Skip to main content

Full text of "The hunter's feast, or Conversations around the campfire"

See other formats







other Books by MAYNE REID, uniform with this volume. 













Front. The Hunter i Fcast.\ 

p. 28 
















































On the western bank of the Mississippi, twelve miles 
below the emboucJmre of the Missouri, stands the large 
town of St. Louis, poetically known as the ' Mound 
City.' Although there are many other large towns 
throughout the Mississippi Valley, St. Louis is the 
metropolis of the ' far west ' — of that semi-civilised, 
ever-changing belt of territory known as the ' Frontier.' 

St. Louis is one of those American cities in the his- 
tory of which there is something of peculiar interest. 
It is one of the oldest of North-American settlements, 
having been a French trading port at an early period. 

Though not so successful as their rivals the English, 
there was a degree of picturesqueness about French 
colonisation, that, in the present day, strongly claims 
the attention of the American poet, novelist, and 
historian. Their dealings with the Indian aborigines, 
the facile manner in which they glided into the habits 
of the latter — meeting them more than halfway between 
civilisation and savage life — the handsome nomen- 
clature which they have scattered freely, and which still 
holds over the trans- Mississipian territories — the 
introduction of a new race (the half-blood — peculiarly 
French) — the heroic and adventurous character of their 
earliest poineers De Salk, Marquette, Father Hennepin, 
&c. — their romantic explorations and melancholy fate 


2 The Hunters' Feast •■ 

— all these circumstances have rendered extremely 
interesting the early history of the French in America. 
Even the Quixotism of some of their attempts at 
colonisation cannot fail to interest us, as at Gallipolis 
on the Ohio, a colony composed of expatriated people 
of the French court — perruquiers, coach - builders, 
tailors, modistes, and the like. Here, in the face of 
hostile Indians, before an acre of ground was cleared, 
before the slightest provision was made for their future 
subsistence, the first house erected was a large log 
structure to serve as the salon du bal ! 

Besides its French origin, St. Louis possesses many 
other points of interest. It has long been the entrepot 
and depot of commerce with the wild tribes of prairie- 
land. There the trader is supplied with his stock for 
the Indian market — his red and green blankets — his 
beads and trinkets — his rifles, and powder, and lead ; 
and there, in return, he disposes of the spoils of the 
prairie collected in many a far and perilous wandering. 
There the emigrant rests on the way to his wilderness 
home ; and the hunter equips himself before starting 
forth on some new expedition. 

To the traveller, St. Louis is a place of peculiar 
interest. He will hear around him the language of 
every nation in the civilised world. He will behold 
faces of every hue and variety of expression. He will 
meet with men of every possible calling. 

All this is peculiarly true in the latter part of the 
summer season. Then the motley population of New 
Orleans fly from the annual scourge of the yellow fever, 
and seek safety in the cities that lie further north. Of 
these, St. Louis is a favourite 'city of refuge,' the 
Creole element of its population being related to that 
kindred race in the South, and keeping up with it this 
annual correspondence. 

In one of these streams of migration I had found my 
way to St. Louis, in the autumn of i8 — . The place 
was at the time filled with loungers, who seemed to 
have nothing else to do but kill time. Every hotel had 
its quota, and in every verandah, and at the corners of 

A Huntirig Party 3 

the streets, you might see small knots of well-dressed 
gentlemen trying to entertain each other, and laugh away 
the hours. Most of them were the annual birds of 
passage from New Orleans, who had fled from ' yellow 
Jack,' and were sojourning here till the cold frosty winds 
of November should drive the intruder from the 
' crescent city ' ; but there were many other flaneurs as 
well. There were travellers from Europe — men of 
wealth and rank who had left behind them the 
luxuries of civilised society to rough it for a 
season in the wild West — painters in search of the 
picturesque — naturalists whose love of their favourite 
study had drawn them from their comfortable closets to 
search for knowledge under circumstances of extremest 
difficulty — and sportsmen, who, tired of chasing small 
game, were on their way to the great plains to take part 
in the noble sport of hunting the buffalo. I was 
myself one of the last-named fraternity. 

There is no country in the world so addicted to the 
table d'hote as America, and that very custom soon 
makes idle people acquainted with each other. I was 
not very long in the place before I was upon terms of 
intimacy with a large number of these loungers, and I 
found several, like myself, desirous of making a hunting 
expedition to the prairies. This chimed in with my 
plans to a nicety, and I at once set about getting up 
the expedition. I found five others who were willing 
to join me. 

After several conversaziones, with much discussion, we 
succeeded at length in 'fixing' our plan. Each was to 
'equip' according to his own fancy, though it was 
necessary for each to provide himself with a riding 
horse or mule. After that, a general fund was to be 
' raised,' to be appropriated to the purchase of a waggon 
and team, with tents, stores, and cooking utensils. A 
couple of professional hunters were to be engaged ; men 
who knew the ground to be traversed, and who were to 
act as guides to the expedition. 

About a week was consumed in making the necessary 
preparations, and at the end of that time, under the 

4 The Hunters' Feast 

sunrise of a lovely mornincr, a small cavalcade was seen 
to issue from the back suburbs of St. Louis, and, climb- 
ing the undulating slopes in its rear, head for the far- 
stretching wilderness of the prairies. It was our hunting 

The cavalcade consisted of eight mounted men, and a 
waggon with its full team of six tough mules. These 
last were under the manege of 'Jake' — a free negro, 
with a shining black face, a thick, full mop, and a set of 
the best ' ivories,' which were almost always uncovered 
in a smile. 

Peeping from under the tilt of the waggon might be 
seen another face strongly contrasting with that of Jake. 
This had been originally of a reddish hue, but sun-tan, 
and a thick sprinkling of freckles, had changed the red 
to golden yellow. A shock of fiery hair surmounted 
this visage, which was partially concealed under a badly- 
battered hat. Though the face of the black expressed 
good-humour, it might have been called sad when 
brought into comparison with that of the little red man, 
which peeped out beside it. Upon the latter, there was 
an expression irresistibly comic — the expression of an 
actor in broad farce. One eye was continually on the 
wink, while the other looked knowing enough for both„ 
A short clay-pipe, stuck jauntily between the lips, added 
to the comical expression of the face, which was that of 
Mike Lanty from Limerick. No one ever mistook the 
nationality of Michael. 

Who were the eight cavaliers that accompanied the 
waggon ? Six of them were gentlemen by birth and 
education. At least half that number were scholars. 
The other two laid no claim either to gentleness or 
scholarship — they were rude trappers — the hunters and 
guides of the expedition. 

A word about each one of the eight, for there was not 
one of them without his peculiarity. First, there was an 
Englishman — a genuine type of his countrymen — full 
six feet high, well-proportioned, with broad chest and 
shoulders, and massive limbs. Hair of a light brown, 
complexion florid, moustache and whiskers full and hay- 

A Hunting Party 5 

coloured, but suiting well the complexion and features. 
The last were regular, and if not handsome, at least 
good humoured and noble in their expression. The 
owner was in reality a nobleman — a true nobleman — X ^ 
one of that class who, while travelling through the ^r 
' States,' have the good sense to carry their umbrella 
along, and leave their title behind them. To us he was 
known as Mr. Thompson, and, after some time, when 
we had all become familiar with each other, as plain 
* Thompson.' It was only long after, and by accident, 
that I became acquainted with his rank and title ; some 
of our companions do not know it to this day, but that 
is of no consequence. I mention the circumstance here 
to aid me in illustrating the character of our travelling 
companion, who was 'close' and modest almost to a 

His costume was characteristic. A ' tweed ' shooting 
jacket, of course, with eight pockets — a vest of the same 
material with four — tweed trousers, and a tweed cap. 
In the waggon was t/ie hat-box, of strong yellow leather, 
with straps and padlock. This was supposed to contain 
the dress hat ; and some of the party were merry about 
it. But no, Mr. Thompson was a more experienced 
traveller than his companions thought him at first. The 
contents of the hat-case were sundry brushes — including 
one for the teeth — combs, razors, and pieces of soap. 
The hat had been left at St. Louis. 

But the umbrella had not. It was then under Thomp- 
son's arm, with its full proportions of whalebone and 
gingham. Under that umbrella he had hunted tigers 
in the jungles of India — under that umbrella he had 
chased the lion upon the plains of Africa — under that 
umbrella he had pursued the ostrich and the vicuna 
over the pampas of South America ; and now under 
that same hemisphere of blue gingham he was about to 
carry terror and destruction among the wild buffaloes of 
the prairies. 

Besides the umbrella — strictly a weapon of defence — 
Mr. Thompson carried another, a heavy double-barrelled 
gun, marked ' Bishop, of Bond Street,' no bad weapon 

6 The Hunters' Feast 

with a loading of buck shot, and with this both barrels 
were habitually loaded. 

So much for Mr. Thompson, who may pass for No. i 
of the hunting party. He was mounted on a strong 
bay cob, with tail cut short, and English saddle, both of 
which objects — the short tail and the saddle — were 
curiosities to all of the party except Mr. Thompson and 

No. 2 was as unlike No. i as two animals of the same 
species could possibly be. He was a Kentuckian, full 
six inches taller than Thompson, or indeed than any of 
the party. His features were marked, prominent and 
irregular, and this irregularity was increased by a 
'cheekful' of half-chewed tobacco. His complexion 
was dark, almost olive, and the face quite naked, without 
either moustache or whisker, but long straight hair, 
black as an Indian's, hung down to his shoulders. In 
fact, there was a good deal of the Indian look about 
him, except in his figure. That was somewhat slouched, 
with arms and limbs of over-length loosely hung about 
it. Both, however, though not modelled after the Apollo, 
were evidently full of muscle and tough strength, and 
looked as though their owner could return the hug of a 
bear with interest. There was a gravity in his look, 
but that was not from any gravity of spirits ; it was his 
swarth complexion that gave him this appearance, aided, 
no doubt, by several lines of 'ambeer' proceeding from 
the corners of his mouth in the direction of the chin. 
So far from being grave, this dark Kentuckian was as 
gay and buoyant as any of the party. Indeed, a light 
and boyish spirit is a characteristic of the Kentuckian 
as well as of all the natives of the Mississippi Valley — 
at least such has been my observation. 

Our Kentuckian was costumed just as he would have 
been upon a cool morning riding about the * woodland ' 
of his own plantation, for a ' planter ' he was. He wore 
a ' Jeans ' frock, and over that a long-tailed overcoat of 
the best green blanket, with side pockets and flaps. 
His jeans pantaloons were stuck into a pair of heavy, 
horse-leather pegged boots, sometimes known as 

A Hunting Party 7 

'nigger' boots, but over these were 'wrappers' of 
green baize, fastened with a string above the knees. 
His hat was a ' broad-brimmed felt,' costly enough, but 
somewhat crushed by being sat upon and slept in. He 
bestrode a tall raw-boned steed that possessed many 
of the characteristics of the rider; and in the same 
proportion that the latter overtopped his companions, 
so did the steed outsize all the other horses of the 
cavalcade. Over the shoulders of the Kentuckian were 
suspended, by several straps, pouch, horn, and haver- 
sack, and resting upon his toe was the butt of a heavy 
rifle, the muzzle of which reached to a level with his 

He was a rich Kentucky planter, and known in his 
native state as a great deer-hunter. Some business or 
pleasure had brought him to St. Louis. It was hinted 
that Kentucky was becoming too thickly settled for 
him — deer becoming scarce, and bear hardly to be 
found — and that his visits to St. Louis had something 
to do with seeking a new 'location 'where these animals 
were still to be met with in greater plenty. The idea of 
buffalo-hunting was just to his liking. The expedition 
would carry him through the frontier country where he 
might afterwards choose his 'location' — at all events 
the sport would repay him, and he was one of the most 
enthusiastic in regard to it. 

He that looms up on the retrospect of my memory 
as No. 3 was as unlike the Kentuckian as the latter 
was to Thompson. He was a disciple of Esculapius — 
not thin and pale, as these usually are, but fat, red, and 
jolly. I think he was originally a ' Yankee,' though his 
long residence in the Western States had rubbed the 
Yankee out of him to a great extent. At all events he 
had few of their characteristics about him. He was 
neither staid, sober, nor, what is usually alleged as a 
trait of the true-bred Yankee, ' stingy.' On the contrary, 
our doctor was full of talk and joviality — generous to a 
fault. A fault, indeed ; for, although many years in 
practice in various parts of the United States, and 
having earned large sums of money, at the date of our 

8 The Hunters^ Feast 

expedition we found him in St. Louis almost without a 
dollar, and with no great stock of patients. The truth 
must be told : the doctor was of a restless disposition, 
and liked his glass too well. He was a singer too, a fine 
amateur singer, with a voice equal to Mario's. That 
may partly account for his failure in securing a fortune. 
He was a favourite with all — ladies included — and so 
fond of good company, that he preferred the edge of the 
jovial board to the bed-side of a patient. 

Not from any fondness for buffalo-hunting, but rather 
through an attachment to some of the company, had 
the doctor volunteered. Indeed, he was solicited by all 
to make one of us — partly on account of his excellent 
society, and partly that his professional services might 
be called into requisition before our return. 

The doctor still preserved his professional costume of 
black — somewhat russet by long wear — but this was 
modified by a close-fitting fur cap, and wrappers of brown 
cloth, which he wore around his short, thick legs. He was 
not over-well mounted — a very spare little horse was all 
he had, as his funds would not stretch to a better. It was 
quite a quiet one, however, and carried the doctor and 
his 'medical saddle bags' steadily enough, though not 
without a good deal of spurring and whipping. The 
doctor's name was ' Jopper ' — Dr. John Jopper. 

A very elegant youth, with fine features, rolling black 
eyes, and luxuriant curled hair, was one of us. The 
hands were well formed and delicate ; the complexion 
silky, and of nearly an olive tint ; but the purplish-red 
broke through upon his cheeks, giving the earnest of 
health, as well as adding to the picturesque beauty 
of his face. The form was perfect, and full of manly 
expression, and the pretty sky-blue plaited pantaloons, 
and close-fitting jacket of the same material, sat grace- 
fully on his well - turned limbs and arms. These 
garments were of ' cottonade,' that beautiful and durable 
fabric peculiar to Louisiana, and so well suited to the 
southern climate. A costly Panama hat cast its shadow 
over the wavy curls and pictured cheek of this youth, 
and a cloak of fine broad cloth, with velyet facings, hung 

A Hunting Party 9 

loosely from his shoulders. A slight moustache and 
imperial lent a manlier expression to his chiselled 

This young fellow was a Creole of Louisiana — a 
student of one of the Jesuite Colleges of that State — 
and although very unlike what would be expected from 
such a dashing personage, he was an ardent, even 
passionate, lover of nature. Though still young, he 
was the most accomplished botanist in his State, and 
had already published several discoveries in the Flora 
of the South, 

Of course the expedition was to him a delightful 
anticipation. It would afford the finest opportunity for 
prosecuting his favourite study in a new field ; one as 
yet almost unvisited by the scientific traveller. The 
young Creole was known as Jules Besan^on. 

He was not the only naturalist of the party. Another 
was with us; one who had already acquired a world- 
wide fame ; whose name was as familiar to the savans 
of Europe as to his own countrymen. He was already 
an old man, almost venerable in his aspect, but his 
tread was firm, and his arm still strong enough to 
steady his long, heavy, double-barrelled rifle. An ample 
coat of dark blue covered his body ; his limbs were 
enveloped in long-buttoned leggings of drab cloth, and 
a cap of sable surmounted his high, broad forehead. 
Under this his bluish -grey eye glanced with a calm 
but clear intelligence, and a single look from it satisfied 
you that you were in the presence of a superior mind. 
Were I to give the name of this person, this would 
readily be acknowledged. For certain reasons I cannot 
do this. Suffice it to say, he was one of the most dis- 
tinguished of modern zoologists, and to his love for the 
study we were indebted for his companionship upon our 

hunting expedition. He was known to us as Mr. A , 

the ' hunter-naturalist.' There was no jealousy between 
him and the young Besangon. On the contrary, a 
similarity of tastes soon brought about a mutual friend- 
ship, and the Creole was observed to treat the other 
with marked deference and regard. 

10 The Hunters' Feast 

I may set myself down as No. 6 of the party. Let a 
short description of me suffice. I was then but a young 
fellow, educated somewhat better than common ; fond 
of wild sports ; not indifferent to a knowledge of nature; 
fond almost to folly of a good horse, and possessing one 
of the very best ; not ill-looking in the face, and of middle 
stature; costumed in a light hunting-shirt of embroidered 
buckskin, with fringed cape and skirt ; leggings of 
scarlet cloth, and cloth forage-cap covering a flock of 
dark hair. Powder-flask and pouch of tasty patterns ; 
belt around the waist, with hunting-knife and pistols — 
revolvers. A light rifle in one hand, and in the other a 
bridle rein, which guided a steed of coal blackness ; one 
that would have been celebrated in song by a troubadour 
of the olden time. A deep Spanish saddle of stamped 
leather ; holsters with bearskin covers in front ; a scarlet 
blanket, folded and strapped on the croup ; lazo and 
haversack hanging from the ' horn ' — voila tout ! 

There are two characters still undescribed. Characters 
of no mean importance were they — the 'guides.' They 
were called respectively, Isaac Bradley and Mark 
Redwood. A brace of trappers they were, but as 
different from each other in personal appearance as two 
men could well be. Redwood was a man of large 
dimensions, and apparently as strong as a buffalo, while 
his co?ifrere was a thin, wiry, sinewy mortal, with a 
tough, weasel-like look and gait. The expression of 
Redwood's countenance was open and manly, his eyes 
were grey, his hair light - coloured, and huge brown 
whiskers covered his cheeks. Bradley, on the other 
hand, was dark — his eyes small, black, and piercing — 
his face as hairless as an Indian's, and bronzed almost 
to the Indian hue, with the black hair of his head 
closely cropped around it. 

Both these men were dressed in leather from head to 
foot, yet they were very differently dressed. Redwood 
wore the usual buckskin hunting - shirt, leggings, and 
moccassins, but all of full proportions and well cut, 
while his large 'coon-skin cap, with the plume-like tail, 
had an imposing appearance, Bradley's garments, on 

A Hunting Party il 

the contrary, were tight -fitting and 'skimped.' His 
hunting-shirt was without cape, and adhered so closely 
to his body that it appeared only an outer skin of the 
man himself. His leggings were pinched and tight. 
Shirt, leggings, and moccassins were evidently of the 
oldest kind, and as dirty as a cobbler's apron. A close- 
fitting otter cap, with a Mackinaw blanket, completed 
the wardrobe of Isaac Bradley. He was equipped with 
a pouch of greasy leather hanging by an old black strap, 
a small buffalo-horn suspended by a thong, and a belt 
of buffalo-leather, in which was stuck a strong blade 
with its handle of buckhorn. His rifle was of the ' tallest ' 
kind — being full six feet in height — in fact, taller than 
he was, and at least four-fifths of the weapon consisted 
of barrel. The straight, narrow stock was a piece of 
manufacture that had proceeded from the hands of the 
trapper himself 

Redwood's rifle was also a long one, but of more 
modern build and fashion, and his equipments — pouch, 
powder-horn and belt — were of a more tasty design and 

Such were our guides, Redwood and Bradley. They 
were no imaginary characters these. Mark Redwood 
was a celebrated ' mountain-man ' at that time, and 
Isaac Bradley will be recognised by many when I give 
him the name and title by which he was then known, 
viz : * Old Ike, the wolf-killer.' 

Redwood rode a strong horse of the half-hunter breed, 
while the 'wolf-killer' was mounted upon one of the 
scraggiest looking quadrupeds it would be possible to 
imagine — an old mare ' mustang.' 



Our route was west by south. The nearest point with 
which we expected to fall in with the buffalo was two 
hundred miles distant. We might travel three hundred 
without seeing one, and even much further at the 
present day ; but a report had reached St. Louis that 
the buffalo had been seen that year upon the Osage 
River, west of the Ozark Hills, and towards that point 
we steered our course. We expected in about twenty 
days to fall in with the game. Fancy a cavalcade of 
hunters making a journey of twenty days to get upon 
the field ! The reader will, no doubt, say we were in 

At the time of which I am writing, a single day's 
journey from St. Louis carried the traveller clear of 
civilised life. There were settlements beyond ; but 
these were sparse and isolated — a few small towns or 
plantations upon the main watercourses — and the whole 
country between them was an uninhabited wilderness. 
We had no hope of being sheltered by a roof until our 
return to the mound city itself, but we had provided 
ourselves with a couple of tents, part of the freight of 
our waggon. 

There arc but few parts of the American wilderness 
where the traveller can depend upon wild game for a 
subsistence. Even the skilled hunter when stationary is 
sometimes put to his wits' end for ' daily bread.' Upon 
the 'route' no great opportunity is found of killing game, 
which always requires time to approach it with caution. 
Although we passed throughwhat appeared to beexcellent 
cover for various spieces of wild animals, we reached 
our first camp without having ruffled either hair or 


The Camp and Camp-Fire 13 

feathers. In fact, neither bird nor quadruped had been 
seen, although almost every one of the party had been 
on the look-out for game during most of the journey. 

This was rather discouraging, and we reasoned that if 
such was to be our luck until we got into the buffalo 
range we should have a very dull time of it. We were 
well provisioned, however, and we regretted the absence 
of game only on account of the sport. A large bag of 
biscuit, and one of flour, several pieces of 'hung bacon,' 
some dry ox-tongues, a stock of green coffee, sugar, and 
salt, were the principal and necessary stores. There 
were * luxuries,' too, which each had provided according 
to his fancy, though not much of these, as everyone of 
the party had had some time or other in his life a little 
experience in the way of ' roughing it.' Most of the 
loading of the waggon consisted of provender for our 
horses and mules. 

We made full thirty miles on the first day. Our road 
was a good one. We passed over easy undulations, most 
of them covered with ' black-jack.' This is a species 
of dwarf oak, so called from the very dark colour of its 
wrinkled bark. It is almost worthless as a timber, being 
too small for most purposes. It is ornamental, however, 
forming copse-like groves upon the swells of the prairie, 
while its dark green foliage contrasts pleasantly with the 
lighter green of the grasses beneath its shade. The 
young botanist, Besangon, had least cause to complain. 
His time had been sufficiently pleasant during the day. 
New foliage fell under his observation — new flowers 
opened their corollas to his delighted gaze. He was 
aided in making his collections by the hunter-naturalist, 
who of course was tolerably well versed in this kindred 

We encamped by the edge of a small creek of clear 
water. Our camp was laid out in due form, and every- 
thing arranged in the order we designed habitually to 

Every man unsaddled his own horse. There are no 
servants in prairie-land. Even Lanty's services extended 
not beyond the cuisine^ and for this department he had 

14 The H miters' Feast 

had his training as the cook of a New Orleans trading 
ship. Jake had enough to do with his mules ; and to 
have asked one of our hunter-guides to perform the task 
of unsaddling your horse, would have been a hazardous 
experiment. Menial service to a free trapper ! There 
arc no servants in prairie-land. 

Our horses and mules were picketed on a piece of 
open ground, each having his ' trail rope,' which allowed 
a circuit of several yards. The two tents were pitched 
side by side, facing the stream, and the waggon drawn 
up some twenty feet in the rear. In the triangle between 
the waggon and the tents was kindled a large fire, upon 
each side of which two stakes, forked at the top, were 
driven into the ground. A long sapling resting in the 
forks traversed the blaze from side to side. This was 
Lanty's * crane ' — the fire was his kitchen. 

Let me sketch the camp more minutely, for our first 
camp was a type of all the others in its general features. 
Sometimes indeed the tents did not front the same way, 
when these openings were set to ' oblige the wind,' but 
they were always placed side by side in front of the 
waggon. They were small tents of the old-fashioned, 
conical kind, requiring only one pole each. They were 
of sufficient size for our purpose, as there were only 
three of us to each — the guides, with Jake and Lanty, 
finding their lodgment under the tilt of the waggon. 
With their graceful shape, and snowy -white colour 
against the dark green foliage of the trees, they formed 
an agreeable contrast ; and 3. coup d' ceil oiWio. camp would 
have been no mean picture to the eye of an artist. The 
human figures may be arranged in the following manner. 

Supper is getting ready, and Lanty is decidedly at this 
time the most important personage on the ground. He 
is stooping over the fire, with a small but long-handled 
frying-pan, in which he is parching the coffee. It is 
already browned, and Lanty stirs it about with an iron 
spoon. The crane carries the large coffee-kettle of sheet 
iron full of water upon the boil ; and a second frying- 
pan, larger than the first, is filled with sliced ham, ready 
to be placed upon the hot cinders. 

The Camp and Camp-Ftre 1 5 

Our English friend Thomson is seated upon a log 
with the hat-box before him. It is open, and he has 
drawn out from it his stock of combs and brushes. He 
has already made his ablutions, and is now giving the 
finish to his toilet by putting his hair, whiskers, 
moustache, teeth, and even his nails, in order. Your 
Englishman is the most comfortable traveller in the 

The Kentuckian is differently engaged. He is upon 
his feet ; in one hand gleams a knife with ivory handle 
and long shining blade. It is a ' bowie,' of that kind 
known as an ' Arkansas toothpick.' In the other hand 
you see an object about eight inches in length, of the 
form of a parallelogram, and of a dark brown colour. 
It is a 'plug' of real 'James's River tobacco.' With 
his knife the Kentuckian cuts off a piece — a * chunk,' as 
he terms it — which is immediately transferred to his 
mouth, and chewed to a pulp. This is his occupation 
for the moment. 

The doctor, what of him ? Doctor Jopper may be 
seen close to the water's edge. In his hand is a pewter 
flask, of the kind known as a 'pocket pistol.' That 
pistol is loaded with brandy, and Dr. Jopper is just in 
the act of drawing part of the charge, which, with a 
slight admixture of cool creek water, is carried aloft and 
poured into a very droughty vessel. The effect, 
however, is instantly apparent in the lively twinkle of 
the doctor's round and prominent eyes. 

Besangon is seated near the tent, and the old naturalist 
beside him. The former is busy with the new 
plants he has collected. A large portfolio-looking book 
rests upon his knees, and between its leaves he is deposit- 
ing his stores in a scientific manner. His companion, 
who understands the business well, is kindly assisting 
him. Their conversation is interesting, but every one 
else is too busy with his affairs to listen to it just now. 

The guides are lounging about the waggon. Old Ike 
fixes a new flint in his rifle, and Redwood, of a more 
mirthful disposition, is occasionally cracking a joke 
with Mike or the ' darkey.' 

l6 The Hunters^ Feast 

Jake is still busy with his mules and I with my 
favourite steed, whose feet I have washed in the stream 
and annointed with a little spare grease. I shall not 
always have the opportunity of being so kind to him, 
but he will need it the less as his hoofs become more 
hardened by the journey. 

Around the camp are strewed our saddles, bridles, 
blankets, weapons, and utensils. These will all be 
collected and stowed under cover before we go to rest. 
Such is a picture of our camp before supper. 

When that meal is cooked, the scene somewhat 

The atmosphere, even at that season, was cool enough, 
and this, with Mike's announcement that coffee was 
ready, brought all the party — guides as well — around 
the blazing pile of logs. Each found his own platter, 
knife, and cup ; and, helping himself from the general 
stock, set to eating on his own account. Of course 
there were no fragments, as a strict regard to economy 
was one of the laws of our camp. 

Notwithstanding the fatigue, always incidental to a 
first day's march, we enjoyed this al fresco supper ex- 
ceedingly. The novelty had much to do with our 
enjoyment of it, and also the fine appetites which we 
had acquired since our luncheon at noon halt. 

When supper was over, smoking followed, for there 
was not one of the party who was not an inveterate 
burner of the ' noxious weed.' Some chose cigars, of 
which we had brought a good stock, but several were 
pipe-smokers. The zoologist carried a meerschaum ; the 
guides smoked out of Indian calumets of the celebrated 
steatite, or red claystone. Mike had his dark-looking 
'dudeen,' and Jake his pipe of corn 'cob' and cane- 
joint shank. 

Our English friend Thompson had a store of the 
finest Havannahs, which he smoked with the grace 
peculiar to the English cigar smoker ; holding his cigar 
impaled upon the point of his knife-blade. Kentucky 
also smoked cigars, but his was half-buried within his 
mouth, slanted obliquely towards the right cheek. 

The Camp and Camp-Fire \y 

Besan^on preferred the paper cigarette, which he made 
extempore, as he required them, out of a stock of loose 
tobacco. This is Creole fashion — now also the mode de 

A song from the doctor enlivened the conversation, 
and certainly so melodious a human voice had never 
echoed near the spot. One and all agreed that the 
grand opera had missed a capital * first tenor ' in not 
securing the services of our companion. 

The fatigue of our long ride caused us to creep into 
our tents at an early hour, and rolling ourselves in our 
blankets we went to sleep. Of course everything had 
been carefully gathered in lest rain might fall in the 
night. The trail ropes of our animals were looked to, 
we did not fear their being stolen, but horses on their 
first few days' journey are easily ' stampeded,' and will 
sometimes stray home again. This would have been a 
great misfortune, but most of us were old travellers, and 
every caution was observed in securing against such 
a result. There was no guard kept, though we knew the 
time would come when that would be a necessary duty. 





The prairie traveller never sleeps after daybreak. He 
is usually astir before that time. He has many ' chores ' 
to perform, unknown to the ordinary traveller who rests 
in the roadside inn. He has to pack up his tent and 
bed, cook his own breakfast, and saddle his horse. 
All this requires time, therefore an early start is 

We were on our feet before the sun had shown his 
disc above the black-jacks. Lanty had the start of us, 
and had freshened up his fire. Already the coffee- 
kettle was bubbling audibly, and the great frying-pan 
perfumed the camp with an incense more agreeable than 
the odours of Araby. 

The raw air of the morning had brought everybody 
around the fire. Thomson was pruning and cleansing 
his nails ; the Kentuckian was cutting a fresh ' chunk ' 
from his plug of 'James's River'; the doctor had just 
returned from the stream, where he had refreshed 
himself by a ' nip ' from his pewter flask ; Besantjon was 
packing up his portfolios ; the zoologist was lighting his 
long pipe, and the ' Captain ' was looking to his favourite 
horse, while inhaling the fragrance of a ' Havannah.' 
The guides stood with their blankets hanging from their 
shoulders, silent and thoughtful. 

In half an hour breakfast was over, the tents and 
utensils were restored to the waggon, the horses were 
brought in and saddled, the mules ' hitched up,' and the 
expedition once more on its way. 

This day we made not quite so good a journey. The 
roads were heavier, the country more thickly timbered, 
and the ground more hilly. We had several small 


Besanqon^s Adventures in the Swamps 19 

streams to ford, and this retarded our progress. Twenty 
miles was the extent of our journey. 

We encamped again without any of us having killed 
or seen game. Although we had beaten the bushes on 
both sides of our course, nothing bigger than the red-bird 
(scarlet tanager, Tyranga rubra), a screaming jay, or an 
occasional flight of finches gratified our sight. 

We reached our camp somewhat disappointed. Even 
old Ike and Redwood came into camp without game, 
alleging also that they had not met with the sign of a 
living quadruped. 

Our second camp was also on the bank of a small 
stream. Shortly after our arrival on the ground, 
Thompson started out afoot, taking with him his gun. 
He had noticed a tract of marsh at no great distance off. 
He thought it promised well for snipe. 

He had not been long gone when two reports echoed 
back, and then shortly after another and another. He 
had found something to empty his gun at. 

Presently we saw him returning with a brace and a 
half of birds that looked very much like large snipe. 
So he thought them, but that question was set at rest by 
the zoologist, who pronounced them at once to be the 
American ' Curlew ' of Wilson {Numenius longirostris). 
Curlew or snipe, they were soon divested of the feathery 
coat, and placed in Lanty's frying-pan. Excellent eating 
they proved, having only the fault that there was not 
enough of them. 

These birds formed the topic of our after-supper 
conversation, and then it generalised to the different 
species of wading birds of America, and at length that 
singular creature, the ' ibis,' became the theme. This 
came round by Besan^on remarking that a species of ibis 
was brought by the Indians to the markets of New 
Orleans, and sold there under the name of ' Spanish 
Curlew.' This was the white ibis {Tantalus albus),\v\\\c\\ 
the zoologist stated was found in plenty along the whole 
southern coast of the United States, There were two 
other species, he said, natives of the warm parts of North 
America, the 'wood ibis' {Tantalus loculator), which 

20 The Hunters' Feast 

more nearly resembles the sacred ibis of Egypt, and the 
beautiful 'sacred ibis' {Tantalus ruber\ \^\{\z\\. last is 
rarer than the others. 

Our venerable companion, who had the ornithology 
of America, if I may use the expression, at his fingers' 
ends, imparted many curious details of the habits of 
these rare birds. All listened with interest to his 
statements — even the hunter-guides, for with all their 
apparent rudeness of demeanour there was a dash of the 
naturalist in these fellows. 

When the zoologist became silent, the young Creole 
took up the conversation. Talking of the ibis, he said, 
reminded him of an adventure he had met with while in 
pursuit of these birds among the swamps of his native 
state. He would relate it to us. Of course we were 
rejoiced at the proposal. We were just the audience for 
an ' adventure,' and after rolling a fresh cigarette the 
botanist began his narration. 

'During one of my college vacations I made a botanical 
excursion to the south-western part of Louisiana. 
Before leaving home I had promised a dear friend to 
bring him the skins of such rare birds as were known to 
frequent the swampy region I was about to traverse, but 
he was especially desirous I should obtain for him some 
specimens of the red ibis, which he intended to have 
" mounted." I gave my word that no opportunity should 
be lost of obtaining these birds, and I was very anxious 
to make good my promise. 

' The southern part of the State of Louisiana is one 
vast labyrinth of swamps, bayous, and lagoons. The 
bayous are sluggish streams that glide sleepily along, 
sometimes running one way, and sometimes the very 
opposite, according to the season of the year. Many of 
them are outlets of the Mississippi, which begins to shed 
off its waters more than 300 miles from its mouth. 
These bayous are deep, sometimes narrow, sometimes 
wide, with islets in their midst. They and their con- 
tiguous swamps are the great habitat of the alligator and 
the fresh-water shark — the gar. Numerous species of 
water and wading fowl fly over them, and plunge through 

Besanqon^s Advenhires in the Swamps 21 

their dark tide. Here you may see the red flamingo, 
the egret, the trumpeter-swan, the blue heron, the wild 
goose, the crane, the snake-bird, the pelican, and the 
ibis ; you may likewise see the osprey, and the white- 
headed eagle robbing him of his prey. Both swamps 
and bayous produce abundantly fish, reptile, and insect, 
and are, consequently, the favourite resort of hundreds 
of birds which prey upon these creatures. In some 
places their waters form a complete net-work over the 
country, which you may traverse with a small boat in 
almost any direction ; indeed, this is the means by 
which many settlements communicate with each other. 
As you approach southwards towards the Gulf, you get 
clear of the timber ; and within some fifty miles of the 
sea, there is not a tree to be seen. 

' In the first day or two that I was out, I had succeeded 
in getting all the specimens I wanted, with the exception 
of the ibis. This shy creature avoided me ; in fact I 
had only seen one or two in my excursions, and these at 
a great distance. I still, however, had hopes of finding 
them before my return to my friend. 

' About the third or fourth day I set out from a small 
settlement on the edge of one of the larger bayous. I 
had no other company than my gun. I was even un- 
attended by a dog, as my favourite spaniel had the day 
before been bitten by an alligator while swimming across 
the bayou, and I was compelled to leave him at the 
settlement. Of course the object of my excursion was 
a search after new flora, but I had become by this time 
very desirous of getting the rare ibis, and I was 
determined half to neglect my botanising for that 
purpose. I went of course in a boat, a light skiff, 
such as is commonly used by the inhabitants of these 

' Occasionally using the paddles, I allowed myself to 
float some four or five miles down the main bayou ; but 
as the birds I was in search of did not appear, I struck 
into a " branch," and sculled myself up-stream. This 
carried me through a solitary region, with marshes 
stretching as far as the eye could see, covered with 

22 The Hunters' Feast 

tall reeds. There was no habitation, nor aught that 
betokened the presence of man. It was just possible 
that I was the first human being who had ever found a 
motive for propelling a boat through the dark waters of 
this solitary stream. 

' As I advanced I fell in with game ; and I succeeded 
in bagging several, both of the great wood-ibis and the 
white species. I also shot a fine white-headed eagle 
{Falco lezicocephalus), which came soaring over my boat, 
unconscious of danger. But the bird which I most 
wanted seemed that which could not be obtained. I 
wanted the scarlet ibis. 

* I think I had rowed some three miles up-stream, and 
was about to take in my oars and leave my boat to float 
back again, when I perceived that, a little farther up, the 
bayou widened. Curiosity prompted me to continue ; 
and after pulling a few hundred strokes, I found myself 
at the end of an oblong lake, a mile or so in length. It 
was deep, dark, marshy around the shores, and full 
of alligators. I saw their ugly forms and long serrated 
backs as they floated about in all parts of it, hungrily 
hunting for fish and eating one another ; but all this 
was nothing new, for I had witnessed similar scenes 
during the whole of my excursion. What drew my 
attention most was a small islet near the middle of the 
lake, upon one end of which stood a row of upright 
forms of a bright scarlet colour. These red creature's 
were the very objects I was in search of. They might 
be flamingoes : I could not tell at that distance. So 
much the better, if I could only succeed in getting a 
shot at them ; but these creatures are even more wary 
than the ibis ; and as the islet was low, and altogether 
without cover, it was not likely they would allow me to 
come within range : nevertheless I was determined to 
make the attempt. I rowed up the lake, occasionally 
turning my head to see if the game had taken the alarm. 
The sun was hot and dazzling ; and as the bright scarlet 
was magnified by refraction, I fancied for a long time 
they were flamingoes. This fancy was dissipated as I 
drew near. The outlines of the bills, like the blade of 

Besanqon's Adventures in the Swamps 23 

a sabre, convinced me they were the ibis ; besides, I now 
saw that they were less than three feet in height, while 
the flamingoes stand five. There were a dozen of them 
in all. These were balancing themselves, as is their 
usual habit, on one leg, apparently asleep, or buried in 
deep thought. They were on the upper extremity of the 
islet, while I was approaching it from below. It was 
not above sixty yards across, and could I only reach 
the point nearest me, I knew my gun would throw shot 
to kill at that distance. I feared the stroke of the sculls 
would start them, and I pulled slowly and cautiously. 
Perhaps the great heat — for it was as hot a day as I can 
remember — had rendered them torpid or lazy. Whether 
or not, they sat still until the cut-water of my skiff 
touched the bank of the islet. I drew my gun up 
cautiously, took aim, and fired both barrels almost 
simultaneously. When the smoke cleared out of my 
eyes, I saw that all the birds had flown off except one, 
that lay stretched out by the edge of the water. 

' Gun in hand, I leaped out of the boat and ran 
across the islet to bag my game. This occupied but 
a few minutes ; and I was turning to go back to the 
skiff, when, to my consternation, I saw it out upon the 
lake, and rapidly floating downward ! 

' In my haste I had left it unfastened, and the bayou 
current had carried it off. It was still but a hundred 
yards distant, but it might as well have been a hundred 
miles, for at that time I could not swim a stroke. 

' My first impulse was to rush down to the lake and 
after the boat. This impulse was checked on arriving 
at the water's edge, which I saw at a glance was fathoms 
in depth. Quick reflection told me that the boat was 
gone — irrecoverably gone ! 

* I did not at first comprehend the full peril of my 
situation ; nor will you, gentlemen. I was on an islet, 
in a lake, only half a mile from its shores — alone, it is 
true, and without a boat ; but what of that ? Many a 
man had been so before, with not an idea of danger. 

' These were first thoughts, natural enough ; but they 
rapidly gave place to others of a far different character. 

24 The Hunters' Feast 

When I gazed after my boat, now beyond recovery — 
when I looked around, and saw that the lake lay in the 
middle of an interminable swamp, the shores of which, 
even could I have reached them, did not seem to promise 
me footing — when I reflected that, being unable to swim, 
I could not reach them — that upon the islet there was 
either tree, nor log, nor bush, not a stick out of which 
I might make a raft — I say, when I reflected upon all 
these things, there arose in my mind a feeling of well- 
defined and absolute horror. 

' It is true I was only in a lake, a mile or so in width ; 
but so far as the peril and helplessness of my situation 
were concerned, I might as v/ell have been upon a rock 
in the middle of the Atlantic. I knew that there was 
no settlement within miles — miles of pathless swamp. I 
knew that no one could either see or hear me — no one 
was at all likely to come near the lake ; indeed, I felt 
satisfied that my faithless boat was the first keel that 
had ever cut its waters. The very tameness of the birds 
wheeling round my head was evidence of this. I felt 
satisfied, too, that without some one to help me, I should 
never go out from that lake ; I must die on the islet, or 
drown in attempting to leave it ! 

' These reflections rolled rapidly over my startled soul. 
The facts were clear, the hypothesis definite, the sequence 
certain ; there was no ambiguity, no suppositious hinge 
upon which I could hang a hope ; no, not one. I could 
not even expect that I should be missed and sought for ; 
there was no one to search for me. The simple habitans 
of the village I had left knew me not — I was a stranger 
among them : they only knew me as a stranger, and 
fancied me a strange individual ; one who made lonely 
excursions, and brought home bunches of weeds, with 
birds, insects, and reptiles, which they had never before 
seen, although gathered at their own doors. My 
absence, besides, would be nothing new to them, even 
though it lasted for days ; I had often been absent 
before, a week at a time. There was no hope of my 
being missed. 

' I have said that these reflections came and passed 

Besanqoiis Adventures in the Swamps 25 

quickly. In less than a minute, my affrighted soul was 
in full possession of them, and almost yielded itself to 
despair. I shouted, but rather involuntarily than with 
any hope that I should be heard ; I shouted loudly and 
fiercely : my answer — the echoes of my own voice, the 
shriek of the osprey, and the maniac laugh of the white- 
headed eagle. 

' I ceased to shout, threw my gun to the earth and 
tottered down beside it. I can imagine the feelings of 
a man shut up in a gloomy prison — they are not 
pleasant. I have been lost upon the wild prairie — the 
land-sea — without bush, break, or star to guide me — 
that was worse. There you look around ; you see 
nothing ; you hear nothing ; you are alone with God, 
and you tremble in his presence ; your senses swim ; 
your brain reels ; you are afraid of yourself ; you are 
afraid of your own mind. Deserted by everything else, 
you dread lest it, too, may forsake you. There is 
horror in this — it is very horrible — it is hard to bear ; 
but I have borne it all, and would bear it again twenty 
times over rather than endure once more the first hour 
I spent on that lonely islet in that lonely lake. Your 
prison may be dark and silent, but you feel that you 
are not utterly alone ; beings like yourself are near, 
though they be your jailers. Lost on the prairie, you 
are alone ; but you are free. In the islet, I felt that I 
was alone ; that I was not free ; in the islet I 
experienced the feelings of the prairie and the prison 

' I lay in a state of stupor — almost unconscious ; how 
long I know not, but many hours I am certain ; I knew 
this by the sun — it was going down when I awoke, if I 
may so term the recovery of my stricken senses. I was 
aroused by a strange circumstance : I was surrounded 
by dark objects of hideous shape and hue — reptiles they 
were. They had been before my eyes for some time, 
but I had not seen them. I had only a sort of dreamy 
consciousness of their presence ; but I heard them at 
length: my ear was in better tune, and the strange 
noises they uttered reached my intellect. It sounded 

26 The Hunters Feast 

like the blowing of j^reat bellows, with now and then a 
note harsher and louder, like the roaring of a bull. 
This startled me, and I looked up and bent my eyes 
upon the objects ; they were forms of the crocodilidce, the 
giant lizards — they were alligators. 

'Huge ones they were, many of them; and many 
were they in number — a hundred at least were crawling 
over the islet, before, behind, and on all sides around 
me. Their long gaunt jaws and channelled snouts 
projected forward so as almost to touch my body ; and 
their eyes, usually leaden, seemed now to glare. 

' Impelled by this new danger, I sprang to my feet, 
when, recognising the upright form of man, the reptiles 
scuttled off, and plunging hurriedly into the lake, hid 
their hideous bodies under the water. 

' The incident in some measure revived me. I saw 
that I was not alone ; there was company even in the 
crocodiles. I gradually became more myself; and 
began to reflect with some degree of coolness on the 
circumstances that surrounded me. My eyes wandered 
over the islet ; every inch of it came under my glance ; 
every object upon it was scrutinised — the moulted 
feathers of wild-fowl, the pieces of mud, the fresh-water 
mussels (unios) strewed upon its beach — all were 
examined. Still the barren answer — no means of 

' The islet was but the head of a sand-bar, formed by 
the eddy, perhaps gathered together within the year. 
It was bare of herbage, with the exception of a few 
tufts of grass. There was neither tree nor bush upon it : 
not a stick. A raft indeed ! There was not wood 
enough to make a raft that would have floated a frog. 
The idea of a raft was but briefly entertained ; such a 
thought had certainly crossed my mind, but a single 
glance round the islet dispelled it before it had taken 

' I paced my prison from end to end ; from side to 
side, I walked it over, I tried the water's depth ; on 
all sides I sounded it, wading recklessly in ; everywhere 
it deepened rapidly as I advanced. Three lengths of 

BesanqorCs Adventures in the Stvainps 27 

myself from the islet's edge, and I was up to the neck. 
The huge reptiles swam around, snorting and blowing ; 
they were bolder in this element. I could not have 
waded safely ashore, even had the water been shallow. 
To swim it — no, even though I swam like a duck, they 
would have closed upon and quartered me before I 
could have made a dozen strokes. Horrified by their 
demonstrations, I hurried back upon dry ground, and 
paced the islet with dripping garments. 

' I continued walking until night, which gathered 
around me dark and dismal. With night came new 
voices — the hideous voices of the nocturnal swamp ; the 
qua-qua of the night-heron, the screech of the swamp- 
owl, the cry of the bittern, the el-l-uk of the great water- 
toad, the tinkling of the bell-frog, and the chirp of the 
savanna-cricket — all fell upon my ear. Sounds still 
harsher and more hideous were heard around me — the 
plashing of the alligator, and the roaring of his voice ; 
these reminded me that I must not go to sleep. To 
sleep ! I durst not have slept for a single instant. 
Even when I lay for a few minutes motionless, the dark 
reptiles came crawling round me — so close that I could 
have put forth my hand and touched them. 

' At intervals, I sprang to my feet, shouted, swept my 
gun round, and chased them back to the water, into 
which they betook themselves with a sullen plunge, but 
with little semblance of fear. At each fresh demonstra- 
tion on my part they showed less alarm, until I could 
no longer drive them either with shouts or threatening 
gestures. They only retreated a few feet, forming an 
irregular circle round me. 

'Thus hemmed in, I became frightened in turn. I 
loaded my gun and fired ; I killed none. They are 
impervious to a bullet, except in the eye, or under the 
forearm. It was too dark to aim at these parts ; and 
my shots glanced harmlessly from the pyramidal scales 
of their bodies. The loud report, however, and the 
blaze frightened them, and they fled, to return again 
after a long interval. I was asleep when they returned ; 
I had gone to sleep in spite of my efforts to keep 

28 TJie Hunters' Feast 

awake. I was startled by the touch of something cold ; 
and half-stifled by the strong musky odour that filled 
the air. I threw out my arms ; my fingers rested upon 
an object slippery and clammy : it was one of these 
monsters — one of gigantic size. He had crawled close 
alongside me, and was preparing to make his attack ; 
as I saw that he was bent in the form of a bow, and 
I knew that these creatures assume that attitude when 
about to strike their victim. I was just in time to 
spring aside, and avoid the stroke of his powerful tail 
that the next moment swept the ground where I had 
lain. Again I fired, and he with the rest once more 
retreated to the lake. 

* All thoughts of going to sleep were at an end. Not 
that I felt wakeful ; on the contrary, wearied with my 
day's exertion — for I had had a long pull under a hot 
tropical sun — I could have lain down upon the earth, in 
the mud, anywhere, and slept in an instant. Nothing 
but the dread certainty of my peril kept me awake. 
Once again before morning, I was compelled to battle 
with the hideous reptiles, and chase them away with 
a shot from my gun. 

' Morning came at length, but with it no change in 
my perilous position. The light only showed me my 
island prison, but revealed no way of escape from it. 
Indeed, the change could not be called for the better, 
for the fervid rays of an almost vertical sun poured 
down upon me until my skin blistered. I was already 
speckled by the bites of a thousand swamp -flies and 
mosquitoes, that all night long had preyed upon me. 
There was not a cloud in the heavens to shade me; and 
the sunbeams smote the surface of the dead bayou with 
a double intensity. 

' Towards evening, I began to hunger ; no wonder 
at that : I had not eaten since leaving the village settle- 
ment. To assuage thirst, I drank the water of the 
lake, turbid and slimy as it was. 1 drank it in large 
quantities, for it was hot, and only moistened my palate 
without quenching the craving of my appetite. Of water 
there was enough; I had more to fear from want of food. 

BesanqorHs Adventures in the Swamps 29 

* What could I eat ? The ibis. But how to cook it ? 
There was nothing wherewith to make a fire — not a 
stick. No matter for that. Cooking is a modern 
invention, a luxury for pampered palates. I divested 
the ibis of its brilliant plumage and ate it raw. I 
spoiled my specimen, but at the time there was little 
thought of that : there was not much of the naturahst 
left in me, I anathematised the hour I had ever 
promised to procure the bird. I wished my friend up 
to his neck in a swamp. 

'The ibis did not weigh above three pounds, bones 
and all. It served me for a second meal, a breakfast ; 
but at this dejeiiner scms fourcJiette I picked the bones. 

' What next ? starve ? No — not yet. In the battles 
I had had with the alligators during the second night, 
one of them had received a shot that proved mortal. 
The hideous carcass of the reptile lay dead upon the 
beach. I need not starve: I could eat that. Such 
were my reflections. I must hunger, though, before 
I could bring myself to touch the musky morsel. 

'Two more days' fasting conquered my squeamish- 
ness. I drew out my knife, cut a steak from the 
alligator's tail, and ate it — not the one I had first killed, 
but a second ; the other was now putrid, rapidly 
decomposing under the hot sun : its odour filled the 

'The stench had grown intolerable. There was not 
a breath of air stirring, otherwise I might have shunned 
it by keeping to windward. The whole atmosphere 
of the islet, as well as a large circle around it, was 
impregnated with the fearful effluvium. I could bear it 
no longer. With the aid of my gun, I pushed the half- 
decomposed carcass into the lake ; perhaps the current 
might carry it away. It did : I had the gratification 
to see it float off. 

' This circumstance led me into a train of reflections. 
Why did the body of the alligator float? It was 
swollen — inflated with gases. Ha ! 

'An idea shot suddenly through my mind — one 
of those brilliant ideas, the children of necessity. 

30 The Hunters^ Feast 

I thought of the floating alh'gator, of its intestines — 
what if I inflated them ? Yes, yes ! buoys and bladders, 
floats and life-preservers ! that was the thought. I 
would open the alligators, make a buoy of their 
intestines, and that would bear me from the islet ! 

' I did not lose a moment's time ; I was full of 
energy: hope had given me new life. My gun was 
loaded — a huge crocodile that swam near the shore 
received the shot in his eye, I dragged him on the 
beach; with my knife I laid open his entrails. Few 
they were, but enough for my purpose. A plume- 
quill from the wing of the ibis served me for a blow-pipe. 
I saw the bladder-like skin expand, until I was 
surrounded by objects like great sausages. These 
were tied together, and fastened to my body, and 
then, with a plunge, I entered the waters of the lake, 
and floated downward. I had tied on my life-preservers 
in such a way that I sat in the water in an upright 
position, holding my gun with both hands. This I 
intended to have used as a club in case I should be 
attacked by the alligators ; but I had chosen the hot 
hour of noon, when these creatures lie in a half torpid 
state, and to my joy I was not molested. 

' Half an hour's drifting with the current carried me 
to the end of the lake, and I found myself at the 
debouchure of the bayou. Here, to my great delight, 
I saw my boat in a swamp, where it had been caught 
and held fast by the sedge. A i^w minutes more, 
and I had swung myself over the gunwale, and was 
sculling with eager strokes down the smooth waters 
of the bayou. 

' Of course my adventure was ended, and I 
reached the settlement in safety, but without the object 
of my excursion. I was enabled, however, to procure 
it some days after, and had the gratification of being 
able to keep my promise to my friend.' 

Besan^on's adventure had interested all of us ; the 
old hunter-naturalist seemed delighted with it. No 
doubt it revived within him the memories of many 
a perilous incident in his own life. 

Besafigon's Adventures in the Swamps 31 

It was evident that in the circle of the camp-fire 
there was more than one pair of lips ready to narrate 
some similiar adventure, but the hour was late, and 
all agreed it would be better to go to rest. On to- 
morrow night, some other would take their turn and, 
in fact, a regular agreement was entered into that each 
one of the party who had at any period of his life been 
the hero or participator in any hunting adventure 
should narrate the same for the entertainment of the 
others. This would bring out a regular ' round of 
stories by the camp-fire,' and would enable us to kill 
the many long evenings we had to pass before coming 
up with the buffalo. The conditions were, that the 
stories should exclusively relate to birds or animals — in 
fact, any hunted game belonging to the fauna of the 
American Continent : furthermore, that each should 
contribute his quota of information about whatever 
animal should chance to be the subject of the narration 
— about its habits, its geographical range ; in short, its 
general natural history, as well as the various modes of 
hunting it, practiced in different places by different 
people. This, it was alleged, would render our camp 
conversation instructive as well as entertaining. 

The idea originated with the old hunter-naturalist, 
who very wisely reasoned that among so many gentle- 
men of large hunting experience he might collect new 
facts for his favourite science — for to just such men, and 
not to the closet-dreamer, is natural history indebted ■' 
for its most interesting chapters. Of course every one 
of us, guides and all, warmly applauded the proposal, 
for there was no one among us averse to receiving a 
little knowledge of so entertaining a character. No 
doubt to the naturalist himself we should be indebted 
for most part of it ; and his mode of communicating 
was so pleasant, that even the rude trappers listened to 
him with wonder and attention. They saw that he 
was no ' greenhorn ' either in woodcraft or prairie 
knowledge, and that was a sufficient claim to their 

There is no character less esteemed by the regular 

32 The Hunters' Feast 

' mountain man ' than a ' greenhorn,'— that is, one who 
is new to the ways of their wilderness life. 

With the design of an early start, we once more crept 
into our several quarters and went to sleep. 



After an early breakfast we lit our pipes and cigars, 
and took to the road. The sun was very bright, and in 
less than two hours after starting we were sweltering 
under a heat almost tropical. It was one of those 
autumn days peculiar to America, where even a high 
latitude seems to be no protection against the sun, and 
his beams fall upon one with as much fervour as they 
would under the line itself The first part of our 
journey was through open woods of black-jack, whose 
stunted forms afforded no shade, but only shut off the 
breeze which might otherwise have fanned us. 

While fording a shallow stream, the doctor's scraggy, 
ill-tempered horse took a fit of kicking quite frantical. 
For some time it seemed likely that either the doctor 
himself, or his saddle-bags, would be deposited in the 
bottom of the creek, but after a severe spell of whipping 
and kicking on the part of the rider, the animal moved 
on again. What bad set it dancing? That was the 
question. It had the disposition to be ' frisky,' but 
usually appeared to be lacking in strength. The buzz 
of a horse-fly sounding in our ears explained all. It 
was one of those large insects — the ' horse-bug ' — 
peculiar to the Mississippi country, and usually found 
near watercourses. They are more terrible to horses 
than a fierce dog would be. I have known horses 
gallop away from them as if pursued by a beast of 

There is a belief among western people that these 
insects are propagated by the horses themselves ; that 
is, that the eggs of the female are deposited upon the 
grass, so that the horses may swallow them ; that 

33 c 

34 The Hunters Feast 

incubation goes on within the stomach of the animal, 
and that the chrysalis is afterwards voided. I have 
met with others who believed in a still stranger 
theory ; that the insect itself actually sought, and 
found, a passage into the stomach of the horse, some 
said by passing down his throat, others by boring a 
hole through his abdomen ; and that in such cases the 
horse usually sickened, and was in danger of dying ! 

After the doctor's mustang had returned to proper 
behaviour, these odd theories became the subject of 
discussion. The Kentuckian believed in them — the 
Englishman doubted them — the hunter-naturalist could 
not endorse them — and Besan^on ignored them entirely. 

Shortly after the incident we entered the bottom 
lands of a considerable stream. These were heavily 
timbered, and the shadow of the great forest trees 
afforded us a pleasant relief from the hot sun. Our 
guides told us we had several miles of such woods 
to pass throuf^h, and we were glad of the information. 
We noticed that most of the trees were beech, and 
their smooth straight trunks rose like columns 
around us. 

The beech (Fagiis sylvatica) is one of the most 
beautiful of American forest trees. Unlike most of 
the others, its bark is smooth, without fissures, and 
often of a silvery hue. Large beech trees standing 
by the path, or near a cross road, are often seen 
covered with names, initials, and dates. Even the 
Indian often takes advantage of the bark of a beech 
tree to signalise his presence to his friends, or com- 
memorate some savage exploit. Indeed, the beautiful 
column-like trunk seems to invite the knife, and many 
a souvenir is carved upon it by the loitering way-farer. 
It does not, however, invite the axe of the settler. On 
the contrary, the bcechen woods often remain un- 
touched, while others fall around them — partly because 
these trees are not usually the indices of the richest soil, 
but more from the fact that clearing a piece of beech 
forest is no easy matter. The green logs do not burn 
so readily as those of the oak, the elm, the maple, or 

The Passenger Pigeons 35 

poplar, and hence the necessity of * roHing ' them on the 
ground to be cleared — a serious thing where labour is 
scarce and dear. 

We were riding silently along, when all at once our 
ears were assailed by a strange noise. It resembled 
the clapping of a thousand pairs of hands, followed by 
a whistling sound, as if a strong wind had set suddenly 
in among the trees. We all knew well enough what 
it meant, and the simultaneous cry of 'pigeons' was 
followed by half a dozen simultaneous cracks from the 
guns of the party, and several bluish birds fell to the 
ground. We had stumbled upon a feeding-place of the 
passenger-pigeon {Colinnba migratoi'ia). 

Our route was immediately abandoned, and in a few 
minutes we were in the thick of the flock, cracking away 
at them both with shot-gun and rifle. It was not so 
easy, however, to bring them down in any considerable 
numbers. In following them up we soon strayed from 
each other, until our party was completely scattered, 
and nearly two hours elapsed before we got back to the 
road. Our game-bag, however, made a fine show, and 
about forty brace were deposited in the waggon. With 
the anticipation of roast pigeon and ' pot pie,' we rode 
on more cheerily to our night camp. All along the 
route the pigeons were seen, and occasionally large 
flocks whirled over our heads under the canopy of the 
trees. Satiated with the sport, and not caring to waste 
our ammunition, we did not heed them farther. 

In order to give Lanty due time for the duties of the 
amine, we halted a little earlier than usual. Our day's 
march had been a short one, but the excitement and 
sport of the pigeon-hunt repaid us for the loss of time. 
Our dinner-supper — for it was a combination of both — 
was the dish known in America as ' pot pie,' in which 
the principal ingredients were the pigeons, some soft 
flour paste, with a few slices of bacon to give it a 
flavour. Properly speaking, the 'pot pie' is not a pie, 
but a stew. Ours was excellent, and as our appetites 
were in a similar condition, a goodly quantity was used 
up in appeasing them. 

36 The Htmters' Feast 

Of course the conversation of the evening was the 
'wild pigeon of America,' and the following facts 
regarding its natural history — although many of them 
are by no means new — may prove interesting to the 
reader, as they did to those who listened to the relation 
of them around our camp-fire. 

The * passenger ' is less in size than the house pigeon. 
In the air it looks not unlike the kite, wanting the forked 
or ' swallow' tail. That of the pigeon is cuneiform. Its 
colour is best described by calling it a nearly uniform 
slate. In the male the colours are deeper, and the neck- 
feathers present the same changeable hues of green, 
gold, and purple-crimson, generally observed in birds of 
this species. It is only in the woods, and when freshly 
caught or killed, that these brilliant tints can be seen to 
perfection. They fade in captivity, and immediately 
after the bird has been shot. They seem to form part 
of its life and liberty, and disappear when it is robbed of 
either. I have often thrust the wild pigeon, freshly 
killed, into my game-bag, glittering like an opal. I 
have drawn it forth a few hours after of a dull leaden 
hue, and altogether unlike the same bird. 

As with all birds of this tribe, the female is inferior 
to the male, both in size and plumage. The eye is less 
vivid. In the male it is of the most brilliant fiery 
orange, inclosed in a well-defined circle of red. The eye 
is in truth its finest feature, and never fails to strike the 
beholder with admiration. 

The most singular fact in the natural history of the 
* passenger ' is their countless numbers. Audubon saw 
a flock that contained ' one billion one hundred and 
sixteen millions of birds ! ' Wilson counted, or rather 
computed, another flock of 'two thousand two hundred 
and thirty millions!' These numbers seem incredible. 
I have no doubt of their truth. I have no doubt that 
they are under rather than over the numbers actually 
seen by both these naturalists, for both made most 
liberal allowances in their calculations. 

Where do these immense flocks come from ? 

The wild pigeons breed in all parts of America. 

The Passenger Pigeons 37 

Their breeding-places are found as far north as the 
Hudson's Bay, and they have been seen in the southern 
forests of Louisiana and Texas. The nests are built 
upon high trees, and resemble immense rookeries. In 
Kentucky, one of their breeding-places was forty miles 
in length, by several in breadth ! One hundred nests 
will often be found upon a single tree, and in each nest 
there is but one ' squab.' The eggs are pure white, like 
those of the common kind, and, like them, they breed 
several times during the year, but principally when food 
is plentiful. They establish themselves in great 'roosts,' 
sometimes for years together, to which each night they 
return from their distant excursions — hundreds of miles, 
perhaps ; for this is but a short fly for travellers who 
can pass over a mile in a single minute, and some of 
whom have even strayed across the Atlantic to 
England ! They, however, as I myself have observed, 
remain in the same woods where they have been feed- 
ing for several days together. I have also noticed that 
they prefer roosting in the low underwood, even when 
tall trees are close at hand. If near water, or hanging 
over a stream, the place is still more to their liking ; 
and in the morning they may be seen alighting on the 
bank to drink, before taking to their daily occupation. 

The great ' roosts ' and breeding-places are favourite 
resorts for numerous birds of prey. The small vultures 
{CatJiartes aura Airatus), or, as they are called in the 
west, ' turkey buzzard,' and ' carrion crow,' do not 
confine themselves to carrion alone. They are fond of 
live 'squabs,' which they drag out of their nests at 
pleasure. Numerous hawks and kites prey upon them ; 
and even the great white-headed eagle {Falco leuco- 
cephalus) may be seen soaring above, and occasionally 
swooping down for a dainty morsel. On the ground 
beneath move enemies of a different kind, both biped 
and quadruped. Fowlers with their guns and long 
poles ; farmers with waggons to carry off the dead 
birds ; and even droves of hogs to devour them. Trees 
fall under the axe, and huge branches break down by 
the weight of the birds themselves, killing numbers in 

38 The Hiinters' Feast 

their descent. Torches are used — for it is usually a 
night scene, after the return of the birds from feeding, — 
pots of burning sulphur, and other engines of destruction. 
A noisy scene it is. The clapping of a million pair of 
wings, like the roaring of thunder ; the shots ; the shouts ; 
men hoarsely calling to each other ; women and children 
screaming their delight ; the barking of dogs ; the 
neighing of horses ; the crash of breaking branches ; and 
the 'chuck' of the woodman's axe, all mingled together. 

When the men — saturated with slaughter, and white 
with ordure — have retired beyond the borders of the 
roost to rest themselves for the night, their ground is 
occupied by the prowling wolf and the fox ; the racoon 
and the cougar ; the lynx and the great black bear. 

With so many enemies, one would think that the 
' passengers ' would soon be exterminated. Not so. 
They are too prolific for that. Indeed, were it not for 
these enemies, they themselves would perish for want 
of food. Fancy what it takes to feed them ! The flock 
seen by Wilson would require eighteen million bushels 
of grain every day ! — and it, most likely, was only one 
of many such that at the time were traversing the vast 
continent of America. Upon what do they feed ? it will 
be asked. Upon the fruits of the great forest — upon 
the acorns, the nuts of the beech, upon buck-wheat, and 
Indian corn ; upon many species of berries, such as the 
huckleberry {whortleberry), the hackberry {Ccltis crassi- 
folid), and the fruit of the holly. In the northern regions, 
where these are scarce, the berries of the juniper tree 
{Juniperus comnmnis) form the principal food. On the 
other hand, among the southern plantations, they devour 
greedily the rice, as well as the nuts of the chestnut-tree 
and several pieces of oaks. But their staple food is the 
beechnut, or ' mast,' as it is called. Of this the pigeons 
are fond, and fortunately it exists in great plenty. In 
the forests of Western America there are vast tracks 
covered almost entirely with the beech-tree. 

As already stated, these beechen forests of America 
remain almost intact, and so long as they shower down 
their millions of bushels of ' mast,' so long will the 

The Passenger Pigeons 39 

passenger pigeons flutter in countless numbers amidst 
their branches. 

Their migration is semi-annual ; but unlike most 
other migratory birds, it is far from being regular. 
Their flight is, in fact, not a periodical migration, but a 
sort of nomadic existence — food being the object which 
keeps them in motion and directs their course. The 
scarcity in one part determines their movement to 
another. When there is more than the usual fall of snow 
in the northern regions, vast flocks make their appear- 
ance in the middle States, as in Ohio and Kentucky. 
This may in some measure account for the overcrowded 
' roosts ' which have been occasionally seen, but which 
are by no means common. You may live in the west 
for many years without witnessing a scene such as those 
described by Wilson and Audubon, though once or twice 
every year you may see pigeons enough to astonish 

It must not be imagined that the wild pigeons of 
America are so 'tame' as they have been sometimes 
represented. That is their character only while young 
at the breeding-places, or at the great roosts when 
confused by crowding upon each other, and mystified by 

Far different are they when wandering through the 
open woods in search of food. It is then both difficult 
to approach and hard to kill them. Odd birds you may 
easily reach ; you may see them perched upon the 
branches on all sides of you, and within shot-range ; but 
the tJiick of the flock, somehow or other, always keeps 
from one to two hundred yards off. The sportsman 
cannot bring himself to fire at single birds. No. There 
is a tree near at hand literally black with pigeons. Its 
branches creak under the weight. What a fine havoc 
he will make if he can but get near enough ! But that 
is the difficulty ; there is no cover, and he must approach 
as he best can without it. He continues to advance ; 
the birds sit silent, watching his movements. He treads 
lightly and with caution ; he inwardly anathematises 
the dead leaves and twigs that make a loud rustling 

40 The Hunters' Feast 

under his feet. The birds appear restless ; several 
stretch out their necks as if to spring off. 

At length he deems himself fairly within range, and 
raises his gun to take aim ; but this is a signal for the 
shy game, and before he can draw trigger they are off to 
another tree ! 

Some stragglers still remain ; and at them he levels 
his piece and fires. The shot is a random one ; for our 
sportsman, having failed to ' cover ' the flock, has become 
irritated and careless, and in all such cases the pigeons 
fly off with the loss of a few feathers. 

The gun is reloaded, and our amateur hunter, seeing 
the thick flock upon another tree, again endeavours to 
approach it, but with like success. 



When the conversation about the haunts and habits of 
these birds began to flag, some one called for a ' pigeon 
story.' Who could tell a pigeon story? To our 
surprise the doctor volunteered one, and all gathered 
around to listen. 

' Yes, gentlemen,' began the doctor, ' I have a pigeon 
adventure, which occurred to me some years ago. I was 
then living in Cincinnati, following my respectable 
calling, when I had the good fortune to set a broken leg 

for one Colonel P , a wealthy planter, who lived 

upon the bank of the river some sixty miles from the 
city. I made a handsome set of it, and won the 
colonel's friendship for ever. Shortly after, I was 
invited to his house, to be present at a great pigeon- 
hunt, which was to come off in the fall. The colonel's 
plantation stood among beech woods, and he had 
therefore an annual visitation of the pigeons, and could 
tell almost to a day when they would appear. The hunt 
he had arranged for the gratification of his numerous 

'As you all know, gentlemen, sixty miles in our 
western travel is a mere bagatelle ; and tired of pills 
and prescriptions, I flung myself into a boat, and in a 
few hours arrived at the colonel's stately home. A 
word or two about this stately home and its pro- 

'Colonel P was a splendid specimen of the back- 
woods' gentleman — you will admit there are gentlemen 
in the backwoods.' (Here the doctor glanced good- 
humouredly, first at our English friend Thompson, and 
thgn at the Kentuckian, both of whom answered him 


42 The Hunters^ Feast 

with a laugh.) ' His house was the type of a backwoods' 
mansion ; a wooden structure, both walls and roof. No 
matter. It has distributed as much hospitality in its 
time as many a marble palace ; that was one of its 
backwoods' characteristics. It stood, and I hope still 
stands, upon the north bank of the Ohio — that beautiful 
stream — " La belle riviere" as the French colonists, and 
before their time the Indians, used to call it. It was in 
the midst of the woods, though around it were a thousand 
acres of " clearing," where you might distinguish fields of 
golden wheat, and groves of shining maize plants waving 
aloft their yellow-flower tassels. You might note, too, 
the broad green leaf of the Nicotian " weed," or the 
bursting pod of the snow-white cotton. In the garden 
you might observe the sweet potato, the common one, 
the refreshing tomato, the huge water-melon, cantelopes, 
and musk melons, with many other delicious vegetables. 
You could see pods of red and green pepper growing 
upon trailing plants ; and beside them several species 
of peas and beans — all valuable for the colonel'g cuisine. 
There was an orchard, too, of several acres in 
extent. It was filled with fruit-trees, the finest peaches 
in the world, and the finest apples — the Newton pippins. 
Besides, there were luscious pears and plums, and upon 
the espaliers, vines bearing bushels of sweet grapes. If 

Colonel P lived in the woods, it cannot be said that 

he was surrounded by a desert. 

