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Title: Down the Yellowstone
Author: Freeman, Lewis R. (Lewis Ransome), 1878-1960
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: © _J. E. Haynes, St. Paul_





  Author of "In the Tracks of the Trades," "Down the
  Columbia," etc., etc.





  Copyright, 1922,






It must have been close to twenty years ago that I first started to boat
from the head of the Yellowstone to the Gulf of Mexico. On that occasion
I covered something over a hundred miles from the source of the
Yellowstone--a good part of it on the ice, on the bank, or floundering
in the water. As a start it was not auspicious, nor was it destined to
be anything more than a start.

Shrouded in the mists of comparative antiquity, the reason for my
embarking on this voyage is only less obscure than my reason for failing
to continue it. As nearly as I can figure it today, it was a series of
tennis tournaments in Washington and British Columbia that lured me to
the North-west in the first place. Then a hunting trip in eastern
Washington merged into an enchanting interval of semi-vagabondage
through the silver-lead mining camps of the C[oe]ur d'Alene and the
copper camps of Montana, at that time in the hey-day of their glory.

From Butte to the Yellowstone was only a step. That it was still winter
at those altitudes, and that the Park, under from ten to forty feet of
snow, would not be opened to tourists for another two months, were only
negligible incidentals. That deep snow, far from being a hindrance,
actually facilitated travel over a rough country, I had learned the
previous year in Alaska.

I should have known better than to expect that permission would be
granted me to make a tour of the Park out of season, and, as a matter of
fact, it doubtless would not have been had I proceeded by the proper
official channels via Washington. Knowing nothing of either propriety or
officialdom at my then immature age (would that I could say the same
today!), I simply journeyed jauntily up to Fort Yellowstone and told the
U. S. Army officer in command that I was a writer on game protection,
and that I wanted the loan of a pair of ski in order to fare forth and
study the subject at first hand. When he asked me if I knew how to use
ski, adding that he could not let me proceed if I did not, I replied
that I did.

Now each of these confident assertions was made with a mental
reservation. I was really only a _potential_ writer on game protection,
just as I was only a _potential_ ski-runner. I knew that I could write
something about game protection, just as surely as I knew I could do
something with the ski. As to just what I should write about game
protection I was in some doubt, never having written about anything at
all up to that time. Similarly, in the matter of the ski, never having
seen a ski before. But I knew I could use them, for something, and hoped
it would be as aids to linear progression over snow.

Thanks to some previous experience with web snowshoes, I came through
fairly well with the ski, but at the cost of many bumps and bruises and
strained muscles. What it cost me to make good that game protection
scribe boast would require some figuring. I recall that there was one
old shark of an editor of a yellow-covered outdoor magazine in New York
who quoted me advertising rates for the article I submitted him, but I
believe we compromised by my taking twenty paid-in-advance
subscriptions. Another editor sent me a bill for the cost of the cuts,
and offered to include my own photograph--in evening clothes if
desired--for five dollars extra. I still have several game protection
articles on hand.

It must have been sometime previous to the two or three weeks that I
spent mushing about the valleys of the upper Yellowstone on the ice and
snow that the idea came to me that it would be a nice thing to float
down on the spring rise to the Missouri, the Mississippi and the Gulf.
In any event, I knew that the thought came to me before arriving at the
Park. I have a distinct recollection of pre-empting for my own use a big
iron staple which some soldier had put in the mineral-charged water of
Mammoth Hot Springs to acquire a frosty coating. I purposed driving it
into the bow of my boat to bend the painter to.

The boat I secured about ten miles down river from the Park boundary.
The famous "Yankee Jim" gave it to me. This may sound generous on Jim's
part, but seeing the boat didn't belong to him it wasn't especially so.
Nor was the craft really a boat, either. It had been built by a coal
miner from Aldridge, with the intention of using it to float down the
Yellowstone, Missouri and Mississippi to his childhood home in Hickman,
Kentucky. It had done such strange things in the comparatively quiet
ten-mile stretch below Gardiner that the miner abandoned it a good safe
distance above "Yankee Jim's" Canyon, went back to Cinnabar and bought a
ticket to Hickman by rail. I knocked the top-heavy house off the queer
contraption, and in, under and round about the shell-like residue bumped
and battered my way through the Canyon, and about twenty miles beyond.
The last five miles were made astride of the only three remaining
planks. I walked the ties the intervening fifteen miles to Livingston.

It was undoubtedly my intention to build a real boat in Livingston and
proceed on my voyage before the spring rise went down. Just why I came
to falter in my enterprise I can't quite remember, but I am almost
certain it was because the local semi-pro baseball team of the Montana
League needed a first baseman the same day that the editor of the local
paper was sent to the Keeley Institute with _delirium tremens_. Never
having been an editor before, there was a glamour about the name that I
must confess hardly surrounds it in my mind today. I can see now,
therefore, how I came to fall when a somewhat mixed delegation waited
upon me with the proposal that I edit the _Enterprise_ five days of the
week and play ball Saturdays and Sundays. I would fall for the same
thing again today, that is, without the editor stuff. At any rate,
summer and the tide of the Yellowstone waxed and began to wane without
my boating farther seaward than the timberless bluffs of Big Timber, to
where, with a couple of companions, I went slap-banging in a skiff one
Sunday morning when the team was scheduled for a game there in the

Finally, it seems to me, it was tennis and some challenge mugs that had
to be defended that took me back to Washington, and so to California. I
was destined to form more or less intimate boating acquaintance with
practically every one of the great rivers of South America, Asia, and
Africa before returning to resume my interrupted voyage down the

       *       *       *       *       *

There were several moving considerations operative in bringing about my
decision to attempt a Yellowstone-Missouri-Mississippi voyage last
summer. Not the least of these, doubtless, was the desire to complete
the unfinished business of the original venture. A more immediate
inspiration, however, was traceable to a voyage I had made down the
Columbia the previous autumn. Second only to the scenic grandeur and the
highly diverting sport of running the rapids of this incomparable
stream, was the discovery that the supposedly long-quenched flame of
frontier kindliness and hospitality still flickered in the West, that
there were still a few folk in existence to whom the wayfarer was
neither a bird to be plucked nor a lemon to be squeezed. It wasn't quite
a turning of the calendar back to frontier days, but rather, perhaps, to
about those not unhappy pre-war times before the yellow serum of
profiteering was injected into the red blood of so many Americans.
Living well off the main arteries of travel, these river folk seemed to
have escaped the corroding infection almost to a man, and it was a
mightily reassuring experience to meet them, if no more than to shake
hands and exchange greetings in passing. So few will have had the
experience of late, that I quite despair of being understood when I
speak of the good it does one to encounter a fellow being whom one knows
wants and expects no more than is coming to him. Meeting a number of
such was like going into a new world.

I told myself frankly that I could do with a lot more people of that
kind, and perhaps come out rather less of an undesirable myself as a
consequence of the contact. If I found them all along the Columbia, why
not along the Yellowstone, and perhaps the Missouri and the Mississippi?
And what wouldn't four or five months' association with such do in the
way of eradicating incipient Bolshevism? And so I planned, embarked
upon, and finally completed the journey from the snows of the
Continental Divide where the Yellowstone takes its rise, to New Orleans
where the Mississippi meets the tide of the Gulf of Mexico. I trust the
dedication to this rambling volume of reminiscence may give some hint of
the extent to which my hopes for the voyage were justified.

To maintain perspective, I am beginning my story by sketching in a few
high lights from my earlier jaunt to the sources of the Yellowstone. I
saw things then that few have had the opportunity to see since, just as
I embarked lightsomely on several little enterprises that I have
neither the nerve nor the wind to attempt today. Also, I had fairly
intimate glimpses in the course of that delectable interval of
vagabondage of several notable frontier characters whom no present-day
wanderer by the ways of the Yellowstone can ever hope to meet. The
priceless "Yankee Jim" was inextricably mixed up with my rattle-headed
attempt to flounder through the canyon to which he had given his name.
He really belongs in the picture. "Calamity Jane" is more of an exotic
(to shift my metaphoric gear), so that the chapter I have devoted to the
most temperamental lady of a tempestuous epoch will have to be its own

Frequent historical allusions will be found in the pages of the
narrative of my later down-river voyage. I am sorry about this, but it
couldn't be helped. History-makers have boated upon, and camped by, the
Missouri for a hundred years, just as the Mississippi has known them for
thrice a hundred. Most of the things that path-finders leave behind them
are imponderable. In the thousands of miles between the mouth of the
Missouri and the mouth of the Columbia a few practically obliterated
scratches on a rock in Montana are all that one can point to as left by
the Lewis and Clark expedition; yet memories of those two lurk in the
shadows of every cliff, spring to meet one across the sandy bars of
every muddy tributary. And so with all who came after them, from Hunt
and his trapper contemporaries on down to Custer, "Buffalo Bill" and
Sitting Bull. And so on the Mississippi, from Marquette and La Salle to
Grant and Mark Twain. You can't ignore them, try as you will; that is,
if you're going to write at all about your voyagings. I've done the best
I could on that score. For the rest, I have written freely of rivers and
mountains, of adventure and misadventure, and somewhat of cities and
towns; much of men and little of institutions. In short, I seem to have
picked on about the same things that a commuter on his summer vacation
would choose to write of to a fellow-commuter who has staid at home. I
only hope that my view-point has been half as fresh.



  I   The Yellowstone in Winter                                       1

  II  Ski Snaps                                                      10

  III High Lights and Low Lights                                     24

  IV  Running Yankee Jim's Canyon                                    54

  V   "Calamity Jane"                                                77


  I   Present Day Yellowstone Park                                   97

  II  Livingston Twenty Years After                                 120

  III Livingston to Big Timber                                      138

  IV  Big Timber to Billings                                        170

  V   Billings to Glendive                                          200

  VI  Glendive to the Missouri                                      239


  The Yellowstone                                   _Frontispiece_

  Elk in gathering storm, Jackson's Hole                             14

  Elk stalled in snow                                                18

  As we pulled up close behind him                                   18

  The Falls in winter from Point Lookout                             30

  The Giant is the biggest geyser in North America                   38

  "Yankee Jim's" cabin                                               56

  "Yankee Jim" with a trout from his canyon                          68

  Just above the first drop in "Yankee Jim's" Canyon                 68

  Foot of "Yankee Jim's" Canyon                                      72

  "Calamity Jane" in 1885                                            80

  I found "Calamity" smoking a cigar and cooking breakfast           80

  Golden Gate Canyon and Viaduct                                    104

  Emigrant Peak, Yellowstone River, near Livingston, Mont.          108

  Tower Fall and Towers                                             110

  Yellowstone Park Headquarters                                     116

  Director Mather, Secretary of the Interior Fall, and Superintendent
  Albright camping                                                  116

  Superintendent Albright and Mule Deer                             116

  Gate of the Mountains, Yellowstone River                          122

  Where Custer fell                                                 126

  The blacksmith shop where my boat was set up                      142

  We launched the boat below the Livingston bridge                  142

  A difficult riffle below Springdale                               142

  Pete Holt and Joe Evans                                           150

  Hauled out at the foot of a rough rapid                           150

  A sharp pitch on the upper Yellowstone                            150

  Joe Evans who piloted me the first half day                       156

  Pete Holt and Joe Evans with their inflated life preservers       156

  "Chickens, children and hogs"                                     156

  Round-up outfit at dinner                                         172

  A savage riffle near the site of Captain Clark's boat camp        176

  Sunrise on a quiet reach of the lower Yellowstone                 176

  The Yellowstone below the outlet of the Lake                      180

  Rough water and a bad bend                                        180

  Herd, Powder River Valley                                         202

  Sheep by the water, Big Powder River                              202

  The County bridge over the Yellowstone                            206

  Pompey's Pillar                                                   212

  The Yellowstone from the top of Pompey's Pillar                   212

  Custer's Pillar, Bad Lands                                        216

  The grating which protects the initials carved by Captain
  Clark on the side of Pompey's Pillar                              216

  Stockyards, Miles City                                            224

  "Freightin'"                                                      224

  One of the famous school bands of Glendive                        240

  Buffalo stampede                                                  242

  The dam across the Yellowstone at Intake                          246

  Portaging my boat round the Intake Dam                            246

  Completing the portage                                            246

  The "Old-N" crossing the Powder River                             254

  The Yellowstone just above Livingston                             270

  The Yellowstone just after receiving the Big Horn                 270

  The broad stream of the Yellowstone below Glendive                280

  The last bridge above the Missouri                                280

  Where the Yellowstone takes possession of the Missouri            280






The present-day Indian inhabitants of the Yellowstone and Big Horn
valleys, whose ancestors hunted bear, buffalo and elk in the Devil's
Land now known as Yellowstone Park, preserve a legend to the effect that
when the world was made, because this region was the most desirable
section of Creation, Mog the God of Fire, and Lob the God of rains and
snows, contended for the control of it. After some preliminary
skirmishing, the disputants carried the matter to the court of the Great
Spirit for settlement. Here the ruling was that Mog should occupy the
land for six moons, when Lob should follow with possession for a similar
interval, thus dividing the year equally between them.

But Mog, being a bad god as well as a tricky one, spent his first six
moons in connecting the valleys with hell by a thousand passages, and
thus bringing up fire and sulphur and boiling water wherever it suited
his fiendish fancy. Then he threw dust on all of the beautiful colored
mountains, dried up the grass and shook the leaves from the trees, so
that when it came to his rival's turn to take charge, Lob found affairs
in a very sad way indeed.

But Lob set himself to work, like the good god that he was, and dusted
and furbished up the mountains, watered the grass and trees, and heaped
the snow in mighty drifts on geyser and hot spring in an effort to stop
their mouths and force their boiling waters back from whence they came.
But the latter task was too much for him. When the end of his allotted
time came, though the grass was springing green and fresh and the trees
were bursting into leaf again, the geysers and hot springs spouted
merrily on. All the incoming Mog had to do was to kick up a few clouds
of dust and turn the sun loose on the grass and trees to have the place
just as he had left it.

And so for some thousands of alternating tenancies the fight has gone
on, all the best of it with the bad god. Although Lob is gaining
somewhat year by year, and has already dried many a spouting geyser and
bubbling hot spring and reduced countless pots of boiling sulphur to
beds of yellow crystals, he still has many a moon to work before he can
force hell to receive its own and leave him free to complete his mighty
task of reclamation.

In strong support of this legend is the fact that at the time of year
when the Indians say that Lob is compelled to abdicate, and before Mog
begins his annual dust-throwing--the middle of April or
thereabouts,--the Yellowstone Park is incomparably more beautiful than
at any other season. And moreover, there are those who maintain that
even at other seasons it is still more beautiful than any other place in
the world, just as it was in the beginning when it aroused the
jealousies of the rival gods and precipitated their eternal conflict.

What the Yellowstone is in the early spring only those who have seen it
at that season can realize, and only those who have made the summer tour
are in a position to imagine. Let one who has breasted the sweltering
heat-waves that radiate from Obsidian Cliff in July, trying to picture
the impressive beauty of that massive pile of volcanic glass through the
translucent dust-clouds raised by the passage of two or three score
cars--let him fancy that cliff, its summit crowned with a feathered
crest of snow, huge drifts at its base, and its whole face, washed and
polished by the elements, glittering as though panelled with shining
ebony. Let him think of the time his car was halted on the Continental
Divide and the driver endeavoured to point out one of the distant
eminences, guessed dimly through the smoke-clouds rising beyond
Shoshone Lake, as the Grand Teton, and then fancy himself standing at
the same point and looking out across the valley through air that,
windowed and cleansed by the winds and snows of the winter, is so clear
that the bottle-green in the rims of the glaciers is discernible at
forty miles. Let him who has admired the transcendent beauty of the
steam-clouds swirling above Old Faithful in the summer imagine these
clouds increased two-fold in whiteness and density, and ten-fold in
volume, by the quicker condensation of a zero morning. Let him picture
the black gorge of the Fire Hole Canyon, where the river plunges down to
the Upper Geyser Basin, forming Kepplar Cascade, transformed to a
shining fairyland of sparkling crystal and silver, everything in range
of the flying spray spangled and plated and jewelled by the ice and
frost, as though a whole summer day's sunshine had been shaken up with a
winter night's snowfall, and then fashioned by an army of elfin workmen
into a marvellous million-pieced fretwork, adorned with traceries
ethereal and delicate, and of a fragile loveliness beyond words to

All these things, and many more, the summer tourist will have to picture
in coming near to a conception of what the wizardry of winter has
effected. There is the novelty of seeing a rim of ice around the
Devil's Frying Pan, and the great hole that the up-shooting gush of a
geyser tears in a cloud of driven snow. There is the massive beauty of
the ice bulwark upon Virginia Cascade, and then, in winter as in summer
the scenic climax, the lower falls and the Grand Canyon.

And nowhere more than in the incomparable Canyon is the general effect
heightened by the presence of the ice and the snow and the clean-washed
air. The very existence of the brilliant streaks and patches of yellow
and umber and a dozen shades of red depends upon the water from the rain
and melting snow dissolving the colouring matters from the rocks of the
upper levels and depositing them upon the canyon walls as it trickles
down to the river. Clear and sharp in the early springtime, the bright
pigments are bleached and blended by the sun and winds of the summer
until, by the time the fall storms set in, the contrast between streak
and streak is far less marked than when, chrysalis like, they first
burst from their snow cocoons of winter.

It is in the spring, when the blaze of the great colour-drenched diorama
is set off by patches of dazzling snow, when every vagrant sunbeam
glancing from the canyon side is caught and refracted in the mazes of
glittering icicles that fringe every jutting cornice and battlement till
it reaches the eyes of the beholder like a flash from a thousand-hued
star; when the slide from the mountainside forms a snow dam in the
river, and the angry torrent, leaping like a lion at the bars of its
cage, brushes away the obstruction and rages onward in renewed fury to
the valley; when the great mouth under the snow-cap at the top of the
falls is tearing itself wider day by day in its frantic efforts to
disgorge the swollen stream that comes surging down from the
over-flowing lake--it is at this time, when Nature has whipped on her
mightiest forces to the extreme limit of their powers in a grandstand
finish to her spring house-cleaning, that the Grand Canyon of the
Yellowstone has a beauty and a depth of appeal beyond all other seasons.

From the time that I first conceived the idea of an early springtime
trip through the Yellowstone Park the difficulties in the way of
carrying out such a plan, like rolled snowballs, seemed to grow as my
inquiries progressed. Every objection was urged, from the possibility of
snow-blindness to the certainty of death from cold, snow-slides, or wild
animals, from the probability of opposition from the Fort to the
improbability of securing provisions en route. Old "Yankee Jim" even
told me that the spirits of the hot springs and geysers, while peaceable
enough in the mild days of summer, were not to be trusted after they had
been "riled and fruz" by the winds and snows of winter. That was about
the last straw. I felt that I was literally between the devil and the
deep snow.

But when I reached Fort Yellowstone, at the entrance to the Park, I
learned that nearly the whole of the hundred and fifty miles of road
followed on the summer tour were patrolled by soldiers, and that the
scouts made a complete round several times during the winter. The
officer in command received me most kindly. He had no objection at all
to my going out with the scouts or the soldiers on game patrol. If I
would satisfy him that I could conduct myself properly on ski he would
see that all necessary equipment and facilities were provided me for the
winter tour.

I learned later that the sergeant who was detailed to test me out had
boasted that he intended to break me of my fool notion if he had to
break my fool neck. From the way he started, I am actually inclined to
believe he meant it. He led me on foot up the road to Golden Gate,
circled round to the west, ordered me to put on my ski, and then started
down through the timber toward the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. I,
of course, fell at the end of ten feet. Having little way on, my worst
difficulty was getting my head out from under the toe of my left ski the
while that same toe was held down by the rear end of my right ski. It
was just the usual ski beginner's mix-up. My instructor, however, had
descended about five hundred feet right side up when a loop of willow
caught the toe of one of his ski and sent him spinning the next five
hundred end over end. It was only by the greatest of good luck that he
kissed lightly off five or six trees in passing instead of colliding
with one head-on. Even as it was they had to send a sled up from the
fort to bring down his much-abused anatomy. The remainder of my ski
novitiate, thank heaven, was served under the skilful and considerate
tutelage of Peter Holt, the scout. Thanks to my Alaska snow-shoe work
and the fact that I was hard as nails physically, I was pronounced ready
to take the road at the end of a couple of days. It was intensive
training, and accompanied by many bumps and thrills. I shall probably
always be in Holt's debt for the bumps. Most of the thrills I paid back
last June when, finding him the Chief of Police of Livingston, I took
him along as passenger for the first fifty miles of my run down the

The morning after I was adjudged sufficiently ski-broke to attempt the
winter tour of the Park with a fair chance of finishing I was attached
to a party of troopers detailed to pack in bacon to the station at
Norris Basin. The memories of the doings of the delectable weeks that
followed, which I spent with bear and elk and spouting geysers and
bubbling mud springs as my daily play-fellows, are still tinged with
rose at the end of a score of years. I am appending here--in the form of
verbatim extracts from my religiously kept diary--some account of a few
of the more amusing episodes. The wording follows hard upon the
original; the spelling, I regret to say, I have just had to go over with
a dictionary and dephonetize. If the view-point is a bit naïve in spots,
please remember that you are reading the babblings of a very moony and
immature youth, more or less tipsy with his first draughts of life, who
had just discovered that he was standing on the verge of a world full of
innumerable things and imagining that they were all put there for his
own special entertainment.



Lake Station, April 13.

Corporal Hope and I set out this morning from the Patrol Station, going
after elk and buffalo pictures. Heading in the direction of Hayden
Valley, we encountered two buffalo cows and their calves crossing a
half-bare opening in the trees near the Mud Geyser. We had little
difficulty in heading them as they tried to break away and driving them
off on a course that offered me a favourable exposure. The calves were a
month or more old, but tottered on their thin legs and seemed very weak,
the consequence, no doubt, of continued inbreeding. The rapidly thinning
herd is badly in need of an infusion of new blood.

We came upon the main herd farther down the valley, making some
long-distance snap-shots on various individuals and sections of it as
they went lunging off through the drifts at our approach. It was old
"Tuskegee," reputed to be the largest specimen of the _Bison Americanus_
in existence, whose picture I most cared for. The old fellow is
estimated to weigh over 3000 pounds, is covered with a net-work of
scars from his lifetime of fighting, and has only one eye and the
remnant of a tail left. He has been seen to give battle to three
pugnacious bull elk at once, and has killed numbers of them in single

It was but a few summers ago that old "Tuskegee" left the herd, charged
a coach full of tourists, goring one of the horses so badly that it had
to be shot. The big vehicle was nearly overturned by the
plunging horses, while its occupants--a party of New England
school-teachers--were driven into frenzies of terror. Neither the
bullets from a nickel-plated revolver in the hands of one of the
schoolmarms, nor the long stinging whip of the driver, nor even his
equally long and stinging oaths, affected "Tuskegee" in the least. He
continued butting about among the frightened horses as though the
wrecking of a six-in-hand coach was a regular part of his daily routine.
At last, however, the sustained hysteria of the females seemed to get
upon the old fellow's nerves. Wheeling about, he turned the stub of his
tail to the swooning tourists and galloped, bellowing, over the hill.

An order was at once issued that "Tuskegee" should be shot on sight, and
for a month a special detail from the Fort scoured the hills and valleys
in search of the renegade. But all to no purpose. The old warrior, as
though understanding that he was _persona non grata_ with the
authorities, retreated into the impenetrable fastnesses of the mountain
spurs above Thorofare Plateau, and nothing was seen or heard of him for
many months.

For two years there was an interregnum in buffalodom, during which the
big herd gradually dropped to pieces and wandered about in leaderless
fragments. Then, one day, a big bull elk was found, crushed and torn,
trampled into the mud of Violet Springs, and the scouts told each other
that the King had returned. A few days later a soldier of the game
patrol, on a run through Hayden Valley, saw the reunited herd debouch
from a canyon, with old "Tuskegee" puffing proudly in the lead. His tail
was stubbier than ever, the grizzled red hair was more patchy on the
rump and more matted on the neck, and a new set of scars was
criss-crossed and etched into the old ones upon his flanks. The old
fighting spirit still flamed, however, and the trooper owed his life to
the fact that the snow was deep, the crust firm, the slope down and his
ski well waxed. But a new superintendent was in charge, and his
satisfaction at seeing the scattered herd once more united was so great
that he stayed the order of execution. Since that time, strangely
enough, "Tuskegee" has appeared to show his appreciation of this
official clemency by behaving in a most exemplary manner.

I was endeavouring to get a picture of the main herd before it broke up,
when Hope espied old "Stub Tail" in the rear of a bunch of young cows
who were heading away for the hills. Shouting for me to join him, he
gave chase. We gained on them easily in the heavy snow of the valley,
and almost overtook them where they floundered, belly-deep, on their
erratic course. Then they struck the wind-swept slopes of the lower
hills, where the agile cows drew away from us rapidly and scampered out
of sight. But not so old "Tuskegee." Whether it was rheumatism in his
stiff old joints that made him stop, or simple weariness, or, as is most
likely, the unconquerable pride that would not permit him to turn his
back upon an enemy, I shall not attempt to say. In any case, he wheeled
and faced us, head low, hoofs pawing the moss, and snorting in angry

As he stood with his rugged form towering against the white background
of the snowy hillside, two jets of steam rushing from his nostrils, his
jaws flecked with bloody foam, his one eye gleaming green as the
starboard light of a steamer, and his bellows of rage so deep that they
seemed to come from beneath the earth, old "Tuskegee" might have been
the vindictive incarnation of the spirit of all the geysers and hell
holes in the Yellowstone bent on an errand of wrath and destruction.

Right then and there I forgot what I came for, forgot the picture I had
intended to take, forgot everything but that snorting colossus in front
of me and the fact that the hillside sloped invitingly in the opposite
direction. Wherefore I tried to swing around, and in swinging turned too
short, crossed my ski, and fell in a heap with my face in the snow.

They say that an ostrich will snuggle its head contentedly into the sand
and let a band of Arabs with drawn scimitars charge right into its tail
feathers. This may be quite true. Perhaps the climate of the Sahara has
something to do with it. But it won't work with a man, a bull buffalo
and a snowdrift, particularly if the man is strapped to two ten-foot-six
strips of hickory and the bull buffalo has a bad reputation.

The faith, folly, foolishness, or whatever it is of the ostrich would
have saved me a lot of unpleasant apprehensions. Every moment of the
time I struggled to unsocket my head from under the nose of one of my
ski I was sure I was going to be gored the next. And I am certain I was
down all of five minutes, notwithstanding Hope's assertion that he had
me straightened out and on my feet inside of ten seconds.

"Steady, young feller," I heard him saying as I rubbed the snow from my
eyes; "don't lose your head like that again." (I wonder if he meant that
literally.) "Old 'Tusky' won't hurt a fly nowadays. He's just posing for
his picture. Gimme that camera. Hold up there; tain't nothing to be
scared of!"

[Illustration: _Photo by S. N. Leek_


That last was shouted at me as I gave a push with my pole and began to
slide off down the hill out of the danger zone. Swinging round to a
reluctant standstill, I meekly unslung my camera as Hope came down for
it. Then, all set for a start, I watched him as he zigzagged back up the
hill toward the buffalo. "Tusky" was blowing like a young Vesuvius, but
the nervy fellow, not a whit daunted, edged up to within twenty feet of
the steaming monster, waited calmly for the sun to come out from behind
a cloud, and snapped the camera. Then we coasted back to the valley--I
well in the lead,--leaving the resolute old monster in full possession
of the field.

Our chase of the fleet-footed _wapita_ was attended by less excitement
but more exertion than was our pursuit of the bison. Following a trail
from Violet Springs, we were lucky in encountering a herd of from four
to five hundred grazing where the spring sunshine was uncovering the
grass on a broad expanse of southerly sloping upland. We circled to the
higher hills in an endeavour to drive a portion of the herd to the
deeper snow of the valley, where we could overtake them on our ski. In
the course of our climb we came upon a fine young bull of two years or
thereabouts, lying in an alder thicket badly wounded from fighting. One
of his graceful horns was snapped squarely off a foot from the head, his
sides were frightfully bruised and torn, and so weak was he from loss of
blood that he took no notice whatever of our approach. Hope said that
few bulls are killed outright in their fights, but that most of the
badly wounded ones ultimately die from "scab."

Our efforts to turn the elk to the valley was only partially successful,
for the main herd, as though divining our purpose, set off on a mad
stampede for the mountains, and on a course which made it impossible to
head them. Hope, however, at imminent risk of his neck, dropped like a
meteor over the rim of the _mesa_, negotiated a precarious serpentine
curve among the butts of a lot of deadfalls, and just succeeded in
cutting off a large bunch of cows, half a dozen "spike" bulls, and a
fine old fourteen-pointer.

The bulls were brave enough at the beginning of the chase, where the
snow was light and the going easy. The old fellow in particular kept
well to the rear of his flying family, stopping every now and then to
brandish his horns and give voice to clear, penetrating cries of
defiance and anger. But as the herd wallowed into the _coulée_ that
skirted the foot of the hills his courage deserted him. He, in turn,
deserted his family, and it was _sauve qui peut_ for the lot of them. By
the time our glistening hickories pulled us up on the flank of the bunch
of heaving, sobbing cows, old "Fourteen Points" was a good hundred yards
ahead, with the "spikes" scattered in between.

We easily headed the frightened cows as they floundered shoulder-deep,
and I snapped them several times without much trouble. Then we turned
our attention to the big bull. He, in his terror, had charged straight
on down the _coulée_, going into increasingly deep snow at every bound.
His efforts were magnificent to behold. At times only the tips of his
shining antlers were visible; again, he would break through with his
fore feet and fall with his muzzle in the snow, only his hind quarters
showing above the crust. At times he would be down fore and aft,
disappearing completely from sight, only the sound of his mighty limbs
as they churned the honey-combed snow telling the story of the struggle.

His agility was wonderful. Every ounce of bone, every shred of muscle,
every fiber of nerve was strained to its utmost. Time and again I saw
his rear hoofs drawn as far forward and as high as his shoulders in an
effort to gain a solid footing. When the hold of his hind legs was lost
he would reach out and bury his fore hoofs and nose in the sinking
crust, and then, arching his back, try to drag his great body up to

As we pulled up close behind him he wallowed into the shadow of some
tall pines where the crust, unexposed to the sun, was hard and firm. He
struggled to the surface, tottered across the shadowed space and began
to break through on the farther side. Backing up, he tried a fresh
place, but only to break through with all fours. Finally, all his former
courage seeming to return with a rush, he staggered back against a tree,
lowered his head, and with a shrill trumpet of defiance dared us to come

That was just what we had hoped and planned for. Circling on the soft
snow, well beyond the reach of a rush, I made several snaps before we
coasted away and left him free to return to his family and explain his
desertion as best he might. The grating of his teeth, as he ground them
together in elk-ish fury, followed us for some distance as we slid away
down the _coulée_.

       *       *       *       *       *

My attempt to secure some mountain sheep pictures by following the same
methods employed with the bison and elk was brought to a sudden
termination by what came so near to proving a serious disaster to the
quarry that it quite destroyed my zest for the new sport and made me
decide with regret to give it up as incompatible with my career as a
writer on game protection. This occurred on the mountains above the
Gardiner River not long after I had returned to Mammoth Hot Springs from
my circular tour on ski. Hope, whose time in the Army was about up, was
my fellow culprit. Both of us doubtless deserved to be clapped in the
guard-house, as we surely would have been had the true account of what
happened come out at the time. Now, at the end of twenty years, probably
it won't matter a lot. Certainly not to Hope in any event. After serving
out three or four more re-enlistments, he was killed in the Argonne in
one of the last actions of the war. I quote again from my diary.

[Illustration: _J. E. Haynes, St. Paul_


[Illustration: _J. E. Haynes, St. Paul_


Mammoth Hot Springs, April 23.

Hope and I came within a hair of wiping out the cream of the Yellowstone
Park herd of _Ovis Montana_ this morning while trying to take its
picture. I took the picture all right, but as a consequence of it the
herd took a header into the river. I think all of them got out, but it
was a narrow squeeze at the best. If there is ever an official inquiry
into our operations, I am afraid my reputation as a game protector will
be gone beyond all hope. This was the way the thing happened:

We had located with our glasses a large flock of fine animals several
hundred yards below our lookout on Gardiner Mountain. Hope set off along
the ridge to the windward of them, holding their interest so
successfully in that direction that I was able to coast down from the
opposite side and bring up almost in their midst before one of them knew
what had happened. I had time for one hurried snap before they were off,
and another when a swift quarter-mile coast brought me up almost on the
heels of the vanguard of the flying flock.

Down a couple of hundred yards of easy slope I held even with the tail
of the flock, and was man[oe]uvring for another exposure when they came
out upon a stretch of almost level bench above the river and began to
beat me three-to-one. The leaders had all but reached the shelter of the
timber when Hope, brandishing his pole and whooping like a wild Indian,
dropped with the suddenness of a thunderbolt from somewhere among the
snowy cliffs above and turned them back. The unexpected appearance of a
new enemy sent glimmering such wits as the grizzled old leader still
had. With one frightened glance to where I came labouring down on him
from the rear, he turned and went plunging over the rim of the cliff
onto the honey-combed ice and snow that bridged the river torrent, the
whole flock following in his wake.

Hope, wide eyed with consternation, was peering over the edge of the
cliff as I came up, and together we watched the various members of the
flock pull themselves together, flounder through to the opposite bank
and make off into the alder thicket beyond. The game struggle of the old
patriarch was splendid. The first to leap, his unfortunate anatomy, half
buried in the yielding snow, had received the impact of more than a few
of the flying hoofs and horns that followed. For four or five long
minutes after the last of his mates had struggled through to safety he
lay, stunned and bleeding, on a slender peninsula of firm snow that
jutted out over the surging stream. As the sound of our voices, loud and
tense with guilty anxiety, floated down to him, he roused, pulled
himself together, and at almost the first flounder broke through and
went whirling off in the clutch of the angry current.

At the lower end of the cave-in his high-flung horns caught against the
rim of soft ice, giving him a brief, but what we felt sure could be no
more than a temporary, respite from an apparently certain fate. But we
underrated the mettle of the brave old veteran, for even while his
sturdy hind quarters drew down in the grip of the powerful undercurrent,
one sharp fore hoof after the other gained hold on the trembling crust,
and his sinewy body was almost lifted to safety before the sagging mass
gave way again and left him struggling in the water. Twice, and then
once again, was this same plucky man[oe]uvre repeated, but only to end
each time in the same heart-breaking failure. Every fibre of rippling
muscle seemed strained to the limit in his final effort, and when the
soggy ice broke away it looked certain that the river was to be the
victor after all.

And such, no doubt, would have been the end had not the last cave-in
carried the resolute old patriarch to a submerged bar of shingle. Here,
rallying his seemingly inexhaustible strength, he gathered himself and
leaped cleanly to a solid stretch of crust. A moment later he was off in
the wake of the rest of his flock.

With long-drawn breaths of relief we turned and tightened up the thongs
of our ski for the climb out of the canyon. It was not until half an
hour later, when we paused for rest on the _mesa_ rim, that Hope's
drawling voice broke the silence that had held between us.

"Young feller," he said jerkedly between breaths, "if the old one had
drownded down there, the best thing you and I could do would be to jump
in and be drownded with him. Even as it is, if the Super gets wind of
that monkey show, it's me for a disonerable discharge and you for over
the border."

But as neither Hope nor I is inclined to do any talking, the chances
seem good that we'll steer clear of the trouble we were so surely asking
for. But no more ski-snapping for me, just the same.



Grand Canyon Station, April 9.

We made a three o'clock start from Norris this morning and came all the
way to the Canyon on the crust. Carr, one of the troopers accompanying
me, took a fearful tumble on the winding hill that leads down to the
Devil's Elbow, breaking his "gee-pole" and badly wrenching one of his
ankles. A fierce thunder-storm overtook us about seven. The vivid
flashes of the lightning produced a most striking effect in illuminating
the inky clouds as they were blown across the snowy peaks. A flock of
mountain sheep, driven from the upper spurs by the fury of the storm,
crossed close to the road. I snapped a very unusual silhouette of them
as they paused on the crest of a hill, with the blown storm-clouds in
the background.

We reached the hotel before the storm was over. Bursting into the rear
entrance, we were just in time to find Clark, the winter keeper, picking
himself up from the middle of the floor, where he had been thrown after
coming in contact with an electric current brought in on the telephone
wire while he was tinkering with the receiver. The chap seems to be an
inventive genius. He has, so the soldiers told me, dissected over a
dozen clocks in an effort to secure the machinery for a model of an
automobile sled he is working on. His last model was destroyed by his
dog, which took the strangely acting thing for a bird or a rat and shook
it to pieces before any one could interfere. A few days later the brute
essayed to follow Clark on one of his wild slides down the side of the
canyon to the brink of the falls, but lost his footing and went over
into the scenery. The inventor considers this a propitious sign from

"For why should that dog go over the very first time he tried the slide
after he did that destruction," he asked us, "if it wasn't because the
Lord thought he stood in the way of good work? Now, with nothing to
bother me, I shall build another model and reap my reward."

"But was the dog your only obstacle?" I asked.

"By no means," was the reply; "but all the others will be brushed away
just as was the dog."

Hearken to that, oh ye of little faith! If faith will move mountains
there surely ought to be no trouble about the movement of Clark's
automobile sled.

Clark took me down the sidling snow-choked trail to the top of the
falls this afternoon, saying that he wanted to show me how he did his
famous "Devil's Slide." Utterly unable, in my comparative inexperience,
to keep the road, I was about to beg off when Clark suggested that I
remove my ski and ride the rest of the way by standing on the back of
his. It was a hair-raising coast, but we made the brink without a spill.
More important still--a point respecting which I had been most in
doubt,--we stopped there.

Already considerably shaken in nerve, I tried to dissuade Clark from
attempting his slide. Replying that the stunt was a part of his daily
routine for keeping his wits on edge, he "corduroyed" off up the side of
the canyon, which at that point has a slope of about forty-five degrees.
When he was perhaps a hundred feet above my head, he laid hold of a
sapling, swung quickly around, and shot full-tilt for the icy brink. I
was sure he intended to kill himself, just as so many cracked inventors
do. A sudden numbness seized me. The roar of the fall grew deafening,
and I involuntarily closed my eyes. There was a thud and a crash, a
shower of fine snow flew over me. Then the roar of the fall resumed.

When I mustered up the courage to open my eyes, it was to discover my
mad companion cautiously drawing himself back from the brink. He had
stopped, as usual, by throwing himself on his side and digging the edges
of his ski into the frozen snow. Although he wouldn't admit it, I am
certain he kept going an inch or two more than was his wont, for one
long strip of hickory was swinging free beyond the icy edge and the
other held by only a thin ridge of hard snow.

