Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

SCARCITY OF PROVISIONS.

125

a

termined to return and endeavor to recross in my own boat. On arriving I turned it on the side as far as possible, to relieve it of the water inside, then tying the hawser to my arm, I stepped on board. I was carried down with the greatest velocity for some distance, when I brought up against a rock. I was again in motion, and again sided against a rock with such force that the water burst over filling my boat. There was now no alternative but to try to reach the shore, which, after sundry cold baths, I succeeded in doing.

It was now late, and the night was extremely dark. One mile below were two sailor friends, and I resolved to reach their encampment. The first part of the route lay over a rocky promontory, overhanging the river. I passed over this by clinging to the shrubs and points of rocks. Occasionally one of the latter would leap from its bed, and with one terrific bound, disappear in the water below. On gaining the other side, I found the route easy, and soon gained the point of destination. I received a welcome from Tom and George (before spoken of) that sailors only know how to give. Tom cut wood, built a fire against a rock, and I was soon comfortably incased in a sailor's suit, mine hanging by the fire, George, in the meantime, boiling the tea-kettle, frying pork and toasting bread, and I was soon invited into the tent to partake of their hospitalities. Tom assisted me in the morning; I reached my tent at noon. To Tom, George, Charley, and Billy, (the latter has since died) may fortune crown their efforts, and friendship always smile !

The mining districts soon became almost destitute of provisions, and the country impassable in consequence of the immense fall of rain. There was a reported scarcity of flour, and it rose in one day, at San Francisco, from $16 to $40 per barrel, and in the mines from 30 cents to $1.50 per pound. I had laid in a good supply at a low price, but after this was exhausted the only way in which I could keep a supply, was to buy out those who were about to return to town. There was an almost universal desire to leave the mines, and but few remained excepting those who were from necessity compelled to. Some were preparing to return to the States; the number, however, was few. We had formed strong attachments, having participated in so many vicissitudes, and the thought of separating gave rise

we were.

to gloomy reflections, particularly to those who were to remain. The supply of provisions had become so entirely exhausted, that many had resolved upon the hazardous alternative of going into the mountains, and wintering on the food procured with their rifles. At the head of the list was my friend Tracy. Nothing could induce him to go to town; he had as great an aversion to civilization as his friend Jim. He had left his home when a boy, and was probably never heard of by his parents; the connection was entirely severed, and he looked upon his rifle as his only true friend and reliance.

Having sold out my stock, Mr. Fairchild, Mr. Jones, and myself had resolved to start on the 17th of November for San Francisco, Mr. F. and myself destined for home. The only preparation necessary was to distribute our surplus effects among our friends; at this particular time it afforded more pleasure to give than to receive. Nothing was movable, hardly ourselves; the earth had become so thoroughly saturated, we would either of us have been loth to accept a new suit of clothes, ragged as

We each reserved a pair of pantaloons, a flannel shirt, glazed cap, and stogy boots. These, in connection with our blankets, constituted our outfits. Our firearms we found it difficult to dispose of; they were entirely useless, and our friends accepted them merely as an act of courtesy. My revolver, I had carried across the Isthmus, and kept during my stay in California, and when I disposed of it, it had not had the honor of being charged.

On the morning of the 17th my successor took possession of the store, and we were preparing to start, the rain pouring down a deluge. Our friends had all collected to bid us farewell, and to give into our charge letters to their friends. It was a gloomy morning, and a feeling of sadness appeared to steal over the minds of those we were about to leave. Having contracted with a gentleman who was to leave two days after, to deliver a package for me at Sacramento City, we filled our bottles with “Monongahela,” and putting a certain quantity where the effects would be more immediately felt, bade farewell to all, and started up the mountain. We were soon hailed by Tracy and Dean, who were not yet reconciled to parting with us, and who accompanied us a mile to the top of the mountain.

[ocr errors]

ARRIVAL AT THE HALF-WAY TENT.

127

We here came to a halt, and took the hands of our friends for the last time. We were all most sensibly affected, and although we had become inured to hardships and privations of every description, we could not, on this occasion, restrain our tears.

It was about 2 P. M. when we resumed our journey, and we had resolved to walk to the "half-way tent,” twenty-two miles distant. We were obliged to wade through mud to the tops of our boots, and on one occasion Jones sunk so deeply into the mud that we were obliged to pry him out. The first two miles found us much fatigued, and we were obliged to consult our bottles for relief; the next two found us running under a full head of steam, our walking beams in the finest working order. There was an evident disposition to try our relative speed, and the probability is that we never attained a higher rate than on this particular occasion. We did not meet any one on the road, but we met a number of trees, and although entire strangers, we made ourselves as familiar as though we had been acquainted with them for years; I hope they do not remember what we said to them. We thought Fairchild made too much leeway; Jones had so much freight on deck that he rolled about tremendously; I found it difficult to keep on an even keel, and was so heavily laden forward, that it was almost impossible to support the "figure-head.” We all, however, made good time, considering the depth of water we drew. Sunset (it did not rise that day) found half our journey performed, and threefourths of our fuel consumed; we did not let the engines stop, but steamed on, the paddles frequently throwing mud into the faces of the passengers. About 9 P. M., one of the vessels was noticed to careen, but it righted, and we kept on until half-past ten, when we arrived at the half-way tent.

If I was ever glad to put into port, it was at this time, and we certainly put in in "stress of weather.” We found the tent full, and when we called for supper were told that there was nothing to eat, except a piece of salt beef which was in the barrel. We ordered this cooked, and made a supper of brandy and beef. We now looked about for a place to sleep, but were obliged to spread our blankets on the wet ground. If I ever felt the necessity of a place on the dry dock, it was at this time; our clothes were wet with rain and perspiration, and now we

were cold and stiff, and the thought of laying down for the night in the mud, was dreadful. There was no alternative, and we submitted with the best possible grace.

The "tent” was kept by Mr. Wilkin (or Wilky,) assisted by his amiable lady. They were from Scotland, having been in the United States about seven years, most of which time they had lived in their wagon or a tent; part of the time they had lived on the extreme frontier of Missouri, after which they crossed over to Salt Lake, then into Oregon, and finally down to California. They had spent the summer in the mines, and after the commencement of the rainy season had started for Sacramento City with a six-mule team. After much toil they reached this point when two of the mules were “mired,” the others strayed, leaving them no alternative but to remain for the winter. They constructed temporary accommodations for travelers, and since my return to New York I met them at the Irving House, and was happy to learn that they were most bountifully rewarded for their detention. We rose the next morning, had our bottles refilled, and, as we had no particular

, appetite for salt beef, we resolved to walk ten miles to breakfast. Our motive powers had rusted during the night, and we found it almost impossible to move, but our bottle, like quack medicines of the present day, was a universal panacea; we applied it in this case with success. We were soon making as good time as on the previous day, but it was soon apparent that Jones must either bend on “studding-sails,” or fall behind; he chose the latter alternative, and before 9 o'clock, A. M., he was "hull down." We arrived at the “blue tent" at 10, A. M., and ordered breakfast, but we had the consolation of learning from the worthy host that he had nothing to eat. This was just what we had had for supper the previous night, and informed him that we wished something a little better for breakfast. He had flour, which was full of worms, and we had warm biscuit for breakfast.

We were again under way, and soon came out upon an open plain which extended to the American River, fifteen miles distant. This plain, although quite elevated, was covered with "lagoons," or small lakes, all swarming with wild geese, ducks and brant. A finer opportunity for a sportsman could not well be imagined, but to us the lakes afforded but little amusement;

6

« AnteriorContinuar »