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Parent Category: Kansas State History Articles
Category: Old West Kansas
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It was a great change for us from the bustle and excitement of the cavalry, as they prepared for the expedition, to the dull routine of an infantry garrison that replaced the dashing troopers. It was intensely quiet, and we missed the clatter of the horses' hoofs, the click of the curry-comb, which had come from the stables at the morning and evening grooming of the animals, the voices of the officers drilling the recruits, the constant passing and repassing of mounted men in front of our quarters; above all, the enlivening trumpet-calls ringing out all day, and we rebelled at the drum and bugle that seemed so tame in contrast.

There were no more long rides for me, for Custis Lee was taken out at my request, as I feared no one would give him proper care at the post. Even the little chapel where the officers' voices had added their music to the chants, was now nearly deserted. The chaplain was an interesting man, and the General and most of the garrison had attended the services during the winter. Only three women were left to respond, and, as we had all been reared in other churches, we quaked a good deal, for fear our responses would not come in the right place. They did not lack in earnestness, for when had we lonely creatures such cause to send up petitions as at that time, when those for whom we prayed were advancing into an enemy's country day by day! Never had the beautiful Litany, that asks deliverance for all in trouble, sorrow, perplexity, temptation, borne such significance to us as then. No one can dream, until it is brought home to him, how space doubles, trebles, quadruples, when it is impossible to see the little wire that, fragile as it seems, chains one to the absent. It is difficult to realize, now that our country is cobwebbed with telegraph lines, what a despairing feeling it was, in those days, to get far beyond the blessed nineteenth-century mode of communication. He who crosses the ocean knows a few days of such uncertainty, but over the pathless sea of Western prairie it was chaos, after the sound of the last horse's hoof was lost in the distance.

We had not been long alone when a great danger threatened us. The level plateau about our post, and the valley along the river near us, were covered with dry prairie grass, which grows thickly and is matted down into close clumps. It was discovered one day, that a narrow thread of fire was creeping on in our direction, scorching these tufts into shrivelled brown patches that were ominously smoking when first seen. As I begin to write of what followed, I find it difficult; for even those living in Western States and Territories regard descriptions of prairie-fires as exaggerated, and are apt to look upon their own as the extreme to which they ever attain. I have seen the mild type, and know that a horseman rides through such quiet conflagrations in safety. The trains on some of our Western roads pass harmless through belts of country when the flames are about them; there is no impending peril, because the winds are moderate. When a tiny flame is discovered in Kansas, or other States, where the wind blows a hurricane so much of the time, there is not a moment to lose. Although we saw what was hardly more than a suspicion of smoke, and the slender, sinuous, red tongue along the ground, we women had read enough of the fires in Kansas to know that the small blaze meant that our lives were in jeopardy. Most of us were then unacquainted with those precautions which the experienced Plainsman takes, and, indeed, we had no ranchmen near us to set us the example of caution which the frontiersman so soon learns. We should have had furrows ploughed around the entire post in double lines, a certain distance apart, to check the approach of fire. There was no time to fight the foe with a like weapon, by burning over a portion of the grass between the advancing blaze and our post. The smoke rose higher and higher beyond us, and curling, creeping fire began to ascend into waves of flame with alarming rapidity, and in an incredibly short time we were overshadowed with a dark pall of smoke.

The Plains were then new to us. It is impossible to appreciate their vastness at first. The very idea was hard to realize, that from where we lived we looked on an uninterrupted horizon. We felt that it must be the spot where some one first said, "The sky fits close down all around." It fills the soul with wonder and awe to look upon the vastness of that sea of land for the first time. As the sky became lurid, and the blaze swept on toward us, surging to and fro in waving lines as it approached nearer and nearer, it seemed that the end of the world, when all shall be rolled together as a scroll, had really come. The whole earth appeared to be on fire. The sky was a sombre canopy above us, on which flashes of brilliant light suddenly appeared as the flames rose, fanned by a fresh gust of wind. There were no screams nor cries, simply silent terror and shiverings of horror, as we women huddled together to watch the remorseless fiend advancing with what appeared to be inevitable annihilation of the only shelter we had. Every woman's thoughts turned to her natural protector, now far away, and longed with unutterable longing for one who, at the approach of danger, stood like a bulwark of courage and defense. The river was half a mile away, and our feet could not fly fast enough to reach the water before the enemy would be upon us. There was no such a thing as a fire-engine. The Government then had not even provided the storehouses and quarters with the Babcock Extinguisher. We were absolutely powerless, and could only fix our fascinated gaze upon the approaching foe.

