User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Next morning we said goodbye to hospitable Topeka, and took up our westward way over the Pacific Railroad. An ever-repeated succession of valley and prairie stretched away on either hand. To the left the Kaw came down with far swifter current than it has in its course below, from its far-away source in Colorado. It might properly be called one of the eaves or water-spouts of the great Rocky Mountain water-shed. With a pitch of over five feet to the mile, its pace is here necessarily a rapid one, and when at freshet height the stream is like a mill-race for foam and fury.


At the junction of the Big Blue we found the old yet pretty town of Manhattan. To this point, in early times, water transit was once attempted. A boat of exceedingly light draught, one of those built to run on a heavy dew, being procured, freight was advertised for, and the navigation of the Kaw commenced. The one hundred miles or more to Manhattan was accomplished principally by means of the capstan, the boat being "warped" over the numberless shallows. This proved easier, of course--a trifle easier--than if she had made the trip on macadamized roads. If her stern had a comfortable depth of water it was seldom indeed, except when her bow was in the air in the process of pulling the boat over a sand bar. The scared catfish were obliged to retreat up stream, or hug close under the banks, to avoid obstructing navigation, and it is even hinted that more than one patriarch of the finny tribe had to be pried out of the way to make room for his new rival to pass.

Once at Manhattan, the steamboat line was suspended for the season, its captain and crew deciding they would rather walk back to the Missouri River than drag the vessel there. Soon afterward, the steamer was burned at her landing, and the Kaw has remained closed to commerce ever since.

About the same time, an enterprising Yankee advocated in the papers the straightening of the river, and providing it with a series of locks, making it a canal. As he had no money of his own with which to develop his ideas into results, and could command nobody's else for that purpose, the project failed in its very inception.

Fort Riley, four miles below Junction City, is claimed as the geographical center of the United States, the exact spot being marked by a post. What a rallying point that stick of wood will be for future generations! When the corner-stone of the National Capitol shall there be laid, the orator of the day can mount that post and exclaim, with eloquent significance, elsewhere impossible, "No north, no south, no east, no west!" and enthusiastic multitudes, there gathered from the four quarters of the continent, will hail the words as the key-note of the republic.

That spot of ground and that post are valuable. I hope a national subscription will be started to buy it. It is the only place on our continent which can ever be entirely free from local jealousies. There would be no possible argument for ever removing the capital. The Kaw could be converted into a magnificent canal, winding among picturesque hills past the base of the Capitol; and then, in case of war, should any hostile fleet ever ascend the rapid Missouri, it would be but necessary for our legislators to grasp the canal locks, and let the water out, to insure their perfect safety. Imagine the humiliation of a foreign naval hero arriving with his ironclads opposite a muddy ditch, and finding it the only means of access to our capital!

A painful rumor has of late obtained circulation that a band of St. Louis ku-klux, yclept capital movers, intend stealing the pole and obliterating the hole. Let us hope, however, that it is without foundation.

Before leaving Topeka, the party had purchased horses for the trip, and consigned the precious load to a car, sending a note to General Anderson, superintendent, asking that they might be promptly and carefully forwarded to Hays City, our present objective point upon the plains.

The professor, bringing previous experience into requisition, selected a stout mustang--probably as tractable as those brutes ever become. He was warranted by the seller never to tire, and he never did, keeping the philosopher constantly on the alert to save neck and knees. It is the simple truth that, in all our acquaintance with him, that mustang never appeared in the least fatigued. After backing and shying all day, he would spend the night in kicking and stealing from the other horses.

