“Cheyenne” Dawson, Part 4

“Cheyenne” Dawson’s account of his journey to California was written down many years after the event, but he had a clear and lively recollection of the expedition. Here he is, telling how the company fared after they abandoned their wagons near the Great Salt Lake and packed all their possessions on their animals.

There was one thing we had no trouble to pack – our provisions. Though we had been eating very sparingly for several weeks, our last provisions had been consumed just before we reached Salt Lake, and since, we had been subsisting on what game we could kill, and when no game was to be had, an ox out of our train.

Now some of us were inwardly rejoicing over leaving the wagons behind, for it meant more beef – poor beef, but a long way better than nothing to eat. On the eighteen or twenty lean oxen that had drawn our wagons, we subsisted until we entered the Sierra Nevada, for there was not more game to be had. When the oxen were gone, we lived on horse and mule meat, and acorns.

Since the oxen were no longer needed to draw the wagons, they became dinner “on the hoof,” a traveling supply of meat. Those who had horses or mules rode, and the others walked, driving the oxen. Dawson had a mule named Monte; Bidwell was on foot. Every few days they killed one of the oxen for dinner. It was all they had.

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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