In the midst of this appalling scene, we were startled anew by a roar and shout from the soldiers' barracks. Some one had, at last, presence of mind to marshal the men into line, and, assuming the commanding tone that ensures action and obedience in emergencies, gave imperative orders. Every one--citizen employees, soldiers and officers--seized gunny sacks, blankets, poles, anything available that came in their way, and raced wildly beyond the post into the midst of the blazing grass. Forming a cordon, they beat and lashed the flames with the blankets, so twisted as to deal powerful blows. It was a frenzied fight. The soldiers yelled, swore and leaped frantically upon beds of blazing grass, condensing a lifetime of riotous energy into these perilous moments. We women were not breathless and trembling over fears for ourselves alone: our hearts were filled with terror for the brave men who were working for our deliverance. They were men to whom we had never spoken, nor were we likely ever to speak to them, so separated are the soldiers in barracks from an officer's household. Sometimes we saw their eyes following us respectfully, as we rode about the garrison, seeming to have in them an air of possession, as if saying, "That's our captain's or our colonel's wife." Now, they were showing their loyalty, for there are always a few of a regiment left behind to care for the company property, or to take charge of the gardens for the soldiers. These men, and all the other brave fellows with them, imperiled their lives in order that the officers who had gone out for Indian warfare, might come home and find "all's well." Let soldiers know that a little knot of women are looking to them as their saviors, and you will see what nerves of iron they have, what inexhaustible strength they can exhibit.

No sooner had the flames been stamped out of one portion of the plain, than the whole body of men were obliged to rush off in another direction and begin the thrashing and tramping anew. It seemed to us that there was no such thing as conquering anything so insidious. But the wind, that had been the cause of our danger, saved us at last. That very wind which we had reviled all winter for its doleful howlings around our quarters and down the chimneys; that selfsame wind that had infuriated us by blowing our hats off when we went out to walk, or impeded our steps by twisting our skirts into hopeless folds about our ankles--was now to be our savior. Suddenly veering, as is its fashion in Kansas, it swept the long tongues of flame over the bluffs beyond us, where the lonely coyote and its mate were driven into their lair. By this vagary of the element, that is never anywhere more variable than in Kansas, our quarters, our few possessions, and no doubt our lives, were saved. With faces begrimed and blistered, their clothes black with soot and smoke, their hands burnt and numb from violent effort, the soldiers and citizen employees dragged their exhausted bodies back to garrison, and dropped down anywhere to rest.

The tinge of green that had begun to appear was now gone, and the charred, smoke-stained earth spread as far as we could see, making more desolate the arid, treeless country upon which we looked. It was indeed a blackened and dismal desert that encircled us, and we knew that we were deprived of the delight of the tender green of early spring, which carpets the Plains for a brief time before the sun parches and turns to russet and brown the turf of our Western prairies.

As we sat on the gallery, grieving over this ruin of spring, Mrs. Gibbs gathered her two boys closer to her, as she shuddered over another experience with prairie fire, where her children were in peril. The little fellows, in charge of a soldier, were left temporarily on the bank of a creek. Imagine the horror of a mother who finds, as she did, the grass on fire and a broad strip of flame separating her from her children! Before the little ones could follow their first instinct, and thereby encounter certain death by attempting to run through the fire to their mother, the devoted soldier, who had left them but a moment, realizing that they would instantly seek their mother, ran like an antelope to where the fire-band narrowed, leaped the flame, seized the little men, and plunged with mad strides to the bank of the creek, where, God be praised! nature provides a refuge from the relentless foe of our Western plains.

In our Western prairie fires the flame is often a mile long, perhaps not rising over a foot high, but, sweeping from six to ten miles an hour, it requires the greatest exertion of the ranchmen, with all kinds of improvised flails, to beat out the fire. The final resort of a frontiersman, if the flames are too much for him to overcome, is to take refuge with his family, cattle, horses, etc., in the garden, where the growing vegetables make an effectual protection. Alas, when he finds it safe to venture from the green oasis, the crops are not only gone, but the roots are burned, and the ground valueless from the parching of the terrible heat. When a prairie fire is raging at ten miles an hour, the hurricane lifts the tufts of loosened bunch grass, which in occasional clumps is longer than the rest, carrying it far beyond the main fire, and thus starting a new flame. No matter how weary the pioneer may be after a day's march, he neglects no precautions that can secure him from fire. He twists into wisp the longest of the bunch grass, trailing it around the camp; the fire thus started is whipped out by the teamsters, after it has burned over a sufficient area for safety. They follow the torch of the leader with branches of the green willow or twigs of cottonwood bound together.

