Lewis & Clark & Clark & Clark

The very last Lewis & Clark story this paper will publish this year.

Early this summer press reports also began circulating that Mandrell had been charged with misdemeanor battery for breaking a neighbor's wrist during an altercation at his home in Alton, Illinois — Mandrell's third misdemeanor battery charge in just more than a decade. Also according to the reports, which appeared in local papers, Mandrell had been charged seven times with disorderly conduct.

In two of those cases, Mandrell was fined. The other cases were dismissed, and Mandrell has lawyered up for litigation in latest battery case.

Mandrell says Discovery members tipped journalists off about his legal tussles.

Malcolm Gay
Malcolm Gay

Bud Clark scoffs at the idea: "We've kept the high road all throughout the bicentennial, and if anyone in our organization was involved in anything confrontational, they would get one warning, and then the second time they'd be asked to go do something else," Clark says. "Anybody told you there's been a lot of head-butting along the trail, it's a lie. There's not been. OK?"

Not so, say First Squad members, who contend that Bud Clark tried to get them arrested after First Squad rode in on horseback to a Discovery Expedition event in Darby, Montana. The affair was sparsely attended, and many of the hay bales that had been set up as seating were unoccupied. First Squad grabbed a few for their hungry mounts.

"The cops bring this guy up and ask us if we stole some hay," says Churchill Clark. "This guy obviously didn't want to be there. A bale of hay costs, like, two dollars, so Scott gave him three dollars and the problem went away. But I was livid. I started asking some of the [Discovery] guys if someone called the cops on us. They told me to look to my cousin. I went up to Bud and said, 'Cousin, tell me you didn't call the cops on me,'" Clark goes on. "And he said, 'I've got nothing to say to you. I never want to hear you or see you ever again.'

"That's when the kid gloves came off. I said, 'You're a grown man. You're embarrassing the family, and I know you're embarrassing William.' I'm sure at that point he was thinking: 'William who?'"

When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark came ashore in St. Louis on September 23, 1806, they were returning to a changed country. Lewis, who'd served as personal secretary to President Thomas Jefferson, would learn that Jefferson's vice president, Aaron Burr, had killed Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first treasury secretary, in a duel. Other explorers were forging west; the nation had assumed the Lewis & Clark expedition had met an untimely end and perished. Now, though, the city turned out to greet them.

Wrote Clark in his journal: "[W]e Suffered the party to fire off their pieces as a Salute to the Town. We were met by all the village and received a harty welcom from it's inhabitants."

The Discovery Expedition of St. Charles' landing in St. Louis 200 years later was slightly less of a watershed event. Bud Clark had spent much of the previous week in town, lecturing on the Lewis & Clark legacy and boarding at the Adam's Mark Hotel downtown. But he donned his buckskin one last time for the crowd of a few thousand, which included St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, on hand to cut a ribbon and dedicate a statue commemorating the original expedition.

The Discovery party landed north of the Gateway Arch, beneath the Eads Bridge. The riverfront's prime real estate at the foot of the Arch was already occupied.

An hour earlier, First Squad had come ashore.

As they celebrated the end of their journey with a drum circle led by Chinook Indians, an elderly couple approached.

"I thought you weren't supposed to arrive for another hour," the woman said.

"They're not here yet. I'm sure they'll be here any minute," Churchill Clark replied.

"I thought you were the Lewis & Clark re-enactor group," she persisted.

"Well, we call ourselves the Lewis & Clark stunt doubles," Clark said. "We were with them back in the day, but then they got off the river."

"Oh, I thought you were going to do the whole trip," she said.

"We did," said Clark, who'd obviously had this conversation before. "There were a lot of politics on the trail, and frankly I don't want to be anywhere near them."

The late historian and author Steven Ambrose has called the Lewis & Clark expedition the archetypal story of American discovery and friendship, a mythic forebearer to the nation's can-do spirit and generosity. Though subsequent generations of Americans would slaughter and suppress the Native Americans (who'd doubtless done plenty of "exploring" themselves), Lewis and Clark's crew had, for the most part, befriended the natives. What with the participation of Clark's slave, York, the French trappers and Sacagawea, the expedition can even be seen as a prototypical tale of 21st-Century multicultural inclusion.

In short, the Lewis & Clark legend has a little something for everyone. But none of that prevented the tale from dimming in the country's collective memory. It was partly an accident of history: When the captain's journals were finally published, the United States was embroiled in the War of 1812. Though the Corps of Discovery brought back maps of previously uncharted territory, data about the animals and Indians they encountered wouldn't see print for another century, prompting Henry Adams to ridicule the expedition soon after its conclusion as having "added little to the stock of science and wealth."

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