Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

The Start from Independence

We remained in camp by the creek until next morning, and then our way lay over the rolling prairies, where was grass on every hand and water in abundance, yet we made only fifteen miles between eight o'clock in the morning and within an hour of sunset, owing to the awkwardness of those who were striving to drive our few head of cattle.

Then came the first real camp, meaning the first time we had halted where it was necessary to guard everything we owned against the Indians, for we knew full well there were plenty in the vicinity of Independence, and I strove my best to show these people how an encampment should be formed on the prairie.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

It was difficult to persuade John Mitchell that it would be better to give the horses and mules a side hobble, than to take chances of securing them by picket ropes. I had always heard that by buckling a strap around the fore and hind legs, on the same side, taking due care not to chafe the animal's legs, he could not move away faster than a walk, while if he was hobbled by the forefeet only, it would be possible for him to gallop after some practice.

There were many in our party who claimed it was a useless precaution to hobble the horses, and insisted on fastening them to picket pins, doing so in such a slovenly manner that I knew if the animals were stampeded they could easily make their escape.

Before morning came we had good proof that carelessness in looking after the live stock at such a time is much the same as a crime.