CHAPTER X. SCENERY ON THE TRAIL.
Chimney Rock, on the Platte, was once a famous landmark in the early days of the trail. When he reached it, the pioneer traveller knew that nearly one-half of the journey from the Missouri River and the Great Salt Lake was over. For miles on either side of it, it was plainly visible to the lonely trapper, the hunter, and the western-bound emigrant.
Erosion has worn it to an insignificant pillar, but it at one time was a portion of the main chain of bluffs bounding the valley of the Platte. Denudation through countless ages separated it from them. Fifty years ago it was a conical elevation, about a hundred feet high, from the apex of which another shaft arose forty feet. Its strange formation was caused by disintegration of the softer portions of its mass. It is located on the south side of the river, not far from the boundary line between Nebraska and Wyoming. It looked like a factory chimney, hence its name.
The origin of "Crazy Woman's Creek," according to a legend of the Crows, told by an aged chief to George P. Belden, is as follows: -
Years ago, when my father was a little boy, there came among us a man who was half white. He said he wished to trade with our people for buffalo-robes, beaver, elk, and deerskins, and that he would give us much paint, and many blankets and pieces of cloth in exchange for furs. We liked him, and believed him very good, for he was rich, having many thousands of beads and hundreds of yards of ribbons. Our village was then built on the river, about twenty miles above where we now are, and game was very plentiful. This river did not at that time have the name of Crazy Woman, but was called Big Beard, because a curious grass grows along its banks that has a big beard. What I am about to relate caused the name of the river to be changed.
The trader built a lodge of wood and stones, and near it a great, strong house, in which he kept all his immense wealth. It was not long until he had bought all the robes and furs for sale in the village, and then he packed them on ponies, and bidding us good-by, said he was going far to the east where the paleface lives, but that he would soon come back, bring us many presents and plenty of blankets, beads, and ribbons, which he would exchange as before for robes and furs. We were sorry to see him go, but, as he promised to return in a few moons, we were much consoled. It was not long until our spies reported something they could not understand coming into our country, and the whole village was in a great state of alarm. Some of the boldest ventured out, and returned with the joyful intelligence that the strange objects our young men had seen was the trader and his people. All the village ran to meet him, and the sight was strange enough indeed. The Crows had in those days never seen a wagon, horse, or ox, and the trader had brought all these things. The wagons they called teepees on rollers; the horses were giants beside the little ponies, and the oxen, all believed were tame buffaloes. There, also, was a squaw, who was perfectly white, and who could not understand anything that was said to her. She wore dresses down to her feet, of which she seemed to be ashamed, and our women said she tied cords tightly about her waist, so as to make it small. She had very long hair, and did not plait but rolled it, and, instead of letting it hang down, wrapped it tightly about her head.
It was not long until the trader had all his wagons unloaded and his store open. He had brought all the women beads and ribbons, and the men brass rings. Besides what he sold, he made many presents; so everybody loved him, for no one had ever before seen so rich and generous a man.
One day he told the Big Chief to come into the back part of the store and he would show him something wonderful. The chief went, wondering what it could be, and when they were alone, the trader drew out a very little barrel and, taking a wooden cup, poured out some black-looking water, which he told the chief to drink. The chief did as desired and immediately felt so jolly he asked for more. The trader promised, if he would never tell any one where he got the black water, he would give him all he wanted. The chief promised, and the trader gave him another cupful. Now the chief danced and sang, and went to his lodge, where he fell down in a deep sleep, and no one could wake him. He slept so long the warriors gathered about the lodge wondering what could ail him, and they were about to go to the trader and demand to know what kind of medicine he had given the chief to make him behave so strangely when the chief woke up and ordered them all to their lodges, and to ask no questions.