May 10, 1805 – Thirty Point Buck?

 

This is why you should support your local National Park. Help a volunteer out.

This is why you should support your local National Park. Help a volunteer out.

 

A slight delay in getting this written, as I spent the weekend wandering my little town with my grandma and going to see my mom in celebration of Mother’s Day. Although, maybe I should feign a bit of planning as today, May 14th, marks the 210th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery’s departure of Camp DuBois.

(Note: As usual, all spelling and grammatical errors in quotations are the theirs. The rest are mine.)

Thursday, May 10, 1804

In just four days time, the Corps will leave Camp DuBois for the vast, uncharted Western expanse. I imagine this is the reason that entries are brief and discuss only the basics: weather and preparation, but the dramatist in me would love to know the inevitable tensions of camp, the fears of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, but all the latter gives us on this day is:

“…continued to fix Tents Covering, adjust the Load & c. order every man to have 100 Balls for ther Rifles & 2 lb. of Buck Shot for those with mussquets…”

Unfortunately, I will not be volunteering on the 14th, the genesis, but I read the entries for the 14th and found much the same in way of detail and tone. Perhaps the most anxious statement by Clark indicates a readiness to begin the trek:

“…fixing for a Start.”

Friday, May 10, 1805

Near Garfield or Valley County, Montana, at this point, the journals reflect the uneasiness that accompanies the Corps, as they criss-cross land owned, hunted and inhabited by Natives:

“we still believe ourselves in the country usually hunted by Assinniboins, and as they are a vicious ill disposed nation we think it best to be on our guard…”

It seems that despite the ominous potential of an encounter on the hunting lands it does not deter the group from hunting for their necessary protein. They regularly record the type and number of animals killed, but, on this day, Lewis sermonizes…lengthily…on the differences between the Mule deer and the common deer. Size, antler characteristics, general habits. Going so far as to describe in the Mule deer,

“the inner corner of each eye there is a drain or large recepicle…which gives it the appearance of weeping…”

(The Mule deer being the name Lewis uses in describing what the French referred to as the black-tailed deer. He finds this name irritating and “…by no means characteristic of the anamal as much the larger portion of the tail is white.” Those damn French.)

One can imagine if a simple tear in time and space were to find Lewis bellied up at any dim, wood-paneled bar in Smalltown, USA, can of Old Style in hand, his strong opinions and vast knowledge of the hooved beast would find him right at home.

In addition to this lengthy biological study, Lewis includes a short note about the human biology of the Corps. Specifically, that nearly a year in, the camp has become a roving cesspool.

“Boils and imposthumes have been very common with the party. Bratton is…unable to work with one on his hand; soar eyes continue also to be common…”

It’s hypothesized by some, that these ailments are the result of malnutrition due to a the predominately meat diet. It appears the Corps could have done with advertising for a few competent gatherers to join the ranks of sharpshooters.

It’s in this few days that I wish William Bratton would have kept a journal, though a depressing read it may have been, as only a day after this entry about his pustulous hand, he is chased and nearly attacked by a bear.

Saturday, May 10, 1806

“This morning the snow continued falling…8 inches deep on the plain…”

Still low on provisions, the returning group went to a village, Tunnachemootoolt, near present-day Lawyer Creek (originally called Commearp Creek) in Lewis County, Idaho. A previously established relationship, formed on their way West, with a

“…cheeif at whos lodge we had left a flag last fall. this flag was now displayed on a staff…” 

led to a very generous gift of horses for consumption. Lewis wrote,

“This is a much greater act of hospitality than we have witnessed from any nation or tribe since we have passed the Rocky mountains.”

An interesting insight, considering the five months the Corps spent at Ft. Clatsop. No attack on the fort was made during their winter encampment and while there may have been rightful tension, the Corps was camped on land previously inhabited for many years. I’d argue an extended, uninvited stay would be the epitome of hospitality, but Lewis seems to have had higher expectations.

(Indicative of the tenuous relationships expected or, actually developed, are the two entries regarding encounters (or possible encounters) with local Natives exactly a year apart.)

