A Trek From Pierre’s Hole – P02

A Trek From Pierre’s Hole – Part 2

The game eagle sometimes kills the coyote but he, the latter as often defies the bird’s attacks by throwing himself on her back, ready to lay hold of the eagle in his descending pass. And the chief of the air flies on afraid of this hairy little sneak in that way of defense.

I The wild striped little bee that hides his two stands of honey in the cracks of the mountain rocks was hard at his work and as I rode aside and alone his moans made me sadder and I wondered if ever I would return. He was up from his winter’s sleep – an old and new life was around me on foot and on wing, an old and new life out in leaf and blade. The earth required more space. The sky grew higher with the sun. The sun himself looked not so old 6 or pale. The big splendid solitude of my Indian fathers looked glad, but all our friends [who had] gone to join the dead did not heed this at all. All came back but [those] dead. No, no, they would not come.

The first river we crossed was a swift stream of about 70 paces broad. The men made rafts to carry their little baggage. The women stripped and, heightening their saddles on their best horses, plunged into the stream with them, having tied their children one-by-
one on their backs. And, swimming along with their horses on the lea side, [they] made several trips that way across the river before they had their children all landed safely, as they would not trust their little ones to the rafts. l swam bearing my little brother whilst my stepmother swam with her young child, my sister. The women were stripped to their cotton shirts. The water was very cold, rushing from its parent springs and higher peaks. Our hands and limbs were red. as wild roses from the burning chill of the waters, but the air was healthy and thin. The sun was cloudless and strong. And coming at once [was] the boiling and broiling to soup, and roasting of the choicest bits of venison and faring graciously thereon, we were soon comfortable and joked on the different contours of the women, whose drenched shirts stuck to their bodies, shaping them as if entirely nude. And on the various pranks of our horses, some of whom delighted in this
serious fun and plunged and snorted in the cold foam with more presence of mind than many men when death is near them.

The second river was a little narrower and deeper and of a7 more violent pass. Before crossing the first river on the mountain . plain, we saw a little cloud of dust as far as the eye could discern it. It was in advance of a much larger cloud which made us very uneasy.
Was it our persistent enemy that never gave us rest? Or was it some friendly tribe? Our courage grew after looking to our arms, as the clouds and preceding black points (formed of men) drew nearer us and our five Indian hunters said that by their motions they must be friends. ‘Tis strange to the white man how far the Indian eye can perceive his enemy and distinguish him from his friends, and how far that knowledge is conveyed with other signs in return by the motions with his horse. The dusty clouds were soon up to us, following a band of 150 warriors on the path of blood for their enemy. \Ve smoked heartily with them, as they met us kindly.

Their simple story was soon told and they passed on – armed as usual in quiver turd bow and shield of buffalo-bull hide with guns and lance and knife and their garniture of bits of brass and game eagle’s feathers and rare shells of the ocean and the land. [It all] made
them look pretty as they passed on in the shining sun. One hundred of them were horsed and fifty were footmen.


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A Trek from Pierre’s Hole – P01

This story, “A Trek from Pierre’s Hole to the Pacific Ocean and Back Again” was transcribed by Angus McDonald as told to him by his wife, Catherine Batiste McDonald.

Angus and Catherine McDonald Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, The University of Montana–Missoula.

The three peaks of the Rocky Mountains with their lesser hills head three chief rivers, the Oregon, Colorado, and Missouri. We left Pierre’s Hole on their Columbian side when the antelope were fawning in the last month of the spring and the first of summer.

The founder of the Jesuit Mission [Father Pierre Jean DeSmet] was just arrived for the first time from the east to convert the Indian. He was a man of florid countenance, benign of speech and stout and short of stature. Some tribes were prepared by the Iroquois hunters and French Creoles to receive him … other tribes heeded him not. The Shawnee warrior J.H. rejected all evident fan-faring of religion saying that the sacred man that came so far must be a tool come to preach some things he did not know [and] for which the God Chief cared nothing. [He] told them it were better to ask that spirit to give them health and buffalo and help them to scalp their enemies than [to] listen to useless pryers that had no life but int he effort of them. His words were received by many of the leading Indians, chiefly from their bold assertions and as he who spoke them was from the east and said to be a man [who had been] in the battle for he Black Hawk.

Bidding farewell to our parent Rocky Mountain camp, we left for the place of gathering on one of the chief stream of the Northern Colorado, where more than a hundred white men awaited us to add to their numbers. Grass of rich growth was out on every hill. Streams of purest water ran from their armpits and lofty, little glens. The big valley below was full of heat, as the air was weigh flies. Games of many hoofs romped and grazed far and near. The big and little curlew, colored like the fawn, attended to their young as the mother antelope stood off sometimes afar mile or two observant of where laid her young.

Any unusual scream of flutter of the curlew brought the dame nearer it. The coyote, that most cunning and timorous of sneaks, and the game grey eagle were the greatest enemies and fared well on the numbers of that delicious young game, the most tender of all flesh. Other things of prey, from the mountain grizzly to the rattlesnake fed well on the numbers of ground squirrels that bored the valleys. One antelope can whip a coyote, but a young kid or fawn is helpless and often killed by the raven.


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