Utah History to Go
Mormon Trail Series
The Salt Lake Tribune Arch
Indian Pony's Wild Ride Upsets Day's Routine for Mormon Pioneers
Harold Schindler
Published: 05/26/1997 Category: Nation-World  Page: A2

For but a brief moment, the westward journey of the Camp of Israel has fallen into a set routine; so much so that there are moments when members of the pioneer party concern themselves with things other than overland travel. William Clayton, for instance, spends so much time writing and copying journals, that he found it a welcome relief to give over a morning to drawing a map of the pioneer trek for Willard Richards. Orson Pratt, of course, fills his hours fiddling with his cherished astronomical instruments. This self-taught mathematician is happiest when he tramps around the landscape armed with a sextant and telescope "of sufficient power to observe the immersions and emersions of Jupiter's satellites."

The hour or so Pratt devoted to contemplating a "roadometer" based on "the concept of the endless screw" has paid handsome dividends for Clayton, who no longer has to count the revolutions of a wagon wheel himself. Carlos Murray, on the other hand, has been trying to raise the young eagle that was captured Saturday on one of the high ledges of Ancient Bluff Ruins. But he kept the bird under a wagon, and when some men were trying to move the wagon back a few feet, they accidentally ran a wheel over the eagle's head, killing it.

Thomas Bullock spent a rather ignominious morning at the bottom of a well. It happened that while he was filling a water container for Willard Richards, an inkbottle fell from his pocket into the well and around four feet of water. "I went to work, emptied the well, descended and after groping some in the muddy bottom, found the ink bottle safe and sound," Bullock said. The camp historian vowed to keep a closer eye on his ink. And Wilford Woodruff has occupied the last few days in reading Lansford W. Hastings' 1845 Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California. Woodruff's critical opinion? "Hastings greatly exaggerated the account of upper California."

This "routine" of camp life was abruptly shattered this morning by an incident involving Stephen Markham's newly acquired Indian pony obtained in a swap with the Dacotah Sioux just yesterday. Markham put the spirited animal in harness last night and again today. And this morning, while crossing a soft area of the prairie the carriage singletree came unhitched and struck the animal across his heels. Thoroughly spooked, the pony ran full gallop toward the lead teams in the wagon train and sprinted twice through the line of wagons causing several teams, horses and oxen to spring from the road and run some distance before the men could stop them.

Had it not been so serious, it would have been funny. The pioneers chased the pony for a mile before catching it and returning it to harness. Bullock saw five teams jump out of the ranks in different directions, as the pony--with traces and singletree banging behind it--came snorting through. Cows ringing their bells and dogs barking in all directions, Bullock said, made a scene of confusion for a few minutes.

For Wilford Woodruff, the experience was unnerving. "In an instant a dozen or more wagons were darting by each other like lightning and horse and mules flying, as it were, over the ground. Some turned to the right and some to the left. Some ran into other wagons."

 Jesse Little held on to the reins of his team while Joseph Fowler grabbed the bits and clung for dear life as the horses sprang by Woodruff's carriage "like electricity." Fowler was dragged more than 200 yards at the bit before he was able to slow the team. The frightening experience gave the pioneers pause to ponder, "What an Indian yell would do in such a camp with teams hitched to wagons."

All in all, it was quite a hectic day, and Clayton, after making note that Porter Rockwell had killed two more antelope and a wolf, that John Brown had also killed an antelope, as did Joseph Hancock, ended his day by writing in Heber Kimball's journal until 10:30 p.m., then went to bed.

Day's travel: 12 miles. Camp located just east of today's Minitare, Nebraska

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