CHAPTER XIII. THE SALT RIVER VALLEY—LOST ON A DESERT...


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THE SALT RIVER VALLEY—LOST ON A DESERT— ‘‘HAPPY CAMP’’ A DOLLAR DRINK—WATER TWENTY-FIVE CENTS—THE BED IN THE MANGER—MULE VERSUS MAN—IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS—MONTEZUMA OR WASHINGTON, WHICH?

WE had left the Gila Bend, where the Gila makes a bold sweep from its eastward course—turns north and emerges into the Salt River—where it furnishes one of the richest valleys in the State. Our course now was to be over a section of country differing very much from our former travels along the Gila, and resembling in character the land similar to that left by the receding of some portions of the great sea. For miles, the land is composed of a rich sandy loam which, when irrigated, produces largely. There are nine thousand acres of land under cultivation in the Salt River valley alone. This character of land continues for ninety miles to Florence, from which point going eastward still, you enter a more mountainous country. This description of the land applies to the section from the Gila Bend to Florence with the exception of the first fifteen miles, which is spread over


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as desolate a waste as any one would wish to see, and which brings us to the famous ‘‘happy camp.’’

On the 10th of December at 10.30 we arrived at the famous ‘‘Happy Camp’’—or rather a portion of our party did. We had intended pushing on that day across the desert to Maricopa Wells, but a mishap befel us, so we were compelled to remain the rest of the day on account of the loss of one of our party. The ease was after this wise:

Before arriving at the camp we lost sight of one of our wagons. We were not alarmed at this, however, thinking they had got on faster than we, or that they had taken another road, there being two. We arrived at the camp but the other portion of our party had not. We waited until twelve P. M. and then our fears began to be agitated, and a consultation being held by our party on the spot an hour after our arrival, it was declared that the other wagon must have been lost, and when those words ‘‘lost on the desert’’ fell upon my ear, a chill ran through my whole frame. Visions of the skeletons on the great Mojavé desert in the north, and the wayside graves along the Gila, came up before me and I felt lonely. We despatched at once a son of the station agent, who was experienced in all Indian trails and roads to seek after the missing party and guide them aright. At two P. M. cheers arose from our party at the camp, at the sight of the missing wagon


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THE REGION OF THE ‘‘THOUSAND WELLS,’’ ON A HIGH ROCKY MESA.


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coming around a stony mound a short distance from us. Many congratulations met the youthful guide of the plains who had safely guided our straying party to its haven and its friends, together with something of a more solid and substantial nature.

‘‘Happy Camp’’ is an anomaly in its nomenclature; and yet the happiness we experienced in meeting our lost companions threw some light upon what might have possibly been the incentive to the title it now enjoys. How do we know what succor some wayfaring, depressed or perhaps, starving pioneer had received from a more successful traveler at this particular point. Or how from beneath the Apachés club, or the Navejò's tomahawk, some helpless one has been snatched by the timely arrival of some mountain trapper or mining prospector. It must have been some such condition as this that gained for this sterile, gloomy place, its ‘‘happy’’ name. It is situated on a barren tract at the root of a scattered, diminutive range of mountains, where the presumptuous cactus (Saguara) like a vaunting egotist, rears its haughty head and reigns supreme where it has no competing foe. Stretching far away over the crested billows of the rolling valley of the Gila can be seen the crested sentinels of the hills and plains.

Contrary to the name then, this spot is a dreary one, and yet the marvelous and extensive valleys that one


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sees again after crossing the one ridge of mountains to the east verifies the assertion of Prof. Wheeler, that a large portion of the lands are or can be made agricultural.

At this station water has to be brought fifteen miles from the Gila River, and the charge of twenty-five cents per head is made for watering horses. I think the price was formerly one dollar; but from some advanced facilities in fetching it,—it hasrecently been reduced. ‘‘Happy Camp,’’ like many of the ‘‘Hotels of the desert’’ is nothing more than a camping spot, and combines all the vicissitudes as well as the ecstatic diversities of life on a frontier. The scenery around is dismal and the character of the little mountlets, mounds and peaks that hem us in close by, give the whole a dreary effect. But if interest alone, makes beauty in a thing, then this place would deserve emphatically the name of beautiful. One little event experienced here, I would not sell for any other one of the trip. When night came, always having the same interest in that great natural restorative sleep, as I have in the more material one mentioned by Artemus Ward of the ‘‘stumik,’’ became somewhat anxious for our place of repose. On this open, fruitless, barren, even grassless spot, we found no place to equal that of the corral where the mules had already been placed for shelter and repose. They had of course been put in


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JUST IN FROM THE DESERT—GETTING READY FOR A SQUARE MEAL.


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the most pleasant and comfortable stalls in the corral, made for their protection from the tornadoes or sand storms that sometimes Mow across these wasted plains in a very reckless manner to say the least. The corral, as most all do, throughout this land, consisted of trunks of small trees for the corner pieces, and the rest made up of an association of reeds or stalks of the different cacti of the location, and the top had a pretended covering of the coarse hay or weeds of the desert around. However, this did not prevent you from seeing the stars at will, nor of enjoying the refreshing spatterings of the rain if it should come.

