Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 RONE Awards, Week Six - Anthologies

RAWHIDE 'N ROSES is up for a RONE this week

I have a story in this anthology and I created the cover


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Emigrant Life in Kansas - Notice

How have you enjoyed this journal? Pretty interesting, right? Would you like to read more? There are several more chapters and I'm more than happy to post them, but only if there are readers who want to see them. But I'm considering changing it from blog post entries to a newsletter.

If you want to read more, please let me know by going to my blog page, http://www.charleneraddon.blogspot.com and signing up for my newsletter. You can also leave your email address in the comments below.

Thank you.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Emigrant Life in Kansas by Percy G. Ebbutt -- Chapter V



Our crops.--Pig killing.--First Christmas on the prairie.--Losing cattle.--Visited by Indians.--Cold weather.--Moving our house.--Building stone.--Our mule and pony.--Soap-making.--Indian corn.--Our family party gets smaller.--The blue bird.--The Prices.--Our herd.--Sleeping out of doors.--Cooking frogs.--Bad water.--Breaking up.--The prairie fire
ALTHOUGH the first year crops are never expected to be so good as those grown on older land, owing to the sods being so full of roots that it takes some time to decay, we still got in a very fair quantity of seed, more particularly of small grain-wheat, oats, and rye. Indian corn does not grow so well as these on sod land.
We had a big patch of sorghum, and that grew first-rate. The "garden truck," too, was very prolific, as of course on a small patch of land we were better able to pulverise the soil than on a whole field. Some pumpkins grew

Page 75
to a tremendous size, one measuring about two feet by eighteen inches, and turning the scale at sixty-eight pounds. Melons, squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and hosts of other things grew without any attention, and in such quantities that we used them to feed the pigs upon.
The pigs were easily maintained through the summer; for even if corn was scarce the produce of the garden and field was soon available for them, and in addition to this there were several kinds of weeds which grew close to hand, which formed very good food for them.
There were great bushy plants called "pigweeds," which grew five or six feet high, which it was impossible for any one to pull up. We used, therefore, to cut them down with hatchets, and as they sprouted again and grew with great rapidity, we had a practically inexhaustible supply. These weeds form the usual summer food for pigs all about the country.
There was another kind very similar, called "Lamb's quarter," from the shape of its leaf, which in the spring, when young, was cooked and eaten like spinach.
In the winter we had a lively time pig

Page 76
killing. Humphrey always stuck the pigs, but we all helped at the scalding and scraping off of the bristles. Big hogs we always shot first to save the trouble of holding. On one occasion Parker wished to try his hand at sticking pigs, but after one was caught and got in position, he backed out, saying that he did not like to.
We used to keep a pig in the house during the winter to cut from-a dead one. It used to hang in one corner of the room over the flour barrel, and was frozen as hard as a board. We used just to take a hatchet and cut off as much as we wanted to fry.
Time ran on, and Christmas soon came round, the first we had spent on the prairie, though not in the States-that one we had spent at Junction City.
We had a very quiet time, but managed to get up a very good spread, with a regular Christmas pudding. For the latter a special journey had been made to town for the various ingredients, all of which we obtained without much trouble, with the exception of suet. As our staple food was pork, and there were no butchers in town, we were rather in a fix, and

Page 77
thought our pudding would suffer, until at last we got hold of some buffalo suet from a hunter returning from the west. Despite a few minor accidents our pudding was a great success, and we had quite a banquet with roast sucking-pig, wild ducks, and prairie fowls.
This winter was much more severe than the one we had spent in Junction City, and the cattle suffered exceedingly. Of course we had had no experience, and did not know what provision to make for the winter either with regard to shelter or food. To begin with, our corral was on the side of a hill facing the north, instead of the south, as it ought to have done, and we built no sheds, except for the horses. Then, although we had got in a good lot of hay, the cattle were just allowed to help themselves, and the consequence was that they burrowed great holes in the sides of the stack, and wasted it to a fearful extent.
We had some exceedingly cold weather and a late spring, and lost nearly half of the cattle we started with.
One day we had two Indians come in to beg, and our frozen pig took their fancy very much. We gave them quite a large piece, but it did

Page 78
not seem to meet their views exactly, as one began to chop with his hand at the place he would like it cut, and to tell us in pantomimic language how many "papooses" (children) he had at home in his wigwam. One was very anxious to know if the old plated forks which we had brought from England were "siller." They took their departure after a while with their pork and some flour, and after having a good feed.
They seemed to have spread a good report of our hospitality among their brethren, for we were visited by a good many for some time, but we told them that we had nothing for them, and then they ceased to come.
The Indians which were about here were a very mongrel lot; they ha* very few of the supposed attributes of the "noble red man" of Fenimore Cooper.
They went about hunting and fishing, and trying to beg, borrow, or steal all they could, doing anything so as to live without working. If there were any deer in the neighbourhood, they were sure to get them, as they would follow them for days.
I spoke of frozen pork in the house just now.

Page 79
The winter there is about cold enough to "freeze the hair off an Arctic dog," as the saying goes. It was a matter of no small difficulty to write a letter to the old country in the winter, as the ink was frozen a solid lump, and had to be kept on the stove while in use. While sitting round the red-hot stove at breakfast, one's coffee would freeze in a very short time if placed on the table a few feet from the fire.
If by chance we left our tin pail full of water when we went to bed, we could hear it popping away during the night like a pistol, as it expanded with the frost, and in the morning the water would have changed into a solid block of ice.
Hot water thrown into the air out of doors would come down as hail. During weather like this we had to be mighty careful how we handled iron or steel; for the frost in an axe or hammer would cause it to cling to a damp hand.
Once Humphrey was driving in some nails in the stable, and thoughtlessly put some in his mouth. He was obliged to go to the house and get some hot water before he could

Page 80
remove them. If he had attempted to pull them out the skin and flesh would have come too.
What a treat it was to sit down and milk a cow in such weather! It was as much as the milk was worth. We never kept more than one in milk through the winter, and not always that, so that butter was rather scarce, unless we had enough salted down.
It was quite a matter of discussion, too, as to who should get up and light the fire, as no one liked to turn out first on a cold morning. There was a sort of general watching and waiting all round to see if some one else would not make a start. Our blankets were a sight in the morning. A person's form would be outlined in hoar frost, and around the head the clothes were frequently frozen quite hard, where the breath had come through; for it was almost impossible to keep one's head from under the cover.
Our house being only of boards, it was not very warm, for the wind would come whistling through like a knife; but we managed to improve it after a while, putting dry earth in between the two boards-the outer feather edge and the inside match-boards-for a few

Page 81
feet up all round, and by degrees we papered nearly all the walls with pictures from the English illustrated papers, which were sent to us by friends at home in the old country.
Cooking was about the nicest occupation in winter, especially as most of our food was fried; we lived principally on fried pork and flapjacks,-the latter a kind of pancake,- varied occasionally with Johnny cake and fried mush, both made from Indian corn meal.
Wood-chopping was about the best out-of-door work to get on to, as one could manage to keep warm at that. I do not know quite what the thermometer stood at during the coldest weather, as ours got broken, but 1 saw it once in town showing thirty degrees below zero, or sixty-two degrees of frost,-Fahrenheit,-but I have no doubt that it was colder than that sometimes up on the open prairie where we lived. I have often known a pond to freeze over sufficiently in one night to bear any number of persons or cattle on it. But our springs never froze over; the water came out of the warm earth, and would run for a few yards down the stream before freezing. They sometimes, in a storm, were completely

Page 82
hidden by drifts. when it was a fine treat to have to find them, going probing about with a pole, and sometimes finding ourselves going through the crust of snow up to our boot-tops in the water which we were trying to find. We were bound to keep them open both for ourselves and the cattle. After one heavy fall that we had, we boys had some fine fun in the drifts. There was a slight thaw, and then the hard frost again, so that the snow was pretty well bound together, and we carved in a big drift a regular cave or house with several partitions, and a roof over all-which lasted nearly all winter.
When once the winter begins in earnest there are very few changes for four or five months. The poor cattle and other stock suffer a great deal from the cold. Cows are often seen with their ears and tails frozen off, and dogs and cats the same, while the combs and feet of poultry get rather badly used up, too. The pigs seem to be able to take care of themselves pretty well.
Our house was built on the side of a hill facing the north, and as just across the ravine there was another hill, the view was rather


Page 83
contracted, although we could look down the ravine a good distance to the head of Davis' Creek. After a while, therefore, we began to get tired of the position, and so moved the house to the top of the hill at the back of us.
We got Will Hopkins and his six yoke of oxen and another neighbour to come and help us. We smoothed the hill a little, pulling up the stones which cropped out, and cut down the little sumac bushes, and then, having prepared several small wooden rollers, we hitched a log-chain around the edifice and started the bullocks. Of course the progress was rather slow, as the rollers had to be kept carried to the front, but still we sailed along in safety, Parker remaining inside the whole time cooking the dinner. The new position was a decided improvement as regards the view, but, if possible, it was rather more bleak in the wintertime, perched up on top of the hill.
We commanded a most extensive view of the prairie, and before I left we could see about seven houses, although at the time of moving there were none in sight. The country is now settling up very fast.
We had splendid stone about our place,
Page 84
which was quarried without much difficulty, and was easily worked up. There was also plenty of flat surface rock, which was most useful for rough walls for stables or cowsheds, and from the sides of the ravines great blocks of limestone, mostly about three feet thick, cropped out. This could be split up into convenient sizes, and faced up to any degree of smoothness for house-building.
Near at hand, by digging a little way, we came upon soap-stone, but it was in small flaky pieces, and of no use except for filling in rough walls. It was quite soft, almost like cheese, and could be cut with a knife, or bitten through with the teeth. There was a spot a mile or so north of us though, where it was to be found in large blocks in the side of a hill, and this we utilised a bit. It was remarkably soft when first quarried, but when exposed to the air became almost as hard as flint. At one time we were going to make a chimney pot of it, as it was so easy to work, and had got it squared up and hollowed out a good bit, when for some reason it was laid by for a few weeks. Upon going to finish the job we found that it had got so hard that our tools

