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The Rage of Huffman and the Calmness of Nig
G.O. Shields Rustlings in the Rockies: Hunting and Fishing by Mountain and Stream (Chicago: Belford, Clarke & Co., 1883), Chapter X, "Through the Canyon of the Little Big Horn", p.82-86
And this recalls to my mind an incident of the trip that must not be overlooked. Soon after leaving the forks of the stream, we reached a point where it became necessary to cross it in order to avoid a long detour around a bend. We therefore selected the most favorable point we could find a place where the banks were low and the water not more than two feet deep and started in with Huffman in the lead. I followed him with Blinkie, my white pony, and the pack mules followed me, Jack remaining for the time in the rear to drive them across. Chicken, one of the pack mules, crossed and climbed the bank all right, when Nig, a large black mule, who was always disposed to be willful and contrary, and who was never willing to follow his file leader when he saw an opportunity of making an annoying "break," walked down the first bank into the water, then turned and waded slowly and deliberately down the stream toward a deep hole that lay a few yards below the crossing. His load consisted principally of Huffman's photographic outfit, camera, dry plates, dark tent, etc.; and when Huffman saw that they were placed in jeopardy that the dry plates were in imminent danger of being transformed into wet plates by a process that would render them utterly worthless to him that the camera was liable to be soaked with water and ruined he became frantic.
He dismounted and rushed madly down the bank of the stream, yelling, throwing clubs, trying in every possible way to head Nig off; but the ugly brute would not head worth a cent. He looked mildly at the woe-begone artist out of his left eye, stopped and drank a few swallows of water, took a step or two, and looked again, first at Huffman and then at Jack, who was on the opposite side of the river, shouting, and throwing clubs, rocks and other debris at the long-eared vandal.
"Jack!" shouted the artist, "drive that cantankerous brute out of that deep water, quick, or he'll drown my photograph gallery! Jump in and catch him quick! Blank blank that blanked long-eared son-of-a-gun to blankety blank!"
"Jump in yourself," said Jack, "I don't want to get my feet wet."
And still the mule moved slowly down the stream, every step taking him into deeper water, bringing his precious load, valued at three hundred dollars, nearer and nearer to the destroying element, while an artist to the mountains bound cries, " Conley, do not tarry and I'll give thee a silver dollar to drive that doggoned mule o'er the ferry."
"Now, who be ye would cross Big Horn, this deep and muddy water?"
"Oh, I'm the artist from Miles City, and this my precious plunder. And fast upon these saddle mules three days we've rode together, and should he wet them in the creek they wouldn't be worth a feather."
Outspoke the hardy Emerald Wight, "I'll go, my chief, I'm ready. It is not for your dollar bright, but for some pretty pictures; and by my word, that cussed mule in the water shall not tarry, so though the waves are raging white, I'll drive him over the ferry or break his blanked neck! G'lang, Nig, git out of there, you son-of-a-gun!" But still, as wilder blew the wind, and as the artist grew madder, adown the stream walked that pesky mule where the water still was deeper.
"Oh, haste thee, haste!" the artist cries. "Though tempests round us gather, I'll meet the raging of the water, but if I lose that outfit I'll walk home to-night."
The mule has left a sultry land, a cool bath is before him, when' oh! too strong for human hands, he don't care how many clubs come o'er him. And still they howled amidst the roar of waters fast prevailing, the artist reached that fatal shore, his wrath was changed to wailing. For sore dismayed through storm and shade his mule he did discover, one lovely hand he stretched for the bridle but, oh, he couldn't reach it.
'' Come back, come back,'' he cried in grief across this muddy river, "and I'll forgive the wayward cuss, my donkey, oh, my donkey." 'Twas vain; the loud waves lashed his sides, return or aid suggesting, the waters wild kind o' frightened him, and he turned and came out on the bank o. k.
We took his load off, opened it, and found that though the lower corners of both boxes were wet, the moisture had not reached their contents. We congratulated Huffman on the fact that his dry goods were still dry that his stock had not been watered, so to speak and went'on our way rejoicing.