By Texas 2002
Authorís Note: The following journal - an account of the Cartwright familyís trip from Independence, Missouri, to the Sierra Nevada Mountains - is representational of the many well-planned overland journeys to California in 1846. These emigrants met with the usual risks and rigors of life on the trail but they did not face the extraordinary difficulties of some other travelers on the trail that year, like the Donner Party. I used "Bonanza" tie-ins where possible but this is a "Ponderosa" story. The author begs forgiveness for any errors, either historical or hysterical.
Thank you to Mr. Dortort who created the Cartwrights and the Ponderosa and shared them. And thank you to Ms. Sullivan who gave them new life. This story is purely for entertainment and is not intended to infringe on their rights or the rights of anyone else involved in these marvelous shows
Benjamin Cartwright family
Missouri to Mexican Territory
May Ė recorded by Benjamin Cartwright
1 May 1846
Near Independence, Missouri
According to our youngest son, Joseph, the fact that we are beginning our journey to California is just about the most exciting thing to ever happen in his whole entire life. When I asked him what might be the most exciting thing to ever happen in his whole entire life he was quiet for a moment. His lack of chatter did not escape the attention of his two older brothers. They looked at me quizzically. Adam asked if Joe was all right. Erik said that now he had seen everything. Well, heard everything. Well, actually, heard nothing but what he meant was he couldnít believe he wasnít hearing Joe. Not that there was anything to hear because Joe wasnít talking. I held up my hand to stop Erikís rambling, and thankfully Joseph spoke again. He said that he reckoned probably the most exciting thing to ever happen in his whole entire life was being borned. But he didnít remember much about it. His mother assured him that she remembered enough about the event for both of them.
I have not conducted a scientific study to confirm my suspicion but it seems to me that we have the three most exuberant youngsters encamped for miles around Independence. I have taken daily rides to other camps, hoping to locate the Teagues and the Millers, and have noted that the majority of the boys are quiet when they are near adults. Marieís and my sons are less inhibited. They are not only into mischief when they do not realize their parentsí eyes are on them, when they are near the wagon they run, jump, shout, wrestle, challenge each other to tests of strength, tease, toss, and hit. That last behavior is best limited to good-natured slaps and punches, on the offhand chance they are forced to endure their least favorite activity: sitting still.
An unbridled exuberance on the part of several of its occupants, and a generalized lack of exuberance for the law, are the reasons I chose to camp here and not closer to Independence or the port.
New Orleans was a busy town, and certain areas of it did not cower in awe of the legal system, but Independence is overcrowded and evokes an overwhelming feeling of transience. It is impossible to walk the streets and not be assailed by the bark, cackle, lowing, and neighing of animals. People shout, hammers clang in blacksmith shops, crate after crate of goods thump as they are delivered in front of the stores, music spills out of dingy establishments, and the deep roar of the steamboat pipes weaves through it all. And at every turn there are people milling about, buying wagons, loading wagons, and learning how to drive wagons.
The lure of such an exciting place proved too much for the boys the day after we camped. Early that morning, Adam asked if his brothers and he might fish in the river. After the customary warnings about not swimming because of treacherous currents and being sure to take care of one another, their mother gave her permission. Much to their surprise, I bumped into them near the townís bustling courthouse square. Adam shifted around and claimed they had lost their sense of direction and were looking for our camp. Erik held out his arms and asked please, couldnít they just walk around town a little longer? Joseph maintained he had gone far too long without candy and he intended to get some no matter what I said. When Adam and Erik said, "Ooooh" in unison, Joseph quickly added that he sure would appreciate my permission. I informed them that I was not about to reward poor behavior and that they had better be at camp when I returned. They were.
Their mother and I didnít give our sons permission to leave camp for several days and when we were satisfied that they had learned their lesson, I allowed the boys to accompany me into town. That evening, I leaned back against a wagon wheel and enjoyed every moment as they recounted the dayís adventure to a wide-eyed Marie.
My wife has a knack for making people feel that whatever they are telling her is the most important thing on Earth. She listens with hawk-like attention, her face dances from one expression to the next, and more than once she will say, "Is this so?" Naturally the boys respond to her encouragement by sharing every bit of news they can think of; and when they have no news they are perfectly willing to invent some.
Marie also has an unintentional knack for causing people to frown and look at me for an explanation of what she just said. I never considered her Creole accent an obstacle to communication until we camped among people who are generally from north and east of here. Apparently they arenít accustomed to the Creole way of speaking. I derive a perverse enjoyment out of watching their faces when she introduces our sons. The Cartwright part of their name seems to be easy enough to understand. Itís when she says their first names: Uh-dum, Air-eek, and Jo-sef. Our youngest son has asked me more than once why so many folks think his oldest brother is dumb.
My lovely wife is also excellent at keeping life interesting. Like the other day when she stepped from the wagon and the boys and I got a clear view of her shoes and a good ten inches of her stockings. Knowing that many people consider the word offensive, my sons have trouble enough saying the word "legs" when referring to a womanís lower limb much less seeing that much of one. She stood in front of us with her hands on her hips and tilted her head back, demanding to know if there was something amiss. Erik volunteered that she seemed to be amissing the bottom of her skirt. Joeís mouth was almost as wide open as Adamís eyes. I didnít speak because I was busy admiring the view.
She straightened her back and shoulders and informed us that she had spoken to many of these women who have traveled across the many of the states to be here in Missouri, only she pronounces it "misery," and they have all told her that the long skirts they are completely impractical when one travels the trail. And so, she concluded, she will wear her skirt not so long, she will wear it short like the skirts she wears to wash the clothes, and she will not be so much of the hazard as we travel. I told her that was a matter of opinion. She told me I was impossible. I picked her up and planted a kiss on her forehead. She slapped my chest and said to restore her to her feet maintenant. I did no such thing. I pointed out that she was immensely lucky to be married to a man who understood the need for shorter skirts, that she was fortunate indeed to have such a forward thinking husband. To which she replied she was not in the least impressed by this pillar of humility called Benjamin and would I please restore her to her feet before the biscuits burned. She also knows how to put a man in his place with a minimum of words.
We would be underway by now if I had not received a letter from John while we were guests at the home of James Rousseaux, Daphne de Villeís brother. We are scheduled to meet two families that he knows who are traveling to California this year. One of the men, Zeke Teague, is acquainted with a man named Josiah Billings. Billings has traveled to California several times and has contracted to guide the Teagues and Millers on the overland trail. Hiram Teague sent a note with Johnís letter informing me that we were welcome to join their group. The fact that Teague has no inclination to be involved in one of the large companies indicates his common sense. Most of the experienced guides with whom I have spoken agree that a smaller party has a greater chance of avoiding conflicts between members. In addition I have been told that newspaper accounts have sensationalized, and often fabricated, stories of possible trouble from Indians and there is no longer need of large groups for safety. I am not sure how much I believe that last assertion. The Indians I encountered beyond the South Fork of the Platte were skilled warriors.
When the Millers and Teagues arrive, our party will consist of:
Hiram and Rebecca Teague.
Their son Zeke and his wife Becky; their children Ruth and Sarah.
Another son Sam and his wife Martha; their son Micah
Dr. Marcus Miller and his wife Ada; their children John and Annie.
Nathan Miller, brother of Dr. Miller, and his wife Mary; their sons Jefferson and Lincoln.
Myself, my wife Marie; our sons Adam, Erik, and Joseph.
Our guide, Josiah Billings, and his brother, Sam.
The total count is ten men including Adam who is seventeen and John Miller who is nineteen; six women; and eight children. Total number in party: twenty-four.
2 May 1846
Josiah Billings rode up to our wagons this morning inquiring if I might be Dr. Miller. When I informed him I was not, but that I planned to travel with the Millers and Teagues, he stepped from his saddle and shook my hand with a strong grip as he looked me square in the eye. After I introduced him to the family, he asked if Adam, he, and I might divide the camps and look for the Teagues and Millers. Adam fought hard to contain his excitement and instead looked to me for permission. When I nodded, he ran to saddle the horses.
I judge Billings to be about my age. He is a tall, heavy-set man with lighter hair than Erikís and an ample beard of the same color. His voice is deep and carries an amazing distance without any seeming effort on his part. He has skin the color of medium tan leather; he wears buckskin pants and a loose-fitting shirt which is belted over the waist of his pants. A pistol is wedged between his shirt and belt. As with everyone here, he wears a broad brimmed felt hat. Billings has the air of a man who is sure of himself and finds no reason to convince others of his abilities.
The encampments of people planning to take to the trail stretch for miles east and south of town. I have yet to visit them all and new ones appear each day. I cautioned Adam to return to the wagon before late afternoon and then he put Beauty into a gallop toward the east. I took the southeast bearing while Billings headed due south. By the end of the day we had contacted most camps and left word for the Teagues and Millers.
Billings asked if I was interested in hiring a driver for our second wagon. His cousin, Jeffrey, wishes to go to California but does not have sufficient funds. Billings said his cousin would drive the second team and that Billings and his brother, Sam, would be responsible for their cousinís upkeep. I considered the proposition, and the fact that it would make the trail less strenuous for the boys, and discussed the possibility with Marie. She agreed that it profited both Billingsí cousin and our family so I rode into Independence this evening to speak with Jeffrey. The young man, who looks to be in his mid-twenties, stuck me as trustworthy and willing to work. Jeffrey was willing to sign an agreement and assured me I would not regret my decision.
4 May 1846
Zeke Teague and John Miller rode into our camp this morning. Zeke is well-acquainted with Billings. I informed him that Billings and I planned to meet in town at noon and Zeke rode to bring the other men to our camp so we might ride to town together.
Zeke is tall and slender, brown hair, brown eyes, and an easy smile. He walks as if he may have served in the military.
John Miller doesnít look much older than Adam although Hiram Teagueís note stated Johnís age as nineteen. He is of medium height with steady dark eyes and thick dark hair that falls over his shirt collar. He was courteous and respectful and stayed for breakfast, getting acquainted with Adam, Erik, and Joseph. By the time Zeke returned with the other men, John and Adam were talking in earnest as Erik and Joseph listened in rapt silence. Johnís account of his travel to Independence must have been filled with adventure if it held Josephís undivided attention.
Johnís father allowed John to attend our meeting with Billings so I invited Adam. As we rode into town, I turned in my saddle several times to see Adam and John riding tandem at the end of the line as they talked and waved their arms for emphasis.
Adam was quiet during the meeting but he assailed me with questions during the ride back to camp. I explained to him that according to Billings it is imperative that we work out rules of conduct as well as regulations and then have each man sign the document. In addition, we agreed upon common tasks such as guard duty, scouting, and hunting as well as who in our families would be expected to participate in those tasks. There was the necessary discussion regarding the disposal of the possessions of any one who dies en route; and another agreement regarding the care of a family left without a provider. We recorded a chain of command, though Billings did not call it such. I found myself in the unenviable position of being second to Billings based solely on the fact that John had told the Millers and Teagues of my duties at sea. They judged that such experience and skills, as well as an understanding of how to lead, qualified me for the questionable honor. I jokingly told them that it is all I can do to control three sons - I was not at all sure I could be second to the leader of our company. Everyone except Sam Teague laughed but I had already discerned that Sam is a man of gloomy temperament. Our final decision was to leave Independence on Thursday, May 7, at seven in the morning. Adam raced ahead of me to share that last bit of news with his brothers.
8 May 1846
On Santa Fe Trail
We will follow the Santa Fe Trail from Independence for approximately fifty miles. At that point the trails fork. Bear left and the trail leads to Santa Fe and Mexico. Bear right and the trail heads toward Oregon, with a fork toward California.
Given all the time the Millers and Teagues spent on the trail to Independence, I am surprised that some of their children are not more disciplined regarding their duties. During our layover at James Rousseauxís, the boys were none too happy with me because I had them busy at chores. Nonetheless, the extra work was good training for the hard life on the trail. They are physically stronger than they were when we left New Orleans and they are aware that they can perform many more tasks than they had thought possible. Adam has, with a few stellar exceptions, always been an obedient son and has learned to ask questions only after an order has been carried out. Erik and Joe are learning. Adam assures me that his brothers eventually will not roll their eyes at me or make excuses if Iím as firm with them as I was with him. This from the young man who still rolls his eyes when he thinks Iím not watching.
Marie and I occupied the early evening with re-packing some items which had worked loose from their moorings in the wagons. This business of carrying along enough provisions for more than four months reminds me of when I had to lay in supplies for sea voyages. We have the regular tools - hammer, chisels, anvil, shovel, axe, and so on - extra rope and chain, Marieís cooking utensils, extra clothing, bedding, books, a large cage for the chickens, water barrels, and then the foodstuffs. The poundage of staple items which include, but certainly are not limited to, flour, coffee, sugar, rice, tea, and baking powder are in addition to Marieís required vinegar, dried fruit, smoked meat, spices, and dried herbs. When we were stowing the supplies this evening I even came across pickles. She told me I would be glad to have them in a month. I decided she did not tell me what tools and munitions to bring so I would not comment on her culinary needs.
It is no small accomplishment to balance the need to freight all our necessities along the trail and yet use as light a wagon as possible for the sake of the oxen who will pull it. Too light a wagon may be poorly constructed and will fall apart on the trail. Too heavy a wagon necessitates more yoke of oxen. And as any man who has driven a wagon knows, the more oxen and the larger the wagon the more turning space is required. From what I hear there are narrow and sharp turns along the trail that will be difficult with a few yoke of oxen and would be impossible to negotiate with a large team. Hiram Teague questioned my use of two wagons. I informed him that I did not wish to have more than 1800 pounds to the wagon. He said he thought the wagon could hold twice that much. Billings smiled at me, waiting for my response to Teague. I said that Hiram was entitled to his opinion but that I am interested in not losing oxen because of too hard a pull. When Hiram walked away, Billings predicted that a third of the possessions in Hiramís wagon would be left along the trail before we reached Fort Laramie.
I am grateful that Marie and the boys understood the need to bring as few possessions with us as possible. And I think, after re-packing the wagon, Marie is, too.
9 May 1846
Rolling prairie, good soil, springs
Today a group of wagons belonging to the Davis family pulled up behind us during our noon stop. They had planned to join a company in Independence but arrived several days after the company had left. Matthew Davis, the oldest of the four brothers, requested that his group be allowed to join our party. We held our first vote out of the Davisí earshot. I try not to judge men quickly but in my opinion a man who can not meet at a prearranged time, barring unforeseen delays, exhibits a lack of discipline. Jeffreyís and mine were the only dissenting votes. The Davis families have joined us.
The four brothersí names are easy enough to recall: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each is married. Matthewís wife is Addie. They appear to be perhaps ten years my senior. Markís wife is Frances and the couple has four sons: Butler, who is near Erikís age; Morgan; Issac; and Jeremiah who is Josephís age. Lukeís wife is Elizabeth. Their children are William, James, and a daughter named Tennessee. Finally there is John Davisí family: his wife Louise, his son Hector, and his daughters Frances and Mary.
When we left Independence, Adam made note that there are no young ladies near his age among our group. I remained silent and he muttered not that it mattered much, heíd be too tired for such frivolous pursuits. Iím certain his last observation was for my benefit because I have yet to meet a young man his age who is not at least occasionally interested in young ladies.
10 May 1846
Prairie; ash, oak, and walnut along creek banks
We started out a little later than usual to allow each family time for worship and then the stillness was broken by the clamor of breaking camp. Joseph walked around for nearly an hour with his hands over his ears as yokes were set, chains rattled, whips popped, and more than a few of the men indulged in cursing. Apparently they are not concerned about that behavior even on the Lordís Day.
I see signs of homesickness in a few of our party. When I remarked on this at dinnertime, Joseph asked what homesickness was. I explained and he eyed me as if I had concocted an unbelievable story. He climbed into my lap as soon as I had put down my plate and said he didnít understand. Why would someone not be excited about seeing a different place? Marie said that sometimes people do not wish to leave their homes. Erik asked why they left if they didnít want to. And Adam said not every family is like ours. Joe frowned and asked his older brother what he meant by that. Adam said that all of us want to go to California. But sometimes there is someone in a family who does not wish to make the journey. The solution to that problem was easy enough as Joe saw it. He said the person who did not want to leave home should stay behind. Adam asked what if the people with differing opinions were a husband and wife. Joe thought about the question and came up with the opinion that if a husband and wife didnít agree on something like that then theyíd do a whole lot better to get themselves a different wife or husband. Erik said he was sure glad that Ma and Pa werenít fussing over something like that. I told him that I was, too.
12 May 1846
Near the Kansas
If I ever dared believe our decision to travel to California is unique, I was dissuaded of that idea today. As we approach the Kansas River we can see wagons ahead of us. I stopped counting them when I reached 40. Billings said he rode behind us a distance and more wagons are there. He has urged us to consider driving a bit harder, swinging slightly off the established trail, and then rejoining the trail when we have passed a number of wagons. Going more to the lead will cause us to have less concerns about water, grass, and game. We agreed. But as events unfolded, we have no need to swing away from the trail. The party ahead of us has allowed their stock to wander and will spend the day remedying that situation.
One of the things Josiah told me when we were camped outside Independence was to plan to take half again as much stock as I thought we might need. There are stretches of the trail where the weaker animals will not survive and we must be ready to replace them. Josiah said the entire process would be easier if a person could determine three or four months ahead of time which animals might lose strength.
It is difficult to look at our oxen and horses and imagine any of them unhealthy. Erik tends them with unflagging devotion. He and Joseph have named all of the oxen and are particularly fond of Barnaby and Bill. Adamís horse, Beauty, is solid and has a mild temperament. Even Adam was surprised at how calm she was when we took the riverboat to the port near Independence. Our other horse is Erikís devoted and docile Karly. The fact that both horses are good-natured does not mean they are opposed to racing. Beauty and Karly seem to enjoy those runs even more than Adam and Erik. I have enjoyed riding Josiahís second horse, Ginger. She is almost as stocky as a draft horse but is surprisingly agile. When we arrive in California I may see what kind of deal Josiah and I can strike for Ginger.
When the boys were learning how to handle the oxen, Marie was hesitant to get too near the animals because of their size. I stopped in my tracks when I walked up alongside the second wagon this afternoon and saw Jeffrey teaching Marie how to drive the teams. He had not gone so far as to give her complete control, and certainly not the whip. She was silently mouthing his calls to the animals as she attempted to learn them. Joseph does the same thing. I am always assured that he is paying attention when I see his lips moving in silent repetition of what I have told him.
Light rain tonight.
13 May 1846
After they expressed their excitement about ferrying across the Kansas, the boys settled down and behaved as if they have ferried across a river every day of their lives. They obeyed each of my instructions, worked with Jeffrey when he required their help, were incredibly solicitous of their motherís welfare - much to her amusement - and were eager to help anyone who looked even remotely like they were in need of expert assistance. Joseph requested that he be allowed to perform the adult job of paying the ferryman, with my money of course. Marie and I enjoyed watching the boys display their skill with animals and their knowledge of wagons, in addition to their understanding of river currents. I overheard Joseph explaining to his friend Micah Teague why the ferry started at one point on the riverbank but did not go straight across the water to the opposite bank. Adam masterfully advised John Miller about the best way to swim the horses and stock across the river. Our eldest son was imparting with great authority information I had told him moments before when he had asked permission to swim Beauty across the Kansas.
Adam has learned a great deal about how to acceptably express himself this past year. I knew that he did not agree with my decision to layover at James Rousseauxís farm after we had traveled from New Orleans. If he had approached me politely, I would have explained my reasons to him. But he was sixteen years old and was convinced beyond a doubt that he was more intelligent than his unenlightened father.
One afternoon when we were repairing an axe, he grabbed my arm and said I owed him an explanation and he wanted to hear it immediately. Before I could warn him about his poor behavior, he went into a tirade. I had been promising him for as long as he could remember that we would go to California. But every time he believed me, every time he thought I would keep my word, I lied to him again. I never intended to go to California and he knew it. I didnít care that I broke promises to him as easily as I breathed. If I didnít keep my promises to him then he didnít owe me obedience and he darn sure didnít owe me any respect. I was a liar and he was leaving tomorrow and he would find his own way to Independence and to California and I could rot in Hades.
I had only one way to get his attention. I took off my belt and in his anger he yelled at me to go ahead, tan him, and see if he cared.
He had been unflinchingly discourteous when he had told me what he thought about my decision. If he had the mistaken belief that he would ever be old enough to speak to me with disrespect he was soon dissuaded of that opinion. I gave him as rough a dressing down as I have ever delivered.
My eldest son backed away from me in stunned silence after the reproach and never once glanced at the unused belt in my right hand. He didnít take his eyes off my face until he was yards away from me. For more than a day he was wary in my presence and we did not speak to each other. On the second day, he apologized for his behavior. I suggested that we take a walk in the early evening light and asked him if he would like to know why I had decided not to proceed to Independence. He answered, "I would appreciate that, yes." So we walked and I explained my reasoning. He listened and then said he wished I had told him my reasons earlier. I said I would have if he had broached the subject with proper respect. Adam kicked his boot toe in the dirt and smiled very slowly. Then he said, "I know that now, Pa." He still questions and argues, but he has the good sense to stick to the subject and support his opinion with facts.
This afternoon when he had safely crossed the river on Beauty, he looked around until he saw me. I acknowledged his accomplishment with a smile and he sketched a salute. Then he immediately turned his attention to helping the others drive their wagons off the ferry. We did not lose a person or a belonging in this our first river crossing.
14 May 1846
One day beyond the Kansas
Had a cold rain and consequently a cold dinner.
Tonight I reread several of the most recent letters from my friend, John Sutter, and then gave them to Adam to study. He shared them with Jeffrey.
Sutterís advice regarding what trail to follow and what supplies to carry and to use oxen instead of horses or mules to pull the wagon - in addition to countless other observations - is invaluable. His recommendations are based on the experiences of people he has met in and around Yerba Buena and his own settlement closer to the Sierra Mountains. John advised me not to strike out until a party established a wagon route across the mountains. His letter, which reached me in late Ď45, was the first reliable news I received about the Stevens Party of Ď44 being the first group to cross the Sierras with wagons. But along with the good news came an adamant warning that it would be best to be completely through the pass before mid-October. I mentioned this to Billings and he agreed. He has seen snow fifteen feet deep in that area and heard of it reaching twenty feet deep. In his letter Sutter acknowledged that to complete such a trip before the first snow would require a hard drive and a disciplined approach.
15 May 1846
Second day beyond Kansas
We have made excellent time. There is no excuse to do otherwise because we have a good road and pleasant weather.
I found it necessary to correct two out of three Cartwright sonsí attitudes last night. Erik and Joseph were much more respectful of their mother today.
I do not excuse their poor behavior but I am certain what prompted it. Our sons have been in the company of several of the Davis children these past days. The adults among the Davis families lack the discipline required to be ready to pull out at the agreed-upon hour in the morning. The men perform a minimum amount of work and are not maintaining the wagon equipment as required. Billings must remind them several times to do the most basic chore, such as to grease the wheels - a duty I need not remind Erik to perform. The Davis children are then, understandably, themselves undisciplined. They are also ill-behaved and disrespectful.
The first time we were witness to Hector, who looks to be a year or two older than Erik, being disrespectful toward his father, Adam looked to me for my reaction. He found it to be exactly what he had expected. From that time on, Adam has studiously avoided any unnecessary contact with any of the Davis family. Erik and Joseph watched Hector with their arms folded across their chests and studied the scene with quiet attention. After that incident, their mother and I found Erik and Joseph, more than once, with Butler, William, James, and Issac Davis and noted a deterioration in our sonsí behavior.
Last night, Erik and Joseph decided to share some of the poor behavior they had observed in the Davis boys. They did not get very far in their performance. Instead, they accompanied me some distance from the wagon train. We had a talk about being respectful of their mother and then a judicious amount of applied punishment, after which they apologized to Marie. I advised them to find other friends and today they seemed to be heeding my counsel.
Adam returned to camp this evening and took me aside to tell me he had seen Indians. We shared the news with Billings, who is of the opinion that they are no threat. He said the Indians in this area are friendly and if we have any trouble it will be west of Fort Laramie. While I trust the manís judgment, Adam and I will draw our own conclusions about any approaching Indianís intentions.
16 May 1846
Approaching Vermillion on way to Blue
Joseph and Micah have become best of friends in that quick, unquestioning way of childhood. Samís and Marthaís son enjoys Josephís carefree approach to life and is especially fond of the way our sons tease one another. Joseph is particularly taken with Micahís way of replacing unacceptable words with "molly." In the past few days our son has asked his brothers what the molly they were thinking, who the molly said that, where the molly were they going now, and why the molly couldnít he go, too? Marie assures me that Joseph will use the word less often as it is less new to him. I hope to molly sheís right.
Our youngest son is having trouble deciding if he wants to be big like his brothers or sleep in the wagon. He starts every evening lying on the bedding near the campfire, nestled between Adam and Erik. But as the darkness grows so does his imagination. And the moment he discerns that his brothers are asleep, and no longer protecting him, he makes for the wagon. He clamors into it with a blanket wrapped around him, offering the explanation that he is cold, and plops himself down on the floor. Adam and Erik sleep under the stars; Joseph seems to prefer canvas.
17 May 1846
Toward the Blue River
Erik told me today that he has decided he likes the prairie. I said I was relieved to hear that because there is a lot of it.
He reached his conclusion after several days of examining and plucking every grass and flower he doesnít recognize. He walks up beside me and asks me what his latest discovery is called. Sometimes I can give him a knowledgeable answer but more often than not I suggest that he ask his mother. In short time he is back at my side informing me that his mother told him that Pa is the expert about the trail.
After a few days of this treatment, he told me he figured heíd talk to some of the other folks. Maybe one of them could help him out. So he spent the time before sundown visiting the different camps in search of knowledge. This evening he sat Marie and me down and conducted a botany class. When he had concluded the lecture he asked if we had any questions. We assured him that we did not. Then, to Marieís and my great amusement, Erik turned toward his older brother and asked Adam if he had understood everything. Adam found himself in the unusual position of having something explained to him by Erik instead of the other way around. His left eyebrow rose and he said in a clipped, lowered voice that yes, he understood perfectly, thank you. Erik nodded with satisfaction and then asked me to place his latest finds at the back of the journal so they will be pressed and he can study them more when we reach California.
18 May 1846
High prairie; creek banks have cottonwood
We have crossed several creeks and branches during these past few days. So many that the boys consider themselves even more the experts than they did when we ferried across the Kansas. As if it is not enough that I have to watch them to be certain they are not injured now Marieís adventurous streak is growing wider. During one crossing I heard the boys shouting. Jeffrey and I returned to the creekbank expecting to see some disaster. Instead, the boys were standing on the west bank and shouting encouragement to their mother - who was swimming Karly across from the east bank and enjoying every moment of the experience. When she dismounted and saw my reaction to her escapade she tossed her head and told me not to be such a sport spoil. I counted to twenty, found I was still prepared to say something I would undoubtedly regret, and returned to the wagons.
The sight of moving water animates my sons. Traveling on it only adds to their bliss. When we boarded the steamboat bound for Independence, Adam did his best to appear uninterested. He had, after all, had the experience of being aboard a riverboat from New Orleans to Natchez and back to New Orleans some years ago. He was as miserable at his charade of boredom as he is miserable at telling a lie.
Erik and Joseph made no attempt to hide their delight. They ran about the decks, assailed anyone who would listen to their questions, endlessly offered to help the boatmen with tasks, inspected the construction of the rails and steps, and would have ventured too near to the steam pipes rising above the upper deck if Adam had not stopped them. I promised them that if they did not stay where their mother or I could see them they would spend the remainder of the trip sitting on a bench during their waking hours. They were sorely tempted to disobey at times but a look from their mother or me was all the reminder they required. The only time Erik was not boisterous was when he checked on Karly and Beauty. He never expressed any worry about what might happen to us if there was an accident but he was worried about the tethered horses. Adam assured him that in the unlikely event that the boat exploded, everything, including us and the horses, would scatter into a hundred pieces. I shot Adam a look but he was not the least bit contrite.
Persuading Marie to travel aboard a steamboat is one of my lifeís greatest accomplishments. She had heard far too many stories about accidents and explosions and was convinced we were testing the Lord by participating in such a folly. People had legs and horses, she maintained, what need did they have to travel up the river on such a loud boat? I reminded her that, as a child, she had sailed across the ocean. She said that yes, this was true, but she did not remember the voyage. Besides, she added, there was none of the loud noise and the chance of breaking into fire. I chose not to ask her how she knew there had been no loud noise if she did not remember the journey. Instead, I listed a dozen or so dangers I had experienced in sea travel before she raised her hand and told me to stop. She said she would agree to this ridiculous proposal of her husband if he would agree that if she decided she did not like this boat of steam we would take to the land again. I agreed. I neglected to point out to her that there is not much of any place to take to the land once youíre aboard the boat. She noted our inability to make landfall, though. My sweet wife accused me of engaging in the "rouge." I asked her to repeat what she had said. She said I had engaged in the "rouge." Adam humbly suggested she meant "ruse." Marie demanded to know why Adam should think she would speak about flowers when she was speaking of deception. My son and I frowned at each other. Finally we determined she thought a "ruse" was a "rose." Neither of us corrected the misconception. We have both learned that she does not take to redirection any better than Joseph does. And, as Adam whispered to me, a ruse by any other name would still smell.
19 May 1846
Toward the Blue
There are people who put more thought into a trip across town than they do into an overland trip to California. Elizabeth and Louise Davis are two of them. They insist on taking along clocks and chairs and framed artwork and a horsehair settee and, of all the asinine things, a dining table and sideboard. The sideboard, Marie informed me, is from Philadelphia and is a family heirloom. Then she added that, oh yes, Addie Davis brought along a spinning wheel and small loom. Then Marie remembered that Louise Davis has a highboy in her wagon. I exploded into expressions of disbelief. Erik wanted to know why they kept the boy in the wagon and wouldnít let him out. Adam explained that a highboy is a piece of furniture that is like a chest set on tall legs. Erik asked his mother how the Davises got something that tall inside the wagon. Marie replied that it is in two pieces, meaning the top and the base. Joseph observed that it seemed to him that if something was busted in two it wasnít worth hauling all the way to California.
It is raining again today. Billings, Zeke Teague, Sam, Jeffrey, and I have shared concerns that the Blue may be rising and we may find crossing it inadvisable for a few days. We have agreed that if we can ford it when we arrive we will do so right away and camp on the opposite bank and thus not find ourselves waiting out the river for days on the near bank.
20 May 1846
Opposite bank of Blue
As we feared, the Blue is rising quickly. By the time the last wagon forded the water, the first wagons had moved camp farther away from the river to avoid any chance of being flooded. We have had no rain today but upstream there apparently has been plenty. Erik and Joseph said they would like to go swimming. Their mother dissuaded them of that idea and gave them extra chores to occupy their time.
During dinner, Erik told us that he had seen a small deer far to our northwest this afternoon. After consultation, Adam and he decided it had been an antelope. Joseph, who had only been half-listening, asked what kind of ant it was.
Adam informed his little brother that it was an ant-e-lope. Joseph said, "I know that, Adam. So what kind of ant is it?"
Marie and I closed our eyes because we knew the teasing was about to begin in earnest.
"Well, brother," Adam said. "Itís called an antelope because it lopes like a horse."
Erik frowned and said, "Adam, it ainít no - "
"And," Adam interrupted. He gave Erik the brother look. Erik realized they were about to have fun. "Because these ants can lope they can travel more than twenty miles a day."
Joseph squinted his eyes and said there was no way anything except a horse could travel more than twenty miles a day. He has trouble with math and doesnít understand that our oxen can make twenty miles a day given good conditions.
