Monday, September 26, 2011

A Man Called “Blake”

It was 1808.  John Henderson Blake had been the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark expedition when the epic journey began and barely more than a teenager when he caught his first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.  The 4 years that he spent out west had made a deep impression on him.  And even though he was only 5’2”, “Short Blake” as he was now known, was as tough as nails, a true “Mountain Man” with all of the strength and skills required to face the rigors of the west. 

He had been restlessly knocking around in St. Louis ever since his return just 2 years earlier unable to readapt to the ways of civilized life.  He looked forward to the day when he could return to the west that he loved. 

His chance came when he encountered a small group of fur traders headed west.  They had been looking for an experienced guide to help them locate the best beaver trapping regions.  “Short Blake” seemed like the best choice.  After packing all of the required supplies onto the backs of their pack animals, the group set off for the west with John Henderson Blake in the lead.  Blake’s in-depth knowledge of the terrain and many indigenous native tribes was invaluable in protecting their lives.

Months passed and after the group had successfully harvested more than enough furs to pay for their trip, they discussed returning to St. Lewis.  Blake, who by now had located an attractive young Pawnee wife, decided to stay right where he was and “put down roots”.  The rest of the group packed up to leave but promised to return with Blake’s share of the profits the following spring.

As they had promised, when warm weather returned, the trappers returned with 2 pack mules of blankets and other trade goods for Blake.  But when they arrived they were greeted not by Blake, as they expected, but by his wife.  As it turns out, the winter had been particularly harsh in the mountains and, regrettably, Blake had become very sick.  Her English was not very good but she did manage to explain what had happened. 

She said, “Squaw bury Short Blake.”

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