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 As has been stated, until the year 1824 transportation across the
 plains was done by means of pack-mules, the art of properly loading
 which seems to be an intuitive attribute of the native Mexican.
 The American, of course, soon became as expert, for nothing that
 the genus homo is capable of doing is impossible to him; but his
 teacher was the dark-visaged, superstitious, and profanity-expending
 Mexican arriero.
 A description of the equipment of a mule-train and the method of
 packing, together with some of the curious facts connected with
 its movements, may not be uninteresting, particularly as the
 whole thing, with rare exceptions in the regular army at remote
 frontier posts, has been relegated to the past, along with the caravan
 of the prairie and the overland coach.  To this generation, barring
 a few officers who have served against the Indians on the plains
 and in the mountains, a pack-mule train would be as great a curiosity
 as the hairy mammoth.  In the following particulars I have taken
 as a model the genuine Mexican pack-train or atajo, as it was called
 in their Spanish dialect, always used in the early days of the
 Santa Fe trade.  The Americans made many modifications, but the basis
 was purely Mexican in its origin.  A pack-mule was termed a mula
 de carga, and his equipment consisted of several parts; first,
 the saddle, or aparejo, a nearly square pad of leather stuffed
 with hay, which covered the animal's back on both sides equally.
 The best idea of its shape will be formed by opening a book in
 the middle and placing it saddle-fashion on the back of a chair.
 Each half then forms a flap of the contrivance.  Before the aparejo
 was adjusted to the mule, a salea, or raw sheep-skin, made soft
 by rubbing, was put on the animal's back, to prevent chafing,
 and over it the saddle-cloth, or xerga.  On top of both was placed
 the aparejo, which was cinched by a wide grass-bandage.  This band
 was drawn as tightly as possible, to such an extent that the poor
 brute grunted and groaned under the apparently painful operation,
 and when fastened he seemed to be cut in two.  This always appeared
 to be the very acme of cruelty to the uninitiated, but it is the
 secret of successful packing; the firmer the saddle, the more
 comfortably the mule can travel, with less risk of being chafed
 and bruised.  The aparejo is furnished with a huge crupper, and
 this appendage is really the most cruel of all, for it is almost
 sure to lacerate the tail.  Hardly a Mexican mule in the old days
 of the trade could be found which did not bear the scar of this
 rude supplement to the immense saddle.
 The load, which is termed a carga, was generally three hundred pounds.
 Two arrieros, or packers, place the goods on the mule's back,
 one, the cargador, standing on the near side, his assistant on
 the other.  The carga is then hoisted on top of the saddle if it
 is a single package; or if there are two of equal size and weight,
 one on each side, coupled by a rope, which balances them on the
 animal.  Another stout rope is then thrown over all, drawn as tightly
 as possible under the belly, and laced round the packs, securing
 them firmly in their place.  Over the load, to protect it from rain,
 is thrown a square piece of matting called a petate.  Sometimes,
 when a mule is a little refractory, he is blindfolded by a thin
 piece of leather, generally embroidered, termed the tapojos, and
 he remains perfectly quiet while the process of packing is going on.
 When the load is securely fastened in its place, the blinder is
 removed.  The man on the near side, with his knee against the mule
 for a purchase, as soon as the rope is hauled taut, cries out "Adios,"
 and his assistant answers "Vaya!"  Then the first says again, "Anda!"
 upon which the mule trots off to its companions, all of which feed
 around until the animals of the whole train are packed.  It seldom
 requires more than five minutes for the two men to complete the
 packing of the animal, and in that time is included the fastening
 of the aperejo.  It is surprising to note the degree of skill
 exercised by an experienced packer, and his apparently abnormal
 strength in handling the immense bundles that are sometimes
 transported.  By the aid of his knees used as a fulcrum, he lifts
 a package and tosses it on the mule's back without any apparent
 effort, the dead weight of which he could not move from the ground.
 An old-time atajo or caravan of pack-mules generally numbered from
 fifty to two hundred, and it travelled a jornado, or day's march of
 about twelve or fifteen miles.  This day's journey was made without
 any stopping at noon, because if a pack-mule is allowed to rest,
 he generally tries to lie down, and with his heavy load it is
 difficult for him to get on his feet again.  Sometimes he is badly
 strained in so doing, perhaps ruined forever.  When the train starts
 out on the trail, the mules are so tightly bound with the ropes
 which confine the load that they move with great difficulty;
 but the saddle soon settles itself and the ropes become loosened
 so that they have frequently to be tightened.  On the march the
 arriero is kept busy nearly all the time; the packs are constantly
 changing their position, frequently losing their balance and
 falling off; sometimes saddle, pack, and all swing under the
 animal's belly, and he must be unloaded and repacked again.
