VIEW ON THE RIO MOTAGUA.
VIEW ON THE RIO MOTAGUA.
[Frontiepiece.] [See page 414.]
RAMBLES IN THE BACKWOODS
MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA.
SMan's gardens blossom in the north,
But Nature's in the south."-CAMOENS.
FELIX L. OSWALD.
WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS
BY H. F. PARNY AND HERMANN FABER.
J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.
Copyright, 1880, by J. B1. LIPPINcowT & Co.
IN the winter of 1867 I was stationed at Medellin, near
Vera Cruz, as director of an overcrowded military lazaretto.
With accommodations for sixty men we had to take charge
of two hundred, besides feeding and nursing a considerable
number of destitute civilians, both Indians and whites, who
had been quartered in the loft of a neighboring cotton-press.
Our white charity patients were neither charitable nor pa-
tient; they clamored for the expulsion of their Indian
countrymen, denounced the French steward as an Oriental
barbarian, and bemoaned the departed glory of the Repub-
lic when I stopped their rations of smoking-tobacco. The
scum of the Guachinangos, or homeless Creoles of the ad-
jacent seaport-town, they were a lot of graceless scamps,
with the apparent exception of a heroic old 'longshoreman
who had been brought in an ambulance by a detachment
of the harbor police, having nearly bled to death from two
wounds which looked very much like French bayonet stabs.
But the supposed exception confirmed the rule when our
hero turned out to be a Tabasco indigo planter who had
been forced to join Rion's guerillas, and after the defeat of
his corps and the confiscation of his property had made his
way to Vera Cruz, wounded and penniless, in the hope of
gaining admission to.the City Hospital. His recovery was
slow, but from first to last he behaved with a fortitude that
won him the respect of his military nurses, and by and by
the sympathy of our city visitors. A Vera Cruz merchant
sent him a fine saddle-horse, and before I discharged him
we collected money enough to help him over the first six
months, or across the ocean if he should prefer to leave the
country. He was a native of Reus in Western Catalonia.
Mexico was on the eve of a general revolution, and the
State of Tabasco was still under martial law; but the
ranchero decided to stay.
Twelve years ago I crossed the ocean of my own accord,
and I do not repent it even now," he said, when he mounted
his horse at the hospital gate. Mexico is the freest country
on earth, after all. They may blockade the valleys, and
change their President for a Sultan, for all I care; but there
is freedom in the mountains, and I know a place of refuge
where neither monarchs nor demagogues will bother me."
After the restoration I transferred my medical apparatus
to the Vera Cruz City Dispensary, and the health officer of
the quarantine having tendered his resignation, the foreign
residents recommended me as his successor, with a view of
testing the efficacy of a system of sanitary precautions,
whose adoption I had urged for many years. But the fal-
lacy of that system was demonstrated, to my personal satis-
faction at least, by the collapse of my own health. Neither
surf-baths nor dietetic sacrifices would avail me; the climate
refuted the most cogent pathological axioms; and I was on
the point of embarking for a less paradoxical latitude, when
I remembered the man of Reus and his solution of a simi-
lar dilemma. Learning that there was a junta of inspecting
officers at the fort, I called upon a former colleague, now
Surgeon-General and member of the Government Immi-
gration Committee. Soon after his return to the capital I
received a communication from the Department of the In-
terior, and on the same day I exchanged a sea-water proof
trunk for a Mexican pack-saddle. The coast range was
shrouded with the mists of the rainy season, and my coun-
trymen dismissed me with sore misgivings, and gave me
up for lost when they learned that a congestive chill had
arrested my progress at Puebla, but my next letter reassured
Mexico is the healthiest country on earth, after all,"
I wrote from Tacubaya, the Montmartre of the Mexican
capital; the fever may blockade your seaports and terror-
ize the lowlands from Matamoros to Yucatan, but in the
mountains is freedom, and I have found a place of refuge
where miasmi and mosquitoes will never bother me."
In the course of the next eight years I explored the high-
lands of Jalisco, Oaxaca, Colima, and Vera Paz, for the
benefit of my own health or that of my employers, but like
the Catalan farmer, I found more than I had sought. In-
dependence, in the political sense, and a healthy climate
might be found in the mountains of Scotland, and even of
old Spain; but the New Spanish sierras can boast of a
virgin soil with primeval forests which offer a sanitarium to
all who seek refuge from the malady of our anti-natural
civilization, from the old marasmus which has spread from
the Syrian desert to the abandoned cotton-fields of Georgia
We vaunt our proficiency in the art of subjugating na-
ture, but in the Old World the same ambition has led to a
very dear-bought victory, which the countries of the East
have paid with the loss of their forests, and the Eastern
nations with the loss of their manhood; their wild wood-
lands have been tamed into deserts, and their wild freemen
into slaves; the curse of the blighted land has recoiled upon
its devastators. In our eagerness to wrest the sceptre from
our Mother Earth we have invaded her domain with fire and
sword, and instead of increasing the interest of our heritage
we have devoured the principal; the brilliant progress of the
vain god of earth is tracked by a lengthening shadow, the
day-star of our empire is approaching the western horizon.
Where shall it end? Mould, sandy loam, and sand is
Liebig's degeneration scale of treeless countries; the Amer-
ican soil may pass through the same phases, and what then?
Will the sunset in the west be followed by a new eastern
sunrise ? Shall Asia, the mother of religions, give birth to
an earth-regenerating Messiah, whose gospel shall teach us
to recognize the physical laws of God? Or shall the gloam-
ing fade into the night of the Buddhistic Nirvana, the final
extinction of organic life on this planet? It is not much of
a consolation to think that in the latter case the nations of
the higher latitudes might count upon a protracted twilight.
The westward spread of the landblight will drive the fam-
ished millions of the Old World upon our remaining wood-
lands, but the resources of the last Oasis will probably be
husbanded with Scotch canniness and Prussian systematism,
and before we share the fate of the.Eastern nations we may
see the dawn of the bureaucratic millennium, when all our
fields shall be fenced in with brick walls, all rivers with
irrigation-dykes, and all functions of our domestic life with
official laws and by-laws. My trust in the eternal mercy of
Providence lets me expect another deluge before that time,
but the recuperative agencies of unaided nature seem power-
less against the greatest of all earthly evils. National and
territorial marasmus are incurable diseases; the historical
records of the Eastern continents, at least, prove nothing to
the contrary. The coast-lands of the Mediterranean were
the pleasure-gardens of the Juventus Mundi, the Elysian
Fields whose inhabitants celebrated life as a festival; and
now? Spain, Southern Italy, Turkey, Greece, and Persia
have been wasted to a shadow of their former self; ghouls
and afrits haunt the burial-places of the North African
empires; and no invocation can break the death-slumber of
Asia Minor. Acorns perish in the soil which once nour-
ished the oaks of Bashan; outraged nature refuses to be
reconciled. With the glory of the Orbis Romanus the
spring-time of our earth has departed, and what America
mistakes for the prime of a new year is but the lingering
mildness of an Indian summer.
The career whose swiftness is our national boast has led
us upon a road which has never been far pursued with im-
punity; the rapidity of our tree and game destruction is far
more unparalleled than the growth of our cities; the misery
of the Old World has not taught us to avoid its causes, and
the history of the effects will not fail to repeat itself. On
the frozen shores of Lake Winnepeg and the inaccessible
heights of the central Rocky Mountains a few remnants of
the old forests will probably survive, but the great East
American Sylvania is already doomed; if we persist in our
present course our last timber-States, Maine, Michigan, and
North Carolina, will be as bald as Northern Italy in fifty
years from now, and our last game will soon retreat to the
festering swamps of Southern Florida.
The temperate zone of America will soon be the treeless
zone, with a single exception. In the sierras of Southern
Mexico large tracts of land still combine a generous climate
with a rich arboreal vegetation. Mexico, like our own
Republic, has her backwoods States, but their security from
the inroads of the destroyer is guaranteed by better safe-
guards than their remoteness from the great commercial
centres. The ruggedness of the surrounding sierras, the
supposed or real scarcity of precious metals, and the inde-
.pendent character of the aboriginal population, all conspire
to make the alturas or mountain forests as unattractive to
the imperious Spaniards as they are inviting to freedom-
loving visitors from the North.
To my rambles and adventures in these alturas, to their
scenic charms, their strange fauna and vegetable wonders, I
have devoted this volume; but I have rarely touched upon
the mineral and agricultural resources of a region which
should remain consecrate to the Hamadryads and their wor-
shippers. The cities of the intervening civilized" districts,
too, I have only mentioned as wayside stations for the benefit
of non-pedestrian tourists. New Spain makes no exception
from the general rule that the nations of Europe have trans-
formed their American dependencies after the image of their
mother-countries, and only he who leaves the cities far
behind can forget that Mexico was colonized under the
auspices of St. Jago and Ximenes.
This collection of "Summerland Sketches" is therefore
neither a record of a pilgrimage to the shrines and cathe-
drals of Spanish America, nor a bid for the patronage of
Southwestern land-agencies, but rather a guide-book to one
of the few remaining regions of earth that may give us an
idea of the tree-land eastward in Eden which the Creator
intended for the abode of mankind. In the terrace-lands of
Western Colima and Oaxaca, near the head-waters of the Rio
Lerma and the mountain lakes of Jalisco, and in the lonely
highlands of Vera Paz, we may yet see forests that have
never been desecrated by an axe, and free fellow-creatures
which have not yet learned to flee from man as from a fiend.
Let us make the best of that last chance, for the time may
be near when princes and sages shall envy those who have
managed to get a glimpse of Paradise before the gates were
FELIX L. OSWALD.
CINCINNATI, March, 1880.
Southward Ho I-The "Gila City"-Fellow-Passengers-Vigils
on the Pilot-Deck-Climatic Reflections-The Birthland of the
Human Race-Southern Homesickness-The Saturnian Age-
Paradise Theories-America Felix-Arrival in Guaymas-
The Morgan Transport Company-Prairie-Schooners-Boss
Davis-A Mexican Caravansary-Departure from Guaymas-
The Vega-Our First Camp-Don Jos6's Advice-Paso del
Cabo-The Chieftain's Ford-An Indian Brutus-Sand-Hills
-The Gila Desert-Pays de la Muerte-The American Tim-
buktoo-An Embryo Sahara-Origin of the Treeless Table-
Lands-Professor Buckland's Conjecture-The Plateau of En-
cinal-A Natural Game-Preserve-The Oriyas-Night Camp
in the Ruins of Azatlan-Disagreeable Visitors-The Rio
Mayo-Buffalo Hunters-Aragon Shepherds' Dogs-A Do-
mestic Beast of Prey-Pronghorn Antelopes-The Sergeant's
Wager-A Match for a Greyhound-Exciting Chase-Cha-
parral Cocks-The Phasianus Alector-Chickasaw Plums-
Wild Jessamine-Butterfly Swarms-De Leon's Land-The
American Italy-Val de Cafias-Don Pancho's Ranch-
Mexican Hospitality-New Texas-Northern Colonists-
Chronique Scandaleuse of a Mule-Farm-A Horse-Breaker's
Secret-Taming a Bison-A Wooden Briareus-The Cafias
Valley-Are Hogs Snake-Proof? Don Pancho's Theory-
Woman's Rights Limited-Toxicological Precautions-The
Oasis of Encinal-Camp in a Mulberry-Grove-Locust Or-
chestra-Coyote Concerts-Vox Clamantis in Deserto 21
Republican Highways-The Geyser of Aguas Calientes-Valley
of the Rio Fuerte-The Tree-Alligator"-Meeting a Country-
man-A Linguistic Exile-Camp in a Bignonia-Grove-Arid
Mountains-The Unpardonable Sin of Forest-Destruction-
Ygdrasil-A Wayside Tavern-News from the Frontier-
International Banter-San Luis Potosi-Witch-Hunters-Dr.
Rambert's Experience-Departure for San Bias-The Virgin
Woodsof the Rio Balsas-A Sierra Incognita-The Old Mili-
tary Road-An Entomological Paradise-The Papilio Castor-
Cow-Riders-Rustic Prejudices-Camp in a Pine-Forest-Di-
etetic Experiments-Dr. Rambert's Dilemma-Our Indian
Purveyor-A Persistent Peddler-Chil6 Blanco y Colorado-
A Patriotic Handkerchief-Bat Colony-Fers Nature-The
Night-Tiger-A Mexican Bugbear-Juan Riv6ra's Fate-A
Hunter Hunted-Tackling a Tartar-Mountain Forests-The
Voices of the Wilderness 64
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO.
Lake Chapala-A Tropical Switzerland-View from the Sierra
Madre-The Alturas-Mountain Woods-Juventus Mundi-
The Lake-Shore-Black Herons-Wooded Islands-The Cas-
cades of the Rio Blanco-Val de Paraiso-A Vanilla Planta-
tion-Casa Morena-Don Martinez-Walton Redivivus-
Aquatic Curiosities-A Private Museum-The Hog-Tapir-
An Expensive Pet-Its Paroxysms of Appetite-Hot Sulphur-
Springs -The Fountain of Eternal Coughs-Indian Gluttony-
Fried Eels and Sulphur-Water-Evening Rambles-Camping
in Eden-Camp-Fire Stories-Don Martinez's Adventure-
Curious Phenomenon-Cross-Examination-An Unscientific
Witness-Moonlight on the Lake-The Rio Lerma-Travel-
ling Companions-Wild Hogs-Long-Range Arrow-Shooting
-Migratory Quadrupeds-The Coast-Hills-In Sight of Ma-
zatlan-Arrival at San Bias-Spanish Characteristics-A Mexi-
can Hotel-Pepper-Pots-Dietetic Abuses vs. Intemperance-
Hint to Travellers in Spanish America-A Negro Polyglot-
Sunset on the Pacific-At the Mouth of the Rio Lerma-View
from the Promontory 83
THE WESTERN SIERRAS.
San Bias-Engage a Guide-Mexican Stage-Coaches-A Tolerant
Conductor-Dogs and Goats as Inside Passengers-Dust-Clouds
of the Vega-Ascent of the Coast-Range-The Granite-Alps of
Jalisco-Bombax Forests-Climatic Paradoxes-Val de Cule-
bras-A Serpent-Colony-Vivora Parda-Historical Serpents
-A Conjecture-Night-Camp in the Sierra de Inua-Starlight
-The Regio Septentrionalis-Wild Scenery-Bighorn Sheep-
Mountain Antelopes-Their Confidence-The Volcano of Cu-
liacan-Inaccessible Peaks-Home of the Jaliscano Indians-
A Pagan Reservation-Defile of Santander-The Plateau of Las
Charcas-Arctic Vegetation-Ascent of the Altar"-Bird's-
Eye View of a Volcanic Phenomenon-A Land of Flowers
-Pot-Hunters-Desperate Charge of a Wild Boar-Adonis-
A Lucky Shot-Hacienda del Monte-The Governor of Jalisco
-A Mexican Philosopher-His Opinion on Woman's Rights-
On the Religion of the Future-Bachelor's Hall-Question-
able Pastimes-Breaking a Grizzly-A Famous Bull-Padre
Felipe's Pets-Trip to the Val de San Juan-An Indian Wal-
halla-Temple Ruins of Mayapan-Christian Iconoclasts-
The Marvel of Atocha-A Symbol of the 'Moon-Lapidary
Inscriptions-A Problematic Statue-The Jaliscano Indians-
Curious Customs-Adherence to Pagan Rites-Traditions-
A Famous Chieftain. 113
THE SIERRA MADRE.
Ascent of Mount Orizaba-Black-Tail Deer-Lonely Heights-
The Snow-Line-Excelsior-An Unrivalled Panorama-The
Two Oceans-Gulf Islands-Our Mediterranean Sea-The
Peak of Perote-Glaciers of the Sierra de San Juan-Mountain
Scenery-Terrace-Lands-Contrasted Vegetation-The Con-
iferous Belt-Forced March-Pine-Forests-Alpine Flora-
Mountain Grouse-The Cafion of the Rio Blanco-Deserted
Mining-Works-Camp in the Old Quartel-Fireside Com-
forts-A Free and Easy Symposium-Ease vs. Luxury-Joss's
Ghost Story-La Llorona-Origin of an International Super-
stition-The Tuxpan's Testimonial-A Cold Night-Fire-
Worship-Sunrise in the Sierra Madre-Morning Air-The
Valley of the Rio Blanco-Barrancas-Limestone Caves-A
Colony of Vultures-Winged Kidnappers-Ganymede-Tres-
montes-Monastery of San Rafael-A Mountain Convent 151
LA TIERRA FRIA.
The Convent of San Rafael-A Museum in a Church-Padre
Ramon-A Self-taught Mineralogist-Crudities of Spanish
Science-Scientific Curiosity-Deficiencies of the Modern Latin
Races-The Night of the Middle Ages-A Strange Curiosity-
Shop-Secular Ornaments-A Free and Easy Convent-
Privileged Friars-Villa Amorosa-The "Children of the
Convent"--Precocious Depravity- Pablito's Experiment-
Can Squirrels be Killed by a Fall ?-Salto Mortale-Mountain
Vegetation-Turpentine Works-Bewitched Bats-A Curious
Problem-Val de Perote-New-Spanish Robber Castles-
Mountain Air-A Lung-Test-Don Jos6 M'Cann-A Car-
nivorous Hermit--La Trampa-An Eating Match-The
Charms of Solitude-Dumb Companions-Voices of the Night
-The Pifial de Loreto-Pine-Jungles Indian Outlaws--
Eagle's Nest-Mountain Weasels-Spinescent Trees-Vegeta-
ble Instinct-Val de"Perote-The Old Fort-Classic Pastimes
-The Vegos Brothers-A Foot-Race-Juancito's Stratagem-
Gymnastic Emulation-The Olympic Games: What Nation
will Revive Them ? 182
THE VALLEY OF OAXACA.
