The Prairie Traveler by Randolph Barnes Marcy, Captain, U.S.A.


Packing. -- Saddles. -- Mexican Method. -- Madrina, or Bellmare. -- Attachment of the Mule illustrated. -- Best Method of Packing. -- Hopping Animals. -- Selecting Horses and Mules. -- Grama and bunch Grass. -- European Saddles. -- California Saddle. -- Saddle Wounds. -- Alkali. -- Flies. -- Colic. -- Rattlesnake Bites. -- Cures for the Bite.


     WITH a train of pack animals properly organized and equipped, a party may travel with much comfort and celerity. It is enabled to take short cuts, and move over the country in almost any direction without regard to roads. Mountains and broken ground may easily be traversed, and exemption is gained from many of the troubles and detentions attendant upon the transit of cumbersome wagon trains.

     One of the most essential requisites to the outfit of a pack train is a good pack-saddle. Various patterns are in use, many of which are mere instruments of torture upon the backs of the poor brutes, lacerating them cruelly, and causing continued pain.

     The Mexicans use a leather pack-saddle without a tree. It is stuffed with hay, and is very large covering almost the entire back, and extending far down the sides. It is secured with a broad hair girth, and the load is kept in position by a lashrope drawn by two men so tight as to give the unfortunate beast intense suffering.

Illustration: Grimsley's Pack-Saddle.

A pack-saddle is made by T. Grimsley, No. 41 Main Street, St. Louis, Mo. It is open at the top, with a light, compact, and strong tree, which fits the animal's back well, and is covered with rawhide, put on green, and drawn tight by the contraction in drying. It has a leather breast-strap, breeching, and lash-strap, with a broad hair girth fastened in the Mexican fashion. Of sixty-five of these saddles that I used in crossing the Rocky Mountains, over an exceedingly rough and broken section, not one of them wounded a mule's back, and I regard them as the best saddles I have ever seen.

     No people, probably, are more familiar with the art of packing than the Mexicans. They understand the habits, disposition, and powers of the mule perfectly, and will get more work out of him than any other men I have ever seen. The mule and the donkey are to them as the camel to the Arab -- their porters over deserts and mountains where no other means of transportation can be used to advantage. The Spanish Mexicans are, however, cruel masters, having no mercy upon their beasts, and it is no uncommon thing for them to load their mules with the enormous burden of three or four hundred pounds.

     These muleteers believe that, when the pack is firmly lashed, the animal supports his burden better and travels with greater ease, which seems quite probable, as the tension forms, as it were, an external sheath supporting and bracing the muscles. It also has a tendency to prevent the saddle from slipping and chafing the mule's back. With such huge cargas as the Mexicans load upon their mules, it is impossible, by any precautions, to prevent their backs and withers from becoming horribly mangled, and it is common to see them working their animals day after day in this miserable plight. This heavy packing causes the scars that so often mark Mexican mules.

     The animal, in starting out from camp in the morning, groaning under the weight of his heavy burden, seems hardly able to move; but the pack soon settles, and so loosens the lashing that after a short time he moves along with more ease. Constant care and vigilance on the part of the muleteers are necessary to prevent the packs from working loose and falling off. The adjustment of a carga upon a mule does not, however, detain the caravan, as the others move on while it is being righted. If the mules are suffered to halt, they are apt to lie down, and it is very difficult for them, with their loads, to rise; besides, they are likely to strain themselves in their efforts to do so. The Mexicans, in traveling with large caravans, usually make the day's march without nooning, as too much time would be consumed in unloading and packing up again.

     Packs, when taken off in camp, should be piled in a row upon the ground, and, if there be a prospect of rain, the saddles should be placed over them, and the whole covered with the saddle-blankets or canvas.

     The muleteers and herders should be mounted upon well-trained horses, and be careful to keep the animals of the caravan from wandering or scattering along the road. This can easily be done by having some of the men riding upon each side, and others in rear of the caravan.

     In herding mules it is customary among prairie travelers to have a bell-mare, to which the mules soon become so attached that they will follow her wherever she goes. By keeping her in charge of one of' the herdsmen, the herds are easily controlled; and during a stampede, if the herdsman mounts her, and rushes ahead toward camp, they will generally follow.

     In crossing rivers the bell-mare should pass first, after which the mules are easily induced to take to the water and pass over, even if they have to swim. Mules are good swimmers unless they happen, by plunging off a high bank, to get water in their ears, when they are often drowned. Whenever a mule in the water drops his ears, it is a sure indication that he has water in them, and he should be taken out as soon as possible. To prevent accidents of this nature, where the water is deep and the banks abrupt, the mule herds should be allowed to enter slowly, and without crowding, as otherwise they are not only likely to get their heads under water, but to throw each other over and get injured.