"But see," Erik said, "thatís how come theyíre called antelopes. They lope like a horse and they can go way more than twenty miles a day. And theyíre real strong, too."
"They sure are," Adam agreed. "Iíve heard that if you can catch a couple they can pull as heavy a load as four oxen."
"Thatís dumb," Joseph announced. "Ainít no ant that strong."
Adam added just enough fact to make the tale believable. He put down his dinner plate and leaned closer to Joseph. "Remember when we were at Mr. Rousseauxís and we found that ant mound?"
Joseph eyed his big brother with suspicion. "I Ďmember."
"Remember how those ants carried those bread crumbs we gave them?"
"Yeah," Erik added. "Remember how them crumbs were a whole lot bigger than them ants and we were all saying that if we were that strong weíd be able to carry a horse or something."
Joseph still didnít believe them. "I Ďmember that, too."
Adam lowered his voice. "If those little ants could carry a crumb, then just think how strong a big ant would be."
Joseph fell smack into the center of Adamís web. He leaned toward Adam. Erik leaned forward and I was concerned they would bump heads. "So," Joseph almost whispered, "how big are these antelopes?"
Adam and Erik raised their eyebrows at each other. "Oh, Iíd say - " Adam deferred to Erik. "How big was the one you saw?"
"Size of a small deer," Erik said with his eyes wide for emphasis.
Marie lowered her head. She was fighting laughter with every ounce of her strength. I rubbed my forehead and poured another cup of coffee.
"A ant the size of a deer!" Joseph yelped.
Adam nodded solemnly. "So, if a little ant can carry a big, huge, tremendous bread crumb - " He paused for emphasis. "Youíre smart, Joe. You can imagine how strong an ant the size of a small deer would be."
Joseph leaned back. "And two of them is as strong as four oxes?"
Erik and Adam said antelope were at least that strong, maybe stronger.
My misled youngest son jumped to his feet. "Letís go catch some!"
Erik sighed deeply. "Thatís just it, Joe. Theyíre so durn fast nobodyís been able to catch one."
Joseph might be gullible but he is not a fool. He put his hands on the sides of his hips and twisted his mouth. "If nobodyís ever caught any of these here antelope then how the molly do ya know how strong they are?"
Adam has been weaving stories for his younger brothers for a long, long time. He didnít even blink. "Itís math, Joe. You figure out how strong the little ant is considering his weight and the weight of the crumb. Then you guess the weight of an ant the size of a small deer and you can figure out the weight that he can carry."
I thought Joseph was convinced. And he was in a way. He didnít challenge that there were ants as big as a small deer but he wanted to know how anybody could weigh a little old ant. Adam was ready for him again.
"With a scale," he answered.
"No scaleís gonna weigh a ant," Joseph muttered.
"Of course a scale can weigh an ant," Adam maintained.
"What kinda scale?" Erik asked.
Adam shrugged. "A small one."
Joseph joined forces with Erik. "Thereís no such thing as a small scale."
"Sure there is, brother." Adam extended a hand toward me. "Pa will tell you. Jewelers have scales that can measure the weight of pieces of gold."
My sons looked to me. I told them that, yes, there were such scales. I did not say they could determine the weight of an ant.
Joe walked to me and leaned his hands on my knees. "Is that right, Pa? Ants are real strong?"
I told him that yes, ants are strong. I saw something spark in his eyes and I should have kept a closer watch on him. But I didnít.
When I heard Joe get up in the night, I assumed he was heading to a private area to relieve himself. But he didnít return. And he didnít return. I left our campsite as quietly as I could and struck out toward the area where I expected to find him. He wasnít there. Luckily there was enough moonlight for me to see the back of a youngster plodding away from the wagon circle. I didnít want to yell and wake up the camp so I ran toward him.
Instead of turning to see who was behind him, Joseph screamed and ran away from me. Hiram Teague and Nathan Miller were standing night guard. Hiram shot his rifle toward Joe. Nathan shot his rifle at me. Thank heavens that both of them grew up in a town and are not marksmen. I finally caught my son around the waist and we fell to the grass. We landed where the cattle had grazed earlier in the evening. The cattle had passed on what they had eaten. I landed in it.
I clamped my hand over Josephís screaming mouth, identified myself, and asked him what in the name of Zeus he was doing. When I removed my hand he informed me that he was running away from the bear or the Indian or the pirate or whatever it was that was chasing him and did I see it and did I scare it away. Then he sat up and said, "Pa, you smell terrible."
I heard Hiram and Nathan reloading their rifles. I yelled at them not to shoot. Sooner or later they were bound to hit something. They asked what I was doing and didnít I realize I could scatter the cattle making all that noise. I started to remind them that cattle arenít fond of rifle reports, either, but I stopped myself.
I pulled Joseph to his feet, slapped his behind, and asked him why he had been walking away from camp. He held up his right hand - he was busy rubbing his behind with his left hand - and showed me a coil of rope. I asked him what in blazes he had a rope for. He said not to yell, that it would spook the cattle. I turned him for another swat but he twisted around to avoid my hand and quickly said he was going to rope an antelope.
An antelope! I told him nobody can rope an antelope. Theyíre too fast. He said he bet he could, not a real bet just a bet bet, and then we could use them to pull the wagons. I reminded him that we have plenty of oxen. And before my disbelieving eyes, under the light of the moon, Joseph threw his arms in the air and said sometimes I just do not understand. He said just think of how much money we could make if we charged folks on the trail to see our antelope. Why, weíd be rich by the time we got to California.
I summoned what tattered patience I had left and, while I washed off in the river branch, I explained to Joseph that an antelope was not an over-grown ant but looked more like a small deer. I told him about the animalís coloring, its horns, what it likes to eat, and where it tends to live. He lowered his shoulders and shook his head and informed me that my stories werenít anywhere near as interesting as his oldest brotherís stories.
I promised myself to have a long talk with Adam in the morning.
21 May 1846
One day beyond the Blue
Strong wind and deluge. The wind roared out of the southwest and the clouds and rain were on us before we could stop the teams. By the time we crossed the last river branch and were able to corral the wagons, everyone looked as if they had been hauled to the deck after falling in the ocean.
Adam came in from guard duty with scratches on his hands and face after being caught in a hail storm. He is more concerned about Beauty than about himself. Erik told his older brother to stay inside the wagon and rest while Erik checked Beauty and Karly. Joseph told us he does not like these storms. He does not like them at all. Not at all. Not one bit.
We have taken refuge in the wagon, abandoning the idea of using our tents. Even if they could stand up to the wind, the ground is too wet to bed down on.
Joseph was so fretful that I had him lay close to me. I rubbed his back and told him what Adam and Erik called "a quiet story" when they were younger. I try to tell an adventure story twice a week after dinner and Joseph expects a "quiet story" when it is time to sleep. The remaining evenings either Marie or Adam read poetry aloud. If not that, then Joseph or Erik read from the Bible.
Marie and I decided the boys should read the New Testament aloud, instead of the Old Testament, when Erik declared he did not like the Old Testament God because He was mean. After a long, rambling discussion, Marie determined that our tender-hearted son does not like the God of fire and brimstone. He prefers Jesus because Jesus is loving and He heals people and He knows how to teach and He likes animals and children.
Adam said what he liked about Jesus was that He said what He had to say simply. Joseph told us that what he liked about Jesus was that Jesus said "do" instead of all those "shalt nots." It was Josephís opinion that he preferred to do rather than to shalt not.
When Joseph was old enough to talk, Adam quoted one of the commandments while making a point about how wrong it is to steal. "Shalt not" no sooner came out of our eldest sonís mouth than our youngest son twisted in my lap and asked what kind of not was a shalt not. After approximately ten minutes of growing confusion, Erik explained his brotherís question and contributed even more to the confusion.
"He thinks youíre talking about knots not nots," Erik said, proud that he had been able to decipher his brotherís question.
Marie, Adam, and I looked at Erik and frowned. As far as we were concerned he had just said nots-not-nots. No one spoke.
Erik sighed and tried a different tack. "Pa, he means knots."
My nod was probably accompanied by a blank expression.
"Knots, Pa. Not nots. Knots."
I wondered when Marie would offer to pour brandy for me.
Thankfully, Adam understood at that point and was proud that he had been able to decipher what Erik had said. "Pa, Joe thinks shalt nots are a type of knot that you tie. He doesnít understand what the Bible means when it says shalt not."
Joe asked what the Bible meant if it wasnít talking about tying knots.
Erik shrugged. "When the Bible says you shalt not it just means donít." Then he added, "Do like Ma and Pa say and thatíll be fine."
Adamís eyes sparkled then. "Tell ya what, Joe," he said and fought a grin. "Do what Ma and Pa say and youíll be fine. If you donít do what they say Paíll tie you up in shalt nots."
But Joe showed great promise when he replied that nope, Pa wouldnít tie him up in shalt nots, Pa would tie him up in doníts.
Our wagons will undoubtedly layover tomorrow to offer everyone an opportunity to dry clothing and other belongings, and to make needed repairs.
Erik returned to the wagon and reported that Karly and Beauty have a few scratches but it is nothing worth "frettiní about." He loves to use new words he learns from the other travelers. I wonder what he will sound like by the time we reach California. He settled near his mother and told me he is sorry he complained "way back" about all the work we had to do on the wagon canvas. When we were camped at Independence, we caulked and painted the canvas cover which is made of two layers of sailcloth. Erik said he is very glad I knew what to do and he said he wonders if anybody else is as dry as we are.
22 May 1846
Layover for repairs
Clothes are hanging on every available surface. No doubt if we had trees nearby they, too, would be decorated with pants and shirts and skirts and aprons - and the stars only know what else.
The boys never had much to say about their clothing until we prepared for the trail.
Marie, of course, shortened her skirts and took to wearing a most unattractive sunbonnet. I reverted to the type of trail clothes I had worn years before Ė the big shirt, fitted pants, belt, gallowses, and I finally located some tall boots. Most of the men are wearing heavy shoes which I agree will come in handy on rough terrain. But I would rather have two pair of boots, and pay the price for them, than drag my feet for four or five months.
The boys took to the idea of wearing wide-brimmed hats easily enough. But from then on one or the other or all of them protested to every change. I informed them they would trade their trousers for pants. Adam was more than glad to say goodbye to the trousers with that confounded front flap that buttoned on each side. He took to pants as if he had always worn them and said he likes the ease of working in a larger-cut shirt. He tried not to strut around when he put on a belt.
Erik said pants were not comfortable and that he had more trouble with the one row of center buttons than he had ever in his whole life had with trousers. Adam and I recall differently. Erik also doesnít care for the full sleeves of his shirt because he claimed they caught on everything within two yards of him. But he too likes wearing a belt.
Joseph fussed and sputtered until I promised him a sound spanking if he did not wear his pants and shirt and shoes and stay quiet about it. He fumed in silence and then announced to me that the pants were fine, he was breaking those in, but this here shirt was a mess because whenever there was a wind it filled up with air in the back and blew him all over the place. I outfitted him with a pair of gallowses to hold the shirt closer to his body.
Then he complained that the gallowses were always slipping off his shoulders and what he needed was a belt. I asked him how in thunder a belt would keep his shirt from filling with air. He said he could wear his shirt over his pants the way pirates did in pictures and then he could belt it down and the shirt wouldnít go anywhere. I told him there were no belts small enough to fit him. He said I could make one if I wanted to. I told him I didnít think he needed a belt. He said fine, that he would make one. I put a stop to that when I caught him trying to cut a strip of leather from some harness. He claimed that his mother and I were not being fair. Pa had a belt. Adam had a belt. Erik had a belt. He was the only man who did not have a belt.
Adam pointed out that he did not have a belt when he was eight. Erik said yeah, him neither. Joseph said they also hadnít done near the work he was doing when they had been eight. Adam took great exception to that assertion and said when he had been Joeís age he had been in charge of taking care of Erik all day while Pa worked. And he had been responsible for chopping wood for the kitchen and he had been responsible for tending to Thaddeus, his dog, and he had been responsible for filling the bathtub, and often he had been responsible for cooking the evening meal, and he had been responsible - Joseph slapped his hands over his ears and said he didnít care what Adam was responsible for and what did that have to do with having a belt.
I put an end to that conversation when I presented them with the clothing they needed to wear under their shirts and pants. What a hullabaloo. Even Adam protested. I told them they would be grateful for the other clothing when the weather got cool enough. Joseph maintained they would freeze to death before theyíd ever wear anything so dumb. After our first cool day on the trail I noticed that the box which held the underclothes was empty.
23 May 1846
Camped on branch leading to Little Blue
This trail is not near the hazard that our three sons seem to be. They do not run near the campfire. They handle rifles with care. They do not jump into or out of a moving wagon. But thunder and perdition sometimes they can be more trouble than an invading army.
I will go on record stating that I thought the entire idea of bringing chickens along was absurd. But Marie had talked to some of the other women while we were camped outside Independence. They assured her that keeping chickens had many benefits. And then Billings had to agree with her. Marie declared that my say did not count. I told her fine, but the chickens were her responsibility. She said the chickens would be her responsibility and the boysí responsibility.
That was her first mistake. Not all the boys were willing to take on the fowl responsibility. Not Adam. He had an altercation with chickens when he and I visited Johnís farm years ago and Adam still has the scar on his forehead above his left eye. The only way Adam likes a chicken is cooked.
Marieís second mistake was in regard to Erik. He loves chickens. Thatís the problem. He doesnít mind gathering eggs. But talk about killing one and he sinks into despair. He does not think it is right for people to be mean to chickens. Furthermore, it isnít a fair fight because people are bigger than chickens. So, Erik helps Marie feed the chickens and Erik helps gather the eggs. But Erik will not eat a chicken if he has known it by name.
Marieís final mistake was thinking that Joseph would be much help in her endeavor. Joseph likes to eat eggs and anything in which they are cooked. Joseph likes to eat chicken, especially fried chicken. And Joseph thinks itís kind of interesting the way a chickenís feet kick and twitch after the chicken has lost its head. Joseph will even help pluck a chicken because he likes to play with the feathers. But depend on Joseph to gather those eggs or feed those chickens or clean that cage attached to the wagon and you are in for a big disappointment.
The first indication of trouble this morning was when Joseph ran around the second wagon while Jeffrey and I readied the oxen for the dayís pull. "Pa!" Joseph yelled. "The chickens! The chickens, Pa! Itís a stampede!"
When I learned the word "stampede" not so long ago, I could have sworn it involved cattle and not chickens. I asked Joseph what he meant. How do chickens stampede?
"They get loose is how they do it!" Joseph jumped up and down as he answered me. "Come on, Pa. Ya gotta rope Ďem or something!"
Rope a chicken. A stampeding chicken. Jeffrey looked down, laughing, and I ran after Joseph.
I had just enough time to see the open chicken cage before the blast from a rifle jerked my attention to the left. When the dust and feathers settled, I could discern Adam standing with his rifle at his shoulder. A dead chicken lay no more than thirty feet in front of him.
"That one wonít stampede," he announced with no small amount of satisfaction.
Erik balled up his fist and jammed it into Adamís left arm. "Killing a chicken like that is a sin!" he yelled.
"Nah," Adam said. "Thereís enough left to eat."
"Adam!" Joseph screamed. "Donít you shoot no more. No more. Not any."
Marie appeared from around the first wagon. She threw her hands to her cheeks and moaned, "Mon Dieu."
I stalked toward her and waved my left hand at the frenzy of floating feathers and the din of squawking, stampeding chickens. "Need I remind you that these chickens are your responsibility?"
"Why are you not roping these running away chickens?" she demanded.
"Because they are your running away chickens, Marie!"
"Do not raise your voice to me, Benjamin Cartwright." She squinted her eyes. "You are afraid of these chickens just as is Adam."
How ridiculous. "I am not afraid of a bunch of overgrown sparrows."
"Then why do you not chase them?"
"Because they are your chickens, not mine."
"Would ya help?" Joseph yelled and ran toward the rapidly scattering hens.
Adam reloaded his rifle. He took aim at another chicken but Erik slammed his hand on the top of the barrel, the rifle discharged, and the sand jumped right behind Joseph. Our youngest son whirled around and demanded, "What the molly are you doing? Do I look like a chicken?"
Behind me and to the left I heard a low rumble and then loud cursing. Some of the stock was joining the stampede - but in the opposite direction. Those poor chickens were running all over the place, spreading out like an unfolding fan, flapping their wings, dropping feathers, squawking to high heaven. They werenít going to lay again until we were in California.
I yelled at Adam to quit shooting at the chickens. And I yelled at Erik to never again slap at a rifle barrel like that. Joseph yelled at me to quit yelling Ďcause couldnít I see the chickens were scared to death? Adam shouted that they couldnít be dead soon enough for him.
"Stop this fuss and make to gather the chickens!" Marie yelled. The four of us froze in place. She does not raise her voice very often. "Maintenant!" She clapped her hands as she ordered.
We all know that French word. We flew into action, so to speak. Four Cartwrights. Maybe two dozen or so chickens. Maybe less. Who could tell? Pretty good odds. For the chickens. We would have been quite a spectacle if anybody had had the time to watch us. But some of the women were trying to quiet bawling children. Most of the men were trying to settle the oxen or were attempting to round up the other stock. And the children who werenít bawling were running around the wagons playing chase. I have never heard so much noise.
Apparently chickens donít like a lot of noise either. They decided to cluster for safety but none of them could decide exactly where the cluster should be. They ran together, crossed paths, turned around, ran back toward one another, crossed paths, and there we were - Adam, Erik, Joseph, and me - running around, bent at the waist, trying to catch the senseless birds. The sand was flying, the feathers were flying, and then the chickens took to the air. Adam screamed, threw his arms up to protect his head, and fell hard on his behind in the sand. He immediately leaned over and pulled up his knees.
Erik was full of brotherly sympathy. He shouted at Adam to quit scaring the chickens. Joseph shouted at Erik to quit shouting. I shouted at everyone to just catch the - I caught myself and said darn chickens. Adam peeked at me from under his left arm and raised his eyebrow. Sometimes he can be insolent without saying a word.
"Stop this!" Marie ordered from behind us.
Joseph pulled up short and turned toward Erik and me. Adam dropped his arms to his sides and came out of hiding. Erik and I looked where Joseph and Adam were looking.
"Shame on you," Marie scolded. "You make the chickens to riot."
Riot? I thought it was a stampede.
Adam stood and above all the uproar I heard him softly ask, "Whatís she doing?"
It was a very good question. Marie held the bottom of her apron in her left hand so that her apron made a pouch. She carried something in her right palm - she had chicken feed. She shook her head at me and said, "Surely you are not this witless with all the animals," as she stomped past.
We watched in undisguised awe as she scattered the feed. The chickens heard the familiar, soothing sound and one by one they gathered around her, clucking softly and commiserating with one another as they drowned their troubles in food. Marie walked backwards, continuing to scatter the feed sparingly. We turned on our heels and watched her lead the chickens back to the wagon like St. Patrick luring the snakes. When she had them all happily pecking by her shoes, she bent and gently picked up one at a time and returned it to the roost. Job completed, she dusted her hands together, tossed her head in triumph, and walked around the wagon and out of our view.
I whirled on the boys and they all held up their hands, palms toward me. "Who," I demanded, "let those chickens out?"
Adam pointed to Joseph, Joseph pointed to Erik, and Erik pointed to Adam.
"Would you like to explain how all three of you let those chickens out?"
"Itís not our fault, Pa," Erik pleaded. "They were fighting."
I was not believing this. "The chickens were fighting."
Joeís eyes widened. "They looked like they was gonna kill each other."
"Were," I corrected. "They looked like they were going to kill each other."
"You saw Ďem?" Erik asked.
"The chickens were fighting and what happened then?"
"We tried to separate Ďem," Joe answered as if I had asked an idiotic question.
"Oh, you separated them all right," I agreed. "All over creation!"
"Next time," Erik said sullenly, "weíll just let Ďem kill each other."
Adamís expression brightened. "Good idea, brother."
I pointed toward the wagons. "You will return to that camp and you will help the others settle the animals and you will apologize to everyone for delaying our departure."
They didnít speak. They quietly walked past me. But the minute they were out of my reach, Joe said, "I never figured it."
"Figured what?" Erik asked.
"I never figured anyone was smarter than Pa. Not even Ma. But he sure donít know nothing about chickens."
"Anything," I said as I followed them. "I donít know anything about chickens."
They ran away from me, enjoying the last laugh.
24 May 1846
Bearing west to northwest
Between Blue and Little Blue
Today was pleasant. Marie and I had the opportunity to walk together for several hours. We discussed how different the land here is from Louisiana and the fact that there is no fear of the fevers that haunted us for so many years. For some reason which neither one of us can understand, Matthew Davis has times of chills and is uncomfortable in much the same way as people who contract one of the less dangerous fevers along the Mississippi. As far as we can determine, he lived in Ohio and never had reason to head south to the lower Mississippi.
Our talk turned to the parties we had attended in New Orleans and how much we had enjoyed the music and dancing. She misses, too, the shrimp and the fish and the sweet pastries. Most of all, she said, she misses the candy. The rich candy. Especially the candy with the fruit and nuts in it. I decided I had best distract her before she swooned for lack of the delicacy so I took her in my arms and hummed one of the slower melodies we had danced to in New Orleans.
Marie laughed and stepped back to curtsy, then she returned to my arms. It is an indication of how much she misses dancing that she was willing to tolerate my singing. As we were at the forward of the company, we did not have to dance in the dust or watch our step for fear of stepping in something undesirable. I whistled a second tune and Marie whistled along. When I raised my eyebrow, she said she did not care what the other women thought of her. After all, she reasoned, we would never see any of them again when we reached California. And anyhow, she whispered, most of the women smoked the pipe and that was, to her, much less forgivable than to whistle. She danced with me, whistling, wearing her very nice short skirt and that dreadful sunbonnet, and informed me that no lady of pride would smoke a pipe.
My wife is without a doubt the most beautiful woman I have ever known. Her dark eyes are as deep as her soul and sparkle with vitality even when she should be weary. She does not waste a moment of her waking hours and when she is not engaged in some necessary chore she is out on the prairie with Erik, examining the flowers and discussing the scenery. If she is not there, she is chasing or playing with Joseph to the point that he tires but she does not. And if she is not with Erik or Joseph, she is riding horses with Adam. Marie is a terrible influence on Adam where horses are involved.
My wife, who so easily speaks of a woman maintaining pride, refuses to ride side-saddle. When we started to load the side-saddle she had used in New Orleans, she declared we would most certainly not take such a torturous thing with us. Adam said he doubted it was all that bad so she pointed to the saddle and said that then perhaps he would prefer to ride the side-saddle and she would ride his saddle. Adam quickly acknowledged that she was correct and the side-saddle looked horribly torturous.
So Marie rides here on the prairie, astride the horse like a man. And despite every warning I have given her since the first time we met, she loves to run a horse. The faster the horse, the more she enjoys herself. She delights in jumping the horse at a speed which would surely break both their necks if the horse shied. Like Adam, she likes to raise her arms high and laugh toward the sky. There is pure delight in the action, and the rider seems such a part of the horse that I can never bring myself to punish Adam or warn Marie. For those few moments they are one with the breeze and as free of the Earth as a human ever will be. I experienced the same sensation as I stood near the bow of a ship on a clear day with a good wind filling the sails. All the world is as it should be at that moment and it fills your heart to bursting.
25 May 1846
North side of Little Blue
The riverís branches are rising along the banks. We held a meeting and the majority agreed to cross before the water goes any higher.
When we purchased our wagons, I put the boys to work caulking the beds. It was my theory that the wagons would at times serve much like boats and the more buoyancy we could create, the better. The caulking served us well today and none of our goods were dampened. Adam, Erik, and John swam their horses across - Marie scarcely breathed until our sons were safe on the opposite bank. They secured the ropes which we then used to guide the wagons. Billings helped Zeke Teague cross his wagon first. Then the two men swam their horses and returned to the near bank so they could aid in getting the animals across. The endeavor took the better part of our day and everyone is fatigued this evening. We are bedding down early.
26 May 1846
Bearing westerly along Little Blue
The wisdom of our decision made itself apparent to us before we broke camp. Another party has halted on the opposite side of the creek and we could see a second party approaching. Billings judges they will have several daysí wait before the water recedes enough for crossing. The best they can hope for, he said, is to improvise some sort of raft to ferry the wagons across.
I am surprised at how little this land has changed in the nearly fourteen years since I last saw it. I am grateful for one change. Billings was correct and we have had no trouble with Indians. A few came to camp one evening to trade small items. Several begged for food. Billings cautioned us to keep our provisions away from view.
27 May 1846
Apparently Marcus Miller is a better shot than his younger brother Nathan because the doctor managed to shoot himself today. The grass is tall in this country and when a breeze blows across it there are ripples almost like waves. Marcus mistook a ripple for an Indian during the noon break. He reached into his wagon and like a fool he grabbed the rifle by its muzzle. The predictable happened. The trigger caught on something inside the wagon, the loaded rifle discharged, and Marcus was very lucky to come out of the scrape with a deep scratch across his left shoulder. Marcusí son, John, later told Adam that sometimes he canít believe how little sense an educated man like his father can have.
I took the opportunity to stress with my family yet again the importance of handling a rifle correctly. Adam patiently stood by even though he has been shooting a rifle since he was five or six. That fact alone is an example of the difference in my sons. Adam was trustworthy with a firearm at the age of five. Erik is a decent shot but he would survive on vegetables and fruit if it were up to him to provide the meat for the family. And the thought of Joseph even holding a rifle when he was five is enough to make me weak in the knees. Adam only has to be told something one time. Erik always listens closely, asks questions, and tries his hardest until he masters a skill. Joseph half-listens, masters a skill just enough to get by, and then decides he is more skilled than he is and tries to prove his hypothesis. I have never known Josephís estimation of his ability to even approach my estimation of his ability.
The boys are, to their credit, careful around rifles. They are also careful when we cast bullets and when we clean rifles. Marie has finally gotten over her dislike of weapons and has persuaded Erik to teach her how to shoot a rifle. She is so small that I worry the rifle recoil will hurt her shoulder. If it does, she doesnít mention it. Erik says she is a good shot with large targets but probably needs to practice on shooting smaller targets. I asked him how big a target he was talking about. He said that his mother was pretty good at hitting anything about five feet across. When I sucked in a breath he assured me that he is keeping her very far away from the animals and even farther away from the wagons.
My wife is convinced she can do almost anything a man can do. A few days ago I found her rummaging around in the sling under the wagonís belly. When I inquired as to what she was doing she remained in her bent-over position and said that she needed chain. I inquired as to why she might need chain. She said the wagon was rocking like the rocking chair in the wind and she was becoming sick sea and she would chain the wagon to a tree and then it would not rock so. I looked around. None of the country I could see had a tree. I mentioned this slight problem to my wife. She said fine then she would chain the wagon to a log. I pointed out that generally when there are no trees there are also no logs. She stood and wiped her hair off her forehead and stomped her foot. Fine, then, she declared. Since I was obviously so much more intelligent in these matters just what would I do? I leaned into the back of the wagon and produced the wooden wedges we use to prevent the wagon wheels from rolling. She accused me of having hidden them from her. I pled my innocence. Marie said that these wheel blocks had better work because if she became anymore sick sea there would be no dinner. I blocked the wheels and, on the offhand chance that the wind would pick up, I chained the wheels together. Dinner was excellent as always.
28 May 1846
In following the Little Blue we crossed a stream which appears to be nameless so Erik christened it No Name Creek. The streambed was sandy and the country is sandy with some broken land. The uneven quality of the land has prompted me to think ahead to the mountains and the fact that these wagons do not have brakes. The only springs any of them have are under the seat. When we get to those steep ascents and declines we will have our work cut out for us. Billings told me we can make chain locks to enable the wheels to bite into the ground.
This afternoon an argument broke out between Mark and John Davis. The best I can determine it involved the oxen which the family is sharing. Mark thought it was his turn to use a particularly good pair but John did not agree. They came to blows and Mark would have hit John with a shovel if their older brother Matthew had not grabbed the shovel from Johnís hands. As it was, Mark and John beat each other until both will have injuries for several days.
Marie was horrified that brothers could treat each other that way. This evening she told the boys that quarreling in such a way offends God. Adam and Erik waved off her warning with a, "Pa told us about that a long time ago." Joseph, of course, had to argue. He said if God was so against brothers fighting then why did he make Cain and Abel. God knows everything, doesnít he? And God knew right from the start that Cain and Abel were gonna fuss. So what Joseph wanted to know was how come God made Cain and Abel and then got put out with them when they only did what He knew they were gonna do to begin with.
None of us answered his query immediately. Then Adam had a try at an answer. He said that yes, God knew what would happen but he had to let it happen because he had given mankind free will. Adam had to assure Joseph that no, God was not in the practice of charging people for things and he wasnít sure why it was called free will and not just will. He sighed deeply and directed his attention to his hot tea. Erik picked up Josephís verbal gauntlet. He said that yes, God knew what was going to happen but there was always the chance that Cain and Abel would not do what God thought they would and that things would be different from how God figured they would turn out. Joseph said that didnít make any more sense than a bucket with a hole in it. If God knew what was going to happen then he would know that Cain and Abel were not going to do what he thought they might do but he knew they were going to do what he thought they were going to do so it was pretty mean of him to tell them not to fight and then to get put out with them when they did what he knew they were going to do. Adam and Erik looked to their mother. She looked to me. I suggested we sing a few songs. Thank the saints that Joseph is easily distracted.
29 May 1846
Adam and John went hunting with Billings. They returned with a large elk. Two of the Davis men rode in with antelope and some rabbits..
Odd how a country can be familiar after so many yearsí absence. I look at Erik and realize how long ago we were on the trail nearby here. The memories are about the oddest things. Adam complaining because we had to go a mile or more for firewood. Erik, a babe in arms, babbling and waving his hands. The wind blowing Ingerís hair across her face while she tried to cook dinner. The wonder that filled Adamís eyes every time Erik wrapped a little hand around Adamís finger.
I thought I had the strength to face this leg of the journey. Now I am not so sure.
30 May 1846
Tonight Adam and Jeffrey reviewed the map. Adam leaned closer, couldnít be sure he was reading the map correctly, held it nearer to the lantern. The moment he realized where we are and where we will be, his body tensed. We will, as we have his entire life, face the thing together when the time arrives.
31 May 1846
This weather is much like what I remember from the seaboard. The morning was colder than any we have encountered. The rain is so chilly as to almost feel like ice. And the high wind is out of the northeast. I have never known good weather to come from the northeast.
I recall the Platte. It is a wide river, not overly deep, dark in color, wretched in taste. But we will be glad of the water for the sake of the animals.
This country and the memories it evokes haunt me. I will be glad to be away from the South Platte and past Ash Hollow.
Tomorrow I shall turn this journal over to my wife.
June Ė the notes of Marie Cartwright
Monday, June 1 - So, Benjamin hands me the journal today and declares that I have received my just desserts. Many times he says things such as this in hopes to confuse me but I disappointed him today because I knew what the words mean - and that they have nothing to do with sweets.
I told him I know what this just desserts means. He mocked and said I am no fun anymore. But my noble protector, Joseph, told his father that I am the most wonderful mother in the world and that he should not speak to me this way. Poor Benjamin, the boys amuse him so much and he tries very hard not to smile.
Benjamin and the boys behave differently on this trail. The boys have been active since they are little, it is not that. The most dreadful thing that could be done to them in New Orleans, other than for Benjamin to spank them, was to tell them they must be in the house. Quel dommage! Their bright faces grew pale and their mouths opened without words and they looked at their father or me with prayer in their eyes. So now they are most pleased because there is no house in which they may be kept. But there is the other side. It is impossible for them to avoid their father even in this large country.