Lewis continues in his description of the welcome time spent in the village. He mentions the medals brought by the Corps as a sign of good will and a means of open communication to be given to chief’s and other individuals deemed significant. There were various sizes of medals, the

“…one of small size with the likeness of Mr. Jefferson…

was included in the presentation at this occasion. In reality, these medals were gifts with mighty strings attached. They were more a means of subjugation. When accepted, they were unknowingly agreeing to the superiority, the might, the power of the United States.

It’s further written that,

“(Lewis)…directed the men not to croud their lodge surch of food in the manner hunger has compelled them to do at most lodges we have passed and which the Twisted hair had informed me was disagreeable to the natives.”

In my initial reading, I was struck by what seemed to be Lewis’s abominable manners, yet again, and his seeming lack of knowledge of basic social norms and niceties. Clearly, strangers forcing themselves into your home would be considered “disagreeable.” But as the brief moment of naivete passed, I recognized the idea that this practice would be considered acceptable by white men in the villages of Natives.

A sobering reality then and, rightfully applied to other situations, an equally sobering reality today.

 

May 3, 1805, Irresponsible Espontoon Ownership

A favorite view from the library at Ft. Clatsop. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

A favorite view from the library at Ft. Clatsop. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Thursday, May 3, 1804

Now the beginning of May, the Expedition is just over a week from departing on their epic journey. It’s easy to imagine the anticipation around camp as the Corps members assemble, accumulating the last of the necessary provisions, finalizing this chapter of their lives before they are to march West into the unknown and indelibly into our collective history. Emotions had to have been taut. Excitement, anticipation, trepidation.

It’s with the same suspenseful eagerness, I find the date in the journals of Clark:

“…writ(ing) letters…worked at boat.”

Oh.

There must be more though. Some mention, however slight, of the palpable aura of camp?

“Majr. Rumsey was polite enough to examine all my provisions several Kegs of Pork he condemed.”

I guess not.

Friday, May 3, 1805

Nearly a year into the trip, the Corps of Discovery has reached the Poplar River area of Roosevelt County, Montana. Though when they arrived, the christened the water, Porcupine River, owing to the large number of the animal they had seen at the mouth. Compared to the ruddy Missouri, Lewis describes the Porcupine River as:

“…a beatifull bold runing stream…the water is transparent it being the first of this discription that I have yet seen discharge itself into the Missouri.”

In addition to these notes on the clarity of water, Lewis takes fascination with the quilled creatures abound.

“I walked out a little distance and met with 2 porcupines…this anamal is exceedingly clumsy and not very watchfull I approached so near one of them before it perceived me that I touched it with my espontoon.”

To translate: Lewis is poking the wildlife.

He makes no other notes on the reaction of the porcupine, so it’s hard to imagine the act as one of scientific inquiry. Rather it seems to be that of a curious child left unsupervised and with a touch of boredom garnered from monotony.

I found an interesting note that Lewis’s espontoon was considered an odd choice by some to bring on the trip, but it’s a combination spear, walking stick, and, apparently, porcupine poker, so I’m not sure why the entire Corps wouldn’t have carried them.

On this day, both Lewis and Clark make notes about what they determine to be sacrificial offerings by Natives:

“we passed a curious collection of bushes which had been tyed up in the form of a faciene and standing on the end in a the open bottom…this we supposed to have been placed there by the Indians, as a sacrefice for some purpose.” Clark

“…which must have been left also be the natives as an offering to their medison which they Convinced protected or gave them relief near the place…” Lewis

“three of our party found in the back of a bottom 3 pieces of Scarlet one brace in each, which had been left as a Sacrifice near one of their Swet houses…” Lewis

Neither of these entries are accompanied with an explanation as to why they would think these to be sacrificial. No mention of stories from encounters with local Natives giving validity to the claims. I’d be interested in knowing whether these were actually used in spiritual practice, or if they had more practical uses.

On this date, in the journal of John Ordway, is one of the most succinct, yet powerfully accurate notations in all of their written tomes.

“we proceeded on.”