The propriety of turning the brute animals out was first considered; but some one who had evidently acquired the spirit of a ‘‘Bergh,’’ protested. Stating that if one of our party should be taken sick, or catch his death of cold, or die, it would not make so much difference, as we could really go on without him. But if our mules were to meet the like fate— ‘‘What would we do?’’ to be sure. We of course admitted the argument. As I write this, the thought suggests itself, how singularly the condition of things, or circumstances, will transverse the whole aspect of a case. At all events, as time progressed, it became more and more apparent that our lot was to be a bed in the manger; and as the fact forced itself upon us the novelty of it became more prominent. To humble our


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selves then the more, got by degrees, to be the ambition of each and every one of our party. There were several old broken stalls, with mangers torn down, or delapidated, which had been decided, by the firm protest of our Berghite, we must make the best of and use. Not the best now, but the very worst of these, each one wanted to claim, either to immortalize himself by his sufferings, or to the more thoroughly contradict his previous selfish impulse. It was a solemn procession that night as we all walked from the crude built depot on one side of the road, to our ‘‘lowly cots’’ on the other. Yes! we were to sleep ‘‘in a manger’’ that night. As vividly was the story of our Maker brought to our minds as ever was done by the communion table, or the cross. As we lay there watching the stars twinkle one by one, no one will or can ever know perhaps of the sentiments that occupied many of our minds, until far into the night. I singled out one large and brilliant star and named it the ‘‘Star of Bethlehem.’’ I almost fancied I could see it move. On all occasions, however, will one have thrust into his ear these misnomic allusions about the Arizona deserts. One man, apparently an intelligent gentleman, said to me in riding over one of the stage lines on the Colorado basin :

‘‘“I tell you sir, these lands will never be worth the paper the deed may be written upon. Never! Let


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anybody have them that wants them. I would give them for the asking.”’’

He was emphatic. He knew it all, evidently—or thought he did.

‘‘But! My dear sir,’’ said I, ‘‘“How do we know what may develop to prove that these lands may be good for something yet?”’’

‘‘I don't care,’’ said he a little irritably ‘‘“they never will be worth the paper the deed is made on. Besides,”’’said he, endeavoring to retain a little respect for his temper, ‘‘“you can only argue for a thing by what you know.”’’

He could not have said anything that would have given me better ground for my argument. The barometer for argument was rising in me. His last remark stirred an old theme, and I said; ‘‘“Yes, true, my dear sir, but here is just where your great error lies, and where man lacks a great mental scope; where acting upon what he knows only, he lays down theories, and allows no license for what he does not know. He unwittingly and virtually asserts there is nothing beyond what he does really know, which is the worst of all egotisms.”’’

The old fellow gave me a penetrating glance for just a moment, and then said, ‘‘Ah! you're too intricate, young man.’’

‘‘“Yes! and it is this ignorance of these ‘intricate’


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things that often work the greatest harm, and keep the world back in all its practical philosophy.”’’

The argument ended here. I learned afterward that this old man was dyspeptic, and had eaten nothing for either breakfast or dinner but a glass of cold water and a cracker. I had eaten on each occasion two beefsteaks, a broiled chicken on toast, about a quart of frejòles (Mexican beans), and all other things in proportion. He had to pay his dollar, however, as well as 1, this being the price of a meal in Arizona, whether it be a ‘‘square meal’’ or—or a meal at all. He was jealous of me. While I had paid due reverence to Artemus Ward's admonition to ‘‘always look out for your ‘stumik.’’’

At Maricopa Wells there is an oblong isolated mountain range—known as the Sa-de-la-Estrella—one end of which shows a most beautiful and perfect profile of the old historic chief of the Aztecs, Montezuma—so recognized by the tribes throughout the country. It is on the southern spur of the range. The mountains are named the Montezuma Mountains from this fact. I have never been able to see profiles with any accuracy or readiness; but I must confess that this profile of a human face carved or hewn in this rock by some gigantic power will show itself readily to ninety-nine out of every one hundred people. But if accuracy in detail of a mountain is to govern the


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name, then to my mind these would command the name of Washington. I for one, am less acquainted with the physical appearance of Montezuma than of Washington; and from that stand-point come to my decision. Here, as bold as life, between heaven and earth, stands the Father of our country But I must give up my prejudices. We are dealing with Aztec land now, as identified with our own. We have spoken of this profile as a ‘‘beautiful’’ profile. At the hour of one of Arizona's setting suns, it supports this appellation emphatically. Here, with its golden hair emblazoned with the fire of the setting sun, and the tinted nose of a dark shadowed blue, and with a more perfect light on his breast showing a continental ruffled shirt-front, Washington (Montezuma) faces the west in all the boldness of outline relief, and with a positive and admiring air that would seem to re-echo the words to all the world, ‘‘Westward the course of empire takes its way.’’

The Indians have a tradition that the famous Montezuma is buried in this mountain, and that some day he will come forward to deliver and redeem his people. This superstition extends south, way into Mexico. Not a stone of this mountain will any of the Indians in the neighborhood touch upon any consideration. So far does this legend of this natural statuary extend that even in Mexico I was told, when there in '74,


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that some fires which I saw kindled by the Indians, and over which I noticed some formal and solemn performance took place, was in anticipation of the coming of their great chief Montezuma down from the north, where he was resting in his happy hunting grounds. In some locations I understood, these fires were kept burning almost constantly at certain seasons or on certain occasions, to hasten or invoke his coming, evidently feeling their depression which has been a national calamity with them for time immemorial.


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PAPAGO INDIAN WOMEN GOING FOR HAY.

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