'There were several substantial log-houses near the 
main building or mansion. They were the stable — and 
good horses there were in that stable ; the cow-house, 
for milk cattle ; the barn, to hold the wheat and maize- 
corn ; the smoke-house, for curing bacon : a large 
building for the dry tobacco ; a cotton-gin, with its shed 
of clap-boards ; bins for the husk fodder, and several 
smaller structures. In one corner you saw a low-walled 
erection that reminded you of a kennel, and the rich 
music that from time to time issued from its apertures 
would convince you that it was a kennel. If you had 
peeped into it, you would have seen a dozen of as fine 
stag-hounds as ever lifted a trail. The colonel wag 

Hunt with a Howitzer 43 

somewhat partial to these pets, for he was a " mighty 
hunter." You might see a number of young colts in an 
adjoining lot ; a pet-deer, a buffalo-calf, that had been 
brought from the far prairies, pea-fowl, guinea-hens, 
turkeys, geese, ducks, and the usual proportion of 
common fowls. Rail-fences zigzaged off in all 
directions towards the edge of the woods. Huge trees, 
dead and divested of their leaves, stood up in the 
cleared fields. Turkey buzzards and carrion crows 
might be seen perched upon their grey naked limbs ; 
upon their summit you might observe the great rough- 
legged falcon ; and above all, cutting sharply against 
the blue sky, the fork-tailed kite sailing gently about,' 

Here the doctor's auditory interrupted him with a 
murmur of applause. The doctor was in fine spirits, 
and in a poetical mood. He continued. 

' Such, gentlemen, was the sort of place I had come to 
visit ; and I saw at a glance that I could spend a few 
days there pleasantly enough — even without the 
additional attractions of a pigeon-hunt. 

* On my arrival I found the party assembled. It 
consisted of a score and a half of ladies and gentlemen, 
nearly all young people. The pigeons had not yet made 
their appearance, but were looked for every hour. The 
woods had assumed the gorgeous tints of autumn, that 
loveliest of seasons in the " far west." Already the 
ripe nuts and berries were scattered profusely over the 
earth, offering their annual banquet to God's wild 
creatures. The " mast " of the beech-tree, of which the 
wild pigeon is so fond, was showering down among the 
dead leaves. It was the very season at which the birds 
were accustomed to visit the beechen woods that girdled 
the colonel's plantation. They would no doubt soon 
appear. With this expectation everything was made 
ready ; each of the gentlemen was provided with a 
fowling-piece, or rifle if he preferred it ; and even some 
of the ladies insisted on being armed. 

' To render the sport more exciting our host had 
established certain regulations. They were as follows : 
The gentlemen were divided into parties, of equal 

44 The Hunters Feast 

numbers. These were to go in opposite directions, the 
ladies upon the first day of the hunt accompanying 
whichever they chose. Upon all succeeding days, 
however, the case would be different. The ladies were 
to accompany that party which upon the day previous 
had bagged the greatest number of birds. The victorious 
gentlemen, moreover, were endowed with other privi- 
leges, which lasted throughout the evening ; such as 
the choice of partners for the dinner-table and the 

* I need not tell you, gentlemen, that in these con- 
ditions existed powerful motives for exertion. The 
colonel's guests were the elite of western society. Most 
of the gentlemen were young men or bachelors ; and 
among the ladies there were belles ; three or four of 
them rich and beautiful. On my arrival I could per- 
ceive signs of incipient flirtations. Attachments had 
already arisen ; and by many it would have been es- 
teemed anything but pleasant to be separated in the 
manner prescribed. A strong esprit du corps was thus 
established ; and, by the time the pigeons arrived, both 
parties had determined to do their utmost. In fact, I 
have never known so strong a feeling of rivalry to exist 
between two parties of amateur sportsmen. 

'The pigeons at length arrived. It was a bright 
sunny morning, and yet the atmosphere was darkened, 
as the vast flock, a mile in breadth by several in length, 
passed across the canopy. The sound of their wings 
resembled a strong wind whistling among tree-tops, or 
through the rigging of a ship. We saw that they 
hovered over the woods, and settled among the tall 

* The beginning of the hunt was announced, and we 
set forth, each party taking the direction allotted to it. 
With each went a number of ladies, and even some of 
these were armed with light fowling pieces, determined 
that the party of their choice should be the victorious 
one. After a short ride, we found ourselves fairly " in 
the woods," and in the presence of the birds, and then 
the cracking commenced. 

Hunt with a Howitzer 45 

' In our party we had eight guns, exclusive of the 
small fowling-pieces (two of these), with which a brace 
of our heroines were armed, and which, truth compels 
me to confess, were less dangerous to the pigeons than to 
ourselves. Some of our guns were double-barrelled 
shot-guns, others were rifles. You will wonder at rifles 
being used in such a sport, and yet it is a fact that the 
gentlemen who carried rifles managed to do more 
execution than those who were armed with the other 
species. This arose from the circumstance that they 
were contented to aim at single birds, and, being good 
shot, they were almost sure to bring these down. The 
woods were filled with straggling pigeons. Odd birds 
were always within rifle range ; and thus, instead of 
wasting their time in endeavouring to approach the 
great flocks, our riflemen did nothing but load and fire. 
In this way they soon counted their game by dozens. 

' Early in the evening, the pigeons, having filled their 
crops with the mast, disappeared. They flew off to 
some distant " roost." This of course concluded our 
sport for the day. We got together and counted our 
numbers. We had 640 birds. We returned home full 
of hope ; we felt certain that we had won for that day. 
Our antagonists had arrived before us. They showed 
us 726 dead pigeons. We were beaten. 

' I really cannot explain the chagrin which this defeat 
occasioned to most of our party. They felt humiliated 
in the eyes of the ladies, whose company they were to 
lose on the morrow. To some there was extreme 
bitterness in the idea ; for, as I have already stated, 
attachments had sprung up, and jealous thoughts were 
naturally their concomitants. It was quite tantalising, 
as we parted next morning, to see the galaxy of lovely 
women ride off with our antagonists, while we sought 
the woods in the opposite direction, dispirited and in 

' We went, however, determined to do our best, and 
win the ladies for the morrow. A council was held, 
and each imparted his advice and encouragement : and 
then we all set to work with shot-gun and rifle. 

4^ The Hunters^ Feast 

' On this day an incident occurred that aided our 
" count " materially. As you know, gentlemen, the wild 
pigeons, while feeding, sometimes cover the ground so 
thickly that they crowd upon each other. They all 
advance in the same direction, those behind continually 
rising up and fluttering to the front, so that the surface 
presents a series of undulations like sea-waves. 
Frequently the birds alight upon each other's backs, 
for want of room upon the ground, and a confused mass 
of winged creatures is seen rolling through the woods. 
At such times, if the sportsman can only " head " the 
flock, he is sure of a good shot. Almost every pellet 
tells, and dozens may be brought down at a single 

' In my progress through the woods, I had got 
separated from my companions, when I observed an 
immense flock approaching me after the manner 
described. I saw from their plumage that they were 
young birds, and therefore not likely to be easily 
alarmed. I drew my horse (I was mounted) behind a 
tree, and awaited their approach. This I did more from 
curiosity than any other motive, as, unfortunately, I 
carried a rifle, and could only have killed one or two at 
the best. The crowd came " swirling " forward, and 
when they were within some ten or fifteen paces distant, 
I fired into their midst. To my surprise, the flock 
did not take flight, but continued to advance as 
before, until they were almost among the horse's feet. 
I could stand it no longer. I drove the spurs deeply, 
and galloped into their midst, striking right and left as 
they fluttered up round me. Of course they were soon 
off; but of those that had been trodden upon by my 
horse, and others I had knocked down, I counted no 
less than twenty-seven ! Proud of my exploit, I 
gathered the birds into my bag, and rode in search of 
my companions. 

' Our party on this day numbered over 800 head 
killed ; but, to our surprise and chagrin, our antagonists 
had beaten us by more than a hundred! 

' The gentlemen of " ours " were wretched. The 

Hunt with a Hoivitzer 47 

belles were monopolised by our antagonists ; we were 
scouted, and debarred every privilege. 

' It was not to be endured ; something must be done. 
What was to be done? counselled we. If fair means 
will not answer, we must try the opposite. It was 
evident that our antagonists were better shots than 

* The colonel, too, was one of them, and he was sure 
to kill every time he pulled trigger. The odds were 
against us ; some plan must be devised ; some ruse must 
be adopted, and the idea of one had been passing 
through my mind during the whole of that day. It was 
this : — I had noticed, what has been just remarked, that, 
although the pigeons will not allow the sportsman to 
come within range of a fowling-piece, yet at a distance 
of little over a hundred yards they neither fear man nor 
beast. At that distance they sit unconcerned, thousands 
of them upon a single tree. It struck me that a gun 
large enough to throw shot among them would be 
certain of killing hundreds at each discharge ; but 
where was such a gun to be had ? As I reflected thus, 
" mountain howitzers " came into my mind. I remem- 
bered the small mountain howitzers I had seen at 
Covington. One of these loaded with shot would be 
the very weapon. I knew there was a battery of them 
at the Barracks. I knew that a friend of mine 
commanded the battery. By steamer, should one pass, 
it was but a i^^N hours to Covington. I proposed 
sending for a " mountain howitzer." 

' I need hardly say that my proposal was hailed with 
a universal welcome on the part of my companions ; 
and without dropping a hint to the other party, it was 
at once resolved that the design should be carried into 
execution. It was carried into execution. An " up- 
river " boat chanced to pass in the nick of time. A 
messenger was forthwith despatched to Covington, and 
before twelve o'clock upon the following day another 
boat on her down trip brought the howitzer, and we had 
it secretly landed and conveyed to a place in the woods 
previously agreed upon. My friend, Captain C , 

4S The Hunters' Feast 

had sent a " live corporal " along with it, and we had no 
difficulty in its management. 

' As I had anticipated, it answered our purpose as 
though it had been made for it. Every shot brought 
down a shower of dead birds, and after one discharge 
alone the number obtained was 123! At night our 
" game-bag " counted over three thousand birds ! We 
were sure of the ladies for the morrow. 

' Before returning home to our certain triumph, how- 
ever, there were some considerations. To-morrow we 
should have the ladies in our company ; some of the 
fair creatures would be as good as sure to " split" upon 
the howitzer. What was to be done to prevent this ! 

' We eight had sworn to be staunch to each other. We 
had taken every precaution ; we had only used our 
" great gun " when far off, so that its report might not 
reach the ears of our antagonists ; but how about 
to-morrow ? Could we trust our fair companions with 
a secret ? Decidedly not. This was the unanimous 
conclusion. A new idea now came to our aid. We saw 
that we might dispense with the howitzer, and still 
manage to out-count our opponents. We would make 
a depository of birds in a safe place. There was a 
squatter's house near by : that would do. So we took 
the squatter into our council, and left some 1500 birds 
in his charge, the remainder being deemed sufficient for 
that day. From the 1500 thus left, we might each day 
take a few hundred to make up our game-bag just 
enough to out-number the other party. We did not 
send home the corporal and his howitzer. We might 
require him again ; so we quartered him upon the 

' On returning home we found that our opponents 
had also made a " big day's work of it ; " but they were 
beaten by hundreds. The ladies were ours ! 

' And we kept them until the end of the hunt, to the 
no little mortification of the gentlemen in the "minority:" 
to their surprise, as well ; for most of them being crack- 
shots, and several of us not at all so, they could not 
comprehend why they were every day beaten so 

Htint with a Howitzer 49 

outrageously. We had hundreds to spare, and barrels 
of the birds were cured for winter use. 

' Another thing quite puzzled our opponents, as well 
as many good people in the neighbourhood. That was 
the loud reports that had been heard in the woods. 
Some argued they were thunder, while others declared 
they must have proceeded from an earthquake. This 
last seemed the more probable, as the events I am 
narrating occurred but a few years after the great 
earthquake in the Mississippi Valley, and people's 
minds were prepared for such a thing. 

* I need not tell you how the knowing ones enjoyed 
the laugh for several days, and it was not until the 
colonel's rhmion was about to break up, that our secret 
was let out, to the no small chagrin of our opponents, 
but to the infinite amusement of our host himself, who, 
although one of the defeated party, often narrates to his 
friends the story of the " Hunt with the Howitzer."' 



Although we had made a five miles' march from the 
place where we had halted to shoot the pigeons, our 
night-camp was still within the boundaries of the flock. 
During the night we could hear them at intervals at no 
great distance ofif. A branch occasionally cracked, and 
then a fluttering of wings told of thousands dislodged 
or frightened by its fall. Sometimes the fluttering com- 
menced without any apparent cause. No doubt the 
great-horned owl {Strix virgmiana), the wild cat {Felis 
rufa), and the raccoon, were busy among them, and the 
silent attacks of these were causing the repeated alarms. 

Before going to rest, a torch-hunt was proposed by 
way of variety, but no material for making good torches 
could be found, and the idea was abandoned. Torches 
should be made of dry pine knots, and carried in some 
shallow vessel. The common fr}'ing-pan, with a long 
handle, is best for the purpose. Link-torches, unless of 
the best pitch-pine {Pinus rcsinosd), do not burn with 
sufficient brightness to stultify the pigeons. They will 
flutter off before the hunter can get his long pole within 
reach, whereas with a very brilliant light, he may ap- 
proach almost near enough to lay his hands upon them. 
As there were no pitch-pine trees in the neighbourhood, 
nor any good torch-wood, we were forced to give up the 
idea of a night hunt. 

During the night strange noises were heard by several 
who chanced to be awake. Some said they resembled 
the howling of dogs, while others compared them to the 
screaming of angry cats. One party said they were 
produced by wolves ; another, that the wild cats (lynxes) 
made them. But there was one that differed from all 


Killing a Cotigar 51 

the rest. It was a sort of prolonged hiss, that all except 
Ike believed to be the snort of the black bear. Ike, 
however, declared that it was not the bear, but the 
' sniff,' as he termed it, of the ' painter ' (cougar). This 
was probable enough, considering the nature of the 
place. The cougar is well known to frequent the great 
roosts of the passenger-pigeon, and is fond of the flesh 
of these birds. 

In the morning our camp was still surrounded by the 
pigeons, sweeping about among the tree-trunks, and 
gathering the mast as they went. A few shots were 
fired, not from any inclination to continue the sport of 
killing them, but to lay in a fresh stock for the day's 
dinner. The surplus from yesterday's feast was thrown 
away, and left by the deserted camp — a banquet for the 
preying creatures that would soon visit the spot. 

We moved on, still surrounded by masses upon the 
wing. A singular incident occurred as we were passing 
through a sort of avenue in the forest. It was a narrow 
aisle, on both sides walled in by the thick foliage of the 
beeches. We were fairly within this hall-like passage, 
when it suddenly darkened at the opposite end. We 
saw that a cloud of pigeons had entered it, flying 
towards us. They were around our heads before they 
had noticed us. Seeing our party, they suddenly 
attempted to diverge from their course, but there was no 
other open to them, except to rise upward in a vertical 
direction. This they did on the instant — the clatter of 
their wings producing a noise like the continued roar of 
thunder. Some had approached so near, that the men 
on horseback, striking with their guns, knocked several 
to the ground ; and the Kentuckian, stretching upward 
his long arm, actually caught one of them on the wing. 
In an instant they were out of sight ; but at that instant 
two great birds appeared before us at the opening of 
the forest, which were at once recognised as a brace 
of white-headed eagles {Falco leucoceplialus). This ac- 
counted for the rash flight of the pigeons ; for the 
eagles had evidently been in pursuit of them, and had 
driven them to seek shelter under the trees. We were 

52 The Hunters' Feast 

desirous of emptying our guns at the great birds of prey, 
and there was a simultaneous spurring of horses and 
cocking of guns : to no purpose, howev^er. The eagles 
were on the alert. They had already espied us ; and, 
uttering their maniac screams, they wheeled suddenly, 
and disappeared over the tree-tops. 

We had hardly recovered from this pleasant little bit 
of excitement, when the guide Ike, who rode in the 
advance, was seen suddenly to jerk up, exclaiming : 
' Painter, by G — d ! I knovv'd I heerd a painter.' 
* Where ? where ? ' was hurriedly uttered by several 
voices, while all pressed forward to the guide. 

'Yander!' replied Ike, pointing to a thicket of young 
beeches. ' He's tuk to the brush : ride round, fellurs. 
Mark, boy, round ! quick, d — n you ! ' 

There was a scramble of horsemen, with excited, 
anxious looks and gestures. Every one had his gun 
cocked and ready, and in a {^^^ seconds the small copse 
of beeches, with their golden-yellow leaves, was inclosed 
by a ring of hunters. Had the cougar got away, or was 
he still within the thicket? Several large trees grew 
out of its midst. Had he taken to one? The eyes of 
the party were turned upwards. The fierce creature 
was nowhere visible. 

It was impossible to see into every part of the jungle 
from the outside, as we sat in our saddles. The game 
might be crouching among the grass and brambles. 
What was to be done? We had no dogs. How was 
the cougar to be started ? It would be no small peril 
to penetrate the thicket a-foot. Who was to do it ? 

The question was answered by Redwood, who was 
now seen dismounting from his horse. 

'Keep your eyes about you,' cried he. 'I'll make 
the varmint show if he's thur. Look sharp, then ! ' 

We saw Redwood enter fearlessly, leaving his horse 
hitched over a branch. We heard him no longer, as he 
proceeded with that stealthy silence known only to the 
Indian fighter. We listened, and waited in profound 
suspense. Not even the crackling of a branch broke 
the stillness. P^ull five minutes we waited, and then the 

Killing a Cougar 53 

sharp crack of a rifle near the centre of the copsewood 
relieved us. The next moment was heard Redwood's 
voice crying aloud : 

' Look out thur ! By G — d ! I've missed him.' 

Before we had time to change our attitudes another 
rifle cracked, and another voice was heard, crying in 
answer to Redwood : 

' But, by G— d ! I haint.' 

' He's hyur,' continued the voice ; * dead as mutton. 
Come this a way, an' yu'll see the beauty.' 

Ike's voice was recognised, and we all galloped to the 
spot where it proceeded from. At his feet lay the body 
of the panther quite dead. There was a red spot run- 
ning blood between the ribs, where Ike's bullet had 
penetrated. In trying to escape from the thicket, the 
cougar had halted a moment, in a crouching attitude, 
directly before Ike's face, and that moment v/as enough 
to give the trapper time to glance through his sights, 
and send the fatal bullet. 

Of course the guide received the congratulations of 
all, and though he pretended not to regard the thing in 
the light of a feat, he knew well that killing a ' painter' 
was no everyday adventure. 

The skin of the animal was stripped off in a trice, and 
carried to the waggon. Such a trophy is rarely left in 
the woods. 

The hunter-naturalist performed some farther opera- 
tions upon the body for the purpose of examining the 
contents of the stomach. These consisted entirely of 
the half- digested remains of passenger pigeons, an 
enormous quantity of which the beast had devoured 
during the previous night — having captured them no 
doubt upon the trees. 

This adventure formed a pleasant theme for conver- 
sation during the rest of our journey, and of course the 
cougar was the subject. His habits and history were 
fully discussed, and the information elicited is given 



The cougar {Felis concolor) is the only indigenous long- 
tailed cat in America north of the parallel of 30 degrees. 
The 'wild cats ' so called are lynxes with short tails; 
and of these there are three distinct species. But there 
is only one true representative of the genus Felis, and 
that is the animal in question. 

This has received many trivial appellations. Among 
Anglo-American hunters,it is called the panther — in their 
patois, ' painter.' In most parts of South America, 
as well as in Mexico, it receives the grandiloquent 
title of * lion ' {leoji), and in the Peruvian countries is 
called the ' puma ' or ' poma.' The absence of stripes, 
such as those of the tiger — or spots, as upon the leopard 
— or rosettes, as upon the jaguar, have suggested the 
name of the naturalists, concolor. Discolor was formerly 
in use ; but the other has been generally adopted. 

There are few wild animals so regular in their colour 
as the cougar : very little variety has been observed 
among different specimens. Some naturalists speak of 
spotted cougars — that is, having spots that may be seen 
in a certain light. Upon young cubs, such markings do 
appear ; but they are no longer visible on the full-grown 
animal. The cougar of mature age is of a tawny red 
colour, almost uniform over the whole body, though 
somewhat paler about the face and the parts underneath. 
This colour is not exactly the tawny of the lion ; it is 
more of a reddish hue — nearer to what is termed 

The cougar is far from being a well-shaped creature; it 
appears disproportioned. Its back is long and hollow, 
and its tail does not taper so gracefully as in some other 


The Cougar 55 

animals of the cat-kind. Its legs are short and stout ; 
and although far from clumsy in appearance, it does not 
possess the graceful tournnre of body so characteristic 
of some of its congeners. Though considered the 
representative of the Hon in the New World, its 
resemblance to the royal beast is but slight ; its colour 
seems to be the only title it has to such an honour. For 
the rest, it is much more akin to the tigers, jaguars, and 
true panthers. Cougars are rarely more than six feet in 
length, including the tail, which is usually about a third 
of that measurement. 

The range of the animal is very extensive. It is 
known from Paraguay to the Great Lakes of North 
America. In no part of either continent is it to be seen 
every day, because it is for the most part not only 
nocturnal in its activity, but one of those fierce creatures 
that, fortunately, do not exist in large numbers. Like 
others of the genus, it is solitary in its habits, and at the 
approach of civilisation betakes itself to the remoter 
parts of the forest. Hence the cougar, although found 
in all of the United States, is a rare animal everywhere, 
and seen only at long intervals in the mountain valleys, 
or in other difficult places of the forest. The appearance 
of a cougar is sufficient to throw any neighbourhood 
into an excitement similar to that which would be 
produced by the chase of a mad dog. 

It is a splendid tree-climber. It can mount a tree 
with the agility of a cat ; and although so large an 
animal, it climbs by means of its claws — not by hugging, 
after the manner of the bears and opossums. While 
climbing a tree, its claws can be heard crackling along 
the bark as it mounts upward. It sometimes lies 
' squatted ' along a horizontal branch, a lower one, for the 
purpose of springing upon deer, or such other animals as 
it wishes to prey upon. The ledge of a cliff is also a 
favourite haunt, and such are known among the hunters 
as ' panther-ledges.' It selects such a position in the 
neighbourhood of some watering-place, or, if possible, 
one of the salt or soda springs (licks) so numerous in 
America. Here it is more certain that its vigil will not 

56 The Hunters Feast 

be a protracted one. Its pray — elk, deer, antelope, or 
buffalo — soon appears beneath, unconscious of the 
dangerous enemy that cowers over them. When fairly 
within reach, the cougar springs, and pouncing down 
upon the shoulders of the victim, buries its claws in the 
flesh. The terrified animal starts forward, leaps from 
side to side, dashes into the papaw thickets, or breasts 
the dense cane-brake, in hopes of brushing off" its 
relentless rider. All in vain ! Closely clasping its 
neck, the cougar clings on, tearing its victim in the 
throat, and drinking its blood throughout the wild 
gallop. Faint and feeble, the ruminant at length 
totters and falls, and the fierce destroyer squats itself 
along the body, and finishes its red repast. If the 
cougar can overcome several animals at a time, it will 
kill them all, although but the twentieth part may be 
required to satiate its hunger. Unlike the lion in this, 
even in repletion it will kill. With it, destruction of life 
seems to be an instinct. 

There is a very small animal, and apparently a very 
helpless one, with which the cougar occasionally 
quarrels, but often with ill success — this is the Canada 
porcupine. Whether the cougar ever succeeds in killing 
one of these creatures is not known, but that it attacks 
them is beyond question, and its own death is often the 
result. The quills of the Canada porcupine are slightly 
barbed at their extremities ; and when stuck into the 
flesh of a living animal, this arrangement causes them to 
penetrate mechanically deeper and deeper as the animal 
moves. That the porcupine can itself discharge them 
to some distance is not true, but it is true that it can 
cause them to be easily detached ; and this it does when 
rashly seized by any of the predatory animals. The 
result is, that these remarkable spines become fast in 
the tongue, jaws, and lips of the cougar, or any other 
creature which may make an attack on that seemingly 
unprotected little animal. The fisher {Mustela 
Canadensis) is said to be the only animal that can kill 
the porcupine with impunity. It fights the latter by 
first throwing it upon its back, and then springing upon 

The Cougar , 57 

its upturned belly, where the spines are almost entirely 

The cougar is called a cowardly animal : some 
naturalists even assert that it will not venture to attack 
man. This is, to say the least, a singular declaration, 
after the numerous well-attested instances in which men 
have been attacked, and even killed by cougars. There 
are many such in the history of early settlement in 
America. To say that cougars are cowardly now when 
found in the United States — to say they are shy of 
man, and will not attack him, may be true enough. 
Strange, if the experience of 200 years' hunting, and by 
such hunters too, did not bring them to that. We may 
safely believe, that if the lions of Africa were placed in 
the same circumstances, a very similar shyness and 
dread of the upright biped would soon exhibit itself. 
What all these creatures — bears, cougars, lynxes, wolves, 
and even alligators — are now, is no criterion of their 
past. Authentic history proves that their courage, at 
least so far as regards man, has changed altogether since 
they first heard the sharp detonation of the deadly rifle. 
Even contemporaneous history demonstrates this. In 
many parts of South America, both jaguar and cougar 
attack man, and numerous are the deadly encounters 
there. In Peru, on the eastern declivity of the Andes, 
large settlements and even villages have been abandoned 
solely on account of the perilous proximity of those 
fierce animals. 

In the United States, the cougar is hunted by dog 
and gun. He will run from the hounds, because he 
knows they are backed by the unerring rifle of the 
hunter ; but should one of the yelping pack approach 
too near, a single blow of the cougar's paw is sufficient 
to stretch him out, When closely pushed, the cougar 
takes to a tree, and, halting in one of its forks, humps 
his back, bristles his hair, looks downward with gleaming 
eyes, and utters a sound somewhat like the purring of a 
cat, though far louder. The crack of the hunter's rifle 
usually puts an end to these demonstrations, and the 
cougar drops to the ground either dead or wounded. If 

58 The Hunters' Feast 

only the latter a desperate fight ensues between him and 
the dogs, with several of whom he usually leaves a mark 
that distinguishes them for the rest of their lives. 

The scream of the cougar is a common phrase. It is 
not very certain that the creature is addicted to the habit 
of screaming, although noises of this kind heard in the 
nocturnal forest have been attributed to him. Hunters, 
however, have certainly never heard him, and they 
believe that the scream talked about proceeds from one 
of the numerous species of owls that inhabit the deep 
forests of America. At short intervals, the cougar does 
make himself heard in a note which somewhat resembles 
a deep-drawn sigh, or as if one were to utter with an 
extremely guttural expression the syllables 'Co-oa', or 
'Cougar.' Is it from this that he derives his trivial 
name ? 


OLD ike's adventure 

Now, a panther story was the natural winding-up of 
this day, and it had been already hinted that old Ike 
had ' rubbed out ' several of these creatures in his time, 
and no doubt could tell more than one 'painter' 

' Wal, strengers,' began he, ' it's true thet this hyur 
ain't the fust painter I've corned acrosst. About fifteen 
yeern ago I moved to Loozyanny, an' thur I met a 
painter, an' a queer story it are.' 

' Let us have it by all means,' said several of the 
party, drawing closer up and seating themselves to listen 
attentively. We all knew that a story from Ike could 
not be otherwise than ' queer ', and our curiosity was on 
the qui vive. 

* Wal, then,' continued he, ' they have floods dowd 
thur in Loozyanny, sich as, I guess, you've never seen 
the like o' in England.' Here Ike addressed himself 
specially to our English comrade. ' England ain't big 
enough to hev sich floods. One o' 'm 'ud kiver yur 
hul country, I hev hecrn said. I won't say that ar's 
true, as I ain't acquainted with yur jography. I know, 
howsomdever, they're mighty big freshets thur, as I hev 
sailed a skift more 'n a hundred mile acrosst one o' 'm, 
whur thur wan't nothin' to be seen but cypress tops 
peepin' out o' the water. The floods, as yc know, come 
every year, but them ar big ones only oncest in a 

'Wal, as I've said, about fifteen yeern ago, I located 
in the Red River bottom, about fifty mile or tharabout 
below Nackctosh, whur I built me a shanty. I hed left 


6o The Hunters' Feast 

my wife an' two young critters in Massissippi state, in- 
tendin' to go back for 'em in the spring ; so, ye see, I 
wur all alone by meself, exceptin' my ole mar, a Collins's 
axe, an' of coorse my rifle. 

' I hed finished the shanty all but the chinkin' an' the 
buildin' o' a chimbly, when what shed come on but one 
o' 'm tarnation floods. It wur at night when it begun 
to make its appearance. I wur asleep on the floor o' 
the shanty, an' the first warn in' I hed o' it wur the feel 
o' the water soakin' through my ole blanket. 1 hed 
been a-dreamin', an' thort it wur rainin', an' then agin 
I thort that I wur bein' drownded in the Massissippi ; but 
I vvan't many seconds awake, till I guessed what it wur 
in raality ; so I jumped to my feet like a started buck, 
an' groped my way to the door. 

' A sight that wur when I got thur. I hed clurred a 
piece o' ground around the shanty — a kupple o' acres 
or better — I hed left the stumps a good three feet high : 
thur wan't a stump to be seen. My clearin', stumps an' 
all, wur under water ; an' I could see it shinin' among 
the trees all round the shanty. 

' Of coorse, my fust thoughts wur about my rifle ; an 
I turned back into the shanty, an' laid my claws upon 
that quick enough. 

* I next went in search o' my ole mar. She wan't 
hard to find ; for if ever a critter made a noise, she did. 
She wur tied to a tree close by the shanty, an' the way 
she wur a-squealin' wur a caution to cats. I found her 
up to the belly in water, pitchin' an' flounderin' all 
round the tree. She hed nothin' on but the rope that 
she wur hitched by. Both saddle an' bridle hed been 
washed away : so I made the rope into a sort o' halter, 
an' mounted her bare-backed. 

'Jest then I begun to think whur I wur a-goin'. The 
hul country appeared to be under water : an' the nearest 
neighbor I hed lived acrosst the parairy ten miles off. 
I knew that his shanty sot on high ground, but how wur 
I to get thur ? It wur night ; I mout lose my way, an' 
ride chuck into the river. 

' When I thort o' this, I concluded it mout be better 

Old Ikes Adventure 6i 

to stay by my own shanty till mornin'. I could hitch 
the mar inside to keep her from bein' floated away ; an' 
for meself, I could climb on the roof. 

' While I wur thinkin' on this, I noticed that the 
water wur a deepenin', an' it jest kim into my head, that 
it ud soon be deep enough to drownd my ole mar. For 
meself I wan't frightened. I mout a clomb a tree, an' 
stayed thur till the flood fell ; but I shed a lost the mar, 
an' that critter wiir too valleyble to think o' such a 
sacryfize ; so I made up my mind to chance crossin' the 
parairy. Thur wan't no time to be wasted — ne'er a 
minnit ; so I gin the mar a kick or two in the ribs an' 

' I found the path out to the edge of the parairy easy 
enough. I hed blazed it when I fust come to the place ; 
an', as the night wur not a very dark one, I could see 
the blazes as I passed atween the trees. My mar knew 
the track as well as meself, an' swaltered through at a 
sharp rate, for she knew too thur wan't no time to be 
wasted. In five minnites we kim out on the edge o' the 
parairy, an' jest as I expected, the hul thing wur kivered 
with water, an' lookin' like a big pond. I could see it 
shinin' clur acrosst to the other side o' the openin'. 

' As luck ud hev it, I could jest git a glimp o' the 
trees on the fur side o' the parairy. Thur wur a big 
clump o' cypress, that I could sec plain enough ; I knew 
this wur clost to my neighbor's shanty ; so I gin my 
critter the switch, an' struck right for it. 

' As I left the timmcr, the mar wur up to her hips. 
Of coorse, I expected a good grist o' heavy wadin' ; but 
I hed no idee that the water wur a-gwinc to git much 
higher ; thur's whur I made my mistake. 

• I hedn't got morc'n a kupple o' miles out when I 
diskivercd that the thing wur a-risin' rapidly, for I seed 
the mar wur a-gettin' deeper and deeper. 

"Twan't no use turnin' back now. 1 'ud lose the mar 
to a dead sartinty, if I didn't make the high ground ; so 
I spoke to the critter to do her best, an' kep on. The 
poor beest didn't need any whippin' — she knew as well's 
I did meself thur wur danger, an' she wur a-doin' her 

62 The Hunters' Feast 

darndest, an' no mistake. Still the water riz, an' kep 
a-risin', until it come clur up to her shoulders. 

' I begun to git skeart in airnest. We wan't more'n 
half acrosst, an' I seed if it riz much more we 'ud hev to 
swim for it. I wan't far astray about that. The minnit 
arter it seemed to deepen suddintly, as if thur wur a 
hollow in the parairy : I heerd the mar giv a loud gouf, 
an' then go down, till I wur up to the waist. She riz 
agin the next minnit, but I could tell from the smooth 
ridin' that she wur off o' the bottom. She wur swimmin', 
an' no mistake. 

* At fust I thort o' headin' her back to the shanty ; 
an' I drew her round with that intent ; but turn her 
which way I would, I found she could no longer touch 

' I guess, strengers, I wur in a quandairy about then. 
I 'gun to think that both my own an' my mar's time 
wur come in airnest, for I hed no idee that the critter 
could iver swim to the other side, 'specially with me on 
her back, an' purticklarly as at that time these hyur ribs 
had a sight more griskin upon 'em than they hev now. 

' Wal, I wur about reckinin' up. I hed got to thinkin' 
o' Mary an' the childer, and the old shanty in the Mas- 
sissippi, an' a heap o' things that I hed left unsettled, 
an' that now come into my mind to trouble me. The 
mar wur still plungin' ahead ; but I seed she wur sinkin' 
deeper an' deeper an' fast loosin' her strength, an' I 
knew she couldn't hold out much longer. 

' I thort at this time that if I got off o' her back, an' 
tuk hold o' the tail, she mout manage a leetle better. 
So I slipped backwards over her hips, an' grupped the 
long hair. It did do some good, for she swum higher ; 
but we got mighty slow through the water, an' I hed 
but leetle behopes we should reach land. 

' I wur towed in this way about a quarter o' a mile 
when I spied somethin' floatin' on the water a leetle 
a-head. It hed growed considerably darker ; but thur 
wur still light enough to show me that the thing wur 
a log. 

'An idee now entered my brain-pan, that I mout save 

Old Ike's Adventure 63 

meself by takin' to the log. The mar 'ud then have a 
better chance for herself; an' maybe, when eased o' 
draggin' my carcass, that wur a-keepin' her back, she 
mout make footin' somevvhur. So I waited till she got 
a leetle closter ; an' then, lettin' go o' her tail, I clasped 
the log, an' crawled on to it, 

' The mar swum on, appeerintly 'ithout missiii' me. 
I seed her disappear through the darkness ; but I didn't 
as much as say good-bye to her, for I wur afeard that 
my voice mout bring her back agin', an' she mout strike 
the log with her hoofs, an' whammel it about. So I lay 
quiet, an' let her hev her own way. 

' I wan't long on the log till I seed it wur a-driftin', 
for thur wur a current in the water that set tol'uble 
sharp across the parairy. I hed crawled up at one eend, 
an' got stridelegs ; but as the log dipped considerable, I 
wur still over the hams in the water. 

' I thort I mout be more comfortable towards the 
middle, an' wur about to pull the thing more under me, 
when all at once I seed thur wur somethin' clumped up 
on t'other eend o' the log. 

''Twan't very clur at the time, for It had been a- 
growin' cloudier ever since I left the shanty, but 'twur 
clur enough to show me that the thing wur a varmint : 
what sort, I couldn't tell. It mout be a bar, an' it mout 
not ; but I had my suspects it wur eyther a bar or a 

' I wan't left long in doubt about the thing's gender. 
The log kep' makin' circles as it drifted, an' when the 
varmint kim round into a different light, I caught a 
glimp o' its eyes. I knew them eyes to be no bar's 
eyes : they wur painter's eyes, an' no mistake. 

' I reckin, strengers, I felt very queery jest about then. 
I didn't try to go any nearer the middle o' the log ; but 
instead of that, I wriggled back until I wur right plum 
on the eend of it, an' could git no further. 

' Thur I sot for a good long spell 'ithout movin' hand 
or foot. I dasen't make a motion, as I wur afeard it 
mout tempt the varmint to attackt me. 

* I hed no weepun but my knife ; I hed let go o' my 

64 The Hunters' Feast 

rifle when I slid from the mar's back, an' it hed gone to 
the bottom long since. I wan't in any condition to 
stand a tussle with the painter nohow ; so I wur 
detarmined to let him alone as long's he 'ud me. 

* Wal, we drifted on for a good hour, I guess, 'ithout 
ayther o' us stirrin'. We sot face to face ; an' now an 
then the current ud set the log in a sort o' up-an'-down 
motion, an' then the painter an' I kep bovvin' to each 
other like a pair o' bob-sawyers. I could see all the 
while that the varmint's eyes wur fixed upon mine, an' 
I never tuk mine from hisn ; I know'd 'twur the only 
way to keep him still. 

* I wur jest prospectin' what ud be the eendin' o' the 
business, when I seed we wur a-gettin' closter to the 
timmer: 'twan't more 'n two miles off, but 'twur all 
under water 'ceptin' the tops o' the trees. I wur 
thinkin' that when the log shed float in among the 
branches, I mout slip off, an' git my claws upon a tree, 
'ithout sayin' anythin' to my travelling companion. 

* Jest at that minnit somethin' appeared dead ahead 
o' the log. It wur like a island ; but what could hev 
brought a island thur? Then I recollects that I hed 
seed a piece o' high ground about that part o' the 
parairy — a sort o' mound that hed been made by 
Injuns, I s'pose. This, then, that looked like a island, 
wur the top o' that mound, sure enough. 

' The log wur a-driftin' in sich a way that I seed it 
must pass within twenty yards o' the mound. I 
detarmined then, as soon as we shed git alongside, to 
put out for it, an' leave the painter to continue his 
voyage 'ithout me. 

* When I fust sighted the island I seed somethin' that 
I hed tuk for bushes. But thur wan't no bushes on the 
mound — that I knowd. 

* Howsomdevcr, when we get a lectle closter, I 
diskivered that the bushes wur beests. They wur deer ; 
for I spied a pair o' buck's horns atween me an' the sky. 
But thur wur a somethin' still bigger than a deer. It 
mout be a boss, or it mout be an Opelousa ox, but I 
thort it wur a boss. 

Old Ike's Adventure 65 

'I wur right about that, for a horse it wur, sure 
enough, or rayther I shed say, a mar, an' that mar no 
other than my ole crittur ! 

' Arter partin' company, she hed turned with the 
current ; an', as good-luck ud hev it, hed swum in a 
bee Hne for the island, an' thur she stood lookin' as 
slick as if she hed been greased. 

'The log hed by this got nigh enough, as I kalklated; 
an', with as little rumpus as possible, I slipped over the 
eend an' lot go my hold o' it. I wan't right spread in 
the water, afore I heerd a plump, an' lookin' round a 
bit, I seed the painter hed left the log too, an' tuk to 
the water. 

* At fust, I thort he wur arter me ; an' I drawed my 
knife with one hand, while I swum with the other. 
But the painter didn't mean fight that time. He made 
but poor swimmin' himself, an' appeared glad enough 
to get upon dry groun' 'ithout molestin' me ; so we 
swum on side by side, an' not a word passed atween us. 

* I didn't want to make a race o' it ; so I let him pass 
me, rayther than he should fall behind, an' get among 
my legs. 

' Of coorse, he landed fust ; an' I could hear by the 
stompin' o' hoofs, that his suddint appearance hed 
kicked up a jolly stampede among the critters upon 
the island. I could see both deer and mar dancing all 
over the groun', as if Old Nick himself hed got among 'em. 

' None 'o 'em, howsomdever, thort o' takin' to the 
water. They hed all hed enough o' that, I guess. 

' I kep a leetle round, so as not to land near the 
painter; and then, touchin' bottom, I climbed quietly 
up on the mound. I hed hardly drawed my drippin' 
carcass out o' the water, when I heerd a loud squeal, 
which I knew to be the whigher o' my ole mar ; an' 
jest at that minnit the critter kim runnin' up, an' 
rubbed her nose agin my shoulder. I tuk the halter in 
my hand, an' sidling round a leetle, I jumped upon her 
back, for I still wur in fear o' the painter ; an' the mar's 
back appeared to me the safest place about, an' that 
wan't very safe, cyther. 


66 The Hunters^ Feast 

' I now looked all round to see what new company I 
hed got into. The day wur jest breakin', an' I could 
distinguish a leetle better every minnit. The top o' the 
mound which wur above water wan't over half an acre 
in size, an' it wur as clur o' timmer as any other part o' 
the parairy, so that I could see every inch o' it, an' 
every thin' on it as big as a tumble-bug. 

' I reckin, strengers, that you'll hardly believe me 
when I tell you the concatenation o' varmints that wur 
then an' thur caucused together. I could hardly believe 
my own eyes when I seed sich a gatherin', an' I thort I 
hed got aboard o' Noah's Ark. Thur wur — listen, 
strengers — fust my ole mar an' meself, an' I wished both 
o' us anywhur else, I reckin — then thur wur the painter, 
yur old acquaintance — then thur wur four deer, a buck 
an' three does. Then kim a catamount ; an' arter him 
a black bar, a'most as big as a buffalo. Then thur wur 
a 'coon an' a 'possum, an' a kupple o' gray wolves, an' 
a swamp rabbit, an', darn the thing ! a stinkin' skunk. 
Perhaps the last wan't the most dangerous varmint on 
the groun', but it sartintly wur the most disagreeableest 
o' the hul lot, for it smelt only as a cussed polecat kin 

' I've said, strengers, that I wur mightily tuk by 
surprise when I fust seed this curious clanjamfrey 
o' critters ; but I kin tell you I wur still more 
dumbfounded when I seed thur behaveyur to one 
another, knowin' thur different naturs as I did. Thur 
wur the painter lyin' clost up to the deer — its nat'ral 
prey ; an' thur wur the wolves too, an' thur wur the 
catamount standin' within three feet o' the 'possum an' 
the swamp rabbit ; an' thur wur the bar an' the cunnin' 
old 'coon ; an' thur they all wur, no more mindin' one 
another then if they hed spent all thur days together 
in the same penn, 

' 'Twur the oddest sight I ever seed, an' it remembered 
me o' bit o' Scripter my ole mother hed often read from 
a book called the Bible, or some sfch name — about a 
lion that wur so tame he used to squat down beside a 
lamb, 'ithout layin' a claw upon the innocent critter. 

Old Ike's Adventure 6y 

* Wal, strengers, as I'm sayin', the hul party behaved 
in this very way. They all appeared down in the 
mouth, an' badly skeart about the water ; but for all 
that, I hed my fears that the painter or the bar — I wan't 
afeard o' any o' the others — mout git over thur fright 
afore the flood fell ; an' thurfore I kept as quiet as any 
one o' them during the hul time I wur in thur company, 
an' stayin' all the time clost by the mar. But neyther 
bar nor painter showed any savage sign the hul o' the 
next day, nor the night that follered it. 

' Strengers, it ud tire you wur I to tell you all the 
movements that tuk place among these critters durin' 
that long day an' night. Ne'er a one o' 'em laid tooth 
or claw on the other. I wur hungry enough meself, and 
ud a liked to hev taken a steak from the buttocks o' one 
o' the deer, but I dascn't do it. I wur afeard to break 
the peace, which mout a led to a general shindy. 

' When day broke next mornin' arter, I seed that the 
flood wur a fallin' ; and as soon as it wur shallow 
enough, I led my mar quietly into the water, an' 
climbin' upon her back, tuk a silent leave o' my 
companions. The water still tuk my mar up to the 
flanks, so that I knew none o' the varmint could follow 
'ithout swimmin', an' ne'er a one seemed inclined to try 
a swim. 

' I struck direct for my neighbour's shanty, which I 
could see about three miles oft, an' in an hour or so, I 
wur at his door. Thur I didn't stay long, but borrowin' 
an extra gun which he happened to hev, an' takin' him 
along with his own rifle, I waded my mar back to the 

' We found the game not exactly as I hed left it. 
The fall o' the flood had given the painter, the cat, an' 
the wolves courage. The swamp rabbit an' the 'possum 
wur clean gone — all but bits o' thur wool — an' one o' 
the does wur better 'n half devoured. 

' My neighbour tuk one side, an' I the other, an' 
ridin' clost up, we surrounded the island. 

• I plugged the painter at the fust shot, an' he did the 
same for the bar. We next layed out the wolves, an' 

68 The Hunters^ Feast 

arter that cooney, an' then we tuk our time about the 
deer — these last and the bar bein' the only valley'ble 
things on the island. The skunk we kilt last, as we 
didn't want the thing to stink us off the place while we 
wur a-skinnin' the deer. 

'Arter killin' the skunk, we mounted an' left, of 
coorse loaded with our bar-meat an' venison. 

' I got my rifle arter all. When the flood went down, 
I found it near the middle of the parairy, half-buried 
in the sludge. 

* I saw I hed built my shanty in the wrong place ; 
but I soon looked out a better location, an' put up 
another. I hed all ready in the spring, when I went 
back to Massissippi, an' brought out Mary and the two 
young uns,' 

The singular adventure of old Ike illustrates a point 
in natural history that, as soon as the trapper had 
ended, became the subject of conversation. It was 
that singular trait in the character of predatory animals, 
as the cougar, when under circumstances of danger. 
On such occasions fear seems to influence them so 
much as to completely subdue their ferocity, and they 
will not molest other animals sharing the common 
danger, even when the latter are their natural and 
habitual prey. Nearly every one of us had observed 
this at some time or other ; and the old naturalist, as 
well as the hunter-guides, related many incidents con- 
firming the strange fact. Humboldt speaks of an 
instance observed by him on the Orinoco, where the 
fierce jaguar and some other creatures were seen quietly 
and peacefully floating together on the same log — all 
more or less frightened at their situation ! 

Ike's story had very much interested the doctor, who 
rewarded him with a ' nip ' from the pewter flask ; and 
indeed, on this occasion the flask was passed round, as 
the day had been one of unusual interest. The killing 
of a cougar is a rare adventure, even in the wildest 
haunts of the backwoods' country. 



Our next day's march was unenlivened by any parti- 
cular incident. We had left behind us the heavy 
timber, and again travelled through the ' oak openings.' 
Not an animal was started during the whole day, and 
the only one seen was a muskrat that took to the water 
of a small creek and escaped. This occurred at the spot 
where we had halted for our night camp, and after the 
tents were pitched, several of the party went ' rat hunting.' 
The burrow of a family of these curious little animals 
was discovered in the bank, and an attempt was made 
to dig them out, but without success. The family 
proved to be 'not at home.' 

The incident,however,brought the muskrat on the tapis. 

The 'muskrat' of the States is the musquash of the 
fur-traders {Fiber zibethiciis). He is called muskrat, from 
his resemblance to the common rat, combined with the 
musky odour which he emits from glands situated near 
the anus. Musquash is said to be an Indian appellative 
— a strange coincidence, as the word ' musk ' is of 
Arabic origin, and ' musquash ' would seem a compound 
of the French musque, as the early Canadian fur-traders 
were French, or of French descent, and fixed the nomen- 
clature of most of the fur-bearing animals of that region. 
Naturalists have used the name of ' Musk Beaver' on 
account of the many points of resemblance which this 
animal bears to the true beaver {Castor fiber). Indeed, 
they seem to be of the same genus, and so Linnaeus 
classed them ; but later systematists have separated 
them, for the purpose, I should fancy, not of simplifying 
science, but of creating the impression that they them- 
selves were very profound observers. 


70 The Hunters^ Feast 

The teeth — those great friends of the closet naturalist, 
which help him to whole pages of speculation — have 
enabled him to separate the beaver from the musquash, 
although the whole history and habits of these creatures 
prove them to be congeners, as much as a mastiff is the 
congener of a greyhound — indeed, far more. So like 
are they in a general sense, that the Indians call them 
' cousins,' 

In form the muskrat differs but little from the beaver. 
It is a thick, rounded, and flat-looking animal, with 
blunt nose, short ears almost buried in the fur, stiff 
whiskers like a cat, short legs and neck, small dark eyes, 
and sharply-clawed feet. The hinder ones are longest, 
and are half-webbed. Those of the beaver are full- 

There is a curious fact in connection with the tails of 
these two animals. Both are almost naked of hair, and 
covered with ' scales,' and both are flat. The tail of 
the beaver, and the uses it makes of this appendage are 
things known to every one. Every one has read of its 
trowel-shape and use, its great breadth, thickness, and 
weight, and its resemblance to a cricket-bat. The tail 
of the muskrat is also naked, covered with scales, and 
compressed or flattened ; but instead of being hori- 
zontally so, as with the beaver, it is the reverse ; and 
the thin edges are in a vertical plane. The tail of the 
former, moreover, is not of the trowel-shape, but tapers 
like that of the common rat. Indeed, its resemblance 
to the house-rat is so great as to render it a somewhat 
disagreeable object to look upon. 

Tail and all, the muskrat is about twenty inches in 
length ; and its body is about half as big as that of a 
beaver. It possesses a strange power of contracting its 
body, so as to make it appear about half its natural size, 
and to enable it to pass through a chink that animals of 
much smaller dimensions could not enter. 

Its colour is reddish brown above, and light-ash 
underneath. There are eccentricities, however, in this 
respect. Specimens have been found quite black, as 
also mixed and pure white. The fur is a soft, thick 

The Musquash 71 

down, resembling that of the beaver, but not quite so 
fine. There are long rigid hairs, red-coloured, that 
overtop the fur ; and these are also sparely scattered 
over the tail. 

The habits of the muskrat are singular — perhaps not 
less so than those of his ' cousin ' the beaver, when you 
strip the history of the latter of its many exaggerations. 
Indeed the former animal, in the domesticated state, 
exhibits much greater intelligence than the latter. 

Like the beaver, it is a water animal, and is only 
found where water exists ; never among the dry hills. 
Its 'range' extends over the whole continent of North 
America, wherever ' grass grows and water runs.' It is 
most probable it is an inhabitant of the Southern Con- 
tinent, but the natural history of that country is still 
but half told. 

Unlike the beaver, the race of the muskrat is not 
likely soon to become extinct. The beaver is now 
found in America, only in the remotest parts of the un- 
inhabited wilderness. Although formerly an inhabitant 
of the Atlantic States, his presence there is now 
unknown ; or, if occasionally met with, it is no longer 
in the beaver dam, with its cluster of social domes, but 
only as a solitary creature, a ' terrier beaver,' ill-featured, 
shaggy in coat, and stunted in growth. 

The muskrat, on the contrary, still frequents the 
settlements. There is hardly a creek, pond or water- 
course, without one or more families having an abode 
upon its banks. Part of the year the muskrat is a social 
animal; at other seasons it is solitary. The male differs 
but little from the female, though he is somewhat larger, 
and better furred. 

In early spring commences the season of his loves. 
His musky odour is then strongest, and quite perceptible 
in the neighbourhood of his haunt. He takes a wife, to 
whom he is for ever after faithful ; and it is believed the 
connection continues to exist durinor life. After the 
' honeymoon ' a burrow is made in the bank of a stream 
or pond ; usually in some solitary and secure spot by 
the roots of a tree, and always in such a situation that 

72 The Hunters' Feast 

the rising of the water cannot reach the nest which is 
constructed within. The entrance to this burrow is 
frequently under water, so that it is difficult to discover 
it. The nest within is a bed of moss or soft grasses. 
In this the female brings forth five or six 'cubs,' which 
she nourishes with great care, training them to her own 
habits. The male takes no part in their education ; but 
during this period absents himself, and wanders about 
alone. In autumn the cubs are nearly full grown, and 
able to ' take care of themselves.' The ' old father ' 
now joins the family party, and all together proceed to 
the erection of winter quarters. They forsake the 
' home of their nativity,' and build a very different sort 
of a habitation. The favourite site for their new house 
is a swamp not likely to freeze to the bottom, and if 
with a stream running through it, all the better. By 
the side of this stream, or often on a little islet in the 
midst, they construct a dome-shaped pile, hollow within, 
and very much like the house of the beaver. The 
materials used are grass and mud, the latter being 
obtained at the bottom of the swamp or stream. The 
entrance to this house is subterranean, and consists of 
one or more galleries debouching under the water. In 
situations where there is danger of inundation, the floor 
of the interior is raised higher, and frequently terraces 
are made to admit of a dry seat, in case the ground- 
floor should get flooded. Of course there is free egress 
and ingress at all times, to permit the animal to go after 
its food, which consists of plants that grow in the water 
close at hand. 

The house being completed, and the cold weather 
having set in, the whole family, parents and all, enter it, 
and remain there during the winter, going out only at 
intervals for necessary purposes. In spring they desert 
this habitation and never return to it. 

Of course they are warm enough during winter while 
thus housed, even in the very coldest weather. The 
heat of their own bodies would make them so, lying as 
they do, huddled together, and sometimes on top of one 
another, but the mud walls of their habitations are a 

The Musquash 73 

foot or more in thickness, and neither frost nor rain can 
penetrate within. 

Now, a curious fact has been observed in connection 
with the houses of these creatures. It shows how 
nature has adapted them to the circumstances in which 
they may be placed. By philosophers it is termed 
' instinct ; ' but in our opinion it is the same sort of 
instinct which enables Mr. Hobbs to pick a ' Chubb ' 
lock. It is this : — 

In southern climates — in Louisiana, for instance — the 
swamps and rivers do not freeze over in winter. There 
the muskrat does not construct such houses as that 
described, but is contented all the year with his burrow 
in the banks. He can go forth freely and seek his food 
at all seasons. 

In the north it is different. There for months the 
rivers are frozen over with thick ice. The muskrat 
could only come out under the ice, or above it. If the 
latter, the entrance of his burrow would betray him, and 
men with their traps, and dogs, or other enemies, would 
easily get at him. Even if he had also a water entrance, 
by which he might escape upon the invasion of his 
burrow, he would drown for want of air. Although an 
amphibious animal, like the beaver and otter, he cannot 
live altogether under water, and must rise at intervals 
to take breath. The running stream in winter does not 
perhaps furnish him with his favourite food — the roots 
and stems of water-plants. These the swamp affords to 
his satisfaction ; besides, it gives him security from the 
attacks of men and preying animals, as the wolverene 
and fisher. Moreover, his house in the swamp cannot 
be easily approached by the hunter — man — except when 
the ice becomes very thick and strong. Then, indeed, 
is the season of peril for the muskrat, but even then he 
has loopholes of escape. 

How cunningly this creature adapts itself to its geo- 
graphical situation ! In the extreme north — in the hyper- 
borean regions of the Hudson's Bay Company — lakes, 
rivers, and even springs freeze up in winter. The shallow 
marshes become solid ice, congealed to their very bottoms. 

74 The Hunters' Feast 

How is the muskrat to get under water there ? Thus, 
then, he manages the matter : — 

Upon deep lakes, as soon as the ice becomes strong 
enough to bear his weight, he makes a hole in it, and 
over this he constructs his dome - shaped habitation, 
bringing the materials up through the hole, from the 
bottom of the lake. The house thus formed sits pro- 
minently upon the ice. Its entrance is in the floor — the 
hole which has already been made — and thus is kept 
open during the whole season of frost, by the care and 
watchfulness of the inmates, and by their passing 
constantly out and in to seek their food — the water- 
plants of the lake. 

This peculiar construction of the muskrat's dwelling, 
with its water-passage, would afford all the means of 
escape from its ordinary enemies — the beasts of prey — 
and, perhaps, against these alone nature has instructed 
it to provide. But with all its cunning it is, of course, 
outwitted by the superior ingenuity of its enemy — 

The food of the muskrat is varied. It loves the roots 
of several species of nymplicB, but its favourite is calamus 
root {calamus or acorus aromaticus). It is known to eat 
shellfish, and heaps of the shells of fresh-water mussels 
{ufiios) are often found near its retreat. Some assert 
that it eats fish, but the same assertion is made with 
regard to the beaver. This point is by no means clearly 
made out ; and the closet naturalists deny it, founding 
their opposing theory, as usual, upon the teeth. For 
my part, I have but little faith in the ' teeth,' since I have 
known horses, hogs, and cattle greedily devour both fish, 
flesh, and fowl. 

The muskrat is easily tamed, and becomes familiar 
and docile. It is very intelligent, and will fondly caress 
the hand of its master. Indians and Canadian settlers 
often have them in their houses as pets ; but there is so 
much of the rat in their appearance, and they emit such 
a disagreeable odour in the spring, as to prevent them 
from becoming general favourites. They are difficult to 
cage up, and will eat their way out of a deal box in a 

The Musquash 75 

single night. Their flesh, although somewhat musky, 
is eaten by the Indians and white hunters, but these 
gentry eat almost everything that * lives, breathes, and 
moves.' Many Canadians, however, are fond of the 

It is not for its flesh that the muskrat is so eagerly 
hunted. Its fur is the important consideration. This 
is almost equal to the fur of the beaver in the manu- 
facture of hats, and sells for a price that pays the Indians 
and white trappers for the hardships they undergo in 
obtaining it. It is, moreover, used in the making of 
boas and muffs, as it somewhat resembles the fur of the 
pine marten or American sable {Mtistela martes), and 
on account of its cheapness is sometimes passed off for 
the latter. It is one of the regular articles of the 
Hudson's Bay Company's commerce, and thousands of 
muskrat skins are annually obtained. Indeed, were it 
not that the animal is prolific and difficult to capture, its 
species would soon suffer extermination. 

The mode of taking it differs from that practised in 
trapping the beaver. It is often caught in traps set for 
the latter, but such a ' catch ' is regarded in the light of 
a misfortune, as until it is taken out the trap is rendered 
useless for its real object. As an amusement it is some- 
times hunted by dogs, as the otter is, and dug out of its 
burrow ; but the labour of laying open its deep cave is 
ill repaid by the sport. The amateur sportsman fre- 
quently gets a shot at the muskrat while passing along 
the bank near its haunts, and almost as frequently misses 
his aim. The creature is too quick for him, and dives 
almost without making a bubble. Of course once in the 
pool it is seen no more. 

Many tribes of Indians hunt the muskrat both for its 
flesh and skin. They have peculiar modes of capturing 
it, of one of which the hunter-naturalist gave an account. 
A winter which he had spent at a fort in the neighbour- 
hood of a settlement of Ojibways gave him an opportunity 
of witnessing this sport in perfection. 



'Chingawa,' began he, 'a Chippeway or Ojibway Indian, 
better known at the fort as " Old Foxey," was a noted 
hunter of his tribe. I had grown to be a favourite with 
him. My well-known passion for the chase was a sort of 
masonic link between us ; and our friendship was further 
augmented by the present of an old knife for which I 
had no farther use. The knife was not worth twopence 
of sterling money, but it made " Old Foxey " my best 
friend ; and all his " hunter-craft " — the gatherings of 
about sixty winters — became mine. 

' I had not yet been inducted into the mystery of" rat- 
catching," but the season for that " noble " sport at length 
arrived, and the Indian hunter invited me to join him in 
a muskrat hunt. 

' Taking our " traps " on our shoulders, we set out for 
the place where the game was to be found. This was a 
chain of small lakes or ponds that ran through a marshy 
valley, some ten or twelve miles distant from the fort. 

* The traps, or implements, consisted of an ice-chisel 
with a handle some five feet in length, a small pick-axe, 
an iron-pointed spear barbed only on one side, with a 
long straight shaft, and a light pole about a dozen feet in 
length, quite straight and supple. 

' We had provided ourselves with a small stock of 
eatables as well as materials for kindling a fire — but no 
Indian is ever without these. We had also carried our 
blankets along with us, as we designed to make a night 
of it by the lakes. 

' After trudging for several hours through the silent 
winter forests and crossing both lakes and rivers upon 
the ice, we reached the great marsh. Of course, this, as 


A Rat-Hunt 77 

well as the lakes, was frozen over with thick ice ; we 
could have traversed it with a loaded waggon and horses 
without danger of breaking through. 

' We soon came to some dome-shaped heaps rising 
above the level of the ice. They were of mud, bound 
together with grass and flags, and were hardened by the 
frost. Within each of these rounded heaps. Old Foxey 
knew there was at least half a dozen muskrats — perhaps 
three times that number — lying snug and warm and 
huddled together. 

' Since there appeared no hole or entrance, the question 
was how to get at the animals inside. Simply by digging 
until the inside should be laid open, thought I. This of 
itself would be no slight labour. The roof and sides, as 
my companion informed me, were three feet in thickness; 
and the tough mud was frozen to the hardness and 
consistency of a fire-brick. But after getting through 
this shell, where should we find the inmates ? Why, 
most likely, we should not find them at all after all this 
labour. So said my companion, telling me at the same 
time that there were subterranean, or rather subaqueous, 
passages, by which the muskrats would be certain to 
make off under the ice long before he had penetrated 
near them. 

' I was quite puzzled to know how we should proceed. 
Not so Old Foxey. He well knew what he was about, 
and pitching his traps down by one of the " houses," 
commenced operations. 

' The one he had selected stood out in the lake, some 
distance from its edge. It was built entirely upon the 
ice ; and, as the hunter well knew, there was a hole in 
its floor by which the animals could get into the water at 
will. How then was he to prevent them from escaping 
by the hole, while we removed the covering or roof.? 
This was what puzzled me, and I watched his movements 
with interest. 

' Instead of digging into the house, he commenced 
cutting a hole in the ice with his ice-chisel about two 
feet from the edge of the mud. That being accomplished, 
he cut another and another, until four holes were pierced, 

78 The Hunters^ Feast 

forming the corners of a square, and embracing the house 
of the muskrat within. 

' Leaving this house, he then proceeded to pierce a 
similar set of holes around another that also stood out 
on the open lake. After that he went to a third one, 
and this and then a fourth were prepared in a similar 

' He now returned to the first, this time taking care 
to tread lightly upon the ice and make as little stir as 
possible. Having arrived there, he took out from his 
bag a square net made of twisted deer-thongs, and not 
much bigger than a blanket. This in a most ingenious 
manner he passed under the ice, until its four corners 
appeared opposite the four holes ; where, drawing them 
through, he made all fast and " taut " by a line 
stretching from one corner to the other. 

' His manner of passing the net under the ice I have 
pronounced ingenious. It was accomplished by reeving 
a line from hole to hole by means of the long slender 
pole already mentioned. The pole, inserted through 
one of the holes, conducted the line, and was itself 
conducted by means of two forked sticks that guided it, 
and pushed it along to the other holes. The line being 
attached to the corners of the net made it an easy 
matter to draw the latter into its position. 

* All the details of this curious operation were per- 
formed with a noiseless adroitness which showed " Old 
Foxey " was no novice at " rat-catching." 

' The net being now quite taut along the lower surface 
of the ice, must of course completely cover the hole in 
the "floor." It followed, therefore, that if the muskrats 
were " at home," they were now " in the trap." 

' My companion assured me that they would be found 
inside. The reason why he had not used the net on 
first cutting the holes, was to give any member of the 
family that had been frightened out, a chance of 
returning ; and this he knew they would certainly do, 
as these creatures cannot remain very long under the 

' He soon satisfied me of the truth of his statement. 

A Rat-Hunt 79 

In a few minutes, by means of the ice-chisel and pick- 
axe, we had pierced the crust of the dome ; and there, 
apparently half asleep, — because dazzled and blinded by 
the sudden influx of light — were no less than eight 
full-grown musquashes ! 

' Almost before I could count them, Old Foxey had 
transfixed the whole party, one after the other, with his 
long spear. 

' We now proceeded to another of the houses at which 
the holes had been cut. There my companion went 
through a similar series of operations ; and was rewarded 
by a capture of six more "rats." 

' In the third of the houses only three were found. 

' On opening a fourth, a singular scene met our eyes. 
There was but one muskrat alive, and that one seemed 
to be nearly famished to death. Its body was wasted to 
mere " skin and bone ; " and the animal had evidently 
been a long time without food. Beside it lay the naked 
skeletons of several small animals that I at once saw 
were those of the muskrat. A glance at the bottom of 
the nest explained all. The hole, which in the other 
houses had passed through the ice, and which we found 
quite open, in this one was frozen up. The animals had 
neglected keeping it open, until the ice had got too thick 
for them to break through ; and then, impelled by the 
cravings of hunger, they had preyed upon each other, 
until only one, the strongest, survived ! 

* I found upon counting the skeletons that no less 
than eleven had tenanted this ice-bound prison. 

' The Indian assured me that in seasons of very severe 
frost such an occurrence is not rare. At such times the 
ice forms so rapidly, that the animals — perhaps not 
having occasion to go out for some hours — find them- 
selves frozen in ; and are compelled to perish of hunger, 
or devour one another ! 

' It was now near night — for we had not reached the 
lake until late in the day — and my companion proposed 
that we should leave farther operations until the follow- 
ing morning. Of course I assented to the proposal, and 
we betook ourselves to some pine-trees that grew on a 

8o The Htmters' Feast 

high bank near the shore, where we had determined to 
pass the night. 

' There we kindled a roaring fire of pine-knots ; but 
we had grown very hungry, and I soon found that of the 
provisions I had brought, and upon which I had already 
dined, there remained but a scanty fragment for supper. 
This did not trouble my companion, who skinned several 
of the " rats," gave them a slight warming over the 
fire, and then ate them up with as much, goiit as if they 
had been partridges. I was hungry, but not hungry 
enough for that ; so I sat watching him with some 
astonishment, and not without a slight feeling of disgust. 

' It was a beautiful moonlight night, one of the clearest 
I ever remember. There was a little snow upon the 
ground, just enough to cover it ; and up against the 
white sides of the hills could be traced the pyramidal 
outlines of the pines, with their regular gradations ot 
dark needle-clothed branches. They rose on all sides 
around the lake, looking like ships with furled sails and 
yards square-set. 

* I was in a reverie of admiration, when I was suddenly 
aroused by a confused noise, that resembled the howling 
and baying of hounds. I turned an inquiring look upon 
my companion. 

' " Wolves ! " he replied, unconcernedly, chawing away 
at his " roast rat." 

' The howling sounded nearer and nearer ; and then 
there was a rattling among dead trees, and the quickly- 
repeated " crunch, crunch," as of the hoofs of some 
animal breaking through frozen snow. The next 
moment a deer dashed past in full run, and took to the 
ice. It was a large buck, of the " Caribou " or reindeer 
species {Ccrvus taratidus), and I could see that he was 
smoking with heat, and almost run down. 

' He had hardly passed the spot when the howl again 
broke out in a continued strain, and a string of forms 
appeared from out the bushes. They were about a 
dozen in all ; and they were going at full speed like a 
pack of hounds on the view. Their long muzzles, erect 
ears and huge gaunt bodies, were outlined plainly against 

A Rat- Hunt 8 1 

the snowy ground. I saw that they were wolves. They 
were white wolves, and of the largest species. 

' I had suddenly sprung to my feet, not with the 
intention of saving the deer, but of assisting in its capture, 
and for this purpose I seized the spear, and ran out. I 
heard my companion, as I thought, shouting some caution 
after me ; but I was too intent upon the chase to pay 
any attention to what he said. I had at the moment a 
distinct perception of hunger, and an indistinct idea of 
roast venison for supper. 

' As I got down to the shore, I saw that the wolves 
had overtaken the deer, and dragged it down upon the 
ice. The poor creature made but poor running on the 
slippery track, sprawling at every bound ; while the sharp 
claws of its pursuers enabled them to gallop over the ice 
like cats. The deer had, no doubt, mistaken the ice for 
water, which these creatures very often do, and thus 
become an easy prey to wolves, dogs, and hunters. 

'I ran on, thinking that I would soon scatter the 
wolves, and rob them of their prey. In a few moments 
I was in their midst, brandishing my spear ; but to my 
surprise, as well as terror, I saw that, instead of 
relinquishing the deer, several of them still held on it, 
while the rest surrounded me with open jaws, and eyes 
glancing like coals of fire. 

' I shouted and fought desperately, thrusting the spear 
first at one and then at another ; but the wolves only 
became more bold and fierce, incensed by the wounds I 
was inflicting. 

' For several minutes I continued this unexpected 
conflict. I was growing quite exhausted ; and a sense 
of terrible dread coming over me, had almost paralysed 
me, when the tall, dark form of the Indian, hurrying over 
the ice, gave me new courage ; and I plied the spear with 
all my remaining strength, until several of my assailants 
lay pierced upon the ice. The others, now seeing the 
proximity of my companion with his huge ice-chisel, 
and frighted, moreover, by his wild Indian yells, turned 
tail and scampered off. 

' Three of them, however, had uttered their Jast 


82 The Hunters' Feast 

howl, and the deer was found close by — already half 
devoured ! 

'There was enough left, however, to make a good 
supper for both myself and my companion ; who, 
although he had already picked the bones of three 
muskrats, made a fresh attack upon the venison, eating 
of it as though he had not tasted food for a fortnight.' 



Our next day's journey brought us again into heavy 
timber — another creek bottom. The soil was rich and 
loamy, and the road we travelled was moist, and in some 
places very heavy for our waggon. Several times the 
latter got stalled in the mud, and then the whole party 
were obliged to dismount, and put their shoulders to the 
wheel. Our progress was marked by some noise and 
confusion, and the constant din made by Jake talking to 
his team, his loud sonorous * woha ! ' as they were 
obliged to halt, and the lively 'gee up— gee up/ as 
they moved on again — frightened any game long before 
we could come up with it. Of course we were compelled 
to keep by the waggon until we had made the passage 
of the miry flat. 

We were dreadfully annoyed by the mosquitoes, 
particularly the doctor, of whose blood they seemed to 
be especially fond ! This is a curious fact in relation 
to the mosquitoes — of two persons sleeping in the same 
apartment, one will sometimes be bitten or rather 
punctured, and half bled to death, while the other remains 
untouched ! Is it the quality of the blood or the thick- 
ness of the skin that guides to this preference ? 

