Here was a change in my life as complete as it had been sudden. In the twinkling of an eye I was transformed from a sailor into a “beach-comber” and a hide-curer; yet the novelty and the comparative independence of the life were not unpleasant. Our hide-house was a large building, made of rough boards, and intended to hold forty thousand hides. In one corner of it a small room was parted off, in which four berths were made, where we were to live, with mother earth for our floor. It contained a table, a small locker for pots, spoons, plates, &c., and a small hole cut to let in the light. Here we put our chests, threw our bedding into the berths, and took up our quarters. Over our heads was another small room, in which Mr. Russell lived, who had charge of the hide-house, the same man who was for a time an officer of the Pilgrim. There he lived in solitary grandeur, eating and sleeping alone (and these were his principal occupations), and communing with his own dignity. The boy, a Marblehead hopeful, whose name was Sam, was to act as cook; while I, a giant of a Frenchman named Nicholas, and four Sandwich–Islanders were to cure the hides. Sam, Nicholas, and I lived together in the room, and the four Sandwich–Islanders worked and ate with us, but generally slept at the oven. My new messmate, Nicholas, was the most immense man that I had ever seen. He came on the coast in a vessel which was afterwards wrecked, and now let himself out to the different houses to cure hides. He was considerably over six feet, and of a frame so large that he might have been shown for a curiosity. But the most remarkable thing about him was his feet. They were so large that he could not find a pair of shoes in California to fit him, and was obliged to send to Oahu for a pair; and when he got them, he was compelled to wear them down at the heel. He told me once that he was wrecked in an American brig on the Goodwin Sands, and was sent up to London, to the charge of the American consul, with scant clothing to his back and no shoes to his feet, and was obliged to go about London streets in his stocking-feet three or four days, in the month of January, until the consul could have a pair of shoes made for him. His strength was in proportion to his size, and his ignorance to his strength — “strong as an ox, and ignorant as strong.” He knew how neither to read nor to write. He had been to sea from a boy, had seen all kinds of service, and been in all sorts of vessels — merchantmen, men-of-war, privateers, and slavers; and from what I could gather from his accounts of himself, and from what he once told me, in confidence, after we had become better acquainted, he had been in even worse business than slave-trading. He was once tried for his life in Charleston, South Carolina, and, though acquitted, was so frightened that he never would show himself in the United States again. I was not able to persuade him that he could not be tried a second time for the same offence. He said he had got safe off from the breakers, and was too good a sailor to risk his timbers again.
Though I knew what his life had been, yet I never had the slightest fear of him. We always got along very well together, and, though so much older, stronger, and larger than I, he showed a marked respect for me, on account of my education, and of what he had heard of my situation before coming to sea, such as may be expected from a European of the humble class. “I’ll be good friends with you,” he used to say, “for by and by you’ll come out here captain, and then you’ll haze me well!” By holding together, we kept the officer in good order, for he was evidently afraid of Nicholas, and never interfered with us, except when employed upon the hides. My other companions, the Sandwich–Islanders, deserve particular notice.
A considerable trade has been carried on for several years between California and the Sandwich Islands, and most of the vessels are manned with Islanders, who, as they for the most part sign no articles, leave whenever they chose, and let themselves out to cure hides at San Diego, and to supply the places of the men left ashore from the American vessels while on the coast. In this way a little colony of them had become settled at San Diego, as their head-quarters. Some of these had recently gone off in the Ayacucho and Loriotte, and the Pilgrim had taken Mr. Mannini and three others, so that there were not more than twenty left. Of these, four were on pay at the Ayacucho’s house, four more working with us, and the rest were living at the oven in a quiet way; for their money was nearly gone, and they must make it last until some other vessel came down to employ them.
