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John Tanner: Growing up a Captive, Part XXII

It was winter and as it advanced it continually became colder. John Tanner hunted for a Trader called by the Indians Aneeb which meant Elm tree. John found it difficult to procure as much game as he had been earlier and the Trader wanted more. Early one morning John jumped an Elk and he pursued it until night and he had almost overtaken him but hope and strength failed him at the same time. The clothing he had on was drenched with sweat and he decided to turn towards home, it wasn’t long before he felt his clothing stiffened about him, his leggings of cloth and were torn moving through the brush, he knew he was somewhat frozen. Around midnight he arrived where the lodge was supposed to be, he knew it was the Old Woman’s intention to move and he knew where she would go but had not been informed she would move that day. John proceeded on their path and soon ceased to suffer from cold and felt that sleepy sensation which he knew preceded the last stage of weakness prior to death. John redoubled his efforts and knew the danger he was in, it was no small effort not to lay down, he lost his conscious state for some time though how long he did not know and it was like awakening from a dream. He found he had been walking round and round in a small circle not over twenty or twenty-five yards, his senses returned and discovered he had missed his path, while he was looking he discovered a light at a distance which he moved towards. Once more before we reached his lodge he lost his senses, he did not fall down and he felt that if he had he would never get up, again he found himself going in circles before he came to the lodge. He immediately fell down and could remember seeing the thick and sparkling frost on the inside of the lodge, he also remembered hearing his mother say that she had kept a large fire in expectation of his arrival and thought he should have known she was going to move. It was a month before he was able to go out again his face, hands and legs severely frozen.

The weather was beginning to warm the snow in a melt faze before he started to hunt again. One day with another Indian they found a large herd of Elk almost surrounded by river ice, in a gorge about two-hundred yards wide they stationed themselves, the herd unwilling to venture onto the ice was pushed within the reach of their shot and they killed two of them. In their eagerness to get nearer the herd spooked and was divided, a number of them were driven onto the ice where John ran after them. The Elk slipped on the smooth ice and became very frightened, they crowded so close together that their great weight broke the ice and as they went towards the opposite shore, the ice continued to break. John ran hastily and thoughtlessly along the brink of the open water and started to shoot them as fast as he could, when his balls were all expended he drew his knife and killed one or two with it but all that were killed in the water were in a short time swept under the ice and he did not get any of them, only one which he struck after it had breached the shore was saved. John and his partner ended up killing only four out of the gang of at least two hundred, immediately his partner under the pretense of notifying the Traders sold them as his own even though he had only killed two and ended up not being able to hunt having in a drunken frolic burned himself so badly he was not able to stand. It was not the last time his partner had belied his hunting veracity and Old Woman when acquainted with his conduct persecuted him so much he was induced to leave the lodge. There remained the Old Woman, John, a girl, a boy and two small children, now for the first time John was left to pass the winter by himself with a family to provide for and no one to assist him.

John killed a good number of beaver and other animals and they had time to supply all their wants including plenty of blankets and clothing.


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