     The madrina, or bell-mare, acts a most important part in a herd of mules, and is regarded by experienced campaigners as indispensable to their security. She is selected for her quiet and regular habits. She will not wander far from the camp. If she happen to have a colt by her side, this is no objection, as the mules soon form the most devoted attachment to it. I have often seen them leave their grazing when very hungry, and flock around a small colt, manifesting their delight by rubbing it with their noses, licking it with their tongues, kicking up their heels, and making a variety of other grotesque demonstrations of affection, while the poor little colt, perfectly unconscious of the cause of these ungainly caresses, stood trembling with fear, but unable to make his escape from the compact circle of his mulish admirers. Horses and asses are also used as bell animals, and the mules soon become accustomed to following them. If a man leads or rides a bell animal in advance, the mules follow, like so many dogs, in the most orderly procession.

     "After traveling about fourteen miles," says Bayard Taylor, " we were joined by three miners, and our mules, taking a sudden liking for their horses, jogged on at a more brisk pace. The instincts of the mulish heart form an interesting study to the traveler in the mountains. I would (were the comparison not too ungallant) liken it to a woman's, for it is quite as uncertain in its sympathies, bestowing its affections when least expected, and, when bestowed, quite as constant, so long as the object is not taken away. Sometimes a horse, sometimes an ass, captivates the fancy of a whole drove of mules, but often an animal nowise akin. Lieutenant Beale told me that his whole train of mules once galloped off suddenly, on the plains of the Cimarone, and ran half a mile, when they halted in apparent satisfaction. The cause of their freak was found to be a buffalo calf which had strayed from the herd. They were frisking around it in the greatest delight, rubbing their noses against it, throwing up their heels, and making themselves ridiculous by abortive attempts to neigh and bray, while the calf, unconscious of its attractive qualities, stood trembling in their midst."

     "If several large troops," says Charles Darwin, "are turned into one field to graze in the morning, the muleteer has only to lead the madrinas a little apart and tinkle their bells, and, although there may be 200 or 300 mules together, each immediately knows its own bell, and separates itself from the rest. The affection of these animals for their madrina saves infinite trouble. It is nearly impossible to lose an old mule, for, if detained several hours by force, she will, by the power of smell, like a dog, track out her companions, or rather the madrina; for, according to the muleteer, she is the chief object of affection. The feeling, however, is not of an individual nature, for I believe I am right in saying that any animal with a bell will serve as a madrina."

     Of the attachment that a mule will form for a horse, I will cite an instance from my own observation, which struck me at the time as being one of the most remarkable and touching evidences of devotion that I have ever known among the brute creation.

     On leaving Fort Leavenworth with the army for Utah in 1857, one of the officers rode a small mule, whose kind and gentle disposition soon caused him to become a favorite among the soldiers, and they named him "Billy." As this officer and myself were often thrown together upon the march, the mule, in the course of a few days, evinced a growing attachment for a mare that I rode. The sentiment was not, however, reciprocated on her part, and she intimated as much by the reversed position of her ears, and the free exercise of her feet and teeth whenever Billy came within her reach; but these signal marks of displeasure, instead of discouraging, rather seemed to increase his devotion, and whenever at liberty he invariably sought to get near her, and appeared much distressed when not permitted to follow her.

     On leaving Camp Scott for New Mexico Billy was among the number of mules selected for the expedition. During the march I was in the habit, when starting out from camp in the morning, of leading off the party, and directing the packmen to hold the mule until I should get so far in advance with the mare that he could not see us; but the moment he was released he would, in spite of all the efforts of the packers, start off at a most furious pace, and never stop or cease braying until he reached the mare's side. We soon found it impossible to keep him with the other mules, and he was finally permitted to have his own way.

     In the course of time we encountered the deep snows in the Rocky Mountains, where the animals could get no forage, and Billy, in common with the others, at length became so weak and jaded that he was unable any longer to leave his place in the caravan and break a track through the snow around to the front. He made frequent attempts to turn out and force his way ahead, but after numerous unsuccessful efforts he would fall down exhausted, and set up a most mournful braying.

     The other mules soon began to fail, and to be left, worn out and famished, to die by the wayside; it was not, however, for some time that Billy showed symptoms of becoming one of the victims, until one evening after our arrival at camp I was informed that he had dropped down and been left upon the road during the day. The men all deplored his loss exceedingly, as his devotion to the mare had touched their kind hearts, and many expressions of sympathy were uttered around their bivouac fires on that evening.

     Much to our surprise, however, about ten o'clock, just as we were about going to sleep, we heard a mule braying about half a mile to the rear upon our trail. Sure enough, it proved to be Billy, who, after having rested, had followed upon our track and overtaken us. As soon as he reached the side of the mare he lay down and seemed perfectly contented.