While he was still thus poised on the brink of Kingdom Come, or rather
the Falls of the Yellowstone, Clark insisted on explaining to me the
principle of a parachute cape he had devised for use in such an
emergency. He reckoned that it would not only help in checking his
momentum at the proper moment, but would also have a tendency to make
his landing much less painful in the event he went over. I am wondering
tonight if all inventors are like that. Clark is the first genius I have
ever known, so I can't be quite sure.

Grand Canyon Station, April 10.

Clark and Smith took me out for a ski-jumping lesson this morning. Clark
seems to be rather a star performer in all departments of ski work, but
he claims that he is better at jumping than at anything else. What the
long, straight drive, hit cleanly from the tee, is to the golfer, what
the five rails, fairly taken, is to the cross-country rider, what the
dash down a rocky-walled canyon is to the river boatman, the jump is to
the ski-runner. But what the foozle is to the golfer, the cropper to the
rider, the spill in midstream to the boatman, the fall at the end of the
jump is to the ski-man. I saw both the jump and the fall today. Or
rather, I saw the jump and _felt_ the fall. If I saw anything at all, it
was stars.

The jump is made from a raised "take-off" at the foot of a hill. The
steeper the hill the better. The snow slopes up from the foot of the
hill to the brink of the "take-off," where it ends abruptly. The jumper
goes off up the hill for a quarter of a mile or so, turns round and
coasts down at full speed. Leaving the "take-off" at a mile or more a
minute, it is inevitable that he must be shot a considerable distance
through the air. If he is well balanced at the proper moment he
naturally sails a lot farther than if he is floundering and
Dutch-windmilling with his arms. Also, he messes himself and the snow up
a lot less when he lands.

Considering their short runway and crudely built "take-off," the sixty
feet Clark cleared this morning was a fairly creditable performance,
though probably less than half what some of the cracks do in Norway.
Naturally, I could hardly be expected to do as well as that. It was
only on the last of a dozen trials that I managed to coast all the way
to the brink of the "take-off" without falling, and even then I was not
sufficiently under control to stream-line properly and so minimize air
resistance. Under the circumstances, therefore, I am rather pleased with
Clark's verdict anent my maiden effort. He said I hit harder and showed
less damage from it than any man in the Park.

Grand Canyon Station, April 11.

This morning we went down to Inspiration Point to watch the sunrise.
Never before did I realize how inadequate the most pretentious
descriptions of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone all are. The
greatest of the world's word painters have only succeeded in stringing
together a lot of colours like the variegated tags on a paint company's
sample sheet, throwing in a liberal supply of trope and hyperbole,
making a few comparisons to heaven and hell, sunrise and sunset and a
field of flowers, and mixing the whole together and serving it up
garnished with adjectives of the awful, terrible, immense and stupendous

It is not in singling out each crag and pinnacle, or in separating each
bright streak of colour from its neighbour and admiring it alone, that
one comes to the fullest appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the
canyon. It is rather in being gradually taken possession of by the
spirit of the place, an influence that lasts long after you have ceased
to look, a feeling far deeper than the mere transient delight of gazing
on a beautiful picture.

Yesterday's thaw must have raised the water in the Lake. The river is
much higher today, and the snow-bridges above the falls, as well as the
heaped-in drifts below, are breaking away in huge masses. The snow-cap
on the brink, with the water gushing forth from under it, has much the
appearance of a gigantic alabaster gargoyle. The river shoots down under
the snow and leaps out over the chasm in a clean compact stream of
bottle-green. Half-way down the resistance of the air has whitened the
jet, and as it disappears behind the great pile at its foot it is dashed
to a spray so snowy that, from a distance, the line between water and
drift defies the eye to fix.

As we edged our way out to a better position the sun rose and threw a
series of three rainbows in the mist clouds as they floated up out of
the shadowed depths. The lowest and clearest of these semi-circles of
irised spray seemed to spring from a patch of bright saffron sand, where
it was laid bare by the melting snow. Now I know where the story of the
gold at the end of the rainbow came from.


_J. E. Haynes, St. Paul_


Lake Station, April 12.

Carr and I tried to come through from the Canyon by moonlight last night
and had rather a bad time of it. First a fog obscured the moon. Then we
tried to take a short cut by following the telephone line, got lost in
the dark, and staid lost till the moon set and made it darker still. In
cutting across the hills to get back into Hayden Valley, Carr fell over
a snow-bank and landed right in the middle of the road, where it had
been laid bare by the heat of hot springs. Starting again, we came to
the top of a hill and coasted down at a smart gait. As we sped to the
bottom I became aware of a dark blur beyond the white of the snow. Then
there was a sudden stoppage, and I seemed to see a re-risen moon, with a
whole cortège of comets in its wake, dancing about the sky. I came to at
the touch of a handful of snow on my face, to learn that I had coasted
right onto a bare spot in the road and stopped in half a ski-length. My
heavily loaded knapsack, shooting along the line of least resistance up
my spine, had come into violent contact with the back of my head,
producing the astronomical pyrotechnic illusion.

After a while we were lost again, this time in a level space bounded on
four sides by a winding creek. I know it was on four sides of the
place, for we carefully walked off toward each point of the compass in
rotation, and each time landed in the creek. We finally escaped by
wading. How we got in without wading will always be a mystery. Carr said
the stream was called Trout Creek. Doubtless he is right; but if there
were any trout over six inches long there last night they must have been
permanently disjointed at more than one vertebral connection by having
to conform to those confounded bends.

We passed the famous and only Mud Geyser an hour before daybreak. Things
were in a bad way with him, judging from the noise. The mutterings of
the old mud-slinger in his quieter moments reminds me very much of a
Chilkat Mission Indian reciting the Lord's Prayer in his native
tongue--just a rapid succession of deep gutturals. But when some
particularly indigestible concoction--served, possibly by subterranean
dumb-waiter from the adjacent Devil's Kitchen--interferes with the
gastronomies of the old epicure, his voice is anything but prayerful.
Carr said it reminded him of something between a mad bull buffalo and a
boat load of seasick tourists when the summer wind stirs up the Lake.
But Carr was too tired and disgusted to be elegant. Indeed, we were both
pretty well played out. Personally, I felt just about like the Mud
Geyser sounded.

After about an hour's groping in the dark, we found an emergency cabin
near the Mud Geyser. Building a fire, we warmed and ate a can of salmon.
When it was light enough to see, we slipped on the ski and came through
on the crust in short order.

Thumb Emergency Cabin, April 15.

Making a start before daybreak, we crossed Yellowstone Lake on the ice.
It was a wonderful opportunity to watch the light and shade effects on
the encircling mountains. Far to the south-west there is a very striking
pyramidal peak. Two flat snow-paved slopes of the mighty pile, divided
by an even ridge of black rock that rears itself in sharp contrast to
the beds of white that bulwark the base, form the sides of the pyramid.
The southeastern side so lies that it catches the first rays of the
morning sun and sends them off in shimmering streamers across the
lake--Nature's heliographic signal of the coming day.

An hour or more later the sun itself appears above the eastern hills,
silvering the tops of the frosted fir trees and whitening the vaporous
clouds above Steamboat Point and Brimstone Basin. The green ice in the
little glaciers near the summit of the big mountain kindle and sparkle
like handfuls of emeralds, and the reflected sun-flashes play in
quivering motes of dancing light on the snowy flanks of Elephant Back.

Meanwhile the south-west face of the great pyramid, lying in heavy
shadow, sleeps dull and black until the morning is well advanced. Then,
suddenly, without a perceptible premonitory fading of the shadow plane,
the whole snow-field becomes a shining sheet, as white and clear-cut as
thought carved from alabaster. At noon the sun, standing full above the
black dividing line of rock, sheds an impartial light on either side of
the mountain. Perspective is lost for the moment, and there appears to
be but one broad field of snow, with a black line traced down its

Toward midafternoon the eastern side draws on its coat of black as
suddenly as that of the other was cast aside in the morning. Now the
former is almost indiscernible, while the latter, gleaming in the
sunlight like a great sheet of white paper, seems suspended in the air
by invisible wires. And there it continues to hang, while the shadows
deepen along the shores and creep out over the ice in wavering lines as
night descends upon the frozen lake. Gradually the white sheet fades to
nothingness, until at last its position is marked only by a blank blur
unpricked by the twinkle of awakening stars.

It is as though the page of the day, new, bright, pure and unsullied in
the morning, had at last been turned to the place reserved for it from
the dawn of creation, blackened and blemished and stained by the sins of
a world of men.

(1922--I am considerably moved--I won't say how or to what--by that
little "sins-of-a-world-of-men" touch. It is something to have _begun_
life as a moralist, anyhow.)

Fountain Station, April 17.

This morning it was colder again, and we were witness of a most
wonderful sight when a snow squall chanced along while the Fountain
Geyser was in full eruption. The storm swooped down with sudden fury
while we were watching the steam jets in the Mammoth Paint Pot throw
evanescent lilies and roses in the coloured mud. We were waiting for the
Great Fountain, most beautiful of all the geysers of the Park, to get
over her fit of coyness and burst into action. The Fountain, by the way,
is one of the few geysers always spoken of in the feminine gender. I
asked if this was on account of her beauty, but Carr, who had a wife
once, thinks her uncertainty of temper had more to do with it.

The imperious advance of the Storm King seemed still further to
intimidate the bashful beauty, and at first she only shrank the deeper
into her subterranean bower. But when the little snowflakes, like
gentle but persistent caresses, began to shower softly upon the bosom
of the pool the silver bubbles came surging up with a rush. In a moment
more, as a maid overcome with the fervour of her love springs to the
arms of her lover, the queenly geyser leaped forth in all her splendour,
eight feet of beaming, bubbling green and white thrown with precipitate
eagerness upon the bosom of the Storm King. Whereupon the latter threw
all restraint to the winds and responded with a gust of bold,
blustering, ungovernable passion. Roaring in his triumph, beating and
winding her in sheets of driven snow, he grappled her in his might and
bent her back and down until the great steam-clouds from her crest, like
coils of flowing hair, were blown in curling masses along the earth.

For a full half hour they struggled in reckless abandon, granting full
play to the ardour of their elemental passions, reeling and swaying in
advance and retreat, as the mighty forces controlling them alternated in
mastery. When the gusts fell light the geyser played to her full height,
melting a wide circle in the snow that had been driven up to her very
mouth. When the wind came again she bent, quivering to his will, but
only to spring back erect as the gust weakened and died down.

Presently the storm passed, the sun came out and the north wind ceased
to blow. Full of the gladness of her love, the queenly geyser reared,
rippling, to her full height, held for a moment, a coruscating tower of
brilliants, and then, with little sobs and gasps of happiness and
contentment, sank back into her crystal chamber to dream and await the
next coming of her impetuous northern lover. Or so I fancied, at any
rate, as we watched the water sink away into the beryline depths of its
crater. But I failed to reckon with the sex of the beauty. This
afternoon, returning from a visit to Fairy Falls, we passed over the
formation. An indolent young breeze, just awakened from his siesta among
the southern hills, came picking his way up the valley of the Madison,
and the fickle Fountain was fairly choking in her eagerness to tell how
glad she was to see him. But her faithlessness had its proper reward.
The blasé blade passed the flirtatious jade by without deigning even to
ruffle her steam-cloud hair. The soldiers said he had probably gone on
to keep an engagement at the Punch Bowl, where he has been in the habit
of stirring things up a bit with a giddy young zephyr who blows in to
meet him there from down Snake River way.

Norris Station, April 18.

This has been a memorable day, for in the course of it I have seen two
of the most famous manifestations of the Yellowstone in action--the
Giant Geyser erupting and Bill Wade swearing. The Giant is the biggest
geyser in America, and Bill Wade is reputed to have the largest
vocabulary of one-language profanity in the North-west. True, there is
said to be a chap over in the legislature at Helena that can out-cuss
Wade under certain conditions, but he is college bred, speaks four
languages and has to be under the influence of liquor to do consistent
work. Wade requires no artificial stimulants, but he does have to get
mad before he can do himself full justice. Today something happened to
make him sizzling mad. The eruption of the Giant is startling and
beautiful, the river, as it takes its three-hundred-foot leap to the
depths of the Grand Canyon, is sublime and awe-inspiring, but for sheer
fearsomeness Wade's swearing--viewed dispassionately and with no
consideration of its ethical bearing--is the real wonder of the

We were climbing the hill back of the Fountain Hotel--Wade, two troopers
and myself. Wade, who is the winter keeper of the hotel and not too
skilled with ski, tried to push straight up the steep slope. Half-way to
the top he slipped, fell over a stump, gained fresh impetus and came
bounding to the bottom over the hard crust, a wildly waving pin-wheel of
arms, legs and clattering ski. He was torn, bruised and scratched from
the brush and trees, and one of his long "hickories" was snapped at the
instep. For the moment he uttered no word, but the soldiers, who knew
what was coming, held their breath and waited in trembling anticipation.
The air was charged as before a thunder-storm. A hush fell upon us all,
a hush like the silence that settles upon a ring of tourists around Old
Faithful as the boiling water, sinking back with gurgling growls,
heralds the imminent eruption.


_J. E. Haynes, St. Paul_


Wade removed his ski, laid the fragments on the snow and folded his coat
across them, as a pious Mussulman spreads his prayer-mat. Seating
himself cross-legged on the coat, he cast his eyes heavenward, on his
face an expression as pure and passionless as that on the countenance of
the Sistine Madonna. For a few moments he was silent, as though putting
away earthly things and concentrating his mind on the business in hand.
Then he began to summon the powers of heaven and the powers of hell and
call them to reckoning. He held them all accountable. Then came the
saints--every illustrious one in the calendar. Saint by saint he called
them and bade them witness the state they had brought him to. Spirits of
light, imps of darkness--all were charged in turn.

His voice grew shriller and shriller as his pent-up fury was unleashed.
He cursed snow, hill, snags, stumps, trees and ski. He cursed by the
eyes, as the sailor curses, and by the female progenitor, as the
cowboy. He cursed till his face turned from white to red, from red to
purple, from purple to black; he cursed till the veins in knots and
cords seemed bursting from his forehead; he cursed till his voice sunk
from a bellow to a raucous howl, weakened to convulsive gasps and died
rattling in his throat, till brain and body reeled under the strain and
he sank into a quivering heap at our feet.

I shall always regret that the eruption of the Park's greatest geyser
came after, rather than before, that of Wade. Frankly, the spouting of
the mighty Giant seemed a bit tame after the forces we had just seen
unleashed over behind the hotel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wade, coming through to Norris with us this afternoon, got into more
trouble. Unfortunately, too, it was under conditions which made it
impracticable to relieve his feelings in a swear-fest. The snow around
the Fountain was nearly all gone when we started, and we found it only
in patches along the road down to the Madison. After carrying our ski
for a mile without being able to use them, we decided on Holt's advice,
to take the old wood trail over the hills. This, though rough and steep,
was well covered with snow. We all took a good many tumbles in dodging
trees and scrambling through the brush, Wade being particularly
unfortunate. Finally, however, we reached the top of the long winding
hill that leads back to the main road by the Gibbon River. Here we
stopped to get our wind and tighten our ski-thongs for the downward
plunge. At this point we discovered that the snow of the old road had
been much broken and wallowed by some large animals.

"Grizzlies," pronounced Holt, as he examined the first of a long row of
tracks that led off down the hill. "Do you see those claw marks? Nothing
like a grizzly for nailing down his footprints. Doesn't seem to care if
you do track him home."

The last words were almost lost as he disappeared, a grey streak, around
the first bend. Carr and I hastened to follow, and Wade, awkwardly
astride of his pole, brought up the rear. I rounded the turn at a sharp
clip, cutting hard on the inside with my pole to keep the trail. Then,
swinging into the straight stretch beyond, I waved my pole on high in
the approved manner of real ski cracks, and gathered my breath for the
downward plunge. And not until the air was beginning to whip my face and
my speed was quite beyond control, did I see two great hairy beasts
standing up to their shoulders in a hole in the middle of the trail.
Holt was on them even as I looked. Holding his course until he all but
reached the wallow, he swerved sharply to the right against the steeply
sloping bank, passed the bears, and then eased back to the trail again.
A few seconds later he was a twinkling shadow, flitting down the long
lane of spruces in the river bottom.

The stolid brutes never moved from their tracks. I made no endeavour to
stop, but, adopting Holt's tactics, managed to give a clumsy imitation
of his superlatively clever avoidance of the blockade. Venturing to
glance back over my shoulder as I regained the trail, I crossed the
points of my ski and was thrown headlong onto the crust. Beyond filling
my eyes with snow I was not hurt in the least. My ski thongs were not
even broken.

My momentary glance had revealed Wade, eyes popping from his head and
face purple with frantic effort, riding his pole and straining every
muscle to come to a stop. But all in vain. While I still struggled to
get up and under way again, there came a crash and a yell from above,
followed by a scuffle and a gust of snorts and snarls. When I regained
my feet a few seconds later nothing was visible on the trail but the
ends of two long strips of hickory. Scrambling up the side of the cut
and falling over each other in their haste, went two panic stricken

Wade kicked out of his ski, crawled up from the hole, and was just
about to spread his swear-mat and tell everything and everybody between
high heaven and low hell what he thought of them for the trick they had
played on him when, with a rumbling, quizzical growl, a huge hairy
Jack-in-the-Box shot forth from a deep hole on the lower side of the
road. Burrowing deep for succulent roots sweet with the first run of
spring sap, the biggest grizzly of the lot had escaped the notice of
both of us until he reared up on his haunches in an effort to learn what
all the racket was about. A push with my pole quickly put me beyond
reach of all possible complications. Poor Wade rolled and floundered for
a hundred yards through the deep snow before stopping long enough to
look back and observe that the third grizzly was beating him
three-to-one--in the opposite direction. So profound was his relief that
he seemed to forget all about the swear-fest. My companions claim they
never knew anything of the kind to happen before.

Norris Station, April 19.

There are a number of things that are forbidden in Yellowstone Park, but
the worst one a man can do, short of first degree murder, is to "soap" a
geyser. Because the unnatural activity thus brought about is more than
likely to result in the destruction of a geyser's digestive system,
this offence--and most properly so--is very heavily penalized. Wherefore
we are speculating tonight as to what will happen to little Ikey
Einstein in case the Superintendent finds out what he did this

Ikey has had nothing to do with my tour at any time. That is one thing
to be thankful for. Discharged from the Army a few days ago, he had been
given some kind of job at the Lake Hotel for the summer. He is on his
way there now, he says, and is holding over here for the crust to freeze
before pushing on. Time was hanging rather heavily on his hands this
afternoon, which is probably the reason that he cooked up a case of
laundry soap in a five-gallon oil can and poured the resultant mess down
the crater of "The Minute Man." The latter won its name as a consequence
of playing with remarkable regularity practically upon the sixtieth tick
of the minute from its last spout. Or, at least, that was what was
claimed for it. Ikey maintains that he clocked it for half an hour, and
that it never did better than once in eighty seconds, and that it was
increasing its interval as the sun declined. He held that a geyser that
refused to recognize its duty to live up to its name and reputation
should be disciplined--just like in the Army. Perhaps it was discouraged
from getting so far behind schedule. If that was the case, plainly the
proper thing to do was to help it to make up lost time in one whale of
an eruption, and then it might start with a clean slate and live up to
its name. He was only acting for the geyser's own good. Thus Ikey, but
only after he had put his theory into practice.

Ikey waited until he had the station to himself before cooking up his
dope. Holt had pushed on to Mammoth Hot Springs and Carr and I had gone
out to watch for the eruption of the Monarch. With no scout and non-com
present, he doubtless figured he would run small chance of having his
experiment interfered with. Carr and I, sitting on the formation over by
the crater of the Monarch, saw him come down with an oil can on his
shoulder and start fussing round in the vicinity of "The Minute Man."
Suddenly a series of heavy reverberations shook the formation beneath
our feet, and at the same instant Ikey turned tail and started to run.
He was just in time to avoid the deluge from a great gush of water and
steam that shot a hundred feet in the air, but not to escape the
mountainous discharge of soapsuds that followed in its wake. Within a
few seconds that original five gallons of soft soap had been beaten to a
million times its original volume, and for a hundred yards to windward
it covered the formation in great white, fluffy, iridescent heaps.
Pear's Soap's original "Bubbles" boy wasn't a patch on the sputtering
little Hebrew who finally pawed his way to fresh air and sunshine from
the outermost of the sparkling saponaceous hillocks. Carr, whose mother
had been a washer-woman, almost wept at the visions of his innocent
childhood conjured up by the sight of such seas of suds.

For a good half hour "The Minute Man" retched and coughed in desperate
efforts to spew forth the nauseous mess that had been poured down its
throat. Then its efforts became scattering and spasmodic, finally
ceasing entirely. For an hour longer a diminuendo of gasps and gurgles
rattled in its racked throat. At last even these ceased, and a death-bed
silence fell upon the formation. There has not been the flutter of a
pulse since. It really looks as though "The Minute Man," his innermost
vitals torn asunder by the terrific expansion of boiling water acting
upon soft soap, is dead for good and all. I only hope I am not going to
be mixed up in the inquest.

Crystal Springs Emergency Cabin, April 20.

Wade and I had a long and heated session of religious argument at Norris
last night, of which I am inclined to think I had a shade the best. A
half hour ago, however, he pulled off a coup which he seems to feel has
about evened the score. At least I just overheard him telling Carr
that, while that "dern'd reporter was a mighty slippery cuss," he
reckoned that he finally got the pesky dude where he didn't have nothing
more to say. This was something the way of it:

Wade is a sort of amateur agnostic, and, next to swearing, his favourite
pastime is arguing "agin the church." He has read Voltaire and Bob
Ingersoll in a haphazard way, and also sopped up some queer odds and
ends from works on metaphysics and philosophy. These give him his basic
ideas which, alchemized in the wonderworking laboratory of his mind,
produce some golden theories. He holds, for instance, that no wise and
beneficent being would cast a devil out of a woman and into a drove of
hogs, because hogs were good to eat and women wasn't. Making the hogs
run off a cut-bank into the sea meant spoiling good meat, and no wise
and beneficent being would do that. He reckoned the whole yarn was just
a bit of bull anyhow, and if it really did happen, wasn't modern science
able to account for it by the fact that the girl was plain daffy and the
hogs had "trichiny" worms and stampeded?

Little touches like that go a long way toward brightening the gloom of a
winter evening, and for that reason I have done what I could to keep
Wade on production. Unfortunately, my knowledge of theology is not
profound, while Wade, with his wits sharpened on every itinerant
sky-pilot who has ever endeavoured to herd in the black sheep of the
Yellowstone, has all his guns ready to bear at a moment's notice.
Naturally, therefore, in a matter of straight argument, he has had me on
the run from his opening salvo. But always at the last I have robbed his
victories of all sweetness by ducking back into the citadel of dogma,
and telling him that I can't consent to argue with him unless he sticks
to premises--that the Church cannot eliminate the element of faith,
which he persists in ignoring. Then, leaving him fuming, I turn in and
muffle my exposed ear with a pillow.

That was about the way it went last night at Norris, except that both of
us, very childishly, lost our tempers and indulged in personalities.
Wade refused to accept the fact of my retirement and violated my rest by
staying up and poking the stove. When I uncovered my head to protest, he
took the occasion to ask me how I reconciled the theory of the
"conservashun" of matter with the story of the loaves and the fishes. I
snapped out pettishly that I could reconcile myself to the story of the
loaves and fishes a darn site easier than I could to the stories of a
fish and a loafer. It was a shameful and inexcusable lapse of breeding
on my part, especially as Wade, being a hotel watchman without active
duties, was abnormally sensitive about being referred to as a loafer.
At first he seemed to be divided between rushing me with a poker and
sitting down for a swear-fest. Finally, however, he did a much more
dignified thing than either by serving flat notice that he would never
again speak to me upon any subject whatever.

Wade made a brave effort to stand by his resolve. To my very contrite
apology in the morning he turned a deaf ear. Getting himself a hasty
breakfast, he kicked into his ski and pushed off down the Mammoth
Springs road at four o'clock. When Carr and I started an hour later a
drizzling rain had set in, making the going the hardest and most
disagreeable of the whole trip. The snow, honey-combed by the rain,
offered no support to our ski, and we wallowed to our knees in soft
slush. The drizzle increased to a steady downpour as the morning
advanced, drenching our clothes till the water ran down and filled our
rubber shoes. Buckskin gauntlets soaked through faster then they could
be wrung out. It was not long before chilled hands became almost
powerless to grasp the slippery steering poles and numbing fingers
fumbled helplessly in their efforts to tighten the stretching thongs of
rawhide that bound on our ski.

Wade was spitting a steady stream of curses where we pulled up on his
heels at the mud flats by Beaver Lake, but sullenly refused to make way
for me to take the lead and break trail. Past Obsidian Cliff, on the
still half-frozen pavement of broken glass, the going was better, and I
managed to pass and cut in ahead of the wallowing watchman just before
we came to the long avenue of pines running past Crystal Springs. He
seemed barely able to drag one sagging knee up past the other, and his
half-averted face was seamed deep with lines of weariness. Only the
spasmodic movement of his lips told of the unborn curses that his
overworked lungs lacked the power to force forth upon the air.

Realizing from the fact that he lacked the breath to curse how
desperately near a collapse the fellow must be, I whipped up my own
flagging energies with the idea of pushing on ahead to the cabin and
getting a fire started and a pot of coffee boiling. Shouting to Carr to
stand by to bring in the remains, I spurted on as fast as I could over
the crust which was still far from rotted by the rain. I was a good
three hundred yards ahead of my companions when I turned from the road
to cross Obsidian Creek to the cabin. A glance back before I entered the
trees revealed Wade reeling drunkenly from side to side, with Carr
hovering near to catch him when he fell.

A large fir log spanned the deep half-frozen pool beyond which stood the
half-snow-buried cabin. The near bank was several feet higher than the
far, so that the log sloped downward at a sharp angle. Since, on our
outward trip, we had crossed successfully by coasting down the
snow-covered top of the log, I assumed that the feat might be performed
again, especially as I was far more adept of the ski now than then. But
I failed to reckon on the softening the snow had undergone in the
elapsed fortnight. Half-way over the whole right side of the slushy cap
sliced off and let me flounder down into the waist-deep pool.

Wade, so Carr says, seemed to sense instantly the meaning of the wild
yell that surged up from the creek, and the realization of the glad fact
that his tormentor had come a cropper at the log acted like a galvanic
shock to revive his all-but-spent energies. I had just got my head above
the slushy ice and started cutting loose my ski thongs when he appeared
on the bank above. There was triumph in his fatigue-drawn visage, but no
mirth. Such was the intensity of his eagerness to speak that for a few
moments the gush of words jammed in his throat and throttled coherence.
Then out it came, short, sharp and to the point.

"Now, gol dern ye--what d'ye think o' God now?" was all he said. Then he
kicked out of one of his ski and reached it down for me to climb out
by. We did not, nor shall, resume the argument. The man is too terribly
in earnest. He has the same spirit--with the reverse English on it, of
course--that I had taken for granted had died with the early martyrs.

Mammoth Hot Springs, April 25.

The outside world of ordinary people has pushed in and taken possession
of Fort Yellowstone in the fortnight since I left here, and the invasion
of the rest of the Park will speedily follow. Two hundred labourers for
road work and the first installment of the hotel help arrived last night
and today they are swarming over the formations, gaping into the depths
of the springs, and setting nails and horseshoes to coat and crust in
the mineral-charged water as it trickles down the terraces. Irish and
Swedes predominate among both waitresses and shovel-wielders, and as
they flock about, open-mouthed with wonder and chattering at the tops of
their voices, they remind one of a throng of immigrants just off the
steamer. More of the same kind are due today, and still more tomorrow.
Then, worst of all, in another week will come the tourists. But Lob, the
good god of the snows and all his works will be gone by then, thank
heaven, and so shall I. Today there has come a letter from "Yankee Jim"
stating that he has located a boat which he reckons will do for a start
down the Yellowstone. He fails to say what he reckons it will do after
it starts, but I shall doubtless know more on that score at the end of a
couple of days.



Thirty or forty years ago, before the railway came, "Yankee Jim" held
the gate to Yellowstone Park very much as Horatius held the bridge
across the Tiber. Or perhaps it was more as St. Peter holds the gate to
heaven. Horatius stopped all-comers, while Jim, like St. Peter, passed
all whom he deemed worthy--that is to say, those able to pay the toll.
For the old chap had graded a road over the rocky cliffs hemming in what
has since been called "Yankee Jim's Canyon of the Yellowstone," and this
would-be Park tourists were permitted to travel at so much per head. As
there was no other road into the Park in the early days, Jim established
more or less intimate contact with all visitors, both going and coming.
As there were several spare rooms in his comfortable cabin home at the
head of the Canyon, many, like Kipling, stopped over for a few days to
enjoy the fishing. The fishing never disappointed them, and neither did

But people found Jim interesting and likable for very diverse
reasons--that became plain to me before ever I met the delicious old
character and was able to form an opinion of my own. A city official of
Spokane who had fished at Jim's canyon sometime in the nineties
characterized him to me as the most luridly picturesque liar in the
North-west. A few days later a fairly well known revivalist, who shared
my seat on the train to Butte, averred that "Yankee Jim" was one of the
gentlest and most saintly characters he ever expected to meet outside of
heaven. This same divergence of opinion I found to run through all the
accounts of those who had written of Jim in connection with their Park
visits. He had undoubtedly poured some amazingly bloodthirsty stories
into the ready ears of the youthful Kipling when the latter, homeward
bound from India, visited the Yellowstone in the late eighties. Some
hint of these yarns is given in the second volume of "From Sea to Sea."
Yet it could not have been much earlier than this that Bob Ingersoll and
Jim struck sparks, when the famous orator endeavoured to expound his
atheistic doctrines on the lecture platform in Livingston. And the witty
Bob admitted that on this occasion he found himself more preached
against than preaching.

It remained for the Sheriff of Park County, whom I met in Livingston on
my way to the Park, to reveal the secret spring of Jim's dual
personality. "It all depends upon whether old 'Yankee' is drinking or
not," he said. "He puts in on an average of about five days lapping up
corn juice and telling the whoppingest lies ever incubated on the
Yellowstone and ten days neutralizing the effects of them by talking and
living religion. Latterly he's been more and more inclining to
spiritualism and clairvoyance. Tells you what is going to happen to you.
Rather uncanny, some of the stuff he gets off; but on the whole a young
fellow like you that's looking for copy will find him to pan out better
when the black bottle's setting on the table and the talk runs to Injun
atrocities. But you're sure to get spirits in any event--if old 'Yankee'
isn't pouring 'em he'll be talking with 'em."

"Spirits are good in any form," I said, nodding gravely and crooking a
finger at the bar-keeper of the old Albermarle; "but--yes--without doubt
the black bottle promises better returns from my standpoint."

But it was not to be, either sooner or later. Silver of beard and of
hair and lamb-gentle of eye, old 'Yankee' fairly swam in an aura of
benevolence when I dropped in upon him a couple of days later--and the
table was bare. He raised his hands in holy horror when I asked him to
tell me Injun fighting stories, and especially of the tortures he had
seen and had inflicted. He admitted that such stories had been
attributed to him, but couldn't imagine how they had got started. He had
lived with the Crows and the Bannocks, it was true, but only as a friend
and a man of peace, never as a warrior. Far from ever having been even a
passive spectator of torture, he had always exerted himself to prevent,
or at least to minimise it. And he flattered himself that his efforts
along this line had not been without success. He felt that no village in
which he had lived but had experienced the civilizing effect of his


_Courtesy Northern Pacific R. R._


Of course all this was terribly disappointing to a youth who had read of
the hair-raising exploits of "Yankee Jim, the White Chief," in
yellow-backed shockers, and who had looked forward for weeks to hearing
from his thin, hard lips the story of the burning of the squaw at the
stake, immortalized by Kipling. Forewarned, however, that it was
something like ten to five against my stumbling upon the felicitude of a
black-bottle régime, I philosophically decided to go ahead with my ski
trip through the Park on the chance that the process of the seasons
might bring me better luck on my return. After inducing Jim to undertake
either to find or to build me a boat suitable for my contemplated
down-river trip, I pushed on to Fort Yellowstone.

Whether the sign of the black bottle wheeled into the ascendant
according to calendar reckoning during the three weeks of my absence I
never learned. Certainly there was no sign of it either above or below
the horizon on my return. Jim was more benevolent than ever, and also
(so he assured me almost at once) in direct communication with his
"little friends up thar." He tried hard to dissuade me from tackling the
river, urging that a fine upstanding young feller like myself ought to
spend his life doing good to others rather than going outer his way to
do harm to hisself. I chaffed him into relinquishing that line by asking
him if he was afraid I was going to bump the edges off some of his
canyon scenery. Finally he consented to take me up-river to where an
abandoned boat he had discovered was located, but only on condition I
should try to get another man to help me run the Canyon. He said he
would give what help he could from the bank, but didn't care to expose
his old bones to the chance of a wetting. He thought "Buckskin Jim"
Cutler, who owned a ranch nearby, might be willing to go with me as far
as Livingston. He was not sure that Cutler had run the Canyon, but in
any event he knew it foot by foot, and would be of great help in letting
the boat down with ropes at the bad places.

We found the craft we sought about a mile up-stream, where it had been
abandoned at the edge of an eddy at the last high-water. It was high and
dry on the rocks, and the now rapidly rising river had some ten or
twelve feet to go before reaching the careened hull. Plain as it was
that neither boat-builder nor even carpenter had had a hand in its
construction, there was still no possible doubt of its tremendous
strength and capacity to withstand punishment. Jim was under the
impression that the timbers and planking from a wrecked bridge had been
drawn upon in building it. That boat reminded me of the pictures in my
school history of the _Merrimac_, and later, on my first visit to the
Nile, the massive Temple of Karnak reminded me of that boat.

Jim said that a homesick miner at Aldridge had built this fearful and
wonderful craft with the idea of using it to return to his family in
Hickman, Kentucky. He had bade defiance to the rapids of the Yellowstone
with the slogan "HICKMAN OR BUST." The letters were still discernible in
tarry basrelief. So also the name on bow and stern. (Or was it stern and
bow? I was never quite sure which was which.) _Kentucky Mule_ he had
called it, but I never knew why till years later. And sorry I was I ever
learned, too.

The fellow was lacking in heart, Jim said. He had run no rapids to speak
of in the _Mule_, and if she had hit any rocks in the five or six miles
of comparatively open water above she had doubtless nosed them out of
the way. The principal trouble appeared to have been that she preferred
to progress on her side or on her back rather than right side up. This
had caused her to fill with water, and that, while apparently not
affecting her buoyancy greatly, had made her cabin uncomfortable. Her
owner abandoned her just as soon as she could be brought to bank,
selling what was salvable of his outfit and leaving the rest. What Jim
complained of was the chap's failure to live up to his slogan. Nothing
had busted except his nerve. He hoped that in case I did push off I
wouldn't disgrace myself--and him, who was sponsoring me, so to
speak--by not keeping going. Old Jim had good sound basic instincts. No
doubt about that.

Working with ax and crowbar, we finally succeeded in knocking off the
cabin of what had been intended for a houseboat, leaving behind a
half-undecked scow. It was about twenty-five feet in length, with a beam
of perhaps eight feet. The inside of this hull was revealed as braced
and double-braced with railroad ties, while at frequent intervals along
the water lines similar timbers had been spiked, evidently for the
purpose of absorbing the impact of rocks and cliffs. She was plainly
unsinkable whatever side was upward, but as it was my idea to ballast
her in an endeavour to maintain an even keel, I went over her caulking
of tarry rags in the hope of reducing leakage to a minimum. We also
hewed out and rigged a clumsy stern-sweep for steering purposes, and it
was my intention to have a lighter one at the bow in the event I was
able to ship a crew to man it. I didn't care a lot for looks at this
juncture as I was going to rebuild the _Mule_ at Livingston in any case.

With the aid of a couple of chaps from a neighbouring ranch, we launched
her down a runaway of cottonwood logs into the rising back-current of
the eddy. It was not yet sunset, so there was still time to stow a heavy
ballasting of nigger-head boulders before dark. Water came in for a
while, but gradually stopped as the dry pine swelled with the
long-denied moisture. She still rode high after receiving all of a
thousand pounds of rocks, but as I did not want to reduce her freeboard
too much I let it go at that. She was amazingly steady withal, so that I
could stand on either rail without heaving her down more than an inch or
two. She looked fit to ram the Rock of Gibraltar, let alone the
comparatively fragile banks and braes of "Yankee Jim's Canyon." Never
again has it been my lot to ship in so staunch a craft.

Returning at dusk to Jim's cabin, we had word that "Buckskin Jim" Cutler
was away from home and not expected back for several days. That ended my
search for a crew, as there appeared to be no other eligible
candidates. Of "Buckskin Jim" I was not to hear for twenty years, when
it chanced that he was again recommended to me as the best available
river-man on the upper Yellowstone. How that grizzled old pioneer fought
his last battle with the Yellowstone on the eve of my push-off from
Livingston for New Orleans I shall tell in proper sequence.

Jim insisted on casting my "horryscoop" that night, just to give me an
idea how things were going to shape for the next week or two. Going into
a dark room that opened off the kitchen, he muttered away for some
minutes in establishing communication with his "little friends up thar."
Finally he called me in, closed the door, took my hand and talked
balderdash for a quarter of an hour or more. I made note in my diary of
only three of the several dozen things he told me. One was: "Young man,
you have the sweetest mother in all the world"; another: "I see you
struggling in the water beside a great black boat"; and the third: "You
will meet a dark woman, with a scowling face, to whom you will become
much attached."

Now that "sweetest mother" stuff was ancient stock formula of the
fortune-telling faker, and considering what Jim knew of my immediate
plans it hardly seemed that he needed to get in touch with his "little
friends up thar" to know that there was more than an even break that I
was going to be doing some floundering around a big black boat; but how
in the deuce did the old rascal know that I was going to meet the one
and only "Calamity Jane" the following week in Livingston?

Jim was bubbling with reminiscence when he came out of his averred
trance, but only in a gentle and benevolent vein. He claimed that he was
able to prove that Curley, the Crow Scout, was not a real survivor of
the Custer massacre, but only witnessed a part of the battle from
concealment in a nearby _coulée_. When I pressed him for details,
however, he seemed to become suspicious, and switched off to a rather
mild version of his meeting with Bob Ingersoll.

