PALLISER'S ADVENTURES IN TIER PRAIRIES. * IF Mr. Palliser has not
combated such rare and dignified ani- mals during his sportina, excursions in the Prairies as Mr. Cum- ming saw and conqueredin Southern Africa, he underwent greater hardships, and experienced adventures as rare. The South African arirtsrnisn in pursuit of lion, elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and giraffe, travels en grand seigneur, with his train of attendants, his waggons stuffed with good things, and his team of oxen, which at a pinch may-serve for a meal. The rambler in the Prairies or lie Rocky Mountains depends upon his rifle for his meals ; and 4iitt.r4ing; he must go without ; or game falling short, must do as 1,fil Palliser did—sup and breakfast off wolf, and find it not bad with the ucompaniment of the "best sauce." Overtaken by a snow-stOrm, he must hug his dog to keep up vital heat, and strive against nature to keep awake. Nor are more active adventures wanting. The grisly bear, the terror of the Rocky Mountains, seems a more awkward customer than the lion himself; the Red Indian lies in wait to plunder your scalp ; the trappers, voyageurs, traders, and other denizens of the far West, with whom Washing-
ton Irving long since made us acquainted, and even the Indian when friendly, are better company than the Hottentot or Caffre. Neither is there any lack of moving accidents or hairbreadth 'scapes. We often hear of leaps in Leicestershire and elsewhere, but what are they to a leap over a bison bull ?
"After breakfast eI saddled Owen's horse, and descended the hill for a run atlinffalo. I chose a band of cows, most of whom had calved, and whose little ones scampered at their heels; passing these easily, I detected one or two fat barren ones in the van, and gave chase. Some bulls who had caught sight of the running cows now began to run also, and bulls and cows inter- mingled were soon pelting along in a confused mass. I did not care to fire at the former, and was pressing on after a fat cow I had selected, when one of the bulls a little blown by the race stood still for a moment, and, as I doubled across him after my cow, made a headlong rush at me : I could not pull in, and to turn was destruction ; I had nothing for it but to lift my horse, and giving him a tremendous cut with the whip—he sprang into the air, and just cleared the bull when in the act of charging. I felt my horse's hind-legs carried aside as they caught the brute's shoulder, or head or neck, I can't say which ; but we dashed on, happily unhurt, and the next instant I was passing the cow, when, standing up in the stirrups, I gave her a shot that brought her rolling on the plain. I now carefully examined Owen's horse, and thanked my stars that we had escaped unscathed, resolving in my own mind that it should be the very last time I would ever run buffalo mounted on a friend's horse. Mackenzie's horse was a magnificent animal and nearly thoroughbred, and although the gentlest creature in the world, possessed the most indomitable spirit, as a subsequent adventure will show."
Here, however, Bueephalus shared the merit : when Mr. Palli- ser was tossed by another bison, the credit, whatever it may be, was all his own.
"So accurately had the Indian calculated time and distance, that I was hardly at my place when a huge bull thundered headlong by me, and re- ceived a shot low and close behind the shoulder as he passed. He stumbled on for about ten paces, and lay quietly down. I waited to reload, and on going up found him atone dead. The Indian then joined me, and said that the other two bulls had not gone far, but had taken different directions; so we agreed that he should pursue one' and I the other. "I soon came in sight of mine. He was standing a little way off on the open plain but the skirting willows and brushwood afforded me cover within eighty yaks of him ; profiting by which, I crept up, and taking a deliberate aim, fired. The bull gave a convulsive start, moved off a little way, and turned his broadside again to me. I fired again, over a hundred yards this time • he did not stir. I loaded and fired the third time; whereupon he turned and faced me, as if about to show fight. As I was loading for a fourth shot he tottered forward a step or two, and I thought he was about to fall, so I waited for a little while, but as he did not come down I determined to go up and finish him. Walking up, therefore, to within thirty paces of him, till I could actually see his eyes rolling, I fired for the fourth time directly at the region of the heart, as I thought ; but, to my utter amazement, up went his tail and down went his head, and with a speed that I thought him little capa- ble of he was upon me in a twinkling. I ran hard for it, but he rapidly over- hauled me, and my situation was becoming anything but pleasant. Think- ing he might, like our own bulls, shut the eyes in making a charge, I swerved suddenly to one side to escape the shock ; but to my horror, I failed in dodging him, for he bolted round quicker than I did, and, affording me barely time to protect my stomach with the stock of my rifle, and to turn myself sideways as I sustained the charge, in the hopes of getting between his horns, he came plump upon me with a shock like an earthquake. My rifle-stock was shivered to pieces by one horn, my clothes torn by the other ; I flew into mid-air, scattering my prairie hens and rabbits, which had hitherto hung dangling by leathern thongs from my belt, in all directions, till, landing at last, I fell unhurt in the snow ; and almost over me—fortu- nately not quite—rolled my infuriated antagonist, and subsided in a snow- drift. I was luckily not the least injured, the force of the blow having been perfectly deadened by the enormous mass of fur, wool, and hair that clothed lais shaggy head-piece."
