Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

directly opposite from the principal wharf, and presents a pleasant appearance; beyond is the lighthouse, situated upon an eminence on Sea-horse Key. Sea-horses are, probably, the only horses in or about Cedar Keys, for at Way Key the sole beast of burden, at the time of our visit, was a poor cow,* which, harnessed into a dray, was forced to do the hauling for the place. What a commentary upon the progressiveness and business enterprise of a community! Our regard for the sex made us indignant at beholding the degradation of the patient brute.

At the south end of Way Key there is a group of mounds of unusual size and elevation; the largest and most southerly presents an abrupt face to the beach, having been partially dug away. Its height, as seen from this point, cannot be far from twenty-five feet: it was, probably, before being disturbed, not less than thirty feet; but this, as well as others of the group was, like the larger mound near Fernandina, used for military purposes during the recent war. The aggregate thickness of the shell strata with the intercalated seams of ashes, upon the southerly side of the principal mound, and directly facing the sea, is about twenty feet, and composed principally of the valves of Oysters (Ostrea Virginica), while on the north side of the same mound the shell deposit is somewhat less in thickness, and largely composed of the valves of Scallops (Pecten dislocatus?). But it must not be understood that the above are the only species of shells found here, for numerous specimens of the mammoth Fasciolaria (F. gigantea), and others of the same family are represented. Large shells of Busycon perversum, and fragments of Quahaug valves (Mercenaria Mortoni Conrad), are quite abundant. Without a farther enumeration of the species contained in this, the largest of the Way Key mounds, we will hastily glance at others near by. Just

[ocr errors]

* It is quite common in the Pacific States to hear an insignificant person or place spoken of as a “one-horse fellow," or a "one-horse town,” but a one-cow town" would certainly astonish the most stolid Californian.

north of the above is the second in point of size, but the shell deposit, composed of the same species, is not as thick or deep, while at the north-east is a third mound of exceedingly regular form, also composed of shells; this latter has not been materially defaced, though a house of considerable size has been erected upon its summit. Between the two largest mounds, and connecting them, is a piece of flat or slightly uneven ground, which was used apparently for burial purposes, for here can be obtained human remains undoubtedly aboriginal, and fragments of pottery of large size may be picked up. At other places in the vicinity human bones may be found, but there is no certainty that they are aboriginal. During the war this island was the asylum for deserters and refugees, and the yellow fever and cholera carried off great numbers. They were buried carelessly, and the unmarked graves are scattered over the higher land of the Key.

In examining this part of the island, which is covered with various forms of shrubbery, the visitor frequently stumbles over the hidden resting-place of some poor victim of pestilential disease. A few trees may be seen here and there growing out of the sides or summits of the mounds; the latter are so crossed and defaced by the embankments, ditches and ritle-pits, that it is difficult or impossible to define their original forms and proportions. Before leaving this extensive and interesting cluster of mounds, we ascended to the highest point to obtain a view of the surrounding scenery. Immediately below, and but a few yards from the base of the elevation, a sloping shelly beach runs gradually down beneath the placid waters of the Gulf; the white sail of a boat, hardly moving in the bland and gentle breeze, and the whiter wings of the circling gulls, with islands near and distant, a cloudless sky, and a bright sunshine, combined to form a scene of quiet and dreamy beauty. Not far from the mounds is a mill, where the soft cedar is sawed into blocks of convenient size for the use of the manufacturers of lead pencils, and in the neighborhood are rude shanties, cabins and houses, that, viewed with the trees and mounds and water, furnish pretty sketches for the drawing-book.

Not many species of shells can be found upon the beach, though much of interest may be dredged in the deeper water of the channel a few hundred yards from the shore. Upon an old wreck, reached at low tide by means of a boat, a species of Murex (M. rufus) may be collected, and the very common Littorina (L. irrorata) may be gathered in quantities, sticking to the marsh grass just above the mud.

