A WOMAN TENDERFOOT
A WOMAN TENDERFOOT
GRACE GALLATIN SETON-THOMPSON
In this Book the full-page Drawings were made by Ernest Seton-Thompson
G. Wright and E.M. Ashe and the Marginals by S.N. Abbott. The cover
title-page and general make-up were designed by the Author. Thanks are
due to Miller Christy for proof revision and to A.A. Anderson for
valuable suggestions on camp outfitting.
THIS BOOK IS A TRIBUTE TO THE WEST.
I have used many Western phrases as necessary to the Western setting.
I can only add that the events related really happened in the Rocky
Mountains of the United States and Canada; and this is why being a
woman I wanted to tell about them in the hope that some
going-to-Europe-in-the-summer-woman may be tempted to go West instead.
New York City September 1st 1900.
I The Why of It
II Outfit and Advice for the Woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband
III The First Plunge of the Woman Tenderfoot
IV Which Treats of the Imps and My Elk
V Lost in the Mountains
VI The Cook
VII Among the Clouds
VIII At Yeddars
IX My Antelope
X A Mountain Drama
XI What I Know about Wahb of the Bighorn Basin
XII The Dead Hunt
XIII Just Rattlesnakes
XIV As Cowgirl
XV The Sweet Pea Lady Someone Else's Mountain Sheep
XVI In which the Tenderfoot Learns a New Trick
XVII _Our_ Mine
XVIII The Last Word
A LIST OF FULL-PAGE DRAWINGS.
Costume for cross saddle riding
Tears starting from your smoke-inflamed eyes
Saddle cover for wet weather Policeman's equestrian rain coat
She was postmistress twice a week
The trail was lost in a gully
Whetted one to a razor edge and threw it into a tree where it stuck
Not three hundred yards away ... were two bull elk in deadly combat
Down the path came two of the prettiest Blacktails
A misstep would have sent us flying over the cliff
Thus I fought through the afternoon
We whizzed across the railroad track in front of the Day Express
Five feet full in front of us they pulled their horses to a dead stop
The coyotes made savage music
The horrid thing was ready for me I started on a gallop swinging one
The warm beating heart of a mountain sheep
I could not keep away from his hoofs
We started forward just as the rear wheels were hovering over the edge
"You better not sit down on that kaig ... It's nitroglycerine"
The tunnel caused its roof to cave in close behind me
A mountain lion sneaked past my saddle-pillowed head
THE WHY OF IT.
Theoretically I have always agreed with the Quaker wife who reformed her
husband--"Whither thou goest I go also Dicky dear." What thou doest I
do also Dicky dear. So when the year after our marriage Nimrod
announced that the mountain madness was again working in his blood and
that he must go West and take up the trail for his holiday I tucked my
summer-watering-place-and-Europe-flying-trip mind away (not without
regret I confess) and cautiously tried to acquire a new vocabulary and
some new ideas.
Of course plenty of women have handled guns and have gone to the Rocky
Mountains on hunting trips--but they were not among my friends. However
my imagination was good and the outfit I got together for my first trip
appalled that good man my husband while the number of things I had to
learn appalled me.
In fact the first four months spent 'Out West' were taken up in
learning how to ride how to dress for it how to shoot and how
to philosophise each of which lessons is a story in itself. But briefly
in order to come to this story I must have a side talk with the
Woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband. Those not interested please omit
the next chapter.
OUTFIT AND ADVICE FOR THE WOMAN-WHO-GOES-HUNTING-WITH-HER-HUSBAND.
Is it really so that most women say no to camp life because they are
afraid of being uncomfortable and looking unbeautiful? There is no reason
why a woman should make a freak of herself even if she is going to rough
it; as a matter of fact I do not rough it I go for enjoyment and leave
out all possible discomforts. There is no reason why a woman should be
more uncomfortable out in the mountains with the wild west wind for
companion and the big blue sky for a roof than sitting in a 10 by 12
whitewashed bedroom of the summer hotel variety with the tin roof to
keep out what air might be passing. A possible mosquito or gnat in the
mountains is no more irritating than the objectionable personality that
is sure to be forced upon you every hour at the summer hotel. The usual
walk the usual drive the usual hop the usual novel the usual
scandal--in a word the continual consciousness of self as related to
dress to manners to position which the gregarious living of a hotel
enforces--are all right enough once in a while; but do you not get enough
of such life in the winter to last for all the year?
