Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

A Tempest

It was nearly nightfall before we were all across with our outfit and cattle, and then I gave the word that we should encamp within a mile of the stream, for I was not pleased with the appearance of dark clouds which were rolling up from the west.

It would have been better had I halted the company when we first crossed, for before we could get the tents up and the wagons in place, a terrific storm of thunder and lightning was upon us.

Instantly, as it seemed, our oxen and cows were stampeded, rushing off across the prairie like wild things, and although I did my best to round them up, all efforts were vain.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

There was nothing for it but to let them go, and seek shelter from the down pour of water, which was so heavy that at times one could hardly stand against it.

Susan Mitchell had followed my mother into the tent which T had taken care to set up immediately we halted, and because there was no other shelter save the overcrowded wagons, the girl was there when I entered. It made my heart ache to see the evidences of her fright. Well was it for her that she was with my mother, for I truly believe none could have soothed her fears so readily.

I left the two together while the storm was at its height, and sought shelter in one of the wagons, believing the tempest would continue to rage throughout the night.

Next morning, before day had fully come, I aroused all the men. We saddled our horses and set out in search of the cattle, John Mitchell saying in a grumbling tone as he rode forward, that it seemed to him as if he was "doing more in the way of running down oxen and cows, than in making any progress toward the Oregon country."

Hardly realizing how true my words might prove to be, I told him laughingly that we were likely to get more of such work as the days wore on, rather than less, and another four and twenty hours had not passed before he came to believe that I was a true prophet.

Not until noon did we succeed in getting all the live stock rounded up, and I believed we were exceedingly fortunate in not losing a single animal, for it seldom happens, as I have heard, that cattle can be stampeded during the night and every one brought into camp next morning.

It was my belief that we ought to travel rapidly during the afternoon and until a reasonably late hour in the night, in order to make up the time we had lost; but it is one thing to say and quite another matter to accomplish.