23 June 1997

Day 10 - Columbus, MT to Pryor Creek (near Billings), MT

Distance travelled: 50
Winds: Part of afternoon head
Grades: Up and down
Weather: Forenoon fair; Afternoon rain
Condition of roads: Last few miles muddy
Delays: Bicycles – 30m/Tires – 0/Lunch –5h 15m/Other – 2h 5m
Actual travel time: 7h 10m
Rate per hour: 7
- Lt. J.A. Moss Report to the Adjutant Synopsis of the Trip

Places & times mentioned: 4-5 miles past Columbus MT; Park City; Laurel; Billings [9:55 am – 4 pm?]; Crow reservation; Camp on Pryor Creek [past Billings- 8:15 pm]

“Our Wednesday morning start was made at 5:30 o’clock, the roads were good and a good run was promised for the day. Our way passed through the little towns of Park City and Laurel, both of which we passed through like a limited train. Some delays were caused by flooded roads on account of overflowing irrigation ditches. The country people in this part of Montana have little regard for a wheelman. Three old country women going to town held the whole road and kept their team going fast enough to prevent our passing but too slow for our usual gait. We asked for half the road and were laughed at—but we had a chance and took advantage of it by passing. The women were so surprised and astonished that they forgot about their horses, which took fright and ran off in the rough ground, giving the corps a wide berth. We reached Billings at 9:50 in the morning and stopped for rations and a few repairs. Our tin coffee pots had given out and new ones of galvanized iron were made for us; they are a little smaller and heavier and will wear better than the tin ones.
We left Billings 5:15, crossed the Yellowstone on the railroad bridge and started for Fort Custer. The country around here is barren and our way was uphill. We had hardly gone six miles when a rain came down on us, giving us a good drenching and much mud. Riding was out of the question and we had to foot it. After crossing a steep hill we were met with a big flat of sagebrush and clay. We were completely balked. The wheels would clog after several turns and for awhile we were walking with a knife in one hand, leading the wheel with the other, stopping every few feet to cut the clay off. This was slow business and we resorted to the old method of putting the machines on our shoulders and carrying them. We did this for over a mile where the road became fairly passable and we did a little riding. At dark we came to Pryor Creek which we forded and commenced to look for a place to camp. We found an old Indian camp of which we took possession and soon had a fire going in the stove which we found in the old shack. We were wet, cold and hungry, and a more jaded set of men never existed. We went to bed as quickly as possible and had a fair rest. The distance traveled that day was about 50 miles. Our cyclometers were chocked up with mud the last mile or two. The last mile took two hours of constant work.”
- E.H. Boos Daily Missoulian From Fort to Fort, July 10, 1897

THE SOLDIER WHEELMEN. They Arrive in Billings on Their Way to St. Louis -- Lieut. James A. Moss of Fort Missoula, accompanied by Surgeon Kennedy, Official Reporter E.H. Boos of the Missoulian and twenty colored soldiers arrived in Billings Wednesday forenoon on their bicycle march to St. Louis. They were 421 miles out on their trip on reaching this city and since leaving Helena have averaged sixty miles a day. The party left Fort Missoula on the morning of June 14 and has been marching ever since, its intention being to go to St. Louis and make the trip in six weeks , and then make a return trip, the purpose of which is to demonstrate the utility of the bicycle in practical warfare. Nothing daunted by the reverses of the weather that have been suffered thus far, Lieut. Moss believes that the trip will show that under ordinarily good conditions the bicycle corps of the army can do better traveling than cavalry over any ordinary country. The purpose of the trip, which is sanctioned by the war department and is being watched with a great deal of interest by the high officials at Washington, is to demonstrate beyond doubt by a long march that Lieut. Moss’ theory is correct. He has himself been for a long time an enthusiastic wheelman and has made many excursions awheel, but this is his first long journey on a bicycle with a company of men.
The soldiers carry their arms and camp equipment, the weight of which is divided so that it does not average more than sixty pounds to the man. The bicycles were especially constructed for the trip under the direction of Lieut. Moss and are provided with a leather knapsack that will carry two days’ rations and a large tin cylinder used to make coffee in and as a storing receptacle. The former is built between the wheels and the latter attached in front of the handle bars. Most of the party left Billings in the forenoon, but several of them remained until about 4 o’clock to have their wheels repaired by George Soule. A two days’ supply of rations was purchased here and the long march was resumed over the line of the Burlington. The men appear to be well satisfied with the trip and Lieut. Moss is confident that it will demonstrate the practicability of the bicycle in the regular army.
- Billings Gazette, June 25, 1897

