An extra gill

What’s turning into an annual thing here on Leavenworth St., one of my favorite stories from Stephen Ambrose’s book, Undaunted Courage, about the Lewis and Clark expedition.

In this excellent telling of the exploration by Lewis and Clark, Ambrose gives the following description of July 4, 1804:

On July 4, the men ushered in the day with a firing of the cannon.

At noon, the party pulled ashore at the mouth of a creek of some fifteen yards wide, “coming out of an extensive Prarie” on the left (west) side. As they ate, the captains questioned the voyagers. No, they knew no name for the creek.

The captains thereupon named it, their second experience in bestowing a name. They called it Independence Creek.

The expedition pulled over for the night at the site of an old Kansas Indian town. “We Camped in the plain,” Clark wrote, “one of the most butifull Plains I ever Saw, open & butifully diversified with hills & wallies all presenting themselves to the river covered with grass and a few scattering trees, a handsom Creek meandering thro.”

The captains ordered an extra gill distributed.

As they sipped their portions, they took in their surroundings and were quite overwhelmed. The country was covered with a sweet and nourishing grass, interspersed with copses of trees “Spreding ther lofty branchs over Pools Springs or Brooks of fine water. Groops of Shrubs covered with the most delicious froot is to be seen in every direction, and nature appears to have exerted herself to butify the Senery by the variety of flours Delicately and highly flavered raised above the Grass, which Strikes and profumes the Sensation, and amuses the mind.”

At sunset, the men again fired the cannon.

It was the first-ever Fourth of July celebration west of the Mississippi River.

As you (hopefully) fire up the grill, watch the parades go by and kick back with your favorite beverage while watching the rockets’ red glare, remember Lewis and Clark and their crew.

Out on the midwest plains they too fired their cannons, had an extra gill of whiskey, and admired the beauty of the land.

Perfect way to celebrate America.

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8 comments

  1. Political Novice says:

    Yes SS, it’s the perfect way to celebrate America. Judging from my rattling windows and the noise decibel, they have the cannon fire part down pat. Seeing the empty liquor bottles thrown about ditto for the spirits as well (although I would say it’s more than a gill). However as for the beauty of the land you be the judge as you make your way through all the spent fireworks littering the streets tomorrow.

    It’s all about making America great again you know – LOL.

    • Hey, you are right. Louis and Clark could have written, “Another day without hot food, indoor plumbing, and women. All my stupid men want is more whiskey more whiskey more whiskey. Oh and canon fire.. This sucks.”
      But, they didn’t.
      All one’s perspective I suppose.
      And make sure to tell those damn kids to get off your lawn.
      And thanks for reading.

      • Political Novice says:

        The least you could do for my readership patronage is to live up to your name and come clean my street (where is Clint Eastwood when you need him?).

        Make America’s streets clean again!

  2. Sparkles says:

    It was a truly rare 4th of July holiday.

    Throughout, there was the sense of something missing.
    Missing amid the thunderous booms echoing late into the night, night upon night.
    Missing amid the sulphurous stench permeating the air and stinging the senses.
    Missing amid the waves of partially incinerated, Made in China explosives debris littering a landscape dotted with the perennially fleeting appearance of little Made in China, American flagettes.
    Missing, amid our alcohol soaked cacophony that long ago subsumed Lewis & Clark’s truly inspiring pastoral imagery of the blessing into which we were born. A verdant, bountiful plain that overwhelmed the senses of their expedition and awed in it’s magnificence of abundance and resplendent beauty.

    No, something was missing this year.
    Something as wed to a 4th of July celebration as pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving, as eggs to Easter. Something as American as the unspeakable byproducts that constitute a hot dog and the crystals of ice clinging to a mass produced frozen apple pie.

    And it just struck me what that missing something, was.

    At not a single holiday parade or event over the last few days could you find even one of Nebraska’s federally elected Republican officials.
    Not a single flag waved nor hand shaken by those you’ve elected to represent you.
    All of them, in hiding.

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