The Arizona Desert

One afternoon, far out on the sun-baked waste of sage, we made camp

near a clump of withered pinyon trees. The cold desert wind came down

upon us with the sudden darkness. Even the Mormons, who were finding

the trail for us across the drifting sands, forgot to sing and pray at

sundown. We huddled round the campfire, a tired and silent little

group. When out of the lonely, melancholy night some wandering Navajos

stole like shadows to our fire, we hailed their advent with delight.

They were good-natured Indians, willing to barter a blanket or

bracelet; and one of them, a tall, gaunt fellow, with the bearing of a

chief, could speak a little English.

"How," said he, in a deep chest voice.

"Hello, Noddlecoddy," greeted Jim Emmett, the Mormon guide.

"Ugh!" answered the Indian.

"Big paleface--Buffalo Jones---big chief--buffalo man," introduced

Emmett, indicating Jones.

"How." The Navajo spoke with dignity, and extended a friendly hand.

"Jones big white chief--rope buffalo--tie up tight," continued Emmett,

making motions with his arm, as if he were whirling a lasso.

"No big--heap small buffalo," said the Indian, holding his hand level

with his knee, and smiling broadly.

Jones, erect, rugged, brawny, stood in the full light of the campfire.

He had a dark, bronzed, inscrutable face; a stern mouth and square jaw,

keen eyes, half-closed from years of searching the wide plains; and

deep furrows wrinkling his cheeks. A strange stillness enfolded his

feature the tranquility earned from a long life of adventure.

He held up both muscular hands to the Navajo, and spread out his


"Rope buffalo--heap big buffalo--heap many--one sun."

The Indian straightened up, but kept his friendly smile.

"Me big chief," went on Jones, "me go far north--Land of Little

Sticks--Naza! Naza! rope musk-ox; rope White Manitou of Great Slave

Naza! Naza!"

"Naza!" replied the Navajo, pointing to the North Star; "no--no."

"Yes me big paleface--me come long way toward setting sun--go cross Big

Water--go Buckskin--Siwash--chase cougar."

The cougar, or mountain lion, is a Navajo god and the Navajos hold him

in as much fear and reverence as do the Great Slave Indians the musk-ox.

"No kill cougar," continued Jones, as the Indian's bold features

hardened. "Run cougar horseback--run long way--dogs chase cougar long

time--chase cougar up tree! Me big chief--me climb tree--climb high

up--lasso cougar--rope cougar--tie cougar all tight."

The Navajo's solemn face relaxed

"White man heap fun. No."

"Yes," cried Jones, extending his great arms. "Me strong; me rope

cougar--me tie cougar; ride off wigwam, keep cougar alive."

"No," replied the savage vehemently.

"Yes," protested Jones, nodding earnestly.

"No," answered the Navajo, louder, raising his dark head.

"Yes!" shouted Jones.

"BIG LIE!" the Indian thundered.

Jones joined good-naturedly in the laugh at his expense. The Indian had

crudely voiced a skepticism I had heard more delicately hinted in New

York, and singularly enough, which had strengthened on our way West, as

we met ranchers, prospectors and cowboys. But those few men I had

fortunately met, who really knew Jones, more than overbalanced the

doubt and ridicule cast upon him. I recalled a scarred old veteran of

the plains, who had talked to me in true Western bluntness:

"Say, young feller, I heerd yer couldn't git acrost the Canyon fer the

deep snow on the north rim. Wal, ye're lucky. Now, yer hit the trail

fer New York, an' keep goin'! Don't ever tackle the desert, 'specially

with them Mormons. They've got water on the brain, wusser 'n religion.

It's two hundred an' fifty miles from Flagstaff to Jones range, an'

only two drinks on the trail. I know this hyar Buffalo Jones. I knowed

him way back in the seventies, when he was doin' them ropin' stunts

thet made him famous as the preserver of the American bison. I know

about that crazy trip of his'n to the Barren Lands, after musk-ox. An'

I reckon I kin guess what he'll do over there in the Siwash. He'll rope

cougars--sure he will--an' watch 'em jump. Jones would rope the devil,

an' tie him down if the lasso didn't burn. Oh! he's hell on ropin'

things. An' he's wusser 'n hell on men, an' hosses, an' dogs."

