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Parent Category: Kansas State History Articles
Category: Old West Kansas
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When permission was given me to draw upon the journal of our trip for such material as I might desire, it was stipulated that the camp-names should be adhered to. A company on the plains is no respecter of persons, and titles which might have caused offense before starting were received in good part, and worn gracefully thenceforward.

 

Our leader, Professor Paleozoic, ordinarily existed in a sort of transition state between the primary and tertiary formations. He could tell cheese from chalk under the microscope, and show that one was full of the fossil and the other of the living evidences of animal life. A worthy man, vastly more troubled with rocks on the brain than "rocks" in the pocket.

Learning had once come near making him mad, but from this sad fate he was happily saved by a somewhat Pickwickian blunder. While in Kansas, some years since, he penetrated a remote portion of the wilderness, where, as he was happy in believing, none but the native savage, or, possibly, the primeval man, could ever have tarried long enough to leave any sign behind. Imagine his astonishment and delight, therefore, when from the tangled grass he drew an upright stone, with lines chiseled on three sides and on the fourth a rude figure resembling more than any thing else one of those odd fictions which geologists call restored specimens. On a ledge near were huge depressions like foot-prints. They were foot-prints of birds, no doubt, and quite as perfect as those found in more favored localities, and from which whole skeletons had been constructed by learned men.

Both specimens were forwarded to, and at the expense of, noted savans of the East. Our professor called the pillar from the tangled grass an altar raised by early races to the winds. The short lines, he suggested, designated the different points of the compass, while the rude figure was intended for Boreas. Our scientists toward the rising sun met the boxes at the depot, paid charges, and careful draymen bore them to the expectant museum.

One hour after, seven wise men might have been seen wending their way sorrowfully homeward, with hands crossed meditatively under their coat-tails, and pocket vacuums where lately were modern coins. Government clearly had a case against our professor. Science decided that he had removed a stone telling in surveyors' signs just what section and township it was on. The figure which he had imagined a heathen idea of Boreas was the fancy of some surveyor's idle moment--a shocking sketch of an impossible buffalo. Whether the bird-tracks had a common origin, or were hewn by the hatchets of the red man, is a point still under discussion.

A worthy man, as before remarked, was the professor, full of knowledge, genial in camp, and, having rubbed his eye-tooth on a section stone, geological authority of the highest order. When the professor said a particular rock belonged to the cretaceous formation, one might safely conclude that no modern influences had been at work either on that rock or in that vicinity. That question was settled.

Next came Tammany Sachem, our heavy weight and our mystery. Before joining our party, he had been a New York alderman, noted for prowess in annual aldermanic clam-bakes at Coney Island. He was wont to exhibit a medal, the prize of such a tournament, on which several immense clams were racing to the griddle, for the honor of being devoured by the city fathers.

A green-ribbed hunting coat traversed his rotundity, which had the generous swell of a puncheon. His face was reddish, and his nose like a beacon-light against a sunset sky. When you thought him awake, he was half asleep; when you thought him asleep, he was wide awake. A look of extreme happiness always beamed on his face when misfortunes impended. Per contra, successes made him suspicious and morose. New York aldermen have always been a puzzle to the nation at large. Perhaps our friend's facial contradictions, put on originally as one of the tricks of the trade, had become chronic from long usage. We have since learned that the sachems of Tammany laugh the loudest and joke the most freely when under affliction.

THE PROFESSOR--A REMARKABLE STONE

THE PROFESSOR--A REMARKABLE STONE.

 

TAMMANY SACHEM--PROSPECTIVE AND RETROSPECTIV

TAMMANY SACHEM--PROSPECTIVE AND RETROSPECTIVE.

When I was appointed editor, the Sachem volunteered as local reporter. Many of the items he gathered are entered in our log-book in rhyme, and to these pages some of them are transferred verbatim. In wooing the muses, our alderman certainly acted out of character. The ideal poet is thin instead of obese, and he is a reckless innovator who lays claim to any measure of the divine afflatus without possessing either a pale face, thin form, or a garret.

As to what drove a New York alderman to the society of buffaloes, we had but one explanation, and that was Sachem's own. We knew that he disliked women in every form, Sorosis and Anti-Sorosis, bitter and sweet alike. According to his statement, made to us in good faith, and which I chronicle in the same, Cupid had once essayed to drive a dart into Sachem's heart, but, in doing so, the barb also struck and wounded his liver. As his love increased, his health failed. His liver became affected in the same ratio as his heart. This was touching our alderman in a tender spot. Imagine a New York city father without digestion; what a subject of scorn he would become to his constituency! Our alderman fled from Cupid, clams, and his beloved Gotham, and sought health and buffalo on the plains of Kansas. As he remarked to us pathetically: "A good liver makes a good husband. Indigestion frightens connubial bliss out of the window. Pills, my boy, pills is the quietus of love. If you wish Cupid to leave, give him a dose of 'em. The liver, instead of the heart, is at the bottom of half the suicides."

