May 6, 1833
6 May: They had worked all night long with great exertion to windlass the Yellow Stone from the sandbar, [and] a line broke.[2:56] The dawning morning was pleasant; slightly overcast sky. We put in at the right bank and cut wood. At 7:30, 68°F [20°C]. On both sides, alluvial land with willow and cottonwood, in some places also mixed with other forest trees. Here we saw two large wolves trotting on a sandbar; they looked around frequently and observed us. Farther on, we navigated close along the left bank; it is alluvial, 6 feet high, and steep, with willow and cottonwood on top.
Today the young Englishman, Ashworth, M29He claims to be a midshipman from the English Marine, or Navy, and apparently has really visited many countries, especially their coastlands. told me about his stay among the Sauks who live along the Missouri. He saw them riding naked and bareback, without saddle and reins, shooting at their target with bows. They rode at full gallop toward the target, and four at a time shot their arrows, two of which hit the bull’s-eye. All the while, they were painted, decorated with a red deer tail, [and] otherwise completely naked. Later he saw the wolf dance. The music consisted of buffalo hooves on strings (antelope hooves in the case of the Camacans), which they shook, as well as little bells. The two dancers were naked from the waist up but had fastened on the back of their belts a wolf’s tail, which stood out and on the end of which a little bell hung. In this manner they jumped around toward each other. Among the Omahas he saw the bell dance. The men sat in a circle around the fire; a little girl danced around it; she had a little bell attached in back and moved in the circle around the fire, [moving] her legs as little as possible. One leg was barely moved past the other, whereby the bells jingled.
Along the Missouri we now often had beautiful, lofty forest to the right; willow and cottonwood to the left; everywhere alluvial soil. Farther on, wild geese were walking on a sandbar and stretching their long necks up high. Here in the river there was a spot frightfully studded with snags; then there came a vast prairie to the left; to the right, wild geese were swimming in the river. After the prairie, wildly collapsed banks with willows, still turning green, which lay about in crisscross confusion. Then farther on, to the right, a wild, beautiful forest, dark, shady, and, since it was airy, covered underneath with luxuriant plant growth very much snarled with vines. The wild grapevines (Vitis) are beginning to bloom, [and]
Smilax sarsaparilla abounds here; people look for its roots. These woodlands form a picturesque wilderness. We halted for a moment. The bank, however, was not readily accessible, and we continued our journey.
To the left we found large sandbars and behind them the interminable prairie. At twelve o’clock, 75°F [23.9°C]. The river is said to be rising. All morning longtoday long today we had observed what was virtually timber forest on the bank to the right. The Little Sioux River emerges at this bank. In this region, beautiful, tall wooded areas: [trees] with slender, shaftlike trunks alternate with tracts of low willow. Near all the banks lie numerous ducks in pairs, almost always Anas sponsa, whose vivid colors we recognize even in flight. The Omahas hunt in the region to the right and left of the river. They are the most indolent, dullest, and, as people say, most cowardly of the local Indian tribes.
About two o’clock we landed on alluvial prairie land with long tracts of sparse tall trees, especially cottonwoods.[2:57] Here the dry, tall trunks soon fell, for a good forty to fifty men were swinging their heavy axes. The whole prairie was blanketed with a luxuriant green from all manner of grasses and plants, but we could not find a single blossom. Black, burned wood lay about all over, proof that the Indians had burned off everything here. We did not find a single amphibian. Butterflies flew around, especially Papilio plexippus, which sometimes even flew around us on the ship. Only a few birds appeared. I shot Muscicapa tyrannus (kingbird), of which a few pairs nested here; we also saw a red bird, perhaps Tanagra rubra, which we did not get. The ship’s carpenter had shot a dove this morning.
After half an hour, we continued. The region is now becoming more and more smooth and level. Very beautiful forest on the bank. The area is open, now with individual tall trees; now low or high willow bushes; now sandbars with or without accumulations of wood; now interminable prairie; then again low willows and tall cottonwoods mixed with high, narrow-leaved willows. Ducks and geese everywhere in abundance. Behind a willow thicket stood the skeleton of an Indian hut, [and] soon that of a second one; near one of them a pole had been set up on which a piece of red cloth hung. Three hundred paces farther, we put in near a beautiful tall forest. Here the crew of the Assiniboine, which had a lead of about two to three days, had cut much wood in two places, of which we loaded some. The river makes a wide bend around sandbars near this magnificent forest and wildly eroded bank; in the background one sees the gradually sloping, uniformly extended prairie hills. Before dusk we put in for the night. Much wood is cut. The forest here was completely without flowers in bloom; it had been inundated. We brought back only a shrub 15 feet tall with young winged seeds [— —]. Night descended so soon that we could not shoot anything.M30We had found tracks of much game, the trails of Cervus virginianus, in the forest near the landing place. The fellow who recently had been tied up at Mr. Cabanné’s trading house had deserted today and had uttered violent threats against Mr. McKenzie.