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Tom Marshall's The Burro '03


THAT spiritualism and its attendant practices have been the cause of many strange occurrences among its circle of devotees goes without saying, but it might be well to call to mind its evident spread during the last few years, especially among the inhabitants of the western States and Territories. An article in one of our papers of a late date brings this before us very forcibly and at the same time reminds me of an incident of my last summer's visit to a community which numbers among its residents several zealots of this visionary cult.

It so happened that during my three months' stay there that two spiritualistic mediums, a man and his wife, were visiting an old gentleman who, for almost fifty years, had been a dweller within the confines of this valley. He was an ardent believer in the spirits and in their custom of appearing to the devout through the aid of the medium and his arts.

As we happened to be very good friends he invited me several times to attend a "spirit walk" and in this way to banish the feeling of skepticism that I had confessed to harbour. For some reason or another I did not feel it to be of enough importance to attend so gave it very little thought But one evening, early in September, as I happened to be strolling by his place on the river I saw him, together with the medium and a few believers, gathered out upon the porch, which commanded a view of the river beneath. They were waiting for supper which the servant was preparing and appeared to be very much interested in some subject which I did not know. As soon as he saw me the old gentleman called out and gave me a very cordial invitation to take the evening meal with them. And as I had nothing of importance to attend to I accepted with thanks.

As soon as the meal was prepared we took our places about the table and began to eat. It appears that before I had arrived, the conversation had been bearing on spiritualism and it was soon taken up again. As I was unfamiliar with the topic I had little to say upon it and one of the guests, noticing my silence, took occasion to ask of me my feelings regarding the subject under discussion. I told him that as yet I was somewhat skeptical but would like to see and know more about spiritualism before forming an opinion. In saying this it was my intention to bring about a seance and it succeeded for as he heard my remarks the old gentleman asked the mediums for a manifestation of the spirits and powers of the air that would rid me of my unbelief. At first the mediums were very reluctant but after questioning me to considerable extent and thinking, probably, that I would prove to be an easy subject, they assented and said that if all of the party would consent to join the circle they would make an effort to hold a sitting and bring from the spirits some manifestation of their presence.

So accordingly we seated ourselves about the table and prepared for what was to come. As usual the room was darkened and all prepared their minds for the experiment. The medium informed me that in order to see or hear the disembodied spirits I must first bring myself to believe implicitly that such a thing could be brought about. So the seance went on and one by one those seated about the little round table were put in touch with those of the spirit land and held communion with them. As for myself, I could not hear any spirit voices nor could I feel the touch of spirit hands. But of all the circle I was the only one to whom this was denied for I was an unbeliever and it was to this fact, in all probability, that I owe my disappointment. The party broke up at a late hour and we departed to our several homes. I had the good fortune to be accompanied on my way by one of the guests that, earlier in the evening, had attracted me a great deal. He was an old man of imposing appearance who had come to the west when a mere boy but his parents and relatives had remained at the old home in Boston. Possessed of a magnificent mind and of an admirable command of the English language he attracted one instinctively. He had been educated for the ministry in some eastern college but the spirit of unrest that boiled in his veins gave him to know that he was not following his calling so he changed all of his plans and, strongly against the wishes of his parents, started westward. This was in the early '60's and he had the usual number of skirmishes with the Indians and bushwackers before he reached the Rio Grande. Here the most of his party remained while he left them and pushed on alone into Arizona where he took up the life of a prospector and miner.

To give in detail all of his experiences would take much time but as he unfolded to me the history of his youth among Arizona's grand old mountains and canyons he presented an impressive picture. His six feet of strong manhood was crowned by a head of hair almost snowy in whiteness. His eyes sparkled as he told of the life and action of his younger days and dimmed as he recalled those of his comrades who had gone from him. Never before had I listened to such a speaker or to one who had such a master's power of description. He became enthused with his subject and I listened in a spell. I could almost see the busy turmoil of the days when the mines were running in full blast and prosperity and lawfulness - strange companions these - reigned. He told of the rise and fall -of his fortunes and of his intended departure for his eastern home. Several times before this he had been on the verge of departure but he had promised his parents that he would never return until be could return with a "stake."

I asked him what his prospects were at the present time and he told me that he had a mine in the eastern side of the Harqua Hala range which he was developing. He went on to explain that he had driven a tunnel into the mountain side for nearly four hundred feet and expected soon to strike the ]edge which was composed of quartz bearing great gold values. I asked him to relate his story of its discovery and after a short pause he consented. He had first explained to me that the ledge had no outcrop whatever and when I asked him to tell me now he knew of its location be seemed rather reluctant at first but at last went on.

It seems that several years ago a spiritualist had visited him at his camp on the river and tried to bring him to the mystic faith. At first he scorned the idea but finally he gave way and consented to be present at a demonstration of spiritual power, "It was," he said "such a convincing proof" that he became a firm believer in the principles of spiritualism and came to be so proficient in the science as to be able to hold communication with the spirit world. And so, one night, as he was out under the open sky sleeping soundly something came to him from out of the air and drew him a picture of the country where he might find enormous wealth providing he would prove faithful and willing, and give with the picture such a vivid description that he could not fail to locate the place. All at once the phantom vanished with these words, "And after cutting through seven ledges which are of porphry and granite in alteration, if you shall still have faith you will find before you the object of your life search."

The dream or vision made such an impression upon him that he arose immediately and without waiting for daylight went out and found his burros, filled his canteen with water and started out just as dawn was breaking over the eastern hills. The country into which he was traveling was entirely unknown to him and the road to it ran through mile after mile of white barren desert. But he never faltered and pushed on until ne found the place of his dreams. And there he halted and began work. As long as his provisions lasted all went well but at last they ran short and he was forced to return to the settlements for more.

And from that time on he worked, little by little, upon his tunnel until his task was almost completed. Five of the seven ledges were out through and were behind him, perfectly barren they were but his faith never wavered. He was forced to work alone for the voice of his vision prohibited a companion. Think of the faith that will impel a man to work like that; to travel alone over such a desert; to risk death in a thousand ways for the sake of a vision. Truly it is remarkable.

As the old man finished his narrative we had neared home and finally seated ourselves upon the chairs on the piazza. The night was a beautiful one and it was nearing another day as he arose to go. He intended, he said, to start out in a few days for his mine and seemed quite elated to think that his task was almost completed. "When you see me again," he continued, "I will be happy in having finished my work and will be in a position to return home." At mention of the word home his eyes lighted up with joy at the thought of his loved ones from whom he had been parted for so long and I had to close my own to drive away the tears that threatened to fill them. I bade him good night and Godspeed and that was the last time that I ever saw him.

Two months later I heard, through some friends, that his body had been found where he had camped on his way to the mine. He was buried there. It was as he had wished I knew for he had often dwelt upon his love for "God's mountains and plains" as he called them, and asked that his grave might be among them. And so it was. It is out on the plains in the midst of God's solicitude and peace that he loved so well. He will rest as he wished to. Overhead the mighty constellations of the heavens circle by in their silvery splendor while o'er the earth below the silence of a desert night reigns in grim majesty with all the power of an undisputed monarch. And over all droops the eternal silence of this land, the silence that is oblivion and that will slowly madden the sullen sheep herder or prospector who lives alone with it too long.

Against the bright sky line of the east the giant form of Vulture's pinnacle is thrown out in sharp relief while around her base lie clustered the little group, of hills, that as Ki Nuvii's legend tells us, "have fled to her for refuge from the pursuing mountain god, Kleet-ti who would punish them for their disobedience of ages past. In the midst of it all the old man sleeps for the last time among the grand paintings of nature that he loved so well.

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