Winter on the Yellowstone
The two trappers from Illinois, Dixon and Hancock, talked continually to all the enlisted men during the descent to the Mandan villages, but their most attentive listener was John Colter. The two trappers were low on ammunition after two years of hunting and trapping on the Missouri River. Measured in beaver skins their luck had been bad, but in the sense of still being alive after escaping from the Teton Sioux with no more serious hurt than a slight wound in Dixon's leg, they had enjoyed a bonanza of fortune.
The partners from Illinois had analyzed their situation after meeting Captain Clark, and concluded that not only did they need more ammunition and sundry other supplies, but that they should try to recruit another man into the partnership. Sergeant Ordway's journal entry 1 reveals that in their sales talk to the enlisted men, the two trappers emphasized the furs they had already "carshed" in the ground, and subtly played down their narrow escapes and the serious losses of property they had sustained. Lewis and Clark were perhaps more persistent in asking pertinent questions, as their accounts of the success of the trappers were far more somber than that of Ordway.
Earlier entries in Sergeant Ordway's journal disclose Colter's reason for listening so attentively to the proposal of Dixon and Hancock. Ordway's diary was published exactly as he wrote it; thus it was not edited into a model of propriety as was that of Sergeant Gass. 2 His daily entries from the time the party recovered their boats on the return trip relate in detail the extent of trapping for their own gain undertaken by many members of the expedition. The journals of Lewis and Clark refer only to trapping done by Drouillard, the official hunter, but give no explanation as to why he concentrated so intensively on obtaining zoological specimens of beaver and ignored other animals.