It is of necessity that Benjamin is more strict with our sons as there are many things that could hurt the boys or the animals or both. Adam was on the trail before and he is, of nature, an obedient son. He must often have his say but Adam obeys. With Erik and Joseph this immediate obedience does not come so easy. They always obey, this is not the problem, but many times they give us the rolling eyes or the deep, weary sigh. No more. If they go back to such ways, Benjamin is upset with them.
On occasion there is fussing among the boys. This was most often for the first weeks. After many days of extra work as punishment for this foolishness, the boys wisely allied.
The boys tease and they wrestle and they run the footraces. They battle with the clods of dirt. They determine who whistles and sings the loudest. This is not of necessity melodious. They slap one another on the legs and the bottom with twigs or their hats.
Adam and Erik race the horses. Benjamin entertained this at first but now he impresses upon them that they must not tire the horses overmuch. When he scouts ahead with Mr. Billings, Adam and Erik take Beauty and Karly and they race. Benjamin rode upon them one day and our sons were most surprised. He has a displeased look he uses and he need not say anything to them. They were most quiet at dinner that night.
My men take different steps in this new land. Joseph must scamper everywhere like a little rabbit. And before our first dinner at the campfire, Joseph met every person on the train and recalled their names. Erik walks and swings his arms wide. He reminds me very much of when he was little and he would do his soldier walk. Adam, as always, skips sometimes with the steps he takes. I think this is to tease me still that I can not do this skipping. When he looks at me with that smile, I am most assured this is true. And Benjamin. He has always been a most difficult man to keep pace with in many ways. But now, mon Dieu! When he calls to one of the boys and they must accompany him to a chore they must half-run alongside him. I have, as they say, put down my foot and told him he must walk like a gentleman when he is beside me. He finds this most amusing and he bows his head and says, "Yes, Marie."
The boys also have the friends as we travel. John Miller has perhaps a year more than Adam. The two are allowed to scout together and hunt. Jefferson and Lincoln Miller, the twins who are Johnís cousins, are often with Erik. Benjamin and I would rather Erik not be with Hector and William and James and Morgan and Butler Davis. Joseph has one friend, Micah Teague. They occupy the time staying far from Micahís cousins Sarah and Ruth and then there is Annie Miller.
Ah, Annie Miller. She is most delightful. She reminds me much of Adam as a child - intelligent and very quick with the wit - but she is younger than Adam was when I met him. Annie has just observed her sixth birthday. Benjamin says she is my favorite girl. I agree. She is my special favorite.
Last week, I made the doll for Annie because her own became lost as we traveled. I dressed the doll in scraps from the hems of the dresses which I made shorter before we began this trip. And she was a most wonderful little doll. But I found it difficult to sew the face on the doll and so I asked Adam to sit on the blanket with me and hold the doll while I gave her the face.
Benjamin walked up very quietly and he smiled down at Adam, who could not see him. Benjamin stood there with his hands at his waist as he so often does and then he made that big voice and said, "That better not be a voodoo doll."
Poor Adam. He dropped the doll, his back went straight, and those beautiful eyes of his grew very large.
Benjamin intended this as a joke but Adam did not understand it as such. I scolded my husband for frightening our son and, as he will do, Benjamin bent his knees and sat on his heels beside Adam. He apologized when he saw his sonís face and the fright which he had given to Adam. I understood there was more to this than that his father shouted behind Adamís back and startled him and so that night I asked Benjamin about this.
Benjamin did not wish to share the story but finally he told me. Adam had a most difficult time when his father and I were first married. There is always in Adam the pure heart and the desire to love but he could not let that happen. He was most accustomed to the family being just he, Erik, and his father. I was considered an unnecessary addition and could serve no useful purpose as far as Adam saw events. When Joseph was very little and I became ill, Adam believed he had made me so. He had purchased a doll from a voodoo woman and believed this thing had made me ill as he had wanted. I laughed as Benjamin told me the story and he smiled but he told me this was not amusing then. He was very angry with Adam because Adam went where he should not and did not have the permission and Adam lied and was not respectful of me. Benjamin punished him very hard. So much that these six years after the voodoo doll, Adam still remembers. He is that way, Adam. He takes his fatherís disappointment deep to heart. I knew this the moment I meet him. He takes everything deep to heart so that, when he loves, he loves as fiercely as does his father.
And what of Erik? He is our nature child. His eyes are for the plants and the animals and the skies. His questions are without end and he is most disappointed that his parents do not always have the answer as to what some new flower or tree is. Erik is a happy and friendly boy. I find it difficult to remember he is a boy because he is taller than Adam. I tell Adam there is nothing he can do but to accept this part of life. Erik has the tender heart and especially so with Adam and Joseph. He becomes upset with them but he does not stand still when he thinks that someone has bothered them. And he has the gifts for his understanding of the animals. I hear of these people who talk to animals and who know how animals feel. This is Erik.
Joseph. He is so very like Benjamin when he is full of the mischief. Little in life is serious to this one. The only time the smile is not on his face is when his father is upset with him. As with all the boys, Joseph is happiest when his father is also happy. He will upset me but the smile is not off his face. He does not worry over me as he does over his father. I frown at him or scold him and he listens and he says, "Yes, maíam" but I do not spoil his day. I do not even spoil his minute. But then he is a happy child and a great pleasure to all of us. He must hug his father and me before he sleeps and he must hug Erik and Adam. And then he must hear the quiet story from Benjamin. Adam and Erik liked these also when they were children. Now, every night when Benjamin rubs Josephís back and tells him the story, Erik pretends he is too old for this thing. But one of the nights when Joseph fell asleep in Benjaminís arms as we rested by the fire, Benjamin placed Joseph on his bed roll and then made to leave. Erik said his father must not do this because he did not tell the story. Benjamin said that Joseph is asleep and Erik said yes, but what if Joseph awakened and their father was not telling him the story. Erikís concern for his brother was most touching. Benjamin and I laughed softly about this that night - after he told the quiet story.
Tuesday, June 2 - This is a very different land from any I have seen. New Orleans is different from France and this is different from both. It is wide and there is nothing which would stop the eye except where the land and sky meet far away. One turns all around and there is nothing different and nothing to mark the way. I am glad for the fact that Benjamin was a sailor and knows how to set a path when there is nothing to guide one. He proves most useful as we travel.
There is nothing to stop the weather as we discovered this evening. We made what Benjamin calls "good distance" and we were pleased but also fatigued when we ate dinner. Then a wind came about and it was strong. Not as much as the hurricane, this is true. But there was nothing to slow it except us and the wind did not consider us an impediment.
Then there was the rain. We thought to sleep in the tents but the wind blew them over and we voted that we should sleep inside the wagons. This last is not easy. We made the sleeping places for Benjamin and me inside the wagon on either side. Our bedding is atop the long wooden boxes which hold the supplies. When Joseph joins us, as he often does, he sleeps on the floor between the wooden boxes. There is room for Benjamin and me, and there can be made the room for Joseph. Adam and Erik must sleep in the other wagon. Jeffrey has one of the beds such as Benjamin and I have, so when Adam and Erik would sleep in the second wagon they must decide who sleeps on the bedding atop the box and who sleeps on the floor. Jeffrey tells me that Adam most often sleeps on the floor. This is to appease Erik who must make the complaints and the noise should he have to sleep on the floor.
When the time arrived for Adam to be guard, Benjamin walked to the second wagon and told our son not to leave the wagon and that Benjamin would be the guard. I heard Adam argue until Benjamin grew most strict. I keep the lantern low. I wait for Benjamin to return. Then the night will not be so long.
Wednesday, June 3 - Oh but it is a beautiful day. Cool, yes, but a sky of uncommon blue. And the dreadful wind is gone.
Being able to see so far proves most fortunate for there are the antelope. Joseph is most disappointed when he sees these animals. He prefers Adamís story that the antelope is a very large, strong ant. His fatherís explanation regarding what this animal truly is was most unimaginative to Joseph. He resigns himself to the fact that they are more like small deer than large ants. But he does not admit total defeat. He tells his father that there are many strange and undiscovered things to the west and asks if his father can prove there is no such thing as this large ant about which Adam spoke. Benjamin admits that he can not prove this creature does not exist - but he makes the point that Joseph can not prove the creature does exist. At which point Joseph twists his mouth and says that his father is much like the doubting Thomas of the New Testament.
Mr. Billings assures us that these antelope are not so difficult to hunt as one would believe. They are fast, yes. But they are most curious. They pause to see if they outrun the hunter and this is when they are dispatched. Adam and Benjamin could not resist the chance to hunt. They returned with two of the animals. True, we might keep this meat to ourselves but this is not right. We have more than enough and it is important to show the boys how kindness must be done.
Kindness does not come easily to some people. There is little kindness in the Davis family. They are not kind to one another and they are less than kind to their traveling companions. The family finds it also very hard to be thankful. They are most proud and say they can "do for themselves." This and the way the children speak to their parents makes Benjamin raise his eyebrows but he does not express what he feels. He does not have to. All he says is that it is quite difficult for anyone in this life to be completely on their own and that many times it is a sad way to be.
The other families are thoughtful and some of the men have almost as good a sense of humor as Benjamin. Josiah Billings, who guides us, and his cousin Jeffrey, who drives our other wagon, are those to joke the most with Benjamin. On occasion they have said the things in low voices and then laughed as the boys laugh when they have shared something they should not say or think. They are fortunate men, those three. They plan and they think of the things that might happen and they work hard and then they leave what may be to God. Benjamin says God is much smarter and has better vision. When he said this once, Joseph asked, "He is smarter than Adam?" This caused everyone to laugh. And then Joseph asked how it is that God sees better than man. I sat still and allowed Benjamin to attempt that answer. Joseph finally grew bored and informed his father that he had important things to do.
The nights are so dark. The sky is so big and the stars they are so white and clear. Benjamin and Erik and Adam are teaching Joseph and me about the stars. This is most interesting to know that one can determine where one is this way. Joseph wants more to hear the stories of the archer and the dippers and those things. When a story does not sound good to Joseph, Benjamin suggests that our son invent one. Joseph loves to invent stories and they come most naturally to him. Too naturally when he has been engaged in mischief. He is still learning the difference between imagination and truth. I fear it will take a long time to teach this one this lesson.
Thursday, June 4 - The air is cooler today and at last we see something different. Hills of sand are on the horizon. Erik tells me that Mr. Billings says we are near the Platte River. This news is most exciting to Erik and he asked me if he may swim and fish when we reach this river. I told him that we must wait and see how fast the water runs. When the family talked about this at the noon hour, Joseph said that he did not care and he would swim no matter what. Benjamin told him that willows grow by this river. Then he looked at Joseph and said, "Willows make a good switch to use on youngsters who do not obey their parents."
Adam and Erik smiled at each other, knowing their father said this to warn their little brother. Joseph thought a moment about what Benjamin told him, but only a moment, and then he asked why the willows made such good switches. Erik and Adam laughed until they could laugh no more.
Then Adam gave Benjamin the most serious look and said, "Iíve wondered that, too, Pa. Why do willows make such good switches?" Benjamin wagged his finger at our eldest son in play and said, "I think I know now where Joseph got that smart mouth of his." And Adam, who is always quick, asked, "And where did I get my smart mouth?" Benjamin threw a rolled blanket at Adam. He does this with the boys often, throws soft things toward them. Adam is very good at catching these things.
I had the opportunity to speak at some length with Ada Miller this evening. She is the mother of Annie and a most intelligent woman. Her husband, Marcus, is the physician and they travel so he may practice his profession in Yerba Buena. She, too, came to this country from across the sea. She lived in England but she came across the sea from France. She was curious about some of the meals I have prepared and so we exchanged cooking ideas. Then we spoke of what we had last heard of the events in Washington. But we are both sadly behind the news in this regard. That did not, of course, prevent us from expressing our thoughts.
After I told her we are from New Orleans, we spoke more softly and she confided that she is very much against slavery. I assured her of my agreement. She said her husband does not hold the same view. I find this most puzzling. A woman does not always agree with her husband, no. This is impossible. But to not share the same opinion regarding something this important would be distressing. I believe her way of accepting this is to not speak of it to her husband. This, too, I find most puzzling. How is her husband to know what she thinks if she does not tell him? He most assuredly will tell her what he thinks.
Many of these women are subject to their husbands. He is le roi and she is his servant, or even worse she is his slave. This seems that these men are speaking from both sides of the mouth, as Benjamin says. These proud men believe in their own ability to say as they think and do what they will but they do not believe their wives to have these same privileges. How distressing this is.
Benjamin is telling me all the time that it is not every man who would marry me because I speak what I feel. I tell him it is not every woman who would marry him because of his strong opinions and his way of wanting to always be the leader. And he says there is no worry of that, of him always being the leader, while we are married.
When we were not long on this journey, Mr. Davis, who is the oldest brother of all the other Davis men, grew most upset with me when I said what I thought as we had a meeting. He was very angry and told me that women do not vote in these meetings and they do not speak. I demanded of him why this should be when the women work as the men on this trail, many times they work more. That is when he made Benjamin angry because he looked at my husband and said that Benjamin should keep his wife in her place. Benjamin does not like this talk and he told Mr. Davis, in very clear words, that he would not tell Mr. Davis how his family should be and that Mr. Davis would not tell Benjamin how his family should be.
Mr. Davis did not have the good sense to stop. He then criticized our sons. This from the man whose grown sons, who must know better, are so rude to others. Mr. Davis said to Benjamin that if Benjamin did not teach our sons how to behave then he, Mr. Davis, would. Benjamin stood so quickly I did not see him do it but Jeffrey grabbed my husband by the shoulders and shook his head to tell Benjamin not to do anything. Were it not for Jeffrey Billings, I think perhaps Mr. Davis would not have felt so well during the rest of that meeting.
Friday, June 5 - It is most disagreeable today. No longer cool but cold. Benjamin and Adam, this cold does not bother them. But Erik and Joseph and I are most distressed and uncomfortable. Never have Joseph and I known this cold weather in New Orleans. If Erik has known it before on the trail he does not remember it. Benjamin and Adam wear almost all the clothes they own and they make the extra effort to help us be more comfortable. But even with as many clothes as we wear, Erik and Joseph and I are most ready for this weather to become warmer. It is the presence of the sun and the absence of the wind which will aid us most.
We saw the Indians today. They have hunted the buffalo which they say is not far away. Mr. Billings is the one who can speak to them. Benjamin is most wary of these Indians. There was much trouble with them many years ago but Mr. Billings assures Benjamin that there is little left of this tribe now. Disease has hurt them badly and greatly decreased their number. Adam is much like Benjamin, his right hand is never far from his rifle. I would suppose these ways of reacting to the Indians are most natural for Benjamin and Adam. They have traveled close by this way many years before when the danger was greater. My husband and eldest son are most vigilant but I think perhaps they are too worried.
Saturday, June 6 - The air is more pleasing today. Cool, yes, but not distressing. We continue to see the antelope and the men continue to hunt.
The boys have found a diversion. Little creatures which Mr. Billings calls the prairie dogs scurry about for miles. They are most engaging but they do not resemble any dogs which I have seen. These little ones are perhaps the size of a small squirrel but with more weight and none of the long, bushy tail. They are also a tan color much like the buckskin which Mr. Billings wears. They sit upon their back legs often and guard the hole in the ground which leads to their home. The hole has dirt piled around the top. Some of the dirt it is beaten down but some of the times the dirt is soft and will blow with the breeze. While the standing animals are guarding the homes, the others dash about and eat the grass and seeds. When a guard is worried he makes the very high sounding bark and the others run quickly to the safety of the holes in the ground.
We find these small creatures most adorable and entertaining but Mr. Billings does not. He assures Benjamin and the boys that they must not ride the horses quickly through what he calls the "town" as the holes can trip a horse and cause a most unfortunate accident. A horse who trips in one of the holes can also break the leg. Benjamin has stressed this particularly with Adam and Erik, who are known to run their horses. He tells them that if they do such a thing they will not ride their horses for three days. This is all he needs to say to Adam and Erik. They have learned a long time ago that their father keeps his promise.
Joseph and Micah occupy themselves by staying behind the wagons and making the explorations to where these little ground dogs live. I watch with amusement as the boys attempt to sneak up. They are convinced they will catch one of the animals and then they would take him all the way to California. How they would contain this ground dog and what they would feed it does not occur to Joseph and Micah. They are most single-minded in their purpose. Benjamin teased that we should shoot the little dogs for dinner but Joseph was not amused.
Adam, like his father, is the most excellent shot with a rifle. He teaches Erik, who has become very good, and Erik teaches me. I can strike the nearby large things but the nearby small things are more of a challenge. I do not try to shoot the nearby small moving things. Erik tells me I improve each day but he is kind.
Tonight Benjamin cautions that the rattlesnakes are also where the little dogs live. Because of this the boys must not go near without permission. At the mention of this rattlesnake, Adam looks ill and asks me to please, no matter what, do not cook the rattlesnake. He need not worry as I have no intention of such a culinary experiment.
Joseph says that he wonders how big these rattlesnakes are and asks if anyone has caught one. Erik tells Joseph it is more that the rattlesnake catches the person and then he tells Joseph of the terrible poison in the snake and he tells in great detail of how a person dies of this poison. He acts this out and tries most diligently to frighten Joseph. When all this is done my youngest son asks Erik if he is "finished." Erik says he is. Joseph says he has never heard such a bad story. Adam says he has never seen such a bad actor. I know what will happen next. They become a tumbling group of arms and legs. There are times when these sons are most predictable.
Sunday, June 7 - There are what Benjamin calls "signs" of the buffalo. One of these signs is the dung of the buffalo and this is a dark, flat circle when it is dry. Benjamin has sent the boys to gather this to use for our fire. It is dry as a cake and he tells them it is only grass which the buffalo has eaten. But I do not think the boys are joyful at handling grass once it has been through the buffalo. As there is none of the wood, we burn these buffalo "chips" for fuel. They burn, yes, with much smoke and we can cook and have warm food and this is how we must think of this. Others say these chips they burn without odor. I fear my sense of smell is perhaps too keen.
Joseph told us this evening of how Micah and he came so close to catching one of the little dogs of the prairie. He says he was ready to grab the little dog when the animal saw Josephís shadow and ran away. I believe this is another example of Joseph beginning with the truth and slowly escaping into imagination. But it is entertaining. And it hurts nothing.
Erik, too, is prone to this story-telling at times but Erikís stories are so imaginative as to be completely unbelievable. Benjamin laughs about these stories when we are together but he looks quite serious when Erik tells them and asks the most serious questions to continue Erikís story. Adam stands by the side and looks down with his eyebrows raised. Joseph is the one who challenges Erik and says that his brother has made up this story. Benjamin says this is "the pot calling the kettle black." Adam tries as hard as Benjamin not to smile but they both fail.
Monday, June 8 - These hills of sand, which Mr. Billings says we will soon leave behind, are most interesting. They are like the sand of a beach but this sand is dry and it will blow about. I think it would not be a good thing to be here when there is a fierce wind as we had the other night.
The cattle were hard to control yesterday so the men posted extra guards around them. Erik was sent with Adam in the middle of the night. Erik had thought this a wonderful adventure when Benjamin informed him of it before bed but when it was later in the night and Adam shook Erik awake, Erik told Adam he would not go be a guard with Adam. Benjamin sat up in the bedroll, at which time Erik chose to accompany his older brother.
The cattle did not settle again this evening. Adam and Erik had the early watch so they were at the wagon not long after their usual sleep time. When they pulled their bedding around them, Erik kicked Joseph by accident and apologized. There was no sound from Joseph. This is most unusual. Adam sleeps on the opposite side of Joseph from Erik so they can protect their little brother from the things they have told him about, such things as big birds that snatch little boys. When Joseph made no sound, Adam sat up and looked at Josephís bed. He pulled back the blanket and there was no Joseph but a sack of flour. I wonder how our youngest son has moved this large sack but Benjamin does not pause to consider such a thing. He stands up and grabs his rifle and walks off. Erik and Adam look at one another with their brother look. They know what each other think but it is impossible for anyone else to know. I know this because I have attempted it many, many times.
Sam Teague and Jeffrey Billings then alarmed the camp with the word that the cattle were running away. Adam and Erik made groaning sounds but they did not have to be told what to do. They saddled Beauty and Karly and rode out to help. Sam Billings passed our camp and told me it is the smell of the buffalo which has caused the cattle to run.
Not long after this, Benjamin returned and he held Joseph by the collar of Josephís shirt. The little one was rubbing his bottom but he was not crying. Benjamin pointed to Josephís bed and told him if he moved from it in the night Benjamin would make Joseph most sorry. Adam or Erik would not have said a word. But Joseph is not Adam or Erik. He looked up at Benjamin and asked what he was to do if he must relieve himself. Should he "wet on" Adam or Erik? Benjamin remained very stern but I saw in his eyes that Joseph amused him. He pointed once again to Josephís bed and this time the boy obeyed quietly.
After Benjamin left to help guard the camp while the others went for the cattle, Joseph whispered to me. He asked me which brother I thought he should "wet on" since his father had not answered him. I kept my head down, sewing a patch to Erikís shirt, and did not answer, either. Joseph said in a most aggravated way that he did not understand why no one answered him. And he continued talking and said that Micah and he had not meant to make the cattle run. They had meant to find the little dogs of the prairie asleep in the night and capture one. He said they would catch one "for sure" tomorrow night. I hope he does not do this because I do not think there will be much amusement in Benjaminís eyes.
Tuesday, June 9 - These buffalo cause everyone to stop and to watch them in awe. They are much larger than the cattle, perhaps larger than the oxen but I do not go close enough to be sure of this. The heads of these buffalo are enormous and the entire animal is covered with a curly dark hair. Some have horns which curve from near the rounded ears toward the nose. These horns look most dangerous. The entire animal looks most dangerous. The only part that does not look dangerous is the tail which sometimes has a bit of fur puffed on the very end. The tail looks much too small for the animal.
Several of the Davis men set their horses running among the buffalo, thinking to shoot the buffalo. When Adam and Erik ran to their horses to join the others, Benjamin said they must not do as the other men did because it could hurt the horses and make them unusable. Adam was most angry with his father and did not fail to show it in his eyes but he obeyed.
Erik saw the condition of the Davis horses after the men had chased and killed one of the buffalo and Erik was very angry. He does not like for animals to be mistreated and even at his young age he went over and began to scold the Davis men for their unkindness to their horses. Luke, who has the sons William and James and the daughter Tennessee, raised his hand to strike Erik but our son avoided the hand and then there was Benjamin. Luke Davis demanded that Erik apologize but my husband did not think this was necessary. Instead, he told the Davis men that their horses would not be good for the remainder of the trip if they did not take more care.
After this, Benjamin and Sam Billings went to hunt the buffalo and they allowed John Miller and Adam to accompany them. Their return was most amusing. Adam and John shot a buffalo but Benjamin and Sam Billings did not. Adam and John shot such a large animal that it took much labor and time to bring back the meat. Adam tells me that John and he have found the way to hunt these animals without tiring the horses overmuch.
Erik rode out with them and he brought back liver. I was most delighted and cooked a meal of this which Erik and Joseph and I greatly enjoyed. But Benjamin and Adam! They are impossible when this liver is part of the meal. They refuse to eat it no matter how hungry they are. When they refused tonight I informed them that they could cook their own dinner.
Benjamin is my lifeís love, but he does not cook well. Adam has more skill than Benjamin at this but even he lacks talent. In their manly pride they set about making their own dinner. They cooked often for themselves when they were traveling before. And they always cooked for themselves in New Orleans before Benjamin and I became acquainted. So, father and son made to cook their own dinner. It smelled burned. And it had no interesting aroma or herbs or spices, except perhaps too much of the pepper. When their meal was on their plates, I could not discern what it was they ate. I knew they began with good things but I think they made these good things into very bad things. Erik and Joseph and I teased at them by guessing what it was that Benjamin and Adam were eating while they frowned very much. Benjamin and Adam did not share our amusement. I would torment them more by preparing liver again tomorrow evening but I do not have the heart to torture them so. They must keep up the strength for all the work - and they have tortured themselves enough.
Friday, June 12 - I am most happy to write that Joseph and Micah did not attempt to catch more of the prairie dogs. This is due to the fact that Sam Teague and Benjamin assured that the boys stayed very busy during these past days. Our good weather became most warm yesterday and we are pleased that it is pleasant again today.
Certain things, however, did not please Benjamin today. Fortunately, none of these displeasing things included the boys. Adam, as always, listens to his father and obeys. Erik and Joseph are faster at obeying. They also have learned to say, "Yes, Pa" so as to prevent a frown from their father. This way of Benjaminís of insisting our sons comply with his directions came to explain itself today when we stood at the South Platte River.
There are many French words and names as we travel. I am not sure if this time the word should mean flat or calm. Neither one is a very good description of this river. Or perhaps it is more frightening to look at when it moves with more current and more water. This river looked most formidable to me but I said nothing of this to Benjamin.
My husband has little patience with the ones who are afraid of the water. All our sons must swim from the time they are young. Their father insists that they must respect the water but they must not fear it because fear is an enemy. This river is wide. Benjamin studied it and spoke with Mr. Billings. Usually Mr. Billings is our guide but at this crossing Benjamin became so. Mr. Billings said he must defer to Benjaminís experience with the sea and Benjamin nodded.
The first thing my husband did was to tell everyone that the water is not so deep. Few believed him. He rode his horse into the river and proved that it is easily crossed as it is perhaps two feet or a little more deep. When he returned to our side of the river he told Adam and Erik and Joseph and Jeffrey what they must do and in very little time our wagons were on the opposite side of the river. The others took courage from this and followed. Then Adam and John and a few other men made the cattle cross.
After the work, Benjamin allowed the boys to wade in the water near the bank but they were not to go far. They walked away to a place where they would not be seen. When it was time for the chores before dinner, Benjamin was helping Sam Teague with a broken axletree. I needed the boys so I walked to where I saw them go. It was good that Benjamin did not find them because they had not listened to his instructions. They stood in the middle of the shallow river, their hair soaked, and they splashed one another. Adam and Erik had something which they passed back and forth above Josephís head causing him to jump in attempts to reach it. The luck was with them that I observed all this from their backs because the three of them had shed all their clothing on the riverbank and were as bare as a newborn babe. I quickly returned to a place far enough away and called for them. Adam yelled for me not to come any closer and then said there was a bear and he did not wish for me to be hurt. I could not resist adding a little to their agony and I shouted that I would help them with this most horrible bear. At that, Erik and Joseph screamed, "No, Ma!" and Adam added that they had scared off the bear and would be at camp "tout de suite." I laughed into my hand because Adam must be most agitated to speak the French. I called back that I was most happy to hear they were no longer in danger from the bear. I thought it unnecessarily mean to draw to their attention that there are no bears. Wolves, yes. But not the bears. None that Benjamin has told me about.
Saturday, June 13 - I was most amused, as were the others, at the name of this newly built, small, rough building we saw today. It is the Ash Grove Hotel and it is in no way accommodating.
In this area Mr. Billings calls Ash Hollow there are currants and bitter things that Rebecca Teague tells me are choke-cherries. No doubt they are called this because their taste is most strong. It causes one to purse the lips and cough. Rebecca assures me that when one adds enough sugar to them they make good jelly. I think I will not waste the sugar or the time.
Many people pass here to go to California and Oregon. And some people pass this Ash Hollow on their return to Missouri and other places east. Because of these crossing paths, many write letters and leave them and hope those who go in the direction of the letter will see that the letter is delivered.
I find the ruins of a much older building as I look for the currants. The vines and the grasses grow around and inside it. One can discern the remains of the walls and know this place was not large. What has become of the roof is unknown. I step from behind a nearby tree and there is Adam. I watch my son stare at the building for a long time. He looks but he does not see. He steps toward what would be the doorway and I follow him to ask him to help me with the water barrel. But I knew I must not speak because he stops in the open doorway and I think he does not breathe. Again he stares, this time inside the small building, and he turns around. When he rests his eyes on my face, they are the eyes full of hurt and confusion. He puts his hand across his face, steps past me, and I do not see him again until dinner.
I look for Benjamin since I must not bother Adam. I find my husband and he, too, almost does not breathe. His eyes are on the land and the trail we follow. I stand so I see him from the side but I do not walk closer. His shoulders shake and he raises his hands to his face. When I put aside my dismay I know that he weeps. But I do not know why and I do not know what I should do.
Tonight Benjamin and Adam sit at the campfire for dinner but neither one eats. They sit even more close together than usual and look only at the fire. Father and son still sit this way, on occasion drinking the coffee, as I finish my writing.
What is this thing that cuts their hearts so?
Sunday, June 14 - Benjamin and Adam were most anxious to be on the trail again. Even the hot weather did not bother them as it bothered us. Mr. Billings announced we should camp early in the day so the animals might rest and this produced great consternation in my husband and eldest son.
Erik and Joseph notice this change in their father and brother and now they ask me what has happened but I must tell them I do not know. This is most distressing to Erik who must have all the family at peace. Joseph and he stay very close and watch with worry. Neither one seeks the company of friends. They speak softly to each other and there is none of the silliness and fussing between them.
Tonight Adam laid atop his bedroll early. He did not pull the bedroll around him even though the nights grow cooler as the days grow warmer. Adam screamed out in his sleep. He thrashed about so that I was afraid for him. He did all this very quickly because Benjamin was beside him before I made to move. Benjamin very gently placed his hand against Adamís cheek and repeated Adamís name quietly. Adamís eyes flew open but they were a dreamerís eyes and he screamed out again. Mr. Billings and Zeke Teague ran to our camp with their rifles in hand but they backed away when Benjamin shook his head at them and we soon had our privacy restored. Joseph was so frightened by Adamís cries that he sought the protection of Erikís arms.
At long last, Benjamin managed to bring Adam out of this most terrible dream. Adam sat up and put his arms around his father and cried as I have never seen. Benjamin remained on his knees and rocked Adam back and forth, holding him close but not trying to quiet him. Erik and Joseph cried but, like me, did not understand. Adam no longer cried but was very tired. Benjamin lowered him to the bedroll with great care and when he made to leave, Adam rolled on his side and grabbed his fatherís hand. Benjamin sat beside where Adam lay and he did not remove his hand from Adamís until Adam slept deeply. Benjamin walked to me as I comforted Erik and Joseph. He kissed the top of Erikís head and then bent to kiss Josephís cheek. Although he offered no words, his kisses eased our sonsí feelings and they were soon asleep.
Benjamin does not sleep again tonight. He sits by the fire but he is not in this world with us.
Monday, June 15 - Adam is very quiet today. Joseph prods at him and teases and Adam smiles but it is with indulgence and not with amusement. Erik watches his older brother from the sides of his eyes and frowns. It is this way with the boys. They fuss and they argue and if Benjamin is not nearby they will even wrestle in anger but when there is something not right for one of them the other two worry. I heard Erik ask his older brother what is wrong. Adam shook his head and told Erik that he could not talk but maybe he would talk later.
Benjamin scouted today. I believe he did this to be alone. In this sandy place he found a camp where the animals may feed by the river. He is most resourceful, my husband. I find myself in wonder many times at the trades he knows. He knows horses and other animals. He rides a horse with skill that deceives the less educated into thinking they might too ride so well. The others seek him out when they have concerns with equipment. They also seek him out when there is disagreement. They do this because he strives to be fair despite that he has the quick temper. I thought the sailor in him a thing of the past but this is not so. He teaches us the stars. He watches the barometer and shows us how we might use it to know what the weather will be and how high the altitude we have. I have known no one who can tie as many knots.
