Osborne Russell was the real article: a respondent to Ashley's famous advertisement "to enterprising young men", Russell was one of the few who both survived and wrote about the experience. His life as a trapper was an enviable one, for he both survived and thrived in his nine years in the mountains, and those experiences stood him in good stead for the remainder of his life as a frontiersman in Oregon and California. However, his writings consist primarily of an uninspired travelogue: spend two weeks trapping on this creek, then three weeks on this other creek, then crossed the divide and descended this river to that fort, then spent two weeks trapping that river, etc. There are a few good yarns mixed in and he met many famous people, but you'll find more yarns, better told, and more insights, and better biography, in other books. If you've read a dozen good books about the mountain men, then you should add Russell to your list, but first you should read A Majority of Scoundrels: An Informal History of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company
, which is fantastic, and also Across the Wide Missouri
, equally so, even though they were both written by modern authors. If you want an eyewitness account, then your first stop should be Tough Trip Through Paradise, 1878-1879
, one of the best books about a mountain man's life by anybody, from anywhen. You'll also want to check out Mountain Men and Fur Traders of the Far West: Eighteen Biographical Sketches
to get some more background on some of these characters, and after that, you'll probably want to read more about the likes of Jed Smith, Jim Bridger, John Coulter and Hugh Glass (who came closer than any other man to getting et by a grizzly without actually dying) before you turn to the relatively humdrum life of Osborne Russell. So, to sum it up, I'd trade moccasins with Osborne any day, but there are better tales in store from other mountain men.