The Project Gutenberg eBook, Boys of the Old Sea Bed, by Charles Allen McConnell

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Title: Boys of the Old Sea Bed

Tales of Nature and Adventure

Author: Charles Allen McConnell

Release Date: January 21, 2020 [eBook #61211]

Language: English

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Boys of the Old Sea Bed

Tales of Nature and Adventure

Charles Allen McConnell

Publishing House of the
Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene

Copyright, 1913
Publishing House of the
Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene


To the memory of my brother Robert, one of the “Boys of the Old Sea Bed,” who, though passing out into the Great Beyond while yet young, wrote his name high up among those to whom the world accords fame, this little volume of boyhood tales is affectionately dedicated.

The Author.


I. In the Bed of an Ancient Sea 9
II. Catching the Fawn 16
III. The Great Blue Heron 23
IV. The Forest Fire 29
V. The First Deer Hunt 36
VI. The Indian War Dance 42
VII. The Floating Bog 55
VIII. The Wayside Tavern 63
IX. Adventure on Lake Cheteck 69
X. The Paint Mine 79
XI. Trapping Game Birds 91
XII. The Moundbuilders 103
XIII. Cooking in Camp 114
XIV. Winter in the Lumber Woods 128
XV. Over the Rapids 140
XVI. The Gift of the Flood 151
XVII. The Tragedy of the Mounds 160
XVIII. College Days 169


These tales are at last put upon paper, after having served the demands of a generation of little folk—now grown tall—for stories of “when papa was a boy.” All the tales are founded upon facts, and many are incidents and experiences reproduced as faithfully as memory paints the pictures.

The red men are gone; the great forest is no more; railroads and cities and farms occupy the bottom of the “Old Sea Bed.” But the same courage and hardihood and clean living which marked the pioneers of near a half century ago is still the hope of America.

Charles Allen McConnell.

Kansas City, Mo., October, 1913.



Men of science who have made a study of the earth’s surface, say that Lake Erie, from which flows Niagara river northward into Lake Ontario, will, in a certain, or uncertain, number of years, go dry, and what is now a wide though shallow sheet of water become a plain, through which may meander a slowly-flowing river. The reason for this prediction is that Niagara Falls, which have cut their way back from Lewiston through a gorge some seven miles, and are still eating their way through the limestone and the softer underlying shale at the rate of more than two feet a year, will finally accomplish their journey, and the great lake be reached and drained.

A similar event seems really to have occurred in the past history of the earth near the geographical center of the state of Wisconsin. Draw a line through the center of the map of this state, from north to south, and then another from east to west, at a little more than one-third of the way up from the southern boundary, and at the intersection you will have the location of the lower end of what appears to have been an ancient lake, or inland sea.

The eastern boundary, evidently, was a range of hills some forty miles to the east, along whose sides,[10] fifty years ago, were easily recognized traces of successive diminishing shore lines, in rows of water-worn pebbles and shells.

The southern boundary is marked by sandstone bluffs, which bear the fantastic carving of waves. Rising nearly perpendicular from the sands like the front of some gigantic ramparts of a fortress, an hundred or more feet, the upper portions are fashioned into turrets, bastions, and domes, until at a distance it is difficult to believe that one is not looking upon some mighty work of man.

Here and there, many miles apart, huge granite rocks rear their heads hundreds of feet above the plain—islands of the old sea.

Of course caves abound in these water-worn bluffs, and these were found, in the early days of settlement, to be the homes and hiding places of bears, wolves, panthers, and the even more dreaded “Indian-devil,” or northern lynx. Not infrequently they were utilized for temporary human habitation. Indeed, one of these very caves became the last hiding place of Black Hawk, the famous Indian chief, as he sought escape from the white man after the failure of the war he had waged, like his predecessor, Tecumseh, in hope of uniting the various tribes against the crowding, appropriating paleface.

Near the present city of Kilbourn, at what is known as the Delles, the Wisconsin river breaks through the rocky barrier and pours its foaming flood down a narrow gorge that is only exceeded in size, and not at all[11] in wild beauty and grandeur, by the gorge and rapids below Niagara. The falls have worn their way through, but evidently, here was the Niagara of the ancient sea.

The shallower part of the old sea was the eastern portion, where in width of fifty miles or more, in the time of which I write, there stretched a level waste of sand. It was to this floor of the old sea that people from the eastern states flocked by thousands, at the time of the “hop boom,” when it was discovered that this vine could be grown and would bear fairly good crops upon these sands. The ground was easily worked, and while the hop plant required two years to come into bearing, the profit from the dried blossoms was enormous, and the settlers saw great fortunes ahead. Money was borrowed, possessions in many cases mortgaged, fine houses erected, drying kilns built, hop roots planted, and the slender tamarack poles upon which the vines were to climb to the ripening sunlight, were set into the ground. The country was settled. The first immigrants harvested one crop at the bonanza price. Then rumors came of an enormous crop thrown upon the market from the fields of Washington and Oregon, new lands of the Pacific coast. The second season found the market overstocked, and prices tumbled from sixty cents to eight and ten cents per pound, which was less than would pay the expense of picking. Hundreds of the settlers never harvested their first crop. For years afterward one could travel miles across the sand and see nothing but deserted[12] houses with abandoned farms growing up to stunted pines.

Among those who had lost in the hop venture, was the family of John Allen, in which were two boys, Robert and Ed, lads of twelve and ten years. The Allens, coming of the rugged Scotch-Irish stock, had no thought of returning to their old home “back east” defeated, but pushed further westward into the wilderness. Coming to the river in the time of low water, they easily crossed the broad bed of the “Ouis-kon-sin,” or, as the modern spelling has it, the “Wisconsin” river, and pushed on past the sandy plains west of the river over into the western half of the old lake bed. It was among the beautiful hardwood trees that lined the banks of the golden-hued Ne-ce-dah, or Yellow river, that they halted and said, “This shall be home.”

To the city-bred boys the land was one of perpetual wonder, and their sturdy bodies and enquiring minds were actively employed. Of course there was much work to do, fencing and clearing willow shrubs from the land, making hay for the winter use of their stock, but Mr. Allen was wise enough to give the boys a large portion of time for their “education,” as he called their excursions into the forest and along the river.

Coming home from one of these trips, the boys were seen to be in a state of excitement, and almost before they were near enough to be understood they were shouting, “Neighbors, neighbors! Just around the big bend.” It was a happy discovery for the Allens,[13] as the new-found neighbors proved to be a family who had come, several years before, from Ohio, and whose young son, Dauphin, was about the age of the Allen boys. The name of the family was Thompson, the wife, Ruth, being the only daughter of “Old John Brown,” whose soul “goes marching on.”

During the years the Allens were neighbors to this family, they came to learn much of the life and character of that strange man who was hated as no other man by the slaveholders of his time, and, probably, was as little understood by those of the north who apologized for him. To this humble home of their only sister, in the wilderness, there came, as occasional guests, one and another of the sons who remained of the man who threw away his life at Harper’s Ferry, that a people might be aroused to a knowledge of the sin of human slavery. Ruth, they said, was the womanly image of her father. She had an abundance of red hair like his, had his features, and more, was like him in spirit. With all the ardor of youthful hero-worship the Allen boys bestowed homage upon John Brown’s daughter, Ruth Thompson. If she was like her father, he had been patient in trial, sweet of spirit in affliction, tender in love for the unfortunate, and utterly void of any desire of retaliation for injuries received. The hair of the Allen boys is silvering, and Ruth has long ago passed to her rest, yet they do not forget an incident which reveals the Christ-like spirit of the daughter of “Old John Brown”—and perhaps of the father.

[14]It was upon the visit of John Brown, Jr., the son who had charge of the Canadian end of the “underground railway” over which so many of the slaves of the South had found their way to freedom, that Mr. Thompson and “Uncle Sam,” a younger brother, both of whom were in the attack upon the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, and had lost other brothers in that raid, were recalling the time when John, Jr., had been taken by the “bushwhackers,” tied to the tail of a horse and compelled to run at great speed for several miles, or be dragged to death. John, Jr., was a heavy man, and the fearful experience brought on a heart trouble from which he suffered all the rest of his life. The men, as they talked over those days of sorrow and trial, would occasionally utter some stout words against their persecutors, but quickly Ruth would break in, in her gentle voice—“Boys, boys! Speak evil of none. ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.’ It may be those poor men thought they were doing right.”

Never did the Allen boys hear one unkind word from this daughter against the government, the individuals, or the section that had imposed upon her father an ignominious death.

Dauphin Thompson and the Allen boys became great friends and inseparable companions, and in the “education” of the latter the grandson of “Old John Brown” not only joined, but was able to initiate them into many of the mysteries of wood and stream. The Allen boys had new breech-loading shotguns, but Dauphin was the proud possessor of the carbine which[15] his father had carried from Osawatomie to Harper’s Ferry, and which had been fitted for small-shot cartridges.

To the north, from which the Yellow river flowed, lay the vast, unbroken forests of pine; to the west stretched many miles of swamp and low-lying prairie. In the summer these prairies were covered with grass often so high as to completely hide the tallest man walking through. Game abounded. Deer were so unafraid that frequently the boys would find them quietly feeding among the cattle when they went at night to bring home the milch cows. Bears, panthers, and wild cats came at night to call, and left their “cards” in great tracks on the sand along the river front of the new home.

Here, in the bottom of the ancient sea, these boys began lessons which made of two of them stalwart, honored men, and which one of them had the good fortune to supplement, at a later day, in college.



The first winter after the Allen family moved to their new home on the Necedah river was unusually severe and long. While in that section of Wisconsin deep snows were not uncommon, this year they had started in about the middle of October, and by Christmas lay piled in great drifts, like small hills, in places, while on the level even the top rail of the “stake-and-rider” fence about the buildings was covered, and over which the boys, Rob and Ed, hauled loads of hay in their sleds. Between the house and stable there was one huge drift, higher than either building, through which the boys cut a tunnel large enough to drive through with their team of steers and bob-sled.

Uncle Sam Thompson, who was wise in the ways of weather, prophesied a spring flood that would sweep away the fences and come up into the houses; and, indeed, such a flood did occur a few years later, but this year the winter held on so late into the spring, and the snows melted away so slowly and gradually, that the feared high water did not come.

The Allen boys were initiated into a new and delightful experience in the latter days of March. Warm days would be followed by freezing nights, which, Uncle Sam declared, were ideal “sap” conditions.[17] Hundreds of great maple trees lined the river, and while they were not of the “rock,” or regular sugar variety, but the “soft” maple, yet the sap held enough of sweet to yield a fair amount of sugar.

To less sturdy youths the trudging through melting snow and wading in icy water would have been accounted anything but a pastime, but the Allen boys and their chum, Dauphin Thompson, worked at the sugar making with zeal and zest. Uncle Sam showed them how to “tap” the trees. First, a hole would be bored into the tree trunk with an inch augur, then a V-shaped notch would be cut through the bark just above it. Into the augur hole would be driven a “spile,” or piece of grooved wood, down which the sap from the V-shaped cut would run. At the foot of the tree, under the spout, would be placed a wooden trough, hollowed out from a block of the light linden, or “basswood.”

To carry the sap home to the big kettles which were kept constantly boiling, reducing the thin sap to syrup, and finally “sugaring off” into the delectable sweet cakes, a yoke of ash was made fitting over the shoulders, with projecting ends. To these ends were attached ropes which were fastened each to a large bucket. These buckets the boys would fill with sap from the trees, and from the farthest point, trudge home a mile through water and melting snow. It was no easy play, and aching backs and limbs severely tested their courage, yet the boys felt amply repaid for it all in the two hundred pounds of cakes of the[18] delicious sweet they thus harvested during the two weeks of the “run.”

By the time the sugar harvest was over, wild ducks had begun to appear, and the lagoons and deep places in the marshes were noisy at night and early morning with their quacking. While most of the wild fowl passed on to their summer home in the lake region of Canada, some of the ducks built their nests and reared their young in the marshes and along the rivers of that section. Among these were the mallards, large, beautiful birds.

The boys had frequently noticed a pair of these ducks at Round Slough in the latter days of their sap gathering, and had planned to hunt for the nest and secure the eggs which they proposed to place for hatching under a hen. Mrs. Thompson had told the boys that she had known the mallards to be domesticated when hatched away from the wild mother, but care had to be taken to keep them confined at migrating-time in the fall, else they would try to follow off their wild cousins as they flew over.

Spring work pressed so heavily that the boys did not get to visit Round Slough until in May, when one bright day came with the coveted vacation. The slough was back from the river perhaps a quarter of a mile. It was several rods in diameter, of great depth, and perfectly round. The banks were high and sloped away from the hole, as well as toward the water. No trees were growing near the edge, but the sides of the[19] rim were covered with “blue-joint” grass already waist high.

The boys approached the slough cautiously. “There they are,” whispered Dauphin. “But see what the old ducks have.” For, sporting in the water, standing on their heads, waving their funny, big feet in the air, and chasing water bugs, were a dozen downy, yellow ducklings.

“Let’s drive them to land and catch them,” said Ed.

So the boys dashed up to the water’s edge and began to throw in sticks and to “shoo.” The father duck flew away, but the mother kept with her babies and paddled to the other side.

“I’ll watch this side and keep up the fuss,” said Rob, “and you boys can run around and catch them in the grass. You see just where they went out.”

“Why, there they are,” called Dauphin, “away over on that side.” And sure enough, there were the mother duck and her babies skirting the bank, in the water again. Time and again the boys chased the little family from the slough, only to lose sight of them entirely “just where they went out.” The boys were separated now on three sides of the slough, when suddenly there was a great splash in the water and a doe came swimming across, making, as the boy thought, straight for Rob. A deer is no mean antagonist, and Rob scrambled out of the way, while the animal went crashing through the bushes.

Over where Dauphin had been there was a great[20] threshing about in the grass, and a boy’s voice shouting, “Help! help! come quick.” Ed and Rob hurried around the slough, and there was Dauphin trying to hold down a young fawn which was making desperate efforts to escape. But for the arrival of the other boys it might have succeeded in tumbling Dauphin into the deep water. The three boys easily handled the little creature, but Rob’s hand bore the imprint of one of its sharp hoofs for many a day.

“I almost stumbled over the old deer,” said Dauphin, “and I never would have discovered this little chap if I hadn’t fallen over him. However did they manage to hide so well and keep so still while we were running all about them?”

The fawn, which was probably two weeks old, was “all legs,” as the Allen boys expressed it. The back of his brown coat was flecked with spots of white, while his under parts were pure white. Tying both his front and hind legs with their handkerchiefs, the boys took turns in carrying their new pet home, where they soon succeeded in teaching it to drink milk. When it was caught it could easily run about under the kitchen table, but it throve and grew so rapidly and became so boisterous in its manifestations of friendship, that, in a few weeks, Mrs. Thompson declared it had outgrown its place of household pet.

The boys built a pen of rails, and cut fresh grass for it every day, and later in the season at the advice of Mr. Thompson, added the twigs of the poplar or aspen to its diet. They would cut down a young tree[21] and stand it in the corner of the pen. When the fawn had nibbled all the tender twigs from the lower limbs he would rise upon his hind legs and walk about the tree on two feet, browsing from the higher branches, just as though that was the natural way for a deer to get about, as indeed it was in a situation of that kind.

As the fall approached the young deer began to lose his spotted coat of brown, and take on a winter suit of grey. Little hard knobs could be felt on his head where the “spikes,” or one-prong horns would appear the following months. Like a rapidly developing boy he began to take on “manish” ways, and to show an intention of “seeing the world.” Although the boys increased the height of his pen to ten rails, even that would not hold him when the desire to roam came too strongly upon him.

On one of these occasions, when the boys had missed him from the pen, they came across him a quarter of a mile away in the meadow, acting in a peculiar manner. Long before they reached him they could hear his angry snorts and could see the hair along the ridge of his back sticking up like quills upon a porcupine. The young deer was dancing around in a circle, face toward the center, now advancing, now springing quickly back, all the time his eyes fixed upon one spot. Just as the boys were drawing near he gave a spring into the air, and, bunching his four feet together, came down like a bolt out of the sky. The stroke was evidently effective, for on the ground was the writhing threshing body of a huge black rattlesnake,[22] the dreaded massasauger, with head severed from the body as cleanly as if cut with a knife. The sharp hoofs had done quick and sure execution.

Unable to keep the deer in confinement as he would grow larger the boys disposed of him for a good sum to a collector for an eastern city park.



“Dauph,” said Robert Allen one morning in early spring, “I saw a pair of wood ducks over in Cut-off Slough yesterday, and the drake had the handsomest plumage I ever saw on a bird. He would make a fine specimen for your collection.”

Dauphin was a “born naturalist,” as his father called him, which meant that the lad had a sense of the beauty and wonder of nature, and went about with his eyes open. From the furred and feathered dwellers of the wilderness into which the family had moved, when Dauphin was a small child, he had secured and mounted a collection of specimens that would have graced the great college which it was his ambition some day to attend.

“Let’s go over and have a look at him in the morning, Rob,” eagerly responded Dauphin.

Rob agreed, but it was rather late in the afternoon instead of early in the morning, as they had planned, before the boys were ready for their trip.

Cut-off Slough had once been a part of the river. A long bend, a mile around, had, in a time of unusual high water, been cut off by the flood breaking over and wearing a new channel through the narrow neck of land, not more than fifty feet across. The hundred or[24] more acres enclosed in the great bend had now become an island, and the old bed of the river a deep lagoon, or slough, as it was called, making an ideal home for fish and wild fowl. The wearing of the new channel of the river had formed a bar of sand across the mouth of the lagoon, high and dry during the summer, but now, in the spring rise, overflowed, so that the boys waded knee deep in the cold water to gain its banks.

Great trees, oak, maple, linden, birch, and ash, overhung the still water, and the western sun cast dark shadows almost across its surface.

“It’s lucky for us it isn’t July,” said Dauphin, “or we couldn’t stay in this place without face nets; the mosquitoes would eat us alive.”

“Seems to me they are bad enough now,” replied Rob, slapping at a dozen big fellows that had struck his face. “Sh-sh! there is our beauty and his sober wife. Over there by the stump with the white streaks, and the limb sticking up.”

“Too far for these small shot,” whispered Dauphin; “I don’t want to use large shot; spoils the plumage. Let’s crawl closer.”

The two boys crouched down, and on hands and knees slowly crawled through the tall grass and reeds to where a point of land jutting out into the water would give them the advantage they sought. But just as Dauphin was about the fire the shot that would add another valuable specimen to his collection, something occurred that drove all thoughts of ducks from their mind. The “stump” lowered its “limb” that[25] had been sticking straight up, and out from its sides spread two wings, fully eight feet from tip to tip. As the “limb” bent over, the white streaks down the “stump” stood out in regal plumes from the crest of a magnificent bird.

“Oh, Rob,” gasped Dauphin, “it must be the Great Blue Heron. I have never seen one before, but Professor Hodge’s son Clifton, at Carleton, sent me the picture of one, and told me to keep my eyes open for him. He says they are rare now, though they used to be numerous, especially in the northern part of the state, and the college has no specimen of the bird.”

“Let me get him for you,” said Rob. “The heavy shot in my gun will do surer work than your fine shot.” But before Rob could get aim, the great bird began to move about in such a peculiar way that both boys could only stare in wonder. Stepping out upon the sandbar the heron crouched or squatted down, and began to go around and around, backward and forward, in a sort of hop and skip. Then the boys saw coming down the sand from out the shadows the cause of all this strange bowing and scraping by the big bird. A second heron, not bright blue as the first, but clad in more somber garments of bluish-grey, walked solemnly toward her prospective lord and master. Approaching each other, both birds stood perfectly still—as motionless as statues, their long bills pointing straight up, and each balancing upon one foot. They stood this way for a full minute, as if in solemn contemplation, and then both joined in the mysterious[26] gyrations. Approaching each other with wings out-stretched, in the indescribably funny waltz step, they would touch the tips of their bills and bow to the ground two or three times. Then they would separate and go waltzing past each other with the hop and skip, back and forth, around and around, finally to come and touch bills and go to bowing again.

The whole performance was so comical that the boys rolled over in the grass shaking with merriment, and Rob, unable to restrain his hilarity, gave a loud “ha! ha!” At once there was a flap of wings and the female bird went sailing over the tops of the trees. The blue heron, he of the royal plumes, however, after one upward spring, settled down and stood in dignified stolidity, apparently gazing at the sky.

“Shoot! Rob, shoot!” cried Dauphin. “Get him before he can get away.”

“No, no,” said Rob. “Don’t you see he’s fast some way? He’s wound some of that tough grass around one of his legs. Let’s catch him alive. Think of the money we can make taking him around showing him. Or maybe we can sell him to the professor in your college for a big sum. Surely a live bird will bring more than a mere specimen.”

The boys threw down their guns and made a rush in the direction of the great bird. But the ground where the dancing party had been held was more adapted to bird than human feet, and their progress was slow as they sank half way to their knees in the soft earth and water.

[27]“You stay on this side while I’ll go around behind, and we’ll make a grab at him together. We can hold him all right,” said Rob.

“Now,” said Dauphin, “catch him around his wings, and I’ll hold his legs.” And both boys made a rush. The big bird made another unavailing attempt to rise, then, awaiting the attack, drew back the long neck, and with the white plumes standing straight out behind, sent his bill like a sword-thrust straight at Dauphin’s breast. There was a sound of the impact of the blow, a moan from the boy, who sank crumpled up to the ground, and, with another mighty lift of the huge wings the Great Blue Heron was free.

Plunging through the rushes and mud, Rob reached his chum, carried him up the bank, and opened his thick hunting jacket and shirt. The long bill of the bird had evidently broken a rib, but had not penetrated the flesh. In a moment Dauphin opened his eyes. “My! what was it? I can’t breathe. Who would have thought that pesky bird could strike like that?” And, indeed, Dauphin was fortunate to have escaped with the discomfort of a broken rib, that would be “as good as new” in a couple of weeks. The strength and thickness of his buckskin jacket probably saved his life, for less than a fortnight later a young Indian of a nearby camp, struck upon the bare side by the bill of a “sandhill” crane, a much smaller bird than the Great Blue Heron, was pierced to the heart and instantly killed.

[28]“Well,” said Rob, “we didn’t get any specimens, but we did get to attend the heron’s ball.”

“Yes,” replied Dauphin, “but I think the next time I go will be when I am an invited guest.”



Those who were boys and girls in the Middle West in the year 1871, will have a vivid remembrance of the great comet that moved across the northern sky during the month of August. It was so large and brilliant, that before the sun had been altogether hidden in the west, the fiery orb of this celestial stranger could be seen glowing and as night came on the long tail would appear spreading out in a fan of light half way across the heavens. Mr. Allen was an educated man, whose favorite study in his school days had been astronomy, and although he had instructed his young sons as to the facts concerning comets, their relation to other heavenly bodies and to the earth, the rumor which had found its way into this Wisconsin wilderness home, that the world was to be destroyed by the “fervent heat” of this flaming visitor, had its effect upon the boys.

