Wednesday, April 20, 2011

James K. Polk's Excellent Adventure

This is the diary that President James K. Polk kept while he and a few of his political opponents from the 1844 election — former President Martin Van Buren, Secretary of State James Buchanan, Sen. Lewis Cass, D-Mich. and Former Sen. Henry Clay, Whig-Ky. — trekked from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. Polk was excited to see the land he recently acquired from the British. He was less excited about who he'd be traveling with.
April 1, 1848 — Independence, Mo. — Our first stop was Matt's General Store. With only $400 to buy our supplies, we tried to get the most for our buck. We left Matt's with 6 oxen, 5 sets of clothing, 100 bullets, 1 spare wagon wheel, axle, and tongue each, 750 lbs of food, and $40 left. Hot dang!

While in Independence, we were advised to bring extra sets of clothing to trade with the Indians. "They're sharp traders, not easily cheated."

“No, that’s the expansionist government's job to cheat the Indians.” Clay said in his snide way. Smug Whig prick.

April 5, 1848 — Kansas River crossing — The river is way too deep to just walk across, so we’re going to have to float the wagon across the river.

Aunt Rebecca — who is travelling with us on another wagon — started complaining to me about waiting for days for the ferry... but she was going to do it. Well, then, stop complaining.

The ferry operators advised us to take the ferry. I don't think so. I'm not shelling out $5 just because you said I should. Besides, I could use the time away from Aunt Rebecca. So, we caulked that shit and floated across the river without incident. That wagon was as solvent as the Independent Treasury.

April 14, 1848 — Fort Kearney — While here, I struck up a conversation with a fort scout. He went on about how there's plenty of game to hunt, but people heading west are hunting for sport. "With so many overlanders, I don't expect it to last more'n a few years." I thought, "Did he just say 'more'n'? Is that even a word?"

April 16, 1848 — Buchanan has typhoid. Don’t care, not stopping.

April 18, 1848 — Van Buren has exhaustion. Most likely just acting out to compete for attention, jealous of typhoid-addled Buchanan.

April 24, 1848 — Chimney Rock — This site would make an excellent tails side of a quarter some day.
Aunt Rebecca telling me that she heard of people running out of food.
"Have you run out of food?"
"No, I'm just saying..."
"Okay, Aunt Rebecca." Can’t imagine this trip with her in my wagon. That would not be pretty.

April 25, 1848 — Was able to start the journey again after a severe blizzard. While snowed in, we had an in depth discussion about the upcoming election. Van Buren is thinking of going again, only for a new party whose platform is against the spread of slavery. Cass says he’s going again too. Buchanan wants me to go for a second term... which... out of the question. I think Buchanan should try again. How bad could he be? "It’s “not his time,” he said. “Maybe in the ‘50s,” he said.

Clay wouldn’t shut up about how his Whigs would take this election and remain a relevant party “for centuries to come.” I don’t know about that, dude.

April 27, 1848 — Van Buren has died. That's what you get for thinking about splitting the Democratic vote in ‘48.

April 29, 1848 — Fort Laramie — I spoke to a Sioux Brave. The Pawnees are his mortal enemy, but he's never killed a white before. As long as the whites leave him alone, he's fine. I didn't have the heart to tell him about fulfilling the whole manifest destiny thing. Awk-ward!
Pretty sure wasn't referring to Pawnee, Ind.
Though their murals are rather offensive, so maybe he was.

I spoke to a woman who had just lost her husband to cholera. She was talking about how she could use some help with some harness if I could spare some time. I pretended that I thought I had heard Van Buren calling me, and I needed to see what he wanted. As I walked away, I remembered that Van Buren just died, like, two days ago. I hoped that I didn't run into that woman again and she didn't ask to meet Van Buren, because that would've been bad. Okay, I admit; dick move on my part.

We rested for a week to get more healthy.

May 8, 1848 — We found an abandoned wagon with an axle. Sweet!

May 11, 1848 — There was a fire in the wagon. No one was hurt, but we lost our spare wheel and wagon tongue. On the plus side, we have our original spare wagon axle, plus the one we found a few days ago.

May 12, 1848 — We were talking about yesterday's fire to a few people in another wagon. While those nitwits Clay and Cass were demonstrating how the wagon caught fire, the wagon caught fire again. We lost our two spare wagon axles.

May 17, 1848 — Independence Rock — Some kid came up to me telling me that he just carved his name on Independence Rock. I thought about laying down the awesome hammer of the Executive Branch, but then I found out his name was Andrew, like my mentor, President Jackson. I miss that dude.

Buchanan carved his name onto the rock. Then Clay came around and carved “is gay” under Buchanan’s name. Yikes, dude. Not cool.

May 20, 1848 — Cass has typhoid.

May 22, 1848 — Distracted by Cass's typhoid, we got on the wrong trail. We lost 2 days, but we're back on track now.

May 25, 1848 — South Pass — An Arapaho told me that there were too many white people nowadays. What am I supposed to say to this? Have some tact, buddy!

