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Title: With the Indians in the Rockies
Author: Schultz, James Willard
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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                    With the Indians in the Rockies


                          With the Indians in
                              The Rockies


                         JAMES WILLARD SCHULTZ

                         WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

                             GEORGE VARIAN

                        CONSTABLE & CO. LIMITED
                          BOSTON AND NEW YORK
                        HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                               TO MY WIFE

                         CELIA HAWKINS SCHULTZ

                       HAVE BEEN MY GREATEST HELP
                          IN WRITING THE TALE


When in the seventies I turned my back on civilization and joined the
trappers and traders of the Northwest, Thomas Fox became my friend. We
were together in the Indian camps and trading posts often for months at
a time; he loved to recount his adventures in still earlier days, and
thus it was that I learned the facts of his life. The stories that he
told by the evening camp-fire and before the comfortable fireplaces of
our various posts, on long winter days, were impressed upon my memory,
but to make sure of them I frequently took notes of the more important

As time passed, I realized more and more how unusual and interesting his
adventures were, and I urged him to write an account of them. He began
with enthusiasm, but soon tired of the unaccustomed work. Later,
however, after the buffalo had been exterminated and we were settled on
a cattle-ranch, where the life was of a deadly monotony compared with
that which we had led, I induced him to take up the narrative once more.
Some parts of it he wrote with infinite detail; other parts consisted
only of dates and a few sentences.

He was destined never to finish the task. An old bullet wound in his
lung had always kept him in poor health, and when, in the winter of
1885, he contracted pneumonia, the end was quick. His last request was
that I would put his notes in shape for publication. This I have done to
the best of my ability in my own old age; how well I have done it is for
the reader to judge.

Brave, honest old Ah-ta-to-yi (The Fox), as the Blackfeet and
frontiers-men loved to call him! We buried him on a high bluff
overlooking the valley of the Two Medicine River, and close up to the
foothills of the Rockies, the "backbone-of-the-world" that he loved so
well. After we had filled in the grave and the others had gone,
Pitamakan and I sat by the new-made mound until the setting sun and the
increasing cold warned us also to descend into the valley. The old chief
was crying as we mounted our horses.

"Although of white skin," he faltered, "the man who lies there was my
brother. I doubt not that I shall soon meet him in the Sand-hills."

  February, 1912.


  THE SHALE BEGAN SLIDING UNDER MY FEET (page 51)      _Frontispiece_
  IT TOPPLED OVER WITH A CRASH AND LAY STILL                      14
  AGAIN AND AGAIN IT ROSE                                         76
  PITAMAKAN FIERCELY STRIKING A BLOW                             128
  THE AVALANCHE BURST INTO THE FLAT                              200
  I GRABBED THEM UP AND FOLLOWED HIM                             210

              _Reproduced from drawings by George Varian,
                by permission of The Youth's Companion._

                    With the Indians in the Rockies

                               CHAPTER I

My father kept a little firearm shop in St. Louis. Over it was the

                            DAVID FOX & Co.
                        Wholesale & Retail Guns
                             & Ammunition.
                      Fine Rifles & Fowling Pieces
                             Made To Order.

"Co." on the sign stood for my uncle, Wesley Fox, who was a silent
partner in the business. Longer than I could remember, he had been an
employee of the American Fur Company away up the Missouri River.

It was a great event in the quiet life of our little family of three
when he came, as he did every two or three years, to pay us a short
visit. He no sooner set foot in the house than my mother began to cook
bread, cakes, puddings and pies. I have seen him make what he called a
delicious breakfast on nothing but buttered toast and coffee. That was
because he did not get any bread where he lived except on Christmas Day.
Every pound of freight that went up the river above Fort Union in the
company's keel-boats and bateaux was for the Indian trade, and there was
no room for such luxuries as flour.

While Uncle Wesley was with us, mother always let me put away my books,
and not say any lessons to her, and I went with him everywhere in the
town. That is what St. Louis was in those days--just a good-sized town.
I liked best to go with him to the levee and see the trappers and
traders coming in, their bateaux loaded down with beaver and other fur
pelts. Nearly all these men wore buckskin clothes and moccasins, and
fur caps of their own make. They all had long hair and big whiskers and
mustaches that looked as if they had been trimmed with a butcher-knife.

Every time my Uncle Wesley came out of the Far West he brought me a bow
and arrows in a fine case and quiver; or a stone-headed war-club; real
weapons that had killed buffalo and been in battles between the tribes.
And once he brought me a Sioux scalp, the heavy braided hair all of four
feet in length. When I asked him where he got it he laughed a little and
said, "Oh, I got it up there near Fort Union." But I had seen my mother
shake her head at him, and by that I knew that I was not to be told
more. I guessed, though, that he had taken that scalp himself, and long
afterward I found out that I had guessed right.

One night I heard the family talking about me. I had been sent to bed
and was supposed to be asleep, but as the door to my room was open and I
was lying wide awake, I couldn't help hearing. My mother was taking
Uncle Wesley to task. "You know that the presents you bring him only add
to his interest in trapping and trading," she said, "and as it is, we
don't succeed very well in interesting him in his studies, and in the
life we have planned for him."

"You know how our hearts are set on his going to Princeton," said my
father, in his always low, gentle voice, "and then becoming such a
preacher as his grandfather was before him. You must help us, Wesley.
Show the boy the dark side of the plains life, the hardships and dangers
of it."

In our little sitting-room there was a picture of Grandfather Fox, a
tall, dark man with a long wig. He wore a long-tailed coat with a
tremendous collar, knee-breeches, black stockings, and shoes with
enormous buckles. I thought that I should not like to be a preacher if
that was the way I must dress. And thinking that, I lost the rest of
what they were saying and fell asleep.

Uncle Wesley stayed with us only a few days that spring. He intended to
remain a month, but one morning Pierre Chouteau, the head of the great
fur company, came to our house and had a long talk with him, with the
result that he left for Fort Union the very next day, to take the place
of some one who had died there.

So I went back to my studies, and my parents kept me closer at home than
ever. I was allowed to go out on real play spells only for two hours on
Saturday afternoons. There were very few American boys in the town in
those days. Most of my playmates were French Creoles, who spoke very
little English, or none at all, so naturally I learned their patois.
That knowledge was very useful to me in after days.

I am going to pass over what I have to say now as quickly as possible,
for even after all these years, and old as I am, the thought of it still
hurts. In February of the following winter my father fell ill of
smallpox and died. Then my mother and I took it, and my mother died

I did not know anything about her death until many days after she was
buried, and then I wanted to die, too. I felt that there was nothing in
the world for me, until one day Pierre Chouteau himself came for me in
his grand carriage, took me to his house, and kept me there until May,
when my uncle arrived again in St. Louis.

Uncle Wesley put on what we call "a bold front" when he came to me, but
for all that I could see that he was very sad. We had just one talk
about my future. "I should like to carry out your father's and mother's
plans for you, Tom," he said. "The only way to do it, so far as I can
see, is to send you to Cynthia Mayhew, in Hartford, Connecticut. She
loved your mother,--they were just like sisters,--and I know that she
would be glad to take care of you and see to your education."

I broke out crying, and said that if he sent me away from him I should
die. How could he be so cruel as to send me far away among strangers?
And then I cried all the harder, although I was ashamed of myself for
doing so.

Uncle Wesley almost broke down himself. He gulped hard two or three
times, and his voice wasn't steady as he took me on his lap and felt of
my spindling legs and arms.

"Poor boy! You are weak," he said. "Weak in body and low in mind. Well,
we'll say no more about this matter of your education now. I'll take you
up the river with me for a year, or until you get good and strong. But
we'll pack your study books along, and a good part of your mother's
library, and you'll have to dig into them every evening after we get
settled. Now that's fair, isn't it?"

It was more than fair. My fondest dream was to be realized. I was
actually to see the country and the Indians and the great herds of
buffalo. There was nothing in St. Louis now to keep my uncle or make
his stay there a pleasure. As quickly as possible he disposed of the
little shop and its contents, and deposited the entire proceeds with the
company for me "for a rainy day," as he said.

On April 10, 1856, we left St. Louis on the Chippewa, a fine new boat
that the company had just bought. I was thirteen years old, and that was
my first steamboat ride. As the stern-wheel craft swung out from the
levee and steamed rapidly--as it seemed to me--up-stream, the novel
experience gave me the keenest pleasure. I fairly hugged myself as I
remembered that by the channel of the river it was more than two
thousand miles to our destination.

We no sooner left the Mississippi and turned into the more muddy waters
of the Missouri than I earnestly begged my uncle to get his rifle out of
the cabin and load it, so as to be ready to shoot buffalo. I was
terribly disappointed when he told me that many days must pass before
we should see any of the animals. But to please me he brought the rifle
to the cabin deck and fired a couple of shots at the sawyers in the
river. Again he loaded the piece, and told me to shoot at one.

"Even boys must know how to shoot where we are going," he said. "Now
take a fine sight at the end of that little sawyer and let's see how
near it you can place a bullet."

I did as I was told and fired, after a long, wabbly aim; the water
splashed just over the tip of the log, and a number of passengers
clapped their hands and praised me.

That shot began my training in shooting. Every day after that, until we
got to the game country, I spent an hour shooting at different objects
in the water and on the banks. One morning I fired at one of a pair of
wild geese. The bird gave a flap or two of its great wings, its head
dropped, and it floated inertly with the current.

"I killed it!" I shouted. "I killed it! Wasn't that a fine shot, uncle?"

He was silent a moment, and then said gravely:--

"It was a thoughtless boy's shot. And I hope it will be the only one. A
true hunter never takes the life of God's creatures needlessly."

That was all he said, but the reproof was enough. I took it to heart,
and all my life I have not only profited by it, but preached to others
against the wanton taking of life.

After passing St. Charles, Missouri, the ranches of the settlers were
farther and farther apart, and in a few days we saw the last of them and
were in the wild country. Game now became more and more frequent,
especially white-tail deer, of which we soon had some for the table. The
boat was always tied to an island or to the shore at sundown, and during
the short remainder of daylight we would all scatter in the near timber
to hunt. A number of wild turkeys were killed, which made us some fine
feasts. On these occasions, however, I was only a follower of the
hunters. My red-letter day was yet to come.

At Fort Pierre we saw a great number of Sioux Indians. Formerly a
company post, it had been sold to the United States, and was now
occupied by several companies of soldiers. Two days after leaving the
fort, we sighted the first of the buffalo herds, a small band of bulls
that splashed out of the river not far ahead of the boat, and took to
the hills. About four o'clock that afternoon, the port engine breaking
down, we had to make a long stop for repairs. As soon as we swung into
the bank and learned that the boat would be tied there for the night, my
uncle got out his rifle, and we went hunting.

The timber bordering the river was half a mile wide, with an undergrowth
of willow- and rose-brush so thick that we never could have penetrated
it but for the game trails crossing it in every direction. From the
looks of them, I thought that thousands of animals must be living
there. The trails were worn deep by their sharp hoofs.

In places the earth was moist but hard, and there the tracks were
plainly outlined. My uncle pointed out the difference in them--how the
tracks of the deer differed from those of elk, and how these differed
again from the tracks of the buffalo. I was taught, too, that wolf
tracks were longer than those of the mountain-lion, which were nearly
circular. Finally, I was asked to prove my knowledge.

"What made those tracks?" I was asked.

I hesitated a moment, and replied that I thought buffalo had made them.

"Right," said my uncle. "They seem very fresh; we will follow them."

The myriad tracks of different game, the mystery of the deep woods, the
thought that hostile Indians might be there hunting us, all combined to
excite me. My heart thumped rapidly and I found it difficult to breathe.
I was afraid, and kept looking intently in all directions--even behind
me, for I expected every moment to see something come charging through
the brush, either to rend us with sharp claws or to stick our bodies
full of arrows.

But nothing could have induced me to admit that I felt so; gritting my
teeth, I followed on uncertain legs, close at Uncle Wesley's heels. So
close was I that when he suddenly stopped, I bumped into him, and then
gave a little squeal of fright, for I thought that he had discovered
something to justify my fears.

"_Sh-h-h-h!_" he cautioned, and reaching back and drawing me to his
side, he pointed significantly ahead.

We were only a few yards from the outer edge of the timber; a hundred
yards farther on were three buffalo bulls, standing motionless on the
open, sparsely grassed bottom-land. How big they were! How majestic and
yet uncouth they loomed before me! They had apparently no necks at all.
Forgetting entirely our purpose in coming there, I stared at them with
intense interest, until my uncle passed me the rifle and whispered,
"Take that farthest one. He is young and in good condition. Aim low,
close behind his shoulder."

My hands closed on the long-barreled, heavy weapon. Heretofore my boy
strength had been sorely taxed to shoot with it, but now, in my tense
excitement, it fairly leaped to my shoulder, and I was able to hold it
steady. I pulled the trigger.

_Bang!_ A thick cloud of powder smoke drifted into my face, and then
passed on, and I saw two of the bulls running across the bottom; the
other was swaying, staggering round and round, with blood streaming from
its mouth. Before I could reload, it toppled over with a crash and lay


I stood staring at the animal like one in a dream; it was hard to
realize that I had actually killed it. Uncle Wesley broke my trance by
praising the shot I had made, and added that the animal was in fine
condition and would weigh all of a ton. He had me lie down on it, my
feet even with its fore feet, and I found that I could not reach the top
of its withers, or rather, its hump: its height had been more than six

I now got my first lesson in skinning and butchering one of these great
animals. Without axe or windlass, or any of the other things regarded as
indispensable by farmers and by professional butchers, the old-time
plainsmen made a quick and neat job of this work with only a common

First, my uncle doubled up the bull's fore legs and straightened back
the hind ones. Then, little by little, he twisted the great head sharply
back beside the body, at the same time heaving up the back, and in a
moment or two the animal lay prone on its belly, propped up in that
position by the head. If the skin had been wanted, the rolling-up of the
animal would have been reversed, and it would have lain on its back,
legs up, and as in the other way, propped in position by the bent-back

After making an incision along the back from head to tail, he skinned
both sides down to the ground, and even under the body, by propping the
head one way and then another, and slanting the carcass so that there
was knife room beneath. At last the body lay free, back up, on the
clean, spread-out skin.

The choicest part of it was the so-called "hump," or in frontier
language, the "boss ribs." These dorsal ribs rose gradually from the
centre of the back to a length of twenty inches and more just above the
point of the shoulders, and were deeply covered with rich tenderloin.

It took but a moment to get the set off. Uncle Wesley cut an incision
along each side at the base of them; then he unjointed a hind leg at the
gambrel-joint, and with that for a club he hit the tips of the ribs a
few blows, causing them to snap off from the back-bone like so many
pipe-stems, and the whole hump lay free on the hide.

Next, he removed the legs with a few deft cuts of the knife, and laid
them out on the clean grass; unjointed the backbone at the third rib and
removed the after part; severed the neck from the big ribs, cut them
apart at the brisket, and smashed one side of them free from the
backbone with the leg club, and there we had the great animal divided in
eight parts. Lastly, he removed the tongue through an incision in the
lower jaw.

"There," said he, when it was all done, "now you know how to butcher.
Let's hurry to the boat and get the roustabouts to carry in the meat."

From this point on, there were days at a time when we saw no Indians,
and the various kinds of game animals were more and more plentiful and
tame. At last, several days after passing Fort Clarke, we came to the
American Fur Company's greater post, Fort Union, situated on the north
bank of the river about five miles above the mouth of the Yellowstone.

It was begun in 1829, under the direction of the factor, Kenneth
McKenzie, and finished in 1832. A stockade of logs ten or twelve feet
long, set up on end, side by side, protected the buildings, and this, in
turn, was commanded by two-storied bastions, in which cannon were
mounted at the northeast and southwest corners.

When we approached the place, a flag was run up on the staff of the
fort, cannon boomed a welcome, and a great crowd of Indians and company
men, headed by the factor, gathered at the shore to greet us. My uncle
and I were escorted to the two-story house which formed the rear of the
fort, and in which were the quarters of the factor and clerks.

I learned afterward that distinguished guests had been housed there:
George Catlin, the painter and philanthropist, in 1832; Maximilian,
Prince of Neuwied, in 1833; and Audubon, the great naturalist, in 1843.
All of them published extremely interesting accounts of what they saw
and did in the Upper Missouri country, which I commend to the reader,
Maximilian's "Travels in North America" especially; for I went up the
river from Fort Union just as he did, and there had been practically no
change in the conditions of the country from his time to mine.
Maximilian gives a wonderfully accurate and vivid description of the
remarkable scenery of the Missouri, without question the most strangely
picturesque river in America, and probably in the world.

My Uncle Wesley was a valued clerk of the American Fur Company. He was
sent from one to another of their Far Western forts, as occasion for his
services arose, and frequently he was in full charge of a post for
months at a time, while the factor went on a trip to the States. When we
arrived in Fort Union he was told that he must go on to Fort Benton,
where the factor needed his help. At that time, since the company's
steamboats went no farther than Fort Union, all the goods for the posts
beyond were sent in keel-boats, or bateaux. It was not until the summer
of 1860 that the extreme upper river was found to be navigable, and on
July 2 of that year the Chippewa and the Key West arrived at Fort

A keel-boat was lying at Fort Union when we arrived there; it was
waiting for part of the Chippewa's cargo of ammunition, guns, and
various trade goods, mostly tobacco, red and blue cloth, brass wire for
jewelry, Chinese vermilion, and small trinkets. These were soon
transferred, and we resumed our voyage, Uncle Wesley in charge of the
boat and crew. The Minnie was sixty feet long, ten feet wide, and was
decked over. The crew consisted of thirty French-Canadian cordelliers,
or towmen, a cook, a steersman and two bowmen, and a hunter with his
horse. In a very small cabin aft there were two bunks. Forward there was
a mast and sail for use when the wind was favorable--which was seldom.
There was a big sweep oar on each side, and a number of poles were
scattered along the deck to be used as occasion required. In the bow
there was a four-pound howitzer, loaded with plenty of powder, and a
couple of quarts of trade balls, in case of an attack by Indians, which
was not at all improbable.

By the channel it was called eight hundred miles from Fort Union to Fort
Benton, where we hoped to arrive in two months. After the first day's
experience, I thought that we should be fortunate if we reached the
place in two years. From morning until night the cordelliers toiled as I
had never seen men toil before. It was a painful sight, those thirty men
tugging on the long tow-rope as they floundered through water often
waist-deep; through quicksand or mud so tenacious that the more
unfortunate were dragged out of it gasping for breath and smeared with
the stuff from head to foot. They frequently lost their footing on
steep places and rolled down into deep water; banks of earth caved upon
them; they were scratched and torn by rose-brush and bull-berry thorns;
they were obliged to cut trails along the top of the banks in places,
and to clear a way for the boat through dense masses of sawyers and

A day or two after leaving Fort Union we narrowly escaped losing the
boat, and the lives of all of us who were on it, in the treacherous
swirling current. At the time the cordelliers were walking easily along
a sandy shore under a high bank. Ahead of them, at the edge of the
water, lay a dead buffalo bull, its rump partly eaten by the prowling
animals. When the lead-man was within a few feet of it a big grizzly
sprang toward him from the other side of the carcass, where it had lain
asleep. The men dropped the rope and with loud cries sprang into the
water, since they could not climb the bank. The boat at once turned
broadside to the swift current, drifted against two sawyers, and began
to turn turtle. The lower rail was already under water, and the horse
had lost its footing and tumbled overboard, where it hung strangling,
when by the greatest good fortune first one and then the other of the
sawyers snapped under the strain, and the boat righted and swung in to
the bank. We now had time to see what was going on above. The bear was
just leaving the opposite shore and making for the timber; the men,
dripping from their hasty bath, were gathered in a close group near the
carcass, and were talking and gesticulating as only Frenchmen can. We
suspected that something was wrong, and while the bowmen made the boat
fast, the rest of us hurried up the shore. The group parted at our
approach and disclosed one of their number--the lead-man on the
rope--lying moaning on the sand. The bear had overtaken and mauled him
terribly, and then, frightened probably by the loud cries of so many
men, it took to the river and swam away. We got the wounded man aboard
at once, and my uncle set his arm and made him as comfortable as
possible. The hunter had saved his horse by cutting its rope and
swimming with it to a landing far down stream. As soon as the tow-line
was recovered we went on, thankful that the accident had been no worse.

Yet through it all they were cheerful and happy, and at the evening
camp-fire my uncle was frequently obliged to speak harshly to keep them
from shouting their voyageur songs, that might have brought some
prowling war party of Indians down on us. The food of these men was
meat--nothing but meat, washed down with a little tea. Sometimes they
managed to dig a few _pommes blanches_, white, edible roots that were
very palatable when roasted in the coals. Uncle Wesley and I had a box
of hard crackers and a few pounds of flour and sugar. When they were
gone, he told me, we should have no more until we sat down to our
Christmas dinner. That did not worry me; I thought that if big, strong
men could live on meat, a boy could, too.

The river wound like a snake through the great valley. There were long
points only a mile or two across by land, but many times that distance
round by the channel. Sometimes when we came to such a place Uncle
Wesley and I would hunt across the bottom and then wait for the boat. On
these trips I killed my first deer and elk and antelope--not to mention
several more buffalo.

But Uncle Wesley was always uneasy when away from the boat; he was
responsible for it and its cargo, which was worth more than a hundred
thousand dollars in furs. Should anything happen to it while he was away
from it, even for an hour's hunt, his hope of eventually becoming a
member of the great company would have to be given up. Finally, after
minute instructions in the proper handling of the rifle, I was allowed
to accompany the hunter on his daily quests for meat.