My husband can not abide to watch others make a task more complicated than necessary. Because of this, he taught a few men how to pull a rope what he considers the correct way. This is a skill his sons know from the time they first walk because he plays the tug rope with them. When they are little he allows them to win but when they are older he, as he says, gives no quarter. So, this seeing the men make the work with the rope more complicated than it should be caused Benjamin to walk to them and tell them there was an easier way. He waved his hand to the boys and even petit Joseph was proud to show what he knew. Without a word, my four Cartwright men formed a line along the rope. And then they pulled. But they do not put both of the hands together to pull at the same place on the rope. They put one hand far ahead of the other on the rope. They pull and then they swing the back hand far in front of the other and they pull again. One can watch the rope make great progress this way. They pull, swing the back hand far in front, pull again, swing the back hand far in front, and so forth. Benjamin says sailors would never get a sail up to catch the wind if they pulled the rope as so many of these travelers do.
In this, then, the boys are glad that their father was a sailor. They are not glad for the way he knows to give orders or for the way he corrects their behavior with his quick, hot words. But they are very proud that they know how to tie the knots, and how to swim, and how to pull the rope. They do not brag, for this is not allowed, but they approach as near to the bragging as they believe Benjamin and I will allow them. We delight as much in their accomplishments as do they.
Tuesday, June 16 - We stay in camp today. One would think to rest and there is this for the animals. But for the people this is a time to do the chores which are difficult to do while traveling. The boys looked at Benjamin and me with dread this morning as they knew that many chores awaited them. My husband and I talked last night while the boys slept and made the decision that they should do a few chores and then have the day for themselves. This news was greeted with great cheer. I have never seen them perform their chores so quickly. Even Adam was encouraged by these events. The boys asked permission to fish in the river. We doubt there is much to catch with the weather so warm and the water so shallow but we agree. They take the lunch with them, and water to drink, and they leave as if they fear we will change our minds.
When Benjamin and I are alone we rest in the shade of the wagon and talk. He is more himself today. I tell him of finding the boys in the natural at the river and he laughs until his eyes tear. Then he winks at me and says this is a most excellent idea and we should do the same. I act as if he has spoken the scandal and we laugh again. We decide the chores can wait for another time so he reads to me until we both drift asleep.
The boys are full of devilment when they find their father and me asleep in the middle of the day. They tickle my nose with the grass and they drip water on their fatherís neck. They giggle until we both awake and then Benjamin growls in play and chases after them. It is warm, yes, but it is not too warm for father and sons to wrestle. They get filthy in the sand and then Benjamin suggests they clean off in the river but that it must be far away from the camp. I wonder if he plans to be as his boys were the other day and I think of sneaking up to discover if I am right. But I know Benjamin. He will be watching for me and he will have some mischievous plot. So I make to cook the dinner and pretend I have not the idea what my men do.
Wednesday, June 17 - We travel today. Benjamin scouts again but this time with Mr. Billings. They find game and also a spring at which we camp. All would be well if we were not in this heavy rain with the lightning all around us. Adam was out with the cattle when the lightning started and it hit not far from him, killing two of the cattle. He says his ears still make the ringing sound. Erik says Adamís hair looks singed by fire and Joseph says his oldest brother looks red in the skin like a burn from the sun. Adam rolls his eyes and thanks them for their compassion. He takes little solace in the fact that there is beef to eat.
I can not write more. The wind and the rain have been dreadful and now there is hail. Benjamin and Adam and Erik must be out to take their turn watching the animals. Joseph begs to go and becomes disrespectful. Benjamin swats Josephís bottom and points to where Joseph has been sleeping in the wagon. Joseph sticks out the lower lip and says the swat did not hurt. Adamís eyebrows go up. Erik looks down. Benjamin leans close to Joseph and says it would be most embarrassing for Joseph if I see his father spank Josephís bare bottom. Joseph looks quickly to me and then he crawls back to his bedding. After Benjamin is gone, Joseph tells me that someday he will be big and he will not have to do as his father tells him to do. I adore this spirit in him but I also worry that it will make Benjamin and me very old.
Thursday, June 18 - I begin to think this Fort Laramie to which we travel does not exist. I despair that we make no progress despite what Benjamin tells me. And then today we see Courthouse Rock.
The boys are so excited that they are not easy to control. With every chore the three complain and beg that they be allowed to explore the tallest mountain they have ever seen in all their lives. This last part amuses Benjamin considering he has been with them all of their lives and is aware of what they have and have not encountered. I think he is perhaps not aware of all that his sons have encountered and his sons are most grateful for this.
They bounce around him like puppies and tell him that others from the wagon train go to the rock. Never have I heard so much of the, "Please?" "Please, Pa?" "Ma, make Pa let us." As if I am able to make their father do anything! This shows how desperate they are.
Benjamin puts his hands at his waist, leans back, and he smiles big and tells them we will all go to the rock. The boys yell out and dance about but I look at Benjamin sideways. He knows I do not care for being up high but he bends down to me and says I can wait at the bottom and pray for our rambunctious sons. I pretend to frown but can not before Benjamin places his lips to my forehead.
There is not one but two of these "mountains" which the boys chatter about and point at as we ride the horses. Both of the mountains are the color of a dark coffee with a bit of the cream. But only a bit. The one has the most definite lighter color at its bottom, almost the color of the antelope. But it becomes darker as it reaches to the sky. Perhaps half the way to the top it becomes more narrow and then the top of this mountain angles as a side of a tent. The other mountain resembles four loaf cakes which are stacked one on top of the other and each loaf cake is smaller the closer it is to the top of the stack. On top of the smallest loaf cake there is a rounded outcrop almost in the middle. This outcrop resembles more the end of an éclair.
As I write this I come to understand that I am most hungry for the desserts of New Orleans.
These two landmarks are most noticeable because they push out of the land around them. In truth the land is not so flat as it appears. This is learned as one approaches the Courthouse and Jail rocks and senses a slight slope upward. Both rocks are rough and, to my eyes, dangerous. This is not so to Benjamin and our sons. Even Joseph, who is not fond of the high places, must explore with his father and brothers. They are most careful of him. Benjamin ties a rope around Joseph and one of them holds the rope at all times.
As I watch them climb the rock which is at our left side I put my hand to my heart. I can not believe what I see. Adam has the handle of the knife clasped between his teeth as he climbs. He has told me he will carve my name into the rock beside his fatherís and brothersí names. From the ground I see that Erik chatters and stops often to inspect items at his feet. And then there is Jeffrey who I do not even realize is climbing the rock and mon Dieu! he carries Joseph on his back. When I see this I put my hands over my eyes as if this will prevent any bad thing from occurring.
My prayers they are answered. After an hour my men return. Adam is near breathless as he runs to me exclaiming about the adventure. Erik, of course, is slower because he looks at his feet, bends down, picks up something, turns it over in his hand, sees something else, and picks it up. I fear Erik will not rejoin us before we arrive in California. Joseph rides on Benjaminís hip. Our youngest son grows more each day. His legs dangle beside his father. My husband is full of happiness. He laughs and punches at Josephís stomach in play. Joseph continues to point back at the rocks and he, too, does not stop talking.
Every six words he says, Adam stops and says, "Oh, Ma, you should have seen it!" Then he once again must describe the scenery and the rock and the sky and the sun. Adam helps me into the saddle and then he skips to Beauty. Erik looks down so much that he bumps his head into Benjaminís back. Benjamin shows great interest in what Erik cradles in his hands. At the horses, Benjamin carefully places Erikís treasures in the saddle bags.
We return to the wagons to travel more for the day. The boys can not pay attention to a thing. They must constantly be together the three of them and they talk until I fear they will lose the voices. But they do not. And they talk so much at dinnertime I must remind them to eat. They give me the quick look. They take a bite. Before they chew the food they talk to one another again. Benjamin shakes his head at me and smiles. It takes the boys a very long time to eat their cold food.
Then they gather by the fire and they talk more and more and more. I do not understand why they do not talk to their friends and I come to know that it is most important to them to share this wonderment with one another. They will talk with their friends tomorrow and no doubt for many more days. But tonight it is the brothers who are most important.
Our sons show no signs of sleepiness. Benjamin and I must become very firm with them about the time for sleep. They obey and they lay on their bedrolls and pretend to be still until Benjamin and I are in the wagon. I hear them whispering as I write this by the lantern light. I look to my husband. He stretches out on the blanket, puts his hands behind his head, and smiles. To be more strict with them would be to spoil this wonderful day for them. They will sleep when they grow tired. I assure myself of this. The excited whispers tell me the time when they will sleep is far away.
Friday, June 19 - Today it is the rock they call the Chimney. I have seen this far away for many days. It is as I thought today. We do not pass this rock, either, without the exploration.
The rock is most interesting. It resembles a pyramid but with stripes of reddish rock and muddy white rock at its base. The pyramid is softened at the sides and at the top of this pyramid is a towering slender rock which the French call a "pinacle." This thing does not resemble a chimney to me but more a large writing pen which is placed in a pyramid ink well. Adam tells me it looks as a finger pointing to the sky with the fist clasped. I frown at him because I do not see this. He frowns at me because he does not see the ink well. I believe we both think we are correct in this.
Again, the people must climb the bottom of the rock, not the top because this would be most dangerous. And again they leave their names.
We pass the Chimney and we camp near the Scottís Bluff. These, too, are interesting but I grow weary of all this rock. I wish for the meadows again and the wildflowers. I do not say this because Benjamin and the boys are most happy. Me, I would appreciate the clean clothes and the luxurious bath with the scented French soap.
I sit to write again because of what happens this evening.
After the rain last night, the air is cool and refreshing. The land is not as muddy as Benjamin had worried it might be. He worried for the slow pace the mud might bring. Erik worried for the hardship this would cause the oxen. He is most fond of these gentle animals and has named them all. He is concerned that the grass which the animals eat is no longer green but the animals do well and he is pleased.
Erik notices the smallest of things as we travel. When something is particularly interesting for him, he asks of Adam to draw it. The boys tease one another and devil one another but they are also kind. Adam draws for Erik and he humors Joseph by allowing his youngest brother to draw using his paper and pencils. Adam and Erik praise Josephís art work and encourage him to do more. In these actions I see the reflection of their father in his sons.
The Davis family continues to cause worry. Yesterday William and Hector made their fathers angry. None of our family is certain what this offense could be. This evening as we listened while Adam read from the Bible there was a most frightful noise. It sounded as the crack of a whip and then there was the scream of a boy. Adam ceased reading. Erikís eyes grew large and he looked at his father for explanation for the sounds which pierced the quiet. Joseph was frightened and quickly crawled into Benjaminís lap.
Erik asked what the noise was. I thought Benjamin had not heard his sonís question. He had. He said that Hectorís father used the whip on Hectorís back. That a man could do such a thing to his son causes my stomach to hurt. It is difficult enough to allow when Benjamin uses his belt on a boyís bottom. But the bottom, no matter how small, it has cushion. To strike the back can only bring blood and scars. I have the thought to stop this brutality but Benjamin grabs my arm and tells me "no." He says John Davis will lash Hector more if I interfere. So we sit and grow ill as we hear this brutality. When the sound is over, Joseph is tight in his fatherís arms. Erik draws designs in the soil with a stick. Adam slides his hand over and over the front of the Bible.
Joseph maintains this is not right for a man to hurt his son this way. He says without a moment of doubt that Benjamin would never do this to them and it is wrong. Then he says it is, "Wrong, wrong, wrong. Really wrong. Wrong." Benjamin pats the top of our sonís head and says he believes it is wrong, also, but that this is the way some parents correct their children. Erik says it is not correction but that it is being mean. Benjamin agrees. Adam does not speak until he has chosen his words carefully. This shows in his face and in the softness of his voice. He says that these parents are cruel and that they have disobeyed God. Joseph asks his oldest brother what he means that parents could disobey God.
I smile when I hear Adamís words. He says God has given the parents to children and these parents must take care of the children. The parents please God when they watch over the children and teach them right from wrong. The parents should always love the children as God loves them. A parent who truly loves a child would never hurt the child. Then Adam looks at me and he tells Joseph that a child who loves a parent can not hurt the parent.
They are beautiful thoughts and I am deep in the appreciation of them when Erik moves around. He asks Benjamin what God thinks about when their father spanks them. I wonder what my husband will say and from the look on his face so does he. I tell Erik that it is his fatherís and my responsibility to God to rear them to love and obey and that sometimes we must use the physical correction as God has instructed in the Bible. Benjamin speaks up. He says the spanking is used to get their attention and to teach them that disregard for the rules carries the consequences. And this is when Joseph observes that he thinks that God would be most pleased if parents never spanked children and instead allowed them to do anything they want. His father stretches Joseph out across his knees and tickles Joseph. Then Benjamin asks our other sons if they have opinions they wish to share regarding spankings and they both smile and hold up their hands and assure him they do not.
This is good, to fall asleep with the memory of laughter and love. It is unfortunate that all can not do this.
Saturday, June 20 - Today Erik becomes fourteen. He is most proud and tells me that he feels very much grown now. He is taller than Adam, as he has been for several of the years, and he appears older than he is. All one must do is look into his round face and see that smile like the elf and then one knows Erik is still young. I think maybe he will always be young in his heart because of his love of everything around him. Most especially the animals. While Erik has his family and his animals he will never want.
Nature celebrates Erikís birthday. This is a most lovely valley and best of all pour moi there is the cold spring with the water most refreshing. And nature she gives Erik the gifts because there are the deer, and the big deer the men say are elk. What Erik enjoys the most are the sheep in the mountains. They move with great skill like dancers. Their stage is the mountainside and I do not understand how they do not fall. Erik says he would like very much to be one of the sheep and to jump all about on the mountains and bluffs. Joseph gives his brother a worried look and says if he must be an animal he will be a horse with all four legs on the ground. Adam laughs deeply and then must pull up his shoulders as his brothers hit him with their hats.
Zeke and Sam Teague return from the hunt. They have seen a big bear. They tell us of it and Mr. Billings tells us this bear is the grizzly bear. Erik asks why it is called this and Mr. Billings thinks on this question. He tells Erik that he does not know but that this bear is very mean and not afraid of a man. Erik says he would like to be this bear. He would like to be big and strong but not mean. Mr. Billings tells Erik that if Erik continues to grow he will be as big as this grizzly bear and maybe bigger. Erik is most impressed by this. When Benjamin returns from the scouting, Erik tells his father he will someday be as big as the grizzly bear and as strong. Benjamin says this is why he is kind to Erik so Erik will not forget his fatherís kindness when Erik is as big as the bear. Then Benjamin locks his arm around Erikís neck and they wrestle.
For dinner this evening I make the cobbler dessert by soaking the apples. Erikís joy is pure. He eats what remains when the family has had more than enough. Benjamin plays him a song on the violin. Benjamin calls this a fiddle. I ask him what is the difference and he says the difference is in the music. I do not know if he teases. It is most difficult to know this with Benjamin.
So when we have the dishes completed and the stock tended and have done all these things we must do each evening, Benjamin asks us to sit at the campfire. He has a special story. It is the story of where Erik was born. I wonder at why Benjamin did not tell us this when we were at the place on the trail where Erik was born because it is on the beautiful grasslands we saw after we crossed the river. The land where the grass rippled like the waves of the sea. The land where the flowers are the soft colors and the vibrant colors and they grow as far as the horizon. This is most suiting, this place where Erik is born. It is full of beauty and animals. It offers the things Erik loves.
Joseph says he does not believe that Erik was a baby so Adam asks Joseph what he does think. Our youngest son says that Erik was born as big as Joseph is now. Adam laughs until he cries. Then he says there is no horse that could birth such a thing and there most certainly is no woman who could do this. The boys laugh together. They suddenly all three look at me from the tops of their eyes with the guilt on their faces for speaking so of women and babies. I wag my finger at them and say they should not speak so coarsely and they turn pink at the cheeks. Erik says, "Aw, Ma, we did not mean anything bad." I wish to be stern but I can not. These sons have too much of the love in their hearts and too much of the mischief in their eyes. So I smile. They know I am not angry. They smile at me and Adam winks the eye. He does this since he was a young boy. Benjamin does it also. Benjamin says this wink from Adam is flippant but I do not think so. I think Adam does not even think of it. I also think the girls must be careful of Adam for he charms without knowing.
All becomes quiet again. This is when Benjamin says he must tell something more. He looks to Adam. Adam nods once at his father and then Adam looks to the fire.
Benjamin tells us that to be at the place called Ash Hollow was most difficult for Benjamin and Adam. He says memories are there which Benjamin and Adam thought gone but which are as real as the air we breathe. He tells us that Adam and he were there many years ago when they follow the trail. Erik is six weeks old when they are there.
My husband looks at me and I understand. We have passed this Ash Hollow a week before Erikís birthday. Benjamin and Adam were at Ash Hollow a month after Erik is born. They are late on the trail and they have the great risk of the snow in the mountains of California.
They were delayed in their arrival to this Ash Hollow and the people with whom Benjamin and the others were to travel to California are not there. While Benjamin and the others rest and decide what they must do the Indians attack them. They seek refuge in the building which is now the ruins.
This is when I know what is to be. Benjamin and I do not ask questions of each other when we meet in New Orleans. But we tell each other some things. One of the things that Benjamin chose to tell me I forget until this moment. Erikís mother is killed by the Indians.
On this night of Erikís birthday, my husband tells the two sons who have no memory of this thing that the Indians fight with Benjamin and the others. The fight is most desperate. In the fight, Erikís mother picks up the rifle and shoots the Indians. One of the Indian arrows finds her and she falls. She dies while Adam sits against the wall inside the building and holds the baby Erik. When they must bury her they can not place the marker for they fear what the Indians will do to the grave. Even if they do not place the marker they fear what the animals might do to the grave. And so they bury her where the trail is. This is done so the wagons will go over the grave and make it flat and the animals and the Indians will not disturb it. Benjamin and a few other people they turn back and return to Missouri. When Erik is older, Benjamin and Adam and Erik travel to New Orleans.
Erik listens but he does not cry for this mother he does not know. He asks his father was his mother always one to fight for those she loved. Benjamin says she was a most fierce protector of those she loved. She was also loving of the animals and the flowers and especially of the birds. He smiles and tells Erik that Erik has the very best of his mother inside him. Benjamin and Adam watch Erik most closely. I too wonder what he will say.
Erik leans to Adam and asks if this is true, if Adam held Erik in his arms at this Ash Hollow. Adam nods. Erik smiles very big and sits up straight and looks at Joseph and he says, "See there? I was too little once." As Benjamin laughs Adam shakes his head and says, "I did not say you were little, brother." Now Joseph laughs. Erik makes the pretend mad face at Adam and swats at him with his hand. Adam stands and Erik stands and Adam nods at Erik. They have the brother look and they walk away close together with Erikís arm on Adamís shoulder. Joseph makes to go with them but Benjamin takes his youngest sonís hand and shakes his head "no." Then he says that Joseph can not beat him at arm wrestling and Joseph forgets his brothers because of his fatherís challenge.
This discussion in the open is a thing the boys appreciate very much for they, too, are allowed to discuss things this way.
Sometimes I find they are perhaps too frank as when they discuss the women and babies but they are, after all, their fatherís sons.
Monday, June 22 - At last we arrive at Fort Laramie. It is not as big as I hoped. There are the Indians everywhere. They make camp and they trade with the travelers.
Benjamin and Adam are hesitant around these Indians. Now I understand.
Erik will be a friend of the Indians in short time. Joseph finds them a thing of awe. Erik admires the ponies and watches as Mr. Billings speaks with the Indians. Joseph tells me these Indians are called "Sioux" and that he wishes to buy the footwear known as moccasins. He barters with his father until Benjamin is exhausted and agrees. It is evident that his father is not the only one with whom Joseph barters because he returns with not only the moccasins but also a belt and he returns a portion of the money to Benjamin. This talent pleases Benjamin greatly.
Adam sits a small distance from the Sioux camp and draws. A young Indian sits beside him. They do not say anything. The Indian watches Adam draw with the attention of the boys when they watch a magician. The Indian holds out something to Adam and then shows him to bite off this strip and chew. Adam bites into the strip and pulls hard. Then he chews and chews. When he thinks he can chew no more he chews again. This night Mr. Billings tells Adam that this is a type of dry meat that the Indians carry with them. He asks Adam for Adamís opinion of the meat. Adam is never one to be less than honest. He tells Mr. Billings that the meat was like what Adam thinks it would be to eat cowhide. Mr. Billings laughs long about this.
Erik will not return to our camp until his father almost takes off the belt. He obeys but with the lower lip out very far. He has five friends among the Sioux and he has traded some of his rocks for a bird feather and a stone which has sparkling spots in it. He tells us the names of these friends. He does this slowly and with great concentration. He is most upset when he is not allowed to return to the Indian camp after dinner.
Joseph tells us he wants a "spotty" horse like the Indians have. Benjamin is tired and tells Joseph there will be no horse, spotty or otherwise. Joseph says he will run away with the Indians. Erik tells Joseph that the Indians are camped and are not going anywhere. Joseph says he will get a spotty horse and go into the mountains alone. This interests Adam. He asks his little brother how Joseph would cross the mountains alone. Joseph says he would hunt and fish. Adam shakes his head and says this is not what he means. He asks how Joseph would travel alone because Joseph is not good with directions. Joseph throws the dirt at Adam. He tells Adam this is not funny for Adam to mock Joseph because Joseph could not find his way back to our camp from the Indian camp. Adam laughs so hard he must excuse himself and walk away from the noon meal.
In being so close to these peaceful Indians, I think of Erikís mother. I marvel at her bravery to have a child in the grasslands and to take a rifle to shoot at the Indians so she might protect her baby and Adam. I am sure this is why she fought the Indians. What other thoughts would a mother have? My heart hurts for this woman I never meet. She dies in Benjaminís arms while the two boys she loves are nearby. She knows that she leaves them behind. She knows she will never see these sons become men. And she knows she will never again see this most wonderful man she loves.
I walk from the camp and I cry for this woman. I walk and the wind blows at my face and it dries my tears. I turn and I walk back to the wagons. The boys run toward me. Adam with those blue eyes opened wide in excitement. Erik shouting at me and his face full of joy. Joseph running, as always, with the tongue hanging from the right side of his mouth and his arms making the windmill as he attempts to keep pace with his brothers. The boys come close and see that I cry again and they are most concerned. I tell them it is the wind which bothers my eyes. Erik and Joseph believe me. Adam is skeptical of my explanation. He, too, though, must tell of the excitement. We are invited to share a feast with the Sioux.
I wonder at this. We walk back to the camp. There are the Indians sitting and eating while some of the travelers stand and watch. This feast is for the Indians only. It consists of the coffee and the biscuits. The preparation of this has fallen to the Davis women as all the other women are at the fort and I am out walking. The boys are most disappointed at this sight.
Later in the evening the three of them listen as Mr. Billings tells us of the feast he has attended in the Indian camp. He eats dog there. Erik bursts into tears and Adam comforts his younger brother. There is something in Adamís face that tells me he thinks of his beloved dog, Thaddeus. This thinking of Thaddeus, and his love of all living things, is I think why Erik is so distressed. Joseph, as he often does when he is frightened, seeks out his father and sits in Benjaminís lap. Long after Mr. Billings leaves our campfire the boys are quiet. Then Joseph states, as he did when we heard the boy being whipped, that to kill a dog is, "Wrong, wrong, wrong. Really wrong. Wrong." Our sons sleep close to one another this night.
Tuesday, June 23 - I find myself not comfortable with many of the other women. They are good, these women. But many of them do not wish to make this journey. They do not follow their husbands with the happy heart. As events happen with which they are unhappy they must blame the husbands. These events can be most small and not worthy of notice. Benjamin and I agreed to travel to this California and I am happy to be with Benjamin at any time . I walk the mile to this Fort Laramie with Benjamin. I warn him as we begin to walk that he will take the normal steps. He says, most courteously, "Yes, maíam."
There is the creek in front of this fort. It is not so very deep but it moves quickly. Benjamin has forbidden our sons to wade or swim in this water.
It is not a large place, this fort. But when one has not seen anything built by man since the Ash Hollow Hotel this fort is most welcome. It is rectangle in shape and made of the mud bricks Mr. Billings says are "adobe." There are the little houses on poles which rise above the tall walls. These are for watching the land around the fort much as the towers guard the castle walls in France. Inside the fort walls is an open area which is surrounded by the buildings. These buildings have the high, small windows and there are many doors. Above a few doors there hang the rifles ready to be used. But the Indians and the other people walk about the fort as we once strolled the square in New Orleans. Ladders lean against these buildings which are inside the fort walls and the soldiers they climb these ladders which go above the building tops. The soldiers see beyond the top of the outside wall. These soldiers and travelers and Indians trade and talk inside the fort walls and many stand and watch with wonder.
These Indians they have very dark hair. Some of these people adorn the hair with feathers. Most of these people wear the tanned animal hide called buckskin. Many of these buckskins have cuts at the bottom which make a most attractive fringe. I can not say the men are handsome or that the women are lovely. The children are loud and very active. They are beautiful with the big dark eyes and the faces full of expression. It would appear these people cherish their children. I say this to Benjamin and he says it appears this. He says that I believe all people to be like me. I tell him all people are the same and he smiles and he says yes, that all people are the same.
We make small purchases. The prices are more than Benjamin or I would pay for many things. We do not need them so badly as that. Another wagon train camps nearby and the leader of the train he speaks with Mr. Billings and Benjamin. He visits our wagons early in the day. He tells Mr. Billings and Benjamin and Hiram Teague and Nathan Miller who are inside the fort that day that he finds us most prepared. He tells them that many of the travelers bring too many of the possessions and they must leave these possessions to the side of the trail. We have seen these things. The Davis families have left these things as we travel, such as the highboy. Benjamin and I do not allow the boys to handle the possessions which are left behind. These things belong to others and one must respect this.
Benjamin and I gather the boys as we return to the wagon for dinner. Adam must finish a drawing. He thanks us for waiting and walks beside Benjamin and they talk of the plans to travel tomorrow. We gather Erik. He is more obedient today. I think perhaps Benjamin spoke to him last night. Joseph is the last we find. He runs foot races with his friends. He has the neckerchief around his forehead and ties it at the back of his head. Placed in the neckerchief knot at the back of his head there is the large feather. He wears his moccasins and says this makes him run more quickly because he does not wear the heavy boots. I tell him we must have dinner. He becomes most adamant that he has no hunger and he will stay with his friends. He does this although I ask him and then Benjamin has enough of this argument. He raises his hand near Josephís bottom. He does this since before we travel this wagon train. Joseph is not so mindful of his fatherís hand then. He becomes more mindful of his fatherís hand near his bottom with each day we travel. I see the smart remark form in Josephís mouth but Joseph sees the warning in his fatherís eyes and he does not speak. This gives me hope that he will learn not to speak back. Then I think of Adamís age and that he still speaks back. I know then that this speaking back is something with which they are born from their father and not from their mothers.
Sunday, June 28 - We are most busy in our travels and I do not take the time to write. Today I write because today we camp and there is the time. We go toward the Platte River again. Erik is most fearful that we have turned about when he hears this is the Platte River that we see. Adam tells his brother this is a different piece of the Platte River, it is the North Fork of the Platte. He reminds Erik of the many times we cross the Mississippi in our travel from New Orleans. Erik is more at peace.
Benjamin says it will be several more days before we reach this Platte River. This is because we do not make as good distance because of these hills. Mr. Billings tells us we will see more Sioux.
This rough way causes several equipments to break and the men to not be in good humor. At these times the boys obey Benjamin most quickly and quietly. Now we rest. The animals and the equipment are better and this makes Benjamin better. That Benjamin is better gives the boys much relief. This gives me relief also. Benjamin is most difficult when he is not in good humor. I thank the Heaven that he is in the good humor most of the times.
While we journey we meet the travelers who return to the east from California. We are most eager to hear from them of their travel and of what they find in California. Adam writes the letter to Daphne. One of the men says he will mail this in Missouri. These people travel all the way to California. They spend the winter. They do not like California. They say only bad things. When Benjamin and I work changing items about in the wagon, Benjamin tells me these people would not be happy if the angels of Heaven attended their every need.
I think on these people who do not like California. I ask Benjamin of the travelers who do not wait for him at this Ash Hollow. I ask if he knows what happens to these people. He tells me that as Benjamin and Adam and the baby Erik live in Missouri for two years, many of the travelers return. The way for them is very different than is the way for us. We have the trail. They have none. We have knowledge of the land and of what we must do to survive. They have none. We have travelers who follow this trail before we do so we have the information they give. The people who do not wait for Benjamin do not have the travelers before them. They attempt this journey fourteen years before us. I marvel that Benjamin should attempt this journey. He smiles and tells me that now he too marvels at this.
Benjamin tells me there is one man about whom he knows. This man is from overseas. Benjamin and he meet before. They meet again while Erik grows in Missouri. This is not long before Benjamin and the boys begin the journey to New Orleans. This friend and Benjamin they exchange the letters. The year after Joseph is born, Benjaminís friend arrives at Yerba Buena. He writes to Benjamin the long letter. While we are in New Orleans he writes more to Benjamin. These letters take much time because they must travel by boat between New Orleans and California. From this friend Benjamin finds the truth of this land in California. His friend can supply him with certain information but his friend travels to the Oregon Territory north of California by land. After this the friend sails many places. He sails to Yerba Buena and then he travels inland. He lives now in a valley to the west of the mountains. This is of what he writes Benjamin. This is another reason why we wait at the home of Daphneís brother. Benjamin waits to hear again from this friend in California about the travelers who are there and how they arrive there. Benjamin receives the letter. This letter and what Benjamin learns in Independence and the guidance of Mr. Billings are what help us this far in our journey.
Benjamin grows quiet. He stops the work. He looks at me. He asks me if I think of returning to New Orleans. I am most offended that he thinks this of me. I say to him that I leave France and I do not go back. I leave New Orleans and I do not go back. I do not go back ever in my life.
This amuses him greatly.
Monday, June 29 - We are yet among these hills. The sky is as near the color of Adamís eyes as any sky I have seen. I feel I can reach my hand and touch this sky. I can not do this thing. But the sky looks this close. This is true from when we are near the Chimney Rock.
The boys catch the fish. Benjamin insists that they be the ones who must make the fish ready to eat. There is much debate among our three sons whether these fish should be cooked in the skillet or made into the soup. They vote. They vote again. They ask Benjamin to help them with this vote. So they vote. They vote again. The boys fuss with one another. They throw at one another that which they remove from the fish. Benjamin does not interfere. He shakes his head at me. We leave the boys alone.
They fuss. They throw more of the removed parts of the fish. They decide they will catch more of the fish. This way Joseph can have the soup. Adam and Erik will have the fish from the skillet. They return to their stream. Benjamin and I tend our chores.
The boys return. They have no more fish. They frown and do not speak to one another. I see enough of this fussing. I say to Joseph that he must abide by the greater vote. He argues and almost speaks like the Davis sons. Benjamin holds his hand up near Josephís bottom but Benjamin does not hit. Joseph sits where he has been standing and he cries. This surprises his brothers, his father, and it surprises me. Adam is the first person to reach Joseph. Adam holds Josephís shoulders and then Adam puts his hand to Josephís forehead. Joseph says he is not ill. Erik sits to face Joseph and asks what is wrong. Joseph will not speak. Then he opens his mouth and he pulls at his right cheek with his finger. He speaks with his mouth such, making it most difficult to understand him. Erik understands. Erik looks at Adam and says that their brotherís mouth hurts. Adam looks close at Josephís mouth and then he looks close at Josephís teeth and then he smiles. He tells Joseph that he will live. Joseph asks Adam how it is that Adam knows this. Adam says that Erik and Adam lived through this. He tells Joseph that he "cuts" the new teeth which makes the other teeth sore and the one tooth loose. Adam asks Joseph if this is why Joseph wants the soup and not to chew the fish. Joseph says it is. Adam pulls Josephís finger from Josephís mouth. Adam suggests that Joseph not talk this way because Joseph sounds like the babble of a baby. Joseph is most affronted. Joseph says he is not a baby. Adam nods and says this is true. Erik says the soup is agreeable for the dinner.
