Denver: [Privately Printed], n.d. (ca. 1899). First Edition. 8vo. (215 x 139 mm). 76 pp., photographic text illustrations (some full-page). Original green printed wrappers, slightly soiled, worn and chipped at head and tail, pencil inscription on back wrapper (SEE IMAGES), internally unmarked and unspoiled. NOT ex-library! Very good. Item #3392
A remarkable account of an itinerant teenage girl in the the far west, very well written and informative. This slender, privately published volume has received far too little attention by historians.
The author was a genuine early western “army brat,” who except for two years in the East at boarding school, grew up “on an Indian pony” in remote Western army posts, where her father served as a major in the 7th Cavalry. Mary’s high-spirited account commences in Rawlins, Wyoming, with her arrival by train from the East and boarding school with her mother and a female servant. A grizzled peg-legged stage driver meets the ladies with an army ambulance (photo included) to drive them overland 150 miles to join Mary’s father at Fort Washakie. It does not take very long for Mary to flee the confined ambulance and her female companions and grab the reins from the driver. Their stops along the route are Sheep’s Ranch (inhabited by a lone coyote); Lost Soldier Ranch (“a small pile of low adobe buildings, unsightly and gray with dust; not a tree or green thing in sight”); Sweetwater Ranch (“much of the land being fenced off with the deadly barbed wire allow no herds of antelope and deer as found in my girlhood”); and Wind River Ranch (dangerous ascent down steep Beaver Hill imperiled further by a rattlesnake that spooked the mules).
In an amusing but instructive anecdote, Mary tells of their overnight sojourn at the rough headquarters of Lost Soldier Ranch, whose owner Tom proudly relates how he bought the ranch with savings from working as a cowpuncher. The ranch had two large rooms, one for sleeping and the other a bar-kitchen that reeked of beer (“Think of it! Beer for breakfast, beer for luncheon, beer for dinner”). The sleeping quarters contained four enormous beds, each large enough to hold six men. Tom had thoughtfully partitioned off one bed for the ladies, making a privacy screen with five-foot, paper-thin boards (for security there was a big glittery bowie knife under the bed, and light consisted of a candle in a broken beer bottle). Mary’s mother and the servant were so horrified at the immodesty of the sleeping arrangement that Tom, in a gesture of true ranching hospitality, graciously agreed that he and his cowboys would sleep in the other room on the floor.
From the Dorothy Sloan Collection of Women in the West.
Graff 1251. Howes (1954) 3323. Huntington 292: “An interesting narrative of life and adventures in the far west, containing details on the Shoshones, Arapahoes, etc.”.