The Drama of Our Great Forests
THAT day we covered about twenty miles and by the afternoon of the second day we had arrived at the lake on the far shore of which lived Oo-koo-hoo’s sister, Ko-ko-hay — Perfect Woman— with her daughter and her son-in-law and four granddaughters. As we drew near the camp we found the women about a mile from shore, fishing through the ice for salmon trout. There were a number of holes—each of which was marked by a spruce bough set upright in the snow—and the fishing was being done with hook and line. The hook, dangling below the ice about a third of the water’s depth, was held in position by a branch line to which was attached a suitable sinker. The trout they had caught ran from ten to thirty pounds each—as near as I could judge—and as the women had already gained a good haul, they loaded their catch upon their sled and returned home with us.
Gill-nets are also used in the winter time. They are strung under the ice beneath a series of holes by means of which the net is passed under the ice with the aid of a pole. The lines being then secured at either end, the net can be readily drawn back and forth for the purpose of emptying and re-setting. Of course, floats and sinkers are used to spread the net and keep it in proper position. In some localities—where the water is muddy—the nets are occasionally boiled with willow bark to keep them from being destroyed by worms.
Gill-nets, however, are frequently injured by animals, not only amphibious ones such as beaver and otter, but even by such animals as wolverines. Some years ago, a Yellow-knife Indian hunting near Port Resolution had an experience of that kind. He, having set a gill-net beneath the ice, failed to visit it for several days. When, however, he did arrive, he saw that it had been tampered with, and found no difficulty in reading the in the
wolverine, happening by on a mild day when the fishing holes were open, began sniffing about one of the poles to which the end lines of the net were secured; then scenting the smell of fish, he began chewing the pole; and incidentally his sharp teeth severed the cords that held the net.
Then for the want of something better to do, he went to the other end to which were attached the lines of the other end of the net. Again scenting fish, he began to chew the second pole, but this time finding it give way, he hauled it out of the hole; and with the pole came part of the net; and with the net came a few fish. In trying to free the fish from the tangled mesh, he hauled out more net which contained more fish; then in an effort to feast royally he ended by hauling out the whole net.
The following day the Indian arrived and, reading the story in the snow, set a trap for the robber. Again the wolverine came, but so did the hunter, and much to his delight found the wolverine caught in the trap. Such an incident, indeed, is not rare.
The Perfect Woman Makes Me a Suit ' I 'HE Perfect Woman’s daughter was married to a halfbreed by the name of Baptiste Tastowich and the four grand-daughters were nice-looking girls ranging in age from fourteen to twenty. Though very shy, they were bubbling over with quiet fun and I enjoyed my visit. That evening, among other subjects, we discussed the various hunting caps worn by Indian big-game hunters, and the Perfect Woman offered to make me one if I could supply her with the needed material; but when she saw that I had nothing but a double "four-point” Hudson Bay blanket,
she offered to make me a complete suit from that article and to lend me, for the rest of the winter, a rabbit skin quilt to take the place of the blanket. I accepted her kindly offer, and, of course, paid her for both the work and the quilt.
So the older women set to work with nothing more modern in the way of tools than a pair of scissors, a thimble, and a needle and thread; and by bed time I was well rigged, in Indian fashion, for the hunting trail. The cap they made me was the same as Amik wears in my picture of the lynx hunter, which appeared on the January 1 cover. The suit consisted of a coat and hip-high leggings, and, though I have worn that suit on many a winter trip and, though it is now more than a quarter of a century old, I have never had to repair their excellent hand-sewing.
When the work was finished the father and mother crawled into a double bunk that was surrounded by a curtain; Ko-ko-hay wound herself up in a blanket and lay down upon the floor, and Oo-koo-hoo did likewise, yet there were two bunks still unoccupied. But I was informed that I was to occupy the single one, while the four girls were to sleep in the big double one. As I had not had my clothes off for several days and as I was counting on the pleasure of sleeping in my night-shirt, I planned to sit up late enough to make my wish come true, though I knew that the intended occupants of those two bunks would have to rely solely upon darkness to form a screen, as neither bunk was provided with a curtain.
