Page:Life among the Apaches.djvu/287

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281
LIFE AMONG THE APACHES.

six feet of solid ice in the vain effort to obtain water for their horses. Six hundred yards to the east was a slight elevation crowned with stunted cedar trees, from four to twelve feet high, and there I determined to pitch my camp. The snow was eighteen inches deep and frozen hard, so that it required the weight of the horses to break through. We had no grain, and the only subsistence for the animals was the hardy grama grass which laid covered with ice-bound snow to the depth mentioned. It became absolutely necessary to uncover this sole magazine of feed, and the horses were trotted about until a considerable surface was broken, enough to enable them to gather some fodder. In the meantime, a small quantity of dry wood was collected, and a goodly fire got under way, which was enlivened from time to time by the resinous branches of the green cedars and firs about us, which yielded a lively, hot, but evanescent blaze. Green branches and trunks of trees were cut down and carefully baked under the hot ashes until they became combustible, and in their turn did like service for others. On the night of January 5th, 1864, my spirit thermometer declared forty degrees below zero of Fahrenheit. No man could go three hundred yards from camp and return at an ordinary walk without having his moustache covered with icicles, and if he wore a beard in addition, the two would be frozen together. Large quantities of snow and ice were melted in the camp-kettles to provide water for the horses, but the animals were always led up to the fires, for if the water were carried to them it would freeze hard before the soldier could reach his horse.

These facts, of which many witnesses exist in California, will serve to furnish some idea of Apache capacity to endure intense cold, especially when we bear in mind