||Last Updated: May 18, 2012 - 9:26:05 AM
EARLY PIONEER LIFE, written by Miss Mary Thornton, about pioneer life in Union County. When we left the doctor in last week’s edition he had just given the wolves a whiff of ammonia in an attempt to free himself from their clutches.
As if fire had touched them, they could not have executed a wilder leap and no translation can give the effect of it or the yelping scorn they threw into every word as they quickly retreated.
I have no doubt they were nearly strangled with the pungent odor and experienced such a sensation as they never had before. I now rode boldly forward, intending, if possible, to give them a second dose, but they retreated rather precipitously to the forest in the direction in which they came.
I remained listening for a long time. Occasionally their howls were heard, but after a while ceased all together. Had my situation been less hazardous or painful, I might have been amused at the sudden retreat of these animals.
My sensations of relief at my sudden deliverance were so great, that I was nearly overcome with joy and thought that any troubles were now over.
But oddly enough, in taking the path as I supposed to renew my journey, I made a mistake, and as there is very little by which one can distinguish one’s path from another in a dense forest, I was not aware of it until I suddenly found myself in a more dangerous predicament than the one I was so providentially delivered from. It was now so dark that I could see very indistinctly before me, but I had no alternative but to push forward, as to turn back might bring me into another encounter with the wolves.
I left my horse to follow his own instincts in finding the way after I had again resumed my journey, and in this way we were winding our way along when I began to hear a faint trickling of water in the distance, and at the same time, it seemed to grow lighter, this added fresh vigor to my horse, as he was both hungry and thirsty. The location of this stream was a mystery to me, however, as I did not expect to cross a stream of this size, and it suddenly dawned upon me that was lost. I looked about me and tried to think what was best to do. On the opposite side of the stream, the forest was not so dense as what I had just passed through, and it occurred to me that there might be a clearing or perhaps a house beyond, where I could apply for aid. So, following down the bank to a place where fording seemed to be an easy matter, I rode into the stream and it seemed to be very shallow. Reaching a point near the opposite bank, I stopped a moment looking for a place to get up the bank, when suddenly my horse began to take short, quick steps and snorted with fear.
Driving the course I gave him several sharp cuts with the whip, but it was on no avail; we were unable to make any headway in the yielding, treacherous sand. We were fast in a veritable quicksand, and he was gradually sinking deeper and deeper. To dismount would perhaps relieve him a little, but then I should be in the same treacherous sand.
Fresh danger struck such terror into my heart as the other had not done before, and my only chance of safety lay in the hope that the bed in which I was stuck might prove a shallow one. I knew that quicksand was often more shallow in running water than in stagnant. My horse sank deeper and deeper until finally I realized to my great joy that he had ceased to sink, and that he had struck solid bottom. The bed was a shallow one, he now stood quietly drinking. But my situation was still a serious one and I now shouted for help, thinking that they might already be searching for me. I waited with feverish anxiety, for all answers I had the soft whinnying of my horse.
I shouted and yelled again but it was no use, I was alone in the darkness, miles from any human habitation and we must stand there all night. The dreary terror of that long night I will not attempt to describe; the utter silence, the deadly stillness of the gloomy forest, were something weird and awful. Even the hideous hooting of the screech owl would have relieved the dread monotony, or the bay of a dog would have been the sweetest music. Thus the hours dragged on. The wind had risen and the night was cold. My horse, meanwhile, stood in utter silence, unable to lift his feet from the treacherous bed in which they were so firmly imbedded; thus the night passed away and morning found me still in the same predicament.
After what had seemed to me an age had passed away, the first streak of dawn made its appearance. At this, my spirits were somewhat quickened, I looked around me thinking that I might discover some means of escape for myself, if not for my horse.
Along the bank, large chestnut trees had spread their arms across the stream. At the foot of the trees tall bushes grew. I soon found that to leap from my horse and reach the bank would be utter impossibility.
I then turned my thoughts to the spreading limbs, thinking that if I could grasp a bending limb I might swing myself into the branches and thus reach the bank. To reach the limbs wa my next care, which did not seem an impossibility, as they seemed to hang quite low. I drew my feet out of the stirrups, raised myself up and stood erect on the back of my horse, but to my bitter disappointment, they were just beyond my reach. I tried, and tried again, but with the same results. I gave up in despair, knowing that unless searchers were sent out for me, I would perish where I was either from hunger or exhaustion. As the sun had by this time, reached the tops of the trees, it became warmer and I was relieved of the cold which I had found almost unendurable during the night. As the chilliness wore off, a sense of drowsiness came over me which I tried in vain to throw off.
At last, from sheer exhaustion and sleepiness I lay forward on my horse’s neck and fell into a profound slumber. How long I slept I do not know, but I awoke with a start. At first I was somewhat dazed, not knowing where I was, but it was not long until my unhappy situation again forced itself upon me, and I felt more desolate than ever.
Meanwhile when I failed to reach home at the expected time, my wife became alarmed and knew that I must have lost my way and fearing the worst from wild beasts, they immediately organized a searching party. When they reached the clearing and found the bones of the dead wolfe and other indications of an attack, they were exceedingly alarmed, searching through the thicket in all directions, firing their guns in hopes that I might hear them. When they found their search here to be fruitless, they divided into squads. Each party started out in different directions, agreeing to give a signal of their shots for the recall of any of the party who might be near enough if any were successful in their search. Thus they searched the entire day and night drew on, and still no trace. It was then thought best that some should return to their homes to relieve the anxiety of their families, while others remained out all night to continue their search as daylight appeared.
When I awoke from my sleep, it was to find myself in a burning fever and the suffering from hunger was intense. Yet I must wait the long weary day through and another night before deliverance should come.
How I passed through that day and the following night I cannot attempt to describe. Seconds seemed hours, and giving up all hope I cared not whether I lived or died. I think at times I must have lost consciousness. My poor horse was suffering even more than I for it was impossible for him to change position, his legs were so firmly wedged in the sand.
On the morning of the third day, the searching party again set out. When they were about to give up their search as fruitless, they chanced upon the path I had taken, although miles from where I had entered upon it. The discovery of the imprint of horses hoofs upon the wet soil, led them to believe that I was not far away. They immediately began to fire their guns and holler.
To me the morning of the third day, I realized that daylight had again appeared, the fact which brought no joy to me. I was so weak that I was in sort of a dazed condition, probably I wandered in my mind, too. When I was aroused by a sudden report at no great distance, I did not know what it was at first. But the sudden sound brought me back to a more intelligible sense of my situation. I thought, too, that I had heard voices at a distance. A minute or two passed, then another report broke on my ears, when it flashed to my mind that these were friends searching for me.
If ever a poor fellow shouted, I did then, but my voice was so weak that it did not penetrate to any great distance, but I could hear voices now at no great distance away and I continued to shout as loud as I could. After a few minutes I could hear answering voices say, “Coming” and soon they appeared on the opposite bank. They were very astonished to find me in the predicament in which I was,. and there was a cry of commiseration and pity. It was lost upon me then, for when I realized that I was saved, I sank into a swoon.
When I again regained consciousness, I was lying on my back where they had made me as comfortable as possible with coats which they had taken from their backs.
What an experience wonder if the patient lived that he was after.
© Copyright 2012 by Mifflinburg Telegraph Weekly Newspaper
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