Part 2 out of 5
While they were gone I took my gun and started out to take a little
stroll around where the horses were feeding. I had gone but a short
distance when I looked up. On a mountain, north of me I saw a band of
elk with perhaps seventy five or a hundred in it, and they were coming
directly towards me; I was satisfied in my mind that they were going to
the river to get water. I dropped down behind a log and waited for them
to come close to me. The nearest one was twenty yards from me when I
fired. I shot at a two-year-old heifer and broke her neck. I then went
back to camp to see if any of the men had come in as it was near noon. I
thought some of them would be back and sure enough in a few minutes they
all came together; I told them what I had done, and Uncle Kit said, "Jim
and I will get dinner and the balance of you go and help Willie bring in
We found her in fine condition. We soon had her skinned and in camp, and
we found dinner ready when we got back. After dinner Uncle Kit said,
"Come boys let's pack up and move to our camp which is only about a half
a mile from here, and tomorrow, while Jim and me are at work on our
shanty, Willie can help you to move to your quarters, and you can be
building your shanties, so we can get to work as soon as possible."
We gathered every thing together and moved it to the ground where we
were going to make our winter quarters, and Uncle Kit and Jim selected
the place to build our cabin, and the men all turned to and went to
chopping the logs and putting up the cabin. By night the body of the
cabin was almost up, but the reader must bear in mind that this was not
a very large house. It was ten feet one way, and twelve the other, with
a fire place built in one corner. They built the walls of the shack
seven foot high and then covered it with small poles, covered the poles
with fine bows and then there was from six to eight inches of dirt
packed on them and the cracks were stuffed with mud. The door was split
out of logs called puncheons and was fastened together with wooden pins,
driven into holes, bored with an auger. This way of building a house
to live in through the winter may seem strange to the readers who are
accustomed to all the luxuries of the modern home of civilization; but
we considered our cabin very good quarters, and we were very comfortable
The first morning after we were settled in our new home we commenced
setting traps for Beaver. Jim Bridger was the lucky man of the whole
outfit in catching Beaver all that winter. Each man had twelve traps
which was called a string, and a number of times that winter Bridger had
a beaver in every one of his traps in the morning. I had watched him set
his traps many times and I tried to imitate him in every particular, but
I never had the luck he had.
Uncle Kit told me a number of times that winter that it was a good
trapper that made an average of catching five Beaver a day, during the
trapping season. We were all very successful this winter. Beaver was
very plentiful, as there had never been any trappers in this part of
the country before, and besides that was an exceptional good winter for
trapping. The winter was quite cold, but there was not much snow all
winter for that country. We stayed here and trapped until the very last
of March, and when we had the furs all baled and ready for packing we
found we did not have horses enough to take them all out at one time, so
Uncle Kit and Jim Bridger packed the seven horses and rode the other two
and struck out for Bent's Fort, telling us they would come back as soon
as they could make the trip; and to our surprise they were back on the
We had everything ready for them to break up camp when they came back,
and we had all we could carry the second time. All of the nine horses
were packed, and we all had to walk to Bent's Fort.
After we left the Platte we took up a stream called Sand Creek which
leads to the divide between the Platte and the Arkansas rivers. After
we camped that night Carson said to the boys, "Now we have had a pretty
good variety of meat this winter, but we haven't had any antelope, but
we are in the greatest country for antelope in the west now. Can't one
of you boys kill one tomorrow for supper? But I am sorry for Jim and
Will for Jim can't get a Beaver's tail off of it, and there won't be any
bear's foot for Will to eat."
Jim answered, "You needn't worry about Will and me, for we may make you
sorry twice, for when we get at the Antelope there may not be enough for
the balance of you."
After breakfast next morning two of the men struck ahead in order to get
the antelope. Near the trail about ten o'clock we overtook them, and
they had killed two nice young antelope. One said that if they had
had ammunition enough with them they could have loaded the train with
antelope. That day we saw a number of bands of antelope, and I venture
to say there were as many as eight hundred or a thousand in each band.
At supper that night Jim Bridger and I convinced Uncle Kit that we had
not lost our appetite, if we didn't have Beaver's tail and Bear's foot
The second day after leaving this camp we landed at Bent's Fort about
the middle of the afternoon. That evening and all the next day Carson
and Bridger were counting the pelts and paying off the men for the furs
they had trapped during the winter. Each man had a mark of his own which
he put on all his hides as he took them off the animal. I noticed one
man always clipped the left ear; that was his mark. Having a private
mark for each man saved a great deal of trouble and dispute when the
time came to separate the furs and give each man his due.
I heard Carson and Bridger talking after they had settled with the men,
and Bridger said, "We have done twice as well as I expected we would do
the past winter."
Carson answered, "Jim, we had an extra good crew of men. Every man
worked for all that was in him and when they earned a dollar for
themselves they earned one for us. I am more than satisfied with our
winter's work and what it brought us."
He then asked Jim and me what we intended to do that summer; Jim
answered, "We are going back to Fort Kerney to pilot emigrants across to
California, and it is time we were off now, for I believe by the first
of May there will be lots of emigrants there, and we want to get there,
and get the first train out, and if it is possible we are going to make
two trips across the plains this season."
The next morning Carson left Bent's Fort taking his four horses with
him going to his home at Taos, New Mexico, and Jim and I, taking five
horses, pulled out for Fort Kerney. Nothing of interest happened to us
on the way; and we made the trip in eleven days. As soon as we got to
the Fort, we called on the General; he was very glad to see us, and
invited us to stay all night with him. We accepted his invitation. That
evening at supper General Kerney mentioned my rescuing the two women at
the head of Honey Lake the year before; he recounted the incident very
much as it took place.
I said to him, "General, how in the name of common sense did you hear of
He said, "Why the eastern papers have been full of it; and it will be
the best thing for you two men that could have happened; for no doubt
there will be hundreds of people here on their way to California, and
when they see you two men who are the heroes of that expedition they
will all want your services to pilot them across the plains, and I
assure you if there is any thing I can do to assist either of you in any
way I am more than willing to do it. I heard yesterday that there were
several small trains on the way coming from St. Joe, and they will be
here in a few days, so you are in good time to catch the first of
them, and I want you both to stay right here with me until you make
arrangements to leave for California. We will take a trip down the road
every day, and if there are any emigrants coming we will meet them."
[Illustration: The first thing we knew the whole number that we had
first seen was upon us.]
After breakfast next morning an orderly brought in our horses, all
saddled, the General's as well as ours. We all mounted and started down
the road. We had made five or six miles when we saw an emigrant train
coming towards us. The General said, "Look, boys, there they come now.
Let me do the talking."
The General had his uniform on, and Jim and I were dressed in buck-skin
from head to foot, and we were a rather conspicuous trio, as we rode up
to them. There were six or eight men on horse back, riding ahead of the
train. As we met them the General saluted them. One of the men said, "Is
this the commander at the Fort?"
The General answered, "I am. My name is Kerney."
One of the men said, "General, can you tell us whether the Indians are
on the war path or not between here and Salt Lake?"
The General answered, "I surely can. Every tribe of Indians between here
and the Sierra Nevada mountains is on the war path, and the emigrants
who get through this year without losing their lives or their stock may
consider themselves lucky," and pointing to Jim and me, he continued.
"These two men took a train through last year and only lost two men and
would not have lost them if they had obeyed orders."
One of the men asked, "Are these the men that piloted a train across and
had the trouble at Honey Lake last year?"
The General answered, "Yes, sir, they are, and that boy sitting on that
iron gray horse is the boy that planned and led the rescue of the two
women from the Indians."
One asked, "Are these the two men the papers said so much about last
fall? I think one was named Jim Bridger and the other's name was William
General Kerney smiled and answered, "Yes, these are the very men."
By this time the train had come up, and the other men of the company
gathered around us and being told who we were they all shook hands with
us, besides a great many of the ladies got out of the wagons and came to
us offering their hands. The people were all from Missouri and Illinois.
A man by the name of Tullock from Missouri asked us what we would charge
to pilot their train to California. Jim Bridger turned to me and said,
"Will, what do you think it would be worth?"
I said to the man who had asked the question, "Drive on about five
miles, and you will find a little creek and plenty of grass. Go into
camp there and select five or ten men to act as a committee, and we will
be there at four o'clock to meet you. You must give your committee full
power to deal with us. The committee must know the number of wagons,
the number of men, and the number of grown women; it will be more
satisfactory to you as well as to us to deal with a few men than for the
whole train to take a part in the business."
This plan seemed to meet with the approval of the men, so General
Kerney, Jim Bridger and I left them and rode back to the Fort. On the
way back the General asked Bridger how much he meant to charge the
emigrants to take the train across.
Bridger said, "What do you say, Will?"
I answered, "Jim, I look at it this way, we are held responsible for
the people's lives as well as their stock to get them to California in
safety; just think of the responsibility we are assuming; and as far as
I am concerned I will not undertake the job for less then four dollars a
Bridger answered, "That settles it, Will, that's just my price."
The General said, "I think you are very moderate in your charges; I
should think they would jump at such a chance; for I assure you, you
will have your hands full day and night."
After we had eaten our dinner at the Fort Gen. Kerney accompanied
us back to the emigrant's camp. On our arriving there we found the
committee waiting to receive us. Mr. Tullock introduced us to the
others, and then said, "We want you to tell us what amount of money you
will charge us to pilot us across the plains to California."
I said, "Gentlemen, I want to ask you a few questions before I answer
yours; how many wagons have you in this train?" Mr. Tullock answered,
"Sixty four." "How many men?" "One hundred and forty-eight." "How many
women?" "Sixty four."
I then said, "I will now answer your question as to our price. If we
take charge of this train from here to California our price will be four
dollars a day to each of us, with this understanding that Mr. Bridger
has entire charge of the wagons both day and night, and I to have the
charge of the scout force. Now, gentlemen, I don't suppose any of you
know what the duty of a scout is, and I will explain it to you. Twenty
miles from here we will strike a country where all the Indians are
hostile, and for the next twelve hundred miles they are all on the war
path; now, if we undertake this job we shall want twelve good men to
help me in scouting; each of the twelve to be mounted, and our duty will
be to protect the train; three men to ride in the rear of the train and
three on each side, each three to keep about a half a mile from the
train, and the other three in the lead, and the duty of these scouts
will be when they see Indians coming towards the train to notify Mr.
Bridger at once, so he can corral the wagons to protect the women and
children and the stock, and my duty will be to ride to the highest hills
on either side of the road to keep a lookout for Indians all through the
day, and at night to watch for their camp fires. Now, gentlemen, I have
told you our terms and if you decide to employ us, it will take four or
five days to drill the outfit so it will be safe for us to start on this
long and dangerous journey. Now, it is for you to say what you will do."
