The Trail of The Badger: A Story of the Colorado Border Thirty Years Ago

The Trail of The Badger: A Story of the Colorado Border Thirty Years Ago

Sidford F. Hamp
Sidford F. Hamp

Author: Hamp, Sidford F. (Sidford Frederick), 1855-1919
Teenage boys — Juvenile fiction
Guardian and ward — Juvenile fiction
Frontier and pioneer life — Colorado — Juvenile fiction
Colorado — History — 19th century — Juvenile fiction
Desert reclamation — Juvenile fiction
The Trail of The Badger: A Story of the Colorado Border Thirty Years Ago



The Trail of The Badger


Author of “Dale and Fraser, Sheepmen,”
“The Boys of Crawford’s Basin,” etc.



Copyrighted, 1908
By W. A. Wilde Company
All rights reserved

The Trail of The Badger


In writing the adventures of the boys who followed “The Trail of the Badger” down into that part of Colorado where the fringes of two discordant civilizations overlapped each other—the strenuous Anglo-Saxon and the easygoing Mexican—the author has endeavored to show how two healthy, enterprising young fellows were able to do their little part in that great work of Desert Reclamation whose importance is now as well understood by the general public as it always has been by those whose lot has been cast to the west of meridian one hundred and five.
To some it may appear that the boys are ahead of their time, but to the author, whose introduction to “the arid region” dates back thirty years and more, remembering the conditions then prevailing, it seems no more than natural that they should recognize the unusual opportunity presented to them of making a career for themselves, and even that they should be dimly conscious of the fact that if they “could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before” they would be deserving well of the infant community of which they formed a part.
That in making this attempt they would meet with adventures—in fact, that they could hardly avoid them—the author, recalling his own experiences in that country at that time, feels well assured.


I.   Dick Stanley 11
II.   Sheep and Cinnamon 32
III.   The Mescalero Valley 51
IV.   Racing the Storm 68
V.   How Dick Brought the News 87
VI.   The Professor’s Story 102
VII.   Dick’s Diplomacy 116
VIII.   The Start 129
IX.   Antonio Martinez 147
X.   The Padron 165
XI.   The Spanish Trail 179
XII.   The Badger 191
XIII.   The King Philip Mine 203
XIV.   A Change of Plan 221
XV.   Dick’s Snap Shot 241
XVI.   The Old Pueblo Head-Gate 259
XVII.   The Bridge 276
XVIII.   The Big Flume 294
XIX.   Pedro’s Bold Stroke 313
XX.   The Memorable Twenty-Ninth   333


“Dick pushed his rifle-barrel through a crevice in the rocks” (Frontispiece) 42
“It was a splendid chance; nobody could ask for a better target” 57
“Passing on our way through the town of Mosby” 137
“Behind him, stood the squat figure of Pedro Sanchez” 213
“I could not think what he was doing it for” 286