Adam rubs Josephís cheek. Erik tells Adam he remembers the teeth making Erik most miserable. Adam laughs softly and Adam says he remembers the teeth making Erik most miserable also. I wait to see who will remember something else. Erik snaps the fingers when he remembers. Erik looks to me and Erik says the clove will help Josephís teeth. I tell Erik I forget this and it is good of him to remind me. We will try this. Erik is most happy with this thought he has.
Erik runs to the wagon and to the cooking items and he returns with the oil of the clove. Erik does not hand this to me. No. He offers it to Adam. Their father and I are banned from these ministrations. Adam rubs the oil of the clove to Josephís teeth. Joseph does not care for this taste and he spits. Adam holds up his finger and wags it at Joseph. Adam does this like Benjamin, exactement. I choke with the silent laughter.
Joseph obeys his oldest brother. He submits to this doctoring. Joseph is most amazed that this clove works. As in many things, Joseph has the short memory of this oil of clove from the time his teeth hurt before. Joseph throws his arms around Adam and then he must throw his arms around Erik. Still the boys are so close together that their father and I are not allowed near.
We enjoy the soup very much. I read from the poetry. Benjamin plays the fiddle. Adam tells a frightening story. I think he has heard this story as a boy in New Orleans. I come to know that he adds very much to this story. He lowers his voice so his brothers must move closer to him. This story has the walking dead and the alligators and pirates and witches. I have never heard such a horrible thing. Erik and Joseph too have this same imagination as Adam. When this story it is completed, Adam sleeps with his arm around Joseph. Joseph sleeps with his head upon Adamís chest. Erik sleeps only when he is most assured that Josephís teeth do not bother him.
Benjamin says in my ear that there are the times our sons amaze him. I whisper to Benjamin that our sons amaze me always.
Tuesday, June 30 - So, this is my last day to write the journal. Adam tells me that he will not suffer if I write for many more days. I tell him I will not deprive him of the chance to write in the journal. He shrugs his shoulders and says he will not mind this being deprived.
I smile at the antics of Joseph. If his teeth hurt he does not seek his father or me. He must find Adam or Erik. His brothers are the only ones who may tend him. Benjamin smiles also.
This is how it is with our sons many days. They are together as they are together after they climb the Courthouse Rock. They chatter, these boys do. They talk of the rabbits which they caught. They wonder if they will find fish when we camp on the river. Erik says perhaps they find turtle eggs or duck eggs. Joseph asks why we need these when we have the chicken eggs. Erik tells Joseph this would be fun to find these eggs. Joseph rolls the eyes. Adam tells his brothers that they must tend the oxen at the noon camp. Adam asks Erik to look at the rubbed shoulder of the lead ox, Barnaby. No argument follows. Only the heads nod.
This is a good journey. Not easy. Many times not pleasant. We do not have the luxuries to which we become accustomed. Yet this journey brings many of the discoveries. We find the new animals and the new scenery and the new way we must live. We are always strong in New Orleans. We grow stronger here.
We are tres formidable, we Cartwrights.
July Ė Adam
1 July, Wednesday -
When I rode Beauty up beside the back of the wagon this morning, Ma tossed me the journal and told me that our future was in my hands for the next month.
She had the idea of keeping this journal. I agreed to the idea after she more or less ordered me to comply - a lot more than less.
We plan to read the story of our overland journey on the fourth anniversary of our departure from Independence. Joe wanted to read it at Christmastime and Erik said we needed to wait six years. Where Erik came up with that number baffles me and when he tried to explain his thinking to me - well, Iím still confused. Pa declared that four years would be soon enough.
There is no need to record where we are each day or what the weather is or how many miles weíve traveled. Pa is chronicling that thrilling information in his logbook. He brought along a thermometer and a barometer so he can predict the weather and share temperature readings with us.
I would rather not know how hot it is when I am sweating through everything I have on - or how cold it is when my teeth chatter so much the sound of them spooks Beauty. When I am sopping wet, I have no desire to be told how many inches of rain have fallen. When the wind whirls the dust and sand into such an impenetrable cloud that I canít see, I donít care about its speed or direction. And what is the purpose of predicting the weather? Thereís no controlling it even if you do know whatís coming. I guess I could prepare, though, so I am never again on night guard during a hailstorm.
One aspect about using the barometer that interests me is the way we determine altitudes. Erik thought we were talking about determining our attitudes but Pa assured us that he is able to determine our attitudes in the blink of an eye. Iím not sure when or where Pa developed this skill of recording altitude. I would think that if the waves were tall enough to achieve altitude a sailor would be a little too busy to study a barometer.
About a month before we started this trip, the sailor resurfaced in Pa. Because I am old enough to remember this part of his personality from our years of traveling, I was prepared. Erik and Joe asked me more than once what was wrong with Pa. When he referred to the front of the wagon as the "bow" and the back as the "stern," I thought maybe this too would pass. Then he called the sides of the wagon, as I faced the bow, "starboard" and "port."
When we encountered a howling wind earlier on the trail, Pa told us to reef the canvas. Erik and Joe and I looked at each other to determine if anyone knew what Pa meant. He grabbed at his hat as it threatened to blow back to Missouri and yelled, "Now!" We speculatively studied the wagon canvas as it popped and rippled. We thought about País order. We looked at Pa. I wondered why he had chosen that particular moment, during a screaming wind storm, to share a new sailing term with us. I very respectfully shouted at him that we had no idea what he was ordering us to do. Pa leaned closer to us, holding his hat on his head with his left hand and cupping his right hand around his mouth to try to direct his words toward us and not the Eastern Seaboard, and explained that we needed to fold up part of the wagonís canvas cover and tie it down. Otherwise, he bellowed, the wagon was likely to fly like a kite.
If he had just given us the order in English we wouldnít have wasted nearly as much time. Weíll never be able to take the sailor out of Pa no matter how far we lead him from the sea.
I learned a long time ago to take Pa on his terms. Or, I thought I had. When Pa announced last year that we would stay with Mrs. de Villeís brother, Mr. Rousseaux, in Missouri, I was as disappointed as I have ever been because as far as I was concerned Pa was delaying our trip West again. We had missed the chance to leave from Independence in Ď44 but we had more than enough time to take to the trail in Ď45. I told Pa how I felt about his decision. He let me know exactly how he felt about how I felt about his decision.
We didnít talk for a day or two.
While we were Mr. Rousseauxís guests, Pa made regular trips to Independence. He spoke with every person he could find who had turned around on the trail, anyone who had heard from friends or relatives who had gone to California, and anyone he could find who knew anything about the trail - good news or bad. Each time he returned to us, he shared all the information he had gathered in Independence. He was of the opinion that we needed to know what he knew because the best traveler is an informed traveler.
Pa made sure that Erik, Joe, and I learned how to handle oxen, how to change a wagon wheel, how to repair harness, how to start a campfire, how to get in and out of a wagon, and many other skills that were monotonous at the time - and imperative now.
I was the one who helped Erik and Joe learn not to jump off the wagon. Pa was teaching us how to attach the canvas cover to the hoops above the wagon bed. I skipped off the wagon tongue to the ground. My boots had barely made an impression in the grass when Pa whipped a piece of rein across my left thigh. I yelled out, as much from surprise as from pain - maybe a bit more out of pain - and Erik and Joe watched as I was "brought up to the mast." During his lecture, Pa explained that jumping off the tongue, as well as getting in and out of the wagon while it was moving, was one of the most dangerous things we could do because we could fall under the wheels and be crushed. As of today, not one of us has jumped off the wagon tongue on the trail.
We didnít spend an idle day with Mr. Rousseaux. If Pa wasnít helping my brothers and me acquire a skill, or if he had ridden to Independence, he expected us to do chores. Mr. Rousseaux objected to the three of us working - and we listened to his discussion with Pa with great hope of deliverance - but I have yet to see anyone dissuade my father of an idea. We mucked out the stables, watered the horses, fed the horses, groomed the horses, ran errands, chopped firewood, chopped kindling, chopped trees, fed chickens, chased chickens, killed chickens, ate chickens, emptied rain barrels, picked crops, pruned trees, painted outbuildings, dug furrows, pulled weeds, fed the oxen, watered the oxen, and if - in an unguarded moment - we dared to look like we had nothing to do Pa cured that problem.
More than once I rolled my eyes toward Ma in a silent plea for help. Sometimes she persuaded Pa to let us go fishing, or hunting, or riding. Usually she told us to get busy.
The rainy season was our worst experience at Mr. Rousseauxís farm. On those soggy days we did what our host called bare bones chores and the rest of the time we were housebound. Erik, Joe, and I are accustomed to being outside. Weíre only indoors when weíre ill or in a huge amount of trouble. It didnít take long for us to start bickering and shouting and mimicking one another. We aggravated the stars out of one another and derived great satisfaction from it.
Ma managed to keep her patience until one day when Pa was gone and we were in particularly foul moods. That was the day we smeared charcoal from the fireplace all over one another - and the better part of our bed linens. Ma ordered us to stand at attention and the reprimand she issued was as bad as any Pa ever delivered. We didnít breathe until she left the room. After we washed all the linens, hung them near several fireplaces to dry, and re-made the bed we were so quiet no one knew we were in the house. That was exactly what we planned because Pa returned from Independence that night. Ma didnít share our latest escapade with him and we sure as glory didnít.
In addition to training us for the duties the trail would demand of us, Pa had another reason for laying over until this year. Uncle John wrote that two families he knew planned to head west from Ohio. In his letter he explained how long he had known the Teagues and the Millers, vouched for their character, and asked Pa to consider traveling the trail with them. They have been every inch the outstanding people Uncle John said they were. Even better, Zeke Teague - one of Mr. Teagueís sons - is a good friend of Josiah Billings.
Mr. Billings has traveled the overland trail to California twice. When we finally camped south of Independence, before we started our journey, I lost track of the number of afternoons Mr. Billings spent with the Millers, the Teagues, and Pa. They reviewed maps, made notes, compared information they had gleaned from other emigrants, decided on rules of conduct, divided duties and responsibilities, and cooperated in laying in supplies and equipment. Mr. Billings leads so quietly that you arenít aware of the steady hand directing and guiding you.
There are moments in a day when I am so anxious to reach California that I would like to ride Beauty there in record time. Our travel is steady, usually anywhere between 13 and 20 miles a day when everything goes well, and Pa keeps reminding me that steady and thoughtful beats fast and careless every time. So I tell myself that weíve come a long way from Independence. Weíve crossed the Big Blue and the Little Blue and the Deep Blue and the Muddy Blue and the Sky Blue and the Sea Blue.
Landmarks such as Courthouse Rock, the Chimney (which looked more like a finger pointing to Heaven than a chimney), Scottís Bluffs, and Fort Laramie assure me that we are making progress. They are visible markers that I can see as we approach them and look back at when we pass them. The days without a marker, and there are many of them, are long. Mr. Billings said that, if everything continues to go well, we should arrive at Independence Rock on July 5th or 6th. That means we are making good time and should cross the Sierras before snowfall. Mr. Billings has seen snow fifteen feet deep in the mountains east of California. I would rather admire those snow-capped mountains from a respectful distance.
2 July, Thursday - More buffalo today. The creatures arenít as exciting to watch as they were the first time we happened upon them, mainly because now we know they can break up our camp and stampede the cattle. I also donít relish the idea of gathering dried buffalo chips to use as campfire fuel.
Even though the animals are hard to bring down, John and I were allowed to go hunting because we had killed a buffalo cow - without nearly running our horses to death the way some of the other men did. Weíve worked out a way to take two rifles each. One of us picks the cow, fires the two rifles from as flat a position as safe, and the other rides along and fires two rifle shots into the cow, with luck and bit of marksmanship a hunter can shoot the animalís lungs. A bit more running and the buffalo usually collapses, falls on its side, and dies. I wonít let Erik go out with us. Heís a good enough shot with a rifle. But if he saw the way we hunt the buffalo he wouldnít eat a bite. He argued with me the first time I told him he couldnít ride with John and me. So, I explained my thinking to Pa, in private, and he agreed. Erik will argue with me without giving it a second thought. But since heís grown up heís learned to be judicious in his confrontations with Pa.
Mr. Billings whistled in admiration when we brought down the buffalo today and he asked us the same question as the first time, "How do you plan to get it back to camp?" It didnít take us nearly as long to dress the animal and bring sections back to the train as it had with earlier hunts. We learned our lesson and shot a smaller animal that was closer to the train this time.
I appreciated settling down for the evening beside a spring even more than usual because of the sandstorm we had this afternoon. I donít care for sandstorms. They are like lightning - theyíll grab your attention every time and a little bit goes a long, long way.
Everything was covered with a fine layer of sand. After we made camp we took turns beating the dust off one another. Erik and I took particular delight in cleaning up Joe. We swatted him with our hats until he finally lost his temper and started swinging his fists. When Pa asked if we would like to explain what had happened, Erik and I assumed our innocent look. Weíve been practicing that look for years and I think we nearly have it perfected.
We used the spring water to wash away as much dirt as we could. Mr. Billings says we are making good time so we will stay over tomorrow. He doesnít want to draw too close to the wagon train ahead of us and have to compete for water and grass. The stop will allow the animals to rest. It will also give us time to restore our souls - and our soles.
4 July, Saturday - Weíve camped a few miles east of Independence Rock. The other train is camped almost at the rockís base so theyíre celebrating Independence Day at Independence Rock after having left Independence, Missouri.
Several of us wanted to ride over to the rock to climb it but Mr. Billings said it would be crowded with all the men and boys from the other train who are determined to leave their names carved for others to see. I wish Ma would make the climb with us but I know sheíll stand below and watch. She is even more disinclined toward heights than Joe is.
I donít think anyone could ignore this landmark. It looks as if a giant hand grabbed mud and then smacked the wad onto a flat section of land. Rain fell then and cut vertical grooves in the sides of the mud pile and then the mud hardened into rock. Iím sure that isnít what really happened but that is how it looks. When I squint my eyes, I can imagine that at some time the rock might have been a lone island in an inland sea.
The reason I think about an inland sea is because we came across white areas of soil that, when inspected, had a salty, metallic taste. Mr. Billings told Ma that women had used it in baking the way they used saleratus. Maís always intrigued by new ideas - especially when it comes to cooking. She added some of the white powder in the dough she cooked tonight and the biscuits were finely textured. Every time I eat the wonderful biscuits she makes, I remember the ones Pa used to bake when the two of us traveled the country. A person has to be desperate to eat what Pa calls biscuits. I would hide them and then, when he was busy, I would skim them on the rivers we crossed. His biscuits were much lighter as they skipped over the water than they ever were when they settled to the bottom of my stomach.
5 July, Sunday - The other train broke camp this morning so we covered the few miles to the rock and made our own camp a distance from the site they had used. I was glad to hear that weíll be laying over a few days because I climbed the rock this afternoon and what I could see from up there looked worthy of horseback exploration. The Sweetwater, and its valley, are a welcome sight after these past few days of travel. I have mixed feelings about the mountains that wait for us to the west. Iím glad to see them because they indicate we are that much closer to California - but Iím not sure I look forward to crossing them.
8 July, Wednesday - Weíve been trying not to laugh at Joe this afternoon. Heís upset because the river water isnít sweet like he expected it to be. He has demanded more than once to know why everyone calls it the Sweetwater if it isnít sweet like candy. Even Ma hasnít come up with a good explanation yet.
Unlike Joe, Iíve learned to appreciate any water that doesnít poison the animals or us. I have managed to swallow liquid that I would have considered offensive in New Orleans. It helps tremendously if we have time to boil the water and make tea with it.
The valley is providing us with plenty of grass and game. I took Erik hunting with me today and he brought down an antelope. He was excited and full of victory until he realized he had killed something. Then the joy drained out of him. I gave him the same talk Pa had given me years before about only taking what was necessary - and by the time we reached camp he was more philosophical about the need to provide meat for the family. He told me tonight that he doesnít like hunting and I told him that I donít either. I enjoy being outside and being away from other people and having the chance to observe nature without interruption. But I have never, and I will never, enjoy ending an animalís life. With time Erik will learn that life is full of unpleasant necessities but I hope he will never lose his amazing ability to understand animals - that talent is a gift from above.
The Sweetwater is a good place to be. The valley running on either side of the river is wide and full of grass and game. Mr. Billings told me this evening that Iíll be glad to leave the river behind after weíve crossed it eight or nine times. Weíve already crossed it three times. I truly hope he was joking about five more crossings.
9 July, Thursday - We found the most amazing thing today. When we first saw what looked like a swamp I decided I would lay down and die. All these miles, all this time away from Louisiana, and here were swamps again. Pa grinned at me and said I was being dramatic. I didnít think I was being dramatic enough.
John rode up to me then and told me that his uncle Nathan had told him that Mr. Billings had told Jeffrey and then Jeffrey had told Johnís uncle Nathan that there was ice under the swamp. Given how many people that news had been relayed through, I didnít get excited.
Then Mr. Billings instructed a few of us to dig into the swamp. Less than a foot down we hit clear, hard ice. Ma and I had the same idea. Erik and Joe and I dug up big pieces of the ice and put them in every water barrel we have. We also chipped the ice and let it melt in our mouths. I slid a piece of ice down the back of Erikís shirt. Joe came real close to slipping one piece down my trousers. We were so rowdy that Pa said we were ice drunk. Joe took him seriously and demanded to know how "drunk stuff" got into the ice. Erik and I wandered off when we could tell Pa was struggling for an explanation. We discussed the idea of making iced cream but Ma needed todayís milk for cooking. We crushed some of the dried mint leaves Ma keeps, soaked them in warm water, poured the water into a cup, stole a little sugar to stir into our brew, and topped that off with ice. Iím not sure what we concocted but it tasted good.
Apparently we are in Indian country. Mr. Billings doesnít expect any trouble but he said we should be armed and alert so we give the appearance of being a formidable threat.
Ma thought the names of the tribes were interesting. She asked Mr. Billings if he knew why they are called the Crows, the Snakes, the Blackfeet, and the Sioux. His answers were interesting but I think they were more imagination than fact.
"Ya know what I think?" Erik said to me at dinner.
No, I didnít know what he thought but I was sure I was about to hear.
"I think them Crow Indians have bird legs."
I choked on my mouthful of meat. He walloped me on the back and continued his theorem.
"Them Snake Indians, they have fangs."
I was still choking.
"And them Blackfeet - well they have black feet."
By then I was breathing again. I drank some coffee to open my throat. In the interest of pretending my younger brother was making sense, I asked him why the Sioux had their name.
He thought a minute or two while he chewed a bite of his antelope steak and then he said, " I reckon they donít wanna be called the Turtles."
Pa and I looked at each other but neither one of us had any idea what he was talking about. For once though Pa had the good sense not to ask.
10 July, Friday - I just thought I would be able to finish this trip without aggravating Pa. At least I managed for more than forty days before he took me to task.
I admit I was in the wrong. I was admiring the mountains on either side of us. I was not paying attention to the cattle and horses I had been assigned to drive behind the wagons. I drifted. They drifted. And the next thing I knew all of us were too far from the wagons - especially since we are in Indian country.
I hurried to correct the situation. Hurrying is not a wise action when herding cattle. I had most of them bunched and then I saw a few stragglers off to my right.
After I stampeded two other groups of cattle by running Beauty toward my wanderers, Pa demanded, "What in Zeus were you thinking?"
I told him I hadnít been thinking much of anything. He was not amused.
He not only was not amused, he didnít think I was taking my duties seriously enough so approximately two seconds after we made camp he jerked his chin at me and we took a walk. A long walk. A very long walk. I am thankful for two things: Ma, Erik, and Joe did not overhear what Pa said to me - and eventually Pa was tired of walking.
I didnít need Pa to tell me that I hadnít done my job today. Iíve known for a long time that journeys like this are not forgiving of the non-attentive. When one of us doesnít uphold his responsibilities it hurts everyone. And when one of us causes all the cattle to stampede we lose the better part of the afternoon rounding them up.
When Pa walked back to camp, I stayed where we had finished our talk. I needed some time alone. Thereís never a chance to be alone out here. The only time I have to myself is when I go scouting - and even then I have to stay in sight of whoever else is out. After Pa finished lecturing me, I stretched out on the grass to think.
I feel asleep. And I didnít wake up until I heard Pa yelling my name. Nighttime was close. He found me just as I pushed up on my elbows and I have no doubt that if I were younger he would have tanned my behind. As it was he waited until I was on my feet and then he blistered me with one of his lectures..
Even Joe was quiet at dinner. I knew everyone was uneasy because of Pa and me. After weíd eaten, I wanted to give them some breathing room but the minute I made a move away from the wagon Pa snapped my name and I decided against any stroll.
That was the only smart thing I did all day.
11 July, Saturday - I managed to get through the morning without any problem by quickly obeying orders, keeping my opinions to myself, and paying attention to what I was doing. For some reason I have to fight to pay attention. Maybe the boredom of this leg of the trip is numbing my brain.
Mr. Billings wasnít joking. Every time I think weíve crossed the Sweetwater for the last time we cross it again. There are advantages to this route. We have water, and grass, and game. But glory this river meanders more than a kid bound for church. Somebody needs to build bridges in this part of the country. An enterprising person could charge even a small toll at the bridge and live a good life. Maybe not a good life. Not here. But he could save enough money to stake him when he went to California.
I wasnít hungry at noontime so I settled for tea and two cold biscuits. Ma is convinced I am ill.
Weíve been fortunate because our travelers have only suffered from stomach problems, toothaches, stiffness and aches from work, and injuries brought about by tending the animals or not tending the equipment. I attribute our "luck" to Mr. Billingsí experiences on the trail and Maís belief in cleanliness. Iíve noticed that the least clean people often seem to be the ones with the most maladies. Our family doesnít dare enjoy Maís cooking before weíve washed our hands with the warm water she invariably has ready. When water is in short supply, as it often is, Pa has us scrub our hands with sand.
Joe complains that it doesnít make sense to get our hands dirtier to clean them. País given up trying to reason with him. When Joe doesnít want to hear reason País better off talking to the wind. He gets a lot more attention from the wind. País tired of Joeís arguments. The minute my little brother even looks like heís ready to back talk, Pa raises his right hand with the palm flat. Every time Pa does that, Joe swings his hands back to cover his behind - and then he obeys.
I assured Ma that I feel fine and I provided the excuse that I was a little tired. If I quit eating every time I was a little tired I would have died before we reached the south fork of the Platte.
Pa wasnít so easily convinced by my explanation - but then he never is. When he rode up beside me while I was on foot and driving the oxen I wondered what I had, or hadnít done. But I knew better than to let my thoughts wander from the job at hand. Finally he gave me a smile and then dropped back for rear guard duty.
Tonight I managed to eat a small amount. I donít dare tell Ma that she was right - I donít feel well. I donít have fever but every inch of my body aches, especially my head.
12 July, Sunday - I canít keep my mind on anything no matter how hard I try. The minute we made camp I ate what I could and now Iím ready to sleep.
13 July, Monday - Donít feel worse but sure donít feel better.
14 July, Tuesday - Other people are tired and ill. Dr. Miller thinks itís mountain fever. But I donít have fever. I just donít feel well. Mr. Billings said he doesnít think I have mountain fever but heís afraid a few of the other people may have it. Have been able to see Wind River Mountains a few days. They are topped with snow.
17 July, Friday - It was cold last night. Pa ordered me to rest in the wagon today. Midday he put Ma in the wagon with me because she had lost color and didnít feel well. I wanted to get out and ride, to give Ma privacy. Pa said no. Most of the others are feeling better except for Dr. Millerís wife, John and Annieís mother. It looks like the plains out there. Not the plains weíve crossed before but itís flat right through the middle of the mountains. País found me writing and has ordered me to give the journal to him.
18 July, Saturday - Cold at night again. Slept all day in the wagon. I felt better at dinner, and was able to eat a good meal, so Pa returned the journal. Ma had trouble getting started in the morning but by about noon she felt better.
While I was sitting at the campfire I found out that we cleared South Pass. We are at the Little Sandy. Weíll stay over a few days to give everyone a chance to get better - and the animals a rest. Judging by what Mr. Billings said thereís a lot of work to do before we take the Greenwood Cut-off. And this next part of the trip, headed toward the Green, does not sound good.
22 July, Wednesday - I walked a short distance from the camp this afternoon and thanked God that we are here at the Green River. These past days have been as close to hell as I ever care to be.
Back at the Big Sandy, Mr. Billings instructed us to cut all the grass we could manage to carry in our wagons and to fill every container with water. I thought we had enough to sustain an invading army when we broke camp.
There have been times in my life when I was better off not knowing what waited ahead. This was one of them. Now that we are here I know the crossing can be made. But had I known then, at the Sandy, what I know now - I prefer to think I would have headed on but Iím not sure I would have.
This was desert and it is every bad thing a person can imagine. Bare, uninviting, flat, and waterless. There is also no grass and no sign of game. We traveled for a long day, had a short night, and then were on the trail again as early as possible. Pa quit whistling and making jokes the first afternoon. Ma didnít smile until we camped this evening. She was particularly upset at the rough trail we followed down to the river. Now the fact that there are grizzly bears around doesnít help matters any.
Erik is heartbroken because of the animals that died or had to be left behind. He hasnít spoken since last night.
The Millers lost three oxen; the Teagues lost four cows, one horse, and one ox; despite the fact that they did just about everything wrong, the Davisí only lost one scrawny cow. We had to leave one of our oxen, Bill, behind. He was too weak to go on. Erik stood in front of him, begging Bill to get up and move. Joe and Erik couldnít eat tonight. Erik was crying when I spread my bedroll beside his. I wish there were something I could say to help him.
To add to the problems, four people are running fever - little Sarah Teague; Mrs. Addie Davis; and Luke Davisí two sons William and James.
And now, as if sheís decided to laugh in our faces, Nature is hitting us with a deluge of cold rain. Itís enough to make a man want to give up. Thereís no way anyone could ever live in this place. No darn way.
23 July, Thursday - Nine years ago today, God blessed me in ways I couldnít imagine when Ma and Pa were married in New Orleans. I knew from the first time I met her that Ma was a kind and loving person. Pride kept me from accepting her - and being stubborn got me into all kinds of trouble. I am embarrassed when I think of the way I behaved toward her back then. She has never said a word about our problems and, knowing her, she never will.
Ma and I have had a few little problems since I grew up and believe me she has had something to say about those. I would rather answer to Pa any day of the week than be lectured by Ma. Answering to her is humiliating, especially when sheís so angry that her dark eyes flash. The first time that happened I was so distracted by the sparks that I didnít listen to what she was saying to me. I havenít made that mistake again.
Ma and I have our moments, but it isnít hard to stay on her good side. She has a knack for imitating people and can sum a person up in ten words Ė usually sending Pa and me into fits of laughter. She is patient, loving, kind, and polite. Iíve never seen anyone who loves music and dancing more than Ma does. Many a night Pa plays his fiddle, Nathan Miller blows on his harmonica, and the rest of us dance to the music. Ma has made a good dancer out of me - not that I had any choice in the matter. She doesnít want to dance with men other than Pa; she says no one dances like he does, so Iím his substitute I suppose. Nathanís wife, Mary, dances with John because heís her nephew. But sheís like Ma - she wonít dance with anyone else. John and I pretend we donít care for it but what man in his right mind would dislike dancing with a pretty woman and laughing with her while they whirl around and then side step to and fro? I have a suspicion that Ma is spoiling me and it will probably take a woman who is very skilled at dancing to catch my interest.
She walked down by the water this evening. I gave her a little time and then I went down to join her.
We sat on the ground and enjoyed watching the orange and red and smoky yellow sunset.
I asked her if she knew what today was and she said yes she did. She asked me if I remembered País and her wedding and I said I did. Then I told her that I had always been a little surprised that she had married someone as old as Pa.
She leaned her head back, some of her brown hair came loose from its pins and fell to her shoulders, and she laughed until tears trickled down her cheeks. Since I wasnít sure what I had said that was so funny I remained silent.
When she finally caught her breath she said, "Mon Dieu, Adam. You make it sound as if no other woman would have your father. Do you not know that most of the single women in New Orleans would have married him? And many of those who were married wished that he were their husband?"
I didnít know what to think of what sheíd said. I mean País a nice-enough looking man but - well - heís not young. Iíll be eighteen in a few days and País already thirty-nine. When I shared that observation with her she laughed until she got the hiccups. I rolled my eyes at her and told her I was glad I was so amusing.
Ma finally defeated the hiccups. She put her right hand on my cheek. "Adam, your father is a most attractive man. And you are like him." She wagged her left index finger at me but her tone was light. "I will warn you maintenant, mon fils, that I shall be most particular about the young lady who wishes to have your attention."
I never have been comfortable with compliments - especially the ones Ma gives me.
"Ah!" She threw her left hand in the air. "You are impossible, you know this?"
I was confused. "What did I do?"
"You do nothing," she answered. "You are not your fatherís son in that way."
"Your father, he smiles with the compliment and his eyes, they sparkle with the devil. But you - you are much too shy. We will work on this."
Glory, I can get into things without even knowing it. Now Iím Maís new project.
25 July, Saturday - Johnís mother is not doing well. Her fever is higher and Mr. Billings shakes his head when Ma asks about her.
We forded the river yesterday. I truly wish someone would build some bridges out here. Now we are in the high country. I would say the way is rough but nothing can compare to what we endured a few days ago crossing to the Green River. There are pine trees here and under them are all the fallen pine needles. We rubbed them in our hands and the broken needles had the most wonderful smell, richer and stronger than the way the southern pines smell. Ma had us bring her a half bucketful. She says she will make sachets. I asked her what a sachet was and she explained that it is a small cloth sack filled with something that smells nice. Sheíll put them in with our extra clothes and she said our clothes will smell fresh when we put them on. Iím in favor of that. I havenít smelled fresh for a while now.
I like this land. There is a forest of pines, an amazing number of springs, and good water. Weíve seen a few more prairie dogs and even some sage hens. Ma found berries and Jeffrey said he heard ducks somewhere nearby. Mr. Billings says weíll be on this route about a week. Erik and I figure that will be enough time to fish. We miss the fish and shrimp and crayfish that was available in New Orleans.
When we were kids, Ma would let us sit out in the courtyard and shell and eat boiled shrimp until we were nearly ill. We put a bucket a couple of feet in front of us and had a contest to see who could toss the most shrimp shells into it. If we got tired of that game, weíd put the shells on the step and flick them at each other with our index fingers and pretend we were having battles. After that game we smelled to high Heaven. Erik and I are thinking that when we do catch fish we might ask Ma to please make more of her fish soup.
The first time she told us fish soup was called bouillabaisse, Erik and I laughed at the funny-sounding word. Every time we raised our spoons toward our mouths we looked at each other and started laughing again. Then I finally got some of the soup into my mouth but Erik made a face at me and I blew that mouthful of soup all over myself. Pa sent us to our room without dinner. I kept snickering until I fell asleep but Erik whacked me every so often and told me that missing a meal was nothing to laugh about.
The next time she served the fish soup we were as polite as two boys ever were and we were rewarded with what we agreed was the best soup weíd ever tasted. But when we were alone in our room we laughed about the word bouillabaisse again. Pa caught us sitting on the floor, holding our pillows against our faces so no one could hear our gales of giggles. We straightened up and watched him with worried eyes.
