There are two classes of men (discoverers by land and sea, and pioneers in new fields of tillage and commerce) who, though almost invariably distinguished
for great and good qualities, seldom realize an adequate return for their services
to their country a to mankind. The truth of this statement is confirmed by
many facts belonging to the history of the discovery and colonization of this
continent. Were we not so strongly assured of the contrary, we might suppose
that the discovery and exploration of the three greatest rivers of this continent,
and of the globe, were events certainly calculated to insure solid comfort to their
authors during the brief period of their mortal life, as well as immortal fame on
the pages of history.
What are the facts which so sternly forbid this natural supposition? Fernando de Soto was the first white man who explored the banks of the Mississippi, and saw that “father of waters’ roll beneath the boughs of the primeval forest to the sea. But only a few days after his passage of the mighty stream he had ceased to live; his body, to conceal his death from his enemies, was wrapped in his mantle, and, at the hour of midnight, was silently sunk in the middle of the current. “The wanderer,” says Mr. Bancroft, “Had crossed large portion of the continent in search of gold, and found nothing so remarkable as the place of his burial." Francisco de Orellana, striking a stream that wound itself along through the rugged passes of the Peruvian Andes, built a mere raft of green wood, launched it, and drifted with the current. Onward it bore him through plain and forest, mountain gorge and fertile valley, ever growing deeper and wider, till, at the end of seven months, and at a distance of four thousand five hundred miles, his frail and rudely constructed vessel felt the heaving, and his experienced eye surveyed the great expanse, of the Atlantic Ocean, He called the river Amazon. Marvellous was the adventure, and immortal the fame. But, ten years later, the discoverer perished in an expedition designed to locate and further explore the river, whose course he had followed from its birth in the mountains to its death in the sea.
In 1516, Juan Dias de Solis, crossing the equator, and steering boldly to the south, in the teeth of the terrific gales which sweep northward from the latitude of Cape Horn, entered what he soon perceived to be the mouth of a great river, and finding, or hoping to find, silver among its sands, called it El Rio de la Plata, But venturing ashore a few days after the discovery, he was put to death by the native savages. The explorers were in search of the precious metals, but died at the height of their career in poverty and disappointment. Posterity, however, was to reap incalculable advantage from their adventures and sufferings. Harvests of grain and cotton are now gathered in the valley of the Mississippi more valuable than the produce of the mines of Potosi. Harvests of fruit, corn, and cotton are to be gathered in the valley of the Amazon worth more than all the gold that streaks the mountains whence that river flows. And from the far-reaching plains of La Plata’s basin, supplies of meat and clothing might be drawn in quantities sufficient to meet the necessities of more than half the world. The pampas form the larger portion of that great river’s basin. Of their wool-producing capabilities, and of the extent to which they are already laid under contribution, the writer has given some-account in the report of 1864, Department of Agriculture. In the present communication his purpose is to give to agriculturists of the valleys of the north some information on the subject of horned cattle breeding on the great plains of the South American continent.
The general characteristics of the present native stock are about, the same as those of unimproved stock in this country. The principal points of difference are in the legs and horns; the legs being longer, and the horns longer and wider at the tips, than those of our native breed. Their average weight is about the same as that of our ordinary farm cattle. In a large herd almost all shades of color may be distinguished, the prevailing hues being light and dark red, and black, and dark brown. Steers frequently attain a fine size, are very symmetrical in their proportions, and when broken to the yoke and put to service are gentle in their dispositions and rapid and graceful in their motions. In regard to the qualities of the cows for the production of milk, but little can be said with certainty. On the cattle farms milk is but seldom used, and go little attention is paid to the cows that are kept by milkmen for the purpose of supplying the towns and cities, that the quantity of milk they yield cannot be taken as a fair sample of their natural capabilities. The milk itself is very rich and has an excellent flavor. The town and city traffic in that article is somewhat noteworthy. Certain police regulations are made to prevent adulteration; but they are not very effectual. Every few mornings quite a troop of milkmen’s horses may be seen in line before the door of the police officer, and after due examination, the charge of adulterating being brought home, the contents of the are condemned and confiscated. But the adulteration of milk, like the adulteration of whiskey, is found to pay so well that the rogues can afford to suffer the penalty of the Jaw quite as often as a policeman can be found sharp enough to detect and sufficiently conscientious to arraign them. It must, indeed, be rather an extreme case of milk and water to be thought grave enough to be presented tor the action of municipal authority. Hence it is worthy of note, as another peculiarity belonging to this traffic, that many of the milkmen will confess to the faces of their customers the sin of adulteration. The lachero who supplied the family of the writer, frankly acknowledged that he regularly brought three kinds of milk to market. "I have,” said he, “a double share of cream for my customers who pay me an extra price, no cream for those who pay the regular price, and milk and water for such as may not pay anything.” For reasons that will be stated in connexion with another point remaining to be noticed, no attempt has been made to improve the native stock by the cattle breeders of the pampas. This, to many, will doubtless seem strange; for, considering the facilities afforded for such an experiment by the climate and pasturage of the country, it might prove successful there beyond precedent in those countries where, by crossing and careful treatment, stock has been brought to its highest degree of perfection. If the writer mistake not, there is a handsome fortune in store for any intelligent, enterprising cattle farmer who would go to that country and invest a moderate capital in the improvement of native stock, both for domestic supply and foreign exportation.
