"Things to be Remembered in Crossing the Plains," Frontier Guardian, 14 Nov. 1851, 2.
A trip across the plains is calculated to try any and every person to the very core. The good and bad qualities of the heart are most clearly and conspicuously developed. Having crossed the plains four times within the last eighteen months, with men of different temperaments, and dispositions, we have had a very good chance to become acquainted with human nature in all its varied windings in journeying over these dreary and desolate regions: and a word from us, touching some principles and circumstances may not be unacceptable to our readers.
In the first place then, the sin of killing more game on the route than is needed, should not pass unrebuked. Some men, anxious to immortalize their name, will shoot down the Buffalo for the mere sport of the operation, when they already have more meat than they can use. The Almighty has not created valuable animals, and placed them in those sections that are not adapted to other products, for the accommodation of the weary traveler and the roaming savage, to be made the sport of folly and the cruel waste of thoughtless and unprincipled men. The Mormon creed says: "Who to him that sheddeth blood or wasteth flesh when he hath no need," and every good and feeling man must say, Amen, to it. He who kills when he needs not, may not be able to kill when he does need!
Emigrants and travelers are often compelled to leave animals by the way that are weary and worn down: But when they leave them they do not relinquish their claim to them. They reluctantly abandon them because they cannot take them along. It is generally considered that animals thus found on the plains, belong to those who find them. This is a mistake. It is a custom that can only claim selfishness, bordering upon dishonesty, for its author. Animals thus found, should be taken up, if able to travel, and driven along to some settlement, and if the owner comes within reasonable time, let him have his animal or animals by paying a moderate compensation for the trouble. This is doing as one would like to be done to.
There is a Fort near the head of Grand Island, and another some three hundred miles West of it, called "Fort Laramie." These military stations are placed there, not only to keep the Indians at peace one with the other; but to protect the emigrants from Indian molestations, and to afford relief to actual sufferers. Of necessity, there is more or less stock kept at these posts, and in their vicinity and neighborhood for the use of the garrison, &c., &c. This stock is all branded with the Capitals U. S., signifying that they belong to the UNITED STATES. We are thus particular, as some foreigners who cross the plains may not know what this brand means. No emigrant should take up this stock or interfere with it on the plains, unless it has manifestly strayed from the post, and it is in your power to drive it nearer to its home than when you found it. By taking it into your charge, you become responsible for it; whereas, if you let it alone, you incur no responsibility; and if this stock is found at some distance form the Forts, the presumption is that it has been taken there by soldiers for some purposes of labor. Let this entirely alone will be the safer plan. We are thus cautious and particular upon this subject, because a yoke of oxen of this kind was taken up somewhere in the Black Hills by a man in Elder Orson Pratt's Company. We met them on "Muddy," about ten miles West of Bridger, and they informed us that they had a yoke of Government cattle, and wished to send them back. We were in no condition to take them. These cattle will probably be returned in the Spring, or a yoke equally good sent from here to replace them. Individuals, and especially Captains of trains, should be very particular respecting these things.
Another evil, merits attention here: A certain gentleman, not a member of our Church, joined Mr. Thomas S. Williams' train last summer with some two or three loads of Liquor. This liquor was sold, in part, at Fort Laramie, contrary to the laws and regulations at that Post. His property was seized and about to be confiscated for the offence; but by some plausible explanation, was allowed to pass. Thus a Mormon train got the credit or disgrace of doing that which they did not do. But Mormons should be careful as to whom they admit in their trains; and allow no one to violate any law or regulation of a Military Post established in an Indian Country for their safety and protection. It is ungrateful, besides dishonorable, selfish, and low. Let no Mormon train, henceforth, suffer any such irregularities in their midst, either by their own men or by strangers. But do all in your power to sustain, respect, and honor the laws of the nation; and particularly those that are ordained and enacted for our good and safety while crossing the plains. "Submit yourselves to the powers that be, and keep every ordinance of man for Lord's sake!"
In traveling over the plains, let every man do as he would like to be done unto; and when he gets to the place of his destination, he can look back and fancy that he hears all his associates say that he has done right; and with a peaceful conscience, a light and cheerful heart, he goes about his task, thanking and praising his Savior and his God.
It should be the study of every one also while crossing the plains of life, to so order his course, that when his setting sun sheds his last ray upon tainting and sinking nature, he may hear the consoling notes of the invisible spirit whispering in his Ear: Dying mortal, rest in hope!