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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRoughing It De Luxe - Looking for Lo
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Roughing It De Luxe - Looking for Lo Post by :best4you Category :Long Stories Author :Irvin S. Cobb Date :May 2012 Read :2120

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Roughing It De Luxe - Looking for Lo

IF it is your desire to observe the Red Indian of the Plains engaged in his tribal sports and pastimes wait for the Wild West Show; there is sure to be one coming to your town before the season is over. Or if you are bloodthirsty by nature and yearn to see him prancing round upon the warpath, destroying the hated paleface and strewing the soil with his shredded fragments, restrain your longings until next fall and then arrange to take in the football game between Carlisle and Princeton. But, whatever you do, do not go journeying into the Far West in the hope of finding him in great number upon his native heath, for the chances are that you won't find him there in great number; and if you do he will probably be a considerable disappointment to you; because, unless he is paid for it, the red brother absolutely declines to be picturesque.

I am reliably informed that he is still reasonably numerous in Oklahoma, in North and South Dakota, and in Montana and Washington; but my itinerary did not include those states. I did not see a live Indian--that is to say, a live Indian recognizable as such--in Nevada or in Colorado or in Utah, or in a four-hour run across one corner of Wyoming.

In upward of a thousand miles of travel through California I saw just one Indian--a bronze youth of perhaps twenty summers and, I should say, possibly half that many baths. He was wearing the scenario of a pair of overalls and a straw hat in an advanced state of decrepitude, and he was working in a truckpatch; if a native had not told me what he was I would have passed him by for a sunburnt hired hand.

I saw a few Indians in New Mexico and a few more in Arizona, but not a great many at that; and these, as I found out later, were mainly engaged to linger in the vicinity of stations and hotels along the line for the purpose of adding a touch of color to the surroundings and incidentally selling souvenirs to the tourists.

Mind you, I'm not saying there are not plenty of Indians in those states; but they mostly stay on their reservations and the reservations unfortunately are not, as a rule, near the railroad stations. A traveler going through the average small Southern town sees practically the entire strength of the colored citizenry gathered at the depot and jumps at the conclusion that the population is from ninety to ninety-five per cent. black. In the West he sees maybe one little Indian settlement in a stretch of five or six hundred miles, and he figures that the Indian is practically an extinct species.

Of course, though, he is not extinct. In these piping commercial days of acute competition he has no time to be gallivanting down to the depot every time a through train rolls in, especially as the depot is frequently eighty or ninety miles distant from his domicile. He is closely confined at home turning out souvenirs. It is a pity, too, that he cannot spare more of his time for this simple and inexpensive pleasure. In one week's study of the passing tourist breed he could see enough funny sights and hear enough funny things--unintentionally funny things--to keep his family entertained on many a long winter's evening as they sit peacefully in the wigwam making knickknacks for the Eastern trade.

(Illustration: EACH NAVAJO SQUAW WEAVES ON AN AVERAGE NINE THOUSAND BLANKETS A YEAR)

No, sirree! Those Southwestern tribes are far from being extinct--especially the Navajos. You can, in a way, approximate the tribal strength of the Navajos by the number of Navajo blankets you see. From Colorado to the Coast the Navajo blanket carpets the earth. I'll bet any amount within reason that in six weeks' time I saw ten million Navajo blankets if I saw one. As for other things--bows and arrows, for example--well, I do not wish to exaggerate; but had I bought all the wooden bows and arrows that were offered to me I could take them and build a rustic footbridge across the Delaware River at Trenton, with a neat handrail all the way over. Taking the figures of the last census as a working basis I calculate that each Navajo squaw weaves, on an average, nine thousand blankets a year; and while she is so engaged her husband, the metal worker of the establishment, is producing a couple of tons of silver bracelets set with turquoises. For prolixity of output I know of no female in the entire animal kingdom that can compare with the Navajo squaw--unless it is the lady Potomac shad.

