8. LEARNING HOW TO SOLDIER
WE MADE fourteen miles the next day, and went into camp at a place called Freeze-wash, near some old silver mines. A bare and lonesome spot, where there was only sand to be seen, and some black, burnt-looking rocks. From under these rocks, crept lizards, snakes, and great tarantulas, not forgetting the scorpion, which ran along with its tail turned up, ready to sting anything that came in its way. The place furnished good water, however, and that was now the most important thing.
The command halted ten minutes every hour for rest, but the sun poured down upon us, and I was glad to stay in the ambulance. It was at these times that my thoughts turned back to the East and to the blue sea and the green fields of God's country. I looked out at the men, who were getting pretty well fagged,
Some of the old soldiers had given out, and had to be put on the army wagons. I was getting to look rather fagged and seedy, and was much annoyed at my appearance. Not being acquainted with the vicissitudes of the desert, I had not brought in my travelling-case a sufficient number of thin wash-bodices. The few I had soon became black beyond recognition, as the dust boiled (literally) up and into the ambulance and covered me from head to foot. But there was no help for it, and no one was much better off.
Willow Grove Springs was reached at four o'clock, and the small cluster of willow trees was most refreshing to our tired eyes. The next day's march was over a rolling country. We began to see grass, and to feel that, at last, we were out of the desert. The wonderful mountain still loomed up large and clear on our left. I thought of the old Spanish explorers, and wondered if they came so far as this, when they journeyed through that part of our country three
I thought of the Harz Mountains, which I had so recently tramped over, and the romantic names and legends connected with them, and I sighed to think such an imposing landmark as this should have such a prosaic name. I realized that Arizona was not a land of romance; and when Jack came to the ambulance, I said, ‘‘“Don't you think it a pity that such monstrous things are allowed in America, as to call that great fine mountain ‘Bill Williams' mountain’?”’’
I then alighted and found my little home awaiting me. The tent-flaps tied open, the mattresses laid, the blankets turned back, the camp-table with candle-stick upon it, and a couple of camp-chairs at the door of the tent. Surely it is good to be in the army, I then thought; and after a supper consisting of soldiers' hot biscuit, antelope steak broiled over the coals, and a large cup of black coffee, I went to rest, listening to the soughing of the pines.
My mattress was spread always upon the ground, with a buffalo robe under it and a hair lariat around it, to keep off the snakes; as it is said they do not like to cross them. I found the ground more comfortable than the camp cots which were used by some of the officers, and most of the women.
About the middle of September, we arrived at American ranch, some ten miles from Fort Whipple, which was the headquarters station. Colonel Wilkins and his family left us, and drove on to their destination. Some officers of the Fifth Cavalry rode out to greet us, and Lieutenant Earl Thomas asked me to come into the post and rest a day or two at their house, as we then had learned that K Company was to march on to Camp Apache, in the far eastern part of the Territory.
We were now enabled to get some fresh clothing from our trunks, which were in the depths of the prairie-schooners, and all the officers' wives were glad to go into the post, where we were most kindly entertained. Fort Whipple was a very gay and hospitable post, near the town of Prescott, which was the capital city of Arizona. The country being mountainous and fertile, the place was very attractive, and I felt sorry
On the next day the troops marched in, and camped outside the post. The married officers were able to join their wives, and the three days we spent there were delightful. There was a dance given, several informal dinners, drives into the town of Prescott, and festivities of various kinds. General Crook commanded the Department of Arizona then; he was out on some expedition, but Mrs. Crook gave a pleasant dinner for us. After dinner, Mrs. Crook came and sat beside me, asked kindly about our long journey, and added: ‘‘“I am truly sorry the General is away; I should like for him to meet you; you are just the sort of woman he likes.”’’ A few years afterwards I met the General, and remembering this remark, I was conscious of making a special effort to please. The indifferent courtesy with which he treated me, however, led me to think that women are often mistaken judges of their husbands' tastes.
The officers' quarters at Fort Whipple were quite commodious, and after seven weeks' continuous travelling, the comforts which surrounded me at Mrs. Thomas' home seemed like the veriest luxuries. I was much affected by the kindness shown me by people I had never met before, and I kept wondering if I should ever have an opportunity to return their
He proved a true prophet, for, sooner or later, I saw them all again, and was able to extend to them the hospitality of an army home. Nevertheless, my heart grows warm whenever I think of the people who first welcomed me to Arizona, me a stranger in the army, and in the great Southwest as well.
At Fort Whipple we met also some people we had known at Fort Russell, who had gone down with the first detachment, among them Major and Mrs. Wilhelm, who were to remain at headquarters. We bade good-bye to the Colonel and his family, to the officers of F, who were to stay behind, and to our kind friends of the Fifth Cavalry.
Captain Brayton, of the Eighth Infantry, and his wife, who were already settled at Camp Verde, received us and took the best care of us. Mrs. Brayton gave me a few more lessons in army house-keeping, and I could not have had a better teacher. I told her about Jack and the tinware; her bright eyes snapped, and she said: ‘‘“Men think they know everything, but the truth is, they don't know anything; you go right ahead and have all the tinware and other things; all you can get, in fact; and when the time
Still another company left our ranks, and remained at Camp Verde. The command was now getting deplorably small, I thought, to enter an Indian country, for we were now to start for Camp Apache. Several routes were discussed, but, it being quite early in the autumn, and the Apache Indians being just then comparatively quiet, they decided to march the troops over Crook's Trail, which crossed the Mogollon range and was considered to be shorter than any other. It was all the same to me. I had never seen a map of Arizona, and never heard of Crook's Trail. Maps never interested me, and I had not read much about life in the Territories. At that time, the history of our savage races was a blank page to me. I had been listening to the stories of an old civilization, and my mind did not adjust itself readily to the new surroundings.