This sketch shows a group of trappers listening to a story around the campfire. Although Miller frequently replaces Stewart with generic trappers in the Walters sketches, here he has portrayed him listening attentively to the trapper’s tale.
Miller’s accompanying note says the figures are listening to the story of “Markhead” or Mark Head, a trapper who was famous for his many narrow escapes. In this story, Head charged into the brush where a bear had been sighted, vowing to kill it with his tomahawk. Instead, the bear tore off his scalp and he had to endure a lengthy recovery. Another tale of his follies accompanies CR# 174A. Head’s luck came to an end in 1847 when he was killed during the Taos Rebellion.
Miller’s composition largely follows that of the preparatory sketch (CR# 95), but in the background right he has added a circle of trappers, arms interlocked, dancing around a campfire. This vignette is based on an unlocated sepia and wash field sketch, Trappers Dancing around the Camp Fire, which is recorded in the Tyler catalog (no. 96) and illustrated in Bernard DeVoto’s Across the Wide Missouri, pl. lxxix.
The artist; William T. Walters, Baltimore, MD; present owner by gift