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בס"ד

Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 20.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Author nearly gives Out—Family Portraits—Fresh Courage—Dangerous Situation—Lonely Journey—Darkness—Snow Storm—Arrival at Camp—Col. Fremont's Tent—Interview with Col. Fremont—"Cache"—Men on Foot—Daguerreotype Apparatus buried in the Snow—Sperm Candles—Men Mounted on Baggage Animals—Seveir River Beaver Dams—Modus Operandi of killing Horses for Food—Entrail Soup—Hide and Bones Roasted—Influence of Privation on Human Passions.
 

AFTER we crossed the Green River, the whole party were on foot. The continued absence of nutritious food made us weaker every day. One of my feet was badly frozen, and I walked with much pain and great difficulty; on this occasion my lameness increased to such a degree, that I was the last man on the trail, and my energy and firmness almost deserted me. Alone, disabled, with no possibility of assistance from mortal man, I felt that my last hour had come; I was at the top of a mountain of snow, with not a tree to be seen for miles. Night approached, and I looked in vain in the direction our party had proceeded, for smoke or some indication that our camp was near. Naught but a desert waste of eternal snow met my anxious gazefaint and almost exhausted, I sat down on the snow bank, my feet resting in the footsteps of those who had gone before me. I removed from my pocket the miniatures of my wife and children, to take a last look at them. Their dear smiling faces awakened fresh energy, I had still something to live for, my death would bring heavy sorrow grief to those who looked to me alone for support; I determined to try and get to camp, I dared not rest my fatigued body, for to rest was to sleep, and sleep was that eternal repose which wakes only in another world. Offering up a silent prayer, I prepared to proceed. I examined my guns and pistols, so as to be prepared if attacked by wolves or Indians, and resumed my lonely and desolate journey. As the night came on, the cold increased; and a fearful snow storm blew directly in my face, almost blinding me. Bracing myself as firmly as I could against the blast, I followed the deep trail in the snow, and came into camp about ten o'clock at night. It requires a personal experience to appreciate the intense mental suffering which I endured that night; it is deeply engraven with bitter anguish on my heart, and not even time can obliterate it.

Col. Fremont was at the camp fire awaiting my arrival. He said he knew I was badly off, but felt certain I would come in, although he did not expect me for an hour.

My haggard appearance sufficiently indicated what I suffered. As I stood by the fire warming my frozen limbs, Col. Fremont put out his hand and touched my breast, giving me a slight push; I immediately threw back my foot to keep myself from falling. Col. Fremont laughed at me and remarked that I had not "half given out," any man who could act as I did on the occasion, was good for many more miles of travel. He went into his tent, and after my supper of horse soup, he sent for me, and then told me why he played this little joke on me; it was to prevent my telling my sufferings to the men; he saw I had a great deal to say, and that no good would result from my communicating it. He reviewed our situation, and the enervated condition of the men, our future prospects of getting into settlements, and the necessity there was for mutual encouragement, instead of vain regrets, and despondency; the difficulties were to be met, and it depended on ourselves, whether we should return to our families, or perish on the mountains; he bade me good night, telling me that in the morning he would endeavor to make some arrangements to mount the men.

The next day, he called the men together and told them that he had determined to "cache" all the superfluous baggage of the camp, and mount the men on the baggage animals, as a last resource. Nothing was to be retained but the actual clothing necessary to protect us from the inclemency of the weather.

A place was prepared in the snow, our large buffalo lodge laid out, and all the pack saddles, bales of cloth and blankets, the travelling bags, and extra clothes of the men, my daguerreotype boxes, containing besides, several valuable scientific instruments, and everything that could possibly be spared, together with the surplus gunpowder and lead, were placed in it, and carefully covered up with snow, and then quantities of brush to protect it from the Indians. I previously took out six sperm candles from my boxes, and gave them to Lee, the Colonel's servant, in charge; they were subsequently found most useful. A main station was made at this place, so as to be able to find it if occasion demanded that we should send for them.

The men now were all mounted; a large mule was allotted to me, and we again started, rejoicing in having animals to carry us. After this, every horse or mule that gave out, placed a man on foot without the possibility of procuring others, and it was necessary in consequence of the absence of grass, to allow the mules to travel as light as possible; we therefore relieved them frequently by walking as much as we were able.

BEAVER DAMS ON THE SEVEIR RIVER.

When we got to the crossing of the Seveir River, I was almost certain I was within the precincts of civilization. I saw numberless large trees cut down near the roots, appearing to have been hewn with an axe; some of them laid directly across the river; in one place there were three trees lying parallel with each other, evidently intended, I supposed, as a bridge across it; at this spot, the stream was not more than thirty feet wide; no other indication of civilization being around us, I supposed we occupied an old camping ground of Indians. I was doomed to disappointment again; the beavers had constructed the dams, and cut down the trees, and not until I had closely inspected the work, could I believe that they were not the work of men.

MANNER OF DIVIDING THE HORSE MEAT.

When an animal gave out, he was shot down by the Indians, who immediately cut his throat, and saved the blood in our camp kettle. (The blood I never partook of.) The animal was divided into twenty-two parts as follows:—Two for Col. Fremont and Lee, his cook; ten for the Delaware camp, and ten for ours. Col. Fremont hitherto had messed with his officers; at this time he requested that we should excuse him, as it gave him pain, and called to mind the horrible scenes which had been enacted during his last expedition—he could not see his officers obliged to partake of such disgusting food.

The rule adopted was, that one animal should serve for six meals for the whole party.

If one gave out in the meantime, of course it was an exception, but otherwise on no consideration was an animal to be slaughtered, for every one that was killed placed one man on foot, and limited our chance of escape from our present situation.

If the men chose to eat up their six meals in one day, they would have to go without until the time arrived for killing another.

It frequently happened that the white camp was without food from twenty-four to thirty-six hours, while Col. Fremont and the Delawares always had a meal.

The latter religiously abstained from encroaching on the portion allotted for another meal while many men of our camp, I may say all of them, not content with their daily portion, would, to satisfy the cravings of hunger, surreptitiously purloin from the pile of meat at different times, sundry pieces thus depriving themselves of each other's allowances.

The entrails of the horse were well shaken (for we had no water to wash them in) and boiled with snow, producing a highly flavored soup, peculiar to itself, and readily distinguished from the various preparations of the celebrated "Ude" of gastronomic memory. The hide was roasted so as to burn the hair and make it crisp, the hoofs and shins were disposed of by regular rotation.

Our work was never done. When we got to camp all the men off duty, were dispatched to gather firewood to burn during the night. One might be seen with a decayed trunk on his shoulder, while a half dozen others were using their combined efforts to bring into camp some dried tree.

Col. Fremont at times joined the men in this duty when it was peculiarly difficult in procuring the necessary material to prevent us from freezing while we were in camp.

One night we camped without wood, the country around was a waste of snow; we laid down in our blankets, and slept contentedly till morning, and re-commenced our journey without any breakfast.

I have been awakened to go on "guard" in the morning watch, when, looking around me, my companions appeared like so many graves, covered with from eight to ten inches of snow.

Some of our animals would eat the snow, others would not. To keep them alive we had to melt snow in camp kettles and give it them to drink, which process was attended with much fatigue and trouble.

We lived on horse meat fifty days. The passions of the men were so disturbed by their privations, that they were not satisfied with the cook's division of the hide; but one man turned his back, while another asked him who was to have this piece, and that, and so on, until all was divided, and the same process was gone through with in the sharing of the delectable horse soup.
 

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