By Murray Smolens
Old Bill Williams was in a quandary. It was November 1848; snow was early and deep in the mountains of the West. John C. Frémont, the famous “Pathfinder,” was determined to find a route for a transcontinental railroad through the Rockies. He had already been warned by eastbound travelers not to proceed, but the Pathfinder was stubborn. Unable to find old pal Kit Carson to lead or to persuade any other reliable guide to help, he ran into Old Bill in Pueblo (in present-day Colorado) who was recuperating from a clash with his old friends, the Utes, and their Apache allies. Frémont wouldn’t take no for an answer, double-dog-daring the 61-year-old mountain man into a decision that resulted in disaster.