Cap’n Fuqua, wagon master
Del Bleary, A Pennsylvania coal miner
Aggie Bleary, Dell’s wife and the mother of seven children
Zilia-2nd oldest girl
Eustis Ewing, Mountain man and trader
Mule Shoe Jack, Trader
It was not a big wagon train, it was only 37 units. Mostly slow, unprepared people hoping to make the trek before winter and to a better and more uplifting life. Farmers, sharecroppers, store clerks, a schoolteacher, plus an assortment of tradesmen who if good at their trade would not be in a wagon train heading West. Cap’n Fuqua and ex Cavalryman was the train leader. Cap as they called him was a genuine liar, for he had never made the big trek, although he had ridden his troop over some of the territory.
“Mother, this old wagon needs lots of repairs and Cap says we cannot stay here because there is snow in the air and snow could close the pass and strand us.” Del was a caring man, a man who had worked in the mines since he was eight years old but had decided after his pap Josiah Bleary had died early of the black lung, to not suffer the same death. “Mother, we will go as far as we can, how much food do we have, can we survive if the wagon again breaks down?”
Aggie Bleary was not a pretty woman, not a nicely bodied woman; she was just another Irish Lass who had been fortunate enough to come to the new world to marry a fellow countryman. Aggie was fertile for after she bore one bairn, it seemed that every time she and Del coupled another one was soon growing in her stomach. After the seventh, an old Erie squaw who lived up the draw from the mining town had told her how to stop it and how to keep from being a yearly bearer of a new bairn. Aggie surely was happy, for now she could worry about her seven and keeping the family together as they trekked West to the promised land.
“Wagons Ho! Fresh water and plenty of wood at Hawk Gap,” Cap yelled as the wagons began their daily movement. “I got a feeling we are going to get a Canadian clipper, so we have to make the pass and get started down the other side before it hits. “Move em out, got a long ways to go today, com on Del, get that thing a moving and watch out for hidden rocks,” Cap was snapping his bull whip and riding around like the hunt master over a bunch of fox dogs. Creak, creak, moan, groan and hopefully there would be no snaps or pops of broken gear.
Slowly the train moved along. It was a nice day, a little overcast, temperature in the mid 40s with no wind. The children were all yakking and running up and down the line of wagons. About ten, they reached the summit of a small hill and Del Bleary’s wagon broke a wheel. “Move around it, keep going,” Cap shouted as Del and Aggie got on their hands and knees to assess the damage. “Sorry Del, we got to keep going, if you get it fixed then send a youngin up and I will do what I can, but the weather is going to change.”
“I understand Cap, I understand; got three busted spokes but I got that other wheel, hope it will hold afore I have to make new spokes,” Del said as he started looking for rocks so he could lever the wagon up to change the wheel. Del only had one spare wheel and it was not the best, matter of fact it was in sorry shape. “Zeke, you help tote rocks Zed, you hold the horses and Zil tie a leash on your brother. The rest of you help ma gather some wood and chips for a supper fire,” Del and his children had become quite regimented on this trek, all working for the good of the family.
Zilby, Zil, was the youngest and he was perpetual motion, always running full tilt, getting into everything and investigating whatever he could find. After they piled up the rocks and got the wagon tongue for a pry bar, Aggie had the spare wheel undone and its inner race greased from that big bucket of axle grease all wagons had. Del knelt and pulled the pin then loosened the big axle nut that held the wheel on; then he, aggie and the two oldest children sat on the wagon tongue lifting the wagon. Del immediately got off pulled the old wheel off and put the new one on, the put the nut on and began tighten it. Soon the task was finished and while the old wheel was lashed down, Zeke and Zed put the wagon tongue back on and the horses back in their traces. The task had taken only an hour or so and soon the Bleary’s were on their way. They made it up the hill, then down into a small valley, a lovely valley with a stream and a big copse of pines.
