But he heard no guns, saw no smoke. In despair at last he came down to the river, to discover that all this time he had been travelling ahead of the boats! The fatted buffalo-calf was killed and great was the rejoicing, and at daylight next morning, Shannon's. At one o'clock in the night the guard gave the startled cry. Barely was there time to loosen the boats and push into midstream before the whole escarpment dropped like an avalanche over the recent anchorage. Thus in one instant might have been blotted out the entire expedition, to remain for all time a mystery and conjecture.
On the evening of September 24 the cooks and a guard went ashore to get supper at the mouth of the river Teton, the present site of Pierre, South Dakota. Five Indians, who had followed for some time, slept with the guard on shore. Early next morning sixty Indians came down from a Sioux camp and the Captains prepared for a council. Under the flag and an awning, at twelve o'clock the company paraded under arms. Black Buffalo, head chief, was decorated with a medal, flag, laced coat, cocked hat, and red feather, nor were the rest forgotten with smaller gifts, medals, and tobacco.
The Captains would have gone on, but, "No! Finally Clark and several of the men rowed them ashore. But no sooner had they landed than one seized the cable and held the boat fast. Another flung his arms around the mast and stood immovable. Black Buffalo advanced to seize Clark. The Captain drew his sword. At this motion Captain Lewis, watching from the bateau, instantly prepared for action. The Indians had drawn their arrows and were bending their great bows, when the black mouth of the blunderbuss wheeled toward them.
At this Black Buffalo ordered his men to desist, and they sullenly fell away, but never was forgotten that time when the Teton Sioux attempted to carry off Captain Clark. To conciliate and to depart without irritation, Captain Clark offered his hand. The chiefs refused to take it. Turning, Clark stepped into the boat and shoved off.
Immediately three warriors waded in after him, and he brought them on board. That night the whole expedition slept under arms, with the Indians as guests. At daylight crowds of Indian men, women, and children waited on shore in the most friendly manner. Ten well-dressed young men took Lewis and Clark up on a highly decorated robe and carried them up to the council tent.
Impressively in the centre on two forked sticks lay the long peace-pipe above a bed of swan's down. Outside, the redmen were roasting a barbecue. All day they sat and smoked, and ate of buffalo beef and pemmican. After sunset a huge council fire illuminated the interior of the great lodge, and the dance began.
Wild Indian girls came shuffling with the reeking scalps of Omahas, from a recent raid. Outside twenty-five Omaha women prisoners and their children moaned in the chill of an icy autumn night. It was their trail that Shannon had followed for sixteen days. About midnight, fatigued by the constant strain of watchful anxiety, the Captains returned to the boats. But not yet were they safely away. Then followed pandemonium of rushing Indians and frightened calls. All night, with strained eyes, every man held his rifle ready as they lay unanchored on the water.
At daylight the wily Indians held the ropes and still detained the boats. Resort to force seemed inevitable. Flinging a carat of tobacco, "Black Buffalo," said Lewis, "you say you are a great chief. Prove it by handing me that rope. They never can cross the mountains. Human enterprise and exertion will attempt them in vain. It was a bold and wicked scheme of Jefferson. They will never return alive to this country. Heaven alone knew whither the Missouri—Columbia might lead them! This Madoc arriving in the countrey, in the which he came in the year , left most of his people there, and returning back for more of his nation, went thither again with ten sails," and was never again heard of.
Six hundred years later Welshmen in America imagined that they could talk with some tribes, who said "they came from white people but were now Indians," and the legend was related that white people had once lived on the Atlantic coast, but had so many wars they crossed the mountains and made boats and went down the Ohio and up the Missouri, "where to this day live the fair-haired, blue-eyed Mandans. Our grandfathers believed this story, believed these whites might have been cut off at the Falls of the Ohio and some escaped. We thought it might be done again.
As if in proof of this statement, George Rogers Clark and other first explorers at the Falls found Sand Island at low water a mass of hacked and mutilated human bones, whether of Indians or whites, no man could tell. And here now were Lewis and Clark, in the Autumn of , among the fabled Mandans, and here before them was a Mr.
Thirty dogs they owned between them, great Huskies of the Eskimo breed. Jussaume was immediately engaged as interpreter, and the first Sunday was spent in conversation with Black Cat, head chief of the Mandans. Girls of ten years old with silver-gray hair hanging down to their knees stood around and listened. Yes, they had earthen pots and gardens, even extensive fields of corn, beans, squashes, and sunflowers, and houses—mud huts. They lived in little forted towns that had been moved successively up, up, up the Missouri. My people will be glad.
Then our women may lie down at night without their moccasins on. They can work in the fields without looking every moment for the enemy. Now we will send a chief and some warriors to smoke with them. The high chill wind almost blew down the awning over the great council. The men paraded up from the boats, the blunderbuss was fired from the bow of the big bateau, the long reed-stemmed stone-bowled pipes were smoked in amity.
The solemn, sad-faced chiefs took the clothes and put them on. The women flew at the corn-mill. All day long they ground and ground and wondered at "the great medicine" that could make meal with so little trouble. Mortars and pestles were thrown behind the lodges, discarded. The next day Mr. McCracken set out on his return to Fort Assiniboine, one hundred and fifty miles away, with a friendly letter to the Chief Factor, Chaboillez, enclosing the passport of Lewis and Clark from the British minister at Washington.
Yes, a passport,—so uncertain was that boundary—never yet defined. Where lay that line? But those sources were as hidden as the fountain of the Nile. No white man yet had seen Itasca. Since before the Revolution the Chaboillez family had traded at Michilimackinac.
They were there in the days when Wabasha descended on St. Louis, and had a hand in all the border story. While Lewis was negotiating with the Indians, Captain Clark set out with Black Cat to select a point where timber was plenty to build a winter camp. Strong, compact, broad-chested, heavy-limbed, but lean, sprightly, and quick of motion, Pat was soon at the side of his Captain.
