October 6, 1841 — “I Was Not in the Best Humor”

Wednesday, 6th. Company was out of meat and remained till the oxen came up; several Indians came to camp, one of whom we hired to pilot us on.

The company did not travel on the 6th. They had to wait until Bidwell showed up with the oxen he was driving. It took him until about noon on the 6th to catch up to the others. The day before, as Bartleson and his companions had driven forward on their mules, Bidwell lagged behind with the slow cattle.

The night of the 5th, far behind the others, he found a patch of grass, unpacked the oxen, and laid down to sleep without supper and without blankets.

I got up the next morning, hunted the oxen out of the willow-thicket, and repacked them. Not having had supper or breakfast, and having to travel nine miles before I overtook the party, perhaps I was not in the best humor. [Who would be?] They were waiting, and for the very good reason that they could have nothing to eat until I came up with the oxen and one could be killed. I felt badly treated, and let the captain know it plainly; but much to my surprise he made no reply, and none of his men said a word.

Imagine having to walk two or three hours through the rocky wilderness on no breakfast, looking for your flyaway companions. Imagine the others, sitting in camp, no breakfast, waiting for food to show up in the form of an emaciated ox that they would have to slaughter and roast before they could eat. It amazes me that this group did not have more arguments and divisions than it did, and furthermore, that they would all make it to California alive.

Just why Bartleson did not argue with Bidwell we shall see next time. He had a plan.

A healthy, well-fed ox in the desert. Overland Journal, Spring 2015

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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