Saturday, May 3, 1806

A common element in everyone’s journal for this day in the Pataha Valley area (near Pomeroy, WA) is the desperate tone of low provisions. Patrick Gass writes they:

“…eat the last of our dried meat; and are altogether without other provisions, as our stock of dogs is exhausted, and we can kill no game in the plains.”

It is with luck though, they are in an area first covered on the westward portion of their trip, and, therefore, a familiar territory with established Native allies. Clark is joyous in meeting up with:

We arh koont (We ark koomt) whome we have usially distinguished by the name of the big horn Chief from the circumstance of his always wareing a horn of that animal Suspended by a Cord to his left arm.”

This Chief and his ancestors are well known to history, by a name other than the entirely uncreative title bestowed by Lewis and Clark. Apash Wyakaikt (‘apaswahayqt), or “flint necklace”, was the Father and Grandfather of prominent Nez Perce leaders, known to the Army and white settlers as Looking Glass Senior and Looking Glass Junior. Looking Glass Junior evaded the First US Calvary after they were sent to arrest him in July 1877 and for three months help lead escaping Nez Perce towards Canada. He was killed in battle in September 1877.

We ark koomt is the bearer of good news for the Corps, promising a village only a short ride on where they will be able to trade for food and other provisions. This may have eased the minds of the weary band only a month and a half into their return journey, who had no other choice but to “proceed on” towards home.

(Notes: As before all spellings and horrendous grammar errors are presented as written in the journals. You can read all the journal entries for May 3, 1805 here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 26, 1805, a Typical Friday Night

There is a fluidity in history that seems to go unnoticed. Unrecognized layers of time and physical space surround our lives and we tend not to see ourselves as contributors to the story.

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery marked their achievement in reaching the Pacific Ocean, albeit without uncovering that elusive northwest passage, by spending a miserably wet winter (November 1805 – March 1806) at Ft. Clatsop, near Astoria, Oregon. Starting out from St. Louis in 1804, it would be two years before they would return, surprising many and hauling the tomes of their observations of North American flora, fauna, geography, and culture.

About a month ago, I started volunteering in the library at Ft. Clatsop at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Unfortunately, while the Park draws many visitors with its interpretive programs, comprehensive exhibits, and a replica of Ft. Clatsop on the exact site of that long winter, the research library is down a dark hall, behind closed doors, which is only to say that my volunteer time is usually quiet.

Each Saturday morning, I settle in with copies of famous journals of Lewis and Clark. I enjoy finding the exact date for each year the men kept journals. I can occasionally find a note for 1804, but always for 1805 on their initial trek west and, 1806, on their return. The comprehensive research library also allows access to the journals of other expedition members. Clark noted seven men kept journals on the journey and, although the identities of three are lost to time (or yet to be uncovered in a dusty attic or a government basement), Sergeants Patrick Gass and John Ordway both published their own journals shortly after returning with the Corps.

I intend on sharing a little of each day, as the Corps recorded it, on the day about two centuries later.

(Note: In April 1804, they are yet to leave St. Louis.)

(Note: The appalling spelling and grammar in the direct journal quotes is all unchanged. <cringe>)

Thursday, April 26, 1804

Thursday 26. Mr. Hay arrived, river falls. (Clark)

Mr. Hay refers to fur trader, merchant and postmaster of Cahokia (Illinois) who hailed from Detroit. It seems he was helping with the final compilation of goods and tools in preparation for the departure.

Friday. April 26, 1805

The Corps reached the convergence of the Yellowstone (Rochejhone) and Missouri Rivers. Most of both Lewis and Clark’s journals are full of scientific observations and measurements about the rivers themselves, and the surrounding flora and fauna. It’s hard not to feel slight pangs of jealousy when reading of the abundance of animals (all mentioned on the 26th). The:

“…Antelope, Buffaloe Elk and deer…the growse, the porcupine, hare and rabbit…the bighorned animals, Magpie Goose duck and Eagle…white bears and wolves.”

It’s a safe assumption that the white bear is simply a blonde or light brown colored grizzly (in comparison to the darker black bears they would have been used to in the Eastern US), and not a wayward brother of the polar persuasion. It is noted they killed their first bear of the expedition just three days later.