As there are neither ditches nor fences of any kind to separate adjoining farms, each animal must be stamped with the mark of its owner, so that in case of occasional straying, or a general stampede, or other causes producing an intermixture of herds and great consequent confusion, each proprietor may distinguish and claim his own. Patterns of the various marks or brands adopted by the estancieros of a political department are preserved in the office of the comandante, with the names of the parties that use them; and to counterfeit or alter a mark is a penal offence of the same grade as forgery, or the counterfeiting of coin or of paper money.
The season of marking is one of great sport for the young men and boys and even the girls of a family. It corresponds, in its way, to the corn-huskings and quiltings that were so highly appreciated and keenly enjoyed by our grandfathers and grandmothers. The process is very simple. The cattle are driven into a large pen; a man or half grown boy mounts a horse; the Spanish saddle is fastened very strongly with stout and broad leather straps; in the central strap, about half way between the horse’s back and belly, there is an iron ring ; to this the lasso (a strong, plaited raw-hide rope) is attached; the other end is formed into a noose which the rider throws over the horns of the animal, and the horse dragging it from the herd its legs are then securely fettered, and being thrown upon its side the red-hot brand is produced and the owner’s mark is stamped indelibly upon its smoking flesh.
The catching of a single animal for domestic use frequently presents an exciting scene. The particular one desired is singled out, and perceiving itself (as by instinct it frequently does) to be the object of some dangerous design, it breaks from the herd and bounds off into the plain. The horseman, duly equipped with a lasso, clasps the spur to his steed and bears down upon the flying fugitive. Having gained a point within convenient distance, he swings the lasso several times around his head to give it momentum, and then throws the noose around the horns of his victim. This is done while horse and steer are at the top of their speed. The moment the noose lodges on the head of the steer the horse stops and wheels to receive the shock, which is often so violent that the animal is thrown headlong and bellowing to the ground. The precision with which many horsemen throw the lasso can hardly be conceived by one not familiar with the customs of that country. The Indian’s arrow or tomahawk scarcely speeds more directly to its mark. The performance is to be explained as are all the feats of human dexterity. Early training and long practice supply the horsemanship, the steady hand, and the unerring aim. The lasso is the native child’s first toy; and one of his earliest amusements is found in throwing its noose over the heads of the dogs, cats, and tame sheep that follow him about his play grounds.
Another method of catching cattle is with the bolas. This instrument is prepared in the following manner: Three round stones or iron balls, each the size of an egg, are covered with raw hide; one is fastened to each end of a forked strip of hide, about ten feet long; the third ball is secured to a strip, attached to the main one, about five feet long. The horseman takes this in his hand, and, as in the former case, pursues the animals. When he comes within easy reach of his object, he takes hold of the end of the rope, and swinging the other that has the balls attached several times around his head, throws the whole contrivance at the animal’s legs. In an instant it is entangled, and the more it endeavors to escape the more securely it is fettered till it falls. The bolas may be thrown fifty or sixty yards with certainty; and if the pursuit be rapid, the fleetness of the. horse adding force to the throw, an animal may be struck with tolerable precision at a distance of eighty or ninety yards. An ordinary herdsman, or other laborer, receives per month from twelve to twenty silver dollars. The entire estancia, with all its arrangements, is placed under the superintendence of an experienced and well tried “major-domo,” whose salary differs, according to the wealth of the proprietor and the responsibilities of the situation, from three to five hundred Spanish dollars per annum.
