What’s Really Out There?

The wind howled across the river throwing my hairs into a tangle of knots and curls. A smile crawled across my face as I gazed upon our vessel. The decrepit wooden boats would become our best friends in the days ahead. My boots crunched against the frost covered mud and I placed my rifle and rucksack into the boat. Each of us took a cleat and pushed the boat into the creeping current of the Missouri River. After a few splashing steps, I lay in the center of the boat, eyes staring at the endless blue above me. 

The bustling markets and buildings faded past us as we made our way up the Missouri towards Fort Mandan. Much of the country had never seen a white man’s foot and I was blown away with the majesty of the place. Herds of buffalo lined the banks, scattering in wild directions as we drifted past. Ducks, geese, and other waterfowl called out to one another warning of the large object traveling through the water. Below us, large cutthroat and bull trout mercilessly fed on schools of sculpin and the occasional unlucky stonefly that fell into the water. The crystal clear water allowed us a view into the world untouched by man. I had never seen such beauty: animals so pristine and numerous. Throughout our journey my amazement in the flora and fauna of the land never ceased. 

After a few weeks on the water we entered the Dakota Territory and we pulled the boats to the side. Even though it was early summer, snow still dotted the landscape. Past the banks of the Missouri the plains seemingly stretched on for miles in either direction except for a few rolling hills and prairie dog colonies. The team assembled into two groups and set off into the prairie following the yelps of the prairie dogs in the distance.  

We walked for one night and one day before we came across something that pointed us in the right direction. In front of us lay the most enormous pile of dung any one of us had seen in our lives. It looked as if four buffalo had climbed on top of one another in order to confuse any animals that came across it. A few yards ahead of the dung lay a few gargantuan circular tracks that pointed us in the right direction. We followed the tracks for another hour before we found the edge of a plateau. The plateau had a steep yet scalable path that winded its way along the edge of the cliff line. The plateau however was not the only sight to be seen. Looking towards the valley below us, a few large objects lazily grazed on the snow covered vegetation.

My mouth dropped. The goal of our mission aimlessly wandered down before us. It was a Mastodon! I was sure of it, but I needed to be absolutely sure. The group quickly scaled the path towards the valley until it was unmistakably clear that we had accomplished our goal. Lewis could not believe his eyes when his group met up with Clark and I. He quickly recorded everything there was to know about the creature as we watched it gracefully bumble around the terrain it had dominated for millions of years. Its tusks were the size of a man, its trunk was the size of two, and it truly had the size of four or five buffalo put together. Lewis immediately dispatched news to Fort Mandan to be sent to Mr. Jefferson to inform him that we had accomplished our mission. The reality, however? As I lay on my deathbed a few short years later after a fit of polio, not a single person ever believed what we saw on that fateful day. So, I pass this story on to you, the reader, do not let my story die. Wooly Mammoths still walk the Earth.

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