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of the ketch's approach, fasten upon this enterprise the thought that probably due secrecy and precaution were not observed in the expe dition.
Richard Somers was but twenty-five years of age when, however much we may question the morality of an expedition that has in it a provisional suicide, he so heroically gave up his life in the service of his country. He was possessed of a respectable property, and one that increased in value, all of which he willed to an only sister.
Somers was mild, affectionate and exceedingly chivalrous. So tenacious was he of this last point, in support of his ideas of chivalry he fought three duels in one day, almost all in succession; having been wounded in the two previous ones, he fought the last seated on the ground, held up by his friend Stephen Decatur.
The character of Lieutenant Somers gave promise of a brilliant future. Congress passed a resolution of condolence with the friends of the officers who died in the Intrepid. Several small vessels were named after its commander, and Com. Perry named a schooner in honor of him, which was on the lake on the 10th of September when he defeated the British squadron. A beautiful brig was also called after Somers. Around the name of Somers, which became talismanic in the American navy, there clings, and perhaps will ever clivg, a solemn and interesting mystery.
E. S. RILEY, JR.
INCLE JOHNNY was one of the early characters of California...
He was not fitted to adorn the salons of a highly cultured civili isation. He was "somewhat rough in his language," as a bystander mildly put it once — when excited, and his look and manners wero. not of a kind to place him very high in the public estimation as a man of refinement. By those who saw him only in his daily costume — his. leather breeches, his flannel shirt, with bowie-knife stuck in his immense boots, two revolvers strapped to his person - and heard him. swear, he would have seemed a veritable type of the border ruffian.. He was a little more than six feet in height — iron-gray hair — straight
a as an arrow — had a kindly smile when not angry — always for a woman or a child — and was ready to undergo any amount of fatigue or fighting for a friend. He was not a communicative man; and for many years after we first met I knew but little of his history. It had been an eventful one. Born in Maine, he had spent his early days
there. His early education had been gained in the immense forests that then abounded in those regions. Books he had never seen until after the age of twenty. At that age his world had grown loo narrow for him ; and with twelve dollars in his pocket and a bundle of clothes, he had gone out into the world, “lord of himself.” It was 1818 when he staried from the home of his youth, and when in 1851 we met, he had been on the very outskirts of civilisation for thirty-three years. Any one who knows aught of the early history of our western world, knows what that means — a life of hardship, exposure, and adventure that is liardly known even in our wildest regions now. The wave had borne him onward and onward in its very front; and if there was anything he hated, it was, to use his own words, to live “wbar they wear store-clothes and biled shirts ”- meaning by :he former anything but a hunting-shirt and breeches, and by the latter a white shirt of any description whatever. His rifle was his constant companion his friend; he cherished it and an old Queen Anne piece with an affection that was wonderful. He was an enthusiastic hunter. His contests with the wild animals of our continent, and his conflicts with the Indians, when narrated by bim, excited my youthful and restless disposition, and it became almost a mania with me to accompany him on some hunting excursion. The old man always dissuaded me. His life had been a serere one - I had all the future before me, and he said, “ Doc., you think it mighty purty now, but it's no playing like a quail.hunt. I want to chuck myself down somewhar and be easy." His idea of settling himself down was to go into a camp of rough miners and hunters, “wbar thar are wimmen-kind and lille uns." Even then it must be within a few hours of hunting grounds. There was a very tender spot in his heart for children. A bright-eyed but tattered and dirty liitle fellow, the son of his host, had a stronger hold of him than any one else, and the boys of the camp looked on the gigantic old man, with his tales of adventure and his kindly words though rough, with almost idolatry.
