It is a fine & open country in every aspect hereabouts.
The very prairie, grasslands, thickets
Or brakes along the several streams with elk
& deer largely therein.
Of those legendary buffalo first sighted
& shot by J. Fields this week, alas
None discovered by me as yet this day or last
Whilst tracking runaway horses.
Those two did flee as if unwilling ever to be caught
But I came upon them at evening yesterday
Drinking water in a sandy draw
Well-trampled by hoof-marks dark as bruises
Sure evidence of buffalo in great plenty.
In the event the fugitives appeared
Not unhappy at sight of me.
Found their hobble ropes trailing
Which I did retie forcefully
Pleased as I am by this outcome.
It was my hope to recover these horses
& so demonstrate my worth
In such regard to the Capts. generally
I do not misdoubt them, only certain statements
Overheard among the company concerning
My youth & stature as a hunter, which I deem false.
Last time I did kill an elk buck yet R. Fields
Brought in five deer to top it. So it was
I importuned the Capts. to set me this errand
Those Fields Brothers having done so
Previously, nor did I aim to disappoint them.
Why should youth count against a man
In this Missouri country?
Eighteen & years in the backwoods
I am a better hunter than most back home
& this a newer land
Nor Capt. Lewis nor Clark
Yet Pres. Jefferson saw fit to appoint them
Command of this Expedition. Well
It is done
& the horses recovered at any rate
By myself alone.
Pres. Jefferson is a man much admired
By Capt. Lewis, who frequently
Recounts his love of the same hills Capt. Lewis knew
As a boy in Virginia, rambling long days
Outdoors, the joy of which I share in kind.
Says they much resemble the country
Along the Ohio River, yet
These lands along the Missouri
That much starker, bolder, gouged
& abandoned to grass & sky.
As God much imbues this world with his Self
I guess now the Capts. are
In these parts, & us, & Pres. Jefferson.
Like to which the moonlight
Enumerating each stalk with blue shadows.
These wild, wind-torn lands flung to the horizon
Will soon enough be states
Of the Union
Why else fashion a Corps of Discovery?
If such they become
I would hope to name one
Coming on evening I make shift to camp
Shy of the river one final night
& will welcome sight of it & my companions
On the morrow. These horses will not stray.
I have tied them to a cottonwood tree
Not trusting the hobbles. What I took to be stones
In the gloaming were skulls of buffalo.
The foregoing is excerpted from Shannon by Campbell McGrath. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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