Mount: A Mountain Man's Adventures (paperback) by Arlen Blumhagen



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ISBN: 9781945447587
Pages: 270
Description:

Arlen Blumhagen captures the feel of the western wilderness of the late 1800's in this story of one man's adventures across the American wilderness.


Mount leads a simple life, using his skills to survive in his cabin on the side of a mountain. When circumstances require him to make a trip into St. Louis, Mount thinks it will be a quick visit to The Big City and then home. What he isn't prepared for is the request of Andrew Worthington to lead his family through the wilderness and up through the Oregon Trail. What ensues is a series of adventures from attacks by Indians and snakes to blizzards and several near-fatal disasters. All Mount wants to do is get home to his life, but can he keep his band of travelers alive long enough to make it?

Combining adventure with a liberal dose of comedy, MOUNT crosses genres from historical fiction to western to humor to take the reader through one of the most memorable times in American history.

Excerpt:

Howdy folks. The name’s Mount. My given name at birth was Thaddeus Beauregard Battner. Now, my pa’s name was Christopher and my ma’s name was Sara. How the hell they came up with Thaddeus Beauregard plumb mystifies me. I never did get around to askin’ them about it before they passed on. I guess the reason I never asked was cause they never called me Thaddeus or Beauregard. Oh, Ma may’ve used Thaddeus a time or two when I got her real riled up over something, but as far back as I can remember it’s always been just Mount. It started out, I was told, as Our Little Mountain Man, but it’s just been Mount as far back as I can remember. As I grew, and grew, and grew, it became obvious that I was gonna be one mountain-sized mountain man. Ma and Pa both being rather considerable, I guess it was just natural that I’d be big as a danged ole cottonwood. I finally quit growin’ at around six and a half feet. Cause of my size other folks took to calling me Mount too, short for mountain. Truth be told, there’s a couple of lady folk down at the Rendezvous who, with just a bit of a blush blooming in their cheeks, call me Mount for a whole other reason, but those stories ain’t for tellin’.

Pa decided he was picking up and coming out west around about 1815, the best I can figure. He’d heard about a couple of gentlemen name of Lewis and Clark who had led a military expedition to the Pacific Ocean and back. Pa had heard stories of the Lewis and Clark trip, the adventures they’d had and the incredible beauty of the land, and just decided it was someplace he needed to see. He came, he saw, he stayed for the rest of his short life.

Pa knew it was gonna be a hard trip crossing the country headed west, and an even harder way of life, especially since he was dumber than a pile of buffalo sh-t when it came to living off the land. I think one of the reasons he and Ma survived was that he was a smart enough man to realize how dumb he was, and took that fact into account. I reckon “simple” and “careful” best explain how they traveled. They mostly ate the grub they’d brought with them. Supplies included plenty of dried meat: bacon, salt pork, and jerky. They also had vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and beans; according to Pa, lots and lots of beans. There was rice, wheat, and flour for making hot cakes or mush. Pa learned how to hunt by trying and failing over and over again. Lucky for him and Ma they didn’t have to rely on Pa’s hunting skills or they would’ve been danged hungry. As for danger, about the only real threat they ran into was in crossin’ the rivers and streams they came to. It was early spring and the water level was still fairly low so the crossings were possible, but still put quite a scare into them. Neither Ma or Pa could swim. I don’t remember any stories of near drowning, so being scared must’ve been as close as they came.

He was attracted by the totally untamed west, the unknown and the undiscovered; the challenge. Locking horns with Mother Nature and defying the elements sounded not only dangerous, but adventurous and exciting. Being the son of a general store operator in St. Louis, adventure and excitement were things sorely lacking in my pa’s upbringing. He was in his early twenties and knew if he was going west it was time to go. With his mind set on leavin’ he faced the task of telling his lady friend, Sara Mae, goodbye. Years later Pa’s eyes still lit up like a full moon as he told me how he nearly burst with joy when his Sara informed him she’d be going along.

“You can barely take care of yourself in the middle of St. Louis, you wouldn’t last a week in the wilderness.” Is how Pa said she explained it. Ma said she just couldn’t picture living life without him. Ma and Pa got hitched about a week before leaving St. Louis, Ma bein’ a proper lady and all.

