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he pulled the more stubbornly she tains, striking a trail which follows remained in her tracks, planting her the “Big Blue” in its course through fore-legs firmly, and stretching out the prairies, which, as they advance to her neck with provoking obstinacy. the westward, are gradually smoothIf truth be told, it does require the ing away into a vast unbroken expanse temper of a thousand Jobs to manage of rolling plain. Herds of antelope a mule ; and in no case does the wil- began to show themselves, and some ful mulishness of the animal stir up of the hunters, leaving the trail, soon one's choler more than in the very returned with plenty of their tender trick which this one was playing, and meat. The luxuriant but coarse grass which is a daily occurrence. After they had hitherto seen now changed tugging ineffectually for several into the nutritious and curly buffalo minutes, winding the rope round his grass, and their animals soon imbody, and throwing himself forward proved in appearance on the exceland suddenly with all his strength, lent pasture. In a few days, without the trapper actually foamed with any adventure, they struck the Platte passion, and although he might have River, its shallow waters (from which subdued the animal at once by fasten- it derives its name) spreading over a ing the rope with a half-hitch round wide and sandy bed, numerous sand its nose, with an obstinacy equal to bars obstructing the sluggish current, that of the mule itself he refused to and with nowhere sufficient water to attempt it, preferring to vanquish her wet the forder's knee. by main strength. However, this By this time, but few antelope failed, and with a volley of blasphe- having been seen, the party became mous imprecations the mountaineer entirely out of meat; and, one whole suddenly seized his rifle, and, levelling day and part of another having passed it at the mule's head, shot her dead. without so much as a sage rabbit
Passing the Wa-ka-rasha, a well- having presented itself, not a few timbered stream, they met a band of objurgations on the buffalo grumbled Osages going “to buffalo." These from the lips of the hunters, who Indians, in common with some tribes expected ere this to have reached of the Pawnees, shave the head, with the land of plenty. La Bonté killed the exception of a ridge from the a fine deer, however, in the river forehead to the centre of the scalp, bottom, after they had encamped, which is “roached" or hogged like the not one particle of which remained mane of a mule, and stands erect, after supper that night, but which plastered with unguents, and orna- bardly took the rough edge off their mented by feathers of the hawk and keen appetites. Although already in turkey. The naked scalp is often the buffalo range, no traces of these painted in mosaic with black and red, animals had yet been seen; and as the face with shining vermilion. the country afforded but little game, They were all naked to the breech- and the party did not care to halt and clout, the warmth of the sun having lose time in hunting for it, they caused them to throw their dirty moved along hungry and sulky, the blankets from their shoulders. These theme of conversation being the well Indians not unfrequently levy contri- remembered merits of good buffalo butions on strangers whom they may meat,--of " fat fleece," " hump rib,” accidentally meet; but they easily and " tender loin ; of delicious distinguish the determined moun- "boudins," and marrow bones too taineer from the incautious greenhorn, good to think of. La Bonté had and think it better to let the for- never seen the lordly animal, and mer alone.
consequently but half believed the Crossing Vermilion, they arrived accounts of the mountaineers, who on the fifth day at “Blue," where they described their countless bands as encamped in the broad timber which covering the prairie far as the eye belts the creek, and there awaited the could reach, and requiring days of arrival of the remainder of the party. travel to pass through ; but the
It was two days before they came visions of such dainty and abundant op; but the day after, fourteen in feeding as they descanted on set his number, they started for the moun mouth watering, and danced before
his eyes as he slept supperless, night and apparently unhurt. As is geneafter night, on the banks of the hun- rally the case with greenhorns, he gry Platte.
