CHAPTER II. INTERESTING SIGHTS OF SOUTHERN WYOMING
All this preparation - and still more, the vexatious delays - had been a heavy tax upon us. We needed a vacation. We took it - six pleasant care-free days - hunting and fishing as we drifted through the sixty miles of southern Wyoming. There were ducks and geese on the river to test our skill with the shot-gun. Only two miles below Green River City Emery secured our first duck, a promise of good sport to follow. An occasional cottontail rabbit was seen, scurrying to cover through the sage-brush, when we made a detour from the boats. We saw many jack-rabbits too - with their long legs, and exaggerated ears - creatures swifter, even, than the coyotes themselves.
We saw few people, though an occasional rancher hailed us from the shore. Men of the open themselves, the character of our expedition appealed to them. Their invitations to "come up to the ranch, and spend the evening" were always hearty, and could seldom be refused if the day was nearly gone.
The Logan boys' ranch, for instance, was our first camp; but will be one of the last to be forgotten. The two Logan boys were sturdy, companionable young men, full of pranks, and of that bubbling, generous humour that flourishes in this Western air. We were amused by their kindly offer to allow Jimmy to ride "the little bay" - a beautiful animal, with the shifty eye of a criminal. But Jimmy, though city-bred, was not to be trapped, and declined; very wisely, as we thought. We photographed their favourite horses, and the cabin; also helped them with their own camera, and developed some plates in the underground storm-cellar, - a perfect dark-room, as it happened.
We took advantage of this pleasant camp to make a few alterations about our boats. Certain mechanical details had been neglected in our desire to be off, our intention being to look after them as occasion demanded. Our short run had already shown us where we were weak or unprepared. The rowlocks needed strengthening. One had come apart in our first brush with a little riffle. The rowlocks were of a little-used type, but very serviceable in dangerous waters. Inside the usual rowlock a heavy ring was hung, kept in place by strong set-screws, but allowing full play in every direction. These rings were slipped over the oars; then the usual leather collar was nailed on the oar, making it impossible for the rings to become separated from the oars. The holes for the set-screws were too shallow, so we went over the entire lot to deepen them. We foresaw where a break might occur, and hung another lock of the open type on a cord, beside each oar, ready for instant use in case of emergency.
The Logan boys, seeing our difficulties in making some of these changes, came to our relief. "Help yourselves to the blacksmith shop," they said heartily. Here was an opportunity. Much time was consumed in providing a device to hold our extra oars - out of the way on top of the deck, but available at a moment's notice. Thanks to the Logan boys and their blacksmith shop, these and many other little details were corrected once for all; and we launched our boats in confidence on the morning of September 10.
A few miles below we came to the locally famous Fire Hole Chimneys, interesting examples of the butte formation, so typical of the West. There were several of these buttes, about 800 feet high, composed of stratified rock; in colour quite similar to the rocks at Green River City, but capped with rock of a peculiar burnt appearance, though not of volcanic origin. Some of the buttes sloped up from the very edge of the river; others were separated from the river by low flats, covered with sage-brush and bunch-grass, - that nutritious food of the range stock. At the water's edge was the usual fringe of willows, cottonwoods, and shrubs innumerable, - all mirrored in the limpid surface of Green River.
At the foot of the cliffs were a number of wild burros, old and young - fuzzy little baby-burros, looking ridiculously like jack-rabbits - snorting their indignation at our invasion of their privacy. Strange, by the way, how quickly these wild asses lose their wildness of carriage when broken, and lapse into the utmost docility!
Just below the Chimneys Emery caught sight of fish gathered in a deep pool, under the foliage of a cottonwood tree which had fallen into the river. Our most tempting bait failed to interest them; so Emery, ever clever with hook and line, "snagged" one just to teach them better manners. It was a Colorado River salmon or whitefish. That evening I "snagged" a catfish and used this for salmon bait, a fourteen-pound specimen rewarding the attempt.
These salmon were old friends of ours, being found from one end to the other of the Colorado, and on all its tributaries. They sometimes weigh twenty-five or thirty pounds, and are common at twenty pounds; being stockily built fish, with large, flat heads. They are not gamey, but afford a lot of meat with a very satisfying flavour.
On September 11, about forty miles below Green River, we passed Black's Fork, a tributary entering from the west. It is a stream of considerable length, but was of little volume at that time. The banks were cliffs about 300 feet high, rugged, dark, and overhanging. Here were a half dozen eagles and many old nests - proof enough, if proof were needed, that we were in a little visited country. What strong, splendid birds they were; how powerful and graceful their flight as they circled up, and up, into the clear blue sky!
Our next camp was at the Holmes' ranch, a few miles below Black's Fork. We tried to buy some eggs of Walter Holmes, and were told that we could have them on one condition - that we visit him that evening. This was a price we were only too glad to pay, and the evening will linger long in our memories.