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9ye from the tall red obelisk to the glimpse at the top of the canon.
Nothing occurred on the return to Sprague's—our half-way house both going and coming—more important than the shooting of a fine sickle-bill curlew, which was floating over the long sandy dog-plain I have before noticed. The last place where I had held a curlew in my hands was far up the St. John's River, among the tangled yellow jasmines and convolvuli that border Floridian lagoons; and it was a singular sensation to see this bird so far away from all his (to me) familiar haunts. But the curlew is considerable of a cosmopolitan. In regard to this bird we were compelled to acknowledge a fact that often forced itself upon us afterwards. There is no use in attempting to collect such specimens, unless one goes specially provided for the purpose. You cannot satisfy yourself on the vast field between the Missouri and the Pacific by naturalizing merely en amateur. You must set out with something more than an empty box and a piece of arsenical soap. The climate, being antiseptic, is in your favor; but all else is against you. You have no adequate means of packing your skins, and keeping them from vermin; none for transporting them safely, on the wild routes which we travelled, and in the way we were compelled to travel them. Mineral specimens are all that the amateur can be sure of getting home to the States in good order. This vast field of the Central Continent must be beaten by specialists, each provided with his own definite plan, tools, and means of carriage. At the best, he will have to sacrifice much that it is a real pain not to carry away; for his collections accumulate faster than he will ever be able to forward them to the settlements till the Pacific Railroad has opened its great artery from Pike's Peak to the sea. So, despite our arsenical soap, this fine curlew eventually became so much deteriorated that we had regretfully to throw him away.
I will not stale these pages by a review of the route between Sprague's and Denver. We took dinner at the Pretty Woman's Ranch, and came down the slope of the Cherry and Plum Creek Divide just after sunset, getting in twilight a magnificent view of fires which were devastating the dense fir and pine growths of the mountain gorges behind Denver. The smoke and heated air from the vast chimneydraughts of the canons were wafted full in our faces; and the leaping sheete of flame, or their flickering fringe along the forest top, almost crackled in our ears, and added to the evanescent orange of sundown a bloodier, baleful red.
It was about nine o'clock in the evening, when, after a ride through a perfect Shaker meeting of jumping hares, we got over the broad plain between the divide and Jim Beckwith's station, skirted the silent Platte lying steel-gray in twilight shadow, whirled past Camp Weld, and came into Denver.
CHAPTER V. .
INTO THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.
The day before our party left Denver finally, was passed by myself in visiting, under Mr. Pierce's guidance, one of the principal coal outcrops thus far discovered in the Territory.
For a wonder, our dust was laid by a fine drizzling rain, which lasted the entire day. The ranchman at whose house we stopped to dine, was quite delighted by it. It was doubtless a godsend to his crops; but, aesthetically speaking, Colorado does not look well in a shower. The Plains seem surprised by it. There is none of that bright, thankful receptivity in them which rain meets from every grassy stretch in the East. There is no hope of their laughing back at bounty in a gayer green,—a green like our meadows, growing greener even while you look at it, and the rain still falls.
In spite of the drizzle, our blankets and waterproofs kept us perfectly comfortable on Mr. Pierce's buck-board. Sixteen miles of tolerably smooth driving, picked out by ourselves among the undulations of the Plain north of Denver, brought us to what was called " the Mine." Nobody was working it at present. It was situated on an entered quarter-section, and some uncertainty as to the title retarded its development.
Thus far the workings had been limited to a single lateral shaft, running into the face of a low bluff for the distance of thirty or forty yards, and laid with a wooden tramway, upon which were several small cars, still in good order. The coal was instantly recognizable .as tertiary, and must have been among the latest lignite formations of that period. The nearest browncoal layers are, 1 believe, generally referred to the miocene. This I think subsequent to the miocene. The vein was distributed through a bed of friable, bituminous shales and clay. Both the coal and the shales contained perfect impressions of still contemporary plants. We found numerous specimens of leaves from both the common varieties of cottonwood and the swamp-willow; also of an entire plant belonging to the bulrushes. The coal deposit seemed surrounded by the shales mentioned, both above and below. It burns with a brisk flame and fragrant oily smoke, like the English soft coal, but has much less body, and consumes to ashes without coking. We saw enough of it, and heard suffiQiently of other like discoveries near by, to be sure that this mineral is abundant about Denver, and may be profitably mined for domestic purposes.
I think it not at all improbable that petroleum will yet be discovered in the Plains of Colorado. Its origin is not yet among the certainties of science; but the only certain fact about it, that it is a result of vegetable decomposition under pressure, makes us look for it in the underdrainage of all such beds as that near Denver. It seems to play the part of molasses to the sugar of coal, comprising the carbon particles which could not be caught out of solution, and brought within the cohesion of the solid form. The underlying calcareous formations of the chalk and tertiary exist everywhere over the Plains, in basins which form the most natural reservoirs for a petroleum deposit, and are often sufficiently indurated to retain it,
On the way back to Denver, we found growing on one of the sand-hills a running verbena entirely new to both of us; in form exactly resembling the scarlet variety of our gardens, but bearing profuse blossoms of a brilliant blue tint, which would have thrown into ecstasies any of those florists who have spent such effort to produce it artificially. We dug up several of the plants, and, the rain favoring, kept sufficient soil about the roots to transplant them successfully in Mr. Pierce's garden on our return.
The day before we left Denver, we had an opportunity to witness one of those periodic incursions of the Arrapahoe tribe of Indians, which led a new-come Irishman to ask on one occasion "whether that was* the reason why Americans called the season Indian* summer." In Denver nobody says "Arrapahoe." Toewag who first misquoted " Lo the poor Indian ** has perpetuated himself in Denver by the fact that Indians there are always called "the Lo Family." "How are you, Lo (or Mr. Lo)?" is the familiar address of a copper-colored warrior. Of a sudden,, just about midday, the Messrs., Mistresses, Masters, and Misses Lo swarmed in the streets of Denver, with as little preface as seventeenryear locusts. They might have come out of holes in the ground. Some' of the men had magnificent buffalo-robes, elegantly worked and stained on the inside; others had robes of wolf-skin; and I saw a number of fine blankets. But the majority of the tribe were half naked, and in a condition of squalid filth. One of the' squaws en