"Where was he when they found him?" John had his map ready.
"Well, let's see. They found him on September 11th, and they had traveled thirteen days, not counting stops, and made one hundred and sixty miles by the river. They must by then have been at least thirty miles above what is now Fort Randall, South Dakota—I should say, somewhere near Wheeler, South Dakota. Well, something of a walk for George, eh?"
"Rather!" was Jesse's comment. "Oh, I suppose it's easy to call him a dub, but the commanding officers didn't."
"But now," went on their leader, "a lot of things have been happening since Shannon left, and here are a lot of interesting things to keep in mind. One thing is, they expected a trading boat up. That must have been from St. Louis, for Trudeau's post. That was long before the days of the regular fur forts, and that accounts for all this country having its French names on it.
"Another thing or two: By this time, in lower South Dakota, everybody was killing buffalo and elk, great quantities of splendid meat. By now, also, in early September, they had got on the antelope range for the first time, and their first 'goat,' as they called it, was skinned and described. They got another new animal, which they called a 'barkeing squirel,' or 'ground rat'—on September 7th. That was the first prairie dog, a great curiosity to them—the same day they saw their first 'goat.' They managed to drown out one prairie dog, which I never heard of anyone else being able to do. They dug down six feet, and did not get halfway to the 'lodge,' as they called the den.
"Also, they saw the western magpie, which seemed a 'verry butifull' bird to them. Also again, on September 5th, they had seen their first blacktail deer, which now, until they got into the Mandan and Yellowstone country, was to outnumber the whitetail, which they called the 'common deer,' because they never had seen any other sort. On one day, September 17th, Lewis and his men killed two blacktail, eight 'fallow' deer, and five 'common' deer. Gass—who by now has been elected sergeant to take poor Floyd's place—in his Journal says they killed thirteen common deer, two blacktailed, three buffalo, and a 'goat' that day—not a half bad day, that, eh? Don't you wish we'd been along?
"But Gass in his book also says something I want you to remember, for it may help explain the 'fallow' deer which Clark mentions, and which I don't understand at all. Gass says: 'There is another species of deer in this country, with small horns and long tails. The tail of one we killed was 18 inches long.' Now that precisely coincides with the 'fantail' deer which some old-time hunters of my acquaintance say they have killed in the Black Hills country, though scientists say there never was any fantail deer. Our men were now right east of the Black Hills. For myself, I am convinced there was a fantail deer, and that it has far more rights as a species than the dozen or more 'species' of bears which our Washington scientists keep on finding.
"But even this is not all I am trying to get into your minds about this country where our lost hunter Shannon was wandering alone. They were getting all sorts of elk, catfish, and beaver, from the last of August on, but better here—on September 5th they saw both 'goats' and wild turkeys on the same day. Did you know that wild turkeys ranged so far north? Well, they at that time overlapped the range of the buffalo, the elk, the blacktailed deer, the badger, the antelope, the prairie dog, and the magpie.
"And in this hunting paradise, they killed on one day, September 8th, two buffalo, one large elk, one small elk, four deer, three turkeys, and a squirrel. All gone now, even almost all the prairie dogs and maybe the magpies; and we haven't seen any young wild geese on our trip, either. But now, following out the record of these men, we can see what a wonderful hunting country they had been in, almost every day from St. Louis, especially here, where the lower country began to blend with the high Plains and their game animals. Great days, boys—great days! Alas! that they are gone for you and me forever."
"You're getting off the track, Uncle Dick," said John, critically, just now, as the former concluded his long talk on the game animals.
"Why, what do you mean?"
"While Shannon was lost, and while they were all having such good luck hunting, they at last had found their Sioux and got them in for a council. That was under an oak tree, at the mouth of the Jacque, or James, River, on August 29th. Old man Dorion had found his son Pierre, who was trading among the Sioux, it says. Well, they got five chiefs and about seventy others, and they all went into council."
"Oak tree, did you say, John? Oak tree this far north?" Jesse was particular.
"Yes, sir, oak tree—lots of them all through here then. Clark tells how the deer and elk ate the acorns, and how fond they were of them. Didn't you notice that?"
"Well, let's push off and run up to the old council ground," said Rob, who was always for getting forward. "It can't be more than a few hours' run, for we don't stop at any towns, you know."
They did this, and spent some time studying the spot, so that they could believe they were on the very council ground where Lewis and Clark first met the Sioux, below the Calumet Bluff, on the "Butifull Plain near the foot of the high land which rises with a gradual assent near this Bluff." At least a trace of the old abundance of the timber could be seen. They consulted their Journal and argued for a long time.
"This is where they sent out the two men to hunt for the lost man Shannon," said Rob. "And here is where our captains made their big treaty speeches with the Sioux and gave them medals and the D.S.O., and the Congressional Medal and things. They had a lot of government 'Good Indian' certificates all ready to fill in, and it peeved them when one of the chiefs handed back his certificate and said he didn't care for it, but would rather have some whiskey.
"Those Sioux must have been a surly bunch," said Rob. "But Captain Lewis impressed them very much, and Captain Clark let down his long red hair and astonished them, and everybody fed them and gave them presents; and they appointed young Mr. Dorion a commissioner, and gave him a flag, and told him to bring about a peace between all these tribes—the Sioux, Omahas, Pawnees, Poncas, Otoes, and Missouris—and to try to get chiefs of each tribe to go down the river and to Washington, to see the Great Father. And the Journal kept them good and busy, setting down the names of the different bands of the Sioux and telling how they looked."
John grinned, and pointed to the page. "'The Warriers are Verry much deckerated with Paint Porcupine quils and feathers, large leagins and mockersons, all with buffalow robes of Different Colors, the Squars wore Peticoats and a White Buffalow roabe with the black hare turned back over their necks and Sholders.' I'll say they had plenty to do, writing and hunting and making speeches. It wasn't any pleasure party, when you come right down to it, now!"
"We haven't found George Shannon yet," interrupted Jesse, dryly.
"Give us time!" answered Rob. "I vote to stay here all night. I can see the blue smokes of their council fires, and see the men dancing, and the painted Indians sitting around, and the great council pipe passing—red pipestone, with eagle feathers on the stem; and meat hanging in camp, and the squaws cooking, dogs yelping, drums going. Oh, by Jove! Oh, by Jove! Those were the things to make you sit up late at night! I wish we'd been along."
"We are along!" said Uncle Dick, soberly. "If you can see those stirring scenes, we are along. So, Rob, as you say, we'll pitch our camp and dream, for at least a day, of our own wonderful America when it was young."
John and Jesse were busy clearing a place for the tent. "I want the fire right close up to the tent," said John, "and we don't want to burn off either a tent pole or an overhead guy rope."
"Oh," rejoined Jesse, the youngest of them all, "I'll show you how to do that!"
He dug into his war bag and brought out a roll of stout wire. "Run this from the top of the front pole on out, ten or twelve feet, and stretch it over a couple of shear poles. See? That'll stiffen the tent, and yet you can build a fire right under the wire, and it won't hurt it any."
"A good idea, Jesse," approved their leader as he saw this. "A mighty good idea for cold weather—about as good as your open fireplace of sheet steel with a stovepipe—open wider in front than behind, and reflecting the heat into the tent. I've tried that last invention of yours, Jess, and it works fine in coolish weather. We'll try it again, maybe."
"I'm making me a new kind of airplane now," said Jesse, modestly. "It's different in some ways. I like to sort of figure things out, that way."
"That's good. And to-night, son, I want you to see whether you can't figure out a nice fat catfish on your set line. We need meat in camp; and that's about what it'll have to be, I suppose."
Thus, talking together of this thing and that, they made their own comfortable camp, spreading down their own buffalo robes on the ground for their beds, on the old council ground of the Sioux. They had a hearty supper and soon were ready to turn in, for the mosquitoes were bad enough, as they found. Rob sat late at night alone by the little fire.
"Come on to bed, Rob," called Jesse. "What do you see out there, anyway?"
"Indians," replied Rob. "Sioux in robes and feathers. Two men in uniform coats, one tall and dark, the other tall and with red hair. Don't you see them, too?"
"But we haven't found George Shannon yet," again insisted Jesse, at their breakfast.
"And you haven't run your set line yet, Mr. Jess," reminded Rob; which was enough to cause Jesse to run down to the bank with his mouth full of bacon. He had forgotten all about his fishing at the time. At once they heard him shout in excitement, and joined him on the bank.
"Geewhillikens!" called Jesse. "I got a whale on here now!"
He was playing a fish on his hand line, taking in and giving line as he could, for the fish was strong. It was some time before they could get to see it, and when Jesse at last landed it on the bank he called for his .22 rifle and shot it through the head.
"There!" he said. "I knew I'd find some big game to shoot. Isn't he a whale? I'll bet he'll go twelve pounds. He's a whiter cat, and a racier, than the big yellows, down below. He looks gamier and better to eat."
"He goes in the gunny sack for supper," said Rob. "Do you suppose he'll keep for three days, a hundred and fifty miles? I shouldn't wonder if Shannon would enjoy a bite, for he'll be hungry by that time."
"It's a long, long way, up to the Mandans!" John began to sing again. "Six hundred miles. And we'll have to have gas pretty soon."
They finished their breakfast, and, with the skill they had gained in many camps together, soon were packed and on their way above the old council camp of the Sioux.
"Buffalo and elk, every way you can look!" exclaimed John. "Elk swimming across the river. Herds of game feeding on the bluff sides! Grouse, foxes, prairie dogs, jack rabbits, pelicans, squirrels, deer, wolves—the boats full of meat all the time, and two or three beaver every night! Now there's cottonwoods. By and by the river'll begin to take a straighter shoot north. It's a long, long way up to the Mandans!"
