As we groped our way in that dark hour before dawn, hungry, drenched, and bedraggled, there was nothing gleeful about us, while Bob Blades expressed his disgust over our occupation. “If ever I get home again,” said he, and the tones of his voice were an able second to his remarks, “you all can go up the trail that want to, but here’s one chicken that won’t. There isn’t a cowman in Texas who has money enough to hire me again.”
“Ah, hell, now,” said Bull, “you oughtn’t to let a little rain ruffle your feathers that way. Cheer up, sonny; you may be rich some day yet and walk on brussels and velvet.”
FORTY ISLANDS FORD
After securing a count on the herd that morning and finding nothing short, we trailed out up the North Platte River. It was an easy country in which to handle a herd; the trail in places would run back from the river as far as ten miles, and again follow close in near the river bottoms. There was an abundance of small creeks putting into this fork of the Platte from the south, which afforded water for the herd and good camp grounds at night. Only twice after leaving Ogalalla had we been compelled to go to the river for water for the herd, and with the exception of thunderstorms and occasional summer rains, the weather had been all one could wish. For the past week as we trailed up the North Platte, some one of us visited the river daily to note its stage of water, for we were due to cross at Forty Islands, about twelve miles south of old Fort Laramie. The North Platte was very similar to the South Canadian,—a wide sandy stream without banks; and our experience with the latter was fresh in our memories. The stage of water had not been favorable, for this river also had its source in the mountains, and as now midsummer was upon us, the season of heavy rainfall in the mountains, augmented by the melting snows, the prospect of finding a fordable stage of water at Forty Islands was not very encouraging.
We reached this well-known crossing late in the afternoon the third day after leaving the Wyoming line, and found one of the Prairie Cattle Company’s herds water-bound. This herd had been wintered on one of that company’s ranges on the Arkansaw River in southern Colorado, and their destination was in the Bad Lands near the mouth of the Yellowstone, where the same company had a northern range. Flood knew the foreman, Wade Scholar, who reported having been waterbound over a week already with no prospect of crossing without swimming. Scholar knew the country thoroughly, and had decided to lie over until the river was fordable at Forty Islands, as it was much the easiest crossing on the North Platte, though there was a wagon ferry at Fort Laramie. He returned with Flood to our camp, and the two talked over the prospect of swimming it on the morrow.