Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Commanches then rushed on Jedediah

Our recent drive to Washington passed through Montana. We talked a lot about what it might have been like to be the first people to walk through that area. Who found the passes through the mountains? What was life like? What did the land look like without fences and farms and McDonalds?

At a rest stop in Montana we read a monument to a man named Jedediah Smith. Wikipedia describes how he died:
According to Dale L. Morgan, Jedediah Smith's biographer, Jedediah was looking for water for the 1831 expedition when he came upon an estimated 15-20 Commanches. There was a brief face to face stand off until the Commanches scared his horse and shot him in the left shoulder. After gasping from the injury, Jedediah wielded his horse around and with one rifle shot was able to kill their chief. The Commanches then rushed on Jedediah, who did not have time to use his pistols, and stabbed him to death with lances. Austin Smith, Jedediah's brother, was able to retreive Jedediah's rifle and pistols that the Indians had taken and traded to the Spanish.
This man, who likely died fighting Commanches in a box canyon somewhere off the Santa Fe Trail, blazed trails through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and California. He trapped fur and opened up much of the west to those who followed during the Gold Rush. He was only 32 when he died. He likely located passes through the Rockies that 18-wheelers drive today with regularity.

My soul is moved by the courage and bravery and hardiness of men like Smith. Maybe that's why I read everything Louis L'Amour wrote when I was in high school. (Don't fault my love of heroes by the quality of literature, even though I would still read L'Amour at the drop of a hat.)

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