This point was discussed amongst us — the doctor 
taking the view that it was always a sign of good blood 
when one was more than usually subject to the attack of 
mosquitoes. He was himself an apt illustration of the 
fact. This statement of course produced a general 
laugh, and some remarks at the doctor's expense, on 
the part of the opponents of his theory. Strange to say, 
old Ike was fiercely assailed by the little blood-suckers. 
This seemed to be an argument against the doctor's 


84 The Hunters' Feast 

theory, for in the tough skinny carcass of the old trapper, 
the blood could neither have been very plenteous nor 

Most of us smoked as we rode along, hoping by that 
means to drive off the ferocious swarm, but although 
tobacco smoke is disagreeable to the mosquitoes, they 
cannot be wholly got rid of by a pipe or cigar. Could 
one keep a constant tiinibus of the smoke around his 
face it might be effective, but not otherwise. A sufficient 
quantity of tobacco smoke will kill mosquitoes out- 
right, as I have more than once proved by a thorough 
fumigation of my sleeping apartment. 

These insects are not peculiar, as sometimes supposed, 
to the inter-tropical regions of America. They are 
found in great numbers even to the shores of the Arctic 
Sea, and as fierce and bloodthirsty as anywhere else — 
of course, only in the summer season, when, as before 
remarked, the thermometer in these Northern latitudes 
mounts to a high figure. Their haunts are the banks of 
rivers, and particularly those of a stagnant and muddy 

There is another singular fact in regard to them. 
Upon the banks of some of the South American rivers, 
life is almost unendurable on account of this pest — the 
' plaga de inosquitos' as the Spaniards term it — while 
upon other streams in the very same latitude mosquitoes 
are unknown. These streams are what are termed ' rios 
negros] or black-water rivers — a peculiar class of rivers, 
to which many tributaries of the Amazon and Orinoco 

Our English comrade, who had travelled all over 
South America, gave us this information as we rode 
along. He stated that he had often considered it a 
great relief, a sort of escape from purgatory, while on his 
travels he parted from one of the yellow or white water 
streams, to enter one of the ' rios negros^ Many Indian 
tribes settled upon the banks of the latter solely to get 
clear of the ^ plaga de mosquitos.^ The Indians who 
reside in the mosquito districts habitually paint their 
bodies, and smear themselves with oil, as a protection 

Mosquitoes and their Antidote 85 

against their bites ; and it is a common thing among 
the natives, when speaking of any place, to inquire into 
the ' character ' of the mosquitoes ! 

On some tributaries of the Amazon the mosquitoes 
are really a life torment, and the wretched creatures who 
inhabit such places frequently bury their bodies in the 
sand in order to get sleep ! Even the pigments with 
which they anoint themselves are pierced by the poisoned 
bills of their tormentors. 

Besangon and the Kentuckian both denied that any 
species of ointment would serve as a protection against 
mosquitoes. The doctor joined them in their denial. 
They asserted that they had tried everything that could 
be thought of — camphor, ether, hartshorn, spirits of 
turpentine, etc. 

Some of us were of a different opinion, and Ike settled 
the point soon after in favour of the dissentients by a 
practical illustration. The old trapper, as before stated, 
was a victim to the fiercest attacks, as was manifested 
by the slapping which he repeatedly administered to his 
cheeks, and an almost constant muttering of bitter 
imprecations. He knew a remedy he said in a ' sartint 
weed,' if he could only ' lay his claws upon it.' We 
noticed that from time to time as he rode along his 
eyes swept the ground in every direction. At length 
a joyous exclamation told that he had discovered the 
* weed.' 

' Thur's the darned thing at last,' muttered he, as he 
flung himself to the ground, and commenced gathering 
the stalks of a small herb that grew plentifully about. 
It was an annual, with leaves very much of the size and 
shape of young garden box-wood, but of a much brighter 
green. Of course wc all knew well enough what it was, 
for there is not a villaqie ' common ' in the Western 
United States that is not covered with it. It was the 
well-known ' penny-royal ' {Hedeoma piilcgioidcs), not 
the English herb of that name, which is a species of 

Redwood also leaped from his horse, and set to pluck- 
ing the 'weed.' He, too, from experience, knew its virtues. 

S6 The Hunters^ Feast 

We all drew bridle, watching the guides. Both 
operated in a similar manner. Having collected a 
handful of the tenderest tops., they rubbed them 
violently between their palms — rough and good for such 
service — and then passed the latter over the exposed 
skin of their necks and faces. Ike took two small 
bunches of the stalks, crushed them under his heel, and 
then stuck them beneath his cap, so that the ends hung 
down over his cheeks. This being done, he and his 
comrade mounted their horses and rode on. 

Some of us — the hunter-naturalist, the Englishman, 
and myself — dismounted and imitated Ike — of course 
under a volley of laughter and ' pooh-poohs ' from 
Besan^on, the Kentuckian, and the doctor ; but we had 
not ridden two hundred paces until the joke changed 
sides. From that moment not a mosquito approached 
us, while our three friends were bitten as badly as ever. 

In the end they were convinced, and the torment of 
the mosquitoes proving stronger than the fear of our 
ridicule, all three sprang out of their saddles, and made 
a rush at the next bed of penny-royal that came in sight. 

Whether it is the highly aromatic odour of the penny- 
royal that keeps off these insects, or whether the juice 
when touched by them burns the delicate nerves of their 
feet I am unable to say. Certain it is they will not alight 
upon the skin that has been plentifully anointed with 
it. I have tried the same experiment often since that 
time with a similar result, and in fact have never since 
travelled through a mosquito country without a provision 
of the ' essence of penny-royal.' This is better than the 
herb itself, and can be obtained from any apothecary. 
A single drop or two spilled in the palm of the hand is 
sufficient to rub over all the parts exposed, and will often 
ensure sleep, where otherwise such a thing would be 
impossible. I have often lain with my face so smeared, 
and listened to the sharp hum of the mosquito as it 
approached, fancying that the next moment I should feel 
its tiny touch, as it settled down upon my cheek, or brow. 
As soon, however, as it came within the influence of the 
penny-royal I could hear it suddenly tack round and 

Mosquitoes and their Antidote 87 

wing its way off again, until its disagreeable * music ' was 
no longer heard. 

The only drawback in the use of the penny-royal lies 
in the burning sensation which the fluid produces upon 
the skin ; and this in a climate where the thermometer 
is pointing to 90° is no slight disqualification of the 
remedy. The use of it is sometimes little better than 
' Hobson's choice.' 

The application of it on the occasion mentioned 
restored the spirits of our party, which had been some- 
what kept under by the continuous attacks of the 
mosquitoes, and a lively little incident that occurred 
soon after, viz., the hunt and capture of a raccoon, made 
us all quite merry. 

Cooney, though a night prowler, is sometimes abroad 
during the day, but especially in situations where the 
timber is high, and the woods dark and gloomy. On the 
march we had come so suddenly upon this one, that 
he had not time to strike out for his own tree, where he 
would soon have hidden from us in its deep cavity. He 
had been too busy with his own affairs — the nest of 
a wild turkey upon the ground, under some brush and 
leaves, the broken eggs in which told of the declicious 
meal he had made. Taken by surprise — for the guides 
had ridden nearly on top of him — he galloped up the 
nearest tree, which fortunately contained neither fork 
nor cavity in which he could shelter himself ; and a 
well-directed shot from Redwood's rifle brought him 
with a heavy 'thump' back to the ground again. 

We were all stirred up a little by this incident ; in 
fact, the unusual absence of game rendered ever so 
trifling an occurrence an ' event ' with us. No one, 
however, was so pleased as the black waggoner Jake, 
whose eyes fairly danced in his head at the sight of 
a ' coon.' The ' coon ' to Jake was well-known game 
— natural and legitimate — and Jake preferred 'roast 
coon ' to fried bacon at any time. Jake knew that none 
of us would care to eat of his ' coonship.' He was 
therefore sure of his supper ; and the ' varmint' was 
carefully deposited in the corner of the waggon. 

88 The Hunters^ Feast 

Jake did not have it all to himself. The trappers 
liked fresh meat too, even ' coon-meat ' ; and of course 
claimed their share. None of the rest of the party had 
any relish for such a fox-like carcass. 

After supper, cooney was honoured with a description, 
and for many of the facts of his history we are indebted 
to Jake himself. 



Foremost of all the wild creatures of America in point 
of being generally known is the raccoon {Procyon lotor). 
None has a wider geographical distribution, as its 
' range ' embraces the entire Continent, from the Polar 
Sea to Terra del Fuego. Some naturalists have denied 
that it is found in South America. This denial is 
founded on the fact, that neither Ulloa nor Molina have 
spoken of it. But how many other animals have these 
crude naturalists omitted to describe ? We may safely 
assert that the raccoon exists in South America, as 
well in the tropical forests of Guiana as in the colder 
regions of the Table Land — everywhere that there 
exists tree-timber. In most parts where the Spanish 
language is spoken, it is known as the ^ zorro negro* 
or black fox. Indeed, there are two species in South 
America, the common one [Procyon lotor'), and the 
crab-eater {^Procyon cancrivorus). 

In North America it is one of the most common 
of wild animals. In all parts you may meet with it. In 
the hot lowlands of Louisiana — in the tropical 
' chaparals' of Mexico — in the snowy regions of Canada 
— and in the vernal valleys of California. Unlike 
the deer, the wild cat, and the wolverene, it is never 
mistaken for any other animal, nor is any animal taken 
for it. It is as well-known in America as the red fox is 
in England, and with a somewhat similar reputation. 

Although there is a variety in colour and size, 
there is no ambiguity about species or genus. 
Wherever the English language is spoken it has but 
one name, the ' raccoon.' In America every man, 
woman and child knows the ' sly ole 'coon '. 


90 The Hunters' Feast 

This animal has been placed by naturalists in the 
family Ursidcs, genus Procyon. Linnaeus made it a 
bear, and classed it with Ursus. It has, in our opinion, 
but little in common with the bear, and far more re- 
sembles tiie fox. Hence the Spanish name oi ' zorro 
negro' (black fox). 

A writer quaintly describes it thus : — ' The limbs of a 
bear, the body of a badger, the head of a fox, the nose 
of a dog, the tail of a cat, and sharp claws by which it 
climbs trees like a monkey.' We cannot admit the 
similarity of its tail to that of a cat. The tail of the 
raccoon is full and bushy, which is not true of the cat's 
tail. There is only a similarity in the annulated or 
banded appearance noticed in the tails of some cats, 
which in that of the raccoon is a marked characteristic. 
The raccoon, to speak in round terms, is about the size 
of an English fox, but somewhat thicker and ' bunchier ' 
in the body. Its legs are short in proportion, and as it 
{^plantigrade in the hind feet, it stands and runs low, and 
cat-like. The muzzle is extremely pointed and slender, 
adapted to its habit of prying into every chink and 
corner, in search of spiders, beetles, and other creatures. 
The general colour of the raccoon is dark-brown 
(nearly black) on the upper part of the body, mixed with 
iron-grey. Underneath it is of a lighter hue. There is, 
here and there, a little fawn colour intermixed. A 
broad black band runs across the eyes and unites under 
the throat. This band is surrounded and sharply defined 
with a margin of greyish-white, which gives a unique 
expression to the ' countenance ' of the ' 'coon.' 

One of the chief beauties of this animal is its tail, 
which is characteristic in its markings. It exhibits 
twelve annulations or ring-bands, six black and six 
greyish-white, in regular alternation. The tip is black, 
and the tail itself is very full or ' bushy.' When the 
'coon skin is made into a cap — which it often is among 
hunters and frontiersmen — the tail is left to hang as a 
drooping plume, and such a head-dress is far from 
ungraceful. In some 'settlements' the 'coon skin cap 
is quite the fashion among the young ' backwoodsmen.' 

The 'Coon, and his Habits 9 1 

The raccoon is an animal of an extremely amorous 
disposition ; but there is a fact connected with the sex 
of this creature which is curious : the female is larger 
than the male. Not only larger, but in every respect a 
finer-looking animal. The hair, long on both, is more 
full and glossy upon the female, its tints deeper and 
more beautiful. This is contrary to the general order of 
nature. By those unacquainted with this fact, the female 
is mistaken for the male, and vice versa, as in the case of 
hawks and eagles. 

The fur of the raccoon has long been an article of 
commerce, as it is used in making beaver hats ; but as 
these have given place in most countries to the silk 
article, the 'coon skin now commands but a small price. 

The raccoon is a tree-climber of the first quality. It 
climbs with its sharp-curved claws, not by hugging, as is 
the case with the bear tribe. Its lair, or place of retreat, 
is in a tree — some hollow, with its entrance high up. 
Such trees are common in the great primeval forests of 
America. In this tree-cave it has its nest, where the 
female brings forth three, four, five, or six * cubs ' at a 
birth. This takes place in early spring — usually the first 
week in April. 

The raccoon is a creature of the woods. On the 
prairies and in treeless regions it is not known. It 
prefers heavy 'timber,' where there are huge logs and 
hollow trees in plenty. It requires the neighbourhood 
of water, and in connection with this may be mentioned 
a curious habit it has, that of plunging all its food into 
the water before devouring it. It will be remembered 
that the otter has a similar habit. It is from this 
peculiarity that the raccoon derives its specific name of 
Lotor (washer). It does not always moisten its morsel 
thus, but pretty generally. It is fond, moreover, of 
frequent ablutions, and no animal is more clean and tidy 
in its habits. 

The raccoon is almost omnivorous. It eats poultry or 
wild fowls. It devours frogs, lizards, larvae, and insects 
without distinction. It is fond of sweets, and is very 
destructive to the sugar-cane and Indian corn of the 

92 The Hunters^ Feast 

planter. When the ear of the maize is young, or, as it is 
termed, * in the milk/ it is very sweet. Then the 
raccoon loves to prey upon it. Whole troops at night 
visit the corn-fields and commit extensive havoc. These 
mischievous habits make the creature many enemies, 
and in fact it has but few friends. It kills hares, rabbits, 
and squirrels when it can catch them, and will rob a 
bird's nest in the most ruthless manner. It is particu- 
larly fond of shell-fish ; and the unios, with which many 
of the fresh-water lakes and rivers of America abound, 
form part of its food. These it opens as adroitly with 
its claws as an oysterman could with his knife. It is 
partial to the ' soft-shell ' crabs and small tortoises 
common in the American waters. 

Jake told us of a trick which the 'coon puts in practice 
for catching the small turtles of the creek. We were 
not inclined to give credence to the story, but Jake 
almost swore to it. It is certainly curious if true, but it 
smacks very much of Buffon. It may be remarked, 
however, that the knowledge which the plantation 
negroes have of the habits of the raccoon surpasses 
that of any mere naturalist. Jake boldly declares 
that the 'coon fishes for turtles ! that it squats upon 
the bank of the stream, allowing its bushy tail to hang 
over into the water ; that the turtles swimming about in 
search of food or amusement, spies the hairy appendage 
and lays hold of it ; and that the 'coon, feeling the 
nibble, suddenly draws the testaceous swimmer upon 
dry land, and then ' cleans out de shell ' at his leisure ! 

The 'coon is often domesticated in America. It is 
harmless as a dog or cat except when crossed by 
children, when it will snarl, snap, and bite like the most 
crabbed cur. It is troublesome, however, where poultry 
is kept, and this prevents its being much of a favourite. 
Indeed, it is not one, for it is hunted everywhere, and 
killed — wherever this can be done — on sight. 

There is a curious connection between the negro and 
the raccoon. It is not a tie of sympathy, but a link 
of antagonism. The 'coon, as already observed, is the 
negro's legitimate game. 'Coon-hunting is peculiarly a 

The 'Coon, and his Habits 93 

negro sport. The negro is the 'coon's mortal enemy. 
He kills the 'coon when and wherever he can, and eats 
it too. He loves its * meat,' which is pork-tasted, and 
in young 'coons palatable enough, but in old ones rather 
rank. This, however, our ' darkle ' frienH does not 
much mind, particularly if his master be a ' stingy old 
boss,' and keeps him on rice instead of meat rations. 
The negro, moreover, makes an odd 'bit'(i2| cents) 
by the skin, which he disposes of to the neighbouring 

The 'coon-hunt is a ' nocturnal ' sport, and therefore 
does not interfere with the negro's regular labour. By 
right the night belongs to him, and he may then dispose 
of his time as he pleases, which he often does in this 
very way. 

The negro is not allowed to carry fire-arms, and for 
this reason the squirrel may perch upon a high limb, 
jerk its tail about and defy him ; the hare may run 
swiftly away, and the wild turkey may tantalise him with 
its incessant 'gobbling.' But the 'coon can be killed 
without fire-arms. The 'coon can be overtaken and 
' treed.' The negro is not denied the use of an axe, and 
no man knows better how to handle it than he. The 
'coon therefore, is his natural game, and much sport does 
he have in its pursuit. Nearly the same may be said 
of the opossum {Didelphis Virginiana) ; but the 
' 'possum ' is more rare, and it is not our intention now 
to describe that very curious creature. From both 'coon 
and 'possum does the poor negro derive infinite sport — 
many a sweet excitement that cheers his long winter 
nights, and chequers with brighter spots the dull and 
darksome monotony of his slave-life. I have often 
thought what a pity it would be if the 'coon and the 
opossum should be extirpated before slavery itself 
became extinct. I had often shared in this peculiar 
sport of the negro, and joined in a real 'coon chase, but 
the most exciting of all was the first in which I had been 
engaged, and I proffered my comrades an account of it. 



* My 'coon chase took place in Tennessee, where I was 
sojourning for some time upon a plantation. It was 
the first affair of the kind I had been present at, and I 
was somewhat curious as to the mode of carrying it on. 
My companion and inductor was a certain " Uncle Abe," 
a gentleman very much after the style and " complexion " 
of our own Jake here. 

' I need not tell you, gentlemen, that throughout the 
Western States every neighbourhood has its noted 'coon 
hunter. He is usually a wary old " nigger," who knows 
all the tricks and dodges of the 'coon. He either owns 
a dog himself, or has trained one of his master's, in that 
peculiar line. It is of little importance what breed the 
dog may be. I have known curs that were excellent 
" 'coon-dogs." All that is wanted is, that he have a good 
nose, and that he be a good runner, and of sufficient bulk 
to be able to bully a 'coon when taken. This a very 
small dog cannot do, as the 'coon frequently makes a 
desperate fight before yielding. Mastiffs, terriers, and 
half-bred pointers make the best " 'coon dogs." 

' Uncle Abe was the mighty hunter, the Nimrod of the 
neighbourhood in which I happened to be ; and Uncle 
Abe's dog — a stout terrier — was esteemed the " smartest 
'coon-dog " in a circle of twenty miles. In going out with 
Uncle Abe, therefore, I had full confidence that I should 
see sport. 

' On one side of the plantation was a heavily-timbered 
" bottom," through which meandered a small stream, 
called, of course, a " creek." This bottom was a favourite 
habitat of the 'coons, as there were large trees growing 
near the water, many of which were hollow cither in 


A 'Coon Chase 95 

their trunks or some of their huge limbs. Moreover, 
there were vast trellises of vines extending from tree to 
tree ; some of them, as the fox and muscadine ( Vitis 
labnisca), yielding sweet grapes, of which the raccoons are 
very fond. 

' To this bottom, then, we directed our course, Abe 
acting as guide, and holding his dog, Pompo, in the leash. 
Abe carried no other weapon than an axe, while I had 
armed myself with a double-barrel. Pompo knew as well 
as either of us the errand on which we were bent, as 
appeared from his flashing eyes and the impatient leaps 
which he now and then made to get free. 

' We had to cross a large cornfield, a full half-mile in 
breadth, before we reached the woods. Between this 
and the timber was a zigzag fence — the common "rail" 
fence of the American farmer. For some distance 
beyond the fence the timber was small, but further on 
was the creek " bottom," where the 'coons were more 
likely to make their dwelling-place. 

' We did not, however, proceed direct to the bottom. 
Abe knew better than that. The young corn was just then 
" in the milk," and the 'coon-hunter expected to find his 
game nearer the field. It was settled, therefore, that we 
should follow the line of the fence, in hopes that the dog 
would strike a fresh trail, leading either to or from the 

' It was now night — two hours after sundown. The 
'coon-chase, I have already said, is a nocturnal sport. 
The raccoon does range by day, but rarely, and only in 
dark and solitary woods. He often basks by day upon 
high limbs, or the broken tops of trees. I have shot 
several of his tribe while asleep, or sunning themselves in 
such situations. Perhaps before they knew their great 
enemy man, they were less nocturnal in their activity. 

' We had a fine moonlight ; but so far as a view of the 
chase was concerned, that would benefit us but little. 
During the hunt there is not much to be seen of either 
dog or 'coon, as it is always a scramble through trees and 
underwood. The dog trusts altogether to his nose, and 
the hunter to his ears ; for the latter has no other guide 

96 The Hunters' Feast 

save the yelp or bark of his canine assistant. Never- 
theless, moonlight, or a clear night, is indispensable ; 
without one or the other, it would be impossible to follow 
through the woods. A view of a 'coon-chase is a luxury 
enjoyed only by the bats and owls, 

' Pompo was now let loose in the corn ; while Abe and 
I walked quietly along the fence, keeping on different 
sides. Abe remained in the field for the purpose of 
handing over the dog, as the fence was high — a regular 
" ten rail, with stalks and riders." A 'coon could easily 
cross it, but not a dog, without help. 

' We had not gone more than a hundred yards, when 
a quick sharp yelp from Pompo announced that he had 
come suddenly upon something in the corn-field. 

' " A varmint ! " cried Abe ; and the next moment 
appeared the dog, running up full tilt among the maize 
plants and up to the fence. I could see some dark object 
before him, that passed over the rails with a sudden 
spring, and bounded into the timbers. 

* " A varmint, massa ! " repeated Abe, as he lifted the 
dog over, and followed himself. 

' I knew that in Abe's vocabulary — for that night at 
least — a "varmint" meant a 'coon ; and as we dashed 
through the brushwood, following the dog, I felt all the 
excitement of a 'coon-chase. 

* It was not a long one — I should think of about five 
minutes' duration ; at the end of which time the yelp 
of the dog which had hitherto guided us, changed into 
a regular and continuous barking. On hearing this, Abe 
quietly announced — 

' " The varmint am treed." 

' Our only thought now was to get to the tree as 
speedily as possible, but another thought entered our 
minds as we advanced ; that was, what sort of a tree 
had the 'coon taken shelter in ? 

' This was an important question, and its answer 
involved the success or failure of our hunt. If a very 
large tree, we might " whistle " for the 'coon. Abe knew 
this well, and as we passed on, expressed his doubts 
about the result. 

A 'Coon Chase 97 

* The bark of Pompo sounded some hundred yards 
off, in the very heaviest of the bottom timber. It was 
not likely, therefore, that the 'coon had taken to a small 
tree, while there were large ones near at hand. Our 
only hope was that he had climbed one that was not 
"hollow." In that case we might still have a chance 
with the double-barrel and buck-shot. Abe had but 
little hope. 

' " He hab reach him own tree, massa ; an' that am 
sartin to be a big un wi' a hole near um top. Wagh ! 
'twar dat ar fence. But for de dratted fence ole Pomp 
nebber lot um reach um own tree. Wagh ! " 

' From this I learned that one point in the character 
of a good 'coon-dog was speed. The 'coon runs well for 
a few hundred yards. He rarely strays further from his 
lair. If he can beat his pursuer for this distance he is 
safe, as his retreat is always in a hollow tree of great 
size. There is no way of getting at him there, except 
by felling the tree, and this the most zealous 'coon- 
hunter would not think of attempting. The labour of 
cutting down such a tree would be worth a dozen 'coons. 
A swift dog, therefore, will overtake the raccoon, and 
force him to the nearest tree — often a small one, where 
he is either shaken off or the tree cut down. Some- 
times the hunter climbs after and forces him to leap 
out, so as to fall into the very jaws of the watchful 
dog below. 

' In Abe's opinion Pompo would have " treed " his 
'coon before reaching the bottom, had not the fence 
interfered, but now — 

' " Told ye so, massa ! " muttered he, interrupting my 
thoughts. " Look dar ! dar's de tree — trunk thick as a 
haystack. Wagh ! " 

' 1 looked in the direction indicated by my companion. 
I saw Pompo standing by the root of a very large tree, 
looking upward, shaking his tail, and barking at intervals. 
Before I had time to make any further observations 
Abe's voice again sounded in my ears. 

'" Gollies ! it am a buttonwood ! Why, Pomp, ole 
fellur, you hab made a mistake — de varmint ain't dar. 


98 The Hunters' Feast 

'Cooney nebber trees upon buttonwood — nebber — you 
oughter know bettcr'n dat, ole fool ! " 

' Abe's speech drew my attention to the tree. I saw 
that it was the American sycamore {Platanus 
Occidentalis), famih'arly known by the trivial name, 
" buttonwood," from the use to which its wood is 
sometimes put. But why should the 'coon not " tree " 
upon it, as well as any other? I put the question to my 

""Cause, massa, its bark am slickcry. De varmint 
nebber takes to 'im. He likes de oak, an' de poplum, 
an' de scaly-bark. Gosh ! but he am dar ! " continued 
Abe, raising his voice and looking outward — " Look 
yonder, massa ! He had climbed by de great vine. 
Dat's right, Pomp! you am right after all, and dis 
nigga's a fool, tiee — up, ole dog ! hee up! " 

'Following the direction in which Abe pointed, my 
eyes rested on a huge parasite of the lliana kind, that, 
rising out of the ground at some distance, slanted 
upward and joined the sycamore near its top. This had 
no doubt been the ladder by which the 'coon had climbed. 

' This discovery, however, did not mend the matter as 
far as we were concerned. The 'coon had got into the 
buttonwood, fifty feet from the ground, where the 
tree had been broken off by the lightning or the wind, 
and where the mouth of a large cavity was distinctly 
visible by the light of the moon. The trunk was one of 
the largest, and it would have been sheer folly (so we 
concluded) to have attempted felling it. 

' We left the spot without farther ado, and took our 
way back to the corn-field. 

' The dog had now been silent for some time, and we 
were in hopes that another "varmint" might have stolen 
into the corn. 

'Our hopes were not doomed to disappointment. 
Pompo had scarcely entered the field when a second 
'coon was sprung, wliich, like the other, ran directly for 
the fence and the woods. 

' Pomp followed as fast as he could be flung over ; 
and this 'coon was also " treed " in a few minutes. 

A ^Coon Chase 99 

' From the direction of the barking, we calculated that 
it must be near where the other had escaped us ; but 
our astonishment equalled our chagrin, when upon 
arriving at the spot, we found that both the " varmints " 
had taken to the same tree ! 

* With some rather emphatic ejaculations we returned 
to the corn-field, and after a short while a third 'coon 
was raised, which, like the others, made of course for 
the timber. 

' Pomp ran upon his trail with an angry yelping, that 
soon changed into the well-known signal that he had 
treed the game. 

' We ran after through brush and brake, and soon 
came up with the dog. If our astonishment was great 
before, it was now beyond bounds. The identical 
buttonwood with its great parasite was before us, the 
dog barking at its foot ! The third 'coon had taken 
shelter in its capacious cavity. 

* " Wagh ! massa ! " ejaculated Abe, in a voice of 
terror, " it's de same varmint. It ain't no 'coon, it's de 
debil ! For de lub o' God, massa, let's get away from' 

' Of course I followed his advice, as to get at the 
'coons was out of the question. 

' We returned once more to the corn-field, but we 
found that we had at last cleared it of 'coons. It was 
still early, however, and I was determined not to give 
up the hunt until I had assisted in killing a 'coon. By 
Abe's advice, therefore, we struck into the woods with 
the intention of making a circuit where the trees were 
small. Some 'coon might be prowling there in search 
of birds' nests. So thought Abe, 

* He was right in his conjecture. A fourth was 
started, and off went Pompo after him. In a few 
minutes the quick constant bark echoed back. This 
time we were sure, from the direction in a new tree. 

'It proved to be so, and such a small one that, on 
coming up, we saw the animal squatted upon the 
branches, not twenty feet from the ground. 

* We were now sure of him, as we thought ; and I had 

100 The Htuiters' Feast 

raised my gun to fire ; when all at once, as if guessing 
my intent, the 'coon sprang into another tree, and then 
ran down to the ground and off again, with Pompo 
yelling in his track. 

' Of course we expected that the dog would speedily 
tree him again, which after a few minutes he did, but 
this time in the heavy timber. 

' We hastened forward, guided by the barking. To the 
extreme of my astonishment, and I fancy to the very 
extreme of Abe's terror, we again found ourselves at the 
foot of the buttonwood. 

' Abe's wool stood on end. Superstition was the butt- 
end of his religion ; and he not only protested, but I am 
satisfied that he believed, that all the four 'coons were 
one and the same individual, and that individual " de 


'Great 'coon-hunter as he was,he would now have gone 
home, if I had let him. But I had no thoughts of giving 
up the matter in that easy way. I was roused by the 
repeated disappointment. A new resolve had entered 
my mind. I was determined to get the 'coons out of the 
buttonwood, cost what it might. The tree must come 
down, if it should take us till morning to fell it. 

' With this determination I caught hold of Abe's axe, 
and struck the first blow. To my surprise and delight 
the tree sounded hollow. I repeated the stroke. The 
sharp axe went crashing inwards. The tree was hollow 
to the ground ; on the side where I had commenced 
chopping, it was but a shell, 

' A few more blows, and I had made a hole large 
enough to put a head through. Felling such a tree 
would be no great job after all, and I saw that it 
would hardly occupy an hour. The tree must come 

' Abe seeing me so resolute, had somewhat recovered 
his courage and his senses, and now laid hold of the 
axe. Abe was a " first hand " at " chopping," and the 
hole soon gaped wider. 

'" If de hole run clar up, massa," said he, resting for a 
moment, " we can smoke out de varmint — wid dc punk 

A 'Coon Chase loi 

and de grass here we can smoke out de debil himself. 
S'pose we try him, massa ? " 

' " Good ! " cried I, catching at Abe's suggestion ; and 
in a few minutes we had made a fire in the hole, and 
covered it with leaves, grass, and weeds. 

* The smoke soon did its work. We saw it ooze out 
above at the entrance to the 'coon hole — at first in a 
slight filmy stream, and then in thick volumes. We 
heard a scraping and rattling within the hollow trunk, 
and a moment after a dark object sprang out upon the 
lliana, and ran a short way downward. Another followed, 
and another, and another, until a string of no less than 
six raccoons squatted along the parasite threatening to 
run downward ! 

' The scene that followed was indescribable. I had 
seized my gun, and both barrels were emptied in a 
" squirrel's jump." Two of the 'coons came to the ground, 
badly wounded. Pompo tackled another, that had run 
down the lliana, and was attempting to get off; while 
Abe with his axe clove the skull of a fourth, that had 
tried to escape in a similar manner. 

' The other two ran back into the " funnel," but only to 
come out again just in time to receive a shot each from 
the reloaded gun, which brought both of them tumbling 
from the tree. We succeeded in bagging the whole 
family ; and thus finished what Abe declared to be the 
greatest " 'coon chase on de record." 

' As it was by this time far in the night, we gathered 
up our game, and took the " back track to hum." ' 



Next day while threading our way through a patch of 
oak forest — the ground covered thickly with fallen 
leaves — we were startled by a peculiar noise in front 
of us. It was a kind of bellows-like snort, exactly 
like that made by the domestic swine when suddenly 

Some of the party cried out ' bear,' and of course this 
announcement threw us all into a high state of excite- 
ment. Even the buffalo itself would be but secondary 
game, when a bear was upon the ground. 

The 'snuff' of the bear has a very considerable 
resemblance to that of terrified hogs, and even our 
guides were deceived. They thought it might be ' bar' 
we had heard. 

It proved we were all wrong. No wonder we fancied 
the noise resembled that made by hogs. The animal 
that uttered it was nothing else than a wild boar. 

' What ! ' you will exclaim, ' a wild boar in the forests 
of Missouri ? Oh ! a peccary, I suppose.' 

No, not a peccary ; for these creatures do not range 
so far north as the latitude of Missouri — not a wild boar, 
neither, if you restrict the meaning of the phrase to the 
true indigenous animal of that kind. For all that, it 
was a wild boar, or rather a boar ruyi wild. Wild 
enough and savage too it appeared, although we had 
only a glimpse of its shaggy form as it dashed into the 
thicket with a loud grunt. Haifa dozen shots followed 
it. No doubt it was tickled with some of the ' leaden 
hail ' from the double-barrelled guns, but it contrived to 
escape, leaving us only the incident as a subject for 


Wz/d Hogs of the Woods 1 03 

Throughout the backwoods there are large numbers 
of half-wild hogs, but they are usually the denizens of 
woods that are inclosed by a rail fence, and therefore 
private property. One part of the year they are tamer, 
when a scarcity of food renders it necessary for them to 
approach the owner's house, and eat the corn placed for 
them in a well-known spot. At this season they answer 
to a call somewhat similar to the ' milk oh ! ' of the 
London dairyman, but loud enough to be heard a mile 
or more through the woods. A traveller passing 
through the backwoods' settlements will often hear this 
singular call sounding afar off in the stillness of the 

These hogs pick up most of their subsistence in the 
forest. The ' mast ' of the beech-tree, the nut of the 
hickory, the fruit of the Chinquapin oak, the acorn, and 
many other seeds and berries, furnish them with food. 
Many roots besides, and grasses, contribute to sustain 
them, and they make an occasional meal off a snake 
whenever they can get hold of one. Indeed it may be 
safely asserted, that no other cause has contributed so 
much to the destruction of these reptiles, as the introduc- 
tion of the domestic hog into the forests of America. 
Wherever a tract of woods has been used as the ' run ' 
of a drove of hogs, serpents of every kind become 
exceedingly scarce, and you may hunt through such a 
tract for weeks without seeing one. The hog seems to 
have the strongest antipathy to the snake tribe ; without 
the least fear of them. When one of the latter is 
discovered by a hog, and no crevice in the rocks, or 
hollow log, offers it a shelter, its destruction is inevitable. 
The hog rushes to the spot, and, bounding forward, 
crushes the reptile under his hoofs. Should the first 
attempt not succeed, and the serpent glide awa)', the hog 
nimbly follows, and repeats his efforts until the victim 
lies helpless. The victor then goes to work with his 
powerful jaws, and quietly devours the prey. 

The fondness of the hog for this species of food proves 
that in a state of nature it is partially a carnivorous 
animal. The peccary, which is the true representative 

i04 The Ihifiters' Feast 

of the wild hog in America — has the very same habit, 
and is well-known to be one of the most fatal enemies 
of the serpent tribe to be found among American 

The hog shows no fear of the snake. His thick hide 
seems to protect him. The ' skin ' of the rattlesnake or 
the ' hiss ' of the deadly ' moccassin,' are alike unheeded 
by him. He kills them as easily as he does the 
innocent * chicken snake ' or the black constrictor. The 
latter often escapes from its dreaded enemy by taking to a 
bush or tree ; but the rattlesnake and the moccassin are 
not tree-climbers, and either hide themselves in the 
herbage and dead leaves, or retreat to their holes. 

It is not true that the hog eats the body of the 
snake he has killed, leaving the head untouched, and 
thus avoiding the poisoned fangs. He devours the 
whole of the creature, head and all. The venom 
of the snake, like the ' curari ' poison of the South- 
American Indians, is only effective when coming in 
contact with the blood. Taken internally its effects are 
innoxious — indeed there are those who believe it to 
be beneficial, and the curari is often swallowed as a 

Most of this information about the half-wild hogs 
of the backwoods was given by our Kentucky comrade, 
who himself was the proprietor of many hundreds of 
them. An annual hog-hunt was part of the routine 
of his life. It was undertaken not merely for the sport 
of the thing — though that was by no means to be despised 
— and the season of the hog-hunting is looked forward 
to with pleasant anticipation by the domestics of the 
plantation, as well as a few select friends or neighbours 
who are invited to participate in it. 

When the time arrives, the proprietor, with his pack 
of hounds, and accompanied by a party mounted and 
armed with rifles, enters the large tract of woodland — 
perhaps miles in extent, and in many places covered 
with canebrakes, and almost impenetrable thickets of 
undergrowth. To such places the hogs fly for shelter, 
but the dogs can penetrate wherever hogs can go ; and 

Wt/d Hogs of the Woods 105 

of course the latter are soon driven out, and forced into 
the more open ground, where the mounted men are 
waiting to receive them with a volley of bullets. 
Sometimes a keen pursuit follows, and the dogs in full 
cry are carried across the country, over huge logs, and 
through thickets and ravines, followed by the horsemen 
— ^just as if an old fox was the game pursued. 

A large waggon with drivers and attendants follows 
the chase, and in this the killed are deposited, to be 
' hauled ' home when the hunt is over. 

This, however, often continues for several days, until 
all, or at least all the larger hogs, are collected and 
brought home, and then the sport terminates. The 
produce of the hunt sometimes amounts to hundreds — 
according to the wealth of the proprietor. Of course 
a scene of slaughtering and bacon-curing follows. A 
part of the bacon furnishes the ' smoke-house ' for home 
consumption during the winter ; while the larger part 
finds its way to the great pork-market of Cincinnati. 

The Kentuckian related to us a curious incident 
illustrating the instinct of the swinish quadruped ; but 
which to his mind, as well as to ours, seemed more like 
a proof of a rational principle possessed by the animal. 
The incident he had himself been witness to, and in 
his own woodlands. He related it thus : — 

' I had strayed into the woods in search of a wild 
turkey with nothing but my shot gun, and having 
tramped about a good bit, I sat down upon a log to 
rest myself. I had not been seated five minutes when I 
heard a rustling among the dead leaves in front of me. 
I thought it might be deer, and raised my gun ; but I 
was greatly disappointed on seeing some half dozen of 
my own hogs make their appearance, rooting as they 
went along. 

' I paid no more heed to them at the time ; but a few 
minutes after, my attention was again drawn to them, by 
seeing them make a sudden rush across a piece of open 
ground, as if they were in pursuit of something. 

'Sure enough they were. Just before their snouts, I 

io6 TJie Hit^iters^ Feast 

espied the long shining body of a black snake doing its 
best to get out of their way. In this it succeeded, 
for the next moment I saw it twisting itself up a pawpaw 
sapling, until it had reached the top branches, where 
it remained looking down at its pursuers. 

* The snake may have fancied itself secure at the 
moment, and so thought I, at least so far as the hogs 
were concerned. I had made up my mind to be its 
destroyer myself, and was just about to sprinkle it with 
shot, when a movement on the part of one of the hogs 
caused me to hold back and remain quiet. I need not 
tell you I was considerably astonished to see the 
foremost of these animals seize the sapling in its jaws 
and jerk it about in a determined manner, as if 
with the intention of shaking off the snake ! Of course 
it did not succeed in this, for the latter was wound 
around the branches, and it would have been as easy to 
have shaken off the bark. 

* As you all know, gentlemen, the pawpaw — not the 
pawpaw {Carica papaya)^ but a small tree of the anonas 
or custard apple tribe, common in the woods of Western 
America — is one of the softest and most brittle of our 
trees, and the hog seemed to have discovered this, for 
he suddenly changed his tactics, and instead of shaking 
at the sapling, commenced grinding it between his 
powerful jaws. The others assisted him, and the tree 
fell in a k^ seconds. As soon as the top branches 
touched the ground, the whole drove dashed forward at 
the snake ; and in less than the time I take in telling it, 
the creature was crushed and devoured.' 

After hearing the singular tale, our conversation now 
returned to the hog we had just 'jumped.' All agreed 
that it must be some stray from the plantations that had 
wandered thus far from the haunts of men, for there 
was no settlement within twenty miles of where we 
then were. 

Our trapper guides stated that wild hogs are fre- 
quently found in remote parts, and that many of them 
are not ' strays,' but have been ' littered ' and brought up 

Wz7d Hogs of the Woods 107 

in the forest. These are as shy and difficult to approach 
as deer, or any other hunted animals. They are 
generally of a small breed, and it is supposed that they 
are identical with the species found throughout Mexico, 
and introduced by the Spaniards. 



Talking of these Spanish hogs naturally led us to the 
subject of the peccary — for this creature is an inhabi- 
tant only of those parts of North America which have 
been hitherto in possession of the Spanish race. Of the 
peccary {dicoiyles), there are two distinct species known 
— the 'collared,' and the * white-lipped.' In form and 
habits they are very similar to each other. In size and 
colour they differ. The ' white-lipped ' is the larger. Its 
colour is dark brown, nearly black, while that of the 
'collared' peccary is a uniform iron-grey, with the 
exception of the band or collar upon its shoulders. 

The distinctive markings are, on the former species a 
greyish-white patch along the jaws, and on the other a 
yellowish-white belt embracing the neck and shoulders, 
as a collar does a horse. These markings have given 
to each its specific name. They are farther distinguished, 
by the forehead of the white-lipped peccary being more 
hollowed or concave than that of its congener. 

In most other respects these creatures are alike. Both 
feed upon roots, fruits, frogs, toads, lizards, and snakes. 
Both make their lair in hollow logs, or in caves among 
the rocks, and both are gregarious in their habits. In 
this last habit, however, they exhibit some difference. 
The white-lipped species associate in troops to the 
number of hundreds, and even as many as a thousand 
have been seen together ; whereas the others do not 
live in such large droves, but are oftener met with in 
pairs. Yet this difference of habit may arise from the 
fact that in the places where both have been observed, 
the latter have not been so plentiful as the white-lipped 
species. As many as a hundred of the collared peccary 

1 08 

Treed by Peccaries 109 

have been observed in one 'gang/ and no doubt had 
there been more of them in the neighbourhood, the 
flock would have been still larger. 

The white-lipped species does not extend to the 
northern half of the American Continent. Its habitat 
is in the great tropical forests of Guyana and Brazil, 
and it is found much farther south, being common in 
Paraguay. It is there known as the ' vaquira,' whence 
our word ' peccary.' The other species is also found in 
South America, and is distinguished as the ' vaquira de 
collar' (collared peccary). Of course, they both have 
trivial Indian names, differing in different parts of the 
country. The former is called in Paraguay ' Tagnicati,' 
while the latter is the ' Taytetou.' 

Neither species is so numerous as they were in former 
times. They have been thinned off by hunting — not for 
the value either of their flesh or their skins, nor for the 
mere sport either, but on account of their destructive 
habits. In the neighbourhood of settlements they make 
frequent forays into the maize and mandioc fields, and 
they will lay waste a plantation of sugar-cane in a single 
night. For this reason it is that a war of extermination 
has long been waged against them by the planters and 
their dependents. 

As already stated, it is believed that the white-lipped 
species is not found in North America. Probably it 
does exist in the forests of Southern Mexico. The 
natural history of these countries is yet to be thoroughly 
investigated. The Mexicans have unfortunately em- 
ployed all their time in making revolutions. But a new 
period has arrived. The Panama railroad, the Nicaragua 
canal, and the route of Tehuantepec, will soon be open, 
when among the foremost who traverse these hitherto 
unfrequented regions will be found troops of naturalists, 
of the Audubon school, who will explore every nook and 
corner of Central America. Indecd,alteady some progress 
has been made in this respect. 

The two species of peccaries, although so much alike, 
never associate together, and do not seem to have any 
knowledge of a relationship existing between them. 

no The Hunters' Feast 

Indeed, what is very singular, they are never found in 
the same tract of woods. A district frequented by the 
one is always without the other. 

The Collared Peccary is the species found in North 
America, and of it we more particularly speak. It is 
met with when you approach the more southern latitudes 
westward of the Mississippi River. In that great wing 
of the continent, to the eastward of this river, and now 
occupied by the United States, no such animal exists, 
nor is there any proof that it was ever known to exist 
there in its wild state. In the territory of Texas, it is a 
common animal, and its range extends westward to the 
Pacific, and south throughout the remainder of the 

As you proceed westwards, the line of its range rises 
considerably ; and in New Mexico it is met with as high 
as the 33rd parallel. This is just following the isother- 
mal line, and proves that the peccary cannot endure the 
rigours of a severe winter climate. It is a production of 
the tropics and the countries adjacent. 

Some naturalists assert that it is a forest-dwelling 
animal, and is never seen in open countries. Others, as 
Buffon, state that it makes its habitat in the mountains, 
never the low countries and plains ; while still others 
have declared that it is never found in the mountains ! 

None of these ' theories ' appear to be the correct one. 
It is well known to frequent the forest-covered plains of 
Texas, and Emory (one of the most talented of modern 
observers), reports having met with a large drove of 
peccaries in the almost treeless mountains of New 
Mexico. The fact is, the peccary is a wide ' ranger,' and 
frequents either plains or mountains wherever he can 
find the roots or fruits which constitute his natural food. 
The haunts he likes best appear to be the dry hilly 
woods, where he finds several species of nuts to his 
taste — such as the chinquapin {Castanea puinila\ the 
pecan (Jjiglans olivcpforinis ), and the acorns of several 
species of oak, with which the half-prairie country of 
western Texas abounds. 

Farther than to eat their fruit, the forest trees are of no 

Treed by Peccaries ill 

use to the peccary. He is not a climber, as he is a 
hoofed animal. But in the absence of rocks, or crevices 
in the cliffs, he makes his lair in the bottoms of hollow 
trees, or in the great cavities so common in half-decayed 
logs. He prefers, however, a habitation among rocks, 
as experience has no doubt taught him that it is a safer 
retreat both from hunters and fire. 

The peccary is easily distinguished from the other 
forest animals by his rounded, hog-like form, and long, 
sharp snout. Although pig-shaped, he is extremely 
active and light in his movements. The absence of 
a tail — for that member is represented only by a very 
small protuberance or 'knob' — imparts a character of 
lightness to his body. His jaws are those of the hog, 
and a single pair of tusks, protruding near the angles 
of the mouth, gives him a fierce and dangerous aspect 
These tusks are seen in the old males or ' boars.' The 
ears are short, and almost buried in the long harsh hairs 
or bristles that cover the whole body, but which are 
much longer on the back. These, when erected or 
thrown forward — as is the case when the peccary is 
incensed — have the appearance of a stiff mane rising 
all along the neck, shoulders, and spine. At such times, 
indeed, the rigid, bristling coat over the whole body 
gives somewhat of a porcupine appearance to the animal. 

The peccary, as already stated, is gregarious. They 
wander in droves of twenty, or sometimes more. This, 
however, is only in the winter. In the season of love, 
and during the period of gestation, they are met with 
only in pairs — a male and female. They are very 
true to each other, and keep close together. 

The female produce two young at a litter. These 
are of a reddish-brown colour, and at first not larger than 
young puppies ; but they are soon able to follow the 
mother through the woods ; and then the ' family party ' 
usually consists of four. 

Later in the season, several of these families unite and 
remain together, partly perhaps from having met by 
accident, and partly for mutual protection ; for whenever 
one of their number is attacked, all the drove takes part 

112 The Hiuiters' Feast 

against the assailant, whether he be hunter, cougar, or 
lynx. As they use both their teeth, tusks, and sharp fore- 
hoofs with rapidity and effect, they become a formidable 
and dangerous enemy. 

The cougar is often killed and torn to pieces by a 
drove of peccaries, that he has been imprudent enough 
to attack. Indeed, this fierce creature will not often 
meddle with the peccaries when he sees them in large 
numbers. He attacks only single ones ; but their 
'grunting,' which can be heard to the distance of nearly 
a mile, summons the rest, and he is surrounded before 
he is aware of it, and seized by as many as can get 
around him. 

The Texan hunter, if afoot, will not dare to disturb a 
drove of peccaries. Even when mounted, unless the 
woods be open, he will pass them by without rousing 
their resentment. But, for all this, the animal is hunted 
by the settlers, and hundreds are killed annually. Their 
ravages committed upon the corn-fields make them 
many enemies, who go after them with a desire for 
wholesale slaughter. 

Hounds are employed to track the peccary and bring 
it to bay, when the hunters ride up and finish the chase 
by their unerring rifles. 

A flock of peccaries, when pursued, will sometimes 
take shelter in a cave or cleft of the rocks, one of their 
number standing ready at the mouth. When this one is 
shot by the hunter, another will immediately rush out 
and take its place. This too being destroyed, will be 
replaced by a third, and so on until the whole drove has 

Should the hounds attack the peccary while by them- 
selves, and without the aid and encouragement of the 
hunter, they are sure to be ' routed,' and some of their 
number destroyed. Indeed, this little creature, of not 
more than two feet in length, is a match for the stoutest 
bull-dog ! I have myself seen a peccary (a caged one, 
too) that had killed no less than six dogs of bull and 
mastiff breed — all of them considered fighting dogs of 
first-rate reputation. 

Treed by Peccaries 113 

The Kentuckian had a peccary adventure which had 
occurred to him while on an excursion to the new settle- 
ments of Texas. ' It was my first introduction to these 
animals,' began he, ' and I am not likely soon to forget 
it. It gave me, among the frontier settlers of Texas, 
the reputation of a " mighty hunter," though how far I 
deserved that name you may judge for yourselves. 

' I was for some weeks the guest of a farmer or " plan- 
ter," who lived upon the Trinity Bottom. We had been 
out in the " timber " several times, and had killed both 
bear, deer, and turkeys, but had not yet had the luck to 
fall in with the peccary, although we never went abroad 
without seeing their tracks, or some other indications of 
what my friend termed " peccary sign." The truth is, 
that these animals possess the sense of smell in the 
keenest degree ; and they are usually hidden long 
before the hunter can see them or come near them. 
As we had gone without dogs, of course we were not 
likely to discover which of the nine hundred and ninety- 
nine hollow logs passed in a day, was the precise one in 
which the peccaries had taken shelter. 

' I had grown very curious about these creatures. 
Bear I had often hunted — deer I had driven; and 
turkeys I had both trapped and shot. But I had never 
yet killed a peccary ; in fact, had never seen one. I 
was therefore very desirous of adding the tusk of one of 
these wild boars to my trophies of the chase. 

' My desire was gratified sooner than I expected, and 
to an extent I had never dreamt of ; for in one morn- 
ing — before tasting my breakfast — I caused no less than 
nineteen of these animals to utter their last squeak! 
But I shall give the details of this " feat " as they 

' It was in the autumn season — the most beautiful 
season of the forest — when the frondage obtains its tints 
of gold, orange, and purple. I was a-bed in the house 
of my friend, but was awakened out of my sleep by the 
" gobbling " of wild turkeys that sounded close to the 

* Although there was not a window in my room, the 


1 1 4 The Hunters^ Feast 

yellow beams streaming in through the chinks of the 
log wall told me that it was after " sun-up." 

' I arose, drew on my garments and hunting habili- 
ments, took my rifle, and stole out. I said nothing to 
any one, as there was no one — neither " nigger " nor 
white man — to be seen stirring about the place. I 
wanted to steal a march upon my friend, and show him 
how smart I was by bagging a fat young " gobbler " for 

' As soon as I had got round the house, I saw the 
turkeys — a large " gang " of them. They were out in an 
old corn-field, feeding upon such of the seeds as had 
been dropped in the corn-gathering. They were to far 
off for my gun to reach them, and I entered among the 
corn-stalks to get near them. 

* I soon perceived that they were feeding towards the 
woods, and that they were likely to enter them at a cer- 
tain point. Could I only reach that point before them, 
reflected I, I should be sure of a fair shot. I had only 
to go back to the house and keep around the edge of 
the field, where there happened to be some " cover." In 
this way I should be sure to " head " them — that is, 
could I but reach the woods in time. 

' I lost not a moment in setting out ; and, running 
most of the way, I reached the desired point. 

' I was now about a mile from my friend's house — 
for the corn-field was a very large one — such as you 
may only see in the great plantations of the far western 
world. I saw that I had " headed " the turkeys, with 
some time to spare ; and choosing a convenient log, I 
sat down to await their coming. I placed myself in 
such a situation that I was completely hidden by the 
broad green leaves of some bushy trees that grew over 
the log. 

' I had not been in that position over a minute I 
should think, when a slight rustling among the leaves 
attracted my attention. I looked, and saw issuing from 
under the rubbish the long body of a snake. As yet, I 
could not see its tail, which was hidden by the grass ; 
but the form of the head and the peculiar chevron-like 

Treed by Peccaries 115 

markings of the body, convinced me it was the " Banded 
Rattlesnake," It was slowly gliding out into some open 
ground, with the intention of crossing to a thicket upon 
the other side. I had disturbed it from the log, where 
it had no doubt been sunning itself; and it was now 
making away from me. 

' My first thought was to follow the hideous reptile, 
and kill it ; but reflecting that if I did so I should 
expose myself to the view of the turkeys, I concluded 
to remain where I was, and let it escape. 

' I watched it slowly drawing itself along — for this 
species makes but slow progress — until it was near 
the middle of the glade, when I again turned my 
attention to the birds that had now advanced almost 
within range of my gun. 

'I was just getting ready to fire, when a strange 
noise, like the grunt of a small pig, sounded in my ears 
from the glade, and again caused me to look in that 
direction. As I did so, my eyes fell upon a curious 
little animal just emerging from the bushes. Its long, 
sharp snout — its pig-like form — the absence of a tail — 
the high rump, and whitish band along the shoulders, 
were all marks of description which I remembered. 
The animal could be no other than a peccary. 

' As I gazed upon it with curious eyes, another 
emerged from the bushes, and then another, and 
another until a good-sized drove of them were in sight. 

'The rattle-snake, on seeing the first one, had laid 
his head flat upon the ground ; and evidently terrified, 
was endeavouring to conceal himself in the grass. 
But it was a smooth piece of turf, and he did not 
succeed. The peccary had already espied him ; and 
upon the instant his hinder parts were raised to their 
full height, his mane became rigid, and the hair over his 
whole body stood erect, radiating on all sides outwards. 
The appearance of the creature was changed in an 
instant, and I could perceive that the air was becoming 
impregnated with a disagreeable odour, which the 
incensed animal emitted from its dorsal gland. Without 
stopping longer than a moment, he rushed forward. 

II 6 The Hmiters' Feast 

until he stood within three feet of the body of the 

* The latter, seeing he could no longer conceal himself, 
threw himself into a coil, and stood upon his defence. 
His eyes glared with a fiery lustre : the skir-r-r of his 
rattles could be heard almost incessantly ; while with 
his upraised head he struck repeatedly in the direction 
of his enemy. 

' These demonstrations brought the whole drove of 
peccaries to the spot, and in a moment a circle of them 
had formed around the reptile, that did not know which 
to strike at, but kept launching out its head recklessly 
in all directions. The peccaries stood with their backs 
highly arched and their feet drawn up together, like 
so many angry cats, threatening and uttering shrill 
grunts. Then one of them, I think the first that 
had appeared, rose suddenly into the air, and with his 
four hoofs held close together, came pounce down 
upon the coiled body of the snake. Another followed 
in a similar manner, and another, and another, until 
1 could see the long carcase of the reptile unfolded, 
and writhing over the ground. 

'After a short while it lay still, crushed beneath 
their feet. The whole squad then seized it in their 
teeth, and tearing it to pieces, devoured it almost 

'From the moment the peccaries had appeared in 
sight, I had given up all thoughts about the turkeys. 
I had resolved to send my leaden messenger in quite 
a different direction. Turkeys I could have at almost 
any time ; but it was not every day that peccaries 
appeared. So I "slewed" myself round upon the 
log, raised my rifle cautiously, "marked," the biggest 
" boar" I could see in the drove, and fired. 

' I heard the boar squeak (so did all of them), and 
saw him fall over, cither killed or badly wounded. 
But I had little time to tell which, for the smoke had 
hardly cleared out of my eyes, when I perceived the 
whole gang of peccaries, instead of running away, as 
I had expected, coming full tilt towards me. 

Treed by Peccaries ii7 

' In a moment I was surrounded by a^dark mass of 
little creatures leaping wildly at my legs, uttering shrill 
grunts, and making their teeth crack like castanets. 

' I ran for the highest part of the log, but this proved 
no security. The peccaries leaped upon it, and fol- 
lowed. I struck with the butt of my clubbed gun, and 
knocked them off; but again they surrounded me, 
leaping upward and snapping at my legs, until hardly 
a shred remained of my trousers. 

* I saw that I was in extreme peril, and put forth all 
my energies. I swept my gun wildly around me ; but 
where one of the fierce brutes was knocked over, another 
leaped into his place, as determined as he. Still I had 
no help for it, and I shouted at the top of my voice, all 
the while battling with desperation. 

' I still kept upon the highest point of the log, as 
there they could not all come around me at once ; and 
I saw that I could thus better defend myself. But 
even with this advantage, the assaults of the animals 
were so incessant, and my exertions in keeping them 
off so continuous, that I was in danger of falling into 
their jaws from very exhaustion. 

' I was growing weak and wearied — I was beginning 
to despair for my life — when on winding my gun over 
my head in order to give force to my blows, I felt it 
strike against something behind me. It was the branch 
of a tree, that stretched over the spot where I was 

' A new thought came suddenly into my mind. Could 
I climb the tree ? I knew that they could not, and in 
the tree I should be safe. 

' I looked upward ; the branch was within reach. I 
seized upon it and brought it nearer. I drew a long 
breath, and with all the strength that remained in my 
body sprang upward. 

' I succeeded in getting upon the limb, and the next 
moment I had crawled along it, and sat close in by the 
trunk. I breathed freely — I was safe. 

' It was sometime before I thought of anything else 
than resting myself. 1 remained a full half-hour before 

ii8 The Hunters' Feast 

I moved in my perch. Occasionally I looked down at 
my late tormentors. I saw that instead of going off 
they were still there. They ran around the root of the 
tree, leaping up against its trunk, and tearing the bark 
with their teeth. They kept constantly uttering their 
shrill, disagreeable grunts ; and the odour, resembling 
the smell of musk and garlic, which they emitted from 
their dorsal glands, almost stifled me. I saw that they 
showed no disposition to retire, but, on the contrary, 
were determined to make me stand siege. 

' Now and then they passed out to where their dead 
comrade lay upon the grass, but this seemed only to 
bind their resolution the faster, for they always returned 
again, grunting as fiercely as ever. 

_ ' I had hopes that my friend would be up by this 
time, and would come to my rescue ; but it was not 
likely neither, as he would not " miss " me until I had 
remained long enough to make my absence seem 
strange. As it was, that would not be until after night, 
or perhaps far in the next day. It was no unusual 
thing for me to wander off with my gun, and be gone 
for a period of at least twenty hours. 

• I sat for hours on my painful perch — now looking 
down at the spiteful creatures beneath — now bending 
my eyes across the great corn-field, in hopes of seeing 
someone. At times the idea crossed my mind, that 
even upon the morrow I might not be missed ! 

* I might perish with hunger, with thirst — I was 
suffering from both at the moment — or even if I kept 
alive, I might become so weak as not to be able to hold 
on to the tree. My seat was far from being an easy 
one. The tree was small — the branch was slender. It 
was already cutting into my thighs. I might, in my 
feebleness, be compelled to let it go, and then — 

' These reflections were terrible ; and as they came 
across my mind, I shouted to the highest pitch of my 
voice, hoping I should be heard. 

' Up to this time I had not thought of using my gun, 
although clinging to it instinctively. I had brought it 
with me into the tree. It now occurred to me to fire 

Treed by Peccaries 119 

it in hopes that my friend or someone might hear the 

' I balanced myself on the branch as well as I could, 
and loaded it with powder. I was about to fire it off in 
the air, when it appeared to me that I might just as 
well reduce the number of my enemies. I therefore 
rammed down a ball, took aim at the forehead of one, 
and knocked him over. 

'Another idea now arose in my mind, and that was, 
that I might serve the whole gang as I had done this 
one. His fall had not frightened them in the least ; 
they only came nearer, throwing up their snouts and 
uttering their shrill notes — thus giving me a better 
chance of hitting them. 

' I repeated the loading and firing. Another enemy 
the less. 

' Hope began to return. I counted my bullets, and 
held my horn up to the sun. There were over twenty 
bullets, and powder sufficient. I counted the peccaries. 
Sixteen still lived, with three that I had done for. 

' I again loaded and fired — loaded and fired — loaded 
and fired. I aimed so carefully each time, that out of 
all I missed only one shot. 

' When the firing ceased, I dropped down from my 
perch in the midst of a scene that resembled a great 
slaughter-yard. Nineteen of the creatures lay dead 
around the tree, and the ground was saturated with 
their blood ! 

' The voice of my friend at this moment sounded in 
my ears, and turning, I beheld him standing, with hands 
uplifted and eyes as large as saucers. 

' The " feat " was soon reported through the settle- 
ment, and I was looked upon for the time as the 
greatest hunter in the " Trinity Bottom." ' 



During our next day's journey we again fell in with 
flocks of the wild pigeon, and our stock was renewed. 
We were very glad of this, as we were getting tired of 
the dry salt bacon, and another 'pot-pie' from Lanty's 
cuisine was quite welcome. The subject of the pigeons 
was exhausted, and we talked no more about them. 
Ducks were upon the table in a double sense, for during 
the march we had fallen in with a brood of the beautiful 
little summer ducks {Anas sponsd), and had succeeded 
in shooting several of them. These little creatures, 
however, did not occupy our attention, but the far more 
celebrated species known as the 'canvas-back' {Anas 

Of the two dozen species of American wild-ducks, 
none has a wider celebrity than that known as the 
canvas-back ; even the eider-duck is less thought of, 
as the Americans care little for beds of down. But the 
juicy, fine-flavoured flesh of the canvas-back is esteemed 
by all classes of people ; and epicures prize it above 
that of all other winged creatures, with the exception, 
perhaps, of the reed-bird or rice-bunting, and the 
prairie-hen. These last enjoy a celebrity almost if not 
altogether equal. The prairie-hen, however, is the bon 
morceau of western epicures ; while the canvas-back is 
only to be found in the great cities of the Atlantic. 
The reed-bird — in the West Indies called 'ortolan' — is 
also found in the same markets with the canvas-back. 
The flesh of all three of these birds — although the birds 
themselves are of widcly-diflercnt families — is really of 
the most delicious kind ; it would be hard to say which 
of them is the greatest favourite. 


A Duck-Sliootinsi: Adventure 121 


The canvas-back is not a large duck, rarely exceeding 
three pounds in weight. Its colour is very similar to 
the pochard of Europe : its head is a uniform deep 
chestnut, its breast black ; while the back and upper 
parts of the wings present a surface of bluish-grey, so 
lined and mottled as to resemble — though very slightly — 
the texture of canvas: hence the trivial name of the bird. 

Like most of the water-birds of America, the canvas- 
back is migratory. It proceeds in spring to the cold 
countries of the Hudson's Bay territory, and returns 
southward in October, appearing in immense flocks 
along the Atlantic shores. It does not spread over the 
fresh-water lakes of the United States, but confines 
itself to three or four well-known haunts, the principal 
of which is the great Chesapeake Bay. This preference 
for the Chesapeake Bay is easily accounted for, as here 
its favourite food is found in the greatest abundance. 
Round the mouths of the rivers that run into this bay, 
there are extensive shoals of brackish water ; these 
favour the growth of a certain plant of the genius 
vallisneria — a grass-like plant, standing several feet out 
of the water, with deep green leaves and stems, and 
having a white and tender root. On this root, which 
is of such a character as to have given the plant the 
trivial name of * wild celery,' the canvas-back feeds 
exclusively ; for wherever it is not to be found, neither 
does the bird make its appearance. Diving for it, and 
bringing it up in its bill, the canvas-back readily breaks 
off the long lanceolate leaves, which float off, either to 
be eaten by another species — the pochard — or to form 
immense banks of wrack, that are thrown up against 
the adjacent shores. 

It is to the roots of the wild celery that the flesh of 
the canvas-back owes its esteemed flavour, causing it to 
be in such demand that very often a pair of these ducks 
will bring three dollars in the markets of New York and 
Philadelphia. When the finest turkey can be had for 
less than a third of that sum, some idea may be formed 
of the superior estimation in which the web-footed 
favourites are held. 

122 The Hunters' Feast 

Of course, shooting the canvas-back duck is ex- 
tensively practised, not only as an amusement, but as 
a professional occupation. Various means are employed 
to slaughter these birds : decoys by means of dogs, 
duck-boats armed with guns that resemble infernal- 
machines, and disguises of every possible kind. The 
birds themselves are extremely shy ; and a shot at 
them is only obtained by great ingenuity, and after 
considerable dodging. They are excellent divers ; and 
when only wounded, almost always make good their 
escape. Their shyness is overcome by their curiosity. 
A dog placed upon the shore, near where they happen 
to be, and trained to run backwards and forwards, will 
almost always seduce them within shot. Should the 
dog himself not succeed, a red rag wrapped around his 
body, or tied to his tail, will generally bring about the 
desired result. There arc times, however, when the 
ducks have been much shot at, that even this decoy 
fails of success. 

On account of the high price the canvas-backs bring 
in the market, they are pursued by the hunters with 
great assiduity, and are looked upon as a source of 
much profit. So important has this been considered, 
that in the international treaties between the States 
bordering upon the Chesapeake, there are several 
clauses or articles relating to them that limit the right 
of shooting to certain parties. An infringement of this 
right, some three or four years ago, led to serious 
collisions between the gunners of Philadelphia and 
Baltimore. So far was the dispute carried, that 
schooners armed, and filled with armed men, cruised 
for some time on the waters of the Chesapeake, and 
all the initiatory steps of a little war were taken by 
both parties. The interference of the general govern- 
ment prevented what would have proved, had it been 
left to itself, a very sanguinary affair. 

It so chanced that I had met with a rather singular 
adventure while duck-shooting on the Chesapeake Bay, 
and the story was related thus : ' I was staying for some 
days at the house of a friend — a planter — who lived 

A Duck-Shooting Adventure 123 

near the mouth of a small river that runs into the 
Chesapeake, I felt inclined to have a shot at the far- 
famed canvas-backs. I had often eaten of these birds, 
but had never shot one, or even seen them in their 
natural habitat. I was, therefore, anxious to try my 
hand upon them, and I accordin_^ly set out one morning 
for that purpose. 

' My friend lived upon the bank of the river, some 
distance above tide-water. As the wild celery grows 
only in brackish water — that is, neither in the salt sea 
itself nor yet in the fresh-water rivers — I had to pass 
down the little stream a mile or more before I came to 
the proper place for finding the ducks. I went in a 
small skiff, with no other companion than an ill-favoured 
cur-dog, with which I had been furnished, and which 
was represented to me as one of the best "duck-dogs" 
in the country. 

'My friend having business elsewhere, unfortunately 
could not upon that day give me his company ; but I 
knew something of the place, and being aufait in most 
of the dodges of duck-hunting, I fancied I was quite 
able to take care of myself. 

'Floating and rowing by turns, I soon came in sight of 
the bay and the wild-celery fields, and also of flocks of 
water-fowl of different species, among which I could 
recognise the pochards, the canvas - backs, and the 
common American widgeon. 

' Seeking a convenient place near the mouth of the 
stream, I landed ; and, tying the skiff to some weeds, 
proceeded in search of a cover. This was soon found — 
some bushes favoured me ; and having taken my posi- 
tion, I set the dog to his work. The brute, however, 
took but little notice of my words and gestures of 
encouragement. I fancied that he had a wild and 
frightened look, but I attributed this to my being 
partially a stranger to him ; and was in hopes that, as 
soon as we became better acquainted, he would work in 
a different manner. 

' I was disappointed, however, as, do what I might he 
would not go near the water, nor would he perform the 

124 ^-^^^ Hunters' Feast 

trick of running to and fro which I had been assured 
by my friend he woud be certain to do. On the con- 
trary, he cowered among the bushes, near where I had 
stationed myself, and seemed unwilling to move out of 
them. Two or three times, when I dragged him forward, 
and motioned him toward the water, he rushed back 
again, and ran under the brushwood. 

' I was exceedingly provoked with this conduct of 
the dog, the more so that a flock of canvas-backs, 
consisting of several thousands, was seated upon the 
water not more than half a mile from the shore. Had 
my dog done his duty, I have no doubt they might have 
been brought within range ; and calculating upon this, 
I had made sure of a noble shot. My expectations, 
however, were defeated by the waywardness of the dog, 
and I saw there was no hope of doing anything with 

' Having arrived at this conclusion, after some hours 
spent to no purpose, I rose from my cover, and marched 
back to the skiff. I did not even motion the wretched 
cur to follow me ; and I should have rowed off without 
him, risking the chances of my friend's displeasure, but 
it pleased the animal himself to trot after me without 
invitation, and, on arriving at the boat, to leap voluntarily 
into it. 

' I was really so provoked with the brute, that I felt 
much inclined to pitch him out again. My vexation, 
however, gradually left me ; and I stood up in the skiff, 
turning over in my mind what course I should pursue 

' I looked toward the flock of canvas-backs. It was a 
tantalising sight. They sat upon the water as light as 
corks, and as close together as sportsman could desire 
for a shot. A well-aimed discharge could not have 
failed to kill a score of them at least. 

' Was there no way of approaching them ? This 
question I had put to myself for the twentieth time 
without being able to answer it to my satisfaction. 

' An idea at length flitted across my brain. I had 
often approached common mallards by concealing my 

A Duck-Shooting Adventure 125 

boat under branches or furze, and then floating down 
upon them, impelled either by the wind or the current 
of a stream. Might not this also succeed with the 
canvas-backs ? 

' I resolved upon making the experiment. The flock 
was in a position to enable me to do so. They were to 
the leeward of a sedge of the vallisneria. The wind 
would carry my skiff through this ; and the green 
bushes with which I intended to disguise it would 
not be distinguished from the sedge, which was also 

' The thing was feasible. I deemed it so. I set about 
cutting some leafy branches that grew near, and trying 
them along the gunwhales of my little craft. In less 
than half an hour, I pushed her from the shore ; and no 
one at a distance would have taken her for aught else 
than a floating raft of brushwood. 