WHIPPING HORSES TO KEEP THEM FROM FREEZING.

The first letters, sent back from the expedition by scouts, made red-letter days for us. The official envelope, stained with rain and mud, bursting open with the many pages crowded in, sometimes even tied with a string by some messenger through whose hands the parcel passed, told stories of the vicissitudes of the missive in the difficult journey to our post. These letters gave accounts of the march to Fort Larned, where a great camp was established, to await the arrival of the chiefs with whom the council was to be held. While the runners were absent on their messages to the tribes, some effort was made to protect the troops against the still sharp winds of early spring. The halt and partly permanent camp was most fortunate; for had the troops been on the march, a terrible snow-storm that ensued would have wrought havoc, for the cold became so intense, and the snow so blinding, it was only through great precautions that loss of life was prevented. The animals were given an extra ration of oats, while the guards were obliged to take whips and strike at the horses on the picket-line, to keep them in motion and prevent them from freezing. The snow was eight inches deep, a remarkable fall for Kansas at that time of the year. As we read over these accounts, which all the letters contained, though mine touched lightly on the subject, owing to my husband's fixed determination to write of the bright side, we felt that we had hardly a right to our fires and comfortable quarters. There were officers on the expedition who could not keep warm. A number were then enduring their first exposure to the elements, and I remember that several, who afterward became stalwart, healthy men, were then partial invalids, owing to sedentary life in the States, delicate lungs or climatic influences.

In my husband's letters there was a laughable description of his lending his dog to keep a friend warm. The officer came into his tent after dark, declaring that no amount of bedding had any effect in keeping out the cold, and he had come to borrow a dog, to see if he could have one night's uninterrupted rest. Our old hound was offered, because he could cover such a surface, for he was a big brute, and when he once located himself he rarely moved until morning. My husband forgot, in giving Rover his recommendation, to mention a habit he had of sleeping audibly, besides a little fashion of twitching his legs and thumping his cumbrous tail, in dreams that were evidently of the chase, or of battles he was living over, in which "Turk," the bull-dog, was being vanquished. He was taken into the neighbor's tent, and induced to settle for the night, after the General's coaxing and pretense of going to sleep beside him. Later, when he went back to see how Rover worked as a portable furnace, he found the officer sound asleep on his back, emitting such nasal notes as only a stout man is equal to, while Rover lay sprawled over the broad chest of his host, where he had crept after he was asleep, snoring with an occasional interlude of a long-drawn snort, introduced in a manner peculiar to foxhounds. The next morning my husband was not in the least surprised, after what he had seen the night before, to receive a call from the officer, who presented a request to exchange dogs. He said that when he made the proposal, he did not expect to have a bedfellow that would climb up over his lungs and crush all the breath out of his body. Instead of showing proper sympathy, the General threw himself on his pallet and roared with laughter.

All these camp incidents brightened up the long letters, and kept me from realizing, as I read, what were the realities of that march, undertaken so early in the season. But as the day advanced, and the garrison exchanged the news contained in all the letters that had arrived from the expedition, I could not deceive myself into the belief that the way of our regiment had thus far been easy.

With all my endeavors to divide the day methodically, and enforce certain duties upon myself, knowing well that it was my only refuge from settled melancholy, I found time a laggard. It is true, my clothes were in a deplorable state, for while our own officers were with us they looked to us to fill up their leisure hours. The General, always devoted to his books, could read in the midst of our noisy circle; but I was never permitted much opportunity, and managed to keep up with the times by my husband's account of the important news, and by the agreeable method of listening to the discussions of the men upon topics of the hour. If, while our circle was intact, I tried to sew, a ride, a walk or a game of parlor croquet was proposed, to prevent my even mending our clothing. Now that we were alone, it was necessary to make the needle fly. Eliza was set up with a supply of blue-checked gowns and aprons, while my own dresses were reconstructed, the riding-habit was fortified with patches, and any amount of stout linen thread disappeared in strengthening the seams; for between the hard riding and the gales of wind we encountered, the destruction of a habit was rapid.