The day was fine and crowds of Indians came to watch proceedings as Clark's men began to cut the tall cottonwoods and roll up the cabins. Every day the Indians came in crowds to watch the wonderful building of the white men's fort, the deer-skin windows and mud-plastered chimneys.
Turning loose their horses, all day long the red men lay on the grass watching the details of this curious architecture. At night, gathering an armful of cottonwood boughs stripped from the fort timber, each fed his horse and meandered thoughtfully homeward in the red sunset. One day two squaws came, a leathery old dame and a captive Indian girl from the Rocky Mountains,—the handsome young Sacajawea, the Bird-Woman. I make her my wife. Those canoes were made exactly like a Welsh coracle. The days grew colder, the frost harder. Ice began to run in the river and the last boats in from the hunt brought thirty-two deer, eleven elk, and buffalo that were jerked and hung in the winter smoke-house.
By November 20 the triangular fort was ready,—two rows of cabins of four rooms each, with lofts above where, snug and warm under the roof next to the chimneys, the men slept through the long cold winter nights on beds of grass, rolled up in their blankets and fuzzy robes of buffalo. They immediately waited upon Lewis and Clark. Through Larocque's mind flashed the journey of Sir Alexander Mackenzie and its outcome.
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That might mean more than a rival trader. No liquors are to be sold. While talking with the Captains, Larocque had an eye on a Hudson's Bay trader who had appeared on the scene. I must be off," said Larocque, slipping out with Charboneau to outwit if possible the Hudson's Bay man and reach the Indians first. But before he got off a letter arrived from Chaboillez that altered all plans. Unknown to Lewis and Clark, though they gradually came to discover it, hot war was waging in the north. For the sake of furs, rival traders cut and carved and shot and imprisoned each other.
For the sake of furs those same traders had held Detroit thirteen years beyond the Revolution. Furs came near changing the balance of power in North America. The ambitious, energetic Northwesters of Montreal disputed the right. And now that Sir Alexander Mackenzie, a Canadian bourgeois , had become a famous explorer, knighted by the King, jealousies broke out in the Northwest company itself. Simon McTavish, lord of the Northwesters, who had done all he could to hold the Lakes for Britain, would rule or ruin.
But the Northwesters swore by Mackenzie. So the two factions fought each other, and both fought the Hudson's Bay Company. With troubled eyes the Indians listened, then scalped them both. Some bloody tales that North could tell, around the plains of lovely Winnipeg, out on the lone Saskatchewan, and over to Athabasca. December 1, the Americans began to cut and carry pickets to complete the high stockade and gate across the front of Fort Mandan. December 6 it was too cold to work, and that night the river froze over in front of the fort with solid ice an inch and a half thick.
In short order Lewis, Clark, and fifteen men were out with the Indians mounted on horseback. Then came the din and chase of battle, a sight to fire the blood and thrill the calmest heart. Riding among the herd, each Indian chose his victim, then, drawing his arrow to the last notch of the bowstring, let it fly. Another and another whizzed from the same string until the quiver was exhausted.
The wounded beast, blinded by its mane, sometimes charged the hunter. But the swift steed, trained for the contest, wheeled and was gone. The buffalo staggered for a little, then, struck in a mortal part, fell headlong, pawing up the dust and snow in frantic efforts to rise and fly. Into the midst came the Captains and their men, and every man brought down his buffalo.
The air was filled with frosty flakes, the snow was deep and clinging, but all day and until after dark the exciting hunt held them to the saddle, and only when they came to the fire did the participants realise that their hands and feet were frostbitten. Cold and colder grew the days. Two suns shone in the sky, prognosticator of still deeper frost. Brilliant northern lights glowed along the Arctic, but still they chased the buffalo until the morning of December 13, when Dr. Saugrain's thermometer stood twenty degrees below zero at sunrise. In fur caps, coats, mittens, and double moccasins they brought home horseload after horseload of juicy beef to hang in the winter storehouse.
And fortunately, too, for one day they awoke to find the buffalo gone. Some winters there was great suffering for food among the Mandans, but this was destined to be a year of plenty. Out of their abundance the chiefs, also, came to the fort with their dog sleds loaded with meat for their friends at the garrison. On Christmas eve the stockade was finished and the gate was shut. With forty-five men and a blunderbuss Fort Mandan stood impregnable to any force the northern savages could bring against it.
But there was no hostility,—far from it. From curiosity or for trade the Indians came in throngs, until on Christmas eve Captain Lewis sent out the announcement: "Let no one visit us to-morrow. It is our great medicine day. Before daylight the wondering redmen were aroused from their buffalo couches by three volleys fired from the fort. For his Christmas stocking every man received an allowance of flour, dried apples, and pepper, which together with corn, beans, squash, and unlimited buffalo meat and marrow bones made out a Christmas feast.
Everybody he mus' dance," said Cruzatte, tuning his fiddle. Cruzatte and Gibson played, Gass and Shannon led, Clark called the changes; and with crackling fires, and a stamping like horses, away up there under the Northern stars the first American Christmas was celebrated on the upper Missouri.
Three wide-eyed spectators sat ranged around the walls. The Indians, in their cheerless winter villages, found much to attract them at the fort of the white men. Soon after Christmas, William Bratton and John Shields set up their forge as blacksmiths, gunsmiths, and armourers.
Day after day, with the thermometer forty degrees below zero, a constant procession of Indians came wending in on the well-beaten snow-track, with axes to grind and kettles to mend. It seemed as if all the broken old kettles that had ever drifted into the country, from Hudson's Bay or Fort William or up from St.