     The next day I relieved him from his pack, and allowed him to run loose; but during the march he gave out, and was again abandoned to his fate, and this time we certainly never expected to see him more. To our great astonishment, however, about twelve o'clock that night the sonorous but not very musical notes of Billy in the distance aroused us from our slumbers, and again announced his approach. In an instant the men were upon their feet, gave three hearty cheers, and rushed out in a body to meet and escort him into camp.

     But this well-meant ovation elicited no response from him. He came reeling and floundering along through the deep snow, perfectly regardless of these honors, pushing aside all those who occupied the trail or interrupted his progress in the least, wandered about until he found the mare, dropped down by her side, and remained until morning.

     When we resumed our march on the following day he made another desperate effort to proceed, but soon fell down exhausted, when we reluctantly abandoned him, and saw him no more.

     Alas! poor Billy! your constancy deserved a better fate; you may, indeed, be said to have been a victim to unrequited affection.

     The articles to be transported should be made up into two packages of precisely equal weight, and as nearly equal in bulk as practicable, otherwise they will sway the saddle over to one side, and cause it to chafe the animal's back.

     The packages made, two ropes about six feet long are fastened around the ends by a slip-knot, and if the packages contain corn or other articles that will shift about, small sticks should be placed between the sacks and the ropes, which equalizes the pressure and keeps the packages snug. The ropes are then looped at the ends, and made precisely of the same length, so that the packs will balance and come up well toward the top of the saddle. Two men then, each taking a pack, go upon opposite sides of the mule, that has been previously saddled, and, raising the packs simultaneously, place the loops over the pommel and cantel settling them well down into their places. The lashing-strap is then thrown over the top, brought through the rings upon each side, and drawn as tight at every turn as the two men on the sides can pull it, and, after having been carried back and forth diagonally across the packs as often as its length admits (generally three or four times), it is made fast to one of the rings, and securely tied in a slip-knot.

     The breast-strap and breeching must not be buckled so close as to chafe the skin; the girth should be broad and soft where it comes opposite the fore legs, to prevent cutting them. Leather girths should be wrapped with cloth or bound with soft material. The hair girth, being soft and elastic, is much better than leather.

     The crupper should never be dispensed with in a mountainous country, but it must be soft, round, and about an inch in diameter where it comes in contact with the tail, otherwise it will wound the animal in making long and abrupt descents.

     In Norway they use a short round stick, about ten inches long, which passes under the tail, and from each end of this a cord connects with the saddle.

     Camp-kettles, tin vessels, and other articles that will rattle and be likely to frighten animals, should be firmly lashed to the packs. When the packs work loose, the lash-strap should be untied, and a man upon each side draw it up again and make it fast. When ropes are used for lashing, they may be tightened by twisting them with a short stick and making the stick fast.

     One hundred and twenty-five pounds is a sufficient load for a mule upon a long journey.

     In traveling over a rocky country, and upon all long journeys, horses and mules should he shod, to prevent their hoofs wearing out or breaking. The mountaineers contend that beasts travel better without shoeing, but I have several times had occasion to regret the omission of this very necessary precaution. A few extra shoes and nails, with a small hammer, will enable travelers to keep their animals shod.

     In turning out pack animals to graze, it is well either to keep the lariat ropes upon them with the ends trailing upon the ground, or to hopple them, as no corral can be made into which they may be driven in order to catch them. A very good way to catch an animal without driving him into an inclosure is for two men to take a long rope and stretch it out at the height of the animal's neck; some men then drive him slowly up against it, when one of the men with the rope runs around behind the animal and back to the front again, thus taking a turn with the rope around his neck and holding him secure.

     To prevent an animal from kicking, take a forked stick and make the forked part fast to the bridlebit, bringing the two ends above the head and securing them there, leaving the part of the stick below the fork of sufficient length to reach near the ground when the animal's head is in its natural position. He can not kick up unless he lowers his head, and the stick effectually prevents that.

     Tether-ropes should be so attached to the neck of the animal as not to slip and choke him, and the picket-pins never be left on the ropes except when in the ground, as, in the event of a stampede, they are very likely to swing around and injure the animals.

     Many experienced travelers were formerly in the habit of securing their animals with a strap or iron ring fastened around the fetlock of one fore foot, and this attached to the tether-rope. This method holds the animal very securely to the picket-pin, but when the rope is first put on, and before he becomes accustomed to it, he is liable to throw himself down and get hurt; so that I think the plan of tethering by the neck or halter is the safest, and, so far as I have observed, is now universally practiced.

