Rocky Mountain Winters by Rufus Sage

From Rocky Mountain Life, by Rufus Sage, 1846.

From his travels in the Rocky Mountains in 1841-44.

Page 291 - Wintering on Platte, camped in a large grove of cottonwood upon the right bank 1842-43

At this place it was our daily practice to fell two or three small trees for our horses, as we now considered ourselves fully established in winter quarters. Game was plenty, and wood abundant; nothing, therefore, remained for us to do but to recruit our horses, eat of the best the prarie afforded, drink of the crystal waters that rolled by our side, and enjoy life in true mountain style; nor did we neglect the opportunity of so doing. In fact, had the world been searched over, it would have been hard to find a jollier set of fellows than we. The effort of a few hours was sufficient to procure a month's supply of the choicest delicacies, nor is it marvelous that, to use a cant phrase of the country, we soon became "fat, ragged, and saucy."

Page 348 - Wintering in Colorado on Soublet's Creek 1843-44

The winter-camp of a hunter in the Rocky Mountains would doubtless prove an object of interest to the unsophisticated. It is usually located in some spot sheltered by hills or rocks, for the double purpose of securing the full warmth of the sun's rays, and screening it from the notice of strolling Indians that may happen in the vicinity. Within a convenient proximity to it stands some grove, from which an abundance of dry fuel is procurable when needed; and equally close the ripplings of a watercourse salute the ear with their music. His shantee faces a huge fire, and is formed of skins carefully extended over an arched frame-work of slender poles, which are bent in the form of a semi-circle and kept in their places by inserting their extremities in the ground. Near this is his "graining block," planted aslope, for ease of the operative in preparing his skins for the finishing process in the art of dressing; and not far removed is a stout frame, contrived from four pieces of timber, so tied together as to leave a square of sufficient dimensions for the required purpose, in which, perchance, a skin is stretched to its fullest extension, and the hardy mountaineer is busily engaged in rubbing it with a rough stone or "scraper," to fit it for the manufacture of clothing.

Facing his shantee upon the opposite side of the fire, a pole is reared upon crotches five or six feet high, across which reposes a choice selection of the dainties of his range, to wit: the "side ribs," shoulders, heads and "rump-cuts" of deer and sheep, or the "depouille" and "fleeces" of buffalo. The camp-fire finds busy employ in fitting for the demands of appetite such dainty bits of hissing roasts as en appolas may grace its sides, while, at brief intervals, the hearty attendant, enchaired upon the head of a mountain sheep, (whose huge horns furnish legs and arms for the convenience of sitting), partakes of his tempting lunch. Carefully hung in some fitting place, are seen his "riding" and "pack-saddles," with his halters, "cavraces," "larrietts," "apishamores," and all the needful materiel for camp and travelling service; and adjoining him at no great distance, his animals are allowed to graze, or, if suitable nourishment of other kind be lacking, are fed from the bark of cottonwood trees levelled for that purpose; and leaning close at hand, his rifle awaits his use, and by it his powder-horn, bullet-pouch, and tomahawk.

Thus conditioned are these lordly rangers in their mountain home, nor own that any creature of human kind can possibly enjoy life better than they.