To the natural fear of the marvelous and unusual in the sky, was added the alarming conditions of a severe drouth, all over the county. Dauphin had told the boys how a burning wad from his gun had set fire to the dry peat in a marsh to the west, and the “ground” had been burning there in great holes for[30] more than a week. Before the close of July the river had ceased to run, and water was only to be found in the deep holes of its bed. The sky was brassy-looking in the day, and at night the moon had the appearance of blood. Then came weeks when a thick haze hung over all the land, and the sickly, yellow-hued sun could be looked upon with naked eyes. It seemed as if all nature was disturbed, frightened, and awaiting some impending calamity. The wild creatures of the forest, birds and animals, became strangely numerous. Deer were seen about the water holes in the day time, and seemed scarcely frightened when approached. Grey, black, and big, red fox-squirrels swarmed in the trees and on the fences. The little patch of sod corn the boys had planted on the “new breaking” that spring was harvested in the milk by the southward-moving emigrants of the forest.

A timber scout stopped over night at the hospitable home of Mr. Thompson and told how the little, lumber-manufacturing town of Peshtigo, up in the big woods northwest, had been wiped out by fire, scores of the inhabitants perishing before they could reach the river, so sudden was the coming of the storm of flame over the forest. Many others had been suffocated with smoke or overcome by the fierce heat and drowned even after they had reached the water. “The big woods from Lake Superior to Green Bay are burning,” said the traveler.

But what caused the more anxiety to the Allens[31] was the rumor he had heard at Pete-en-well Ferry that Chicago had been destroyed by fire, and nearly all the people burned.

The closing up of a matter of his former business had called Mr. Allen to that city some two weeks previous, and as it was past the time set for his return, the rumor brought by the timberman filled the family with alarm. Letters were rare with dwellers in that forest wilderness, but occasional trips were made to Dexter Crossing, where “tote” teams passing to the camps along the rivers of the far north would leave mail forwarded on to these settlers by the postmasters at the towns below.

Rob being the elder of the boys, proposed to make the trip at once to Dexter Crossing in the chance of a letter having been sent there to them by their father. There was, of course, danger that the great fire of the northeast might sweep down upon them any day, and as Dexter was well within the big woods the fate of one caught out there could be fearfully imagined. But the anxiety of the family as to the safety of Mr. Allen outweighed their caution, and Mrs. Allen gave her consent for Rob to make the trip.

The lad reached the settlement at Dexter Crossing safely, and to his joy found there a letter from his father. A great fire had indeed swept over the very heart of Chicago, destroying almost the entire business portion, and hundreds of lives had been lost. Fortunately Mr. Allen had been in a district not reached by the flames, and while he had been delayed by the[32] catastrophe, would be able to reach home the following week.

Impatient to be back at home with the good news, Rob resolved to start upon the return trip that night, walking ten miles or so, then resting until daybreak. Thoroughly wearied with his long tramp, he slept soundly when he finally lay down upon his bed of pine “needles.” When he awoke it was with a start and sense of discomfort. His watch said it was morning, past six o’clock, although it was still dark. The air was close and heavy and carried a pungent odor that made breathing somewhat difficult. Rob sprang to his feet, and munching his bread and bacon as he went, resumed his journey. Before he had traveled an hour, the tops of the tall pines had begun to moan in a rising wind, and a cloud of smoke was settling down like a pall from the sky. With a clutch of fear at his heart, Rob realized the meaning—the forest fire had reached that section; his hope of safety lay in reaching the more open country about his home before the storm of fire should be upon him.

Breaking into a “long run,” an exercise which the boys had practiced until they were able to keep up the gait for two or three miles, Rob began the race. The smoke grew more dense; tears ran down the boy’s face from smarting eyes. Choking for air, he bound his handkerchief about his mouth and nose, and ran on. Again and again he would stumble and fall over tree-roots rising in the way. Finally he noticed that close to the ground there was a current of cool, pure air,[33] and so, lying flat on his face, he would fill his lungs, then rise and dash forward as far as he could, and fall to the earth to breathe again.

While he lay gasping for breath after a long run, there came to his ears the sound as of a waterfall in the distance. The volume of sound increased until it became a roar, and all at once the pall of darkness broke out into a glare of blinding flame—the tempest of fire was upon him. The very air seemed to be on fire. A great pine would start into a blaze, and an ascending current of air snatching a limb or a burning bunch of cones would hurl it on into the top of another tree an hundred feet away. The first rush was quickly over. The resinous foliage of the green trees was soon licked up by the flames, but the awful destruction would continue for days.

The bed of dry “needles,” fallen leaves of the yearly shedding of the pines, made excellent kindling to light the great trunks of the forest giants, which, catching, would burn until consumed, or until extinguished by a heavy rain. Fortunately the latter usually occurred. Whether or not it be founded in fact, there is a saying widely accepted that every large battle and great fire is followed by a hard rainstorm. Thus it is that the greatest damage in forest fires is to the young timber, the small trees growing close together being left bare and dead, if not consumed at once. Among the big trees there is little underbrush, and while the foliage and small limbs are destroyed, and great holes sometimes burned in the trunks near the ground, the trees[34] recover, and put forth their green again the following spring.

All sense seemed to leave Rob except the one to keep going. No longer could he stand to run more than a few feet in the fierce heat. His hair was singed; the thick soles of his boots were cracked and shriveled up from stepping upon embers and burning limbs. His woolen jacket and trousers were a protection to his body, but when a dead tree, all ablaze, fell with a crash just in front of him, he felt that he could go no further. Almost without volition he crawled off to one side—and for a time lost consciousness. Soon he came to himself and realized that his blistered face and hands were deliciously cool, and that he was breathing easily. He had fortunately crawled into a little “swale,” one of the small, moss-covered depressions that mark the edge of the big forest, as it opens out into the small timber and marshes of the ancient lake. The little basin, filled with moss, was like a great sponge from which not all the moisture had been wrung by the fierce heat of the summer, and it meant life to Rob as he buried his face in it.

Danger to the lad from falling trees and flying firebrands was not over, but he was not far from the open prairie, now a blackened waste, and with heart anxious for the loved ones at home, he pushed on.

The fire had, after all, not been connected with the great fire of the northeast, but was local in extent, covering some ten miles from north to south, and perhaps fifteen from its eastern starting point, to where[35] it was stopped by the deep marshes on the west. The humble home on the Necedah river was unharmed, and great was the rejoicing that night as Rob returned alive, with the letter, although it was many weeks before the lad fully recovered from the experiences of that fearful trip through the burning forest.



The question of food supply is always an important one where there is a family of growing children, but especially is it so in a wilderness of forest, far from stores and the supplies of towns and cities. The question is not so much one of variety as of quantity, as the vigorous out-of-door life of the pioneer gives an appetite which dainties prepared by a famous chef would not tempt from the generous dish of “pork and beans,” or roast beef and potatoes.

This question became a pressing one to our settlers in the “old lake bottom,” by the Necedah river. The severe summer drouth had cut short the yield of their potato crop upon which high hopes had rested at the spring planting, and a great horde of migrating squirrels had harvested their little field of corn before it had ripened.

Ruffled grouse, or “prairie-chickens,” as they were called, were abundant up to the time of the big fires in August. Indeed, from the first of July the young birds had furnished a supply of meat for the table more delicious than the boys of the family had ever known.

The old sow, which they had succeeded in bringing[37] through the winter, had been turned out into the hardwood timber along the river to care for herself, and Uncle Sam Thompson reported having seen her on Big Bend with a fine litter of pigs, which would thrive upon the “mast,” the nuts of oak and hickory, and furnish good “hams” and “sides” by Christmas.

The fire which had come down out of the big woods during the summer, burning over the low prairies and shallow marches had been followed by a week of heavy rains, and what had been a wide stretch of blackened waste was soon transformed by the springing grass into an emerald garden. While light frosts occasionally nipped the top, through September, the grass grew rapidly and luxuriantly, and Mr. Allen’s few cows and yoke of young oxen were rolling with fat by October.

Families and herds of deer might be seen any day a mile west from the Allen home, though they appeared to be more difficult of approach as the cold season came on. As many as twenty in one herd were counted by the boys at one time. While they had become expert with their guns in securing small game, neither Rob nor Ed had as yet tried their marksmanship upon the larger animals.

There was, at that time, no “closed” season for its protection, but the settlers, as a rule, never killed game wantonly, nor for “sport.” No deer were shot in the summer, especially while the young needed the care of its mother. But when the sharp, frosty nights of October came, the hunter’s appetite was allowed to[38] match the woods-wisdom and cunning of the “antlered lords of the forest.”

The moonlight nights of October is the mating season, and then the hunters know that the deer keep to regular paths or “runs” through the forest. Rough platforms of boughs were built upon the low branches of some tree at the crossing or intersection of two runs, and upon this the hunter will take his seat and watch, while a comrade starts off, and making a wide detour, starts a “drive” in the direction of the ambush. The watcher in the tree must be alert, quick of sight, and sure of aim, for the buck will come bounding toward him with prodigious leaps and be gone again in a flash.

Uncle Sam had promised his nephew Dauphin and the Allen boys a deer hunt on the night of the full moon in October, but Rob Allen was impatient. “You needn’t be in such a hurry,” said Dauphin. “You couldn’t hit a deer the first time, anyway. One always has ‘buck-fever’ the first time.”

“You’ll see,” boasted Rob; “I’ll show you that the laugh will not be on me.”

If Rob had been wise, he would have awaited the time set, and acted under the direction of the experienced hunter, but the taunt of Dauphin spurred him on to prove his prowess. So the next afternoon he slipped off with his gun in the direction of Round Slough. Approaching the water from the west he came to a swale where some long-past tornado from the southwest had laid the aspen trees in great windrows. The[39] breeze from the east brought to Rob the quacking of ducks over in the slough, and as he slowly and as quietly as possible, clambered over the fallen tree trunks, he thought, “Well, I can change the buckshot in my gun to a cartridge of 4’s, and take home a mess of mallards anyway.”

Then, from the further side of the very windrow of tree trunks upon which he was clambering, there sprang high into the air, and in a mighty bound clearing the last barrier of trees, a splendid, eight-pronged buck. For a second Rob stood in open-mouthed wonder, then seizing his gun in one hand he started on a run after the deer, yelling at the top of his voice. There was a flash of the great antlers above the underbrush of the slough, and the deer was gone.

“Well,” said Rob, coming to himself, “I had it, didn’t I! So that is ‘buck fever.’ Why I never once thought of my gun. The boys will have their laugh now.”

Coming out into the open forest, the lad struck into a deer “run” and started for home. He had not gone far when he caught the sound of animals running, coming toward him. Quickly he dodged behind a big pine. In a moment two deer burst into sight, the second one carrying a pair of branching antlers. Rob could feel his heart beating like a trip-hammer, but he drew a bead upon the antlers, and, just as they passed, fired. The buck dropped, rolled over and over, then lay still.

“Hurrah!” shouted Rob. “I have you now;” and,[40] dropping his gun, he ran quickly, drawing his hunting knife. The deer was a four-year-old, and would probably weigh a hundred and fifty pounds. The boy put one foot upon the neck of the fallen animal, when a startling thing occurred. As though the solid earth had risen beneath his feet, Rob felt himself lifted and flung over upon his back on the pine needles as if he had been the merest trifle, and in great leaps and bounds he saw his deer disappearing in the distance.

“Of all things,” gasped the lad, “this beats me. If I caught the ‘buck fever’ the first time, I must now have reached the delirious stage. Who ever heard of a dead deer acting in that way!”

It was now growing dark, and impossible to follow the trail of the deer even had it been seriously wounded, so the lad struck out for home. He had gone perhaps half a mile, and was approaching the open prairie not far from his home, when, in a small swale, to the left of the trail, he heard a snort, then a quick, impatient pawing of a hoof like a challenge. Dropping to his knees he waited, and in a moment discovered the gleam of two eyes shining through the darkness. Carefully raising his gun, he fired. Springing straight up into the air, the animal came down with a thud. This time Rob did not throw down his gun, but made ready with the second barrel in case of need, as he cautiously went up to where his quarry lay. But the charge had gone true, and a fine, fat yearling, a “spike” buck—his first deer—was a prize to the young hunter.

[41]The boy’s heart beat proudly as he shouldered his game and bore it home.

With well assumed modesty Rob accepted the praises of Dauphin and Ed, but being an honest lad he finally confessed to his attack of “buck fever,” and then related the astonishing action of the second deer.

But Uncle Sam explained it. “You ‘creased’ him,” said he. “Your aim was too high, but one of the buckshot grazed the top of his head and stunned him for the time. Probably he was not at all seriously hurt. I saw that trick played many a time when we were crossing the plains to California in an early day. When we were on the llanos of northern and western Texas bands of wild horses would occasionally circle about our wagon train. None of the saddle horses were anything like a match for the wild fellows in speed, but the plainsmen had a way of occasionally capturing one of the band. Where the lay of the ground would permit, a picked man would be detailed to creep toward the herd until within shooting distance. Selecting the horse that pleased his fancy, he would shoot, not to kill or wound the animal, but to just graze the skin along the top of its head. The trick required the highest skill in marksmanship, but many horses were secured in that way, as the force of the bullet would stun the animal for a time and it could be secured with ropes, and finally be broken to service.”



When the Jesuit Fathers, those early French path-finders for civilization in the central region of the American continent, pushed down from Canada over the lakes and by the rivers into the great forest that stretched from the inland sea to the great river, they found a people warlike, indeed, yet hospitable and kindly; reserved and shy, yet open-hearted and unsuspicious; uncivilized according to Old World standards, yet wise in the great secrets of nature; poor as to stores of gold, yet rich in the abundance of all that went to make for their simple necessities, their comfort and their pleasure. So entranced were the Frenchmen with the natural, free, and abundant life of these red men of the forest, and with their noble physical bearing, and untutored courtesy and dignity, that many then and there forever forsook the land and ways of their fathers, and bequeathed the names of France to dusky families, and to streams and lakes and heights.

The Great Sioux Nation, not a people, but a federation of peoples, lay principally to the west—the land of Hiawatha—in what was to become Minnesota, and extended well across the barren plains of Dakota to the Missouri river where possession was disputed by the Blackfeet. The eastern border of the nation[43] rested upon the shores of the two fresh water seas. The central portion of the great forest was the home, principally, of two tribes: to the eastward the Menominees, and to the westward the Winnebagoes. To the south was the land of the Sac and Fox.

From the standpoint of the red man, this land between the Mississippi river and the great lakes could only be equalled by that Happy Hunting Ground on the Isle of the Blest, the home of Manitou, the Great Spirit. Little lakes and running streams, teeming with fish, abounded. Wild fowl and the smaller fur- and game-animals were ever within reach of even the arrows of the unclad children. Blackberries grew in riotous profusion in sandy openings of the forest; while blueberries in the summer and huckleberries in early fall gave a welcome change of diet. Food was plentiful. And as for wild creatures whose taking would test the sagacity and valor of the wisest and bravest, were there not the bear, the panther, and the lynx? While upon the plains west of the great river the neighbors depended upon the bison for winter’s meat, for tent covering and a large portion of their clothing, the great forest afforded the Winnebagoes, for these necessities, the flesh and skins of deer.

It is true that such a bountiful nature bred an improvident disposition, and times of lack and suffering had come to them in the past, but so rare were they, that the tales of such disasters became great epics to be rehearsed and chanted about winter fires.

To this forest had come the welcomed priests and[44] their friendly companions—but that was indeed the beginning of a new order; where one white man puts a foot, there other white men spring up. It would seem strange that from the time of pathfinder Pierre Marquette to the time of pathfinder John C. Fremont, the simple, free, self-sufficient lives of these forest tribes should have been so little disturbed, and yet there was a reason. From the Atlantic coast the white man’s civilization had spread westward, ever westward, opening up farms, building cities—always crowding before it the red man, and appropriating his lands. After the bloody days of the establishing of New England upon the eastern shore, there came, later, Tecumseh, with his vain hope of stemming the tide of invasion. Then still later, in the newer west, Black Hawk, with impassioned words strove to turn the faces of his warriors toward the coming horde. But steadily, surely, the white man pressed forward. As a stream is turned aside by a barrier, to seek some other and easier course, so was this human stream of immigration and occupation for a long time held back by the vast forests of Wisconsin. As yet there was no lack of fertile prairies ready for the plow, and so the tide swept below and on around the home of the Winnebagoes. It crept up into Minnesota, and, still westward, planted its outpost at beautiful little lake Cheteck, the head of the Des Moines river. Here the red men of the plains called a halt. From Cheteck to New Ulm they wrote their fearful warning in blood and fire. The answer of the whites was quick and no[45] less terrible, and so relentless, that many of these plains folk took refuge among their neighbors in the Winnebago forests. For three hundred years the history of the Winnebagoes and Menominees had been one of almost unbroken peace with the whites. While there had been settlements made here and there, so far there had been no serious crowding. There was yet room and food in plenty; and abundance of food predisposes to peace.

But the white dwellers of the cities and on the plains farms increased; always new homes were to be built; the small forests were soon exhausted, and the lumber scout came on to view the great woods of Wisconsin.

In early days when white men desired the skin of otter or beaver possessed by an Indian he might give the red man a bit of copper wire as barter, but he took the skin. So it was when the great forests of pine and oak and ash became desirable to the white man, he did not steal outright the home of the red man; he made some sort of present in return, as he took the land. To the Winnebagoes was allotted, as exchange for their claim to the forests which had sheltered and nourished the generations of their ancestors, a treeless, waterless tract in the far south, in what had been called the “Indian Territory.” To be sure they had had nothing to say as to the trade, and entertained no notion of going to their new “home,” but the white man had appeased his conscience, and the red man would now be considered an intruder in the forest.

[46]When Rob and Ed Allen came with their father’s family to live upon the Necedah river there was a band of perhaps an hundred Winnebagoes making their lodge in Big Bend. The chief, following custom, had taken a “white” name, after that of a man who had befriended him, and was known, not as Jim Miner, but as “Miner Jim.” Miner Jim’s wife was the daughter of a Menominee chief, and was called by the whites “Menominee Mary.” Mary was every inch a red princess. Magnificently proportioned, and of nature imperious, her word held at least equal authority in the tribe with the chief. While it was customary among the Indians for a brave, and especially a chief, to have several wives, Menominee Mary reigned the sole spouse in the tepee of the Winnebago chief. Their eldest child was Ka-li-cha-goo-gah, and, according to Indian custom, which traces descent through mother to son, instead of through father to son, the lad was considered a Menominee.

Between this Indian lad of about their own age, and the Allen boys, and their neighbor, Dauphin Thompson, there sprang up a warm friendship. The white boys and the red one were together upon many a hunting trip, and in the berry season gathered their basswood-bark baskets full of fruit side by side. Buckskin moccasins ornamented with elaborate beadwork designs by Menominee Mary, broad, ash-bowed snow shoes for winter hunting, and a soft, lynx-fur robe attested the love the son of the chief bore his white comrades.[47] And in return his delight was great in the gift of a score of steel traps with which he would gather in a harvest of muskrat pelts from the lodges on Iron Creek marsh during the months of deep snow. Living as members of this band were two young people, a boy nearly grown, whose red, stubby hair, and smiling, freckled face was, as Dauphin declared, a “plain map of Ireland.” The other was a girl apparently twelve or thirteen years of age, with wavy, dark brown hair, and eyes as blue as a summer sky. Whether these young folk were able to speak English, the white boys could not tell. They never answered a question put to them in that tongue, and the older Indians seemed adverse to having them associate with the white lads. Uncle Sam Thompson told the boys the story of the Minnesota massacre and gave, as his suspicion, that some of this band of the Big Bend were really refugees from the Sioux who were in that uprising, and that the two evidently white children were really captives taken at that time.

During the year of which I write the boys had been freely received at the Indian camp, and, what few whites had been permitted to behold, had been allowed to attend their stated occasions of worship, the ceremonial dances. The Fish Dance in the spring, the Green Corn Dance in the summer, the Harvest Dance and the Hunting Moon Dance in the autumn, were of strange interest to these town-bred boys.

“I tell you what I’d like to see,” said Ed Allen, as they were going home from one of these, to them,[48] grotesque performances, “I would like to go to a sure-enough scalp dance, or war dance.”

“You can be thankful, young man,” replied Dauphin, “that you are permitted to see what you have seen without having those other dances added. White men who have been spectators have seldom found either of these performances pleasant, if indeed they had any opportunity to tell about them afterward.”

As the winter season approached, there seemed to come a change in the attitude of the Indians toward their visitors. Kalichigoogah was often silent and moody with his friends, and the older Indians, while never rude, offered little welcome to the whites.

There had been a series of more or less disastrous fires here and there in the great forest, and the lumbermen who were busily gaining title to these lands laid the blame upon the Indians. The representation they made to the government at Washington was that the Indians, if not revengefully guilty, were at least carelessly so, as forest fires would be sure to be kindled from their campfires. Moreover, they declared, the Winnebagoes were trespassers in the forest; the government had allotted them a reservation in the Indian Territory, and they called upon the authorities at Washington to see that these Indians were “returned” to the place where they belonged.

To one acquainted with the manner of Indian life, the charge that forest fires were set from the campfires of the red men, would be ridiculous. Such fires might, and doubtless did, start from the campfires of[49] white hunters and timber scouts, but never from a fire built by an Indian. In the first place, the forest was the very life of the Indian. He understood that any harm to the big woods meant harm to himself. A white man would build his fire by a log or dry stump, and pile on plenty of sticks and limbs. He would have a big fire—and go away leaving it burning careless of consequences. On the contrary, the Indian, who for generations had lived in the possible presence of a keen-eyed enemy, was very cautious about letting a smoke rise above the tree tops to call attention to himself. Consequently his fire was small—just a few little sticks, or pieces of bark brought together, and always the fire extinguished, and generally the very ashes concealed, as the hunter or warrior left his camping place.

Friends among the whites had sent word to the Winnebagoes of the purpose of the Great Father at Washington to take them from the land of their fathers and hold them upon the bleak prairies where there was no forest shade, no cool lakes, no sparkling rivers, but fierce winds, and dust clouds, and marauding Comanches.

The red man is called cruel and treacherous, but to the Winnebagoes the white race, at this time, seemed the incarnation of all that is unjust and hateful. It is small wonder that Miner Jim’s band grew moody, and distant in their attitude toward their former friends.

Spring came in somewhat late. Up until April the[50] river was still floating large cakes of ice. In that latitude the corn-growing season is none too long at best, and the Allen boys would have to make every hour count when the land became dry enough to work.

“Rob,” said Ed, one bright, warm day, “I believe that upper meadow could be plowed now, if we had another yoke of steers to hitch to our 14-inch plow. I’m going over to see if Dauph won’t hitch in with his steers for a few days and work time about.”

It was late in the evening before Ed and Dauphin finished their arrangements for the partnership plowing, and when Ed reached Big Bend, twilight had fallen over the prairie; within the wood it was already dark. The long-drawn cry of a grey timber wolf came sharp and clear to the boy on the frosty spring air. In a moment it was answered by the house dogs of the distant farm. A Great Horned Owl, lingering late before departing for his summer home in the arctic region, boomed a deep-voiced “Hoo-hoo-ah” as it arose like a ghost all in white from a limb above the path. Then there came to the ears of the boy other sounds, so strange and confusing that he was compelled to stop and listen. Evidently the noise was over in Big Bend. The Indian camp! But what was going on? The Indians are not accustomed to much noise making. Could it be that some vicious white man, as had occurred at other places, had brought in the forbidden “fire water” to inflame and debauch the red men for their own evil ends?