The Trail of the Badger

CHAPTER I Dick Stanley

“Look out! Look out! Behind you, man! Behind you! Jump quick, or he’ll get you!”
It was a boy, a tall, spare, wiry young fellow of sixteen, who shouted this warning, his voice, in its frantic urgency, rising almost to a shriek at the end; and it was another boy, also tall, spare and wiry, to whom the warning was shouted. The latter turned to look behind him, and for one brief instant his whole body stiffened with fear—his very hair stood on end. Nor is this a mere figure of speech: the boy’s hair did actually stand on end: he could feel it “creep” against the crown of his hat. I know—for I was the boy!
That I had good reason to be “scared stiff” I think any other boy will admit, for, not thirty feet below me, coming quickly and silently up the rocks, his little gleaming eyes fixed intently upon me, was a grim old cinnamon bear, an animal which, though less dangerous than his big cousin, the grizzly, is quite dangerous enough when he is thoroughly in earnest.
But for my companion’s warning shout the bear would surely have caught me, and my story would have come to an end at the very beginning of the first chapter.
It was certainly an awkward situation, about as awkward, I should think, as any boy ever got himself into; and how I, Frank Preston, lately a schoolboy in St. Louis, happened to find myself on a spur of Mescalero Mountain, in Colorado, with a cinnamon bear charging up the rocks within a few feet of me, needs a word of explanation.
I will therefore go back a few steps in order to give myself space for a preliminary run before jumping head-first into my story, and will tell not only how I came to be there, but will relate also the curious incident which first brought me into contact with my future friend, Dick Stanley; an incident which, while it served as an introduction, at the same time gave me some idea of the resourcefulness and promptness of action with which his very peculiar training had endowed him.
It was in the last week of October, 1877, that I was seated one evening in my room in St. Louis, very busy preparing my studies for next day, when the door opened suddenly and in walked my Uncle Tom.
When, at the age of seven, I had been left an orphan, Uncle Tom, my mother’s brother, though himself a bachelor, had taken charge of me, and with him I had lived ever since. He and I, I am glad to say, were the best of friends—regular chums—for, though twenty years my senior, he seemed in some respects to be as young as myself, and our relations were more like those of elder and younger brother than of uncle and nephew.
Uncle Tom was rather short and rather fat, and he was moreover one of the jolliest of men, being blessed with a disposition which prompted him always to see the bright side of things, no matter how dark and threatening they might look. Having at a very early age been pitched out into the world to “fend for himself,” and having by square dealing and hard work done remarkably well, he had imbibed the idea that book-learning as a means of getting on in the world was somewhat overrated; an idea which, right or wrong—and I think myself that Uncle Tom carried it rather too far—was to have a decided effect in shaping my own career.
As it was against the rule, laid down by Uncle Tom himself, for any one to disturb me at my studies, I naturally looked up from my books to ascertain the cause of the intrusion, when, with a cigar in his mouth and his hands in his pockets, he came bulging in, half filling the little room.
That there was something unusual in the wind I felt sure, and my guardian’s first act went far to confirm my suspicion, for, removing one hand from his pocket, he quietly reached forward and with his finger tilted my book shut.
“Put ’em away,” said he. “You won’t need them for a month or more.”
As the fall term of school was then in full swing, this declaration was a good deal of a surprise to me, as any one will suppose, and doubtless I showed as much in my face.
“I have a scheme in my head, Frank,” said he, with a knowing wag of that member, in reply to my look of inquiry.
“I know that,” I replied, laughing; for there never was a moment when Uncle Tom had not a scheme in his head of one sort or another.
“You spider-legged young reptile!” cried he, with perfect good humor, but at the same time shaking a threatening finger at me. “Don’t you dare to laugh at my schemes; especially this one. For this is a brand-new idea, and a very important one—to you. I’m leaving to-morrow night for Colorado.”
“Are you?” I cried, a good deal surprised by this sudden announcement. “When did you decide upon that?”
“To-day. I got a letter this afternoon from my friend, Sam Warren, the assayer, written from Mosby—if you know where that is.”
I shook my head.
“I didn’t suppose you did,” remarked Uncle Tom. “It is a new mining camp on one of the spurs of Mescalero Mountain in Colorado, and in the opinion of Sam Warren—my old schoolmate, you know—it has a great future before it. So he has written me that if I have the time to spare I had better come out and take a look at it.”
Uncle Tom’s business was that of a mining promoter, the middle man between the prospector and the capitalist, a business in which his ability and his honorable methods had gained for him an enviable reputation.
“So you have decided to go out, have you?” said I.
“Yes,” he replied. “I leave to-morrow evening—and you are coming with me.”
As may be imagined, I opened my eyes pretty widely at this unfolding of the “brand-new idea.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Look here, Frank, old chap,” said he, seating himself on the edge of the table and becoming confidential. “You’ve stuck to your books very well—if anything, too well. Now, I’ve had my eye on you ever since the hot weather last summer, and it strikes me you need a change—you are too pale and altogether too thin.”
Being fat and “comfortable” himself, Uncle Tom was disposed to regard with pity any one, like myself, whose framework showed through its covering.
“But——” I began; when Uncle Tom headed me off.
“Now you be quiet,” said he, “and let me finish. I’ve had some such idea brewing in my head for some time; it isn’t a sudden freak, as you imagine. I’ve considered the matter carefully, and I’ve come to the conclusion that you’ll lose nothing by the move. In fact, what you will lose by missing a month or so of schooling will be more than made up to you by the eye-opener you will get in making this expedition.”
“How so?” I asked.
“You will make the acquaintance of a young State just learning to walk alone—for, as you know, it was only last year that Colorado came into the Union; you will see a new mining camp, and rub up against the men, good, bad and indifferent, who go to make up the community of a frontier town; and more than that, you will get at first hand, what you never could get by sitting here and reading about it, a correct idea of the country traversed by the explorers—Pike, Frémont and the rest of them.
“I am honestly of opinion, Frank,” he went on, seriously, “that this is an opportunity not to be neglected. At the same time, old fellow, as it is your education and not mine that is under discussion, I consider that you have a right to a voice in the matter; so I’ll leave you to think it over, and to-morrow at breakfast you can tell me whether you are coming or not.”