Baptiste Rondin was a dreamy, gentle little Creole from Louisiana. He
came from a good family, had not been taught to work, and had hated
books, so he told me. So when misfortune came to his family, and he had
to do something, he chose the position he now held in preference to
others with more pay which the Chouteaus had offered him. When we
started out in the morning, I would climb up behind him on the gentle
old horse, and we would ride for miles up one side or the other of the
river. We always saw various kinds of game soon after leaving the boat,
but never attempted to kill any until some was found convenient to the
shore of the river, where the boat could land and the meat easily be
taken aboard.

Besides looking for game, we examined every dusty trail, every mudflat
and sandbar, and constantly scanned the bottoms and the hills for signs
of Indians. They were the great terror of the cordelliers; often a
boat's crew was surprised and killed, or the cargo was destroyed.

We tied up one night four or five miles below the mouth of the
Musselshell River, which my Uncle Wesley said Lewis and Clark had so
named on account of the quantities of fossil shells that are found

Early the next morning Baptiste saddled the old horse, and we started
out to hunt at the same time that the cordelliers hauled the rope tight
and began their weary tramp.

We came to the lower edge of the big bottom at the mouth of the
Musselshell. Opposite the mouth there was a heavily timbered island. One
small band of antelope was the only game in sight between us and the
Musselshell. On the other side of it, at the upper end of the bottom and
close to the Missouri, there were a couple of hundred buffalo, some
feeding, some lying down.

They were so far away that we rode boldly through the tall sage-brush to
the little river, and across it to the outer edge of the strip of
timber. There Baptiste told me to remain with the horse while he crept
out to the herd and made a killing. I did not like being left alone.
There were many fresh grizzly tracks on the river sands just behind me,
and I was afraid of the terrible animals, so afraid that I did not dare
to dismount and gather some strawberries which showed in the grass at
the horse's feet.

The passing minutes seemed hours. The tall sage-brush out ahead had
swallowed Baptiste. By rising in the stirrups I could just see the backs
of some of the distant buffalo. A sudden splash in the river made my
heart flutter, and I quickly turned to see what had caused it.

Here and there between the trees and brush its glistening surface was in
plain view, and through one opening I saw something more terrible than a
whole band of grizzlies: an Indian crossing toward me. I saw his face,
painted red with blue bars across the cheeks; I noted that he wore
leather clothing; that a shield hung suspended from his left arm; that
in his right hand he grasped a bow and a few arrows.

All this I noted in an instant of time; and then nearer to me, and more
to the right, a stick snapped, and I turned my head to see another
Indian in the act of letting an arrow fly at me. I yelled and gave the
horse such a thump with the stock of my rifle that he made a long, quick
leap. That was a lucky thing for me. The arrow aimed at my body cut
through my coat sleeve and gashed my left arm just above the elbow.

I yelled frantically for Baptiste and urged the horse on through the
sage-brush. I looked back, and saw that Indians all up and down the
stream were leaving the timber and running toward me. I looked ahead and
saw the smoke of Baptiste's gun, heard the report, saw the buffalo bunch
up and then scurry westward for the nearest hills.

The thought came to me that I could pick the hunter up, and that the
old horse would easily carry us beyond the possibility of an attack by
Indians afoot. That hope was shattered a moment later. The buffalo
suddenly circled and came back into the bottom, and I saw that they had
been turned by some Indians at the edge of the hills. Indians were
strung out clear across the flat, were leaping through the sage-brush
toward us, and shouting their dreadful war-cry; they were hemming us in
on the south, and the great river cut off our retreat to the north.

I urged the old horse on, determined to reach Baptiste and die by his
side, but the Indians who had appeared on the hills were now quite near
him. I saw him raise his rifle and fire at the one in the lead, then
turn and run a few steps and spring from the high cut-bank into the
river. But just before jumping he paused, and raising a hand, motioned
to me to turn back.

To turn back! Accustomed to obeying him, I sawed on the bridle and the
horse stopped. I looked over my shoulder, and saw that the nearest of
the Indians were not three hundred yards from me. In my distress I
cried, "What shall I do? Oh, what shall I--what can I do to escape?"

                               CHAPTER II

I do not know why I cried out. Of course there was no one to answer, to
advise, or assist me. I have often noticed that in times of stress men
shout the questions that they ask themselves. Why had Baptiste motioned
me to go back, when by doing so I must run right into the Indians? I
must have misunderstood his signal. Clearly, my only chance of escape
was the same as his, and that was by the river.

Pummeling the old horse with rifle-stock and heels, I headed him for the
stream. Not straight toward it, where the bank was apparently very high,
but obliquely, toward a point not far above the mouth of the
Musselshell. There the bank was certainly not high, for the tips of
water-willows peeped above it.

In a few moments I was close enough to look over it. Between the narrow
strip of willows and the edge of the water there was an oozy mudflat,
fifty yards wide, impassable for man or horse.

I looked back at the enemy, and saw that when I had turned downstream,
those toward the upper end of the bottom had given up the chase, while
the rest had turned with me and run faster than ever. Thus there was a
wide gap between the two parties, and I circled toward it, as my last
chance. First up the river for several hundred yards, then straight
south, away from it. Both parties immediately perceived my intention,
and spurted to close the gap. Harder and harder I thumped the horse,
although by this time he had waked up, and was entering into the spirit
of the flight. The distance between the two parties of Indians was now
not more than three hundred yards, and I was more than that from the
point for which we all were heading; but to offset this I was covering
the ground much faster than they were.

The Indians were now yelling frightfully, to encourage one another to
greater speed. I could see their painted faces, and a little later
their fierce eyes.

The gap was very small now; they began shooting, and several pieces of
lead ripped by me with the sound of tearing paper. I did not try to use
my rifle. In that first experience there was no anger in my heart
against the enemy, nothing but fear of them.

I felt, rather than saw, that they would be unable to head me off, if
only by a narrow margin, and I bent low over the horse to make myself as
small a target as possible. More guns boomed close on each side of me.
Arrows whizzed, too, and the shaft of one struck my rifle-stock, glanced
from it, and cut the skin on the back of my hand. That was when I passed
right between the two parties.

In a dazed way, I kept urging the horse on, until presently it dawned on
me that I was past the danger point. Having looked back to make sure of
this, I changed my course, crossed the Musselshell, and went on down the
bottom, and then along the shore of the river several miles, until I
came to the boat.

When the cordelliers saw me returning in such haste, they knew that
something was wrong. They ceased towing, and let the boat drift in to
the bank, in such a position that I rode right on the deck. I was still
so frightened that it was difficult for me to talk, but my uncle,
guessing the parts of the story which I omitted, ordered all the men
aboard. In a few minutes we were at the other shore of the river.

The cordelliers objected to going on with the tow-line, but my uncle was
firm that they should start without delay, and they did. The steersman,
an old and tried employee, was sent ahead of them to scout, and Uncle
Wesley took his place at the sweep. The howitzer was freshly primed, and
one of the men instructed to stand by, ready to aim and fire it. I was
anxious about Baptiste, and although my uncle told me not to worry, I
doubted if we should ever see him again.

In a couple of hours we arrived off the island opposite the mouth of the
Musselshell, and lo! Baptiste came out of the brush at the lower end of
it, and signaled us to take him aboard. That was done with the skiff. As
soon as he came on deck he ran to me, in his impetuous French way, gave
me a hug and a thump on the back, and exclaimed, "It is my brave boy!
And he is safe! One little wound in the hand? That is nothing. Now, tell
me how you made the escape."

But at this moment my uncle came to consult the hunter, and my story was
deferred. I learned from Baptiste later that the Indians were Crees,
probably on their way south, to raid the Crow horse herds.

By this time we had passed the island. Baptiste was just asking us to
note how high the cut-bank was from which he had jumped into the stream,
when the whole party of Indians rose out of the sage-brush at the edge
of it, and with much yelling, fired their guns at us. As the distance
was three or four hundred yards, only a few of their balls struck
anywhere near the boat. Uncle Wesley himself sprang to the howitzer,
swung it round, tilted up the barrel, and fired it. Some of the balls
dropped into the water near the far shore, several spatted little puffs
of dust out of the dry cut-bank, and others must have passed right among
the war party. Anyway, the Indians all ducked down and ran back from the
bluff. We saw no more of them.

Ever since leaving the mouth of the Yellowstone we had been passing
through the extraordinary formation of the Bad Lands. From this point
onward the scenery became more and more wonderful. Boy that I was, I was
so deeply impressed with the strange grandeur of it all that the
sensations I experienced were at times actually oppressive. At every
turn there was something to astonish the eye. There were gleaming white
and gray turreted castles, perched high above the stream; cities of
clustering domes and towers and minarets, all wrought by the elements
from sandstones of varying hardness, but all so apparently real as to
suggest that men and women in mediæval dress might pass out of the gates
in the walls at any moment.

We arrived at Fort Benton just ninety days after leaving Fort Union. The
flag was raised and cannon fired in our honor, and more than five
thousand Blackfeet, headed by the factor, Alexander Culbertson, and the
employees of the fort, crowded to the river-bank to give us welcome.

I was astonished to see so many Indians. I noticed that they were tall,
fine-looking men and women; that they wore beautiful garments of tanned
skins; that their hair was done up in long, neat braids; that many of
the leading men shook hands with my uncle, and seemed glad to meet him.

My uncle introduced me to that great man, the factor, who patted me
kindly on the shoulder. With him we went into the fort, where, just as
we passed through the big gate, a tall, handsome Indian woman, wearing a
neat calico dress, a plaid shawl, and beautifully embroidered
moccasins, came running to us, threw her arms round my uncle, and kissed
him. I must have looked as surprised as I felt, especially when I noted
that he was very glad to meet her. Having spoken a few words to her,
which I couldn't understand, he turned to me. "Thomas," he said, "this
is your aunt. I hope that you and she will become great friends."

I was now more surprised than ever, but tried not to show it as I
answered, "Yes, sir."

At that the woman gave a smile that was pleasant to see, and the next
instant she had me in her arms and was kissing me, smoothing my hair,
and talking Blackfoot to me in her strangely clear and pleasant voice.
My uncle interpreted. "She says that she wants to be your mother now;
that she wants you to love her, to come to her for everything you need."

I do not know just what it was,--her voice, her appearance, the motherly
feeling of her arms round me,--but there was something about this
Indian woman that made my heart go straight out to her. I gave her hand
a squeeze, while tears came to my eyes as I snuggled up close to her.
Right willingly I went with her and Uncle Wesley to the room in the far
end of the long adobe building forming the east side of the fort, which
he said was to be our home for a long time to come.

It was the kind of room that gave one a restful feeling at sight.
Opposite the doorway was a big fireplace of stone and adobe, with hooks
above the mantel for rifles and powder-horns and ball-pouches. Two
windows on the courtyard side afforded plenty of light. There were a
strong table and comfortable chairs, all home-made. A settee covered
with buffalo-robes was placed before the fire. A curtained set of
shelves in the corner contained the dishes and cooking-utensils. The
north end of the room was partitioned off for a sleeping-place. My bed,
I was told, would be the buffalo-robe couch under the window at the
right of the door.

The next day my uncle took me all round the fort and made me known to
the different employees--clerks and tailors, carpenters and blacksmiths,
and the men of the trade-room. The fort was a large one, about three
hundred feet square, all of adobe. Entering the front gate, you saw that
three long buildings, of which the easterly one was two stories high,
formed three sides of the quadrangle, and that a high wall containing
the gate formed the fourth, or south side, facing the river. The outer
walls of the buildings were thus the defensive walls of the fort. They
were protected against assault by two-storied bastions, with cannon at
the southeast and northwest corners. All the tribes of the Northwest
together could not have taken the place by assault without the loss of
thousands of their force, and they knew it.

Before night the keel-boat was unloaded, and our trunks were brought in
and unpacked. My mother's little library and my school-books filled a
new set of shelves, and that evening I began, under my uncle's
direction, a course of study and reading, preparatory to going East to
school in the following year.

No boy ever had a happier time than I had in that fort so far beyond the
borders of civilization. Day in and day out there was always something
worth while going on. Hundreds, and often thousands, of Indians came in
to trade, and I found endless pleasure in mingling with them and learned
their language and customs. In this I was encouraged by Tsistsaki
(Little Bird Woman), my uncle's wife. She had no children, and all her
natural mother love was given to me. In her way of thinking, nothing
that I did could be wrong, and the best of everything was not good
enough for me. The beautifully embroidered buckskin suits and moccasins
she made for me fairly dazzled the eye with their blaze of color. These
were not for everyday wear, but I took every possible occasion for
putting them on, and strutted around, the envy of all the Indian boys in
the country.

The winter passed all too quickly. With the approach of spring my uncle
began to plan for my long trip to St. Louis, and thence to the home of
my mother's Connecticut friend, where I was to prepare for Princeton. I
said nothing to him, but I had many talks with my aunt-mother,
Tsistsaki; and one night we poured out such a torrent of reasons why I
should not go, ending our pleadings with tears, that he gave in to us,
and agreed that I should grow up in the fur trade.

A frequent visitor in our cozy room in the fort was a nephew of
Tsistsaki, a boy several years older than I. We liked each other at
sight, and every time we met we became firmer friends than ever.
"Friend" means much more to Indians--at least, to the Blackfeet--than it
does to white people. Once friends, Indians are always friends. They
almost never quarrel. So it came to be with Pitamakan (Eagle Running)
and myself.

My uncle Wesley was as much pleased as his wife. One day he said to me,
"Pitamakan is an honest, good-hearted boy, and brave, too. He gets all
that from his father, who is one of the very best and most trustworthy
Indians in all this country, and from his mother, who is a woman of fine
character. See to it that you keep his friendship."

Except, of course, Baptiste Rondin, the hunter of the fort, Pitamakan
was almost the only one with whom I was allowed to go after the buffalo
and the other game which swarmed on the plains near by. What with my
daily studies, occasional hunts, and the constant pleasure I had in the
life of the fort, time fairly flew; no day was too long. And yet, for
four years, I never once went more than five miles from the fort.

During this time my one great desire was to go on a trip into the Rocky
Mountains. Clearly visible from the high plains to the north and south
of the river, their pine-clad slopes and sharp, bare peaks always seemed
to draw me to explore their almost unknown fastnesses.

In the fall of 1860 there came an opportunity for me to do this. The
Small Robes band of the Blackfeet, of which Pitamakan's father, White
Wolf (Mah-kwi´-yi ksik-si-num), was chief, outfitted at the fort for an
expedition to trap beaver along the foot of the great mountains, and,
much to my surprise and delight, I was permitted to accompany them.

At this time there were ninety lodges--about six hundred people--of the
Small Robes (I-nuk-siks) band of the Blackfeet. They had several
thousand horses, and when the moving camp was strung out on the plain,
the picturesque riders, the pack-animals laden with queerly shaped,
painted rawhide and leather pouches and sacks, made a pageant of moving
color that was very impressive.

Our first camp after leaving the fort was on the Teton River. A couch
was made up for me in White Wolf's lodge. The lodge of the plains
Indians was the most comfortable portable shelter ever devised by man.
One of average size was made of sixteen large cow buffalo-hides, tanned
into soft leather, cut to shape, and sewed together with sinew thread.

This cone-shaped "lodge skin" was stretched over tough, slender poles of
mountain-pine, and the lower edge, or skirt, was pegged so that it was
at least four inches above the ground. Within, a leather lining, firmly
weighted to the ground by the couches and household impedimenta of the
occupants, extended upward for five or six feet, where it was tied to a
rope that was fastened to the poles clear round. There was a space as
wide as the thickness of the poles between the "skin" and the lining, so
that the cold, outside air rushing up through it created a draft for the
fire, and carried the smoke out of the open space at the top. This
lining, of course, prevented the cold air from coming into the lower
part of the lodge, so that even in the coldest weather a small fire was
enough for comfort.

Traveling leisurely up the Teton River, we came in three or four days to
the foot of the great range. There we went into camp for several weeks,
long enough for the hunters to trap most of the beavers, not only on the
main stream, but on all its little tributaries. Pitamakan and I had
twelve traps, and were partners in the pursuit of the animals.

From the Teton we moved northward to Back-Fat Creek, now Dupuyer Creek.
From there we went to the Two Medicine waters, and then on to the
Cut-Bank River. The trapping area of this stream was small. On the first
day of our camp there Pitamakan and I foolishly went hunting, with the
result that when, on the next day, we began looking for a place to set
our traps, we found that all the beaver-ponds and bank-workings had been
occupied by the other trappers.

It was late in the afternoon, after we had followed up the south fork
to a tremendous walled cañon, where it was impossible for the beavers to
make dams and homes, that we made this discovery. Our disappointment was
keen, for from Cut-Bank the camp was to return to Fort Benton, and we
had only thirty-seven of the fifty beaver pelts that we had planned to
take home with us.

We were sitting on a well-worn trail that stretched along the
mountainside above the cañon, when Pitamakan suddenly exclaimed:--

"Listen to me! We will get the rest of the beaver! You see this trail?
Well, it crosses this backbone of the world, and is made by the
other-side people,--the Kootenays and the Flatheads,--so that they can
come over to our plains and steal our buffalo. You can see that it has
not been used this summer. It will not be used at all now, since winter
is so near. Now, down on the other side there are many streams in the
great forest, and no doubt there are beavers in them. We will go over
there to-morrow, and in a few days' trapping we will catch enough to
make up the number we set out to get."

This plan seemed good to me, and I said so at once. We left the traps on
the trail and started to camp, to prepare for an early start in the
morning. We decided to say nothing to any one of our intentions, to
White Wolf least of all, lest he should forbid our going.

At dusk we picketed near camp two horses that we selected for the trip,
and during the evening we refilled our powder-horns and ball-pouches to
the neck. Rising the next morning before any of the others were awake,
and each taking a heavy buffalo-robe from our bedding, we quietly left
the lodge, saddled and mounted our horses, and rode away. Some dried
meat and buffalo back fat taken from the lodge furnished us a
substantial breakfast.

The trail was plain and easy to follow. We picked up the traps, and
mounting steadily, arrived at the extreme summit of the great range not
long after midday. From where we stood, the trail ran slightly downward,
along a narrow divide, across to the next mountain. The south side of
the divide was a sheer drop of several thousand feet. The top was a
narrow, jagged knife of rock, along which a man could not have passed on
foot. On the north side the sharp reef dropped almost precipitously to a
narrow and exceedingly steep slope of fine shale rock, which terminated
at the edge of a precipice of fearful depth.

It was along this shale slope that the trail ran, but there were no
signs of it now, for the tracks of the last horses that passed had been
filled. Even while we stood there, small particles of shale were
constantly rolling and tinkling down it and off into abysmal space.
Shuddering, I proposed that we turn back, but Pitamakan made light of
the danger.

"I have been here before, and know what to do," he said. "I can make it
so that we can safely cross it."

With a long, thin and narrow slab of rock he began gouging a trail out
of the steep slide. The small and the large pieces of detritus which he
dislodged rattled off the edge of the cliff, but strain my ears as I
might, I could not hear them strike bottom. It was fully a hundred yards
across this dangerous place, but Pitamakan soon made his way along it,
and back to me.

His path seemed more fit for coyotes than for horses, but he insisted
that it was wide enough, and started leading his animal out on it. There
was nothing for me to do but to follow with mine. When part way across,
my horse's hind feet broke down the little path, and he went with the
sliding shale for several feet, all the time madly pawing to get back on
the sound portion on which I stood. When I tried to help him by pulling
on the lead-rope, the shale began sliding under my feet. At that,
Pitamakan, starting to run with his horse, shouted to me to do the same.

For the rest of the way across, the strain on me and my animal was
killing. We tore out all trace of the path in our efforts to keep from
going down and off the slide. Wherever we put down our feet the shale
started slipping, and the struggle to climb faster than it slipped
exhausted our strength. When finally we did reach the firm rock where my
companion stood waiting, we were utterly fatigued and dripping with

Pitamakan's face was ashy gray from the strain of watching my struggles.
He drew me to him, and I could feel him trembling, while he said, in a
choking voice, "Oh, I thought you would never get here, and I just had
to stand and look, unable to help you in any way! I didn't know. I
should have made a wider, firmer path."

We sat down, and he told me about this pass: that after the winter snows
came neither man nor horse could cross it, since the least movement
would start the snow sliding. Three Blackfeet had once lost their lives
there. In that manner, the avalanche which they loosened had swept them
with it over the cliff, to the horror of their comrades who stood
looking on. Upon our return, he said, he would make a safe path there,
if it took him all day to finish the task.

Soon we went on, turned the shoulder of the twin mountain, and felt that
we had come into another world. Near by there were some tremendous
peaks, some of them covered with great fields of ice, which I learned
later were true glaciers.

In other ways, too, this west side was different from the east side of
the Rockies. As far as we could see there were no plains, only one
great, dark, evergreen forest that covered the slopes of the mountains
and filled the endless valleys. Here, too, the air was different; it was
damp and heavy, and odorous of plants that grow in moist climates.

Working our way from ledge to ledge down the mountain, we came, toward
sunset, to what my friend called the Salt Springs. Farther west than
this point he had never been.

Early the next morning we pushed on, for we were anxious to reach the
low valleys where the beavers were to be found.

Still following the trail, we struck, about mid-afternoon, a large
stream bordered with alder, cottonwood, and willow, the bark of which is
the beaver's favorite food. There were some signs of the animals here,
but as we expected to find them more plentiful farther down, we kept on
until nearly sundown, when we came to a fine grass meadow bordering the
now larger river. Here was feed for the horses; in a pond at the upper
end of the meadow there were five beaver lodges.

"Here is the place for us," said Pitamakan. "Let us hurry and picket the
horses, and kill a deer; night is at hand."

We started to ride into the timber to unsaddle, when we heard a heavy
trampling and crackling of sticks off to the left of the beaver-pond,
and so sat still, rifles ready, expecting to see a band of elk come into
the open.

