by Jordan Porter, Channel House Press, New York, London. 2003.
Illustrations, maps, index. 243 pages.
excerpts reprinted by permission. Copyright 2003 Channel House
with Charbonneau in my quarters about the day's hunt. He heard
from a Umatilla brave that elk are plentiful south of the river
forks, and deer. Lewis entered abruptly in the middle of this
as is his custom and says he, Let us make the trek
to the salt camp, let us depart hencewith etc etc. Says I, Lewis
we are talking here, but he does not notice this. I imagine him
taking the high trail to the salt making camp, perhaps falling
off the cliff into the sea. But these are just thoughts, and no
real harm to any party.
Mid-December and not a hint about what I will be receiving from
Lewis at Michaelmas, when all through the wet fall he has been
checking to see if I have procured a present for him. He wants
a cedar canoe and paddles designed specifically for the short-armed
man that he is. It astounds me, Diary, how one man can be so focused
on himself. Would that he had a hint of self-reflection. Would
that he werent such a perfect ass. But I do not want to
get started on a list of grievances, lest I will not be able to
cease with the practice. That said, there is but one more. He
is possessed of the habit of chewing with his mouth open. That
gob of his hangs on its hinges like an open transom, especially
when he is eating dog. Words cannot describe how homicidal this
makes me feel. It is then when I have to remove myself from his
company in a thrice. On the last occasion, he called after me
and I turned around only to see wads of masticated hound meat
dripping from his chops. Clark! Oh Clark! Where are you headed?
Diary, I do not want to complain overly, but at times I am convinced
that that mans head has evicted his brain altogether.
I am making much progress in drawing the maps, with notes from
my journal. If I had a carot of tobacco for every time Lewis mixed
up Cassiopeia with Asia Minor, I'd have a great deal of tobacco
indeed. And we would have ended up in Florida, or God knows where.
So just when I have a few minutes to myself in comes Captain Nosey
with his comments about the mapmaking. Says I, Lewis I have got
it covered, but he has to add his two pence.
seems the only respite is to visit Chief Brown Bear, who is a
good friend, honest, and a good man. I leave after supper with
my journal, saying I am going out to make a few notes on the foliage,
in the name of science. Brown Bear is home, which is my good fortune.
He invites me in to his teepee which has a musty smell that fills
offers the pipe and we smoke. Says I, Chief, have you ever had
a co-Chief, or someone you have to work with who really gets on
your nerves. He says he had a sister who would challenge his authority,
but he sold her to another tribe. I ask the Chief if he would
like to buy Lewis, and he blows the smoke right out of his nose!
We laugh heartily. He says, Bill, don't ever do that while I am
taking in the smoke.
I, Brownie, can I stay here tonight. He has stayed at the fort
many times after a long evening, and I know he will not refuse
me. I stay and in the morning his wife brings dried elk, which
is delicious. I am reluctant to return to the fort.
A new year is upon us. I am attempting to be merry and hopeful
about the future, but lying awake on these cold nights, I cannot
help but believe it is the good Lords design that we all
perish out here in the thick of nowhere. If it is to happen, dear
Father in Heaven, do not let the last face I see be Lewiss.
Do not let the last words I hear come from his ever-running mouth.
His ideas are maddening. Oft times he makes no sense at all. A
fortnight ago he was bragging about his robust physique; now he
is laid out like a sloth and complaining about a weakness in the
chest. Which is it? I asked him, standing in his cabin doorway
with my arms akimbo. Whereupon he threw a boot at me and it hit
me in my most sacred object. The pain had me doubled over. I am
not proud of having cried like a little girl, but any man worth
his salt would have done the same. To add insult to injury, Sacajaweya
was witness to the whole scene, and was laughing so merrily that
she nearly dropped her infant. Speaking of which, I thought she
was going to trade that away, or whatever Indians do with their
young. It would be nice to get some sleep again and not be woken
every two hours by a screaming babe.
is full of questions about why I did not return to the fort last
night, or the night before, or the night before. This I expected.
Did Brown Bear get any of your supplies, asks he, and I tell him
that Brown Bear is an honest man, but he listens not. Did you
check your pockets after you left, says he. It makes me angry
to hear it.
is much work to do, according to Lewis. I think we did plenty
just getting here. Besides, listening to Lewis every day is like
work in itself, and I have little energy remaining after these
ordeals. It is something new each day. This morning he speaks
endlessly of crossing the river to explore more on the north side.
Or not, says I. We did that already, and does he have any recollection
of it at all. We didn't name it Cape Disappointment for nothing.