For himself, the lad did not think of being afraid.[51] These Indians were his friends. If wicked white men were there, seeking them harm, his father would see that they received merited punishment. It was not yet late; he could easily reach home in time. He would go over to the Indian camp and learn the cause of the commotion.

As he drew near, a lean cur with hair standing like bristles upon its back, made a dash at his heels, but slunk away as it took the familiar scent of one it had learned was a friend. As the lad came within fifty yards of the place he had a view of what was going on. A large space to the east of the camp had been cleared, and around this space, in a circle, were squatted the women and children of the tribe. Small fires, here and there, but partially lit up the camp, and threw weird shadows, now upon the surrounding forest, now upon the cleared ground. All about in the circle were different ones beating upon tom-toms, small drums fashioned by stretching buckskin tightly over ash hoops. They were chanting some song in a high-pitched, monotonous, though not unmusical tone, and in perfect cadence. Ed’s gaze lifted from the musicians to the top of the pole planted in the center of the circle, from which dangled—what was it? Hair! Yes, unmistakably, a number of dried human scalps. A cold hand seemed to grip the spine of the boy, and each individual hair of his head seemed trying to pull itself out by the roots. He sank to the thick bed of pine needles on the ground, thankful that he had been standing in the shadow of a great tree.

[52]It was well that he was hidden, for just then began the strangest ceremony he had ever witnessed, and which few, indeed, of the white race had ever beheld and come away to describe. The Indians sprang into the circle, stark naked save for the narrow loin-cloth, their bodies painted black, with broad red and yellow stripes, their faces “decorated” with hideous lines and patches of color. Those who had been warriors, wore upon their heads the bonnet or headdress ornamented with eagle feathers, each feather marking some great deed, which the voice of the old men of the tribe had decided to be a claim to honor. The younger Indians had each one or two, or possibly three feathers fastened in the thick braids of black hair which hung down their backs. As they sprang into the circle, it could be seen that all carried some kind of weapon. With bodies swaying and gesticulating, they went around and around, one following the other, in perfect time with the beating of the tom-toms and the shrill singing of the women. At first all seemed to be a confusion of gesture, but as the dance proceeded the boy on the ground saw that each Indian was acting out in pantomime a story, and that story was the pursuit, capture, and death of an enemy. Crouching, crawling, springing, running, aiming with gun, striking with tomahawk, scalping with the knife, and leaping away in triumph, all were unmistakably portrayed by the redmen dancing in perfect rhythm about the scalp-decked pole.

“It is a war dance,” gasped the watching lad.[53] “They’re getting ready to go on the war path. I must get home and warn the folks—if I can.”

Slowly he began to crawl backward into the deeper shadows, away from that fearful place. What if the dogs should come upon him and bark, even in sport? What if quick ears should hear the snap of a broken twig? Would they not think him a spy? Would they take him along as a prisoner; or would they build a fire about that pole in the center and tie him there after having added his scalp to their collection?

It seemed that he was hours in crawling backward out of the light of those fires, away from the horrid din, away from the all too suggestive dancing of those hideous, naked figures. All at once he found himself at the river bank. Creeping down, he quietly let himself into the cold water, and clutching grass and root, and overhanging branch, he cautiously, and with painful slowness, made his way down stream. He was numb with the fright of his experience, as well as the chill of the water, and scarcely able to walk, when he reached the opening of the forest, half a mile from the Indian camp. As he was about entering the path leading to his home, he stumbled and nearly fell over someone lying prostrate on the dead leaves.

“It is some watcher. I’m lost,” flashed through the mind of the boy. But a familiar movement of an arm of the stretched-out figure caught his attention. Could it be? it was Kalichigoogah. For some moments the Indian boy would answer no question of his white friend, but finally he burst out in a sob.

[54]“Me no let dance. Me no let fight. Them say no Winnebago, me Menominee.”

The two white families made such preparations as were possible to withstand an attack, but no harm appeared during the night, and a cautious investigation the following day showed the camp deserted; the women and children as well as the war party gone.

Two days later the cause for the strange action of the Indians was learned, when Captain Hunt, in charge of a squad of regular soldiers, appeared at the home of Mr. Thompson. The Indians had been warned that the petition of the lumbermen had been granted by the authorities at Washington, and that they were to be forcibly removed from their forest home to the inhospitable plains of the South. They did not seek war with their brothers, but they would not tamely give up their home. They would take the women and children to the friendly care of the Menominee, and then, if they must, they would die as befitted a brave race.

The soldiers easily caught the trail of the fleeing band, and on the third day after the war dance, the entire band, women, children, and warriors, were surrounded, captured, and taken away to the Indian Territory.

I may say that the stay of these Winnebagoes upon their reservation was not long. One after another, stragglers from the band came back, until before the close of the second season the majority were again living in their beloved forest home.



In settling up some business affairs, Mr. Allen had come into possession of a tract of two thousand acres of swamp land lying toward the western side of the bed of the ancient sea. At the time of which I write there were vast tracts of such supposedly valueless land owned by the state, and which could be purchased for ten dollars per “forty,” twenty-five cents per acre. Timber scouts had ranged over it, and selecting the forties upon which there were sand knolls covered with a goodly amount of pine timber, the land would be purchased by their employers, the lumber companies, to be cut over at their convenience.

The low-lying prairies, flooded in the spring season, and the lower marshes covered with water much of the year, were thought to be not worth the twenty-five cents per acre asked by the state. In later years, by a system of drainage, and through scientific farming, much of this land became highly productive and valuable.

In some of the deeper marshes, where there had been an abundance of water for several years, cranberry vines had covered the surface of the moss and yielded astonishing crops of mottled green and red berries. This was the character of much of the land[56] of which Mr. Allen found himself possessed. A granite rock rising with nearly perpendicular sides over three hundred feet above the level surface of the country, gave the name of North Bluff marsh to the locality, as distinguished from the country about a similar bluff some ten miles to the south.

After considerable persuasion on the part of the boys, Mr. Allen had leased this cranberry marsh to Rob and Ed, and their chum Dauphin. The boys already had a good start on the fund they were gathering for a planned year in college, and if they should be successful in getting the berries from the North Bluff to market, it would bring them nearer to the desired goal.

While the cranberry, as it is picked from the vine, is as firm and meaty as a little apple, it bruises easily in handling, and so requires great care in getting to market. The boys had purposed using two-bushel grain sacks for the transportation of the crop, but Mr. Allen wisely persuaded them to make a preliminary trip to Lisbon and secure light ash barrels to take with them to the marsh and so prevent much loss from bruised and damaged berries.

On the twentieth of August the boys had their outfits assembled: two yokes of oxen hitched to two broad-tired wagons, upon which were long racks each containing thirty empty barrels. With these they carried a tent, cooking utensils, supplies of bacon, flour, brown sugar, matches, axes, guns, and ammunition, sacks to carry the berries from the marsh to dry land, and not[57] least in importance, three cranberry rakes. Of these latter Uncle Sam Thompson had made one for each of the boys. A slab of ash was taken and fingers about ten inches long sawn and whittled down smooth in one end. Sides and back were put to this, with a handle on top and back. With these “rakes” the boys would literally scoop up the berries from the vines.

The trip of fifty miles to the marsh was, in itself, a great undertaking. There were no roads; logs and tree roots had to be chopped out of the way, and overhanging limbs cleared from before the stacks of barrels. More serious were the occasional deep bogs encountered, through which the oxen, though accustomed to wallowing in mud, were unable to pull the wagons. Over these the boys were obliged to build a “corduroy,” sometimes for several rods. To one accustomed to a boulevard or even a macadam pike, the corduroy would seem an impossibility as a means of travel, but pioneers are frequently required to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Small trees are felled and cut into lengths suitable to the width of the wagon, and these placed side by side until the way across has been covered. When the marsh is unusually deep and soft, a second layer of smaller logs is placed upon the first. It is not a good road, nor easy to ride over, but it can be crossed, and that is the main thing.

Not alone were the bad roads, or lack of roads, a cause of distress to the boys and their teams; mosquitoes in clouds attacked them day and night. Frequently they were compelled to make “smudges” of[58] fire covered with green grass, so that in the smoke they might be able to eat their meals in some sort of comfort. At night the oxen were likewise protected from the attacks of the pestiferous insects. Much annoyance and no little suffering were caused by a spotted fly, called from its markings, the “deer fly,” which persistently crawled up into their hair and under their clothing, its bite always drawing blood.

The boys averaged not quite five miles a day on the trip, and it was the last day of August before the camping place at the foot of North Bluff was reached.

The first day of their arrival was spent in arranging camp; putting up the tent, digging the shallow well in the sand at the marsh’s edge, and building moss-lined pole-pens in which to store the berries as they should be picked. Cranberry harvest and the arrival of frost are usually too close together to allow any time to be taken away from the one occupation of picking. So the boys would sort over and clean the berries and then barrel them after the frosts had come.

The bog was a wonder to the Allen boys. Around the edge, for perhaps ten rods out into the marsh, were growing tamarack trees, from little switches a dozen feet high that could be easily pulled up by hand, to older ones six inches in diameter, and thirty feet in height. Further out, beyond the line of tamaracks, the bog looked much like a prairie covered with moss, with here and there a sandy mound upon which blackberry vines, huckleberry bushes, and a few scattering pine trees were growing.

[59]When they had walked out into the marsh several rods over shoe-top deep in the moss, Dauphin called out, “Stand still a minute, boys, I want to show you something,” and he began to spring up and down in rhythmic motion. In a few moments, at first slightly, then in increasing motion the trees began to sway and bend, and the surface of the bog, for many rods around, could be seen in regular, wave-like motion, trees and all rising and falling, bending and rolling as if on the bosom of a rolling sea.

“It is like this,” said Dauphin in answer to the boys’ astonished questioning, “this marsh is really a lake over which the moss has grown until it is now completely covered. Here, near the edge where it started in to grow and spread over the water, the old moss falling down each year has been succeeded by the new growing up, and so for ages, until there is now quite a solid covering at the surface, enough even to support the trees, but, as you see, it is only after all a floating cover to a lake. Not all over is the moss so thick as here, and there are places dangerous to try to walk over. One might easily drop through. Then—”

“Don’t, Dauph,” exclaimed Ed; “I don’t want to think of anything so horrible.”

“You had best pick your steps, then,” replied Dauphin; “if you attempt to cross the bog, or you may find something worse than hearing about it.”

“How far is it to the bottom?” asked Rob.

“We can soon see,” replied Dauphin. Cutting down a slender dead tamarack he thrust it down[60] through the moss until it rested upon the solid sand.

“Twelve feet!” exclaimed the boys as the pole was drawn up and measured. Further out from the edge they took a measurement of sixteen feet from the mossy surface to the bottom.

There was a fine crop of cranberries on the vines, and the boys were busy from early morning until late at night with their rakes. The unaccustomed stooping all day was back-breaking work, and it was not at all pleasant to stand in cold water wet to the knees, but the two-bushel sack of berries each boy was able to carry to camp every half day made the labor endurable.

As the best patches near the camp were soon raked over, the boys would take turns searching for new places. On one of these excursions Rob had an adventure which came near to a tragedy for him, but which led to happy termination. In a cove of perhaps an acre, jutting up into one of the pine islands, lying nearly a mile out into the bog, Rob found a patch of beautiful “bell” berries, and over near the edge it appeared as though the vines had been recently disturbed. Closely scanning the land nearby he at length discovered a mound of freshly-pulled moss over which pine boughs had been carelessly strewn, as if in attempt to hide something. His curiosity was of course aroused, and digging away the moss he came upon several sacks filled with berries. Evidently somebody had been there at work. He determined to carry one of the sacks of berries to camp with him, and then get[61] the boys and hunt for the trespassers. Instead of returning in the way he came, Rob struck out straight across the bog, his mind full of excited imaginings about his find. Suddenly he found himself dropping, and like a flash he realized that he had come upon a thin place in the bog, and was falling through to the cold, dark depths of the lake beneath. Instinctively he had thrown himself forward, with arms out-stretched, his hands clutching the moss. This stayed him for a moment, but the heavy sack of berries was upon him, forcing his head and shoulders down into the moss. He could feel himself sinking; the water seemed to be rising about his face. He thought of how the boys would miss him, of their fruitless search, for the moss would soon close over him leaving no mark to show where he had gone down. Then the thought came that he must not die; that he might work backward from under the sack and get free. It was a desperate struggle, and before he succeeded his face was under water, and his strength nearly exhausted for lack of breath. But at last he was free, and throwing his arms up over the sack he raised his head, regained his breath, and rested. Slowly he pulled his body up, and using the sinking sack for a foothold, he threw himself sprawling upon the track over which he had come. He crawled in the moss for several yards before he dared to rise to his feet and resume his journey to the camp.

“I should like to see that lake drained,” said Dauphin, as Rob told of his narrow escape. “Think of the[62] different kinds of animals that have probably left their bones on the sands of that lake bottom in the ages past.”

“Well, I’m glad that your future scientist will not have the pleasure of classifying my bones, anyway,” replied Rob.

Next day the boys found the trespassers to be a band of Winnebago Indians, and they were able to make satisfactory arrangements whereby the Indians stayed and helped them harvest the crop of berries, which the boys finally got safely to market.



“Uncle Henry,” said Ed, as the boys were enjoying themselves in the pleasant living room of the Thompson home, “what kind of a mound is that in front of Slater’s tavern? It looks like a grave right there in front of the house. I noticed it when I was going to Lisbon after cranberry barrels last fall, and I started to ask Mr. Slater who had been buried there, but one of the teamsters stopping there for dinner with me looked scared, and hushed me up.”

“Ruth can tell you the story; it’s mighty sad,” replied Mr. Thompson.

“Yes, boys, it is indeed a sad story, but its lesson may do you good,” replied Mrs. Thompson.

And this is the story she related.

Among the pioneers of settlement in the great forest wilderness of northern Wisconsin, were Jared Slater, a middle-aged tavernkeeper, from Vermont, and his young wife. Margaret Strong had been left an orphan at an early age, and had gone into domestic service as her only available means of honest support. Of course her education was of the most meager sort, yet she combined a store of good sense, so often miscalled “common,” with a character of sterling worth.[64] Especially did she make known her abhorrence of the traffic in intoxicating liquors, common at that time to all hotels, or “taverns,” of the country. And, indeed, she had good cause to know and feel the evils of strong drink, as her father had gone by this path to the ruin of his own soul and body, and the destruction of his home.

When Margaret was wooed by Jared Slater, she told him that she would never link her life with one who was in any way bound with the chains of the demon alcohol, whether as a user or dispenser to others. Jared went away, but his love for the young woman was true, and again he sought her and proposed that he sell his tavern, and then they would marry and move to the great forests of Wisconsin, where they could begin life anew, unhampered by old surroundings. Margaret finally consented, and they moved west.

Jared spent the first year in clearing up a little field for the plow, and in erecting the necessary farm buildings; and by the time the baby boy came, things about the place were taking on a comfortable, homelike appearance. The little family were not utterly alone in this far-away land, for the “tote-road,” over which supplies from the distant railroad station, for the farther away camps of the north, were hauled, ran past their door, and their home became a stopping place for teamsters and other travelers.

It was not long before Jared’s thrifty, Yankee mind saw the opportunity for gain lying to his hand in[65] opening his place as a regular tavern, and he told his wife of his intention. But Margaret objected.

“Ye know, Jared,” said she, “I don’t mind the work. I’m able for that a-plenty; but ye well know I married ye and came here to get rid of the tavern. I will not have the rum about me.”

“But, Margaret,” replied Jared, “we’ll have no drink in the tavern; just lodging and the eating.”

Thus it was for a time; but the old habits of life were revived by the frequent demands of their guests for liquor, as they would come in from the long, cold drives, and Jared’s cupidity at length got the better of his honesty and his faith with his wife, and he began to keep and dispense liquor again.

At first he endeavored to keep his sin from the knowledge of his wife; but greed bred carelessness and indifference, and before the third year of their wilderness home, Jared had his barroom open as a feature of the roadhouse.

Faithfully Margaret pleaded and earnestly did she warn her husband that “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” but he refused to be moved. “I don’t drink it myself, ye know, an’ if these fools want to part with good money for the stuff, it’s their affair. Some one else will let them have it if I don’t, and I may as well have the money as any one else.”

It was not long before the effects of the stream of damnation that flowed out from Slater’s roadhouse began to show themselves. When John Pollard went home and beat his wife, so that the life of a soon-expected[66] little one was snuffed out, and the mother lingered long at death’s door, it was whispered that the blame lay in Jared Slater’s barroom. And when that winter a tote team arrived at a camp further north with the body of the driver stark and stiff, an empty bottle from Jared’s shelf told the story.

Not only did the tavernkeeper sell his liquid hell to white travelers, but his Indian neighbors, although especially protected by a law of the land, became his customers on the sly, and Jared’s eyes gloated over the piles of rich pelts stored in the back room, that represented to him but a paltry outlay in liquor.

“It’ll come on ye, Jared, it’ll come on ye. I’m afeared for ye. Ye know how the drink sets the red men wild. It’ll come back on ye, as sure as God lives,” solemnly protested Margaret.

It was one of those beautiful days in the late spring, when all nature seemed to be trying to show man a picture of heaven. The soft air was singing in the pine tops, the blackbirds were holding a song chorus nearby, and the open glade was brilliant with spring blossoms. The babe was making happy little noises in the sunshine, as it came through the open door. The shadow seemed for the moment to be lifted from the heart of Margaret, and she sang a hymn as she went about her work. Then suddenly she instinctively turned her eyes toward the door, with a feeling of fear. There stood three Indians silently watching. As they[67] saw the woman notice them, one spoke a single word, “Whisk!” Margaret stood as if turned to stone. The Indian again spoke, “Give whisk quick!”

The woman saw her danger, but never would she handle the accursed stuff. The Indians crowded into the room, and stalking past Margaret, proceeded to help themselves at the bar. Then Margaret turned upon them like a fury. For their own sakes, for her sake and the baby’s, they should not get the fiery liquor. Bravely she struggled; then came the flash of a tomahawk, one shrill scream, and the lifeless form of the young mother lay upon the floor.

The Indians drank their fill; they drank until escape for themselves was impossible, and they lay sprawled upon the floor in drunken stupor.

At near sundown Jared Slater returned to his home. The baby, stained in his mother’s blood, crying upon her lifeless body, the three drunken Indians lying upon the floor, told the whole story. The brain of the man gave way. In the center of the road in front of the house he quickly dug a deep hole, and into that hole dragged the bodies of the three Indians—whether dead or alive, no one knows.

That grave in the middle of the road, and the tragic story connected with it, preached a temperance sermon more effective, perhaps, than could have been spoken by the faithful woman who gave her life in a protest against the fearful traffic.

The boys never forgot the story and its lesson, and it may be that its effect was felt when, in later life[68] one of them put the strength of his manhood into years of successful warfare against the liquor traffic.

Jared Slater lived many years, but he never sold another drop of liquor. His crazed mind seemed to connect both whiskey and Indians with his trouble, and never did he see a bottle or shelf of liquor, but that he made an attempt to destroy it; and when, as occasionally happened, an Indian would be found in the woods mysteriously killed, it would be whispered that Jared Slater had been again taking his revenge.

God’s law is certain: “Be sure your sin will find you out.”



“Listen, boys,” said Mr. Allen, one night in November, as he looked up from a letter which a passing tote-teamster had left at the farm. “Here is a letter from my old friend Taylor, out in Minnesota, and he wants me to send him a ‘likely boy’ to work during the winter.”

Mr. Taylor was a miller whose old-fashioned grist mill, run by its large waterwheel, situated where the Des Moines river flows out of Lake Cheteck, its source, was flour-headquarters for the hardy pioneers of a large section of that country.

Sturdy Ed begged so earnestly to be permitted to take the place with their father’s old friend for the winter, that, after much hesitancy, and no little planning, the consent of Mr. and Mrs. Allen was given.

It was a serious journey for a boy at that time. The country, just emerging from the awful paralysis of the civil war, was but entering upon that era of railroad building which was to cover the west with a network of shining steel. As yet there were few railroads in that state which in a short time was to take front rank in grain raising and milling. Saint Paul was scarcely more than a big village, and the now magnificent[70] metropolis at the falls of St. Anthony had not yet emerged from its swaddling clothes.

From the town of New Ulm Ed would have a long, cold ride by stage to the little mill out at the edge of civilization.

The few years’ experience he had had on the new farm in Wisconsin, had hardened his muscles, and, as he was not at all afraid of work, Ed soon found and fitted into his place at the mill. It was a little lonesome so far from home, and the work was somewhat monotonous, but the coming of the farmers with their loads of grain to be made into or exchanged for flour, gave opportunity for some sociability, and their stories of the great Indian uprisings, known to history as the New Ulm Massacre, were of thrilling interest.

As the winter came on it proved to be one of unusual severity, although there was little snow. The canal, or “race” by which the water of the lake was fed to the big millwheel, and from it to be tumbled foaming into the river at the foot of the rapids, usually maintained an even height, winter and summer, so, the supply of power being steady, it was possible for the millers to make preparation late in the evening, and leave the wheels to take care of the grist until early morning.

This winter, however, the ice in the river and race froze to the depth of three feet, and the power of the old mill was diminished to that extent. One night, not far from midnight, in the latter part of January,[71] Ed found himself suddenly awake, sitting up in bed. Something had happened. What could be the matter? Oh, yes, he had been awakened by silence—not a noise, but the stopping of the noise of the mill had disturbed him. The hum of the burrs had ceased, the old wheel was still—the mill had shut down. He groped about and got his clothes, and hastened down-stairs into the wheel pit. Sure enough, there stood the old wheel at rest, for perhaps the first time in many years. In the runway there was a small stream of water falling, but nothing like enough to turn the wheel with the machinery of the mill geared on. Ed threw over the gear lever, and the released wheel slowly began to revolve again. Then he went up-stairs where he found Mr. Taylor, who had also been wakened as the accustomed hum of the stones ceased, and had come over from the house to investigate the cause.

“There has been some stoppage at the intake,” said he. “Either the lake has lowered, and the ice frozen nearly to the bottom of the channel at the mouth of the race, or there has some trash floated in. When you have had your breakfast, take an axe and the hook and go up and see what the trouble is.”

As soon as daylight came Ed was ready for the trip. He buckled on a pair of skates, as the ice was in prime condition, and taking the tools across his shoulder, was soon skimming up the river.

As he came to the canal mouth, he struck with the axe upon the ice, and it gave forth a hollow sound. Evidently the decrease in the flow was not caused by[72] the water freezing to the bottom. There must be some obstruction at the intake.

It was no small work to cut through thirty-six inches of ice and locate the exact spot of the obstruction, but before ten o’clock Ed had discovered it. Some wood choppers, during the summer had been clearing on an island half a mile out into the lake, and small branches thrown into the water had, by the slow-moving current, been carried along finally to the mouth of the canal. One branch lodging and freezing, became the occasion for the stoppage of others, and then the mass had swung around and across the mouth of the canal, almost cutting off its supply.

