horses & driving

Continued from the previous post …

“After supper I spread my blankets, laid me down and went to sleep. I did not intend to sleep. When I awoke, I went for my cattle and found the cow lying down, the horse I could not find. I called for the horse but no answer could I get. I then called the cow, while I was near that I might have her to help me call the horse. The second time of calling the cow, the horse answered me, and while taking the cow to the wagon, the horse came into the camp and I made them secure to their posts. A thought came now came into my head to harness the horse and go where I had seen the smoke. It was not yet ten o’clock.

“I went on and came to the camp, which was but a short distance from the road. On approaching I saw two men sitting by the fire, whom I addressed, saying, ‘Good evening, gentlemen. About half-past six I saw the smoke from your camp which I intended to reach, but coming to a creek where there was good grass and water, I stopped to let my cattle have a good nibble, so I remained there about three hours, and now I have come on here to see if I could remain with you the rest of the night?’ While I was speaking the foregoing, the whole camp came around me. ‘Strangers, can I remain here? I have come a long distance, and perhaps can make a half hour of some interest to you.’ ‘Stranger, make yourself at home with us,’ was answered. ‘I have said that I have come a long way, which is true; I am all the way from the Pacific Ocean, alone.’ ‘You say that you are from California. Where is your home?’ ‘I am, and my home is in Massachusetts, and I am on my way home.’ ‘Do you think that you will be able to get that cow to that state, stranger?’ ‘I do; she has already traveled eighteen hundred miles. You can see in what condition she is, she speaks for herself.’ ‘She is a fine looking cow. When did you leave California, stranger?’ ‘The first day of June 1882.’ ‘We are going somewhere, and have started for Oregon, but may change our direction. We have heard much about California, what a glorious state it is! You have had an opportunity to know something about it, stranger?’ ‘Yes, I know something about the state. There are as many climates in the state as there are counties; some parts are hot, some warm, and some parts cold. You can get any temperature you desire; but that is not all. California gets her watering done in December and January; some parts in November; and some parts in February. Humboldt county I know more about than any other in the state; it is also one of the healthiest in the state. West of the coast-range of mountains the temperature is the most even, neither too hot nor too cold; on the east side of the range it is warm, in many places very warm. What I dislike is the many months without rain. Say, the last rain was in February and there will be no more until December. The best months are February, March, and April; they are fine months, but in May it begins to dry up; June and July are hot, and August is very dry. By the latter month you will have to start your sheep for the mountains, or they will starve on the way. A person from the East going to California will find the months of November, December, January, and February much different from the East. They will forget our Mays and Junes, but when the sun gets high and the winds are blowing a gale, and the sands are drifting like snow, then, and not till then, will they think of home. We have better days in Massachusetts than they can have in California.'”



continued from the previous post …

“On the morning of June 3rd I was up before my neighbors, making ready to move on. I had fed my cattle and was greasing my carriage, when one of my neighbors came around and asked, ‘How often do you grease your wagon?’ ‘I grease every other day; I travel about twenty-five miles a day, making about fifty miles between each greasing. Can I make some coffee by your fire?’ I asked. ‘Oh, yes; you can make your breakfast by our fire.’ Soon all in the camp were up and around.

“I went to milk the cow and while doing so, one of the dogs came too near the cow. She made a plunge at the dog, upsetting me and the milk. I cared but little for the milk, but the strangers seemed to feel bad about it. The poor dog had to take it on all sides. I told them I did not care for the milk, but felt sorry on their part. I finished milking and there was enough for the coffee of the whole camp.

“After breakfast, on leaving the camp, I wished the company success on their long journey. They answered, ‘Friend, stranger, we all feel anxious for you, being alone; if you were in company with someone it would seem different, and when in a tight place [you] would have someone to help you. Goodbye; success to you, stranger.’ We parted and I went on. It was a pleasant and grand morning.

“To my right are lofty mountains, covered with snow, which appear but a short distance away, but are many miles. High elevations give light and air, and the eye, a long range of vision. About nine o’clock I met a long train, but made no stop, merely asking where they were from and where going. ‘We are from Kansas and going to Washington Territory. Where are you from and where going?’ was answered. ‘I am from California, going east, to Massachusetts,’ I answered. ‘You are from there, and have you brought that cow from there, stranger?’ ‘We have come from California just as you see us.’ I left them and at twelve o’clock met another train, who were at dinner. Having my feed ready for the cattle, I stopped and fed them, and ate my own dinner. This company was also from Kansas, bound for Oregon. There were ten teams, twenty-four horses, twelve men, sixteen women, and thirty-eight children, sixty-six persons in all. I left this company about half-past one o’clock. My road was not good, being badly cut up by the many teams.