During the four months that I lived here, I got well acquainted with all of them, and took the greatest pains to become familiar with their language, habits, and characters. Their language I could only learn orally, for they had not any books among them, though many of them had been taught to read and write by the missionaries at home. They spoke a little English, and, by a sort of compromise, a mixed language was used on the beach, which could be understood by all. The long name of Sandwich–Islanders is dropped, and they are called by the whites, all over the Pacific Ocean, “Kanakas,” from a word in their own language — signifying, I believe, man, human being — which they apply to themselves, and to all South–Sea-Islanders, in distinction from whites, whom they call “Haole.” This name, “Kanaka,” they answer to, both collectively and individually. Their proper names in their own language being difficult to pronounce and remember, they are called by any names which the captains or crews may choose to give them. Some are called after the vessel they are in; others by our proper names, as Jack, Tom, Bill; and some have fancy names, as Ban-yan, Fore-top, Rope-yarn, Pelican, &c., &c. Of the four who worked at our house, one was named “Mr. Bingham,” after the missionary at Oahu; another, Hope, after a vessel that he had been in; a third, Tom Davis, the name of his first captain; and the fourth, Pelican, from his fancied resemblance to that bird. Then there was Lagoda–Jack, California–Bill, &c., &c. But by whatever names they might be called, they were the most interesting, intelligent, and kind-hearted people that I ever fell in with. I felt a positive attachment for almost all of them; and many of them I have, to this day, a feeling for, which would lead me to go a great way for the pleasure of seeing them, and which will always make me feel a strong interest in the mere name of a Sandwich–Islander.
Tom Davis knew how to read, write, and cipher in common arithmetic; had been to the United States, and spoke English quite well. His education was as good as that of three quarters of the Yankees in California, and his manners and principles a good deal better; and he was so quick of apprehension that he might have been taught navigation, and the elements of many of the sciences, with ease. Old “Mr. Bingham” spoke very little English — almost none, and could neither read nor write; but he was the best-hearted old fellow in the world. He must have been over fifty years of age. He had two of his front teeth knocked out, which was done by his parents as a sign of grief at the death of Kamehameha, the great king of the Sandwich Islands. We used to tell him that he ate Captain Cook, and lost his teeth in that way. That was the only thing that ever made him angry. He would always be quite excited at that, and say: “Aole!” (No.) “Me no eatee Cap’nee Cook! Me pickaninny — small — so high — no more! My fader see Cap’nee Cook! Me — no!” None of them liked to have anything said about Captain Cook, for the sailors all believe that he was eaten, and that they cannot endure to be taunted with. “New Zealand Kanaka eatee white man; Sandwich Island Kanaka — no. Sandwich Island Kanaka ua like pu na haole — all ‘e same a’ you!”
Mr. Bingham was a sort of patriarch among them, and was treated with great respect, though he had not the education and energy which gave Mr. Mannini his power over them. I have spent hours in talking with this old fellow about Kamehameha, the Charlemagne of the Sandwich Islands; his son and successor, Riho Riho, who died in England, and was brought to Oahu in the frigate Blonde, Captain Lord Byron, and whose funeral he remembered perfectly; and also about the customs of his boyhood, and the changes which had been made by the missionaries. He never would allow that human beings had been eaten there; and, indeed, it always seemed an insult to tell so affectionate, intelligent, and civilized a class of men that such barbarities had been practised in their own country within the recollection of many of them. Certainly, the history of no people on the globe can show anything like so rapid an advance from barbarism. I would have trusted my life and all I had in the hands of any one of these people; and certainly, had I wished for a favor or act of sacrifice, I would have gone to them all, in turn, before I should have applied to one of my own countrymen on the coast, and should have expected to see it done, before my own countrymen had got half through counting the cost. Their customs, and manner of treating one another, show a simple, primitive generosity which is truly delightful, and which is often a reproach to our own people. Whatever one has they all have. Money, food, clothes, they share with one another, even to the last piece of tobacco to put in their pipes. I once heard old Mr. Bingham say, with the highest indignation, to a Yankee trader who was trying to persuade him to keep his money to himself, “No! we no all ‘e same a’ you! — Suppose one got money, all got money. You — suppose one got money — lock him up in chest. — No good!”— “Kanaka all ‘e same a’ one!” This principle they carry so far that none of them will eat anything in sight of others without offering it all round. I have seen one of them break a biscuit, which had been given him, into five parts, at a time when I knew he was on a very short allowance, as there was but little to eat on the beach.
