Another great tale from our friend Stargazrroger who writes for his local arts council, well done Roger ...
It’s my birthday. November 28, 1845. I am 47 years old. I am celebrating my birthday alone, all of the children and grandchildren are all gone. My wife passed away two years ago, thus I am alone. I am sitting in front of the fireplace, at my home in Norfolk Virginia. This is the house that I was born and raised in. I glance out of the window and it is snowing. Today reminds me of my Mountain Man days. I gaze into the fire rembering.
One winter in particular, I think it was the winter of 1820. My cabin was on the Green River in the Dakota territories. It is early fall and a hint of the winter to come. I woke up from a peaceful sleep. I arose from bed, stoked the fire, started making breakfast, and went outside to get some firewood and to my surprise there is about 3 feet of snow on the ground. When I went to bed there was no snow on the ground. The first thing that I check on is my horse and mule, making sure that they are still there and feed them. I look around for tracks by the animals, only deer so far. I gather an armload of firewood and go back inside the cabin. I start gathering my gear to run my trap lines. I also start fixing some breakfast, gathering food and supplies. Mentally running through a checklist of my tools and what things that I will need. I bring the horse and mule around to the front of the cabin and saddle the horse and put the pack frame on the mule. I carefully stack my food, tent, extra powder, and flint, then on top extra clothing. I then go to the fireplace and poke in the embers and place them in my two tinderboxes. I check my tomahawk and see if it needs sharpening, my two skinning knifes, and my two Kentucky pistols. I load the .45 cal. Pistols and put them away in their holsters. I then gather my traps for the last run of the season.
I sat down and started putting away my other Beaver pelts in the cabin. Those other pelts are money in the bank. I look around inside the cabin and make sure that everything is secure, I bank the fire and make sure that there is enough wood inside so when I come back there will be enough wood to start a fire. I fill my water bag. I then gather my medicine bag, possibles bag, powder horn, powder measure, and extra flints. I load my .50 cal Hawken rifle; check the flint and flash pan, both are ok. I put the rifle in its sheath; I remember when I traded a pelt for it from a Cheyenne warrior. The sheath was covered with Porcupine quills and multi-colored beads and leather throngs. Beautiful. I take one last look around inside the cabin; everything is where it should be. I close the door and fasten it shut so the wolves cannot get in.
I mount my horse and reach for the reins of the mule, when a shout startles me. I draw my Bowie Knife, ready to defend my self. I dismount and walk towards the man. A fellow trapper from down the Snake River walks up and says hello. It is Crazy Bill a trapper that has been trapping up here for years. He tells me that there are Blackfoot raiding parties near, and tells me to watch out for my scalp. Crazy Bill tells me where the next rendezvous is and when, and where the Beaver are. He leaves singing a dirty ditty at the top of his lungs that he picked up somewhere, and muttering to himself. I shake my head and wonder at things. I then grab the reins of the mule, saddle up, and head towards the river. I start out at a slow pace; it is about 7 miles away. The sky is a color of Blue that almost hurts the eyes. The ground is cover is all white and about 3 feet deep. All of the trees have a white mantel on their shoulders.
I hear an Eagle off in the distance, and try to find where it is. Some Indians consider the eagle as a good luck sign, especially starting on a trip. I see the Eagle towards the west, the same direction that I am heading. Maybe good luck will be coming my way. I get to where I set up my base camp along a sheltered outcropping. I have used this place as a base camp for Six years. No prints of wild animals or human to be seen. I unload the mule and horse and set up housekeeping. The first thing to do is build a fire, using my tinderbox and dried wood and tinder that I had put in here last time I was here. Soon the fire is burning. Smoke puffs out like smoke signals in the air. It is finally getting warm in here. I finish unloading and unpacking sorting out items, putting stuff in cubbyholes that nature has provided. Finally everything is unloaded and put away. I unsaddle my horse and mule, and tie them next to the outcropping. I settle in for the night. My saddle is my pillow and a few blankets are all I need. My Rifle and Knife are at my side. My pipe of tobacco tastes good now. I bank the fire and check on the animals, everything is ok. I settle down and try to go to sleep. Off in the distance I hear Coyotes yipping and howling, an Owl hooting, everything peaceful, even the Moon is smiling.