“Pa, that wheel is a wobbling, think we should stop in that pine copse and fix both wheels,” Zeke asked. Zeke was a tall thin boy, a hard worker for a fourteen year old. Oh yes, Zeke was fourteen and as I said it was one a year and the youngest boy Zil was eight.
Del walked around, looked at the wobbling wheel, “Yep son, you run up ahead and find us a good spot to camp and fix that wheel, Remember to try and get us where a snow storm won’t be too bad.” Del knew Zeke was smarter and a much quicker thinker than himself. “If ma ain’t got Zetta busy take her to help gather rocks and fire wood, OK son?” Zeke waved yes to his dad and soon the two children were running ahead toward the copse of pines. Although it was late November, since it was warm neither child wore shoes.
About a quarter mile from the copse, the wheel gave way, “Dang, double dang,” Del said as he assessed the damage. The wheel had collapsed and of course, when it did the iron rim was all bent and he did to have a forge so he could straighten it. Del walked to the copse, found the right sapling, chopped it down then went back and made a skid to use in place of the wheel. They again stacked rocks, jacked up the corner of the wagon and put the pine sapling under it as a skid. Then they slowly made their way into the copse, to a place Zeke had found and smoothed out for them.
Aggie immediately built a cook fire and sent the youngsters scouting for food. “Del, I am going to send Zeke with the gun to see if he can get a rabbit or bird for supper, can you do without him?” Del nodded yes, for he was tired of samp.
Del turned to the large task at hand when he heard, “Pa why they make them wheels like that, why you have to do all of that?” It was Zack, for a ten year old he was continually asking questions.
Well son, you help your dad and he will explain as he works, OK?” Del thought to himself, “Folks who don’t know how a wagon wheel is made can’t appreciate the magnitude of the problem for an ex-coal miner.” He grinned within remember how dumb he was the first time he tried to mend a wagon wheel.
The boy squatted and Del began, “The wheel is wood, with a white oak hub with an iron sleeve that turns on the axle.”
“Pa, oak is strong and tough; don’t crack easy once it cures?” Zack was into it.
“The hub is slotted for the spokes and the outside of the wheel is wood curved and a steel band placed on the outside and sweated on to hold the wheel together.” Del was enjoying for he found his son knew more than he knew.
“What is sweated dad, how you make a wheel sweat?”
“Dell tousled his son’s hair, Sweating is a heating the steel ring sliding it over the wood then when the ring cools it shrinks. Shrinks like when your ma washes a wool shirt in hot water.”
“You mean when you heat iron it grows and when it gets cold it shrinks?”
Del grinned and shook his head. “The spokes are just straight pieces of wood. They are the radii of the wheel, heck the spokes. Spokes are usually made of ash or hickory, tough hard wood.”
“Sure pa, for the spokes carry all the weight of the wheel.” He studied the wheel for a second and continued, “Transferring the load from the axle through the spokes to the rim and then to the ground. Shucks, well I will be dogged, neat pa.”
Del set to work to find some wood to make spokes from, something straight and strong. “Cottonwood, or aspen wood is too soft for anything,” he said to Zack, “But as Cap’n Fuqua told me, iron pine, a species of scrub pine worked fine, although it did not last as long as the other hard woods.”
Zack looked at the different pieces of wood, “Shucks pa, I didn’t know that different kinds of wood are much harder and finer grained than others, thanks pa.”
It was all that was available in this part of the country. Del took the iron rim apart and then he inspected the hub. It was not damaged much and could be used. About half of the outer wood on the rim had to be replaced and one old spoke was still good to use as a pattern. Del with Zack’s help was completely engulfed in what they were doing.
Aggie gave Zeke a hoe cake and the boy started to hunt. Zeke loved to hunt and wander the hills. Aggie dragged out the kettle and soon had a wash on a make shift line. “Need any help?” She asked Del who was engrossed in what he was doing. Meanwhile there had been three reports from the old twelve gauge Zeke was toting. Both Del and Aggie thought that maybe their son would provide something good for supper. Neither paid any attention to the sky since they were busy with their chores.