My favorite among all of them, and one who was liked by both officers and men, and by whomever he had anything to do with, was Hope. He was an intelligent, kind-hearted little fellow, and I never saw him angry, though I knew him for more than a year, and have seen him imposed upon by white people, and abused by insolent mates of vessels. He was always civil, and always ready, and never forgot a benefit. I once took care of him when he was ill, getting medicines from the ship’s chests, when no captain or officer would do anything for him, and he never forgot it. Every Kanaka has one particular friend, whom he considers himself bound to do everything for, and with whom he has a sort of contract — an alliance offensive and defensive — and for whom he will often make the greatest sacrifices. This friend they call aikane; and for such did Hope adopt me. I do not believe I could have wanted anything which he had, that he would not have given me. In return for this, I was his friend among the Americans, and used to teach him letters and numbers; for he left home before he had learned how to read. He was very curious respecting Boston (as they called the United States), asking many questions about the houses, the people, &c., and always wished to have the pictures in books explained to him. They were all astonishingly quick in catching at explanations, and many things which I had thought it utterly impossible to make them understand they often seized in an instant, and asked questions which showed that they knew enough to make them wish to go farther. The pictures of steamboats and railroad cars, in the columns of some newspapers which I had, gave me great difficulty to explain. The grading of the road, the rails, the construction of the carriages, they could easily understand, but the motion produced by steam was a little too refined for them. I attempted to show it to them once by an experiment upon the cook’s coppers, but failed — probably as much from my own ignorance as from their want of apprehension, and, I have no doubt, left them with about as clear an idea of the principle as I had myself. This difficulty, of course, existed in the same force with respect to the steamboats; and all I could do was to give them some account of the results, in the shape of speed; for, failing in the reason, I had to fall back upon the fact. In my account of the speed, I was supported by Tom, who had been to Nantucket, and seen a little steamboat which ran over to New Bedford. And, by the way, it was strange to hear Tom speak of America, when the poor fellow had been all the way round Cape Horn and back, and had seen nothing but Nantucket.
A map of the world, which I once showed them, kept their attention for hours; those who knew how to read pointing out the places and referring to me for the distances. I remember being much amused with a question which Hope asked me. Pointing to the large, irregular place which is always left blank round the poles, to denote that it is undiscovered, he looked up and asked, “Pau?” (Done? ended?)
The system of naming the streets and numbering the houses they easily understood, and the utility of it. They had a great desire to see America, but were afraid of doubling Cape Horn, for they suffer much in cold weather, and had heard dreadful accounts of the Cape from those of their number who had been round it.
They smoke a great deal, though not much at a time, using pipes with large bowls, and very short stems, or no stems at all. These they light, and, putting them to their mouths, take a long draught, getting their mouths as full as they can hold of smoke, and their cheeks distended, and then let it slowly out through their mouths and nostrils. The pipe is then passed to others, who draw in the same manner — one pipe-full serving for half a dozen. They never take short, continuous draughts, like Europeans, but one of these “Oahu puffs,” as the sailors call them, serves for an hour or two, until some one else lights his pipe, and it is passed round in the same manner. Each Kanaka on the beach had a pipe, flint, steel, tinder, a hand of tobacco, and a jack-knife, which he always carried about with him.1
That which strikes a stranger most peculiarly is their style of singing. They run on, in a low, guttural, monotonous sort of chant, their lips and tongues seeming hardly to move, and the sounds apparently modulated solely in the throat. There is very little tune to it, and the words, so far as I could learn, are extempore. They sing about persons and things which are around them, and adopt this method when they do not wish to be understood by any but themselves; and it is very effectual, for with the most careful attention I never could detect a word that I knew. I have often heard Mr. Mannini, who was the most noted improvisatore among them, sing for an hour together, when at work in the midst of Americans and Englishmen; and, by the occasional shouts and laughter of the Kanakas, who were at a distance, it was evident that he was singing about the different men that he was at work with. They have great powers of ridicule, and are excellent mimics, many of them discovering and imitating the peculiarities of our own people before we had observed them ourselves.
