I WANTED to go and look at a place right about the middle of the island
that I’d found when I was exploring; so we started and soon got to it,
because the island was only three miles long and a quarter of a mile
I wanted to go and look at a spot in the middle of the island that I’d
found while exploring. We set out and, since the island was only three miles
long and a quarter of a mile wide, we got to it in no time.
This place was a tolerable long, steep hill or ridge about forty foot
high. We had a rough time getting to the top, the sides was so steep and the
bushes so thick. We tramped and clumb around all over it, and by and by
found a good big cavern in the rock, most up to the top on the side towards
Illinois. The cavern was as big as two or three rooms bunched together, and
Jim could stand up straight in it. It was cool in there. Jim was for putting
our traps in there right away, but I said we didn’t want to be climbing up
and down there all the time.
This place I wanted to go back to was a long, steep hill or ridge that was
about forty feet tall. We had a tough time climbing to the top because the
sides were so steep and the bushes so thick. We hiked and climbed all over
it until we found a large cave in the rocks at the top on the side that
faces toward Illinois. The cave was about the size of two or three rooms,
and Jim could stand up straight in it. The temperature was cool inside. Jim
wanted to put our traps in there right away, but I said we didn’t want to be
climbing up and down the hill all the time.
Jim said if we had the canoe hid in a good place, and had all the traps in
the cavern, we could rush there if anybody was to come to the island, and
they would never find us without dogs. And, besides, he said them little
birds had said it was going to rain, and did I want the things to get
Jim said that if we hid the canoe well and put all the traps in the cave,
we could hide there if anyone came to the island. No one would ever find us
unless they had dogs. Besides, he reminded me that those little birds had
said it was going to rain and asked if I wanted everything to get
So we went back and got the canoe, and paddled up abreast the cavern, and
lugged all the traps up there. Then we hunted up a place close by to hide
the canoe in, amongst the thick willows. We took some fish off of the lines
and set them again, and begun to get ready for dinner.
So we went back and got the canoe and paddled to a spot below the cave.
Then we lugged all the traps up. Then we looked for a place in the willows
nearby where we could hide the canoe. We took some fish off the fishing
lines, baited the lines again, and started to get ready for dinner.
The door of the cavern was big enough to roll a hogshead in, and on one
side of the door the floor stuck out a little bit, and was flat and a good
place to build a fire on. So we built it there and cooked dinner.
The door of the cave was big enough to roll a hogshead in. The floor stuck
out a little bit on one side of the door. It was flat and made a good place
to build a fire on, so we built it there and cooked dinner.
We spread the blankets inside for a carpet, and eat our dinner in there.
We put all the other things handy at the back of the cavern. Pretty soon it
darkened up, and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was right about
it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury, too, and I never
see the wind blow so. It was one of these regular summer storms. It would
get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and lovely; and the rain
would thrash along by so thick that the trees off a little ways looked dim
and spider-webby; and here would come a blast of wind that would bend the
trees down and turn up the pale underside of the leaves; and then a perfect
ripper of a gust would follow along and set the branches to tossing their
arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it was just about the bluest
and blackest—FST! it was as bright as glory, and you’d have a little glimpse
of tree-tops a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm, hundreds of
yards further than you could see before; dark as sin again in a second, and
now you’d hear the thunder let go with an awful crash, and then go rumbling,
grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the under side of the world, like
rolling empty barrels down stairs—where it’s long stairs and they bounce a
good deal, you know.
We spread the blankets inside the cave to use as a carpet and ate our
dinner in there. We put everything else in the back of the cave where we
could get to it easily. Pretty soon it got dark and began to thunder and
lightning. It was a real summer storm. So I guess the birds were right. Then
it began to rain furiously. I’d never seen the wind blow so hard. It got so
dark that it looked all blue-black outside. It was lovely in a way. The rain
would thrash along so heavy that the trees a little way off in the distance
looked dim and the branches like spider webs. A blast of wind would come
that would bend the trees down, exposing the pale underside of the leaves.
And then an enormous gust of wind would follow and stir up the branches so
that the trees looked like they were waving their arms wildly. And then,
just when the sky was bluest and blackest—bang! It would be as bright as if
the heavens opened up, and you’d catch a glimpse of the tree tops falling
down in the storm way off in the distance, hundreds of yards further than
you coul see before. In another second, it’d be dark as hell, and you’d hear
the thunder clap with an awful crash before rumbling, grumbling, and
tumbling all the way from the sky to the underside of the world. It sounded
like barrels rolling and bouncing down a long flight of stairs.
“Jim, this is nice,” I says. “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here.
Pass me along another hunk of fish and some hot corn-bread.”
“Jim, this is nice,” I said. “I don’t want to be anywhere else but here.
Pass me another hunk of fish and some hot cornbread.”
“Well, you wouldn’t a ben here ’f it hadn’t a ben for Jim. You’d a ben
down dah in de woods widout any dinner, en gittn’ mos’ drownded, too; dat
you would, honey. Chickens knows when it’s gwyne to rain, en so do de birds,
“Well, you wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for Jim. You’d have been
down in the woods without any dinner and getting soaked, too. Yep, you sure
would, man. Chickens know when it’s going to rain and so do the birds,
The river went on raising and raising for ten or twelve days, till at last
it was over the banks. The water was three or four foot deep on the island
in the low places and on the Illinois bottom. On that side it was a good
many miles wide, but on the Missouri side it was the same old distance
across—a half a mile—because the Missouri shore was just a wall of high
The river kept rising for ten or twelve days until it had finally flowed
over the banks. The water was three or four feet deep on the lower parts of
the island and on the Illinois side of the island. It was several miles wide
on the Illinois side, but it was the same distance across as it normally was
on the Missouri side—about half a mile—because the Missouri shore was
nothing but high bluffs.
Daytimes we paddled all over the island in the canoe. It was mighty cool
and shady in the deep woods, even if the sun was blazing outside. We went
winding in and out amongst the trees, and sometimes the vines hung so thick
we had to back away and go some other way. Well, on every old broken-down
tree you could see rabbits and snakes and such things; and when the island
had been overflowed a day or two they got so tame, on account of being
hungry, that you could paddle right up and put your hand on them if you
wanted to; but not the snakes and turtles—they would slide off in the water.
The ridge our cavern was in was full of them. We could a had pets enough if
we’d wanted them.
During the day we paddled all over the flooded island in the canoe. It was
pretty cool and shady in the deep woods, even when the sun was blazing. We’d
paddled in and out among the trees. Sometimes the vines were so thick that
we had to back up and find another route. You could see rabbits and snakes
and other animals on every old, broken down tree. When the island had been
flooded for a day or two, hunger would make the animals so tame that you
could paddle right up to them and put your hand on them if you wanted too.
Well, not the snakes and turtles—they’d just slide off into the water. The
ridge our cave was in was full of them. We could have had tons of pets if
we’d wanted them.