Aggie became aware of the changing weather when the children came to her, “Ma, can we get our shoes and a wrap, it is getting chilly,” Zilia said to her mom.
Aggie stopped, stood up and looked up to the sky. “Yes, Zil, get the children’s coats and shoes on and drag out the tarp so we can may a rain fly on the side of the wagon. After you do that get to putting up the sleeping tent and have the others bring in all the firewood they can drag.”
Zil, said “Yes Ma'am,” as was off to her assigned chores. Zil being thirteen was a good worker but since she was at that age, sometimes she talked back and questioned her mother, but not this time. Soon white flakes began to sporadically fall. The children were all agog and enjoying it. Aggie just saw the snow as another impediment to reaching their new home.
Zeke had shot two cotton tails and one pheasant cock but as he scanned the vertical rock formation off to the Southwest a little piece he thought, he saw a deer or antelope, so he slowly moved that way. “Man a deer would feed us for a few days and the deer skin would allow us to make some mocs,” Zeke said to himself as talking to himself and even arguing was normal. Slowly he worked his way toward the rocks, keeping a keen eye for any movement. Slowly he moved, with the left barrel of the old twelve gauge cocked and ready. His pa had taught him never to carry a weapon cocked; it was trouble walking with you. Again, Zeke thought he saw some movement and he stopped real still like and stared at the spot. After a minute, he slowly crept forward. Finally, he was at the rocks when he heard a noise.
“Choppaushesu, Choppaushesu,” the noise said. Zeke spun around the shot gun pointing about waist high. He saw an opening in two tall rocks. Slowly he crept forward then poked his head into the opening. “Choppaushesu,” he heard as he saw an Indian on the ground. His leg was caught between two rocks and his body was twisted a couple directions from the way his leg should have been. Without thinking Zeke put uncocked, the shot gun, put it down and rushed to help the man. All of the Indians they had seen on this trip were the ones around the trading posts on the trail. Zeke slide his arms under the man, lifted him and bracing himself, took his foot and lifted the stuck foot from between the rocks. He then lay the man down. The leg looked pretty bad. The Indian said a few words, which Zeke did not understand,
“Got to splint that leg, got to straighten it out, splint it and bandage it,” Zeke said. He looked around and saw a dead tree with a big chunk of bark. He retrieved it, The Indian made signs, which Zeke understood, strip some bark from a sapling and use it to tie the splint in place. He got some strips, found a couple pieces of bark and then knelt at the Indian’s foot. Zeke motioned, “Got to get it straight got to splint it OK?”
The Indian said something, which Zeke did not understand. The boy took the foot, pulled it and slowly rotated it in the right direction. The Indian said not a word. Not one cry of pain came from his mouth. Then the Indian pointed toward a rock. After a bit Zeke saw the moss, so he took his sheath knife and scraped the thick moss from the rock and the ground then he made padding of it and applied the two pieces of bark and tied the splint together.
Not knowing how long he had been there Zeke took his hoe cake, broke it in half and gave the Indian one half. The man took it and quickly ate it. Feeling sorry for him, Zeke then gave him the other half. The Indian shook his head no. He pointed to Zeke to eat it. The boy put it back into his pocket. He then looked around and saw the Indian had a rusty rifle; he too must have been hunting.
The boy and the old Indian man then started signing to each other, just making motions, which both seemed to understand. After a while, Zeke found a stick for the man to use as a crutch. Then he put his shot gun over his back with a string and got the man to his feet. Slowly they began the arduous trip back to the camp. Zeke had never seen such determination in his life as this old Indian had. Never whimpering, never yelling, just the same expression on his face as the young man tried to help him.
As Zeke and the Indian made their way, the young boy became aware of the dropping temperatures and the flakes of snow. They could not hurry, but continued at their best pace.