Right here I wish to claim one proud distinction: I went from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again--and I did not buy a single blanket! Since the return of the Lewis & Clark expedition I am probably the only white person who has ever done this. Goodness knows the call was strong enough and the opportunities abundant enough; blankets were available for my inspection at every railroad station, at every hotel, and at every one of two hundred thousand souvenir stores that I encountered--but I was under orders from headquarters.

As we were bidding farewell to our family before starting West, our wife said to us in firm, decided accents: "I have already picked out a place where we can hide the Cheyenne war-bonnet. We can get rid of the moccasins and the stone hatchets and the beadwork breastplates by storing them in a trunk up in the attic. But do not bring a Navajo blanket back to this already crowded establishment!" So we restrained ourselves. But it was a hard struggle and took a heroic effort.

I recall one blanket, done in gray and black and red and white, and decorated with the figures of the Thunder Bird and the Swastika, the Rising Sun and the Jig Saw, and other Indian signs, symbols and emblems. It was with the utmost difficulty that I wrenched myself away from the vicinity of this treasure. And then, when I got back home, feeling proud as Punch over having withstood temptation in all its forms, almost the first words I heard, spoken in tones of deep disappointment, were these: "Well, why didn't you bring a Navajo blanket for the den? You know we've always wanted one!" Wasn't that just like a woman?

Though I refrained from seeking bargains in the blankets of the aborigine, I sought diligently enough for the aborigine himself. I had my first glimpse of him in Northern New Mexico just after we had come down out of Colorado. Accompanied by his lady, he was languidly reposing on the platform in front of a depot, with his wares tastefully arranged at his feet. As a concession to the acquired ideals of the Eastern visitor he had a red sofa tidy draped round his shoulders, and there was a tired-looking hen-feather caught negligently in his back hair; and his squaw displayed ornamented leggings below the hems of her simple calico walking skirt. But these adornments, I gathered, constituted the calling costume, so to speak.

When at home in his village the universal garment of the Pueblo male is the black sateen shirt of commerce. He puts it on and wears it until it is taken up by absorption, and then it is time to put on another. These shirts do not require washing; but, among the best Pueblo families, I understand it is customary--once in so often--to have them searched. And thus is the wild life of the West kept down.

Farther along the line, in Arizona, we met the Hopi and the Navajo--delegations from both of these tribes having been imported from the reservations to give an added touch of picturesqueness to the principal hotel of the Grand Canon. The Hopi, who excels at snake dancing and pottery work, is a mannerly little chap; and his daughter, with her hair done up in elaborate whorl effects in fancied imitation of the squash blossom--the squash being the Hopi emblem of purity--is a decidedly attractive feature of the landscape.

The Hopi women are industrious little bodies, clever at basket weaving--and the men work, too, when not engaged in attending lodge; for the Hopis are the ritualists of the Southwest, and every Hopi is a confirmed joiner. Their secret societies exist to-day, uncorrupted and unchanged, just as they have survived for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. In the Hopi House at Grand Canon there is a reproduction of a kiva or underground temple. It isn't underground--it is located upstairs; but in all other regards it is supposed to conform exactly to one of the real ceremonial chambers of the Hopis. The dried-mud walls are covered thickly with symbolic devices, painted on; and there is an altar tricked out with totems of the Powamu clan, one of the biggest of these societies.

Just in front of the altar, with its wooden figures of the War God, the God of Growing Things, and the God of Thunder, is a sand painting set in the floor like a mosaic. When one of the clans is getting ready for a service the official high priest or medicine man of that particular clan sprinkles clean brown sand upon the flat earth before the altar and upon this foundation, by trickling between his thumb and forefinger tiny streams of sands of other colors, he makes the mystic figures that he worships. After the rites are over he obliterates the design with his hand, leaving the space bare for the next clan.

In the Hopi House at Grand Canon a sand painting sacred to the Antelope clan is preserved under glass for the benefit of visitors. The manager of the establishment, a Mr. Smith, who has spent most of his life among the tribes of Arizona, told us a story about this.