It was no job for a weakling to cut and hook out those limbs and brush from the icy water, but finally Ed had the satisfaction of seeing the race fill again, and knowing that the old wheel would be at its work of preparing the farmers’ grist once more.

Ed had never explored the little lake, and the stories the settlers had told him of the Indian uprising had made him anxious to visit some of the scenes of that tragedy so near by. From the intake, past the island, he could see, jutting out into the lake, Massacre Point, where was still standing the log house in which thirteen whites had met their death at the hands of the savages. While it would mean the loss of his dinner, the lad thought that as he was so near, he would skate over to that point, which appeared to be not over a mile away, and take a closer look at the tragic place.

[73]As he was passing the island, there appeared at the edge of a clump of low box-elders the largest dog he had ever seen. It was nearly white and not only tall, but long in body, and gaunt. It started as if it would come to the boy, and he whistled to it. However, as it sprang upon the smooth ice, Ed saw it slip and slide, and then, as it regained its footing, slowly make its way back to the island.

Little had been changed about the old log house since that fearful day when the family, with the few neighbors who had gathered with them for protection, had at last succumbed to the rifle and tomahawk of the red foes. A rusty kettle was standing in the fireplace. Rude benches were still around the table where the victims had eaten their last meal. In one corner a cradle, hollowed out of a log, told of a baby’s share in that day of horror.

As Ed turned away full of sad thoughts and questionings, he scarcely noticed his approach to the island upon the return journey. As he rounded the point of timber, there sprang upon the ice not only one big white “dog,” but three, with lolling tongues, making straight for him. Then he realized what these animals were; not dogs, but the big, fierce, dreaded timber wolves. However, Ed was not much frightened. He rather enjoyed the thought of a race with them. There seemed to be only enough danger to add spice to the adventure. On his skates he could outrun them, and he had smooth going all the way home.

But he had not reckoned upon the power of those[74] long, lank bodies, and muscular limbs, nor upon the hunger that drove them to attack a human being in daylight. He had not reached the edge of the lake before he heard teeth snap like the spring of a steel trap, and almost involuntarily he sprang to one side while the wolves slid by upon their haunches, endeavoring to stop. Then, with another dodge, as they turned and again came at the lad on the ice, he passed them and gained a considerable distance toward home. Twice he was able to escape them through this maneuver before they reached the channel of the river.

Here came new tactics on the part of the wolves. Upon the ground they could outrun the boy, and they sprang up the bank, speeding on ahead, and as he came up all made a dash for him, full in the face. In desperation Ed threw at them the heavy ice-hook, which they attempted to dodge, but only two got away uninjured, while the third dragged himself off with a broken leg. “Well, you brutes,” the boy shouted, “I have but two of you to deal with now.”

His respite was not to be a long one, for as he entered a part of the river where the banks widened out into a tiny but deep lakelet, they sprang again from the shore in such a spurt of savage fury that in a few moments Ed could hear the panting breath from those blood-flecked, foamy mouths close upon his heels.

Ed whirled his sharp axe around as he sped forward, and with an almost involuntary cry to God for help, brought it behind him in a mighty swing. A dull thud, as it left his hand, told him that it had struck[75] home, and he knew that another one of the horrid pursuers would not trouble him more. But even as the thought of rejoicing came, Ed felt the steel-trap-like snap of the remaining wolf’s jaws close together in one of his heavy boots—and in that same instant the ice gave away, as the river seemed to rise up from beneath and overwhelm both boy and beast.

In his anxiety to escape the wolves, Ed had not noticed the condition of the ice they were approaching, nor the fact that from the chunks of ice scattered about, some settlers had been to this place earlier in the day for blocks to store away for summer use. The intense cold had quickly skimmed over with thin ice the place from which the great blocks had been taken, but not of strength sufficient to bear the heavy weight of boy and wolf.

Ed had gone clear under—the water had closed over his head—but fortunately, as they went down, the big brute had loosened his hold upon the boy’s leg, and fortunately also, the ice, although not strong enough for support, was thick enough to break the force of the speed with which they were coming, and as he rose to the surface, Ed’s head came up in the place from which the thick ice had been taken away.

The wolf was less fortunate, for the boy never saw it again. In his kicking and struggling to come to the surface, he may have pushed it down under the thick ice. However, I do not think he was sorry then—or since, for that matter.

But, although the wolf was gone, the boy was by[76] no means out of danger. No one who has not been in a like predicament can realize the difficulty of one who has broken through the ice, in getting out without aid. In fact, there are very few cases on record where such happy terminations have ensued. The numbing cold of the water, so quickly paralyzing the vital forces; the weight of the heavy clothing pulling down; the lack of any object by which one can pull himself upon the ice, make the condition of one in such a plight most desperate.

Ed can not remember of being greatly frightened; certainly he did not fall into a panic. If he had, he would have soon gone under. He realized that he must keep cool—I mean in his thoughts; for he was cool enough otherwise—and use every possible means to extricate himself. He was facing downstream, and nearly at the side of the place from which the thick ice had been cut, for the speed at which he had been going had carried him some distance upon the thin ice. Ed knew that if he reached the thick ice on the downstream side, the current would draw his legs under the ice, and he could not hope to get out. He must turn about and make his way up stream to that edge of the hole his body had made as he had broken in. There Ed began with his fists and elbows to break away the thin ice so that he could reach that which was thick and firm. The current of the river and his heavy boots and clothing seemed determined to drag him away and under. Again and again he was forced[77] to pause for breath. But the numbness was creeping over the boy. He dared not stop in his efforts.

At last he reached the firm ice. Oh, for some one to reach a hand now! but he was so far away he could hope for no help from the mill. If the ice was only rough he might get some sort of hold upon it with his bleeding fingers—but it was as smooth as polished glass, and the water, that in his struggles was thrown upon the ice, made it that much more impossible for him to grasp a hold.

Something had to be done, and that at once, or the lad’s body would soon be slowly floating beneath the ice along with that of the wolf—perhaps never to be found; at least not until the spring sun should unlock the icy prison. What would Mr. Taylor think when he should find the axe and the other wolf? What would be the feelings of the folks in the far-away Wisconsin home?

But the lad would not give up; he must try again! He began to spring up and down in the water, throwing himself forward each time he came up. At last, by a supreme effort, he did not slip back into that yawning, watery grave, but found himself balanced over upon the ice.

For some seconds Ed was too much exhausted to pull his legs entirely out of the water, but lay gasping for breath; all in a tremble. He could not rise to his feet, but knowing that even a short inaction now would prove as fatal as if he were still in the water, he rolled over and over, away from the hole, beating his arms[78] upon his body, until at length he was able to sit up, then to rise to his knees, and then stagger to his feet.

Ed will never forget the rest of that trip home. He struck out to skate, clumsily enough at first, and, as the blood began to course to the extremities, it seemed as though a thousand red-hot needles were piercing his flesh. The bitter cold soon caused his outer clothing to encase him like a coat of mail, in which only the most strenuous exertions kept enough pliability to allow him to move at all.

Ed did reach the mill, after a while, and, strange to say, suffered very little ill effect from his adventure. His bruised hands healed quickly, and frozen toes and ears were so usual in that winter climate, as to not be mentioned among casualties.



Occasionally cows seem to be like folks—that is, possessed with the thing which, in despair of classifying, we call “human nature.” A manifestation of this trait appeared several times in the spring, as each patch of tender, green grass seemed to say to the wandering cows, “It is just a little sweeter and juicier in the next swale, further on. Don’t stop here.” And so they would wander, like folks, on and on, never quite satisfied with the present good, but always expecting to reach the goal of desire at the next place ahead.

This wandering propensity was a source of much annoyance and loss of time to the boys in their busy spring work. Often the cows would fail to reach home until away in the night—only then impelled by over-full udders, and a tardy remembrance of the new calves in the barn lot.

But finally there came a night when no din of bawling aroused the boys to a late milking, and morning light revealed but a lot of half-starved calves at the barn.

“This won’t do at all,” said Rob; “we’ve got to go after those cows, even if it means the loss of a precious day.”

The straight trail leading to their usual feeding[80] grounds was easily followed, but there little trails led about in all directions. To the west lay the deep Iron Creek marsh, a vast morass fully a mile wide, supposed to be impassible except in the driest seasons. Really, it was a sluggish, scarcely-moving, shallow river, overgrown with rushes and coarse grass, through which water moved slowly along, down from the great north country.

This had always acted as an effective barrier to the westward-roving of the cattle, and to the north lay the big woods, with their scanty growth of grass. Until late in the afternoon the boys hunted off towards the south, circling around this low-lying island, climbing a tree on that, in hopes of discovering the bunch resting somewhere, hidden away. Disheartened at last, they turned their faces homeward.

Shortly after noon Mrs. Allen heard a great lowing of cows, accompanied with bleating of frantic calves, and going to the north door had seen the cows coming in on a run, the milk trickling in little streams from their udders—full almost to bursting. Indeed it was now great concern those mothers were feeling for their offspring. She wisely let down the bars, and it was not long before the misery of over-fulness was transferred from the cows to the calves.

The return of the cows presented puzzling aspects to the boys, but there was another mystery to be solved, which was not able to be cleared up until later.

“See the cows’ legs!” exclaimed Rob. “They’ve found another berry patch.” Several times during[81] those June days the cattle had returned home with shanks dyed red from crushing the long-stemmed wild strawberries, which grew in great profusion in patches on the higher portions of the marsh.

“Strawberries never stained that high up,” answered Ed, going over to the cattle. “Maybe the mosquitoes have been at them again. See, their udders even are all red, and the calves have rubbed it all over their heads too.” Ed’s supposition was a reasonable one, for not infrequently the insects had appeared in the marshes in such swarms as to drive the cattle in to dark shelter of the stables, even in day time, the poor beasts coming in frantic and all bloody from the attack of these pests. But this time the color was not the stain of strawberries, nor that of blood drawn by insects.

“Come here, look at this, Rob,” called Ed as he held up his hand all red, where he had passed it over the belly of Old Spot. “Some one has painted our cows! This is nothing else than red paint.” A quick examination showed that the entire bunch had received the same treatment—a thick, bright red plaster covered all their legs and the under parts of the body.

Who had done such a thing, and why? The thought of their Indian neighbors flashed into the minds of both boys; they had paint like that with which in some of their ceremonial dances they smeared themselves. Had they held the cows overnight and painted them up this way? If so, what could have been the motive?

[82]Had Mr. Allen been at home he might have ventured a shrewder guess as to the nature of the material with which the cows had been decorated, but he, too, would have lacked the revelation of the secret which came to the boys a little later.

The corn and oats were all in and growing nicely, and the boys had promised that before haying should begin, they would accompany their Indian friend, Kalichigoogah, and his people, blueberrying, over across Iron Creek marsh, to the somewhat higher swales and little sandy islands of the Little Yellow river, where this luscious berry found its natural habitat.

This pilgrimage was an annual custom of the red men. Here, when the low bushes, growing luxuriantly in moist earth, were so heavily laden with great clusters, from a little distance it appeared as if a section of the sky had fallen upon the ground. Then the Indians would come and camp for a couple of weeks, while squaws and papooses—and sometimes the men, when they felt in the mood—would pick and spread the fruit out to dry in the hot sun, to be afterwards stored away in linden bark baskets, for their feasting in the lean months of snow and cold. So much of providence had the Indian learned from the white man.

Accompanying their red friends, the boys set forth one early morning. Their guns were reluctantly left at home, for they would have provision to last them a week to pack one way, and some heavy loads of the half dried berries, they hoped, on the return. The[83] Indians shaped their course not due west, as the boys had supposed they would, to the Iron Creek marsh, but northwest, to where the timber belt came close down to the deep morass. It seemed to the boys a long way around, but it proved to be about the only way across. The rapid, swinging, half-trot soon brought them into a well-worn trail, leading in their desired direction. Whether this was a deer trail, or a path worn deep by generations of Indians passing this way, as was their custom, in single file, the boys could not tell. Probably men and beasts both had a part in the formation of this easily travelled, narrow road.

As they reached the place where the timber came down to the edge of the marsh they saw why the trail had led that way. The marsh was narrow at this point, and nearly across, at some time in the long ago, beavers had constructed a dam, which probably for centuries had resisted the force of flood and current, and held back the waters in a little lake. Along this grass-grown solid embankment the travellers passed dry-shod nearly to the further side of the swamp, where a break had been made, probably started by the hole-boring-crawfish.

Except in the highest stages of the spring flood, all the waters of the big marsh passed through this break. Dark and cold, and waist deep, the strong current was soon passed through, each of our boys, as well as the squaws, bearing upon their shoulders a big-eyed papoose, in addition to their packs of provision. The Indian braves carried their guns—and much dignity.

[84]Above the dam were perhaps an hundred turf houses, resembling miniature Indian lodges, standing in the shallow water. “Beavers?” enquired Rob of his red friend. “Musquash,” replied the Indian boy. “Beaver go. Smell ’um white man—no like.” Whether muskrat or beaver, the boys determined to come that way trapping in the fall.

As they reached the western side of the marsh, a strange sight met their eyes. A long, flat bank—how long they could not tell—lay up against the shore, gleaming in colors of yellow, orange and red. There were tracks where some kind of animals had come down across to drink at the running current.

“Look at that, boys!” shouted Rob. “Did you ever hear such a thing? It’s a regular paint mine. There’s where our cows came, and they plastered themselves so well that the stuff didn’t all wash off when they waded through this water.”

Rob and Ed were for turning aside at once to investigate. “Why, there must be tons and tons of that stuff.” “How far do you suppose it extends toward the north?” “I wonder how deep the bed is.” “What is the stuff, any how?” “There’s enough of it in sight to paint the world.” “If we can get that to market our fortune’s made.” These were some of the eager exclamations of the boys.

However, the Indians seemed to be not in the least excited, but rather were anxious to reach their camping place, and refused to stop, pushing ahead at the steady, rapid pace. The trail led across a wide, sandy[85] ridge covered with Norway pines. Here and there were depressions of from one to two acres in extent, already covered with a luxuriant growth of blue-joint grass, nearly waist high.

Occasionally a deer would bound away from behind a fallen tree. The doe and her fawn were safe from the Indian’s rifle, but the fat, grass-fed buck had best be wary. Once the procession stopped for a moment as a huge lucivee, the Canadian lynx—“Indian devil” as it was called and dreaded by the early white hunters of the far north—dropped down from a pine tree into the trail in front of them. With insolent, yellow eyes the big cat looked them over, and, seeming to conclude that it was not worth his while to dispute the way, moved leisurely off. The Indians, though armed, had a wholesome respect for this animal’s fighting qualities, who seemed to have not only the traditional nine lives of the cat, but a big added store of invincibility on his own account. Any one of them, however, might have tackled the big brute, had they been alone, but all together would let him go in peace, if so he elected, for the sake of the women and little ones with them.

In a space bare of trees or other growth, the boys caught sight of some noble deer antlers, yet attached to bare skulls, and about which were scattered many white bones. Here was the scene of a woods-folk tragedy. The brave antlers on the two bare skulls were inextricably locked together. The picture came to the boys as they trudged on:—

[86]The crisp brightness of an October morning—mating time; the meeting of the two gallant knights of the forest; the quick call of challenge; the fierce stamping of slender hoofs; the rush; the shock of impact, head to head; the great horns locked, prong in prong, the attempt to break away for thrust and stroke with knife-like hoof; the long day of alternate fierce struggle for freedom and panting exhaustion. Then came night—and the wolves, for there were to be no more days, long-drawn-out with suffering, for these brave warriors.

It is the law of the wild that none of the woods-folk shall die of old age, neither shall very many suffer long of wounds, but, when the strength and cunning that nature has given, no longer protects, their flesh shall pass to add to the strength of the stronger.

The days of a week passed rapidly, as the boys gathered berries, which dried quickly on the clean, hot sand. However, they could not rid themselves of the thought of the great “paint mine,” as they called it, and the desire to investigate and learn its real value, possessed them. They already had twice as many berries, Rob said, as the family could eat in a year. But Ed argued that the paint mine could wait a little, while the berries would not. Besides, he had a plan to sell a lot of this dried fruit to the men going up into the big woods, next fall. After talking over the matter, they concluded to go back after the steers and light wagon, as now they knew the trail, and bring more provision, and something in which to pack the dried berries.[87] Also, they would bring a barrel, which they would fill with the paint.

Taking along a few quarts of the half-dried fruit for their mother, the boys started for home about sundown, preferring to make the trip of eight miles by the light of the moon, rather than in the heat of the day, for old Sol had now begun to show his strength in the short northern summer. Of course there would be no chance of an investigation of the paint mine, though Ed would fill a pocket with the pasty, red stuff, to show to mother.

The berries were harvested, a goodly store, and for which they found a ready sale among the north-bound lumbermen, the next fall, at ten cents per pound. Returning, they spent half a day at the red bank, inspecting the paint mine. Where the bank lay clear and free from grass it extended for perhaps an hundred yards up stream, where it seemed to shelve off into the water, and there the grass and rushes were growing up through it. The deposit in the bank was not gritty, but smooth and slippery, like fine clay, apparently free from soil or dirt, and ranged in color from an orange yellow, to a deep brown. In several places where they dug, it was a full foot in depth, though perhaps half of that would be an average depth.

“Just look at it, Ed,” exclaimed Rob. “How many tons of it do you suppose there is? If it wasn’t so far from some railroad, we could make our fortune shipping this.”

“But, Rob,” replied sturdy Ed, “it’s only about[88] four miles straight to the river; and we could easily fill the five barrels that we have, and build a raft and float them down to Necedah. I am sure we could sell it to Mr. Blake; he always keeps the mill buildings painted. And then, perhaps, we could raft another lot down to Kilbourne.”

Mr. Allen had arrived at home when the boys reached there with their specimen barrel, and was greatly interested in their account of the paint mine. “It is a very pure specimen of ocher, boys, and some day, when the railroads push out into this country, will be of commercial value.”

“What is ocher, father?” asked Rob.

“Chemically speaking, son, it is iron peroxide. In plain terms—iron rust.”

“But why is some of it red and some yellow?” questioned Ed.

Father laughed. “That calls for some more hard words, words that tell what, but not so much why or how. That part you will have to puzzle out when you are in college. The red receives its color from the sesquioxide, and the yellow from the hydrous sesquioxide of iron.”

“But where has all that iron rust come from?” asked Rob. “Are there any iron mines about here?”

“No,” replied Mr. Allen, “I have seen no indication of iron in the rock of the bluffs which push up through the surface here. Yet the water of all these marshes seems to be more or less impregnated with iron. And it is that fact which gives to this section[89] its peculiar value in the culture of cranberries. Somewhere at the north—how far, who can say?—this water of the Iron Creek marsh, you may be sure, flows over a bed of iron ore. Who knows but that some day you boys may be the ones to locate that iron mine?”

Mr. Allen believed that boys, in order to become well-developed, strong men, should be allowed a wide range for experiment, thinking that the lessons thus learned would be of more permanent value than those learned in books or from mere advice. So he agreed to the plan the boys had explained, of rafting their five barrels of ochre down the river to Necedah.

Two days were spent in mining and bringing the mineral to the bank of the stream, another day in building the raft, and, as the river was half-bank full with the June rise, but two more days were required to bring them to the big sawmill town at the foot of the great granite bluff.

The boys had many questions to answer, when they had found the good-natured lumberman, but he took the raw “paint” off their hands, and the boys with happy hearts turned their faces homeward with five crisp five-dollar bills in their pockets.

These youngsters were not to be the discoverers of the hidden iron mine away to the north, for many necessary duties pressed in upon them, and they found no time to spare for so uncertain a trip, but when they had grown to manhood, the railroads did indeed come, and even before their coming, the mine was laid open. As the boys were bargaining with Mr. Blake for the[90] sale of their ocher, they noticed in the crowd of interested bystanders “Old John T.”, as everybody called the great man of all that country. “His eyes were like two sharp augers under those heavy eyebrows,” said Rob, “as he asked questions regarding the deposit, the lay of the land, and the direction of the flowing water.”

It is a matter of history that not long after this incident the great Gogebic iron range, which has made Wisconsin famous as an iron producing state, was discovered in the northern part of the state, and “Old John T.” was one of its large owners to the day of his death.



In one of their cow-hunting expeditions, the Allen boys went some seven or eight miles to the west, where they came to a deep but narrow little river, running down through a broad marsh, or wet prairie, which was more than a mile in width. The water in the little river was clear and quite cool. Up and down the stream, as far as the eye could see, the marsh was covered with luxuriant, nutritious “blue-joint” grass, in many places growing to a height above the boys’ heads.

Of the purchase money received for the Wisconsin “swamp land,” a certain portion was set aside for its reclamation, the direction of which work was placed in the hands of the county authorities. Mr. Allen was a natural, as well as practical civil engineer, and his investigation of the land convinced him of the value of this great tract, if it might be properly drained and dammed to take care of the annual floods coming down from the melting snows of the north. He found a place where, by cutting through one high sand knoll, a ditch might be constructed all the way in the easily-worked peat, and the waters of the little stream be thus turned into the Yellow river.

Some wealthy friends were found who were willing[92] to back Mr. Allen’s judgment, with the purchase money, and more than ten thousand acres of this land were secured. Mr. Allen was able himself to obtain from the county the contract for the drainage works.

It was late in August before arrangements could be completed for beginning the big ditch, which was to turn the waters of one river into another, and give such control over the irrigation of some thousands of acres of level land, that it might be planted with cranberry vines, and the water be held upon it during the summer months, or, drained dry, to be converted into choice farm lands, as the future should determine.

A camp house was built upon the pine knoll where the deep cut would be made, and a score of men secured who would labor as shovelers and dam builders. First, the course of the little river was to be straightened, by the meanderings being cut across, then a big dam thrown across the wide expanse of marsh, back of which the waters could be held if needful.

I suppose that never was there such another dam constructed, and yet it served its purpose well, and endured for many years. The soil of that great marsh was not what we are accustomed to call “soil”—sand or clay mixed with humus—but was composed of peat. Ages of moss and other vegetable growth had fallen and decayed into a brown mass, into which grass roots had crept, weaving the whole into a tough, fibrous blanket of from three to ten feet in thickness. The line of the ditch was staked out across the marsh, and with knives whose blades were as broad as one’s two[93] hands, and three feet long, lateral lines were cut deep into this tough peat. Then cross cuts were made the width of the to-be ditch forming squares ten inches or a foot each way. Then, with a many-pronged bent fork these squares were pulled up by the men, and there were huge “bricks” of peat, three feet long, to be laid into the wall of the dam on the downstream side.

Of course, as the water drained from the blocks of peat, the dam would be a light affair, as to weight, but as the shovelers following raised it to a height of five feet, and plastered all crevices and both sides with the soft peat from the bottom of the ditch, it formed a very compact whole.

Mr. Allen figured, and so it proved, that the grass roots would continue to grow, and in the course of a season or two the entire dam would be able to withstand with safety the pressure of a two or three feet head of water.