Page 85
would scarcely touch it, so we used it for a pig-trough, and cut out a new chimney pot while the stone was soft and fresh. We had to put a stone pot to the chimney, because our iron stove-pipe had set fire to the house once, and it had a narrow escape of being destroyed.
Amongst our various animals we had a queer couple-a mule that no one could ride, and a pony that no one could work. The mule was a splendid thing to pull, but there was only about one man in the country who could ride him. My father bought him to work in harness, and he worked first-rate; hitch him to anything, and he would pull his heart out, or something had to go. His former owner was a tremendous Swede, and he could manage to stick on his back somehow; I think his legs were about long enough to tie in a knot round the mule. I never knew any one else who could sit it out.
He lent him to a neighbour once to ride to town. They started all right, but somehow, after going a very short distance, the man came back leading the mule, and "guessed he'd walk." After we had him Humphrey and Jack both tried to ride him, but although

Page 86
Saddlingthey could usually keep a pretty firm seat, they could not stick to that mule.
The pony was the exact reverse of this. He was an Indian pony, captured by the soldiers during a skirmish, and had a great gap in his withers from a sabre cut.

He was one of the nicest riding ponies I ever sat on; he could lope along all day with an easy motion about

Page 87
like a rocking-chair. He was very useful for driving cattle, as he would grab at them with his teeth to hurry them on, and a movement of the body was enough to turn him in any direction, almost without using the bridle.
RunawaysBut put him in harness, and then stand back! for there's going to be a smash-up. His eye glances out an evil fire, his nostrils dilate, his ears are thrown back, and in a second he bolts. He will not stop till he gets free from all incumbrances, or gets into such a position that he can go no more. One day we were going to hitch him to the waggon with the mule, but before they were fastened to it-simply harnessed and connected together with the pole-yoke-away he started. He dragged the mule along until he got excited too, and together they rushed into a wire fence. That stopped them, and if that was not a mix up I never saw one. They both went down amid the ruins of the fence, where they kicked, and struggled, and plunged until we thought we should never extricate them.
But at last we got them out, and found them not so much hurt as we expected, though the pony had a nasty cut in his leg, and the

Page 88
harness was pretty badly used. One had rolled over the other, so that when at last we got them on to their feet the pony was where the mule ought to be, and vice versa.
Another time we were going to give them a trial, and had hitched the pony to the waggon, and were bringing up the mule to him, when he started off, broke loose from Jack who was holding him, and rushed away down the hill with the waggon behind him. Of course the pole was almost on the ground, but not quite low enough to catch in anything, and so away he dashed, colliding with the pig-sty, and only just missing the house; and was at length brought to a standstill by rushing into the stream at the bottom of the ravine, where he stuck fast, the pole breaking off short in the mud. After that we only used him for riding.
Soap-making was one of our occasional jobs, and was by no means a nice one. The soap is made in the following manner. All the wood ashes are saved from the stove (taking care, however, that there are no walnut wood ashes amongst them, or they will spoil the lot), and put in a dry wooden hopper.

Page 89
When this gets full, and the soap-boiling day is near at hand, water is poured on the ashes and allowed to soak through gradually to the bottom, where the now dark-brown liquid is caught in a trough, and drained into a large pot or bucket. This is the lye or potash, and it is boiled down with all kinds of fat, bacon rinds, etc., which have also been saved up by degrees for-this purpose. After several hours' boiling this combination forms a slippery, slimy mass-soft soap. It is usually kept in this condition ready for various uses- washing, scrubbing, or scouring.
The addition of a little salt in the boiling transforms it into hard soap of a dirty-grey colour.
During this, our second spring, the land being more suitable for it, we planted a great quantity of Indian corn. It is planted in "hills," three or four seeds in each, about four feet each way. For marking the places where the corn is to be planted, after the land is ploughed and harrowed, a sort of sledge with four or five runners is drawn over the field, which marks grooves at the required distance apart. It is then driven across at

Page 90
right angles, and at the intersection of the grooves the corn is planted, either by hand and covered with a hoe, or else with a small machine. In a short time it is out of the ground, and, growing very rapidly, is soon ready for "cultivating." This consists of going over it twice at right angles with a horse-hoe or "cultivator," cutting up the weeds, and throwing the earth up to the roots.
"Cultivating" is rather pleasant work, not quite so heavy as ploughing, and requires a little skill to avoid injuring the growing corn. It always amuses me to contrast the method of ploughing in England with that practised in the States. In the old country it appears to be usual to take three horses, one behind another, a small boy with a big whip to drive them! and a man to do the ploughing. Now in America a boy can run the whole thing. The reins are round his neck, the whip is fastened by a thong to his hand, the ploughs are made lighter, the three horses are worked abreast, and a great saving of labour is the result. I have ploughed acre after acre in this way from when I was twelve years old.
A good lot of corn is cut as soon as it

Page 91
is nearly ripe, and shocked for cattle food in winter, and makes first-rate fodder. Corn shocking is done in the following way. Having settled where the shock shall be, which is usually about every twelfth hill, you take two stalks at opposite angles of a square of four hills, and bend them down and bind them together securely. Then you take the other two stalks, and bind them together and round the first two. This forms a kind of cross rack, against which the other stalks may be placed when cut. Those first cut are stood in the angles almost upright, and others placed around, gradually sloping outwards until a regular cone is formed, which will require a very strong wind to blow over, and a very heavy rain to wet through. The outer stalks get discoloured, but those inside keep a nice green colour, and are much relished by the cattle in the winter, when the husking has been done.
Walter Woods, the printer, left us this spring, and obtained a good situation at Lawrence, a town on the eastern borders of the State. He stayed there awhile, and afterwards went to Colorado, and made considerable money at his

Page 92
business. While out in the Rockies he met his brother, who was on the way back from Australia, and so returned with him to England. Some few months later Parker left our happy family, and having heard of Walter's success in the printing line, he went into a printing once down south, though quite ignorant of the work. He stayed there some time, and then we heard that he had joined a Government surveying party, but as his sight was very bad he had to give it up. After trying several trades he eventually settled down to the printing in a newspaper office, and the last I heard of him was that he was the Editor of the Arkansas Gazette.
Parker was a very enthusiastic sportsman, but his shortsightedness was rather a drawback to his success in this branch. Once he went with Humphrey to shoot some wild ducks that were in the pond, and when the ducks rose and Humphrey shot at them, Parker shot at the pond. At one time he was very busy collecting birds for a friend in town, and we boys finding a piece of blue paper, thought that we would help swell the collection. We arranged the paper among the grass by the stream, and went to the house and told Parker

Page 93
that there was a splendid blue bird outside. He came out with his gun and carefully drew near while we boys kept in the rear, so as not to frighten the bird, all the time laughing fit to split.
Presently he fired, and rushed forward and secured-the piece of blue paper. He did not seem to enjoy the joke half so much as we did. Perhaps we ought to have been a little more considerate. But we were boys, and could not help having some fun with him. One day, he mistook a horse for a cow at a very short distance-he was so very shortsighted.
Walter Woods' land was taken by an old man named Price, and a queer old stick he was, too. He brought with him his wife, and two sons, Nathaniel and George. His other son, "Dan'l," he had left "back at the Bluffs." (Council Bluffs in Iowa, from whence they had emigrated.) The old man was an awful braggart, and the whole family were as ignorant as savages, George being the only one who could read or write a little bit. The old man was never tired of telling us how once he was out in the forest cutting wood, and he saw a "painter" (panther) up a tree just in the act

Page 94
of springing on him. As the beast came flying through the air down on him, he stepped back with axe uplifted, and as the "painter" reached the earth, with one fell swoop he cut his head clean off. This tale we had on an average once a week. The family lived in a "dug-out" just across the ravine facing our house, and were as poor as church mice, having no stock, horses, or tools. Still they managed to rub along somehow by working among the neighbours, and getting their land ploughed for them in return.
Their dug-out was a wretched place to live in, as such places usually are. A hole is dug in the side of a hill, a few forked posts are put in the corners, poles are laid in the forks, brush and straw are put on the poles, the earth dug out of the hole is thrown over the straw as thick as will keep out rain, and with a door in front and a chimney cut in the bank, the house is ready for occupation. They are warm enough in the winter, but are miserably dirty, as there is no floor but the earth, and the walls are of the same material; besides which dirt is liable to shake down through the roof Still such are the only kind of houses that can be

Page 95
built by poor emigrants on the prairie, who have no money to spare for boards, and many live in them for a year or two.
Very often on a winter morning Jack and I would go over to have a talk, and the old lady always wanted to play a game of cards directly she had washed the "brekster dishes." Sevenup, euchre, and poker were the usual games.
While the "brekster dishes" were being washed the old man would probably to on about his "painter," or would have us remember that his "ineeshals" were E. B. P.-Edward Bates Price, which there was little danger of us forgetting, as he seemed to take a peculiar pride in his three names. Interspersed with this edifying information we would have reminiscences of "Dan'l" and the "Bluffs," which seemed to comprise the whole of his subjects of discourse.
They were a funny old couple, and afforded us a good deal of amusement. The old man was a very tall, dried-up specimen, never to be seen without a quid of tobacco in his cheek, while the old lady was very short and very stout, and fond of a pipe. The Prices did not stay very long on their land, but traded it off to a

Page 96
newcomer, and went back to "Dan'l" and the "Bluffs."
Another winter passed over us, and having had some dear experience, we were able to take better care of our cattle this year.
Although it was very cold during this winter, we had some heavy falls of snow. One night before they left the Prices got snowed up entirely in their dug-out.
Being rather low, the edifice was completely covered with snow, so that nothing but a mound was visible. They had considerable trouble to get out, for the door opened outwards, and the drift was so deep and packed so tight that they could not push the door open at all. They therefore had to cut the hinges,-they consisted simply of old bits of leather,-and taking the door inside they burrowed their way out.
During this long, cold snap, the roads being impassable, we ran out of firewood. We could not get down to our timber patch, and could not even get down the creek to do a little "jay-hawking." We were obliged to burn our fence posts and rails. Plenty of people who had no fences used Indian corn for fuel.