Doctor Pythagoras in years was fifty, and in stature short. His favorite theory was "development," and this he carried to depths which would have astonished Darwin himself. How humble he used to make us feel by digging at the roots of the family tree until its uttermost fiber lay between an oyster and a sponge! (Rumor charged him with waiting so long for diseases to develop, that his patients developed into spirits.) While he indorsed Darwin, however, he also admired Pythagoras. The latter's doctrine of metempsychosis he Darwinized. In their transmigration from one body to another, souls developed, taking a higher order of being with each change, until finally fitted to enter the land of spirits. The soul of a jack-of-all-trades was one which developed slowly, and picked up a new craft with each new body. Like Pythagoras, he remembered several previous bodies which his soul had animated, among others that of the original Rarey, who existed in Egypt some centuries before the modern usurper was born. If souls proved entirely unworthy during the probationary or human period, they were cast back into the brute creation to try it over again. To this class belonged prize-fighters, Congressmen, and the like. With them the past was a blank--an unsuccessful problem washed from the slate. The doctor had a hobby that a vicious horse was only a vicious man entered into a lower order of being. To demonstrate this he had traveled, and still persisted in traveling, on eccentric horses, for the purpose of reasoning with them. But his Egyptian lore had been lost in transmission, and his falls, kicks, and bites became as many as the moons which had passed over his head.

COLON AND SEMI-COLON

COLON AND SEMI-COLON.

 

DAVID PYTHAGORAS, M. D.

DAVID PYTHAGORAS, M. D.

Genuine Muggs was an Englishman. The antipodes of Tammany Sachem, who would not believe any thing, Muggs swallowed every thing. He had already absorbed so much in this way that he knew all about the United States before visiting it. Given half a chance, he would undoubtedly have told the savage more about the latter's habits than the aborigine himself knew. It was positively impossible for him to learn any thing. His round British body was so full of indisputable facts that another one would have burst it. In the Presidential alphabet, from Alpha Washington to Omega Grant, he knew all of our rulers' tricks and trades, and understood better the crooked ways of the White House than our own talented Jenkins.

British phlegm incased his soul, and British leather his feet. From heel to crown he was completely a Briton. His mutton-chop whiskers came just so far, and the h's dropped in and out of his utterings in a perfectly natural way. In the Briton's alphabet, Sachem used to remark, the _I_ is so big that it is no wonder the _H_ is often crowded out.

Muggs was a fair representative of the average Englishman who has traveled somewhat. The eye-teeth of these persons are generally cut with a slash, and they are forever after sore-mouthed. For a maiden effort they never suck knowledge gently in, but attempt a gulp which strangles. The consequence of this hasty acquiring is a bloated condition. The partly-traveled Briton seems, at first acquaintance, full and swollen with knowledge; but should the student of learning apply the prick, the result obtained will generally prove to be--gas.

Over our great country, some of the family of Muggs meet one at every turn. Often they scurry along solitarily, but occasionally in groups. In the former case they are unsocial to every body--in the latter to every body except their own party. The bliss which comes from ignorance must be of a thoroughly enjoyable nature, for the Muggses certainly do enjoy themselves. They will pass through a country, remaining completely uncommunicative and self-wrapped, and know less of it after six months' traveling than an American in two. The professor says he has met them in the lonely parks of the Rocky Mountains and in the fishing and hunting solitudes of the Canadas. If they have been an unusually long time without seeing a human being, they may possibly catch at an eye-glass and fling themselves abruptly into a few remarks. But it is in a tone which says, plainer than words, "No use in your going any further, man; I have absorbed all the beauties and knowledge of this locality."

BUREAU OF ILLUSTRATION BUFFALO_ONE OF THE MUGGSES.

It is a rare treat to see a coach delivered of Muggs at a country inn. "Hi, porter, look hout for my luggage, you know. Tell the publican some chops, rare, and lively now, and a mug of hale, and, if I can 'ave it, a room to myself." If the latter request is granted, and you are inquisitive enough to take a peep, you may see Muggs sturdily surveying himself in the glass, and giving certain satisfied pats to his cravat and waistcoat, as if to satisfy them that they covered a Briton. Could the mirror which reflects his face also reflect his thoughts, they would read about as follows: "Muggs, you are a Briton, and this hotel must be made aware of the fact. Whatever you do, be guilty of no un-English act while in this outlandish land. Your skin is now full of knowledge, and let not other travelers, like so many mosquitoes, suck it from you. Your forefathers blessed their eyes and dropped their h's, and so must you." And perhaps by this time, if the chops have arrived, he dines in seclusion and, by so doing, loses a fund of information which his fellow-travelers have obtained by common exchange.