Rob and Ed found the work upon the dam fascinating, notwithstanding the necessity of wet feet, and back-wrenching lifting of the huge peat “bricks,” but the work at the farm prevented them from taking the permanent part they desired. Upon one of his visits home, it was evident that Mr. Allen was undergoing some unusual distress or worry of mind, and as it was the custom of the family to discuss together the problems that would come up, Mr. Allen finally acknowledged that the ditchers were at that time in an ugly mood.

[94]“It seems to be a question of fresh meat,” said he. “We have one or two constitutional growlers in camp, and while they are too valuable for me to turn away, they have the men stirred up against the salt pork and corned beef we have. I have made several trips to Necedah and Lisbon to try and arrange for a supply of fresh beef, but the drouth and fire of last year seem to have cut down the supply of beef cattle.”

“Father, I have an idea,” exclaimed Ed. “Do you suppose you could get along if you furnished a big dinner of game three times a week?”

“To be sure we could, son,” replied Mr. Allen, “but who is the mighty Nimrod who could shoot enough game to satisfy thirty men three times a week? and who is the millionaire who would pay for the ammunition?”

“That’s all right, father,” said Rob, “if you will give Ed and Dauphin and me the contract at the same price you would have to pay for fresh beef, I see how we can do it.”

With all due seriousness and in due form Mr. Allen drew up the contract whereby Robert Allen, Ed Allen, and Dauphin Thompson, parties of the first part, were to deliver, three times per week, until freezing weather, from twenty-five to fifty pounds, according to their pleasure, of properly dressed wild meat at the ditching camp on the Little Yellow River. In consideration of which delivery of meat, Mr. Allen, party of the second part, agreed to pay to the aforesaid parties[95] of the first part the sum of ten cents per pound for all such meat so delivered.

“Hurray!” shouted the boys, when the document was signed. “Now you’ll see who the millionaires are you are talking about.”

Mr. Allen laughed, but he returned to the ditching camp with a lighter brow, for he knew that his boys were resourceful, and it might be that they had hit upon some plan which would give good results.

Upon several acres of sod plowing, buckwheat had been sown, and had so thriven that the early September frosts had found an abundant harvest of the queer little three-cornered grains already matured. The boys found it back-breaking work to cut this field with their old-fashioned scythes, but at last it had been finished, and then raked up into piles to be thoroughly cured before being stacked.

The buckwheat harvest seemed to be taken as an invitation to feast, by the innumerable prairie chickens of the vicinity, with all their kinfolk. And they came. The boys had no reason to object as long as the birds confined themselves to gleaning the scattered grains from the field, but when they proceeded to tear down the raked-up piles, and the boys saw their hard work about to be brought to naught, their ire began to arise against the marauders.

Be it said to their credit, that the thought of killing more of the prairie chickens than could be used for food never occurred to them. But when the opportunity presented itself of saving the ditching job with[96] fresh meat, the boys eagerly fell in with Ed’s plan of making the birds pay for their feeding.

So the very next morning the boys crept along the stake-and-rider fence, until they came close to where the birds were noisily helping themselves to the buckwheat harvest. The birds were taken by surprise and ten of them were left flopping on the ground as the flock arose at the noise of the guns. The boys carefully cleaned and picked the birds, stuffing the carcasses with fresh grass. Again, when the flock came back to its evening meal, the maneuver of sneaking along the fence was repeated, as the sun was sinking in the west. Eight birds this time fell victims to the three guns, and were quickly prepared, for Dauphin was to make a moonlight ride to the camp with the forty pounds of the longed-for fresh meat.

If the children of Israel were greedy when the quails came as the result of their murmurings, these ditchers were none the less so when it became known what Dauphin had brought, and it required all the diplomacy the cook possessed to put the men off until breakfast for their prairie chicken stew.

Dauphin would be at the camp over night, so the following morning Rob and Ed took their guns and began to slowly creep along the fence toward the buckwheat field. But before they came into firing distance, they heard a shrill “ka-r-rh!” from the top of a tall, dead poplar standing near, and the whole flock took wing and sailed away to safety. The birds had posted a sentinel upon that lookout, and it was clear[97] that some other plan must now be hit upon if the boys would be able to carry out their contract.

“I tell you what we can do to fool those fellows,” said Rob, “We’ll get out before daylight, and cover ourselves with the buckwheat straw, and be all ready for the beggars when they come for their sunrise breakfast.”

This they did, and chuckled as they saw the sentinel posted in the tree top, peering this way and that with craning neck. All unsuspicious, the big birds settled down over the field, and began noisily to tear at the bundles of grain, when, “bang! bang! bang!” the three guns rang out at an agreed signal, and, all together again, with the second barrels, as the flock took wing.

That was a famous haul, for nineteen birds were secured. As there was no way, in those days, or place of preserving fresh meats in cold storage, the boys waited for their next ambuscade until the following morning, when nearly as many chickens were secured. At the third morning, however, the prairie chickens lit in trees and upon the rail fence, at a safe distance from the guns; and while they protested their hunger with many a “ka-r-rh,” they did not come down into the field, much to the disgust of the boys.

When the same result obtained for the next day, the boys saw that some new scheme must be hit upon to save their contract. Deadfalls, “figure 4’s,” and coop traps were suggested and discussed, but it was decided that the big flock had grown so wise that these were[98] not practicable. At last Dauphin spoke up with a brightening face: “How many of those little steel traps have you, boys?”

“About fifty, I guess,” Ed replied.

“Well, I’ve a notion. Let’s get out some of them and I’ll show you what I mean,” continued Dauph.

The traps were brought out, and Dauph proceeded to demonstrate his plan. The chain of the trap would be fastened to a block of wood, then a little hole dug in the ground large enough to hold the trap, leaving the “pan,” or flat trigger, nearly level with the surface. About the trap was scattered the buckwheat straw, and on the “pan” of the trap was heaped a little pile of grain, temptingly ready for a bird breakfast.

“Now we are ready for them,” said Dauph. “They may set their old sentinels, and we’ll let them see us—at a distance.”

The plan worked. There would be a momentary flutter as a bird would be caught by the neck when the trap sprung at its pecking, or as a chicken would vainly try to fly away with the block of wood when the steel jaws closed upon a thickly feathered leg, but hearing no gun, and taking note of the human foes still at a safe distance, the foolish actions of their individual neighbors were considered to be of no concern to the rest of the flock. And never did they come to the knowledge that they were being trapped. The boys were able to harvest, each day from the traps they set, from fifteen to twenty of the big birds from their buckwheat field, and not only saved the day for[99] the big ditching job, but through their contract were able to lay up a nice sum toward their future projects.

The drainage operations closed down in October, but not before a ditch had been run for two miles from the Yellow river to the big sand knoll. It was through this that the more serious part of the work would be found, and here again, in the latter part of March, Mr. Allen brought a crew.

“Father,” said Ed, one day, “what are you doing this spring for fresh meat? Of course we can’t get you any prairie chickens, but we would like to earn a little more money before planting time.”

Mr. Allen laughed. “Why, I haven’t heard any complaint from the men as yet about their fare, but we might take a mess of fish once in a while.”

“Fish!” exclaimed Rob. “Why, you know, father, that we have never been able to get the fish to bite to any extent since we have lived here.”

“Well, come over and look in the big ditch,” responded Mr. Allen with a smile.

The boys took the hint, and when they came to the big ditch they saw, crowding up stream along the sandy bottom of its clear waters, multitudes of long, slender pickerel, one of the most prized game fish of the Wisconsin waters. “I might have thought of that,” said naturalist Dauphin. “These fish crowd into every little stream each spring and swim up as far as they can, to deposit their eggs.”

With the three-tined spears that Uncle Sam Thompson made for them, the boys enjoyed great[100] sport in the shallow water of the big ditch, and put away several more dollars as a result of the fish dinners served to the ditchers.

Then came the days of the flight of the “passenger pigeons,” and a new idea entered the heads of the boys.

To one who was not for himself privileged to see, the tales of the great size of the flocks of these birds, of their nesting places, of their daily flights for food, must appear gross exaggeration. Yet I am but stating an historical fact when I say that at times the sky would be darkened as by a heavy thunder cloud, and the rush of wings could be likened only to the roar of a mighty waterfall, at the passage of the innumerable multitudes of these birds.

In the section of the state concerning which I write, there was no form of animal life in such apparent prodigal abundance. Much has been written of the “passenger pigeon;” the beauty of its long, blue and bluish-white body; its rapid flight; its habits of nesting at a remote distance from its feeding ground—and then the mystery of the sudden and complete extinction of this the most numerous of all birds. For it was, that one day the woods were full of their nestlings, the skies darkened by their flight—and then they were not, forever.

The mystery of the “passenger pigeon” is indeed like that of that prehistoric race, the builders of the strange mounds of that region—without doubt, a great and numerous people, spreading from the Rockies to[101] the Alleghanies—but who, in some long-past days were not, leaving no answer to Why, and When, and How.

The clouds of these birds spread over the boys at their fishing. “Dauph,” said Rob, “do you know where these birds will nest?”

“Yes,” replied Dauphin, “over in the dead pines in Adams county, some fifteen miles from here. Uncle Sam says there were millions upon millions of nests there last year.”

“Well, I’m for taking a trip over that way to see what we can do for another fresh meat contract,” said Ed.

The boys carried out their plan, and when they came to the abandoned fields of dead pines they found the crudely built nests of the past year in inconceivable numbers. About three o’clock in the afternoon the birds began to arrive from their feeding place over in Minnesota, and the noise and apparent confusion were indescribable. As they came crowding into their roosting place it was not guns that the boys needed for their capture, but simply clubs to swing, and in almost no time they had as many of these game birds as they could make use of at a time.

“Boys, I’ve an idea. It’s clearly too far over here for us to come for what the camp could use of the game for one day, or even two. But if we could make a lot of coops and take back a load of live pigeons, we could feed them and use them as they would be needed.”

“Yes, that’s all right,” replied Rob, “but catching ’em alive is another thing.”

[102]“Well, wait until I explain,” replied Ed. “Did you notice how the birds came flying in so closely packed together that they had no chance to get out of our way? Well, I’ve been thinking of the four big, close-woven hammocks mother has at home. If we would fasten them together and stretch them up among the trees, I believe the birds would fly against them and get tangled up in the meshes, and we could take a lot of them alive.”

“Good scheme! Good scheme!” shouted the other boys. “We’ll do that very thing.”

It was ten days later, however, before the boys were able to secure the team with which to make the trip, and then they found brooding mothers already hovering over the stick nests, each of which contained two white eggs.

The boys were disappointed, but that the birds might be disturbed while rearing their young was not to be thought of. “Well,” said Rob, “it means waiting until next spring.” But the next spring the pigeons did not return, and to this day the scientists are discussing what became of the “passenger pigeon.”



“Father,” said Ed one evening, as he came in from a short hunting trip, “were there ever any armies encamped here, or battles fought in this part of the country?”

“No, son,” replied Mr. Allen, “not that history gives account of. There may have been some fighting between the Indian tribes and the voyageurs who accompanied the Jesuit Fathers as they explored this land, in the early days of settlement of our country, but nothing like armies or battles have been known here.”

“Well, I found some old fortifications, or what looked like them, today. I had started up a deer near the Round Slough, and found that it took to a trail leading almost due west. About a mile from the slough I came to what evidently had been an old bed of the river, where sometime in the long past it had made a big bend, up near the high sand knolls. Now it was entirely dry, and I ran down into the old bed and across, and clambered up the west bank. It was there I found the earthworks. At first, where I ran across it, I thought it was a ridge of dirt some big flood had left upon the bank, but as I followed it along for several rods I came to the conclusion that it must[104] have been the work of men. It was of uniform height and size, and followed the curve of the river. Soon I came to a large mound, some twelve feet across, just where the bend in the river had come, and saw that another embankment, like the one upon which I was walking, stretched out from this central mound on the other side.

“It was for all the world as though some army had cast up earthworks at this bend of the river as a protection from an enemy coming either up or down the river.

“I was after that deer, so I did not wait to examine the old fort more closely. My trail led northward from there, and when I had gone about two miles, reaching that big hill we have so often seen in the distance, I had my second surprise. I was approaching the hill from the west, as I had lost track of the deer I had been following, and had turned for home. On that side the hill was so nearly straight up and down that a fellow would have a hard time in getting to the top. I thought I might as well see the other side of the hill; perhaps I might find a place there where I could climb up and look over the country. Sure enough, there was a place where I could clamber to the top. This, the east side, was covered with timber, oak and basswood being mixed with the pine trees. As I looked up at the top the hill took on the funniest appearance; something like a big squat bottle with a rim around its mouth and a cork stuck in.

“I scrambled up. About two-thirds from the bottom[105] I came to the rim of the bottle—the obstruction, whatever it was. With considerable difficulty I got up and over. It was plainly another case of fortifying—this time a hill instead of a river. The earth had been scraped away to the solid sandstone rock beneath, and brought forward into a ridge clear across the face of the hill. A thousand soldiers would have been safe behind that embankment on that side of the hill, from even the missiles of a modern army.”

“Well, son,” replied Mr. Allen, “your finds are certainly interesting. They are undoubtedly the work of the moundbuilders. We must examine them some day, and perhaps may find something that will tell us of their story.”

“But, father,” asked Rob, “who were the moundbuilders? and when did they live here? and who was it that was after them?”

“You have asked some hard questions, my boy. The scientists have guessed and guessed again. The earthworks they reared are really all we know about them. The Indians have no traditions concerning them.”

“But, father,” persisted Ed, “what became of them? Did they kill each other off, or did they all die of some great epidemic?”

“As I said, son, these are questions which can only receive conjectures for answer. It may be that they were the descendants of some roving tribe that came over from Asia by the way of the Behring Strait, after the Lord scattered the people abroad from the[106] plains of Shinar. They may have continued their migrations southward before some later horde from the Old World, and become the ancestors of the cliff-dwellers of Arizona, or the Toltecs and Aztecs of Mexico and Yucatan.

“However, it is evident that the moundbuilders were in possession of a much less degree of civilization than the prehistoric ancestors of the South Mexicans, for the moundbuilders have left nothing but their earthworks, while the ruined cities and temples of the ancient ancestors of the Toltecs and Aztecs show a civilization that must have rivalled that of old Egypt, or even famous Babylon itself.”

“Is it about the moundbuilders you are speaking, Mr. Allen?” enquired Dauphin Thompson, who had just come in. “If you can spare the time some day I would like to take you to what seems to have been a town laid out by those old fellows. It is about four miles south, and I suppose half way between the Necedah and the Wisconsin rivers. I came across it last fall when hunting our cattle that had strayed over on that side of the river. I confess that the strangeness of it—like some great graveyard of giants, made me feel a little creepy, in the twilight. I did pluck up courage, though, to ride my pony to the top of what appeared to be the large central mound and look about.

“In the fading light that filtered through the trees I could not see well nor very far, but the mounds seemed to extend for several rods each way. They were laid off in regular lines, north and south, and east and[107] west in what seemed to be a perfect square. There must have been fifty or perhaps more, of the mounds. They were not all of the same size, although they may have once been—save the mound which I had ridden upon; that was as large as three or four of the others. I asked my young Menominee friend, Kalichigoogah, about them once, but he looked scared and wouldn’t talk. All he would say was ‘No know, me. Big medicine. White boy keep away.’”

“I understand,” said Mr. Allen, “the feeling our Indians have for such objects and places. The mysterious to them is sacred. It is their religion to worship or give tribute and offerings to whatever they can not understand. I have read that from the earliest times certain tribes of Indians have used these mounds as burial places for their own dead, so great a reverence had they for them.

“Indeed, in some of the accounts given by the followers of La Salle, or Marquette, or Hennepin, I do not recall which, it is stated that near the junction of the Fox and Wolf rivers in this state, they came upon several large mounds of this kind. These voyageurs, ever greedy of the gold supposed to be hidden away in the New World, dug into them. But instead of the coveted treasure, they found a few simple trinkets, and very many human bones. So they gave the place the name of Buttes des Mort, ‘mounds of the dead.’

“But, father, isn’t there anyone who can tell us about these people?” demanded Ed. “I want to know[108] why they made those breastworks on the bend of the old river, and why they went up to that hill and made a fort. Who was it that was after them? and which side won? Were they hunters? or did they plant crops? What kind of houses did they live in? and what did they look like?”

“My dear boy, if I could answer those questions correctly at this moment, I would suddenly find myself one of the famous men of the country. As I have said, this departed race has left but little to tell of its existence, but that little the scientists are taking, and by comparison and deduction, may finally build up a plausible story.

“It would be something like the work done by a famous naturalist who, it is said, from a single fossil bone of an extinct fish, that had been found, constructed its probable framework entire. Years afterwards the whole skeleton of this rare, ancient fish was dug up, and the professor’s guess found to be marvellously near the truth.

“While there are a few indications of the moundbuilders west of the Rockies and east of the Alleghanies, they seem to have inhabited the Mississippi valley, the mounds being most numerous in the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio. Indeed, there were so many in the vicinity of the city of St. Louis, that place was nicknamed ‘Mound City.’

“While their civilization seems to have far exceeded that of our present race of Indians, there is also indication that they lived in constant menace of some other,[109] more warlike people. As we go eastward toward the Alleghanies we find the mounds grow more defensive in their characteristics.

“One of the finest specimens of these defensive constructions is known as ‘Fort Ancient,’ and is near the Little Miami river, in Ohio. It is on the top of a steep hill, its stiff clay walls ranging from five to twenty-five feet in height. The wall crooks and turns and twists about, until it is several miles in length, yet it encloses only land enough for a common-sized farm.

“At Chillicothe there is the largest of this kind of mounds, embracing 145 acres. In connection with this old fortress there are several high mounds which may have been used for lookout stations.

“As a rule, the mounds in the valleys are not of the warlike shapes, but are laid off in squares or octagons, like the little “town” Dauphin has told us about on the other side of the river. These are usually called “sacred” mounds, though it would be difficult to give a good reason why, other than the Indians’ reverence for that which is mysterious and unexplained. Perhaps the best known example of this class of mounds are those at Newark, Ohio. There is an octagon of 50 acres, a square of 35 acres, and two circles, one of 29 and the other of 20 acres. They are all joined by avenues and surrounded by ditches.

“The temple mounds are fewer in number than those of the other classes, but may, in the future, prove to yield more interest as they are compared with similar pyramids found in Mexico and Central America.[110] In this country, the best specimen of the temple mounds is at Cahokia, Ills. It is nearly an hundred feet high, and is more than 200 rods around the base.

“Perhaps the most curious of the work of the ancient people are the ‘animal’ mounds, fashioned after a crude representation of different beasts. One of these in the southern part of this state is a very fair reproduction of the outlines of an elephant.”

“But, father,” exclaimed Ed, “how could that be? Where could these people have seen an elephant? Did elephants live in America then? or did the people come from the land of elephants?”

“My boy, that is a part of the mystery of the past of this mysterious race. The fact is that the Grant county mound was clearly made to represent an elephant, and the rest we must guess at.

“However, the larger number of mounds that have been examined were used for burial places, undoubtedly first by the moundbuilders themselves, as well as later by the Indians.”

That night the boys could scarcely sleep for planning excavations in all three of the collections of mounds near them. Mr. Allen had hinted that some day some mound might be uncovered which would yield the long-looked-for key that would unlock the history of this past and forgotten people. Why might not it be they who would be the discoverers?

Ed was for making the first investigation at the hill fort. If there had been an assault upon those works, he argued, it must have been a fierce one, and no[111] doubt there would be found many of the weapons of the attacking party buried in the soft earth beneath the steep walls. Rob contended that if the mounds between the rivers were, indeed, the site of one of their towns, more relics would be found there to show what manner of people they were in their everyday life. Especially would it be so, he argued, if they had been suddenly driven from their homes by an enemy.

“You remember, Ed, when Captain Hunt and his soldiers came after the Winnebagoes and they left their camps in a hurry, they first buried many of their household utensils in the ground. You know how they then smoothed down the earth and built a fire over the place, so that the ashes and coals would give the ground an appearance of not having been disturbed. I imagine we may find some such caches in that mound village.”

Necessary work interfered with the boys’ plans for several weeks, and the first flakes of late October snow were falling when they set off upon their ten miles’ walk to the mound city.

After some discussion they decided to attack the largest, central mound first, “For,” said Dauphin, “this must have been the mound of the chief, if these mounds were the sites of their homes.”

Carefully they dug a hole six feet across, searching carefully through each spadeful of dirt. In the first two feet down there was nothing discovered; then Ed ran across two long, flint arrow- or spear-heads. A little further down they came upon a human skeleton,[112] the bones of which crumbled so badly, as they were brought out to the air, that the boys were able to save only the top of the skull and one thigh bone intact.

It was only when they reached the depth of about four feet, nearly at the level of the surrounding ground, that their spades struck unmistakable evidences of fire—discolored earth, small coals, ashes, and some brown fragments, the nature of which they could not at once determine. “We have found it, Hurray!” shouted Rob. “They cached their goods and built their fire over them just like our Indians did.”

“Now, boys,” counseled Dauphin, “let’s not be too hasty. Let’s examine every spadeful carefully as we dig.”

Now the finds became more numerous: A stone mortar and pestle, such as the Indians now use for preparing their meal from maize; a red, stone pipe, curiously carved; several pure white arrow-heads, others coal-black; a stone axe, grooved near the head for its fastening to the handle; some broken earthenware vessels, decorated with queer, spear-point designs; and most valuable of all, a copper knife in fairly good state of preservation.

Then they came to a great quantity of brown fragments, which upon examination, proved to be charred bone.

Down through the burned earth they dug in feverish haste toward the treasure they believed to be hidden there. But alas! although they toiled until dark, they were forced to acknowledge to themselves that[113] the ground beneath the fire had never been disturbed before.

“Well,” said Ed, “We didn’t find the ‘key’ to unlock the history of these mounds, but we’ve got one of the old fellows, with some of his dishes, his axe, his pipe, his spears and arrows, and his wife’s grist mill. That’s pretty good for one day.”

And indeed it was, although the skeleton proved, according to the decision of the professor of science at Carleton College, for whose inspection the boys sent the relics, to be that of a modern Indian, who had been buried probably not over an hundred years. He also wrote the boys that of the various things they had dug up, only the broken pottery could with probability be assigned to the time of the moundbuilders. He added, however, that the large amount of fragments of burned bones went to confirm the theory that the mounds of that class had been used as places in which human bodies had been burned, either in sepulchre or sacrificial rites.

Other excavations were planned by the boys, but the strenuous duties of their pioneer life crowded in upon them, and the trips were put off from time to time, until it so came about that their first exploration into the affairs of the lost race, proved to be their last.



As Robert and Ed Allen had no elder sisters, and the health of their mother was far from robust, they were early trained to the simple duties of the home. Rob, especially, prided himself that “there was no woman who could beat him in plain cooking,” and, indeed, his bread was voted, even by Mr. Allen, to be “almost as good as Mother’s.”

As the frosts began to increase, and November clouds hung gray and heavy, tote teams, with their winter supplies for the camps in the big woods, would frequently stop at Mr. Thompson’s for the night. With one of these outfits there was a crew of twenty men with their cook, bound for the upper waters of the Wisconsin river to get out a special contract of “pumpkin pine,” a good sized tract of these forest giants having been located during the previous summer. This variety of pine was very white, exceedingly soft, and grainless, and not infrequently would yield three cuts of logs of sixteen feet each in length, entirely free from knots. These logs would saw into planks sixteen feet long, with a width of from three to six feet. Of course such timber was very valuable, even in those days of timber prodigality.

