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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XXVIII

John had taken part in a hastily proposed but successful beaver hunt that ended up distant from the trading post and the result was a time of hunger, many of the hunters and John among them became in what John described as “extremely weak and unable to hunt far from home.” One day when the ice on the ponds were covered with water John reached a place about a mile from camp in a low swamp when he saw fresh moose sign. He followed it and killed it, it became a feast for the whole band and it was entirely devoured in a single day. Afterwards they journeyed in two days’ time and met more Indians who had made a very successful hunt on the Clam River. They stopped at a trading house and remained there drinking until all their pelts were sold then they started for the mouth of the river, the distance was so short their dogs ran along the shore, the dogs started an Elk and drove him into the water where by canoe the Indians chased him to the shore and killed him on the beach.

Not long afterwards John’s family met an old Ottawwaw Chief (he that has a bell) more commonly called Wa-ge-toat. He was a relative of one of John’s family and had with him three lodges and two wives, one of his son’s also had two. John’s family remained with them for two months and almost every morning he asked John to accompany him on a hunt. Whenever John hunted with him he gave him all or the greater part of what they killed, he took much pain to teach John how to take moose and other animals that were difficult to kill. According to John there was an opinion among the Indians that a moose had the power of remaining under the water. Two of the men whom John new perfectly well and considered as very good and credible hunters came back after a long day’s absence from a hunt and said they chased a moose into a small pond and that they had seen him go into the middle of it and disappear. They chose a position from which they could see the entire circumference of the pond, smoked and waited until near evening during which they could see no motion on the water or other indications of the position of the moose. At length being discouraged they had abandoned all hope so they returned home, not long afterwards came a solitary hunter loaded with meat. He related that having followed the track of a moose for some distance he had traced it to a pond and also discovered the tracks of two men made at the same time as the moose, he concluded they must have killed it. Nevertheless, approaching cautiously to the margin of the pond he sat down to rest and saw a moose rise slowly in the middle of the pond and waded towards the shore where he was sitting and when it came sufficiently close he shot him in the water. The Indians considered the moose shyer and more difficult to take than any other animal, he seemed more vigilant and senses more acute than those of the buffalo or caribou, fleeter than elk and more prudent and craftier than the antelope. They felt that if a man either with his foot or hand breaks the smallest dry limb in the forest the moose will hear it and though he does not always run he ceases eating and his senses are aroused to all sounds. If in the course of an hour or thereabout if neither moves nor makes the least noise the moose may begin to feed again but does not forget what he heard and is for many hours more vigilant than before.

The Chief with whom they were living with took every opportunity to instruct John as to the habits of the moose and other animals and showed great pleasure when Johns hunting excursions were crowned with success. As John’s family was about to leave the Chief called out all of the young hunters and a several of the women to accompany him for one day, he killed a fat buck moose and gave it too John, he pointed out the Caribou is not found among the Elk but in the prairie country Elk and buffalo both reside.

Next? John receives a proposal from a chief to marry his daughter!


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