These were the people with whom I was to spend a few months, and who, with the exception of the officer, Nicholas, the Frenchman, and the boy, made the whole population of the beach. I ought, perhaps, to except the dogs, for they were an important part of our settlement. Some of the first vessels brought dogs out with them, who, for convenience, were left ashore, and there multiplied, until they came to be a great people. While I was on the beach, the average number was about forty, and probably an equal, or greater, number are drowned, or killed in some other way, every year. They are very useful in guarding the beach, the Indians being afraid to come down at night; for it was impossible for any one to get within half a mile of the hide-houses without a general alarm. The father of the colony, old Sachem, so called from the ship in which he was brought out, died while I was there, full of years, and was honorably buried. Hogs and a few chickens were the rest of the animal tribe, and formed, like the dogs, a common company, though they were all known, and usually fed at the houses to which they belonged.
I had been but a few hours on the beach, and the Pilgrim was hardly out of sight, when the cry of “Sail ho!” was raised, and a small hermaphrodite brig rounded the point, bore up into the harbor, and came to anchor. It was the Mexican brig Fazio, which we had left at San Pedro, and which had come down to land her tallow, try it all over, and make new bags, and then take it in and leave the coast. They moored ship, erected their try-works on shore, put up a small tent, in which they all lived, and commenced operations. This addition gave a change and variety to our society, and we spent many evenings in their tent, where, amid the Babel of English, Spanish, French, Indian, and Kanaka, we found some words that we could understand in common.
The morning after my landing, I began the duties of hide-curing. In order to understand these, it will be necessary to give the whole history of a hide, from the time it is taken from a bullock until it is put on board the vessel to be carried to Boston. When the hide is taken from the bullock, holes are cut round it, near the edge, by which it is staked out to dry. In this manner it dries without shrinking. After the hides are thus dried in the sun, and doubled with the skin out, they are received by the vessels at the different ports on the coast, and brought down to the depot at San Diego. The vessels land them, and leave them in large piles near the houses. Then begins the hide-curer’s duty.
The first thing is to put them in soak. This is done by carrying them down at low tide, and making them fast, in small piles, by ropes, and letting the tide come up and cover them. Every day we put in soak twenty-five for each man, which, with us, made a hundred and fifty. There they lie forty-eight hours, when they are taken out, and rolled up, in wheelbarrows, and thrown into the vats. These vats contain brine, made very strong — being sea-water, with great quantities of salt thrown in. This pickles the hides, and in this they lie forty-eight hours; the use of the sea-water, into which they are first put, being merely to soften and clean them. From these vats they are taken, and lie on a platform for twenty-four hours, and then are spread upon the ground, and carefully stretched and staked out, with the skin up, that they may dry smooth. After they had been staked, and while yet wet and soft, we used to go upon them with our knives, and carefully cut off all the bad parts — the pieces of meat and fat, which would corrupt and infect the whole if stowed away in a vessel for many months, the large flippers, the ears, and all other parts which would prevent close stowage. This was the most difficult part of our duty, as it required much skill to take off everything that ought to come off, and not to cut or injure the hide. It was also a long process, as six of us had to clean a hundred and fifty, most of which required a great deal to be done to them, as the Spaniards are very careless in skinning their cattle. Then, too, as we cleaned them while they were staked out, we were obliged to kneel down upon them, which always gives beginners the back-ache. The first day I was so slow and awkward that I cleaned only eight; at the end of a few days I doubled my number; and, in a fortnight or three weeks, could keep up with the others, and clean my twenty-five.
