Our Forefathers Weren’T Just Land Hungry


I’m just like you. I sometimes get so %$#@ angry with the Forest Service I could strangle somebody. But some reading I’ve been doing lately has made me think. Maybe they have something. Maybe they’re so all-fired worried about letting us in the woods because they’ve read some of the same stuff I’ve recently read.

Could it be they are worried that if they don’t keep their eyes on us, you and I might go out there in the woods and eat up everything in sight?

Hey! Why not? It’s been tried before.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s there was a guy named Euell Gibbons who appeared on a lot of TV shows, especially talk shows like the Tonight Show. I can remember him sitting there with Johnny Carson and chewing up tasty bits of the forest as they talked.

Gibbons wrote books like “Stalking the Wild Asparagus,” “Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop,” and other books on cooking and eating the national forests.

Really! I’m not kidding. Look it up.

There even used to be a bumper sticker that said, PROTECT OUR WILDLIFE. PULL EUELL GIBBONS’ TEETH!

You laugh, eh? Well, think about it for a minute. Have you ever been to a big outdoor barbecue and watched all that good stuff disappearing under those belt lines?

See? This is serious stuff, Johnny. Humans eat a lot.

What if another Euell Gibbons came along and wrote books called “Stalking the Spotted Owl?” or “Gigging the Leopard Frog?”

You probably think I’m kidding. Or maybe you’re saying, “Hey, how much can people eat? There’s a lot of woods out there.”

Better think again. We humans pack it away.

Ever heard of Lewis and Clark?

Just in case the answer is no, here’s a quote from the book that got me thinking about all this, “The Journals of Lewis and Clark.”

“In the spring of 1804, Meriwhether Lewis and William Clark set out on a voyage launched by President Thomas Jefferson. Their mission was to explore the wilderness between the Missouri River and the Pacific Coast, paving a path for an infant nation ravenous for land.”

“Ravenous?” Good choice of words. I’ll tell you what, Johnny. Land wasn’t the only thing those folks were ravenous for. They could have called that book, “Eating Your Way Across America.”

There wasn’t many of them either, just 27 men, one woman, and one newborn baby boy in the entire party.

But what they did when they were let loose in the forest where the rangers couldn’t keep an eye on them might surprise you. Man! Did they eat! Why there are even six or eight Lewis and Clark cookbooks! No kidding. Go look on Amazon.

I can’t give you an exact count of everything they ate because my book skips back and forth between what Lewis had to say and what Clark had to say, maybe because the editor wanted to cut out the worst of the mass slaughter.

However, I’ve done my best to bring you the truth. I only counted kills wherever mentioned during the first half of the trek to the Pacific, figuring that they were less reticent to talk about their kills at first, and so they let some things slip that they really didn’t want us to know. I also caught Lewis and Clark at times when they wrote down things that said a lot more than they probably wanted to say.

Let’s start with — say — geese. I went through the whole outward trek day by day, all the way from May 13, 1804, when they rowed off in their big old scows, assorted dugouts, and canoes, to November 15, 1805, when they finally set foot on the shore of the Pacific.

In all that time they only admit killing 20 geese, but Lewis slipped up one day when he said, “We daily see great numbers of geese. My dog killed seven today, as he frequently does.”


And my count of beaver is a mere 272, but check this comment made by Lewis:

“Although the game is very abundant and gentle, we only kill as much as is necessary for food.” He adds, “Beaver are very abundant. The party kills several of them each day.”

Several a day? If “several” means at least three, and it took 550 days to get across the country — as it did — and even if every other day was a bad day, that’s at least 750.


Want to see a stag-ering number?

Try 306 deer. And that’s an actual page-by-page count.

But that’s nothing. In July of 1805, Lewis admits, “We eat an immensity of meat. It requires four deer, an elk and a deer, or one buffalo to supply us for 24 hours.”

A buffalo a day?

That’s like one steer a day, isn’t it? For 29 people?

Suppose you invited 30 hungry guests over to the house for a barbecue. You think if you stuck a whole steer on a spit and roasted it over open coals it would feed 30 people?

You bet it would! For maybe a week!

Having said that, consider the fact that on top of their four deer, one elk and one deer, or one buffalo every ding-dang day, they also ate a total of two cute little bunnies, six playful otters, eight harmless squirrels, 12 innocent ducks, six graceful swans, 12 blameless pelicans, 26 gentle antelopes, and 38 guiltless grizzly bears. Plus 1,036 catfish and 2,120 other fish.

And the geese and beavers, don’t forget.

And read these two horrifying admissions:

“We purchased eight fat dogs for the party to eat ... the flesh of which most of the party have become fond of, from habit of eating it for some time past.”

“... for some time past?” Uh-oh! You know what that means.

And this: “Caught a colt which we found on the road, and I rode it for several miles until we saw the Chief’s horses. He caught one, and we arrived at his village at sunset where I found captain Lewis and the party much fatigued and hungry. They all rejoiced we had found something to eat, and partook plentifully.”

Evidently they were so hungry they could eat a horse.

Oops! Two horses.

Gee, folks, we gotta keep people out of the woods. ;-)

(Psst! Next week, a nice recipe for candied frog’s legs.)


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