A moment later thirty or forty Indians, men, women, and children, rode
into the meadow. Perceiving us, the men whipped up their horses and came
racing our way.

"They are Kootenays! It is useless to fire at them, or to run!"
Pitamakan exclaimed. "I do not think they will harm us. Anyhow, look
brave; pretend that you are not afraid."

The men who surrounded us were tall and powerfully built. For what
seemed to me an endless time, they sat silently staring, and noting
every detail of our outfit. There was something ominous in their
behavior; there came to me an almost uncontrollable impulse to make a
move of some kind. It was their leader who broke the suspense.
"_In-is-saht!_" (Dismount!) he commanded, in Blackfoot, and we
reluctantly obeyed.

At that they all got off their horses, and then at word from the chief,
each crowding and pushing to be first, they stripped us of everything we
had. One man got my rifle; another the ammunition; another snatched off
my belt, with its knife, and the little pouch containing flint, steel,
and punk, while the chief and another, who seemed to be a great warrior,
seized the ropes of our horses. And there we were, stripped of
everything that we possessed except the clothes we stood in.

At that the chief broke out laughing, and so did the rest. Finally,
commanding silence, he said to us, in very poor Blackfoot:--

"As you are only boys, we will not kill you. Return to your chief, and
tell him that we keep our beaver for ourselves, just as the plains
people keep the buffalo for themselves. Now go."

There was nothing to do but obey him, and we started. One man followed
us a few steps, and struck Pitamakan several blows across the back with
his whip. At that my friend broke out crying; not because of the pain,
but because of the terrible humiliation. To be struck by any one was the
greatest of all insults; and my friend was powerless to resent it.

Looking back, we saw the Kootenays move on through the meadow and
disappear in the timber. Completely dazed by our great misfortune, we
mechanically took our back trail, and seldom speaking, walked on and on.
When night came, rain began to fall and the wind rose to a gale in the
treetops. At that Pitamakan shook his head, and said, dejectedly, "At
this season rain down here means snow up on top. We must make strong
medicine if we are ever to see our people again."

Hungry and without food or weapons for killing any game, wet and without
shelter or any means of building a fire, we certainly were in a
terrible plight. Worse still, if it was snowing on the summit, if winter
had really set in, we must inevitably perish. I remembered hearing the
old trappers say that winter often began in October in the Rocky
Mountains; and this day was well on in November! "Pitamakan! We are not
going to survive this!" I cried.

For answer, he began singing the coyote song, the Blackfoot hunter's
prayer for good luck. It sounded weird and melancholy enough there in
the darkening forest.

                              CHAPTER III

"There! Something tells me that will bring us good luck," said
Pitamakan, when he had finished the medicine song. "First of all, we
must find shelter from the rain. Let us hurry and search for it up there
along the foot of the cliffs."

Leaving the trail, we pushed our way up the steep slope of the valley,
through underbrush that dropped a shower of water on us at the slightest
touch. There were only a few hundred yards between us and the foot of
the big wall which shot high above the tops of the pines, but by the
time we arrived there night had fairly come. At this point a huge pile
of boulders formed the upper edge of the slope, and for a moment we
stood undecided which way to turn. "Toward home, of course!" Pitamakan
exclaimed, and led the way along the edge of the boulders, and finally
to the cliff. There in front of us was a small, jagged aperture, and
stooping down, we tried to see what it was like inside. The darkness,
however, was impenetrable.

I could hear my companion sniffing; soon he asked, "Do you smell

But I could detect no odor other than that of the dank forest floor, and
said so.

"Well, I think that I smell bear!" he whispered, and we both leaped
back, and then stealthily drew away from the place. But the rain was
falling now in a heavy downpour; the rising wind lashed it in our faces
and made the forest writhe and creak and snap. Every few moments some
old dead pine went down with a crash. It was a terrible night.

"We can't go on!" said Pitamakan. "Perhaps I was mistaken. Bears do not
lie down for their winter sleep until the snow has covered up their
food. We must go back and take our chance of one being there in that

We felt our way along the foot of the cliff until we came to the place.
There we knelt down, hand in hand, sniffed once more, and exclaimed,
"_Kyaiyo!_" (Bear!)

"But not strong; only a little odor, as if one had been here last
winter," Pitamakan added. "The scent of one sticks in a place a long

Although I was shivering so much from the cold and wet that my teeth
rattled, I managed to say, "Come on! We've got to go in there."

Crawling inch by inch, feeling of the ground ahead, and often stopping
to sniff the air and listen, we made our cautious way inside, and
presently came to a fluffy heap of dried grass, small twigs and leaves
that rustled at our touch.

"Ah, we survive, brother!" Pitamakan exclaimed, in a cheerful voice.
"The bear has been here and made himself a bed for the winter; they
always do that in the month of falling leaves. He isn't here now,
though, and if he does come we will yell loud and scare him away."

Feeling round now to learn the size of the place, we found that it was
small and low, and sloped to the height of a couple of feet at the back.
Having finished the examination, we burrowed down into the grass and
leaves, snuggled close together, and covered ourselves as well as we
could. Little by little we stopped shivering, and after a while felt
comfortably warm, although wet.

We fell to talking then of our misfortune, and planning various ways to
get out of the bad fix we were in. Pitamakan was all for following the
Kootenays, stealing into their camp at night, and trying to recover not
only our horses, but, if possible, our rifles also. I made the objection
that even if we got a whole night's start of the Kootenays, they,
knowing the trails better than we did, would overtake us before we could
ride to the summit. We finally agreed to follow the trail of our enemies
and have a look at their camp; we might find some way of getting back
what they had taken.

We really slept well. In the morning I awoke first, and looking out, saw
nothing but thick, falling snow. I nudged my companion, and together we
crept to the mouth of the cave. The snow was more than a foot deep in
front of us, and falling so fast that only the nearest of the big pines
below could be seen. The weather was not cold, certainly not much below
freezing, but it caused our damp clothing to feel like ice against the
skin. We crept back into our nest, shivering again.

"With this snow on the ground, it would be useless to try to take
anything from the Kootenays," I said.

"True enough. They could follow our tracks and easily overtake us,"
Pitamakan agreed.

As he said no more for a long time, and would not even answer when I
asked a question, I, too, became silent. But not for long; so many
fears and doubts were oppressing me that I had to speak. "We had better
start on, then, and try to cross the summit."

Pitamakan shook his head slowly. "Neither we nor any one else will cross
the summit until summer comes again. This is winter. See, the snow is
almost to our knees out there; up on top it is over our heads."

"Then we must die right here!" I exclaimed.

For answer, my partner began the coyote prayer song, and kept singing it
over and over, except when he would break out into prayers to the sun,
and to Old Man--the World-Maker--to give us help. There in the low
little cave his song sounded muffled and hollow enough. Had I not been
watching his face, I must have soon begged him to stop, it was so
mournful and depressing.

But his face kept brightening and brightening until he actually smiled;
and finally he turned to me and said, "Do not worry, brother. Take
courage. They have put new thoughts into me."

I asked what the thoughts were, and he replied by asking what we most

"Food, of course," I said. "I am weak from hunger."

"I thought you would say that!" he exclaimed. "It is always food with
white people. Get up in the morning and eat a big meal; at midday,
another; at sunset, another. If even one of these is missed, they say
they are starving. No, brother, we do not most need food. We could go
without it half a moon and more, and the long fast would only do us

I did not believe that. It was the common belief in those times that a
person could live for only a few days without food.

"No, it is not food; it is fire that we most need," Pitamakan continued.
"Were we to go out in that snow and get wet and then have no means of
drying and warming ourselves, we should die."

"Well, then, we must just lie here and wait for the snow to melt away,"
I said, "for without flint and steel we can have no fire."

"Then we will lie here until next summer. This country is different from
ours of the plains. There the snow comes and goes many times during the
winter; here it only gets deeper and deeper, until the sun beats
Cold-Maker, and comes north again."

I believed that to be true, for I remembered that my uncle had told me
once that there were no chinook winds on the west side of the range. So
I proposed what had been on my mind for some time: that we go to the
camp of the Kootenays and beg them to give us shelter.

"If they didn't kill us, they would only beat us and drive us away. No,
we cannot go to them," said Pitamakan decidedly. "Now don't look so sad;
we shall have fire."

He must have read my thoughts, for he added, "I see that you don't
believe that I can make fire. Listen! Before you white people came with
your flints and steels, we had it. Old Man himself taught us how to make
it. I have never seen it made in the old way because my people got the
new way before I was born. But I have often heard the older ones tell
how it used to be made, and I believe that I can do it myself. It is
easy. You take a small, dry, hard stick like an arrow-shaft, and twirl
it between the palms of your hands, or with a bowstring, while the point
rests in a hole in a piece of dry wood, with fine shreds of birch bark
in it. The twirling stick heats these and sets them on fire."

Although I did not understand this explanation very well, I yet had some
faith that Pitamakan could make the fire. He added that he would not try
it until the weather cleared, and we could go round in the timber
without getting wet except from the knees down.

We lay there in the bear's bed all that day. At sunset the snow ceased
falling, but when the clouds disappeared, the weather turned much
colder, and it was well for us that the heat of our bodies had pretty
thoroughly dried our clothing. As it was, we shivered all through the
night, and were very miserable.

Out in the darkness we heard some animal scraping through the snow, and
feared that it might be the bear come to get into its bed. We had talked
about that. If it was a black bear, we were safe enough, because they
are the most cowardly of all animals, and even when wounded, will not
attack a man. But what if it were a big grizzly! We both knew tales
enough of their ferocity. Only that summer a woman, picking berries, had
been killed by one.

So when we heard those soft footsteps we yelled; stopped and listened,
and yelled again, and again, until we were hoarse. Then we listened. All
was still. Whatever had roused us was gone, but fear that a grizzly
would come shuffling in kept us awake.

Day came long before the sun rose above the tremendous peaks that
separated us from the plains. Much as we ached to crawl out of the cave
and run and jump, we lay still until the sun had warmed the air a bit.
The night before I had been ravenously hungry; but now my hunger had
largely passed, and Pitamakan said that I would soon forget all about

"But we can't live all winter without eating!" I objected.

"Of course not," he replied. "As soon as we have fire, we will go
hunting and kill game. Then we will make us a comfortable lodge. Oh,
we're going to be very comfortable here before many days pass."

"But the Kootenays!" I objected. "They will come again and drive us on,
or kill us!"

"Just now they are moving out of the mountains as fast as they can go,
and will not return until summer comes again."

When we finally crawled out after our long rest, we saw that a bear
really had been near us in the night. It had come walking along the
slope, close to the foot of the cliff, until right in front of the cave,
and then, startled, no doubt, by our yells, had gone leaping straight
down into the timber. The short impressions of its claws in the snow
proved it to have been a black bear. We were glad of that; another
night, fear, at least, would not prevent us from sleeping.

Both of us were clothed for summer hunting, I in buckskin trousers and
flannel shirt, with no underclothing or socks. Pitamakan wore buffalo
cow-leather leggings, breech-clout, and, fortunately, a shirt like mine
that his aunt had given him. Neither of us had coat or waistcoat, but in
place of them, capotes, hooded coats reaching to our knees, made of
white blanket by the tailor at the fort. The snow looked very cold to
step into with only thin buckskin moccasins on our feet, and I said so.

"We will remedy that," said Pitamakan. He pulled off his capote, tore a
couple of strips from the skirt of it, and then did the same with mine.
With these we wrapped our feet, pulled our moccasins on over them, and
felt that our toes were frost-proof.

The snow was knee-deep. Stepping into it bravely, we made our way down
the slope and into the timber. There it was not so deep, for a part of
the fall had lodged in the thick branches of the pines. We came upon the
tracks of deer and elk, and presently saw a fine white-tail buck staring
curiously at us. The sight of his rounded, fat body brought the hungry
feeling back to me, and I expressed it with a plaintive "_Hai-yah!_" of

Pitamakan understood. "Never mind," he said, as the animal broke away,
waving its broad flag as if in derision. "Never mind. We will be eating
fat ribs to-morrow, perhaps; surely on the next day."

That talk seemed so big to me that I said nothing, asked no question, as
we went on down the hill. Before reaching the river we saw several more
deer, a lone bull moose and a number of elk; the valley was full of
game, driven from the high mountains by the storm.

The river was not frozen, nor was there any snow on the low, wet, rocky
bars to hinder our search for a knife. That was what we were to look
for, just as both Pitamakan's and my own ancestors had searched, in
prehistoric times, for sharp-edged tools in glacial drift and river
wash. I was to look for flint and "looks-like-ice rock," as the
Blackfeet call obsidian. As I had never seen any obsidian, except in the
form of very small, shiny arrow-points, it was not strange that
Pitamakan found a nodule of it on a bar that I had carefully gone over.
It was somewhat the shape of a football, rusty black, and coated with
splotches of stuff that looked like whitewash. I could not believe that
it was what we sought until he cracked it open and I saw the glittering

Pitamakan had never seen any flint or obsidian flaked and chipped into
arrow-points and knives, but he had often heard the old people tell how
it was done, and now he tried to profit by the information. With a small
stone for a hammer, he gently tapped one of the fragments, and succeeded
in splintering it into several thin, sharp-edged flakes. Carefully
taking up all the fragments and putting them at the foot of a tree for
future use, we went in search of material for the rest of the
fire-making implements.

We knew from the start that finding them would not be easy, for before
the snow came, rain had thoroughly soaked the forest, and what we needed
was bone-dry wood. We had hunted for an hour or more, when a half-dozen
ruffed grouse flushed from under the top of a fallen tree and flew up
into the branches of a big fir, where they sat and craned their necks.
Back came my hungry feeling; here was a chance to allay it. "Come on,
let's get some stones and try to kill those birds!" I cried.

Away we went to the shore of the river, gathered a lot of stones in the
skirts of our capotes, and hurried back to the tree. The birds were
still there, and we began throwing at the one lowest down. We watched
the course of each whizzing stone with intense eagerness, groaning,
"_Ai-ya!_" when it went wide of the mark. Unlike white boys, Indian
youths are very inexpert at throwing stones, for the reason that they
constantly carry a better weapon, the bow, and begin at a very early age
to hunt small game with it. I could cast the stones much more accurately
than Pitamakan, and soon he handed what he had left to me.

Although I made some near shots, and sent the stones clattering against
the branches and zipping through the twigs, the bird never once moved,
except to flutter a wing when a missile actually grazed it or struck the
limb close to its feet. With the last stone of the lot I hit a grouse,
and as it started fluttering down we made a rush for the foot of the
tree, whooping wildly over our success, and frightening the rest of the
covey so that they flew away.

The wounded bird lodged for a moment in a lower branch, toppled out of
that into another, fluttered from that down into clear space. Pitamakan
sprang to catch it, and grasped only the air; for the bird righted
itself, sailed away and alighted in the snow, fifty yards distant. We
ran after it as fast as we could. It was hurt. We could see that it had
difficulty in holding up its head, and that its mouth was open. We felt
certain of our meat. But no! Up it got when we were about to make our
pounce, and half fluttered and half sailed another fifty yards or so.
Again and again it rose, we hot after it, and finally it crossed the
river. But that did not daunt us. The stream was wide there, running in
a still sweep over a long bar; and we crossed, and in our hurry,
splashed ourselves until we were wet above the waist. Then, after all,
the grouse rose long before we came anywhere near it, and this time
flew on and on until lost to sight!

Our disappointment was too keen to be put into words. Dripping wet and
as miserable a pair of boys as ever were, we stood there in the cold
snow and looked sadly at each other. "Oh, well, come on," said
Pitamakan. "What is done is done. We will now get the wood we want and
make a fire to dry ourselves."

He led off, walked to a half-fallen fir, and from the under side broke
off just what we were looking for--a hard, dry spike about twice the
diameter of a lead-pencil and a foot or more in length. That did seem to
be good luck, and our spirits rose. We went out to the shore of the
river, where I was set to rounding off the base of the spike and
sharpening the point, first by rubbing it on a coarse-grained rock, and
then smoothing it with a flake of obsidian. I ruined the edge of the
first piece by handling it too vigorously; the brittle stone had to be
forced slowly and diagonally along the place to be cut.

                [Illustration: AGAIN AND AGAIN IT ROSE]

Pitamakan, meanwhile, was hunting a suitable piece of wood for the drill
to work in. Hard wood, he had heard the old people say, was necessary
for this, and here the only growth of the kind was birch.

By the time I got the drill shaped, he had found none that was dry, and
I was glad to help in the search, for I was nearly frozen from standing
still so long in my wet clothes. Up and down the river we went, and back
into the forest, examining every birch that appeared to be dead. Every
one that we found was rotten, or only half dry. It was by the merest
chance that we found the very thing: a beaver-cutting of birch, cast by
the spring freshet under a projecting ledge of rock, where it was
protected from the rains. It was almost a foot in diameter and several
feet long. We rubbed a coarse stone against the centre of it until the
place was flat and a couple of inches wide, and in that started a small
hole with the obsidian. This was slow work, for the glasslike substance
constantly broke under the pressure needed to make it cut into the wood.
It was late in the day when the gouging was finished, and we prepared to
put our tools to the test.

This was an occasion for prayer. Pitamakan so earnestly entreated his
gods to pity us, to make our work successful, and thus save our lives,
that, unsympathetic as I was with his beliefs, I could not help being
moved. I wanted to be stoical; to keep up a brave appearance to the
last; but this pathetic prayer to heathen gods, coming as it did when I
was weak from hunger and exposure, was too much. To this day I remember
the exact words of it, too long to repeat here. I can translate only the
closing sentence: "Also, have pity on us because of our dear people on
the other side of the range, who are even now weeping in their lodges
because we do not return to them."

When he had finished the prayer, Pitamakan took the drill in the palms
of his hands and set the point of it in the small, rough hole in the
birch. We had already gathered some dry birch bark, and I held some of
it, shredded into a fluffy mass, close round the drill and the pole.

"Now, fire come!" Pitamakan exclaimed, and began to twirl the drill
between his hands, at the same time pressing it firmly down in the hole.

But no smoke came. What was the reason? He stopped and raised the drill;
we felt of it and the hole; both were very hot, and I suggested that we
take turns drilling, changing about in the least possible time. We tried
it, and oh, how anxiously we watched for success, drilling and drilling
for our very lives, drilling turn about until our muscles were so
strained that we could not give the stick another twirl! Then we dropped
back and stared at each other. Our experiment had failed. Night was
coming on. Our wet clothing was beginning to freeze, and there was the
river between us and the shelter of our cave.

The outlook seemed hopeless, and I said so. Pitamakan said nothing; his
eyes had a strange, vacant expression. "We can do nothing," I repeated.
"Right here we have to die."

Still he did not answer, or even look at me, and I said to myself, "He
has gone mad!"

                               CHAPTER IV

"If they will not do," Pitamakan muttered, rising stiffly, while the ice
on his leggings crackled, "why, I'll cut off a braid of my hair."

I was now sure that our troubles had weakened his mind; no Indian in his
right senses would think of cutting off his hair.

"Pitamakan! What is the trouble with you?" I asked, looking up anxiously
at him.

"Why, nothing is the matter," he replied. "Nothing is the matter. We
must now try to work the drill with a bow. If our moccasin strings are
too rotten to bear the strain, I'll have to make a bow cord by cutting
off some of my hair and braiding it."

It was a great relief to know that he was sane enough, but I had little
faith in this new plan, and followed listlessly as he went here and
there, testing the branches of willow and birch. Finally, he got from
the river shore one stone that was large and smooth, and another that
had a sharp edge. Then, scraping the snow away from the base of a birch
shoot a couple of inches in diameter, he laid the smooth stone at its
base. Next he bade me bend the shoot close down on the smooth stone,
while with the sharp edge of the other he hit the strained wood fibre a
few blows. In this way he easily severed the stem. Cutting off the top
of the sapling in the same manner, he had a bow about three feet in
length; a rough, clumsy piece of wood, it is true, but resilient.

As my moccasin strings were buckskin and much stronger than Pitamakan's
cow-leather ones, we used one of mine for the bowstring. We now carried
the base stick and drill back from the creek into the thick timber,
gathered a large bunch of birch bark and a pile of fine and coarse
twigs, and made ready for this last attempt to save ourselves.

We hesitated to begin; uncertainty as to the result was better than
sure knowledge of failure, but while we waited we began to freeze. It
was a solemn and anxious moment when Pitamakan set the point of the
drill in the hole, made one turn of the bowstring round its centre, and
held it in place by pressing down with the palm of his left hand on the
tip. With his right hand he grasped the bow, and waiting until I had the
shredded bark in place round the hole, he once more started the coyote
prayer song and began sawing the bow forth and back, precisely the
motion of a cross-cut saw biting into a standing tree.

The wrap of the string caused the drill to twirl with amazing rapidity,
and at the third or fourth saw he gave a howl of pain and dropped the
outfit. I had no need to ask why. The drill tip had burned his hand;
when he held it out a blister was already puffing up.

We changed places, and I gathered the skirt of my capote in a bunch to
protect my hand. I began to work the bow, faster and faster, until the
drill moaned intermittently, like a miniature buzz-saw. In a moment or
two I thought that I saw a very faint streak of smoke stealing up
between my companion's fingers.

He was singing again, and did not hear my exclamation as I made sure
that my eyes had not deceived me. Smoke actually was rising. I sawed
harder and harder; more and more smoke arose, but there was no flame.

"Why not?" I cried. "Oh, why don't you burn?"

Pitamakan's eyes were glaring anxiously, greedily at the blue curling
vapor. I continued to saw with all possible rapidity, but still there
was no flame; instead, the smoke began to diminish in volume. A chill
ran through me as I saw it fail.

