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tors of surprise and merriment to the travellers ; but they soon
became too serious for a joke, threatening devastation to the
fleshpots; and he was regarded askance, at his meals, as a
regular kill-crop, destined to waste the substance of the party.
Nothing but a sense of the obligations they were under to his
nation induced them to bear Avith such a guest; but he pro-
ceeded, speedily, to relieve them from the weight of these
obligations, by eating a receipt m full.



As Captain Bonneville and his men were encamped one
evening among the hills near Snake River, seated before their
fire, enjoying a hearty supper, they were suddenly surprised
by the visit of an uninvited guest. He was a ragged, half-
naked Indian hunter, armed with bow and arrows, and had
the carcass of a fine buck thrown across his shoulder. Ad-
vancing with an alert step, and free and easy air, he threw the
buck on the gi'ound, and, without waiting for an invitation,
seated himself at their mess, helped himself without ceremony,
and chatted to the right and left in the liveliest and most un-
embaiTassed manner. No adroit and veteran dinner hunter of
a metropolis could have acquitted himself more knowingly.
The travellers Avere at first completely taken by surprise, and
could not but admire the facility with which this ragged cosmop-
olite made himself at home among them. While they stared
he went on, making the most of the good cheer upon which he
had so fortunately alighted; and w\as soon elbow deep in "pot
luck" and greased from the tip of his nose to the back of his

As the company recovered from their surprise, they began


t« feel annoyed at this intrusion. Their luiinvited guest, lui-
likc the generahty of his tribe, was somewhat dirty as well as
ragged and they had no rehsh for sueh a messmate. Heaping
up, therefore, an abundant portion ot tiie " provaut" upon a
piece of bark which served for a (hsh, they invited liim to con-
iine himself thereto, instead of foraging in the general mess.

He complied with the most accommodating spirit iimigi-
nablc; and went on eating and chatting, and laughing and
smearing himself, imtil his whole countenance shone with
grease and good-humor. In the course of his repast, his at-
tention was caught by the figure of the gastronome, who, as
usual, was gorging himself in dogged silence. A droll cut of
the eye showed either that he knew him of old, or perceived at
once his char.ncteristics. He immediately made him the butt
of his pleasantries ; and cracked off two or three good hits,
that caused the sluggish dolt to prick up his ears, and delighted
all the company. From this time, the uninvited guest was
taken into favor ; his jokes began to be relished ; his careless,
free and easy air, to be considered singularly amusing; and in
the end, he was pronounced by the travellers one of the mer-
riest comj^anions and most entertaining vagabonds they had
met with in the wilderness.

t5upper being over, the redoubtable Shee-wee-she-ouaiter, for
such was the simple name by which he announced himself, de-
clared his intention of keeping company with the party for a
day or two, if they had no objection; and by way of backing
liis self-invitation, presented the carcass of the buck as an
earnest of his hunting abilities. By this time he had so com-
pletely effaced the unfavornhle impression made by his firet
appearance, that he was made Aveleome to the ramp, and the
Nez Perce guide undertook to give him lodging for the night.
The next morning, at break of day he borroAved a gim, and
was off among the hills, nor was anything more seen of him
until a few minutes after the party had encamped for the
evenino;, when ho again made his appearance, in his usual
frank, careless manner, and threw down the carcass of another
noble deer, which he had borne on his back for a considerable

This evening he was the life of the party, and his open com-
miinicative disposition, free from all disguise, soon put them
in possession of his history. He had been a kind of prodigal
son in his native village ; living a loose, heedless life, and dis-
regarding the precei>ts and imperative commands of the cliiefs.


He had, in consequence, been expelled from the village, but, in
nowise disheartened at this banishment had betaken himself
to the society of the border Indians, and had led a careless,
liapliazard, vagabond life, perfectly consonant to his humors;
heedless of the future, so long as ho had wherewithal for the
present; and fearing no lack of food, so long as he had the im-
plements of the chase, and a fair hunting ground.