“By 9:55 o’clock the next morning the bicycle corps was in Billings, having already traveled thirty-seven miles that day. Here we drew some rations, and then continued our journey a mile or two further, stopping for lunch on the banks of the Yellowstone River. At 5:15 p.m., with a strong head wind, we started across the Crow Indian reservation. Half an hour later as the command was leaving the valley of the Yellowstone and just about to enter the mountains, it began to rain, and continued incessantly until the following morning. As usual, the earth was a kind of clay gumbo, and we had an exceedingly hard time pushing and carrying our wheels up and down the sticky mountain sides. For miles we jogged along over sinuous, hilly, muddy trails, stopping every few minutes to scrape the caked mud off the choked wheels. Drenched to the skin and covered with mud, as we walked along our shoes would make a creaking noise, because of the water in them, and with much feeling some of the soldiers were humming, “Just Tell Them that You Saw Me.” [see comments below for lyrics]
About 8 o’clock the bark of a dog indicated that we were not the only human beings in these dreary, lonely, God-forsaken hills. Fifteen minutes later we forded Pryor Creek, and soon reached a deserted Indian cabin. As we approached the place we saw two white men sitting near a small fire in a partially-constructed log shed. One was middle-aged, while the other, with long, gray beard and flowing locks, had reached the ripe age of 65 or more. As he knelt near the fire cooking, with the smoke encircling him, he and his partner, ignorant of our approach, presented a weird picture. Going to where they were, we found the old man to be one of the old-timers,” who are now fast passing away. He and his friend were out prospecting, and had taken shelter in the shed for the night. They informed us that an Indian who lived in a tepee, a mile or so away, owned the shed and the shack, and had given them permission to use the former, whereupon we decided to use the latter, and explain matters to the Indian in the morning, should he make his appearance.
The corps had gotten strung out a mile or more in the mud, and a couple of shots way off in the woods indicated that some of the men were lost; for it was now as dark as Egypt’s night. One of our party answered the shots at once, and within fifteen minutes all were present.
As the soldiers were cooking supper and while the surgeon, the reporter and myself, were drying ourselves in the shed, “Cloud-in-the-face,” the sub-chief who owned the place, made his appearance. He seemed much pleased to see us, and told us we were welcome to use the shack that night, and then squatting near the fire, succeeded in smoking all the tobacco in the crowd. Although short on rations, we gave him a good supper and then waited for his Indian highness to take his leave—but still he squatted in silence. Finally with many grunts, he said: “Heap squaw; heap pappose [sic], heap poor; white money”—that is, he had several wives, many children, was very poor and wanted some of the white man’s money. One of the party who spoke the sign language asked him how much money he wanted, whereupon this “child of the forest,” not at all modest, replied, 25 cents apiece for the use of the shack. As we were twenty-three in the command, this would have amounted to more than the shack was worth, and we compromised on a box of cigarettes. He then bade us good night. The next morning, soon after reveille, we were much amused at seeing “Cloud-in-the-face,” his squaw, one pappose, two other Indians and their squaws coming over the hill as fast as their legs would carry them, evidently fearing to be late for breakfast mess call—but as far as we know they are yet to break the fast of the previous night.”
- Lt. Moss, Los Angeles Times The Army A-Wheel, Nov. 7, 1897

“On June 23rd, by 9.55 A.M., the Bicycle Corps had arrived at Billings, Mont., having already traveled 37 miles that day.
After getting our rations at the rail road depot, the Corps continued its journey a mile or so further, and then stopped for lunch on the banks of the Yellowstone River. At 5.15 P.M. we started across the Crow Indian Reservation, with a head-wind and up a stiff grade. About half an hour later, as the command was leaving the Valley of the Yellowstone and entering the mountains, it began to rain, and continued almost incessantly until the next morning. The soil was a kind of clay-gumbo, and we had an extremely hard time pushing and carrying our bicycles up and down those muddy, sticky mountain sides. Mile after mile we jogged along as best we could over sinuous hilly trails, stopping again and again to scrape off the caked mud from the choked wheels. About 8 O’ clock the lonely, God-forsaken hills. Fifteen minutes later Pryor Creek was forded, and a little later, we came upon a deserted Indian Cabin, in which the night was spent. “
- Lt. Moss Report to the Adjutant General (pg. 5)

1 comment:

Mike Higgins said...

Just Tell Them That You Saw Me lyrics
While strolling down the street one eve upon mere pleasure bent, -- /Twas after business worries of the day/ I saw a girl who shrank from me in whom I recognized,
My schoolmate in a village far away./ “Is that you Madge,” I said to her, she quickly turned away,/ “Don't turn away Madge, I am still your friend,
Next week I'm going back to see the old folks and I thought / Perhaps some message you would like to send.”
“Just tell them that you saw me,/ She said, they'll know the rest,/ Just tell them I was looking well you know,
Just whisper if you get a chance to mother dear, and say,—/ I love her as I did long, long ago.”
“Your cheeks are pale, your face is thin, come tell me were you ill,/ When last we met your eye shone clear and bright
Come home with me when I go Madge, the change will do you good,/ Your mother wonders where you are to night.”
“I long to see them all again, but not just yet,” she said,/ ”'Tis pride alone that's keeping me away./ Just tell them not to worry, for I'm allright don't you know,/ Tell mother I am coming homw some day.”
Johann Paul Dreiser Jr. (Paul Dresser) (1858-1906), 1895