Is one never to forget that it is not proper to wear gold beads with
crape? Understand I am not to be set down as having any charity for the
ignoramus who would wear that combination but I wish to record the fact
that there are times under the spell of the West when I simply do not
_care_ whether there are such things as gold beads and crape; when the
whole business of city life the music arts drama the pleasant
friends equally with the platitudes of things and people you care not
about--civilization in a word--when all these fade away from my thoughts
as far as geographically they are and in their place comes the joy of
being at least a healthy if not an intelligent animal. It is a pleasure
to eat when the time comes around a good old-fashioned pleasure and you
need no dainty serving to tempt you. It is another pleasure to use your
muscles to buffet with the elements to endure long hours of riding to
run where walking would do to jump an obstacle instead of going around
it to return physically at least to your pinafore days when you
played with your brother Willie. Red blood means a rose-colored world.
Did you feel like that last summer at Newport or Narragansett?
So enough; come with me and learn how to be vulgarly robust.
Of course one must have clothes and personal comforts so while we are
still in the city humor let us order a habit suitable for riding
astride. Whipcord or a closely woven homespun in some shade of grayish
brown that harmonizes with the landscape is best. Corduroy is pretty if
you like it but rather clumsy. Denham will do but it wrinkles and
becomes untidy. Indeed it has been my experience that it is economy to
buy the best quality of cloth you can afford for then the garment always
keeps its shape even after hard wear and can be cleaned and made ready
for another year and another and another. You will need it never
fear. Once you have opened your ears "the Red Gods" will not cease to
"call for you."
In Western life you are on and off your horse at the change of a thought.
Your horse is not an animate exercise-maker that John brings around for a
couple of hours each morning; he is your companion and shares the
vicissitudes of your life. You even consult him on occasion especially
on matters relating to the road. Therefore your costume must look equally
well on and off the horse. In meeting this requirement my woes were
many. I struggled valiantly with everything in the market and finally
from five varieties of divided skirts and bloomers the following
practical and becoming habit was evolved.
I speak thus modestly as there is now a trail of patterns of this habit
from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. Wherever it goes it makes
converts especially among the wives of army officers at the various
Western posts where we have been--for the majority of women in the West
and I nearly said all the sensible ones now ride astride.
When off the horse there is nothing about this habit to distinguish it
from any trim golf suit with the stitching up the left front which is
now so popular. When on the horse it looks as some one phrased it as
though one were riding side saddle on both sides. This is accomplished by
having the fronts of the skirt double free nearly to the waist and
when off the horse fastened by patent hooks. The back seam is also open
faced for several inches stitched and closed by patent fasteners. Snug
bloomers of the same material are worn underneath. The simplicity of
this habit is its chief charm; there is no superfluous material to sit
upon--oh the torture of wrinkled cloth in the divided skirt!--and it
does not fly up even in a strong wind if one knows how to ride. The
skirt is four inches from the ground--it should not bell much on the
sides--and about three and a half yards at the bottom which is finished
with a five-inch stitched hem.
[Illustration: COSTUME FOR CROSS SADDLE RIDING. Designed by the Author.]
Any style of jacket is of course suitable. One that looks well on the
horse is tight fitting with postilion back short on hips sharp pointed
in front with single-breasted vest of reddish leather (the habit
material of brown whipcord) fastened by brass buttons leather collar
and revers and a narrow leather band on the close-fitting sleeves. A
touch of leather on the skirt in the form of a patch pocket is
harmonious but any extensive leather trimming on the skirt makes it
A suit of this kind should be as irreproachable in fit and finish as a
tailor can make it. This is true economy for when you return in the
autumn it is ready for use as a rainy-day costume.
Once you have your habit the next purchase should be stout heavy soled
boots 13 or 14 inches high which will protect the leg in walking and
from the stirrup leather while riding. One needs two felt hats (never
straw) one of good quality for sun or rain with large firm brim. This
is important for if the brim be not firm the elements will soon reduce
it to raglike limpness and it will flap up and down in your face as you
ride. This can be borne with composure for five or ten minutes but not
for days and weeks at a time. The other felt hat may be as small and as
cheap as you like. Only see that it combines the graces of comfort and
becomingness. It is for evenings and sunless rainless days. A small
brown felt with a narrow leather band gilt buckle and a twist of
orange veiling around the crown is pretty for the whipcord costume.
One can do a wonderful amount of smartening up with tulle hat pins
belts and fancy neck ribbons all of which comparatively take up no room
and add no weight always the first consideration. Be sure you supply
yourself with a reserve of hat pins. Two devices by which they may be
made to stay in the hat are here shown. The spiral can be given to any
hat pin. The chain and small brooch should be used if the hat pin is of
At this point if any man a reviewer perhaps has delved thus far into
the mysteries of feminine outfit he will probably remark "Why take a
hat pin of much value?" to which I reply; "Why not? Can you suggest any
more harmless or useful vent for woman's desire to ornament herself? And
unless you want her to be that horror of horrors a strong-minded woman
do you think you can strip her for three months of all her gewgaws and
still have her filled with the proper desire to be pleasing in your eyes?
No; better let her have the hat pins--and you know they really are
useful--and then she will dress up to those hat pins if it is only with
a fresh neck ribbon and a daisy at her belt."
I had a man's saddle with a narrow tree and high pommel and cantle such
as is used out West and as I had not ridden a horse since the hazy days
of my infancy I got on the huge creature's back with everything to
learn. Fear enveloped me as in a cloud during my first ride and the
possibilities of the little cow pony they put me on seemed more
awe-inspiring than those of a locomotive. But I have been reading
Professor William James and acquired from him the idea (I hope I do not
malign him) that the accomplishment of a thing depends largely upon one's
mental attitude and this was mine all nicely taken--in New York:--
"This thing has been done before and done well. Good; then I can do it
and _enjoy_ it too."
I particularly insisted upon the latter clause--in the East. This
formula is applicable in any situation. I never should have gotten
through my Western experiences without it and I advise you my dear
Woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband to take a large stock of it made
up and ready for use. There is one other rule for your conduct if you
want to be a success: think what you like but unless it is pleasant
_don't say it_.
Is it better to ride astride? I will not carry the battle ground into the
East although even here I have my opinion; but in the West in the
mountains there can be no question that it is the _only way_. Here is an
example to illustrate: Two New York women mother and daughter took a
trip of some three hundred miles over the pathless Wind River Mountains.
The mother rode astride but the daughter preferred to exhibit her
Durland Academy accomplishment and rode sidesaddle according to the
fashion set by an artful queen to hide her deformity. The advantages of
health youth and strength were all with the daughter; yet in every case
on that long march it was the daughter who gave out first and compelled
the pack train to halt while she and her horse rested. And the daughter
was obliged to change from one horse to another while the same horse was
able to carry the mother a slightly heavier woman through the trip. And
the back of the horse which the daughter had ridden chiefly was in such a
condition from saddle galls that the animal two months before a
magnificent creature had to be shot.
I hear you say "But that was an extreme case." Perhaps it was but it
supports the verdict of the old mountaineers who refuse to let any horse
they prize be saddled with "those gol-darned woman fripperies."
There is also another side. A woman at best is physically handicapped
when roughing it with husband or brother. Then why increase that handicap
by wearing trailing skirts that catch on every log and bramble and which
demand the services of at least one hand to hold up (fortunately this
battle is already won) and by choosing to ride side-saddle thus making
it twice as difficult to mount and dismount by yourself which in fact
compels you to seek the assistance of a log or stone or a friendly hand
for a lift? Western riding is not Central Park riding nor is it Rotten
Row riding. The cowboy's or military seat is much simpler and easier
for both man and beast than the Park seat--though of course less
stylish. That is the glory of it; you can go galloping over the prairie
and uplands with never a thought that the trot is more proper and your
course untrammelled by fenced-in roads is straight to the setting sun
or to yonder butte. And if you want a spice of danger it is there
sometimes more than you want in the presence of badger and gopher holes
to step into which while at high speed may mean a broken leg for your
horse perhaps a broken neck for yourself. But to return to the
independence of riding astride:
One day I was following a game trail along a very steep bank which ended
a hundred feet below in a granite precipice. It had been raining and
snowing in a fitful fashion and the clay ground was slippery making a
most treacherous footing. One of the pack animals just ahead of my horse
slipped fell to his knees the heavy pack overbalanced him and away he
rolled over and over down the slope to be stopped from the precipice
only by the happy accident of a scrub tree in the way. Frightened by this
sight my animal plunged and he too lost his footing. Had I been
riding side-saddle nothing could have saved me for the downhill was on
the near side; but instead I swung out of the saddle on the off side and
landed in a heap on the uphill still clutching the bridle. That act
saved my horse's life probably as well as my own. For the sudden weight
I put on the upper side as I swung off enabled him to recover his balance
just in time. I do not pretend to say that I can dismount from the off
side as easily as from the near because I am not accustomed to it. But I
have frequently done it in emergencies while a side-saddle leaves one
helpless in this case as in many others.
