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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XX

They were all hungry; the Old Woman sent John to seek help, a difficult trek, when he arrived at the Trader House they immediately knew by his face he was starving, asking about his family they swiftly dispatched a man with provisions for them.

He was only at the Traders a few hours when he heard the voice “is my son here?” When John looked after the voice she expressed the utmost satisfaction at the sight of him, the Old Woman had not met the man that had been sent with the provisions who had gone by a different route. The wind had become violent soon after John had left camp and the Old Woman thinking he would not be able to cross the lake started after him but the drifting snow had obscured his tracks and she could not follow it and arrived at the Traders House with the apprehension that he had perished on the way.

A few days later the rest of the family came in having been relieved of hunger by the provisions that had been sent. After remaining a few days at the Trading House they left to join other Indians, the party consisted of three lodges with the principal being Crooked Legs and three of the best hunters, The Small Hawk, The Turtle and He that Stands in the Smoke who was recognized as a very distinguished hunter. John later ruminated about the story of He that Stands in the Smoke, he was accidentally wounded receiving a whole charge of shot in his elbow, the joint and the bones in his arm much shattered. The wound did not show any signs of healing and in fact became much worse, asked of many Indians and to all the white men he saw to cut it off for him all refused to assist him in any type of amputation. He chose a time when alone and taking two knives the edge of one he had hacked into a sort of saw he cut off his left arm and threw it from him as far as he could and was later found asleep having lost a great quantity of blood. Luckily, he recovered and notwithstanding the loss of one arm he again became a great hunter and later was commonly called The Cut off Arm. It was a time of plenty.

The weather began to warm and the family left to hunt beaver but not too far from the Trading House afraid to go any distance after having suffered so much from hunger. They discovered a moose track and after a chase assisted by their dogs it was easily dispatched. They remained in the area about a days hike from the Trading House, by himself John killed twenty Otters and a good many beaver and other animals. One day when John was checking his traps he saw some ducks on a pond, he took the ball out of his gun, put in some shot and began to sneak up on them. He was crawling cautiously through the bushes when a bear started up near him and ran up a white pine almost over his head, he hastily threw a ball into his gun barrel and fired, the gun burst about midway of the barrel and the entire upper half was carried away. The bear was untouched and went higher up the tree, he loaded what was left of his gun and taking aim the second time brought him to the ground.

The family remained in the area and accumulated a number of packs, it was inconvenient to keep them in their small lodge so they left them from time to time at the Trading House for safe keeping. In time the traders took their packs without their consent but the Old Woman followed after them to Rainy Lake and retook everything that belonged to them but the Traders prevailed upon her and she sold them.

At the invitation of an Ottawwaw chief they stayed at Rainy Lake and he treated them with much kindness, he built and gave them a small canoe for their own use and a large bark canoe intended for the use of fur traders which they then sold for One Hundred dollars. While living by the lake John took great numbers of fish with hook and line and one day he killed a large Sturgeon with a rock when it ventured into shallow waters near him. A feast was held in celebration.


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