MANDY McGOVERN ON MARRIAGE
Our slow travel finally brought us near to the historic forks of the Platte where that shallow stream stretches out two arms, one running to the mountains far to the south, the other still reaching westward for a time. Between these two ran the Oregon Trail, pointing the way to the Pacific, and on this trail, somewhere to the west, lay Laramie. Before us now lay two alternatives. We could go up the beaten road to Laramie, or we could cross here and take an old trail on the north side of the river for a time. Auberry thought this latter would give better feed and water, and perhaps be safer as to Indians, so we held a little council over it.
The Platte even here was a wide, treacherous stream, its sandy bottom continuously shifting. At night the melted floods from the mountains came down and rendered it deeper than during the day, when for the most part it was scarcely more than knee deep. Yet here and there at any time, undiscoverable to the eye, were watery pitfalls where the sand was washed out, and in places there was shifting quicksand, dangerous for man or animal.
“We’ll have to boat across,” said Auberry finally. “We couldn’t get the wagons over loaded.” Wherefore we presently resorted to the old Plains makeshift of calking the wagon bodies and turning them into boats, it being thought probable that two or three days would be required to make the crossing in this way. By noon of the following day our rude boats were ready and our work began.
I was not yet strong enough to be of much assistance, so I sat on the bank watching the busy scene. Our men were stripped to the skin, some of the mountaineers brown almost as Indians, for even in those days white hunters often rode with no covering but the blanket, and not that when the sun was warm. They were now in, now out of the water, straining at the lines which steadied the rude boxes that bore our goods, pulling at the heads of the horses and mules, shouting, steadying, encouraging, always getting forward. It took them nearly an hour to make the first crossing, and presently we could see the fire of their farther camp, now occupied by some of those not engaged in the work.
As I sat thus I was joined by Mandy McGovern, who pulled out her contemplative pipe. “Did you see my boy, Andy Jackson?” she asked. “He went acrost with the first bunch—nary stitch of clothes on to him. He ain’t much thicker’n a straw, but say—he was a-rastlin’ them mules and a-swearin’ like a full-growed man! I certainly have got hopes that boy’s goin’ to come out all right. Say, I heerd him tell the cook this mornin’ he wasn’t goin’ to take no more sass off n him. I has hopes—I certainly has hopes, that Andrew Jackson ’11 kill a man some time yit; and like enough it’ll be right soon.”
I gave my assent to this amiable hope, and presently Mandy went on.