From the Life of Henry William Nichols, 1861

Humor on the Plains

Now about this time, I can tell one on myself. One night, being on guard toward morning, there was something dodging around the wagons. A man on guard with me said it is a woodcock. I was going to shoot at it. My mate said, “You will alarm the camp. Don’t shoot.” I picked up a club and chased it a considerable distance from the camp and killed it. The man on guard with me came running up to me and said, “It’s a skunk.” But it was too late. The mischief was done. In chasing it I noticed a smoky smell and thought it was some embers from a camp fire. The fact of the matter I was completely smothered. I had to change all of my clothes. My shoes—I had to through [throw] them away, for I kicked it in dispatching it. I could not afford to through my clothes away. I made a bundle of them, and put them in the river until we started out again.

Although I changed all of my clothes, at breakfast Mrs. Falkes said, “Henry, do go away and take your mush with you.” I complied and went a distance from the camp and ate my breakfast alone. I felt quite sick. Mr. Falkes gave me a little whiskey and that helped me. One incident makes me laugh when I think of it was when we were getting ready to start out. I took the bundle of clothes from the river and lashed them under the wagon. The old Fellow knew nothing of this circumstance. When we had traveled a couple of miles the sun became warm. It affected the bundle, and the old Fellow said, “My God, where does that smell come from?” At night I would put my bundle in the river again and in the course of a few days they got to a normal condition again. I had to take several baths before I was properly sterilized.