The Allen boys heard that the crew boss was young[115] Medford, whom they had met in Necedah. He was a clean, energetic young fellow, just out of college, and, destined to take his father’s place in the great lumbering operations of the state, was winning his way up in practical service. But this morning, while his greeting was pleasant, young Medford’s face showed a considerable anxiety to the boys. Pete Lateur, the cook, while wholly dependable once within the big woods, had broken faith with the boss, and had smuggled a flask of whiskey in with his dunnage. During this, their first night’s stop, the liquor had provoked a brawl in which the cook emerged with a broken arm. After the rude surgery that he was able to give, Mr. Thompson would take him back to the town for a month’s lay up. But there was no one else among the crew who could take his place, and no time to send a team back to hunt a cook in town.

“Rob,” said Ed, “you’re always bragging about your cooking, why don’t you take the job?”

“What’s that?” exclaimed Medford, overhearing what had been spoken in jest, “Can you cook, Rob?”

“He certainly can, Mr. Medford,” replied Ed, not waiting for Rob to reply, “He can beat Mother baking beans, and as for bread—”

“Stop your foolishness, Ed,” broke in Rob, blushing red.

“But see here, boys, I must have a cook, and if you will take the place, Rob, I will give you forty-five dollars a month for four months, and your wages will begin today.”

[116]Rob gasped at the thought of so much money. “I’ll see father” he replied.

Mrs. Allen was averse to allowing her boy to spend the winter among such rough men as the woods crews were known to be, but Mr. Allen said it would “toughen the fiber of the lad” and gave his consent.

Alas, how many parents mistakenly think that association with evil, and even evil experiences are a necessary part of the education of youth. Nothing can be further from the truth. Instead of a benefit, such association can but result in harm. If, in after life, the youth should come into clean ways, the deep scars of evil will remain, and he will carry with him to the grave that which he would fain forget.

For the first fifty miles the crew were able to get their meals at least twice a day at rough wayside taverns, themselves but little better than camps, but which afforded shelter and an abundance of food, such as it was. Then the trail led up into the unbroken wilderness of forest, where camps must needs be made at night, and there Rob’s winter work began.

There was something solemn and majestic about the big woods. There was little undergrowth, and the ground was covered deep with the rich, brown carpet of needles. The tall trunks of the great pines rose straight to the dark canopy above, like the pillars of some vast cathedral. The very silence was suggestive of worship—the low moaning of the high-up tops came to the ears as a soft, opening, minor strain from some grand organ.

[117]A dead, dry pine was felled, logs sawed from it and split, a fire built, and soon a bed of glowing coals was ready for the great pans of frying salt pork. Two crotched sticks were driven into the ground a few feet apart, and a pole laid across them, upon which the big coffee kettle was swung, and under it a good fire was soon going. Then biscuit dough was mixed—not with milk, but with clear, cold water from the river—and placed in the baker. This arrangement was something like a three-leaved book made of tin, with folding legs for the upper and lower leaves. When opened before the bed of glowing coals—the bread being placed upon the middle leaf—it was a no mean substitute for an oven.

Tin plates and cups, iron knives and forks and spoons, were distributed; a jug of molasses and a bowl of brown sugar were placed handy, and the cry of “Chuck’s ready!” was given. Not very appetizing!—perhaps not to you, my reader, but with these hardy men, living out of doors, at strenuous labor, bread and meat and strong coffee, with plenty of fats and sweets to fortify against the bitter cold, were eagerly consumed, especially when on the march. Later, when in permanent camp, a greater variety of food would be prepared.

Wearied though he was with the long day’s tramp, and with his efforts to satisfy the ravenous appetites of the score of men, Rob could not roll up in his blanket before the fire with the rest, as they finished their meal. In a little hollow scooped out near the log fire,[118] were to be placed a half bushel of Irish potatoes, with a jab of his knife through the skin of each one to let out the steam. Over them the hot ashes were raked and packed down tight, then a few coals, and here they would bake slowly through the night, to be eaten in their mealy whiteness, cold, with salt, at the hasty noon meal the next day. The coffee kettle was replaced by another containing great chunks of corned beef, and from the baker came several batches of delicately browned biscuit to be packed away in a box for the morrow. There would be no time allowed at the noon rest for more than the preparing of the hot coffee.

It seemed to the lad that he had no more than closed his eyes, as he finally rolled himself into his blanket—his boots under his head for pillow—than he found himself sitting up, panting for breath, as though exhausted by running, and trembling all over. Clearly he had been frightened in his sleep; but by what? The horses, securely tied near by, were snorting and frantically trying to break away. The men, here and there, were rising upon elbows. Then, from the tall pine, seemingly right over their heads, came the scream as of a woman in such agony, despair, and heart-breaking entreaty, that it seemed to Rob nothing in all the world could express more hopeless misery. With a “Sh-h, keep quiet, boys,” Mr. Medford grasped his winchester and slipped around to quiet the horses, peering up into the thick branches as he went. Again[119] that hideous cry—and Mr. Medford fired at the place from which the sound seemed to come.

“What is it?” whispered Rob to teamster Jackson, next him.

“A panther. There is no danger. Lie still.”

There was the noise of something bounding from limb to limb, high up in the pines, then all was still.

Exhausted, though he was, with the day’s march and labor, Rob was so thoroughly awakened, that long after the quieted teams were again munching their corn, and the men were snoring, he lay, looking up at the one far-away star peeping through the boughs, and starting up now and then as a soft pad-pad, or sniff-sniff, or low growl, or bark, announced the presence of some other visiting woods-folk.

When at last they had reached the timber tract, a little knoll not far back from the river, was selected as the site for the permanent camps. These would be three in number—the main building where the men would sleep and eat, and one end of which would serve as kitchen; a second for the snug stable for the teams; and the third to be used as repair shop and storehouse.

All hands went to work at once putting up the houses. It was now the second week of November, and the fierce winter storms might be looked for at any time. The buildings were constructed of logs, about twelve inches in diameter, the cracks between chinked in with moss and clay. The roof was made of split logs, the split faces being laid together, breaking the[120] joints. There was always plenty of chance for ventilation. After the roaring fires in the sheet iron stoves should finally succeed in drying them out, these rooms would be warm and comfortable.

For nearly a week, during the house-building, the men slept in tents which opened one end toward the big log fire. At this fire also, with its undiminished abundance of live coals, Rob baked and boiled and roasted. Now that there was to be no more traveling, the supplies were overhauled, and great dishes of dried fruit—prunes, peaches, and apples, were stewed. Later, Mr. Medford would have a team bring in fresh beef and pork. Pea soup, hot, and rich with pork fat, was an almost daily ration, and then the great staple—baked beans! Lucky for Rob, indeed, was that accomplishment of which Ed had boasted for him. Surely even Boston itself never knew such appetizing dish as that Rob brought forth from the “bean hole.”

This is the way in which the delicacy was prepared: First, a hole two feet in depth, filled with live coals; the big pot with just the right amount of beans—(be careful to not put in too many, or you will duplicate Mark Twain’s experience with dried apples), molasses, a chunk of fat pork, salt and pepper to season—then water enough to swell the dish full when done (a few disastrous experiments will teach you the right amount), then the coals raked out and the pot, tightly covered, placed in the hole; ashes packed around and over; more live coals heaped above all—and everybody[121] go away and forget it for twenty-four hours—if you can—and then!

Bread, potatoes, meat, coffee, some kind of dried fruit—and beans—such is the usual fare of the lumber woods.

With the completion of the camps, Rob found his duties a little more complicated, but he was able to arrange his long hours so that, while work was hard, he had the meals on time, well-cooked, and of abundant quantity. At four o’clock in the morning the chopping boss would call “Cookee!” and Rob would crawl out from his “feather bed” of pine boughs covered with its heavy Mackinaw blanket. No time to roll over and take the “forty winks” these mornings. Soon he would have the pitch-pine roaring in the big sheet-iron stove for the men; then he would cross over to the kitchen side, where the fire in the great range would set to steaming the big pots of food. By the time the hot biscuits were ready, the teamsters would be in from the stables, where they had fed, curried and harnessed the horses, and the choppers and skidders would be plunging through a hasty toilet. By five o’clock Rob would cry, “All ready!” and then would come a rush, each man crowding in where he could and more like a pack of hungry wolves than supposedly civilized men, the crew would fall upon the food.

I must make one exception—a teamster who was early dubbed “Parson.” This man, a little past middle age, never sat down to a meal without silently bowing his head in thanksgiving. There was no spirit of[122] bravado in the act; cant seemed to be impossible to the man. He took the ofttimes brutal gibes of the men with a kindly smile, and went his own way. At night when the lanterns were swung from the ridgepole, and the men, during the hour between supper and bed, would be playing cards, telling stories, or singing songs of their wood and river life, Mr. Jackson would take out a well-worn, black Testament and read, and then, with always a kind word to Rob, and often some little helpful act, would climb into his bunk.

Breakfast over, Rob had the bunks to put in order, and the house to thoroughly sweep—for Mr. Medford’s camps must be kept clean and tidy. Then, if the crew happened to be working at a considerable distance, dinner must be put on at once, for an hour before noon a team would be sent in for it, and it must be ready, safely packed in large, tightly covered cans. What a job it was to get an out-of-doors dinner for twenty hungry woodsmen! Actually, one of those men would often eat at a meal as much as would be placed upon the table for a half dozen in the city boarding house.

Dishes washed and the table set, the sponge, started the night before, for sixteen loaves of bread (for it would take this number daily, in addition to hot biscuits), would be kneaded down and placed in a warm place to rise. Then there was the woodpile to tackle, and a big stack of dry pine and birch cut and piled up for both cook stove and heater. If dinner was to be eaten at the camp, there were a half-dozen pies to be made from the dried fruit, or two great pans of pudding[123] to be baked, before the sixteen loaves of bread would demand the oven. Peeling potatoes and turnips, and giving attention to the bean-hole outside, helped to fill to the full every moment of the forenoon.

After dinner dishes were attended to, there came a chance for two hours of sleep—and insomnia, at this time, was not even a passing acquaintance of Rob’s. At four o’clock preparations for supper must begin. Then serving the meal, washing dishes again, and making ready, as far as possible, for the morning meal, filled the time until ten o’clock.

It is not good for man to be alone. Explorers of the polar regions declare that the terrors of that trackless waste are not found in the intense cold, but that it is the awfulness of solitude, driving men insane, that is most dreaded.

A strange malady of peevishness, discontent, developing into downright meanness, seems to creep over a company of men shut in together for a lengthened time. Seamen on long voyages mutiny; soldiers in isolated barracks commit ugly acts of insubordination, or take desperate chances to desert.

So it is not strange that during the long winters, when a score of men are shut up together with little or no reading matter, no news from the outside world—nothing to take their thoughts away from themselves, or break the deadly monotony of their daily lives, that this untoward trait of human nature should show itself. Usually, before spring comes, the ill-nature of a crew settles upon some particular one, and from becoming[124] at first the butt of good natured jokes, he finally is the object of genuine persecution. Woe be to that one if he be weak in body or in mind, or if he be a boy.

It was perhaps natural that this crew, all unawakened to and untrained in the higher sensibilities and ideals of life, and hardened by much gross sin, should fall upon the teamster Jackson, who was so unfailing in his religious observances. He seemed out of place to them; his very presence was a rebuke to their profanity and foul stories and songs, even more so than the sharp command of young Medford, that occasionally brought them to silence. But to all of the chaffing and sneers and cursing Jackson presented a quiet, even temper, and his smile held a world of pity. As Jackson’s kindness to Rob became noticed, it appeared to the crew that here was a way by which they could reach the teamster, and all the devilish annoyances and coarse brutality of a dozen man were directed against the boy. They began by growling about the “weak” coffee, although, as swamper Flynn said, “Sure, ’tis as black as me hat, and ’twould float me iron wedge, entirely.” The bread was “no good,” the meat was “tough.” Day after day, Rob, having prepared a meal that would do credit to a high-priced hotel, would be reduced almost to tears through mortification, by the brutal complaints. That Jackson stood up for the lad, and told the rude fellows that by their grumbling they showed they had not been accustomed to good food at home, did not help matters.

[125]From complaints, the persecution passed to personal annoyances. Rob’s axe would be hidden, and he compelled to gather dry limbs to keep the fire going; one morning he found after the breakfast had been delayed and the bunk house filled with smoke, that the stovepipe had been filled with moss. At another time, his wool socks and felt boots disappeared, and he was compelled to go about all day in bare feet. Again, as he crawled into his bunk late one night, worn out, he found that the blanket and boughs had all been saturated with water, and he slept upon the hard floor in his overcoat.

At last, the ringleader in the meanness, John Dolve, a big Swede, coming in at night and not finding supper upon the table, although it was not yet time, declared he would fix it so that the boss would have to get another cook.

“Come on, boys,” he cried, “he’s too fresh. Let’s put him in pickle.” With the help of two or three of the others, he lifted the struggling lad and forced him down into one of the big barrels half filled with brine, from which the meat had been taken, and fastened on the cover. The rough men roared with laughter over the “good joke on the cook,” but the result might have been altogether serious had not Mr. Jackson opportunely arrived. With face gone white, as they explained the situation to him, he thrust the men right and left, and liberated the poor boy.

“Now, Rob,” said he, as he fitted the boy out in some of his own warm, dry clothing, “just keep yourself[126] quiet; that’s the best way. Mr. Medford is due to be back from below and when he comes there will be a change in this camp for good.”

But Robert had not yet found that source of inner strength which kept the teamster undisturbed in the midst of fiery trial. The boy had reached the limit of human endurance. He kept his own counsel, but determined to submit no longer to such indignities. He would start for home that very night. That the way lay an hundred miles through what was practically a wilderness, mattered not. No fear of hunger nor cold, nor death itself, should keep him in the camp one day longer.

Mr. Medford, urging on his team the next day, in order to reach camp in good season, caught sight of a figure staggering along the tote road in the distance. At first he took it to be an Indian, but as he drew nearer there was something that appeared familiar about the person. What was his surprise as he came close, to discover that the traveler was Rob.

The lad was so nearly exhausted that he could scarcely speak, yet he endeavored to resist, as Mr. Medford, springing to him where he had sunk down in the snow, picked him up in his arms and placed him in the sleigh. More from what he guessed, than what he was able to get from Rob, did he get an idea of what had occurred.

“Now, young fellow,” said he, “we’re going back; it’s the only thing to do. You’ve good stuff in you,[127] although the battle has been a severe one, and now I’ll see about bringing up the reserves.”

With the first out-going tote team went the brutal Dolve and two of his companions, and soon there came a change in the atmosphere of the camp, and the attitude of the men toward the cook was as friendly and appreciative as formerly it had been unjust and cruel.

Rob made good in his work, and the hearty commendation of Mr. Medford was as precious balm to heal his wounded spirit. When the four months were passed, and the camp broke up for the spring, the heart of the lad glowed with pleasure as Mr. Medford, handing him a check for two hundred dollars, said, “The extra is because you’ve been a extra good cook. If you’ll agree, I’ll sign you now for next winter at sixty-five dollars.”

Two hundred dollars meant much to the Allen family that spring, for by it the mother was enabled to go to Chicago for treatment by a famous specialist, who said she had come just in time.



When Mr. Thompson proposed, as an act of kindness, to take the cook, Peter Lateur, back to Necedah that he might receive proper attention for his broken arm, he did not know that it would prove to be an opening to a profitable winter’s contract, but so it was.

As he stepped into the office of the Medford Lumber Company, “Old Man” Medford, who was in earnest conversation with a keen-eyed, brisk-appearing gentleman, looked up, and as his eyes fell upon Mr. Thompson, he exclaimed, “The very thing. Here’s the man, Mr. Norman, that can do the job.” “Mr. Norman, this is Mr. Thompson, one of the up-river settlers. Mr. Norman is at the head of the Construction Company that has a contract to build the grade and bridges of the new railroad that is coming into town next summer,” was Mr. Medford’s form of introduction.

“The lay of the land is such,” went on Mr. Medford, “that the road must cross the head of the big boom pond, and that calls for a long trestle. I’ve been telling him that our regular crews have all gone into the woods, and we can’t get out the piling he wants, this season; but he insists that he going to have that timber[129] on the bank of the river to come down in the spring drive. Now what do you think of such a man?”

“I think he means to get his work done,” replied Mr. Thompson.

The big man’s eyes twinkled. “I may have to pay a little extra, of course, but I shall see that piling down here in the boom by the time my bridge builders are ready for them.”

Mr. Medford’s company owned a tract of young timber over which a fire had swept, and, while its thick growth had worked its ruin in that the trees had been killed, the trunks had not been destroyed, but stood tall and straight, and, if cut before the borers got in their destructive work, would make ideal piling timber.

The opportunity for securing a good price for this otherwise useless timber, as well as his confidence in Mr. Thompson, urged the lumberman to give bond for him that the required number and lengths of piling would be deposited upon the banks of the river in time for the spring drive.

By offering the extra high wages, which a successful completion of his contract would enable him to do, Mr. Thompson picked up a crew among the settlers along the river. Among them was Ed Allen, who, hardy and strong for his age, was well able to fulfill the duties of “swamper.”

As the contract would call but for one winter’s work, the camp houses were not so elaborate and substantial as those of the big woods further north, yet they were made fairly comfortable. After the cabins[130] were up, the first thing was to lay out the main logging road from the tract of timber to the river. While the road must be as direct as possible, it was necessary that the route selected keep to level ground. There could be no going up hill and down dale with the great stack-like loads which would pass over it.

By the time the hollows were filled, the trees cut away, and their stumps dug out, and even the small brush cut, so that a clear, level track extended all the way to the river, the foreman had selected a number of trees of the required length and diameter, and marked them with a “blaze” on the side.

Sites were chosen for the skidways upon little knolls, where the logs would be rolled up in great piles, to be loaded upon the sleds.

And the chopping began.

The success or failure of a lumberman in the northern woods depended as much upon the weather conditions, as does the success or failure of the farmer. Long-continued and severe storms may shut in the crew for a week of precious time. Great snows may double the labor of swamping, skidding, and loading. But more to be dreaded by the loggers is a winter thaw. A mild winter, when the snow melts in the middle of the day, is, to the logger, as a rainless summer to the husbandman.

With this contract it was not a matter of how many of the logs might be hauled to the river, but a question whether the whole number was delivered. So every hour would count; every advantage of the peculiarities[131] of the weather must be taken, both in felling the trees and in hauling.

It seemed to Ed that he would barely stretch himself in his bunk at night before he would hear the foreman’s “All out” in the morning, and with the others he would hasten into his mackinaws and felt boots, his sleep-heavy eyes hardly open before their plunge into the icy water, as the cry “Chuck’s ready” would be heard from the cook.

As soon as one could “see to swing an axe” the crew would be in the timber tract, ready for the strenuous labor of the day. What matter if the mercury would register zero, and the snow lay knee deep on the level? did not their pulses bound with the rich wine of life? was not the very air a tonic? and the hard work filled with the joy of achievement?

From about the tree selected the underbrush would be carefully cut away, for not only must there be free room for the rythmic swing of the keen axes, but the life of a chopper often depended upon a quick, unhindered leap to one side, as the forest giant sprang, swinging from its stump. The inclination of the tree is noted, and the place selected for its fall. The sharp bits of the axes eat a clean “scarf” straight across the trunk. A few inches higher up, a second cut prepares for great chips between, and a third drives the scarf beyond the center of the tree. A shallower cut on the opposite side of the trunk, a snap, a creaking shudder—a quick warning is called; there is a sound of rending branches overhead, the rush of a mighty wind, and[132] then a crashing roar as the great body stretches its length upon the ground.

With a rapid movement the woodsman measures with his axe helve the prostrate trunk up to the point where length calls for certain diameter, and the sawyers, having already squared the butt are ready to sever the top. What limbs there are upon the body are cut cleanly away, and the long log, or pile, is ready for the skids.

In that day the “swamping” was done by ox teams. It was the work of the swamper to see that there was a clear pathway for the team to the fallen trunk, then, as it came alongside, to slip the heavy logging chain under the body, and bring it up and clasp the hook. At the word of command—and often cruel proddings with sharp goads accompanied, alas! by the shocking profanity of the driver, the animals would brace themselves into the yoke, straining this way and that, until finally the great log would be started from its bed in the deep snow and dragged to its place to be rolled with others upon the loading skids. The stacking up of these piles was work that could often be done when hauling operations were impossible. However, the hauling was not a less interesting part of the work.

The logging sled, or “hoosier,” bears about the same relation to the common road sled that a Missouri river barge bears to a pleasure skiff. It is hewn from the toughest beams of oak, and its huge runners—tracking six feet apart—are shod with plates of iron three to[133] four inches in thickness. The beams, or “bunks,” upon which the load will rest, are often ten feet long, so that the loads may be of that width, and as high as the lifting power of the loading teams and the ingenuity of the men can stack the logs—provided always sufficient power can be attached to the load to pull it.

From the main road to the skids, a temporary road is packed down in the snow, and the huge sled is brought into position below the skids. Timbers are run to the bunks and securely fastened, for a slip may mean a broken rib, or possibly a life quickly crushed out. A chain is fastened to the top log of the skid with a rolling hitch, and the loading team on the other side of the sled, across from the skid, slowly rolls the great trunk from the pile onto the sled. The first tier of logs fills the bunks; a second tier, or perhaps a third, is rolled into place, and the load is fastened securely with the binding chains and pole. Then the loading team is hitched on ahead of the sled team, and with great pulling and tugging the mammoth load is brought to the main road. Here the head team is released, to repeat the process of loading for the next team, while the load continues its journey to the river.

So level and so smooth is the track that comparatively little force is needed to move these immense loads—but they must be kept in motion. There can be no stopping to rest once the load is started, for it is probable, in that case, the sled would remain at rest until a second team would come along to add its strength for another start.

[134]Arriving at the river, the “brow boss” measures each log, entering the figures, in his “brow record,” giving also the totals of the loads and name of driver. Then each log is “end marked” and with cant hooks rolled off into the river, or “browed,” as the operation is called. Often the river bed is filled and piled high from bank to bank; then a new brow is selected up or down stream.

The second week of chopping, which brought the time up to Christmas, saw the contract well under way. While four or five nationalities were represented in the crew, the men were of that class which came into the wilderness to make homes—faithful, steady, and willing to give full measure of service for their wages. In many respects they differed widely from the “big woods” crew, gathered, as they might be in those days, from the very riff-raff of creation.

A spirit of friendly rivalry was shrewdly fostered by the foreman, among the choppers and the teamsters, which was not long in dividing the camp into factions loyally supporting the claims of their respective champions. Antoine Ravenstein’s half-Norman dapple greys had, so far, a slight lead in the record of big loads over Bert Clumpner’s bays, while the giant Dane, Olaf Bergstrom, was scarcely able to keep even with his smaller, wiry, dark-skinned rival chopper, Jim Dacora.

