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Dangers on the Trail



Doodle or letterTOOK with us a Mr. Baker, who was conceded to be one of the best guides, hunters, trappers and interpreters of that day, with a heart as large as an American bison, and as tender as a child's. But when his anger was aroused by danger or treachery, the very devil seemed to possess him; he had the courage of a lion, and was a dead shot. We had been friends for a long time, and on more than one occasion he had proved a true one.

The park was an ideal summer resort, an extended plateau with acres of fresh green grass, wild flowers, and virgin soil. In the center was a beautiful lake, its ice cold water well stocked with the finny tribe of speckled mountain trout, the delight of the angler. The park was inclosed by mountains of great height and grandeur, their

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rocky slopes were dotted with spruce, pine, and cottonwood, and capped with ages of crystal snow, presenting a sight more pleasing to the eye than the Falls of Niagara, and a perfect haven for an Indian maiden's love dream.

We had been in camp but a few days when Mr. Baker informed me that the young bucks, as the men of the tribe were called, wanted us to join in shooting at a target. After Mr. Baker and myself had made a few bull's eyes, they proposed we two should choose sides, and we did so. The teams were very evenly matched, making the game interesting. In the meantime, I had been presented to the chief in true Indian fashion and in turn was made known by him to his squaw, young bucks and maidens. The Indians had ther (sic) tribal laws and customs as well as the white man and were required to live up to them. The maidens were two in number, their ages fourteen and seventeen moons respectively; the latter a picture of Indian beauty, perfect in every feature, form and carriage, a rare model

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for an artist. They were nearly always found together. At first they were quite reserved, but finally we became fast friends; we would ramble, hunt, fish from canoes and sail the placid waters of the little lake.

Early on the morning of the tenth day Mr. Baker entered my tent with a troubled look. I bade him good-morning and inquired the cause. Without fencing, he asked me if I wanted to be a squaw man. I asked him what the devil he was getting at.


He replied, "All there is to it, the old chief has taken a great liking to you, and wants you to marry Weenouah, his oldest daughter. He has plenty of money, and his horses and cattle run into four figures."

"That is no inducement," I said, "and it could never be."

Mr. Baker asked, "How are you going to get out of it?"

I replied, "I have been in lots of tight places, as you know, and have always

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managed to squeeze through, and I'll get out of this one in some way.

Little did either of us dream at that time of the manner, or rather the sacrifice, that one of us was doomed to bear, for me to escape the wrath of the old chief, when informed I would not marry his daughter. Fate decreed he was never to be so informed, but instead, a most cruel and unfortunate accident was to provide the means.

That afternoon the young bucks were again anxious to test their skill at the target. We all used the same carbine, which contained seven cartridges, one in the gun barrel and six in a magazine in the butt of the gull. Mr. Baker and I always tossed up a pebble to see who had first shot. As Mr. Baker won the first chance, he took aim and pulled the trigger and such an explosion as took place will never be forgotten. Everyone was stunned by its force. When the smoke had cleared, poor Baker's body was found lying on the ground with the lower jaw torn from its place. On

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recovering from the shock the young bucks fairly flew for the Indian medicine man. I quickly reached the corral and informed the wagon boss of the accident. He at once ordered the mules brought up. The light wagon was supplied with straw, blankets, commissary bottle and grub. Six of the fastest mules were hitched to the wagon and selecting two of the mulewhackers gave instruction for his care en route. I took the lines and quickly drove to the spot where poor Baker had fallen. Just as soon as the flow of blood had been checked and his wounds dressed we raised him gently and placed him in the wagon. Without a word I mounted the driver's box and drove for all there was in those six mules, reaching Denver late the following night. Some who read this narrative may be skeptical, but it is a fact, nevertheless, that poor Baker recovered for I saw him a year later, but he could partake of liquid food only. The once stalwart form of that brave man, now emaciated and wasted to a mere skeleton, still stood erect.

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My whole heart went out to him who, in years past, had hunted the antelope, deer, elk and buffalo; fought the cowardly savages and desperadoes on the thirsty plains and amidst the ragged slopes of the Rocky Mountains; penetrated the silent recesses of the dismal canyons and caves; crossed the snow covered divides; faced danger of every conceivable nature; and at last, although maimed for life, was grateful that he had escaped death and thankful in the thought that he had done his share in the settlement of the then Far West. As I gazed into his once keen eyes and beheld that shriveled face, my heart wrung with remorse, for I knew he had keenly suffered. Tears filled my eyes and trickled down my weatherbeaten and sun-tanned boyish face, and I knew he accepted it as an emblem of my sorrow for being the innocent cause, in a measure, of his cruel misfortune. Thus, by the flip of a pebble was my life spared, but at the expense of a true friend.

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© 2005 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller