"Wild Freedom Chapter Three" Rolly A. Chabot
Great to have spring closing and summer starting. Sadly they are saying we are in for some flurries Friday. I guess mother nature is not finished with us yet. The seeding is going well and all the farmers are scrambling to get as much finished before the moisture hits. This will be an early year for seeding in this area but the weather has been perfect for the farmers.
I have been getting a fair amount of work done here around the yard and it is beginning to show. The grass is already in its full production and greened up nicely. Now it is a game to stay ahead of the odd dandelion whom has decided to make this a new home. I can say that I'am winning the battle.
Well here we are in Chapter three already and please get settled in and read on as Tannis and I recuperate from the great bath we had. If you recall we are stranded with a huge hole in the canoe at about mile 300 of a 430 mile river trip. We have lost a fair amount of our gear to the river and calling on all my resources to make a repair and make this work. Come along...
The night was restless with all the thunder and lighting and the steady downpour of rain that came. By 11 pm I had all but given up keeping the fire going. It would be a long wet night. Tannis had buried herself deep in the sleeping bag. All I could think of was Wilson floating down the river unable to protect himself from the elements and placing all his faith i the hands of God whom he had been angered at for many years. I wondered if he had made his peace with God.
The following morning with little sleep and still a light rain coming down I again climbed the hill and found a stand of Birch trees in a small grove a few miles away. At least I had some material to repair the canoe with. I chose the largest tree and made two circular cuts around it circumference with about 20 inches in between and one vertical cut and started to slowly peel the bark from around the tree. I collected as much sap from trees as I could. Tomorrow the Birch tree would provide me with ample fresh sap from the cut to be able to render it into a hard but pliable glue to make the repair. I would be making a few trips before the patch would be complete. I would need to do both the outside and the inside to insure a secure patch.
During the ordeal I had lost my paddle and would need to hand make one. It never stopped to amaze me the way everything was provided. Up river later in the day I found a flat slab off a tree that had likely been struck my lightning. It was close to five feet long and would make a substantial paddle with a little work. By night fall I had the rough design carved out and a large pile of dry shaving for starting fires. Yet another example of provision. I found several feet of fishing line, a lure and another tin can. This one only a few years old judging by the lack of much rust. I despised people over the years who left their garbage laying around but in this case I was thankful.
That night for dinner we had fresh rabbit. One of the snares had worked. While supper was cooking I found a rough flat stone which would serve as a form of sandpaper to score both the inside and outside areas where the tree pitch sap would be placed. I cut both pieces of birch bark to fit with several inches in all directions to allow a good seal. I wrapped the bark in and old dampened towel to keep it pliable until just before I would be ready to glue it in place.
The remainder of the evening I spent working on my new paddle by the light of the fire. At least tonight we would be dry. I would be needing more firewood to last the night. I collected much in near darkness and tossed it over the bank. Tannis close behind. I slipped when I was coming down the bank and fell forward. In my attempts to break the fall the fleshy part of my right hand caught the stub of a small sapling a beaver had cut off. The end result was a nasty gash. One that in normal condition would require stitching. This is one trip I would soon came to realize I should have not taken the way things were adding up. I had nothing for bandage material and was forced to cut the tail off my shirt and wrapped the wound.
The following morning it was red and very swollen and thankfully the bleeding had stopped. Infection was the next concern. I collected some green moss that grows in wet areas close to the river bank. The natives had claimed of it's healing power and ability to draw poison and lay some in the wound. Within minutes I was feeling the drawing power.
Today was sap collecting day and I made three trips and managed enough after rendering it over the fire. Laying the canoe on its side making it possible to work on a flat smooth surface the hot sap stayed in place while I placed the patch over the hole and smoothed out the edges. Within seconds the patch did not move and stayed fast and firm. The little extra sap I used to patch all the exposed edges. More firewood and another fish finished the day. I redressed my hand with fresh moss. The wound was clean and free of infection. I found myself reading in Wilson's last journal again and felt I had drawn closer to this man. Had he survived it would be a story to hear. Tomorrow was another day. Tannis and I slept through the night.
The following day was spent collecting sap and getting ready to patch the inside next. It was awkward working with a bad hand but by mid afternoon the patch was in place and well secure. We would be ready to leave once I finished the paddle. I spent the day working as best I could and the end product was one to be proud of. The handle and shaft were still rough enough I would get blisters quickly. Taking fine sand and mixing it with clay it worked well and smoothed it off nicely. I used an old trick I had learned from my dad who was a barber was to use the rough side of my leather belt to give a nice smooth finish.
It was close to 6 am as we shoved off and started the remaining 150 miles to Dawson City. I estimated it to be a 3-4 day trip. With a fishing line and lure trailing the canoe we had lots of fish and at night were able to locate a few berries, and some game. The paddle worked very well. It had a heafty feel to it. it was wide and with a stroke could easily turn the canoe. The right hand was still clean but painful The outside eadges of the cut had remained full of colour and I was hoping it could still be stitched.
Tannis had assumed her position again high on the seat and watched the world go by. Life was good again. One more night and we would be in Dawson. I chose a sandy river bar on the north side of the river this time. I could smell woodsmoke and Tannis was uneasy. She was growling off and on. I chambered a bullet into the gun not sure of why but I trusted her to let me know when something was not right.
After my own fire was started I noticed tracks in the sand and a path leading up into the trees. I picked up my rifle and started towards the path when a native man with long hair stepped out and said. "This is private land, the gun in his hands told me he was serious. I stood for a moment and started to laugh. I have no idea why it just struck me as so silly. I could not stop. It just came in waves and tears started to roll down my cheeks. Finally I was able to stop and look at this man. He was huge. One of the largest men I had ever seen. All he said was "Well pack up and leave and what is so funny anyway?
I started to laugh again finally able to say "Look at us two grown men with guns fighting over this small piece of the Yukon. Hate to tell you this but high water mark up there to the river is public land and sorry I'm not leaving. Staying the night and I will not bother you. Just me and the dog."
It was then a grin broke out on his face and we both started laughing. My name is Tan and I must say you have a way with you. Stay here and I will be at my place. Clean up after that mutt dog and be on your way early morning. I hate people snooping around here. Had enough of you whites to last me a lifetime. I come down at 6 in the morning to fish. You better be gone cause I like quiet mornings. He pointed down river. That is the way to go. By the look of that hand you need some help."
"I will be fine. you are welcome to have breakfast in the morning with the dog and I. All we have is roasted fish. I will be here when you arrive."
"Prefer you are gone," as he turned and headed towards his cabin. Tannis and I were left to sort through what had just taken place. The Yukon had some strange people and this man Tan was one and something told me I needed to know more about him. Maybe mornings would be a better time to visit. Tannis and I managed another fish dinner and settled into a quite night laying looking at the stars and thinking of Wilson and now this man who called himself Tan.
My Buddy Tannis
Have you ever been caught in trouble
- "Wild Freedom... Chapter 2"
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- “The World of Quill”