     The mountaineers and Indians seldom tether their animals, but prefer the plan of hoppling, as this gives them more latitude for ranging and selecting the choicest grass.

     Two methods of hoppling are practiced among the Indians and hunters of the West: one with a strap about two feet long buckling around the fore legs above the fetlock joints; the other is what they term the "side hopple," which is made by buckling a strap around a front and rear leg upon the same side. In both cases care should be taken not to buckle the strap so tight as to chafe the legs. The latter plan is the best, because the animal, sidehoppled, is able to go but little faster than a walk, while the front hopple permits him, after a little practice, to gallop off at considerable speed. If the hopples are made of iron connected with chains, like handcuffs, with locks and keys, it will be impossible for the Indians, without files, to cut them; but the parts that come in contact with the legs should be covered with soft leather.

     "A horse," says Mr. Galton, "may be hoppled with a stirrup-leather by placing the middle around one leg, then twisting it several times and buckling it round the other leg. When you wish to picket horses in the middle of a sandy plain, dig a hole two or three feet deep, and, tying your rope to a fagot of sticks or brushwood, or even to a bag filled with sand, bury this in it."

     For prairie service, horses which have been raised exclusively upon grass, and never been fed on grain, or "range horses," as they are called in the West, are decidedly the best, and will perform more hard labor than those that have been stabled and groomed. The large, stout ponies found among some of our frontier settlements are well adapted to this service, and endure admirably. The same remarks hold good in the choice of mules; and it will be found that the square-built, big-bellied, and shortlegged Mexican mule will endure far more hard service, on short allowance of forage, than the larger American mule which has been accustomed to grain.

     In our trip across the Rocky Mountains we had both the American and Mexican mules, and improved a good opportunity of giving their relative powers of endurance a thorough service-trial. For many days they were reduced to a meagre allowance of dry grass, and at length got nothing but pine leaves, while their work in the deep snow was exceedingly severe. This soon told upon the American mules, and all of them, with the exception of two, died, while most of the Mexican mules went through. The result was perfectly conclusive.

     We found that, where the snow was not more than two feet deep, the animals soon learned to paw it away and get at the grass. Of course they do not get sufficient in this way, but they do much better than one would suppose.

     In Utah and New Mexico the autumn is so dry that the grass does not lose its nutritious properties by being washed with rains. It gradually dries and cures like hay, so that animals eat it freely, and will fatten upon it even in mid-winter. It is seldom that any grain is fed to stock in either of these territories.

     Several of the varieties of grass growing upon the slopes of the Rocky Mountains are of excellent quality; among these may be mentioned the Gramma and bunch grasses. Horses and mules turned out to graze always prefer the grass upon the mountain sides to grass of the valleys.

     We left New Mexico about the first of March, six weeks before the new grass appeared, with 1500 animals, many of them low in flesh, yet they improved upon the journey, and on their arrival in Utah were all, with very few exceptions, in fine working condition. Had this march been made at the same season in the country bordering upon the Missouri River, where there are heavy autumnal rains, the animals would probably have become very poor.

     In this journey the herds were allowed to range over the best grass that could be found, but were guarded both night and day with great care, whereas, if they had been corraled or picketed at night, I dare say they would have lost flesh.*

*Some curious and interesting experiments are said to have been recently made at the veterinary school at Alfort, near Paris, by order of the minister of war, to ascertain the powers of endurance of horses. It appears that a horse will live on water alone five-and-twenty days; seventeen days without eating or drinking; only five days if fed and unwatered; ten days if fed and insufficiently watered. A horse kept without water for three days drank one hundred and four pounds of water in three minutes. It was found that a horse taken immediately after "feed," and kept in the active exercise of the "squadron school," completely digested its "feed" in three hours; in the same time in the "conscript's school" its food was two thirds digested; and if kept perfectly quiet in the stable, its digestion was scarcely commenced in three hours.


     Great diversity of opinion exists regarding the best equipment for horses, and the long-mooted question is as yet very far from being definitely settled.

     I do not regard the opinions of Europeans as having a more direct bearing upon this question, or as tending to establish any more definite and positive conclusions regarding it than have been developed by the experience of our own border citizens, the major part of whose lives has been spent in the saddle; yet I am confident that the following brief description of the horse equipments used in different parts of Europe, the substance of which I have extracted from Captain M'Clellan's interesting report, will be read with interest and instruction.

     The saddle used by the African chasseurs consists of a plain wooden tree, with a pad upon the top, but without skirts, and is somewhat similar to our own military saddle, but lower in the pommel and cantle. The girth and surcingle are of leather, with an ordinary woolen saddle-blanket. Their bridle has a single head-stall, with the Spanish bit buckled to it.

