27. THE EIGHT FOOT LEAVES ARIZONA


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[page 216]

AND now after the eight days of most distressing heat, and the fatigue of all sorts and varieties of travelling, the nights spent in a stage-coach or at a desert inn, or in the road agent's buckboard, holding always my little son close to my side, came six days more of journeying down the valley of the Gila.

We took supper in Phœnix, at a place known as “Devine's.” I was hearing a good deal about Phœnix; for even then, its gardens, its orchards and its climate were becoming famous, but the season of the year was unpropitious to form a favorable opinion of that thriving place, even if my opinions of Arizona, with its parched-up soil and insufferable heat, had not been formed already.

We crossed the Gila somewhere below there, and stopped at our old camping places, but the entire valley was seething hot, and the remembrance of the December journey seemed but an aggravating dream.

We joined Captain Corliss and the company at Antelope Station, and in two more days were at Yuma City. By this time, the Southern Pacific Railroad had been built as far as Yuma, and a bridge thrown across the Colorado at this point. It seemed an incongruity. And how burning hot the cars looked, standing there in the Arizona sun!


[page 217]

After four years in that Territory, and remembering the days, weeks, and even months spent in travelling on the river, of marching through the deserts, I could not make the Pullman cars seem a reality.

We brushed the dust of the Gila Valley from our clothes, I unearthed a hat from somewhere, and some wraps which and not seen the light for nearly two years, and prepared to board the train.

I cried out in my mind, the prayer of the woman in one of Fisher's Ehrenberg stories, to which I used to listen with unmitigated delight, when I lived there. The story was this: “Mrs. Blank used to live here in Ehrenberg; she hated the place just as you do, but she was obliged to stay. Finally, after a period of two years, she and her sister, who had lived with her, were able to get away. I crossed over the river with them to Lower California, on the old rope ferry-boat which they used to have near Ehrenberg, and as soon as the boat touched the bank, they jumped ashore, and down they both went upon their knees, clasped their hands, raised their eyes to Heaven, and Mrs. Blank said: ‘‘‘I thank Thee, oh Lord! Thou hast at last delivered us from the wilderness, and brought us back to God's country. Receive my thanks, oh Lord!’“’’

And then Fisher used to add: ‘‘“And the tears rolled down their faces, and I knew they felt every word they spoke; and I guess you'll feel about the same way when you get out of Arizona, even if you don't quite drop on your knees,”’’ he said.


[page 218]

The soldiers did not look hall as picturesque, climbing into the cars, as they did when loading onto a barge; and when the train went across the bridge, and we looked down upon the swirling red waters of the Great Colorado from the windows of a luxurious Pullman, I sighed; and, with the strange contradictoriness of the human mind, I felt sorry that the old days had come to an end. For, somehow, the hardships and deprivations which we have endured, lose their bitterness when they have become only a memory.


[page 218a]

FORT YUMA, ARIZONA, AND RAILROAD BRIDGE OVER THE GREAT COLORADO, 1877

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