The news we received were good: They said that excellent successes would not fail to materialize. They even stated that a flock of 100 mountain sheep had been confirmed by the Indians and a man had been ordered to keep track of that rare game. Faced with such exaggerated promises I have learned by the experience of various hunting expedition failures among different peoples to be very cautious as the actual results have taught me every time that the proclaimed abundance of game was often far from reality.
It had been decided to send the baggage — rifles, tents, provisions and the most necessary clothes — ahead just at the break of dawn packed on horses while we wanted to follow towards 10 o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately here too punctuality seemed to be an unknown virtue, as when I left my cabin after 9 o’clock neither pack horses nor Indians were to be seen. Finally individual redskins appeared, riding totally unhurriedly, and Mr. Ellis too, the only owner of property in this region, who was responsible for the supply of horses and Indians acting as guides and hunters did not seem eager and was quite disconcerted about our whole expedition. This Mr. Ellis, born in Scotland, owns the whole surrounding area, including thousands of square kilometers. All the Indians living in the vicinity are in some sort of vassal relationship to him and he loves to feel and show himself as the king of this small country. With suspicious eyes does he observe the advances and successes of the Canadian Pacitic railway company into this endless wilderness where he up to now had been the unique ruler and could act as he pleased during the last 28 years. This makes it understandable that he considers every stranger as an intruder. His disapproval extended thus upon us too. We had however to grin and bear it as we were fully dependent upon him to supply men and horses and had to ask the mighty man with keen requests and beautiful phrases. Towards 10 o’clock the train column finally was ready and took off into the mountains under the command of our travel organizer and Hodek. Multiple Indians who had burdened their animals with almost unbelievable loads followed driving the animals in front of them with their lassos.
In a suitable relation to the delay of the baggage train our own horses also arrived only after 11 o’clock so that lmhof had all the time necessary to take down one of the four ospreys that were flying around our ship with a lucky shot. The death of one among their midst did have little effect upon his comrades who continued again and again to fly around us. But we could not pay them further attention as we were bound to depart.
Everybody chose one of the not really beautiful but strong Indian horses and strove to get as well acquainted with the Mexican saddle as possible, an instrument of torture that made sitting in no way comfortable and put off even a passionate rider from a long ride. The high saddle rack where there is a knob in front to attach the lasso forces the rider to sit very stiffly at the front of the saddle prong in the manner of the so called „old Hussar seat“ which I hated intensely. The side extensions were only six inches wide and are attached not to the saddle but hang from the stirrup straps; the stirrups themselves are large and without form. The saddle is attached with belts similar to our lady saddle. The horses use bits of the most different imaginable kinds among the individual horses.
Our guides who were set to act as our hunters tomorrow were pureblood Indians and mixed bloods from the Okinagan tribe of about 150 heads who lived in the surrounding areas and are said apparently to be distinguished by their industry and good behavior. Also almost all have converted to the Catholic faith. Two cowboys who accompanied us too were clad just like the Indians. They wore broad-rimmed felt hats, wool shirts and long fringed leather trousers, leather moccasins and strangely also thick leather gloves that reminded of fencing gloves made out of deer leather and were decorated with flashy stitched designs.
Our caravan now started from the edge of the wet low-lying lake shore to the farm of Mr. Ellis who gave here the necessary instructions to the Indians. The farm consist of multiple small houses and barns and is very prettily situated under tall trees in a friendly green valley surrounded by meadows and individual fields at the shore of Okinagan river whose especially clear waters were quickly flowing past. Mr. Ellis is mostly occupied with raising cattle and horses that spend all year high in the mountains in a half-wild life. A large percentage of animals is lost due to falls or become victims of bears so that one can discover carcasses of dead animals everywhere. But at least it must be profitable for Mr. Ellis as he incurs almost no costs for sustaining his herds.