     A new saddle has recently been introduced into the French service by Captain Cogent, the tree of which is cut out of a single piece of wood, the cantle only being glued on, and a piece of walnut let into the pommel, with a thin strip veneered upon the front ends of the bars. The pommel and cantle are lower than in the old model; the whole is covered with wet raw hide, glued on and sewed at the edges. The great advantage this saddle possesses is in being so arranged that it may be used for horses of all sizes and conditions. The saddle-blanket is made of thick felt cloth, and is attached to the pommel by a small strap passing through holes in the blanket, which is thus prevented from slipping, and at the same time it raises the saddle so as to admit a free circulation of air over the horse's spine.

     The Hungarian saddle is made of hard wood entirely uncovered, with a raised pommel and cantle. The seat is formed with a leather strap four inches wide nailed to the forks on the front and rear, and secured to the side-boards by leather thongs, thus giving an elastic and easy saddle-seat. This is also the form of the saddle-tree used by the Russian and Austrian cavalry. The Russians have a leather girth fastened by three small buckles: it passes over the tree, and is tied to the side-boards. The saddle-blanket is of stout felt cloth in four thicknesses, and a layer of black leather over it, and the whole held together by leather thongs passing through and through. When the horse falls off in flesh, more thicknesses are added, and "vice versa." This saddle-blanket is regarded by the Russian officers as the best possible arrangement. The Russians use the curb and snaffle-bits made of steel.

     The Cossack saddle has a thick padding under the side-boards and on the seat, which raises the rider very high on his horse, so that his feet are above the bottom of the belly. Their bridle has but a simple snaffle-bit, and no martingale.

     The Prussian cuirassiers have a heavy saddle with a low pommel and cantle, covered with leather, but it is not thought by Captain M'Clellan to present any thing worthy of imitation.

     The other Prussian cavalry ride the Hungarian saddle, of a heavier model than the one in the Austrian service. The surcingle is of leather, and fastens in the Mexican style; the girth is also of leather, three and a half inches wide, with a large buckle. It is in two parts, attached to the bars by raw-hide thongs. The curb and snaffle steel bits are used, and attached to a single head-stall.

     The English cavalry use a saddle which has a lower cantle and pommel than our Grimsley saddle, covered with leather. The snaffle-bit is attached to the halter head-stall by a chain and T; the curb has a separate head-stall, which on a march is occasionally taken of and hung on the carbine stock.

     The Sardinian saddle has a bare wooden tree very similar to the Hungarian. A common blanket, folded in twelve thicknesses, is placed under it. The girth and surcingle are of leather.

     Without expressing any opinion as to the comparative merits of these different saddles, I may be permitted to give a few general principles, which I regard as infallible in the choice of a saddle.

     The side-boards should be large, and made to conform to the shape of the horse's back, thereby distributing the burden over a large surface. It should stand up well above the spine, so as to admit a free circulation of air under it.

     For long journeys, the crupper, where it comes in contact with the tail, should be made of soft leather. It should be drawn back only far enough to hold the saddle from the withers. Some horses require much more tension upon the crupper than others. The girth should be made broad, of a soft and elastic material. Those made of hair, in use among the Mexicans, fulfill the precited conditions.

     A light and easy bit, which will not fret or chafe the horse, is recommended.

     The saddle-blanket must be folded even and smooth, and placed on so as to cover every part of the back that comes in contact with the saddle, and in warm weather it is well to place a gunny bag under the blanket, as it is cooler than the wool.

     It will have been observed that, in the French service, the folded saddle-blanket is tied to the pommel to prevent it slipping back. This is well if the blanket be taken of and thoroughly dried whenever the horse is unsaddled.

     A saddle-blanket made of moss is used in some of the Southwestern States, which is regarded by many as the perfection of this article of horse equipment. It is a mat woven into the proper shape and size from the beaten fibres of moss that hangs from the trees in our Southern States. It is cheap, durable, is not in any way affected by sweat, and does not chafe or heat the horse's spine like the woolen blanket. Its open texture allows a rapid evaporation, which tends to keep the back cool, and obviates the danger of stripping and sudden exposure of the heated parts to the sun and air.

     The experience of some of our officers who have used this mat for years in Mexico and Texas corroborates all I have said in its favor; and they are unanimous in the opinion that a horse will never get a sore back when it is placed under a good saddle.

Illustration: California Saddle.

     A saddle made by the Mexicans in California is called the California saddle. This is extensively used upon the Pacific slope of the mountains, and is believed to possess, at least, as many advantages for rough frontier service as any other pattern that has been invented. Those hardy and experienced veterans, the mountaineers, could not be persuaded to ride any other saddle, and their ripened knowledge of such matters certainly gives weight to their conclusions.

