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בס"ד

Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 14.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Intense Cold—Author's First Journey on Foot—Immense Mountains of Snow—Escape of his Pony—Lose Sight of Companions—Arrival at top of the Mountain—Pony Recovered—Revolution of Feeling—Indian Gratitude Exemplified—Horse Steaks Fried in Tallow Candles—Blanc Mange—New Year's Day—Dangerous Ascent of a Mountain—Mules tumble Down—Animals Killed—Successful Attempt Next Day—Camp in four feet of Snow—Coldest Night—Sleep out in open Snow.
 

EATING, sleeping, and travelling, continually in the open air, with the thermometer descending, as we gradually ascended the immense slopes of country between the frontiers of Missouri and the Rocky Mountains, until I have found myself in a temperature of 30º below zero, prepared my system for the intense cold, which we endured during our journey through that elevated country. Twice only did our party find it too cold to travel longer than half an hour, without stopping and making a large fire to keep ourselves from freezing. We were all mounted at the time, but we found it necessary to walk a greater part of the way, to keep up a circulation of the blood.

It is judiciously ordained by a kind Providence, that the cold as well as heat, gradually increases in intensity.

If the human body at a temperate heat, say 80º was suddenly exposed to a temperature of 30º below zero, in which we travelled without any extra clothing, no ill effect resulting, we should not have been able to exist for an hour.

Let us then humbly acknowledge that to the great Omnipotent, we owe our being and all the benefits we receive.

MY FIRST JOURNEY ON FOOT.

It was a very cold day in December; the snow covered the immense mountain, over which we had to travel, and right merrily we all followed each other's footsteps in the deep snow.

When we arrived at the foot of the rugged mountain, it was found necessary to dismount, and lead our animals along the intricate and tortuous path. As usual I was at the rear of the cavalcade; I threw the bridle over my pony's head, and followed slowly behind him. I plunged frequently up to my neck in chasms of snow. My efforts to extricate myself cost me some time, and when I regained my footing, I discovered my pony about fifty yards ahead, trying to regain the party. I redoubled my exertions to reach him—I halloed all to no purpose—I sank down exhausted on a rock, with the dreadful reality that I was alone, and on foot on the mountains of eternal snow, with a long day's journey before me.

Gathering fresh strength and courage from the serious position I found myself in, I scrambled up that mountain with a heart palpitating so loudly, that I could count its pulsations. In this manner, alternately resting, I reached the top. On looking on the other side, the only indication of the party, was their deep trail in the frozen snow.

I commenced descending, and at considerable distance below me, I fancied I saw a moving object under a tree; continuing in the track, slipping at times a distance of ten or fifteen feet, until some disguised rock brought me up, I reached the bottom, where I found my pony tied to a tree, immediately on the trail.

No shipwrecked mariner on beholding the approach of a friendly vessel to deliver him from certain death, ever felt greater joy than I did, when I realized that it was my horse which I saw.

This incident was most injurious to me, and I felt its effects for several days, both in body and mind. I mounted my pony, and arrived in camp at dark, some four or five hours after the rest of the party.

Captain Wolff saw my pony riderless, and suspecting that he had escaped from me, caught and tied him up in the place where he was sure to be found; thus repaying me a hundred fold for my medical advice and attendance on Salt Creek.

HORSE STEAKS FRIED IN TALLOW CANDLES, AND BLANC MANGE FOR DESSERT.

At Bent's Fort, Col. Fremont had several pounds of candles made out of buffalo tallow; the want of convenient boxes to convey them, resulted in many of them being broken to pieces, so as to render them useless as candles. On the first of January, 1854, our men were regaled by unexpected, though not unwelcome luxuries.

I had reserved with religious care, two boxes containing one pound each, of Alden's preserved eggs and milk.—(The yolks of the eggs were beaten to a thick paste with a pound of loaf sugar, the milk was also prepared with powdered sugar, and hermetically sealed in tin cases.)—These two tins I had stowed away in my boxes, being the remains of the six dozen which had been wantonly destroyed at our six weeks camp on Salt Creek.

Nobody knew I had them. A paper of arrow root, which my wife had placed in my trunk, for diet, in case I was sick, I had also reserved. These three comestibles, boiled in six gallons of water, made as fine a blanc mange as ever was mangéd on Mount Blanc. This "dessert" I prepared without the knowledge of Col. Fremont.

Our dinner, in honor of "New Year's Day," consisted, besides our usual "horse soup," of a delicious dish of horse steaks, fried in the remnants of our "tallow candles." But the satisfaction and astonishment of the whole party cannot be portrayed, when 1 introduced, as dessert, my incomparable blanc mange. "Six gallons of bona fide," nourishing food, sweetened and flavored! It is hardly necessary to say, that it disappeared in double quick time. The whole camp had a share of it; and we were all sorry that there was "no more left of the same sort."

Several days after we came down from the Cochotope Pass, it became necessary to ascend a very high and excessively steep mountain of snow. When we were half way up, one of the foremost baggage mules lost his balance, from his hind feet sinking deep in the snow. Down he tumbled, heels-over-head, carrying with him nearly the whole cavalcade, fifty odd in number, several hundred feet to the bottom.

It was a serious, yet a most ludicrous spectacle, to witness fifty animals rolling headlong down a snow mountain, gaining fresh impetus as they descended, unable to stop themselves. The bales of buffalo robes, half buried in the snow, lodged against an old pine tree, the blankets scattered everywhere; my boxes of daguerreotype materials uninjured, although buried in the snow. Considerable time was occupied in searching after them.

I found myself standing up to my eyes in snow, high up the mountain, witnessing this curiously interesting, although disastrous accident; for, when we collected ourselves and animals together, we found that one mule and one horse were killed. This scene made a deep impression upon me. Night came upon us before we were ready to leave the spot. We camped on the same place of the night before.

A snow storm commenced raging, which detained us in this situation for another day; when, determined to cross the mountain, we all recommenced the ascent, and successfully arrived, though much exhausted, without further accident, at the top, and encamped on its summit in snow four feet deep.

That night the thermometer sank very low, and the men stood to their waists in snow, guarding the animals to prevent their running away in search of grass, or something to eat.

We descended the mountain the next day. Our tent poles, belonging to the large lodge, were broken by their contact with the trees in the winding path. The lodge, afterwards, became useless, and the men, myself among them, had to sleep out upon the open snow, with no covering but our blankets, etc.
 

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