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an iron ring-bolt is securely screwed into the keelson, and to each ring a double pulley-block is attached by a hook. Through each of these blocks a stout line runs to the lower wheel of the corresponding block on the cable which spans the stream, reeves through it, and, returning inboard, passes around the second pulley of the block hooked to the ring-bolt to the hand of the ferryman, or a convenient cleat, where he fastens it with a half-hitch. By substituting the cable for a boom, a sloop's main-sheet may be made to give a correct idea of this apparatus and its modus operancK. When the two sheets are of equal length, the current strikes the side of the scow at right angles and it remains stationary. To set it in motion, it is only necessary to close-haul the sheet at that end of the scow which is intended for the bow pro ternpore, and slacken the one at the other end. The current now performs the function discharged by a wind a-beam in the case of sailing vessels, and takes the ferry-boat across very cleverly.
The ferryman was a fine-looking solitary, who spent months at a time camped out under the cotton-woods of the margin without seeing a face except that of the emigrant or the traveler, yet lived in great comfort and contentedness in what might be called the most outrof-the-way spot on the Northern Continent. His calling was certainly of the most valuable character to his fellow-men, and equally so to himself; amounting to a monopoly of the entire transit business on the most important trail between the Missouri and California. He could not fail to make a fine income, charging, I believe, two dollars a team for all ordinary ferriage, and having a private arrangement with Mr. Holladay.
I left this place with much regret, having a strong desire to explore the mountains south of us, from which the river issued, and between which for many miles, in the exquisitely clear atmosphere, we could catch glimpses of it in its silvery and sinuous course. Indeed, a month's stay there would not have been thrown away, either for purposes of art or science; the trap dikes, heretofore mentioned, being of the most interesting character, and the fauna and flora of the region tempting one by their marked individuality. I am not aware of a more favorable place for a depot camp of Rocky Mountain explorers than this ferriage. Among the attractions from which I broke in continuing my journey, were the "horned toads" of the rocky plateau, and a species of "fish with legs" which had been seen in the small streams emptying into the Platte not far from here. I suffered the fi-equent fate of specimen gatherers in the Rocky Mountains, and lost every horned toad I had collected. The scientific student, after a few weeks' experience in a country where transportation is so difficult, learns to expect that much of his material will get destroyed or left behind, even where he has taken the most particular pains to collect and preserve it, and meets his disappointments with cool philosophy; but this particular case of my own was greatly aggravated by being not the result of chance but of a stupid retaliation on the part of a fellow-passenger, who secreted the box in which I had placed my specimens while we were ferrying across our luggage, and opened it on the west bank of the Platte, letting all my morning's collection escape. When it became too late to make the loss good, the stage having started, I was informed of the proceeding as a capital joke
If my toads shall establish a colony on the west bank, for the convenience of future collectors, I shall not so much regret my own disappointment. I regretted it at the time all the more, because one or two of the animals appeared to me a different species from any of the Phrynosomata I have ever seen described; in their general figure resembling P. Douglassii, and their heads being decidedly like that of P. Cornutum. At several places in the mountains I sought for the "'fish with legs," which almost every old mountaineer has seen, but for none of which, as a matter of course, can anything be obtained like a scientific description. Whenever we stopped near a small stream to water or change horses, I spent all the available time in looking for him, but regret to say that fortune never favored me. I suppose the animal to be a species of Siredon. I need not explain to the student of natural history my anxiety to obtain a fresh specimen,—perhaps even a new species, of a genus thus far represented in cabinets by but two or three species and very few individuals, even these inadequate relics being imperfectly preserved.
The animal to which Baird has given the specific name of Lichenoides is one of the most beautiful and interesting of reptiles; having the head without the horns of the cat-fish, and a respiratory apparatus consisting of three branchial flaps on each side of the neck, fringed more delicately than the gills of any fish; and owing its special designation to the yellow spots distributed over the black or brown ground of its skin, like the variegations caused by lichens on the surface of a stone.
At Sage Creek, an inconsiderable but unfailing rivulet, fed from the snow-peaks, and about fourteen miles from the North Platte crossing, we met for the first time the bird most characteristic of the intramontane levels and western slope of the Rocky Range — the Sage-cock.
This bird may well be called the king of the grouse tribe. His own average length is about thirty-two inches, and his hen's two feet; but I have seen specimens which exceed these measurements by several inches. When stalking erect through the sage, they seem as large as a good sized wild turkey. Their color and markings differ to some extent with age, sex, the season of the year, and the different individuals; but the prevailing appearance is that of a yellowish brown, or a warm gray mottled with darker brown, shading from cinnamon to jet black, the dark spots laid on in longitudinal series of crescents. Their under parts are of a light gray, — sometimes of almost a pure white tint, — barred by slender longitudinal, streaks of brown, — the middle of the belly being pied with black patches. Their plumage is exquisitely smooth; the feathers of a handsome cock lying so close and kept in such perfect order, that under a bright sun he looks more like a bird encased in some beautifully grained and polished veneering than one in the usual cloak of feathers. The elegance of his figure exceeds that of any grouse on the Continent. He is slenderer and finer in his outlines than any allied bird, except the Chinese or golden pheasant. In recognition of his resemblance to these birds he gets one of his numerous aliases, — Tetrao (Bonaparte), or Centrocercus (Swainson) Urophasiamts. This last and specific title etymologists will recognize as Greek for "pheasant-tailed." This tail of his seems to have puzzled ornithologists somewhat as to the place where he belongs. It differs from that of the grouse family in general, by coming to a point instead of flaring in a fan; and some of his sponsors have made a new species for him, taking him out of the Tetraonidse and calling him Centrocercus, which, in connection with his specific title, certainly amounts to a pleonasm, the word being derived from the Greek xewrpov (a point) and xspxo$ (a tail), so that the translation of Swainson's nomenclature would be "The Pheasant-tailed Point-tail." The better view still keeps the bird a Tetrao. On each side of his neck he has a bare orange-colored spot, and near it a downy epaulet, which allies him as nearly to the ruffed grouse as his tail to the pheasant. His call is a rapid "cut-cut-cut," followed by a hollow blowing sound; he has the partridge's habit of drumming with his wings; his female knows the trick of misleading the enemy from her young brood j and although his curves are much longer and his figure less stock// than that of the grouse tribe in general, his affiliations on the whole seem stronger in that direction than in any other. He seldom rises from the ground, and his occasional flights are low, short, and labored; but he runs with rapidity, and in his favorite habitat, the sage brush, dodges and skulks with great dexterity, favored by the resemblance between his own and the bushes' neutral tints. His common title of sage-cock is derived from his favorite haunt. Another of his aliases is "Cock of the Plains," but I never knew him so called out of books, for the title is not descriptive. He is never seen on the Plains proper — the high mountain region, whether level or sloping, swarming with his family wherever sage is plenty, from the vicinity of the Rocky Mountain water-shed westerly to the Desertyand several