Sunday, 3 June 2012

death valley 3

One fall after work was done and preparations were made for the winter, father said to me:—"Now Lewis, I want you to hunt every day—come home nights—but keep on till you kill a deer." So with his permission I started with my gun on my shoulder, and with feelings of considerable pride.
 Before night I started two deer in a brushy place, and they leaped high over the oak bushes in the most affrighted way. I brought my gun to my shoulder and fired at the bounding animal when in most plain sight. Loading then quickly, I hurried up the trail as fast as I could and soon came to my deer, dead, with a bullet hole in its head. I was really surprised myself, for I had fired so hastily at the almost flying animal that it was little more than a random shot. As the deer was not very heavy I dressed it and packed it home myself, about as proud a boy as the State of Michigan contained. I really began to think I was a capital hunter, though I afterward knew it was a bit of good luck and not a bit of skill about it.
It was some time after this before I made another lucky shot. Father would once in a while ask me:—"Well can't you kill us another deer?" I told him that when I had crawled a long time toward a sleeping deer, that I got so trembly that I could not hit an ox in short range. "O," said he, "You get the buck fever—don't be so timid—they won't attack you." But after awhile this fever wore off, and I got so steady that I could hit anything I could get in reach of.
We were now quite contented and happy. Father could plainly show us the difference between this country and Vermont and the advantages we had here. There the land was poor and stony and the winters terribly severe. Here there were no stones to plow over, and the land was otherwise easy to till. We could raise almost anything, and have nice wheat bread to eat, far superior to the "Rye-and-Indian" we used to have. The nice white bread was good enough to eat without butter, and in comparison this country seemed a real paradise.
The supply of clothing we brought with us had lasted until now—more than two years—and we had sowed some flax and raised sheep so that we began to get material of our own raising, from which to manufacture some more. Mother and sister spun some nice yarn, both woolen and linen, and father had a loom made on which mother wove it up into cloth, and we were soon dressed up in bran new clothes again. Domestic economy of this kind was as necessary here as it was in Vermont, and we knew well how to practice it. About this time the emigrants began to come in very fast, and every piece of Government land any where about was taken. So much land was ploughed, and so much vegetable matter turned under and decaying that there came a regular epidemic of fever and ague and bilious fever, and a large majority of the people were sick. At our house father was the first one attacked, and when the fever was at its height he was quite out of his head and talked and acted like a crazy man. We had never seen any one so sick before, and we thought he must surely die, but when the doctor came he said:—"Don't be alarmed. It is only 'fever 'n' agur,' and no one was ever known to die of that." Others of us were sick too, and most of the neighbors, and it made us all feel rather sorrowful. The doctor's medicines consisted of calomel, jalap and quinine, all used pretty freely, by some with benefit, and by others to no visible purpose, for they had to suffer until the cold weather came and froze the disease out. At one time I was the only one that remained well, and I had to nurse and cook, besides all the out-door work that fell to me. My sister married a man near by with a good farm and moved there with him, a mile or two away. When she went away I lost my real bosom companion and felt very lonesome, but I went to see her once in a while, and that was pretty often, I think. There was not much going on as a general thing. Some little neighborhood society and news was about all. There was, however, one incident which occurred in 1837, I never shall forget, and which I will relate in the next chapter.

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