With that, Uncle Tom slipped down from the table, walked out and shut the door behind him. That was his way: he was always as sudden as a clap of thunder.
Anybody will guess that my books did not receive much more attention that evening. For an hour I paced up and down the room, considering Uncle Tom’s proposition. It was true that I did feel pulled down by the effects of the hot weather, combined with a pretty close application to my books, and I had no doubt that the expedition proposed would do me a world of good; though whether my education would be benefited in like manner I was not so sure as Uncle Tom seemed to be.
But though I did my best honestly to consider the question in all its aspects, there can be little doubt that my inclinations—whether I was aware of it or not—colored my judgment, so that my final decision was just what might have been expected in any active boy of sixteen. As the clock struck ten I ran down-stairs and informed Uncle Tom that I was going with him.
It is not necessary to go into all the details of our journey, though to me, who had never before been a hundred miles from home, everything was new and everything was interesting. It is enough to say that, leaving the train at the foot of the mountains—for the railroad then went no further—we engaged places in the mail-carrier’s open buckboard, and after a very rough and very tiring drive of a day and a half we at last reached our destination and were set down at the door of a house outside which hung a “shingle” bearing the legend, “Samuel Warren, Assayer and U. S. Dep. Min. Surveyor.”
It will be remembered that one of Uncle Tom’s reasons for breaking into my school term was that I should rub up against the citizens comprising a frontier settlement. He could hardly have contemplated, however, that I should come in contact with quite so many of them quite so early in the day as I did.
We had hardly sat down to the refreshments spread before us by our host—a big, bearded man, clad in a suit of brown canvas—when we, in common with the rest of the community, were startled by the sudden shriek of a woman in distress. To rush to the door was the work of a moment, when, the first thing we caught sight of was a man, clad only in his nightshirt, running like a madman up the street, while far behind him, and losing ground at every step, ran a woman, calling out with all the breath she had to spare—which was not much—”Stop him! Stop him!”
“It’s Tim Donovan!” shouted the assayer. “He’s sick with the mountain-fever! He’s crazy! Head him off! Head him off! The poor chap will die of exposure!”
Warren’s house was near the upper end of the street, and just as we three jumped down the porch steps, the demented fugitive passed the door, going like the wind. At once we set off in pursuit, while behind us came all the rest of the population and most of the dogs, by this time roused to action by the cries of the sick man’s wife.
Nobody knows until he has tried it how hard it is to run up-hill at an elevation of nine thousand feet, especially to one unaccustomed to such altitudes. Uncle Tom, who was not built for such exercise, fell out in the first fifty yards, while, of the others, the short-winded barroom loafers—of whom, as is always the case in a new camp, there were more than enough—gave out even more quickly, their habits of life being a fatal handicap in a foot-race. One by one, nearly all the rest came down to a walk, until presently the only ones left with any run in them were Jake Peters and Oscar Swansen, both timber-cutters from the hills, Aleck Smith, a wiry little teamster, and myself.
As for me, having the advantage of a good start over everybody else, being only sixteen years old, and having a reputation at school as a long-distance runner, it seemed as though I ought to be able to catch the unfortunate fugitive, who, having run a quarter of a mile already, should by this time be out of breath.
Indeed, I believe I should have caught him at the first dash had he not resorted to tactics which made me chary of coming near him. Not more than thirty yards separated us and I was gaining steadily, when he, barefooted himself and making no noise, hearing the clatter of my shoes behind him, suddenly stopped, picked up a stone and hurled it at me. It would have taken me square in the chest had I not jumped aside; when, finding that the man was really dangerous, and knowing very well that I should have no chance whatever in a personal struggle with him—for he was a stout young Irish miner with a fore-arm like a leg of mutton—I contented myself with trotting behind and keeping him in sight; trusting to the able-bodied men following me to do the tackling when the opportunity should arise.