had.fired too high, not understanding One morning he had packed his that the only certain spot to strike a animals before the rest, and was buffalo is but a few inches above the riding a mile in advance of the party, brisket, and that above this a shot is when he saw on one side the trail, rarely fatal. When he rose from the looming in the refracted glare which ground, he saw all the party halting mirages the plains, three large dark in full view of his discomfiture; and objects without shape or form, which when he joined them, loud were the rose and fell in the exaggerated light laughs, and deep the regrets of the like ships at sea. Doubting what it hungry at his first attempt. could be, he approached the strange However, they now knew that they objects; and as the refraction disap- were in the country of meat; and a peared before him, the dark masses few miles farther, another band of assumed a more distinct form, and stragglers presenting themselves, clearly moved with life. A little three of the hunters went in pursuit, nearer, and he made them out—they La Bonté taking a mule to pack in were buffalo. Thinking to distinguish the meat. He soon saw them crawlhimself, the greenhorn dismounted ing towards the band, and shortly from his mule, and quickly hobbled two puffs of smoke, and the sharp her, throwing his lasso on the ground cracks of their rifles showed that to trail behind when he wished to they had got within shot; and when catch her. Then, rifle in hand, he le had ridden up, two fine buffaloes approached the huge animals, and, were stretched upon the ground. being a good hunter, knew well to Now, for the first time, he was initake advantage of the inequalities of tiated into the mysteries of " butcherthe ground and face the wind; by ing," and watched the hunters as which means he crawled at length to they turned the carcass on the belly, within forty yards of the buffalo, who stretching out the legs to support it were quietly cropping the grass, un on each side. A transverse cut was conscious of danger. Now, for the then made at the nape of the neck, first time, he gazed upon the noble and, gathering the long hair of the beast of which he had so often heard, boss in one hand, the skin was sepaand longed to see. With coal-black rated from the shoulder. It was then beard sweeping the ground as he fed, laid open from this point to the tail, an enormous bull was in advance of along the spine, and the skin was the others, his wild brilliant eyes freed from the sides and pulled down peering from an immense mass of to the brisket, but, still attached to shaggy hair, which covered his neck it, was stretched upon the ground to and shoulder. From this point his receive the dissected portions. Then skin was bare as one's hand, a sleek the shoulder was severed, the fleece and shining dun, and his ribs well removed from along the backbone, covered with shaking flesh. As he and the hump-ribs cut off with a leisurely cropped the short curly tomahawk. All this was placed upon grass he occasionally lifted his tail the skin ; and after the "boudins" had into the air, and stamped his foot as been withdrawn from the stomach, a fly or musquito annoyed him-flap- and the tongue-a great daintyping the intruder with his tail, or taken from the head, the meat was snatching at the itching part with his packed upon the mule, and the whole ponderous head.
party hurried to camp rejoicing. When La Bonté had sufficiently There was merry-making in the admired the animal, he lifted his rifle, camp that night, and the way they and, taking steady aim, and certain of indulged their appetites-or, in their bis mark, pulled the trigger, expecting own language, “throw'd” the meat to see the huge beast fall over at the 6 cold"-would have made the heart report. What was his surprise and of a dyspeptic leap for joy or burst consternation, however, to see the
Far into the "still animal flinch as the ball struck him, watches of the tranquil night” the but gallop off, followed by the others, fat-clad depouille" saw its fleshy
mass grow small by degrees and beau- plains, who wantonly destroy these tifully less, before the trenchant blades noble animals, not even for the exof the hungry mountaineers ; appetis- citement of sport, but in cold blooded ing yards of well-browned "boudin” and insane butchery. La Bonté had slipped glibly down their throats ; rib practice enough to perfect him in the after rib of tender hump was picked art, and, before the buffalo range was and flung to the wolves; and when passed, he was ranked as a first-rate human nature, with helpless grati- hunter. One evening he had left the tude, and confident that nothing of camp for meat, and was approaching superexcellent comestibility remain- a band of cows for that purpose, ed, was lazily wiping the greasy crawling towards them along the bed knife that had done such good service, of a dry hollow in the prairie, when -a skilful hunter was seen to chuckle he observed them suddenly jump away to himself as he raked the deep ashes towards him, and immediately after a of the fire, and drew therefrom a pair score of mounted Indians appeared in of tongues so admirably baked, so sight, whom, by their dress, he at soft, so sweet, and of such exquisite once knew to be Pawnees and eneflavour, that a veil is considerately mies. Thinking they might not disdrawn over the effects their discussion cover him, he crouched down in the produced in the mind of our green- ravine; but a noise behind causing horn La Bonté, and the raptures they him to turn his head, he saw some excited in the bosom of that, as yet, five or six advancing up the bed of most ignorant mountaineer. Still, the dry creek, whilst several more as he ate he wondered, and wondering were riding on the bluffs. The cun. admired, that nature, in giving him ning savages had cut off his retreat to such profound gastronomic powers, his mule, which he saw in the posand such transcendent capabilities of session of one of the Indians. His digestion, had yet bountifully pro- presence of mind, however, did not vided an edible so peculiarly adapted desert him ; and seeing at once that to his ostrich-like appetite, that after to remain where he was would be like consuming nearly his own weight in being caught in a trap, (as the Indians rich and fat buffalo meat, he felt as could advance to the edge of the bluff easy and as incommoded as if he had and shoot him from above,) he made been lightly supping on strawberries for the open prairie, determined at and cream.