Tehuantepec-Aspect of the Coast-Dissolving Views-Mist-
Shrouded Lowlands-The Rainy Season-A Strange Pano-
rama-Cloudless Heights-The Llanos Ventosos-Landing in
a Squall-Tehuantepec Guides-A Travelling Companion-
Rain-Bound-Blockade-Running-Horrible Roads-The Mud-
Belt of the Tierra Caliente-The Hummock Region-Wild
Orchards-A Forced Night-March-Mosquito Jungles-A
Place of Refuge-Night-Voices-The Happiness of Contrast-
Reveille-Sunrise in the Foothills-Air de Mille Fleurs-
Woodland Odors-Bird-Voices-A Morning Hymn-The Val-
ley of the Rio Verde-Reptilian and Entomological Bugbears
-Harmless Snakes-Vegetable Wonders-The Cypress of
Maria del Tule-Val de Morillo-Orange Gardens-The
American Daphne-Tropical Butterflies-Catching Butterflies
for a Living-New Bern-Swiss Colonists-Enviable Home-
steads-The Climate of the Llanos Ventosos-Pastor Wenks's
Weather List Creature Comforts Wild Fruits Cheap
Venison-Market Quotations-A Winter Resort for Consump-
tives-Resources of the Tierra Caliente-Falcon Hunters-
Valuable Dogs-Treeing a Puma-Las Cascadas-A Private
Zoo-Pet Reptiles and Carnivora: Their Ridiculous Tameness
-How to Break Dogs from Chicken-Stealing-Supposed Case
of Hydrophobia in a Monkey-A Test of Courage-Cicuta
Poison-A Strange Tipple-Fuddling with Water Hemlock-
Can all Poisons become a "Second Nature" ?-Capuchin
Monkeys: Their Obstinacy-A Beast-Tamer Nonplussed-The
Limestone Caves of the Sierra Honda-Las Tunas-A Convent
Festival-Monastic Bonvivants--Fte Champetre-A Spanish
Hercules-The Padre Vicario's Wager-Tropical Moonlight
-"'La Virgen del Pilar"-Nocturnal Dances-A Sanitarium
for Pessimists .. 219
THE DELTA OF THE SUMASINTA RIVER.
A Shoreless River- Tanglewood-The Swamp-Labyrinth -
Strongholds of the Wilderness-Animal Reservations-Man's
Power and its Limits-Inundated Forests-Driftwood Chaos-
The Raft Faluca-Dangerous Navigation-The Negro Pilot-
Floating Islands-A River-Lake-Land at Last-Camp bn
Terra Firma-Courting Sleep under Difficulties-Mosquitology
-Heroic Remedies-Can the Human Skin become Gnat-Proof?
-Under Weigh-The Swamp-Otter-Its Curious Burrows-
Sweetwater Dolphins Indian Superstitions Swarms of
Water Fowl-Corrientes-A Queer D6p6t-Pinto Wigwam-
Trapping an Alligator-A Surprised Saurian-Settling Old
Scores-Vae Victis-The Wigwam Belles-The- Costume of
the Nereids-Pepita's Bonnet-A Casus Belli-Inconvertible
Bipeds-Father Cristoval's Lament-Rio Gordo-Aquatic
Hunting-Grounds-Habits of the Jaguar-Baiting a Trap with
a Corpse-A Curious Case of Blood-Poisoning-The Mission
of San Gabriel-Major Casales-A Swamp Oasis-Lago de
Patos-River Pirates-Their Inaccessible Retreats-A Chron-
icle of the Wilderness-Mysterious Visitors-A Four-Legged
Lothario-Curious Instinct of a Tame Monkey-Boa-Shoot-
ing-A Pinto Patriarch-Indian Renegades-Impious In-
scriptions-Roasting a Boa-Gastronomic Reflections-The
Delta of the Sumasinta River-Lago de Terminos-A Pathless
Wilderness-Jack o' Lantern-Carmen Harbor 255
RAMBLES IN YUCATAN.
The American Hindostan Indestructible Forests-Yucatan
Indians-A Belligerent Peninsula-Free-Soilers-An Ethno-
logical Problem-San Joaquin-Tropical Fruits in Midwinter
-The Teamster from Tennessee-A Water-Cure-The Arenal
-Evergreen Forests-A Summerland-Arboreal Quadrupeds
-El Hormiguero-A Gypsy Camp-The Tabascanos-Shoot-
ing Frugivorous Bats for Supper-De Gustibus, etc.-Macoba
-Plum-Pudding Day-An Elaborate Feast-Victimized by
Indian Hogs-The Avenger-Lynching a Lunch-Fiend-
Christmas Eve-Kettle-Drums -Indian Converts-Heavy-
Armed Missionaries-Dogs as Tax-Collectors-Reclaiming an
Apostate-Don Pedro Santo-The Dangers of Unbelief-
Striking and Shooting Arguments-Cerro de Macoba-Vestiges
of Former Civilization-Summer Diet-Frugality-Christmas
Dinner-In the Greenwood Shade-Arcadian Pastimes-North
and South-Day-Dreams-The Camino Real-Weather Proph-
ets-Ominous Sounds-Chased by a Tornado-The "' Tower-
House"-Just in Time-A Tropical Thunderstorm-Jupiter
Tonans -Von Haller's Conjecture -A Mountain-Farm--
Monkey Traps-Carnivorous Squirrels-An Unlucky Pet-
The Banana Zone-Spontaneous Orchards-Wild Honey-
Cheapness of Happiness in the Tropics-Our Lost Garden-
THE AMERICAN POMPEII.
Ruins of the New World-Man and Nature-Fate of the Aryan
Empires-A Strange Contrast-Redeemed Deserts-Prehistoric
Cities-Chichen-Macoba-The Discovery of Uxmal-Baron
Waldek's Account-An Archseological Treasure-Trove-Don
Yegro's Guest-A Lucky Accident-Arrival at Uxmal-The
Majordomo-Our Cicerone-The Governor's House"-El
Palomal-Spanish Nomenclature-The Nunnery-A Sculp-
tured Coliseum-Startling Frescos-The House of the Dwarf-
Altar of Abraham"-Gigantic Ruins-The Oldest Inhabitant
-A Problematic Quadruped-The Town-Crier"-Curious
Inscriptions-Sculptured Nondescripts-The Sphinx-Camp-
ing in a Palace of Unknown Kings-Fireside Tales-La
Rebosada- Outwitting a Night-hag- A Narrow Escape-
Indian Traditions -Legend of the Nunnery- Nocturnal
Dancers-Sensitive Spooks-A Disappointed Treasure-Hunter
-Historical Enigmas-The Malady of Civilization-Nature's
Remedy-Redeemed Ruins 326
THE BACKWOODS OF GUATEMALA.
The American Siam-Nature's Botanic Garden-The Palm-
Forests of Vera Paz-A Transcontinental Bridle-Path-A
Pleasant Companion-The Spider-Monkey-Monkey-Lore-
Don Ruan's Theory-Bird-Voices-Ornithological Curiosities
-Among the Parrots-The Purple Macaw-Outshining a
Peacock-Rio Moscon-Camp in the Tree-tops-Excelsior-
Tree Rats-An Unsolved Mystery-Grass Fog-A Snake-Panic
-Spider-Monkeys Monkey-Shooting A Half-Homicide-
Baby Monkeys-Love after Death-A Logwood Camp-Dark-
ness during a Rainstorm-Do Animals enjoy Rain ?-Sloths and
Monkeys-Their Indifference to a Pelting Shower-A Slothful
Family-My Indian Guide-Walking Barefoot in a Jungle-
Natural Sole-Leather-Advantages of a Hardy Education-Is
Health the Summum Bonum ?-The Charms of Savage Life-
Hunting-Grounds of the Casca Indians-Forest Nomads-
Casca Wigwam-A Precocious Muchacho-Knowing Babes
in the Woods-Precocity of the Inferior Races-Animal
Analogies-Capture of a Young Ant-Bear-Its Awful Shrieks
-Arboreal Nosegays-The White Blooming Cecropia-Gor-
geous Butterflies-Edible Fruit of the Quercus Ilex-The
Gusano Infernal-A Dwarf Rattlesnake: Effects of its Bite
on Dogs; on an Indian Child-Queer Remedies-First View
of the Sierra Negra-Val de Tortugas-Mountain Lakes--
Turtle-Egg Hunters-A Visit to their Rendezvous-Wayside
Stores-A Bucolic Instrument-Tortugas-An Indian Patri-
arch-Cutting a Third Set of Teeth-Unimpeachable Testi-
mony-Parched Corn Bread vs. Sozodont-Ethnological Re-
THE VIRGIN WOODS OF THE SIERRA NEGRA.
Daybreak-Sun-Gilt Peaks-Ascent of the Sierra Negra-The
Weather-Saint -Mountain Forests -El Animalote Boa-
Shooting-Tenacity of Life in a Snake-The Cafon of the
Rio Motagua-A River dissolved into Spray-A Tropical
Yosemite-Pine Woods-A Highland Ranch-Gil Mateo's
Boys-A Self-Reliant American-The Casucha-A Hunter's
Castle-Living in an Arbor-Indian Pot-Hunters-A Game-
law-less Land-Value of a Squirrel-Gun-A Humble Visitor-
The Guachinos-Indian Remedy for Lovesickness-A Youth-
ful Suicide-The Eastern Slopes of the Sierra Negra-Their
Beauty and Loneliness-Wild Pineapples-Alpine Pastures-
Fragrance of the Artemisia Alpina-Psychic Influence of
Mountain Air-Blue Skies vs. Blue Glass-Chances for a
Swiss Colony-Edible Acorns-Colossal Fir-Trees-Squirrel-
Monkeys-Connecting Link between the Rodents and Quad-
rumana-Facts for Darwin-La Zapateria-Cerberus-Pre-
datory Monkeys -Monkey-Hounds-The Wages of Sin-
Vicarious Atonement-The Pantaneros-A Musical Escort-
The Austrian Sergeant-An Eventful Career-In Sight of
Port Isabel-Transparent Atmosphere-Optic Illusion-The
Sun of Mexico-An International Seaport Town-Mexican
Garrison-The Harbor of Port Isabel-Barra del Padre-On
the Wharf-Passengers of the New Orleans Steamer-Sunset
-The Coast-Range-Sunlight on the Sierra de San Tomas-
The Last Bell -Valedictory -The Signal-Gun-Adios a
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
1. View on the Rio Motagua Frontispiece
2. Puerto de Guaymas 25
3. "Boss IDavis" 27
4. Sonora Indians 29
5. Ruins of Azatlan 33
6. The Ranchero 36
7. Plateau of Encinal 42
8. Val de Cafias 45
9. On the Road to San Luis 55
10. Aguas Calientes .57
11. Tree-Alligator" (Iguana) 59
12. On the Lerma River 69
13. An Indian Rancho 72
14. Colima Peasants 76
15. Lake Chapala 84
16. The Hog-Tapir 91
17. Chechemeca Platanero 103
18. Chechemeca Bowman 105
19. A Negro Polyglot 109
20. San Bias 114
21. The Tuxpano 123
22. Peak of Culiacan 128
23. Jos6 137
24. Hacienda del Monte 140
25. Temple Ruins of Mayapan 146
26. Mount Orizaba 153
27. Slopes of the Sierra Madre . 157
28. Crater of Orizaba 159
29. In the Pifial 165
30. Deserted Mining-Works on the Rio Blanco 171
31. Convent of San Rafael 177
32. Dolce far Niente" 185
33. Mount Perote 189
34. Precipice of the Rio Blanco 191
35. El Tigrero .. 197
20 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
36. La Trampa 199
37. Val de Perote and the Old Fort 209
38. The Foot-Race 212
39. Falls of the Rio Verde. 220
40. Jungles of the Rio Verde 232
41. Cypress of Maria del Tule 235
42. Indian Falconer 241
43. Don Carl's Pets 244
44. Limestone Caves of the Sierra Honda 249
45. The Wigwam Swing .. 263
46. The Swamps of the Sumasinta .. 257
47. The Raft Faluca 258
48. Settling Old Scores .. 272
49. Mission of San Gabriel 277
50. A Pinto Patriarch ... 283
51. Skinning a Boa 285
52. Carmen Harbor 288
53. Sauve Qui Peut" 297
54. Tabascano Indians ..301
55. Lynching a Lunch-Fiend 305
56. Reclaiming an Apostate 307
57. Don Pedro Santo 308
58. Christmas in Yucatan 811
59. The Ruins of Sacrificios 319
60. South Wall of Casa de las Monjas .... 341
61. The Palomal ... 343
62. The Town-Crier. 345
63. The House of the Dwarf. 347
64. The Oldest Inhabitant .352
65. A Disappointed Treasure-Hunter 357
66. Obelisk of Uxmal 860
67. Excelsior 368
68. Village of the Casca Indians 371
69. In the Toils. 373
70. Love after Death 3.. 79
71. An Ant-Bear at Bay 87
72. The Highlands of Vera Paz. .400
73. Boa-Shooting 403
74. A Hunter's Castle 409
75. Enfant Perdu 419
76. Port Isabel 421
Mi pays y los montes me llaman,
Los montes airosos del Sur.-MANTEL VILLEGAS.
OUR boat had left Fort Yuma on a cold October morn-
ing, and a little before sunset we entered the Gulf of
California. Either the weather had moderated during the
afternoon, or the first ten hours of our voyage had brought
us to a latitude where October is still a summer month, for
some of my fellow-passengers appeared on deck in their
shirt-sleeves, and even the Mexican sailors had folded their
ponchos into pillows and slept or smoked under the lee of
Before the twilight disappeared from the mountain-sum-
mits of the Californian peninsula I had spread my couch
on the pilot-deck, and tried to remember what omens a
professional augur would have found in the swarms of mi-
gratory birds that accompanied our vessel on her way to the
South, when the evening stillness was broken by that ingen-
ious instrument whose sound combines the harmonies of a
fog-horn and a steam slate-factory-a genuine Chinese gong.
"Those things will be safe enough up here," I told
the cabin-boy, who had just brought my overcoat and a
travelling cushion: "I shall be back in ten or fifteen
The passenger-list of the Gila City included some char-
acteristic specimens of an ethnological class who, in reference
to their behavior, can hardly be described as Pacific Amer-
icans. There were two excited Sacramento politicians, hot
from a ratification-meeting; a tr6op of miners, on their
way to the Sonora diggings, who swore that they were
"flush enough to afford it," and threatened to treat all
round; there was a commercial traveller, who insisted on
talking ungrammatical Spanish; and a little lawyer from
San Bernardino County, whose anecdotes would have been
interesting contributions to the border chronicle of Southern
California if he had been sober; and when a deep-mouthed
butcher from Los Angeles became vocal under the influence
of the vino de mezcal, I stole away to my cabin, got a couple
of blankets, and returned to my freehold on the pilot-deck.
I wanted to enjoy the luxuries of silence, especially a feeling
of growing exultation which my spirit somehow evolved
from the consciousness that every hour brought me ten or
twelve miles nearer to a land of perennial summer. Are
there any germs or remnants of the bird-of-passage instinct
in the human soul? I think the phenomenon admits of a
This earth of ours is at present ruled by a race of valiant
Northmen, and some fur-clad philosophers have assured us
that not only valor, but civilization and science, as well as
virtue-and consequently happiness-are plants which can
only thrive in the snow. It would be more correct to say
that science and civilization, which flourished in open air
during the golden age of the Mediterranean nations, have
become hot-house plants in the nineteenth century.. The
ripening of their fruits still depends upon a certain amount
of caloric, only with this difference,-that the maturative
warmth which once emanated from the central body of the
solar system has now to be paid for in the form of sea-coal
and kindling-wood. But happiness, and that physical be-
atitude of which health is only the principal condition,
have never prospered in the atmosphere of the conserva-
tory. Sunlight cannot be entirely superseded by coal-gas.
