Mouse's Tank is located near the terminus of a box canyon known
officially as Petroglyph Canyon. It is located in a rather unique
position between two canyons of different elevations. Thus one side
faces a sheer cliff of about 50 feet and the other side is a half mile
long box canyon. Because
of its unique location as sort of a set of pockets in the side of a
canyon, rainwater collects here. Since the spot is almost always shaded,
the water stays in the small basins for months.
It is named 'The Mouse's Tank' because an alleged Southern Paiute Indian renegade named 'Little Mouse' hid out there in the 1890's. He was accused of gunning down two prospectors and many other crimes in the area. He apparently went wild on a few occasions when he got drunk.
The one-time ferryman who work along the Colorado was finally trapped by a posse in July 1897 but not in the Mouse's' Tank. He was caught a few miles away by the spring at what is today called the Muddy River. The official story is that he was surrounded, refused to give up and he was shot.
After some time, most legends become exaggerated in some way and with more time truth and exaggeration become more difficult to sort out. In 1972 I questioned 'Chick Perkins' of Moapa about this story. He was in his seventies at the time and probably heard it from parents or relatives who are likely to have heard the story first hand.
Mr. Perkins noted that the Indian was only a local nuisance who stole from farmers and prospectors things that he needed to survive. The times and the area was particularly lawless then and robbery and theft was common. While Little Mouse no doubt was guilty of theft and even murder parts of the story hint at different interpretations.
For example, he was known to have worked as a ferryman on the Colorado. He was apparently let go due to bad behavior and drunkenness. The fact that he sought and for a while maintained employment contradicts the nature of someone who would rather steal for a living.
As for the two prospectors, that information has been difficult to find so far. However, there were numerous other opportunities for Little Mouse to kill people and he was only accused of murder for that crime. The evidence would no doubt tell the real story - if it could be found.
What is evident is that The Mouse's Tank could not have been used as a source of water as many stories suggest. The fact is that the Muddy River is only a few miles away. The water in these natural cisterns is not potable. There are several places like this that I am aware of. The Paiute no doubt knew of many more.
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