This cleaning must be got through with before noon, for by that time the hides get too dry. After the sun has been upon them a few hours, they are carefully gone over with scrapers, to get off all the grease which the sun brings out. This being done, the stakes are pulled up, and the hides carefully doubled, with the hair side out, and left to dry. About the middle of the afternoon they are turned over, for the other side to dry, and at sundown piled up and covered over. The next day they are spread out and opened again, and at night, if fully dry, are thrown upon a long, horizontal pole, five at a time, and beaten with flails. This takes all the dust from them. Then, having been salted, scraped, cleaned, dried, and beaten, they are stowed away in the house. Here ends their history, except that they are taken out again when the vessel is ready to go home, beaten, stowed away on board, carried to Boston, tanned, made into shoes and other articles for which leather is used, and many of them, very probably, in the end, brought back again to California in the shape of shoes, and worn out in pursuit of other bullocks, or in the curing of other hides.
By putting a hundred and fifty in soak every day, we had the same number at each stage of curing on each day; so that we had, every day, the same work to do upon the same number — a hundred and fifty to put in soak, a hundred and fifty to wash out and put in the vat, the same number to haul from the vat and put on the platform to drain, the same number to spread, and stake out, and clean, and the same number to beat and stow away in the house. I ought to except Sunday; for, by a prescription which no captain or agent has yet ventured to break in upon, Sunday has been a day of leisure on the beach for years. On Saturday night, the hides, in every stage of progress, are carefully covered up, and not uncovered until Monday morning. On Sundays we had absolutely no work to do, unless it might be to kill a bullock, which was sent down for our use about once a week, and sometimes came on Sunday. Another advantage of the hide-curing life was, that we had just so much work to do, and when that was through, the time was our own. Knowing this, we worked hard, and needed no driving. We “turned out” every morning with the first signs of daylight, and allowing a short time, at about eight o’clock, for breakfast, generally got through our labor between one and two o’clock, when we dined, and had the rest of the time to ourselves, until just before sundown, when we beat the dry hides and put them in the house, and covered over all the others. By this means we had about three hours to ourselves every afternoon, and at sundown we had our supper, and our work was done for the day. There was no watch to stand, and no topsails to reef. The evenings we generally spent at one another’s houses, and I often went up and spent an hour or so at the oven, which was called the “Kanaka Hotel,” and the “Oahu Coffeehouse.” Immediately after dinner we usually took a short siesta, to make up for our early rising, and spent the rest of the afternoon according to our own fancies. I generally read, wrote, and made or mended clothes; for necessity, the mother of invention, had taught me these two latter arts. The Kanakas went up to the oven, and spent the time in sleeping, talking, and smoking, and my messmate, Nicholas, who neither knew how to read nor write, passed away the time by a long siesta, two or three smokes with his pipe, and a paseo to the other houses. This leisure time is never interfered with, for the captains know that the men earn it by working hard and fast, and that, if they interfered with it, the men could easily make their twenty-five hides apiece last through the day. We were pretty independent, too, for the master of the house — “capitan de la casa”— had nothing to say to us, except when we were at work on the hides; and although we could not go up to the town without his permission, this was seldom or never refused.