The town of Mosby consisted of one steep street about half a mile long and two houses thick; for it was situated in a valley, or, rather, in a gorge, so narrow that there was no room for it to spread except at the two ends. In truth, there was no room for it to grow except southward, for at the upper, or northern, end the mountains came together, forming an inaccessible cañon through which rushed the little stream of ice-cold water coming down from Mescalero.
From the lower end of this cañon the stream fell perpendicularly into a great hole in the rocks—a sort of natural chimney, or well, about sixty feet deep. The down-stream side of this “chimney” was split from top to bottom, and through the narrow crack, only four or five feet wide, the water leaped foaming down in a series of miniature cascades. The only way of getting into this deep pit was by taking to the water, scrambling up the steep, step-like bed of the stream and passing through the crack, when, once inside, a man might defy the world to come and get him out.
This was exactly what Tim Donovan did. Seeing that he could follow the stream no further, I was wondering whether he would take to the mountain on the right or the one on the left, when he suddenly jumped into the water, ran up the smooth, wet “steps,” and disappeared from sight through the crevice. In ten seconds, however, he showed himself again. He had found in the driftwood a ragged branch of a pine tree about three feet long, and with this in one hand and a ten-pound stone in the other he stood at bay, regardless of the icy water which poured over his feet, or of the spray from the fall behind him, which in half a minute had wet his thin single garment through and through.
It was an impregnable stronghold. No one could get in from the rear, and the place could not be rushed from the front—the ascent was too steep and slippery and the entrance too narrow. If Tim were determined to stay there and perish with cold, it appeared to me that nobody could do anything to prevent him.
One by one the pursuers joined me before the entrance, when Mrs. Donovan, who was among the last to arrive, advanced as near as she could without getting into the water, and besought her errant husband to come down.
But Tim was deaf to entreaty; all the blandishments of his anxious wife were without effect, and if she could not get him to come down it appeared as though nobody could.
Tim, though, was a popular young fellow, and it was not in the nature of a Colorado miner, or of an Irishman either—for they hold together like burrs in a horse’s tail—to desert a comrade in distress. So, Mrs. Donovan having failed, there stepped to the front a short, thick-set, red-haired man, Mike O’Brien by name, Tim’s partner and particular crony, who, talking pleasantly and naturally to him, as though his friend were quite sane and rational, stepped into the water and waded carefully up the steep slope.
“How are ye, Tim, me boy?” said he, with off-hand cordiality. “It’s glad I am to see ye out again. It’s me birthday to-day, Tim; I’m having a bit of a supper at home an’ I come up to ask ye——”
Whack! came the stone from Tim’s hand, breaking to pieces against the rocky wall within an inch of Mike’s head. The invi

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