' I now pulled quietly out until I had got exactly to 
windward of the ducks, at about half a mile's distance 
from the edge of the flock. I then took in the paddles, 
and permitted the skiff to glide before the wind. I took 
the precaution to place myself in such a manner that I 
was completely hidden, while through the branches I 
commanded a view of the surface on any side I might 
wish to look. 

'The bushes acted as a sail, and I was soon drifted 
down among the plants of the wild celery. I feared 
that this might stay my progress, as the breeze was 
light, and might not carry me through. But the sward, 
contrary to what is usual, was thin at the place where 
the skiff had entered, and I felt, to my satisfaction, that 
I was moving, though slowly, in the right direction. 

' I remembered that the heat annoyed me at the time. 
It was the month of November ; but it was that peculiar 
season known as " Indian summer," and the heat was 
excessive — not under 90 degrees, I am certain. The 
shrubbery that encircled me prevented a breath of air 
from reaching my body ; and the rays of the noonday 
sun fell almost vertically in that southern latitude, 
scorching me as I lay along the bottom of the boat. 

126 The Hunters' Feast 

Under other circumstances, I should not have liked to 
undergo such a roasting ; but with the prospect of 
a splendid shot before me, I endured it as best I 

' The skiff was nearly an hour in pushing its way 
through the field of vallisneria, and once or twice it 
remained for a considerable time motionless. A 
stronger breeze, however, would spring up, and then 
the sound of the reeds rubbing the sides of the boat 
would gratefully admonish me that I was moving 

' I saw, at length, to my great gratification, that I was 
approaching the selvage of the sedge, and, moreover, 
that the flock itself was moving, as it were, to meet me ! 
Many of the birds were diving and feeding in the 
direction of the skiff. 

' I lay watching them with interest. I saw that the 
canvas-backs were accompanied by another species of a 
very different colour from themselves : this was the 
American widgeon. It was a curious sight to witness 
the constant warfare that was carried on between these 
two species of birds. The widgeon is but a poor diver, 
while the canvas-back is one of the very best. The 
widgeon, however, is equally fond of the roots of the 
wild celery with his congener ; but he has no means of 
obtaining them except by robbing the latter. Being a 
smaller and less powerful bird, he is not able to do this 
openly ; and it was curious to observe the means by 
which he effected his purpose. It was as follows : When 
the canvas-back descends, he must perforce remain some 
moments underwater. It requires time to seize hold of 
the plant, and pluck it up by the roots. In consequence 
of this, he usually reaches the surface in a state of half- 
blindness, holding the luscious morsel in his bill. The 
widgeon has observed him going down ; and, calculating 
to a nicety the spot where he will reappear, seats himself 
in readiness. The moment the other emerges, and 
before he can fully recover his sight or his senses, the 
active spoliator makes a dash, seizes the celery in his 
horny mandibles, and makes off with it as fast as his 

A Duck-Shooting Adventure 127 

webbed feet can propel him. The canvas-back, although 
chagrined at being plundered in this impudent manner, 
knows that pursuit would be idle, and, setting the root 
down as lost, draws a fresh breath, and dives for another. 
I noticed in the flock a continual recurrence of such 

' A third species of birds drew my attention. These 
were the pochards, or, as they are termed by the 
gunners of the Chesapeake, " red-heads." These 
creatures bear a very great resemblance to the canvas- 
backs, and can hardly be distinguished except by their 
bills : those of the former being concave along the upper 
surface, while the bills of the canvas-backs exhibit a 
nearly straight line. 

' I saw that the pochards did not interfere with either 
of the other species, contenting themselves with feeding 
upon what neither of the others cared for — the green 
leaves of the vallisncria, which, after being stripped of 
their roots, were floating in quantities on the surface of 
the water. Yet these pochards are almost as much 
prized for the table as their cousins the canvas-backs ; 
and, indeed, I have since learnt that they are often put 
off for the latter by the poulterers of New York and 
Philadelphia. Those who would buy a real canvas-back 
should know something of natural history. The form 
and colour of the bill would serve as a criterion to 
prevent their being deceived. In the pochard, the bill is 
of a bluish colour ; that of the canvas-back is dark green ; 
moreover, the eye of the pochard is yellow, while that of 
its congener is fiery red. 

' I was gratified in perceiving that I had at last drifted 
within range of a thick clump of the ducks. Nothing 
now remained but to poke my gun noiselessly through 
the bushes, set the cocks of both barrels, take aim, and 

' It was my intention to follow the usual plan — that is, 
fire one barrel at the birds while sitting, and give them 
the second as they rose upon the wing. This intention 
was carried out the moment after ; and I had the 
gratification of seeing some fifteen or twenty ducks 

128 The Hunters' Feast 

strewed over the water at my service. The rest of the 
flock rose into the heavens, and the clapping of their 
winf^s filled the air with a noise that resembled thunder. 

' I sa}' that there appeared to have been fifteen or 
twent}' killed ; iiow many I never knew : I never laid my 
hands upon a single bird of them. I became differently 
occupied, and with a matter that soon drove canvas- 
backs, and widgeons, and pochards as clean out of my 
head as if no such creatures had ever existed. 

'While drifting through the sedge, my attention had 
several times been attracted by what appeared to be 
strange conduct on the part of my canine companion. 
He lay cowering in the bottom of the boat near the 
bow, and half covered by the bushes ; but every now 
and then he would start to his feet, look wildly around, 
utter a strange whimpering, and then resume his 
crouching attitude. I noticed, moreover, that at inter- 
vals he trembled as if he was about to shake out his 
teeth. All this had caused me wonder — nothing more. 
I was too much occupied in watching the game to 
speculate upon causes ; 1 believed, if I formed any belief 
on the subject, that these manojuvres were caused by 
fear ; that the cur had never been to sea, and that he 
was now either sea-sick or sea-scared. 

' This explanation had hitherto satisfied me, and I had 
thought no more upon the matter. I had scarcely de- 
livered my second barrel, however, when my attention 
was anew attracted to the dog ; and this time was so 
arrested, that in one half-second I thought of nothing 
else. The animal had arisen, and stood within three feet 
of me, whining hideously. His eyes glared upon me 
with a wild and unnatural expression, his tongue lolled 
out, and saliva fell copiously from his lips. The dog 
was mad! 

' I saw that the dog was mad, as certainly as I saw 
the dog. I had seen mad dogs before, and knew the 
symptoms well. It was hydrophobia of the most 
dangerous character. 

' Fear, quick and sudden, came over me. Fear is a 
tame word ; horror, I should call it ; and the phrase 

A Duck- Shooting Adventure 129 


would not be too strong to express my sensations at 
that moment. I knew myself to be in a situation of 
extreme peril, and I saw not the way out of it. Death — 
death painful and horrid — appeared to be nigh, ap- 
peared to confront me, glaring from out the eyes of the 
hideous brute. 

' Instinct had caused me to put myself in an attitude 
of defence. My first instinct was a false one. I raised 
my gun, at the same moment manipulating the lock, 
with the design of cocking her. In the confusion of 
terror, I had even forgotten that both barrels were 
empty, that I had just scattered their contents in the 

' I thought of re-loading ; but a movement of the dog 
towards me showed that that would be a dangerous 
experiment ; and a third thought or instinct directed 
me to turn the piece in my hand, and defend myself, if 
necessary, with the butt. This instinct was instantly 
obeyed, and in a second's time I held the piece clubbed 
and ready to strike. 

' I had retreated backward until I stood in the stern of 
the skiff. The dog had hitherto lain close up to the 
bow, but after the shots, he had sprung up and taken a 
position nearer the centre of the boat. In fact, he had 
been within biting distance of me before I had noticed 
his madness. The position into which I had thus half 
involuntarily thrown myself, offered me but a trifling 

* Any one who has ever rowed an American skiff will 
remember that these little vessels are " crank " to an 
extreme degree. Although boat-shaped above, they are 
without keels, and a rude step will turn them bottom 
upward in an instant. Even to stand upright in them, 
requires careful balancing ; but to fight a mad dog in 
one without being bitten, would require the skill and 
adroitness of an acrobat. With all my caution, as I half 
stood, half crouched in the stern, the skiff rocked from 
side to side, and I was in danger of being pitched out. 
Should the dog spring at me, I knew that any violent 
exertion to fend him off would either cause me to be 


130 The Hunters' Feast 

precipitated into the water, or would upset the boat — a 
still more dreadful alternative, 

' These thoughts did not occupy half the time I have 
taken to describe them. Short, however, as that time was 
in actual duration, to me it seemed long enough for the 
dog still held a threatening attitude, his forepaws resting 
upon one of the seats, while his eyes continued to glare 
upon me with a wild and uncertain expression. 

' I remained for some moments in fearful suspense. 
I was half paralysed with terror, and uncertain what 
action it would be best to take. I feared that any 
movement would attract the fierce animal, and be the 
signal for him to spring upon me. I thought of jumping 
out of the skiff into the water. I could not wade in it. 
It was shallow enough — not over five feet in depth, but 
the bottom appeared to be of soft mud. I might sink 
another foot in the mud. No ; I could not have waded. 
The idea was dismissed. 

' To swim to the shore ? I glanced sideways in that 
direction : it was nearly half a mile distant. I could 
never reach it, cumbered with my clothes. To have 
stripped these off, would have tempted the attack. Even 
could I have done so, might not the dug follow and 
seize me in the water ? A horrible thought ! 

' I abandoned all hope of escape, at least that might 
arise from any active measures on my part. I could 
do nothing to save myself; my only hope lay in passively 
awaiting the result. 

' Impressed with this idea, I remained motionless as a 
statue ; I moved neither hand nor foot from the attitude 
I had first assumed ; I scarcely permitted myself to 
breathe, so much did I dread attracting the farther 
attention of my terrible companion, and interrupting 
the neutrality that existed. 

* For some minutes — they seemed hours — this state 
of affairs continued. The dog still stood up, with his 
forepaws raised upon the bench ; the oars were among 
his feet. In this position he remained, gazing wildly, 
though it did not appear to me steadily, in my face. 
Several times I thought he was about to spring on me ; 

A Duck-Shooting Adventure 131 

and, although I carefully avoided making any movement, 
I instinctively grasped my gun with a firmer hold. To 
add to my embarrassment, I saw that I was fast drifting 
seaward ! The wind was from the shore ; it was impelling 
the boat with considerable velocity, in consequence of the 
mass of bushes acting as sails. Already it had cleared 
the sedge, and was floating out in open water. To my 
dismay, at less than a mile's distance, I descried a line of 
breakers ! 

'A side-glance was sufficient to convince me, that 
unless the skiff was checked, she would drift upon these 
in the space of ten minutes. 

'A fearful alternative now presented itself: I must 
either drive the dog from the oars, or allow the skiff to 
be swamped among the breakers. The latter would be 
certain death, the former offered a chance for life, and, 
nerving myself with the palpable necessity for action, I 
instantly resolved to make the attack. 

' Whether the dog had read my intention in my eyes, 
or observed my fingers taking a firmer clutch of my 
gun, I know not, but at this moment he seemed to evince 
sudden fear, and, dropping down from the seat, he ran 
backward to the bow, and cowered there as before. 

' My first impulse was to get hold of the oars, for the 
roar of the breakers already filled my ears. A better 
idea suggested itself immediately after, and that was to 
load my gun. This was a delicate business, but I set 
about it with all the caution I could command. 

' I kept my eyes fixed upon the animal, and felt the 
powder, the wadding, and the shot, into the muzzle. I 
succeeded in loading one barrel, and fixing the cap. 

' As I had now something upon which I could rely, I 
proceeded with more confidence, and loaded the second 
barrel with greater care, the dog eyeing me all the 
while. Had madness not obscured his intelligence, he 
would no doubt have interrupted my manipulations ; as 
it was, he remained still until both barrels were loaded, 
capped, and cocked. 

' I had no time to spare ; the breakers were nigh ; 
their hoarse " sough " warned me of their perilous 

132 The Hunters^ Feast 

proximity ; a minute more, and the little skiff would be 
dancing among them like a shell, or sunk for ever. 

' Not a moment was to be lost, and yet I had to 
proceed with caution. I dared not raise the gun to my 
shoulder — I dared not glance along the barrels : the 
manceuvre might rouse the dangerous brute. 

' I held the piece low, slanting along my thighs. I 
guided the barrels with my mind, and, feeling the 
direction to be true, I fired. 

' I scarcely heard the report, on account of the roaring 
of the sea ; but I saw the dog roll over, kicking violently. 
I saw a livid patch over his ribs, where the shot had 
entered in a clump. This would no doubt have proved 
sufficient ; but to make sure, I raised the gun to my 
shoulder, took aim, and sent the contents of the second 
barrel through the ribs of the miserable brute. His 
kicking ended almost instantly, and he lay dead in the 
bottom of the boat. 

' I dropped my gun and flew to the oars ; it was a 
close " shave " ; the skiff was already in white water, and 
dancing like a feather; but with a few strokes I succeeded 
in backing her out, and then heading her away from the 
breakers, I pulled in a direct line for the shore. 

' I thought not of my canvas-backs — they had floated 
by this time, I neither knew nor cared whither : the 
sharks might have them for me. My only care was to 
get away from the scene as quickly as possible, deter- 
mined never again to go duck-shooting with a cur for 
my companion.' 



During our next day's march the only incident that 
befel us was the breaking of our waggon-tongue, which 
delayed our journey. There was plenty of good hickory- 
wood near the place, and Jake, with a little help from 
Redwood and Ike and Lanty, soon spliced it again, 
making it stronger than ever. Of course it shortened 
our journey for the day, and we encamped at the end of 
a ten miles' march. Strange to say, on the whole ten 
miles we did not meet with a single animal to give 
us a little sport, or to form the subject of our camp 

We were not without a subject, however, as our 
English friend proposed giving us an account of the 
mode of hunting the vicuna, and the details of a week's 
hunting he had enjoyed upon the high table-lands of 
the Peruvian Andes. He also imparted to our camp- 
fire circle much information about the different species 
of that celebrated animal the llama or ' camel-sheep ' of 
Peru, which proved extremely interesting, not only to 
the old hunter-naturalist, but to the * mountain-men', to 
whom this species of game, as well as the mode of 
hunting it, was something new. 

Thompson began his narrative as follows : 

' When Pizarro and his Spaniards first climbed the 
Peruvian Andes, they were astonished at seeing a new 
and singular species of quadrupeds, the camel-sheep, so 
called from their resemblance to these two kinds of 
animals. They saw the " llama " domesticated and 
trained to carrying burdens, and the " alpaca," a smaller 
species, reared on account of its valuable fleece. 

* But there were still two other species of these odd 


134 T]ie H winters' Feast 

animals only observed in a wild state, and in the more 
desolate and uninhabited parts of the Cordilleras. These 
were the " guanaco " and " vicuna." 

* Up to a very late period the guanaco was believed 
to be the llama in its wild state, and by some the llama 
run wild. This, however, is not the case. The four 
species, llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuna are quite 
distinct from each other, and although the guanaco can 
be tamed and taught to carry burdens, its labour is not 
of sufficient value to render this worth while. The 
alpaca is never used as a beast of burden. Its fleece is 
the consideration for which it is domesticated and 
reared, and its wool is much finer and more valuable 
than that of the llama. 

* The guanaco is, perhaps, the least prized of the four, 
as its fleece is of indifferent quality, and its flesh is not 
esteemed. The vicuna, on the contrary, yields a wool 
which is eagerly sought after, and which in the Andes 
towns will sell for at least five times its weight in 
alpaca wool. Ponchos woven out of it arc deemed the 
finest made, and command the fabulous price of 20/. or 
30/. sterling. A rich proprietor in the Cordilleras is 
often seen with such a poncho, and the quality of the 
garment, the length of time it will turn rain, &c., are 
favourite subjects of conversation with the wearers of 
them. Of course everybody in those parts possesses 
one, as everybody in England or the United States 
must have a great coat ; but the ponchos of the poorer 
classes of Peruvians — the Indian labourers, shepherds, 
and miners — are usually manufactured out of the coarse 
wool of the llama. Only the "ricos" can afford the 
beautiful fabric of the vicuna's fleece. 

' The wool of the vicuna being so much in demand, it 
will be easily conceived that hunting the animal is a 
profitable pursuit ; and so it is. In many parts of the 
Andes there are regular vicuna hunters, while, in other 
places, whole tribes of Peruvian Indians spend a part of 
every year in the chase of this animal and the guanaco, 
When we go farther south, in the direction of Patagonia 
we find other tribes who subsist principally upon the 

Hunting the Vicuna 135 

guanaco, the vicuna, and the rhea or South-American 

' Hunting the vicuna is by no means an easy calling. 
The hunter must betake himself to the highest and 
coldest regions of the Andes — far from civilised life, 
and far from its comforts. He has to encamp in the 
open air, and sleep in a cave, or a rude hut, built by his 
own hands. He has to endure a climate as severe as a 
Lapland winter, often in places where not a stick of 
wood can be procured, and where he is compelled to 
cook his meals with the dry ordure of wild cattle. 

* If not successful in the chase he is brought to the 
verge of starvation, and must have recourse to roots and 
berries — a few species of which, such as the tuberous 
root " maca," are found growing in these elevated 
regions. lie is exposed, moreover, to the perils of 
the precipice, the creaking "soga" bridge, the slippery 
path, and the hoarse rushing torrent — and these among 
the rugged Cordilleras of the Andes are no mean dangers. 
A life of toil, exposure, and peril is that of the vicuna 

' During my travels in Peru I had resolved to enjoy 
the sport of hunting the vicuna. For this purpose I set 
out from one of the towns of the Lower Sierra, and 
climbed up the high region known as the " Puna," or 
sometimes as the "Despoblado" (the uninhabited region). 

' I reached at length the edge of a plain to which I 
had mounted by many a weary path — up many a dark 
ravine. I was twelve or fourteen thousand feet above 
sea level, and although I had just parted from the land 
of the palm-tree and the orange, I was now in a region 
cold and sterile. Mountains were before and around 
me — some bleak and dark, others shining under a robe 
of snow, and still others of that greyish hue as if snow 
had freshly fallen upon them, but not enough to cover 
their stony surface. The plain before me was several 
miles in circumference. It was only part of a system of 
similar levels separated from each other by spurs of the 
mountains. By crossing a ridge another comes in view, 
a deep cleft leads you into a third, and so on. 

136 TJie Hunters' Feast 

' These table plains are too cold for the agriculturist. 
Only the cereal barley will grow there, and some of those 
hardy roots — the natives of an arctic zone. But they 
are covered with a sward of grass — the " ycha " grass, 
the favourite food of the llamas — and this renders them 
serviceable to man. Herds of half-wild cattle may be 
seen, tended by their wilder-looking shepherds. Flocks 
of alpacas, female llamas with their young, and long- 
tailed Peruvian sheep, stray over them, and to some 
extent relieve their cheerless aspect. The giant vulture 
— the condor, wheels above all, or perches on the jutting 
rock. Here and there, in some sheltered nook, may be 
seen the dark mud hut of the " vaquero " (cattle herd), or 
the man himself, with his troop of savage curs following 
at his heels, and this is all the sign of habitation or 
inhabitant to be met with for hundreds of miles. This 
bleak land, up among the mountain tops of the Andes, 
as I have already said, is called the " Puna." 

' The Puna is the favourite haunt of the vicuiia, and, of 
course, the home of the vicuna hunter. I had directions 
to find one of these hunters, and an introduction to him 
when found, and after spending the night at a shepherd's 
hut, I proceeded next morning in search of him — some 
ten miles farther into the mountains. 

' I arrived at the house, or rather hovel, at an early 
hour. Notwithstanding, my host had been abroad, and 
was just returned with full hands, having a large bundle 
of dead animals in each. They were chinchillas and 
viscachas, which he had taken out of his snares set over- 
night. He said that most of them had been freshly 
caught, as their favourite time of coming out of their 
dens to feed is just before daybreak. 

* These two kinds of animals, which in many respects 
resemble our rabbits, also resemble each other in habits. 
They make their nests in crevices of the rocks, to which 
they retreat, when pursued, as rabbits to their burrows. 
Of course, they are snared in a very similar manner — 
by setting the snares upon their tracks, and at the 
entrances to their holes. One difference I noted. The 
Peruvian hunter used snares made of twisted horse-hair, 

Hunting the Vicufia 137 

instead of the spring wire employed by our gamekeepers 
and poachers. The chinchilla is a much more beautiful 
creature than the viscacha, and is a better known 
animal, its soft and beautifully-marbled fur being an 
article of fashionable wear in the cities of Europe. 

' As I approached his hut, the hunter had just arrived 
with the night's produce of his snares, and was hanging 
them up to the side of the building, skinning them one 
by one. Not less than half a score of small, foxy- 
looking dogs were around him — true native dogs of the 

' Of the disposition of these creatures I was soon made 
aware. No sooner had they espied me, than with angry 
yelps the whole pack ran forward to meet me, and came 
barking and grinning close around the feet of my horse. 
Several of them sprang upward at my legs, and would, 
no doubt, have bitten them, had I not suddenly raised 
my feet up to the withers, and for some time held them 
in that position. I have no hesitation in saying that 
had I been afoot, I should have been badly torn by the 
curs ; nor do I hesitate to say, that of all the dogs in the 
known world, these Peruvian mountain dogs are the 
most vicious and spiteful. They will bite even the 
friends of their own masters, and very often their masters 
themselves have to use the stick to keep them in 
subjection. I believe the dogs found among many 
tribes of your North-American Indians have a very 
similar disposition, though by no means to compare in 
fierceness and savage nature with their cousins of the 
cold Puna. 

' The masters of these dogs are generally Indians, and 
it is a strange fact, that they are much more spiteful 
towards the whites than Indians. It is difficult for a 
white man to get on friendly terms with them. 

' After a good deal of kicking and cuffing, my host 
succeeded in making his kennel understand that I had 
not come there to be eaten up. I then alighted from 
my horse, and walked (I should say crawled) inside the 

' This was, as I have already stated, a mere hovel. A 

138 The Hunters' Feast 

circular wall of mud and stone, about five feet high, 
supported a set of poles that served as rafters. These 
poles were the flower stalks of the great American aloe, 
or maguey-plant — the only thing resembling wood that 
grew near. Over these was laid a thick layer of Puna 
grass, which was tied with strong ropes of the same 
material, to keep it from flying off when the wind blew 
violently, which it there often does. A few blocks of 
stone in the middle of the floor constituted the fire-place, 
and the smoke got out the best way it could through a 
hole in the roof 

'The owner of this mansion was a true Indian, 
belonging to one of those tribes of the mountains that 
could not be said ever to have been conquered by the 
Spaniards. Living in remote districts, many of these 
people never submitted to the repartimientos, yet a sort 
of religious conquest was made of some of them by the 
missionaries, thus bringing them under the title of 
" Indies mansos" (tame Indians), in contradistinction to 
the " Indies bravos," or savage tribes, who remain 
unconquered and independent to this day. 

* As already stated, I had come by appointment to 
share the day's hunt. 1 was invited to partake of 
breakfast. My host, being a bachelor, was his own cook, 
and some parched maize and " macas," with a roasted 
chinchilla, furnished the repast. 

'Fortunately I carried with me a flask of Catalan 
brandy ; and this, with a cup of water from the icy 
mountain spring, rendered our meal more palatable. I 
was not without some dry tobacco, and a husk to roll 
it in, so that we enjoyed our cigar ; but what our hunter 
enjoyed still more was a "coceada," for he was a regular 
chewer of "coca." He carried his pouch of chinchilla 
skin filled with the dried leaves of the coca plant, and 
around his neck was suspended the gourd bottle, filled 
with burnt lime and ashes of the root of the " moll6 " 

' All things arranged, we started forth. It was to be a 
"still " hunt, and we went afoot, leaving our horses tied 
by the hut. The Indian took with him only one of his 

Hunting the Vicuna 139 

dogs — a faithful and trusty one, on which he could 

' We skirted the plain, and struck into a defile in the 
mountains. It led upwards, among rocky boulders. A 
cold stream gurgled in its bottom, now and then leaping 
over low falls, and churned into foam. At times the 
path was a giddy one, leading along narrow ledges, 
rendered more perilous by the frozen snow, that lay to 
the depth of several inches. Our object was to reach 
the level of a plain still higher, where my companion 
assured me we should be likely to happen upon a herd 
of vicunas. 

'As we climbed among the rocks, my eye was 
attracted by a moving object, higher up. On looking 
more attentively, several animals were seen, of large 
size, and reddish-brown colour. I took them at first for 
deer, as I was thinking of that animal. I saw my 
mistake in a moment. They were not deer, but 
creatures quite as nimble. They were bounding from 
rock to rock, and running along the narrow ledges with 
the agility of the chamois. These must be the vicunas, 
thought I. 

'"No," said my companion; "guanacos — nothing 

' I was anxious to have a shot at them. 

* " Better leave them now," suggested the hunter ; 
"the report would frighten the vicunas, if they be in the 
plain — it is near. I know these guanacos. I know 
where they will retreat to — a defile close by — we can 
have a chance at them on our return." 

' I forbore firing, though I certainly deemed the 
guanacos within shot, but the hunter was thinking of 
the more precious skin of the vicunas, and we passed 
on. I saw the guanacos run for a dark-looking cleft 
between two mountain spurs. 

* " We shall find them in there," muttered my com- 
panion, " that is their haunt." 

' Noble game are these guanacos — large fine animals 
— noble game as the red deer himself. They differ 
much from the vicunas. They herd only in small 

140 The Hunters' Feast 

numbers, from six to ten or a dozen ; while as many as 
four times this number of vicunas may be seen together. 
There are essential points of difference in the habits of 
the two species. The guanacos are dwellers among the 
rocks, and are most at home when bounding from cliff 
to cliff, and ledge to ledge. They make but a poor run 
upon the level grassy plain, and their singular contorted 
hoofs seem to be adapted for their favourite haunts. 
The vicunas, on the contrary, prefer the smooth turf of 
the table plains, over which they dart with the swift- 
ness of the deer. Both are of the same family of 
quadrupeds, but with this very essential difference — 
the one is a dweller of the level plain, the other of the 
rocky declivity ; and nature has adapted each to its 
respective habitat! 

Here the narrator was interrupted by the hunter- 
naturalist, who stated that he had observed this curious 
fact in relation to other animals of a very different 
genus, and belonging to the fauna of North America. 
'The animals I speak of,' said he, 'are indigenous to 
the region of the Rocky Mountains, and well known 
to our trapper friends here. They are the big horn 
{Ovis inontana) and the prong-horned antelope {A. 
furcifcr). The big horn is usually denominated a sheep, 
though it possesses far more of the characteristics of the 
deer and antelope families. Like the chamois, it is a 
dweller among the rocky cliffs and declivities, and only 
there does it feel at home, and in the full enjoyment of 
its faculties for security. Place it upon a level plain, 
and you deprive it of confidence, and render its capture 
comparatively easy. At the base of these very cliffs on 
which the Ovis inontana disports itself, roams the prong- 
horn, not ver}' dissimilar either in form, colour, or habits; 
and yet this creature, trusting to its heels for safety, feels 
at home and secure only on the wide open plain where 
it can see the horizon around it ! Such is the difference 
in the mode of life of two species of animals almost 
cogeneric, and I am not surprised to hear }'0u state that 
a somewhat like difference exists between the guanaco 
and vicuna.' 

Hunting the VicuHa 141 

The hunter-naturalist was again silent, and the 
narrator continued. 

' A few more strides up the mountain pass brought us 
to the edge of the plain, where we expected to see the 
vicunas. We were not disappointed. A herd was feeding 
upon it, though at a good distance off. A beautiful 
sight they were, quite equalling in grace and stateliness 
the lordly deer. In fact, they might have passed for 
the latter to an unpractised eye, particularly at that 
season when deer are "in the red." Indeed the vicuna 
is more deer-like than any other animal except the 
antelope — much more so than its congeners the llama, 
alpaca, or guanaco. Its form is slender, and its gait 
light and agile, while the long tapering neck and head 
add to the resemblance. The colour, however, is 
peculiarly its own, and any one accustomed to seeing 
the vicuna can distinguish the orange-red of its silky coat 
at a glance, and at a great distance. So peculiar is it, 
that in Peru, the " Colour de vicufia" (vicuna colour) has 
become a specific name. 

' My companion at once pronounced the animals 
before us a herd of vicuiias. There was about twenty in 
all, and all except one were quietly feeding on the grassy 
plain. This one stood apart, his long neck raised high 
in air, and his head occasionally turning from side to 
side, as though he was keeping watch for the rest. Such 
was in fact the duty he was performing ; he was the 
leader of the herd — the patriarch, husband and father of 
the flock. All the others were ewes or young ones. So 
affirmed my companion. 

' The vicuna is polygamous — fights for his harem 
with desperate fierceness, watches over its number while 
they feed or sleep, chooses the ground for browsing and 
rest — defends them against enemies — heads them in the 
advance, and covers their retreat with his own " person " 
— such is the domestic economy of the vicuna. 

' " Now, senor," said the hunter, eyeing the herd, " if I 
could only kill him (he pointed to the leader), I would 
have no trouble with the rest. I should get every one 
of them." 

142 The Hunters' Feast 

* " How ? " I inquired. 

' " Oh ! — they would ! — ha ! The very thing 1 wished 
for ! " 

' " What ? " 

'"They are heading towards }'onder rocks." He 
pointed to a clump of rocky boulders that lay isolated 
near one side of the plain — " let us get there, comrade — 
vamos I " 

' We stole cautiously round the edge of the mountain 
until the rocks lay between us and the game ; and then 
crouched forward and took our position among them. 
We lay behind a jagged boulder, whose seamed outline 
looked as if it had been designed for loop-hole firing. 
It was just the cover we wanted. 

' We peeped cautiously through the cracks of the rock. 
Already the vicunas were near, almost within range of 
our pieces. I held in my hands a double-barrel, loaded 
in both barrels with large-sized buck-shot ; my com- 
panion's weapon was a long Spanish rifle. 

' I received his instructions in a whisper. I was not 
to shoot until he had fired. Both were to aim at the 
leader. About this he was particular, and I promised 

' The unconscious herd drew near. The leader, with 
the long white silky hair hanging from his breast, was in 
the advance, and upon him the eyes of both of us were 
fixed. I could observe his glistening orbs, and his 
attitude of pride, as he turned at intervals to beckon his 
followers on. 

' " I hope he has got the worms," muttered my com- 
panion ; " if he has, he'll come to rub his hide upon the 

' Some such intention was no doubt guiding the 
vicuna, for at that moment it stretched forth its neck, 
and trotted a ic^w paces towards us. It suddenly halted. 
The wind was in our favour, else we should have been 
scented long ago. But we were suspected. The creature 
halted, threw up its head, struck the ground with its 
hoof, and uttered a strange cry, somewhat resembling 
the whistling of a deer. The echo of that cry was the 

Hunting the Vienna 143 

ring of my companion's rifle, and I saw the vicuna leap 
up and fall dead upon the plain. 

' I expected the others to break off in flight, and was 
about to fire at them though they were still at long range. 
My companion prevented me. 

' " Hold ! " he whispered, " you'll have a better chance 
— see there ! — now, if you like, sefior ! " 

'To my surprise, the herd, instead of attempting to 
escape, came trotting up to where the leader lay, and 
commenced running around at intervals, stooping over 
the body, and uttering plaintive cries. 

' It was a touching sight, but the hunter is without pity 
for what he deems his lawful game. In an instant I had 
pulled both triggers, and both barrels had sent forth their 
united and deadly showers. 

' Deadly indeed — when the smoke blew aside, nearly 
half of the herd were seen lying quiet or kicking on the 

' The rest remained as before ! another ring of the long 
rifle, and another fell — another double detonation of the 
heavy deer gun, and several came to the ground ; and so 
continued the alternate fire of bullets and shot, until the 
whole herd were strewn dead and dying upon the 
ground ! 

' Our work was done — a great day's work for my 
companion, who would realise nearly a hundred dollars 
for the produce of his day's sport. 

* This, however, he assured me, was a very unusual 
piece of good luck. Often for days and even weeks, he 
would range the mountains without killing a single head 
— either vicuna or guanaco, and only twice before had 
he succeeded in thus making a battue of a whole herd. 
Once he had approached a flock of vicunas disguised in 
the skin of a guanaco, and killed most of them before 
they thought of retreating. 

' It was necessary for us to return to the hut for our 
horses in order to carry home the game, and this required 
several journeys to be made. To keep off the wolves 
and condors my companion made use of a very simple 
expedient, which I believe is often used in the North — 

144 The Hunters' Feast 

among your prairie trappers here. Several bladders 
were taken from the vicunas and inflated. They were 
then tied upon poles of maguey, and set upright over the 
carcasses, so as to dangle and dance about in the wind. 
Cunning as is the Andes wolf this "scare" is sufficient 
to keep him off, as well as his ravenous associate, the 

* It was quite night when we reached the Indian hut 
with our last load. Both of us were wearied and hungry, 
but a fresh vicuna cutlet, washed down by the Catalan, 
and followed by a cigarette, made us forget our fatigues. 
My host was more than satisfied with his day's work, 
and promised me a guanaco hunt for the morrow.' 



'Well, upon the morrow,' continued the Englishman, 
' we had our guanaco hunt, and killed several of the herd 
we had seen on the previous day. There was nothing 
particular in regard to our mode of hunting — farther than 
to use all our cunning in getting within shot, and then 
letting fly at them, 

' It is not so easy getting near the guanaco. He is 
among the shyest game I have ever hunted, and his 
position is usually so far above that of the hunter, that he 
commands at all times a view of the movements of the 
latter. The over-hanging rocks, however, help one a 
little, and by diligent creeping he is sometimes ap- 
proached. It requires a dead shot to bring him down, 
for, if only wounded, he will scale the cliffs, and make off 
— perhaps to die in some inaccessable haunt. 

' While sojourning with my hunter-friend, I heard of a 
singular method practised by the Indians, of capturing 
the vicuna in large numbers. This was called the 
" chacu." 

' Of course I became very desirous of witnessing a 
" chacu," and the hunter promised to gratify me. It was 
now the season of the year for such expeditions, and one 
was to come off in a few days. It was the annual hunt 
got up by the tribe to which my host belonged ; and, of 
course, he, as a practised and professional hunter, was to 
bear a distinguished part in the ceremony. 

'The day before the expedition was to set out, we 
repaired to the village of the tribe — a collection of rude 
huts, straggling along the bottom of one of the deep clefts 
or valleys of the Cordilleras. This village lay several 
thousand feet below the level of the Puna plains, and was 

145 K 

146 The Hunters' Feast 

therefore in a much warmer climate. In fact the sugar- 
cane and yucca plant {Jatropha viainhot) were both seen 
growing in the gardens of the villagers, and Indian corn 
flourished in the fields. 

'The inhabitants were "Indies mansos" (civilised 
Indians). They attended part of the year to agriculture, 
although the greater part of it was spent in idleness, 
amusements, or hunting. They had been converted — 
that is nominally — to Christianity ; and a Church with 
its cross was a prominent feature of the village. 

' The cur6, or priest, was the only white man resident in 
the place, and he was white only by comparison. Though 
of pure Spanish blood, he would have passed for a 
" coloured old gentleman " in any part of Europe or the 

' My companion introduced me to the padre, and I was 
at once received upon terms of intimacy. To mysurprise 
I learnt that he was to accompany the chacu — in fact to 
take a leading part in it. He seemed to be as much in- 
terested in the success of the hunt as any of them — more 
so, perhaps, and with good reason too. I afterwards 
learnt why. The produce of the annual hunt was part of 
the padre's income. By an established law, the skins of 
the vicunas were the property of the church, and these, 
being worth on the spot at least a dollar a-piece, formed 
no despicable tithe. After hearing this I was at no loss 
to understand the padre's enthusiasm about the chacu. 
All the day before he had been bustling about among his 
parishioners, aiding them with his counsel, and assisting 
them in their preparations. I shared the padre's dwelling, 
the best in the village ; his supper too — a stewed fowl, 
killed for the occasion, and rendered fiery hot with " aji," 
or capsicum. This was washed down with " chica," and 
afterwards the padre and I indulged in a cigarette and a 

' He was a genuine specimen of the South-American 
missionary priest ; rather more scrupulous about getting 
his dues than about the moral welfare of his flock ; fat, 
somewhat greasy, fond of a good dinner, a glass of " Yea " 
brandy, and a cigarette. Nevertheless, his rule was 

A Chacu of Vicuiias 147 

patriarchal in a high degree, and he was a favourite with 
the simple people among whom he dwelt. 

* Morning came, and the expedition set forth ; not, 
however, until a grand mass had been celebrated in the 
church, and prayers offered up for the success of the 
hunt. The cavalcade then got under weigh, and 
commenced winding up the rugged path that led toward 
the "Altos," or Puna heights. We travelled in a 
different direction from that in which my companion 
and I had come. 

' The expedition itself was a picturesque affair. There 
were horses, mules, and llamas, men, women, children, 
and dogs ; in fact, almost every living thing in the 
village had turned out. A chacu is no common occasion 
— no one day affair. It was to be an affair of weeks. 
There were rude tents carried along; blankets and 
cooking utensils ; and the presence of the women was 
as necessary as any part of the expedition. Their office 
would be to do the cooking, and keep the camp in order 
as well as to assist in the hunt. 

'Strung out in admirable confusion, we climbed up 
the mountain — a picturesque train — the men swinging 
along in their coloured ponchos of llama wool, and the 
women dressed in bright mantas of " bayeta " (a coarse 
cloth, of native manufacture). I noticed several mules 
and llamas packed with loads of a curious character. 
Some carried large bundles of rags — others were loaded 
with coils of rope — while several were " freighted " with 
short poles, tied in bunches. I had observed these 
cargoes being prepared before leaving the village, and 
could not divine the use of them. That would no 
doubt be explained when we had reached the scene of 
the chacu, and I forbore to trouble my companions with 
any interrogatories, as I had enough to do to guide my 
horse along the slippery path we were travelling. 

* About a mile from the village there was a sudden 
halt. I inquired the cause. 

' " The Jiuarol^ was the reply. 

' I knew the huaro to be the name of a peculiar kind 
of bridge, and I learnt that one was here to be crossed. 

148 The Hunters' Feast 

I rode forward, and found myself in front of the huaro. 
A singular structure it was. I could scarcely believe in 
the practicability of our getting over it. The padre, 
however, assured me it was a good one, and we should 
all be on the other side in a couple of hours I 

' I at first felt inclined to treat this piece of information 
as a joke ; but it proved that the priest was in earnest. 
It was full two hours before we were all crossed with our 
bag and baggage. 

'The huaro was nothing more than a thick rope 
stretched across the chasm, and made fast at both ends. 
On this rope was a strong piece of wood, bent into the 
shape of the letter U, and fastened to a roller which 
rested upon the rope, and moved along it when pulled 
by a cord from either side. There were two cords, or 
ropes, attached to the roller, one leading to each side of 
the chasm, and their object was to drag the passenger 
across : of course, only one of us could be carried over 
at a time. No wonder we were so long in making the 
crossing, when there were over one hundred in all, with 
numerous articles of baggage. 

' I shall never forget the sensations I experienced in 
making the passage of the huaro. I had felt giddy 
enough in going over the " soga " bridges and 
"barbacoas" common throughout Peru, but the 
passage of the huaro is really a gymnastic feat of no 
easy accomplishment. I was first tied, back down- 
wards, with my back resting in the cavity of the bent 
wood ; my legs were then crossed over the main rope — 
the bridge itself — with nothing to hold them there 
farther than my own muscular exertion. With my 
hands I clutched the vertical side of the wooden yoke, 
and was told to keep my head in as upright a position 
as possible. Without farther ado I felt myself jerked 
out until I hung in empty air over a chasm that opened 
at least two hundred feet beneath, and through the 
bottom of which a white torrent was foaming over black 
rocks ! My ankles slipped along the rope, but the 
sensation was so strange, that I felt several times on 
the point of letting them drop off. In that case my 

A Chacii of VicuHas 149 

situation would have been still more painful, as I should 
have depended mainly on my arms for support. Indeed, 
I held on tightly with both hands, as I fancied that the 
cord with which I had been tied to the yoke would 
every minute give way. 

' After a good deal of jerking and hauling, I found 
myself on the opposite side, and once more on my 
feet ! 

' I was almost repaid for the fright I had gone through, 
by seeing the great fat padre pulled over. It was cer- 
tainly a ludicrous sight, and I laughed the more, as I 
fancied the old fellow had taken occasion to laugh at me. 
He took it all in good part, however, telling me that it 
caused him no fear, as he had long been accustomed to 
those kind of bridges. 

' This slow and laborious method of crossing streams 
is not uncommon in many parts of the Andes. It occurs 
in retired and thinly-populated districts, where there is 
no means for building bridges of regular construction. 
Of course, the traveller himself only can be got over by 
the huaro. His horse, mule, or llamas must swim the 
stream, and in many instances these are carried off by 
the rapid current, or dashed against the rocks and 

' The whole cavallada of the expedition got safely 
over, and in a short while we were all en route, once more 
climbing up towards the "altos," I asked my com- 
panion why we could not have got over the stream at 
some other point, and thus have saved the time and 
labour. The answer was, that it would have cost us a 
twenty miles' journey to have reached a point no nearer 
our destination than the other end of the huaro rope ! 
No wonder such pains had been taken to ferry the party 

' We reached the heights late in the evening. The 
hunt would not begin until the next day. 

' That evening was spent in putting up tents, and 
getting everything in order about the camp. The tent 
of the padre was conspicuous — it was the largest, and I 
was invited to share it with him. The horses and other 

150 The Hunters' Feast 

animals were picketted or hoppled upon the plain, which 
was covered with a short brown grass. 

' The air was chill — cold, in fact — we were nearly three 
miles above ocean level. The women and youths em- 
ployed themselves in collecting taquia to make fires. 
There was plenty of this, for the plain where we had 
halted was a pasture of large flocks of llamas and horned 
cattle. It was not there wc expected to fall in with the 
vicunas. A string of "altos," still further on, were their 
favourite haunts. Our first camp was sufficiently con- 
venient to begin the hunt. It would be moved farther on 
when the plains in its neighbourhood had been hunted, 
and the game should grow scarce. 

' Morning arrived, but before daybreak, a large party 
had set off, taking with them the ropes, poles, and 
bundles of rags I have already noticed. The women 
and boys accompanied this party. Their destination 
was a large table plain, contiguous to that on which we 
had encamped. 

' An hour afterwards the rest of the party set forth — 
most of them mounted one way or other. These were 
the real hunters, or "drivers." Along with them went 
the dogs — the whole canine population of the village. 
I should have preferred riding with this party, but the 
padre took me along with himself, promising to guide 
me to a spot where I should get the best view of the 
chacu. He and I rode forward alone. 

'In half an hour we reached the plain where the first 
party had gone. They were all at work as we came 
up — scattered over the plain — and I now saw the use 
that was to be made of the ropes and rags. With them 
a pound, or "corral," was in process of construction. 
Part of it was already finished, and I perceived that it 
was to be of a circular shape. The poles, or stakes, 
were driven into the ground in a curving line at 
the distance of about a rod from each other. When 
thus driven, each stake stood four feet high, and 
from the top of one to the other, ropes were ranged 
and tied, thus making the enclosure complete. 
Along these ropes were knotted the rags and strips 

A Chacii of Vicunas 151 

of cotton, so as to hang nearly to the ground, or flutter 
in the wind ; and this slight semblance of a fence was 
continued over the plain in a circumference of nearly 
three miles in length. One side, for a distance of several 
hundred yards, was left unfinished, and this was the 
entrance to the corral. Of course, this was in the 
direction from which the drove was to come. 

*As soon as the enclosure was ready, those engaged 
upon it withdrew in two parties to the opposite flanks, 
and then deployed off in diverging lines, so as to form a 
sort of funnel, at least two miles in width. In this 
position they remained to await the result of the drive, 
most of them squatting down to rest themselves. 

' Meanwhile the drive was proceeding, although the 
hunters engaged in it were at a great distance — scarcely 
seen from our position. They, too, had gone out in two 
parties, taking opposite directions, and skirting the hills 
that surrounded the plain. Their circuit could not have 
been less than a dozen miles ; and, as soon as fairly 
round, they deployed themselves into a long arc, with 
its concavity towards the rope corral. Then, facing 
inward, the forward movement commenced. Whatever 
animals chanced to be feeding between them and the 
enclosure were almost certain of being driven into it. 

' The padre had led me to an elevated position among 
the rocks. It commanded a view of the rope circle ; but 
we were a long while waiting before the drivers came in 
sight. At length we descried the line of mounted men 
far off upon the plain, and, on closely scrutinising the 
ground between them and us, we could distinguish 
several reddish forms gliding about : these were the 
vicunas. There appeared to be several bands of them, 
as we saw some at different points. They were crossing 
and rccrossing the line of the drive, evidently startled, 
and not knowing in what direction to run. Every now 
and then a herd, led by its old male, could be seen 
shooting in a straight line — then suddenly making a 
halt — and the next minute sweeping off in a contrary 
direction. Their beautiful orange-red flanks, glistening 
in the sun, enabled us to mark them at a great distance. 

152 TJie Htmters' Feast 

' The drivers came nearer and nearer, until we could 
distinguish the forms of the horsemen as they rose over 
the swells of the plain. We could now hear their shouts 
— the winding of their ox-horns, and even the yelping of 
their dogs. But what most gratified my companion was 
to see that several herds of vicunas were bounding 
backwards and forwards in front of the advancing line. 

' " Mira ! " he cried exultingly, " viira ! sefior, one, two, 
three, four — four herds and large ones — ah ! Carranibo ! 
Jesus!" continued he, suddenly changing tone, "mr- 
rambo ! esos malditos guanacos I " (those cursed guanacos). 
I looked as he was pointing. I noticed a small band of 
guanacos springing over the plain. I could easily 
distinguish them from the vicunas by their being larger 
and less graceful in their motions, but more particularly 
by the duller hue of brownish-red. But what was there 
in their presence to draw down the maledictions of the 
padre, which he continued to lavish upon them most 
unsparingly ? I put the question. 

' " Ah ! sefior," he answered with a sigh, " these 
guanacos will spoil all — they will ruin the hunt. 
Caspita ! " 

*" How ? in what manner, mio padre ? " I asked in my 
innocence, thinking that a fine herd of guanacos would 
be inclosed along with their cousins, and that " all were 
fish," &c. 

' " Ah ! " exclaimed the padre, " these guanacos arc 
hereticos — reckless brutes, they pay no regard to the 
ropes — they will break through and let the others escape 
— santissivia virgoi ! what is to be done ? " 

' Nothing could be done except leave things to take 
their course, for in a few minutes the horsemen were 
seen advancing, until their line closed upon the funnel 
formed by the others. The vicunas, in several troops, 
now rushed wildly from side to side, turning sharply as 
they approached the figures of the men and women, and 
running in the opposite direction. There were some 
fifty or sixty in all, and at length they got together in a 
single but confused clump. The guanacos, eight or 
ten in number, became mixed up with them, and after 

A CJmai of Vicufias I53 

several quarterings, the whole flock, led by one that 
thought it had discovered the way of escape, struck off 
into a gallop, and dashed into the inclosure. 

* The hunters, who were a-foot with the women, now 
rushed to the entrance, and in a short while new stakes 
were driven in, ropes tied upon them, rags attached, and 
the circle of thechacu was complete. 

' The mounted hunters at the same time had galloped 
around the outside, and flinging themselves from their 
horses, took their stations at intervals from each other. 
Each now prepared his " bolas," ready to advance and 
commence the work of death, as soon as the corral 
should be fairly surrounded by the women and boys 
who acted as assistants. 

' The hunters now advanced towards the centre, 
swinging their bolas, and shouting to one another to 
direct the attack. The frightened vicunas rushed from 
side to side, everywhere headed by an Indian. Now 
they broke into confused masses and ran in different 
directions — now they united again and swept in graceful 
curves over the plain. Everywhere the bolas whizzed 
through the air, and soon the turf was strewed with forms 
sprawling and kicking. A strange picture was 
presented. Here a hunter stood with the leaden balls 
whirling around his head — there another rushed forward 
upon a vicuna hoppled and falling — a third bent over 
one that was already down, anon he brandished a 
bleeding knife, and then, releasing the thong from the 
limbs of his victim, again swung his bolas in the air, and 
rushed forward in the chase. 

' An incident occurred near the beginning of the melee, 
which was very gratifying to my companion the padre, 
and at once restored the equanimity of his temper. The 
herd of guanacos succeeded in making their escape, and 
without compromising the success of the hunt. This, 
however, was brought about by a skilful manoeuvre on 
the part of my old friend the Puna hunter. These 
animals had somehow or other got separated from the 
vicunas, and dashed off to a distant part of the inclosure. 
Seeing this, the hunter sprang to his horse, and calling 

154 The Hunters' Feast 

his pack of curs after him, leaped over the rope fence 
and dashed forward after the guanacos. He soon got 
directly in their rear, and signalling those who sto od n 
front to separate and let the guanacos pass, he drove 
them out of the inclosure. They went head foremost 
against the ropes, breaking them free from the stakes ; 
but the hunter, galloping up, guarded the opening until 
the ropes and rags were freshly adjusted. 

* The poor vicunas, nearly fifty in number, were 
all killed or captured. When pursued up to the 
" sham-fence " they neither attempted to rush against it 
or leap over, but would wheel suddenly round, and run 
directly in the faces of their pursuers ! 

' The sport became even more interesting when all 
but a few were hors de combat. Then the odd ones that 
remained were each attacked by several hunters at once, 
and the rushing and doubling of the animals — the many 
headings and turnings — the shouts of the spectators — 
the whizzing of the bolas — sometimes two or three of 
these missiles hurled at a single victim — all combined to 
furnish a spectacle to me novel and exciting. 

' About twenty minutes after the animals had entered 
the rope inclosure the last of them was seen to " bite 
the dust,"and the chacu of that day was over. Then came 
the mutual congratulations of the hunters, and the joyous 
mingling of voices. The slain vicunas were collected in 
a heap — the skins stripped off, and the flesh divided 
among the different families who took part in the chacu. 

' The skins, as we have said, fell to the share of the 
"church," that is, to the church's representative — the 
padre, and this was certainly the lion's share of the day's 

' The ropes were now unfastened and coiled — the 
rags once more bundled, and the stakes pulled up and 
collected — all to be used on the morrow in some other 
part of the Puna. The meat was packed on the horses 
and mules, and the hunting party, in a long string, 
proceeded to camp. Then followed a scene of feasting 
and merriment — such as did not fall to the lot of these 
poor people every day in the year. 

A Chacu of Vicunas 155 

* This chacu lasted ten days, during which time I 
remained in the company of my half-savage friends. 
The whole game killed amounted to five hundred and 
odd vicunas, with a score or two guanacos, several tarush, 
or deer of the Andes {Cervus antisensis) and half a dozen 
black bears ( Ursits ornatus). Of course only the vicunas 
were taken in the chacu. The other animals were started 
incidentally, and killed by the hunters either with their 
bolas, or guns, with which a few of them were armed.' 

The 'chacu' of the Andes Indians corresponds to the 
' surround ' of the Indian hunters on the great plains of 
North America. In the latter case, however, buffaloes 
are usually the objects of pursuit, and no fence is 
attempted — the hunters trusting to their horses to keep 
the wild oxen inclosed. The ' pound ' is another mode 
of capturing wild animals practised by several tribes of 
Indians in the Hudson's Bay territory. In this case the 
game is the caribou or reindeer, but no rope fence would 
serve to impound these. A good substantial inclosure 
of branches and trees is necessary, and the construction 
of a ' pound ' is the work of time and labour. I know 
of no animal, except the vicuna itself, that can be 
captured after the manner practised in the ' chacu.' 



We were now travelling among the spurs of the ' Ozark 
hills,' and our road was a more difficult one. The ravines 
were deeper, and as our course obliged us to cross the 
direction in which most of them ran, we were constantly 
climbing or descending the sides of steep ridges. There 
was no road except a faint Indian trail, used by the 
Kansas in their occasional excursions to the borders of 
the settlements. At times we were compelled to cut 
away the underwood, and ply the axe lustily upon some 
huge trunk that had fallen across the path and obstructed 
the passage of our waggon. This rendered our progress 
but slow. 

During such halt most of the party strayed off into 
the woods in search of game. Squirrels were the only 
four-footed creatures found, and enough of these were 
shot to make a good-sized ' pot-pie ' ; and it may be 
here remarked, that no sort of flesh is better for this 
purpose than that of the squirrel. 

The species found in these woods was the large ' cat- 
squirrel ' {Sciuj'us ciiiereiis), one of the noblest of its 
kind. Of course, at that season, amid the plentitude 
of seeds, nuts, and berries, they were as plump as 
partridges. This species is usually in good condition, 
and its flesh the best flavoured of all. In the markets 
of New York they bring three times the price of the 
common grey squirrel. 

As we rode along, the naturalist stated many facts in 
relation to the squirrel tribe, that were new to most of 
us. He said that in North America there were not less 
than twenty species of true squirrels, all of them dwellers 
in the trees, and by including the ' ground ' and * flying ' 


Squirrel Shooting 157 

squirrels {tamtas and pteromys), the number of species 
might be more than forty. Of course there are still 
new species yet undescribed, inhabiting the half-explored 
regions of the western territory. 

The best known of the squirrels is the common 'grey 
squirrel,' as it is in most parts of the United States the 
most plentiful. Indeed it is asserted that some of the 
other species, as the black 'squirrel' {Sciurus niger), 
disappear from districts where the grey squirrels become 
numerous — as the native rat gives place to the fierce 
' Norway.' 

The true fox squirrel {S. vidpinus) differs essentially 
from the ' cat,' which is also known in many States by 
the name of fox squirrel. The former is larger, and 
altogether a more active animal, dashing up to the top 
of a pine-tree in a single run. The cat squirrel, on the 
contrary, is slow and timid among the branches, and 
rarely mounts above the first fork, unless when forced 
higher by the near approach of its enemy. It prefers 
concealing itself behind the trunk, dodging round the 
tree as the hunter advances upon it. It has one 
peculiarity, however, in its mode of escape that often 
saves it, and disappoints its pursuer. Unless very hotly 
pursued by a dog, or other swift enemy, it will not be 
treed until it has reached the tree that contains its nest, 
and, of course, it drops securely into its hole, bidding 
defiance to whatever enemy — unless, indeed, that 
enemy chance to be the pine-martin, which is capable 
of following it even to the bottom of its dark tree- 

Now most of the other squirrels make a temporary 
retreat to the nearest large tree that offers. This is often 
without a hole where they can conceal themselves, and 
they are therefore exposed to the small shot or rifle 
bullet from below. 

It does not always follow, however, that they are 
brought down from their perch. In very heavy bottom 
timber the squirrel often escapes among the high twigs, 
even where there are no leaves to conceal it, nor any hole 
in the tree. Twenty shots, and from good marksmen 

158 The Hunters' Feast 

too, have been fired at a single squirrel in such situa- 
tions, without bringing it to the ground or seriously 
wounding it ! A party of hunters have often retired 
without getting such game, and }'et the squirrel has been 
constantly changing place, and offering itself to be 
sighted in new positions and attitudes ! 

The craft of the squirrel on these occasions is remark- 
able. It stretches its body along the upper part of a 
branch, elongating it in such a manner, that the branch, 
not thicker than the body itself, forms almost a com- 
plete shield against the shot. The head, too, is laid 
close, and the tail no longer erect, but flattened along 
the branch, so as not to betray the whereabouts of the 

Squirrel-shooting is by no means poor sport. It is 
the most common kind practised in the United States, 
because the squirrel is the most common game. In that 
country it takes the place that snipe or partridge-shooting 
holds in England, In my opinion it is a sport superior 
to either of these last, and the game, when killed, is not 
much less in value. Good fat squirrel can be cooked in 
a variety of ways, and many people prefer it to feathered 
game of any kind. It is true the squirrel has a rat-like 
physiognomy, but that is only in the eyes of strangers 
to him. A residence in the backwoods, and a short 
practice in the eating of squirrel pot-pie, soon removes 
any impression of that kind. A hare, as brought upon 
the table-cloth in England, is far more likely to produce 
degoftt — from its very striking likeness to ' puss,' that is 
purring upon the hearth-rug. 

In almost all parts of the United States, a day's 
squirrel-shooting may be had without the necessity of 
making a very long journey. There are still tracts of 
woodland left untouched, where these animals find a 
home. In the Western States a squirrel-hunt may be 
had simply by walking a couple of hundred yards from 
your house, and in some places you may shoot the 
creatures out of the very door. 

To make a successful squirrel-hunt two persons at 
least are necessary. If only one goes out, the squirrel 

Squirrel Shooting 159 

can avoid him simply by Modging' round the trunk, or 
any large limb of the tree. When there are two, one 
remains stationary, while the other makes a circuit, and 
drives the game from the opposite side. It is still 
better when three or four persons make up the party, as 
then the squirrel is assailed on all sides, and can find no 
resting-place, without seeing a black tube levelled upon 
him, and ready to send forth its deadly missile. 

Some hunt the squirrel with shot guns. These are 
chiefly young hands. The old hunter prefers the rifle ; 
and in the hands of practised marksmen this is the 
better weapon. The rifle-bullet, be it ever so small, kills 
the game at once ; whereas a squirrel severely peppered 
with shot will often escape to the tree where its hole is, 
and drop in, often to die of its wounds. No creature can 
be more tenacious of life — not even a cat. When badly 
wounded it will cling to the twigs to its last breath, and 
even after death its claws sometimes retain their hold, 
and its dead body hangs suspended to the branch ! 

The height from which a squirrel will leap to the 
ground without sustaining injury, is one of those marvels 
witnessed by every squirrel-hunter. When a tree in 
which it has taken refuge is found not to afford sufficient 
shelter, and a neighbouring tree is not near enough for 
it to leap to, it then perceives the necessity of returning 
to the ground, to get to some other part of the woods. 
Some species, as the cat squirrel, fearing to take the 
dreadful leap (often nearly a hundred feet), rush down 
by the trunk. Not so the more active squirrels, as the 
common grey kind. These run to the extremity of a 
branch, and spring boldly down in a diagonal direction. 
The hunter — if a stranger to the feat, would expect to 
see the creature crushed or crippled by the fall. No 
danger of that. Even the watchful dog that is waiting 
for such an event, and standing close to the spot, has not 
time to spring upon it, until it is off again like a flying 
bird, and, almost as quick as sight can follow, is seen 
ascending some other tree. 

There is an explanation required about this precipitous 
leap. The squirrel is endowed with the capability of 

i6o The Hunters' Feast 

spreading out its body to a great extent, and this in the 
downward rush it takes care to do — thus breaking its 
fall by the resistance of the air. This alone accounts for 
its not killing itself. 

Nearly all squirrels possess this power, but in different 
degrees. In the flying squirrels it is so strongly 
developed as to enable them to make a flight 
resembling that of the birds themselves. 

The squirrel-hunter is often accompanied by a dog — 
not that the dog ever by any chance catches one of these 
creatures. Of him the squirrel has but little fear, well 
knowing that he cannot climb a tree. The office of the 
dog is of a different kind. It is to ' tree ' the squirrel, 
and, by remaining at the root, point out the particular 
tree to his master. 

The advantage of the dog is obvious. In fact, he is 
almost as necessary as the pointer to the sportsman. 
First, by ranging widely, he beats a greater breadth of 
the forest. Secondly, when a squirrel is seen by him, 
his swiftness enables him to hurry it up some tree not 
its oivn. This second advantage is of the greatest 
importance. When the game has time enough allowed 
it, it either makes to its own tree (with a hole in it of 
course), or selects one of the tallest near the spot. In 
the former case it is impossible, and in the latter difficult, 
to have a fair shot at it. 

If there be no dog, and the hunter trusts to his own 
eyes, he is often unable to find the exact tree which the 
squirrel has climbed, and of course loses it. 

A good squirrel-dog is a useful animal. The breed is 
not important. The best are usually half-bred pointers. 
They should have good sight as well as scent ; should 
range widely, and run fast. When well trained they will 
not take after rabbits, or any other game. They will 
bark only when a squirrel is treed, and remain staunchly 
by the root of the tree. The barking is necessary, 
otherwise the hunter, often separated from them by the 
underwood, would not know when they had succeeded 
in * treeing.' 

The squirrel seems to have little fear of the dog, and 

Squirrel Shooting l6l 

rarely ascends to a great height. It is often seen only 
a few feet above him, jerking its tail about, and apparently 
mocking its savage enemy below. 

The coming up of the hunter changes the scene. The 
squirrel then takes the alarm, and, shooting up, conceals 
itself among the higher branches. 

Taking it all in all, we know none of the smaller class 
of field sports that requires greater skill, and yields more 
real amusement, than hunting the squirrel. 

Our Kentuckian comrade gave us an account of a 
grand squirrel-hunt got up by himself and some neigh- 
bours, which is not an uncommon sort of thing in the 
Western States. The hunters divided themselves into 
two parties of equal numbers, each taking its own 
direction through the woods. A large wager was laid 
upon the result, to be won by that party that could 
bring in the greatest number of squirrels. There were 
six guns on each side, and the numbers obtained at the 
end of the week — for the hunt lasted so long — were 
respectively 5,000 and 4,780 ! Of course the sport came 
off in a tract of country where squirrels were but little 
hunted, and were both tame and plenty. 

Such hunts upon a grand scale are, as already stated, 
not uncommon in some parts of the United States. 
They have another object besides the sport — that of 
thinning off the squirrels for the protection of the 
planter's corn-field. So destructive are these little 
animals to the corn and other grains, that in some States 
there has been at times a bounty granted for killing 
them. In early times such a law existed in Pennsylvania, 
and there is a registry that in one year the sum of 
8,000/. was paid out of the treasury of this bounty- 
money, which at threepence a head — the premium — 
would make 640,000, the number of the squirrels killed 
in that year ! 

The ' migration of the squirrels' is still an unexplained 
fact. It is among the grey squirrels it takes place ; 
hence the name given to that species, Sciurus migratorius. 
There is no regularity about these migrations, and their 
motive is not known. Immense bands of the squirrels 


1 62 The Hunters' Feast 

are observed in a particular neighbourhood, proceeding 
through the woods or across tracts of open ground, all 
in one direction. Nothing stays their course. Narrow 
streams and broad rivers are crossed by them by 
swimming, and many are drowned in the attempt. 

Under ordinary circumstances, these little creatures 
are as much afraid of water as cats, yet when moving 
along their track of migration they plunge boldly into a 
river, without calculating whether they will ever reach 
the other side. When found upon the opposite bank, 
they are often so tired with the effort, that one may 
overtake them with a stick, and thousands are killed in 
this way when a migration has been discovered. 

It is stated that they roll pieces of dry wood, or bark, 
into the water, and, seating themselves on these, are 
wafted across, their tails supplying them with a sail : of 
course this account must be held as apocryphal. 

But the question is, what motive impels them to 
undertake these long and perilous wanderings, from 
which it is thought they never return to their original 
place of abode? It cannot be the search of food, nor 
the desire to change from a colder to a warmer climate. 
The direction of the wanderings forbids us to receive 
either of these as the correct reason. No light has been 
yet thrown upon this curious habit. It would seem as 
if some strange instinct propelled them, but for what 
purpose, and to what end, no one can tell. 



The doctor was the only one not taking part in the 
conversation. Even the rude guides listened. All that 
related to game interested them, even the scientific 
details given by the hunter-naturalist. The doctor had 
ridden on in front of us. Some one remarked that he 
v^^anted water to mix with the contents of his flask, and 
was therefore searching for a stream. Be this as it may, 
he was seen suddenly to jerk his spare horse about, and 
spur back to us, his countenance exhibiting symptoms of 
surprise and alarm. 

' What is it, doctor? ' inquired one. 

* He has seen Indians,' remarked another. 

' A bear — a bear ! ' cried the doctor, panting for 
breath ; ' a grizzly bear ! a terrible-looking creature, I 
assure you.' 

' A bar ! d'you say ? ' demanded Ike, shooting forward 
on his old mare. 

' A bar ! ' cried Redwood, breaking through the bushes 
in pursuit. 

' A bear ! ' shouted the others, all putting spurs to 
their horses, and galloping forward in a body. 

* Where, doctor ? Where ? ' cried several. 
'Yonder,' replied the doctor, 'just by that green tree. 

I saw him go in there — a grizzly, I'm sure.' 

It was this idea that had put the doctor in such affright, 

and caused him to ride back so suddenly. 

' Nonsense, doctor,' said the naturalist, * we are yet far 

to the east of the range of the grizzly bear. It was a 

black bear you saw.' 
' As I live,' replied the doctor, ' it was not black, 


164 The Hunters^ Feast 

anything but that. I should know the black bear. It 
was a light brown colour — almost yellowish.' 

' Oh ! that's no criterion. The black bear is found 
with many varieties of colour. I have seen them of the 
colour you describe. It must be one of them. The 
grizzly is not found so far to the eastward, although it is 
possible we may see them soon ; but not in woods like 

There was no time for farther explanation. We had 
come up to the spot where the bear had been seen ; and 
although an unpractised eye could have detected no 
traces of the animal's presence, old Ike, Redwood, and 
the hunter-naturalist could follow its trail over the bed 
of fallen leaves, almost as fast as they could walk. Both 
the guides had dismounted, and with their bodies 
slightly bent, and leading their horses after them, 
commenced tracking the bear. From Ike's manner one 
would have fancied that he was guided by scent rather 
than by sight. 

The trail led us from our path, and we had followed it 
some hundred yards into the woods. Most of us were 
of the opinion that the creature had never halted after 
seeing the doctor, but had run off to a great distance. 
If left to ourselves we should have given over the 

The trappers, however, knew what they were about. 
They asserted that the bear had gone away slowly — that 
it had made frequent halts — that they discovered ' sign ' 
to lead them to the conclusion that the animal's haunt 
was in the neighbourhood — that its ' nest ' was near. 
We were, therefore, encouraged to proceed. 

All of us rode after the trackers. Jake and Lanty had 
been left with the waggon, with directions to keep on 
their route. After awhile we heard the waggon moving 
along directly in front of us. The road had angled as 
well as the bear's trail, and the two were again con- 

Just at that moment a loud shouting came from the 
direction of the waggon. It was Lanty's voice, and 
Jake's too. 

Treeing a Bear 165 

* Och ! be the Vargin mother ! luck there ! Awch, 
mother o'Moses, Jake, such a baste ! ' 

' Golly, Massa Lanty, it am a bar ! ' 

We all heard this at once. Of course we thought of 
the trail no longer, but made a rush in the direction of 
the voices, causing the branches to fly on every side. 

' Whar's the bar ? ' cried Redwood, who was first up to 
the waggon, * whar did ye see't ? ' 

* Yander he goes ! ' cried Lanty, pointing to a piece of 
heavy timber, beset with an undergrowth of cane, but 
standing almost isolated from the rest of the forest on 
account of the thin open woods that were around it. 

We were too late to catch a glimpse of him, but 
perhaps he would halt in the undergrowth. If so we 
had a chance. 

* Surround, boys, surround ! ' cried the Kentuckian, who 
understood bear-hunting as well as any of the party. 
'Quick, round and head him;' and, at the same time, 
the speaker urged his great horse into a gallop. Several 
others rode off on the opposite side, and in a few seconds 
we had surrounded the cane brake. 

* Is he in it ? ' cried one. 

'Do you track 'im thur, Mark?' cried Ike to his 
comrade from the opposite side. 

' No,' was the reply, ' he haint gone out this away.' 

' Nor hyur,' responded Ike. 

' Nor here,' said the Kentuckian. 

' Nor by here,' added the hunter-naturalist. 

' Belike, then, he's still in the timmer,' said Redwood. 
' Now look out all of yees. Keep your eyes skinned. 
I'll hustle him out o' than' 

'Hold on, Mark, boy,' cried Ike, 'hold on thur. 

D n the varmint ! hyur's his track, paddled like 

a sheep pen. Wagh, his den's hyur — let me rout 

' Very wal, then,' replied the other, ' go ahead, old 
fellow — I'll look to my side — thu'll no bar pass me 
'ithout getting a pill in his guts. Out wi' 'im I ' 

We all sat in our saddles silent and watchful. Ike 
had entered the cane, but not a rustle was heard. A 

1 66 The Hunters^ Feast 

snake could not have passed through it with less noise 
than did the old trapper. 

It was full ten minutes before the slightest sound 
warned of what he was about. Then his voice reached 

' This way, all of you ! The bar's treed.' 

The announcement filled all of us with pleasant 
anticipations. The sport of killing a bear is no every- 
day amusement, and now that the animal was ' treed ' 
we were sure of him. Some dismounted and hitched 
their horses to the branches ; others boldly dashed into 
the cane, hurrying to the spot, with the hope of having 
first shot. 

Why was Ike's rifle not heard if he saw the bear 
treed ? This puzzled some. It was explained when we 
got up. Ike's words were figurative. The bear had 
not taken shelter in a tree, but a hollow log, and, of 
course, Ike had not yet set eyes on him. But there was 
the log, a huge one, some ten or more feet in thickness, 
and there was the hole, with the well-beaten track 
leading into it. It was his den. He was there to a 

How to get him out ? That was the next question. 

Several took their stations, guns in hand, commanding 
the entrance to the hollow. One went back upon the 
log, and pounded it with the butt of his gun. To no 
purpose. Bruin was not such a fool as to walk out and 
be peppered by bullets. 

A long pole was next thrust up the hollow. Nothing 
could be felt. The den was beyond reach. 

Smoking was next tried, but with like success. The 
bear gave no sign of being annoyed with it. The axes 
were now brought from the waggon. It would be a 
tough job — for the log (a sycamore) was sound enough 
except near the heart. There was no help for it, and 
Jake and Lanty went to work as if for a day's rail- 

Redwood and the Kentuckian, both good axemen, 
relieved them, and a deep notch soon began to make its 
appearance on each side of the log. The rest of us kept 

Treeing a Bear 167 

watch near the entrance, hoping the sound of the axe 
might drive out the game. We were disappointed in 
that hope, and for full two hours the chopping continued, 
until the patience and the arms of those that plied the 
axe were nearly tired out. 