 On arriving at the camping-ground the pack-saddles with their loads
 are ranged in regular order, their freight being between the saddles,
 covered with the petates to protect it from the rain, and generally
 a ditch is dug around to carry off the water, if the weather is stormy.
 After two or three days' travel each mule knows its own pack and
 saddle, and comes up to it at the proper moment with an intelligence
 that is astonishing.  If an animal should come whose pack is
 somewhere else, he is soundly kicked in the ribs by the rightful mule,
 and sent bruised and battered to his place.  He rarely makes a mistake
 in relation to the position of his own pack the second time.
 This method of transportation was so cheap, because of the low rate
 of wages, that wagon-freighting, even in the most level region,
 could not compete with it.  Five dollars a month was the amount paid
 to the muleteers, but it was oftener five with rations, costing
 almost nothing, of corn and beans.  Meat, if used at all, was found
 by the arrieros themselves.
 On the trail the mule-train is under a system of discipline almost
 as severe as that on board of a man-of-war.  Every individual
 employed is assigned to his place and has certain duties to perform.
 There is a night-herder, called the savanero, whose duty it is
 to keep the animals from straying too far away, as they are all
 turned loose to shift for themselves, depending upon the grass alone
 for their subsistence.  Each herd has a mulera, or bell-mare,
 which wears a bell hanging to a strap around her neck, and is kept
 in view of the other animals, who will never leave her.  If the mare
 is taken away from the herd, every mule becomes really melancholy
 and is at a loss what to do or where to go.  The cook of the party,
 or madre (mother) as he is called, besides his duty in preparing
 the food, must lead the bell-mule ahead of the train while travelling,
 the pack-animals following her with a devotion that is remarkable.
 Sometimes in traversing the narrow ledges cut around the sides of
 a precipitous trail, or crossing a narrow natural bridge spanning
 the frightful gorges found everywhere in the mountains, a mule
 will be incontinently thrown off the slippery path, and fall hundreds
 of feet into the yawning canyon below.  Generally instant death
 is their portion, though I recall an instance, while on an expedition
 against the hostile Indians thirty years ago, where a number of mules
 of our pack-train, loaded with ammunition, tumbled nearly five hundred
 feet down an almost perpendicular chasm, and yet some of them got
 on their feet again, and soon rejoined their companions, without
 having suffered any serious injury.
 The wagons so long employed in this trade, after their first
 introduction in 1824, were manufactured in Pittsburgh, their capacity
 being about a ton and a half, and they were drawn by eight mules
 or the same number of oxen.  Later much larger wagons were employed
 with nearly double the capacity of the first, hauled by ten and
 twelve mules or oxen.  These latter were soon called prairie-schooners,
 which name continued to linger until transportation across the plains
 by wagons was completely extinguished by the railroads.
 Under Mexican rule excessive tariff imposts were instituted,
 amounting to about a hundred per cent upon goods brought from the
 United States, and for some years, during the administration of
 Governor Manuel Armijo, a purely arbitrary duty was demanded of
 five hundred dollars for every wagon-load of merchandise brought
 into the Province, whether great or small, and regardless of its
 intrinsic value.  As gold and silver were paid for the articles
 brought by the traders, they were also required to pay a heavy duty
 on the precious metals they took out of the country.  Yankee ingenuity,
 however, evaded much of these unjust taxes.  When the caravan
 approached Santa Fe, the freight of three wagons was transferred
 to one, and the empty vehicles destroyed by fire; while to avoid
 paying the export duty on gold and silver, they had large false
 axletrees to some of the wagons, in which the money was concealed,
 and the examining officer of the customs, perfectly unconscious of
 the artifice, passed them.
 The army, in its expeditions against the hostile Indian tribes,
 always employed wagons in transporting its provisions and munitions
 of war, except in the mountains, where the faithful pack-mule was
 substituted.  The American freighters, since the occupation of
 New Mexico by the United States, until the transcontinental railroad
 usurped their vocation, used wagons only; the Mexican nomenclature
 was soon dropped and simple English terms adopted: caravan became
 train, and majordomo, the person in charge, wagon-master.  The latter
 was supreme.  Upon him rested all the responsibility, and to him
 the teamsters rendered absolute obedience.  He was necessarily a man
 of quick perception, always fertile in expedients in times of
 emergency, and something of an engineer; for to know how properly
 to cross a raging stream or a marshy slough with an outfit of fifty
 or sixty wagons required more than ordinary intelligence.  Then in
 the case of a stampede, great clear-headedness and coolness were
 needed to prevent loss of life.