Two years ago this summer, a party of Mystic Shriners on an excursion visited the canyon. Mr. Smith chaperoned one group of them on their tour through the Hopi House. In the sand painting of the kiva they seemed to find something that particularly interested them. They put their heads together, talking in undertones and pointing--so Smith said--first at one design and then at another. An old Hopi buck, a priest of the Antelope clan, was lounging in the low doorway watching them. What the Shriners said to one another could have had no significance for him, even admitting that he heard them, for he did not understand a word of English; but suddenly he reached forth a withered hand and plucked Smith by the sleeve. I am letting Smith tell the rest of the tale just as he told it to us:

"The Hopi pointed to one of the Shriners, an elderly man who came, I think, from somewhere in Illinois, and in his own tongue he said to me: 'That man with the white hair is a Hopi--and he is a member of my clan!' I said to him: 'You speak foolishness--that man comes from the East and never until to-day saw a Hopi in his whole life!' The medicine man showed more excitement than I ever saw an Indian show.

"'You are lying to me!' he said. 'That white-haired man is a Hopi, or else his people long ago were Hopis.' I laughed at him and that ruffled his dignity and he turned away, and I couldn't get another word out of him.

"As the Shriners were passing out I halted the white-haired man and said to him: 'The Hopi medicine man insists that you are a Hopi and that you know something about his clan.' 'Well,' he said, 'I'm no Hopi; but I think I do know something about some of the things he seems to revere. Where is this medicine man?'

"I pointed to where the old Indian was squatted in a corner, sulking; he walked right over to him and motioned to him, and the Hopi got up and they went into the kiva together. I do not know what passed between them--certainly no words passed--but in about ten minutes the Shriner came out, and he had a puzzled look on his face.

"'I've just had the most wonderful experience,' he said to me, 'that I've ever had in my whole life. Of course that Indian isn't a Mason, but in a corrupted form he knows something about Masonry; and where he learned it I can't guess. Why, there are lodges in this country where I actually believe he could work his way in.'"

Not being either a Mason or a Hopi, I cannot undertake to vouch for the story or to contradict it; but Smith has the reputation of being a truthful man.

The Navajos are the aristocrats of the Southwestern country. They are dignified, cleanly in their personal habits, and orderly; and they are wonderful artisans. In addition to being wonderful weavers and excellent silversmiths, they shine at agriculture and at stock raising and sheep raising. They are born horse-traders, too, and at driving a bargain it is said a buck Navajo can spot a Scotchman five balls any time and beat him out; but they have the name of being absolutely honest and absolutely truthful.

This same Mr. Smith, who has lived several years on the Navajo reservation and who is an adopted member of the tribe, took several of us to pay a formal call upon a Navajo subchief, who spends the tourist season at the Grand Canon. The old chap, long-haired and the color of a prime smoke-cured ham, received us with perfect courtesy into his winter residence, the same being a circular hut contrived by overlapping timbers together in a kind of basket design and then coating the logs inside and out with adobe clay.

The place was clean and free from all unpleasant odors. In the middle of the floor a fire burned, the smoke escaping through a hole in the roof. At one side was the primitive forge, where the head of the house worked in metals; and against the far wall his squaw was hunkered down, weaving a blanket on her wooden loom. A couple of his young offspring were playing about, dressed simply in their little negligee-strings. The mud walls were hung with completed blankets. Long, stringy strips of dried beef and mutton--the national dishes of the tribe--were dangling from cross-pieces overhead; and on a rug upon the earthen floor lay a glittering pile of bracelets and brooches that had been made by the old man out of Mexican dollars. When we came away, after spending fifteen minutes or so as their guests, the whole family came with us; but the old man tarried a minute to fasten a small brass padlock through a hasp upon his wattled wooden door.

"Up on the reservation, away from the railroads and the towns, there are no locks upon the doors," Smith said.

"Why is that?" I asked.

Smith grinned. "I'll tell the old man what you said and let him answer."

He clucked in guttural monosyllables to the chief, and the chief clucked back briefly, meanwhile eyeing me with a whimsical squint out of his puckered old eyes. And then Smith translated:

"Why should we lock our doors in the place where we live? There are no white men there!"

