Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

September 17, 1885. Forest and Stream 25(8): 144-145. Also: 9/24, 25(9): 165-166.

Game Bag and Gun.

On the Platte.-I.

We had spent the early fall in writing to parties living along the Platte river in order to find the best place for our annual crusade on the geese, and had at last settled down upon Newark, a small village on the B. & M. R.R., about ten miles east of Kearney. In a few days after this decision, our friend A.M. Brewer, a merchant up there and withal an enthusiastic sportsman, wired up to come on. Taking the first train for the West, leaving here at 10 that night, our party, five in number, were dropped off a Newark the next day at noon, and were at once conducted to a farm house, about half a mile distant, where arrangements had been made for boarding us, and which proved to be a most enjoyable place. Dinner was awaiting us, and as soon as that was dispatched we donned our hunting rig, climbed into the big farm wagon behind an elegant span of horses, and bowled away for the river, about a mile distant. Every one was in good humor, the weather was lovely, geese reported as being abundant, and the horses, apparently taking on the enthusiasm, cantered off at a lively rate. But just as we were making a short turn to come into the main road, the wheel on the inside of the curve ran upon an old barrel lying concealed in the weeds, and in a jiffy turned the wagon over and piled the contents promiscuously upon the ground. Every one was so hampered with toggery and wading apparel that no one except Lanham made any effort toward jumping out of the way. He was sitting in front with the driver, and before our vehicle was fairly on its side had landed about ten feet away in a patch of wild sunflowers, where he soon lay groaning as though every bone in his body had been broken snap off. Young Hathaway had fallen square across the body of his father, and Charley Baum had been unloaded on top of me and given me a jolt that hung to me two or three days. But after feeling Jack's leg awhile, and assuring him that he was making a deal of fuss over a small matter, it was but a short while before we were spinning away again, quite thankful that no bones had been broken.

The Platte, at Newark, is divided into three channels. Brewer had selected the middle one for our base of operations. So, crossing the first, which was easily done on the wagon, we drove over to the middle one and unloaded our decoys and other paraphernalia. At several points above, where we struck the river, there was quite a showing of geese on the bars, that had come in from the fields before noon and were taking their afternoon siesta prior to going out for their last feed, and the sight encouraged us to believe we would have some fair sport here.

After standing upon the bank and discussing the situation for a while we finally selected sites for our respective blinds and at once began work on them, first carrying out the share of decoys allotted to each, and our guns, stools and ammunition, and then brush for what the natives call the "bough house." Albeit it was near the close of October the leaves on many of the small willows were as green as in midsummer, and this was not as serious a matter as it had been on former occasions and at other places. By the time the flocks of geese began their afternoon pilgrimage to the fields the party were about all ready for them, and a few "single footers" coming within range, in their desire to investigate these new displays, were tumbled over and at once set up on the bars near the respective blinds to augment the flocks of decoys. Large displays are always desirable, the larger the better, and it is universally conceded that a dead goose, properly placed, makes a better decoy than anything else, except a live one. Even live ones are not good, if they are continually striving to get away or are every now and then yelping out their note of warning.

We did not do much good on the return flight from the fields, the geese coming in late, flying high and coming down in all three of the channels. This did not discourage us, however, as we had never had much success on the afternoon or night shoot, and when George announced, by a yell on shore, that he was there to haul us back to the house, we waded ashore and climbed into the wagon, sanguine of a good day's sport on the morrow. Supper was ready for us on arrival at the house, and renewed the promise of the noon meal that we were to fare sumptuously during our stay. Having slept but little the night before on the cars, and desiring an early start in the morning, we retired early to cozy rooms and clean, sweet beds, where we slept and dreamed of geese by the carload.