In killing cattle for home consumption the butchers first hamstring them and then cut their throats. In dressing them they are not suspended, but flayed on the ground. Some years ago the Buenos Ayrean city fathers prepared a slaughterhouse of the same style and conveniences as are common in other countries, but the butchers refused to occupy it, and steadfastly adhered to the old custom of hamstringing and throat-cutting in an open pen. The carcass is divided in a mode somewhat peculiar. The tenderloin is taken out and sold by itself. Beef is never weighed in market, nor even measured, except by the butcher’s eye, who acquires great exactness in subdividing the quarters of an animal so as to make the pieces suit the daily, bi-weekly, or tri-weekly demands of his customers. The beef market of the pampas was in former years probably the cheapest in the civilized world. So recently as twenty years ago an ordinary cow or heifer could be bought for one silver dollar, and a large fat steer for two dollars and a half. Now, the prices of the same animals range from eight to twenty dollars. In 1858 a piece of sirloin, weighing ten pounds, could be purchased in the market of Buenos Ayres or Montevideo for fifty cents, and in the towns of the interior for half that sum. The natives are very partial to roast beef, which they term asado; but their mode of preparing it is peculiar to themselves. They take the best roasting pieces and cut away the flesh till the rib is reduced to nearly the thinness of an ordinary sparerib of pork, according to our method of butchering. This is done to suit their mode of roasting, which is never in accordance with that which obtains in Paris, London, or New York. Instead of the oven, they still use the more primitive spit. This is a piece of iron about four feet long. It is run through the meat, and, if the meat be prepared in the open air, is stuck into the ground at such an angle as brings the meat into contact with the tip of the flame; or, if the meat be prepared in the kitchen, the spit is inclined against the chimney in about the same position. The fire is kindled with weeds or small dry faggots cut from the paradise or peach tree. As this consumes very quickly, fresh fuel is constantly supplied. When the fat of the flesh ignites and blazes, the cook seizes the spit, blows out the flame, and then returns it to its place. This is repeated till the meat is nearly done, when the spit is laid across two large bricks, and the process of cooking is completed by toasting a few minutes over the fresh coals. Meat cooked in this way is somewhat smoked and a good deal blackened, but it has a juiciness and a peculiar flavor which could not fail to commend it to the palate of a finished epicure.
Some travellers complain of the toughness of the native roast, but the writer’s experience is altogether in conflict with their statements, and his impression is that they must have fallen into the hands of a very unskillful cook, or upon the carcass of an animal that had been toughened by poverty and leanness or unusual length of days. The qualities of the beef are very superior. English residents, generally, do not esteem it; but this is owing to that intense national egotism from which few, even of travelled, Englishmen ever entirely recover. They will roundly assert that neither first-rate beef nor mutton can be found beyond the limits of the British isles. But many Americans, who have travelled extensively on both continents, consider the best pampa beef fully equal, if not a little superior, to the best beef ever brought to an English market. It has not the same amount of fat, nor is the fat so thoroughly distributed through the lean portions of the carcass, but it is sufficiently fat to meet the demand of any delicate and well-educated palate. The tissues are so fine as to render the flesh peculiarly tender, and, when cooked, it has a flavor akin to that which distinguishes the flesh of the wild duck from that of the flock which is hatched in the poultry house, and reared in the barn-yard. It is also very easily digested. A feeble, dyspeptic stomach may take as much as the appetite of a hungry man will ever crave and not be oppressed by the indulgence. Pampa beef, as well as pampa air, might safely be prescribed for all invalids suffering from dyspepsia, and assailed by its veteran ranks of horrors and blue devils.
An establishment for preparing this is called a "saladero”—literally, salting tub. The mode of slaughtering the cattle and preparing the beef is very simple. As in the ease of “marking,” the herd is driven into a large pen. A man or boy, with a lasso attached to his saddle girth, throws the noose around the horns of the animal. The lasso traverses a pulley, suspended from a cross-beam resting on two strong upright posts. The horse draws the head of the animal directly up to the beam where a man or boy sits with a long knife. The moment the head touches the beam the knife severs the spinal cord just back of the horns, and the animal drops on a movable platform which runs on a tramway, and is immediately drawn out of the pen by hand and placed under an open shed, where two men, without hanging the carcass, quickly flay it right and left; two others take out the intestines, cut off the head, divide the trunk into four quarters, hang them on hooks, cut them in slices, throw them into a handbarrow, and, while one wheels off the flesh to be salted, another conveys the hide, bones, horns, and tallow to their appropriate places. In the salting shed is a large tank filled with strong pickle. ‘The slices are deposited in this for a short time, in order to wash them from all blood. They are then hooked out and packed under the shed. in alternate layers of meat and salt. The slices take sufficient salt in about a week. They are then removed to another part of the shed, turned, and piled again. This moving and piling is repeated several times. The meat is then hung on poles in the sun for a few days, when it is again piled for the last time, and looks in this, its last stage of preparation, in the separate pieces, very much like codfish or sole leather; and, in the aggregate pile, very much like a stack of cornhusks that has stood the storms of a New England winter.
And now, perhaps, the reader is ready to inquire whether, in its finished condition, it is a savory article of food. In reply, he may be reminded, in general terms, that taste is almost altogether a matter of education. At first, but very few persons relish tomatoes; and yet there is scarcely any one who does not learn to esteem them as one of the most delicious of all vegetables. Codfish, to an uncivilized palate, is at first about as agreeable as would be fine splints of pine board steeped in fermented and half putrid brine. Yet the civilized Yankees esteem codfish a dish worthy to be set before a king. Tobacco stands among the very first articles on the long and varied list of human luxuries. But who does not remember the retching that followed the first chew, or the first cigar? On the same principle we should not be surprised to learn that jerked beef is highly esteemed where it has been longest and most generally used. The people that manufacture it, however, will not eat it at all. It is mostly exported to Cuba and Brazil, and is appropriated to the use of the negroes who cultivate the sugar and coffee plantations.