least to sell his scalp dearly, and make Sweet was the digestive pipe after “a good fight." With a yell the snch a feast, and soft the sleep and Indians charged, bnt halted when deep, which sealed the eyes of the they saw the sturdy trapper delicontented trappers that night. It felt berately kneel, and, resting his rifle like the old thing, they said, to be on the wiping-stick, take a steady once more amongst the meat;" and, aim as they advanced. Full well the as they were drawing near the danger- Pawnees know, to their cost, that a ous portion of the trail, they felt at mountaineer seldom pulls his trigger home; although not a night now without sending a bullet to the mark; passed but, when they lay down on and, certain that one at least must their buffalo robes to sleep, they could fall, they hesitated to make the onnot be confident that that sleep was slaught. Steadily the white retreated not their last-knowing full well that with his face to the foe, bringing the savage men were hovering near, thirst- rifle to his shoulder the instant that ing for their lives.
one advanced within shot, the Indians However, no enemies showed them- galloping round, firing the few guns selves as yet, and they proceeded they had amongst them at long disquietly up the river, vast herds of tances, but without effect. One young buffaloes darkening the plains around “ brave," more daring than the rest, them, affording them more than abun- rode out of the crowd, and dashed at dance of the choicest meat; but, to the hunter, throwing himself, as he their credit be it spoken, no more was passed within a few yards, from the killed than absolutely required, un- saddle, and hanging over the oppolike the cruel slaughter made by most site side of his horse,-presenting no of the white travellers across the other mark than his left foot,--dis
charged his bow from under the ani- which the prairies stretch away in mal's neck, and with such good aim, broad undulating expanse to the north that the arrow, whizzing through the and south. The "bottom," as it is air, struck the stock of La Bonté's termed, is but thinly covered with rifle, which was at his shoulder, and, timber, the cotton-woods being scatglancing off, pierced his arm, inflict- tered only here and there ; but some ing, luckily, but a slight wound. Again of the islands in the broad bed of the the Indian turned in his course, the stream are well wooded, which leads others encouraging him with loud to the inference that the trees on the war-whoops, and once more passing banks have been felled by Indians who at still less distance, drew his arrow formerly frequented this river as a to the head. This time, however, chosen hunting-ground. As during the eagle eye of the white caught sight the long winters the pasture in the of the action, and suddenly rising from vicinity is scarce and withered, the his knee as the Indian was approach- Indians feed their horses on the bark ing, hanging by his foot alone over of the sweet cotton-wood, upon which the opposite side of the horse, he they subsist, and even fatten. Thus, jumped towards the animal with out- wherever a village has been encamped, stretched arms and a loud yell, caus- the trunks of these trees strew the ing it to start so suddenly, and swerve ground, with their upper limbs and from its course, that the Indian lost smaller branches peeled of their bark, his foot-hold, and, after in vain strug- and looking as white and smooth as if gling to regain his position, fell to the scraped with a knife. ground; but instantly rose upon his On the forks, however, the timber feet and gallantly confronted the is heavier and of greater variety, some mountaineer, striking his hand upon of the creeks being well wooded with his brawny chest and shouting a loud ash and cherry, which break the mowhoop of defiance. In another in- notony of the everlasting cotton-wood. stant the rifle of La Bonté had pour- Dense masses of buffalo still coned forth its contents; and the brave tinued to darken the plains, and Indian, springing into the air, fell numerous bands of wolves hovered dead to the ground, just as the other round the outskirts of the vast herds, trappers, who had heard the firing, singling out the sick and wounded galloped up to the spot, at sight animals, and preying upon the calves of whom the Pawnees, with yells whom the rifies and arrows of the of disappointed vengeance, hastily hunters had bereaved of their mothers. retreated.
