Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 479 pages of information about Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains.

The turkey-buzzard (vultur aura, or golden vulture), when on the wing, is one of the most specious and imposing of birds.  Its flight in the upper regions of the air is really sublime, extending its immense wings, and wheeling slowly and majestically to and fro, seemingly without exerting a muscle or fluttering a feather, but moving by mere volition, and sailing on the bosom of the air, as a ship upon the ocean.  Usurping the empyreal realm of the eagle, he assumes for a time the port and dignity of that majestic bird, and often is mistaken for him by ignorant crawlers upon the earth.  It is only when he descends from the clouds to pounce upon carrion that he betrays his low propensities, and reveals his caitiff character.  Near at hand he is a disgusting bird, ragged in plumage, base in aspect, and of loathsome odor.

On the 17th of April Mr. Hunt arrived with his party at the station near the Nodowa River, where the main body had been quartered during the winter.

CHAPTER XVI.

     Return of Spring.—­Appearance of Snakes.—­Great Flights of
     Wild Pigeons.—­Renewal of the Voyage.—­Night Encampments.—­
     Platte River.—­Ceremonials on Passing It.—­Signs of Indian
     War Parties.—­Magnificent Prospect at Papillion Creek.—­
     Desertion of Two Hunters.—­An Irruption Into the Camp of
     Indian Desperadoes.—­Village of the Omahas.—­Anecdotes of the
     Tribe.—­Feudal Wars of the Indians.—­Story of Blackbird, the
     Famous Omaha Chief.

The weather continued rainy and ungenial for some days after Mr. Hunt’s return to Nodowa; yet spring was rapidly advancing and vegetation was putting forth with all its early freshness and beauty.  The snakes began to recover from their torpor and crawl forth into day; and the neighborhood of the wintering house seems to have been much infested with them.  Mr. Bradbury, in the course of his botanical researches, found a surprising number in a half torpid state, under flat stones upon the banks which overhung the cantonment, and narrowly escaped being struck by a rattlesnake, which darted at him from a cleft in the rock, but fortunately gave him warning by his rattle.

The pigeons, too, were filling the woods in vast migratory flocks.  It is almost incredible to describe the prodigious flights of these birds in the western wildernesses.  They appear absolutely in clouds, and move with astonishing velocity, their wings making a whistling sound as they fly.  The rapid evolutions of these flocks wheeling and shifting suddenly as if with one mind and one impulse; the flashing changes of color they present, as their backs their breasts, or the under part of their wings are turned to the spectator, are singularly pleasing.  When they alight, if on the ground, they cover whole acres at a time; if upon trees, the branches often break beneath their weight.  If suddenly startled while feeding in the midst of a forest, the noise they make in getting on the wing is like the roar of a cataract or the sound of distant thunder.

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Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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