Join us as we chronicle the journey westward of Lewis and Clark and their companion cat Chinook!
Between now and the CFA Annual, we will chronicle the journey westward of Lewis and Clark and their companion cat Chinook. The story is meant to be light-hearted, fun and adventurous. It is also intended to engage the cat fanciers to participate in the story until it concludes with Lewis and Clark making an appearance at the Annual’s Thursday night hospitality room, where a collection of story contributions will be displayed – for the purposes of selecting the most engaging pieces and potentially awarding a prize for the best contributions (details are still being worked out). So watch for more of the Lewis and Clark expedition at it works its way west across America and be prepared to help tell the story. Mary Auth, 2013 CFA Annual Marketing Committee
Let the journey begin to the 2013 CFA Annual!
In 1803 (210 years ago), President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery and named Meriwether Lewis, who then selected William Clark as his partner, to find the most direct and practical water route across the nation for the purposes of commerce.
They left Camp Dubois (just north of St. Louis) on May 14, 1804. There were 33 people and one cat, named Chinook. Chinook was a red cat – a working cat, strongly built, well-balanced with conformation indicating power, endurance and agility. Details of him joining the expedition are sketchy, but he was heard to say – wait the diary is blurred here – can anyone fill in what he said?
Chinook was heard to say “Water be damned. Bring me your drowned rats. Let's find the Pacific!”
Obviously someone was excited about the trip to the Pacific Northwest. The Lewis and Clark Expedition mission, as outlined by President Thomas Jefferson, was to discover a practical route to the Pacific Coast through the Louisiana Purchase and to gather and document specimens of plants and animals. The scientific aspect was intended to establish an American presence before the Europeans could claim the Pacific Northwest and Oregon territory.
While that all sounded well and good from a political standpoint, Chinook had other ideas. His mission was to …. What was Chinook’s mission?
His mission was to search the west for the lost civilization of the Anasazi. His mission was a direct result of secret negotiations between these North American "Indians" and the fledgling US Government. As an avatar of peace, he was to find the lost civilization and persuade that cat loving people to assist the United States and protect the Northwest flank from invaders from Asia or Europe.
Meriwether Lewis brought many supplies he had purchased with the $2500 that Congress had allocated for the trip. During a short encampment in St. Charles, the men were discussing the coming days and the next destination.
Chinook took (as only cats can do) his own inventory of provisions. While he was hoping to find bags of Royal Canin and Iams, what he found were crates that includes a surveyor’s compass, two dozen tablespoons, mosquito curtain, 12 pounds of soap, thermometers and Dr. Rush’s patented “Rush’s Pills.”
Chinook had really hoped somebody had packed… What did he hope would have been packed?
Chinook sat licking his paws and washing his face in a dappled patch of sunlight. He thought about all the delicious rodents that he was going to discover crossing the Louisiana Purchase. Fat Chipmunks! Spicy squirrels! Luscious minks! But his real mission was to gather and document only one thing. Chinook Salmon!
Included in the supplies were special silver medals designed by the U.S. mint with a portrait of Thompson Jefferson and inscribed with a message of friendship and peace. They were called peace medals to be used as gifts to Indians along the way. Unbeknownst to Lewis and Clark, Chinook also had a handful of his own medallions designed to pass out on the journey. (A stash of his medallions were recently discovered and are apparently being sold throughout the U.S. The medallions have a cat portrayed dressed in native American garb. Perhaps you have seen some, or maybe own one.)
Medallions in hand (and paw), they journeyed up the Missouri River toward modern-day Kansas City. Camped with their rugged men on the banks of the Missouri, Lewis and Clark ordered the firing of a cannon at Atchison, Kansas to celebrate the 28th year of American independence. That cannon blast on July 4, 1804, was really a shout -- a shout that announced to the West, "Here Comes America!"
Chinook thought it a strange way to celebrate the day and thought they really should have celebrated by...
In Chapter 4, the group was celebrating 28 years of American independence.
After the expedition left Atchison and neared Omaha, Lewis and Clark camped at a site they called “Camp White Catfish.” Here, Clark copied a map, while Lewis readied letters for President Jefferson.
The rest of the men spent their days hunting while others fished. Game was scarce. Those who fished were more successful and caught catfish, from which the name of the camp was derived. Clark’s black Labrador, “Our Dog,” helped with the game hunting and Chinook, the cat, was very instrumental in the success of the fishermen.
During this time, the Corps celebrated Clark’s 34th birthday. For his birthday Clark ordered saddle of fat venison, an elk fleece and a beavertail to be cooked and a dessert of cherries, plums, raspberries, currants and grapes of a super quality. Chinook, on the other hand, celebrated Clark’s birthday by …..
In Chapter 5, the Corps and Chinook were celebrating Clark’s birthday. One ending to the chapter was: ....leaving a dead mouse on Clark's pillow for him to find later that night. He had great plans to do more but had, just earlier that week, been notified of the passing of his dear friend, George Mittenpaws, back in Illinois. Chinook dearly loved his friend George Mittenpaws and knew that life was never going to be the same without him. Even though he was happy that Clark was celebrating another year, Chinook just wasn't much in the party mood.