In the intervals of our noisy Northern factory-life there
are moments when echoes from the land of our forefathers
become audible in the human soul; and I think that at such
times many of my European and North American fellow-
men become conscious of a feeling which I might describe
as a Southern homesickness. For man is a native of the
tropics, and, like the shell that still murmurs its dreams of
the sea, the spirit of the exiled human race has never ceased
to yearn for our lost garden-home in the South. In his
essay on the hereditary instincts of the human animal, Her-
bert Spencer remarks that the strange charm of what we call
a romantic landscape-i.e., a wild chaos of rocks and forests,
the more savage the better-probably dates from a time
when that emotion had a practical significance and filled
the souls of our woodcrafty ancestors with visions of hidden
game and a successful chase. In a similar way, our Para-
dise traditions, the myth of the Elysian Gardens, the ever-
green meadows of the Talmud, as also the Northern saga
of a land without winter sorrows, have probably been
transmitted from a time when all mankind enjoyed such
privileges of the blest on this side of the grave. We may
never know if the cradle of our primogenitor stood on the
banks of the Indus or in Southern Armenia, or, as Mauper-
tuis tells us, in the mountain-gardens of Arabia Felix; but
all historical and mythological indications point to the South,
as well as all tenable theories a priori. What imagination
24 SUMMERLAND SKETCHES.
could locate the Garden of Eden in a Russian peat-bog or
in a Manitoba beaver-swamp? Neither Adam and Eve
nor Darwin's four-handed ancestor could have survived a
Canadian winter, and even the Saturnian age of the first
agricultural nations could hardly be reconciled with the
climate of Old or New England. With all the calorific
artifices which the experience of the last hundred gener-
ations has transmitted to our century, with well-warmed
workhouses and hospitals for consumptives, the burghers of
Manchester and Boston may manage to counteract the worst
effects of a low temperature, but the nations who "celebrated
life as a festival" have inhabited a different latitude.
Los monies airosos del Sur"-" the airy mountains of
the South"-imparted the same charm to the crusades of
the Knights 'Templar as to those of the Conquistadores;
the migration of the wild Asiatic hordes carried them to
the Southwest; the New England tourist departs for the
Southeast; and the Italian hegiras of the British poets, the
chd4eaux d'Espagne of the French romancers, and the old
lament of the children of Israel for their lost Promised
Land, are not inspired by a predilection for any special
country, as much as by an undefined Southern homesick-
ness. "Every mile toward the noonday sun," says the
returning exile in the Mega Dhuta, "brings us nearer to
the home of our fathers, the land of sweet tree-fruits and
The cabin of the Gila City was much infested with
cockroaches and cocktail odors, and the pilot-deck was too
damp to be altogether lovely; but I remembered that
every revolution of the paddle-wheels diminished the de-
gree of Northern latitude, and the starry hours have not
often brought me happier dreams than those in that Octo-
ber night on the Gulf of California.
The sea-coast of Sonora, with its rocky promontories,
abounds in coves and natural breakwaters where the feluccas
of the Mexican fishermen may find shelter in any kind of
weather. The unrivalled seaport of Acapulco alone ex-
cepted, the mouth of the Rio del Toro, near Guaymas, is
PUERTO DE GUAYMAS.
probably the finest harbor of
the Northern Pacific, but the
trade of the mountainous
province is nearly monopo-
lized by an inland market,
and the little seaport-town has not much improved since
the Spaniards fortified the Boca del Rio in 1685. There
are only three posadas or hostelries where the traveller can
find lodging as well as food, and I had no difficulty in
ascertaining-the rendezvous of the Morgan teamsters.
The "Morgan Trade and Transport Company" of San
Francisco sends a monthly caravan of "prairie-schooners"
from Guaymas to San Luis Potos., and their east-bound
freight is generally landed six days in advance of its de-
parture from the sea-coast. As the captain of the Gila
City informed me that his boat had delivered the last
cargo a week ago, I lost no time in making my way to the
caravansary. Several mules, ready harnessed and saddled,
were hitched to the gate of the corral, and the bustle and
hubbub in the wagon-shed admonished me to prepare for
immediate marching orders.
How are you, senor ?" the company's little clerk hailed
me from one of the tent-wagons. You are our passenger
for San Luis, are you not? Can you tell me if there is
any mail for us on the Gila?"
The mail-boy was inquiring for you at the hotel," I
replied. "How's Boss Davis, the wagonmaster? He's
nearly done loading, it seems?"
He's not done swearing yet," said the youngster: I
think I hear him back there in that second shed. He in-
quired for you at different times."
"Glad to see you, doctor!" cried the "Boss," jumping
to terra firma from a pile of swaying dry-goods boxes. I
was just going to send for a good interpreter: it takes a
dozen curses of sixteen syllables apiece to start a Mexican
muleteer, and I was near the end of my vocabulary. Let
me get the axle-grease off my fingers before we shake
hands. You are just in time: I am going to fix you a seat
in my own wagon, unless you prefer otherwise. There will
be plenty of room. Do you know that old Fatty Heninger
left us last month?"
I thought so. It seems you've got a brand-new clerk
since I saw you at headquarters ?"
Yes, quite a boy: he can ride in my lunch-basket or
anywhere. But did you let him weigh your.baggage?"
No: my things are at the posada. Shall I get them
"You will be left if you don't," said the Boss: we
shall start in half an hour. I want.to get across the Vega
The terrace-land of Western Sonora is divided by a ram-
part of steep hills into two well-defined regions,-the Vega,
or coast-plain proper, a marshy jungle diversified with open
lagoons and occasional banana-plantations; and the En-
cinal (literally "oakland"), the park-like plateau that ex-
tends beyond the southern border of Sinaloa and rises in
the east toward the foot-hills of the Sierra Madre. There
had been no heavy rains for a couple of weeks, and the
ground was so dry that we managed to pull through twenty
miles of bottom-land in less than eight hours, and sighted-
the Yaqui River a good while before sunset. We entered
the ford in single file, and in spite of the colossal blasphe-
mies uttered in transit our teamsters reached the opposite
bank in good order, and wheeled in succession to the right
into their first camp, an open live-oak grove at the river-
side, where each carretero was permitted to pick his own
camping-ground within a very liberal circuit; we were still
in the tierra mansa, the country of the tame Indians, where
horse-thieves and begging friars were the worst visitors we
had to fear.
Our rank and file consisted of the Boss, his clerk, two
American teamsters, the cook, an old mestizo of all work,
and five Mexican carreteros, or brevet teamsters, as one of
the Americans, an ex-sergeant of the United States cavalry,
called them. I was the only passenger, but Don Jose Bar-
reto, a coffee-planter of the neighboring Vega, had accom-
panied us from Guaymas, and accepted an invitation to
Before he left he shook my hand with all the unreserved
cordiality of a North Carolina country squire. "To re-
quite your kindness, I will give you a bit of advice, senor,"
said he in a rapid patois which he knew to be Greek to the
Boss. "Do you know what makes your American team-
sters so inferior to our old Mexicans on the. march? It
isn't want of practice, for some of them have been at it all
their lives, and their physique is all that could be desired.
The matter is this,-they eat too much: I mean they eat
too many meals. A Mexican teamster takes a big meal in
the evening after going into camp, but he hardly eats any
breakfast at all. The habit could be formed during a single
trip, and the advantages would be lifelong; for such meals
as I saw your countrymen swallow at the posada this morn-
ing are sure to make the stoutest man torpid for the next
five or six hours, no matter how many drams he puts down
to stimulate digestion. A carretero hardly drinks a drop
of water all day long: a Yankee teamster pumps himself
full whenever he gets a chance. It's not the heat of the
sun that makes him thirsty, but the inward heat, the stack
of beefsteaks under his belly-band."
Paso del Cabo (" the Chieftain's Ford") the natives call
the place where we crossed the river, and the origin of the
name is explained by an old tradition of the Sonora In-
dians. When the Spanish conquistador Valdez established
himself at Guaymas, his freebooters used to go adventuring,
singly or in troops, into the interior of the country, but they
could rarely extend their forays beyond the Rio Yaqui, a
deep and rapid river that runs parallel to the coast for a
good many leagues, while on account of the shoals near the
boca none of their heavy boats could ascend from below.
They had reason to suspect that there was a good ford some-
where near Guaymas, but the Indians of the neighborhood
refused to specify the locality, and finally confessed that El
Cabo, a powerful chieftain on the other side of the river,
had threatened and sworn that if any man should dare to di-
vulge the secret he would cut his throat and throw his body
into the Yaqui River. The Spaniards did not like to meet
the cabo on his own ground, but during a dark night of the
rainy season they surprised a village on the north side of
the river which the chieftain honored with his occasional
visits, and were lucky enough to capture his son, a youth of
eighteen or twenty years. The prisoner was arraigned and
questioned in regard to that ford, but he pleaded ignorance,
and was sent back to jail with the hint that they would
permit him to cross the river at any time if he would just
be kind enough to find that shallow place.
About that time, or a week after, a Spanish hunter biv-
ouacked on the bank of the Rio Yaqui at a place where
certain indications let him hope that deer would come to
drink after dark. He fell asleep, but after midnight he
was waked by a loud splash in the river a little farther up,
and, hurrying to the spot, just caught a glimpse of a human
figure disappearing in the bush. The bright moonlight
enabled him to see that there were wet footprints in the
sand, as if the nocturnal traveller had emerged from the
river. He could hardly trust his eyes, for the current was
strong and swift at that place, but when he met a troop of
horsemen the next morning, and was informed that Cabo
junior had effected his escape during the night, he told his
tale and conducted them to a spot which he could identify
by those footprints, and where, with the aid of a sounding-
pole, they found the long-sought-for Paso del Cabo, the
only ford of the lower Yaqui River. The rapidity of the
current at the ford makes the water turbid, and thus con-
ceals its want of depth. But the story of the Cabo has a
disagreeable sequel: the truculent old chief ascertained the
circumstances of the discovery, and a few days after the
Spaniards found the jugulated body of their ex-prisoner in
a pile of driftwood near the mouth of the river.
When we crossed the foot-hills of the Encinal on the
following morning I stopped repeatedly to take a look at
the northern horizon, where the Gila Desert spread its sand-
waves over an apparently boundless expanse of fallow plains.
El Pays de la Muerte (" the Land of Death") the Spaniards
called this region; and the name is certainly appropriate.
If Northern Africa can boast of any worse desert, the fiercer
heat may justify the claim, but the most desolate portions
of the Central Sahara can certainly not surpass the barren-
ness of the Death-Land. The morning air of that October
day was so clear that I could distinguish the rocks and ra-
vines of a group of hills in the distant northeast, and even
the bluish-green shimmer of the cactus-hedges on the table-
land beyond, but, turning my eyes to the north, I could not
discover the faintest trace of vegetation, though the view
was only bounded by the outline of an airy mountain-range
at the edge of the horizon.
The Gila Desert extends, in fact, from the Rio Yaqui to
'the foot-hills of the Sierra de Pinos in Southern Arizona,
and its eastern spurs form an almost continuous chain of
sand-hills to the valley of the Concho River, where the
American Timbuktoo, the city of Chihuahua,* with her
gardens and orange-groves, lies like an oasis between two
Pronounced in three syllables, almost like Chee-wi'wi.
Professor Buckland asserts that there is no such thing as
an original desert on earth: the destruction of forests, he
says, has converted the garden-spots of the northern hemi-
sphere into sand-wastes; and his view is certainly supported
by the remarkable circumstance that the most treeless re-
gions of four continents are found on the sides turned toward
Asia,- Southeastern Europe, Northern Africa, Western
America, and Northwestern Australia,-where the early
advent of man may be inferred from the proximity of the
common cradle of the human race. "That deserts do not
spread-i.e., blight the vegetation of adjacent districts-
seems proved by the fertility of regions which are not only
bordered, but almost surrounded, by the most hopeless sand-
wastes. In Eastern Persia forests alternate with alkali-
steppes; in Fez and Algiers gardens bloom on the very
edge of the Sahara; and the Encinal, at the border of the
Death-Land, teems with vegetable and animal life, though
it is a wilderness indeed if only tillage can redeem a country
from that stigma. Its human population is exclusively pas-
toral, and I do not think that the vast plateau that stretches
from Guaymas to Southern Sinaloa has ever been touched
by a plough; but its spontaneous flora comprises nearly all
the species of the subtropical zone, and, seeing the multitude
and variety of game which our dogs started during the next
forty-eight hours, I could credit Xenophon's account of a
Thessalian chase. Pheasants, prairie-chickens, and rock-
partridges whirred up whenever we approached a mimosa-
thicket, and the crack of a whip or the vociferous profanity
of a Mexican teamster started the rabbits across the hill-
country in every direction. Black-tail deer, chaparral-
bucks, and turkeys were seen at longer intervals, and at
night the yelping of the hill-foxes and the occasional scream
of a wild-cat proved that the rocks and ravines were not
altogether tenantless. What zoological gardens such regions
must have been in the good old time of animal liberty and
equality, before the power of the scientific biped became too
RUINS OF AZATLAN.
Sunset found us still on the road, and the oriyas, a species
of whippoorwill, were repeating their watch-song in the
mezquite-thickets when we reached the ruins of Azatlan,
near an old rock-well that has never been known to fail in
the dryest seasons. The night was calm and warm, and
after a glance at the cloudless sky the Boss pitched his tent
under a leafy walnut-tree near the well, while the teamsters
took camp in one of the deserted buildings, whose stately
dimensions and well-preserved roof have earned it the
name of the Casa del Oura, "the parsonage." The Span-
iards, who destroyed many cities and nearly all the temples
of the old Aztecs, are not responsible for the ruins of Aza-
tlan; the four casas, with their sculptured walls and broken
colonnades, are relies of that problematic nation which in-
habited, and perhaps desolated, the western table-lands of
our continent, and disappeared before the earliest dawn of
aboriginal tradition. The origin of the Casas Grandes on
the Gila River and the ruins of Northwestern Mexico is as
obscure as the significance of the Sphinx and the purpose
of the Pyramids.
Soon after midnight the dogs in the casa began to bark,
and, peeping from under the folds of my blanket, I noticed
that the little clerk was getting uneasy about the noise.
He raised his head and was looking wistfully, first at the
Boss and then at me, and finally stretched out his hand in
a diffident way, but drew it back, as if unwilling to incur
further responsibilities. I lay motionless, waiting for the
second act of the dumb show, but the barking became
furious, and when our big greyhound joined in the chorus,
I jumped up and walked over to the casa.
One of the American teamsters met me at the gateway.
"I can't keep them quiet, sir," said he. "I was just going
to take a look at the courtyard, or what d'ye call it, back
there: I think there must be cats or thieves somewhere
We went to the north side of the casas and walked over
a heap of debris and through a dilapidated building, but
when we stepped out on the moonlit terrace at the opposite
end, two light-footed animals leaped over the broken stones,
whisked noiselessly across an open field, and disappeared
like shadows in the night-mist.
"Coyotes : I thought so," said the teamster. "I hope
they won't come back. We had a late supper last night,
and those long-legged thieves had smelled the bacon, I
guess. I had a good mind to let the dogs loose, but it
won't do; we have to keep them tied up, or they would
hang around the mules and get kicked to death."
"What was it? robbers?" whispered my little bed-
fellow, who had picked up a pistol and followed us from
"Yes, sir-six of 'em," said the teamster; "but they
galloped away like race-horses when they saw you cock
Ten miles south of Azatlan we crossed the Rio Mayo,
ascended a steep ridge on the opposite shore, and found
ourselves on the table-land of Sinaloa, the southern and
grander portion of the Encinal. The rolling hill-country
swells here into mountains and valleys, and the chaparral
alternates with stately and extensive forests,-cork-oak
forests, some of them, and open chestnut woods that form
an agreeable contrast to the impenetrable tanglewood of the
Vega. Our cook had been still-hunting in the chaparral
while the train crept up the ridge, and said that he had
seen buffaloes from the summit of a grassy knob,-a state-
ment which jeopardized his reputation for veracity; but
our doubts were removed by an argumentum ad hominem
before noon. On approaching a grove of hackberry-trees
on the bank of a little mountain-creek whose windings the
road had followed for some time, our greyhound gave
tongue, and was answered by a quartet of strange dog-voices
36 SUMMERLAND SKETCHES.
so much deeper and louder than his own that the foremost
team came to a full stop, when a broad-shouldered ranchero
stepped from the grove with a merry halloo, and bade us
"Advance and draw our meat-rations, and bring all our
There was, indeed, meat enough to ration a cavalry regi-
ment with numerous veterinary surgeons and attached
officers with their respective families. On the shady side
of the hackberry-trees a party of hunters had hitched their
horses and relieved them of their burden,-five full horse-
loads of fresh buffalo-meat, including a bagful of livers and
kidneys and a ponderous string of tongues. They told us
that, without firing a shot, they had bagged six bulls and
four calves with the aid of their Aragon shepherd dogs,
gaunt, shaggy, and long-legged brutes, that stood around
the beef in a semicircle, and leered at us as if calculating
the amount of meat our rump-steaks and livers would add
to the pile.
The Aragon hound exceeds the mastiff in size, and the
greyhound in strength though not in swiftness, and resem-
bles nothing so much as an overgrown, long-headed, and
hirsute wolf. On account of his ferocity he is seldom em-
ployed as a watch-dog, but his strength and his reckless
courage make him a useful domestic beast of prey. He will
rend a mountain-goat as a terrier would kill a rat, and two
or three of them will keep a buffalo at bay till the hunter can
despatch him with a lance or even with a long knife, for a
trained Aragon flies at the throat of the strongest bull and
disables him in spite of his heavy dewlap and matted mane.
The Boss declined the offer with thanks, but the ranchero
would not be fobbed off, and every one of our teamsters
had to stuff his mess-chest with gratuitous beef.
How did you like the looks of those 'shepherd-dogs' ?"
asked the Boss when we had resumed our march.
Sheep-stealing must be a risky trade in these parts," I
replied; but, now you remind me of it, I am sorry I did
not ask them for a pup of that breed. In some of our
buffalo territories such a hunting-wolf would be worth his
weight in silver."