Page 97
Our house being moved, we also moved our corral over to the south side of the hill, and we built a good stone wall on three sides of it; with a roofed shed all along, and thus kept nearly all our cattle through the winter. In the spring a herd law was passed, and so we boys got up a herd. There were forty head of cattle of our own, and we took in our neighbours' cattle at a quarter of a dollar a month per head, and thus mustered quite a respectable number.
Jack being older than I, and consequently more useful on the farm, the herding business generally fell to my lot. It was not particularly easy work; up at four o'clock in the morning to bring the horses in from the prairie, clean and saddle my pony, "Barney;" help milk a dozen cows; and then get through breakfast, to be ready to let the cattle out of the corral by seven o'clock. Then came the long hot day, often to be seated in the saddle the whole time, twelve hours or more, checking the restless brutes from straying; but at last the sun would work round to the west, and sink beneath the horizon, which was the signal for returning for the night to the corral; Then

Page 98
the same performances were gone through again, the milling and the picketing out, and after that came supper, by which time it was rather dark and late, and I was ready to go to bed to prepare for the next day's round.
In the summer time, of which I am now speaking, the nights were not always of the pleasantest, for although generally cool and fresh after a hot day, the mosquitoes were enough to drive a man mad. As they were as bad, or perhaps worse in the house, we generally preferred to sleep out of doors-some in the waggon-bed, and some on the ground beneath.
We were frequently disturbed, though, during the night by thunderstorms, and would have to gather up our traps and rush for the house near by without a light, save for the vivid flashes of lightning, and would then have to arrange ourselves again to sleep on the floor for the remainder of the night. Still it was so much pleasanter out of doors that we tried it every night, unless it was too decidedly threatening. If we ever slept indoors the door was left open without fear of intruders, except it might be stray pigs. There was not the least danger to be sus-

Page 99
pected in leaving the door open at night. Such a thing as a robber entering is never thought of, and the door could not be locked if wanted, as it simply fastened by a latch. Honesty is, I think, one of the leading features which must strike a stranger fresh from the old country where tramps abound. Why, out here one takes his mowing machine out on the prairie to cut hay, and at night unhitches the team, leaving the machine out all night with his oil can, spanners, and tools, without the slightest risk. The axe is left sticking in the log in the woods, together with maul and wedges, as is the same with other tools about the farm, and I never heard of any one losing things thus exposed.
We had lightning almost every night during the summer, but usually so far away as not to deter us from making our beds out of doors. One fearfully hot, sultry night, when we had thought it too stormy-looking to try it, we had a fine treat.
Some eggs had been brought in in the evening and laid upon the crockery shelves as usual, and in the middle of the night one, doubtless a nest-egg, brought in by mistake

To water

Page 100
burst with a report like a pistol and a smell like-well, it was about "bad enough to knock a nigger down." For awhile we could not make out whatever was the matter until a light was struck and the cause explained. The remainder of the night was passed out of doors despite the threatened storm.
The herding life was dreadfully monotonous. The romance of riding about all day soon wears off if one has six months of it at a stretch in all weathers, rain, blow, or shine, Sunday or weekdays. Occasionally for days together I never saw a soul while out with the herd. Sometimes; however, I had a companion in one of the Quinn boys, who had two cows to attend to, and brought them to my herd and helped me. In the hot summer months, before the grass was dried up much, the cattle were not much trouble, but were glad, after feeding, to get in the shade of a few trees that grew on a small creek where I often herded.
Sometimes they would stand in the water for hours together, and we boys were able to go in swimming, or to catch fish or frogs, or craw-fish, which we cooked on a forked stick

Page 101
over a little fire, and thus made a welcome addition (frogs as well) to our cold dinner. I know that many people look upon frogs as dreadful things to eat, but I can recommend them as being very palatable. The legs are the only parts eaten, and when skinned and cooked closely resemble the best parts of a young fowl.
One day we had a big hunt after a bullfrog. We found him in a large pond and gave chase; of course he dived, but had to come to the surface every now and then, and presently came up quite close to where I was watching, and I gave him a blow with the butt-end of my stock-whip which killed him. We found him to be fifteen inches long from head to foot, and his legs formed a good meal.
As the weather grew hotter and drier the water began to get scarce, until at last, big ponds in which the water had been deep enough to swim a horse, became so dry that we were able to catch the big fish therein with our hands, and the water was so thick and nasty that it was not fit for the cattle to drink. Nevertheless, the sun being so fearfully hot, we boys were fain to drink this dirty cattle

Page 102
bestirred water. One would say to the other, "I'll drink some if you will," and "Right you are" would be the reply. I wonder we did not get awfully ill. There was a nice fresh spring about a mile away, but too small to be of any use to the cattle, and occasionally one of us would gallop up there, drink all he could himself, and fill our dinner pail for the other. It was too risky though to do this often, as the cattle were so liable to stray, and we could not drive them up near the spring, as it was close to an unprotected cornfield. .
If we had a shower we generally hid our clothes under a big rock, and then jumped into the pond to keep dry. We sometimes found it necessary, while in the water, to turn the cattle, and would then jump on the pony, just as we were, and rush away after them, yelling and popping the whip. A passer-by would have thought it a funny sight, no doubt, to see a boy in a state of nature rushing about on horseback. But we were not troubled with passers-by. It was very peculiar to feel the apparent warmth of the water in the pond during rain. It seemed several degrees warmer than the air or the rain falling.

Page 103
Sometimes on Sundays the Quinn boys used to come down to where I was herding, and bring their dinners, and, together with my brother Jack, we had a regular picnic, fishing, swimming, eating wild grapes, etc.; but I was more frequently alone, as young Dick Quinn did not always care to come so far with his two cows, for sometimes I was away over north, as I liked to change the feeding-ground.
As the season passed on the grass became very dead and dry, and the herd was very hard to keep together; it was as much as one could do by keeping the pony on the move the whole time. By November, which was the time to break up the herd, the weather was cold and wet, and I was mighty glad to stop. Several times it rained the whole day, so that I was so wet that the water filled my boots, when I happened to be wearing such luxuries, and ran over the tops as I sat in the saddle.
One day I borrowed my father's macintosh, but in galloping about I split it right up the back, so that when it rained I just had to get wet through, but I am pleased to say that I never suffered any ill effects.
After all the cattle had been sent to their

Page 104
respective owners for the winter, a prairie fire came along and pretty nearly wiped us out. It did so much damage that we had to send our own cattle away. It was a nice warm, bright day early in December, and I had the cattle in the corn-stalks to pick up any stray ears that had been left, and to eat the fodder, as the dry maize stalks are called.
Presently I became aware that there was a prairie fire sweeping down on us from the north. I did not feel at all afraid, as we considered our place to be safe from such attacks, as our house and sheds, etc., were built on land lying between two streams, north and south, which met in the west, while the land to the east was in cultivation.
However, as there was a very strong north wind blowing, the fire leaped the stream on the north side where the grass grew high, and was amongst us in two seconds. A rush was made for the stables to cut the horses loose, and then all hands were required to protect the house, which was in imminent danger, owing to the wood pile having caught fire.
Fortunately, by pulling the pile down, and hurling the blazing logs away, and aided by

Page 105
a good supply of water which was at hand, we were able to save the house from destruction. Our great straw stack was burned though, and nearly all our hay, together with a quantity of wheat which lay in a crib, besides the cattle corral, and a quantity of fencing, so that we had no place in which to keep the cattle, and nothing on which to feed them. We drove them to a neighbour's corral that night, and then made arrangements with a man on Thomas' Creek to keep them through the winter on payment of one-fourth of the number that survived. This plan is frequently adopted, as of course it is more to the interest of the man to look after them well. As we had forty head, he would have ten in the spring for his trouble, but several died, amongst the number the heifer of which I spoke as being my own personal property.
We certainly had very bad luck with our cattle, several getting drowned, or otherwise killed by accident at various times. One old cow I remember in particular; "Old Bones" we called her. She went into a miry place in the early spring to get some nice, green, tender grass, her hind feet being

