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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For May 5:
Captain Lewis (current)
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A fine morning. I walked on shore until after 8 A.M., when we halted for breakfast, and in the course of my walk killed a deer, which I carried about a mile and a half to the river. It was in good order. Soon after setting out, the rudder irons of the white pirogue were broken by her running foul on a sawyer. She was, however, refitted in a few minutes with some tugs of rawhide and nails. As usual, saw a great quantity of game today: buffalo, elk, and goats or antelopes feeding in every direction. We kill whatever we wish. The buffalo furnish us with fine veal and fat beef. We also have venison and beaver tails when we wish them. The flesh of the elk and goat is less esteemed, and certainly is inferior. We have not been able to take any fish for some time past. The country is, as yesterday, beautiful in the extreme. We saw the carcasses of many buffalo lying dead along the shore, partially devoured by the wolves and bear.
Captain Clark found a den of young wolves in the course of his walk today, and also saw a great number of those animals. They are very abundant in this quarter, and are of two species: The small wolf, or burrowing dog of the prairies, are the inhabitants almost invariably of the open plains. They usually associate in bands of ten or twelve, sometimes more, and burrow near some pass or place much frequented by game. Not being able alone to take a deer or goat, they are rarely ever found alone but hunt in bands. They frequently watch and seize their prey near their burrows. In these burrows they raise their young, and to them they also resort when pursued.
When a person approaches them, they frequently bark - their note being precisely that of the small dog. They are of an intermediate size, between that of the fox and dog. Very active, fleet, and delicately formed; the ears large, erect, and pointed; the head long and pointed more like that of the fox; tail long and bushy; the hair and fur also resembles the fox, though [it] is much coarser and inferior. They are of a pale, reddish-brown color, the eye of a deep sea-green color, small and piercing. Their talons are rather longer than those of the ordinary wolf, or that common to the Atlantic states, none of which are to be found in this quarter nor, I believe, above the River Platte.
The large wolf found here is not as large as those of the Atlantic states. They are lower and thicker-made, shorter legged. Their color, which is not affected by the seasons, is a gray or blackish-brown and every intermediate shade from that to a cream-colored white. These wolves resort to the woodlands and are also found in the plains, but never take refuge in the ground or burrow, so far as I have been able to inform myself.
We scarcely see a gang of buffalo without observing a parcel of those faithful shepherds on their skirts, in readiness to take care of the maimed [and] wounded. The large wolf never barks, but howls as those of the Atlantic states do.
Captain Clark and Drouilliard killed the largest brown bear this evening which we have yet seen. It was a most tremendous-looking animal, and extremely hard to kill. Notwithstanding he had five balls through his lungs and five others in various parts, he swam more than half the distance across the river, to a sandbar, and it was at least twenty minutes before he died. He did not attempt to attack, but fled, and made the most tremendous roaring from the moment he was shot. We had no means of weighing this monster. Captain Clark thought he would weigh 500 pounds. For my own part, I think the estimate too small by 100 pounds. He measured 8 feet 7 1/2 inches from the nose to the extremity of the hind feet; 5 feet 10 1/2 inches around the breast; 1 foot 11 inches around the middle of the arm; and 3 feet 11 inches around the neck. His talons, which were five in number on each foot, were 4 3/8 inches in length. He was in good order.
We therefore divided him among the party, and made them boil the oil and put it in a cask for future use. The oil is as hard as hog's lard when cool - much more so than that of the black bear.
This bear differs from the common black bear in several respects: its talons are much longer and more blunt; its tail shorter; its hair, which is of a reddish or bay brown, is longer, thicker, and finer than that of the black bear, his liver, lungs, and heart are much larger, even in proportion with his size. The heart, particularly, was as large as that of a large ox. His maw was also ten times the size of black bear, and was filled with flesh and fish. His testicles were pendent from the belly and placed four inches asunder in separate bags or pouches. This animal also feeds on roots and almost every species of wild fruit.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.