CHAPTER X. SCENERY ON THE TRAIL.
Every day the squaws went and took her food, and she lived for many months, no one knowing where she was but the women. When the warriors came about she hid away, and would not stir out until they were gone. One day, however, a warrior out hunting antelope came suddenly upon her and she fled away, but he followed her, wishing to bring her to the village. All day she ran over the hills, and at night the warrior came back, being unable to catch her. She was never seen again, and what became of her is not known, although it is likely she died of hunger, or that the wild beasts destroyed her.
Ever after, when the Indians came here to camp, they told the story of the crazy woman, and the place became known as the "place of the crazy woman," and the name of Big Beard was almost entirely forgotten.
Laramie Plains present a broad bottom on both sides of the river, comprising about twelve hundred square miles, bounded on the north and east by the Black Hills, on the south by a "divide" of arenaceous rock, embedded in marl and white clay, almost barren of verdure, while on the west are the beautiful Medicine Bow Mountains. The southern portion of these plains is watered by a succession of streams which rise in the mountains, some of them discharging their volume into the Laramie River, others sinking in the sand - a characteristic of many creeks and so-called rivers of the central region of the continent.
The northern portion of these vast prairies is a high tableland, devoid of water, its soil mixed with clay and sand, but producing the grass peculiar to the other plains region. Toward the southeastern extremity, at the foot of an isolated mountain, is a salt lake of considerable dimensions, several other sheets of water are also to be seen in the vicinity of the Medicine Bow Mountains, all of which are strongly impregnated with mineral salts. The Laramie River traces its course through the whole extent, rising in the southern extremity of the Medicine Bow Mountains, and empties into the North Platte, at Fort Laramie.
Laramie Peak was the guiding hill that emigrants first saw of the far-famed western mountains - especially its snow-covered crest, a veritable beacon, its summit glistening in the morning sun as its rays fell upon it, the majestic hill ever pointing out the direction which the earnest pilgrims should travel.
The existence of a large lake of salt water somewhere amid the wilds west of the Rocky Mountains seems to have been vaguely known as long ago as two hundred years. As early as May, 1689, the Baron La Hontan, lord-lieutenant of the French colony at Placentia, in New Foundland, wrote an account of discoveries in this region, which was published in the English language in 1735.
In the letter, which is dated at "Missilimakinac," he gives "an account of the author's departure from and return to Missilimakinac; a description of the Bay of Puants and its villages; an ample description of the beavers, followed by the journal of a remarkable voyage upon Long River, and a map of the adjacent country."
Leaving Mackinaw, he passed into Green Bay, which he calls "the Bay of Pouteoutamois," and arrived at the mouth of Fox River, which he describes as "a little, deep sort of a river, which disembogues at a place where the water of the lake swells three feet high in twelve hours, and decreases as much in the same compass of time."
The villages of the Sakis, Pouteouatamis, and some Malominis are seated on the side of that river, and the Jesuits have a house, or college, built upon it. Ascending the Fox River, called "the river of Puants," he came to a village of Kikapous, which stands on the brink of a little lake, in which the savages fish great quantities of pikes and gudgeons. [Lake Winnebago?]
Still ascending the river, he passed through the "little lake of the Malominis," the sides of which "are covered with a sort of oats, which grow in tufts, with a small stalk, and of which the savages reap plentiful crops," and at length arrived at the land carriage of Ouisconsinc, which "we finished in two days; that is, we left the river Puants, and transported our canoes and baggage to the river Ouisconsinc, which is not above three-quarters of a league distant, or thereabouts." Descending the Wisconsin, in four days he reached its mouth, and landed on an island in the river Mississippi.