By Don. A Berry
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Additional resources for A Majority of Scoundrels: An Informal History of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company
This was the life of a boatman, taken note of by no less an organization than the United States government, which—while prohibiting all other liquor in the trade—still allowed each boatman four fluid ounces per day of the journey. ) To the voyageur the keelboat was an inert mass, whose sole aim in life was to go downstream. To the patron, in charge of the vessel, it was something else again: a precious treasure, which the river was trying to snatch away from him. The patron had his own problems; his was the responsibility for the boat.
A clumsy, square sail could be hoisted on the mast, and if the wind was at your back you would move, as long as the current wasn’t too stiff. Glance at a map, at the course of the Missouri River, It will give you an idea of how often the wind was from behind, and how long it could be expected to remain there. With every twist and turn of this twisty, turny river you would lose your wind. However, the sail was used whenever possible, and the voyageurs could then afford high spirits for a few miles.
Ashley outfitted two keelboats, the Yellow Stone Packet and The Rocky Mountains, which left St. Louis on March 10, 1823. There was no accompanying land party. Ashley was planning to buy horses and dispatch an overland group at the Aricara villages. A man approaching the Aricaras would probably be doing a little fast figuring, in the wistful hope of being able to predict his reception. To recapitulate their record brielly: 1804 and l806—friendly to Lewis and Clark; 1807—hostile to a party under Manuel Lisa of Missouri Fur; 1811—hospitable to the Astorians; 1816—attacked a party of whites; 1820—attacked and robbed two Missouri Fur Company posts; l822—very friendly to Missouri Fur Company President, Joshua Pilcher, and to Ashley himself.