October 22, 1841 — The Last Ox

Thursday, 22nd. Descended towards the river about 15 miles — had a tolerable road — arrived within about a mile of the river — could not approach nearer. Here was considerable oak, some of which was evergreen, and thought to be live oak. 3 Indians came to camp; killed the last ox — let this speak for our situation and future prospects!

Seeing pictures of the rocky streambeds lined with densely packed trees, it is no wonder that they had to travel on the ridge between the rivers. In the 1877 Dictation, Bidwell says:

Pursuing a westerly course for a few days, we found ourselves obliged to keep on top of the ridges away from the stream. On one of these ridges we killed our last ox, who was so poor, as nearly all had been for weeks, that he had no marrow in his bones, he was literally skin and bones.

That poor ox! All that rough, rocky road to travel, only to end up as a scanty meal for thirty people. It was short rations all around.

In our straitened condition it was customary for one or more to go ahead of the party in order if possible to kill some kind of game, of which there was scarcely anything. There was nothing for game to live upon because fires had destroyed everything that would burn, and the country was literally desolated. . . . The only thing in the shape of game that was killed by our whole party during our passage of the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Walker River till we reached the San Joaquin Valley consisted, so far as I can now remember, of a wildcat, a crow, and a few squirrels.

A few squirrels

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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