Big Sur Expeditions

In 1895, Henry Hartwell Rhodes went to sea and had a many wonderful experiences.

Nov 302010
 

The Cruise

Chapter 1

The summer of 1895 had turned extremely hot, especially about the middle of July and the harvest crew that were threshing wheat on the plains east of the Salinas river which divided the county into two distinct climatical parts, were sweltering in the awfull [sic] heat of those days.

Many men had been taken on, to replace those who had been overcome with the heat, as many as three per day were laid in the shade of those beautiful oaks which grow no where else in the state of California as they grow in that county “San Luis Obispo”.

It had been so hot in fact, that the crew had been laid up from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. To wait for the breeze which was usually always dependable to spring up about the middle of the afternoon during all the summer months except about 3 or 4 days each month, when it was sultry until after sundown. The thermometer generally standing at about an average of 112 sometimes running up to 118 during these few days.

The times I speak of was just one of those 3 or 4 periodical days. The boys were laying under the shade of the oaks and some had taken to the water wagon, which was as cool if not cooler than the shade of the trees because of the constant dripping of the water from the tank.

The coast lay about 25 miles due west of us, and during the summer people who lived on these plains, whenever they could, when the harvest was over, and before, if it was possible to get their grain threshed early, traveled to the summer camps of which there was several on the beach, and those camps were scenes of many joyous weeks of camp life, boating, swimming, bathing, calm-digging and at night, a great bon-fire was build from the beach drift, and page wood, which was plentiful and eas[il]y had. Around this the older people sat and run over again, the many [inslimer ?? endeavors] of farm life, back on the hot [sandy ?? fiery] plains at home or reminisces of younger days while the young folks danced around and such dances as we had all out under the stars and the surf at our back and a large hole dug in the middle of the camp ground in which roasted clams enough for all. It was usually 12 o’clock before our night frivolity broke up. How could we who were doomed to spend the long hot summer months 30 and 50 miles away, and working 16 ½ hours a day fell anything but contempt for our work and a longing for the cool foggy coast. It was as much as we could do to keep at out work and all our boyish plans were what we [were] going to do when harvest was over and it seems as though everything was going to take place on the coast, no plan was laid but what it had the coast for a starting point.

Under this water wagon I lay on this July day in a half doze, my head under a leak and the persperation soaking my clothes, day dreaming of the time when the harvest would be over and then the whole month on the coast at the beach, bathing in the surf which I enjoyed so much, when I heard some one of the boys say “Here he is under the wagon, but you must get him out. It’s too hot. Get down and tie your horse in the shade and get in it yourself, you will melt sitting there. Have you had dinner. Well go over to the work house and tell the cook you are hungry, everybody eats here.” Which is, “by the way”, a harvest rule never broken, if a stranger even if he is a tramp, drops in around noon or supper time, he must eat, and it is a disrespectful act bordering on insult to decline.

I over heard much of the conversation, but did not trouble myself to see who or ask who the man was, as almost daily the same dialogue was indulged in, and it was of no interest to me. I must have dozed away into a pretty sound sleep for when I next was roused, it was by being dragged by the heels from under the wagon and someone saying get out of this you old lazy dry boner. Dry boner was a name given to the people who lived or work on this side of the coast Mts. Or on the plains, as it was called. Gathering myself for a tussle, I kicked loose and springing up. Who should I see but an old chum of mine, R.P. by name, who had left [acaclips] in the spring working on a ranch, but later had gone to the coast and engaged in the sea otter trade.

“Say, kid”, he said to me, “come and join us on the coast in our otter hunting trip. We like one more fellow and I have recommended you to the rest of the crew and have come all the way from the coast after you. I know you will never regret it. We are making good money and expect to double our catch when we get away to the hunting grounds which is about 75 miles up the coast at a place called Big Sur. He talked about 1 hour and oh how he pictured what a great sport it was and how much we could make, and about all the cool days which had more to do in persuading me that[n] his talk of money and sport. At last I consented to go, but how [?] I had no horse and it was 15 miles to the nearest town where I could get one and I was an <awfull> poor hand at footing it. He quickly overcame my objections in that line by saying he would ride and tie1, all [an] old cowboy trick I knew well. So at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on the 25th of July, 1895, I <imbarked> upon one of the most delightful trips I ever had taken, and at the present writing, have taken since.


