October 26, 1841 — Horses and Mules

Tuesday, 26th. Went S. about 3 miles and camped in a deep ravine. It was urged by some that we should kill our horses and mules — dry what meat we could carry and start on foot to find the way out of the mountains.

Some of the men still had horses or mules to ride, but as often as not they had to walk anyway because of the rocky terrain. The animals were becoming an encumbrance.

Nicholas “Cheyenne” Dawson recalled one time when they were following an Indian guide down a mountain.

We followed the Indian, and he led us along shelves of rock which overhung vast precipices. Here and there great rocks projected over the path and frequently a pack would strike against one of these rocks and over the precipice would go pack and animal, and be lost to us entirely. We all went on foot, leading our animals.

Once, I remember, when I was struggling along trying to keep Monte from going over, I looked back and saw Mrs. Kelsey a little way behind me, with her child in her arms, barefoot I think, and leading her horse — a sight I shall never forget. As we neared the stream and were passing the last projecting rock, old Monte struck the rock and would have gone over had I not braced myself and held him hard.

Cheyenne Dawson and Nancy Kelsey. Illustration by Steve Ferchaud.

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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