16. STONEMAN'S LAKE
THE ROAD began now to ascend, and after twenty miles' travelling we reached a place called Updyke's Tanks. It was a nice place, with plenty of wood and grass. The next day we camped at Jay Coxe's Tanks. It was a hard day's march, and I was tired out when we arrived there. The ambulance was simply jerked over those miles of fearful rocks; one could not say driven or dragged over, for we were pitched from rock to rock the entire distance.
The sure-footed mules picked their way over these sharp-edged rocks. There was not a moment's respite. We asked a soldier to help with holding the baby, for my arms gave out entirely, and were as if paralyzed. The jolting threw us all by turns against the sides of the ambulance (which was not padded), and we all got some rather bad bruises. We finally bethought ourselves of the pappoose basket, which we had brought along in the ambulance, having at the last moment no other place to put it. So a halt was called, we placed the tired baby in this semi-cradle, laced the sides snugly over him, and were thus enabled
He did not cry much, but the dust made him thirsty. I could not give him nourishment without stopping the entire train of wagons, on account of the constant pitching of the ambulance; delay was not advisable of expedient, so my poor little son had to endure with the rest of us. The big Alsatian cavalryman held the cradle easily in his strong arms, and so the long miles were travelled, one by one.
At noon of this day we made a refreshing halt, built a fire and took some luncheon. We found a shady. grassy spot, upon which the blankets were spread, and we stretched ourselves out upon them and rested. But we were still some miles from water, so after a short respite we were compelled to push on. We had been getting steadily higher since leaving Sunset Crossing, and now it began to be cold and looked like snow. Mrs. Bailey and I found it very trying to meet these changes of temperature. A good place for the camp was found at Coxe's Tanks, trenches were dug around the tents, and the earth banked up to keep us warm. The cool air, our great fatigue, and the comparative absence of danger combined to give us a heavenly night's rest.
Bailey and the guide shot some wild turkeys, and as we had already eaten all the mutton we had along, the ragout of turkey made by the soldier-cook for our supper tasted better to us tired and hungry travellers, perhaps, than a canvasback at Delmonico's tastes to the weary lounger or the over-worked financier.
In the course of the day, we had passed a sort of sign-board, with the rudely written inscription, “Camp Starvation,” and we had heard from Mr. Bailey the story of the tragic misfortunes at this very place of the well-known Hitchcock family of Arizona. The road was lined with dry bones, and skulls of oxen,
However, Stoneman's Lake remains a joy in the memory, and far and away the most beautiful spot I ever saw in Arizona. But unless the approaches to it are made easier, tourists will never gaze upon it.
In the distance we saw the “divide,” over which we must pass in order to reach Camp Verde, which was to be our first stopping place, and we looked joyfully towards the next day's march, which we expected would bring us there.
But the road on the following day was worse than any we had yet encountered. I could not remain in the ambulance, so tried to walk a part of the way. The Alsatian carried the baby in the Apache cradle, while the rest of us followed. One of the cavalrymen gave me his horse to ride, but I was not strong enough at that time to mount a horse.
Little by little we gave up hope of reaching Verde that day. At four o'clock we crossed the “divide,” and clattered down a road so near the edge of a precipice that I was frightened beyond everything: my senses nearly left me. Down and around, this way and that, near the edge, then back again, swaying, swerving, pitching, the gravel clattering over the precipice, the six mules trotting their fastest, we reached the bottom and the driver pulled up his team.
As Jack lifted me out of the ambulance, I said: ‘‘“Why didn't you tell me?”’’ pointing back to the steep road. ‘‘“Oh,”’’ said he, ‘‘“I thought it was better for you not to know; people get scared about such things, when they know about them beforehand.”’’
I had been brought up in a flat country down near the sea, and I did not know the dangers of mountain travelling, nor the difficulties attending the piloting of a six-mule team down a road like that. From this time on, however, Smith rose in my estimation. I seemed also to be realizing that the Southwest was a great country and that there was much to learn about. Life out there was beginning to interest me.
Camp Verde lay sixteen miles farther on; no one knew if the road were good or bad. I declared I could not travel another mile, even if they all went on and left me to the wolves and the darkness of Beaver Springs.
We looked to our provisions and took account of stock. There was not enough for the two families. We had no flour and no bread; there was only a small piece of bacon, six potatoes, some condensed milk; and some Chocolate. The Baileys decided to go on; for
By the light of the blazing mesquite wood, we now divided what provisions we had, into two portions: one for supper, and one for breakfast. A very light meal we had that evening, and I arose from the mess. table unsatisfied and hungry.