Diana, with the elastic heart of a coquette, had not only sped the parting, but welcomed the coming guest; for hardly had the sound of the trumpet died away, before a new officer began to frequent our parlor. It was then the fashion for men to wear a tiny neck-bow, called a butterfly tie. They were made on a pasteboard foundation, with a bit of elastic cord to fasten them to the shirt-stud. I knew of no pasteboard nearer than Leavenworth; but in the curly head there were devices to meet the exigency. I found Diana with her lap full of photographs, cutting up the portraits of the departed beaux, to make ties for the next. Whether the new suitor ever discovered that he was wearing at his neck the face of a predecessor, I do not know; but this I do remember, that the jagged, frayed appearance that the girl's dresses presented when turned inside out, betrayed where the silk was procured to make the neckties. She had clipped out bits of material where the skirt was turned in, and when we attempted to remodel ourselves and cut down the voluminous breadths of that time into tightly gored princesse gowns, we were put to it to make good the deficiencies, and "piece out" the silk that had been sacrificed to her flirtations.

Succeeding letters from my husband gave an account of his first experience with the perfidy of the Indians. The council had been held, and it was hoped that effectual steps were taken to establish peace. But, as is afterward related, the chiefs gave them the slip and deserted the village. Even in the midst of hurried preparations to follow the renegades, my husband stopped, in order that his departure might not make me depressed, to give an account of a joke that they all had on one of their number, who dared to eat soup out of an Indian kettle still simmering over the deserted fire. The General pressed the retreating Indians so closely, the very night of their departure, that they were obliged to divide into smaller detachments, and even the experienced Plainsmen could no longer trace a trail.

Meanwhile, as our officers were experiencing all sorts of new phases in life on their first march over the Plains, our vicissitudes were increasing at what seemed to be the peaceful Fort Riley. I had seen with dismay that the cavalry were replaced by negro infantry, and found that they were to garrison the post for the summer. I had never seen negroes as soldiers, and these raw recruits had come from plantations, where I had known enough of their life, while in Texas and Louisiana, to realize what an irresponsible, child's existence it was. Entirely dependent on some one's care, and without a sense of obligation of any kind, they were exempt from the necessity of thinking about the future. Their time had been spent in following the directions of the overseer in the corn-field or cotton brake by day, and beguiling the night with a coon-hunt or the banjo. The early days of their soldiering were a reign of terror to us women, in our lonely, unprotected homes. It was very soon discovered that the officer who commanded them was for the first time accustoming himself to colored troops, and did not know how to keep in check the boisterous, undisciplined creatures. He was a courteous, quiet man, of scholarly tastes, and evidently entertained the belief that moral suasion would eventually effect any purpose. The negroes, doubtless discovering what they could do under so mild a commander, grew each day more lawless. They used the parade-ground, which our officers had consecrated to the most formal of ceremonies, like dress-parades and guard-mount, for a playground; turning hand-springs all over the sprouting grass, and vaulting in leap-frog over the bent back of a comrade. If it were possible for people in the States to realize how sacred the parade-ground of a Western post is, how hurriedly a venturesome cow or loose horse is marshaled off, how pompously every one performs the military duties permitted on this little square; how even the color-sergeant, who marches at measured gait to take down and furl the garrison flag, when the evening gun announces that the sun has been, by the royal mandate of military law, permitted to set--they would then understand with what perturbation we women witnessed the desecration of what had been looked upon as hallowed earth. The sacrilege of these monkey acrobats turning somersaults over the ground, their elongated heels vibrating in the air, while they stood upon their heads in front of our windows, made us very indignant. When one patted "juba," and a group danced, we seemed transformed into a disconnected minstrel show. There was not a trace of the well-conducted post of a short time before.

All this frivolity was but the prelude to serious trouble. The joy with which the negroes came into possession of a gun for the first time in their lives would have been ludicrous had it not been extremely dangerous. They are eminently a race given over to display. This was exhibited in their attempts to make themselves marksmen in a single day. One morning we were startled by a shot coming from the barracks. It was followed by a rush of men out of the doors, running wildly to and fro, yelling with alarm. We knew that some disaster had occurred, and it proved to be the instant death of a too confiding negro, who had allowed himself to be cast for the part of William Tell's son. His accidental murderer was a man that had held a gun in his hand that week for the first time.

