CHAPTER IX. CANYON OF DESOLATION
Ouray, Utah, consisted of a large store to supply the wants of the Indians and ranchers, a small hotel, and a few dwellings. The agency proper was located some distance up the Uinta River, which stream emptied into the Green, just below Ouray.
Supper was taken at the hotel, after which we visited a young man in charge of the store, looking over his curios and listening to tales of his life here among these Indians. They were peaceable enough now, but in years gone by were a danger to be reckoned with. We slept in our own beds close to our boats by the river.
The following morning, when we were ready to leave, a small crowd gathered, a few Indians among them. Most of the Indians were big, fat, and sleepy-looking. Apparently they enjoyed the care of the government. A mile below we passed several squaws and numerous children under some trees, while on a high mound stood a lone buck Indian looking at us as we sped by, but without a single movement that we could see. He still stood there as we passed from sight a mile below. It might be interesting if one could know just what was in his mind as he watched us.
A mile below the Uinta River, which entered on the west, we passed another stream, the White River, entering from the east, the two streams adding considerable water to the Green River. We passed another idle dredge, also some mineral workings in tunnels, and saw two men camped on the shore beside them. We saw numerous Indian carvings on the rocks, but judged they were recent because horses figured in most of them. In all the open country the river was fringed with large cottonwood trees, alders and willow thickets. A number of islands followed, one of them very symmetrical in shape, with cottonwood trees in the centre, while around the edge ran a fringe of bushes looking almost like a trimmed hedge. The autumn colouring added to its beauty. The hedge, as we called it, was dark red, brown, yellow, and green; the cottonwoods were a light yellow. After we had passed this island, a deer, confused by our voices, jumped into the river fifty yards behind us, leaping and swimming as he made for the shore. We had no gun, but Emery had the moving-picture camera at hand, and turned it on the deer. The hour was late, however, and we had little hopes of its success as a picture. The country back from the river stretched in rolling, barren hills 200 or 300 feet high - a continuation of the Bad Lands of Utah, which lay off to the west.
With the next day's travel the hills lost some of their barren appearance. Some cattle were seen early in the afternoon of the following day. We passed a cattle man working at a ferry, who had just taken some stock across, which other men had driven on ahead. He was busy, so we did not interrupt him, merely calling to him from the boats, drifting meanwhile with the current. Soon we saw him riding down the shore and waited for him to catch up. He invited us to camp with him that evening, remarking that he had "just killed a beef." We thanked him, but declined, as it was early and we had only travelled a short distance that day. We chatted awhile, and he told us to look out for rapids ahead. He was rather surprised when he learned that we had started at Green River, Wyoming, and had already come through a few rapids.
"Where are you going to stop?" he then asked.
On being told that our destination was Needles, California, he threw up his hands with an expressive gesture, then added soberly, "Well, boys, I sure wish you luck," and rode back to his camp.
We had difficulty in making a suitable landing that evening, as the high water had deposited great quantities of black mud over everything, making it very disagreeable when we left the boats. We finally found a place with less mud to wade through than on most of the banks seen, and tied up to the roots of a tree.
While lying in our beds that night looking at the starlit sky - such a sky as is found only on these high plateaus - we discovered a comet directly above us. An astronomer would have enjoyed our opportunities for observing the heavens. No doubt this comet had been heralded far and wide, but we doubt if any one saw it to better advantage than did we.
Later, some coyotes, possibly in chase of a rabbit, gave vent to their yodeling cry, and awakened us from a sound sleep. They were in a little lateral canyon, which magnified and gave a weird, organ-like echo to their calls long after the coyotes themselves had passed from hearing.
The nights were getting warmer as we travelled south, but not so warm that we were bothered with insects. The same reason accounted for the absence of snakes or scorpions, for no doubt there were plenty of both in warm weather in this dry country. When there was no wind, the silence of the nights was impressive, with no sound save the lapping of the water against the banks. Sometimes a bird in the trees above would start up with a twitter, then quiet down again. On occasions the air chambers in our boats would contract on cooling off, making a noise like the boom of a distant gun, every little sound being magnified by the utter stillness of the night.