The work was now so well under way that Mr. Thompson suggested that the men celebrate Christmas day in holding a holiday of sports, and he[135] would have the cook prepare a big dinner for the occasion. Jumping, wrestling, boxing, throwing the hammer, and pitching horseshoes, were enjoyed with a hearty, noisy abandon, in which these big, strong men sought to hide the tinge of homesickness that would creep in with the memories of the day.

As the fun was at its height, two men, one clad in a sleek, brown minkskin, the other in a coal-black bearskin overcoat, were noticed approaching the cabins. The one with the bearskin coat, whose bristling red hair and stubby beard proclaimed his Hibernian ancestry, walked up to Mr. Thompson, and without other ceremony or salutation began, “This is Calhoun, the sheriff of this county, an’ I’m Phelan. We’ve come to see what ye mane by cuttin’ the timber on my land.”

Without waiting for a reply, he proceeded, “Av ye pile yer dunnage onto yer tote teams an’ lave at onct, ye can give me yer bill o’ sale to the timber ye’ve browed, an’ we’ll let it drop. Ave ye don’t, well, ye know what we do here to timber thaves.”

The crew had gathered about, and a sound came from them like a low growl of an angry beast. The hand of the sheriff went to his hip, but Mr. Thompson’s voice rang out clear and cold: “Stop, men! I handle this. Now you, Larry Phelan, I’ve heard of you. You certainly are qualified to talk about timber thieves—but you’ve got the wrong man this time. Mr. Medford took precaution to give me the field notes of this tract, and I have run the lines and know exactly where I am. Now I give you just ten minutes, you and your[136] bogus sheriff, to get out of sight, or my men and I will start a new game—and it won’t be a game of bluff.”

There was that in the voice of the speaker which left no doubt that he meant what he said. And while Phelan cursed and vowed he would “have a posse upon them that would move them,” the two strangers turned away to where their team was standing in the distance.

Mr. Thompson was not altogether easy in his mind over the affair, although he felt sure as to his legal right upon the tract. He knew Larry Phelan to be the most unscrupulous timber thief in that section of the state, and who was more than suspected of having arrangements for his own advantage with certain officers of the courts. But more serious were his apprehensions of the threat of Phelan as to his “posse,” for a more reckless and desperate band of outlaws never served another villain than this Irishman had gathered about him in that northern wilderness. If Phelan considered the stake large enough, a descent upon the camp by these ruffians was something to be taken into consideration.

Shortly after the opening of the new year, the successful completion of the winter’s work was threatened in a way that served to put all thoughts of Larry Phelan out of mind. It came with a “January thaw.” Day after day the sun rose clear and bright in the heavens, and the south wind came in spring-like mildness. The melting snows filled the hidden hollows[137] in the woods with slush and water, into which the choppers unsuspectingly dropped, sometimes waist deep, while the wet snow kept the clothing of the entire crew constantly saturated.

Notwithstanding the growing discomfort of the situation, no let up on the work could be allowed, as hope argued for a soon return of zero weather.

The pressure of the immense loads upon the main road had made of it an almost solid bed of ice, and so it was that with the aid of an extra team from the skidways to the main road, the hauling operations were not seriously interfered with at the first.

But the warm days continued, and the sharp calks of the horseshoes began to tear up the surface of the icy road. “If we could only keep the smooth ice surface on the road, we could make it; but a few more days of such cutting and the road is ruined,” gloomily exclaimed Mr. Thompson, as the crew gathered for a noon meal.

Ed started to speak, but being only a boy, and fearing the railery of the men, waited until he could talk to Mr. Thompson privately. “I don’t know, Mr. Thompson, that the plan would work here, but I’ve an idea that you might think over, and try if you wished,” said he.

“Go ahead, boy,” replied Mr. Thompson. “Any sort of a suggestion will be welcome just now.”

“Well,” said Ed, “we boys used to slide down a hill one winter on skis, and when some warm days came that threatened to spoil our track, we watered it at[138] night, and the coating of ice held where the snow would have melted. I thought—”

“Boy, you’ve hit it! I suspect you’ve saved the contract,” exclaimed Mr. Thompson.

That was a busy afternoon for Lars Olson, the carpenter-blacksmith, but by nine o’clock that night a water-tight tank had been fitted upon a sled, with a rude attachment something like a street sprinkler, under control of the driver.

While the contrivance was open to improvement (which it later received as it took its place in the necessary equipment for logging operations) it enabled Mr. Thompson to give his road a coating of ice before morning, and, with the operation repeated night after night, to defy the sun’s destroying rays a little longer.

It would be interesting to tell how, in the race for the chopping championship, big Olaf grew careless and had a leg crushed by the unexpected side swing of a falling tree; how Mr. Thompson, at the risk of failing on the contract, fixed up a comfortable bed on a pung, and sent Ed with an illy-spared team to carry the wounded man to his home. It would make another story how Ed was lost upon his return trip, in the great snow storm that marked the end of the warm spell, and was saved from death by an old Irishman after he had already become unconscious. We would like to tell how, when the cold days returned, Antoine Ravenstein’s grays beat the bays with a prodigious load, that was talked about for years, as the record for hauling,[139] in those northern camps. We would like to live again with the reader the glorious days of February, in which the contract was completed, and in addition to the agreed wages, each man was given a bonus of ten dollars by Mr. Thompson. But I must leave these stories to be told at another time.

The winter passed; March came with its rains, and finally those of the crew who had elected to remain at the camp in order to be at hand to join the “drive,” one day were startled to hear the report as of a heavy cannon, in the direction of the brows on the river.

When they reached that place they found Bally Tarbox with his crew of brow-breakers loosening up, with charges of dynamite, the great ice-locked dams of logs which were filling the river bed.

“Hullo, you lop-eared nesters!” shouted the boss at the sight of the men from the camp. “Time for you to be hitting the trail and grabbing a peavy. Wangan’s above Big Bull.”

“Where’d you get that woodchuck?” he called as he caught sight of Ed. “Oh, it’s one of the Allen boys, ain’t it. Say, little sawed-off, your big Bud is comin’ down North Fork now.”

The next morning Ed started with the others of his crew up river to join his brother Rob on the spring drive.



Following the river trail, and being welcomed freely to the temporary camps of the gangs of “brow-breakers,” at a little past noon of the second day, Ed and his companions of the winter’s logging camp came to the head of the drive on North Fork.

The heavy rains had set in, and the river, swollen by the floods of melted snow, was already a torrent of crashing, grinding ice cakes. As the ice went out, the river would be filled with the booming logs, which floated loosely, often banks full for miles, from the disintegrating “brows” along the stream.

Instead of meeting his brother, as he had hoped, Ed was informed that Rob had been sent over to the wangan above Big Bull, where the drive on the main stream was already in motion. The boss, looking over the small stature of Ed, remarked, “They’re wanting polers over there, and we don’t want any more here. As a sacker you wouldn’t be any more account than a muskrat, anyhow.”

Although Ed was stockily built, he was quick with his feet, and practice had gained him confidence upon the floating logs, so poling would be just what he would desire.

Ten miles across the country of forest and swamp,[141] where the land was a “saturated solution” and every little creek aspiring to be a river, was not a pleasing prospect for a boy, but there was no other way open. That journey lived in Ed’s memory for years as a hideous nightmare. Plashing in mud, tearing through thickets of briers and underbrush, wading shallow, icy creeks—and swimming one that was too deep to wade—losing himself in the darkness, stumbling along blindly, by chance—or, we had better say, by the guiding hand of good Providence—Ed finally came to the brink of the river, and knew by the depth of the overflow that he had reached the stream above Big Bull dam.

Again Providence guided his choice, and he turned downstream and soon came in view of the campfires of the drive. Too utterly exhausted to do aught else, Ed stretched himself by a big log fire among the sleeping men, to get what rest he might, in the short space of the night that remained.

It was yet dark when the voice of the boss aroused him, and he followed with the men to their early breakfast of pork and beans, biscuit and syrup, and strong, black coffee.

There he soon found Rob, and the meeting compensated Ed for the hardship of the journey. Rob told him that Bally Tarbox had arrived the night before, and had taken charge of the drive, and he had looked for Ed to come over and join the polers.

While the work of the polers was more dangerous than that of the sackers, it was much more agreeable,[142] and, too, the wages were three dollars a day, while the pay of the sackers was but a dollar and a quarter to a dollar and a half.

By the time a dim twilight told that another cloudy day had begun, Rob and Ed, with their long ash poles to balance themselves, were upon the river, riding the logs as they floated along with the rapid current. The water had been held back by the big dam until a great drive of logs had gathered, and then the gates were opened for the logs to rush through and on down the river with the falling waters. It was the work of the polers to see that none of the logs lodged in the mouths of the little creeks, and to keep them moving while they were in the river.

It was inevitable that some of the logs should remain stranded upon the banks as the water receded, and this brought in the work of the sackers. Their implements were not long poles, such as the log riders used, but stout staves about five feet in length. Upon one side of each was a steel hook, and in the end a long, sharp spike. These were called “peaveys.” Where the stranded log was small and at some distance from the water, a row of men would approach it upon either side, and, picking it up bodily with their hooks, would carry it to the river. Where the log was too large to carry, it would be rolled over and over at a rapid rate until it went splashing into the water.

It not infrequently happened that a big log would be found in such a position that the sackers would be[143] obliged to wade out into the icy water waist deep before the great trunk would float free.

Many a time Ed and Rob had been thankful for their good fortune as polers when they would hear the boss roll out a torrent of curses upon the sackers as they hesitated upon the icy plunge on some particularly cold morning.

While the sackers might count on being wet every day, and nearly all day of every day, the polers were by no means exempt from that source of discomfort. Frequently, in making the jump from one log to another, a foot would slip, or, the distance miscalculated, a sudden bath be provided among the crashing logs.

Again, a moment of careless inattention would deliver the log rider to the tender mercies of a “sweep,” or an unsettling blow from another log. Sometimes, when the river must needs be crossed, a log would be selected as the ferrying raft which would prove too light to sustain the weight of the rider, and the sackers would howl their derision at the poler being “bucked” into the water by his “steed.”

Rob never forgot one such experience he had on Easter Sunday of that year. It was just after the gates had been lifted at Jennie Bull dam, and the crew of an hundred and fifty men were striving with all their might to hurry all the logs through before the water should go down. The day had opened bleak and dreary. A raw wind swept down the river from the north, cutting faces like a saw, and the poor sackers, wet to the waist, were in the depths of misery.[144] Then, shortly after noon, the leaden skies began to spit snow, and a little scum of ice appeared along the edges of the stream. What an Easter Day! Rob and Ed, to whom memories of other Resurrection Sabbaths in the city came, with their lilies and joy and song, could be thankful that, so far, they were on the logs, dry, and compared with the sackers, warm.

The polers were stationed on the booms—long logs fastened together—and by throwing their poles with the sharp, steel spikes into the floating logs would pull them along and so hasten their exit through the gate of the dam.

At four o’clock it was already dark, and it would be impossible to see clearly enough to work more than an hour longer—but the drive must be taken through; there could be no waiting until tomorrow. Hurry! hurry! were the orders. Rob, in his hurry, as he threw his weight upon a backward pull with his pick pole, suddenly felt his hold give way, and over he went backward into the river. Luckily, the logs were not running thickly where he came to the surface hatless, and that he was a strong swimmer, for a few strokes brought him to the boom and to possession again of his pole.

Oh, if he might go to the wangan camp, there before the logheap fire to wring out his streaming, freezing clothing and get back a little warmth into his stiffening limbs. But no! The logs must be run through the dam, and that at once. Every man was needed,[145] and nothing short of death itself would be recognized by the boss as an excuse for failure to stay by the job. During the next hour Rob many times wondered if he would not be able to give that excuse and so escape from the misery of his position, as he labored clumsily in his freezing clothes.

Day by day the cooking outfit, with the sleeping blankets—one for each man—went down river ahead of the drivers as far as the day’s work would probably land them. It can be imagined that stores necessary for nearly two hundred men, to be carried by boats, would be of the simplest character—pork, flour, beans, syrup, and coffee, made the basis for the daily fare, but the five meals a day were eaten with a hearty relish by these strenuous toilers.

As a rule a dry spot was selected for the camping place, and big tents stretched for protection overhead, but the one blanket to the man and the bare ground for the bed, left something to be desired, even in dry weather. When, of necessity, the camping place was wet, and the weather freezing, the day suffering of the men was but a prelude to the real agony of the night. On this drive of which I write it happened that more than once the wet clothing of the Allen boys, in which they “slept,” was found to be frozen to the earth in the morning.

Running the river was no job for a weakling—such a one never undertook the experience the second time, nor long for the first time. It was work that told heavily upon the strongest of constitutions; few of[146] these men lived to be old, the majority falling victims to pneumonia or tuberculosis.

A little below the third of the big dams the river cuts through a stretch of rocky country, ending in a rather steep rapids which have a drop of something like twenty feet. From the points of rock sticking out at almost regular intervals, across the stream, above the current in low water, the falls became known as “Squaw Walk Rapids.” Just below the rapids the river takes a sharp turn, and there, in the great, deep whirlpool was Dead Man’s Hole—a place believed by the rivermen to be sure to take its toll of human life each spring.

No log rider was so foolhardy as to attempt the passage over the rapids and through the whirlpool of his own will; few indeed—none, it was said—had made the trip in safety, having been caught in the fierce rush of the waters above, and drawn over the rapids on their logs.

The day had been clear, and, the depression of spirit caused by the days of suffering lifting, a spirit of roystering play and rough joking possessed the men. The polers, selecting small logs, just large enough to sustain their weights, were giving exhibitions of fancy riding in mid-stream.

A great shout of glee from Ed Allen caused Rob to look back up the river. There he saw, coming majestically down toward them, a great log upon which were seven or eight sackers, taking an unauthorized ride. But there was something in the program of that[147] ride which they had not planned, for quickly, relentlessly, they were approaching a low-hanging “sweep”—a tree stretched out over the water. Frantically they paddled with their peaveys, striving to throw the course of the big log out into the stream away from the threatening danger, but without avail. The log struck the sweep, the momentum bending the body of the tree sharply—when, as the log rolled slightly, it was released, and with a lightning-like spring, as with a mighty hand the men were brushed off, helter-skelter into the river.

The whole occurrence was indescribably funny to the onlookers, and the polers were dancing up and down on their logs in high glee, shouting mock encouragement to the luckless men in the water—when a roar suddenly brought a check to their merriment. Glancing again down stream the boys saw the logs ahead of them begin to rise and plunge in the foaming water, and they realized that they were nearing the rapids.

Now was the time for putting forth all their strength. Unless they should be able to bring their logs to shore, they would be carried over into the boiling cauldron below. How puny was their strength matched against the grip of that mighty current. The banks seemed to be rushing by. Here and there jagged rocks rose above the surface as if to drag them down. Their small logs were dancing like corks. It was almost impossible to retain footing.

“It’s no use—were’s in for it,” shouted Rob above[148] the roar of the water and crashing of the logs, as he threw the sharp point of his pole into Ed’s log and brought the two together. “Stick your pole into my log and hold on—we’ll go together.”

The boys never lost the picture of that awful moment at the brink of the rapids—the sharp rocks churning the river into milky foam; the logs leaping and, striking, going end over end; the indescribable roar and confusion—the coming of Death with the demand that he be looked squarely in the face. I am sure that both boys prayed—and then the blue sky, and the sun overhead, the rushing river, and the crashing logs—and themselves, ceased to exist.

How or by whom they were rescued from the river below, neither of the boys ever knew. But their apparently lifeless bodies had been carried to camp and there, after long exertion, they had been brought back to life and consciousness.

For that season, at least, Dead Man’s Hole had been robbed of its prey.

After the drive had come through the lowest dam and passed the rapids there came days so ideal that the rivermen could not believe they were the same fellows that so short a time ago would have almost welcomed death, if only they might have escaped their miseries.

Great, snow-white clouds lazily floated overhead in the deep blue; the sun filtered down upon the river in patches of golden warmth; the men, out of sight of the boss, stretched themselves luxuriously upon big[149] logs, and floated with the current. Save for the occasional stoppage of a jam the days were, as Bally Tarbox put it, “one continual picnic with five hot meals a day throwed in.”

There were occasional days of shivering cold; days of lowering clouds and steady rain, when river and sky seemed to mingle, and beds of sodden earth brought no comfort at the close of sodden days. But each day’s run brought the drive further down into the deeper channel and higher banks of the lower river, where the labor was less severe, and a night of dry lodging and a meal of home cooking could occasionally be had from the home of some pioneer settler.

The days grew longer, the trees budded, and some varieties broke forth into tender leaf. From overhead shrill choruses of red-wing blackbirds greeted the slow-moving procession. Woodducks and mallards and teal, in all their courting finery, sailed along in the clear spaces between the floating logs, quick to make a distinction between the peaveys of the river men and the gun of the cook. Squirrels, red and grey and coal black, chattered and scolded as they scampered from bough to bough. Occasional glimpses were had of raccoons fishing for “crabs” on jutting sand bars, and the sliding plunge of an otter might be heard as one awakened in the night.

Life was coming back to revel and riot in the big woods, and the men passing through were not untouched by its tide.

While the main drive passed down the river rapidly,[150] it was inevitable that the slower work of the sackers would leave many logs hung upon the banks by the failing waters. These would be more slowly worked to the river bed, in some cases with ox teams, and then, a good deal of water having been stored up above the dams to augment the later rains, a “sack drive” would bring the stragglers down to the big boom at Necedah.

By the time the Allen boys reached the half-mile stretch of straight river which marked one boundary of their home place, there was not much need of their services as polers longer, as the river banks were high, and there was little work save for the jam breakers at the head of the drive. So it was, that as the familiar buildings came into view, they bade farewell to their river companions and were welcomed at home.



The wages from Ed’s winter’s work at the logging camp, together with the sixty dollars each had earned on the drive in the spring, enabled the Allen boys to purchase a fine span of half-blood, two-years-old Norman colts, from “Old Man” LaDauger, a half-woodsman, half-farmer, whose capacious cabin was a stopping place for rivermen, and for teamsters going to and from the lumber camps. The colts, though huge fellows, were as gentle, if as playful, as kittens, and Ed soon had them well broken to such tasks as were suitable to their age and strength.

Several acres of the rich, level land had been cleared of willow bushes, and the larger bunches of their roots dug out. Now, with the sprightly yoke of young oxen hitched in front of the colts, the boys had a breaking team not to be despised.

It had been a busy summer for the lads, and the toil was severe, but they had a goal ahead, and to them hardship and weariness were but milestones on the road to its realization. By the time November snows were heralded by the “honk, honk” of wild geese, there had been a large field of well-plowed land ready for the mellowing frosts, and later planting of corn.

Uncle Henry Thompson pronounced the white oak[152] leaves to be “as large as squirrel ears,” which marked corn planting time. Now the days were hardly long enough for the boys. From gray dawn to twilight of evening they “dropped and covered” (modern machinery was unknown to that time and country) until the last hill in the last row was planted with a shout.

The soft showers fell, and the corn sprouted and grew. But an occasional riverman brought word of heavy rains up on “headwaters.” Signs of weakness had been noticed in “Big Bull” dam, and if that should break, “Jennie Bull” and “Grandfather,” below, would be swept away also.

“What did that mean? That means a second Noah’s flood for you fellows,” said the rivermen.

Steadily the rains fell, and steadily the river rose. “She is nearly bank full,” announced Ed, coming in from an inspection late one night. “Lucky that the main drive has gone down, or the lumbermen would have an all summer job hauling their logs out of these high-water sloughs.”

In the night the boys were awakened by the “boom! boom!” as of steady cannonading at a distance. “It must be the ‘sack drive,’” said Rob. “It would take big logs to make that booming.”

“But, Rob, listen! That booming is on the west side of the house. You know the river isn’t over there.” The boys sprang from their bed, and in the early morning light beheld a vast expanse of wildly-rushing water all about them. Fences were gone, but[153] so far, the substantially framed log buildings of the farm were intact.

“It’s the flood!” exclaimed Ed. “Big Bull dam has given way! See those big logs sailing right across our corn field.”

Indeed, it was a disheartening situation that daylight brought to view. Undoubtedly their corn crop was ruined, and Rob’s school days were removed to a more distant, shadowy future. But another misfortune was to be revealed. Wading out to the big pine on the river bank, to which their flat-bottomed boat was moored, Ed brought it to the house, and the boys paddled out to the barn lots. There they found the cattle safe, though knee deep in water, under the sheds. But when they came to the sheep fold, the fences were all gone, and not a woolly animal was in sight.

“Dead!” exclaimed Rob. “Every last one of them drowned! And we expected the coming lambs would double our flock.” “Maybe they’re not all dead,” replied Ed. “Sheep can swim when they have to, though of course not far in their heavy wool. But see! the current here sets in to Big Bend timber where there are some patches of high ground. We may find some of them stranded there. We’ll take the boat after breakfast, and have a hunt for them.”

Happily, Ed’s surmise proved to be correct. Upon the small patches of high ground in the big bend they found here and there a half-drowned sheep, and in two days of exhausting toil they rescued and carried back to life and safety eighteen of their flock of twenty-six.

[154]The crest of the flood past, the waters receded as quickly as they had come, and after a few days of bright sunshine the boys were able to learn the extent of damage done to their crop. As soon as they came upon the ground they saw that it could not have been worse. Not only the growing corn, but the soil itself, as deep as the plow had loosened it, was washed away. Not only that, but here and there, scattered over the field, were logs—hundreds of them—left stranded by the receding waters.

“What shall we do, Ed?” exclaimed Rob. “It will take us all summer to get them off our land, and that means almost a whole year lost.”

Practical Ed was silent a few moments and then replied, “Don’t worry, Rob, maybe we can get the job of hauling them into the river. Let’s see whose mark is on them.” Examining the hack marks on the sides of the logs, and the brand in the ends, Rob said, “Well, about all of them are the I F brand—they’re Isaac Fitts’ logs.”

“Whew!” said Ed, “that old bear; but I believe we can haul them back into the river cheaper for him than he can bring a crew up here from Necedah and do it. We’ll try him, anyway.”

However, the Allen boys were not the only ones who were interesting themselves in stray logs left ashore by the breaking of the big dams. Next morning as they were preparing for their trip to the sawmill town, there appeared a crew of swampers with teams, who, without so much as “By your leave” were proceeding[155] to haul the logs into the river. A big man with red whiskers was directing the work, with many a shouted oath and curse. “It’s not Fitts’ crew,” said Ed. “It’s some up-river folks. Rob, I believe they’re rebranding those logs! They’re going to steal them from old Fitts. It’s Larry Phelan, the timber thief and gambler. I’m going to stop him. He has no rights on our ground anyway. You run down after Mr. Thompson, he’s a Justice, and I’ll go warn Larry.”

Although Ed was but a lad, he blustered up to the big Irishman, and demanded that he leave those logs alone. Back and forth they parleyed. At last Larry exclaimed, “They’re my logs, an I’ll do as I plaze wid thim.” Then to his men who had come up to listen, he roared, “Be aff wid ye to yer work. What are ye doin’ here!”

“You are trespassing on this land,” insisted Ed, “and these are Isaac Fitts’ logs. I can see what you are doing—making an L out of the I and a P out of the F and putting your own brand over his on the ends.”