"Bob and his family stopped a whole day with me," he said, "and we got
to be great friends. His girls came right out here into this kitchen
where you are sitting now and helped me wash the dishes. They was
calling me 'Uncle Jim' before they had been here an hour. Well, the
people down there persuaded Bob to give a lecture in Livingston, and I
drove down the whole forty miles to hear it. When the lecture was over
Bob came up to me in the Albermarle and asked me what I thought of it.
'Mr. Ingersoll,' said I, 'I don't like to tell you.' 'I like a man that
speaks his mind,' says he; 'go on.' 'Well, Mr. Ingersoll,' said I, 'I
think you're making a grievous mistake in standing there and hurting the
feelings, and shaking the faith, of almost the whole audience, just for
the sake of the one or two as thinks as you do.' At first I thought he
was going to come back at me, but all of a sudden he laughed right out
in his jolly way, and took my arm and said, 'Mr. George, let's have a
drink.' Bob, in spite of his pernishus doctrines, was the most lovable
man I ever met."

Now this was a very different account of the clash from the one I had
heard in Livingston. There I was assured that the debate took place at
the Albemarle bar about midnight, and that Jim had Bob's hide on the
fence at the end of five minutes of verbal pyrotechnics. But it was
characteristic of Jim that he would neither boast nor talk of Injuns
during his non-drinking periods. Doubtless, therefore, he was far from
doing himself justice in relating the Ingersoll episode. I surely would
like to have heard it when the sign of the black bottle was in the

Jim admitted a clear remembrance of Kipling's visit, but was chary of
speaking of it, doubtless on account of the squaw-at-the-stake story.
(His atrocity yarns troubled him more than any other when they came home
to roost, so they assured me in Livingston.) Of Roscoe Conkling his
impressions were not friendly, even in the benevolence of his present
mood. "Conkling caught the biggest fish a tourist ever caught in the
Canyon," he said, "He was a great hand with a rod, but, in my candid
opinion, greatly over-rated as a public man. He had the nerve to cheat
me out of the price of a case of beer. Ordered it for a couple of
coachloads of his friends and then drove off without paying for it. Yes,
possibly a mistake; but these politicians are slippery cusses at the

Our plan of operation for the morrow was something like this: Bill and
Herb, the neighbouring ranchers, were to go up and help me push off,
while Jim went down to the first fall at the head of the Canyon to be on
hand to pilot me through. If I made the first riffle all right, I was to
try to hold up the boat in an eddy until Jim could amble down to the
second fall and stand-by to signal me my course into that one in turn.
And so on down through. Once out of the Canyon there were no bad rapids
above Livingston. I was to take nothing with me save my camera. My bags
were to remain in Jim's cabin until he had seen me pass from sight below
the Canyon. Then he was to return, flag the down train from Cinnabar,
and send the stuff on to me at Livingston. Looking back on it from the
vantage of a number of years' experience with rough water, that
decision to leave the luggage to come on by train was the only
intelligent feature of the whole plan.

Steering a boat in swift water with any kind of a stern oar is an
operation demanding a skill only to be acquired by long practice. For a
greenhorn to try to throw over the head of a craft like _Kentucky Mule_
was about comparable to swinging an elephant by the tail. This fact,
which it took me about half a minute of pulling and tugging to learn,
did not bother me a whit however. I felt sure the _Mule_ was equal to
meeting the Canyon walls strength for strength. I knew I had
considerable endurance as a swimmer, and I was fairly confident that a
head that had survived several seasons of old style mass-play football
ought not to be seriously damaged by the rocks of the Yellowstone. Well,
I was not right--only lucky. Not one of the considerations on which my
confidence was based really weighed the weight of a straw in my favour.
That I came out at the lower end comparatively unscathed was luck, pure
luck. Subsequently I paid dearly for my initial success in running
rapids like a bull at a gate. In the long run over-confidence in running
rough water is about as much of an asset as a millstone tied round the
neck. Humility is the proper thing; humility and a deep distrust of the
wild beast into whose jaws you are poking your head.

As I swung round the bend above the head of the Canyon I espied old Jim
awaiting my coming on a rocky coign of vantage above the fall. A girl in
a gingham gown had dismounted from a calico pony and was climbing up to
join us. With fore-blown hair and skirt she cut an entrancing silhouette
against the sun-shot morning sky. I think the presence of that girl had
a deal to do with the impending disaster, for I would never have thought
of showing off if none but Jim had been there. But something told me
that the exquisite creature could not but admire the _sang froid_ of a
youth who would let his boat drift while he stood up and took a picture
of the thundering cataract over which it was about to plunge. And so I
did it--just that. Then, waving my camera above my head to attract Jim's
attention to the act, I tossed it ashore. That was about the only
sensible thing I did in my run through the Canyon.

As I resumed my steering oar I saw that Jim was gesticulating wildly in
an apparent endeavour to attract my attention to a comparatively
rock-free chute down the left bank. Possibly if I had not wasted
valuable time displaying my _sang froid_ I might have worried the _Mule_
over in that direction, and headed right for a clean run through. As it
was, the contrary brute simply took the bit in her teeth and went
waltzing straight for the reef of barely submerged rock at the head of
the steeply cascading pitch of white water. Broadside on she sunk into
the hollow of a refluent wave, struck crashingly fore and aft, and hung
trembling while the full force of the current of the Yellowstone surged
against her up-stream gunwale.

Impressions of what followed are considerably confused in my mind, but
it seems to me things happened in something like the following order:
The pressure on her upper side heeled the _Mule_ far over, so that her
boulder ballast began to shift and spill out at the same time the
refluent wave from below began pouring across the down-stream gunwale.
The more she heeled the more ballast she lost and the more water she
shipped. Fortunately most of the boulders had gone before the pin of the
stern-sweep broke and precipitated me after the ballast. The few
niggerheads that did come streaming in my wake were smooth and round and
did not seem to be falling very fast when they bumped my head and
shoulders. Certainly I hardly felt them at the time, nor was I much
marked from them afterwards.

Sticking to my oar I came up quickly and went bobbing down the
undulating stream of the rapid, kissing off a rock now and then but
never with sharp impact. I had gone perhaps a hundred yards when the
lightened boat broke loose above and started to follow me. Right down
the middle of the riffle she came, wallowing mightily but shipping very
little additional water. Holding my oar under one arm and paddling
lightly against the current with my other, I waited till the _Mule_
floundered abreast of me and clambered aboard. She was about a third
full of water, but as the weight of it hardly compensated for the rocks
dumped overboard she was riding considerably higher than before, though
much less steadily.



Looking back up-stream as the reeling _Mule_ swung in the current, I saw
Jim, with the Gingham Girl in his wake, ambling down the bank at a
broken-kneed trot in an apparent endeavour to head me to the next fall
as per schedule. Poor old chap! He was never a hundred-to-one shot in
that race now that the _Mule_ had regained her head and was running away
down mid-channel regardless of obstacles. He stumbled and went down even
as I watched him with the tail of my eye. The Gingham Girl pulled him to
his feet and he seemed to be leaning heavily against her fine shoulder
as the _Mule_ whisked me out of sight around the next bend. That was the
last I ever saw of either of them. Jim, I understand, died some years
ago, and the Gingham Girl.... Dear me, she must be forty herself by now
and the mother of not less than eight. Even ten is considered a
conservative family up that way. They are not race suicidists on the
upper Yellowstone.

With the steering oar permanently unshipped there was more difficulty
than ever in exercising any control over the balkiness of the stubborn
_Mule_. After a few ineffectual attempts I gave up trying to do anything
with the oar and confined my navigation to fending off with a cottonwood
pike-pole. This really helped no more than the oar, so it was rather by
good luck than anything else that the _Mule_ hit the next pitch head-on
and galloped down it with considerable smartness. When she reeled
through another rapid beam-on without shipping more than a bucket or two
of green water I concluded she was quite able to take care of herself,
and so sat down to enjoy the scenery. I was still lounging at ease when
we came to a sharp right-angling notch of a bend where the full force of
the current was exerted to push a sheer wall of red-brown cliff out of
the way. Not unnaturally, the _Mule_ tried to do the same thing. That
was where I discovered I had over-rated her strength of construction.

I have said that she impressed me at first sight as being quite capable
of nosing the Rock of Gibraltar out of her way. This optimistic estimate
was not borne out. That little patch of cliff was not high enough to
make a respectable footstool for the guardian of the Mediterranean, but
it must have been quite as firmly socketed in the earth. So far as I
could see it budged never the breadth of a hair when the _Mule_, driving
at all of fifteen miles an hour, crashed into it with the shattering
force of a battering-ram. Indeed, everything considered, it speaks a lot
for her construction that she simply telescoped instead of resolving
into cosmic star-dust. Even the telescoping was not quite complete.
Although there were a number of loose planks and timbers floating in her
wake, the hashed mass of wood that backed soddenly away from the cliff
and off into the middle of the current again had still a certain seeming
of a boat--that is, to one who knew what it was intended for in the
first place. With every plank started or missing, however, water had
entered at a score of places, so that all the buoyancy she retained was
that of floating wood.

The _Mule_ had ceased to be a boat and become a raft, but not a raft
constructed on scientific principles. The one most desirable
characteristic of a properly built raft of logs is its stability. It is
almost impossible to upset. The remains of the _Mule_ had about as much
stability as a toe-dancer, and all of the capriciousness. She kept more
or less right side up on to the head of the next riffle and then laid
down and negotiated the undulating waves by rolling.

It was not until some years later, if I remember aright, that stout
women adopted the expedient of rolling to reduce weight. The _Mule_ was
evidently well in advance of the times, for she reduced both weight and
bulk by all of a quarter in that one series of rolls. I myself, after
she had spilled me out at the head of the riffle, rode through on one of
her planks, but it was a railroad tie, with a big spike in it, that
rasped me over the ear in the whirlpool at the foot.

And so I went on through to the foot of "Yankee Jim's Canyon." In the
smoother water I clung to a tie, plank or the thinning remnants of the
_Mule_ herself. At the riffles, to avoid another clout on the head from
the spike-fanged flotsam, I found it best to swim ahead and flounder
through on my own. I was not in serious trouble at any time, for much
the worst of the rapids had been those at the head of the Canyon. Had I
been really hard put for it, there were a dozen places at which I could
have crawled out. As that would have made overtaking the _Mule_ again
somewhat problematical, I was reluctant to do it. Also, no doubt, I was
influenced by the fear that Jim and the Gingham Girl might call me a

Beaching what I must still call the _Mule_ on a bar where the river
fanned out in the open valley at the foot of the Canyon, I dragged her
around into an eddy and finally moored her mangled remains to a friendly
cottonwood on the left bank. Taking stock of damages, I found that my
own scratches and bruises, like Beauty, were hardly more than skin deep,
while the _Mule_, especially if her remaining spikes could be tightened
up a bit, had still considerable rafting potentialities. As the day was
bright and warm and the water not especially cold, I decided to make way
while the sun shone--to push on as far toward Livingston as time and
tide and my dissolving craft would permit. But first for repairs.


_Courtesy Northern Pacific R. R._


Crossing a flat covered with a thick growth of willow and cottonwood, I
clambered up the railway embankment toward a point where I heard the
clank of iron and the voices of men at work. The momentary focus of the
section gang's effort turned out to be round a bend from the point where
I broke through to the right-of-way, but almost at my feet, lying across
the sleepers, was a heavy strip of rusty iron, pierced at even intervals
with round holes. Telling myself that I might well go farther and fare
worse in my quest for a tool to drive spikes with, I snatched it up and
returned to the river. Scarcely had my lusty blows upon the _Mule's_
sagging ribs begun to resound, however, than a great commotion broke
forth above, which presently resolved itself into mingled cursings and
lamentations in strange foreign tongues. Then a howling-mad Irish
section-boss came crashing through the underbrush, called me a
train-wrecker, grabbed the piece of iron out of my hand, and, shouting
that he would "sittle" with me in a jiffy, rushed back to the

The fellow seemed to attach considerable importance to that strip of
rusty iron. Why this was I discovered a couple of minutes later when I
found him and three Italians madly bolting it to the loose ends of a
couple of rails before the down-bound train hove in sight up the line.

"I'll larn ye to steal a fish-plate, ye snakin' spalpheen," he roared as
the train thundered by and disappeared around the bend.

"I didn't steal any fish-plate," I remonstrated quaveringly, backing off
down the track as the irate navvy advanced upon me brandishing a
three-foot steel wrench; "I only borrowed a piece of rusty iron. I
didn't see any fish-plate. I didn't even know where your lunch buckets
are. I wish I did, for I've just swum through the Canyon and I'm darned
hungry." Gad, but I was glad the Gingham Gown and "Yankee Jim" couldn't
see me then!

With characteristic Hibernian suddenness, the bellow of rage changed to
a guffaw of laughter. "Sure an' the broth o' a bhoy thot a fish-plate
wuz a contryvance fer to eat off uv! An' it's jest through the Canyon
he's swam! An' it's hoongry an' wet thot he is! Bejabbers then, we won't
be afther murtherin' him outright; we'll jest let him go back to the
river an' dhrown hisself! Stip lively, ye skulkin' dagoes, an' bring out
the loonch."

And so while I sat on the bank quaffing Dago Red and munching
garlic-stuffed sausages, Moike and his gang of Eyetalians abandoned
their four-mile stretch of the Northern Pacific to drive more spikes in
the _Mule's_ bulging sides and render her as raft-shape as possible for
a further run. The boss led his gang in a cheer as they pushed me off
into the current, and the last I saw of him he was still guffawing
mightily over his little fish-plate joke. As a matter of fact, since
Mike in his excitement appeared to have neglected to send out a flagman
when he discovered his fish-plate was missing, I have always had a
feeling that the northbound train that morning came nearer than I did to
being wrecked in "Yankee Jim's Canyon of the Yellowstone."

The rest of that day's run was more a matter of chills than thrills,
especially after the evening shadows began to lengthen and the northerly
wind to strengthen. The _Mule_ repeated her roll-and-reduce tactics
every time she came to a stretch of white water. There were only three
planks left when I abandoned her at dusk, something over twenty miles
from the foot of the Canyon, and each of these was sprinkled as thickly
with spike-points as a Hindu _fakir's_ bed of nails. One plank, by a
curious coincidence, was the strake that had originally borne the
defiant slogan. "HICKMAN OR BUST." Prying it loose from its cumbering
mates, I shoved it gently out into the current. There was no question
that _Kentucky Mule_ was busted, but it struck me as the sporting thing
to do to give that plank a fighting chance to nose its way down to
Hickman. If I had known what I learned last summer I should not have
taken the trouble. Hickman has had more "Kentucky Mule" than is good for
it all the time; also a huge box factory where soft pine planks are cut
up into shooks. The last of my raft deserved a better fate. I hope it
stranded on the way.

Spending the night with a hospitable rancher, I walked into Livingston
in the morning. There I found my bags and camera, which good old "Yankee
Jim" had punctually forwarded by the train I had so nearly wrecked. The
accompanying pictures of Jim and his Canyon are from the roll of
negatives in the kodak at the time.



Thrilled with the delights of swift-water boating as they had been
vouchsafed to me in running the _Mule_ through "Yankee Jim's Canyon," I
hastened to make arrangements to continue my voyage immediately upon
arriving in Livingston. A carpenter called Sydney Lamartine agreed to
build me a skiff and have it ready at the end of three days. Hour by
hour I watched my argosy grow, and then--on the night before it was
ready to launch--came "Calamity."

In every man's life there is one event that transcends all others in the
bigness with which it bulks in his memory. This is not necessarily the
biggest thing that has really happened to him. Usually, indeed, it is
not. It is simply the thing that impresses most deeply the person he
happens to be at the time. The thunderbolt of a living, breathing
"Calamity Jane" striking at my feet from a clear sky is my biggest
thing. One does his little curtsey to a lot of queens, real and
figurative, in the course of twenty years' wandering, but not the most
regal of them has stirred my pulse like the "Queen of the Plains."
Queens of Dance, Queens of Song, and Queens of real kingdoms,
cannibalistic and otherwise, there have been, but only one "Queen of the
Rockies." And this was not because "Calamity Jane" was either young, or
beautiful or good. (There may have been a time when she was young, and
possibly even good, but beautiful--never.) So far as my own heart-storm
was concerned, it was because she had been the heroine of that
saffron-hued thriller called "The Beautiful White Devil of the
Yellowstone," the which I had devoured in the hay-mow in my adolescence.
The fragrance of dried alfalfa brings the vision of "Calamity Jane"
before my eyes even to this day. She is the only flesh-and-blood heroine
to come into my life.

My initial meeting with "Calamity" was characteristic. It was a bit
after midnight. On my way home to the old Albemarle to bed I became
aware of what I thought was a spurred and _chap-ed_ cowboy in the act of
embracing a lamp-post. A gruff voice hailed me as I came barging by.
"Short Pants!" it called; "oh, Short Pants--can't you tell a lady where
she lives?"

"Show me where the lady is and I'll try," I replied, edging cautiously
in toward the circle of golden glow.

"She's me, Short Pants--Martha Cannary--Martha Burk, better known as
'Calamity Jane.'"

"Ah!" I breathed, and again "Ah!" Then: "Sure, I'll tell you where you
live; only you'll have to tell me first." And thus was ushered in the
greatest moment of my life.

"Calamity," it appeared, had arrived from Bozeman that afternoon, taken
a room over a saloon, gone out for a convivial evening and forgotten
where she lived. She was only sure that the bar-keeper of the saloon was
named Patsy, and that there was an outside stairway up to the second
story. It was a long and devious search, not so much because there was
any great number of saloons with outside stairways and mixologists
called Patsy, as because every man in every saloon to which we went to
inquire greeted "Calamity" as a long-lost mother and insisted on
shouting the house. Then, to the last man, they attached themselves to
the search-party. When we did locate the proper place, it was only to
find that "Calamity" had lost her room-key. After a not-too-well-ordered
consultation, we passed her unprotesting anatomy in through a window by
means of a fire-ladder and reckoned our mission finished. That was the
proudest night on which I am able to look back.

When, agog with delicious excitement, I went to ask after Mrs. Burk's
health the following morning. I found her smoking a cigar and cooking
breakfast. She insisted on my sharing both, but I compromised on the ham
and eggs. She had no recollection whatever of our meeting of the
previous evening, yet greeted me as "Short Pants" as readily as ever.
This name, later contracted to "Pants," was suggested by my omnipresent
checkered knickers, the only nether garment I possessed at the time.

The "once-and-never-again 'Calamity Jane,'" was about fifty-five years
of age at this time, and looked it, or did not look it, according to
where one looked. Her deeply-lined, scowling, sun-tanned face and the
mouth with its missing teeth might have belonged to a hag of seventy.
The rest of her-well, seeing those leather-clad legs swing by on the
other side of a signboard that obscured the wrinkled phiz, one might
well have thought they belonged to a thirty-year-old cow-puncher just
coming into town for his night to howl. And younger even than her legs
was "Calamity's" heart. Apropos of which I recall confiding to Patsy,
the bar-keep, that she had the heart of a young god Pan. "Maybe so,"
grunted Patsy doubtfully (not having had a classical education he
couldn't be quite sure, of course); "in any case she's got the voice of
an old tin pan." Which was neither gallant nor quite fair to "Calamity."
Her voice _was_ a bit cracked, but not so badly as Patsy had tried to
make out. Another thing: that black scowl between her brows belied the
dear old girl. There was really nothing saturnine about her. Hers was
the sunniest of souls, and the most generous. She was poor all her life
from giving away things, and I have heard that her last illness was
contracted in nursing some poor sot she found in a gutter.

[Illustration: "CALAMITY JANE" IN 1885]


Naturally, of course, after a decent interval, I blurted out to
"Calamity" that I had come to hear the story of her wonderful life.
Right gamely did the old girl come through. "Sure, Pants," she replied.
"Just run down and rush a can of suds, and I'll rattle off the whole
layout for you. I'll meet you down there in the sunshine by those empty
beer barrels."

It was May, the month of the brewing of the fragrant dark-brown _Bock_.
Returning with a gallon tin pail awash to the gunnels, I found
"Calamity" enthroned on an up-ended barrel, with her feet comfortably
braced against the side of one of its prostrate brothers. Depositing the
nectar on a third barrel at her side, I sank to my ease upon a soft
patch of lush spring grass and budding dandelions. "Calamity" blew a
mouth-hole in the foam, quaffed deeply of the _Bock_; wiped her lips
with a sleeve, and began without further preliminary:

"My maiden name was Martha Cannary. Was born in Princeton, Missouri, May
first, 1848." Then, in a sort of parenthesis: "This must be about my
birthday, Pants. Drink to the health of the Queen of May, kid." I
stopped chewing dandelion, lifted the suds-crowned bucket toward her,
muttered "Many happy Maytimes, Queen," and drank deep. Immediately she
resumed with "My maiden name was Martha Cannary, etc."... "As a child I
always had a fondness for adventure and especial fondness for horses,
which I began to ride at an early age and continued to do so until I
became an expert rider, being able to ride the most vicious and stubborn

"In 1865 we emigrated from our home in Missouri by the overland route to
Virginia City, Montana. While on the way the greater part of my time was
spent in hunting along with the men; in fact I was at all times with the
men when there was excitement and adventure to be had. We had many
exciting times fording streams, for many of the streams on the way were
noted for quicksand and boggy places. On occasions of that kind the men
would usually select the best way to cross the streams, myself on more
than one occasion having mounted my pony and swam across the stream
several times merely to amuse myself and had many narrow escapes; but as
pioneers of those days had plenty of courage we overcame all obstacles
and reached Virginia City in safety.

"Mother died at Blackfoot in 1866, where we buried her. My father died
in Utah in 1867, after which I went to Fort Bridger. Remained around
Fort Bridger during 1868, then went to Piedmont, Wyoming, with U. P.
railway. Joined General Custer as a scout at Fort Russell, Wyoming, in
1870. Up to this time I had always worn the costume of my sex. When I
joined Custer I donned the uniform of a soldier. It was a bit awkward at
first but I soon got to be perfectly at home in men's clothes.

"I was a scout in the Nez Percé outbreak in 1872. In that war Generals
Custer, Miles, Terry and Cook were all engaged. It was in this campaign
I was christened 'Calamity Jane.' It was on Goose Creek, Wyoming, where
the town of Sheridan is now located. Captain Egan was in command of the
post. We were ordered out to quell an uprising of Indians, and were out
several days, had numerous skirmishes during which six of the soldiers
were killed and several severely wounded. On returning to the post we
were ambushed about a mile from our destination. When fired upon Captain
Egan was shot. I was riding in advance and on hearing the firing turned
in my saddle and saw the Captain reeling in his saddle as though about
to fall. I turned my horse and galloped back with all haste to his side
and got there in time to catch him as he was falling. I lifted him onto
my horse in front of me and succeeded in getting him safely to the fort.
Captain Egan on recovering laughingly said: 'I name you "Calamity Jane,"
the Heroine of the Plains.' I have borne that name up to the present

Here, little dreaming what the consequence would be, I interrupted, and
for this reason: I had felt that "Calamity" had been doing herself scant
justice all along, but in the "christening" incident her matter-of-fact
recital was so much at variance with the facts as set down in "The
Beautiful White Devil of the Yellowstone" that I had to protest. "Excuse
me, Mrs. Burk," I said, "but wasn't that officer's name Major Percy
Darkleigh instead of Egan? And didn't you cry 'For life and love!' when
you caught his reeling form? And didn't you shake your trusty repeater
and shout 'To hell with the redskins!' as you turned and headed for the
fort? And didn't you ride with your reins in your teeth, the Major under
your left arm and your six-shooter in your right hand? And when you had
laid the Major safely down inside the Fort, didn't he breathe softly, 'I
thank thee Jane from the bottom of a grateful heart. No arm but thine
shall ever encircle my waist, for while I honour my wife--'"

Here "Calamity" cut in, swearing hard and pointedly, so hard and
pointedly, in fact, that her remarks may not be quoted verbatim here.
The gist of them was that "The Beautiful White Devil of the Yellowstone"
was highly coloured, was a pack of blankety-blank lies, in fact, and of
no value whatever as history. I realize now that she was right, of
course, but that didn't soften the blow at the time.

Trying to resume her story, "Calamity," after groping about falteringly
for the thread, had to back up again and start with "My maiden name was
Martha Cannary." She was in a Black Hills campaign against the Sioux in
1875, and in the spring of '76 was ordered north with General Crook to
join Generals Miles, Terry and Custer at the Big Horn. A ninety-mile
ride with dispatches after swimming the Platte brought on a severe
illness, and she was sent back in General Crook's ambulance to Fort
Fetterman. This probably saved her from being present at the massacre of
the Little Big Horn with Custer and the 7th Cavalry.

"During the rest of the summer of '76 I was a pony express rider,
carrying the U. S. mails between Deadwood and Custer, fifty miles over
some of the roughest trails in the Black Hills. As many of the riders
before me had been held up and robbed of their packages, it was
considered the most dangerous route in the Hills. As my reputation as a
rider and quick shot were well known I was molested very little, for
the toll-gatherers looked on me as being a good fellow and they knew I
never missed my mark.

"My friend William Hickock, better known as 'Wild Bill,' who was
probably the best revolver shot that ever lived, was in Deadwood that
summer. On the second of August, while setting at a gambling table of
the Bella Union Saloon, he was shot in the back of the head by the
notorious Jack McCall, a desperado. I was in Deadwood at the time and on
hearing of the killing made my way at once to the scene of the shooting
and found that my best friend had been killed by McCall. I at once
started to look for the assassin and found him at Shurdy's butcher shop
and grabbed a meat cleaver and made him throw up his hands, through
excitement on hearing Bill's death having left my weapons on the post of
my bed. He was then taken to a log cabin and locked up, but he got away
and was afterwards caught at Fagan's ranch on Horse Creek. He was taken
to Yankton, tried and hung."

Here, forgetting myself, I interrupted again in an endeavour to
reconcile the facts of "Wild Bill's" death as just detailed with the
version of that tragic event as depicted in "Jane of the Plain."
"Calamity's" language was again unfit to print. "Wild Bill" had _not_
expired with his head on her shoulder, muttering brokenly "My heart was
yours from the first, oh my love!" Nor had she snipped off a lock of
Bill's yellow hair and sworn to bathe it in the heart-blood of his
slayer. All blankety-blank lies, just like the "White Devil." Then, as
before, in order to get going properly, she had to back up and start all
over with: "My maiden name was Martha Cannary." This time I kept chewing
dandelions and let her run on to the finish, thereby learning the secret
of her somewhat remarkable style of delivery. This is the way the story
of her life concluded:

"We arrived in Deadwood on October 9th, 1895. My return after an absence
of so many years to the scene of my most noted exploits, created quite
an excitement among my many friends of the past, to such an extent that
a vast number of citizens who had heard so much of 'Calamity Jane' and
her many adventures were anxious to see me. Among the many whom I met
were several gentlemen from eastern cities, who advised me to allow
myself to be placed before the public in such a manner as to give the
people of the eastern cities the opportunity of seeing the lady scout
who was made so famous during her daring career in the West and Black
Hills countries. An agent of Kohl and Middleton, the celebrated museum
men, came to Deadwood through the solicitation of these gentlemen, and
arrangements were made to place me before the public in this manner. My
first engagement to begin at the Palace Museum, Minneapolis, January
20th, 1896, under this management.

Hoping that this history of my life may interest all readers, I remain,
as in the older days,

                    "Mrs. M. Burk,
"Better known as 'Calamity Jane.'"

"Calamity" had been delivering to me her museum tour lecture, the which
had also been printed in a little pink-covered leaflet to sell at the
door. That was why, like a big locomotive on a slippery track, she had
had to back up to get going again every time she was stopped. Oh, well,
the golden dust from the butterfly wing of Romance has to be brushed off
sometime; only it was rather hard luck to have it get such a devastating
side-swipe all at once. That afternoon for the first time I began to
discern that there was a more or less opaque webbing underlying the
rainbow-bright iridescence of sparkling dust.

With "Calamity Jane," the heroine, evanishing like the blown foam of her
loved _Bock_, there still remained Martha Burk, the human document, the
living page of thirty years of the most vivid epoch of Northwestern
history. Compared to what I had hoped from my historic researches in the
pages of "The Beautiful White Devil of the Yellowstone," this was of
comparatively academic though none the less real interest. Reclining
among the dandelions the while "Calamity" oiled the hinges of her memory
with beer, I conned through and between the lines of that record for
perhaps a week. Patiently diverting her from her lecture platform
delivery, I gradually drew from the strange old character much of
intimate and colourful interest. Circulating for three decades through
the upper Missouri and Yellowstone valleys and gravitating like steel to
the magnet wherever action was liveliest and trouble the thickest, she
had known at close range all of the most famous frontier characters of
her day. Naturally, therefore, her unrestrained talk was of Indians and
Indian fighters, road-agents, desperadoes, gamblers and bad men
generally--from "Wild Bill" Hickock and "Buffalo Bill" Cody to Miles and
Terry and Custer, to "Crazy Horse," "Rain-in-the-Face," Gall and
"Sitting Bull." She told me a good deal of all of them, not a little,
indeed, which seemed to throw doubt on a number of popularly accepted
versions of various more or less historical events. I made notes of all
of her stories on the spot, and at some future time of comparative
leisure, when there is a chance to cross-check sufficiently with fully
established facts from other sources, I should like to make some record
of them. These pages are not, of course, the place for controversial
matter of that kind.

One morning I kept tryst among the dandelions in vain. Inquiry at the
saloon revealed the fact that "Calamity," dressed in her buckskins, had
called for her stabled horse at daybreak and ridden off in the direction
of Big Timber. She would not pay for her room until she turned up again,
Patsy said. It was a perfectly good account, though; she never failed to
settle up in the end. I never heard of her again until the papers, a
year or two later, had word of her death.

With Romance and Historical Research out of the way, my mind returned to
the matter of my river voyage. Giving the newly built skiff a belated
trial with Sydney Lamartine, we swamped in a comparatively insignificant
rapid and shared a good rolling and wetting. Agreed that the craft
needed higher sides, we dragged it back to the yards for alterations.
Sydney thought he might find time to complete them inside of a week.
Before that week was over I had one foot in a newspaper editorial
sanctum and the other on the initial sack of a semi-professional
baseball team. As both footings seemed certain to develop into
stepping-stones to the realization of the most cherished of my
childhood's ambitions (I had never cared much about being President),
the river voyage to the Gulf went into complete discard--or rather into
a twenty-year postponement.

I became an editor as a direct consequence of making good on the ball
team; I ceased to be an editor as a direct consequence of betraying a
sacred trust laid upon me by the ball team. This was something of the
way of it: Livingston had high hopes of copping the championship of the
Montana bush league, which, at the time of my arrival, was just budding
into life with the willows and cottonwood along the river. For this
laudable purpose a fearful and wonderful aggregation had been chivvied
together from the ends of baseballdom, numbering on its roster about as
many names that had once been famous in diamond history as those that
were destined to become so. Of the team as finally selected three or
four of us were known to the police, and at least two of us came into
town on brake-beams. One of us was trying to forget the dope habit, and
another--our catcher and greatest star--had just been graduated from a
rum-cure institute.

All of us were guaranteed jobs--sinecural in character of course. Paddy
Ryan, one of the pitchers, and two or three others were bar-keepers.
There was also one night-watchman, one electrician and one compositor. I
was rather a problem to the management until the editor of the
_Enterprise_ was sent to the same institute recently evacuated by our
bibulous catcher. Then I was put in his place--I mean that of the
editor. I don't seem to recall much of my editorial duties or
achievements, save that one important reform I endeavoured to
institute--that of getting a roll of pink paper and publishing the
_Enterprise_ as a straight sporting sheet--somehow fell through.

They tried me out at centre in the opening game against Billings, and
after the second--at Bozeban--I became a permanency at first-base, my
old corner at Stanford. Besides holding down the initial bag, I was told
off for the unofficial duty of guarding the only partially rum-cured
catcher--seeing that he was kept from even inhaling the fumes of the
seductive red-eye, a single séance with which meant his inevitable
downfall for the season.

I played fairly promising ball right along through that season, and but
for the final disaster which overtook me in my unofficial capacity as
Riley's keeper might have gone on to the fulfillment of my life
ambition. Up to the final and deciding series with Butte I kept my
thirsty ward under an unrelaxing rein, with the result that he played
the greatest baseball of his career. Then a gang of Copper City sports,
who had been betting heavily on the series, contrived to lure Riley away
for a quarter of an hour while I was taking a bath. He was in the clouds
by the time I located him, and rapidly going out of control into a
spinning nose-dive. He crashed soon after, and when I left him just as
the dawn was breaking through the red smoke above the copper smelters he
was as busy chasing mauve mice and purple cockroaches as the substitute
we put in his place that afternoon was with passed balls. To cap the
climax--in endeavouring to extend a bunt into a two-bagger, or some
equally futile stunt--I strained an old "Charley Horse" and went out of
the game in the second inning. We lost the game, series and
championship, and I, incidentally, ceased to be a rising semi-pro ball
player and a somewhat less rising country editor.

I have failed to mention that I did have one more fling at the
Yellowstone that summer. Lamartine remodelled his skiff as we had
planned, and one Sunday when Livingston had a game on at Big Timber we
decided to make the run down by river. Pushing off at daybreak we
arrived under the big bluff of Big Timber a good hour or two before
noon. I find this run thus celebrated in an ancient clipping from the
Livingston _Post_, contemporary of the _Enterprise_.

     "Mr. L. R. Freeman, Mr. Armstrong and Sydney Lamartine made the
     trip from this city to Big Timber last Sunday in a flat-bottomed
     boat. The river course between this city and Big Timber is fully 50
     miles, and the gentlemen
     made the trip without mishap in six hours. Several times the boat
     had narrow escapes from being turned over, but each time the skill
     of the boatmen prevented any trouble. Quite a crowd assembled on
     the Springdale bridge and watched the crew shoot the little craft
     through the boiling riffle at that point, cheering them lustily for
     the skill they displayed in swinging their boat into the most
     advantageous places. The trip is a hazardous one, but full of keen
     enjoyment and spice and zest. The time made is without doubt the
     fastest river boating ever done on the Yellowstone, and it is
     extremely doubtful if the record has been duplicated on any other
     stream. Mr. Freeman, who has had considerable experience in boating
     in Alaska, says that he never has seen a small boat make such
     splendid time."

I don't remember a lot about that undeniably speedy run save that we
stopped for nothing but dumping water out of the boat. Last summer, with
a number of seasons of swift-water experience to help, I took rather
more than nine hours to cover the same stretch. I suppose it was because
the river and I were twenty years older. Age is a great slower down, at
least where a man is concerned. I do seem to recall now that I stopped a
number of times on this last run to see which was the smoother channel.
Doubtless the old Yellowstone was just as fast as ever.




In embarking anew on a journey from the Continental Divide to the mouth
of the Mississippi I was influenced by three considerations in deciding
to start on the Yellowstone rather than on one of the three forks of the
Missouri. There was the sentimental desire to see again the land of
geysers and hot springs and waterfalls, no near rival of which had I
ever discovered in twenty years of travel in the out-of-the-way places
of the earth. Then I wanted to go all the way by the main river, and
there was no question in my mind that the Yellowstone was really the
main Missouri, just as the Missouri was the main Mississippi. John
Neihardt has put this so well in his inimitable "River and I" that I
cannot do better than quote what he has written in this connection.

"The geographer tells us that the mouth of the Missouri is about
seventeen miles above St. Louis, and that the mouth of the Yellowstone
is near Buford, North Dakota. It appeared to me that the fact is
inverted. The Missouri's mouth is near Buford, and the Yellowstone
empties directly into the Mississippi. I find that I am not alone in
this opinion. Father de Smet and other early travellers felt the truth
of it; and Captain Marsh, who has piloted river craft through every
navigable foot of the entire system of rivers, having sailed the
Missouri within sound of the Falls and the Yellowstone above Pompey's
Pillar, feels that the Yellowstone is the main stem and the Missouri a

"Where the two rivers join, even at low water, the Yellowstone pours a
vast turbulent flood, compared with which the clear and quieter Missouri
appears an overgrown rain-water creek. The Mississippi after some miles
obliterates all traces of its great western tributary; but the Missouri
at Buford is entirely lost in the Yellowstone within a few hundred
yards. All of the unique characteristics by which the Missouri River is
known are given it by the Yellowstone--its turbulence, its tawniness,
its feline treachery, its giant caprices."

I cannot agree with Mr. Neihardt that the Mississippi obliterates the
Missouri within a few hundred yards, or even a few hundred miles; for in
all but name it is the latter, not the former, that mingles its mud with
the Gulf of Mexico. But in his contention that the Yellowstone is the
dominant stream where it joins the Missouri he is borne out by all that
I saw and the opinion of every authority I talked with, from a
half-breed river-rat at Buford to the Army engineers at Kansas City.

My third reason for choosing the Yellowstone was the technical
consideration of superior "boatability." The head of continuous
small-boat navigation on the Yellowstone is about at the northern
boundary of the Park, at an elevation of over five thousand feet. On
the Missouri it is at Fort Benton, below the cataracts of Great Falls,
whose elevation is less than half that of Gardiner. As the distance from
these respective points to the junction of the two rivers near the
Montana-North Dakota line is about the same, it is evident that the rate
of fall of the Yellowstone is many times greater than that of the Upper
Missouri below Benton. Indeed, the figures are, roughly, 3000 feet fall
for the former and 500 for the latter. This means that the Yellowstone
is much the swifter stream and, being also of considerably greater
volume, is infinitely preferable to the boatman who does not mind more
or less continuous white water. In addition to these points, the fact
that the Yellowstone, from the Park to its mouth, flows through one of
the most beautiful valleys in America while the Missouri meanders a
considerable distance among the Bad Lands, makes the former route the
pleasanter as well as the swifter one. These considerations, pretty
well in my mind before I started, were more than borne out in every
respect by my subsequent experience. There are two or three large rivers
down which boats (by frequent linings and portagings) can be taken which
are of greater fall than the Yellowstone, but I know of none anywhere in
the world on which such fast time can be made as on the latter--this
because its rapids are all runnable.

As I was not out for records of any description upon this trip, it was
no part of my plan to start from the remotest source of the Yellowstone,
some twenty-five miles south of the southern boundary of the Park, but
rather simply to follow down from the most convenient point where the
Continental Divide tilted to that river's upper water-shed. Following
the river as closely as might be by foot through the Park, it was then
my purpose to take train to Livingston and resume my voyage from about
where it had been abandoned two decades previously. As the steel skiff I
had ordered was extremely light, and of a type quite new to me, I did
not care to make my trial run through "Yankee Jim's Canyon."

I entered the Park on June 21st, the second day of the season, by the
West Yellowstone entrance. This route, following up the valley of the
Madison, was hardly more than opened up on the occasion of my former
visit. At that time the nearest railway point was Monida, on the Oregon
Short Line. Now I found the Union Pacific terminus chock-ablock with the
boundary at West Yellowstone, and fully as many tourists coming in by
this entrance as by the northern gateway at Gardiner. The eastern
entrance, by Cody, was also regularly served by the transportation
company, while a southerly road to the Snake was open for auto traffic.
The accessibility of the Park had been increased many-fold.

