John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XI
John remembered the old woman’s recantations and dreams about seeing a meadow and a bear being harvested. Without mentioning it to anyone he resolved to go in search for the place she had spoken of and loaded his gun. At length he came to an open place and was confident that this was the place when he unexpectedly fell but was able to extricate himself, when he looked into the hole into which he tottered he saw the head of a bear lying close to the hole. He placed the muzzle of his gun nearly between the bears eyes and discharged his gun, as the smoke cleared he took a stick and thrust it into the eyes and wound finally satisfying himself that the bear was indeed dead. John tried to lift the bear out of the hole but was unable to do it himself, so he returned to camp following the track he had made. As John returned to camp he met a woman who had shown little friendship for them and she wondered aloud if he had killed a bear, why he had come back so soon and why he was walking so fast, he thought to himself “how did she know I have killed a bear” but passed by her without saying anything and went to his mother’s lodge where food has been scarce and whispered in her ear “I have killed a bear” she responded by asking him if he was sure, watched his face for a moment then caught him up in her arms hugging and kissing him with great earnestness for a long time. His mother arranged for the bear to be sent for and as it was his first it was cooked, and all the hunters of the band were invited to a feast which was the custom of the Indians. For some time, they had plenty of game and they soon afterwards went back to the trading post arriving there on the last day of December.
After New Year’s Day, they started for the country of Pe-shau-ba which was of great distance, the snow was deep and for the most part across open prairie which they could not travel when the wind was high. Even as they commenced their journey, they were hungry and in want of provisions but soon found plenty of Buffalo which were very fat and very good. In bad weather they made a small lodge and covered it with three or four fresh buffalo hides that made strong shelter from the wind and snow. They diligently traveled as the weather would permit brothers carrying their sisters’ children on their back and did this for about two and a half months until late winter when they arrived at a place called Clear Water Lake. The country was mostly prairie with some low cedar and pine trees but there were plenty of beaver and other game and just before the leaves began to appear they started out with all their pelts and large quantities of dried meat and dried beaver tails to go to a trading post on Mouse River. There were no birch or cedar fit for making canoes, so they were compelled to make one from green moose skins which were sewed together with the greatest care and stretched over a proper frame then dried to make a very strong and good canoe but in the warm weather they didn’t last long but they set out with the ultimate goal of returning to Lake Huron. They traveled for several days until they came to a rapid and a village of about One Hundred and Fifty lodges where they felt the want of fresh provisions and stopped for a day or two to kill sturgeons which were found in plenty. John saw an old man when a sturgeon had just been drawn out of the water cut off the pendant part of the mouth and eat it without cooking it or using any kind of condiment.
Two days after leaving the rapids they came to the Monk River where there were Trading Houses, here some of them commenced to drinking and in a short time expended all the pelts they had caught, they sold one hundred beaver skins in one day for liquor, the price was six beaver skins for a quarter of rum which was cut with a great deal of water in it, after drinking for some time they began to make birch canoes still intending to continue on. But there was intervention.