Louis, were carried to Fort Mandan filled with corn to pay for mending. Especially the Indians wanted battle-axes, with long thin blades like the halberds of ancient warfare. Some wanted pikes and spears fixed on the pointed ends of their long dog-poles. A burnt-out old sheet-iron cooking stove became worth its weight in gold. For every scrap of it, four inches square, the Indians would give seven or eight gallons of corn, and were delighted with the exchange.
Metal, metal, metal,—the sine qua non of civilisation had come at last to the Mandans. While Bratton was busy over his forge, and Shields at the guns, some of the men were out hunting, some were cutting wood to keep the great fires roaring, and some were making charcoal for the smithy. So the days went on. New Year's, , was ushered in with the blunderbuss. By way of recreation the captains permitted the men to visit the Indian villages where crowds gathered to see the white men dance, "heeling it and toeing it" to the music of the fiddles.
The white men in turn were equally diverted by the grotesque figures of the Indians leaping in the buffalo dances. But a grandson rebuked the old man. You have lived long enough. It is time for you to go to your relations who can take better care of you than we can. It was a Mandan custom to mutilate the body, as a mark of sorrow for the dead, until some had lost not only all their fingers, but their ears and hair.
Sacred ceremonies of flagellations, knife thrusts into the flesh, piercing with thorns and barbaric crucifixions,—thirty years later George Catlin found these still among the Mandans, and ascribed them to an effort to perpetuate some Christian ceremonial of a remote ancestry.
Could it have been a corrupted tradition of the crucifixion of Christ? Who can tell? Degraded, misguided, interblent with Indian superstition through generations, it might have come to this. But everywhere, at feast or council, one walked as conqueror,—Clark's negro servant, York. Of fine physical presence and remarkable stature, very black and very woolly, York was viewed as superhuman. Grinning until every ivory tooth glistened, and rolling up the whites of his eyes, he would answer, "I was running wild in the wood, and was caught and tamed by my mastah. York withstood great temptation,—he fought more battles than Clark.
Let our children see, especially the black man. From Council Bluffs to Clatsop, children followed York constantly. If he chanced to turn, with piercing shrieks they ran in terror. Born black. Great medicine! Even his jerks, contortions, and grimaces seemed a natural part of such a monstrosity.
York was a perpetual exhibit, a menagerie in himself. In these holiday visits to the Mandan towns a glimpse was caught of domestic life. Wasteful profusion when the buffalo came, when the buffalo left, days of famine. Then they opened their cellar-holes of corn and vegetables, hidden away as a last resource in protracted siege when the Sioux drove off the game and shut them up in their picketed villages. All day long in the iciest weather, the wrinkled, prematurely aged squaws were busy in the hollows, cutting the horse-feed with their dull and almost useless knives.
On New Year's day Black Cat came down with a load of meat on his wife's back.
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A happy woman was she to receive a sharp new knife to cut her meat and cottonwood. It was easy to buy a Mandan wife. A horse, a gun, powder and ball for a year, five or six pounds of beads, a handful of awls, the trade was made, and the new spouse was set to digging laboriously with the shoulder-blade of an elk or buffalo, preparing to plant her corn. The Indian woman followed up the hunt, skinned and dressed the buffalo, and carried home the meat. Indian women built the lodges and took them down again, dragging the poles whenever there were not horses enough for a summer ramble. When not at the hunt or the council, the warrior sat cross-legged at his door, carving a bow, pointing an arrow, or smoking, waited upon by his squaw, who never ate until the braves were done, and then came in at the last with the children and the dogs.
Wrinkled and old at thirty, such was the fate of the Indian girl. Sunday, January 13, Charboneau came back from a visit to the Minnetarees at Turtle Mountain with his face frozen. It was fortunate he returned with his life.
Touissant Charboneau, one of the old Canadian French Charboneaus, with his brothers had tramped with Alexander Henry far to the north under sub-arctic forests, wintered on the Assiniboine, and paddled to Winnipeg. Seven years now he had lived among the Minnetarees, an independent trader like McCracken and Jussaume, and interpreter for other traders. Moreover, Charboneau was a polygamist with several wives to cook his food and carry his wood and water. The worst white man was better than an Indian husband. Captured in battle as a child five years before, Sacajawea had been brought to the land of the Dakotas and sold to Charboneau.
Now barely sixteen, in that February at the Mandan fort she became a mother. Most of the men were away on a great hunting trip; when they came back a lusty little red-faced pappoose was screaming beside the kitchen fire. The men had walked thirty miles that day on the ice and in snow to their knees, but utterly fatigued as they were, the sight of that little Indian baby cuddled in a deerskin robe brought back memories of home. No wonder the Captains watched her recovery with interest. All winter they had sought an interpreter for those far-away tongues beyond the mountains, and no one could be found but Sacajawea, the wife of Charboneau.
Clark directed York to wait on her, stew her fruit, and serve her tea, to the great jealousy of Jussaume's wife, who packed up her pappooses in high dudgeon and left the fort. Sacajawea was only a slave. She, Madame Jussaume, was the daughter of a chief! Poor little Sacajawea! She was really very ill. If she died who would unlock the Gates of the Mountains? Charboneau was a cook. He set himself to preparing the daintiest soups and steaks, and soon the "Bird Woman" was herself again, packing and planning for the journey.
Busy every day now were Lewis and Clark making up their reports and drawing a map of the country. Shahaka, Big White, came and helped them. Kagohami of the Minnetarees came, and with a coal on a robe made a sketch of the Missouri that Clark re-drew. But in the midst of the map-making all the Indian talk was of "war, war, war. If you do not stop it the Great Father will withdraw his protection from you.
He will come over here and make you stop it. If you wish to be happy, cultivate peace and friendship. Then you will have horses. Then you will grow strong. I will advise my nation to remain at home until we see whether the Snake Indians desire peace. One night the hunters came in with the report, "A troop of whooping Sioux have captured our horses and taken our knives.
It was midnight, but Lewis immediately routed up the men and set out with twenty volunteers on the track of the marauding Sioux. In vain. The boasting freebooters had escaped with the horses beyond recovery. We shall scalp the whole camp in the Spring. The movements of Lewis and Clark were watched by the Northwest Company, who already had planned a house at the Mandans.
Jefferson was not an hour too soon. In the midst of the frightful cold, twenty-two degrees below zero, on December 16, , Larocque and Mackenzie came over again from Fort Assiniboine and with them came Alexander Henry. Had they been kind they would have loaded their Great Boat with goods. As it is they prefer throwing away their ammunition to sparing a shot to the poor Mandans. There are only two sensible men among them, the worker of iron and the mender of guns. The triangular fort, two sides formed of houses and the front of pickets, presented a formidable appearance in the wild.
On the top was a sentry all night, and below a sentry walked all day within the fort. As the party knocked at the gates of Fort Mandan, in their winter coats of leather lined with flannel, edged with fur, and double-breasted, the lively eye of Patrick Gass peeped out. The hospitable Captains were more than glad to entertain visitors. They were there to cultivate international amity. In their hearts Lewis and Clark never dreamed what a commotion that friendly letter to Chaboillez had stirred up. It had gone far and awakened many. Immediately upon its receipt Chaboillez sent out a runner.
They have made the natives a few small presents and repaired their guns and axes free. They have behaved honourably toward my people, who are there to trade with the natives. Such a message as this was enough to bring Alexander Henry down to investigate. The cottonwood fires at Fort Mandan roared up the chimneys with unwonted splendour that winter night.
The thermometer suddenly fell to forty-five degrees below zero; but warm and comfortable beside the blaze they talked, American and British, in this border of the nations. Charles Mackenzie had been a clerk of the Northwest Company for a year. Of the same rank as himself was Larocque, and both were popular with the redmen. That was enough. No nation fraternized with the redmen as the Frenchmen did. Alexander Henry, fur trader among the American Indians and one of the famous Northwesters, bore a great name in the north.
He knew more of the country than, perhaps, any other man in the northwest. In fact, his uncle, the elder Henry, was at Michilimackinac in the days of Pontiac, and had penetrated to the Saskatchewan before ever there was a Northwest Company. Henry, Jr. As a bourgeois of the Northwesters, with a fleet of canoes and twenty-one men he had led the Red River brigade of up into the Winnipeg country. The scarlet belts, breeches of smoked buckskin, and blue cloth leggings of Alexander Henry's old coureur des bois were known for hundreds of miles.
Yes, he knew the Sioux. Their pillaging bands sometimes plundered his traders. But time seemed pressing. Questions of cold or of comfort weighed not with these dauntless Northwesters when the interests of their company were at stake. They had come on horseback. To return that way was out of the question; and so sleds were fitted up with Jussaume's Eskimo dogs, the "Huskies" of the fur traders. He speaks fluently, even learnedly, but to me his inveterate prejudice against the British stains all his eloquence.
Do you recall his thoughtfulness in sending for our horses when we feared they might be stolen? He let his men guard them with his own. Fort William, built in and named in honour of William McGillivray, was the great distributing point, where "the lords of the lakes and the forests" came to hold their rendezvous. In front rolled Superior, the great Canadian Sea.
Schooners, laden with merchandise, peltries, and provisions, plied between Fort William and Sault Ste. One of the honoured names of the Northwest Company was Philip de Rocheblave. Pierre de Rocheblave had now succeeded to his uncle's honours. Would he be apt to let the United States get ahead of him? And by means of a Clark at that? He found Captain Clark sketching charts of the country, Lewis making vocabularies; Jussaume and Charboneau, the Frenchmen, interpreting and disputing on the meaning of words.
I must get Charboneau. Do they preserve you from sickness? They may advance northward and establish a claim to ownership by prior right of discovery or occupation. We must build a chain of posts and hold the country. Simon Fraser was the son of a Scottish Tory who had been captured by the Americans at Burgoyne's surrender and had died in prison. His wife, with Simon a babe in arms, removed to Canada, to rear her son beneath the banner of her King.
At sixteen, young Fraser became a clerk of the Northwest Company and a bourgeois. But the Frasers were great-brained people; young Simon was soon promoted; and now at the age of twenty-nine he was put in charge of the greatest enterprise since the incomparable feat of Alexander Mackenzie. Over at Sault Ste. Marie a young doctor by the name of John McLoughlin would gladly have accompanied his uncle Simon on that perilous undertaking. But his day was to come later. Both of their names are now linked with the Old Oregon.
Young men of the two most progressive modern nations were to be pitted in this race for Empire,—Lewis and Clark, and Simon Fraser. On the first day of March preparations began on the building of new boats. The old ones were pried out of the ice, and the whole party was busy making elk-skin ropes and pirogues, in burning coal, and in making battle-axes to trade for corn. Ducks began to pass up the river; swans and wild geese were flying north.
Old Chief Le Borgne of the Minnetarees, a giant in stature, a brute at heart, had held aloof all winter in his tepee. But strange rumours crept within the walls of the sulky Cyclops. Overcome at last by curiosity Le Borgne came down to the fort. Is that true? With his one fierce eye, Le Borgne examined York closely. He wet his finger and rubbed the skin to see if the black would come off.
Not until the negro uncovered his head and showed his woolly hair could the chief be persuaded that York was not a painted white man. Convinced against his will, and amazed, Le Borgne arose with a snort, his black hair flying over his brawny shoulders, and stalked out. As he passed along, the Indians shrank back. Over the hill came the wail of a demented mother. Many a fair Indian girl had left her scalp at the door of this Indian Blue-Beard because she preferred some other lover.