"And right through the country of those roaming, murdering Sioux!" added Rob.
"Right you are, Rob," said Uncle Dick. "The Sioux used to hunt and rob as far as Fort Laramie, six hundred miles up the Platte, and on the head of the Jim River in Dakota, and all between. Their homes were where their hats were—and they hadn't any hats."
For some days now they threaded their way among the countless islands and sand bars of the great river, until at last they made camp early on the evening of June 9th, near the point which, as closely as they could figure it, was about where the Lewis and Clark bateau lay at the time George Shannon was found wandering on the Plains, alone and ready to despair. This was about thirty miles below the mouth of the White River.
"Well, we've got him," said Jesse, solemnly, "and told him never to leave camp without matches and ammunition and an ax. And that's that!"
"Time for another catfish, Jesse," said their leader. "John, you take the .22 and wander along the edge of the bluff. You might see a young jack rabbit. I don't believe I'd bother the ducks, for that's against the law and we don't break laws even when we are not watched. Rob, you and I will make camp—we'll not need anything but the mosquito bars."
Inside the hour a shout from Jesse informed them that he had another catfish on his throw line, and soon he had it flopping on the sand. He killed it stone dead by thrusting a stiff straw back into the brain through the "little hole in its face," as he called the sinus which leads into the head cavity.
"I throw out my line," said he, "with a piece of meat or minnow on the hook. Then I stick a stick down in the bank, two or three feet long, and take a half hitch around the top. It acts as a sort of rod and gives when the fish bites. He pulls down and swallows the bait, and the spring of the stick holds him safer than a straight pull would. To skin him, I cut around back of his front side fins and take hold of the skin with my pliers—just slit the hide a little down the sides, and it comes off. These channel cats aren't bad to eat."
John joined them before dark, with two half-grown jack rabbits which he had found on the bluffs below. He spoke of the fine view and of the splendid sunset he had seen. Rob was examining the rabbits, each of which had been shot squarely through the eye. "Dead-shot John, the old trapper!" said he. "That's the way!"
"You didn't think I'd shoot 'em anywhere but through the head, did you?" John inquired. "No sir, not yet!"
So, with meat in camp, they sat down, still in "verry good sperits," as John quoted from the Journal.
Now day after day, hurrying hard as they could, they still drove on northward, along the great bends of what began to seem an interminable waterway. One bend, they fancied, they surely identified with the one mentioned in the Journal, which then was thirty miles around and not much over a half a mile across the neck. They reflected that in more than a hundred years the great river in all likelihood had cut through what Clark called the "Narost part," the necks of dozens of such bends. On the map they identified the Rosebud Indian Reservation to the west. The great Plains country into which they now were advancing seemed wild, lonely, and at times forbidding, and the settlements farther and farther apart. They were in cattle country rather than farming country much of the time.
The Journal brought up the second great Sioux council of Lewis and Clark, on the "Teton river"—near Pierre, South Dakota—on the date of September 25th; but so faithful had the motive power of the good ship Adventurer proved, that our party pulled into the most suitable camping spot they could find not too near by, around noon of June 13th.
"Can't complain," said Rob, taking off his grease-spattered overalls and wiping his hands on a bit of waste. "We've slipped a day on our schedule, but from what we now know of this little old river, we are mighty lucky to be here and not down by Council Bluffs, or maybe Kansas City! It's only a little over three hundred miles now to the Mandans. That's as far ahead as I can think."
"And as to rowing and paddling and poling and tracking her this far," added John, "say, twelve hundred miles from the mouth of the Missouri—whew! It makes my back ache. Seems to me we've skipped along."
"Well, why shouldn't we?" demanded Jesse. "Those fellows had the finest kind of hunting in the world; over a thousand of miles of it, to here—over four thousand miles of it altogether—not a single day that didn't have some sport in it, and they killed tons and tons of game. But all that is left for us is water and sand and willows. Ducks and grouse, yes, but we can't shoot 'em. And I've got so I don't crave to look a catfish in the face."
Uncle Dick looked at the boys gravely and saw that the monotony of the long voyage was beginning to wear on them.
"Stick her through to the Mandans, fellows," said he. "We'll see what we'll see. But Jesse, how can you complain of being bored when right now you are standing where Will Clark come pretty near being killed by the Teton Sioux?
"Yes, sir, it was right here that they tried to stop him from going back to the big boat. Then, for the first time, the Redhead Chief drew his sword—they always went into uniform when they had a council on—and Lewis and the men on the boat trained the swivel gun on the band of Sioux who were detaining Clark.
"You see, they had the council awning stretched on a sand bar in the mouth of the river, and the bateau was seventy yards off, anchored. They had sent out for the Sioux to come in, had smoked with them, given them provisions, made speeches to them, given them whisky and tobacco. The Sioux were arrogant, wanted more whisky and tobacco, and when Clark came ashore with only five men they tried to hold him up, grabbing the boat painter and pulling their bows. The second chief, says Clark, was bad, 'his justures were of such a personal nature I felt Myself Compeled to Draw my Sword.... I felt Myself Warm and Spoke in verry positive terms.' Which is all he says of a very dangerous scrape."
"Whyn't they bust into 'em with the swivel gun?" demanded Jesse. "At seventy yards they'd 'a' got plenty of 'em."
"Sure they would. And then maybe the Sioux would never have let them through at all and would have shot into every boat of white men that later came up the river. No, those young men showed courage and good judgment both. They did not know fear, but they did not forget duty, and they were there to make peace among all the tribes along the Missouri.
"President Jefferson knew that country would soon be visited by many of our fur traders, and he didn't want the boats stopped. Lewis and Clark both knew this."
"But the Sioux didn't bluff them," said Rob, "because Lewis went ashore with only five men, in his turn, and then they all pulled off a dance, and a big talk in a big council tent—it must have been big, for there were seventy Sioux in it, and just those two young American officers. The big pipe was on forked sticks in front of the chief, and under it they had sprinkled swan's-down, and they all were dressed up to their limit. And though they could have been killed any minute, these two white men had that lot of Indians feeding from the hand, as the slang goes, Uncle Dick!"
Uncle Dick nodded, and Rob went on, referring to his Journal. "And then the big chief said what they had done was O.K., and asked the white men to 'take pity on them'—which I think is an old Indian term of asking for some more gifts. Anyhow, the upshot was they smoked the peace pipe and ate 'some of the most Delicate parts of the Dog which was prepared for the fiest and made a Sacrefise to the flag.' Then they cleared away the floor, built up a fire in the lodge, and 'about 10 Musitions began playing on Tambereens'—which made a 'gingling noise.' The women came in and danced, with staffs decorated with scalps, and everybody sang and everybody promised to be good."
"Some party!" said Jesse, slangily; but Rob, now excited, went on with the story:
"Poor Clark nearly got sick from lack of sleep. But the next day the Sioux held on to the cable again and wanted to stop the boat till they had more tobacco. Then Lewis told the chiefs they couldn't bluff him into giving them anything. Clark did give them a little tobacco and told the men not to fire the swivel. Then they ran up a red flag under the white, and the next Sioux that came aboard they told that those two flags meant peace or war, either way they wanted it, and if they wanted peace, they'd all better go back home and stay there, and not monkey with the buzz saw too long—well, you know, Uncle Dick, they didn't really say that, but that was what they meant.
"The Sioux followed alongshore and begged tobacco for fifty miles, clean up to the Ree villages, near the mouth of the Cheyenne River. Oh, they found the Sioux, all right; and glad enough they were to get through them, even paying tribute as they had done."
"That's a fair statement of the Teton affair," nodded the leader of the party. "Many a white life that tribe took, in the seventy-five years that were to follow. For the next hundred miles there were either Sioux or Rees pestering and begging and keeping the party uneasy all the time."
"And I'll bet they were glad to get to the Rees, too," commented John. "Those half-Pawnees raised squashes, corn, and beans. But by now, if they had had a good shotgun or so along, they could have killed all sorts of swans, brant and other geese, and ducks, for they were running into the fall migration of the wild fowl. Grouse, too, were mentioned as very numerous. They stuck to big game—it was easy to get meat when you could see a 'gang of goats'—antelope—swimming the river, and the hills covered with game."
"Uncle Dick," resumed Rob, as they again gathered around the map and Journal spread down on the tent floor, "those men must have had some notion of the country, even had some map of it."
"Yes, they had a map—made by one Evans, the best then to be had, and I suppose made up from the fur traders' stories. But it was incomplete. Even to-day few maps are anywhere near exactly accurate. For instance, when they came to the Cheyenne River—which, of course, the traders called the Chien, or Dog, River—Clark said that nothing was known of it till a certain Jean Valle told them that it headed in the Black Hills.
"Of course, it's all easy now. We know the Black Hills are in the southwest corner of South Dakota, and that the Belle Fourche River of the old cow country runs into the Cheyenne, which flows almost east, into the Missouri. But if Mr. Valle had not been out to the Black Hills, Lewis and Clark would not have been able to give this information. Then, again, while they were at the Ree village, on October 10th, two more Frenchmen came to breakfast, 'Mr. Tabo and Mr. Gravolin,' who were already in this country.
"To me, one of the most interesting things is to see the overlapping and blending of all these things—how the turkey once overlapped the antelope and prairie dog; how the Rees, who were only scattered branches of the Pawnees, properly at home away down in Kansas—overlapped the Sioux, who sometimes raided the Pawnees below the Platte.
"And these French traders said the Spaniards sometimes came to the mouth of the Kaw River, and even on the Platte. So there we were, overlapping Spain to the west. And up above, Great Britain was overlapping our claims to the valley of the Columbia and even part of this Missouri Valley. You can see how important this journey was.
