WHEN only eighteen I killed, or helped to kill, my first buffalo; and having tried in vain, like many another greenhorn, to cut out his tongue (by forcing the clinched jaws apart, and coming to the Irishman's conclusion that he died of the locked-jaw), was fain to content me with cutting off his tail. At that time (1868) I spent part of the spring, and all of the summer, fall, and early winter, on the plains and among the mountains of British North America. Ever since I was able to read, it had been my dream that some day I should see the countless herds of buffalo wandering in their dark, dusty, string-like bands on the boundless plains; and I shall ever be glad that I lived to see my dream fulfilled. Then there were plenty of Indians, and buffalo too, especially in the northern part of the continent. On the great plains of the Saskatchewan both were abundant. The buffalo were not the poor, skin-and-bone, mangy remnant of a noble race that survived even till 1884, hoof-worn with perpetual and rapid journeying, ceaselessly seeking a rest they could nowhere attain. Then the great herds moved leisurely, and leisurely the plain-Indian moved in their wake. Millions of buffalo there were that had never heard the deadly crack of the skin-hunter's rifle; and there at least remained in those northern lands some thousands of Indians who had never tasted the deadlier whiskey of the free-traders, as the men were called who pushed their way into the great territories where none but the Hudson Bay Company had hitherto come. (Let me say, for the honor of the Hudson Bay Company, in those years at least, that they never, on any condition whatever, supplied liquor to the Indians.) I have said I shall always be thankful I saw the buffalo in their glory, and saw the Indian, too, as he was—not the ideal Indian, I need scarcely say, bur yet certainly not the debased hanger-on of a frontier civilization that he is to-day. To enjoy an old-fashioned buffalo-run to start with a hundred and fifty almost naked men and boys, in a helter-skelter race of miles, over ground full of holes, and covered with thundering herds, while hunted and hunters were rolled in clouds of dust — is to have enjoyed something that can never be enjoyed again. Who that once joined in such a chase could ever forget it? The strange, motley company, —the old chief, armed and mounted as well as any man in the tribe, but taking small part in the charge or slaughter; the young warrior, stripped almost naked, meaning business, and looking, every inch of him, what he meant, too poor to use the costly ammunition that the Hudson Bay Company could alone supply him with, on buffalo, and so relying on his short bow; the boy of fourteen, just old enough to bestride "a runner," and bend a bow; and last, but not least, the motley band of squaws, some still carrying their babies, — though for them this was no mere holiday pastime, —leading and riding ponies behind which the long tepee-poles, fastened securely at the sides, trailed for fifteen feet along the grass; then the cautious approach, the old man leading and signalling each movement of all our band. My heart almost thumps against my ribs again at the very remembrance of how it thumped that morning when slowly our long crescent of riders rose above the last swell of the plain that hid us from the outlying bulls, scarcely four hundred yards away.
One yell and we were off, each man for himself and the devil take the hinder-most — a thing he was apt to do; for in the shape of badger-holes he lay in wait for those unlucky ones who, choked with dust that hid both herd and ground, floundered in the rear. The safest as well as the pleasantest place was in front.
But I do not desire to write an account either of the sport or scenery I enjoyed in 1868; suffice it to say, I there and then fell in love with the Rocky Mountains, as almost all who have hunted, camped, or been hunted among them have fallen in love. I would rather give some results of the five trips I have made during the summer and fall since then to those mountainous regions, lying within the bounds of the United States, that may be readily reached by the Northern Pacific Railroad; for here await those who will take the trouble to seek them magnificent scenery, and, as yet, fair sport. Why do so few of our young men go West for recreation? There is no land where nature recreates a man as she does there. You literally renew your youth. The climate is invigorating beyond words. For nervously exhausted men, for weary brains, there is simply nothing to touch it. I have gone to the mountains thoroughly fagged out, unable to sleep well or eat well — life a burden, and work an impending horror. In a fortnight I have been eating as many meals a day as I could prevail on my men to cook, and have been glad to fill up chance spaces in my internal economy with raw bacon. Yes, many a time, after a monumental dinner, when we have gone into camp at five in the afternoon, have I eaten with relish that most lasting of all provisions, a piece of raw bacon, before turning in. It is true, some at first find the rarefied atmosphere of the mountains trying to chest or heart, and many also complain of loss of appetite and loss of sleep; but if the man is sound in limb and lung, and if he does not overdo it or overexert himself at the very beginning, but does take regular exercise, in ten days or so all life seems to awaken within him; he may not sleep so long or so heavily, for he has probably camped at an altitude of eight or nine thousand feet (excellent camping-places are sometimes found at a height of ten thousand feet or over), and he does not need as much sleep as though he were at sea-level. He may puff and blow like a grampus as he faces a moderate hill; for he has scarcely realized yet that the atmosphere is so rare that he must boil his potatoes (if he is lucky enough to have any) for at least two hours, and he will do better if he boil them all the morning, and that he cannot, by twenty-four hours' boiling, make beans soft enough to feed to his horse. But he is growing younger, not older. The world of cark and care seems very far away, walled out by the heavy mists that roll up from the plains. What a fool he was to bother his soul, as he did, with a thousand useless things! Now, having a good warm flannel shirt, plenty of blankets, good meat, good bread, and coffee to make glad the heart of man, thoroughly congenial companions, glorious days and nights — what more can he want? Now he needs no longer to cry,