Gen. Kerney then spoke for the first time. "Let me say a word,
gentlemen. These men know every camping ground and every watering place
and also every Indian run way from here to the Sierra Nevada mountains,
and you could not find better men for guides on the frontier, and the
price they ask for the dangerous service they will give you is the least
you can expect to give."
The committee walked away from us a short distance, and talked among
them selves about a half an hour, and then came to us, and said they
would accept our offer. Bridger then said, "Now gentlemen I want you
to pick out twelve men that are not afraid to ride alone and have
number-one eyesight and good hearing, for no doubt there will be many
times when the fate of the whole train will depend on these twelve men.
Will will start in to train them tomorrow morning if they are ready, and
he will tell them and show them just what they have got to do; and I
want every teamster to have his team hooked to his wagon by nine o'clock
in the morning. It is not necessary for you to take down your tents or
move any of your camp equipage at all; for I will drill the teamsters
out on that little prairie yonder," and he pointed to a clear space a
little ways up the road.
After these arrangements were made General Kerney went back to the Fort,
and Jim and I staid at the emigrants' camp that night, so we could be up
early the next morning to commence our work of drilling the men for the
coming trip. My men reported to me soon after breakfast, and they were
all fairly well mounted and well armed, each man having a pistol and
a rifle. We mounted our horses and rode about a half a mile away from
camp. We stopped and I explained to them what we had to do. After
showing them and drilling them about two hours I asked them if any of
them had ever shot from his horse's back. They said they never had;
neither had they ever seen any one shoot that way. I went a short
distance to a tree and made a cross mark with my knife. I then said to
them, "Now, my men I will show you what you must learn to do."
I then rode a hundred yards from the tree I had marked, turned my horse,
put spurs to him and had him running at his best. When I came near the
tree, I fired my pistol and also my rifle as I passed the tree and
didn't miss the mark over a foot with either shot. When I returned the
men were examining the bullet holes I had put in the tree. One of them
said, "That is wonderful shooting. But what seems to be a mystery is how
you can use both your gun and your pistol so near together."
I showed them how it was done, and then I said to them, "You will have
to practice this way of shooting when fighting with the Indians. They
never stand up and fight like a white man does, and if they should
attack us they will be on horse back, as that is their general mode of
fighting, and you are liable to meet them any moment, and you will be in
a country some of the time where you can not see a hundred yards ahead
of you, and you must always be prepared to give them a warm reception.
When we come out here this afternoon I want you to all try your hand at
shooting the way I have just done, from off your horse's back with him
on the run."
I met Jim at dinner, and asked him what success he had training his
teamsters. He answered, "Why, we will get there bye and bye, for every
man tries to do his best."
At that moment two of the committee came to where Jim and I stood
talking and said, "There is another large train of emigrants in sight.
What are you going to do with them?"
"I don't intend to do any thing with them," Jim answered. "It is the
business of you men of the committee to look after them, but if they
join this train they will have to bear their share of the expense, the
same as you do."
One of the men asked how much extra we would charge to take the other
train under our protection. Jim answered, "If there are forty wagons or
over that number, we will require one dollar a day extra and that will
lighten the expense on this train, and they must comply with all the
rules this train does; and if they are going to join us, I want them to
do so at once, for I want to get away from here day after tomorrow."
The man said he would attend to the matter at once, which he did, and
all of the new train joined us with the exception of four wagons and
eleven men. These eleven men claimed they could take care of themselves
at all times and in every place, and they pulled out alone.
The train over which Jim and I had control now numbered one hundred and
four wagons, and we had to work day and night to get them in shape to
start out on the road. We left there the third day after taking charge
of the train. That afternoon when I took my scouts out to practice
shooting, I had considerable sport at their expense. They were all
perfectly willing to try their guns and pistols, but they wanted some
one to take the lead. No one was willing to be the first one to shoot.
So I said, "I will settle the matter this way. I will call the name of a
man, and he must take his place and shoot." The first man I called rode
out saying, "I have never shot from the back of a horse." I answered,
"Well, there is always a first time for everything, and the quicker you
start in the sooner you will learn."
He rode off a short distance, whirled his horse and started for the
tree. When he got to within a few steps of the mark he fired his pistol,
and made a very good shot, but the report of the pistol frightened his
horse, and he wheeled and ran in the opposite direction of the one he
was going, and he had run about two hundred yards before he could stop
him. When the man rode back and saw the shot he had made, he felt
encouraged, and said, "I want to try that over again."
I answered, "All right, load your pistol and try again, and I will ride
by your side and perhaps that will quiet your horse."
This time he did fine for a green hand at that way of shooting. The next
man I called on fired his pistol before he got near the tree, and his
horse commenced to jump, and he dropped his gun. At that moment Gen.
Kerney rode up to us and said to the man, "That is one time, young man,
when if you had been in an Indian fight you might have lost your scalp
and you surely would have lost your gun. You must do better than that.
You must all take an interest in what Mr. Drannan is trying to teach you
to do, for you will need all the knowledge you can get to protect not
only your selves but the whole train before you get to California. The
Indians are all on the war path and you are liable to have a brush with
them any day after you leave Fort Kerney, and Mr. Drannan is fully
competent to teach you how to meet them, if you will follow his
After talking a little longer to the men the Gen. rode away; and I was
glad to see that his advice had a good effect on the men; they all
seemed anxious to try their hand at shooting instead of being backward
as they had been before, and I heard one of them remark to another,
"Say, man, we have got to learn to shoot from our horses for that
General knows what he is talking about, and now let's get in and learn
as quick as we can."
After they had all had a try single handed at the mark on the tree I
said, "Now men, we will take a shot all together."
I then made a mark on the ground, about twenty steps from the tree we
had been shooting at. I then said to them, "We will go back to our
starting place," which was about two hundred yards, "then we will form
in, line, and we will make a dash as fast as our horses can carry us.
When we reach this mark I have made on the ground I will shout, "Fire!"
and every man must be ready to fire together, and be careful that you
keep in line together; for if you break your ranks in an Indian fight
you are almost sure to lose the battle; this drill will train your
horses at the same time it is training you."
We rode back, formed in line, and made the charge, and I was very much
surprised at the way the men all acquitted them selves. When I gave the
word "fire," the report was almost as one sound, so close were their
shots together. I went up to the tree and I found that every man had the
mark. I told them that they had done exceptionally well.
"It is getting near night, so we will go back to camp and after supper
we will practice signaling for one to use in case of danger to the
When we got back to camp Bridger had just finished corralling the whole
train, and I was surprised to see how neatly it was done considering the
short time they had been drilling; I asked Jim when he would be ready
to pull out. He answered, "I am going to order an early breakfast for
tomorrow morning; and we will pull out as soon as we can after we have
eaten it. I want to make it to the crossing of the Platte tomorrow, and
it will take us all of the next day to cross the river, and as the river
has commenced to rise, the quicker we get across it, the better it will
be for us; after we cross the Platte we will have no more trouble with
high water until we get to Green river."
After supper I got my scouts together, and we went outside of the
corral; we all sat down on a log. I then asked them if any of them could
mimic a Coyote; they all looked at me a moment, and then one said, "I
don't think any of us ever saw a Coyote. What are they? What do they
I could not help laughing, for I thought everyone knew what a Coyote
was. I told them that a Coyote was a species of Wolf, not as dangerous
as the Grey Wolf but three of them could make more noise than all the
dogs around the camp could, and I said, "You will see them in droves
between here and California, being so numerous the Indians pay no
attention to them; and we scouts often use the howl of a Coyote as a
signal to each other because this noise will not attract the attention
of the Indians; I will now show you how the Coyote howls."
I then gave two or three yelps mimicking the Coyote, and before I had
given the yelp the Coyotes answered me. They were about two hundred
yards from us in the brush. Some of the men jumped to their feet
exclaiming, "What was that?"
When I could stop laughing I told them those were my Coyote friends,
The Coyotes and I kept up the howling several minutes, and quite a crowd
of men and women gathered around me, listening to the noise, and they
all wanted to know what it was that I was mimicking. Before I could
answer them Jim Bridger, who had come near unobserved by me, said,
"Will, suppose we give them the double howl?"
I said, "All right," and we howled together just a few times when the
Coyotes in the brush turned loose and such howling I never had heard
before in all my experience among them. A number of the women rushed up
to Jim and me, frightened nearly into spasms, crying, "oh, is there any
danger, of those dreadful beasts attacking the camp?"
Jim laughed heartily and assured them there was no danger as the Coyote
was the greatest coward in the forest and would run at the sight of a
man. I told the men that they would not have any scout duty to do until
after we crossed the Platte river, so we could all ride along the trail
together and practice the coyote signal, for they would need to know it
as soon as they crossed the Platte river.
The next morning we were astir very early, had our breakfast and were on
the road. A little after sunrise that morning, just as we were pulling
out, Jim said to me, "When we are within five or six miles of the Platte
I want you to go on ahead of the train and select a camping ground as
near the crossing of the river as you can; for if we camp near the
crossing we can get the train over the river very much quicker than we
can if we camp a distance back."
I left them in time to reach the river an hour before the train and had
good luck selecting a place to camp not a quarter of a mile from the
crossing. I found a little grove of timber with a beautiful little
stream of water running through it which I thought was just the place
for us to camp that night. I went back and reported to Jim. He said,
"Why, I ought to have remembered that little grove, but I clean forgot
As soon as Jim had corralled the train, we turned our horses over to the
herders and struck out down to the river to see what condition the water
was in, and to our satisfaction we found that it had just commenced to
rise. Jim said, "As soon as you have eaten breakfast in the morning,
Will, I wish you would ride down here and cross the river and see if the
ford is clear of quick sand. If there is nothing of that kind to bother
us we ought to get the whole outfit over by noon."
When we returned to camp supper was ready. While Jim and I were eating,
about a dozen ladies came to us; among them was an old lady who said,
"Can't you men coax the wolves to howl again to night?"
Jim answered, "Yes, but I will bet my old boots that before another week
has passed you will want us to stop their howling so you can sleep," to
which she answered, "Well, where do they live? We don't see or hear them
in the day time."
Jim told her that the Coyotes stayed in hollow logs or caves or in thick
brush in the day time anywhere out of sight. Just at that moment a
Coyote yelped; he was up the river a short distance and for the next two
hours there was a continual howl. I asked the old lady if she thought
the wolves needed any coaxing to make them yelp. She said, no, she
guessed, Mr. Bridger was right when he said they were noisy. Early in
the morning I did not wait for breakfast but mounted my horse and went
down to the river. I crossed it at the ford to ascertain whether there
was quick sand in the ford enough to interfere with the crossing of the
I will here explain to the reader that it was very necessary to examine
the fords of the Platte river, as it was a treacherous stream in the way
of quick sand, but this time I found nothing in the way to interfere
with our crossing. When I got back to camp they were just sitting down
to breakfast. I told Jim that there would be no trouble in crossing the
river, to which he replied, "All right, when we get ready to cross I
want you to lead the train. We will cross twenty-five wagons at a time,
and I will have all the mounted men ride on each side of the wagons to
keep the teams in their places."