I was on the point of giving up, of dropping the bow and saying that
this was the end of our trail, when the cause of the failure was made
plain to me. Pitamakan was pressing the shredded bark too tight round
the drill and into the hole; there could be no fire where there was no
air. "Raise your fingers!" I shouted. "Loosen up the bark!"

I had to repeat what I said before he understood and did as he was told.
Instantly the bark burst into flame.

"Fire! Fire! Fire!" I cried, as I hastily snatched out the drill.

"_I-puh-kwí-is! I-puh-kwí-is!_" (It burns! It burns!) Pitamakan shouted.

He held a big wad of bark to the tiny flame, and when it ignited,
carried the blazing, sputtering mass to the pile of fuel that we had
gathered and thrust it under the fine twigs. These began to crackle and
snap, and we soon had a roaring fire. Pitamakan raised his hands to the
sky and reverently gave thanks to his gods; I silently thanked my own
for the mercy extended to us. From death, at least by freezing, we were

The sun was setting. In the gathering dusk we collected a huge pile of
dead wood, every piece in the vicinity that we had strength to lift and
carry, some of them fallen saplings twenty and thirty feet long. I was
for putting a pile of them on the fire and having a big blaze. I did
throw on three or four large chunks, but Pitamakan promptly lifted them

"That is the way of white people!" he said. "They waste wood and stand,
half freezing, away back from the big blaze. Now we will have this in
the way we Lone People do it, and so will we get dry and warm."

While I broke off boughs of feathery balsam fir and brought in huge
armfuls of them, he set up the frame of a small shelter close to the
fire. First, he placed a triangle of heavy sticks, so that the stubs of
branches at their tops interlocked, and then he laid up numerous sticks
side by side, and all slanting together at the top, so as to fill two
sides of the triangle. These we shingled with the fir boughs, layer
after layer, to a thickness of several feet. With the boughs, also, we
made a soft bed within.

We now had a fairly comfortable shelter. In shape it was roughly like
the half of a hollow cone, and the open part faced the fire. Creeping
into it, we sat on the bed, close to the little blaze. Some cold air
filtered through the bough thatching and chilled our backs. Pitamakan
pulled off his capote and told me to do the same. Spreading them out, he
fastened them to the sticks of the slanting roof and shut off the draft.
The heat radiating from the fire struck them, and reflecting, warmed our
backs. The ice dropped from our clothes and they began to steam; we were
actually comfortable.

But now that the anxieties and excitement of the day were over, and I
had time to think about other things than fire, back came my hunger with
greater insistence than ever. I could not believe it possible for us to
go without eating as long as Pitamakan said his people were able to
fast. Worse still, I saw no possible way for us to get food. When I
said as much to Pitamakan, he laughed.

"Take courage; don't be an afraid person," he said. "Say to yourself, 'I
am not hungry,' and keep saying it, and soon it will be the truth to
you. But we will not fast very long. Why, if it were necessary, I would
get meat for us this very night."

I stared at him. The expression of his eyes was sane enough. I fancied
that there was even a twinkle of amusement in them. If he was making a
joke, although a sorry one, I could stand it; but if he really meant
what he said, then there could be no doubt but that his mind wandered.

"Lie down and sleep," I said. "You have worked harder than I, and sleep
will do you good. I will keep the fire going."

At that he laughed, a clear, low laugh of amusement that was good to
hear. "Oh, I meant what I said. I am not crazy. Now think hard. Is there
any possible way for us to get food this night?"

"Of course there isn't," I replied, after a moment's reflection. "Don't
joke about the bad fix we are in; that may make it all the worse for

He looked at me pityingly. "Ah, you are no different from the rest of
the whites. True, they are far wiser than we Lone People. But take away
from them the things their powerful medicine has taught them how to
make, guns and powder and ball, fire steels and sticks, knives and
clothes and blankets of hair, take from them these things and they
perish. Yes, they die where we should live, and live comfortably."

I felt that there was much truth in what he said. I doubted if any of
the company's men, even the most experienced of them, would have been
able to make a fire had they been stripped of everything that they
possessed. But his other statement, that if necessary he could get food
for us at once.

"Where could you find something for us to eat now?" I asked.

"Out there anywhere," he replied, with a wave of the hand. "Haven't you
noticed the trails of the rabbits, hard-packed little paths in the snow,
where they travel round through the brush? Yes, of course you have.
Well, after the middle of the night, when the moon rises and gives some
light, I could go out there and set some snares in those paths, using
our moccasin strings for loops, and in a short time we would have a
rabbit; maybe two or three of them."

How easy a thing seems, once you know how to do it! I realized instantly
that the plan was perfectly feasible, and wondered at my own dullness in
not having thought of it. I had been sitting up stiffly enough before
the fire, anxiety over our situation keeping my nerves all a-quiver. Now
a pleasant sense of security came to me. I felt only tired and sleepy,
and dropped back on the boughs.

"Pitamakan, you are very wise," I said, and in a moment was sound
asleep. If he answered I never heard him.

Every time the fire died down the cold awoke one or both of us to put on
fresh fuel; and then we slept again, and under the circumstances, passed
a very restful night.

Soon after daylight snow began to fall again, not so heavily as in the
previous storm, but with a steadiness that promised a long period of bad
weather. We did not mind going out into it, now that we could come back
to a fire at any time and dry ourselves.

Before setting forth, however, we spent some time in making two rude
willow arrows. We mashed off the proper lengths with our "anvil" and
cutting-stone, smoothed the ends by burning them, and then scraped the
shafts and notched them with our obsidian knives. I proposed that we
sharpen the points, but Pitamakan said no; that blunt ones were better
for bird shooting, because they smashed the wing bones. Pitamakan had
worked somewhat on the bow during the evening, scraping it thinner and
drying it before the fire, so that now it had more spring; enough to
get us meat, he thought. The great difficulty would be to shoot the
unfeathered, clumsy arrows true to the mark.

Burying some coals deep in the ashes to make sure that they would be
alive upon our return, we started out. Close to camp, Pitamakan set two
rabbit snares, using a part of our moccasin strings for the purpose. His
manner of doing this was simple. He bent a small, springy sapling over
the rabbit path, and stuck the tip of it under a low branch of another
tree. Next he tied the buckskin string to the sapling, so that the noose
end of it hung cross-wise in the rabbit path, a couple of inches above
the surface of it. Then he stuck several feathery balsam tips on each
side of the path, to hide the sides of the noose and prevent its being
blown out of place by the wind. When a passing rabbit felt the loop
tighten on its neck, its struggles would release the tip of the
spring-pole from under the bough, and it would be jerked up in the air
and strangled.

From camp, we went down the valley, looking for grouse in all the
thickest clumps of young pines. Several rabbits jumped up ahead of us,
snow-white, big-footed and black-eyed. Pitamakan let fly an arrow at one
of them, but it fell short of the mark.

There were game trails everywhere. The falling snow was fast filling
them, so that we could not distinguish new tracks from old; but after
traveling a half-mile or so, we began to see the animals themselves, elk
and deer, singly, and in little bands. As we approached a tangle of red
willows, a bull, a cow, and a calf moose rose from the beds they had
made in them. The cow and calf trotted away, but the bull, his hair all
bristling forward, walked a few steps toward us, shaking his big,
broad-horned head. The old trappers' tales of their ferocity at this
time of year came to my mind, and I began to look for a tree to climb;
there was none near by. All had such a large circumference that I could
not reach halfway round them.

"Let's run!" I whispered.

"Stand still!" Pitamakan answered. "If you run, he will come after us."

The bull was not more than fifty yards from us. In the dim light of the
forest his eyes, wicked little pig-like eyes, glowed with a greenish
fire. The very shape of him was terrifying, more like a creature of bad
dreams than an actual inhabitant of the earth. His long head had a
thick, drooping upper lip; a tassel of black hair swung from his lower
jaw; at the withers he stood all of six feet high, and sloped back to
insignificant hind quarters; his long hair was rusty gray, shading into
black. All this I took in at a glance. The bull again shook his head at
us and advanced another step or two. "If he starts again, run for a
tree," Pitamakan said.

That was a trying moment. We were certainly much afraid of him, and so
would the best of the company men have been had they stood there
weaponless in knee-deep snow. Once more he tossed his enormous horns;
but just as he started to advance, a stick snapped in the direction in
which the cow and calf had gone. At that he half turned and looked back,
then trotted away in their trail. The instant he disappeared we started
the other way, and never stopped until we came to our shelter.

It was well for us that we did return just then. The falling snow was
wetting the ash-heap, and the water would soon have soaked through to
the buried coals. We dug them up and started another fire, and sat
before it for some time before venturing out again. This experience
taught us, when leaving camp thereafter, to cover the coal-heap with a
roof of wood or bark.

"Well, come on! Let's go up the valley this time, and see what will
happen to us there," said Pitamakan, when we had rested.

Not three hundred yards above camp we came to a fresh bear trail, so
fresh that only a very thin coating of snow had fallen since the passing
of the animal. It led us to the river, when we saw that it continued on
the other side up to the timber, straight toward the cave that had
sheltered us. The tracks, plainly outlined in the sand at the edge of
the water, were those of a black bear. "That is he, the one that
gathered the leaves and stuff we slept in, and he's going there now!"
Pitamakan exclaimed.

"If we only had his carcass, how much more comfortable we could be!" I
said. "The hide would be warm and soft to lie on, and the fat meat would
last us a long time."

"If he goes into the cave to stay, we'll get him," said Pitamakan. "If
we can't make bows and arrows to kill him, we will take strong, heavy
clubs and pound him on the head."

We went up the valley. Trailing along behind my companion, I thought
over his proposal to club the bear to death. A month, even a few days
back, such a plan would have seemed foolish; but I was fast learning
that necessity, starvation, will cause a man to take chances against
the greatest odds. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt like
facing that bear.

I was about to propose that we go after it at once, when, with a whirr
of wings that startled us, a large covey of blue grouse burst from a
thicket close by, and alighted here and there in the pines and firs. We
moved on a few steps, and stopped within short bow-shot of one. It did
not seem to be alarmed at our approach, and Pitamakan took his time to
fit one of the clumsy arrows and fire it.

_Zip!_ The shaft passed a foot from its body, struck a limb above and
dropped down into the snow. But the grouse never moved. Anxiously I
watched the fitting and aiming of the other arrow.

_Zip!_ I could not help letting out a loud yell when it hit fair and the
bird came fluttering and tumbling down. I ran forward and fell on it the
instant it struck the snow, and grasped its plump body with tense
hands. "Meat! See! We have meat!" I cried, holding up the fine cock.

"Be still! You have already scared all the other birds out of this
tree!" said Pitamakan.

It was true. There had been three more in that fir, and now, because of
my shouts, they were gone. Pitamakan looked at me reproachfully as he
started to pick up the fallen arrows. Right there I learned a lesson in
self-restraint that I never forgot.

We knew that there were more grouse in near-by trees, but they sat so
still and were so much the color of their surroundings that we were some
time in discovering any of them. They generally chose a big limb to
light on, close to the bole of the tree. Finally our hungry eyes spied
three in the next tree, and Pitamakan began shooting at the lower one,
while I recovered the arrows for him.

Luck was against us. It was nothing, but miss, miss, miss, and as one by
one the arrows grazed the birds, they hurtled away through the forest
and out of sight. We were more fortunate a little farther on, for we got
two birds from a small fir. Then we hurried to camp with our prizes.

I was for roasting the three of them at once, and eating a big feast;
but Pitamakan declared that he would not have any such doings. "We'll
eat one now," he said, "one in the evening, and the other in the

We were so hungry that we could not wait to cook the first bird
thoroughly. Dividing it, we half roasted the portions over the coals,
and ate the partly raw flesh. Although far from enough, that was the
best meal I ever had. And it was not so small, either; the blue grouse
is a large and heavy bird, next to the sage-hen the largest of our
grouse. After eating, we went out and "rustled" a good pile of fuel. As
night came on, we sat down before the blaze in a cheerful mood, and
straightway began to make plans for the future, which now seemed less
dark than at the beginning of the day.

"With a better bow and better arrows, it is certain that we can kill
enough grouse to keep us alive," I said.

"Not unless we have snowshoes to travel on," Pitamakan objected. "In a
few days the snow will be so deep that we can no longer wade in it."

"We can make them of wood," I suggested, remembering the tale of a
company man.

"But we couldn't travel about barefooted. Our moccasins will last only a
day or two longer. One of mine, you see, is already ripping along the
sole. Brother, if we are ever to see green grass and our people again,
these things must we have besides food--thread and needles, skins for
moccasins, clothing and bedding, and a warm lodge. The weather is going
to be terribly cold before long."

At that my heart went away down. I had thought only of food, forgetting
that other things were just as necessary. The list of them staggered
me--thread and needles, moccasins, and all the rest! "Well, then, we
must die," I exclaimed, "for we can never get all those things!"

"We can and we will," said Pitamakan, cheerfully, "and the beginning of
it all will be a better bow and some real arrows, arrows with ice-rock
or flint points. We will try to make some to-morrow. Hah! Listen!"

I barely heard the plaintive squall, but he recognized it. "Come on,
it's a rabbit in one of the snares!" he cried, and out we ran into the

He was right. A rabbit, still kicking and struggling for breath, was
hanging in the farther snare. Resetting the trap, we ran, happy and
laughing, back to the fire with the prize.

After all, we ate two grouse, instead of one, that evening, burying them
under the fire, and this time letting them roast long enough so that the
meat parted easily from the bones.

                               CHAPTER V

"My grandfather told me that this is one way that it was done," said
Pitamakan, as taking a flake of obsidian in the palm of his left hand,
he tapped it with an angular stone held in his right hand. "The other
way was to heat the ice-rock in the fire, and then with a grass stem
place a very small drop of water on the part to be chipped off."

We had been out after flints, and finding none, had brought back the
pieces of obsidian that we had placed at the foot of the tree. Earlier
in the morning, on visiting the snares, we had found a rabbit in each.
They hung now in a tree near by, and it was good to see them there; the
rabbit remaining from our first catch had been broiled for our

Following my partner's example, I, too, tried to work a piece of the
obsidian into an arrow-point. The result was that we spoiled much of
the none too plentiful material. It would not chip where we wanted it
to, and if we hit it too hard a blow it splintered.

Deciding now to try the fire-and-water method, we made for the purpose a
pair of pincers of a green willow fork, and melted a handful of snow in
a saucer-shaped fragment of rock. I was to do the heating of the
obsidian and Pitamakan was to do the flaking. He chose a piece about an
inch and a half long, a quarter of an inch thick, and nearly triangular
in shape. One edge was as sharp as a razor; the other two were almost

According to his directions, I took the fragment in the pincers by the
sharp edge, so as to leave the rest free to be worked upon. Gradually
exposing it to the heat, I held it for a moment over some coals freshly
raked from the fire, and then held it before him, while with the end of
a pine needle he laid a tiny drop of water near the lower corner, about
a quarter of an inch back from the squared edge. There was a faint hiss
of steam, but no apparent change in the surface of the rock. We tried it
again, dropping the water in the same place. _Pip!_ A small scale half
the size of the little finger nail snapped off and left a little trough
in the square edge. We both gave cries of delight; it seemed that we had
hit on the right way to do the work.

A little more experimenting showed that the piece should be held
slanting downward in the direction in which the flaking was to be done,
for the cold water caused the rock to scale in the direction in which
the drop ran. In the course of two hours the rough piece of obsidian was
chipped down to a small arrow-point--one that Pitamakan's grandfather
would have scorned, no doubt, but a real treasure to us.

We worked all that day making the points; when evening came we had five
that were really serviceable. At sundown, the weather having cleared,
we went to look at the rabbit-snares. As neither had been sprung, we
moved them to a fresh place. This last storm had added a good deal to
the depth of the snow; it was so much now above our knees that walking
in it was hard work.

We had now before us a task almost as difficult as making the points;
that is, to find suitable material for our bows and arrows. We found
none that evening, but the next morning, after visiting the snares and
taking one rabbit, we stumbled on a clump of service-berry treelets,
next to ash the favorite bow-wood of the Blackfeet.

Back to the camp we went, got our "anvil" and hacking-stones, and cut
two straight, limbless stems, between two and three inches in diameter.
Next we had a long hunt through the willows for straight arrow-shafts,
found them, and got some coarse pieces of sandstone from the river to
use as files.

Two days more were needed for making the bows and the arrow-shafts. The
bows were worked down to the right size and shape only by the hardest
kind of sandstone-rubbing, and by scraping and cutting with obsidian
knives. But we did not dare to dry them quickly in the fire for fear of
making the wood brittle, and they had not the strength of a really good

We made a good job of the arrows, slitting the tips, inserting the
points, and fastening them in place with rabbit-sinew wrappings. For the
shafts, the grouse wings provided feathering, which was also fastened in
place with the sinew. Fortunately for us, the rabbit-snares kept us well
supplied with meat, although we were growing tired of the diet.

Only one thing caused us anxiety now--the cords for our bows. We had to
use for the purpose our moccasin strings, which were not only large and
uneven, but weak. Pitamakan spoke of cutting off a braid of his hair for
a cord, but on the morning after the weapons were finished, he said
that in the night his dream had warned him not to do this. That settled

On this morning we went early to the snares and found a rabbit hanging
in each. Taking the nooses along with the game to camp, we slowly dried
them before the fire, for they must now serve as bowstrings. After they
were dry we tested one of them, and it broke. We knotted it together and
twisted it with the other to make a cord for Pitamakan's bow. That left
me without one, and unable to string my bow until some large animal was
killed that would furnish sinew for the purpose. I was by no means sure
that the twisted and doubled cord was strong enough.

"You'd better try it before we start out," I suggested.

"No, we mustn't strain it any more than we can help," Pitamakan replied;
and with that he led off down the valley.

Although the sun shone brightly, this was the coldest day that we had
yet had. Had we not worn rabbit-skins, with fur side in, for socks, we
could not have gone far from the fire. The trees were popping with
frost, a sign that the temperature was close to zero.

Soon after leaving camp we struck a perfect network of game tracks, some
of which afforded good walking--when they went our way. For there was no
main trail parallel to the river, such as the buffalo and other game
always made along the streams on the east side of the Rockies. On the
west side of course there were no buffalo, and probably never had been
any; and to judge from the signs, the other animals wandered aimlessly
in every direction.

We went ahead slowly and noiselessly, for we hoped to see some of the
game lying down, and to get a close shot before we were discovered.
Presently a covey of ruffed grouse, flying up out of the snow into the
pines, afforded easy shots; but we dared not risk our arrows for fear of
shattering the points against the solid wood. We determined thereafter
always to carry a couple of blunt ones for bird shooting.

Soon after passing the grouse, I caught a glimpse of some black thing
that bobbed through the snow into a balsam thicket. We went over there
and came to the trail of a fisher, the largest member of the weasel
family. As I had often seen the large, glossy black pelts of these
animals brought into the fort by Indians and company trappers, I was
anxious to get a close view of one alive. I looked for it farther along
in the snow; but Pitamakan, who was gazing up into the trees, all at
once grasped my arm and pointed at a small red-furred creature that,
running to the end of a long bough, leaped into the next tree.

"Huh! Only a squirrel!" I said. But I had barely spoken when, hot after
it, jumped the fisher, the most beautiful, agile animal that I had ever
seen. It was considerably larger than a house cat.

We ran, or rather waddled, as fast as we could to the foot of the fir,
barely in time to see the fisher spring into the next tree, still in
pursuit of the squirrel. The latter, making a circle in the branches,
leaped back into the tree over our heads. The fisher was gaining on it,
and was only a few feet behind its prey when, seeing us, it instantly
whipped round and went out of that tree into the one beyond, and from
that to another, and another, until it was finally lost to sight.

"Oh, if we could only have got it!" I cried.

"Never mind, there are plenty of them here, and we'll get some before
the winter is over," said my companion.

Although I had my doubts about that, I made no remark. Pitamakan was
promising lot of things that seemed impossible,--needles and thread, for
instance. "Let's go on," I said. "It is too cold for us to stand still."

We came now to the red willow thicket where the bull moose had
frightened us. There a barely perceptible trough in the new-fallen snow
marked where he and his family had wandered round and retreated,
quartering down the valley.

"They are not far away, but I think we had better not hunt them until we
have two bows," Pitamakan remarked.

Just below the red willows we saw our first deer, a large, white-tail
doe, walking toward the river, and stopping here and there to snip off
tender tips of willow and birch. We stood motionless while she passed
through the open timber and into a fir thicket.

"She is going to lie down in there. Come on," said Pitamakan.

He started toward the river and I followed, although I wondered why he
didn't go straight to the deer trail. Finally I asked him the reason,
and right there I got a very important lesson in still-hunting.

"All the animals of the forest lie down facing their back trail," he
explained. "Sometimes they do more than that; they make a circle, and
coming round, lie down where they can watch their trail. If an enemy
comes along on it, they lie close to the ground, ears flattened back,
until he passes on; then they get up slowly and sneak quietly out of
hearing, and then run far and fast. Remember this: never follow a trail
more than just enough to keep the direction the animal is traveling.
Keep looking ahead, and when you see a likely place for the animal to be
lying, a rise of ground, a side hill, or a thicket, make a circle, and
approach it from the further side. If the animal hasn't stopped, you
will come to its trail; but if you find no trail, go ahead slowly, a
step at a time."

There was sound sense in what he told me, and I said so; but feeling
that we were losing time, I added, "Let's hurry on now."

"It is because there is no hurry that I have explained this to you
here," he replied. "This is a time for waiting instead of hurrying. You
should always give the animal plenty of chance to lie down and get

The day was too cold, however, for longer waiting. We went on to the
river, and were surprised to find that it was frozen over, except for
long, narrow open places over the rapids. As there was no snow on the
new-formed ice, walking on it was a great relief to our tired legs. A
couple of hundred yards down stream we came to the fir thicket, and
walked past it. Since no fresh deer track was to be found coming from
the place, we knew that the doe was somewhere in it.

