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The Adventures of Captain Bonneville by Washington Irving

Part 6 out of 7

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been conveyed off at a round trot, bearing his savory cargo to
the hills, to furnish the scampering savages with a banquet of
roast meat at the expense of the white men.

The party returned to camp, balked of their revenge, but still
more grievously balked of their supper. Buckeye, the Delaware,
sat smoking by his fire, perfectly composed. As the hunters
related the particulars of the attack, he listened in silence,
with unruffled countenance, then pointing to the west, "the sun
has not yet set," said he: "Buckeye did not dream like a fool!"

All present now recollected the prediction of the Indian at
daybreak, and were struck with what appeared to be its
fulfilment. They called to mind, also, a long catalogue of
foregone presentiments and predictions made at various times by
the Delaware, and, in their superstitious credulity, began to
consider him a veritable seer; without thinking how natural it
was to predict danger, and how likely to have the prediction
verified in the present instance, when various signs gave
evidence of a lurking foe.

The various bands of Captain Bonneville's company had now been
assembled for some time at the rendezvous; they had had their
fill of feasting, and frolicking, and all the species of wild and
often uncouth merrymaking, which invariably take place on these
occasions. Their horses, as well as themselves, had recovered
from past famine and fatigue, and were again fit for active
service; and an impatience began to manifest itself among the men
once more to take the field, and set off on some wandering

At this juncture M. Cerre arrived at the rendezvous at the head
of a supply party, bringing goods and equipments from the States.
This active leader, it will be recollected, had embarked the year
previously in skin-boats on the Bighorn, freighted with the
year's collection of peltries. He had met with misfortune in the
course of his voyage: one of his frail barks being upset, and
part of the furs lost or damaged.

The arrival of the supplies gave the regular finish to the annual
revel. A grand outbreak of wild debauch ensued among the
mountaineers; drinking, dancing, swaggering, gambling,
quarrelling, and fighting. Alcohol, which, from its portable
qualities, containing the greatest quantity of fiery spirit in
the smallest compass, is the only liquor carried across the
mountains, is the inflammatory beverage at these carousals, and
is dealt out to the trappers at four dollars a pint. When
inflamed by this fiery beverage, they cut all kinds of mad pranks
and gambols, and sometimes burn all their clothes in their
drunken bravadoes. A camp, recovering from one of these riotous
revels, presents a seriocomic spectacle; black eyes, broken
heads, lack-lustre visages. Many of the trappers have squandered
in one drunken frolic the hard-earned wages of a year; some have
run in debt, and must toil on to pay for past pleasure. All are
sated with this deep draught of pleasure, and eager to commence
another trapping campaign; for hardship and hard work, spiced
with the stimulants of wild adventures, and topped off with an
annual frantic carousal, is the lot of the restless trapper.

The captain now made his arrangements for the current year.
Cerre and Walker, with a number of men who had been to
California, were to proceed to St. Louis with the packages of
furs collected during the past year. Another party, headed by a
leader named Montero, was to proceed to the Crow country, trap
upon its various streams, and among the Black Hills, and thence
to proceed to the Arkansas, where he was to go into winter

The captain marked out for himself a widely different course. He
intended to make another expedition, with twenty-three men to the
lower part of the Columbia River, and to proceed to the valley of
the Multnomah; after wintering in those parts, and establishing a
trade with those tribes, among whom he had sojourned on his first
visit, he would return in the spring, cross the Rocky Mountains,
and join Montero and his party in the month of July, at the
rendezvous of the Arkansas; where he expected to receive his
annual supplies from the States.

If the reader will cast his eye upon a map, he may form an idea
of the contempt for distance which a man acquires in this vast
wilderness, by noticing the extent of country comprised in these
projected wanderings. Just as the different parties were about
to set out on the 3d of July, on their opposite routes, Captain
Bonneville received intelligence that Wyeth, the indefatigable
leader of the salmon-fishing enterprise, who had parted with him
about a year previously on the banks of the Bighorn, to descend
that wild river in a bull boat, was near at hand, with a new
levied band of hunters and trappers, and was on his way once more
to the banks of the Columbia,

As we take much interest in the novel enterprise of this eastern
man," and are pleased with his pushing and persevering spirit;
and as his movements are characteristic of life in the
wilderness, we will, with the reader's permission, while Captain
Bonneville is breaking up his camp and saddling his horses, step
back a year in time, and a few hundred miles in distance to the
bank of the Bighorn, and launch ourselves with Wyeth in his bull
boat; and though his adventurous voyage will take us many
hundreds of miles further down wild and wandering rivers; yet
such is the magic power of the pen, that we promise to bring the
reader safe to Bear River Valley, by the time the last horse is


A voyage in a bull boat.

IT was about the middle of August (1833) that Mr. Nathaniel J.
Wyeth, as the reader may recollect, launched his bull boat at the
foot of the rapids of the Bighorn, and departed in advance of the
parties of Campbell and Captain Bonneville. His boat was made of
three buffalo skins, stretched on a light frame, stitched
together, and the seams paid with elk tallow and ashes. It was
eighteen feet long, and about five feet six inches wide, sharp at
each end, with a round bottom, and drew about a foot and a half
of water-a depth too great for these upper rivers, which abound
with shallows and sand-bars. The crew consisted of two
half-breeds, who claimed to be white men, though a mixture of the
French creole and the Shawnee and Potawattomie. They claimed,
moreover, to be thorough mountaineers, and first-rate hunters --
the common boast of these vagabonds of the wilderness. Besides
these, there was a Nez Perce lad of eighteen years of age, a kind
of servant of all work, whose great aim, like all Indian
servants, was to do as little work as possible; there was,
moreover, a half-breed boy, of thirteen, named Baptiste, son of a
Hudson's Bay trader by a Flathead beauty; who was travelling with
Wyeth to see the world and complete his education. Add to these,
Mr. Milton Sublette, who went as passenger, and we have the crew
of the little bull boat complete.

It certainly was a slight armament with which to run the gauntlet
through countries swarming with hostile hordes, and a slight bark
to navigate these endless rivers, tossing and pitching down
rapids, running on snags and bumping on sand-bars; such, however,
are the cockle-shells with which these hardy rovers of the
wilderness will attempt the wildest streams; and it is surprising
what rough shocks and thumps these boats will endure, and what
vicissitudes they will live through. Their duration, however, is
but limited; they require frequently to be hauled out of the
water and dried, to prevent the hides from becoming water-soaked;
and they eventually rot and go to pieces.

The course of the river was a little to the north of east; it ran
about five miles an hour, over a gravelly bottom. The banks were
generally alluvial, and thickly grown with cottonwood trees,
intermingled occasionally with ash and plum trees. Now and then
limestone cliffs and promontories advanced upon the river, making
picturesque headlands. Beyond the woody borders rose ranges of
naked hills.

Milton Sublette was the Pelorus of this adventurous bark; being
somewhat experienced in this wild kind of navigation. It required
all his attention and skill, however, to pilot her clear of
sand-bars and snags of sunken trees. There was often, too, a
perplexity of choice, where the river branched into various
channels, among clusters of islands; and occasionally the
voyagers found themselves aground and had to turn back.

It was necessary, also, to keep a wary eye upon the land, for
they were passing through the heart of the Crow country, and were
continually in reach of any ambush that might be lurking on
shore. The most formidable foes that they saw, however, were
three grizzly bears, quietly promenading along the bank, who
seemed to gaze at them with surprise as they glided by. Herds of
buffalo, also, were moving about, or lying on the ground, like
cattle in a pasture; excepting such inhabitants as these, a
perfect solitude reigned over the land. There was no sign of
human habitation; for the Crows, as we have already shown, are a
wandering people, a race of hunters and warriors, who live in
tents and on horseback, and are continually on the move.
At night they landed, hauled up their boat to dry, pitched their
tent, and made a rousing fire. Then, as it was the first evening
of their voyage, they indulged in a regale, relishing their
buffalo beef with inspiring alcohol; after which, they slept
soundly, without dreaming of Crows or Blackfeet. Early in the
morning, they again launched the boat and committed themselves to
the stream.

In this way they voyaged for two days without any material
occurrence, excepting a severe thunder storm, which compelled
them to put to shore, and wait until it was passed. On the third
morning they descried some persons at a distance on the river
bank. As they were now, by calculation, at no great distance from
Fort Cass, a trading post of the American Fur Company, they
supposed these might be some of its people. A nearer approach
showed them to be Indians. Descrying a woman apart from the rest,
they landed and accosted her. She informed them that the main
force of the Crow nation, consisting of five bands, under their
several chiefs, were but about two or three miles below, on their
way up along the river. This was unpleasant tidings, but to
retreat was impossible, and the river afforded no hiding place.
They continued forward, therefore, trusting that, as Fort Cass
was so near at hand, the Crows might refrain from any

Floating down about two miles further, they came in sight of the
first band, scattered along the river bank, all well mounted;
some armed with guns, others with bows and arrows, and a few with
lances. They made a wildly picturesque appearance managing their
horses with their accustomed dexterity and grace. Nothing can be
more spirited than a band of Crow cavaliers. They are a fine race
of men averaging six feet in height, lithe and active, with
hawks' eyes and Roman noses. The latter feature is common to the
Indians on the east side of the Rocky Mountains; those on the
western side have generally straight or flat noses.

Wyeth would fain have slipped by this cavalcade unnoticed; but
the river, at this place, was not more than ninety yards across;
he was perceived, therefore, and hailed by the vagabond warriors,
and, we presume, in no very choice language; for, among their
other accomplishments, the Crows are famed for possessing a
Billingsgate vocabulary of unrivalled opulence, and for being by
no means sparing of it whenever an occasion offers. Indeed,
though Indians are generally very lofty, rhetorical, and
figurative in their language at all great talks, and high
ceremonials, yet, if trappers and traders may be believed, they
are the most unsavory vagabonds in their ordinary colloquies;
they make no hesitation to call a spade a spade; and when they
once undertake to call hard names, the famous pot and kettle, of
vituperating memory, are not to be compared with them for
scurrility of epithet.

To escape the infliction of any compliments of this kind, or the
launching, peradventure, of more dangerous missiles, Wyeth landed
with the best grace in his power and approached the chief of the
band. It was Arapooish, the quondam friend of Rose the outlaw,
and one whom we have already mentioned as being anxious to
promote a friendly intercourse between his tribe and the white
men. He was a tall, stout man, of good presence, and received the
voyagers very graciously. His people, too, thronged around them,
and were officiously attentive after the Crow fashion. One took a
great fancy to Baptiste the Flathead boy, and a still greater
fancy to a ring on his finger, which he transposed to his own
with surprising dexterity, and then disappeared with a quick step
among the crowd.

Another was no less pleased with the Nez Perce lad, and nothing
would do but he must exchange knives with him; drawing a new
knife out of the Nez Perce's scabbard, and putting an old one in
its place. Another stepped up and replaced this old knife with
one still older, and a third helped himself to knife, scabbard
and all. It was with much difficulty that Wyeth and his
companions extricated themselves from the clutches of these
officious Crows before they were entirely plucked.

Falling down the river a little further, they came in sight of
the second band, and sheered to the opposite side, with the
intention of passing them. The Crows were not to be evaded. Some
pointed their guns at the boat, and threatened to fire; others
stripped, plunged into the stream, and came swimming across.
Making a virtue of necessity, Wyeth threw a cord to the first
that came within reach, as if he wished to be drawn to the shore.

In this way he was overhauled by every band, and by the time he
and his people came out of the busy hands of the last, they were
eased of most of their superfluities. Nothing, in all
probability, but the proximity of the American trading post, kept
these land pirates from making a good prize of the bull boat and
all its contents.

These bands were in full march, equipped for war, and evidently
full of mischief. They were, in fact, the very bands that overran
the land in the autumn of 1833; partly robbed Fitzpatrick of his
horses and effects; hunted and harassed Captain Bonneville and
his people; broke up their trapping campaigns, and, in a word,
drove them all out of the Crow country. It has been suspected
that they were set on to these pranks by some of the American Fur
Company, anxious to defeat the plans of their rivals of the Rocky
Mountain Company; for at this time, their competition was at its
height, and the trade of the Crow country was a great object of
rivalry. What makes this the more probable, is, that the Crows in
their depredation seemed by no means bloodthirsty, but intent
chiefly on robbing the parties of their traps and horses, thereby
disabling them from prosecuting their hunting.

We should observe that this year, the Rocky Mountain Company were
pushing their way up the rivers, and establishing rival posts
near those of the American Company; and that, at the very time of
which we are speaking, Captain Sublette was ascending the
Yellowstone with a keel boat, laden with supplies; so that there
was every prospect of this eager rivalship being carried to

The last band of Crow warriors had scarcely disappeared in the
clouds of dust they had raised, when our voyagers arrived at the
mouth of the river and glided into the current of the
Yellowstone. Turning down this stream, they made for Fort Cass,
which is situated on the right bank, about three miles below the
Bighorn. On the opposite side they beheld a party of thirty-one
savages, which they soon ascertained to be Blackfeet. The width
of the river enabled them to keep at a sufficient distance, and
they soon landed at Fort Cass. This was a mere fortification
against Indians; being a stockade of about one hundred and thirty
feet square, with two bastions at the extreme corners. M'Tulloch,
an agent of the American Company, was stationed there with twenty
men; two boats of fifteen tons burden were lying here; but at
certain seasons of the year a steamboat can come up to the fort.

They had scarcely arrived, when the Blackfeet warriors made their
appearance on the opposite bank, displaying two American flags in
token of amity. They plunged into the river, swam across, and
were kindly received at the fort. They were some of the very men
who had been engaged, the year previously, in the battle at
Pierre's Hole, and a fierce-looking set of fellows they were;
tall and hawk-nosed, and very much resembling the Crows. They
professed to be on an amicable errand, to make peace with the
Crows, and set off in all haste, before night, to overtake them.
Wyeth predicted that they would lose their scalps; for he had
heard the Crows denounce vengeance on them, for having murdered
two of their warriors who had ventured among them on the faith of
a treaty of peace. It is probable, however, that this pacific
errand was all a pretence, and that the real object of the
Blackfeet braves was to hang about the skirts of the Crow band,
steal their horses, and take the scalps of stragglers.

At Fort Cass, Mr. Wyeth disposed of some packages of beaver, and
a quantity of buffalo robes. On the following morning (August
18th), he once more launched his bull boat, and proceeded down
the Yellowstone, which inclined in an east-northeast direction.
The river had alluvial bottoms, fringed with great quantities of
the sweet cotton-wood, and interrupted occasionally by "bluffs"
of sandstone. The current occasionally brings down fragments of
granite and porphyry.

In the course of the day, they saw something moving on the bank
among the trees, which they mistook for game of some kind; and,
being in want of provisions, pulled toward shore. They
discovered, just in time, a party of Blackfeet, lurking in the
thickets, and sheered, with all speed, to the opposite side of
the river.

After a time, they came in sight of a gang of elk. Wyeth was
immediately for pursuing them, rifle in hand, but saw evident
signs of dissatisfaction in his half-breed hunters; who
considered him as trenching upon their province, and meddling
with things quite above his capacity; for these veterans of the
wilderness are exceedingly pragmatical, on points of venery and
woodcraft, and tenacious of their superiority; looking down with
infinite contempt upon all raw beginners. The two worthies,
therefore, sallied forth themselves, but after a time returned
empty-handed. They laid the blame, however, entirely on their
guns; two miserable old pieces with flint locks, which, with all
their picking and hammering, were continually apt to miss fire.
These great boasters of the wilderness, however, are very often
exceeding bad shots, and fortunate it is for them when they have
old flint guns to bear the blame.

The next day they passed where a great herd of buffalo was
bellowing on a prairie. Again the Castor and Pollux of the
wilderness sallied forth, and again their flint guns were at
fault, and missed fire, and nothing went off but the buffalo.
Wyeth now found there was danger of losing his dinner if he
depended upon his hunters; he took rifle in hand, therefore, and
went forth himself. In the course of an hour he returned laden
with buffalo meat, to the great mortification of the two regular
hunters, who were annoyed at being eclipsed by a greenhorn.

All hands now set to work to prepare the midday repast. A fire
was made under an immense cotton-wood tree, that overshadowed a
beautiful piece of meadow land; rich morsels of buffalo hump were
soon roasting before it; in a hearty and prolonged repast, the
two unsuccessful hunters gradually recovered from their
mortification; threatened to discard their old flint guns as soon
as they should reach the settlements, and boasted more than ever
of the wonderful shots they had made, when they had guns that
never missed fire.

Having hauled up their boat to dry in the sun, previous to making
their repast, the voyagers now set it once more afloat, and
proceeded on their way. They had constructed a sail out of their
old tent, which they hoisted whenever the wind was favorable, and
thus skimmed along down the stream. Their voyage was pleasant,
notwithstanding the perils by sea and land, with which they were
environed. Whenever they could they encamped on islands for the
greater security. If on the mainland, and in a dangerous
neighborhood, they would shift their camp after dark, leaving
their fire burning, dropping down the river some distance, and
making no fire at their second encampment. Sometimes they would
float all night with the current; one keeping watch and steering
while the rest slept. in such case, they would haul their boat on
shore, at noon of the following day to dry; for notwithstanding
every precaution, she was gradually getting water-soaked and

There was something pleasingly solemn and mysterious in thus
floating down these wild rivers at night. The purity of the
atmosphere in these elevated regions gave additional splendor to
the stars, and heightened the magnificence of the firmament. The
occasional rush and laving of the waters; the vague sounds from
the surrounding wilderness; the dreary howl, or rather whine of
wolves from the plains; the low grunting and bellowing of the
buffalo, and the shrill neighing of the elk, struck the ear with
an effect unknown in the daytime.

The two knowing hunters had scarcely recovered from one
mortification when they were fated to experience another. As the
boat was gliding swiftly round a low promontory, thinly covered
with trees, one of them gave the alarm of Indians. The boat was
instantly shoved from shore and every one caught up his rifle.
"Where are they?" cried Wyeth.

"There -- there! riding on horseback!" cried one of the hunters.

"Yes; with white scarfs on!" cried the other.

Wyeth looked in the direction they pointed, but descried nothing
but two bald eagles, perched on a low dry branch beyond the
thickets, and seeming, from the rapid motion of the boat, to be
moving swiftly in an opposite direction. The detection of this
blunder in the two veterans, who prided themselves on the
sureness and quickness of their sight, produced a hearty laugh at
their expense, and put an end to their vauntings.

The Yellowstone, above the confluence of the Bighorn, is a clear
stream; its waters were now gradually growing turbid, and
assuming the yellow clay color of the Missouri. The current was
about four miles an hour, with occasional rapids; some of them
dangerous, but the voyagers passed them all without accident. The
banks of the river were in many places precipitous with strata of
bituminous coal.
They now entered a region abounding with buffalo -- that
ever-journeying animal, which moves in countless droves from
point to point of the vast wilderness; traversing plains, pouring
through the intricate defiles of mountains, swimming rivers, ever
on the move, guided on its boundless migrations by some
traditionary knowledge, like the finny tribes of the ocean,
which, at certain seasons, find their mysterious paths across the
deep and revisit the remotest shores.

These great migratory herds of buffalo have their hereditary
paths and highways, worn deep through the country, and making for
the surest passes of the mountains, and the most practicable
fords of the rivers. When once a great column is in full career,
it goes straight forward, regardless of all obstacles; those in
front being impelled by the moving mass behind. At such times

will break through a camp, trampling down everything in their

It was the lot of the voyagers, one night, to encamp at one of
these buffalo landing places, and exactly on the trail. They had
not been long asleep, when they were awakened by a great
bellowing, and tramping, and the rush, and splash, and snorting
of animals in the river. They had just time to ascertain that a
buffalo army was entering the river on the opposite side, and
making toward the landing place. With all haste they moved their
boat and shifted their camp, by which time the head of the column
had reached the shore, and came pressing up the bank.

It was a singular spectacle, by the uncertain moonlight, to
behold this countless throng making their way across the river,
blowing, and bellowing, and splashing. Sometimes they pass in
such dense and continuous column as to form a temporary dam
across the river, the waters of which rise and rush over their
backs, or between their squadrons. The roaring and rushing sound
of one of these vast herds crossing a river, may sometimes in a
still night be heard for miles.

The voyagers now had game in profusion. They could kill as many
buffaloes as they pleased, and, occasionally, were wanton in
their havoc; especially among scattered herds, that came swimming
near the boat. On one occasion, an old buffalo bull approached so
near that the half-breeds must fain try to noose him as they
would a wild horse. The noose was successfully thrown around his
head, and secured him by the horns, and they now promised
themselves ample sport. The buffalo made prodigious turmoil in
the water, bellowing, and blowing, and floundering; and they all
floated down the stream together. At length he found foothold on
a sandbar, and taking to his heels, whirled the boat after him
like a whale when harpooned; so that the hunters were obliged to
cast off their rope, with which strange head-gear the venerable
bull made off to the prairies.

On the 24th of August, the bull boat emerged, with its
adventurous crew, into the broad bosom of the mighty Missouri.
Here, about six miles above the mouth of the Yellowstone, the
voyagers landed at Fort Union, the distributing post of the
American Fur Company in the western country. It was a stockaded
fortress, about two hundred and twenty feet square, pleasantly
situated on a high bank. Here they were hospitably entertained by
Mr. M'Kenzie, the superintendent, and remained with him three
days, enjoying the unusual luxuries of bread, butter, milk, and
cheese, for the fort was well supplied with domestic cattle,
though it had no garden. The atmosphere of these elevated regions
is said to be too dry for the culture of vegetables; yet the
voyagers, in coming down the Yellowstone, had met with plums,
grapes, cherries, and currants, and had observed ash and elm
trees. Where these grow the climate cannot be incompatible with

At Fort Union, Wyeth met with a melancholy memento of one of his
men. This was a powder-flask, which a clerk had purchased from a
Blackfoot warrior. It bore the initials of poor More, the
unfortunate youth murdered the year previously, at Jackson's
Hole, by the Blackfeet, and whose bones had been subsequently
found by Captain Bonneville. This flask had either been passed
from hand to hand of the youth, or, perhaps, had been brought to
the fort by the very savage who slew him.

As the bull boat was now nearly worn out, and altogether unfit
for the broader and more turbulent stream of the Missouri, it was
given up, and a canoe of cottonwood, about twenty feet long,
fabricated by the Blackfeet, was purchased to supply its place.
In this Wyeth hoisted his sail, and bidding adieu to the
hospitable superintendent of Fort Union, turned his prow to the
east, and set off down the Missouri.

He had not proceeded many hours, before, in the evening, he came
to a large keel boat at anchor. It proved to be the boat of
Captain William Sublette, freighted with munitions for carrying
on a powerful opposition to the American Fur Company. The
voyagers went on board, where they were treated with the hearty
hospitality of the wilderness, and passed a social evening,
talking over past scenes and adventures, and especially the
memorable fight at Pierre's Hole.

Here Milton Sublette determined to give up further voyaging in
the canoe, and remain with his brother; accordingly, in the
morning, the fellow-voyagers took kind leave of each other. and
Wyeth continued on his course. There was now no one on board of
his boat that had ever voyaged on the Missouri; it was, however,
all plain sailing down the stream, without any chance of missing
the way.

All day the voyagers pulled gently along, and landed in the
evening and supped; then re-embarking, they suffered the canoe to
float down with the current; taking turns to watch and sleep. The
night was calm and serene; the elk kept up a continual whinnying
or squealing, being the commencement of the season when they are
in heat. In the midst of the night the canoe struck on a
sand-bar, and all hands were roused by the rush and roar of the
wild waters, which broke around her. They were all obliged to
jump overboard, and work hard to get her off, which was
accomplished with much difficulty.

In the course of the following day they saw three grizzly bears
at different times along the bank. The last one was on a point of
land, and was evidently making for the river, to swim across. The
two half-breed hunters were now eager to repeat the manoeuvre of
the noose; promising to entrap Bruin, and have rare sport in
strangling and drowning him. Their only fear was, that he might
take fright and return to land before they could get between him
and the shore. Holding back, therefore, until he was fairly
committed in the centre of the stream, they then pulled forward
with might and main, so as to cut off his retreat, and take him
in the rear. One of the worthies stationed himself in the bow,
with the cord and slip-noose, the other, with the Nez Perce,
managed the paddles. There was nothing further from the thoughts
of honest Bruin, however, than to beat a retreat. Just as the
canoe was drawing near, he turned suddenly round and made for it,
with a horrible snarl and a tremendous show of teeth. The
affrighted hunter called to his comrades to paddle off. Scarce
had they turned the boat when the bear laid his enormous claws on
the gunwale, and attempted to get on board. The canoe was nearly
overturned, and a deluge of water came pouring over the gunwale.
All was clamor, terror, and confusion. Every one bawled out -
the bear roared and snarled - one caught up a gun; but water had
rendered it useless. Others handled their paddles more
effectually, and beating old Bruin about the head and claws,
obliged him to relinquish his hold. They now plied their paddles
with might and main, the bear made the best of his way to shore,
and so ended the second exploit of the noose; the hunters
determined to have no more naval contests with grizzly bears.

The voyagers were now out of range of Crows and Black-feet; but
they were approaching the country of the Rees, or Arickaras; a
tribe no less dangerous; and who were, generally, hostile to
small parties.

In passing through their country, Wyeth laid by all day, and
drifted quietly down the river at night. In this way he passed
on, until he supposed himself safely through the region of
danger; when he resumed his voyage in the open day. On the 3d of
September he had landed, at midday, to dine; and while some were
making a fire, one of the hunters mounted a high bank to look out
for game. He had scarce glanced his eye round, when he perceived
horses grazing on the opposite side of the river. Crouching down
he slunk back to the camp, and reported what he had seen. On
further reconnoitering, the voyagers counted twenty-one lodges;
and from the number of horses, computed that there must be nearly
a hundred Indians encamped there. They now drew their boat, with
all speed and caution, into a thicket of water willows, and
remained closely concealed all day. As soon as the night closed
in they re-embarked. The moon would rise early; so that they had
but about two hours of darkness to get past the camp. The night,
however, was cloudy, with a blustering wind. Silently, and with
muffled oars, they glided down the river, keeping close under the
shore opposite to the camp; watching its various lodges and
fires, and the dark forms passing to and fro between them.
Suddenly, on turning a point of land, they found themselves close
upon a camp on their own side of the river. It appeared that not
more than one half of the band had crossed. They were within a
few yards of the shore; they saw distinctly the savages -- some
standing, some lying round the fire. Horses were grazing around.
Some lodges were set up, others had been sent across the river.
The red glare of the fires upon these wild groups and harsh
faces, contrasted with the surrounding darkness, had a startling
effect, as the voyagers suddenly came upon the scene. The dogs
of the camp perceived them, and barked; but the Indians.
fortunately, took no heed of their clamor. Wyeth instantly
sheered his boat out into the stream; when, unluckily it struck
upon a sand-bar, and stuck fast. It was a perilous and trying
situation; for he was fixed between the two camps, and within
rifle range of both. All hands jumped out into the water, and
tried to get the boat off; but as no one dared to give the word,
they could not pull together, and their labor was in vain. In
this way they labored for a long time; until Wyeth thought of
giving a signal for a general heave, by lifting his hat. The
expedient succeeded. They launched their canoe again into deep
water, and getting in, had the delight of seeing the camp fires
of the savages soon fading in the distance.

They continued under way the greater part of the night, until far
beyond all danger from this band, when they pulled to shore, and

The following day was windy, and they came near upsetting their
boat in carrying sail. Toward evening, the wind subsided and a
beautiful calm night succeeded. They floated along with the
current throughout the night, taking turns to watch and steer.
The deep stillness of the night was occasionally interrupted by
the neighing of the elk, the hoarse lowing of the buffalo, the
hooting of large owls, and the screeching of the small ones, now
and then the splash of a beaver, or the gonglike sound of the

Part of their voyage was extremely tempestuous; with high winds,
tremendous thunder, and soaking rain; and they were repeatedly in
extreme danger from drift-wood and sunken trees. On one occasion,
having continued to float at night, after the moon was down, they
ran under a great snag, or sunken tree, with dry branches above
the water. These caught the mast, while the boat swung round,
broadside to the stream, and began to fill with water. Nothing
saved her from total wreck, but cutting away the mast. She then
drove down the stream, but left one of the unlucky half-breeds
clinging to the snag, like a monkey to a pole. It was necessary
to run in shore, toil up, laboriously, along the eddies and to
attain some distance above the snag, when they launched forth
again into the stream and floated down with it to his rescue.

We forbear to detail all the circumstances and adventures of
upward of a months voyage, down the windings and doublings of
this vast river; in the course of which they stopped occasionally
at a post of one of the rival fur companies, or at a government
agency for an Indian tribe. Neither shall we dwell upon the
changes of climate and productions, as the voyagers swept down
from north to south, across several degrees of latitude; arriving
at the regions of oaks and sycamores; of mulberry and basswood
trees; of paroquets and wild turkeys. This is one of the
characteristics of the middle and lower part of the Missouri; but
still more so of the Mississippi, whose rapid current traverses a
succession of latitudes so as in a few days to float the voyager
almost from the frozen regions to the tropics.

The voyage of Wyeth shows the regular and unobstructed flow of
the rivers, on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, in contrast
to those of the western side; where rocks and rapids continually
menace and obstruct the voyager. We find him in a frail bark of
skins, launching himself in a stream at the foot of the Rocky
Mountains, and floating down from river to river, as they empty
themselves into each other; and so he might have kept on upward
of two thousand miles, until his little bark should drift into
the ocean. At present we shall stop with him at Cantonment
Leavenworth, the frontier post of the United States; where he
arrived on the 27th of September.

Here his first care was to have his Nez Perce Indian, and his
half-breed boy, Baptiste, vaccinated. As they approached the
fort, they were hailed by the sentinel. The sight of a soldier in
full array, with what appeared to be a long knife glittering on
the end of a musket, struck Baptiste with such affright that he
took to his heels, bawling for mercy at the top of his voice. The
Nez Perce would have followed him, had not Wyeth assured him of
his safety. When they underwent the operation of the lancet, the
doctor's wife and another lady were present; both beautiful
women. They were the first white women that they had seen, and
they could not keep their eyes off of them. On returning to the
boat, they recounted to their companions all that they had
observed at the fort; but were especially eloquent about the
white squaws, who, they said, were white as snow, and more
beautiful than any human being they had ever beheld.

We shall not accompany the captain any further in his Voyage; but
will simply state that he made his way to Boston, where he
succeeded in organizing an association under the name of "The
Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company," for his original
objects of a salmon fishery and a trade in furs. A brig, the May
Dacres, had been dispatched for the Columbia with supplies; and
he was now on his way to the same point, at the head of sixty
men, whom he had enlisted at St. Louis; some of whom were
experienced hunters, and all more habituated to the life of the
wilderness than his first band of "down-easters."

We will now return to Captain Bonneville and his party, whom we
left, making up their packs and saddling their horses, in Bear
River Valley.


Departure of Captain Bonneville for the Columbia Advance of
Wyeth Efforts to keep the lead Hudson's Bay party A
junketing A delectable beverage Honey and alcohol High
carousing The Canadian "bon vivant" A cache A rapid move
Wyeth and his plans His travelling companions Buffalo hunting
More conviviality An interruption.

IT was the 3d of July that Captain Bonneville set out on his
second visit to the banks of the Columbia, at the head of
twenty-three men. He travelled leisurely, to keep his horses
fresh, until on the 10th of July a scout brought word that Wyeth,
with his band, was but fifty miles in the rear, and pushing
forward with all speed. This caused some bustle in the camp; for
it was important to get first to the buffalo ground to secure
provisions for the journey. As the horses were too heavily laden
to travel fast, a cache was digged, as promptly as possible, to
receive all superfluous baggage. Just as it was finished, a
spring burst out of the earth at the bottom. Another cache was
therefore digged, about two miles further on; when, as they were
about to bury the effects, a line of horsemen with pack-horses,
were seen streaking over the plain, and encamped close by.

It proved to be a small band in the service of the Hudson's Bay
Company, under the command of a veteran Canadian; one of those
petty leaders, who, with a small party of men, and a small supply
of goods, are employed to follow up a band of Indians from one
hunting ground to another, and buy up their peltries.

Having received numerous civilities from the Hudson's Bay
Company, the captain sent an invitation to the officers of the
party to an evening regale; and set to work to make jovial
preparations. As the night air in these elevated regions is apt
to be cold, a blazing fire was soon made, that would have done
credit to a Christmas dinner, instead of a midsummer banquet. The
parties met in high good-fellowship. There was abundance of such
hunters' fare as the neighborhood furnished; and it was all
discussed with mountain appetites. They talked over all the
events of their late campaigns; but the Canadian veteran had been
unlucky in some of his transactions; and his brow began to grow
cloudy. Captain Bonneville remarked his rising spleen, and
regretted that he had no juice of the grape to keep it down.

A man's wit, however, is quick and inventive in the wilderness; a
thought suggested itself to the captain, how he might brew a
delectable beverage. Among his stores was a keg of honey but
half exhausted. This he filled up with alcohol, and stirred the
fiery and mellifluous ingredients together. The glorious results
may readily be imagined; a happy compound of strength and
sweetness, enough to soothe the most ruffled temper and unsettle
the most solid understanding.

The beverage worked to a charm; the can circulated merrily; the
first deep draught washed out every care from the mind of the
veteran; the second elevated his spirit to the clouds. He was,
in fact, a boon companion; as all veteran Canadian traders are
apt to be. He now became glorious; talked over all his exploits,
his huntings, his fightings with Indian braves, his loves with
Indian beauties; sang snatches of old French ditties, and
Canadian boat songs; drank deeper and deeper, sang louder and
louder; until, having reached a climax of drunken gayety, he
gradually declined, and at length fell fast asleep upon the
ground. After a long nap he again raised his head, imbibed
another potation of the "sweet and strong," flashed up with
another slight blaze of French gayety, and again fell asleep.

The morning found him still upon the field of action, but in sad
and sorrowful condition; suffering the penalties of past
pleasures, and calling to mind the captain's dulcet compound,
with many a retch and spasm. It seemed as if the honey and
alcohol, which had passed so glibly and smoothly over his tongue,
were at war within his stomach; and that he had a swarm of bees
within his head. In short, so helpless and woebegone was his
plight, that his party proceeded on their march without him; the
captain promised to bring him on in safety in the after part of
the day.

As soon as this party had moved off, Captain Bonneville's men
proceeded to construct and fill their cache; and just as it was
completed the party of Wyeth was descried at a distance. In a
moment all was activity to take the road. The horses were
prepared and mounted; and being lightened of a great part of
their burdens, were able to move with celerity. As to the worthy
convive of the preceding evening, he was carefully gathered up
from the hunter's couch on which he lay, repentant and supine,
and, being packed upon one of the horses, was hurried forward
with the convoy, groaning and ejaculating at every jolt.

In the course of the day, Wyeth, being lightly mounted, rode
ahead of his party, and overtook Captain Bonneville. Their
meeting was friendly and courteous; and they discussed, sociably,
their respective fortunes since they separated on the banks of
the Bighorn. Wyeth announced his intention of establishing a
small trading post at the mouth of the Portneuf, and leaving a
few men there, with a quantity of goods, to trade with the
neighboring Indians. He was compelled, in fact, to this measure,
in consequence of the refusal of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company
to take a supply of goods which he had brought out for them
according to contract; and which he had no other mode of
disposing of. He further informed Captain Bonneville that the
competition between the Rocky Mountain and American Fur Companies
which had led to such nefarious stratagems and deadly feuds, was
at an end; they having divided the country between them,
allotting boundaries within which each was to trade and hunt, so
as not to interfere with the other.

In company with Wyeth were travelling two men of science; Mr.
Nuttall, the botanist; the same who ascended the Missouri at the
time of the expedition to Astoria; and Mr. Townshend, an
ornithologist; from these gentlemen we may look forward to
important information concerning these interesting regions. There
were three religious missionaries, also, bound to the shores of
the Columbia, to spread the light of the Gospel in that far

After riding for some time together, in friendly conversation,
Wyeth returned to his party, and Captain Bonneville continued to
press forward, and to gain ground. At night he sent off the sadly
sober and moralizing chief of the Hudson's Bay Company, under a
proper escort, to rejoin his people; his route branching off in a
different direction. The latter took a cordial leave of his host,
hoping, on some future occasion, to repay his hospitality in

In the morning the captain was early on the march; throwing
scouts out far ahead, to scour hill and dale, in search of
buffalo. He had confidently expected to find game in abundance,
on the head-waters of the Portneuf; but on reaching that region,
not a track was to be seen.

At length, one of the scouts, who had made a wide sweep away to
the head-waters of the Blackfoot River, discovered great herds
quietly grazing in the adjacent meadows. He set out on his
return, to report his discoveries; but night overtaking him, he
was kindly and hospitably entertained at the camp of Wyeth. As
soon as day dawned he hastened to his own camp with the welcome
intelligence; and about ten o'clock of the same morning, Captain
Bonneville's party were in the midst of the game.

The packs were scarcely off the backs of the mules, when the
runners, mounted on the fleetest horses, were full tilt after the
buffalo. Others of the men were busied erecting scaffolds, and
other contrivances, for jerking or drying meat; others were
lighting great fires for the same purpose; soon the hunters began
to make their appearance, bringing in the choicest morsels of
buffalo meat; these were placed upon the scaffolds, and the whole
camp presented a scene of singular hurry and activity. At
daylight the next morning, the runners again took the field, with
similar success; and, after an interval of repose made their
third and last chase, about twelve o'clock; for by this time,
Wyeth's party was in sight. The game being now driven into a
valley, at some distance, Wyeth was obliged to fix his camp
there; but he came in the evening to pay Captain Bonneville a
visit. He was accompanied by Captain Stewart, the amateur
traveller; who had not yet sated his appetite for the adventurous
life of the wilderness. With him, also, was a Mr. M'Kay, a
half-breed; son of the unfortunate adventurer of the same name
who came out in the first maritime expedition to Astoria and was
blown up in the Tonquin. His son had grown up in the employ of
the British fur companies; and was a prime hunter, and a daring
partisan. He held, moreover, a farm in the valley of the

The three visitors, when they reached Captain Bonneville's camp,
were surprised to find no one in it but himself and three men;
his party being dispersed in all directions, to make the most of
their present chance for hunting. They remonstrated with him on
the imprudence of remaining with so trifling a guard in a region
so full of danger. Captain Bonneville vindicated the policy of
his conduct. He never hesitated to send out all his hunters,
when any important object was to be attained; and experience had
taught him that he was most secure when his forces were thus
distributed over the surrounding country. He then was sure that
no enemy could approach, from any direction, without being
discovered by his hunters; who have a quick eye for detecting the
slightest signs of the proximity of Indians; and who would
instantly convey intelligence to the camp.

The captain now set to work with his men, to prepare a suitable
entertainment for his guests. It was a time of plenty in the
camp; of prime hunters' dainties; of buffalo humps, and buffalo
tongues; and roasted ribs, and broiled marrow-bones: all these
were cooked in hunters' style; served up with a profusion known
only on a plentiful hunting ground, and discussed with an
appetite that would astonish the puny gourmands of the cities.
But above all, and to give a bacchanalian grace to this truly
masculine repast, the captain produced his mellifluous keg of
home-brewed nectar, which had been so potent over the senses of
the veteran of Hudson's Bay. Potations, pottle deep, again went
round; never did beverage excite greater glee, or meet with more
rapturous commendation. The parties were fast advancing to that
happy state which would have insured ample cause for the next
day's repentance; and the bees were already beginning to buzz
about their ears, when a messenger came spurring to the camp with
intelligence that Wyeth's people had got entangled in one of
those deep and frightful ravines, piled with immense fragments of
volcanic rock, which gash the whole country about the head-waters
of the Blackfoot River. The revel was instantly at an end; the
keg of sweet and potent home-brewed was deserted; and the guests
departed with all speed to aid in extricating their companions
from the volcanic ravine.


A rapid march A cloud of dust Wild horsemen "High Jinks"
Horseracing and rifle-shooting The game of hand The fishing
season Mode of fishing Table lands Salmon fishers The
captain's visit to an Indian lodge The Indian girl The pocket
mirror Supper Troubles of an evil conscience.

"UP and away!" is the first thought at daylight of the Indian
trader, when a rival is at hand and distance is to be gained.
Early in the morning, Captain Bonneville ordered the half dried
meat to be packed upon the horses, and leaving Wyeth and his
party to hunt the scattered buffalo, pushed off rapidly to the
east, to regain the plain of the Portneuf. His march was rugged
and dangerous; through volcanic hills, broken into cliffs and
precipices; and seamed with tremendous chasms, where the rocks
rose like walls.

On the second day, however, he encamped once more in the plain,
and as it was still early some of the men strolled out to the
neighboring hills. In casting their eyes round the country, they
perceived a great cloud of dust rising in the south, and
evidently approaching. Hastening back to the camp, they gave the
alarm. Preparations were instantly made to receive an enemy;
while some of the men, throwing themselves upon the "running
horses" kept for hunting, galloped off to reconnoitre. In a
little while, they made signals from a distance that all was
friendly. By this time the cloud of dust had swept on as if
hurried along by a blast, and a band of wild horsemen came
dashing at full leap into the camp, yelling and whooping like so
many maniacs. Their dresses, their accoutrements, their mode of
riding, and their uncouth clamor, made them seem a party of
savages arrayed for war; but they proved to be principally
half-breeds, and white men grown savage in the wilderness, who
were employed as trappers and hunters in the service of the
Hudson's Bay Company.

Here was again "high jinks" in the camp. Captain Bonneville's men
hailed these wild scamperers as congenial spirits, or rather as
the very game birds of their class. They entertained them with
the hospitality of mountaineers, feasting them at every fire. At
first, there were mutual details of adventures and exploits, and
broad joking mingled with peals of laughter. Then came on
boasting of the comparative merits of horses and rifles, which
soon engrossed every tongue. This naturally led to racing, and
shooting at a mark; one trial of speed and skill succeeded
another, shouts and acclamations rose from the victorious
parties, fierce altercations succeeded, and a general melee was
about to take place, when suddenly the attention of the
quarrellers was arrested by a strange kind of Indian chant or
chorus, that seemed to operate upon them as a charm. Their fury
was at an end; a tacit reconciliation succeeded and the ideas of
the whole mongrel crowd whites, half-breeds and squaws were
turned in a new direction. They all formed into groups and taking
their places at the several fires, prepared for one of the most
exciting amusements of the Nez Perces and the other tribes of the
Far West.

The choral chant, in fact, which had thus acted as a charm, was a
kind of wild accompaniment to the favorite Indian game of "Hand."
This is played by two parties drawn out in opposite platoons
before a blazing fire. It is in some respects like the old game
of passing the ring or the button, and detecting the hand which
holds it. In the present game, the object hidden, or the cache as
it is called by the trappers, is a small splint of wood, or other
diminutive article that may be concealed in the closed hand. This
is passed backward and forward among the party "in hand," while
the party "out of hand" guess where it is concealed. To heighten
the excitement and confuse the guessers, a number of dry poles
are laid before each platoon, upon which the members of the party
"in hand" beat furiously with short staves, keeping time to the
choral chant already mentioned, which waxes fast and furious as
the game proceeds. As large bets are staked upon the game, the
excitement is prodigious. Each party in turn bursts out in full
chorus, beating, and yelling, and working themselves up into such
a heat that the perspiration rolls down their naked shoulders,
even in the cold of a winter night. The bets are doubled and
trebled as the game advances, the mental excitement increases
almost to madness, and all the worldly effects of the gamblers
are often hazarded upon the position of a straw.

These gambling games were kept up throughout the night; every
fire glared upon a group that looked like a crew of maniacs at
their frantic orgies, and the scene would have been kept up
throughout the succeeding day, had not Captain Bonneville
interposed his authority, and, at the usual hour, issued his
marching orders.

Proceeding down the course of Snake River, the hunters regularly
returned to camp in the evening laden with wild geese, which were
yet scarcely able to fly, and were easily caught in great
numbers. It was now the season of the annual fish-feast, with
which the Indians in these parts celebrate the first appearance
of the salmon in this river. These fish are taken in great
numbers at the numerous falls of about four feet pitch. The
Indians flank the shallow water just below, and spear them as
they attempt to pass. In wide parts of the river, also, they
place a sort of chevaux-de-frize, or fence, of poles interwoven
with withes, and forming an angle in the middle of the current,
where a small opening is left for the salmon to pass. Around this
opening the Indians station themselves on small rafts, and ply
their spears with great success.

The table lands so common in this region have a sandy soil,
inconsiderable in depth, and covered with sage, or more properly
speaking, wormwood. Below this is a level stratum of rock, riven
occasionally by frightful chasms. The whole plain rises as it
approaches the river, and terminates with high and broken cliffs,
difficult to pass, and in many places so precipitous that it is
impossible, for days together, to get down to the water's edge,
to give drink to the horses. This obliges the traveller
occasionally to abandon the vicinity of the river, and make a
wide sweep into the interior.

It was now far in the month of July, and the party suffered
extremely from sultry weather and dusty travelling. The flies and
gnats, too, were extremely troublesome to the horses; especially
when keeping along the edge of the river where it runs between
low sand-banks. Whenever the travellers encamped in the
afternoon, the horses retired to the gravelly shores and remained
there, without attempting to feed until the cool of the evening.
As to the travellers, they plunged into the clear and cool
current, to wash away the dust of the road and refresh themselves
after the heat of the day. The nights were always cool and

At one place where they encamped for some time, the river was
nearly five hundred yards wide, and studded with grassy islands,
adorned with groves of willow and cotton-wood. Here the Indians
were assembled in great numbers, and had barricaded the channels
between the islands, to enable them to spear the salmon with
greater facility. They were a timid race, and seemed unaccustomed
to the sight of white men. Entering one of the huts, Captain
Bonneville found the inhabitants just proceeding to cook a fine
salmon. It is put into a pot filled with cold water, and hung
over the fire. The moment the water begins to boil, the fish is
considered cooked.

Taking his seat unceremoniously, and lighting his pipe, the
captain awaited the cooking of the fish, intending to invite
himself to the repast. The owner of the hut seemed to take his
intrusion in good part. While conversing with him the captain
felt something move behind him, and turning round and removing a
few skins and old buffalo robes, discovered a young girl, about
fourteen years of age, crouched beneath, who directed her large
black eyes full in his face, and continued to gaze in mute
surprise and terror. The captain endeavored to dispel her fears,
and drawing a bright ribbon from his pocket, attempted repeatedly
to tie it round her neck. She jerked back at each attempt,
uttering a sound very much like a snarl; nor could all the
blandishments of the captain, albeit a pleasant, good-looking,
and somewhat gallant man, succeed in conquering the shyness of
the savage little beauty. His attentions were now turned toward
the parents, whom he presented with an awl and a little tobacco,
and having thus secured their good-will, continued to smoke his
pipe, and watch the salmon. While thus seated near the threshold,
an urchin of the family approached the door, but catching a sight
of the strange guest, ran off screaming with terror and ensconced
himself behind the long straw at the back of the hut.

Desirous to dispel entirely this timidity, and to open a trade
with the simple inhabitants of the hut, who, he did not doubt,
had furs somewhere concealed, the captain now drew forth that
grand lure in the eyes of a savage, a pocket mirror. The sight of
it was irresistible. After examining it for a long time with
wonder and admiration, they produced a musk-rat skin, and offered
it in exchange. The captain shook his head; but purchased the
skin for a couple of buttons - superfluous trinkets! as the
worthy lord of the hovel had neither coat nor breeches on which
to place them.

The mirror still continued the great object of desire,
particularly in the eyes of the old housewife, who produced a pot
of parched flour and a string of biscuit roots. These procured
her some trifle in return; but could not command the purchase of
the mirror. The salmon being now completely cooked, they all
joined heartily in supper. A bounteous portion was deposited
before the captain by the old woman, upon some fresh grass, which
served instead of a platter; and never had he tasted a salmon
boiled so completely to his fancy.

Supper being over, the captain lighted his pipe and passed it to
his host, who, inhaling the smoke, puffed it through his nostrils
so assiduously, that in a little while his head manifested signs
of confusion and dizziness. Being satisfied, by this time, of
the kindly and companionable qualities of the captain, he became
easy and communicative; and at length hinted something about
exchanging beaver skins for horses. The captain at once offered
to dispose of his steed, which stood fastened at the door. The
bargain was soon concluded, whereupon the Indian, removing a pile
of bushes under which his valuables were concealed, drew forth
the number of skins agreed upon as the price.

Shortly afterward, some of the captain's people coming up, he
ordered another horse to be saddled, and, mounting it, took his
departure from the hut, after distributing a few trifling
presents among its simple inhabitants. During all the time of his
visit, the little Indian girl had kept her large black eyes fixed
upon him, almost without winking, watching every movement with
awe and wonder; and as he rode off, remained gazing after him,
motionless as a statue. Her father, however, delighted with his
new acquaintance, mounted his newly purchased horse, and followed
in the train of the captain, to whom he continued to be a
faithful and useful adherent during his sojourn in the

The cowardly effects of an evil conscience were evidenced in the
conduct of one of the captain's men, who had been in the
California expedition. During all their intercourse with the
harmless people of this place, he had manifested uneasiness and
anxiety. While his companions mingled freely and joyously with
the natives, he went about with a restless, suspicious look;
scrutinizing every painted form and face and starting often at
the sudden approach of some meek and inoffensive savage, who
regarded him with reverence as a superior being. Yet this was
ordinarily a bold fellow, who never flinched from danger, nor
turned pale at the prospect of a battle. At length he requested
permission of Captain Bonneville to keep out of the way of these
people entirely. Their striking resemblance, he said, to the
people of Ogden's River, made him continually fear that some
among them might have seen him in that expedition; and might seek
an opportunity of revenge. Ever after this, while they remained
in this neighborhood, he would skulk out of the way and keep
aloof when any of the native inhabitants approached. "Such,"
observed Captain Bonneville, "is the effect of self-reproach,
even upon the roving trapper in the wilderness, who has little
else to fear than the stings of his own guilty conscience."


Outfit of a trapper Risks to which he is subjected
Partnership of trappers Enmity of Indians Distant smoke A
country on fire Gun Greek Grand Rond Fine pastures
Perplexities in a smoky country Conflagration of forests.

IT had been the intention of Captain Bonneville, in descending
along Snake River, to scatter his trappers upon the smaller
streams. In this way a range of country is trapped by small
detachments from a main body. The outfit of a trapper is
generally a rifle, a pound of powder, and four pounds of lead,
with a bullet mould, seven traps, an axe, a hatchet, a knife and
awl, a camp kettle, two blankets, and, where supplies are plenty,
seven pounds of flour. He has, generally, two or three horses, to
carry himself and his baggage and peltries. Two trappers
commonly go together, for the purposes of mutual assistance and
support; a larger party could not easily escape the eyes of the
Indians. It is a service of peril, and even more so at present
than formerly, for the Indians, since they have got into the
habit of trafficking peltries with the traders, have learned the
value of the beaver, and look upon the trappers as poachers, who
are filching the riches from their streams, and interfering with
their market. They make no hesitation, therefore, to murder the
solitary trapper, and thus destroy a competitor, while they
possess themselves of his spoils. It is with regret we add, too,
that this hostility has in many cases been instigated by traders,
desirous of injuring their rivals, but who have themselves often
reaped the fruits of the mischief they have sown.

When two trappers undertake any considerable stream, their mode
of proceeding is, to hide their horses in some lonely glen, where
they can graze unobserved. They then build a small hut, dig out
a canoe from a cotton-wood tree, and in this poke along shore
silently, in the evening, and set their traps. These they revisit
in the same silent way at daybreak. When they take any beaver
they bring it home, skin it, stretch the skins on sticks to dry,
and feast upon the flesh. The body, hung up before the fire,
turns by its own weight, and is roasted in a superior style; the
tail is the trapper s tidbit; it is cut off, put on the end of a
stick, and toasted, and is considered even a greater dainty than
the tongue or the marrow-bone of a buffalo.

With all their silence and caution, however, the poor trappers
cannot always escape their hawk-eyed enemies. Their trail has
been discovered, perhaps, and followed up for many a mile; or
their smoke has been seen curling up out of the secret glen, or
has been scented by the savages, whose sense of smell is almost
as acute as that of sight. Sometimes they are pounced upon when
in the act of setting their traps; at other times, they are
roused from their sleep by the horrid war-whoop; or, perhaps,
have a bullet or an arrow whistling about their ears, in the
midst of one of their beaver banquets. In this way they are
picked off, from time to time, and nothing is known of them,
until, perchance, their bones are found bleaching in some lonely
ravine, or on the banks of some nameless stream, which from that
time is called after them. Many of the small streams beyond the
mountains thus perpetuate the names of unfortunate trappers that
have been murdered on their banks.

A knowledge of these dangers deterred Captain Bonneville, in the
present instance, from detaching small parties of trappers as he
had intended; for his scouts brought him word that formidable
bands of the Banneck Indians were lying on the Boisee and Payette
Rivers, at no great distance, so that they would be apt to detect
and cut off any stragglers. It behooved him, also, to keep his
party together, to guard against any predatory attack upon the
main body; he continued on his way, therefore, without dividing
his forces. And fortunate it was that he did so; for in a little
while he encountered one of the phenomena of the western wilds
that would effectually have prevented his scattered people from
finding each other again. In a word, it was the season of setting
fire to the prairies. As he advanced he began to perceive great
clouds of smoke at a distance, rising by degrees, and spreading
over the whole face of the country. The atmosphere became dry and
surcharged with murky vapor, parching to the skin, and irritating
to the eyes. When travelling among the hills, they could
scarcely discern objects at the distance of a few paces; indeed,
the least exertion of the vision was painful. There was evidently
some vast conflagration in the direction toward which they were
proceeding; it was as yet at a great distance, and during the day
they could only see the smoke rising in larger and denser
volumes, and rolling forth in an immense canopy. At night the
skies were all glowing with the reflection of unseen fires,
hanging in an immense body of lurid light high above the horizon.

Having reached Gun Creek, an important stream coming from the
left, Captain Bonneville turned up its course, to traverse the
mountain and avoid the great bend of Snake River. Being now out
of the range of the Bannecks, he sent out his people in all
directions to hunt the antelope for present supplies; keeping the
dried meats for places where game might be scarce.

During four days that the party were ascending Gun Creek, the
smoke continued to increase so rapidly that it was impossible to
distinguish the face of the country and ascertain landmarks.
Fortunately, the travellers fell upon an Indian trail. which led
them to the head-waters of the Fourche de Glace or Ice River,
sometimes called the Grand Rond. Here they found all the plains
and valleys wrapped in one vast conflagration; which swept over
the long grass in billows of flame, shot up every bush and tree,
rose in great columns from the groves, and set up clouds of smoke
that darkened the atmosphere. To avoid this sea of fire, the
travellers had to pursue their course close along the foot of the
mountains; but the irritation from the smoke continued to be

The country about the head-waters of the Grand Rond spreads out
into broad and level prairies, extremely fertile, and watered by
mountain springs and rivulets. These prairies are resorted to by
small bands of the Skynses, to pasture their horses, as well as
to banquets upon the salmon which abound in the neighboring
waters. They take these fish in great quantities and without the
least difficulty; simply taking them out of the water with their
hands, as they flounder and struggle in the numerous long shoals
of the principal streams. At the time the travellers passed over
these prairies, some of the narrow, deep streams by which they
were intersected were completely choked with salmon, which they
took in great numbers. The wolves and bears frequent these
streams at this season, to avail themselves of these great

The travellers continued, for many days, to experience great
difficulties and discomforts from this wide conflagration, which
seemed to embrace the whole wilderness. The sun was for a great
part of the time obscured by the smoke, and the loftiest
mountains were hidden from view. Blundering along in this region
of mist and uncertainty, they were frequently obliged to make
long circuits, to avoid obstacles which they could not perceive
until close upon them. The Indian trails were their safest
guides, for though they sometimes appeared to lead them out of
their direct course, they always conducted them to the passes.

On the 26th of August, they reached the head of the Way-lee-way
River. Here, in a valley of the mountains through which this
head-water makes its way, they found a band of the Skynses, who
were extremely sociable, and appeared to be well disposed, and as
they spoke the Nez Perce language, an intercourse was easily kept
up with them.

In the pastures on the bank of this stream, Captain Bonneville
encamped for a time, for the purpose of recruiting the strength
of his horses. Scouts were now sent out to explore the
surrounding country, and search for a convenient pass through the
mountains toward the Wallamut or Multnomah. After an absence of
twenty days they returned weary and discouraged. They had been
harassed and perplexed in rugged mountain defiles, where their
progress was continually impeded by rocks and precipices. Often
they had been obliged to travel along the edges of frightful
ravines, where a false step would have been fatal. In one of
these passes, a horse fell from the brink of a precipice, and
would have been dashed to pieces had he not lodged among the
branches of a tree, from which he was extricated with great
difficulty. These, however, were not the worst of their
difficulties and perils. The great conflagration of the country,
which had harassed the main party in its march, was still more
awful the further this exploring party proceeded. The flames
which swept rapidly over the light vegetation of the prairies
assumed a fiercer character and took a stronger hold amid the
wooded glens and ravines of the mountains. Some of the deep
gorges and defiles sent up sheets of flame, and clouds of lurid
smoke, and sparks and cinders that in the night made them
resemble the craters of volcanoes. The groves and forests, too,
which crowned the cliffs, shot up their towering columns of fire,
and added to the furnace glow of the mountains. With these
stupendous sights were combined the rushing blasts caused by the
rarefied air, which roared and howled through the narrow glens,
and whirled forth the smoke and flames in impetuous wreaths. Ever
and anon, too, was heard the crash of falling trees, sometimes
tumbling from crags and precipices, with tremendous sounds.

In the daytime, the mountains were wrapped in smoke so dense and
blinding, that the explorers, if by chance they separated, could
only find each other by shouting. Often, too, they had to grope
their way through the yet burning forests, in constant peril from
the limbs and trunks of trees, which frequently fell across their
path. At length they gave up the attempt to find a pass as
hopeless, under actual circumstances, and made their way back to
the camp to report their failure.


The Skynses Their traffic Hunting Food Horses A horse-
race Devotional feeling of the Skynses, Nez Perces and
Flatheads Prayers Exhortations A preacher on horseback
Effect of religion on the manners of the tribes A new light.

DURING the absence of this detachment, a sociable intercourse had
been kept up between the main party and the Skynses, who had
removed into the neighborhood of the camp. These people dwell
about the waters of the Way-lee-way and the adjacent country, and
trade regularly with the Hudson's Bay Company; generally giving
horses in exchange for the articles of which they stand in need.
They bring beaver skins, also, to the trading posts; not procured
by trapping, but by a course of internal traffic with the shy and
ignorant Shoshokoes and Too-el-icans, who keep in distant and
unfrequented parts of the country, and will not venture near the
trading houses. The Skynses hunt the deer and elk occasionally;
and depend, for a part of the year, on fishing. Their main
subsistence, however, is upon roots, especially the kamash. This
bulbous root is said to be of a delicious flavor, and highly
nutritious. The women dig it up in great quantities, steam it,
and deposit it in caches for winter provisions. It grows
spontaneously, and absolutely covers the plains.

This tribe was comfortably clad and equipped. They had a few
rifles among them, and were extremely desirous of bartering for
those of Captain Bonneville's men; offering a couple of good
running horses for a light rifle. Their first-rate horses,
however, were not to be procured from them on any terms. They
almost invariably use ponies; but of a breed infinitely superior
to any in the United States. They are fond of trying their speed
and bottom, and of betting upon them.

As Captain Bonneville was desirous of judging of the comparative
merit of their horses, he purchased one of their racers, and had
a trial of speed between that, an American, and a Shoshonie,
which were supposed to be well matched. The race-course was for
the distance of one mile and a half out and back. For the first
half mile the American took the lead by a few hands; but, losing
his wind, soon fell far behind; leaving the Shoshonie and Skynse
to contend together. For a mile and a half they went head and
head: but at the turn the Skynse took the lead and won the race
with great ease, scarce drawing a quick breath when all was over.

The Skynses, like the Nez Perces and the Flatheads, have a strong
devotional feeling, which has been successfully cultivated by
some of the resident personages of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Sunday is invariably kept sacred among these tribes. They will
not raise their camp on that day, unless in extreme cases of
danger or hunger: neither will they hunt, nor fish, nor trade,
nor perform any kind of labor on that day. A part of it is passed
in prayer and religious ceremonies. Some chief, who is generally
at the same time what is called a "medicine man," assembles the
community. After invoking blessings from the Deity, he addresses
the assemblage, exhorting them to good conduct; to be diligent in
providing for their families; to abstain from lying and stealing;
to avoid quarrelling or cheating in their play, and to be just
and hospitable to all strangers who may be among them. Prayers
and exhortations are also made, early in the morning, on week
days. Sometimes, all this is done by the chief from horseback;
moving slowly about the camp, with his hat on, and uttering his
exhortations with a loud voice. On all occasions, the bystanders
listen with profound attention; and at the end of every sentence
respond one word in unison, apparently equivalent to an amen.
While these prayers and exhortations are going on, every
employment in the camp is suspended. If an Indian is riding by
the place, he dismounts, holds his horse, and attends with
reverence until all is done. When the chief has finished his
prayer or exhortation, he says, "I have done," upon which there
is a general exclamation in unison.
With these religious services, probably derived from the white
men, the tribes above-mentioned mingle some of their old Indian
ceremonials, such as dancing to the cadence of a song or ballad,
which is generally done in a large lodge provided for the
purpose. Besides Sundays, they likewise observe the cardinal
holidays of the Roman Catholic Church.

Whoever has introduced these simple forms of religions among
these poor savages, has evidently understood their characters and
capacities, and effected a great melioration of their manners. Of
this we speak not merely from the testimony of Captain
Bonneville, but likewise from that of Mr. Wyeth, who passed some
months in a travelling camp of the Flatheads. "During the time I
have been with them," says he, "I have never known an instance of
theft among them: the least thing, even to a bead or pin, is
brought to you, if found; and often, things that have been thrown
away. Neither have I known any quarrelling, nor lying. This
absence of all quarrelling the more surprised me, when I came to
see the various occasions that would have given rise to it among
the whites: the crowding together of from twelve to eighteen
hundred horses, which have to be driven into camp at night, to be
picketed, to be packed in the morning; the gathering of fuel in
places where it is extremely scanty. All this, however, is done
without confusion or disturbance.

"They have a mild, playful, laughing disposition; and this is
portrayed in their countenances. They are polite, and
unobtrusive. When one speaks, the rest pay strict attention:
when he is done, another assents by 'yes,' or dissents by 'no;'
and then states his reasons, which are listened to with equal
attention. Even the children are more peaceable than any other
children. I never heard an angry word among them, nor any
quarrelling; although there were, at least, five hundred of them
together, and continually at play. With all this quietness of
spirit, they are brave when put to the test; and are an overmatch
for an equal number of Blackfeet."

The foregoing observations, though gathered from Mr. Wyeth as
relative to the Flatheads, apply, in the main, to the Skynses
also. Captain Bonneville, during his sojourn with the latter,
took constant occasion, in conversing with their principal men,
to encourage them in the cultivation of moral and religious
habits; drawing a comparison between their peaceable and
comfortable course of life and that of other tribes, and
attributing it to their superior sense of morality and religion.
He frequently attended their religious services, with his people;
always enjoining on the latter the most reverential deportment;
and he observed that the poor Indians were always pleased to have
the white men present.

The disposition of these tribes is evidently favorable to a
considerable degree of civilization. A few farmers settled among
them might lead them, Captain Bonneville thinks, to till the
earth and cultivate grain; the country of the Skynses and Nez
Perces is admirably adapted for the raising of cattle. A
Christian missionary or two, and some trifling assistance from
government, to protect them from the predatory and warlike
tribes, might lay the foundation of a Christian people in the
midst of the great western wilderness, who would "wear the
Americans near their hearts."

We must not omit to observe, however, in qualification of the
sanctity of this Sabbath in the wilderness, that these tribes who
are all ardently addicted to gambling and horseracing, make
Sunday a peculiar day for recreations of the kind, not deeming
them in any wise out of season. After prayers and pious
ceremonies are over, there is scarce an hour in the day, says
Captain Bonneville, that you do not see several horses racing at
full speed; and in every corner of the camp are groups of
gamblers, ready to stake everything upon the all-absorbing game
of hand. The Indians, says Wyeth, appear to enjoy their
amusements with more zest than the whites. They are great
gamblers; and in proportion to their means, play bolder and bet
higher than white men.

The cultivation of the religious feeling, above noted, among the
savages, has been at times a convenient policy with some of the
more knowing traders; who have derived great credit and influence
among them by being considered "medicine men;" that is, men
gifted with mysterious knowledge. This feeling is also at times
played upon by religious charlatans, who are to be found in
savage as well as civilized life. One of these was noted by
Wyeth, during his sojourn among the Flat-heads. A new great man,
says he, is rising in the camp, who aims at power and sway. He
covers his designs under the ample cloak of religion; inculcating
some new doctrines and ceremonials among those who are more
simple than himself. He has already made proselytes of one-fifth
of the camp; beginning by working on the women, the children, and
the weak-minded. His followers are all dancing on the plain, to
their own vocal music. The more knowing ones of the tribe look on
and laugh; thinking it all too foolish to do harm; but they will
soon find that women, children, and fools, form a large majority
of every community, and they will have, eventually, to follow the
new light, or be considered among the profane. As soon as a
preacher or pseudo prophet of the kind gets followers enough, he
either takes command of the tribe, or branches off and sets up an
independent chief and "medicine man."


Scarcity in the camp Refusal of supplies by the Hudson's Bay
Company Conduct of the Indians A hungry retreat John Day's
River The Blue Mountains Salmon fishing on Snake River
Messengers from the Crow country Bear River Valley immense
migration of buffalo Danger of buffalo hunting A wounded
Indian Eutaw Indians A "surround" of antelopes.

