Notes and Documents
many feet above the waves to escape the pursuit of the shark. The
little birds, resembling the swallow, apparently walk the waves, with
wings fluttering, picking up such morsels of food as passengers or
the steward throw overboard.
These little diminutive birds follow a vessel during the whole long
trip over the ocean; at dark I suppose they take rest on the rigging of
In a storm the waves in angry tumult would present a white foam,
caused by the great waves, which are sometimes 3go feet high, the
waves then partook of the dullness of the dark sky overhead, and
looked nearly as black as ink. Yet ocean life offers besides these varia-
tions; occasionally a sail is seen far off in the distant horizon; the
passenger watches its approach, at first only the tips of the highest
masts are seen, then as the vessel approaches nearer all the sails and
hull appear; all would like to know the name of the vessel or its
destination; still contemplating the scene the vessel disappears again.
At night, the ship's prow plowing its way through the Ocean, the
breaking waves would exhibit phosphorous sparks in myriads, re-
sembling fire flies on a Texas prairie; but on the Staked Plains there
was not even seen the fire flies.
There can be nothing more dreary than the journey over the
Staked Plains, except it be the Sandy desert of Africa or the cold
desolate Arctic regions.
There is no variation, the land is as flat as a table, no hillock or
tree gives variation to the scene, no bird, no game is to be seen;
supreme silence, as deep as the grave prevails.
After a day's travel, from the smoothness of the ground, it appeared
as if we had left last nights camp only a few hundred yards.
There was the clear sky above as a canopy of the buffalo grass (I
believe the botanical name is Gramma grass) a grass of short leaves
but very nutricious. Evidently at certain seasons there must have
been immense herds of buffaloes on these plains, and then the scene
may have been enlivened by Indians hunting them, but when we
passed nothing was to be seen, even the Indian did not venture
to live in that dreary plain, for he could not have supported himself
by game at that season.
Now the reader may ask how we managed to cook without fire-
wood? At dusk when we reached our next camp, each man took his
blanket, hunted and gathered up buffalo chips (that is dried buffalo
manure), carried it to camps, then a square hole was dug in the
ground, the dry manure ignited, which made a glimmering coal fire,
similar to peat, the camp kettle was placed over it, and in probably
less than an hour our scanty ration of beef was "done boiled."
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101196/. Accessed April 29, 2016.