All that my well-meaning friend suggested made me, of course, only the

more eager to go with Jones. Where I had once been interested in the

old buffalo hunter, I was now fascinated. And now I was with him in the

desert and seeing him as he was, a simple, quiet man, who fitted the

mountains and the silences, and the long reaches of distance.

"It does seem hard to believe--all this about Jones," remarked Judd,

one of Emmett's men.

"How could a man have the strength and the nerve? And isn't it cruel to

keep wild animals in captivity? it against God's word?"

Quick as speech could flow, Jones quoted: "And God said, 'Let us make

man in our image, and give him dominion over the fish of the sea, the

fowls of the air, over all the cattle, and over every creeping thing

that creepeth upon the earth'!"

"Dominion--over all the beasts of the field!" repeated Jones, his big

voice rolling out. He clenched his huge fists, and spread wide his long

arms. "Dominion! That was God's word!" The power and intensity of him

could be felt. Then he relaxed, dropped his arms, and once more grew

calm. But he had shown a glimpse of the great, strange and absorbing

passion of his life. Once he had told me how, when a mere child, he had

hazarded limb and neck to capture a fox squirrel, how he had held on to

the vicious little animal, though it bit his hand through; how he had

never learned to play the games of boyhood; that when the youths of the

little Illinois village were at play, he roamed the prairies, or the

rolling, wooded hills, or watched a gopher hole. That boy was father of

the man: for sixty years an enduring passion for dominion over wild

animals had possessed him, and made his life an endless pursuit.

Our guests, the Navajos, departed early, and vanished silently in the

gloom of the desert. We settled down again into a quiet that was broken

only by the low chant-like song of a praying Mormon. Suddenly the

hounds bristled, and old Moze, a surly and aggressive dog, rose and

barked at some real or imaginary desert prowler. A sharp command from

Jones made Moze crouch down, and the other hounds cowered close


"Better tie up the dogs," suggested Jones. "Like as not coyotes run

down here from the hills."

The hounds were my especial delight. But Jones regarded them with

considerable contempt. When all was said, this was no small wonder, for

that quintet of long-eared canines would have tried the patience of a

saint. Old Moze was a Missouri hound that Jones had procured in that

State of uncertain qualities; and the dog had grown old over

coon-trails. He was black and white, grizzled and battlescarred; and if

ever a dog had an evil eye, Moze was that dog. He had a way of wagging

his tail--an indeterminate, equivocal sort of wag, as if he realized

his ugliness and knew he stood little chance of making friends, but was

still hopeful and willing. As for me, the first time he manifested this

evidence of a good heart under a rough coat, he won me forever.

To tell of Moze's derelictions up to that time would take more space

than would a history of the whole trip; but the enumeration of several

incidents will at once stamp him as a dog of character, and will

establish the fact that even if his progenitors had never taken any

blue ribbons, they had at least bequeathed him fighting blood. At

Flagstaff we chained him in the yard of a livery stable. Next morning

we found him hanging by his chain on the other side of an eight-foot

fence. We took him down, expecting to have the sorrowful duty of

burying him; but Moze shook himself, wagged his tail and then pitched

into the livery stable dog. As a matter of fact, fighting was his

forte. He whipped all of the dogs in Flagstaff; and when our blood

hounds came on from California, he put three of them hors de combat at

once, and subdued the pup with a savage growl. His crowning feat,

however, made even the stoical Jones open his mouth in amaze. We had

taken Moze to the El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, and finding it

impossible to get over to the north rim, we left him with one of

Jones's men, called Rust, who was working on the Canyon trail. Rust's

instructions were to bring Moze to Flagstaff in two weeks. He brought

the dog a little ahead time, and roared his appreciation of the relief

it to get the responsibility off his hands. And he related many strange

things, most striking of which was how Moze had broken his chain and

plunged into the raging Colorado River, and tried to swim it just above

the terrible Sockdolager Rapids. Rust and his fellow-workmen watched

the dog disappear in the yellow, wrestling, turbulent whirl of waters,

and had heard his knell in the booming roar of the falls. Nothing but a

fish could live in that current; nothing but a bird could scale those

perpendicular marble walls. That night, however, when the men crossed

on the tramway, Moze met them with a wag of his tail. He had crossed

the river, and he had come back!

