Indian hostler’s ineffable scorn

I’ll merely excerpt this lengthy early-frontier era Eastern Oregon anecdote from a late-frontier era California newspaper.


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Lost in a Driving Snowstorm on a Desolate Prairie.


Frightful Fall Into a Mining Pit and Perilous Fording of a River— Repairing a Telegraph Line in Midwinter.

A few days ago an Alta reporter was leisurely strolling in the Park, when he was suddenly accosted with a cheery, “Hello ! Have’nt [SIC] seen you for years.”… the reporter made some casual remark about the beautiful and luxuriant flora of the Park, and that even the Winter season could scarcely be noted by any diminution of the fragrant and gaily colored blossoms. “No,” replied his friend, half in reverie. “No, Winter here is only a pleasant sham. But did yon ever get lost in a snowstorm in a wild and desolate region in the very dead of Winter?…I did once. I have no desire to repeat the experience either, I can assure yon. It was a good many years ago that, in the course of my somewhat aimless wanderings, I quite unexpectedly found myself Winter bound in a little village, situated in the loneliest region of Eastern Oregon…


“The winter was terribly severe. I remember that thousands and thousands of cattle perished on the plains from exposure and starvation…The first cold snap of the winter had about spent its severity, when there came a sudden Chinook wind. This socalled Chinook wind is one of the wonders of the Eastern Oregon and Washington Territory climate. It is a warm, steady blow from the south, and the enow disappears at its touch like magic- I have eeen the earth covered as far as the eye could reach with a mantle of enow two or three feet deep, and in a few hours not one vestige of snow would remain, its sudden disappearance being due to a Chinook…

…The weather had gradually grown colder and on the morning we set out on our ride it looked very much like snow. The old Indian hostler shook his head ominously as he brought np our horses and , muttered to himself, “Make [sic, for “wake“] clatawah, hiyou snow. Boston man cultus tum tum.’ Which translated means: “Don’t go, pretty soon there will be a big snow-storm. The white man is very foolish.” Fred, the operator, laughed as he vaulted into the saddle and adjusted his wraps. “No danger,” he said, ” we will be back long before dark, and these cayuses know their way on these plains better than any man.” A cayuse in the northern country is about the same breed of horse as the mustang of California…

[Having encountered some disastrous luck with the snow and a wintry river:] A few minutes more and we were at the stable. Kind hands lifted us out of the saddles and carried us into the hotel barroom. Our clothes were one mass of ice, and we ourselves too exhausted to speak. The old Indian hostler came in, took a look at us, and as he left the room remarked with ineffable scorn: ‘Mika cumtux Nika halo cultus wa-wa,’ which means in English: “Yon know now that I didn’t speak foolishly.’ “

— Daily Alta California, Volume 39, Number 12897, 6 July 1885, page 1, column 3