I will confess that as a representative of the dominant Caucasian stock I had, for the moment, no apt reply ready. Later I thought of a very fitting retort, which undoubtedly would have flattened that impertinent Indian as flat as a flounder; unfortunately, though, it only came to me after several days of study, and by that time I was upward of a thousand miles away from him. But I am saving it to use on him the next time I go back to the Grand Canon. No mere Indian can slander our race, even if he is telling the truth--not while I'm around!

Down in Southern California I rather figured on finding a large swarm of Mission Indians clustering about every Mission; but, alas! they weren't there, either. We saw a few worshipers and plenty of tourists, but no Indians--at least, I didn't see any personally. There is something wonderfully impressive about a first trip to any one of those old gray churches; everything about it is eloquent with memories of that older civilization which this Western country knew long before the Celt and the Anglo-Saxon breeds came over the Divide and down the Pacific Slope, filled with their lust for gold and lands, craving ever more power and more territory over which to float the Stars and Stripes.

The vanished day of the Spaniard now lives only within the walls of the early Missions, but it invests them with that added veneration which attaches to whatever is old and traditional and historic. We haven't a great deal that is very old in our own country; maybe that explains why we fuss over it so when we come across it in Europe.

(Illustration: AS SHE LEVELED THE LENS A YELL WENT UP FROM SOMEWHERE)

There is one Mission which in itself, it seemed to me, is almost worth a trip clear across the continent to see--the one at Santa Barbara. It is up the side of a gentle foothill, with the mountains of the Coast Range behind it. Down below the roofs and spires of a brisk little city show through green clumpage, and still farther beyond the blue waters of the Pacific may be seen.

Parts of this Mission are comparatively new; there are retouchings and restorations that date back only sixty or seventy years, but most of it speaks to you of an earlier century than this and an earlier race than the one that now peoples the land. You pass through walls of solid masonry that are sixteen feet thick and pierced by narrow passages; you climb winding stairs to a squat tower where sundry cracked brazen bells, the gifts of Spanish gentlemen who died a hundred years ago perhaps, swing by withes of ancient rawhide from great, worm-gnawed, hand-riven beams; you walk through the Mission burying-ground, past crumbly old family vaults with half-obliterated names and titles and dates upon their ovenlike fronts, and you wander at will among the sunken individual graves under the palms and pepper trees.

Most convincing of all to me were the stone-flagged steps at the door of the church itself, for they are all worn down like the teeth of an old horse--in places they are almost worn in two. Better than any guidebook patter of facts and figures--better than the bells and the graves and the hand-made beams--these steps convey to the mind a sense of age.

You stand and look at them, and you see there the tally of vanished generations--the heavy boot of the conquistador; the sandaled foot of the old padre; the high heel of a dainty Spanish-born lady; the bare, horny sole of the Indian convert--each of them taking its tiny toll out of stone and mortar--each of them wearing away its infinitesimal mite--until through years and years the firm stone was scored away and channeled out and left at it is now, with curves in it and deep hollows.

Given a dime's worth of imagination to start on, almost any one could people that spot with the dead-and-gone figures of that shadowy past; could forget the trolley cars curving right up to the walls; the electric lights strung in globular festoons along the ancient ceilings of the porticoes; the roofs of the new, shiny modern bungalows dotting the gentle slopes below--could forget even that the brown-cowled, rope-girthed father who served as guide spoke with a strong German accent; could almost forgive the impious driver of the rig that brought one here for referring to this place as the Mish. But be sure there would be one thing to bring you hurtling back again to earth, no matter how far aloft your fancy soared--and that would be the ever-present souvenir-collecting tourist, to whom no shrine is holy and no memory is sacred.

There is no charge for admission to the Mission. All comers, regardless of breed or creed, are welcomed; and on constant duty is a gentle-voiced priest, ready to lead the way to the inner rooms where priceless relics of the day when the Spaniards first came to California are displayed; and into the church itself, with its candles burning before the high altar and the quaint old holy pictures ranged thick upon the walls; and through the burying-ground--and to all the rest of it; and for this service there is nothing to pay. On departing the visitor, if he chooses, may leave a coin behind; but he doesn't have to--it isn't compulsory.