Finding him very expert as a hunter, and being pleased with
his eccentricities and his strange and merry humor. Captain
Bonneville fitted him out handsomely as the Nimrod of the
party, who all soon became quite attached to him. One of the
earliest and most signal services he performed, was to exorcise
the insatiate kill-crop that hitherto oppressed the party. In
laat, the doltish Nez Perce, who had seemed so perfectly insen-
sible to rough treatment of every kind, by which the travellers
had endeavored to elbow him out of their society, could not
withstand the good-humored bantering, and occasionally sharp
"wit of She-wee-she. He evidently quailed under his jokes, and
sat blinki«ng like an owl in daylight, when pestered by the
flouts and peckings of mischievous birds. At length his place
was found vacant at meal-time : no one know when he went
olf, or whither he had gone, but he was seen no more, and the
vast surplus that remained when the repast was over, showed
what a mighty gormandizer had departed. '

Eelieved from this incubus, the little party now went on
cheerily. She-wee-she kept them in fun as well as food. His
hunting was always successfid; he was ever ready to render
any assistance in the camp or on the march ; while his jokes,
his antics, and the very cut of his countenance, so full of
whim and comicality, kept every one in good-humor.

In this way they journeyed on until they arrived on the
banks of the Immahah, and encamped near to the Nez Perce
lodges. Here She-wec-she took a sudden notion to visit his
people, and show off the state of worldly prosperity to which
he had so suddenly attained. He accordingly departed in thp
morning, arrayed in hunter's style, ana well appointed with
everything befitting his vocation. The buoyancy of his gait,
the elasticity of his step, and the hilarity of his countenance,
showed that he anticipated, with chuckling satisfaction, the
surprise he was about to give those who had ejected him from
their society in rags. But what a change was there in his
whole appearance when he rejoined the party in the evening!
He came skulking into camp Hke a beaten cur, with his tail


betvvoen his legs. All his finery was gone; he was naked as
when lie was born, with the exception of a scanty liap that
answered the purpose of a fig leaf. His fellow-travellers at
first did not know him, but supjwsed it to be some vagrant
Root Digger sneaking into the camp ; but when they recognized
in this forlorn object their prime wag, She- woe-she, whom they
had seen depart in the morning in siuh high glee and high
feather, they coidd not contain their merriment, but hailed him
with loud and repeated peals of laughter.

She-wee-she was not of a spirit to be easily cast down ; he
soon joined in the merriment as heartily as any one, and
seemed to consider his reverse of fortune an excellent joke.
Captain Bonneville, however, thought proper to check his
good-humor, and demanded, with some degree of sternness,
the cause of his altered condition. He replied in the most
natural and self-complacent style imaginable, "that he had
been among his cousins, avIio wore very poor; they had been
delighted to see him ; still more delighted with his good for-
tune; they had taken him to their arms; admired his equip-
ments; one had begged for this; another for that" — in fine,
what with the poor devil's inherent heedlessness and the real
generosity of his disposition, his needy cousins had succeeded
in stri])i)ing him of all his clothes and accoutrements, except-
ing the fig leaf with which he had retiu-ned to camp.

Seeing his total want of care and foretliought. Captain Bonne-
ville determined to let him suffer a little, in hopes it might
prove a salutary lesson; and, at any rate, to make him no nioro
presents wliile in the neighborhood of his needy cousins. He
was left, therefore, to shift for himself in his naked condition;
which, however, did not seem to give him any concern, or to
abate one jot of his good-humor. In the course of his loung-
ing about the camp, however, he got possession of a deer-skin;
whereupon, cutting a slit in tlio middle, he thrust his head
through it, so that the two ends hung down bcfoi-e and
behind, something like a South American poncho, or the
tabardof a herald. These ends he tied together, under the
armpits ; and thus arrayed presented liimself once more before
the captain, with an air of perfect self-satisfaction, as though
he thought it impossible for any fault to be found with his

A little further journeying brought the travellers to the petty
village of Nez Perrcs, governed by the worthy and affectionate
old patriarch who had made Captain Bonneville the costly


present of a very fine horse. The old naan welcomed them
once more to his village with his usual cordialty, and his re-
spectable squaw and hopeful son, cherishing grateful recollec-
tions of the hatchet and ear-bobs, joined in a chorus of friendly

