Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Forest, Lake and Prairie
Chapter XXXVIII
William goes to the plains - I begin work at Victoria - Make hay - Plough - Hunt - Storm.


FATHER had suggested two plans for immediate action : One was to send William out to the plains to trade some provisions; the other was to send me to the site of the new mission, and have me make some hay and plough some land ready for next spring, and thus take up the ground.

Mr. Woolsey decided to act on both. The former was very necessary, for we were living on duck, rabbits, etc., and the supply was precarious.

William took an Indian as his companion, and I a white man, by the name of Gladstone, as mine.

We travelled together as far as the river. This time we took a skiff Mr. Woolsey had on Smoking Lake.

We took this as far as we could by water and then loaded it on to a cart, and when we reached the river we took William's carts apart and crossed them over, and he and his companion started out to look for provisions, while Gladstone and myself to put up hay and plough land.

For the former we had two scythes, and for the latter a coulterless plough; but we had a tremendously big yoke of oxen.

We pitched our lodge down on the bank of the river and went to work; but as we had to hunt our food as well as work, we did not rush things as I wanted to.

My companion had been a long time in the Hudson's Bay Company's service, but was a boat-builder by trade, and knew little about either haymaking or ploughing or hunting; but he was a first-rate fellow, willing always to do his best. He told me that though he had been in the country for a long time, he had seldom fired a gun and had never set a net.

We had between us a single-barrelled shotgun, percussion-lock, and a double-barrelled flintlock.

The first thing we did was to make some floats, and put strings on some stones, and I tied up a net we had and we crossed the river, and set it in an eddy; then we fixed up our scythes and started in to cut hay on the ground where we intended to plough.

We had several horses with us, and these and the oxen gave us a lot of trouble. Many an hour we lost in hunting them, but we kept at it.

At first our food supply was good. I caught several fine trout in my net, and shot some ducks and chickens. We succeeded in making two good-sized stacks of hay.

Then we went to ploughing, but our oxen had never pulled together before—good in the cart, but hard to manage in double harness. It was not until the second day, after a great deal of hard work, that we finally got them to pull together.

Then our plough, without a coulter, bothered us tremendously; but we staked out a plot of ground, and were determined, if possible, to tear it up.

Once our oxen got away, and we lost them for three days. "Glad," as I called him, knew very little about tracking, and I very little at that time, but the third day, late in the evening, I came across the huge fellows, wallowing in pea- vine almost up to their backs, and away they went, with their tails up, and I had to run my horse to head them off for our tent.

One morning, very early, I was across looking at my net, and caught a couple of fine large trout. Happening to look down the river, I saw some men in single file coming along our side, keeping well under the bank. My heart leaped into my mouth as I thought of a war- party; but as I looked, presently the prow of a boat came swinging into view around the point, and I knew these men I saw were tracking her up.

What a relief, and how thankful I was to think I might hear some news of home and father and the outside world, for though it was now more than four months' since I left home, I had not heard a word. I hurried up and fixed my net, and pulled across and told Glad the news about the boat, and he was as excited as myself.

Isolation is all very fine, but most of us soon get very tired of it. I for one never could comprehend the fellow who sighed, "Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness!" Very soon the boat came to us, and we found that it contained the chief factor, William Christie, Esq., and his family, and was on its way to Edmonton. Mr. Christie told me about father passing Canton in good time some weeks since, and assured me that he would now be safe at home at Norway House. He said that there was no late packet and he had no news from the east.

He went up and looked at our ploughing, and laughed at our lack of coulter. "Just like Mr. Woolsey, to bring a plough without a coulter," said he; but the same gentleman bought a lot of barley of us some three years after this.

They had hams of buffalo meat hanging over the prow and stern of their boat. I offered them my fish, hoping they would offer me some buffalo meat. They took my fish gladly, but did not offer us any meat. This was undoubtedly because they did not think of it, or they would have done so, but both Glad and I confessed to each other afterwards our sore disappointment.

However, we ploughed on.

One morning I had come ashore from the net with some fish in my boat, and, going up to the tent, Glad went down to the river to clean them. In a little while I looked over the bank, and, sitting within a few feet of Glad (who was engaged with the fish, just at the edge of the water), was a grey goose, looking earnestly at this object beside him; but as Glad made no sudden movement, the goose seemed to wonder whether this was alive or not. I slipped back for my gun and shot the goose, and Glad who thought somebody was shooting at him, jumped for his life, but I pointed to the dead goose and he was comforted.

Philanthropists make a great mistake when they begin to comfort others through their heads. Let them begin at their stomachs, which makes straighter and quicker work.

We were still three or four days away from our self-set task, when, as if by mutual agreement, the fish would not be caught, the ducks and geese took flight south, and the chickens left our vicinity. To use a western phrase, "The luck was agin' us." We had started with two salt buffalo tongues as our outfit, when we left Mr. Woolsey. We had still one of these left. We boiled it, and ate half the first day of our hard luck. We worked harder and later at our ploughing the second day. We finished the tongue and ploughed on. The third day we finished our task about two o'clock, and then I took my gun and hunted until dark, while Glad gathered and hobbled the horses close to camp. Not a rabbit or duck or chicken did I see.

If ii had been a pagan Indian, I would have said, "Mine enemy hath done this. Somebody is working bad medicine about me." But I had long before this found out that the larder of a hunter or fisherman is apt to be empty at times.

Glad and I sat beside our camp-fire that night, and were solemn and quiet. There was a something lacking in our surroundings, and we felt it keenly. For a week we had been on very short "commons," and since yesterday had not tasted any food, and worked hard. In the meantime, there is no denying it, we were terribly hungry.

Early next morning we took down our tent and packed our stuff. We had neither pack nor riding-saddles, as we had come this far with William, and we had hoped that he would have returned before we were through our work; but going on the plains was going into a large country.

You might strike the camp soon, or you might be weeks looking for them, and when you found the Indians, they might be in a worse condition as to provisions than you were. This all depended on the buffalo in their migrations —sometimes here, and again hundreds of miles away. William may turn up any time, and it may be a month or six weeks before we hear from him. As it is, Glad and I do the best we can without saddles, and start for home.

Having the oxen, we went slow.

After travelling about ten miles, I saw someone coming towards us, and presently made out that it was a white man, and I galloped on to meet him, and found that it was Neils, the Norwegian, who was with Mr. Woolsey. He was on foot, but I saw he had a small pack on his back, and my first question was, "Have you anything to eat?" and he said he had a few boiled tongues on his back. Then I told him that Glad and I were very hungry, and would very soon lighten his pack. He told me Mr. Woolsey had become anxious about us, and at last sent him to see if we were still alive. When Glad came up, we soon showed Neils that our appetites were fully alive, for we each took a whole tongue and ate it; then we split another in two and devoured that. And now, in company with Neils, we continued our journey, reaching Mr. Woolsey's the same evening, but making great attempts to lower the lakes and creeks by the way, for our thirst after the salt tongues was intense.


Return to Book Contents Page