Mr. Colon, by rare good fortune, obtained a beautiful animal, formerly known in Leavenworth as Iron Billy--a dark bay, with head and hair fine as a pointer's, limbs cut sharp, and joints of elastic. After carrying Mr. C. bravely for months, never tripping or failing, he was sold on our return to the then Secretary of State, who still owns him. More than once did Billy make his rider's arm ache from pulling at the curb, when the other horses were all knocked up by the rough day's riding. It was interesting to see him in pursuit of buffalo. He would often smell them when they were hidden in ravines, and we wholly unaware of their vicinity. Head and ears were erect in an instant, and, with nostrils expanded, forward he went, keeping eagerly in front at a peculiar prancing step which we called tiptoeing. Once in sight of the game, and the rider became a person of quite secondary importance. Billy said, as plainly as a horse could say anything, "_I_ am going to manage this thing; _you_ stick on." And manage it he did. Not many moments, at the most, before he was at the quarters of the fleeing monsters, and nipping them mischievously with his teeth. I could always imagine him giving a downright horse-laugh, his big bright eyes sparkled so when the frightened bison, at the touch, gave a switch of his tail and a swerve of alarm, and plunged more wildly forward. If the rider wished to shoot, he could do so; if not, content himself, as Mr. Colon usually did, with clinging to the saddle, and uttering numberless expostulatory but fruitless "whoa's."

Once on our trip Billy was loaned for the day to a gentleman who wished to examine a prospective coal mine. When barely out of sight of camp, Billy discovered a herd of buffalo, and, despite the vehement remonstrances of his rider, straightway charged it. The mine-seeker was no hunter, but a wise and thoroughly timid devotee of science in search of coal measures. A few moments, and the poor, frightened gentleman found himself in the midst of a surging mass of buffalo, his knees brushing their hairy sides, and their black horns glittering close around him, like an array of serried spears. He drew his knees into the saddle, and there, clinging like a monkey, lost his hat, his map of the mine, and his spectacles. He returned Billy as soon as he could get him back to camp, with expressions of gratitude that he had been allowed to escape with life, and never manifested the least desire to mount him again.

Sachem's purchase was a horse which had run unaccountably to legs. He was sixteen hands high, a trifle knock-kneed, and with a way of flinging the limbs out when put to his speed which, though it seemed awkward enough, yet got over the ground remarkably well. With the shambling gait of a camel, he had also the good qualities of one, and did his owner honest service.

Muggs bought a mule, partly because advised to do so by a plainsman, and partly because the rest of us took horses. With true British obstinacy he paid no attention to our expostulations, and the creature he obtained was as obstinate as himself. Poor Muggs! A mule may be good property in the hands of a plainsman, but was never intended to carry a Briton.

Semi-Colon had the auction purchase, and Dobeen selected a Mexican donkey, one of the toughest little animals that ever pulled a bit. He could excel a trained mule in the feat of dislodging his rider, and had a remarkable penchant for running over persons who by chance might be looking the other way. It seemed to be his constant study to take unexpected positions, or, as Sachem phrased it, to "strike an attitude."

My mount was a stout-built old mare, recommended to me as a solid beast, on the strength of which, and wishing to avoid experiments, I made purchase at once. I found her solid indeed. When on the gallop her feet came down with a shock which made my head vibrate, as if I had accidentally taken two steps instead of one, in descending a staircase.

Could the good people of Topeka have gotten us to ride out of their town upon our several animals, it would have given them a fair idea of a _mardi gras_ cavalcade in New Orleans.

And so, our camp equipage and livestock following by freight, the express rolled us forward toward the great plains. So far along our route we had seen but few Indians, and those civilized specimens, such as straggle occasionally through the streets of Topeka. The Indian reservations in Kansas are at some distance apart, and their inhabitants frequently exchange visits. The few whom we had seen consisted of Osages, Kaws, Pottawatomies, and Sioux, all equally dirty, but the last affecting clothes more than the others, and eschewing paint. The members of this tribe, generally speaking, have good farms and are worth a handsome average per head. At the time of our visit they were expecting a half million dollars or so from Washington, and were soon to become American citizens. One privilege of this citizenship struck us as very peculiar. By the State law, as long as an Indian is simply an Indian, he can buy no whisky, and is thus cruelly debarred from the privilege of getting drunk, but once a voter, he can luxuriate in corn-juice and the calaboose, as well as his white brother. What a travesty upon American civilization and politics!

