Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

The Hardships to be Encountered

But for the fact that Susan Mitchell, riding upon a small black, wiry-looking horse, held herself well by my side, I would have been disheartened even before we had really begun the journey, because I was looking forward to what we must encounter, and saying to myself that unless these people could pull themselves together in better fashion, we were certain to come to grief.

When a company failed to herd thirty cows, over what might be called a beaten highway, what would you expect when in a country where the Indians are doing all they can to stampede and run off cattle as well as horses?

I soon saw that Susan was a girl of good understanding, for without a word having been spoken, she seemed to realize those fears which had come into my mind, and said again and again as if to strengthen my courage:—

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

"They will know more about this kind of travel when we reach Independence."

I could not refrain from saying in reply that unless they learned more speedily it would be well we waited a full year at Independence rather than attempt a journey where so much danger and hardship awaited us.

I venture to say that there was not one among John Mitchell's company who could have put a pack upon a horse in such a manner that it would hold in place half an hour over rough traveling; and as for handling a mule team, the driver of that wagon in which my mother rode had no more idea of how the beasts should be treated than if he had so many sheep in harness.

To show how ignorant these people were regarding the country, I have only to say that from the moment we left St. Louis one or another was continually asking me whether we were likely to come upon buffaloes before the night had set. The idea of buffaloes between St. Louis and Independence, save perchance we came upon some old bull that had been driven away from the herd by the hunters!

It was by my advice that John Mitchell decided to overhaul his outfit at Independence in order to learn whether there might be anything needed, for after having left the settlement we would find no opportunity of replenishing our stores save at some one of the forts, and then it was a question, serious indeed, whether we could get what might be needed.