There is a kind of traveler who repays this hospitality by defiling the walls with his inconsequential name, scratched in or scrawled on, and by toting away as a souvenir whatever portable object he can confiscate when nobody is looking. Up in the bell tower the masonry is all defaced and pocked where these vandals have dug at it with pocketknives; and as we were coming away, one of them--a typical specimen--showed me with deep pride half of a brick pouched in his coat pocket. It seemed that while the priest's back was turned he had pried it loose from the frilled ornamentation of a vault in the burying-ground at the cost only of his self-respect--admitting that he had any of that commodity in stock--and a broken thumbnail. It was, indeed, a priceless treasure and he valued it accordingly. And yet, at a distance of ten feet in an ordinary light, no one not in the secret could have said offhand whether that half-brick came out of a Mission tomb in California or a smokehouse in Arkansas.

We didn't see any Indians when we ran down into Mexico. However, we only ran into Mexico for a distance of a mile and a half below the California state boundary, and maybe that had something to do with it. By automobile we rode from San Diego over to the town of Tia Juana, signifying, in our tongue, Aunt Jane. Ramona, heroine of Helen Hunt Jackson's famous novel, had an aunt called Jane. I guess they had a grudge against the lady; they named this town after her.

Selling souvenirs to tourists, who come daily on sightseeing coaches from Coronado Beach and San Diego, is the principal pastime of the natives of Tia Juana. Weekdays they do this; and sometimes on a Sunday afternoon they have a bullfight in their little bullring. On such an occasion the bullfighting outfit is specially imported from one of the larger towns farther inland. Sometimes the whole troupe comes from Juarez and puts on a regular metropolitan production, with the original all-star cast. There is the gallant performer known as the armadilla, who teases the bull to desperation by waving a red shawl at him; the no less daring parabola, sticking little barbed boleros in the bull's withers; and, last of all, the intrepid mantilla, who calmly meets the final rush of the infuriated beast and, with one unerring thrust of his trusty sword, delivers the porte-cochere, or fatal stroke, just behind the left shoulder-blade, while all about the assembled peons and pianolas rend the ambient air with their delighted cry: _"Hoi Polloi! Hoi Polloi! Dolce far niente!"_

Isn't it remarkable how readily the seasoned tourist masters the difficulties of a foreign language? Before I had been in Mexico an hour I had picked up the intricate phraseology of the bullfight; and I was glad afterward that I took the trouble to get it all down in my mind correctly, because such knowledge always comes in handy. You can use it with effect in company--it stamps you as a person of culture and travel--and it impresses other people; but then I always could pick up foreign languages easily. I do not wish to boast--but with me it amounts to a positive gift.

It was a weekday when we visited Tia Juana, and so there was no bullfight going on; in fact, there didn't seem to be much of anything going on. Once in a while a Spigotty lady would pass, closely followed by a couple of little Spigots, and occasionally the postmaster would wake up long enough to accept a sheaf of postcards from a tourist and then go right back to sleep again. We had sampled the tamales of the country, finding them only slightly inferior to the same article as sold in Kansas City, Kansas; and we had drifted--three of us--into a Mexican cafe. It was about ten feet square and was hung with chromos furnished by generous Milwaukee brewers and other decorations familiar to all who have ever visited a crossroads bar-room on our own side of the line. Bottled beer appeared to be the one best bet in the drinking line, and the safest one, too; but somehow I hated--over here upon the soil of another country--to be calling for the domestic brews of our own St. Louis! Personally I desired to conform my thirst to the customs of the country--only I didn't know what to ask for. I had learned the bullfighting language, but I hadn't progressed very far beyond that point. While I was deliberating a Mexican came in and said something in Spanish to the barkeeper and the barkeeper got a bottle of a clear, almost colorless fluid out from under the counter and poured him a sherry glassful of it. So then, by means of a gesture that is universal and is understood in all climes, I indicated to the barkeeper that I would take a little of the same.

