Introdution to Gillespie
Complete Journal Entries
Complete Listing of Sketches
It was late at night when we made our camp. I was tired and hungry; the day had been very warm; and we continuously waded through sand, and wound amongst the interminable and unsavory sage brush. If anything could be better than the sum of yesterday I would like to know it. The oxen fairly wilted away and but very scant herbage to feed on but we have been promised plenty of feed and water at the “sink” which we are to reach this morning.
We were all so fatigued last night that we laid down on the sand without making any fire; so that we had not the refreshing influence of the travelers panacea, a tin cup full of hot, strong coffee. I never wakened till daylight, and when I looked up, I thought we had struck civilization somewhere: for we had undoubtedly taken up our lodgings in some man’s wheatfield. I jumped to my feet, and ? as far as I could see nothing wheat, wild wheat, almost as high as my head, and as thick and apparently as well grained as ever I saw in a field at home! The oxen horses and mules were apparently satisfied; and so were we after a good breakfast, with plenty of strong warm coffee, as a bracer for the work of the day.
The “Sink,” Humboldt’s Sink was not far away; where we were to cut the tall ? grass
that grew over thousands of acres and make hay sufficient for our animals over the desert of sand that lay between us and the waters of Carson river.
After breakfast we hitched up and away before the sun was up. Our wagons rolled joyously through and over the long yellow wheat on, and on as if it would never end. After a mile or more the grain yielded gradually to grass and now we were lost in the high ? grass of an apparently illimitable meadow. We were at last in the “Sink”. Where the water of the Humboldt river spread out into shallow pools over thousands of acres of level land. Loses its course and is no longer a river of even a respectable run or creek without any outlet is submerged, swallow up in the yellow sand of the desert.
But what a scene of life and activity was here. Hundreds of men busy at work making hay; some cutting with knives others more provident with scythes; whilst their companions were gathering the green grass and spreading it out to be speedily cured by the intense heat of the glowing brassy sun. As our small caravan came rolling in, another, twice as large was just going out; their wagons piled full of hay which had been cut and cured the preceding day. Pack mules were moving off
like diminutive hay stacks nothing visable but tail or an ear. Horsemen had their rations piled up before and behind their saddles; and even some of the pilgrims had knapsacks of hay on their own shoulders whilst one poor horse or mule packed the stores of a dozen of footmen. We were all jolly; it was a cheering sight. Haymaking in the desert and far away from home!
If I had been strong I would have waded in and cut with the best of them: but six weeks of fever and ague had made me fearfully weak: and so I to chose the lighter part, spreading the cut grass, and drying it in the sun. Moody had borrowed a scythe from someone and by noon we had a sufficient supply. It almost dried as fast as it was cut. The head of the sun was scorching. We all rested awhile in the shade of the wagons after dinner; too tired to talk much; at least I was; for I fell asleep and when I wakened up the hay had been all gathered in and piled away in the wagons and the oxen were being yoked to their ? .
As our caravan was departing others were arriving; and soon we were out on the desert at last. nothing but sand and sage we had some miles to make before the sun would set: then after resting our animals for a couple of hours were to push on and
travel all night; resting the next day until the afternoon; where ? our oxen failed us ? we hoped to reach Carson River by daylight of the second day. No time to lose for our animals must do without water during the whole journey.
The sand was hot and light over your ankles at every step; and giving one the sensation of a treacherous unfathomable depth beneath; and that at any moment you might break through and go down like ? ? up to the middle: How I pitied the poor oxen! Yet patiently and uncomplainingly they toiled and roaded onwards The farther we went, the more of it; that is the sand and sage. ? of sand! an ocean of yellow: We ? always climbing and never getting to the top. Not a cloud in the sky: not a puff of air to cool the burning heat: yet still we struggle on till the sun began to set low in the west. When we stopped right in our tracks. The oxen were unyoked and fed from the hay which was carried along. We had some water in our canteens with which coffee was made and then tired and silent we laid down upon the sand to sleep for an hour or so before the journey of the night should begin.
Our driver came in completely exhausted: he was weak and had been suffering for some days past with the mountain fever. He could
not ride in the wagon, for it was too heavily ladened already. I offered him my little mule but as no man had ever succeeded in riding him, I was respectfully declined. After two hours rest he felt better and thought he could make it.
We started again when the night began to turn the yellow of the sand to grey. Moody and I started on ahead: I, riding Dick and leading the little mouse of a mule that no man could ride. With Moody trudging through the sand afoot. There were but few stars overhead; the night was dark; but there was great comfort in the cool wind that came down in puffs from the not far off Sierras ahead. We get along the famously the loose sand; appearing not near so treacherous in the moist night air. Moody said it packed under his feet like sudden snow! We soon left our companions far behind: the creaking of the wagons and the shouts of the Bull driver gradually faded in the distance until we appeared to be the only ones left in the silence of the desert.
Soon other objects beside sage bushes lined the track on both sides. Trunks and valises filled with clothing cast away like the cargo of a sinking ship. These were the impedimenta of the army in a ? . Every unnecessary pound of clothing beyond what one could wear on his person was so much of an encumbrance. By and by we came upon half a dozen of half starved abandoned
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