"You'll remember the lower Brule Sioux Reservation, below us and west of the river. The Cheyenne Reservation is in above here, below the mouth of the Cheyenne River. From there the river takes a pretty straight shoot up into North Dakota. A great game country, a wild cow country, and now a quiet farming country. A bleak, snow-covered, wind-swept waste it then was. And it was winter that first stopped that long, slow, steady, tireless advance of the 'Corps of Vollenteers.'"
"I see they broke one more private before they got to the Mandans," said John, running ahead in the pages of the book.
"Yes, that was Newman, who had been found guilty of mutinous expressions. Seventy-five lashes and expulsion from the Volunteers was what the court of nine men gave him. They always were dignified, and they enforced respect from whites and Indians alike."
"Well," grumbled Jesse, "it looks to me like there had been a whole lot of people wandering around across this country long before Lewis and Clark got here."
"Right you are, my boy. The truth is that right across these Plains there went west the first American exploring expedition that ever saw the Rockies. The French nobleman Verendrye, his three sons, and a nephew, not to mention quite a band of Indians, started west across from the Mandan country in 1742. On January 1, 1743, he records his first sight of the Rocky Mountains, which he calls the Shining Mountains—a fine name it is for them, too.
"The Verendrye expedition was the first to cross Wyoming or the Dakotas so far in the west. They came back through the Bad Lands, above here, and Verendrye records in his journal that near a fort of the Arikara Indians he buried a plate of lead, with the arms and inscription of the king. He did this in March, 1743. It always was supposed that this was at or near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. That suspicion was absolutely correct.
"In a little railway pamphlet put out by the Northern Pacific Railway it is stated that on Sunday, February 16, 1913—one hundred and seventy years after Verendrye got back that far east—a school girl playing with some others at the top of a hill scraped the dirt from the end of a plate, which then was exposed about an inch above the ground. She pulled it out. The story said it looked like a range-stove lining. It was eight and a half inches long by six and a half inches wide and an eighth of an inch in thickness. Well, it was discovered to be the old Verendrye lead plate—that's all!"
"That's a most extraordinary thing!" said Rob. "Well, anyhow, it shows the value of leaving exploring records. So you couldn't blame William Clark for writing his name at least twice on the rocks."
"No, the story of the Verendrye plate is, I think, one of the most curious things I have ever read in regard to early Western history. You never can tell about such things. Well, in any case Verendrye, the first white man who ever saw the Shining Mountains, died in 1749. That was fifty-five years before Lewis and Clark started up the river.
"There is not a hundred miles, or ten miles, or one mile, along all these shores which has not historical value if you and I only knew the story."
"But it's a long, long way up to the Mandans still," began John once more.
His Uncle Dick gayly chided him.
"It'll not be so long—only a little over three hundred miles from here."
"If only there were the buffalo!" said Jesse.
"Yes, if only there were the buffalo, and the antelope and the Indians! I'd give a good deal to have lived in those days, my own self. Good night, Jess. Good night, Rob and Frank."
IN DAYS OF OLD
The young travelers each night made their beds carefully, for they long since had learned that unless a man sleeps well he cannot enjoy the next day's work. It has been noted that they had three buffalo robes for part of their bedding, one each for Uncle Dick and Rob, while John and Jesse shared one between them. In the morning Uncle Dick noted that the latter two boys had their robe spread down with the hair side up.
"I suppose you did that to get more of a mattress?" he said. "But suppose you wanted to keep warm in really cold weather, in a snowstorm, say. Which side of the robe would you wear outside?"
"Why, the smooth side, of course!" replied Jesse, who was rolling the robe. "That'd have the warm fur next to you, so you'd be warmer that way."
"No, there's where you are wrong," said his uncle. "The old-timers always slept with the hair outside, and the Indians wore their robes that way. 'Buffalo know how to wear his hide!' is the way an Indian put it. And, you see, a buffalo always did wear his hair outside! Next to the musk ox, he was the hardiest animal on this continent and could stand the most cold. No blizzards on these plains ever troubled him. He could get feed when other animals starved."
"He'd paw down through the snow to the grass," said Jesse.
"Again you are wrong. A horse paws snow. The buffalo threw the snow aside with his hairy jaws or his whole head—he rooted for the grass!"
"Well, I didn't know that."
"A good many things are now forgotten," said his friend. "Writers and artists and even scientists quite often are wrong. For instance, in pictures you almost always see the herd led by the biggest buffalo bull. In actual fact it was always an old cow that led the herd. The bulls usually were at the rear, to defend against wolves. And when a buffalo ran, he ran into the wind, not downwind, like the deer. Few remember that now.
"Take the antelope, too. The old hunters always knew that the antelope shed his horns, same as a deer, but scientists denied that for years, because they didn't happen to see any shed horns. I have had an antelope buck's horn pull off in my hand, in the month of May, and it left the soft core exposed, covered with coarse black filaments like black hairs. Naturally, in the fall, at the time Lewis and Clark got their 'goat,' as they called the antelope, the horns were on tight, so they supposed they didn't shed.
"They sent President Jefferson specimens of the new animals they found—the antelope, prairie dog, prairie badger, magpie, bighorn, and a grizzly-hide or so. They got their four bighorn heads at the Mandans, none very large, though 'two feet long and four inches diameter' seemed big to them. And I shouldn't wonder if those horns could have been pulled off the pith after they got good and dry. The horns of the bighorn will dry out and lose at least ten per cent of their measurement, in a few years' hanging on a wall. I have had a bighorn's curly horn come off the pith in rough handling three or four years after it was killed; but of course the horns never were shed in life."
"Did they get them along the Missouri?" asked Jesse, now.
"Not until they got above the mouth of the Yellowstone. There they killed a lot of them."
"They saw one big grizzly track before they got to the Mandans," said Rob, who was listening.
"Oh yes—that might have been. Alexander Henry the younger tells us of grizzlies in northern Minnesota in early days. In all the range country along the Missouri from lower South Dakota the grizzly used to range, and he was on the Plains all the way to the Rockies, and from Alaska to New Mexico and Utah, as I can personally testify. Just how far south he ran in here I don't know—some think as far south as upper Iowa, but we can't tell. He couldn't do much with deer and antelope, and worked more on elk and buffalo, when it came to big meat. He'd dig out mice and eat crickets, though, as well.
"Yes, he'd been all along this country, I'm sure.
"But Lewis and Clark didn't really kill any grizzlies until they got above the Yellowstone—and then they certainly got among them. Gass records sixteen grizzlies met with between the Yellowstone and the Great Falls of the Missouri. He usually calls them 'brown bears,' which shows the great color range of the grizzly. Lewis and the others call them 'white bears.' The typical grizzly had a light-yellowish coat, often dark underneath.
"Of course, color has nothing to do with it. I've seen them almost black. The silvertip is a grizzly. The giant California bear was a grizzly. The great Kadiak bears which you boys saw were grizzlies of a different habitat. I've seen a grizzly with a hide almost red. But of course you know that the 'cinnamon bear' is practically always a black bear; and a black bear mother may have two cubs, one red and one quite black.
"Scientists try to establish a dozen or two 'species' of bears—even making different 'species' of the black bears of the southern Mississippi bottoms—Arkansas, Louisiana, etc.—and I don't know how many sorts of 'blue bears' and 'straw bears,' 'glacier bears,' etc., among the grizzlies. Of course, bears differ, just as men do. But the one thing which remains constant is the length of the claws, or front toe nails—what the Journal calls their 'talons.' In a black bear these are always short. In a grizzly they are always long—they get them up to four and one-half inches, and I believe some of your Kadiaks have even longer claws. Colors grade, but claws don't. I even think the polar bear is a grizzly of the North—white because he lives on snow and ice, and with a snaky head because he has to swim. But his claws he needed and kept.
"The long-clawed bears were all predatory; the short-clawed ones never were. Not long ago I read a magazine story about a black bear which killed a moose with seven-foot horns. There never was a black bear ever killed any moose, and there never was any moose with horns that wide. Such things are nonsense—like a great part of the magazine animal fiction."
Rob was interested. "Too bad they've trapped off about all the grizzlies," he said now. "I've tried a lot of kinds of sport, and of them all, I like grizzly hunting, quail shooting, and fly fishing for trout."
"Not a bad selection! Well, the first is hard to get now. The grizzly is closer to extinction than the elk or the buffalo, for the buffalo breed in domestic life, and the grizzly—well, he hasn't domesticated yet. He's the one savage—he and the gray wolf—that would never civilize. And he's gone."
"But, Uncle Dick, those bears must have been a different species from grizzlies nowadays. Look how they fought? Even Lewis came near being killed by them more than once."
"Yes, they'd fight, in those days, for they were bigger and bolder, and they had not yet learned fear of the rifle. You must remember that while, in this country up to the Mandans, the early traders had been ahead of Lewis and Clark, above the Yellowstone no white man ever had gone. Those bears thought a white man was something good to eat, and they offered to eat him.
"Their rifles were muzzle loaders—I've often and often tried to find just the size ball they used, but I can't find such exact mention of their weapons—but they were light and inefficient single-shot rifles, as we now look at it, even in the hands of exact riflemen, as all those men were. So the grizzlies jumped them. They shot one sixteen times. Lewis had to jump in the river to escape from one. Oh, they had merry times in those days, when grizzlies were regular fellows!"
John nearly always had precise facts at hand. He now found his copy of the little journal of Patrick Gass. "Here's how big one was," he said. "Gass calls it a 'very large brown bear,' and it measured three feet five inches around the head, three feet eleven inches around the neck, five feet ten and one-half inches around the breast. His foreleg was twenty-three inches around, and his talons were four and three-eighths inches. He was eight feet seven and one-half inches long."