We were successful in landing all the wagons in safety and were all on
the other side by eleven o'clock. I asked Jim where we should camp that
night; he asked me how far it was to Quaking Asp Grove. I told him I
thought it was about nine miles to that place.
He said, "Well, I think we can make it there in good season and that
will be a good place to camp."
I now instructed my scouts what their duty was, and we pulled out, I
taking the lead from one to two and a half miles ahead of the train.
Late that afternoon I discovered considerable Indian signs where they
had crossed the main trail. I followed their trail quite a way and
decided that they had passed that way about two days before.
After we went into camp I rode to the top of a high hill about a mile
away to look for Indian camp fires. I was soon convinced that there were
no Indians near us and started back to camp. I had got within a quarter
of a mile of the camp when I saw two men sitting on a log just ahead of
me; I rode up to them, and when I spoke to them I recognized them as two
of the eleven that left us with the four wagons at Fort Kerney. I said
to them, "Men, what are you doing here, and where are your teams and the
rest of the men who went with you?"
They answered, "The rest of the men are all dead, killed by the Indians
night before last; we made our escape by running off in the dark, and we
haven't had a bite to eat since supper that night, and in fact we did
not have much supper then, for the savages came on us when we were
I said, "What became of your wagons and teams?"
They said they did not know what became of them, for they made their
escape as soon as the Indians came upon them; that they ran a little
ways and stopped and listened to the cries of the others as long as
there were any left, and then wandering around through the woods ever
since, not knowing where they were or what would become of them, and
they continued, "We sat down here because we were so weak we could go no
One then asked where the rest of the train was. I replied, pointing, "It
is about a quarter of a mile over there."
At that, one said to the other, "Let's go and get something to eat." I
showed them the way to the train, and as they were intimately acquainted
with some of the emigrants they soon had their hunger appeased.
While they were eating, they told us their experience. Three or four
miles before they camped for the night they saw the Indians. There were
at least seventy-five of them. They were on the north side of the road.
They would come close to the road and then disappear again.
"We tried to get near to talk to them, but they ran away as if they were
afraid of us. When we camped that evening there were about twenty-five
of them on a hill not more than a hundred and fifty yards from us. Two
of the men started to go up to them, but they ran away, and that was the
last we saw of them, and so we made up our minds that they had gone, and
we thought no more about them. It was good and dark when we sat down to
supper, and how so many of them came upon us without making any noise is
a mystery to us. The first thing we knew, the whole number we had first
seen was upon us, and of all the noise, the yells and whoops we ever
heard, they made the worst. If they had come up out of the ground, we
would not have been more surprised, and the arrows were flying in every
direction. As it happened we two were sitting a little away from the
rest of the men eating our supper, and at their first yell we jumped up
and made for the nearest brush; our guns were all in the wagons, and
the Indians were between us and the wagons, so we had no way to defend
ourselves. We went a little ways into the brush, and then we looked back
and saw the Indians using their tomahawks on the men we had left, and in
a few minutes all the noise was over and we supposed all the nine were
Jim Bridger then said, "You two men are the luckiest chaps I ever heard
of. You may be sure that the Indians did not see you that night, or they
would have trailed you up and had your scalps before the next morning."
One of the committee men came to where Jim and I were sitting and said,
"What shall we do about finding and burying those bodies?"
Jim answered, "That, sir, is your business, not ours. It is our business
to see that the people under our care do not meet with the same fate
these men have met, and I do not intend to put the lives of all this
train in danger by stopping to hunt for the remains of men who refused
with scorn to stay with us and share the protection we offered them;
they brought the trouble and their own deaths on them selves, but I will
say this, if any of you men want to hunt for these bodies and take the
time to bury them, I have no objection, but you must understand that
when you get outside of the scout force we shall not be responsible for
any thing that may happen to you."
At that moment more than twenty men spoke together, saying, "Mr. Bridger
is right, Mr. Bridger is right; he proposes to do just what he agreed to
do, and no one can blame him." One of the men then asked if we would be
willing to stop long enough to bury the bodies if we found them; Jim
said, "We have no objections to stopping if it is a suitable place to
make our camp, but if it isn't we can't afford to lose the time, as we
must make certain places to camp every day, for we are now in a hostile
Indian country, and in order to protect our selves we must camp in
certain places, for without we take this care this train will not be in
existence a week, and Will and I feel the responsibility that rests upon
us, for the lives of your women and children as well as your own are in
At this moment a middle-aged lady who stood near us with the tears
running down her cheeks said, "Why don't you let Mr. Bridger and Mr.
Drannan have their way? You see what these other men came to by not
obeying their orders, and do you want to bring us all to the predicament
they are in?" At this Jim said, "I'll be dog goned if they will."
This settled the controversy for the time being.
That evening before we turned in for the night Jim and I talked the
matter over together; and we decided that after I put out the scouts in
the morning I would take ten men all mounted on horses and keeping about
five miles ahead of the train, and if we found the bodies I should set
the men I had with me to work digging graves, and I should turn back and
report to Jim what we had found, and the condition we found them in.
As soon as possible the next morning the men I had selected and myself
pulled out. We had made eight or nine miles when we found the bodies we
were looking for. They were all laying near together, around what had
been their camp fire, and all of them were scalped.
There was nothing about them to indicate that they had made any effort
to protect themselves. Every one of the heads was split, showing they
had been tomahawked, proving what the two survivors had told us about
the suddenness of the attack to be correct. We found their wagons nearly
empty. The covers had been torn off, the most of the bedding was gone
and some of their clothing. The eatables such as bacon and flour and
dried fruit was laying on the ground. I told the men I thought the best
way to bury them would be to dig one large grave and put them all into
it, and they seemed to be of the same mind. After helping to select a
spot for the grave, I left them and rode back to meet the train and
report our find. I told Jim all about the condition of things at the
dead men's camp, at which he said, "I guess we had better stop there a
couple of hours, which will give us time to bury the dead, and we can
reach our camping ground before night."
On reaching the place Jim corralled the train, and he then went to all
the families and told them that two hours was as long as we should stop
there. I said, "I will take a stroll around through the brush and see if
I can find some of their cattle."
I hadn't gone more than a quarter of a mile when I found twelve head of
their oxen. When I drove them back to the wagons, the two men said they
were just half of the original number. They yoked them up and hooked
them to two of the wagons and took what they wanted of the provisions
and clothes and left the rest laying on the ground. As we were about to
leave Jim said, "It is too dog goned bad to leave all that grub for the
Coyotes to eat. That meat and flour will be worth fifty cents a pound
when you get to California."
Then several of the men and women commenced to gather up the stuff, the
men carrying the flour and the women the bacon, and they soon had it all
stowed away in their wagons.
Having laid the dead away in the best manner we could under the
circumstances, and every thing else being in readiness, we pulled out
for Barrel Springs. I told Jim not to look for me until about dark, as
I intended to climb the tall hills that we could see in the distance to
look for Indian camp fires. This being understood, my twelve scouts and
myself left the train in Jim's care. After giving the eleven scouts
their orders, I took the other one with me and took the lead. Nothing of
interest occurred until we had nearly reached the place where we were to
camp that night. Happening to look up on a high ridge to the north of
us, I saw a large band of Buffalo coming towards us, and I thought by
the lay of the ground that they must pass through the spot where we were
going to camp. I said to my companion, "Let's hitch our horses and get
those trees," pointing to a little grove of timber, which stood near the
springs. "Those Buffalo are going to come down there, and we want to get
as many of them as possible. Now don't shoot until they are opposite us,
and then aim to break their neck every time, and load and shoot as fast
as you can after you commence."
We only had a few minutes to wait. When we reached the timber, the
Buffalos were opposite us. They were within thirty feet of us. We both
fired and two Buffaloes fell. Now it was a race to see who could load
first. I was the quickest and got the next one. They were now on the
stampede, and it was a sight to see the number that was passing us. I
got three of them with my rifle and one with my pistol. My companion
shot three with his rifle. The one I shot with my pistol I don't think
was over ten feet from me when she fell. She was the nicest little
two-year-old heifer I had ever killed, and her meat was almost as tender
as chicken. We went to work dressing them and had them pretty well
underway when the train arrived.
Barrel Springs was one of the prettiest places for a camping ground I
ever saw. It was in a small, open prairie, surrounded by scattering
timber, a stream of cool and pure sparkling water running through the
center, and the grass was almost to the horses' knees.
As soon as Jim had corralled the train, he rode to where we were at work
and said, "Boys, I'll be gol durned if this ain't one of the times, you
done two good jobs at once."
I said, "How is that, Jim?"
He answered, "In the first place you provided meat for our supper, and
in the next, you drove the Buffalos off so we have plenty of grass for
the stock for their supper."
By this time nearly all the women were standing around us. This was the
first Buffalo they had ever seen and they were a great curiosity to
them. With the rest was a middle-aged lady, and with her she had two
daughters nearly grown. The mother stood near me watching me work.
She said, "Mr. Drannan, may I have a piece of that yearling's hind
quarter? I will tell you what I want to do with it; my girls and I have
picked a lot of wild onions today, and I want to make a stew, and we
want you and Mr. Bridger to come to our tent and eat supper."
I assured her she could have all the meat she wanted from my little
heifer. One of the girls ran to their wagon to get an ax and her father
to come and chop it off for them. By this time the men had about
finished dressing the Buffalo, and every body helped themselves to what
part they wanted. There was plenty for all, and some of the rough part
left over. It did not seem long to me when one of the girls came to Jim
and me and told us that her mother had sent for us to come and take
supper with them, and I think that was one of the times we did justice
to a meal, for a stew with onions was a rare dish for us woodsmen, and
a woman to cook it was a still more rare occasion. As soon as we had
finished eating, Jim stood up and in a loud voice said, "Ladies, how
many of you can dance?"
I think there were as many as twenty-five answered, "I can dance."
Jim said, "All right, get ready, and after dark we will have lots of
One of the men asked, "Where are you going to get your music?"
Jim answered, "Why dog gone it, Will and Mr. Henderson have engaged a
band to play for us to night."
