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John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part XXXVI

John returned to his lodge from a trip to the Trading Post and was surprised as Red Sky in the Morning was sitting in his place, he stopped at the door of the lodge and hesitated to enter and Red Sky hung her head down. Old Woman spoke up in a tone somewhat harsher than was common for her to use, “will you turn your back from the door of the lodge and put this young woman to shame who is in all respects better than you are”. You have followed her about the village, now you would turn from her and make her appear like one who has attempted to thrust herself in your way. John was conscious of the justness of Old Woman’s reproaches and was in part prompted by her and he went in and sat down by the side of Red Sky and thus they became man and wife. Old Woman had without John’s consent made her bargain with the parents of Red Sky while he was absent and brought her home rightly supposing that it would be no difficult matter to reconcile him to the matter. In most marriages which happened between young folks the parties most interested have less to do than in this case. The amount of presents which the parents of a woman expect to receive in exchange for her diminish in proportion to the number of husbands she may have had.

A few days after John had returned from the Trading Post his family including his new wife moved to the woods and directed their course towards the Cranberry River (Pembinah) as they wished to select a place favourable to where the women and children might remained encamped as it was their intention to join a war-party that was then preparing to against the Sioux. They chose a suitable place and applied themselves diligently to hunting that they might leave enough dry meat to supply the wants of their families in their absence. One morning John went hunting with only three balls in his pouch and finding a large buck moose he fired at him rather hastily and missed him twice in succession and his third shot wounded him in the shoulder. He pursued him and at length overtook him but having no balls he took the screws out of his gun, tied the lock on with a string and it was not after he had three of them into him that he fell.

They had killed a considerable quantity of meat and the women were engaged in drying it when they became curious to learn the state of the readiness of the war-party at Pembinah and how soon they would start. When they arrived they found forty men of the Muskegoes ready to depart the following morning and though they had come without moccasins or any of the usual preparations for travel they determined to accompany them. Great numbers of Ojibbeways and Crees had assembled but they seemed in general unwilling to join the Muskegoes as this band was not in very high repute among them. There was an effort to dissuade John arguing that they should put it off and go with the Ojibbeways in the Fall but he assured them that by no means would he lose the present opportunity as they could go now and again in the Fall.

Two days out of Pembinah they had not a mouthful to eat and were beginning to feel hunger. When they laid down to camp at night they put their ears close to the ground and could hear the tramp of buffaloes but when they sat up they could hear nothing and the following morning nothing could be seen of them even though they commanded a very extensive view of the prairie. They knew that they must not be to far off in the distance so eight men which John was one of them were dispatched to hunt them, they rode some hours before they could see them and it was like a black line drawn down along the edge of the sky or a low shore seen across a lake.. It was rutting season and the heard was kept in rapid motion by the severe fights of the Bulls, the noise produced by knocking together and their incessant tramping and stomping was added to the furious bellowing engaged as they were in their terrific and in what John described as ‘appalling conflicts”.

Next up they enjoin the Bulls field of battle.


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