August 19, 1841 — Heat and Salt

Thursday, 19th. Started early, hoping soon to find fresh water, when we could refresh ourselves and animals, but alas! The sun beamed heavy on our heads as the day advanced, and we could see nothing before us but extensive arid plains, glimmering with heat and salt. At length the plains became so impregnated with salt that vegetation entirely ceased, the ground in many places white as snow with salt & perfectly smooth — the mid-day sun, beaming with uncommon splendor upon these shining plains, made us fancy we could see timber upon the plains, and wherever timber is found there is water always. We marched forward with unremitted pace till we discovered it was an illusion, and lest our teams should give out we returned from S. to E. and hastened to the river which we reached in about 5 miles.

A high mountain overlooked us on the east and the river was thickly bordered with willows — grass plenty but so salt our animals could scarcely eat it; salt glitters upon its blades like frost. Distance 20 miles.

Twenty miles searching for water while the sun beats down and the landscape is a glittering plain of salt. I couldn’t help but think of the old song Cool Water. But which version to link to? Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, “Buster Scruggs”? Even Tom Jones recorded it. But it has to be The Sons of the Pioneers, as originally recorded in 1941.

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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