Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Securing Horses:

Stealing horses and mules from trappers and traders by Indians was a common occurrence.  A young Indian man could score "coup" by the theft of horses.  Usually the theft was from some tribal enemy, but horses were much too tempting a target, even from friends.  The Mountain Men employed various means to secure their horses and mules with varying degrees of success.  Livestock also might be lost when frightened into stampeding by thunderstorms, prairie fires, or large predators.  Animals which were unsecured might simply wander off during the night while in search of forage.  

Rufus Sage, in his journal describes the following: “About sundown we reached a small creek known as Elm Grove, and encamped for the night, with every indication of an approaching storm.  Strict orders were accordingly given for securing the animals, and the process of "picketing" was speedily under way.  This consisted in driving small stakes ("pickets") firmly into the ground, at proper distances apart, to which the animals were severally tied by strong cords,--a plan that should find nightly practice among all travellers of the grand prairies, to prevent those losses which, despite the utmost precaution, will not unfrequently occur.”    

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