Army of the West on the Plains

“They left the high grass behind and timber with it, so that part of the duty of the soldier was to collect buffalo chips during the last hour of marching. This was another strangeness and some thought the fires stank abominably but others found that they gave a welcome tang to the salt pork and corned beef. So many things were strange: jack rabbits, antelopes, and especially the buffalo, the great legend now gaped at by these rural youths, who tried to hunt it and some times succeeded. The country was unimaginable, plains on a scale they had not dreamed of diminishing one to a dot that seemed to travel on the bottom of a bowl, the vast heave of the swells that seemed like the swells of the ocean they had read about, many miles long. Most of all the sun. Missouri sun is nothing amateurish but the sun of the plains flattened the life in you, filled your eyes with the color of blood, and baked you to the bone with sudden overheated winds and violent dust storms making it worse. The boys kept going and began to stink.”