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Into The Desert








From: Cabin Fever

If you want to know what mad adventure Bud found himself launched upon, just read a few extracts from the diary which Cash Markham, being a methodical sort of person, kept faithfully from day to day, until he cut his thumb on a can of tomatoes which he had been cutting open with his knife. Alter that Bud kept the diary for him, jotting down the main happenings of the day. When Cash's thumb healed so that he could hold a pencil with some comfort, Bud thankfully relinquished the task. He hated to write, anyway, and it seemed to him that Cash ought to trust his memory a little more than he did.

I shall skip a good many days, of course—though the diary did not, I assure you.

First, there was the outfit. When they had outfitted at Needles for the real trip, Cash set down the names of all living things in this wise:

Outfit, Cassius B. Markham, Bud Moore, Daddy a bull terrier, bay horse, Mars, Pete a sorrel, Ed a burro, Swayback a jinny, Maude a jack, Cora another jinny, Billy a riding burro & Sways colt & Maude colt a white mean looking little devil.

Sat. Apr. 1.

Up at 7:30. Snowing and blowing 3 ft. of snow on ground. Managed to get breakfast & returned to bed. Fed Monte & Peter our cornmeal, poor things half frozen. Made a fire in tent at 1:30 & cooked a meal. Much smoke, ripped hole in back of tent. Three burros in sight weathering fairly well. No sign of let up everything under snow & wind a gale. Making out fairly well under adverse conditions. Worst weather we have experienced.

Apr. 2.

Up at 7 A.M. Fine & sunny snow going fast. Fixed up tent & cleaned up generally. Alkali flat a lake, can't cross till it dries. Stock some scattered, brought them all together.

Apr. 3.

Up 7 A.M. Clear & bright. Snow going fast. All creeks flowing. Fine sunny day.

Apr. 4.

Up 6 A.M. Clear & bright. Went up on divide, met 3 punchers who said road impassable. Saw 2 trains stalled away across alkali flat. Very boggy and moist.

Apr.5.

Up 5 A.M. Clear & bright. Start out, on Monte & Pete at 6. Animals traveled well, did not appear tired. Feed fine all over. Plenty water everywhere.

Not much like Bud's auto stage, was it? But the very novelty of it, the harking back to old plains days, appealed to him and sent him forward from dull hardship to duller discomfort, and kept the quirk at the corners of his lips and the twinkle in his eyes. Bud liked to travel this way, though it took them all day long to cover as much distance as he had been wont to slide behind him in an hour. He liked it—this slow, monotonous journeying across the lean land which Cash had traversed years ago, where the stark, black pinnacles and rough knobs of rock might be hiding Indians with good eyesight and a vindictive temperament. Cash told him many things out of his past, while they poked along, driving the packed burros before them. Things which he never had set down in his diary—things which he did not tell to any one save his few friends.

But it was not always mud and rain and snow, as Cash's meager chronicle betrays.

May 6.

Up at sunrise. Monte & Pete gone leaving no tracks. Bud found them 3 miles South near Indian village. Bud cut his hair, did a good job. Prospector dropped into camp with fist full of good looking quartz. Stock very thirsty all day. Very hot Tied Monte & Pete up for night.

May 8.

Up 5:30. Fine, but hot. Left 7:30. Pete walked over a sidewinder & Bud shot him ten ft. in air. Also prior killed another beside road. Feed as usual, desert weeds. Pulled grain growing side of track and fed plugs. Water from cistern & R.R. ties for fuel. Put up tent for shade. Flies horrible.

May 9.

Up 4. Left 6. Feed as usual. Killed a sidewinder in a bush with 3 shots of Krag. Made 21 m. today. R.R. ties for fuel Cool breeze all day.

May 11.

Up at sunrise. Bud washed clothes. Tested rock. Fine looking mineral country here. Dressed Monte's withers with liniment greatly reducing swelling from saddle-gall. He likes to have it dressed & came of his own accord. Day quite comfortable.

May 15.

Up 4. Left 6:30 over desert plain & up dry wash. Daddy suffered from heat & ran into cactus while looking for shade. Got it in his mouth, tongue, feet & all over body. Fixed him up poor creature groaned all evening & would not eat his supper. Poor feed & wood here. Water found by digging 2 ft. in sand in sandstone basins in bed of dry wash. Monte lay down en route. Very hot & all suffered from heat.

May 16.

Bud has sick headache. Very hot so laid around camp all day. Put two blankets up on tent pols for sun break. Daddy under weather from cactus experience. Papago Indian boy about 18 on fine bay mare driving 4 ponies watered at our well. Moon almost full, lots of mocking birds. Pretty songs.

