Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

A Pawnee Visitor

It was the first time such a thing had ever occurred while I was supposed to be on duty, and I said to myself that until we had come into the Oregon country and I had said good-by to these people, I should never again be caught off guard.

The Indian who had thus surprised me was as fine a specimen of a Pawnee as I have ever seen. He was tall, had a good figure, and rode a handsome pony which was really fat,—something seldom come upon, for the Indians do not generally allow their horses to take on very much flesh.

He wore a calico shirt, buckskin leggings, and fancifully decorated moccasins. It would seem as if he had set himself up as a trader in footgear, for he carried with him half a dozen or more pairs of moccasins, some of them well worn, which he wanted to trade for meat.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

Our people were so foolish as to bargain with him, when, had they been content to wait a few days longer, until we were in a country abounding with game, they might have made any number of pairs out of fresh hides.

This fellow remained in camp after having disposed of his wares, until he had eaten three times as much as could any member of our company, going from camp fire to camp fire and gorging himself as an Indian will, until it was only with difficulty that he could mount his pony.

I felt more at ease when the fellow had left us, for I never see one of his race hanging around an encampment without good reason for believing he is trying to steal something; but the women of our company were saddened because he went so soon, and I verily believe they would have served him with another feast had it been possible for him to eat more.

There was, perhaps, some petulance in my tones when I told Susan Mitchell that she need not feel badly because he had taken his departure so soon, for before arriving at the Oregon country she would come across Indians to her heart's content, and perhaps to her heart's sorrow.

I little dreamed how soon my words were to come true, although knowing that we would meet more red people than white during the remainder of the journey; but next day, when we had traveled perhaps eight miles and were halted at noon that the women might prepare dinner, our company saw Indians in a way which was, during a few moments, anything rather than pleasant.