January, 1892. (Some place in Texas)
I left St. Louis last night, Wednesday, and went to bed and slept for twelve hours. To-day has been most trying and I shall be very glad to get on dry land again. The snow has ceased although the papers say this is the coldest snap they have had in San Antonio in ten years. It might have waited a month for me I think. It has been a most dreary trip from a car window point of view. Now that the snow has gone, there is mud and ice and pine trees and colored people, but no cowboys as yet. They talk nothing but Chili and war and they make such funny mistakes. We have a G. A. R. excursion on the train, consisting of one fat and prosperous G. A. R., the rest of the excursion having backed out on account of Garza who the salient warriors imagine as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. One old chap with white hair came on board at a desolate station and asked for "the boys in blue" and was very much disgusted when he found that "that grasshopper Garza" had scared them away-- He had tramped five miles through the mud to greet a possible comrade and was much chagrined. The excursion shook hands with him and they took a drink together. The excursion tells me he is a glass manufacturer, an owner of a slate quarry and the best embalmer of bodies in the country. He says he can keep them four years and does so "for specimens" those that are left on his hands and others he purchases from the morgue. He has a son who is an actor and he fills me full of the most harrowing tales of Indian warfare and the details of the undertaking business. He is SO funny about the latter that I weep with laughter and he cannot see why-- Joe Jefferson and I went to a matinee on Wednesday and saw Robson in "She stoops to Conquer." The house was absolutely packed and when Joe came in the box they yelled and applauded and he nodded to them in the most fatherly, friendly way as though to say "How are you, I don't just remember your name but I'm glad to see you--" It was so much sweeter than if he had got up and bowed as I would have done.
I knew more about Texas than the Texans and when they told me I would find summer here I smiled knowingly-- That is all the smiling I have done---Did you ever see a stage set for a garden or wood scene by daylight or Coney Island in March--that is what the glorious, beautiful baking city of San Antonio is like. There is mud and mud and mud--in cans, in the gardens of the Mexicans and snow around the palms and palmettos-- Does the sun shine anywhere? Are people ever warm-- It is raw, ugly and muddy, the Mexicans are merely dirty and not picturesque. I am greatly disappointed. But I have set my teeth hard and I will go on and see it through to the bitter end-- But I will not write anything for publication until I can take a more cheerful view of it. I already have reached the stage where I admit the laugh is on me-- But there is still London to look forward to and this may get better when the sun comes out---I went to the fort to-day and was most courteously received. But they told me I should go on to Laredo, if I expected to see any campaigning-- There is no fighting nor is any expected but they say they will give me a horse and I can ride around the chaparral as long as I want. I will write you from Laredo, where I go to-morrow, Saturday--
At Laredo Richard left the beaten track of the traveller, and with Trooper Tyler, who acted as his guide, joined Captain Hardie in his search for Garza. The famous revolutionist was supposed to be in hiding this side of the border, and the Mexican Government had asked the United States to find him and return him to the officials of his own country.
