82. Bryant August 18, 1846

Travelling usually in front of our party, I had watched with much interest and scrutiny the trail of the two emigrant wagons in advance of us when we struck Mary's river. I was fully satisfied from the freshness of the signs on the trail, and the number of their encampments, that we could not be more than a day in the rear at this point; and I determined, if possible, to overtake them this morning, and obtain from them, if they had it to spåre, provision sufficient to carry us into the settlements of California. As soon, therefore, as our party were all fairly on the march, I urged my mule forward at a rapid pace, leaving my fellow-travellers, in a short time, far behind me, and out of sight. After crossing a totally barren plain, ten miles wide, I saw at an apparent distance of five or six miles, two white specks upon a gentle swell of the plain, surrounded by verdant vegetation. These specks I instantly knew to be the wagons; and as I could perceive no motion, I was satisfied that they were encamped. Increasing the speed of my mule by a liberal application of spur and whip, it was not long before I approached the wagons. I must remark here, by the way, that the sight of an emigrant wagon in these wildernesses and deserts, produces the same emotions of pleasure as are felt by the way-worn and benighted traveller, within the boundaries of civilization, when approaching some hospitable cottage or mansion on the roadside. More intense, perhaps, because the white tent-cloth of the wagon is a certain sign of welcome hospitality, in such form as can be afforded by the ever liberal proprietor, who without stint, even though he might have but a single meal, would cheerfully divide it among his stranger visiters. Civilization cannot always boast of such dispensers of hospitality; but among the emigrants to the Pacific, it is nearly universal. 


Two Digger Indians came into our camp about sunset. One of them [identified later as being Chief Truckee] mounted on a miserably lean and broken down horse; and the other walking by the side of the swarthy, and nearly naked savage Caballero. The mounted man was the spokesman; the other appearing to act in the capacity of a servant, or a personage of inferior consequence. After the first salutations, and shaking of hands, the principal desired a smoke. A pipe was produced, filled with tobacco, and lighted. Most of our party, as usual, declined a participation in this friendly ceremonial of the savages; but I took my turn at the pipe, and puffed with a gusto equalling that of our two sable and naked visiters. The ceremony of smoking being concluded, the several members of the party commenced a conversation with our good-natured visiters. When one of the party spoke in English, the chief Indian would invariably imitate with great precision the sound of each word to the end of the sentence. The remarkable accuracy of this repetition or imitation, accompanied as it was with an indescribable comic action, was highly amusing, and produced peal upon peal of loud laughter. This sport continued around our willow fires long after dark. A member of Messrs. Craig and Stanley's party, who for a number of years had been a trapper in the mountains, and was considerably skilled in the significance of Indian signs, afterwards held a conversation with the principal Indian, and learned from him, that a short day's journey would bring us to some pools of standing water, and that after this, we would find no water or grass for a long distance. The time was indicated by pointing to the course of the sun and its positions when the incidents respecting which we inquired would take place. Other matters were explained by a similar reference to objects connected with and illustrative of those inquired about. The information derived from this conversation was not sufficiently clear to solve the doubt, as to whether this was or was not the “Sink” of Mary's river. Before our company retired to rest, I instructed the sentinel first on duty, to communicate to those who succeeded him, that the two Indians were not to be permitted to leave the principal camp-fire until morning, under any pretext. I did not know what designs upon our animals they might entertain themselves, or what concealed associates they might have to assist them. This order was communicated to the Indians in a manner which they could not misunderstand, and they submitted without the slightest opposition. One of them (the serving man, who was so obliging as several times during the evening to bring us water from the slough) had a small garment or shawl, made of hare-skins sewn together, about a yard in diameter. We gave the two a skin to spread on the ground for their bed, and coiling themselves up in an incredibly small space, the hare-skin shawl or blanket covered their bodies, heads and feet entirely. How they managed to compress their persons into so small a space, is a marvel.