bandanaed, dusty, and highly indignant crowd, and conferred.
The telegram had been imperative. It did not request. It commanded. It unhorsed us violently at a time when it did not suit either ourselves or our riding-clothes to be unhorsed.
We conferred. We were, we said, paying two dollars and a half a day for each of those horses. Besides, we were out of adhesive tape, which is useful for holding on patches. Besides, also, we had the horses. If they wanted them, let them come and get them. Besides, this was discrimination. Ever since the Park was opened, horses had been taken out of it, either on to the Reservation or into Canada, to get about to other parts of the Park. Why should the Government pick on us?
We were very bitter and abusive, and the rest of the way I wrote mentally a dozen sarcastic telegrams. Yes; the rest of the way. Because we went on. With a round-up ahead and the Department of the Interior in the rear, we rode forward to our stolen holiday, now and then pausing, an eye back to see if we were pursued. But nothing happened; no sheriff in a buckboard drove up with a shotgun across his knees. The Government, or its representative in Glacier Park, was contenting itself with foaming at the mouth. We rode on through the sunlight, and sang as we rode.
Kalispell is a flourishing and attractive town of northwestern Montana. It is notable for many other things besides its annual round-up. But it remains dear to me for one particular reason.
My hat was done. It had no longer the spring and elasticity of youth. It was scarred with many rains and many fish-hooks. It had ceased to add its necessary jaunty touch to my costume. It detracted. In its age, I loved it, but the Family insisted cruelly on a change. So, sitting on Angel, a new one was brought me, a chirky young thing, a cowgirl affair of high felt crown and broad rim.
And, at this moment, a gentleman I had never seen before, but who is green in my memory, stepped forward and presented me with his own hat-band. It was of leather, and it bore this vigorous and inspiriting inscription: "Give 'er pep and let 'er buck."
To-day, when I am low in my mind, I take that cowgirl hat from its retreat and read its inscription: "Give 'er pep and let 'er buck." It is a whole creed.
Somewhere among my papers I have the programme of that round-up at Kalispell. It was a very fine round-up. There was a herd of buffalo; there were wild horses and long-horned Mexican steers. There was a cheering crowd. There was roping, and marvelous riding.
But my eyes were fixed on the grand-stand with a stony stare.
I am an adopted Blackfoot Indian, known in the tribe as "Pi-ta-mak-an," and only a few weeks before I had had a long conference with the chiefs of the tribe, Two Guns, White Calf (the son of old White Calf, the great chief who dropped dead in the White House during President Cleveland's administration), Medicine Owl and Curly Bear and Big Spring and Bird Plume and Wolf Plume and Bird Rattler and Bill Shute and Stabs-by-Mistake and Eagle Child and Many Tail-Feathers—and many more.
And these Indians had all promised me that, as soon as our conference was over, they were going back to the Reservation to get in their hay and work hard for the great herd which the Government had promised to give them. They were going to be good Indians.
So I stared at the grand-stand with a cold and fixed eye. For there, very many miles from where they should have been, off the Reservation without permission of the Indian agent, painted and bedecked in all the glory of their forefathers—paint, feathers, beads, strings of thimbles and little mirrors—handsome, bland, and enjoying every instant to the full in their childish hearts, were my chiefs.
During the first lull in the proceedings, a delegation came to visit me and to explain. This is what they said: First of all, they desired me to make peace with the Indian agent. He was, they considered, most unreasonable. There were many times when one could labor, and there was but one round-up. They petitioned, then, that I intercede and see that their ration-tickets were not taken away.
And even as the interpreter told me their plea, one old brave caught my hand and pointed across to the enclosure, where a few captive buffalo were grazing. I knew what it meant. These, my Blackfeet, had been the great buffalo-hunters. With bow and arrow they had followed the herds from Canada to the Far South. These chiefs had been mighty hunters. But for many years not a single buffalo had their eyes beheld. They who had lived by the buffalo were now dying with them. A few full-bloods shut away on a reservation, a few buffalo penned in a corral—children of the open spaces and of freedom, both of them, and now dying and imprisoned. For the Blackfeet are a dying people.
They had come to see the buffalo.
But they did not say so. An Indian is a stoic. He has both imagination and sentiment, but the latter he conceals. And this was the explanation they gave me for the Indian agent:—
I knew that, back in my home, when a friend asked me to come to an entertainment, I must go or that friend would be offended with me. And so it was with the Blackfeet Indians—they had been invited to this round-up, and they felt that they should come or they would hurt the feelings of those who had asked them. Therefore, would I, Pi-ta-mak-an, go to the Indian agent and make their peace for them? For, after all, summer was short and winter was coming. The old would need their ration-tickets again. And they, the braves, would promise to go back to the Reservation and get in the hay, and be all that good Indians should be.