we move into the Holiday Season it’s always fun to see what would one
eat in times when there was shortages of game to be found by our
Here are a few comments by some famous mountaineers.
John R. Bell, on the Arkansas River in 1820, complained that "Our hunters came in having killed a skunk, which we must keep for our dinner tomorrow." The next day "boiled the skunk, which tasted skunkish enough..." Joe Meek had similar remarks for eating polecats..."
George F. Ruxton wrote "meat’s meat, is a common saying in the mountains", and "from buffalo down to rattle- snake, including quadruped that runs, every fowl that flies and every reptile that creeps, nothing comes amiss to the mountaineer.
Moses Schallenberger was snowbound in the Sierra Mountains in 1844, he wrote after trapping a coyote. "I soon had his hide off and his flesh roasted in a dutch oven. I ate this meat but it was horrible. I next tried boiling him, but it did not improve the flavor. I cooked him in every possible manner of my imagination, spurred by hunger could suggest, but could not be eaten without revolting my stomach." On another occasion he wrote of catching two foxes, roasted one and found "the meat, though entirely devoid of fat, was delicious."
Lewis & Clark remarked "on October 2, 1805, nothing except a small prairie wolf killed that day" they did not comment as to the flavor. Merriweather Lewis’s journal entry of June 3, 1806 states "our party from necessity having been obliged to subsist some length of time on dog have now become extremely fond of their flesh; it is worthy of remark that while we lived principally on the flesh of this animal we were much more healthy and more fleshy than we had been since we left buffalo country...."
Charles Larpenteaur wrote of nothing but dog to eat, which the squaws cooked. Some of the group cried out "Mad Dog! Mad Dog! sure enough, he did look like a mad dog; his head sticking partly out of the kettle, with his fine ivories, growling as it were, and the scum was frothing about his teeth...."
James Clyman while camped on the Sweetwater River in 1825 became separated from his companions, he wrote "after having killed two badgers, I skinned and roasted them, making a suitable meal with parched corn..."
Thomas Becknell while on the Santa Fe Trail in 1821 wrote "I killed one small prairie dog, roasted it, but found it strong and unpalatable..."
Rev. Samuel Parker said "that while flesh of the beaver was usable, the fore part is of a land animal while the hind part is of the taste of fish like..."
Joseph R. Walker and his party considered all eggs edible regardless of their age or condition, embryos well deve- loped, and small birds only a few days old, would be cut into small pieces and used in soup or stews. The same group had a feast with Indians on the Sierra Nevada range to find that "pounded fish was really not fish but worms, which suddenly was rejected by our stomachs when found out..."
Buck G. Connor’s journal stated that "ants and snakes when cleaned and roasted were eaten with flour cakes for evening meals while in the employment of the Mexican Army...." and "was probably one of the better meals available at the time" a reporter for the hometown newspaper, the Phila. Evening News wrote.
Joe Meek wrote of the Indians of the Great Salt Lake area pulverized grasshoppers which they mixed with a jam of service-berries and dried in the sun to form a "fruitcake". "Fried grasshoppers, caterpillars, wood-boring beetles, termites and spider bodies were disguised in stews." "Rattlesnake was occasionally eaten by these people as a special treat.." Nuts; hazel, walnut, pinion and acorn were favorites of these travelers.
William Ashley’s journal of May 28, 1824 records that "during the last two days we have lived on fish we caught with hooks and lines..." Hooks and lines were often mentioned on lists of supplies by traders.
John C. Fremont, Benjamin Kern and Jed Smith have written of eating "mule meat, making minced boiled mule meat pies for New Year’s treat... and mentioned that the pies were very good..."