Tahoe Pine Nuts: A walk in the moccasins of Lewis & Clark
Special to the Bonanza
Having just finished reading historian extraordinaire Stephen Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage” about the Lewis & Clark Expedition, I have to believe it might have better been entitled, “Bodacious Courage.”
Those pioneer explorers had spines of steel. They would stare down a Blackfeet war party and shout out, “Yo, Dudes, how ‘bout some blue beads and a dram of whiskey?”
They launched from St Louis in the spring of 1804 with 120 gallons of whiskey.
The daily allowance, a gill, was four ounces, which would get you a .10 buzz and a DUI today in Nevada.
While Lewis & Clark’s men averaged 9-10 pounds of red meat a day, the Native Americans managed to gulp down 12. If red meat causes cancer, well, Lewis & Clark should never have made it to the Pacific.
I loved the way the Nez Perce chief put an important decision of his to a vote. A meal of mush was set out and all those in favor of the chief’s decision were invited to eat, while the others could show their dissent by not eating. Governor Sandoval should take note of this.
The statesmanship that Sacagawea provided proved to be invaluable to the expedition, and from all we know, she was the first woman to vote in America.
It brought me a broad smile to learn that neither Lewis nor Clark could spell mosquito. Between the two of them they came up with 21 variations.
Nobody would appreciate that fact more than Mark Twain who reminds us, “It’s a pretty uncreative mind that cannot find more than one way to spell a word.”
Free as Columbus and Magellan, Lewis and Clark would explore the west for more than two years, and discover the last best place on earth in doing so.
Amazingly, they never got lost, though they were seriously disoriented for a few days and needed Indian guides to show them the way.
Nor did any of the men get seriously injured, though Lewis did catch some friendly fire with his buttocks, and the ball actually came to rest in his pantaloons.
That’s a pretty tough derriere. He was laid low for a week or two, but recovered remarkably. A lesser man would have thrown in the towel at that point.
But they made it to the Pacific Ocean and back, and delivered to President Jefferson the affirmation he needed to justify his Louisiana Purchase.
Following the expedition, Lewis suffered postpartum depression, and as everybody knows who passed fourth grade, he committed suicide.
What I did not know is how he did it. I will not spoil it for you, but will only divulge the first two thirds of the deed.
A gunshot to the head was not effective, another gunshot to the chest was yet not enough, but I will let you read the book to satisfy your curiosity, as we know you are curious; it is only human nature.
At the end of this amazing saga I felt like I had missed out on America’s great adventure, greater even than Huckleberry’s adventure on a raft, drifting down the Mississippi with his friend Jim.
Still, reading Ambrose’s account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition was almost like being there.
Oh, lest we forget, President Jefferson expressed to our Native American forefathers, “No wrong will ever be done you by our nation.”
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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