We were somewhat disappointed in the bag we made the next day. On account of a stiff south wind the greater number of incoming geese as they headed up the river, drifted to the northern channel and settled down there to our extreme disgust. By paying strict attention to our business and making the most of our opportunities, we bagged, I think, eighteen geese and a few ducks, and went home that night somewhat down in the mouth. We found the next day that our shooting in the middle channel had had the effect to send the geese to the others, and although the weather was quite propitious and the number of geese had materially increased, not so many came into our decoys. Yet, for all that, by reason of redoubled vigilance, the relocation of some of the blinds, and better shooting, we brought down more game than on the previous day.

On the morning of our fourth day, when we waded out to our respective blinds, we found they had all been visited during the night by thieves and over one-half of our game and decoys stolen. At my blind, which was the furthest down the river, they had made a clean sweep. It being near the hour of the return of the geese from their breakfast in the fields, I took the channel of the river and visited the other boys. None of them had suffered as I had, all of them having been left some of each deed geese, ducks and sheet-iron decoys. Getting from these as many decoys as I could well carry, I returned to my blind in time for the incoming flight, which proved rather a good one, and enabled us, in a measure, to retrieve our lost fortunes. But when George came down with our dinner we concluded to pull up stakes, spend the afternoon in quest of the thieves, and the next day have him drive us down to our old stamping grounds at Foote's, back of Kenesaw.

The above programme was carried out by our leaving Newark early in the morning and taking roads running parallel with the river and as near it as possible, with the intention of pitching camp at the first favorable spot not already occupied by other hunters. But we found the territory everywhere covered, saw the tents of hunters at nearly every house near the river, and could hear the boom of their guns as they were let loose at some wary flock passing up or down stream, seeking a spot where they might light in safety and take a rest. Besides these unfavorable sings we met other squads of hunters going up as we went down, and from them obtained the most discouraging reports. Near 3 o'clock in the afternoon we arrived at Foote's, hungry and pretty well tuckered out, to learn that a party was due there that night from Burlington, having telegraphed ahead to save rooms and beds. But our party had always regarded this as our home, and we at once gave Mother Foote to understand we could not be set aside for strangers. So we took possession, selected our beds and reconnoitered the field.

When the geese are flying right, Foote's, in my judgement, is the best place on the river. Here all the channels meet in one, just back of the house, which stands but a few yards from the bank. The hunter can walk out to his blind at any hour he chooses, and be in at meals without inconvenience or fatigue. But for the last three or four years these advantages drew the hunters in such great numbers, and filled the bars so completely with death-dealing blinds, that the geese abandoned that territory, and the hunters were left. Yet on this occasion we found the field nearly entirely deserted, while Willie and Ira, both good shots and doubtless the best honkers on the river, reported a fair flight and the chances of a moderate bag good. Of course we hired the boys to help us, and got the use of their decoys and dead geese. Here we remained two or three days, with varying success, when we pulled up, and, getting Mr. Foote to haul us over to the railroad, came home, having bagged less than 100 geese all told. When the Burlington people came over the night of our arrival at Foote's, the old mother stowed them away somewhere and somehow, if not so comfortably, and I guess they felt a sense of relief when we took our departure.

It was here that we met Talbot, of Sioux City, Iowa, with his big and expensive outfit of tents, wagons, horses, hunters, attendants, four practical taxidermists, and a quarter of an acre of decoys, killing geese, skinning them, throwing the carcasses away, and shipping the skins the Lord only knows where. This wholesale murder looked cruel and wanton to us, and especially since not a pound of flesh was utilized, not even being eaten by buzzards, as there are none in that country. In our own case every fowl we killed went into some housewife's bake oven.