The Cruise…NEXT


1 [One person starts out running, the other starts on the horse and rides down the trail as far as they think their partner can run (or walk) and still keep up a decent pace. At that strategic point the rider stops, dismounts, ties the horse to a tree or fence post, and continues down the trail on foot. The team member who started on foot gets to the horse, unties it, mounts, and rides to catch their partner up ahead. When they get to their running team member they can either stop and exchange, or ride further up the trail and tie the horse and then continue running. RWR]


The Big Sur Expedition notes say that that expedition started out in February of 1895, yet this “Cruise” started in July of the same year. This story however, claims to be the first sea adventure.



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Nov 192010
 

BIG SUR EXPEDITION –1895

HENRY HARTWELL RHODES. 1895

Courtesy: Cecil Rhodes

[I have recorded the xerox copies of H. W. Rhodes on my computer disc for safe keeping. This translation was made as near as possible as written with spelling corrected and some punctuation added to make the reading easier. The copies were loaned to me by Virginia (Rhodes) Beard: Franklin Beard, 1985]

[Scan and OCR by Ronald William Rhodes, 2010]

The coast on the Pacific side of North American differs widely in climatic conditions from that of the Atlantic side. The same latitude on the Atlantic coast falls from 15 to 20 degrees lower in temperature than the Pacific. The west side rarely drops to 35% above. This condition is caused by the warm Japan current, which strikes the southern part of Alaska and follows the coast southward to Mexico, where it merges with the Equatorial current and flows westward across the Pacific. The condition of the Pacific coast is balmy and warm throughout the entire year, generating an abundant of Animal life, in the water as well as in the land. Because of this warm condition of the water, is found a specie of seal, found no where else on the globe, while it may be located occasionally in nearby waters, it has been driven there by the relentless search for it, caused by the I demand for it’s fur as it is extremely valuable, and sold at enormously high prices in all the large cities of the world, especially those cities in cold countries. This little animal, is the sea otter. Beautiful glossy black often tipped with silver hair it is as shy as he is beautiful. His average length is about 4 ft.6 in. and weigh about 80 to 100 lbs. They differ from other sea animals of the seal family in their choice of food, for they live exclusively [sic] on mussels clams and sea urchins. Only in the 19th century these, now valuable sea animals, were found even in San Francisco bay, by countless thousands, and were hunted from Alaska to Mexico, by the early Russian seal hunter. The trade first attracted the attention of the Russians in Bering Sea. While hunting the fur seal of [off] the the coast of Alaska they found the native there wearing a much finer fur than they had ever seen, and on bartering for some of these rare skins, found the natives would dispose of them for trinkets of very little value. So the trade in sea otter skins grew until the conquest of California in 1846. As many as 10,000 skins found their way to China Japan and Russia yearly. Sailing vessels from the California coast westward have been known to have found on arriving at their destination that 1/3 of their cargo of skins were rotten owning [owing] to the green state in which they were packed, so eager were they to be the first arrival at the marketing port, but allowing even for this loss, there was a handsome profit for the sealers.

It was without doubt this sea-otter trade, that brought about the Russian settlements on the California coast and which caused such uneasiness among the Spanish Governors in the early days before the Gringo’s came, but much pressure was brought to bear on the Russian commander and after considerable negotiations between the Home Governments the Russians finally disposing of their holdings at Old Fort Ross silently and mysteriously disappeared and from that time, 1840-4, very little hunting was done for many years owning [owing] I suppose to the scarcity of the otter. It seems that the drive on the animal which began in the north drove them southward and bring sorely press along the California coast, they escaped only by turning northward again, which became the great field for fur sealer for many years, in fact up until the law was enacted prohibiting the taking of any fur bearing seal. The fine now on the taking of an otter is $1,000, imagine the enormous benefit that we, as a nation could derive from the fur industry now, if that fine had been imposed 35 or 48 years ago, allowing the increase to accumulate, [accumulate] these many years, instead of letting a greedy unscrupulous non-appreciative group of men almost exterminate this valuable animal from the sea. If only we as a people could or would see the calamity such ruthless slaughter is doing for us with all of natures gifts and fix heavy penalties for breaking the law of conservation, our grand and glorious land of Freedom would stand and flourish until the end.

Large fields of Kelp here and there line the coast near shore, and in this Kelp is the home and breeding place of the otter and being practically unmolested they had increased until they caught the eye of the hunter probably in the late eighties when a few boats put to sea and succeeded in getting from 1 to 3 on a trip. Another factor of great importance to the hunted was the enormous increase in value for otter furs, which, was quoted now all the way from $300-to $550, and an extra fine fur would bring about $800. Now to the boys living along the coast and being good boatman, this sport was tempting, as well as a vacation. I have been here on a former trip with a crew, was invited to spend a summer in this exciting and health restoring cruise, and I excepted [accepted] without a second invitation.

Big Sur…NEXT


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