Page 106
on solid ground. Well, her front feet were in the mud, and they just sunk lower and lower, and her nose went into and under the water, and sank deeper and deeper, and there she stuck, and could not help herself, but just drowned as she stood. We did not find her until too late.
Another cow, a fine one, called "Granny," was picketed out, and got mixed up with the rope and strangled herself.
It was not an infrequent job to have to draw a cow out of the mud, especially in the spring, when they were weak after the long, cold winter. A rope was fastened round their horns or neck, and a team of horses hitched to it. Unfortunately they did not always recover, and then there was a skinning operation to be performed. I must confess that this latter was a job to which I was rather partial, though to some ideas not a pleasant occupation.
There is a good deal of attention and not a little skill required to get a hide off without cutting it, and I used to flatter myself that I could do it very cleanly.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Emigrant Life in Kansas by Percy G. Ebbutt -- Chapter IV



Our first acquaintance.--A novel weapon.--A false alarm.--A narrow escape.--A curious sight.--Instinct of pigs.--Our decision, and how we kept it.--Snake hunts.--Another kind of wild cat.--Varieties of snakes.--An easy victim.--Frogs and snakes.--Game.--Figure 4 traps.--Edible and other prairie plants
WHILE wandering about the country one Sunday afternoon during our first spring, we came across our first snake. san My father and I were walking along the dry bed of a stream, when I saw a tremendous snake coiled up on a pile of drift wood, and I set up a yell (you must remember that I was only just eleven years old, and it was my first; I never yelled afterwards at a snake). My father lifted me up a bank about three feet high that was in front of us, and sprang up himself, and then asked what was the matter. I motioned to him to be silent, and then pointed

Page 60
below to where the snake still lay as though asleep.
As we had nothing to attack the thing with we reluctantly passed on after looking at it some little time. Presently, however, we came to some young trees, so we cut a long pole with my big knife, and then went back to settle the business.
We approached very cautiously, so as not to awaken the snake, and then my father, dropping on one knee at the top of the bank, dealt the reptile a most tremendous blow. No movement followed, so the dose was repeated, still with a like result, and upon pulling the snake up on the bank, we found that it had been dead for some time, as the insects had began to bore holes in it and eat it. It was a bull snake about six feet long, and not considered poisonous.
We did not always find them dead though. Shortly after this five of us were returning from a bath, and came across a rattlesnake all alive and kicking, or rather jumping. After a short consultation, having nothing with us more formidable than towels, my father took off one of his long Wellington boots for a

Page 61
weapon, and hopping on one foot, very cleverly killed the wretched thing. On the same journey, when a little nearer home, and while passing through some very long- grass by the side of a stream, we were rather scared by a very loud and strange noise close to us in the tangle. Thinking it might be some dangerous wild animal, one of us rushed to the house for a couple of guns, while the others kept watch. Upon the arrival of the firearms, the contents of two barrels were poured into the spot from whence the noise came, and what do you think was the result? We had simply killed an old heron, who was sitting on her nest over her young ones!
Our next experience with snakes was when Jack and I were walking to Parkersville one day. There was a little bit of a track worn by this time over the grass, and I saw two rattlesnakes lying in the beaten-down grass, and jumped over them just in time to avoid treading on them. Again we were unfortunate in having no weapon with us, and had to pass on, carefully remarking on the place, so that we might be prepared on our return should they still be there.

Snake Kill

Suckling pig

Page 63
When we came back one of our neighbours was with us carrying an axe, and upon reaching the spot we found the snakes not far away, and he soon cut them in pieces.
One morning my father was just going to pull on his long boots in the house, and finding that one of them felt rather heavy he shook it, and out rolled a rattlesnake. I guess that was rather a narrow squeak. On one occasion Humphrey went out to feed the hogs, and upon looking into the sty occupied by the old sow and her family of ten, he found a rattlesnake lying with the busy little ones, taking some refreshment. They all seemed very happy together, with the exception of one poor little fellow, who was of course crowded out.
Humphrey called us all out to see this curious sight, and then the snake was dragged out and killed with a pitchfork. Some people might doubt the accuracy of this statement, and I almost think that I should had I not seen it myself. I had heard before of cows being milked by snakes, but not pigs,. as the two are mortal enemies; but in this case the old sow was asleep, or she would not have allowed it.

Page 64
A pig, if attacked by a snake, if it is a venomous one, will lay down and present its face, and let the snake bite it in the cheek several times, where it seems to take no effect. When the venom is exhausted in this way for the time being, the pig will get up and calmly take hold of the snake and rend it to pieces. In the case of a non-venomous snake the pig will not take so much trouble, but will at once attack it and eat it. So much for the instinct of pigs.
All these little incidents made us rather nervous at first, and we boys declared that we would never go about without thick boots and leather leggings on, but "Familiarity breeds contempt ;" and before the summer was over we had got used to such things, and were running about without boots or stockings on, as is the custom there among boys in hot weather. By this practice the soles of our feet became like leather, and I have often stood upon a cactus and felt nothing of the prickles.
Sometimes Jack and I, and three or four Quinns would get up a snake hunt. Taking one or two dogs with us, and a large pole for

Page 65
a lever, we would go and pry up big rocks, and look under them for snakes, and then haul them out and kill them. We often settled a good many in this way with sticks and stones.
It was rather dangerous work perhaps, but no one was ever hurt. We were all pretty nimble, and could get out of the snake's way when he jumped, and the chances were that his back would be broken before he coiled for another spring.
One day, when out on this business down a creek, our dogs chased a cat that had left civilisation and taken to the woods. They ran her pretty close until she sprang up a big hickory tree, from which, though, we soon dislodged her.
The tree was about sixty feet high, and she went almost to the top, but I followed, and soon shook her down. She then took to earth, disappearing down a hole under a big rock.
We set to work digging and poking about for a while, until presently, instead of the cat, out rolled-a six-foot bull snake. Of course, as we were out hunting for snakes and not for cats, this served our purpose as well,

Page 66
and after settling his hash we left the cat in peace.
Now and then we came across the "blueracer " snake, but never managed to kill one, for, as its name implies, it is a quick traveller; in fact, it is no sooner seen than gone, like a flash of greased lightning with the brake off.
Another mystery to us was the glass snake, so called from its brittleness; for with a slight blow it would break in two. Moreover, it is supposed to possess the marvellous property of being able to join itself together again after an accident, but I am inclined to think this a popular delusion. I have never proved it by experience, although after having apparently killed one-broken it into several pieces and leaving it-it had singularly disappeared, as though the head had come back to gather up the remainder (for the head and front part generally managed to escape). This matter I must leave for settlement to others better versed in this branch of zoology than myself.
Another kind of snake, and one that we were not at all fond of, was the mocassin, a poisonous snake very similar in size and colour to the rattlesnake, but generally to be found

Page 67
in the water. For this reason it behoved us to be careful in going in to swim, or we might find our bath occupied.
There was another kind of water snake, a little harmless thing, that we paid no attention to, often being in the water at the same time.
All kinds are now beginning to get quite scarce, as nobody passes one if he can possibly kill it. Sometimes we had hard tussels, and sometimes they were found in such positions as to fall an easy prey to our tender mercies.
One day Humphrey found a big bull snake down a hole which had been dug for a fence post. All he had to do then was to ram away at the "critter " with the post. It was like using a big pestle and mortar.
Occasionally we would be guided to a snake by the cries of a frog, and would find the poor thing halfway down the snake's throat, with his legs crushed out of all shape. The snake then became our victim by way of a change.
Once we found a big snake that had just swallowed a smaller one; it was lying almost helpless, with the other's tail protruding from its mouth. We then killed two with one stone.

Page 68
Small game was very plentiful, such as d prairie chickens, quails, snipes, wild ducks, i rabbits, and jack-rabbits. The latter were large creatures, closely resembling the English hare, but more of a fawn colour. Like the hare, they do not burrow in the earth, but lie close in the grass; sometimes so still would they sit, in the hope of not being seen, that we a have been able to throw ourselves on them and catch them.
Occasionally, if on the high flat prairie, we 0 used to run them down on horseback; but it was a hard run, as they were very swift, and i went in long bounds like a kangaroo.
The snipes used to amuse us a good deal by the trouble they took to lead us from their nests when disturbed. If we rode close by a snipe on her nest in the grass, she would spring out and flutter away, as though her wing was broken, at the same time piping; most mournfully, as though in great pain. If we followed she continued the game until we got about fifty yards from the nest, when she would fly away safe and sound, uttering a noise which one could almost fancy was a laugh at our being duped.

Page 69
Of course to any one in the secret it was vain work on her part, as, directly a bird flew up in such a commotion, one knew that the nest was close by.
Prairie fowl

With the commencement of autumn there were hundreds of wild geese, cranes, brant, swans, etc., flying south to their winter quarters among the lagoons of the Mississippi and other regions, only stopping at night to feed, so that we seldom got a shot at them, as they flew so high.

Page 70
In the spring they flew north again, on their way to the great lakes. They looked very pretty in their great V-shaped flocks, and made a great noise as they flew.
In the winter we used to catch a great many prairie fowls in traps. We would put a big box on top of a figure 4 piece, and throw some Indian corn under for bait, and would sometimes catch as many as three or four of these large birds at one time. One year we had a small patch of land sown with buckwheat, but as it was not very good, it was never carried, and the prairie fowls used to come there in swarms when the snow was on the ground. As we had four traps, we nearly lived on prairie fowls that winter.
They seemed very simple in that respect, although wary enough as regards shooting them, for when feeding thus in a field there was usually a sentinel perched upon the fence.
Quails are very easily caught in traps also, and as they always keep close together in a covey, we sometimes caught nine or ten at once. I remember Humphrey killing eighteen at one shot with a gun when in the woods.

