Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wednesdays with Audubon, Chapter 6

Hello Readers,

Unfortunately, I won't have the time this evening to do the full and proper weekly installment of Wednesdays with Audubon, but I'll here submit a quick preview of the coming section all the same.

When we left Audubon last week, he had finally found that wonderful combination of financial stability and vocational reward in his ornithological publishing. Needless to say, it came when he was able to involve all of the talents and dedication of his entire family, instead of trying to manage it all on his own.

It had been a long but fulfilling struggle for the Audubons, and with his new professional establishment, Audubon was able to buy property in New York and set up the permanent Audubon home, where many the grandchild would be born and raised.

Like many men of his age (meaning the 1840s, not his actual age as he was now nearing 70), Audubon became increasingly intrigued by the allure of the West, and his wanderlust drew him towards a great expedition in Missouri, knowing full-well it would be the last adventure he could manage.

Audubon, age 69, shortly before his departure
Leaving his sons to continue supervising the new editions of his books, Audubon set out in April of 1843 towards St. Louis. The voyage began in poor circumstance, with Audubon chartering passage on a rickety steamship down the Mississippi. The unsavory conditions grated on Audubon's nerves, but that was not the worst of it.

The steamship struck a sawyer (a fallen tree whose root end is facing the bottom of the river, causing it to sway against the current), and for a moment it seemed like all might be lost:
"The ladies screamed, the babies squalled, the dogs yelled, the steam roared, the captain swore--not like an angel, but like the very devil--and all was confusion and uproar. Luckily, we had had our supper, as the thing was called on board the Gallant, and every man appeared to feel resolute, if not resolved to die..."