Historical Events

The trappers camp at 'Mutton Place' during the winter and live on fat mutton until February. Then they kill fat-poor buffalo and resort to a rabbit-starvation sort of diet with the wish to kill fat cows.

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Journal of a Trapper

Osborne Russell

Decr. 20th Mr. Wyeth arrived when I bid adieu to the "Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company" and started in company with 15 of my old Messmates to pass the winter at a place called "Mutton Hill" on Port Neuf, about 40 Mls. SE from Fort Hall. Mr Wyeth had brot. a new recruit of Sailors and Sandwich Islanders to supply our places at the Fort. We lived on fat mutton until the snow drove us from the Mountain in Feby. Our party then dispersing I joined Mr. Bridgers Company who were passing the winter on Blackfoot Creek about 15 Mls. from the Fort where we staid until the latter part of March. Mr. Bridger's men lived very poor and it was their own fault for the valley was crowded with fat Cows when they arrived in Novr. but instead of approaching and killing their meat for the winter they began to Kill by running on horse back which bad driven the Buffaloe all over the Mountain to the head of the Missouri and the snow falling deep they could not return during the winter They killed plenty of Bulls but they were so poor that their meat was perfectly blue yet this was their only article of food as bread or vegetables were out of the question in the Rocky Mountains except a few kinds of roots of spontaneous growth which the Indians dig and prepare for food. It would doubtless be amusing to a disinter[est]ed spectator to witness the process of cooking poor Bull meat as practiced by this camp during the winter of 1835-6 On going thro. the camp at any time in the day heaps of ashes might be seen with the fire burning on the summit and an independent looking individual who is termed a Camp Keeper sitting with a "two year old club" in his hand watching the pile with as much seeming impatience as Philoctete did the burning of Hercules at length poking over the ashes with his club he rolls out a ponderous mass of Bull beef and hitting it a rap with his club it bounds 5 or 8 feet from the ground like a huge ball of gum elastic: this operation frequently repeated divests [it] of the ashes adhering to it and prepares it for carving He then drops his club and draws his butcher knife calling to his comrades "Come Major, Judge, Squire, Dollar Pike, Cotton, and Gabe wont you take a lunch of Simon?"each of whom acts according to the dictates of his appetite in accepting or refusing the invitation. I have often witnessed these Philosophical and independent dignitaries collected round a Bulls ham just torn from a pile of embers good humoredly observing as they hacked the hugh slices from the lean mass that this was tough eating but that it was tougher where there was none and consoling themselves with a promise to make the fat cows suffer before the year rolled round.

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