How The West Was Won? A dubious moment in history.

The following is from “Mike Fink: the Last of the Boatmen” by Timothy Field (1829), from an eyewitness account. ~sekanblogger

 Mike Fink was born in Pittsburgh, Pa. He served as a boatman on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and their tributary streams, which occupation he pursued until this sort of men were thrown out of employment by the general use of steam boats. When the Ohio was too low for navigation, Mike spent most of his time in the neighborhood of Pittsburgh, killing squirrels with his rifle, and shooting at a target for beef at the frequent Saturday shooting matches and company musters of the militia. He soon became famous as “the best shot in the country”.  

 He became fond of strong drink, but claimed he was never overpowered by its influence. He could drink a gallon of it in twenty-four hours without the effect being perceivable. Mike made proclamation-“I am a salt river roarer; and I love the wimming, and how I’m chock-full of fight”.  So he was in truth, for he had a chere amie in every port which he visited, and always had a circle of worshippers around him who would fight their deaths (as they called it) for him. Amongst these were two men, Carpenter and Talbot, Mike’s fast friends, and particular confidants. Each was a match for the other, in prowess, in fight, or skill in shooting, for Mike had diligently trained them to all these virtues and mysteries.   His particular friend, Carpenter, was also, a great shot; and he and Mike used to fill a tin cup with whiskey, and place it on their heads by turns, and shoot at it with a rifle at the distance of seventy yards. It was always bored through, without injury to the one on whose head it was placed. This was often performed; and they liked the feat the better because it showed their confidence in each other.

In 1822, Mike and his two friends, Carpenter and Talbot  engaged in St. Louis with Henry and Ashley to go up the Missouri with them in the threefold capacity of boatmen, trappers and hunters. The first year a company of about sixty ascended as high as the mouth of the Yellow Stone river. Here Mike and his friend Carpenter quarrelled a deadly quarrel, the cause of which is not certainly known, but was thought to have been caused by a rivalry in the good graces of a squaw. The quarrel was smothered for the time by the interposition of mutual friends. On the return of spring, the party revisited the fort, where Mike and Carpenter, over a cup of whiskey, revived the recollection of their past quarrel; but made a treaty of peace which was to be solemnized by their usual trial of shooting the cup of whiskey from off each other’s head, as their custom was. This was at once the test of mutual reconciliation and renewed confidence. A question remained to be settled; who should have the first shot? To determine this, Mike proposed to “sky a copper” with Carpenter; that is, to throw up a copper. This was done, and Mike won the first shot. Mike loaded his rifle and picked his flint, Carpenter filled his tin cup with whiskey to the brim, and without changing his features, he placed it on his devoted head as a target for Mike to shoot at. Mike levelled his rifle at the head of Carpenter, at the distance of sixty yards. After drawing a bead, he took down his rifle from his face, and smilingly said, “Hold your noddle steady, Carpenter, and don’t spill the whiskey, as I shall want some presently!” He again raised, cocked his piece, and in an instant Carpenter fell, and expired without a groan.-Mike’s ball had penetrated the forehead of Carpenter in the center, about an inch and a half above the eyes. He coolly set down his rifle, and applying the muzzle to his mouth blew the smoke out of the touch hole without saying a word, -keeping his eye steadily on the fallen body of Carpenter. His first words were, “Carpenter! have you spilt the whiskey!”

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One response to “How The West Was Won? A dubious moment in history.

  1. jammer5

    Davy Crockett done married the prettiest, the sassiest, the toughest gal in the West, don’t ya know! Her name was Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind and she was all that and then some! She was tougher than a grumpy she-bear and faster than a wildcat with his tail on fire and sweeter than honey, so that even hornets would let her use their nest for a Sunday-go-to-Meeting hat.

    Naturally, Davy Crockett was proud of his wife and liked to boast about her skills. “Yes sir, she can wrestle an alligator until it gets down on its knees and begs for mercy,” he told everyone. Well, Mike Fink, that tough old Mississippi roarer, snag-lifter, and flatboat skuller, took a dislike to Davy Crockett’s boasting about his wife (maybe on account of his wife weren’t half so tough), and he tried seven ways to Sunday to scare her good and proper. ‘Course, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett didn’t pay any attention to his antics, and Davy Crockett about laughed ’til he busted to see Mike Fink trying to pull a fast one on her.

    Finally, Mike Fink bet Davy Crockett a dozen wild-cats that he could scare Miz Crockett until her teeth came loose and her toe nails went out-of-joint. Davy Crockett figure this was an easy win, so he took the bet.

    Well, Mike Fink took the skin of a mighty big alligator and wrapped it around himself. Then he crept into the bushes and waited until Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett came strolling by for her evening walk. Mike Fink leapt out of the brush and started a growling and a howling and roaring so loud he about scared himself out of his wits. But not Miz Crockett; no sir! She put her hands on her hips and smirked at that raging critter like it was a misbehavin’ child.

    That made Mike Fink pretty mad. He was determined to scare the wits outta Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett if it was the last thing he did. He stretched out the claws on that ‘gater skin and started walking toward Miz Crockett, reaching to pull her into its deadly embrace. Now it was Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett’s turn to get mad.

    “Don’t you be fresh!” she told that crazy critter. She gave his a glare so full of lightning that it light up the sky from here to California, but Mike Fink kept a-coming ’cause he was determined to win the bet.

    Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett took out a small toothpick that she carried with her to keep her smile all clean and pretty after she ate. She jest lit out with that toothpick and knocked the head right off that alligator skin. It whirled up and away about fifty-feet into the air, and it took all the hair on top of Mike Fink’s head right along with it. So now Mike Fink was left standing in front of Miz Crockett with a half-bald head and the remains of an alligator skin clutched around him.

    Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett was not amused when she realized the famous Mississippi roarer was trying to scare the dickens out of her. She put away the toothpick, since she figured it gave her an unfair advantage, and proceeded to knock the stuffing out of Mike Fink until he fainted away in his alligator skin. Dusting off her hands, she glared down at his still form and said: “Good riddance!” and marched off to tell her husband the story. Davy Crockett laughed so hard he nearly split a gusset!

    When folks asked Mike Fink how he got so busted up the next day, he told them he’d been chewed up and swallowed whole by an alligator. But he didn’t fool Davy Crockett none with this story, so he had to give him a dozen wild cats to pay off his bet.

    Mike Fink never messed with Miz Crockett again!