And in a few moments the band struck up in a Coyote howl, and Jim
laughed and said, "There, didn't I promise you a band? Isn't that
music?" And from then until midnight the howling never ceased. It was
something fearful to listen to. The smell of the Buffalo blood made them
wild, and they howled worse then usual that night. A great number of the
emigrants did not lay down until after midnight, and time after time
asked me if I thought there was any danger of them attacking the camp.
I told them there was no danger from them, and that if I knew there
weren't any Indians within twenty miles of us I could stop their yelling
in five minutes. They asked how that was possible. I told them that if
I was sure there were no Indians in hearing, I would fire my gun off a
time or two, and we would hear no more of the Coyotes at night. After
midnight they quieted down and every one went to sleep, except the
guards who watched the camp.
Jim and I were up very early the next morning and called all the others
to have an early breakfast, telling them we had to make twenty miles
that day to get to water and grass so we could camp that night. As soon
as breakfast was over Jim said to the women, "Now ladies, you won't have
any more music to dance to for the next three nights, for you will see
no more Buffalo, hear no more Coyotes, or see any Indians until we cross
Several of the ladies said they would be glad if they never heard any
more Coyotes howl. They did not like that kind of music to dance to, or
to be kept awake all night listening to them either.
For the next three days everything passed along smoothly; when we
reached Green River, it was rising rapidly, and we had a great deal of
trouble crossing it. We had to hitch three teams to one wagon and six
and eight men had to ride each side to keep the teams straight.
Green River is a mountain stream and flows very rapidly, and at this
place was very narrow, and if the team should get ten feet below the
Ford they would be lost so swift is the current. We worked hard two days
getting everything across the river, but we got everything over in good
shape at last.
That night, after supper was over, we told all the people of the train
to be ready for starting on the road by sunrise in the morning, as we
had a long drive before us and it was all gradually uphill at that.
Several of the women asked when we were going to give them some more
Buffalo meat. Jim burst out laughing and asked them if they wanted some
more music to dance to. One girl said, "Have we got to have music every
time we have Buffalo meat?"
Jim told her that for the next two weeks we would have music every night
whether we had Buffalo meat or not, and very likely there would be times
we would hear Indian yells during the day.
"By that time," he said, "we shall be in the Ute country, and they are
the meanest tribe of Indians in the west, and we may look for trouble
with them any moment, day or night." And addressing the men he said,
"I want you to keep your guns loaded and ready for use at a moment's
warning, and you must stay with the wagons, all but the scouts, who will
be under Will's control, for if they attack us I want to give them as
warm a reception as we possibly can, for if we whip them in the first
battle, that will settle it with that bunch. They will not trouble us
The next night we camped at Soda Springs. There were three springs close
together. Two of them were mineral, one strong with soda, and the other
was very salt, and the third one was pure cold water. As soon as the
wagons were corralled, several of the young girls took buckets and
started for the springs to get water, and as luck had it they all went
to the Soda spring. Not one of them had ever even heard of a soda spring
until they tried this one. They had not had any water to drink since
noon and were very thirsty, so drank very heartily without stopping to
taste, but as soon as the water was down, there was a cry from as many
as had drunk, and they all ran back to the wagons, screaming, "oh! oh! I
am poisoned, oh! What shall I do?" And with their hands pressed to their
breasts and the gas bursting from nose and mouth they did make a sad
sight to those who did not understand the effects of soda springs, but
to Jim and me it was very amusing, for we knew they were in no danger of
Some of the sufferers cried as well as screamed. I could not speak for
laughing, for I remembered my own first experience in drinking from a
soda spring, but Jim told them they were not poisoned and told them what
kind of water they had drunk. In a few moments all the crowd was at the
soda spring, drinking its poison water as the girls still called it. The
older women asked what they should do for water to cook with. I pointed
to the salt spring and told them to go and get water from that if they
had fresh meat to cook, and the water would salt it and for coffee I
pointed to the spring of water farthest from us, and I told the girls
they could drink all the water they wanted from that spring and not have
to make such faces as they did after they drank the soda. One of the
girls said she reckoned I would have made a face if I had felt as she
did. Jim stood near us with a smile on his lips, which I knew meant
mischief of some sort. He said. "Will, why don't you tell the girls how
you enjoyed your first drink of soda water?" And seeing how I blushed,
for my face was burning, he said, "I guess I had better tell them
myself. I don't think you know how comical you looked." And in the most
ridiculous way he could think of he described how I looked and acted on
that to me never-to-be-forgotten occasion, "My first drink from a soda
I have been told there is a large town at this place now, and that it is
a great resort for the sick. They use this salt water, which I forgot to
say was also hot as well as salt, for bathing, and is considered a great
cure for many diseases.
[Illustration: Waving my hat, I dashed into the midst of the band.]
The next morning we pulled out of this place by the way of Landers.
That afternoon about two o'clock I saw a small band of Indians coming
directly towards us. They were about a mile away when I first saw them.
I rode to the foot of a little hill which was close to me at the time I
saw them. I dismounted from my horse and tied him to a sage brush, and
then I crept to the top of the hill to see how many there were of them.
I watched them until they were within a half a mile of my hiding place;
I then counted thirty. I took them to be a hunting party by the way they
were traveling. I signaled to my scouts to come to me at once. When they
reached me, the Indians were less than a quarter of a mile from me. I
told them what was coming down the ravine and told them to see that
their guns and pistols were in order, "for, as soon as they round that
little point yonder, we will charge on them, and we will kill every one
we can. Now, don't shoot until we get within thirty yards of them. I
will say, "fire," then I want every man to get an Indian. Now don't get
rattled, but shoot to kill and shout as loud as you can. It don't make
any difference what you say, only make as big a noise as you can, and as
soon as you empty your guns, pull your pistols and go after them."
In a moment more the time had come to act, and when I said, "Charge,"
every man responded and did his duty. I had been in several Indian
fights before, but I never saw Indians so taken by surprise as this band
was. They did not draw their arrows or run, until we had fired into
them, and after they turned to run, they had gone at least two hundred
yards, before I saw them try to shoot an arrow.
We got fourteen of them in the first charge, and inside of three hundred
yards we got six more. The remainder had reached the thick brush, so we
let them go.
We now commenced catching the horses. We caught sixteen horses, and they
all had good hair ropes around their necks. We tied them all together,
and I left them in charge of two men, and the rest of us went to take
the scalps of the Indians, and I was surprised to find when I said, "We
will take the scalps of these Indians," that the men did not know what
I meant. I showed them how to take the scalps off, and then they asked
what I was going to do with them. I told them I was going to give them
to Jim Bridger, and he would make guards out of them. "Jim wouldn't take
the biggest hundred dollar bill you could offer him for these scalps,
when he gets his hands on them."
One of the men said, "What will Bridger do with them horrid bloody
I told him to just wait until night and then Jim would explain the use
they would be to him. I tied the scalps to my saddle, left two men to
care for the horses we had captured and biding the others to follow me I
struck out for the place where we were to camp that night.
Jim told me that night how surprised the emigrants were when the train
came to the men who had charge of the horses, and seeing the bodies of
the dead Indians.
He said, "I had to let them stop the train a few minutes so they could
all look at them." He said, "Some of the women wanted to know what
had become of the hair off the top of their heads. I told them that I
reckoned Will had taken them to give to me."
"And what are you going to do with those horrid Indians' hair?" one
"I am going to protect you and the rest of the train with them," he
The place we had picked out for camping ground that night was Sage
Creek. There was no timber in sight as far as one could see; there was
nothing to see but sage brush, but there was plenty of good water and
We had been riding around looking for signs of Indians, so we did not
reach the camping ground until Jim had the wagons corralled. I gave him
the scalps I had taken and I told him I was going to get some meat for
supper. He said, "What have you found? Bison or Antelope?"
I answered, "There are four or five hundred head of Antelope over beyond
that hill yonder," and I pointed to the ridge a short distance from
camp, "and I think I can take my scouts with me, and we can get an
Antelope apiece and get back here before sundown." Jim answered, "All
right, Will. I busy myself by hanging up my scalps while you are gone."
My men and I struck out up a ravine that led up close to where the
Antelope were feeding; we were screened from their sight by the high
banks. When we were close enough to them we dismounted and tied our
horses to some bush. I then crawled up the bank alone to see just where
the Antelope were, and to my surprise I found that there were two or
three hundred of them feeding almost on the edge of the ravine in close
gunshot to us. I slipped back down the bank and got to the boys as quick
as possible and told them that the Antelope were on the top of the bank
in close gun shot of us. We scattered along down the ravine for perhaps
a hundred yards. I took my handkerchief out of my pocket and told them I
would tie it around my ramrod. "And now don't any of you shoot until
you see this red handkerchief waving, for the color being red it will
attract their attention, and you will see more heads looking towards it
then you ever saw in your life before. Now take good aim and be sure
and hit your game, and as soon as you have emptied your guns pull your
pistols and get some more while they are running away; we ought to get
at least twenty Antelope out of this band."
When I waved the handkerchief, it seemed as if every rifle cracked at
once, and it was a lively time for a few minutes for all of us. When we
counted the Antelope we found we had shot twenty-two. We each took an
Antelope in front of us on our horses and put out for camp. When we got
there we unloaded, and some of the men that were at the camp commenced
dressing them and cutting them up in pieces to cook, while the other
boys went back to get those we had left where we killed them.
The women had the fires burning when the meat was ready for cooking,
and when supper was ready all the Antelope were dressed and distributed
around among the emigrants, and there was enough to last until the
Jim had cut long sticks and had hung the scalps on the wagons so they
could be seen quite a distance away. After he had them all fixed, he and
I were standing together talking, he telling me the effect the sight of
the dead Indians had on the emigrants and especially when they saw that
their scalps had been taken off.
Two of the women came to us and invited us to eat supper with them at
their tent. I will here explain to the reader that every family in the
train had their own separate tent and cooked at their own fire. Jim and
I accepted the invitation as we always did of the first that invited us
to each meal.
As we finished eating it seemed as though all the women of the train
gathered around us. There was one old lady in the crowd who seemed to be
the one selected to do the talking. She said, "Mr. Bridger, I want you
to tell me truly, don't you think it was awfully wicked to cut those
scalps off those Indians' heads and then hang the dreadful, bloody
things up on the wagons for us to look at?" and the tears were in her
eyes as she finished her question.