It is no trifling matter to lay open a tree ten feet in 
diameter. They had chosen the place for their work 
guided by the long pole. It could not be beyond the 
den, and if upon the near side of it, the pole would then 
be long enough to reach the bear, and either destroy 
him with a knife blade attached to it, or force him out. 
This was our plan, and therefore we were encouraged to 

At length the axes broke through the wood and the 
dark interior lay open. They had cut in the right place, 
for the den of the bear was found directly under, but no 
bear ! Poles were inserted at both openings, but no bear 
could be felt either way. The hollow ran up no farther, 
so after all there was no bear in the log. 

There were some disappointed faces about — and some 
rather rough ejaculations were heard. I might say that 
Ike ' cussed a few,' and that would be no more than the 
truth. The old trapper seemed to be ashamed of being 
so taken in, particularly as he had somewhat exultingly 
announced that the ' bar was treed.' 

' He must have got off before we surrounded,' said 

' Are you sure he came into the timber ? ' asked 
another — 'that fool, Lanty, was so scared, he could 
hardly tell where the animal went' 

' Be me soul ! gintlemen, I saw him go in wid my 
own eyes, Oil swear — ' 

' Cussed queer ! ' spitefully remarked Redwood. 

' D n the bar ! ' ejaculated Ike, ' whur kid the 

varmint a gone? ' 

Where was A ? All eyes were turned to look 

for the hunter-naturalist, as if he could clear up the 
mystery. He was nowhere to be seen. He had not 
been seen for some time ! 

At that moment, the clear sharp ring of a rifle echoed 

1 68 Tlie Hunters' Feast 

in our ears. There was a moment's silence, and the 
next moment a loud * thump ' was heard, as of a heavy 
body falh'ng from a great height to the ground. The 
noise startled even our tired horses, and some of them 
broke their ties and scampered off. 

' This way, gentlemen ! ' said a quiet voice, ' here's 
the bear ! ' 

The voice was A 's ; and we all, without thinking 

of the horses, hurried up to the spot. Sure enough, 
there lay the great brute, a red stream oozing out of a 
bullet-hole in his ribs. 

A pointed to a tree — a huge oak that spread out 

above our heads. 

* There he was, in yonder fork,' said he. * We might 
have saved ourselves a good deal of trouble had we 
been more thoughtful. I suspected he was not in the 
log when the smoke failed to move him. The brute 
was too sagacious to hide there. It is not the first time 
I have known the hunter foiled by such a trick.' 

The eyes of Redwood were turned admiringly on the 
speaker, and even old Ike could not help acknowledging 
his superior hunter-craft. 

'Mister,' he muttered, 'I guess you'd make a darned 
fust-rate mountain-man. He's a gone Injun when you 
look through sights.' 

All of us were examining the huge carcass of the bear 
— one of the largest size. 

' You're sure it's no grizzly ? ' inquired the doctor. 

' No, doctor,' replied the naturalist, ' the grizzly never 
climbs a tree.' 



After some time spent in recovering the horses, we 
lifted the bear into Jake's waggon, and proceeded on our 
journey. It was near evening, however, and we soon 
after halted and formed camp. The bear was skinned 
in a trice — Ike and Redwood performing this operation 
with the dexterity of a pair of butchers ; of course 
* bear-meat ' was the principal dish for supper ; and 
although some may think this rather a savage feast, I 
envy those who are in the way of a bear-ham now. 

Of course for that evening nothing was talked of but 
Bruin, and a good many anecdotes were related about 
the beast. With the exception of the doctor, Jake and 
Lanty, all of us had something to say upon that 
subject, for all the rest had more or less practice in 

The black or 'American bear' {Ursus Americanus) is 
one of the best known of his tribe. It is he that is 
oftenest seen in menageries and zoological gardens, for 
the reason, perhaps, that he is found in great plenty in 
a country of large commercial intercourse with other 
nations. Hence he is more frequently captured and 
exported to all parts. 

Any one at a glance may distinguish him from the 
'brown bear' of Europe, as well as the other bears of 
the Eastern continent — not so much by his colour (for 
he is sometimes brown too), as by his form and the 
regularity and smoothness of his coat. He may be as 
easily distinguished, too, from his congeners of North 
America — of which there are three — the grizzly {U. 
ferox)^ the brown [arctus P), and the ' polar ' ( U. 
maritimus). The hair upon other large bears (the polar 


I/O The Hunters' Feast 

excepted) is what may be termed ' tufty,' and their 
forms are different, being generally more uncouth and 
'chunkier.' The black bear is, in fact, nearer to the 
polar in shape, as well as in the arrangement of his fur, 
than to any other of the tribe. He is much smaller, 
however, rarely exceeding two-thirds the weight of large 
specimens of the latter. 

His colour is usually a deep black all over the body, 
with a patch of rich yellowish-red upon the muzzle, 
where the hair is short and smooth. This ornamental 
patch is sometimes absent, and varieties of the black 
bear are seen of very different colours. Brown ones are 
common in some parts, and others of a cinnamon 
colour, and still others with white markings, but these 
last are rare. They are all of one species, however, the 
assertion of some naturalists to the contrary notwith- 
standing. The proof is, that the black varieties have 
been seen followed by coloured cubs, and vice versa. 

The black bear is omnivorous — feeds upon flesh as 
well as fruit, nuts, and edible roots. Habitually his diet 
is not carnivorous, but he will eat at times either 
carrion or living flesh. We say living flesh, for on 
capturing prey he does not wait to kill it, as most 
carnivorous animals, but tears and destroys it while stijl 
screaming. He may be said to swallow some of his 
food alive ! 

Of honey he is especially fond, and robs the bee-hive 
whenever it is accessible to him. It is not safe from 
him even in the top of a tree, provided the entrance to 
it is large enough to admit his body ; and when it is 
not, he often contrives to make it so by means of his 
sharp claws. He has but little fear of the stings of the 
angry bees. His shaggy coat and thick hide afford him 
ample protection against such puny weapons. It is 
supposed that he spends a good deal of his time ranging 
the forest in search of ' bee-trees.' 

Of course he is a tree-climber — climbs by the 'hug,' 
not by means of his claws, as do animals of the cat 
kind ; and in getting to the ground again descends the 
trunk, stern foremost, as a hod-carrier would come 

The Black Bear of America 171 

down a ladder. In this he again differs from the 

The range of the black bear is extensive — in fact it 
may be said to be colimital with the forest, both in 
North and South America — though in the latter division 
of the continent, another species of large black bear 
exists, the Ursus ornatus. In the northern continent 
the American bear is found in all the wooded parts from 
the Atlantic to the Pacific, but not in the open and 
prairie districts. There the grizzly holds dominion, 
though both of them range together in the wooded 
valleys of the Rocky Mountains. The grizzly, on the 
other hand, is only met with west of the Mississippi, and 
affects the dry desert countries of the uninhabited West. 
The brown bear, supposed to be identical with the Ursus 
arctus of North Europe, is only met with in the wild and 
treeless track known as ' Barren grounds,' which stretch 
across nearly the whole northern part of the continent 
from the last timber to the shores of the Arctic Sea, and 
in this region the black bear is not found. The zone of 
the polar bear joins with that of the brown, and the 
range of the former extends perhaps to the pole itself. 

At the time of the colonisation of America, the area 
of the present United States was the favourite home of 
the black bear. It was a country entirely covered with 
thick forests, and of course a suitable habitat for him. 
Even to this day a considerable number of bears is to 
be found within the limits of the settlements. Scarcely 
a State in which some wild woodlands or mountain 
fastnesses do not afford shelter to a number of bears, 
and to kill one of them is a grand object of the hunter's 
ambition. Along the whole range of the Alleghanies 
black bears are yet found, and it will be long ere they 
are finally extirpated from such haunts. In the Western 
States they are still more common, where they inhabit 
the gloomy forests along the rivers and creek bottoms, 
protected alike by the thick undergrowth and the 
swampy nature of the soil. 

Their den is usually in a hollow tree — sometimes a 
prostrate log, if the latter be large enough, and in such a 

172 The Hunters^ Feast 

position as is not likely to be observed by the passing 
hunter. A cave in the rocks is also their favourite lair, 
when the geological structure of the country offers them 
so secure a retreat. They are safer thus ; for when a 
bear-tree or log has been discovered by either hunter or 
farmer the bear has not much chance of escape. The 
squirrel is safe enough, as his capture will not repay the 
trouble of felling the tree ; but such noble game as a 
bear will repay whole hours of hard work with the axe. 

The black bear lies torpid during several months of 
the winter. The time of his hybernation depends upon 
the latitude of the place and the coldness of the climate. 
As you approach the south this period becomes shorter 
and shorter, until in the tropical forests, where frost is 
unknown, the black bear ranges throughout the year. 

The mode of hunting the black bear does not differ 
from that practised with the fox or wild cat. He is 
usually chased by dogs, and forced into his cave or a tree. 

If the former, he is shot down, or the tree, if hollow, is 
felled. Sometimes smoking brings him out. If he 
escapes to a cave, smoking is also tried ; but if that will 
not succeed in dislodging him, he must be left alone, as 
no dogs will venture to attack him there. 

The hunter ofteh tracks and kills him in the woods 
with a bullet from his rifle. He will not turn upon man 
unless when wounded or brought to bay. Then his 
assault is to be dreaded. Should he grasp the hunter 
between his great forearms, the latter will stand a fair 
chance of being hugged to death. He does not attempt 
to use his teeth like the grizzly bear, but relies upon the 
muscular power of his arms. The nose appears to be 
his tenderest part, and his antagonist, if an old bear- 
hunter, and sufficiently cool, will use every effort to 
strike him there. A blow upon the snout has often 
caused the black bear to let go his hold, and retreat 
terrified ! 

The log trap is sometimes tried with success. This is 
constructed in such a way that the removal of the bait 
operates upon a trigger, and a large heavy log comes 
down on the animal removing it — either crushing it to 

The Black Bear of Amenca 173 

death or holding it fast by pressure. A h*mb is some- 
times only caught ; but this proves sufficient. 

The same kind of trap is used throughout the northern 
regions of America by the fur trappers— particularly the 
sable hunters and trappers of the white weasel {Mustela 
erminea). Of course that for the bear is constructed of 
the heaviest logs, and is of large dimensions. 

Redwood related an adventure that had befallen him 
while trapping the black bear at an earlier period of his 
life. It had nearly cost him his life too, and a slight 
halt in his gait could still be observed, resulting from 
that very adventure. 

We all collected around the blazing logs to listen to 
the trapper's story. 



' Well, then,' began Redwood, ' the thing I'm a-goin' 
to tell you about, happened to me when I war a younker, 
long afore I ever thought I was a-coming out hyar upon 
the parairas. I wan't quite growed at the time, though 
I was a good chunk for my age. 

' It war up thar among the mountains in East 
Tennessee, whar this child war raised, upon the head 
waters of the Tennessee River. 

' I war fond o' huntin' from the time that I war knee 
high to a duck, an' I can jest remember killin' a black 
bar afore I war twelve yeer old. As I growed up, the 
bar had become scacer in them parts, and it wan't every 
day you could scare up such a varmint, but now and 
then one ud turn up. 

' Well, one day as I war poking about the crik bottom 
(for the shanty whar my ole mother lived war not on the 
Tennessee, but on a crik that runs into it), I diskivered 
bar sign. Th^e war tracks o' the bar's paws in the 
mud, an' I follercd them along the water edge for nearly 
a mile — then the trail turned into about as thickety a 
bottom as I ever seed anywhar. It would a baffled a cat 
to crawl through it. 

' After the trail went out from the crik and towards 
the edge o' this thicket, I lost all hopes of follerin' it 
further, as the ground was hard, and covered with 
donicks, and I couldn't make the tracks out no how. 
I had my idea that the bar had tuk the thicket, so I went 
round the edge of it to see if I could find whar he 
had entered. 

' For a long time I couldn't see a spot whar any critter 
as big as a bar could a got in without makin' some sort 


The Trapper Trapped 175 

o* a hole, and then I begun to think the bar had gone 
some other way, either across the crik or futher 
down it. 

' I war a-goin ' to turn back to the water, when I spied 
a big log lyin' half out o' the thicket, with one eend 
buried in the bushes. I noticed that the top of this log 
had a dirty look, as if some animal had tramped about 
on it ; an' on goin' up and squintin' at it a little closter 
I seed that that guess war the right one. 

* I clomb the log, for it war a regular rouster, bigger 
than that 'n we had so much useless trouble with, and 
then I scrammelled along the top o' it in the direction 
of the brush. Thar I seed the very hole whar the 
bar had got into the thicket, and thar war a regular 
beaten path runnin' through the brake as far as I 
could see. 

' I jumped off o' the log, and squeezed myself through 
the bramble. It war a trail easy enough to find, but 
mighty hard to foller, I can tell ye. Thar war thistles 
and cussed stingin' nettles, and briars as thick as my wrist, 
with claws upon them as sharp as fish-hooks. I pushed 
on, howsomever, feelin' quite sartin that sich a well-used 
track must lead to the bar's den, an' I war safe enough 
to find it In coorse I reckoned that the critter had his 
nest in some holler tree, and I could go home for my 
axe, and come back the next morning — if smoking 
failed to git him out. 

' Well, I poked on through the thicket a good three 
hundred yards, sometimes crouching, and sometimes 
creeping on my hands and knees. I war badly 
scratched, I tell you, and now and then I jest thought to 
myself, what would be the consyquince if the bar should 
meet me in that narrow passage. We'd a had a tough 
tussel, I reckon — but I met no bar. 

' At last the brush grew thinner, and jest as I was in 
hopes I might stumble on the bar tree, what shed I see 
afore me but the face o' a rocky bluff, that riz a 
consid'able height over the crik bottom. I began to 
fear that the varmint had a cave, and so, cuss him ! he 
had — a great black gulley in the rocks was right close 

176 The Hunters' Feast 

by, and thar was his den, and no mistake. I could 
easily tell it by the way the clay and stones had been 
pattered over by his paws. 

' Of coorse my tracking for that day war over, and I 
stood by the mouth of the cave not knowin' what to do. 
I didn't feel inclined to go in. 

' After a while I bethought me that the bar mout 
come out, an' I laid myself squat down among the 
bushes facing the cave. I had my gun ready to give 
him a mouthful of lead, as soon as he should show his 
snout outside o' the hole. 

"Twar no go. I guess he had heeard me when I first 
come up, and know'd I war thar. I laid still until 'twar 
so dark I thought I would never find my way back 
agin to the crik ; but, after a good deal of scramblin* 
and creepin' I got out at last, and took my way home. 

' It warn't likely I war a-goin' to give that bar up. I 
war bound to fetch him out o' his boots if it cost me 
a week's hunting. So I returned the next morning to 
the place, and lay all day in front o' the cave. No bar 
appeared, an' I went back home a-cussin'. 

' Next day I come again, but this time I didn't intend 
to stay. I had fetched my axe with me wi' the inten- 
tion of riggin' up a log trap near the mouth o' the 
cave. I had also fetched a jug o' molasses and some 
yeers o' green corn to bait the trap, for I know'd the bar 
war fond o' both. 

' Well, I got upon the spot, an' makin* as leetle 
rumpus as possible, I went to work to build my trap. I 
found some logs on the ground jest the scantlin, and in 
less than an hour I hed the thing rigged an' the trigger 
set. 'Twan't no small lift to get up the big log, but I 
managed it wi' a lever I had made, though it took every 
pound o' strength in my body. If it come down on the 
bar I knew it would hold him. 

'Well, I had all ready except layin' the bait; so I 
crawled in, and was fixin' the green yeers and the 'lasses, 
when, jest at that moment, what shed I hear behind me 
but the "sniff" o' the bar! 

' I turned suddently to see. I had jest got my eye on 

The Trapper Trapped 177 

the critter standin' right in the mouth o' his cave, when 
I feeled myself struck upon the buttocks, and flattened 
down to the airth like a pancake ! 

' At the first stroke I thought somebody had hit me a 
heavy blow from behind, and I wish it had been that. 
It war wusser than that. It war the log had hit me, 
and war now lying with all its weight right acrosst my 
two legs. In my hurry to git round I had sprung the 
trigger, and down corned the infernal log on my hams. 

* At fust I wan't scared, but I war badly hurt. I 
thought it would be all right as soon as I had crawled 
out, and I made an attempt to do so. It was then that 
I become scared in airnest ; for I found that I couldn't 
crawl out. My legs were held in such a way that I 
couldn't move them, and the more I pulled the more I 
hurt them. They were in pain already with the heavy 
weight pressin' upon them, and I couldn't bear to move 
them. No more could I turn myself. I war flat on my 
face, and couldn't slew myself round any way, so as to 
get my hands at the log. I war fairly catched in my 
own trap ! 

' It war jest about then I began to feel scared. Thar 
wan't no settlement in the hul crik bottom but my 
mother's old shanty, an' that were two miles higher up. 
It war as unlikely a thing as could happen that anybody 
would be passing that way. And unless some one did 
I saw no chance of gettin' clar o' the scrape I war in. 
I could do nothin' for myself. 

* I hollered as loud as I could, and that frightened the 
bar into his cave again. I hollered for an hour, but I 
could hear no reply, and then I war still a-bit, and then 
I hollered again, an' kept this up pretty much for the 
hul o' that blessed day. 

' Thar wan't any answer but the echo o' my own shoutin' 
and the v/hoopin' of the owls that flew about over my 
head, and appeared as if they war mockin' me. 

• I had no behopes of any relief comin' from home. 
My ole mother had nobody but myself, and she wan't 
like to miss me, as I'd often stayed out a-huntin' for 
three or four days at a time. The only chance I had, 

178 The Hunters' Feast 

and I knew it too, war that some neighbour might be 
strayin' down the crik, and you may guess what sort o' 
chance that war, when I tell you thar wan't a neighbour 
livin' within less than five mile o' us. If no one come 
by I knew I must lay there till I died o' hunger and 
rotted, or the bar ate me up. 

' Well, night come, and night went. 'Twar about the 
longest night this child remembers. I lay all through 
it, a-sufferin' the pain, and listening to the screechin' 
owls. I could a screeched as loud as any of them if 
that would a-done any good. I heerd now and then 
the snuffin' o' the bar, and I could see thar war two o' 
them. I could see thar big black bodies movin' about 
like shadows, and they appeared to be gettin' less 
afeerd o' me, as they come close at times, and risin' up 
on their hind quarters stood in front o' me like a couple 
o' black devils. 

' I begun to get afeerd they would attack me, and so 
I guess they would a-done, had not a circumstance hap- 
pened that put them out o' the notion. 

' It war jest grey day, when one o' them come so 
clost that I expected to be attacked by him. Now as 
luck would have it, my rifle happened to be lyin' on 
the ground within reach. I grabbed it without saying a 
word, and slewin' up one shoulder as high as I could, 
I was able to sight the bar jest behind the fore leg. 
The brute wan't four feet from the muzzle, and slap into 
him went wad and all, and down he tumbled like a 
felled ox. I seed he war as dead as a buck. 

' Well, badly as I war fixed, I contrived to get loaded 
again, for I knovved that bars will fight for each other 
to the death ; and I thought the other might attack me. 
It wan't to be seen at the time, but shortly after it come 
upon the ground from the direction of the crik. 

' I watched it closely as it shambled up, having my 
rifle ready all the while. When it first set eyes on its 
dead comrade it gave a loud snort, and stopped. It ap- 
peared to be considerably surprised. It only halted a 
short spell, and then, with a loud roar, it run up to the 
carcass, and sniffed at it. 

The Trapper Trapped 1 79 

' I haint the least o' a doubt that in two seconds more 
it would a-jumped me, but I war too quick for it, and 
sent a bullet right plum into one of its eyes, that come 
out again near the back o' its neck. That did the 
business, and I had the satisfaction to see it cowollop 
over nearly on top o' the other'n. 

' Well, I had killed the bars, but what o' that. That 
wouldn't get me from under the log ; and what wi' the 
pain I was sufferin', and the poor prospect o' being 
relieved, I thought I mout as well have let them eat 

' But a man don't die so long as he can help it, I 
b'lieve, and I detarmined to live it out while I could. 
At times I had hopes and shouted, and then I lost hope 
and lay still again. 

'I grew as hungry as a famished wolf. The bars were 
lying right before me, but jest beyond reach, as if to 
tantylise me. I could have ate a collop raw if I could 
a-got hold of it, but how to reach it war the difeeculty. 

' Needcesity the' say is the mother o' invention ; and 
I set myself to invent a bit. Thar war a piece o' rope I 
had brought along to help me wi' the trap, and that I 
got my claws on. 

' I made a noose on one cend o' it, and after about a 
score o' trials I at last flung the noose over the head o' 
one o' the bars, and drew it tight. I then sot to work 
to pull the bar nearer. If that bar's neck wan't well 
stretched I don't know what you'd call stretchin', for I 
tugged at it about an hour afore I could get it within 
reach. I did get it at last, and then with my knife I 
cut out the bar's tongue, and ate it raw. 

' I had satisfied one appetite, but another as bad, if 
not wusser, troubled me. That war thirst — my throat 
war as dry as a corn cob, and whar was the water to come 
from. It grew so bad at last that I thou^^ht I would 
die of it. I drawed the bar nearer me, and cut his 
juglar to see if thar war any relief from that quarter. 
Thar wan't. The blood war froze up thick as liver. 
Not a drop would run. 

' I lay coolin' my tongue on the blade o' my knife an' 

i8o The Hunters' Feast 

chawin' a bullet that I had taken from my pouch. I 
managed to put in the hul of the next day this away, 
now and then shoutin* as loud as I could. Towards the 
evenin' I grew hungry again, and ate a cut out o' the 
cheek o' the bar ; but I thought I would a-choked for 
want o' water. 

' I put in the night the best way I could. I had the 
owls again for company, and some varmint came up 
and smelt at the bars ; but was frightened at my voice, 
and run away again. I suppose it war a fox or wolf, 
or some such thing, and but for me would a-made a 
meal off o' the bar's carcass. 

* I won't trouble you with my reflexshuns all that 
night ; but I can assure ye they war anything but 
pleasant. I thought of my ole mother, who had nobody 
but me, and that helped to keep up my spirits. I 
detarmined to cut away at the bar, and hold out as long 
as possible. 

* As soon as day broke I set up my shoutin' again, 
restin' every fifeteen minutes or so, and then takin' a 
fresh start. About an hour after sun-up, jest as I had 
finished a long spell o' screechin', I thought I heerd a 
voice. I listened a bit with my heart thumpin' against 
my ribs. Thar war no sound ; I yelled louder than 
ever, and then listened. Thar war a voice. 

' " D — n ye ! what are ye hollowin' about ? " cried the 

* I again shouted " Holloa ! " 

' " Who the h — ll's thar?" inquired the voice. 

'"Casey!" I called back, recognising the voice as 
that of a neighbour who lives up the crik ; " for God's 
sake this way." 

'"I'm a-comin'," he replied; "Taint so easy to get 
through hyar— that you, Redwood ? What the h — ll's 
the matter ? D — n this brush ! " 

' I heard my neighbour breakin' his way through the 
thicket, and strange I tell ye all, but true it is, I couldn't 
believe I war goin' to get clar even then until I seed 
Casey standin' in front o' me. 

' Well, of coorse, I was now set free again, but couldn't 

The Trapper Trapped i8i 

put a foot to the ground. Casey carried me home to the 
shanty, whar I lay for well nigh six weeks, afore I could 
go about, and d — n the thing! I hain't got over it 

So ended Redwood's story. 



During our next day's journey we fell in with and killed 
a couple of deer — a young buck and doe. They were the 
first of these animals we had yet seen, and that was 
considered strange, as we had passed through a deer 
country. They were of the species common to all parts 
of the United States' territory — the 'red ' or ' fallow ' deer 
{Cervus Vtrginiaiius). It may be here remarked that 
the common deer of the United States, sometimes called 
'red deer,' is the fallow deer of English parks, that the 
' elk ' of America is the red deer of Europe, and the ' elk ' 
of Europe is the ' moose' of America. Many mistakes 
are made in relation to this family of animals on account 
of these misapplied names. 

In North America there are six well-defined species of 
deer — the moose {C. alces) ; the elk {^Canadensis) ; the 
caribou itarandus) ; the black-tail or ' mule ' deer 
{macrotis); the long-tail ileuairus) ; and the Virginian, or 
fallow deer ( Virginianus). The deer of Louisiana {C. 
nenioralis') is supposed by some to be a different species 
from any of the above ; so also is the ' mazana ' of 
Mexico iC Mexicanus). It is more probable that these 
two kinds are only varieties of the Cervus Virginianus 
— the difference in colour, and other respects, resulting 
from a difference in food, climate, and such like causes. 

It is probable, too, that a small species of deer exists 
in the Russian possessions west of the Rocky Mountains, 
quite distinct from any of the six mentioned above ; but 
so little is yet known of the natural history of these wild 
territories, that this can only be taken as conjecture. It 
may be remarked, also, that of the caribou {C. tarandus) 
there are too marked varieties, that may almost be 


The A^nerican Deet* 183 

regarded in the light of species. One, the larger, is 
known as the ' woodland caribou,' because it inhabits the 
more southern and wooded districts of the Hudson's 
Bay territory ; the other, the ' barren ground caribou,' is 
the * rein deer ' of the Arctic voyagers. 

Of the six well-ascertained species, the last-mentioned 
{C. Virginianiis) has the largest geographical range, and 
is the most generally known. Indeed, when the word 
' deer ' is mentioned, it only is meant. It is the deer of 
the United States. 

The ' black-tails ' and ' long-tails ' are two species that 
may be called new. Though long known to trappers 
and hunters, they have been but lately described by the 
scientific naturalist. Their habitat is the ' far west ' in 
California, Oregon, the high prairies, and the valleys of 
the Rocky Mountains. Up to a late period naturalists 
have had but little to do with these countries. For this 
reason their /«««<? has so long remained comparatively 

The geographical disposition of the other four species is 
curious. Each occupies a latitudinal zone. That of the 
caribou, or rein deer, extends farthest north. It is not 
found within the limits of the United States. 

The zone of the moose overlaps that of the caribou, 
but, on the other side, goes farthest south, as this species 
is met with along the extreme northern parts of the 
United States. 

The elk is next in order. His range 'dovetails ' into 
that of the moose, but the elk roves still farther into the 
temperate regions, being met with almost as far south as 

The fourth, the common deer, embraces in his range 
the temperate and torrid zones of both North and South 
America, while he is not found in higher latitudes than 
the southern frontier of Canada. 

The common deer, therefore, inhabits a greater area 
than any of his congeners, and is altogether the best- 
known animal of his kind. Most persons know him by 
sight. He is the smallest of the American species being 
generally about five feet in length by three in height, 

184 The Hunters' Feast 

and a little more than a 100 lbs. in weight. He is 
exceedingly well formed and graceful ; his horns are 
not so large as those of the stag, but, like his, they are 
annually caducous, falling off in the winter and returning 
in the spring. They are rounded below, but in the 
upper part slightly flattened or palmated. The antlers 
do not rise upward, but protrude forward over the brow 
in a threatening manner. There is no regular rule, 
however, for their shape and 'set,' and their number 
also varies in different individuals. The horns are also 
present only in the male or buck ; the doe is without 
them. They rise from a rough bony-protuberance on 
the forehead, called the 'burr.' In the first year they 
grow in the shape of two short straight spikes ; hence 
the name ' spike bucks ' given to the animals of that 
age. In the second season a small antler appears on 
each horn, and the number increases until the fourth 
year, when they obtain a full head-dress of ' branching 
honours.' The antlers, or, as they are sometimes called, 
' points,' often increase in number with the age of the 
animal, until as many as fifteen make their appearance. 
This, however, is rare. Indeed, the food of the animal 
has much to do with the growth of his horns. In an 
ill-fed specimen they do not grow to such size, nor 
branch so luxuriantly as in a well-fed fat buck. 

We have said that the horns fall annually. This 
takes place in winter — in December and January. They 
are rarely found, however, as they are soon eaten up by 
the"small-gnawing animals. 

The new horns begin to grow as soon as the old ones 
have dropped off. During the spring and summer they 
are covered with a soft velvety membrane, and they are 
then described as being ' in the velvet.' The blood 
circulates freely through this membrane, and it is highly 
sensitive, so that a blow upon the horns at this season 
produces great pain. By the time the 'rutting' season 
commences (in October), the velvet has peeled off, and 
the horns are then in order for battle — and they need be, 
for the battles of the bucks during this period are 
terrible indeed. Frequently their horns get ' locked ' in 

The American Deer 185 

such conflicts, and, being unable to separate them, the 
combatants remain in this situation until both perish by 
hunger, or fall a prey to their natural enemy — the wolf. 
Many pairs of horns have been found in the forest thus 
locked together, and there is not a museum in America 
without this singular souvenir of mutual destruction ! 

The hair of the American deer is thickly set and 
smooth on the surface. In winter it grows longer and 
is of a greyish hue ; the deer is then, according to hunter 
phraseology, ' in the grey.' In the summer a new coat 
is obtained, which is reddish, or calf-coloured. The 
deer is then ' in the red.' Towards the end of August, 
or in autumn, the whole coat has a blue tinge. This is 
called 'in the blue.' At all times the animal is of a 
whitish appearance on the throat and belly and insides 
of the legs. The skin is toughest when ' in the red,' 
thickest ' in the blue,' and thinnest ' in the grey.' In 
the blue it makes the best buckskin, and is, therefore, 
most valuable when obtained in autumn. 

The fawns of this species are beautiful little creatures ; 
they are fawn-coloured, and showered all over with 
white spots which disappear towards the end of their 
first summer, when they gradually get into the winter 

The American deer is a valuable animal. Much of 
the buckskin of commerce is the product of its hides, 
and the horns are put to many uses. Its flesh, besides 
supplying the tables of the wealthy, has been for 
centuries almost the whole sustenance of whole nations 
of Indians. Its skins have furnished them with tents, 
beds, and clothing ; its intestines with bowstrings, ball 
* racquets,' and snow shoes ; and in the chase of this 
creature they have found almost their sole occupation as 
well as amusement. 

With so many enemies, it is a matter of wonder that 
this species has not long been extirpated ; not only has 
man been its constant and persevering destroyer, but it 
has a host of enemies besides, in the cougar, the lynxes, 
the wolverine, and the wolves. 

The last are its worst foes. Hunters state that for 

i86 The Hunters' Feast 

one deer killed by themselves, five fall a prey to the 
wolves. These attack the young and feeble, and soon 
run them down. The old deer can escape from a wolf 
by superior speed ; but in remote districts, where the 
wolves are numerous, they unite in packs of eight or 
ten, and follow the deer as hounds do, and even with a 
somewhat similar howling. They run by the nose, and 
unless the deer can reach water, and thus escape them, 
they will tire it down in the end. 

Frequently the deer, when thus followed in winter, 
makes for the ice, upon which he is soon overtaken by 
his hungry pursuers. 

Notwithstanding all this, the American deer is still 
common in most of the States, and in some of them 
even plentiful. Where the wolves have been thinned oft 
by 'bounty' laws, and the deer protected during the 
breeding season by legislative enactments, as is the case 
in New York, their number is said to be on the increase. 
The markets of all the great cities in America are 
supplied with venison almost as cheap as beef, 
which shows that the deer are yet far from being 

The habits of this creature are well known. It is 
gregarious in its natural habitat. The herd is usually 
led by an old buck, who watches over the safety of the 
others while feeding. When an enemy approaches, this 
sentinel and leader strikes the ground sharply with his 
hoofs, snorts loudly, and emits a shrill whistle ; all the 
while fronting the danger with his horns set forward in 
a threatening manner. So long as he does not attempt 
to run, the others continue to browse with confidence ; 
but the moment their leader starts to fly, all the rest 
follow, each trying to be foremost. 

They are timid upon ordinary occasions, but the 
bucks in the rutting season are bold, and when wounded 
and brought ' to bay,' are not to be approached with 
impunity. They can inflict terrible blows, both with 
their hoofs and antlers ; and hunters who have come too 
near them on such occasions have with difficulty escaped 
being gored to death. 

The American Deer 187 

They are foes to the snake tribe, and kill the most 
venomous serpents without being bitten. The rattle- 
snake hides from their attack. Their mode of destroy- 
ing these creatures is similar to that employed by the 
peccary {dicotyles) : that is, by pouncing down upon 
them with the four hoofs held close together, and thus 
crushing them to death. The hostility of the peccary 
to snakes is easily understood, as no sooner has it killed 
one than it makes a meal of it. With the deer, of 
course, such is not the case, as they are not carnivorous. 
Its emnity to the reptile race can be explained only by 
supposing that it possesses a knowledge of their 
dangerous qualities, and thinks they should therefore 
be got rid of. 

The food of the American deer consists of twigs, 
leaves of trees, and grass. They are fonder of the tree- 
shoots than the grass ; but their favourite morsels are 
the buds and flowers of nymphce, especially those of the 
common pond-lily. To get these, they wade into the 
lakes and rivers like the moose, and, like them, are good 

They love the shady forest better than the open 
ground, and they haunt the neighbourhood of streams. 
These afford them protection, as well as a means of 
quenching thirst. When pursued, their first thought is 
to make for water, in order to elude the pursuer, which 
they often succeed in doing, throwing both dogs and 
wolves off the scent. In summer, they seek the water 
to cool themselves, and get free from flies and 
mosquitoes, that pester them sadly. 

They are fond of salt, and repair in great numbers to 
the salines, or salt springs, that abound in all parts of 
America. At these they lick up quantities of earth 
along with the salt efflorescence, until vast hollows are 
formed in the earth, termed, from this circumstance, salt 
Micks.' The consequence of this 'dirt-eating' is, that 
the excrement of the animal comes forth in hard 
pellets ; and by seeing this, the hunters can always tell 
when they are in the neighbourhood of a ' lick.' 

The does produce in spring — in May or June, accord- 

^88 TJie Hunters^ Feast 

ing to the latitude. They bring forth one, two, and 
very rarely three fawns at a birth. Their attachment 
to their young is proverbial. The mothers treat them 
with the greatest tenderness, and hide them while they 
go to feed. The bleating of the fawn at once recalls the 
mother to its side. The hunter often imitates this with 
success, using either his own voice, or a * call,' made out 
of a cane joint. An anecdote, told by Parry, illustrates 
this maternal fondness : — * The mother, finding her 
young one could not swim as fast as herself, was 
observed to stop repeatedly, so as to allow the fawn 
to come up with her ; and, having landed first, stood 
watching it with trembling anxiety as the boat chased 
it to the shore. She was repeatedly fired at, but re- 
mained immovable, until her offspring landed in safety, 
when they both cantered out of sight.' The deer to 
which Parry refers is the small ' caribou ' ; but a 
similar affection exists between the mother and fawns 
of the common deer. 

The American deer is hunted for its flesh, its hide, 
and ' the sport.' There are many modes of hunting it. 
The simplest and most common is that which is termed 
' still ' hunting. In this the hunter is armed with his 
rifle or deer gun — a heavy fowling-piece — and steals 
forward upon the deer, as he would upon any other 
game. 'Cover' is not so necessary as silence in such a 
hunt. ^ This deer, like some antelopes, is of a 'curious' 
disposition, and will sometimes allow the hunter to 
approach in full view without attempting to run off. 
But the slightest noise, such as the rustling of dry 
leaves, or the snapping of a stick, will alarm him. His 
sense of hearing is extremely acute. His nose, too, is a 
keen one, and he often scents the hunter, and makes off 
long before the latter has got within sight or range. 
It is necessary in 'still' hunting to leave the dog at 
home ; unless, indeed, he be an animal trained to the 

Another species of hunting is ' trailing ' the deer in 
snow. This is done either with dogs or without them. 
The snow must be frozen over, so as to cut the feet of 

The American Deer 189 

the deer, which puts them in such a state of fear and 
pain, that the hunter can easily get within shot. I have 
assisted in killing twelve in a single morning in this 
way ; and that, too, in a district where deer were not 
accounted plentiful. 

The ' drive ' is the most exciting mode of hunting 
deer ; and the one practised by those who hunt for ' the 
sport' This is done with hounds, and the horsemen 
who follow them also carry guns. In fact, there is 
hardly a species of hunting in America in which firearms 
are not used. 

Several individuals are required to make up a ' deer 
drive.' They are generally men who know the ' lay ' of 
the country, with all its ravines and passes. One or 
two only accompany the hounds as ' drivers,' while the 
rest get between the place where the dogs are beating the 
cover and some river towards which it is ' calculated ' 
the startled game will run. They deploy themselves 
into a long line, which sometimes extends for miles 
through the forest. Each, as he arrives at his station, or 
'stand,' as it is called, dismounts, ties his horse in a 
thicket, and takes his stand, ' covering ' himself behind a 
log or tree. The stands are selected with reference to 
the configuration of the ground, or by paths which the 
deer are accustomed to take ; and as soon as all have so 
arranged themselves, the dogs at a distant point are set 
loose, and the ' drive ' begins. 

The * stand men ' remain quiet, with their guns in 
readiness. The barking of the dogs, afar off through 
the woods, usually admonishes them when a deer has 
been ' put up ' ; and they watch with eager expectation, 
each one hoping that the game may come his way. 

Hours are sometimes passed without the hunter either 
seeing or hearing a living thing but himself and his horse ; 
and many a day he returns home from such a ' chase ' 
without having had the slightest glimpse of either buck, 
doe, or fawn. 

This is discouraging ; but at other times he is rewarded 
for his patient watching. A buck comes bounding 
forward, the hounds after him in full cry. At intervals 

190 The Hunters' Feast 

he stops, and throws himself back on his haunches like a 
halted hare. His eyes are protruded, and watching 
backward. His beautiful neck is swollen with fear and 
rage, and his branching antlers tower high in the air. 
Again he springs forward, and approaches the silent 
hunter, who, with a beating heart, holds his piece in the 
attitude of 'ready.' He makes another of his pauses. 
The gun is levelled, the trigger pulled ; the bullet speeds 
forth, and strikes into his broad chest, causing him to leap 
upward in the spasmodic effort of death. 

The excitement of a scene like this rewards the hunter 
for his long and lonely vigil, 

' Torch hunting,' or ' fire hunting,' as it is sometimes 
termed, is another method of capturing the fallow deer. 
It is done by carrying a torch in a very dark night through 
woods where deer are known to frequent. The torch is 
made of pine knots, well dried. They are not tied in 
bunches, as represented by some writers, but carried in a 
vessel of hard metal. A frying-pan with a long handle, 
as already stated, is best for the purpose. 

The 'knots' are kindled within the pan, and, if good 
ones, yield a blaze that will light the woods for a hundred 
yards around. The deer seeing this strange object, and 
impelled by curiosity, approaches within range ; and the 
' glance ' of his e}'es, like two burning coals, betrays him 
to the hunter, who with his deadly rifle ' sights ' between 
the shining orbs and fire. 

While we were on the subject of torch hunting the 
doctor took up the cue, and gave us an account of a torch 
hunt he had made in Tennessee. 

' I will tell you of a " torch hunt," ' said he, ' of which 
pars magna ftii, and which ended with a " catastrope." 
It took place in Tennessee, where I was for a while 
sojourning. I am not much of a hunter, as you all 
know ; but happening to reside in a " settlement," where 
there were some celebrated hunters, and in the neigh- 
bourhood of which was an abundance of game, I was 
getting very fond of it. I had heard, among other things, 
of this " torch hunting," — in fact, had read many interest- 
ing descriptions of it, but J bad never witnessed the sport 

Tlie American Deer 19 1 

myself ; and was therefore eager, above all things, to joni 
in a torch hunt. 

'The opportunity at length offered. A party was 
made up to go hunting, of which I was one. 

' There were six of us in all ; but it was arranged 
that we should separate into three pairs, each taking its 
own torch and a separate course through the woods. In 
each pair one was to carry the light, while the other 
managed the " shooting iron." We were all to meet at 
an appointed rendezvous when the hunt was over. 

* These preliminaries being arranged, and the torches 
made ready, we separated. My partner and I soon 
plunged into the deep forest. 

* The night was dark as pitch — dark nights are the 
best — and when we entered the woods we had to grope 
our way. Of course, we had not yet set fire to our 
torch, as we had not reached the place frequented by 
the deer. 

' My companion was an old hunter, and by right 
should have carried the gun ; but it was arranged 
differently, out of compliment to me — the stranger. He 
held in one hand the huge frying-pan, while in a bag 
over his shoulder was a bushel or more of dry pine- 

' On arriving at the place where it was expected deer 
would be found, we set fire to our torch, and in a few 
moments the blaze threw its glaring circle around us, 
painting with vermilion tints the trunks of the great 

' In this way we proceeded onward, advancing slowly, 
and with as little noise as possible. We talked only in 
whispers, keeping our eyes turned upon all sides at once. 
But we walked and walked, up hill and down hill, for I 
should say, ten miles at the least ; and not a single pair 
of bright orbs answered to our luminary. Not a deer's 
eye reflected the blaze of our torch. 

* We had kept the fire replenished and burning 
vividly to no purpose, until hardly a knot remained in 
the bag. 

' I had grown quite tired in this fruitless search. So 

192 The Hunters^ Feast 

had my companion, and both of us felt chagrin and 
disappointment. We felt this the more keenly as there 
had been a "supper-wager" laid between us and our 
friends, as to what party would kill the greatest number 
of deer, and we fancied once or twice that we heard 
shots far off in the direction the others had gone. We 
were likely to come back empty-handed, while they, no 
doubt, would bring a deer each, perhaps more. 

' We were returning towards the point from which we 
had started, both of us in a most unamiable mood, when 
all at once an object right before us attracted my 
attention, and brought me to a sudden halt. I did not 
wait to ask any questions. A pair of small round circles 
glistened in the darkness like two little discs of fire. Of 
course they were eyes. Of course they were the eyes 
of a deer. 

' I could see no body, for the two luminious objects 
shone as if set in a ground of ebony. But I did not 
stay to scan in what they were set. My piece was up. 
I glanced hastily along the barrel. I sighted between 
the eyes. I pulled the trigger. I fired. 

* As I did so, I fanced that I heard my companion 
shouting to me, but the report hindered me from hearing 
what he said. 

' When the echoes died away, however, his voice 
reached me in a full, clear tone, pronouncing these 
words : — 

' " Tarnation, doctor ! You've shot Squire Robbins's 

' At the same time the bellowing of the bull, mingling 
with his own loud laugh, convinced me that the hunter 
had spoken the truth. 

' He was a good old fellow, and promised to keep 
dark ; but it was necessary to make all right with 
" Squire Robbins." So the affair soon got wind, and my 
torch hunt became, for a time, the standing joke of the 


p. 192. 



As we were now approaching the regions where the 
common fallow deer ceased to be met with, and where 
its place is supplied by two other species, these last 
became the subject of our talk. The species referred to 
are the ' black tails,' and ' long tails ' {Cervus macrotis 
and leiicurus). 

Ike and Redwood were well acquainted with both 
kinds, as they had often trapped beaver in the countries 
where these deer are found ; and they gave us a very 
good account of the habits of these animals, which showed 
that both species were in many respects similar to the 
Cervus Virgmianus. Their form, however, as well as 
their size, colour, and markings, leave no doubt of their 
being specifically distinct not only from the latter, but 
from each other. Indeed, there are two varieties of the 
black tails, differing in some respects, although both have 
the dark hair upon their tail, and the long ears, which so 
much distinguish them from other deer. The great 
length of their ears gives to their heads something of a 
' mulish ' look — hence they are often known among the 
trappers by the name of ' mule deer.' Ike and Redwood 
spoke of them by this name, although they also knew 
them as ' black tails,' and this last is the designation 
most generally used. They receive it on account of the 
colour of the hair upon the upper side of their tail tips, 
which is of a jetty blackness, and is very full and 

The two species have been often confounded with each 
other, though in many respects they are totally unlike. 
The black tails are larger, their legs shorter and their 
bodies more 'chunky,' and altogether of stouter build. 

193 N 

194 The Hunters' Feast 

In running, they bound with all their feet raised at once ; 
while those of the long-tailed species run more like the 
common fallow deer — by trotting a few steps, then giving 
a bound, and trotting as before. 

The ears of the black tails stand up full half the height 
of their antlers, and their hair, of a reddish-brown colour, 
is coarser than the hair of the Cervus Virginianus, and 
more like the coat of the elk {Cervus Canadensis\ Their 
hoofs, too, are shorter and wider, and in this respect there 
is also a similarity to the elk. The flesh of the black 
tails is inferior to that of the fallow deer, while the long- 
tailed kind produces a venison very similar to the latter. 

Both species inhabit woodlands occasionally, but their 
favourite habitat is the prairie, or that species of un- 
dulating country where prairie and forest alternate, 
forming a succession of groves and openings. Both are 
found only in the western half of the continent — that is, 
in the wild regions extending from the Mississippi to 
the Pacific. In longitude, as far east as the Mississippi, 
they are rarely seen ; but as you travel westward, either 
approaching the Rocky Mountains, or beyond these to 
the shores of the Pacific, they are the common deer of 
the country. The black-tailed kind is more southern in 
its range. It is found in the Californias, and the valleys 
of the Rocky Mountains, as far south as Texas, while to 
the north it is met with in Oregon, and on the eastern 
side of the Rocky Mountains, as high as the fifty-fourth 
parallel. The long-tailed species is the most common 
deer of Oregon and the Columbia River, and its range 
also extends east of the Rocky Mountains, though not 
so far as the longitude of the Mississippi. 

The hunter-naturalist, who had some years before 
made a journey to Oregon, and of course had become 
well acquainted with the habits of the Cervus leucurus, 
gave us a full account of them, and related a stirring 
adventure that had befallen him while hunting 'long 
tails ' upon the Columbia. 

' The long-tailed deer,' began he, ' is one of the 
smallest of the deer kind. Its weight rarely exceeds 
lOO lbs. It resembles in form and habits the common 

Deer Hunt in a ^ Dug-OuV 195 

fallow deer, the chief distinction being the tail, which is 
a very conspicuous object. This appendage is often 
found to measure eighteen inches in length ! 

' While running, the tail is held erect, and kept 
constantly switching from side to side, so as to produce 
a singular and somewhat ludicrous effect upon the mind 
of the spectator. 

' The gait of this animal is also peculiar. It first takes 
two ambling steps that resemble a trot, after these it 
makes a long bound, which carries it about twice the 
distance of the steps, and then it trots again. No matter 
how closely pursued, it never alters this mode of 

' Like the fallow deer, it produces spotted fawns, which 
are brought forth in the spring, and change their colour 
to that of the deer itself in the first winter. About the 
month of November they gather into herds, and remain 
together until April, when they separate, the females 
secreting themselves to bring forth their young. 

' The long-tailed deer is often found in wooded 
countries ; though its favourite haunts are not amid the 
heavy timber of the great forests, but in the park-like 
openings that occur in many parts of the Rocky 
Mountain valleys. 

' Sometimes whole tracts of country are met with in 
these regions, whose surface exhibits a pleasing variety 
of woodland and prairie ; sloping hills appear with 
coppices upon their crests and along their sides. Among 
these natural groves may be seen troops of the long- 
tailed deer, browsing along the declivities of the hills, 
and, by their elegant attitudes and graceful movements, 
adding to the beauty of the landscape. 

* Some years ago I had an opportunity of hunting the 
long-tailed deer. I was on my way across the Rocky 
Mountains to Fort Vancouver, when circumstances 
rendered it necessary that I should stop for some days 
at a small trading post on one of the branches of the 
Columbia. I was, in fact, detained, waiting for a party 
of fur-traders with whom I was to travel, and who 
required some time to get their packs in readines?. 

196 The Hunters^ Feast 

' The trading post was a small place, with miserable 
accommodations, having scarcely room enough in its two 
or three wretched log-cabins to lodge half the company 
that happened at the time to claim its hospitality. As 
my business was simply to wait for my travelling 
companions, I was, of course, enniiye almost to death in 
such a place. There was nothing to be seen around but 
packs of beaver, otter, mink, fox, and bear skins ; and 
nothing to be heard but the incessant chattering of 
Canadian voyageurs, in their mixed jargon of French, 
English, and Indian. To make matters still more 
unpleasant, there was very little to eat, and nothing to 
drink but the clear water of the little mountain stream 
upon which the fort was built. 

' The surrounding country, however, was beautiful ; 
and the lovely landscapes that on every side met the eye 
almost compensated for the discomforts of the post. 
The surface of the country was what is termed rolling 
— gentle undulations here and there rising into dorne- 
shaped hills of low elevation. These were crowned with 
copses of shrubby trees, principally of the wild filbert or 
hazel {corylus), with several species of rosa and raspberry 
{rubiis), and bushes of the juneberry {amelanchier), with 
their clusters of purplish - red fruit. The openings 
between were covered with a sward of short gramma 
grass, and the whole landscape presented the appearance 
of a cultivated park ; so that one involuntarily looked 
along the undulating outlines of the hills for some noble 
mansion or lordly castle. 

' It is just in such situations that the fallow deer 
delights to dwell ; and these are the favourite haunts of 
its near congeners, the long tails. I had ascertained this 
from the people at the post ; and the fact that fresh 
venison formed our staple and daily food was proof 
sufficient that some species of deer was to be found in 
the neighbourhood. I was not long, therefore, after my 
arrival, in putting myself in train for a hunt. 

' Unfortunately, the gentlemen of the company were 
too busy to go along with me ; so also were the numerous 
engages ; and T set out, taking only my servant, a bois 

Deer Hunt in a '■ Dug-OuV 197 

bride, or half-breed, who happened, however, to be a good 
guide for such an expedition, as well as a first-rate 

_ ' Setting out, we kept down the stream for some 
distance, walking along its bank. We saw numerous 
deer tracks in the mud, where the animals had gone to 
and from the water. These tracks were almost fresh, 
and many of them, as my servant averred, must have 
been made the previous night by the animals coming 
to drink — a common habit with them, especially in hot 

' But, strange to say, we walked a mile or more with- 
out getting a glimpse of a single deer, or any other sort 
of animal. I was becoming discouraged, when my man 
proposed that we should leave the stream, and proceed 
back among the hills. The deer, he believed, would be 
found there. 

' This was resolved upon ; and we accordingly struck 
out for the high ground. We soon climbed up from the 
river bottom, and threaded our way amidst the fragrant 
shrubbery of amelanchiers and wild roses, cautiously 
scrutinising every new vista that opened before us. 

' We had not gone far before we caught sight of 
several deer ; we could also hear them at intervals, 
behind the copses that surrounded us, the males utter- 
ing a strange whistling sound, similar to that produced 
by blowing into the barrel of a gun, while this was 
occasionally replied to by the goat-like bleat of the 

' Strange to say, however, they were all very shy, and 
notwithstanding much cautious crouching and creeping 
among the bushes, we wandered about for nearly two- 
thirds of the day without getting a shot at any of them. 
^ ' What had made them so wary we could not at the 
time tell, but we afterwards learned that a large party 
of Flathead Indians had gone over the ground only a 
few days before, and had put the deer through a three 
days chase, from which they had not yet recovered. 
Indeed, we saw Indian "sign" all along the route, and 
at one place came upon the head and horns of a fine 

rgS The Hunters' Feast 

buck, which, from some fancy or other of the hunter, 
had been left suspended from the branch of a tree, and 
had thus escaped being stripped by the wolves. 

* At sight of this trophy, my companion appeared to 
be in ecstacies. I could not understand what there was 
in a worthless set of antlers to produce such joyful 
emotions ; but as Blue Dick — such was the soubriquet 
of my servant — was not much given to idle exhibitions 
of feeling, I knew there must be something in it 

* " Now, master," said he, addressing me, " if I had 
something else, I could promise you a shot at the 
long tails, shy as they arc." 

' " Something else ! What do you want? " I inquired. 

* " Something that ought to grow about yar, else I'm 
mightily mistaken in the sign. Let me try down 
yonder," — and Dick pointed to a piece of low swampy 
ground that lay to one side of our course. 

* I assented, and followed him to the place. 

'We had hardly reached the border of the wet 
ground, when an exclamation from my companion 
told me that the " something " he wanted was in sight. 

* " Yonder, master ; the very weed : see yonder." 

' Dick pointed to a tall herbaceous plant that grew 
near the edge of the swamp. Its stem was fully eight 
feet in height, with large lobed leaves, and a wide- 
spreading umbel of pretty white flowers. I knew the 
plant well. It was that which was known in some 
places as masterwort, but more commonly by the name 
of cow parsnip. Its botanical name is Heracleum 
lanatum. I knew that its roots possessed stimulant 
and carminative properties ; but that the plant had 
anything to do with deer hunting, I was ignorant. 

' Dick, however, was better acquainted with its uses in 
that respect ; and his hunter craft soon manifested itself. 

' Drawing his knife from its sheath, he cut one of the 
joints from the stem of the heracleum, about six inches 
in length. This he commenced fashioning somewhat 
after the manner of a pcnn}' trumpet. 

' In a few minutes he had whittled it to the proper 
form and dimensions, after which he put up his knife, 

Deer Hunt in a 'Dug-Out' 199 

and applying the pipe to his h*ps, blew into it. The 
sound produced was so exactly like that which I had 
already heard to proceed from the deer, that I was 
startled by the resemblance. 

' Not having followed his manoeuvres, I fancied for a 
moment that we had got into close proximity with one 
of the long tails. My companion laughed, as he pointed 
triumphantly to his new made "call." 

* " Now, master," said he, " we'll soon ' rub out ' one of 
the long tail bucks." 

' So saying, he took up the antlers, and desired me to 
follow him. 

' We proceeded as before, walking quickly but 
cautiously among the thickets, and around their edges. 
We had gone only a few hundred paces farther, when 
the hollow whistle of a buck sounded in our ears. 

' " Now," muttered Dick, " we have him. Squat down, 
master, under the bush — so." 

' I did as desired, hiding myself under the leafy 
branches ot the wild rose trees. My companion cowered 
down beside me in such an attitude that he himself was 
concealed, while the buck's head and antlers were held 
above the foliage, and visible from several points where 
the ground was open. 

* As soon as we were fairly placed, Dick applied the 
call to his lips, and blew his mimic note several times in 
succession. We heard what appeared to be an echo, 
but it was the response of a rival ; and shortly after 
we could distinguish a hoof-stroke upon the dry turf, 
as if some animal was bounding towards us. 

' Presently appeared a fine buck at an opening between 
two copses, about one hundred paces from the spot 
where we lay. It had halted, thrown back upon its 
flanks until its haunches almost touched the ground, 
while its full large eye glanced over the opening, as if 
searching for some object. 

*At this moment Dick applied the reed to his lips, 
at the same time moving the horns backward and 
forward, in imitation of a buck moving his head in a 
threatening manner. 

200 TJie Hunters' Feast 

' The stranger now perceived what appeared to him 
the branching horns of a rival, hearing, at the same 
time, the well-known challenge. This was not to be 
borne, and rising erect on all-fours, with his brow antlers 
set forward, he accepted the challenge, and came 
bounding forward. 

* At the distance of twenty paces or so, he again 
halted, as if still uncertain of the character of his enemy; 
but that halt was fatal to him, for by Dick's directions 
I had made ready my rifle, and taking sight at his breast, 
I pulled trigger. The result was as my companion had 
predicted, and the buck was " rubbed out." 

' After skinning our game, and hanging the meat out 
of reach of the barking wolves, we proceeded as before ; 
and soon after another buck was slain in a manner very 
similar to that described. 

' This ended our day's hunt, as it was late before Dick 
had bethought him of the decoy ; and taking the best 
parts of both the long tails upon our shoulders, we 
trudged homeward to the post, 

' Part of our road, as we returned, lay along the 
stream, and we saw several deer approaching the water, 
but, cumbered as we were, we failed in getting a shot. 
An idea, however, was suggested to my companion 
that promised us plenty of both sport and venison 
for the next hunt — which was to take place by 

' This idea he communicated to me for my approval. 
I readily gave my consent, as I saw in the proposal the 
chances of enjoying a very rare sport. That sport was 
to be a fire hunt ; but not as usually practised among 
backwoodsmen, by carrying a torch through the woods. 
Our torch was to float upon the water, while we were 
snugly seated beside it ; in other words, we would carry 
our torch in a canoe, and, floating down stream, would 
shoot the deer that happened to be upon the banks 
drinking or cooling their hoofs in the water. I had heard 
of the plan, but had never practised it, although I was 
desirous of so doing. Dick had often killed deer in 
this way, and therefore knew all about it. It was 

Deer Hunt in a '• Diig-OuV 201 

agreed, then, that upon the following night we should 
try the experiment. 

' During the next day, Dick and I proceeded in our 
preparations without saying anything to any one. It 
was our design to keep our night hunt a secret, lest we 
might be unsuccessful, and get laughed at for our pains. 
On the other hand, should we succeed in killing a goodly 
number of long tails, it would be time enough to let it be 
known how we had managed matters. 

* We had little difficulty in keeping our designs to our- 
selves. Every one was busy with his own affairs, and 
took no heed of our manoeuvres. 

' Our chief difficulty lay in procuring a boat ; but for 
the consideration of a few loads of powder, we at length 
borrowed an old canoe that belonged to one of the 
Flathead Indians — a sort of hanger-on of the post. 

' This craft was simply a log of the cotton-wood, rudely 
hollowed out by means of an axe, and slightly rounded 
at the ends to produce the canoe-shape. It was that 
species of water craft popularly known throughout 
Western America as a " dug-out," a phrase which 
explains itself. It was both old and rickety, but after 
an inspection, Blue Dick declared it would do "fust rate." 

* Our next move was to prepare our torch. For this 
we had to make an excursion to the neighbouring hills, 
where we found the very material we wanted — the dry 
knots of the pitch-pine tree. 

' A large segment of birch bark was then sought for 
and obtained, and our implements were complete. 

* At twilight all was ready, and stepping into our 
dug-out, we paddled silently down stream. 

* As soon as we had got out of the neighbourhood of 
the post, we lighted our torch. This was placed in a 
large frying-pan out upon the bow, and was in reality 
rather a fire of pine-knots than a torch. It blazed up 
brightly, throwing a glare over the surface of the stream, 
and reflecting in red light every object upon both banks. 
We, on the other hand, were completely hidden from 
view by means of the birch bark screen, which stood up 
between us and the torch. 

202 The Hunters' Feast 

* As soon as we were fairly under way, I yielded up 
the paddle to Dick, who now assigned to himself the 
double office of guiding the dug-out and keeping the 
torch trimmed. 1 was to look to the shooting ; so, 
placing my trusty rifle across my thighs, I sat alternately 
scanning both banks as we glided along. 

' I shall never forget the romantic effect which was 
produced upon my mind during that wild excursion. 
The scenery of the river upon which we had launched 
our craft was at all times of a picturesque character : 
under the blaze of the pine-wood — its trees and rocks 
tinted with a reddish hue, while the rippling flood below 
ran like molten gold — the effect was heightened to a 
degree of sublimity which could not have failed to 
impress the dullest imagination. It was the autumn 
season, too, and the foliage, which had not yet 
commenced falling, had assumed those rich varied tints 
so characteristic of the American sylva — various hues of 
green and golden, and yellow and deep red were 
exhibited upon the luxuriant frondage that lined the 
banks of the stream, and here and there drooped like 
embroidered curtains down to the water's edge. It was 
a scene of that wild beauty, that picturesque sublimity, 
which carries one to the contemplation of its Creator. 

' " Yonder ! " muttered a voice, that roused me from 
my reverie. It was Dick who spoke ; and in the dark 
shadow of the birch bark I could see one of his arms 
extended, and pointing to the right bank. 

' My eyes followed the direction indicated ; they soon 
rested upon two small objects, that from the darker 
back-ground of the foliage appeared bright and luminous. 
These objects were round, and close to each other ; and 
at a glance I knew them to be the eyes of some animal, 
reflecting the light of our torch, 

' My companion whispered me that they were the eyes 
of a deer. I took sight with my rifle, aiming as nearly as 
I could midway between the luminous spots. I pulled 
trigger, and my true piece cracked like a whip. 

' The report was not loud enough to drown the noises 
that came back from the shore. There was a rustling 

Deer Hunt in a ^ Dug-OuV 203 

of leaves, followed by a plunge, as of some body falling 
in the water. 

' Dick turned the head of the dug-out, and paddled her 
up to the bank. The torch, blazing brightly, lit up the 
scene ahead of us, and our eyes were gratified by the 
sight of a fine buck, that had fallen dead into the river. 
He was about being drawn into the eddy of the current, 
but Dick prevented this, and, seizing him by the antlers, 
soon deposited him safely in the bottom of the dug-out. 

' Our craft was once more headed down stream, and 
we scrutinised every winding of the banks in search of 
another pair of gleaming eyes. In less than half an hour 
these appeared, and we succeeded in killing a second 
long tail — a doe — and dragged her also into the boat. 

' Shortly after, a third was knocked over, which we 
found standing out in the river upon a small point of 
sand. This proved to be a young spike buck, his horns 
not having as yet branched off into antlers. 

' About a quarter of a mile further down, a fourth 
deer was shot at, and missed, the dug-out having grazed 
suddenly against a rock just as I was pulling trigger, 
thus rendering my aim unsteady. 

* I need hardly say that this sport was extremely 
exciting ; and we had got many miles from the post, 
without thinking either of the distance or the fact that 
we should be under the disagreeable necessity of 
paddling the old Flathead's canoe every inch of the way 
back again. Down stream it was all plain sailing ; and 
Dick's duty was light enough, as it consisted merely in 
keeping the dug out head foremost in the middle of the 
river. The current ran at the rate of three miles an hour, 
and therefore drifted us along with sufficient rapidity. 

' The first thing that suggested a return to either of us, 
was the fact that our pine-knots had run out : Dick had 
just piled the last of them in the frying-pan. 

' At this moment, a noise sounded in our ears that 
caused us some feelings of alarm ; it was the noise of 
falling water. It was not new to us, for, since leaving the 
post, we had passed the mouths of several small streams 
that debouched into the one upon which we were, in most 

204 TJic Hunters' Feast 

cases over a jumble of rocks, thus forming a series of 
noisy rapids. But that which we now heard was directly 
ahead of us, and must, thought we, be a rapid or fall of 
the stream itself; moreover, it sounded louder than any 
we had hitherto passed. 

' We lost little time in conjectures. The first impulse 
of my companion, upon catching the sound, was to stop 
the progress of the dug-out, which in a few seconds he 
succeeded in doing ; but by this time our torch had 
shown us that there was a sharp turning in the river, 
with a long reach of smooth water below. The cascade, 
therefore, could not be in our stream, but in some 
tributary that fell into it near the bend. 

' On seeing this, Dick turned his paddle, and permitted 
the dug-out once more to float with the current. 

' The next moment we passed the mouth of a good- 
sized creek, whose waters, having just leaped a fall of 
several feet, ran into the river, covered with white froth 
and bubbles. We could see the fall at a little distance, 
through the branches of the trees ; and as we swept on, 
its foaming sheet reflected the light of our torch like 
shining metal. 

* We had scarcely passed this point, when my 
attention was attracted by a pair of fiery orbs that 
glistened out of some low bushes upon the left bank of 
the river. I saw that they were the eyes of some 
animal, but what kind of animal I could not guess. I 
knew they were not the eyes of a deer. Their peculiar 
scintillation, their lesser size, the wide space between 
them — all convinced me they were not deer's eyes. 
Moreover, they moved at times, as if the head of the 
animal was carried about in irregular circles. This is 
never the case with the eyes of the deer, which cither 
pass hurriedly from point to point, or remain with a 
fixed and steadfast gaze. 

' I knew, therefore, it was no deer, but no matter what 
— it was some wild creature, and all such are alike the 
game of the prairie-hunter. 

'I took aim, and pulled trigger. While doing so, I heard 
the voice of my companion warning me, as I thought, not 

Deer Hunt in a ^ Dug-OuV 205 

to fire. I wondered at this admonition, but it was then 
too late to heed it, for it had been uttered almost 
simultaneously with the report of my rifle. 

' I first looked to the bank, to witness the effect of 
my shot. To my great surprise, the eyes were still 
there, gleaming from the bushes as brightly as ever. 

' Had I missed my aim ? It is true, the voice of my 
companion had somewhat disconcerted me ; but I still 
believed that my bullet must have sped truly, as it had 
been delivered with a good aim. 

' As I turned to Dick for an explanation, a new sound 
fell upon my ears that I explained all, at the same time 
causing me no slight feeling of alarm. It was a sound 
not unlike that sometimes uttered by terrified swine, but 
still louder and more threatening. I knew it well — I 
knew it was the snort of the grizzly bear ! 

' Of all American animals, the grizzly bear is the 
most to be dreaded. Armed or unarmed, man is no 
match for him, and even the courageous hunter of these 
parts shuns the encounter. This was why my companion 
had admonished me not to fire. I thought I had missed : 
it was not so. My bullet had hit and stung the fierce 
brute to madness ; and a quick cracking among the 
bushes was immediately followed by a heavy plunge ; 
the bear was in the water ! 

'"Good heavens, he's after us !" cried Dick in accents 
of alarm, at the same time propelling the dug-out with 
all his might. 

' It proved true enough that the bear was after us, and 
the very first plunge had brought his nose almost up to 
the side of the canoe. However, a few well-directed 
strokes of the paddle set us in quick motion, and we 
were soon gliding rapidly down stream, followed by the 
enraged animal, that every now and then uttered one of 
his fierce snorts. 

' What rendered our situation a terrible one was, that 
we could not now see the bear, nor tell how far 
he might be from us. All to the rear of the canoe was 
of a pitchy darkness, in consequence of the screen of 
birch bark. No object could be distinguished in that 

2o6 The Hunters^ Feast 

direction, and it was only by hearing him that we 
could tell he was still some yards off. The snorts, 
however, were more or less distinct, as heard amid the 
varying roar of the waterfall ; and sometimes they 
seemed as if the snout from which they proceeded was 
close up to our stern. 

' Wc knew that if he once laid his paw upon the 
canoe, wc should either be sunk or compelled to leap 
out and swim for it. We knew, moreover, that such an 
event would be certain death to one of us at least. 

* I need hardly affirm, that my companion used his 
paddle with all the energy of despair. I assisted him as 
much as was in my power with the butt-end of my gun, 
which was now empty. On account of the hurry and 
darkness, I had not attempted to reload it. 

' We had shot down stream for a hundred yards or so, 
and were about congratulating ourselves on the prospect 
of an escape from the bear, w^hen a new object of dread 
presented itself to our terrified imaginations. This 
object was the sound of falling water ; but not as before, 
coming from some tributary stream. No. It was a fall 
of the river upon which we were floating, and evidently 
only a very short distance below us ! 

' We were, in fact, within less than one hundred 
yards of it. Our excitement, in consequence of being 
pursued by the bear, as well as the fact that the sough 
of the cascade above still filled our ears, had prevented 
us from perceiving this new danger until we had 
approached it. 

' A shout of terror and warning from my companion 
seemed the echo of one I had myself uttered. Both of 
us understood the peril of our situation, and both, 
without speaking another word, set about attempting to 
stop the boat. 

' We paddled with all our strength — he with the oar, 
whilst I used the flat butt of my rifle. We had succeeded 
in bringing her to a sort of equilibrium, and were in 
hopes of being able to force her toward the bank, when 
all at once we heard a heavy object strike against the 
stern. At the same moment, the bow rose up into the 

Striking at the hear wnii mv ri.rHi!ED kifi.e. 

P 207- 

Deer Hunt in a ^Dug-Out'' 207 

air, and a number of the burning pine-knots fell back into 
the bottom of the canoe. They still continued to blaze ; 
and their light now falling towards the stern, showed us 
a fearful object. The bear had seized hold of the dug- 
out, and his fierce head and long curving claws were 
visible over the edge ! 

' Although the little craft danced about upon the 
water, and was likely to be turned keel upward, the 
animal showed no intention of relaxing its hold ; but, on 
the contrary, seemed every moment mounting higher 
into the canoe. 

' Our peril was now extreme. We knew it, and the 
knowledge half paralysed us. 

' Both of us started up, and for some moments half 
sat, half crouched, uncertain how to act. Should we use 
the paddles, and get the canoe ashore, it would only be to 
throw ourselves into the jaws of the bear. On the other 
hand, we could not remain as we were, for in a few 
seconds we should be drifted over the falls ; and how 
high these were we knew not. We had never heard of 
them : they might be fifty feet — they might be a hun- 
dred ! High enough, they were, no doubt, to precipitate 
us into eternity. 

' The prospect was appalling, and our thoughts ran 
rapidly. Quick action was required. I could think of 
no other than to lean sternward, and strike at the bear 
with my clubbed rifle, at the same time calling upon my 
companion to paddle for the shore. We preferred, under 
all circumstances, risking the chances of a land encounter 
with our grizzly antagonist. 

' 1 had succeeded in keeping the bear out of the canoe 
by several well-planted blows upon the snout , and Dick 
was equally successful in forcing the dug-out nearer to 
the bank, when a sharp crack reached my ears, followed 
by a terrified cry from my companion. 

* I glanced suddenly round, to ascertain the cause of 
these demonstrations. Dick held in his hands a short 
round stick, which I recognised as the shaft of the paddle. 
The blade had snapped off, and was floating away on the 
surface ! 

2o8 The Hunters' Feast 

* We were now helpless. The manege of the canoe was 
no longer possible. Over the falls she must go ! 

' We thought of leaping out, but it was too late. We 
were almost upon the edge, and the black current that 
bore our craft swiftly along would have carried our 
bodies with like velocity. We could not make a dozen 
strokes before we should be swept to the brink : it was 
too late. 

' We both saw this ; and each knew the feelings of the 
other, for we felt alike. Neither spoke ; but, crouching 
down and holding the gunwales of the canoe, we awaited 
the awful moment. 

' The bear seemed to have some apprehension as well 
as ourselves ; for, instead of continuing his endeavours to 
climb into the canoe, he contented himself with holding 
fast to the stern, evidently under some alarm. 

' The torch still blazed, and the canoe was catching 
fire ; perhaps this it was that alarmed the bear. 

' The last circumstance gave us at the moment but 
little concern ; the greater danger eclipsed the less. We 
had hardly noticed it, when we felt that we were going 
over ! 