“Git out o’ here, or I’ll brain ye wid this peavey!” shouted the boss, lifting his heavy cant-hook threateningly.

“Hold on! Hold on!” called Mr. Thompson, coming up with Rob. “I’m a peace officer of this township, and I warn you that you are committing trespass on this land. Don’t lay the weight of your finger on that lad, or you’ll get something more than a fine.”

As Larry looked into the eyes of the old man, he saw something that had not glowed there since the[156] old days at Harper’s Ferry, when Mr. Thompson had watched his own young brothers, riddled with bullets, floating down the river—and he quieted down.

But the stakes were too large—here were at least two thousand dollars worth of logs, and nobody but the boy had seen the changing of the brands. All that the Justice had charged him with could be settled by a fine, at the worst, and his lawyer could probably beat that case with a jury.

“Misther Thompson, ye ould nigger-stealer, will ye tind yer own affairs. I know what I’m doin’. Go awn, boys.” But no more marks were changed while Mr. Thompson stayed.

“Well, boys,” said Uncle Henry, “it’s no use for us to get into a fight with that mob. I’m too old now, and you are too young.”

“Uncle Henry,” spoke up Rob, “How much nearer is it to Necedah by the woods trail than by the prairie road?”

“A matter of four miles,” replied Mr. Thompson; “but there is no crossing at Little Yellow.”

“But I can swim it, even if the water is cold. Four from sixteen miles leaves but twelve, and I believe I can make it with the ‘long trot’ in two hours. We’ve just got to get Mr. Fitts here. Those logs that Larry Phelan is rolling into the river are his.”

“Good, lad! I believe you can do it. The roads are something fearful, but if old man Fitts learns that Larry Phelan is stealing his timber, he’ll drive his buckskins here if he has to swim ’em through the[157] mud half way and run ’em over stumps the other half.”

There remained yet two hours of daylight as Rob swung into the forest trail on the long trot his Indian friend Kalichigoogah had taught him. Little Yellow was reached, and in spite of the numbing cold of the water, was safely crossed, the lad swimming with one hand, while he held the bundle of his clothes high and dry in the other. Then on he sped in the long race of eight more miles.

The sun had been down for half an hour when the gruff old lumberman opened his door at Rob’s knock. “Well, an’ what do ye want? We don’t feed tramps here. What! What’s that ye say! My logs—an’ ’tis that blackguard gambler Larry Phelan puttin’ his brand on ’em and bankin’ ’em!” And, to tell the truth, the language of the old man was as explosive as had been that of Larry himself.

“Jim, put the buckskins to the light ‘democrat.’ But lad, you’re hungry an’ tired. Come in, come in an’ have a snack. Ran it in two-thirty, did ye? An’ swam the river! Well, well! But we’ll tend to the rascal this night.”

However, as the old man cooled down, the needlessness of a night ride over the waste of ruined roads and flood-piled debris convinced him of the wisdom of waiting until the light of day to make the journey. By the time the birds were fairly awake, Mr. Fitts and Rob were well upon their way, and Rob had broached the matter of securing the job of hauling the logs into the river. The old man turned his keen eyes upon the[158] boy. “An’ what would ye do with all the money if ye got the job? College! What for would a likely lad with good sense and good arms fool away his time in college? Humph! Well, we’ll see.”

Phelan and his men and teams had not been idle: all night long they had worked, and fully two hundred of the five hundred or more stray logs were already piled in the river, bearing the changed marks, ready to go down to the Necedah boom with the next rise.

Old man Fitts charged the swamping outfit like an enraged bull. “So yer at yer old tricks, are ye, Larry? I’ve been wantin’ to ketch ye for a long time. An’ now I’ve got the witnesses on ye.”

Phelan started in to bluster and curse, but evidently the presence of Fitts was something he had not calculated upon, nor the fact that Henry and Sam Thompson, who now arose from where they had been in hiding, were witnesses to the felonious changing of the log marks.

Larry changed his mood. “Perhaps the men may have made a mistake in the dark, Misther Fitts. If they’re yer logs ye can pay us what is raysonable fer bankin’ av thim, and we’ll jist call it square.”

“No, we won’t, ye thief!” roared the old man. “Those logs in the river are your logs now, do ye understand? They’ve got yer mark on ’em, every one, an’ they’ll be put into your chute at the boom. An’ they’ve cost ye just fifteen dollars the thousand, board measure. Do ye understand? We’ll lump ’em at twelve hundred[159] dollars, an’ ye’ll write the check fer that just now. I can trust ye not to stop payment on that check.”

Counter threat and curses; calling the old man a robber (for Fitts had made a gilt edge price on his logs), were of no avail. Larry Phelan, at the end of many evil deeds, faced an open prison door, and he knew it. After all, the twelve hundred dollars would not be all loss—and the check was written.

“Well, now, boys,” said Mr. Fitts, when the men and teams had departed, “what about the balance of these logs?—three hundred, I should say. How would a dollar apiece do? Yes, that’s fair. Ye can worry them all in by fall. An’ young man,” said he, turning to Rob with a queer smile, “You can count the hauling of the two hundred already in the river, as your share, for that college nonsense. I tacked that much onto that thief, Larry Phelan. I reckon college won’t utterly ruin a lad who can run twelve miles an’ swim an icy river.”



Notwithstanding the strenuous work of the summer, the boys got together frequently to talk over their plans for the future. Dauphin and Rob would begin together their studies in the preparatory department of Carlton College, while Ed would look forward to the time when he would be older and could join them.

Professor Hodge had written Dauphin that the college would accept his Natural History collection at a price which would enable him to finish his preparatory course and enter college, by working a part of his time, and the care of Science Hall was offered him to supply that need. Rob had no friends or acquaintances in the college town, but that fact did not dismay him. Mr. Allen had taught his boys that difficulties were but stepping stones up the heights of achievement, to the one who had a clean life and steady will. Rob had both, and, whatever the price demanded of effort and grit, he determined to have an education.

Dauphin would be a naturalist. He would need the training of the college to give him quick perception, ability to classify his knowledge, and arrive at correct conclusions. He would need to study the languages in[161] order that what had been revealed in the research of men of other lands might be his.

Rob had not yet chosen the line of his life work, but he was equally sure with Dauph that success and fame awaited boys who would apply themselves as they intended to do. Many were the happy, earnest hours spent by the boys in talking over the years they had spent together, as well as the years that were to come. How marvelously their lives had been spared, many times, since they had made their home in the forest wilderness. Through dangers of fire and drowning and freezing, one or another of them had been snatched back from the grave. The work of these pioneer boys had been hard, but it had developed them into lads of tough fiber, both of body and brain. They had had no idle hours; whether at work out of doors, or during the long evenings of the winters, they had their purpose in view—to prepare for life through college. If their few dollars earned were jealously put away for this purpose, no less were their minds trained by study for the necessary preparation.

The days of August were drawing rapidly to a close; soon farewells must be said, and the delights of forest and stream, as well as the duties of the farm, be laid aside by the older boys for years, if not forever.

“Boys,” said Dauphin, “Professor Hodge, in one of his letters, suggested that he would like the measurements of the hill and river forts, and the old mound city, for a paper he is preparing on ‘The Moundbuilders in Wisconsin.’ Let’s take a couple of days,[162] and do a little more exploring, and sketch the mounds, and take the measurements for the professor.”

The boys readily agreed to the plan, and Ed suggested that they go by the Indian camp at the mouth of Little Yellow, opposite Jim Dacora’s, and persuade their friend Kalichigoogah to accompany them over to the mound village.

The young Indian welcomed the boys to the camp, and his mother, Menominee Mary, invited them to rest a bit in the wigwam. The earth floor was as neat and wholesome as the floor of a parlor. Around the sides were the couches, platforms raised about a foot from the floor and heavily covered with the soft-dressed and ornamented skins of bear, lynx, raccoon, and deer. The Indian mother offered the boys sweet, ripe blackberries in white, birchbark dishes, but when they mentioned the object of their expedition there came over her a quick stiffening of body, and a startled look, almost of fear in her eyes. “Butte-des-morts” said she using the French description, “much bad. White boys stay here—not go.” But the boys, of course, were determined to go on, notwithstanding the warning of the Indian woman, which they were wholly at loss to understand. After the return of the Winnebagoes from the South, Mary had placed her son in a mission school where he had learned to read, and had acquired much of the way, and some of the habits of thought of the white race; but there are things of one’s early life that no subsequent training or polish will be able to remove. Thus it was with the Indian lad’s[163] veneration or superstitious fear of the mysterious relics of the moundbuilders—places of “big medicine.”

He was willing to explain to the boys the cause of his mother’s warning, but was as loth as she that these sacred places should be disturbed. “They mounds of dead,” said Kalichigoogah. “Big men, tall like trees, make camp there. One day come snake, long like Minnenecedah [the Yellow river]—big men make medicine; snake turn into long mound. One day come great beast—two spears like logs in mouth [elephant]—big men make medicine, great beast turn into big mound. Not good white boys go near mounds. Angry spirit wake up; kill boy.”

The white boys agreeing that they would not dig into the mounds at this time, but only take measurements, and make a plan of the old encampment, the Indian mother consented, though with great reluctance, for her son to accompany the party. But first she would put into his keeping a little buckskin sack containing “strong medicine”—potent charms—which might be able to protect them from the vengeance of the spirits, should they be aroused.

As there was no need for them to hunt game, and the danger from bears, or wild cats, panthers or lynx small indeed, at that time of year, the boys had not burdened themselves with their guns, but Kalichigoogah wrapped his blanket about his new 16-shot winchester, which the boys accused him of taking along to shoot the ghosts. The Indian lad made no reply to their chaffing, but strode off in silence.

[164]The Yellow river was waded on a sandbar, and the river flat, a mile or more in width, crossed. Here, the annual overflows had cut the soft alluvial soil into deep, wide ditches, so that the land looked like a succession of long breastworks. The flat was heavily timbered with oak and hickory and linden, with an occasional gigantic pine rearing its head high above the deciduous trees, like a sentinel of the forest. Here the woods-folk still dwelt in comparative safety from their most ferocious brother animal—man. It was going to be hard for Dauph and Rob to part from this paradise of the nature-lover.

Up, out of the river flats, they came upon the sandy plain which stretched eastward to the Wisconsin river, and then on to the shore of the old sea bed. Gnarled, stunted pines covered the ground, in some places growing in such profusion as to form almost impenetrable thickets, but generally in more open growths, so that walking was even less difficult than in the river “bottoms.”

Several times as they, boy-like, threshed through one of the thickets they would start up a doe and her half-grown fawn, and once they aroused a splendid buck, with the season’s antlers now full grown.

“Boys,” said Ed, “aren’t we somewhere in the neighborhood of the mounds?”

“I am not sure,” replied Dauph, who was taking the lead, “I have never come upon them from this direction, but unless I am mistaken, they lie just beyond that thicket of scrub pine. How about it, Kali?”

[165]But the Indian boy would make no reply. Evidently the expedition was not at all to his liking.

In “Indian file” the boys entered the thicket of dwarfed pines, the deerskin cap of Dauphin, the leader, who was the tallest, just showing above the foliage. They had gone perhaps twenty rods into the thicket, when a rifle shot rang out sharp and clear, and Dauphin sprang high into the air with a loud cry, and fell in a crumpled heap at the feet of Kalichigoogah. Like a flash out came the winchester from beneath the blanket of the Indian boy, as he placed himself over the prostrate body of his white friend, ready to give his own life in defense, if need be.

For a moment Ed and Rob were paralyzed with fear. Who had fired the shot? Were they all about to be murdered? Then, as there was no second shot, their courage returned, and they crashed through the thicket to the opening on the side from which the report seemed to come, but there was not a soul in sight: neither was it possible, because of the bed of pine needles strewing the ground, to discover any track.

Thoroughly mystified, they hastened back to their wounded comrade. There they found Dauphin with his head raised upon the lap of the Indian lad, conscious, but rapidly weakening from loss of blood from an ugly wound in his side. Rob tore off his cotton shirt and as best he could applied a bandage to stop the flow of blood.

“We’ve got to get a doctor right away, and we’ve got to get Dauph home,” announced Ed. “We might[166] do more harm than good if we tried to carry him ourselves, so, Kali, you had better hurry over to your camp and have the men come on their ponies, and rig up a litter.” The Indian lad looked up in a mute appeal to not be sent away from his stricken friend, but as it became clear that this was perhaps the only chance to save Dauphin’s life, he hastened away on his errand.

“Rob, you are the best runner; you had better get down to Necedah as soon as you can, and get Doctor Cook up. We can’t tell how badly Dauph is hurt.”

Who can describe the thoughts of that young lad, left alone with his dying comrade? for the wound proved, indeed to be unto death. Ed was not naturally superstitious, but the unexplained shot following the Indian’s warning could not help but have a terrifying effect, deepening as the hours brought darkness upon him.

Some of the time the wounded boy was delirious, and imagined that the Indians were attacking them, and in his endeavors to spring up it was all Ed could do to restrain him. At length the Indians arrived on their ponies, and a rude but serviceable litter was made, upon which the red men, two at a time, carried Dauphin to his home.

Mr. and Mrs. Thompson had been no strangers to sorrow and death; their lives had known many bereavements and years of suffering, but Ed never forgot the agony of the hour in which he bore to them the knowledge of the accident to their young son.

Before morning Rob arrived with Doctor Cook,[167] from Necedah, but it was too late. The spirit of the lad they had all so fondly loved, had passed out, and Dauph was dead.

Mr. Allen at once notified the authorities and a thorough search was made for some clue to the one who had fired the fatal shot, but without success; and it was not until years afterward that a man in a distant state confessed to the facts. He said that with a companion he had been on a hunting trip to the northern part of the state, and shortly after having passed the old mounds they saw a patch of gray deerskin moving along in the top of a thicket, and supposed it to be a part of the head of a deer and had fired. The cry of a human being that followed had shown their horrible mistake, and in a cowardly fear of possible consequences they had hidden in the thicket until after dark and then slipped away.

A new experience had entered the life of the Allen boys—Death. For the first time they had looked in the still face of one who had been near and dear, and heard it said “He is dead.”

What is death! Where was the boy who, just a few hours before, had been with them so full of hope and joy and vigor? Had he ceased to exist? Was that dead body, so soon to turn to dust, all that was left of their friend? Or, was the real Dauphin somewhere, yet alive, and entering upon an existence in which all his powers and aspirations would have full scope, unhindered by earthly limitations?

Was it not really true that somewhere there was a[168] God, who had made all this marvelous universe, and man with the ability to discover and enjoy its secrets? Did He make man like Himself? Would not man of necessity have to be like Him in order to enjoy all that He had created? What did it mean to be like God? Were they like God? If not, how could they become so?

Not the words of these questions, but that which stood for them, filled the hearts of the boys, as they looked upon the silent face of their lost comrade. A new realm, a spiritual, was even then being opened to them, and their angel was bidding their feet to enter.

The plan for happy college years together for Dauph and Rob was at an end. Alone the lad would leave home and start forth upon his journey into the strange, untried world. Yet not alone, for, although the dear face of flesh was hidden from sight, he felt that the bright, pure spirit of his comrade was still with him to beckon him on to the heights.



Had you met him as he trudged along the dusty road on that day of early September, you would have little suspected that you had come into the presence of a hero; but the stuff of which heroes are made is not carried in the way of outward observing, having its place within. Records of the world’s great deeds give the place of honor and fame to those who have taken cities and subdued peoples, but the Book of books says that a greater hero than he who conquers a city is he who rules his own spirit.

That he was one of the “greater heroes” Robert Allen was to make proof.

Had your curiosity prompted you to question the lad, as you met him, he would have told you that he was on his way to enter Carlton College: and had there crept into your voice a note of friendliness, enthusiasm would have kindled in his blue-gray eyes, and he would have confided to you the great ambitions that had been crowding in upon the fifteen years of his young life. As he recounted the sacrifices that had been made in his humble home, and the purpose and high courage for the years of struggle before him, you would not have seen the poor clothes, the awkward, uncouth manner, but would have given heed to the strong, clean, manly soul within.

[170]Robert Allen found employment at the college by which, working half his time, he could spend the other half with his books. That he was the victim of hard circumstances, or that there was any sort of injustice to him in the fact that he had to saw and carry up wood for the wealthy boys, and do other menial labor, never entered his thoughts. That his grand dreams were coming true, and he was actually privileged to study in a college, and sometime would be able to graduate, was too wonderful and precious to allow any other sentiment than gratitude to have place in his heart.

While Rob was, for his age, a well-read boy and at home with many of the great ones of literature, he found it difficult at first to bring his mind to the habits of study required by a college course. The class room was a place of especial torture; of the twenty-six students in his class, more than half were young ladies, and when, after hours spent upon amo, amas, amat, etc., Rob would arise to recite he would feel the eyes of all those elegant girls fixed upon him and his poor clothes. Then, the sheep before his shearer was no more dumb than Rob before the Latin teacher.

After several trials and failures Rob sought the kind-hearted professor and requested the privilege of reciting privately to him in his room, telling him of his confusion and its cause. The professor, with kindly tact and Christly love, soon had the boy at his ease, and drew from him the story of his aspirations and purposes. Then, instead of granting his request, he said,[171] “Robert, you prepare your lesson and come to the class room as usual, and when you are called upon to recite, look into my eyes, and remember that you are speaking to a friend who knows and understands.”

It was not long before the personal sympathy of the young professor made itself felt in greater confidence, and the boy was able to hold his place in the class.

In the winter term a revival meeting was held in the college church. Rob had never become a Christian, though often he had wished he might be. He had been well reared, morally, and his life knew nothing of the grosser sins common to so many of our young men and boys. Swearing, Sabbath-breaking, drinking, smoking, and card-playing were evils of which he had no experimental knowledge; but he knew that he was not a Christian; that he had not been born of the Spirit. While his roommate, Tom Wright, made sport of the preacher, and would bring in his set of rough boys for a “high time” after the services, Rob was thoughtful and serious. One night Professor Jackson, his Latin teacher, walked home with him from the meeting and in an earnest, friendly way urged Rob to become a Christian; adding the assurance that he was praying for him.

Rob thanked the professor and walked up to his room. One time, at least, Satan helped, for Tom Wright and his fellows remained out nearly all night upon a wild lark. Rob, his heart strangely stirred, felt that he could not sleep, and at last flung himself[172] at the side of his bed crying, “O God, I want to be a Christian. I don’t know how, but You know how to make me one, and I’ll never leave this bedside until I am saved.”

Rob prayed on in his stumbling way until it seemed that he could do no more, when all at once there came into his heart a beautiful stillness. He felt as light as a feather, and as happy as a bird. He could not stay in his room; and throwing open the door he ran down the corridor to Professor Jackson’s room and awoke him with the glorious tidings that his prayer had been answered and he was saved.

Rob’s first real test came the following night at bedtime. When he was ready for bed there were two or three of Tom Wright’s gang in the room with him, and when Rob, with the courage of a genuine hero, knelt by the bedside and began to thank God for His goodness, and claim His promise for future help and guidance, the boys were, for the moment, dumbfounded. Then they broke out into cursing and reviling. They declared they would have no pious hypocrite around there, even if they had to throw him down stairs.

Night after night the persecution kept up, whenever one of the others would be in the room at bedtime. They would tie Rob to the bedpost as he prayed; they drenched him with ice water; and, harder than all to bear, they followed his praying with vile and hideous blasphemy. But Rob had enlisted under the banner[173] of Jesus Christ, Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, and Who blessed when He was cursed; so the fierce trial but deepened his real experience of grace. He became an active worker for his Master among his college mates, and had the joy of seeing several converted through his efforts.

Serious breaches of discipline had occurred in the dormitory some two months after Robert’s conversion, and one Sunday night Professor Jackson was deputized by the Faculty to stay in his room during the church service and endeavor to get some clue to the transgressors. After church had well begun, Tom Wright and his crowd, who were all supposed to be at the service, got out an old fiddle, and with some rough characters from the town, proceeded to have a dance in the halls, all unconscious of the presence of the professor in the adjoining room. The “fun” became furious, and one of the boys undertook to act the character of “pious Bob Allen” for the amusement of the strangers, the others using the name of Robert as if he were really present.

As the other students began to return from the service, the uproar subsided, and when Rob reached his room his roommate was already there, apparently having just returned from church. The next day, with a very grave face, Professor Jackson called Rob into his room. Rob went in smilingly, but his smile faded quickly at the stern look of his friend.

“Where were you last night, Robert? I want to give you a chance to confess.”

[174]“Why, I was at church. Where should I have been?”

“Do you mean to tell me that you know nothing of the disgraceful occurance last night in the hall?”

“What occurance, sir? Indeed, I know nothing. I was at church.”

“Robert, Robert, I am so disappointed in you! I believed you to be a manly young man, and a Christian. How could you so forget yourself as to engage in such an affair, and then pretend that you were at church! I was here in my room throughout, and heard your name called again and again. Because of your previous perfect record, no public punishment will be given you by the Faculty, but the other boys will be severely dealt with.”

“Professor, I have told you the truth. Goodbye,” and Robert staggered out to his own room, unable to fathom the depth of his misery. His poverty and his life of toil isolated him from the most of the students. How he longed for the quick understanding and sympathy of his lost friend Dauphin. He had made comparatively few acquaintances in college, and there had been but one, the young Latin professor, whom his heart had really claimed for a friend. And now that one was lost! That one despised him for a breaker of rules, and a liar. O it was too much! The tempter came, as he always does in the moment of our stress, and said, “Give it up. Give it all up. It’s no use. Go back home.”

The battle was fierce, and not soon over. But victory[175] came—came through the stretched-out Hand that had brought him salvation. In the darkness of his extremity, the thought came to him that there was One who knew all, and, he knelt and poured out his soul to the comforting Christ.

Not for a moment afterward did Rob relax his conscientious work either in the class room or in such Christian duties as came his way. His manner became graver, if possible, and a little shyer, but there glowed upon the face of the lad a steady light that would often cause a wondering look from those who passed him by. He had conquered his own spirit, and trusting, he looked to God for his vindication and his reward.

Just before the commencement in June, an escapade of unusual viciousness caused the expulsion of Tom Wright and two of his fellows.

As the students gathered in the college chapel on the last day of school to hear the awards of prizes and scholarships that had been won during the year, and the white-haired president had come to the Ira Morton prize of $50 for the best Latin grades for the year, he paused, and wiping his spectacles, said, “In connection with the award of this prize, the Faculty have delegated to me another pleasant duty. The confessions of some students whom we were obliged to send home, during the past term, opened our eyes to the fact that we have had in our midst as true a hero as any knight of old; a lad whose courage and faithfulness under severe trial and severer suspicion and accusation[176] has shown a quality of manhood and Christian spirit that honors this institution.” Briefly the president sketched the career of the boy, then added, “To the $50 Morton prize, the Faculty have added another $50 in recognition of the conflict and glorious victory of this young man. Mr. Robert Allen, come forward and receive the honor which is your due.”

In the years that were to come Robert Allen was to rise high in the world, and receive honor from his fellow men, but no honor nor applause ever was able to gladden his heart as did this vindication and victory he had won through Jesus Christ.





Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.



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