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Campsite at Tavern Creek, May 23, 1804

The evening dram of whiskey distributed to the men was a welcome reward after a day of battle with the mighty Missouri River. After the evening meal, there may be time and a little remaining energy for some music from the fiddle of Pierre Cruzatte. The campsite above Tavern Creek marked approximately fifty-one miles traveled against the cruel current of the river that was to be the expedition's most hostile enemy.

We are viewing a beautiful moonlit evening with the keelboat tied off and resting in the current. The stern of one of the pirogues is visible in front of the keelboat. The other pirogue is tied a little farther upstream. The evening sentinels are seen aboard the decks of the keelboat as the men gather around the campfire to cheer the dance of a fellow crewmember. Three of the members choose to be alone in the foreground to smoke their pipes and tell a story or two.

The conversation of the men would have possibly contained a review of the day's travel, equipment that may need mending, their sore or injured bodies, or contemplation of the perils that lie ahead. Nonetheless, the adventure is on. The men are learning the ways of the river and the characteristics of the boats. The keelboat loaded with tons of cargo has proven to be difficult to handle; and, at this point, the men are unaware of just how difficult travel on the Missouri River is going to become. They only have to look as far as the next day to realize the future hazards to be encountered. On May 24th the towline of the keelboat will snap while in Retrograde Bend causing the boat to fall back on its rudder and keel against the sandbar. Without the quick action of the crewmembers, the keelboat would have rolled over on its rounded bottom and been lost. May 25th will find the crew at the village of LaCharrette. This village consisted of seven families and as many dwellings. This would be the last white settlement they would see until their return from the Pacific Ocean more than two years later.

The men are shown wearing their fatigue uniforms with a mix of Frenchmen in their civilian clothing. The  fabric clothing the men possessed would start to wear out as the men entered the areas above current day Omaha. They, at that point, would have started to make their clothing from the skins of the animals they shot. The image we most commonly apply to the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is a depiction of the men in greasy leather mountainman attire. The depiction of the crew on May 23, 1804 would have been that of a fresh military unit. However, that image will change over the next two years and four months. 

With careful observation, the viewer may observe the windows of the private quarters of Lewis and Clark aboard the keelboat. Perhaps the conversation between the two men would have turned to the event that day where Lewis almost fell to his death from the cliffs above Tavern Cave and how he used his knife to stop his fall. Through one of the windows we see one of the Captains with quill in hand writing in his journal. These journals are destined to be an endearing and most valuable record of the expedition, the geographic region of the West, the flora and fauna, and the people of that land.

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