They had no sort of idea how to care for their health. The ration of a soldier is so large that a man who can eat it all in a day is renowned as a glutton. I think but few instances ever occur where the entire ration is consumed by one man. It is not expected, and, fortunately, with all the economy of the Government, the supply has never been cut down; but the surplus is sold and a company fund established. By this means, the meagre fare is increased by buying vegetables, if it happen to be a land where they can be obtained. The negroes, for the first time in possession of all the coffee, pork, sugar, and hardtack they wanted, ate inordinately. There was no one to compel them to cleanliness. If a soldier in a white regiment is very untidy the men become indignant, and as the voluminous regulations provide directions only for the scrubbing of the quarters and not of the men, they sometimes take the affair into their own hands, and, finding from their captain that they will not be interfered with, the untidy one is taken on a compulsory journey to the creek and "ducked" until the soldiers consider him endurable. The negroes at that time had no idea of encountering the chill of cold water on their tropical skins, and suffered the consequences very soon. Pestilence broke out among them. Smallpox, black measles and other contagious diseases raged, while the soldier's enemy, scurvy, took possession. We were within a stone's-throw of the barracks. Of course the illest among them were quarantined in hospital-tents outside the garrison; but to look over to the infested barracks and realize what lurked behind the walls, was, to say the least, uncomfortable for those of us who were near enough to breathe almost the same air.

Added to this, we felt that, with so much indiscriminate firing, a shot might at any time enter our windows. One evening a few women were walking outside the garrison. Our limits were not so circumscribed, at that time, as they were in almost all the places where I was stationed afterward. A sentinel always walked a beat in front of a small arsenal outside of the post, and, overcome with the grandeur of carrying a gun and wearing a uniform, he sought to impress his soldierly qualities on anyone approaching by a stentorian "Who comes thar?" It was entirely unnecessary, as it was light enough to see the fluttering skirts of women, for the winds kept our drapery in constant motion. Almost instantly after his challenge, the flash of his gun and the whizz of a bullet past us made us aware that our lives were spared only because of his inaccurate aim. Of course that ended our evening walks, and it was a great deprivation, as the monotony of a garrison becomes almost unbearable.

There was one person who profited by the presence of the negro troops. Our Eliza was such a belle, that she would have elevated them into too exalted a sphere to wait on us, had she not been accustomed to constant adulation from the officers' body-servants from the time, as she expressed it, when she "entered the service." Still, it was a distraction, of which she availed herself in our new post, to receive new beaux, tire of them, quarrel and discard them for fresh victims. They waited on her assiduously, and I suspect they dined daily in our kitchen, as long as their brief season of favor lasted. They even sought to curry favor with Eliza by gifts to me--snaring quail, imprisoning them in cages made of cracker-boxes, or bring dandelion greens or wild-flowers as they appeared in the dells. For all these gifts I was duly grateful, but I was very much afraid of a negro soldier, nevertheless.

At last our perplexities and frights reached a climax. One night we heard the measured tramp of feet over the gravel in the road in front of our quarters, and they halted almost opposite our windows, where we could hear the voices. No loud "Halt, who comes there!" rang out on the air, for the sentinel was enjoined to silence. Being frightened, I called to Eliza. To Diana and to me she was worth a corporal's guard, and could not be equaled as a defender, solacer and general manager of our dangerous situations--indeed, of all our affairs. Eliza ran up-stairs in response to my cry, and we watched with terror what went on. It soon was discovered to be a mutiny. The men growled and swore, and we could see by their threatening movements that they were in a state of exasperation. They demanded the commanding officer, and as he did not appear, they clenched their fists, and looked at the house as if they would tear it down, or at least break in the doors. It seemed a desperate situation to us, for the quarters were double, and our gallery had no division from the neighbors. If doors and windows were to be demolished, there would be little hope for ours. I knew of no way by which we could ask help, as most of the soldiers were colored, and we felt sure that the plan, whatever it was, must include them all.

At last Eliza realized how terrified I was, and gave up the absorbing watch she was keeping, for her whole soul was in the wrongs, real or fancied, of her race. Too often had she comforted me in my fears to forget me now, and an explanation was given of this alarming outbreak.