To the four reddish-brown, high-framed bloodhounds I had given the

names of Don, Tige, Jude and Ranger; and by dint of persuasion, had

succeeded in establishing some kind of family relation between them and

Moze. This night I tied up the bloodhounds, after bathing and salving

their sore feet; and I left Moze free, for he grew fretful and surly

under restraint.

The Mormons, prone, dark, blanketed figures, lay on the sand. Jones was

crawling into his bed. I walked a little way from the dying fire, and

faced the north, where the desert stretched, mysterious and

illimitable. How solemn and still it was! I drew in a great breath of

the cold air, and thrilled with a nameless sensation. Something was

there, away to the northward; it called to me from out of the dark and

gloom; I was going to meet it.

I lay down to sleep with the great blue expanse open to my eyes. The

stars were very large, and wonderfully bright, yet they seemed so much

farther off than I had ever seen them. The wind softly sifted the sand.

I hearkened to the tinkle of the cowbells on the hobbled horses. The

last thing I remembered was old Moze creeping close to my side, seeking

the warmth of my body.

When I awakened, a long, pale line showed out of the dun-colored clouds

in the east. It slowly lengthened, and tinged to red. Then the morning

broke, and the slopes of snow on the San Francisco peaks behind us

glowed a delicate pink. The Mormons were up and doing with the dawn.

They were stalwart men, rather silent, and all workers. It was

interesting to see them pack for the day's journey. They traveled with

wagons and mules, in the most primitive way, which Jones assured me was

exactly as their fathers had crossed the plains fifty years before, on

the trail to Utah.

All morning we made good time, and as we descended into the desert, the

air became warmer, the scrubby cedar growth began to fail, and the

bunches of sage were few and far between. I turned often to gaze back

at the San Francisco peaks. The snowcapped tips glistened and grew

higher, and stood out in startling relief. Some one said they could be

seen two hundred miles across the desert, and were a landmark and a

fascination to all travelers thitherward.

I never raised my eyes to the north that I did not draw my breath

quickly and grow chill with awe and bewilderment with the marvel of the

desert. The scaly red ground descended gradually; bare red knolls, like

waves, rolled away northward; black buttes reared their flat heads;

long ranges of sand flowed between them like streams, and all sloped

away to merge into gray, shadowy obscurity, into wild and desolate,

dreamy and misty nothingness.

"Do you see those white sand dunes there, more to the left?" asked

Emmett. "The Little Colorado runs in there. How far does it look to


"Thirty miles, perhaps," I replied, adding ten miles to my estimate.

"It's seventy-five. We'll get there day after to-morrow. If the snow in

the mountains has begun to melt, we'll have a time getting across."

That afternoon, a hot wind blew in my face, carrying fine sand that cut

and blinded. It filled my throat, sending me to the water cask till I

was ashamed. When I fell into my bed at night, I never turned. The next

day was hotter; the wind blew harder; the sand stung sharper.

About noon the following day, the horses whinnied, and the mules roused

out of their tardy gait. "They smell water," said Emmett. And despite

the heat, and the sand in my nostrils, I smelled it, too. The dogs,

poor foot-sore fellows, trotted on ahead down the trail. A few more

miles of hot sand and gravel and red stone brought us around a low mesa

to the Little Colorado.

It was a wide stream of swiftly running, reddish-muddy water. In the

channel, cut by floods, little streams trickled and meandered in all

directions. The main part of the river ran in close to the bank we were

on. The dogs lolled in the water; the horses and mules tried to run in,

but were restrained; the men drank, and bathed their faces. According

to my Flagstaff adviser, this was one of the two drinks I would get on

the desert, so I availed myself heartily of the opportunity. The water

was full of sand, but cold and gratefully thirst-quenching.

