|The infamous alley behind the Ryman and the back door to Tootsie's Orchid Lounge...|
|A rough cabin stands just a few feet from the site of the old Grinder's Stand... historical information is inside...|
In Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening Of The American West, Stephen Ambrose speculated on what may have gone through Meriwether Lewis' mind on the last evening of his life. This is one of the most memorable passages I have ever read, and I have carried it in my heart for many years...
Late in the afternoon, Lewis arrived at Grinder’s Inn, seventy-two miles short of Nashville. It was a rough-hewn, poorly built log cabin that took in overnight customers… Lewis requested accommodations for the night…
Lewis lit his pipe, drew a chair to the door, sat down, and remarked to Mrs. Grinder, in a kindly tone, “Madam this is a very pleasant evening.”
After finishing the pipe, he rose and paced the yard. He sat again, lit another pipe, seemed composed. He cast his eyes “wishfully towards the west.” He spoke again of what “a sweet evening” it was.
As he sat on Mrs. Grinder’s porch, looking west while the light faded from the sky, what were his thoughts? Were they of the rivers, the Missouri and the Columbia and the others? Did he recall the Arikaras, the Sioux, the Mandans? Did he think of the first time he had seen Sacagawea? Did he remember the day in 1805 when he started out from the Mandan nation on his “darling project,” daring to link his name with Columbus and Captain Cook? Did he dwell on the decision at the Marias?
Or were the plants, animals, birds, scenery of the Garden of Eden he had passed through commanding his imagination? If so, surely he thought of cottonwoods, prickly pears, the gigantic trees of the pacific Coast: of grouse and woodpeckers and condors: of the grizzlies and the unbelievable buffalo herds, the pronghorns, sheep, coyotes, prairie dogs, and the other animals he had discovered and describe: of those remarkable white cliffs along the Missouri, the Gates of the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia gorge.
Did Three Forks, that “essential spot” in the geography of the West, spring to his mind? Or was it Cameahwait and the Shoshones? Perhaps it was Old Toby, and that terrible trip across the Bitterroots.
Did he recall the Nez Perce and their fabulous ponies and generosity? Or the journey down the western waters to the sea? Or was it his Christmas and New Year’s dinners of water and lean elk at Fort Clatsop?
It may be that he thought of the long waiting period with the Nez Perce, and the one time he had been forced to turn back in the first attempt to force the Bitterroots, in the spring of 1806. Or was it the Blackfeet and the only Indian fight of his life? Or the time he got shot in the ass?
Did he do a roll call of his men? If so, surely there was a special place for Drouillard.
If he thought of the men, surely he thought of his co-commander, the best friend any man ever had. He had told Pernier earlier that day that General Clark had heard of his difficulties and was coming on. As the light faded, was he looking westward along the Trace, expecting to see Clark ride in to set everything right?
Did one of Mrs. Grinder’s dogs chase a squirrel and remind him of Seaman?
Could it be that he thought of that moment of triumph when his canoes put in at St. Louis in September 1806?
Or were his thoughts gloomy? Were they about his unsolvable problems? Did he agonize over his speculation and the financial ruin they had brought him? Was that awful Secretary Bates foremost in his thoughts? Did he wonder why he had failed in his courtships and had no wife? Did he curse himself for his drinking?
Did his mind dwell on Thomas Jefferson? Was he ashamed of how he had failed the man he adored? Did he think of the journals, over in the corner in his saddlebags?
Or did his mind avoid the past? Was he rehearsing what he would say to Secretary Eustis and President Madison? We cannot know. We only know that he was tortured, that his pain was unbearable…