Cattle are in best condition in March, which is the first month of autumn in that hemisphere. The principal killing season is from November to March. But most of the saladeros are continued in moderate operation all the year round. These establishments for the manufacture of jerked beef were first founded in 1815, and were among the first fruits of the immigration that flowed into the country immediately upon the achievement of its independence. During the first few years of their existence, it was rarely the case that as many as a hundred animals were slaughtered at one establishment in a single day. Now, there are, probably, nearly a hundred such establishments, at each of which are siaughtered from two to four hundred head per day.
The cost of a saladero capable of slaughtering four hundred head per day would be scarcely less than thirty thousand dollars. Take four men, skilled in such labors, and in fifteen minutes by the watch they will convert a living animal, standing in the pen; into jerked beef, salted in the common pile. The writer has measured the process, watch in hand, and is satisfied that four such workmen will average an animal to every fifteen minutes during the working hours of the day.
Dried hides are from cattle that are killed for domestic consumption. The drying of them is rather a tedious operation, and one that require a good deal of care. Those intended for German and English markets are stretched length- wise only, by which the hide acquires a much greater thickness than it would if stretched both ways. As many as twenty-four or twenty-six stakes are used for fastening the extremities of the hide to the ground. The dry hides designed for Spain, and other markets requiring thin leather, are staked so as to stretch them both laterally and longitudinally as. much as possible. Hides shipped to Liverpool and Antwerp are generally twenty per cent heavier than those intended for other ports; and those which are sent to the Spanish markets are said to be ten per cent better in quality. Salt hides are first steeped in brine, then washed, and after the washing are packed away in alternate layers of hide and salt. Thus prepared they will keep well for at least one year after being taken from the salt. As to the quality of the pampa hides, it may safely be affirmed that better are not known to the commerce of the world. They may owe some of their superior qualities to the climate, some to the pasture, but the principal reason for their superiority is, that the breed of cattle have never been improved. The finer the animal, the thinner and less valuable the general qualities of the hide. This is mainly the reason why the most enterprising estancieros of the south have made no attempt to improve the native breed of cattle. What would be gained in flesh and tallow they think would be lost in hide and labor; and probably they are not wrong in this opinion.
Every part of an animal is made available—horns, hoofs, hair, bones, and tallow, as well as the flesh and hide. The tallow is one of the most important items belonging to the general traffic. As soon as the flesh is sliced from the carcass, the bones and fat are deposited in vats, in alternate layers, for the purpose of being steamed. ‘The bones are so arranged as to leave apertures through which the steam may quickly penetrate. ‘The door of the vat is then closed, and the steam turned on. In twelve hours or more, according to the size of the vat, the liquid is drawn off by means of a brass tap. The condensed steam, in the form of a greasy liquid, is discharged first, and afterwards the liquid tallow, which is received in tubs, and thence conveyed to a large cast-iron boiler, in which it is purified. From the purifying boiler the tallow is conveyed through a shoot into a large iron tank, where it is allowed to cool down. After this it is drawn off into casks, and is then ready for shipment. Steaming for the purpose of extracting tallow was commenced about thirty-five years ago, and the process has undergone great improvement. The general arrangements necessary for steaming are quite expensive. A saladero, costing thirty thousand dollars, would require a steaming apparatus that would cost, at least, one-half that sum.
Cattle are always paid for in cash. The risk of delivery is with the purchaser, as stock is invariably bought as it stands on the farm. ‘There is a class of professional drovers in the country. Unlike the same class in this country, however, they are not proprietors, but are simply hired by the purchasers to convey their droves to market.
One capitaz (chief drover) with four or five assistants will convey to market a herd of five or six hundred head. The price per head for this service ranges from twenty-five to seventy-five cents, according to the distance. When taken from their accustomed pasture grounds, cattle are somewhat restive and disposed to scatter. When any special causes of disturbance occur many are lost—in a few instances whole droves have broken away from their drivers and dispersed in the plains beyond chance of recovery. While en route for market, the custom is to halt for the night on some spot where the feeding is good. The drovers sleep and ride round the herd by turns. On stormy nights it is particularly difficult to keep the herd together, and whenever a general stampede occurs it is usually at such times, Cattle in good condition will stand driving twenty-five miles per day without injury. If pushed beyond this, the effect is very perceptible in what is called “tired beef.” Cattle once delivered, either at the city markets or the saladeros, receive no further attention; and when the supply is large animals are allowed to remain in the pens for a week without a blade of grass or a drop of water. If they do not starve long enough to produce shrinkage of flesh, the proprietors do not care for the sufferings of the poor beasts.