     The merits of the California saddle consist in its being light, strong, and compact, and conforming well to the shape of the horse. When strapped on, it rests so firmly in position that the strongest pull of a horse upon a lariat attached to the pommel can not displace it. Its shape is such that the rider is compelled to sit nearly erect, with his legs on the continuation of the line of the body, which makes his seat more secure, and, at the same time, gives him a better control over his arms and horse. This position is attained by setting the stirup-leathers farther back than on the old-fashioned saddle. The pommel is high, like the Mexican saddle, and prevents the rider from being thrown forward. The tree is covered with raw hide, put on green, and sewed; when this dries and contracts it gives it great strength. It has no iron in its composition, but is kept together by buckskin strings, and can easily be taken to pieces for mending or cleaning. It has a hair girth about five inches wide.

     The whole saddle is covered with a large and thick sheet of sole-leather, having a hole to lay over the pommel; it extends back over the horse's hips, and protects them from rain, and when taken off in camp it furnishes a good security against dampness when placed under the traveler's bed.

     The California saddle-tree is regarded by many as the best of all others for the horse's back, and as having an easier seat than the Mexican.

     General Comte de la Roche-Aymon, in his treatise upon "Light Troops," published in Paris in 1856, says:

     "In nearly all the European armies the equipment of the horse is not in harmony with the new tactics-with those tactics in which, during nearly all of a campaign, the cavalry remains in bivouac. Have we reflected upon the kind of saddle which, under these circumstances, would cover the horse best without incommoding him during the short periods that he is permitted to repose ? Have we reflected upon the kind of saddle which, offering the least fragility, exposes the horse to the least danger of sore back. All the cuirassiers and the dragoons of Europe have saddles which they call French saddle, the weight of which is a load for the horse. The interior mechanism of these saddles is complicated and filled with weak bands of iron, which become deranged, bend, and sometimes break; the rider does not perceive these accidents, or he does not wish to perceive them, for fear of being left behind or of having to go on foot; he continues on, and at the end of a day's march his horse has a sore back, and in a few days is absolutely unserviceable. We may satisfy ourselves of the truth of these observations by comparing the lists of horses sent to the rear during the course of a campaign by the cuirassiers and dragoons who use the French saddle, and by the hussars with the Hungarian saddle. The number sent to the rear by the latter is infinitely less, although employed in a service much more active and severe; and it might be still less by making some slight improvements in the manner of fixing their saddle upon the horse.

     "It is a long time since Marshal Saxe said there was but one kind of saddle fit for cavalry, which was the hussar saddle: this combined all advantages, lightness, solidity, and economy. It is astonishing that the system of actual war had not led to the employment of the kind of saddle in use among the Tartars, the Cossacks, the Hungarians and, indeed, among all horsemen and nomads. This saddle has the incontestable advantage of permitting the horse to lie down and rest himself without inconvenience. If, notwithstanding the folded blanket which they place under the Hungarian saddle, this saddle will still wound the animal's back sometimes, this only proceeds from the friction occasioned by the motion of the horse and the movement of the rider upon the saddle; a friction which it will be nearly impossible to avoid, inasmuch as the saddle-bow is held in its place only by a surcingle, the ends of which are united by a leathern band: these bands always relax more or less, and the saddle becomes loose. To remedy this, I propose to attach to the saddle-bow itself a double girth, one end of which shall be made fast to the arch in front, and the other end to the rear of the arch upon the right side, to unite in a single girth, which would buckle to a strap attached upon the left side in the usual manner. This buckle will hold the saddle firmly in its place.

     "Notwithstanding all these precautions, however, there were still some inconveniences resulting from the nature of the blanket placed under the saddle, which I sought to remedy, and I easily accomplished it. The woolen nap of the cavalry saddle-blankets, not being carefully attended to, soon wears off, and leaves only the rough, coarse threads of the fabric; this absorbs the sweat from the horse, and, after it has dried and become hard, it acts like a rasp upon the withers, first taking off the hair, next the skin, and then the flesh, and, finally, the beast is rendered unserviceable.

     "I sought, during the campaign of 1807, a means to remedy this evil, and I soon succeeded by a process as simple as it was cheap. I distributed among a great number of cavalry soldiers pieces of linen cloth folded double, two feet square, and previously dipped in melted tallow. This cloth was laid next to the horse's back, under the saddle-blanket, and it prevented all the bad effects of the woolen blanket. No horses, after this appliance, were afflicted with sore backs. Such are the slight changes which I believe should be made in the use of the Hungarian saddle. The remainder of the equipment should remain (as it always has been) composed of a breaststrap, crupper, and martingale, etc."