"That was a big grizzly," Uncle Dick nodded, "a very big one, for this latitude. The biggest silvertip grizzly I ever knew in Montana weighed nine hundred pounds. But they were bigger in California and all up the Pacific coast—trees and bears grew bigger there, for some reason. You boys have killed Kadiaks as big as this Gass grizzly. But you didn't do it with a flintlock, small-bore, muzzle loader, fair stand-up fight. And your Kadiak bear would run when it saw you—so would a Lewis and Clark grizzly; only it would run toward you! Six men of them went out after one of them and wounded it, and it almost got the lot of them. Another time a grizzly chased a man down a bank into the river—bad actors, those grizzlies, in those times."
John looked at his watch. "Getting late, folks," said he. "On our way?"
"On our way!" And in a few moments the Adventurer had her load aboard.
"You will now notice the Sioux running along the bank," said John, "trailing the boat, shooting ahead of it, threatening to stop it, begging tobacco, asking for a ride—all sorts of a nuisance. But we spread the square sail, set out, and proceeded on!"
In fact, so well had they cast out ahead, as usual, the nature of the country into which they were coming, and so well had they studied its history, that it needs not tell their daily journey among the great bluffs, the wide bars, and the willow-lined shores of the great river.
Gradually, the course of the river being now more nearly to the north, they noted the higher and bleaker aspect of the Plains, which the Journal described as land not so good as that below the Platte. Of the really arid country farther west, and of the uses of irrigation, the Journal knew little, and spoke of it as a desert, though now, on the edge of the river, the clinging towns and the great ranch country back of them, with the green fields of farms and the smokes of not infrequent homes, warned them that the past was gone and that now another day and land lay before them.
After many misadventures among the countless deceiving channels and bars of the river, and after locating the several Indian villages of the past and of to-day—the Rees, the Sioux bands, the Cheyennes—they did at last cross the North Dakota line at the Standing Rock agency, did pass the mouths of the Cannon Ball and Heart Rivers, and raise the smokes of Bismarck on the right, and Mandan on the left bank, with the great connecting railway bridge. They drove on, and at length chose their stopping place below Mandan, on the west shore.
Now, as always at the river towns they had passed, they met many curious and inquisitive persons, eager to know who they were, where they were going, whence they had come, and how long they had been on the way.
"Well, sir," said Rob to one newspaperman who drove up to their little encampment the next morning, in pursuit of a rumor he had heard that the boat had ascended the river from its mouth, "since you ask us, we are the perogue Adventurer, Company of Volunteers for Northwestern Discovery, under Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. We are in search of winter quarters, and we hope the natives are peaceful. We have been, to this landing, just forty-nine days, five hours and thirty-five minutes, this second day of July."
"But that's impossible! Why, it's over a thousand miles from here to St. Louis by water!" remarked the editor, himself a middle-aged man.
"Would you say so, sir?"
"Well, how far is it?"
"You should know, sir; you live here."
"But I never had any occasion to know or to care," smiled the visitor.
Rob smiled also. "Well, sir, according to Patrick Gass——"
"I never heard of him——"
"——who kept track of it a hundred and seventeen years ago, it's about sixteen hundred and ten miles, though we don't figure it quite sixteen hundred. Call it fourteen hundred and fifty-two, as the river chart does."
"Jerusalem! And you say you made it in forty-nine days? Why, that's—how many miles a day?"
"Well, we set out to do over forty miles a day, but we couldn't quite make it. We ran against a good many things."
"And broke all known and existing records at that, I'll bet a hat! How on earth!"
"Well, you see, sir," Rob went on, politely, "we've rigged a double outboard, with an extension bed on the stern. They're specially made for us and they're powerful kickers. In fair water and all going good, they'll do six and eight an hour, with auxiliary sail; and we traveled ten hours nearly every day. But then, it wasn't always what you'd call fair water."
"At least, we got here for the Fourth," he added. "We began to think, down by the Cannon Ball, that we wouldn't. We planned to spend the Fourth among the Mandans."
"If there's ice cream," interrupted Jesse.
"Ice cream?" The visitor turned to Uncle Dick, who sat smiling. "All you want, and won't cost you a cent! Come on up to my house, won't you, and spend the night? Have you got all the eggs and butter and bread and fruit you want—oranges, lemons, melons?"
"Of melons we got quite a lot at the upper Arikaree village," said Rob, solemnly. "But oranges—and ice cream—they didn't have those!"
Uncle Dick joined their visitor in a hearty laugh. "These chaps are great for making believe," said he. "We're crossing on the old Lewis and Clark trail, as nearly as we can. We're going to the head of the Missouri River, and my young friends are trying to restore the life of the old days as they go along."
"Fine! I wish more would do so. I'm ignorant, myself, but I'm going to be less so. An idea, sir!
"Well," he continued, "you'll have to come up to town and stop with me. I'll get a man to watch your boat—not that I think it would need much watching. You'll be here over the Fourth, at least?"
"Oh, yes," replied Uncle Dick, now introducing himself, "we're ready to take a little rest and look around a little among the Mandans! Can you show us where the old Lewis and Clark winter quarters were?"
"Sure! To-morrow we can steam on up to that place, and also the site of old Fort Clark. Then I'll show you around among the painted savages of our city!"
They all laughed, and after pulling up the boat, drawing tight the tent flaps, and spreading the tarpaulin over the cargo, they joined their new friend in his motor car and sped off for the town, where they were made welcome and obliged to tell in detail the story of their long journey.
AMONG THE MANDANS
"Well," said Jesse, late the next afternoon, when, in accordance with his promise, this new friend had pointed out the place where, the expert investigators usually agreed, the explorers built their winter quarters in the year 1804—near the plot called Elm Point, even now heavily timbered. "I don't see much of a fort left here now. What's become of it?"
"What becomes of any house built of cottonwood logs in ten or twenty years?" smiled his uncle. "But the Journal and other books tell us that here or about here is where the old stockade once stood. It was opposite to where Fort Clark later was built in 1831. You see, Fort Clark was on the west side, on a high bluff, and in its time quite a post, for it was one hundred and thirty-two by one hundred and forty-seven feet in size, and well built. Fort Clark was about fifty-five miles above the Northern Pacific Railroad bridge at Bismarck, North Dakota. We've had a good day's run of it.
"All Clark tells us about Fort Mandan is that it was on the north bank, that the ground was sandy, and that they cleared the timber to make room. He says they had cottonwood and elm and some small ash, but complains that the logs were large and heavy and they had to carry them in on hand spikes, by man power. They used no horses in rolling up the logs.
"But Patrick Gass tells more about the way they did. They had two rows of cabins, in two wings, at right angles, and each cabin had four rooms in it. I think the men slept upstairs, for when the walls were up seven feet they laid a puncheon floor, covered with grass and clay, which Gass says made 'a warm loft.' This projected about a foot, and a puncheon roof was put over that.
"The outer wall was about eighteen feet high. They had several fireplaces. They made a couple of storerooms in the angle of the two wings, and then put up their stockade in front, to complete their square. This stockade was made of upright logs, and had a gate, like most of the frontier posts, so that, what with their swivel gun and all their rifles, they could have made quite a fight against any sort of an attack, although they had no trouble of any kind.
"They were not very far from the Mandan villages. Quite a settlement this was, in these parts—not mentioning nine deserted villages inside of sixty miles below—two Mandan villages, built with the Mandan dirt-covered lodges, like those of the Rees; and besides that, villages of Sioux and Gros Ventres, and of a band they called the Watasoons, and seventy lodges of Crees and Assiniboines who came in later and the fierce Minnetarees—plenty of savages to warrant the expedition in taking no chances."
"I've read that the Indians at first were not so friendly," said Rob. "There were British traders among them, weren't there?"
"Oh yes, the Northwest Fur Company was in there, and an Irishman by the name of McCracken was on the ground at the time. Alexander Henry got there in 1806, you know. Now, Lewis sent out a note by McCracken to the agent at Fort Assiniboine. Those traders were none too friendly, and tried to stir up trouble. Two more of the Nor'westers, Larocque and McKenzie, came in, with an interpreter and four men, and the interpreter, LaFrance, took it on him to speak sneeringly of the Americans. It did not take Captain Lewis long to call him to account."
"Well, our fellows were up in there all alone, weren't they?" exclaimed Jesse.
"They certainly were, but they held their fort; and they held all the Northwestern country for us. As soon as the Northwest Fur Company found out that Lewis and Clark intended to cross the Rockies to the Columbia, they sent word East, and that company sent one of their best men, Simon Fraser, to ascend the Saskatchewan and beat the Americans in on the Columbia. But he himself was beaten in that great race by about a couple of years! So we forged the chain that was to hold the Oregon country to the United States afterward. Oh yes, our young captains had a big game to play, and they played it beautifully.
"They always talked peace among these Mandans and others, because they wanted the Missouri River opened to the American fur trade. They waited around, and held talks, and swapped tobacco for corn, and the American blacksmiths made for them any number of axes and hatchets and other things. By and by the Indians began to figure that they were more apt to get plenty of goods up the Missouri from the Americans than overland from the British traders. Do you see how that began to work out? Oh, our boys knew what they were about, all right. And the result was that our fur trade swept up that river like an army with banners as soon as Lewis and Clark got back home. In a few years we had a hundred and forty fur trading posts on the Missouri and its upper tributaries, and from these our bold traders pushed out by pack train into every corner of the Rocky Mountains."
"Gee!" said Jesse, in his frequent and not elegant slang. "Gee! Those were the days!"