“About three o’clock, we met another train of six teams; they were also from Kansas, bound for Oregon, comprising eight men, eight women, and nineteen children. Only a short distance farther I came to another train of four teams; ten horses, four men, four women, and thirteen children, from the same state. About five o’clock I met another band of emigrants of nine teams, eleven men, ten women, and twenty-nine children, all for the state of Oregon. I asked the captain of the train the cause of so many leaving Kansas. It looked as though they were abandoning the state. … ‘I will tell you the cause, stranger. Where we come from we have hot wind that cuts corn and many other things; we can’t stand it, and it is very unhealthy. It is not so in other sections of the state. We made up our minds to leave the state and go to the West and see what we can do there.’ ‘Strangers, success to you,’ I said and went on.

“About half-past six o’clock I saw smoke in the distance and journeyed toward it, and came to a small creek and grass and gave my cattle water. Here, my first thoughts were to go into camp, then I thought I would go to where I saw the smoke. However, there being excellent water and grass at this creek, I concluded to camp here, so we left the trail to the right, went down the creek a short distance and pitched my camp, and turned the cattle loose so that they could have their fill of grass. I concluded to build no fire, but take my supper cold. …”

To be continued …

The last time we checked in with Mr. Johnson, he was in the middle of his cross-country trek and was keeping a watchful eye out for wild animals.

I’m afraid our “read-along” of Mr. Johnson’s story is taking longer than it took him to drive with his horse & wagon, and his cow and dog, from California to Maine, but we’ll keep checking in with him to make sure he makes it all the way to the East Coast.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, or if you’d like to refresh your memory, click on “Mr. Johnson’s Trek” in the blog-topics list at the right of this page to find all the previous posts.


“The last day of May [1883], the 31st, I was up early, as usual, getting ready to strike out. At six o’clock I left the camp and at eight I made the mountain’s base on the left, traveling east, I came to a stop. I left my cattle and ascended the mountain, when about half-way up I stopped hesitating, but walked to the summit. Beyond I could see a great distance. Here my imagination carried me home. Well, here I am; my cattle are yonder at the base.

“I went back to them, saying to the horse, ‘Fanny, can you make this mountain? I think you can, but you will have to work smart to do it.’ My weight is about 600 pounds in all. ‘Fanny,’ I said, ‘you can’t take it all at once; we must make two loads of it.’ I took the grain from the carriage and left it at the foot of the hill. I did not leave the cow, knowing that she is good at going up hills, her halter being at all times slack. The horse succeeded in drawing up the load after a hard pull; then we returned for the grain, taking the cow back with us to act as a brake on going down the hill. I then re-loaded the grain and took up the second load; this is the worst hill I have traveled so far on my journey — if there are any mountains in Wyoming this must be one of them. In journeying from the east, this hill is not near so hard as from the west.

“It was just twelve at noon as we made the summit the last time. I gave the cattle some grain and when they had finished eating went on further, and about two o’clock we came to a small creek at an opportune time, as the cattle were very thirsty and they drank freely. Going on, we traveled a good down grade, with a tip-top trail, crowding along as fast as we could. In fact, today I am feeling well.

“As I traveled along I saw smoke in front of us and I am sure the horse saw it also, as she pricked her ears until we came to a camp, where I stopped and inquired if there was any water near by, how they had come and where they made camp last night, and if there were any rivers to ford? I ask such questions whenever I meet such trains of travelers. This company consisted of five wagons, twelve horses, four tents, and twenty-two persons, hailing from Kansas, on their way to Oregon. ‘Where are you from and where are you going?’ asked the strangers. ‘I am from California, going east,’ I replied. ‘What, don’t you like California, stranger?’ ‘Yes, but I like the East much better,’ I answered. ‘That beats the devil; ain’t you just a little crazy?’ ‘No, not much,’ I said. ‘You have not brought that cow from California, have you?’ ‘No, I have not brought her a step, I have led her all the way as you now see,’ I remarked. ‘Ha, ha-ha!’ laughed the stranger. ‘I’ll bet you are a Yankee.’ ‘Yes, I am.’ ‘Here, come with me.’ I went with him to his wagon, there he took out a small barrel that would hold about a gallon, took out the stopple and drank, I should think as much as a point, and then handed it to me, saying, ‘Drink, Yankee, drink; it will do you good. I have plenty more.’ I took it and drank three small swallows, and handed it back to the man, he taking another drink, and then handed it to me again, but I refused to drink any more. I then said, ‘I will stop here overnight if you will allow me to do so?’ ‘Yes, stranger, stop with us overnight. I will find the whisky.’ ‘I will milk the cow and we will have some good coffee, that will be better than whisky,’ I answered.