May 17.

Up 7:30 Bud some better. Day promises hot, but slight breeze. White gauzy clouds in sky. Daddy better. Monte & Pete gone all day. Hunted twice but impossible to track them in this stony soil Bud followed trail, found them 2 mi. east of here in flat sound asleep about 3 P.M. At 6 went to flat 1/4 mi. N. of camp to tie Pete, leading Monte by bell strap almost stepped on rattler 3 ft. long. 10 rattles & a button. Killed him. To date, 1 Prairie rattler, 3 Diamond back & 8 sidewinders, 12 in all. Bud feels better.

May 18.

At 4 A. M. Bud woke up by stock passing camp. Spoke to me who half awake hollered, "sic Daddy!" Daddy sicced 'em & they went up bank of wash to right. Bud swore it was Monte & Pete. I went to flat & found M. & P. safe. Water in sink all gone. Bud got stomach trouble. I threw up my breakfast. Very hot weather. Lanced Monte's back & dressed it with creoline. Turned them loose & away they put again.

Soon after this they arrived at the place where Thompson had located his claim. It was desert, of course, sloping away on one side to a dreary waste of sand and weeds with now and then a giant cactus standing gloomily alone with malformed lingers stretched stiffly to the staring blue sky. Behind where they pitched their final camp—Camp 48, Cash Markham recorded it in his diary—the hills rose. But they were as stark and barren almost as the desert below. Black rock humps here and there, with ledges of mineral bearing rock. Bushes and weeds and dry washes for the rest, with enough struggling grass to feed the horses and burros if they rustled hard enough for it.

They settled down quietly to a life of grinding monotony that would have driven some men crazy. But Bud, because it was a man's kind of monotony, bore it cheerfully. He was out of doors, and he was hedged about by no rules or petty restrictions. He liked Cash Markham and he liked Pete, his saddle horse, and he was fond of Daddy who was still paying the penalty of seeking too carelessly for shade and, according to Cash's record, "getting it in his mouth, tongue, feet & all over body." Bud liked it—all except the blistering heat and the "side-winders" and other rattlers. He did not bother with trying to formulate any explanation of why he liked it. It may have been picturesque, though picturesqueness of that sort is better appreciated when it is seen through the dim radiance of memory that blurs sordid details. Certainly it was not adventurous, as men have come to judge adventure.

Life droned along very dully. Day after day was filled with petty details. A hill looks like a mountain if it rises abruptly out of a level plain, with no real mountains in sight to measure it by. Here's the diary to prove how little things came to look important because the days held no contrasts. If it bores you to read it, think what it must have been to live it.

June 10.

Up at 6:30 Baked till 11. Then unrigged well and rigged up an incline for the stock to water. Bud dressed Daddy's back. Stock did not come in all morning, but Monte & Pete came in before supper. Incline water shaft does not work. Prospected & found 8 ledges. Bud found none.

June 11.

After breakfast fixed up shack—shelves, benches, tools, etc. Cleaned guns. Bud dressed Daddy's back which is much better. Strong gold in test of ledge, I found below creek. Took more specimens to sample. Cora comes in with a little black colt newly born. Proud as a bull pup with two tails. Monte & Pete did not come in so we went by lantern light a mile or so down the wash & found them headed this way & snake them in to drink about 80 gallons of water apiece. Daddy tied up and howling like a demon all the while. Bud took a bath.

June 12.

Bud got out and got breakfast again. Then started off on Pete to hunt trail that makes short cut 18 miles to Bend. Roofed the kitchen. Bud got back about 1:30, being gone 6 hours. Found trail & two good ledges. Cora & colt came for water. Other burros did not. Brought in specimens from ledge up creek that showed very rich gold in tests. Burros came in at 9:30. Bud got up and tied them up.

June 13.

Bud gets breakfast. I took Sway & brought in load of wood. Bud went out and found a wash lined with good looking ledges. Hung up white rags on bushes to identify same. Found large ledge of good quartz showing fine in tests about one mile down wash. Bud dressed Daddy's back. Located a claim west of Thompson's. Burros did not come in except Cora & colt. Pete & Monte came separated.

June 14.

Bud got breakfast & dressed Daddy's back. Very hot day. Stock came in about 2. Tied up Billy Maud & Cora. Bud has had headache. Monte & Pete did not come in. Bud went after them & found them 4 miles away where we killed the Gila monster. Sent 2 samples from big ledge to Tucson for assay. Daddy better.

June 15.