At the foot of the mountain in Montreal the great Northwester was building a palace, fit abode for "the lord of the lakes and the forest," when the summons came in Up the rivers and lakes the word was carried into the uttermost wilds,—"McTavish is dead. He was the head and front of the Northwest Company. The quick wit of the American born of Irish parents belonged to Patrick Gass. While others were struggling toward an idea, Pat had already seized it.
Brave, observant, of good sense, and hating the British, he kept an eye on Larocque. Larocque had a stock of goods to trade. He lingered around Fort Mandan, and offered to go over the mountains with Lewis and Clark, but they politely declined. Already Larocque knew of the order at Fort William. His own brother-in-law, Quesnel, was to be the companion of Fraser's voyage, and was to leave, like Fraser, his name on the rivers of British Columbia. Then there was trouble with Charboneau. He became independent and impudent and demanded higher wages. Somebody was tampering with Charboneau.
Suddenly flaming with new raiment, gay vests, and yards of blue and scarlet cloth, he announced:. I weel not stand guard. I eenterpreteur,—do as I pleese, return wheen I pleese. Charboneau stepped back, surprised. Ignoring his presence, preparations were hurried on. The boats, the troublesome, cracking, warping cottonwood boats, were hauled to the fort and pitched and calked and tinned, until at last they were ready to try the water.
All the Indian goods were brought out and hung in the open air. Even at the busiest moments, with every man on the jump, no one asked Charboneau to help. Finding he was about to lose his position, the Frenchman came to Captain Lewis, apologised, and was restored to service. In a trice Charboneau was back at the skillets, dishing up the dinner. The occupants of Fort Mandan had been snow-bound five months when ice began running in the river. All day long now the busy Indians were catching buffalo floating by on the high water.
The foolish animals, trying to cross the thin ice, broke through. Others floated away on big cakes that were certain, sooner or later, to launch them into eternity. The patient, devoted women, too, were in evidence. Slipping out of their leather smocks, they plunged naked into the icy current to secure the floating driftwood for fuel. Across the snow long lines of squaws came dragging home the drift. The hammers of Shields and Bratton rang merrily at the anvils.
Boxes were made and hooped and ironed, to go down in the big bateau that was too unwieldy to carry further. In those stout boxes were horns of the mountain ram, unknown as yet to science, horns of elk and deer, rare skins, robes and Indian dresses; bow, arrows, and a shield for the President, on which Old Black Cat had spent months of patient carving; samples of the red Arikara corn; sixty-seven specimens of earths, salts, and minerals, and sixty specimens of plants, all carefully labelled; seeds, insects, the skeleton of the big fish from the hilltop, stuffed antelopes and Lewis's pelican, a live prairie dog in a wicker cage, a live prairie hen and four magpies.
A new geography was there, a map of the Missouri extending out to the mystic mountains, drawn from Indian description, to be presented by Jefferson to Congress. In these boxes, too, went letters. There was one of several thousand words from Lewis to his mother. Another was to Major Croghan at Locust Grove, with seeds of several kinds of grapes for his sister Lucy. Other missives went to Ohio, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania,—wherever a man had a mother at the hearthstone waiting to hear of her distant boy.
Saddest of all was the news to Mill Creek, the home of Sergeant Floyd. Part of Clark's journal was transmitted by letter to the President and part was enclosed in a separate tin box, "to multiply the chances of saving something. The Mandan treasures, with dispatches and presents from the Indians, went down by water to the Gulf and thence by sea to Washington. Louis with ten men. At the same moment that the barge left the fort, six small canoes and the two pirogues shot up river, carrying thirty-one men and Sacajawea with her child.
Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. By Dilman Dila Kabita, a beautiful Nepali doctor escapes from an arranged marriage to serve in a remote village in rural Uganda.
In this village, she hopes to put to rest the haunting memories of her forbidden love and shattered past. But the peace she so desperately seeks seems elusive now, as she finds herself falling in love with Steven, a handsome African herdsman. Is she foolish to reject the advances of a fellow doctor for an idle herdsman painter? And is Steven really what he seems to be? Should she follow her heart or mind? Will Kabita finally find joy or will her dreams be shattered again?
This is an intense love story set in rural Uganda. I took her accounts payable and received and reconciled them in her ledger book. I added up the columns in my head then checked on paper to be sure. There were plenty of old biddies, church ladies included, willing to cheat Clarice out of her due. She quoted one figure and they came in short. Good thing she kept all the chits in a big brass urn so I could. Why share your good-earned money with anyone but a Texan? Clarice picked up a fan to fend off the flies that congregate in any funeral parlor especially when the temperature rises.
Lost two of my brothers at Guadacanal. They were born on the mud and they sure as hell died in it. Flies or no flies. And the federal government is the greatest of them all. I listen to that Harry Truman on the radio and I hear him talking of bombs and submarines big enough to blow up the world and all its creatures let alone an undertaker lady in Sweetwater… sounds a great Satan to me. Evil lurks in the heart of every man, woman and child.
A fair shake of women too. She sniffed and looked down her nose as though I were one of those pesky flies in the funeral parlor. Pray He help me hold my tongue and seal my mouth lest I blaspheme. Think what would become of my business. No, the Lord and I have had our disputes. But He never abandons those who call on Him, even when his purpose runs.
Liquor and cigarettes. Liquor rots a man from the inside out, and cigarettes are nothing but coffin nails. He kept up his business, his property and tried his best to keep up his wife. You have to forgive a man his failings. One reason I never got me one. She expected me to figure the rest out for myself and no one can call me a slouch in that department. Clarice gave me the courage to heed my own mind and for that I am grateful. Clarice spoiled me for their brand of salvation. For example, Eve should never have shown Adam that apple in the first place, should have kept it a private matter between herself and the serpent.