“It is now about six o’clock, rather early to go into camp, but we will make it up tomorrow. ‘Where is the water?’ I asked. ‘You can have some of ours, we carry it in a barrel and don’t intend to be without; we keep the barrels full. This we got at Platt River; we were in camp there last night and came from there today.’ ‘About how many miles have you made today?’ I asked. ‘About twenty miles.’ I gave my cattle water and grain, remarking that it was getting low, half gone, but it must last until I reach Laramie, as there is none to be bought this side of that place. The teamster said it was not so, [but that] I could get grain where I should cross the river, which I would reach tomorrow. ‘Then you will follow the river to the bridge, just put up by Uncle Sam, and beyond the bridge you will come to a store. There you can get grain, flour, bacon, tea, coffee, sugar, and all the whisky you want.’ ‘When in Green River city, I was told that I would have to take grain that would last me till I reached Laramie, and you say that I can get grain after crossing the river?’ ‘Yes, all you want.’ ‘I bought enough to last me to Laramie. Had I known that I could buy more, it would have saved me hauling it this distance. I will feed my cattle a little more. How many days have you been coming from Laramie?’ I asked. ‘Left Laramie on the 24th, eight days,’ answered the stranger. ‘About how many miles, think you?’ ‘About one hundred and forty. We ought to travel about twenty miles a day, but our first day out, we only traveled to the river.’ ‘What river?’ I asked. ‘I do not know the name.’ ‘I want some hot coffee and want to go to bed, as I desire to start early in the morning and make that store.’ ‘Oh, let your coffee go, take a drink of whisky, that will do you some good,’ said the stranger. ‘Friend, I am not in the habit of taking such strong stuff; it does us no good, you must excuse me.’ ‘Yes, I will, but stranger, I tell you that you had better get some whisky when you get to the store; it will help you along so much easier. You have got a hard road before you; you have got to cross what will make you quail.’ ‘Friend, I am alone and must keep my head clear, it will not do for me to meddle with that whisky much.’ ‘Well, we will go to bed and get up early in the morning for a good, early start.’ Securing my cattle, I went to bed.”

[to be continued …]




First, before we continue with Mr. Johnson’s tale …

A commenter asked whether (and if so, where) she could buy a copy of Mr. Johnson’s book. The copy I’m “reading” from belongs to the CMA Library here in our office, but I’ve never actually seen the book for sale anywhere. I did just look it up online and Abe Books has ONE copy for sale here.

Now to pick back up with Mr. Johnson.

“About two o’clock I met a train of four wagons and I asked them ‘How far is it to water?’ ‘We have seen none since leaving camp this morning, stranger.’ ‘How far have you come, think you?’ ‘About twelve miles I think. Stranger, how far have you come?’ ‘About the same distance.’ ‘When did you cross any rivers or creeks last?’ I asked. ‘We have seen none for many miles.’ ‘How far from the road were you camped last night?’ I asked. ‘Oh, not far; about forty rods, not more. We turned in on our right and made a high bluff, around the bluff we found both water and grass; you will see our tracks, we have made some deep ones today, stranger.’ ‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘We are from Colorado. Where are you from, stranger?’ ‘I am from California.’ ‘What, you all the way from California?’ ‘Yes, all the way.’ ‘That beats the devil. Have you brought that cow all the way from California, stranger?’ ‘No, I did not say that I brought that cow from California, but led her all the way. She has walked all that distance,’ I said. ‘Where are you going to, stranger?’ ‘I am going to Massachusetts.’ ‘Oh, hell! Where are you going, honest?’ said the stranger. ‘Honest, I am going East, to Massachusetts. Where are you going?’ I asked. ‘We are bound to Washington Territory.’ After this conversation we bade goodbye and went on our several ways.

“About six o’clock I came to the tracks made by the teams I had met. I turned in and followed the tracks around the bluff and came to water. Here I stopped and made my camp for the night. I detached the horse from the wagon, removing her harness and let her loose, the cow also. The horse went in for rolling, the cow for grazing. I went gathering sage brush for fuel and having gathered a large pile, I set it on fire, prepared a hot supper and ate it. After supper I brought in my cattle, securing them and gave them their evening meal, made up my bed and lay down to rest.

“As I lay down on my bed my attention was drawn towards my horse. She was looking steadily towards the bluff, and continued to for some time. I looked in that direction but could see nothing; still she kept looking all the same. All at once I saw what had attracted the attention of my horse. It was a herd of deer coming down the bluffs for grass and water. They were not more than twenty rods from us. I did not trouble them, and told them to remain as long as they wished, and they did remain. I did not let my fire go out as I thought there might be something more than deer around.

“It has been my custom at nights to tie my dog to the wagon, since I was so near to losing him when I was traveling among the sheep ranches and was annoyed by coyotes. They were around me continually; I did not know what to do to stop their infernal noise. One morning I was up early and saw one a short distance from me. I set the dog on him and the coyote turned on the dog. I tried to call the dog off, but the little boobee was only the more courageous, and since that time I have been more particular about setting him on to the wild animals.”

As often happens with old photos, what is intended as a photo of some building or other ends up showcasing a variety of horse-drawn vehicles as well.

In this case, the buildings in question are the Jefferson County Courthouse and St. Paul’s Church in Birmingham, Alabama, c. 1906. In addition to a couple of bicycles propped up at curbside in front of the courthouse, and a few ghostly pedestrians, we also have two horse-drawn vehicles (and two very well-behaved horses) parked by the curb, a man who appears to be unloading coal onto the sidewalk (while his pair of horses waits), and, farther up the street, what appears to be two men standing on a flat-bed horse-drawn wagon as it’s being driven away.

Enjoy looking around!



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