Region of the Crow Indians- Scouts on the Lookout- Visit From a Crew of Hard Riders.-
A Crow Camp.- Presents to the Crow Chief.-Bargaining.-Crow Bullies.-Rose Among His
Indian Friends.-Parting With the Crows.- Perplexities Among the Mountains.- More of
the Crows.- Equestrian Children.- Search After Stragglers.
THE travellers had now arrived in the vicinity of the mountain regions infested by the
Crow Indians. These restless marauders, as has already been observed, are apt to be
continually on the prowl about the skirts of the mountains; and even when encamped in
some deep and secluded glen, they keep scouts upon the cliffs and promontories, who,
unseen themselves, can discern every living thing that moves over the subjacent plains
and valleys. It was not to be expected that our travellers could pass unseen through a
region thus vigilantly sentineled; accordingly, in the edge of the evening, not long after
they had encamped at the foot of the Bighorn Sierra, a couple of wild-looking beings,
scantily clad in skins, but well armed, and mounted on horses as wild-looking as
themselves, were seen approaching with great caution from among the rocks. They
might have been mistaken for two of the evil spirits of the mountains so formidable in
Rose was immediately sent out to hold a parley with them, and invite them to the camp.
They proved to be two scouts from the same band that had been tracked for some days
past, and which was now encamped at some distance in the folds of the mountain.
They were easily prevailed upon to come to the camp, where they were well received,
and, after remaining there until late in the evening, departed to make a report of all they
had seen and experienced to their companions.
The following day had scarce dawned, when a troop of these wild mountain scamperers
came galloping with whoops and yells into the camp, bringing an invitation from their
chief for the white men to visit him. The tents were accordingly struck, the horses laden,
and the party were soon on the march. The Crow horsemen, as they escorted them,
appeared to take pride in showing off their equestrian skill and hardihood; careering at
full speed on their half-savage steeds, and dashing among rocks and crags, and up
and down the most rugged and dangerous places with perfect ease and unconcern.
A ride of sixteen miles brought them, in the afternoon, in sight of the Crow camp. It was
composed of leathern tents, pitched in a meadow on the border of a small clear stream
at the foot of the mountain. A great number of horses were grazing in the vicinity, many
of them doubtless captured in marauding excursions,
The Crow chieftain came forth to meet his guests with great professions of friendship,
and conducted them to his tents, pointing out, by the way, a convenient place where
they might fix their camp. No sooner had they done so, than Mr. Hunt opened some of
the packages and made the chief a present of a scarlet blanket and a quantity of
powder and ball; he gave him also some knives, trinkets, and tobacco to be distributed
among his warriors, with all which the grim potentate seemed, for the time, well
pleased. As the Crows, however, were reputed to be perfidious in the extreme, and as
errant freebooters as the bird after which they were so worthily named; and as their
general feelings towards the whites were known to be by no means friendly, the
intercourse with them was conducted with great circumspection.
The following day was passed in trading with the Crows for buffalo robes and skins,
and in bartering galled and jaded horses for others that were in good condition. Some
of the men, also, purchased horses on their own account, so that the number now
amounted to one hundred and twenty-one, most of them sound and active, and fit for
Their wants being supplied, they ceased all further traffic, much to the dissatisfaction of
the Crows, who became extremely urgent to continue the trade, and, finding their
importunities of no avail, assumed an insolent and menacing tone. All this was
attributed by Mr. Hunt and his associates to the perfidious instigations of Rose the
interpreter, whom they suspected of the desire to foment ill-will between them and the
savages, for the promotion of his nefarious plans. M'Lellan, with his usual tranchant
mode of dealing out justice, resolved to shoot the desperado on the spot in case of any
outbreak. Nothing of the kind, however, occurred. The Crows were probably daunted by
the resolute, though quiet demeanor of the white men, and the constant vigilance and
armed preparations which they maintained; and Rose, if he really still harbored his
knavish designs, must have perceived that they were suspected, and, if attempted to be
carried into effect, might bring ruin on his own head.
The next morning, bright and early, Mr. Hunt proposed to resume his journeying. He
took a ceremonious leave of the Crow chieftain, and his vagabond warriors, and
according to previous arrangements, consigned to their cherishing friendship and
fraternal adoption, their worthy confederate Rose; who, having figured among the water
pirates of the Mississippi, was well fitted to rise to distinction among the land pirates of
the Rocky Mountains.
It is proper to add, that the ruffian was well received among the tribe, and appeared to
be perfectly satisfied with the compromise he had made; feeling much more at his ease
among savages than among white men. It is outcasts from justice, and heartless
desperadoes of this kind who sow the seeds of enmity and bitterness among the
unfortunate tribes of the frontier. There is no enemy so implacable against a country or
a community as one of its own people who has rendered himself an alien by his crimes.