"Right you are—those were the days! Those were the great days of adventure and romance and exploration. It was through the fur trade that we explored the Rocky Mountains. Can't you see our men of the fur posts, paddling, rowing, sailing, tracking—getting up the Missouri? Great days, yes, Jesse—great days indeed."
"I wish we had a picture of that old stockade!" sighed John.
"None exists. Not a splinter of it remains; it was burned down in 1805, and the ruins later engulfed by the river. But I fancy we can see it, from the description. So there our party spent that first winter, and long and cold enough it was.
"They had to hunt or starve, but soon their buffalo and elk and deer and antelope got very thin, mere skin and bones. It was bitter cold, and the hunters came in frozen time and again—a hard, bare, bitter fight it was. From all accounts, it was an old-fashioned winter, for the mercury—they spelled it 'merkery'—froze solid in a few minutes one day when they set the thermometer out of doors!"
"And it must have been cool inside the houses, too," ventured John. "But of course they had to do their writing and fix up their things."
"Quite so—they had to get their specimens ready to ship down the river in the spring. Then they had to make six canoes for use the next year, and as they found the timber unsuitable near the river, the men had to camp out where they found the trees, and then they carried the canoes by hand over to the river, a mile and a half.
"They sent the big flatboat, or bateau, down the river, and thirteen men went with it. The two perogues and the six new cottonwood dugouts they took on west, up the river, when they started, on March 7, 1805, to finish their journey across the continent. Of these men, the party who went through, there were thirty-one; and there was one woman."
"I know!" said Jesse. "Sacagawea!"
"Right! Sacagawea. Make it two words. 'Wea' means 'woman.' 'Bird Woman' was her name—Sacaga Wea. And of the entire party, that Indian girl—she was only a girl, though lately married and though she started west with a very young baby—was worth more than any man. If it had not been for her they never would have got across.
"You see, up to this place, the Mandan towns, they had some idea of the country, and so also they had beyond here as far as the mouth of the Yellowstone—that's two hundred and eighty-eight miles above here. But beyond the mouth of the Ro' Jaune—it even then was called Roche Jaune, or Yellow Stone, by the early French voyageurs—it was said the foot of white man never then had passed. There was no map, no report or rumor to help them. If they had a guide, it couldn't be a white man.
"Now among the Mandans they found a man called Chaboneau, or Charboneau, a Frenchman, married to two Indian women, one of whom was Sacagawea. He had bought her from the Minnetarees, where she was a captive.
"Just think how the natives traveled in those days! You know the Sioux hunted on the upper Platte, as far as the Rockies. Well, this Minnetaree war party had been west of the Rockies, or in the big bend of the Rockies, at the very head of the Missouri River, among the Shoshonis. They took Sacagawea prisoner when she was a little girl, and brought her east, all the way over to Dakota, here. But she was Indian—she did not forget what she saw. She knew about the Yellowstone, and the Three Forks of the Missouri.
"Well now, whether it was because Chaboneau, the new interpreter, wanted her along, or whether Lewis and Clark figured she might be useful, Sacagawea went along, all the way to the Pacific—and all the way back to the Mandans again. Be sure, her husband did not beat her any more, while they were with the white captains. In fact, I rather think they made a pet of her. They found they could rely on her memory and her judgment.
"So the real guide they had in the nameless and unknown country was a Shoshoni Indian girl. It looked almost like something providential, the way they found her here, ready and waiting for them—the only possible guide in all that country. And to-day, such was the chivalry and justice of those two captains of our Army—and such the chivalry and justice of the men of Oregon and the enthusiasm of the women of Oregon—you may see in Portland, near the sea to which she helped lead our flag, the bronze statue of Sacagawea, the Indian girl. That, at least, is one fine thing we have done in memory of the Indian.
"And within the last two or three years a bronze statue of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark has been erected at Charlotteville, Virginia, near the home of Meriwether Lewis—that was at Ivy station, to-day only a scattered settlement. And away down in Tennessee, in the forest of Lewis County, named after him, I have stood by the monument that state erected over the little-known and tragic grave of Captain Meriwether Lewis—far enough from the grave of the poor Indian girl who worshiped him more than she could her worthless husband.
"No one knows where Sacagawea was buried, though her history was traced a little way after the return to this country. She was buried perhaps in the air, on a scaffold, and left forgotten, as Indian women were, and we no more can stand by her grave than we can be sure we stand on the exact spot where Will Clark built his winter quarters among the Mandans.
"Great days, boys—yes, great days, and good people in them, too. So now I want you to study a little here.
"Look back down the river, which has seemed so long for you. To-morrow will be the Fourth of July. It was Christmas that Lewis and Clark celebrated with their men in their stockade."
Their new friend had for the most part been silent as he listened to this counselor of the party. He now spoke.
"Then I take it that you are going on up the river soon, sir?" said he. "I wish you good journey through the cow country. You'll find the river narrower, with fewer islands, so I hear; and I should think it became swifter, but—I don't know."
"I was going to come to that," said Uncle Dick, turning to Rob, John, and Jesse. "What do you think? I'd like you to get an idea of the river and all it meant, but we have only the summer and early fall to use. I don't doubt we could plug on up with the motors, and get a long way above Great Falls, but about the time we got to where we could have some fun fishing or maybe shooting, we'd have to start east by rail. So I'd planned that we might make a big jump here."
"How do you mean, sir?" Rob asked.
"Change our transportation."
"Oh—because Lewis and Clark changed here?"
"Natural place for us to change, if we do at all," said Uncle Dick. "We ought to stick as close to the river as we can, and as a matter of fact we have covered the most monotonous part of it. But we had to do that, for there was no other way to get here and still hang anywhere near to the river. And until we got here we struck no westbound railroad that would advance us on our journey.
"Here we could get up the Yellowstone by rail, but we are working on the Missouri. If we run on by motor car up to Buford, there we can get by rail over to the Great Falls, and still hang closer to the river; although, of course, we'll not be following it."
"But what'll we do with our boat?" began Jesse, ruefully. "Hate to leave the little old Adventurer."
"Well, now," answered his uncle. "We couldn't so well take her along, could we?"
"I'd like mighty well to buy her," interrupted the editor. "That is, if you care to sell her."
"I never knew my boys to sell any of their sporting equipment," said the other. "But I expect they'd give it to you, right enough. Eh, boys?"
They looked from one to another. "If the gentleman wanted her," began Rob, at last, "and if we've done with her, I don't see why we couldn't. But I think we ought to take the motors along as far as we can, because we might need them."
"Good idea," Uncle Dick nodded. "We can get a trailer here, can't we?" he asked of their friend.
"Sure; and a good car; too. I'll drive you up to Buford, myself, for the fun of it—and the value of it to me. I'll get a car at Bismarck. We can pack your outfit in the trailer and the motors, too, easily. You can check and express stuff through to Great Falls from Buford—and there you are. How'll you go from there—boat?"
"I don't believe so," replied Uncle Dick. "I believe we'd have more freedom if we took a pack train above Great Falls, and cut across lots now and then, checking up in our Journal all the way."
"That's the stuff!" exclaimed John. "Horses!"
"Lewis and Clark used horses for some distance, at the crossing," said Uncle Dick, "so I think we may dare do so. We want all the variety we can get, and all the fun we can get, too. What do you say, young gentlemen?"
"It sounds good to me," said Rob. "I'd like to see the mountains pretty well. You see, a great part of our lives has been spent in Alaska and the northern country, and we're just getting acquainted with our own country, you might say. The Rockies this far south must be fine in the early fall."
"It suits me," assented John. "I'd like to take the Adventurer along, but Lewis and Clark didn't take their boats through all the way, either."
"And if we had time," added Jesse, "we could run some river late in the fall, say from Great Falls down to here."
"All good," nodded Uncle Dick. Then turning to their new friend, "Suppose we cross our camp to Bismarck the morning of July 5th, tie up our boat there for you, and then go on in the way you suggest—motor and trailer?"
"Agreed," said the other. "I'll be there early that day."
"Which way shall we go?" asked Rob. "If we took the road along the Northern Pacific west, we could see the Bad Lands, and go through Medora, Theodore Roosevelt's old town."
The editor shook his head. "Bad, if there's rain," he said. "Besides, that takes you below the Missouri. I think we'd best go on the east side the river, north of Bismarck. We could swing out toward the Turtle Lakes, and then make more west, toward the Fort Berthold Reservation. From there we could maybe get through till we struck the Great Northern Railroad; and then we could get west to Buford, on the line, and on the river again. If we got lost we could find ourselves again some time."
"How long would it take?" inquired Rob.
"If it's two hundred and eighty-eight miles by the river, it would be maybe two hundred and fifty by trail. We could do it in a day, on a straightaway good road like one of the motor highways, but we'll have nothing of the sort. I'll say two days, three, maybe four—we'd know better when we got there."
"That sounds more adventurish," said Jesse. And what the youngest of them thought appealed to the others also.
"Very well. All set for the morning after the Fourth," said Uncle Dick. "And when we go back to Mandan be sure not to eat too much ice cream, for we're not apt to run across very many doctors on the way. And now we'd better get ready to camp here to-night. We can make Mandan by noon to-morrow—it's faster, downstream."
"On the way," said their friend, "I want you to go around to the coulee below town, where there's three or four tepees of Sioux in camp. What do they do? Oh, make little things to sell in town—and not above begging a little. There's one squaw we call Mary, who has been coming here a good many years. She makes about the finest moccasins we ever get. She made my wife a pair, out of buckskin white as snow. I don't know where she got it."
"The Sioux had parfleche soles to all their moccasins," said John, wisely. "All the buffalo and Plains Indians did. The forest Indians had soft soles."