Up to the highest spot of the steepest mountain slopes one sees the animals climb up that combine to larger herds at streams and other places were drinking water is available. I was astonished to a high degree about the good appearance of the herds as I had assumed that the animals would not find sufficient fodder in the burnt and dried ledges. But nature has provided for them as between the fallen tree trunks there were many Alpine herbs and in the lower areas grew an unremarkable blue-grey plant that especially during wintertime supplies the cattle with a healthy and highly sought fodder. If a farmer needs to sell a larger number of cattle or horses, he sends out his mounted cowboys and Indians into the mountains where they catch the required number of animals and drive them down to the valley. The cultivation of fields is only done to fulfil the demands of the farms. When we asked Mr. Ellis whether he is growing wheat too he affirmed with the addition that he did only for the sake of his chickens.
On the opposite river shore we entered into the Indian village that consisted partly out of huts partly of wigwams, that are tents. The former are simple log houses covered by grass tiles. The latter are distinguished only by the chaos ruling in their interior. The main source of income is raising cattle that is performed like the farmers and is said to have allowed individual Indians to amass notable fortunes. Around the huts are small fields and even fruit garden where we saw to our surprise trees carrying very many fruits.
On a narrow cattle track leading along the ledges we rode towards the mountains. This part of our journey was rather monotonous as the conifers were mostly pine trees that stood at a large distance on the yellow sandy ground and never built a close forest. Only after some time we came to a narrow valley where we had a beautiful view upon the distant mountain ranges. Many deeply cut gorges where clear streams offered horses and riders a welcome refreshing drink had to be passed. Due to the bad narrow tracks we could mostly only ride at a walk and only on some small high plains was it possible to gallop for a short time. Our keen watch for game was unsuccessful, as we discovered nothing except some falcons and representatives of some grey-black chicken species. In contrast the view of the region was again more agreeable and illuminated by the glint of the setting sun a dense forest was showing itself off to us. Soon we had overtaken our train that moved forward only slowly and with difficulties as the just caught mustangs were not used to carrying burdens and lay down at any moment so that our wine reserves, the rifles and the photographic apparatus were in great danger.
Two hours later we reached a small valley where our camp was set up under fir and pine trees many hundreds of years old at the edge of a small stream at Shingle Creek. After unpacking the horses the tents were pitched and soon there developed a very active and happy life. Trees were felled, wood split and in no time a mighty fire was burning at which multiple members of the expedition had to try their skills in cooking as we had not engaged an expert for the expedition. While the temperature during the day had been quite agreeable, it became quite cool in the evening. That’s why everyone crowded quite close around the camp fire.
The horses unloaded from their burdens and saddles and driven together into a herd grazed under the trees eating the sparse grass. These animals did not receive any grain fodder despite the great exertions. Overall, the bad treatment the horses had to experience from the Indians was notable. To the inadequate feeding despite hard work one has to add foot kicks and hits at every opportunity as the Indian did not seem to show any love towards his horses and only exploits them as much as possible. If one can find despite this and even though the horses are forced to serve from a very young age among them still remarkably good specimens and the animals have not only clean feet but also not a bad exterior, this speaks for the quality of their race. The redskins not always make us of a saddle. They often sit upon only a blanket without a belt and only pass a rope through the mouth of the horse as a bridle or limit themselves to a halter so that it is a strange attractive sight to see a rider dash across the ground with only such a primitive riding equipment.
To our side the Indians had made their camp. They achieved the goal of their cooking faster than we as we did not have the necessary practice and we lost much time experimenting. A truly oversalted soup and goulash, both a demonstrative proof of the well known saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. This was the result and lesson for our culinary education today. But we enjoyed it nevertheless with a smile and joking and sat together at the camp fire for a long time. The fire cast ghost-like lights upon the old fir trees while the stars were clearly twinkling down upon us.
Such expeditions have their one charms. As one learns to accept every situation and to help oneself on one’s own and is a guest of mother nature at any moment. If I had the choice between an official voyage where an excellent dinner, a comfortable bed as well as all comforts imaginable would await after finally having completed a long row of receptions and festivities on the one hand and a happy hunting trip as we are undertaking now on the other hand, so I would decide myself without hesitation for the latter.
For me, my gentlemen and the servants one tent for each had been set up. As the canvas was very thin and without a double fold and mainly intended to be laid on a horse, we had to wrap ourselves well in our furs in order not to freeze during the cold night.
- Location: Penticton, Canada
- ANNO – on 12.09.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
- The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Romeo und Julie“.