     The improvements of the present age do not appear to have developed any thing advantageous to the saddle; on the contrary, after experimenting upon numerous modifications and inventions, public sentiment has at length given the preference to the saddle-tree of the natives in Asia and America, which is very similar to that of the Hungarians.


     If a horse be sweating at the time he is unsaddled, it is well to strap the folded saddle-blanket upon his back with the surcingle, where it is allowed to remain until he is perfectly dry. This causes the back to cool gradually, and prevents scalding or swelling. Some persons are in the habit of washing: their horses' backs while heated and sweating with cold water, but this is pernicious, and often produces sores. It is well enough to wash the back after it cools, but not before. After horses' backs or shoulders once become chafed and sore, it is very difficult to heal them, particularly when they are continued at work. It is better, if practicable, to stop using them for a while, and wash the bruised parts often with castile soap and water. Should it be necessary, however, to continue the animal in use, I have known very severe sores entirely healed by the free application of grease to the parts immediately after halting, and while the animal is warm and sweating. This seems to harden the skin and heal the wound even when working with the collar in contact with it. A piece of bacon rind tied upon the collar over the wound is also an excellent remedy.

     In Texas, when the horse-flies are numerous, they attack animals without mercy, and where a contusion is found in the skin they deposit eggs, which speedily produce worms in great numbers. I have tried the effect of spirits of turpentine and several other remedies, but nothing seemed to have the desired effect but calomel blown into the wound, which destroyed the worms and soon effected a cure.

     In the vicinity of the South Pass, upon the Humboldt River, and in some sections upon other routes to California, alkaline water is found, which is very poisonous to animals that drink it, and generates a disease known in California as "alkali." This disease first makes its appearance by swellings upon the abdomen and between the fore legs, and is attended with a cough, which ultimately destroys the lungs and kills the animal. If taken at an early stage, this disease is curable, and the following treatment is generally considered as the most efficacious. The animal is first raked, after which a large dose of grease is poured down its throat; acids are said to have the same effect, and give immediate relief. When neither of these remedies can be procured, many of the emigrants have been in the habit of mixing starch or flour in a bucket of water, and allowing the animal to drink it. It is supposed that this forms a coating over the mucous membrane, and thus defeats the action of the poison.

     Animals should never be allowed to graze in the vicinity of alkaline water, as the deposits upon the grass after floods are equally deleterious with the water itself.

     In seasons when the water is low in the Humboldt River, there is much less danger of the alkali, as the running water in the river then comes from pure mountain springs, and is confined to the channel; whereas, during high water, when the banks are overflowed, the salts are dissolved, making the water more impure.

     For colic, a good remedy is a mixture of two table-spoonfuls of brandy and two tea-spoonfuls of laudanum dissolved in a bottle of water and poured down the animal's throat. Another remedy, which has been recommended to me by an experienced officer as producing speedy relief, is a table-spoonful of chloride of lime dissolved in a bottle of water, and administered as in the other case.


     Upon the southern routes to California rattlesnakes are often met with, but it is seldom that any person is bitten by them; yet this is a possible contingency, and it can never be amiss to have an antidote at hand.

     Hartshorn applied externally to the wound, and drunk in small quantities diluted with water whenever the patient becomes faint or exhausted from the effects of the poison, is one of the most common remedies.

     In the absence of all medicines, a string or ligature should at once be bound firmly above the puncture, then scarify deeply with a knife, suck out the poison, and spit out the saliva.

     Andersson, in his book on Southwestern Africa, says: " In the Cape Colony the Dutch farmers resort to a cruel but apparently effective plan to counteract the bad effects of a serpent's bite. An incision having been made in the breast of a living fowl, the bitten part is applied to the wound. If the poison be very deadly, the bird soon evinces symptoms of distress, becomes drowsy, droops its head, and dies. It is replaced by a second, a third, and more if requisite. When however, the bird no longer exhibits any of the signs just mentioned, the patient is considered out of danger. A frog similarly applied is supposed to be equally efficacious."

     Haunberg, in his Travels in South Africa, mentions an antidote against the bite of serpents. He says: "The blood of the turtle was much cried up, which, on account of this extraordinary virtue, the inhabitants dry in the form of small scales or membranes, and carry about them when they travel in this country, which swarms with this most noxious vermin. Whenever anyone is wounded by a serpent, he takes a couple of pinches of the dried blood internally, and applies a little of it to the wound."

     I was present upon one occasion when an Indian child was struck in the fore finger by a large rattlesnake. His mother, who was near at the time, seized him in her arms, and, placing the wounded finger in her mouth, sucked the poison from the puncture for some minutes, repeatedly spitting out the saliva; after which she chewed and mashed some plantain leaves and applied to the wound. Over this she sprinkled some finely-powdered tobacco, and wrapped the finger up in a rag. I did not observe that the child suffered afterward the least pain or inconvenience. The immediate application of the remedies probably saved his life.