The moment, though, that I had swallowed it I realized I had been too hasty. It was mescal--an explosive in liquid form that is brewed or stilled or steeped, or something, from the juices of a certain variety of cactus, according to a favorite family prescription used by Old Nick several centuries ago when he was residing in this section. For its size and complexion I know of nothing that is worthy to be mentioned in the same breath with mescal, unless it is the bald-faced hornet of the Sunny South. It goes down easily enough--that is not the trouble--but as soon as it gets down you have the sensation of having swallowed a comet.

As I said before, I didn't see any Indians in Old Mexico, but if I had taken one more swig of the national beverage I am satisfied that not only would I have seen a great number of them, but, with slight encouragement, might have been one myself. For the purpose of assuaging the human thirst I would say that it is a mistake on the part of a novice to drink mescal--he should begin by swallowing a lighted kerosene lamp for practice and work up gradually; but the experience was illuminating as tending to make me understand why the Mexicans are so prone to revolutions. A Mexican takes a drink of mescal before breakfast, on an empty stomach, and then he begins to revolute round regardless.

On leaving Tia Juana we stopped to view the fort, which was the principal attraction of the place. It was located in the outskirts just back of the cluster of adobe houses and frame shacks that made up the town. The fort proper consisted of a mud wall about three feet high, inclosing perhaps half an acre of bare clayey soil. Outside the wall was a moat, upward of a foot deep, and inside was a barrack. This barrack--I avoid using the plural purposely--was a wooden shanty that had been whitewashed once, but had practically recovered from it since; and its walls were pierced--for artillery-fire, no doubt--with two windows, to the frames of which a few fragments of broken glass still adhered. Overhead the flag of the republic was flying; and every half-minute, so it seemed to us, a drum would beat and a bugle would blow and the garrison would turn out, looking--except for their guns--very much like a squad of district-telegraph messengers. They would evolute across the parade ground a bit and then retire to quarters until the next call to arms should sound.

We could not get close enough to ascertain what all the excitement was about, because they would not let us. We were not allowed to venture within fifty yards of the outer breastworks, or kneeworks; and even then, so the village authorities warned us, we must keep moving. A woman camera fiend from Coronado was along, and she unlimbered her favorite instrument with the idea of taking a few snapshots of this martial scene.

As she leveled the lens a yell went up from somewhere, and out of the barrack and over the wall came skipping a little officer, leaving a trail of inflammatory Spanish behind him in a way to remind you of the fireman cleaning out the firebox of the Through Limited. He was not much over five feet tall and his shabby little uniform needed the attention of the dry cleanser, but he carried a sword and two pistols, and wore a brass gorget at his throat, a pair of huge epaulets and a belt; and he had gold braid and brass buttons spangled all over his sleeves and the front of his coat, and a pair of jingling spurs were upon his heels. There was a long feather in his cap, too--and altogether, for his size, he was most impressive to behold. He charged right up to the abashed camera lady and, through an interpreter, explained to her that it was strictly against the rules to permit a citizen of a foreign power to make any pictures of the fortifications whatsoever. He appeared to nurse a horrid fear that the secret of the fortifications might become known above the line, and that some day, armed with this information, the Boy Scouts or a Young Ladies' High School might swoop down and capture the whole works. He explained to the lady, that, much as he regretted it, if she persisted in her suspicious and spylike conduct, he would have to smash her camera for her. So she desisted.

The little officer and his merry men had ample reason for being a mite nervous just then. Their country was in the midst of its spring revolution. The Madero family had just been thinned out pretty extensively, and it was not certain yet whether the Diaz faction or the Huerta faction, or some other faction, would come out on top. Besides, these gallant guardians of the frontier were a long way from headquarters and in no position to figure out in advance which way the national cat would jump next. All they knew was that she was jumping.

(Illustration: AS THE OCCUPANTS SPILLED SPRAWLINGLY THROUGH THE GAP, A FRONT TIRE EXPLODED WITH A LOUD REPORT)

Every morning, so we heard, they were taking a vote to decide whether they would be Federalists that day or Liberalists, or what not; and the vote was invested with a good deal of personal interest, too, because there was no telling when a superior force might arrive from the interior; and if they had happened to vote wrong that day there was always the prospect of their being backed up against a wall, with nothing to look at except a firing squad and a row of newmade graves.

