A legend in his time, now an unsung hero

who had a treacherous adventure recorded

under bone-crunching conditions while

searching for the Northwest Passage.


With a Bunyanesque body, backbone of tensile steel

he explored wilderness with the stealth of a mountain

lion, discovering the Yellowstone and the Great Falls.

Barefoot, even in snow, he trekked across the

Bitterroot Mountains on the Lolo Trail to the Quamash Flats.


Alert as a Samurai, blunderbuss at his side, confronted

rattlesnakes and grizzlies, calmly stood his ground

with marauding tribes of the Blackfeet, Sioux and Arikiri.

An evenhanded leader, imposed the discipline of the lash

(50 laid on hard), yet tenderly nursed his men's bruised

and blistered feet torn apart by prickly pears on the plains.


A master of the sextant and chronometer he clawed

his way from the Missouri to the Pacific and back again.

Rewarded with the Governorship of Louisiana, he found

himself victimized by Machiavellian political pythons

and wily moneymongers.

Deeply in debt and unable to deal with the insouciant

charms of a lady he desired, his mood sank like his

pirogue with a hole in the bow sinking slowly in

the vortex of a whirlpool to its watery grave.


Merriwhether thrived on the perilous maelstrom of

life in the wild, but couldn't conform to the

twiddle-twaddle of the conventional world.

Bleary-eyed and forlorn, alone in an unkempt

furnished room, in a drunken and laudanum induced

reverie he once again heard the larruping frogs and

saw the spume of his canoe paddle flashing like silver,

serenely visualizing throngs of sundazzled sunflowers

pirouetting along the shore like can-can dancers as

he reached for the weapon that had served him

so well, taking his life with a shattering blast.


Milton P. Ehrlich