The Little Colorado seemed no more to me than a shallow creek; I heard

nothing sullen or menacing in its musical flow.

"Doesn't look bad, eh?" queried Emmett, who read my thought. "You'd be

surprised to learn how many men and Indians, horses, sheep and wagons

are buried under that quicksand."

The secret was out, and I wondered no more. At once the stream and wet

bars of sand took on a different color. I removed my boots, and waded

out to a little bar. The sand seemed quite firm, but water oozed out

around my feet; and when I stepped, the whole bar shook like jelly. I

pushed my foot through the crust, and the cold, wet sand took hold, and

tried to suck me down.

"How can you ford this stream with horses?" I asked Emmett.

"We must take our chances," replied he. "We'll hitch two teams to one

wagon, and run the horses. I've forded here at worse stages than this.

Once a team got stuck, and I had to leave it; another time the water

was high, and washed me downstream."

Emmett sent his son into the stream on a mule. The rider lashed his

mount, and plunging, splashing, crossed at a pace near a gallop. He

returned in the same manner, and reported one bad place near the other


Jones and I got on the first wagon and tried to coax up the dogs, but

they would not come. Emmett had to lash the four horses to start them;

and other Mormons riding alongside, yelled at them, and used their

whips. The wagon bowled into the water with a tremendous splash. We

were wet through before we had gone twenty feet. The plunging horses

were lost in yellow spray; the stream rushed through the wheels; the

Mormons yelled. I wanted to see, but was lost in a veil of yellow mist.

Jones yelled in my ear, but I could not hear what he said. Once the

wagon wheels struck a stone or log, almost lurching us overboard. A

muddy splash blinded me. I cried out in my excitement, and punched

Jones in the back. Next moment, the keen exhilaration of the ride gave

way to horror. We seemed to drag, and almost stop. Some one roared:

"Horse down!" One instant of painful suspense, in which imagination

pictured another tragedy added to the record of this deceitful river--a

moment filled with intense feeling, and sensation of splash, and yell,

and fury of action; then the three able horses dragged their comrade

out of the quicksand. He regained his feet, and plunged on. Spurred by

fear, the horses increased their efforts, and amid clouds of spray,

galloped the remaining distance to the other side.

Jones looked disgusted. Like all plainsmen, he hated water. Emmett and

his men calmly unhitched. No trace of alarm, or even of excitement

showed in their bronzed faces.

"We made that fine and easy," remarked Emmett.

So I sat down and wondered what Jones and Emmett, and these men would

consider really hazardous. I began to have a feeling that I would find

out; that experience for me was but in its infancy; that far across the

desert the something which had called me would show hard, keen,

perilous life. And I began to think of reserve powers of fortitude and


The other wagons were brought across without mishap; but the dogs did

not come with them. Jones called and called. The dogs howled and

howled. Finally I waded out over the wet bars and little streams to a

point several hundred yards nearer the dogs. Moze was lying down, but

the others were whining and howling in a state of great perturbation. I

called and called. They answered, and even ran into the water, but did

not start across.

"Hyah, Moze! hyah, you Indian!" I yelled, losing my patience. "You've

already swum the Big Colorado, and this is only a brook. Come on!"

This appeal evidently touched Moze, for he barked, and plunged in. He

made the water fly, and when carried off his feet, breasted the current

with energy and power. He made shore almost even with me, and wagged

his tail. Not to be outdone, Jude, Tige and Don followed suit, and

first one and then another was swept off his feet and carried

downstream. They landed below me. This left Ranger, the pup, alone on

the other shore. Of all the pitiful yelps ever uttered by a frightened

and lonely puppy, his were the most forlorn I had ever heard. Time

after time he plunged in, and with many bitter howls of distress, went

back. I kept calling, and at last, hoping to make him come by a show of

indifference, I started away. This broke his heart. Putting up his

head, he let out a long, melancholy wail, which for aught I knew might

have been a prayer, and then consigned himself to the yellow current.