After a little while, however, it began to dawn upon me that the girls were counting on doing the same thing, for they made no move to leave the open fire. But the Sand Man finally made them capitulate. At last, rising from their seats, they piled a lot of fresh wood upon the fire, then climbing into their big bunk, they took off their shawls
and hanging them from the rafters, draped them completely about their bed. Now my opportunity had arrived; and though the fire was filling the one-roomed log house with a blaze of light, I made haste to discard my clothes— for now the older people were all sound asleep. In a few moments I was in the very act of slipping on the coveted garment when I heard a peal of merriment behind me. On looking round I discovered that the shawls had vanished from around the bunk and four merry young ladies, all in a row, were peering at me from beneath their blankets and fairly shaking their bed with laughter.
Tastowich’s home was built entirely of wood, deer-skin and clay. The house was of logs, the glassless windows of deerskin parchment, the door-lock and the door-hinges of wood, the latch string of deerskin, the fire-place and the chimney of clay, the roof thatch of bark. The abode was clean, serviceable and warm; and yet it was a house that could have been built thousands of years ago. But consider, for instance, Oo-koo-hoo’s comfortable lodge; a similar dwelling, no doubt, could have been erected a million years ago; and thus, even in our time, the prehistoric still hovers on the outskirts of our flimsy civilization. A civilization that billions of human beings for millions of years have been struggling violently to gain; and now after all that eternal striving since the beginning of time, what has been the great outstanding gain—as the Indian sees it? “Baldness and starched underwear for men, high-heeled shoes and corsets for women, and for both—spectacles and false teeth.” Is it any wonder the red man laughs?
The Indian Sense of Humor
BUT some of you will doubt that the Indian laughs, and more of you will even doubt whether the red man possesses a sense of humor. A few days ago my Toronto oculist—you see I have been justly rewarded for hovering around civilization—and I, were discussing Indians. The doctor quoted his experience with them. Some years before he had taken a trip into the forest where he had met an old Indian chief whose wife had had her eye in j ured by accident.
The doetor told the old man if ever he contemplated taking his wife to Toronto, to let the doctor know of their coming, and he would see what he could do to repair the injury.
A year or so later a letter arrived from the very same Indian reservation.
Though it was hard to read, the doctor made out that the Indian intended to bring his wife to Toronto so that the oculist could fulfil his promise; but as luck would have it, the doctor had not only forgotten the Indian’s name, but he had great difficulty in reading the signature.
After much study, however, he decided that the old Indian had signed his name as “Chief Squirrel,” so thus the doctor addressed his reply. A couple of weeks later the postman arrived with a letter he was rather loath to leave at the doctor’s house. The oculist, however, on seeing that it was addressed to his own number on Bloor Street West, and that the name was preceded by the title of Doctor, believed that it was intended for him. On opening it he found it was from the old Indian whom he had addressed as “Chief Squirrel.” Now, however, he realized he had made a mistake in giving the red man such a name, for another glance at the outside of the envelope not only proved the Indian was indignant, but that he also possessed a sense of humor, for “Chief Squirrel” had, in return, addressed the noted oculist as "Doctor Chipmunk.”
While spending a couple of days at Tastowich’s house, the subject of hunting was never long omitted from the general conversation; and upon learning from the halfbreed that caribou were plentiful about a day’s travel to the westward, nothing would do but Oo-koo-hoo must take that route on his return home; though, of course, it meant many more miles to cover. The excursion, however, was inviting as a good trail could be followed all the way to the caribou country, astheTastowiehes had been hauling deer meat from that region.
Hunting the Elusive Caribou
BY the evening of the first day, as good fortune would have it, we halted among many signs of caribou, and not only were fresh caribou tracks to be seen, but also those of wolves, for the latter were trailing the dew. The
incident reminded Oo-koo-hoo of a former experience which he told as we sat by the fire.
“It happened years ago. For weeks, my son, I had had ill luck and my family were starving. For days I had hunted first one kind of game and then another, but always without success. Then, as a last resort, I started after caribou, though I well knew that I should have to travel a long distance before falling in with them. But in the end I was rewarded. The going was bad, mostly through a dense growth of small black spruce, where the trees stood so close together that I had difficulty in hauling my sled, being compelled at times to turn on edge, not only my toboggan, but also my snowshoes, in order to pass between. After several hours’ hard work, the forest grew more open, and, about noon of the third day, I discovered a band of caribou quietly sunning themselves on a large muskeg.
“Some were feeding, others were lying down, fawns were scampering about in play, and young bulls were thrusting at each other with their prong-like horns. There were more than a hundred in all. I watched them for some time before I was discovered by seven young bulls, and as they were nearest me, they stopped in their play, left the others, and came down wind to investigate the strange two-legged creature that also wore a caribou skin.