The white wolf is the invariable attenThat night La Bonté first lifted dant upon the buffalo; and when one hair!
of these persevering animals is seen, it A few days after they reached the is certain sign that buffalo are not point where the Platte divides into far distant. Besides the buffalo wolf, two great forks :—the northern one, there are four distinct varieties comstretching to the north-west, skirts mon to the plains, and all more or less the eastern base of the Black Hills, attendant upon the buffalo. These and sweeping round to the south rises are, the black, the gray, the brown, in the vicinity of the mountain valley and last and least the coyote, or called the New Park, receiving the cayeute of the mountaineers, the Laramie, Medicine Bow, and Sweet- “ wach-unkamănet,” or “medicine Water creeks. The other, or “South wolf” of the Indians, who hold the Fork,” strikes towards the mountains latter animal in reverential awe. This in a south-westerly direction, hugging little wolf, whose fur is of great thickthe base of the main chain of the ness and beauty, although of diminuRocky Mountains, and, fed by several tive size, is wonderfully sagacious, and small creeks, rises in the uplands of makes up by cunning what it wants the Bayou Salado, near which is also in physical strength. In bands of the source of the Arkansa. To the from three to thirty they will not unforks of the Platte the valley of that frequently station themselves along river extends from three to five miles the “runs" of the deer and the anteon each side, being enclosed by steep lope, extending their line for many sandy bluffs, from the summits of miles,--and the quarry being started, each wolf will follow in pursuit until Sioux, they moved along with addi. tired, when it relinquishes the chase to tional caution, Frapp and Gonneville, another relay, following slowly after two experienced mountaineers, always until the animal is fairly run down, heading the advance. when all hurry to the spot and speedily About noon they had crossed over consume the carcass. The cayeute, to the left bank of the fork, intending however, is often made a tool of by to camp on a large creek where some his larger brethren, unless, indeed, he fresh beaver “sign" had attracted the acts from motives of spontaneous cha- attention of some of the trappers; and rity. When a hunter has slaughtered as, on further examination, it appeared game, and is in the act of butchering that two or three lodges of that aniit, these little wolves sit patiently at mal were not far distant, it was detera short distance from the scene of mined to remain here a day or two, operations, while at a more respectful and set their traps. one the larger wolves (the white or Gonneville, old Luke, and La Bonté, gray) lope hungrily around, licking had started up the creek, and were their chops in hungry expectation. carefully examining the banks for Not unfrequently the hunter throws a “sign," when the former, who was in piece of meat towards the smaller front, suddenly paused, and looking one, who seizes it immediately, and intently up the stream, held up his. runs off with the morsel in his mouth. hand to his companions to signal them Before he gets many yards with his to stop. prize, the large wolf pounces with a Luke and La Bonté both followed growl upon him, and the cayeute, the direction of the trapper's intent dropping the meat, returns to his for- and fixed gaze. The former uttered mer position, and will continue his in a suppressed tone the expressive charitable act as long as the hunter exclamation, Wagh !—the latter saw pleases to supply him.
nothing but a wood-duck swimming Wolves are so common on the swiftly down the stream, followed by plains and in the mountains, that the her downy progeny. hunter never cares to throw away a Gonneville turned his head, and charge of ammunition upon them, al- extending his arm twice with a forthough the ravenous animals are a ward motion up the creek, whispered constant source of annoyance to him, _“ Les sanvages.” creeping to the camp-fire at night, “Injuns, sure, and Sious at that." and gnawing his saddles and apisha- answered Luke. mores, eating the skin ropes which Still La Bonté looked, but nothing secure the horses and mules to their met his view but the duck with her pickets, and even their very hobbles, brood, now rapidly approaching; and and not unfrequently killing or entirely as he gazed, the bird suddenly took disabling the animals themselves. wing, and, flapping on the water,
Round the camp, during the night, flew a short distance down the stream the cayeute keeps unremitting watch, and once more settled on it. and the traveller not unfrequently “Injuns ?" he asked ; “ where are starts from his bed with affright, as they ?" the mournful and unearthly chiding of is Whar?" repeated old Luke, the wolf breaks suddenly upon his striking the flint of his rifle, and openear: the long-drawn howl being taken ing the pan to examine the priming. up by others of the band, until it dies “What brings a duck a-streakin it away in the distance, as some straggler down stream, if humans aint behint passing within hearing answers to the her? and who's thar in these diggins note, and howls as he lopes away. but Ipjuns, and the worst kind; and
Oar party crossed the south fork we'd better push to camp, I'm thinking, about ten miles from its juncture with if we mean to save our hair." the main stream, and then, passing the “Sign" sufficient, indeed, it was to all prairie, struck the north fork a day's the trappers, who, on being apprised travel from the other. At the mouth of it, instantly drove in their animals, of an ash-timbered creek they came and picketed them; and hardly had upon Indian “sign," and, as now they they done so when a band of Indians were in the vicinity of the treacherous made their appearance on the banks