On our return home we met a couple of our townsmen who had just gotten back from a point on the Platte, fifty miles above and west of Newark, and who had killed and brought home over 150 geese, their bag one day alone being nearly sixty. It appeared the geese had, in sheer self defense, drifted up that way to get a place to rest. They were not shy and decoyed readily to a small display of decoys. In our correspondence during the fall with parties up that way we had elicited the information that the geese had not been in the habit of coming up so far in any great numbers and were not recommended to extend out pilgrimages to those points. We learned before the season was over that better shooting even than that enjoyed by our two friends might have been had even still further west, the geese being in greater numbers and not so shy of blinds and decoys. What course they will take this fall is yet to be decided, but my belief is it will be necessary, in order to have good sport, to hunt them fifty to one hundred miles west of Kearney. That territory being pretty well settled now, the geese can find plenty of grain fields near at hand upon which to feed, and yet so remote as not to be so constantly disturbed either while feeding on the land or resting in the river.

My belief is also that, upon the whole, the river Platte is the best territory for hunting geese in the world. The river is peculiarly attractive to that fowl. It is broad and shallow and showy, filled with little and big flat sandbars, flowing for hundreds of miles in a country not overburdened with lakes or rivers, and right across the track of the millions of geese in their journeys north and south, and through a territory teeming with grain to be had for picking it up. The geese begin making their appearance from the 20th to the 25th of October, and mostly remain here till severe weather drives them southward. Some come earlier and many hurry on south, but the bulk of them linger along till the streams hereabouts freeze up. They are not here long before they become fat as pigs and the young ones are especially delicious. During their stay in the fall very few are lost by spoiling. Three years ago a party of five of us killed 313 at Foote's in five days shooting. They were all left sitting on the bars night and days around the blinds for decoys. They were brought home and expressed to friend around, 200 of them going into consumption here, and we heard of only two that were at all tainted. In the spring, when the shooting is infinitely better, the case is different. One than can't count on his game for more than a day or two. This same Burlington party went to Foote's last spring, killing some 160 geese, all of which spoiled but ten. Spring shooting by parties from abroad should be discontinued. As I went back to the Platte after the dates described herein, I will give the account of that trip in another letter.

On the Platte.-II.

The best of shots have their misses. The best of hunters often make poor bags. One cannot capture game unless the game be there to capture. Such thoughts as these combined no doubt keep the ardent sportsman from taking on a cargo of disgust when he makes a failure on one of his tours, and induce him to try his hand again at the first opportunity and with renewed and redoubled vigor.

The scanty luck our first hunt for geese last fall did not discourage us in the least. If possible it made us keener than ever to try it again. So, in the early part of November three of us took cars here at noon and were pulled to Kearney. From thence, that night, we went by the Union Pacific, sixteen miles further on, to the small village of Elm Creek, where we put up at the only hotel in the place, kept by one John Dermody, a pretty clever sort of fellow and who feeds his guests fairly well for that country at $1.50 per day. It was here our two Lincoln friends had stopped the week before, and from which point they radiated to the river Platte for five or six days in making their bag of over one hundred and fifty geese. One of the gentlemen of the present party, Mr. Webster, had been one of the couple on the former occasion and, of course, was pretty well posted about matters and things.

Arranging for a team to carry us down to the river early in the morning and for a breakfast in good time, we soon went to bed; not, however, before learning that geese were quite abundant, and meeting our man Talbot, of Sioux City, who had come up from Foote's with some of his force and his mammoth display of decoys, his dead geese being properly numbered and tagged and shipped by express to his taxidermists in the camp down the river.

Dermody gave us an early breakfast, according to promise, and we reached the river in good time. Selecting places, Houtz and I built a blind together, about one-third across the river, Webster going another third and a little in advance of us, building his blind. In driving down to the river, Houtz took a crack at a sandhill crane about twenty-five yards off, with a wire cartridge, missing it a foot or so by shooting to the left. Further on we saw two geese in the edge of the prairie, and as we approached one of them rose and flew a hundred yards or so and came down again. The other was wounded and could not fly. Houtz got out and made for the first one, while Webster and I gave chase in the buggy to the other one. The fowl was simply wing-tipped, and made a most creditable race; but ere long we overhauled and captured it without further wound, and tying its legs, placed it in the bottom of our vehicle. In the meantime, Houtz's goose had taken wing out of range, but swinging around in search of its mate, came too near and was brought to bag.

