James Richmond's
California Story

Meat Overboard!

March 11, 1860 Today we had quite a little excitement in regard to a platter of meat. One day a week we have meat in steerage, another dried apples, mashed up with dirt and worms and all. I used to go to steerage table with Abe but not to eat. I feared it would be noticed if I did not go. A part of the time he was to sick to go, then I would pick out a few potatoes, pare off the dirt and take them on as clean a plate as I could find. Abe could eat them better than if he saw them in the dirt. One day in the week we had turtle soup. I have ascertained that it was slops left from the cabin tables with turtle inwards of the turtles added to make it more nourishing, warmed over and served for steerage fare! I know this is true but I donít say much because I donít wish to attract too much attention. We had good fare on second cabin.

Then the salt horse and poorly salted at that! One platter of that meat had been on the table for over a week now. I had watched the proceedings with interest, and heard the men make threats in regard to it. The smell of it was just terrible. It sickened many a poor fellow so he could not swallow a mouthful of other food. It could be smelled from one end of the table to the other. A stalwart young fellow named Dan stood by the table sick from the swell of the meat. "If that meat is on this table again I will throw it overboard." he said addressing the steward. The Steward replied, "By God you wonít." "Yes I will," said Dan. The next meal the meat was in place and the smell had not abated. Dan came along gave one sniff of the air and before anyone knew what was happening, meat, platter and all went overboard. Food for the sharks but I pity the sharks that took it down. Oh! how mad the steward was. He called the boats guard and ordered them to put Dan in irons. Dan drew a revolver and about a hundred men stood by him and shouted "No!" with revolvers drawn. The steward said no more. The guard waited for a repetition of the order before risking their lives. The order did not come so they marched. The fact of the matter was the steward did not care to have it reach the ears of the Captain for they would be likely to get the feeding contract again if it was known to the captain. I concluded that was the reason at first for I learned that was the way we were fed. The one that would take it for the least money got the job. I donít think the Captain would have sanctioned such food as was served on that table. We had no more of that kind of meat, thanks to Dan.