 Stampedes were frequently very serious affairs, particularly with
 a large mule-train.  Notwithstanding the willingness and patient
 qualities of that animal, he can act as absurdly as a Texas steer,
 and is as easily frightened at nothing.  Sometimes as insignificant
 a circumstance as a prairie-dog barking at the entrance to his burrow,
 a figure in the distance, or even the shadow of a passing cloud
 will start every animal in the train, and away they go, rushing into
 each other, and becoming entangled in such a manner that both drivers
 and mules have often been crushed to death.  It not infrequently
 happened that five or six of the teams would dash off and never
 could be found.  I remember one instance that occurred on the trail
 between Fort Hays and Fort Dodge, during General Sheridan's
 winter campaign against the allied plains tribes in 1868.  Three of
 the wagons were dragged away by the mules, in a few moments were
 out of sight, and were never recovered, although diligent search
 was made for them for some days.  Ten years afterward a farmer,
 who had taken up a claim in what is now Rush County, Kansas,
 discovered in a ravine on his place the bones of some animals,
 decayed parts of harness, and the remains of three army-wagons,
 which with other evidence proved them to be the identical ones
 lost from the train so many years before.
 The largest six-mule wagon-train that was ever strung out on the
 plains transported the supplies for General Custer's command during
 the winter above referred to.  It comprised over eight hundred
 army-wagons, and was four miles in length in one column, or one mile
 when in four lines--the usual formation when in the field.
 The animals of the train were either hobbled or herded at night,
 according to the locality; if in an Indian country, always hobbled
 or, preferably, tied up to the tongue of the wagon to which they
 belonged.  The hobble is simply a strip of rawhide, with two slides
 of the same material.  Placed on the front legs of the mule just
 at the fetlock, the slides pushed close to the limb, the animal
 could move around freely enough to graze, but was not able to travel
 very fast in the event of a stampede.  In the Indian country, it was
 usual at night, or in the daytime when halting to feed, to form
 a corral of the wagons, by placing them in a circle, the wheels
 interlocked and the tongues run under the axles, into which circle
 the mules, on the appearance of the savages, were driven, and which
 also made a sort of fortress behind which the teamsters could more
 effectually repel an attack.
 In the earlier trading expeditions to Santa Fe, the formation and
 march of the caravan differed materially from that of the army-train
 in later years.  I here quote Gregg, whose authority on the subject
 has never been questioned.  When all was ready to move out on the
 broad sea of prairie, he said:
           We held a council, at which the respective claims of the
           different aspirants for office were considered, leaders
           selected, and a system of government agreed upon--as is
           the standing custom of these promiscuous caravans.
           A captain was proclaimed elected, but his powers were not
           defined by any constitutional provision; consequently,
           they were very vague and uncertain.  Orders being only
           viewed as mere requests, they are often obeyed or neglected
           at the caprice of the subordinates.  It is necessary to
           observe, however, that the captain is expected to direct
           the order of travel during the day and to designate the
           camping-ground at night, with many other functions of
           general character, in the exercise of which the company
           find it convenient to acquiesce.
           After this comes the task of organizing.  The proprietors
           are first notified by proclamation to furnish a list of
           their men and wagons.  The latter are generally apportioned
           into four divisions, particularly when the company is large.
           To each of these divisions, a lieutenant is appointed,
           whose duty it is to inspect every ravine and creek on the
           route, select the best crossings, and superintend what is
           called in prairie parlance the forming of each encampment.
           There is nothing so much dreaded by inexperienced travellers
           as the ordeal of guard duty.  But no matter what the
           condition or employment of the individual may be, no one
           has the slightest chance of evading the common law of
           the prairies.  The amateur tourist and the listless loafer
           are precisely in the same wholesome predicament--they must
           all take their regular turn at the watch.  There is usually
           a set of genteel idlers attached to every caravan, whose
           wits are forever at work in devising schemes for whiling
           away their irksome hours at the expense of others.