Pa sat on his heels in front of us. "You still find the word bouillabaisse amusing?" he asked.
We shook our heads so hard I canít believe we didnít break our necks.
He pursed his lips and I knew we were in trouble for lying to him. He put a hand on my right knee and Erikís left knee and then he leaned close to us. "What do you say we name a bull that when we have our ranch?" he whispered.
Erik and I thought that was a great idea. We reminded him of it this evening while we were eating and his index finger shot up to his lips, telling us to be quiet. But Maíd heard us. She frowned from Erik to me and finally to Pa.
"You make fun of the Creole?" she demanded. Luckily she was speaking to Pa. He at least has a chance of winning an argument with her. Not much of a chance, though.
Joe looked at me. "Whatís a boo, a buu, a - "
"Bouillabaisse," Ma snapped at him.
My little brother is the only male Cartwright who isnít intimidated by Ma. "What is it?" he asked.
Pa took advantage of his chance for redemption. "Itís the most magnificent fish soup in the world. The Creoles invented it."
I donít think that last part is true but his verbal bow to Creole superiority brought a smile to Maís lips.
"As with all things," she observed, "we Creole bring only the best to this world."
Iíve never understood how she can be so prideful at times and make it sound so nice. I think itís the accent.
27 July, Monday - John and Annieís mother died during the night. We held the funeral this morning. Pa read from the Bible and then we sang a hymn. After that we readied the wagons and started on the trail. There is grief in losing a loved one. But nothing can compare to the grief of leaving the grave behind as soon as the funeral is spoken, knowing you will never have the opportunity to visit the grave again. Truth told, if the grave is done correctly, and the wagons and stock drive over it, you can not find the grave if you ride at the rear of the train.
I stayed alongside John all day and I donít think we said a dozen words to each other. At times like this, there arenít any words. But I can be there.
28 July, Tuesday - John wanted to be alone today. His Aunt Mary has taken Annie in and is giving the little girl a lot of attention, so is Ma. Everyone seems to think Johnís old enough to get through this on his own. His father, Dr. Miller, is of no help to John. Dr. Miller has ridden in the wagon all day. He must be desperate because I can attest to the fact that a wagon makes for a bumpy, uncomfortable ride. Pa took me aside before the noon meal and asked me to help watch Dr. Miller. País concerned because he suspects that Johnís father has been drinking whisky.
Joeís friend, Micah, got into an interesting bit of trouble this afternoon. His family and ours were sharing the noon meal. Erik, Joe, Micah, and I were to one side of the group, talking about how our trail clothes were wearing out and Micah used the word "pants."
Mrs. Teague - his mother - and Micahís aunt Mrs. Teague and his grandmother Mrs. Teague nearly fainted. Erik, Joe, and I rolled our eyes to Ma at the collective Mrs. Teaguesí ridiculous behavior but Ma shook her head slightly and we stayed silent. The way Micahís family reacted to him saying "pants" you would have sworn he had killed someone.
We were too busy trailing this afternoon, and too spread out, to discuss what had happened at lunch. But as soon as we were seated around the campfire Joe demanded to know what Micah had done to upset everyone in his family.
"Well, son," Pa said after clearing his throat. "He used a word many people find offensive."
Joe pressed on. "What word?"
Pa looked down and grinned.
"I didnít hear no bad word," Erik added.
"You didnít hear any bad word," I corrected.
My younger brother threw me a look of aggravation. "I know what I didnít hear, Adam."
Pa licked his upper lip and gave me that "you started it" look. I ended it, too, by not replying to Erik.
"What was the bad word, Ma?" Joe asked.
Erik and I considered that a breech of good manners. A man never asks a woman about that kind of thing Ė but then Joeís still a boy. Ma lowered her dish to her lap.
"Different people are upset by different words, you know this. Your father and I do not allow you to say certain words that Jeremiah and James and Hector speak, yes?"
Joe answered, "Yes, maíam" impatiently because he wanted his answer immediately. But a Cartwright son learns early in life not to be impolite to a woman - especially when País around.
"The word which so offended Micahís mother was Ďpants.í "
"Pants!" Joe howled. I slapped my left hand across his mouth because our camps are close and when someone raises his voice everyone can hear him. Joe said the word again against the palm of my hand but it came out sounding more like "pamps."
When I was sure he had settled down, and would use a normal tone of voice, I slid my hand away - but not before heíd shoved at my arm.
"Whatís wrong with pants?" Joe asked, this time directing his question to Pa. "Everybody wears Ďem. Leastways men do."
Erik frowned, "Hey, Pa?"
Pa held up his hand. "One thing at a time, please?" He leaned closer to the fire so he didnít have to speak loudly. "Joseph, your mother and I do not think there is anything wrong with the word. But people who are more - " Pa paused to think of a kind word but Ma didnít wait.
"These people who are prudish think it is a bad word."
"Well, whadda they call pants?" Joe said, choosing to ignore the fact that he didnít know what Ďprudishí meant. He saved that question for me for later on.
"They call pants Ďinexpressibles,í" I answered.
Joe shook his head and twisted his mouth to one side. "Thatís about the dumbest thing I - "
"Joseph," Pa scolded. "Other peopleís opinions and ideas are not Ďdumb,í they are different."
I leaned sideways and whispered to Joe that their ideas were stupid. Joe grinned at me. Pa raised his eyebrows. Erik hadnít given up on his question and he chose to raise it at that point in the conversation, much to my relief. Well, my momentary relief.
"Hey, Pa?" He glanced over at Ma and then kept his eyes on Pa. "Why is that?"
Pa picked up his mug and asked, "Why is what?"
"Why is it that girls - I mean women - donít wear pants?"
Joe and I stopped what we were doing and looked at Erik in stunned surprise. A woman wearing pants? That was as ridiculous as the thought of a man wearing a skirt.
Ma put down her plate and crossed her arms. "Yes, Benjamin, why is it that only the men and boys wear the pants?"
Oooh. I sensed a previous discussion about this between my parents. I was also sure that Pa would do best to tread lightly.
"Uh," Pa stammered. I can count on one hand the times Iíve heard Pa do that - and every time heís looked at Ma from the sides of his eyes. "In our society," he said. "In our society women are expected to wear dresses."
Erik didnít know it but he was digging País hole deeper when he asked, "Who is it thatís doing this expectiní?"
Pa was so uncomfortable that he slid his hand under his shirt collar and stretched it as if it were tight even though it was unbuttoned.
"Men," Ma answered. "Men are the ones who do this expecting."
"Now, Marie," Pa said. "Most women agree with - "
"They are cowards," she pronounced. She waved her arms wide. "Here, in this wilderness this - " she slapped at her skirt "- is as ridiculous as a hat top."
"Top hat," Pa corrected softly.
"Hat top - top hat, it is all the same," she proclaimed. "You would wear this thing in this country?"
I have rarely seen Pa look so amazed. He stared at Ma for a full ten seconds. "A skirt?"
"Mon Dieu." Ma closed her eyes. "A hat top, Benjamin."
Pa snickered. "No, I doubt I would wear a hat top in this wilderness."
Ma will only take so much aggravation and Pa knows it. He raised his arms to protect himself but when she opened her eyes she smacked her hand against his leg. Erik, Joe, and I smiled when Pa just grinned at her. Few things in life are as much fun as watching Ma and Pa spar.
She narrowed her eyes. "I can make the slap hurt, you know this," she threatened.
Pa nodded with exaggerated respect. "Yes, Marie, I know this."
She raised her hand much like Pa does when Joe begins to back talk, but he caught it and then raised it to his lips and kissed it.
Ma smiled. "You are a most forward, man, monsieur, kissing a woman in public this way. Have you no regard for my reputation?"
País eyes lit up. "Madame, I helped you achieve that reputation."
He didnít raise his arms fast enough and Ma bombarded his chest with slaps. He laughed the entire time.
I had what Pa calls "first watch" guard duty tonight and Joe tagged along. I expected him to jabber the entire time but he was unusually quiet and he obeyed any directions I gave him. I was as close to fainting as Mrs. Teague had been at the noon meal.
There was only a little moonlight because of the clouds. Joe wedged up against my left side. I put my arm around his shoulders but kept my right hand on my rifle.
"Whatís pre- pro- prew- "
"Prudish," I provided the word he was searching for.
"Whatís that mean? I know it isnít no bad word or Ma wouldnítíve said it."
"It isnít a bad word, Joe, not no bad word."
He canít turn a conversation into confusion as quickly as Erik can but he can turn confusion into a roaring argument. I dropped the correction of his grammar.
"A prude is someone who is - you know what it means to be modest, right?"
Joe pulled up his knees. "Sure. Thatís what you, and Erik, and me are supposed to be around Ma but we donít have to be when itís just us."
Leave it to Joe to sum things up in a few words. "Yes, itís that. Itís also being proper about things."
"Whatís modest got to do with prew-dish?"
"Being modest is a good way to be, right? But some people are so modest about the way they speak and dress that they - well, they go too far. You know how Pa expects us to say Ďmaíamí to Ma but we donít have to say Ďsirí to him all the time?"
Joe was looking up at me and he nodded. "But itís good if ya say it when heís frowniní at ya."
"Yes, itís good if you say it then," I agreed and decided I wasnít giving my baby brother a good explanation. "Let me try this another way. Weíre modest with Ma."
"But remember that time I fell off Beauty and my arm was bleeding and Iíd hurt my rib?"
"You really took a trouncing," he said.
I didnít particularly need to be reminded of that fact. "Anyhow, my arm was bleeding and my rib was hurting. Ma made me lay down and then she unbuttoned my shirt so she could take care of me."
"If I were a prude I wouldnít have allowed her to do that."
"Adam," he said in disapproval. "We donít allow Ma, she allows us."
He was missing the point and I was close to forgetting it. "The thing is, Joe, that normally Ma doesnít see me with my shirt unbuttoned. But she needed to help me so she saw me that way. If I had told her I didnít want her to see me that way, if I had told her she couldnít unbutton my shirt - "
"Pa wouldíve tanned you good," Joe finished my sentence before I could.
I gave up. "Yes, he would have."
Joe was quiet for a few minutes and then he asked, "So whatís prew-dish mean?"
I hit him with my hat and we wrestled in the grass. Luckily no one caught me not taking my guard duty seriously.
29 July, Wednesday - Pa woke me up this morning and asked me how it felt to be eighteen years old. I told him it felt like I should have been in California about ten years ago. He told me my smart mouth would get me into trouble I couldnít handle someday and I told him I was counting on it. Then he smacked me on the backside and wished me a happy birthday.
Iíve marveled since the time I was old enough to think about such things that Pa can be happy on my birthday. It has to remind him of my mother and of all the terrible pain that losing her brought into his life.
País told me so much about her that I feel like I know her. But I know her through País eyes and not the way I would have if she had lived. But if she had lived, Erik and Ma and Joe wouldnít be a part of my life. Sometimes when theyíre particularly annoying I think how good life could be without my brothers. When I calm down, though, I feel badly for thinking that way. I wouldnít be me without them.
I rode rear guard today. Riding rear guard gives a man time to mull things over while heís staying fully alert for danger. The only danger weíve experienced lately is when a deer bounded out of nowhere and knocked Mr. Matthew Davis off his feet. The collision could have killed a less resilient person. Despite all the talk about Indians at war, Mr. Billings says theyíre more of a threat to each other than they are to us. So I rode rear guard, alertly watching for Indians who are fighting each other and deer with a grudge against hunters.
I donít know whatís worse. The drives that are monotonous or the drives that are torture or the drives that are filled with torturous monotony. Itís odd how country that strikes me as interesting the first day is boring on the fourth day and has me fighting to keep my eyes open by the fifth day.
Erik and Joe donít seem to have that problem. Erik is always noticing different plants and trees, or the way the wind changes, or how the animals are behaving and what they might need. And Joe wouldnít be bored if you put a neckerchief around his eyes, bound him, and tossed him in a dark cave. He has such an imagination that he is never, ever alone.
I have to admit that some of Joeís convictions were brought about by Erik and me. One night when we were particularly bored, we invented a story about a giant bird that snatches little boys. Of course we had to convince Joe that heís a little boy before that story could take flight. The first time he saw a buzzard pecking at a carcass he made the mistake of asking me what kind of bird we were watching. I told him it was a Curve-Beaked Boysnatcher but not to worry because it was a little one. I suppose I should feel badly about teasing him but I donít. After all, Pa used to do the same thing to me. Iím just keeping the tradition alive.
Time for dinner. I asked John to join us but he said he isnít hungry.
Maís done it again. She surprises me even more than Pa does, and thatís saying a lot. Something smelled wonderful when we sat down to eat tonight. I could have sworn it was cinnamon. When we were finished with the meal, Ma brought the small Dutch oven from behind the wagon and lifted the lid - and there was apple cobbler just like she had made for Erikís birthday. I must have looked as surprised as I felt because she laughed the entire time she dished out the dessert. I couldnít begin to thank her enough. When I finished my second serving she said if she had known I liked apple cobbler so much she would have made it in New Orleans.
I told her that I enjoyed all her cooking. She looked over at Pa and then said, "Yes, well that is understandable when one thinks of what you ate when you were a young child."
I didnít dare step in the middle of that. I just said, "Yes, maíam."
Pa announced that since it was my birthday Erik and Joe would tend to my evening chores. I didnít get the impression that he had told them that but they obeyed him without complaining too much.
So here I sit in all my eighteen-year-old glory writing in a journal by the light of a lantern I took for granted a few months ago and consider a luxury now.
Life is not easy out here, at times it has been almost unbearably difficult. But I know things about myself because of this journey. Things I would never have discovered had I stayed in a city like New Orleans. I can face adversity and I can push myself when every inch of me wants to quit. I can also put aside my own wants in the interest of whatís best for others.
A year ago I just thought I knew how God has blessed me. On this trail I have become more aware of Him than I ever have been in my life.
31 July, Saturday - Mrs. Addie Davis died of the fever late last night. Her grandsons William and James died early this morning. Even though the Davis family is a difficult one to get along with, I am sorry for their loss. We held a funeral today with Mr. Billings speaking over three graves. I was baffled at how quickly Mrs. Davisí family put their hats back on and walked away from the graves without a look back. Her death seems to have bothered the rest of us more than it did them. Micahís cousin Sarah continues to weaken with the fever. I am worried that we will have to bury her before we reach Fort Hall.
Erik found currants while he was out scouting and Ma said weíll eat them tonight. Apple cobbler for my birthday and currants tonight. I wish we had time for Ma to make jam with them and then we could spread it on biscuits in the morning. But Iíll take the currants any way she chooses to serve them.
John rode ahead to scout this morning.
I added the figures Pa has kept and matched them against the map Mr. Billings drew on his last trip through here - we will be about halfway to California when we reach Fort Hall. Mr. Billings said there are interesting springs ahead. I tried to get him to tell me more but he only smiled, shook his head, and said he wouldnít want to spoil the surprise. I asked Pa if he knew what Mr. Billings was talking about and he said he didnít. But his eyes had that light in them.
Pa knows. And he knows itís killing me to know. And I know he isnít about to let me know. So if I pretend Iím not interested anymore maybe Pa will let me know. No. He knows me.
Aug. Ė Erik wrote this
Aug. 1 - Some times I can not figer out Adam no mattur how hard I try. All day long he pestured at me to give him the jurnal back. He knows that is aginst the rules. When enybody is finished with their part of the jurnal Pa ties the pages up with the other pages that are writen on. He ties it with this speshul secret knot that he aint taught us. He sez if we tamper with that knot he will shur enuff know. I aint getting in truble for no one. I aint even getting in truble for Adam least not when it comes to this here jurnal.
We have been thruu some tuff places but we have been thruu some nice places. Right now this is a nice place. There is good grass here for the animels. Mr. Billings sez the dirt is real good here to. I asked Adam how dirt could be good and he sed he wood tell me if I wood give him the jurnal back for just a few minites. I asked Ma how dirt could be good. She sed it means the dirt wood grow good crops like it grows good grass.
There are diffrent fish here that we have nevur had befor. They swim fast and they do not like hooks. Most fish do not like hooks. These fish realy do not like hooks. Yesturdy Adam saw how these fish like to come to the top of the watur and eat bugs. He tryed to figer out a way to make the fishin hook look like a bug but he did not have much luck. Adam and me give up with the fishin. Joe came to the camp and he had a hole bunch of those fish. Adam asked Joe how he cawt them fish. Joe puld himself up real big like he does when he figers he is smarter than Adam. Joe sed he did not catch the fish. Adam sed what did the fish do. Did they jump into Joes hands? Joe sed he shot the fish. Adam and me lookd at the fish and shur enuff there was a bludy spot on them but it did not look like a bullit hole. Adam was not real payshunt by then. Joe saw that Adam was not real payshunt. Joe told us that he shot them fish with his slengshot. Adam and me did not know weather to beleeve Joe or not. He can shur make up the stories. Pa calls them woppers. Pa lookd at the fish. He sed shur enuff that Joe shot them with his slengshot. Adam was down rite diskussted that Joe got fish and we did not.
The best part of bein here on this trail is that there is good watur. We took a bath. I nevur thought I wood like to take a bath. That watur felt good. It was cold but it was good. Joe liked takin a bath and Joe does not ever like to take a bath. Somethin real embareusing happuned. Ma wanted to wash our close. That was fine with us. But Ma meant all our close. She meant the close we were waren. We put up a fuss. It did not do any good at all. The next thin we knew we were sittin there by the fire with blankits puld all arownd us. Adam and Joe and me just sat there and fussed. She put our close on this rope by the fire. The day was good and sunny. As soon as our close were not drippin we put a set back on. Ma had a fit when she saw us drest. Adam told her that our close were not more wet than we have worn them after a rain storm. Ma lookd like she coulda took a switch to Adam. Adam did not look one bit wurried. He kind of shiftd on his feet when Pa walked arownd from the back of the waggon. Then Adam sed we shuld go see abowt the horses. So we did.
Aug. 2 - Jefferzon and me shot some ducks. He is a pretty good shot for him bein only 12 and still a boy and all. Them ducks are not easy to shoot. They know when we are walkin their way and they do not like the looks of us. We got them tho. We got five of them. That was a problum becoz one of us got to take 3 back to camp and the other got to take 2 back to camp. Ma and Pa are all the time teachin us abowt sharing and bein kind. I told jefferson to take the 3 and he did not fuss.
I heard some geese. I lookd but I could not find them. Pa sez they are good to eat. He sez they are bettur than duck. I asked him how he knows. He sed he ate geeese when he lived back east. He sed they ate it for Christmass. I do not think I want geese at Christmass. I want the shrimp and crauwfish and food we had in New orluns.
Adam is lookin at what I write and he tells me I am doin real good with my spellin. Him and Pa wurk with me with my numburs. I do not like numburs much. Joe does not like numburs much. Pa tells us it does not mattur much if we like numburs or not. Ma sez we will learn numburs becoz we need to know numburs. I figer as long as Adam is here we do not need to know numburs. Adam knows all the numburs. I told Pa that. I wurked some more on my numburs with Adam.
Aug. 3 Ė I shur wish some one culd tell me the names of some of these flowurs and other things. Mr. Billens has seen them becoz he was this way befor but he does not know many names. Jeffrey is pretty gud at knowing plants but he duz not know them either. I pick one and I put it in the jurnal. That way may be when we get to calyfournyah some one there will know what these flowurs are. They are shur pretty. Some of them are so blue it hurts my eyes in the brite sun. Some of them are abowt the strongest yella I ever saw. Them geese I saw today were pretty two. I do not see how any one could shoot one of them. They fly so strong and they have real pretty colurs of white and gray and brown on them. I found more burries today. Last time I found burries Ma put suger on them and we got to pour fresh milk from the cow on them. Now that is silly I guess. Where else wood we get milk xcept from a cow. I asked Adam if there is milk from any thin else. He sed there is milk from goats but it smells funny. I do not know how Adam knows these things. I guess he knows them from all that travle Pa and him done befor I come along.
Way back on the trail Pa told us abowt wear I was born. I knew I was not born in the cite fur shur coz Adam tellz me that is why I like the out side so much. I was born back befour we got to Ash hollow the furst time and it is reel pretty there. The land haz lots of grass and more flowurs than I evur saw and nise breezez. It can rain hard their but I figer that rain is what helpz those flowurs to grow. I am glad I waz born in a pretty plase like that.
Pa is shur some thin out here in the country. I nevur knew Pa knew so much abowt so many things. He cunfyouses me when he talks like he is at sea. When he snaps them ordurs it is good to do what he sez. If Joe and me do not know what Pa sed we ask Adam. Some times Adam does not know what Pa sed. That is when he asks Pa real pulite like. Not once has Pa ever been mean when we ask him some thin pulite like. Some times I can tell he is cownting numburs in his head so he will not say some thin mean. Ma tells us to do that when we get to fussing. It is stranje but when I count to 20 well by that time I aint near so upset. I am pretty shur that is why Pa counts numburs in his head. I guess some of the times Adam and Joe and me make him want to fuss. We do not mean to. We do not like to make Ma fuss eethur. We realy do not like to make Ma fuss. When Ma gets real fussy she sez those fourrain words that Adam and Joe and me do not under stand. Adam sez it is probly just as good that we do not know what those words mean.
Aug. 4 - I shur am glad for this good road. I nevur much knew how to be thankfull for a good road befor this. But now I know for shur.
Adam and me rode Beauty and Karly over to the water. We like to race to some thin like a rivur. Adam wins all the time. I got to figer out how he does that. Joe sed he thinks Adam wins becoz Adam is lightur in the saddul. I notised a long time ago that Adam will stand up in the sturups and he gets real low and close to Beautys head. I figer that getting close to a horse head is kind of danjurus. I have seen a horse to pull back its head and nock a man clean off of the saddul. It can hurt a man real bad. Even if you know a horse real good like I know Karly you have to be carefull. Pa sez this and he is real good on a horse. One day Pa and me went huntin. I watched him aim his rifle while his horse was runnin. Pa aimed that rifel and he held on to that horse with his neese and legs. I nevur saw any thin like what Pa did. He shot that wolf and them other wolfs aint bothered our horses or cattle or oxuns any more. I do not think Pa much cares for killin animels. He sed when we was ridin back to camp that he wurried cause that one wolf got to where it came rite to the camp. Pa wurried that the wolf wood hurt a child. He sed horses and cattle and oxun are shur enuff importunt. But he sed there is not any thin as importunt as a child. I told him I figered any wolf that messed with Joe was in for a big suprize what with how good Joe is with that slengshot. Pa laughed real big. He told me that I could cheer him up no mattur what. He told me he was real prowd to have me for a son. That felt real good. It all ways feels good no mattur how many times Pa sez it.
Ma sez that sarah Teague is not any bettur. I asked Ma if may be I should take some of the flowurs over to sarah and maybe that wood help her feel bettur. Ma sed it is best for me not to be arownd Sarah until she is bettur. sarah has been sick a long time.
Aug. 5 - Today we come thruu this open space in the mowntains. And we come on the most amazing thin I ever did see. Even Ma and Pa aint seen nothing like it. I figer what with the way they have travleed they wood see some thin like this. But they have not seen any thin like it.
Ma sed this place is callud soda springs. I nevur saw the likes of it. There is fowntainz comin up out of the ground all over the place. There is holes full of watur and theres holes full of muddy watur. Some of that watur is just abowt the best tastin ever. Some of that watur smells like a real bad rahten egg. There is some fowntainz that have this hard rock arownd them thats built up sort of like that dirt was built up arownd them prayeree dog holes. I cant hardly beleeve we are still here in the same country as new Orluns.
Some of the holes do not shoot watur in to the air. There is this kind of white clowd that comes out of them. Pa and Jeffrey and some of the uther men all ready figered out which of them holes has warm watur for takin baths. Pa told Ma he aint hurryin a bath this time. He sed he plans to sit in that watur until he is all restud up. The animels are real happy to see this watur. They get a little spooked by the sownd comin from down beloh. It sounds for all the world like some thin boiliní under there. Adam sez it sounds just like a steambowt. The ground has got some smooth rock that is slik and every one has to watch their step in some places. That watur where there is that sownd like a steambowt is warm but it is slik like it has two much soap in it or some thin.
That cool watur is real good. It has a kind of bubbul in it that tickuls my nose. Ma had us to fill every thin that will hold watur. When Adam and Joe and me did that Ma gave us each a cup of that watur. She added suger to it. We nevur tastud any thin so good xcept for may be iced creem. I thought Pa nevur wood get out of that warm watur. He fell asleep rite after we ate and he aint moved cents.
Aug. 6 - We are stayin camped tuday. Ma is having those mornin spells agin. She will be fine for some days and then she does not feel well agin. Adam and Joe are wurried abowt her. We were talkin with Pa. I sed it was stranje how these spells only hit her in the mornin and they are pretty much gone way befor the noon meal. Adam leened close like to me. He has the same way of puttin his hands on his sides like Pa does. He leened close like to me and he asked me what I had just sed. I guess he was not listenin two close the first time I sed it. I sed it was stranje how those spells only hit Ma in the mornin. Adam got this look on his face and he puld back from me real slow. He lookd up at Pa. Pa lookd down at him. They had the same look. I donít know what that look was. I could tell they was thinkin a like. Pa and Adam think a like a hole lot of the time. Pa sed real soft that he had not seen how them spells was only in the mornin. He had this look like he was seein some thin real new. Adam just abowt nevur closed his mouth. I asked them what they were thinkin. They wood not tell me or Joe eethur one. Sure nuff Ma was bettur befor mid day.
Aug. 7 - We left the springs with all that nice watur and them nice smellin trees that make good shade. We are goin now to some place that Mr. Billings calls port nuff. Ma tawt us how to count in that kreeole way. I know that nuff means nine. I asked Ma if she knows why they wood call such a place port nine. She sed that may be it was callud some thin else and folks did not hear it rite so now they call it nuff. I guess.
That Davis family aint been takin care of things rite cents way back on the trail. They all ready lost three horses. Tuday one of them broke an axel tree and anuther one of them lost a wheel. That wheel came clean off of there and rolled a good ways across the trail befor Butler Davis cawt up with it. Butler is a fast runner. I shur wood like to race him on foot. Ma fourbids me to be with the Davis boys. I do not do what Ma fourbids me to do. We lost a hole lot of time on uhcount of them Davis people. Pa sed we will be fine cause we make good time the rest of the time. I do not think it is rite for some folks to do so bad by their waggons and animels and xpeckt other folks to put up with them. I know that is not kind to think but that is how I think. I will study on how to be more kind.
Aug. 8 - I see more and more stranje things. This rock is for shur stranje. I picked up a peace and I asked Adam what he figers it is. He sed it is from vohlcaneos. Adam shur does know a lot abowt a lot. Joe asked Adam how there come to be these vohlcaneo rocks here. Adam sed it is becoz there were vohlcaneos here. Joe and I did not beleeve him. We asked Ma and she sed Adam is rite. Joe and I asked Pa. Pa sed that Ma and Adam are rite. Pa saw a vohlcaneo when he was saleing way back. He even saw this vohlcaneo sending this black clowd way up in the air. He sed when some of that black clowd fell it was like fire place ashes or black powder. Joe and me do not know how to figer on this. We have been lookin at this place ever cents and we still do not see vohlcaneos. We are thinkin may be this vohlcaneo rock some how got here from where Pa saw it way over there across the sea.
Aug. 9 - We camped at that port nuff yesterdy. Today we travleed thruu the mowntains and there was anuther steam there. Mr. Billilngs sez that tummoruh we will travle down this stream and then we will be rite close to fort hall.
Joe and me are bettin if fort hall will be bigger than fort lairuhme. We are kind of wonderin if there will be more of them sue indians. I do not much care to see more of them sue. They eat dogs. That aint rite. They have intresting feathurs that they wear. I have a feathur I traded for with the sue. I have a rock like I nevur saw befor. That rock has brite spots in it that shine in the sun. There is a nuther rock that is kind of yella. It is real smooth and real hard. It has these brown lines in it. I shur hope some one some where can tell me what these are. Joe and me are not bettin money. Pa wood tan us good if we was bettin money. We are just bettin who is rite and who is wrong. I say this fort hall aint goin to be as big as the other fort. Joe sez it will be a hole bunch bigger. We will see.
Them Davis men are just abowt to mix up good with Pa and Jeffrey and Mr. Billings and Mr. zeke Teague. They have been drinkin wiskee that they got back at lairuhme. Now they are playin cards. There is not any thin bad with playin cards. Adam and Joe and me do it a bunch if we do not feel like playin checkurs or marbuls. Pa taught Adam and me how to play cards. Ma taught Adam and me and Joe. Pa will not play cards with Ma. Not ever. He sez she cheats. She sez he cheats. They fuss but they aint fussin for real. They get to fussin that way and they are funny to watch. Adam and Joe and me know that Ma and Pa are just playin and not fussin for real. When they fuss for real Adam and Joe and me go some wheres else. But them Davis men are bein real loud at night. They do not half their wagons redee in the mornin. These past cuple mornins we started out and left them. They catch up to us aftur we camp. Then they make all that noise. Ma sez there is not any thin wrong with drinkin that wiskee when a person does knot drink two much. Ma is even more on bein reesponsuble than Pa is. And Pa is real big on bein reesponsuble. Things will all ways go bettur if I just tell Ma or Pa rite out that I did some thin or I did not do some thin. Just abowt every time Pa has tanned me it has been cause I lied abowt not doin some thin. It aint that I like tellin lies it is just that I do not like what I know will happun when Ma or Pa find out what I did. Pa wares his belt all the tyme now and win I am in truble jest seeing that belt kin make me nervous. So I will say I did not do it. Then I get in a mess of truble cause I did what I sed I did not do or I did not do what I sed I did do and I lied abowt it. Pa shur can make my bottom hurt when I do that. So I do not lie the way I did. If Pa lifts his eye brow or when Ma folds her arms I stop and I do not lie. Pa still tans me if I urned it. But Ma and Pa do not ever go on and on abowt some thin Adam or Joe or me does. Mrs. Martha teague who is the muther of Micah she will go on and on and on abowt some thin that Micah did. Most of the time it aint even worth talkin abowt. One day Adam and Joe and Micah and jefferson and Lincoln and me all got in a big old mud fight back there at the springs. It was just for fun. That mud smelled somethin awful. It was the mud that smelled like rahten eggs. We had the best time and we got all slik and we wressuld and we laughed and we got that mud every where. We even got that mud in our hair. We walked up to camp and Ma and Pa laffed so hard that Ma clean lost her breath and Pa had big old tears comin off his face. They coverud their noses and waved us away. It was not any thin bad or any thin. We just got in one of them other watur holes and got cleened up in our close and all. Mrs. Mary miller did not care at all that Jefferson and lincoln got dirty. Mrs. martha Teague just abowt had a kanipshun fit when she saw Micah. That poor boy hurd abowt it for days. She is still talkin abowt it. Ma sed she has a good mind to go talk to Mrs. Teague. Pa sed Ma best not talk to Mrs. Teague cause Mrs. Teague does not think much of any thin is funny. I do not know how that can be. There are all kinds of things that are funny. How does some one not see them?
