“No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.”*
Today is the birthday of Meriwether Lewis (August 18, 1774 – October 11, 1809).
You probably know that he was an American explorer, soldier, politician, and is best known as the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
He was the one played by Fred MacMurray in the movie The Far Horizons (1955). Charlton Heston played Clark. All very impressive. But did you know that he had a near-death experience with a grizzly bear? Well, he did.
On their famous expedition, Lewis and Clark and their men had several hair-raising encounters with bears. After awhile Lewis began referring to the bears respectfully as “gentlemen.” On June 14, 1905 Lewis had his own encounter with a grizzly on the Yellowstone River.
He had just shot a buffalo and was watching it die when he realized that a grizzly had crept up on him “within 20 steps.” He described the encounter: “I drew up my gun to shoot, but at the same instant recolected that she was not loaded…it was an open level plain, not a bush within miles…I had no sooner terned myself about but he pitched at me, open mouthed and full speed, I ran about 80 yards and found he gained on me fast, I then ran into the water…about waist deep, and faced about and presented the point of my espontoon, at this instant…he sudonly wheeled about as if frightened, declined the combat on such unequal grounds, and retreated.” Shaken, Lewis waded out of the river, speculating on the bear’s motivation for sparing him. He concluded that its reasons were “misterious and unaccountable.”**
I say old Meriwether Lewis deserves a birthday toast tonight. At the very least. But while I’m at it, I think he deserves a better monument.
This “national monument” in Hohenwald, TN (where he died/was murdered/committed suicide) does not seem to be quite enough somehow. What is the cylinder thing anyway? It looks like a smokestack.
I should think they could have done better in 1848.
**Lewis and Clark Across the Divide by Carolyn Gillman