1881: Setting up the Tannery

The next Sunday was a stormy and rainy day, which around here happens rather rarely. In Montana and its surrounding territories and states, including California, a dry climate prevails, which is the reason why umbrellas are unheard-of. Today, Gottschalk and I agreed upon the formation of the company Dahl & Co, whose purpose was the tanning of fur and other animal coats. Finally, on September 6, the tools and equipment arrived from Chicago. The shipment fee to Dillon, the last train stop, were nothing less than 45 Dollars.

On that very day, Mrs. Kopp moved over to the farm in order to keep her sister company for a few weeks: a family-addition was soon to be expected. Consequently I had to clear my room in the attic and move over into the old house, where I had already put in the first facilities for the tannery. Every night after dinner I hiked, with the rifle in my hands and the house cat on my shoulders, through the pitch-black forest to the “tannery”. Right before getting to the house I had to jump a fence from where I cautiously tiptoed to the entrance door. I still had to look out for the return of the two bears. Inside the house, whose door I always closed carefully, I had a wooden bed with a bison fur as a night’s lodging. As long as the cat was with me the numerous mice would stay quiet. Those did not let me sleep the first night I came without the cat. In the earliness of September 9, a baby girl was born on the farm. The two year old sister was especially happy about that. The next weeks I very much devoted to my professional life. At first, some equipment had to be prepared: a hide-tanning rack and a smoothing-frame.

On Monday, September 11, we heard that the night before a bear was shot between our farm and the little town; a Negro Anderson had struck it down by the creek. [see Newspaper article; who shot the bear really?] At Kopp’s butchery I was able to admire the muscular structure of the disemboweled animal. Of course, apart from the fur, I also took a proper piece of bear meat back to the farm; even though I already knew that the women would not touch it. The farmer and I enjoyed it even more so. As “roast-pork” we had put it on the stove and sent a serving of it into the women’s bedroom. Initially they believed in the roast-pork, until our meal was suddenly interrupted by a scream. The women found a bullet in the roast and now were not to be distracted from their belief that this was bear-meat. They did not touch another piece of it. Many times within the next weeks we men enjoyed the very delicious bear-meat.

translated by Julia Strehlau-Jacobs

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