The last time we checked in with Mr. Johnson, he was in the middle of his cross-country trek and was keeping a watchful eye out for wild animals.

I’m afraid our “read-along” of Mr. Johnson’s story is taking longer than it took him to drive with his horse & wagon, and his cow and dog, from California to Maine, but we’ll keep checking in with him to make sure he makes it all the way to the East Coast.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, or if you’d like to refresh your memory, click on “Mr. Johnson’s Trek” in the blog-topics list at the right of this page to find all the previous posts.


“The last day of May [1883], the 31st, I was up early, as usual, getting ready to strike out. At six o’clock I left the camp and at eight I made the mountain’s base on the left, traveling east, I came to a stop. I left my cattle and ascended the mountain, when about half-way up I stopped hesitating, but walked to the summit. Beyond I could see a great distance. Here my imagination carried me home. Well, here I am; my cattle are yonder at the base.

“I went back to them, saying to the horse, ‘Fanny, can you make this mountain? I think you can, but you will have to work smart to do it.’ My weight is about 600 pounds in all. ‘Fanny,’ I said, ‘you can’t take it all at once; we must make two loads of it.’ I took the grain from the carriage and left it at the foot of the hill. I did not leave the cow, knowing that she is good at going up hills, her halter being at all times slack. The horse succeeded in drawing up the load after a hard pull; then we returned for the grain, taking the cow back with us to act as a brake on going down the hill. I then re-loaded the grain and took up the second load; this is the worst hill I have traveled so far on my journey — if there are any mountains in Wyoming this must be one of them. In journeying from the east, this hill is not near so hard as from the west.

“It was just twelve at noon as we made the summit the last time. I gave the cattle some grain and when they had finished eating went on further, and about two o’clock we came to a small creek at an opportune time, as the cattle were very thirsty and they drank freely. Going on, we traveled a good down grade, with a tip-top trail, crowding along as fast as we could. In fact, today I am feeling well.

“As I traveled along I saw smoke in front of us and I am sure the horse saw it also, as she pricked her ears until we came to a camp, where I stopped and inquired if there was any water near by, how they had come and where they made camp last night, and if there were any rivers to ford? I ask such questions whenever I meet such trains of travelers. This company consisted of five wagons, twelve horses, four tents, and twenty-two persons, hailing from Kansas, on their way to Oregon. ‘Where are you from and where are you going?’ asked the strangers. ‘I am from California, going east,’ I replied. ‘What, don’t you like California, stranger?’ ‘Yes, but I like the East much better,’ I answered. ‘That beats the devil; ain’t you just a little crazy?’ ‘No, not much,’ I said. ‘You have not brought that cow from California, have you?’ ‘No, I have not brought her a step, I have led her all the way as you now see,’ I remarked. ‘Ha, ha-ha!’ laughed the stranger. ‘I’ll bet you are a Yankee.’ ‘Yes, I am.’ ‘Here, come with me.’ I went with him to his wagon, there he took out a small barrel that would hold about a gallon, took out the stopple and drank, I should think as much as a point, and then handed it to me, saying, ‘Drink, Yankee, drink; it will do you good. I have plenty more.’ I took it and drank three small swallows, and handed it back to the man, he taking another drink, and then handed it to me again, but I refused to drink any more. I then said, ‘I will stop here overnight if you will allow me to do so?’ ‘Yes, stranger, stop with us overnight. I will find the whisky.’ ‘I will milk the cow and we will have some good coffee, that will be better than whisky,’ I answered.

“It is now about six o’clock, rather early to go into camp, but we will make it up tomorrow. ‘Where is the water?’ I asked. ‘You can have some of ours, we carry it in a barrel and don’t intend to be without; we keep the barrels full. This we got at Platt River; we were in camp there last night and came from there today.’ ‘About how many miles have you made today?’ I asked. ‘About twenty miles.’ I gave my cattle water and grain, remarking that it was getting low, half gone, but it must last until I reach Laramie, as there is none to be bought this side of that place. The teamster said it was not so, [but that] I could get grain where I should cross the river, which I would reach tomorrow. ‘Then you will follow the river to the bridge, just put up by Uncle Sam, and beyond the bridge you will come to a store. There you can get grain, flour, bacon, tea, coffee, sugar, and all the whisky you want.’ ‘When in Green River city, I was told that I would have to take grain that would last me till I reached Laramie, and you say that I can get grain after crossing the river?’ ‘Yes, all you want.’ ‘I bought enough to last me to Laramie. Had I known that I could buy more, it would have saved me hauling it this distance. I will feed my cattle a little more. How many days have you been coming from Laramie?’ I asked. ‘Left Laramie on the 24th, eight days,’ answered the stranger. ‘About how many miles, think you?’ ‘About one hundred and forty. We ought to travel about twenty miles a day, but our first day out, we only traveled to the river.’ ‘What river?’ I asked. ‘I do not know the name.’ ‘I want some hot coffee and want to go to bed, as I desire to start early in the morning and make that store.’ ‘Oh, let your coffee go, take a drink of whisky, that will do you some good,’ said the stranger. ‘Friend, I am not in the habit of taking such strong stuff; it does us no good, you must excuse me.’ ‘Yes, I will, but stranger, I tell you that you had better get some whisky when you get to the store; it will help you along so much easier. You have got a hard road before you; you have got to cross what will make you quail.’ ‘Friend, I am alone and must keep my head clear, it will not do for me to meddle with that whisky much.’ ‘Well, we will go to bed and get up early in the morning for a good, early start.’ Securing my cattle, I went to bed.”

[to be continued …]