Together, with nothing more than a couple of horses to ride, one horse to pack all they owned, and a whole wagon train full of hopes, and dreams, they crossed the country from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains in the northwest; and found themselves the most beautiful spot in all the world.

Their families made it real clear they thought both of them were plumb crazy for going. Pa admitted to me there were a few times during the trip that he figured they were probably right. It was a mighty hard road, and a danged miracle that a greenhorn and his young bride even survived the trip.

But they did survive, and Pa found that special place near the foot of one of the smaller ranges in the Rocky Mountains. There’s a fairly large creek that Pa named the Sweetgrass, running past the cabin and down to the Yellowstone River about a mile away. The mountains are a couple miles back behind, rising up in all their God-given majesty. The mountains give way to the rolling foothills, pine covered, green, and lush; the dark green pine forest here and there broken by a stand of aspen or birch trees, standing out in different colors depending on the time of year. The foothills then roll on down and open up into the most beautiful valley meadow a person can picture. In the springtime, when the world is reborn, that meadow is plumb full of wildflowers in bloom, butterflies showing off, birds flying and singing, and the like, all spread out under the biggest, bluest sky you can imagine. It’ll all bring tears to a grown man, and that’s a fact.

Back then the land didn’t rightly belong to nobody except the Indians, buffalo, and grizzly bear. Pa built a right nice log cabin, with a small corral for the horses, and a tilled vegetable garden; worked with a shovel Pa had traded for. There was plenty of game to hunt, once Pa figured out how to hunt it. There were also plenty of vegetables from Ma’s garden. With Pa trading animal pelts and hides for anything else they needed, my folks built a wonderful and special life in those mountains.

A direct result of that special life was me. Ma and Pa figured I was probably one of the very first white children born out west, since they were one of the very first white couples to make that move. We didn’t have any neighbors, only a few Indians ridin’ by now and again. Mostly they were friendly, and if not, they were very respectful of Pa’s flintlock rifle.

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, we’d pack up the horses with Pa’s furs, pelts and hides and travel for about a week south to Fort Granger where they held the Rendezvous. Rendezvous was a gathering of settlers, mountain folks, and Indians for the purpose of trading goods, having numerous competitions such as horse races, foot races, wrestling matches, or sharp shooting; but I think the main purpose was raising hell. Rendezvous could last up to a month, although we normally stayed for only five or six days. Pa would trade his hides and furs for coffee, sugar, flour, salt, and the like.

That gathering was about my only chance to be around other folks; there were even some kids, mostly Indian, near my own age. Now kids bein’ kids, we tended to get into all kinds of mischief; stealing food, stealing liquor, stealing a peek at the ladies that entertained the men at Bell’s Place. Hell, watching the adults, we figured that causing mischief was the main purpose of Rendezvous. As I got older the trouble we got into got more and more interesting; fist fighting, getting drunk and rowdy, and spendin’ some time with those ladies at Bell’s. Yep, I’ve always enjoyed Rendezvous—visiting, trading, and mostly just raising hell.

On the way home after every spring and fall get-together, when I was a youngun, Ma would bring out a peppermint candy cane she’d gotten for me.

“Now if you’re careful, you could make that last all the way home, you know,” she always told me, and I knew she was right. The candy cane lasted about two miles.

Ma was a schoolteacher back in St. Louis, and was downright serious about giving me an education as I grew up. We spent hours sitting beside the creek doing school work when it was good weather. When the weather was bad, and during the winter, we’d sit huddled by the fire to do our studying, using the fire for heat and light. Ma made sure I learned my reading, writing, and arithmetic. I’ve gotta admit, over the years, all three have come in mighty handy a time or two.

I guess I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was small enough to walk under a snake’s belly I was a storyteller. Of course back then I hadn’t lived a whole lot yet, so I had to make up most everything. But as I’ve grown and had some livin’ under my belt, and a few adventures I’ve survived, my stories now are, of course, the gospel truth. Well…mostly.


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