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CAT'S PERRY-THE PRAIRIES - MISSISSIPPI_HARMONY.";
7. L'Pon leaving Albion, I determined to “strike” the road leading to St. Louis, in the State of Missouri, by taking a North-west course of about forty miles across the country, ., The road, or trace as it is more properly called, leading to Cat’s Ferry on the Little Wabash, is through a wild country, and is somewhat difficult to find... For a considerable distance it runs through some beautiful little Prairies, which appear to be very fertile, if one may judge from the lofty stalks of Indian corn, which continue standing, during the winter, round the cabin of occasional settlers. nd Intravelling through these Prairies, every que must be strụck with the vast number of a species of grouse, called “ Prairie Fowls.”: These very much resemble the Scotch grouse, both in colour, and in being feathered to the feet; but are somewhat larger. They differ however in this particular, viz. that when disturbed, they will settle upon a fence or tree, if any be, near. They are delicious eating, and are killed in great numbers by the unrivalled marksmen of this country. After driving up a flock of these birds, the hunter advances within fifteen or twenty paces, raises his
long heavy rifle, and rarely misses striking the bird on the head. I have witnessed over and over again this surprising accuracy, and have fired away numberless pounds of lead in trying to imitate it, but without success. I contented myself therefore with shooting the birds in the body, by which I rather tore and spoilt them. But, however difficult I found it to hit a bird anywhere with a single ball, the Backwoodsmen regarded my unsportsmanlike shooting with as much contempt, as one of our country squires feels, when a cockney shoots at a covey of partridges on the ground.
I have seen at one time, several hundreds of Prairie fowls in a flock. They would afford excellent sport to any one who could procure a smooth-bored gun~ an article, which, unless brought to Albion by the English settlers, is unknown throughout the whole of the Illinois. If a person with this sort of gun were an adept in shooting flying, he might easily kill a hundred birds, or even more, in a day. But shooting flying is an art wholly unknown to the Backwoodsmen. Indeed I have often been amused, when speaking to them upon this subject, to see with what scepticism they have received my accounts, gravely asking me,' whether. I really meant that any one with a double-barrelled gun, could kill two birds on the wing, one after the other.
On these occasions I have been asked, when they discovered what country I belonged to,
whether it were really true, that a man in England might not kill deer, if he found them in a forest. They were much astonished, and seldom gave me full credit, when I told them, that not only a man might not kill deer, but unless he possessed land of a certain value, and were also provided with a license, he could not kill even the partridges and pheasants which lived upon his own wheat. Such flagrant injustice appeared to them impossible; and I was sometimes obliged to explain, that the English game-laws are the remains of a Feudal oppression which formerly punished the killing of a hare by 'death, while homicide could be atoned for by a fine. 1. While I was passing through a point of wood running into one of the Prairies, two racoons, who had come out to enjoy the fine weather, ran up a small tree, so near me, that had I been inclined I could easily have killed them both. These animals are very numerous, and their fine and soft skins are worth about 20 cents (10d.) each.
"I was much amused by a story told me about these skins.“ Money was at one time so scarce in Indiana, that racoon skins passed current, being handed from one person to another. But some Yankees (New Englanders) forged these notes, by sewing a' racoon's tail to a cat's skin, and thus destroyed the currency.” This, like many other good stories about the Yankees, is no doubt a fiction; and was only intended to perpetuate the dislike of the New Englanders, who nevertheless excel all the settlers, in industry, education, civility, and morality.
Į found Fox river quite frozen, except in one place, where the ice had been broken, in order, apparently, that the stream might be forded by some cattle, the marks of whose hoofs were visible upon the snow and earth. I had been told, before leaving Albion, that the ford was a very bad one, , and that I should perhaps have to swim. But, in addition to other difficulties, I found the banks uncommonly steep and slippery. However, as it was getting dark, I made up my mind for an immersion, and was just preparing to plunge in, when three hunters coming out of the wood on my left, shouted out that the river was not fordable. When they came up, they addressed me as usual, with, “ Stranger, where are you going? where did you come from ? &c. &c."Having answered their questions, I began asking them about the ford, the trace, &c. They told me, I could not possibly go that night to Cat's Ferry, as it was twelve miles off, and the pathway very difficult to find, even during day-light, when the “ blazing trees was visible. They added, there was no house
* When a road is first of all made through the woods, and before many
of the trees have been cut down, some one gives every fifth or sixth tree in the intended line, two or three chops, with an axe, which marks are essential to finding the way. This is called “ blazing."
in the whole distance. “ But,” said one of them,
my house is only four miles off, and although it is out of your road, you had better go home with me, or you will lose your way; and you will find sleeping out very unpleasant, as it will freeze sharply to-night." The men who addressed me were all in hunting-shirts, and had with them their rifles, tomahawks, and knives. From this formid, able appearance, I at first almost hesitated to trust myself with them; but upon reflecting that if they intended me any harm, they could shoot me at once and throw me into the river, I perceived the folly of my suspicions. They very civilly helped me to take off my saddle and saddle-bags, which two of them assisted me to carry, till we came to some drift wood, fixed in the ice, and upon which we crossed. The third man remained behind, and when we had returned opposite to the ford, drove in my horse, who swam over, and mounted the bank, though not without some difficulty. The man then went down the river, crossed the driftwood, and joined us.
It was now quite dark, and as I accompanied these men through the belts of wood, and over the Prairies between the river and their house, I could not help reflecting, that they might, without even the possibility of suspicion, dismiss me from this best of all possible worlds, and afterwards appropriate to themselves, my saddle-bags, watch, money, and horse.