Back we turned, and leaving the river, began to work our way in among
the snow-laden trees, which stood so close together that we could see no
more than twenty or thirty feet ahead. I kept well back from Pitamakan,
in order to give him every possible chance. It was an anxious moment.
Killing that deer meant supplying so many of our needs!

We had sneaked into the thicket for perhaps fifty yards when, for all
his care, Pitamakan grazed with his shoulder a snow-laden branch of
balsam, and down came the whole fluff of it. I saw the snow farther on
burst up as if from the explosion of a bomb, and caught just a glimpse
of the deer, whose tremendous leaps were raising the feathery cloud. It
had only a few yards to go in the open; but Pitamakan had seen it rise
from its bed, and was quick enough to get a fair shot before it

"I hit it!" he cried. "I saw its tail drop! Come on."

That was a certain sign. When a deer of this variety is alarmed and
runs, it invariably raises its short, white-haired tail, and keeps
swaying it like the inverted pendulum of a clock; but if even slightly
wounded by the hunter, it instantly claps its tail tight against its
body and keeps it there.

"Here is blood!" Pitamakan called out, pointing to some red spots on the
snow. They were just a few scattering drops, but I consoled myself with
thinking that an arrow does not let out blood like a rifle-ball because
the shaft fills the wound. We soon came to the edge of the fir thicket.
Beyond, the woods were so open that we could see a long way in the
direction of the deer's trail. We dropped to a walk, and went on a
little less hopefully; the blood-droppings became more scattering, and
soon not another red spot was to be seen--a bad sign.

At last we found where the deer had ceased running, had stopped and
turned round to look back. It had stood for some time, as was shown by
the well-trodden snow. Even here there was not one drop of blood, and
worst of all, from this place the deer had gone on at its natural long

"It is useless for us to trail her farther," said Pitamakan dolefully.
"Her wound is only a slight one; it smarts just enough to keep her
traveling and watching that we don't get a chance for another shot."

I felt bad enough, but Pitamakan felt worse, because he thought that he
should have made a better shot.

"Oh, never mind," I said, trying to cheer him. "There are plenty of deer
close round here, and it is a long time until night. Go ahead. We'll do
better next time."

"I am pretty tired," he complained. "Perhaps we had better go to camp
and start out rested to-morrow."

I had not thought to take the lead and break trail a part of the time;
of course he was tired. I proposed to do it now, and added that it would
be a good plan to walk on the ice of the river and look carefully into
the timber along the shores for meat of some kind.

"You speak truth!" he exclaimed, his face brightening in a way that was
good to see. "Go ahead; let's get over there as quick as possible."

In a few minutes we were back on the ice, where he took the lead again.
And now for the first time since leaving camp--except for a few minutes
after the shot at the deer--I felt sure that with so much game in the
valley we should kill something. On the smooth, new ice, our moccasins
were absolutely noiseless; we were bound to get a near shot. Inside of
half an hour we flushed several coveys of grouse, and saw an otter and
two mink; but there were so many tracks of big game winding round on the
shore and in and out of the timber that we paid no attention to the
small fry.

It was at the apex of a sharp point, where the river ran right at the
roots of some big pines, that we saw something that sent a thrill of
expectation through us; the snow on a willow suddenly tumbled, while the
willow itself trembled as if something had hit it. We stopped and
listened, but heard nothing. Then nearer to us the snow fell from
another bush; from another closer yet, and Pitamakan made ready to shoot
just as a big cow elk walked into plain view and stopped, broadside
toward us, not fifty feet away.

"Oh, now it is meat, sure," I thought, and with one eye on the cow and
the other on my companion, I waited breathlessly.

For an instant Pitamakan held the bow motionless, then suddenly drew
back the cord with a mighty pull, whirled half round on the slippery ice
and sat down, with the bow still held out in his left hand. From each
end of it dangled a part of the cord!

That was a terrible disappointment. Such a fair chance to get a big fat
animal lost, all because of that weak bowstring! The elk had lunged out
of sight the instant Pitamakan moved. He sat for a moment motionless on
the ice, with bowed head, a picture of utter dejection. Finally he gave
a deep sigh, got up slowly and listlessly, and muttered that we had
better go home.

"Wait! Let's knot the cord together," I proposed. "That may have been
the one weak place in it."

He shook his head in a hopeless way and started upstream, but after a
few steps halted, and said, "I have no hope, but we'll try it."

The cord had been several inches longer than was necessary, and after
the knot was made it was still long enough to string the bow. When it
was in place again, Pitamakan gave it a half pull, a harder one, then
fitted an arrow and drew it slowly back; but before the head of the
shaft was anywhere near the bow, _frip!_ went the cord, broken in a new
place. We were done for unless we could get a new and serviceable cord!
Without a word Pitamakan started on and I followed, my mind all a jumble
of impossible plans.

We followed the winding river homeward in preference to the shorter
route through the deep snow. The afternoon was no more than half gone
when we arrived at the little shelter, rebuilt the fire, and sat down to
roast some rabbit meat.

"We can't even get any more rabbits," I said. "There are so many knots
in our strings that a slip-noose can't be made with them."

"That is true, brother," said Pitamakan, "so we have but one chance
left. If there is a bear in that cave across the river we have got to
kill him."

"With clubs?"

"Yes, of course. I told you that my dream forbids the cutting of my
hair, and so there is no way to make a bowstring."

"Come on! Come on!" I said desperately. "Let's go now and have it over."

We ate our rabbit meat as quickly as possible, drank from the spring,
and by the help of the indispensable "anvil" and our cutting-stones, we
got us each a heavy, green birch club. Then we hurried off to the river.
Although much snow had fallen since we had seen the black bear's tracks
there, its trail was still traceable up through the timber toward the

                               CHAPTER VI

Well, we took up the dim trail on the farther side of the river and
followed it through the timber toward the cave at the foot of the cliff,
but I, for my part, was not at all anxious to reach the end of it.
Midway up the slope I called to Pitamakan to halt.

"Let's talk this over and plan just what we will do at the cave," I

"I don't know what there is to plan," he answered, turning and facing
me. "We walk up to the cave, stoop down, and shout, 'Sticky-mouth, come
out of there!' Out he comes, terribly scared, and we stand on each side
of the entrance with raised clubs, and whack him on the base of the nose
as hard as we can. Down he falls. We hit him a few more times, and he

"Yes?" said I. "Yes?"

I was trying to remember all the bear stories that I had heard the
company men and the Indians tell, but I could call to mind no story of
their attacking a bear with clubs.

"Yes? Yes what? Why did you stop? Go on and finish what you started to

"We may be running a big risk," I replied. "I have always heard that any
animal will fight when it is cornered."

"But we are not going to corner this bear. We stand on each side of the
entrance; it comes out; there is the big wide slope and the thick forest
before it, and plenty of room to run. We will be in great luck if, with
the one blow that we each will have time for, we succeed in knocking it
down. Remember this: We have to hit it and hit hard with one swing of
the club, for it will be going so fast that there will be no chance for
a second blow."

We went on. I felt somewhat reassured, and was now anxious to have the
adventure over as soon as possible. All our future depended on getting
the bear. I wondered whether, if we failed to stop the animal with our
clubs, Pitamakan would venture to defy his dream, cut off a braid of his
hair, and make a bow-cord.

Passing the last of the trees, we began to climb the short, bare slope
before the cave, when suddenly we made a discovery that was sickening.
About twenty yards from the cave the trail we were following turned
sharply to the left and went quartering back into the timber. We stared
at it for a moment in silence. Then Pitamakan said, dully:--

"Here ends our bear hunt! He was afraid to go to his den because our
scent was still there. He has gone far off to some other place that he

The outlook was certainly black. There was but one chance for us now, I
thought, and that was for me to persuade this red brother of mine to
disregard his dream and cut off some of his hair for a bow-cord. But
turning round and idly looking the other way, I saw something that
instantly drove this thought from my mind. It was a dim trail along the
foot of the cliff to the right of the cave. I grabbed Pitamakan by the
arm, yanked him round, and silently pointed at it. His quick eyes
instantly discovered it, and he grinned, and danced a couple of steps.

"Aha! That is why this one turned and went away!" he exclaimed. "Another
bear was there already, had stolen his home and bed, and he was afraid
to fight for them. Come on! Come on!"

We went but a few steps, however, before he stopped short and stood in
deep thought. Finally he turned and looked at me queerly, as if I were a
stranger and he were trying to learn by my appearance what manner of boy
I was. It is not pleasant to be stared at in that way. I stood it as
long as I could, and then asked, perhaps a little impatiently, why he
did so. The answer I got was unexpected:--

"I am thinking that the bear there in the cave may be a grizzly. How is
it? Shall we go on and take the chances, or turn back to camp? If you
are afraid, there is no use of our trying to do anything up there."

Of course I was afraid, but I was also desperate; and I felt, too, that
I must be just as brave as my partner. "Go on!" I said, and my voice
sounded strangely hollow to me. "Go on! I will be right with you."

We climbed the remainder of the slope and stood before the cave. Its low
entrance was buried in snow, all except a narrow space in the centre,
through which the bear had ploughed its way in, and which, since its
passing, had partly filled. The trail was so old that we could not
determine whether a black or a grizzly bear had made it.

But of one thing there could be no doubt: the animal was right there in
the dark hole, only a few feet from us, as was shown by the faint wisps
of congealed breath floating out of it into the cold air. Pitamakan,
silently stationing me on the right of the entrance, took his place at
the left side, and motioning me to raise my club, shouted,
"_Pahk-si-kwo-yi, sak-sit!_" (Sticky-mouth, come out!)

Nothing came; nor could we hear any movement, any stir of the leaves
inside. Again he shouted; and again and again, without result. Then,
motioning me to follow, he went down the slope. "We'll have to get a
pole and jab him," he said, when we came to the timber. "Look round for
a good one."

We soon found a slender dead pine, snapped it at the base where it had
rotted, and knocked off the few scrawny limbs. It was fully twenty feet
long, and very light.

"Now I am the stronger," said Pitamakan, as we went back, "so do you
handle the pole, and I will stand ready to hit a big blow with my club.
You keep your club in your right hand, and work the pole into the cave
with your left. In that way maybe you will have time to strike, too."

When we came to the cave, I found that his plan would not work. I could
not force the pole through the pile of snow at the entrance with one
hand, so standing the club where I could quickly reach it, I used both
hands. At every thrust the pole went in deeper, and in the excitement of
the moment I drove it harder and harder, with the result that it
unexpectedly went clear through the obstructing snow and on, and I fell

At the instant I went down something struck the far end of the pole such
a rap that I could feel the jar of it clear back through the snow, and a
muffled, raucous, angry yowl set all my strained nerves a-quiver. As I
was gathering myself to rise, the dreadful yowl was repeated right over
my head, and down the bear came on me, clawing and squirming. Its sharp
nails cut right into my legs. I squirmed as best I could under its
weight, and no doubt went through the motions of yelling; but my face
was buried in the snow, and for the moment I could make no sound.

Although I was sure that a grizzly was upon me and that my time had
come, I continued to wiggle, and to my great surprise, I suddenly
slipped free from the weight, rose up, and toppled over backward,
catching, as I went, just a glimpse of Pitamakan fiercely striking a
blow with his club. I was on my feet in no time, and what I saw caused
me to yell with delight as I sprang for my club. The bear was kicking
and writhing in the snow, and my partner was showering blows on its
head. I delivered a blow or two myself before it ceased to struggle.

Then I saw that it was not a grizzly, but a black bear of no great size.
Had it been a grizzly, I certainly, and probably Pitamakan, too, would
have been killed right there.

It was some little time before we could settle down to the work in hand.
Pitamakan had to describe how he had stood ready, and hit the bear a
terrific blow on the nose as it came leaping out, and how he had
followed it up with more blows as fast as he could swing his club. Then
I tried to tell how I had felt, crushed under the bear and expecting
every instant to be bitten and clawed to death. But words failed me,
and, moreover, a stinging sensation in my legs demanded my attention;
there were several gashes in them from which blood was trickling, and my
trousers were badly ripped. I rubbed the wounds a bit with snow, and
found that they were not so serious as they looked.


The bear, a male, was very fat, and was quite too heavy for us to carry;
probably it weighed two hundred pounds. But we could drag it, and taking
hold of its fore paws, we started home. It was easy to pull it down the
slope and across the ice, but from there to camp, across the level
valley, dragging it was very hard work. Night had fallen when we
arrived, and cold as the air was, we were covered with perspiration.

Luckily, we had a good supply of wood on hand. Pitamakan, opening the
ash-heap, raked out a mass of live coals and started a good fire. Then
we rested and broiled some rabbit meat before attacking the bear. Never
were there two happier boys than we, as we sat before our fire in that
great wilderness, munched our insipid rabbit meat and gloated over our

The prehistoric people no doubt considered obsidian knives most
excellent tools; but to us, who were accustomed only to sharp steel,
they seemed anything but excellent; they severely tried our muscles, our
patience, and our temper. They proved, however, to be not such bad
flaying instruments. Still, we were a long time ripping the bear's skin
from the tip of the jaw down along the belly to the tail, and from the
tail down the inside of the legs to and round the base of the feet.
There were fully two inches of fat on the carcass, and when we finally
got the hide off, we looked as if we had actually wallowed in it. By
that time, according to the Big Dipper, it was past midnight, but
Pitamakan would not rest until he had the back sinews safe out of the
carcass and drying before the fire for early use.

It is commonly believed that the Indians used the leg tendons of animals
for bow-cords, thread, and wrappings, but this is a mistake; the only
ones they took were the back sinews. These lie like ribbons on the
outside of the flesh along the backbone, and vary in length and
thickness according to the size of the animal. Those of a buffalo bull,
for instance, are nearly three feet long, three or four inches wide, and
a quarter of an inch thick. When dry, they are easily shredded into
thread of any desired size.

Those that we now took from the bear were not two feet long, but were
more than sufficient for a couple of bow-cords. As soon as we had them
free, we pressed them against a smooth length of dry wood, where they
stuck; and laying this well back from the fire, we began our
intermittent night's sleep, for, as I have said, we had to get up
frequently to replenish the fire.

The next morning, expecting to have a fine feast, I broiled some of the
bear meat over the coals, but it was so rank that one mouthful was more
than enough; so I helped Pitamakan finish the last of the rabbit meat.
He would have starved rather than eat the meat of a bear, for to the
Blackfeet the bear is "medicine," a sacred animal, near kin to man, and
therefore not to be used for food.

Killing a grizzly was considered as great a feat as killing a Sioux, or
other enemy. But the successful hunter took no part of the animal except
the claws, unless he were a medicine-man. The medicine-man, with many
prayers and sacrifices to the gods, would occasionally take a strip of
the fur to wrap round the roll containing his sacred pipe.

Pitamakan himself was somewhat averse to our making any use of the black
bear's hide, but when I offered to do all the work of scraping off the
fat meat and of drying it, he consented to sleep on it once with me, as
an experiment, and if his dreams were good, to continue to use it.

I went at my task with good will, and was half the morning getting the
hide clean and in shape to stretch and dry. Pitamakan meanwhile made two
bow-cords of the bear sinew. First he raveled them into a mass of fine
threads, and then hand-spun them into a twisted cord of the desired
length; and he made a very good job of it, too. When he had stretched
the cords to dry before the fire, he sharpened a twig of dry birch for
an awl, and with the rest of the sinew, repaired our badly ripped
moccasins. At noon we started out to hunt, and on the way dragged the
bear carcass back to the river and across it into the big timber, where
later on we hoped to use it for bait.

This day we went up the river, walking noiselessly on the ice. From the
start we felt confident of success; for not only were our bow-cords as
good as we could desire, but the bows were now in fine condition,
having dried out and become more stiff, yet springy. Since, during the
latter part of the night, more snow had fallen, we could distinguish
fresh game tracks from old ones. And now that there was snow on the ice,
we naturally expected to see where the hoofed game had been crossing the
river; they seldom venture out on smooth ice, from fear of slipping and
injuring themselves.

The first game we saw were a number of ruffed grouse standing in a row
at the edge of a strip of open water, to take their daily drink. They
walked away into the willows at our approach, and from there flew into
the firs, where we knocked down four of them with our blunt-headed bird
arrows. I got only one, for of course I was not so good a marksman with
bow and arrow as my partner, who had used the weapon more or less since
he was old enough to walk.

Burying the grouse in the snow at the edge of the shore, we went on, and
presently came to the place where several elk had crossed to the north
side of the river, browsed among a bordering patch of red willows, and
then gone into the thick firs. We followed them, not nearly so excited
now that we had trustworthy weapons as we had been on the previous hunt.
When we came near the firs, which covered several acres of the bend in
the river, Pitamakan sent me round to enter the farther side and come
through the patch toward him, while he took his stand close to the place
where the band had entered.

"You needn't come back carefully," he said to me. "Make all the noise
you can--the more the better; then they will come running out here on
their back trail, and I'll get some good shots. You'd better give me one
of your real arrows, for you will probably not get a chance even for one
shot at them."

That left me with only one arrow with an obsidian point, but
nevertheless I determined to do my best to get an elk. As Pitamakan had
remarked about himself, I, too, felt the sun power strong within me that
morning and looked for success. With that feeling, call it what you
will,--all old hunters will understand what I mean,--I was not at all
surprised, a short time after entering the firs, to see, as I was
sneaking along through them, a big bull elk astride a willow bush that
he had borne down in order to nip the tender tips.

He was not fifty feet from me, and no doubt thought that the slight
noise which he heard was made by one of his band. He could not see me at
first, because of a screen of fir branches between us, and he had not
looked up when I made the final step that brought me into the open. But
when I raised the bow, he jerked his head sidewise and gathered himself
for a jump.

He was not so quick as I. The strength of a giant seemed to swell in my
arms; I drew the arrow sliding back across the bow almost to the head
with a lightning-like pull, and let it go, _zip!_ deep into his side
through the small ribs.

Away he went, and I after him, yelling at the top of my voice to scare
the herd toward Pitamakan, if possible. I saw several of them bounding
away through the firs, but my eyes were all for the red trail of the
bull. And presently I came to the great animal, stretched across a
snow-covered log and breathing its last; for the arrow had pierced its

"_Wo-ke-haí! Ni-kaí-nit-ab is-stum-ik!_" (Come on! I have killed a
bull!) I yelled.

And from the far side of the firs came the answer: "_Nis-toab
ni-mut-uk-stan!_" (I have also killed!)

That was great news. Although it was hard for me to leave my big bull
even for a moment, I went to Pitamakan, and found that he had killed a
fine big cow. He had used three arrows, and had finally dropped her at
the edge of the river.

We were so much pleased and excited over our success that it was some
time before we could cease telling how it all happened and settle down
to work. We had several fresh obsidian flakes, but as the edges soon
grew dull, we were all the rest of the day in getting the hides off the
animals and going to camp with the meat of the cow. The meat of my bull
was too poor to use, but his skin, sinews, brains, and liver were of the
greatest value to us, as will be explained.

"There is so much for us to do that it is hard to decide what to do
first," said Pitamakan that night.

It was long after dark, and we had just gathered the last of a pile of
firewood and sat ourselves down before the cheerful blaze.

"The first thing is to cook a couple of grouse, some elk liver, and hang
a side of elk ribs over the fire to roast for later eating," I said, and
began preparing the great feast.

After our long diet of rabbits, it was a feast. We finished the birds
and the liver, and then sat waiting patiently for the fat ribs to roast
to a crisp brown as they swung on a tripod over the fire. I was now so
accustomed to eating meat without salt that I no longer craved the
mineral, and of course my companion never thought of it. In those days
the Blackfeet used none; their very name for it, _is-tsik-si-pok-wi_
(like fire tastes), proved their dislike of the condiment.

"Well, let us now decide what we shall do first," Pitamakan again
proposed. "We need new moccasins, new leggings and snowshoes. Moreover,
we need a comfortable lodge. Which shall be first?"

"The lodge," I answered, without hesitation. "But how can we make one?
What material can we get for one unless we kill twenty elk and tan the
skins? That would take a long time."

"This is a different kind of lodge," he explained. "When you came up the
Big River you saw the lodges of the Earth People? Yes. Well, we will
build one like theirs."

On the voyage up the Missouri with my uncle I had not only seen the
lodges of the Earth People (Sak-wi Tup-pi), as the Blackfeet called the
Mandans, but I had been inside several of them, and noted how warm and
comfortable they were. Their construction was merely a matter of posts,
poles, and earth. We agreed to begin one in the morning, and do no
hunting until it was done.

The site that we chose for the lodge was a mile below camp and close to
the river, where two or three years before a fire, sweeping through a
growth of "lodge-pole" pines, had killed thousands of the young, slender
trees. In a grove of heavy firs close by we began the work, and as every
one should know how to build a comfortable house without the aid of
tools and nails, I will give some details of the construction.

In place of the four heavy corner posts which the Mandans cut, we used
four low-crotched trees that stood about twenty feet apart in the form
of a square. In the crotches on two sides of the square we laid as heavy
a pole as we could carry, and bolstered up the centre with a pile of
flat rocks, to keep it from sagging. On the joists, as these may be
called, we laid lighter poles side by side, to form the roof. In the
centre we left a space about four feet wide, the ends of which we
covered with shorter poles, until we reduced it to a hole four feet

The next task was to get the poles for the sides. These we made of the
proper length by first denting them with sharp-edged stones and then
snapping them off. They were slanted all round against the four sides,
except for a narrow space in the south side, which we left for a
doorway. Next we thatched the roof and sides with a thick layer of
balsam boughs, on top of which we laid a covering of earth nearly a foot
deep. This earth we shoveled into an elk hide with elk shoulder blades,
and then carried each load to its proper place. Lastly, we constructed
in the same manner a passageway six or eight feet long to the door.

