Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

A Difficult Crossing

Because of having been thus delayed by waiting for the cattle, we traveled only five miles on this day, which, if I remember rightly, was the 14th of May. Then we arrived where Big Soldier Creek must be crossed, an undertaking I had been looking forward to with no little anxiety because the banks of the creek are very steep and it is impossible to drive either mules or oxen down to the bed of the stream while attached to the wagons.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

We were forced to unyoke the oxen and unharness the mules, after which we let the wagons down by means of ropes, with four men to steer the tongue of each cart.

The ford was shallow, but on the other side the banks loomed in front of us like the sides of a cliff. In order to get even the lightest wagon to the top we had to yoke all the oxen in one team, and even then every man of us put his shoulder to the tailboard, pushing and straining as we forced the heavy vehicle straight into the air, as one might say.

One entire day was spent in crossing, and within an hour of sunset we pitched our tents on the high banks, where we let dove n buckets by ropes in order to get water for cooking,—this method being easier than scrambling up and down the steel) incline.

Before night had come a party of about sixty from the Ohio country joined us, having fifteen wagons.

They were unaccustomed to such traveling, as I understood after seeing them make camp. When the leader came up to John Mitchell, proposing that we journey together from then onward, claiming that by thus increasing the numbers each company would be in greater security from the Indians, I gave my employer a look which I intended should say that w e would travel as we had started, independently,