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LIFE IN THE "FAR WEST."
[The reader is informed that “Life in the Far West” is no fiction. The scenes and
incidents described are strictly true. The characters are real, (the names being changed in two or three instances only,) and all have been, and are, well known in the Western country.]
" AND Mary Brand herself, -what nised “ courting,” (and Americans is she like?"
alone know the horrors of such pro“She's some' now; that is a fact,” longed purgatory,) they became, to - and the biggest kind of punkin at use La Bonté's words, " awful fond," that," would have been the answer and consequently about once a-week from any man, woman, or child, in had their tiff's and makes-up. Memphis County, and truly spoken Ilowever, on one occasion, at a too ; always understanding that the "husking," and during one of these pumpkin is the fruit to which the tiff's, Mary, every inch a woman, to ne-plus-ultra of female perfection is gratify some indescribable feeling, compared by the figuratively speaking brought to her aid jealousy-that old westerns.
serpent who has caused such misBeing an American woman, of chief in this world ; and by a flirtacourse she was tall, and straight and tion over the corn-cobs with Big slim as a hickory sapling, well formed Pete, La Bonté's former and only withal, with rounded bust, and neck rival, struck so hard a blow at the white and slender as the swan's. latter's heart, that on the moment his Her features were small, but finely brain caught fire, blood danced before chiselled ; and in this, it may be re- his eyes, and he became like one marked, the lower orders of the possessed. Pete observed and enAmerican women differ from, and far joyed his struggling emotion-better surpass the same class in England, for him had lre minded his corn-shelor elsewhere, where the features, ling alone; and the more to annoy although far prettier, are his rival, paid the most sedulous atvnlgar and commonplace. She had tention to the pretty Mary. the bright blue eye, thin nose, and Young La Bonté stood it as long small but sweetly-formed mouth, as human nature, at boiling heat, the too fair complexion and dark could endure ; but when Pete, in the brown hair, which characterise the exultation of his apparent triumph, beauty of the Anglo-American, crowned his success by encircling the the heavy masses (hardly curls) slender waist of the girl with his arm, which fell over her face and neck and snatched a sudden kiss, he contrasting with their polished white- jumped upright from his seat, and ness. Such was Mary Brand : ard to seizing a small whisky-keg which her good looks being added a sweet stood the centre of the corn-sheldisposition, and all the good qualities lers, he hurled it at his rival, and of a thrifty housewife, it must be al- crying to him, hoarse with passion, lowed that she fully justified the eulo- “ to follow if he was a man,” he left giums of the good people of Memphis. the house.
Well, to cut a love-story short, in At that time, and even now, in the the which not a little moral courage remoter states of the western coun. is shown, young La Bonté fell despe- try, rifles settled even the most trivial rately in love with the pretty Mary, differences between the hot-blooded and she with him; and small blame youths ; and of such frequent occurto her, for he was a proper lad of rence and invariably bloody terminatwenty-six feet in his moccassins- tion did they become, that they the best hunter and rifle-shot in the scarcely produced suficient excitement country, with many other advantages to draw together half a dozen spectoo numerous to mention. But when tators of the duel. did the course, &c. e'er run smooth ? In the present case, however, so When the affair had become a recog- public was the quarrel, and so well
VOL. LXIV.-20. CCCXCIII.
known the parties concerned, that of some kind or another, and the connot only the people who had witnessed sequences of the duel were, that the the affair, but all the neighbourhood constables were soon on the trail of thronged to the scene of action, where, La Bonté to arrest him. He, howin a large field in front of the house, ever, easily avoided them, and taking the preliminaries of a duel between to the woods, lived for several days in Pete and La Bonté were being ar- as wild a state as the beasts he hunted ranged by their respective friends. and killed for his support.
Mary, when she discovered the Tired of this, however, he resolved mischief her thoughtlessness was to quit the country, and betake himself likely to occasion, was almost beside to the mountains, for which life he herself with grief, but she knew how had ever felt an inclination. vain it would be to attempt to inter- When, therefore, he thought the fere. The poor girl, who was most officers of justice had tired of seeking ardently attached to La Bonté, was him, and the coast was comparatively carried, swooning, into the house, clear, he determined to start on his where all the women congregated, distant expedition to the Far West. and were locked in by old Brand, Once more, before he carried his who, himself an old pioneer, thought project into execution, he sought and but little of bloodshed, but refused to had a last interview with Mary Brand. let the "women folk” witness the af- “ Mary," said he, “ I'm about to fray.