“With heads held high and expanded nostrils quivering in readiness to catch scent of danger, they came on very slowly yet not without a great deal of high stepping and of prancing, with a sort of rhythmical dancing motion. Every now and then they threw their heads down, then up, and then held them rigid again. They were brave enough to come within sixty or seventy paces and even a little closer. But as ill-luck ordained, while I was waiting for a better chance to bring down one of them with my old flint-lock, they caught scent of me, and suddenly falling back—almost upon their haunches—as though they had been struck upon the head, they wheeled round, then fled in alarm to the main body. Then, as caribou usually do, the whole band began leaping three or four feet into the air—much as they sometimes do when hit by a bullet. Then with tails up they swept away at full gallop and, entering the forest beyond, were lost to view.
“ït was a great disappointment to me, my son, and I was so disheartened that I made but a poor attempt to trail them that day. That evening when I lay down to rest upon the edge of a muskeg the moon was already shining; and by midnight the cold was so intense that the frostbitten trees went off with such bangs that I was startled out of my slumber. It was then that I discovered a pack of eight wolves silently romping about in the snow of the muskeg—just like a lot of young dogs. Their antics interested me and it was some time before I fell asleep again.
“In the morning, though a heavy rime (frozen mist) was falling and though it was so thick that it obliterated the surrounding forest, I set out again in search of game tracks, and having crossed the muskeg, not only found the tracks of many caribou, but learned, too, that the eight wolves were now trailing the deer in earnest.
“About half way between sunrise and mid-day I came upon a lake, and there I discovered not only the same herd of caribou and the same wolves, but the deer were running at top speed with the wolves in full chase behind them. My son, it was a fascinating sight. The caribou were going at full gallop, covering twenty feet or more at a bound, and all running at exactly the same speed, none trying to outstrip the others, for the fawns, does and bucks were all compactly bunched together. It was as exciting and as interesting a sight as one may see in the Strong Woods. Though the wolves did not seem to be putting forth their utmost speed, they, nevertheless, took care to cut every corner, and thus they managed to keep close behind, while their long regular lope foretold that eventually they would overhaul their quarry.
“Protected by a gentle southwest wind and a thick screen of underbrush, I watched the chase. Three times the deer circled the lake, which was about half a mile in length. For safety’s sake the caribou carefully avoided
Our Cover—Trappers Poling Up a Rapid
rJ'HE northern canoeman has the choice between five methods of circumventing “white ivaters,” and his selection depends upon the strength of the current—paddling, poling, wading, tracking or portaging. In poling, if the rapid is deep, lie kneels for safety; but if shoal, he stands up, the better to put the full force of his strength and weight into the work. It is hard but joyous work, for standing up in a canoe surrounded by a powerful and treacherous current, gives one the thrill of adventure. The cover depicts Oo-koo-hoo and Amik on the round of gathering their traps after the spring hunt.
entering the woods, even rounding every point rather than cut across among the trees. On the fourth round I saw that the wolves had set their minds upon running down a single deer, for as they now suddenly burst forward at their top speed, the herd, splitting apart, allowed the wolves to pass through their ranks. A few moments later, an unfortunate doe, emerging in front, galloped frantically ahead with the wolves in hot pursuit; while the rest of the herd slowed down to a trot, then to a walk and finally halted to rest in perfect indifference as to their companion’s fate.
“Round and round the frightened creature sped, with the determined wolves behind her. Presently, however, the wolves, one by one, turned aside, and lay down to rest, until only two continued the pursuit. But as the deer came round the lake again, several of the now refreshed wolves again entered the chase; thus they relieved one another. The ill-fated doe, in a vain hope of throwing aside her pursuers, twice rushed into the very centre of the caribou herd; but it was , of no avail, for, as the wolves relentlessly followed her, the other deer wildly scattered away to a safer distance, where however, they soon came together again, and stood watching their enemies running down their doomed comrade.
“Now first one wolf and then another took the lead, closer and closer they pressed upon the exhausted doe whose shortening stride told that her strength was fast ebbing
“My son, perhaps you wonder why I did not use my gun. I was out of range, and moreover, while I was afraid that if I ventured out of the woods I might frighten the game away, I knew I had but to wait a little while and then I should be sure of at least one deer without even firing my gun. I did not have to wait long. With a few tremendous leaps, the leading wolf seized the doe by the base of the throat and throwing her, heels over head, brought her down.