Ranger swam like a boy learning. He seemed to be afraid to get wet. His

forefeet were continually pawing the air in front of his nose. When he

struck the swift place, he went downstream like a flash, but still kept

swimming valiantly. I tried to follow along the sand-bar, but found it

impossible. I encouraged him by yelling. He drifted far below, stranded

on an island, crossed it, and plunged in again, to make shore almost

out of my sight. And when at last I got to dry sand, there was Ranger,

wet and disheveled, but consciously proud and happy.

After lunch we entered upon the seventy-mile stretch from the Little to

the Big Colorado.

Imagination had pictured the desert for me as a vast, sandy plain, flat

and monotonous. Reality showed me desolate mountains gleaming bare in

the sun, long lines of red bluffs, white sand dunes, and hills of blue

clay, areas of level ground--in all, a many-hued, boundless world in

itself, wonderful and beautiful, fading all around into the purple haze

of deceiving distance.

Thin, clear, sweet, dry, the desert air carried a languor, a

dreaminess, tidings of far-off things, and an enthralling promise. The

fragrance of flowers, the beauty and grace of women, the sweetness of

music, the mystery of life--all seemed to float on that promise. It was

the air breathed by the lotus-eaters, when they dreamed, and wandered

no more.

Beyond the Little Colorado, we began to climb again. The sand was

thick; the horses labored; the drivers shielded their faces. The dogs

began to limp and lag. Ranger had to be taken into a wagon; and then,

one by one, all of the other dogs except Moze. He refused to ride, and

trotted along with his head down.

Far to the front the pink cliffs, the ragged mesas, the dark, volcanic

spurs of the Big Colorado stood up and beckoned us onward. But they

were a far hundred miles across the shifting sands, and baked day, and

ragged rocks. Always in the rear rose the San Francisco peaks, cold and

pure, startlingly clear and close in the rare atmosphere.

We camped near another water hole, located in a deep, yellow-colored

gorge, crumbling to pieces, a ruin of rock, and silent as the grave. In

the bottom of the canyon was a pool of water, covered with green scum.

My thirst was effectually quenched by the mere sight of it. I slept

poorly, and lay for hours watching the great stars. The silence was

painfully oppressive. If Jones had not begun to give a respectable

imitation of the exhaust pipe on a steamboat, I should have been

compelled to shout aloud, or get up; but this snoring would have

dispelled anything. The morning came gray and cheerless. I got up stiff

and sore, with a tongue like a rope.

All day long we ran the gauntlet of the hot, flying sand. Night came

again, a cold, windy night. I slept well until a mule stepped on my

bed, which was conducive to restlessness. At dawn, cold, gray clouds

tried to blot out the rosy east. I could hardly get up. My lips were

cracked; my tongue swollen to twice its natural size; my eyes smarted

and burned. The barrels and kegs of water were exhausted. Holes that

had been dug in the dry sand of a dry streambed the night before in the

morning yielded a scant supply of muddy alkali water, which went to the


Only twice that day did I rouse to anything resembling enthusiasm. We

came to a stretch of country showing the wonderful diversity of the

desert land. A long range of beautifully rounded clay stones bordered

the trail. So symmetrical were they that I imagined them works of

sculptors. Light blue, dark blue, clay blue, marine blue, cobalt

blue--every shade of blue was there, but no other color. The other time

that I awoke to sensations from without was when we came to the top of

a ridge. We had been passing through red-lands. Jones called the place

a strong, specific word which really was illustrative of the heat amid

those scaling red ridges. We came out where the red changed abruptly to

gray. I seemed always to see things first, and I cried out: "Look! here

are a red lake and trees!"

"No, lad, not a lake," said old Jim, smiling at me; "that's what haunts

the desert traveler. It's only mirage!"

So I awoke to the realization of that illusive thing, the mirage, a

beautiful lie, false as stairs of sand. Far northward a clear rippling

lake sparkled in the sunshine. Tall, stately trees, with waving green

foliage, bordered the water. For a long moment it lay there, smiling in

the sun, a thing almost tangible; and then it faded. I felt a sense of

actual loss. So real had been the illusion that I could not believe I

was not soon to drink and wade and dabble in the cool waters.