Jim replied, "The best thing that has been done since we started on this
trip is killing those Indians, and better still taking their scalps. I
did not hang those scalps up on your wagons for you to look at. I hung
them up for the Indians that are alive to look at, and I will tell you
this, the Indians will never attack the train as long as they see those
same bloody things hanging there, for they will think they will lose
their own scalps, if they do. I would rather have these Indian scalps
to protect you with than a hundred of the best soldiers in the United
States Army. The Indian does not fear death, but he dreads the thought
of having his scalps taken off his head, for it is the Indian's belief
that he cannot enter the happy hunting grounds after death if his scalp
has been taken off his head, and I want to impress on your minds that if
this train should be attacked, every one of you that fell into the hands
of the Indians, it would not matter whether they be men or women, would
have their scalps torn off, and the same scalps would be hanging up on
the Indians' wigwams for the squaws to dance around, and I want all you
ladies to distinctly understand that Will Drannan or myself will do
nothing while we have charge of this train but what will be of benefit
to you all, and will bear the strictest investigation."
By this time everyone in the train had surrounded us, and turning to the
men of the train, Jim continued, "If any of you are dissatisfied with
our actions, now is the time to say so, and we will quit right here, and
I will guarantee that the Indians will have all of your scalps before
you are a hundred miles from here."
At this moment the committee came to us and said, "We want you two men
to understand that there is no fault to be found with what you have done
since you took charge of this train. We realize that every move you have
made has been for our benefit. Mr. Bridger, you have no doubt found out
long before this time that in a large company like this, everyone can
not be satisfied. No matter how hard you may try to please them, there
will still be some growlers and, pardon me for saying, there are cranks
among the women as well as among men."
At this the old lady who had called Bridger wicked stepped up to Jim and
said, "Mr. Bridger, I hope you will excuse me, for what I said. I will
admit that I did not know what I was talking about, and if you will
forgive me this time I will find no more fault with you."
Jim made no reply to the lady's remarks, but turning to the rest of the
company he said, "Now get ready to have a good dance tonight, for we are
going to have lots of music, for the Coyotes will smell the blood of the
Indians on one side of us and that of the Antelope on the other side, so
there will be music from a double band."
This was the last word of complaint that was expressed, while we
were with this train. Everyone seemed satisfied, and all things went
pleasantly from this time on. But talk about Coyotes' howling. This was
one of the nights when they did howl. They came so close to us that we
could hear them snap their teeth. Apparently there were hundreds of them
After leaving this camp we had no more trouble for two days. The second
night we camped on a little stream which was a tributary to Snake river.
In the morning before we camped at this place, I told Jim when I left
him with my scouts that he need not expect to see me until supper time.
"You know, Jim, that we are in the heart of the Ute country, and I shall
prospect every hill or ravine where there is liable to be found signs of
That evening it was perhaps a couple of miles before we got to the camp
and a mile or so away from the other scouts, I ran on three wagons
standing right in the middle of the road. After examining them a few
minutes, I came to the conclusion that they had been standing where they
were all winter. I saw that there had been ox-teams attached to them
some time, but there was no sign of yokes there. The covers were still
on the wagons, so I got off my horse and climbed into one of them. I
found some flour and probably three hundred pounds of bacon in the three
wagons. There was no bedding, but some clothing for both men and women,
which was quite old and worn. On the front gate of one of the wagons I
found considerable blood, and there was blood on the tongue of the same
wagon. I now made an examination of the ground to see if there were any
signs of a fight. After I had looked around some time, I was convinced
that the owners of the wagons, whoever they had been, had been massacred
by the Indians.
About forty steps from the wagons I found the remains of three people.
One was a large body, that of a man, and one a medium size, which I took
for the body of a woman, and the other was a small child. All there was
left of them was their bones and some hair, the Wolves having stripped
the flesh entirely from them.
I signaled to my scouts to come to me. As soon as they came, I told them
to take all the grub out of the wagons and put it in a pile, and I would
go back and meet the train and have three men appointed to distribute
the stuff among the families. I told the boys that there were two trunks
in the wagons and to break them open and see what was in them.
They did so and found them full of women's clothes, some of the garments
of very nice material. I rode back and met the train and told Jim what I
had found, and what I thought we had best do.
He selected three men to divide the provisions among the families of the
train. I never inquired what they did with the clothes that was in the
We hunted all around in every direction, but we could find no more
bodies, so if there had been others, the Indians must have taken them
into captivity or, what was more likely, the Coyotes had dragged them
away into the brush beyond our reach.
After the emigrants had stored the provisions in their wagons, we went
on to the place we had selected for a camping ground for that night. I
preceded the train a half a mile, and I found plenty of Indian signs,
but they were all old. All their trails were pointing south that night.
I asked Jim why all the Indians were going south this time of the year.
He told me that they were going to hunt big game such as Buffalo, Bison
and Elk, and they had to go further south to find such game, and he
said, he should not be surprised if we did not see another Indian until
we struck the Sink of Humboldt.
"But you may look out then, for we will find them then in plenty." As
Jim finished this remark, one of my scouts came riding into camp at full
speed. Jim and I went to meet him, for we suspected that something was
up. As soon as he got in speaking distance he said to me, "There are a
thousand Indians up on that ridge yonder, and they are coming this way;
they are all on horse back, and there are women and children with them."
Jim asked how far off they were. He said he didn't believe they were
over a mile from camp at this minute; Jim mounted his horse and went to
the herders and ordered them to corral the stock at once, at the same
time telling every man to get his gun and form in line for the Indians
were coming upon us, and the reader may be sure that everybody and every
animal in that train was moving lively for a few minutes.
As soon as the stock was corralled, Jim rode up to me with one of the
sticks that had a scalp on it in his hand. Handing it to me, he said,
"Here, Will, take this and ride out a little ways from the corral, and
when the Indians come where they can see you, wave it over your head so
they will be sure to see the scalps, and I will get another bunch and I
will stand close to you at the same time."
In a few minutes more the Indians hove in sight. They were in less than
a quarter of a mile of us before they could see the whole train. As soon
as they got a good sight of us the whole band stopped. The leader of
the band was a war chief. We knew this by his dress. As soon as they
stopped, Jim and I rode out towards them, waving the scalps like a flag.
The old chief looked at us a moment, then turned and seemed to be
talking with some of the other braves a few minutes. Then the whole
tribe pulled out in a westerly direction from us, and in a short time
they were out of our sight, and their pace was lively the reader may be
sure for the sight of the scalps had frightened them, as they feared
they would meet the same fate if they did not get away from us quick.
I followed them quite a distance to make sure that they had gone. When I
got back, everything had quieted down and the company was just sitting
down to supper.
After Jim and I had got through eating, two of the committee came to us
and as many as forty or fifty women, old and young, were with them. The
men said to us, "These women have asked us to come to you and tender
their most heartfelt thanks to you for what you have done for them
today, for we are all sure we would have fallen victims to the savages
if you had not been with us to protect us from them. It was the
easiest-won battle that I ever heard of, and all because you knew how to
fight the savages with their own weapon."
Jim answered, "Didn't I tell you that them scalps was worth an army of
soldiers to us, and hasn't this proved my words to be true? What would
a hundred soldiers have done with that whole tribe of Indians? There
wouldn't have been a man of them left in an hour to tell the story, and
every one of their scalps would be hanging to the Indians' belts, and I
want you to all bear in mind that for the next three hundred miles we
are liable to have just such another experience any hour of the day or
night, and I want to ask you all to do as you done this time. Only keep
cool and obey our orders, and I think we will get you through in safety,
and I want to say this for the ladies, they showed great bravery today
in keeping so quiet and having good sense staying under cover, and I did
not hear a sound from any of them, and I will tell the girls that I will
recommend them to the best-looking young frontiersmen I am acquainted
with, as wifes, especially if they learn to dance to the Coyote's
This made a laugh all around and took the edge off of the danger that
had clouded the people's faces, which was the motive Jim had in view
in making the joking remarks, for no one knew better than Jim did how
necessary it is to keep a company in good spirits, and to keep them from
dwelling on the danger that might threaten them.
There was nothing to interrupt our slumbers that night, and we arose
refreshed the next morning, ready for the day's journey and whatever was
For the next three days nothing happened to interfere with our journey.
The third day brought us to the foot of Look Out mountain, which is a
spur of the Sierra Nevada mountains. In the eastern part of what is
now the State of Nevada, but which was at that time one of the wildest
countries in all the west, this particular portion I am speaking about
was inhabited solely by the Ute Indians, which at that time was a very
large tribe, and one of the most barbarous tribe that ever inhabited
It is now fifty years ago since the events I am speaking of took place,
and after all that Uncle Sam has done for them, they are not civilized
At the time I speak of, this tribe inhabited all of the country from
Snake river on the north to the Colorado river on the south and probably
four hundred miles east and west, and at that time it was one of the
greatest game countries west of the Rocky mountains. Such game as
Buffalo, Elk, Antelope and Deer ranged all through that country in
countless numbers. The Buffalo traveled much less in that particular
portion of the country than they did in the country east of the Rocky
mountains. The Buffalo that inhabited this part of the country scarcely
ever crossed Snake river on the north or strayed as far as what is now
known as the States of Oregon and Idaho, and it was no uncommon sight to
see from fifty to two hundred and fifty Elk in one band. It would seem
unreasonable at this period to tell how many Antelope one could see in
But to return to the emigrant train and our camp at the foot of Look Out
mountain, just before I got to our intended camping place, I crossed a
trail where the Indians had just passed. I followed this trail for some
distance, and judging from the signs I decided there was quite a large
band, five hundred or more of them.
I went back to the main trail and signaled to my scouts to come to me.
I selected one to go with me, gave the others their orders what to do,
telling them to be sure and tell Bridger to not look for us until he saw
us, for I was going to follow a trail until I found where the Indians
went into camp.
Myself and my assistants now took the trail of the Indians, and we had
followed it about five miles when we came to a high ridge, and as we
looked down into the valley we saw the Indians in camp.
I was now satisfied that the Indians had not seen us and would not see
us, so we turned and rode back to the place where we started from. When
we reached the camping ground, Jim had just got the train corralled.
I reported to him what I had seen and where the Indians were. After
listening to my report, Jim said, "That is good. There is no danger from
that band anyway."
We passed a quiet night at this camp. The next morning we were up very
early and got an early start on the road, for we had a long drive before
us that day, as it was all of twenty miles before we could reach water
Before we started that morning, Jim said to me, "Keep a sharp look
out for Buffalo when you get near the next water, for if there are no
Indians there, you will be sure to find Buffalo, and tomorrow being
Sunday we will lay over a day and rest up, and if we can have some fresh
meat I think everyone will enjoy it."
I answered that if there were any Buffalo in that part of the country, I
would surely find them, "for, besides the treat the Buffalo will be to
us, we can have another Coyote dance."
Jim clapped his hands and, laughing, replied, "Yes, Will, I'll be dog
gorned if we won't, for the Coyotes will howl to beat any band if you
can kill a few Buffalos."