Excepting live stock, the produce of the country is offered for sale in a public plaza or market-place. Sometimes the farmers themselves act as their own salesmen, but the general usage is to employ a broker. The broker is styled a barraquero, and his warehouse a barraca. When a mercantile house wishes to obtain hides, wool, or other produce of the country, a barraquero is employed to attend the sales in the plaza and make the purchase. The articles are then conveyed to his barraca. If it be wool, it is packed (or- baled, rather) with a hydraulic press. Hides are simply stored in piles; and at the proper time the barraquero attends to the shipment of the cargo. The merchant has only to provide the money and keep the accounts, and the broker, for the entire cost and trouble of his agency, charges only one per cent. on the sum total of the exportation. It will readily be perceived from these facts that the barraca business is one of the most important branches of the general trade of the country. It is pretty equally shared by natives and foreigners. Some very sharp men are engaged therein. They can tell all about a hide when it is yet warm and whole on the back of the steer; or what the quality of a fleece is, and how many pounds it contains before the shears have touched it. While passing through the plaza, observing without being observed, the writer has often been reminded of the accuracy of the Jerseyman’s eye and judgment, by which he correctly estimates how many square feet of ship timber or how many cords of wood there are in a standing tree.
The extent and importance of this will appear from a single statement. During one year the produce of five hundred and sixty-two thousand head of cattle was shipped at the port of Montevideo alone. That city is the capital and chief port of the republic of Uruguay. And something of the great wealth of that state, in horned cattle, may be inferred from such an annual shipment, especially when it is considered that the revolutionary has become its chronic and prevailing condition. he total number of hides exported from the river Plate and the Rio Grande for one year was one million five hundred and eighty thousand ; another year, one million six hundred and fifty thousand. The amounts included in this statement are nearly all the product of the great pampa lands lying on the eastern and western shores of the river Plate and its tributaries.
A brief allusion was made to this subject in the article on "Sheep farming in the pampas,” and as it is a matter which affects still more vitally the interests of cattle farming, some facts, additional and more definite, with regard to it will probably not be deemed out of place in the present essay. The greater part of the territory is a pampa which lies between the western banks of the Plate, Parana, and Paraguay rivers and the spurs of the Andes mountains. To its topography, either special or general, no allusion need be made, except so far as may be proper for the illustration of the point in hand. Through this generally flat (and occasionally slightly undulating) country there are two great highways. One of these connects the state of Buenos Ayres with the states of San Louis and Mendoza, and from the last named with Chile, via the passes of the Cordilleras of the Andes. The other connects Buenos Ayres with Cordoba, Santiago, Tucuman, Salta, Jujuy, and thence with Chiquisaca, Cochabamba, and La Paz, in Bolivia. By the first, from Buenos Ayres wa Mendoza to Santiago de Chili, the distance is four hundred and twenty-five Spanish leagues—a league being nearly equal to four English miles. By the second, from Buenos Ayres to Laquiaca, (the connecting point between the Argentine confederation and the Bolivian republic,) the distance is five hundred and twenty-eight leagues. Until recently the only means of transit between the river and the interior on these two roads was by bullock carts, manufactured principally in the province of Tucuman. The structure and general appearance of this vehicle carries the mind back to a very remote antiquity and a very primitive civilization. It is made of timber almost as hard and heavy as iron, and has, perhaps, not one pound of that metal in its entire framework. There are neither iron boxes for the axles, nor iron tires for the wheels, nor iron bolts for the tongue, nor iron nails for the body. All is of the close-grained, hard, heavy wood which flanks the streams that form the headwaters of La Plata. The wheels are very large in circumference, for the purpose of fording streams. The hub, rim, and spokes are large and clumsy, and the wheel, when complete, looks as though it might have been formed to turn a grist-mill or propel a steamboat. The frame of the cover is of reeds, and the cover itself of straw or stout painted canvas. Six yokes of oxen are attached to a cart, and six more accompany it as a relay. The oxen draw by the horns. From the top of the cart cover several steel-pointed goads are suspended, some short, to quicken the memories of the oxen near at hand, and others long, to reach for the same purpose the remote advance. The journey is made in caravan, each consisting of fourteen carts and thirty drivers. Strange to say, the axles are never lubricated, either with tar, grease, or any other preparation; and speaking within the bounds of moderation, it may be said that the creaking can be heard in the still air of the pampas for a distance of at least five miles. A cart will convey a load weighing from thirty-five hundred to four thousand pounds.
The period for setting out from the upper provinces is in April or May, when the lowlands are dry and the streams shallow. The families of the drivers frequently accompany the caravan, taking their dogs, cats, parrots, goats, and other household pets; and the proprietors often do the same, taking their families in separate vehicles, and bringing with the carriages a troop of horses, so as to enjoy the variety of riding (as they express it, “en coche y á caballo”) in coaches and on horseback. The caravan proper and its numerous attendants form quite a community; and for any one not in a hurry (and these people never are) the journey affords many very agreeable sources of entertainment. There is no lack of good things to eat. A fat sheep or a fine young heifer may be bought for a song. Bags of hard biscuit are stored away among bundles of hides and bales of wool. Máte (Paraguayan tea) is provided in abundance, and for a very old and a very hard-headed trader, occasionally something a little stronger. The Sabbath is not recognized; but rest is indulged whenever it seems needful for man or beast. When the moon is at her full the caravan moves through’ the night as well as the day. And, as the natives are all fond of music, and have a passion for dancing, the guitar and the dance are resorted to for the entertainment of the company through most of the pleasant evenings of the long journey, This is the bright side. These are the sweet ingredients to be tasted in that primitive cup of trade.
