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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XXVII

John with his brother and his wife started to return home, they got to the village where they had tried to kill his horse. They slept near a Traders tent and were apprehensive that he would be robbed or injured but he was so tired he fell asleep and the old man who had befriended him in the past crept into the lodge during the night and pilfered his brother’s gun, attempts to retrieve it failed so they moved on. John’s horse had become so poor and feeble that even the woman could not ride him. They rested for a few days then went on. They had started to suffer from hunger having for many days killed only one poor buffalo when they met a small band of Crees, things went from bad to worse, instead of relieving their wants they treated them in an unfriendly manner and John overheard them talking about killing them on account of some old quarrel with a band of Ojibbeways. They would sell them nothing but a small badger so they lost no time in escaping as far as they could, they were starved for two more days when they met an Ojibbeway (The White Crane) who had very lately killed a moose. They stayed with this man about a month during which they had plenty of food and slept in his lodge until they moved on to the Rush Lake River where they had left the Old Woman but she had left to live with some Indians at a distance of four days. John’s three horses that he had left had been neglected by the girl that was to care from them and were found dead, his own horse which he had ridden to the Red River was also dead, he had none left. John remained alone near the Trading House but the Trader whose name was M’Glees took notice of him and invited him to live with him. M’Glees tried to induce him to leave the Indians but John felt an inclination to spend all his time hunting and disliked the domestic events about a trading house.

In the company with five French men and one Ojibbeway woman sent by Mr. M’Glees John visited a trading house on the Menaukonoskego River. They were furnished only enough meat for only one meal, about the middle of the third day they came to a creek of salt water and on the summit of a little hill they saw a man sitting very still. They approached him but he gave no answer to any questions, they took hold of him and tried to rouse him but they found him stiffened by the cold and when they took their hands off of him he tumbled to the ground as if he had been frozen entirely stiff, his breath still came and went but his limbs were no longer flexible and he appeared in most aspects dead. Beside him laid a small kettle, his bag had steel and flint, a moccasin awl, and a pair of moccasins, they tried to resuscitate him in vain. John regarded him as dead and advised the Frenchmen to return with him to the Trading House so that he could properly be buried which they agreed to. John later learned that the man had ceased breathing an hour or two after they had started back and he also learned that the man had been sent away from the trading house because he was too indolent, he had started out nearly destitute on provisions but it turned out he had been fed and offered plenty of provisions to take with him but he had declined saying he would not have occasion for it, he had been very much enfeebled and had been about two days in travel to the spot that John had found him.

John moved on with the Ojibbeway woman and soon arrived at his brothers where he remained about a month and then again moved to make sugar, John described it as ten fires of them and after the sugar was made they all went to hunt beaver in concert. In hunts of this kind the proceeds were sometimes equally divided but in this instance every man retained what he had killed, in three days John had as many skins as he could carry. In time the hunt was proven so distant and hastily held that little meat was brought in and the whole band was soon suffering from hunger.

Times again became dire!


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