"You're right, son," said the editor. "For modern bedroom moccasins, to sell to white women, Mary makes them all soft, with a shallow ankle flap. Most of the Indian men wear shoes now, but when she makes a pair of men's moccasins she always puts on the raw-hide soles. You can see the hair on the bottoms, sometimes."
"Buffalo hair?" smiled Jesse.
"Well, no. The Indians use beef-hide now. But they don't like it."
"Neither do I," said Jesse.
OLD DAYS ON THE RIVER
"Not so bad, not so bad at all," was John's comment as they all sat around the camp fire on the evening of July 5th. They had spent two pleasant days in town and now were forty miles out into the Plains country above the railroad; they had pitched camp at the edge of a willow-lined stream which ran between steep bluffs whose tops rose level with the plain. The smoke of their camp fire drifted down the troughlike valley from their encampment. The boys had found enough clean wood for a broiling fire, and John just now had taken off the thick beefsteak which they had brought along with them.
"You will observe that this is from the tenderloin of the three-year-old fat buffalo cow that I killed this morning," said he. "I always did like buffalo. We will break open some marrow bones about midnight, and I'll grill some boss ribs for breakfast."
"And for luncheon," added Jesse, joining readily in the make-believe, "we'll try some of the cold roast of the last bighorn I killed, over in the breaks of the Missouri. Not so bad!"
Their friend from Mandan looked at them, smiling. "I hope you haven't shot any tame sheep," said he. "No, not a bad camp, except that the mosquitoes are eating me alive. How do these boys stand it the way they do?"
"Oh, they're tough," laughed Uncle Dick. "We've had so many trips up North together, where the mosquitoes really are bad, we've got immune, so we don't mind a little thing like this. It takes two or three years to get over fighting them. For the first year they almost drive a man crazy, up there in Alaska."
"I expect, sir, you'd better go inside the tent with our uncle to-night," said Rob. "We have our buffalo robes and bed rolls and don't need any tent, but if you drop the bar to the tent door, and take a wet sock to the mosquitoes that get in, I think you'll not be bothered."
"But how will you sleep, outside?"
"Oh, we pull a corner of the blanket over our faces if they get too bad. By nine or ten o'clock they'll be gone—until sunup; then they're the worst. If we had camped up on the rim it would have been better."
"I'm going up on the rim after supper," said Jesse, "to see if I can't find an antelope—I suppose you'd call it a jack rabbit. I saw three coveys of prairie chickens cross the road to-day. If it was legal, now!"
Indeed, an hour later the youngest of the party came in at dark, carrying a pair of long-legged jacks, one of them young and fat. "I always was good on antelopes," said he. "These were in at the edge of a farmer's clover field. I'm glad we're getting into good game country!"
"Yes," Uncle Dick said, "between the Mandans and the mouth of the Yellowstone, Lewis and Clark began to find the bighorn, which was new to them. And as we've said, they now were meeting the first 'white bears' or grizzlies. All along, from here to Great Falls, was the best grizzly country they found in all the way across."
"If only they were in there now!" said John.
"Why, would you dare tackle a grizzly?" smiled their friend. John did not say much.
"These boys have done it," replied their uncle for them. "I'd hate to be the bear. They shoot straight, and the rifles they have are far more powerful than the ones the first explorers had."
"We'll call this exploring," said Jesse, with sarcasm. "I'll have to get help to hang up my antelopes so they'll cool out.
"But, anyhow," he added, "this is as much fun as plugging along among the sand bars in the motor boat. We beat the oars, and now this gas wagon beats our boat motors!"
"Uncle Dick," suddenly interrupted Rob, "we've been talking about the fur trade on the river a hundred years ago. I understand the fur posts were supplied by steamboats, at the height of the fur trade, anyhow. Now, how long did it take a steamer in those days to make the run, say, from St. Louis to the mouth of the Yellowstone?"
"That's easy to answer," his uncle replied. "The records and logs of some of the old boats still exist in St. Louis, and while I was there I looked up some of them.
"Now as nearly as I can learn there was no exact way of estimating distances by any of those travelers—the speedometer was not invented, nor the odometer, nor the ship's log. Now I don't know how the steamboat captains got at it, but they kept a daily log of distance, and they had the different stopping places all logged for distance. We make it a little less than sixteen hundred miles to Mandan. The Journal makes it sixteen hundred and ten—close enough. The river chart calls it fourteen hundred and fifty-two to the bridge; over fifty miles below the Mandan villages.
"But the Journal makes it eighteen hundred and eighty-eight miles to the mouth of the Yellowstone. My steamboat records call it seventeen hundred and sixty miles—more than a hundred miles shorter. At least, that was what the traders called it to Fort Union, which was just above the mouth of the Yellowstone, as nearly as now is known; you must bear in mind that practically every one of the old fur posts was long ago wiped out. How? Well, largely by the steamboats themselves! The captains were always short of wood. They tore down and burned up first one and then another of the early posts. Settlers did the rest.
"At first, as early as 1841, it took eighty days to do that seventeen hundred and sixty miles upstream, and twenty-one days to run back downstream. In 1845 they did it in forty-two days up, and fifteen down. In 1847 it was done in forty days up, and fourteen days down; and they didn't beat that much, if any."
"That's an average of about forty-four miles a day," said Rob, who was doing some figuring on his notebook. "Going down, about one hundred and twenty-three miles."
"Why, they beat our average!" complained John. "We didn't climb her in much over forty, if that."
"Well, we could pick the way easier, but she had more power," said Rob. "Everybody knows a big boat beats a little one. But she didn't beat us much, at that."
"The Adventurer's a good boat," nodded Uncle Dick, "and I think on the whole we've got a pretty good idea of the travel of 1804 and 1805, or will have before we're done.
"But now, one thing or two I want you also to bear in mind. Life isn't all adventure. Commerce follows on the trail of adventure. The fur traders forgot the romance, and hurried in up the Missouri, as soon as they could. And what fur they did get! No wonder Great Britain was sorry to meet Lewis and Clark up here!
"There were a lot of important fur posts that fed into the Missouri. The mouth of the James River was a good post. Fort Pierre—on the Teton, down below—was the best post on the river except Union, at the Yellowstone. Pierre covered two and a half acres of ground, but Union was better built—she had twenty-foot palisades a foot square, and she stood two hundred and forty by two hundred and twenty feet, with stone bastions at two corners, pierced for cannon, and a riflemen's banquette clear around inside.
"They were right in the middle of the Sioux and near the Blackfeet, and after the smallpox came on the river, the Indians got bitter and hated the thought of a white man. But they had only fur to trade for rifles and traps and blankets, and the white traders made the only market.
"I was speaking of Fort Pierre, because of a journal kept in 1832 by the trader at that place. It is largely a record of weather and water, but has a touch or so of interest now and then—I made some notes from it. Thus, I find that on June 24th the steamer Yellowstone arrived, down bound, and they put six hundred packs of buffalo robes on her. That boat on the next day had on board one thousand three hundred packs of robes and beaver. In the old trade a pack was ninety to one hundred pounds.
"On July 9th three bateaux got in from Fort Union with a lot of robes. They loaded on one bateau one hundred and twenty packs of beaver and other fur, and on another thirty packs of robes, and she was to take on one hundred and twenty to one hundred and thirty packs more at Yankton post.
"On July 11th four bateaux left Fort Pierre for St. Louis, and they carried three hundred and fifty-five packs of robes and ten thousand two hundred and thirty pounds of beaver. And on July 30th another bateau came down from Union with six thousand beaver skins on board.
"From this you can see something of the size of the big bateaux—or Mackinaws—of that time, and something of the size of the fur trade as well. And all the time the big river was outfitting the hardy pack-train men who brought out fortunes in beaver from the rivers of the Rockies. Great times, boys—great times! And all of that trade rested on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
"You now have seen how important the mouth of the Yellowstone was—where Fort Union was located in 1828. That was for a time pretty near the end of the road, just as it was for Lewis and Clark a quarter century earlier. Above there were the Blackfeet, and they were bad Indians. About the first man up in there was James Kipp.
"Now I want to tell you something very curious—one of those things now rapidly getting out of record and remembrance. James Kipp lived among the Mandans and married there. He had a son, Joe Kipp, whom he once took home to Illinois to educate, after he had left the trade and married a white woman. He loved Joe, but told him he must never let it be known that he was the Indian son of James Kipp, the respected white man.
"Well, the boy Joe couldn't stand that. He ran away up the river, and never came back. He went back to his mother, a Mandan woman. In later days, since the fur trade passed and the Indians all were put on reservations, Joe Kipp was the post trader for years. He was a bold trader and went into Canada at one time. He founded old Fort Whoop-up. He got to be worth some money in his stores, though always liberal with the Indians. He was the man who showed the engineers of the Great Northern Railroad the pass which they built through. It is the lowest railroad pass of them all, though the one farthest north of all our railroads over the Rockies.
"Now, I knew Joe Kipp very well and often met him on the Blackfeet Reservation. He lived in a big frame house there, had a bathtub and a Chinaman cook, and showed his Indians how to 'follow the path of the white man.'
"But what I want you to remember is this: Joe Kipp had his Mandan mother with him until she died. I have seen her, too, a very tall, old woman, and wild as a hawk. Joe built her a little cabin all her own, where no one else ever went. In her little cabin she spent her last years as she had lived in her earlier days among the Mandans, making moccasins for Joe, decorating tobacco pouches and fire bags with beads and porcupine quills. I have a fire bag of hers that Joe gave me, and I prize it very much. She no longer had the buffalo, but on the rafters of her lodge she had her dried meat hanging, and the interior was something no man living will see again.
"Joe Kipp's Mandan mother was the last living soul of the pure-blood Mandan tribe, one of the most curious and puzzling ones of the West—they were a light-colored people, the children with light eyes; no one knows how they came on the Missouri. But the smallpox got them almost all. They went crazy, jumped in the river—died—passed.
