Ezra Meeker’s Faithful Dog Jim

Ezra Meeker's Scotch Collie Jim

I came near meeting a heavy loss two days before leaving the city. Somehow I got sandwiched in on the East Side above the Brooklyn bridge in the congested district of the foreign quarters and finally at nightfall drove into a stable, put the oxen in the stalls and, as usual, the dog Jim in the wagon. The next morning Jim was gone. The stablemen said he had left the wagon a few moments after I had and had been stolen. The police accused the stablemen of being a party to the theft, in which I think they were right. Anyway, the day wore off and no tidings. Money could not buy that dog. He was an integral part of the expedition; always on the alert; always watchful of the wagon during my absence and always willing to mind what I bid him to do. He had had more adventures than any other member of the work; first he had been tossed over a high brush by the ox Dave; then shortly after pitched headlong over a barbed wire fence by an irate cow; then came the fight with a wolf; following this came a narrow escape from the rattlesnake in the road; after this a trolley car run over him. rolling him over and over again until he came out as dizzy as a drunken man—I thought he was a “goner” that time sure, but he soon straightened up, and finally in the streets of Kansas City was run over by a heavy truck while fighting another dog. The other dog was killed outright, while Jim came near having his neck broken, lost one of his best fighting teeth and had several others broken. I sent him to a veterinary surgeon and curiously enough he made no protest while having the broken teeth repaired and extracted. He could eat nothing but soup and milk for several days, and that poured down him, as he could neither lap nor swallow liquids. It came  very near being “all day” with Jim, but he is here with me all right and seemingly good for a new adventure.

No other method could disclose where to find him than to offer a reward, which I did, and feel sure I paid the twenty dollars to one of the fellow-parties to the theft who was brazen faced enough to demand pay for keeping him. Then was when I got up and talked pointedly, and was glad enough to get out of that part of the city.

From The busy life of eighty-five years of Ezra Meeker By Ezra Meeker
1916

The dog Jim shown here with the team on the bridge, has come all the way across the continent; his habit of trotting on the way ahead and then returning to meet the team, and next to run out on first one side the road and then the other, has caused him to travel more than three times as far as the oxen; estimate has travelled 10,000 miles; he always disliked to ride in the wagon; Scotch Collie, 3 years old (July, 1907).
Jim was the faithful companion of Washington Territory pioneer Ezra Meeker, and accompanied him on his two overland re-crossings of the Oregon Trail in 1906 and 1910. Jim survived being pitched over a fence by an ox named Dave, a fight with a wolf, an encounter with a rattlesnake, and being run over by a trolley. He later disappeared in a train station near Brooklyn, NY, but was returned when Meeker offered a reward of 20 dollars. “Money could not buy that dog”, he explained. “He was an integral part of the expedition.”

The dog Jim shown here with the team on the bridge, has come all the way across the continent; his habit of trotting on the way ahead and then returning to meet the team, and next to run out on first one side the road and then the other, has caused him to travel more than three times as far as the oxen; estimate has travelled 10,000 miles; he always disliked to ride in the wagon; Scotch Collie, 3 years old (July, 1907).

From old post card

The mention of “Jim”, the dog referred to, reminds me I have not given him his place in the story as he was in at the beginning. Jim was a character; like Mardon, to be mentioned later, he would fight at the drop of a hat, though neither of them quarrelsome.

I first saw Jim in my neighbor James’ garden driving his neighbor’s chickens out of the berry patch. He did not rush in and scatter the flock but carefully edged up and followed as his game gave way. It was so deftly done I asked Mr. James if he had trained him but he said not. “That the dog had just ‘took up the trick’.” I at once put at James to let me have him to go on my trip but he said he would have to get his boy’s consent; finally a present of $5.00 fixed things all right and Jim became an important member of the expedition and remained with me for six years and to within a few days of the final end of the second trip. Jim and I became fast friends; not so with Jim and Dave. Dave hooked at Jim the very first chance he got, made a lunge at him and snorted as though he would eat him up alive if he had a chance and the two then and there became deadly enemies and never relented to the last. Jim, I have often said, came to understand English better than many men I met on the trip. He was a young dog, just in his ‘teens, as we would speak of a young sprig of a boy, but very receptive. He soon learned many phrases spoken without especial emphasis and was very willing to mind. I have seen him sit on his haunches and turn his head first one way and then the other as much as to say, “I did not quite catch what you said.” He was intense in his likes and dislikes. Mardon once suddenly gathered on him and threw him off a bridge into the river below. I am sure that after a thousand miles travel, Jim did not forget nor forgive the insult. Finally when he got run over by a truck near Kansas city, lost some of his teeth and for a while not able to swallow, only either milk or thin porridge, and Mardon cared tenderly for him, Jim relented and he and Mardon became fast friends.

From Seventy years of progress in Washington By Ezra Meeker
1921

QUARREL BETWEEN JIM AND DAVE.

Animals have their likes and dislikes same as men and boys, and perhaps girls, too. Early in the trip our dog Jim and the ox Dave became mortal enemies. When I walked and drove, Jim would trot along beside me or at least would stay on that side of the wagon, and Twist, being on the nigh side, paid but little attention to him, but let me get into the wagon to drive and Jim would go over on the side next to Dave, and then the quarrel would begin. Once Dave caught him under the ribs with his right horn, which you see by the picture stands straight out nearly, and tossed him over some sage brush near by. Sometimes, if the yoke prevented him from getting a chance at Jim with his horn, he would throw out his nose and snort, just like a horse that has been running at play and stops for a moment’s rest. But Jim would manage to get even with him. Sometimes we put loose hay under the wagon to keep it out of the storm, and Jim would make a bed on it, and woe betide Dave if he undertook to take any of it. I saw Jim one day catch Dave by the nose and draw the blood, and you may readily believe the war was renewed with greater rancor. than ever. This war was kept up for more than a thousand miles of the trip, and it is only recently they have ceased to quarrel vigorously, but they are not yet friends to this day.

JIM’S ADVENTURE WITH A WOLF.

I have no doubt but Jim has traveled over 6,000 miles on this trip. He would run way ahead of the wagon and then come back on the trot, and if I was riding, invariably go clear back of the wagon and come up by Dave, as it might appear, just to pick a quarrel with him. Then at other times he would run off first on one side of the wagon and then again the other, after birds, jack rabbits, squirrels, or anything in the world that could get into motion. One day a coyote wolf crossed the road just a few rods behind the wagon, and Jim took after him. It looked as though Jim would overtake him, and I was dubious as to the result of a tussel between them, and called Jim back. No sooner had he turned than the wolf turned, too, and made chase, and here they come, nip and tuck as to who could run the fastest. I think the wolf could, but he did not catch up until they got so near the wagon that he became frightened and scampered away up the slope of a hill near by. At another time a young wolf came and Jim played with him awhile, but by and by the little fellow snapped at Jim and made Jim mad, and he bounced on him and gave him a good trouncing.

When the weather got hot, Jim, before we sheared him, would get very warm, and whenever the wagon stopped he would dig off the top earth or sand that was hot so as to have a cool bed to lie in, but he was always ready to go when the wagon started.

From The Ox Team by Ezra Meeker
1907

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