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Humankind would have been a whole lot better off with neither Adam nor the Good Lord knowing a thing about it. But the Church of Christ would never have received that logic, evident as it is to me. The only fly in the balm of my apprenticeship was her making me sit with a coffin when she had an errand to run. She sat me down to keep watch and sealed the viewing parlor up like a mausoleum so the embalming vapors started swarming with the flies, with no place for either to escape. I good as keeled over and expired myself. Taught me the meaning of claustrophobia; instilled an abiding distaste for flowers, of every description.
Roses, gardenia, lilies, mums. You name a variety, I detest it. Even an orchid, precious as they are. But I never complained. But when she came back into the parlor, she could tell I was distressed from the way I wrapped my shoulders about my ears and my hands wringing my skirt like I was laundering it. And she pulled up a chair, sit herself beside me and stroked the backs of my hands until they loosened. I will never forget how hers felt like silk. How she hummed a hymn filled with the cherishing I never got from my own parents.
Precious Lord. I used to play the hymn inside my head whenever my first husband, Ricardo, got into his slamming and smashing fits. It soothed my soul, like she had. One Saturday after I had been watching over one Miss Violet Jones as she lay in her coffin, stewed in embalming fluid like an old prune, Clarice sat herself down beside me and turned my hand palm up. How do you know what the future holds by looking for it in my hand. Fortune telling. Boy or girl I could not say. Told me in some kind of broken speech that I, too, had indian blood in my veins.
Well that explained a whole lot about my daddy and his wandering ways. How dare she lard me with her platitudes. How dare she? I never despised her as much as I did then. More than I did my own mother and that contempt was considerable. And I raged at the Good Lord for bringing her my way. But then it occurred to me He might just strike me dead for my blasphemy, and at least I was in a convenient place. And the very notion broke my temper. I promise. Mark my. They save it up for God and give their neighbors the chaff. I glanced at the devout Miss Violet Jones with her wrinkles overlapping like curling papers.
In life she would have sprinkled salutation and pleasantry around, but rarely taken them to heart. In death did she regret it? Clarice died in the Panhandle all right. Uncle Lloyd told me when I met him years later in San Antonio. In the fall of , six weeks after I cut out of her life, she had a stroke, lay in a coma for six more months and then she passed.
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Clarice and I had been laying out a baby girl died of the measles. Who else but me could honor that wish? For her laying out she showed me her formal black dress with its white lace bib pressed and starched in its hanging bag. She had no opinion when it came to shoes. As for makeup, I knew the tones she was partial to, the blushes and the lipsticks. How her firm. How her nails should be trimmed down to half-moons seeing they would continue to grow for several days after her death. I knew what to do with her ring so a relative could slip it off at the last if he or she desired.
Not that Clarice wore a wedding band or was beholden to any man, save the Lord and she surely kept him on his toes. I should have been there to make her wishes known. I wanted to run my fingers down their blades, make him purr soon as I saw him with his shirt off in the parking lot fixing up his car. Where did you get that kind of money? Purty name. I was all of fifteen. He picked me up on the far side of the feedlot out of sight out of mind of my steel-hearted daddy.
We high tailed it out of town, and pulled over under the shade of the Caprock. The sky was violet thick with black ribs. Rain sometimes spills over the Pan Handle and down the escarpment where it hits the brush that stretches from Abilene to the Rio Grande. Four hundred miles of scrub and mesquite, the stench off the feedlots so bad even the stars stay away. We were slicked up with sweat and sticking to the back seat like cellophane. But he was done with listening. He had my brassiere undone and flung over the seat before I could undo it for myself, bent the fasteners in the process.
He tasted like salt and vinegar, sweat and soap, all of a piece. He said I tasted of flowers. Little did he know I hated them so I can only fault him for his limited imagination. He was a doozey of a lover, but he was the first. The Cherokee have ten categories of affection, and I could find a use for every one.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, An Illustrated Memorial of His Art and Life
Maybe it was my acting fresh put Billy Ray on overdrive. His thighs and backside thwacked as they unstuck from the seat, set my ears on edge. I observed the grey grease in his slick-backed hair and the rough tufts on his nipples, and all I could think of was a mess of Jelly fish marooned on Brownsville beach. In a West Texas second I decided my virginity, sacred or not, was worth a helluva lot more than ten graceless minutes in the back seat of a convertible, new- fangled transmission or no. Still he was pressing against me, and for an instant I thought he would have his way with me, but thank the Lord that good as Billy Ray was with a motor he was a dunce when it came to tin foil.
He had a heck of a time getting that thing out of its packet and onto his manly apparatus. Why it was chasing its own tail. I had the foresight to suggest we drive back into town to pick up a jar of Vaseline. The soda jerk that night was a fine young man himself with a sure part in his hair and nicely rinsed hands. I am partial to strawberry. He looked at me squint-eyed.
Never messed with me again. Clarice always said I was the kind only had to look at a man twice to get pregnant, and she was proved right. But I am equally grateful she taught me the difference between a figure of speech and a literal truth, and gave me the tools to act on it. Billy Ray Jones was called up to Korea six weeks later. Luck was never on his side. But Billy Ray did not come back. His mother was never the same, his father neither, though the mother was the one to break open what the father kept under lock and key.
I was only a girl. Billy Ray Jones, now there was a man. From Lubbock you can see clear through to Canada on a cloudless day. Especially for a red-blooded Texan like you, Humphrey, because you were a fine driver in your prime. Drive north and the road leads to Palo Duro, the canyon weather- whittled out of brick red sandstone, those skies so blue, so sheer you want to brush your cheek up against them. Their loping legs, and porky hands, their pitiful manners. How they spit their gum into their hands then wiped them off on their pants. The piney woods, Big Bend, the hill country, were other countries to me.
