This scene of the lost rider searching for fellow travelers over a vacant, expansive prairie was not new when he painted his first version of it in 1851. It was also probably not a narrative that had occurred when the artist ventured west in 1837 with William Drummond Stewart. Despite the fact that Miller accompanied some versions of this work (e.g., CR# 147B) with a written account of misplaced confidence on the part of the Stewart party’s English cook, John, the story probably originated from his reading of Washington Irving’s The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, USA which was available in bookshops when the artist returned from his Rocky Mountain adventures in the fall of 1837.
As recounted by Captain B.L.E. Bonneville, the event took place east of the Laramie Mountains (then known as the Black Hills) in the summer of 1832. Bonneville’s camp cook, an Irishman named Tom Cain, was ambitious to improve his standing among his fellow voyagers and asked to join in the pursuit of buffalo. This he was allowed to do. In the course of his chase though, Tom dismounted, got separated from his horse and eventually became hopelessly lost. The captain dispatched a search party when the befuddled hunter’s horse wandered into camp alone. It took a couple of days to find him, and, as in Miller’s subsequent telling, the cook was “chapfallen, and apparently cured of the hunting mania for the rest of his life.” (Irving, 1837, 42)
Peter H. Hassrick
The artist; [?]; [Edward Eberstadt and Sons, New York, NY]; H.J. Lutcher Stark, Orange, TX, 1959; present: Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, Orange, TX, by bequest, 1965; accessioned to the Stark Museum of Art, 1978