"Yes, in a country where beef is cheaper than powder,
but where you have to pay a butcher's bill they would be
expensive pets; one of them eats as much as three hard-
working blacksmiths. They earn their rations, no doubt;
but, to say the truth, I would not give my greyhound for
a dozen of them. A good venison steak is worth all the
bull-beef in creation; and I should like to see one of those
lubbers try to catch a chaparral-buck or a cotton-tail deer.
You will see Nepo (the greyhound) do it before night, if
I am not much mistaken."
Another steep up-grade, and we kept along the level
ridge of a long-stretched mountain that afforded a fine view
of the park-like valleys below.
Say, Boss, here's a chance for your galgo" (hound), said
the cook, who had overheard our last conversation. "You
see that mezquite-coppice on the slope down there? Those
black things a little to the left of it are cabras (antelopes),
or I'm a blind-worm."
The Boss stopped his team. "Say, sergeant!" he hailed
one of his American teamsters; "come here a minute, will
you? I know you have eyes like a chicken-hawk: can you
make out if those are antelopes, those black things near
the mezquites down there? I should like to give Nepo a
chance, but it's too far to go there on a wild-goose chase."
"Yes, I see them," said the sergeant; "they are cabras,
-genuine pronghorn antelopes,-but it would be a wild-
goose chase for all that. There's too much cover here: a
greyhound can't follow them through the bush, you know.
There's timber all around, and Nepo couldn't begin to
overtake them before they got across that open prairie."
"He couldn't, eh ?" said the cook. "That's all you
know about it. I tell you they are lost if you get him
half-way down before they start."
"What do you bet on that ?"
"I bet you my cuchillo (dirk-knife) against a plug of
tobacco that he will catch a cabra within ten minutes from
the word go!"
"Much obliged," laughed the sergeant; "my old bull-
sticker is getting played out. Who's going to steer the pup?"
"I leave that to his boss," said the cook, but I'm going
to saddle one of the spare mules and get my meat-bag
You may as well get your cuchillo ready too. Shall we
stop the train for a few moments, Mr. Davis ?"
Well," said the Boss, you may pull slowly ahead, but
don't make any more noise than you can help; it wouldn't
be fair play, you know. Come on, doctor: let us take our
guns along, anyhow."
We kept the galgo in leash till we reached the lower end
of a bushy ravine, at a point from where the antelopes were
in plain view. There were eight of them,-five does and
three bucks, one of them a fat old fellow with the grayish
upper neck that distinguishes the full-grown specimens of
the Antilope americana,-all browsing quietly and evidently
unconscious of any danger, though two of the old does faced
the ravine and seemed to look directly into our eyes when-
ever they stretched their necks for digestive purposes.
Confound the dog! he hasn't seen them yet," said Mr.
Davis; "but it's a lost game if we go any nearer. Just hold
his head a moment."
Nepo had understood the meaning of our manoeuvres for
the last five minutes, and, fully conscious of being the cause
of the perhaps fatal delay, had wrought himself into a state
of nervous excitement; but after straining his neck and
eyes in all possible directions, he still turned his head and
looked at us in a helpless and deprecatory way.
"That's it! hold him steady," whispered the Boss.
"That will do now; he has seen them-by Dios he has seen
them! Now take care! keep hold of him till I get that
leash off. That's it! What do you say ? shall we try to get
a little nearer? It can't do any harm now. Let me go
ahead." He grabbed the hound by the collar and walked,
or rather crept, toward a juniper-bush some twenty yards
farther down; and still the cabras browsed in profound
peace. He reached the bush, and after a little pause crept
around it, more slowly and surreptitiously than before; but
he had not advanced the length of his own body when two,
three, four sibilant snorts from the coppice gave the signal
for the beginning of the race. One of the does led off with
a dashing caper, and the troop wheeled around the coppice
and went down the slope at a rattling gallop.
I have seen English race-horses on the home-stretch and
a wolf in full pursuit of a roe, but the career of the galgo
reminded me more of the rush of some long-necked water-
fowl sweeping down a river with that impetus that sends it
flying through the surface-water for ten or twelve yards if
it tries to alight. With his head, neck, and breast stretched
forward, he shot ahead in a direction that was well calcu-
lated to intercept the fugitives if they should try to take to
the timber. on this side of the lower valley, and headed
them off before they had passed the bottom of the ravine.
They turned to the left then, now fully aware that they
had to run for their lives, and went over the undulating
hillocks of the opposite slope at a rate that would have
defied the pursuit of the best rider in North America.
Hedges, gullies, and rocks they cleared with flying leaps
which only a kangaroo could emulate, while the greyhound
had to break through such obstacles or get around them the
best way he could.
There was an extensive forest on the ridge of the oppo-
site slope, and, though still at a distance of half a league,
the chances seemed even that the cabras would get there in
time. But before they reached it they had to cross a level
plateau where neither rocks nor bushes gave them any ad-
vantage over the pursuer; and here the race for life began
in earnest. The antelopes strained every nerve, and their
flying leaps became wilder and more frequent, but the
galgo's chance had come. No intermittent flying could save
them from that steady rush, and just when the foremost
cabra dashed into the wood the troop flew asunder like a
pile of pebbles under a sudden blow: the greyhound was
in their midst, and a loud hurrah from the ridge above told
us what we could not'see from our lower stand-point: the
cook had won his bet, and Nepo was throttling an antelope
in the outskirts of the forest, which she had reached a second
too late. The race had lasted a little more than ten minutes,
but the plug of tobacco was duly paid.
When we returned to the road the Boss took a detour
through the coppice-wood, and soon after I heard the report
of his shot-gun.
"Look at this fellow!" said he, when he rejoined me at
the train, pulling a long-tailed gallinaceous bird from his
hunting-pouch: "do you know any English name for this
kind of chicken ?"
It is a pheasant, isn't it?" said I, after a glance at the
long neck and feathered tarsi of the nondescript.
Looks like it," said the Boss, but a pheasant can fly,
and these creatures can't: at least, I never saw them do it.
Chaparral-cocks, we call them in Texas: I don't know the
Latin for it, but if there- is any word for a shy bird, that
would be his right name. Holy smokes! can't they run!
They go off like a flash if they spy a human being in the
next county. I tell you, where you can get one of these
long-tails within shot-gun range, you may be sure that you
are a long way from the next Methodist Episcopal church."
The chaparral-cock (Phasianus alector) inhabits the
wooded highlands of North America from Arkansas to
Yucatan, and is probably the shyest bird of our continent.
He can fly, but is so sensible of his deficiency in that ac-
complishment that he takes to his heels at the most distant
intimation of danger, except where lifelong peace has made
him careless. The sportsman who bags his first chaparral-
cock may sacrifice it to AEsculapius: he can be sure of
having escaped from the malady of civilization into the
healthiest wilderness of our old planet.
PLATEAU OF ElCInAL.
But the Encinal is a
Wild plums (Chickasaw
cherries, they call them
in Texas) and mulberry-
trees abound along the
water-courses, and the
hill-forests are full of edible nuts. On southern slopes,
even on the higher mountains, we found wild citron-trees,
now in their second bloom, and diffusing an aromatic at-
mosphere that swarmed with butterflies and humming-birds.
The southern Encinal is crossed by the twenty-seventh de-
gree North,-the parallel of Cashmeer and of the Bay of
San Lucas in Florida, where De Leon landed in his search
for the Fountain of Eternal Youth. He could not foresee
the extent of the swamps and the other obstacles that barred
his way to the west, but his instinct certainly guided him
to the right latitude, if freedom from such cares as hunger
and frost can prolong the term of our existence. The wind
Euroclydon can never,pass the northern bulwark of the
Encinal,-the main chain of the Sierra Madre, that stretches
its cloud-capt ramparts from the head-waters of the Rio
Yaqui to Eastern Durango and shelters the American Italy
against the ice-winds that sweep from Labrador across the
territory of the United States.
"That means rain," said the Boss, when I called his at-
tention to, the electric twitches in a big bank of clouds on
the eastern horizon. "But we needn't mind if it does not
come this way before sunset," he added. Now I think of
it, there is a jolly old greaser living on the Caflas River, six
miles ahead, and if you have any preference that way we
might as well sleep under a good roof to-night."
"Some kind of a country inn, is it ?"
"Not exactly: it is a stock-farm, but with our antelope
and the bull-beef, and a plug or two of tobacco, we are sure
to be welcome."
Hospitality is the virtue of sparsely-settled countries,
and Don Pancho Garcia, the proprietor of the Cafias stock-
farm, received us with that hearty affability which mercen-
ary politeness imitates in vain." I knew there were stran-
gers coming this way," said he :" this afternoon I heard a
shot on the Rio Mountains that did not sound to me like a
Mexican shooting-iron. Well, I'm glad you found the old
44 SUMMERLAND SKETCHES.
place, capitano: my squaws are gone to a wedding at Mr.
Ichar's place, and I felt kind of lonely this afternoon. It's
a good job for that boy of yours" (meaning the clerk) that
you did not meet them on the road: they would have lugged
him along and danced him to death. But just wait: we
are going to have a war-dance of our own if one of your
men will help me to get the cider-barrel out."
On the pavement of the corral a fire was lighted: the
galgo and we Americans, as strangers par excellence, got
reserved seats on the veranda, while the rest of the biped
and quadruped guests formed the pit in the background of
the corral. After supper a guitar and a keg of cider (the
Boss had vetoed the barrel) completed the happiness of the
gypsy camp, and Seflor Garcia invited us to make ourselves
comfortable on the piazza, and set us a good example by
throwing himself at full length upon a pile of white wool
which his wife had probably deposited there for different
Mas que bien, senor," he said in reply to a compli-
mentary remark of mine, "but I am afraid you would
have had a very poor supper if it hadn't been for your
The cook himself," I replied, "prefers truth to glory,
and says that your corn-meal is superior to the finest North-
ern quality. Do you raise much corn on your hacienda ?"
No, thank you," laughed the ranchero: I get it from
Trinidad, with the rest of my grub. I don't believe in
It is a stock-farm," explained the Boss: stock-raising
pays better hereabouts than any kind of agriculture."
Yes, and it's less trouble," said the Mexican. How
many days' work do you think it would take a man to raise
a full crop of corn? Sixty or seventy at the very least,
wouldn't it? Now, I can drive my cattle to market and be
back with a stack of provisions in less than sixty hours.
Besides, I can get my work in on horseback; and that is
more than a poor planter can say." The sophistry of the
unsophisticated is sometimes hard to answer.
VAL DE CARAS.
The Canas Valley, we learned, is pretty well settled.
There used to be a colony of Confederate refugees twenty
miles farther southeast-New Texas they called it-who
lived there in a free-and-easy way, and quite comfortably,
for five or six years; but when times got sunnier in Dixie
they left like birds of passage, and their pretty cottages are
now tenanted by Durango Indians. A year before they left
a pious old Scotchman came from Los Angeles to buy land
in the Caflas Valley, and established a mule-farm,-i.e. a
stud for breeding and breaking mules,-which he tried to
work. with a lot of imported hands, North Californians
most of them. When he first came to the Caflas he was a
most dignified-looking old gentleman, long-haired like a
missionary, and remarkably choice in his language, but
when Don Pancho saw him again, some nine months after,
he had only a handful of hair left, and the profanity of his
remarks appalled even the Mexican experts. As soon as
his Texas neighbors left he returned to California, a heavy
loser by his rash experiment, though his commonplace-
book had been enriched with two aphorisms: First, that
Mexican mules can only be managed by Mexican muleteers';
and, second, that under certain circumstances emphatic lan-
guage becomes an imperative necessity.
"Do you employ any travelling horse-breakers in this
part of the State?" asked the Boss.
"In certain cases we do," said the ranchero. "There are
some brutes that defy all fair means of bringing them to
terms; but, as a rule, I try everything else first. There
are plenty of monteros in this country who can break any
horse, but the question is how long the horse will survive
the operation. There is no word too ugly for the sort of
tricks which some of them use in that business."
They make a trade-secret of their methods, I suppose ?"
Yes: nearly every one of them has a system of his own,
and they often manage to keep it secret for a lifetime. I
knew a fellow down in Sonora who had a recipe for curing
runaway horses, and he had a monopoly of such cures for
more than fifteen years. He would take a wild broncho
out in the prairie, and bring him back as steady as a pro-
fessor,-nobody knew how till his own son betrayed the
secret. And what do you think it was ? He had contrived
a headgear with a sort of copper eye-flap that shut down
like a spring and blinded the creatures completely. He
frightened them on purpose, and as soon as they started he
pulled a strap, when down came the copper like a clapboard,
and the wildest mustang came to a full stop. Then he
opened the lid, reset the trap, and went through the same
manoeuvre till the brutes got satisfied that daylight depended
on their behavior."
"That man was a Yankee, wasn't he ?"
"No, seflor,-a native, homebred Mexican; but you are
right in supposing that the Americanos of the North are
hard to beat at such tricks. You know that our young
bucks once in a while manage to lariat a buffalo,-just for
fun, of course, for St. Samson himself could not tame an old
buffalo bull,-but a Yankee rancher near Mazatlan showed
us that you can make them behave for a day, anyhow.
His vaqueros captured a monster of an old bull and dragged
him to the hacienda, where they chained him to a tree, but
the length of the chain just showed exactly how near a man
could come to that tree without losing his life. But Don
Yankee was too much for him. He got four lariats around
him, and made his men hold him steady for a while, and
then went to work and hitched one end of a rawhide strap
to his tail, and the other to his horns, and then tightened
the strap. Now, you know a bull cannot gore you without
lowering his head first; and in the fix he was this one
couldn't nod without pulling his own tail out."
Our little clerk, whose knowledge of Spanish was con-
fined to the written language, had fallen asleep on the hard
boards of the veranda; but before the ranchero retired he
put an armful of wool under his head and covered him up
with a knee-high stratum of the same material.
Toward morning the long-expected rain began with a
chilly gust, but without any of the electric phenomena
which usually accompany a transient shower in the tropics,
and after a short council of war we anticipated the ranchero's
permission to take refuge in the interior of his house. He
met us in the hall with excuses and a lighted candle, a
cera santa, remarkable for its odoriferous rather than illumi-
native qualities. These candles, composed of a mixture of
beeswax and frankincense, are prepared by the Mexican
ladies for the exclusive use of the church; and after a con-
fession to that effect Don Pancho ushered us into the next
room, shut the windows, and left the ecclesiastic candle on
The residence of the average ranchero is one story, and
contains four apartments,-the bedroom (reserved for the
members of the family); the kitchen, used also as a dining-
and sitting-room; the almac6n, or larder; and the silleria,
or harness-room, where the ranchero keeps his saddle, his
tools, and often his dogs. Strangers sleep in their own
blankets,-in fair weather on the portico, in stormy nights
in the sitting-room. Besides the long dining-table and
kitchen furniture, the apartment contained a clothes-press,
and upon it a cage full of turtle-doves, the favorite pet of
the Mexican farmer; two looms, a spinning-wheel, and a
contrivance .that would have created a general sensation in
a Northern industrial fair,-a combination of concentric
cudgels, not unlike a forty-legged saw-horse, which the
Mexican women use in the manufacture of polychromatic
ponchos and bandannas. They entwine the arms of the
wooden Briareus with as many different patterns of woollen
yarn, and need only to twirl the implement to get any de-
sired shade uppermost and handy for immediate use. The
cera santa began to fill the room with a resinous odor of
sanctity, but every now and then it sputtered like a blazing
sausage; so we put it out.
Before we left the stock-farm the kind ranchero presented
us with a bagful of wild pineapples which his daughters
had gathered in the sierra, and had already commenced the
valedictory handshaking when he remembered that one of
his sheepwalks up on the river needed looking after, so
that he might as well accompany us for a couple of miles.
We followed the windings of the Caflas Valley for some
distance, and then turned to the right into a deep moun-
tain gorge at a point where a wayside tavern displayed its
red-and-white flag as.a sign that the posadero had pulque
(aloe-sap) for sale. But good wine needs no bush, and the
gayest pulque-flag cannot redeem the reputation of the
vender of an inferior article; so we took the ranchero's
hint and pursued our road, which led us gradually up hill
and back to the main plateau of the Encinal.
"You never feed those hogs, do you?" asked the Boss,
apropos of a sow that hastened across the road with her
litter of pigs.
I don't, for one good reason : I have nothing to give
them," laughed the Mexican; but they find all they want
in the woods and creeks the year round. Creatures that
can digest snakes need not starve in this country."
If I may ask, seflor, have you ever ascertained if it is
true that only black hogs can eat poisonous snakes with
"It's strange now, isn't it ?" said the Mexican. "I sup-
pose you heard that in your own country, and the same
belief is very common in many parts of Mexico. The
truth is, that all full-grown hogs are snake-proof; the
thickness of their hide and bacon protects them, for snakes
do not bite very deep,-anyhow, not deep enough to pen-
etrate the callous upper skin of a pig. But it is true that
black hogs are more active as a general thing: the white
ones, you may have noticed, have reddish eyes: they are a
sort of pallotes (albinoes), I think, and not very quick-
witted; but catch a live rattlesnake and throw it right in
front of a white hog, and you will see if he doesn't make
short work of it. A dog or horse in such a case would
jump aside as if it had seen the devil."