Disappointment was keen. This is what maddens the prospector or

sheep-herder lost in the desert. Was it not a terrible thing to be

dying of thirst, to see sparkling water, almost to smell it and then

realize suddenly that all was only a lying track of the desert, a lure,

a delusion? I ceased to wonder at the Mormons, and their search for

water, their talk of water. But I had not realized its true

significance. I had not known what water was. I had never appreciated

it. So it was my destiny to learn that water is the greatest thing on

earth. I hung over a three-foot hole in a dry stream-bed, and watched

it ooze and seep through the sand, and fill up--oh, so slowly; and I

felt it loosen my parched tongue, and steal through all my dry body

with strength and life. Water is said to constitute three fourths of

the universe. However that may be, on the desert it is the whole world,

and all of life.

Two days passed by, all hot sand and wind and glare. The Mormons sang

no more at evening; Jones was silent; the dogs were limp as rags.

At Moncaupie Wash we ran into a sandstorm. The horses turned their

backs to it, and bowed their heads patiently. The Mormons covered

themselves. I wrapped a blanket round my head and hid behind a sage

bush. The wind, carrying the sand, made a strange hollow roar. All was

enveloped in a weird yellow opacity. The sand seeped through the sage

bush and swept by with a soft, rustling sound, not unlike the wind in

the rye. From time to time I raised a corner of my blanket and peeped

out. Where my feet had stretched was an enormous mound of sand. I felt

the blanket, weighted down, slowly settle over me.

Suddenly as it had come, the sandstorm passed. It left a changed world

for us. The trail was covered; the wheels hub-deep in sand; the horses,

walking sand dunes. I could not close my teeth without grating harshly

on sand.

We journeyed onward, and passed long lines of petrified trees, some a

hundred feet in length, lying as they had fallen, thousands of years

before. White ants crawled among the ruins. Slowly climbing the sandy

trail, we circled a great red bluff with jagged peaks, that had seemed

an interminable obstacle. A scant growth of cedar and sage again made

its appearance. Here we halted to pass another night. Under a cedar I

heard the plaintive, piteous bleat of an animal. I searched, and

presently found a little black and white lamb, scarcely able to stand.

It came readily to me, and I carried it to the wagon.

"That's a Navajo lamb," said Emmett. "It's lost. There are Navajo

Indians close by."

"Away in the desert we heard its cry," quoted one of the Mormons.

Jones and I climbed the red mesa near camp to see the sunset. All the

western world was ablaze in golden glory. Shafts of light shot toward

the zenith, and bands of paler gold, tinging to rose, circled away from

the fiery, sinking globe. Suddenly the sun sank, the gold changed to

gray, then to purple, and shadows formed in the deep gorge at our feet.

So sudden was the transformation that soon it was night, the solemn,

impressive night of the desert. A stillness that seemed too sacred to

break clasped the place; it was infinite; it held the bygone ages, and


More days, and miles, miles, miles! The last day's ride to the Big

Colorado was unforgettable. We rode toward the head of a gigantic red

cliff pocket, a veritable inferno, immeasurably hot, glaring, awful. It

towered higher and higher above us. When we reached a point of this red

barrier, we heard the dull rumbling roar of water, and we came out, at

length, on a winding trail cut in the face of a blue overhanging the

Colorado River. The first sight of most famous and much-heralded

wonders of nature is often disappointing; but never can this be said of

the blood-hued Rio Colorado. If it had beauty, it was beauty that

appalled. So riveted was my gaze that I could hardly turn it across the

river, where Emmett proudly pointed out his lonely home--an oasis set

down amidst beetling red cliffs. How grateful to the eye was the green

of alfalfa and cottonwood! Going round the bluff trail, the wheels had

only a foot of room to spare; and the sheer descent into the red,

turbid, congested river was terrifying.

I saw the constricted rapids, where the Colorado took its plunge into

the box-like head of the Grand Canyon of Arizona; and the deep,

reverberating boom of the river, at flood height, was a fearful thing

to hear. I could not repress a shudder at the thought of crossing above

that rapid.

The bronze walls widened as we proceeded, and we got down presently to

a level, where a long wire cable stretched across the river. Under the

cable ran a rope. On the other side was an old scow moored to the bank.