Probably more than ninety-five per cent. of the tourists visiting the
Yellowstone are fluttered folk and wild being rushed through on a
four-day schedule. This imposes a terribly hectic program, which,
however, is not the fault of the transportation or hotel people, (who
offer all facilities and inducements for a calmer survey), but of the
tourist himself, who seems imbued with the idea that the more he sees in
the day the more he is getting for his money. The American tourist,
doubtless a quite mild-demeanoured and amenable person on his native
heath, when observed _flagrante delicto_ touring is by long odds the
worst-mannered of all of God's creatures. Collectively, that is;
individually many of him and her turn out far from offensive.
Strangely--perhaps because, for the moment, they are all more or less
infected with the same form of hysteria--they never seem to get much on
each other's nerves. To a wanderer, however, habituated to the
kindness, consideration, dignity and respect for age commonly displayed
by such peoples as the Red Indian, the South Sea Islander and the Borneo
Dyak, the tourist at close range is rather trying. I proceeded with the
regular convoy to Old Faithful, then took a car to the crest of the
Continental Divide, and proceeded from there down the Yellowstone on
foot in comparative peace and contentment.

With the large and rapidly increasing number of railway tourists coming
to the Park every year, each intent upon making the round and getting
away in the minimum of time, there is probably no better plan devisable
than the present one of shooting them in and out, and from camp to camp,
in large busses. The most annoying and unsatisfactory feature of this
system is the great amount of time which the tourist must stand by
waiting for his bus-seat and room to be allotted. This, however, can
hardly be helped with daily shipments numbering several hundred being
made from and received at each camp and hotel. Under the circumstances
the most satisfactory way of touring the Park is in one's own car,
stopping at either hotel or camp, according to one's taste and
pocketbook. Delightful as the auto camping grounds are, tenting is
hardly to be recommended on account of the mosquitoes.

Allowing for the difference in season, there was little change
observable in the natural features of the Park since my former visit.
Things looked different, of course, but that was only because there was
less snow and more dust. The only appreciable natural changes were in
the hot spring and geyser areas, where here or there a formation had
augmented or crumbled to dust according to whether or not its supply of
mineral-charged water had been maintained or not. The cliffs and
mountains, waterfalls, and gorges could have suffered no more than the
two decades, infinitesimal geologic modifications--mostly erosive. Even
in the geyser basins the changes of a decade are such as few save a
scientific observer would note. The first authentic written description
of the Fire Hole geysers basins was penned nearly eighty years ago by
Warren Angus Ferris, a clerk of the American Fur Company. It describes
that region of the present as accurately as would the account of a last
summer's tourist.

Not unless we are prepared to accept those delectable yarns of old Jim
Bridger as the higher truth is there any evidence that the natural
features of the Park have suffered material change since its discovery.
But even in his own credulous time people were hardly inclined to
swallow the story of that cliff of telescopic glass which tempted Jim
into shooting twenty-five-miles-distant elk under the impression that
it was grazing within gunshot. Nor would those ancient sceptics believe
the story of the way the hoofs of Bridger's horse were shrunk to
pin-points in crossing the Alum Creek, or of how those astringent waters
actually shrunk the land and reduced the distance he had to travel.
Indeed, it is hard to believe these stories even today. And yet Bridger
is credited with being the greatest natural topographer in frontier
history--he was said to be able to draw an accurate map of the Rocky
Mountains on a buffalo hide.

But if the natural changes in the Yellowstone appeared inappreciable,
the artificial, the evolutionary changes were very striking. Roads and
trails had been greatly improved and extended, horse-drawn vehicles had
given place to motors, and the Rangers of the National Park Service had
taken over policing and patrol from the Army. Most heartening of all,
Administration seemed at last to have found itself. In the decade or two
following the creation of the Park, there were two Superintendents,
Langford and Norris, who gave the best that was in them to an all but
thankless task. Greatly hampered by lack of co-operation and even by
actual obstruction in Washington the achievement of neither was
commensurate with his effort.


_J. E. Haynes, St. Paul_


Besides Langford and Norris these earlier years saw two or three
political appointees at the head of Park affairs, men whom no less an
authority than Captain Chittenden intimates were either incompetent or
corrupt. It was largely the lamentable results of the administration or
these latter that was responsible for turning the Yellowstone over to
the Army, just as was done in the construction of the Panama Canal. The
Army, subject to the limitations of military administration for this
kind of work, came through as usual with great credit to itself. A
military Superintendent--Capt. George W. Goode--was in charge on the
occasion of my first visit, and at that time it seemed probable that the
army régime might be continued indefinitely. It was plain, however, that
an officer who might be sent from the Philippines to the Yellowstone one
year, and from the Yellowstone to Alaska the next, was not in a
position, no matter what his ability and enthusiasm, to do full justice
to the task in hand. What appeared to be needed was a civil
administration, with the right sort of men, backed up with sympathy and
vigour at Washington. _That_ is the _desideratum_ which seems to have
been arrived at, both as to men and the support at the National Capital.

If I were going to pay adequate tribute to what the National Park
Service is doing and trying to do I should want the rest of this volume
in which to express myself. So I shall only say in passing that,
judging from the members of that service I have met, including the
Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of the Yellowstone, it seems
to me to be developing a type that does not suffer in comparison with
that fine idealist, the British Civil Servant, whom I have always
admired so unreservedly where I have found him at work in India, the
Federated Malay States, and other outposts of empire--an official of
ability and experience giving his lifetime for the good of others for
very modest pay. If I knew how to pay a higher compliment I should do
so. In concluding this chapter I shall touch briefly on the future plans
and policy of the National Park Service for the Yellowstone.

It was a comparatively modest affluent of Yellowstone Lake that I
followed down from the two-ways-draining marsh on the Continental
Divide. I did not come upon the Yellowstone proper until I reached the
outlet of the Lake. It is a splendid stream even there--broad, deep,
swift and crystal-clear. At a point very near where the bridge of the
Cody road crosses the river is the site of the projected Yellowstone
Lake Dam, a dangerous encroachment of power and irrigation interests
which the energetic efforts of the National Park Service appear now to
have disposed of for good.

From my previous recollection of the river from the outlet to the Upper
Falls I had the impression that perhaps the first six or eight miles of
this stretch, with careful lining at one or two rapids, might be run
with an ordinary skiff. Finding a number of small fishing boats moored
just below the outlet I endeavoured to hire one with the idea of
settling this point in my mind. The boatman refused to entertain my
proposition for a moment, not even when I offered to deposit the value
of the skiff in question. "I don't care if you reckon you can swim out
of one of them rapids," he said with finality. "My boat can't swim, and
a boat earns its value three times over in a good season." He was a
practical chap, that one. Why, indeed, shouldn't it worry him more to
have his boat go over the Falls than it would to have me do it?

Walking down from the Lake to the Canyon I used the road only where it
ran close to the river. Thus I not only came to a more intimate
acquaintance with the latter, but also avoided the blended dust and
gasoline wakes of the daily Hegira of yellow busses. At the first
rapid--an abrupt fall of from three to six feet formed by a ledge of
bedrock extending all the way across the river--I found countless
millions of trout bunched where that obstacle blocked their upward
movement to the Lake. I had seen salmon jumping falls on many occasions,
but never before trout. These seemed to be getting in each other's way
a good deal, but even so were clearing the barrier like a flight of so
many grasshoppers. Many that got their take-off correctly gauged made a
clean jump of it. Others, striking near the top of the fall, still had
enough kick left in their tails to drive on up through the coiling
bottle-green water. But most of those that struck below the middle of
the fall were carried back and had their leap for nothing.

Immediately under the fall the fish were so thick that thrusting one's
hand into a pool near the bank was like reaching into the bumper haul of
a freshly-drawn seine. Closing a fist on the slippery creatures was
quite another matter, however. I was all of twenty minutes throwing half
a dozen two and three-pounders out onto the bank. Stringing these on a
piece of willow, I carried them up to the road and offered them as a
present to the first load of campers that came along. They appeared to
be from Kansas, or Missouri or thereabouts, and so had quite a
discussion before accepting them--didn't seem quite agreed as to whether
the fish were fresh or not. Finally I handed one of them the string and
went back to the trail by the river. They were still so engrossed in
their debate that it never occurred to them to say "Thank you." Ford
owners are nearly always suspicious I have found, and notably so when
they come from Pike County or environs.


_By Haynes, St. Paul_


There is a magnificent stretch of rapids for a quarter of a mile or more
above the Upper Falls, where the river takes a running start for its two
major leaps. I spent all of an hour lounging along here, speculating as
to just how far a man might get in with a boat--and then get out. On a
quiet, sunny day, with the mind at peace with the world, I am certain I
would not venture beyond the first sharp pitch above the bridge. Fleeing
from Indians, tourists or a jazz orchestra, however, I am inclined to
think I would chance it for all of three hundred yards. Possibly even,
in the event it were either of the two latter that menaced, I would
chance the Falls themselves.

To me the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is more inspiring--in a
perfectly human, friendly sort of way--than any other of the great
sights of the world. There are others that are on a bigger scale and
more awesome--the Grand Canyon of the Colorado or the snows of
Kinchinjunga from Darjeeling, for examples,--but to the ordinary soul
these are too stupendous for him to grasp, they appeal rather than
thrill. There may be a few exalted, self-communing souls, like Woodrow
Wilson and William Randolph Hearst, who could look the Grand Canyon of
the Colorado right between the eyes and feel quite on a par with
it--nay, even a bit condescending perhaps. Lesser mortals never quite
get over catching their breath at the more than earthly wonder of it. I
have never seen any one save a present-day flapper gaze for the first
time on the sombre depths of the great gorge of the Colorado with
untroubled eyes.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is not like that--it exhilarates
like a glass of old wine, a fresh sea breeze, a master-piece of
painting. There are no darksome depths to awaken doubt. You can see
right to the bottom of the gorge from almost any vantage point you
choose. But it is the rainbow-gaiety of the brilliant colour streaking
that gives the real kick. _That_ gets over with all and sundry--and
grows on them. The ones to whom the Canyon appeals most are those who
have seen it most frequently.

Twenty years ago I attempted, in the diary of my winter ski tour, some
description of the snow-choked gorge of the Yellowstone as I glimpsed it
from the rim. One learns a vast quantity of various kinds of things in
two decades, among them a realization of the numerous occasions on which
he has been an ass. I shall try not to offend again by attempting to
describe Grand Canyons.


© _J. E. Haynes, St. Paul_


I descended to the river at several points in the Canyon, but found it
quite impossible to proceed down stream any distance in the bottom of
the gorge. The fall is tremendous all the way through and I doubt if
there are many stretches of over a few hundred yards in length in which
a boat could live. The total fall from the Lake to the foot of the Grand
Canyon is something like three thousand feet, probably not far from a
hundred feet to the mile. I cannot recall offhand a river of so great a
volume anywhere in the world that has so considerable a fall. The Indus,
in the great bend above Leh, in Ladakh, may approximate such a drop, and
so may the Brahmaputra, where it cleaves the main range of the Himalayas
after passing Lhassa. The Yangtse, where it comes tumbling down from the
Tibetan plateau into Szechuan, is hardly more than a mountain torrent.
With the possible exception of the main affluents of the Upper Amazon in
the Peruvian Cordillera, these are the only great rivers in the running
for a record of this kind.

In walking from the Grand Canyon to Mammoth Hot Springs I followed the
road over Mount Washburn, stopping for the night at Camp Roosevelt,
below Tower Falls. This most recently established of the Park camps
takes its name from the fact that it is located on the spot where
Roosevelt and John Burroughs made headquarters on the occasion of their
winter tour of the Yellowstone a decade and a half ago. The best
fishing in the Park is found in this section, and for that reason the
management has developed and maintained it very largely as a sporting
camp. Only those with a really genuine love of the out-of-doors stop
there, while the regular ruck of the tourists pass it by. Those facts
alone set it apart in a class by itself as the pleasantest spot in the
Park for a prolonged sojourn.

On account of the class of people it attracts, Roosevelt has been made
rather a pet of the management from its inception. This is especially
true of personnel. The wholly charming couple--a Kentucky gentleman and
his wife--whom I found in charge last summer presided over the camp as
over a country home in the Blue Grass. The staff--all college boys and
girls--was practically a complete Glee Club in itself. Good sports, too.
Roosevelt was the only camp at which I did not find myself consumed with
longing for the primeval solitude of the Park as I had known it on my
winter tour--during the closed season for tourists.

Mammoth Hot Springs, in spite of the passing of Fort Yellowstone, I
found to have augmented greatly since my former visit. Most of my old
friends were gone, however, Assistant Superintendent Lindsay being the
only one remaining who recalled my coming and going. In company with a
couple of officers from the Post we had, I believe, enjoyed an afternoon
of fearful and wonderful tennis on the still ice- and snow-covered court.
Federal Judge Meldrum, terror of poachers, had been in the party twenty
years ago, but said he did not remember me. I was rather glad he had had
no occasion to. Had I ever been connected with the geyser that Private
Ikey Einstein soaped, or with aiding and abetting Sergeant Hope to drive
a flock of sheep over the bluffs into the Gardiner River, the Judge
would doubtless have been able to refer to the official memoranda to jog
his memory--possibly some thumb prints and a side and front view of my
criminal phiz.

To my great regret I learned that F. Jay Haynes, official photographer
of the Park, had died but a few months before. In his place I found Jack
Haynes, his son, who is brilliantly maintaining the reputation of his
illustrious father, both as an artist and as a factor in forwarding the
destiny of the Yellowstone. What the intrepid Kolb Brothers are doing in
photographing the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, what Byron Harmon is
doing in the Canadian Rockies, that the Haynes family have done for the
Yellowstone Park. I say "have done," because their work, having been
carried on during nearly four decades, is much more nearly complete
than that of the others who have worked a shorter time in a rather less
concentrated sphere.

But F. Jay Haynes was far more than a great photographic artist. He was
a great lover of the out-of-doors generally and of that of Yellowstone
Park particularly. In his organization of the transportation companies
to serve respectively the east and west entrances to the Park, it was
the bringing of the latter to the people that was the main consideration
in his mind; the financial success of his ventures was secondary. I
believe these were successful on both counts, however. I know that Mr.
Haynes is given the credit for inducing the late E. H. Harriman to build
a branch of the Union Pacific to the western entrance of the Park, now
the principal portal so far as number of tourists is concerned. They
have recently done the memory of Mr. Haynes the honour of naming a
mountain after him. This is a fitting tribute, and well deserved. Far
more impressive a monument, however, are his pictures. Mount Haynes may
be seen for a distance of perhaps a hundred miles; the Yellowstone
photographs of F. Jay Haynes may be seen at the ends of the world.

Jack Haynes is trying to do everything his father did, both as an artist
and as a friend of the Yellowstone. He was on the ground early. He
claims to have had his first ride over the Park roads some thirty years
ago--in a baby carriage. Now he burns up those same roads in a Stutz
roadster, taking hours to make the Grand Circuit where his father took
days or weeks. A Ranger at the Canyon told me that Jack made the round
so fast that he often headed back into Norris before the dust from his
outward trip had settled down. I think that is somewhat exaggerated; yet
Judge Meldrum, who trundled Jack on his knee, has figured that the
latter's time for some of his rounds averages about twice the speed
limit. The old judge swears that it is his dearest ambition to soak the
boy good and plenty for his defiance of Uncle Sam's laws--when he
catches him at it. So far, however, the only times that the Judge has
had any really unimpeachable evidence in point was when he himself was a
passenger in Jack's car! Then, he confesses, he couldn't take out his
watch because he was using both hands to hold on. Nor would the watch
have been of any use anyhow, he further admits, for they were going so
fast that the mile-posts looked just like a white stone wall, with a
very impressionistic black streak along near the top where the numbers

Not so far behind Jim Bridger and his telescopic glass cliff, that
little touch about the mile-posts. And it proves that John Colter's dash
from his Indian captors can't always hope to stand as a speed record.
Surely it is good to know that the best of ancient Yellowstone tradition
is being so well maintained.

Jack Haynes drove me down to meet Superintendent Horace M. Albright, who
had only returned to Mammoth a couple of hours before I had to leave to
catch my train at Gardiner. I had Mr. Albright very much in mind when I
tried to pay the most fitting compliment I could to the type of men that
are being drawn to the National Park Service. An ever-ready sneer from
the common run of political heelers for the man in office who is trying
to accomplish something for the common good in a decent and honourable
manner is "impractical idealist." The words are all but inseparably
linked from long usage. Indeed, it seems rarely to occur to anybody that
there might be such a thing as a _practical_ idealist. And yet just that
is what Horace M. Albright impressed me as being; and such, I would
gather from all I can learn, is his Chief, Stephen T. Mather, Director
of the National Park Service. No one will question that they are
idealists, I daresay. That they are also practical, I doubt not that
very strong affirmative admissions might be secured from a number of
baffled politicians who have tried to encroach upon Yellowstone Park
with power and irrigation schemes.




Captain Chittenden, writing of the early days of the Yellowstone, speaks
of the menace of the railways--attempts on the part of certain companies
to build into or through the Park itself. That threat was disposed of in
good time. The railways accepted the "Thus far shalt thou go and no
farther!" as final, built as close as practicable to the boundaries, and
rested content with allowing transportation within the Park to be
carried on by horse-drawn vehicles, later to be replaced by motor
busses. The menace of the railways was no longer heard of, but in time a
new one arose--that of the power and irrigation interests. This
hydra-headed camel tried to crawl under the flap of the Park tent in the
form of a dam at the outlet of Yellowstone Lake for the ostensible
purpose of preventing floods on the lower river. The bill to authorize
the project was introduced in Congress by Senator Thomas P. Walsh and
bears his name. Two very practical idealists, called to step into the
breach almost at a moment's notice, were able to demolish every claim
made for the measure after scarcely more than a hurried reading of it.
These two were Superintendent Albright and George E. Goodwin, Chief
Engineer of the National Park Service. Mr. Albright, practically
offhand, showed the falsity or the fallacy of every contention made in
the bill as regards the Park itself, but perhaps the solar plexus was
delivered by Mr. Goodwin, when he introduced figures to show that all of
the floods on the lower river came a month previous to high water in
Yellowstone Lake--that they were directly due in fact, not to the
latter, but to the torrential spring discharges of the Big Horn, Tongue,
Powder and other tributaries of the main stream.

This blocked the measure at the time, and equally telling action from
the Department of Interior has checked every subsequent attempt to
advance it. I should really like to know the particular practical
idealist of that Department who dissected a circular letter sent out
under Mr. Walsh's signature to his Congressional colleagues. Perhaps it
was Stephen T. Mather himself, head of the National Park Service. At any
rate, the blows dealt were so sharp and jolting that reading the
statement somehow made me think of a man walking down a row of plaster
images and cracking them with a hammer. If I was not certain this
insincere and maladroitly handled bill would not be at rather more than
its last gasp before these pages appear in print I would write more
about it--that is, against it. As things have shaped, however, this will
hardly be necessary.

In explaining why it was that the National Park Service had rallied its
forces for so vigorous a defence of the citadel against the Walsh Bill,
Mr. Albright quoted the words of John Barton Payne, Secretary of the
Interior under Wilson, in pushing the Jones-Esch Bill, which returned
the national parks and monuments to the sole authority of Congress. Said
Mr. Payne: "When once you establish a principle that you can encroach on
a national park for irrigation or water power, you commence a process
which will end only in the commercialization of them all.... There is a
heap more in this world," he concluded, "than three meals a day."

I was sorry not to be able to see more of Horace M. Albright. One can
put up with a good deal of his kind of practical idealism.



The train on which I journeyed from the Park to Livingston was a bit
late in getting started for some reason, as a consequence of which it
was trying to make up the lost time all the way. It was a decidedly
rough passage, especially on the curves through the rocky walls of
"Yankee Jim's Canyon." Even so, however, I reflected that the careening
observation car was making a lot better weather of it than did the old
_Kentucky Mule_ twenty years before.

Although past the crest of its spring rise by nearly a fortnight, the
Yellowstone was considerably higher than the early May stage at which I
ran it before. Even glimpsed from the train the Canyon impressed me as
having a lot of very rough water--much too rough for a small open boat
to run right through. With frequent landing and careful lining, however,
it looked quite feasible; indeed, on arrival at Livingston I learned
that a couple of men had worked through with a light canoe the previous
Sunday. Letting down with a line over the bad places, they took about an
hour for the passage of the roughest two miles of the Canyon. My jaunt
through in and about the _Mule_ was not clocked. Although the liveliness
of the action made it seem longer, I doubt if it was much over ten
minutes. Nevertheless I was quite content not to have to chance it
again, especially as a trial trip for a new type of boat.

Livingston is located at the bend where the Yellowstone, after running
north from the Park for fifty miles, breaks from the mountains and
begins its long easterly course to the Missouri through a more open
valley. This was the point at which Captain Clark, temporarily separated
from Lewis on their return journey from the mouth of the Columbia, first
saw the upper Yellowstone. He had, of course, passed its mouth when
proceeding westward by the Missouri the previous year. It was now his
purpose to explore the whole length of such of the river as flowed
between this point and the Missouri, making rendezvous with Lewis at
some point below its mouth. Clark had come from the Three Forks of the
Missouri with pack-train, but with the intention of building boats and
taking to the river just as soon as trees large enough for their
construction could be found. Searching every flat for suitable
boat-timber, the party proceeded down the north bank of the river,
probably pretty well along the route followed by General Gibbon seventy
years later in the campaign against the Sioux which culminated to the
Custer Massacre on the Little Big Horn.

The previous fall, rapid by rapid, I had run the lower Columbia in the
wake of Lewis and Clark. Now I was turning into the trail of the
Pathfinders again, this time their home trail. One of the things that I
had been anticipating above all others was the delight of following that
trail to its end, which also had been its beginning--St. Louis. I knew
that there was going to be something of Lewis and Clark for me in every
mile of the twenty-five hundred--yes, and of many another who had
followed in their path. I was not to be disappointed. I only hope I am
not going to be boring in telling a little about it. I trust not too
much so. Darn it, a man can't be expected to write about bootleggers,
and "white mule" and home-brew and ultra-modern institutions all the
time. Lewis and Clark and the other pioneers of the North-west have
always meant a lot to me. I simply can't help mentioning them now and
again--but I'll try and strike a balance in the long run.


_By Haynes, St. Paul_


There was a real thrill in the tablet erected by the D. A. R. near the
Livingston railway station commemorating the passing of Captain Clark.
Perhaps there will be no fitter place for me to acknowledge to the
Daughters of the Revolution my gratitude for many another thrill of the
same kind similar monuments of theirs gave me all the way to the end
of my journey. Now it was the defence of the stockade at Yankton that
was celebrated, now a station of the Pony Express or a crossing of the
Santa Fé Trail in Missouri, now a post on some old Indian road at
Natchez. Always they were modest and fitting, and always they winged a
thrill. I have never met any live Daughters of the Revolution to
recognize them, but I am sure from what they have done to make the river
way pleasant that they must be eminently kindly folk, like the
philanthropists who erect drinking fountains for man and beast and the
Burmans who put out little bird-houses in the trees.

Livingston had changed a lot since I had seen it last--that was plain
before my train had swung round the long bend and pulled up at the
station. The ball ground was gone--pushed right across the river by the
growth of the town. Many old landmarks were missing, and the main
street, lined with fine new modern buildings, had shifted a whole block
west. The shade trees had grown until they arched above the clean, cool
streets, now paved from one end of the town to the other. Even the
cottonwoods by the river towered higher and bulked bigger with the
twenty new rings that the passing years had built out from their hearts.
There was a new Post Office and a new railway station. The latter was a
handsome, sizable structure, well worthy of the important junction
which it served. And yet that station wasn't quite so sizable as certain
of the local boosters would have people think. Here, verbatim, is what I
read of it in the local Chamber of Commerce publication:

"The Northern Pacific passenger depot, which is the largest and
handsomest structure of the kind on the transcontinental line between
its terminals, domiciles a large number of general and division officers
and covers 100 miles East, and more than that distance West on two lines
and the branch railway North from this city and also the line running
South." Very likely that word _covers_ is intended to refer to the
jurisdiction of the officials housed in the building, but if that
sentence were to be taken literally there is no doubt that the Grand
Central, Liverpool Street, the _Gare du Nord_ and a few score more of
the world's great terminals might be chucked under those hundred-mile
easterly and westerly wings of the Livingston station and never be found

Which reminds me that Kipling also found the natives making some pretty
big claims for Livingston. Something over thirty years previous to my
latest visit he had stopped there over-night on his way to the
Yellowstone. He describes it as a little cow-town of about two thousand.
Exhausting its resources in a short stroll, he wandered off among the
hills, narrowly to avoid being stepped upon by a herd of stampeding
horses. He returned to the town to find it was the night before the
Fourth of July, with much carousing and large talking going on. His
final comment was: "They raise horses and minerals around Livingston,
but they behave as though they raised cherubims with diamonds in their

But this is not the Livingston of the present day, nor even the
Livingston that I loved so well twenty years syne. Yes, even then almost
the only ruffians and carousers were the imported ball players and
editors and "Calamity Jane." The natives were very modest, gentle folk,
just as they are today. And they raised several things besides horses
and minerals--yea, even cherubims. I remember that distinctly, for it
was one named "Bunny," who worked in the telephone office, that knitted
me a purple tie which I kept for years--for a trunk-strap. It stretched
and stretched and stretched, but never weakened or faded. Expressmen and
other vulgar people used to think there was a bride in my party on
account of that purple ribbon. Bless your heart, "Bunny!" You'll never
know until you read this confession how much besides that rough, red
neck of mine you snared in the loop of your purple tie.

The Livingston _Enterprise_ had grown with the town--that was evident
from a glance at the first copy to fall into my hands. Quite a
metropolitan daily it was, with Associated Press service, sporting page
and regular boiler-plate Fashion Hint stuff from the _Rue de la Paix_.
The Editor, too, was a considerable advance--at least sartorially--over
the one I remembered. Phillips proved a mighty engaging chap, though,
and didn't seem a bit ashamed over having had me for a predecessor.
People spoke of him to me as an energetic civic and temperance worker,
declaring that he had been indefatigable in his efforts to put down
drink all over Park County. They called his vigorous editorials on these
subjects "Phillipics." They were noted for their jolt.

I modestly assured him that I couldn't claim to have done a lot for
temperance during the time I sat in his chair, but that I _had_ taken an
active interest in civic reform. And then, darn him! he took down the
year 1901 from the _Enterprise_ file. I had forgotten all about that.
Well, we found a number of columns of right pert comment on local men,
women and events and many square feet of baseball write-ups that
Phillips seemed highly tickled over; but of civic reform editorials, not
a one. Or not quite so bad as that perhaps. It may be that a trenchant
leader lashing the municipal council for neglecting to build a certain
badly needed sidewalk would come in that class. It was a sidewalk to the
baseball grounds. How well I remember the inspiration for that vitriolic
attack on the City Fathers! "Bunny" lost a French-heeled slipper in the
Yellowstone gumbo while mincing out to the Helena game and swore she
would never appear at the Park again unless it could be done without
getting muddied to her knees. "Bunny" was very outspoken for a cherubim.
In those days it took an outspoken girl to mention anything between her
shoe-tops and her pompadour.


_By Haynes, St. Paul_


I liked Editor Phillips so well that I forthwith asked him to join me
for my first day's run down the river. He said he was highly
complimented, but that there were a number of reasons why he would not
be able to accept. The only one of these I recall was that the water was
far _too loosely packed_ between Livingston and Big Timber. Western
editors are always picturesque, and Phillips was one of the best of his
kind. He mentioned two or three others who might be induced to join me
for a day or two. One of these was Joe Evans, curio dealer and trapper.
I am not quite sure whether it was Phillips or some one else who
recommended "Buckskin Jim" Cutler as the best hand with a boat on the
upper river. It took some groping in my memory to place the name, but
finally I found it pigeon-holed as that of the man "Yankee Jim" had
spoken of in the same connection twenty years before. I had in mind
trying to get in touch with Cutler, but gave up the idea the moment I
discovered Pete Holt, former Government Scout and my first guide through
the Yellowstone, holding down the job of Chief of Police of Livingston.
Holt's furious pace on ski had resulted in my leaving jagged fragments
of cuticle on most of the trees and much of the crust along the
Yellowstone Grand Tour. Here was a chance to lead a measure or two of
the dance myself. Pete had ideas of his own about the looseness with
which the water was packed below Livingston, but was too good a sport to
let that interfere with my pleasure. Indeed, he even went out of his way
to make his trip official. Two people--a man and a woman--had been
drowned in the Yellowstone the previous week. He ordered himself to go
in search of them in my boat, hiring Joe Evans, with his canvas canoe,
to accompany us as scout and pilot. The arrangement was ideal. Joe knew
the best channel--so I took it for granted,--which would leave me
nothing to do but trail his wake and manage my new and untried boat.
Holt's hundred and eighty pounds in the stern would give that ballast
just where I needed it. The lack of serious responsibilities would give
us a chance for a good old yarn while, watching my chances, I could
pick favourable riffles and pay back my friend in his own coin the debt
of twenty years standing.

It was a great disappointment to find no one of my old baseball
team-mates still in Livingston. Jack Mjelde, Captain and second-baseman,
had been killed in an electrical accident. That was a typically
capricious trick of Fate. As I recall things now, Jack--a family man
with a real job, and a legitimate resident of Livingston--was about the
most worth preserving of the lot of us. Ed Ray had dropped in and out of
town on brake-beams every now and then, and so had two or three others.
Paddy Ryan, pitcher and the gentlest mannered of us all, was believed to
be still a bar-keeper--somewhat surreptitiously of course. Riley, the
never more than semi-Keeley-cured catcher, had last been heard of over
Missoula way, and looking rather fit now that there was a more or less
closed season on his favourite quarry--mauve mice.

And so it went. A score or more of old-timers who had seen me play
turned up at the hotel, but only one of these brought a real thrill.
That was a husky chap of about thirty, who said he had been admitted to
the park once for retrieving a home-run I had swatted over the fence in
a game against Anaconda. "Gosh, how you could line 'em out, boy,"
volunteered some one, and grunts of assent ran back and forth through
the crowd. That was all very nice, of course; but I would have enjoyed
it a lot more if I could have been quite sure that none of them had been
present the time we played Red Lodge on Miner's Union Day. This was the
morning after the Fireman's Ball of the night before. I believe I could
_see_ the ball all right. Indeed, that was just the trouble. I saw too
many balls and couldn't swing my bat against the right one. I struck out
three times running. The fourth time up I connected for a mighty wallop,
but only to get put out through starting for third base instead of

Pete Nelson, Sheriff of my former visit and now State Game
Warden, called for me at the hotel and together we strolled
down the old main street to the river. We had dubbed it
"The-Street-That-is-Called-Straight." Just why I fail to remember, but
probably some of us wanted to show his biblical learning. Riley, the
Keeley-ed catcher, confessed it never had looked straight to him, and
there were times--especially late on the nights we had won games--that I
had doubts on that score myself. But if there had been crooks in or upon
it in the old days, time had ironed them out. I especially called
Nelson's attention to the Northern Pacific station at one end of the
vista, the nodding cottonwoods at the other, and the glaring new
concrete pavement, stretching straight as a white ribbon, connecting
them up.

Pete Nelson sadly called my attention to the manner in which all the gay
old palaces of carousal had been converted, and said he reckoned that
perhaps every one that had patronized them had undergone the same
change. I was also sad, but less optimistic than Pete respecting the
increasing purpose of the ages. As we leaned on the rail of the river
bridge and gazed at the swift green current I tried to recall those
lines of Stevenson's which began:

    "Sing me a song of a boy that is gone--
       Ah, could that lad be I!"

and which conclude:

    "All that was good, all that was fair,
       All that was me is gone."

I couldn't remember the part that I craved, and so fell back on:

    "Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
     Tears from the depths of some divine despair
     Rise in the heart and gather to the eyes,
     In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
     And thinking of the days that are no more."

That didn't quite do, either, for Tennyson was gazing on fading fields
and thinking of Autumn, and I was gazing on budding cottonwoods and
thinking of Spring--Spring! And yet it was a Spring that was gone.

"Pete," I said moodily, turning a gloomy eye to the seaward-rushing
flood, "there's a lot of water gone under this bridge never to return,
since you and I stood here last." The ex-Sheriff nodded in dreary
acquiescence. "And, boy," he remarked with the weariness of the ages in
his voice as he rubbed a finger up and down the bridge of a blue, cold
nose that I remembered as having once glowed with all the hues of a
sunset over the colour-splashed gorge of the Grand Canyon of the
Yellowstone; "boy, water ain't the only thing that's gone never to

Arm in arm, as we had navigated "The-Street-That-is-Called-Straight" in
ancient of days, we wended our way back town-ward through the
gloom-drenched dusk. By devious ways and obscure Pete piloted, stopping
every now and then to introduce me to certain friends as the boy who
helped Livingston cop the state champeenship twenty years ago. We were
treated with great deference all along the way. There was the glint of a
twinkle in the ex-Sheriffian eye as Pete delivered me at the hotel.
"That was just to show you, boy, that Gilead is not yet quite drained of
Balm," he said, patting me on the back. "Until they give the screw a few
more turns, life in little old Livingston will not be entirely without
its compensayshuns."

I had dinner and spent the evening with Pete Holt's family, and a mighty
wholesome interval it was after an afternoon so wild with old regrets.
Holt had always been a teetotaler, and so, with nothing much to lose,
faced an unclouded future. Whether, as Chief of Police, he has ever
given those much-dreaded turns to the screws that would crush the last
lees of pleasure from sanguine grapes of pain I have never heard. It
made me think of Guelph and Ghibelline, this finding my old-time friends
thus arrayed against one another. And good old Peter Nelson--I am
wondering, when cock-crow sounds, if he will be found denying or denied.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Buckskin Jim" Cutler, premier river man of the upper Yellowstone, came
down to Livingston the evening before the morning I had scheduled for my
departure. It had been rumoured for a couple of days that he would
arrive--some said to respond to a legal summons, others that he had
heard I had inquired for him and was hoping to sign on with me for my
river voyage. I have never been able to make sure either way. Certainly
he had been summoned to court over some dispute with a neighbour, while
I have never had definite assurance that he had received any word of my
trip. I could not have taken him far in any event, as I had no need of
help once my boat was given a thorough trying out.

Cutler's arrival in Livingston was sudden and tragic, as is always the
case when the Yellowstone takes a hand in real earnest. My boat had been
set up in a blacksmith shop on the river, at the foot of the main
street. Going down there just before dinner to make sure that everything
was ship-shape for the start on the morrow, I found the place deserted,
while there was a considerable gathering of people on the next bridge
below. Starting in that direction, I met one of the helpers, breathing
hard and deathly white, hurrying back to the deserted shop.

"Mighty hard luck," he ejaculated brokenly between breaths. "Man just
came down past shop--in river--yelling for help. Didn't hear him till he
got by. Half a minute sooner, and I could have yanked out your light
boat--all set up--and picked him up. Hear they've just got him down by
the next bridge--but 'fraid he's croaked. Cussed hard luck."

They were carrying a man to a waiting auto as I approached the crowd.
"Yep--drowned," I heard some one say; "but he made a hell of a fight.
That was old 'Buckskin Jim' to the last kick--always fighting." My
glimpse of the rugged face and dripping form was of the briefest, but
amply reassuring as to the truth of the statement I had overheard. It
was the frame of a man that could put up a hell of a fight, and the face
of a man who would--a real river-rat if there ever was one.

Next morning's issue of the Livingston _Enterprise_, which bore in the
lower left-hand corner of its front page a modest announcement of my
departure, on its upper right-hand corner carried a prominently featured
account of Jim Cutler's last run on the Yellowstone. As it contains
about all I have ever been able to learn in connection with the tragic
finish of a character who, in 1901 as in 1921, was recommended to me as
the best river hand on the upper Yellowstone, I reproduce the latter in
full herewith.



     Without funds to pay for transportation which would bring him into
     court as defendant in a water case, R. E. Cutler, Justice of the
     Peace at Carbella, and known throughout
     Park County as "Buckskin Jim," elected to travel the 40 miles to
     Livingston on a small raft yesterday and after riding the flood
     until he could leap ashore here he was pitched into the river by an
     overhanging limb and after struggling with the current for half a
     mile died either from drowning or the exertion of his fight.

Of massive physique Cutler made a wonderful fight for life despite his
65 years. A tree limb on the upper end of McLeod Island knocked the
voyager from his raft. Crying for help he attempted to reach the shore,
only a few feet away. Beneath the Main Street bridge, down past the
tourist camp packed with tents and travellers and down river to C
Street, Cutler was seen battling with the high water.


     Near C Street he was forced to give up the fight. He sank but
     reappeared a short distance above the H Street Bridge. A. T. Toner,
     local contractor, swam out from the H Street Bridge and caught the
     floating body. Earl Kirby, mail carrier, assisted him. Miss Jane
     Wright, nurse at the Park Hospital, was driving by and took charge
     of the work of trying to restore life. Dr. P. L. Green was called
     and arrived in a few minutes. But all efforts were without success
     and death won.

     Doubt as to the cause of death was voiced by officials. Some held
     the opinion that the deceased died from over exertion, shock or
     heart trouble resulting from his terrific fight against the current
     for a distance of more than half a mile rather than drowning.

     Johnnie Doran, who was fishing near the head of McLeod Island saw
     Cutler knocked from the raft and hurried to give
     the alarm. Numerous residents along the banks of the river
     discovered him fighting his way down stream and numerous calls were
     sent to the city and county authorities. He seemed unable to make
     the bank but remained above water for more than four blocks.


     Cutler was served with a summons to appear in Livingston tomorrow
     to answer to an order to show cause in a irrigation ditch dispute.
     When Deputy Sheriff Clarence Gilbert served the papers Mr. Cutler
     promised to appear but he informed the sheriff that he had no funds
     and would probably have to make the trip in a boat or on a raft.
     The officer did not take the remark seriously until Cutler was
     lifted from the river about 6 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

     The deceased had been a prominent resident of Paradise Valley for
     many years. The Cutler hill on the road from Gardiner to Livingston
     was named after the dead man. He is survived by seven sons and one
     daughter besides his wife. Carbella residents reported that the
     deceased started down river early yesterday on a small raft
     intending to land at Livingston.



As I had planned my Yellowstone-to-New-Orleans voyage as a strictly
one-man trip the ruling consideration I had had in mind in ordering my
outfit was lightness and compactness. I hoped also to find
serviceability in combination with these other qualifications, but the
latter were the things that I insisted on in advance. Serviceability
could only be proved by use. So I simply combed the sporting magazine
pages, picked out the lightest, tightest boat, engine, tent, sleeping
bag and other stuff I needed and let it go at that for a starter. No
article that I ordered was of a type I had ever used before. If anything
failed to stand up under use I knew that some sort of substitute could
be provided along the way. That is one distinct advantage boating on the
upper Yellowstone has over tackling such a stretch as the Big Bend of
the Columbia in Canada, or the remoter waters of any of the great South
American, African or Asian rivers.

