Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

Nearly Exhausted

Then we had arrived at Salmon Falls Creek. It was nearly nine o'clock in the evening when we came to a halt, and during the last half hour of the march we had been more nearly asleep than awake. At this camp we found a scanty crop of grass, but no food for ourselves, and when, weary to the verge of exhaustion, we crept under such shelters as had been put up hurriedly in the darkness, it was with the knowledge that sleep would come quickly, enabling us to forget, even for a short time, our great needs.

From this point the next camping place would be on the bank of the Snake River, at what is known as the first crossing, twenty-five miles away, and then we had before us a journey of seventy-three miles to the Boise River, after which we must march forty-eight miles farther in order to gain Fort Boise, where food could be had.

One hundred forty-six miles stretched out ahead of us before it would be possible to satisfy our hunger, and this distance could not be covered in less than three days. Our animals were so nearly worn out with severe work and lack of food that it did not seem possible we could advance another ten miles, and yet all that long distance must be traversed unless we gave up the struggle, leaving our bones to bleach on the trail, as many another had done before us.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

Now and again we came upon ghastly evidences of death, in wrecks of wagons and tokens of human beings who had perished by starvation. Perhaps it was well we saw those things, since they forced our people to struggle all the harder.

We traveled in silence during the three days before arriving at Fort Boise, eating nothing at noon, and for breakfast and supper receiving no more than enough to prove how desperately hungry we were. I strove to keep my mind fixed upon the danger which might menace from Indians, in order to be ready to guard against it; but the others, even including Susan, rode or walked listlessly, as if already despairing of ever being able to accomplish the task before us.

The animals moved feebly; twice an ox fell in the yoke, refusing to rise again, and we were forced to leave him behind. The men worked half-heartedly when it became necessary to double the teams in order to haul the wagons over the rough road, and so great became the suffering of all that we moved onward as if in a dream.