In California — October 31, 1841

The Bidwell-Bartleson Party had sighted the valley, but were not yet in it the morning of October 31st.

When morning came the foremost of the party waited for the others to come up. They had found water in a stagnant pond, but what was better, they had killed a fat coyote, and with us it was anything but mule meat.  . . . Being in the rear, I did not reach it in time to get any of the coyote except the lights [lungs] and the windpipe. Longing for fat meat and willing to eat anything but poor mule meat and seeing a little fat on the windpipe, I threw it on the coals to warm it and greedily devoured it. (1877 Dictation)

That was his breakfast, but dinner would be another thing altogether. From the journal:

Sunday, 31st. Bore off in a N.W. direction to the nearest timber; day was warm, plain dry and dusty, reached timber, which was white oak and finally the river which we had left in the mts., joyful sight to us poor famished wretches!!! Hundreds of antelope in view! Elk tracks thousands! Killed two antelopes and some wild fowls; the valley of the river was very fertile and the young tender grass covered it like a field of wheat in May.

Somewhere near the present day town of Oakdale they came out of the foothills and down into the valley along the Stanislaus River, which they had followed off and on all down the western slope. They feasted on deer and antelope, and “ripe and luscious wild grapes.” Their horses feasted on the new grass just springing up from the fire-burnt ground. What a difference from morning to evening!

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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