The Mummy from the Grand Caņon

by Will C. Barnes

"Bang, bang, bang!" went three shots in the night air. Sounds like some feller's a huntin' a warm place to sleep," said Little Bob Morris, one of three men who were sitting in front of the fireplace in the snug little dugout at the winter horse camp of the X bar outfit.

"Open the door, Bob, and show 'em a light," said one of the others. In a few minutes, with a wild "whoo-pee," a mounted figure rode out of the darkness and the boys were shaking hands with "Hog-eye" Jackson, who had a pair of eyes that, as one man put it, "didn't track," one being blue, the other black, and both so badly crossed that he looked both ways at once.

After supper had been cooked and the dishes put away, the boys gathered about the fireplace for a smoke.

"I hain't been out this a-way since the time me and Little Bob here was a huntin' for a dead Chinee," said Jackson, with a look about the room.

"Huntin' for a dead Chink?" said Grimes. "What ye mean by that?"

"Ain't you never heard tell about the Chinee what died over in Williams and was stoled away from the joss house where the other Chinks had him laid out?" said Jackson, with a look of surprise.

"Nary a hear," replied the two boys, "le's have it."

"'Bout two years ago, along in the fall," Jackson began, "after we had shipped the last steers from Williams, a Chinese laundryman there died one night, and was laid out in the little room where the Chinamen of the town kept their joss. The day following there was a tremendous squalling among the heathen, for during the night Ah Yen had disappeared from the coffin, and not a trace of him could be found. The coffin was there all right; it stood just where they left it the night before, surrounded by paper prayers, burning punk sticks, and all the other things used by the heathens to frighten away the devils which are supposed to be lyin' in wait for the spirit of a diseased celestial. But punk or no punk, devils or no devils, Ah Yen was gone, of that there was no doubt. The city marshal and the sheriff both came to investigate and question, the town was scoured, old stables and lofts searched, but still, 'no catch 'em.' After a couple of days' work the sheriff said: 'I'm danged if I'm not clear stumped. The Chink was plum dead, that's a sure thing, so he didn't git up and walk away, and if he was hauled off by some one, they didn't leave any sign that I can find, and, anyhow (which to him was the most convincing thing of all), what'd any one want for to steal a dead Chinaman, I'd like to know?'

"There was a doctor livin' over on Cataract caņon that fall, a sort of lunger chap, and when some one suggested that perhaps he had packed the Chink off for dissectin' purposes (Ah Yen bein' six feet tall and the best specimen of a Chinaman I'd ever seen), the sheriff, just to make a sort of showin' to the other Chinks, sent me—I bein' a deputy sheriff at that time—to make a sort of scout round and see what I could pick up.

"We dropped into his camp, but nothin' doin', and after prowling around for a day or two I went back to town. The next day Scotty Jones got on a tear and shot up the burg pretty plenty, and in tryin' to ride his horse into a Front Street saloon got a load of buckshot into his countenance. This made so much excitement that by the time the coroner's jury got done with the inquest the loss of Ah Yen's remains had become a matter of past history.

"Meantime the Chinks raised a powerful rookus over the loss of the body of Ah Yen, he bein' a sort of high muck-a-muck among them, but even the offer of a $100 reward for the body didn't get any clews to the disappearance."

"I remember hearin' something about it," said Grimes, "but I was down in the Tonto basin that fall a-huntin' some hosses we lost on the spring work, and never before did hear jist what happened."

"An' didn't they never find out what went with the Chink?" queried Russel, who was a newcomer in the country.

"Well," said Jackson rather evasively, "so fur as I know nobody's ever yit claimed the reward."

"Le's change the subject," said Grimes, lighting his pipe with a long pine sliver. "Hog-eye, where you been sence I seen you last fall a year ago over on the Tonto steer round up?" he asked of the newcomer.

"Me?" said Jackson, with a start, blowing a cloud of smoke skyward. "Oh, I been a driftin' about pretty promiscous like sence then. When we come to ship the last of the steers that fall, old Mose, the Spur boss, axed me if I wanted to go back to Kansas and help take care of 'em where the outfit was going to winter 'em. Well, me not being sure of a winter's job here, and likely to have to ride the chuck line before spring, I reckons I'd best nab the job whilst it was open, so I took it."

