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A Trek Out West - Part 6

Ferris Mountains, Wyoming

[Otto Franc] Wednesday Aug 21 - Start before 7 a.m. pass a number of alkali lakes with Geese, Ducks, & other water birds on them & after a 20 mile ride reach, Sand Springs where we halt, but there is not enough grass for the horses & after an hour's rest & after having cooked some dinner we start toward Whisky Gap, a small pass in the Seminole Mountains & about 15 miles distant; we have not gone more than a mile when the road enters some sand hills & here our balker cuts up his first capers he positively refuses to go any farther, we intervene him with the whip, club, stones, butt end of rifle & use all devices known to horsemen & every one of which is in the eyes of inventor an infallible cure for a balking horse until finally the horse becomes so disgusted with us & our devices that he takes a sudden start & tears up the first hill stampeding our horses & leaving the driver & all of us who had dismounted to help things along far behind; on top of the hill he & his mate mule stop & kindly wait till we have caught our horses & have gathered our spilled articles & we proceed with renewed hope towards the next hill thinking we have perfectly cured our balker; on reaching the foot of said hill the same maneuver as before is repeated & as we have to go up driving the final tramp perhaps 15 hills the performance is repeated just as many times with the only alteration that very soon the tearing up hills propensities grow less & less until finally the team makes only about 20 yds headway after every start & we should have never reached the much desired Whiskey Gap if not late in the afternoon another hunting party with a good team of mules had overtaken us they very kindly stayed by us & pulled us up very difficult hill, their mules doing the pulling & our horse the holding back & backing; we reach Whiskey Gap after 7 p.m. quite hoarse from yelling at our balker & Jack & myself ride in advance to find a suitable camping ground, we find a desirable spot protected from the strong cold wind that had arisen towards sundown & signal to the Driver where to stop, he is perfectly willing to do so but the balker is not, he will listen to no proposal to stop here but insists upon going farther he plunges & rears & finally persuades the mule to take sides with him & both go at a breakneck speed through the gap & down the hill on the other side & it is a half mile from the selected spot before the driver can stop them it is dark now, blowing hard 8. just commencing to rain, we cannot go back to our shelter spot but must camp right here, exposed to the full fury of the elements, all on account of one single balky horse. We are fortunate enough to find some old blown down trees & erect our tents with the aid of the same, thus having some protection from the fast coming down rain, after a hurriedly cooked half raw supper we turn in & sleep splendidly in spite of storm & rain.

Sweetwater River, Wyoming

[Dr. Ferber] 21st. Left camp at seven. The first part of the day was pleasant, and we enjoyed, after having made eighteen miles, a lunch at Sand Springs very much. Refreshed, we got in the saddle again, and off we went. But now we came into a sandy country, and Lancken’s team was so poor that they could not pull the wagon with only about 700 pounds on. We were stuck in the sand, and if it had not been for another party that came close behind us we would never have seen the Sweetwater. They helped us at least a dozen times. In consequence of all these delays, we could not get further than Whisky Gap, where we arrived in a rainstorm at 7 o'clock. It was very, unpleasant to cook, eat and put our tent up while it was blowing a gale. Still, after all this we slept pretty sound and left this Whisky or Windy Gap as I should like to call it, early in the morning, hoping to reach the ranch the same day. But Jack, as well as the driver, both pretending to know Lancken's Ranch, got out of their reckoning, and at last had to confess that they did not know it at all, having never been there. At about 3 o'clock we came to the Sweetwater, where we saw some ranchers, but could not tell us where to find L'Ranch. We stopped here while Jack and the driver rode out in different directions to hunt after the place. After three or four hours they returned after having found the ranch only five miles off. The Sweetwater was crossed and we arrived at the place at 7 o'clock. Gus Lancken was not here, he had left the previous day for Rawlins, which we regretted very much; he had taken the shortest road else we would have met him. All of us were glad to get under L's hospitable roof. It is a real nice little place. Around the buildings, and especially along a small creek, there are about twenty or thirty acres of cultivated land where he raises corn, barley, oats, etc. Near the house is a large vegetable garden, with potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.; etc. The yard was lined on one side by the brook and on the other by high, almost perpendicular, rocks. In the center of the yard, you see the dwelling-house, made of logs. The roof of it is ornamented with enormous elkhorns so that it has almost the appearance of a German forester's house; inside you can find the horns of the smaller game in a great number. Besides this building, there were others for horses, cows, hens, etc., and a great haystack, showing that they were well prepared for the winter. Everything looked clean, nice, and neat so that we felt quite at home right away. Adam Apgar, the partner of L., who had charge of the ranch during L.'s absence, invited us very kindly into the house and to lake supper with him. This supper—consisting mostly of fresh eggs, fresh butter and milk, and what we appreciated much, young potatoes, etc.—was about the best supper we had on our trip. Adam did everything to make his home agreeable to us and succeeded perfectly so that we feel much obliged to him. We had to wait here until the return of Gus, to say at least three days. Hunting around the ranch was very poor, as the game was scarce and wild. I killed some jackrabbits and several cottontails. One day we tried the mountain sheep, but only saw some at a great distance without getting a shot.