One morning bright and early, long before our usual time of rising, there came a loud knock at the door of my office. In those days we built our houses in the California mines of skakes, a rude kind of shingle, and not a very efficient protection against the wind and rain. On opening the door, there stood Uncle Johnny. “I'm off," said he, pointing to a couple of horses standing near, and weli packed with flour, hams, beans, coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, and cooking utensils, namely a coffee-pot and frying pan, the whole surmounted with blankeis. His rifle was on his shoulder, and his Queen Anne hung loosely to the pack-saddle of one of the horses. The old man was determined to throw the refusal to go on myself. He knew a hunter's life was not one adapted to improve the future chances of one's advancement. He had a very exalted opinion of my skill as a physician, derived from a fancied success of mine in relieving a very severe attack of croup in one of his favorites, and he felt I might become infatuated with the wild life of a hunter, and destroy my future prospects; so he wished to go in such a way that it would be easier for us both 10 part without talking it over; for strange to say, a very great friendship had sprung up between us. "I am going with you,” I replied; and
without more words, went to my bed, turned down the clothes, and commenced to bundle up my blankets. Uncle Johnny said never a word until, seeing from my movements I was determined to go, his eyes fairly gleamed with joy. When I started for the stable to get my horse, he merely said, “Wal, if you will go, I'll wait till to-morrer,' and proceeding to unpack his own animals, put his camping materials in my office. My arrangements did not take long. Under Uncle Johnny's directions, clothes suitable for a long hunt, material, or "traps," as he designated them, were purchased, and at the first dawn of the next day we started on a hunt which proved to be of thirteen months' duration, during the most of the time of which we were alone, never within the settlements of even a semi-civilisation.
The morning was in the spring of 1850. The rains had just about ceased, and we knew for eight or nine months there would be no more rain. There was an exhilaration in the air and in the sense of freedom from all restraints that memory brings back as yesterday. The hillsides were green with an advanced vegetation ; the plateaus carpeted with millions of most brilliant wild flowers; the gulche ; we passed were filled with busy miners at work with their rockers and Long Toms (a name given to short sluices), for the more advanced stages of the art of mining were then unthought of. The point of departure was from Kelsey's in El Dorado County, and following the trail that leads to the South Fork of the American river, we descended the steep mountains, soon reached the opposite shore, and were on our way to Placerville, then called Hangtown, from its many executions, both with and without law, which had taken place in its neighborhood in the days when every community did that which was right in its own eyes. But the object of my sketch is not to portray the incidents of a hunter's iife. In the early days of the Golden State game was very abundant, the country very wild ; Indians with no friendly feeling swarmed in every direction, and there was hardly a day that was not attended with some wild, often thrilling adventure. My object is simply to illustrate a character often found among
wild bordermen, reared amid the depressing influences of poverty and comparative ignorance, spending a life of hardship and adventure, learning only from experience those truths and virtues which adorn the noblest lives, yet possessing them to a rich degree, mingled with vices which have given bordermen an obnoxious name, and made them types in the minds of many of all that is vicious and evil. Uncle Johnny's character was one not uncommon among the roughest men in our borders. The West has known such men for many years; they have come from all parts of our own country, aye, of the world. They sink their peculiarities, however, very rapidly, and when once known, are easily recognised. He was no angel. Quick to resent an insult or an injury, his "weepins," as his pistol and knife were called, were always ready for use. He loved a game of poker, and was not indifferent to "the ways that are dark and tricks that are vain.” He would win the last dollar a poor fellow would put on a card, but he would give his own last cent io relieve any man's wants. Simple-minded in many things as a child, all scientific truth that did not square with the "evidence of the senses” was to him a subject of ridicule. That the
earth was round, that it turned on its axis, were demonstrably untrue; for “Why,” he said, “didn't we drop off and go somewhere else at night?' He thought any man who could believe the stars were suns, or the sun a star to other worlds, was a credulous fool. In fact, his connection with civilisation had not impressed him with the truthfulness and sincerity of those who had enjoyed its advantages. He had seen enough to know that moral courage was not one of the most prominent virtues of a cultured life. He scorned a lie as he did a To varmint”; yet he had learned that men of great pretensions to advantages he had never possessed were not so scrupulous. During my whole acquaintance with him I never saw anything that savored of radical impurity in his nature. When he was excited he would swear with an energy that would fairly frighten me. I once expostulated with him about it, saying, “if there was a God. it was wicked; and if not, very foolish,” and I never heard more than a forcible expletive from his lips afterwards. He knew very little indeed about Christian truth ; less than I imagined possible, before I had mingled more with bordermen, in this land of Bibles and Christian teaching and preaching. He rather thought some of its professors were half-lunatics; and it was years before he was able, if he ever was able, to get over the fact that men who professed to be governed by the teachings of the Bible (we had a Bible a former Sunday School teacher had given me, which he loved to have me read to him, for he had never heard it before) would still lie and cheat and do “mean things.” He had not found all truth or honesty or unworldly sincerity cardinal virtues with those whom he met. With him, as with thousands, Christianity was wounded in the house of its friends; yet there was a deep reverence for the Creator as seen in his works that was at times sublime. Brave and generous to a fault, he would as soon have cut off his right arm as have wronged a fellow-man. These traits I learned by degrees, and though at tirst it was his roving wild life, the dangers he had passed, the life of incident he had led, that attracted me, yet I ended with loving him as a noble specimen of manhood.