Page 71
A figure 4 trap is made in this way. A stout stick, sharpened like a chisel at the top end, is placed upright on the ground with a notched stick resting upon it in a sloping position. This second stick is also sharpened chisel-wise at one end, and it catches in a notch in a third

and longer stick. This one has another notch cut in its side, which catches on the first stick. The trap-box or tub, or whatever it may be-rests on the top of No. 2 stick, and binds all together. The bait is placed on or near the end of the long stick,

Page 72
and a very slight touch is suffficient to drop the trap. This arrangement is said to have been invented by Daniel Boone, the old Kentucky settler, when his ammunition was all used up. He used to apply the principle to tremendous heavy logs to fall on and kill bears and deer.
There are several kinds of wild plants growing on the prairie which are edible, or at least useful medicinally. Wild onions, or shallots, were very plentiful. They grew encased in woody, fibrous coverings, which, when stripped off, disclosed a little kind of spring onion which was very nice.
Artichokes, too, were abundant, and another plant tasting exactly like celery. Then there was the wild tea-plant, a small bushy shrub with white flowers and crisp, bright green leaves, which, when picked and dried in the sun, made very good tea. Tea can also be made of the leaves of the raspberry canes, quite as good to my taste as the ordinary Chinese beverage.
Then there was also a herb which we used as medicine for any little disorder inside. Besides these there was a peculiar plant known as rosin weed, from which exuded a

Page 73
gum which the girls and boys used to gather for chewing. Chewing gum is much sold in the towns, but it is of a different material to this.
Another plant was known as "snakeweed." One was popularly supposed to find a snake under it, but this rule did not always hold good, though we certainly found snakes near the weeds sometimes. It was rather a peculiar weed, something like a broad bean, with flowers of the lupin kind. Sensitive plants also abounded on the rocky upland, the leaves of which all closed up upon being touched. They had beautiful pink flowers with a most lovely scent.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Emigrant Life in Kansas by Percy G. Ebbutt -- Chapter III



"Prairie" Wilson.--George Dyson.--A young grandmother.--"Dutch Jake."--The Quinns.--Gathering wild grapes and "tearing around."--Sleeping sixteen in one room.--Bill Harper and his ring.--John Tumey's "'ot potatoes."--A prairie fire.--The pet antelope.--The Garretts.--An evening party
WHEN we moved up we were the only settlers on the prairie for some miles round, but a few months afterwards several emigrants took land. I will introduce you to a few of them. About the first was one who was soon known by the name of "Prairie" Wilson, having a farm on the highest land in the district. He was very poor when he first started, having only a wife, one child, and his bedclothes, but by dint of hard work he soon had a comfortable place.
Another family was that of George Dyson, who settled about a mile from our house.

Page 45
They were of rather a better class than some of the emigrants who followed.
Mrs. Dyson had been married before, at the mature age of thirteen years, and had been left a widow with two children at nineteen. The first husband was a great friend of Mr. Dyson's, and when he died he asked him to look after his wife and children, and he did so in the most practical way.
Living with the Dysons was one Will Hopkins, who used to do a good deal of prairie breaking, having a twenty-four inch plough and six yoke of oxen. His land joined my father's, and he eventually built a house on it, and married Mrs. Dyson's daughter when she was fifteen years old. A year or so afterwards, and Mrs. Dyson was a proud grandmother, aged thirty-one. Go-ahead people the Americans, are they not?
Living near them was old Anthony Prauss, a Dutchman, who could speak about twelve words in English; but he was a decent old chap, and we got along very well with him.
Another of our neighbours was a man called "Dutch Jake." He had a farm a few miles from us, and professedly lived with his

"sister," though there was little doubt but that she was his wife.It was simply a trick to get more land, as an unmarried woman can have eighty acres of Government land free, the same as a man, but a married woman cannot. A widow may also take a piece of land, and, in fact, any one who is the head of a family, if even a boy or girl under age. There is no charge for land, except a nominal fee of about fourteen dollars. Jake was rather a queer customer, and we thought none too particular; for the "sister" used at one time to do Harry Parker's washing, and once when he went over after it unexpectedly, he found Jake wearing his shirt and trowsers. After that he changed his laundress. There were several Swedish families round about, who seemed good, thrifty people. One peculiar characteristic of them seemed to be that they could nearly all work well in stone, and, as a consequence, they all erected good solid-built stone houses.
They seemed to be very hardy and industrious. I knew one, Olaf Swainson, who was one day quarrying rock, and cut one of his

Page 47
fingers clean off. He made very little fuss about it, but picked it up, rolled it in some grass, and put it in his pocket, and then went to the house to tie up his hand.
Then there were the Quinns, a large family of Irish-Americans, who also arrived with nothing save one or two horses and a few tools; but as there were several boys large enough to work, they soon got along swimmingly. We became acquainted in a very short time, and used to go over there very frequently. They broke some prairie and built a house with the sods, with a few boards for the roof, and then set to work in earnest with the crops, and they were soon able to live on the products of the farm and garden. As they had no cows we supplied them with milk, which they much wanted, there being several small children among them; and so they undertook to do our washing in exchange for half-a-gallon of milk a day.
Jack or I used to carry the milk over in a covered pail every morning on horseback, and we soon had quite a path worn across the prairie. There were three streams to cross on the way, and by always crossing at the same

Page 48
place the banks became trodden down into a regular quagmire, several feet wide and difficult to get over. On one occasion I got a nasty fall. I was riding a young filly, and after trying to make her walk across she suddenly jumped, but not far enough. She landed all of a heap on the opposite bank, and I and the milk went clean over her head and came down in the long grass. The filly ran away a few yards, and then came back to where I was picking myself up, and allowed me to catch her and mount again.
Fortunately I was none the worse for my shaking, but the Quinns had to do without milk on that day, as I rode up and told them what had happened. Jack and I used to have rather a jolly time at this house. The old lady would tell us to "come over and tear around with the boys," and we used to be fond of "tearing around."
In the warm weather we went swimming in the stream a little distance from the house, and fine fun it was, too, though once I was nearly drowned. I could not swim very far then, and in going the length of the pond my strength or courage gave out, and down I went. I had

Page 49
fortunately got beyond the deepest part though, and was just able to touch ground with my toes, after getting my mouth full of water two or three times. With continued practice, however, we could soon all swim a good distance.
Sometimes we took our pony Barney in the water with us, and had some rare fun, for it was deep enough to swim a horse; two or three boys would get on his back, and one or two more have hold of his tail, and sail around the pond. Sometimes we used him for a diving board, standing on the bank.
Now and then we practised swimming with all our clothes on; old hat, old boots, and everything-and jolly good practice it is, too. Of course our clothing was not particularly fine, and was not much damaged by being wetted and dried in the sun. Our usual summer clothing consisted of a hat,-a good wide-brimmed one,-shirt, and canvas trowsers, or over-alls, with occasionally a pair of boots.
Such superfluities as waistcoats, collars, and socks we had discarded long ago. Even in the winter, when every one wore nearly his whole wardrobe, waistcoats and collars were not used, but about three shirts and three pairs

Page 50
of trowsers were worn. I knew one man who had not worn a pair of socks for years. Of course he always wore high boots.
In the autumn we used all to go down the creeks gathering wild grapes or plums, or various other kinds of fruit which grew in great abundance. Here were mulberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, and pawpaws, the latter a large fleshy fruit somewhat similar to the banana. The grapes were more abundant than anything else. Vines hung on nearly every tree, or clambered over the great rocks with which the ravines are fringed, disputing possession with the Virginia creeper or the wild hop. The grapes, after being picked, were dried in the sun, and were very nice in the winter either stewed or made into pies.
In the cold weather, there being little for us to do at home, Jack and I would go over to Quinn's, and sometimes stop for two or three days, and have a fine time "tearing around," either rabbit-hunting or sleigh-riding, or sliding on the ponds--though the Quinn boys could not do much at that, for their father found that it wore out boots too much, and

Page 51
made them stop it; so after trying it barefooted, and finding that it would not work; they were obliged to give it up.
At night we were a little crowded, as there was only one room, and we numbered sixteen persons in all-viz., Mr. and Mrs. Quinn, eleven children, Jack and I, and a young man named John Clover, who owned the next farm, and who lived and worked with the Quinns.
We were all arranged pretty comfortably in the following manner:-Mr. and Mrs. Quinn, and the two youngest children in one bed, the four girls in another, three or four boys in a third, and the remainder on the floor, which consisted of the bare earth.
In wet weather it was not quite so comfortable as might be wished, as the roof leaked, and rain and snow came in pretty badly. Still we got along very nicely altogether.
One slight drawback was that the old man had a habit of chewing tobacco as he lay in bed, but it did not cause much inconvenience to those on the floor, as he was a pretty good shot, and generally managed to reach the fireplace with the juice. One Sunday, while staying with the Quinns,