"Are there any wild hogs in the sierra?"
No hogs, but you find plenty of wild goats in any of
the mountains around here."
"Cabras (antelopes), you mean ?"
No, seflor,-cabras reales, genuine bearded white goats;
I shot five of them last winter."
"They must have run wild,-descended from our com-
mon domestic goat, I mean."
"I think so, but it must have been long ago. I re-
member my father telling about his dogs killing them by
dozens in the Altar Mountains. They are not very differ-
ent from our domestic goats, but they run like deer if they
get sight of a human being."
"Would it not pay to hunt them for their hides ?" asked
"Hardly, unless you have a tannery of your own; but
I tell you what does pay first-rate,-wolf-hunting. The
government pays five pesos for every wolf-scalp and two
for every coyote, and before they abolished the State bounty
a man could kill vermin for his livelihood.'"
"You don't use strychnine, do you ?"
No: that can only be done in a free country like yours:
our people cannot buy or sell any kind of poison without
a special permit. It would make matters too easy for our
dear squaws. That's my sheepwalk, gentlemen," said the
ranchero, pointing to a black-and-white dotted slope on a
neighboring mountain-side. I must leave you where that
road turns off to the right."
"I wonder," said I, "if English prize-sheep could ever
get up that mountain? Just look at these fat monsters,
caballero," handing him a copy of the illustrated London
News: "have you ever seen the like in this part of the
While he inspected the paper I nudged my companion
and whispered in his ear, "Try to make him accept some
"He wouldn't do it."
"The English would take our wethers for antelopes, if
that's what they call sheep," laughed the ranchero. Here
is your paper, sir."
"Caballero," said the wagonmaster, "would you do me
a favor ?"
"If I can."
You know I am a tradesman, and I should like to es-
tablish a market for our smoking-tobacco in this part of
the country: would you oblige me by accepting this sam-
ple ?" offering him a four-pound package. "Please keep
it, and let your neighbors try it, and let me know how they
like it if I come this way again."
"What is it worth ?" asked the ranchero.
I don't remember just now, but I shall let you know
before Christmas. Prices are changing continually, you
know. Please keep it in the meanwhile."
"No, that would not do, seflor. Be kind enough to tell
me the average price. This is nearly five pounds, I should
Oh, that package you mean? Why, .that's a sample:
they are always free to reliable parties."
Don Pancho's eyes twinkled under his broad-brimmed
sombrero. "You are very kind, sir," said he. "Well,"
with a good-humored smile, "you may always rely on one
thing,-that my old house-door will be open whenever you
or your companions return to the Val de Cafas. Let me
have another one of those apples in your lunch-basket.
Thank you; and now good-by, amigos."
He shook hands all round, and made us a respectful
parting bow, as if we had put him under some great obli-
gation, instead of having been feasted and lodged at his
expense, for when he was gone we found the four-pound
package in the lunch-basket.
The horizon cleared up before night, and when we
reached a mulberry-grove on the bank of the Rio Fuerte
the sun set behind a streak of that fleecy white mist which
is a surer presage of fair weather than a perfectly cloud-
less sky. I do not know if the cicadas of ancient Greece
were identical with the West Mexican species, but the en-
thusiasm of the classic poets would appear less inexplicable
if the locust orchestras of their woods were not quite so
monotonous as the katydid concerts of our Northern sum-
mer nights. I think I distinguished a dozen different
notes in the insect-music that came from the tree-tops of
our mulberry-grove,-the well-known chirp of the locust
proper, a long-drawn whir, a twang, a low whistle, a singu-
lar bell-like ring, a.combination of a click and a squeak,
and a variety of insect-diphthongs for which the English
alphabet yields no equivalent. Singly repeated, they would
have been tiresome, but their combined effect was quite
entertaining. The smallest of the Mexican tree-locusts
(Crada dryas), a thing about as large as a castor-bean, chirps
louder than a sparrow; and if it is true that it produces
those sounds by rubbing its hind legs against the edge of its
wings, the energy of the tiny fiddler is truly astonishing.
I could not help admiring the wisdom of a merciful
Creator, who has not increased the vocal power of animals
in proportion to their size, when the overture of a coyote
serenade sounded over the hills about an hour after sunset.
It commenced with a slow crescendo, so irresistibly lugu-
brious that two of our dogs at once raised their heads and
swelled their voices into a responsive tremolo, which may
have been heard and appreciated by their distant relatives.
A kick brought their antiphones to an abrupt finale, but
every now and then their irrepressible feelings found vent
in a low whine.
It cannot be hunger that makes the Mexican coyotes
howl, for the forests of the Encinal are inexhaustible store-
houses of animal food, and the occasional disappointments
which may attend their predatory enterprises would hardly
furnish an excuse for such loud and protracted laments. It
is rather an elegiac tendency, which manifests itself in all
the varieties of the genus Canis, for even the dingo, the
voiceless dog of the Australian wilderness, breaks forth into
sympathetic grunts if he hears a puppy whine. It is the one
touch of Nature which makes all canines kin, and has prob-
ably been inherited from their common ancestor, the wolf,
once "a mighty hunter before the Lord," but who may
have learned to howl when his business declined under the
competition of Nimrod & Co., till the hunter became the
hunted, unless he preferred to enter the service of his rival
Know ye the secrets of the nether sea,
Or what the pathless virgin woods conceal?
CHAmIsso: The God of Earth.
ABSOLUTE monarchs must be absolutely abolished, but
it can do no harm to confess that they were generally good
roadmakers. The great highways of Hadrian were mili-
tary march-routes, and those of Peter the Great all con-
verged upon his pet capital; but, whatever may have been
King Philip's private motive, it is certain that he and his
successors expended a large portion of their bonanza rev-
enues on the construction of broad and imperishable wagon-
roads throughout their Transatlantic dominions. The
Mexican republic has found no time to extend or repair
the "royal roads" (caminos reales) of their territory, but
the public works of the vireys can stand neglect, and, like
those of Appius Claudius, will not be much the worse for
the wear and tear of a series of centuries.
Sixty miles north of San Luis Potosi we struck one of
these ante-republican roads, and thenceforth were sure to
find a solid bridge at every creek and a massive safety-wall
along every precipice. The bird's-eye views from a slippery
bridle-path often suggest possibilities which only a bird can
contemplate with equanimity, but the bulwarks of our ca-
mino enabled .us to admire the abysmal valleys at our feet
with more than the safety of travellers over a Pacific Rail-
ON THE BOAD TO SAN LUIB.
way viaduct. While my eyes wandered through the cloud-
land of blue heights that border the eastern horizon of the
Val de Potosi I noticed repeatedly a curious column of
white smoke that seemed to ascend from a lateral valley
in the southeast, and stood in sharp relief against the back-
ground of dark-blue pine-hills when our road brought us
opposite a gap in the intermediate mountains. Right over
the valley hung a streak of grayish clouds from which
the white pillar seemed to depend like an icicle, but its
upward rotatory motion and the immobility of its lower
end proved its terrestrial origin. What could it be? My
pocket-telescope failed to solve the puzzle, so I put it back
and looked at my companion, who had watched me with a
Can't you guess ?" said he, anticipating my question.
No; but it looks like a large steam-factory,-unless it's
You came nearer the truth the first time," said the
Boss: it isn't smoke, but pure steam. That's the geyser
of Aguas Calientes, near Los Baflos. We are only forty
miles from San Luis now."
"A geyser? Why, that column must be at least four
thousand feet high !"
"If you mean the steam, that goes up on cold days
higher than the highest clouds; but the water itself spouts
up from a pond at the head of a little creek not more than
ten or twelve feet over the level of the banks. If it didn't
come up through the pond you would not see any water
at all, they say; it is superheated steam, hotter than the
hottest springs, and the noise it makes reminds you of a
copper-furnace in full blast. A sheer waste of fuel wher-
ever it comes from: I saw the place four years ago, and I
do not think there is as much as a bath-house there."
"Is there anything like a watering-place at the bafos
over yonder ?" I asked an intelligent-looking caballero who
overtook us a few minutes after and appeared to be in a
"There ought to be," said he, but the place has some-
how failed to become fashionable. We have a hotel at
the springs, besides a dozen taverns in the village, but it
doesn't pay: the valley is too far out of the way, and the
poor people of the neighborhood can bathe anywhere below
the hotel: three miles this side of the pond the creek is
still warm enough to be pleasant in winter-time."
"Excuse my curiosity," said the stranger, after half an
hour of topographical small-talk; "are you not from
France or of French descent ?"
Almost, seflor: I was born in the French Nether-
"Didn't I guess it?" laughed the caballero. "I was a
good while on the Rio Grande, and I can recognize the
pronunciation of a Yankee or an Italian before he has
spoken a dozen words. There's a countryman of yours
owning a pretty farm a few miles above my place, on the
other side of the river. I could never remember his name,
or I should advise you to stop there to-night; he would be
the happiest man in Mexico to have a paysano under his
roof. We have a horse-fair at Montellano to-day, and if I
should meet him there I would bet my spurs that he'll
overtake you somewhere between here and San Luis."
The Belgians and French abuse each other as rancorously
as the English and Scotch, but, like the English and Scotch,
they fraternize if they meet in Spanish America, as they
58 SUMMERLAND SKETCHES.
would fraternize with a Spanish American if they made
his acquaintance in Samarcand. "Pour aimer votre voi-
sin," says Montaigne, "il faut le rencontrer dans un pays
stranger;" and I fully believe that Muktar Pasha would
embrace a Russian general if he should meet him in the
Mountains of the Moon. More than once after the cabal-
lero had left us I looked back, as if I expected a message
from my unknown half-countryman; and toward evening,
when a Mexican boy came tearing after us on a naked
horse, I somehow knew his errand beforehand.
"Mr. Laurent is coming this way with a tent-wagon,"
he gasped when he reached the wagonmaster's team, and
if you will please to slow up a little, he will overtake you
on this side of the ford."
"Who's Mr. Laurent?"
"I suppose it's some acquaintance of that gentleman we
met on the ridge this morning," said 1: "he told me some-
thing about a farm on the other side of the river, where he
advised us to stop to-night."
"Yes, sir,-that's Mr. Aim6 Laurent's place," cried the
"Well, then, tell Mr. Emmy Laurent to hurry up," said
the Boss: "we're going into camp before the sun goes
The banks of the Rio Fuerte are lined with stately big-
nonia-trees; and here I saw for the first time the singular
reptile which the Spaniards call iguana and the Portuguese
cayman do matto,-i.e., tree-alligator." The latter name
may have been suggested by the formidable appearance of
an animal which attains a length of seven feet and a weight
of sixty-five pounds, and jumps from tree to tree with the
impetus of a tiger-cat; but there is no doubt that the igu-
ana is the most harmless creature of that size which ever
jumped or flew or swam on this planet of ours,-the most
harmless creature of any size, we might say, for the little
goldfish and the robin redbreast are beasts of prey com-
pared with the tree-alligator; they will hurt a fly, but the
iguana is a strict vegetarian, and like an orthodox Hindoo
endeavors to prolong his life without shortening that of a
fellow-creature. Still, with its saurian beak, its preposterous
claws, and the row of bristles along its backbone, this giant
lizard is a scandalous phenomenon; and a big green one,
with a head like the seventh beast of the Apocalypse,
plumping down from a bignonia-tree and scampering into
the underbrush, had provoked me to snatch up a tent-
pole and statt in hot pursuit, when the monotonous rumble
of our freight-wagons was interrupted by the rattling of a
lighter team that seemed to approach at a lively trot. As
I emerged from the thicket a pair-horse country-wagon
passed our rear teams and the wagonmaster tightened his
"Oh, here he. is now," said the Boss when he caught
sight of me. "Please come over here, sir; here's a cabal-
lero from the other side of the river wants your casting vote
on a point we can't agree upon. He wants us to camp in
this bottom or else on his farm on the other side, but I'm
afraid we must forego that pleasure; it's only a mile and a
half to Mr. Carmen's place, and I have to stop there either
to-day or to-morrow."
The caballero from the other side" was leaning against
the front wheel of our team,-a black-haired farmer with a
semi-Mexican hat and shawl, but in the unmistakable black-
trimmed leather jacket of the Pays de Vaud. Our eyes
met, and monsieur saluted me with a gesture that es-
tablished his nationality before we had exchanged a single
"I am sorry that you passed the ford," said he, in toler-
able Spanish, "but my rancho is right across there, and if
I can supply you with anything you expected to get at Mr.
The Boss made no reply, but looked meditatively at the
If you permit me a vote on the subject, Mr. Davis,"
said I, "it seems to me that we could do worse than camp
under such trees as these. There's any amount of firewood
in that thicket,-good water, too; and what else do we
"Well," replied the Boss, "the truth is, we are short
of corn; but if this gentleman can sell us four or five
bushels I guess we could camp here as well as anywhere
"If you stop anywhere in this bottom," said the farmer,
"the corn shall be here before you have unharnessed your
His boy galloped toward the river and our caravan
wended its way to the bignonia grove.
These preliminaries settled, Mr. Laurent took me aside
and the floodgates of his vernacular then opened. He had
purchased his farm fourteen years ago, and lived here ever
since, twenty-eight miles from the next sympathizing fel-
low-Frenchman, a linguistic exile which only hope and a
volume of B6ranger's Chansons had enabled him to sup-
port. Mexican conversation, Mexican gossip, Mexican
sermons, and untranslatable Mexican blasphemies from
morning till night,-his very children vexed his ears with
their Spanish volubility. He had launched them in the
right direction, hoping that the inherent force of the langue
de France would make head against wind and tide, but the
surrounding elements had prevailed. "I give them up,"
said he: it takes a headstrong man to hold his own against
the current, but if it comes to pulling a whole family the
other way, you might as well try to paddle a raft against
Who is your next countryman?" I asked, after answer-
ing a number of direct and indirect questions.
The next one is Monsieur Vallier, the nurseryman, two
miles this side of San Luis, but there are four more in the
"I suppose you know Dr. Rambert, the superintendent
of the city hospital? How is he getting along now ?"
"Old Jacques Rambert? Oh, he's all right. I see him
almost every month: he's got a large practice outside of
the hospital among the rich burghers."
It's a wonder how he can manage that in such a holy-
saints place as San Luis."
Now, isn't it, sir ? It seems you know him, then, the
godless old heretic! It's an everlasting puzzle to me that
they haven't cut his head off yet, nor even his nose: they
hate him like a were-wolf, and he tells me that they suspect
him of witchcraft; but that's his salvation, maybe: they
let him alone because their superstition gets the better of
their spite. Still, he ought to be more careful: his best
friend, the alcalde, died last summer, and I have an idea
that the black rats are getting ready for him. I should not
like to be in his boots next Christmas when the town is
full of mounted Indians: somebody ought to warn him."
"Never mind. Those Indians must come well mounted
if they expect to catch him next Christmas: I am going to
relieve him to-morrow."
"You are? Well, sir, that accounts for it that he was
in such good-humor last week. Where is he going to?-
back to Europe ?"
"No, he is going north, to.Upper California. I was on
his brother's farm near Los Angeles a month ago, and I see
they have everything ready for him: they are going to cure
him with California honey and country milk. His brother
will meet him in Guaymas next week."
Ah! that's the reason he was so anxious about that
rumor from Sonora. By the way, what's the news from
the rebel army ?"
"They are still at El Paso, so far as I know; but the
Eastern mail was over-due when we left, so there's no
saying what they may have been up to since. But who
"Not I," said my courteous landsman, "since you got
through all right. But what's the matter with your Amer-
ican friend? Listen: there he goes again. Is that a sick-
ness or an English song?"
"A supper-signal, I suppose."
Good-night, then, mon voisin a venir," said Mr. Lau-
rent: "I owe you a visit, and I shall pay it in San Luis
Our teamsters trimmed their horses and trappings the
next morning, and I tried to indulge in the luxury of an
hour's sleep after sunrise, but the neighborhood of the large
city announced itself too audibly. Wagons and carts rum-
bled along the camino, mules trotted to market with a load
of squealing pigs, a fulling-mill in the valley commenced
its noisy work, and from three different mountain-sides I
heard sounds which affect me more than other discords in
the harmony of Nature,-axe-strokes, preluding a splinter-
ing crash and a fall, followed by the sympathetic shudder
of the surrounding hills. In a thinly-wooded country those
echoes always sound in my ear with a sad significance, like
a dirge of the wood-nymphs or a lament of our Mother
Earth for the loss of her first-born. The tree-felling axe
is the sword that has expelled the children of the East from
their Paradise, and which in the West too has struck deep
into the root of Ygdrasil, the Life Tree of the Edda, whose
downfall will involve the final ruin of gods and men.
Mr. Carmen's place proved to be a turnpike tavern with
a large corral, where ten or twelve horses'were altered in
a row. The veranda was crowded with muleteers and trav-
ellers, and one of them stepped down and met us at the
turnpike. "I think I passed you last night at the Rio,
caballeros," said he: "do you come from the frontier?"
Yes, from Guaymas, sir," said the Boss.
"From Guaymas! Why, on what day did you leave
"Let me see--"
"We left there on the nineteenth of this month," said
Is it possible ?" cried the traveller. Look here, ca-
balleros!" he hailed his friends on the veranda: "this con-
ducta has left Guaymas on the nineteenth of this month!