On looking up the river after being located, what should first meet our eyes, about half a mile distant, but the outfit of our Sioux City slaughterer, his decoys covering a large territory around a low, flat blind, and making a show that was sure to bring in the geese as they should pass up or down the river. We felt pretty certain from the start that this outfit would materially diminish our score, if indeed it did not knock us "out of time" altogether. But as our team had gone back to the house, and it was then out of the question to move that day, we had nothing to do but remain where we were and see it out. It was not long before we sighted a flock of geese coming up stream. Dropping down in our blinds we began honking at them. At once they showed signs of coming in, and slowly set sail for our decoys, but before coming within range they espied the larger display of Talbot's, and at once sheered off in that direction and made a bee line for them. We had the privilege of standing there and seeing this flock approach apparently within ten feet of Talbot, when two puffs of smoke and two unshapely objects dropping from the startled and confused flock that soon gathered together and went on up stream, told a tale that was repeated during the day till this man in pursuit of hides had brought fifty-four to bag. Our score was only five, including the two captured on land in the morning, none of these falling to my gun. The enjoyment Webster seemed to get out of the fact that I had closed the day without a single feather, would, in my humble opinion, alone have amply compensated him for this trip.

My friend, Jack Lanham, who tried to elicit sympathy by feigning a broken leg when the wagon turned over down at Newark a few days before, dropping in on us at 9 o'clock that night cheered me up considerably, for I had anticipated his coming and had already laid plans for the next day. We had often shot from the same blind and understood each other first rate, although we often had our disputes as to who jumped up before the geese were in range and frightened them away. Jack had taken the noon train at Lincoln, having telephoned to his daughter at Crete, where he lives, to dump his gun and hunting traps upon the cars as he passed there, so he appeared on the scene, as he always does, about half prepared. But the party turned in and helped him load his shells that night and the morning found him in trim and fine spirits.

The second day after our arrival at Elm Creek we all went further down the river, Webster and Houtz locating about a mile below the blinds of the day before and Jack and I going still two miles further on, where we found a fair blind already erected and a few dead geese in a state of decay, sitting around it. This proving to be a good location, we managed by main strength and awkwardness to kill twenty-four geese during the day. For some reason we did about as miserable as can well be conceived of gentlemen who professed to be shots at all, and on one or two occasions the driver was so disgusted with our work as to yell from shore across to us and ask if he should not bring out a batch of clubs. But for all that we had much fun, and twenty-four geese in one day was an experience so far ahead of anything we had encountered, that we were in no mood to fall out with ourselves or each other, and were taken back to the hotel for a late supper that all hands enjoyed. Webster and Houtz had not done so well as Jack and I, although they had tried the fields in the afternoon during feeding time. They kept their wounded goose which had already become somewhat tame, and had witnessed on this day its capacity for storing away shelled corn by seeing it devour every grain of a large ear. Talbot as usual brought in a large number of geese and tagged and shipped them to his skinners at Wood River. Two days after this he pulled up stakes and took his own departure, having alone killed nearly three hundred geese.

On the next day Jack and I went down to our blind of the day before. Houtz and Webster pulling up stakes and going up the river four or five miles above town, where they had exceptionally fine success, Jack and I falling considerably behind the score of the previous day. On meeting at the hotel that night we were informed by Houtz and Webster of their intention to leave for home in the morning, to meet business calls requiring their attention. Jack and I concluded to stay two days longer; and early the next morning, having the night before brought up our decoys and game from below, we were driven up the river to the scene of Houtz and Webster's operations. As we drove up to the bank where we were to take the river, a fine deer—a buck—walked leisurely down to the bank and across the sandbar to the long, narrow island running parallel with the main shore, where it disappeared among the plum bushes and high grass. Jack was anxious that we should try and capture this fellow by one of the party taking a stand in the center of the island, while the driver and other party should move him up. But as we had no buckshot, and were hunting for geese, I objected, and the project was abandoned. That afternoon the buck was shot and killed by a Swede woman, who, with her husband, lived on the upper end of the island. During our two days' sojourn in this locality we found the bars in the vicinity literally cut up with deer tracks, where they had apparently been at play, but no other animal put in an appearance.

