Skip to main content

Wednesday Evening, June 10


Textual Feature Appearance
Whitman's hand blue double overline and underline
Highlighting yellow background with top and bottom border
Paste-on gray box with black borders
Laid in white box with black borders
Erasure white text with dark gray background
Overwritten brown with strikethrough
[begin surface 1] [begin surface 2]

Carrying the Mails to California.

The proposals for carrying the mails to California overland have been received but no decision has yet been made. There are propositions for two routes. The Northerly one starts from two points—St. Louis and Memphis—and passes southwesterly, uniting at some convenient place, through Missouri, Kansas, the Indian Territory, and the Northern portion of Texas, as far south as the 35th parallel, and crossing the mountains nearly on that parellel, bears northwesterly to San Francisco. St. Louis is about 38 1-2 deg. and San Francisco 37 1-2 north latitude. The other route starts from New Orleans and passes through Texas, the Gadsden Purchase portion of New Mexico, by way of El Paso, to San Diego on the Pacific, and thence to San Francisco.

The contractors who propose for the Northern or rather Central route, represent, it is understood, the great Express Companies of the Country, and embody undoubted pecuniary responsibility, energy, and experience for the successful performance of the service.

The general opinion seems to be that the Northern route is the best.

The old-fashioned keel-boats and keel-boatmen have, of course, almost disappeared with steamboating.—Still they are occasionally to be seen West, North, on the streams of Kanada, &c

[begin surface 3]

brought the other to the shoulder, and bending down upon it, his face nearly to the plank, exerted all his force against the boat, treading it from under him." While those on one side were thus passing down in line to the stern, those on the other, having faced about, were passing up toward the bow, drawing their poles floating on the water. One man always stood leisurely steering, astraddle of the oar; and generally, some one of the men might have been seen on the deck, sawing away upon a fiddle, with as much energy as if he were scalping an Indian. In this way, they would walk up the whole length of the Mississippi.

The keel-boatmen kept their rifles constantly within reach. They were the most athletic, restless, and reckless set of men the country ever produced. Constantly exposed, they despised danger, and were ready to drop their poles and have a fight, just for the fun of the thing. Going shirtless, wearing nothing but trowsers and hats, they were tanned and swarthy from the head to the waist. They seemed to live and thrive on grog, which they took in a manner peculiar to themselves—first a cup of whisky, and then a cup of river water, mixing it in the stomach. Whoever among them could boast that he had never been whipped, was bound to fight any one that might dare to dispute his superiority. The keel-boatmen were great sticklers for "fair-play," and would permit of no interference with either of the combatants. Their arrival in port was a general jubilee, where hundreds often met together for the noisiest and most outlandish diversions. In their habits, the keel-boatmen were lawless in the extreme, and would set the civil authorities at defiance for days together. Had their numbers increased with the population of the West, they would have endangered the peace of the country; but they went out with the commencement of steam navigation, and have gradually disappeared.

Now and then a "specimen" of the by-gone race of river boatmen, who have mostly settled down to farming, will turn up on the Western steamboats; and on such occasions their propensity to "rough fun" will break out afresh. Some years since, one of them took passage down for New-Orleans, and for several days he seemed quite desponding for want of excitement. At last the boat put into Napoleon, in the State of Arkansas, for supplies. Just at the moment there was a general fight, extending all along in front of the town, which, at that time, consisted of a single grocery. The unhappy passenger, fidgeting about, jerking his feet up and down as if they were touching upon hot bricks, inquired of a spectator: "Stranger, is this 'ere a free fight?" The reply was prompt: "Wall, it ar'. If you want to go in, you needn't stand on ceremony." The passenger went in, and soon after came out again, appearing to be reasonably satisfied. Groping his way on board, his hair half torn out, his coat in tatters, one eye closed up, and several of his teeth knocked into his throat, he sat down on a hen-coop, and soliloquized: "So this is Na-po-le-on, is it? It's jeest the most refreshing place I've seen in many a day."

[cut away]on Kansas, the author presents a[cut away] the present[cut away]

[begin surface 4]
Back to top