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Saddle, Sled and Snowshoe
Chapter IX
The fall fishing—A relentless tooth-ache—Prairie and forest fire—Attacked by my dogs—A run home— A sleepless night—Father turns dentist—Another visit to Edmonton—Welcome relief—Final revenge on my enemy.

IN the meantime we were putting up stables and out-buildings, and going on with work on the mission house. We also put up the walls of a small church. Then the time came to look after the fall fishing, and we concluded to go to Saddle Lake for this purpose. Upon me fell the work of establishing the fishery, and to me was given as companion and fellow-worker a young Canadian, Thomas Kernan by name. Our plan was to go down the river in the skiff, as far as the Snake Hills, which were about opposite the lake, and then portage our boat over the hills the eight or ten miles to the lake. Peter was to meet us at the place of landing, and we took with us in our boat a pair of cart-wheels, on which to transport our boat from the river to the lake. An axe and an auger were all the tools we had. We took a skin lodge to live in at the fishery, and embarking one afternoon came to the place of meeting early the next day. Peter turned up in convenient time with a horse, and we went to work to make a frame and axle for the wheels, and soon had our boat loaded on this with our fishing outfit, tent, etc., and were tramping up the hills. On the way we killed five large geese and some ducks, and were at the lake in time to put up our tent and set one net that night, Peter being anxious to taste the fish. before he returned to the mission.

Peter had not to wait until the next morning for his fish, for we caught some that very night, and had them cooked for our second supper. He returned home the following day —some forty miles straight across country— and Tom and I were left to go on with our fishing operations. Making floats, tying stones, setting nets, putting up fish, taking up the nets, washing and drying and mending them, and resetting them—all this kept us busy from daylight until nine o'clock at night. Tom had never done any such work before, but he was teachable and diligent, and proved a splendid companion. All this time, however, I was in perfect misery with one of my teeth. It had been aching for over two months, and had, in a large measure, taken the pleasure out of all my later trips. Whether hunting the Stoneys, chasing buffalo, or at home at Victoria, that old tooth kept on the jump and made life miserable. I had burned it with a red-hot iron, had poulticed it, had done everything I could, but as there was not a pair of forceps in the country, I could not have it pulled. 'Now the overhauling of nets morning and night, working in the cold water, was making my tooth worse than ever. Sometimes I was almost distracted witn he gnawing ache and pain.

One day we had an experience which made me forget my tooth for the time. A great prairie and forest fire suddenly came sweeping down upon us. We had very little time to roll the tent up on the poles, gather our bedding and nets, our guns, ammunition, etc., into the boat, and shove off, before the fire was upon us. We got out to one of our net sticks, and I held on to it while the smoke and flame and the intense heat lasted. Sometimes I was so nearly choking that I almost let go my hold. Had I lost my grip, this would have run us into another danger, a high wind having risen by this time. Our dogs must have taken to the water also, for when the smoke had cleared away they were on the spot waiting for us.

Some days later these very dogs made me again forget the tooth-ache for a little while. We had a small ham of buffalo meat left, which we were saving for Sundays and special occasions. Coming ashore one day I noticed fresh bones near the tent, and looking up on the stage where our meat ought to have been, I saw that the dogs had somehow or other got hold of it. This so incensed me that I determined to thrash everyone of them. I caught the one I knew to be the biggest thief of the lot, but at the first slap I gave him the whole pack of ten big dogs sprang at me. I might have fought them off if all had attacked me from one direction, but they came from all sides, and to save my life I had to climb to the top of the staging. In a flash I was occupying the place vacated by our unfortunate ham, and not until Tom, who was down at the lake cleaning fish, came to my rescue and whistled the dogs off, did I dare to leave my perch of safety. A long summer's idleness, and now being fat and strong, had made these dogs savage, but they came under all right when we began to work them.

All this time my tooth was getting worse, and after putting in a terrible night, I said to Tom: "Are you willing to stay here alone while I go to the mission and see if I cannot in some way obtain relief from this tooth?" and the plucky fellow said, "Go ahead, John, and I will do the best I can until you send some one to help me." So away I ran, with only a light coat on, and but a small piece of dried meat stuck into my bosom. Of course I had my gun and some matches, but I fully expected to reach the mission that evening. I did not know how nearly used up I was by those days and nights of intense suffering. Before I had gone very far I began to lag. Then there was no road to follow, and never having been across that way before, I went too much to the north, was cut off my course by a chain of lakes, and had to retrace my way for a long distance.

Evening came on, and with it cold and storm. I saw I would have to camp out. Sighting a fall duck, which was staying up in these latitudes longer than most of its kind, I shot it, and waded out after it up to my waist with clothes and all on, but finding the water deepening, I was forced after all to abandon my bird. Then, with clothes frozen, I travelled on in wretched discomfort until, darkness coming on, I camped in the lee of some scrub pines. Making a fire, I prepared to spend another even more miserable night, for with the tooth-ache there was now the undesirable accompaniment of cold, hunger and loneliness.

As night wore on the storm increased, and the wind from the north grew bitterly cold. I was extremely glad that some of the dogs had followed me; and after drying my clothes I took two of the animals, and tying them together with my belt, I stretched them at my back, and, with the fire on one side and the dogs on the other, tried to get the much-needed rest and sleep. But between the cold and that relentless molar, there was no sleep to be had. Piling on the wood, I shivered and suffered over that fire through the long, tedious night. It was with great relief I saw the first glimmer of coming day; but not until it was fairly light did I venture forth, for I did not care to run any more risks as to my course. I was now both hungry and weak; and thus I travelled on until a little after sunrise, when I saw some horses ahead of me. While wondering how I might catch one, I came in sight of two lodges, and making for them, found that one of them belonged to the "Blood" man whom I have already introduced to my readers. He received me kindly, and fed me hospitably. He and the people in the other lodges were on their way to the lake where we had been fishing, and I begged them to hurry on, for my companion was there alone. Refreshed by the hearty breakfast, and having the track of this party to guide me, I then pursued my ,journey. I had still twenty miles to make. This in ordinary times with me would have been but a little run, but now it seemed a fearful distance. I fairly dragged my legs along, and was almost thoroughly played out when at last, late in the evening, I reached the mission. Father was away at Edmonton. Mother did all she could for me, but that tireless tooth simply ached on; there was no stopping it. When father came home, Peter, who was with him, went right on to the fishing to take my place, while father got a pair of pinchers, and, with the aid of the carpenter, Larsen, filed them into the shape of forceps. With this improvised instrument he set to work to extract the tooth, but after five fruitless efforts at this, he broke the tooth off square with the gums, and then it ached worse than ever!

Winter had now set in, and the river soon was frozen over, so as to admit of travel. Mr. Woolsey having business at Edmonton, I took him with cariole and dogs, following the ice all the way there and back. That tooth kept up its aching, more or less, all the time until we came within thirty miles of home. The last day of the trip, while we were having lunch, I was eating a piece of pemmican, when all of a sudden my tooth stopped aching. I felt a hole in it, and also felt something queer in my mouth. Taking this out, I found it to be a piece of the nerve. The pain was gone, and my relief may be imagined. I think I must have gained about ten pounds in weight within the next two weeks. I owe it to dental history to record that nine years after, when paying my first flying visit to Ontario, I sat down in cold blood and told the dentist to dig out those roots; for verily there was deep rooted in me the desire for revenge on that tooth. He did dig it out, and I was pleased and satisfied to part with my old enemy.


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