[Otto Franc] Thursday Aug 22 - The storm has subsided & left the weather clear & cool, we make an early start, kill some rattlesnakes during the march & reach Sweet Water River at noon, we halt for an hours rest & dinner & then cross the river & reach Lancken's ranch at 5 P.M. it is situated in a beautiful narrow valley of the Sweet Water Mountains, the rockiest branch of the Rocky Mountains; there is a roomy Log house, ornamented outside & inside with Elk & deer horns also enclosures or corrals for the horses & cattle & the presence of a swarm of chickens & a dog & cat make me forget that we are hers in the wilderness, a well kept garden furnishes us with potatoes, beans, green corn, tomatoes & c, milk butter eggs are served with no sparing hand & we are received 8. entertained in right hospitable western style without daring to offer a cent of money in pay, in fact the whole ranch is placed at our disposal so that we almost feel like proprietors of the same instead of as guests; the mountains contain deer & mountain sheep & rock rabbits by the thousand so that we shall have something to pass our time with while we are waiting for Tip.

[Otto Franc] Friday, Aug 23 - During the night suffered a good deal from diarrhea & was quite weak in the morning; nevertheless started out alone & on foot at 7 a.m. to find some mountain sheep. I crossed a range of steep & high rocky hills opposite to the ranch & descended into the next valley, followed it up to its head & climbed over another high pass in the mountains with the intention of coming around back again into our valley but when I reached the point in question I saw 5-6 valleys end in a broad plain & I did not know which of the valleys to follow, I was extremely hot, I had been marching some hours, had not found a drop of water & was beginning to suffer from thirst. I now tried to climb a mountain in order to get a view of the surrounding country & if possible at the ranch, when I was 1/3 up my strength gave out I began to stagger & for a few moments lost consciousness; this was on the south side of the mountain which is merely a bare rock, & the sun was burning on it with terrific force; after recovering my senses I came to the conclusion that I had to find water soon or perhaps perish here, as I was several miles from the ranch & it would almost have been an impossibility for the people to find me, on account of the great number of valleys, gulches & pockets; the Sweetwater River was in plain view of me 8 miles distant & I struck out for the same, it was very bad walking through thick & high sagebrush & over the sandy ground, where it was impossible to get a firm foothold & it led me directly away from the ranch. I walked as fast as I could without exhausting my strength too much & I made fair progress; thinking all the time about water & which would be the most enjoyable way to drink it after getting there; my lips & tongue were now getting thick &. almost immovable; I remember when I was about 1 mile from the river & I was thinking that in a half-hour I would be drinking the water; since then I recollect nothing, all at once I was standing at the water's edge & I was wondering how the water came here or how I came to the water, all desire for the same had passed away 8, after a little while it began to dawn before my mind 8. I stopped 8i began to wash out my mouth but it was quite some time before I would drink any, then I revived very quickly I looked at my watch it was ' 2 o'clock, judging from the surrounding country I was 15 miles from the ranch & a very bad, partly sandy, partly rocky country to traverse; in my present condition it was a impossible task & I laid down the bed of river under the shelter of some willow & slept for just one hour, I arose at 3 considerably refreshed & I started on my tramp I kept along the river, making fair progress S. drinking frequently of the water; just at sundown I reached a point opposite of the ranch & 5 miles distance from it; I had not eaten anything since 6 a.m., was very tired & concluded to build a fire, sleep in the bank of the river & make for the ranch the next morning; 1 began to gather dry brush when distant thunder called my attention to the southerly sky - I saw a great thunderstorm approaching, this banished all thoughts of camping out & after filling a small flask I had in my pocket with water which contained just 1 swallow of Whiskey I set out for home, everything went well for the first mile, but after that I began to get more & more tired, I could hard lift my feet any more, but just dragged them through the sand stumbling & falling every now & then, I had to sit down very often & every time would get up quite stiff & almost unable to move; all this time I clung to my rifle dragging it along with the butt on the ground & the muzzle in my hand being unable to carry it on my shoulder but unwilling to abandon it; now & then I would take a swallow out of my flask & that combined with the approaching tempest behind me would give me another impetus; my only aim was now to get within one mile of the ranch so that they could hear the report of my rifle & know of my whereabouts; I had just drank the last of my whiskey & water & intended to go 100 yards farther & then to discharge my rifle when I heard the faint report of a gun in the direction of the ranch, this aroused me as I knew it was 3 signal for me, I answered it with 3 shots in quick succession which is to move; all this time I clung to my rifle dragging it along with the butt on the ground & the muzzle in my hand being unable to carry it on my shoulder but unwilling to abandon it; now & then I would take a swallow out of my flask & that combined with the approaching tempest behind me would give me another impetus; my only aim was now to get within one mile of the ranch so that they could hear the report of my rifle & know of my whereabouts; I had just drank the last of my whiskey & water & intended to go 100 yards farther & then to discharge my rifle when I heard the faint report of a gun in the direction of the ranch, this aroused me as I knew it was 3 signal for me, I answered it with 3 shots in quick succession which is the usual distress signal & then laid full length on the ground feeling confident that help would soon come, I fired again at intervals in order to give them the precise spot where I laid & after 15-20 minutes of anxious listening & waiting I heard the clatter of horses hoofs & looming up through the darkness came a man on horseback with another saddle horse beside on a dead run towards me in a moment he was beside me this gave me new life & I forgetting that I was half dead I jumped in the saddle & keeping in advance of the other man I made a bee line for the ranch as fast as my lively pony could run, on coming in to the ranch I was welcomed with cheers which I gaily responded to, jumped out of the saddle and fell headlong to the ground, a vigorous rubbing of the temples with whiskey brought me to in a few moments & an administration of some milk punch in very smai1 doses soon strengthened & unloosened my tongue so that I was able to give an account of my adventures. They had begun to feel concerned about me when I had not made my appearance at dinner time as they knew I had not been well & as it is very easy to get lost in the labyrinth of the valley & narrow gulches which I traversed, they ascended a hi 11 close by & kept firing guns at intervals all afternoon and evening but I was too far away to hear them; they were glad as myself to see me reach home safely & said I had looked like a ghost.

