Kit Carson never gave up searching for a legend
The Last Rendevous:
Kit Carson first heard about a beaver dam made out of pure gold in 1840. The young trapper didn’t know it at the time but he was attending the last Rocky Mountain Rendevous. Men’s head wear fashions turned were turning to silk.
Carson had finished trading the pelts he brought and was preparing to leave with his cache of supplies. He heard shouting and turned to see what was going on.
Two trappers faced off, knives drawn. Space opened up around them. One man came in low, swinging the knife from side to side. The tip cut long gashes across his opponent’s midsection.
Carson watched the fight. He knew it was only a matter of seconds before the heavy deerskin shirt gave way to expose bare flesh.
It didn’t happen. Committed to a crouching rush, the attacker left his back exposed. He got a blade buried deep into his shoulder blade
Carson winced. He knew he was looking at a fatal wound even before the attacker hit the ground.
Carson went about his business. He was about to mount his horse when a man approached: “Are you Christopher Carson?”
“That’s right, what can I do for you?”
“They say you know something about doctoring?”
“Hell,” Carson said. “I’m also a cook and a wagon driver. What are you getting at, Mr …?”
“That’s Bridger … Jim Bridger. That’s one of my men and I want you to see what you can do for him.”
“Why do you ask me? I’m sure you can find someone to look after the man.”
“I’v heard good things about you. I know for a fact you’ve healed more than one of your own wounds.”
What Bridger said was true, Carson stitched lacerations with thread and hot fish hooks then dressed the cuts with mud and leaves. “I’ll see what I can do, Mr. Bridger.”
Carson and Bridger went over to where the man lay on the ground.
Carson had seen the angle of the wound. He’d also seen the blade went in all the way to the hilt. It would’ve been better if the blade had punctured the man’s heart. It would’ve been over quicker. Now the man faced long hours of pain until the end came.
Bridger came up. When he saw Carson holding a compress against the wound he said, “It that all you’re going to do for him?”
Carson took Bridger off to the side and made sure the wounded man was out of earshot: “The man needs a real doctor. Either we find one or ease his pain until he dies.”
“I’ll be right back.” Bridger walked off. He returned and handed Carson a small clay jug. “Give him this.”
“What is that?”
“Whiskey, laced with opium.”
The mixture helped. It wasn’t long before the injured trapper was sitting up with his back against a barrel padded with a buffalo blanket. Instead of screaming he was talking: “I want to thank you for helping me.”
Carson hadn’t done much. Bridger was the one who got his hands on the opium. “Try to get some rest,” Carson told the trapper.
“I don’t want to rest. I need to tell you something.”
“Yes … What is it?”
The trapper summoned every bit of strength he had left. He pulled Carson in close and whispered. Carson listened to the wounded trapper right up until he uttered his last words and took his dying breath.
Bridger came up. “How is he?”
Just as the trapper released his grip, Carson looked into his eyes and saw the pupils were dilated even under the bright sunlight. “Only two things will help him now, a shovel and a bible.”
As Carson turned to leave, Bridger reached out and held him back. “Did he say anything to you before he died?”
Carson lied: “He mainly asked the lord for forgiveness.”
With beaver becoming scarce and the pelt markets in the big cities falling, Carson had to find another line of work. He eked out a living hunting wild game for the hundreds of people who worked in Fort Brent. At the time the largest trading post on the Santa Fe trail.
In 1842, Carson met John Fremont and was hired as a guide. Carson led the Fremont expedition deep into the uncharted west ranging from the Mojave desert to the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Carson earned 100 dollars a month and be became a legendary figure of the west. On every expedition, Carson remembered what the dying trapper told him. He took the secret to his grave. Even the authors of the fictionalized dime novels about Kit Carson never guessed that the great frontiersman’s quest for a beaver dam made from pure gold as wide as a river inspired one man’s role in the opening of the American west.