« PreviousContinue »
started, can climb up over those trampled down in front. When a hundred or more are knocked down and piled up close to the corral fence, some escape by jumping from the pile of struggling horses over the top of the corral. By this method of capture many hundreds of horses are maimed and many killed.
When the horses are securely corralled, the riders generally go to camp and let the terror-stricken animals settle down for a few hours. Then they return to the corral and the real scare for the horses takes place, for the terrible looking creatures who have driven them into that awful pen now climb down from the top of the circle of posts into the corral with them. As the mustangs are somewhat exhausted by their previous attempts to escape, they soon become a panting, foaming, almost breathless mass of horses. Sometimes the old stallions show fight, in which case they are promptly shot. Lassos are then brought into play. The horses are lassoed by the feet, thrown down, and either strong rawhide hobbles or clogs are placed on their front legs.
Hobbles for horses are in common use at this date in many parts of the West, but I never have heard of clogs for horses being used in any part of the West other than the brush country of southwestern Texas. These clogs are made by taking strong, forked sticks about an inch and a half or two inches in diameter and about two feet in length, and lashing them with rawhide thongs on to the front leg of a horse. With these the animal can make little headway when he tries to run. Like a hobbled horse he soon becomes very tired of trying to go at speed.
When all the horses which are neither killed nor injured have been hobbled or clogged, they are usually left in the corral until they are pretty hungry and thirsty. Then the bar poles are taken down and the horses allowed to work their way out of the corral through the narrow chute and into the wings. These wings usually take in some little water hole, or the bend of a creek, where the horses can drink. Riders frighten them back if they try to work beyond the mouth of the wings of the corral for the first day or two. Gradually they are allowed to work their way out on to the prairie to graze during the daytime. At night they are driven back into the corral. After a few days of this treatment, the hob
bles and clogs are removed from those horses which are most subdued. At the end of a few weeks the entire herd is freed from hobbles and clogs, having become accustomed to control by riders to the extent of being driven in any direction desired.
I never took any part in "mustang hunts" of this type, but I have watched the performance a few times. It was certainly a pretty cruel business. During the days when I hunted big game in Colorado and Wyoming Territory, a hunting partner of mine, best known as Wild Horse Charlie, was, I think, the first man to make a business of catching mustangs on a larger scale, on the open plains. He called his method "walking them down." In the spring of 1876 he captured several bands of mustangs on the plains of eastern Colorado, driving them into Nebraska and Iowa, where they were sold as saddle or driving ponies. In his method he took three or four good riders and made a camp on the range of the mustangs, at a time when advantage could be taken of moonlight for the work. From some good observation point, a rider would then locate a band of horses with his field glasses, by moonlight. Bright and early in the morning the work of capturing the horses would begin. Mustangs have a habit of settling on a range. When possible, they confine their feeding and their flights from danger to certain boundary lines. This fact is well known to plainsmen.
Upon discovering a band of mustangs, a rider approaches them from a direction opposite to that in which he desires the horses to run. As the mustangs have wonderful sight and are always on the lookout for danger, they take to their heels as soon as the rider comes into view. This rider does not race after them, but follows fast enough to keep them in sight. The other riders, stationed at as good observation points as possible, note the direction in which the mustangs start to circle, in order that each rider in turn may be relieved every few hours during the long chase. At the end of a few hours, the first man to start after the horses is relieved by another rider. He can then go to camp, change his tired saddle horse for a fresh one, and get a little rest. This relay system, continued night and day, never allowing the mustangs to stop for either food or drink, will, at the end of a few days, exhaust them so that the riders can approach and begin to control the turning of the mus
WILD HORSES OF THE PLAINS
tangs in any direction desired. Naturally the riders keep them as close to their camp as possible.
The mustangs cover many miles of ground during the first two or three days of the chase a distance of one hundred miles for each twenty-four hours is not an exaggerated estimate. On about the seventh or eighth day of the chase, or sooner on some oceasions, the aged or weaker mustangs, completely exhausted, play out and stop, or some of the aged stallions turn on their pursuers for a fight. Such stallions are shot by the riders, and the exhausted animals lassoed, hobbled, or "sidelined." Sidelining means tying together the front and hind foot on one side of an animal with a pair of hobbles to prevent it from traveling at speed. At the end of the tenth day after the chase begins the wild horses are under such control that they can be driven to some strong cattle corral in the country.