     Irritation from the bite of gnats and musquitoes, etc., may be relieved by chewing the plantain, and rubbing the spittle on the bite.

     I knew of another instance near Fort Towson, in Northern Texas, where a small child was left upon the earthen floor of a cabin while its mother was washing at a spring near by. She heard a cry of distress, and, on going to the cabin, what was her horror on seeing a rattlesnake coiled around the child's arm, and striking it repeatedly with its fangs. After killing the snake, she hurried to her nearest neighbor, procured a bottle of brandy, and returned as soon as possible; but the poison had already so operated upon the arm that it was as black as a negro's. She poured down the child's throat a huge draught of the liquor, which soon took effect, making it very drunk, and stopped the action of the poison. Although the child was relieved, it remained sick for a long time, but ultimately recovered.

     A man was struck in the leg by a very large rattlesnake near Fort Belknap, Texas, in 1853. No other remedy being at hand, a small piece of indigo was pulverized, made into a poultice with water and applied to the puncture. It seemed to draw out the poison, turning the indigo white, after which it was removed and another poultice applied. These applications were repeated until the indigo ceased to change its color. The man was then carried to the hospital at Fort Belknap, and soon recovered, and the surgeon of the post pronounced it a very satisfactory cure.

     A Chickasaw woman, who was bitten upon the foot near Fort Washita by a ground rattlesnake (a very venomous species), drank a bottle of whisky and applied the indigo poultice, and when I saw her, three days afterward, she was recovering, but the flesh around the wound sloughed away.

     A Delaware remedy, which is said to be efficacious, is to burn powder upon the wound, but I have never known it to be tried excepting upon a horse. In this case it was successful, or, at all events, the animal recovered.

     Of all the remedies known to me, I should decidedly prefer ardent spirits. It is considered a sovereign antidote among our Western frontier settlers, and I would make use of it with great confidence. It must be taken until the patient becomes very much intoxicated, and this requires a large quantity, as the action of the poison seems to counteract its effects.

     Should the fangs of the snake penetrate deep enough to reach an artery, it is probable the person would die in a short time. I imagine, however, that this does not often occur.

     The following remedial measures for the treatment of the bites of poisonous reptiles are recommended by Dr. Philip Weston in the London Lancet for July, 1859:

      1. The application of a ligature round the limb close to the wound, between it and the heart, to arrest the return of venous blood.

      2. Excision of the bitten parts, or free incision through the wounds made by the poison-teeth, subsequently encouraging the bleeding by warm solutions to favor the escape of the poison from the circulation.

      3. Cauterization widely round the limb of the bite with a strong solution of nitrate of silver, one drachm to the ounce, to prevent the introduction of the poison into the system by the lymphatics.

      4. As soon as indications of the absorption of the poison into the circulation begin to manifest themselves, the internal administration of ammonia in aerated or soda-water every quarter of an hour, to support the nervous energy and allay the distressing thirst.

     "But," he continues, "there is yet wanting some remedy that shall rapidly counteract the poison introduced into the blood, and assist in expelling it from the system. The well-authenticated accounts of the success attending the internal use of arsenic in injuries arising from the bites of venomous reptiles in the East and West Indies, and also in Africa and the well-known properties of this medicine as a powerful tonic and alterative in conditions of impaired vitality of the blood arising from the absorption of certain blood-poisons, would lead me to include this agent in the treatment already mentioned. It should be administered in combination with ammonia, in full doses, frequently repeated, so as to neutralize quickly the poison circulating in the blood before it can be eliminated from the system. This could readily be accomplished by adding ten to fifteen minims of Fowler's solution to the compound spirit of ammonia, to be given every quarter of an hour in aerated or soda-water, until the vomiting and the more urgent symptoms of collapse have subsided, subsequently repeating the dose at longer intervals until reaction had become fully established, and the patient relieved by copious bilious dejections."

     Cedron, which is a nut that grows on the Isthmus of Panama, and which is sold by the druggists in New York, is said to be an infallible antidote to serpent-bites. In the Bullet. de l'Acad. de Med. for February, 1858, it is stated that a man was bitten at Panama by a coral snake, the most poisonous species on the Isthmus. During the few seconds that it took him to take the cedron from his bag, he was seized with violent pains at the heart and throat; but he had scarcely chewed and swallowed a piece of the nut about the size of a small bean, when the pains ceased as by magic. He chewed a little more, and applied it externally to the wound, when the pains disappeared, and were followed by a copious evacuation of a substance like curdled milk. Many other cases are mentioned where the cedron proved an antidote.

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