We were told that one morning, about three or four weeks before the date of our visit, the garrison had been in the barrack casting their usual ballot. They were strong Huertaists that morning--it was Viva Huerta! all the way. Just about the time the vote was being announced a couple of visiting Americans in an automobile came down the road flanking the fort. There had been a rain and the road was slippery with red mud. As the driver took the turn at the corner his wheels began skidding and he lost control. The car skewed off at a tangent, hurdled the moat, and tore a hole in the mud wall; and, as the occupants spilled sprawlingly through the gap, a front tire exploded with a loud report. The garrison took just one look out the front door, jumped to the conclusion that the Villa crowd had arrived and were shooting automobiles at them, and unanimously adjourned by the back way into the woods. Some of them did not get back until the shades of night had descended upon the troubled land.

Such is military life in our sister republic in times of war, and yet they sometimes have a very realistic imitation of the real thing over there. Revolution before last there were two separate engagements in this little town of Tia Juana. A lot of belligerents were killed and a good many more were wounded.

In an iron letter box in front of the post-office we saw a round hole where a steel-jacketed bullet had passed through after first passing through a prominent citizen. We did not see this citizen. It became necessary to bury him shortly after the occurrence referred to.

In vain I sought the red brother on my saunterings through California. In San Francisco I once thought I had him treed. On Pacific Street, a block ahead of me, I saw a group of pedestrians, wrapped in loose flowing garments of many colors. Even at that distance I could make out that they were dark-skinned and had long black hair. I said to myself: "It is probable that these persons are connected with Doctor Somebody's Medicine Show; but I don't care if they are. They are Indians--more Indians than I have seen in one crowd at one time since Buffalo Bill was at Madison Square Garden last spring. I shall look them over."

So I ran and caught up with them--but they were not Indians. They were genuine Egyptian acrobats, connected with a traveling carnival company. When Moses transmitted the divine command to the Children of Israel that they should spoil the Egyptians, the Children of Israel certainly did a mighty thorough job of it. That was several thousand years ago and those Egyptians I saw were still spoiled. I noticed it as soon as I got close to them.

In Salt Lake City I saw half a dozen Indians, but in a preserved form only. They were on display in a museum devoted to relics of the early days. In my opinion Indians do not make very good preserves, especially when they have been in stock a long time and have become shopworn, as was the case with these goods. Personally, I would not care to invest. Besides, there was no telling how old they were. They had been dug out, mummified, from the cliff-dwellers' ruins in the southern part of the state, along with their household goods, their domestic utensils, their weapons of war and their ornaments; and there they were laid out in glass cases for modern eyes to see. There were plenty of other interesting exhibits in this museum, including several of Brigham Young's suits of clothes. For a man busied with statecraft and military affairs and domestic matters, Brigham Young must have changed clothes pretty often. I couldn't keep from wondering how a man with a family like his was found the time for it.

To my mind the most interesting relic in the whole collection was the spry octogenarian who acted as guide and showed us through the place--for he was one of the few living links between the Old West and the New. As a boy-convert to Mormonism he came across the desert with the second expedition that fled westward from Gentile persecution after Brigham Young had blazed the trail. He was a pony express rider in the days of the overland mail service. He was also an Indian fighter--one of the trophies he showed was a scalp of his own raising practically, he having been present when it was raised by a friendly Indian scout from the head of the hostile who originally owned it--and he had lived in Salt Lake City when it was a collection of log shanties within the walls of a wooden stockade. And now here he was, a man away up in his eighties, but still brisk and bright, piloting tourists about the upper floor of a modern skyscraper.

