Transcript for Bee, Richard John Moxey, Autobiography [ca. 1908], 12-17
Next day we made preparations for ferrying the wagons, as the stream was so swollen we could not ford. The cattle we had to swim, and volunteers were called for to guide the herd accross, and I offered myself for one, as I did not fear the water, not knowing anything about the treacherous quicksands in the bed of the river. I was stationed below to keep the herd inclined towards the opposite bank as they would be inclined to land on the side they went in[.] I bravely took my post thinking what sport I was going to have. The herd presently reached me, I began to shout to turn the swaying herd. I realized I had been sinking but did not know the cause. I remained at my post but could not move. I was too proud or independent to cry for help, although hundreds of men, women & children were on the bank within saving reach. I was now surrounded by the cattle, but as fast as a post, immovable. As a drowning man would grasp at a straw, I took hold of an ox’s tail and hung on for dear life. He presently pulled me from my predicament, and I clung hard & fast till he landed me safely on the opposite shore, then I thanked the Lord for my preservation from such an untimely death. My experience made me wiser and more careful of rivers & all fresh water streams, as I had had no experience with them, but thought all waters were alike and I had no fear, regarding them the same as the waters of the sea or ocean.
After all the company and effects were accross, we proceeded on our journey as light and merry as a happy & jovial crowd could make it, and all went well and all seemed to enjoy the trip. We travelled on the north side of the Platte river till we struck the plains which extended 2 or 3 hundred miles without any apparent break in the surroundings. While on the last divide before descending to the plain below, an almost indescribable scene was presented to our veiw [view], an innumerable herd of buffalo was spread out before us, extending according to approximate guesses, looking through telescopes &c covering an area of about 100 sq. miles, the prairie was literally black with them, old frontiersmen who were along with our company estimated there would be about 1,000,000 head, migrating from their winter to their summer range. The company were cautious about proceeding, to prevent any stampeding among our own Cattle. However we kept traveling, and as we approached the vast herd seemed to sway to the right of us, all moving in concert with the leaders. They rapidly made the distance between us more apparent, till finally when night came we formed our camp on the north bank of the river. A hunt was proposed and several small parties started out, as the large herd had broken up and scattered in different directions, yet all tending to the same course of travel. Another young man and myself proposed going together and have a hand in the sport, as we thought, and started out jubilant over the thought of our success, and endeavored to overtake a small squad of buffalo, stragglers from the main herd, and after several miles of travel we overtook them. It was then dark with the exception of a very bright moonlight and our surroundings were plain to view. In our opinions both of us were brave and would face anything to accomplish our purpose. As it happened I got in proximity to a large bull, he came feeding slowly towards me[.] I immediately lay down flat with the rifle in range expecting I was unnoticed by the beast. He came a little closer than I anticipated, and all at once my bravery left me. the “Buck Fever” took possession, and I got up and ran faster than I conceived my legs could carry me, thinking I was pursued by one of the “Monarchs of the Plain[.]” When I stopped and began to look around, I espied my companion in the same predicament as my self, running after me for dear life till we got together all “petered” out. The next on the program “where were we? what direction would we take to reach camp?[”] The moon was going down, but we knew we had to steer west to reach the Platte river. We did so, and after traveling 3 or 4 miles we struck the river, but could not tell whether the camp was up the river or down. So being tired and exhausted, we had a drink of water and lay down till it would become light enough to discern the shadowed objects around us.
When morning came, we had not long to wait, we were surprised to see our camp only about ¼ mile down the river. We knew it was ours by recognizing some of the cattle that belonged, feeding close by us. We gladly reached camp, exchanged experiences with others that had been out hunting, for that was all we had to give, and thought in the future I would let the job out to others better posted in the ways of a “Crack Shot.”
