On the French Frontier 1700-1800
The Life of a Riverboatman

"No trips are more tiring than those on the Mississippi. The men who row up it are exposed to the weather, sleep on the ground, and eat nothing but [corn] and bacon. On long voyages...they suffer indescribably. They wear no clothes except those necessary to provide decency, and their skins, burned by the sun, peel off several times. Nothing can refresh them, not even plunging into the river twenty times a day. It is not unusual for them to [give into] fatigue and die oar in hand. The incredible number of mosquitoes that infest the river banks increases their torment and prevents them from [getting] the rest at night that is required to restore their strength ...Their bed is a bear or buffalo hide in which they wrap themselves in the winter or place under themselves in the summer. They all have mosquito nets of rough canvas that they hang on four stakes to save themselves from the bites of the insects."

Perrin du Lac, quoted in: Carl J. Ekberg, Colonial Ste. Genevieve, Gerald, MO.: The Patrice Press, 1985:166.
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© Illinois State Museum 31-Dec-96