All this took us several days to accomplish, and was hard work. But when
we had laid a ring of heavy stones directly under the square opening in
the roof for a fireplace, made a thick bed of balsam boughs, and covered
it with the bearskin, put up an elkskin for a door, and sat us down
before a cheerful fire, we had a snug, warm house, and were vastly proud
of it.

"Now for some adventure," said Pitamakan, as we sat eating our first
meal in the new house. "What say you we had best do?"

"Make some moccasins and snowshoes," I replied.

"We can do that at night. Let us----"

The sentence was never finished. A terrible booming roar, seemingly
right overhead, broke upon our ears. Pitamakan's brown face turned an
ashy gray as he sprang up, crying:

"Run! Run! Run!"

                              CHAPTER VII

Out into the snow we ran, while nearer and nearer sounded that terrific
roaring and rumbling; it was as if the round world was being rent
asunder. Pitamakan led the way straight back from the river toward the
south side of the valley, and we had run probably two hundred yards
before the noise ceased as suddenly as it had begun. We were quite out
of breath, and it was some time before I could ask what had happened.

"Why, don't you know?" he said. "That was a great piece of the ice cliff
on the mountain across there. It broke off and came tearing down into
the valley. Trees, boulders, everything in its way were smashed and
carried down. I thought that it was going to bury our lodge."

Pitamakan wanted to make an early start in the morning to view the path
of the avalanche, but I insisted that we stay at home and work hard
until the things that we needed so much were finished. I had my way.

Ever since the day of the elk killing, we had kept one of the big hides
in the river in order to loosen the hair. In the morning we brought it
into the lodge, and laying it over a smooth, hard piece of driftwood,
grained it with a heavy elk rib for a graining-knife. It was very hard
work. Although we sharpened an edge of the rib with a piece of sandstone
and kept it as sharp as possible, we had to bear down on it with all our
strength, pushing it an inch or two at a time in order to separate the
hair from the skin. Taking turns, we were half a day in finishing the

We cut the hide into two parts. Of these, we dried one, and cut the
other into webbing-strings for snowshoes--tedious work with our obsidian
knives. As soon as the half hide was dry, I rubbed elk brains and liver
well into it, and then, rolling it up, laid it away for a couple of
days until the mixture could neutralize the large amount of glue that is
in all hides. After that operation, I spent half a day in washing the
hide and then rubbing and stretching it as it dried. I had then a very
good piece of elk leather,--so-called "buckskin,"--enough for four pairs
of moccasins.

These Pitamakan and I made very large, so that they would go over the
rabbit-skins with which we wrapped our feet as a protection from the
cold. Our needle for sewing them was a sharp awl made from a piece of an
elk's leg bone; the thread was of elk sinew.

_O-wam_ (shape of eggs) is the Blackfoot name for snowshoes. Those that
we made were neither shaped like an egg nor like anything else. The bows
were of birch, and no two were alike, and the webbing was woven on them
in a way to make a forest Indian laugh. Neither Pitamakan's people nor
the other tribes of the plains knew anything about snowshoes except in
a general way, and I had never seen a pair. All things considered,
however, we did a fairly good job. If the shoes were heavy and clumsy,
at least they were serviceable, for they sank only a few inches in the
snow when we tested them.

The evening we finished this work another snowstorm came on, which
lasted two nights and a day, and forced us to postpone our hunt. We
employed the time in improving the interior of the lodge by building a
heavier stone platform for the fire, one that would give off
considerable heat after we went to sleep.

In order to create a draft for the fire, we were forced to admit some
air through the doorway, and this chilled us. Finally, I remembered that
I had seen in the Mandan lodges screens several feet high, put between
the doorway and the fire, in order to force the cold air upward.

We made one at once of poles, backed with earth, and then, building a
small fire, sat down on our bed to see how it worked; no more cold air
swept across the floor, and we were absolutely comfortable. But in the
night, although the stones gave out some heat, we were obliged to
replenish the fire as soon as it died down. What we needed in order to
have unbroken sleep was bedding. Pitamakan said that one animal here,
the white mountain goat, had a warmer, thicker coat of fur than the
buffalo. We determined to get some of the hides and tan them into soft

The morning after the storm broke clear and cold, but my partner refused
to go up into the high mountains after goats.

"We must put it off and do something else to-day," he said. "I had a
very bad dream last night--a confused dream of a bear and a goat, one
biting and clawing me, and the other sticking its sharp horns into my
side. Now either that is a warning not to hunt goats to-day, or it is a
sign that the bearskin that we are sleeping on is bad medicine. This is
not the first bad dream that I have had since lying on it."

"My dreams have all been good since we began sleeping on it," I said.

"Then use it by yourself; I shall not sleep on it again."

"Oh, dreams don't mean anything!" I exclaimed. "White people pay no
attention to them."

"That is because your gods give you different medicine from that our
gods give us," he said, very seriously. "To us is given the dream; in
that way our gods show us the things we may and may not do. Do not speak
lightly of it, lest you bring harm to me."

I had sense enough to heed his wish; never afterward, either by word or
look, did I cast even a shadow of doubt upon his beliefs. For that
reason, largely, we got along together in perfect harmony, as all
companions should.

As there was in his dream nothing about other animals, we put on our
snowshoes and started out to hunt and set traps in the valley. At odd
moments we had been making triggers of different sizes for deadfalls,
and now had fifteen ready to use. They were of the "figure 4" pattern;
more complicated than the two-piece triggers, but more sure of action.
Having with the small ones set deadfalls for marten, fisher, and mink,
we went on up the river to the carcasses of the bear and the bull elk.
We found that both had been almost entirely eaten by wolverenes, lynxes,
and mountain lions. Having built at each of these places a large
deadfall, we weighted the drop-bars so heavily with old logs that there
could be no escape for the largest prowler once he seized the bait.

By the time we had the last of the triggers baited and set up and the
little pen built behind the drop-bar, night was coming on, and we
hurried home. We had seen many tracks of deer, elk, and moose, but had
been too busy to hunt any of them. As we neared the lodge, another
snowstorm set in, but that did not disturb us; in fact, the more snow
the better, for with deep snow the hoofed game of the valley would be
unable to escape us. We could choose the fat does and cows for our
winter's meat. The bucks and bulls were already poor, and the others
would lose flesh rapidly once they were obliged to "yard," that is, to
confine themselves to their hard-beaten trails in the limited area of a
willow patch.

It was a heavy snow that fell in the night, and the next morning
snowshoeing was good. As Pitamakan had had no bad dreams, and the sun
was shining in a clear sky, we started out for a goat hunt. After
climbing the mountain-side opposite the lodge for some time, we came to
a series of ledges, whence we obtained a fine view of the country which
we were living in. The mountain which we were on was high and very
steep. Not far below its summit was the big ice field, terminating at
the edge of a cliff, from which a great mass had tumbled, and started
the avalanche that had frightened us.

Turning to the east and pointing to the backbone of the range, Pitamakan
told me to notice how absolutely white it all was except the
perpendicular cliffs, where snow could not lie. There was no question
but that the snow was a great deal deeper up there than where we were.

I thought that there was a longing in Pitamakan's eyes as he gazed at
the tremendous wall of rock and snow that separated us from the plains
and from our people, but as he said nothing, I kept quiet. For myself, I
felt that I would give anything, suffer any hardships, if I could only
get once more to Fort Benton and my uncle. True, we now had a
comfortable lodge and plenty of elk meat, weapons for killing game,
snowshoes for traveling, and the outlook for more comforts was
favorable. But for all that, the future was very uncertain; there were
many things that might prevent our ever reaching the Missouri; all
nature was arrayed against us, and so was man himself.

Pitamakan roused me from my reverie by a tap on the shoulder.

"I can see no goat signs here above us," he said, "but look over there
at the ledges well up on the next mountain to the east. Do you see the
fresh trails?"

I did. In the smooth, glittering snow they were startlingly distinct in
their windings and turnings from clump to clump of the pines on the
rocky ledges. None of the animals that made them were in sight, but that
was not strange; as they were of practically the same color as the snow,
we could not see them at that distance except when they happened to get
in front of the dark pines or rock. Although the distance over there was
not more than a mile in a straight line, a cut gorge between the two
mountains obliged us to return to the river before making the ascent,
which more than doubled the distance.

After striking the river, we followed it up past the mouth of the gorge,
past three of the deadfalls set near the shore. The first one held a
fine, large, dark-furred marten, its body nipped across the shoulders
and crushed by the drop-bar. Taking the little victim out, and hanging
it in a tree, we reset the trap. The next deadfall was unsprung. The
third, one of the big falls, was down, and we hurried as fast as we
could to see what it held.

"A lynx," I ventured.

"A wolverene," Pitamakan guessed.

We were both wrong. Pinned down by the neck was a big mountain lion, to
us the most valuable of all the animals of the forest. The Blackfeet, as
well as the Crows and Gros Ventres, prized the skins very highly for use
as saddle-robes--we could get at least four horses for this one. Taking
such a prize made us feel rich. Leaving it in the fall until our return,
we turned off from the river and began the ascent of the mountain in
high spirits.

For a time the going was good, although increasingly difficult. After
we had passed through the big timber, the mountain became more and more
steep, until it was impossible for us to go farther on snowshoes. Taking
them off, we wallowed up through the deep snow from ledge to ledge,
keeping away from the clumps of stunted pine as much as possible, for in
them the snow lay deepest and was most fluffy.

The weather was bitterly cold, but we were warm enough, even perspiring
from our exertions. Much as we needed to stop and rest at frequent
intervals, it was impossible to do so, for the instant we halted we
began to shiver. More than once we were on the point of giving up the
hunt, but each time the thought of what a few goat hides meant to us
strengthened our legs to further endeavor.

I never envied a bird more than I did one that I saw that day. A Clark's
crow it was, raucous of voice and insolent, that kept flying a short
distance ahead of us and lighting on the pines, where it pretended to
pick kernels out of the big cones. If we could only fly like that, I
kept thinking, within a moment's time we could be right on the goats.

Strange as it may seem, there was more bird life on that bleak, cold
height than in the forest below. One variety of small, sweet singers,
flying all round us in large flocks, was especially numerous. I wondered
what they could be. Long years afterward an ornithologist told me that
they were gray-crowned finches--arctic birds that love the winter cold
and are happiest in a snowdrift.

We saw, too, many chattering flocks of Bohemian waxwings, also visitors
from the arctic regions. Most interesting of all were the ptarmigan,
small, snow-white grouse with jet-black eyes, bill, and toes. Never
descending to the valleys, either for food or shelter, they live on the
high, bare mountains the year round. They are heavily feathered clear
to the toes, so that their feet cannot freeze; and at night, and by day,
too, in severe weather, instead of roosting in the dwarf pines they
plunge down into soft snow, tunnel under the surface for several feet,
and then tramp a chamber large enough to sit in. These birds were very
tame, and often allowed us to get within fifteen or twenty feet of them
before flying or running away. Some were saucy and made a great fuss at
our approach, cocking up their tails and cackling, and even making a
feint of charging us.

At last we came walking out on a ledge that ended at the side of a big
gouge in the mountain, and on the far verge of it saw a goat, a big old
fellow, sitting at the edge of a small cliff. It was sitting down on its
haunches, just as a dog does. Should you see a cow, a sheep, or any
herbivorous animal do that, you would think his position extremely
ludicrous. In the case of the goat, because of its strange and uncouth
shape, it is more than ludicrous; it is weird. The animal has a long,
broad-nosed head, set apparently right against its shoulders; a long,
flowing beard hangs from its chin; its withers are extremely high, and
its hams low, like those of the buffalo. Its abnormally long hair
flutters round its knees like a pair of embroidered pantalets, and rises
eight or ten inches in length above the shoulders. The tail is short,
and so heavily haired that it looks like a thick club. Its round,
scimitar-shaped black horns rise in a backward curve from the thick,
fuzzy coat, and seem very small for the big, deep-chested animal.

The goat was almost as new to Pitamakan as to me.

"What is the matter with it?" he exclaimed. "Do you think it is sick, or

"He looks as if he felt very sad," I replied.

And truly the animal did look very dejected, its head sunk on its
brisket, its black eyes staring vacantly at the valley far below, as if
it were burdened with all the pains and sorrows of the ages.

We were so interested in watching it that at first we did not see the
others, thirteen in all, scattered close round on the little ledges
above him. Some were standing, others lying down. One big old "billy"
lay under a low-branched dwarf pine, and now and then would raise its
head, bite off a mouthful of the long, coarse needles, and deliberately
chew them. We had come out in plain view of the band, and now wondered
that they had not seen us and run away.

"Let's back up step by step until we are in the shelter of the pines
back there, then look out a way to get to them," Pitamakan proposed.

On starting to do so, we found that the goats had seen us all the time.
Two or three of them turned their heads and stared at us with apparent
curiosity; the old billy at the edge of the cliff gave us one vacant
stare, and resumed his brooding; the others paid no attention to our
movements. Unquestionably they had never seen man before, and did not
consider us enemies because we were not four-legged, like the beasts
that preyed upon them. So instead of backing cautiously, we turned and
walked into the little clump of pines, and beyond them to a deep gutter,
where we began the difficult task of stalking the animals. We had to
climb for several hundred yards to a broad ledge, follow it for perhaps
twice that distance, and then work our way, as best we could, straight
down to the goats.

That was a terrible climb. As the angle of the mountain was such that
the climb would have been difficult on bare rock, you can imagine how
hard it was to go up in the deep snow. Using our snowshoes for shovels
and taking the lead in turn, we fought our way through, upward, inch by
inch. More than once a mass of snow gave way above our gouging, and
swept us down a few feet or a few yards. Once Pitamakan was buried so
deep in it that I was obliged to dig him out; he was gasping for breath
by the time I uncovered his head.

On the ledge the going was so level that we wore our snowshoes a part of
the way across, and then, wading to a point directly above the goats, we
began the descent. That was easy. Straight ahead of us the mountain
dropped in a series of little shelves, or cliffs, down which we could
easily climb. Stopping when we thought we were near to the goats, we
strung our bows and fitted arrows to them. As I was a poor shot, I took
but one arrow, to be used only in an emergency. Pitamakan carried the
other four.

In a few moments we struck a deep and well-packed goat trail that
meandered along a shelf thirty, and in places fifty feet wide. Here and
there were clumps of dwarf pine and juniper that prevented our seeing
very far ahead, and Pitamakan gave me the sign to look sharp for the

A moment later, as we followed the trail round some pines, we came face
to face with a big billy-goat. The instant that he saw us he bristled up
his hair and came for us. Did you ever see a wild pig prance out for a
fight? Well, that is the way that goat came at us--head down and
prancing sidewise. I don't know whether we were more surprised or
scared; probably scared. The sight of those round, sharp black horns
made our flesh creep; indeed, the whole aspect of the uncouth animal was

Coming at us head on, there was little chance for an arrow to do any
damage to him.

"Run out that way!" Pitamakan cried, as he gave me a push. "I'll go this

There was not any running about it; we waddled to one side and the other
from the cañon-like trail out into the deep snow, and it was remarkable
what progress we made. As I said, the goat came prancing toward us, not
jumping full speed, as he might have done, so that we had plenty of time
to get out of the trail.

When he came opposite he seemed undecided what to do next. We did not
give him time to make up his mind. Pitamakan let fly an arrow, while I
stood ready to shoot if need be. But Pitamakan's shaft sped true; the
old billy flinched and humped himself, threw up his head with a pitiful,
silly expression of surprise, and dropped in his tracks. We waded back
into the trail and examined our prize; such heavy, thick, long hair and
fleece I had never seen on any other animal. At the base of the sharp
horns were black, warty, rubber-like excrescences. "Smell them!"
Pitamakan bade me, and I did. They gave off an exceedingly rank odor of

Pitamakan now pulled out the arrow; it had evidently pierced the heart.
He proposed that we go after the band and kill as many as possible; we
needed at least four large, or six small skins for a good bed-robe.

"Well, come on, lead the way," I said.

He held up his hand, and I could see his eyes grow big as if from fear.
"What is it?" I asked.

He did not answer, but stood anxiously looking this way and that, and
soon I, too, heard the faint, remote droning noise that had alarmed him.
We looked at the mountain above us, and at others near and far, but
there was nowhere any sign of an avalanche.

The droning noise became louder and deeper, filling us with dread all
the more poignant because it was impossible to determine the cause.

"The old medicine-men told the truth!" said Pitamakan. "These mountains
are no place for the Blackfeet. The gods that dwell here are not our
gods, and they do strange and cruel things to us plains people when they
get the chance."

I had nothing to say. We listened; the droning grew louder; it seemed
all about us, and yet we could see nothing unusual.

"Come on! Let's get away from here!" Pitamakan cried.

                              CHAPTER VIII

"Where shall we go?" I asked. "This noise seems to come from everywhere
and nowhere."

I looked up at the top of the mountain which we were on, and saw a long
streak of snow extending eastward from it like an immense pennant.

"Look! It is nothing but the wind that is making that noise!" I
exclaimed. "See how it is driving the snow up there!"

"Yes," Pitamakan agreed. "But listen. The sound of its blowing does not
come from there any more than from elsewhere. It comes from every
direction up there in the blue."

We could now see snow flying from the tops of the mountains on the
opposite side of the valley. In a few moments the whole summit of the
range was lost in a vast haze of drifting, flying snow. But where we
were there was only a gentle breeze from the west, which did not
increase in force. I remembered now that in winter, when fierce
northwest winds blew across the plains, the summit of the Rockies was
always hidden by grayish-white clouds. It was a strange sensation to
hear the drone of a terrific wind and not feel it, and I said so.

"Everything is strange in this country," my partner said, dully. "Here
Wind-Maker lives; and many another of the mountain and forest gods. We
have to make strong medicine, brother, to escape them."

This was the first of the terrific winter winds that blow across the
Northwest plains. Many a time thereafter we heard the strange roaring
sound that seemed to come from nowhere in particular; but down in the
valley, and even high up on the sides of the mountains, near the lodge,
there was never more than a gentle breeze. Pitamakan was always
depressed when we heard the strange roaring, and it made me feel
nervous and apprehensive of I knew not what.

We waded and slid and fell down to the next ledge, and there, working
our way to the edge, we saw some of the goats right beneath us. There
were seven of them,--old "nannies," two kids, and "billies" one and two
years old,--all in a close bunch not more than twenty feet below us.
Instead of running, they stood and stared up at us vacuously, while
their concave faces seemed to heighten their expression of stupid

Pitamakan shot one of the nannies. At the same time I drew my bow on one
of the goats, but on second thought eased it, for I might waste a
precious arrow. I had to use all my will power in denying myself that
chance to add another animal to my list of trophies.

Pitamakan was not wasting any time: _Zip! Zip! Zip!_ he sped his
remaining arrows, reached out for one of mine, and shot it just as an
old nannie, awaking to the fact that something was wrong with her
kindred, started off to the left at a lumbering gallop, more ungainly
and racking than that of a steer. Here was success, indeed! I was so
excited that I went aimlessly from one to another of the goats, feeling
of their heavy coats and smooth, sharp horns.

Having dressed the animals, we dragged them from the ledges out on the
steep slide, where we fastened them one to another in a novel way.
Making a slit down the lower joint of a hind leg, we thrust a fore leg
of the next animal through it,--between tendon and bone,--then slit the
fore leg in the same manner, and stuck a stick in it so that it could
not slip out. We soon had all five animals fastened in line, and then
taking the first one by the horns, we started down.

The deep snow was now a help instead of a hindrance; for it kept our tow
of game from sliding too fast down the tremendously steep incline.
Knowing that we were likely to start an avalanche, we kept as close to
the edge of the timber as we could. Even so, I had the feeling which a
man has while walking on thin ice over deep water. I tried to push
cautiously through the snow, and looked back anxiously whenever the game
in a particularly steep place came sliding down on us by the mere pull
of its own weight.

Pitamakan was less apprehensive. "If a slide starts, we can probably get
out of it by making a rush for the timber," he said. "Anyhow, what is to
be will be, so don't worry."

We came safe to the foot of the slide, but had time to skin only one
goat before dark; it was slow work with our obsidian knives. As we could
not safely leave the others unprotected from the prowlers during the
night, we laid them side by side on a heap of balsam boughs, where the
air could circulate all round them, and Pitamakan hung his capote on a
stick right over them, in order that the sight and odor of it might
prevent any wandering lion, lynx, or wolverene from robbing us. To go
without his capote in such cold weather was certainly a sacrifice on
Pitamakan's part.

If I am asked why we took pains to lay the game on boughs, the answer is
that, although any one would think that snow would be a natural
refrigerator, the opposite is the case, for freshly killed animals will
spoil in a few hours if they are buried in it.

To keep from freezing, Pitamakan hurried on to camp, while I followed
slowly with the goatskin and head. There was not time to take the lion
or marten from the deadfalls.

When I got to the lodge, Pitamakan had a fire burning and the last of
the cow elk ribs roasting over it. We were wet to the skin, of course,
but that did not matter. Off came our few garments, to be hung a short
time over the fire and then put on again. How cheerful and restful it
was to stretch out on our balsam beds and enjoy the heat after the long
day's battle with snow and precipitous mountain-sides!

The next day, and for many days thereafter, we had much work to keep us
busy. We skinned the goats, tanned the hides into soft robes, and sewed
them together in the form of a big bag, with the fur side in. The night
on which we crawled into it for the first time was a great occasion. On
that night, for the very first time since leaving the Blackfoot camp, we
slept perfectly warm and without waking with shivers to rebuild the

The deadfalls also took a great deal of our time. Every night some of
them were sprung, and we found from one to three or four valuable fur
animals under the drop-bars. It was a tedious job to skin them and
properly stretch the pelts to dry, but for all that, we loved the work
and were proud of the result. Here and there in the lodge a few marten,
fisher, wolverene, and lynx skins were always drying, and in a corner
the pile of cured peltries was steadily growing. Three of them were of
mountain lions.