But there are also many difficulties which breed their moments of vexation and bitterness. Unexpected rains deluge the lowlands and swell the crawling streams to rushing torrents. At such times the tracts of swamp lands are so extensive that they cannot be passed in a day, and the wearied bullocks are required to stand all night up to their bellies in water. The women, children, goats, dogs, cats, parrots, and monkeys must be stowed away in the carts, each of which is filled like Noah’s ark, but can hardly be supposed to have that famous vessel’s good order and harmony within. The streams have no bridges, and swollen to the size of rivers, either the carts must be unloaded, and their living and dead cargoes ferried over on rafts of raw hide, or the caravan must halt for days on their wet banks till the turbid streams subside. At best the carts must be unloaded and loaded three times—twice in Santiago, and once in Tucuman. The journey is necessarily tedious when shorn of its most disagreeable causes of delay, the round trip from Salta to Buenos Ayres (fifteen or sixteen hundred miles) requiring one whole year. The expenses of this mode of transit are also very great. The cost of transportation and the duties to different provinces through which the caravan must pass amount to not less than one hundred silver dollars per ton; and as the carts are laden chiefly with hides, wool, hair—articles of large bulk in proportion to their value—the carriage alone must add forty or fifty per cent. to the original cost.
The introduction, of late years, of a few small steamers on the Parana river has somewhat lessened these difficulties. But the points of embarkation on that river are so distant from all the western and northwestern provinces of the pampa country, that the ancient bullock train must, to connect with,the wooden steamboat, still wind its tedious way through hundreds of weary miles. It will be readily perceived what heavy reduction must be made from the value of interior produce when it finds its outlet by such a mode of transit. And, on the other hand, the prices paid for manufactured goods, and all articles of taste and luxury in those interior portions of the southern continent, must be so enormous that only the most wealthy can avail themselves of them. The gentle mestiza of San Juan or Santiago del Estero must pay a round sum for the silk handkerchief which she twines about her dark tresses and for the light shawl which she draws loosely about her delicate shoulders, for festivities of a wedding or the ceremonies of a feast day.
Railroads, with their cheap transportation, are things which belong to thickly populated territories and an advanced civilization. Not till men are thus multiplied can the iron steam-horse take the place of the sturdy bullock and the patient camel. Whether the far-stretching and beautiful plains of the south will, ere long, be so stocked with enterprising men as to reap the advantages of modern progress, may well be made a question.
Great Britain has rich and vast fields for colonization. The Orient invites her merchants, and, with them, the merchants of other nations. Australia is rich in precious metals, and offers every inducement to the pursuits of agriculture.
THE RIVER AND THE CITY.
Pastoral life has ever been much the same. The South American estanciero, who is rich in broad tracts of land and vast herds of cattle, has many features of character in common with pastoral chiefs and princes in the old countries of the east, and many of their social customs bear a strict resemblance. So, likewise, the ordinary quarter or half breed herdsman of the pampas has much in common with the herdsmen who pitch their black tents and roam with their flocks in the wilds of Arabia and Tartary. These two classes may be said to constitute the whole of the native population of the pampas. With sheep, as has been already intimated, they have but little to do, their time being almost entirely occupied with attention to horned cattle. The native proprietors owning large estates seldom reside on them during the year more than the last two months of summer. They commit the entire management to a trusty major-domo, and establish themselves in the cities and large towns, where their children can have the advantage of schools and society, and they themselves can gossip with their neighbors, lounge at the cafés, frequent the opera and the play, indulge their predilection for gaming, and, on high and solemn days, attend church to ogle the ladies, criticize the music, and stare at the performance. The rich proprietor is a gentleman of polished manners, and is never seen on the street, at church, theatre, or elsewhere with any marks of carelessness to mar his personal appearance, or anything appertaining to his costume unworthy of his character and social position. He keeps a handsome carriage and a pair of horses, round, sleek, and grave in their attitudes and motions as the Pope’s mule. In this the sefiora, with two of his grown daughters, or a trio of the younger children, rides out on pleasant days after the five o’clock dinner. His house is richly furnished, and stocked with servants in sufficient numbers to divide the work into small departments and make it easy. The table is supplied with a plenteous variety of rich viands. The cooks are trained to remember the national taste for garlic. The wines are of respectable age and excellent flavor; and, what is much to the praise of the master and his household, are always imbibed in strict moderation. If there be extravagance anywhere, it is in the dress of the family. Here the old Spaniard’s love of display marks his American descendant, and finds its utmost gratification. Even children that are still dependent on the care of their nurses are tricked out in laces, velvets, and embroidery of silver and gold. The estate which supports this style came by a long inheritance, or a short confiscation, which was one of the results of some period of bloody civil strife. It cost the proprietor nothing. Its management occasions him little, if any, annoyance or solicitude, and he spends its proceeds just as easily as they flow into his coffers. Such, in brief, is the rich Spanish-American cattle farmer or estanciero. If it be the true philosophy of life to eat and drink and die to-morrow, then is he a great philosopher and a happy man.
