[From J. M. Hutchings’ In the Heart of the Sierras, 1886]
AS PART OF THE USUAL PROGRAMME, we experimented as to the time taken by different objects in reaching the bottom of the cliff. An ordinary stone tossed over remained in sight an incredibly long time, but finally vanished somewhere about the middle distance. A handkerchief with a stone tied in the corner, was visible perhaps a thousand feet deeper; but even an empty box, watched by a field-glass, could not be traced to its concussion with the Valley floor.
Finally, the landlord appeared on the scene, carrying an antique hen under his arm. This, in spite of the terrified ejaculations and entreaties of the ladies, he deliberately threw over the cliff’s edge.
A rooster might have gone thus to his doom in stoic silence, but the sex of this unfortunate bird asserted itself the moment it started on its awful journey into space. With an ear-piercing cackle, that gradually grew fainter as it fell, the poor creature shot downward; now beating the air with ineffectual wings, and now frantically clawing at the very wind, that slanted her first this way and then that; thus the hapless fowl shot down, down, until it became a mere fluff of feathers no larger than a quail. Then it dwindled to a wren’s size, disappeared, then again dotted the sight a moment as a pin’s point, and then—it was gone!
After drawing a long breath all round, the women folks pitched into the hen’s owner with redoubled zest. But the genial McCauley shook his head knowingly, and replied:— “Don’t be alarmed about that chicken, ladies. She’s used to it. She goes over that cliff every day during the season.” And, sure enough, on our road back we met the old hen about half up the trail, calmly picking her way home!!(?)
For a fascinating video exploration of other, more hazardous objects falling from great heights to the floor of Yosemite Valley, check out Steven Bumgardner's latest Yosemite Nature Notes episode: Rock Fall.