In addition to our box of sheet iron decoys, we had taken with us up to this place two dozen or more which some Chicago parties had left at the hotel, and these, together with our guns and lunch and ammunition, made quite a load to pack through water and quicksands and across the tangle and jungle on the island. There is scarcely anything so fatiguing as staggering along under a heavy load in water threatening every moment to run in at the top of your waders, with a dash into quicksands here and there, and now and then having to back out on account of too great depths, and to seek another route. The wind was whistling down in a bee line from the north and the weather was growing quite cold. One had to have much faith in his rubber pants before he could muster up the courage to plunge into the stream on that frigid morning. The sandbars were frozen on top and we had to use our pocket knives to make holes for the pins that supported the decoys, and to enable us to stick down the willows that were necessary in repairing the blind.

The flight from the fields that began that morning shortly after 10 o'clock was the largest one I ever saw on the Platte, but the tendency of the geese seemed to be for points further up the river. And another thing that militated greatly against us was the fact that our blind was located too near the northern shore. The wind at that point was blowing directly across the river, and as the clumsy fowls slowly made their way up stream, they naturally drifted toward the southern shore, and generally passed too far from us to be attracted or called in by our decoys, though once in a while a flock made us a visit, to which we paid our best compliments. It was a source of no small annoyance to us to see them slighting by the thousand about two miles further up the river. About the middle of the afternoon Jack took a few decoys and went up, where he had good luck, considering he had a new blind to build under great difficulties, and that the best flights for the day were over. He came back down to me before nightfall, when we waded ashore, climbed into our spring wagon and were hastily driven to the hotel, a distance of some six miles, against a raw wind that chilled me nearly to the bone.

I now begin the doings of the last day, which was a stinging cold one, coming nearly up to the proportions of a blizzard. I waded out to the blind abreast the island, and Jack was driven on up to a point opposite the one he had erected the day before, it being understood that the driver should tie up his team and perambulate between the two and finish by helping us get our traps ashore later in the day. I had about the same experience as on the preceding day, namely, to see the geese pass out of range and out of call to the south of me, and frequently settle down in the vicinity of Jack's blind, he being too far away for me to decide with any certainty if they went to his decoys. The wind was too fierce for me to hear the report of his gun, and the dark lowering clouds made it impossible to see the smoke from its discharge.

I retrieved eight geese that day. Two wounded ones that had fallen near the blind had waded about and recovered their health, and when later I went out to gather them in, they took wing for parts unknown and were seen no more. Two others fell not far from the blind of some countrymen a quarter of a mile above me, who waded out and took them in. I think those were the only geese four of them got all day, and I had no disposition to parley with them over the rights of property. Not long after the geese took the afternoon departure for the fields I began to pull up stakes so that I might get ashore before dark. The first thing I did was to gather up and strap together the decoys belonging to the Chicago folks, which I carried out and across the island, where I laid them down on the sand and stuck up some bushes to mark their locality. I then returned to the blind, when I pulled up the other decoys and packed them in their box, which I expected the driver would come and take ashore, the box being too heavy for me to manage. There yet remained a big bag of shells and seventeen dead geese, most of them the large Canada fellows, to be disposed of. Unwinding the cord that had been tied around the blind to hold it in place, I tied my geese around the necks with it, each one separately and so far apart that in dragging them they would flow tandem, and one not pile upon top of another. It was done in this way that they would the more readily float, and not ground in shoal water.