So were Mexicans. Save the celluloid variety and the few hands my daddy kept out back. Her whining and wailing rattled my nerves, her mugging was worse. Like a minstrel singer. Must have been her good figure, complexion and make up reeled him in. My daddy said Lucy was a corker, like my ma, he said, before she became a pitiful bag of bones. Your vocabulary may be limited, Humphrey Foster, but you aim to flatter a woman not to shame her.
The Sign of Zorro played at the Abilene drive-in, twice. Up close is where the trouble starts. I was of the opposite mind, given my distaste for a redneck boy, and my yearning for a man. My motto has always been moving up in the world. Teak, he said, harvested in foreign parts and shipped into Charleston in a frigate from Japan.
Looked pretty banged up to me. Nothing Japanese about it. Clarice got the hope chest, Jimmy junior, her little brother, the bureau, so that explains his loyalty to this piece of broken-down tinder. It filled in for something precious. So she forced his food down him like she was fattening him up for slaughter. Five years on he was meaner n Jesse James. Your pa had it rough, she said. I was the only. Clarice always said it takes the Lord to remove those enduring marks, and the far side of the grave is where that work gets done.
Especially when it comes to men. I always wished my daddy had grown into the kind of man Rock Hudson was in Giant. He had something of his build and good looks. I wished his success had made him whole. But Bic Benedict in the movie was born into land and my daddy had to scrap for it. If I had I might have gone out looking for Jet Rink and never left town.
My daddy bought himself a prefabricated Lustron Home. Essentially it was a trailer without wheels even though the style was solid ranch. He paid extra for a concrete foundation and a steel roof not wood. The cabinets were pre-fabricated too. He preferred linoleum floors to wood: he wanted to get as far away from real as he could. Had about as much of reality as he could stand. He put in a flush toilet before he bought a new car. He had a foul mouth and a book of matches on top of his porcelain commode.
One sloth was enough, seeing he paid that woman a living wage no other sucker would. That took priority plus the enamel tile and the shower. My daddy taught me two things: how to shoot a gun and how to light a match after doing my business. His one concession to old time. Even then he was nervous of termites. When I look back on that brown and beige palace and how mighty proud my daddy was to be its king, I ask myself was I a princess, a pauper or a prisoner?
Or was I nothing but a fickle girl with a head full of nonsense who thought a gaucho could sweep her off her feet and save her from herself? The night that Zorro was featured, I drove myself to the picture show. I wore sunglasses and a headscarf so no one would know better and the pair of slacks I kept hidden in the closet because my daddy would have been as connipted about them as much as by my driving.
It was Clarice taught me to drive when business was slow, when the sick and the old had lain down and died and tornado season had passed. She made me promise not to tell my daddy. He thought womenfolk ought to be driven not drive, only widow ladies and old maids like Clarice drove themselves. He never gave my mother her own set of keys to his Pontiac. It was twilight when I pulled into the drive-in lot under that mile-high screen.
I kicked off my shoes and slid down into my seat. Twilight was the frame of mind I was in, ready to slip out of my skin and into my second self on the silver screen. I was holed up and hunkered down inside the hacienda , running out of. By the time Zorro had run those banditos off the hacienda, I was swooning more from over-heating than fear. Emotion has never cramped my style. Not like humidity. In a hot second, I was floating like a fistful of feathers for my masked man—tossing his hat and his sword aside—to gather up in his embrace.
A swivel of his hips and he had tipped me crosswise as my hair swept the terracotta tile without picking up one speck of lint. Passion and hygiene are two distinct things. Then he arched over me to meet my puckered lips, so long coming that the thrill felt like a quill pen drawing down my spine. The man I yearned for was locked in two dimensions, not three. A man I could feel but never touch. Tall and dark and mysterious as he was. And though I was not one to weep into my pillow, my second self on the screen did my sobbing for me, to the sound of violins and mariachis.
It was late October when I first laid my eyes on Ricardo Valdez. It was his blue ones that slew me, more forceful than a sky full of twisters. In those days I thought big. To his mind the King Ranch was the closest thing to royalty in all of Texas. Yellow was her color she claimed. Well it sure matched her complexion— that nicotine pallor. Tonight though she was glittering and all her yellow glittered with her. A corker. The kind of woman my daddy admired. When it came to company my daddy preferred Judge Harris, to sitting with Lucille, with her cigarettes and magazines. So we usually ate supper as fast as we could swallow it in the kitchen around the plastic fold up table my mother dressed up with a yellow plastic cloth.
Everything had to be yellow in her world, even the Tupperware lids. The lazy susan too. Much as I despised her, I loved to swing that thing around and watch the mustard, the mayo, the Ketchup and the jelly whirring past like an accident about to happen. On the night Richard Valdez came to dinner my mother laid the dining table herself, setting it out just so, folding the napkins into stand-alone crowns for King Ranch.
I could always read her mind. I had never been one to color in the presence of a man but that night was the exception. Sensation spun me like a yoyo and turned. I lost my head and everything in it save my three years of high school Spanish. I steadied myself and got a good look at him. Then I smelled his pomade. Sweat shot through with sex. My mother seated Ricardo next to me and opposite her so she was better situated to serve him. My daddy was at the head of the table. He had taken to wearing a tan suit at all times, wanted it clearly understood he was the owner of the biggest feedlot south of Lubbock.
He wore his pant waist high, his sleeves long and his trouser legs short. Ricardo wore the same ugly-styled pants. Anyone or anything of the female persuasion was headed in their direction. Chores like that? I lead roundup. I manage the men. Whatever the bosses want me to do. I learned about cross-breeding. They say I have an instinct for it… And I know horses. I know horses very well. I plan on buying up land on the US side. They go back aways? He never made it past fourth grade. He pulled his facts from inside his own head and his opinions from Judge Harris. Fortunately for us.