A third method of capture is by "creasing." This is used to capture individual mustangs considered especially valuable because of their beauty, color, conformative marking, or because they show unusual speed. This method has been more talked about than successfully carried out.
To crease a horse, a person must first get within close shooting distance of this most animated target. He must then place a rifle bullet in the top of its neck, grazing the cords of the neck just enough to stun the animal and knock it down so that it can be tied down before recovering from the shock. Not only must one be a mighty good shot, but extremely lucky, to make a success of this method; it is very easy either to break the neck of the animal, simply give it a bad scare and a slight wound, or score a clean miss.
I tried it once but I never attempted to crease a second mustang. While engaged in the work of gathering wild cattle down in Frio County, Texas, I caught sight, on numerous occasions, of a small band of mustangs led by one of the handsomest stallions I have ever seen. He was cream-colored, with white mane and tail. His mane was parted and hung equally heavy on both sides of his neck. He had a black stripe down the middle of his back, and also one around his legs. I discovered that this band of horses was in the habit of drinking from a little pool so located in a washout of an old creek bed that it could be approached from
only one side, three sides of the washout having high, perpendicular banks. These creek banks leading to the water hole made wings that were probably about one hundred and fifty feet long. I conceived the idea that if I could hide in the vicinity of this watering place until all the horses, coming to drink, should be in the narrow runway leading to the water, I could dash up to the mouth of the runway and, as the horses rushed past me in making their escape, I could crease the desired stallion with my sixshooter. At that time I considered myself hard to beat, either mounted or on foot, in the use of the six-shooter.
After weeks of waiting, an opportunity to try out my scheme at last arrived. While out hunting for some saddle horses which had strayed from our camp, I saw this band trailing toward the water hole. Keeping out of their sight, I beat them to the place. I concealed myself and my horse in a dense chaparral thicket about one hundred yards from the mouth of the runway through which the horses would go to get a drink. The horses must have felt that there was no danger, for they rushed in a bunch down the runway and into the water, where they made such a noise splashing and pawing about that they did not hear me approach. They certainly got up some action in getting past me when I rode into the runway. As the stallion came rushing madly by, passing within ten feet of me, I made an attempt to crease him. The result was that I broke his neck. At first I thought I had been successful, but when I saw what I had done, I could have cried. Perhaps I did, for I certainly felt very sorry to have taken the life of that beautiful creature. I realized then that, had I thought to use my lasso instead of my six-shooter, he either would have escaped or been mine. Seldom would one find a band of mustangs in such a natural trap with an opportunity to use either lasso or pistol at such short range. I never made another attempt to crease a mustang.
Some writers have told us of certain tribes of Mexican Indians who were possessed of such speed that, starting out on foot, they could run down and capture the mustang. I have been told about both white men and Indians who, on foot, had run down, killing or capturing, many wild animals, including antelope, deer, and mustangs. I have never seen a performance of this kind. I can understand how a man trained to the work of
trailing or tracking game could follow an animal for an indefinite length of time, provided the course followed by the animal led over such ground as to make tracking possible. Unless a man did depend largely upon his tracking qualifications, he would have to lope along at a lively clip for the first forty-eight hours of his chase after a mustang, or lose sight of his game, if the mustang acted in the manner of those pursued by horsemen,
Doubtless, away back in a time when the wild life of our country knew nothing of pursuit by men on horseback, mustangs may have felt safe when out of range of arrows shot from bows, even when the archer was in full view. All wild life seemed to know,
Primitive Ideas on Numbers and Systems of Measurement
By ROBERT H. LOWIE
T IS sometimes rashly asserted that primitive tribes are incapable of conceiving numbers greater than three or five. Even if such peoples exist-and this seems highly problematical-the lack of terms for any but the lowest numbers would not prove their inability to develop adequate arithmetical notions. This is, indeed, exactly what has taken place among many of our North American Indians, whose conceptions and vocabulary of numbers have been materially enlarged through contact with modern civilization. Under the old conditions of life there simply was no need for such conceptions and accordingly they had not sprung into existence.
or felt it knew, that there was a distance at which it could feel safe, even from its most feared enemy-man. If instinct did protect the wild life at one time, I think it hardly can be depended upon in these days, at least without being very much readjusted. Air craft and automobiles are now aiding the mighty Nimrods in ridding the world of its wild waterfowl and the last of its fleetfooted, pronghorn antelope. Such things as pump guns and rapid-fire, high-power rifles proved too slow.
