Imágenes de páginas

a noose

ever tasted. In angling, they make the finest sport of almost any fish, for they take hold of the bait boldly, and run with long sweeps, without those stubborn little jerks made by the black fish. Sometimes you have your match to bring them in, for they grow to the same size as our largest bass, and indeed they are a species of bass. The bait used is crabs. Cat-fish are very numerous, and grow uncommonly large, but I never ate any. They were not thought better than alligator flesh by our cook. In fact, the flesh of the alligator is often eaten, and is like a semi-transparent fish, and the fat is as white as milk. One would not expect to find such beautiful flesh under their bony coats of mail.

Speaking of alligators, reminds me of a difficulty in which a native, perhaps not very sober at the time, got himself entangled withal, near where we stopped one night to sleep, just below Lake George. He saw an alligator asleep on the bank of the river, and his evil spirit tempted him to try to catch him alive; so he paddled up very softly, and slipped

over the rough, jagged tail of Satan's representative, the other end being fast to the staple in the bow of his canoe. He had no sooner performed this exploit than he backed up, and by a jerk, gave the old gentleman a hint that he was there, and that they might as well be moving. Although the alligator sleeps rather soundly, he does not require many rollings or halloas to awaken him, after his eyes are once open, so as to see danger, but he makes the best of his


back to deep water, tumbling and blundering forward any how, if he can only set his claws in the muddy bottom of the river. So with our game. The cracker' soon discovered that he had caught a Tartar; and when he found the rate at which he was going, he began heartily to wish that he was loose again; for the alligator towed him — any where but where he wished to go like mad. And worse than all, he had no knife with him to cut the fellow loose, and the rope was knotted hard, and so tightly drawn through the staple, that he could not untie it. Thus he was dragged out into the lake, and back again under the overhanging branches of the trees, which scraped and scratched him as badly as an Indian boy just bled by his mother — who, be it understood, fastens two or more sharp fish-teeth through a piece of wood, like a carpenter's scribe, and thus scores her sick child, when he wants bleeding — not a very mild method by the way; but our hero had a sample of it, for go he must, under scraggy live-oak limbs, as well as any others he might encounter. He was towed thus all day, until he was sober, and his tormentor came to the conclusion that it was not best to tire himself to death. Indeed, there is hardly an animal or reptile more tenacious of life than the very one that was thus taking the poor 'cracker' a-sailing. He did not know what to do – but at last he did that, which, if thought of earlier, would have rid him of all trouble from excess of spirit. He broke his bottle; and then began to saw the rope off with the sharp edges of the glass. At length he got loose, and paddled home, minus his rope and bottle, and plus a good long tow, and a few spare scratches. I was very anxious, myself, to have one of these horses tow me, but I should not have given him his own way in that manner, but would have had a ring in his nose, and reins; for I do not see why an alligator, or shark, or porpoise, should not be set to work as well as a horse or mule. I got a rope in the mouth of one fellow of about fourteen feet

length, one day, but he broke the line, and escaped. I also sat large traps, like rat-traps, which have a door to fall when the vermin are in, but they would not go in! If they had, I should have had a good story to tell, and many a good ride. It would be better than steam for a small boat, and they might be fed and kept as well as a horse; and as to the reasonableness of the thing, it is better to drive alligators or sharks, than to be driven by them, (humanly speaking.) as ninety-nine hundredths of mankind at present are by their fellow beings.

