CHAPTER I THE LONG TRAIL
We are the Elk Patrol, 14th Colorado Troop, Boy Scouts of America. Our sign is [transcriber note: sign shown to the right] and our colors are dark green and white, like the pines and the snowy range. Our patrol call is the whistle of an elk, which is an "Oooooooooooo!" high up in the head, like a locomotive whistle. We took the Elk brand (that is the same as totem, you know, only we say "brand," in the West), because elks are the great trail-makers in the mountains.
About the hardest thing that we have set out to do yet has been to carry a secret message across the mountains, one hundred miles, from our town to another town, with our own pack outfit, and finding our own trail, and do it in fifteen days including Sundays. That is what I want to tell about, in this book.
There were six of us who went; and just for fun we called ourselves by trapper or scout names. We were:
First-class Scout Roger Franklin, or General William Ashley. He is our patrol leader. He is fifteen years old, and red-headed, and his mother is a widow and keeps a boarding-house.
First-class Scout Tom Scott, or Major Andrew Henry. He is our corporal. He is sixteen years old, and has snapping black eyes, and his father is mayor.
First-class Scout Harry Leonard, or Kit Carson. He is thirteen years old, and before he came into the Scouts we called him "Sliver" because he's so skinny. His father is a groceryman.
First-class Scout Chris Anderson, or Thomas Fitzpatrick the Bad Hand. He is fifteen years old, and tow-headed and all freckled, and has only half a left arm. He got hurt working in the mine. But he's as smart as any of us. He can use a camera and throw a rope and dress himself, and tie his shoe-laces and other knots. He's our best trailer. His father is a miner.
Second-class Scout Richard Smith, or Jedediah Smith. He is only twelve, and is a "fatty," and his father is postmaster.
Second-class Scout Charley Brown, or Jim Bridger the Blanket Chief. That's myself. I'm fourteen, and have brown eyes and big ears, and my father is a lawyer. When we started I had just been promoted from a tenderfoot, so I didn't know very much yet. But we're all first-class Scouts now, and have honors besides.
For Scout work we were paired off like this: Ashley and Carson; Henry and Smith; Fitzpatrick and Bridger. (See Note 1, in back of book.)
Our trip would have been easier (but it was all right, anyway), if a notice hadn't got into the newspaper and put other boys up to trying to stop us. This is what the notice said:
The Elk Patrol of the local Boy Scouts is about to take a message from Mayor Scott across the range to the mayor of Green Valley. This message will be sealed and in cipher, and the boys will be granted fifteen days in which to perform the trip over, about 100 miles, afoot; so they will have to hustle. They must not make use of any vehicles or animals except their pack-animals, or stop at ranches except through injury or illness, but must pursue their own trail and live off the country....