May 27, 1848 — Some asshole came by and stole 70 bullets.
I hope he accidentally shoots his dirtbag face off with one of my stolen bullets.

May 29, 1848 — Green River crossing — A Shoshoni told me that there were too many white people nowadays. I don't see what these savages are getting all uppity about. Doesn't he appreciate the Christianity we're bringing to him and his types?

May 30, 1848 — Our tripometer flipped over to 1,000 miles.

June 7, 1848 — Soda Springs — Not much going on here. As we were leaving, I said, "Does anybody want to rest for a bit? Maybe if someone feels like they’re coming down with something?" No one spoke up, so we left.

June 8, 1848 — Buchanan has typhoid. "Didn't I say, just yesterday, that we could rest a Soda Springs if someone was coming down with something? And you said nothing!" He just coughed. What a jerk! In the argument, we lost the trail and lost another 2 days. Seriously, big jerk.

June 13, 1848 — Fort Hall — Aunt Rebecca is glad to be at a fort, because she can buy shit. Her complaint of the day is that there has been "hardly a stick of wood." Man, why doesn't she get typhoid?

We rested for a week, so that everyone could feel better.

June 21, 1848 — Cass has exhaustion. From what? We just took a week off!

June 29, 1848 — One of our wagon wheels broke, and I was unable to fix it, and the spare was destroyed in the fire. We're kind of up the creek.

July 9, 1848 — I traded a set of clothing for 67 bullets. I figure we have an extra set since what's-his-face kicked the bucket.
Right, him.
July 12, 1848 — Someone gave me a wagon wheel for 72 pounds of food. Fine, whatever, I'll take it! We hit the road.

July 14, 1848 — Snake River crossing — Some frantic woman started kvetching at me about how her husband won't use an Indian guide to help them cross the river. Seriously, woman, I don't know you. Please don't get me involved in your family drama, I've got enough of my own shit to worry about. To shut her up, I caulked our wagon and floated it across the river to show her that it would be fine.

It wasn’t fine. It tipped, and we lost three sets of clothing and 35 pounds of food. Oh, and also, Buchanan and Cass drowned.

I found it puzzling that even though we lost two people, we lost three sets of clothes, but Clay emerged from the Snake River as bare-assed as the day he was born. "How the hell did that happen?" I asked. He never really gave me a straight answer. Now we have to alternate who gets to wear the set of clothes.

July 18, 1848 — I went hunting. I bagged a 60 pound deer.

July 19, 1848 — Unhappy with yesterday's hunting, I hunted again. I got a 2 pound squirrel. I hope conditions improve.

July 20, 1848 — Third time's a charm. Two deer totaling 115 pounds.
And they look DELICIOUS!
Unfortunately, Clay and I were able to carry 100 pounds into the wagon. Odd, because the amount of time and energy spent removing those extra 15 pounds from that one carcass probably could have been spent just carrying the whole bodies onto the wagon.

July 22, 1848 — Clay has fever. AND we hit upon an impassable trail, so we just hung around for 4 days. I hope he doesn't think I stopped for him, because I didn't.

July 29, 1848 — Fort Boise — Aunt Rebecca pointed out that supplies get more expensive the further west we get. Someone needs to introduce Aunt Rebecca to the works of Scottish economist Adam Smith and the fundamentals of capitalism. I was going to go into a whole spiel about demand-push and cost-pull inflation, but I honestly believe those concept to be too much for dumb Aunt Rebecca to handle.

Someone ought to introduce Aunt Rebecca's backside to a boot.

July 30, 1848 — A thief stole 67 bullets. "Ironically," Clay pointed out "a different 67 bullets than the ones we got in that trade three weeks ago." I don't know how many times I have to go through the differences between irony and coincidence with this guy.

I went hunting. I again was effed by the 100 pound limit.
The 135-pound bear looks smaller than the 65-pound deer.
August 7, 1848 — Some jerk stole 78 pounds of food. How is it possible that one person can quietly make off with 78 pounds of food without anyone noticing, yet I can only take in 100 pounds per day from hunting?

August 9, 1848 — The Blue Mountains — Yeah, they're pretty. I’m so sick of being in this wagon that I can’t really drudge up any enthusiasm.

August 16, 1848 — The Dalles — So, this is it. Oregon City is just a float down the Columbia River. We rested a week before that whole deal. 

August 23, 1848 — We made it! Well... let me explain.
The riverside was surprisingly bare and there seemed to be this strange, pixelated aura surrounding our wagon.
The float was going very well up until I saw the trail to Willamette Valley. So I got the wagon over there, but then a rock came out of nowhere and hit the wagon. I lost 2 oxen, 8 bullets, and 7 pounds of food. I suppose I should also mention that Clay drowned — taking the last set of clothing with him.

But we made it. Or, I should say, I made it. Completely naked, with 2 oxen, five bullets and 53 pounds of food.
BLOGGER'S NOTE: Polk was killed in a saloon gunfight the following June.

But he's back and he's facing Truman this week in the arena. Mosey on over there and vote for who you think will win.

No comments:

Post a Comment