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Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 11.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Bent's Trading Post—Purchase Fresh Animals—Buffalo Robes—Immense Lodge—Fremont's Lodge—Doctor Ober—His Scientific Knowledge—Attachment of the Author to him—His Preparation to return to the States—Arkansas River—Giant Cotton Woods—Islands in the Arkansas—Bent's Fort destroyed by Indians—Preparations to cross the Mountains—First View of the Rocky Mountains—Bid adieu to Doctor Ober.

BENT'S HOUSE is built of adobes, or unburnt brick, one story high, in form of a hollow square, with a courtyard in the centre. One side is appropriated as his sleeping apartments, the front as a store-house, while the others are occupied by the different persons in his employ. He has a large number of horses and mules.

Col. Fremont procured from him fresh animals for all the men, leaving behind us those which were thought unable to go through. At this time Mr. Bent had but a small quantity of sugar and coffee; he supplied us, however, with all he could spare, and a considerable quantity of dried buffalo meat, moccasins and overshoes for all the men; a large buffalo-skin lodge, capable of covering twenty-five men, and one small one for Col. Fremont; buffalo robes for each man besides stockings, gloves, tobacco, etc.

I breakfasted with Mr. Bent and Doctor Ober, on baked bread, made from maize ground, dried buffalo meat, venison steaks, and hot coffee; a treat that I had not enjoyed for a very long time.

Col. Fremont having entirely recovered his health, decided not to take the doctor over the mountains, but made arrangements with Mr. Bent to send him home by the first train of wagons; one of our white men, a Mr. Mulligan, of St. Louis, also remained, as an assistant to the doctor. I had formed quite an attachment to Doctor Ober; he was a gentleman of extensive information, and his intellectual capacity was of the highest order. I have ridden by his side for many a mile, listening to his explanations of the sciences of geology and botany. When we passed a remarkable formation, he would stop and compare it with others of similar character in different parts of the world. I regretted very much the necessity there was for his remaining behind, but it was well for him that he did so; his age and make would have incapacitated him from enduring the privations and hardships which we had to encounter.

The weather continuing so cold I found it inconvenient to use my oil colors and brushes; accordingly I left my tin case with the doctor, who promised to take charge of them for me to the States.

When the weather is very clear, you can see the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains from Bent's house, which is seventy miles distant. Our friend the doctor wanted to obtain a nearer view of them, and proposed that I should accompany him. We started on a clear morning, for that purpose. I took my apparatus along; we rode thirty miles, but the weather becoming hazy, it entirely shut out our view of the mountains. We returned to camp late at night, after a tiresome day's ride.

The Arkansas River where we first struck it, which was at the crossing of the Santa Fe trail, is almost entirely bare of timber; the trunks of several giant cottonwood trees, which had probably been landmarks for early travellers to Mexico, still reared their enormous heads high into the Heavens, defying alike the storms of winter, and the axe and fire of the hungry pioneer, who in vain attempted to hew and burn them down. I measured one of them, its circumference was eighteen feet. We travelled up the river a great many miles, without seeing any timber at all, and relying for firewood on the drift logs, we found along the banks.

There are a great many islands in the Arkansas River, on which some few young cottonwoods are growing. We frequently encamped on these islands.

At "Big Timber," there is a considerable quantity of oak, and cottonwood of large growth. Game of all kinds abounds in it.

Bent's house is a trading post. Indians of the different tribes bring in their venison, buffalo meat, skins, and robes, which are exchanged for various descriptions of manufactured goods. Mr. Bent also receives the annual appropriation from Government, for the neighboring tribes of Indians which are distributed at this point. Bent's Fort, which is situated about thirty miles further up the Arkansas, was recently destroyed by the Indians, and has not been rebuilt, from the scarcity of timber in its vicinity. All the material saved from the fort, was removed to Mr. Bent's house, on Big Timber. After a sojourn of a week, near Bent's trading house, the whole of which time was employed in refitting and preparing proper camp equipage for the journey over the mountains, we bade an affectionate adieu to our worthy doctor; and started in high spirits, the lofty summit of Pike's Peak in the distance glittering in the morning sun.

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