Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Calamity Jane's CompAss



The following information about Calamity Jane is from a statement concerning her by Buffalo Bill: "Her old nickname was received in 1872 in a peculiar way. She was at that time at Goose Creek Camp, S.D., where Captain Egan and a small body of men were stationed. The Indians were giving a lot of trouble, and there was much fighting. "One day Captain Egan was surrounded by a large band. They were fighting desperately for their lives, but were being steadily, but surely slaughtered. Captain Egan was wounded and had fallen off his horse. "In the midst of the fighting, it is said, the woman rode into the very center of the trouble, dismounted, lifted the captain in front of her on her saddle, and dashed out. They got through untouched, but every other man in the gallant company was slaughtered. "When he recovered, Captain Egan laughingly spoke of Miss Canary as 'Calamity Jane,' and the name has clung to her ever since; The Livingstone Enterprise, August 8, 1903, "Calamity is Dead", as quoted in "Calamity's in Town," p.32, by Bill and Doris Whithorn, 510 S. 8th St., Livingston, MT 59047



Washington County's beauty arises from the tectonic clash between three giants. The confluence of the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Basin gives birth to some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth--a dizzying variety of lava flows, monolithic thrones, arches, brilliant red sand, and pine forested mountain slopes. The Southern-most contribution of the Great Basin stands alone, a lacolith whose top is nearly 10,000 feet above Sea Level. Flying North over her forested tops at 15,000 feet, you can see that Pine Mountain's base relief juts up in reverse "L" formation. Her jagged Southern footstool drains into the St George Valley. Occasional meadows break up the dense pine stands on her top, and a formidable ring of cliffs limit access to the clean air up on her rugged slopes to just a few places.


At summer's end, when our little mule Calamity Jane was two and 1/2 months old, Chantra and I decided to take her with us on a Saturday afternoon ride up on Pine Mountain. We would ride into Mill Flat from the trailhead on the west slope of Pine Valley's Northern arm that starts at Broken Arrow Ranch. With Calamity ponied along side my Sulpher Herd Mustang, Kate, we rode the trail along the lush pasture leading to the mouth of the canyon. The canyon narrowed and the air cooled as we climbed the rocky trail, interupted by an occasional wild raspberry bush. Sheer vertical walls would continue to define the canyon's passage until we crested out into the verdant meadows of Mill Flat. About half way up the 7-8 mile trail, we stopped to let the horses drink from a spring before fording its clear pools. Calamity had been following easily along, quartered behind me without much fuss. We left her mother behind in St George, expecting only a 4-5 hour absence. Momments earlier I commented to Chantra how calm and willing she was for such a young baby.


As I dismounted Kate, Calamity leaned back on the rope, catching me off guard, and pulled free. She instantly came to life, wheeling about and bolting full speed back down the trail, dragging her lead rope and belching her vaudville-like cry in perfect time with the fast disappearing sound of her hoof-beats. CALAMITY! I remounted Kate and hurried back down the rocky trail, not able to keep up, and hollering to Chantra to just take her time coming back down. As the mouth of the canyon opened back up, I pushed Kate to full gallop down the sandy trail as it followed the fences around the green pastures of Two Feather's Ranch to the trailer. DOUBLE CURSES! No mule! And no track any where around the trailer.


I turned and rode all the way back to where she got loose and started tracking her where ever I could find sign. Her compass must be pointing to momma. At the very first opportunity, she turned south after exiting the cliff walls. Her trail took her up the lower, steep hills at the foot of the mountain, through dense scrub and along the fence that seperated wilderness from ranch. Down into the next drainage I went after her, finding an occasional hoofprint or rope-drag. The going was slow and soon, it was too dark to see.





TRIPLE CURSES!! Pine Mountain stands between her and momma! It just isn't possible to get home directly up and over the mountain. Oh, what was I thinking by leaving Calamity's momma home? Visions of Calamity getting tangled somewhere, or feeding the local lions club in the forboding darkness depressed me as I drove home that night--sure that I had lost my first mule. Thank goodness for good friends. After a few phone calls, I had men on horseback and men in Powered Parachute pledged for the next morning's search.


Back to the trail head Sunday Morning as soon as it was light enough to see--this time I brought Calamity's momma just in case. Standing at the front gate of Broken Arrow Ranch was a graying, wirey woman named Rose who has never been caught without an ear-to-ear grin on her radiant face. In her left hand was Calamity's leadrope. Calamity stood trembling with anticipation as she smelled the momma she had been so anxiously hunting for all night. Rose had found her coming back down the trail to the trailhead just minutes earlier--apparently realizing that there was no other way home--with a small, but deep cut on her right ear. What a Calamity! True to her name, her CompAss had run her right into the very center of trouble, and true to her namesake, she lived to tell the story!!














10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant, the way you meshed those stories together! I am loving this blog and find myself looking forward to any sign of a new story.

Thanks bro.

Mike

BonBon said...

Dito! I bet you couldn't sleep that night!

I want some of those wild raspberries!

Wendy in Alaska said...

So, Paul, when are you going to start writing books?

I bet campfires are a blast when you are around. It makes me long for a campfire right now.

Wendy in Alaska said...

Mike, if I write about donkeys, mules, and a**es, will you like my blog better?

Tamster said...

What an adventure! I'm glad you found her in mostly one piece! :-)

sharebear said...

I remember that. What a great story. Pip, I've been there at the campfire when Paul tells stories. He tell some pretty whoop a** stories.

BonBon said...

He tells REALLY scary stories that my kids have never forgotten. He even likes to illustrate his stories with live props, actual locations that said story takes place and scary sounds. When these stories are finished you have to act very brave as you walk your scared children to their tents and sing them primary songs to help them feel better. Then you have to walk back to the fire and try not to run so the kids (Paul) don't see how terrified you are too!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog too, Wendy, and I want to come to Alaska to see some Alaskan wildlife, maybe, some moosasses, or bearasses, or whaleasses. Maybe you should write about those.

Mike

Paul said...

We used to scare our ownselves to tears telling the story of Hyrum inside the dark icehouse with meathooks intact to our scouts at Beaver. I hear they don't do that there anymore...

Its fun to share--glad you are enjoying the stories.

Like someone mentioned earlier, everyone's blogs really do bring us into each others back yards. I love knowing your families this way.

Huck Finn & Co. said...

Enjoyed once again! Thanks for the stories...