Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/614

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of the Mississippi, and whose cattle are pastured on the green Kansas prairies, so that a toothsome steak is offered the traveller, whose portion elsewhere would be greasy frijoles or the tough integument of a Mexican bull.

A fantastic mountain had long been in sight, called Montezuma's Chair, and 113 miles from El Paso we reached a station named in memory of the Aztec monarch, where a beautiful house was being erected. The scenery did not materially change for the better, but wore the same terrible aspect of sterility, until the station of Gallego was sighted, 139 miles from Paso. Here is an adobe hacienda, a few miles away under the hills, from a spring near which the great water-tank at the track is supplied. It is surrounded by trees, and the pasturage seems good, but the very hills above have long been the lurking-place of the Apaches. A boy at the station told me that they had raided the hacienda but three days before, killed two men, and carried away seven women,—some of whom were rescued by General Crook,—and that one man had escaped to the station with two bullet holes through his arm.

At San José we had seen a company of Mexican soldiers on their way to Casas Grandes, which lies on the border of the Apache stronghold, and is shown in the map given in the succeeding chapter. Leaving our line of travel southward for a moment, let us glance at these Casas Grandes, or Great Houses, buried in the solitary sierras of Northwestern Chihuahua. A river of this name takes its rise about a hundred miles northwest of the city of Chihuahua, and flows north toward the frontier, discharging into Lake Guzman. The valley of Casas Grandes is extremely fertile, about two miles wide, and occupied by a small village of Mexicans. It is a strategic point in the Apache campaign, and the last remnant of these barbarous Indians may be eventually captured at this place.

The "Great Houses," from which town, river, and valley take their name, are the ruins of structures of adobe that were erected here hundreds of years before the country was settled by the Spaniards. They face the cardinal points, and some of the walls still standing are thirty feet in height and five feet thick,