The west shore. (Portland, Or.) 1875-1891, June 01, 1886, Page 187, Image 17

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TOILING slowly up steep and tortuous mountain
grades, nnd as slowly winding dowu again, with
brakes set and wheels locked togother, the moun
tain train may be seen by any oue who visits the
mining regions of the West, lime was when the stage
and the freighter's WBgons were the only menus of con
veyance of passengers and goods throughout the entire
Pacific coast, save where the Columbia, Snako, Williim
ette and Saoranieuto rivers offered routes for Btoamhonta,
or where, no roads having beeu made into mountain
fastnesses or thinly settled districts, the patient pack
mule formed the connecting commercial link with some
base of supplies aloug the more traveled routes. Al
though, like the ouce ubiquitous stage, the freight
wagon has been pushed further and further into the in
terior, and superseded completely iu many places, by
the steady enoroachmeuts of the railway, thero are yet
many localities where it holds undisputed sway, the
stay and dependence of hundreds of mining camps and
yemote settlements. Grant, Lake and Klamath counties
iu Oregon, are entirely dependent upou them, also
Northern California and that portion of the state lying
in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Idaho yet fiuds them
her main reliance, and iu Montana they are the oidy
means of transportation for goods to the mining camps
and towns lying at a distance from the two lines of rail
way which traverse the territory. In the same way Ne
vada,. Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona find
commercial life closely linked with the crack of the
stnge driver's whip and the jingle of the freighter's
The mountain train generally consists of from two
to five wagous secured together iu succession from the
largest to the smallest, and drawn by from four to ten
spans of horses or mules, or both. Tho driver some,
times walks and sometimes rides one of tho wheel ani
mals, where he can guide the leaders with a long rein,
and at the same time set the brakes on all the wagons
by an attachment to the forward one within roach of his
hand. Generally tho driver has one or more assistant,
or several train teams travel together, so they may lend
mutual aid in many of the difficulties that arise, whilo
at night, when, as is often tho case, they are impelled
to co into camp, they can find pleasant companionship
while they drink their coffee and smoke their evening
pipes. A glance at the construction of tho wagons, es
pecially the large oue in frout, will show what an cnor
mouB capacity for freight they justness, and if one could
ueeu under the canvas cover so closely strapjied down
to protect the load from dust, which at times hangs iu a
dense cloud about tho train, ho would discover every ar
ticle of merchandise not too bulky for transportation.
Pianos, safes, milling machinery of the heaviest kiud, in
fact everything of sufficient value to bear tho expense,
is carried iu this way often a distance of two hundred
miles, and iu the early dtys, a trip of five hundred mile
by " plurie schooner," as the largo while-topped wagous
are often, was not unoommon. Such trips wore
made from Chioo to the Idaho mines, from Walla Walla
to Hlndfoot and Doer Lodge, and of lets years from
Uoise ami n ood river mines to Kolton and inncmuoca,
on the Central Pacific The expense of thus transput-
ing gootia oiteu rescues the, and even ten, cents per
pound, which is promptly doubled by the merchant and
added to tho price of the goods.
Often the leaders of a mule traiu are decorated with
a set of bells, whose constant jingling give notice of
their approach, so that parties traveling the grade in an
opposite direction may tako warning and stop at one of
tho numerous "turn-outs," or " wait-a-bits," as they
used to be called in laukoeland, in order to allow them
room to pass. f this is uot done it may result in au
awkward meeting at some point where the road is too
narrow to admit of passage, with a face fit solid rock on
one hand and a steep precipice on the other. Such a
meeting is devoid of charm, even for the liest of friends,
It is well for ono who has reached the summit of a
mountain grade to insoct the Mad ahead before liegin.
ning the descent; otherwise ho may find himself in a
predicament, iu juxtapoaitiou with the long-oared lead
ers of a mulo train. Even if the grade be so tortuous
that he can see but little of it at a time, a glance at the
foot may reveal a wagon or two standing without mules,
indicating that the team is somewhere on tho grade with
the other wagons. This is of Urn the case, since on steep
and winding grades the driver is unable to handle the
whole train at ouce, and is oompetlod to make two or
three tri with a portion of his train, both iu ascend
ing and descending. Though climbing tho mountains
is lalsirioiis and tedious, the engineer of the mule train
no doubt prefers it to that portiou of his route which
lies across the sage brush and alkali plains, where eyes,
none, mouth and oars liecomo filled with Irritating dust,
aud limn," animals and wagons bear oue unvaried hue of
(Miwdcred earth.
There wits a tamo when a spiracle of lead, cut from
the bar or sheet, sufficed to make marks 011 white pser
or wims rougher material. The name of lead ienoil
came from the old notion that the products of the Cum
berland mine were lead instead of plumbago, or graph
ite, a carhoiiito of iron capable of leaving a load-colored
mark. With the original lead pencil the wetting was a
necessary preliminary of writing. The lead anml is
now adapted, by numltnrs or letters, to each particular
design. There are grades of hardness from the pencil
that may lie sharpened to a needln-like point to one that
makes broad mark. These gradations axe made by
taking the original carlsinat and grinding it and mix
ing it with a flue quality of clay, iu differing proxir
tioiis, regard being hail to the use to be mode of the
MnciL The thoroughly mixed mas is squeexed through
dies to form and sine it, is drietl, and eucai lu iU
woodeu envelope.