"Well, Joe's mother, so he said, was the last, a very old woman, I presume nearly a hundred then. Often she would take her blanket and go out on a hilltop and sit there motionless hours at a time, with her blanket over her face—thinking, thinking, I presume, over the days that you and I are studying together now.
"And just a little while ago I heard of Joe Kipp's death, too. His mother died some years earlier. So that is some Mandan history which I presume even our Mandan friend here never has heard before—about the last of the Mandans, who came down, broken and helpless, even into our own time."
"Don't!" suddenly said Rob. "Please don't! It makes me sad."
They fell silent as presently each found his way to his blankets.
AT THE YELLOWSTONE
The motor-car journey of the party had not much of eventfulness, being practically, most of the way, through a farm or range country where roads of least passable sort led them in the general northwesterly direction which they desired to take. All three of the young explorers could drive, so they took turns occasionally, while the editor sat in the back seat and conversed with Uncle Dick.
Beyond a few grouse and rabbits, with a half dozen coyotes, they saw no game except wild fowl on the sloughs. The cabins and tepees on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation afforded them a change of scene, and they were delighted to find three of the native Mandan earth lodges, one nearly fifty feet in diameter. They learned that the remnants of the Mandan tribe, few in number and comprising few, if any, pure blood, were located with reservation here, and were clinging to their tribal customs the best they could.
"Well, here's what Patrick Gass says about the old Mandan huts and how they were built—and he was a carpenter and so ought to know." John was always ready with his quotations:
"'A Mandane's circular hut is spacious. I measured the one I lodged in, and found it 90 feet from the door to the opposite side. The whole space is first dug out about 1-1/2 feet below the surface of the earth. In the center is the square fireplace, about five feet on each side, dug out about two feet below the surface of the ground flat. The lower part of the hut is constructed by erecting strong posts about six feet out of the ground, at equal distances from each other, according to the proposed size of the hut, as they are not all of the same dimensions. Upon these are laid logs as large as the posts, reaching from post to post to form the circle. On the outer side are placed pieces of split wood seven feet long, in a slanting direction, one end resting on the ground, the other leaning against the cross-logs or beams. Upon these beams rest rafters about the thickness of a man's leg, and 12 to 15 feet long, slanting enough to drain off the rain, and laid so close to each other as to touch. The upper ends of the rafters are supported upon stout pieces of squared timber, which last are supported by four thick posts about five feet in circumference, 15 feet out of the ground and 15 feet asunder, forming a square. Over these squared timbers others of equal size are laid, crossing them at right angles, leaving an opening about four feet square. This serves for chimney and windows, as there are no other openings to admit light, and when it rains even this hole is covered over with a canoe (bull boat) to prevent the rain from injuring their gammine (sic) and earthen pots. The whole roof is well thatched with the small willows in which the Missourie abounds, laid on to the thickness of six inches or more, fastened together in a very compact manner and well secured to the rafters. Over the whole is spread about one foot of earth, and around the wall, to the height of three or four feet, is commonly laid up earth to the thickness of three feet, for security in case of an attack and to keep out the cold. The door is five feet broad and six high, with a covered way or porch on the outside of the same height as the door, seven feet broad and ten in length. The doors are made of raw buffalo-hide stretched upon a frame and suspended by cords from one of the beams which form the circle. Every night the door is barricaded with a long piece of timber supported by two stout posts set in the ground in the inside of the hut, one on each side of the door.'"
"Well," remarked Jesse, "that sort of a house was big enough, so it is no wonder they could keep their horses in there with them, too, in the wintertime. And they fed them cottonwood limbs when there wasn't any grass to eat."
"Yes," remarked Uncle Dick, "that's what we call adjusting to an environment. I will say these Mandans were rather efficient on the whole, and not bad engineers and architects."
They did not tarry long, although they made their second encampment within the lines of the old Fort Berthold Reservation, for they found all the Indians wearing white men's clothing, and using wagons and farm implements, and Jesse said they had more Indianish Indians in Alaska.
Now they bore rather sharply to the north, feeling for the line of the railway, which they struck at a village about midway between the Little Knife and the White Earth Rivers. The early afternoon of their fourth day brought them back once more to the sight of the Missouri, at the town of Buford, near the Montana line and opposite the mouth of the Yellowstone.
Following their usual custom, they made camp outside the vicinity of the town, after purchasing the supplies they needed for the day and for the return trip of their obliging friend from Mandan, who now reluctantly decided that he could accompany them no farther.
"I'd rather go on with you than do anything I know," said he, "but it's going to be quite a trip, and I won't have time, even if we could get through with a car."
Uncle Dick nodded. "Really the best way to do this would be to take ship again here and follow the river up the Great Falls," he said; "but by the time we got a boat rigged and had made the run up—best part of six hundred miles—we'd be almost a month further into the summer—because the river is swifter above here. They made good time, but it was mostly cordelle work. And, using gas motors, the boys wouldn't have much chance of any real sport and exercise, which, of course, I want them to have every summer when possible.
"Get your map, John—the big government map—and let's have a look at this country in west of here."
John complied. They all bent over the map, which they spread down on the floor of the tent. Their gasoline camp lantern shed its brilliant light over them all as they bent down in study of the map.
"You'll see now that we're almost at the farthest north point on the Missouri River. From here it runs almost west to the Great Falls, and then almost south. Now our new railroad (the Great Northern Railroad) will take us to the Great Falls of the Missouri, but it by no means follows the Missouri. On the contrary, a little over two hundred miles from here, I'd guess, it strikes the Milk River—as Lewis and Clark called it—and follows that river half across the state of Montana. It would carry us out to the Blackfeet Reservation, and what is now Glacier Park—my own hunting ground among the Blackfeet, where I knew Joe Kipp—but that is entirely off the map for us."
"Why, sure it is!" said Jesse, following the line of the river with his finger. "Look it! It runs away south, hundreds of miles, into the southwest corner of the state; and the railroad goes almost to Canada. And there's a lot of river between here and Great Falls, too—bad water, you say?"
"And see here where the Yellowstone goes!" added Rob. "It's away below the Missouri, a hundred, a hundred and fifty miles in places—no railroads and no towns."
"No," remarked their leader, "but one of the real wild places of the West in its day—as cow range or hunting range, that wild and broken country in there had no superior, and not many men know all of it even now. Part of it is wonderfully beautiful.
"At no part of the journey did Lewis and Clark have more exciting adventures than in precisely this country that we've got to skip, too. The buffalo fairly swarmed, and elk and antelope and bighorn sheep and blacktail deer were all around them all the time. It was a wonderful new world for them. How many of the great fighting grizzlies they met in that strip of the river, I wouldn't like to say, but in almost every instance it meant a fight, until half the crew would no longer go after a grizzly, they were so scared of them. One they shot through eight times, and it chased the whole party even then. I tell you, those bears were bad!
"But we'd not see one now—they're all gone, every one. Nor would we see a bighorn—besides, they are protected by a continuous closed season in Montana. Pretty country, yes, wild and bold and risky; but better coming down than going up. We miss some grand scenery, but save a month's time, maybe.
"But now see here—about halfway out to the Blackfeet is Havre Junction. There we can take a train southwest to the town of Great Falls; and above there we can stop at the mouth of the Marias River. Between there and the Falls is Fort Benton, and that is one of the most important points, in a historical way, there was on the whole river, although its glory departed long ago. From there we'd get to our pack train and be off for the head of the Missouri. What do you think, Rob?"
Rob was silent for a time. "Well," said he, at length, "I think we'd get pretty much a repetition of the river work, and not much sport—hard river, too.
"Now, it would be fine to go to old Benton by river, to the head of navigation; but we know that Fort Benton was not one of the early fur posts—indeed, it came in when the last of the buffalo were being killed. It was where the traveling traders got their goods, and where the bull outfits got their freight in 1863 for the placer mines of Montana and was the outfit place for Bozeman and all those early points. But that was after the fur trade was over."
"That's right," said Uncle Dick. "First came the explorers; then the fur traders; then the miners; then the cow men; then the farmers. The end of the buffalo came in 1883—a million robes that year; and the next, none at all—the most terrible wild-life tragedy that ever was known. After that came the cattle and the sheep and the irrigation men."
He sat musing for the time.
"But listen now to a little more of the early stuff. You, Jesse, do you follow up the Yellowstone with your finger till you come to the mouth of the Big Horn River. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," replied Jesse. "Here she is."
"All right. Now, at that place, in the year 1807—the next year after Lewis and Clark got back home—a shrewd St. Louis trader by name of Manuel Lisa, of Spanish descent he was, heard all those beaver stories, and he pushed up the Missouri and up the Yellowstone, and built a post called Fort Manuel there. He wanted to trade with the Blackfeet and Crows both, but found those tribes were enemies. He couldn't hold the fort. He dropped back to St. Louis and formed the first of the great fur companies, the Missouri River Company. They were the pioneers of many later companies.
"The Missouri River Company had their post at the Three Forks of the Missouri—away up yonder, eight hundred miles from here—as early as 1810; that was crowding Lewis and Clark pretty fairly close, eh? Well, then came the Rocky Mountain Company, and the American Fur Company, and the Pacific Fur Company, and the Columbia Fur Company, and I don't know how many other St. Louis partnerships up-river—not mentioning the pack-train outfits under many names—and so all at once, as though by magic, there were posts strung clear to the head of the river—one hundred and forty of them, as I have told you. And of them all you could hardly find a trace of one of them to-day.
"There's dispute even as to the site of Fort Union, which was just above here and up the river a little above the Yellowstone. That was built in 1828.