As the much- vaunted steed, once the joy and pride of this
interesting family, was now nearly knocked up by travelling,
and totally inadequate to the mountain scramble that lay ahead,
Captain Bonneville restored him to the venerable patriarch,
with renewed acknowledgments for the invaluable gift. Some-
what to his surpi-ise, he was immediately supplied with a fine
two years' old colt in his stead, a substitution which, he after-
ward learned, according to Indian custom in such cases, he
might have claimed as a matter of right. We do not find that
any after claims were made on account of this colt. This dona-
tion may be regarded, therefore, as a signal punctilio of Indian
honor ; but it will be found that the animal soon proved an un-
lucky acquisition to the party.

While at this village, the Nez Perce guide had held consulta-
tions with some of the inhabitants as to the mountain tract the
party were about to traverse. He now began to wear an anx-
ious aspect, and to indulge ua gloomy forebodings. The snow,
ho had been told, lay to a great depth in the passes of the
mountains, and difficulties would increase as he proceeded.
He begged Captain Bonneville, therefore, to travel very slowly,
so as to keep the horses in strength and spirit for the hard
times they would have to encounter. The captain surrendered
the regidation of the march entirely to his discretion, and
pushed on in the advance, amusing himself with hunting, so as
generally to kill a deer or two in the course of the day, and
arriving, before the rest of the party, at the spot designated
by the guide for the evening's encampment.

In the meantune, the others plodded on at the heels of the
giiide, accompanied by that merry vagabond. She-wee-she,
The primitive garb worn by this droll left all his nether man
exposed to the biting blasts of the mountains. Still his wit
was never frozen, nor his sunshiny temper beclouded ; and his
innumerable antics and practical jokes, while they quickened
tlie circulation of his own blood, kept his companions in high

So passed the first day after the departure from the patri-
arch's. The second day commenced in the same manner; the
captain in the advance, the rest of the party following on


slowly. She-wee-sho, for the f^'oater part of the time, trudged
on foot over the snow, keeping himself warm by hard exercise,
and all kinds of crazy capers. In the height of his fooleiy,
the patriarchal colt, which, unbroken to the saddle, was suf-
fered to follow on at large, happened to come within his reach.
In a moment he was on his back, snapping his fingers, and
yelping with delight. The colt, unused to such a burden, and
half wild by nature, fell to prancing and rearuig, and snort-
ing, and j)lunging, and kicking; and, at length, set off full
speed over the most dangerous grtnmd. As the route led gen-
erally along the steep and craggy sides on the liills, both hoi-se
and horseman were constantly in danger, and more than once
had a hairbreadth escape from deadly peril. Nothing, how-
ever, could daunt this madcap savage. He stuck to the colt
hke a plaster, up ridges, down gullies; whooping and yelling
with the wildest glee. Never did beggar on horseback display
more headlong horsemanship. His companions followed liini
W'ith their eyes, sometimes laughing, sometimes holding in
theii' breath at his va?:aries, until they saw the colt make a
sudden plunge or start, and pitch his unlucky rider headlong
over a precipice. There was a general cry of horror, and all
hastened to the spot. They found the poor fellow lying among
the rocks below, sadly bi'uised and mangled. It was almost a
miracle that he had escaped with Hfe. Even in this condition
his merry spirit was not entirely quelled, and he summoned
up a feeble laugh at the alarm and anxiety of those who came
to his relief. He w^as extricated from his rocky bed, and a
messenger dispatched to inform Ciiptain Bonneville of the
accident. The latter returned with all speed, and encamped
the party at the first convenient spot. Here the wounded man
was stretched upon buffalo skins, and the captain, who offi-
ciated on all occasions as doctor and surgeon to the party, pro-
ceeded to examine his woimds. The principal one was a long
and deep gash in the thigh, which reached to the bone. Call-
ing for a needle and thread, the captain now prepared to sew
up the wound, admonishing the patient to submit to the oper-
ation with becoming fortitude. His gayety was at an end; he
could no longer summon up even a forced smile; and, at the
first puncture of the needle flinched so piteously that the cap-
tain was obliged to pause, and to order him a powerful dose of
alcohol. This somewhat rallied up his spirit and warmed his
heai't; all the time of the operation, however, he kept his eyes
riveted on the wound, with his teeth set, and a whimsical


wincing ot the countenance that occasionally gave his nose
something of its usual comic curl.

