James Richmond's
California Story

Crossing the Isthus and other stories

March 14, 1860 Today we made our trip across the Isthmus. Now we view the waters of the great Pacific. Our trip was the usual rough and tumble affair. I tried to look after Kate to the best of my ability that she should be made comfortable, at least. We had one rough looking fellow who tried to make some disturbance. He was full of whiskey so that accounted for it , if it didn’t make it any more pleasant. when the Conductor came around he refused to show his ticket. The conductor of course insisted. Then the rough drew his revolver and thought to intimidate him, but the conductor was there ahead of him and with his revolver in hand compelled him to show his ticket. There was great excitement for a time among the passengers and no little dodging. I was within two or three seats of them and drew as much out of the range of their guns as possible as the sun was going down I had my first view of "Old Pacific". Panama seems to be a more thriving town than Aspenwall.

Between sun and dark we went aboard ship. The Pacific steamers are much larger than the Atlantic The company runs two on the Atlantic to meet the Pacific one. One from New York and one from New Orleans. Both boat loads were received on the Pacific boat.

Some queer specimens among some southern brethren. I presume they think the same of us. One old Gent I hear is called "Arkansas Tom" by his admirers. There is always a laugh going around over his yarns. He seems to have one ready for the occasion. Today I heard him relating how he once fished for turkeys.

He at the time, was with a company of fellows taking a raft down the Mississippi River. When they ran short of provisions they would go ashore to buy directly from the farmers or their wives who lived near the shore. As they got better food and for less money than when they bought in towns. He had turkey in his mind all day he would go ashore and hunt up one and other provisions at the same time. He went ashore in the neighborhood of a good looking farm house. He went up to the back door where he found the lady of the house feeding a fine flock of turkeys. They were big brown fellows their breast and backs glossy and plump as could be. "I felt I was in luck, just what I had been wishing for, a fine fat turkey. I asked the lady for that which I wished to purchase! She agreed to supply me at a reasonable price. Then I made known my wish to obtain a turkey and asked her the price. But Lo! she would not sell one. They were all promised. I argued in vain, but the more I argued the more obstinate she grew. The more I thought, the more he wanted a turkey.

She finally went into the house to get the supplies when a happy thought struck me. I had a fish hook in my pocket, why not fish for a turkey? It was attached to a firm line. I tied one end to my boot then took the end with the hook on it, baited the hook with a kernel of corn from the basin she had left on the step and threw it among the flock. By this time the woman returned with the supplies. I paid her telling her never mind the change as I was in a hurry. I started off at a right smart pace, a big fat turkey started after me with a hop, skip and gobble gobble gobble. I started into a run and called to the woman to call off her turkey for if he came any nearer I would hit him a rap ‘I allers was afraid of turkey’. ‘Drive him back’ called the lady, ‘Drive him back’. ‘Don’t dast to mam, hi’ll light on me’ I called ‘Shew, I say you big old gobbler’ and then I started on a run. But the faster I ran, faster went the turkey. And he even followed me right into the boat. We had roast turkey for dinner. I think the extra change paid her, I ment it should, but she would not give me her price so I be exact I always deal square with wimmin if they will be always reasonable."