« PreviousContinue »
proprietors of the Cincinnati Museum, he informed me that he was at New Orleans, when the bones were brought to that place. There Ashe, getting into some pecuniary embarrassment, pledged them to a Monsieur Sainet for several hundred dollars, and then set out for England. Mr. D'Orfeuil added, that as the seventeen chests of bones were very heavy and bulky, they were deposited in a warehouse, in which they were unfortunately destroyed, during a conflagration that took place soon afterwards. i Every naturalist should visit this interesting spot, which may with great propriety be called, the Grave of the Mammoth. For my part I could not help thinking, with what horror I should have passed through the forest, when these huge carnivorous monsters stalked about in its solitudes. How little in those days could naked, savage man, (if indeed he was in existence,) have deserved the name of Lord of the Creation ! • The water of the chief spring rises copiously from a large hollow trunk of a tree, which has been thrust into the earth directly over it. This water is beautifully clear, but its bubbles emit the offensive smell above mentioned. Before the water has run into the creek, it assumes a black inky appearance ; deposits a kind of white sediment upon all the bones and pieces of wood exposed to it; and reminds one, both by its smell and ap
pearance, of the foul stinking water that comes from a kitchen.
Great numbers of Opossums are caught in the woods which surround the spring. This curious animal is eaten by many, and esteemed a delicacy. It is always very fat; and “ possum fat and hommony” is a favourite dish with Western and Southern negroes. I had several times resolved to taste a piece of possum, having been assured that it was as good as young pig; but just before putting a morsel into my mouth, the thought of the animal's long, naked, prensile tail, was sure to turn my stomach.
When the Opossum is pursued, and finds it cannot escape, it shams death; and, until struck a blow nearly sufficient to kill it, will allow itself to be taken up, thrown down, or kicked over, as if really dead. Hence it is a common saying in America, when any one is pretending or counterfeiting, that he is playing possum.” · During the summer months, people from Cincinnati occasionally resort to Big Bone Lick, to drink the waters, which are very efficacious, particularly in cutaneous complaints. To accommodate these visitors, there is a roomy, and tolerably comfortable tavern, kept by a General Wingate.
I must here remark that in the Western States, the tavern keepers are all considerable landed proprietors; and as they have generally a great number of friends and acquaintances, are men of considerable influence.
Now the militia have the privilege of choosing their own officers, and consequently the eleetion very often falls upon the tavern keeper of the neighbourhood. Indeed I have rarely stopped at a tavern, in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, or Illinois, without finding that the landlord, although clothed from top to toe in buckskin, and not remarkably clean, was at least a captain, and generally a' major or colonel. An European however, must not hold these men in derision; for beneath the rough exterior of these American officers, one often finds a man of considerable information and abilities. Moreover they are well adapted to command the militia who serve under them; and in these immense forests, where every tree is a fort, the backwoodsmen, the best sharp shooters in the world, constitute the most formidable military force imaginable. At any rate an Englishman must not laugh at this profusion of military rank; for when in Canada, I found colonels and generals, even more plentiful than in the United States.
From Big Bone I followed the windings of the little creek, till I came to a small log cabin on the banks of the Ohio ; and as I could not hear of any steam-boat descending the river, I determined to proceed in the first Ark that passed. I soon hailed one, put off from the shore in a canoe, and having got on board, found that the vessel was
bound for New Orleans, and laden with horses, fowls, iron castings, apples, whiskey, &c.
I had often heard a great deal of the Kentucky boatmen, whose manners are notoriously rough. I was in a manner forced to drink whiskey with them; but when they found that I was willing to conform to their customs, they treated me with a great deal of civility. The description usually given of these men, and of which they are rather proud, is, that they are “ half-horse, half-alligator, with a cross of the wild cat."
At New Orleans, where many boats' crews meet together, they are the terror of all the peaceable inhabitants. Their favourite boast, when intoxicated, is as follows :-" I have the best rifle, the best horse, and the prettiest sister of any man in the world; whoever denies it must fight me.” This occasions numerous battles; and should any one interfere and attempt to stop the tumult, they would instantly fall upon the unfortunate peacemaker, saying, “ Stranger, I see you want to quarrel: I am your man.”
I found one passenger already on board. He had originally been the owner of the Ark; but had sold it to a man of the name of Cady, who was now the master. After floating down twentytwo miles, we landed at the little village of Vevay, where I and my fellow passenger accompanied the master of the boat to the only tavern.
Here, as soon as we had finished our meal, and
Cady had gone out to try and dispose of his castings, the innkeeper took my fellow passenger aside, and I overheard the following conversation:
" Sir, I am acquainted with some of your relations, and know them to be respectable honest people: I therefore wish to do you a service. I know the man to whom you have sold your boat. He is one of the greatest rascals alive. · He is a thief, forger, coiner, and, in short, every thing that is bad. I would advise you to secure your money and leave him, or at all events to look very sharp to yourself, for there is nothing he will not be guilty of, if it suit his purpose.”
This conversation was not thrown away upon me : I went to the boat, brought away my saddlebags, and wished Mr. Cady good bye, apparently to his great disappointment, as he pressed me very much to go on with him. The man to whom the tavern keeper gave this friendly warning, communicated it to the boatmen, who were by no means the villain's friends ; but as they thought they were more than a match for him, determined to proceed. .
I was not sorry that I had remained behind, for the delay gave me an opportunity of visiting the Colony of Swiss, who had given to the village the name of their European abode. They have planted some very good vineyards, which they keep in excellent order; but probably owing to the ex