I and my scouts pulled out at once, and to my surprise I did not see an
Indian track all that day. When I was within three or four miles of the
place where we were to camp, I commenced to see signs of Buffalo, so I
signaled all the other scouts to come to me. As soon as they came, I
showed them the tracks of the Buffalo in the sand, and then I told them
that we would scatter out and go in abreast, keeping about a hundred
yards apart, and keep a sharp look out, and if either of us see any
Buffalo, signal to the rest of us to come, "for, we are going to lay
over in this camp tomorrow, and we want some Buffalo meat to feast on."
We saw no Buffalo until we were almost to the camping ground. Then one
of the men discovered a herd of perhaps twenty-five cows and calves in a
little valley close to the place where we were going to camp.
As soon as he saw them, he signaled to the balance of us, and we got to
him as quickly as possible. On examination of the valley, we found that
there was only one way the Buffalos could get out, and that was the way
they went in, which led down to where our camp would be that night.
There were not more than eight or ten acres in the whole valley, and it
was almost surrounded by high bluffs, and the only outlet which was not
more than thirty paces wide led directly to the spot where we intended
to camp over Sunday.
I told the men to dismount and tie their horses to some Sage brush that
was near and go down to a little grove of trees that stood at the mouth
of the valley.
"I will ride in among them and try to separate the herd so we can get as
many of them as possible, and aim to kill the smallest of the band as
they pass you. If I am successful in separating the band, and you can
get two shots at them, we will get all the meat we want. I will try to
hold all the calves until the cows are out of the valley, and when the
last cow is out, all you men rush and close the opening, and then we
will have lots of sport killing the calves."
As I rode into the valley, all the Buffalos ran to the opposite end,
and I saw then that I should have a hard time to separate them. I rode
quickly to where they were all in a bunch. As I drew near them, they all
broke for the outlet in one body. I took my hat off and, waving it
over my head and with a yell, I dashed into the midst of the band and
succeeded in separating three cows and ten calves. At one time I thought
they would run over me and my horse in spite of all I could do to
prevent it. But finally I separated the three cows and ten calves from
the rest and turned them back to the head of the valley. I now heard the
report of the guns, so I knew the men were getting some meat. I then
rode back to them as quickly as I could, and I found they had shot ten
Buffalo cows, which all lay dead within a few feet of each other.
I said, "Now boys, we have enough cows, but we want some of the calves,
and I will go up and start them down, and you let the cows all pass out
but hold the calves inside and shoot all of them you can."
I went back to the other end of the valley, and as luck was on my side
the cows separated themselves from the calves, and I had no trouble in
running the cows out, which I did at full speed. I then said, "Now boys,
you may kill all these calves but one, and that one I am going to have
for a pet."
They all commenced to laugh and asked, "How are you going to catch it?"
I answered, "You just watch me," at the same time I was loosening the
riata from my saddle. I then rode up near to where the calves were
huddled together, and as they started to run I threw my rope at the
largest one in the bunch and caught him around the neck, and there was
some lively kicking and bucking for a few minutes, but he found it was
no use to struggle. After that it took only a few minutes before the men
had all the others killed.
The excitement being over, I looked down to the other end of the valley
and saw that Bridger had the train corralled. I sent one of the men to
tell Jim to send ten or twelve teams up the valley to drag the Buffalos
down to camp. The men reported the number of cows and calves we had
killed, and Jim sent enough teams to drag them all down to camp in one
As soon as the teams had started with their loads, I asked the boys to
help me with my calf. I told them to all get behind him and give him a
scare, and he would go to camp in a lively gallop, for I wanted to show
the women and children how a wild Buffalo looked when alive.
When we reached the corral, Jim Bridger was the first to meet us. The
calf had got pretty wild by this time. No one could get near him. Jim
said he had been seeing Buffalo for the last twenty-five years, and this
one was the first he had ever seen led into camp, and in a few minutes
all the women and children and the majority of the men were gathered in
a bunch looking at my calf and laughing at his antics, for he did not
submit to captivity very gracefully. After watching him a while, Jim
said, "What are you going to do with him, Will?"
I answered that I did intend to eat him, but I thought now I had better
turn him loose.
Jim said, "That won't do, Will, for he would kill someone before he
cleared himself of the crowd. Tie him up to a tree, and we can kill him
and take the meat with us when we leave here."
I tied him up as Jim thought best, although I pitied the little fellow
and had rather have let him loose and seen him scamper away over the
hills to join his friends in freedom.
The men set to work skinning and getting the meat ready to cook for
supper. We now had fresh meat enough to last the entire outfit nearly a
After we had finished supper Jim told the women to get ready to dance,
"for," he said, "we will have more music tonight than we have had for a
One of the old ladies asked him, how he could tell when the wolves would
howl more one night than another, and she said, "every time that you
have said they would howl, they have made such a noise that none of us
could sleep." Jim answered, "this will be the worst night for them to
howl you have ever heard, and I will tell you why. You see, all those
Buffalos have been dressed here at the camp, and the Coyotes will smell
the blood for miles away from here, and they will follow the scent until
they get to us, and as they cannot get to the meat they will vent their
disappointment in howling. So you see why I say the ladies will have a
plenty of music to dance to." And sure enough, as soon as it commenced
growing dark the din commenced, and there was no sleep for anyone in
that camp until nearly daylight the next morning. A number of times
that night I went out perhaps fifty yards from the wagons and saw them
running in every direction. I could have silenced them by firing once
among them, but this I did not dare to do, for I did not know how many
Indians might be in hearing of the report of my gun, and I thought it
the better policy to hear the howling of the wolves than to have a fight
with the Indians.
The next morning I called the scouts together and divided them into four
squads, and we started out to examine the country in all four directions
for Indians or the signs of them, our calculation being to investigate
the country for five miles in every direction.
I told the men that if we saw no Indians or the signs of them that day
that we would have a chance to sleep that night for I would fire a few
shots among the Coyotes and stop their music, for that time at least.
I and the men that went with me took a direct western course. After
traveling perhaps five miles we struck a fresh Indian trail; the Indians
had passed along there the evening before going in a southern direction.
We followed it some distance, and I came to the conclusion that there
were four or five hundred Indians in the band, and I knew by the
direction they were traveling that they would have to go fifteen or
twenty miles before they could find water, so I knew we were perfectly
safe from this band. So after explaining this to my companions, I said,
"Let us go back to camp."
On our arrival there we found that all the scouts had got into camp
except the squad that went east, and in a few minutes, they came riding
in as fast as their horses could bring them shouting at the top of their
voices, "The Indians are after us."
Jim ordered the stock all corralled at once, and the men were not long
in obeying orders. While these were attending to the stock, Jim was
placing the other men in a position to protect the train, and as good
luck, or rather Jim's forethought, had it, he had stuck the scalps we
had used for the same purpose before on the wagons the night before,
saying as he did it, "We don't ever know when they will be needed."
I with all my scout force rode out to meet the coming Indians. About two
hundred yards from the corral there was a little hill which the Indians
would have to climb before they came in view of our camp. I told the men
that we would meet them at the top of the hill and give them as warm a
welcome as we could, and then we would get back to the train as quickly
as possible, and I then told them to shoot with their rifles first and
then to pull their pistols and to let the savages have all there was in
them, and then wheel their horses and make for camp.
We heard them coming before we reached the top of the hill. When we got
on the crest, they were not more than thirty or forty yards from us.
Every one of my men fired together, and I saw a number of Indians fall
from their horses, and after we emptied our pistols among them, we
wheeled our horses and sped back to camp.
The Indians just rounded the top of the hill where they could barely see
the train, and then they stopped. Seeing the wagons with the scalps
on them and all in seeming waiting for them seemed to take them by
surprise. Bridger was making arrangements to make an attack on them when
they all gave the war whoop and wheeled their horses and went back the
way they had come.
Myself and scouts went to the top of the hill to see if the Indians were
still in the neighborhood, but finding no signs of them we went back to
camp. When I told Jim that there were no Indians in sight, he sprang up
and laughed as loud as he could and clapped his hands together and said,
"Another battle won by Will's Indian scalps. Didn't I tell you all that
them scalps was worth more to us than all the soldiers we could get
around us? They have won two good strong battles for us, and we will
not have any more trouble here. Them scalps is worth a hundred dollars
apiece to this train."
My men and I now went back over the hill to see how many Indians we had
shot in our first meeting them, and strange to say we did not find a
dead Indian, but there was plenty of blood all around where they were
when we fired on them. I knew by the blood that we had killed some of
them, but their comrades had taken their bodies on their horses and
carried them with them, which the Indian always does if he can.
When we returned to camp the excitement was all over, and everyone was
as cheerful as if nothing had happened to disturb them. Jim and I were
talking together a short time after I got back when two young girls came
to us and said their mother wanted us to eat dinner with them, for they
were going to have pie for dinner. Jim said, "Is it calf pie? I do love
calf pie above all things."
The girls laughed and said, "No, it is apple pie." Jim said, "All right,
I like apple pie too."
When we sat down to dinner, which the reader will understand was not
spread on a table, but was spread on the ground, I was surprised to see
what was before us to eat. I have paid a dollar many times since then
for a meal that would not compare in any way with this dinner that was
cooked out in the wilds with no conveniences that women are supposed to
There was a stew made of the Buffalo calf, a roast of the same kind of
meat, corn bread, fried wild onions, apple pie and as good a cup of
coffee as I ever drank.
After we had finished eating, Jim said to the lady, "Are you going to
run a boarding house when you get to California?"
She answered, "I don't know what I shall do when we get there. Why do
Jim answered, "I wanted to know because if you are, every time I come to
California, I am coming to board with you."
Her husband then said, "It don't make any difference whether we keep a
boarding house or not. Any time you or Mr. Drannan come near our place
we shall expect you to come to us. You both will be perfectly welcome to
a seat at our table at any and all times. After what I have seen today,
I am more fully convinced that everyone in this train owes their lives
to you two men. What would have become of the whole of us this morning
if you two men had not been here to guard us? I will tell you what would
have happened. Our stock and all we possessed would have been in the
hands of the Indians, and our scalps would be hanging at their girdles
at this time, and I want to say now that the people that compose this
train can never pay you for what you have done for us on this dangerous
Jim answered, "When we undertook to pilot this train across to
California, we knew what we would be likely to meet with and that the
undertaking was no child's play. We both understood the nature of the
Indians thoroughly, and if all you people stick together and obey our
orders, we will take you through in safety."
The man answered, "Mr. Bridger, you need not have one uneasy thought
about anyone wanting to leave your protection on this trip, for everyone
in this company understands that their lives are in the hands of you two
By this time there was quite a crowd around us, and Jim said, "We both
appreciate the good opinion you have expressed, but after all we have
only done our duty by you as we always do, or at least we try to do to
everyone who intrust themselves and their property in our care. And now,
to change the subject, Will says he is going to stop the wolves howling
tonight so you people can get some sleep."