To me there is a certain grace and beauty about wild creatures that is lost as soon as they become domesticated. They certainly lose their alertness, and my respect and admiration decline in corresponding ratio.
Nevertheless, there are probably few, if any, stocks of humanity that are not able to count up to twenty. The reason is obvious: man has twenty fingers and toes. It is interesting and almost startling to find how many of the numeral systems on record have a digital basis,-quinary, decimal, or vigesimal. Thus, Mr. Waldemar Jochelson, of American Museum Jesup Expedition fame, has analyzed the terms of the Yukaghir of northern Siberia. One really means "one finger"; five is derived from the stem for
"wrist" or "hand"; ten signifies at bottom "the fingers all together." One hundred formerly marked the limits of Yukaghir numeration and was expressed by doubling the word for "ten."
The Kai, a Papuan tribe occupying the mountainous and wooded hinterland of Finschhafen, New Guinea, regularly use their fingers in counting; they begin with the little finger of the left hand and after finishing both hands proceed to the feet, beginning with the big toe in each case. This practice is strikingly illustrated in their vocabulary. Seven is "two on the other hand"; eleven "one on the foot"; sixteen "one on the other foot." When introduced to the white man's week the Kai logically enough allotted to each finger a day, and he will say, "I shall be back on the thumb," when he wishes to indicate that he will return on Friday.
Remarkably similar is the method pursued by the Tamanac of the Orinoco River. Five means "the whole hand," six is "one of the other hand," eleven "one to the foot," sixteen "one to the other foot." That the same type of numeral system should be found in Siberia, in New Guinea, and in South America
IDEAS ON NUMBERS AND SYSTEMS OF MEASUREMENT
is assuredly a noteworthy phenomenon. We may recognize here some evidence for the lately challenged doctrine of the psychic unity of mankind, for in this case at least the theory of borrowing seems excluded.
Very different from these primitive gropings is the highly developed numerical system of the Maya Indians of Yucatan, which enabled them to designate numbers transcending a million. In fact, two systems were in vogue among them-the one peculiar to the inscriptions on stone monuments, the other distinctive of the fiber-paper books (codices). Confining our attention to the latter, we find a method of numeration by position, in which "the numerical value of the symbols depended solely on position, just as in our own decimal system, in which the value of a figure depends on its distance from the decimal point."1 Instead of proceeding from right to left, however, in the expression of numbers, the Maya started from the bottom and worked their way upward to the higher positions; and, what is more significant than this purely external arrangement, the basis of the system was not decimal but essentially vigesimal. Perhaps the most astonishing feature of the scheme is the development of a zero symbol, for as Tylor2 puts it: "This invention of a sign for nothing was practically one of the greatest moves ever made in science." The zero was unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and European civilization learned its use from Hindu culture through the intermediation of the Arabs.
To express 20 the Maya did in principle what we do to write 10; that is, they wrote the zero symbol in the first position and the 1 symbol in the second. The numbers from 1 to 19 were all put into the first position and expressed by a combination of dots and bars. One dot represented 1, two dots 2, one bar stood for 5, one bar and four dots for 9, three bars and four dots for 19. The only inconsistency in the system occurs in the third position, which instead of representing the value of 400, that is, 20 by 20, only stands for 360,-undoubtedly because of the number of days in a year since the Othersystem had a purely calendric use. wise, however, the vigesimal basis is pre
1 Morley, S. G., Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 57, p. 129.
2 Tylor, E. B., Anthropology, D. Appleton & Co., 1904, p. 315
served. A unit in the fourth position equals 20×360=7200; and the fifth position represents 7200×20=144,000. This method of numeration must always rank as a capital achievement of the human intellect.