"How long did you last on the cornstalk job?" asked Russel.

"Oh, I hung and rattled with it till about April, and then I begins to git oneasy and sort of hankering for the range agin. One day I was in town for some grub and other plunder and goes down to the depot to see the train come through, and me a wishin' to God I was a goin' off in her, no matter which-a-way she was pointed. When number two comes along, who should drop off but old Pickerell, who used to live out here on the caņon and take tourists out and show 'em the sights. Pick were powerful glad to see me and he sed, ses he, 'What be ye a doin' here, Jackson?'

"'I'm a doin' of the prodigal son act,' ses I.

"'Come again,' ses he, lookin' sort of mystified like.

"'I'm a-feedin' a bunch of hawgs and steers out here on a farm,' ses I, 'where I ain't seen the sun shine but twicet in four months.'

"Pickerell, he laughed sort of tickled like, an' ses to me, 'Why don't you quit and go back to Arizony, where the sun shines all the time?'

"'I'm a goin' to,' ses I, 'just as shore as next pay day comes.' I didn't like to tell him that I was flat busted count of goin' into K. C. with a load of hawgs an' meetin' up with a bunch of amigos what worked me for a sure enough sucker. They gits all my dinero an' leaves me locked up in a little old room where we went to git a drink."

Hog-eye sighed and sucked vigorously at his pipe, while the boys grinned at each other and waited to hear the rest of the story, which was evidently hanging on his lips.

"Well, go on Hog-eye, tell us the rest. Might as well 'fess up and feel better," said High-pockets encouragingly.

"I reckon so," replied Jackson with a chuckle, as if there was some pleasure in the memories of the past. "You see, after talkin' a few minutes with Pick he up and makes me an offer to go back east, where he was a runnin' a show what were a part of a street carnival outfit and a-makin' all kinds of money. He wanted me to rig up in a 'Montgomery Ward outfit,' big hat, goatskin chaps, spurs an' gloves, with stars and fringe like them fellers in the movie outfits gits onto 'em, an' sort of loaf round the door and git people excited an' toll 'em into the show. So I hits the high places back to the farm, and tells the granger feller to git him a new cornstalk pusher to take my place pretty pronto. When he comes I strikes out for the place back in Illinoy where Pick sed he'd be showin' an' waitin' for my arrival.

"Pick he pays me forty beans a month, an we sleeps on our round-up beds in one of the tents. He shore had a mess of plunder inside the big tent. They was a Navajo squaw weavin' blankets, a couple of loafer wolves, some coyotes, wildcats, badgers, a lot of rattlers, centipedes and tarantulas, and a whole box full of them heely monsters. Besides this, he had a lot of glass cases in which he had a bunch of them stone axes, metates, mano stones, arrow-heads, and all that sort of plunder which they digs up from them prehistoric ruins all over this country out here.

(image)

 "He had a Navajo Squaw weaving blankets"

"But the main drawin' card he had was the mummy which he sed he dug up somewheres out here in the Grand Caņon. He had all sorts of certificates and letters to prove its genuineness, as well as photographs taken when they dug it up in the cave.

"One day a odd-lookin' four-eyed feller comes along, and he ses to Pick, 'Mought I inspect this mummy of your'n?' and Pick he ses, 'Shore, pardner, jist as much as you like. You come round to-morrow mornin' fore the show begins and I'll be glad to have you look the gent over.'

"The old boy ses he'll shore be on hand, for he's powerful interested in them prehistoric things out West. So that evening, after the show closed, Pick ses to me, 'Jackson, you git a screwdriver and take them screws outen the lower lid of that there mummy case.' So I loosens up the screws, and havin' nothin' particular to do, I takes off the lid to get a better look at his Nibs. I ain't never seen a mummy before, an' was sort of curious to know what a shore enuff mummy did look like. He was naked down to his waist, and the skin was as dry and leathery as an old cowhide that's been laying out in the weather for ten years. His eyes were shut tight and his teeth showed through his thin lips with a grin that give me a cold chill for a month afterwards. But, say, boys, talk about a surprise. One look was all I wanted to show me that this here mummy of old Pick's was nothin' else but the remains of old Ah Yen, the Chink what died in Williams and was stole out of the joss house. Then I remembered the reward offered for it, but old Pick were too square a feller to soak that-a-way. I never said nothin' to nobody about what I'd seen, but slipped the lid back on the case and went off to bed in the other tent.