“Daddy, momma, daddy momma, I see Zeke a coming, he is toting a feller,” Zilby yelled. Soon Del was going out to help. The snow was increasing as the three returned to camp.
Zeke gave the rabbits and pheasant to his mom and then told all about finding the man. Aggie immediately checked the man’s leg, then cleansed the wound and after applying a poultice, bandaged the leg with a piece of old bed sheet and then she fashioned a better and less cumbersome splint. The old Indian smiled and uttered words Aggie took to mean thank you. About then it was getting dark. “Boy this time of year it surely does get dark early and gets light later,” Zil said as she had cleaned the rabbits and pheasant. Zelda was roasting the rabbits over the fire.
“Zetta, go get your daddy’s other coat, this man needs a coat and fetch that pair of breeches I just mended,” Aggie told her daughter. Soon the Indian was smiling for he was warm in a pair of the settler’s pants and coat. The snow was coming down hard. After a supper of rabbit, beans and corn pones Del and his wife discussed sleeping arrangements. Five of the children slept in the wagon, with the rest sleeping under the wagon. When it was inclement, they had a tarp, which they made a tent out of and slept in it. The children had gathered pine needles and the underneath of the wagon had a foot deep bed of nice dry pine needles. The Indian soon was asleep among them.
The next morning found a foot of snow on the ground and it was still snowing. Breakfast was roast pheasant, beans and corn pones. The Indian was moving around and at breakfast, he said his first word of English. “Me Pine Bough,” he said as he pointed to the pines where they were camped.
Aggie looked at him, “Aggie,” she said as she pointed to herself. Then each person stood and said their name the old Indian smiled as they did. After breakfast, Del and Zeke went to work on the wagon wheel while the other children gathered around Pin Bough and they had school on English and Indian. They were happy and content as the snow continued to pile up.
Del and Zeke got the spokes whittled out and the pieces for the rim, but had no idea how they were going to mate the two and shrink them together. By supper time, the storm was two or three feet deep, but so far there was no wind. Del wondered about how they would get across the pass after this big storm, wondered what they would do
“Howdy in the camp, Howdy, visitor coming in,” a loud bullish voice. Del jumped up and peered to the East. Soon he saw movement and as it drew closer and into the dense copse of pines, he saw a man leading three horses. “Howdy, Muleshoe Jack, can I come in and hopefully get a hot cup?” The man’s tone of voice was low and powerful, but the inflections made a person relax.
“Sure Jack, come on in, join us in our own little haven,” Del yelled back as he started toward the man. “The family and I are headed West, was in with a wagon train headed by Cap’n Fuqua. We broke a wheel and they had to leave us because we were trying to get through the pass afore it was snowed closed. The son found an old Injun with a broken leg and brought him in last night.” The stranger was near; a large tall man with a small pair of spectacles and the three horses looked to be well fed and well cared for. “Wife’s a fixing supper, join us, ain’t much but there is enough for all of us,” Del said as the two men shoot hands.
Jack led his horses over to the other side of the little clearing where he quickly and adeptly removed their tack and then brushed them down. When he was finished he went to his saddle and pulled out a rifle, “No, not a robbing you, need to go signal Eustas who I am supposed to meet here.” He took the rifle, walked out of the trees, held the rifle up and fired. He quickly reloaded and fired again, doing it three times. Then he returned and put the rifle in its scabbard. Next, he went to one of the panniers and pulled out something covered in a big green cloth. “Beef, I traded for the other day, what you say I put it on a spit?”
Del liked the idea, “Sure, we got a good fire a going and the children can watch it.” The two walked back to where Aggie was cooking. Dell introduced Jack and all at once, Pine Bough started speaking in his native tongue. Jack grinned and fired back.
“See you found Pine Bough, said you folks kept him from going to the Happy hunting ground. Says your boy is one man boy, calm, and smart with a good head. Pine Bough says thank you,” Aggie handed Jack a tin mug of settler’s coffee, dried acorns and sassafras root, boiled in a pot.