Primitive ideas on numbers are by no means wholly of a rational cast, however. Precisely as 13 is considered an unlucky number with us, so among most of the ruder cultures numbers are invested with altogether peculiar characters and potencies. In aboriginal North America four generally plays an exceptional part as a mystic or sacred number. Some tribes have conceived the idea that everything in the universe must be arranged in quartets. Thus, in a ceremonial procession there will be four halting places; at each stop the chanters will sing four songs; and in folk tales the heroic exploit is accomplished at the fourth attempt after three trials have miscarried. In other regions the mystic number may be five as among the Paviotso of Nevada, or nine as in parts of Siberia, or ten as among the Pythagorean philosophers of ancient Greece. Sometimes different peoples entertain the most contradictory notions as to the same number. Thus, while seven is highly revered in parts of Asia, the Kikuyu of British East Africa consider it the most unlucky of numbers when their shamans forecast the future by pouring out counters from a gourd container after the manner of a dice game.
Let us turn from primitive notions of numbers to their practical application. Savages are indeed superb observers and are able to record their impressions in graphic fashion, but they rarely require precision of statement. Primitive man is incomparably better acquainted with the fauna and flora of his habitat than is the average college student with his own environment, but the data he has accumulated are raw material for science rather than science itself. His standards of measurement accordingly cannot be expected to attain a higher plane than those current, say, among the illiterate peasantry of Europe.
A concrete illustration will make the matter clearer: The Baganda of East Africa, whose intricate political organization and well-developed trade relations suggest an unusual degree of intellectual sophistication, measured building poles by the "foot": one foot was placed immediately before the
other along a felled tree and the length determined by counting. But there was apparently no attempt either to standardize the foot or to bring other modes of linear measurement into any consonance with the foot. On some occasions the outstretched arms formed the standard, in measuring fences and roads the cubit was used, while the span from the tip of the thumb to the top of the second finger served to determine minor distances. What holds for linear measure applies in equal degree to dry measure. Salt was tied up in small packets approximating a tablespoonful; in larger quantities it was sold by the basket holding about ten pounds. Sweet potatoes, however, were bundled up into thirty-pound lots, firewood was tied into bundles of about forty pounds. Beer was measured by the gourd or for brewing purposes by the tub,a vessel six feet long by two feet six inches wide and eighteen inches deep.
Judged by the Baganda standards, the measurements of at least the greater number of American tribes are on a lower plane, although it is inconceivable that the masons and artisans of Yucatan or Peru were without adequate means of determining lengths. Oddly enough the foot, which plays so important a rôle in the Old World, was apparently never used among the North American Indians. It also seems strange that there is no evidence for the use of scales and weights nor of liquid or dry measure. The kind of linear standards employed may be illustrated by the case of the Pima of Arizona. Here a yardlike measure is employed, that is, the distance from the center
of the breast to the finger tips. After the coming of the Caucasian a definite series of values was established on this basis. Ten of these "sticks" were made equivalent to one "cut" of calico, equaling one load of wheat, or about 150 pounds and ten cuts or loads were reckoned equal in value with one horse. Land is measured by steps of about five feet, while long distances are estimated in terms of a day's journey.
To turn to still another region of the globe. In the Banks Islands, Melanesia, the fathom is the favorite unit and appears prominently in the measurement of money, a measuring rod serving as an auxiliary device. In monetary transactions two pegs are stuck into the ground a fathom apart, and strings of shell money are looped round them until the specified number of fathoms has been told off. Another standard is represented by the distance from one shoulder to the tips of the extended fingers of the other hand; more rarely the Banks Islanders employ the distance from the elbow to the finger tips of the same hand. A short measure is based on the length from the wrist to the finger tips.
The study of primitive methods of measurements has been much neglected and it is thus impossible to make a broad comparative statement. There are indications, however, that anthropologists are becoming interested in ascertaining details about the concrete knowledge possessed by the peoples they visit, and in this connection measurements will inevitably be investigated and will assuredly prove a fascinating chapter in some future history of science.