Right glad to be delivered from this treacherous companion, Mr. Hunt pursued his
course along the skirts of the mountain, in a southern direction, seeking for some
practicable defile by which he might pass through it; none such presented, however, in
the course of fifteen miles, and he encamped on a small stream, still on the outskirts.
The green meadows which border these mountain streams are generally well stocked
with game, and the hunters killed several fat elks, which supplied the camp with fresh
meat. In the evening the travellers were surprised by an unwelcome visit from several
Crows belonging to a different band from that which they recently left, and who said
their camp was among the mountains. The consciousness of being environed by such
dangerous neighbors, and of being still within the range of Rose and his fellow ruffians,
obliged the party to be continually on the alert, and to maintain weary vigils throughout
the night, lest they should be robbed of their horses.
On the third of September, finding that the mountain still stretched onwards, presenting
a continued barrier, they endeavored to force a passage to the westward, but soon
became entangled among rocks and precipices which set all their efforts at defiance.
The mountain seemed, for the most part, rugged, bare, and sterile; yet here and there it
was clothed with pines, and with shrubs and flowering plants, some of which were in
bloom. In tolling among these weary places, their thirst became excessive, for no water
was to be met with. Numbers of the men wandered off into rocky dells and ravines in
hopes of finding some brook or fountain; some of whom lost their way and did not rejoin
the main party.
After a day of painful and fruitless scrambling, Mr. Hunt gave up the attempt to
penetrate in this direction, and, returning to the little stream on the skirts of the
mountain, pitched his tents within six miles of his encampment of the preceding night.
He now ordered that signals should be made for the stragglers in quest of water; but
the night passed away without their return.
The next morning, to their surprise, Rose made his appearance at the camp,
accompanied by some of his Crow associates. His unwelcome visit revived their
suspicions; but he announced himself as a messenger of good-will from the chief, who,
finding they had taken the wrong road, had sent Rose and his companions to guide
them to a nearer and better one across the mountain.
Having no choice, being themselves utterly at fault, they set out under this questionable
escort. They had not gone far before they fell in with the whole party of Crows, who,
they now found, were going the same road with themselves. The two cavalcades of
white and red men, therefore, pushed on together, and presented a wild and
picturesque spectacle, as, equipped with various weapons and in various garbs, with
trains of pack-horses, they wound in long lines through the rugged defiles, and up and
down the crags and steeps of the mountain.
The travellers had again an opportunity to see and admire the equestrian habitudes
and address of this hard-riding tribe. They were all mounted, man, woman, and child,
for the Crows have horses in abundance, so that no one goes on foot. The children are
perfect imps on horseback. Among them was one so young that he could not yet speak.
He was tied on a colt of two years old, but managed the reins as if by instinct, and plied
the whip with true Indian prodigality. Mr. Hunt inquired the age of this infant jockey, and
was answered that "he had seen two winters."
This is almost realizing the fable of the centaurs; nor can we wonder at the equestrian
adroitness of these savages, who are thus in a manner cradled in the saddle, and
become in infancy almost identified with the animal they bestride.
The mountain defiles were exceedingly rough and broken, and the travelling painful to
the burdened horses. The party, therefore, proceeded but slowly, and were gradually
left behind by the band of Crows, who had taken the lead. It is more than probable that
Mr. Hunt loitered in his course, to get rid of such doubtful fellow-travellers. Certain it is
that he felt a sensation of relief as he saw the whole crew, the renegade Rose and all,
disappear among the windings of the mountain, and heard the last yelp of the savages
die away in the distance.
When they were fairly out of sight, and out of hearing, he encamped on the head
waters of the little stream of the preceding day, having come about sixteen miles. Here
he remained all the succeeding day, as well to give time for the Crows to get in the
advance, as for the stragglers, who had wandered away in quest of water two days
previously, to rejoin the camp. Indeed, considerable uneasiness began to be felt
concerning these men, lest they should become utterly bewildered in the defiles of the
mountains, or should fall into the hands of some marauding band of savages. Some of
the most experienced hunters were sent in search of them; others, in the meantime,
employed themselves in hunting. The narrow valley in which they encamped being
watered by a running stream, yielded fresh pasturage, and though in the heart of the
Bighorn Mountains, was well stocked with buffalo. Several of these were killed, as also
a grizzly bear. In the evening, to the satisfaction of all parties, the stragglers made their
appearance, and provisions being in abundance, there was hearty good cheer in the