Muggs was prejudiced against the Osages, having been induced by one of them to invest in a bow and arrows, "for the Hinglish Museum, you know." On pulling for a trial shot, one end of the bow went further than the arrow, and the cord, warranted to be buffalo sinew, proved to be an oiled string.

Sachem declared that he had found Muggs returning the wreck to the Indian with the following speech: "O-sage, little was your wisdom to court thus the wrath of a Briton. Take with the two pieces this piece of my mind. That your noble form may be removed soon to the 'appy 'unting ground, where bow trades are not allowed, is the prayer of your patron, Muggs."



Mr. Colon asked Tenacious Gripe to explain the condition of the Native Americans in Kansas. The orator kindly consented and thereupon discoursed as follows:

"The Indians of Kansas are divided into the wild and the tame. Both alike cover their nakedness with bright handkerchiefs, old shirts, military coats, and many-hued ribbons. The principal difference in point of dress is in the method of procuring it. Among those tribes which are at peace with the government, the white man robs the Indian; among the wild tribes the conditions are reversed--the Indian robs the white man. In the one case the contractors and agents carry off their half million dollars or thereabouts; in the other the savage bears away a quantity of old clothes and fresh scalps. As he finds it difficult to procure sufficient of the white man's justice to satisfy the cravings of his nature, he feeds it with what he can and whenever he can of revenge. Wise men tell us, gentlemen, that revenge is sweet and justice a dry morsel. All Indians beg when they get an opportunity. The tame ones, if they find it fruitless, divert themselves by selling worthless pieces of wood with strings attached, as bows. The wild ones, in a like predicament, relieve their tedium by whacking away at our ribs with bows that amount to something. The principles actuating both classes are alike. It is simply the application which causes difficulty--in the one case an appeal with bow and arrows to our pockets, in the other to our bodies.

"All our wars with these people, gentlemen, are a result of their political economy. They believe that the Great Spirit provided buffalo and other game for his red children. When the white man drives these away, they understand that he takes their place as a means of sustenance, and as they have lived upon the one, so they intend to do upon the other. If the buffalo attempts to evade his duty in the premises, they kill him and take his meat; if the white man, they kill him and take his hair."

Sachem produced a roll of dirty brown paper and said that he had studied the Indian question and found two sides to it. One he could give us in a nutshell, believing that the meat of the nut had often excited the spirit of war.

  Where waters sung above the sand, And torrent forced its way, Stretched out, disgusted with the land, A bearded miner lay, Prepared to strike, with willing hand, Whatever lead would pay.

  Echo of hoof on beaten ground Rung on the desert air, Ringing a tune of gladsome sound To miner, watching there; A paying lead, at last, he'd found--The vein a "man of hair."

  An instant more, and at the ford A savage chief appeared; The miner saw his goodly hoard, And tore his own good beard. (You'll always find an ox is gored When sheep are to be sheared.)

Dog Town--The Happy Family at Home.

BUREAU OF ILLUSTRATION_"You've riled that Brook"--An old Fable modernized.

  And these the words the miner said: "You've spoilt my drink, old fellow; You've riled the brook, my brother red, And, by your cheek so yellow, To-night above your sandy bed The prairie gale shall bellow.

  "No relatives of mine are dead, At least by Injun cunnin', But many other hearts have bled, And many eyes are runnin'; For blood and tears alike are shed, When _you_ go out a gunnin'.

  "Some slumbrin' peaceful, first they knew, They heard your horrid din--Women as well as men you slew, You bloody son of sin; I mourn 'em all, revenge 'em too, Through Adam they were kin."

  This having said, the miner smart, Drew bead upon the red man: They're fond of beads--it touched his heart, And Lo, behold, a dead man; Upon Life's stage he'd played his part, A gory sort of head man!

  Two packs of goods lay on the ground; Quoth miner, "Lawful spoil! My lucky star at last has found As good as gold and oil; I kinder felt that fate was bound To bless my honest toil.

  "Such heathen have no lawful heirs--I'll be the Probate Judge, For though they kinder go in pairs, Their love is all a fudge; I'll 'ministrate on what he wears, And leave his squaw my grudge."