When it had grown dark I took a few of the scouts with me out on the
edge of camp perhaps a hundred yards from the corral, and when the
Coyotes began their howling, we began firing, and in a few minutes there
was not a sound to be heard. We were satisfied that we would not be
disturbed that night by the savages or the Coyotes, so we all turned in,
and we had a good night's rest.
The next morning we were up and had an early breakfast, and I had
not seen the emigrants in such a cheerful mood as they all were this
morning, since we left Fort Kerney. Every one was cracking jokes.
As my scouts and I were about to leave the train to take our usual
position as guards, one of the young girls came to me and said, "Mr.
Drannan, I knew you were a good Indian fighter, but I did not know the
Coyotes were so afraid of you. Did you hang up some of their scalps so
that they could see them and know they would share the same fate as
their comrades if they did not keep away?"
I told her that the report of our guns told the Coyotes what to expect
if they came where the bullets would hit them. "But if my shooting
interferes with your dancing, I will be careful and not do any thing to
spoil the music."
She laughed and said, "Never you mind, Mr. Drannan, we are going to give
you a dance before many nights."
I answered that I only knew how to dance one kind of a dance, and that
was the scalp dance.
She said she had never seen a scalp dance, and said, "What is it like?"
Jim Bridger said, "When we have the next fight with the Indians, Will
and I will show you how it is done, that is providing the Indians don't
get our scalps, and if they do they will show you."
Jim said to me, "I don't think we will have any more trouble with the
Indians until we get to the sink of the Humboldt; it is about a hundred
miles from here. There is quite a strip of country through here that I
am afraid we will have a great deal of trouble in, for at this time of
the year all the game that is in the country seems to gather there, and
as the Indians always follow the game I am afraid there will be plenty
of them too. But we could not have a better scare crow than the scalps
we have scared the last two bands away with, and I think if we are
always successful in getting the train corralled before they come on us
we will get through in safety."
I answered, "Jim, if it is possible for me to prevent it, you will never
be surprised, for I and my men will keep a sharp look out for any signs
of Indians at all times, and if there is any danger, you will know it
as soon as we can get the news to you, for all the men under my control
seem to be the right stuff, and they want to do what is right and for
the best interest of all the train."
Jim answered, "I know I can trust you, Will, to do all in your power to
get this train through in safety. I have every confidence in you. If I
had not had, I should not have undertaken such a dangerous business as
we are engaged in. But it stands us both in hand to be always on the
lookout for danger, for we can never tell when the red friends may
pounce on us when we are anywhere near them."
Monday morning we were up and ready to take to the road early, feeling
in good spirits after our rest over Sunday. I asked Jim if we could make
Sand Creek by night. He answered, "Yes, we have got to if we are to
reach the sink of the Humboldt tomorrow."
We broke camp and pulled out. Everything worked smoothly until we had
nearly reached Sand Creek, where we were to camp that night, when the
two scouts that guarded the north side of the train discovered a large
band of Indians coming in our direction. They reported their discovery
to me at once. I put spurs to my horse and rode out where I could see
the Indians myself. After I had gone about two miles or so I came in
sight of them, and I saw that the men were right. The Indians were
making directly to the spot where I thought the train was, and I
realized that there was no time to lose in getting word to Jim.
As soon as I got near the road I signaled all the scouts to come to me,
and in a few minutes, they were with me. I sent them all to the train to
help Jim, except two which I kept with me. We three rode out to the spot
where we could see the Indians. When we got in sight of them, they were
within a mile of the train, and I knew that the time for action had
come, and wheeling our horses we made for camp at a pace that would
surprise the readers of today. I told Jim that the Indians were upon us,
but there was no need to tell him this, as he had seen us coming and
suspected the news we were bringing and had ordered the train corralled
before we reached camp, and I do not think a train was ever got into
shape to resist the savages quicker or with less excitement than that
train was that day. And we were none too quick, for the Indians were in
sight of us as soon as we were ready for them. At this spot our trail
led down a little valley. Consequently, when the Indians hove in sight
they were not more than a hundred yards from the corral.
I sang out, "What do you say, Jim? Let's form in line and give them a
Jim shouted, "Every man form in a line and shoot, and be sure you hit
By this time there were as many as two hundred Indians in sight, and
every gun seemed to go off at once. At that moment Jim cried, "Every man
pull your pistol and shoot as loud as you can, and let us make a dash on
them." And every man in the train did as Jim told them to, and it surely
had a good effect on the savages, for they wheeled and fled as fast as
their legs could carry them in the direction they had come. We found
twenty-seven dead Indians all laying close together, and it did not take
us long to take their scalps off. When we had finished this job, Jim
made the remark that he had scalps enough now to protect the train all
the way to California.
As it was yet about three miles to our camping ground, I told my scouts
what to do, and then I told Jim that I meant to follow the Indians alone
and see where they went to and not to expect me back until he saw me,
for I intended to see those Indians go into camp before I left them,
if it took me until midnight to do it, for if I did this I could tell
whether they meant to give us any more trouble or not.
Jim told me where to look for the camp when I wanted to find it, and I
left them, on a mission the danger of which I do not think one of my
readers can understand, but which at that time I thought very little
I had followed the trail of the Indians but a short distance before I
was convinced that there were a great many wounded in the band, for
there was so much blood scattered all along the trail. I had followed
the trail about five miles when I came to a high ridge, and on looking
down on the other side I saw what looked to me like two or three hundred
camp fires, and from the noise I heard I thought that many that I had
thought to be wounded must be dead, for it was the same sound that I had
often heard the squaws make over their dead. I decided by the appearance
of the camp that I had discovered the main camping ground of the
Indians. On deciding this in my mind, I hurried back as quickly as I
could to tell Jim. When I reached camp, supper was just over. After I
had looked after my horse, I went into the camp, and a lady met me and
invited me to her tent, saying she had kept some supper warm for me and
had been on the lookout for me to come back, and the reader may rest
assured I was hungry enough to accept the invitation and to do ample
justice to the good things the kind lady had saved for me.
While I was eating, Jim came to me and asked what I had discovered. I
told him of the big Indian camp I had found at the foot of the ridge,
which was probably five or six miles from where we were then in camp,
and I told him of the noise the squaws had made too. He said, "Well, I
will bet my old hat that we won't have any more trouble with them, for
when they come back to get their dead warriors in the morning and find
them without their scalps, they won't follow us any farther."
So feeling safe to do so, everyone except the guards turned in for the
night. The night passed without anything happening to disturb us. Next
morning I got up early and mounted my horse and went to the place where
we'd had the fight to see if the dead Indians had been taken away. I
found that they had all been taken away during the night. I got back to
camp in time for breakfast. I told Jim that I had been to see about the
Indians we had killed the day before, but I found no bodies there and
supposed the squaws had taken them away in the night.
Jim jumped up and clapped his hands together and said, "Good, good, we
will not have any more trouble with these Indians, and I don't believe
we will have any more fights with the Indians this side of the Sierra
Nevada mountains, for the news of our scalping so many of the Indians
will fly from tribe to tribe faster than we can travel, and you may be
sure they all will be on the lookout to avoid meeting us."
Everything moved quietly for the next three days, and we made good
progress on our journey.
The night before we reached the sink of the Humboldt, while we were at
supper about a dozen ladies came to Jim and me. One of them said with a
smile, "Mr. Drannan, we have two favors to ask of you."
Jim looked up at them, and seeing that there was mischief in their eyes,
he said, "Say, gals, can't I have one of them?"
The lady that had spoken to me said, "I am afraid neither of them would
suit you, Mr. Bridger."
I then asked her what I could do for them. She answered that they would
like to have some more fresh meat, but that they did not want any more
such music as had accompanied all that they had had before, but if I
could supply the meat without the music it would be a great favor as
well as a treat. I said, "What kind of meat do you prefer, ladies?" She
answered that they were not particular, any kind that was good.
Jim said, "Well, how will Coyote do you? That kind of meat will answer a
double purpose. I-t will satisfy your hunger, and then you can howl the
same as they do."
She answered, "Now Mr. Bridger, you know that Coyotes are not fit to
eat. Are they not a species of a dog?"
Jim replied, "Yes, they are, and dog is the Indians' favorite meat, and
that is the kind of meat you will have to eat when you go to live with
them, so you had better learn to eat it now."
She said she was pretty sure that she didn't want to neighbor with the
Indians, and she didn't want any dog meat either.
I told her that I would try and get some kind of fresh meat for them
between then and night.
"It may be Elk or it may be Buffalo or it may be Antelope."
She said, "What kind of an animal is an Elk?"
I told her that an Elk was about as large as a cow and equally as good
meat, and all the ladies said, "Well, well, wouldn't we like to have
I told them that I wouldn't promise for sure, but I thought I could get
some fresh meat for supper tomorrow night.
The next morning my scouts and I were off early. I told them before we
started that we must keep two objects in view that day. One object was
to look out for Indians, and the other was to look for camp.
"We are in a game country, and there is plenty of Elk and Buffalo, and
the first man that sees a band of either kind must signal to the others,
and we will all get together and see if we can get enough to supply the
camp for a day or two at least."
We had gone perhaps five or six miles when I heard a signal from the
south. I got to it as quickly as possible, and as pretty a sight awaited
me as I ever saw in the way of game. Down in a little valley just below
the man that had signaled to the rest of us were about fifty Elk cows
feeding, and there were also a few calves running and jumping around
their mothers. As soon as all the men got there, I began to plan how we
could get to them and kill some of them before they saw us. They were
feeding towards the road, and they were not more than a quarter of a
mile from it when I first saw them. A little ways from us there was
a little ravine which was covered with brush, and it led down to the
valley where the Elk were feeding. I told the men that we would hitch
our horses and then crawl down the ravine, and I thought we could get
a few of them before they could get away from us. All the men were as
anxious to get the game as I was. I took the lead, and when we got down
to the valley the Elk were only a short distance from us. I said, "Now
wait until they feed opposite us, and then they will not be over fifty
yards from us, and as I am to the right I will take the leader and each
man in rotation as they come to him. In doing this way we will be sure
to each get an Elk as not two of us will fire at the same animal, and if
they are not too far from us after we have fired our rifles, let us pull
our pistols and try to get some more."
When the Elk had got near enough to us, I gave the word to fire, and
down came twelve Elk cows, and then we went for them with our pistols,
and we got five calves, and so we knew we had plenty of meat to supply
the camp for a day or two.
