From Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada
By Clarence King
Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1872

AFTER trying hard to climb Mount Whitney without success, and having returned to the plains, I enjoyed my two days' rest in hot Visalia . . . Everybody was of interest to me, not excepting the two Mexican mountaineers who monopolized the agent at Wells, Fargo & Co.'s office, causing me delay. They were transacting some little item of business, and stood loafing by the counter, mechanically jingling huge spurs and shrugging their shoulders as they chatted in a dull, sleepy way. At the door they paused, keeping up quite a lively dispute, without apparently noticing me as I drew a small bag of gold and put it in my pocket. There was no especial reason why I should remark the stolid, brutal cast of their countenances, as I thought them not worse than the average Californian greaser; but it occurred to me that one might as well guess at a geological formation as to attempt to judge the age of mountaineers, because they get very early in life a fixed expression, which is deepened by continual rough weathering and undisturbed accumulations of dirt. I observed them enough to see that the elder was a man of middle height, of wiry, light figure and thin hawk visage; a certain angular sharpness making itself noticeable about the shoulders and arms, which tapered to small almost refined hands. A mere fringe of perfectly straight black beard followed the curve of his chin, tangling itself at the ear with shaggy unkempt locks of hair. He wore an ordinary stiff-brimmed Spanish sombrero, and the inevitable greasy red sash performed its rather difficult task of holding together flannel shirt and buckskin breeches, besides half covering with folds a long narrow knife.

His companion struck me as a half-breed Indian, somewhere about eighteen years of age, his beardless face showing deep brutal lines, and a mouth which was a mere crease between hideously heavy lips. Blood stained the rowels of his spurs; an old felt hat, crumpled and ragged, slouched forward over his eyes, doing its best to hide the man.

I thought them a hard couple, and summed up their traits at stolidity and utter cruelty.

[For the rest of this chapter King describes the many failed attempts these two make to rob him.]

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