' The canoe shot outward as if propelled by some pro- 
jectile force ; then came a loud crash, as though we had 
dropped upon a hard rock. Water, and spray, and froth 
were dashed over our bodies ; and the next moment, to 
our surprise as well as delight, we felt ourselves still 
alive, and seated in the canoe, which was floating gently 
in still smooth water. 

' It was quite dark, for the torch had been extinguished ; 
but even in the darkness we could perceive the bear 
swimming and floundering near the boat. To our great 
satisfaction, we saw him heading for the shore, and 
widening the distance between himself and us with all 
the haste he could make. The unexpected precipitation 
over the falls had cooled his courage, if not his hostility. 

* Dick and I headed the canoe, now half full of water, 
to the opposite bank, which we contrived to reach by 
using the rifle and our hands for paddles. Here we 
made the little vessel fast to a tree, intending to leave it 

Deer Hunt in a '■ Dtig-Oiit^ 209 

there, as we could not by any possibility get it back over 
the fall. Having hung our game out of reach of the 
wolves, we turned our faces up stream, and, after a long 
and wearisome walk, succeeded in getting back to the 

* Next morning, a party went down for the venison, 
with the intention also of carrying the canoe back over 
the fall. The craft, however, was found to be so much 
injured that it would not hang together during the 
portage, and was therefore abandoned. This was no 
pleasant matter to me, for it afterwards cost me a 
considerable sum before I could square with the old 
Flathead for his worthless dug-ouL' 



A 'S adventure ending in a grizzly bear story, drew 

the conversation upon that celebrated animal, and we 
listened to the many curious facts related about it, with 
more than usual interest. 

The grizzly bear {Ursus ferox) is, beyond all question, 
the most formidable of the wild creatures inhabiting the 
continent of America — ^jaguar and cougar not excepted. 
Did he possess the swiftness of foot of either the lion 
or tiger of the Old World, he would be an assailant as 
dangerous as either ; for he is endowed with the strength 
of the former, and quite equals the latter in ferocity. 
Fortunately the horse outruns him ; were it not so, many 
a human victim would be his, for he can easily overtake 
a man on foot. As it is, hundreds of well-authenticated 
stories attest the prowess of this fierce creature. There 
is not a ' mountain-man ' in America who cannot relate 
a string of perilous adventures about the ' grizzly bar ' ; 
and the instances are far from being few, in which 
human life has been sacrificed in conflicts with this 
savage beast. 

The grizzly bear is an animal of large dimensions ; 
specimens have been killed and measured quite equal 
to the largest size of the polar bear, though there is 
much variety in the sizes of different individuals. 
About 500 lbs. might be taken as the average weight. 

In shape, the grizzly bear is a much more compact 
animal than either the black or polar species : his ears 
are larger, his arms stouter, and his aspect fiercer. His 
teeth are sharp and strong ; but that which his enemies 
most dread is the armature of his paws. The paws 
themselves are so large, as frequently to leave in the 


Old Ike and the Grizzly 211 

mud a track of twelve inches in length, by eight in 
breadth ; and from the extremities of these formidable 
fists protrude horn-like claws full six inches long ! Of 
course, we are speaking of individuals of the largest 

These claws are crescent-shaped, and would be still 
longer, but in all cases nearly an inch is worn from their 

The animal digs up the ground in search of marmots, 
burrowing squirrels, and various esculent roots ; and this 
habit accounts for the blunted condition of his claws. 
They are sharp enough, notwithstanding, to peel the 
hide from a horse or buffalo, or to drag the scalp from a 
hunter — a feat which has been performed by grizzly 
bears on more than one occasion. 

The colour of this animal is most generally brownish, 
with white hairs intermixed, giving that greyish or 
grizzled appearance — whence the trivial name, grizzly. 
But although this is the most common colour of the 
species there are many varieties. Some are almost 
v/hite, others yellowish-red, and still others nearly 
black. The season, too, has much to do with the 
colour ; and the pelage is shaggier and longer than 
that of the Ursus Americanus. The eyes are small in 
proportion to the size of the animal, but dark and 

The geographical range of the grizzly bear is exten- 
sive. It is well known that the great chain of the 
Rocky Mountains commences on the shores of the 
Arctic Ocean, and runs southwardly through the North 
American continent. In these mountains, the grizzly 
bear is found, from their northern extremity, at least as 
far as that point where the Rio Grande makes its great 
bend towards the Gulf of Mexico. 

In the United States and Canada, this animal has 
never been seen in a wild state. This is not strange. 
The grizzly bear has no affinity with the forest. Previous 
to the settling of these territories, they were all forest- 
covered. The grizzly is rarely found under heavy timber, 
like his congener the black bear ; and, unlike the latter. 

212 The Hunters' Feast 

he is not a tree-climber. The black bear ' hugs ' himself 
up a tree, and usually destroys his victim by compression. 
The grizzly does not possess this power, so as to enable 
him to ascend a tree -trunk ; and for such a purpose, 
his huge dull claws are worse than useless. His 
favourite haunts are the thickets of Corylus rubus, and 
Amelanchiers, under the shade of which he makes his 
lair, and upon the berries of which he partially subsists. 
He lives much by the banks of streams, hunting among 
the willows, or wanders along the steep and rugged 
bluffs, where scrubby pine and dwarf cedar {Jumperus 
prostrata), with its rooting branches, forms an almost 
impenetrable underwood. In short, the grizzly bear of 
America is to be met with in situations very similar to 
those which are the favourite haunts of the African lion, 
which, after all, is not so much the king of the forest, as 
of the mountain and the open plain. 

The grizzly bear is omnivorous. Fish, flesh, and fowl 
are eaten by him apparently with equal relish. He 
devours frogs, lizards, and other reptiles. 

He is fond of the larvae of insects ; these are often 
found in large quantities adhering to the under sides of 
decayed logs. To get at them, the grizzly bear will roll 
over logs of such size and weight, as would try the 
strength of a yoke of oxen. 

He can ' root ' like a hog, and will often plough up 
acres of prairie in search of the wapatoo and Indian 
turnip. Like the black bear, he is fond of sweets ; and 
the wild-berries, consisting of many species of currant, 
gooseberry, and service berry, are greedily gathered into 
his capacious maw. 

He is too slow of foot to overtake either buffalo, elk, 
or deer, though he sometimes comes upon these creatures 
unawares ; and he will drag the largest buffalo to the 
earth, if he can only get his claws upon it. 

Not unfrequently he robs the panther of his repast, 
and will drive a whole pack of wolves from the carrion 
they have just succeeded in killing. 

Several attempts have been made to raise the young 
grizzlies, but these have all been abortive, the animals 

Old Ike and the Grizzly 213 

proving anything but agreeable pets. As soon as grown 
to a considerable size, their natural ferocity displays 
itself, and their dangerous qualities usually lead to the 
necessity for their destruction. 

For a long time the great polar bear has been the 
most celebrated animal of his kind ; and most of the 
bear adventures have related to him. Many a wondrous 
tale of his prowess and ferocity has been told by the 
whaler and arctic voyager, in which this creature figures 
as the hero. His fame, however, is likely to be eclipsed 
by his hitherto less-known congener — the grizzly. The 
golden lure which has drawn half the world to California, 
has also been the means of bringing this fierce animal 
more into notice ; for the mountain valleys of the Sierra 
Nevada are a favourite range of the species. Besides, 
numerous 'bear scrapes ' have occurred to the migrating 
bands who have crossed the great plains and desert tracts 
that stretch from the Mississippi to the shores of the 
South Sea. Hundreds of stories of this animal, more 
or less true, have of late attained circulation through 
the columns of the press and the pages of the traveller's 
note-book, until the grizzly bear is becoming almost as 
much an object of interest as the elephant, the 
hippopotamus, or the king of beasts himself 

Speaking seriously, he is a dangerous assailant. 
White hunters never attack him unless when mounted 
and well armed, and the Indians consider the killing a 
grizzly bear a feat equal to the scalping of a human foe. 
These never attempt to hunt him, unless when a large 
party is together ; and the hunt is, among some tribes, 
preceded by a ceremonious feast and a bear-dance. 

It is often the lot of the solitary trapper to meet with 
this four-footed enemy, and the encounter is rated as 
equal to that with two hostile Indians. 

Of course, both Redwood and old Ike had met with 
more than one ' bar scrape,' and the latter was induced 
to relate one of his best. 

' Strengers,' began he, ' when you scare up a grizzlj^ 
take my advice, and gie 'im a wide berth — that is, unless 
yur unkimmun well mounted. Ov coorse, efyur critter 

214 The Hunters' Feast 

kin be depended upon, an' thur's no brush to 'tangle 
him, yur safe enuf ; as no grizzly, as ever I seed, kin 
catch up wi' a hoss, whur the ground's open an' clur. 
F'r all that, whur the timmer's clost an' brushy, an' the 
ground o' that sort whur a hoss mout stummel, it are 
allcrs the safest plan to let ole Eph'm slide. I've seed 
a grizzly pull down as good a hoss as ever tracked a 
parairy, whur the critter hed got bothered in a thicket. 
The fellur that straddled him only saved himself by 
hookin' on to the limb o' a tree. 'Twant two minnits 
afore this child kim up — hearin' the rumpus. I hed 
good sight o' the bar, an' sent a bullet — sixty to the 
pound — into the varmint's brain-pan, when he 
immediately cawalloped over. But 'twur too late to 
save the hoss. He wur rubbed out. The bar had half 
skinned him, an' wur tarrin' at his guts ! Wagh ! ' 

Here the trapper unsheathed his clasp-knife, and 
having cut a ' chunk ' from a plug of real ' Jeemes's 
River,' stuck it into his cheek, and proceeded with his 

' 1 reck'n, I've seed a putty consid'able o' the grizzly 
bar in my time. Ef them thur chaps who writes about 
all sorts o' varmint hed seed as much o' the grizzly as I 
hev, they mout a gin a hull book consarnin' the critter. 
Ef I hed a plug o' bacca for every grizzly I've rubbed 
out, it 'ud keep my jaws waggin' for a good twel'month, 
I reck'n. Ye — es, strengers, I've done some bar-killin' — 
I hev that, an' no mistake ! Haint I, Mark ? 

' Wal, I wur a-gwine to tell you ov a sarcumstance 
that happened to this child about two yeern ago. It 
wur upon the Platte, atween Chimbly Rock an' 

' I wur engaged as hunter an' guide to a carryvan o' 
emigrant folks that wur on thur way to Oregon. 

' Ov coorse I allcrs kept a-head o' the carryvan, an' 
picked the place for thur camp. 

' Wal, one arternoon I hed halted whur I seed some 
timmer, which ur a scacc article about Chimbly Rock. 
This, thort I, '11 do for campin'-ground ; so I got down, 
pulled the saddle off o' my ole mar, an' staked the critter 

Old Ike and the Grizzly 215 

upon the best patch o' grass that wur near, intendin' she 
shed hev her gutfull afore the camp cattle kim up to 
bother her. 

* I hed shot a black tail buck, an' after kindlin' a fire, 
I roasted a griskin' o' him, an' ate it. 

' Still thur wan't no sign o' the carryvan, an' arter 
hangin' the buck out o' reach o' the wolves, I tuk up my 
rifle, an' set out to rackynoiter the neighbourhood. 

' My mar bein' some'at jaded, I let her graze away, an' 
went afoot ; an' that, let me tell you, strengers, ar about 
the foolichest thing you kin do upon a parairy. I wan't 
long afore I proved it ; but I'll kum to that by'm by. 

' Wal, I fust clomb a consid'able hill, that gin me a 
view beyont. Thur wur a good-sized parairy layin' torst 
the south an' west. Thur wur no trees 'ceptin' an odd 
cotton-wood hyur an' thur on the hillside. 

* About a mile off I seed a flock of goats — what 
you'd call antelopes, though goats they ur, as sure as 
goats is goats. 

* Thur wan't no kiver near them — not a stick, for the 
parairy wur as bar as yur hand ; so I seed, at a glimp, it 
'ud be no use a-tryin' to approach, unless I tuk some 
plan to decoy the critters. 

' I soon thort o' a dodge, an' went back to camp for 
my blanket, which wur a red Mackinaw. This I knew 
'ud be the very thing to fool the goats with, an' I set out 
torst them. 

' For the fust half a mile or so, I carried the blanket 
under my arm. Then I spread it out, an' walked behind 
it until I wur 'ithin three or four hundred yards o' the 
animals. I kept my eye on 'em through a hole in the 
blanket. They wur a-growin' scary, an' hed begun to 
run about in circles ; so when I seed this, I knew it wur 
time to stop. 

' Wal, I hunkered down, an' still keepin' the blanket 
spread out afore me, I hung it upon a saplin' that I had 
brought from the camp. I then stuck the saplin' 
upright in the ground ; an', mind ye, it wan't so easy to 
do that, for the parairy wur hard friz, an' I hed to dig a 
hole wi' my knife. Howsomdever, I got the thing 

2i6 The Hunters^ Feast 

rigged at last, an' the blanket hangin' up in front kivered 
my karkidge most complete. I hed nothin' more to do 
but wait till the goats shed come 'ithin range o' my 
shootin' iron. 

' Wall, that vvan't long. As ye all know, them goats 
is a mighty curious animal — as curious as weemen is — 
an' arter runnin' backward an' forrard a bit, an' tossin' 
up thur heads, an' sniffin' the air, one o' the fattest, a 
young prong-horn buck, trotted up 'ithin fifty yards o' me. 

' I jest squinted through the sights, an' afore that 
goat hed time to wink twice, I hit him plum atween the 
eyes. Ov coorse he wur throwed in his tracks. 

'Now, you'd a jumped up, an' frightened the rest 
away — that's what you'd a done, strengers. But you see 
I knovvd better. I knovvd that so long's the critters 
didn't see my karkidge, they wan't a gwine to mind the 
crack o' the gun. So I laid still, in behopes to git a 
wheen more o' them. 

'As I hed calc'lated at fust, they didn't run away, an' 
I slipped in my charge as brisk as possible. But jest as 
I wur raisin' to take sight on a doe that hed got near 
enough, the hull gang tuk scare, an' broke off as ef a 
pack of parairy wolves wur arter 'em. 

' I wur clean puzzled at this, for I knowd I hedn't 
done anythin' to frighten 'em, but I wan't long afore I 
diskivered the cause o' thur alarm. Jest then I heerd a 
snift, like the coughin' o' a glandered hoss ; an' turnin' 
suddintly round, I spied the biggest bar it hed ever been 
my luck to set eyes on. He wur comin' direct torst me, 
an' at that minnit wan't over twenty yards from whur I 
lay. I knowd at a glimp he wur a grizzly ! 

' 'Tain't no use to say I wan't skeart ; I wur skeart, 
an' mighty bad skeart, I tell ye. 

'At fust, I thort o' jumpin' to my feet, an' makin' 
tracks ; but a minnit o' reflexshun showed me that 'ud 
be o' little use. Thur wur a half o' mile o' clur parairy 
on every side o' me, an' I knowd the grizzly kucl catch 
up afore I hed made three hundred yards in any 
direction. I knowd, too, that ef I started, the varmint 
'ud be sartin to foller. It wur plain to see the bar 

Old Ike and the Grizzly 217 

meant mischief; I kud tell that from the glint o' his 

' Thur wan't no time to lose in thinkin' about it. The 
brute were still comin' nearer; but I noticed that he vvur 
a-gwine slower an' slower, every now an' agin risin' 
to his hind-feet, clawin' his nose, an' sniffin' the air. 

' I seed that it wur the red blanket that puzzled him ; 
an' seein' this, I crep' closter behind it, an' cached as 
much o' my karkidge as it 'ud kiver. 

'When the bar hed got 'ithin about ten yards o' the 
spot, he kim to a full stop, an' reared up as he hed did 
several times, with his belly full torst me. The sight 
wur too much for this niggur, who never afore had been 
bullied by eyther Injun or bar. 

' 'Twur a beautiful shot, an' I kudn't help tryin' it, ef 
't hed been my last ; so 1 poked my rifle through the 
hole in the blanket, an' sent a bullet atween the 
varmint's ribs. 

' That wur, perhaps, the fooHchest an' wust shot this 
child ever made. Hed I not fired it, the bar mout a 
gone off, feard o' the blanket ; but I did fire, an' my 
narves bein' excited, I made a bad shot. 

' I had ta'en sight for the heart, an' I only hit the 
varmint's shoulder. 

' Ov coorse, the bar bein' now wounded, bekim 
savage, and cared no longer for the blanket. He roared 
out like a bull, tore at the place whur I hed hit him, an' 
then kim on as fast as his four legs 'ud carry him. 

' Things looked squally. I throwed away my emp'y 
gun, an' drawed my bowie, expectin' nothin' else than a 
regular stand-up tussle wi' the bar. I knowd it wur no 
use turnin' tail now ; so I braced myself up for a 
desp'rate fight. 

' But jest as the bar hed got 'ithin ten feet o' me, an 
idee suddintly kim into my head. I hed been to Santa 
F6 among them yaller-hided Mexikins, whur I hed seed 
two or three bull-fights. I hed seed them mattydoors 
fling their red cloaks over a bull's head, jest when you'd 
a thort they wur a-gwine to be gored to pieces on the 
fierce critter's horns. 

21 8 The Hunters' Feast 

' Jest then, I remembered thur trick ; an' afore the 
bar cud close on me, I grabbed the blanket, spreading it 
out as I tuk holt. 

' Strengers, that wur a blanket an' no mistake ! It 
wur as fine a five-point Mackinaw as ever kivered the 
hump-ribs o' a nor'-west trader. I used to wear it 
Mexikin-fashun when it rained : an' in coorse, for that 
purpose, thur wur a hole in the middle to pass the head 

' Wal, jest as the bar sprung at me, I flopped the 
blanket straight in his face. I seed his snout a-passin' 
through the hole, but I seed no more ; for I feeled the 
critter's claws touchin' me, an' I lot go. 

' Now, thunk I, wur my time for a run. The blanket 
mout blin' him a leetle, an' I mout git some start. 

' With this thort, I glid past the animal's rump, an' 
struck out over the parairy. 

' The direction happened to be that that led torst the 
camp, half a mile off ; but thur wur a tree nearer, on the 
side o' the hill. Ef I kud reach that, I knowd I 'ud be 
safe enuf, as the grizzly bar it don't climb. 

' For the fust hundred yards I never looked round ; 
then I only squinted back, runnin' all the while. 

' I kud jest see that the bar appeared to be still a 
tossin' the blanket, and not fur from whur we hed 
parted kumpny. 

' I thort this some'at odd ; but I didn't stay to 
see what it meant till I hed put another hundred 
yards atween us. Then I half turned, an' tuk a good 
look ; an' if you believe me, strengers, the sight I seed 
thur 'ud a made a Mormon larf Although jest one 
minnit afore, I wur putty nigh skeart out o' my seven 
senses, that sight made me larf till I wur like to bring 
on a colic. 

* Thur were the bar wi' his head right athrough the 
blanket. One minnit, he 'ud rear up on his hind-feet, 
an' then the thing hung roun' him like a Mexikin 
greaser. The next minnit, he 'ud be down on all-fours, 
an' tryin' to foller me ; an' then the Mackinaw 'ud trip 
him up, an' over he *ud whammel, and kick to get free — 

Old Ike and the Grizzly 2ig 

all the while routin' like a mad buffalo. Jehosophat ! it 
wur the funniest sight this child ever seed. Wagh ! 

' Wal, I watched the game awhile — only a leetle 
while ; for I knowd that if the bar could git clur o' the 
rag, he mout still overtake me, an' drive me to the tree. 
That I didn't want, eyther, so I tuk to my heels agin' 
and soon reached camp. 

' Thur I saddled my mar, an' then rid back to git my 
gun, an', perhaps, to give ole Eph'm a fresh taste o' lead. 

' When I clomb the hill again, the bar war still out on 
the parairy, an' I cud see that the blanket wur a-hanging 
around 'im. Howsomdever, he wur makin' off torst the 
hills, thinkin', maybe, he'd hed enuf o' my kumpny. 

' I wan't a-gwine to let him off so easy, for the skear 
he hed gin me ; besides, he wur trailin' my Mackinaw 
along wi' 'im. So I galloped to whar my gun lay, an' 
havin' rammed home a ball, I then galluped arter ole 

' I soon overhauled him, an' he turned on me as 
savagerous as ever. But this time, feeling secure on the 
mar's back, my narves wur steadier ; an' I shot the bar 
plum through the skull, which throwed him in his tracks 
wi' the blanket wropped about 'im. 

'But sich a blanket as that wur then — ay, sich a 
blanket ! I never seed sich a blanket ! Thur wan't a 
square foot o' it that wan't torn to raggles. Ah, 
strengers, you don't know what it are to lose a five-point 
Mackinaw ; no, that you don't. Cuss the bar ! ' 



An adventure with ^r'\zz\y bears which had befallen the 
' captain ' was next related. He had been travelling 
with a strange party — the 'scalp-hunters,' — in the 
mountains near Sante F6, when they were overtaken by 
a sudden and heavy fall of snow that rendered farther 
progress impossible. The ' canon,' a deep valley in 
which they had encamped, was difficult to get through 
at any time, but now the path, on account of the deep 
soft snow, was rendered impassable. When morning 
broke, they found themselves fairly ' in the trap.' 

' Above and below, the valley was choked up with 
snow five fathoms deep. Vast fissures — barrancas — 
were filled with the drift ; and it was perilous to attempt 
penetrating in either direction. Two men had already 

* On each side of our carnp rose the walls of the canon, 
almost vertical, to the height of a hundred feet. These 
we might have climbed had the weather been soft, for 
the rock was a trap formation, and offered numerous 
seams and ledges ; but now there was a coating of ice 
and snow upon them that rendered the ascent impossible. 
The ground had been frozen hard before the storm came 
on, although it was now freezing no longer, and the snow 
would not bear our weight. All our efforts to get out of 
the valley proved idle ; and we gave them over, yielding 
ourselves, in a kind of reckless despair, to wait for — we 
scarce knew what. 

' For three days we sat shivering around the fires, now 
and then casting looks of gloomy inquiry around the 
sky. The same dull grey for an answer, mottled with 


A Battle with Grizzly Bears 221 

flakes slanting earthward, for it still continued to snow. 
Not a bright spot cheered the aching eye. 

' The little platform on which we rested — a space of 
two or three acres — was still free from the snow-drift, 
on account of its exposure to the wind. Straggling 
pines, stunted and leafless, grew over its surface, in all 
about fifty or sixty trees. From these we obtained our 
fires ; but what were fires when we had no meat to cook 
upon them ! 

' We were now in the third day without food ! 
Without food, though not absolutely without eating — 
the men had bolted their gun covers and the cat-skin 
flaps of their bullet-pouches, and were now seen — the 
last shift but one — stripping ihQ parjleche from the soles 
of their moccassins ! 

' The women, wrapped in their tilmas, nestled closely 
in the embrace of father, brother, husband, and lover ; 
for all these affections were present. The last string of 
tasajo, hitherto economised for their sake, had been 
parcelled out to them in the morning. That was gone, 
and whence was their next morsel to come ? At long 
intervals, " Ay de mi I Dios de vii alma ! " were heard 
only in low murmurs, as some colder blast swept down the 
caiion. In the faces of those beautiful creatures might be 
read that uncomplaining patience — that high endurance 
— so characteristic of the Hispano-Mexican women. 

' Even the stern men around them bore up with less 
fortitude. Rude oaths were muttered from time to time, 
and teeth ground together, with that strange wild look 
that heralds insanity. Once or twice I fancied that I 
observed a look of still stranger, still wilder expression, 
when the black ring forms around the eye — when the 
muscles twitch and quiver along gaunt, famished jaws — 
when men gaze guilty-like at each other. O God ! it 
was fearful ! The half-robber discipline, voluntary at 
the best, had vanished under the levclling-rod of a 
common suffering, and I trembled to think — 

' " It clars a leetle, out tharawa ! " 

* It was the voice of the trapper, Garey, who had risen 
and stood pointing towards the east. 

222 TJie Hunters' Feast 

' In an instant we were all upon our feet, looking in 
the direction indicated. Sure enough, there was a break 
in the lead-coloured sky — a yellowish streak, that 
widened out as we continued gazing — the flakes fell 
lighter and thinner, and in two hours more it had ceased 
snowing altogether. 

* Half-a-dozen of us, shouldering our rifles, struck 
down the valley. We would make one more attempt 
to trample a road through the drift. It was a vain one. 
The snow was over our heads, and after struggling for 
two hours, we had not gained above two hundred yards. 
Here we caught a glimpse of what lay before us. As 
far as the eye could reach, it rested upon the same deep 
impassable masses. Despair and hunger paralyzed our 
exertions, and, dropping off one by one, we returned to 
the camp. 

' We fell down around the fires in sullen silence, 
Garey continued pacing back and forth, now glancing 
up at the sky, and at times kneeling down, and running 
his hand over the surface of the snow. At length he 
approached the fire, and in his slow, drawling manner, 
remarked — 

* " It's a-gwine to friz, I reckin." 

' " Well ! and if it does ? " asked one of his comrades, 
without caring for an answer to the question. 

' " Wal, an iv it does," repeated the trapper, " we'll 
walk out o' this hyar jug afore sun-up, an' upon a good 
hard trail too." 

' The expression of every face was changed, as if by 
magic. Several leaped to their feet. God(^, the Canadian, 
skilled in snow-craft, ran to a bank, and drawing his 
hand along the combing, shouted back — 

' " Cest vrai ; il gele ; il gele ! " 

* A cold wind soon after set in, and cheered by the 
brightening prospect, we began to think of the fires, 
that, during our late moments of reckless indifference, 
had been almost suffered to burn out. The Delawares, 
seizing their tomahawks, commenced hacking at the 
pines, while others dragged forward the fallen trees, 
lopping off their branches with the keen scalping-knife. 

A Battle with Grizzly Bears 223 

* At this moment a peculiar cry attracted our atten- 
tion, and, looking around, we perceived one of the 
Indians drop suddenly upon his knees, striking the 
ground with his hatchet. 

' " What is it ? what is it ? " shouted several voices, in 
almost as many languages. 

' " Ya^n-yam ! yam-yarn ! " replied the Indian, still 
digging at the frozen ground. 

'"The Injun's right; it's man-root /" said Garey, 
picking up some leaves which the Delaware had chopped 

* I recognised a plant well known to the mountain- 
men — a rare, but wonderful convolvulus, the Iponea 
leptopJiylla. The name of " man-root " is given to it by 
the hunters from the similarity of its root in shape, and 
sometimes in size, to the body of a man. It is esculent, 
and serves to sustain human life. 

* In an instant, half-a-dozen men were upon their 
knees, chipping and hacking the hard clay, but their 
hatchets glinted off as from the surface of a rock. 

'"Look hyar ! " cried Garey, "ye're only spoilin' yer 
tools. Cut down a wheen o' these pine saplins, and 
make a fire over him ! " 

' The hint was instantly followed, and in a few 
minutes a dozen pieces of pine were piled upon the 
spot, and set on fire. 

* We stood around the burning branches with eager 
anticipation. Should the root prove a " full-grown 
man," it would make a supper for our whole party ; and 
with the cheering idea of supper, jokes were ventured 
upon — the first we had heard for some time — the 
hunters tickled with the novelty of unearthing the "old 
man " ready roasted, and speculating whether he would 
prove a " fat old hoss." 

'A hollow crack sounded from above, like the 
breaking of a dead tree. We looked up. A large 
object — an animal — was whirling outward and down- 
ward from a ledge that projected half way up the cliff. 
In an instant it struck the earth, head foremost, with 
a loud "bump," and, bounding to the height of several 

224 The Hunters' Feast 

feet, came back with a somersault on its legs, and stood 

' An involuntary " hurrah ! " broke from the hunters, 
who all recognised, at a glance, the " Carnero cimmaron," 
or "bighorn." He had cleared the precipice at two leaps, 
alighting each time on his huge crescent-shaped horns. 

' For a moment, both parties — hunters and game — 
seemed equally taken by surprise, and stood eyeing each 
other in mute wonder. It was but for a moment. The 
men made a rush for their rifles, and the animal, recover- 
ing from his trance of astonishment, tossed back his 
horns, and bounded across the platform. In a dozen 
springs he had reached the selvedge of the snow, and 
plunged into its yielding bank ; but, at the same instant, 
several rifles cracked, and the white wreath was crimsoned 
behind him. He still kept on, however, leaping and 
breaking through the drift. 

' We struck into his track, and followed with the 
eagerness of hungry wolves. We could tell by the 
numerous ^<9///j- that he was shedding his life-blood, and 
about fifty paces farther on we found him dead. 

' A shout apprized our companions of our success, and 
we had commenced dragging back the prize, when wild 
cries reached us from the platform, — the yells of 
men, the screams of women, mingled with oaths and 
exclamations of terror ! 

' We ran on towards the entrance of the track. On 
reaching it, a sight was before us that caused the stoutest 
to tremble. Hunters, Indians, and women were running 
to and fro in frantic confusion, uttering their varied cries, 
and pointing upward. We looked in that direction — a 
row of fearful objects stood upon the brow of the cliff. 
We knew our enemy at a glance, — the dreaded monsters 
of the mountains — the grizzly bears ! 

' There were five of them — five in sight — there might 
be others in the background. Five were enough to 
destroy our whole party, caged as we were, and weakened 
by famine. 

' They had reached the cliff in chase of the cimmaron, 
and hunger and disappointment were visible in their 

A Battle with Grizzly Bears 225 

horrid aspects. Two of them had already crawled close 
to the scarp, and were pawing over and snuffing the air, 
as if searching for a place to descend. The other three 
reared themselves up on their hams, and commenced 
manoeuvring with their forearms, in a human-like and 
comical pantomime ! 

' We were in no condition to relish this amusement. 
Every man hastened to arm himself, those who had 
emptied their rifles hurriedly reloading them. 

* " For your life don't ! " cried Garey, catching at the 
gun of one of the hunters. 

'The caution came too late : half-a-dozen bullets were 
already whistling upwards. 

* The effect was just what the trapper had anticipated. 
The bears, maddened by the bullets, which had harmed 
them no more than the pricking of as many pins, dropped 
to their all-fours again, and, with fierce growls, com- 
menced descending the cliff. 

' The scene of confusion was now at its height. Several 
of the men, less brave than their comrades, ran off to hide 
themselves in the snow, while others commenced climbing 
the low pine-trees ! 

* " Cach6 the gals 1 " cried Garey. " Hyar, yer darned 
Spanish greasers ! if yer won't fight, hook on to the 
weemen a wheen o' yer, and toat them to the snow. 
Cowardly slinks, — wagh !" 

' " See to them, doctor," I shouted to the German, who, 
I thought, might be best spared from the fight ; and the 
next moment the doctor, assisted by several Mexicans, 
was hurrying the terrified girls towards the spot where 
we had left the cimmaron. 

' Many of us knew that to hide, under the circum- 
stances, would be worse than useless. The fierce but 
sagacious brutes would have discovered us one by one, 
and destroyed us in detail. " They must be met and 
fought I " that was the word ; and we resolved to carry it 
into execution. 

* There were about a dozen of us who " stood up to it " 
— all the Delawares and Shawanoes, with Garey and the 
mountain men. 

526 ■ The Hjiniers' Feast 

'We kept firing at the bears as they ran along the 
ledges in their zig-zag descent, but our rifles were out of 
order, our fingers were numbed with cold, and our nerves 
weakened with hunger. Our bullets drew blood from 
the hideous brutes, yet not a shot proved deadly. It 
only stung them into fiercer rage. 

* It was a fearful moment when the last shot was fired, 
and still not an enemy the less. We flung away the 
guns, and, clutching the hatchets and hunting-knives, 
silently awaited our grizzly foes. 

' We had taken our stand close to the rock. It was 
our design to have the first blow, as the animals, for the 
most part, came stern-foremost down the cliff. In this 
we were disappointed. On reaching a ledge some ten 
feet from the platform, the foremost bear halted, and, 
seeing our position, hesitated to descend. The next 
moment, his companions, maddened with wounds, came 
tumbling down upon the same ledge, and, with fierce 
growls, the five huge bodies were precipitated into our 

' Then came the desperate struggle, which I cannot 
describe, — the shouts of the hunters, the wilder yells of 
our Indian allies, the hoarse worrying of the bears, the 
ringing of tomahawks from skulls like flint, the deep, 
dull " thud " of the stabbing-knife, and now and then a 
groan, as the crescent claw tore up the clinging muscle. 
O God ! it was a fearful scene ! 

' Over the platform bears and men went rolling and 
struggling, in the wild battle of life and death. Through 
the trees, and into the deep drift, staining the snow with 
their mingled blood ! Here, two or three men were 
engaged with a single foe — there, some brave hunter 
stood battling alone. Several were sprawling upon the 
ground. Every moment, the bears were lessening the 
number of their assailants ! 

' I had been struck down at the commencement of 
the struggle. On regaining my feet, I saw the animal 
that had felled me hugging the prostrate body of a 

' It was Gode. I leaned over the bear, clutching its 

A Battle with Grizzly Bears 227 

shaggy skin, I did this to steady myself ; I was weak 
and dizzy ; so were we all. I struck with all my force, 
stabbing the animal on the ribs. 

'Letting go the Frenchman, the bear turned sud- 
denly, and reared upon me. I endeavoured to avoid 
the encounter, and ran backward, fending him off with 
my knife. 

' All at once I came against the snow-drift, and fell 
over on my back. Next moment, the heavy body was 
precipitated upon me, the sharp claws pierced deep into 
my shoulder,— ^ I inhaled the monster's fetid breath ; 
and striking wildly with my right arm, still free, we 
rolled over and over in the snow, 

' I was blinded by the dry drift. I felt myself 
growing weaker and weaker ; it was the loss of blood. 
I shouted — a despairing shout — but it could not have 
been heard at ten paces' distance. Then there was a 
strange hissing sound in my ears, — a bright light 
flashed across my eyes ; a burning object passed over 
my face, scorching the skin ; there was a smell as of 
singeing hair ; I could hear voices, mixed with the roars 
of my adversary ; and all at once the claws were drawn 
out of my flesh, the weight was lifted from my breast, 
and I was alone ! 

' I rose to my feet, and, rubbing the snow out of my 
eyes, looked around. I could see no one. I was in a 
deep hollow made by our struggles, but I was alone ! 

' The snow all around me was dyed to a crimson ; 
but what had become of my terrible antagonist ? Who 
had rescued me from his deadly embrace? 

' I staggered forward to the open ground. Here a 
new scene met my gaze : a strange-looking man was 
running across the platform, with a huge firebrand, — 
the bole of a burning pine-tree, — which he waved in the 
air. He was chasing one of the bears, that, growling 
with rage and pain, was making every effort to reach 
the cliffs. Two others were already half-way up, and 
evidently clambering with great difficuly, as the blood 
dripped back from their wounded flanks, 

' The bear that was pursued soon took to the rocks, 

228 The Hunters^ Feast 

and, urged by the red brand scorching his shaggy hams, 
was soon beyond the reach of his pursuer. The latter 
now made towards a fourth, that was still battling with 
two or three weak antagonists. This one was "routed " 
in a twinkling, and with yells of terror followed his 
comrades up the bluff. The strange man looked 
around for the fifth. It had disappeared. Prostrate, 
wounded men were strewed over the ground, but the 
bear was nowhere to be seen. He had doubtless 
escaped through the snow. 

' I was still wondering who was the hero of the fire- 
brand, and where he had come from. I have said he 
was a strange-looking man. lie was so — and like no 
one of our party that I could think of His head was 
bald, — no, not bald, but naked, — there was not a hair 
upon it, crown or sides, and it glistened in the clear 
light like polished ivory, I was puzzled beyond ex- 
pression, when a man — Garey — who had been felled 
upon the platform by a blow from one of the bears, 
suddenly sprang to his feet, exclaiming — 

' " Go it. Doc ! Three ch)'ars for the doctor ! " 

' To my astonishment, I now recognised the features 
of that individual, the absence of whose brown locks 
had produced such a metamorphosis as, I believe, was 
never effected by means of borrowed hair. 

' " Here's your scalp. Doc," cried Garey, running up 
with the wig; "by the livin' thunder! yer saved us 
all ;" and the hunter seized the German in his wild 

' Wounded men were all around, and commenced 
crawling together. But where was the fifth of the 
bears? Four only had escaped by the cliff. 

' " Yonder he goes ! " cried a voice, as a light spray, 
rising above the snow-wreath, showed that some animal 
was struggling through the drift. 

' Several commenced loading their rifles, intending to 
follow, and, if possible, secure him. The doctor armed 
himself with a fresh pine ; but before these arrange- 
ments were completed, a strange cry came from the 
spot, that caused our blood to run cold again. The 

A Battle with Grizzly Bears 229 

Indians leaped to their feet, and, seizing their toma- 
hawks, rushed to the gap. They knew the meaning of 
that cry — it was the death-yell of their tribe ! 

' They entered the road that we had trampled down 
in the morning, followed by those who had loaded their 
guns. We watched them from the platform with 
anxious expectation, but before they had reached the 
spot, we could see that the "stoor" was slowly settling 
down. It was plain that the struggle had ended. 

' We still stood waiting in breathless silence, and 
watching the floating spray that noted their progress 
through the drift At length they had reached the 
scene of the struggle. There was an ominous stillness, 
that lasted for a moment, and then the Indian's fate was 
announced in the sad, wild note that came wailing up 
the valley. It was the dirge of a Shawano warrior ! 

' They had found their brave comrade dead, with 
his scalping-knife buried in the heart of his terrible 
antagonist ! . . . 

' It was a costly supper, that bear-meat, but, perhaps, 
the sacrifice had saved many lives. We would keep the 
" cimmaron " for to-morrow; next day, the man-root; 
and the next, — what next ? Perhaps — the man ! . . . 

'Fortunately we were not driven to this extremity. 
The frost had again set in, and the surface of the snow, 
previously moistened by the sun and rain soon became 
caked into ice strong enough to bear us, and upon its 
firm crust we escaped out of the perilous pass, and 
gained the warmer region of the plains in safety.' 



In our journey we had kept far enough to the north to 
avoid the difficult route of the Ozork Hills ; and we at 
length encamped upon the Marais de Cygnes, a branch 
of the Osage River. Beyond this we expected to fall in 
with the buffalo, and of course we were full of pleasant 
anticipation. Near the point where we had pitched our 
camp, the banks of the river were marshy, with here 
and there small lakes of stagnant water. In these a 
large number of swans, with wild geese and other aquatic 
birds, were swimming and feeding. 

Of course our guns were put in requisition, and we 
succeeded in killing a brace of swans, with a grey goose 
{Anser Canadensis), and a pair of ducks. The swans 
were very large ones — of the Trumpeter species — and 
one of them was cooked for supper. It was in excellent 
condition, and furnished a meal for the whole of our 
party ! The other swan, with the goose and ducks, were 
stowed away for another occasion. 

While 'discussing' the flesh of this great and noble 
bird, we also discussed many of the points in its natural 

' White as a swan ' is a simile old as language itself. 
It would no doubt puzzle an Australian, used to look 
upon those beautiful and stately birds as being of a very 
different complexion. The simile holds good, however, 
with the North American species, all three of which — 
for there are three of them — are almost snow-white. 

We need not describe the form or general appearance 
of the swan. These are familiar to every one. The 
long, upright, and gracefully-curving neck ; the finely- 
moulded breast, the upward-tending tail-tip, the light 


The Swans of Amenca 231 

' dip,' and easy progression through the water, are points 
that everybody has observed, admired, and remembered. 
These are common to all birds of the genus Cygnus, and 
are therefore not peculiar to the swans of America. 

Many people fancy there are but two kinds of swans 
— the white and black. It is not long since the black 
ones have been introduced to general notoriety, as well 
as to general admiration. But there are many distinct 
species besides — species differing from each other in 
size, voice, and other peculiarities. In Europe alone, 
there are four native swans, specifically distinct. 

It was long believed that the common American swan 
iC.Americanus) was identical with the common European 
species, so well known in England. It is now ascer- 
tained, however, not only that these two are specifically 
distinct, but that in North America there exist two other 
species, differing from the C. Americanus, and from each 
other. These are the Trumpeter {C. buccinnator) and 
the small swan of Bewick {C. Bewickii), also an 
inhabitant of European countries. 

The common American species is of a pure white, 
with black bill, legs, and feet, A slight tinge of 
brownish-red is found on some individuals on the 
crown of the head, and a small patch of orange-yellow 
extends from the angles of the mouth to the eye. On 
the base of the bill is a fleshy tubercle or knob, and the 
upper mandible is curved at the tip. 

The young of this species are of a bluish-grey colour, 
with more of the brown-red tinge upon the head. The 
naked yellow patch, extending from the angles of the 
mouth to the eye, in the young birds, is covered with 
feathers, and their bills are flesh-coloured. This de- 
scription answers in every respect for the swan of 
Bewick ; but the latter species is only three-fourths the 
size of the former ; and, besides, it has only eighteen 
tail feathers, while the American swan has twenty. 
Their note is also entirely unlike. 

The * Trumpeter ' is different from either. He is the 
largest, being frequently met with of nearly six feet in 
length, while the conimon swan rarely exceeds fivQ. 

232 The Hit fliers' Feast 

The bill of the Trumpeter is not tuberculated ; and the 
yellow patch under the eye is wanting. The bill, legs, 
and feet are entirely black. All the rest is white, with 
the exception of the head, which is usually tinged with 
chestnut or red-brown. When young, he is of a greyish- 
white, with a yellow mixture, and the head of deeper 
red-brown. His tail feathers are twenty-four in number ; 
but there is a material difference between him and his 
congeners in the arrangement of the windpipe. In the 
Trumpeter this enters a protuberance that stands out on 
the dorsal aspect of the sternum, which is wanting in 
both the other kinds. It may be that this arrangement 
has something to do with his peculiar note, which differs 
altogether from that of the others. It is much fuller 
and louder, and at a distance bears a considerable 
resemblance to the trumpet or French horn. Hence 
the trivial name by which this species is known to the 

All the American swans are migratory — that is, they 
pass from north to south every autumn, and back again 
from south to north in the beginning of spring. 

The period of their migration is different with the 
three species. The Trumpeter is the earliest, preceding 
all other birds, with the exception of the eagles. The 
C. Americanus comes next ; and, lastly, the small swans, 
that are among the very latest of migratory birds. 

The Trumpeters seek the north at the breaking up 
of the ice. Sometimes they arrive at a point in their 
journey where this has not taken place. In such cases 
they fly back again until they reach some river or lake 
from which the ice has disappeared, where they remain 
a few days, and wait the opening of the waters farther 
north. When they are thus retarded and sent back, 
it is always in consequence of some unusual and 
unseasonable weather. 

The swans go northward to breed. Why they do so 
is a mystery. Perhaps they feel more secure in the 
inhospitable wastes that lie within the Arctic circle. 
The Trumpeters breed as far south as latitude 61°, but 
most of them retire within the frigid zone. 

The Sivans of America 233 

The small swans do not nest so far south, but pursue 
their course still onward to the Polar Sea. Here they 
build immense nests by raising heaps of peat moss, six 
feet in length by four in width, and two feet high. In 
the top of these heaps is situated the nest, which consists 
of a cavity a foot deep, and a foot and a half in 

The Trumpeters and American swans build in 
marshes and the islands of lakes. Where the muskrat 
{Fiber zibetJiiais) abounds, his dome-shaped dwelling — 
at that season, of course, deserted — serves often as the 
breeding-place both for the swans and wild geese. On 
the top of this structure, isolated in the midst of great 
marshes, these birds are secure from all their enemies — 
the eagle excepted. 

The eggs of the Trumpeter are very large, one of 
them being enough to make a good meal for a man. 
The eggs of the American species are smaller and of a 
greenish appearance, while those of the Bewick swan 
are still smaller and of a brownish-white colour, with a 
slight clouding of darker hue. 

Six or seven eggs is the usual ' setting.' The cygnets, 
when half or full grown, are esteemed good eating, and 
are much sought after by the hunters and Indians of the 
fur countries. 

When the cygnets are full grown, and the frost makes 
its appearance upon the lakes and rivers of the hyper- 
borean regions, the swans begin to shift southwards. 
They do not migrate directly, as in the spring, but take 
more time on their journey, and remain longer in the 
countries through which they pass. This no doubt 
arises from the fact that a different motive or instinct 
now urges them. In the spring they are under the 
impulse of philoprogenitivencss. Now they range from 
lake to lake and stream to stream in search only of food. 
Again, as in the spring, the Trumpeters lead the van — 
winging their way to the great lakes, and afterwards 
along the Atlantic coast, and by the line of the 
Mississippi to the marshy shores of the Mexican Sea. 

Tt may be remarked that this last-mentioned species 

234 l^he Hunters' Feast 

— the Trumpeter — is rare upon the Atlantic coast, where 
the common swan is seen in greatest plenty. Again, 
the Trumpeter does not appear on the Pacific or by the 
Colombia River, where the common swan is met with, 
but the latter is there outnumbered by the small species 
{C. Bewickii) in the ratio of five to one. This last again 
is not known in the fur countries of the interior, where 
the C. Americanus is found, but where the Trumpeter 
exists in greatest numbers. Indeed the skins of the 
Trumpeter arc those which are mostly exported by the 
Hudson's Bay Company, and which form an important 
article of their commerce. 

The swan is eagerly hunted by the Indians who 
inhabit the fur countries. Its skin brings a good price 
from the traders, and its quills are valuable. Besides, 
the flesh is a consideration with these people, whose life, 
it must be borne in mind, is one continuous struggle for 
food ; and who, for one-half the year, live upon the very 
verge of starvation. 

The swan, therefore, being a bird that weighs between 
twenty and thirty pounds, ranks among large game, and 
is hunted with proportionate ardour. Every art the 
Indian can devise is made use of to circumvent these 
great birds, and snares, traps, and decoys of all kinds are 
employed in the pursuit. 

But the swans are among the shyest of God's 
creatures. They fly so rapidly, unless when beating 
against the wind, that it requires a practised shot to hit 
them on the wing. Even when moulting their feathers, 
or when young, they can escape — fluttering over the 
surface of the water faster than a canoe can be paddled. 

The most usual method of hunting them is by snares. 
These are set in the following manner : — 

A lake or river is chosen, where it is known the swans 
are in the habit of resting for some time on their 
migration southward — for this is the principal season 
of swan-catching. 

Some time before the birds make their appearance, 
a number of wicker hedges are constructed, running 
perpendicularly out from the bank, and at the distance 

The Swans of America 235 

of a few yards from each other. In the spaces between, 
as well as in openings left in the fences themselves, 
snares are set. These snares are made of the intestines 
of the deer, twisted into a round shape, and looped. 
They are placed so that several snares may embrace the 
opening, and the swans cannot pass through without 
being caught. 

The snare is fastened to a stake, driven into the mud 
with sufficient firmness to hold the bird when caught 
and struggling. That the snare may not be blown out 
of its proper place by the wind, or carried astray by the 
current, it is attached to the wattles of the hedge by 
some strands of grass. These, of course,are easily broken, 
and give way the moment a bird presses against the loop. 
The fences or wattle-hedges are always constructed 
projecting out from the shore — for it is known that the 
swans must keep close in to the land while feeding. 
Whenever a lake or river is sufficiently shallow to make 
it possible to drive in stakes, the hedges are continued 
across it from one side to the other. 

Swans are also snared upon their nests. When a nest 
is found, the snare is set so as to catch the bird upon her 
return to the eggs. These birds, like many others, have 
the habit of entering the nest on one side, and going out 
by the other, and it is upon the entrance side that the 
snare is set. 

The Indians have a belief that if the hands of the 
persons setting the snare be not clean, the bird will not 
approach it, but rather desert her eggs, even though she 
may have been hatching them for some time. 

It is, indeed, true that this is a habit of many birds, 
and may be so of the wild swan. Certain it is that the 
nest is always reconnoitred by the returning bird with 
great caution, and any irregularity appearing about it 
will render her extremely shy of approaching it. 

Swans are shot, like other birds, by ' approaching ' 
them under cover. It requires very large shot to kill 
them — the same that is used for deer, and known 
throughout America as 'buck-shot.' In England this 
size of shot is termed ' swan-shot.' 

236 The Hunters' Feast 

It is difficult to get within range of the wild swan. 
He is by nature a shy bird ; and his long neck enables 
him to see over the sedge that surrounds him. Where 
there happens to be no cover — and this is generally 
the case where he haunts — it is impossible to approach 

Sometimes the hunter floats down upon him with his 
canoe hidden by a garniture of reeds and bushes. At 
other times he gets near enough in the disguise of a 
deer or other quadruped — for the swan, like most wild 
birds, is less afraid of the lower animals than of man. 

During the spring migration, when the swan is 
moving northward, the hunter, hidden under some rock, 
bank, or tree, frequently lures him from his high flight 
by the imitation of his well-known * hoop.' This does 
not succeed so well in the autumn. 

When the swans arrive prematurely on their spring 
journey, they resort sometimes in considerable flocks 
to the springs and waterfalls, all other places being 
then ice-bound. At this time the hunters concealing 
themselves in the neighbourhood, obtain the desired 
proximity, and deal destruction with their guns. 

A related an account of a swan hunt by 

torch-light, which he had made some years before. 

' I was staying some days,' said he, ' at a remote 
settlement upon one of the streams that run into the 
Red river of the north. It was in the autumn season, 
and the Trumpeter swans had arrived in the neighbour- 
hood on their annual migration to the south. I had 
been out several times after them with my gun, but 
was unable to get a shot at them in consequence of their 
shyness. I had adopted every expedient I could think 
of — calls, disguises, and decoys — but all to no purpose. 
I resolved, at length, to try them by torch-light. 

' It so happened that none of the hunters at the 
settlement had ever practised this method ; but as 
most of them had succeeded, by some means or other, 
in decoying and capturing several swans by other 
means, my hunter pride was touched, and I was most 
anxious to show that I could kill swans as well as 

The Szvans of America 237 

they. I had never seen swans shot by torch-light, but 
I had employed the plan for killing deer, as you already 
know, and I was determined to make a trial of it upon 
the swans, 

* I set secretly about it, resolved to steal a march upon 
my neighbours, if possible. My servant alone was 
admitted into my confidence, and we proceeded to make 
the necessary arrangements. 

* These were precisely similar to those already 
described in my hunt of the long tails, except that the 
canoe, instead of being " a dug-out," was a light craft 
of birch bark, such as are in use among the Chippewas 
and other Indians of the northern countries. The canoe 
was obtained from a settler, and filled with torch wood 
and other necessary articles, but these were clandestinely 
put on board. 

' I was now ready, and a dark night was all that was 
wanted to enable me to carry out my plan. 

'Fortunately I soon obtained this to my heart's 
satisfaction. A night arrived as dark as Erebus ; and 
with my servant using the paddle, we pushed out and 
shot swiftly down stream. 

* As soon as we had cleared the " settlement," we lit 
our pine-knots in the frying-pan. The blaze refracted 
from the concave and blackened surface of the bark, cast 
a brilliant light over the semi-circle ahead of us, at the 
same time that we, behind the screen of birch bark, were 
hid in utter darkness. I had heard that the swans, 
instead of being frightened by torch-light, only became 
amazed, and even at times curious enough to approach 
it, just as the deer and some other animals do. This 
proved to be correct, as we had very soon a practical 
illustration of it. 

* We had not gone a mile down the river when we 
observed several white objects within the circle of our 
light ; and paddling a little nearer, we saw that they 
were swans. We could distinguish their long, upright 
necks ; and saw that they had given up feeding, and 
were gazing with wonder at the odd object that was 
approaching them. 

238 The Hunters' Feast 

* There were five of them in the flock ; and I directed 
my servant to paddle towards that which seemed 
nearest, and to use his oar with as much silence as 
possible. At the same time I looked to the caps of my 
double-barrelled gun. 

' The swans for a time remained perfectly motionless, 
sitting high in the water, with their long necks raised 
far above the surface. They appeared to be more 
affected by surprise than fear. 

* When we had got within about a hundred yards of 
them, I saw that they began to move about, and close 
in to one another ; at the same time was heard 
proceeding from them a strange sound resembling very 
much the whistle of the fallow deer. I had heard of 
the singing of the swan, as a prelude to its death, and I 
hoped that which now reached my ears was a similar 

' In order to make it so, I leaned forward, levelled my 
double-barrel — both barrels being cocked — and waited 
the moment. 

' The birds had " clumped " together, until their long 
serpent-like necks crossed each other. A few more 
noiseless strokes of the paddle brought me within reach, 
and aiming for the heads of three that " lined," I pulled 
both triggers at once. 

' The immense recoil flung me back, and the smoke 
for a moment prevented us from seeing the effect. 

' As soon as it had been wafted aside, our eyes were 
feasted by the sight of two large white objects floating 
down the current, while a third, evidently wounded, 
struggled along the surface, and beating the water into 
foam with its broad wings. 

' The remaining two had risen high into the air, and 
were heard uttering their loud trumpet-notes as they 
winged their flight through the dark heavens. 

' We soon bagged our game, both dead and wounded, 
and saw that they were a large " gander " and two young 

' It was a successful beginning; and having replenished 
our torch, we continued to float downward in search of 

The Swans of America 239 

more. Half a mile farther on, we came in sight of three 
others, one of which we succeeded in killing. 

'Another "spell " of paddling brought us to a third 
flock, out of which I got one for each barrel of my gun ; 
and a short distance below I succeeded in killing a pair 
of the grey wild geese. 

' In this way we kept down the river for at least ten 
miles I should think, killing both swans and geese as 
we went. Indeed, the novelty of the thing, the wild 
scenery through which we passed — rendered more wild 
and picturesque by the glare of the torch — and the 
excitement of success, all combined to render the sport 
most attractive ; and but that our " pine knots " had 
run out, I would have continued it until morning. 

'The failure of these at length brought our shooting 
to a termination, and we were compelled to put about, 
and undertake the much less pleasant, and much more 
laborious task of paddling ten miles up-stream. The 
consciousness, however, of having performed a great feat 
— in the language of the Canadian hunters, a grand 
" conpl' made the labour seem more light, and we soon 
arrived at the settlement, and next morning triumphantly 
paraded our game bag in front of our " lodge." 

* Its contents were twelve trumpeter swans, besides 
three of the " hoopers." We had also a pair of Canada 
geese ; a snow goose, and three brant, — these last being 
the produce of a single shot. 

' The hunters of the settlement were quite envious, 
and could not understand what means I had employed 
to get up such a "game bag." I intended to have kept 
that for some time a secret ; but the frying-pan and the 
piece of blackened bark were found, and these betrayed 
my stratagem ; so that on the night after, a dozen 
canoes, with torches at their bows, might have been 
seen floating down the waters of the stream.' 



While crossing the marshy bottom through which our 
road led, a singular hoof-track was observed in the mud. 
Some were of opinion that it was a track of the great 
moose deer, but the hunter-naturalist, better informed, 
scouted the idea — declaring that moose never ranged so 
far to the south. It was no doubt a very large elk that 
had made the track, and to this conclusion all at length 

The great moose deer, however, was an interesting 
theme, and we rode along conversing upon it. 

The moose {Cervus atces) is the largest of the deer 
kind. The male is ordinarily as large as a mule ; 
specimens have been killed of still greater dimensions. 
One that has been measured stood seventeen hands, and 
weighed 1,200 lbs. ; it was consequently larger than most 
horses. The females are considerably smaller than the 

The colour of the moose, like that of other animals of 
the deer kind, varies with the season ; it varies also 
with the sex. The male is tawny-brown over the back, 
sides, head, and thighs ; this changes to a darker hue 
in winter, and in very old animals it is nearly black ; 
hence the name ' black elk,' which is given in some 
districts to the moose. The under parts of the body are 
light coloured, with a tinge of yellow or soiled white. 

The female is of a sandy-brown colour above, and 
beneath almost white. The calves are sandy-brown, but 
never spotted, as are the fawns of the common deer. 

The moose is no other than the elk of Northern 
Europe ; but the elk of America {Cervus Canadensis)^ as 
already stated, is altogether a different animal. These 


Hunting the Moose 241 

two species may be mistaken for each other, in the 
season when their antlers are young, or in the velvet ; 
then they are not unlike to a superficial observer. But 
the animals are rarely confounded — only the names. 
The American elk is not found indigenous in the eastern 
hemisphere, although he is the ornament of many a 
lordly park. 

The identity of the moose with the European elk is 
a fact that leads to curious considerations. A similar 
identity exists between the caribou of Canada and the 
reindeer of Northern Europe — they are both the Cervus 
tarandus of Pliny. So also with the polar bear of both 
hemispheres, the arctic fox, and several other animals. 
Hence we infer, that there existed at some period either 
a land connection, or some other means of communica- 
tion, between the northern parts of both continents. 

Besides being the largest, the moose is certainly the 
most ungraceful of the deer family. His head is long, 
out of all proportion ; so, too, are his legs ; while his 
neck is short in an inverse ratio. His ears are nearly 
a foot in length, asinine, broad, and slouching ; his eyes 
are small ; and his muzzle square, Vv'ith a deep sulcus in 
the middle, which gives it the appearance of being bifid. 
The upper lip overhangs the under by several inches, 
and is highly prehensile. A long tuft of coarse hair 
grows out of an excrescence on the throat, in the angle 
between the head and neck. This tuft is observed both 
in the male and female, though only when full grown. 
In the young, the excrescence is naked. 

An erect mane, somewhat resembling that of a cropped 
Shetland pony, runs from the base of the horns over the 
withers, and some way down the back. This adds to the 
stiff and ungainly appearance of the animal. 

The horns of the moose are a striking characteristic ; 
they are palmated or flattened out like shovels, while 
along the edge rise the points or antlers. The width 
from horn to horn at their tops is often more than four 
feet, and the breadth of a single one, antlers included, is 
frequently above thirty inches. A single pair has been 
known to weigh as much as 60 lbs. avoirdupois ! 


242 The Hunters' Feast 

Of course this stupendous head-dress gives the moose 
quite an imposing appearance ; and it is one of the 
wonders of the naturalist what can be its object. 

The horns are found only on the males, and attain 
their full size only when these have reached their seventh 
year. In the yearlings appear two knobs, about an inch 
in length ; in two-year-olds, these knobs have become 
spikes a foot high ; in the third year they begin to 
palmate, and antlers rise along their edges ; and so on, 
until the seventh year, when they become fully developed. 
They are annually caducous, however, as with the 
common deer, so that these immense appendages are the 
growth of a few weeks ! 

The haunts and habits of the moose differ materially 
from those of other deer. He cannot browse upon level 
ground without kneeling or widening his legs to a great 
extent ; this difficulty arises from the extreme length of 
his legs, and the shortness of his neck. He can do 
better upon the sides of steep hills, and he is often seen 
in such places grazing upward. 

Grass, however, is not his favourite food : he prefers 
the twigs and leaves of trees — such as birch, willow, and 
maple. There is one species of the last of which he is 
extremely fond ; it is that known as striped maple {Acer 
striatuni), or, in the language of hunters, ' moose-wood.' 
He peels off the bark from old trees of this sort, and 
feeds upon it, as well as upon several species of mosses 
with which the arctic regions abound. It will be seen 
that in these respects he resembles the giraffe : he may 
be regarded as the giraffe of the frigid zone. 

The moose loves the forest ; he is rarely found in the 
open ground — on the prairie, never. 

On open level ground, he is easily overtaken by the 
hunter, as he makes but a poor run in such a situation. 
His feet are tender, and his wind short ; besides, as we 
have already said, he cannot browse there without great 
inconvenience. He keeps in the thick forest and the 
impenetrable swamp, where he finds the food most to 
his liking. 

In summer, he takes to the water, wading into lakes 

Htmting the Moose 243 

and rivers, and frequently swimming across both. This 
habit at that season renders him an easy prey to his 
enemies, the Indian hunters, for in the water he is 
easily killed. Nevertheless, he loves to bury himself in 
the water, because along the shores of lakes and margins 
of rivers he finds the tall reed-grass, and the pond lily — 
the latter a particular favourite with him. In this way, 
too, he rids himself of the biting gnats and stinging 
mosquitos that swarm there ; and also cools his blood 
fevered by parasites, larvae, and the hot sun. 

The female moose produces one, two, and sometimes 
three calves at a birth ; this is in April or May. The 
period of gestation is nine months. 

During the summer they are seen in families — that is, 
a bull, a cow, and two calves. Sometimes the group 
includes three or four cows ; but this is rare. 

Occasionally, when the winter comes on, several of 
these family parties unite, and form herds of many 
individuals. When the snow is deep, one of these herds 
will tread down a space of several acres, in which they 
will be found browsing on the bark and twigs of the 
trees. A place of this sort is termed by the hunters a 
* moose-yard ' ; and in such a situation the animals 
become an easy prey. They are shot down on the spot, 
and those that attempt to escape through the deep snow 
are overtaken and brought to bay by dogs. This can 
only happen, however, when the snow is deep and 
crusted with frost ; otherwise, the hunters and their dogs, 
as well as their heavier game, would sink in it. When 
the snow is of old standing, it becomes icy on the surface 
through the heat of the sun, rain, and frost ; then it will 
bear the hunter, but not the deer. The latter break 
through it, and as these animals are tender-hoofed, they 
are lacerated at every jump. They soon feel the pain, 
give up the attempt to escape, and come to bay. 

It is dangerous for dogs to approach them when in 
this mood. They strike with the hoofs of their 
forefeet, a single blow of which often knocks the breath 
out of the stoutest deer-hound. There are many records 
of hunters having been sacrificed in a similar manner. 

244 The H^miers' Feast 

Where the moose are plentiful, the Indians hunt them 
by pounding. This is done simply by inclosing a large 
tract of woods, with a funnel-shaped entrance leading 
into the inclosure. The wide mouth of the entrance 
embraces a path which the deer habitually take ; upon 
this they are driven by the Indians, deployed in a wide 
curve, until they enter the funnel, and the pound itself. 
Here there are nooses set, in which many are snared, 
while others are shot down by the hunters who follow. 
This method is more frequently employed with the 
caribou, which are much smaller, and more gregarious 
than the moose deer. 

We have already said that the moose are easily 
captured in summer, when they resort to the lakes and 
rivers to wade and swim. The biting of gnats and 
mosquitoes renders them less fearful of the approach of 
man. The Indians then attack them in their canoes, 
and either shoot or spear them while paddling alongside. 

They are much less dangerous to assail in this way 
than the elk or even the common deer (Cervus 
Virginianus), as the latter, when brought in contact 
with the frail birch canoe, often kick up in such a 
manner as to upset it, or break a hole through its side. 
On the contrary, the moose is frequently caught by the 
antlers while swimming, and in this way carried 
alongside without either difficulty or danger. 

Although in such situations these huge creatures are 
easily captured, it is far otherwise as a general rule. 
Indeed, few animals are more shy than the moose. Its 
sight is acute ; so, too, with its sense of smell, but that 
organ in which it chiefly confides is the ear. It can hear 
the slightest noise to a great distance ; and the hunter's 
foot among the dead leaves, or upon the frozen snow- 
crust, often betrays him long before he can creep within 
range. They are, however, frequently killed by the 
solitary hunter stealing upon them, or ' approaching,' as 
it is termed. To do this, it is absolutely necessary to 
keep to leeward of them, else the wind would carry to 
their quick ears even the cautious tread of the Indian 

Hunting the Moose 245 

There is one other method of hunting the moose often 
practised by the Indians — that is, trailing them with 
rackets, or snow-shoes, and running them down. As I 
had partaken of this sport I was able to give an account 
of it to my companions. 

* In the winter of 18 — , I had occasion to visit a friend 
who lived in the northern part of the state of Maine. 
My friend was a backwood settler ; dwelt in a comfort- 
able log-house ; raised corn, cattle, and hogs ; and for the 
rest, amused himself occasionally with a hunt in the 
neighbouring woods. This he could do without going 
far from home, as the great forests of pine, birch, and 
maple trees on all sides surrounded his solitary clearing, 
and his nearest neighbour was about twenty miles off. 
Literally, my friend lived in the woods, and the sports of 
the chase were with him almost a necessity ; at all events, 
they were an every-day occupation. 

' Up to the time of my visit, I had never seen a moose, 
except in museums. I had never been so far north upon 
the American Continent ; and it must be remembered, 
that the geographical range of the moose is confined 
altogether to the cold countries. It is only in the extreme 
northern parts of the United States that he appears at 
all. Canada, with the vast territories of the Hudson's 
Bay Company, even to the shores of the Arctic Sea, is 
the proper habitat of this animal. 

* I was familiar with bears ; cougars I had killed ; elk 
and fallow-deer I had driven ; 'coons and 'possums I had 
treed ; in short, I had been on hunting terms with almost 
every game in America except the moose. I was most 
eager, therefore, to have a shot at one of these creatures, 
and I well remember the delight I experienced when 
my friend informed me there were moose in the adjacent 

' On the day after my arrival, we set forth in search of 
them, each armed with a hunting-knife and a heavy 
deer-gun. We went afoot ; we could not go otherwise, 
as the snow lay to the depth of a yard, and a horse 
would have plunged through it with difficulty. It was 
an old snow, moreover, thickly crusted, and would have 

246 The Hunters' Feast 

maimed our horses in a few minutes. We, with our 
broad rackets, could easily skim along without sinking 
below the surface. 

' I know not whether you have ever seen a pair of 
rackets, or Indian snow-shoes, but their description is 
easy. You have seen the rackets used in ball-play. 
Well, now, fancy a hoop, not of circular form, but forced 
into an elongated pointed ellipse, very much after the 
shape of the impression that a capsized boat would 
make in snow ; fancy this about three feet long, and a 
foot across at its widest, closely netted over with gut or 
deer-thong, with bars in the middle to rest the foot 
upon, and a small hole to allow play to the toes, and 
you will have some idea of a snow-shoe. Two of these — 
right and left — make a pair. They are simply strapped 
on to your boots, and then their broad surface sustains 
you, even when the snow is comparatively soft, but 
perfectly when it is frozen. 

'Thus equipped, my friend and I set out ci pied, 
followed by a couple of stout deer-hounds. We made 
directly for a part of the woods where it was known to 
my friend that the striped maple grew in great plenty. It 
has been stated already, that the moose are particularly 
fond of these trees, and there we would be most likely to 
fall in with them. 

' The striped maple is a beautiful deciduous little tree 
or shrub, growing to the height of a dozen feet or so in 
its natural habitat. When cultivated, it often reaches 
thirty feet. There is one at Schonbrunn, near Vienna, 
forty feet high, but this is an exception, and is the 
largest known. The usual height is ten or twelve feet, 
and it is more often the underwood of the forest than the 
forest itself. When thus situated, under the shade of 
loftier trees, it degenerates almost to the character of a 

' The trunk and branches of the striped maple are 
covered with a smooth green bark, longitudinally marked 
with light and dark stripes, by which the tree is easily 
distinguished from others, and from which it takes its 
name. It has other trivial names in different parts of 

Hunting the Moose M7 

the country. In New York State it is called "dog- 
wood " ; but improperly so, as the real dog-wood {Cornus 
florida) is a very different tree. It is known also as 
*' false dog-wood," and " snake-barked maple." The 
name " moose-wood " is common among the hunters 
and frontiers-men for reasons already given. When the 
striped maple is indigenous, it is one of the first 
productions that announces the approach of spring. 
Its buds and leaves, when beginning to unfold, are of a 
roseate hue, and soon change to a yellowish-green ; the 
leaves are thick, cordate, rounded at the base, with three 
sharp lobes at the other extremity, and finely serrated. 
They are usually four or five inches in length and 
breadth. The tree flowers in May and June, and its 
flowers are yellow-green, grouped on long peduncles. 
The fruit, like all other maples, consists of samarce or 
" keys " ; it is produced in great abundance, and is ripe 
in September or October. 

' The wood is white and finely grained ; it is 
sometimes used by cabinet-makers as a substitute for 
holly, in forming the lines with which they inlay 

* In Canada, and those parts of the United States 
where it grows in great plenty, the farmers in spring 
turn out their cattle and horses to feed upon its leaves 
and young shoots, of which these animals are extremely 
fond ; the more so, as it is only in very cold regions that 
it grows, and the budding of its foliage even precedes 
the springing of the grass. Such is the tree which forms 
the favourite browsing of the moose. 

' To return to my narrative. 

' After we had shuffled about two miles over the snow, 
my friend and I entered a tract of heavy timber, where 
the striped maple formed the underwood. It did not 
grow regularly, but in copses or small thickets. We had 
already started some small game, but declined following 
it, as we were bent only on a moose-chase. 

• We soon fell in with signs that indicated the propin- 
quity of the animals we were in search of. In several 
of the thickets, the maples were stripped of their twigs 

248 The Hunters' Feast 

and bark, but this had been done previous to the falling 
of the snow. As yet, there were no tracks : we were 
not long, however, before this welcome indication was 
met with. On crossing a glade where there was but 
little snow, the prints of a great split hoof were seen, 
which my friend at once pronounced to be those of the 

' We followed this trail for some distance, until it led 
into deeper snow and a more retired part of the forest. 
The tracks were evidently fresh ones, and those, as my 
friend asserted, of an old bull. 

' Haifa mile farther on, they were joined by others ; 
and the trail became a broken path through the deep 
snow as if it had been made by farm cattle following 
each other in single file. Four moose had passed, as 
my friend — skilled in woodcraft — confidently asserted, 
although I could not have told that from the appear- 
ance of the trail. He went still farther in his 
" reckoning," and stated that they were a bull, a cow, 
and two nine-months' calves. 

' "You shall soon see," he said, perceiving that I was 
somewhat incredulous. "Look here!" he continued, 
bending down and pressing the broken snow with his 
fingers ; " they are quite fresh — made within the hour. 
Speak low — the cattle can't be far off. Yonder, as I 
live ! yonder they are — hush ! " 

' My friend, as he spoke, pointed to a thicket about 
three hundred yards distant ; I looked in that direction, 
but at first could perceive nothing more than the thickly- 
growing branches of the maples. 