[Otto Franc] Saturday, Aug 24 - I stayed home all day feeling very ill as a consequence of yesterdays tramp; Dr. and Jack go out to see some sheep but cannot get a shot at them; Dr. kills 3 rabbits for supper; they are so abundant that a person can go out at any time & kill enough for a meal in 15 minutes.

[Otto Franc] Sunday, Aug 25 - I feel somewhat better & go out with Jack to look for mountain sheep; we see a band of about 15 but cannot approach them & come home empty; Dr. kills another mess of rabbits. I see some blacktail does close by but do not shoot at them.

[Otto Franc] Monday, Aug 26 - A man from the ranch & I are out in the forenoon but see no game; Tip not having made his appearance yet but not to wait any longer decide to start tomorrow & persuade Lancken to accompany us; Lancken has an experience of 15 years hunting & trapping in Colorado & Wyoming & is universally known & respected as an honest upright man & excellent shot, thoroughly acquainted with mountain & Plains life & experienced with Indian life having had both pleasant & unpleasant relations with the same; after returning from our six weeks hunt to the ranch we heard of the sad fate which had befallen Tip while we were waiting for him to meet us. He had started out with a party of 8 mounted & well armed men to follow the trail of the train robbers which led directly into the Elk mountains 10-15 miles south of Fort Steele; on arriving at the base of the mountains the party not considering themselves strong enough concluded to return for reinforcements; Tip & another man however intended to follow cautiously & if possible find the location of their camp; They were not heard of for over a week when a party of surveyors arrived at Cheyenne & reported having seen 2 men on horseback riding into a small canyon, shortly after they had entered they heard brisk firing 20-25 shots & they came to the conclusion that these 2 men were hunters & struck a band of Elk; the description of their horses agreed with the ones ridden by Tip & companion & settled the fact that they had fallen into an ambush prepared by the outlaws; a party of 25 men was formed & after a 2 days search the bodies of Tip & companion were found covered up with sand & branches of trees; they were literally riddled with bullets Tip having no less than 12 holes in him; evidently the robbers had seen them come & knowing or suspecting their mission were prepared for them & it is doubtful if the two men had time to fire a shot in return; the bodies were stripped of everything that could be of any service to the murderers; hats, boots, knife, money & c were gone, the coats & pants being perhaps too much perforated with bullets they had left, in place of my fine new Sharps rifle they had left an old wore out Army musket. Tip had proved to be a cheerful pleasant companion on our three week trip to Battle lake & thorough guide & hunter; his murderer will perhaps never be known or punished as the wilds of Wyoming give abundant shelter to that class of men; the Territory abounds with bands of horse thieves but it is very seldom that one of them is brought to justice.

Elk Mountain, Wyoming.

[Dr. Ferber] 26th. Frank, Jack, and Adam went out but did not kill any, and toward evening Lancken returned, having shot an antelope. He agreed to go with us on our trip as a guide. We had a very good supper, consisting of juicy antelope stakes, flapjacks, new potatoes, and sour milk, which latter was highly appreciated by Frank and myself. One day, during our stay here, Frank went out on foot to try the mountain sheep but intended to be back to dinner. He did not come and was not back at three. We felt scared about him, and Adam and Frenchy went out in search of him. They returned without having found a trace of him so that we felt sure he was lost in the mountains. Firing our guns several times had no result. No answer responded, till at about six o'clock we heard the report of a gun, to which I answered with a double shot. An hour was gone, and still, he did not come, when we heard three successive shots. Now, knowing that he was in distress, Adam saddled two ponies, and in half an hour they both returned, but Frank in an awful condition. F. had taken nothing with him but a drop of whisky, and not finding water, he got so exhausted that he could scarcely walk. A milk punch and a good night's rest put him all right again.

[Otto Franc] Tuesday, Aug 27 - We clean our guns & prepare for tomorrow's start.

[Dr. Ferber] 27th, Passed in loading shells and preparing for tomorrow's start. [This story will continue, following the summer trek of Texas Jack, Otto Franc, and Dr. Ferber in Part 6.]

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