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Mark Twain > Roughing It > Chapter XIX

Roughing It

Chapter XIX


On the morning of the sixteenth day out from St. Joseph we arrived at the
entrance of Rocky Canyon, two hundred and fifty miles from Salt Lake.
It was along in this wild country somewhere, and far from any habitation
of white men, except the stage stations, that we came across the
wretchedest type of mankind I have ever seen, up to this writing. I
refer to the Goshoot Indians. From what we could see and all we could
learn, they are very considerably inferior to even the despised Digger
Indians of California; inferior to all races of savages on our continent;
inferior to even the Terra del Fuegans; inferior to the Hottentots, and
actually inferior in some respects to the Kytches of Africa. Indeed, I
have been obliged to look the bulky volumes of Wood's "Uncivilized Races
of Men" clear through in order to find a savage tribe degraded enough to
take rank with the Goshoots. I find but one people fairly open to that
shameful verdict. It is the Bosjesmans (Bushmen) of South Africa. Such
of the Goshoots as we saw, along the road and hanging about the stations,
were small, lean, "scrawny" creatures; in complexion a dull black like
the ordinary American negro; their faces and hands bearing dirt which
they had been hoarding and accumulating for months, years, and even
generations, according to the age of the proprietor; a silent, sneaking,
treacherous looking race; taking note of everything, covertly, like all
the other "Noble Red Men" that we (do not) read about, and betraying no
sign in their countenances; indolent, everlastingly patient and tireless,
like all other Indians; prideless beggars--for if the beggar instinct
were left out of an Indian he would not "go," any more than a clock
without a pendulum; hungry, always hungry, and yet never refusing
anything that a hog would eat, though often eating what a hog would
decline; hunters, but having no higher ambition than to kill and eat
jack-ass rabbits, crickets and grasshoppers, and embezzle carrion from
the buzzards and cayotes; savages who, when asked if they have the common
Indian belief in a Great Spirit show a something which almost amounts to
emotion, thinking whiskey is referred to; a thin, scattering race of
almost naked black children, these Goshoots are, who produce nothing at
all, and have no villages, and no gatherings together into strictly
defined tribal communities--a people whose only shelter is a rag cast on
a bush to keep off a portion of the snow, and yet who inhabit one of the
most rocky, wintry, repulsive wastes that our country or any other can
exhibit.

The Bushmen and our Goshoots are manifestly descended from the self-same
gorilla, or kangaroo, or Norway rat, which-ever animal--Adam the
Darwinians trace them to.

One would as soon expect the rabbits to fight as the Goshoots, and yet
they used to live off the offal and refuse of the stations a few months
and then come some dark night when no mischief was expected, and burn
down the buildings and kill the men from ambush as they rushed out.
And once, in the night, they attacked the stage-coach when a District
Judge, of Nevada Territory, was the only passenger, and with their first
volley of arrows (and a bullet or two) they riddled the stage curtains,
wounded a horse or two and mortally wounded the driver. The latter was
full of pluck, and so was his passenger. At the driver's call Judge Mott
swung himself out, clambered to the box and seized the reins of the team,
and away they plunged, through the racing mob of skeletons and under a
hurtling storm of missiles. The stricken driver had sunk down on the
boot as soon as he was wounded, but had held on to the reins and said he
would manage to keep hold of them until relieved.

And after they were taken from his relaxing grasp, he lay with his head
between Judge Mott's feet, and tranquilly gave directions about the road;
he said he believed he could live till the miscreants were outrun and
left behind, and that if he managed that, the main difficulty would be at
an end, and then if the Judge drove so and so (giving directions about
bad places in the road, and general course) he would reach the next
station without trouble. The Judge distanced the enemy and at last
rattled up to the station and knew that the night's perils were done; but
there was no comrade-in-arms for him to rejoice with, for the soldierly
driver was dead.

Let us forget that we have been saying harsh things about the Overland
drivers, now. The disgust which the Goshoots gave me, a disciple of
Cooper and a worshipper of the Red Man--even of the scholarly savages in
the "Last of the Mohicans" who are fittingly associated with backwoodsmen
who divide each sentence into two equal parts: one part critically
grammatical, refined and choice of language, and the other part just such
an attempt to talk like a hunter or a mountaineer, as a Broadway clerk
might make after eating an edition of Emerson Bennett's works and
studying frontier life at the Bowery Theatre a couple of weeks--I say
that the nausea which the Goshoots gave me, an Indian worshipper, set me
to examining authorities, to see if perchance I had been over-estimating
the Red Man while viewing him through the mellow moonshine of romance.
The revelations that came were disenchanting. It was curious to see how
quickly the paint and tinsel fell away from him and left him treacherous,
filthy and repulsive--and how quickly the evidences accumulated that
wherever one finds an Indian tribe he has only found Goshoots more or
less modified by circumstances and surroundings--but Goshoots, after all.
They deserve pity, poor creatures; and they can have mine--at this
distance. Nearer by, they never get anybody's.

There is an impression abroad that the Baltimore and Washington Railroad
Company and many of its employees are Goshoots; but it is an error.
There is only a plausible resemblance, which, while it is apt enough to
mislead the ignorant, cannot deceive parties who have contemplated both
tribes. But seriously, it was not only poor wit, but very wrong to start
the report referred to above; for however innocent the motive may have
been, the necessary effect was to injure the reputation of a class who
have a hard enough time of it in the pitiless deserts of the Rocky
Mountains, Heaven knows! If we cannot find it in our hearts to give
those poor naked creatures our Christian sympathy and compassion, in
God's name let us at least not throw mud at them.

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Index Index

Prefactory
Contents
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
Chapter XXXVI
Chapter XXXVII
Chapter XXXVIII
Chapter XXXIX
Chapter XL
Chapter XLI
Chapter XLII
Chapter XLIII
Chapter XLIV
Chapter XLV
Chapter XLVI
Chapter XLVII
Chapter XLVIII
Chapter XLIX
Chapter L
Chapter LI
Chapter LII
Chapter LIII
Chapter LIV
Chapter LV
Chapter LVI
Chapter LVII
Chapter LVIII
Chapter LIX
Chapter LX
Chapter LXI
Chapter LXII
Chapter LXIII
Chapter LXIV
Chapter LXV
Chapter LXVI
Chapter LXVII
Chapter LXVIII
Chapter LXIX
Chapter LXX
Chapter LXXI
Chapter LXXII
Chapter LXXIII
Chapter LXXIV
Chapter LXXV
Chapter LXXVI
Chapter LXXVII
Chapter LXXVIII
Chapter LXXIX
Appendix

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