9. ACROSS THE MOGOLLONS
IT WAS a fine afternoon in the latter part of September, when our small detachment, with Captain Ogilby in command, marched out of Camp Verde. There were two companies of soldiers, numbering about a hundred men in all, five or six officers, Mrs. Bailey and myself, and a couple of laundresses. I cannot say that we were gay. Mrs. Bailey had said good-bye to her father and mother and sister at Fort Whipple, and although she was an army girl, she did not seem to bear the parting very philosophically. Her young child, nine months old, was with her, and her husband, as stalwart and handsome an officer as ever wore shoulder-straps. But we were facing unknown dangers, in a far country, away from mother, father, sister and brother—a country infested with roving bands of the most cruel tribe ever known, who tortured before they killed. We could not even pretend to be gay.
The travelling was very difficult and rough, and both men and animals were worn out by night. But we were now in the mountains, the air was cool and pleasant, and the nights so cold that we were glad to have a small stove in our tents to dress by in the mornings. The scenery was wild and grand; in fact,
I remember thinking, as we alighted from our ambulances and stood looking over into the Basin, ‘‘“Surely I have never seen anything to compare with this—but oh! would any sane human being voluntarily go through with what I have endured on this journey, in order to look upon this wonderful scene?”’’
The roads had now become so difficult that our wagon-train could not move as fast as the lighter vehicles or the troops. Sometimes at a critical place in the road, where the ascent was not only dangerous, but doubtful, or there was, perhaps, a sharp turn, the ambulances waited to see the wagons safely over the pass. Each wagon had its six mules; each ambulance had also its quota of six.
At the foot of one of these steep places, the wagons would halt, the teamsters would inspect the road, and calculate the possibilities of reaching the top; then, furiously cracking their whips, and pouring forth volley upon volley of oaths, they would start the team. Each mule got its Share of dreadful curses. I had never heard or conceived of any oaths like those. They made my blood fairly curdle, and I am not speaking figuratively. The shivers ran up and down
For although the anathemas hurled at my innocent head, during the impressionable years of girlhood, by the pale and determined Congregational ministers with gold-bowed spectacles, who held forth in the meeting-house of my maternal ancestry (all honor to their sincerity), had taken little hold upon my mind, still, the vital drop of the Puritan was in my blood, and the fear of a personal God and His wrath still existed, away back in the hidden recesses of my heart.
This swearing and lashing went on until the heavily-loaded prairie-schooner, swaying, swinging, and swerving to the edge of the cut, and back again to the perpendicular wall of the mountain, would finally reach the top, and pass on around the bend; then another would do the same. Each teamster had his own particular variety of oaths, each mule had a feminine name, and this brought the swearing down to a sort of personal basis. I remonstrated with Jack, but he said: teamsters always swore; ‘‘“the mules wouldn't even stir to go up a hill, if they weren't sworn at like that.”’’
By the time we had crossed the great Mogollon mesa, I had become accustomed to those dreadful oaths, and learned to admire the skill, persistency and endurance shown by those rough teamsters. I actually got so far as to believe what Jack had told me
When near camp, and over the difficult places, we drove on ahead and waited for the wagons to come in. It was sometimes late evening before tents could be pitched and supper cooked. And oh! to see the poor jaded animals when the wagons reached camp! I could forget my own discomfort and even hunger, when I looked at their sad faces.
One night the teamsters reported that a six-mule team had rolled down the steep side of a mountain. I did not ask what became of the poor faithful mules; I do not know, to this day. In my pity and real distress over the fate of these patient brutes, I forgot to inquire what boxes were on the unfortunate wagon.
It did not surprise us to learn that ours was the first wagon-train to pass over Crook's Trail. For miles and miles the so-called road was nothing but a clearing, and we were pitched and jerked from side to side of the ambulance, as we struck large rocks or tree-stumps; in some steep places, logs were chained to the rear of the ambulance, to keep it from pitching forward onto the backs of the mules. At such places, I got out and picked my way down the rocky declivity.
One day a party of horsemen tore past us at a gallop. Some of them raised their hats to us as they rushed past, and our officers recognized General Crook, but we could not, in the cloud of dust, distinguish officers from scouts. All wore the flannel shirt, handkerchief tied about the neck, and broad campaign hat.
After supper that evening, the conversation turned upon Indians in general, and Apaches in particular. We camped always at a basin, or a tank, of a hole, of a spring, or in some cañon by a creek. Always from water to water we marched. Our camp that night was in the midst of a primeval grove of tall pine trees; verily, an untrodden land. We had a big camp-fire, and we sat around it until very late. There were only five of six officers, and Mrs. Bailey and myself.
‘‘“Our figures must make a mighty good outline against that fire,”’’ remarked one of the officers, nonchalantly; ‘‘“I dare say those stealthy sons of Satan know exactly where we are at this minute,”’’ he added.
No element of doubt pervaded my mind as to my own state. The weird feeling of being up in those remote mountain passes, with but a handful of soldiers against the wary Apaches, the mysterious look of those black tree-trunks, upon which flickered the uncertain light of the camp-fire now dying, and from behind each one of which I imagined a red devil might be at that moment taking aim with his deadly arrow, all inspired me with fear such as I had never before known.
In the cyclone which had overtaken our good ship in mid-Atlantic, where we lay tossing about at the mercy of the waves for thirty-six long hours, I had expected to yield my body to the dark and grewsome depths of the ocean. I had almost felt the cold arms, of Death about me; but compared to the sickening dread of the cruel Apache, my fears then had been as naught. Facing the inevitable at sea, I had closed my eyes and said good-bye to Life. But in this mysterious darkness, every nerve, every sense, was keenly alive with terror.
Several of that small party around the camp-fire have gone from amongst us, but I venture to say that, of the few who are left, not one will deny that he shared in the vague apprehension which seized upon us.
Midnight found us still lingering around the dead ashes of the fire. After going to our tent, Jack saw that I was frightened. He said: ‘‘“Don't worry, Martha, an Apache never was known to attack in the night,”’’ and after hearing many repetitions of this assertion, upon which I made him take his oath, I threw myself upon the bed. After our candle was out, I said: ‘‘“When do they attack?”’’ Jack who, with the soldiers' indifference to danger, was already half asleep, replied: ‘‘“Just before daylight, usually, but do not worry,’’ I say; ‘‘there aren't any Injuns in this neighborhood. Why! Didn't you meet General Crook to-day? You ought to have some sense. If
Just before dawn, as I had fallen into a light slumber, the flaps of the tent burst open, and began shaking violently to and fro. I sprang to my feet, prepared for the worst. Jack started up: ‘‘“What is it?”’’ he cried.
‘‘“It must have been the wind, I think, but it frightened me,”’’ I murmured. The Lieutenant fastened the tent-flaps together, and lay down to sleep again; but my heart beat fast, and I listened for every sound.