He had some basic education and was trained as a printer, a
valuable skill in those times and with that training he could get
a job anywhere—in one year he earned 364 dollars! Quite a salary
for the times.
But cities and civilization
paled. He ventured on a trading expedition down the Ohio and to
the lower Mississippi—alas, it was a bust! He wandered about for
while, and ended up in St. Louis. He determined to travel west
with a trading or fur company and gather enough material to write
a book. As an employee he was to receive $20.00 to $25.00 a month.
Once again though, his employer going bust, all he gained from his
efforts was experience. Of course, he also learned quite a bit
about the far west, including the White River, and west to the
Not discouraged, by August
of 1842, Rufus headed back to the mountains. In a letter to his
mother that perhaps explains part of his enthusiasm for the
travels: ". . . In hospitality, the Indians excel all
others....The chastity of the Sioux women surpasses that of their
fairer sisters. Indeed, it is seldom you see a prostitute among
them. Since I left the States, I have been among the following
nations—Shawnees, Delawares, Kickapoos, Iowas, Sacs,
Pottowotomies, Mohaws, Osages, Otows, Pawnees, Shians and Sioux,
all by whom I have been treated with great friendliness. . . . .I
have collected specimens of gold and mineral coal which can
be procured in that neighborhood in almost any quantity. It is a
country rich in minerals. The climate is most delightful—soil
fertile. . . Our only subsistence during the past winter was
buffalo meat, which, by the by, is the best meat I ever tasted.
He traveled west as a free
trapper, visiting such places as Fort Lupton and Pueblo in
Colorado. He traveled to New Mexico and up to Fort Uinta in Utah.
Later he made his way to Fort Hall in Idaho. All along the way he
listened, asked, and learned about diverse subjects: the
operations of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the west coast being
not the least.
He continued wandering
about, Texas felt his footsteps and eventually he wound up in the
Estes Park of Colorado to spend the winter. By August of 1844, he
was back in Ohio, working on a newspaper. In 1845 he was back in
Connecticut, his old home. He had been gone for ten years. At that
time he went to work on his book and in the following year it was
published. No wonder it was successful; passages like the
following captivated the readers:
A genuine mountaineer is a
problem hard to solve. He seems a kind of sui genus, an oddity,
both in his dress, language, and appearance, from the rest of
mankind. Associated with nature in her most simple forms by habit
and manner of life, he gradually learns to despise the restraints
of civilization, and assimilates himself to the rude and
unpolished character of the scenes with which he is most
conversant. Frank and open in his manners and generous in his
disposition, he is, at the same time, cautions and reserved. In
his frankness he will allow no one to acquire an undue advantage
of him, though in his generosity, he will oftentimes expend the
last cent to assist a fellow in need. Implacable in his hatred, he
is also steadfast in his friendship, and knows no sacrifice too
great for the benefit of those he esteems. Free as the pure air he
breathes, and proudly conscious of his own independence, he will
neither tyrannize over others, nor submit to be trampled upon. . .
His dress and appearance are
equally singular. His skin, from constant exposure, assumes a hue
almost as dark as that of the Aborigine, and his features and
physical structure attain a rough and hardy cast. His hair,
through inattention, becomes long, coarse, and bushy, and loosely
dangles upon his shoulders. His head is surmounted by a low
crowned wool-hat, or a rude substitute of his own manufacture. His
clothes are of buckskin, gaily fringed at the seams with strings
of the same material, cut and made in a fashion peculiar to
himself and associates. The deer and buffalo furnish him the
required covering for feet , which he fabricates at the impulse of
want. His waist is encircled with a belt of leather, holding
encased his butcherknife and pistols—while from his neck is
suspended a bullet-pouch securely fastened to the belt in front,
and beneath the right arm
hangs a powder-horn
transversely from his shoulder, behind which, upon which, upon the
strap attached to it, are affixed his bullet-mould, ballscrew,
wiper, awl, &c. With a gun-stick made of some hard-wood, and a
good rifle placed in his hands, carrying from thirty to
thirty-five balls to the pound, the reader will have before him a
correct likeness of a genuine mountaineer, when fully equipped.
At our noon encampment we
commenced the process of "making meat,". . . .It
consists simply in cutting into thin slices the boneless parts of
buffalo, or other meat, and drying them in the wind or sun. Meat
thus cured may be preserved for years without salt. . . It is
astonishing how long a time fresh meat may be kept without injury,
upon the grand prairies, in dry weather, when it receives the free
access of air. . . .I have known it to be preserved in this way,
for ten or twelve days in the heart of summer.
The usual mode of dressing
skins, prevalent in this country among both Indians and whites, is
very simple in its details and is easily practiced.
It consists in removing all
the fleshy particles from the pelt, and divesting it of a thin
viscid substance upon the exterior, known as the
"grain"; then, after permitting it to dry, it is
thoroughly soaked in a liquid decoction formed from the brains of
the animal and water, when it is stoutly rubbed with the hands in
order to open its pores and admit the mollient properties of the
fluid—this done, the task is completed by alternate rubbings and
distensions until it is completely dry and soft.
In this manner, a skin may
be dressed in a very short time, and, on application of smoke,
will not become hardened from any subsequent contact with water.
Now, how could you not
purchase a book like that!
Hmbl, Ob’t Etc.