The next morning I get up, stretch, and walk around to get the kinks out. Rekindle the fire and start fixing something to eat. While food is cooking I check on my animals, both ok. No tracks other than my own in the snow. The sun is bright and just coming over the tops of the mountains across the valley. Not a cloud in the sky, beautiful blue. I am hungry. The food is done cooking and I seem to stuff the food in all at once, it seem that I took just one bite and it is all gone. I take a big drink of water from my water bag, burp, and burp again. I start getting my traps ready to go. I place the traps in a Burlap bag and sling it over my shoulder. I reach for my rifle and skinning knife and put them in position, I am ready to go to work. I look around, make sure that every thing is put away, and check on the animals one more time leaving food and water for them.
I slowly start out headed towards the North on foot. My trap lines start about two miles away. The Snow is deep in places sometimes I almost fall. I finally get to where my trap lines run. The first trap has no Beaver in it but the Beavers have left tracks in the snow, they were here. I reset the trap and go to the next one. The next one has a Beaver in it but another animal has got there first. By the tracks in the snow it was a wolverine, bad luck for me, good luck for the wolverine. Nothing left but bones. I clean up the area and move the trap down stream. I am beginning to wonder if I will get any Beaver this trip. I go to the next trap. As I am walking toward the next trap I hear a few yelps and look up to see a Cheyenne warrior with his rife raised above his head. I raise my rifle above my head and pump it up and down. The warrior yelps again and starts off headed in another direction. From a distance that looked like Little Running Bear, the warrior that I traded for my rifle sheath, if it was I wish him luck in his search.
I finally get to my next trap and find a Beaver in it still alive. I get close enough to kill it with my knife. After removing the dead Beaver from the trap, I move it a little and reset. I move away from the site and gut, skin the beaver, and mount the skin on a frame that I carry with me. I head towards my next trap and all the others near the end of my trap line I smell smoke; it is too far from my own campfire must be something new. No Indians near here. This could mean trouble. I scramble on to the nearest hill and start looking around and see a cabin off in the distance. The cabin was not there last time I was here. I slowly head to the cabin, when I get within shouting distance I yell “HELLO THE CABIN” “ANY BODY THERE.” I wait rifle ready when the door of the cabin opens slowly and the receiving end of a rifle slowly points toward me, followed by a Black Man and a squaw. I relax a little and ask if I can come closer. The man says, “Come ahead slowly.” I walk to the cabin almost falling in the deep snow. I reach up and remove my cap. My blonde hair falls around my shoulders. The Man relaxes, the rifle pointing toward the ground. He says “Welcome Want some Coffee?” I said that would be nice, and continue to the cabin. When I get closer I recognize the squaw it is Little Running Bears sister, Little White Flower. I say hello in Cheyenne to Little White Flower then she blushes and turns away. I then turn toward the man of the house and introduce my self “ My Name is John Flatbottom.” “Welcome to the Valley.” The man reaches out and shakes my hand. “ My Name is Bart Willow, Welcome to my cabin.” “ Sit Down and relax.” I place my rifle by the door and I leave my pack on the porch. I sit down and White Flower brings a cup of coffee to me. We start talking about the beaver and the Blackfoot raids in the area. I asked Bart how long he has been here, he said less than a fortnight. He asked why I have a round bare patch on my head with no hair.
I told him that I had a run in with a Blackfoot war party two years ago, they wounded me, and thought I was dead and they scalped me. Bart shivered and turned pale. I asked how he came by White Flower. He said that he was lost and almost dead a Cheyenne warrior helped him get well in his village and he met White Flower. As he was getting better, a Blackfoot raiding party attacked the village. He fought beside the Chief and killed many Blackfoot warriors. The Chief made him a Cheyenne warrior with all the privileges of a warrior. He liked White Flower and traded what equipment that he had for her. That was eight weeks ago. Since then he built this cabin and settled here. I told him of the up coming rendezvous in a week and where at. I thanked him and White Flower for the coffee and said I must be on my way. I gathered my rifle and backpack, stood on the porch, and said goodbye. Bart said that I was always welcome anytime. I then told him where my cabin was and that he and White Flower were welcome anytime. As I slowly trudged away from the cabin, I began to think of home in Norfolk, and all of my family that I have there. I decided after this rendezvous to head back home. I went back and finished running my trap lines, headed back to the cabin. When I got back to the cabin I prepared the Beaver skins and got them ready. I packed all of my belongings that I could and left some for the next people to take the house, with a note explaining why I left and they could have all the stuff I left there. I left the cabin that same day headed south to the rendezvous. I traded my pelts and mule for money and headed east. I took two weeks to get to the Mississippi river and another two weeks to get back to Norfolk and home. I married a woman from Norfolk and had kids. As I look back I think that was the best time of my life. Always busy. Now I can hardly walk, and have my meals and house kept by a servant. As I gaze into the fire I start getting sleepy, I slowly dose off.
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