Mr. Buck got so completely tired that he threw away his traps. We reached our starting place at O’Neil’s saw-mill after many days of the hardest work, and nearly starved, for we had seen no game on our trip. We found our traps and furs all safe here and as this stream was one of the tributaries of the Mississippi, we decided to make us a boat and float down toward that noted stream. We secured four good boards and built the boat in which we started down the river setting traps and moving at our leisure. We found plenty of fine ducks, two bee trees, and caught some cat-fish with a hook and line we got at the mill. We also caught some otter, and, on a little branch of the river killed two bears, the skin of one of them weighing five pounds. We met a keel boat being poled up the river, and with the last cent of money we possessed bought a little flour of them.
About the first of May we reached Prairie du Chien. Here we were met with some surprise, for Mr. Brisbois said he had heard we were killed or lost. He showed us through his warehouses and pointed out to us the many bales of different kinds of furs he had on hand. He told us we were the best fur handlers he had seen, and paid us two hundred dollars in American gold for what we had. We then stored our traps in the garret of one of his warehouses, which was of stone, two stories and an attic, as we thought of making another trip to this country if all went well.
We now entered our skiff again and went on down the great river till we came to a place nearly opposite Mineral Point, when we gave our boat to a poor settler, and with guns and bundles on our backs took a straight shoot for home on foot. The second day about dark we came in the edge of the town and were seen by a lot of boys who eyed us closely and with much curiosity, for we were dressed in our trapping suits. They followed us, and as we went along the crowd increased so that when we got to Crum. Lloyd’s tavern the door was full of boys’ heads looking at us as if we were a circus. Here we were heartily welcomed, and every body was glad to see us, as they were about to start a company to go in search of their reported murdered friends. It seems a missionary got lost on his way to Prairie La Crosse and had come across our deserted cabin, and when he came in he reported us as no doubt murdered.
I invested all of my hundred dollars in buying eighty acres of good Government land. This was the first $100 I ever had and I felt very proud to be a land owner. I felt a little more like a man now than I had ever felt before, for the money was hard earned and all mine.
Mr. Buck and myself concluded we would try our luck at lead mining for the summer and purchased some mining tools for the purpose. We camped out and dug holes around all summer, getting just about enough to pay our expenses—not a very encouraging venture, for we had lived in a tent and had picked and shoveled and blasted and twisted a windlass hard enough to have earned a good bit of money.