“Realizing that I must, act at once, I rushed out upon the lake, but in my haste I fell and broke the stock off my gun—just behind the hammer. But as I still had my axe, I picked up the broken gun, and charged in among the wolves that now began to back away, though not without much snarling, glaring of angry eyes, and champing of powerful jaws. As one remained too near, I let drive at it with a charge from my almost useless gun ; and though I missed my aim, the report relieved me of any further trouble. Cutting up the deer, I feasted upon it for several hours, then loaded my sled and hurried home with the meat for my starving family.”
There are three principal species of Canadian caribou: the smallest living on the Barren Grounds and taking their name from that region; the largest frequenting the Rocky Mountains west oí the Mackenzie River and known as Woodland or Mountain caribou; and the intermediate size inhabiting the Great Northern Forest and called Woodland caribou.
Sonic Record Antlers
IN COMPARISON with moose, A wapiti and other deer of North America, the Woodland caribou ranks third in size. Of the three breeds, the Woodland caribou have the smallest horns, the Barren Ground the slenderest, while the Mountain caribou have the most massive. Record antlers range from fifty to sixty inch beams, with a forty to fifty inch spread, and possessing from sixty to seventy points. The does are usually provided with small
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I horns, and in that way, they are distinct j from all other Canadian deer.
On account of its wide spreading and concave hoofs the Woodland caribou does not have to “yard” as other deer do in winter time: thus provided with natural snowshoes, the caribou can pass over the deepest snow with little trouble. Also, throughout the year it is an extensive traveller, and as its food is found everywhere within its wide range, its wanderings are determined chiefly by the wind. Indeed so great a traveller is it, that when thoroughly alarmed it may cover fifty to a hundred miles before settling down again. Rivers and lakes do not hinder its roaming for it is a powerful and a willing swimmer. The mating takes place in October and the calves are born in June.
The following morning while at breakfast Oo-koo-hoo discoursed upon the game we were about to hunt :
“My son, everything that applies to hunting the moose applies to hunting the caribou, except that the hunter never tries to ‘call’ the caribou. '
“But now I recollect that there is one thing about moose hunting that I forgot to tell you and it applies also to hunting the caribou. In some localities ‘barriers’ are still in use, but nowadays they seldom make new ones. In the old days whole tribes used to take part in barrierhunting and sometimes the barriers would stretch for fifteen or twenty miles and were usually made from one part of a river to another, and thus they marked off the woods enclosed in a river’s bend.
“Barriers are made by felling trees in a line; or, in an open place, or upon a river or lake, placing a line of little trees in the snow about ten paces apart. Small evergreens with the butts no thicker than a ma_n’s_ thumb were often used; yet an artificial line of such brush was enough to turn moose or caribou and cause them to move forward in a certain direction where the hunters were hiding. Even big clumps of moss, placed upon trees, will produce the same effect. Frequently, too, snares for deer are set in suitable places along the barrier, and while the snares are made of babiche the loops are kept open with blades of grass.
“There is still another thing I forgot to tell you about moose-hunting—my son, I must be growing old when I forget so much. While my Indian cousins in the East use birch-bark horns for calling moose, my other cousins in the far North never do, yet they call moose too, but in a different way. They use the shoulder blade of a deer. Thus, when a bull is approaching the hunter stands behind a tree and rubs the ■ shoulder blade upon the trunk or strikes it against the branches of a neighboring bush, as it then makes a sound not unlike a bull thrashing his horns about. Such a sound makes a bull believe that another is approaching and ready to fight him for the possession of the cow, and he prepares to charge his enemÿ. At such a moment the hunter throws the shoulder blade into some bushes that may be standing a little way off, and the enraged bull, hearing this last sound, charges directly for the spot. Then as the brute passes broadside, the hunter fires.”
The “Northern Canada Blood-Hound” DREAR FAST over, we slipped on our •*-> snowshoes and set out to follow a mass of tracks that led southward. It was easy going on a beaten trail, a blind man could have followed it. That reminds me of something I have failed to tell you about winter trailing in the Northland. Again the novelists are all wrong, Stewart Edward White in particular, for he wrote a northern tale upon that very subject and called it “The Silent Places.” The whole story was hinged upon trailing—but Mr.
White, they don’t use blood-hounds in Northern Canada.