Up 2.30. Bud left for Bend at 4. Walked down to flat but could not see stock. About 3 Cora & Colt came in for water & Sway & Ed from the south about 5. No Monte. Monte got in about midnight & went past kitchen to creek on run. Got up, found him very nervous & frightened & tied him up.

June 17.

Bud got back 4 P.M. in gale of wind & sand. Burros did not come in for water. Very hot. Bud brought canned stuff. Rigged gallows for No. 2 shaft also block & tackle & pail for drinking water, also washed clothes. While drying went around in cap undershirt & shoes.

June 18.

Burros came in during night for water. Hot as nether depths of infernal regions. Went up on hill a mile away. Seamed with veins similar to shaft No. 2 ore. Blew in two faces & got good looking ore seamed with a black incrustation, oxide of something, but what could not determine. Could find neither silver nor copper in it. Monte & Pete came in about 1 & tied them up. Very hot. Hottest day yet, even the breeze scorching. Test of ore showed best yet. One half of solution in tube turning to chloride of gold, 3 tests showing same. Burros except Ed & Cora do not come in days any more. Bud made a gate for kitchen to keep burros out.

The next morning it was that Cash cut the ball of his right thumb open on the sharp edge of a tomato can. He wanted the diary to go on as usual. He had promised, he said, to keep one for the widow who wanted a record of the way the work was carried on, and the progress made. Bud could not see that there had been much progress, except as a matter of miles. Put a speedometer on one of his legs, he told Cash, and he'd bet it would register more mileage chasing after them fool burros than his auto stage could show after a full season. As for working the widow's claim, it was not worth working, from all he could judge of it. And if it were full of gold as the United States treasury, the burros took up all their time so they couldn't do much. Between doggone stock drinking or not drinking and the darn fool diary that had to be kept, Bud opined that they needed an extra hand or two. Bud was peevish, these days. Gila Bend had exasperated him because it was not the town it called itself, but a huddle of adobe huts. He had come away in the sour mood of a thirsty man who finds an alkali spring sparkling deceptively under a rock. Furthermore, the nights had been hot and the mosquitoes a humming torment. And as a last affliction he was called upon to keep the diary going. He did it, faithfully enough but in a fashion of his own.

First he read back a few pages to get the hang of the thing. Then he shook down Cash's fountain pen, that dried quickly in that heat. Then he read another page as a model, and wrote:

June 19.

Mosquitoes last night was worse than the heat and that was worse than Gila Bend's great white way. Hunted up the burros. Pete and Monte came in and drank. Monte had colic. We fed them and turned them loose but the blamed fools hung around all day and eat up some sour beans I throwed out. Cash was peeved and swore they couldn't have another grain of feed. But Monte come to the shack and watched Cash through a knothole the size of one eye till Cash opened up his heart and the bag. Cash cut his thumb opening tomatoes. The tomatoes wasn't hurt any.

June 20.

Got breakfast. Bill and harem did not come to water. Cash done the regular hike after them. His thumb don't hurt him for hazing donkeys. Bill and harem come in after Cash left. They must of saw him go. Cash was out four hours and come in mad. Shot a hidrophobia skunk out by the creek. Nothing doing. Too hot.

June 21.

The sun would blister a mud turtle so he'd holler. Cash put in most of day holding a parasol over his garden patch. Burros did not miss their daily drink. Night brings mosquitoes with their wings singed but their stingers O.K. They must hole up daytimes or they would fry.

June 22.

Thought I know what heat was. I never did before. Cash took a bath. It was his first. Burros did not come to water. Cash and I tried to sleep on kitchen roof but the darned mosquitoes fed up on us and then played heavenly choir all night.

June 25.

Cash got back from Bend. Thumb is better and he can have this job any time now. He hustled up a widow that made a couple of mosquito bags to go over our heads. No shape (bags, not widow) but help keep flies and mosquitoes from chewing on us all day and all night. Training for hades. I can stand the heat as well as the old boy with the pitch-fork. Ain't got used to brimstone yet, but I'd trade mosquitoes for sulphur smoke and give some boot. Worried about Cash. He took a bath today again, using water I had packed for mine. Heat must be getting him.

June 26.

Cash opened up thumb again, trying to brain Pete with rock. Pete got halfway into kitchen and eat biggest part of a pie I made. Cash threw jagged rock, hit Pete in side of jaw. Cut big gash. Swelled now like a punkin. Cash and I tangled over same. I'm going to quit. I have had enough of this darn country. Creek's drying up, and mosquitoes have found way to crawl under bags. Cash wants me to stay till we find good claim, but Cash can go to thunder.