break. They're hunting me like a fall Preliminaries arranged, the com- buck, and I'm bound to quit. Don't batants took up their respective posi- think any more about me, for I shall tions at either end of a space marked never come back.” Poor Mary burst for the purpose, at forty paces from into tears, and bent her head on the each other. They were both armed table near which she was sitting: with heavy rifles, and had the usual When again she raised it, she saw La hunting-pouches, containing ammu- Bonté, with his long rifle on his shoulnition, hanging over the shoulder. der, striding with rapid steps from the Standing with the butts of their rifles house; and year after year rolled on, on the ground, they confronted each aud he never returned. other, and the crowd drawing away a A few days after this he found himfew paces only on each side, left one self at St Louis, the emporium of the man to give the word. This was the fur trade, and the fast rising metrosingle word “fire;" and after this polis of the precocious settlements of signal was given, the combatants were the west. Here, a prey to the agony at liberty to fire away until one or the of mind which jealousy, remorse, and other dropped.
blighted love mix into a very puchero At the word both the men quickly of misery, La Bonté got into the comraised their rifles to the shoulder, and pany of certain “rowdies," a class as the sharp cracks rung instantane- which every western city particularly ously, they were seen to flinch, as abounds in ; and anxious to drown either felt the pinging sensation of a his sorrows in any way, and quite bullet entering his flesh. Regarding unscrupulous as to the means, he each other steadily for a few moments, plunged into all the vicious excitethe blood running down La Bonté's ments of drinking, gambling, and fightneck from a wound under the left jaw, ing, which form the every-day amusewhilst his opponent was seen to placements of the rising generation of St his hand once to his right breast, as if Louis. to feel the position of his wound, they Perhaps in no other part of the commenced reloading their rifles. As, United States, where indeed humanity however, Petewas in the act of forcing is frequently to be seen in many curious down the ball with his long hickory and unusual phases, is there a populawiping-stick, he suddenly dropped his tion so marked in its general character, right arm,-the rifle slipped from his and at the same time divided into such grasp, --and, reeling for a moment like distinct classes, as in the above-named à drunken man,-he fell dead to the city. Dating, as it does, its foundation ground.
from yesterday,—for what are thirty Even here, however, there was law years in the growth of a metropolis ?
its founders are now scarcely passed genuine character, in which the above middle life, regarding with astonish- traits are eminently prominent-to ment the growing works of their hands; these men alone is due the empire and whilst gazing upon its busy quays, of the West—destined in a few short piled with grain and other produce of years to become the most important the west, its fleets of huge steamboats of those confederate states which comlying tier upon tier alongside the pose the mighty union of North wharves, its well-stored warehouses America. and all the bustling concomitants of Sprung, then, out of the wild and a great commercial depot, they can adventurous fur trade, St Louis, still scarcely realise the memory of a few the emporium of that species of comshort years, when on the same spot merce, preserves even now, in the nothing was to be seen but the few character of its population, many of miserable hovels of a French village the marked peculiarities which distinthe only sign of commerce the un- guished its early founders, who were wieldy bateaux of the Indian traders, identificd with the primitive Indian laden with peltries from the distant in hardiness and instinctive wisdom. regions of the Platte and Upper Mis. Whilst the French portion of the popusouri. Where now intelligent and lation retain the thoughtless levity wealthy merchants walk erect, in con- and frivolous disposition of their oriscious substantiality of purse and ginal source, the Americans of St credit, and direct the commerce of a Louis, who may lay claim to be native, vast and numerously-populated region, as it were, are as particularly distinbut the other day stalked, in dress of guished for determination and energy buckskin, the Indian trader of the of character as they are for physical west; and all the evidences of life, strength and animal courage ; and mayhap, consisted of the eccentric are remarkable, at the same time, for vagaries of the different bands of a singular aptitude in carrying out trappers and hardy mountaineers, who commercial enterprises to successful accompanied, some for pleasure and terminations, which would appear to some as escort, the periodically arriv- be incompatible with the love of ading bateaux, laden with the beaver venture and excitement which forms skins and buffalo robes collected dur- so prominent a feature in their characing the season at the different trading ter. In St Louis, nevertheless, posts in the Far West.
