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"Wild Freedom Chapter Four" Rolly A. Chabot
Good morning and welcome to another new day. The sun is shining and birds are calling out. A light breeze has started to come in from the southwest and it looks like a great day to get some clean up done around the yard after being away.
The Fireside moves outside on days like today. So gather up your coffee, tea and goodies and come along. Lets take and enjoy the day. I had a great sleep last night. One of those catch up sleeps you know where you you just snuggle into the pillow and say just a few more minutes. Well my minutes turned to hours. 11 hours actually and it felt good.
We left off with Tannis and I camped on a beach along the river with a somewhat unfriendly neighbour in this very remote part of the Yukon. Lets pick up where we left off. Welcome to all of you as you follow along.
Mornings would always come early when we were out on an adventure. I awoke to the sound of the river, the wind in the trees and Tannis growling at something in the distance. First thing on the daily agenda was to make coffee and get some breakfast. My cooking pot was the old rusty tin can I had salvaged. I was glad to at least have saved a small plastic bag of coffee in my pack. Breakfast would have to be fish because it was all we would have to eat for the next few days.
As we stepped out into the day there stood Tan fishing. His rifle leaning up against a piece of driftwood. He looked over and immediately turned away. I had invaded his privacy. I called out "Good morning" and no response came back. Once the fire was started I tossed out my line and got some water. In a few minutes coffee was brewing. Tannis just sat watching this new person in her world.
I slipped off into the bush to the west and found a berry patch and collected enough for breakfast. Fish and berries. All I would need to do was catch the fish. When I arrived back at the fire a fish lay on a rock beside it an empty tin cup. "Trade you a fish for a cup of that coffee." Tan said.
"You have a deal. Coffee is ready if you care to join us and thank you for the fish. I lost all my gear in the rapids and have no fishing rod so this method is a little slow but it works."
Tan came over and took his coffee and turned to leave. "I have some fish and berries here and the fish will be ready in a few minutes you are more than welcome to join us if you like." He stopped. "I can get my own food. The coffee is fine. What are you doing out here on the river anyway. There have been many a man come through here like you. Beaten by the rapids. Some just floating by face down in the river."
"I came from Whitehorse and heading to Dawson. I seem to come back each year. I guess the rapids won this year. What are you doing living here out in the middle of nowhere?
"Man has driven me here. I have chosen to live here to get away from things. This is where I find peace and solitude away from all the troubles of the world. I see that you have made a patch on your canoe and the paddle you have made is fine. You are a man who loves the land like me?
"I do and after the rapids I have gained a new respect. All I managed to save was me, my dog here, my pack and my rifle. I guess you could say I was lucky this time."
"The patch is a fine one. What about your hand. I see that you have moss on it. Let me have a look if you do not mind maybe I can help?
I opened the bandage. Tan moved in close. "I brought some medicines from the land with me. If you like I can help treat the wound. It needs to dry now. I see it is clean. He reached into his bag and brought out a fine powder mixture and sprinkled it on the open wound. This will help now. Cover it again in a few hours. Take this with you and he passed a small pouch of the powder over to me."
Tannis normally cautious of any stranger moved in close and gave his hand a nudge. Tan reached over and pet her and scratched her ear. Here I have something for you as well and he broke off a piece of jerky and gave it to her. He reached into his bag and gave me several pieces of jerky. You will need this if you are to make it to Dawson. You need protein to keep your strength up."
As it turned out Tan had become a self made man in the wilderness along the river. He shared with me he had been one of the children who had suffered under the hands of a religious man in what the church called a Residential School. It was where the children of native families were taken to be educated. At the age of 14 he had beaten the religious man close to death and served 8 years in a federal prison system. No matter where he went he faced the same demons of alcohol and judgement. In a stupor one night he had stolen a canoe and started down the river from Whitehorse. His future unknown all he knew was he needed to get away. He like me had made it through the rapids. He had found an old trappers cabin the night he landed here on this sandbar. The old trapper had passed away. He had all he needed. A home, tools and supplies. It was here he had found and made a home for himself. Tan looked at the fish cooking on the stick and said "Funny thing in life is anger and resentment can rule. Here it all seemed to drift away. This is where I have come to be at peace with myself. I have made a good life here and this is where I will someday die. Far away from man."
His story was one of inspiration and one of healing. He later took me and showed me his place. Like I said the man had been self made in many ways. Near his cabin he had a natural spring for water. He had a cache high in the trees for his food. He had cleared a large plot of land and had wheat, corn and vegetables growing. His home was sparse and yet he had all he needed including a small library. Tan smiled and said the better part of what you see here I inherited from Tom the man who passed away here. I had no idea what his intentions were but he had seed and all I needed. I buried him over on the rise there. He has been my company most days.
I thanked Tan for sharing his world with me. After all this is a man who only the day before had a rifle pointed at me. "What has brought you to a place Tan of sharing this with me?
He pointed to a well worn Bible on the table. "This, it is the way we are called to live even here in this place. If there is one thing I have learned from this book it is to love of the one who loves me. Tom left me the greatest gift he could and it was this book. I have kept this place a secret from many. You are different because you respect the land and stand for what you think is right. You are welcome here anytime."
"Thank you. Tan I came across some journals filled with writings of a man called Wilson up river. Ever hear of him Tan? The last of his writings tell of a serious injury to his leg and he was heading down river to get some help. He left instructions who ever found the journals was to take them to Yellowknife to Dr. Bensen?
"No but I can tell you a few years ago I was fishing on the shore and I did see a canoe go by. The only thing I can say is there was a hand hanging over the side. Again I can tell you I have seen many strange things on the river. This was another of them. I never chased after it. At the time I was still filled with anger and thought it best to leave it all alone. Any man chooses his own fate in this country and the man in the canoe had chosen his as far as I was concerned at the time. Now if the same thing were to happen I would have gone after him. A man changes with time," is all he said.
"The following morning I found a small bag of flour, some honey and corn, more jerky and a note that said. "Take care friend. Listen to the voice of nature and the creator in your quest to find what it is you search for. You are welcome here anytime." It was signed Tan. That was it I had been given some gifts but the greatest was friendship. I took the last of my coffee and placed it on a rock where he would be fishing a little later and left a note. "Tan thank you. Glad you heard the voice. Maybe another time we will meet."
I shoved off from the shore and the smell of woodsmoke drifted through the air. I gave a final wave as I rounded the bend of the river. Something told me I was being watched by this man. I had made a new friendship. Some friendships are meant to be for years. Others for moments. This one was priceless. This man had taught me much about healing and survival through the hard times. Yes I drifted that morning knowing I had been witness to a man who had seen the worst of the world and yet had come out on top of the world. He had found his place. Could I do the same. The greater question in my mind was had Wilson found his purpose and calling or had his canoe just kept drifting?
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