This being done I started ashore, taking everything with me save the box of decoys. I bore down stream, pursuing every little channel that led toward the northern bank, intending to come out below the point of the island, where I would leave them for the more robust Jack and the driver to carry across the dry channel to shore. This undertaking proved to be a most arduous one. In many places I had to drag my big string of geese across little bars in order to keep them in channels leading toward my destination. The quicksands were numerous and deep, and as I struggled along under my burden I fell into a copious perspiration, and took off my gloves, wristlets and neck wrap to get relief. There I put in the pockets of the hunting coat, which I wore outside of the wading pants. On two or three occasions I came near getting into water above the waist of these pants. Finally, after a long and weary pull, and the most violent exercise, I think, of my life, I reached the foot of the island, and dragging my train of geese upon the bar, fell down upon the sands for a moment or so to rest. But this was not for long. it was too fearfully cold. The sky had become overcast, more densely, if possible, with clouds, and it was now about dark. I soon started up the bar along the edge of the island in quest of the decoys I had carried out there early in the afternoon. I did not find them for nearly an hour, having passed them three or four times in my journeying up and down there.

I then went out to shore where I could be picked up by the vehicle as it came down with Jack on the way home. Huddling up in a nook down behind the bank, I tried to keep warm. The wraps I had taken off and put into my coat pockets when wading ashore, had gotten soaked with water by being submerged, and of course could not be used. When I first made this discovery, I think my spirits and my temperature both fell about forty degrees. I was literally wet with perspiration, and my overcoat was in the spring wagon. All at once the subject of a fire flashed upon me, and then it occurred that one of the pockets of my vest was stored with matches put in there three years before. On fishing them out they proved to be all right, and lighting a piece of newspaper I soon had a rousing fire. The territory abreast the river there was newly plowed, leaving a strip of prairie grass about fifteen feet wide between the plowed land and the river bank, and it was this which furnished my fuel. After it had burned a little I got a bunch of brush and whipped the fire out at one end, letting the other burn against the wind partly, and following it up as it slowly crept along, keeping warm and drying my saturated wraps.

It was now about 8 o'clock and as dark as a stack of black cats, with a most cutting wind from the direction of the North Pole. I could not imagine what was detaining Jack and the driver, but directly the latter came down alone, and on being asked where Jack was facetiously queried, "Where are you?" He had not seen Jack since the middle of the afternoon, when he had taken his lunch out to the blind and had returned to shore with a load of dead geese. Of course I sent him back up the river with instructions to stay there until he found Jack or had some definite information concerning him. Not long after he had gone I heard the faint yell of some one I took to be the Swede, on the upper end of the island. This was repeated at intervals apparently closer each time, until at last I distinguished Jack's voice, and on my replying vigorously he asked, "Is that you, Polk?" and upon my answering in the affirmative he yelled in tones of thunder, "Put her out! put her out!" meaning for me to put out my comfortable and harmless fire. Upon learning that plowed land was behind me and the river in front his fears of devastation by a prairie fire that dark and windy night were allayed.

When Jack came up, though a man of herculean strength, he was nearly exhausted. He had started shore with sixteen or eighteen dead geese on his back, and when about half way over had given out and left these on a bar and had then gone back after another load, some eight or ten, which he carried ashore to find on reaching there that the driver and team had gone. Leaving the geese he went back after those left on the bar, but it had grown so dark he could not find them, besides himself getting lost out in the river. At about this time he descried my miniature prairie fire and made tracks for it, every now and then yelling as he proceeded. His journey took him diagonally across the island, where the bramble and plum bushes came near tearing all the clothes off him. On reaching me he felt a sense of relief at knowing where he was, but I think if he could have laid hands on the driver he would have shaken the life out of him. Satisfying himself that there was no danger of any fire getting beyond control, he at once started up the river bank in quest of the driver. In the time between this and their return I was enabled to thoroughly dry my wet garments and put them on.