But let us go up our mill-stream, of which we are in search. Gentle reader, we were on as much of a wild-goose-chase as ever the first explorers of the country were, when they went to look for the spring which was to give them everlasting life. But we were confidently told of a spring which gushed forth volumes of water, sufficient for any purpose; and it was none of my fault that it was not to be found; for after driving the boat up the stream as far as she would float, we tied her to a tree, and took the side of the stream; but the under-brush was so thick, we were obliged to take the stream again, and wade up it. Here it was very bad travelling, for my shoes would not stay well on, and when I took them off to carry them, all sorts of sharp snags ran into my feet. Beside, in some places the stream had no secure bottom, but shook like a jelly, and I did not like to venture; but as my Indian did not seem to care, I sent him ahead. In this manner we waded, until I became sick of the sport, since no novelty arose, and the banks continued flat; but we pushed forward, notwithstanding, until at last we reached a red-brown, livery mass of mud, into which the Seminole sank almost to his arm-pits; and as he was going down, he stretched up his arms over his head, and laughed out-right, as if it were the pleasantest thing in the world. Now there is hardly a man in existence who has not his superstitious or foolish notions; and I believe there is no way by which one can quit this world, more disagreeable, than that of sinking down, and being smothered in soft mud. To drown in clear water, with your eyes wide open, is not so bad that it might not be worse; but to be smothered in the mud! — I have had a superstitious horror of that, ever since I wandered in the swamps in childhood, and knew not but I should sink down to the centre of the earth. I told the Indian to paddle himself out of the mire, for I should go no farther: he did so, and we returned — and glad enough was I to get once more into the stern of the boat.

After passing Lake George, there is nothing to be seen, more than below, and with the exception of two or three points, there is nothing worth mentioning. It is a low, sunken country, half under water, and during the summer, especially, too sickly for a frog to live in.

It was just above Lake George, at Volucia, as I am informed, that John Hicks, the friendly chief of the Seminoles, was shot, for showing his determination to move west of the Mississippi. He brought up his cattle to sell to a trader stationed there, and was forced to disperse them again; but again he brought them up, when Oseola, and several more, levelled their rifles, and shot him down. The civil native I took with me to row the boat, informed me, that at that time they had determined not to remove, without having a little bit of fight first.' This fellow used to say of himself, · Me very good Indian — me Seminoly Indian' - but he was 'nothing great,' after all. I used to try to learn

his religious sentiments, as we travelled about together, but I could not discover that he had any. All he cared for, was to be well fed; and when he left me, after a few months, I could lay hold of a handful of fat on his body, and his cheeks were twice as large as when he came.

The quantity an Indian can eat, or the little he can subsist on, is a matter of wonder. I will not relate an exploit of my Seminole in this respect, for I fear my word might be doubted. When they travel, a string of dried venison, or bear's flesh, like a row of monstrous beads, is hung about their necks; this does not seem to diminish fast; but when they stop, and have enough, they make the most ample amends — and such back-loads of cat-fish as a few of them will devour, is enough to make the greatest gormandizer that ever existed raise his hands and eyes to Heaven with astonishment. And the strange hashes they make! If they happen to be about when you kill a steer, it is not a little amusing to see what they cut up to put in the boiling pot. Not having any market to go to, we were obliged, every now and then, to have a beast killed, although generally we had more venison and wild turkeys than we could eat; but when such was not the case, and we killed a steer, the Indains who happened to be near our camp would borrow a large cooking-pot of the cook, and then make a ragout calculated to have as good an effect upon our appetite as the hashed cat in Gil Blas had upon the Spanish travelers. We thought the pot would never answer to cook in again. As to their spices, they season their food with the various kinds of herbs which nurses make teas of for the sick. They are as fond of honey and sugar as the whites are, and their common expression, when they would intimate that a friend is pleased, when rendered in English, is literally, ' That sweets him.

But of all the strange things to be met with, in that flat country, which murders all romance, there is not a more stirring sight than that of driving a herd of the prairie cattle over the river. The account should be written in German, for there are no words in the English language to give an impression of the bellowing, and neighing, and shouting, and beating, and bawling, and tramping, and dust, and confusion, and goring, and spurring - the pell-mell, drowning and saving! There is nothing like it in the civilized world. In the first place, you must frighten the cattle half to death, before they will take to the water, where the river is more than a mile over; and to force them in, all the noises that Indians, and negroes, and Spaniards, and .crackers' can make, on nags spurred to their utmost, must be made, ere the cattle are started in a drove over the barrens. On they go, with blue, staring, fiëry eyes, and snorting, distended nostrils — bellowing with terror, and around and about — now here, and anon far over the whortleberry plain, they scour as if they thought death, hell, and destruction were in their rear.

