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Getting Lost on the Texas Prairie in the early 1840s

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This is a great quote but I have to set the scene.  It is 1843. The author, Charles Sealsfield, was a genteel man who had come to Texas from Maryland. He'd been in Texas for about a month and was visiting one Mr. Neal on the Texas coast near Bolivar. While there, he impetuously jumped on a horse to chase a mustang that he had previously been riding but which had bolted away and, apparently, run like crazy. As a result, Mr. Seaslfield found himself lost. I will let him pick up the narrative:


"After a time, however, other ideas came to console me. I had been already four weeks in the country, and had ridden over a large slice of it in every direction, always through prairies, and I had never had any difficulty in finding my way. True, but then I had always had a compass, and been in company. It was this sort of over-confidence and feeling of security that had made me adventure so rashly, and in spite of all warning, in pursuit of the mustang. I had not waited to reflect, that a little more than four weeks' experience was necessary to make one acquainted with the bearings of a district three times as big as New York State.

Still I thought it impossible that I should have got so far out of the right track as not to be able to find the house before nightfall, although that was now rapidly approaching. Indeed, the first shades of evening, strange as it may seem, gave this notion increased strength. Home-bred and gently nurtured as I was, my life, before coming to Texas, had been by no means one of adventure, and I was so used to sleep with a roof over my head, that when I saw it getting dusk I felt certain I could not be far from the house. The idea fixed itself so strongly in my mind, that I involuntarily spurred my horse and trotted on, peering out through the now fast-gathering gloom, in expectation of seeing a light.

Several times I fancied I heard the barking of the dogs, the cattle lowing, or the merry laugh of the children.

"Hurra! there is the house at last — I can see the lights in the parlor windows."

I urged my horse on, but when I came near the house, it proved to be an island of trees. "What I had taken for candles were fireflies, that now issued in swarms from out of the darkness of the islands, and spread themselves over the prairie, darting about in every direction, their small blue flames literally lighting up the plain, and making it appear as if I were surrounded by a sea of Bengal fire. Nothing could be more bewildering than such a ride as mine, on a warm March night, through the interminable, never-varying prairie ; overhead the deep blue firmament, with its host of bright stars ; at my feet, and all around, an ocean of magical light, myriads of fire-flies floating upon the soft, still air.

It was like a scene of enchantment. I could distinguish every blade of grass, every flower, every leaf on the trees — but all in a strange, unnatural sort of light, and in altered colors. Tuberoses and asters, prairie roses and geraniums, dahlias and vine branches, began to wave and move, to arrange themselves in ranks and rows. The whole vegetable world around me appeared to dance, as the swarms of living lights passed over it. "


----- Charles Sealsfield, "Adventures in Texas," 1843

Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.

Posted : 3rd February 2020 3:12 pm