The great weight of the wet hides, which we were obliged to roll about in wheelbarrows; the continual stooping upon those which were pegged out to be cleaned; and the smell of the nasty vats, into which we were often obliged to wade, knee-deep, to press down the hides — all made the work disagreeable and fatiguing; but we soon became hardened to it, and the comparative independence of our life reconciled us to it, for there was nobody to haze us and find fault; and when we were through for the day, we had only to wash and change our clothes, and our time was our own. There was, however, one exception to the time’s being our own, which was, that on two afternoons of every week we were obliged to go off for wood for the cook to use in the galley. Wood is very scarce in the vicinity of San Diego, there being no trees of any size for miles. In the town, the inhabitants burn the small wood which grows in thickets, and for which they send out Indians, in large numbers, every few days. Fortunately, the climate is so fine that they have no need of a fire in their houses, and only use it for cooking. With us, the getting of wood was a great trouble; for all that in the vicinity of the houses had been cut down, and we were obliged to go off a mile or two, and to carry it some distance on our backs, as we could not get the hand-cart up the hills and over the uneven places. Two afternoons in the week, generally Monday and Thursday, as soon as we were through dinner, we started off for the bush, each of us furnished with a hatchet and a long piece of rope, and dragging the hand-cart behind us, and followed by the whole colony of dogs, who were always ready for the bush, and were half mad whenever they saw our preparations. We went with the hand-cart as far as we could conveniently drag it, and, leaving it in an open, conspicuous place, separated ourselves, each taking his own course, and looking about for some good place to begin upon. Frequently, we had to go nearly a mile from the hand-cart before we could find any fit place. Having lighted upon a good thicket, the next thing was to clear away the underbrush, and have fair play at the trees. These trees are seldom more than five or six feet high, and the highest that I ever saw in these expeditions could not have been more than twelve, so that, with lopping off the branches and clearing away the underwood, we had a good deal of cutting to do for a very little wood. Having cut enough for a “back-load,” the next thing was to make it well fast with the rope, and heaving the bundle upon our backs, and taking the hatchet in hand, to walk off, up hill and down dale, to the hand-cart. Two good back-loads apiece filled the hand-cart, and that was each one’s proportion. When each had brought down his second load, we filled the hand-cart, and took our way again slowly back to the beach. It was generally sundown when we got back; and unloading, covering the hides for the night, and, getting our supper, finished the day’s work.
These wooding excursions had always a mixture of something rather pleasant in them. Roaming about in the woods with hatchet in hand, like a backwoodsman, followed by a troop of dogs, starting up birds, snakes, hares, and foxes, and examining the various kinds of trees, flowers, and birds’-nests, was, at least, a change from the monotonous drag and pull on shipboard. Frequently, too, we had some amusement and adventure. The coyotes, of which I have before spoken — a sort of mixture of the fox and wolf breeds — fierce little animals, with bushy tails and large heads, and a quick, sharp bark, abound here, as in all other parts of California. These the dogs were very watchful for, and, whenever they saw them, started off in full run after them. We had many fine chases; yet, although our dogs ran fast, the rascals generally escaped. They are a match for the dog — one to one — but as the dogs generally went in squads, there was seldom a fair fight. A smaller dog, belonging to us, once attacked a coyote single, and was considerably worsted, and might, perhaps, have been killed, had we not come to his assistance. We had, however, one dog which gave them a good deal of trouble and many hard runs. He was a fine, tall fellow, and united strength and agility better than any dog that I have ever seen. He was born at the Islands, his father being an English mastiff and his mother a greyhound. He had the high head, long legs, narrow body, and springing gait of the latter, and the heavy jaw, thick jowls, and strong fore-quarters of the mastiff. When he was brought to San Diego, an English sailor said that he looked, about the face, like the Duke of Wellington, whom he had once seen at the Tower; and, indeed, there was something about him which resembled the portraits of the Duke. From this time he was christened “Welly,” and became the favorite and bully of the beach. He always led the dogs by several yards in the chase, and had killed two coyotes at different times in single combats. We often had fine sport with these fellows. A quick, sharp bark from a coyote, and in an instant every dog was at the height of his speed. A few minutes made up for an unfair start, and gave each dog his right place. Welly, at the head, seemed almost to skim over the bushes, and after him came Fanny, Feliciana, Childers, and the other fleet ones — the spaniels and terriers; and then, behind, followed the heavy corps — bull-dogs, &c., for we had every breed. Pursuit by us was in vain, and in about half an hour the dogs would begin to come panting and straggling back.