After breakfast everything was got in readiness for travel. The teams and wagons were formed in line—and started for another days journey on the plains. New and interesting to me was the various changes of the landscape, and its immediate scenery. The river bank in general was void of the lofty forest trees that lined the banks of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, but clusters of Cottonwood and willows were the distinguished forestry of the country. Nothing of consequence occurred to break the monotony of travel for several days, only the meeting of occasional strolling bands of Indians either on the hunt or merely nomadic, changing temporary location for change of pasture for their stock: all app[ar]ently peacefully inclined but always hungry. At one time we had camped early one afternoon to give our cattle and horses a chance of good pasture, as the grass and vegetation was luxurious, for oftentimes feed along the line of travel was rather scant. We had not been long in camp when a moving black mass of something hove [sic] in sight. Our men were called out to collect the cattle together and drive them some distance from the camp to prevent a Stampede, as a herd of buffalo, which the mass proved to be, were steering for the river to drink, and our camp lay directly in their course, and at such times nothing could turn them. On they came as it were with the velocity of the wind, and with a pandemonium of noises that would drive a “tenderfoot” such as myself into hysterics, however I survived the shock. Some of our men who had travelled the plains two or 3 times previously knew what would be the result of such a charge and prepared for the onslaught by getting their guns in readiness. The herd at last reached us, ran directly through the camp to the river, crossed the river and kept on their course. However some of the herd was stopped by the rifles of our men and seven of the beasts were brought low, some falling right by the wagons. There were no other casualties, and we remained in camp all the next day cutting up and drying the meat. It furnished buffalo meat about sufficient for the camp the greater part of the journey onward. Finally we left the plains and all the historic points of travel and reached Deer Creek 4 miles beyond Fort Laramie. The fort being in sight. We had to cross the creek which was a wide stream, and rocky bottom with a swift raging current. The teamsters generally had to walk driving their teams accross the ford. I was following with my team and as they were good to keep close up to the wagon ahead of them, I thought there would be a good chance for me to ride and drive instead of having to wade the river. Accordingly I started in and had just got to swiftest part of the current, when as it happened some sheep come floating down and got tangled up with my cattle and my leaders turned around to the right with their heads toward the wagon, and nearly upset it, so that I was obliged to jump out on the off side of the team, and labored the leaders over their heads till their chains slackened and the wagon got righted, after scaring the two daughters of Elder [Orson] Hyde who were riding in my wagon and also Bro. and Sister [Marinda Nancy Johnson] Hyde who were in the next wagon following. I again learned a lesson, I got nearly drowned myself; instead of wading and driving my team as I ought to, as others did, I erred in judgment, got a worse wetting than I otherwise would have done owing to not obeying counsel.
We proceeded on our journey as usual, nothing out of common happening till we arrived at the Devil’s Gate near Independence Rock on Sweet Water. We laid over there 4 days repairing wagons, do the washing of the Camp &c &cpreparatory to the continuation of our journey westward. While there in Camp a serious accident happened to a little girl belonging [to] Bro. & Sister Hyde. The girl and her sister [Delia Annette Hyde] respectfully 3 and 5 years of age were playing round where there was a fire burning and a large caldron on it, with 2 hams cooking. In their play the little 3 year old fell backwards into this boiling caldron. I was close by, the cry got up and taking in the situation I ran and snatched the little girl from an untimely death, heedless of the result to myself. The child’s body was frightfully scalded, her life was despaired of, but by careful nursing, and the ministrations of the priesthood, claiming God’s blessing she recovered, lived to womanhood and married in Salt Lake Valley.The next particular incident of the journey was regarding myself. We were nearing the Valley, got as far as Bear River on the emigrant trail when a heavy snowstorm got up, the ground was covered to the depth of 4 inches, and I was riding in front of my wagon with the wagon cover wrapped around me for protection, and in going down a long hill, my cattle were lagging being tired, I thought I would whip up a little. In that day Oxteamsters used a long slender whipstock, with a long lash in order to reach their cattle from one end
of them to the other. I could reach my leaders, I was driving three yoke, and in throwing out my whip, it being wet with the storm, whipped around the lead chain and jerked me from the wagon. I fell behind one of the wheel oxen, the front wheel rolled over my head, but not losing presence of mind I crouched up and let the balance of wagon pass over clear of my body. I thought one wheel was enough. The party of an old lady and gentleman were driving behind me, saw me crawling out from under the wagon, called to me and asked what was the matter? I answered—Oh! nothing! only picking up my whip. I kept the secret to myself, although I had a sore head, with a scar I tried to cover up, about 5 inches long, from my right temple to the back of my head. While we were halting on the little mountain just east of Salt Lake, Elder Hyde accosted me by saying I had never told him of being run over—I suppose the old gentleman had told him—I answered him by saying it was a likely story to be run over and he not know it. It passed off that way. We finally arrived in Salt Lake City and Halted on what is now known as Main Street. I espied mother on the opposite side of the street on the look out for Orson Hyde’s wagons who were expected.