* After a moment, however, I could trace among the 
twigs the long dark outlines of a strange animal's back, 
with a huge pair of palmated horns rising above the 
underwood. It was the bull-moose — there was no 
mistaking him for any other creature. Near him other 
forms — three of them — were visible ; these were of 
smaller stature, and I could see that they were hornless. 
They were the cow and calves ; and the herd was 
made up, as my companion had foretold, of these four 

Hunting the Moose 249 

' We had halted on the moment, each of us holding 
one of the dogs, and endeavouring to quiet them, as 
they already scented the game. We soon saw that it 
was of no use remaining where we were, as the herd was 
fully three hundred yards from us, far beyond the reach 
of even our heavy deer-guns. 

*It would be of no use either to attempt stealing 
forward. There was no cover that would effectually 
conceal us, for the timber around was not large, and 
we could not, therefore, make shift with the tree 

' There was no other mode, then, but to let the dogs 
free of their leashes, and dash right forward. We knew 
we should not get a shot until after a run ; but this 
would not be long, thought we, as the snow was in 
perfect order for our purpose. 

' Our dogs were therefore unleashed, and went off 
with a simultaneous "gowl," while my friend and I 
followed as fast as we could. 

* The first note of the deer-hounds was a signal for the 
herd, and we could hear their huge bodies crashing 
through the underwood, as they started away. 

' They ran across some open ground, evidently with 
the intention of gaining the heavy timber beyond. On 
this ground there was but little snow ; and as we came 
out through the thicket we had a full view of the noble 
game. The old bull was in the lead, followed by the 
others in a string. I observed that none of them 
galloped — a gait they rarely practise — but all went in a 
shambling trot, which, however, was a very fast one, 
equal to the speed of a horse. They carried their heads 
horizontally, with their muzzles directed forward, while 
the huge antlers of the bull leaned back upon his 
shoulders as he ran. Another peculiarity that struck 
me — the divisions of their great split hoofs, as they 
lifted them from the ground, met with a cracking sound, 
like the bursting of percussion-caps ; and the four 
together rattled as they ran, as though a string of 
Christmas crackers had been touched off. I have often 
heard a similar cracking from the hoofs of farm cattle ; 

250 TJie Hunters Feast 

but with so many hoofs together, keeping up the fire 
incessantly, it produced a very odd impression upon me. 

' In a short time they were out of sight, but we could 
hear the baying of the dogs as the latter closed upon 
them, and we followed, guided by the trail they had 

'We had skated along for nearly a mile, when the 
howl of the hounds began to sound through the woods 
with more abrupt and fiercer echoes. We knew by this 
that the moose had been brought to bay, and we hurried 
forward, eager to have a shot. 

' On arriving at the place, we found that only the old 
bull had made stand, and he was successfully engaged 
in keeping off the dogs, both with feet and horns. The 
others had gone forward, and were out of view. 

' The bull, on seeing us approach, once more took 
the trot, and, followed by the dogs, was soon out of 

* On reaching the spot where he had made his 
temporary halt, we found that his trail there parted 
from that of the other three, as he had taken almost an 
opposite direction. Whether he had done so con- 
siderately, in order to lead the dogs away from his 
weaker companions, I know not ; perhaps our sudden 
appearance had terrified him into confusion, and he 
had struck out without looking before him. 

* We did not reflect on these points at the time. My 
friend, who probably was thinking more about the meat 
than the sport, without halting a moment, followed the 
trail of the cow and calves : while I, guided by different 
motives, took after the bull. I was in too great a hurry 
to heed some admonitions which were given by my 
friend as we parted company. As our trails separated, I 
heard him shouting to me to mind what I was about ; 
but the courses we followed soon carried us beyond 
earshot or sight of each other. 

' I followed the chase about half a mile farther, guided 
by the tracks, as well as by the baying of the hounds. 
Again this assumed the fierce angry tone that denoted 
a battle going on between the dogs and the deer. 

Hunting the Moose 251 

' As I neared the spot, the voices of the former seemed 
to grow feebler ; then there was a continued howh'ng, as 
if the hounds were being roughly handled, and one of 
them I noticed was altogether silent. 

* On arriving on the scene, which I did soon after, I 
learned the cause of this change of tune. One of the 
dogs met me running back on the trail on three legs 
only, and wofully mangled. The moose was standing 
in a snow-pit, which had been trodden out by the animals 
while battling, and near his feet lay the other dog, 
mutilated in a most fearful manner, and evidently quite 
dead. The bull, in his rage, still continued to assail the 
dead body of the hound, rising and pouncing down upon 
it with his fore-hoofs until the ribs cracked under the 
concussion ! 

' On seeing me, he again struck into the snow, and 
made off; I saw, however, that his limbs were much 
lacerated by the frozen crust, and that he ran slowly, 
leaving red tracks behind him. 

* I did not stop by the dogs — one being dead, and the 
survivor but little better — but kept on after the game. 

' We had now got into a tract where the snow lay of 
more than usual depth, and my snow-shoes enabled me 
to skim along faster than the moose himself, that I 
could easily perceive was growing feebler at every 
plunge. I saw that I was gaining upon him, and would 
soon be alongside. The woods through which we were 
passing were pretty open," and I could note every 
movement of the chase. 

' I had got within a hundred yards of him, and was 
thinking of firing at him as he ran, when all at once he 
came to a stop, and wheeling suddenly round, stood 
facing me. His huge antlers were thrown back until 
they touched his withers ; his mane stood erect ; all the 
hair upon his body seemed to bristle forward ; and his 
whole attitude was one of rage and defiance : he was 
altogether as formidable-looking an enemy as it had ever 
been my lot to encounter. 

* My first thought, on getting near enough, was to raise 
my rifle and fire, which I did. I aimed for his chest, 

252 The Hunters' Feast 

that was fair before me ; but I shot wide, partly because 
my fingers were numbed with cold, and partly because 
the sun at the moment flashed in my eyes as I glanced 
along the barrel. I hit the moose, however, but in a 
part that was not mortal — in the shoulder. 

' The shot enraged him, and without waiting for me to 
reload, he dashed madly forward and towards me ; a 
few plunges brought him up, and I had no resource but 
to get behind a tree. 

' Fortunately there were some large pines in the 
neighbourhood, and behind one of these I took shelter 
— not, however, before the enraged animal had almost 
impaled me upon his antlers. As I slipped behind the 
trunk, he was following me so close that his horns came 
in contact with the tree, causing it to vibrate by the 
terrific shock. He himself drew back a pace or two, and 
then stopped and stood fast, eyeing the tree with sullen 
rage ; his eyes glared, and his long stiff hair seemed to 
quiver as he threatened. 

* In the hope that he would allow me time, I again 
bethought me of reloading my gun. What was my 
chagrin to find that I had not a grain of powder about 
me ! My friend and I had started with but one powder- 
flask, and that he had carried with him. My gun was 
as useless as a bar of iron. 

' What was to be done ? I dared not approach the 
bull with my knife ; my life would not have been worth 
five minutes' purchase. His horns and great sharp hoofs 
were weapons superior to mine. He might throw me 
down at the first outset, gore me to death, or trample 
me in the snow. I dared not risk such an encounter. 

' After reflecting for some time, I concluded that it 
would be wiser for me to leave the moose where he was, 
and take the back track without him. But how was I 
to get away from the spot ? I was still behind the tree, 
and the enraged bull was within three feet of it on the 
other side, without showing any symptoms of retiring. 
Should I step cither to one side or the other, he would 
launch himself upon me, and the result would be my 
certain destruction. 

Hunting the Moose 253 

' I now began to perceive that I was in a fix — 
regularly " treed," in fact ; and the knowledge was any- 
thing but cheering. I did not know how long I might 
be kept so ; perhaps the moose might not leave me at 
all, or until hunger had done its work. The wound I 
had given him had certainly rendered him desperate and 
vengeful, and he appeared as if determined to protract 
the siege indefinitely. 

'After remaining nearly an hour in this situation, I 
began to grow angry and impatient. I had shouted to 
frighten the bull, but to no purpose ; I had shouted, and 
at the top of my voice, in hopes that I might be heard 
by my friend, but there was no response except the 
echoes of my own voice borne hoarsely through the 
aisles of the winter forest. I grew impatient of my odd 
captivity, and determined to stand it no longer. 

' On stealing a glance behind me, I perceived a tree 
as large as the one which sheltered me. I resolved to 
make for that one, as it would at least not render my 
situation worse should I reach it in safety. This I 
effected, but not without having my speed put to the 
test, for the moose followed so close as almost to touch 
me with his brow-antlers. Once behind this new tree, I 
was no better off than before, except that it brought me 
some twenty paces nearer home. The moose still stood 
in front of me only a few feet distant, and threatening 
as fiercely as ever. 

* After waiting some minutes for my breath, I selected 
a third tree in the right direction, and made for it in a 
similar manner, the moose following as before. 

'Another rest and another run brought me behind a 
fresh tree, and another and another, until I must have 
made a full mile through the woods, still followed by my 
implacable and untiring enemy. I knew, however, that 
I was going homeward, for I guided myself by the trail 
which we had made in the chase. 

' I was in hopes that I might make the whole back 
journey in this way, when all at once I perceived that 
the heavy timber came to an end, and a wide, almost 
open tract intersected the country : over this the trees 

254 TJic Hunters' Feast 

were small stunted pines, far apart, and offering no hope 
of shelter from my relentless persecutor. 

' I had no alternative now but to remain where I was, 
and await the arrival of my friend, who, I presumed, 
would come after me as soon as he had finished his own 

' With this dubious hope, I kept my stand, although I 
was ready to drop with fatigue. To add to my misery 
it commenced snowing. I saw this with feelings akin 
to terror, for I knew that the snow would soon blind the 
trail ; and how, then, was my friend to follow it, and 
find me? The bull still stood before me in the same 
threatening attitude, occasionally snorting, striking the 
ground with his hoofs, and ready to spring after me 
whenever I should move. Ever as I changed the 
attitude of my body, he would start forward again, 
until I could almost touch him with the muzzle of my 

' These manoeuvres on his part suggested to me an 
experiment, and I wondered that I had not thought of 
it before. I was not long in resolving to carry it out. I 
was armed with a stout hunting-knife, a bowie ; it was 
pointed as sharp as a needle ; and could I only have 
ventured near enough to the bull, I would soon have 
settled the dispute with him. The idea now occurred to 
me of converting my bowie into a lance by splicing it 
upon the barrel of my gun. With this I had hopes of 
being able to reach my powerful assailant without 
coming within range either of his hoofs or horns. 

' The lance was soon made, a pair of buckskin gaiters 
which I wore furnished me with thongs. My gun hap- 
pened to be a long rifle ; and the knife, spliced firmly to 
the muzzle, rendered it a formidable weapon, so that in 
a few minutes I stood in a better attitude than I had 
assumed for hours before. 

' The affair soon came to an issue. As I had antici- 
pated, by showing myself a little to one side of the tree, 
the bull sprang forward, and I was enabled, by a 
dexterous thrust, to plant the knife between his ribs. 
It entered his heart, and the next moment I saw him 

Hunting the Moose 255 

rolling over, and kicking the crimsoned snow around 
him in the struggles of death. 

' I had scarcely completed my victory, when a loud 
whoop sounded in my ears, and looking up, I saw my 
friend making towards me across the open ground. He 
had completed his chase, having killed all three, cut them 
up, and hung their meat upon the trees, to be sent for 
on our return to the house. 

' By his aid the bull was disposed of in a similar 
manner; and being now satisfied with our day's sport — 
though my friend very much regretted the loss of his 
fine dog — we commenced shuffling homeward.' 



After crossing the Marais dc Cygnes River the country 
became much more open. There was a mixture of 
timber and prairie land — the latter, however, constantly 
gaining the ascendancy as we advanced farther west. 
The openings became larger, until they assumed the 
appearance of vast meadows, inclosed by groves, that at 
a distance resembled great hedges. Now and then there 
were copses that stood apart from the larger tracts of 
forests, looking like islands upon the surface of a green 
sea, and by the name of * islands ' these detached groves 
are known among the hunters and other denizens of 
prairie land. Sometimes the surface was undulating or, 
as it is there termed, 'rolling,' and our road was varied, 
ascending or descending, as we crossed the gentle 
declivities. The timber through which we had up to 
this time been passing consisted of ash, burr oak, black 
walnut, chestnut oak, buck eye, the American elm, 
hickory, hackberry, sumach, and, in low moist places, 
the sycamore, and long-leaved willow. These trees, 
with many others, form the principal growth of the large 
forests, upon the banks of the Mississippi, both east and 

As we advanced westward, Besan^on called our 
attention to the fact, that all these kinds of timber, one 
by one,disappeared from the landscape, and in their place 
a single species alone made up the larger growth of the 
forest. This was the celebrated ' cotton- wood,' a species 
of )^o^\?cc {Populus angidatus). I say celebrated, because, 
being almost the only tree of large size which is found 
throughout the region of the great plains, it is well 
known to all hunters and prairie travellers, who regard 


The Prairie Wolf and Wolf-Killer 257 

it with a peculiar veneration. A grove of cotton-wood 
is always a glad sight to those who traverse the limitless 
levels of the prairie. It promises shelter from the wind 
or sun, wood for the camp-fire, and, above all, water to 
slake the thirst. As the ocean mariner regards the 
sight of the welcome port, with similar feelings of joy 
the mariner of the ' prairie-sea ' beholds, over the broad 
waste, the silvery foliage of the cotton-wood grove, re- 
garding it as his temporary home — his place of rest and 

After travelling through hundreds of small prairies, 
separated from each other by groves of cotton-wood, we 
arrived at a high point on the waters of the ' Little 
Osage,' another tributary of the larger river of that 
name. As yet we had met with no traces of the 
buffalo, and were beginning to doubt the correctness of 
the information we had received at St. Louis, when we 
fell in with a band of Kanzas Indians — a friendly tribe 
— who received us in the most courteous manner. 
From them we learned that the buffalo had been upon 
the Little Osage at an earlier period in that same year, 
but that harassed and decimated by their own hunters, 
they had roamed much farther west, and were now 
supposed to be on the other side of the ' Neosho,' or 
Grand River — a northern tributary of the Arkansas. 

This was anything but pleasant news. We should 
have at least another hundred miles to travel before 
coming up with our game ; but there was no thought of 
going back, until we had done so. No. One and all 
declared that rather than give up the object of our 
expedition, we would travel on to the Rocky Mountains 
themselves, risking the chances of being scalped by 
hostile Indians. 

There was a good deal of bravado in this, it is true, 
but we were fully determined that we would not go 
back without our buffalo-hunt. 

Thanking our Kanzas friends for their courtesy, we 
parted from them, and headed westward for the 

As we proceeded, timber became scarce, until at 


258 The Hunters Feast 

length it was found only on the banks of streams 
widely distant from each other. Sometimes not a tree 
was in sight for the whole day's journey. We were 
now fairly on the prairies. 

We crossed the Neosho at length— still no buffalo. 

We kept on, and crossed several other large streams, 
all flowing south-eastwardly to the Arkansas. Still no 

We began to yearn exceedingly for a sight of the 
great game. The few deer that were killed from time to 
time offered us but poor sport, and their meat was not 
sufficient for our supply. 

Of bacon we were heartily tired, and we longed for 
fresh buffalo beef. The praises lavished by our guides 
upon the delicacy of this viand — their talk over the 
camp-fire about 'fat cow' and ^ boudins' and 'hump- 
ribs,' quite tantalised our palates, and we were all eager 
to try our teeth upon this vaunted tit-bits. No buffalo 
appeared yet, and we were forced to chew our bacon, as 
well as our impatience, for several days longer. 

A great change now took place in the appearance of 
the country. The timber became still more scarce, and 
the soil drier and more sandy. Species of cactus 
{opuntia) appeared along the route, with several other 
plants new to the eyes of most of us, and which to those 
of Besangon were objects of extreme interest. But that 
which most gratified us was the appearance of a new 
herbage, different entirely from what we had been 
passing over, and this was hailed by our guides with 
exclamations of joy. It was the celebrated ' buffalo 
grass.' The trappers declared we should not have 
much farther to go until we found the buffaloes 
themselves, for, wherever this grass existed in plenty, 
the buffalo, unless driven off by hunting, were sure to 
be found. 

The buffalo grass is a short grass, not more than a 
few inches in height, with crooked and pointed culms, 
often throwing out suckers that root again, and produce 
other leaves and culms, and in this way form a tolerably 
thick sward. When in flower or seed, it is headed by 

The Prairie Wolf and Wolf- Killer 259 

numerous spikes of half an inch in length, and on these 
the spikelets are regular and two rowed. 

It is a species of Sesleria {S. daetyloides) but Besangon 
informed us that it possesses characters that cause it to 
differ from the genus, and to resemble the Chondrosiwn. 

The buffalo grass is not to be confounded with another 
celebrated grass of the Texan and North Mexican 
prairies, the 'gramma' of the Spaniards. This last is a 
true Chondrosium, and there are several species of it. 
The Chondrosium fceneum is one of the finest fodders 
in the world for the food of cattle, almost equal to 
unthrashed oats. 

The buffalo grass forms the favourite and principal 
fodder of the buffaloes whenever it is in season, and 
these animals roam over the prairies in search of 

Of course with this knowledge we were now on the 
qui vive. At every new rise that we made over the 
swells of the prairie our eyes were busy, and swept the 
surface on every side of us, and in the course of a few 
days we encountered several false alarms. 

There is an hallucination peculiar to the clear 
atmosphere of these regions. Objects are not only 
magnified, but frequently distorted in their outlines, 
and it is only an old hunter that knows a buffalo when 
he sees one. By others a bush is often taken for a wild 
bull, and with us a brace of carrion crows, seated upon 
the crest of a ridge, were actually thought to be buffaloes, 
until they suddenly took wing and rose into the air, thus 
dispelling the illusion ! 

Long before this time we had encountered that well- 
known animal of the great plains — the ' prairie wolf,' — 
{Ltipiis latraiis). 

The prairie wolf inhabits the vast and still unpeopled 
territories that lie between the Mississippi River and the 
shores of the Pacific Ocean. Its range extends beyond 
what is strictly termed 'the prairies.' It is found in the 
wooded and mountainous ravines of California and 
the Rocky Mountain districts. It is common throughout 
the whole of Mexico, where it is known as the ' coyote.' 

26o The Hunters' Feast 

I have seen numbers of this species on the battle- 
field, tearing at corpses, as far south as the valley of 
Mexico itself. Its name of prairie wolf is, therefore, in 
some respects inappropriate, the more so as the larger 
wolves are also inhabitants of the prairie. No doubt this 
name was given it, because the animal was first observed 
in the prairie country west of the Mississippi by the 
early explorers of that region. In the wooded countries 
east of the great river, the common large wolf only is 

Whatever doubt there may be of the many varieties of 
the large wolf being distinct species, there can be none 
with regard to the Lupus Latrans. It differs from all 
the others in size, and in many of its habits. Perhaps it 
more nearly resembles the jackal than any other animal. 
It is the New World representative of that celebrated 

In size, it is just midway between the large wolf and 
fox. With much of the appearance of the former, it 
combines all the sagacity of the latter. It is usually 
of a greyish colour, lighter or darker, according to 
circumstances, and often with a tinge of cinnamon or 

As regards its cunning, the fox is ' but a fool to it.' It 
cannot be trapped. Some experiments made for the 
purpose, show results that throw the theory of instinct 
quite into the back-ground. It has been known to 
burrow under a ' dead fall,' and drag off the bait without 
springing the trap. The steel trap it avoids, no matter 
how concealed ; and the cage trap has been found ' no 


Farther illustrations of the cunning of the prairie wolf 
might be found in its mode of decoying within reach the 
antelopes and other creatures on which it preys. 

Of course this species is as much fox as wolf, for in 
reality a small wolf is a fox, and a large fox is a wolf. 
To the traveller and trapper of the prairie regions, it is a 
pest. It robs the former of his provisions — often stealing 
them out of his very tent ; it unbaits the traps of the 
latter, or devours the game already secured in them. 

The Prairte Wolf and Wolf -Killer 261 

It is a constant attendant upon the caravans or 
travelling parties that cross prairie land. A pack of 
prairie wolves will follow such a party for hundreds of 
miles in order to secure the refuse left at the camps. 
They usually lie down upon the prairie, just out of range 
of the rifles of the travellers : yet they do not observe 
this rule always, as they know there is not much danger 
of being molested. Hunters rarely shoot them, not 
deeming their hides worth having, and not caring to 
waste a charge upon them. They are more cautious 
when following a caravan of California emigrants, where 
there are plenty of ' greenhorns ' and amateur hunters 
ready to fire at anything. 

Prairie wolves are also constant attendants upon the 
' gangs ' of buffalo. They follow these for hundreds of 
miles — in fact, the outskirts of the buffalo herd are, for 
the time being, their home. They He down on the 
prairie at a short distance from the buffaloes, and wait 
and watch, in hopes that some of these animals may 
get disabled or separated from the rest, or with the 
expectation that a cow with her new-dropped calf may 
fall into the rear. In such cases, the pack gather round 
the unfortunate individual, and worry it to death. A 
wounded or superannuated bull sometimes ' falls out,' 
and is attacked. In this case the fight is more desperate, 
and the bull is sadly mutilated before he can be brought 
to the ground. Several wolves, too, are laid hors de 
combat during the struggle. 

The prairie traveller may often look around him 
without seeing a single wolf ; but let him fire off his 
gun, and, as if by magic, a score of them will suddenly 
appear. They start from their hiding-places, and rush 
forward in hopes of sharing in the produce of the shot. 

At night, they enliven the prairie camp with their 
dismal howling, although most travellers would gladly 
dispense with such music. Their note is a bark like 
that of a terrier dog, repeated three times, and then 
prolonged into a true wolfs howl. I have heard farm- 
house dogs utter a very similar bark. From this 
peculiarity, some naturalists prefer calling them the 

262 The Hunters^ Feast 

• barking wolf,' and that {Lupus latrans) is the specific 
appellation given by Say, who first described them. 

Prairie wolves have all the ferocity of their race, but 
no creature could be more cowardly. Of course no one 
fears them under ordinary circumstances, but they have 
been known to make a combined attack upon persons 
disabled, and in severe weather, when they themselves 
were rendered unusually savage by hunger, as already 
stated. But they are not regarded with fear either by 
traveller or hunter ; and the latter disdains to waste his 
charge upon such worthless game. 

Our guide, Ike, was an exception to this rule. He 
was the only one of his sort that shot prairie wolves, and 
he did so ' on sight' I believe if it had been the last 
bullet in his pouch, and an opportunity had offered of 
sending it into a prairie wolf, he would have despatched 
the leaden missile. We asked him how many he had 
killed in his time. He drew a small notched stick from 
his 'possible sack,' and desired us to count the notches 
upon it. We did so. There were one hundred and 
forty-five in all. 

' You have killed one hundred and forty-five, then ? ' 
cried we, astonished at the number. 

'Yes, i'deed,' replied he, with a quiet chuckle, 'that 
many dozen ; for every 'un of them nutches count twelve. 
I only make a nutch when I've throwed the clur dozen.' 

' A hundred and forty-five dozen ! ' we repeated in 
astonishment ; and yet I have no doubt of the truth of 
the trapper's statement, for he had no interest in 
deceiving us. I am satisfied from what I knew of him, 
that he had slain the full number stated — one thousand 
seven hundred and forty ! 

Of course we became curious to learn the cause of his 
antipathy to the prairie wolves ; for we knew he Jiad an 
antipathy, and it was that that had induced him to 
commit such wholesale havoc among these creatures. It 
was from this circumstance he had obtained the 
soubriquet of ' wolf-killer.' By careful management, we 
at last got him upon the edge of the story, and quietly 
pushed him into it. He gave it to us as follows : — 

The Prairie Wolf and Wolf- Killer 263 

'Wal, strengers, about ten winters agone, I wur 
travellin' from Bent's Fort on the Arkensaw, to 'Laramie 
on the Platte, all alone b' myself. I had undertuk the 
journey on some business for Bill Bent — no matter now 

' I had crossed the divide, and got within sight o' the 
Black Hills, when one night I had to camp out on the 
open parairy, without either bush or stone to shelter 

'That wur, perhaps, the coldest night this nigger 
remembers ; thur wur a wind kim down from the moun- 
tains that wud a froze the har off an iron dog. I gathered 
my blanket around me, but that wind whistled through 
it as if it had been a rail fence. 

' 'Twan't no use lyin' down, for I couldn't a slep, so I 
sot up. 

'You may ask why I hadn't a fire ? I'll tell you why. 
Fust, thur wan't a stick o' timber within ten mile o' me ; 
and, secondly, if thur had been I dasen't a made a fire. 
I wur travellin' as bad a bit o' Injun ground as could 
been found in all the country, and I'd seen Injun sign 
two or three times that same day. It's true thur wur a 
good grist o' buffler chips about, tol'ably dry, and I 
mout have made some sort o' a fire out o' that ; an' at 
last I did make a fire arter a fashion. I did it this a 

' Seeing that with the cussed cold I wan't a-goin' to get 
a wink o' sleep, I gathered a wheen o' the buffler chips. 
I then dug a hole in the ground with my bowie, an' hard 
pickin' that wur ; but I got through the crust at last, 
and made a sort o' oven about a fut, or a fut and a half 
deep. At the bottom I laid some dry grass and dead 
branches o' sage plant, and then settin' it afire, I piled 
the buffler chips on top. The thing burnt tol'able well, 
but the smoke of the buffler dung would a choked a 

'As soon as it had got fairly under way, I hunkered, 
an' sot down over the hole, in sich a position as to catch 
all the heat under my blanket, an' then I was comf'table 
enough. Of coorse no Injun kud see the smoke arter 

264 TJie Hunters' Feast 

night, an it would a tuk sharp eyes to have sighted the 
fire, I reckon. 

' Wal, strengers, the critter I rode wur a young mustang 
colt, about half broke. I had bought him from a Mexikin 
at Bent's only the week afore, and it wur his fust 
journey, leastwise with me. Of coorse I had him on 
the lariat ; but up to this time I had kept the eend o' 
the rope in my hand, because I had that same day lost 
my picket pin ; an' thin kin' as I wan't a-goin' to sleep, 
I mout as well hold on to it. 

' By 'm by, however, I begun to feel drowsy. The 
fire atween my legs promised to keep me from freezin', 
an' I thort I mout as well take a nap. So I tied the 
lariat round my ankles, sunk my head atween my 
knees, an' in the twinklin' o' a goat's tail I wur sound 
I jest noticed as I wur goin' off, that the mustang wur 
out some yards, nibblin' away at the dry grass o' the. 

' I guess I must a slep about an hour, or tharabouts 
— I won't be sartint how long. I only know that I didn't 
wake o' my own accord. I wur awoke ; an' when I 
did awoke, I still thort I wur a-dreamin'. It would 
a been a rough dream ; but unfort'nately for me, 
it wan't a dream, but a jenwine reality. 

' hX fust, I cudn't make out what wur the matter wi' 
me. no how ; an' then I thort I wur in the hands o' the 
Injuns, who were draggin' me over the parairy ; an' sure 
enough I wur a-draggin' that a way, though not by 
Injuns. Once or twice I lay still for jest a second or 
two, an' then away I went agin, trailin' and bumpin' 
over the ground, as if 1 had been tied to the tail o' a 
gallopin' hoss. All the while there wur a yclHn' in my 
ears as if all the cats and dogs of creation were arter 

' Wal, it wur some time afore I compre'nded what all 
this rough usage meant. I did at last. The pull upon 
my ankles gave me the idea. It wur the lariat that wur 
round them. My mustang had stampedoed, and wur 
draggin' me at full gallop acrosst the parairy ! 

' The barkin', an' howlin', an' yelpin' I heerd, wur a 

The Prairie Wolf and Wolf -Killer 265 

pack o' parairy wolves. Half-famished, they had attacked 
the mustang, and started him. 

' All this kim into my mind at once. You'll say it 
wur easy to lay hold on the rope, an' stop the hoss. So 
it mout appear ; but I kin tell you that it ain't so easy a 
thing. It wan't so to me. My ankles wur in a noose, 
an' wur drawed clost together. Of coorse, while I wur 
movin' along, I couldn't get to my feet ; an' whenever the 
mustang kim to a halt, an' I had half-gathered myself, 
afore I kud reach the rope, away went the critter agin, 
flingin' me to the ground at full length. Another thing 
hindered me. Afore goin' to sleep, I had put my blanket 
on Mexikin-fashion — that is, wi' my head through a slit 
in the centre — an' as the drag begun, the blanket flopped 
about my face, an' half-smothered me. Prehaps, how- 
ever, an' 1 thort so arterwurdjthat blanket saved mc many 
a scratch, although it bamfoozled me a good bit. 

' I got the blanket off at last, arter I had made about 
a mile, I reckon, and then for the fust time I could see 
about me. Such a sight ! The moon wur up, an' I kud 
see that the ground wur white with snow. It had snowed 
while I wur asleep ; but that wan't the sight — the sight 
wur, that clost up an' around me the hull parairy wur 
kivered with wolves — cussed parairy wolves ! I kud see 
their long tongues lollin' out, an' the smoke steamin' 
from their open mouths. 

' Bein' now no longer hampered by the blanket, I made 
the best use I could o' my arms. Twice I got hold o' 
the lariat, but afore I kud set myself to pull up the 
runnin' hoss, it wur jerked out o' my hand agin, 

' Somehow or other, I had got clutch o' my bowie, 
and at the next opportunity I made a cut at the rope, 
and heerd the clean " snig " o' the knife. Arter that I 
lay quiet on the parairy, an' I b'lieve I kinder sort o' 

' 'Twan't a long faint no how ; for when I got over it, 
I kud see the mustang about a half a mile off, still runnin' 
as fast as his legs could carry him, an' most of the wolves 
howlin' arter him. A few of these critters had gathered 
about me, but gettin' to my feet, I made a dash among 

266 The Hunters' Feast 

them wi' the shinin' bowie, an' sent them every which 
way, I reckon. 

' I watched the mustang until he wur clur out o' sight, 
an' then I wur puzzled what to do. Fust I went back 
for my blanket, which I soon rekivered, an' then I 
followed the back track to get my gun an' other traps 
whur I had camped. The trail wur easy, on account o' 
the snow, an' I kud see whur I had sliped through it all 
the way. 

• Having got my possibles, I then tuk arter the mustang, 
and followed for at least ten miles on his tracks, but I 
never see'd that mustang agin. Whether the wolves 
hunted him down or not, I can't say, nor I don't care if 
they did, the scarey brute ! I see'd their feet all the way 
arter him in the snow, and I know'd it wur no use 
follering further. It wur plain I wur put down on the 
parairy, so I bundled my possibles, and turned head for 
'Laramies afoot. I had a three days' walk o' it, and 
perhaps I didn't cuss a few ! 

' I wur right bad used. Thur wan't a bone in my 
body that didn't ache, as if I had been passed through 
a sugar-mill ; and my clothes and skin were torn con- 
sid'ably. It mout a been wuss but for the blanket 
an' the sprinkle o' snow that made the ground a leetle 

' Howsomever, I got safe to the Fort, whur I wur soon 
rigged out in a fresh suit o' buckskin an' a boss. 

* But I never artervvard see'd a parairy wolf within 
range o' my rifle, that I didn't let it into him, an' as you 
see, I've throwed a good wheen in their tracks since then. 
Wagh ! Hain't I, Mark ? ' 



At one of our prairie camps our English comrade 
furnished us with the following account of that strange 
creature, the tapir. 

' No one who has turned over the pages of a picture 
book of mammalia will be likely to forget the odd- 
looking animal known as the tapir. Its long proboscis- 
like snout, its stiff-maned neck, and clumsy hog-like 
body, render the tout ensemble of this creature so 
peculiar, that there is no mistaking it for any other 

' When full grown, the tapir, or anta, as it is some- 
times called, is six feet in length by four in height — its 
weight being nearly equal to that of a small bullock. 
Its teeth resemble those of the horse ; but instead of 
hoofs, its feet are toed — the fore ones having four toes, 
while the hind feet have only three each. The eyes are 
small and lateral, while the ears are large and pointed. 
The skin is thick, somewhat like that of the hippo- 
potamus, with a very thin scattering of silky hairs 
over it ; but along the ridge of the neck, and upon the 
short tail, the hairs are longer and more profuse. The 
upper jaw protrudes far beyond the extremity of the 
under one. It is, moreover, highly prehensile, and 
enables the tapir to seize the roots upon which it feeds 
with greater ease. In fact, it plays the part of the 
elephant's proboscis to a limited degree. 

' Although the largest quadruped indigenous to South 
America, the tapir is not very well known to naturalists. 
Its haunts are far beyond the borders of civilisation. It 
is, moreover, a shy and solitary creature, and its active 
life is mostly nocturnal ; hence no great opportunity is 


268 The Hunters^ Feast 

offered for observing its habits. The chapter of its 
natural history is therefore a short one. 

' The tapir is an inhabitant of the tropical countries of 
America, dwelling near the banks of rivers and marshy 
lagoons. It is the American representative of the 
rhinoceros and hippopotamus, or, more properly, of the 
inaiba, or Indian tapir {Tapirus Indicus) of Sumatra, 
which has but lately become known to naturalists. The 
latter, in fact, is a near congener, and very much 
resembles the tapir of South America. 

' The tapir is amphibious — that is, it frequents the 
water, can swim and dive well, and generally seeks its 
food in the water or the soft marshy sedge; but when in 
repose, it is a land animal, making its haunt in thick 
coverts of the woods, and selecting a dry spot for its 
lair. Here it will remain couched and asleep during the 
greater part of the day. At nightfall, it steals forth, and 
following an old and well-used path, it approaches the 
bank of some river, and plunging in, swims off in 
search of its food — the roots and stems of several species 
of water plants. In this business it occupies most of the 
hours of darkness ; but at daybreak, it swims back to 
the place where it entered the water, and going out, 
takes the " back track " to its lair, where it sleeps until 
sunset again warns it forth. 

' Sometimes during rain, it leaves its den even at 
mid-day. On such occasions, it proceeds to the river or 
the adjacent swamp, where it delights to wallow in the 
mud, after the manner of hogs, and often for hours 
together. Unlike the hog, however, the tapir is a cleanly 
animal. After wallowing, it never returns to its den 
until it has first plunged into the clear water, and washed 
the mud thoroughly from its skin. 

' It usually travels at a trot, but when hard pressed it 
can gallop. Its gallop is peculiar. The fore legs are 
thrown far in advance, and the head is carried between 
them in a very awkward manner, somewhat after the 
fashion of a frolicsome donkey. 

' The tapir is strictly a vegetable feeder. It lives upon 
flags and roots of aquatic plants. Several kinds of fruits 

Hunting the Tapir 269 

and young succulent branches of trees, form a portion of 
its food. 

'It is a shy, timid animal, without any malice in its 
character ; and although possessed of great strength, 
never uses it except for defence, and then only in 
endeavours to escape. It frequently suffers itself to be 
killed without making any defence, although with its 
great strength and well-furnished jaws it might do serious 
hurt to an enemy. 

' The hunt of the tapir is one of the amusements, or 
rather employments, of the South American Indians. 
Not that the flesh of this animal is so eagerly desired by 
them : on the contrary, it is dry, and has a disagreeable 
taste, and there are some tribes who will not eat of it, 
preferring the flesh of monkeys, macaws, and the 
armadillo. But the part most prized is the thick, tough 
skin, which is employed by the Indians in making 
shields, sandals, and various other articles. This is the 
more valuable in a country where the thick-skinned and 
leather-yielding mammalia are almost unknown. 

* Slaying the tapir is no easy matter. The creature is 
shy, and, having the advantage of the watery element, is 
often enabled to dive beyond the reach of pursuit, and 
thus escape by concealing itself. Among most of the 
native tribes of South America, the young hunter who 
has killed a tapir is looked upon as having achieved 
something to be proud of. 

' The tapir is hunted by bow and arrow, or by the gun. 
Sometimes the ' gravatana,' or blow tube, is employed, 
with its poisoned darts. In any case, the hunter either 
lies in wait for its prey, or with a pack of dogs drives it 
out of the underwood, and takes the chances of a " flying 

' When the trail of a tapir has been discovered, its 
capture becomes easy. It is well known to the hunter 
that this animal, when proceeding from its lair to the 
water and returning, always follows its old track until a 
beaten path is made, which is easily disccrnable. 

' This path often betrays the tapir, and leads to its 

2/0 The Hunters' Feast 

' Sometimes the hunter accomplishes this by means 
of a pitfall, covered with branches and palm leaves ; at 
other times, he places himself in ambuscade, either 
before twilight or in the early morning, and shoots the 
unsuspecting animal as it approaches on its daily round. 

' Sometimes, when the whereabouts of a tapir has been 
discovered, a whole tribe sally out, and take part in the 
hunt. Such a hunt I myself witnessed on one of the 
tributaries of the Amazon. 

' In the year i8 — , I paid a visit to the Jurunas up 
the Xingu. Their maloccas (palm hut villages) lie 
beyond the falls of that river. Although classed as 
"wild Indians," the Jurunas are a mild race, friendly 
to the traders, and collect during a season considerable 
quantities o{ seringa (Indian rubber), sarsaparilla, as well 
as rare birds, monkeys, and Brazil nuts — the objects of 
Portuguese trade. 

' I was about to start for Para, when nothing would 
serve the tuxava, or chief of one of the maloccas, but 
that I should stay a day or two at his village, and take 
part in some festivities. He promised a tapir hunt, 

' As I knew that among the Jurunas were some skilled 
hunters, and as I was curious to witness an affair of this 
kind, I consented. The hunt was to come off on the 
second day of my stay. 

'The morning arrived, and the hunters assembled to 
the number of forty or fifty, in an open space by the 
malocca ; and having got their arms and equipments in 
readiness, all repaired to the praya, or narrow beach of 
sand, which separated the river from the thick underwood 
of the forest. Here some twenty or thirty ubas (canoes 
hollowed out of tree trunks) floated on the water, ready 
to receive the hunters. They were of different sizes ; 
some capable of containing half-a-dozen, while others 
were meant to carry only a single person. 

* In a few minutes the ubas were freighted with their 
living cargoes, consisting not only of the hunters, but of 
most of the women and boys of the malocca, with a 
score or two of dogs. 

' These dogs were curious creatures to look at. A 

H^inting the Tapir 271 

stranger, ignorant of the customs of the Jurunas, would 
have been at some loss to account for the peculiarity of 
their colour. Such clogs I had never seen before Some 
were of a bright scarlet, others were yellow, others blue, 
and some mottled with a variety of tints ! 

' What could it mean ? But I knew well enough. The 
dogs zvere dyed I 

' Yes, it is the custom among many tribes of South 
American Indians to dye not only their own bodies, but 
the hairy coat of their dogs, with brilliant colours 
obtained from vegetable juices, such as the huitoc, the 
yellow raucau (annato), and the blue of the wild indigo. 
The light grey, often white, hair of these animals favours 
the staining process ; and the effect produced pleases 
the eye of their savage masters. 

' On my eye the effect was strange and fantastical. I 
could not restrain my laughter when I first scanned these 
curs in their fanciful coats. Picture to yourself a pack 
of scarlet, and orange, and purple dogs ! 

' Well, we were soon in the ubas, and paddling up 
stream. The tuxava and I occupied a canoe to ourselves. 
His only arms were a light fusil, which I had given him 
as a present. It was a good piece, and he was proud of 
it. This was to be its first trial. I had a rifle for my 
own weapon. The rest were armed variously ; some 
had guns, others the native bow and arrows ; some 
carried the gravatana, with arrows dipped in curari 
poison ; some had nothing but machetes, or cutlasses — 
for clearing the underwood, in case the game had to be 
driven from the thickets. 

' There was a part of the river, some two or three 
miles above the malocca, where the channel was wider 
than elsewhere — several miles in breadth at this place. 
Here it was studded with islands, known to be a 
favourite resort of the tapirs. This was to be the scene 
of our hunt. 

' We approached the place in about an hour ; but on 
the way I could not help being struck with the 
picturesqueness of our party. No " meet " in the 
hunting-field of civilised countries could have equalled 

272 TJie Hunters' Feast 

us in that respect. The ubas, strung out in a long 
irregular line, sprang upstream in obedience to the 
vigorous strokes of the rowers, and these sang in a sort 
of irregular concert as they plied their paddles. The 
songs were improvised : they told the feats of the 
hunters already performed, and promised others yet to 
be done. I could hear the word " tapira " (tapir), often 
repeated. The women lent their shrill voices to the 
chorus ; and now and then interrupted the song with 
peals of merry laughter. The strange-looking flotilla — 
the bronzed bodies of the Indians, more than half nude 
— their waving black hair — their blue-bead belts and red 
cotton armlets — the bright iangas (aprons) of the women 
— their massive necklaces — the macaw feathers adorning 
the heads of the hunters — their odd arms and 
equipments — all combined to form a picture which, even 
to me, accustomed to such sights, was full of interest. 

' At length we arrived among the islands, and then the 
noises ceased. The canoes were paddled as slowly and 
silently as possible. 

' I now began to understand the plan of the hunt. 
It was first to discover an island upon which a tapir was 
supposed to be, and then encompass it with the hunters 
in their canoes, while a party landed with the dogs, to 
arouse the game and drive it toward the water. 

' This plan promised fair sport. 

' The canoes now separated ; and in a short while each 
of them were seen coursing quietly along the edge of 
some islet, one of its occupants leaning inward, and 
scrutinising the narrow belt of sand that bordered the 

' In some places no such sand-belt appeared. The 
trees hung over, their branches even dipping into the 
current, and forming a roofed and dark passage 
underneath. In such places a tapir could have hidden 
himself from the sharpest-eyed hunters, and herein lies 
the chief difficulty of this kind of hunt. 

' It was not long before a low whistle was heard from 
one of the ubas, a sign for the others to come up. The 
traces of a tapir had been discovered. 

Hunting the Tapir 273 

'The chief, with a stroke or two of his palm-wood 
paddle, brought our canoe to the spot. 

' There, sure enough, was the sign — the tracks of a 
tapir in the sand — leading to a hole in the thick under- 
wood, where a beaten path appeared to continue onward 
into the interior of the island, perhaps to the tapir den. 
The tracks were fresh — had been made that morning in 
the wet sand — no doubt the creature was in its lair. 

' The island was a small one, with some five or six 
acres of surface. The canoes shot off in different 
directions, and in a few minutes were deployed all 
around it. At a given signal, several hunters leaped 
ashore, followed by their bright-coloured assistants — 
the dogs ; and then the chopping of branches, the shouts 
of the men, and the yelping of their canine companions, 
were all heard mingling together. 

' The island was densely wooded. The uaussu and 
piriti palms grew so thickly, that their crowned heads 
touched each other, forming a close roof. Above these, 
rose the taller summits of the great forest trees, cedrelas^ 
saniangs, and the beautiful long-leaved silk cotton {bom- 
bax) ; but beneath, a perfect network of sipos or creepers 
and llianes choked up the path, and the hunters had to 
clear every step of the way with their machetes. Even 
the dogs, with all their eagerness, could make only a 
slow and tortuous advance among the thorny vines of 
the smilax, and the sharp spines that covered the trunks 
of the palms. 

' In the circle of canoes that surrounded the island, 
there was perfect silence ; each had a spot to guard, 
and each hunter sat, with arms ready, and eyes keenly 
fixed on the foliage of the underwood opposite his station. 

' The uba of the chief had remained to watch the path 
where the tracks of the tapir had been observed. We 
both sat with guns cocked and ready ; the dogs and 
hunters were distinctly heard in the bushes approaching 
the centre of the islet. The former gave tongue at 
intervals, but their yelping grew louder, and was uttered 
with a fiercer accent. Several of them barked at once, 
and a rushing was heard towards the water. 


274 '^^^^ Hunters^ Feast 

' It came in our direction, but not right for us ; still 
the game was likely to issue at a point within range of 
our guns. A stroke of the paddle brought us into a 
better position. At the same time several other canoes 
were seen shooting forward to the spot. 

' The underwood crackled and shook ; reddish forms 
appeared among the leaves ; and the next moment a 
dozen animals, resembling a flock of hogs, tumbled out 
from the thicket, and flung themselves with a splashing 
into the water. 

' " No — tapir no — capivara," cried the chief ; but his 
voice was drowned by the reports of guns and the 
twanging of bowstrings. Half-a-dozen of the capivaras 
were observed to fall on the sandy margin, while the 
rest plunged forward, and, diving beyond the reach of 
pursuit, were seen no more. 

' This was a splendid beginning of the day's sport ; for 
half-a-dozen at a single volley was no mean game, even 
among Indians. 

' But the nobler beast, the tapir, occupied all our 
thoughts ; and leaving the capivaras to be gathered in 
by the women, the hunters got back to their posts in a 
few seconds. 

' There was no doubt that a tapir would be roused. 
The island had all the appearance of being the haunt of 
one or more of these creatures, besides the tracks were 
evidence of their recent presence upon the spot. The 
beating, therefore, proceeded as lively as ever, and the 
hunters and dogs now penetrated to the centre of the 

'Again the quick angry yelping of the latter fell 
upon the ear ; and again the thick cover rustled and 

' " This time the tapir," said the chief to me in an 
undertone, adding the next moment in a louder voice, 
" Look yonder ! " 

' I looked in the direction pointed out. I could 
perceive something in motion among the leaves — a 
dark brown body, smooth and rounded, the body of a 
tapir ! 

Hunting tlie Tapir 275 

' I caught only a glimpse of it, as it sprang forward 
into the opening. It was coming at full gallop, with its 
head carried between its knees. The dogs were close 
after, and it looked not before it, but dashed out and 
ran towards us as though blind. 

' It made for the water, just a few feet from the bow 
of our canoe. The chief and I fired at the same time. 
I thought my bullet took effect, and so thought the chief 
did his ; but the tapir, seeming not to heed the shots, 
plunged into the stream, and went under. 

'The next moment the whole string of dyed dogs 
came sweeping out of the thicket, and leaped forward to 
where the game had disappeared. 

' There was blood upon the water. The tapir is hit, 
then, thought I ; and was about to point out the blood 
to the chief, when on turning I saw the latter poising 
himself, knife in hand, near the stern of the canoe. He 
was about to spring out of it. His eye was fixed on 
some object under the water. 

' I looked in the same direction. The waters of the 
Xingu are as clear as crystal : against the sandy bottom. 
I could trace the dark brown body of the tapir. It was 
making for the deeper channel of the river, but evidently 
dragging itself along with difficulty. One of its legs 
was disabled by our shots. 

* I had scarcely time to get a good view of it before 
the chief sprang into the air, and dropped head fore- 
most into the water. I could see a struggle going on 
at the bottom — turbid water came to the surface — and 
then up came the dark head of the savage chief 

' " Ugh ! " cried he, as he shook the water from his 
thick tresses, and beckoned me to assist him — " Ugh ! 
Senhor, you eat roast tapir for dinner, Si — bueno — here 

' I pulled him into the boat, and afterwards assisted 
to haul up the huge body of the slain tapir. 

' As was now seen, both our shots had taken effect ; 
but it was the rifle bullet that had broken the creature's 
leg, and the generous savage acknowledged that he 
would have had but little chance of overtaking the 

276 The Hunters' Feast 

game under water, had it not been previously 

' Thie hunt of the day proved a very successful one. 
Two more tapirs were killed ; several capivaras ; and a 
paca — which is an animal much prized by the Indians 
for its flesh, as well as the teeth — used by them in 
making their blow guns. We also obtained a pair of 
the small peccaries, several macaws, and no less than a 
whole troop of guariba monkeys. We returned to the 
malocca with a game bag as various as it was full, and 
a grand dance of the Juruna women wound up the 
amusements of the day.' 



The long looked for day at length arrived when the 
game were to be met with, and I had myself the ' dis- 
tinguished honour ' of being the first not only to see the 
great buffalo, but to throw a couple of them 'in their 
tracks.' This incident, however, was not without an 
' adventure,' and one that was neither very pleasant nor 
without peril. During several late days of our journey 
we had been in the habit of straggling a good deal in 
search of game — deer if we could find it, but more 
especially in hopes of falling in with the buffalo. 
Sometimes we went in twos or threes, but as often one 
of the party rode off alone to hunt wherever his in- 
clination guided him. Sometimes these solitary ex- 
peditions took place while the party was on the march, 
but oftener during the hours after we had pitched our 
night camp. 

One evening, after we had camped as usual, and my 
brave horse had eaten his ' bite ' of corn, I leaped into 
the saddle and rode off in hopes of finding something 
fresh for supper. The prairie where we had halted was 
a 'rolling' one, and as the camp had been fixed on a 
small stream, between two great swells, it was not visible 
at any great distance. As soon, therefore, as I had 
crossed one of the ridges, I was out of sight of my 
companions. Trusting to the sky for my direction, I 
continued on. 

After riding about a mile, I came upon buffalo 'sign,' 
consisting of several circular holes in the ground, five or 
six feet in diameter, known as buffalo ' wallows.' I saw 
at a glance that the sign was fresh. There were several 
wallows ; and I could tell by the tracks, in the dusk, 


2yS The H?<nters' Feast 

there had been bulls in that quarter. So I continued 
on in hopes of getting a sight of the animals that had 
been wallowing. 

Shortly after, I came to a place where the ground 
was ploughed up, as if a drove of hogs had been rooting 
it. Here there had been a terrible fight among the 
bulls — it was the rutting season, when such conflicts 
occur. This augured well. Perhaps they are still in 
the neighbourhood, reasoned I, as I gave the spur to 
my horse, and galloped forward with more spirit. 

I had ridden full five miles from camp, when my 
attention was attracted by an odd noise ahead of me. 
There was a ridge in front that prevented me from 
seeing what produced the noise ; but I knew what it 
was — it was the bellowing of a buffalo bull. 

At intervals, there were quick shocks, as of two hard 
substances coming in violent contact with each other. 

I mounted the ridge with caution, and looked over its 
crest. There was a valley beyond ; a cloud of dust was 
rising out of its bottom, and in the midst of this I could 
distinguish two huge forms — dark and hirsute. 

I saw at once that they were a pair of buffalo bulls, 
engaged in a fierce fight. They were alone ; there were 
no others in sight, either in the valley or on the prairie 

I did not halt longer than to see that the cap was on 
my rifle, and to cock the piece. Occupied as the 
animals were, I did not imagine they would heed me ; 
or, if they should attempt flight, I knew I could easily 
overtake one or other ; so, without further hesitation or 
precaution, I rode towards them. 

Contrary to my expectation, they both ' winded ' me, 
and started off. The wind was blowing freshly towards 
them, and the sun had thrown my shadow between 
them, so as to draw their attention. 

They did not run, however, as if badly scared ; on the 
contrary, they went off, apparently indignant at being 
disturbed in their fight ; and every now and then both 
came round with short turnings, snorted, and struck the 
prairie with their hoofs in a violent and angry manner. 

The Buffaloes at Last 279 

Once or twice, I fancied they were going to charge 
upon me ; and had I been otherwise than well mounted, 
I should have been very chary of risking such an 
encounter. A more formidable pair of antagonists, as 
far as appearance went, could not have been well 
conceived. Their huge size, their shaggy fronts, and 
fierce glaring eyeballs, gave them a wild and malicious 
seeming, which was heightened by their bellowing, and 
the threatening attitudes in which they continually 
placed themselves. 

Feeling quite safe in my saddle, I galloped up to the 
nearest, and sent my bullet into his ribs. It did the 
work. He fell to his knees — rose again — spread out his 
legs, as if to prevent a second fall — rocked from side to 
side like a cradle — again came to his knees ; and after 
remaining in this position for some minutes, with the 
blood running from his nostrils, rolled quietly over on 
his shoulder, and lay dead. 

I had watched these manoeuvres with interest, and 
permitted the second bull to make his escape ; a side- 
glance had shown me the latter disappearing over the 
crest of the swell. 

I did not care to follow him, as my horse was some- 
what jaded, and I knew it would cost me a sharp gallop 
to come up with him again ; so I thought no more of 
him at that time, but alighted, and prepared to deal 
with the one already slain. 

There stood a solitary tree near the spot — it was a 
stunted cotton-wood. There were others upon the prairie, 
but they were distant ; this one was not twenty yards 
from the carcass, I led my horse up to it, and taking 
the trail rope from the horn of the saddle, made one end 
fast to the bit ring, and the other to the tree. I then 
went back, drew my knife, and proceeded to cut up the 

I had hardly whetted my blade, when a noise from 
behind caused me to leap to an upright attitude, and 
look round ; at the first glance, I comprehended the 
noise. A huge dark object was passing the crest of the 
ridge, and rushing down the hill towards the spot where 

28o TJie Hunters' Feast 

I stood. It was the buffalo bull, the same that had just 
left me. 

The sight, at first thought, rather pleased me than 
otherwise. Although I did not want any more meat, I 
should have the triumph of carrying two tongues instead 
of one to the camp. I therefore hurriedly sheathed my 
knife, and laid hold of my rifle, which, according to 
custom, I had taken the precaution to reload. 

I hesitated a moment whether to run to my horse and 
mount him, or to fire from where I stood. That question 
however, was settled by the buffalo. The tree and the 
horse were to one side of the direction in which he was 
running, but being attracted by the loud snorting of the 
horse, which had begun to pitch and plunge violently, 
and deeming it perhaps a challenge, the buffalo suddenly 
swerved from his course, and ran full tilt upon the horse. 
The latter shot out instantly to the full length of the 
trail rope — a heavy ' pluck ' sounded in my ears, and the 
next instant I saw my horse part from the tree, and 
scour off over the prairie, as if there had been a thistle 
under his tail. I had knotted the rope negligently upon 
the bit ring, and the knot had ' come undone.' 

I was chagrined, but not alarmed as yet. My horse 
would no doubt follow back his own trail, and at the 
worst I should only have to walk to the camp. I should 
have the satisfaction of punishing the buffalo for the 
trick he had served me ; and with this design I turned 
towards him. 

I saw that he had not followed the horse, but was 
again heading himself in my direction. 

Now, for the first time, it occurred to me that I was in 
something of a scrape. The bull was coming furiously 
on. Should my shot miss, or even should it only wound 
him, how was I to escape ? I knew that he could 
overtake me in a three minutes' stretch ; I knew that 

I had not much time for reflection — not a moment in 
fact : the infuriated animal was within ten paces of me. 
I raised my rifle, aimed at his fore shoulder, and fired. 

I saw that I had hit him ; but, to my dismay, he neither 

The Bit jf aloes at Last 281 

fell nor stumbled, but continued to charge forward more 
furiously than ever. 

To reload was impossible. My pistols had gone off 
with my horse and holsters. Even to reach the tree was 
impossible ; the bull was between it and me. 

To make off in the opposite direction was the only 
thing that held out the prospect of five minutes' safety ; 
I turned and ran. 

I can run as fast as most men, and upon that occasion 
I did my best. It would have put ' Gildersleeve ' into a 
white sweat to have distanced me ; but I had not been 
two minutes at it, when I felt conscious that the buffalo 
gained upon me, and was almost treading upon my heels! 
I knew it only by my ears — I dared not spare time to 
look back. 

At this moment, an object appeared before me, that 
promised, one way or another, to interrupt the chase ; 
it was a ditch or gully, that intersected my path at right 
angles. It was several feet in depth, dry at the bottom, 
and with perpendicular sides. 

I was almost upon its edge before I noticed it, but 
the moment it came under my eye, I saw that it offered 
the means of a temporary safety at least. If I could only 
leap this gully, I felt satisfied that the buffalo could not. 

It was a sharp leap — at least, seventeen feet from cheek 
to cheek ; but I had done more than that in my time ; 
and, without halting in my gait, I ran forward to the 
edge, and sprang over. 

I alighted cleverly upon the opposite bank, where I 
stopped, and turned round to watch my pursuer. 

I now ascertained how near my end I had been ; the 
bull was already up to the very edge of the gully. Had 
I not made my leap at the instant I did, I should 
have been by that time dancing upon his horns. He 
himself had balked at the leap ; the deep chasm-like 
cleft had cowed him. He saw that he could not clear it ; 
and now stood upon the opposite bank with head lowered, 
and spread nostrils, his tail lashing his brown flanks, 
while his glaring black eyes expressed the full measure 
of his baffled rage. 

282 The Hunters' Feast 

I remarked that my shot had taken effect in his 
shoulder, as the blood trickled from his lonfj hair. 

I had almost begun to congratulate myself on having 
escaped, when a hurried glance to the right, and another 
to the left, cut short my happiness. I saw that on both 
sides, at a distance of less than fifty paces, the gully 
shallowed out into the plain, where it ended : at either 
end it was, of course, passable. 

The bull observed this almost at the same time as 
myself ; and, suddenly turning away from the brink, he 
ran along the edge of the chasm, evidently with the 
intention of turning it. 

In less than a minute's time we were once more on the 
same side, and my situation appeared as terrible as ever ; 
but, stepping back for a short run, I re-leaped the chasm, 
and again we stood on opposite sides. 

During all these manoeuvres I had held on to my 
rifle ; and, seeing now that I might have time to load it, 
I commenced feeling for my powder-horn. To my 
astonishment, I could not lay my hands upon it : 1 
looked down to my breast for the sling — it was not 
there ; belt and bullet-pouch too — all were gone ! I 
remembered lifting them over my head, when I set 
about cutting the dead bull. They were lying by the 

This discovery was a new source of chagrin ; but 
for my negligence, I could now have mastered my 

To reach the ammunition would be impossible ; I 
should be overtaken before I had got half-way to it. 

I was not allowed much time to indulge in my regrets : 
the bull had again turned the ditch, and was once more 
upon the same side with me, and I was compelled to take 
another leap. 

I really do not remember how often I sprang back- 
wards and forwards across that chasm ; I should think 
a dozen times at least, and I became wearied with the 
exercise. The leap was just as much as I could do at 
my best ; and as I was growing weaker at each fresh 
spring, I became satisfied that I should soon leap short, 

The Buffaloes at Last 283 

and crush myself against the steep rocky sides of the 

Should I fall to the bottom, my pursuer could easily 
reach me by entering at either end, and I began to 
dread such a finale. The vengeful brute showed no 
symptoms of retiring ; on the contrary, the numerous 
disappointments seemed only to render him more 
determined in his resentment. 

An idea now suggested itself to my mind. 

I had looked all round to see if there might not be 
something that offered a better security. There were 
trees, but they were too distant : the only one near was 
that to which my horse had been tied. It was a small 
one, and, like all of its species (it was a cotton-wood), 
there were no branches near the root. 

I knew that I could clamber up it by embracing the 
trunk, which was not over ten inches in diameter. 
Could I only succeed in reaching it, it would at least 
shelter me better than the ditch, of which I was getting 
heartily tired. 

But the question was, could I reach it before the 
bull ? 

It was about three hundred yards off. By proper 
manoeuvring, I should have a start of fifty. Even with 
that, it would be a ' close shave ' ; and it proved so. 

I arrived at the tree, however, and sprang up it like a 
mountebank ; but the hot breath of the buffalo steamed 
after me as I ascended, and the concussion of his heavy 
skull against the trunk almost shook me back upon his 

After a severe effort of climbing, I succeeded in 
lodging myself among the branches. 

I was now safe from all immediate danger, but how 
was the affair to end ? 

I knew from the experience of others, that my enemy 
might stay for hours by the tree — perhaps for days ! 

Hours would be enouirh. I could not stand it lonfr, 
I already hungered, but a worse appetite began to 
torture me : thirst. The hot sun, the dust, the violent 
exercise of the past hour, all contributed to make me 

284 The Hunters' Feast 

thirsty. Even then, I would have risked life for a 
draught of water. What would it come to should I not 
be relieved ? 

I had but one hope — that my companions would 
come to my relief; but I knew that that would not be 
before morning. They would miss me of course. 
Perhaps my horse would return to camp — that would 
send them out in search for me — but not before night 
had fallen. In the darkness they could not follow my 
trail. Could they do so in the light? 

This last question, which I had put to myself, startled 
me. I was just in a condition to look upon the dark 
side of everything, and it now occurred to me that they 
might not be able to find me ! 

There were many possibilities that they might not. 
There were numerous horse trails on the prairie, where 
Indians had passed. I saw this when tracking the 
buffalo. Besides, it might rain in the night and 
obliterate them all — my own with the rest. They were 
not likely to find me by chance. A circle of ten miles 
diameter is a large tract. It was a rolling prairie, as 
already stated, full of inequalities, ridges with valleys 
between. The tree upon which I was perched stood in 
the bottom of one of the valleys — it could not be seen 
from any point over three hundred yards distant. 
Those searching for me might pass within hail without 
perceiving either the tree or the valley. 

I remained for a long time busied with such gloomy 
thoughts and forebodings. Night was coming on, but 
the fierce and obstinate brute showed no disposition to 
raise the seige. He remained watchful as ever, walk- 
ing round and round at intervals, lashing his tail and 
uttering that snorting sound so well known to the 
prairie hunter, and which so much resembles the grunt- 
ing of hogs when suddenly alarmed. Occasionally he 
would bellow loudly like the common bull. 

While watching his various manoeuvres, an object on 
the ground drew my attention — it was the trail rope 
left by my horse. One end of it was fastened round the 
trunk by a firm knot — the other lay far out upon the 

The Buffaloes at Last 285 

prairie, where it had been dragged. My attention had 
been drawn to it by the bull himself, that in crossing 
over it had noticed it, and now and then pawed it with 
his hoofs. 

All at once a bright idea flashed upon me — a sudden 
hope arose within me — a plan of escape presented itself, 
so feasible and possible, that I leaped in my perch as the 
thought struck me. 

The first step was to get possession of the rope. 
This was not such an easy matter. The rope was 
fastened around the tree, but the knot had slipped down 
the trunk and lay upon the ground. I dared not 
descend for it. 

Necessity soon suggested a plan. 

My 'picker' — a piece of straight wire with a ring-end 
— hung from one of my breast buttons. This I took 
hold of, and bent into the shape of a grappling hook. I 
had no cord, but my knife was still safe in its sheath ; 
and, drawing this, I cut several thongs from the skirt of 
my buckskin shirt, and knotted them together until they 
formed a string long enough to reach the ground. To 
one end I attached the picker ; and then letting it down, 
I commenced angling for the rope. 

After a few transverse drags, the hook caught the 
latter, and I pulled it up into the tree, taking the whole 
of it in until I held the loose end in my hands. The 
other end I permitted to remain as it was ; I saw it was 
securely knotted around the trunk, and that was just 
what I wanted. 

It was my intention to lasso the bull ; and for this 
purpose I proceeded to make a running noose on the end 
of the trail rope. 

This I executed with great care, and with all my skill. 
I could depend upon the rope ; it was raw hide, and a 
better was never twisted ; but I knew that if anything 
should chance to slip at a critical moment, it might cost 
me my life. With this knowledge, therefore, I spliced 
the eye, and made the knot as firm as possible, and then 
the loop was reeved through, and the thing was ready. 

I could throw a lasso tolerably well, but the branches 

286 The Htinters' Feast 

prevented me from winding it around my head. It was 
necessary, therefore, to get the animal in a certain 
position under the tree, which, by shouts and other 
demonstrations, I at length succeeded in effecting. 

The moment of success had arrived. He stood almost 
directly below me. The noose was shot down — I had 
the gratification to see it settle around his neck ; and 
with a quick jerk I tightened it. The rope ran beauti- 
fully through the eye, until both eye and loop were 
buried beneath the shaggy hair of the animal's neck. It 
embraced his throat in the right place, and I felt 
confident it would hold. 

The moment the bull felt the jerk upon his throat, he 
dashed madly out from the tree, and then commenced 
running in circles around it. 

Contrary to my intention, the rope had slipped from 
my hands at the first drag upon it. My position was 
rather an unsteady one, for the branches were slender, 
and I could not manage matters as well as I could have 

But I now felt confident enough. The bull was 
tethered, and it only remained for me to get out beyond 
the length of his tether, and take to my heels. 

My gun lay on one side, near the tree, where I had 
dropped it in my race : this, of course, I meant to carry 
off with me. 

I waited then until the animal, in one of his circles, 
had got round to the opposite side, and slipping silently 
down the trunk, I sprang out, picked up my rifle, and 

I knew the trail rope to be about twenty yards in 
length, but I ran a hundred, at least, before making 
halt. I had even thoughts of continuing on, as I still 
could not help some misgivings about the rope. 

The bull was one of the largest and strongest. The 
rope might break, the knot upon the tree might give 
way, or the noose might slip over his head. 

Curiosity, however, or rather a desire to be assured 
of my safety, prompted me to look around, when, to my 
joy, I beheld the huge monster stretched upon the 

Lassoing the bull. 

p. 286. 

The Buffaloes at Last 287 

plain. I could see the rope as taut as a bow-string ; 
and the tongue protruding from the animal's jaws 
showed me that he was strangling himself as fast as I 
could desire. 

At the sight, the idea of buffalo-tongue for supper 
returned in all its vigour ; and it now occurred to me 
that I should eat that very tongue, and no other. 

I immediately turned in my tracks, ran towards my 
powder and balls — which, in my eagerness to escape, I 
had forgotten all about — seized the horn and pouch, 
poured in a charge, rammed down a bullet, and then 
stealing nimbly up behind the still struggling bull, I 
placed the muzzle within three feet of his brisket, and 
fired. He gave a death-kick or two, and then lay quiet : 
it was all over with him. 

I had the tongue from between his teeth in a twink- 
ling ; and proceeding to the other bull, I finished the 
operations I had commenced upon him. I was too 
tired to think of carrying a very heavy load ; so I con- 
tented myself with the tongues, and slinging these over 
the barrel of my rifle, I shouldered it, and set out to 
grope my way back to camp. 

The moon had risen, and I had no difficulty in follow- 
ing my own trail ; but before I had got half-way, I met 
several of my companions shouting, and at intervals 
firing off their guns. 

My horse had got back a little before sunset. His 
appearance had, of course, produced alarm, and the 
camp had turned out in search of me. 

Several who had a relish for fresh meat galloped 
back to strip the two bulls of the remaining tit-bits ; 
but before midnight all had returned ; and to the 
accompaniment of the hump-ribs, spurting in the 
cheerful blaze, I recounted the details of my adventure. 



The bison — universally, though improperly, called 
buffalo — is, perhaps, the most interesting animal in 
America. Its great size and strength — the prodigious 
numbers in which it is found — its peculiar habitat — the 
value of its flesh and hide to the traveller, as well as to 
the many tribes of Indians — the mode of its chase and 
capture — all these circumstances render the buffalo an 
interesting and highly-prized animal. 

Besides, it is the largest ruminant indigenous to 
America, exceeding in weight even the moose deer, 
which latter, however, equals it in height. With the 
exception of the musk-ox, it is the only indigenous 
animal of the bovine tribe, but the latter being confined 
to a very limited range, near the Arctic Sea, has been 
less subject to the observation and attention of the 
civilised world. The buffalo, therefore, may be re- 
garded as the representative of the ox in America. 

The appearance of the animal is well known ; 
pictorial illustration has rendered it familiar to the 
eyes of every one. The enormous head, with its broad 
triangular front — the conical hump on the shoulders — 
the small but brilliantly-piercing eyes — the short black 
horns, of crescent shape — the profusion of shaggy hair 
about the neck and foreparts of the body — the dispro- 
portioned bulk of the smaller hind quarters — the short 
tail, with its tufted extremity ; all these are character- 
istics. The hind-quarters are covered with a much 
shorter and smoother coat of hair, which adds to their 
apparent disproportion, and this, with the long hirsute 
covering of the breast, neck, hump, and shoulders, 
gives to the buffalo — especially when seen in a picture 


The Bison 289 

— a somewhat lion-like figure. The naked tail, with its 
tuft at the end, strengthens this similarity. 

Some of the characteristics above enumerated belong 
only to the bull. The cow is less shaggy in front, has a 
smaller head, a less fierce appearance, and is altogether 
more like the common black cattle. 

The buffalo is of a dark brown colour — sometimes 
nearly black — and sometimes of a burnt or liver hue ; 
but this change depends on the season. The young coat 
of hair is darker, but changes as the season advances. 
In autumn it is nearly black, and then the coat of the 
animal has a shiny appearance ; but as winter comes on, 
and the hair lengthens, it becomes lighter and more 
bleached-like. In the early part of summer it has a 
yellowish-brown hue, and at this time, with rubbing and 
wallowing, part of it has already come off, while large 
flakes hang raggled and loose from the flanks, ready at 
any moment to drop off. 

In size, the American buffalo competes with the 
European species {Bos aurochs), now nearly extinct. 
These animals differ in shape considerably, but the 
largest individuals of each species would very nearly 
balance one another in weight. Either of them is equal 
in size and weight to the largest specimens of the 
common ox — prize ox, of course, excepted, 

A full-grown buffalo bull is six feet high at the 
shoulders, eight feet from the snout to the base of the 
tail, and will weigh about 1,500 lbs. 

Rare individuals exist whose weight much exceeds 
this. The cows are, of course, much smaller than the 
bulls, and scarcely come up to the ordinary standard of 
farm cattle. 

The flesh of the buffalo is juicy and delicious, equal, 
indeed superior, to well-fed beef. It may be regarded as 
beef with a game flavour. Many people — travellers and 
hunters — prefer it to any other species of meat. 

The flesh of the cow, as may be supposed, is more 
tender and savoury than that of the bull ; and in a hunt 
when ' meat ' is the object, the cow is selected as a mark 
for the arrow or bullet. 

290 The Hiiniefs' Feast 

The parts most esteemed are the tongue, the 'hump- 
ribs ' (the long spinous processes of the first dorsal 
vertebrae), and the marrow of the shank bones. 
' Boudins ' (part of the intestines) are also favourite 
' tit-bits ' among the Indians and trappers. 

The tongues, when dried, are really superior to those 
of common beeves, and, indeed, the same may be said 
of the other parts, but there is a better and worse in 
buffalo beef, according to the age and sex of the animal. 
'Fat cow' is a term for the super-excellent, and by 'poor 
bull,' or * old bull,' is meant a very unpalatable article, 
only to be eaten by the hunter in times of necessity. 

