Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

"Big Jim" First Adventure on Guard Duty:

"The night was a cold one, and claimed for it Big Jim as second guard.  When called for "relieve," with a borrowed gun, he commenced his rounds, but the cold soon drove him to the camp-fire.

Here, weariness and the somnific effects of a generous heat, speedily found him stretched at full length towards the fire, snoring away at a sound rate, the subject of their combined influence.

The guard time had already expired, and his partner on duty, perceiving the pleasant situation of the indomitable Jim, called the next "relieve," and retired.

These paced their rounds, and the fourth guard succeeded, but still our hero occupied the same place in which he had lain his "tour."  The sentinels were about to take their posts, as a loud sharp voice resounded through camp

"Quit, there!  What d'ye mean?"

Hastening to the spot from which the cry proceeded, who should be seen but Big Jim, in great agony, rubbing his foot with most pitiable grimace.  His slumbers had been disturbed by a falling log, of the camp-fire, which had planted its glowing weight full against one of his feet, becrisping the sole of his shoe and severely scorching it tenant, before awakening him.  Dreaming some one had hold of his foot, and started by a sudden acuteness of pain, he exclaimed as above quoted.

The sentinels laughed at his mishap, and turning to pace their rounds, drawled out:

"What d'ye mean! Sure enough, what d'ye mean! Shoot grass, kill horse, break gun, lay guard, burn shoe, and scorch foot; all in two days and two nights!  Poor devil, why ye no born wid better luck!"

With the morning, the subject of his recent adventures called forth fresh scintilations of waggish wit, while the unrivalled capacity of our hero, as a gormandizer, gave cue to the cuts that followed:

"Well, my head for a foot-ball, if that ain't the greatest idea yet.  What! roast foot, basted with leather, and his own at that!  Such a meal none but Jim would ever have thought of !"

"Why, man!  What put you in the notion of that dish?"

"Strange, indeed,  if you can't find the wherewith to stuff your devil, without cooking your feet!  Souse, to be sure!  Here, you can take my hat!" 

The luckless wight had now enough to engage his attention during the remainder of the journey, and began to wish he had never seen a mountain company, or left his sweet home in Missouri to cross the great prairies with such a crowd, but all to no purpose; he was too late to retrace his steps alone."

The above passage is from Rufus Sage in Rocky Mountain Life.   

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