The Oregon Trail: sketches of prairie and Rocky-Mountain life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 384 pages of information about The Oregon Trail.

CHAPTER XXVII

THE SETTLEMENTS

The next day was extremely hot, and we rode from morning till night without seeing a tree or a bush or a drop of water.  Our horses and mules suffered much more than we, but as sunset approached they pricked up their ears and mended their pace.  Water was not far off.  When we came to the descent of the broad shallowy valley where it lay, an unlooked-for sight awaited us.  The stream glistened at the bottom, and along its banks were pitched a multitude of tents, while hundreds of cattle were feeding over the meadows.  Bodies of troops, both horse and foot, and long trains of wagons with men, women, and children, were moving over the opposite ridge and descending the broad declivity in front.  These were the Mormon battalion in the service of government, together with a considerable number of Missouri volunteers.  The Mormons were to be paid off in California, and they were allowed to bring with them their families and property.  There was something very striking in the half-military, half-patriarchal appearance of these armed fanatics, thus on their way with their wives and children, to found, if might be, a Mormon empire in California.  We were much more astonished than pleased at the sight before us.  In order to find an unoccupied camping ground, we were obliged to pass a quarter of a mile up the stream, and here we were soon beset by a swarm of Mormons and Missourians.  The United States officer in command of the whole came also to visit us, and remained some time at our camp.

In the morning the country was covered with mist.  We were always early risers, but before we were ready the voices of men driving in the cattle sounded all around us.  As we passed above their camp, we saw through the obscurity that the tents were falling and the ranks rapidly forming; and mingled with the cries of women and children, the rolling of the Mormon drums and the clear blast of their trumpets sounded through the mist.

From that time to the journey’s end, we met almost every day long trains of government wagons, laden with stores for the troops and crawling at a snail’s pace toward Santa Fe.

Tete Rouge had a mortal antipathy to danger, but on a foraging expedition one evening, he achieved an adventure more perilous than had yet befallen any man in the party.  The night after we left the Ridge-path we encamped close to the river.  At sunset we saw a train of wagons encamping on the trail about three miles off; and though we saw them distinctly, our little cart, as it afterward proved, entirely escaped their view.  For some days Tete Rouge had been longing eagerly after a dram of whisky.  So, resolving to improve the present opportunity, he mounted his horse James, slung his canteen over his shoulder, and set forth in search of his favorite liquor.  Some hours passed without his returning.  We thought that he was lost, or perhaps that some stray Indian had snapped him up.  While the rest fell asleep I remained on guard.  Late at night a tremulous voice saluted me from the darkness, and Tete Rouge and James soon became visible, advancing toward the camp.  Tete Rouge was in much agitation and big with some important tidings.  Sitting down on the shaft of the cart, he told the following story: 

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The Oregon Trail: sketches of prairie and Rocky-Mountain life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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