\\ hen the wound was fairl}' closed, the captain washed it
■with rum, and administered a second dose of the same to the
patient, who was tucked in for the night, and advised to com-
pose himself to sleep. He was restless and uneasy, however ;
repeatedly expressing his fears that his leg would be so much
swollen the next day as to prevent his proceeding with the
party; nor could he be quieted until the captain gave a de-
cided opinion favorable to his wishes.

Early the next morning, a gleam of his merry humor re-
turned, on finding that his wounded limb retained its natural
proportions. On attempting to use it, however, he found him-
self unable to stand. He made several efforts to coax liimself
into a belief that he might still continue forward; but at
length shook his head despondingly, and said that " as he had
but one leg," it was all in vain to attempt a passage of the

Every one grieved to part with so boon a companion, and
under such disastrous circumstances. He was once moi'e
clothed and equipped, each one making him some parting pres-
ent. He was then helped on a horse, which Captain Bonne-
ville presented to him; and after many parting expressions
of good-will on both sides, set off on his return to his old
haunts ; doubtless to be once more plucked by his affectionate
but needy cousins.





Continuing their journey up the course of the Immahah,
the ti-avellers found, as they approached the head-waters, the
snow increased in quantity, so as to lie two feet deep. They
were again obliged, therefore, to beat down a path for their
horses, sometimes travelling on the icy surface of the stream.
At length they reached the place where they intended to scale
the mountains; and, having broken a pathway to the foot,


were af^i'ocably surprised to find that the wind had drifted the
snow from off the side, so that they attained the suniniit with
but Httlc difficulty. Here they encami)ed, with the intention
of beating a track through the mountains. A short experi-
ment, however, obhged them to give up the attempt, the snow
lying in vast drifts, often higher than the horses' heads.

Captain Bonneville now took the two Indian guides, and set
out to reconnoitre the neighborhood. Observing a high peak
which overtopped the rest, he climbed it, and discovered from
the summit a pass about nine miles long, but so heavily piled
with snow that it seejiied impracticable. He now lit a pipe,
and, sitting down with the two guides, proceeded to hold a
consultation after the Indian mode. For a long while they all
smoked vigorously and in silence, pondering over the subject
matter beiore them. At length a discussion commenced, and
the opinion in which the two guides concurred was, that the
horses could not possibly cross the snows. They advised,
therefore, that the jiarty should proceed on foot, and they
should take the horses back to the village, where they would
be well taken care of until Captain Bonneville shoidd send for
them. They urged this advice with great earnestness ; declar-
ing that their chief would be extremely angry, and treat them
severely should any of the horses of his good friends, the
white men, be lost in crossing under their guidance ; and that,
therefore, it was good they should not attempt it.

Captain Bonneville sat smoking his pipe, and listening to
them with Indian silence and gra\'ity. When they had fin-
ished, he replied to them in their own style of language.

" My friends," said he, "I have seen the pass, and have list-
ened to your words ; you have little hearts. When troubles
and dangers lie in your way, you turn your backs. That is
not the way with my nation. When great obstacles present,
and threaten to keep them back, their hearts swell, rmd they
push forward. They love to conquer difficulties. B;it enough
for the present. Night is coming on; let us return to our
camp. "

