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May 29, 1864: Bell Station

May 29, 2014

A little event occurred this morning, so characteristic of California that I must relate it. A traveler stopped at the house last night, tall, swarthy, heavily bearded. As I stood by this morning, along came another, with gun on his shoulder, knife in his belt. A heavy beard covered his face; his dress, his whole look told of a rough life. He eyed the stranger a minute. Then ensued the following conversation, and much more of the same sort—only the names and strong oaths I leave out:

B. “Is your name Smith?”

S. “Yes.”

B. “Why, how do you flourish? My name is Brown—don’t you know me?”

S. “No.”

B. “Why, d—n it, we were together at — in Mexico, in ‘47.”

S. “By G—d, that’s so, but I didn’t know you—you’ve changed.”

B. “Certainly—I was a boy then but seventeen years old.”

S. “And I but eighteen. How did you escape?”

B. “By G—d, the d—n greasers couldn’t keep me.”

S. “Where do you live?”

B. “Up here in the mountains.”

S. “How long you been here?”

B. “Since ’49. Where do you live?”

S. “By G—d, nowhere, and I have been almost everywhere since I saw you.”

B. “To the States?”

S. “Yes, half a dozen times.”

B. “Where’s the old man?”

S. “Father?”

B. “Yes.”

S. “In old Arkansaw, fighting Yankees I suppose. Have you seen any of the other boys?”

B. “Yes, lots of ‘em. You remember Bob?”

S. “G—d, yes, don’t I—where’s he?”

B. “Gone to Idaho, saw him last winter. They call him ‘Cherokee Bob’ here—you know he is very dark.”

S. “He ain’t no Cherokee, he’s a regular white man.”

B. “Yes, but since he killed that feller in Stockton he has gone by the name of Cherokee Bob.”

S. “Has he been back?” (Meaning East.)

B. “Yes, but he killed a man in Missouri and had to leave again. He’s killed four in this state but always got off. He’s a d—d lucky fellow.”

S. “Where’s Bill?”

B. “Dead. Killed about four year ago. There’s Dick, too, he got shot in Utah.”

S. “Where’s —, that tall feller, you know?”

B. “Oh, he’s in this state, a shiftless cuss. Been mining, but ain’t worth a cent.”

S. “D—n me, it does me good to see an old friend. I hain’t seen one of those old boys afore since I came here fifteen year ago. I left here soon. Let’s drink.”

The two imbibe and recall old reminiscences, and each goes on his way. Much of the conversation, of course, I don’t report, only a part of it. But the whole thing was so Californian that I had to tell it. They had been fellow prisoners, taken by the Mexicans in the Mexican War.

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