Not-So-Intrepid Moments of the Lewis & Clark Expedition

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A sunny mid-morning, August 31, 1803, on the banks of the Ohio River: Captain Meriwether Lewis meets for the first time William Clark, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, who has been selected to co-head their soon-to-be historic voyage. Lewis appears strong, confident, while Clark seems somewhat nervous and apprehensive.

LEWIS: Second Lieutenant Clark?

CLARK: Yes, sir.

LEWIS: Captain Meriwether Lewis. A pleasure to make your acquaintance, good sir!

CLARK: The pleasure is mine, sir.

LEWIS: Well, then, the party is ready. All supplies have been procured. Shall we commence our journey?

CLARK: Indeed, Captain.

LEWIS: Very good!

The party, mostly comprised of young soldiers, proceeds with Lewis and Clark at the lead.

Suddenly, Clark halts.

LEWIS: What is it, good sir?

CLARK: Pray forgive me, sir. But it seems I’ve neglected to put on breeches.

LEWIS (with pause, examining Clark’s bare legs): Ah…so it would seem. Well…

CLARK (blushing): Excuse me momentarily, sir.

LEWIS: Very well. (To himself) This is a rather odd fellow…

* * * * * * *

Lewis, Clark, and the other members of the expedition have hit an impasse along the banks of the Missouri River. The two leaders discuss how they might cross the treacherous waters.

LEWIS: Our path is right blocked by these tumultuous rapids, good Clark. What do you say we do?

CLARK: It is a decision not made lightly, sir. Dare we brave these waters, all of us may enter, but some, I fear, shan’t return.

LEWIS: You are wise beyond years, Clark. I agree with your assessment. That being said, do there exist any other options?

CLARK: Hmm. Perchance we can hire an Indian to guide us across?

LEWIS: Hire an Indian?! How very absurd, Clark. This is not the Oregon Trail!

CLARK: Ah, very right. Then we caulk the wagons and float them across?

LEWIS (groaning): There are no wagons, Clark!

CLARK: Well then I’m out of ideas.

* * * * * * *

Outside a teepee in snow-blanketed Fort Mandan, present-day North Dakota: Lewis, Clark, and the Corps of Discovery have settled in temporarily for winter. Touissant Charbonneau, a French fur trapper, has graciously offered the services of his young Shoshone bride, Sacagawea, to the explorers.

TOUISSANT: Gentlemen, allow me to present Sacagawea, my young Indian wife. Sacagawea is fluent in many dialects used by both local and more distant tribes. Her skills in translating will be of invaluable aid to your mission.

LEWIS: Sacagawea, it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance.

Sacagawea nods subtly. Clark then steps forward, raising a stiff, open palm toward her at shoulder level.

CLARK: How.

SACAGAWEA: I beg your pardon?

CLARK: Uh…how?

SACAGAWEA: How what? How do I do?

CLARK: I am confounded. Is this not how your people offer salutation?

SACAGAWEA: A simple “greetings” would have done nicely, sir. Indians do not really use “how” in this manner.

CLARK (embarrassed): Oh…

LEWIS: Sacagawea, please forgive my partner’s insulting generalization. He is newly traveled to this territory and unaccustomed to such diversity.

SACAGAWEA: It is fine, sir.

LEWIS: Say then! Would you perchance have some opium we may partake of?

SACAGAWEA (whispering to her husband): Who are these jackasses?

* * * * * * *

Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and the rest of the team have paused atop a mountain ridge to discuss their geographical bearings. The party is visibly tired and irritable, and rumors that they have mistakenly fallen off course are afoot.

SACAGAWEA: Captain Lewis, there have been questions from the rest of the party as to whether we are lost. What shall I tell them?

LEWIS: Nonsense! I am quite positive the Great Ocean of the West is just beyond the next ridge.

CLARK (gently to Lewis): But you professed this very claim five ridges ago, and here we are, as yet…ocean-less.

LEWIS (suddenly angry): Okay then, Clark! If you’re so intelligent, which direction should we take?

CLARK: Well, we certainly would not have borne north at Lemhi Pass! We should have maintained course due west…but noooooo…Captain Lewis said he knew exactly where we were!

LEWIS: Well, at least I’m taking some initiative. All you’ve done this whole time is pick flowers and complain about how badly your feet ache! Like a four-year-old boy!

CLARK: Obstinate old horse! (Begins assembling his gear.) That’s it, Meriwether; I’m taking half the party and going on my merry way!

LEWIS: Very well then, misguided idiot!

SACAGAWEA (to herself): What did I say? “Why don’t we just stop and ask a fur trapper for directions?” (Shaking her head.) Men.

CLARK: Fine, Lewis, you insufferable mule!

SACAGAWEA: Nobody eeeeever listens to the Indian. Typical.

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