In winter, the men of the Northland don’t trail human beings by scent, they trail them by sight or touch. Sight trailing, of course, you understand. Trailing by touch, however, when not understood by the spectator, seems a marvelous performance. For instance, when a husky dog, the leader of a sled-train, will come out of the forest and with his head held high, and without a moment’s hesitation, trot across a lake that may be three or four miles wide, upon the surface of which the wind and drifting snow have left absolutely no visible sign of a trail, and when that dog will cross that great unbroken expanse and enter the woods on the far shore exactly where the trail appears in sight again, though no stick or stone or any other visible thing marks the spot — it does seem a marvelous feat. But it is done, not By sight, sound or scent, but by touch—the feel of the foot. In winter time, man too follows a trail in the same way, notwithstanding that he is generally handicapped by a pair of snowshoes. Some unseen trails are not hard to followeven a blind man could follow them. It is done this way:
Suppose you come to a creek that you want to cross, yet you can see no way of doing it, for there is nothing in sight— neither log nor bridge—spanning the river. But suppose some one tells you that though the water is so muddy you cannot see an inch into it, there is a flat log spanning the creek about six inches below the surface, and that if you feel about with your foot you can find it. Then, of course, you would make your way across by walking on the unseen log, yet knowing all the time that if you made a misstep you would plunge into the stream. You would do it by the feel of the foot.
It is just the same in following an unseen trail in the snow—it lies hard-packed beneath the surface, just as the log lay unseen in the river. What a pity it is that the writers of northern tales never understand the life they have made a specialty of depicting. Jack London, for instance, wrote that the dog sleds of Northern Canada were made of birch-bark. I wonder if he was ever in our Great Northern Forests in winter time? I doubt it.
Sighting the Caribou Herd
BUT to return to the caribou we were trailing, and also to make a long hunt short—for you now know most of the interesting points in the sport—I must tell you that we spent a full day and a night before we came up with them. And that night, too, a heavy fall of snow added to our trouble, but it made the forest more beautiful than ever. It was after sunrise when we picked up fresh tracks. A heavy rime was falling, but though it screened all distant things, we espied five caribou that were still lingering on a lake, over which the main band had passed. They were east of us and were heading for the north side of a long, narrow island.
As soon as they passed behind it, Oo-koo-hoo hurried across the intervening space, and ran along the southern shore to head them off. The eastern end of the island dwindled into a long point and it was there that the Owl hoped to get a shot. Sure enough he did, for he arrived there ahead of the deer. Though he had lost sight of them, he knew they were nearing him, for he could hear the crunching sound of their hoofs in the frosty snow, and later he could even hear that strange clicking sound, caused by the muscular action of the hoofs in walking—a sound peculiar to caribou.
Oo-koo-hoo cautiously went down on one knee and there waited with his gun cocked and in position. The air was scarcely
moving. Now antlered heads appeared beyond the openings between the snowmantled trees. The hunter, taking aim, addressed them:
“My brothers, I need your. . . ” Then the violent report of his gun shattered the stillness, and the leader, a doe, lunged forward a few paces, staggered upon trembling legs, and then sank down into the brilliantly sunny snow. But before he could re-load for a second shot the rest of the little band passed out of range and, with their high-stepping, hackneyaction, soon passed out of sight. So, later on, with our sled again heavily loaded, and with packs of meat upon our backs, we set out for home.
Next morning, soon after sunrise, while I was breaking trail across a lake, I espied a log house in a little clearing beside a large beaver meadow. As it was about the time we usually stopped for our second breakfast, I turned in the direction of the lonely abode. It was a small, well-built house and, with the exception of the spaces at the two windows and the door, was entirely enclosed by neatly-stacked firewood suitable for a stove. Beyond, half built in the rising ground, stood a little log stable, and near it a few cattle were eating from haystacks.
Going up to the shack, I knocked upon the door, and as a voice bade me enter I slipped off my snow-shoes, pulled the latch string and walked in. Entering from the dazzling sunlight, the room at first seemed in darkness. Presently, however, I regained my sight, and then beheld the interior of a comfortable little home— the extreme of neatness and order; and then I saw a human form lying beneath the blankets of a bunk in a far corner. Later I noticed that two black eyes beneath a shock of black hair were smiling a welcome.
“Good morning,” I greeted. “May I use your stove to cook breakfast?”