During this time much more snow fell; it was fully six feet deep in the
woods when the last of the elk hams was broiled and eaten. For a day or
two we subsisted on goat meat, although the best of it had a slight
musky odor and flavor. As Pitamakan said, it was not real food.

As our bows were not nearly so strong as they looked, my partner was
always wishing for glue, so that we might back them with sinew. There
was material enough for glue, but there was nothing to make it in.

"The Mandans made pots of earth," I said to him one day. "Perhaps we can
make one that will stand fire and water."

Out we went along the river to look for clay. At the first cut-bank that
we came to I gouged off the snow that thinly coated its perpendicular
side, and lo! there was a layer of clay six inches thick between two
layers of gravel. We broke out several large flat chunks of the
stuff,--it was frozen, of course,--and carried it to the lodge. There,
breaking it into fine pieces and thawing it, we added a small amount of
water, and worked it into a stiff paste of the right consistency, as we
thought, for moulding.

Pitamakan, always artistic, fashioned a thin bowl like those that he had
seen in the Mandan village, while I made mine an inch thick, with a
capacity of not more than two quarts. When we baked them in the coals,
mine cracked, and Pitamakan's fell to pieces.

That was discouraging; evidently the clay was not of the right
consistency. I worked up another portion of clay with less water, while
my partner added even more water than before to his batch. We each soon
had a bowl fashioned and put to bake. In a few minutes the one which
Pitamakan had made fell to pieces, but mine, which was thick and clumsy
in shape, seemed to stand the heat well. I gradually increased the fire
round it, and after keeping the blaze up for a long time, I allowed the
fire at last to die out gradually. The bowl turned out fairly well; for
although it had one crack in the side, it was dark red in color, and
gave a substantial ring when we tapped it with a stick.

However, we took no chances of a mishap by moving it. We plastered the
crack with fresh clay, and then, putting into it nearly a quart of
water, an elk hoof and a couple of goat hoofs, we rebuilt the fire just
close enough to make the mixture simmer, and adding more water from time
to time during the day, patiently awaited results.

"_Ai-y!_ It is real glue!" Pitamakan exclaimed that evening, after
dipping a stick in the mess and testing it with his fingers. We were
quite excited and proud of our success. Softening the four elk sinews in
the hot glue, Pitamakan then plastered a pair of them on each bow. The
place where the ends overlapped at the centre, he bound with a sinew

Of course the bows were unstrung when the backing was put on, and as
soon as the work was done, we laid them away from the fire, that they
might dry slowly. In the morning, the first thing, after crawling out of
our fur nest, we strung and tested them, and found that the backing had
more than doubled their strength and elasticity. Now we were ready to
hunt our winter meat, and after a hurried breakfast of musky goat steak,
we started in quest of the game.

Not since the day of the goat hunt had we seen any tracks of moose, elk,
or deer. Pitamakan said that he had heard that the deer went from the
high mountains down toward the lake of the Flatheads to winter, and that
we need not expect to see any more of them. But he added that it did not
matter, for other game would yard close round the lodge.

Taking a zigzag course and examining every red willow patch along our
route, we went down the valley. As it was a stinging cold day, we had
our hands tucked up in the sleeves of our capotes, and our bows and
arrows under our arms, for as yet we had no mittens. Our legs suffered,
too, from need of new coverings.

The first game that we saw was an otter, fishing in a dark pool at the
foot of a rapid. He would crawl out on the ice fringing it, sit still
for a moment, sniffing the air and looking sharp for any enemy, and then
make a sudden dive. We watched him until he had brought up a big trout
and had begun to eat it, when we turned away without the animal seeing
us. Except at close range, the otter's eyesight is poor, but he has a
keen nose and sharp ears. Later we intended to set a deadfall for him,
if by any means we could catch fish to bait it.

A mile or more below the lodge we came to a deep, hard-packed trail,
which wound and branched in every direction through a big red-willow
thicket, which we guessed to be a moose yard. In many places the willows
had been browsed off as far out from the paths as the animals could
stretch their necks. Here and there were large, hard-packed circular
depressions in the snow where they had lain down to rest and sleep,
always, I imagine, with one of their number on the watch for any
prowling mountain lion.

We went down through the centre of the yard, although we had some
difficulty in crossing the deep trails on our snowshoes. Soon we sighted
the game--two cow moose, two calves, and two yearlings. The instant that
they saw us the old lead cow trotted away down the trail, leading the
others, and then by turning into every successive left-hand fork, tried
to circle round behind us. When we headed her off, she turned and tried
to circle round us in the other direction. Then Pitamakan and I
separated, and in that way drove the little band steadily ahead of us,
until it reached the lower end of the yard.

There, with a tremendous leap, the old cow broke out of the yard into
the fresh snow, and the way she made it fly behind her reminded me of
the stern wheel of a Missouri River steamboat beating up spray. All the
others followed her until we came close, when all but her calf wheeled
in the new path and rushed back for the yard.

They were so close to us that we might almost have touched them.
Pitamakan shot an arrow deep between the ribs of the cow, and by a lucky
aim I put my one arrow into the calf behind her. Both of them fell, but
the two yearlings, scrambling over their bodies, escaped into the yard.

We went on in pursuit of the other cow and her calf. The strength that
she displayed in breaking her way through six feet of snow was
wonderful. For at least three hundred yards she went faster than we
could go on our web shoes, but after that she gave out rapidly, and
finally stopped altogether.

When we came close to her, she plunged back past the calf and stood
awaiting us, determined to protect it to the last. All the hair on her
shoulders and back was ruffed and bristling forward, while her eyes
blazed with anger, although there was also in them the look of terror
and despair. When we got close to her, she rushed at us. We had to do
some lively scrambling to keep out of her way. But she soon tired, and
then while I attracted her attention, Pitamakan slipped round on the
other side of her. As his bow-cord twanged, she dropped her head, and
the light almost instantly went out of her eyes. The poor calf met the
same fate a moment later. It was cruel work, but as necessary as it was
cruel; we killed that we might live.

There remained the two yearlings, and I proposed that we spare them.
Pitamakan looked at me with surprise.

"What! Let them go?" he exclaimed. "And many winter moons yet before us?
Why, brother, you talk foolishly! Of course we must kill them. Even then
we may not have enough meat to last until spring."

So we chased them also out into deep snow, and did as he said. By the
time we had one calf skinned we were obliged to go home and gather the
night's wood.

The next day we skinned the rest of the animals, cut up the meat, and
hung it in trees, whence it could be packed home from time to time. Two
of the hides we put to soak in the river, preparatory to graining and
tanning them. The others we stretched on frames and allowed to freeze
dry, after which we laid them on our couch.

During the short days we tended the deadfalls, skinned and stretched
what fur was trapped in them, packed in meat and hung it beside the
lodge, and tanned the two hides. Having done the tanning successfully,
we went into the tailoring business. Pitamakan cut pieces of proper
shape from the big, soft skins, but in the work of sewing I did my
share. After three or four evenings' work, we were the proud wearers of
new shirts, new leggings, and new mittens.

Our earthen pot fell to pieces the day after we had made glue in it.
That was a serious loss, for we had intended to boil meat in it. Roasted
meat is good, but does not do so well as a steady diet. The Indians of
the North regard boiled meat as we regard bread, that is, as the staff
of life. Pitamakan, who craved it more than I, determined, now that we
had plenty of hides, to use a part of one for a kettle. From one of the
yearling moose hides he cut a large, round piece, soaked it in the river
until it was soft, and then sewed the edge in pleats to a birch hoop
about two feet in diameter, so as to make a stiff-rimmed bag about as
deep as it was wide. With a strip of hide he suspended it from a pole in
the lodge roof.

Next he set several clean stones in the fire to heat, and put some
rather finely cut meat in the bag with two quarts of water. When the
rocks were red-hot, he dropped them one by one into the bag, and pulled
them out to reheat as fast as they cooled. In this way the meat was
boiled. Such was the ancient way of cooking it before the white traders
brought pots and kettle into the North country.

The meat was not cooked long, only long enough, in fact to change its
color, and was really more nutritious than it would have been had it
been stewed a long time. We enjoyed that first meal of it with keen
relish, and thereafter ate more boiled than roasted meat.

As the winter snows settled and hardened, we saw more and more trails of
otter along the river, where they traveled from one open hole to another
to do their fishing, and one day we began our campaign against them by
going fishing ourselves. Our tackle consisted of a sinew cord and loop
several feet long, tied to a long, slender pole.

In the first open pool that we looked into there were numerous trout and
suckers; of course we tried first to snare the trout. We soon learned,
however, that it could not be done, for they would not allow the loop
to come nearer than five or six inches to their heads, but always
drifted downstream from it in a tantalizing manner.

Next, trying the suckers, big, reddish-black fellows of two pounds'
weight, we found them easy to snare. They lay as if they were half dead,
their bellies close to the bottom, and never moved when the loop drifted
down round their heads, thinking, no doubt, that it was but a piece of
passing water-grass. When the noose was just behind the gills, we gave
the pole a sharp yank, and up came the fish, wriggling and flapping,
helpless in the grip of the tightened cord.

After we caught three of them, we spent the rest of the morning setting
a deadfall at each of three pools where the otters were working. But for
some time afterward we got no otters; of all animals they are the shyest
and most difficult to trap. It was not until all traces of the man scent
had died out that one was finally lured by the sucker bait, and was
killed by the fall-bar.

As time passed, we set more and more deadfalls up and down the valley,
so many that finally we could not make the round of them all in one day.
One morning we would attend to those lying east of the lodge, and the
next morning visit those to the west of it. The farthest one to the west
was at least seven miles away, and for some unknown reason more fur
came to it than to any of the others; we seldom visited it without
finding a marten or a fisher. Pitamakan called it the _nat-o-wap-i
kyak-ach-is_--medicine-trap, as the words may be freely translated.
_Nat-o-wap-i_ really means "of the sun"--"sun-power."

As we approached this deadfall one day, when we had taken nothing from
the other traps except a marten that a passing fisher had maliciously
torn to shreds, Pitamakan began the coyote prayer song, because, as he
said, something had to be done to bring us better luck.

We soon saw the deadfall, noticed that the bar was down, and hurried
eagerly forward to see what it held, while my partner sang louder than
ever. On coming to it, we found a fine, black, fluffy-furred fisher;
whereupon Pitamakan raised his hand and began chanting a prayer of
thanks to the gods.

Meanwhile I saw, a little farther on, a trail in the snow which excited
my interest, and I impatiently waited for him to finish his devotions to
call his attention to it.

"Look! There's the trail of a bear!" I said, although it seemed odd to
me that a bear should be wandering round in the dead of winter.

We hurried over to it. What we saw made us stare wildly round with
fright, while we quickly strung our bows. It was the trail of a man on
long, narrow web shoes--an Indian, of course, and therefore an enemy.
The trail was fresh, too, apparently as fresh as our own. And but a
moment before, Pitamakan had been singing at the top of his voice!

                               CHAPTER IX

Crossing the valley from south to north in front of us, the snowshoe
trail disappeared, a hundred yards away, in a clump of pines. The
Indian, brushing against a branch, had relieved it of its weight of
snow, and its dark green foliage stood out in sharp contrast with the
prevailing white. There was a chance that he might still be in that

"We must know if he is there," said Pitamakan. "Though he didn't hear us
we must still know whence this enemy came, and why, and where he is

We began by going cautiously round the pines. From a distance, we could
see the trail coming out of them on the farther side and going on
straight to the river, where the water fell in cascades over a wide
series of low, broken reefs. From there the trail followed the edge of
the open water down past the last of the falls, and then showed plain
on the frozen river as far as we could see.

Venturing now to follow it to the cascades, we learned at a glance, on
arriving there, why the lone traveler had come into our peaceful valley.
At the edge of the water the snow was all trampled down, and the prints
of bare feet in it showed that the man had been wading in the river.
Scattered on the packed snow were several fragments of dark green rock,
one of which Pitamakan picked up and examined.

"This is what he came after," he said. "It is pipestone and very soft.
Both the Kootenays and the Flatheads make their pipes of it because it
is so easily worked into shape."

"Where do you think he came from?" I asked.

"From the camp of his people. These mountain Indians winter down along
their big lake. Very little snow falls there, and horse-feed is always

"Well, if he came from down there, why do we find his trail to this
place coming straight across the valley from the south?"

"Ah, that is so!" Pitamakan exclaimed. "Come on! We must find out about

We took the man's back trail, and, passing our deadfall, paused to note
how plainly it could be seen from several points along the way. It was a
wonder that he had noticed neither the deadfall nor our hard-packed,
snowshoe trail.

"The gods were certainly good to us!" my partner exclaimed. "They caused
him to look the other way as he passed."

The back trail led us straight to the foot of the steep mountain rising
from the valley. There, in several places, the snow was scraped away to
the ground, where evidently the man had searched for the pipestone ledge
that was probably exposed somewhere near. Failing to find it, he had
been obliged to go to the river and wade to the place where it again
cropped out. His trail to the side hill came straight up the valley.

We certainly had something to think and talk about now--and also to
worry about. Others of the enemy might come after pipestone, and there
was our trail running straight to the place. Going back to the deadfall,
we took out the fisher, but did not reset the trap; for we determined
not to go thereafter within several miles of the pipestone falls.
Another heavy snowfall would pretty much obliterate our trail, and we
prayed that it would soon come. From that day, indeed, our sense of
peace and security was gone.

Sitting within the lodge, we always had the feeling that the enemy might
be close by, waiting to shoot us when we stepped outside. On the daily
rounds of our traps we were ever watching places where a foe might be
lying in wait. Pitamakan said that the only thing for us to do was to
make strong medicine. Accordingly, he gave our bearskin to the sun; he
lashed it firmly in the fork of a tree, and made a strong prayer to the
shining god to guard us from being ambushed by the enemy.

Although we had long since lost track of the days of the week, we agreed
in thinking that the discovery of the man's trail took place in "the
moon before the moon when the web-feet come"; or, as the white man would
say, in February. At the end of the next moon, then,--in March,--spring
would come on the plains. Up where we were, however, the snow would last
much longer--probably until May. Pitamakan said that we must leave the
valley long before then, because with the first signs of spring the deer
would be working back into the high mountains, and the Kootenays would
follow them.

"How can we do that when, as you say, the pass cannot be crossed until
summer?" I asked.

"There is another pass to the south of us," he replied, "the Two
Medicine pass. There is no dangerous place anywhere along it."

"Then we can easily get out of here!" I exclaimed. "Let us start soon."

He shook his head. "No," he said. "We can't go until the snow melts from
the low country where the Kootenays and Flatheads winter. We have to go
down there to make our start on the Two Medicine trail."

"Why so?" said I, in surprise. "Why can't we go straight south from here
until we strike it?"

He laughed grimly.

"Between us and the trail lie many cañons and many mountains that none
but the birds can cross. Besides, along each stream is a trail used by
these Indians in their hunts up toward the backbone of the range, which
is like the trail that crosses over to the Two Medicine. I could not
recognize the right one when we came to it, and we should follow up one
after another, and wear ourselves out. I remember some landmarks only
where the right trail leaves the lake and enters the heavy timber, and
from that place we have to start. Also, we have to start from there on
bare ground; for if we started on the snow, our trail would be seen and
followed, and that would be the end for us."

"Well, then, let's go up and look at the summit of our pass," I
proposed. "It may not be so bad as you think. Perhaps we can find some
way to cross the dangerous place."

He objected that we should waste our time, but I kept urging that we
must overlook no possible chance to escape to the plains, until finally
I persuaded him. One bright morning we put on our snowshoes and started.
As the going was good on the deep, settled snow, we were not long in
covering the distance to the Salt Springs. Up and down the mountainside,
all round them, was a perfect network of goat trails in the snow, and
here and there were large and small groups of the strange, uncouth
animals, some lying down, some sitting and staring dejectedly off into
space, while still others were cropping lichens from wind-swept, rocky
walls. Although several of them were less than three hundred yards
away, they paid no attention to us.

After watching some that were feeding on the cliff wall, where they
looked as if they were pasted to it, we came to the conclusion that they
could travel where a bighorn would certainly fall and be dashed to
pieces. One old billy-goat was almost human in the way in which he got
over difficult places. After standing on his hind legs and gathering all
the lichen within reach he concluded to ascend to the next shelf. Since
there was not room for him to back away for a leap, he placed his
forefeet over the edge, and drew himself up on to it--exactly as a man
draws himself up by the sheer muscular strength of his arms.

Not far beyond the springs, we left the last of the timber and began the
ascent of the summit proper, and soon came into the zone of terrific
winds; but fortunately for us, there was scarce a breath stirring that
day. The snow was so hard-packed by the wind that when we removed our
snowshoes, our moccasined feet left no impressions in it. The rocky
slopes facing the northwest were absolutely bare, while those pitching
the other way lay buried under drifts from five to fifty feet and more
in depth.

Late in the afternoon we came to the west end of the pass, having made
twice as good time in the ascent as we had in the descent in the autumn
with horses. I needed but one glance at the place to be convinced that
it was impassable. The steep slide where my horse and I had so nearly
been lost was buried deep in snow; towering above it were heavy,
greenish, concave drifts of snow clinging to the knife-edge wall and
likely to topple over at any moment. Our weight might, and probably
would, start an avalanche rushing down the slide and off into abysmal
space. We stood in the trail of several goats, which had ventured out on
the slide for a few yards, abruptly turned and retraced their steps.

"Even they feared to cross," said Pitamakan. "Come on! Let's go home."

I was so disappointed that I had not a word to say on the way down. We
reached the lodge late in the night, made sure that no one had been near
it during our absence, and after building a good fire and eating some
roast meat, crawled into our fur bag, nearly worn out. It had been a
long, hard day.

At this time our catch of fur began to decrease rapidly. It is my belief
that the predatory as well as the herbivorous animals never stray very
far from the place where they are born.

A case in point is that of an old grizzly bear, whose trail could not be
mistaken because he had lost a toe from his left front foot. Every three
weeks he crossed the outlet of the Upper St. Mary's Lake, wandered up
into the Red Eagle Valley, swung round northward along the back-bone of
the Rockies to the Swift Current Waters, and thence down across the
outlet again. Observation of other animals also leads me to believe
that they all have their habitual rounds. If this is so, it explains why
it was that our deadfalls held fewer and fewer prizes for us, until
finally three or four days would pass without our finding even a marten
to reward us for our long, weary tramps.

The days now grew noticeably longer and warmer, until finally
snow-shoeing was impossible after nine or ten o'clock in the morning.
The warm sun turned the snow into large, loose, water-saturated grains
which would give way every few steps and let us down clear to the
ground, often in places where the snow was so deep that we stood, so to
speak, in a greenish well from which we had to look straight up to see
the sky. It was very difficult to get out of such places.

Toward the end of our stay we did most of our tramping in the early
morning, when the snow was covered with so hard a crust by the night's
frost that it would hold us up without snowshoes.

One evening we heard the distant cry of wild geese. That was our signal
for departure. We made a last round of the deadfalls, sprung each one
that was set, and the next day made up two bundles of the peltries that
we were to take with us. There were in all sixty-one marten, ten fisher,
seventeen mink, five wolverene, one mountain-lion, eight lynx, and two
otter skins. Fortunately, there was little weight in all that number,
and we bound them so compactly that there was little bulk. A quantity of
moose meat, cut into thin sheets and dried, made up the rest of our
pack. Nor did we forget the fire-drill and a small, hard piece of birch
wood that had been seasoning by the fire all the winter for a drill

The goatskin sleeping-bag was too heavy to take along; it would have
added much to our comfort, of course, but there was now no night cold
enough to be very disagreeable so long as we could have fire, and of
that we were assured. However, Pitamakan did not intend that the bag
should be wasted; almost the last thing that he did was to make an
offering of it to the sun. Lashing the bundle in a tree, he prayed that
we might survive all perils by the way, and soon reach the lodges of our

At sundown we ate our last meal in the lodge and enjoyed for the last
time its cheerful shelter. Somehow, as we sat by the fire, we did not
feel like talking. To go away and leave the little home to the elements
and the prowlers of the night was like parting forever from some near
and dear friend.

We waited several hours, until the frost hardened the snow; then putting
on the snowshoes and slinging the packs, we started away down the
valley. There was certainly a lump in my throat as I turned for a last
look at the lodge, with the smoke of its fire curling up from it and
beckoning us back to rest and sleep.

Until midnight the stiffening crust occasionally broke and let us down;
but after that time it became so hard that, taking off our snowshoes
and slinging them to the packs, we made remarkable time down the valley.

After passing the pipestone falls, we entered country new to us, where
the valley became much wider. Every mile or two a branch came into the
river, which we were obliged to ford, for the ice had gone out of the
streams. It was no fun to remove moccasins and leggings, wade through
the icy water, and then put them on in the snow on the other side.

For several weeks avalanches had been thundering down the mountain-sides
all round us, and this night they seemed more frequent than ever. Once
one tore its way to the valley just behind us. Not an hour later,
Pitamakan's pack-thong broke, and let his bundle down into the snow. As
we stopped to retie it, there came the rumbling of an avalanche,
apparently right over our heads.

I thought that it would strike the valley not far below us. "Come! Get
up!" I cried. "Let's run back as fast as we can!"

"Not so! We must run the other way. Can't you hear? It is going to
strike either where we are, or close behind us," Pitamakan answered; and
grasping my arm, he tried to make me go forward with him.

"Can't you hear it there?" I shouted, taking hold of him in my turn and
pulling the other way. "It is coming down right where we stand, or not
far below here!"

