Dakota Datebook

Father De Smet and the Snorer

Saturday, December 6, 2003

Father Pierre De Smet entered North Dakota from Montana in 1840, calling it the best “retreat” he ever made; he was petrified of warring Blackfeet. “…only a rocky point separated us from a savage war-party,” he wrote. “Without losing time, we…started at full gallop… That day we made forty to fifty miles without a halt, and did not camp until two hours after sunset…”

His only companion, a Belgian trapper, posed a different kind of problem that night. “My grenadier, braver than I, was soon snoring like a steam engine in full swing; running through all the notes of the chromatic scale, he closed each movement of his prelude with a deep sigh, by way of modulation.”

The next day, they found a freshly killed buffalo. “We trembled at this sight, thinking the enemy was not far away; but…the Lord…had thus prepared food for our evening meal… That night we camped among rocks that are the resort of bears and tigers. There I had a good sleep. This time the music of my companion’s snoring did not trouble me.”

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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