"Wild Freedom Chapter 6" By Rolly A. Chabot
There are those who come into our lives who make an impact. Often we find them in the most unlikely way. The true blessing is we find them and or they find us. No matter if you are looking or they are you both will become richer by far getting to know them.
Welcome to yet another instalment in the continuing adventure I found myself on several years ago in the Yukon. The far Canadian North that was still wild and free and had so much to offer. Yes there were times when fate was tempted and I failed. There were also times when I would come out of the other end and be elated. No matter what the adventure it was what I thrived for.
Come along again and lets see where we end up this day. Last we were located at a remote Native Village about two hours from Dawson. We were close to our goal or so we thought. Get your coffee, tea and some fresh peanut butter cookies I just baked and lets head off again.
It was the first sound of the day. Tannis sat at the door of the small tent. Her head twisting from side to side at the sounds outside. I had seen this before and they were sounds that invited fun. I lay for a few minutes and then heard children whispering outside. They had been taken with Tannis the night before and it looked like they had come to see her this morning.
I had no idea what time it was other than early. I unzipped the tent and Tannis was off to be with her new found friends. According to the sun which was still behind the horizon I estimated it to be around 5 in the morning. There was a chill in the air this morning. A damp chill from the night rains. The children were having a good time and all Tannis wanted was to have little hands and fingers rub and scratch her. She was in her own element. She had always been one to accept little people. The adults who had abused her had taught her a hardness and one she would openly display if there was something not right.
I had my fire started when one of the elders came down. He carried a small plastic container with food supplies and a small amount of what they called barley coffee. He explained it was something they would grow and roast until it was dark. Once crushed it would make a flavourful drink. Jonas was his name and he said he was part of the Carmacks family. He explained the contents of the container as being some of the most high protein contents. One very similar to what was called Pemmican in the early days. In the old days it would be wrapped in hides in small portions and dried in the sun until it was hard. This came in smaller pellet packages enough for one serving. Just add water and you had a meal he said. He was one of the youngest elders. His offering was well received.
We talked that morning about Wilson. He had told me he was a man of the Creator and spoke the creators words even though he was delirious with the fever which had overtaken him. He said that Wilson spoke fluent Cree. They had taken him to the nursing station and then to the hospital. Jonas said "It was the last I heard or seen of the man. I wish I had come to know him better. He was told he was welcome to come back but never did."
We visited a few hours then I headed down river waving at the many who had come to see me off that morning. Over the years I had come to respect these people for their openness to accept a stranger among them. I found it to be so especially with the Cree who had chosen to live off the land such as these people. They had become totally self sufficient i all things in life. They had an understanding of the Creator which was so simple. They loved and all they wanted was to be loved i return. I was certain our paths would cross again.
After a few hours on the water I tied up to the dock and ordered Tannis to stay and guard the canoe. She took her orders seriously sitting high on her perch in the canoe. I headed off to the Nursing Station to get my hand looked at. Upon entering I was met by a very robust nurse dressed in traditional blue jeans, plaid shirt and army boots. There was nothing clean and crisp about her dress. I was met with a smile and then all her attention was on the filthy bandage on my hand. Then came a volley of scoldings for not taking care of the wound properly. It was not until I told her I had been upriver when it happened did she have some sympathy.
Della May was her name. She sat me down on the table and started to unwrap the bandage and again gave me a sound scolding for having the dirty moss in place. It was when she started to peel it off did she find the wound to be perfectly clean and free of infection. Della questioned what the moss did and where it could be found. It was not likely the wound could be effectively stitched but she would try. The closest Doctor was in Whitehorse. She called and was given permission to try. It was something that was fairly common in the north where nurses with qualifications could attempt some procedures. Della did a fine job.
She accompanied me down to the dock to collect my gear and I showed her the moss I had used. It grew in the blue/gray clay along the riverbanks and was readily available. Tannis and I took a room in town that night and a hot bath was welcome after so many days on the river. After a meal a good nights rest was had.
The following morning I went back and spoke to Della about Wilson. She was surprised I knew so much about his ordeal. She told me his fate. Gangrene had set in and nearly claimed his life. His leg needed to be amputated and he had stayed in a clinic for a few months and the last she had heard he had plans to do goYellowknife. Over coffee I told her of my findings and his journals. Della smiled and said "Dr. Benson is a good friend. Let me make a few calls and see what I can learn for you. Better I call because you may be turned away being a stranger and all. Dr. Benson is a crusty old fool but one of the last holdouts in the North who is a General Practitioner. She came back a few minutes later. "All I told him was you had some personal property of this man Wilson and wanted to hand deliver it to him. He said he would call back."
We visited for a few hours Della had come from England many years before and was on holidays with her boyfriend when they arrived in Dawson. She said she instantly knew this is where she should be. Her boyfriend thought the place to be the end of the world and caught the next flight out and she stayed and passed all her exams to be a nurse in Canada. She admitted to being an avid outdoor enthusiast. Fishing, hiking, hunting and of late a dog sled racer. Her plans were to enter the most enduring race in all of North America the Iditarod. She took me to her team and they were an agressive bunch. Tannis sat back knowing she was not welcome as these were working dogs.
When we arrived back there was a message from Dr Benson that Wilson was close by and would like to meet with me. "You are this close my friend. Why not leave the dog with me and I can get you on a freight flight later this afternoon. Benson says he can bunk you overnight. It will be as good a time for you to deliver this mans property as any. Let me make a few more calls and get you on your way. Tannis will be fine with me. I would love to give her a bath, she does smell something terrible."
"Good luck with that," is all I said. Make your calls and I would be honoured to bring this in person to Wilson. I need to call a friend to come and get me when I get back. I need to have my canoe and gear trucked back. I will call if I can use your phone?
"There you are, you are on the freight run at 4 this afternoon. Just go down to the dock and talk to a fella by the name of Chip. He is the craziest bush pilot in the north. No charge he is a good friend. He wil get you up there. You had better find some better clothes. There is a small department store over on third street. Tell them Della sent you. They may give you a break. I assume you have some money," she laughed.
An hour later I stood at the end of the dock dressed in new clothes and Chip waved me aboard. His plane was an old Beaver aircraft that had seen its better day. We lifted off shortly after 4 and the flight over was uneventful. Chip carried on with some small talk mainly pointing out some of the highlights along the way. It was close to 8 pm when we touched down onto Yellowknife Lake and taxied up to the dock.
What would this next day or two bring was the only question I had as an old Harley Davidson motorcycle came down the hill. A big man got off walked over and stuck out his hand. "Dr Benson is the name. Della tells me you have some cargo for my dear friend Wilson. Lets get some grub into you and a bed under you my friend you must be tired. Tomorrow we will find Wilson. He is a bit of a recluse but as long as I'am with you he will see you. Come along. Climb on the back and hang on." Before long passing through the rapids seemed a breeze after riding on the back with this man. He was an absolute dare devil at taking corners and ripping up the streets of Yellowknife.
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