The little grove spreads across a slope half a mile wide between the base of one towering cliff, still bearing its Spanish name, El Capitan, and the gorge of the Purgatoire.
The men wintered on the site of Trinidad, comforted by the society of their wives and families, and in the spring the women and camp-followers were directed to remain, while the troops set forward along the canon of the Purgatoire neither to reach their destination nor to return. Did they attempt to descend the stream in boats and go to wreck among the rapids?
As Faye was officer of the day, he could not leave the garrison, so I rode with Lieutenant Baldwin and Lieutenant Alden. The day was glorious sunny, and quite warm one of Colorado's very best, without a cloud to be seen in any direction. We went up the river to the mouth of a pretty little stream commonly called "The Picket Wire," but the real name of which is La Purgatoire.
"Hees soul she's hout of Purgatoire long hago eef she'll goin' get hout. Me, I buy me some net for s'rimp." "An' me, two harpent more lan' for my farm," quoth the tender. "Alas! poor Jean!" said I. "But he was so virtuous a man that he needs no masses after a hundred years, perhaps. As you like. You will take the letters; and this for the telegraph?"
Jim Finch, an old trapper that went under by the Utes near the Sangre de Cristo Pass, a few years ago, had told me there was lots of beaver on the Purgatoire. Nobody knowed it; all thought the creeks had been cleaned out of the varmints. So down I goes to the canyon, and sot my traps. I was all alone by myself, and I'll be darned if ten Injuns didn't come a screeching right after me. I cached.
On my arrival at Taos I bought ten Mexican jacks or burros to use for pack animals on the trip that we were about to start upon. After that we started for Bent's Fort where we joined Buffalo Bill and Col. Bent and struck out for the "Picket Wire" Purgatoire on a buffalo hunt.
When I come to, I was on the Purgatoire, just where I found the liquor, and some trappers was slapping their 'whats' in my face to bring me to. All around where I was laying, the grass was pulled up, and the ground dug with my knife, and the bottle, cached when I traded with the Utes, was smashed to flinders against a tree. "'Why, what on earth, Hatcher, have you been doing here?
They perpetrate music of such a disorganized character that the musicians are utterly bewildered, and hesitate in their entrances on account of their inability to distinguish one measure from another. The delightful Purgatoire has become a deadly bore, and the enchanting Mephistopheles has been riddled as by a hailstorm.
In four swallows I concluded to pull up stakes for the headwaters of the Purgatoire for meat. So I roped old Blue, tied on my traps, and left. "It used to be the best place in the mountains for meat, but nothing was in sight. Things looked mighty strange, and I wanted to make the back track; but, says I, here I am, and I don't turn, surely.
The echoing of the flood as it tumbled through the canon was said to be the lamentation of the troopers. French trappers softened the suggestion of the Spanish title when they renamed it Purgatoire, and "bullwhackers" teaming across the plains twisted the French title into the unmeaning "Picketwire."