and from her merchants, have emaThese, nevertheless, were the men nated many commercial enterprises of whose hardy enterprise opened to com- gigantic speculation, not confined to merce and the plough the vast and fer- its own locality or the distant Indian tile regions of the West. Rough and fur trade, but embracing all parts of savage though they were, they alone the continent, and even a portion of were the pioneers of that extraordi- the Old World. And here it must be nary tide of civilisation which has remembered that St Louis is situpoured its resistless current through ated inland, at a distance of upwards tracts large enough for kings to of one thousand miles from the sea, govern; over a country now teeming and three thousand from the capital of with cultivation, where, a few short the United States. years ago, countless herds of buffalo Besides her merchants, and upper roamed unmolested, the bear and class, who form a little aristocracy deer abounded, and where the savage even here, she has a large portion of Indian skulked through the woods her population still connected with the and prairies, lord of the unappreciated Indian and fur trade, who preserve all soil which now yields its prolific their characteristics unacted upon by treasures to the spade and plough of the influence of advancing civilisation, civilised man. To the wild and half- and between whom and other classes savage trapper, who may be said to there is a marked distinction. There is, exhibit the energy, enterprise, and moreover, a large floating population hardihood characteristic of the Ame- of foreigners of all nations, who must rican people, divested of all the false possess no little amount of enterprise and vicious glare with which a high to be tempted to this spot, from state of civilisation, too rapidly at- whence they spread over the remote tained, has obscured their real and western tracts, still invested by the
savage; and, therefore, if any of their houses shake again, as it rattles and blood is infused into the native popu- echoes down the street. lation, the characteristic energy and Here, over fiery “monaghahela," enterprise is increased, and not tem- Jean Batiste, the sallow half-breed pered down, by the foreign cross. voyageur from the north-and who,
But perhaps the most singular of her deserting the service of the “Northcasualpopulation are the mountaineers, West,” (the Hudson's Bay Company,) who, after several seasons spent in
has down the Mississippi, trapping, and with good store of from the “ Falls," to try the sweets dollars, arrive from the scene of their and liberty of “free” trapping-hobadventures, wild as savages, deter- nobs with a stalwart leather-clad mined to enjoy themselves, for a time, "boy,”just returned from trapping on in all the gaiety and dissipation of the the waters of Grand River, on the western city. In one of the back western side the mountains, who instreets of the town is a tavern well terlards his mountain jargon with known as the “ Rocky Mountain Spanish words picked up in Taos House," and here the trappers resort,
In one corner a drinking and fighting as long as their trapper, lean and gaunt from the starymoney lasts, which, as they are gene- ing regions of the Yellow Stone, has rous and lavish as Jack Tars, is for just recognised an old companyero, a few days only. Such scenes as are
with whom he hunted years before in enacted in the Rocky Mountain House,
the perilous country of the Blackfeet. both tragical and comical, are be
“ Why, John, old hos, how do you yond the powers of pen to describe ; come on?" and when a fandango is in progress,
" What! Meek, old 'coon! I thought to which congregrate the coquettish you were under ?" belles from “ Vide Poche," as the
One from Arkansa stalks into the French portion of a suburb is nick
centre of the room, with a pack of named, -the grotesque endeavours of cards in his hand, and a handful of the bear-like mountaineers to sport a
dollars in his hat. Squatting crossfigure on the light fantastic toe, and legged on a buffalo robe, he smacks their insertions into the dance of the down the money, and cries mystic jumps of Terpsichorean Indians “Ho, boys, hyar's a deck, and hyar's when engaged
the “ medicine" the beaver, (rattling the coin,) who dances in honour of bear, of buffalo, dar set his hos? Wagh!” or ravished scalp, -are such startling
Tough are the yarns of wondrous innovations on the choreographic art hunts and Indian perils, of hairbreadth as would cause the shade of Gallini to 'scapes and curious“fixes.” Transcen-quake and gibber in his pumps.
dant are the qualities of sundry rifles, Passing the open doors and win- which call these hunters masters ; dows of the Mountain House, the
“plum” is the “ centre" each vaunted stranger stops short as the sounds of barrel shoots ; sufficing for a hundred violin and banjo twang upon his ears, wigs is the “hair” each hunter has accompanied by extraordinary noises "lifted" from Indians' scalps ; multitu-which sound unearthly to the green
dinous the “ coups" he has “struck.” horn listener, but which the initiated As they drink so do they brag, first of recognise as an Indian song roared their guns, their horses, and their out of the stentorian lungs of a moun
squaws, and lastly of themselves:-and taineer, who, patting his stomach with when it comes to that, “ ware steel.” open hands, to improve the necessary
La Bonté, on his arrival at St shake, choruses the well-known Indiau Louis, found himself one day in no chant:
less a place than this ; and here he
made acquaintance with an old trapHi-Hi-Hi-Hi,
per about to start for the mountains Hi-i-Hi-i-Hi-i-Hi-i Hi-ya-hi-ya-hi-ya-hi-ya
in a few days, to hunt on the head
waters of Platte and Green River. Hi-ya-hi-ya-hi-ya-hi-ya Hi-ya-hi-ya-hi-hi,
With this man he resolved to start, &c. &c. &c.