The range of the buffalo is extensive, though not as it 
once was. It is gradually being restricted by hunter- 
pressure, and the encroachments of civilisation. It now 
consists of a longitudinal strip, of which the western 
boundary may be considered the Rocky Mountains, and 
the eastern the Mississippi River, though it is only near 
the head waters of the latter that the range of this animal 
extends so far east. Below the mouth of the Missouri 
no buffalo are found near the Mississippi, nor within two 
hundred miles of it — not, in fact, until you have cleared 
the forests that fringe tin's stream, and penetrated a 
good distance into the prairie tract. At one period, 
however, they roamed as far to the east as the chain of 
the Alleghanies. 

In Texas, the buffalo yet extends its migrations to the 
head waters of the Brazos and Colorado, but it is not a 
Mexican animal. Following the Rocky Mountains from 
the great bend of the Rio Grande, northward, we find 
no buffalo west of them until we reach the higher 
latitudes near the sources of the Saskatchewan. There 
they have crossed the mountains, and are now to be met 
with in some of the plains that lie on the other side. 
This, however, is a late migration, occasioned by hunter- 
pressure upon the eastern slope. The same has been 
observed at different periods, at other points in the 
Rocky Mountain chain, where the buffalo had made a 
temporary lodgment on the Pacific side of the 
mountains, but where they are now entirely extinct. 

The Bison 291 

It is known, from the traditional history of the tribes 
on the west side, that the buffalo was only a newcomer 
among them, and was not indigenous to that division of 
the Continent. 

Following the buffaloes north, we find their range 
coterminous with the prairies. The latter end in an 
angle between the Peace River and the great Slave 
Lake, and beyond this the buffalo does not run. There 
is a point, however, across an arm of the Slave Lake 
where buffalo are found. It is called Slave Point, and 
although contiguous to the primitive rocks of the ' Barren 
Grounds ' it is of a similar geology (stratified limestone) 
with the buffalo prairies to the west. This, to the 
geologist, is an interesting fact. 

From the Slave Lake, a line drawn to the head waters 
of the Mississippi, and passing through Lake Winnipeg, 
will shut in the buffalo country along the north-east. 
They are still found in large bands upon the western 
shores of Winnipeg, on the plains of the Saskatchewan 
and the Red River of the north. In fact, buffalo hunting 
is one of the chief employments of the inhabitants of 
that half-Indian colony known as the ' Red River 

One of the most singular facts in relation to the 
buffalo is their enormous numbers. Nothing but the 
vast extent of their pasturage could have sustained such 
droves as have from time to time been seen. Thousands 
frequently feed together, and the plain for miles is often 
covered with a continuous drove. Sometimes they are 
seen strung out into a long column, passing from place 
to place, and roads exist made by them that resemble 
great highways. Sometimes these roads, worn by the 
rains, form great hollows that traverse the level plain, 
and they often guide the thirsty traveller in the direction 
of water. 

Another curious fact about the buffalo is their habit of 
wallowing. The cause of this is not well ascertained. 
It may be that they are prompted to it, as swine are, 
partly to cool their blood by bringing their bodies in 
contact with the colder earth, and partly to scratch 

292 The Hunters' Feast 

themselves as other cattle do, and free their skins from 
the annoying insects and parasites that prey upon them. 
It must be remembered that in their pasturage no trees 
or 'rubbing posts ' are to be found, and in the" absence of 
these they are compelled to resort to wallowing. They 
fling themselves upon their sides, and using their hunch 
and shoulder as a pivot, spin round and round for hours 
at a time. In this rotatory motion they aid themselves 
by using the legs freely. The earth becomes hollowed 
out and worn into a circular basin, often of con- 
siderable depth, and this is known as a ' buffalo 
wallow.' Such curious circular concavities are seen 
throughout the prairies where these animals range; 
sometimes grown over with grass, sometimes freshly 
hollowed out, and not unfrequently containing water, 
with which the traveller assuages his thirst, and so, too, 
the buffalo themselves. This has led to the fanciful idea 
of the early explorers that there existed on the American 
Continent an animal who dug its oivnwells! 

The buffaloes make extensive migrations, going in 
large ' gangs.' These are not periodical, and are only 
partially influenced by climate. They are not regular 
either in their direction. Sometimes the gangs will be 
seen straying southward, at other times to the north, east, 
or west. 

The search of food or water seems partially to 
regulate these movements, as with the passenger pigeon, 
and some other migratory creatures. 

At such times the buffaloes move forward in an 
impetuous march which nothing seems to interrupt. 
Ravines are passed, and waterless plains traversed, and 
rivers crossed without hesitation. In many cases broad 
streams, with steep or marshy banks, are attempted, 
and thousands either perish in the waters or become 
mired in the swamp, and cannot escape, but die the 
most terrible of deaths. Then is the feast of the 
eagles, the vultures, and the wolves. Sometimes, too, 
the feast of the hunter ; for when the Indians discover 
a gang of buffaloes in a difficulty of this kind, the 
slaughter is immense. 

TJie Bison 293 

Hunting the buffalo is, among the Indian tribes, a 
profession rather than a sport. Those who practise it in 
the latter sense are few indeed, as, to enjoy it, it is 
necessary to do as we had done, make a journey of 
several hundred miles, and risk our scalps, with no 
inconsiderable chance of losing them. For these reasons 
few amateur hunters ever trouble the buffalo. 

The true professional hunters — the white trappers and 
Indians — pursue these animals almost incessantly, and 
thin their numbers with lance, rifle, and arrow. 

Buffalo hunting is not all sport without peril. The 
hunter frequently risks his life; and numerous have been 
the fatal results of encounters with these animals. The 
bulls, when wounded, cannot be approached, even on 
horseback, without considerable risk, while a dismounted 
hunter has but slight chance of escaping. 

The buffalo runs with a gait apparently heavy and 
lumbering — first heaving to one side, then to the other, 
like a ship at sea ; but this gait, although not equal in 
speed to that of a horse, is far too fast for a man on foot, 
and the swiftest runner, unless favoured by a tree or 
some other object, will be surely overtaken, and either 
gored to death by the animal's horns, or pounded to a 
jelly under its heavy hoofs. Instances of the kind are 
far from being rare, and could amateur hunters only get 
at the buffalo, such occurrences would be fearfully 
common. An incident illustrative of these remarks is 
told by the traveller and naturalist Richardson, and may 
therefore be safely regarded as a fact. 

* While I resided at Charlton House, an incident of 
this kind occurred. Mr. Finnan M'Donald, one of the 
Hudson's Bay Company's clerks, was descending the 
Saskatchewan in a boat, and one evening, having pitched 
his tent for the night, he went out in the dusk to look for 

' It had become nearly dark when he fired at a bison 
bull, which was galloping over a small eminence ; and as 
he was hastening forward to see if the shot had taken 
effect, the wounded beast made a rush at him. He had 
the presence of mind to seize the animal by the long 

294 l^^i'^ Hunters' Feast 

hair on his forehead, as it struck him on the side with 
its horn, and being a remarkably tall and powerful man, 
a struggle ensued, which continued until his wrist was 
severely sprained, and his arm was rendered powerless ; 
he then fell, and after receiving two or three blows, 
became senseless. 

' Shortly after, he was found by his companions lying 
bathed in blood, being gored in several places ; and the 
bison was couched beside him, apparently waiting to 
renew the attack, had he shown any signs of life. Mr. 
M'Donald recovered from the immediate effects of the 
injuries he received, but died a few months after.' Dr. 
Richardson adds : — ' Many other instances might be 
mentioned of the tenaciousness with which this animal 
pursues its revenge ; and I have been told of a hunter 
having been detained for many hours in a tree, by an old 
bull which had taken its post below to watch him.' 

The numbers of the buffalo, although still very great, 
are annually on the decrease. Their woolly skins, when 
dressed, are of great value as an article of commerce. 
Among the Canadians they are in general use ; they 
constitute the favourite wrappers of the traveller in that 
cold climate : they line the cariole, the carriage, and the 
sleigh. Thousands of them are used in the northern 
parts of the United States for a similar purpose. They 
are known as buffalo-robes, and areoften prettily trimmed 
and ornamented, so as to command a good price. They 
are even exported to Europe in large quantities. 

Of course this extensive demand for the robes causes 
a proportionate destruction among the buffaloes. But 
this is not all. Whole tribes of Indians, amounting to 
many thousands of individuals, subsist entirely upon 
these animals, as the Laplander upon the reindeer, or 
the Guarani Indian upon the moricJie palm. Their 
blankets are buffalo-robes, part of their clothing buffalo 
leather, their tents are buffalo hides, and buffalo beef is 
their sole food for three parts of the year. The large 
prairie tribes — as the Sioux, the Pawnees, the Blackfeet, 
the Crows, the Chiennes, the Arapahoes, and the 
Comanches, with several smaller bands — live upon the 

The Bison 295 

buffalo. These tribes, united, number at least 100,000 
souls. No wonder the buffalo should be each year 
diminishing in numbers ! 

It is predicted that in a few years the race will become 
extinet. The same has been often said of the Indian. 
The soi-disant prophet is addicted to this sort of melan- 
choly foreboding, because he believes by such babbling 
he gains a character for philanthropic sympathy ; 
besides, it has a poetic sound. Believe me, there is not 
the slightest danger of such a destiny for the Indian : his 
race is not to become extinct ; it will be on the earth as 
long as that of either black or white. Civilisation is 
removing the seeds of decay ; civilisation will preserve 
the race of the red man yet to multiply. Civilisation, 
too, may preserve the buffalo. The hunter races must 
disappear, and give place to the more useful agriculturist. 
The prairies are wide — vast expanses of that singular 
formation must remain in their primitive wildness, at 
least for ages, and these will still be a safe range for the 



After a breakfast of fresh buffalo-meat we took the 
road in high spirits. The long-expected sport would 
soon come off. Every step showed us ' buffalo sign ' — 
tracks, wallows, fresh ordure. None of the animals were 
yet in sight, but the prairie was filled with undulations, 
and no doubt * a gang ' would be found in some of the 

A few miles farther on, and we came suddenly upon 
a ' buffalo road,' traversing the prairie nearly at right 
angles to our own direction. This caused a halt and 
consultation. Should we follow the road ? By all means 
thought every one. The tracks were fresh — the road a 
large one — thousands of buffaloes must have passed over 
it ; where were they now ? They might be a hundred 
miles off, for when these animals get upon one of these 
regular roads they often journey at great speed, and it 
is difficult to overtake them. When merely browsing 
over the prairie the case is different. Then they travel 
only a k\v miles a day, and a hunter trailing them soon 
comes up with the gang. 

Ike and Redwood were consulted as to what was best 
to be done. They had both closely examined the trail, 
bending down to the ground, and carefully noting every 
symptom that would give them a clue to the condition of 
the herd — its numbers — its time of passing — the rate of 
its speed, &c. 

' Thur's a good grist o' 'em,' said Ike, ' leastways a 
kupple o' thousand in the gang — thur's bulls, cows, 
yearlins, an' young calf too, so we'll have a choice o' 
meat — either beef or veal. Kin we do better than foller 
'em up. Eh, Mark ? ' 


Trailing the Buffalo 297 

' Wal ! I don't think we can, ole hoss/ replied 
Redwood. ' They passed hyur yesterday, jest about 
noon — that is, the thick o' the drove passed then.' 

' How do you tell that ? " inquired several. 

* Oh, that's easy made out,' replied the guide, evidently 
regarding the question as a very simple one ; ' you see 
most o' these hyur tracks is a day old, an' yet thur not 

'And why not ?' 

' Why, how could they be two,' asked the guide in 
astonishment, * when it rained yesterday before sun-up ? 
Thur made since the rain, yu'll admit that? ' 

We now remembered the rain, and acknowledged the 
truth of this reasoning. The animals must have passed 
since it rained ; but why not immediately after, in the 
early morning ? How could Redwood tell that it was 
the hour of noon ? How ? 

' Easy enough, comrades,' replied he. 

'Any greenhorn mout do that,' added Ike. The rest, 
however, were puzzled and waited the explanation. 

' I tells this a way,' continued the guide. ' Ef the 
buffler had passed by hyur, immediately after the rain, 
thar tracks wud a sunk deeper, and thar wud a been 
more mud on the trail. As thar ain't no great slobber 
about, ye see, I make my kalklations that the ground 
must a been well dried afore they kim along, and after 
such a wet, it could not a been afore noon at the least — 
so that's how I know the buffler passed at that hour.' 

We were all interested in this craft of our guides, for 
without consulting each other they had both arrived at 
the same conclusion by the same process of mental 
logic. They had also determined several other points 
about the bufflalo — such as that they had not all gone 
together, but in a straggling herd ; that some had passed 
more rapidly than the rest ; that no hunters were after 
them ; and that it was probable they were not bound 
upon any distant migration, but only in search of water ; 
and the direction they had taken rendered this likely 
enough. Indeed most of the great buffalo roads lead to 
watering places, and they have often been the means of 

298 The Hunters Feast 

conducting the thirsty traveller to the welcome rivulet 
or spring, when otherwise he might have perished upon 
the dry plain. Whether the buffalo are guided by some 
instinct towards water, is a question not satisfactorily 
solved. Certain it is, that their water paths often lead 
in the most direct route to streams and ponds, of the 
existence of which they could have known nothing 
previously. It is certain that many of the lower animals 
possess either an ' instinct,' or a much keener sense in 
these matters than man himself Long before the 
thirsty traveller suspects the propinquity of water, his 
sagacious mule, by her joyful hinney, and suddenly 
altered bearing, warns him of its presence. 

We now reasoned that if the buffalo had been making 
to some watering place, merely for the purpose of 
drinking and cooling their flanks, they would, of course, 
make a delay there, and so give us a chance of coming 
up. They had a day the start of us, it is true, but we 
should do our best to overhaul them. The guides 
assured us we were likely to have good sport before we 
came up with the great gang. There were straggling 
groups they had no doubt, some perhaps not over 
thirsty, that had hung in the rear. In high hopes, then, 
we turned our heads to the trail, and travelled briskly 

We had not gone many hundred yards when a very 
singular scene was presented to our eyes. We had 
gained the crest of a ridge, and were looking down into 
a little valley through which ran the trail. At the 
bottom of the valley a cloud of dust was constantly 
rising upward, and very slowly moving away, as the day 
was quite calm. Although there had been rain a little 
over thirty hours before, the ground was already parched 
and dry as pepper. But what caused the dust to rise ? 
Not the wind — there was none. Some animal then, or 
likely more than one. 

At first we could perceive no creature within the cloud, 
so dun and thick was it ; but after a little a wolf dashed 
out, ran round a bit, and then rushed in again, and then 
another and another, all of them with open jaws, glaring 

Trailing the Buffalo 299 

eyes, manes erect, and tails switching about in a violent 
and angry manner. Now and then we could only see 
part of their bodies, or their bushy tails flung upward, 
but we could hear by their yelping barks that they were 
engaged in a fierce contest either among themselves, or 
with some other enem.y. It was not among themselves, 
as Ike and Redwood both affirmed. 

' An old bull is the game,' said they ; and without 
waiting a moment, the two trappers galloped forward, 
followed closely by the rest of our party. 

We were soon at the bottom of the little valley. Ike 
already cracking away at the wolves — his peculiar 
enemies. Several others, led away by the excitement, 
also emptied their pieces at these worthless creatures, 
slaying a number of them, while the rest, nearly a dozen 
in all, took to their heels, and scampered off over the 

The dust gradually began to float off, and through 
the thinner cloud that remained we now saw what the 
wolves had been at. Standing in the centre of a ring, 
formed by its own turnings and struggles, was the huge 
form of a buffalo-bull. Its shape indicated that it was a 
very old one, lank, lean, and covered with long hair, 
raggled and torn into tufts. Its colour was that of the 
white dust, but red blood was streaming freshly down 
its hind flanks, and from its nose and mouth. The 
cartilage of the nose was torn to pieces by the fierce 
enemies it had so lately encountered, and on observing 
it more closely we saw that its eyes were pulled out of 
their sockets, exhibiting a fearful spectacle. The tail 
was eaten off by repeated wrenches, and the hind 
quarters were sadly mangled. Spite of all this 
mutilation, the old bull still kept his feet, and his 
prowess had been proved, for no less than five wolves 
lay around, that he had ' rubbed out ' previous to our 
arrival. He was a terrible and melancholy spectacle — 
that old bull, and all agreed it would be better to relieve 
him by a well-aimed bullet. This was instantly fired at 
him ; and the animal, after rocking about a while on his 
spread legs, fell gently to the earth. 

300 The Hunters' Feast 

Of course he had proved himself too tough to be 
eatable by anything but prairie wolves, and we were 
about to leave him as he lay. Ike, however, had no idea 
of gratifying these sneaking creatures at so cheap a rate. 
He was determined they should not have their dinner 
so easily, so taking out his knife he extracted the 
bladder, and some of the smaller intestines from the 
buffalo. These he inflated in a trice, and then rigging 
up a sapling over the body, he hung them upon it, so 
that the slightest breeze kept them in motion. This, as 
we had been already assured, was the best mode of 
keeping wolves at a distance from any object, and the 
hunter, when v/olves are near, often avails himself of it to 
protect the venison or buffalo-meat which he is obliged 
to leave behind him. 

The guide having rigged his ' scare-wolf,' mounted his 
old mare, and again joined us, muttering his satisfaction, 
as he rode along. 

We had not travelled much farther when our attention 
was attracted by noises in front, and again from a ridge 
we beheld a scene still more interesting than that we 
had just witnessed. As before, the actors were buffalo 
and wolves, but this time there was very little dust, as 
the contest was carried on upon the green turf — and we 
could see distinctly the manoeuvres of the animals. 

There were three buffaloes — a cow, her calf, and a 
large bull that was acting as their champion and pro- 
tector. A pack of wolves had gathered around them, in 
which there were some of the larger species, and these 
kept up a continuous attack, the object of which was to 
destroy the calf, and its mother if possible. This the bull 
was using all his endeavours to prevent, and with consider- 
able success too, as already several of the wolves were 
down, and howling with pain. But what rendered the 
result doubtful was, that fresh wolves were constantly 
galloping up to the spot, and the buffaloes would likely 
have to yield in time. It was quite amusing to see the 
efforts made by the cunning brutes, to separate the calf 
from its protectors. Sometimes they would get it a few 
feet to the one side, and fling it to the ground ; but 

Trailing the Buffalo 30 1 

before they could do it any great injury, the active bull, 
and the cow as well, would rush forward upon them, 
scattering the cowardly creatures like a flock of birds. 
Then the calf would place itself between the old ones, 
and would thus remain for a while, until the wolves, 
having arranged some new plan, would recommence the 
attack, and drive it forth again. Once the position was 
strikingly in favour of the buffaloes. This position, 
which seemed in the hurry of the conflict to turn up 
accidentally, was in fact the result of design, for the old 
ones every now and then endeavoured to renew it, but 
were hindered by the stupidity of the calf The latter 
was placed between them in such a way that the heads 
of the bull and cow were in opposite directions, and 
thus both flanks were guarded. In this way the 
buffaloes might have held their ground, but the silly 
calf when closely menaced by the wolves foolishly 
started out, rendering it necessary for its protectors to 
assume a new attitude of defence. 

It was altogether a singular conflict, a touching 
picture of parental fondness. The end of it was easily 
guessed. The wolves would tire out the old ones, and 
get hold of the calf of course, although they might 
spend a long time about it. But the great herd was 
distant, and there was no hope for the cow to get her 
offspring back to its protection. It would certainly be 

Notwithstanding our sympathy for the little family 
thus assailed, we were not the less anxious to do for 
them just what the wolves wished to do — kill and eat 
them. With this intent we all put spur to our horses, 
and galloped right forward to the spot. 

Not one of the animals — neither wolves nor buffaloes 
— took any notice of us until we were within a few yards 
of them. The wolves then scampered off, but already 
the cracking rifles and shot-guns were heard above the 
shouts of the charging cavalcade, and both the cow and 
calf were seen sinking to the earth. Not so the huge 
bull. With glaring eyeballs he glanced around upon 
his new assailants, and then, as if aware that further 

302 The Hunters' Feast 

strife was useless, he stretched forth his neck, and 
breaking through the line of horsemen, went off in full 

A fresh touch of the spur, with a wrench of the bridle- 
rein, brought our horses round, and set their heads after 
him, and then followed as fine a piece of chasing as I 
remember to have taken part in. The whole eight of us 
swept over the plain in pursuit, but as we had all emptied 
our pieces on first charging up, there was not one ready 
to deliver a shot even should we overtake the game. In 
the quick gallop no one thought of reloading. Our 
pistols, however, were still charged, and these were 
grasped and held in readiness. 

It was one of the most exciting chases. There before 
us galloped the great game, under full view, with neither 
brake nor bush to interrupt the pleasure of our wild 
race. The bull proved to be one of the fastest of his 
kind — for there is a considerable difference in this 
respect. He led us nearly half a mile across the ridges 
before even the best of our horses could come up, and 
then just as we were closing in upon him, before a shot 
had been fired, he was seen to give a sudden lounge 
forward and tumble over upon the ground. 

Some of us fancied he had only missed his footing 
and stumbled ; but no motion could be perceived as we 
rode forward, and on coming up he was found to be 
quite dead ! A rifle bullet had done the work — one that 
had been fired in the first volley ; and his strong fast run 
was only the last spasmodic effort of his life. 

One or two remained by the dead bull to get his hide 
and the ' tit-bits ' of his meat, while the rest rode back 
to recover the more precious cow and calf What was 
our chagrin to find that the rascally wolves had been 
before us ! Of the tender calf, not a morsel remained 
beyond a (qv! tufts of hairy skin, and the cow was so 
badly torn and mutilated that she was not worth cutting 
up ! Even the tongue, that most delicate bit, had been 
appropriated by the sneaking thieves, and eaten out to 
the very root. 

As soon as they had observed us coming back, they 

Trailing the Buffalo 303 

had taken to their heels, each carrying a large piece 
with him, and we could now see them out upon the 
prairie devouring the meat before our very eyes. Ike 
was loud in his anathemas, and but that the creatures 
were too cunning for him, would have taken his revenge 
upon the spot. They kept off, however, beyond range 
of either rifle or double barrel, and Ike was forced to 
nurse his wrath for some other occasion. 

We now went back to the bull, where we encamped 
for the night. The latter, tough as he was, furnished us 
an excellent supper from his tongue, hump-ribs, boudins, 
and marrow bones, and we all lay down to sleep and 
dream of the sports of to-morrow. 



Next morning, just as we were preparing to resume 
our journey, a gang of buffalo appeared upon one of 
the swells, at the distance of a mile or a mile and a half 
from our camp. There were about a dozen of them, 
and, as our guides asserted, they were all cows. This 
was just what we wanted, as the flesh of the cows is 
much more delicate than that of the bulls, and were 
eager to lay in a stock of it. 

A hurried consultation was held, in which it was 
debated as to the best manner of making an attack 
upon the herd. Some advised that we should ride 
boldly forward, and overtake the cows by sheer swiftness, 
but this mode was objected to by others. The cows are 
at times very shy. They might break off long before 
we were near, and give our horses such a gallop as 
would render them useless for the rest of the day. 
Besides, our animals were in no condition for such 
exercise. Our stock of corn had run out, and the grass- 
feeding and hard travelling had reduced most of them 
to skeletons, A hard gallop was therefore to be avoided 
if possible. 

Among those who counselled a different course were 
the guides Ike and Redwood. These men thought it 
would be much better to try the cows by ' approaching,' 
that is, by endeavouring to creep up, and get a shot 
when near enough. The ground was favourable enough 
for it, as there were here and there little clumps of 
cactus plants and bushes of the wild sage {artemisid), 
behind which a hunter might easily conceal himself. 
The trappers further alleged that the herd would not be 
likely to make off at the first shot, unless the hunter 


Approaching the Buffalo 305 

discovered himself. On the contrary, one after another 
might fall, and not frighten the rest, so long as these did 
not get to leeward, and detect the presence of their 
enemy by the scent. 

The wind was in our favour, and this was a most 
important consideration. Had it been otherwise the 
game would have ' winded ' us at a mile's distance, as 
they can recognise the smell of man, and frequently 
comprehend the danger of being near such an enemy. 
Indeed, it is on their great power of scent that the 
buffalo most commonly rely for warning. The eyes of 
these creatures, and particularly the bulls, are so 
covered with the shaggy hair hanging over them, that 
individuals are often seen quite blinded by it, and a 
hunter, if he keep silent enough, may walk up and lay 
his hand upon them, without having been previously 
noticed. This, however, can only occur when the 
hunter travels against the wind. Otherwise he finds 
the buffalo as shy and difficult to approach as most 
game, and many a long spell of crouching and crawling 
has been made to no purpose — a single sniff of the 
approaching enemy proving enough to startle the game, 
and send it off in wild flight. 

Ike and his brother trapper urged that if the ap- 
proach should prove unsuccessful there would still be 
time to ' run ' the herd, as those who did not attempt 
the former method might keep in their saddles, and be 
ready to gallop forward. 

All this was feasible enough ; and it was therefore 
decided that the ' approach ' should have a trial. The 
trappers had already prepared themselves for this sort 
of thing. They were evidently desirous of giving us an 
exhibition of their hunter-prowess, and we were ready 
to witness it. We had noticed them busied with a pair of 
large wolf-skins, which they had taken off the animals 
entire, with the heads, cars, tails, &c., remaining upon 
the skins. The purpose of these was to enable the 
hunters to disguise themselves as wolves, and thus crawl 
within shooting distance of the buffalo herd. 

Strange to say this is quite possible. Although no 


3o6 The Hunters' Feast 

creature is a greater enemy to the buffalo than the 
wolf the former, as already stated, permits the latter to 
approach quite close to him without making any 
attempt to chase him off, or without exhibiting the 
slightest symptoms of fear on his own account. The 
buffalo cannot prevent the wolf from prowling close 
about him, as the latter is sufficiently active, and can 
easily get out of the way when pursued by the bulls — 
on the other hand, the buffaloes, unless when separated 
from the herd, or in some way disabled, have no fear of 
the wolf. Under ordinary circumstances they seem 
wholly to disregard his presence. The consequence is, 
that a wolf-skin is a favourite disguise of the Indians 
for approaching the buffalo, and our trappers, Ike and 
Redwood, had often practised this ruse. We were 
likely then to see sport. 

Both were soon equipped in their white wolf-skins, 
their heads being enveloped with the skins of the 
wolves' heads, and the remainder tied with thongs, so as 
to cover their backs and sides. At best the skins 
formed but a scanty covering to the bodies of the 
trappers ; but, as we have already remarked, the buffalo 
has not a very keen sense of sight, and so long as the 
decoys kept to leeward, they would not be closely 

When fairly in their new dress, the hunters parted 
from the company, leaving their horses at the camp. 
The rest of us sat in our saddles, ready to gallop 
forward, in case the ruse did not succeed, and make 
that kind of a hunt called 'running.' Of course the 
trappers went as far as was safe, walking in an upright 
attitude ; but long before they had got within shot, we 
saw both of them stoop down and scramble along in a 
crouching way, and then at length they knelt upon the 
ground, and proceeded upon their hands and knees. 

It required a good long time to enable them to get 
near enough ; and we on horseback, although watching 
every manoeuvre with interest, were beginning to get 
impatient. The buffalo, however, quietly browsing 
along the sward, seemed to be utterly unconscious of 

Approaching the Buffalo 307 

the dangerous foe that was approaching them, and at 
intervals one or another would fling itself to the earth in 
play, and after kicking and wallowing a few seconds, 
start to its feet again. They were all cows, with one 
exception — a bull — who seemed to be the guardian and 
leader. Even at a mile's distance, we could recognise 
the shape and size of the latter, as completely differing 
from all the rest. The bull seemed to be more active 
than any, moving around the flock, and apparently 
watching over their safety. 

As the decoys approached, we thought that the bull 
seemed to take notice of them. He had moved out to 
that side of the herd, and seemed for a moment to 
scrutinise them as they drew near. But for a moment, 
however, for he turned apparently satisfied, and was 
soon close to the gang. 

Ike and Redwood had at length got so close, that we 
were expecting every moment to see the flash of their 
pieces. They were not so close, however, as we in the 
distance fancied them to be. 

Just at that moment we perceived another buffalo — a 
large bull — running up behind them. He had just 
made his appearance over a ridge, and was now on his 
way to join the herd. The decoys were directly in 
his way, and these did not appear to see him until 
he had run almost between them, so intent were they on 
watching the others. His intrusion, however, evidently 
disconcerted them, spoiling their plans, while in the very 
act of being carried into execution. They were, no 
doubt, a little startled by the apparition of such a huge 
shaggy animal coming so suddenly on them, for both 
started to their feet as if alarmed. Their pieces blazed 
at the same time, and the intruder was seen rolling over 
upon the plain. 

But the ruse was over. The bull that guarded the 
herd was witness to this odd encounter, and bellowing a 
loud alarm to his companions, set off at a lumbering 
gallop. All the rest followed as fast as their legs would 
carry them. 

Fortunately they ran, not directly from us, but in a 

3o8 The Hunters' Feast 

line that inclined to our left. By taking a diagonal 
course we might yet head them, and without another 
word our whole party put to the spur, and sprang off 
over the prairie. 

It cost us a five-mile gallop before any of us came 
within shooting distance ; and only four of us did get so 
near — the naturalist, Besangon, the Kentuckian, and 
myself Our horses were well blown, but after a good 
deal of encouragement we got them side by side with 
the flying game. 

Each one chose his own, and then delivered his shot 
at his best convenience. The consequence was, that 
four of the cows were strewed out along the path, and 
rewarded us for our hard gallop. The rest, on account 
of saving our horses, were suffered to make their escape. 

As we had now plenty of excellent meat, it was 
resolved to encamp again, and remain for some time 
on that spot, until we had rested our horses after their 
long journey, when we should make a fresh search for 
the buffalo, and have another * run ' or two out of them. 




We found Ike and Redwood bitterly angry at the bull 
they had slain. They alleged that he had made a rush 
at them in coming up, and that was why they had risen 
to their feet and fired upon him. We thought such had 
been the case, as we had noticed a strange manoeuvre on 
the part of the bull. But for that, our guides believed 
they would have succeeded to their hearts' content ; 
as they intended first to have shot the other bull, and 
then the cows would have remained until all had fallen. 

A place was now selected for our night-camp, and 
the meat from the cows brought in and dressed. Over 
a fire of cotton-wood logs we soon cooked the most 
splendid supper we had eaten for a long time. 

The beef of the wild buffalo-cow is far superior to 
that of domestic cattle, but the * tit-bits ' of the same 
animal are luxuries never to be forgotten. Whether it 
be that a prairie appetite lends something to the relish 
is a question. This I will not venture to deny; but 
certainly the ' baron of beef ' in merry old England has 
no souvenirs to me so sweet as a roast rib of ' fat cow,' 
cooked over a cotton-wood fire, and eaten in the open 
air, under the pure sky of the prairies. 

The place where we had pitched our camp was upon 
the banks of a very small spring-stream, or creek, that, 
rising near at hand, meandered through the prairie to a 
not distant branch of the Arkansas River. Where we 
were, this creek was embanked very slightly ; but, at 
about two hundred yards' distance, on each side, there 
was a range of bluffs that followed the direction of the 
stream. These bluffs were not very high, but sufficiently 
so to prevent any one down in the creek bottom from 


310 The Hunters' Feast 

having a view of the prairie level. As the bottom itself 
was covered with very coarse herbage, and as a better 
grass — the bufifalo — grew on the prairie above, we there 
picketed our horses, intending to bring them closer to 
the camp when night set in, or before going to sleep. 
The camp itself — that is the two tents, with Jake's 
waggon — were on the very edge of the stream ; but 
Jake's mules were up on the plain, along with the rest of 
the cavallada. 

It was still two hours before sunset. We had made 
our dinner, and, satisfied with the day's sport, were 
enjoying ourselves, with a little brandy, that still held 
out in our good-sized keg, and a smoke. We had 
reviewed the incidents of the day, and were laying out 
our plans for the morrow. We were admonished by 
the coldness of the evening that winter was not far off, 
and we all agreed that another week was as long as 
we could safely remain upon the prairies. We had 
started late in the season, but our not finding the buffalo 
farther to the east had made a great inroad upon 
our time, and spoiled all our calculations. Now that 
we had found them, a week was as much as we could 
allow for their hunt. Already frost appeared in the 
night hours, and made us uncomfortable enough, and 
we knew that in the prairie region the transition from 
autumn to winter is often sudden and unexpected. 

The oldest and wisest of the party were of the 
opinion that we should not delay our return longer 
than a week, and the others assented to it. The guides 
gave the same advice, although these cared little about 
wintering on the prairie, and were willing to remain as 
long we pleased. We knew, however, that the hardships 
to which we should be subjected would not be relished 
by several of the party, and it would be better for all 
to get back to the settlements before the setting in 
of severe weather. 

I have said we were all in high spirits. A week's 
hunting, with something to do at it every day, would 
satisfy us. We should do immense slaughter on the 
buffalo, by approaching, running, and surrounding 

Unexpected Guests 311 

them. We should collect a quantity of the best meat 
jerk, and dry it over the fire, load our waggon with 
that, and with a large number of robes and horns as 
trophies, should go back in triumph to the settlements. 
Such were our pleasant anticipations. 

I am sorry to say that these anticipations were never 
realised — not one of them. When we reached the 
nearest settlement, which happened about six weeks 
after, our party presented an appearance that differed as 
much from a triumphal procession as could well be 
imagined. One and all of us were afoot. One and all 
of us — even to the fat little doctor — were emaciated, 
ragged, foot-sore, frost-bitten, and little better than half 
alive. We had a number of buffalo-skins with us, it is 
true, but these hung about our shoulders, and were for 
use, and not show. They had served us for weeks for 
beds and blankets by night, and for great coats under 
the fierce winter rains. But I anticipate. Let us return 
to our camp on the little creek. 

I have said that we sat around the blazing fire 
discussing our future plans, and enjoying the future by 
anticipation. The hours passed rapidly on, and while 
thus engaged night came down upon us. 

At this time someone advised that we should bring 
up the horses, but another said it would be as well to let 
them browse a while longer, as the grass where they 
were was good, and they had been for some days on 
short commons, ' They will be safe enough,' said this 
speaker. ' We have seen no Indian sign, or if any of 
you think there is danger, let someone go up to the 
bluff, but by all means let the poor brutes have a good 
meal of it' 

This proposal was accepted. Lanty was despatched 
to stand guard over the horses, while the rest of us 
remained by the fire conversing as before. 

The Irishman could scarcely have had time to get 
among the animals, when our ears were saluted by a 
medley of sounds that sent the blood to our hearts, and 
caused us to leap simultaneously from the fire. 

The yells of Indians were easily understood, even by 

312 The Hunters' Feast 

the ' greenest ' of our party, and these, mingled with the 
neighing of horses, the prancing of hoofs, and the shouts 
of our guard, were the sounds that reached us, 

'Injuns, by G — d!" cried Ike, springing up, and 
clutching his long rifle. 

This wild exclamation was echoed by more than 
one, as each leaped back from the fire and ran to 
his gun. 

In a few seconds we had cleared the brushwood that 
thickly covered the bottom, and climbed out on the 
bluff. Here we were met by the terrified guard, who 
was running back at the top of his speed, and bellowing 
at the top of his voice. 

' Och, murther,' cried he, ' the savage bastes — there's a 
thousand ov thim ! They've carried off the cattle — 
every leg — mules an' all, by Jaysus ! ' 

Rough as was this announcement, we soon became 
satisfied that it was but too true. On reaching the 
place where the cavallada had been picketed, we found 
not the semblance of a horse. Even the pins were 
drawn, and the lazoes taken along. Far off on the 
prairie we could discern dimly a dark mass of mounted 
men, and we could plainly hear their triumphant shouts 
and laughter, as they disappeared in the distance ! 

We never saw either them or our horses again. 

They were a party of Pawnees, as we afterwards 
learned, and no doubt had they attacked us, we should 
have suffered severely ; but there were only a few of 
them, and they were satisfied with plundering us of our 
horses. It is just possible that after securing them they 
might have returned to attack us, had not Lanty 
surprised them at their work. After the alarm they 
knew we would be on the look-out for them, and 
therefore were contented to carry off our animals. 

It is difficult to explain the change that thus so 
suddenly occurred in our feelings and circumstances. 
The prospect before us — thus set afoot upon the 
prairie at such a distance from the settlements, 
and at such a season — was perfectly appalling. We 
should have to walk every inch of the way — 

Unexpected Guests 313 

carry our food, and everthing else, upon our backs. 
Perhaps we might not be too much burdened with food. 
That depended upon very precarious circumstances — 
upon our hunting luck. Our ' stock ' in the waggon was 
reduced to only a few days' rations, and, of course, would 
go but a few days with us, while we had many to 
provide for. 

These thoughts were after-reflections — thoughts of the 
next morning. During that night we thought only of 
the Indians, for of course we did not as yet believe they 
had left us for good. We did not return to sleep by the 
fire — that would have been very foolishness. Some 
went back to get their arms in order, and then returning 
we all lay along the edge of the bluff, where the path 
led into the bottom, and watched the prairie until the 
morning. We lay in silence, or only muttering our 
thoughts to one another. 

I have said until the morning. That is not strictly 
true, for before the morning that succeeded that noche 
triste broke upon us, another cruel misfortune befell us, 
which still farther narrowed the circumstances that 
surrounded us, I have already stated that the herbage 
of the creek bottom was coarse. It consisted of long 
grass, interspersed with briars and bunches of wild pea 
vines, with here and there a growth of scrubby wood. 
It was difficult to get through it, except by paths made 
by the buffalo and other animals. At this season of the 
year the thick growth of annuals was now a mass of 
withered stems, parched by the hot suns of autumn 
until they were as dry as tinder. 

While engaged in our anxious vigil upon the plain 
above, we had not given a thought either to our camp 
or the large fire we had left there. 

All at once our attention was directed to the latter by 
a loud crackling noise that sounded in our ears. We 
sprang to our feet, and looked into the valley behind us. 
The camp was on fire ! 

The brush was kindled all around it, and blazed to 
the height of several feet. We could see the blaze 
reflected from the white canvas both of waggon and 

314 The Hunters' Feast 

tents, and in a few seconds these were licked into the 
hot flames, and disappeared from our view. 

Of course we made no effort to save them. That 
would have been an idle and foolish attempt. We could 
not have approached the spot, without the almost certain 
danger of death. Already while we gazed, the fire 
spread over the whole creek bottom, and passed rapidly 
both up and down the banks of the stream. 

For ourselves there was no danger. We were up on 
the open prairie covered only with short grass. Had 
this caught also, we knew how to save ourselves ; but the 
upper level, separated by a steep bluff, was not reached 
by the conflagration that raged so fiercely below. 

We stood watching the flames for a long while, until 
daylight broke. The bottom, near where we were, had 
ceased to burn, and now lay beneath us, smoking, 
smouldering, and black. We descended, and picked 
our steps to where our camp had stood. The tents were 
like black cerements. The iron work of the waggon 
alone remained, our extra clothing and provisions were 
all consumed. Even the produce of our yesterday's hunt 
lay among the ashes a charred and ruined mass ! 



Our condition was now lamentable indeed. We even 
hungered for our breakfast, and had nothing to eat. 
The fire had consumed everything. A party went to 
look for the remains of the buffalo-bull killed by the 
guides, but returned without a morsel of meat. The 
wolves had cleaned the carcase to a skeleton. The 
marrow bones, however, still remained, and these were 
brought in — afterwards the same parts of the four cows ; 
and we made our breakfast on marrow — eating it raw — 
not but that we had fire enough, but it is less palatable 
when cooked. 

What was next to be done ? We held a consultation, 
and of course came to the resolve to strike for the nearest 
settlement — that was the frontier town of Independence 
on the Missouri River. It was nearly three hundred 
miles off, and we calculated in reaching it in about 
twenty days. We only reckoned the miles we should 
have to traverse. We allowed nothing for the numerous 
delays, caused by marshes and the fording of flooded 
streams. It afterwards proved that our calculation was 
incorrect. It was nearly twice twenty days before we 
arrived at Independence. 

We never thought of following the trail of the Indians 
to recover our horses. We knew they were gone far 
beyond pursuit, but even could we have come up with 
them, it would only have been to imperil our lives in an 
unequal strife. We gave up our horses as lost, and only 
deliberated on how wc were to undertake the journey 

Here a serious question arose. Should we at once 
turn our faces to the settlement, how were we to subsist 


3i6 The Hunters' Feast 

on the way? By heading for Independence we should 
at once get clear of the buffalo range, and what other 
game was to be depended on ? A stray deer, rabbit, or 
prairie grouse might suffice to sustain a single traveller 
for a long time, but there were ten of us. How was this 
number to be fed on the way ? Even with our horses 
to carry us in pursuit of game, we had not been able on 
our outward journey to procure enough for all. How 
much less our opportunity now that we were afoot? 

To head directly homeward, therefore, was not to be 
thought of. We should assuredly perish by the way. 

After much discussion it was agreed that we should 
remain for some days within the buffalo range, until we 
had succeeded in obtaining a supply of meat, and then 
each carrying his share we should begin our journey 
homeward. In fact, this was not a disputed point. All 
knew there remained no other way of saving our lives. 
The only difference of opinion was as to the direction 
we should ramble in search of the buffalo ; for although 
we knew that we were on the outskirts of a great herd, 
we were not certain as to its whereabouts, and by 
taking a false direction we might get out of its range 

It so happened, however, that fortune, lately so ad- 
verse, now took a turn in our favour, and the great 
buffalo drove was found without much trouble on our 
part. Indeed almost without any exertion, farther than 
that of loading and firing our guns, we came into 
possession of beef enough to have victualled an army. 
We had, moreover, the excitement of a grand hunt, 
although we no longer hunted for the sport of the 

During that day we scattered in various directions 
over the prairie, agreeing to meet again at night. The 
object of our thus separating was to enable us to cover a 
greater extent of ground, and afford a better chance of 
game. To our mutual chagrin we met at the appointed 
rendezvous all of us empty-handed. The only game 
brought in was a couple of marmots (prairie dogs), that 
would not have been sufficient for the supper of a cat. 

A Supper of Wolf- Mutton 317 

They were not enough to give each of the party a taste, 
so we were compelled to go without supper. Having 
had but a meagre breakfast and no dinner, it will not be 
wondered at that we were by this time as hungry as 
wolves ; and we began to dread that death by starvation 
was nearer than we thought of. Buffaloes — several 
small gangs of them — had been seen during the day, but 
so shy that none of them could be approached. Another 
day's failure would place our lives in a perilous situation 
indeed ; and as these thoughts passed through our minds, 
we gazed on each other with looks that betokened 
apprehension and alarm. The bright blaze of the camp 
fire — for the cold had compelled us to kindle one — no 
longer lit up a round of joyful faces. It shone upon 
cheeks haggard with hunger and pallid with fear. There 
was no story for the delighted listener — no adventure to 
be related. We were no longer the historians, but the 
real actors in a drama — a drama whose denouement might 
be a fearful one. 

As we sat gazing at each other, in hopes of giving or 
receiving some morsel of comfort and encouragement, 
we noticed old Ike silently glide from his place by the 
fire, and after a whisper to us to remain silent, crawl off 
on his hands and knees. He had seen something, 
doubtless, and hence his singular conduct. In a few 
minutes his prostrate form was lost in the darkness, and 
for some time we saw or heard no more of him. At 
length we were startled by the whip-Hke crack of the 
guide's rifle, and fancying it might be Indians, each 
sprang up in some alarm and seized his gun. We were 
soon reassured, however, by seeing the upright form of 
the trapper as he walked deliberately back towards the 
camp fire, and the blaze revealed to us a large whitish 
object dangling by his side and partly dragging along 
the ground. 

' Hurrah ! ' cried one, ' Ike has killed game.' 

• A deer — an antelope,' suggested several. 

' No — o,' drawled Redwood. ' 'Taint eyther, but I 
guess we won't quarrel with the meat. I could eat a raw 
jackass jest about now.' 

3i8 The Huftters' Feast 

Ike came up at this moment, and we saw that his 
game was no other than a prairie wolf. Better that than 
hunger, thought all of us ; and in a brace of seconds 
the wolf was suspended over the fire, and roasting in 
the hide. 

We were now more cheerful, and the anticipation of 
such an odd viand for supper, drew jokes from several 
of the party. To the trappers such a dish was nothing 
new, although they were the only persons of the party 
who had partaken of it. But there was not one 
fastidious palate present, and when the ' wolf-mutton ' 
was broiled, each cleaned his joint or his rib with as 
ranch, gout as if he had been picking the bones of a 

Before the supper was ended the wolf-killer made a 
second co?ip, killing another ;Wolf precisely as he had 
done the former; and we had the gratification of knowing 
that our breakfast was now provided for. These 
creatures, that all along our journey had received nothing 
from us but anathemas, were now likely to come in for 
a share of our blessings, and we could not help feeling 
a species of gratitude towards them, although at the 
same time we thus killed and ate them. 

The supper of roast wolf produced an agreeable 
change in our feelings, and we even listened with interest 
to our guides, who, appropriate to the occasion, related 
some curious incidents of the many narrow escapes they 
had had from starvation. 

One in particular fixed our attention, as it afforded an 
illustration of trapper life under peculiar circumstances. 



The two trappers, in company with two others of the 
same calling, were on a trappino^ expedition to one of 
the tributaries of the Great Bear River, west of the 
Rocky Mountains, when they were attacked by a band 
of hostile Utahs, and robbed not only of the produce of 
their hunt, but their horses and pack-mules were taken 
from them, and even their arms and ammunition. The 
Indians could have taken their lives as well, but from 
the interference of one of the chiefs, who knew old Ike, 
they were allowed to go free, although in the midst of 
the desert region where they were, that was no great 
favour. They were as likely as not to perish from 
hunger before they could reach any settlement — as at 
that time there was none nearer than Fort Hall upon 
the Snake River, a distance of full three hundred miles. 
Our four trappers, however, were not the men to yield 
themselves up to despair, even in the midst of a desert ; 
and they at once set about making the most of their 

There were deer upon the stream where they had been 
trapping, and bear also, as well as other game, but what 
did that signify now that they had no arms ? Of course 
the deer or antelopes sprang out of the shrubbery or 
scoured across the plain only to tantalise them. 

Near where they had been left by the Indians was a 
' sage prairie,' that is, a plain covered with a growth of 
the artemisia plant — the leaves and berries of which — 
bitter as they are — form the food of a species of hare, 
known among the trappers as the ' sage rabbit.' This 
creature is as swift as most of its tribe, but although our 
trappers had neither dog nor gun, they found a way of 


320 TJie Hunters' Feast 

capturing the sage rabbits. Not by snaring neither, for 
they were even without materials to make snares out of. 
Their mode of securing the game was as follows. 

They had the patience to construct a circular fence, 
by wattling the sage plants together, and then leaving 
one side open, they made a ' surround ' upon the plain, 
beating the bushes as they went, until a number of 
rabbits were driven within the inclosure. The remaining 
part of the fence was then completed, and the rabbit 
hunters going inside chased the game about until they 
had caught all that were inside. Although the fence 
was but about three feet in height, the rabbits never 
attempted to leap over, but rushed head foremost against 
the wattles, and were either caught or knocked over with 

This piece of ingenuity was not original with the 
trappers, as Ike and Redwood admitted. It is the mode 
of rabbit hunting practised by some tribes of western 
Indians, as the poor Shoshonees and miserable ' diggers,' 
whose whole lives are spent in a constant struggle to 
procure food enough to sustain them. These Indians 
capture the small animals that inhabit their barren 
country by ways that more resemble the instinct of 
beasts of prey than any reasoning process. In fact there 
are bands of these Indians who can hardly be said to have 
yet reached the hunter state. Some of them carry as 
their sole armour a long stick with a hooked end, the 
object of which is to drag the agama and the lizard out 
of its cave or cleft among the rocks ; and this species of 
game is transferred from the end of the stick to the 
stomach of the captor with the same despatch as a 
hungry mastiff would devour a mouse. 

Impounding the sage hare is one of the master 
strokes of their hunter craft, and forms a source of 
employment to them for a considerable portion of the 

Our four trappers, then, remembering the Indian mode 
of capturing these creatures, put it in execution to some 
advantage, and were soon able to satisfy their hunger. 
After two or three days spent in this pursuit they had 

Hare Hunting and Cricket Driving 321 

caught more than twenty hares, but the stock ran out, 
and no more could be found in that neighbourhood. 

Of course only a few were required for present use, 
and the rest were dried over a sage fire until they were 
in a condition to keep for some days. 

Packing them on their backs, the trappers set out, 
heading for the Snake River. Before they could reach 
Fort Hall their rabbit meat was exhausted, and they 
were as badly off as before. The country in which they 
now found themselves was, if possible, more of a desert 
than that they had just quitted. Even rabbits could not 
dwell in it, or the few that were started could not be 
caught. The arteinisia was not in sufficient plenty to 
make an inclosure with, and it would have been hopeless 
to have attempted such a thing ; as they might have 
spent days without trapping a single hare. Now and 
again they were tantalised by seeing the great sage 
cock, or, as naturalists call it, 'cock of the plains' 
{Tetrao tirophasianus), but they could only hear the loud 
'burr' of its wings, and watch it sail off to some distant 
point of the desert plain. This bird is the largest of 
the grouse kind, though it is neither a bird of handsome 
plumage, nor yet is it delicate in its flesh. On the 
contrary, the flesh, from the nature of its food, which is 
the berry of the wild wormwood, is both unsavoury and 
bitter. It would not have deterred the appetites of our 
four trappers, could they have laid their hands upon the 
bird, but without guns such a thing was out of the 
question. For several days they sustained themselves 
on roots and berries. Fortunately it was the season 
when these are ripe, and they found here and there the 
prairie turnip {Psoralea esculcnta), and in a marsh which 
they had to cross they obtained a quantity of the 
celebrated Kamas roots. 

All these supplies, however, did not prove sufficient. 
They had still four or five days' farther journey, and 
were beginning to fear they would not get through it, 
for the country to be passed was a perfect barren waste. 
At this crisis, however, a new source of subsistence 
appeared to them, and in sufficient plenty to enable 


322 The Hunters' Feast 

them to continue their journey without fear of want. 
As if by magic, the plain upon which they were traveUing 
all at once became covered with large crawling insects 
of a dark brown colour. These were the insects known 
among the trappers as ' prairie crickets,' but from the 
description given of them by the trappers the hunter- 
naturalist pronounced them to be ' locusts.' They were 
of that species known in America as the ' seventeen 
years' locust ' [Cicada septemdecei)i)^ so called because 
there is a popular belief that they only appear in great 
swarms every seventeen years. It is probable, however, 
that this periodical appearance is an error, and that 
their coming at longer or shorter intervals depends upon 
the heat of the climate, and many other circumstances. 

They have been known to arrive in a great city, coming 
not from afar, but out of the ground from between the 
bricks of the pavement, and out of crevices in the walls, 
suddenly covering the streets with their multitudes. 
But this species does not destroy vegetation, as is the 
case with others of the locust tribe. They themselves 
form the favourite food of many birds, as well as 
quadrupeds. Hogs eagerly feed upon and destroy vast 
numbers of them ; and even the squirrels devour them 
with as great a relish as they do nuts. These facts were 
furnished by the hunter-naturalist, but our trappers had 
an equally interesting tale to tell. 

As soon as they set eyes upon the locusts, and saw 
that they were crawling thickly upon the plain, they felt 
that they were safe. They knew that these insects were 
a staple article of food among the same tribes of Indians 
who hunt the sage hare. They knew, moreover, their 
mode of capturing them, and they at once set about 
making a large collection. 

This was done by hollowing out a circular pit in the 
sandy earth, and then the four separating some distance 
from each other, drove the crickets towards a common 
centre — the pit. After some manoeuvring, a large 
quantity was brought together, and these being pressed 
upon all sides, crawled up to the edge of the pit, and 
were precipitated into its bottom. Of course the hole 

Ha7'e Hunting and Cricket Driving 323 

had been made deep enough to prevent them getting 
out until they were secured by the hunters. 

At each drive nearly half a bushel was obtained, and 
then a fresh pit was made in another part of the plain, 
and more driven in, until our four trappers had as many 
as they wanted. 

The crickets were next killed, and slightly parched 
upon hot stones, until they were dry enough to keep 
and carry. The Indians usually pound them, and 
mixing them with the seeds of a species of gramma 
grass, which grows abundantly in that country, form 
them into a sort of bread, known among the trappers as 
' cricket-cake.' These seeds, however, our trappers 
could not procure, so they were compelled to eat the 
parched crickets ' pure and unmixed ' ; but this, in the 
condition in which they then were, was found to be no 

In fine, having made a bundle for each, they once 
more took the route, and after many hardships, and 
suffering much from thirst, they reached the remote 
settlement of Fort Hall, where, being known, they were 
of course relieved, and fitted out for a fresh trapping 

Ike and Redwood both declared that they afterwards 
had their revenge upon the Utahs, for the scurvy treat- 
ment they had suffered, but what was the precise 
character of that revenge they declined stating. Both 
loudly swore that the Pawnees had better look out for 
the future, for they were not the men to be ' set afoot on 
the parairy for nuthin.' 

After listening to the relations of our guides, a night- 
guard was appointed, and the rest of us, huddling 
around the camp-fire, were soon as sound asleep as 
though we were reposing under damask curtains, on 
beds of down. 



The spot we had chosen for our camp was near the 
edge of a small rivulet with low banks. In fact, the 
surface of the water was nearly on a level with that of 
the prairie. There was no wood, with the exception of 
a few straggling cotton-woods, and some of the long- 
leafed willows peculiar to the prairie streams. 

Out of the cotton-woods we had made our camp-fire, 
and this was some twenty or thirty paces back from the 
water, not in a conspicuous position, but in the bottom 
of a bowl-shaped depression in the prairie ; a curious 
formation, for which none of us could account. It 
looked as if fashioned by art, as its form was circular, 
and its sides sloped regularly downward to the centre, 
like the crater of a volcano. But for its size, we might 
have taken it for a buffalo wallow, but it was of vastly 
larger diameter than one of these, and ctltogether deeper 
and more funnel-shaped. 

We had noticed several other basins of the same sort 
near the place, and had our circumstances been 
different, we should have been interested in endeavour- 
ing to account for their existence. As it was, we did 
not trouble ourselves much about the geology of the 
neighbourhood we were in. We were only too anxious 
to get out of it ; but seeing that this singular hole 
would be a place for our camp-fire — for our thoughts 
still dwelt upon the rascally Pawnees — we had kindled 
it there. Reclined against the sloping sides of the 
basin, with our feet resting upon its bottom, our party 
disposed themselves, and in this position went to 

One was to be awake all night as guard ; though, of 


A Grand Battue 325 

course, all took turns, each awaking the sentinel whose 
watch was to follow his. 

To the doctor was assigned the first two hours, and 
as we went to sleep, we could perceive his plump 
rounded form seated upon the outer rim of the circular 
bank above us. None of us had any great faith in the 
doctor as a guard, but his watch was during the least 
dangerous time of night, so far as Indians are concerned. 
These never make their attack until the hours after 
midnight, as they know well that these are the hours of 
soundest sleep. The horse-drive of the previous night 
was an exception, but that had happened because they 
had drawn near and seen no horse-guard. It was a 
very unusual case. They knew that we were now on the 
alert ; and if they had meditated farther mischief, would 
have attempted it only after midnight hour. We had 
no apprehensions, therefore, and one and all of us being 
very much fatigued with the day's hunting afoot, 
slept soundly. The bank against which we rested was 
dry and comfortable ; the fire warmed us well, and 
redoubled our desire for repose. 

It appears that the doctor fell asleep on his post, or 
else we might all of us have been better prepared for 
the invasion that we suffered during that night. 

I was awakened by loud shouts — the guides were 
uttering them. I sprang to my feet in the full belief 
that we were attacked by Indians, and at first thought 
caught hold of my gun. All my companions were 
roused about the same time, and, labouring under a 
similar hallucination, went through a like series of 

But when we looked up, and beheld the doctor 
stretched along the ridge, and still snoring soundly, we 
scarce knew what to make of it. 

Ike and Redwood, however, accustomed to sleep with 
one eye open, had waked first, and had already climbed 
the ridge ; and the double report of their guns con- 
firmed our suspicions that we were attacked by Indians. 
What else could they be firing at ? 

* This way all of you !' cried Redwood, making signs 

326 TJie Hunters' Feast 

for us to come up where he and his companion already 
were, waving their guns around their heads, and acting 
in a very singular manner, ' this way, bring your guns, 
pistols, and all — quick with you ! ' 

We all dashed up the steep, just at the moment that 
the doctor suddenly awaking ran terrified down. As we 
pressed up, we could hear a mingling of noises, the 
tramp of horsemen, as we thought, and a loud bellowing, 
as if from a hundred bulls. The last sounds could not 
well have been more like the bellowing of bulls, for in 
reality it was such. The night was a bright moonlight, 
and the moment we raised our heads above the scarp of 
the ridge we saw at once the cause of our alarm. The 
plain around us was black with buffaloes. Tens of 
thousands must have been in the drove which was 
passing us to a great depth on both sides. They were 
running at a fast trot — some of them even galloping, 
and in some places they were so thickly packed to- 
gether, that one would be seen mounting upon the 
hind-quarters of the other, while some were thrown 
down, and trampled over by their companions. 

' Hyur, hyur, all of ye ! ' cried Ike, * stand by hyur, or 
they'll git into the hole, and tramp us to shucks ! ' 

We saw at a glance the meaning of these instructions. 
The excited animals were rushing headlong, and nothing 
seemed to stay their course. We could see them dash- 
ing into and across the little streamlet without making 
any account of it. Should they pour into the circle in 
which we stood, others would follow, and we might get 
mingled with the drove. There was not a spot on the 
prairie where we could have been safe. The impetuous 
mass was impelled from behind, and could neither halt 
nor change its course. Already a pair of bulls had 
fallen before the rifles of our guides, and to some extent 
prevented the others from breaking over the ring, but 
they would certainly have done so had it not been for 
the shouts and gestures of the trappers. We rushed to 
the side indicated, and each of us prepared to fire, but 
some of the more prudent held their loads for a while, 
others pulled trigger, and a succession of shots from 

A Grand Battue 327 

rifles, double-barrels, and revolvers soon raised a pile of 
dead buffaloes that blocked up the passage of the rest, 
as though it had been a barrier built on purpose. 

A breathing space was now allowed us, and each 
loaded his piece as fast as he was able. There was no 
time lost in firing, for the stream of living creatures 
swept on continuously, and a mark was found in a 
single glance of the eye. 

I think we must have continued the loading and firing 
for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then the great herd 
began to grow thinner and thinner, until the last buffalo 
had passed. 

We now looked around us to contemplate the result. 
The ground on every side of the circle was covered with 
dark hirsute forms, but upon that where we stood a 
perfect mass of them lay together. These forms were in 
every attitude, some stretched on their sides, others 
upon their knees, and still a number upon their feet, but 
evidently wounded. 

Some of us were about to rush out of our charmed 
circle to complete the work, but were held back by the 
warning voices of the guides. 

' For yur lives don't go,' cried Redwood, ' don't stir 
from hyur till we've knocked 'em all over. Thur's 
some o' them with life enough left to do for a ween o' 
ye yet' 

So saying, the trapper raised his long piece, selected 
one of the bulls that were seen on their feet, and sent 
him rolling over. 

Another and another was disposed of in the same 
way, and then those that were in a kneeling position 
were reconnoitred to see if they were still alive, and 
when found to be so were speedily disposed of by a 

When all were laid out we emerged from our hole, 
and counted the game. There were no less than 
twenty-five dead immediately around the circle, besides 
several wounded that we could see straggling off over 
the plain. 

We did not think of going to rest again until each of 

328 The Hunters' Feast 

us had eaten about two pounds of fresh buffalo-beef, and 
what with the excitement of this odd adventure, and the 
jokes that followed — not a {q.\v of them levelled at our 
quondam guard — it was near morning before we closed 
our eyes again in sleep. 



We awoke more confident of our future. We had now 
provision enough and thousands of pounds to spare. It 
only remained for us to make it portable, and preserve 
it by drying ; and this would occupy us about three full 
days. Our guides understood well how to cure meat 
without salt, and as soon as we had breakfasted all of us 
set to work. We had to pick and choose amidst such 
mountains of meat. Of course the fat cows only were 
* butchered.' The bulls were left where they had fallen, 
to become the food of wolves, scores of which were now 
seen skulking around the spot. 

A large fire was kindled, and near this was erected a 
framework of branches, on which was laid or suspended 
the meat, cut into thin slices and strips. These were 
placed at such a distance from the fire that it acted upon 
them only to dry up the juices, and in less than forty- 
eight hours the strips became hard and stiff, so that 
they would keep for months without danger of spoiling. 
Meanwhile some employed themselves in dressing 
buffalo skins, so as to render them light and portable, 
in other words to make robes of them that would serve 
us for sleeping in. 

At the end of the third day we had arranged every 
thing, and were ready to set forth on our homeward 
journey. Each was to carry his own rations of the 
jerked meat, as well as his arms, robes, and equipments. 
Of course, loaded in this manner, we did not expect to 
make a long daily journey, but, supplied as we were 
with provisions for thirty days, we had no fear but that 
before the end of that time we would reach Independence. 
We were in high spirits as we set out, although, before 


330 TJie Hunters^ Feast 

we had walked far, the pressure of our packs somewhat 
moderated the exuberance of our feelings ; and before 
we had been fifty hours upon the road, an incident 
occurred that once more reduced us to a new state of 
despondency, and placed us once more in peril of our 
lives. Many an accident of flood and field, many a 
' hair-breadth 'scape ' are to be encountered in a journey 
through prairie-land, and the most confident calculations 
of the traveller are often rendered worthless in a single 
moment. So we found to our consternation. 

The accident which befel us was one of a deplorable 
character. We had reached the banks of a small stream, 
not over fifty yards in width, but very deep. After 
going down it for several miles, no place could be found 
that was fordable, and at length we made up our minds 
to swim across, rather than spend more time in searching 
for a ford. This was easy enough, as we were all 
swimmers, and in a few minutes most of the party were 
safely landed on the other side. 

But it remained to get our provisions and other 
matters over, and for this purpose a small raft had been 
constructed, upon which the packs of meat, robes, as 
well as our arms and ammunition, were laid. A cord 
was attached to the raft, and one of the party swam over 
with the cord, and then several taking hold commenced 
dragging over the raft with its load. 

Although the stream was narrow, the current was 
strong and rapid, and just as the raft had got near the 
middle the towing line snapped, and away went the 
whole baggage down stream. 

We all followed along the banks, in hopes of securing 
the raft when it should float near, and at first we had 
little apprehension about the matter. But to our 
mortification we now perceived a rapid just below, and 
there would be no chance of preventing the frail 
structure from going over it. The packs, robes, and 
guns had been laid upon the raft, not even fastened to 
it, for in our careless security, we never anticipated such 
a result. 

It was too late to leap into the stream and endeavour 

The Route Home 331 

to stop the raft. No one thought of such a thing. All 
saw that it was impossible, and we stood with anxious 
hearts watching the floating mass as it swept down and 
danced over the foaming waters. Then a shock was 
heard — the raft heeled round — and, poised upon a sharp 
rock, stood for a moment in mid-stream, and then once 
more washed free it glided on into the still water below. 

We rushed down the banks, after an effort secured the 
raft, and drew it ashore ; but to our consternation most 
of the provisions, with the guns and ammunition, were 
gone ! 

They had been tossed off in the very middle of the 
rapids, and of course were lost for ever. Only three 
packs of the meat, with a number of robes, remained 
upon the raft. 

We were now in a more serious condition than ever. 
The provision saved from the wreck would not last us a 
week, and when that was consumed how were we to 
procure more ? Our means of killing game was taken 
from us. We had no arms but pistols and knives. 
What chance of killing a deer, or any other creature, 
with these ? 

The prospect was gloomy enough. Some even 
advised that we should go back to where we had left 
the buffalo carcases. But by this time the wolves had 
cleaned them of their flesh. It would have been 
madness to go back. There was no other course but 
to head once more towards the settlements, and travel 
as fast as we could. 

On half rations we continued on, making our daily 
journeys as long as possible. It was fortunate we had 
saved some of the robes, for it was now winter, and the 
cold had set in with extreme bitterness. Some nights 
we were obliged to encamp without wood to make a 
fire with, but we were in hopes of soon reaching the 
forest region, where we should not want for that, and 
where, moreover, we would be more likely to meet with 
some game that we could capture. 

On the third day after leaving the stream that had 
been so fatal to us, it began snowing, and continued to 

332 The Hunters' Feast 

snow all night. Next morning the whole country was 
covered with a white mantle, and we journeyed on, at 
each step sinking in the snow. This rendered our 
travelling very difficult, but as the snow was only a 
foot or so in depth we were able to make way through it. 
We saw many tracks of deer, but heeded them not, as 
we knew there was no chance of capturing the animals. 
Our guides said if it would only thaw a little, and then 
freeze again, they could kill the deer without their rifles. 
It did thaw during the day, and at night froze so hard, 
that in the morning there was a thick crust of ice upon 
the surface of the snow. 

This gave us some hope, and next morning a deer 
hunt was proposed. We scattered in different directions 
in parties of two and three, and commenced tracking 
the deer. 

On reassembling at our night camp, our different 
parties came back wearied and empty-handed. 

The guides, Ike and Redwood, had gone by them- 
selves, and were the last to reach the rendezvous. We 
watched anxiously for their return. They came at 
length, and to our joy each of them carried the half 
of a deer upon his shoulders. They had discovered the 
animal by his trail in the snow, and pursued it for miles, 
until its ankles and hoofs became so lacerated by the 
crust that it allowed them to approach near enough for 
the range of their pistols. Fortunately it proved to be a 
good-sized buck, and would add a couple of days to our 
stock of provisions. 

With fresh venison to our breakfast, we started forth 
next morning in better spirits. This day we intended 
to make a long journey, in hopes of getting into heavy 
timber, where we might find deer more plentiful, and 
might capture some before the snow thawed away. But 
before the end of the day's journey we were so stocked 
with provision, that we no longer cared about deer or 
any other game. Our commissariat was once more 
replenished by the buffalo, and in a most unexpected 
manner. We were tramping along upon the frozen 
snow, when upon ascending the crest of a ridge, we saw 

The Route Home 333 

five huge forms directly in front of us. We had no 
expectation of meeting with buffalo so far to the east- 
ward, and were somewhat in doubt as to whether they 
were buffaloes. Their bodies, against the white hill- 
side, appeared of immense size, and as they were covered 
all over with hoar frost, and icicles depending from their 
long shaggy tufts of hair, they presented a singular 
aspect, that for awhile puzzled us. We took them for 
pine-trees ! 

We soon saw, however, that they were in motion, 
moving along the hill, and they could be no other than 
buffaloes, as no other animals could have presented such 
an appearance. Of course they were at a long distance, 
and this prevented us from at once recognising them. 

This was an important discovery, and brought our 
party to a halt and a consultation. What course was to 
be adopted ? How were we to capture one or all of 
them ? Had the snow been of sufficient depth the thing 
would have been easy ; but although as it was, it might 
impede their running, they could get through it much 
faster than we. The only chance was to ' approach ' 
them by stealth ; but then we must creep within pistol 
range, and that upon the plain white surface would be 
absolutely impossible. The foot of the hunter, crunch- 
ing through the frozen snow, would warn them of their 
danger long before he could get near. In fact, when 
every circumstance had been weighed and discussed, we 
every one despaired of success. At that moment what 
would we not have given for a horse and a gun. 

As we talked without coming to any determination, 
the five huge forms disappeared over the sharp ridge, 
that ran transversely to our course. As this ridge 
would shelter us from view, we hurried forward in 
order to see what advantages there were in the ground 
on its other side. We were in hopes of seeing timber 
that might enable us to get closer to the game, and we 
made for a small clump that grew on the top of the 
ridge. We reached it at length, and to our great 
chagrin, saw the five great brutes galloping off on the 
opposite side. 

334 l^fi^ Huniei's' Feast 

Our hearts fell, and we were turning to each other 
with disappointed looks, when a tumultuous shout of 
triumph broke from Redwood and the wolf-killer, and 
both calling out to us to follow them, dashed off in the 
direction of the buffalo ! 

We looked to ascertain the cause of this strange 
conduct. A singular sight met our eyes. The buffalo 
were sprawling and kicking on the plain below ; now 
rushing forward a short distance, then spreading their 
limbs, and halting, while some of them came heavily 
down upon their sides, and lay flinging their legs about 
them, as if they had been wounded ! 

All these manoeuvres would have been mysterious 
enough, but the guides rushing forward had already 
given the key to them, by exclaiming that the buffalo 
were on the ice ! 

It was true. The snow-covered plain was a frozen 
lake, and the animals in their haste had galloped upon 
the ice, where they were now floundering. 

It cost us but a {e\w minutes' time to come up with 
them, and in a few minutes more — a few minutes of 
fierce deadly strife — in which pistols cracked and knife- 
blades gleamed, five great carcasses lay motionless upon 
the blood-stained snow. 

This lucky capture, for we could only attribute it 
to good fortune, was perhaps the means of saving the 
lives of our party. The meat furnished by the five bulls 
— for bulls they were — formed an ample stock, which 
enabled us to reach the settlements in safety. It is 
true we had many a hard trial to undergo, and many a 
weary hours' walking, before we slept under a roof; but 
although in wretched plight, as far as looks went, we all 
got back in excellent health. 

At Independence we were enabled to 'rig' ourselves 
out, so as to make an appearance at St. Louis — where we 
arrived a few days after — and where, seated around the 
well-filled table of the Planter's Hotel, we soon forgot 
the hardships, and remembered only the pleasures of 
our wild hunter-life. 


Printed by Cowan 6^ Co., Limited, Perth. 




University of California 


405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1388 

Return this material to the library 

from which it was borrowed. 




FEB 241898 •jm 

fti I 


T3?fIVEnSI^Y G' 

^ * -^ ^r?, 




AA 000 368 395