Page 52
they were favoured with a visit from a young man named Bill Harper, living some five or six miles away He was quite a stranger, but finding some settlers on the prairie, came to make their acquaintance. Of course he was invited to stay and have dinner, and of course he accepted.
He made himself very agreeable, and during the meal he appeared to be very anxious that we should observe a ring, which he had upon his little finger, at one time reaching his hand out with the finger extended, and requesting some one to "pass the taters!" After dinner he took one of us aside to examine the article more closely, and told us in confidence that he had purchased it the previous day in town for the sum of ten cents = 5d.
Yet withal he was a sensible sort of young man, and knew what he was about on a farm or with a horse, etc.; in fact, the right sort of man for the country. In direct contrast to him was a young Englishman, whom the Quinns had met when out railroading, and of whom they were never tired of speaking.
A great deal of work is done there in the slack season by the farmers and others, who

Page 53
take their teams and ploughs, and go to work building the new railroads at so much per day, camping out in the meantime. On one of these occasions they had among their party one John Turney, an Englishman. What he had been used to before I can't say, but he had not been brought up as a cook, anyhow. One day it came to his turn to stay in camp and prepare the dinner. When the mealtime arrived all the hands came crowding round the waggon eager to begin, but they found everything but half-cooked.
"John," said Sam Quinn, "did these pertaters git warm?" "Yes," replied John innocently, "they got quite 'ot!"
And we never heard the last of that little incident. The weather was never warm, it was "quite 'ot!"
Once in the wintertime when we two boys were over at Quinn's, we had a lively time with a prairie fire. An old Swede, living a little way north of their place, had accidentally set fire to the grass, and as there was a most terrific north wind blowing, the fire was down upon us in a moment. Old Andy Johnson

Page 54
came in front of it, scorching himself whilst vainly endeavouring to check the progress of the flames by beating them with his coat He arrived breathless and hatless just as the fire was coming over the crest of the hill in front of the house. We all ran out immediately, and set to work to "back fire" from the stables, and were only just in time to save the whole place from destruction, by burning a sufficiently wide piece of grass off, and thus stopping the rush of fire. It was a bitterly cold day, and while working right amongst fire, moving a waggon out of the way, Jack got his hands frozen rather badly. Mrs Quinn doctored him up though, and rubbed his hands with kerosene oil, etc., and they soon got well, without losing any fingers.
In a few minutes after the first alarm the fire had passed right by, and the whole face of the country was changed from a dry dead brown to an intense black, and ashes were blowing about in clouds. For a long time we could trace the progress of the fire by a thick column of smoke, and at night there was a red glow in the sky, showing that it was still burning miles away.

Page 55
During the first spring that we were there we saw several antelopes, but we were never able to kill any. One day Humphrey shot one and knocked it over, but it got up again, and although three of us rode after it for some miles, we never came up with it.
The Quinns had a young one for a pet. They had ran it down when very small, and took it home and tamed it. It was a beautiful creature, and very tame, though timid. It lived for about a year and a half, and was then kicked by a horse, which broke two of its legs, and so was obliged to be killed. All the children were very sorry to lose it, they had grown so fond of it.
Some few miles from us lived the Garretts, an English family. They had not been used to farming, and did not succeed particularly well. Mrs. Garrett did not get along in what is usually considered the woman's department at all. She was not much of a cook, and as to milking a cow- "Oh! I can't, it feels so nasty!" said she at her first trial, and so poor old Garrett always had that job.
Near them lived a family named Samaurez, of Spanish descent. They rather considered
Page 56
themselves "some pumpkins," and their status may perhaps be summed up in the words of one of the Quinn boys. "They've got two kinds of sugar, and don't they just look at yer if you put white sugar in your coffee, or yaller sugar in your tea!"
One evening during our first spring Humphrey, Jack, and I attended a party. It was at a stranger's house, and we had not received any regular invitation, but the fact of there being a party was made known, and every one in the neighbourhood was at liberty to go. It was rather a peculiar gathering. There was no dancing and no music, and the time was principally spent in eating and drinking, and playing at silly, childish games, mostly after the style of "Kiss in the Ring," but with all sorts of queer names to them. Most of them were accompanied by singing. The words of one ran something like this:-
        This is the Queen of Dover,
        This very day sailed over,
        Sailed over the sea.
        Most gracious Queen,
        you must not be offended,
        For you shall be attended
        With all the respects that we owe."

Page 57
But I do not really know what took place during the game. I know there was a deal of shuffling about, something like "Sir Roger de Coverley" without the music. Another ran:-
        "Now the mink is in the barn,
        And the cattle are on the farm,
        Gold of the best, it shall be paid,
        And on her lips it shall be laid."
        And then somebody kissed some other body."
Another was:-
        "How d'ye git along, Jim along o' Josy?
        How d'ye git along, Jim along o' Jo?
        Hitch my oxen to your cart,
        Go to the river and git a load o' bark."
        How d'ye git along, Jim?" etc.

        "Fire up the mountains! run, boys! run, boys!
        Fire in the mountains! run, boys, run!
        Cat's in the cream jug! run, girls! run, girls!
        Cat's in the cream jug! run, girls, run!"
Then there was a general stampede.
The best of it is that there are a great many Methodists and others who look upon dancing as an unpardonable sin, and yet do not object to games of this kind. In fact, upon this occasion some game or other was proposed, but ruled out and strongly objected to, especially by one young lady, the daughter of a Methodist

Page 58
parson, as "it was too much like dancing." But she played in the other games, and seemed to enjoy them, kissing included. This I thought rather inconsistent.
None of our party took part in any of these games, and we left early, voting it rather slow.
Bill Harper was present on this occasion, ring and all, and he was the only person there with whom we were acquainted.
At that early date such gatherings were not very frequent, but now they occur more often, and several of the settlers have such luxuries as pianos and harmoniums; and as there are more people to attend now, dances are frequently got up in the winter, much to the scandal and annoyance of the "Puritan Father" portion of the community. Sometimes, too, a "social" is turned into a dance after the Methodists have gone home.
"Jack;," says the host, "just watch till you see the pious folk about to git, and then you ride off like the dickens for a fiddler, while I walk around and tell the girls that ain't- too good that we're going to have a dance. You bet we'll have a high time yet." And so they do, and keep it up till daylight.


Emigrant Life in Kansas by Percy G. Ebbutt -- Chapter II



Our shanty.--Baking bread.--A wild cat.--A revolver accident.--Our shanty is built on the wrong land.--Moving.--The house built.--The furniture.--Breaking prairie.--Parker's cellar.--Planting beans.--Skunks.--A dark night.--Animals, insects, and reptiles.--Duck keeping.--Jack's geese.--My Pig

Page 17
ON the I8th of February, I871, having hired a couple of waggons, we moved up on the prairie with all our luggage, and boards to build our house with. On arriving at our destination, seven miles from town, the large boxes were piled up, and the boards laid slanting from the top to the ground for a roof, and thus we made a very comfortable shanty. It was certainly none too large, though, for six of us (Humphrey having rejoined us at Junction), and it was so low that no one could stand upright in it at the highest part. However, with the exception of the cook, we did

Page 18
not spend much time indoors-there was no door, though. We had an iron stove for cooking in one corner, with the flue running through the top, which once set fire to the building; but as we had plenty of water handy we were able to extinguish it before it did much damage. We were very well off for provisions, having a good supply of bacon, biscuits, eggs, cheese, coffee, sugar, flour, rice, etc. The cook, Harry Parker, made his first attempt at bread-baking before we had been here many days, but was not over successful. The bread was baked in a great iron pan, and was as hard as a well-done brick, and about as digestible. The outside could not be cut with a knife, we were obliged to use a hatchet to make any impression. However, a few more trials soon improved the baking. For fuel we had to go about a mile down a little creek "~ jay-hawking." There were some small trees growing which we chopped down and dragged up to the shanty on wheelbarrows, not having any horses as yet. On one of these excursions Walter Woods shot a wild cat, and was fortunate in getting away without injury, as it

Page 19
attacks man when provoked. An old settler, who saw the brute afterwards, said that he would not like to tackle one with a gun only; he would want a good knife or an axe to finish him with. But Walter saw some animal's eyes glaring at him from some bushes, and blazed away, shooting the creature dead. It was then brought home in triumph on the barrow, and after being duly admired was skinned and buried. It was a good-sized animal, about twice the size of a large domestic cat, or larger Its fur was very nice and thick, and made a couple of good caps.
While living in this mansion we had our first sight of a prairie fire, but as it was on high ground, where the grass was not rank, and there was very little wind, it was not particularly fierce. While living here we almost had an accident. We had amongst our collection an old pepper-box revolver, a stupid thing, with six barrels the full length of the machine, and not six chambers and one long barrel as usual. Well, this old thing was loaded, and some of the party, who had been practising shooting at a shingle target, were standing about trying

Page 20
to make the pepper-box go off, but it would not. They snapped and snapped, but without effect, until presently I took it up and pulled the trigger; it hung there for an instant, and then gave such a kick as to almost knock me over, and the bullets went flying just over the heads of my friends. All six chambers went off at once for some inscrutable reason, but fortunately no one was hurt.
The country around had all been surveyed by Government previous to our settling, and divided into square miles,-sections, they are called,-marked with a stone set in the ground. They may then be cut up easily into the required lots-viz., eighty acres for an ordinary settler, and one hundred and sixty X for any man who has been a soldier in the Federal Army. When we began to look around us, we found that our goods were all dropped upon land belonging to Parker instead of to my father, and as the house was to be built upon land belonging to the latter, all the boards, etc., had to be moved about half a mile upon the wheelbarrows. As we had a stream to cross on the way it was no easy task, but with one to push the barrow

Page 21
and another in front with a rope, we managed very well, getting stuck; in the mud a few times, though, when it took all the available hands to pull the vehicle out.
We had been, up to this time, favoured with remarkably mild weather; in fact, it was so warm, that on the Eighth of February, the day following our arrival on the prairie, we went and bathed in a stream a little way from the shanty. In after years I never saw it warm enough to do that with any comfort before May, and I verily believe that had we had. such weather as we experienced in following winters, that we should have all been frozen to death in our shanty. Of course we had a few cold snaps. For instance, after the house was completed, with the exception of the roof and we had moved in, we awoke one morning with eighteen inches of snow on the top of our blankets, but there was no very hard frost with it.
It may seem rather a funny thing to do, to go into a house before the roof is on; but you see, as we built the house we robbed the boards which formed the top of the box shanty, so that we were bound to sleep without a roof in any case.