"Are we going across in that?" I asked Emmett, pointing to the boat.

"We'll all be on the other side before dark," he replied cheerily.

I felt that I would rather start back alone over the desert than trust

myself in such a craft, on such a river. And it was all because I had

had experience with bad rivers, and thought I was a judge of dangerous

currents. The Colorado slid with a menacing roar out of a giant split

in the red wall, and whirled, eddied, bulged on toward its confinement

in the iron-ribbed canyon below.

In answer to shots fired, Emmett's man appeared on the other side, and

rode down to the ferry landing. Here he got into a skiff, and rowed

laboriously upstream for a long distance before he started across, and

then swung into the current. He swept down rapidly, and twice the skiff

whirled, and completely turned round; but he reached our bank safely.

Taking two men aboard he rowed upstream again, close to the shore, and

returned to the opposite side in much the same manner in which he had

come over.

The three men pushed out the scow, and grasping the rope overhead,

began to pull. The big craft ran easily. When the current struck it,

the wire cable sagged, the water boiled and surged under it, raising

one end, and then the other. Nevertheless, five minutes were all that

were required to pull the boat over.

It was a rude, oblong affair, made of heavy planks loosely put

together, and it leaked. When Jones suggested that we get the agony

over as quickly as possible, I was with him, and we embarked together.

Jones said he did not like the looks of the tackle; and when I thought

of his by no means small mechanical skill, I had not added a cheerful

idea to my consciousness. The horses of the first team had to be

dragged upon the scow, and once on, they reared and plunged.

When we started, four men pulled the rope, and Emmett sat in the stern,

with the tackle guys in hand. As the current hit us, he let out the

guys, which maneuver caused the boat to swing stern downstream. When it

pointed obliquely, he made fast the guys again. I saw that this served

two purposes: the current struck, slid alongside, and over the stern,

which mitigated the danger, and at the same time helped the boat across.

To look at the river was to court terror, but I had to look. It was an

infernal thing. It roared in hollow, sullen voice, as a monster

growling. It had voice, this river, and one strangely changeful. It

moaned as if in pain--it whined, it cried. Then at times it would seem

strangely silent. The current as complex and mutable as human life. It

boiled, beat and bulged. The bulge itself was an incompressible thing,

like a roaring lift of the waters from submarine explosion. Then it

would smooth out, and run like oil. It shifted from one channel to

another, rushed to the center of the river, then swung close to one

shore or the other. Again it swelled near the boat, in great, boiling,

hissing eddies.

"Look! See where it breaks through the mountain!" yelled Jones in my


I looked upstream to see the stupendous granite walls separated in a

gigantic split that must have been made by a terrible seismic

disturbance; and from this gap poured the dark, turgid, mystic flood.

I was in a cold sweat when we touched shore, and I jumped long before

the boat was properly moored.

Emmett was wet to the waist where the water had surged over him. As he

sat rearranging some tackle I remarked to him that of course he must be

a splendid swimmer, or he would not take such risks.

"No, I can't swim a stroke," he replied; "and it wouldn't be any use if

I could. Once in there a man's a goner."

"You've had bad accidents here?" I questioned.

"No, not bad. We only drowned two men last year. You see, we had to tow

the boat up the river, and row across, as then we hadn't the wire. Just

above, on this side, the boat hit a stone, and the current washed over

her, taking off the team and two men."

"Didn't you attempt to rescue them?" I asked, after waiting a moment.

"No use. They never came up."

"Isn't the river high now?" I continued, shuddering as I glanced out at

the whirling logs and drifts.

"High, and coming up. If I don't get the other teams over to-day I'll

wait until she goes down. At this season she rises and lowers every day

or so, until June then comes the big flood, and we don't cross for


I sat for three hours watching Emmett bring over the rest of his party,

which he did without accident, but at the expense of great effort. And

all the time in my ears dinned the roar, the boom, the rumble of this

singularly rapacious and purposeful river--a river of silt, a red river

of dark, sinister meaning, a river with terrible work to perform, a

river which never gave up its dead.

The Argument The Arrival facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail