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בס"ד

Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 17.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Divide between Grand and Green River—Capt. Gunnison's Trail—Without Water—Formation of the Country—Castellated Bluffs—Green River Indians—Crossing of the Green River—Interview with Indians—Disappointment—Grass-seed—Manner of Preparing it for Food—Horse Purchased—Starving Condition of the Whites—Incident Exhibiting the Moral Dishonesty of one of the Men—Name not Published—Dinner on Porcupine—"Living Graves"—Tempestuous Night—Reflections on Guard—No Grass—Frozen Horse Liver—Blunted Feelings.
 

THE divide between Grand River and the Green River, (the eastern and western forks of the Colorado) is barren and sterile to a degree. At the season that we crossed, there was no water between the two rivers, a distance of about forty miles. Capt. Gunnison's wagon trail was still plainly visible at the crossing of a gully, now however without water.

That party must have had great difficulty in transporting their wagons across it. From its appearance, a tremendous body of water must have forced a passage through the gully, at that time. Dwarf artemisia grows sparsely on this sandstone formation.

At the roots of the artemisia still remained small quantities of dry powdered snow. To allay my thirst, I have put my head under the bush, and lapped the snow with my tongue. The descent into the valley of the Green River was over most dangerous projections of different strata of rock, thrown into its present state by some convulsion of nature.

When we arrived at the river, we saw on the high sand bluffs, on the opposite side, several Indians, whose numbers soon increased. As our party was much exhausted for want of wholesome food, we were buoyed up with hopes that we could obtain supplies from them.

We crossed the river, and were conducted by the Indians to a fertile spot on the western bank of it, where their village was. We found that they lived on nothing else but grass-seed, which they collected in the fall. Their women parch it, and grind it between stones. In this manner it is very palatable, and tastes very much like roasted peanuts.

This, their only article of food, was very scarce, and we could procure only a small supply. I parted with everything out of my daguerreotype boxes that I did not require, and several articles of necessary clothing, for about a quart of it. It is very nourishing, and very easy of digestion. The quantity I had, lasted me for three days. I made a hearty meal of it the night we camped among them.

To the sustaining properties of this cereal, I firmly believe, I owe the strength which enabled me to undergo the physical exertion that was required to reach the settlements.

Each man procured a more or less quantity.

Col. Fremont purchased a lame horse, in very good condition, which was slaughtered at this camp; and an incident occurred which proved to me the real character of one of my companions.

At the killing of this horse, nearly all the men were present. They had not tasted food for nearly two days, and were, consequently, ravenous, and thought of nothing else but satisfying the cravings of hunger. As soon as the horse was slaughtered, without exception, every one cut off a piece, and roasted it at the different camp fires. This was contrary to camp discipline; and, a complaint was made to Col. Fremont, by one of the Delawares, of what was going on, Mr. was among the first to cut off pieces from the meat, and he devoured larger quantities than the rest of us. When Col. Fremont was approaching, he took his pencil and paper out of his pocket, and seating himself by the fire, appeared to be deeply absorbed in his occupation. The rest of us remained where we were, partaking of the roast. Col. Fremont lectured us all for not waiting until supper, to eat our respective shares, and pointed this "gentleman" out as an exception, and as one who exercised "great self-denial." At the same moment, he had a piece of meat, covered up in the cinders, at his feet!

This "gentleman," instead of avowing his complicity, encouraged the mistake of Col. Fremont, by his continued silence. If he ever reads this journal, he will recognize himself, and, probably, not thank me for withholding his "name" from the public.

One of the most tiresome and unpleasant of duties devolves on those of the party who are at the end of the cavalcade. This duty is, driving up the animals which, either from exhaustion or other causes, linger on the road. Stopping on the trail to make daguerreotypes, generally placed me in the rear; and I have often overtaken the muleteers with a dozen lazy or tired animals, using,

All in vain, all their endeavors to make them go ahead. As a rule, I always assisted them, sometimes on foot, and in the earlier part of the journey on horseback. When a mule takes a stand, and determines not to budge a step, it requires a man with an extraordinary stock of patience to wait upon his muleship's leisure.

The idea frequently suggested itself, that I should change my professional card-plate, and add instead, my name with "M.D." attached, as significant of my new office.

DINNER ON PORCUPINE

A large porcupine was killed and brought into camp to-day by our Delawares, who placed it on a large fire burning off its quills, leaving a thick hard skin, very like that of a hog. The meat was white, but very fat, it looked very much like pork. My stomach revolted at it, and I sat hungry around our mess, looking at my comrades enjoying it. The animal weighed about thirty pounds.

RELIEVE THE GUARD

I was awakened one night by a rude push from the officer of the guard, who was a huge "Delaware." "Carvalho, go watch horse." "Twelve o'clock." I put my head out of my buffalo robe, and received a pile of fresh snow upon me. I had laid myself down on a snowbank, before a scanty fire of artemisia. I had my clothes on, and wrapped in my buffalo robe, I had sought a few hours sleep until my turn to guard arrived.

I came into camp exhausted, from a ten mile travel on foot, over an irregular and broken road. I had stopped to make daguerreotypes; in consequence, I was detained, and did not get to camp until near eight o'clock.

With some difficulty I threw off the heavy snow which enveloped me, and soon discovered that a northeast snow storm was furiously raging. The fire was extinguished, and six inches of snow now lay on the ashes. I took hold of my gun from under my buffalo robe, and asked the Delaware, "where the animals were."

He pointed in the direction, and replied,—"horses on the mountain, one mile away." I looked out, but could not see ten feet ahead. I thought of the remark my good old mother made on a less inclement night, when I was a boy, and wanted to go to play. "I would not allow a cat to go out in such weather, much less my son."

Dear soul! how her heart would have ached for me, if she had known a hundredth part of my sufferings.

I followed in the direction given me, and succeeded in finding the animals. I relieved my companion, and walking in snow up to my waist, around the animals for two hours, formed my sole occupation.

There was no grass. The horses and mules were hungry, and whenever they could steal a chance, they would wander out of the corral, and give us trouble to hunt them back; on this night they were very restless, and gave the guard continual exercise, which was also necessary to keep the life within them; it was comparatively easy to walk around in the track; but when one went astray, every step you took, plunged you two feet deep in the snow, making it a most tiresome and arduous task. The two hours seemed at least six, before I was relieved, when groping my way down the mountain side, I followed the trail to camp; by this time the last guard had made a fresh fire of artemisia, which consumes quickly, and burns brightly while consuming. I laid on a fresh pile, and by its light I saw the living graves of my companions; there they lay, with snow underneath them for a bed, and the "cold mantle of death," as it were, above them for a coverlid.

Cold, tired and hungry, I rested myself before the fire, and warmed my frozen limbs.

Some little distance from the fire, now covered with snow, lay the frozen meat of the horse we had killed the night before; all in the camp were fast wrapped in sleep. I was the only one awake. Taking out my jackknife, I approached the pile of meat intended for the men's breakfast, and cutting about a half pound of the liver from it, I returned to the fire, and without waiting to cook it, I consumed it raw—the finer feelings of my nature were superseded by the grosser animal propensities, induced most probably from the character of the food we had been living upon for the last forty days.

I filled my pipe, and sat wrapped in my robe, enjoying the warmth of my fire, determined to remain by it until my tobacco was consumed.

The wind, which had been blowing from the N.E., now chopped round to the N.W., dissipating the snowclouds. The glorious queen of night shone forth in resplendent brilliancy. With the change of wind came an increase of cold—the thermometer, at daylight that morning indicated 20ยบ below zero. One of my feet which was much blistered became numbed, and gave me intense pain. I took off my moccasin, and rubbing my foot in the snow to create circulation, I partially relieved it.

Finding it more comfortable, lying down, I crept under the snowy robe, and made the comparison of the warm rooms, feather beds, and silken canopies of the St. Nicholas wedding-chamber, with our snow-wreathed pillows, airy rooms, and the starry canopy of heaven.
 

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