The men had for some time been demanding the entire ration, and were especially clamorous for all the sugar that was issued. Very naturally, the captain had withheld the supernumerary supplies, in order to make company savings for the purpose of buying vegetables. A mutiny over sugar may seem a small affair, but it assumes threatening proportions when a mob of menacing, furious men tramp up and down in front of one's house, and there is no safe place of refuge, nor any one to whom appeal can be made. Eliza kept up a continuous comforting and reassuring, but when I reminded her that our door had no locks, or, rather, no keys, for it was not the custom to lock army quarters, she said, "La, Miss Libbie, they won't tech you; you dun wrote too many letters for 'em, and they'se got too many good vittles in your kitchen ever to 'sturb you." Strong excitement is held to be the means of bringing out the truth, and here were the facts revealed that they had been bountifully fed at our expense. I had forgotten how much ink I had used in trying to put down their very words in love-letters, or family epistles to the Southern plantation. The infuriated men had to quiet down, for no response came from the commanding officer. They found out, I suppose from the investigations of one acting as spy, and going to the rear of the quarters, that he had disappeared. To our intense relief, they straggled off until their growling and muttering were lost in the barracks, where they fortunately went to bed. No steps were taken to punish them, and at any imaginary wrong, they might feel, from the success of this first attempt at insurrection, that it was safe to repeat the experiment. We women had little expectation but that the summer would be one of carousal and open rebellion against military rule. The commanding officer, though very retiring, was so courteous and kindly to all the women left in the garrison, that it was difficult to be angry with him for his failure to control the troops. Indeed, his was a hard position to fill, with a lot of undisciplined, ignorant, ungoverned creatures, who had never been curbed, except by the punishment of plantation life.

Meanwhile my letters, on which I wrote every day, even if there was no opportunity to send them, made mention of our frights and uncertainties. Each mail carried out letters from the women to the expedition, narrating their fears. We had not the slightest idea that there was a remedy. I looked upon the summer as the price I was to pay for the privilege of being so far on the frontier, so much nearer the expedition than the families of officers who had gone East. With all my tremors and misgivings, I had no idea of retreating to safe surroundings, as I should then lose my hope of eventually going out to the regiment. It took a long time for our letters to reach the expedition, and a correspondingly long time for replies; but the descriptions of the night of mutiny brought the officers together in council, and the best disciplinarian of our regiment was immediately despatched to our relief. I knew but little of General Gibbs at that time; my husband had served with him during the war, and valued his soldierly ability and sincere friendship. He had been terribly wounded in the Indian wars before the Civil War, and was really unfit for hard service, but too soldierly to be willing to remain at the rear. In a week after his arrival at our post, there was a marked difference in the state of affairs. Out of the seemingly hopeless material, General Gibbs made soldiers who were used as guards over Government property through the worst of the Indian country, and whose courage was put to the test by frequent attacks, where they had to defend themselves as well as the supplies. The opinion of soldier and citizen alike underwent a change, regarding negroes as soldiers, on certain duty to which they were fitted. A ranchman, after praising their fighting, before the season was ended said, "And plague on my cats if they don't like it."

We soon found that we had reached a country where the weather could show more remarkable and sudden phases in a given time than any portion of the United States. The cultivation of the ground, planting of trees, and such causes, have materially modified some of the extraordinary exhibitions that we witnessed when Kansas was supposed to be the great American desert. With all the surprises that the elements furnished, there was one that we would gladly have been spared. One quiet day I heard a great rumbling in the direction of the plateau where we had ridden so much, as if many prairie-schooners, heavily laden, were being spirited away by the stampede of mules. Next, our house began to rock, the bell to ring, and the pictures to vibrate on the wall. The mystery was solved when we ran to the gallery, and found the garrison rushing out of barracks and quarters; Women and children ran to the parade-ground, all hatless, some half-dressed. Everybody stared at every one else, turned pale, and gasped with fright. It was an earthquake, sufficiently serious to shake our stone quarters and overturn the lighter articles, while farther down the gully the great stove at the sutler's store was tumbled over and the side of the building broken in by the shock. There was a deep fissure in the side of the bank, and the waters of the Big Blue were so agitated that the bed of the river twelve feet deep was plainly visible.

The usual session of the "Did-you-evers" took place, and resolutions were drawn up--not committed to paper, however--giving the opinion of women on Kansas as a place of residence. We had gone through prairie-fire, pestilence, mutiny, a river freshet, and finally, an earthquake: enough exciting events to have been scattered through a lifetime were crowded into a few weeks. Yet in these conclaves, when we sought sympathy and courage from one another, there was never a suggestion of returning to a well-regulated climate.

Note: This is Chapter 15 of the Book Tenting on the Plains or General Custer in Kansas and Texas, by Elizabeth B. Custer. (originally published 1895) You can download this book at the Project Gutenberg website.

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