Carson’s Visit to his Childhood’s Home.—On the Steamer.—Introduction to Fremont.—Object of Fremont’s Expedition.—Joins the Expedition.—Organization of the Party.—The Encampment.—Enchanting View.—Fording the Kansas.—The Stormy Night.—The Boys on Guard.—The Alarm.—The Returning Trappers.—The Homeless Adventurer.—Three Indians Join the Party.—First Sight of the Buffaloes.—The Chase.
When the caravan, with which Kit Carson travelled as a passenger from Fort Bent, arrived within the boundaries of Missouri, he left his companions and, with his little daughter, turned aside to visit the home of his childhood. He had, as we have mentioned, been absent from that home for sixteen years. Time, death, and the progress of civilization had wrought, in that region, what seemed to him fearful ravages. One of his biographers writes:
“The scenes of his boyhood days he found to be magically changed. New faces met him on all sides. The old log cabin where his father and mother had resided, was deserted and its dilapidated walls were crumbling with decay. The once happy inmates were scattered over the face of the earth, while many of their voices were hushed in death. Kit Carson felt himself a stranger in a strange land. The strong man wept. His soul could not brook either the change or the ways of the people. While he failed not to receive kindness and hospitality from the noble hearted Missourians, nevertheless he had fully allayed his curiosity and, as soon as possible, he bade adieu to these unpleasant recollections.
“He bent his steps towards St. Louis. In this city he remained ten days. As it was the first time, since he had reached manhood, that he had viewed a town of any magnitude, he was greatly interested. But ten days of sight-seeing wearied him. He resolved to return to his mountain home, where he could breathe the pure air of Heaven and where manners and customs conformed to his wild life and were more congenial to his tastes. He engaged a passage on the first steamboat which was bound up the Missouri river.”
Kit Carson was instinctively a student. In whatever situation he was placed he was ever endeavoring to learn something new. He was also always drawn, by constitutional taste and preference towards men of culture, and high moral worth. On board the steamer, he found himself almost a perfect stranger. Though a small man in frame, modest and unobtrusive, there was something in his kindly handsome face and winning manners, which invariably attracted attention. As he quietly wandered over the boat, studying its machinery, the discipline of the crew and the faces of his fellow passengers, he found himself irresistibly drawn towards one whose countenance and dignified bearing indicated that he was decidedly above most of those on board.
It is said that “the eagle eye, the forehead, the form, the movements, the general features, the smile, the quiet dignity of the man, each and all these attributes of his manhood had been carefully noted by the wary and hardy mountaineer, and had not failed to awaken in his breast a feeling of admiration and respect.”