After leaving Hangtown we pursued our journey northeastward, over the route which afterward became the great thoroughfare between California and Nevada. One day, having reached the pass near the summii — afterward the scene of the achievement of one of the most wonderful efforts of uneducated engineering skill: the old Kingsbury grade — we ascended a peak, which I learned was one of the old hunter's favorite resting-places, selected probably from the extensive range of observation for hunting purposes. We both stood entranced at ihe prospect. There were peaks above us, near and at a distance, crowned with snow, and surrounded by that peculiar halo which in the morning and evening always fringes a snow-covered peak, and waved backward and forward flashing a thousand changes of color in its frequent vibrations. Far off in the distance, with outlines sharply defined against the afternoon sky, were range after range of mountains — the bright green of isolated spots contrasting with the bare rock or dark green of the mountain sides. Below, dark and deep gorges clad with the sombre-looking redwoods. Here and there starting out from the long vistas, valleys of lovely green; and then,
one, two, three
aye, in fifteen different spots, differing in size and color, lake after lake appeared glistening like precious stones in this beautiful setting, gleaming in the light of the westering sun in purple, crimson, white, and emerald beauty, with indescribable radiance. The old man looked silently upon a scene which had often met his vision, and reverently taking off his hat, exclaimed: “Wal, Doc, I never git here without feelin' thar is a God — I don't keer what they say." The grand scene impressed him with a grand truth.
In all the arts of the hunter he was certainly an adept - never at a loss, and never lost. The ease with which, lying flat on his stomach, he would work himself over a bare place in a valley toward a tree or bush or stump, in order to get near his game, was marvellous. His sight for a trail was as keen as an Indian's, and his knowledge of the haunts and habits of game showed the length of time he had spent in his vocation had not been lost. hours he spent in teaching me how to use a rifle. At the beginning of this hunt I was exceedingly anxious to kill a deer; so loading his Queen Anne with buck-shot — for a rifle was useless in my hands then — he directed me one day, as the evening was drawing rapidly on, to walk up a dry stream to a certain point where he thought a deer might be found. Following his directions, just as an angle was turned in the bed of the stream, there stood, not forty paces away, a magnificent buck, his broad antlers spread to the sky, his proud head erect, and every limb braced and poised as if at the point of running. I had expected an attack of “buck ague” at my first shot at such game, but it did not come until long after that. Now my nerves were firm, and I was as cool as while I write of it. Just as the buck was seen, the crack of Uncle Johnny's rifle was heard near me, and my buck giving a sudden whirl exposed his breast to me prepared to run. In an instant the gun was at my shoulder — old Queen Anne blazed away, and with a bound high in the air the animal fell. With a shout of triumph — now all excitement, and fairly trembling at the result of the shot - I rushed towards him ; but when I was within ten paces, the wounded and infuriated beast sprang to his feet, and lowered his antlers for an attack. My blood curdled as memories of the cautions Uncle Johnny had given, and tales he had told of fearful struggles with wounded deer, wherein strong men had met with a fearful death, came to my mind. There was something more than mere warnings needed to teach me discretion in this as in many other things; and there I stood in the face of what seemed certain 'death, heard ihe pant of the enraged beast, saw the red glare of his angry eyes and the toss of his antlered head. For an instant my heart sickened. A thousand memories seemed centred in that moment. Home, friends, wrongs I had done, all rose with vivid distinctness before me. I could not have believed so much of life and thought could have been compressed into a moment. Far less time did it take than to write a few words of this sketch. Gathering up my courage, with my gun clubbed, I prepared to meet the attack.' Just as the deer rose to spring, there was a rush between it and myself, a dark body interposed, a knife gleamed before my eyes, and there the noble old hunter stood, pale as death, with dilated nostrils and quivering