Besides being unable to mount and dismount without assistance it is very
difficult to get side-saddle broken horses and it usually means a horse
so broken in health and spirits that he does not care what is being
strapped on his back and dangling on one side of him only. And to be on
such an animal means that you are on the worst mount of the outfit and I
am sure that it requires little imagination on any one's part to know
therein lies misery. Oh! the weariness of being the weakest of the party
and the worst mounted--to be always at the tail end of the line never to
be able to keep up with the saddle horses when they start off for a
canter to expend your stock of vitality which you should husband for
larger matters in urging your beast by voice and quirt to further
exertion! Never place yourself in such a position. The former you cannot
help but you can lessen it by making use of such aids to greater
independence as wearing short skirts and riding astride and having at
least as good a horse as there is in the outfit. Then you will get the
pleasure from your outing that you have the right to expect--that is if
you adhere to one other bit of advice or rather two.
The first is: See that for your camping trip is provided a man cook.
I wish that I could put a charm over the next few words so that only the
woman reader could understand but as I cannot I must repeat boldly: Dear
woman who goes hunting with her husband be sure that you have it
understood that you do no cooking or dishwashing. I think that the
reason women so often dislike camping out is because the only really
disagreeable part of it is left to them as a matter of course. Cooking
out of doors at best is trying and certainly you cannot be care free
camp-life's greatest charm when you have on your mind the boiling of
prunes and beans or when tears are starting from your smoke-inflamed
eyes as you broil the elk steak for dinner. No indeed! See that your
guide or your horse wrangler knows how to cook and expects to do it.
He is used to it and anyway is paid for it. He is earning his living
you are taking a vacation.
Now for the second advice which is a codicil to the above: In return for
not having to potter with the food and tinware _never complain about
it_. Eat everything that is set before you shut your eyes to possible
dirt or if you cannot leave the particular horror in question
untouched but without comment. Perhaps in desperation you may assume the
role of cook yourself. Oh foolish woman if you do you only exchange
your woes for worse ones.
If you provide yourself with the following articles and insist upon
having them reserved for you and then let the cook furnish everything
else you will be all right:--
_An aluminum plate made double for hot water_. This is a very little
trouble to fill and insures a comfortable meal; otherwise your meat and
vegetables will be cold before you can eat them and the gravy will have
a thin coating of ice on it. It is always cold night and morning in the
mountains. And if you do not need the plate heated you do not have to
fill it; that's all. I am sure my hot-water plate often saved me from
indigestion and made my meals things to enjoy instead of to endure.
_Two cups and saucers of white enamel ware_. They always look clean and
do not break.
_One silver-plated knife and fork and two teaspoons_.
_One folding camp chair_.
N.B.--Provide your husband or brother or sister precisely the same; no
more no less.
_Japanese napkins_ enough to provide two a day for the party.
_Two white enamel vegetable dishes_.
_One folding camp table_.
_One candle lamp with enough candles_. Then leave all the rest of the
cooking outfit to your cook and trust in Providence. (If you do not
approve of Providence a full aluminum cooking outfit can be bought so
that one pot or pan nests in the other the whole very complete compact
Come what may you have your own particular clean hot plate cup and
saucer knife fork spoon and napkin with a table to eat from and a
chair to sit on and a lamp to see by if you are eating after dark--which