Dead Shot; Or, The White Vulture A Romance of the Yellowstone
Albert W. Aiken
It was at the close of a bright May afternoon; the last rays of the sinking sun shone down gayly upon the broad prairie, through which, like a great yellow serpent, rolled the turbid waters of the Yellowstone river—a river that took its rise at the base of the Rocky Mountains and then flowed eastward, until it poured its current into the great Missouri. Just at the junction of the Yellowstone and the Powder rivers, the sun’s rays shone down upon the whitewashed walls of Fort Bent, a frontier post, located at the confluence of the two rivers, to guard the wagon-trail to Montana. The advance of civilization has now caused the fort to be removed, but at the time at which we write it was the last halting-place for the wagon-trains bound for any of the small settlements nestled here and there upon the golden-streaked rocks of Montana. After leaving Fort Bent, the trail run by the banks of the Yellowstone, two hundred miles or so, then turned abruptly north toward the Rocky Mountains. This was called the southern trail. The northern route was by the bank of the Missouri.
Fort Bent was garrisoned by a single company of United States troops—a hundred men or so. Under the shelter of the fort, a few trading-houses had sprung up, designed to supply the wants of the emigrants in powder, ball, blankets, or any of the little articles necessary for a journey of three hundred miles through the wilderness. For, as we have said, after leaving Fort Bent, the way led through the fertile valley of the Yellowstone, a valley abounding in rich grasses, the little clumps of timber that fringed the river being filled with game, the stream itself well stocked with fish—a country that only needed the strong right arm of civilization to bloom and blossom like a fruitful garden.