Page 22
We did all the work ourselves, having a carpenter's bench and plenty of tools, and made quite a comfortable little house. Certainly it was not very large, having only one room, fourteen feet by twelve, with an attic above, but it was large enough, especially in cold weather, and in hot weather we lived out of doors mostly. The attic was reached by a series of holes cut in the wall for hands and feet, which led to a trap-door in the ceiling, so that no room was lost by having a flight of stairs.
For a table we used the carpenter's bench, and for beds we had the large boxes ranged round the room, which also, when the blankets were rolled up, served us as seats.
Almost in the centre of the room stood the cooking stove with an iron pipe through the end of the house, so that with a row of drawers and shelves for the crockery, our room was pretty full of furniture. After the house was completed we had to set to work to improve the land in all ways, and horses and oxen were bought to plough with. Our first purchase was a yoke of oxen

Page 23
They were not long from Texas, and not more than half broken in, and were a funny couple. To begin with, they did not at all match in colour, nor were they much alike in other respects. We called them "Broad" and "Pretty"-queer names for oxen you will say. Broad was about as fat as a slate and Pretty-well, he was not named according to his looks anyhow, nor was his temper of the best description. He was a most vicious and obstinate old brute. Broad was a decent old chap, but awfully lazy, and would let us ride on his back, being too lazy to trouble about the matter; he could easily have fetched us off with his tremendous horns.
These animals were often a fearful bother to yoke up, as you might get one in, and dodge around with the other for half an hour before getting him under the yoke. When properly broken the oxen should walk up when called. I guess we did not improve them, for we did not know much about bullocks. I know once Walter was driving them, and when he wanted them to stop he shouted out "Whoa!" and at the same time hit them with a big stick. Whether they were

Page 24
supposed to go on or to stop, would, I am sure, have puzzled wiser creatures than the oxen.
They were mostly used for ploughing, and mighty hard work it is, too, the first ploughing, or "breaking," as it is called; as of course the land that has been growing grass for centuries is one mass of roots, and the plough goes pop! pop! pop! cutting through them, sometimes coming to a dead stop at some extra thick bunch of roots. Every now and then the share has to be sharpened with a big file. It is very hard work for the animals, too, if they have much to do. For a small plough with a twelve-inch share, two oxen or three horses are generally used; but a good deal of breaking is done with a large plough of about twenty or twenty-four inch share, and from three to six yoke of oxen. Of course everybody does not own these things, and considerable business is done in breaking prairie by the acre. After we had broken a considerable piece of land the various crops were put in. These consisted principally of Indian corn, spring wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, sorghum, or sugar

Page 25
cane, and a good number of different seeds in a patch of ground appropriated to garden uses. After this was all done fences had to be built to protect the crops from stray cattle and horses. Vast herds, belonging to people living miles away perhaps, wandered about at their own sweet will, and as we had very good spring water on our land it was rather a favourite pasture ground. Since that time, however, a herd law has been passed, so that no cattle are allowed to go about without a herder to keep them out of mischief during six months- viz., May to November. Fences are, therefore, no longer necessary, but still almost every one is trying to grow an osage-orange hedge. This is a prickly shrub that grows very rapidly, and bears a good deal of resemblance to an orange tree, including the fruit, though that is not edible.
We bought several head of cattle soon after settling, and as they were mostly cows with young calves, there was no difficulty in keeping them-at home; all we had to do was to fasten the calves up. The oxen and horses when not at work were picketed out on the prairie by a long rope and

Page 26
a stake driven in the ground, until they were accustomed to the place. The land where we had settled was very undulating, being on the head of a creek; and to an inexperienced eye all the little valleys or ravines, as they are called, were strangely alike, being only distinguishable one from another by a few bushes, or some large stones, or perhaps a little stream. For some time, then, it was hardly advisable to go far from the house without a compass. I know on one occasion my father and I started to walk to Junction City, which lay to the north-west of us some seventeen miles, but the country being divided into sections, we thought it better to go straight west at first until we should strike a creek about six miles away, and then turn to the north, and follow it until it fell into the Smoky River. Well, we started all right, and proceeded for a few miles as we thought in a westerly direction, but as the sun was overclouded, we presently looked at the compass? and found, to our astonishment, that we were travelling as fast as we could just south-east. We altered our course at once, and after some time struck Clarke's creek,

Page 27
from whence it was an easy matter to find our way to Junction. As my father had some business at the bank, he hurried forward and left me to follow. When nearing the town, while passing along the railroad track, I captured a wild duck. It was sitting still, and I threw a big stone at it and broke its wing. As I did. not then know how to wring its neck, I carried it along to the Empire Hotel, where we were to put up, and there asked the proprietor to do it for me. This he did with a vengeance, for he took the unfortunate bird by the head, and swung it round and round till the neck broke, and the body flew across the room, scattering blood and feathers in all directions. The proprietor did not seem very well pleased with the mess he had made, and kicked the dead duck out in the snow; but I could not see that it mattered much, as the floor was always pretty wet with tobacco juice.
We returned home by another route, buying some cows on the way. Soon after the house was finished Parker set to work to dig a cellar in the side of a hill near by. I don't know exactly what he in

Page 28
tended to make of it, but he commenced very enthusiastically, and soon made a bit of a show. Presently, though, he struck rock, and his progress was not so fast, and it really took him several weeks off and on before he got it to look much like a cellar. By this time the sun was scorching hot, and as he was working with nothing on his back but a thin shirt, and once not even that, his back became so burned that it was a mass of blisters, and for a fortnight he could do nothing. He never finished his undertaking, and ever since, although it has half fallen in, the big hole has been known as "Parker's Cellar."
I am afraid that we boys at first looked upon life on the prairie as being all fun and adventure, and could hardly see it in its right light; hence when we got some real work to do we were apt to shirk it, as being hardly what we had expected. Quite early in the spring after we had got some land broken, we were sent to plant about a bushel of haricot beans in one part of the field. We were not to plant a piece of land of any particular size, but to keep on planting until all the beans were used up. We started all right, putting in two or

Page 29
three beans every foot or so all along the furrow, but soon got tired of it, and so finding that we were using up the beans but slowly we began planting them a handful at a time. In this way we soon finished our task, but when the beans began to grow and came up a dozen times too thick, that let the cat out of the bag, and didn't we catch it hot then! We hadn't calculated on that.
Upon first settling we were greatly troubled with skunks, which used to kill our fowls and steal our eggs. Our first acquaintance was made in this way. One day there was a great commotion among the chickens, and upon my looking under a small corn-crib to see what was the cause, a skunk snapped at my nose. Fortunately for me, though, he did not reach it, so I made for the house, and called Humphrey, who came and shot him with 'his revolver Jack and I then dragged it out and skinned it, but the stench was so awful, that after having salted the pelt and nailed it to the side of the house, we could stand it no longer, and had to take it down and bury it. Those who have never seen, or rather smelled, a skunk can form no idea of the power of the perfume.

Page 30
The smell is quite unique, but has a flavour of onions about it, but its pungency nothing can describe.
I have myself seen dogs after attacking one go away coughing and gasping for breath; in fact, it has to be a mighty good dog to tackle one.
One day we found a skunk in the milk-house, but were fortunately able to shoot him quite dead before he had time to guard himself with his noxious defence, otherwise I don't know what we should have done with the house.
As we had several cows, and consequently plenty of milk and butter, we had made a very nice cool house by digging out a spring and lining it with flat stones. The clear cold water ran over the floor, and a few stones we left a little higher to step on. A roof was made, and the whole covered with earth, thus making a beautifully cool place, which we should have been sorry to have had spoiled. Walter Woods once rode over a skunk in the dark on horseback, and for months the smell of the saddle was almost unbearable. The only way to get rid of the smell from clothing, etc., is to bury it; water is no good at all.

Page 31
There is a little story of the skunk as follows:-Sambo (a slave) had been whipped for stealing his master's onions. One day he appeared with a skunk in his arms, "Massa," said he, "here's de chap what steal de onions! Whew! Smell him bref!"
After we had been settled a while we purchased a waggon and a team of horses, and so occasionally went to town, and also hauled wood from our land.
On one of our journeys we had a fine spill. We were returning with a big load of wood piled up on the waggon frame, and were proceeding along very quietly, when the whole thing collapsed. Humphrey and I were sitting up on the top of the load, and were suddenly deposited on the grass, much to our surprise. For a while we could not make out the cause, until we found that the linch-pin which connects the two parts of a waggon together had jumped out. Thus the horses went on with the two front wheels, and left the two hind wheels standing still, and of course down went the whole load. Fortunately we were neither of us hurt, and after a little delay we rigged the waggon up again and proceeded on our journey.