Again on the way, Muggs nestles in a corner of the coach and acts strictly on the defensive, indignantly withdrawing his square-toed, thick-soled English shoes, should neighboring feet attempt to hobnob with them. On a trip through Buffalo Land, however, it is difficult for one of her Britannic Majesty's subjects to maintain the national dignity. But this fact Genuine Muggs--our Muggs--evidently did not know. Had he known it, he would never have gone with us in the world.

Another of our party rejoiced in the appellation of "Colon." He obtained this title because his eccentric specialities of character several times came very near putting if not a full stop, at least the next thing to it, upon the particular page of history which our party was making. Longitudinally, Mr. Colon was all of five feet eleven; in circumference, perhaps a score or so of inches. He possessed a fair share of oddities, and what is better an equally fair one of dollars. The hemispheres of his philanthropic brain seemed equally pre-empted by philosophy and bugs. Engaging in some immense work for the amelioration of mankind, he would pursue it with ardor, dwell upon it with unction, and then suddenly leave it, half finished, to capture a rare spider. Philosophy and Entomology had constant combat for Colon, and victory tarried with neither long enough for the seat of war to be cultivated and blossom with any luxuriance. At the time he joined our party one of his grandest charitable projects had lately died in a very early period of infancy, entirely supplanted in his affections for the time being by the prospect of a chase after Brazilian insects. During our journey it was no uncommon thing for us to see his thin form all covered with bugs and reptiles, which had crawled out of the collecting boxes carried in his pockets. If this meets our friend's eye, let him bear no malice, but reflect, in the language of his own invariable answer to our remonstrances, "It can't be helped." Should the public parade of his faults be disagreeable, he can suffer no more from them now than we did in the past, and may perhaps call them into closer quarters for the future.

Mr. Colon's son, of two years less than a score, we dubbed Semi-colon, as being a smaller edition, or to be exact, precisely one-half of what the senior Colon was. So perfect was the concord of the two that the junior had fallen into a chronic and to us amusing habit of answering "Ditto" to the senior's expressions of opinion. Divide the father's conversation by two, add an assent to every thing, and the result, socially considered, would be the son. It may readily be seen, therefore, why the professor for short should call him, as he nearly always did, "Semi."

Shamus Dobeen, our cook and body-servant, according to his own account, was the child of an impoverished but noble Irish family. Indeed, we doubt if any Irishman was ever promoted from shovel laborer to body-servant without suddenly remembering that he was "descinded" from a line of kings. At the time Shamus was added to the population of Ireland, the patrimonial estate had dwindled down to a peat bog. As this soon "petered out," Shamus went from the exhausted moor into the cold world. He had been by turns expelled patriot, dirt disturber on new railroads, gunner on a Confederate cruiser, and high private in a Union regiment. The position of gunner he lost by touching off a piece before the muzzle had been run out, in consequence of which part of the vessel's side went off suddenly with the gun. Captured, he readily became a Union soldier, and could, without doubt, have transformed himself into a Cheyenne, or a Patagonian, had occasion for either ever required.

While in Topeka, our party made the acquaintance of Tenacious Gripe, a well-known Kansas politician, and who attached himself to us for the trip. Every person in the State knew him, had known him in territorial times, and would know him until either the State or he ceased to be.

Flung headlong from somewhere into Kansas during the "border ruffian" period, he would probably have passed as rapidly out of it had he been allowed to do so peaceably. But as the slavery party endeavored to push him, he concluded to stick. At that particular time, he was a moderate Democrat or conservative Republican, and consequently had no particular principles. But the slavery party supposed he had, and to them accordingly he became an object of suspicion. They assumed the aggressive, and he at once resolved into a staunch Republican. Had the latter first struck him, he would have been as staunch a Democrat. And Gripe has never known how near he came to being the latter. The Republicans had just decided to order him out of the state as a border ruffian spy, when the Democrats took action and did so for his not being one. Those were troublous times. He went to the front at once in the antislavery ranks, and has stayed there ever since. Sore-headed men are apt to become famous. There were those in our late war who were kicked by adversity into the very arms of Fame.

Our friend had been in both the upper and lower houses of the State Legislature, and had rolled Congressional logs, moreover, until he was hardly happy without having his hands on one.

BUREAU OF ILLUSTRATION BUFFALO_SHAMUS DOBEEN--HIS CARD.

HON. T. GRIPE (BEATIFIED).

 

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