A savage and a heathen. I had read some history books before I quit high school and I asked myself why Pancho Villa was a villain and Zorro a hero, when they both behaved the same way. They spread the wealth around. Like many folk of his generation my daddy believed Santa Ana lost to Davey Crockett at the last. My mother knew better and was delighted by this performance. I never liked that man much. Thought him uncouth. Tonight those wrinkles of hers were laugh lines, her skin the high olive glow of a true yellow rose. And it occurred to me that as much as my daddy admired Lucille Ball, my mother had taken a higher shine to her Cuban husband.
Part of me admired my mother having the gall to trifle with any man that pleased her.
A woman was expected to forgive those hot-blooded shortcomings in. The side swipe of a smile. But I imagined something more. I imagined his upper lip furling on the right hand side like mischief in the making, and I asked myself was he snarling or smiling, at me or with me, was he planning on chewing me up and spitting me out, or was he going to swallow me whole. And thanked him for the privilege, in Spanish.
Tell me sir what kind of cattle do you raise? Besides Ricardo had five years working at the King Ranch so his English was sure-footed when it came to cattle talk. I cannot recall the rest of their conversation. Animals belong in their place, outdoors. Even as Ricardo and my daddy were talking yield and feed, Ricardo was generous with his attentions.
He passed me the scalloped potatoes and the Jell-O salad. He glanced at my chest with those x-ray eyes of his and I tilted it like I was wearing a. I gave him my profile from both sides and in three dimensions like an underwear model. I was hoping for pert and pointed. I recalled Clarice instructing me to let a man look all he liked, to fill his eyes to the brim if he cared to, but not his hands.
No, she scolded, make him keep his hands to himself. That way he can use them to satisfy himself without involving you. My stomach was aflutter. There was canned spinach and creamed corn with the barbecue. My appetites were elsewhere. Ricardo seemed agitated too, mixing up his mound of corn and cream and playing around the edges of his slab of steak.
Ida always undercooks her meat. I tell her to roast those ribs through to the bone. Barbecue must be bringing coals to Newcastle after the fine cuts they serve up on the King Ranch. Best beef in the state, I hear. She goes so far as to claim her West Texas. Like the gut wagons old-timers refer to when they want to color up a phrase. Because gut wagons, if you stop and think about it, belong on crowded medieval streets, not a wide open, godforsaken place.
My daddy was partial to penny-wise , pound-foolish. He believed it justified his thrift. Very tasty. Enough to hack off its head and bury it in a pit. You will be welcome as my guests. My husband loves to travel especially within the great state of Texas. She was leaning forward resting her chin so prettily in her hands, dropped ten years off her gnarled up self. She was the image of the Houston hostess her own mother must have been.
Now I agree with Irene. Ricardo is so becoming a name. And please call me Lucille. Why you can call me Lucille May, all my kinfolk do. I looked across the table at my mother who was smiling for once in a blue Texas moon, her head in the clouds. Above us all. I was waiting for my daddy to call her to account. He was all out of steam. Now, my daddy had never been called James a day in his life, even by the preacher who baptized him.
Everything, that night, even her barbs, were coated in lemon chiffon. Maybe that permanent suit of his was just too tight. Puts hair on your chest they tell me. I sure need someone who can sharpen up those lazy good for nuthins. Lord have mercy! You must excuse my daughter, Ricardo, got her head full of boys where common sense ought to be. Slowly, reluctantly, I could tell, she raised herself from her seat to fulfill the role she was all dressed up for.
You must ex-cuse me Ricardo. Was Ricardo going to follow her with his burning eyes? The instant she was out of sight he rested them on me. I told Doc not to give her anymore. But she sweet talks him into it every time. My father had finally found his tongue. Even Clarice indulges on occasion. Clarice can do what the heck she likes. Mentioning Clarice was a ruse to keep my father on his mettle and it did. Now where the bejesus has she gone? I could just picture my mother and Ida back in the kitchen, fussing and fighting like two cats over who should flute the Ready Whip.
As far as she was concerned Ida could take care of both, white woman or no. I know the recipe they used: lemon pudding mix, lemon poppy seed cake mix, and a cup of water. But to be fair my daddy had no tolerance for anything but packaged food, said poverty had killed his taste for anything grew in the dirt. For kerosene too. My daddy bought a generator before he bought a Cadillac. During our exchange Ricardo acted like he was minding his business.
I reckon my daddy forgot he spoke English and could follow our conversation. So I swung around in my seat to look directly at him to make it plain I was no wilting violet. I was ripe and strong and his for the plucking. My mother came tripping back with her lemon poppy seed all decked up like the homecoming queen with curlicue whip and maraschino cherries. The platter was balanced in one palm as though she were about to toss a pompom.
She was lit alright, but not enough to outshine me. Not if I had any say in it. She had freshened her lipstick and rouge, so I bit on my lips and pinched my cheeks to raise my color even higher. She served Ricardo first instead of my daddy. That was how I was raised. Did she want to keep courtesy to herself? I always felt slighted by my mother, whichever way I reasoned her behavior. Thinking back I should have cared about her less, and pitied her more. But those kindnesses take years to come by. Ricardo ate quickly, with a spoon not a fork as though this were a dish of pork and beans.
The rest of us were more wary. Ida always overboiled the pudding mix, simple as it was to open up a box add water to the cornstarch and stir it over the burner. It was only then when I noticed how yellow it all was. I had to hold in my sides to stop myself laughing. We were swimming like yellow frogs in a water hole. You Latins have a reputation to live up to. Ricardo was raking the cake crumbs with the back of his spoon. This time he was reticent with her food. My mother had made one essential mistake.
Cunningham ended up with me. Love got the better of her that time. Never been sure what line she used with her fine and fancy folk, though I can guess. It always came at her expense, always a cheap shot. My mother set her own fork on the side of her plate. She was done with sugar. Looking back it was her life he was describing, her life in his hands.