The Indian on his small horse's back, throws wide out his legs and arms, and draws them in again, and his one spur with a shank three inches long, and cruel rowel, gores his 'tackey's' flank, and over fallen pine logs he leaps; and when he happens to meet with a hole in which a tree once stood, over his horse's head he tumbles, but up he gets again, and on he goes, harder than ever. In this manner, every man does his best, and wo betide the animal that cannot run as fast as a horse with a man on his back! Whack! — whack! - whack! - he takes it, all along his loins; and with a bellow he dashes forward, frightening

those ahead ten times more, until at last their heads are turned to ward the river, and their tormentors — having an eye on some poles, or fallen trees, upon the shore, which the cattle cannot pass

rush down upon them, and head over heels they are forced into the watersome under, and some over others; and up they will come, with eyes staring from strangulation, snorting the water from their nostrils; some dying, and some dead — while the great body swim round and round in a thousand circles, and in making two miles, as they do at · Palatka,' which is the Indian for cow-ford, they swim at least five; but they do not go peaceably, even when in the water; for canoes, dogs, and Indians are after them some swimming and some paddling and whenever the beasts turn their noses to go back to the shore whence they started, most cruel blows are given them by the Spaniards in the boats, with their paddles, while the Indians and negroes who swim, dash water in their eyes, and dogs snap at their lips, and thus they keep on, until every rogue who has any thing to do in the business, is almost fatigued to death, and several head of cattle are drowned. This is the primitive mode of ferrying cattle over rivers; and those who have seen it practised, will appreciate the advantage of good ferry-boats. In fact, there is nothing like a wild country to make us feel the advantages of civilization, and to be contented under almost any circumstances, so far as the conveniences of life are concerned.

[blocks in formation]

Yet oft, as here in gloomy mood,

I sit and view day's fading beam :
O'er the loved past will memory brood,

And point me back to Ashley's stream.
Princeton, (N. J.,) July, 1836.

J. H. D.



I was taught by my parents to receive with reverence and thankfulness, and in silence, the rebukes and corrections of my superiors. And perhaps I ought thus to listen to the remarks of a correspondent of the Knickerbocker for June, concerning my ornithichnology, my bad Greek, and sundry other misdemeanors. I have come to the conclusion, however - perhaps the result of early disadvantages' - that the principles of casuistry will allow me to say a few things in arrest of public judgment. For in the first place, my conscience pleads not guilty to most of this writer's charges: and in the second place, until he dares to give his name to the public, I cannot tell how much deference I ought to pay to his judgment or intentions.

The ancients thought that man fortunate, who had either faithful friends, or severe enemies. It seems, then, on this principle, that I am doubly blessed; for if profession can prove friendship, none can be stronger than my reprover's for me. He not only professes 'respect and reverence, but declares me to be the man whom he delights to praise. Yet, if it indicates hostility to misrepresent one's opinions, and to distort and magnify one's mistakes, then, as I shall soon abundantly show, the conclusión can hardly be avoided, that he acts the part of an enemy.

It would certainly be very gratifying to vanity and pride to believe this writer correct in all the favorable things he has said of me. Much as I have been injured, through excess of moderation,' among the critics, I had never before dreamed that my name was enrolled high in the catalogue of naturalists, and incorporated into the literature of the age;' nor that my 'productions were quoted as decisive authority.' But it neutralizes the effect of these encomiums, to recollect that the same principles of judgment must be applied to the favorable as to the unfavorable side of the picture; so that if I am able to show that I am not guilty of more than one in ten of the errors which he imputes to me, so I may not take the credit of more than one in ten of the excellencies with which he invests me.

There is one point - my early disadvantages,' being deprived of the advantages of a liberal education' - on which the reviewer seems to dwell with peculiar force. But he cannot feel it more deeply than myself. I should call it rather the disadvantages of the whole of my education. And none but he who has felt it, can tell what an incubus it fastens upon the soul. Yet, though such deficiencies may be a reason why a man should never make any public literary effort, he has no right to make them a shield for his blunders : nor do I thank the reviewer for offering this apology in my behalf. I may also be permitted to doubt, whether he has pointed out any errors that can fairly be imputed to this cause. Suppose I should be able to show, that in attempting to point out my errors, he has made greater mistakes than he, charges upon me: would he or the public, think it fair for me to retort upon him, by charging his blunders to his liberal education,' and to maintain, that had he been obliged to rely upon himself VOL. VIII.


« AnteriorContinuar »