Aug. 10 - We made camp earliur than we usully do just a cuple miles from fort hall. I won the bet. fort hall aint wurth spit. Mr. billins sed it is a fur trade post. There aint much more to it by the looks of it from here. Sam Billings and Jeffrey and some folks walked or rode to the fort to see abowt suppleyes. There was not much and what there was was to high price. The rest of us know how to take life easy when we can. The animels are real pleased with the grass. After we took life easy then Pa put us to wurk. We checked the waggon and the animels. We fixed a few things abowt the waggon. Not any thin big. Pa sez it could be big if it gave out or broke on the trail. Our animels look fine. Mr. Billings sed that is becoz we take good care of them. Pa put his hand on my showlder and told mr. Billings that I am the one who sees to the animels and tells the rest of the famuly what we must do for the animels. Mr. Billings sed I for shur know what I am doin. I sed that Adam helps. Adam sed no that I was in charge of animels cause I know all abowt them. Adam has all ways been good to share prayz. Joe eats it all up for hisself. But Joe is still a boy.
Sarah died today. Ma took Sarah dyin hardur than she took any of the uthers. Ma has a speshul place in her heart for little girlz. That is why she likes Annie so much. That and cause annie lost her muther. We had a fewnrul for Sarah befor the sun went down.
It is reel sad whin sum one dies but it is duble sad when it iz a child that dies. Camp is real quiet now.
Aug. 11 - We did not stay at fort hall like we stayed at lairuhme. We are restud and the animels are eating good. Ma hasnít had one of them spells in a couple days. May be she is bettur now. But she is real sad abowt Sarah.
There are shur a lot of springs and creeks arownd here. Plenty of trees and things to. Pa calls the trees timbur. That shur is a funny word to me. I asked him why he calls it timbur and he sed that is what he all ways calls it. He does not. He nevur callud trees in New Orlunz timber. I told him that. He gave me one of those long looks and then he got that fun look to his eyes. Pa sed I shur am smart mouthed some times. He sed I am getting that smart mouth from Adam. I told Ma that and Ma sed that the reazon Pa knows a smart mouth when he hears one is cause he has one. I laughed. But I did not tell Pa what I was laughin a bout. There is a diffrense between a smart mouth and disraspect.
Aug. 12 - I will be danged. Adam sed this mornin when we ate brekfust that we have gone more than 1,000 miles from missuree. I asked him if he was for shur and he showed me how he adds up the miles that Pa and Mr. Billings figer. Adam knows his numburs. I guess if he sez we have gone that far then we have gone that far. Pa sed we are past half way to calyfournyah.
Aug. 13 - That mix up that I sed them Davis men were headed for blew all to pieces yesturday late. Adam was ridin Beauty and he saw how one of the Davis waggons had a wheel abowt to bust apart. They have not taken care the way they shuld so now the metul is comin free of the wood of the wheel. Pa told me that the wood pulls in becoz of the dry weathur. I can not count the times we have wurked on our waggon wheels. I do not want to cownt the times. Them Davis men wood rathur drink and play cards. Them Davis women nearly all smoke a pipe like Pa has. So Adam saw this wheel abowt to bust apart and he rode over and told Mr. john Davis that he needed to fix that wheel. That Mr. Davis is the one that took the whip to Hector one night.
Pa saw Adam over by that waggon and he stopped our waggon. Ma came up along side us and we walkud over toward where Adam was. Mr. Davis was standin next to Adam and they were talkin. I could tell that Adam was gettin upset. When you have had Adam for a brother as long as I have you learn what to watch for when he is getting upset. He stuck out his chin and I knew there was truble. Lots of truble. He was standin on the ground and he was holdin Beautyís rainz and he was flat out shoutin at Mr. Davis. Ma and Pa do not like that kind of thin from Adam or Joe or me. I was shur that Pa wood make Adam wish that he had not yelled at Mr. davis. But I was wrong. Right abowt then Adam kickd his boot at that waggon wheel and it busted apart just like he knew it wood.
We were close enuff then that we could hear Mr. Davis and he sed that Adam had broken the wheel. A purson does best not to say that Adam did some thin he did not do. I have seen Adam that mad befor but not many times. Mr. Davis raised up his rite arm and he made to hit Adam with a whip. I have nevur seen Pa move so fast. As soon as Ma screamd out and threw her hands over her mouth cause she thought Mr. Davis wood hit Adam well as soon as that Pa was rite there between Adam and Mr. Davis. Pa smaked the flat of his left hand aginst Adamís chest and pushd Adam back so that Adam all most fell in to Beauty. At the same tyme Pa made a fist with his rite hand and he crashd his fist under Mr. Davis chin and Mr. Davis fell like a dead fly. I thowt Pa for shur killd Mr. Davis. I think Adam did to cause Adam had his mouth open and by the time I got there Adam rolld his eyes my way and I rolld my eyes his way and we were thinkin the same thin that Pa was a hole lot strongur than we eethur one thought. Right then we thought just what he could have done to our behinds when he tannd us when we were yunger. We just thought our behinds hurt bad. They could have hurt a hole lot worse. Pa is as stwrong as a grizzlee bear.
Ma took Adam by the showlders and asked him if he was all rite. Then Pa turned arownd. He sort of waved his rite hand beside him like he does when he hurts a nuckle wurking with the tools. He asked Adam if he was all rite. Well Adam and me were way to suprized to eethur one say any thin. We both lookd at Mr. Davis who was layin there on the ground like he was dead. We both lookd up at Pa. He had the back of his rite hand up to his mouth like he was kissin it or some thin. Adam and me lookd back down at Mr. Davis. Adam whisperd to me askin if Mr. Davis was breathin. I whispered back that I thought he was dead as a rock. Ma lookd up at Pa all wurried like. But Pa lookd over his showlder, down at Mr. Davis, and he sed real simple that Mr. Davis wood live. Ma beleeved Pa but Adam and me were not to shur at all.
Joe was with Micah when all this happuned. Adam and me told Joe all abowt it while Ma and Pa were at a meeting with the other travleers. Joe had his mouth hangin open bigger than Adam had when Pa knoked Mr. Davis half way to heavun. We were there by the camp fire and Adam leened real close to Joe. Adam told Joe that him and me had seen how strong Pa was and that Joe wood do a sight bettur not to get Pa to upset from now on.
Ma and Pa got back from the meeting. Adam and Joe and me stayd real clear of Pa. He askd us if we wood like to tell him what was wrong. I figer he thought we had been into some mess. None of us sed a thin. He puld his head back like he duz and lookd at us from the bottums of his eyes like he duz and then he motiond for us to sit down in front of him and he sat down. He askd us what was on our minds. We did not say any thin. Then Adam askd if Mr. Davis was all rite. Pa sed he was fine. Joe sed it sownded like Pa beat the stuffen out of Mr. Davis. Pa slid his eyes over Adam and me. He sed he hit Mr. Davis one time. Joe sed it didnít sownd like Pa needed to hit more than one time. Joe donít know when to stop. He askd Pa where he learned to hit like that and culd he teach Joe. Pa sed he does not hold with us fightin. Joe asked what the differnce was in us fightin and Pa knocken out Mr. davis. Ma watched Pa real close. Pa sed that he did not like to hit peple but that Mr. davis was ready to hurt Adam. Then Pa sed no one wood ever hurt one of hiz sons when he was a round. Joe got up and walkd over and sat in Paz lap and Joe sed that no one wood ever hurt Pa while we are a round eethur. And then Joe lookd up at Ma and he sed that no body bettur ever try to hurt Ma or he wood get them with his slengshot. I could feel Adam shakin beside me. He was laughin into his hands. Joe got upset with Adam and sed he was real good with his slengshot and he bet he could hit any thin that Adam could hit with a riful. Course he added real quick to Ma and Pa that he was not talkin abowt bettin money. He was just talkin abowt bettin.
Adam and Joe are goin to have a shoot off I bet.
Aug. 14 - Them Davis peple aint travleing with us no more. They stayd campd when we headed out. Pa sed that the Davis family is joinin that waggon train that is a couple days buhind us. I think it has some thin to do with yesturday.
All kinds of intresting things happuned today. We followd the snake rivur agin. There are these tall walls of dark rock. Then the rivur goes fallin over rocks and that is what Mr. Billings sed is amurican falls. I could hear them befor we could see them cause they are mitey loud. I do not think I have ever seen watur like that. It is like a rivur goin up and down instead of side to side. I could stand there and watch that watur do that all day. No. Jeffrey said I could not stand there all day. But I wood like to stand there all day.
Adam and Joe had that shoot off and it kind of wint wrong on them. See Adam and Joe ducided they wood just see if Joe could hit any thin Adam could. They startd off at dawn. The problum was they did not tell any one what they plannd and when Adam fired off his rifle the first time well evury one thought there was indians causin truble. The problum was that no body could figer out where the rifel shot came from. So then there was a sekund rifle shot. Pa figered out that Adam and Joe were missin. I thought them indians had takun my brothers. Ma figered Adam and Joe were out fightin with the indians. Pa did not think eethur way. Pa slammed his hat on his head and he took them big old steps toward where he figered them shots were comin from. He yelld over his showlder to every one else that nuthing was wrong. I was pretty shur some thin big was abowt to be wrong. Ma and me ran after Pa. When he is takin those big steps there aint no keepin up with him xcept when I run.
What turnd out was that Adam and Joe were down there in the rivur bottum. I could not hear what they were sayin but I could tell by the way their chins were stickin out and they were waven their arms that Adam and Joe were fussin. Adam loaded the rifle and then he swung it up to his showlder and he fired off a shot. Right then Joe let go his slengshot and sent a good sized rock rite aftur that bullit. Ma and me cawt up to Pa just befor this happuned. The three of us stood there on top of the rivur bluff. The next thin I knew Pa yelld to get down and he grabbd at Maz head and pushd her down. I heard a bunch of buzzin down below us and some sort of sownd like some thin was bouncin off rocks and then some thin that sownded like a whissel went past Ma and Pa and me.
I lookd up and crawld to see over the edge of the bluff. It was may be ate feet high. Down there in the rivur bottum Joe was flat on his stumuk and had his hands over his hat on his head. Adam was sort of sittin on his boot heelz with the rifle in his rite hand. He had his left hand on top of his hat like he was holdin it on and he sed some words he should not have sed. He turnd and yelld at Joe and asked what the hail had Joe been thinkin. Joe pushed up on his elbows and then was on his feet and he yelld at Adam what the devil had Adam been thinkin. I was prayin real hard and fast that Ma and Pa could not hear what I could hear. Some times God does not answer my prayurs. Pa was down in that rivur bottom befor I got to my feet. He yelld out for Adam and then he yelld out for Joe. Course when Pa is upset he makes Adam sownd like Add Uhm and he makes Joe sownd like Jo Sef. Pa can yell real loud. My brothers were in a big mess of truble. Pa got to where Adam and Joe were standin. They were as white as clouds. Maybe whiter. Pa turnd. He lookd up at Ma and me and askd us to excuse him and Adam and Joe. When Pa sez that what he means is for us to leave. So we did. I did not much want to see what happuned next any how.
After dinner Adam lookd at me and then lookd at Joe. We needed to have a brothr talk. We cleened up the dishes and then we real quiet like walkd to where the animels were. Adam sed he strongly rekumended that all three of us be on compuny manners with Pa for a couple days. Joe sed he thought this was a real good idea. I did not want to know what happuned when Ma and me left the rivur bank. Joe sed that Adam and him were both aimin for a bush that was just past that big old rock I could see. Well they both missd. I could not beleeve they both missed. Adam does not miss what he aims at with a riful and Joe does not miss with his slengshot eethur. But we are havin a lot of truble lately judgin how far things are. Adam sez it is somethin abowt the air arownd here but I do not think air is diffrent any where. But I donít have a answer bettur than that. Adam and Joe did not judge rite how far off that bush was. That bullit that Adam shot and that smallur rock that Joe shot hit that big rock instead of the bush. That big old rock was real hard. That bullit came flyin back and so did that rock that Joe shot. Adam and Joe got down. That bullit and that rock that Joe shot went over Adam and Joe. Then them things hit these rocks behind Adam and Joe. And them things bounced off them rocks. Them things shot back over Adam and Joe agin. They hit that big old rock agin. But they hit that big old rock in a diffrent place. Them things went bouncin off that big old rock agin. That littlur rock that Joe shot out of his slengshot sort of died when it slammd into the side of the creek bank. That bullit that Adam shot did not hit the side of the creek bank. That bullit went highur up. That is what I hurd whissel past me. I sed it was a mirakul that they were not killd. Adam sed it is a mirakaul that Pa did not kill thum. I did not ask any questchons. Adam and Joe and me walkd real quiet back to camp and we got in our bed rolls real quiet. I think I will put out the lanturn now.
Aug. 15 - Today we come to where the two trails devide. One way takes folks to oruhgun and the other way takes folks where we are goin to calyfournyah. Course we are all goin to calyfournyah so we are all going the same way. We got to the casue River.
Well, no we are not all goin the same way. John and Annie and their Pa dusided to go to Oragun with this train that we met up with tuday. That uther train come from a cut off and aftur Pa talkd with them uther people he said he was glad we did not take that cut off. Adam and John had a hard time of it saying gud bye.
Ma is ridin in the waggon today. I donít think she feelz too good with Annie leeviní and all.
This writin in the jurnal is not bad at all. I told Joe that. Joe does not want to do this. Adam told Joe to be real careful not to write any thin that he does not want every one to know latur. Joe askd what could he write that every one does not know cause every one is here. I do not understand Adam eethur. If we are all here and we are writin a bout what we are doin then every one will know what we are writin a bout. Adam shur is smart but he does not all ways make a lot of cents.
Uther Other part of Aug. Ė J. Cartwright, eskwire
Sonday Ė Gahlly we saw sumthing tuday. We wuz on this rode we are allwaz on a rode but sum of this rode was reel bad it was bad reel bad and this rode it was on well it was in theez
mow no Adam sez it is mountains now he sez it is says and I towld Adam I do not need his help at all not at all. This rode was in mountains so these mountains they all of a suden they had this hole in them well not a reel hole like a wide hole with owt a top and we wint thru those mountains and all of a sudden there was sumthing I nevur did see I mean I saw it tuday but I nevur saw it befour tuday. It is kalled sitee of rocks and sum peple say it is cassle rocks but it is rocks fer shur and it is sumthing it is all these rocks and sum of these rocks are big as a mountain and sum of these rocks are big as a howse and sum of these rocks are like bred bridjus bridges and they are all arownd and I do not see why they call it a sitee coz it is not like a sitee I half seen. The rode is fine coz the rocks are not in the way and Adam and Erik and me we axed Ma if we might look at these rocks bettur and Ma said yes and we did it right thin. Erik got me on Karlee and all three of us we rode to sum rocks and they were smoothe and Adam sed they are smoothe from watur or wind well their is wind but there is no watur well not their is not watur their is watur so we are fine. The rocks wur fun to klime on but we did not tell Ma what we did and she did not ax and so we did not lie not reely we just did not tail her all that we did and that is not a lie it is not a lie til Ma or Pa axes strate out and I lie strate out and then it is a lie and then it is a mess with Pa coz Pa will spank me fer sure if I lie. So I do not lie less I kin be sure Ma and Pa can not tail I tail a lie and thin Pa will not spank me coz I do not like his spankens not at all. One tyme Pa nocked Mr. Davis owt and Adam and Erik told me to be reel carefull not to make Pa to upset becoz he is a lot stwronger than any of us thought and so he kin spank a lot hardur than any of us thought. So we rode down this rode with all these rocks on the sidz and we shur wisht we culd stay but Pa sed we culd not stay but the rode took a long time with those rocks on our sidz and so we campd near the end of the rocks and aftur we did choorz we were aloud to go to the rocks agin and Adam and Erik and me we had lotz of fun with those rocks. And so Adam and Erik and me we nay named these rocks and sum of the names were coz the rocks luked looked like sumthing and thin some of the namez well we made up sum of the namez and they are not namez we wuld say with Ma and Pa a round and we laffed a lot we laffed a hole lot and thin we laffed sum more. We axed if we might be aloud to sleep in the rocks but Ma did not like that so we axed her sum more and she changd what she sed so we sed thank you and Adam and Erik and me wint back to the rocks and we waa watchet watched the moon and the stars and thin we hurd animuls and Adam sed we shuld may be go back to kamp and we got back to kamp and there was Ma and Pa waiten for us and they had sum warm milk waiten for uz. Good night.
sed said to do this. Pa said to do this. So I preddy much gehse guess I half to do this. I told Adam I will give him all my sweetz four ever if he will do this but he sed said that I did not right four him and he will not right four me and I told him that he did not ax me to right four him and he said sed he did not axe ask me to right four him coz he new I wuld not do it. I wuld not half but I do not no how Adam nos this it is not lik I sed said to him I will not right four him but Adam nos a lot and Adam nos I do not right much. The uhter day Adam red to me frum a book and there wuz this wurd eskwire. I axed him whut it was and he sed it wuz a fancee wurd for misstur. I like that wurd eskwire so I am now eskwire Joseph Cartwright only Adam sez it is bettur if it goes last in the name. We walkd to this plase on a rivur and now we are kampd not far but not kloze but we are kloze so we half the watur and the animuls half the watur. It is em im empourtant four all of us to half watur coz if we do not half watur we are in bad truble reel bad truble coz then we need watur and we do not half watur and the animuls do not do gud if they do not half watur so we need watur. Watur is reel gud to half out hear. We had a lot of watur in new Areleens. Times there wuz two much of the watur but now there is not too much of the watur so we need watur and watur is good cept win watur is bad win watur is bad it is reel bad it is not like any watur I like.
Twozday Ė Ma said to do this and I told her I do not want to and she said I half to and I told her I half bin working and I do not half the time and she told me that I half time now and I told her I do not want to and she said I half to so hear I am. There wuza storm with
hell hail and it hurt some stuff but Pa told us we are fine and the waggun is fine and the anemils animuls are fine so I do not see that I need to right about it. Thair is thiz creak and it iz gooz goose creak and I think that is a funny name. Adam shot a anti anta dear and Ma told us we will be eating it four days but the way I see it with Erik we will not half that dear but tumorow and then it will be gone. Ma told me it is gud four me to right in this coz it helps with my speling and my righting and I do not think I need to do this and if I tell her that two much then Pa gets mad and I do not mind at times but times I do mind coz Pa can get mad. He did twoday. He got reel, reel mad and I told him he wuz spanken me reel bad but Pa did not lissen and I told Pa he broak my behind and Pa told me he did not but he kuld and I told him how did he know if it wuz broak or not coz it wuz not hiz and I told him he did not no abowt my behind and he told me he knows it reel good. And I told Pa it wuz not good it wuz bad and he told me to be kwi to stop talken and I did. You no what. You no why he got so mad with me. It wuz not my falt. Not at all. I got the rifel so I kuld show it to the gurlz. I wanted to show it to the gurls and I did not meen four the rifel to do what it did but it did and I did not want it two. Pa talkd a lot on not taken the rifel unless Pa or Adam is with me but I wuz not taken the rifel I wuz geting the rifel so I kuld show it to the gurls and I did not meen four the rifel to shoot like it did. But it did. And it skared me and the gurls and it skared Pa coz that bullit bullet went right by Pa and Pa got mad and Pa took me away and Pa spankt me and I told Pa he wuz spanken me reel bad but Pa did not lissen. He did not lissen. Pa nevur lissens. Not win he is spanken. And hear I am and my buhind is soar and I can sit but I do not like two but Ma said I half to right. And I do not like this righting coz I half to stop and ask Adam how to spel words and then I half to scratch them owt and start righting and I think Ma is not right coz I do not think this righting is fun or helpz my speling or my righting and I can not right like I say things. Pa told me if I praktise the righting I will right like I talk but I do not know how to spel stuff like win I say downt and I axed Adam and he told me it is good right now if I downt right that way that I need to right better then I talk but I think I talk fine and it is win I right that I do not sound right. Good night.
Wenzday Ė Pa let me drive the oxun and I liked that and Pa told me to stay with him coz he did not want a good man like me to fawl and half the wagun wheel run over me and I told Pa I do not want to be run over so Pa let me drive the wagun and Pa told me I did reel good drivun the wagun and so did Adam. And Ma rode Eriks horse and she did like she does you know she rides fast and Pa does not like it much but I do not think that Ma kares coz she likes to ride fast and she is good she is reel good but Pa told me he
wur worries and I told him she is fine and then I told him we should think about drivun the wagun coz he always tails me to think about what I do and if we do not think about the wagun then we kuld half a axi aski mess and we do not need one of those coz Pa told me we are doing good and we shuld be passed the mountains. I think Adam is teazing me on that word coz I still do not think it is spelt that way but Adam told me it is so I guess it is I guess I might ask Ma but if I do that she will tell me that see righting in this jurnal is good praktise and I do not need praktise and Pa told me we are doing good and we shuld be passed the mountains befour the snow and I do not like that coz I want to see snow and I told Pa that and Pa told me I will see lotz of snow maybe some time and Pa told me we do not want to see snow while we are doing this and I told Pa I do and he told me to think about the wagun so I did. I still say this righting is dum coz I still can not right like I talk and win I read this it sounds dum coz I can not right like I talk and this sounds like a dum boy and I am not a dum boy Ma told me I am reel smart so I do not like to sound like a dum boy but that is what my righting soundz like and I do not like it. Not one bit. Drivun the wagun wuz fun and Pa told me that I did so good that he will let me drive agin and I told Pa that I think I kuld drive by myself and I do not think Pa thinks so. Pa is reel nise and he is funny and he tells me storys at night and he showz me how to do stuff and he has good hugz and he holdz me up so I can cee see stuff and he telz the uther folkz how big I am and I drove the wagun and he is reel good. Pa is nise and he is good and he is the best Pa in the hole world. Pa is good and I am going to hug him now so good night.
Hear I am. I told Pa I do not want to do this but he did not kare and hear I am. Nuthing much is going on. I saw some stuff I nevur saw befour. It is a nother kind of rock and it is
inres inters it is not like any rock I saw befour. I put a small one in that box I half. It is a speshul box and Erik told me he had a speshul box four rocks two win he wuz little and I told Erik I am not little and he told me I am and I told him I am not and he told me I am and we were in the wagun coz we were tird and Ma told us we kuld rest a bit and I told Erik I am not little and he told me I am and I told him I am not. Erik told me I am little and then Pa told us do not make him stop the wagun. And Erik and me we got kw reel still. And Erik and me did not talk. We did not talk at all. I made facez at Erik and he made facez at me and you no what. You no what came then. I wuld not think it but I wuz their. I made facez at Erik and he made facez at me and Pa wuz drivun the wagun and he kuld not cee see us and you no what. Evin if he kuld not see us Pa told us to kw be still. I askd Erik if he can tail how Pa kuld tail we made facez and Erik told me he can not tail at all and Erik told me how win Erik and Adam were little I still say I do not think Erik wuz little and Erik told me how win Erik and Adam were little Pa kuld no what they did and they did not tail him. Nuthing much is going on. We saw sum in-dee-unz back their a wayz at that fourt and they had horsez and they were dark the in-dee-unz were dark not the horsez and sum some of the horsez were dark two but most of the horses were spotty and I think the horses that wur spotty are nize and win I half a horze I want to half a spotty horse. Adamz horse her name is Bue Buh Beauty and she iz not spotty and Erikz horse her name iz Karrlee and she is not spotty so if my horse is spotty he will not be like Adamz and Erikz horses. I want a boy horse coz if I half a boy horze he will not be like Adamz and Erikz horses coz there horses are not boyz they are girlz. Erik told me they are called mayorz no Adam told me they are speld mares win I askd him but Adamz and Erikz horses are mares and my horse will not be he will be Erik told me a boy horse is a stalyun no Adam told me to spel it stallyun no stallion. That does not look like it shuld to me. Lots of wurds do not look like they shuld half you notized and I guess that is coz they want to make it hard to lern how to spel coz there is no other reezon four it that I no. And we saw in-dee-unz. And then we saw grass I nevur saw befour. Erik saw it and he puld it up and he told me to look at it and I saw grass but Erik told me to look at it hard and I did and the grass wuz not like grass I saw befour. Erik put it in hear in this book to smush it. He duz that a lot. He pulz it up and he looks at it and tells us about it and then he smushes it in hear in this book and I told Ma if he kepz smushing stuff this book will be full and Ma told me I still must right and I still do not want two right and Pa is not in a good mooed and Adam told me to let it be but I can not let it be and I told Ma it is dum to right in this book and then Pa held up his spanken hand like he does and Adam wuz right and so I am hear righting in this book. I do not half much two right. One of the wagguns had a fire. They half a fire all the time to cook on and stuff. But this fire wuz on a gurlz dressus and it skared them and it skared Ma but Pa put it out. Pa is good that way. Pa is smart and he is fast and he put out the fire and the gurl is fine. We are at thiz plase wear there iz springz and they are hot. I can not rumembur what it is calld and it is rainen all of a suden and I told Ma I shuld stop righting or this book will be wet and she laft and said that is fine four me to not right so good night. Fryday Friday -
Adam and me half been worken on my speling while we watch the animuls at the back of the train and I half learned how to spel the dayz of the weak no week and Adam says I am a smart boy and I say I am not a boy and Adam sez says fine I am a smart yung man and I say I no. What we will do what Adam and me will do is we will work a lot on my speling and whin Ma sees how good my speling is she will be Adam sed said I am not speling that word right it is spelling fine I will spel it that way no now Adam says it is not spel it is spell I askd Adam to not sit and watch me and he said he must to help me spel oh all right spell so Ma and Pa will see how much bettur I am and then she mite might tell Pa that he might ri write in this jurnal a head of time and then I will not half have to do this any more and Adam stop looken will you.
I want to know why I
spel spell it that way when it is Satturdey. This rode is fine there is water for us and the animuls and there is grass for the animuls coz I do not think we will eat grass it is some times green and there is not a thing green that is good to eat not to me there is not. We crossed this creak 9 timez now and what I want to no iz how cum we do not just flowt down and not mess with all this croszen. I axed Jeffrey abowt this and he sed that there is placez wear the watur is not deep enuf for flowting. I guess Jeffrey is right becoz he is right abowt most thingz he is all most as smart as Mr. B. and he is nize and he is sort of teeching me how to work with the oxes.
A way from this watur it is strange it is like
dessert desert because dessert is sweets and that land like desert has this stuff caktuuz no cactus and it is not a good thing that cactus coz it has these sticky things and they hurt I no coz I got a sticky thing in my leg and I said to Ma to jest just leaf leave it but Mr. B. he said the sticky thing can make a bad place and make me sick and I do not wish to be sick coz of a sticky thing so I aloud told asked Ma to get it and it hurt lots more puling than it did to get it but it is out and she put that stuff on it that she got from a plant and she sez says I will be fine and I want to be fine coz you no know no what there are raddlesnakes. I can say this coz Adam is out with the animuls and not seeing what I right or I culd not right this but I want to get a raddlesnake and then I can keep that raddlesnake and I can have fun coz I can skare peple with my raddlesnake. I will half have to be real sneaky not coz of the raddlesnake coz of Pa coz if Pa sees me get a raddlesnake I will be in a mess a real mess so it is best if Pa does not see and it is reely best if Pa does not even no know. I will hit a raddlesnake with my sling shot not to kill him but just to nock him out like Pa did mr. Davis and then my raddlesnake will be fine and then my raddlesnake and me will have some fun. I will tell Ma that I am going to hunt rabbits she will be leave me if I tell her I am going to hunt rabbets and then I can hunt a rattlesnake and I can keep my raddlesnake in one of these mptee empty I got that spelled right all by myself I can get one of these empty saks and I can keep my raddlesnake in my empty sak and I think I will call my raddlesnake Elmer coz I can coz he is my snake aint he.
That sure did not work no it did not work at all not one bit and my behind does not hurt as bad as this mornen but
gahlly golly it hurt this mornen. I figured Ma mite skare scare Elmer so I wood would hide him where he was safe and you know what Pa nevur ever goes to that empty box that we had the first food in he just nevur goes there but he went there. I did not mean for him to go there coz I would not put elmer there and let Pa skare scare Elmer the way Pa did. Elmer is a fine snake Elmer was a fine snake til Pa got a holt of him and now elmer is a dead snake he is dead as a boot. I told Pa that Elmer is a good snake but Pa did not lissen listen he nevur does when he is upset and he was reel real upset with Elmer. Well aftur he shot elmer then Pa looked at me and he askt me what I said and I said that I said that Elmer is wuz a good snake and oh did Pa get that bad look in his eyez and oh did I no I was in a mess and he said how did I know the snake was elmer and oh I was in a big mess. I said to Pa that I did not no know that the snake was Elmer I just said he was and Pa said why did I say the snake was elmer and I said the snake looked like a elmer and Pa said why did the snake look like an Elmer he said it was an Elmer not a Elmer and I said I did not know that it was an elmer and not a Elmer and why was it an Elmer and not a elmer and Pa said not to change the seb sub what we were talken about so well I saw that Pa saw that I was not tellen the truth. I was sort of tellen the truth coz that raddlesnake was named elmer but Pa does not like that kind of thing when I say I was sort of tellen the truth he says it is the truth or it is not the truth but I do not see it like that but what I see duz not count with Pa.
Pa and me went in the waggun and Pa talkd and Pa said I culd be hert by a raddlesnake and I said Elmer was a good snake and Pa said to not call a raddlesnake elmer and I said what did he want me to call Elmer did he want me to call him Abruham or izak or jakub or well I nevur did say any more names coz all of a sudden I was looken at Paz boots and Pa spankt me and he spankt me reel reel bad and it was not good not good at all. And he talkd while he spankt me and he said I no a darn site bettur than to sass and I wantud to tell him that just becoz I know bettur does not all wayz mean that I do bettur but well I culd not talk rite then. So now when I need to go I must
half have Adam or Erik with me and I can not be wear Ma or Pa can not see me and this is just a big old dum rode there is not a thing to see it is just the same old thing and I have got more spankens on this dum rode than ever be four in my hole life and I do not care if I evur no how to spell coz what good is it to spell it sure does not keep Pa from spanken no it does not.
We will nevur get to Cal-e-four-na I just know we will nevur get there. No we will not coz this dum rode does not go there it just goes and goez and goes and it is a dum rode. Adam iz put owt with this rode to but Erik can all ways find some thing intresten. Erik likes it where ever Erik is. He is a gud brother coz Erik does not yell at me or make me feel bad. Adam some times yellz at me but it is when I am not thinken and I can get hurt but Erik and Adam are good brothers and Mikah does not have a brother and he likes Adam and Erik and I said to Mikah that he can be a brother and he said he wantz to and so Adam and Erik and Mikah and me spit on it and now Mikah is a brother. I sure do hope this rode goz some where but I do not think it does I do not think it goes any where at all not at all so I will study on my spelling with Adam coz there is not any thing to do and I am tired of there not being any thing and I sure do hope this
road rode goes some where I sure do.
Pa is stil upset with me and when he is upset with me and I do not want to see him but Adam says Pa is not upset with me. Erik says I shuld no Pa by now and Pa does not stay upset that Pa spankz me and then Pa hugz me and then Pa is not upset but I told Erik that Pa did not hug me and that is why I no that Pa is still upset with me even if he smilez and thingz.
I got one of my rocks from the box and so I knew I wuld walk and so I put down that rock and I kicked it. I kicked it and I kicked it and Pa rode up beside me coz he was riding Karllee and I got well I got
wurred worried coz I thought may be I had not done a choor or some thing but Pa axed me if I would like to ride with him sum. Pa and me well I have not got near Pa sinz well sinz he kilt Elmer may be I can fourgive him for the way he shot elmer even tho Elmer did not do any thing. Coz the Bibul says we must fourgive uther folks if we figgur on God fourgiven us. And I figur may be I shuld fourgive lots of thingz on uthers so that way God will fourgive lots of thingz on me.
