Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Tricked into Eating Dogmeat:

Lewis Garrard was a young man of 17 years, who traveled the Santa Fe Trail to Bent's Fort in 1846.  After arriving at the fort he was paired with "Blackfoot" John Smith with whom he accompanied to the Cheyenne Indian village to trade for horses and robes.  While traveling to the village, Smith enlighted Garrard about Indian life, including eating foods such as dogmeat. Garrard was appalled by the thought and proclaimed he would never eat such foods.  Smith responded by saying that before too long he would have Garrard not only eating dog but proclaiming it to be one of the finest foods.

Here is Garrard's account:

We had much to speak of: Smith, of the States; and, to my many inquiries of the Indians, he expatiated at length on their customs, food, and easy life.  Of their viands, he lauded dog’s flesh to the very skies; on my expressions of abhorrence at the bare thought, he said, “I bet I make you eat dogmeat in the village, and you’ll say it’s good, and the best yu ever hid in your meatbag (stomach).”

“No you will not,” I rejoined.  “The mere idea is enough to sicken one-slimy pupmeat-ugh!  Not enough of the carnivorous in me for that.  Besides, buffalo meat, in my opinion, cannot be surpassed for delicacy of flavor, in this or any other country.”

“Well, hoss, I dock off buffler, and then if thar’s any meat that runs can take the shine outen dog, you can slide.”

I still persisted that there was no convincing me.  And though still believing that “dog” could not pass in this country, circumstances bring many things which before seem impossible; and no one can tell but that a piece of old mule would be quite acceptable, ere passing through the fiery ordeal of a year in the Far West. Indeed, we had already eaten the next thing to mule and nothing-broken-down steer-meat.  Oh Grief! My jaws ache to think of the soggy dejeuners, in the soaking rain of old steer; or as the Canadians termed it “sacré boeuf.”

Some weeks passed, and Lewis Garrard had many adventures both in the Cheyenne Indian village and back at the fort.  Enjoying traders life, Garrard accompanied Smith on a second trip back to the Indian village where we will rejoin Garrard’s narrative:

One evening we were in our places-I was lying on a pile of outspread robes, watching the blaze, as it illumined the lodge, which gave the yellow hue of the skins of which it was made, a still brighter tinge; and, following with my eye, the thin blue smoke, coursing, in fantastic shapes, through the opening at the top of the cone; my thought carrying me momentarily everywhere; now home; now enjoying some choice edible, or, seated by a pleasant friend, conversing; in short, my mind was like the harp in Dryden’s “Alexander’s Feast,” the chords of which, touched by the magic hand of memory, or flight of fancy, alternately depressed, or elevated me in feeling.    

Greenwood  and Smith, sitting up held in “durance vile” the ever-present pipe. Their unusual laughter attracted my attention, but, not divining the cause, I joined in the conversation.  It was now quite late, and feeling hungry, I asked what was on the fire.

“Terrapins!” promptly replied Smith.

“Terrapins?” echoed I, in surprise, at the name. “Terrapins! How do they cook them?”

“You know them hard-shell land terrapin?”


“Well!  The squaws go out to the sand buttes, and bring the critters in, and cook ‘em in the shell alive-those stewin’ thar are cleaned first.  Howsomever, they’re darned good!”

“Yes, hos, an’ that’s a fact, wagh!” chimed in Greenwood.  

I listened, of course with much interest to their account of the savage dish, and waited, with impatience, for a taste of that, the recital of whose merits sharpened my already keen appetite.  When the squaw transferred the contents of the kettle to a wooden bowl, and passed it to us, our butcher knives were in immediate requisition.  Taking a piece, without thought as to what part of the terrapin it was, I ate it with much gusto, calling for more. It was extremely good, and I spoke of the delicacy of the meat, and answered all their questions as to its excellency in the affirmative, even to the extent of a panegyric on the whole turtle species.  After fully committing myself, Smith looked at me awhile in silence, the corners of his mouth gradually making preparations for a laugh, and asked;  

“Well! Hos! How do you like dogmeat?” and then such hearty guffaws were never heard.  The stupefaction into which I was thrown by the revolting announcement, only increased their merriment, which soon was resolved into yells of delight at my discomfiture. A revulsion of opinion, and dogmeat too, ensued, for I could feel the “pup” crawling up my throat; but saying to myself-“that it was good under the name of terrapin,” and that “a rose under any other name would smell as sweet,” and that it would be prejudice to stop, I broke the shackles of deep-rooted antipathy to the canine breed, and, putting a choice morceau on top of that already swallowed, ever after remained a stanch defender and admirer of dogmeat.  The conversation with Smith, the second day of our acquaintance, was brought to mind, and I acknowledged that dog was next in order to buffalo. 

This series of passages is taken from:  Garrard, Lewis H. Wah-to-yah and the Taos Trail 

See also Dog - A Culinary Delight, which includes a series of passages by Lewis Garrard describing how dog is prepared and cooked.  

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