First and last, of course, my boat was the main consideration. I knew
that I could get on with a wooden boat as a last resort, for I had
handled one alone over three hundred miles of the lower Columbia the
previous season. But I wanted to give at least a try-out to something
lighter than wood. I was certain there would be many occasions when my
ability to take my boat completely out of the water might be the means
of saving it from swamping, and possibly complete destruction. I also
knew there would be many places where such things as mud or too steep a
slope to the bank would make this quite out of the question with a
wooden boat weighing three hundred pounds or more. Lightness, also,
would mean easier pulling as well as greater mileage for the same amount
of engine power.

Investigation showed that the only practicable alternatives to wood were
steel and canvas. Canvas is extremely light and fairly strong, and there
are occasions--such as a journey on which both overland and water travel
are combined--when a properly designed folding canvas boat is
incomparably preferable to any other. This is the case, however, only
when there are frequent and difficult portages and very considerable
distances by land to be traversed. On a comparatively unbroken river
voyage the softness, the lack of rigidity, of a folding canvas boat fail
by a big margin to compensate for its lightness. This consideration
eliminated canvas for my purpose, though I readily grant its usefulness
under conditions favourable to it.

That committed me to steel. I found various types on the market, and
after several weeks of writing and wiring decided to take my chance with
a fourteen-foot sectional skiff put out by the Darrow Boat Company of
Albion, Michigan. The model I ordered weighed one hundred and fifty
pounds, according to the catalogue, and was amply stiff and strong. I
was willing to take the catalogue's word on the score of weight; the
matter of strength would have to be proved. The company admitted they
made no boat specially designed for rough-water work, and suggested it
might be best to build me one to order with a higher side. I knew that
four inches more side would be better than two, but didn't feel that I
could spare the ten days the job would require. That was the reason I
was taking a chance with a stock model that is probably most used for
duck-hunting on lakes and marshes. My only reason for ordering a
sectional type was the very considerable saving in express on account of
the comparatively small amount of space required for the knocked-down
boat in shipment.

I must confess that my first sight of the crated boat in the express
office at Livingston was a bit of a shock. There was no question about
the lightness of it, to be sure--I could pick it up, crate and all with
one hand. Rather, indeed, it looked to me _too_ light. I did not see how
material so thin could withstand a collision with a sharp, mid-stream
boulder without puncturing. But that was of less concern to me than the
lack of freeboard. After the big _batteaux_ and Peterboros I had used on
the Columbia the previous year this bright little tin craft looked like
a child's toy. Nor was there any comfort in the agent's run of patter as
he stood by during my inspection. All the boat people in town had been
in to see it. No end of opinions about it, but all agreed on one
thing--that it wouldn't do to allow it be launched in the river. No one
but a lunatic would think of such a thing, of course. Still just that
kind of lunatics had been turning up every now and then; so many,
indeed, that there was talk of erecting some kind of a trap down Big
Timber way to catch the bodies. But I didn't look like that kind of a
nut. In fact, the agent was more inclined to believe that I was one of
them rich fellows from St. Paul that had a hunting lodge up in the

I had the crate in a truck by this time. The agent's face was a study
when I gave the curt order: "Blacksmith shop on river--foot of Main
Street." His was all old stuff, of course. I had heard some variation of
it on every stream I had boated between the Yangtse and the Parana.
Noah must have gone through a barrage of the same sort the day he laid
the keel of the Ark. It didn't bother me a bit; but at the same time
there was nothing cheering in it. As a matter of fact, I had still to
make up my own mind as to just how much of the river those fourteen-inch
sides were going to exclude in a really rough-tumbling rapid. However,
it wasn't the sporting thing to do to abandon ship while ship was still
in two pieces, one inside of the other, in a crate. I would wait at
least until it was set up before arriving at any final verdicts. Perhaps
I would even give it a trial in the water. There was a quiet eddy under
the blacksmith shop, and I could play safe by bending on a line and
having some one keep hold of it in a pinch.

Joe Evans, the curio dealer, rushed out, bareheaded, as I drove past his
shop in the truck, to head me off from going to the river. A stranger
could have no idea how treacherous the Yellowstone was, he urged. Two
drownded in it already that week. If I must go ahead in that little tin
pan of a boat, much better to ship it to Miles City or Glendive and put
in below the worst rapids. From Livingston to Big Timber would be sheer
suicide, especially for a tenderfoot in a duck-boat. Nobody knew that
better than he did, for he had trapped all along the way. He was quite
disinterested in warning me thus. Indeed, it was all in his favour to
have me start. The county paid him twenty-five dollars a day for hunting
for dead bodies in the river, with twenty-five more as bonus for every
one he found. So I would see it was all to his interest to increase the
spring crop of floaters; but he was a humane man, and--Thus Joe, at some
length and with considerable vehemence.




I was chuckling to myself all the time Joe rattled on. The priceless old
chap had been in business at the same stand twenty years ago, but it was
plain he did not recognize me as the first-baseman of the Livingston
champeen nine. As a matter of fact, I was just as glad that he
didn't--right there before the truck-driver at least. For I had some
recollection of having been with our brake-beam-riding right fielder the
evening "Lefty" Clancy tried to palm a moss agate out of one of Joe's
trays--and got caught. Joe made "Lefty" disgorge, and then delivered
himself of remarks more pointed than polite respecting the morals of
Livingston's imported ball-players.

As I have intimated, I didn't care to have that episode dragged out
before the truck-driver, who might have passed it right on to Pete Holt
and Editor Phillips. So I just sat tight for the moment, thanked Joe for
his warnings and drove on when he got out of breath. But late that
afternoon I went to his shop and made a clean breast of everything. I
confessed about the moss agate, and also to the fact that I was the
youth who held the steering paddle for Sydney Lamartine the time the
still unbroken river record of six hours to Big Timber was put up. Then
we both grinned, shook hands and apologized to each other. I apologized
to Joe for seeming to have aided and abetted "Lefty" in trying to get
away with the moss agate, and Joe apologized to me for that warning
about the Yellowstone. There was a delicate and subtle compliment in his
handsome admission that he felt that his was the greater wrong, even
allowing for the fact that there were still two or three moss agates
missing when he finally checked over the tray. In this latter
connection, Joe said that for a year or two he had the feeling that he
had made a tactical error in not turning out my pockets as well as
"Lefty's" when he made his search. Then, one day, "Lefty" came in and
sold him back the agates. "I didn't say anything," said Joe with a
chuckle. "Just paid him a dollar apiece for the streakies, and then
turned about and sold him for ten dollars an old Colt's that had laid
under the snow all winter and wasn't worth six-bits. It seemed to me the
kinder way," he concluded.

Of course a man of so mellow and inclusive a charity as that was easy
for me to become fond of. Joe and I made friends quickly, and he fell in
very readily with the plan to go along in his canvas boat when I
started and help Pete Holt look for the two floaters.

Ten minutes sufficed to knock off the crate and set the boat up on the
floor of the blacksmith shop. It consisted of a bow and a stern section,
each about seven feet in length and provided with a thwart and a
water-tight compartment. Indeed, each section was really a complete boat
in itself, awkward in shape, to be sure, yet something that would float
on an even keel and which could be propelled by oars or paddles. Bolting
these two sections together produced a fourteen-foot skiff of
astonishingly good lines. The sides, it is true, were inches lower than
I would liked to have had them, but there was something distinctly
heartening in the fine flare of the bows and the pronounced sheer of the
little craft. Heartening, also, was the comment of the helper working to
patch up a gunwale smashed in transit. He said it was the darndest hard
tin he ever tried to put a drill through. Equally reassuring was the
blacksmith's complaint over the trouble he was having in hammering out a
number of little dents. I may as well add here that that transit-crushed
gunwale was the worst scar my pretty tin toy was to show when I docked
it finally in St. Louis after bumping something like 2500 miles down the
Yellowstone and Missouri.

The bright little shallop looked so inherently water-worthy that I
dragged it down to the river and jumped in without further misgivings.
Its lightness was highly refreshing, especially when I remembered the
back-breaking job it had been dragging for only a few feet the wooden
skiff I had used on the lower Columbia. Built to be pulled from the
forward section, carrying its load aft, it was down heavily by the head
until I trimmed ship by taking in the blacksmith. My own sodden two
hundred and forty pounds still brought it a bit too low by the bows, but
I readily saw how the weight of my outfit and ballast would correct this
until I shipped my outboard motor at Bismarck. The trial was eminently
satisfactory. I dodged back and forth across the current, ran a short
riffle, and then swung round and pulled right back up through it. Some
water was shipped, but not enough to bother. There would be no dearth of
dampness in the real rapids, I could see; but those air-chambers should
float her through in one way or another, and water was easily dumped at
the first eddy.

When, on pulling up to the bank to land, I tossed the painter to some
one waiting below the blacksmith shop, I acknowledged the proper sex of
the little craft for the first time. "Catch the line and ease her in!"
was what I said, or something to that effect. That meant she had
convinced me that she was a regular fellow--that I was quite game to
trust myself out alone with her day or night. And that is just what I
did, and for something like sixty or seventy days and nights. Saucy and
spirited, and at times wilful, as she proved to be, that confidence was
never betrayed.

Late that afternoon Pete Nelson called on me at the hotel, heading a
delegation from the Park County Chamber of Commerce with the request
that I permit the name of Livingston, Montana, to be painted upon my
boat. Pete's inherent delicacy must have made him sense the fact that
operating as a sandwich-man in any form was the one thing above all
others from which my shrinking nature recoiled. Turning his hat
nervously in his hands, the spokesman went on to explain and expatiate.

"Livingston was also the name of a great explorer. You're a sort of
explorer yourself, boy. Kind of appropriate to unite the two ideas.
Would also let the folks down river know that the little old town was
right on the map. Full of enterprise, too, sending its emissaries on
4000-mile river voyages...."

"Back up, Pete," I cut in. "This little voyage is my own idea, not
Livingston's. But go to it with the paint if you really think it will
turn any settlers this way. This little old town gave me my start in
life, and I am not going to lay myself open to the charge of
ingratitude, no matter at what cost to my personal feelings. Only please
don't insist on my flying a pennant or wearing a cap with the city
slogan on it. What is the motto, by the way?"

"_Live Lively in Livingston!_" chanted the delegation in unison, as
though delivering itself of a college yell. Pete opined it was a good
slogan, with a lot of _multum in parvo_ about it; but of course, if that
was the way I felt....

The delegation bowed itself out and adjourned to a sign-painter's shop
to discuss the practical side of the affair now that the diplomatic
preliminaries were disposed of. The next morning I found "LIVINGSTON,
MONT." streaming in bold capitals along port and starboard bows and
across the stern of my argosy. The blacksmith said there had been some
discussion anent blazoning the words in foot-high letters the whole
length of the bottom, on the theory, it appears, that this would be the
most conspicuous part of the boat in the event it capsized and continued
on to New Orleans without its skipper. Whether they really carried out
that inspired plan I never learned. The first sand bar I hit below
Livingston would have effectually erased the letters in any event.
Indeed, I was only too happy to find that it hadn't scoured a hole
through the bottom itself.

We had planned to push off by nine o'clock of the morning of June
thirtieth, but various odds and ends of delays and interruptions held us
over an hour. Most of these were in the form of elderly ladies who had
lost near relatives in the river and chose this as the fitting occasion
to tell me about it. I have some recollection of speaking with a friend
or connection of Sydney Lamartine. Sydney had died from some cause I
made out, but whether from the river or not I did not learn. Some one
else chimed in with a boat-upset story just at that juncture and things
got a bit mixed. I was mighty sorry to hear about Lamartine, though. He
pulled a strong oar and had no end of nerve--real river stuff.

When I came to ask the blacksmith how much I owed him, he scratched his
head for a few moments and then asked if I thought a dollar would be too
much. As the boat had been around his shop three or four days, with
himself or a helper tinkering on little things about it much of the time
out of pure kindliness, I told him I did not think it was and asked him
to let me take his picture for fear I should never find another like
him. I needn't have worried on that score, however. From first to last,
practically all of the people I had to do with along each of the three
great rivers I navigated had to be pressed before they would take any
pay at all for services. Indeed, I recall but two who seriously tried to
put anything over. One was the clerk of the local Ritz-Carlton at
Billings, who tried to charge me two days' rent for a room I had
occupied but one, and the other was a farmer's wife near Sibley,
Missouri, who was going to collect twenty-five cents from me for a quart
of skim milk. In the latter instance the husband of the offender came
along in time to intervene in my behalf and give the woman a good
tongue-lashing for trying to cheat a "po stranghah who wasn't no low
down tramp no how and maybe was writin' fo the papahs." In the former
case the "po stranghah" found justice denied him until he actually had
to prove that he occasionally did write for the "papahs." I wouldn't
have recalled either of these instances if they had chanced in the
course of an ordinary trip, for the very good reason there would have
been so many others of the same kind that my memory would not have
compassed them all. I have remembered them, and gone to the trouble of
mentioning them here, because that sort of thing isn't general practice
along the river-road.




Just before starting, and purely as a gesture, I offered Pete Holt the
use of my Gieve inflatable life-preserver jacket. This handy little
garment I had worn in the North Sea during the war, and it had also
stood me in good stead on the Columbia the previous Fall. Now I was
really very keen for its reassuring embrace myself on that first
day's run, and if I had thought Holt would take it I would never have
offered it. When he rose to that jacket like a hungry trout to a fly I
felt toward him about as one does toward a man who asks you to say
"When"--and then stops pouring when you do say it. I had no legitimate
complaint of course. It was entirely my own fault. Just the same, the
unlucky denouement cramped my style from the outset. I had intended
giving Pete a deliberate spill in some safe-looking rapid just to pay
him for a few things he had done to me with the ski. I gave up the idea
entirely now. That "doughnut" of air under his arms meant that he would
probably bob through with dry hair while I serpentined over and under an
oar. It also meant that he was going to worry a lot less about the state
of the water than I hoped he would, for _auld lang syne_, that is. It
also meant that I was going to worry rather more. It was an unfortunate
move on my part altogether. Subject to that self-imposed handicap I
think I did pretty well. I am sure Pete would have confessed that night
that there were two or three new kinds of thrills in the world that he
wotted not of before, even though that confounded "doughnut" must have
acted as a good deal of a shock-absorber throughout.

Joe Evans, pushing off in his canoe from the dock of his river home a
couple of hundred yards below, gave the signal for casting off. The
current caught the bow as the honest blacksmith relinquished the painter
and the boat swung quickly into the stream. Some boys raised a
spattering cheer, the people who had lost relatives and friends in the
river shook their heads dubiously, and Pete Nelson, raising three
fingers aloft, shouted: "Here's luck!" He seemed a good deal elated
because the Chief of Police was going away.

We were off--or nearly so. When I turned from the crowd's acclaim to con
ship I discovered a good thick stream of green water slopping in, now
over one quarter, now over the other. And whichever side it splashed
from, Pete was getting the full benefit of it. "I hate to start crabbing
at this stage, Skipper," he said with a wry grin, "but it's that
confounded ballast of yours that's doing it. It's putting her rails
right under."

I squinted critically down the port gunwale; then down the starboard.
When she rode on an even keel either rail was a good two inches above
water. But when she lurched in even the gentlest swell, one rail or the
other went a good inch under. "You're right," I acquiesced. "Heave it
over." One by one the units of that precious pile of junk from the
blacksmith shop scrap-heap went to the bottom--a Ford axle, a mower
gear, the frame of a harrow, some fragments of "caterpillar" tractor
tracks, the drive wheel of a sewing machine. All of two hundred pounds
of choice assorted scrap Pete heaved over, keeping but a single hunk of
rusty iron that I thought I might use for an anchor at night in avoiding
some pernicious stretch of mosquito coast on the lower river. She still
rode low, but trimmed perfectly as soon as Pete finished bailing.

All down through the town they were waving us kindly farewells from the
bank, and at the H Street bridge, where "Buckskin Jim" Cutler had been
picked up the night before, we ran the gauntlet of another crowd.
Then the people began to thin out and we had the river to ourselves.
With the main channel streaming white a few hundred yards ahead I
settled to the oars for the sharp initiatory test I knew awaited us
there. We had closed up to within fifty feet of Joe by now, and saw for
the first time the remarkable precautionary measures he had taken to
insure the safety of himself and his canoe. For himself he had a
blown-up football tied to the back of his belt, an arrangement very
similar to the block of wood Chinese houseboat dwellers tie to their
boy, though not to their comparatively worthless girl, children. Along
both gunwales of the canoe were further air installations--these in the
form of long lengths of inflated inner tubes. The practical worth of
the latter contrivances was to be proved inside of half a minute. Of the
efficacy of a football tied to the back of the belt as a life-preserver
I had some doubts. It seemed to me, however, that the elevation of that
particular section of the anatomy could only be secured at the cost of
putting the head under water. Not being quite sure, I deemed it best not
to shake Joe's confidence by telling him of my doubts.

The Yellowstone divides a half mile or so above the Main Street bridge,
not far from the point where Jim Cutler was knocked from his raft. The
northerly channel, flowing by Livingston has perhaps a third of the
volume of the southerly one. The two unite not far below the H Street
bridge. In doing a bit of advance scouting down stream a day or two
previously I made particular mental note of a point, just below the
confluence, at which the current drove with great force close to the
left bank. Here, either snags or slightly submerged boulders made a
messy stretch of water that I saw at a glance it would not do to get a
boat into. However, a good sharp pull across the current from the point
the main channel was entered would be enough to avoid trouble--if
nothing went wrong.

The currents of the respective channels came together almost at right
angles, that of the main one flowing at perhaps eight miles an hour.
Ordinarily I would have eased into this by running parallel to it and
conforming my course to the direction of the stronger current. In my
anxiety to get quick way on across the current, however, I did not take
the time to do this. On the contrary, indeed, pulling as hard as I
could, I drove the light skiff almost head-on into the swiftly speeding
green bolt of the main current. The effect, naturally, was something
like that of a man's walking into the side of a moving street car. The
boat did precisely what a man walking into a car would do--went reeling
and staggering sideways in an effort to keep from rolling over and over.
She spun round twice before I got her under control, and of course
shipped a lot of green water--all of it in Holt's section. It wasn't
enough to bother much, though, and I had no trouble in pulling clear of
the danger point with yards to spare. Holt went quietly to bailing. I
was conscious of a mild thrill of elation at the thought of the sousing
I was giving him in spite of the "doughnut," but he didn't seem to be
worrying about it quite as much as I would have liked.

There was less excuse for Joe's having trouble at this point, because it
was almost in his back yard--one of his favourite fishing riffles, in
fact. It may be that the fact that I was crowding him closely from
behind made him nose into the main channel faster than he would have
done had he been on his own. I was too busy with my own troubles to see
what happened to him, so could only judge from the tremolo of his
high-keyed cursing. Holt, however, who had a grandstand seat for the
twin performances, said that the canvas canoe was thrown just about on
its beams' ends, and that nothing but the newly installed water-line
air-chambers, prevented a complete swamping.

The bend below the Northern Pacific bridge was one of the two or three
places of which I seemed to have retained much of a mental picture from
my previous run. Twenty years before the main channel was cutting
heavily into a low bluff on the left, bringing down an enormous quantity
of big round boulders. The short, savage riffle formed by these had
given us our first severe mauling on that earlier ride. Now I found the
river had broadened greatly, pouring a shallow current through a channel
two or three hundred yards wide. But it was still swift, very
swift--altogether relentless in its onward urge. It is the almost
complete absence of slack-water stretches that differentiates the five
hundred miles of the Yellowstone between Gardiner and Glendive from any
other great river I can recall. It is this that makes it so nearly ideal
for boating.




It didn't take us long to discover that as a pilot Joe was not an asset.
Personally he was a source of never-ending delight; also artistically.
His funny little craft with its inner-tube bilge keels, no less than the
bobbing of that football life-preserver, lent touches to the picture
that could have been blocked in by no other media. But what made Joe's
piloting fail to qualify was the fact that instead of trying to find the
channel he was trying to find floaters--to earn one or both of those
twenty-five-dollar rewards that were offered for the finding of the
bodies of the people drowned the previous week. I wanted all the deep,
clear, unobstructed channel there was to be had; the very nature of
Joe's quest kept him edging in toward snags and bars and shallows. These
little incidentals didn't bother him a bit. The instant he saw the water
shoaling dangerously he simply jumped overboard, grabbed his
feather-weight craft by the nose and trotted right out on dry land.

Now this wouldn't have troubled seriously if--save the mark!--I had also
been using an unladen canvas canoe. But with my outfit, a passenger, and
a boat whose ability to withstand collisions with rocks and snags had
still to be proved, Joe's little jump-out, pick-up and trot-off
man[oe]uvre was a difficult one to follow. Twice, because there was no
alternative either time, I did the best I could to go through his
motions. All I succeeded in doing--besides getting pulled down and
rolled--was proving that the bottom of my boat would bang for fifty feet
over shallowly submerged rocks without holing. While that latter was
reassuring, I couldn't see any reason for going on and proving it over
and over again. If the constant drop of water wears away the hardest
stone it seemed perfectly reasonable to believe that the constant biff
of boulders might batter through the hardest bottom. And I wanted that
bottom to do me for from twenty-five to thirty-five hundred miles yet.

That was the reason why when, entangled in a maze of shoaling channels,
Joe picked up his canoe and trotted up on a bar for the third time, I
had the corner of a wild-weather eye lifting for a possible gateway of
escape. A short, sharp chute cascading off to the right seemed to fill
the bill, but by a narrow squeeze. A rough tumble of green-white water
drove full at a caving gravel bank, reared up and fell over on its back
in a curling wave, serpentined between the out-reaching claws formed by
the roots of two prostrate cottonwood trees, and then recovered from its
tantrum in a diminuendo of whirlpools in the embrasure of a brown cliff.
It was the kind of a place which you knew you could run if all went
right, but which you usually didn't try for fear that one of a half
dozen things might go wrong. I should hardly have tackled it in cold
blood, even in a boat I was thoroughly used to; but I had just enough
dander up over the prospect of another bumping on Joe's bar to
be just a bit careless of consequences. It was that sort of
"Might-as-well-be-hanged-for-a-sheep-as-a-lamb" feeling that a man ought
to eliminate from his system as a first step in fitting himself for work
in rough water. It had always troubled me a bit, but I had it
sufficiently in check to keep it from asserting itself unless I was very
tired or slightly huffed. This time, I fear, there was just a bare
ruffle of huffiness easing the brake of my wonted restraint.

I was over the dip at the head of that chute before I knew it--likewise,
out into the swirls at the foot of it. I was conscious only of a sudden
dive, the loom of the back-curling wave--which the skiff, heeling half
over, was taking as a racing car round a steeply-banked turn,--a tangle
of roots to left and right, and then the serpentining through the
whirlpools. She had hardly shipped a bucket of solid water--most of it
over her bows as she tipped off the curling wave.

Joe was quite handsome above having his pilotage flaunted. The first
thing he did after catching up with us was to apologize again for having
warned about running the upper river. The good chap seemed really to
think that some skill had been displayed in running that chute. As a
matter of fact, I simply headed in and let the current do the rest.
Pete said I backed water sharply to keep from ramming the gravel bank,
and that we both fended with oars against the clutch of the cottonwood
snags. Pete also said I was pop-eyed all the way through. I _know_ that
he was. I was glad of it, too. Outside of a straight spill, I felt that
there wasn't going to be much more that I could do to shake those
confoundedly cool scout-trained nerves of his.

This little incident clarified the air on the pilotage question. I let
Joe keep the lead as far as I could, but assumed the responsibility of
picking my own channel while he concentrated on his quest.

We passed several grim reminders of the tragedies of the past week. A
few miles below Livingston we came upon Jim Cutler's raft stranded upon
a midstream bar. Even a passing glimpse revealed how well the double
tiers of logs were laid--plainly the work of the real old river-rat
"Buckskin Jim" must have been. Not far below the raft was the wreck of a
Ford, with cushions, wraps, and odds and ends of a camp outfit dotting
the bars for the next mile or two. The car, occupied by a young Middle
Westerner and his four-months' bride, had gone over the grade at a bend
of the road not far above where we saw the wreck. Rolling to the
flood-swollen river, it had been carried several hundred yards down
stream before stranding. The man crawled clear and reached the bank;
the body of his wife had not been recovered. The third recent river
tragedy was that of a rancher, but I had not learned the details of it.

I was, of course, much elated over the way in which my little tin boat
had behaved in running that side-winding chute. This very smart
performance proved conclusively that, with anything like intelligent
handling, she would be more than equal to any probable demands I would
have to make on her. There might, of course, be places that I would have
to avoid on account of her lack of freeboard, but that, at the worst,
would mean no more than the loss of a bit of time. She was good for what
she would have to do--that was the main thing. There was reassurance,
also, in the way her bottom and sides had withstood the bumping from the
rocks. There was no question in my mind now that that galvanized
tin-like looking stuff was real steel. Nothing else would have stood the
bumps. I planned to spare her all that kind of thing I could, but it was
good to know that she could stand the gaff if she had to. I was calling
her pet names before we had gone twenty miles. It is an astonishing
thing the affection a man develops for a boat that is carrying him well
on a long river journey.

The thing that I remembered best from my former run was the long, rough
rapid that winds down and under the Springdale bridge. I did not
recall, however, that the river divided into two channels a half mile
above the bridge. Indeed, it is quite possible that it did not do so
twenty years ago. Changes like that occur over night during the
high-water season on the Yellowstone. Joe led the way down the left-hand
side of the left-hand channel, but landed when it became apparent that
neither of our boats could live in the wild tumble of rollers where the
current drove hard against the side of the bluff above the bridge.
Lining back a quarter of a mile up-stream, we pulled across to the
opposite side, down which there was rough but fairly open running.

My boat was behaving so well that I couldn't resist the temptation to
give her a baptism in some really rough stuff at a point where salvage
operations would be so comparatively simple in case of grief. Giving the
little lady her head after the worst of the riffle had been passed, I
let the undercurrent draw her right over into the main string of
rollers. Wild, wallowing water it was, solid white all the way, but with
a straight run and no underhand look about it. She took it like a duck,
except where two or three of the most broken combers let her down too
sharply for her bows to rise to meet the next in turn. There were
perhaps a half dozen buckets of water in the forward section when we
beached and dumped her a hundred yards below the bridge. As I seem to
remember it now, Syd Lamartine's skiff had a foot of water in it when we
dumped at about the same point on that other run. On that occasion,
however, I have a clear recollection of riding the middle of the riffle
all the way down. I should want a _batteau_ and a full crew if I were
going to try the same stunt today.

It must have been six or seven miles below the Springdale bridge that
Holt, descrying an unusual object on the beach of a long, low island to
our left, asked me to pull in closer for a better look. Joe, a hundred
yards ahead of us, had already passed it up as a log of driftwood, but
the ex-scout's keen eye would not be deceived. At first we thought it
was the body of a man--probably the drowned rancher,--but as we drew
nearer it was revealed as that of a woman dressed in hiking garb,
undoubtedly the bride of the auto wreck.

As we were now in Sweet Grass County, the body was under the
jurisdiction of the Coroner at Big Timber. Holt decided it would be best
if Joe tried to find some ranch from which he could get in touch with
that official by phone, while we continued on down river to carry the
word by an alternative route.

Joe was treated to a good deal of a shock while towing the body down
stream to an eddy from which it could be landed on the left bank. No
sooner had he put off from the beach than the corpse, floating deeply
submerged at the end of a thirty-foot line, made straight for the
roaring line of rollers on the right side of the channel. As it was a
good deal too rough water for his boat to ride, Joe lost no time in
bending to his stubby oars and pulling for dear life in the opposite
direction. It was a tug-of-war all the way, with the grisly tow on the
outer end gaining foot by foot. Holt and I had drifted too far ahead
before we realized the seriousness of Joe's difficulty to be of any
help. As an upset was inevitable in the event the canoe was dragged into
the riffle stern first, the best that we could do was to pick him up at
the foot of it and trust that his canoe would strand and anchor the

If that riffle had been fifty yards longer nothing in the world could
have prevented a spill that would have put Joe's football life-preserver
to a real test. As far as the tug-of-war was concerned he was beaten
completely--dragged over the line. Luckily it was only the smoothening
tail of the riffle, and the buoyant little canoe rode the rounded
rollers without capsizing. Another hundred yards, and the relentless
drag from the other end of his line had eased enough to allow him to
pull up and into the eddy. He was mighty white about the gills as Holt
gave him a hand ashore, and kept repeating over and over in an awed
voice: "_Did you see her try to drown me? Did you see her try to drown

It was easy enough to understand what the trouble had been as soon as
one gave it a moment's collected thought. Calm reflection, however, was
a thing which I am inclined to think very few men would have been
capable of in Joe's place. As a matter of fact, indeed, neither Holt nor
I was in a sufficiently detached frame of mind to dope out the
phenomenon until some minutes after Joe had landed. This was the reason
for what happened:

In every swiftly flowing channel there is a strong draw toward the most
rapidly moving part of the current, and this draw is usually more
powerful below than at the surface. A boat paddled in comparatively
smooth water beside a riffle will invariably be drawn into the latter
within a few yards if allowed to drift. Only too often, in fact, it will
be drawn in despite every effort to avoid the riffle. In this particular
instance, the deeply floating corpse had given the inward-drawing
current a double hold, and Joe's short oars had not been able to develop
power enough to counteract it. Readily explicable as the uncanny
incident was, there was no question of the grim seriousness of it.
Indeed, I have always thought of it as a battle with Death in more
senses than one, for that football float of Joe's, attached as it was,
would have been about as much use as a life-preserver, once he was
dumped out into that riffle, as a millstone round his neck.

Holt and I made good time for the remainder of the run to Big
Timber--about three hours for something like twenty-five miles. The way
was a continuous succession of moderate rapids, with one very rough and
savage cascade. The latter was not far above Big Timber, and was formed
by a ledge of bedrock extending all the way across the river. A direct
drop of two or three feet here was followed by a series of stiff riffles
that extended out of sight round a sharp bend where the river was
deflected at right-angles by an abrupt cliff. I never learned the name
of the place, but it was a distinctly nasty one--just one damn thing
after another, as Pete put it. I have jumbled memories of messing up on
the ledge, and then half swamping just below it, on my former run.

Not to take too many chances in the deepening twilight (though all we'd
admit to each other at the time was that we were doing it to avoid
wetting my outfit), we lined by the sharp pitch and on down almost to
the bend. Even from there it was right sloppy going, partly through some
rather clumsy handling the skiff had as a consequence of a sudden
divergence of theory Pete and I developed on the subject of rapid

Rounding the sharp bend the skiff was drawn into the middle of a rough,
foam-white riffle that extended ahead as far as I could see. The
unrhythmically wallowing rollers were banging her bows unmercifully and
throwing water aboard at a rate that I feared would swamp her very
quickly if she continued to head into them. Seeing that the water toward
the right bank was a bit less broken, I laid onto my oars for all that
was in me in an effort to throw her in that direction. Holt was grunting
mightily. Looking ahead over my shoulder, I could not see what he was
doing, but assumed he was paddling his head off in seconding my effort
to reach smoother water. But not a yard could I move her from the crest
of that white-capped ridge of rollicking combers. Down the whole length
of the riffle she slammed, dipping water at every plunge and finishing
with a good six inches swishing about in both sections.

Just about at the last gasp from my frantic but futile pulling, I let my
oars trail and my head sag down between my knees while my heart stopped
hop-skip-and-a-jumping and my breath came back. Looking up a half minute
later to see if there was anything ahead that would demand expert
attention, I saw that Pete was just coming out of a collapse similar to
my own. Also he was choking toward utterance.

"Took all I had in me,--but I did it," he gasped with a sickly grin.

"Did what?" I growled.

"Kept you from throwing her side-on and giving me that spill you
promised," he chuckled. "Don't you think it's getting too late in the
evening for that kind of jokes?"

Oh, well! The warehouses and the water-tanks of the Big Timber bluff
were beginning to blot the evening sky ahead, and so I hardly thought it
worth while to explain to Pete that his fancied self-defensive measures
had probably brought him nearer to that promised spill than he had been
at any time during the day. He wouldn't have believed me anyhow. Won't
even do so when he reads it here in cold print.

Pulling up a slough that ran back from the head of the bluff, we found
safe haven under the over-arching willows of a wonderfully cold and
clear little creek. Pushing out onto the bank above, we found ourselves
in the back yard of the local postmaster. A highly gracious and comely
young lady volunteered to mend my Gieve waistcoat, torn by Pete's
frantic paddlings over and roundabout the inflated "doughnut." The
Gieve is not made to paddle in.

Wolfing great porterhouse steaks and quaffing steaming mugs of coffee,
Pete and I sat long at a lunch-counter table and talked of our ancient
ski jaunt over the snows of the Yellowstone. He spoke much of coasting
and jumping and spills--especially of spills that I took. Just why he
did this didn't occur to me until after he had left for Livingston by
the midnight train. I figured it out walking back to the hotel. It was
merely the subtle chap's way of letting me know that he still reckoned I
was a bit in his debt on the score of thrills and spills. Maybe so.
Maybe so. Twenty-year thrills more readily than forty-year, just as
forty-year is more reluctant to take a chance at a spill.



A troop of round-up artists jingled into Big Timber the morning of July
first, just as I was leaving the hotel to go down to my boat. They were
in from the ranges on their way to compete at the annual cow-carnival at
Miles City. Having read of my voyage in the paper, they came to me with
the proposal that I book the lot of them as passengers. They assumed
that I would easily make the two hundred and fifty mile run in a day,
and that my boat had unlimited cabin capacity. I replied by inviting
them down to my moorings. The sight of the tiny tin shallop tied up
under the willows brought them to a more reasonable view of the
situation. They readily admitted that it would not carry anything like
ten people, even without their saddles, but they were inclined to argue
that it would carry at least four besides myself.

I assured them I was game to try it if they were, but suggested that the
four elected should get in first. Now four light-footed sailors _might_
have stepped into that little boat and taken their seats without
upsetting it. Four booted and spurred cow-punchers could not, or at
least did not. In fact the third one precipitated the swamping when he
stumbled and fell over the two who had preceded him. After we had
raised, dumped and launched her again, I assured them that a single
passenger was my outside limit, but that I would be highly honoured by
the company of any one of them whom they would agree to nominate for the
run to Billings. As I was planning to stop over a day or two there, my
arrival by river in Miles would be too late for the opening of the

After some debate they picked the "bulldogger" of the outfit.
"Bulldogging" is a stock round-up stunt, and I shall hardly need to
explain that the _modus operandi_ involves throwing a steer by seizing
its nose in the teeth and upsetting its centre of gravity by a sudden
twist of the neck. One sees it in every rodeo, but it is a feat withal
that requires much nerve, strength and skill.

Jocularly remarking that he reckoned he would have to ride this tin
broncho with a slick heel, the "dogger" unbuckled his spurs and stepped
into the boat. I went up to fetch my remaining bags from the
postmaster's house and was delayed ten minutes while the stitching up of
my Gieve was completed. When I returned I found a bewhiskered stranger
recounting with facile gesture how he fished the floaters out of the
eddy below his ranch down-river. He called it "Dead Man's Douse." Last
floater he took out was a cow-puncher who had been so rolled in the big
rapid above that his spurs were tangled in his hair and he came wheeling
through the suds like a doughnut. It was a hells-bells-jingler of a
rapid, that one above the "Douse." Water tossed about so fierce that the
fishes' brains were spattered on the rocks!

That was about all I arrived in time to hear, but the "dogger" had been
more fortunate. The good chap was deeply impressed, too, for his iron,
bull-nose-biting jaw was sagging in a sickly grin and he was back on the
bank offering a free passage to Billings to any of his mates who cared
to accept. No takers. The gamest of the lot appeared to be a lady
broncho-buster called Lil. She actually stepped into the boat once, but
finally decided to take the train because it had a roof on it. It looked
like rain, she said, and it always made her broken shoulder ache to get
wet. As if rain was the wettest part of riding the Yellowstone.

[Illustration: © _L. A. Huffman_


Just as I was about to push off the whiskered rancher stepped up and
asked if I minded giving him a bit of a down-river lift. Gladly I bade
him come along, figuring that his pilotage would give me a better
chance of avoiding the dreaded "Douse." The round-up artists sped us
with their college yell as I crabbed out of the little slough to the
river. I bumped into some of them again in Miles the day after the
Round-up. Most of their faces bore the marks of hoof or fist. Lady Lil
had lost no cuticle (at least where it showed), but red eyes hoisted the
distress signal of a deeper seated wound. The "dogger" had taken up with
another girl--a she-dude that had once been a bare-back rider in a
circus. Lil had been crying a lot, which was no end of a shame
considering how wetness affected her busted shoulder. All of which went
to prove that Lilly the Lady Broncho-Buster and Judy O'Grady were
sisters under the skin. And Lil had looked so darned exempt from the
surge of the soft stuff!

There is a fairly rough riffle just below the Big Timber, and then a lot
of rather mean navigating through the shallows where the boulders of
Clark's famous "Rivers Across" litter the channel of the Yellowstone.
The whiskered stranger, stroking with an oar from the stern, was of real
help in making the passage of both comparatively quiet and dry. He also
found me a smooth-running strip of green through the almost solid tumble
of white where the river was chasing its tail in a sharply notched bend
about five miles farther on. These little riffles didn't bother me
much, though. My mind was too much occupied by the "Dead Man's Douse"
for that. I was wondering whether the old chap intended to run me
through that fish-brain-spattering-rapid, or if he might be considerate
enough to help me portage round. I was trying to get my nerve up to
broaching the latter procedure when my pilot dug hard with his steering
oar and brought the skiff up to a gravelly landing below a pretty little
tree-covered bench. His cabin was back behind the bull-berries, he said,
and he would have to leave me here. Or perhaps I would hang on for an
hour and have some coffee and a mess of sinkers with him.

"But aren't you going to see me through the Dead Man's Douse?" I
exclaimed in dismay, adding in a feeble attempt at funniness: "It might
save you fishing out my remains later."

A corner of the tobacco-stained mouth drew out in a highly amused
chuckle. "By jingo, sonny," he giggled finally, "it wasn't youse I was
shootin' for with that yarn. I thought youse savvied all the time. I
jest was wantin' this here seat that bull-biting cow-puncher had
perempted. There ain't no 'Dead Man's Douse.' Fack is, youse got most of
the sloppy stuff ahint youse already. Don't get too gosh-all-fired sure
of you'self an' youse all right--tin boat an' all."