Santissima! just at the nick of time!"
A crowd was around us in a moment and fairly bewil-
dered us with a flood of questions and congratulations. Did
we hear the news? Pedro Mendez had captured Guaymas
on the twenty-first and avenged his late defeat by plunder-
ing every house in Western Sonora.
Ye have more luck than sense !" yelled a little arriero:
"you must have a good-sized guardian saint about you, or
is there a friar in your crowd ?"
No, sir," said the sergeant, we are heretics, every one
of us: at midnight you can smell the brimstone for a mile
and a half around; but, you see, we are Americans, and old
Pedro knew better than to tackle the town before we were
out of the way."
"There wouldn't have been much time for prayers if he
had catched ye," laughed the landlord; "but never mind,
you're all right now: we will attend to the old man if he
comes this way."
We reached Potosi an hour before sundown. The city
was agog with rumors and political demonstrations, and one
of the teamsters had to help me get my baggage to my
room, the landlady of the hotel informing us that all her
male employs had run off to join the mass-meeting on
the plaza. Even Dr. Rambert marched me up-stairs into
his studio and handed me a newspaper as soon as he had
answered my first questions. There seemed to be no doubt
about the fate of Guaymas. The insurgents had defeated
the government forces near El Paso, the garrison of San
Miguel had capitulated, and the rebels held every important
town in Western Sonora. Sixteen regiments of regulars
under General Parras were advancing from Monterey, and
a brigade of loyal volunteers from Chihuahua, so that the
suppression of the rebellion seemed only a question of time;
but the fortified towns on the coast might protract their re-
sistance for a month or two, and in the meanwhile all traffic
vid Guaymas must be suspended.
Well, I have got you the place," said the doctor, return-
ing at last from politics to personal affairs, but with a sine
qua non: you have to pilot me through to San Blas. I was
in conclave with the agent of your trading company yester-
day, and the matter is settled so far that the caravan is going
back by way of Jalisco and San Bias instead of Guaymas,
and he has to provide us transportation from here to San-
tiago: from there I can take the stage to Mazatlan, or let
your teams lug me to San Bias and wait there for the Pan-
"But I thought Dr. Patterson was going along?"
"So he was, but he has to go by way of Guaymas: in
other words, he has to wait for a month or two. I got him
to relieve me till New Year, so you needn't report for duty
before Christmas. No excuses, amigo: it's my last week in
Spanish America, and it shall be a pleasant one."
"You are over-kind, but was it worth while-worth the
expense, I mean-to----"
"Yes, it was. Your agent's terms are devilish high, and
the roads are wretched, but all that goes for nothing: we
shall see Lake Chapala, and be reconciled to an earthly pil-
grimage that has led us through Paradise. It's the scenic
masterpiece of the Creator:' that is the phrase of a man who
never used a superlative in vain,-poor Colonel Holty of the
Austrian volunteers,-though he only saw it on that unfor-
tunate expedition to Pascarro, and after Rion's guerillas had
riddled him with buckshot. 'If St. Peter turns me off I
shall ask him for a pass to Jalisco,' he told me when he got
his last marching-order."
"It wouldn't be much of a pleasure-trip for you if you
are not used to prairie-schooner voyages; but, as you say,
I suppose we are in for it. I am sorry, though, we cannot
postpone it for a couple of weeks."
"So am I, but I am due in Los Angeles. And as for
your prairie-schooners, I shall be thankful for any kind of
locomotive contrivance that moves me from this town. My
time is up: the place is getting too tight for me."
"Why? Are the saints getting the better of you, after
"Yes, amigo, I'm going to the wall: they're too many
for me. Do you know that I had to pay those ten dollars,
"What ten dollars?"
"For that saddle-horse I wrote you about: don't you
I can't say that I do."
"Bon Dieu! Didn't you get my last letter? You re-
collect that I used to hire a horse once or twice a week: they
have no regular livery-stables here, but I had made an ar-
rangement with a baker down on the plaza, who generally
lent me the same old mare every Saturday. About a month
ago the brute had a sort of seizure; I think it was nothing
but what our veterinary surgeons used to call 'blind stag-
gers,' but my worthy neighbors put their heads together and
seemed to have a good mind to mob me. It was a preter-
natural disease, they said: the mare must have been be-
witched; and no wonder, if she had to carry a monster who
kept his pockets cramful of heretical books! They talked
about searching my room for necromantic implements, and
the owner of the beast left me an alternative between a
compromise and a lawsuit."
Would a Mexican judge actually commit you on such
He would not acquit me in his heart, whatever he might
do for fear of the European consuls; and the wretches threat-
ened to cure my infidelity with a potato-masher; so, for the
sake of holy peace that surpasses all reason, I let the fool
have his ten dollars and kicked him down-stairs."
"Do they only pretend to believe such things, or is it
possible that they are in earnest about it ?"
Their faith recognizes no impossibilities at all. If you
think that their stupidity has any limits, that affair of the
Protestant miner in Belcarras should undeceive you. Did
you ever read the account of his trial?"
I read the report of the English consul: they sentenced
him for 'witchcraft in the first degree'-ten years, wasn't
it?-and three months extra for contempt of court because
he attempted an argumentum ex absurdo."
You would not mention such trifles if you had read the
'circumstantial evidence,"' laughed the doctor. "I will
show you a copy of the proceedings: it's valuable from
a medical standpoint if you have a taste for the study of
The Rocky Mountains of the United States cross the
Mexican frontier in two main chains, which gradually con-
verge toward the south till they unite near the head-waters
of the Rio Lerma, about fifty English miles northeast of
Acapulco. Near the Rio Grande their water-sheds are at
least two hundred miles apart, and the intermediate region
is comparatively arid; but as the ridges converge the central
valley becomes more humid and fertile, till south of Potosi
the cornfields, the orchards, and finally even the chestnut-
groves are supplanted by the rankness of the spontaneous
vegetation. The forest-trees of the temperate zone grad-
ually give way to luxuriant evergreens, and where the two
sierras coalesce they enclose a forest-delta of three thousand
English square miles, which white men have but rarely
entered, and which no human being has ever attempted to
cross. This delta is drained by the Rio Lerma, which far-
ther down expands into a glorious lake, and carries more
water to the sea than the Rhine or the Rio Grande; .but no
human eye has ever seen the source of that river. Fisher-
men from San Bias and the Jalisco turtle-hunters have as-
cended it in their canoes to its junction with the Rio Balsas,
but there the virgin woods of the delta begin to interpose
their barrier of driftwood, bush-ropes, and aquatic trees,
and the upper course-perhaps the upper half-of a broad
American river is as unknown as the fountain of the Nile.
The eastern slope of the mountain-range which borders
the Rio Lerma below the lake is extremely steep and rugged,
and farther south, where its height sinks from fourteen
thousand to six thousand feet, its western foot-hills are
flanked by the thickets of the delta. The roads which unite
Mazatlan and San Bias with the cities of the table-land have
therefore to take a strangely circuitous route. The air-line
from Potosi to San Blas, for instance, would run due west,
but terrestrial travellers have first to go south to Cuerna-
vaca in the valley of Anahuac, thence west up to the back-
bone of the sierra, due north along the ridge toward the
lake, and again west to a pass in the coast-range, from where
ON THE LERMA RIVER.
points on the Pacific can be reached by a less tortuous
We followed the highway as far as Queretaro, where we
engaged a professional guide, and then launched our prairie-
schooners on the old military road to the west. Our cara-
van had passed through seven degrees of latitude since we
left Guaymas, and near the tropic of Cancer that polar dis-
tance makes an appreciable difference. We had entered the
summer zone. The river-sides were covered with rhexia-
thickets, intermingled with wax-palms and wild fig-trees,
and the southern slopes of the foot-hills flamed with yellow
orchids and the long red pipe-flowers of the Salvia splendens,
and even exhibited some good-sized varieties of arborescent
ferns. The valleys of Eastern Michoacan produce a thorny
shrub of the genus Lycnum that is covered with a profusion
of apparently perennial white flowers of a nauseous sweet-
ish smell, which seem to exercise an irresistible attraction
on all honey-loving insects. They swarm with beetles, blue-
bottles, and formidable black wasps, but they are veritable
butterfly-traps, and enriched my collection with a number of
tropical swallow-tails and a fine specimen of the dark-blue
Papilio castor. We saw iris-crows and different parrots, and
wherever cattle grazed they were attended by flights of the
black cow-rider (Crotophagus ani), which benefit themselves
and the cows by relieving them of numerous troublesome
parasites. The southern Mexicans are strangely prejudiced
against these birds, and a Jalisco farmer, after requiting
their labors with an effective discharge of his old trabucco,
informed me that they were a worse pest than weasels and
chicken-hawks. "They flay our stock alive," said he: "a
black rascal of that race seems to think that I keep my cattle
for no other purpose but to furnish him with cow-hairs."
On the evening of the second day after our departure
from Queretaro we crossed the Rio Balsas on a rope-ferry,
and encamped near an abandoned maderal, or lumber-yard,
in the opposite foot-hills. The darkness of the night, in-
creased by the gloom of the cedar forest, made it at first
rather difficult to collect the material for a camp-fire, but a
blaze of dry grass and furze revealed abundant pineapples,
and -when the flame rose high enough to illuminate the out-
skirts of the maderal we found that the ground was strewed
with chips and good-sized logs, and that we had all the
wherewithal of a first-rate barbecue.
The teamsters had exchanged some of their superfluous
bacon for a six-gallon keg of pulque, and while we watered
our horses at a prairie-creek the sergeant had shot a pig: a
sick peccari (wild-hog) he preferred to call it, though he
trusted that its flesh might be eaten with impunity,-in the
absence of the owner. Only Dr. Rambert was out of luck:
in unloading the baggage-wagon the men had dropped his
mess-box and converted its contents into a mass of smashed
eggs and cohesive flour; and as he disapproved of pork
and all stimulants, including tea and coffee, he had to bor-
row a handful of soda-crackers from the cook and soak
them in water with a little brown sugar.
"Try some of these spare-ribs, doctor: be persuaded,"
said the Boss: "we have the sergeant's word for it that it
isn't pork, but venison."
No, thank you," laughed the doctor: "I should soon
be a great deal sicker than the peccari. I used to puff the
temperance movement as a sanitary gospel of salvation,"
he continued, "but I have made up my mind that its chief
purpose is defeated unless it goes hand in hand with a
"That's all well enough," said the Boss, "but you can
make up your mind that you're not going to starve in my
camp. Look here, boys: doesn't one of you know a ranch
or something hereabouts where we could raise a few eggs
or a potful of milk?"
"Yes, there's a cabafa (log shanty) over there on the
creek," said the guide. "I sent one of your men down
there a while ago: he will soon be back."
Ten minutes after one of the Mexican teamsters returned
from the cabanla with a hatful of leaf tobacco and a string
of onions. "Mean as Jews!" said he. "They wouldn't
take any sugar: I had to give them money."
"Do you know if they sell any eggs ?" asked the Boss.
"No, sir, but they have chilg colorado and milk, and
some green chile."
AN INDIAN RANCHO.
"Never mind the chil6. Here"-handing him half a
dollar-" take this pot and get as much milk as they will
give for three rials."
We had to wait more than twenty minutes before our
delegate returned with half a quart of skim-milk and a
bunch of yellowish-green leaves. "They couldn't make
the change," said he, "so they send you some chil6 blanco
(pepper-cress), since you don't like the other kind."
While we ate our supper a ragged Mexican-probably
the proprietor of the cabala or one of his neighbors-
emerged from the darkness, and, upon the invitation of his
countrymen, took a seat at our fireside.
"I had a good mind to make him eat his pepper-grass,"
muttered the Boss. "Confound his impudence! he might
as well have sent us a handful of bulrushes. It puzzles
me what he wants here."
Our visitor, after a whispered conference with one of the
mestizo wagoners, at last solved the puzzle by drawing a
dirty little package from his bosom and handing it to his
Excuse me, gentlemen," said the teamster, "but this
paysano wants to know if you would like to buy a cake of
fine beeswax. Nearly two pounds, he says,-enough for a
big church-candle, and good for ten years of gracias (pur-
gatory-indulgences) at the very least. It's first-rate for
harness-leather too, especially in rainy weather," he added
after a pause and a sotto-voce suggestion from his prompter.
"Would you like to look at the cake ?"
"Never mind," said the Boss: "tell him we are fire-
and water-proof here."
The paysano nudged his interpreter, and exchanged the
package for a larger article.
Maybe you would prefer a panuelo," said the teamster,
displaying a large red cotton handkerchief. "Look here!
as good as new, and he says he lets you have it at less than
half price, Mr. Davis."
"Take that rag away, or I-"
"Never mind him," said the doctor. "Listen! what's
going on in that tree up there? It can't be birds at this
time of the night?"
In different intervals of the camp-hubbub we had heard
a shrill twitter from the summit of a large pinabete, or
mountain-larch tree, as if a multitude of swallows were
chirping in unison. But the invisible vocalists had either
disagreed on some private business, or the glare of the
74 SUMMERLAND SKETCHES.
camp-fire began to excite them, for their twittering was now
intermingled with a vehement flutter and piercing squeaks
that sounded through the cackle of our Mexicans like a
Goatsuckers perhaps, or some other kind of night-bird."
They must be squirrels," said the Boss: birds couldn't
squeak like that."
But squirrels can't flutter: they must be bats or birds,"
insisted the.doctor. "Let me get over there: now watch
if you don't see them fly away." He picked up a billet,
and, after flinging it repeatedly against the upper branches,
inspected the trunk of the pinabete, and owned himself
puzzled when he returned. "There is a twenty-inch
stratum of animal excrements under that tree," said he.
"You may be right, after all, or there must be something
else up there besides my birds,-maybe cats or monoschicos"
"They are murcegalos" (a large kind of bats), said the
guide, guessing at the context of the English conversation
by the last word: "that tree is chuckful of them."
"What makes them flutter so?"
"I don't know, sir: they keep coming and going, and
some of them are as large as wood-pigeons."
But the fluttering in the larch-tree was as steady as the
flopping of a fan-ventilator; and after propounding and
rejecting a variety of other theories, we came to the conclu-
sion that the upper branches of the pinabete must be the
flying-school of the bat colony, where their youngsters were
exercised in the rhythmic movement of their membranous
Smaller bats and a swarm of moths and beetles hovered
about the camp, and in the light of our fire we could see
night-rats chasing each other through the grass and flying-
squirrels flitting from tree to tree; and the near and far
voices of the forest made it rather doubtful which part of
the twenty-four hours could here be called, par excellence,
the wide-awake time. The business of animated nature is
carried on by relays in the tropics.
We had almost forgotten our Indian visitor, when his
interpreter resumed his functions: With your permission,
caballeros, this paysano asks me to mention that the panuelo
can be used as a neck-cloth. It is a patriotic handkerchief,
with a Mexican eagle on it: all it needs is a good washing,
and a little starch -"
"Doctor, you had better attend to that man; he must
be seriously sick," laughed the Boss.
"A little starch, caballeros, would make it as good as
new," he says; and you needn't pay him in money: he'll
take it out en alimento,-in comestibles."
"Aha we are coming to the point now. Say, Pancho,"
to the guide, "just ask him what he wants, or he'll auc-
tioneer his breech-clout next."
"I needn't ask him," laughed the guide; "he wants a
little ground coffee, sir."
"That's talking sense, now. Here! fill him this pint
cup. Now ask him if he wants anything else."
He says he is very sorry to trouble-"
"Never mind; what is it ?"
A little bacon, sir: that's all."
"You relieve me. Here! I guess this chunk will grease
his way to heaven if he should lose his beeswax. Give
him his pepper-cress back, too."
Cresses, coffee, and bacon were wrapped up in the
patriotic handkerchief, and our Indio hopped off rejoicing.
"Indians are very fond of coffee, sir," explained the
guide. It doesn't grow here, and they've got no money
hardly. There was no necessity, though, for giving him
as much as all that."
"Oh, he's welcome. But what's the reason the lazy
loafers can't raise their own bacon? Don't they keep any
It's very hard to raise any hogs here, sir. The Indians
are too poor to keep them in pens, and out in the bush they
get snapped up as fast as you turn them out. The woods
are full of panthers and bears, and God knows how many
alligators down in the bottoms. Besides, they are liable to
get sick, and- "
"To be mistaken for peccaris," suggested the doctor.
"Yes, and they are so worried with vermin,-leeches
and bush-lice, and ticks as large as your finger. The same
with chickens. The wild-cats eat them in the bush and
the pulgas. (sand-fleas) in the stable; so the Indians have
to live on vegetables and milk."
"Why don't they go hunting, if the woods are so full
"They don't dare to, sir; they might run across the
wrong kind of game, or lose their way, as has happened
more than once. You have no idea what sort of tangle-
wood they have along this river; the best hunter can't find
his way without a trained dog."
"There are no hunters at all here, then ?"
"Only a Gu&ro* here and there, but very few of the
colored people. They told me about a deaf-and-dumb
Indian lad down on the Balsas River who used to wander
about the woods in every direction for days together, and
somehow always found his way back. But one day he
came flying home in the wildest excitement, and gesticu-
lated as if he was out of his senses altogether; and he
would hardly trust himself out of the rancho after that.
They think he must have met a renegr6n."