There is some thing I axe Adam a bout and every time I axe Adam he laffs so hard he can not tell me the
ansur answer and that is what a cuverd azz is. Adam laffs until he has tears cuming down his face when I axe that and I nevur can get a answer from Adam. So this one time whin we were haven dinnur way back their by the fowrt I figured I wood would ask Ma and it made the biggest mess you ever saw I mean Erik he coffed and coffed and Adam well he laffed like all ways and Pa you know what Pa did he spit out his tee tea and he got it all over everything and I nevur did see Pa do some thing like that. Ma took this reel deep breeth breath and she axed me to use the wurds in a sintense so I figured the best way to use them is like they use them in the Bibul Bible and so I said that no one shuld cuverd any one elsez azz. Pa and Adam and Erik were just good fer nuthen they were laffing so hard and Ma was kind like Pa all ways says to be and Ma said that the Bible meanz not to want what be longs to some body else but to be happee with what I half have and I axed her what did this azz have to do with any thing and Pa fell back wayz off the box he waz sitten on and that made Adam and Erik laff even more. Ma said an azz is anuther word for a mule and I said why did the Bible not say not to want your naybors neighburs mule instead of coverd the neighburs azz and you know what Adam skreemed like a gurl he laffed so hard. Ma said that the Bible was writtun way back and back then they said coverd and that the word is covet and that it is probly good not to say azz but to say mule and then all of sudden I new what that azz wurd is and I was sure I wuz in a mess with Pa but Pa was laffen so hard he culd hardly laff he does that sum some times he getz laffen laffing laughing so hard that he just makes this kind of air sound in his throwt throat. Pa grabbed me up and hugged me and said I had made his day and I said no that God made his day and Pa said but I made it a bettur day.
Today I walked and I kicked my rock and I kicked my rock and Pa rode up and he axed me if I wanted to ride with him on Karrlee. I told Pa I was fine with walking and kicken my rock and Pa got off Karllee and he
leed led her and he walked along side me he even walked slow coz most of the time it is hard to stay by Pa when he walkz but I was not stayen by him he was stayen by me and he told me that he wurried coz he did not think I was fine and I said I was fine and you know how Pa iz he still knowed knew I was not fine. Well he stopped walken and he held on to Karrlee but he piked picked me up and he looked in my eyez and when Pa looks at my eyez well I can not tell a lie for shure. And Pa said may be I wuld like to tell him why I was not fine and I leand my head to his showlder and I did not say a thing not a thing but you know what. Pa said soft like that he remembured some thing that he had fourgot and I said what and he said he needud a hug and well I had to hug Pa so he would be fine and I did and he was fine and I was fine but I did not let him know right off that I was fine becoz I like to have Pa hug me and I did not say a thing and then he patted my behind and then he kissed me on the head and then he put me back on the grownd and then he said thank you becoz I helped him feel bettur and now he felt fine and I said I felt fine now two and then I rode Karrlee with him.
Ma is so funny she is always fun but some times she is even more fun she is funny. I had my rock that I was kicken a long the rode like I was kicken yesturday and I was kicken and out of no where I mean just out of no where Ma ran in front of me and she kicked my rock and well I ran ahead of her and I kicked the rock back to her and she kicked the rock to me and then I kicked it ahead of me and we both ran to be the first to kick the rock and some times there are times when Ma laffs just like a gurl and she did then. And you know what Ma did she pushed me away from the rock and I went to push her but Ma is a
lade lady and a Cartwright does not ever push a lady but you know what she said she said I was a fraid to push becoz I was a fraid she could ressle restle me to the ground. This ground is about as bad as it can be I mean it is all dustee and it is all over us and our close and I was not shure I shuld push a lady and then Ma said she is not a lady she is my Ma and I laffed real hard and then she pushed at me and I got a hold of her so I would not fall and you know what we both feel fell on to the ground and oh did we get dirtee and we had to get up fast becoz there was Erik driven driving the oxen and we did not want to be under those animuls and Erik saw Ma and me whin we got up and he laffed so hard he had to stop the animuls coz he could not see coz he was laffing and he said Ma and me were a mess and I luked looked up at Ma and she sure was a mess she was dirtee all over and Pa came back from bean being scout and he said he could not leaf Ma and me out of his site for a menit.
They named that place with the water aftur us well it is not named Cartwright it is named well
pepel people are kallen it imugrunt springz nope Adam says it is emigrant wells and he says it starts with big letturs. I axed Pa what was an emigrant and when did we become that becoz I thout thought we are kristuns Christianz and Pa put his handz on his nee kneez knees and he leened down to me and he said where do I come up with these kwestjuns questions and I said he is all the time telling me to think and that I have been thinken and when did we turn in to emigrantz was what I want to know. Pa picked me up and he said emigrants is just anuther name for us while we are travul travelen and I said why do they not call it travelen wells and well you know what happunud. Adam started his laffen again. Pa said if it wuz was called travelen wellz then folks wuld think that the wells travel like they move a round and I said that was dum becoz they shuld know that wells do not travel and if folks are that dum they sure would not live long on this rode becoz if folks are that dum they would not even know when to go. Pa said I ment meant where to go and I said no I did not I meant when to go like when you have to go rite then and Pa shook so much when he laffed that he shook me and well Erik laffed and Ma laffed and I said what was so funny and Pa said that I have made a hard travel a lot bettur becoz I can make the famlee family laff and I said really I make the travel bettur and he said sure I do and he said I make the travel bettur just becoz I am Joe and I make the family bettur just becoz I am Joe but that I make the bettur travel even bettur becoz I make the family laff rite when they need it most. Good night.
Saturday - Same thing aint nuthen happening.
Sunday - We had rain and we had sum lightnen and that is abowt as intresten as it got. Shur do hope this rode goes some where. Shur will be glad win it is Paz turn to right in this jurnel coz there just aint nuthen happening and he can right abowt nuthen happening and I will knot half to right abowt nuthen happening.
Taday while Pa and me were working I axed him if he was evur my age and he said shur. And you no what. Pa said I know lotz more than he did when he was like me I mean when he was my age. He said that I have dun all kindz of things that he did not do like I have bin in new Orleens and he was not there til he was old. I am here and I have done all thiz travlen and here I am 8 and Pa is well Pa is not 8 and Pa has not ben 8 for a long tyme. And Pa when he was 8 he did not no how to cook on a camp fire or how to drive oxes or how to ride a horse as good as I do or how to chase prayer dogs you know those litel dogs we saw befour and mostly he said he was not as strowng as me when he was 8. And Pa said I just no all kindz of stuff he did not no. He said that when he was 8 that he did not all ways undur stand growed ups and I said me eeithur and he said did I undur stand that I am
lovud loved and I said well shur and he said did I undur stand that I am mportent and I said well shur and he said did I undur stand that God made me speshul just to be a Cartwright and well sure. And then Pa picked me up and he said did I undur stand that I was the most speshul 8 years boy in the hole countree and I said reely and he said shur and that I had this big place in his hart and that he luvs me a hole lot and that it is fine if I do not under stand evury thing and that I do not all ways want to talk or may be I do not fill like laffen. He said it iz all right to be board and I said how it is a person can be a board and he smiled and he said it is not board like a peace of wood it is board like when nothing is intresten and he said there has ben a hole lot of boaren stuff latelee. Pa said it is fine to fill difrent wayz and what growen up is is figering out things and I said so I wuld get them figered out when I am old like him and he said he has not figered out evury thing yet eeithur so why downt we work on figering out thingz togethur. And he said to all ways talk to him and he figers we can figer out any thing we put our mindz to and I told Pa I think he is a reel good Pa and he said reely and I said shur. He said he is still figering out how to be a Pa and I said no that he nose and that Ma nose how to be a gud Ma and that Adam and Erik shur no how to be good bruthurs but not to tell them that becoz then they will get hard to live with and Pa said I was probly right and I said there was no probly abowt it and he laffed and he hugged me reel good. I sure am glad I am a Cartwright becoz of all kindz of things but best of all it is not two hard to spel.
SEPTEMBER Ė recorded by Benjmn Cartwright
1 September 1846
Joseph returned the journal to me this morning. The family agreed not to read it for several years but I am sorely tempted to slip away and enjoy my sonsí observations. I will be astounded if Erikís and Josephís creative spelling does not rival that in the accounts from Lewis and Clark during their travels with the Corps of Discovery.
We are grateful for the water and grass as we travel alongside Maryís River but we have seen day after day of the sage covered hills. There are few rocks for Joseph to clear from the trail ahead of us, even less brush for Adam or Erik to cut to make our way easier. The boys guard the stock and walk or ride with dull-eyed determination. Evenings around the campfire are our only relief from the monotony: Adam or Marie reads to us from the Bible or one of their poetry books; Erik regales us with his observations of the area; and Joseph provides unintentional laughter with his questions.
The men in the party are nine in number: Josiah Billings, Jeffrey Billings, Sam Billings, Hiram Teague, Zeke Teague, Sam Teague, Nathan Miller, Adam, and me. We lost no men to illness or accident, though several suffered injuries. However, mountain fever claimed Ada Miller, Addie Davis, and three children - Sarah Teague, William Davis, and James Davis. Marcus Miller, son John, and daughter Annie parted from us in order to join a wagon train bound for a cut-off to Oregon. The Davis family, which had four men, three women, and ten children, laid over in mid-August so they might join a train a few days behind us. Our travel was faster, and of necessity harder, than the Davis families thought it should be.
I can not say I was as concerned when we parted from the Davis families as I was when Marcus decided to join another party and take the cut-off to Oregon. I do not trust last-minute decisions which carry such inherent consequences, and I do not trust cut-offs. The only reason I entertained use of the Greenwood Cut-off was because Josiah had traveled it before and knew what preparations we should make for the crossing to the Green River and then on to the Bear.
My family continues to strike me with wonder. Gone are the sons who grumbled and complained and argued with my orders in Kansas and sometimes in Nebraska. Now, when the going is the most boring and the inclination is the greatest to argue over the smallest matter, I rarely have to give orders. More often than not, the chore or duty is accomplished before I have had time to consider it. In spite of Marieís excellent cooking, the boys are lighter weight than she or I approve of but the Saints know that is not due to a lack of appetite. They are hard workers and although I have always felt deep pride in them, I now possess respect for all three.
Marie is my primary concern. She has not said anything yet but I am certain she is with child. After we have crossed the desert which Josiah tells me is a few days ahead of us, my plan is to winter on the east side of the mountains. I have not discussed this with her, much less with the boys. I will not brook disagreement. Her welfare and the life of the unborn child are too important to risk by crossing the mountains. There will be time enough for that in the spring. I will ask Josiah to deliver a letter explaining our delay to John Sutter.
3 September 1846
Our tendency these past few days has been to string out the train, allowing more distance between the wagons. Tempers are more easily sparked lately and a little space aids in their control. However, last night Josiah rode to each of the wagons and cautioned us that we face considerable risk of Indian raids and should stay closer together. He is not worried about our bodily welfare because he said the animals, and the food they can provide, are of much more value to any raiders. We are doubling the night guards and that means no man is getting enough rest.
5 September 1846
Josiahís prediction came true last night. Zeke and Nathan lost oxen; we lost our milch cow and the remaining chickens. I have begrudging admiration for any human who can steal chickens without creating an uproar.
There is no way to determine who was at guard when the thefts occurred but that does not keep men from making accusations. Hiram Teague was convinced that Adam was at fault. Iíll admit that earlier on the trip I would have considered that possibility, but not now. Adam is as trustworthy as I have ever known him to be. When Josiah rode into camp and told me that Adam was shouting at the older man, I ran to the Teague wagons. By the time I arrived there, Adam had his right arm pulled back and his fist clamped shut, ready to crack Hiramís jaw. I grabbed my eldest son from behind and half-carried him away from the scene. He kicked his boots the way Joseph often does and much as I disliked doing so, I hit the young manís thigh with the palm of my hand. Adam went still in my arms and I judged it was safe to release him. He rubbed at his leg and asked why I had "done that." I told him that the smack got his attention. He raised his eyebrows and said that yes, it had done that but that his leg was tingling and threatening to die on him. Then he started to assure me that he had not fallen short on his obligation to watch the stock. I stopped him before he began his second sentence and told him I was sure the stock loss had not been his fault. Fatigued as Adam was, he found humor to share. He shook his head and said he was grateful that I understood because his leg could not take any more blows, it was numb enough as it was. I laughed with him but I know I will have to keep a closer eye on his activities. Adamís patience is as lacking as mine; and his temper is just as dangerous.
His anger tonight reminded me of his reaction at James Rousseauxís when he discovered we would not continue to Independence for a year. I doubt he would make the mistake of speaking to me as he did that day, but I do not look forward to telling him we must delay our trip to California.
6 September 1846
I returned to the wagon after watering the stock this morning and Marie put her hand against my chest to stop me. She rolled her beautiful but weary eyes toward our camp. Joseph was jabbing his finger into Adamís stomach and accusing his oldest brother of letting the chickens go "on aim." None of us is sure when he decided that "on aim" is the same as saying "on purpose" but we have given up correcting him.
Adam said he would never have let the chickens go "on aim" because he loves eating them and that assertion produced predictable results. Joseph yelled that Adam had hated the chickens from the day we had bought them. Adam shook his head and said that no, he had enjoyed their eggs and the occasional tasty meal. Erik joined in at that point and told Adam that he shouldnít oughta talk that way about the dead. Marie and I looked at one another and silently agreed to let the boys settle the argument.
Adam blinked in disbelief and said he was not speaking ill of the dead and how in thunder did Erik know the missing chickens were dead anyhow. Erik came right back at Adam. Everyone knows, he maintained, that Indians kill chickens. They need the feathers.
All right, I was curious. What do they need the feathers for? Adam asked my unspoken question and Erik gave a short laugh. Everyone knows, he said, that Indians wear feathers. Chicken feathers? Adam put his hands at his waist, leaned back, and shrieked in laughter.
That was when Joseph re-entered the fray. He said that what Erik had said was just plain dumb. Everyone - I wonder exactly who these everyones are - knows that Indians donít wear chicken feathers. They wear goose feathers. Adam was red in the face from laughing by now. And anyhow, Joseph continued, Indians just eat plants.
That brought the obvious, "Oh yeah?" from Erik, followed immediately by the question of why the Indians had taken the oxen and the cow if they only ate plants. Joseph contended the answer to that question was as plain as molly - the oxen and the cow had chased after the chickens because they knew when Pa found out the chickens had run off there would be heck to pay.
Adam stopped laughing and asked, "What?" So Joseph reminded his brothers of how angry I had been when they had accidentally let the chickens out months ago. He said that the oxen and cow did not want to hear me yelling about the chickens getting out so the oxen and cow had left..
The three of them got quiet. Then Joseph asked his brothers if they thought I would spank them when I heard that the chickens had run off again. Erik reminded Joseph that I donít spank them for accidents. And Adam maintained that I would never spank him, not anymore.
Joseph said, "Oh yeah? Letís ask him."
Erik said, "Yeah, letís do that."
Adam rubbed at his thigh and muttered, "Letís not."
The three of them got quiet. Then Joseph said, "If he hears us shouting heís for sure gonna spank us."
Erik said that naw, Pa wouldnít do that. Pa would just give them extra chores. Adam and Joseph looked panicked. Erik nodded once and said he was for absolutely sure thatís what Pa would do.
Then Adam said it wasnít Pa he was worried about it was Ma. I chuckled into my hand when Erik and Joseph solemnly agreed. Joseph lowered his voice and leaned toward his brothers to ask if they reckoned Ma and Pa had heard them. Adam said no. Erik said if Ma and Pa had heard them then theyíd already be in a mess.
Adam said he strongly recommended that the brothers not quarrel again until Ma and Pa had a chance to grow some more patience. His brothers agreed. And they gave us amazingly innocent smiles when Marie and I cleared our throats and approached the camp.
7 September 1846
We reached the sink of Maryís River today. Josiah was correct in his description of this area. The river disappears completely after some marshes. He said to remember this good grass and water because when we break camp after a rest there will be little water and no grass for a long time. I put the boys to work cutting grass and stowing it. When they had finished that chore, I told them to fill every container with water. When they had finished that chore they informed me that they had held a "democratic vote" and the result was that they were resting for an hour. Considering that had been my plan from the beginning, I did not veto their legislation. They came as close to gloating as I have witnessed.
9 September 1846
We crossed the desert. I canít decide if I view these as the most arduous miles of our travel because of their hellish test of our endurance or because this crossing is the freshest in my mind. I am as close to complete exhaustion as I have ever been and will write more later.
11 September 1846
In order to cross the desert a few days ago, we broke camp earlier in the morning than usual, heeding Josiahís advice to make the trip in one long pull. The heat wears down both man and animal so we crossed by day and night. We covered what I estimate to be more than sixty miles of desert. We did not make our ordinary stops when we start a campfire, tend and settle the stock, divide guard duty, and eat a warm meal before settling ourselves for the evening. The stops along this crossing were long enough to unyoke the oxen, feed them what grass we had been able to cut and carry in the wagons, give them judicious amounts of water, allow the oxen to rest, and then we were back at the pull.
We could not have crossed this desert without Josiahís expert guidance. He gave us directions and bearings at the beginning, then recruited Adam and Nathan to ride ahead with him Ė the goal being to reach the hot springs approximately halfway across the desert and dam the water so it had ample time to cool before we arrived with the oxen and other stock.
After we left the springs we encountered deep sand just when our animals were their weakest. The train lost several oxen and horses during this haul, and we often had to double team the wagons. Thankfully, those loses did not include Adamís and Erikís horses, Beauty and Karly, and only one of our oxen. At times the sand reached to Jeffreyís and my knees. When I was younger, I walked in knee-deep snow and also fought what we now know are undertows in chest deep water. Those experiences in no way prepared me for this sand. Saints willing, I will never encounter this type of physical test again.
Along the route, weíve left messages for the travelers behind us. Erik is particularly good at placing the notes where they are most visible. He nailed the messages to trees, moved rocks into the path and then placed the paper between two rocks, and tied strips of cloth to the notes to make them obvious. Adam remarked that his younger brotherís efforts are akin to trappers leaving signs so they can find their way back. Erik gave Adam a disbelieving look and said he would never return the way we had traveled. Joseph said him neither. Not ever, never by molly, not ever, ever, ever. Never. I took Josephís subtle announcement to mean he is not interested in reversing our course.
Josiah told me this evening that we will continue to rest and recruit the animals because our greatest obstacle, after another pull along the river, is the mountains between here and California. I did not tell him that we can not continue the journey to California this year.
12 September 1846
I learned a tremendous amount about Adam, Erik, and Joseph during these four months of trail life and was convinced that I knew them, and had their complete obedience, as no other father in history has known his sons and garnered their obedience. Then I tried to tell them about my decision not to continue to California until Spring.
I planned to ease them into the news by having them walk away from camp with me so I could tell them that their mother will have a baby. Then they could understand the reason for my decision.
Joseph looked around at the world in general after I told them about Marie. "Well, what I want to know," he demanded, "is just how did this happen?"
Adam raised his head and asked, "Do you mind if I don't sit in on your talk with Joe, Pa?"
Erik was full of excitement from his rounded blue eyes to the way he rocked from his heels to his toes to his heels. "What're ya gonna name him?" was his contribution to the discussion.
I reminded my boys that the baby might be a girl. All three sons shook their heads at my lack of understanding. Joseph was the one to declare, "Pa, we don't have girls."
"We might this time," I asserted and immediately regretted my action. A father never wins when he argues with an eight-year-old son.
Joseph heaved out one of those deep, body shrinking sighs and then, much to my relief, refilled with air. "Pa, don't you know by now that you ain't any good at making girls?"
I would have corrected his grammar if I could have found my voice.
Adam frowned down at his brother. "I thought you said you didn't know -" he hesitated "- about that."
"Great molly, Adam!" Joe spread his arms. "I ain't dumb or something. I know how to make a baby. Erik told me about all that way back a long time ago."
Oh good, just what a father wants to hear.
"But." Adam nearly sputtered. "You just asked how this happened."
Adam shook his head. He still tries to win arguments with an eight year old. "Why did you ask how it happened if you know how it happens?"
Joe rolled his eyes. "Adam, pay attention, would ya? I know how to make a baby, all right? But just how did Ma and Pa make a baby when we've all been busier than ants?"
Erik blushed scarlet. "Joe, that ain't polite."
Adam's cheeks were a flattering shade of pink. "And it sure isn't our business, little brother," he added.
Joseph was not dissuaded. "Seeing as how we're gonna be brothers with him, I reckon he is too our business."
Something in Joseph's assertion caused Adam to pull back and get an exceedingly faraway look in his eyes.
Erik was still with us, though. "Adam's right, Joe, it ain't none of our business. It's done is all there is to it and we're gonna have another brother." He looked up at me. "So, what're you gonna name him, Pa?"
My voice was weak but I managed to reply. "I'll leave that to your mother."
"What's wrong?" Erik asked.
"Pa's gonna let Ma do the naming. She's gonna name our baby brother something even worse than Francis."
Erik grinned. "Nah. There ain't nothing worse than Francis."
Adam hadn't blinked. I would have waved my hand in front of his eyes but I was afraid the air I moved might knock him over.
"I know!" Joseph snapped his fingers. Well, he tried to. He's working on that skill. "Let's talk Ma into letting us name him. Tell her we want to do something to help out."
I did not follow that line of reasoning but Erik did. He grabbed Joe by the right arm and exclaimed, "Let's go tell her right now."
They moved more quickly than I could speak. I was left standing in their wake while Adam stared toward the mountains. When I suggested that we return to camp, he wordlessly fell in step beside me.
I rested my hand on his shoulder. "Something wrong?"
Adam shook his head and watched where he was walking. He'd been looking up at the pine trees earlier in the day while he had been driving the oxen and he had tripped and had fallen flat on his stomach. In the process he had cut his chin.
"Adam, what's wrong?"
"Nothing more than usual."
I grasped at the only concern I could imagine would cause his reaction. "Are you worried about your mother?" I asked.
Adam looked at me with a question in his eyes.
Seeking to reassure him, I said, "Everything will be fine, son."
"But Pa, I don't think I'm up to it."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I don't think I'm up to it this time, Pa," he pleaded.
I felt the need to state the obvious. "Adam, you aren't the one with child."
"But I'm the oldest."
"And what does your being the oldest have to do with your mother having a child?"
Adam's eyes pleaded with me. "I can't do it, Pa. I love Joe but another little brother like him will kill me."
I knew if I didn't put my right hand over my mouth I would be lost in laughter. "Have you considered that the baby might be a sister?" I suggested again.
"A girl like Joe!"
The ramifications of that possibility were staggering.
I put my arm around his shoulders - not so much out of affection as out of a need to steady myself. "We'll pray for a boy."
The news about not going to California can wait another day. I need time to clear my thoughts.
13 September 1846 - Marie, who was not present when I announced the news of another child joining the family, made it abundantly clear that I need to tell the boys we are not continuing to California. She reminded me in that kind, but firm, way of hers that we will be leaving the trail the day after tomorrow.
My sons never cease to surprise me. We walked to yet another spot by the river. We have crossed this river at least a half dozen times. Someone needs to build some bridges out here. They faced me, standing in birth order from my left to my right, their hands behind their backs.
"Pa," Adam said and then abruptly stopped.
Erik took up the cause. "Well - ya see, Pa - well - itís like this - "
"We donít think we oughta go on over them mountains with Ma being with child," Joseph blurted.
I told my sons that I agreed with their decision and that I had considered the same action several days ago.
Adamís eyes widened. "Why didnít you tell us?"
Did I moan in agony? I think I did. Then a flash of inspiration struck me. I would say the words that I always hate to hear from them. "Itís a long story," I said.
Adam crossed his arms and settled a stern look on me. "Iím listening."
It is my considered opinion that sons are the Lordís way of keeping a man humble.
25 September 1846 - We took our leave of the wagon train ten days ago. Jeffrey thanked me for making his journey to California possible. I thanked him for all his assistance. Josiah said he would miss the adventure that our sons added to the journey.
I learned from him that Adam, Erik, and Joseph were involved in an escapade that I was not aware of. There isnít much that they do that slips by me, but they accomplished this while I was scouting with Sam Billings. It involved a chipmunk. From what I gathered from Josiah, my sons decided that Micahís mother, Martha, was too serious for her own good. I do not know how they caught the chipmunk and I do not want to know how they caught it. They placed the chipmunk in Martha Teagueís Dutch oven, put the lid on the pot, and hid in waiting with Micah. When Martha lifted the lid, the chipmunk scampered out. Somehow it got under her skirt and started up her leg. She screamed and danced around until Josiah, Sam Teague, and Zeke Teague ran to her. The poor woman was so beside herself that she did not make sense. Finally, in desperation, she lifted her skirts and pulled the chipmunk from her leg. Iím certain that my sons were in the throes of uncontrollable laughter by this point. When Martha unattached the chipmunk from her body she tossed it to Sam. He was wide-eyed and holding the creature when Josiah aimed his rifle and, in jest, told Sam to hold still and he would shoot the animal in Samís hands. Sam has a sour disposition and no sense of humor. He threw the animal at Josiah who jerked away and fired his rifle into the air. At that point the chipmunk decided he had had enough human companionship for one day. He disappeared.
Josiah drew a map for me and said a trapperís trail ran east of the mountains down to a small place where he thought we could winter over. I asked him if it was a town. He said it might be someday. Sam Teague and Nathan Miller had both lost oxen so I traded our oxen for a horse from each of them. Erik was upset to leave the gentle beasts behind but he quickly turned his attention toward the horses who are now named Molly and Ginger. We used the two horses to pull the one wagon and sent the other wagon, which was nearly empty, ahead with Jeffrey. We have enough supplies for four to six weeks.
Two days after we left the wagon train, the narrow trail just east of the mountains widened. That wide place is freckled with canvas tents and a handful of hastily constructed wooden buildings. One feature in its favor is a flowing stream to the east. The stream is not overly wide but it is banked with greenery and small trees and I am told it does not dry up during the warm months. Iím not sure that I share Josiahís optimism - this place is a long, long way from being a town. The streets are active though with a combination of mountain men and men who look like they are leaving a past behind and probably assuming a new name. Of all the unexpected situations, there is a Frenchman named Devereaux who runs what might best be described as a crude trading post and livery. I am not sure of my opinion of Devereaux yet but at least the man is courteous to Marie and he helped us find a room at the boarding house.
This afternoon Adam and I rode Beauty and Karly toward the high country. Devereux informed us that in less than twenty miles we would find a different landscape than the one near town and we were not disappointed. Snow sparkled like a million diamonds in the piercing sunlight on the mountain peaks. The sky looked so close I could have sworn I would bump my head on it. As Karly and Beauty walked, the scent of pine needles drifted to me in the cool air and more than once I had to tug at Karlyís reins when she paused to nibble at the grass. Along a riverbank, which was more often than not flanked by broken gray rock, leaves blew and made their own gentle rain of glowing yellow, deep orange, and rich burgundy. And the birds. I hadnít heard as many songbirds since weíd left Louisiana. I have seen many places but I think this is truly Godís country.
Adam and I rode in silence, appreciating the lush growth. Then we eased out of the pines to a broad, gently-sloping meadow and reined in our horses.
There before us, fringed by a rock and pebble shore, was a lake of liquid sapphire - its surface rippled with gentle waves. And beyond the lake, rough-edged snow-topped mountains folded one in front of the other.
Had I looked at those mountains back when we were on the trail I would have seen only problems. They would have presented me with rock strewn trails, capricious weather, brutal punishment of animals and equipment, and constant concern for sons who are prone to wander and explore in the most dangerous of places. But today the mountains offered something else - they offered peace.
Adamís saddle creaked as he stepped to the grass. I had been promising him for years that we would go to California. I idly wondered if anything to the west of the mountains could rival the splendor of what called to me now.
Adamís soft laughter turned my attention his way. He ran through the meadow and then jumped slightly, all the time bent at the waist as he did a crazy sideways dance down the mild slope. He pushed back his hat so that it hung against his back, secured around his neck by the tie-down string. Adam laughed again and made his characteristic, "Aht" sound as he closed his hands around something, and then opened them again to find his quarry had evaded him. I leaned on the saddle horn and smiled at how easily an exceedingly sophisticated eighteen year old can revert to an openly delighted eight year old. He continued to run and dance about, laughing, lowering his hands to the ground, and then finally he stood straight in triumph and shouted, "Yeah!"
"Did you catch our dinner?" I inquired.
He strolled toward me, looked from the tops of his eyes, shook his head, and laughed. "Not unless youíre really hungry." He opened his hands to reveal a very small, very confused mouse.
I winced. "Please donít take it home to Erik and Joe." Our room at what passed for a boarding house had enough occupants.
"Nah, heís too little to name Bouillabaisse." I wasnít sure I followed my sonís reasoning as to how the name Bouillabaisse and not taking a mouse home were connected but I let my question ride.
Adam squatted down and released the mouse, thankfully several feet away from the horse I sat on. He dusted his gloves as he stood and turned his back to me. "That mouse better get busy if he plans to make it through the winter up here."
"I believe he was busy before a certain young man interrupted him," I pointed out.
Adam continued to study the meadow. Beauty took the few steps to Adamís back and nudged him with her muzzle. He turned to look at her in surprise. "Whatís that about?"
I nodded at the mid-afternoon sun. "Sheís probably ready to go home and have dinner."
Adamís smile faded into the uncertain, seeking look of a child. "Pa?" he said softly.
He turned his side to me and looked again at the meadow and the lake and the mountains.
"Pa." He kept his side to me but he lowered his head and looked at his hands. Then came the deep breath of resolve and he turned toward me with determination sparking from his eyes. But the words failed him.
I eased from the saddle and, after resting my right arm around his shoulders, suggested we walk to the lakeshore. When we had gained the waterís edge, Adam lay down on his stomach and scooped the clear liquid in his hands. He said the water was very cold and then he drank it from his cupped palms. He took several more drinks and then stood and wiped his mouth on the back of his right hand. When he realized I was watching him, he grinned like a youngster. Once more he said, "Pa." Once more he did not continue what he had started to say.
I pointed at the mountains with my left hand. "What do you see?"
He gave me a quick glance and then shrugged. "Mountains."
"Obstacles," Adam repeated in surprise and looked back where I pointed. "Pa, those mountains are the Lordís sentinels. Theyíre watching over everything - including us."
I wondered if Adam was thinking what I was thinking. California had been our dream for a long time. But we had not known about this place.
I opened my heart to a long-buried feeling, a feeling I had not experienced even in New Orleans - a feeling I had feared I would never know again. I opened my heart to the sun and the sky and the trees and the mountains and the lake and the infinite possibilities of this new land - and found it filled the only empty place in my heart.
I did not look at my son for several minutes. I was resolved not to break my promise to him. If we were not going to California in the spring it must be his decision. And yet I knew he felt the same way - if we were not going to California in the spring it must be my decision, too. "We need to bring the family up here," I said. "Theyíd like this place."
"I think they would, too," Adam answered softly.
I looked at him then and I asked, "Are we home, Adam?"
He smiled at me and nodded. "Yes, Pa. Weíre home."
With the exception of Benís friend, John Sutter, all characters are fictitious.
The Greenwood Cut-off which Adam mentions on July 18 became known as the Greenwood-Sublette Cut-off and later as the Sublette Cut-off.
The Bartelson-Bidwell Party of 1841 was the first group of emigrants to complete the overland trail to California. They did not, however, cross the mountains with wagons. They chose to leave their wagons near the South Fork of the Humboldt (Maryís) River, and to make use of pack animals as they continued their journey on foot.
In 1843, the Walker Party left their wagons at the Sierras.
In 1844, the Stevens-Murphy Party was the first to take wagons across the Sierras and into California.
In 1846, the year of this journal, the Donner Party entered the mountains late in the fall and was trapped by a record snowfall.