Then Cash's record goes on:

June 27.

Bud very sick & out of head. Think it is heat, which is terrible. Talked all night about burros, gasoline, & camphor balls which he seemed wanting to buy in gunny sack. No sleep for either. Burros came in for water about daylight. Picketed Monte & Pete as may need doctor if Bud grows worse. Thumb nearly well.

June 27. Bud same, slept most of day. Gave liver pills & made gruel of cornmeal, best could do with present stores. Burros came at about 3 but could not drink owing to bees around water hold. Monte got stung and kicked over water cans & buckets I had salted for burros. Burros put for hills again. No way of driving off bees.

June 28.

Burros came & drank in night. Cooler breeze, Bud some better & slept. Sway has badly swollen neck. May be rattler bite or perhaps bee. Bud wanted cigarettes but smoked last the day before he took sick. Gave him more liver pills & sponge off with water every hour. Best can do under circumstances. Have not prospected account Bud's sickness.

June 29.

Very hot all day, breeze like blast from furnace. Burros refuse to leave flat. Bees better, as can't fly well in this wind. Bud worse. High fever & very restless & flighty. Imagines much trouble with automobile, talk very technical & can't make head or tail of it. Monte & Pete did not come in, left soon as turned loose. No feed for them here & figured Bud too sick to travel or stay alone so horses useless at present. Sponged frequently with coolest water can get, seems to give some relief as he is quieter afterwards.

July 4th.

Monte & Pete came in the night & hung around all day. Drove them away from vicinity of shack several times but they returned & moped in shade of house. Terrible hot, strong gusty wind. Bud sat up part of day, slept rest of time. Looks very thin and great hollows under eyes, but chief trouble seems to be, no cigarettes. Shade over radishes & lettice works all right. Watered copiously at daylight & again at dusk. Doing fine. Fixed fence which M & P. broke down while tramping around. Prospected west of ranche. Found enormous ledge of black quartz, looks like sulphur stem during volcanic era but may be iron. Strong gold & heavy precipitate in test, silver test poor but on filtering showed like white of egg in tube (unusual). Clearing iron out showed for gold the highest yet made, being more pronounced with Fenosulphate than $1500 rock have seen. Immense ledge of it & slightest estimate from test at least $10. Did not tell Bud as keeping for surprise when he is able to visit ledge. Very monotonous since Bud has been sick. Bud woke up & said Hell of a Fourth & turned over & went to sleep again with mosquito net over head to keep off flies. Burros came in after dark, all but Cora & Colt, which arrived about midnight. Daddy gone since yesterday morning leaving no trace.

July 5.

Miserable hot night. Burros trickled in sometime during night. Bud better, managed to walk to big ledge after sundown. Suggests we call it the Burro Lode. His idea of wit, claims we have occupied camp all summer for sake of timing burros when they come to waterhole. Wish to call it Columbia mine for patriotic reasons having found it on Fourth. Will settle it soon so as to put up location. Put in 2 shots & pulpel samples for assay. Rigged windows on shack to keep out bees, nats & flies & mosquitoes. Bud objects because it keeps out air as well. Took them off. Sick folks must be humored. Hot, miserable and sleepless. Bud very restless.

July 6.

Cool wind makes weather endurable, but bees terrible in kitchen & around water-hole. Flipped a dollar to settle name of big ledge. Bud won tails, Burro lode. Must cultivate my sense of humor so as to see the joke. Bud agrees to stay & help develop claim. Still very weak, puttered around house all day cleaning & baking bread & stewing fruit which brought bees by millions so we could not eat same till after dark when they subsided. Bud got stung twice in kitchen. Very peevish & full of cuss. Says positively must make trip to Bend & get cigarettes tomorrow or will blow up whole outfit. Has already blowed up same several times today with no damage. Burros came in about 5. Monte & Pete later, tied them up with grain. Pete has very bad eye. Bud will ride Monte if not too hot for trip. Still no sign of daddy, think must be dead or stolen though nobody to steal same in country.

July 7.

Put in 2 shots on Burro Lode & got her down to required depth. Hot. Bud finds old location on widow's claim, upturns all previous calculation & information given me by her. Wrote letter explaining same, which Bud will mail. Bud left 4 P.M. should make Bend by midnight. Much better but still weak Burros came in late & hung around water hole. Put up monument at Burro Lode. Sent off samples to assay at Tucson. Killed rattler near shack, making 16 so far killed.





Next: Many Barren Months And Miles

Previous: Bud Takes To The Hills



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