“No, sir,” replied the figure: then it sat up in bed, and I saw that it was a white man. “I’ll do the cooking myself, for you’re to be my guest.”
“Thanks,” I returned, “I’m travelling with an Indian and I don’t wish to trouble you; but if I may use your stove I’ll be much obliged.”
“If I have what you haven’t,” my host smiled, “will you dine with me?”
“All right,” I agreed.
“Potatoes,” he exclaimed.
“Good,” I laughed.
“Then sit down please and rest while I do the cooking.”
Oo-koo-hoo now came in and at the host’s bidding, filled his pipe from a tobacco pouch upon the table.
Could This Be Son-in-Law? 'T'HE accent of the stranger suggested that he was an English gentleman, and it seemed strange, indeed, to discover so refined and educated a man, living apparently alone and without any special occupation in the very heart of the Great Northern Forest. Curiosity seized me. Then I wondered—was this the man?. . . . could he be son-in-law?
“Do you often go over to Fort Consolation?” I asked.
But I refrained from questioning him further. No, he was not son-in-law. So I talked about the woods and the weather, while Oo-koo-hoo brought in a haunch of venison from his sled and presented it to the stranger. But with my host’s every action and word the mystery grew.
The stove, which was fireless, stood beside the bed, and reaching for the griddlelifter, he removed the lids; then picking up a stick of pine kindling from behind the stove, he whittled some shavings and placed them in the fire-box; and on top of this he laid kindling and birch firewood. Then he replaced the lids, struck a match and while the fire began to roar, filled the kettle from a keg of water that stood behind the stove, and mind you, he did it without getting out of bed.
Next, he leant over the side of the bunk, opened a little trap door in the floor, reached down into his little box-like cellar and hauled up a bag containing potatoes, which he then put in a pot to boil in their skins. From the wall he took a long stick with a crook upon the end, and reaching out, hooked the crook round the leg and drew the table toward him. Reaching up to one of the three shelves above his bunk, he took down the necessary dishes and cutlery to set the breakfast
table for us three. While the potatoes were boiling, he took from another shelf—the one upon which he kept a few wellchosen books—a photograph album and suggested that I look it over while he broiled the venison steak and infused the
When I opened the album and saw its contents, it not only further excited my curiosity, regarding the personal history of my host, but it thrilled me with interest, for never before or since have I seen an album that contained photographs of a finer looking, or more distinguished lot of people. Its pages contained photographs of Lord This, General That, Admiral What’s-his-Name, and also the Bishop of I’ve-forgotten and many a Sir and Lady too, as well as the beautiful Countess of Can’t-remember.
Breakfast was served. The potatoes were a treat, the steak was excellent, the tea was good, and there we three sat and ate a hearty meal, for not only did we relish the food, but the company, the wit and the laughter too. But all the while, my healthy, jovial, handsome host remained in bed. I studied the blankets that covered his legs—apparently there was nothing wrong with that part of him. I could not fathom the^mystery. It completely nonplused me.
Why Get Up?
I GLANCED round the room, there were many photographs upon the walls, among them Cambridge “eights” and “fours,” and sure enough, there he was, rowing in those very crews; and in the football and tennis pictures he also appeared as one of the best of them all. And how neat and clean was his one-roomed house! Everything was in order; water keg behind the stove to keep the water from freezing; big barrel by the door in which to turn snow into water. A woodpile across the end of the room—enough to outlast any blizzard. Then when I glanced at him again, I noticed a crested signet ring upon his left little finger. Breakfast over, smoking began, and as he washed the dishes I wiped them—but still I pondered. Then at last, I grew brave. I would risk it. I would ask him:
“Why do you stay in bed?”
First he responded with a burst of laughter, then with the question:
“Why, what’s the use of getting up?” and next with the statement: “I stay in bed all winter. . . or nearly so. It’s the only thing to do. I used to get up, and go for my mail occasionally. . . at least, I did a few years ago, but too many times I walked the forty miles to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Flying Station at Elbow Creek only to find no letters for me. . . so I chucked it all.
“Then, too, the first few winters I was here, I used to do a little shooting but I get all the game I want from the_ Indians now, so I have chucked the shooting, too. Now the only thing that gets me out of bed, or takes me out of doors, is to watch which way the wind blows. Two winters ago, when I was away from here a week, the wind blew steadily from the north for five days or more, and my cattle ate so far into the south sides of the hay stacks, that two of the stacks fell over on them and in that way I lost five head—they were smothered.”
