When the Piute came to a spring, the first thing he did was to look about for a flat rock which he was sure to find if a member of his tribe had previously been there. Kneeling, he would skim the water from the surface and dash it upon this rock. Then he smelled the rock. If there was an odor of onion or garlic, he knew it contained arsenic and was deadly. Naturally, he would be concerned about another water hole.
He had only to look about him. He would find partially imbedded in the earth several stones fixed in the form of a circle not entirely closed. The opening pointed in the direction of the next water. The distance to that water was indicated by stones inside the circle. There he would find for example, three stones pointing toward the opening.
But which of these trails leading to the water should he take? There might be several trails converging at the water hole. The matter was decided for him. He walked along each of those trails for a few feet. Beside one of them he would find an oblong stone.
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By its shape and position he knew that was the trail that led to the next water. Under such circumstances a man would perhaps wonder if upon arrival at the next water hole he would find that water also unfit to use. The information was at hand. If, upon top of that oblong stone he found a smaller stone placed crosswise and white in color, he knew the water would be good water.
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If a piece of black malpai was there instead of the white stone, he knew the next water would be poison also. Not infrequently he would find other information at the water hole if there were boulders about, or chalky cliffs upon which the Indian could place his picture writing. If he saw the crude drawing of a lone man, it indicated that the land about was uninhabited except by hunters, but if upon the pictured torso were marks indicating the breasts of a woman, he knew there was a settlement about and he would find squaws and children and something to eat. Frequently other information was left for this wayfaring Indian.
Under conspicuous stones about, he might find a feather with a hole punched through it or one that was notched. The former indicated that one had been there who had killed his man. The notch indicated that he had cut a throat. Since there was a difference between the moccasins of Indian tribes, 47 the dust about would often inform him whether the buck who went before was friend or enemy.
Like all American aborigines, the Piute had his medicine man, but the manner of his choosing is not clear. The one selected had to accept the role, though the honor never thrilled him, because he knew that when the score of death was three against him he would join his lost patients in the happy hereafter. Occasionally he was stoned to death by the relatives of the first lost patient and with the approval of the rest of the tribe.
The word Piute is believed to mean true Ute. There was an undetermined number of branches of the original Utah stock. Besides the above, there was another tribe called by other Indians, Cozaby Piutes, Cozaby being the Indian name of a worm that literally covered the shores of Mono Lake. This worm was a principal food of the tribe. At its foot they rested and cursed it because it impeded their progress to the California goldfields.
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The truth lies somewhere between. A mountain of gold and silver side by side. A new crop of overnight millionaires. New feet feeling for the first step on the social ladder. The Mackays, the Floods, the Fairs, the Hearsts. All this was more like current than twenty year old history to Jim Butler on May 18, , when his hungry burro strayed up a hill in search of grass. Soon a city stood where the burro ate and soon adventurers were poking around in the canyons of Death Valley, 66 miles south.
Jim Butler, more rancher than gold hunter was a likable happy-go-lucky fellow, who could strum a banjo and sing a song. But when he found the burro in Sawtooth Pass he saw a ledge which looked as if it might have values.
Born in El Dorado county in California in , Butler was more or less gold conscious, but unexcited he stuck a few samples in his pocket and went on after the burro. A story survives which states that a half-breed Shoshone Indian known as Charles Fisherman had told Butler of the existence of the ore 49 without disclosing its location and that Butler was actually searching for it when the burro strayed.
The preponderance of evidence, however, indicates that Butler was en route to Belmont to see his friend, Tasker Oddie, who was batching there in a cabin. He gave Oddie one of the samples and after his visit, left for home. In Klondike a few days later, Butler showed another sample to Frank Higgs, an assayer. Forget it.
Later in Belmont Henry Broderick, a prospector dropped in for a visit with Oddie and noticed the sample Butler had given Oddie and looked it over. Belmont had a population of With few customers, Gayhart took a chance. The ore showed values and Oddie was mildly excited.
Butler lived 35 miles away in wild, difficult country and Oddie wrote him, enclosing the assay. Several weeks passed before Butler received the letter. Then Butler and his wife returned to Belmont only to find Oddie could not go with them. Jim and Mrs. Butler now returned home, loaded provisions, tools, and camp equipment in a wagon and three days later, Aug.
The Butlers staked out eight claims. Jim took for himself the one he considered best. He named it The Desert Queen. Butler chose another and called it Mizpah. Jim located another for Oddie and named it Burro. The best proved to be Mrs. Returning to Belmont, they found Oddie at home.
The matter of recording the location notices had to be attended to. Neither of them had any money. The setup was now: Butler and his wife five-eighths, Oddie, Brougher, and Gayhart, one-eighth each. Brougher, Oddie, Jim, and Mrs. Butler set out in October, Butler did the cooking while the men dug, drilled, and blasted two tons of ore.
The ore was sacked and hauled miles to Austin and shipped to a San Francisco smelter. The returns showed high values but still they had a major problem—money to develop the claims. Because the country had been prospected and pronounced worthless, men of millions were not backing a banjo-picking rancher and a young lawyer with no money and few clients.
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The answer was leasing to idle miners willing to gamble muscle against money. The venture made many of them rich.
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