It was with real regret that the threat of coming storm made it
necessary for me to keep going while I could. The good old chap had made
casual mention of Terry and Miles and Gibbon, of hunting buffalo and elk
on the river in the early days, and of many comparatively recent jaunts
down the Yellowstone searching for agates. He would have been well worth
listening to. I never learned his name, but I have always thought of him
as "Jim Bridger"--because he lied with so classic a simplicity, painting
his pictures as--well, as a river paints its rocks with fish-brains!

There were a good half dozen sinister-cloaked thunder-storms doing their
war dances in this direction or that as I left "Jim Bridger" and pushed
back into the stream. The wolf-fanged Crazies to the north were getting
the liveliest of them, but there were also some tremendous disturbances
going on among the snowy pinnacles where the Absarokas reared against
the southern sky. The restlessly counter-marching clouds above the
valley were full of whirling wind-gusts but not of rain. The sudden
side-swipes of air kept the skiff yawing rather crazily, but as there
was no very fine shooting to do for the moment I kept going. Indeed, I
was quite unconcerned about the threat of the weather. I still had to
learn a proper respect for thunder-storms--the same very wholesome kind
of respect that I had for really rough water. That was to come in good
time, and by the usual channel--experience, very vivid experience.

I had not yet come to the point on the river where Clark had built and
launched his dugout. Constantly searching for suitable timber, he had
skirted the northern bank closely all the way down from where he had
first come to the Yellowstone near the present site of Livingston. The
flint-paved _mesas_ wore down the hoofs of his Indian ponies so that it
became necessary to protect them with shoes of buffalo hide. This
increased Clark's anxiety to take to the river and his diary speaks
often of the vain search for large trees. Very near the point I had now
reached an accident occurred which eventually forced Clark's hand and
probably resulted in his constructing his boats farther up river, and
from less satisfactory material, than would otherwise have been the
case. The incident was picturesquely commemorated in a name borne by a
certain creek upon the earlier maps.



In the vicinity of the creek in question, Clark tells how one of his
men, Gibson, in mounting his horse after shooting a deer, "fell on a
snag and runt (ran) it nearly two inches into the muskeler (muscular)
part of his thy (thigh)." That incident inspired Clark, who had already
used up the names of the members of his party a half dozen times over
in geographical nomenclature, to call the creek "Thy Snag'd." Gibson
suffered so much from the jolting of the horse upon which he was carried
after his injury that it became necessary to rest him in camp. With a
halt of two or three days imperative in any case, Clark sought out the
best brace of trees in the vicinity and set his men making dugouts. Two
of these, lashed together side by side, made a craft of such
water-worthiness that it was not abandoned until long after the junction
with Lewis on the Missouri.

Although the names given by Clark on his voyage down the Yellowstone
have survived better than have most of those applied by the explorers in
other regions, several of the most picturesque have not stood the test
of time and chance. Shield's River, Pryor's Fork and Clark's Fork still
bear their original names, but Thy Snag'd Creek and River Across are no
more. The former has become Deer Creek and the latter pair have been
given individual names--that flowing in from the north Big Timber Creek,
that from the south Boulder River. No more original and distinctive dual
nomenclature for streams flowing into a river on opposite sides of the
same point could have been imagined. It is a pity that, in the nature of
the case, it could not fill the nomenclatural exigency sufficiently to

Fortunately for me the peculiar meteorological conditions of the morning
did not develop along what I subsequently learned was their normal
course at that time of year. Ordinarily a pow-wow of thunder-storms in
the mountain-top in the morning means a concerted attack upon the valley
in the afternoon. This time the advent of a warm southerly wind modified
the assault-and-battery program and brought only a drizzling rain on the
river. The broken piers of Greycliff's ruined bridge menaced me from the
mist as I drove past, and below the new bridge the sagging strand of a
slackened cable swooped at me from the air. Then came a sharp bend, with
the roar of a considerable rapid booming in the grey obscurity below.
The rain and the mist deadened the sound somewhat, just as they confused
the perspective. Standing up on the thwart in an endeavour to get a
better view, I was warned by the accelerating undulations of the skiff
that I had floated right onto the intake of a riffle which I had assumed
was still several hundred yards distant. Hastening to straighten the
cushion on my seat before taking to my oars, I was jolted from my feet
by the first solid wave, so that I sat with my full weight upon the
doubled-up index finger of my left hand. I distinctly recall either
hearing or feeling the snap of what I thought at the moment was a
tendon, but as the finger still crooked with its fellow round its oar I
gave it no more thought until I had slammed through to quieter water, a
quarter of a mile below. Then I found the finger was bent inward to the
resemblance of a rather open letter C. Taking it for granted it was
dislocated, I started and kept on pulling it until another riffle
demanded personal attention. Always afraid to take it to a doctor for
fear of being held up, at gradually increasing intervals I kept on
trying to pull that drooping pointer into place for the next two months.
It was in St. Louis that I found that two bones had been broken in the
first place, and that they had probably been re-broken every time I
pulled the finger afterwards. It is not quite back to shape yet, which,
everything considered, is hardly to be wondered at.

A lifting of the mist accompanied an increase in the rain, with the
balance inclining toward a better visibility. This latter came
opportunely, for the loom of high cliffs on the right and a running
close of the rounded hills on the left seemed to indicate a canyon and
bad water. It was an agreeable surprise to find only a straight, swift
reach of river bordered with a narrow belt of cottonwood on either side.
There appeared no menace of mist-masked rapids ahead, but with the rain
settling into what seemed likely to be an all-day downpour I was glad to
pull up to the left bank where an enchanting vista of ranch buildings
opened up beneath the cottonwoods. The tree I tied up to had a trunk
fully four feet in diameter, and I was puzzled to account for the fact
that Clark had overlooked it in his search for boat timber--until it
occurred to me that the grey-barked giant was perhaps a bit smaller with
a hundred and sixteen fewer annual rings on it.

There are a number of pleasing little things that happen to the voyageur
by the Running Road, but not many that awaken a warmer glow in his
sodden breast than stepping almost direct from a wet boat into a kitchen
fragrant with the ineffable sweetness of frying doughnuts. And when the
doughnuts are being forked forth by an astonishingly comely and kindly
young housewife; and when her husband comes in from the alfalfa patch
and proves just as kindly if less comely; and when they insist on your
drying out and staying to dinner and then--because the rain still
continues--to supper and all night; and when the three of you sit up
till all hours and tell each other everything you ever did--and how--and
why: well, all that just makes it nicer still.



They were a sterling pair of young pioneers, these Fahlgrens. Both were
from Kentucky. He had come out to Montana about ten years before and
homesteaded what he reckoned as the loveliest spot on the whole
Yellowstone. A little later he had made a hurried trip home to bring
back a young woman that he reckoned just as lovely and just as promising
as his ranch. Neither had disappointed him. His ranch had doubled and
trebled in size, with his family just about keeping pace with it. There
were hard years behind, with not any too easy sledding at the present;
but there had been much happiness all along the road and the future was
bright with promise. How heartening it was even to brush in passing such
kindliness, simplicity, hopefulness and courage!

We had Maryland fried chicken and a big golden pone of corn bread for
breakfast. All left over was put up for my lunch, together with a
gooseberry pie. As the early morning weather was still fitful and
showery, I did not start until ten o'clock, taking Fahlgren with me for
a couple of miles to the next down-river ranch. He wanted me to drift a
rapid stern-first, as the agate hunters were wont to do it. Trimmed as
we were, I knew what must happen. I agreed to the trial readily enough,
however, partly because it was Fahlgren's suggestion but principally
because it was he, and not I, that was sitting in the stern. Riding so
low, the after section shipped a dozen bucketfuls of green water, all of
it via my passenger's knees. The riffle was not rough enough to make
any real trouble, and we both took the thing strictly in a larking

One can drift a riffle stern first that is too rough to ride any other
way. Facing down-stream, and pulling against the current the headway of
the boat is checked and it is easier to shoot it to right or left to
avoid an obstacle. If the riffle is not too rough to make the control of
the boat impossible when rowed bow-first with the stream, drifting means
the cutting down of speed and the loss of much good time. Also, a boat
one is going to use for drifting should have a stout, high stern
(whether double-ended or not) and temporarily at least, it should be
lightened aft and trimmed to ride well down by the head.

Not long after I had parted with Fahlgren a distinct change in the
weather took place. The charged, humid thunder-storm condition of the
atmosphere gave way to sharp, keen north-westerly weather. A strong wind
became a stronger, and by noon the valley was swept by a whistling gale
blowing straight from the main western mass of the Rockies. The fact
that it was almost dead astern as the general course of the river ran
was the only thing that made keeping on the water a thing to be
considered at all. An equally strong gale blowing up-stream would have
tried to stand the river on its head and scoop the channel dry. It
would have succeeded in neither, but the resulting rough-and-tumble
would have kicked up a wild welter of white caps such as no skiff could
have lived in for half a minute. But with current and wind going in the
same general direction it was quite another matter, especially as I had
a chance to ease up to it gradually as the gale increased in force. I
was making such tremendous headway, and the spell of the wild ride was
so strong in my blood, that my wonted cautiousness was swamped in a
rising tide of exhilaration. There are few who will not have experienced
the feeling of being intoxicated with swift air and rapid motion. It was
more than that with me this time. I was inebriated--stewed--loaded to
the guards. I was having the time of my young life and I hadn't the
least intention of going home until morning.

Now in real life a man who starts out in such a state of exaltation
always bangs up against some immovable body good and hard before he is
through. Or, more properly speaking, his getting through is more or less
coincident with his banging against such a body. Why something like that
didn't put a period to my mad career on this occasion has never been
clear in my mind. Possibly that more or less mythical Providence that
has been known (though by no means often enough to warrant the proverb)
to shepherd drunks and fools had something to do with it. At any rate,
I was still in mad career down midstream when the wind gave up the
bootless chase at six o'clock, broke up into fitful zephyrs and went to
sleep among the cottonwoods. In all that time I had not landed once, had
not relinquished both oars for a single second, and had not even munched
my Maryland fried chicken and gooseberry pie. Skippers have stood longer
watches, but never a one has carried on with less relief. On that score,
perhaps, I may have deserved to win through. On every other count I was
going out of my way to ask for trouble and had nothing but my lucky star
to thank for having avoided it.

I passed Reed Point and Columbus early in the afternoon. Beyond the
latter point I began keeping watch for a certain long line of bluffs
which I knew began near the railway station called Rapids and extended
easterly for three miles. Clark had called them "Black Bluffs," and that
name they retain to this day, though their only claim to blackness even
in Clark's time came from the presence of dark green undergrowth. Today
they are brown and comparatively bare.

I picked up the rounded sky-line of "Black Bluffs" at just about the
time that the straight, hard-running riffle that gives Rapids Station
its name began to boom ahead. The middle of the riffle was plainly no
place for a little tin shallop, but down the right side there appeared
to be fairly open channel. Settling that course in my mind, I let the
tail of my eye steal back to the head of the bluff, and from there to a
cottonwood covered flat that opened up beyond the bend where the river,
thrown off a ledge of bedrock, turned sharply to the south in a stolid
stream of rock-torn white. Beyond question there was going to be some
fairly nice navigation demanded to find a way through that rough stuff
below the bend, especially as the wind was going to come strongly abeam
for a short distance. All of which was hard luck, I complained to
myself, for the end of that line of bluffs pointed an unerring finger at
the flat below them as the place where Clark had halted, built his boats
and taken to the river. I had hoped for a better look at it than I saw I
was going to get.

Even the pressing exigencies of the navigational problem could not quite
obliterate from my mind the realization of the fact that--from some
point not more than a few insignificant hundreds of yards ahead--Captain
William Clark was going to be my pilot all the way to St. Louis.
Exulting over that wasn't what was at the bottom of the trouble,
however. You can tread a lot of highways and byways of fancy without
seriously impairing your river navigation, but only when you keep your
eyes on the water and the back of your mind in a proper state to receive
impressions and transmit orders. I was not in the least culpable in this
respect. The reason I hit that mid-stream snag was because a sudden hail
from some men grading a road over the bluff caused just enough of a
congestion of my ganglionic lines to slow down proper and adequate
action. I checked by an effort the impulse to cup a hand to an ear in an
attempt to catch the import of what was doubtless a warning of some
sort, but as a consequence failed to get through in time the order for
my left hand to back its oar when the imminent snag bobbed up.

The skiff struck on her starboard bow, slid along the snag for a few
feet, and then swung and hung there, side-on to the current and the
wind. White water dashed in over the up-stream gunwale and mingled with
green water poured over the down-stream. But just before the forces from
above threw her completely on her beams-ends the flexible root bent down
and let her swing off without capsizing. It was a merry dance to the
bend, but I managed to get her under control in time to head into the
best of the going through the suds below. This was close to the right
bank, where I had no little trouble in holding her on account of the
side-surge from the heavy west wind. This is not a hard series of
riffles to run if you have no bad luck, but an upset in the upper riffle
would leave you at the mercy of the lower, which is a savage tumble of
combers filling most of the channel. In that respect this double riffle
below Rapids Station is a good deal like the combination of Rock Slide
and Death Rapids on the Big Bend of the Columbia. The latter pair are,
however, incomparably the rougher.

I was a mile away and on the farther side of the valley before I got rid
of enough water to survey for damages. A long, jagged scratch down the
side, with a big, round dent at the point of first impact, were the only
marks she showed of the collision. Light as was the steel, it had not
come near to holing from a blow that stopped her dead from at least
twelve miles an hour. This renewed assurance of the staunchness of my
tight little tin pan was by no means unwelcome. There would still be a
lot of things to bump into, even after leaving the Yellowstone.

My only mental picture of the site of Clark's shipyard was that received
from the one hurried glance as I came to the upper rapid. There was no
chance for a second look. Sentimentally I was sorry not to have been
able to land and pretend to look for the stumps of the trees cut down
for the dugouts. As a matter of fact, however, as the river had been
altering its channel every season for over a hundred years, there was
no question in my mind but that the shipyard flat had been made and
washed out a score of times since Clark was there.

Captain Clark's party spent four days building the two dugout canoes and
exploring in this vicinity. Twenty-four of their horses were stolen by
Indians and never recovered. The same fate ultimately overtook the
remainder of the bunch, which Sergeant Pryor and two others were
attempting to drive overland to the Mandan villages on the Missouri.
Clark described the canoes as "twenty-eight feet long, sixteen or
eighteen inches deep and from sixteen to twenty-four inches wide."
Lashed together, these must have made a clumsy but very serviceable
craft. Considering its weight and type, their first-day run in it--from
Rapids to the mouth of Pryor's Fork, near Huntley--strikes me as being a
remarkable one. The Captain's actual estimates of distances on this part
of his journey are much too high and also present many discrepancies.
This particular run, however, is easy fixable by natural features. It
must be very close to sixty miles as the river winds, possibly more. It
is not fair to compare this with the considerably faster time I made
over similar stretches of the Yellowstone. I had considerably higher and
swifter water and a boat so light that no delays from shallows and bars
were imposed. Very generally speaking, I found my rate of travel on the
Yellowstone to have worked out about twenty-five per cent. faster than
that of Clark's party. On the Missouri, on stretches where I did not use
my outboard motor, I averaged just about the same as the united
explorers on their down-stream voyage. There is little doubt that they
stopped longer and oftener than I did on the Missouri, and that while on
the river their big crews snatched along whatever type of craft they
happened to be manning at a considerably faster rate than I pulled. By
and large, however, I should say that Kipling's

    "Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
    He travels the fastest who travels alone,"

holds quite as good on the Running Road as in Life's Handicap.

In the journal of the first day on the river Captain Clark writes: "At
the distance of a mile from camp the river passes under a high bluff for
about 23 miles, when the bottom widens on both sides." This would give
the impression that the river flowed continuously for many miles under
an overhanging bluff. This it does not do, and could hardly have done at
any previous period. What it does do is to run along the base of a long
chain of broken bluffs, many of which it has undermined. I have always
thought of this as by long odds the most beautiful and picturesque
stretch of stream I navigated between the Rockies and the lower

The bluffs varied in natural colour from a grey-brown to a
reddish-black, but mosses and lichens and mineral stains from the hills
behind tinted their abrupt faces with streaks and patches of various
shades, all blended like delicate pastelling. The main stream usually
ran close up against the bluffs, but numerous chutes and back-channels
sprawling over the verdant flats to the left formed score on score of
small islands, all shaded with tall cottonwoods, lush with new grass and
brilliant with wild flowers. There was a fresh vista of beauty at every
turn. It was a shame not to be able to stop and call on the Queen of the
Fairies. Titania's Bowers succeeded each other like apartments on upper
Broadway. For the second time that day I regretted my speed and the fact
that wind and rough water kept my attention riveted close to the boat.

At first I gave the face of the bluffs a wide berth, especially at those
points where the full strength of the current went swirling beneath the
painted overhang in sinuous coils of green and white. As I think of it
now, it was the cavernous growls and rumbles, magnified by the sounding
board of the cliff, that made me chary of venturing in where the
animals were being fed. The racket was not a little terrifying until one
found that it was more bark than bite.

It was not until a sudden side-swiping squall forced me under an
overhang I was doing my best to avoid that I had direct and conclusive
evidence that the yawning mouths had no teeth in them. Swift as it was,
the surface of the water was untorn by lurking rocks, while the refluent
waves from the inner depths of the cavern had a tendency to force the
boat out rather than to draw it in. My courage rallied rapidly after
that, so that I played hide-and-seek with the river and the cliffs for
the next twenty miles. This was most opportune, as it chanced. The
overhangs provided me with cover from the worst of a heavy series of
rain squalls that began to sweep the river at this juncture, and
continued for an hour or more. All in all, that little bluff-bluffing
stunt proved one of the most novel and delightful bits of boating I have
ever known.

I passed the mouth of Clark's Fork a little before six. Its channel was
much divided by gravel bars, and the comparatively small streams might
easily have been mistaken for returning back-chutes of the Yellowstone.
Clark had at first mistaken this river for the Big Horn, and only
applied his own name to it when the greater tributary was reached some
hundred and fifty miles below. I scooped up a drink as I passed one of
the mouths. Clark's observation that it was colder and cloudier than the
waters of the Yellowstone still held good. Clark mentions a "ripple in
the Yellowstone" about a mile above this tributary, "on passing which
the canoes took in some water. The party therefore landed to bail the
boats...." As this, considering the size of the boats, would have
indicated very rough water, I kept a close watch for the place. I never
located it definitely, though sharp riffles were numerous all the way.
Doubtless parts of the channel have altered completely since Clark's
time. As a rule, however, rapids change less with the years than the
opener stretches--this because they are usually made by bedrock or
boulders of great size.

I made my first landing since dropping Fahlgren at a flower-embowered
farmhouse not far below the mouth of Clark's Fork. All of the family
were away except a very motherly old lady who had just received word by
phone from Billings that Dempsey had licked Carpentier. She had draped
the Stars and Stripes over the porch railing and insisted that I stop
and celebrate the great national victory with her. I demurred, but my
resolution weakened when she began setting out a pan of scarcely diluted
cream, a bowl of strawberries and a chocolate cake. Between mouthfuls I
told her (truthfully enough) that I had met Carpentier at the Front
during the war and had subsequently seen him box in London. It was a
tactical error on my part. I should have known better. She didn't tell
me to back away from the berries in so many words, but her manner
changed, and she did say that it was too bad it was not Dempsey I had
met instead of the Frenchie. That didn't spoil my appetite for the
strawberries and cream, but it did make me more conservative in my
relations with them. I probably stopped short by two or three helpings
of my capacity. It is not fair to one's self to be bound by the rigid
limitations of truthfulness when trying to impress strangers. I resolved
not to make that mistake again.

Water had been unusually high all along the Yellowstone during the early
summer rise, the crest of which was now over by about a fortnight. The
discharge from Clark's Fork had been especially heavy, and the effects
of this I began to encounter as soon as I resumed my run to Billings.
Scores of new channels had been scoured out and countless thousands of
big cottonwoods and willows uprooted in the process. Most of the latter
were stranded on shallow bars, but every now and then some great giant
had anchored itself squarely in mid-channel. It took no end of care to
avoid them, and it was a distinct relief to find that the wind had now
fallen very light.

My old strawberry lady had estimated the distance to Billings as about
twenty miles, but such was the extreme deviousness of the endlessly
divided channels that it must have been greatly in excess of that. One
minute I would be in what was undoubtedly the main channel. The next I
would be picking what seemed the likeliest of four or five sprawling
chutes, with whichever one I took usually dividing and redividing until
I found myself scraping through the shallows and all but grounded.

With no town in sight as eight o'clock began to usher in the long
midsummer twilight, I landed near a large farmhouse on the left bank to
make inquiries. The buildings were fine and modern and the irrigated
acres of great richness, but the people turned out to be Russian
tenants, and not much for the softer things of life. All of the dozen or
more occupants of the big kitchen wore bib overalls, the bottoms
puckered in with a zouave-trousers effect. All were barefooted. The
father and mother wore shirts. For the rest, including the grown
children, the only garments were the comfortable and adequate overalls.
Left to himself, the simple _moujik_ hits upon some very practical

Save the broad, kindly Slavic faces, the only Russian thing I saw about
the place was a _samovar_, and I sipped a mug of tea from this
peacefully purring old friend while I endeavoured to find out whether
any of them knew anything of the whereabouts of a certain Montana
metropolis called Billings. They appeared to be trying to assure me that
they had heard of such a place, and there also seemed to be some
unanimity on the score of its being somewhere down river. But just how
far it was by river they couldn't get together on, and even if they had
had any real knowledge of the course of the stream they appeared not to
have the language to express it. Certainly an estimate in _versts_
wasn't going to help a lot. As I thanked them and turned to go the whole
family trooped down to the landing to see me off. Pointing eastward to
the low line of a distant bluff one of the boys delivered himself of a
laconic "Dam--lookout!" I assured him I had already been warned of the
dam of the local power company, and would be keeping just that kind of a
good lookout for it. That gave them their cue. They were all ejaculating
or registering "Dam--good--lookout!" as the current bore me away into
the deepening dusk.

That last half-hour's run was an intensely trying one, though I was
never in serious trouble any of the time. I kept going wrong on channels
every few minutes, with the result that I found every now and then that
the Yellowstone had gone off and left me on a streak of wet rocks and
gravel. With a heavy boat I should have been marooned for the night a
dozen times, but it was never very difficult to drag my little tin
shallop on to where there was enough water trickling to lead the way
back to the main channel. When an increasing frequency of lights
indicated I was nearing the outskirts of a town I found the current to
be running so swiftly along what appeared to be a levee on the left bank
that a landing was rather too precarious to risk in the dark. I was
skirting the bank for a favourable eddy when the rounding of a densely
wooded bend brought me out into a stretch of slackening water directly
above the dam. The long-striven-for bluff appeared to rise abruptly from
the water on my right, while on my left there was a stretch of gravel
bar running back to a strip of trees and the levee.

The roar of the dam was not the less impressive after bouncing off the
bluff on its way to my ears, and I took no more time than was necessary
to pull in and land upon the white stretch of beach. As rain was still
threatening I decided to seek the town for shelter. Dragging the skiff
well above high-water mark, I stacked my stuff in it, shouldered my
packsack and climbed the levee. After an hour's bootless wanderings in
the sloughs beyond I came back and followed the levee a half mile
down-stream to the power-house below the dam. And so to town.

Suppering at a convenient lunch-counter, I drank copiously of coffee
from the steaming urn at my elbow. Now of all of the drinks of the
ancient and modern world that I have known, lunch-counter coffee has
always proved the most inebriating. That was why I was impelled to fare
forth to the prizefight bulletin boards seeking low companionship, and
that must have been why I put the French on "Carpenter," and why I tried
to affect vulgar ringside jargon.

"Kar-pon-tee-ayh K. O.-ed, huh?" I grunted familiarly, lounging up to a
knot of local sports discussing pugilistic esoterics before the
newspaper window. For an instant the jabbering ceased--just long enough
for the half dozen technical experts to sweep my mud-spattered khaki
with scathing glances, snort and get under way again. Only one of them
was polite enough to say: "No savee Crow talkee," adding to a companion:
"Indian policeman--Crow Reservation--funny don't talk 'Merican."

That certainly was not a good start. On the contrary, indeed, it was a
perfectly rotten one. Which fact only makes me more proud of the
resiliency of spirit I showed in coming right back and assuring them
that I was not a Crow Indian, that I did talk 'Merican, and _that I had
been one of Jack Dempsey's first sparring partners_. There was
coffee-inspired artistry, too, in the inconsequentiality with which I
added: "Gave Jack the K. O. once myself. Sort of a flivver ... but
knocked him cold just the same."

Dear little old Strawberry Lady, didn't I swear I wouldn't forget the
lesson you taught me? That made them take notice of course. For an
instant they hung in the balance, searching my scarred and battered
visage with awed, troubled eyes. Then dawning wonder replaced doubt in
their faces, and they fell--my way. "Darn'd if you don't look the part,"
said one. "My name's Allstein--in hardware line--Shake!" And then they
all introduced themselves like that--each with his name and line. I
forget just what my name was, but it must have been something like
"Spud" Gallagher. Sparring partners never vary greatly from that model
of nomenclature.

Finally we retired to a pool-room, where I reminisced to an ever
augmenting audience. Alas! and yet Alack-a-day! If it had only been the
good old cow-town Billings of those delectable baseball days of twenty
years ago, what wouldn't have been mine that night! But it was not bad
as it was; not bad at all. I forget just where we were when dawn came,
but I do remember I was in the act of showing my punch-damaged hands
for the hundredth time when I looked up and saw that a window was
growing a glimmering square with the light of the coming day. That was
my cue, of course. Excusing myself on some pretext, I slipped out the
back way, slunk through an alley, and finally to the street which leads
past the sugar refinery down to the power-house and the river. For many
days after that I felt less envious of good old Haroun al Raschid.



Getting round the power-dam did not prove a serious problem. The night
man at the power-house told me it would be possible to land on the right
side and let the boat down over a series of "steps" that had been built
at that end of the dam. This was probably true, but as landing on the
almost perpendicular cliff immediately above the drop-off looked a bit
precarious I decided in favour of being safe by portaging rather than
run the chance of being sorry through trying to line down. It was
against just such emergencies as this that I had provided my
feather-weight outfit.

A wooden skiff of the size of my steel one would have required at least
four men to lift it up the forty-five degree slope of the bank above the
intake of the power canal. It was not an easy task with my little
shallop, but I managed it alone without undue exertion. Five minutes
more sufficed to drag it a couple of hundred feet along the levee and
launch it at the head of the rapid below the dam. Two trips brought down
my outfit, and I was off into the river again.

Running at a slashing rate round the bend of the bluff, I kept on for a
couple of miles or more to where the Northern Pacific and a highway
bridge span the river a couple of miles from the centre of Billings.
Leaving the boat and my outfit in the care of a genial pumping-house
engineer, I phoned for a taxi and went up to the hotel behind closed
curtains. To return to the scene of my last night's triumph as a mere
river-rat and hack writer was a distinct anti-climax. As I had been
warned by wire that a hundred pages of urgently needed proofs from New
York would await me in Billings for correction, there was no
side-stepping the necessity. The risk would have to be run, but to
minimize it as far as was humanly possible I planned to keep to my room
as much as I could, and to disguise myself by dressing as a gentleman or
a drummer when I had to venture upon the streets. Then by keeping to the
more refined parts of towns it seemed to me that I ought to stand a
reasonably good chance of avoiding the poignancy of humiliation that
would inevitably follow recognition by any of those fine fellows who had
sat at my feet the night before. It was a well devised plan, and so came
pretty near to succeeding.

I tumbled out of my bath into bed, stayed there an hour, got up, dressed
in immaculate flannels and started in on the proofs. A reporter from the
_Gazette_ called up about noon to say he had been lying in ambush for
me ever since the Livingston papers had warned him of my departure.
Could he come over for a story? I couldn't very well refuse that, but
took the precaution of throwing my "Indian Police" uniform in the closet
before he arrived. Then I made a special point of telling him I always
wore flannels and duck on my river trips--sort of survival of my South
Sea yatching days. If he would only put that in, I reckoned, it would
effectually drag a red herring across any suspicions that might be
aroused by a reading of the story in the minds of my late subjects. He
forgot it as a matter of fact, but it wasn't that that did the harm. It
was just hard luck--_Joss_, as the sailors say.

The next day was the Fourth of July, a holiday, but a very obliging
express agent, who came down town and opened up his office to let me get
out a sleeping bag, made it unnecessary to hang on another night in
Billings. The _Gazette_ story brought no demonstrations--that is, of a
hostile nature. Calls from scouting secretaries searching for a fatted
calf to butcher for club holidays were the only ripples on the surface.
Still with my fingers crossed, I ordered a closed taxi for the run down
to my boat. It would have been a perfectly clean get-away had not _Joss_
decreed that I should leave my package at the railway station to be
picked up as I went by. Returning to the taxi from the check-room a man
was waiting for me outside of the door.


© _L. A. Huffman_



© _L. A. Huffman_


"My name is Allstein," he began; but I had observed that before he
opened his hard-set jaw. Without waiting for him to go on I made one
wild, despairing bid to keep my honour white. I feel to this day that it
deserved to have succeeded.

"Came in on the brake-beams, going out on shank's mare," I chirruped
blithely, and forthwith (to the very evident perturbation of the
taxi-driver) started as if off for Miles City on foot. Some will say my
reasoning was quixotic, but this was the way of it at any rate: I cared
no whit if hardware-drummer Allstein believed I was a hobo, just as long
as he continued to believe I was an ex-sparring partner of Jack Dempsey.
And what he must be prevented from knowing at any cost was that, far
from being even the hammiest of ham-and-sparring partners, I was what
the _Gazette_ cub had characterized as a "daring novelist seeking
material for new book by running rapids of Yellowstone."

But the fat was already in the fire. Allstein halted my Miles City
Marathon with a gesture half weary, half contemptuous. "That taxi looks
about as much like you're hoboing as did them three dishes of
strawberries at the _Northern_ this morning," he growled, glowering. I
caved at once and meekly asked him to get in and come down to see my
little steel boat. Lightest outfit that ever went down river.... Boat
and all my stuff weighed less than I did myself....

I was in the taxi by that time. Allstein had continued to register
"Betrayed! Betrayed!" but had not moved to cut off my retreat. That was
something to be thankful for anyhow. Not knowing what else to say, I
remarked to the driver that it must be getting along toward boat-time.
And so away we went. Allstein's reproachful gaze bored into my back
until we swung out of eye-range into the Custer Trail. I know that I
shall be reminded of him every time I see a ruined maiden in the movies
or at Drury Lane to the end of my days.

Billings is a fine modern city, which makes me regret all the more that
most of my daylight impressions of it had to be gained by peeking under
a taxicab curtain. It is by long odds the largest town on the
Yellowstone; in fact, I saw no city comparable with it for size and
vigour until at Sioux City I came to the first of the packing-house
metropolises of the Missouri. Billings owed its first prosperity to
cattle and sheep and its fine strategic situation for distribution.
Pastoral industries cut less of a figure today, but the town has
continued to gain ground as the principal distributing centre for
western Montana. That, with agricultural and power development, has
brought mills and factories, and the town now ranks high among the
manufacturing centres of the North-west. I shall live in hopes of going
back some-day and seeing Billings properly--as a visiting Chamber of
Commerce booster or a Rotary excursionist, or something equally _sans

The point where the Northern Pacific Railway bridge crosses the
Yellowstone below Billings is of considerable interest historically. It
was here that Clark ferried Sergeant Pryor and his remaining pack
animals across the river, preliminary to the overland journey that was
to be attempted with the animals to the Mandan Villages. Here, also, is
the point that is popularly credited with being the high-water mark of
steamboat navigation on the Yellowstone. On June 6, 1875, Captain Grant
Marsh in the _Josephine_, conducting a rough survey of the river under
the direction of General J. W. Forsyth, reached a point which he
estimated to be forty-six miles above Pompey's Pillar, 250 miles above
Powder River and 483 miles above the mouth of the Yellowstone. Major
Joseph Mills Hanson, in his "Conquest of the Missouri," stirringly
describes the climax of this remarkable voyage.

After leaving Pompey's Pillar "the great river, though apparently
undiminished in volume, grew more and more swift, constantly breaking
into rapids through which it was necessary to warp and spar the boat,
while numberless small islands split the channel into chutes, no one of
which was large enough for easy navigation. At times it seemed that a
smooth stretch of water had been reached, ... but invariably just beyond
another rapid would be encountered.... Before nightfall a tremendous
rapid was encountered, and though, after a hard struggle, it was
successfully passed, so forbidding was its aspect and so savage the
resistance it offered, that it was appreciatively named 'Hell Roaring
Rapids.' At the head of it the boat lay up for the night, with a line
stretched to the bank ahead to help her forward in the morning. But when
dawn came, General Forsyth, seeing the nature of the river in front,
ordered out a reconnoitring party who marched up the bank for several
miles examining the channel. On their return they reported the whole
river ahead so broken up by islands and with so powerful a current that
it could not be navigated without constant resort to warping and
sparring.... General Forsyth and Captain Marsh held a consultation and
decided that no adequate reward for the labour involved could be gained
by going further. So, at two o'clock p. m. on June 7th, the boat was
turned about and started on her return.... Before leaving this highest
point attained, Captain Marsh blazed the trunk of a gigantic cottonwood
to which the _Josephine_ was tied, and carved thereon the name of the
boat and the date. It is exceedingly improbable that a steam vessel will
ever again come within sight of that spot or be entitled to place her
name beneath the _Josephine's_ on that ancient tree trunk, almost under
the shadow of the Rocky Mountains."


The _Josephine's_ farthest west on the Yellowstone stands as the record
for steamers by many miles, but what wouldn't I have given to have found
that big cottonwood and tied up there myself! No one along the river
could tell me anything about it, and there is little doubt that, like so
many thousands of its less distinguished brethren, it has been swallowed
up by the spring floods. Neither above nor below the bridge for many
miles, however, could I locate a riffle sufficiently savage to fit
Captain Marsh's description of "Hell Roaring Rapids." It has occurred to
me as just possible that such a rapid was wiped out when the power dam
was built, the comparatively short distance the water is backed up at
that point suggesting that the original fall was very considerable.
Again, it is possible that to Captain Marsh, after his many years in the
comparatively smooth waters of the Missouri, such riffles as still go
slap-banging down along the bluffs opposite Billings would appear a lot
rougher than they would to one just down from the almost continuously
white and rock-torn rapids of the upper river.

At any event it stirred my imagination mightily to locate the
_Josephine's_ turning point even approximately. From now on I was going
to have a fellow pilot for Captain Clark. Captain Grant Marsh was
henceforth at my call at any point I needed him between Billings and St.
Louis. The stout frame of that splendid old river Viking had been tucked
under the sod down Bismarck-way for a number of years, but I knew his
spirit still took its wonted tricks at the wheel. Captain William Clark
and Captain Grant Marsh! Could you beat that pair if it came to standing
watch-and-watch down the Yellowstone and Missouri? And there were others
waiting just round the bend. At the Big Horn I could sign on Manual Lisa
if I wanted him; or John Colter, who discovered the Yellowstone Park
while flying from the Blackfeet. But Colter was not truthful, which
disqualified him for pilotage. I should have to ship him simply as a
congenial spirit--one of my own kind.

Returning to my boat, I found that the little daughters of the
pumping-station man had roofed it over like a Venetian gondola and moved
in with all their worldly goods. They confronted me with the clean-cut
alternatives of coming to live with them right there or taking them
with me down the river. Fortunately their parents intervened on my side.
With the aid of those two kindly and tactful diplomats--and a lot of
milk chocolate and dried apricots--I finally contrived an ejection. The
operation delayed me till after four o'clock, though, so there was no
hope of making Pompey's Pillar that night.

Though I knew that the fall of the river would be easing off very
rapidly from now on, there was little indication of it in the
twenty-five-mile stretch I ran before dark that evening. Bouncing back
and forth between broken lines of red-yellow bluffs, there were frequent
sharp riffles and even two or three corners where considerable water was
splashed in. For only the shortest of reaches was the stream
sufficiently quiet to allow me to take my eyes off it long enough to
enjoy the really entrancing diorama of the scenery. I was especially
sorry for this, for on my right was unfolding the verdant loveliness of
the Crow Reservation, the very heart of the hunting grounds which the
Indians had loved above all others for hundreds of years--the region
they had fought hardest to save from relinquishment to the relentless
white. Read what, according to Irving in the "Adventures of Captain
Bonneville," an Absaroka said about this Red Man's Garden of Eden a
hundred years ago:

"The Crow country is a good country. The Great Spirit has put it in
exactly the right place; while you are in it you fare well; whenever you
go out of it, whichever way you travel, you fare worse." After going on
to tell of the unspeakable climatic conditions and the scarcity of game
prevailing in the regions to the north, south, east and west, this
progenitor of the modern booster goes on: "The Crow country is in
exactly the right place. It has snowy mountains and sunny plains; all
kinds of climate and good things for every season. When summer heats
scorch the prairies, you can draw up under the mountains where the air
is sweet and cool, the grass fresh, and the bright streams come tumbling
out of the snowy-banks. There you can hunt the elk, the deer and the
antelope, when their skins are fit for dressing; there you will find
plenty of white bears and the mountain sheep.

"In the autumn, when your horses are fat and strong from the mountain
pastures, you can go down to the plains and hunt buffalo, or trap beaver
on the streams. And when winter comes, you can take shelter in the woody
bottoms along the rivers; there you will find buffalo meat for
yourselves and cottonwood bark for your horses; or you may winter in the
Wind River valley, where there is salt weed in abundance.

"The Crow country is exactly in the right place. Everything good is to
be found there. There is no country like the Crow country."

Like the scent of fern leaves wafted out of the dear, dead past, those
lines awakened in my heart memories of something that had long gone out
of my life.

    "Something is, or something seems,
     Which touches me with mystic gleams,
     Like glimpses of forgotten dreams ...
     Of something seen, I know not where,
     Such as no language may declare."

I muttered that in fragments, but the lines only adumbrated the longing
without revealing its hidden fount. Still groping mentally, I unwrapped
some forks and spoons done up in a page of the Los Angeles _Times_. Ah,
that gave me the cue! _Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce tourist
literature._ And to think a Crow Indian started that kind of a thing!