PROVISIONS were now growing scanty in the camp, and Captain
Bonneville found it necessary to seek a new neighborhood. Taking
leave, therefore, of his friends, the Skynses, he set off to the
westward, and, crossing a low range of mountains, encamped on the
head-waters of the Ottolais. Being now within thirty miles of
Fort Wallah-Wallah, the trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company,
he sent a small detachment of men thither to purchase corn for
the subsistence of his party. The men were well received at the
fort; but all supplies for their camp were peremptorily refused.
Tempting offers were made them, however, if they would leave
their present employ, and enter into the service of the company;
but they were not to be seduced.

When Captain Bonneville saw his messengers return empty-handed,
he ordered an instant move, for there was imminent danger of
famine. He pushed forward down the course of the Ottolais, which
runs diagonal to the Columbia, and falls into it about fifty
miles below the Wallah-Wallah. His route lay through a beautiful
undulating country, covered with horses belonging to the Skynses,
who sent them there for pasturage.

On reaching the Columbia, Captain Bonneville hoped to open a
trade with the natives, for fish and other provisions, but to his
surprise they kept aloof, and even hid themselves on his
approach. He soon discovered that they were under the influence
of the Hudson's Bay Company, who had forbidden them to trade, or
hold any communion with him. He proceeded along the Columbia,
but it was everywhere the same; not an article of provisions was
to be obtained from the natives, and he was at length obliged to
kill a couple of his horses to sustain his famishing people. He
now came to a halt, and consulted what was to be done. The broad
and beautiful Columbia lay before them, smooth and unruffled as a
mirror; a little more journeying would take them to its lower
region; to the noble valley of the Wallamut, their projected
winter quarters. To advance under present circumstances would be
to court starvation. The resources of the country were locked
against them, by the influence of a jealous and powerful
monopoly. If they reached the Wallamut, they could scarcely hope
to obtain sufficient supplies for the winter; if they lingered
any longer in the country the snows would gather upon the
mountains and cut off their retreat. By hastening their return,
they would be able to reach the Blue Mountains just in time to
find the elk, the deer, and the bighorn; and after they had
supplied themselves with provisions, they might push through the
mountains before they were entirely blocked by snow. Influenced
by these considerations, Captain Bonneville reluctantly turned
his back a second time on the Columbia, and set off for the Blue
Mountains. He took his course up John Day's River, so called from
one of the hunters in the original Astorian enterprise. As famine
was at his heels, he travelled fast, and reached the mountains by
the 1st of October. He entered by the opening made by John Day's
River; it was a rugged and difficult defile, but he and his men
had become accustomed to hard scrambles of the kind. Fortunately,
the September rains had extinguished the fires which recently
spread over these regions; and the mountains, no longer wrapped
in smoke, now revealed all their grandeur and sublimity to the

They were disappointed in their expectation of finding abundant
game in the mountains; large bands of the natives had passed
through, returning from their fishing expeditions, and had driven
all the game before them. It was only now and then that the
hunters could bring in sufficient to keep the party from

To add to their distress, they mistook their route, and wandered
for ten days among high and bald hills of clay. At length, after
much perplexity, they made their way to the banks of Snake River,
following the course of which, they were sure to reach their
place of destination.

It was the 20th of October when they found themselves once more
upon this noted stream. The Shoshokoes, whom they had met with in
such scanty numbers on their journey down the river, now
absolutely thronged its banks to profit by the abundance of
salmon, and lay up a stock for winter provisions. Scaffolds were
everywhere erected, and immense quantities of fish drying upon
them. At this season of the year, however, the salmon are
extremely poor, and the travellers needed their keen sauce of
hunger to give them a relish.

In some places the shores were completely covered with a stratum
of dead salmon, exhausted in ascending the river, or destroyed at
the falls; the fetid odor of which tainted the air.

It was not until the travellers reached the head-waters of the
Portneuf that they really found themselves in a region of
abundance. Here the buffaloes were in immense herds; and here
they remained for three days, slaying and cooking, and feasting,
and indemnifying themselves by an enormous carnival, for a long
and hungry Lent. Their horses, too, found good pasturage, and
enjoyed a little rest after a severe spell of hard travelling.

During this period, two horsemen arrived at the camp, who proved
to be messengers sent express for supplies from Montero's party;
which had been sent to beat up the Crow country and the Black
Hills, and to winter on the Arkansas. They reported that all was
well with the party, but that they had not been able to
accomplish the whole of their mission, and were still in the Crow
country, where they should remain until joined by Captain
Bonneville in the spring. The captain retained the messengers
with him until the 17th of November, when, having reached the
caches on Bear River, and procured thence the required supplies,
he sent them back to their party; appointing a rendezvous toward
the last of June following, on the forks of Wind River Valley, in
the Crow country.

He now remained several days encamped near the caches, and having
discovered a small band of Shoshonies in his neighborhood,
purchased from them lodges, furs, and other articles of winter
comfort, and arranged with them to encamp together during the

The place designed by the captain for the wintering ground was on
the upper part of Bear River, some distance off. He delayed
approaching it as long as possible, in order to avoid driving off
the buffaloes, which would be needed for winter provisions. He
accordingly moved forward but slowly, merely as the want of game
and grass obliged him to shift his position. The weather had
already become extremely cold, and the snow lay to a considerable
depth. To enable the horses to carry as much dried meat as
possible, he caused a cache to be made, in which all the baggage
that could be spared was deposited. This done, the party
continued to move slowly toward their winter quarters.

They were not doomed, however, to suffer from scarcity during the
present winter. The people upon Snake River having chased off
the buffaloes before the snow had become deep, immense herds now
came trooping over the mountains; forming dark masses on their
sides, from which their deep-mouthed bellowing sounded like the
low peals and mutterings from a gathering thunder-cloud. In
effect, the cloud broke, and down came the torrent thundering
into the valley. It is utterly impossible, according to Captain
Bonneville, to convey an idea of the effect produced by the sight
of such countless throngs of animals of such bulk and spirit, all
rushing forward as if swept on by a whirlwind.

The long privation which the travellers had suffered gave
uncommon ardor to their present hunting. One of the Indians
attached to the party, finding himself on horseback in the midst
of the buffaloes, without either rifle, or bow and arrows, dashed
after a fine cow that was passing close by him, and plunged his
knife into her side with such lucky aim as to bring her to the
ground. It was a daring deed; but hunger had made him almost

The buffaloes are sometimes tenacious of life, and must be
wounded in particular parts. A ball striking the shagged frontlet
of a bull produces no other effect than a toss of the head and
greater exasperation; on the contrary, a ball striking the
forehead of a cow is fatal. Several instances occurred during
this great hunting bout, of bulls fighting furiously after having
received mortal wounds. Wyeth, also, was witness to an instance
of the kind while encamped with Indians. During a grand hunt of
the buffaloes, one of the Indians pressed a bull so closely that
the animal turned suddenly on him. His horse stopped short, or
started back, and threw him. Before he could rise the bull rushed
furiously upon him, and gored him in the chest so that his breath
came out at the aperture. He was conveyed back to the camp, and
his wound was dressed. Giving himself up for slain, he called
round him his friends, and made his will by word of mouth. It was
something like a death chant, and at the end of every sentence
those around responded in concord. He appeared no ways
intimidated by the approach of death. "I think," adds Wyeth, "the
Indians die better than the white men; perhaps from having less
fear about the future."

The buffaloes may be approached very near, if the hunter keeps to
the leeward; but they are quick of scent, and will take the alarm
and move off from a party of hunters to the windward, even when
two miles distant.

The vast herds which had poured down into the Bear River Valley
were now snow-bound, and remained in the neighborhood of the camp
throughout the winter. This furnished the trappers and their
Indian friends a perpetual carnival; so that, to slay and eat
seemed to be the main occupations of the day. It is astonishing
what loads of meat it requires to cope with the appetite of a
hunting camp.

The ravens and wolves soon came in for their share of the good
cheer. These constant attendants of the hunter gathered in vast
numbers as the winter advanced. They might be completely out of
sight, but at the report of a gun, flights of ravens would
immediately be seen hovering in the air, no one knew whence they
came; while the sharp visages of the wolves would peep down from
the brow of every hill, waiting for the hunter's departure to
pounce upon the carcass.

Besides the buffaloes, there were other neighbors snow-bound in
the valley, whose presence did not promise to be so advantageous.
This was a band of Eutaw Indians who were encamped higher up on
the river. They are a poor tribe that, in a scale of the various
tribes inhabiting these regions, would rank between the
Shoshonies and the Shoshokoes or Root Diggers; though more bold
and warlike than the latter. They have but few rifles among them,
and are generally armed with bows and arrows.

As this band and the Shoshonies were at deadly feud, on account
of old grievances, and as neither party stood in awe of the
other, it was feared some bloody scenes might ensue. Captain
Bonneville, therefore, undertook the office of pacificator, and
sent to the Eutaw chiefs, inviting them to a friendly smoke, in
order to bring about a reconciliation. His invitation was proudly
declined; whereupon he went to them in person, and succeeded in
effecting a suspension of hostilities until the chiefs of the two
tribes could meet in council. The braves of the two rival camps
sullenly acquiesced in the arrangement. They would take their
seats upon the hill tops, and watch their quondam enemies hunting
the buffalo in the plain below, and evidently repine that their
hands were tied up from a skirmish. The worthy captain, however,
succeeded in carrying through his benevolent mediation. The
chiefs met; the amicable pipe was smoked, the hatchet buried, and
peace formally proclaimed. After this, both camps united and
mingled in social intercourse. Private quarrels, however, would
occasionally occur in hunting, about the division of the game,
and blows would sometimes be exchanged over the carcass of a
buffalo; but the chiefs wisely took no notice of these individual

One day the scouts, who had been ranging the hills, brought news
of several large herds of antelopes in a small valley at no great
distance. This produced a sensation among the Indians, for both
tribes were in ragged condition, and sadly in want of those
shirts made of the skin of the antelope. It was determined to
have "a surround," as the mode of hunting that animal is called.
Everything now assumed an air of mystic solemnity and importance.
The chiefs prepared their medicines or charms each according to
his own method, or fancied inspiration, generally with the
compound of certain simples; others consulted the entrails of
animals which they had sacrificed, and thence drew favorable
auguries. After much grave smoking and deliberating it was at
length proclaimed that all who were able to lift a club, man,
woman, or child, should muster for "the surround." When all had
congregated, they moved in rude procession to the nearest point
of the valley in question, and there halted. Another course of
smoking and deliberating, of which the Indians are so fond, took
place among the chiefs. Directions were then issued for the
horsemen to make a circuit of about seven miles, so as to
encompass the herd. When this was done, the whole mounted force
dashed off simultaneously, at full speed, shouting and yelling at
the top of their voices. In a short space of time the antelopes,
started from their hiding-places, came bounding from all points
into the valley. The riders, now gradually contracting their
circle, brought them nearer and nearer to the spot where the
senior chief, surrounded by the elders, male and female, were
seated in supervision of the chase. The antelopes, nearly
exhausted with fatigue and fright, and bewildered by perpetual
whooping, made no effort to break through the ring of the
hunters, but ran round in small circles, until man, woman, and
child beat them down with bludgeons. Such is the nature of that
species of antelope hunting, technically called "a surround."


