[Burton, William W.], "Little Willie," Juvenile Instructor, 15 Mar. 1893, 184-86.
Several days were now spent in trying to tame the wild steers and cows which were mostly of the Texas breed, with wide-spreading horns. They seemed as fierce and untamable as the buffalo of the plains. Willie had agreed to drive a team for H. J. Jarvis, a merchant who let him have one yoke of cattle, about half gentle, and two three-year old yokes of Texans that were about the wildest in camp. In the afternoon of the 19th day of June, 1854, the wagons began to move out from camp. The wagon Willie drove was last to start. He had put his gentle yoke for tongue cattle and the wild Texans for leaders; he had a rope however, on the horn of the nigh steer which seemed very much offended at this appendage. All the wagons were now in motion and the journey of more than a thousand miles began over beautiful prairies covered with tall, waving grass, and the dreary sage plains, and lastly the rugged defiles of the Rocky Mountains. A storm came up suddenly and the rain came down in torrents, the road got slippery and Willie's team got stuck while trying to climb a steep hill. Mrs. Jarvis was riding in the wagon, and Mr. Jarvis was trying to help Willie drive the team. The steers got their legs tangled in the chains and became unmanageable. Willie and Jarvis took firmly hold of the rope that was fastened to the head of the nigh steer, then unhooked the chain, but before they could get things right and the chain hooked up again, the steers bounded over the prairie with break-neck speed, dragging Willie and Jarvis after them. Jarvis fell among the wet grass and rolled frantically on the ground, calling loudly to Willie to hold to the steers. After a long rough and tumble race over the prairie, with Jarvis' help, Willie succeeded in getting the steers back to the wagon, and chained them and the other cattle securely to the wheels. After this adventure both Willie and Jarvis were drenched to the skin. Darkness began to set in, the rain still poured down in torrents, and no possible hope of moving on that night. Every wagon of the rest of the train had long since passed out of sight over the western horizon. On the frontiers of an Indian country, wet, weary, and discouraged, they settled down to pass the night as best they could, and anxiously awaited the dawning of anther day. This night seemed almost like a month, but at last the day dawned upon them and the sun rose in splendor, inspiring the occupants of this belated wagon with hope. But the road was still wet and slippery, and Willie and Jarvis, with their limited knowledge of driving an ox team were unable to make a start. Soon a Negro boy came along who proved to be a fine teamster, and after looking at the forlorn outfit, said: "Bin dar all night?" "Yes"said Willie. "We cannot make the cattle pull the load, the road is so slippery." "Can't make em pull de load! I make em pull dat load." And on being requested to try it, he made the cattle haw a little, then with a scientific shake of the whip, a loud crack and a slight touch with the last where it was most needed, the cattle straightened out and moved on with the load astonishingly easy. Thankful for the timely help of the Negro boy, they pushed on their journey till they overtook the train. During the time the company were in camp at Kansas many died with cholera, but as soon as they got fairly out on the plains, cholera left them, and the camp became quite healthy. While at Kansas trying to break in wild cattle, Willie seeing many roll up their shirt sleeves, thought that he would do so too. So he rolled up his, but his arms were very tender, and the sun came out so hot that it burned them until the skin rose up in big blisters. About three days after this the company stopped to dinner near a small river, and Willie with several others went to bathe. He stripped off and jumped into the water. His arms now looked fearful for when he emerged from the water, the sore part of his arms were perfectly raw, for the skin peeled off, and with his arms in this sad condition he had to look after the cattle, drive team and stand guard. However, they grew better much quicker than he expected. The small pararie wolves were now beginning to be thick around camp at nights and especially around the cattle and the herds that would go some distance from camp in order to find grass. At night the wagons were driven so as to form a circle or corral, and as soon as the cattle were unyoked three or four men at a time in turns would take a lunch, their guns and blankets and drive off the cattle in search of grass. Then two would take charge, and pace around the feeding cattle till midnight, then the others would take charge and stand guard till the cattle had to be driven to camp in the morning. Nothing particular occurred except the routine of travel and labor until the company reached Fort Kearney. Soon after passing Fort Kearney as far as the eye could reach, between the Bluffs and the Platte River was grazing on an eminence herd of buffalo, thousands in number. Two or three were killed and the camp laid in a good supply of meat. Up to this time there had been little variety in diet. The only change being bread and bacon and then bacon and bread. Next day the buffalo still continued and seemed almost thick enough to attack the train. One large herd coming up out of the river, and finding the train of wagons in motion and strung about in a long length between them and the Bluffs, made an attempt to break through between the wagons, and it being feared that they might get tangled up with the yoked-up cattle and chains, all hands were quickly called out with their guns, who fired in among them to keep them back, and had it not been for this timely effort, all the cattle in the company might have stampeded, and the company been left on the plains in a suffering condition. On the night of the 7th of August the company reached Ash Hollow. There was very little feed for the cattle, so the four herdsmen were instructed to cross the Platte River in search of feed. At this place the river was full of quicksands. Two of the herders came near getting drowned. Next morning in driving the cattle back they also had great difficulty in getting over the river. It was soon discovered that five or six of the cattle had been left on the other side of the river, and none of the herdsmen wanted to risk crossing again and refused to go. The captain then called upon Willie to go, as one of the yoke of the missing cattle belonged to his team. Willie said that he could not swim but that he would go and try it, if the captain would get him a little black pony that was owned in camp. The captain got the pony and Willie started. When about half way over the stream the pony sank in the quick sands. Just below was deep water, so Willie got off on the upper side, kept his left foot in the stirrup and took firmly hold of the saddle with his hands and wriggled the pony off into the deep water. He then sprang into the saddle again, and the pony went swimming along like a little boat. He proved to be an excellent swimmer. The Indians had owned him and no doubt he had passed many adventures of the kind. Soon he came to a gravel bar where he could wade, and after wading some time got in to the quick sand again, and succeeded in getting out the same as before. When he reached the bank of the river the pony was swimming, the bank was perpendicular and six or eight feet above the water. At this particular place the water eddied and whirled back up alongside of the bank. A few rods above there Willie saw a break in the banks where buffalo and cattle no doubt had come to drink. So he turned the pony's head up stream and succeeded in getting out at this place. After hunting about an hour he found all the lost animals. Then he looked for a better crossing place, but did not find one to suit him, so he drove the cattle into the river where he had come out. The first step into the water the cattle went out of sight all but their horns. Willie rode in after them and had considerable difficulty, but finally got them all safely over, and the train moved on.[TO BE CONTINUED.]