Notwithstanding some stories that not only look but are mar- vellous in the primary sense of wonderful, the Solitary Rambles (though somewhat of a misnomer, since Mr. Palliser was rarely by himself) are a very agreeable narrative of field-sports by a thorough Nimrod, mterspersed with sketches of prairie scenery, Indian and trading life and character in the very far West. To these things ire added observations of a naturalist, facts connected with natural history, and occasional incidents of travel, especially on.the Western rivers and at New Orleans.
John Palliser appears to be a member of a sporting family; and, stimulated by the example of his elder brothers, he determined to
• Solitary Rambles and Adventures of a Hunter in the Prairies. By John Palliser,
• 11. With Illustrations. Published by Murray. throw college and study aside, and to set off for the New World in pursuit of his hobby.. Well provided with letters of introduction, he passed rapidly from Boston, through New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, crossing the Alleghenies to Wheeling, and thence to New Orleans by steam. From that city he sported his way to Independence, to join the autumnal American Fru. Company's ex- pedition, and put up for the winter at fort Union, near the bound- ary line of the British territory and the United 'States, in about latitude 48° N. and longitude 103° W. Here he 'did duty as a huntsman, in assisting to supply the fort 'with meat ; and as winter passed away he paid some visits to the nearest stations. In the fine weather he engaged three assistants, and started for the Rocky Mountains; whose spurs he reached, and made a good ex- cursion of it, not only as regarded sport but peltry. Like most true sportsmen, Mr. Palliser is a close observer of na- ture and animated life, and a naturalist. He paints the landscape of the prairies in a few broad strokes, by confining himself to es- sential features ; and graphically brings out the characteristics of the animals he hunted, the people he mixed with, and the life he led. This is pleasant to read about, and save in its extremes of cold and hunger pleasant to live ; but except the professional hunters who are bred to it, we wonder what pay would induce a civilized man to follow it. This is a specimen of " solitary rambles " in the winter.
"In these regions the cold in winter is always easily supportable in calm weather ; but the cold when accompanied by wind becomes so piercing, that great care and constant activity are requisite when travelling to avoid frost-bites. I therefore collected a quantity of fallen and decayed timber and bark, and built myself a comfortable little hut, in which I weathered the storm tolerably well. Towards noon it began to snow, and continued all night, filling all the crevices between the layers of bark, willow, &c., that formed the roof and sides of my cabin; thus further contributing to my com- fort, which was only disturbed at intervals of a few hours' by my having to go out and renew my fire. The following day I continued my journey until a little after noon when, having no more meat, I unharnessed the dog and set off to hunt for my supper. That dame was very scarce here I soon found, as I searched fruitlessly for tracks in the recently-fallen snow. I hunted long and hard, but in vain ; night was stealing on me, and I was compelled to avail myself of the small portion of daylight that remained to retrace my steps to the spot where I had left my travail; where I made my camp, and went aupperless to bed. "Next morning I arose, and debated with myself for some time whether I should begin by another hunt in this unpromising region, or peak up and resume my journey until after noon, as I had done on the previous day. After a little deliberation I adopted the latter plan, and travelled on until about noon, when I fell in with some fresh wapiti tracks. These I pursued for a long distance, and at last came in sight 9f some doss; who, unfortu- nately, were so far out on the plain as to defy every possible effort of mine to approach them. My stalk was unsuccessful, from inability to conceal myself and my dog ; had I tied him up I knew his frantic howling would soon put every living thing in these regions on the alert, so I was compelled to let him come too. He followed as I had trained him, never attempting to pre- cede me : but all my efforts proved fruitless ; my game escaped without my being able even to venture a shot, and I had the mortification of seeing these stately and graceful creatures break away at a rapid trot, which they soon increased to a gallop that speedily carried them out of sight; and thus van- ished my chance of supper for another night. I felt very hungry indeed, and was besides very tired. I slept feverishly, awaked at intervals from visions of the most rare and delicious dishes placed before me. I dreamed I stood before the hospitable mansion of an old friend, who led me, in spite of my incongruous costume, into his brilliantly-lighted parlour, and placed me down to a table loaded with all the delicacies of every season and climate under heaven, including two soups and a turbot. At last, when powdered footmen removed the richly-chased covers off these exquisite delicacies, I started up wide awake, to look on nought but snow ; and