A Memorable Encounter on the Trail

Thursday, 16th. All hands were busy making pack saddles and getting ready to pack. While thus engaged an Indian, well advanced in years, came out of the mountains to our camp. He told us by signs that the Great Spirit had spoken to him to go down upon the plains in the morning, and on the E. side of the mts. he would find some strange people, who would give him a great many things. Accordingly he had come. We gave him all such things as we had intended to throw away; whenever he received anything which he thought useful to him, he paused and looking steadfastly at the sun, addressed him in a loud voice, marking out his course in the sky, as he advanced in his invocation, which took him  about 2 minutes to perform. As he received quite a number of articles, it took him a considerable part of the day to repeat his blessings. No Persian, in appearance, could be more sincere.

Nearly every man who left an account of the trip remarked upon this Indian. Dawson notes: “We signed to our aged host that the wagons and everything abandoned were his, all his, and left him circumscribing the heavens — the happiest, richest, most religious man I ever saw.”

Jimmy John said,”One old Indian in particular appeared to be very thankful for every thing he received if any one gave him a present. He would hold it up between him and the sun and say over it a long preamble.”

The Company divested itself of extra clothing, cooking equipment, tools, empty containers — anything non-essential. One thing that John Bidwell did not leave behind however were his two books. He had an astronomy manual titled The Geography of the Heavens and a large celestial atlas that went with it. He carried these all the way to California and kept them all his life. astronomybook


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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