The second class deserving notice in any view of country life in the pampas consists of small proprietors of land and herds, small renters of land and owners of a few cattle, and the laborers who assist in the general work of the farms. It will be observed that what seems to be three classes are here specified in one. The distinction, however, relates more to small degrees of difference as to wealth than to any difference in the character and appearance of the parties themselves. In their modes of thinking and ways of life, the small landed proprietor, the small land renter, and the common day laborer, are substantially the same. They are alike distinguished in that country by the term "gaucho." This is the term applied to them by the large proprietors and the wealthy and educated classes of the cities and towns. The term itself is an architectural one, and is used in the Spanish language to denote unlevel superficies. In its application to persons, therefore, it may be understood to signify rough, unpolished mental character, and irregular, wandering, semi-savage habits and customs. The house in which the gaucho lives, if he can be said to live in a house at all, is called a rancho, a term familiar to American ears since the war with Mexico and the settlement of California. The gaucho’s rancho is the same thing as the Englishman’s hut, or the Irishman’s shanty. Its four corner posts are simple stakes driven into the ground. Its rafters and general framework are stalks of the aloe or the cane. Its sides and ends are plastered with mud, its floor is the common earth, and its roof is thatched with paja, a species of reed that is found in the low grounds and on the edges of ponds and streams throughout the pampas. It is not usually divided into separate compartments. The furniture is almost as rude as that of an Indian’s wigwam. In one end are stakes driven into the ground, on which a cow-hide is stretched, forming the bed of the family. A rough wooden stool, or the skeleton of a horse’s head, forms the only chair. An iron pot and a few tin pans and drinking vessels complete the sum total of the household goods and chattels. Of course, there is no very great amount of work to be done under the roof of such a primitive establishment. Where is nothing to eat but beef and pumpkin. The cooking is, therefore, merely a trifle. There is not much to wash and iron, because children in that mild climate are not much addicted to clothing, and the costume of adults, except when tricked out for a visit or a holiday, is reduced to the plainest style and the smallest quantity. The pampas señora’s gala dress consists of white camisa, white stockings, plain kid shoes or black lasting gaiters, a fringed silk handkerchief or bright shawl for the head, and a gown of bright-colored silk or cotton. In describing the costume of the gaucho it will be proper to include the trappings of his horse, which, like the Arab, he makes his constant companion, but which he never regards with the Arab’s gratitude and affectionate consideration. The saddle consists of a wooden frame, over which are strapped woollen blankets of various colors. Thus composed, it forms an agreeable seat for the long journey of the day, and a comfortable, bed when the halt is ordered for the night. The stirrup straps are made long, and the stirrup itself so small as to admit only the great toe. The bridle is of finely plaited raw-hide, and is frequently richly ornamented with silver. An unornamented bridle may be regarded as a mark of extreme poverty, and a ragged one as proof of uncommon laziness and degradation. And in this connexion it may be proper to remark that the pampa horseman never curbs the neck of his steed, but rides with along rein. 'This partly accounts for the fact that the pampa horse is remarkably sure-footed, and makes a long journey with but little appearance of fatigue—galloping with case to himself fifty miles in five consecutive hours.
If the gaucho be something of a “paquete” (or dandy) in his tastes, his style of dress is both picturesque and pleasing. His full costume in such a case consists of red cloth cap with tassels, close-fitting jacket of cloth, woollen flannel or merino, plaited on the shoulders with large flowing sleeves, resembling altogether the tightly drawn bodice of a fashionable lady. What is called in Spanish a "chiripa,” usually made of some gaily striped woollen, is wound round the thighs, and fastened over the hips with a girdle, called a “teridor.” These, with white cotton drawers, usually fringed at the ankle to at least the depth of twelve inches, and “botas de potro”—colt’s-hide boots—constitute the gaucho’s cout ensemble. The chiripa is usually selected with some care, but the country dandy’s highest taste is expended upon the teridor or girdle around his waist. ‘This is almost invariably adorned with Spanish silver dollars or gold doubloons, worn as buttons where there are holes for them, and simply as ornaments where there are none. Frequently both buttons and ornaments are of pure gold. The writer remembers one of these country paguetes, who came into town on some business with one of the American merchants, and had on his teridor sixteen gold doubloons, which, converted into United States hard currency, would amount to two hundred and fifty-six dollars. So the reader will perceive that semi-barbarous as well as civilized life has its expensive tastes to be gratified. In this particular case the gaucho’s teridor would purchase complete the toilette of the American belle, provided she would forego Brussels laces, Italian crapes, India cashmeres, and would set a dandy on his feet in Chesnut street or Broadway, in full attire, with some loose change in his pocket for the opera or the play.