While the detailed observations of Lewis and Clark were important contemporaneously and historically, I prefer the brevity of Gass, who on this day simply settles for describing the convergence area as “…the most beautiful rich plains, I ever beheld.” He is focused more on a “flock” of swimming goats. Yep.

“…this morning…Capt. Lewises dog Seamon took after them caught one in the River.”

This encampment marked a geographically important region for the journey and what is there left to do but celebrate:

“…after I had completed my observations…I walked down a joined the party…found them…much pleased at having arrived at this long wished for spot, and in order to add in some measure which seemed to pervade our little community, we ordered a dram to be issued to each person.” 

A little drink in the wilds of North America 200 years ago seems to have much the same effect as a little drink in the sprawl of our current situation.

“…this soon produced the fiddle, and they spent the evening with much hilarity, singing & dancing, and seemed as perfectly to forget their past toils as they appeared regardless of those to come.”

Friday nights seem to have changed very little.

Saturday, April 26, 1806

At this point, the Corps is returning east and, although, there is no confirmation on the exact encampment site for this date, it’s thought they were near Plymouth, WA. Their travels took the majority of the written thoughts for the day, as they were:

“…overtaken today by several families of the natives who were traveling up river with a number of horses; they continued with us much to our annoyance as the day was worm the roads dusty and we could not prevent their horses from crouding in and breaking our order of mach without using some acts of severity which we did not want to commit.”

I imagine this is akin to an encounter with those drivers who refuse to use the left passing lane as intended, complete with a road rage threat.

While camped, “…a little Indian boy caught several chubbs with a bone in this form.”

I thought this an uninspired drawing by Clark:

until I found this one in Lewis’s:

IMG_20140426_104914_487

An interesting note, as many times their journal entries are exact duplicates, as they exchanged and copied each other’s journals as a back up in case of loss. On this day Lewis notes they camped, “…about a mile below three lodges of the Wollah wollah nation…” Clark includes a nearly identical passage save a striking verb inclusion, “…the fritened band of the Wallah Wallah nation.” There is no indication of any interaction on that day or a possible reason as to why he would consider them frightened.

Tomorrow marks the end of National Park Week for 2014. If you can, visit and support your local national park.

 

 

 

 

 

Two-thousand Miles I Roam

AstoriaBlog

How was it possible that Marilyn Monroe was satiated for seven years before being incited by that infamous itch? As an adult, two years is the longest I’ve managed to find myself without the nagging need for something new.

New ideas.

New experiences.

New influences.

New views.

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted and, although, it strikes some odd that I turned from writing in these stressful, move-consumed weeks, I found that it coincided nicely with an impassable writer’s block.

After a surprise visit to my hometown in July, I returned to my small Midwest town and found myself distanced from the feelings of quaint easiness that I thought had drawn me there. As it turns out, those feelings and the comfort in simplicity that I had always associated with my time in Wisconsin was, in fact, not confined to the mitten-shaped border of my beloved Badger-land. It was actually, country song cliché be damned, a state of mind that I had grown into.

For the first time in my thirty years, I started considering a move by choice, rather than out of necessity. I did have the two-year restlessness, but in the past my moves have been precipitated by a better job, a shorter commute, cheaper rent. In a matter of weeks, I broke the news, started filling boxes, and relocated my job hunt to the North Oregon Coast.

I’ve always maintained that if I ever moved back to the Pacific Northwest, I would only ever call Astoria home. I spent many spring breaks just 20 miles beyond the cove-d hamlet, but was forever drawn to the jarring colors of the crumbling Victorians and the deep history that could be felt seeping from their weathered siding.

So it happened. I did it. And here I am.

Many applications, a few interviews, but no job yet.

A cozy (double meaning intended: securely comfortable and small in real estate lingo) apartment with a view only possible in one place in the world.

And the knowledge that although it appears that I’m starting over yet again, in reality this life has always been here.

Sitting on the dock, in the rain, waiting for me to call it home.