In Camp, February 2nd. DEAR MOTHER:--
We have stopped by the side of a trail for a while and I will take the chance it gives me to tell you what I have been doing. After Tyler and I returned to camp, we had a day of rest before Captain Hardie arrived. He is a young, red-moustached, pointed-bearded chap with light blue eyes, rough with living in the West but most kind hearted and enthusiastic. He treats me as though I were his son which is rather absurd as he is only up to my shoulder. It is so hot I cannot make the words go straight and you must not mind if I wander. We are hugging a fence for all the shade there is and the horses and men have all crawled to the dark side of it and are sleeping or swearing at the sun. It is about two o'clock and we have been riding since half-past seven. I have had a first rate time but I do not see that there has been much in it to interest any one but myself and where Harper Brothers or the "gentle reader" comes in, I am afraid I cannot see, and if I cannot see it I fear he will be in a bad way. It has pleased and interested me to see how I could get along under difficult circumstances and with so much discomfort but as I say I was not sent out here to improve my temper or my health or to make me more content with my good things in the East. If we could have a fight or something that would excuse and make a climax for all this marching and reconnoitering and discomfort the story would have a suitable finale and a raison d'etre. However, I may get something out of it if only to abuse the Government for their stupidity in chasing a jack rabbit with a brass band or by praising the men for doing their duty when they know there is no duty to be done. This country is more like the ocean than anything else and drives one crazy with its monotony and desolation. And to think we went to war with Mexico for it-- To-day is my tenth day with the troops in the camp and in the field and I will leave them as soon as this scout is over which will be in three days at the most. Then I will go to Corpus Christi and from there to the ranches but I will wait until I get baths, hair cuts and a dinner and cool things to drink-- One thing has pleased me very much and that is that I, with Tyler and the Mexican Scout made the second best riding record of the troop since they have been in the field this winter. The others rode 115 miles in 32 hours, four of them under the first Sergeant, after revolutionists, and we made 110 miles in 33 hours. The rest of the detachment made 90 miles and our having the extra thirty to our credit was an accident. On the 31st Hardie sent out the scout and two troopers, of which Tyler was one, to get a trail and as I had been resting and loafing for three days, I went out with them. We left at eight after breakfast and returned at seven, having made thirty miles. When we got in we found that a detachment was going out on information sent in while we were out. Tyler was in it and so we got fresh horses and put out at nine o'clock by moonlight. That was to keep the people in the ranch from knowing we were going out. We rode until half-past three in the morning and then camped at the side of the road until half--past six, when we rode on until five in the afternoon. The men who were watching to see me give up grew more and more interested as the miles rolled out and the First Sergeant was very fearful for his record for which he has been recommended for the certificate of merit. The Captain was very much pleased and all the men came and spoke to me. It must have been a good ride for Tyler who is a fifth year man was so tired that he paid a man to do his sentry duty. We slept at Captain Hunter's camp that last night and we both came on this morning, riding thirty miles up to two o'clock to-day. From here we go on into the brush again. I am very proud of that riding record and of my beard which is fine. I will finish this when we get near a post-office.
February 4th-- We rode forty miles through the brush but saw nothing of Garza, who was supposed to be in it. But we captured 3 revolutionists, one of whom ran away but the scout got him. Hardie, Tyler, who is his orderly, and the scout and I took them in because the rest of the column was lagging in the rear and the Lieutenant got bally hooly for it. Tyler disarmed one and I took away the other chaps things. Then we took a fourth in and let them all go for want of evidence and after some of the ranch men had identified them.
We ended our scout yesterday, and camped at Captain Hunter's last night-- Mother can now rest her soul in peace as I have done with scoutings and have replaced the free and easy belt and revolver for the black silk suspenders and the fire badge of civilization. I am still covered with 11 days dirt but will get lots of good things to eat and drink and smoke at Corpus Christi to night, where I will stay for two days. I am writing this on the car and a ranger is shooting splinters out of the telegraph poles from the window in front and has a New York drummer in a state of absolute nervous prostration. I met the Rangers last night as we came into camp and find them quite the most interesting things yet. They are just what I expected to find here and have not disappointed me. Everything else is either what we know it to be and know all about or else is disappointingly commonplace. I mean we know certain things are picturesque and I find them so but they have been "done" to death and new material seems so scarce. I am sometimes very fearful of the success of the letters-- However, the Rangers I simply loved. They were gentle voiced and did not swear as the soldiers do and some of them were as handsome men as I ever saw and SO BIG. And such children. They showed me all their tricks at the request of the Adjutant General, who looks upon them as his special property. They shot four shots into a tree with a revolver, going at full gallop, hit a mark with both hands at once, shot with the pistol upside down and the Captain put eight shots into a board with a Winchester, while I was putting two into the field around it. We got along very well indeed and they were quite keen for me to go back and chase Garza. They are sure they have him now. I gave the Captain permission to put four shots into my white helmet. He only put two and the rest of the company thinking their reputations were at stake whipped out their guns and snatched up their rifles and blazed away until they danced the hat all over the ranch. Then remorse overcame them and they proposed taking up a collection to get me a sombrero, which I stopped. So Nora's hat is gone but I am going to get another and save myself from sunstroke again. The last part of the ride was enlivened by the presence of three Mexican murderers handcuffed and chained with iron bands around the neck, that is Texas civilization isn't it--