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The White Chief A Legend of Northern Mexico   By: (1818-1883)

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The White Chief, A Legend of Northern Mexico, by Captain Mayne Reid.

An exciting and well written book by Mayne Reid based on his experiences during the war between America and Mexico in the 1840s. Reid took the title of "Captain" because that was what his men called him during that war, although he was never promoted to that rank.

The importance of Reid's books with this background is that they were among the first in the Wild West genre.



Deep in the interior of the American Continent more than a thousand miles from the shores of any sea lies our scene.

Climb with me yonder mountain, and let us look from its summit of snow.

We have reached its highest ridge. What do we behold?

On the north a chaos of mountains, that continues on through thirty parallels to the shores of the Arctic Sea! On the south, the same mountains, here running in separate sierras, and there knotting with each other. On the west, mountains again, profiled along the sky, and alternating with broad tables that stretch between their bases.

Now turn we around, and look eastward. Not a mountain to be seen! Far as the eye can reach, and a thousand miles farther, not a mountain. Yonder dark line rising above the plain is but the rocky brow of another plain a steppe of higher elevation.

Where are we? On what summit are we standing? On the Sierra Blanca, known to the hunter as the "Spanish Peaks." We are upon the western rim of the Grand Prairie .

Looking eastward, the eye discovers no signs of civilisation. There are none within a month's journeying. North and south, mountains, mountains.

Westward, it is different. Through the telescope we can see cultivated fields afar off, a mere strip along the banks of a shining river. Those are the settlements of Nuevo Mexico, an oasis irrigated by the Rio del Norte. The scene of our story lies not there.

Face once more to the eastward, and you have it before you. The mountain upon which we stand has its base upon a level plain that expands far to the east. There are no foot hills. The plain and the mountain touch, and at a single step you pass from the naked turf of the one to the rocky and pine clad declivities of the other.

The aspect of the plain is varied. In some places it is green, where the gramma grass has formed a sward; but in most parts it is sterile as the Sahara. Here it appears brown, where the sun parched earth is bare; there it is of a sandy, yellowish hue; and yonder the salt effervescence renders it as white as the snow upon which we stand.

The scant vegetation clothes it not in a livery of verdure. The leaves of the agave are mottled with scarlet, and the dull green of the cactus is still further obscured by its thickly set spines. The blades of the yuccas are dimmed by dust, and resemble clusters of half rusty bayonets; and the low scrubby copses of acacia scarce offer a shade to the dusky agama and the ground rattlesnake. Here and there a solitary palmetto, with branchless stem and tufted crown, gives an African aspect to the scene. The eye soon tires of a landscape where every object appears angular and thorny; and upon this plain, not only are the trees of that character, but the plants, even the very grass carries its thorns!

With what sensations of pleasure we turn to gaze into a lovely valley, trending eastward from the base of the mountain! What a contrast to the arid plain! Its surface is covered with a carpet of bright green, enamelled by flowers that gleam like many coloured gems; while the cotton wood, the wild china tree, the live oak, and the willow, mingle their foliage in soft shady groves that seem to invite us. Let us descend!

We have reached the plain, yet the valley is still far beneath us a thousand feet at the least but, from a promontory of the bluff projecting over it, we command a view of its entire surface to the distance of many miles... Continue reading book >>

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