He moved on, and they followed in silence. On reaching the
camp, he found the men extremely discouraged. One of their
number had been surveying the neighborhood, and seriously
assured them that the snow was at least a hundred feet deep.
The captain cheered them up, and diffused fresh spirit in them
by his example. Still lie was much perplexed how to proceed.
About dark there was a slight drizzling rain. An expedient


now suggested itself. This was to make two light sleds, place
tlie packs on them, and di-ag them to the other side of the
iiiountaiu, thus forming a road in the wet snow, which, should
it afterward freeze, would be sufficiently hard to bear tho
horses. This plan was promptly put into execution ; the sleds
were constructed, the heavy baggage was drawn backward
and forward until the road was beaten, when they desisted
from their fatiguing labor. The night turned out clear and
cold, and by morning their road Avas incrusted with ice suffi-
ciently strong for their purpose. They now set out on their
icy turnpike, and got on well enough, excepting that now and
thtn a horse would shde out of the track, and immediately
sink up to the neck. Then came on toil and difficulty, and
they Avould be obliged to haul up the floundering animal with
ropes. One, more unlucky than the rest, after repeated falls,
had to be abandoned in the snow. NotAvithstanding these re-
peated delays, they succeeded, before the sun had acquired
sufficient power to thaw the snow, in getting all the rest of
their horses safely to the other side of the mountain.

Their difficulties and dangers, however, were not yet at an
end. They had now to descend, and the whole surface of the
snow was glazed with ice. It was necessary, therefore, to
wait until the warmth of the sun should melt the glassy crust
of sleet, and give them a foothold to the yielding snow. They
had a frightful warning of the danger of any movement while
the sieet remained. A wild young mare, in her restlessness,
strayed to the edge of a declivity. One slip was fatal to her;
she lost her balance, - careered "\\4th headlong velocity down
the slippery side of the mountain for more than two thousand
feet, and was dashed to pieces at the bottom. When the trav-
ellers afterward sought the carcass to cut it up for food, they
found it torn and mangled in the most horrible manner.

It was quite late in the evening before the party descended
to the ultimate skirts of the snow. Here they planted large
logs below them to prevent their sliding down, and encamped
for the night. The next day they succeeded in bringing down
their baggage to the encampment; then packing all up regu-
larly and loading their horses, they once more set out briskly
and cheerfully, and in the course of the following day suc-
ceeded in getting to a grassy region.

Here their Nez Perce guides declared that all the difficulties
of the mountains were at an end, and their course was plain
and simple, and needed no further guidance; they asked leave,


therefore, to return home. This was readily granted, >vif,h
many thanks and presents for their faithful services. Tlioy
took a long farewell smoke with their white friends, after
which they mounted their horses and set off, exchanging
many farewells and Icind wiijhes.

On the following day, Captain Bonneville completed liis
journey down the mountain, and encamped on the bordcre
of Snake River, where he found the grass in great abundance
and eight inches in height. In this neighborhood he saw on
the rocky banks of the river several prismoids of basaltes, ris-
ing to the height of fifty or sixty feet.

Nothing particularly worthy of note occurred during several
days as the party proceeded up along Snake River and across
its tributary streams. After crossing Gun Greek, they met
with various signs that white people were in the neighbor-
hood, and Captain Bonneville made earnest exertions to dis-
cover whether they were any of his own people, that he might
join them. He soon ascertained that they had been starved
out of this tract of country, and had betaken themselves to the
buffalo region, whither he now shaped his course. In proceed-
ing along Pnake River, he found smaU hordes of Shoshonies
lingering upon the minor streams, and living u|»on ti'out and
other fish, which they catch in great numbers at this season in
fish- traps. The greater part of the tribe, however, had pene-
trated the mountains to hunt the elk, deer, and ahsahta or

On the 12th of May Captain Bonneville reached the Portneuf
River, in the vicinity of which he had left the winter encamp-
ment of his company on the i)receding Christmas day. He
had then expected to be back by the beginning of March, but
circumstances had detained him upward of two months be-
yond the time, and the winter encampment must long ere this
have been broken up. Halting on the banks of the Portneuf,
he dispatched scouts a few miles above, to visit the old camp-
ing ground and search for signals of the party, or of their
wliereabouts, should they actually have abandoned the spot.
They returned without being able to ascertain anything.

Being now destitute of provisions, the travellers found it

Online LibraryWashington IrvingThe adventures of Captain Bonneville → online text (page 22 of 52)