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How the People of the Plains Employ the Simple Life in the Pursuit of Health and Happiness

BY JULIAN A. DIMOCK

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ILLUSTRATED FROM PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR

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UR baggage testified most eloquently that we were two unwise men out of the East, men who had lived in a manner distinctly apart from the life of the plains. But it might have been even worse, for the trunks were already packed, locked and strapped, and we were well satisfied over the thoroughness of our preparations and the completeness of our equipment when good fortune brought to us a man acquainted with the plains country. He viewed our preparations and looked amused.

"Clothes?" he asked, poking at one of the trunks with his foot.

"Yep," said we, trying to appear unconcerned.

"Take a pair of blankets and a rubber

poncho each. Guns?" viewing our armament. "What for? Go in the clothes you are wearing, wash them when they need it and take a sun bath while they are drying. Hire a horse each, a guide, and there you are!"

So we took off our coats, produced keys, unbuckled straps, and with many a sigh discarded, painfully and with much deliberation, a good half of our equipment. And even then we had twice over what we needed. Still we were "heeled" for man or beast on the warpath, fortified against inclemency of weather and the chance need of a physician or a surgeon. We had guide books and folding maps aplenty, and were brimful of the advice of various friends no more experienced than ourselves.

As we stepped from the train at the little Arizona station we were greeted by a wild "Whoo-oop!" as a long-haired Indian,

Copyright, 1906, by W. E. ANNIS.

suddenly throwing his galloping pony back on its haunches, tossing the reins over its head, landed on the ground beside me. It was a lightning change from a galloping steed and rider to a horse at pasture and a man on foot. He was too spectacular for a real Indian, and beneath the veneer of costume and hair was a New York boy. There was a jangling of spurs and another horseman dismounted beside us. In five minutes we were chatting like old friends. The last comer had escaped from a Chicago office, the walls of which had become to him the walls of a cell, and a strike for freedom had landed him here. In eight months the mantle of Eastern convention had fallen from his shoulders, and he had absorbed much of the breeziness of the West. He showed me his ponies, talked of their good points and then gave me an illustration of a hobbled pony outrunning a man and snatching mouthfuls of grass between jumps.

Our method of traveling was determined by the fact that six-by-eight cameras are bulky and fragile, while glass plates are heavy and breakable. When we left the railroad, with wagon and team, the longhaired New York boy was our driver.

After negotiating fifteen miles of sand and sagebrush, past endless cacti and curious rock formations, we reached a trader's tent and a white man, a German. Outside his tent premature civilization was typified by a stranded traction engine, while inside the walls of his shelter were lined with the tin can abomination. Here the Indians came to trade corn for flour, Navajo blankets for hideous-patterned calico, mutton on the hoof for beef in the can, luscious watermelons for tobacco, coffee and sugar. The trader's eyes must always be open, for the average Indian seems to consider it a virtue to steal, although he is a consummate bargainer. Here Hans lived with the Painted Desert behind and the Arizona plains around him-"Alone, alone; all, all alone." Yet this loneliness of the endless plain, like the solitude of the great woods, is a healthgiving, nerve-restoring tonic. Tired in body you stretch yourself on the sand, or sink gratefully to a couch of leaves. Tired in mind, your eyes wander to the far-off horizon and you muse on the beyond, or the infinite behind the great blue canopy, or

gaze on the trees of the forest and drowsily listen to the murmur of the wind through the branches. Far away is the brick walled, granite paved city with its cold conventions and heart-breaking emptiness to the stranger within its gates-millions of faces, yet not one of a friend; on every hand greetings for others, only silence for him. But here the warm earth has a mother-touch, and every soft breeze a caress. There in Hans' tent we ate our lunch, talking and listening to our host. We racked our brains for news of the world we had left in exchange for tales of the life we were entering. We listened to stories of Indian shrewdness, of Indian deviltry, of Indian friendliness, of Hans' loneliness, and of his plans for release.

"Whoo-oop!" The horses were harnessed and our driver was calling to us that the sun would soon set. We traveled for miles over the rolling plain with its many lizards, its few rattlers, cotton-tail and jackrabbits and occasional coyote, until the sun went down in a bank of clouds beside the San Francisco mountains, and the stars appeared. A light gleamed through the darkness; there came to us the barking of dogs. A trader's hearty welcome soon followed, and our day's journey was ended. Our thirty-mile drive lent equal attractiveness to the supper-burdened table, and the pile of Navajo blankets in the trader's house.

We stayed with this trader friend for many days, sleeping in his house with its stone and adobe walls, roof and floor, making friends with his Indian customers, and sometimes visiting their settlements.

One day as I was using my camera an Indian boy by my side made signs that he wanted to see. With his head under the focusing cloth he looked for a long time at the ground glass, and then asked what made things go upside down. Upon this I had the model before the camera stand upon his head. The Indian looked again at the ground glass, then at the model, then again at the ground glass, and shook with laughter. Several Indian women followed his example and the merriment became general. Incidentally one of the women made disparaging remarks about pocket cameras where you saw nothing and never received the promised pic

tures.

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One is most impressed, perhaps, by the infinite vastness of the landscape, and especially at eventide

When the dinner hour found us far from the store we often went to some near-by hogan, and joining the circle around the sagebrush fire invited ourselves to dine with the family. Usually the dinner was of mutton, broiled over the coals on a gridiron improvised from pieces of heavy wire; ears of green corn roasted before the fire, and a kind of ash-cake made from corn ground with stones into a coarse meal, mixed with water and salt, wrapped in green husks and cooked in the ashes. Often the Indians were like a group of children; jokes passed back and forth and every one laughed-between mouthfuls. Some merriment over a remark that seemed to have concerned me led me to ask for a translation: "The woman says that one of the dogs has been carrying that stick you are using as a fork around in his mouth." There was a single knife, and a family spoon did stirring duty in many cups;

but the forks, being fingers, were individual. An Indian seated opposite me, with grave expression and dignified demeanor, seemed like a character from one of Cooper's tales. I looked for the passing of a pipe of peace and an Indian oration, but when this noble red man lifted his hand it was to reach forward and tickle with a feather one of the children. He then quickly resumed his former attitude and assumed an expression of outraged innocence when accused by the tickled child.

Attempts to straighten out relationships often disclosed two sets of children in one family, with two mothers living and present on mutually cordial terms with everybody, which commonly suggested to us the propriety of a change of topics.

It may be appetite and environment alone that gave flavor to the mutton of the Arizona plains and sweetness to the Indians' corn,

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