A festive winter Conversion of the Shoshonies Visit of two
free trappers Gayety in the camp A touch of the tender
passion The reclaimed squaw An Indian fine lady An
elopement A pursuit Market value of a bad wife.

GAME continued to abound throughout the winter, and the camp was
overstocked with provisions. Beef and venison, humps and
haunches, buffalo tongues and marrow-bones, were constantly
cooking at every fire; and the whole atmosphere was redolent with
the savory fumes of roast meat. It was, indeed, a continual
"feast of fat things," and though there might be a lack of "wine
upon the lees," yet we have shown that a substitute was
occasionally to be found in honey and alcohol.

Both the Shoshonies and the Eutaws conducted themselves with
great propriety. It is true, they now and then filched a few
trifles from their good friends, the Big Hearts, when their backs
were turned; but then, they always treated them to their faces
with the utmost deference and respect, and good-humoredly vied
with the trappers in all kinds of feats of activity and mirthful
sports. The two tribes maintained toward each other, also a
friendliness of aspect which gave Captain Bonneville reason to
hope that all past animosity was effectually buried.

The two rival bands, however, had not long been mingled in this
social manner before their ancient jealousy began to break out in
a new form. The senior chief of the Shoshonies was a thinking
man, and a man of observation. He had been among the Nez Perces,
listened to their new code of morality and religion received from
the white men, and attended their devotional exercises. He had
observed the effect of all this, in elevating the tribe in the
estimation of the white men; and determined, by the same means,
to gain for his own tribe a superiority over their ignorant
rivals, the Eutaws. He accordingly assembled his people, and
promulgated among them the mongrel doctrines and form of worship
of the Nez Perces; recommending the same to their adoption. The
Shoshonies were struck with the novelty, at least, of the
measure, and entered into it with spirit. They began to observe
Sundays and holidays, and to have their devotional dances, and
chants, and other ceremonials, about which the ignorant Eutaws
knew nothing; while they exerted their usual competition in
shooting and horseracing, and the renowned game of hand.

Matters were going on thus pleasantly and prosperously, in this
motley community of white and red men, when, one morning, two
stark free trappers, arrayed in the height of savage finery, and
mounted on steeds as fine and as fiery as themselves, and all
jingling with hawks' bells, came galloping, with whoop and
halloo, into the camp.

They were fresh from the winter encampment of the American Fur
Company, in the Green River Valley; and had come to pay their old
comrades of Captain Bonneville's company a visit. An idea may be
formed from the scenes we have already given of conviviality in
the wilderness, of the manner in which these game birds were
received by those of their feather in the camp; what feasting,
what revelling, what boasting, what bragging, what ranting and
roaring, and racing and gambling, and squabbling and fighting,
ensued among these boon companions. Captain Bonneville, it is
true, maintained always a certain degree of law and order in his
camp, and checked each fierce excess; but the trappers, in their
seasons of idleness and relaxation require a degree of license
and indulgence, to repay them for the long privations and almost
incredible hardships of their periods of active service.

In the midst of all this feasting and frolicking, a freak of the
tender passion intervened, and wrought a complete change in the
scene. Among the Indian beauties in the camp of the Eutaws and
Shoshonies, the free trappers discovered two, who had whilom
figured as their squaws. These connections frequently take place
for a season, and sometimes continue for years, if not
perpetually; but are apt to be broken when the free trapper
starts off, suddenly, on some distant and rough expedition.

In the present instance, these wild blades were anxious to regain
their belles; nor were the latter loath once more to come under
their protection. The free trapper combines, in the eye of an
Indian girl, all that is dashing and heroic in a warrior of her
own race -- whose gait, and garb, and bravery he emulates -- with
all that is gallant and glorious in the white man. And then the
indulgence with which he treats her, the finery in which he decks
her out, the state in which she moves, the sway she enjoys over
both his purse and person; instead of being the drudge and slave
of an Indian husband, obliged to carry his pack, and build his
lodge, and make his fire, and bear his cross humors and dry
blows. No; there is no comparison in the eyes of an aspiring
belle of the wilderness, between a free trapper and an Indian

With respect to one of the parties the matter was easily
arranged. 'The beauty in question was a pert little Eutaw wench,
that had been taken prisoner, in some war excursion, by a
Shoshonie. She was readily ransomed for a few articles of
trifling value; and forthwith figured about the camp in fine
array, "with rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes," and a
tossed-up coquettish air that made her the envy, admiration, and
abhorrence of all the leathern-dressed, hard-working squaws of
her acquaintance.

As to the other beauty, it was quite a different matter. She had
become the wife of a Shoshonie brave. It is true, he had another
wife, of older date than the one in question; who, therefore,
took command in his household, and treated his new spouse as a
slave; but the latter was the wife of his last fancy, his latest
caprice; and was precious in his eyes. All attempt to bargain
with him, therefore, was useless; the very proposition was
repulsed with anger and disdain. The spirit of the trapper was
roused, his pride was piqued as well as his passion. He
endeavored to prevail upon his quondam mistress to elope with
him. His horses were fleet, the winter nights were long and dark,
before daylight they would be beyond the reach of pursuit; and
once at the encampment in Green River Valley, they might set the
whole band of Shoshonies at defiance.

The Indian girl listened and longed. Her heart yearned after the
ease and splendor of condition of a trapper's bride, and throbbed
to be free from the capricious control of the premier squaw; but
she dreaded the failure of the plan, and the fury of a Shoshonie
husband. They parted; the Indian girl in tears, and the madcap
trapper more than ever, with his thwarted passion.

Their interviews had, probably, been detected, and the jealousy
of the Shoshonie brave aroused: a clamor of angry voices was
heard in his lodge, with the sound of blows, and of female
weeping and lamenting. At night, as the trapper lay tossing on
his pallet, a soft voice whispered at the door of his lodge. His
mistress stood trembling before him. She was ready to follow
whithersoever he should lead.

In an instant he was up and out. He had two prime horses, sure
and swift of foot, and of great wind. With stealthy quiet, they
were brought up and saddled; and in a few moments he and his
prize were careering over the snow, with which the whole country
was covered. In the eagerness of escape, they had made no
provision for their journey; days must elapse before they could
reach their haven of safety, and mountains and prairies be
traversed, wrapped in all the desolation of winter. For the
present, however they thought of nothing but flight; urging their
horses forward over the dreary wastes, and fancying, in the
howling of every blast, they heard the yell of the pursuer.

At early dawn, the Shoshonie became aware of his loss. Mounting
his swiftest horse, he set off in hot pursuit. He soon found the
trail of the fugitives, and spurred on in hopes of overtaking
them. The winds, however, which swept the valley, had drifted the
light snow into the prints made by the horses' hoofs. In a little
while he lost all trace of them, and was completely thrown out of
the chase. He knew, however, the situation of the camp toward
which they were bound, and a direct course through the mountains,
by which he might arrive there sooner than the fugitives. Through
the most rugged defiles, therefore, he urged his course by day
and night, scarce pausing until he reached the camp. It was some
time before the fugitives made their appearance. Six days had
they traversed the wintry wilds. They came, haggard with hunger
and fatigue, and their horses faltering under them. The first
object that met their eyes on entering the camp was the Shoshonie
brave. He rushed, knife in hand, to plunge it in the heart that
had proved false to him. The trapper threw himself before the
cowering form of his mistress, and, exhausted as he was, prepared
for a deadly struggle. The Shoshonie paused. His habitual awe of
the white man checked his arm; the trapper's friends crowded to
the spot, and arrested him. A parley ensued. A kind of crim. con.
adjudication took place; such as frequently occurs in civilized
life. A couple of horses were declared to be a fair compensation
for the loss of a woman who had previously lost her heart; with
this, the Shoshonie brave was fain to pacify his passion. He
returned to Captain Bonneville's camp, somewhat crestfallen, it
is true; but parried the officious condolements of his friends by
observing that two good horses were very good pay for one bad


Breaking up of winter quarters Move to Green River A trapper
and his rifle An arrival in camp A free trapper and his squaw
in distress Story of a Blackfoot belle.

THE winter was now breaking up, the snows were melted, from the
hills, and from the lower parts of the mountains, and the time
for decamping had arrived. Captain Bonneville dispatched a party
to the caches, who brought away all the effects concealed there,
and on the 1st of April (1835) , the camp was broken up, and
every one on the move. The white men and their allies, the Eutaws
and Shoshonies, parted with many regrets and sincere expressions
of good-will; for their intercourse throughout the winter had
been of the most friendly kind.

Captain Bonneville and his party passed by Ham's Fork, and
reached the Colorado, or Green River, without accident, on the
banks of which they remained during the residue of the spring.
During this time, they were conscious that a band of hostile
Indians were hovering about their vicinity, watching for an
opportunity to slay or steal; but the vigilant precautions of
Captain Bonneville baffled all their manoeuvres. In such
dangerous times, the experienced mountaineer is never without his
rifle even in camp. On going from lodge to lodge to visit his
comrades, he takes it with him. On seating himself in a lodge, he
lays it beside him, ready to be snatched up; when he goes out, he
takes it up as regularly as a citizen would his walking-staff.
His rifle is his constant friend and protector.

On the 10th of June, the party was a little to the east of the
Wind River Mountains, where they halted for a time in excellent
pasturage, to give their horses a chance to recruit their
strength for a long journey; for it was Captain Bonneville's
intention to shape his course to the settlements; having already
been detained by the complication of his duties, and by various
losses and impediments, far beyond the time specified in his
leave of absence.

While the party was thus reposing in the neighborhood of the Wind
River Mountains, a solitary free trapper rode one day into the
camp, and accosted Captain Bonneville. He belonged, he said, to a
party of thirty hunters, who had just passed through the
neighborhood, but whom he had abandoned in consequence of their
ill treatment of a brother trapper; whom they had cast off from
their party, and left with his bag and baggage, and an Indian
wife into the bargain, in the midst of a desolate prairie. The
horseman gave a piteous account of the situation of this helpless
pair, and solicited the loan of horses to bring them and their
effects to the camp.

The captain was not a man to refuse assistance to any one in
distress, especially when there was a woman in the case; horses
were immediately dispatched, with an escort, to aid the
unfortunate couple. The next day they made their appearance with
all their effects; the man, a stalwart mountaineer, with a
peculiarly game look; the woman, a young Blackfoot beauty,
arrayed in the trappings and trinketry of a free trapper's bride.

Finding the woman to be quick-witted and communicative, Captain
Bonneville entered into conversation with her, and obtained from
her many particulars concerning the habits and customs of her
tribe; especially their wars and huntings. They pride themselves
upon being the "best legs of the mountains," and hunt the buffalo
on foot. This is done in spring time, when the frosts have thawed
and the ground is soft. The heavy buffaloes then sink over their
hoofs at every step, and are easily overtaken by the Blackfeet,
whose fleet steps press lightly on the surface. It is said,
however, that the buffaloes on the Pacific side of the Rocky
Mountains are fleeter and more active than on the Atlantic side;
those upon the plains of the Columbia can scarcely be overtaken

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