The backwoodsmen of Southern Colima believe in the
existence of an animal which, according to their accounts,
Guiro, in Spanish America a generic name for all non-Spanish
Europeans. The European Spaniards are called Castellanos, but
more frequently Gachupines (Tories).
must be a large, black-haired feline, of extraordinary
strength and ferocity and of strictly nocturnal habits. The
renegr6n-blackamoor (carraguar, or night-tiger, the In-
dians call him)-has broken into adobe cabins and torn
their inmates into pieces before a puma could kill a cow;
and neither a bear nor a jaguar would follow a fisherman
and capsize his boat in the middle of the stream, which
feat is ascribed to a renegr6n of the lower Balsas. In warm
nights the rancheros of the Colima backwoods have often
heard a peculiar howl which they could not mistake for
that of any known beast of prey, and seen footprints in
the river-sand which prove that the jungles harbor a brute
whose size far exceeds that of the puma. They have found
the mangled carcass of the hormiguero, or large ant-bear,
an animal which from its mastership in the use of its long
claws is never molested even by the jaguar. The jaguar
also visits the tierrasfrias, the summit regions of the Sierra
Madre, while the voice of the night-tiger is only heard in
I was told that only a year ago the appearance of a car-
raguar in the Indian wigwams on the Rio Piflas created a
perfect were-wolf panic; and the description of the brute,
which was then seen and heard by a number of persons
at the same time, though differing in details, agrees in the
above-named essentials with the accounts of other forest
tribes. But the renegr6n sensations are by no means con-
fined to the Indian settlements, and all the farmers of the
Balsas Valley remember the tragedy of the Cazador Guero
(the "white hunter"), a sturdy ranchero of Portuguese
descent, who had different rencontres with the murderous
night-walker, and at last sealed the truth of his accounts
with his life.
Juan Riv6ra was a cattle-herder and trapper of the
Val de Mascalo, near San Nicolas, and proprietor of a
clumsy but very efficient old trabucco, or Portuguese army-
musket, which had freed the valley from so many wolves
and panthers that he was generally known as El Cazador,
the champion hunter of the Rio Mascalo. Among his
trophies was a large shred of black fur torn by his hounds
from the hide of a renegr6n, which their master had crip-
pled by a shot through the haunches, but which neverthe-
less effected its escape after disabling two of its would-be
captors; and more than once had he seen the sable form
of a night-tiger" when he visited his beaver-traps in the
morning twilight. But since the inundation of the Balsas
bottoms, in 1869, his ranche had been more frequently
harried by other enemies, and when he missed a fine white
milch-cow he ascribed the loss to a puma that had carried
off one of his goats a month before. The carcass of the
cow, minus the entrails and one of the hind-quarters, was
found near a salt-lick in the river-jungles, and the Cazador
resolved to watch the next night and pay the butcher in
heavy currency. He loaded his trabucco with two handful
of chopped lead, and started at sundown for the salt-lick,
accompanied by his son Miguel, a fearless lad of fifteen
or sixteen, who had lately been presented with a shot-gun
by the Cazador's father-in-law, and wanted to prove himself
worthy of the gift.
They watched behind an ambuscade of brushwood till
the moon rose above the ridge of the Sierra de Mascalo,
when Miguel heard a low rustling in the neighboring
thicket and the click of the trabucco of his father, who
motioned for him to cock his own piece and keep very
quiet. After waiting in dead silence for ten or twelve
minutes, during which the rustle was heard at intervals,
but without coming any nearer, his father whispered to
him to stay in the hiding-place and keep a sharp lookout,
while he went to reconnoitre the jungle. He slipped away,
trabucco in hand, and Miguel waited nearly a quarter of an
hour, when he thought he saw a dark form creep upon the
white carcass, which began to shake and roll in a way that
satisfied him that the long-expected guest had commenced
his supper. Bundles of brushwood had been deposited
along the ground between the bait and the ambuscade, and
Miguel could creep near enough to distinguish the whole
outline of the cow-killer, and thought he recognized the
broad head and long tail of a puma. His father had warned
him not to fire at anything larger than a wolf, for his piece
was only loaded with buckshot; but the brute presented a fair
broadside,-the left side, too,-not a pellet could miss, and
no such opportunity might ever occur again. Miguel raised
his shot-gun, and, resting it in the fork of a bush which
completely hid him, covered the ribs of the supposed puma
a little back of the left shoulder, and pulled the trigger.
He remembers that he dropped his piece and ran off,
screaming for help, with the tiger at his heels, and that he
was awakened from a stunning fall by the crunching of his
shoulder-bones and a fierce tugging at his shawl, as if the
murderer was trying to get at his throat. But in that
moment he heard his father's trabucco go off like a thun-
der-clap close to his ears, and staggered to his feet. The
brute had recoiled, and in the next instant received a blow
por tumbar un toro (that would have felled a bull), for it
splintered the butt of the heavy musket like a walking-
stick. He saw his father swing up the gun-barrel for a
second stroke, but before it descended the brute had made
a spring at his legs, and in the next second had him pros-
trate on the ground.
Corre, muchacho! por tu vida por tu vida !" yelled
the hunter between his screams of agony,-" Run, my boy,
for your life! It's a renegr6n!"
Miguel stood stupefied for a minute, and even the death-
shriek of his father brought him only half to his senses,
for he dashed into the woods at random, and arrived at
midnight, not at his mother's ranche, but at an Indian wig-
wam on the river-shore, where a former vaquero of his
father's bandaged his shoulder, and carried him home on
a mule the next morning. The boy's excitement and his
frightful wounds attested the truth of his statements, and
before night the battle-ground was visited by a large party
of armed rancheros. The corpse of the hunter had disap-
peared, but they found his hat and shreds of his clothes,
and the two guns. On a spot where the sods were torn up
by the rough-and-tumble fight, and on the butt of the
broken musket, they discovered tufts of coarse black hair,
which could not have belonged either to a jaguar or a cuguar,
as the Indians call the yellowish-gray puma or Mexican
The next morning we resumed our journey at sunrise,
and passed through a majestic forest of pinabetes (Larix
montana), which covers a considerable portion of the lower
foot-hills. Even coniferous trees do not monopolize the
soil of the virgin woods, and in the shade of dense and
widespreading mountain-firs many bushes and arborescent
shrubs-sassafras, chrysosplenium, or monkey-pot trees, and
white-blooming oleanders-manage to dispense with sun-
shine and rain.
But the selvas bravas-the primeval forests proper-
begin only beyond the foot-hills of the Sierra de Jalisco,
where the erythrina thorns and wood-myrtles spread their
thickets through the underbrush, while the upper foliage
is interlaced with a network of wildering lianas. The road
through these mountain jungles cost the vireys millions of
dollars and untold human lives, and is kept in tolerable
repair at the expense of the Mazatlan merchants; but the
overhanging boughs of the giant trees and the swaying
tendrils of the bush-ropes, that reach out like eager hands
toward the bush-rope tangle on the other side, convey the
impression that if the road was left to its fate the forest
would swallow it and close above it in a single year. Here
and there a creek issues from a dusky archway that leads
into the penetralia of the tree-labyrinth like a tunnel into
the bowels of a mountain. The arcades of the wild fig-
trees, too, open vistas into leafy vaults where owls and
goatsuckers commence their plaintive cry long before sun-
set, and the gloom of the deeper recesses is unlike anything
we see in our densest pine-groves in daytime.
The experience of a lifetime teaches the Jalisco hunter
to distinguish the strange animal voices of these mountain
forests,-the cries of yelping birds and whistling quad-
rupeds, the shrill piping of the squirrel-monkey from the
note of the crested curlew, and the hoarse bark of the
toucan from the coughing scream of the tree-panther. But
the remoter depths of the selvas now and then send forth
sounds which puzzle even the natives, like voices from an
unknown world, and awaken a suspicion which the theo-
retical completeness of our natural histories cannot wholly
remove,-namely, that the Forest has kept some of its
secrets as well as the Ocean.
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO.
Yet would you scale those mountains if you knew
That they enclose the vale of Paradise?-CAMoENS.
WHEN we reached the plateau of the first-i.e., the east-
ern-range of the double mountain-chain that encloses the
lake-region of Jalisco, the valley at our feet was shrouded
by a misty veil, but the mountain-heads had doffed their
hood, and the ridge of our own sierra was sunlit for many
miles ahead. Our road meandered between boulders of cal-
careous tufa, but along the centre of the plateau the main
stratum had cropped out in a ledge of massive granite,
which approached the western brink at different points,
forming as many headlands of dark-gray cliffs.
We could see the lake now if it wasn't for that wretched
fog," observed our guide, "but I guess we shall have the
south breeze before long if the sun gets a little higher."
We saw the breeze in the tree-tops of the lower moun-
tain-regions before it reached our plateau; and when we
approached the western slope the next time the cloud-
masses had actually got under way, and a gap here and
there revealed the blue forests of the opposite sierra, and
even a dazzling though only momentary glimpse of the
great lake below. But when we reached the third head-
land our caravan stopped and the teamsters dismounted,
and one by one our men stepped up to the brink of the
projecting cliffs. The veil had been lifted.
The river at our feet was as wide and quite as blue as
the Susquehanna at Harrisburg; but its banks were not
gentle slopes, but savage cliffs rising abruptly into tower-
like foot-hills and mountain-walls that approached the re-
Sgions of everlasting snow. But
i as the mountains diverge the
river widens into a lake whose
shores follow the zigzag line
of the foot-hills, till, in the far west, where the two sierras
part at right angles and forever, the lake expands into a
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO. 85
boundless sea, glittering like a mirage and studded with
hundreds of wood-covered islands that fade into light-
blue hillocks at the edge of the horizon. Just below our
feet the river was hidden by a grove of balsam-firs, the
home of a colony of black herons, and the open lake was
crossed and recrossed by swarms of waterfowl, which, at a
greater distance, seemed to drift slowly along like a streak
of silver-white clouds.
It has been said that the world in general knows nothing
of its greatest men, but it is more certain that men in gen-
eral are unacquainted with the fairest regions of their world.
I am almost sure that there are towns of ten thousand in-
habitants in the United States, and much larger cities in
Western Europe, where it would be impossible to find one
man who ever in his life heard even the name of Lake
Chapala, while every other village schoolmaster in Europe
and North America could write a treatise on Lake Leman
or Loch Lomond. Thousands of North American school-
boys have read about the Lago di Como, and many illiter-
ate Western farmers know that the Boden-See is drained by
the Upper Rhine, but not two men in a cityful of European
professors would be able to say if the fairy lake of the Rio
Lerma is in Mexico or in the Philippine Islands. Yet this
fair lacus incognitus is ten times as large as all the lakes of
Northern Italy taken together, and forty times larger than
the entire canton of Geneva,--contains different islands
whose surface area exceeds that of the Isle of Wight, and
one island with two secondary lakes as big as Loch Lomond
and Loch Katrine!
"Well, boys," observed one of the American teamsters,
"it's no use to deny the truth if you can see it in broad
daylight: this beats California."
"It does indeed," said the sergeant, who had stood at
my side as immovable as a fugleman on parade. "Well,
sir, I have often wondered how that Maximilian of yours
could be so foolish as to leave all those castles he had in
the old country and come here and get himself shot like
a highway robber; but I see now that his head was level
enough, after all. He was right to risk his life for a country
I walked over to the other side of the cliff, where Dr.
Rambert stood, hat in hand, pensive and mute. Que dit
Monsieur le Docteur? You wouldn't find such a lake in
California? Don't you feel like going back to San Luis,
in spite of your heresy ?"
"Retourner? Yes," said the heretic, turning suddenly and
gimleting me with his keen eyes-" Yes, I do feel like going
back a long way,-back to the fourth or fifth century B.C.
There it is, my friend: that's the world we have lost for
the privilege of exchanging a pantheon for a charnel-house,
-a company of happy gods for an assembly of tearful
saints, who ruined their bodies to save their souls and ce
monde-ci pour amour du ciel. Have you ever wished to
know what Southern Europe was like in the times of
Homer and Xenophon? Crcumspice. That's Greece with
all its ancient forests and happy islands, and without its
modern deserts and convents. Take a good look at it. I
have an unfortunate talent for historical clairvoyance, a
sort of inverted second-sight, and I can see it: I see a
Mediterranean Paradise getting from year to year more
desolate and Semetic, but--"
"No, I won't. The guide tells me we are going to have
fried salmon-trout for dinner, and I don't like to spoil my
The forest thickened around us as we descended, and
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO. 87
before we reached the lake our road shrank to a narrow
send, a mere trail through the wild tanglewood. The
jungles of the foot-hills, our guide told us, swarm with game
of various kinds which are but rarely seen in the alturas,
as the natives call the open forests of the summit-regions.
SIn the matted thickets of styrax and myrtle-wood they
find safe retreats from the arrow of the Indian hunter; and
even the panther visits their haunts only at midnight, for
fear of the maraf5os, or wild hogs, that charge him with
headlong fury if they spy his freckled hide in daytime.
The foliage was fairly drenched with dew, and the
morning wind diffused a medley of most astonishing odors;
but the weather was already too warm to be agreeable, and
when we emerged from the bottom-jungles opposite a peb-
bly beach our mules jostled and kicked each other in the
press for precedence. The shores of Lake Chapala had not
borrowed their enchantment from the distance of the view.
Sturdy hemlocks and bignonia-trees crowd the impertinent
underbrush out of the way, forming natural avenues along
the beach, which slopes so gradually that the water-line is
almost everywhere accessible. The water is steel-blue and
wonderfully transparent, in spite of the algae and pond-
weeds that weave their tangled tendrils wherever the bot-
tom is a little less obdurate. From the racks of an open
wagon we could see the mountain-forests of the opposite
shore glittering with a moist and tremulous light and a
thousand hues,-all possible shades, variations, and combi-
nations of green and blue, darkened here and there by the
gloom of a mountain-gorge or the floating shadow of a
cloud. But on the eastern shore the sierra presents a
mural front to the lake, and discharges its drainage in the
form of dripping springs and .cascades, tiny rivulets mostly,
except at the northeastern extremity of a triangular bay,
where the falls of the Rio Blanco come down with a thun-
der that can be heard and felt for leagues around. A mile
below the falls a few jagged rocks rise from the water, form-
ing the southern outposts of the motley archipelago of cliff
and islands that extends along the eastern shore for at least
sixty English miles. A meadow of pond-reeds near one
of the mid-lake islands seemed to be a rendezvous for all
possible kinds of waterfowl. Moor-hens, surf-ducks, fla-
mingoes, a long-legged bird that looked like a stork, but
might be a species of white heron, coots, and black divers,
arrived and departed from and in all directions; and a little
apart from the rest a flock of gansas, or swamp-geese,
disported themselves in the open water,-grayish-white,
long-necked fellows with black heads, floating at times in a
sleepy way till some old gander craned his neck, and then,
as if suddenly stirred by the spirit of locomotion, shot
ahead with flopping wings for a hundred yards or so, and
excited the whole flock into a fit of aquatic gymnastics.
How would this suit you for a camping-ground, cap-
itan ?" asked the guide when we passed a grassy slope at the
foot of a styrax-coppice.
There isn't much tent-room here," said the Boss. "I
guess I shall steer for that mangrove-thicket over yonder:
it looks like a nice level place. When are you going to
that hacienda you were talking about ?"
"If the gentlemen are ready we had better go now," said
the guide, with a chronological squint at the sun: "it's very
near noon, I should say. Can't you manage to join us?"
"Not now," said the Boss, "but I guess Billy here
The clerk assented, and we crept into the cabin of our
prairie-schooner to supply some essential defects of our
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO. 89
"Please don't go out too far that way," cried the clerk
when he jumped down, "or else we sha'n't be able to find
"Don't you fret," shouted the cook: you'll know the
place by the smell if you don't see the camp-fire: we are
going to fry all those Dutch bananas of yours while you are
gone," meaning the bologna sausages, of which the young
gentleman kept a full stock on hand.
"How far is that hacienda from here, anyhow ?" asked
the doctor after we had followed the windings of a meadow-
brook for some time.
We are on the hacienda even now," replied the guide,
"but the dwelling-house-the Casa Morena, as they call it
-is about half a league from those mango-trees over there.
That orchard has grown into a regular forest with all the
new trees they have set out, and they are still at it."
"You have been here before, it seems?"
"Yes, sir, many a time; and the Sefor Vidas is an old
friend of mine: he used to live in Queretaro, and I knew
him a long while before he ever came here."
"He has only purchased this place lately, has he ?"
He doesn't own it, sir, but I guess he will before long:
the proprietor, old Mr. Martinez, is his father-in-law, and
lets him boss the place as much as he likes. He might as
well be dead: he has never a word to say."
"Bedridden, I suppose ?"
"Lord bless you, no, sir he could ride a wild buffalo.
But he is hardly ever home: he's fishing from morning till
night. That's all he cares for; and I really think he could
beat a fish-otter at its own game."