Jack and I sat down by the camp-fire, musing over the hard times we were having, when suddenly I heard a terrified cry from my little son. We rushed to the tent, lighted a candle, and oh! horror upon horrors! his head and face were covered with large black ants; he was wailing helplessly, and beating the air with his tiny arms.
I seized the child, and brushing off the ants as I fled, brought him out to the fire, where by its light I succeeded in getting rid of them all. But the horror of it! Can any mother brought up in God's country with kind nurses and loved ones to minister to her child, for a moment imagine how I felt when I saw those hideous, three-bodied, long-legged black ants
My long, hard journey of the preceding autumn, covering a period of two months; my trying experiences during the winter at Camp Apache; the sudden break-up and the packing; the lack of assistance from a nurse; the terrors of the journey; the sympathy for my child, who suffered from many ailments and principally from lack of nourishment, added to the profound fatigue I felt, had reduced my strength to a minimum. I wonder that I lived, but something sustained me, and when we reached Camp Verde the next day, and drew up before Lieutenant O'Connell's quarters, and saw Mrs. O'Connell's kind face beaming to welcome us, I felt that here was relief at last.
I felt sorry I had not taken him out of the basket before we arrived. I did not realize the impression it would make at Camp Verde. After all, they did not know anything about our life at Apache, of our rough travels to get back from there. Here were lace-curtained windows, well-dressed women, smart uniforms, and, in fact, civilization, compared with what we had left.
The women of the post gathered around the broad piazza, to see the wonder. But when they saw the poor little wan face, the blue eyes which looked sadly out at them from this rude cradle, the linen bandages covering the back of the head, they did not laugh any more, but took him and ministered to him, as only kind women can minister to a sick baby.
There was not much rest, however, for we had to sort and rearrange our things, and dress ourselves properly. (Oh! the luxury of a room and a tub, after that journey!) Jack put on his best uniform, and there was no end of visiting, in spite of the heat, which was-considerable even at that early date in May. The day there would have been pleasant enough but for my wretched condition.
The next morning we set out for Fort Whipple, making a long day's march, and arriving late in the evening. The wife of the Quartermaster, a total stranger to, me, received us, and before we had time to exchange the usual social platitudes, she gave one look at the baby, and put an end to any such attempts.
‘‘“You have a sick child; give him to me;”’’ then I told her some things, and she said: ‘‘“I wonder he is alive.”’’ Then she took him under her charge and declared we should not leave her house until he was well again. She understood all about nursing, and day by day, under her good care, and Doctor Henry Lippincott's skilful treatment, I saw my baby brought back to life again. Can I ever forget Mrs. Aldrich's blessed kindness?
Up to then, I had taken no interest in Camp MacDowell, where was stationed the company into which my husband was promoted. I knew it was somewhere in the southern part of the Territory, and isolated. The present was enough. I was meeting my old Fort Russell friends, and under Doctor Lippincott's good care I was getting back a measure of strength. Camp MacDowell was not yet a reality to me.
We met again Colonel Wilkins and Mrs. Wilkins and Carrie, and Mrs. Wilkins thanked me for bringing her daughter alive out of those wilds. Poor girl; 'twas but a few months when we heard of her death, at the birth of her second child. I have always thought her death was caused by the long hard journey from Apache to Whipple, for Nature never intended women to go through what we went through, on that memorable, journey by Stoneman's Lake.
‘‘“Of course they can,”’’ he replied, and then, turning towards the window, he ventured: ‘‘“The fact is, Martha, I've been offered it, and am thinking it over.”’’ (The real truth was, that he had applied for it, thinking it possessed great advantages over Camp MacDowell.)
‘‘“Now, Martha, be reasonable; listen to me, and if you really decide against it, I'll throw up the detail. But don't you see, we shall be right on the river, the boat comes up every fortnight or so, you can jump aboard and go up to San Francisco.”’’ (Oh, how alluring that sounded to my ears!) ‘‘“Why, it's no trouble to get out of Arizona from Ehrenberg. Then,
All the discomforts of the voyage on the “Newbern,” and the memory of those long days spent on the river steamer in August had paled before my recent experiences. I flew, in imagination, to the deck of the “Gila,” and to good Captain Mellon, who would take me and my child out of that wretched Territory.
‘‘“Yes, yes, let us go then,”’’ I cried; for here came in my inexperience. I thought I was choosing the lesser evil, and I knew that Jack believed it to be so, and also that he had set his heart upon Ehrenberg, for reasons known only to the understanding of a military man.