"Long before that, and for twenty years after that, the fur traders kept on building, until the mouth of every good-sized river running into the Missouri had not only one, but sometimes three or four posts, all competing all or part of the time! Risky business it was. Some made fortunes; most of them died broke. Well, I reckon they had a good run for their money, eh?"
"And when did it end?" asked the Mandan friend, who had sat an absorbed listener to a story, the most of which was new to him.
"It has not ended yet," answered Uncle Dick. "St. Louis is to-day the greatest fur market in the world, though now skunk and coon and rat have taken the place of beaver and buffalo and wolf. But within the past four years a muskrat pelt has sold for five dollars. In 1832 the average price for the previous fifteen years had been twenty cents for a rat-hide—many a boy in my time thought he was rich if he got ten cents. A buffalo robe averaged three dollars; a beaver pelt, four dollars; an otter, three dollars. Think of what they bring now! Well, the demand combs the country, that's all.
"But in 1836 beaver slumped—because that was the year the silk hat was invented. Did you know that? And in 1883 the buffalo robes ended. I'd say that 1850 really was about the end of the big days of the early fur trade—what we call the upper-river trade."
Rob put his hand down over the map. "And here it was," said he, "in this country west of here, up the Yellowstone, up the Missouri, all over and in between!"
"Quite right, yes," his companion nodded. "Of all the days of romance and adventure in the Far West, those were the times and this was the place—from here west, up the great waterway and its branches.
"No one can estimate the value of the Missouri River to the United States. It made more history for us than the Mississippi itself. It made our first maps—the fur trade did that. It led us across and got us Oregon. It led us to the placers which settled Montana. It took the first horses and wagons and plows into the upper country in its day, as well as the first rifles and steel traps. It brought us into war with the Indians, and helped us win the war. It carried our hunters up to the buffalo, and carried all the buffalo down, off from the face of the earth. And it rolls and boils and tumbles on its way now as it did when the great bateaux swept down its flood, over a hundred miles a day, loaded with robes and furs."
"I wish we could see it all!" grumbled Jesse, again.
"You can see it all now, Jess," said his uncle, "better than you could if you plugged up its stream without looking at a map or book. And even if you did look at both, you've got to see the many different periods the old Missouri has had in its history, and balance one against the other.
"Dates are not of so much importance, but reasons for great changes are important. If I had to select just one date in Western history, do you know what that would be?"
"Eighteen hundred and four, when our men started up with the flag!" said Rob.
Uncle Dick shook his head.
"Eighteen hundred and six, when they got back," ventured Jesse.
"Eighteen hundred and forty-eight, when they found gold in California!" said John.
"No! Great years, yes, and the discovery of gold was a great event in changing all the country. But to the man who really has studied all the story of the Missouri River, I believe that the year 1836 was about the pivotal date. And it only marks the invention of the silk hat! But that year the plow began to take the place of the steel trap in the way of making a living in the West. That was the year, I might say, when the mystery and romance of the unknown West found their end, and the day began of what we call business and civilization.
"That's all. Go to bed, fellows. Our friend has been most kind to us, and we have to get him a good breakfast in the morning, since he must leave us then."
The Mandan friend rose and put out his hand. "I want to thank you, sir," he said. "I'm in your debt. I wish my own boys were along with this party."
The next day they parted and the young Alaskans were speeding west by rail, making the great jump of about six hundred miles, between the mouth of the Yellowstone and the Great Falls of the Missouri.
WHERE THE ROAD FORKED
"Well, fellows," began Rob, "this is a place I've always wanted to see. I've read about old Fort Benton many a time. Now, here we are!"
The little party stood curiously regarding an old and well-nigh ruined square structure of sun-dried brick, not far from which lay yet more dilapidated remnants of what once had been the walls and buildings of an old abode inclosure. They were on their third day out from the mouth of the Yellowstone River, having come by rail, and were spending the day at Fort Benton, between the junction point of Havre and the modern city of Great Falls.
"There's not much of it left," scoffed Jesse. "I don't call this so much of a fort. You could pretty near push over all that's left of it."
"Not so, Jess," replied Rob, the older of the three boys. "Nothing can push over the walls of old Fort Benton! It has foundations in history."
"Oh, history!" said Jesse. "That's all right. But I'm sore we didn't run the river up from Buford. Just when we hit some wild stuff, we take the cars! Besides, we might have seen some white bears or some bighorn sheep."
John smiled at Jesse. "Not a chance, Jess," said he, "though it's true we have jumped over what was the most interesting country we had struck till then—castles and towers and walls and fortresses; and as you say, plenty of game. Tell him about it, Uncle Dick. He's grouching."
Uncle Dick smiled and put his hand on Jesse's curly head. "No, he isn't," said he. "He just isn't satisfied with jack rabbits where there used to be grizzlies and bighorns. I don't blame him.
"Yet to the east of us, to the end of the river at Buford, to the south along the Yellowstone, and on all the great rivers that the cowmen used for range—along the Little Missouri and the Musselshell and the Judith and countless other streams whose names you have heard—lay the greatest game country the world ever saw, the best outdoor country in the world!
"This was the land of the Wild West Indian and buffalo days, so wild a country that it never lived down its reputation. Buffalo, antelope, and elk ranged in common in herds of hundreds of thousands, while in the rough shores of the river lived countless bighorns, hundreds of grizzlies, and a like proportion of buffalo and antelope as well, not to mention the big wolves and other predatories. Yes, a great wilderness it was!"
"And we jumped it!" said Jesse.
"Yes, because I knew we'd save time, and we have to do that, for we're not out for two years, you see.
"Now look at your notes and at the Journal. It took Lewis and Clark thirty-five days to get here from the mouth of the Yellowstone, and we've done it in one, you might say. The railroad calls it three hundred and sixty-seven miles."
"Well, the Journal calls it more," broke in Rob, "yet it sticks right to the river."
"And now they began to travel," added John. "They did twenty—eighteen—twenty-five—seventeen miles a day right along, more'n they did below Mandan, a lot.
"They make it six hundred and forty-one miles from the Yellowstone to the Marias, which is below where we are now. That's about eighteen miles a day. Yet they all say the river current is much stiffer."
"We'd have found it stiff in places," said their leader. "But the reason they did so well—on paper—was that now they couldn't sail the canoes very well, and so did a great deal of towing. The shores were full of sharp rocks and the going was rough, and they had only moccasins—they complained bitterly of sore feet.
"Their hardships made them overestimate the distances they did—and they did overestimate them, very much. When we were tracking up on the Rat Portage, in the ice water, at the Arctic Circle, don't you remember we figured on double what we had actually done? A man's wife corrected him on how long they had been married. He said it was twenty years, and she said it was ten, by the records. 'Well, it seems longer,' he said. Same way, when they did ten miles a day stumbling on the tracking line, they called it twenty. It seemed longer.
"Now, when the river commission measured these distances accurately, they called it seventeen hundred and sixty miles from the mouth of the river to the mouth of the Yellowstone, and not eighteen hundred, as the Journal has it. And from Buford to Benton, by river, is not six hundred and forty-one miles, as the Journal makes it, but only five hundred and three. So the first white men through those canyons and palisades below us yonder were one hundred and thirty-eight miles over in their estimates, or more than one-fourth of the real distance.
"This tendency to overestimate distances is almost universal among explorers who set the first distances, and it ought to be reckoned as a factor of error, like the dip of the magnetic needle. But they did their best. And we want to remember that they were the first white men to come up this river, whereas we are the last!"
"Anyhow," resumed Rob, "we are at old Benton now."
"Yes, and I think even Jesse will agree, when we stop to sum up here, that this is a central point in every way, and more worth while as a standing place that any we would have passed in the river had we run it.
"This is the heart of the buffalo country, and the heart of the old Blackfoot hunting range—the most dreaded of all the tribes the early traders met. We're above the breaks of the Missouri right here. Look at the vast Plains. This was the buffalo pasture of the Blackfeet. The Crows lay below, on the Yellowstone.
"Now as they came up through the Bad Lands and the upper breaks of the big river, the explorers gave names to a lot of creeks and buttes, most of which did not stick. Two of them did stick—the Judith and the Marias. Clark called the first Judith's river, after Miss Julia Hancock, of Virginia, the lady whom he later married. Her friends all called her Judy, and Clark figured it ought to be Judith.
"In the same way Lewis called this river, near whose mouth we now are standing, Maria's River, after his cousin, Miss Maria Wood. Clark's river, famous in military days, and now famous as the wheat belt of the Judith Basin, lost the possessive and is now plain Judith. That of Meriwether Lewis still has all the letters, but is spelled Marias River, without the possessive apostrophe. So these stand even to-day, the names of two Virginia girls, and no doubt will remain there while the water runs or the grass grows, as the Indians say."
"But even now you've forgotten something, Uncle Dick," interrupted John. "You said this was the Forks of the Road. How do you mean?"
"Yes. This later proved one of the great strategic points of the West. As you know, this was the head of steamboat navigation, and the outfitting point for the bull trains that supplied all the country west and south and north of us. No old post is more famous. But that is not all.
"I have reference now, really, not to Fort Benton, but to the mouth of the Marias River, below here. Now, see how nearly, even to-day, the Marias resembles the Missouri River. Suppose you were captain, Jess, and you had no map and nothing to go by, and you came to these two rivers and didn't have any idea on earth which was the one coming closest to the Columbia, and had no idea where either of them headed—now, what would you do?"
"Huh!" answered Jesse, with no hesitation at all. "I know what I'd have done."
"Yes? What, then?"
"Why, I'd have asked that Indian girl, Sacagawea, that's what I'd have done. She knew all this country, you say."