California At Last!

From John Bidwell’s trail journal:

November. Monday, 1st. The Company tarried to kill game; an abundance of wild fowl and 13 deer and antelopes were brought in. My breakfast, this morning, formed a striking contrast with that of yesterday which was the lights of a wolf .

In other recollections Bidwell says he had a coyote windpipe for breakfast on the morning of the 31st. Another member of the party had shot the coyote, but by the time Bidwell caught up with them, the only thing left to eat was the lungs (lights) and the windpipe.

Got to be about the worst breakfast ever!

But on the afternoon of the 31st they sighted the valley, “joyful sight to us poor famished wretches!!!” Antelope! Elk! Wild ducks and geese! Their situation changed literally overnight.

Bidwell tells it this way in his 1877 Dictation:

The eve of the next day found us surrounded by abundance. . . . It was about the first of November, and there was no time to delay if we were going to reach California that fall. Most of the party were ready and anxious to press forward. Captain Bartleson and his men though otherwise. They said we hadn’t yet reached California, we probably still had a long distance to travel, that such a place as we were in could not be found everywhere and they were going to stop and lay in meat for the balance of the journey.

Leaving them in camp and crossing the Stanislaus River, we proceeded down the north side of the same and camped. Early the next day the news came that the Indians in the night had attacked them and stolen all their horses. We remained till they came up, carrying on their backs such things as they were able.

John Bidwell never did get on with Captain Bartleson, and I think there is a note of satisfaction here that once again, Bartleson was wrong and got what he deserved.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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