The steamer from New Orleans that is to carry us farther South having unexpectedly arrived, we were prevented from making an examination of the adjoining islands, or as thorough an investigation of the mounds as their importance demanded. Early in the afternoon we were "all aboard,” and soon after the hawsers were cast loose and the steamer was under way; slowly feeling the course through a crooked and insufficient channel an hour passed away before we were in water deep enough to admit of greater speed. The water is so shallow that vessels are compelled to keep a long distance from shore, and the land being flat, but little can be. seen from the deck. The mildness of the temperature, the clear sky and smooth sea, made it a delightful trip; and we shall ever remember with pleasure the down voyage from Cedar Keys to Tampa Bay.

THE SAGE BRUSH.

BY W. W. BAILEY.

In every account of Western travel we meet with this name. It is as common in the vernacular of Nevada and Utah as the word grass is with us, and for the like reason that the plant to which the title is applied is everywhere

[ocr errors]

present. Readers at the East generally have an entirely incorrect idea of the shrub. If they think of it at all they are misled by its popular name, and consider it synonymous with, or nearly related to the common sage (Salvia) of the gardens. The title, however, is not bestowed upon it on account of any actual relationship to that genus of the mint family (Labiatce), but merely from its similarity of odor. This is evolved in consequence of any friction, such as l'esults from rubbing the leaves between the hands, or riding among the bushes. Indeed the plant emits its characteristic aroma even when undisturbed, but not in so exaggerated a degree. It is the scent of "wormwood,” which is the true English title of the so called wild sage. Its botanical name is Artemisia, bestowed in honor of Artemis or Diana.. There are many species found upon the Great Plains and in the Interior Basin (filifolia, cana, tridentata, etc.). The species tridentata is what I purpose to describe. The specific name means simply "three-toothed,” and has reference to the dentated apex of the wedge-shaped leaves.

The plant belongs not to the mints, suggestive of cooling beverages and savory sauces, but to the composites, or great order in which we find the dandelion, the asters, and the sunflowers. The inconspicuous blossoms are densely panicled. The leaves are not green, but silvery or ashy in color. They are borne on scraggy stems, rising, generally, from large and wide-spreading roots. These roots are spirally twisted, and unravel, as it were, like the strands of a rope. They are much used for firewood in this barren section, where little other fuel presents itself. They make a warm fire, but burn much too rapidly. As the supply, however, is inexhaustible, this fault is of no great consequence. They are even used at times in mills and smelting works, where it is impossible to obtain wood.

After careful inquiry I am led to the conclusion that no one has ever seen a young sage brush. Even the most confident settler becomes involved in his account when persist

ently questioned, and cannot tell when or where he noticed the phenomenon. All the specimens met with, and their name is legion, look as if they had been produced, not only mature, but aged; as if they were coeval with the mountains and plains upon which they are found. To the deficiency of chlorophyl in the plant is to be attributed its generally wretched appearance, which is increased by the tendency which the brittle twigs evince to break into snags and prickles.

Where the plant grows to a height of from six to ten feet, as it occasionally does, it is indicative of good soil, and generally of water or moisture present at certain seasons. If it is then uprooted, and vegetables planted in its place, they thrive most abundantly. All that is wanting to much of the apparently sterile soil is the necessary rain to refresh it. Perseverence in systematic irrigation has, in some places, recovered the desert and caused it to "blossom like the rose." The artemisia scorns the alkali flats, and in such localities is succeeded by the wretched grease-wood (Obione canescens), and various chenopodiums and other salt loving plants. Some of these are most uninviting and indescribable in appearance. To the traveller they are the synonyms of abomination.

The sage brush grows in clumps, usually separated a few feet from each other. Often it surmounts a mound of sand five or six feet in height. These elevations, rising above the general surface of the plain, dot it in every direction, and one may ride among them for days together. It would appear that the plants mark the original level of the plateau, and that the earth around has been eroded where it was not bound by their interlacing roots. Whether the wind or rain, for it does rain here at times, has been the most potential agent in producing this effect, I am not prepared to affirm. In any other country one would unhesitatingly declare in favor of the latter. Here, however, the wind is almost equally powerful in transforming the face of nature.

« AnteriorContinuar »