By Don. A Berry
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Extra resources for A Majority of Scoundrels: An Informal History of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company
The capital on the title is because Fink has become one of America’s storied folk heroes. This man, a lying, sadistic, foul-mouthed braggart, a treacherous and murdering psychopath, has been translated by the genteel art of bowdlerizing into a fit and heroic subject for children’s literature. What he was doing on this expedition nobody knows, but with him were two compatriots concerned with his last adventure, Carpenter and Talbot. At the winter camp, so the story goes, Carpenter and Fink got into a brawl (which is likely) over a woman (which is not; there were none around).
By the time they arrived, however, the beach party had changed its mind; they stubbornly refused to retreat, and continued to throw what they could at the picketed village. Only seven men, two of them wounded, returned to the keelboats. The larger of the two skiffs returned again, but the oarsman was shot as he approached the beach and the boat swirled downstream in the swift current. Now the Aricaras piled out of the village and worked down to the end of the sandy beach. The shore party was forced back into the river.
From the bow, the line passed to shore, where it was shouldered by however many men were available for the job. Marching along the bank, they dragged the heavily laden boat after them. "Along the bank" is a euphemism. Half the time when cordelling the men were up to their waists in the muddy swirling water somewhere in the general vicinity of the bank. The bottom here was no less treacherous than anywhere else, and you didn’t want to slip. When they were on dry land they were more often than not scrambling through thick, ripping underbrush; where the steadily burrowing midwestem wood-tick hitched a bloody ride and masses of mosquitoes gave each man his personal black halo.