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Vanishing Arizona

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Vanishing Arizona
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Author(s): Martha Summerhayes
Date Published: 2010/06
Page Count: 232
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-134-8
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-133-1

A lady, the desert, the army and the Apaches

This is the account of the life of a young army wife who followed her husband—a second lieutenant of infantry—after the turbulent years of the American Civil War, in which he had served, to what was considered the wildest and most remote of frontier outposts in the American south west. Life within the Army in Arizona came as something of a cultural shock to this gentle lady of New England who knew nothing of housekeeping—indeed she did not even know how to pack. This absorbing book takes us together with its author on a rights of passage experience as she lived, travelled, camped and came to have affection for the untamed land. Her husband was constantly engaged in campaigns against the Apache and Martha Summerhayes experience of them in peace and war also adds flavour to this unforgettable life of a woman in frontier days. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket for collectors.

A momentary silence reigned, and we tried again to sleep. Back came the cats, and then came Jack’s turn with boots and travelling satchels. It was all of no avail, and we resigned ourselves. Cruelly tired, here we were, we two women, compelled to sit on hard boxes or the edge of a bed, to quiet our poor babies, all through that night, at that old sheep-ranch. Like the wretched emigrant, differing only from her inasmuch as she, never having known comfort perhaps, cannot realize her misery.<br>
The two lieutenants slipped on their blouses, and sat looking helplessly at us, waging war on the cats at intervals. And so the dawn found us, our nerves at a tension, and our strength gone—a poor preparation for the trying day which was to follow.<br>
We were able to buy a couple of sheep there, to take with us for supplies, and some antelope meat. We could not indulge, in foolish scruples, but I tried not to look when they tied the live sheep and threw them into one of the wagons.<br>
Quite early in the day, we met a man who said he had been fired upon by some Indians at Sanford’s Pass. We thought perhaps he had been scared by some stray shot, and we did not pay much attention to his story.<br>
Soon after, however, we passed a sort of old adobe ruin, out of which crept two bare-headed Mexicans, so badly frightened that their dark faces were pallid; their hair seemed standing on end, and they looked stark mad with fear. They talked wildly to the guide, and gesticulated, pointing in the direction of the Pass. They had been fired at, and their ponies taken by some roving Apaches. They had been in hiding for over a day, and were hungry and miserable. We gave them food and drink. They implored us, by the Holy Virgin, not to go through the Pass.<br>
What was to be done? The officers took counsel; the men looked to their arms. It was decided to go through. Jack examined his revolver, and saw that my pistol was loaded. I was instructed minutely what to do, in case we were attacked.<br>
For miles we strained our eyes, looking in the direction whence these men had come.<br>
At last, in mid-afternoon, we approached the Pass, a narrow defile winding down between high hills from this table-land to the plain below. To say that we feared an ambush, would not perhaps convey a very clear idea of how I felt on entering the Pass.<br>
There was not a word spoken. I obeyed orders, and lay down in the bottom of the ambulance; I took my derringer out of the holster and cocked it. I looked at my little boy lying helpless there beside me, and at his delicate temples, lined with thin blue veins, and wondered if I could follow out the instructions I had received: for Jack had said, after the decision was made, to go through the Pass, “Now, Mattie, I don’t think for a minute that there are any Injuns in that Pass, and you must not be afraid. We have got to go through it any way; but”—he hesitated,—“we may be mistaken; there may be a few of them in there, and they’ll have a mighty good chance to get in a shot or two.<br>
“And now listen: if I’m hit, you’ll know what to do. You have your derringer; and when you see that there is no help for it, if they get away with the whole outfit, why, there’s only one thing to be done. Don’t let them get the baby, for they will carry you both off and—well, you know the squaws are much more cruel than the bucks. Don’t let them get either of you alive. Now”—to the driver—“go on.”<br>
Jack was a man of few words, and seldom spoke much in times like that.<br>
So I lay very quiet in the bottom of the ambulance. I realized that we were in great danger. My thoughts flew back to the East, and I saw, as in a flash, my father and mother, sisters and brother; I think I tried to say a short prayer for them, and that they might never know the worst. I fixed my eyes upon my husband’s face. There he sat, rifle in hand, his features motionless, his eyes keenly watching out from one side of the ambulance, while a stalwart cavalry-man, carbine in hand, watched the other side of the narrow defile. The minutes seemed like hours.<br>
The driver kept his animals steady, and we rattled along.<br>
At last, as I perceived the steep slope of the road, I looked out, and saw that the Pass was widening out, and we must be nearing the end of it. “Keep still,” said Jack, without moving a feature.<br>
My heart seemed then to stop beating, and I dared not move again, until I heard him say, “Thank God, we’re out of it! Get up, Mattie! See the river yonder? We’ll cross that tonight, and then we’ll be out of their God d——d country!”<br>
This was Jack’s way of working off his excitement, and I did not mind it. I knew he was not afraid of Apaches for himself, but for his wife and child. And if I had been a man, I should have said just as much and perhaps more.<br>
We were now down in a flat country, and low alkali plains lay between us and the river. My nerves gradually recovered from the tension in which they had been held; the driver stopped his team for a moment, the other ambulance drove up alongside of us, and Ella Bailey and I looked at each other; we did not talk any, but I believe we cried just a little. Then Mr. Bailey and Jack (thinking we were giving way, I suppose) pulled out their big flasks, and we had to take a cup of good whiskey, weakened up with a little water from our canteens, which had been filled at Walker’s ranch in the morning. Great Heavens! I thought, was it this morning that we left Walker’s ranch, or was it a year ago? So much had I lived through in a few hours.
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