And thus we stood while the dreadful noise increased, until it seemed as
if the world was being rent wide open. There was a confusion of
thunderous sound--the grinding of rocks and ice, the crashing and
snapping of great trees. The avalanche came nearer with terrific speed,
until finally it filled all the region round with such a deafening noise
that it was impossible even to guess where it would sweep down into the

We ran a few steps upstream, then as many more back, and finally stood
trembling, quite uncertain which way to fly. But only for a moment; just
ahead of us the great forest trees began to leap out and downward from
the steep mountain-side, and then the mass of the avalanche burst into
the flat and piled up a hundred feet deep before us--a dirty ridge of
wrecked mountain-side that extended away across the valley to the river.
There was a last rumble and cracking of branches as it settled, and then
all was still.

"You see that I was right," I said. "It did strike below us."

"Yes, you heard better than I did," my partner admitted, "but that is
not what saved us. I am sure that the gods caused the pack-thong to
break and stop us; otherwise we should have been right in the path of
the slide."

Re-slinging our packs, we climbed the rough mass of the slide, round and
over big boulders, ice blocks, and tree trunks, through piles of brush
and broken branches. At the apex of the heap Pitamakan reached down,
pulled something from the earth-stained snow, and passed it to me. It
was the head and neck of a mountain goat, crushed almost flat, the
flesh of which was still warm.

           [Illustration: THE AVALANCHE BURST INTO THE FLAT]

"You see what would have happened to us if my pack-thong had not
broken," he said grimly.

"It must be that many goats perish in this way," I remarked.

"Yes, and also many bighorn," he said. "I have heard the old hunters say
that the bears, when they first come out in the spring, get their living
from these slides. They travel from one to another, and paw round in
search of the dead animals buried in them."

At daylight we entered an open park where we could see back toward the
summit. There was no doubt that we had traveled a long way during the
night, for the mountain opposite our abandoned lodge looked twenty miles
distant. The valley here was fully a mile wide, and the mountains
bordering it were covered with pines clear to the summit. They were not
more than a thousand feet high, and the western rim of them seemed not
more than fifteen miles away. We believed that from where they ended
the distance could not be great to the lake of the Flatheads.

Down here the snow was only about four feet deep, less than half the
depth of it where we had wintered. The air became warm much earlier in
the morning than it did up there. Using the snowshoes now, as the crust
was getting weak, we kept going, although very tired. During the two
hours that we were able to travel after sunrise, we passed great numbers
of elk, and not a few moose, and when, finally, the snow grew spongy and
obliged us to stop for the day, we were plainly within the deer range,
for both white-tail and mule-deer were as plentiful as jack-rabbits are
in certain parts of the plains.

We stopped for our much-needed rest on a bare sandbar of the river, and
with bow and drill started a little fire and roasted some dry meat. The
sun shone warm there, and after eating, we lay down on the sand and
slept until almost night.

Starting on again as soon as the snow crusted, we traveled the rest of
the night without any trouble, and soon after daybreak suddenly passed
the snow-line and stepped into green-sprouting grass. The summer birds
had come, and were singing all round us. A meadow-lark, on a bush close
by, was especially tuneful, and Pitamakan mocked it:

"_Kit-ah-kim ai-siks-is-to-ki!_" (Your sister is dark-complexioned!) he
cried gleefully. "Oh, no, little yellow-breast, you make a mistake. I
have no sister."

We were in the edge of a fine prairie dotted with groves of pine and
cottonwood. The land sloped gently to the west. I thought that it could
not be far in that direction to the big lake, but Pitamakan said that it
was way off to the southwest, perhaps two days' journey from where we
were. Suddenly he fell on his knees and began with feverish haste to dig
up a slender, green-leaved plant.

"It is camass!" he cried, holding it up and wiping the earth from the
white, onion-shaped root. "Dig! Dig! See, there are plenty of them all
round. Eat plenty of them. They are good."

So they were; crisp, starchy, and rather sweet. After our winter-long
diet of meat, they were exactly what our appetites craved and our
systems needed. We made a meal of them right there. For once hunger got
the better of our caution. Laying down our pack and snowshoes, we dug up
root after root, all the time moving out into prairie farther and
farther from the edge of the timber.

"Come on! Let's get our packs and hide somewhere for the day," I said
finally. "I am filled with these things to the neck."

"Oh, wait a little; I want a few more," my partner answered.

Just then a band of deer burst out of a cottonwood grove about five
hundred yards to the west of us, and as we sat staring and wondering
what had startled them, three Indians came riding like the wind round
one side of the grove, and four more appeared on the other side, in
swift pursuit of the animals.

                               CHAPTER X

"Don't you move!" Pitamakan exclaimed.

He spoke just in time, for I was on the point of springing up and
running for the timber. The game--they were mule-deer, which are not
fleet runners, like the white-tail--came bouncing awkwardly toward us,
while the Indians gained on them perceptibly. Never before had I felt
that I was a giant; but as I sat there in the short grass of the open
prairie, I felt as if my body was actually towering into the sky. I
instinctively tried to make myself of smaller size. All my muscles
quivered and contracted so tensely that the feeling was painful. "Oh,
come!" I cried. "Can't you see that they--"

"Be still!" Pitamakan broke in. "The wind is from us to them. The deer
will soon turn. Our one chance is to sit motionless. They haven't seen
us yet."

The deer came steadily toward us, jumping awkwardly and high. They were
now less than four hundred yards away, and although the wind was
increasing, they gave no sign of having scented us.

"They must turn soon," Pitamakan said. "But if they don't, and you see
that the Indians are coming for us, string your bow. Let us fight our
best until our end comes."

That had been my thought. I had two of our five obsidian-pointed arrows.
If worse came to worst, I hoped that I should be able to speed them
swift and true. Now the deer were less than three hundred yards from us,
and I gave up all hope that they would turn. To me the Indians seemed to
be staring straight at us instead of at the animals.

I had started to reach for my bow and arrows, which lay on the ground
beside me, when the deer did turn, suddenly and sharply to the right.
The pursuers, turning also, almost at the same time, gained
considerably on them. I realized that we had not been discovered.

The leading hunter now raised his gun and fired. The hornless old buck
at the head of the band sharply shook his head, and holding it askew as
if the bullet had stung it, swerved to the right again, directly away
from us. The herd followed him, while the hunters again made a short cut
toward them and began shooting. Their backs were now to us.

"Run! Run for the timber!" my partner commanded; and grabbing my bow and
arrows, I followed him, faster, probably, than I had ever run before. It
was a hundred yards or more to the timber. As we neared it, I began to
hope that we should get into its shelter unseen. Behind us the hunters
kept shooting at the deer, but neither of us took time to look back
until we came to our packs, and paused to lift them and the snowshoes.

At that very moment the war-cry of the enemy was raised, and we knew
that they had discovered us. We looked, and saw that they were coming
our way as fast as their horses could lope. And how they did yell! There
was menace in those shrill staccato yelps.

"We must leave the furs. Just take your snowshoes and come on," said
Pitamakan, and I grabbed them up and followed him.

It was only a few yards back in the timber to the snow-line. Upon
reaching it, I threw down my shoes, stuck my toes into the loops, and
was starting on without fastening the ankle-thongs, when my partner
ordered me to tie them properly. It seemed to me that my fingers had
never been so clumsy.

We stepped up on the snow, and found that the crust was still strong
enough to bear our weight, although it cracked and gave slightly where
the centre of the poor webbing sagged under our feet. At the edge of the
prairie the timber was scattering; but back a short distance there were
several dense thickets, and back of them again was the line of the
heavy pine forest. We made for the nearest thicket, while the yells of
the enemy sounded nearer and louder at every step we took.

It was easy to guess when they came to the fur packs, for there was a
momentary stop in the war-cries as they loudly disputed over the
possession of them. Then, abandoning their horses, they began shooting
at us as they advanced into the snow, through which they broke and
floundered at almost every step.

The advantage was now all with us, provided we were not hit. Once I
stopped behind a tree for an instant and looked back. Three of the men
had not tried to come on over the snow, but standing at the edge of it,
loaded and fired as fast as possible. The others were doing their best
to advance over the crust, and had our plight not been so desperate, I
should have laughed to see them. They stepped gingerly, teetering along
with open mouths and arms outspread, and sometimes the crust would
bear their weight for three or four paces, and so increase their
confidence that they would quicken their speed, only to break through
and sink waist-deep.

           [Illustration: I GRABBED THEM UP AND FOLLOWED HIM]

I pushed a flap of my old capote out from the tree as far as I could
with the bow, in the hope of drawing their fire; but, finding that they
were not to be caught by any such ruse, I hurried on. Then several
bullets came so close to me that I could feel the wind from them; one
struck a tree which I was passing, and flicked off bits of bark, which
stung my left cheek and cut the lobe of my left ear. When the enemy saw
me raise my hand to my face, they yelled with triumph, and Pitamakan
turned to see what had happened.

"Go on! It is nothing!" I called out.

At that instant another shot was fired, and I thought that I heard my
partner give a little cry of pain; but he did not flinch, and continued
on as rapidly as before. When I came where he had been, however, I saw
that his trail was bloody, and I feared the worst, for I well knew that
even with a death-wound he would keep on bravely to the very end. The
rest of the run to the thicket was like some terrible dream to me, for I
expected that every step he made would be his last. But finally he
passed into the screen of young evergreens, and a moment later I was
beside him, asking how badly he was hurt.

"It is only a flesh-wound here," he answered, gripping the inner part of
his left thigh. "Come on, we mustn't stop."

As the enemy could no longer see us, we made our way to the line of big
timber without fear of their bullets. They gave a few last yells as we
went into the thicket, and shouted some words at us, which of course we
could not understand. And then all was still.

Without a word, Pitamakan went on and on up the steep mountain-side, and
I sadly followed him. Soon, coming to an opening in the timber, we
stepped out into it, until we could get a good view of the plain below.
The Indians were riding back to where they had chased the deer. Soon
they dismounted and began skinning two that they had killed. We removed
our snowshoes and sat down on them. Pitamakan let down his legging and
washed his wound with snow; the bullet had split open the skin for a
length of several inches, but fortunately, had not torn the muscles. As
soon as the wound was washed and dry, I went over to a balsam fir and
gathered the contents of three or four blisters, which he smeared all
over the raw place. In a few minutes he said that the pungent, sticky
stuff had stopped the burning of the wound.

We were two sad boys that morning. The loss of the furs, for which we
had worked so hard all winter, was not easy to bear. Every few minutes
Pitamakan would cry out to his gods to punish the thieves, and my heart
was as sore against them as his. With the fur packs we had lost also our
fire-drill and socket piece.

"But that doesn't matter," Pitamakan said. "We have good bows and can
make a drill at any time. Perhaps we shall never again have any use for

"How so? Are we never to eat again? Shall we not need fire of nights to
keep us warm?" I asked.

"Maybe we shall and maybe not," Pitamakan replied. "It is not likely
that those hunters will go home without trying to take our scalps with
them; we'll soon know about that."

We watched the men in silence for some little time. Four of them were
round one deer, and three were at work skinning the other. Soon,
however, one man left each group and began cutting willows. Soon
afterward we saw that those remaining had got the deer hides off and
were cutting them into strips.

"I thought that they would do that," said my partner. "They are going to
make snowshoes and follow us. Hurry now, and fasten on your shoes!"

I did as I was told and asked no questions. Pitamakan limped badly when
he started off, but made light of his lameness and insisted that he felt
no pain. By this time the sun was fast weakening the crust; in a short
time neither we nor our enemy would be able to travel, and I told my
partner that while they were making their shoes, we ought to get so far
ahead that they never would be able to overtake us.

"They are seven, we only two," he said. "They will break trail by turns
when the snow gets soft. Our chance to escape is to get back to the dry
prairie while they are climbing the mountain on our trail."

That was a plan that had never entered my head, but I instantly saw its
possibilities. Left to my own resources, I should only have struggled on
and on into the mountains, eventually to be captured.

For an hour or more, just as long as the crust would hold, we kept along
the side of the mountain parallel with the river; then, when the crust
at last broke with us at every step, we took off our snowshoes and
floundered down the tremendously steep slope to the stream, and turning
with it, walked and ran along the gravelly and sandy shore.

So, not later than mid-afternoon, we came again to the foot of the
mountain, and walking to the edge of the timber bordering the river,
looked out on the prairie from which we had been driven in the morning.

"_Sum-is! Sum-is!_" Pitamakan cried, pointing away south to the place of
the deer chase.

"_I-kit-si-kum! Sap-un-is-tsim!_" (Seven! The whole number!) I
exclaimed. The horses of the enemy were picketed out there and quietly
grazing, but not one of the hunters was to be seen. It seemed too good
to be true.

We stood still for some time, while we searched the prairie and the
mountain-side for sign of the enemy.

"They seem all to have taken our trail," said Pitamakan, at last, "and
maybe that is the way of it. If one has remained to watch the horses,
he must be lying in that little pine grove near them. Let's go down the
river a little farther, then swing round and sneak into the grove from
the other side."

We hurried on in the river-bottom for half a mile, and then swung out
across the open ground. Our hearts throbbed with hope, and with fear,
too, as we approached the one place where a guard might be stationed.

Stealing into the little grove as silently as shadows, we moved through
it so slowly that a red squirrel digging in the needle-covered earth
near by never noted our passing. There was not more than an acre of the
young trees, and they covered a space twice as long as wide, so we were
able to see every foot of it as we passed along. When we were nearing
the farther end, a coyote gave us a terrible scare; as he rose up behind
a thin screen of low boughs, we could not see at first just what it

I have heard of people turning cold from fear; maybe they do, but fear
does not affect me in that way. A flash of heat swept through me; my
mouth grew dry. My sense of being perfectly helpless, my expectation
that a bullet would come tearing into me, was something that I shall
never forget.

This time the suspense was short; the coyote walked boldly off in the
direction in which we were going, and since the wind was in our faces,
we instantly realized that no man was concealed out there ahead of him.
Still, Pitamakan was cautious and, in spite of my urgent signs, kept on
as stealthily as before. But when we came to the edge of the grove, we
saw the coyote was walking jauntily round among the feeding horses.

Off to the right, near one of the deer carcasses, lay the hunters'
saddles, saddle-blankets and other stuff. We found also a litter of
willow cuttings and short strips of deer hide where the hunters had made
their snowshoes. The saddles were all home-made, but better than none.
We each selected one and the best of the blankets, and began saddling
the two most sturdy and swift-looking of the seven animals. That done,
we turned the remaining five loose, after removing their lariats and
throwing them away. Then we got into the saddle and started to gather up
the loose stock, when I suddenly thought of something that we had
entirely forgotten in our excitement.

"Pitamakan! Our furs! Where can they be?" I asked.

"There! There!" he answered, pointing to where the other deer carcass

And sure enough, there the two packs were, just as we had bound them.

Here was more luck! We lost no time in riding over to the place and
picking them up; then, driving the other horses ahead of us, we rode
away to the southwest as fast as possible. Somewhere on the big,
timbered mountain behind us, the enemy were worming along on our trail;
or, what is more likely, completely exhausted from struggling in the
soft snow, they were waiting for the night freeze, to enable them to go

The loose horses trotted ahead of us most willingly--suspiciously so;
and in the course of half an hour, on our coming to a strip of timber,
the reason for such unusual conduct was plain. Here was a broad, hard
trail that led, no doubt, directly to the camp which they had come from
in the morning. Of course they were willing to be driven back to their
mates! And now, as we pushed along this highway, one and another of them
began to nicker, a sure sign that the camp was not far distant.

There were only three or four hundred yards of the timber, and then
another big prairie; and at the farther end of this, a couple of miles
away, smoke was rising from another patch of timber, near which many
horses were grazing.

"There! There is the camp of the enemy!" Pitamakan cried. "Already they
may have seen us! Let's get back into the timber as quick as we can."

That was not easy to do; the loose stock wanted to keep right on toward
their mates, and it required hard riding to head them off and turn them
back. And then when we did accomplish it, they were very restless; it
was only by the greatest vigilance that we kept them from breaking back.

While the sun slowly sank toward the horizon, we waited in suspense, for
there was a chance that the party of seven, or some other party, might
appear at any moment. The thought that, after our great success of the
day, we might lose everything, and our lives also, kept us keyed up to
an intense pitch of excitement.

Toward sunset there was a commotion among the horse herds at the farther
end of the prairie, and two riders came loping straight toward us. At
first we were not much alarmed, for we thought that they were only
looking for some stray animal from the bands; but they kept coming
straight on, looking neither to the right nor to the left, and it was
soon plain, either that they had seen us and were going to have a look
at our outfit, or that they were going to take the trail through the
timber, in search, probably, of the missing hunters whose horses we had
rounded up. There was but one thing for us to do--hustle the animals as
far from the trail as possible; and going at it in a whirl of
excitement, we hissed at them, flicked them with our bridle-ropes, and
struck them with dead limbs that we snatched from the trees.

Never were horses so obstinate; they simply ducked their heads to the
missiles and milled round and round among the trees and underbrush. We
had got them no more than a bow-shot away from the trail, when, looking
out into the open, we saw that the riders had almost reached the thin
belt of timber that screened us.

"Get off your horse and try to hold him still there behind that brush!"
my partner called out; and off I slid and grasped the animal by the nose
and one ear.

We could plainly hear now the thud of the oncoming horses. If one of the
seven animals we had should nicker, we were lost. Presently the two
riders entered the timber, and we could see them plainly as they sped
along the trail. Tall, heavy men they were, with long, flying hair and
grim faces. Each carried a long gun.

When they came in sight, my animal pricked up his ears and began to
prance and toss his head, but I hung to him desperately, although I was
hoisted more than once clear off the ground. As I swung and bobbed in
the air, I got flashing glimpses of the enemy, of Pitamakan struggling
with his animal, and of the loose stock looking curiously at the scene.
I expected every instant that one of them would whinny, but not one of
them did!

The two men passed swiftly along the trail out of sight, and the beat
of their horses' hoofs died slowly away. Then once more we took hope.

The sun was down and darkness was stealing over the land. Faint from
this last narrow escape, we got into the saddle once more, and leaving
the loose stock to stray whither they would, rode out into the open and
took a course down the prairie that would leave the big camp far to our
right. Passing it a little later, we could see the dim, yellow glow of
the lodge fires, and hear the people singing, and the dogs barking now
and then in answer to the mocking yelps of the coyotes.

We traveled on through the night in a partly timbered country, and, by
God's mercy, safely forded some streams that were raging spring
torrents. It was between midnight and dawn that we finally gave out,
and, picketing our animals, lay down and slept. But the first peep of
the sun roused us. Staggering to our feet, stiff and sore, we saddled,
and rode on again in a half stupor. It was past noon when, from the
edge of a sloping plain, we saw the big lake of the Flatheads. Pitamakan
knew the place at once.

"Down there by the shore was the big camp the time we were here," he
said, "and over there by the side of that little river runs the trail to
buffalo land."

We came to it a little later, a broad, well-worn trail that had been
used for countless years for summer travel by the mountain tribes. There
were no tracks in it now save those of the wolf and the deer.
Dismounting beside it to rest the horses, we took a few bites of dry
meat, while they greedily cropped the tender spring grass.

We did not remain there long. Behind us stretched the trail of our
horses, plain enough in the young green grass, a trail that could be
easily followed from where we had first taken the animals. We went on
all through the afternoon eastward into the mountains. Here the
mountains were low, and in the still lower pass there was no snow to
block us. Indeed, Two Medicine Pass is so low that you cannot tell when
you pass the summit except by the changed course of the streamlets.

Late the next afternoon we caught a glimpse of the great plains,
stretching green from the foot of the mountains away eastward to the far
horizon; and at sight of them we both shouted, and Pitamakan gave thanks
to his gods. Down at the foot of the mountains we saw a little later
four buffalo bulls, and gave greeting to them as if they were our
brothers. But not appreciating our feelings, they ran lumbering away.

Two days afterward we came to the edge of the hill overlooking Fort
Benton and the Missouri, our stream of streams. The sight of it, and of
our own people walking here and there outside the fort and along the
river, brought tears to our eyes and great joy and peace to our hearts.

We urged our weary horses down the hill and across the bottom. An Indian
boy, hunting horses, met us while we were yet some distance out, gave
one look at our faces, and fled straight to the Blackfeet camp by the

The people instantly poured out of the lodges and came running to greet
us. Surrounded by several hundred of them, all talking at once and
asking a thousand questions, we rode into the great courtyard. There,
foremost of the company folk who came out to see what was the cause of
all the noise, were my uncle and his wife.

They fairly tore me from my horse, smothered and crushed me with kisses
and embraces, and were for leading me straight to our quarters; but I
would not budge an inch until I had secured my precious pack of furs
from the saddle and had given the worn animal into the keeping of one of
Pitamakan's relatives.

By that time the factor himself had come from his office, and I had then
and there to tell the story of our winter and our hardships in the great
mountains. How the people hung upon my words, how they applauded and
cheered! Without doubt those were the proudest moments of my life. For a
mere boy to hold those seasoned old voyageurs and plainsmen spellbound
was something of a feat, you may be sure.

But at last it was all over, and once more I entered our little house
and sat down on my own soft couch of buffalo-robes. As the evening was
chilly, a cheerful fire was blazing in the hearth. Tsis-tsak-ki bustled
round, and while cooking the supper, managed to get out clean clothes
for me, and get ready a tub of water, soap, and towels. Never before had
I seen my Uncle Wesley so excited; he could not sit still. Every few
moments he would come over and pinch my arm, or slap me on my back, just
to make sure, as he explained, that I was really with them once more.

So ended my first great adventure on the frontier that was, and is no

                                THE END

                          The Riverside Press
                       CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS
                               U . S . A

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