On the return of Jack and the driver a hasty council of war resulted in our deciding to drive at once back to the town and send a team up the next morning after the box of decoys and thirty-five dead geese, which was to be expressed home, as we were to leave early the next morning. This decision being reached we beat out with brush the last vestige of our fire, and in the blackness of a dark night climbed into the open spring wagon, wrapped ourselves up as best we could, and started down the river bank in the direction of home, about the only thing that was visible being the white broncho on the off side, and the dim lights of a few farmhouses scattered about at long distances off on the prairie.

Our route for the first mile or so lay eastward along down the river bank, where we were to bear off on a northeast course to strike a road leading eastwardly to town. The two bronchos we were driving had only the day before been purchased out of a herd brought into the town and of course we could not trust them to take us home. The course along the river was easily pursued, but when we left that and struck out upon the prairie we were all at sea. The only guide we had was the direction of the wind; and as Jack swore up and down the wind had changed, no basis as to the direction could be derived from that. At the very start Jack and the driver fell into a dispute as to which was the proper way to drive, the former insisting that we were driving directly back to the river. I sided with the driver and urged that we travel so as to keep the stiff unvarying wind on our left cheek. "I tell you," Jack would emphatically reply, "the wind has changed." And when I would look forward and see the little white broncho apparently going the wrong way in a circle I would forbear further comments. At last the driver got out and walked in the hope of falling upon some kind of road, but it appeared to me we took more of a circuit then than at any time before, the wind blowing first and last upon every side of our persons.

Between 9 and 10 o'clock somewhere, we agreed to drive to the light apparently the nearest to us, and there find where we were; and so we headed for one. We had not proceeded far before we came to a plain road. Then a dispute arose between jack and the driver whether we should turn to the right or to the left, I took no part in this dispute, but on the theory that the wind still came down from the north, I believed the driver to be correct. Jack had become so utterly demoralized I had no faith in him; but he was so persistent in the correctness of his position, that the driver yielded and went his way. Luckily for the party we drove up to a farmhouse whose light had not been visible before, and calling the owner out told him we were lost and wanted to go to Elm Creek. "That being the case," said he, "you must turn and go back the other way." "Are you not mistaken?" asked Jack, as though the man was crazy and did not know the way to town. He must have felt that some such thoughts were passing through Jack's mind, for he held the lantern that was in his hand up to Jack's face to see what manner of man he was. We further learned here that we were less than a mile due north from the point on the river bank where I had started my fire.

Following the directions of the farmer we took the back track, but the fool bronchos did not have sense enough, or were too blind to follow the road, and we soon became aware of the fact that we were off from it and driving through the grass. Jack and the driver got out, and after long search at last found it. Not long thereafter getting off again, and not being able to find it, we drove back to the farmhouse, where the light still served as a beacon, and took another start. Having gone a mile or more we once more got off the road at a point where there was a bad place across a draw, and a temporary road had been worn around it. At this place, which we all remembered well, it was half an hour before we got straightened out again, and even then Jack swore the wind had certainly changed this time, and we were driving away from town. And he kept up this protest till we came to a farmhouse near a bridge, where there was a furious stench from an overcrowded hog pen that none of us could mistake as the place we had already passed three times in our pilgrimage.

There were other landmarks between us and town, and when we did not reach them as soon as Jack thought we ought he would insist that we were on the wrong road. But I continually called his attention to the fact that the cold north wind was blowing on my left cheek, and that our course was eastward—the very direction necessary to take us home. The relief of the party, and especially of Jack, when we at last sighted the straggling lights of the town I think will never be guessed. When we drove up to the hotel all of us were thoroughly chilled, and we learned we had been booked as lost for the night, and they thought we had gone into camp somewhere on the prairie.

The air was full of geese that day, and Jack's score was nearly thirty. We found at the hotel some fresh arrivals of eager hunters, but learned in a few days afterwards that the cold snap which had set in drove all the geese southward and there was no more shooting that winter. The boys are talking of a big hunt this fall, but have not determined where to go. I very much fear that on account of bad health I will not be able to accompany them.

  • Burr H. Polk.
  • Lincoln, Nebraska.