CHAPTER XXVI. MY DEPARTURE FROM TUCSON—ADMONITIONS...
IT was on the afternoon of the 22nd of December,'77 when I returned to the metropolis of Tucson on ‘‘the home stretch.’’ I had left the camp of the Aztec company the day before with Col. Graham, and was now waiting for the departure of the 2 o'clock stage for Yuma on my return. The objects of my trip had been accomplished, and my note book being replete with Arizona lore, the activity with which my mind reverted to home and friends was an amazing contrast to my four months travel over mountain and desert. As I would close my eyes at dusk visions of the home circle, of nephews and nieces crowding upon my knees with eyes sparkling with the fire of animation, eager to know of those ‘‘awful Indians’’ and those ‘‘great big’’ robbers ‘‘out there,’’ would soften the sterner realities of life, and make the heart bow to the more
The afternoon came, and 2 o'clock P. M. saw me seated on the top of the stage coach beside the driver. There was only one other passenger—a soldier from one of the forts. The street had many spectators to our departure. Very few know, except those acquainted with such cases and scenes, of the interest attached to the arrival and departure of the overland stage in a frontier town. All ready, the mail and express matter deposited, a crack of the whip, and we drove off. As we did so, admonitions came thick and fast, not to be scalped by the Apaché nor taken alive by the highwayman. I had often had such admonitions given me before—in Mexico, and Central America they are the common warning to every traveler—but at this time they came with a peculiar grating on my ear. However, I accounted for this by the strange desert dreariness I had imbibed on several occasions during my tour, and by the knowledge that our way lay in part through the Apaché country. The start was a cheerful one.
It would be a thankless task for me, or any one, to attempt to explain how one should go to work to find out what the Jehus of our western frontier coaches are. They are as varied as the minds and tempers of men; and one thing I might here pertinently put for the guidance and safety of all travelers with these sturdy guides of the plains and mountains. Be careful how you set about to do it; or else in trying to find them out, they will beat you two to one, and fathom you deeper than your own knowledge runs. They are natural phrenologists or physiognomists. Nor how, nor where, they know not; but, as one confidently said to me on one occasion, ‘‘We know a man as soon as we lay our eyes on 'im.’’ I found my companion on this occasion, as a Jehu, an old and experienced one; but as a man, in the very vigor of life. His acknowledged cool and resolute character in all cases of emergency, suggested in itself, a safe-guard, if not absolute protection, and I at once set about to get his consent to ride outside all night.
The trip I was now entering out upon, being to take me away from my fields of labor and observation, my mind naturally threw off a certain load. It felt a relief from the sterner objects of my travels, and participated more of the beaux esprit of a careless tourist.
Sitting on the top of the coach, as it jogged along in the cool of the approaching evening, I could now see a beauty in the vast stretching prairie and desert, where before it had been an uninviting trackless waste. Mind had assumed a new relation to matter. I was verifying, it seemed, how the spirit matter made a material thing what it is. A tree is a tree, thought I, and yet what two entirely different things are, a willow which hangs over a mother's grave, and the willow that shades the happy angler, as he sits under its branches by some cooling stream in the joys of recreation, playing with his cunning trout. Is there not as much difference between these two trees, as between incense and gall?
I am reminded here of an interview I had with another of these frontiersmen, in the early part of my travels in this land, that somewhat borders upon this subject, and further exemplifies this theory of Mr. Hill's. We were riding out upon the plain and in referring to the grotesqueness of the houses, the following comparisons took place:
‘‘“Well! Do you know what they remind me of? They remind me of some of these old bachelor codgers—these cock-a-doodles—who wanting in their old age, some congenial spirit (a wife, I mean), put on them-selves all the trimmings mortal man can conceive of—yellow neckties, kid gloves, have their hair cut twice a week and properly greased—or rather improperly so, as it would soil any silk dress it chanced to come in contact with; who, with one hand in his pocket jingling his gold, and in the other, a bunch of roses, he seeks and marries a girl not yet out of her teens. A sweet sixteen as he would call her.”’’
‘‘“No! but some of these odd and ridiculously festooned houses remind me of these ridiculously bedecked human structures. As for the disappointed, lovers, why they are the ones that get out and come here; for if the young girl has some one that she likes, you know, why the old fellow tells her either that she is too young to have company as young as he is; or else she must drop him, or chuck him overboard on some dark night, and that he has got money enough to heal her sorrows and hide crimes alike.”’’
Another case still had I pointed out to me which would seem to defend both of these gentlemen in their theories and surmises. I was shown in the extreme southern part of the Territory, a certain crude log hut in which dwelt a man of some fifty years. We were passing through the canyon in which it was crested cosily on the borders of a clear mountain stream, and beneath the brow of picturesque hills. It was covered
Darkness finally overcame the land, and at six o'clock, we arrived at Desert station. This meant ‘‘supper.’’ Supper taken, and horses changed, we mounted our box seat, and, tucking our robes about us (for the nights were getting just a little chilly) we were off again. We had tucked ourselves in as snugly as those children did for a ‘‘long winter's nap’’ on a famous Christmas eve, although we did not expect to nap much on this occasion. Darkness was well spread over the earth. The moon had not yet risen, but the stars shone forth in all their brilliancy; and by the aid of the limpid atmosphere, lent an interesting vision to the unaccustomed scenes about us. Before us, behind us; to the right of us, and to the left of us, stretched the boundless desert, sprinkled here and there with small clumps of grease wood and bunch grass, and boarded in the distance by a gray outline of the interminable mountains of Arizona. Not a sound was heard save the smothered tread of our animals in the sand—except our own voices, which would seem to
Thus we rode along, not a leaf stirring and not a sound audible save the martial tread of our dumb beasts. What a contrast again, to our lively afternoon's conversation. The gentle jolt of the vehicle had cradled me into a dreamy mood. We had not spoken for some minutes, when suddenly: ‘‘Halt!’’ thundered upon our ears, accompanied with vociferous oaths and calumnies. The echo had scarcely died away when, ‘‘Hold up your hands!” “Throw down your arms!’’ followed the imperative ‘‘Halt!’’ in quick succession. All was done in less time than it takes to tell it. Our blood rushed to our faces. We