Running until the river bottoms were swamped in purple shadows, I landed
and made camp in a soft little nest of snowy sand left behind by a
high-water eddy. There was an abrupt yellow cliff rising straight out of
a woolly-white riffle on the right bank, and beyond a grove of
cottonwood to the left were the shadowy buildings of some kind of a
ranch. Even in the deepening twilight I could read something of the
record of its growth--groups of log cabins, groups of unpainted,
rough-sawed lumber and finally a huge red barn and a great square,
verandahed house that was all but a mansion. I was wondering if the
same pioneering frontiersman who had built the cabins had survived to
occupy the big green and white house, when the soft southerly wind
brought the scent of sweet clover and the strains of a phonograph.
"_Evening Star_," the _Jocelyn_ Lullaby, the _Baccarole_, wafted me
their "convoluted runes" one after the other; then a piano began to
strum and a girl, neither mean of voice nor temperament, sang Tosti's
"_Good-Bye_." It always had had a softly sentimentalizing effect on me,
that "_Lines of white on a sullen Sea_," sung (as it always is) the
night before the steamer reaches port. And here it was getting me in the
same old place--that mushy spot under the solar plexus that
non-anatomically trained poets confuse with the heart. I simply _had_ to
hike over and tell that impassioned songstress how perfectly her song
matched the scent of sweet clover. Cleaning up the last of the dried
apricot stew in my army mess tin, I pushed southward across the moonlit
bar. No luck. I was on an island.


© _L. A. Huffman_



© _L. A. Huffman_


I tried out my new bed for the first time that night. It turned out to
be a combination of a canvas bag and inflatable rubber mattress, called
by its makers a "Sleeping Pocket." Here again it transpired I had played
in luck in the matter of a pig bought in a poke. I used that precious
little ten-pound packet of rubber and canvas all the way to New
Orleans without blankets. On wind-blown sand bars, mud-banks, coal
barges or the greasy steel decks of engine-rooms it was ever the
same--always dry, always soft, always warm. Comfortable sleeping
measures just about the whole difference between the success and failure
of many a trip. I shudder to think of the messy nights I must inevitably
have suffered had all those lurking thunder-storms that I weathered so
snugly caught me in blankets.

I overslept the next morning and so did not carry out my over-night
resolution of pulling across to the ranch and thanking the "Good-Bye"
girl. Or rather, I did start and then changed my mind. She was on the
upper verandah recuperating from a shampoo. Scarlet kimono and bobbed
hair! No, not with a river to escape by. Stifling my _au revoir_ impulse
I decided to leave well enough alone by taking that "Good-bye"
literally. Abandoning the boat to the will of the current I departed via
the lines of white under the sullen cliff.

At the end of a couple of hours' run in a slackening current I landed in
an eddy above Pompey's Pillar, quite the most outstanding landmark on
the Yellowstone. Clark describes how he halted "to examine a very
remarkable rock situated in an extensive bottom on the right, about two
hundred and fifty paces from the shore. It is nearly four hundred paces
in circumference, two hundred feet high and accessible from the
north-east, the other sides being a perpendicular cliff of a
light-coloured, gritty rock.... The Indians have carved the figures of
animals and other objects on the sides of the rock, and on the top are
raised two piles of stones." Captain Clark, after writing down a careful
description of the country on all sides, marked his name and the date on
the rock and went on his way.

This was the first point at which I had opportunity to make accurate
comparison of the respective stages of water encountered by Clark and
myself. I found the base of the rock less than a hundred paces from the
river, which indicated--as the channel seems to have been well fixed
here--that I was enjoying three or four feet more water than did my
illustrious predecessor. This would seem to be just about accounted for
by the fact that I was voyaging three weeks earlier in the season than
he--that much nearer the high water of early June, at which time it was
apparent that the river backed up right to the cliff.

Add the telegraph poles of a distant railway line and a picnic booth
littered with papers and watermelon rinds, and Clark's description of
what was unrolled to him from the top of Pompey's Pillar would stand
today. I located the place where his name had been carved by a grating
which the Northern Pacific engineers had erected to protect it from
vandals, but the most careful scrutiny failed to reveal any trace of the
letters themselves. The practical obliteration of what is probably the
only authentic physical mark of their passing that either Lewis or Clark
left between St. Louis and the mouth of the Columbia is hardly
compensated for by the presence of several hundred somewhat later and
rather less important signatures at this point. Several of these latter
bore the date of the previous day--July 4th, 1921,--and so represented a
bold bid for fame on the part of some of the watermelon guzzling
picnickers. One of these had even pried a bar aside in a not entirely
successful endeavour to emblazon his name in the protected area. It was
all rather annoying. These new names are piling up very fast with the
coming of the flivver, but it is going to take a lot of them to make up
for the one they have blotted out.

Clark's apparent mental processes in the christening of Pompey's Pillar
are rather amusing. Neither a profound historian nor a classicist, the
Captain still had a sort of vague idea in his head that there was some
kind of a rocky erection out Nile-way named after Pompey. That being so,
what could be more fitting--since the names of all of the members of
his own party had been used a half dozen times over first and last--than
that this rocky eminence by the Yellowstone should be called after
Pompey. That he was not clear in his mind as to the character of the
historic original at Alexandria is evidenced by the fact that he first
called the Yellowstone prototype "Pompy's Tower." Whether he or his
publisher was responsible for the subsequent change to "Pillar" is not
clear. As a matter of fact the latter is only a detached fragment of
"the high romantic clifts" that Clark observed jutting over the water on
the opposite side of the river. It bears about as much actual
resemblance to the real Pompey's Pillar as the Enchanted Mesa does to
Cleopatra's Needle.

The river was broader and slower below Pompey's Pillar, with the rapids
shorter and farther between. At five I landed at a very pretty alfalfa
ranch on the left bank to inquire about passing what appeared to be a
submerged dam some hundreds of yards ahead. Only two women were at
home--a beaming old lady and her very stout daughter. They insisted on
my staying to tea, which required no great persuasiveness on their part
after Joanna remarked that she was out of breath from turning the
ice-cream freezer. The girl was astonishingly red, round and sweet--a
veritable bifurcated apple. She seemed to have a very good knowledge of
the river, and assured me I should have no trouble at the diversion dam
provided I kept well toward the left bank. Indeed, if I thought it would
help at all, she would ride down with me and show the way. There was a
path back home from their lower pasture.



Considering how shy I had found most of the rancher folk to be of the
river, this game offer pretty nearly took my breath away. I would have
been all for accepting it save for one very good and sufficient
reason--it was physically impossible. I had noticed that Joanna's
personal chair was of home construction, and considerable amplitude of
beam--certainly six inches more than the stern-sheets of my slender
shallop. She could wedge in sidewise, of course, but that still left the
matter of a life-preserver. I didn't feel it was quite the thing to take
an only child into a rapid without some provision for floating her out
in case of an upset. And my Gieve wouldn't do. The inflated "doughnut"
that slipped so easily up and down my own brawny brisket would just
about have served Joanna as an armlet. So I declined with what grace I
could, and we all parted on the best of terms--I with a fragrant flitch
of their home-cured bacon, they with three double handfuls of my
California home-dried apricots.

I had no trouble at the dam, which was only on the right side, where it
had been erected to divert the water into the head of an irrigation
ditch. Running until nearly dark, I landed and made camp on a
breeze-swept bar away from the mosquitos.

I passed the mouth of the Big Horn in mid-forenoon of the following day.
I should have liked to land but was fearful I would get out of hand and
take too much time once I turned myself loose at the one point above all
others where the most Yellowstone history has been made. The Big Horn
was known in a vague way through the Indian accounts of it even before
the time of Lewis and Clark, but the first permanent establishment upon
it was the trading post which Manuel Lisa erected there in 1807. It was
to this point that John Colter fled after being chased by the Blackfeet
across Yellowstone Park, and it was his point of departure in a canoe on
a voyage to St. Louis which he claimed to have made in thirty days.
Colter's account of how he ran down several black-tail deer and bighorn
before relaxing the tremendous burst of speed he had put on to distance
the Redskins never bothered me much, but that average of close to a
hundred miles a day--most of it down the languid Missouri--somehow won't
stick. I found I couldn't keep it up even after I put on my engine.
Colter undoubtedly exaggerated about his time on this trip, and that
being true, doubtless, also, about trampling underfoot the deer and
bighorn. Colter was a liar but not an artistic one. Now if old Jim
Bridger had been telling that canoe-voyage yarn he would doubtless have
hung a bag of alum over the bow and shrunk the distance as a starter,
and then probably used a trained catfish for auxiliary power. _That's_
the kind of liar that makes the world safe for democracy.

Post after post was founded at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Big
Horn until, in the 'seventies, it became the centre of operations for
the Army in the greatest of our Indian wars. In comparison with the
broad, rolling tide of the Yellowstone the turbid current of the
tributary appeared shallow and of no great volume--the last place in the
world for a river steamer to venture with any hope of going its own
length without grounding. And yet, I reflected, the Big Horn could have
been scarcely higher on that sultry Sunday of June 25th, 1876, when
Captain Grant Marsh, acting on orders from General Terry, sparred and
warped and crabbed the wonderful old _Far West_ up twenty-five miles of
those rock-choked, foam-white rapids. The skies to the south were black
with rolling smoke clouds, but with nothing to indicate that under their
shadows five companies of the 7th Cavalry were paying with their lives
for the precipitancy of their brave but hot-headed commander. The next
day the _Far West_ reached, passed and returned to the mouth of the
Little Big Horn, and it was there that a half-crazed Crow scout, all but
speechless with terror, brought on the first lap of its way to the outer
world the story of the Custer Massacre.

On the morning of June 30th, with Major Reno's wounded aboard, the _Far
West_ cast off for the start of her epic run to Fort Lincoln. Major
Joseph Hanson records that that Captain Marsh all but collapsed in the
pilot-house as the terrible responsibility of that fifty-three-mile run
down the rock-paved channel of the Big Horn suddenly assailed him on
stepping to the wheel. General Terry had just said to him: "Captain, you
have on board the most precious cargo a boat ever carried. Every soldier
here who is suffering with wounds is the victim of a terrible blunder; a
sad and terrible blunder." Crabbing up stream with supplies was one
thing, floundering down with a shattered human cargo of that kind, quite
another. Captain Marsh declared the moment the most sickening of his
life. Then he pulled himself together and drove her through. I tried to
imagine the relief her skipper must have felt as he rounded that last
bend above where I now saw a railway bridge and headed the _Far West_
into the deep, clear channel of the Yellowstone, but couldn't come near
to compassing it. A man has to have carried a load of that kind to know
what it means to put it down. The _Far West_ broke all upper river
records for speed in her run to Fort Lincoln, below Bismarck, the
nearest hospital. Captain Marsh's splendid achievement in saving Reno's
wounded by his masterly navigation is the one bright bit of silver
lining on the sodden black cloud of the Massacre of the Little Big Horn.

At the mouth of the Rosebud I passed another important rendezvous of the
Sioux campaign. From here, after taking his final orders from General
Terry, Custer had departed on the march that was to finish upon the
Little Big Horn. Major Hanson relates an incident that occurred here an
hour or two after the ill-fated command had disappeared up the valley,
and which was particularly interesting to me at the moment as it
involved the upset of a skiff in a riffle I was about to run. All of the
letters written by Custer's men since leaving Fort Lincoln were put in a
bag and started by boat for Fort Buford. "Sergeant Fox and two privates
of the escort were detailed to carry the precious cargo down," wrote
Major Hanson. "Amid a chorus of hearty cheers from the people on the
steamer, they started out. But they were totally unfamiliar with the
handling of a small boat in the swirling current of the Yellowstone.
Before they had gone fifty feet their skiff overturned. There, in full
view of all their comrades, who could not reach them in time to save,
all three of the unfortunate fellows sank from sight, while the mail
sack went to the bottom of the river."

The soldiers were drowned, but persistent dragging of the river under
the direction of Captain Marsh finally brought up the mail sack, thus
saving for their relatives and friends the last letters of the men who
were to fall before the Sioux a few days later. These included Custer's
note to his wife as well as young Boston Custer's letter to his mother.
Sending three inexperienced soldiers to boat down the Yellowstone with
so humanly precious a freight in their care cannot but strike one as
about on all fours with other blunders that led up to the tragic climax
of that disastrous campaign.

I found a shallow bar clawed with sprawling channels but no riffles to
speak of below the Rosebud. There could hardly have been bad water there
at any time.

Landing at a grassy point to make camp about seven-thirty I found the
mosquitos so thick that I beat a hasty retreat to the boat and pushed
off again in search of a gravel bar in midstream. The sight of new and
comfortable ranch buildings lured me to land a half mile below, however,
where an invitation to spend the night in the screened bunk-house was
promptly forthcoming. The ranch turned out to be a part of an extensive
irrigation enterprise, promoted and managed by a chap named Cummings
from Minneapolis, who chanced to be on the place at the time. Except for
the general farming depression, prospects were good, he said--better
than in the dry farming sections, where crops, already very short, were
being still further shortened by grasshoppers. He was rather more
optimistic than the run of Montanan pastoralists and agriculturalists I
had met, all of whom had been having terribly hard sledding.

A leisurely three-hour's run in the morning brought me to Fort Keogh and
Miles City, respectively above and below the Tongue. The red-brown
current of the latter tinged the Yellowstone for a mile below their
confluence. Clark camped at the mouth of the Tongue, and his painstaking
description of the second in size of the Yellowstone's tributaries might
have been written today.

"It has a very wide bed.... The water is of a light-brown colour and
nearly milk-warm; it is shallow and its rapid current throws out great
quantities of mud and some coarse gravel.... The warmth of the water
would seem to indicate that the country through which it passes is open
and without shade."

Captain Clark was a splendid geographer, even if he did run amuck a bit
with his historical nomenclature.

The annual Round-up had come to an end the previous day, so that I found
Miles City, if not quite a banquet hall deserted, at least in something
of a morning-after frame of mind. It rather warmed one's heart to see so
many people rubbing throbbing temples, and I seemed to see in it some
explanation of what a cowboy meant when he told me that the only critter
at the Round-up that he couldn't ride was the "White Mule."

All the cities of the Yellowstone have character and individuality, and
none more than Miles City. Not so beautifully located as Livingston, not
quite so metropolitan as Billings, there is something in the fine, broad
streets of Miles that suggests the frank, bluff, open-heartedness of a
cowboy straight from the ranges. The town looks you squarely between the
eyes and says "Put it there"! in a deep, mellow voice that goes straight
to the heart. That voice and that look embody the quintessence of
reassurance. You know in an instant that you are face to face with the
kind of a town that couldn't play a mean trick on a man if it
tried--that there isn't going to be any need of slinking around with one
hand on your wallet and the other on your hip-pocket. Even though you
may have been warned that various sorts of rough stuff have been pulled
in Miles, you are certain that outsiders will have been found at the
bottom of it if all the facts were known. (My over-night stop in Miles
was hardly sufficient to prove out the truth of all this. Just the same,
that's the way I felt about the town, and that's the way I still feel.)

[Illustration: _By Haynes, St. Paul_


[Illustration: © _L. A. Huffman_


Miles City owed its early importance to sheep and cattle, and still has
the distinction of being the principle horse market of America.
Agriculture has played an increasingly important part in its later
growth. The splendid valleys of the Powder and the Tongue are both
tributary territory, while the irrigation of the rich lands of the
Yellowstone is bringing year by year an augmented flow of wealth to the
city's gates. (Darn it! I wonder if I have cribbed that last sentence
from Chamber of Commerce literature. In any event, it is quite true in
this case.)

Besides its extensive cattle and sheep ranges, the Miles City region
distinguishes itself by having the greatest range of temperature of any
place in the world. The Government Weather Bureau is authority for the
fact that a winter temperature of sixty-five degrees below Zero has been
balanced by a summer one of one hundred and fifteen above. Neither
California nor the Riviera can give the tourist anything like that
variety to choose from. From Esquimo to Hottentot, what race couldn't
establish itself right there by the Yellowstone under almost normal home
weather conditions? Of course, if they were going to establish
themselves for long some kind of a meteorological Joshua would be needed
to command the thermometer to stand still; also some one to see that the
command was carried out. And there would lie the way to complications
and friction, for one can hardly imagine a Hottentot Joshua quite in
agreement with an Esquimo Joshua as to just what point the thermometer
should be commanded to stand at. That might be solved by the
establishment of thermostat villages, but then would arise the endless
train of legal complications inevitably following in the wake of
infringing on the riparian rights (whatever they are) of the irrigation
people. No, probably Miles had best be left to its present inhabitants,
who appear to have waxed both amiable and prosperous by browsing on
their temperature ranges just as Nature provided them.

I made special inquiry about Buffalo Rapids while in Miles City. This
was for two reasons. Reading that Clark had been compelled to let down
his boats over an abrupt fall of several feet at that point, I thought
it just as well not to go blundering into it myself without further
information. I also heard that there was a project for developing
extensive power at this series of riffles. I spent a pleasant and
profitable afternoon with Mr. Doane, the engineer of the project. He
said that I ought to have little trouble in running right through all of
the rapids, but suggested it might be well to land at a farmhouse near
the head and see for myself. He also gave me a few facts about the power
project. I would have to refer to my notes (which I never do if at all
avoidable) to recall the hydro-electric data; but I need no such
adventitious aid to remember Mrs. Doane's freshly distilled "Essence of
Dandelion." Literal liquid golden sunshine it was, with a bouquet
recalling to me that of an ambrosial decoction made by the monks of
Mount Athos from buds of asphodel, and which a masked hermit lets down
to you on a string from the tower in which he is supposed to be walled
up with the makings and his retorts. Buffalo Rapids never troubled me

I pushed off about eleven in the forenoon of July 8th, and an hour's run
in moderately fast water took me within sight and sound of the white
caps of the first pitch of Buffalo Rapids. Clark had originally named
these riffles "Buffaloe Shoal, from the circumstance of one of these
animals being found in them." He describes it further as a "succession
of bad shoals, interspersed with hard, brown, gritty rock, extending
for six miles; the last shoal stretches nearly across the river, and has
a descent of about three feet. At this place we were obliged to let the
canoes down by hand, for fear of their splitting on a concealed rock;
though when the shoals are known a large canoe could pass with safety
through the worst of them. This is the most difficult part of the whole
Yellowstone River...."

Captain Clark would hardly have registered the latter verdict had he run
the Yellowstone all the way from the Big Bend, where he first came upon
it. Indeed, it seems to me that he must have run rapids above Billings
that were quite as menacing as the one which now put his party to so
much trouble to avoid. I would not be too dogmatic on that point,
however. A hundred years of time bring great changes even to bedrock
riffles, and these latter themselves also vary greatly according to the
stage of water. I was assured that from August on there is still a
nearly abrupt drop of several feet at one point in Buffalo Rapids.

Although I was sure I could see my way past the first riffle without
serious difficulty, I still thought it best to learn what I could at the
farmhouse Doane had indicated. This proved to be a comfortable old log
structure at a point where the right bank was being rapidly torn down by
the swift current. A very deaf chap at the first door I approached
strongly urged that I line all the way down, saying that there was at
least one point where my boat could not possibly live. As that wasn't
quite what I wanted to hear, I went round the house and tried another
door. Here, in a big, fragrant kitchen, I found a family at lunch, but
with one nice, juicy helping of cream-splashed tapioca pudding still
unconsumed. I helped them out with that, and in return asked for
information about the rapids. None of them was river-broke, but they
said they had seen a rowboat run down the left side of the first riffle
the previous summer and that they afterwards heard it was not upset
until it got to Wolf Rapids, down Terry-way. That was more encouraging,
at least as far as Buffalo Rapids were concerned, and I decided to push
off and let Nature take its course. All of them, including the careful
deaf brother, came down to speed me on. Rather anxious for a bit more
weight aft to bring the head higher, I asked if any of them cared to run
through with me to the railway bridge below the bend. All of them shook
their heads save a flower-like slip of a girl of fourteen or
thereabouts. She would have been game, I think--had the proper
encouragement from her mother been forthcoming. What a handicap a
solicitous mother is to a flower-like child! This mother was rather an
old dear, too. All I really held against her at the last was on the
score of letting her emergency reserve of tapioca and cream sink so low.

The way past the worst of the first riffle looked so clear on the right
that I did not trouble to pull across to the other side. I ran through
in easy, undulant water, without being forced uncomfortably close to
some patches of rather savage looking white where the teeth of the
bedrock were flecked with tossing foam. Rounding a wide bend, I found
myself drifting down onto the main run of riffles, the passing of one of
which caused Clark's party some trouble. These filled the channel much
more completely than did those above, and it hardly looked possible to
avoid bad water all of the way through. Even so, there was nothing that
looked wicked enough to be worth landing to avoid.

Pulling hard to the right, I gave good berth to a line of badly messed
up combers with not enough foam on them to cover all of the black-rock
ledge beneath. Then, feeling more or less on easy street, I let the
skiff slowly draw in toward the middle of a long, straight line of
smoothly-running rollers that extended to and under the long railway
bridge. I could have kept clear of the worst of this water by hard work,
but with the beautifully rounded waves signalling "All clear"! as far as
snags and really hostile rocks were concerned it seemed too bad to miss
the fun. Wallowing somewhat wildly now and then and shipping a good bit
of water in her dives, my little tin shallop went through like a duck. I
knew I was getting down toward the end of that kind of thrills and it
was well to make hay while the sun shone.

Before I was out of the rapid a long overland rolled out upon and over
the bridge below. The engine gave me a friendly toot and waving hands
down the winding line of coaches gave the train the look of a giant
centipede trying to pirouette with all of its port-side legs. Warned by
what had happened to me under similar circumstances in the riffle under
Rapids Station, I kept my eye right on the ball to the end of the swing.
A few days later, in the hotel at Glendive, a notions drummer told me he
had been on the observation platform on the occasion in question, adding
jocularly that every one there had been wishing I would pull a spill for
them. "Cose why?" I asked him just a bit bluntly; "those rapids have
been known to drown a buffalo."

Perhaps I should not have been quite so abrupt, for that was what
cramped the delightfully drummeresque ingenuousness with which he had
begun. Muttering something about "breaking the monotony of a run through
the Bad Lands," the good chap backed off and out of my life. I was
sorry for that, sorry to have embarrassed him, and especially sorry I
didn't have the _savoir faire_ to make it easy for him to finish as
frankly as he opened up. I didn't blame him and his friends for wishing
for that spill. I know perfectly well I would have hoped for it myself
had our positions been reversed. Almost any good red-blooded human would
get a kick out of watching, from a nice, dry car platform, another good
red-blooded human bumping-the-bumps down a rocky riffle. But I would
never have been honest enough to confess my hopes--to the man who might
have figured in the spill, that is. That was where this chap with the
notions line would always have me one down. And what a shame it was I
couldn't hold him long enough to learn how he made himself that way.

"Buffaloe Shoal" was the first of what one might call Clark's "Menagerie
Series" of rapids. The next, twenty miles below, was named Bear Rapid,
because they saw a bear standing there. The third, two miles below the
mouth of the Powder, was christened Wolf Rapid, "from seeing a wolf
there." Clark describes Bear Rapids as "a shoal, caused by a number of
rocks strewed over the river; but though the waves are high, there is a
very good channel to the left, which renders the passage secure." Wolf
is dismissed as "a rapid of no great danger." A hundred spring floods
have doubtless had the effect of worsening Wolf--a bedrock
rapid--somewhat, and of scouring out the worst of the boulders in Bear.
I found the latter only an inconsiderable riffle, but the Wolf still
showed some mighty vicious fangs. They were easy enough to avoid in a
light skiff, but the old steamboat skippers always reckoned there was
more potential trouble lying in ambush in the cracks of these shallowly
submerged reefs of black rock than at any other place on the navigated
Yellowstone or Missouri.

The Powder is the last of the great southerly tributaries of the
Yellowstone. Sprawling over a shifting estuary in several runlets, it
looked much as it must have appeared to Clark when he wrote: "The water
is very muddy, and like its banks of a dark brown colour. Its current
throws out great quantities of red stones; which circumstances, with the
appearance of the distant hills, induced Captain Clark to call it the
Redstone, which he afterward found to be the meaning of its Indian name,
_Wahasah_." At his camp here Clark found the buffalo prowling so close
during the night that "they excited much alarm, lest in crossing the
river they should tread on the boats and split them to pieces."

Below the Powder the river flows for some distance through an extensive
belt of Bad Lands, a burnt, barren, savage-looking country with little
vegetation, few streams, and miles of fantastic castles, kiosks and
minarets of black and red rock. It is desolate in the extreme even when
viewed from the cool current of the river, but surely in no wise so
sinister and forbidding as those terrible stretches of Bad Lands between
the Yellowstone and Little Missouri which grim old General Sully, after
pursuing the Sioux over their scorched rocks for a season, so aptly
described as "Hell-With-the-Lights-Out."

Finding Terry was out of sight behind the hills, I landed about eight
o'clock to make camp on a gravel bar. A grizzled old codger, across
whose fish-lines I came crabbing in, seemed more pleased than put out
over the diversion. He could fish twenty-four hours a day, he explained,
but a man willing to be talked to wasn't the sort of a bird that came
along to that neck of the river every day. So he went up to his cabin,
brought down some eggs and milk, and we pooled grub and suppered
together there under the cottonwoods by the river. He had hunted,
trapped, prospected and searched for agates for fifty years, and it was
well into the night before he had told me all about it. A confession of
my old love for "Calamity Jane" broke down his reserve at the outset. He
had seen a lot of the dear old girl at the very zenith of her career. He
told a delicious story of how "Calamity," her paprika temperament
ruffled by a dude's red necktie, had tried to make that unfortunate
_eat_ the offending rag at the point of a pistol. The advice with which
she had endeavoured to sauce the untoothsome morsel was rather the best
part of the yarn, but it was hardly sufficiently "drawing-room" to find
place in these chaste chronicles.

There was a strong up-river breeze blowing when I got under way at six
the next morning. When this came dead ahead it had no effect other than
slowing down my progress greatly, but when the direction of the channel
brought it more or less abeam I had great difficulty in keeping from
being blown under the caving banks. This was, as I remember it, my first
experience of what later became perhaps the most annoyingly persistent
difficulty attending my progress down both the Missouri and Mississippi.
After getting in trouble two or three times and having to stop to bail
out and recover my wind, I gave up the fight about noon and landed at a
highly picturesque old ranch twenty-five miles above Glendive. The
clanging of a dinner gong was not the least pleasant sound that assailed
my ears as I climbed the bank.

Belonging to Charley Krug of Glendive, the place was one of the oldest
and most historic of Montana cattle ranches. Built in the Indian days,
and in an extremely windy section of country, the buildings appeared to
be something of a compromise between forts and cyclone cellars. Nothing
short of a "Big Bertha" could have made much impression upon the
enormous cottonwood logs--and the Sioux, I believe, had nothing heavier
than Springfields.

The professional personnel of the outfit was wrapped in gloom over the
advent of a devastating light of grasshoppers that was rapidly cleaning
up the ranges down to the gravel. This sodden shroud, however, did not
blanket the cook--an exception of importance from my standpoint. This
individual was a part-time wrestler and prize-fighter, abandoning the
squared-circle for the pots and pans only in the off seasons. He
introduced himself to me as "Happy" Coogan, and then proceeded to show
why he was so called. Backing me up behind a food barrage, he sang a
song, danced a jig, illustrated Jack Dempsey's left hook and Gotch's
"toe-hold" on a half-breed cow-puncher, and then challenged all-comers
at a "catch-as-catch-can" rough-and-tumble with nothing barred but
gouging and biting. Now who could worry about grasshoppers with a man
like that around?

"Happy" recited excerpts from his ring career all afternoon while I ate
apple pie with cream poured over it and waited for the wind to cease. It
was falling lighter by five, but my host would not hear of my leaving
before supper. Impromptu cabaret work lengthened that banquet out to
eight o'clock, and it was early twilight before I finally broke away and
went down to push off. "Happy" followed me down, his arms filled with
eggs, milk, jams, pies and various other comestibles. "Don't like to let
a man go off hungry," he explained. "Never know when I may be needing a
hand-out myself."

Bless your generous heart, "Happy"; I only hope I may be cruising in
your vicinity if you ever need that hand-out. That bucket of California
home-dried apricots I left you didn't go toward balancing our grub

With no very swift water ahead and the prospect of a fairly clear night,
I had hopes for a while of drifting right on through to Glendive. These
hopes--along with me and my outfit--were dampened by a shower shortly
after I started, and completely dashed by a steady drizzle that set in
about nine. Dragging up the skiff on the first bar on which it grounded
in the now pitchy darkness, I inflated my sleeping-pocket, crawled into
it and went to sleep. Awakening at dawn to find a cloudless sky, I
crawled out, pushed off, and was in Glendive before six o'clock. Landing
half a mile above town, I climbed up to a shack which "Happy" Coogan had
told me was owned by a friend of his who had worked in the local
pool-room. It was no sort of hour to awaken a tired business man of a
Sunday morning, but "Happy's" name proved _open sesame_. It took some
rearranging to get my stuff into that ten-by-twelve shack with a man,
his wife and their seven children. Somehow we managed it, however;
moreover, the whole nine of them pledged themselves to stand
watch-and-watch over the skiff until I showed up again, no matter how
long that might be. The true river spirit had awakened even in these
dwellers on the fringes of Glendive's municipal dump. Bath, breakfast,
snooze and another séance with inevitable proofs was the order of the



Glendive, located on the Yellowstone at a point where the Northern
Pacific leaves the river to cut across the Bad Lands straight for the
plains of North Dakota, owes more to the railroad than perhaps any other
town of the valley. Although Glendive Creek was a frequent halt in the
steamboat days of the Indian campaigns, there was never much of a
settlement there until railway construction commenced in the late
'seventies. The first train pulled into Glendive almost forty years to
a day previous to my arrival by boat. I found a fine, clean, prosperous
little city of 6000 where my puffing predecessor had drawn up to little
more than a typical frontier construction camp. Range stock helped the
town along in its earlier days, but the railway shops probably did more.
Finally the completion of the dam at Intake and the distribution of
water to the most extensive irrigable area in the Yellowstone Valley
provided a tributary agricultural territory of great wealth.

There was one thing I was especially interested in seeing in
Glendive--a school musical system that is probably without a near rival
in any town in America five times as large. I was assured that, of a
school enrolment of about a thousand, nearly two hundred pupils played
some kind of a musical instrument. There was an orchestra of sixty
pieces, and a boy's military band of sixty-five. Each was divided into
junior and senior grades, and a member was pushed ahead or dropped back
according to talent and effort. At no time did a pupil have a place
cinched; nothing but steady conscientious effort, regular attendance at
rehearsals, and proper general deportment won promotion, or prevented
demotion. Perhaps the finest thing about the whole system, was the fact
that it was undertaken entirely apart from the regular curriculum, no
school credits whatever being given for the work. I was told the credit
for this fine achievement belonged to a principal of one of the grade
schools, a Miss Lucille Hennigar, who had put herself behind it purely
out of love of music and children.

I did not have the honour of meeting Miss Hennigar, but I did make the
acquaintance of some of her protégés. First and last, about two score of
them must have chanced along in the hour I was tinkering with my boat
late Sunday afternoon. They were regular fellows all right (every other
one wanted to come down in the morning and sign on with me), but not a
hoodlum in the lot. Not a mother's darling of them tried to kick a hole
in my little tin shallop. As none of them exhibited any symptoms of
infantile paralysis, I decided it must be music--quieting the mean foot
as well as soothing the savage breast.


Warned by every authority from Captain Clark to an agate-hunter I had
passed at the mouth of the Powder that I was now approaching the
"Mosquito Coast" of the Yellowstone, I made special point of preparing
to go into battle by getting the best kind of a sleep I could in
Glendive. This made it particularly gratifying to find that this good
little city had just about the cleanest, most comfortable and best run
hotel in the valley. I should have paid it that tribute even had not its
genial manager, in company with the Secretary of the Chamber of
Commerce, driven down to see me off--bringing an especially appealing
little cold lunch.

It was late in the forenoon before I got away. Just as I was about to
push off a telegram was brought down to me from Mr. A. M. Cleland,
Passenger Traffic Manager of the Northern Pacific, saying that he had
heard of my trip and was wiring all the company's agents along the river
to be on the watch to lend me a hand, and to consider any of the N. P.'s
shops at my service for repairs. Even though it arrived at the very
moment I was turning away from the main line of the Northern Pacific,
which I had paralleled all the way from Livingston, I was nevertheless
just as appreciative of the spirit that prompted the courteous and
kindly message.

Captain Clark had made camp just above Glendive,[1] "where they saw the
largest white bear that any of the party had ever before seen, devouring
a dead buffalo on a sand bar. They fired two balls into him; he then
swam to the mainland and walked along the shore. Captain Clark pursued
him and lodged two more balls in his body; but though he bled profusely
he made his escape, as night prevented them from following him."

As the country below Glendive is probably both the richest and most
intensively cultivated in the whole Yellowstone Valley, I was especially
struck by the contrast presented by verdant irrigated fields of alfalfa
and clover to the howling wilderness Clark described. Nowhere else in
all of his journey back and forth across the continent had he seen such
a variety and such numbers of animals. It must have been somewhere below
the present site of the great Government dam at Intake that the buffalo
began to appear in vast numbers. As their boat floated down "a herd
happened to be on their way across the river. Such was the multitude of
these animals that, though the river, including an island over which
they passed, was a mile wide, the herd stretched, as thickly as they
could swim, from one side to the other, and the party was obliged to
stop for an hour." Forty-five miles below, two other herds as numerous
as the first blocked their way again.

[1] In reading Clark's notes in the original it should be born in mind
that they were written almost entirely in the third person. His
spellings were often most originally phonetic, but not always conforming
to one system. I have found three distinct spellings of mosquito in a
single paragraph, and buffalo was often rendered "buffaloe" and

L. R. F.

[Illustration: © _J. E. Haynes, St. Paul_


The following day they found the "buffalo and elk, as well as the
pursuers of both, the wolves, in great numbers." Moreover, "the bears,
which gave so much trouble on the head of the Missouri, are equally
fierce in this quarter. This morning one of them, which was on a
sand-bar as the boat passed, raised himself on his hind legs; and after
looking at the party, plunged in and swam toward them. He was received
with three balls in the body; he then turned around and made for the
shore. Toward evening another entered the water to swim across. Captain
Clark ordered the boat toward the shore, and just as the bear landed,
shot the animal in the head. It proved to be the largest female they had
ever seen, so old that its tusks were worn quite smooth. The boats
escaped with difficulty between two herds of buffalo that were crossing
the river." On this same day great numbers of bull elk were reported,
and also, "on some rugged hills to the southeast," numerous bighorn.

In all the records of western exploration and travel I can recall
nothing that suggested such an astonishing plenitude of many kinds of
large animals in one region. It would not have been so hard to conjure
up the picture along some of the wilder reaches of the upper river, but
here--with those pretty little forty and fifty-acre farms, all under
ditch and cultivated to their last foot, stretching away mile after mile
on my left--it was asking almost too much of the imagination to perform
such acrobatics.

In a steady but ever slackening current it took me about four hours to
pull the thirty miles to the Intake dam. The town was on the left but
the abrupt bluff at that point indicated the right as the easier
portage. The smooth green current of the water over the end of the
concrete barrier tempted me for a moment to avoid portaging by letting
down the empty boat on a line. Sober second thought counselled
caution--that water at the end of a twelve-foot drop had too much of a
kick in reserve to make it safe to trifle with. Better safe than
submerged is a serviceable variation of the old saw for river use.

There was a considerable stretch of rip-raping and other rocky
barriers--laid to protect the end of the dam at flood time--to get the
boat over, but a young rancher, just driving up to the ferry, kindly
volunteered to come up and give me a hand. Carrying the trim little
craft bodily for a couple of hundred feet, we put it into his wagon and
drove down a hundred yards to the ferry-landing where it was easier
launching than near the dam. He was all against being paid for his
trouble, but finally suggested twenty-five cents as his idea of what was
fair. He looked actually distressed when, with a wristy movie actor's
gesture of finality, I gave him the whole of a dollar bill. What
wouldn't a farmer on a country highway have charged for half that much
labour pulling a Ford out of a mud-hole?

But it appears that even non-river dwelling folk are not mercenary in
this neck of Montana. A cowboy-like girl who had just ridden up on a
prancing pinto frowned darkly when she saw the greenback pass. Spurring
down to the water as I finished trimming the boat, she leaned down close
to my ear, whispering stagily through her hollowed gauntlet: "Too bad
you didn't see me first, stranger; I'd 'a yanked down that lil'
sardine-tin there on the end of my rope for nothin'." That was the first
time I ever heard anybody called "stranger" outside of Wild West stories
written in the Tame East. Later, down Nebraska and Missouri-way,
however, I found that address in common use by people in real life.
There's no end of a thrill in finding story-book stuff in real life--I
suppose because it happens so darn'd seldom.

There were a few flashes of white in the riffle below the dam; then a
broadening river and slackening water. Many and unmistakable signs told
me that I was now skirting the dread "Mosquito Coast." Cattle nose-deep
in the water or rushing blindly through the thorny bull-berry bushes,
smudge-barrages round the ranch houses, dark, shifting clouds over the
marshes and over-flow lakes--every one of them was a sign of an ancient
enemy, an enemy who had drawn first and last blood on every field I had
met him from the Amazon to Alaska. Knowing that I was going to run the
gauntlet of him for many hundreds of miles, I had come prepared, both
mentally and physically. Nevertheless I looked forward with no small
apprehension to a contest which could not be other than a losing
one--for me. Moreover, I had too many dormant malarial germs in my
once-fever thinned blood to care to risk their being driven to the
warpath again by too intimate contact with other Bolsheviki of the same
breed. Frankly, Herr Mosquito, with his _shrecklichkeit_, was one thing
above all others that had given me pause in planning a voyage that would
carry me through so many thousand miles of his Happy Hunting Grounds.
Miles and Terry and Crook had driven the Redskin from the Yellowstone
and Missouri, Civilization had exterminated the buffalo, but the
mosquito still ranged unchecked over his ancient domain. It was just a
question of how much blood one was going to have to yield up to get by
his toll-gate-keepers.




Some kind of a poor old river-rat--doubtless an agate-hunter,--ringed
with smudges and trying to spare time enough from fighting the enemy to
hold a frying pan over a smouldering fire gave me a graphic warning of
what fate awaited me if I tried to camp by the bank. Forthwith I decided
to get my supper in the boat, run till near dark, pick the
likeliest-looking ranch, tell them I was a farmer myself, and let human
nature take its course. I had had the plan of adding a galley to the
boat in mind for some days. Drifting while I munched a cold lunch had
already eliminated the noonday halt, and I was now figuring to let the
river also go on with its work during breakfast and supper hours as
well. My first plan was to make a little stove by cutting holes in an
oil-can, setting this on the non-inflammable steel bottom of my boat and
cooking with wood in the ordinary way. Then, in a store window in
Glendive, I saw a midget of a stove that worked with gasoline pumped
under pressure. It was called a "Kampkook," but I could see every reason
why it would also make a perfectly good "Boatkook." Drifting just
beyond the wall of the coastwise mosquito barrage, I tried it out that
evening. Bacon and eggs, _petit pois_, mulligatawny soup, dried apricots
and a pot of cocoa--all these delectables I fried, boiled or stewed
without pausing from rowing for more than an occasional prod, stir or
shake. When all was ready, I removed the thwart from the forward
section, threw my half-inflated sleeping-bag in the bottom, disposed a
couple of cushions, and suppered like Cleopatra on her barge, reclining
at my ease. With occasional spice-lending-variations, that sybaritic
program was followed on many another evening right on to the finish of
my voyage. I loved too well the smell of "wood smoke at twilight" to
forego entirely the joy of the camp on the bank, but wherever that bank
was muddy or infested by mosquitos, I. W. W.'s, or other undesirables,
or whenever I was trying to make time, I had a perfectly self-contained
ship aboard which I could eat and sleep with entire comfort.