“Ain’t coffee, but it is all we have Mister Jack and we have no sugar or crème, sorry,” Aggie said as she watched Zack and Zed slowly turning that chunk of delicious smelling beef.
“Don’t aim to be nosey, but why on earth would a couple name all their children a Z word?” Jack could not understand, not at all.
Del, laughed, “Simple to me and the wife; I was the oldest of fourteen children and except for me all were named A and straight from the bible. So our names always came up first. We decided not to name our children like that so we just made them all Z’s and that way we knew our own real easy like.” They all laughed as Jack told this to Pine Bough.
All started as they heard a shot, then another and another. “That will be Eustis,” Jack said as he put the cup down and headed toward his rifle. He fired one shot and soon they heard a dog bark and some movement. Slowly a short wiry man emerged from the darkness and the snow. The man was leading a big bay horse and three mules.
“Eustis Ewing, glad to meet you, “the little man said to Del; then turned to Jack and the two hugged and shook hands. As they went back to the camp fire Pine Bough was standing and when Eustis saw the old Indian, he ran to him and they greeted each other and jabbered away in Pine Bough’s tongue.
The twelve of them ate with all of the Bleary’s drooling over the beef. The stock was cared for and soon all were in Napper’s land. The next morning the sun was out bright and the snow deeper than a well digger’s, . . . . well you know. Eustas had real coffee and he brought a big wild turkey over to the camp for breakfast. “Shot this old tom and was going to take it to Pine Bough’s camp, but shucks since I am here, what you say we roast up this old tom.”
Jack looked at them sort of bashful like, “Now let me see, you got a turkey, well I have something else,” and he went off and about a half hour later came back with about a peck of sweet potatoes. “Turkey and Sweet taters,” he said.
Pine Bough upon seeing the turkey and the sweet taters spoke up and with the help of Eustis, the went off toward the rock wall that was on the North side of the clearing. About a half hour later, they were back with a wicker type basket full of apples. “Pine Bough said he stored these in a little cave for winter time.” All at once, the old Indian’s eyes brightened and he said something to Eustis. “Pine wants to know if you can make an apple cobbler. He had apple cobbler once and loved it.”
Aggie looked at Pine, “Yes, but I have no sugar or spices, only some flour and lard.” She thought a second, “But I will cook up some apples and make dumplings.”
Jack spoke up, “Ma'am, I got sugar and nutmeg and cinnamon and a Dutch oven if you will make one, I would be obliged. Aggie smiled and the children all were happy because they had no sweets since they left Ogallala. Soon Aggie and the girls were busy as could be roasting the turkey, making giblet gravy and mixing up a big apple cobbler. The four men with Zeke and Zed were busy on the wagon wheel. They all worked through dinner time and along about supper, the wheel was repaired and back on the wagon and the spare wheel was fixed except for the steel ring, which Pine Bough said he would take care of when they got to his camp.
As they all gathered for supper, Jack stood, “Let us pray.” He looked around and added, “Don’t know if you realized what day this is, but this is the last Thursday of November and most call it Thanksgiving day. Let us give thanks, for our meeting, Zeke saving old Pine Bough and four our safety in this storm.” He gave a short prayer and a feast was had by all.
As the children were saying their prayers, they too were still in awe at their good fortune. The next morning Eustis and Jack rode out, telling Pine Bough they would go by his camp and send help. After the snow melted, people from Pine Bough’s tribe helped Dell get the wagon to their camp where he found a forge and one fine Indian blacksmith. They stayed for a week and when they left, Pine Bough gave Aggie a small heavy deer skin bag. “Do not open for three sun rises,” he told her. A guide took them South where they hit a trail that led them to a small town where they settled.
Oh, yes, when Aggie opened the bag it was full of gold nuggets. Enough gold that when they settled, they bought a nice spread and if you ever get to Southern Utah, just East of St George is a small town called Bleary town. One of the few Utah towns that dos not have the word, city, as part of its name.