Beside the coyotes, the dogs sometimes made prizes of rabbits and hares, which are plentiful here, and numbers of which we often shot for our dinners. Among the other animals there was a reptile I was not so much disposed to find amusement from, the rattlesnake. These snakes are very abundant here, especially during the spring of the year. The latter part of the time that I was on shore, I did not meet with so many, but for the first two months we seldom went into “the bush” without one of our number starting some of them. I remember perfectly well the first one that I ever saw. I had left my companions, and was beginning to clear away a fine clump of trees, when, just in the midst of the thicket, but a few yards from me, one of these fellows set up his hiss. It is a sharp, continuous sound, and resembles very much the letting off of the steam from the small pipe of a steamboat, except that it is on a smaller scale. I knew, by the sound of an axe, that one of my companions was near, and called out to him, to let him know what I had fallen upon. He took it very lightly, and as he seemed inclined to laugh at me for being afraid, I determined to keep my place. I knew that so long as I could hear the rattle I was safe, for these snakes never make a noise when they are in motion. Accordingly I continued my work, and the noise which I made with cutting and breaking the trees kept him in alarm; so that I had the rattle to show me his whereabouts. Once or twice the noise stopped for a short time, which gave me a little uneasiness, and, retreating a few steps, I threw something into the bush, at which he would set his rattle agoing, and, finding that he had not moved from his first place, I was easy again. In this way I continued at my work until I had cut a full load, never suffering him to be quiet for a moment. Having cut my load, I strapped it together, and got everything ready for starting. I felt that I could now call the others without the imputation of being afraid, and went in search of them. In a few minutes we were all collected, and began an attack upon the bush. The big Frenchman, who was the one that I had called to at first, I found as little inclined to approach the snake as I had been. The dogs, too, seemed afraid of the rattle, and kept up a barking at a safe distance; but the Kanakas showed no fear, and, getting long sticks, went into the bush, and, keeping a bright lookout, stood within a few feet of him. One or two blows struck near him, and a few stones thrown started him, and we lost his track, and had the pleasant consciousness that he might be directly under our feet. By throwing stones and chips in different directions, we made him spring his rattle again, and began another attack. This time we drove him into the clear ground, and saw him gliding off, with head and tail erect, when a stone, well aimed, knocked him over the bank, down a declivity of fifteen or twenty feet, and stretched him at his length. Having made sure of him by a few more stones, we went down, and one of the Kanakas cut off his rattle. These rattles vary in number, it is said, according to the age of the snake; though the Indians think they indicate the number of creatures they have killed. We always preserved them as trophies, and at the end of the summer had a considerable collection. None of our people were bitten by them, but one of our dogs died of a bite, and another was supposed to have been bitten, but recovered. We had no remedy for the bite, though it was said that the Indians of the country had, and the Kanakas professed to have an herb which would cure it, but it was fortunately never brought to the test.
Hares and rabbits, as I said before, were abundant, and, during the winter months, the waters are covered with wild ducks and geese. Crows, too, abounded, and frequently alighted in great numbers upon our hides, picking at the pieces of dried meat and fat. Bears and wolves are numerous in the upper parts of the coast, and in the interior (and, indeed, a man was killed by a bear within a few miles of San Pedro, while we were there), but there were none in our immediate neighborhood. The only other animals were horses. More than a dozen of these were owned by men on the beach, and were allowed to run loose among the hills, with a long lasso attached to them, to pick up feed wherever they could find it. We were sure of seeing them once a day, for there was no water among the hills, and they were obliged to come down to the well which had been dug upon the beach. These horses were bought at from two to six and eight dollars apiece, and were held very much as common property. We generally kept one fast to one of the houses, so that we could mount him and catch any of the others. Some of them were really fine animals, and gave us many good runs up to the presidio and over the country.
1 Matches had not come into use then. I think there were none on board any vessel on the coast. We used the tinder box in our forecastle.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53