We visited the museum after we had inspected the Mormon Tabernacle and had looked at the Mormon Temple--from the outside--and had seen the Beehive and the Lion House and the Eagle Gate and the painfully ornate mansion where Brigham Young kept his favorite wife, Amelia. The Tabernacle is famous the world over for its choir, its organ and its acoustics--particularly its acoustics. The guide, who is a Mormon elder detailed for that purpose, escorts you into the balcony, away up under the domed wooden roof; and as you wait there, listening, another elder, standing upon a platform two hundred feet away, drops an ordinary pin upon the floor--and you can distinctly hear it fall. At first you are puzzled to decide exactly what it sounds like; but after a while the correct solution comes to you--it sounds exactly like a pin falling. Next to the Whispering Gallery in the Capitol at Washington, I don't know of a worse place to tell your secrets to a friend than the Mormon Tabernacle. You might as well tell them to a woman and be done with it!

In Salt Lake City I had rather counted upon seeing a Mormon out walking with three or four of his wives--all at one time. I felt that this would be a distinct novelty to a person from New York, where the only show one enjoys along this line is the sight of a chap walking with three or four other men's wives--one at a time. But here, as in my quest for the Indian, I was disappointed some more. Once I thought I was about to score. I was standing in front of the Zion Cooperative Mercantile Establishment, which is a big department store owned by the Church, but having all the latest improvements, including bargain counters and special salesdays. Out of the door came an elderly gentleman attired in much broadcloth and many whiskers, and behind him trailed half a dozen soberly dressed women of assorted ages.

Filled with hope, I fell in behind the procession and followed it across to the hotel. There I learned the disappointing truth. The broadclothed person was not a Mormon at all.

He was a country bank president from somewhere back East and the women of his party were Ohio school-teachers. Anywhere except in Utah I doubt if he could have fooled me, either, for he had the kind of whiskers that go with the banking profession. For some reason whiskers are associated with the practice of banking all over this country; hallowed by custom, they have come to stand for financial responsibility. A New York banker wears those little jib-boom whiskers on the sides of his head and sometimes a pennon on his chin, whereas a country banker usually has a full-rigged face. This man's whiskers were of the old square barkentine cut. I should have known who he was by his sailing gear.

And so, disappointed in my dreams of seeing Indians on the hoof and Mormon households taking the air in family groups, I left Salt Lake City, with its fine wide streets and its handsome business district and its pure air and its background of snow-topped mountains, and started on the long homebound hike. It was late in the afternoon. We had quit Utah, with its flat plains, its garden spots reclaimed from the desert, and its endless succession of trim red-brick farmhouses, which seem to be the universal dwelling-places of the prosperous Mormon farmer.

We had departed from the old trail that Mark Twain crawled over in a stage-coach and afterward wrote about in his immortal Roughing It. The Limited, traveling forty-odd miles an hour, was skipping through the lower part of Wyoming before turning southward into Colorado. We were in the midst of an expanse of desolation and emptiness, fifteen miles from anywhere, and I was sitting on the observation platform of the rear car, watching how the shafts of the setting sun made the colors shift and deepen in the canyons and upon the sides of the tall red mesas, when I became aware that the train was slowing down.

Through the car came the conductor, with a happy expression upon his face. Behind him was a pleased-looking flagman leading by the arm a ragged tramp who had been caught, up forward somewhere, stealing a free ride.

The tramp was not resisting exactly, but at every step he said:

"You can't put me off the train between stations! It's the law that you can't put me off the train between stations!"

Neither the conductor nor the flagman said a word in answer. As the conductor reached up and jerked the bellcord the tramp, in the tone and manner of one who advances an absolutely unanswerable argument, said:

"You know, don't you, you can't put me off the train between stations?"

The train halted. The conductor unfastened a tail-gate in the guard-rail, and the flagman dropped his prisoner out through the opening. As the tramp flopped off into space I caught this remark:

"You can't put me off the train between stations."

The conductor tugged another signal on the bellcord, and the wheels began to turn faster and faster. The tramp picked himself up from between the rails. He brushed some adhering particles of roadbed off himself and, facing us, made a megaphone of his hands and sent a message after our diminishing shapes. By straining my ears I caught his words. He spoke as follows:

"You can't put me off the train between stations!"

In my whole life I never saw a man who was so hard to convince of a thing as that tramp was.


(THE END)
Irvin S. Cobb's fiction book: Roughing it De Luxe

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