A Tale: A Cayuse with One Blue Eye — Walter DeLacy, 1863

After the discovery of gold at Bannack in 1862 brought thousands of men to Montana, prospectors fanned out over area looking for more riches. In 1863 Montana Pioneer Walter Delacy led a forty men to the headwaters of the Snake River looking for gold. Later DeLacy published a reminiscence of the trip that stands as one of very few accounts of prospecting in the area that became Yellowstone Park. DeLacy didn’t just describe the wonders he saw. Here’s his description of the antics of one of his horses.



Panning for gold.

I had a white, bob-tailed Cayuse (usually called “Muggins”) who had the peculiarity of having one eye black and the other of a very light blue. When you looked at him, on one side, he had a very obstinate and devilish look, as if he was up to any mischief (and so he was). Looking at him on the other, he seemed a very good-natured, steady, old horse, with a tendency toward religion.

He had other peculiarities besides these, amongst which was that when you tried to lead him, he wouldn’t go anywhere if he could help it, and if you let him go loose, you could not catch him under an hour.

This evening, as the wind was cold, and he had been good for a long time, he concluded that the time had come to distinguish himself. He was just before me, and looking round, he cocked his black eye at me, as much as to say, “Look out for squalls,” and gave two or three preliminary kicks, which threw off the pack, which he met with his heels, and sent the coffee pot, frying pan a piece of elk, a chunk of bread, and other miscellaneous articles into the air.

He then galloped around, scattering the rest of the kit over the prairie, and when he ascertained that there was no more mischief to be done, he let himself be caught, and when I came up, turned his blue eye on me with such an expression of contrite humility and self reproach, that I had not the heart to give him the thrashing he richly deserved, and repacked him in silence, and went my way.


— Except from “A Trip up the South Snake River in 1863” by  Walter W. DeLacy.  Pages 100-127 in Contributions to the Historical Society of Montana, Vol. 1, 1876

— Image from the Wikipedia Commons.

— You might also enjoy Walter DeLacy’s tale, “An Optimistic Prospector.”

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