and, having still some hundred dollars
in cash, he immediately set about and polishing off the high notes with equipping himself for the expedition. a whoop which makes the old wooden To effect this, he first of all visited the gun-store of Hawken, whose rifles are and animals, to gratify his "dry," (for renowned in the mountains, and ex- your mountaineer is never thirsty;") changed his own piece, which was of and then, "hos and beaver" gone, is very small bore, for a regular moun- necessitated to hire himself to one of tain rifle. This was of very heavy the leaders of big bands, and hypothemetal, carrying about thirty-two balls cate his services for an equipment of to the pound, stocked to the muzzle traps and animals. Thus La Bonté and mounted with brass, its only orna- picked up three excellent mules for a ment being a buffalo bull, looking ex- mere song, with their accompanying ceedingly ferocious, which was not pack saddles, apishamores,* and larivery artistically engraved upon the ats, and the next day, with Luke, trap in the stock. Here, too, he laid in put out" for Platte. a few pounds of powder and lead, and As they passed through the rendezall the necessaries for a long hunt. vous, which was encamped on a little
His next visit was to a smith's store, stream beyond the town, even our which smith was black by trade and young Mississippian was struck with black by nature, for he was a nigger, the novelty of the scene. Upwards and, moreover, celebrated as being the of forty huge waggons, of Connestoga best maker of beaver-traps in St and Pittsburg build, and covered with Louis, and of whom he purchased six snow-white tilts, were ranged in a new traps, paying for the same twenty semicircle, or rather a horse-shoe dollars-procuring, at the same time, form, on the flat open prairie, their an old trap-sack, made of stout buf- long “ tongues” (poles) pointing outfalo skin, in which to carry them. wards; with the necessary harness for
We next find La Bonté and his four pairs of mules, or eight yoke of companion-one Luke, better known oxen, lying on the ground beside as Grey-Eye, one of his eyes having them, spread in ready order for “hitchbeen "gouged" in a mountain fray-at ing up." Round the waggons groups Independence, a little town situated of teamsters, tall stalwart young Mison the Missouri, several hundred miles sourians, were engaged in busy preabove St Louis, and within a short paration for the start, greasing the distance of the Indian frontier. wheels, fitting or repairing harness,
Independence may be termed the smoothing ox-bows, or overhauling * prairie port” of the western country. their own moderate kits or “ posHere the caravans destined for Santa sibles.” They were all dressed in the Fé and the interior of Mexico, assemble same fashion : a pair of “homespun" to complete their necessary equip- pantaloons, tucked into thick boots ment. Mules and oxen are purchased, reaching nearly to the knee, and conteamsters hired, and all stores and fined round the waist by a broad outfit laid in here for the long journey leathern belt, which supported a strong over the wide expanse of prairie butcher knife in a sheath. A coarse ocean. Here, too, the Indian traders checked shirt was their only other and the Rocky Mountain trappers covering, with a fur cap on the head. rendezvous, collecting in sufficient Numerous camp-fires surrounded force to ensure their safe passage the waggons, and by them lounged through the Indian country. At the wild-looking mountaineers, easily disseasons of departure and arrival of tinguished from the “greenhorn" these bands, the little town presents teamsters by their dresses of buckskin, a lively scene of bustle and confusion. and their weather-beaten faces. WithThe wild and dissipated mountaineers out an exception, these were under get rid of their last dollars in furious the influence of the rosy god; and one, orgies, treating all comers to galore who sat, the picture of misery, at a of drink, and pledging each other, in fire by himself-staring into the blazo horns of potent whisky, to success- with vacant countenance, his long fal hunts and“ heaps of beaver.” matted hair hanging in unkempt When every cent has disappeared masses over his face, begrimed with from their pouches, the free trapper the dirt of a week, and pallid with the often makes away with rifle, traps, effects of ardent drink-was suffering
* Saddle-blanket made of buffalo-calf skin.