I sent one of the men back to meet the train and to tell Jim what we had
done, and told him to send all the help he could so we could get the
meat to the train as quickly as possible, and the rest of us commenced
to skin the animals. In a short time there were forty or fifty men
there, and it did not take long to finish the job, and we had the
meat on the way to the wagons. About the time we had got the meat all
dressed, several ladies came with sacks in their hands. I asked them
what part of the animal they wanted. They said they wanted the livers
and the hearts. This was a new idea to me. I asked them what they were
going to do with them. One of the women said, "We want you and Mr.
Bridger to take supper with us tonight, and we will show you what we
have done with them then."
In a short time we had the meat to the train and each family had their
share. Jim said he did not think he had lost over twenty-five minutes
time in waiting for that meat.
The train proceeded on now without any more stops towards the place
where we were to camp that night at the sink of the Humboldt. We reached
the camping ground quite a little while before sundown, and we certainly
had selected an ideal place to camp. A beautiful pearling stream of
water, plenty of wood and any amount of grass met our eyes as we came to
the place to stop. In a few minutes we had the stock out to grass and
the women were busy cooking supper. Jim and I took a walk down towards
the Sink, and as we were coming back we had got near the wagons when a
couple of girls came to meet us and said, "We want you two to come and
eat supper with us. Our two families got supper together tonight." Jim
said, "Have you got something good to eat?"
One said, "You may just bet we have; we have got Elk roasted and fried
Elk calf and fried liver. Isn't that something good?"
Jim said it sounded good and we would go and see for ourselves.
When we got to the tent Jim said, "These girls told us that you had
invited us to eat supper with you; that you had some stewed dog, and as
that is our favorite dish we thought we would accept the invitation."
One of the girls cried, "Oh Mr. Bridger, we didn't tell you any such
Jim answered, "Oh, excuse me, girls. I thought you were going to have
something good for supper, so of course all I could think of was dog."
We had a fine supper, and as fried liver was a new dish to Jim and me,
we ate heartily of that, and we thought it was beyond the ordinary.
It seems to me now in thinking of those days that people had better
appetites then for hearty food than they have now; at least it is so in
my case. The reason may be that we lived in the open air both day and
night, and the air of that western climate was so pure and clear and
free from all the different scents that impregnate it now. The amount
of food that each person ate at that time would surprise the people of
After supper Jim told the girls that they would not get any music to
dance to tonight, so they had just as well turn in and have a good
The next morning we had an early breakfast and were on our journey in
good season. Nothing of interest occurred to us until we reached where
the city of Reno now stands, which is in the western part of what is now
the state of Nevada.
We were about to go into camp on the bank of the Truckee river when I
looked off to the north and saw a band of Indians, and they were heading
directly for the train.
They were probably a mile away from us when I saw them. I reported to
Jim at once, and he was not long in corralling the train, and he made
the largest display of scalps that I had ever seen then or ever have
since. It looked as if every wagon had a scalp hanging on it.
Apparently the Indians did not notice the decorations on the wagons
until they were within three or four hundred yards of them, and the
sight seemed to take them by surprise.
[Illustration: Fishing with the girls.]
All at once the whole band stopped, and of all the actions ever an
Indian performed that band did it. Jim said, "Will, do you think you can
reach them with your rifle?"
I answered that I thought not at that distance, but I said, "My men and
I will get nearer to them and give them a scare anyway."
I called my scouts to follow me out to a little bunch of timber, and we
all fired at them at once. Whether we hit any Indians or not I never
knew, for they wheeled their horses and fled, and if any of them were
killed or wounded the others did not leave them, and we saw no more of
that band, but they left three horses laying on the ground, which showed
us that our bullets had done a little execution.
We now settled into camp for the night. Jim told the emigrants as it was
Saturday evening we would lay over here until Monday morning, and he
told them that all who liked to have a good time fishing could enjoy
themselves to their hearts' content, for this stream was full of
Mountain Trout, and he added, "They are beauties."
Both men and women asked what kind of bait to use to catch them. We told
them that grass hoppers or crickets was good bait for Mountain Trout,
and both of these insects were numerous around the camp.
It was very amusing to me to see the girls run to their mothers to ask
if they could go fishing the next day. They were as excited as if they
were asking to go to some great entertainment.
It being Sunday morning and as there was no danger from the Indians, I
did not get up very early. Jim and I occupied the same tent together,
which was the blue sky above us and the ground beneath us, a bed that I
have no doubt the reader will think a not very desirable one, but rolled
in our blankets, a bed on the soft moss with the trees waving over us
was as good a bed as Jim and I cared to have, and our sleep was as sound
and restful as if we were laying on a bed of down.
When Jim arose in the morning, he gave me a shake and said, "Wake up,
Will. We are going to have fish, for everyone in the camp is hunting
grass hoppers," and it was really an amusing sight to see, for everyone,
as Jim had said, was running, trying to catch grass hoppers. Both men
and women were racing about like children.
Jim and I had started to go to the river to take a wash when a little
girl came running to us saying, "Papa wants you to come and eat
breakfast with us, for we have got fish for breakfast."
Jim said, "All right, sissy, but I am afraid you haven't got enough fish
to go around."
She said, "Oh yes we have, for papa caught fifteen this morning, and
they are all great big ones."
So we did not go to the river but went with the little girl to her
father's tent and washed there, and sure enough, there was enough fish
for all the family and Jim and me and some left over.
The man laughed and said to Jim, "Mr. Bridger, you made the right remark
when you said that the river was full of fish. I have been fishing all
my life, and I never saw so many fish at one time as I saw this morning.
I went down to the river about daylight, and I caught fifteen fish, and
I don't think I was over fifteen minutes in catching them, and I believe
they will average two pounds to a fish, and they are as luscious as I
ever tasted in the way of fish."
I asked him if this was his first experience in eating Mountain Trout.
He said it was, but he hoped it would not be his last, and said, "Can
you tell me why they have such an extra flavor?" I said, "Certainly,
I can. There is no stream in the world that has purer water than the
Truckee river, and do you see that snowcapped mountain yonder?" and I
pointed to a mountain at the south west of us which was always covered
with snow at the top. "This stream is surrounded with mountains like
that, and the water is cold the year around, no matter how hot the
weather may be, and that is the secret of the fine flavor of the fish
caught in it."
And here I must say that, although I had eaten Mountain Trout many times
before that morning, I never enjoyed a meal more than I did this one. As
I finished eating, six young girls came to the tent and asked me if I
was going fishing. I said I had thought of going. They asked if they
could go with me, I said, "Certainly, you can if you wish to, but I
shall have to go out and hunt some bait before I can go."
One of them said, "We have enough grass hoppers to last us all day, and
we will share them with you for bait."
I answered, "Well, we will go up the river a little ways to those rocks
yonder," and I pointed up the stream.
When we got opposite the rocks which were in the middle of the stream, I
helped each of the girls to a place by herself and then took a place on
a rock myself, but I could not do anything for laughing at the girls. I
told them they would scare all the fish out of the river. In a moment
one of the girls caught a fish on her hook, but he struggled so hard
that she could not pull him out of the water, and she cried for me to
come and help her to land him. I got to her as quickly as I could and
took the fish out of the water, and it was the largest trout I had ever
seen, and I did not wonder the girl could not land him, for he made a
brave fight for liberty, and it was all I could do to capture him.
By this time it was a sight to look up and down the stream and see
the people that were fishing. Men, women and children, old and young,
seeming to be perfectly happy and to be having the time of their lives.
In about an hour they began to realize that more fish were being caught
than they could take care of, so everyone gathered their catch and went
back to camp. Some of the emigrants estimated that three thousand fish
had been caught that day by the entire crowd. I think the most of the
people had fish until they were tired of it. For the next two days we
had fish for every meal served in every way that fish could be cooked.
Monday morning we pulled out from this camp bright and early for Honey
Lake. We made the trip in two days, which was as we considered very good
time, and we did not see an Indian on the way or a fresh sign of them.
When we reached Honey Lake and saw that there were no signs of Indians
there Jim said to me that there would be no more trouble with the
Indians, and if we could convince the emigrants of this fact we need not
go further with them.
I told him I did not think it would be best to mention to the emigrants
any change in the contract we had made with them when we started on
the trip, that we had better go on with the train until we crossed the
Sierra Nevada Mountains, as we had engaged to do.
Jim thought it over a few minutes, and then he said, "I guess you are
right, Will, for they might think we wanted to shirk our duty in leaving
them here, although I am sure there will be no more danger to guard them
Everything moved on without anything to interfere with our progress
for the next four days, and by that time we had crossed the top of the
Sierra Nevada Mountains.
After we had eaten our supper the night after crossing on the other side
of the mountains, Jim shouted that he wanted to talk to everybody for
just a few minutes, and in a few minutes all the people of the train,
men, women, and children, were around us thick.
Jim then said to them, "I wanted to speak to you together to tell you
that all danger to this train is passed, there will be no more Indians
to molest you, and you are perfectly safe to continue on your journey
without fear of being troubled by them. Tomorrow night we will camp in
the Sacramento Valley, and being sure that we can leave you in perfect
safety, our contract with the people of this train will be closed, and
we will leave you the next morning. There is one thing I am sorry for,
though, and that is we can't furnish any more music for a farewell dance
with the ladies before we leave them."
This joke created a laugh all around and brightened the faces of the
older people, for we had shared in and protected them from too many
dangers for the thought of separation from us not to sadden the faces of
the older members of the train.
Mr. Tullock, one of the committee, got upon a chair and said, "I want to
ask if there is a person here in this company can realize what these two
men have done for us in the seven weeks they have been with us. I for
one know for a certainty that if we had not met them, and they had not
accompanied us on the dangerous journey we have almost finished, not one
of this large company would have been alive today. I will acknowledge
that I have no doubt that all the rest of you thought them to be
barbarians when they took the scalps off those first Indians' heads, but
the events that followed showed their knowledge of their business
and also of our ignorance in Indian warfare for that what we thought
barbarism was the means of saving some, if not all our lives. Now I will
tell you what I propose doing. I am going to write a recommendation for
each one of these men, and I want every one of you to sign it."
It sounded as if every one in the crowd said at once, "I'll sign it."
When Mr. Tullock stepped down, Jim took his place on the chair and
said to the people, "I want you all to distinctly understand that Will
Drannan and myself do not think we have done anything but our duty to
the people of this train, and I want to thank all the men that have
helped me to protect the train when the savages were upon us. You all
showed that you were brave men and willing to obey orders, which, I will
tell you now, is a rare thing among so many men, and Will tells me that
he had the best men as scouts to help him that he has ever had, that
everyone tried to do his duty. So it seems to me that we have all done
our best to make the journey a success. Now let us get away from here
early in the morning, for I want to reach our camping ground in good
season tomorrow evening. We have quite a long drive before us tomorrow,
but as good luck is on our side it is all downhill."