The gaucho, whether dandified or plain, is a gentleman of leisure. If he be only a herdsman he has but little to engage his thoughts or tax his energies. If he be the owner of a herd, so much the better for that love of idleness which is one of his ruling passions. His establishment does not cost him a moment's care. A boy, mounted on an old horse, with a piece of broiled beef in his pocket and a jug of water within convenient reach, rides round the cattle during the day to keep them within the owner’s unfenced domain, to see that some honest neighbor does not mistake them for his own property, and to drive them up to the rodes at sundown. To the proprietor, therefore, the boys and their herds furnish merely incidental occupation. The climate and soil are favorable to the cultivation of all kinds of vegetables, but he has no garden. The most delicious fruits might be produced, but he has neither trees nor vines. His herd would afford him milk and butter, but he does not drink a gill of milk in a round year on his own farm, nor eat an ounce of butter in a lifetime. The sapallo, or pumpkin, which he takes with his meat, grows like a gourd, wildly and without attention; but frequently he is even too indolent to put himself to the trouble of digging a hole and dropping the seed in, and rather than do so buys his pumpkin of some foreign immigrant or more industrious brother native. He will pay some little attention to his favorite horse, and that is about the sum of his industry and the extent of his cares in this world. As for the next he knows precious little about it, and cares still less. His serious life-long occupation consists of racing horses and gambling with his neighbors. And as he can neither read nor write, and is not obliged to labor, his passion for these pastimes is no matter of surprise. The larger portion of the proceeds of his cattle is squandered in this wretched way. As in the case of his brethren of the blackleg profession, in more civilized communities, his good fortune to-day beggars him to-morrow. The more rapid his losses, the more desperate he becomes. At such moments he will not only stake his last dollar, but his horse and trappings, the clothes on his back, and (more than this) he will even put to the hazard the concubine in his rancho, or stake his own body and soul, pledging himself to remain in confinement till some friend can ransom him by paying the required sum. Such constant and desperate playing might be expected to lead to violent quarrels, and even to bloodshed and death. Quarrels do frequently attend their play, but violence and death not often. Every gaucho carries a knife in his girdle, and the enraged player will draw and strike in the first moments of his passion, but parties interfere, he quickly cools down and is easily pacified.
An extended and detailed sketch of the native pastoral life of the pampas would be out of place in the present article. If it were otherwise, and were such a sketch faithfully drawn, it would seriously shock the feelings. of those Who know pastoral life only from romancing books of travel or poetic descriptions. Poets, of all living men—aye, even more than successful politicians or popular preachers—need a very wide margin. The writer knows not that he has ever been able to conceive so clear an idea of the exquisite taste and fertile ingenuity, the illimitable skill and exhaustless invention of the human soul, as when reading descriptions of pastoral life in poetic numbers or romantic prose. It is no matter of wonder that the faculties which first made pastoral life a thing of beauty afterwards invented the telescope, the quadrant, the printing press, the steamboat, the rail car, and the magnetic wire. It may be a misfortune to be destitute of that wonderful faculty which can clothe with beauty the meanest clod. But it is as surely an inestimable blessing to be endowed with that plain common sense which paints the world and men, if it may be said to paint anything, just as they live and move. And the writer would respectfully inquire of any brother of the fraternities of romantic travellers and pastoral poets; whether fleas do not abound in pastoral countries, and whether pastoral maidens were found in Swiss hats, buff skirts, kid shoes, streaming ribbons, crook in hand, seated on a flowery bank, while gentle streams went murmuring at their feet; or, half naked and besmeared with filth, they sat on the shady side of a leaking, smoky, and dirty cabin, busily employed at plucking the vermin ‘out of each other’s long, greasy, tangled hair?
The religion of the pampas is, in the native mind, a thing of vague, superstitious tradition. In the remote districts the population is so sparse and so widely scattered that it would be difficult to provide church accommodation in localities that would insure attendance. The souls that live thus secluded from the great highways of southern life are but little cared for, and are consequently acquainted only with the most simple rudiments of the national faith and worship. The cross as a symbol, the evening hymn to the Virgin, the brief prayer for protection and blessing to the patron saint, form the principal marks of distinction between the religious customs of these Christians, these mixed descendants of the Spanish conquerors, and those of their Indian neighbors of the Grand Chaco and the Patagonian wilds. Their moral habits are simply what might be expected from their rude condition and non-intercourse with classes whose education produces a better example. Far out in the plains marriage is the exception, and polygamy prevails without disgrace or even censure from the lips of either sex. It is, in brief, a state of society in which are to be found many of the vices of civilization, and but few of its virtues.