finalist I solaced myself with a pipe. On the day following I hunted long and hard till con- siderably after noon, without success. The painful sickening sensation of hunger had now quite left me, and I suffered much less on the third than on the second day. Strange to say, I had not the least apprehension for the future, but felt perfectly confident the whole time, that sooner or later I should fall in with game. At last I came to some fresh tracks of deer, and soon made out that the animal had not only been walking quietly, but was in the willows close by : this I rightly guessed by the zigzag direction of the tracks ; for deer before lying down walk slowly from side to side, as if hesitating where to stop. I remained perfectly still for some time, looking intently with an eye sharpened by hunger, and at length observed some- thing stir in the willows ; it was a deer • evening was advancing, and he was going out to feed. I waited anxiously as he came on, slowly feeding, most fortunately towards me, until he approached to within about a hun- dred yards, and then stopped. I drew up my rifle, and would have fired; but he came still nearer, feeding slowly forward till he was scarcely sixty yards off; when I took a steady deliberate shot as he turned .his flank towards me. I heard the bullet crack against the shoulder : he rushed a short dis- tance back, and rolled over in the snow. To my great satisfaction, wood was close at hand ; so I made a fire and cut away a little venison, which I broiled slightly and eat sparingly of, giving the rest to my dog. I then made a rope of the deer's skin, and, fastening one end to the carcass and the other round my shoulders, dragged it to my camp of the previous night, where I cooked and ate a most enormous supper, smoked my pipe, and slept comfort- ably."
Hard as prairie life may seem, prairie travel is recommended by American medical men to certain invalids, and with good effect. It may be as Franklin held, that people who live in the open air never take cold ; or that the natural mode of life is safe if thoroughly carried out, which in the prairies it must be ; or that there is some virtue in the air itself; or that we bear of the cures but not of the killed, which is perhaps the most likely. To the fact Mr. Palliser bears witness; but he is steeled.
"We had long entered the high prairies. The atmosphere in these re. gions is extremely healthy, and its effect upon the constitution something wonderful so much so, that persons never suffer from coughs or colds; the complaint is quite unknown. I have frequently in the morning risen from a sound sleep, under a down-pour of rain, and found my shoulder on the side I had lain in a pool of water, have got up and ridden on, cold and shiver- ing, till the sun rose, and his genial rays thoroughly warmed and dried me ; and yet have taken no harm. So clear is the air that the natural range of sight is greatly extended, and distant objects may be clearly and easily seen, which in these islands, or in the States of America, it would be impossible to recognize or define. It is almost like looking through a telescope. *
"The appetite in this healthy region is also greatly increased, and I have been told by American physicians that many are the instances where con. sumption has been completely eradicated from the constitutions of people travelling up into these regions, even under circumstances exposing them to very great hardships."
After Mr. Palliser had shipped his bison cow, two young bisons, and a bear, at New Orleans for England, he started for Panama, by way of Cuba and the Isthmus. Beyond the number of Americans bound for California, and the scenery, there was not much to see ; but he encountered a Tropical tempest on the river Chagres, of which he gives a vivid description. "The day became so hot at twelve o'clock that we did not resume our journey until after four, and we had hardly started again when a violent thunderstorm commenced. I was greatly entertained with the proceedings of my men, who intently watched for the first symptoms of ram; and as sum as they saw pretty clear indications of 'ague, undressed themselves, stripping off every single article of apparel, and, rolling them up in a piece of oiled cloth with which each was provided, quietly went on paddling in a calm which was truly awful, Nature seeming to collect her energies for the fearful burst which succeeded ; even the noisy birds feeling the influence, and hushing their discordant cries. At last the storm broke. The thunder, instead of rolling, broke over head with a crash like ten thousand .gongs,—a stunning maddening sound, utterly unlike the sublime awe-inspiring roll in our latitudes : the warns rain poured down in massive columns, almost checking my breath, as mouth and nostrils filled at each respiration. And now, for the first time in my life, I saw a tree struck by lightning ; the flash falling on one a short distance off, riving the huge trunk, and sending the splinters flying far and wide from the spot. The storm did not last long, but suddenly as the change of a panorama gave way to a lovely sunset : the little monkeys crept along to the extremities of the branches, to stroke and dry their dripping fur ; and parrots and macquaws. flew about and screamed as noisily as ever."