Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Wild Tales and Lies:

During the long winter nights, and evenings around the campfire, one of the favorite forms of entertainment amongst the Mountain Men was storytelling. The story teller was granted license to stretch the truth in any way so long as the story was interesting.  To have a reputation among mountain men as a "Liar" was an extreme complement.  Jim Beckwourth  was such an accomplished storyteller that he was known as the "Gaudy Liar."  However, the lives of the Mountain Men were so extraordinary that it isn't necessary to stretch reality in any way. Below is a collection of real-life stories of the Mountain Men.  

Tale of the Three “Bar”s; Joe Meek and John Hawkins go hunting Griz.

Beating Off a Griz: Two trappers accidentally switch guns and end up clubing off an angry Grizzly.

White-Man-Who-Scalps-Himself; an apparently mentally unbalanced white man startles Indians at Bents Fort.

Whitewater Adventure, or Just How Thick is Yer Skin:  Three mountain men lose everything while on their way to rendezvous.

Caught with His Pants Down;  Lucien Fontenelle distinguishes himself for speed of foot in outrunning a grizzly bear.

Colter’s Run;  John Colter's race for life with a band of Blackfoot Indians.  

Hunting Antelope by Smell;  Jim Beckwourth astonishes his army commander with his ability to hunt by smell.  

Walker's Plunge:  A Mountain Man's experience whilst bathing in the Humboldt River.  

Sound Sleepers:  A Mountain Man is ever alert for dangers in the night (except when sleeping soundly).

Crucified by Prickly Pears:  A Mountain Man is thrown from his horse into a large patch of prickly pears. 

Attack on the Yellowstone:  Osborne Russell and three other men are attacked by a Blackfoot war party near Yellowstone Lake. 

The Death of William Vanderburg:  A commercial game of "cat and mouse" played between fur brigades of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and the American Fur Company turns deadly when a Blackfoot War Party is encountered.  

"Blackfoot" John Smith gets his nickname.  

Counting Pawnee.  How a pursuit on foot turns into a rout. 

Marie's Grizz Encounter.  Marie, barely escapes with his life after wounding a grizzly bear.   

The Death of Drouillard.  George Drouillard, the most reliable hunter accompanying the Lewis and Clark Expedition, meets his end trying to wrest a fortune in beaver furs from the streams near the headwaters of the Missouri River.

Doc Newell Takes a Scalp.  Doc Newell has unexpected difficulties in taking the scalp of a Blackfoot warrior.  

Blackfoot Attack against the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company.  This is a description of one of the attacks by Blackfoot Indians against the Company in 1810.  

Joe Meek Rescues His Woman.  Joe Meek and six mountain men rescue Umentucken from twelve crow warriors.  

Disputing Courage:   Joe Meek and Stanberry disagree over which is the bravest and how the dispute is settled when a wounded Grizzly appears in camp.  

A Church Service for the Mountain Men:  Samuel Parker attempts to preach to a party of Mountain Men after the break-up of the 1835 Rendezvous. 

Joe Meek Stands Guard Duty:  Quick thinking by Joe Meek and his partner earns them credit for vigilance instead of a punishment. 

Jim Bridger Leads by Example:  Bridger's misfortune is thrown back at him when he tries to chastise one of his men.  

Fitzpatrick's Blackfoot Adventure:  Thomas Fitzpatrick plays hide-and-seek with Blackfoot warriors before finally making his escape. 

Edward Rose Battles the Blackfoot Indians.  In a skirmish between the Crow Indians and their Blackfoot enemies, Edward Rose turns the tide in favor of his adopted people.

Hunting Buffalo and Chased by Pawnee.  Matt Field records a misunderstanding in which the hunters become the hunted on Sir William Drummond Stewart's 1843 Rendezvous. 

Tricked into Eating Dogmeat.  Lewis Garrard is tricked into eating dogmeat and admitting he likes it by "Blackfoot" John Smith.

John Hatcher Goes to Hell and Meets the Old Gentleman:  This is a mountain man tall tale as told by John Hatcher to Lewis Garrard in 1847.  

Moses "Black" Harris and the "Putrified Forest":  This is a mountain man tall tale related by George Frederick Ruxton in Life in the Far West.

Old Bill Williams Blackfoot Adventure:  Bill Williams describes a story of an encounter with Blackfoot Indians while visiting his relations back in Missouri.  In Old Bill Williams: Mountain Man.  

Sled Dogs Gone Wild:  Sled Dogs decide they would rather chase buffalo and give their passenger an unexpected thrill.  

Coffee Joke: Henry Boller, trader to the Gros Ventre Indians plays a gentle joke on his tiresome visitors.

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