Page 32
One stormy, wet night during the early spring my father and Humphrey were very late returning from town in the waggon, and got lost. It was so dreadfully dark that Walter, who had gone out to look for a cow, had got lost too, and as Harry Parker was away somewhere, we two boys were left alone in the house. Well, we got our supper ready, and waited about for some few hours after dark,-and it was pitch dark, too,-and then, feeling rather anxious, we lighted a lantern, and took it to the top of the hill behind the house.
We then shouted as loud as we could, and waved our lamp in the hope that it might guide some of our friends home should they be in sight, but we heard no reply. Unfortunately, almost as we got to the top of the hill, our lamp blew out, though we heard afterwards that those in the waggon had just seen a glimmer of it. We were then in a little danger of losing ourselves, it was so terribly dark; but knowing the lay of the land very well, and being on our bare feet, we managed to keep our track all right. As we could do nothing else, we turned into bed after shouting a bit more, and in another couple of hours all our friends turned up.

Page 33
It appeared that my father came to the conclusion that they were not going right, and declared to Humphrey, who was driving, that they were going round and round. This Humphrey indignantly denied, so to prove it, my father got out and stood still in the dark, while Humphrey described a complete circle, and declared that he had been going straight all the time.
After this conclusive evidence they unhitched the horses from the waggon, and getting on their backs allowed them to go as they chose, and were brought straight home.
On the way they stumbled over Walter, who had laid down on the wet grass under an umbrella to pass the night, within a few hundred yards of the house. In the morning they went to look for the waggon, and found it all safe, and could see by the tracks that they had described several circles. I believe that this will happen to any one walking in absolute darkness or with eyes shut.
We used to come across some queer things sometimes when we boys were wandering about. One day Jack and I found a great

Page 34
turtle, about two feet across, in a pond, but we did not know what to do with him, till presently a neighbour,-for we had some after a while,-who had to come down to haul water from our spring, came along, and he soon fetched him out and took him home to make soup.
Once when we were at work hoeing the Indian corn, our dog began making a great noise, and upon our going to see what was the matter, we found him very busy with a big badger, although not daring to attack it, as it was a large animal, and displayed a good set of teeth. After ho]ding a council of war we set to ourselves, and the dog and I engaged his attention in front with divers false attacks, I brandishing a hoe very defiantly.
This gave Tack an opportunity to make a detour, and attack in the rear. On the way he procured a big fence rail, and getting in position, he brought it down with all his strength on the brute, and as he-perhaps more forcibly than elegantly-expressed it, "knocked the stuffing out of him."
Tortoises were very common. I had one for a pet, and made him quite tame, so that I

Page 35
could open his mouth and put my finger inside without him biting. I used to amuse myself by getting him to draw a little sledge that I made. I bored two small holes in the shell at the back and put in some wire loops, and hitched him to the sledge with string. FIe used then to pull a little load of wood or anything else I put upon it. In the autumn he ran away to go torpid for the winter, as their manner
Horned Toad

is, but I found him again next spring, and of course recognised him by his wires.
I also had another queer" critter" for a pet. It was a sort of lizard, quite harmless, but decidedly ferocious in appearance. It was commonly called a "horned toad," though

Page 36
why I do not know; for although it had plenty of horns, it hadn't much toad about it.
We had also a good many queer things in the way of insects. There was one called the "Devil's darning needle," a long narrow thing about like a twig of wood; another, who always seemed to be in an attitude of prayer, with his front legs held up like arms supplicating; then there was a thing just like a leaf, so that one could scarcely believe there was life in it; and then there were

great over-grown grasshoppers, which seemed almost too fat to hop, with queer sorts of swords behind them.

In the evening we could hear some great insects drumming away very noisily, something like the rattlesnake's rattle, which we took it to be for some time; but we found that it proceeded from a creature like a tremendous

Page 37
blowfly or blue-bottle, but of brilliant colours. There was also the "Katy-did," an insect that keeps on making a noise which, with a little imagination, can be made into" Katy-did, Katy-did!"
Among other insects apparently indigenous to the soil were regular bed bugs, which were to be found in the woods, and, together with sheepticks, would drop from the trees on to the unwary traveller. The bugs seemed to prefer the black walnut trees more particularly, and were often found on fence posts and rails under the bark. The Colorado beetle, about which there was such a scare in England a few years since, was always to be found with us, but seldom did much damage, though sometimes present in large quantities. There was another kind of potato bug which did much more harm-a long slate-coloured insect. These we used to try and get rid of as much as we possibly could. They were generally to be found on the top of the haulm, and so we walked along with a pail and brushed the bugs in with a stick, and afterwards scalded them.
An insect much more dreaded than either, though not on account of the potato, was the

Page 38
chinch-bug, a little black thing about the size of a big flea, but which sometimes infested the Indian corn, and sucked all the juice out of it, so that it withered and died. Owing to their small size one could not do much to check them.
There were several kinds of large spiders, some with bodies as large as hazel-nuts, and legs two or three inches long, of a brilliant velvety black, with gold or red spots. They were exceedingly repulsive, and I should think that a bite would be dangerous. They used to stretch their nets right across paths, in the trees, or long grass, several feet wide. We amused ourselves by snapping at them with our cattle whips.
Centipedes and scorpions were occasionally found, but I never heard of any one getting hurt by them.
Sometimes, when bathing, we boys used to get stung by a peculiar kind of caterpillar that was to be found upon the bushes lining the pond. For a long time we could not make out what was the matter, when brushing by the bushes it seemed almost as if the leaves stung us; but, upon further examination, we

Page 39 found that there were little hairy caterpillars on the bushes that, when touched, stung us rather sharply. The after effect was about like a mosquito bite.
Of beetles there was an infinite variety, some of them of most brilliant hues. Mosquitoes, too, abounded, and proved exceedingly troublesome, both to ourselves and the cattle.
The latter were worried a good deal by big black flies,-fat things an inch or more long,- which used to settle along the backs of the cattle out of reach of their tails, and deposit eggs under their

skin. Here they remained till spring, when they had changed to great grubs or chrysalises, and we boys used to go among the cattle and squeeze them out with our

Page 40
thumbs. This is so universal an occurrence that prices of skins are usually quoted in two ways--ordinary, and free from grubs.
Besides the noisy insects, the bull-frogs and the small frogs kept up a continual roar or croaking, so that music was not unknown on the prairie. The bull-frogs were tremendous creatures, measuring from nose to toes a foot to eighteen inches; their roar can he heard a mile or more. Fortunately they were not very numerous, but the small frogs were in every pond in myriads, but by degrees they got thinned out around us by our ducks.
In very wet weather the toads used to croak; at night, and they were so plentiful in places as to be almost deafening. Snakes I will speak of presently; but besides these we had a great variety of lizards, and even chameleons. It was very funny to see these latter change their colour. We would see one perhaps of a green or violet colour, sitting on a big rock, and would throw a stone at him, when in an instant he was almost invisible, having changed to a dull grey like the rock. Besides all these things there were a good

Page 41
many wolves about us for some time, as our first attempts at duck-keeping well proved. Ducks are rather silly birds, and will not go into a house at night like hens, but prefer to take their repose either on the water or else on the banks. Hence they fall an easy prey to the coyotes, as the small prairie wolves are called. We bought a few ducks when we first moved up, and after losing most of them built a small sod house, and by careful attention managed to keep them for some time, driving them in every evening. But one night a stray pig broke the door down, and they were all carried away, save one old drake. We had the pleasure of seeing a wolf disappear over the hill in the morning, with the last duck on his shoulder. However, the pig kindly left us eighteen eggs, and by rare good luck we hatched them all under hens, and so got a good start again, much to the old drake's satisfaction. It was very amusing to see the fuss he made with the young ones.
Besides the coyotes, which we could hear barking almost every night, there were a few grey wolves in the neighbourhood, but both

Page 42
are getting scarce now, as they are hunted a good deal. An arrangement is made, that on a certain day all the young men for some miles around shall start from the outer edge of a large tract of country and ride towards an agreed centre, driving in any wolves they may come across. By the time all the horsemen are in sight of one another they may perhaps have six or eight wolves surrounded, which are then shot and killed.
The grey wolves are considered rather dangerous, but rarely attack a man unless in company, and goaded by hunger to desperation. The coyotes are arrant cowards.
Besides our ducks Jack had three geese, but was not verysuccessful with them; for one was carried off by a wolf, the old gander was killed by a stray dog, and the other stupid old goose took to sitting, and there she " sot and sot " till she died-literally of starvation, despite all our efforts to make her feed. Thus ended Jack's speculation.
I was equally fortunate with my live stock. I had a little pig given me, and a very fine pig it grew; it was so long and so thin

Page 43
that we called it " the greyhound." It was a very intelligent animal though, and was a good one at a fence; in fact, it was impossible to keep it in a pen at all, and really became so knowing, that if upon finding it in the garden we called the dogs, it would immediately rush away and jump back into the pen before a dog had time to get it by the ear. After a while, when it had got pretty big, or rather long and tall, my father proposed to make pork of it, though more with the idea of getting rid of the mischievous thing than anything else, and so I traded him away, with a little to boot, for a heifer calf. The latter grew till she was two years old, and then laid down and died, and thus stopped my cattle-raising.

More tomorrow