"Long about midnight I was woke up by somebody a hollerin' fire, and when I busted out of the tent the whole row of shacks was a blazin'. Our big tent was too far gone to save anything, but we drug out our beds and what little baggage we had in the small tent and did well to git that much out. Inside an hour there wasn't nothin' left but a pile of ashes to show where the whole outfit stood.

"Old man Pick, he took on considerable, but 'twan't no use cryin' over spilt milk, an' so we hit the trail for Arizony an' a little sunshine."

"But how did Pickerell git holt of that there Chink's body?" asked Morris, who had listened with amazement at the story.

Jackson grinned as he slowly knocked the ashes from his pipe. "It sort of hacked the old man when he found I was wise to his little game with the Chink," he said. "Over in Albuquerque he met up with a feller who was a-goin' down into Central America on a sort of bug huntin' expedition and he talked Pick into goin' with him. The night before we split at Albuquerque he gits fuller than a goat, an' seein' as how he wasn't comin' back to these parts agin, he give me a great old confidential an' tole me how he turned the trick.

"I disremember all that Pickerell done tole me of the way the job was worked," continued Jackson, "but, howsomever, the day the Chink died the one-lunged doctor was in town. Pickerell he's been a tellin' him about the mummies they occasionally found out in them cliff dwellers' ruins in the caņon, and when the Doc meets Pick hangin' about town that afternoon he suggests carryin' off the Chink's body and makin' a mummy out of it. That hits Pick all right and he didn't let no grass grow under his feet gittin' ready to do it.

"The night of the body snatchin', he gits up about midnight, slips uptown, finds the door of the joss house open and no one watchin' it. Hurryin' back to his cabin, he saddles up one mule and slaps a packsaddle on the other, an' an hour later drifted out of town with a pack on his mule lookin' for all the world like a long roll of bedding. By noon the next day he reached his den in the caņon, where he and the doctor went to work, and between 'em did a mighty good job of embalmin', endin' it all up with a three months' smokin' of the body with green cedar wood.

"Pick ses that then come the tickledest part of the hull job, fer whilst he's got a mummy all right, he's got to git it sort of discovered like to make it of any scientific value, an' he studies the matter aplenty. He knows a bunch of fellers what was a-coming out to the Grand Caņon from the East to poke about an' try an' discover prehistoric things, and he knows them's the very chaps to help him out. So when they shows up he tells 'em sort of accidental like that he knows where they's a bunch of them there clift dwellings what nobody'd ever yit seen, and they grabs at his bait like hungry trout. They just can't skeercely wait to git out there, and Pick ses the rest were plumb easy, for the whole place looked like it had never been disturbed before, and when they digs out the mummy all buried in the dirt and rubbish in one of the cliff dwellings, the thing was done.

"Them fellers jist nachelly never suspicioned a thing and was perfectly willin' to sign a statement testifyin' to the genuineness of the mummy. Then they took photographs of the cliff dwellings and the mummy as it lay in the room, and all the surroundin's, with all these here scientific chaps a-standin' around, which clinched the thing. Pick ses he'll take the mummy fer his share, and he gits the fellers to take it on east with their plunder when they goes, so no one won't never suspicion him and connect him up with the deal."

"I reckon you and him would have been chasin' 'bout the country back thar to this very yit, if the fire hadn't cleaned up the outfit, wouldn't you?" inquired Russel.

"Sure," replied the ex-showman; "we was makin' all kinds of money at it and makin' of it easier than I ever did in all my life before. But, say, when it comes to makin' mummies, old Pickerell and that there one-lung doctor had 'em old Pharaoh fellers beaten a whole mile."