It was early twilight before I came to just the ranch that I was looking
for. Distantly at first, like the gold at the end of a rainbow, I saw it
transfigured in the sunset glow at the end of the vista of a long
wine-dark side-channel. There was a sprawling, broad-eaved bungalow,
vine-covered and inviting, big new red barns and a lofty silo that
loomed like a tower against the sun-flushed western sky. I named it
"Ranch of the Heart's Desire" on the instant, for I knew that it could
give all that I most intensely craved--cover from the enemy. I tied up
at the landing as a sea-worn skipper drops his anchor in a harbour of
the Islands of the Blest.

The long avenue of cottonwoods up to the bungalow seemed to be filled
with about equal parts of mosquitos and Jersey cows. Doubtless the
mosquitos were much the more numerous. But because it hurts more to hit
a running cow than a flying insect I probably was impressed with the
Jerseys out of all proportion to their actual numbers. A dash through a
"No-Man's-Land" of smouldering smudges and I burst into a Haven of
Refuge at the bungalow door. A genial chap with a steady smile met me as
I emerged from the smoke, complimented me upon the smartness of my
open-field running among the Jerseys, and opined that I must have been a
pretty shifty fullback in my day. A youth in greasy overalls who came
wiggling out from under a Ford he introduced as "My hired man." But when
the latter blushed and protested: "Now there you go again, dear!" he
admitted that it was only his wife. They promptly insisted I should have
supper, while I had considerable difficulty in making them believe I had
a galley functioning in my boat. We finally compromised on ice-cream
and strawberries. All the ranchers along the lower Yellowstone and upper
Missouri have ice-houses.

They were just the kind of folk one knew he would have to find in a
haven called "Ranch of the Heart's Desire." Their name was Patterson,
and they had lived most of their lives in Washington--in some kind of
departmental service. Becoming tired--or perhaps ashamed--of working six
hours a day, they bought a ranch under the Yellowstone project ditch and
started working sixteen. So far they had been spending rather more money
than they had made but, like all on the threshold of bucolic life,
looked confidently to a future rainbow-bright with prospects. They
confessed that it awakened a wee bit of nostalgia to meet one who had
been in Washington, and so it chanced that it was of "Things
Washingtonese" that we talked rather than of our experiences as farmers.

There was something strangely appealing to the imagination in sitting
there where the bison in his millions had so lately trod and putting
everything and everybody at the Primal Fount in their proper places.
Long into the night we rattled on just as though over a table at the
Shoreham, the New Williard or Chevy Chase--just as we would have talked
in Washington. Knocking Wilson whenever any other subject was
exhausted, we bemoaned the predominance of third-class men in Congress,
agreed that Harding wouldn't do much harm and might do good, swapped
yarns about the funny things Congressmen's wives had said and done, and
passed by acclamation a motion that the most unrepresentative
institution in America was the House of Representatives. It was highly
refreshing to meet people you could be really frank with in discussing
the more or less esoteric phases of these and kindred subjects. I
enjoyed that evening's yarn only less than I did my couch on a
breeze-swept porch that was armoured with a woven copper mesh against
the assaults of the common enemy.

Before I pushed off in the morning Mr. Patterson took me around two
sides of his ranch and showed me some splendid fields of alfalfa and
sweet clover, just ready for cutting. Prices were good, he said, and the
prospects were bright for the best clean-up they had known so far. I
have often wondered just how those green, fragrant fields looked ten
hours later, just how much those optimistic forecasts were modified as a
consequence of certain little inequalities of atmospheric pressure that
were already making their differences felt in a lightning-shot murkiness
hanging low on the northeastern horizon. I did not make sure of the
Patterson's address and a postcard of inquiry I subsequently dispatched
brought no reply.

I was aware of the heavy humidity of the atmosphere the moment I pulled
out in the slow current of the still broadening river. There was plenty
of air stirring but with no fixed plan of action in its mind. Now it
would swoop down over the banks in sudden gusts; now it would blow down
river for a few moments and then turn on its heel and come breezing
right back, like a commuter who has forgotten his ticket; now it would
deliberately "Box-the-Compass" right round the boat, as a cat circles a
rat that it is just a bit chary about springing on.

The easterly gusts paved the surface of the water with evanescent
patches of floating grasshoppers, evidently part of a flight that had
not yet found lodgment in the growing fields under the irrigation
project on the other bank. After each gust the fish would rise greedily
to the feast for a few minutes. Satiation would come quickly, however,
and most of the hoppers were left to drown or perhaps to gain a few
hours longer lease on life by drifting to a bar. One gust that came
while I was skirting the shore poured a literal grasshopper cataract
over the cut-bank into the boat. There was a sharp, rasping contact
where the saw-toothed legs side-swiped my arms and face that would
undoubtedly have left abrasions on the skin if it had been kept up for
any time. For a few moments there was a layer of hoppers two or three
inches deep in the bottom of the skiff; then the most of them hurdled
out into the water. The dessicated remains of the few _ambuscados_ that
took refuge in the grub-box kept turning up in a variety of frys, stews,
and fricassees for the next fortnight.

I pulled up to Riverview Ferry, well on toward the North Dakota line, at
one o'clock. Mr. and Mrs. Meadows, with whom I had lunch, once operated
a pontoon bridge at this point but had given it up on account of the
trouble from high water. They wanted to sell the twenty or more pontoons
left on their hands but said they could not see where a buyer would come
from. It occurred to me that one of these floats would make an ideal
hull for a houseboat, for a Missouri-Mississippi voyage, just as
Riverview would be an ideal place for launching one. I have not Mr.
Meadows' address, but fancy Sidney, Montana, would reach him. I shall
not take the responsibility of urging any one to attempt a trip of this
kind, but should the urge have developed spontaneously I think there is
a chance here to acquire the makings of an extremely serviceable
house-boat at a fraction of what it would cost to go about building it
in the ordinary way. Starting at high water in June, an outfit of this
kind--with luck and in the hands of the right party--might well go
through to New Orleans before Christmas. Manned by a party without much
common sense and persistence, it might conceivably be abandoned by some
wildly regretful people before it swung out into the "Big Muddy." I
utterly refuse to pass upon any one's qualification, or to take other
than hostile notice of letters charging me with ruining what but for me
might have been a comparatively inexpensive and enjoyable holiday in
Bermuda or on the Riviera.

The ferryman at Riverview claimed to have made the voyage from Miles
City to somewhere on the lower Mississippi in a house-boat, taking two
seasons for it. He was the first ferryman I ever met who was full of
doleful warnings about troubles ahead. My little tin boat might be all
right for the rapids of the Yellowstone, he said, but just wait till it
went up against the white caps kicked up by the winds of the Missouri
and the Mississippi. He said no word about the winds of the Yellowstone.
If he wasn't prepared for them, I only hope his ferryboat was not caught
in midstream by a zephyr that breezed up river about three hours later.

[Illustration: © _L. A. Huffman_


It must have been toward three o'clock that I first noticed how what had
been a grey murkiness to the north-east all morning was now rising in a
solid bank of swiftly advancing cloud. For a while its front was smooth
and rounded, like the rim of a tin-plate. Half-way up to the zenith this
front began to reveal itself as a wind-riven line of madly racing
nimbus, black, sinister and ominous. And yet, blissfully ignorant of the
hell-broth a-brew, I worried not a whit--didn't even begin to edge away
from mid-channel for a while, in fact. What a lamb it was! Never again,
with so much as a man's-hand-sized cloud blinking on the windward
horizon, was I to know the calm, quiet, serenity of a confident soul.

A long, lean, torpedo-like shaft of blue-black cloud, breaking away from
the ruck and aiming in a direction that would bring it directly over my
head, produced the first splash in the pool of my perfect serenity. That
_did_ look just a bit as though I might be running into the centre of a
heavy thunder-storm, I confessed to myself. Perhaps, if there was a
ranch-house convenient, it might be just as well to be thinking of
getting under cover. Yes, there were three or four houses off to the
left--places on the irrigation project, doubtless, they were so close
together. I started to pull in toward a sandy flat, but sheered off
again when it became apparent that a slough and marsh would cut me off
from the first of the houses, a place with a silo and the inevitable red
barn. Plainly the only way to reach any of the farms would be by landing
at the foot of the bluff a quarter of a mile ahead, climbing up and
cutting across the fields. That might not be possible before the storm
broke--but what did a warm summer rain matter anyhow?

Leaning hard onto my oars, I headed straight down stream for where a
coal-streaked yellow bluff blocked the northerly course of the river and
bent it off almost directly eastward. Swelling monstrously as it
approached, the black arrow-head of the storm, deflecting slightly,
began to pass overhead to the left. I distinctly remember thinking how
its shape now suggested the picked skeleton of a gigantic mackerel--just
a backbone and right-angling ribs. The sun dimmed and reddened as the
flying clouds began to drive across its face, and the even ribs barred
the dulling glow like a furnace grating. A sulphurous, copperly glare
streaming through cast a weird unearthly sheen on the unrhythmically
lapping wavelets of the river. My serenity was blotted out with the sun.
I recalled only too well now where I had known that ghostly yellow light
before--the sullen fore-glow by which the South Sea hurricane slunk upon
its helpless prey. It had always been associated in my mind with the
shriek of the wind, the roar of the surf and the explosive detonations
of snapped coco palm boles. There were no coco palms here to snap, I
reflected, but--ah, that was surely a roar, and there came the wind!

Pulling in a dead calm myself, I saw the river and air at the bend turn
white almost between one stroke and the next. A tongue of wind seemed to
have shot out from behind a point to the right and begun scooping up
hunks of the river and throwing them across the flats. This blast was at
right angles to my course down stream, but I came parallel to it as I
swung and headed for the sand-bar on my left. The air was coiling and
twisting upon itself as I landed, but that out-licking tongue of the
storm was passing me by and circling the bluffs beyond the flat.

Without unloading the skiff, I dragged her as far in on the bar as I
could, threw my stuff together in the forward section and snugged it
down under a tarpaulin. Its weight might keep the boat from blowing
away, I figured. Then I drove oars in the sand with an ax and ran lines
to them from bow and stern--land-moorings, so to speak. The fore-front
of the wind hard and solid as the side of a moving barn, caught me from
behind as I made fast the bowline. I went forward to my knees, sprawled
flat, wiggled round head-on and then, leaning far forward, slowly
struggled to my feet. Hanging balanced at angle of forty-five degrees, I
started slowly crabbing back to the boat. It wasn't so bad after all, I
told myself. The skiff was not giving an inch to the blast, while
leaning up against the wind that way was rather good fun. I recalled a
stunt something like it that Little Tich used to pull in the London
Halls--an eccentric dance with enormously elongated shoes. I decided
that perhaps I was even enjoying the diversion a bit. In half-pretended
nonchalance I turned my head and cast a side-glance over toward the
farmhouses back of the bluffs. That was the last move of even assumed
nonchalance I was guilty of for some time.

That side-glance photographed three things on my memory: a grove of
willows flattened almost against the earth by the wind, two women, with
wondrously billowing skirts, crawling along the side of a house toward a
door, and a flimsy unpainted outbuilding resolving into its component
parts and pelting across a corral full of horses. Doubtless there was
more animated action to be observed had I been spared another hundredth
of a second or so to get a line on it. The three things mentioned were
as far as I got when the hail opened up.

With the viciousness of spattering shrapnel that first salvo of frozen
pellets raked me across the right cheek. The tingle of pain was
astonishingly sharp, like that from the blow of a back-snapped thorn
branch on an overgrown trail, and I was a bit surprised when an
explorative finger revealed no trace of blood. Hunching my neck brought
my face under cover, but the batteries of the storm had got my range
now and there was a decided sting to the impact of those baby icebergs,
even through my slicker and shirt. People are very prone to exaggerate
about the size of hail-stones, so I shall endeavour to make a special
effort to be conservative about these. They felt a lot bigger when they
hit, of course, but as I examined heaps of them afterward the average
size seemed to be about that of shrapnel or large marbles. There may
have been hail-stones the size of hens' eggs, but no one who was ever
exposed to them in the open can have lived to tell the tale. Men looking
out through the bars of jail may have seen them and survived to make
affidavits; most other authentic reports of egg-sized hail-stones will
doubtless be pretty well confined to the minutes of coroners' juries.
Indeed, I am inclined to think that a considerable crimp would have been
put in my down-river schedule by the comparatively diminutive pellets I
faced on this occasion but for the shelter I presently found for my head
under the side of the skiff.

As the hail-stones, flying before the wind, were hurtling along almost
horizontally, huddling under the lee bow of the skiff protected just
about all of me but my feet. Even that was not good enough, however, for
the impact of the blows on the tops of my toes left an extraordinary
ache behind it--something that I could not contemplate standing for an
indefinite number of murderous minutes. Clawing over the side for a
canvas or _poncho_ to buffer the worst of the barrage, my hand came in
contact with the roll of my sleeping pocket. That gave me an idea. The
wind, getting inside the hollow bag, nearly tore it from my hands as I
started to unroll it, but once I got it smothered under me the rest was
easy. With my legs inside of the bag and the uninflated rubber mattress
between my feet and the hail-stones, about all I had to bother about
seemed to be a wind strong enough to carry the boat away and me with it.

From the way things developed for the next couple of minutes this
appeared to be just about what was going to happen, however. I cannot
recall ever having felt more panicky in my life than when I saw that
that fore-running tongue of wind, which had originally come charging
round the bend from east, had now circled southward along the bluffs
below the farmhouses and was heading straight back into the east again.
That meant that I was now occupying the almost mathematical centre of
the vortex of a real "twister"--that I was about to be rocked on the
bosom of a fairly husky young cyclone. Something pronounced in the way
of an uplift movement was inevitably due the moment that back-curving
tongue of air lapped round to the place it started from.

A whimsical comparison flashed across my mind in watching through the
crook of my fending arm the witch-dance of that circling blast. In some
town up-river I had seen a movie of the Custer Massacre, at the
climacteric moment of which the howling hordes of Gall and
Rain-in-the-Face and Crazy-Horse whirled in a wide circle round their
doomed victims, the mental agonies of which latter were shown in
successive cut-ins of close-ups. Now I was once assured by a
world-famous movie star that he always actually felt in his heart--to
the very depths of his being--the emotion he was called on to register,
was it murderous lust, ineffable virtue, mother-love or what-not. Very
well. Assuming this to be true of all great movie actors, I have very
grave doubt if any of that silver-screen last-stand battalion of
Custer's felt any more real a pricking of the scalp in watching the
closing circle of dancing Redskins than did I in waiting for that
spinning blast of wind to decide whether or not it was going to stage a
"Pick-me-up" party.

It is not quite clear in my mind even now why things in my immediate
vicinity did not start to aviate. Several loosely built structures on
the bluff went flying off like autumn leaves, and wind enough to blow
boards into tree-tops would have at least sent my boat rolling if not
sky-ing. I am inclined to think, however, that the failure of any
marked heliocoptic action to develop was due to a lack of pronounced
opposition on the part of a bluffing turncoat of a southwesterly wind.
The latter skirmished just long enough to turn in the vanguards of the
main storm, but took to its heels the moment the thunderbolt phalanx was
launched upon it. It was the advent of this Juggernaut that marked the
end of my consecutive impressions. Primal Chaos simply clapped the lid
down over me and kept it there for several aeons--fifteen minutes to be

Although it was rapidly getting darker, I had still been able to see not
a little of what was going on up to the moment the God of the Thunders
uncorked his artillery; after that I simply heard and felt and grovelled
in the sand. The big red silo was the last of the old workaday world I
remember seeing before my horizon contracted from a quarter of a mile to
a scant ten feet. (I don't recall that old Jim Bridger ever made
anything shrink as fast and far as that, even with the astringent waters
of Alum Creek.) The boat and I were lying in a grey-walled
cocktailshaker and being churned up with flying sand, hail and jagged
hunks of blown river water. At first the resultant mixture was
milk-warm, but presently it became literally ice-cold, so that I
shivered in it like a new-shorn lamb. (The warm water was that blown
from the river. The subsequent chilling, as I figured out afterwards,
was due to the hail banking up against the windward side of the skiff,
finally filling the forward section of the latter and drifting right on
over to congeal my cowering anatomy.)

The thunder did not come into action battery by battery after its wonted
practice, but seemed to open up all of a sudden with a crashing barrage
all along the line. Flashes and crashes were simultaneous. The light of
the jagged bolts broadened the diameter of my bowl by not a foot. The
solid grey walls simply glowed and dulled like a ground-glass bulb when
its light is switched on and off. Not one clear-cut flash did I see in
the whole bombardment.

I have always been a great believer in whistling to keep up ebbing
courage; not necessarily a blowing of air through pursed lips, but any
easy and spontaneous action to show nonchalance and _sang froid_ in the
face of danger. The particular practice which had always seemed to
produce the best results was reciting stirring and appropriate poetry.
"Spartacus to the Gladiators" and "Roll on thou deep and dark blue
ocean, roll!" had steadied my faltering nerve in many crises. On this
occasion it was when the boat broke loose from its moorings and started
to roll over upon me that I began to feel the need of spiritual
stiffening. I must have picked on Kipling because "The Song of the Red
War Boat" had been running in my head for a day or two.

    "Hearken, Thor of the Thunder! (I sputtered)
    We are not here for a jest."

But that was altogether too obvious. I broke off and began again:

    "The thunders bellow and clamour
      The harm that they mean to do;
    There goes Thor's own Hammer
      Cracking the night in two!
    Close! But the blow has missed her...."

But that was premature. Far from missing her, the blow had at last got a
shoulder under the bottom of my poor little skiff and over she came! By
Thor's grace she hung there, instead of going on rolling; but those
fifteen or twenty gallons of slightly liquefied hail seemed to drain
straight from the base of the North Pole. I tried to continue
registering nonchalance and _sang froid_, but accomplished an only too
literal rendition of the latter. I was still spitting sand and quavering
"_There goes Thor's own Hammer_" when the walls of my hail-hole began to
brighten and recede--and presently it was a warm, soft summer afternoon
again. That three-mile-wide Juggernaut of Primal Chaos was rolling away
straight across those verdant irrigated farms of the Yellowstone
Project and leaving desolation in its wake. I only hope that it
chastened the mendacious ferryman at Riverview and made a sharp
right-angle bend round the Patterson farm above Savage.

It was a considerably altered world that met the owl-like blink of my
still somewhat sand-filled eyes. The big red barn and the silo still
loomed against the sky-line above the bluff, and most of the other
houses and barns were still standing. All of the windmills had slipped
out of the picture, however, and many lesser wooden structures. Trees
were broken off or uprooted in all directions. But the strangest effect
was from the practical disappearance of the thousands of acres of
standing crops--beaten into the earth by the hail. There, I knew, lay
the real tragedy of Thor's little field-day. Quite likely no human
beings had been killed--but how many human hopes? The American public
like to think and talk in millions. Very well. There went a natural mill
that was grinding up corn and alfalfa and clover and wheat at the rate
of a million dollar's worth a minute. Who said the mills of the gods
grind slowly? Much as I was longing for the cheering propinquity of
fellow creatures just at that moment, I hated the thought of intruding
upon the blank despair that I knew had preceded me as a guest in the
farmhouse beyond the big red barn.

Laying out a change of dry clothes from one of my water-proof bags, I
stripped off my wet ones and freshened up with a plunge into the warm,
invigorating current of the river. Thanks to the lightness and
simplicity of my outfit, salvage operations were easily and
expeditiously effected. The skiff had dumped itself in blowing over and
was ready for launching as soon as it was tipped back. Most of my
clothes were dry; most of my grub wet. The worst loss in the latter was
the sentimental one of the residue of my California home-dried apricots.
I didn't care much for the darn things myself, but the people along the
river had proved dead keen for the succulent amber slabs. Moreover, it
had always lent a pretty touch at parting to hand my host or hostess
something produced on my own ranch, with perhaps a few words about how
it had been picked, pitted, sulphured, dried and packed by Mexican
_señoritas--all young and dark-eyed and beautiful_. That last had been
especially effective in lone cow-camps. Yes, I was sorry to be compelled
to give the last of those apricots away all at once to prevent their
spoiling from dampness. I resolved to buy some more to replace them--for
making up intimate little packets of parting--at the first opportunity.

The river had become its own quiet self again within a few moments, and
I pulled through a slow current to the foot of the bluff at the bend,
which appeared to be the only place one could land and avoid the
mud-flats. The long sand-bar on which I had ridden out the storm had
been scoured almost beyond recognition by the blown river waters. In a
dozen places channels had been scoured straight through it to the slough
behind, and the latter, greatly augmented both from the river and from
the drainage from the heights above, was pouring a muddy torrent back
into the mother stream at the bend. I saw that I was luckier than I had
at first appreciated in not having had the bar dissolve beneath my feet.

Fully resolved, if no alternative cover offered, to tunnel into the
bluff to avoid exposure to another of Thor's Juggernautic joy-rides, I
landed on a jutting ledge of water-soaked lignite at the bend. Stacking
up my outfit, I clapped the skiff down upon it, threw a few lashings
over the whole, and climbed out up the bluff. With the fields themselves
deep in water and liquid mud, I had to zigzag cross-country toward the
nearest house by following the embankments of the irrigating ditches.
Not a blade of grass was left standing. All that remained of alfalfa,
oats and corn was a tangled green mat half covered with slowly melting
hail-stones. Half-grown corn had not only been beaten flat, but the
very stalks were crushed and shredded as if pounded by hammers.

There was only one cheering thing about that whole sodden field of
desolation--millions on millions of mosquitos had been battered to death
by the hail. Great masses of them, literally pulped, had been strained
out of the water and collected against heaps of débris in the ditches.
One could scoop them up by the double handfuls. How often had I bemoaned
the fact that every mosquito around some swampy Alaskan or Guinanan camp
of mine had not a single head so that I could sever it with one fell
swoop of and ax or _machete_! That was too much to hope for, of course;
but right here was a tolerably fair approach to it. I squeezed three or
four fistfuls of those pulped tormentors through my fingers and felt
appreciably less depressed.

Cut off by a deep-scoured drainage canal from a direct approach to the
farm of the big red barn, I fared back for a quarter of a mile to a road
and a bridge. Crossing the latter and wading through deep puddles, I
came upon what I first took to be a deserted ranch. The corrals were
down, the barn partially unroofed, and the windowless house was all but
stripped of its shingles. There was a response to my knock, however, and
I entered a half-wrecked kitchen to find three men sitting round a
table. A lamp was burning on a wall-shelf, but its flickering flame
barely threw a glow above the top of the opaquely smoked chimney.

The greeting I received was unconventional--even slightly disconcerting.

"Are you broke?" boomed the blunt query from a big chap with a hammer,
evidently just through tacking a blanket over a window. His two
companions took pipes from their mouths and hung on my answer as though
it might be a matter of considerable importance.

"Not at all...." I began, intending to go on and assure them that, far
from being the hobo I looked, I had money in my pocket and a large bag
of California home-dried apricots to give away. But they waited only on
my denial.

"All right. Move on!" they chorused to the accompaniment of stagy
gestures. "This is no place for a man that ain't broke. We _are_. Went
broke half an hour ago. _Hailed out!_" An old fellow with whiskers added
the explanatory trimmings.

I gulped two or three times and was about to frame a minimum demand for
an hour to dry my wet togs by the fire when the big chap strode over,
clapped me jovially on the shoulder and forced me into a chair by the

"Don't mind our little joke, friend," he said with a ringing laugh.
"Whatever there is left in this shack in the way of comfort is at your
disposal for the night, or as long as you want to stay. Where did the
storm catch you? Car stalled on the road, I suppose."

"Boat--on river--sand-bar," I replied between gulps from the mug of
steaming black coffee the big fellow had poured me.

The three of them exchanged glances, first quizzical and then indicative
of dawning comprehension. Finally they threw back their heads and
guffawed louder than ever. I finished my coffee and gave them time to
finish their laugh. Then I asked, in a slightly hurt tone I fear, just
what joke they saw in being caught on a sand-bar by an embryonic
cyclone. Perhaps if they had been there themselves....

That set them off again, and I had time to pour and empty another mug of
coffee before one of them was sufficiently recovered to reply. The old
boy with whiskers was the first to get his merriment under leash, and so
it was he who explained: "_That_ wasn't what tickled us; we was only
laughin' 'cause youse was already drowned an' had a gang scoutin' for
your dead body."



As that fell well within the compass of my own sense of humour, I joined
the mirth party too, and the four of us laughed all together. It
appeared that a gang of ditch-hands, before taking to cover, had seen a
man pulling down stream into the teeth of the advancing storm. The last
they saw of him he was trying to climb out on a sand-bar. The waves were
all around him and he appeared to be at his last gasp. When the storm
had blown by and they looked again, no trace remained of man nor boat.
That was substantially the story the ditch-hands told in recruiting a
posse to search for the body. If they had ventured out from cover five
minutes sooner they would have seen just what had become of both man and
boat, instead of having to have it explained to them by a trio of
hilarious farmers who seemed to feel the need of something in the way of
comic relief to take the edge off the tragedy of being "hailed out."

The big chap's name was Solberg. He was of Norwegian descent, extremely
well educated, and had spent a number of years teaching in the schools
of Minnesota. I was only too glad to accept his invitation to stay
over-night and dry out, especially as the weather appeared to be far
from settled. After calling in my search-party, I returned home with him
and we spent the remaining hours of daylight boarding up windows,
patching the roof and rendering first-aid generally to his wounded
house. The plucky fellow was far from being crushed. He admitted that
his crops were a total loss, that he was borrowed up to the limit with
the bank, and that he didn't even see just how he was going to pay any
of his debts. And yet--if he could only get hold of a bunch of sheep to
fatten. Sheep were more in his line. Perhaps, in the long run, he would
be all the better off for having to get back to them. Calling over his
collie, he took the dog's head between his knees and asked him what he
thought about it. The intelligent animal eyed his master seriously for a
few moments and then wagged his tail approvingly. "'Shag' thinks it will
be best to go back to sheep," pronounced Solberg. Then, musingly. "Yes,
I reckon sheep's the answer."

After supper Solberg said that he was a good deal worried about his
neighbours to the east--that they were harder hit than any one else, and
in rather worse shape to stand it. A woman and kiddies didn't make it
any easier when a man was hailed out. X---- had seemed pretty despondent
when he had dropped in just after the storm. Talked rather wildly. Said
he was through for good. Solberg hadn't been quite sure whether X----
had just meant he was through with farming, or something else. He was
rather a moody chap at best.... Perhaps no harm would be done if we
took a turn over that way....

The "neighbour to the east" turned out to be the big red barn and silo
which, during the storm, had stood to me as the symbols of all that
remained stable in the universe. A young woman opened the door of the
staunch little farmhouse to us--a girl with a baby in her arms and a
couple of youngsters fastened on her skirt. Her face was
pretty--decidedly so, as I saw presently,--but at the moment I noticed
that less than the courage it expressed. There was a well of tears
behind her fine eyes, but I knew the shedding of them was going to be
postponed indefinitely. Solberg, after directing a questioning look
round the kitchen and sitting-room, asked bluntly where her husband was.
With a nervous glance in my direction, she replied evasively that he was
"outside walking round," adding that she had milked the cows and done
the chores herself. With a keen and sympathetic glance of understanding,
my friend turned on his heel and vanished into the darkness.

Never having seen any one hailed-out before, I was somewhat at a loss to
know just what form my comforting ought to take. Finally, doubtless
subconsciously inspired by "The Greatest Mother in the World" picture, I
scooped up all the kiddies in sight and started to dandle them. I had
always won approving nods for pulling that kind of a stunt, whether it
was in a London Zeppelin raid or a drive of Armenian refugees at
Trebizond. Even here it was sound--theoretically at least--for it gave
the mother a chance to use her hands and apron to wipe dishes. Where it
miscarried was on the practical side--the oldest boy would keep putting
his hob-nailed boot in the baby's eye. But when I had cached the baby in
its crib and gagged the other two with a handful of wet dried apricots,
instinct came to my rescue and headed me off on the proper
tack--sympathy stuff. That is, I told her my own troubles and led her to
forget hers in sympathizing with them.

Sincerely and unfeignedly sorry as I was for these people, I was
(momentarily) almost as sorry for myself before I came to the end of
that tale of woe. I was a poor farmer from California. (Just how poor,
and in how many senses of the word, I didn't confess.) Of all the
farmers in the world, none had so many troubles as the California
farmer. Take oranges, for example. If the buds escaped the frost
probably the tiny green fruit would succumb to the "June Drop." If the
latter was weathered, there were the black scale, the brown rot and the
red spider lying in ambush, complicated by the probability of water
shortage at the end of the summer. If the fruit ran that gauntlet and
came to maturity, then there lurked the worst menace of all--the January
frosts. And finally, if the ripe fruit survived the frost barrage and
reached the packing-house, it was only to be pushed on into the "No
Man's Land" of an overstocked market. No man lived with so many
Damoclean swords suspended over him as the California orange
grower--unless it was the California peach, prune, apricot, grape,
nectarine or olive grower; or the walnut or almond grower; or the
alfalfa, barley or wheat farmer; or the truck gardener.

I had been all of these, I said, and was just about to go on
particularizing on the diseases and dangers threatening each crop, as I
had done with the orange, when the rustle of a skirt caused me to raise
my bowed head. There she was, a half-wiped pie-tin still in the bight of
her apron, standing over me and looking down with tears a lot nearer to
brimming than when we entered.

"And so you have had to come up to Montana looking for work?" she asked
in a voice vibrant with sympathy. "What a shame it is we're all
hailed-out round here, with no work in sight, and nothing to pay for it
with if there was."

Having over-sailed the mark by a mile, I hastened to trim in canvas and
beat back onto the course as originally charted. The last year or two in
California hadn't been so bad, I admitted. I had even made quite a bit
of money, so that this little river jaunt of mine on the Yellowstone was
really almost in the nature of a pleasure trip. (Funny thing, but that
river-pleasure-jaunt assertion was the only statement I made at which
she seemed inclined to lift an eyebrow.) I had brought a few of my
California home-dried apricots along, I continued. Perhaps they would
enjoy a few for a change. _That_ was the point I had been man[oe]uvring
to. Now I would play my comforter rôle.

Spreading the last of my bag of sticky slabs out before the fire, I
started to tell how they were made. First there was the picking by men
and the cutting and pitting by Mexican girls. She interrupted to ask
what the girls were paid. I told her about fifteen cents a box, adding
that some of the defter fingered of them often made three and four
dollars a day. She sighed at that, and wished she had a chance to earn
that much--sure and safe where the hail couldn't get it.

Solberg came in with her husband at this juncture. He was a good-looking
young chap, well set up and with the right kind of an eye. There was no
doubt of the depth of his discouragement and depression, but he was
plainly too good stuff to sulk for long. He shook hands warmly enough,
but there was a trace of bitterness in the smile with which he remarked
that he was glad to see that I had survived the hail better than had his
oats and corn. I rattled right on about the apricots, telling of the
sulphuring, sunning, stacking, binning and packing, adding--in a
convenient moment when the wife had stepped out to shake the
tablecloth--that ever effective little capsule about the Mexican
_señoritas_, all young, dark-eyed and beautiful. The good chap actually
lifted his head and took a deep, shoulder-squaring breath at that. He
relapsed again when I failed to develop the theme, but it was only
temporary. Ten minutes later, with great inconsequentiality, I heard him
asking his wife how she would like to go to California and work in the
apricots. Then he went over, wound up the Victrola and put on "_Smiles!
Smiles! Smiles!_" What a lot of latent good there was in those
California home-dried apricots, I reflected as we splashed along
homeward! Surely I must not fail to renew my supply at the next town.

As we were preparing to turn in for the night, I took Solberg to task
for his remark earlier in the evening to the effect that a woman and
kiddies didn't make it any easier for a man who had been hailed-out.
"Don't you think," I asked, "that a plucky little woman like that comes
in pretty handy to buffer the bumps in a time of trouble like this?" For
the first and only time my host was guilty of sarcasm. "Well," he said
with a cynical glint in his blue eye, "if I had been in your place down
there on the sand-bar I daresay I would have been glad of almost
anything to buffer the bumps of the hail-stones. As it is, I reckon I
can do my own buffering."

Recognizing the familiar symptoms of an ancient but still unhealed
wound, I thought the best thing I could do under the circumstances was
to concentrate on blowing up my sleeping-bag and turning in. Funny how
imagination works in a man who is much alone. Given a pin-prick over the
heart, with ten years of solitude to brood over it, and he'll convince
himself that the original wound was from nothing of less calibre than a
"Big Bertha."

The next morning was bright and clear, with no signs of any menace
lurking under the northeastern horizon. Solberg accompanied me across
his ruined fields to my boat. His corn and oats, he admitted, were a
total loss, but he thought there were signs that the tough, stringy
stalks of the sweet clover had some vitality left in them. He seemed
especially attached to this beautiful plant, calling it "The Friend of
Man" and saying that he had experimented with several foods and drinks
from it that promised well for human consumption. There was something
particularly appealing to me in this fine, and bluff, if slightly
eccentric, chap. I think it was his wholesomeness--the firmness with
which he seemed to have his feet planted on the earth. One who has been
attracted to the French peasant for his love of the land from which he
draws his life will know what I mean.

I pushed off into a quiet current that was in strange contrast to the
wind-torn welter of white I had seen at that bend the evening before.
The air on the river was fairly drenched with the heavy odour of crushed
vegetation, which seemed to have drained there from higher levels. This
was pronounced at all times, but where I skirted fields of sweet clover
there was a palpability to the perfume which suggested that one might
almost gather it in his hands and allow it to pour through his fingers.
In the Marquesas there is a little yellow-blossomed bush called the
_cassi_, the pollen from which blows far to leeward before the
South-east Trade. At times I have thought that I could detect the
delicate odour of blown-_cassi_ ten miles at sea, yet never even in
kicking my way through a copse of the fragrant little bush have I been
assailed with such a veritable flow of perfume as coiled and streamed
about me as I drifted down toward the mouth of the Yellowstone that
morning after the great hail-storm. Doubtless, indeed, the hail was
responsible. Crushed and dying, the voiceless "Friend of Man" was
chanting its "Swan Song" in the only medium at its command.

A couple of miles below the bend where the storm had caught me I passed
into North Dakota at a point called the State Line Ferry. An hour later
I ran under the bridge of a branch of the Great Northern. It was a fine,
bold piece of construction, and it was in my mind at the time that its
builder must be an outstanding man in his line. This surmise was
vindicated a month later when I found him putting in the first piers of
a bridge to span the Missouri at Yankton. Incidentally, some of his
false-work got in the way of my skiff and all but dumped me out into the
"Big Muddy."

Below Forsyth's Butte, last of the outstanding landmarks of the
Yellowstone, the country on both sides began to smoothen and flatten out
and offer less resistance to the spread of the river. The broad
over-flow flats offered an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos,
recalling to me that a very large portion of Clark's journey of early
August was devoted to telling of the mental and physical suffering
inflicted upon the members of his party by the swarms of stinging pests
they had encountered just above and below the mouth of the Yellowstone.
From Clark's time down to the present this particular region has always
been regarded as "The Dark and Bloody Ground of the Mosquito Coast of
Dakota." I was resolved to put bars between myself and the enemy that
night--if not the mosquito bars of a hotel room, then the mid-stream
sand-bars of the Missouri.




A broad, sweeping curve to the left, a wide bend, and then an equally
broad and sweeping curve to the right opened up a long vista with low,
dry, rounded hills at the end of it. With a quick catch of breath I
recognized the telegraph poles of the Great Northern Railway and the
scattering buildings of Fort Buford--both _beyond the Missouri_. A swift
run under a crumbling cut-bank on the left carried me past an
out-reaching tongue of yellow clay and into a quiet, sluggish,
dark-stained current that came meandering along from the west.

I have mentioned the quieter, calmer current in which I had been
drifting below Glendive. So it had seemed after the tumultuous mountain
torrent which I had run from Livingston to Billings; yet in comparison
with this decorous bride from the west the Yellowstone came to its
marriage bed like a raging lion. Or, to borrow an animal from the next
cage in the zoo, the Missouri, in coming down to meet and mingle with
the Yellowstone, fared much like the lady who went out to ride on the
tiger. If I may paraphrase:

  "I finished my ride with the Lady inside,
  And the smile on the face of the Tiger,"

meaning the Yellowstone. Without even pausing to crouch for a spring,
the tawny, impetuous feline on whose back I had ridden all the way down
from the Rockies, simply rushed out upon the muddy lamb from the western
plains and gobbled it up. Seven or eight weeks later I saw the latter do
the same thing to the Mississippi--crowd it right over against the
Illinois shore and gulp it down. And along toward the end of October I
remember thinking how like the blonde beast of the Yellowstone was a
ropy coil of tawny current I found undermining a levee in Louisiana.
According to the maps I had been travelling for upwards of three
thousand miles on the Missouri and Mississippi, but in fancy it was the
tawny tiger of the Yellowstone that had carried me all the way from the
borders of Wyoming to the tide-waters of the Gulf of Mexico.


Transcriber's Note:

     * Spelling errors repaired:

          pg. 31:   saffon           =====>     saffron
          pg. 64    grevious         =====>     grievous
          pg. 77:   capenter         =====>     carpenter
          pg. 84:   setting          =====>     sitting
          pg. 92:   Bozeban          =====>     Bozeman
          pg. 135:  transporation    =====>     transportation
          pg. 159:  slighty          =====>     slightly
          pg. 171:  he               =====>     be
          pg. 186:  imparing         =====>     impairing
          pg. 186:  side-urge        =====>     side-surge
          pg. 192:  about            =====>     above
          pg. 196:  by               =====>     my
          pg. 215:  an               =====>     a
          pg. 239   Glendives        =====>     Glendive
          pg. 244:  servicable       =====>     serviceable
          pg. 279:  particulary      =====>     particularly

     * Other changes:

          pg. 185:  Removed duplicate "to".

     * Spelling differences unchanged:
          Albemarle and Albermarle
          Drownded and drowned

     * Inconsistent hyphenations left as originally printed.

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