IT must a been close on to one o’clock when we got below the island at
last, and the raft did seem to go mighty slow. If a boat was to come along
we was going to take to the canoe and break for the Illinois shore; and it
was well a boat didn’t come, for we hadn’t ever thought to put the gun in
the canoe, or a fishing-line, or anything to eat. We was in ruther too much
of a sweat to think of so many things. It warn’t good judgment to put
EVERYTHING on the raft.
The raft seemed to go incredibly slow. It must have been nearly one
o’clock in the morning by the time we finally passed the island. We decided
that if a boat came along, we were going to jump into the canoe and make a
break for the Illinois shore. It was a good thing no boat ever came, though,
because we hadn’t thought to put the gun or a fishing line or anything to
eat in the canoe. We were panicking too much to think of all those things.
It sure wasn’t good judgment to put EVERYTHING on the raft.
If the men went to the island I just expect they found the camp fire I
built, and watched it all night for Jim to come. Anyways, they stayed away
from us, and if my building the fire never fooled them it warn’t no fault of
mine. I played it as low down on them as I could.
If those men did go to the island, my guess is they found the campfire I
built. They probably watched it all night waiting for Jim to come back.
Well, whatever the reason, they stayed away from us. If my fake campfire
didn’t fool them, then you can’t say I didn’t try. I did my best to fool
When the first streak of day began to show we tied up to a towhead in a
big bend on the Illinois side, and hacked off cottonwood branches with the
hatchet, and covered up the raft with them so she looked like there had been
a cave-in in the bank there. A tow-head is a sandbar that has cottonwoods on
it as thick as harrow-teeth.
When the first ray of sunlight stretched over the horizon, we tied the
canoe up to a towhead—a sandbar covered in thick groves of cottonwood
trees—in a big bend on the Illinois side of the river. We hacked off some
cottonwood branches with the hatchet, and used them to covered up the raft
so it looked like there had been a cave-in on the riverbank.
We had mountains on the Missouri shore and heavy timber on the Illinois
side, and the channel was down the Missouri shore at that place, so we
warn’t afraid of anybody running across us. We laid there all day, and
watched the rafts and steamboats spin down the Missouri shore, and up-bound
steamboats fight the big river in the middle. I told Jim all about the time
I had jabbering with that woman; and Jim said she was a smart one, and if
she was to start after us herself she wouldn’t set down and watch a camp
fire—no, sir, she’d fetch a dog. Well, then, I said, why couldn’t she tell
her husband to fetch a dog? Jim said he bet she did think of it by the time
the men was ready to start, and he believed they must a gone up-town to get
a dog and so they lost all that time, or else we wouldn’t be here on a
towhead sixteen or seventeen mile below the village—no, indeedy, we would be
in that same old town again. So I said I didn’t care what was the reason
they didn’t get us as long as they didn’t.
There were mountains on the shore on the Missouri side of the river and
thick forest on the Illinois side. The channel ran down the Missouri shore
around there, so we weren’t afraid of anyone running into us. We lay there
all day and watched the rafts and steamboats float down along the Missouri
shoreline. And we watched other steamboats chug against the current in the
middle of the river. I told Jim everything the woman in the cabin had told
me. Jim said she must have been pretty smart. He said that if she had
decided to come after us herself, she would have used a dog instead of
wasting time watching campfires. I asked why she didn’t suggest that to her
husband. He said she probably did. He’d probably had to go back upriver into
town to get a dog. That’s why we were able to escape to this towhead sixteen
or seventeen miles downstream. Otherwise we’d have been caught. So I said it
didn’t matter how we’d gotten away, so long as we had.
When it was beginning to come on dark we poked our heads out of the
cottonwood thicket, and looked up and down and across; nothing in sight; so
Jim took up some of the top planks of the raft and built a snug wigwam to
get under in blazing weather and rainy, and to keep the things dry. Jim made
a floor for the wigwam, and raised it a foot or more above the level of the
raft, so now the blankets and all the traps was out of reach of steamboat
waves. Right in the middle of the wigwam we made a layer of dirt about five
or six inches deep with a frame around it for to hold it to its place; this
was to build a fire on in sloppy weather or chilly; the wigwam would keep it
from being seen. We made an extra steering-oar, too, because one of the
others might get broke on a snag or something. We fixed up a short forked
stick to hang the old lantern on, because we must always light the lantern
whenever we see a steamboat coming down-stream, to keep from getting run
over; but we wouldn’t have to light it for up-stream boats unless we see we
was in what they call a “crossing"; for the river was pretty high yet, very
low banks being still a little under water; so up-bound boats didn’t always
run the channel, but hunted easy water.
When it started to get dark, we poked our heads out of the thicket of
cottonwood trees. We looked all around, but couldn’t see anything. Jim took
some of the planks from the raft to build a snug little wigwam to get out of
the rain and keep our things dry. Jim made a floor for the wigwam and raised
it at least a foot above the deck of the raft. This kept the blankets and
traps from getting soaked by the waves made by the passing steamboats. We
put a layer of dirt about five or six inches deep inside a little wooden
frame in the middle of the wigwam. We could build a fire there that wouldn’t
be seen or get drenched by the rain. We made an extra steering oar, too, in
case one of the others broke or got caught in a snag in the water or
something. We hung the lantern on a short forked stick so that the
steamboats coming downstream wouldn’t hit us. We’d only have to light it,
though, if we were in what they call a “crossing.” You see, the river was
high enough that boat traveling up river didn’t have to run the channel, but
could look for easier waters.
This second night we run between seven and eight hours, with a current
that was making over four mile an hour. We catched fish and talked, and we
took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of solemn,
drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the
stars, and we didn’t ever feel like talking loud, and it warn’t often that
we laughed—only a little kind of a low chuckle. We had mighty good weather
as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all—that night, nor
the next, nor the next.
We floated for about seven or eight hours in the current on this second
night. We were moving about four miles an hour or so. We caught fish and
talked and swum now and then to stay awake. It was kind of solemn, drifting
down the big, still river, lying on our backs and looking up at the stars.
We didn’t ever feel like talking too loudly, and we rarely laughed—we just
chuckled a little. The weather was excellent, for the most part, and nothing
much happened to us that night, the next night, or the one after