           By embarking in these trips of pleasure, they are enabled
           to live without expense; for the hospitable traders seldom
           refuse to accommodate even a loafing companion with a berth
           at their mess without charge.  But these lounging attaches
           are expected at least to do good service by way of guard
           duty.  None are ever permitted to furnish a substitute,
           as is frequently done in military expeditions; for he that
           would undertake to stand the tour of another besides
           his own would scarcely be watchful enough for dangers
           of the prairies.  Even the invalid must be able to produce
           unequivocal proofs of his inability, or it is a chance
           if the plea is admitted.
           The usual number of watchers is eight, each standing a
           fourth of every alternate night.  When the party is small,
           the number is generally reduced, while in the case of
           very small bands, they are sometimes compelled for safety's
           sake to keep watch on duty half the night.  With large
           caravans the captain usually appoints eight sergeants
           of the guard, each of whom takes an equal portion of men
           under his command.
           The wild and motley aspect of the caravan can be but
           imperfectly conceived without an idea of the costumes of
           its various members.  The most fashionable prairie dress
           is the fustian frock of the city-bred merchant, furnished
           with a multitude of pockets capable of accommodating a
           variety of extra tackling.  Then there is the backwoodsman
           with his linsey or leather hunting-shirt--the farmer with
           his blue jean coat--the wagoner with his flannel sleeve
           vest--besides an assortment of other costumes which go
           to fill up the picture.
           In the article of firearms there is also an equally
           interesting medley.  The frontier hunter sticks to his
           rifle, as nothing could induce him to carry what he terms
           in derision "the scatter-gun."  The sportsman from the
           interior flourishes his double-barrelled fowling-piece
           with equal confidence in its superiority.  A great many
           were furnished beside with a bountiful supply of pistols
           and knives of every description, so that the party made
           altogether a very brigand-like appearance.
           "Catch up!  Catch up!" is now sounded from the captain's
           camp and echoed from every division and scattered group
           along the valley.  The woods and dales resound with the
           gleeful yells of the light-hearted wagoners who, weary of
           inaction and filled with joy at the prospect of getting
           under way, become clamorous in the extreme.  Each teamster
           vies with his fellow who shall be soonest ready; and it
           is a matter of boastful pride to be the first to cry out,
           "All's set."
           The uproarious bustle which follows, the hallooing of those
           in pursuit of animals, the exclamations which the unruly
           brutes call forth from their wrathful drivers, together
           with the clatter of bells, the rattle of yokes and harness,
           the jingle of chains, all conspire to produce an uproarious
           confusion.  It is sometimes amusing to observe the athletic
           wagoner hurrying an animal to its post--to see him heave
           upon the halter of a stubborn mule, while the brute as
           obstinately sets back, determined not to move a peg till
           his own good pleasure thinks it proper to do so--his whole
           manner seeming to say, "Wait till your hurry's over."
           I have more than once seen a driver hitch a harnessed animal
           to the halter, and by that process haul his mulishness
           forward, while each of his four projected feet would leave
           a furrow behind.
           "All's set!" is finally heard from some teamster--
           "All's set," is directly responded from every quarter.
           "Stretch out!" immediately vociferates the captain.
           Then the "heps!" to the drivers, the cracking of whips,
           the trampling of feet, the occasional creak of wheels,
           the rumbling of the wagons, while "Fall in" is heard from
           head-quarters, and the train is strung out and in a few
           moments has started on its long journey.
 With an army-train the discipline was as perfect as that of a garrison.
 The wagon-master was under the orders of the commander of the troops
 which escorted the caravan, the camps were formed with regard to
 strategic principles, sentries walked their beats and were visited
 by an officer of the day, as if stationed at a military post.
 Unquestionably the most expert packer I have known is Chris. Gilson,
 of Kansas.  In nearly all the expeditions on the great plains and
 in the mountains he has been the master-spirit of the pack-trains.
 General Sheridan, who knew Gilson long before the war, in Oregon
 and Washington, regarded the celebrated packer with more than
 ordinary friendship.  For many years he was employed by the government
 at the suggestion of General Sheridan, to teach the art of packing
 to the officers and enlisted men at several military posts in the West.
 He received a large salary, and for a long period was stationed at
 the immense cavalry depot of Fort Riley, in Kansas.  Gilson was also
 employed by the British army during the Zulu war in Africa,
 as chief packer, at a salary of twenty dollars a day.  Now, however,
 since the railroads have penetrated the once considered impenetrable
 fastnesses of the mountains, packing will be relegated to the lost arts.