As they neared modern-day Sioux City Iowa, they lost Sgt. Charles Floyd, the only member of the Corps of Discovery to die on the expedition, from what is now believed to have been appendicitis. A military funeral was conducted by Capt. Lewis. In honor of Sgt. Floyd, Chinook placed a dead mouse on the grave.
Having been a close friend of Sgt. Floyd, Chinook was depressed and left the camp for the evening, looking for some relief from his grief. Along a dusty trail under a moonlit sky, he happened upon a cute red head. She was sympathetic to his feelings and he found solace wrapped in her paws. It was brief, but very comforting and he left behind a part of him that would be seen generations later. Little did he know from that one night of companionship, would come a CFA super star named Rainmaker.
Heading on to North Dakota, the Corps of Discovery finally arrived at the Mandan villages – 1600 miles by their estimation from Camp River Dubois, the starting point. Here they traded agricultural goods with the Indians of the region. Chinook did a little trading of his own. What did Chinook trade and what did he get in return?
In Chapter 6, Chinook did a little trading of his own. He traded a nice fat rabbit for a warm, furry pelt that he could cozy up in the cold nights to come as the group journeyed across the northern trek.
Continuing their journey toward Vancouver, Washington, now at Mandan, (near modern day Stanton, North Dakota) one of Lewis and Clark's first tasks was to survey the area to find a suitable spot for their winter camp. A place was selected on the banks of the Missouri River on a point of low ground sheltered by bluffs. On November 3, the men set to work building Fort Mandan, finishing on Christmas Day. Chinook was a little help supervising the workers and simply staying out of the way.
While the huts were being constructed, Toussaint Charbonneau, was signed on as an interpreter for the coming journey, along with his pregnant Shoshoni wife, Sacagawea.
On February 11, 1805 Sacagawea delivers her son, who she names Jean Baptiste. Chinook was not sure about the new addition to the party and the baby was something he had not encountered before. His time with Lewis and Clark was dramatically reduced as they spent more time with the baby. Chinook was feeling very much ignored and it wasn’t long before Lewis and Clark noticed.
Feeling rather guilty, Lewis and Clark did something special to make Chinook feel like he was still a valuable part of the Expedition. What did Lewis and Clark do?
It’s April 1805 and the Expedition is preparing to continue on. They began to see huge herds of new animals including the buffalo, elk, great horned sheep and wolves. Lewis reported in his journal that antelope were so gentle that they would pass near them while feeding, without appearing to excite any alarm among them. And when they did attract their attention, the animals frequently approached them closer to discover what they were and often followed the Expedition for considerable distances. They were equally curious about the red tabby cat accompanying the expedition. The animals thought that with such a handsome escort as Chinook was, that the humans were surely no threat.
As they neared the Rocky Mountains, Sacagawea’s services as an interpreter among the Shoshonean-speaking people in the Rockies would be indispensable, and her presence with a baby showed that the party was not a war expedition. She did provide valuable assistance as a guide in the region of southwestern Montana in which she had spent her childhood.
Chinook also played an indispensable role now. He could be counted on to…..
The Corps of Discovery ascends into the Bitterroot Mountains and run short of provisions amid a new snowfall. They butchered a horse for food while Chinook looks curiously on, thinking “I’m too valuable to the expedition and much too small to eat. So I think I will not be a meal anytime soon.” They are down to only bear’s oil and 20 candles.
Determined not to eat the candles, Chinook headed off on his own for a day of foraging and finding a tasty rodent to dine on. Instead he made an amazing discovery....
Eventually, they all stagger out of the mountains near modern-day Weippe, Idaho.
The expedition pushes forward now on the Clear River with, for the first time, the current at their backs. It would not be long before they reached the Snake River and then the Columbia River, which would guide them to the 2013 CFA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Washington. They began to celebrate with the locals and wrote about the Indians and made observations: “The Pierced nose Indians are stout likely men, handsom women and verry dressey in their way. The dress of the men are a while buffalow robe or elk skin dressed with white beeds, sea shells and mother of pirl. They also wore feathers and different coloured paints.” Chinook pondered: “Is this what people will be wearing for the CFA awards banquet?”
Chinook settled back and began to wonder what he should be wearing for the Annual Celebration of CFA’s best cats. It didn’t take long and he decided to wear….
As they neared the end of their journey, Lewis and Clark took a moment to pause and look back on all they had seen, on all those they have met. Had they really made any impression at all? Chinook wondered the same.
At The Dalles (just 90 miles west of Vancouver, WA) and overlooking the Columbia River, the party had stopped to talk with the local Native Americans, who were called (coincidentally) Chinook. Lewis & Clark’s Chinook befriended one, with whom he had made quite an impression. Her name was Tsagaglalal. She quickly fell in love with him, but he could not stay. Chinook needed to continue onto the CFA Annual meeting in Vancouver, but promised he would return one day.
As one legend goes, Tsagaglalal vowed she would wait for his return. Her vow was immortalized as a famous Native American rock art – a combination of a petroglyph and pictograph. “She Who Watches” can be seen at Washington’s Columbia Hills/Horsethief Lake State Park.
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