The Casa Morena was a two-story, flat-roofed stone house,
constructed of a kind of brown syenite of great durability,
but of a color that gave the stones the appearance of over-
grown bricks: the house, the corral, and half a dozen out-
buildings were enclosed by a citron-hedge whose flowers
shone like drifted snow against the background of dark-
The seflor was not at home, but the housekeeping mestiza
informed us that she expected him for dinner, and promised
us a superlative potful of trucha con papas-broiled trout
with potato-chips-if we would tarry a little while. In
the mean time one of the stable-boys volunteered to show
us the sights of the hacienda,-the flower-plots, the chapel,
a pyramid of alligator skulls, the Shanghai cock recently
imported from Mazatlan, a little wind coffee-mill, and the
skeleton of a big swamp-boa. But a greater curiosity, at
least to our eyes, was the tame poreasso, or hog-tapir, the
fattest, laziest, and, with the single exception of the tree-
alligator, the ugliest habitant of the Tierra Caliente, and
the first of his tribe I had ever seen in a state of captivity.
He was confined in a pig-pen of solid construction, though
in his present condition he seemed hardly able to use his
legs for migratory purposes. When we approached the pen
he surveyed us with a misanthropic-nay, pessimistic-ex-
pression of his jaundiced eye, and even when the stable-boy
offered him an armful of water-cabbage he turned away
with a weary look and grunted protest against the vanities
of this world. But by and by the aroma of the succulent
vegetable seemed to revive his secular propensities: the
wrinkles of his proboscis began to work; he turned his
head gradually, and with crescendo sniffs eyed the garbage
with the mien of a connoisseur, and suddenly broke forth
into an exultant snort that contrasted painfully with the
moral tone of his previous utterances. I think there were
about sixteen pounds of cabbage, which vanished in as
many seconds, and after smacking his chops meditatively
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO. 91
for two or three minutes he raised his head to apply for a
second instalment. The functions of his mental apparatus
seemed, indeed, quite as sluggish as his visible movements.
The stable-boy handed him another bundle, larger and
heavier than the first, but, after allowing him to devour a
hatful or so, he jerked the rest away, leaving him nothing
but a few scattered leaves. While the tapir gobbled these
leaves he kept his eye on the main stake, but a full minute
elapsed before he realized the magnitude of his bereave-
ment. When the truth flashed upon him it seemed to
strike his brain like an electric shock: he jumped around
as if possessed with all the hog-goblins of Gadara, snapped
at his own buttocks, and finally stood still, leaned his head
92 SUMMERLAND SKETCHES.
hack, and uttered screams that continued for a long while
after his property had been restored.
A bell sounded from the kitchen-window, and we re-
turned to the casa. "You must excuse my appearance,
gentlemen," said the senor when he came in, wet and mud-
bespattered. "I have a lot of Chechemeca Indians at work
in the swamp getting the vanilla-crop in; and you know
you cannot trust them round the corner: you might as well
rely on a troop of monkeys to behave in your absence. Had
the caballeros a pleasant trip ?"
Yes, sir, from the moment we sighted your mountains,"
said Dr. Rambert; "but the pleasure will end here too:
it's hard on a man to have to crawl back to the humdrum
Tierra Caliente after having been in heaven."
How's the old man ?" inquired the guide.
"Thanks: oh, he is all right,-still at it, of course,"
laughed the senior: he wouldn't care for any other heaven
either unless he could take his angle along.-Well, help
yourselves, caballeros, and excuse me for a few minutes."
When Don Vidas returned in his black jaqueta we found
him a gentleman in dress and address." He had been an
alcalde of the court of session in Queretaro, and could not
only read, but had evidently put that accomplishment to
I understand my honored guests are versed in the med-
ical sciences," said he, after dinner, "and I have often
wished for an opportunity to hear a competent verdict upon
the value of a hot spring in this neighborhood. Would
you like to take a stroll down to the creek ?"
We took our hats, and the clerk, who had only under-
stood the last two or three words, followed our example.
The thermal springs of this region deserve a hotter
name. The weather was so warm that we envied the broad-
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO.
brimmed sombrero of our companion, but in spite of the
heat and dryness of the atmosphere Mr. Vidas's little spa
smoked like a Canadian waterfall on a cold winter morning.
Where it joined the creek, and for some distance below,
the water emitted curling little wreaths of steam that soon
dissolved in the upper air, but to our surprise we noticed
the same vapor in the creek-water above the junction. The
mineral thermse proper were farther up, explained the
senior, and he took us to a place where a number of tiny
fountains welled up from a smoking puddle at the edge of
"Whew! ,that's a sulphur spring, it can't be denied,"
said Dr. Rambert, rubbing his nose. "Very popular with
the natives, I dare say,-miraculous cures effected, lepers
restored to health, etc., eh ?"
"Well, I don't know," laughed the seflor. "It's a popu-
lar maxim, though, that whatever tastes bad must be healthy;
and if that's true the sanative efficacy of this puddle must
be preternatural indeed: it tastes like a mixture of rotten
eggs and turpentine. The Indians call it the pestazote"
(stink-hole)-" your nose testifies to the fitness of the term,
I suppose-but they worship it, nevertheless, though it all
but suffocates them. I have often seen them take a mouth-
ful and wait to let it cool off, and then swallow it with a
sort of resignation; but the moment they get it down they
explode like fermenting beer-bottles, and never stop sneezing
and hacking for hours together. A clerical friend of mine
calls it the 'Fountain of Eternal Coughs.' It's no eternal
fountain, though, I'm afraid: the creek keeps encroaching
on its left bank, and will swamp the spring-maybe both
of them-before long, unless I can stop the mischief with
a dike or.something."
"Save the lower spring, then, the one without brimstone.
A warm spring, sir, is a great blessing in winter-time,-as a
bath I mean, not as a beverage."
"That's what I often suspected," said the seflor. If I
understand you right, you mean to say that it doesn't matter
much whether this puddle gets swamped or not?"
Not one straw. If that stuff were healthier than pure
water, the Creator would have covered the face of the earth
with pestazotes. The truth, selor, is what you hinted at a
while ago: that people in general have an unhappy rever-
ence for out-of-the-way things,-hartshorn, miracles, cod-
liver oil, mandragora, and such like. If some wretch should
discover a spring of sulphuric acid, he would be hailed as
a benefactor of mankind. Thousands of cures ascribed to
our mineral springs are in reality effected by open-air exer-
cise, climatic influences, music, and other incidental ad-
vantages of a watering-place, but especially by the dietetic
restrictions which are commonly involved with a sentence of
sulphur-water. And the power of faith can even dispense
with such adjuncts."
Our Indians are saved by faith then," said Don Vidas,
"for they certainly dispense with dietetic restrictions. I
have seen them put down potsful of sulphur-water and
broiled eels, turn about, or a greasy mess of cabbage with
lard oil and red pepper. Their digestive apparatus is dif-
ferent from ours, though. There's a chap on this farm who
can devour an arroba of sweet potatoes with pansful of
bacon-fat and onions at a single session; and my Cheche-
mecas have regular eating-matches that last four or five
hours, and do not prevent them from walking as many
leagues the same night, puny monkeys as they are. My
only -explanation is this: they are strict teetotalers; fer-
mented and distilled drinks are almost unknown in their
settlements; and I have often thought that a stout white
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO.
man or an African could digest almost anything if he would
just leave alcohol alone."
As we sauntered back to the casa the seflor informed us
that he had to meet a cattle-dealer in the village of Barrios
that night, but that he would return in the course of the
next morning, at all events before noon. In the mean
time," said he, "the house and the hacienda are at your
disposition, and I think you will find the proprietor a man
of excellent good-humor, though the same cannot be said
of his manners."
"What in the name of witchcraft can this be ?" whis-
pered the doctor when we were alone with our guide,-" this
unearthly smell, I mean: it gets worse every minute."
The guide chuckled: It's the vanilla, senior; they have
just brought a load of fresh-cut in, and they are spreading
it on the veranda. It can't be done in the hot sun-it
would spoil all the aroma, you know-so they have to wait
for a dry night; and about an hour before sunset is the
right time to spread it."
"It's the right time for us to be off, then," laughed the
doctor: "let's go. Yes, come on: here they bring the
"Me too ?" asked the guide.
"If you like. On second thought, no: you had better
stay here, my friend, till the old gent comes home, and
make up.an excuse for us, like a good fellow."
Flocks of white herons were returning to their roosts in
the mountain-forests, and the reed-frogs struck up the pre-
lude of their evening concert when we reached the lake-
shore. On an old pasture at the foot of the hacienda the
children of the farmers and day-laborers were at play with
that vociferous mirth which only the evening hour awakens
in boys and rooks. The little Indians looked at us with
96 SUMMERLAND SKETCHES.
shy curiosity, but their less naked, semi-Caucasian playmates
gathered around us when they saw us stop near a group of
guava-trees; and they had no sooner understood that we
wished to get some of the madreselvas (yellow honeysuckles)
in one of the top branches than six or seven of them
swarmed up the tree like squirrel-monkeys and pelted us
with a golden shower of blossoms and flowery tendrils.
When we left we treated them to a penny scramble, while
their comrades were chasing a tame antelope around the
pasture or rolling in the dry grass in a very ecstasy of frolic
and exuberant health.
"Wasn't poor Holty right ?" said the doctor; and then
muttered, as to himself, "A man might live here like a
wood-god and forget that there are such things on earth as
tobacco-smoke and an anti-natural religion."
Before we sighted the mangrove timber the guide overtook
us and informed me that Don Martinez-" the governor,"
as he called him-would join us at the camp to-night.
"So he was not offended at our leaving the casa ?"
Not in the least. I told him you belonged to a sect of
Protestants that have to be baptized every Saturday night,
and he was determined to see the fun."
"Why, what made you tell such- "
"Don't get mad, now: let's hurry up, and I'll tell him
you have just got through when he comes."
After sunset the clerk had repeatedly called my attention
to the gigantic bats that steered their fitful flight through
the trees at the lake-shore, and, finding our cook still at
work, I took my shot-gun and sauntered along the beach
in the vain hope of bagging one of the prodigies before
pitch-dark. On my return I found my friends squatting
around the camp-fire, and in their midst an old gentleman
whom I should have taken for a Hollander if I had met
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO.
him in a seaport-town. He shook my hand without stirring
from his seat, and even without interrupting his conversa-
tion with Dr. Rambert, who, knowing his hobby, had
already got him astraddle and was listening to an account
of his recent piscatorial exploits.
Gar-pike," said he, do not spawn in this lake,-they
come from below,-but I caught an old slick-tailed one this
morning whom I've seen for weeks and weeks, and who
knew me too well to try any of his tricks on me when I
pulled him home. It made me laugh to see the way the
dog winked at me."
"I hear this lake is full of alligators ?" said the Boss.
"No, no: we can't complain. My father used to hunt
them unmercifully, but I have been living here nigh on
sixty years, and I do not think they ever did me sixty
shillings' worth of damage. They stick to the south side,
where there are plenty of swamps, and few people living:
we shouldn't know there were any about if we didn't hear
them splash in the night-time."
"Do they ever come ashore ?"
"Only in the rutting season : in March and April I have
seen the males chase each other across the beaver-meadows
near Cape Ranas. There's one exception, though," he
continued : whenever one of those big lagartos" (caymans)
" comes up from the coast-swamps our alligators combine
against him and run him down, coAe que codte, though they
should have to follow him through the jungles and up
stream for miles. I went down to San Marica about five
years ago, and near the ford I met some countrymen flying
up the road almost out of their senses; and they told me
there was a snake in the creek as long as my picket-fence,
-i.e., about sixty-five yards. I told them they must be
crazy, but when I got down to the creek I thought there
must be something in it,-not in the creek only, but in the
snake-story. For a considerable distance up and down the
opposite shore the water was in motion as if an everlast-
ingly long snake kept turning over and over, and when it
came a little nearer it struck me all at once that it was quite
natural for those Indians to run away. But before I turned
my horse I happened to notice that the critter seemed to
have three or four tails, and when I watched closer I
thought it must have at least a dozen. And what do you
think it was? A string of alligators after a lagarto that
must have led them a six-mile chase from the lake till they
got him up to the rapids; and there they had him foul,-
a current like a mill-race ahead, steep banks on both sides,
and no place to hide. I can't say if they killed him or not,
but I know that somebody got hurt in that corner, for after
they left the water was as red as a puddle behind a butcher-
shop. A lagarto can go against the stream like a surf-duck,
but the fool should not have run into a little creek with a
cul-de-sac: if he'd gone up the Lerma, he might have
laughed at all the alligators in North America."
What is your theory about the Rio Lerma, senor?
Where do you think it comes from?"
"From a greater distance than any of our sierra-creeks,
-that's all I am sure about,-for it isn't possible that it
could collect all that water on this side of the juntura" (the
junction of the two mountain-ranges); "so I think the In-
dians were right, after all. The Indian chiefs of this valley
told the Spaniards that the Rio Lerma is fed by subterra-
nean affluents, by creeks that take their rise in the Orgas
Mountains beyond the sierras, and that the limestone-caves
near Toluca are the upper end of these tunnels. I suppose
you have heard of the great mica-cave near Temascaltepec,
where you can walk for half a league alongside of a deep
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO.
river that goes to nobody knows where ? Well, the Indians
have a tradition that a Toluca chieftain once entered that
cave with sixty warriors, and asked which one of them had
pluck enough to jump into a canoe and commit himself to
the current of the cave-river? Fifteen or twenty volun-
teered, so he made them draw lots, and it fell to a naked
spearman of his body-guard. The chief gave him his red
mantle and a cargo of provisions, and the man pushed off.
They say the current carried him to the farther end of the
cave and into the interior of the mountain, and that was
the last they saw of him. But two months after his canoe
and the red mantle were found near Benjamo on the Rio
I have heard of that cave," said Dr. Rambert; "and
I'm sorry we did not take a look at it when we passed
through Toluca. Have you ever visited that neighborhood,
No, sir: I've passed my life in this State," said the ha-
ciendero,-" never was farther east than Celaya. I haven't
even seen the ocean yet, though it is only forty leagues to
San Blas, and I guess there are greater wonders in the sea
than a little underground water-course. Tell me, caballeros,
-though you may laugh at me for repeating such stuff,-
is it true what I've been told once and again, that there are
luciernas" (lightning-bugs) "in the sea that live under water
the year round and don't get extinguished ? It's a sailor's
yarn, isn't it ?"
"Not quite," answered the doctor: "you can see them
in warm nights, but only where there are millions of them
together, and even then it's only a green shimmer. The
sea doesn't extinguish them, but nobody would miss them
if it did; and who could say that of your luciernas? Just
look at them, all of you!"
The Mexican lightning-bugs seemed, indeed, to have
turned out with all their colleagues and relatives that night.
Fire-flies, fire-midges, and fire-bluebottles drifted and
dodged through the branches of the mangrove-thicket, the
skirts of the forest behind us scintillated like a reflection of
the Galaxy, and even the scattered trees in the valley could
be distinguished by a blaze of circling sparks. The lake-
shore too glittered with intermittent stars, mere luminous
points at a greater distance, but in the canebrake on the
south shore a larger light flared up every now and then-
like a sudden flash, rather than like the continued flicker of
a will-o'-the-wisp. What could it be? Not the tropical
lantern-fly, which I had seen in Yucatan and Panama, and
again near Tampico, and which nowhere exceeded the bril-
liancy of the common luciernas more than two or three
times, while the flashes in the canebrake fairly illuminated
the reeds for yards around. Was it an electric phenomenon,
or what in Florida they call bush-fire" ?
"I couldn't tell you," said the planter. I have often
seen it on the beaver-meadows near the boca, and sometimes
in the vanilla-swamps, but never near'enough to find out if
it's a living thing or something else,-something the heretics
don't believe in. Say, Coco," turning to his Indian attend-
ant, "just look at those bulrushes: do you see that light?
Wait a moment: there it goes again. Now, what would
you call that?"
That's a luz huanal," said Coco, combining a Spanish
noun with a Chechemeca attributive.
"A fjtego huanal," sticking to the doubtful adjective.
"Describe it: is it an animal or something else ?"
"How do you mean? Is it alive ?"
THE LAKE-REGION OF JALISCO.
"Yes, sir, but-" after some reflection-"it hides in the
"What is it like? A bird, a bug, or a fish ?"
"Oh no, sir."
"What, then? Can it fly ?"
"Yes, but not like a bird."
"Describe it, then, can't you? What is it, anyhow ?"
"A lus huanal, sefor."
We gave it up. The art of definition does not belong
to the primitive faculties of the human mind.
"Whatever it may be," said Don Martinez, "I have
never seen it after December, but often in August, and
generally towards midnight or early in the morning. But
that reminds me it's getting late, at least for people who
have crossed the sierra this morning. I shouldn't have
bothered you anyhow, I suppose, but you have no idea how
much I should like to have you stay here for a couple of
weeks. My neighbors are mostly Indians and hog-tapirs,
and it's so rarely we see any strangers in this valley! Well,
it's my own fault too. Fifteen years ago a French com-
pany wanted to build a railroad from here to San Diego,
and I was against it, like every other fool in the country,
because I thought we might as well do the job ourselves
and pocket the profits. Now we can wait a long while for
another chance like that. Mexico is ruined, and the French
seem to have got rid of their loose change during that last
We'll attend to that, senor," said I: "my friend here
will be in California this day week, and he will take orders
for any desired number of railroads. There's plenty of
time: we sha'n't start before nine A.M. to-morrow."
"To-morrow!" cried the Mexican. "Santissima! you
are not going to travel on Sunday, are you ?"