Before Mark Twain: A Sampler of Old, Old Times on the Mississippi

By John Francis McDermott | Go to book overview

A STORM SCENE ON THE MISSISSIPPI

T. B. THORPE

[Among the many pictures of life on the Mississippi sketched by Thomas Bangs Thorpe is this "Storm Scene," taken from the New York Spirit of the Times, March 26, 1842 (XII, 43-44).]

In the year 18— we found ourselves travelling "low down on the Mississippi." The weather was intensely hot, and as we threaded our way through the forests, and swamps, through which the river flows, there seemed to be a stifled atmosphere, and a silent one, such as required little wisdom to predict as the forerunner of a storm. The insects of the woods were more than usually troublesome, and venomous. The locust, would occasionally make its shrill sounds as on a merry day, then suddenly stop, give a disquiet chirp or two, and relapse into silence. The venomous musquito, revelled in the dampness of the air, and suspending its clamor of distant trumpets, seemed only intent to bite. The crows scolded like unquiet housewives, high in the air, while higher still, wheeled in graceful, but narrowed circles, the buzzard. The dried twigs in our path bent, instead of snapping, as the weight of our horses' hoofs pressed upon them, while the animals themselves, would put forward their ears, as if expecting soon to be very much alarmed, and lastly, to make all these signs certain, the rheumatic limbs of an old Indian guide, who accompanied us, suddenly grew lame, for he went limping upon his delicately formed feet, and occasionally looking aloft with suspicious eyes, he would proclaim, that there would be "storm too much!"

A storm in the forest is no trifling affair, the tree under which you shelter yourself, may draw the lightning upon your head, or its ponderous limbs, pressed upon by the wind, may drag the heavy trunk to the earth, crushing you with itself, in its fall;

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