Oo-koo-hoo, knocking the ashes from his pipe, began to tie his coat; apparently he thought it was time we were going. I opened the album again, and glanced through it once more as I sat upon the edge of my strange host’s bunk. I stopped my turning when I came to a photograph of a charming gentlewoman whose hair was done in an old-fashioned way, so becoming to her character and beauty. She must have been about twenty-three. He, then, was nearing forty. I thought his hand lingered a little upon the page. And when I commended her beauty, I fancied his voice tremored slightly—anyway his pipe went out.
But Oo-koo-hoo, getting up, broke the silence.
I invited my still unknown host to pay me a visit. We shook hands heartily, and as I turned to close the door, I noticed that he had lain down again, and had covered up his head. As a pleasant parting salutation—a cheering one as I thought—I exclaimed:
“Perfectly stunning!. . . the most beautiful lot of women I have ever seen!”
And then from beneath the bed-clothes
“V-e-s. the blighters'."
AT supper-time a snow flurry overtook us and whitened the forest. As we sat around the fire that evening, the last evening of our trip, Oo-koo-hoo again began worrying about the presence of wolverines, recalling many of his experiences with those destructive animals. But none of his stories equalled the following, told once by Chief Factor Thomp-
It happened years ago when an old Dogrib Indian, called Meguir, was living and hunting in the vicinity of Fort Rae on Great Slave Lake. The Dog-rib and his family of five had been hunting Barren Ground caribou, and after killing, skinning and cutting up a number of deer, had buiit a stage upon which they placed the venison. Moving on and encountering another herd of caribou, they killed again, and cutting up the game, stored it this time in a log cache.
On continuing their work the next day the children brought in word that a wolverine, or carcajou, had visited the log cache; so Meguir set off at once to investigate the
When he arrived, he found the cache torn asunder, and the meat gone. Wolverine tracks were plentiful and mottled the snow in many directions, but on circling, Meguir found a trail that led away, and on following it up, he came upon a quarter of deer. He circled again, trailed another track, found more meat, and after a few hours’ work he had recovered most of the venison; but on smelling it, he found that the wolverine, in its usual loathsome way, had defiled the meat. That night," his old wife woke up with a start and hearing the dogs growling, looked out, and discovered a strange animal scrambling down from one of the stages. At once she screamed to her old man to get his gun as fast as the Master of Life would let him, as the wolverine was robbing them again.
The “Great Mischief Maker”
HALF-AWAKE, and that half ail
excitement, the old man rushed out into the snow, with his muzzle-loading flint-lock and let drive. Instantly one of his dogs fell over. Roaring with rage, the
old Indian reloaded with all speed, and catching another glimpse of the wolverine in the faint light of the aurora borealis, let drive again; but as ill-luck would have it, the gun went off just as another of his dogs made a gallant charge, and once more a dog fell dead—and the wolverine got away!
According to the northern custom, when he camped that night, he stood his gun and snow-shoes in the snow far enough away to prevent their being affected by the heat of the fire. In the morning his snow-shoes were gone. Tracks, however, showed that the wolverine had taken them. Again the old man trailed the thief; but without snow-shoes, the going was extra hard, and it was afternoon before he stumbled upon one of his snowshoes lying in the snow, and quite near his former camp, as the “Great Mischief Maker” had simply made a big circuit and come back again. But of what use was one snow-shoe? So the old hunter continued his search and late that day found the other—damaged beyond repair.
That night, filled with rage and despondency, he returned to his old camp, and as usual placed his gun upright in the snow away from the heat of the fire. In the morning it was gone. New tracks marked the snow and showed where the carcajou had dragged it away. Several hours later the old man found it with its case tom to ribbons, the butt gnawed, and the trigger broken.
Tired, hungry, dejected and enraged, old Meguir sought his last night’s camp to make a fire and to rest awhile; but when he got there he found he had lost his fire bag containing his flint and steel—his wherewithal for making fire. _ -
But instead of thinking of wreaking his rage upon the wolverine, the poor old Indian was so completely intimidated by the wily brute, so discouraged and so despondent, that he imagin'ed that the whole transaction was the work of some evil spirit. As a result, he not only gave up hunting the wolverine, but he gave up hunting altogether, and he and his family would have starved had not friends come to their rescue and rendered them assistance until his grandsons were old enough to take charge.
To be Continued