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secured by intricate knots, and the repairs are completed.
When the half-breed comes to a river to be crossed, however swollen and wide, he finds it scarcely an obstruction. A buffalo-hide, or, in recent times, since the buffalo has disappeared, a canvas cart-cover, placed beneath one of the wheels, its edges brought up over the rim, furnishes him a "bull-boat," seated upon the center of which he paddles himself across and guides his swimming pony. In succeeding journeys he ferries over his load and tows his remaining cart-frame. The wagon of the white man, however skeleton-like and light it may be, is incomparably less well adapted to the necessities of plains travel than this primitive construction, which practically can neither break nor sink, and which re
quires no blacksmith or skilled wheelwright for its repairing. It is at the same time wagon and boat, and in case of necessity it serves as excellent fuel. Commonly, the hunters' and the traders' trains are made up of from twenty to seventy, or even more, of these vehicles moving in a single varying line over the rolling plain, each animal, except the first, attached to the cart in front. Covered usually with canvas covers, more or less white, they constitute a picturesque feature in the landscape when seen at a distance against the green of the grass, or against the sky as they creep over the summit of some slope- the only moving objects, except the clouds, within the reach of vision, arousing in the lonely spectator suggestions of human life and commerce and faroff civilization. No grease or other lubricant
is ever applied to the axles, since the Indian considers such a use of fatty substances a sheer waste of food, and the lugubrious creaking and wailing of the thirsty wood locates such an outfit even before it can be seen and after it disappears. A specimen of the Red River cart can be seen in the National Museum at Washington, but it has been repaired by the civilized device of iron nails, and so is not quite typical.
A characteristic feature of the great plains of Canada are the trails which connect the widely separated trading-posts and settlements, along which supplies are brought in and the peltries, which constituted in former times the chief products of the country, were carried to the great fur-depots on their way to Montreal, whence they were shipped to England. Formerly, before the construction of the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railroad, access to these remote northern districts was by means of traders' carts from St. Paul over the unsettled prairies of Minnesota, and by small steamers on the Red River to Fort Garry, the site of the present city of Winnipeg, a journey of several weeks' duration. Earlier still the dogtrains, now a mode of conveyance known only to the past, except in the extreme arctic regions of this continent, brought down in the winter season sledge-loads of valuable furs, and only half-breeds and Indians made the journey. As late as 1869, the present president of the railroad named above, then a poor soldier of fortune living in St. Paul, was met one stormy day in winter alone with a dog-sledge pushing his way far north in Minnesota toward Fort Garry. Rumors had reached him of that movement of the half-breeds near the fort which took place upon the adoption of the articles of Canadian confederation in the year named, and which became known as Riel's rebellion, and he was on his way to see what openings for his adventurous and enterprising spirit might arise in a time of political disturbance. Earlier yet in the history of the country, before St. Paul had become a distributing center for the great areas north and west of it, before the Mississippi River had been approached by railroads, the principal highway by which the Northwest Territories were penetrated was a water-route now altogether abandoned, although many men still live who traversed it from time to time in the old days. Some of the Hudson's Bay trading-posts were established two hundred years ago at favorable points on the streams and lakes of the country, and supplies were brought to them annually, and furs were carried from them, by ships sent from England to Hudson's Bay. Arriving at
1 The York boat is made at Fort York in the Hudson's
Bay Territory. Constructed of whip-sawed boards, it is large, strong, and of great carrying capacity.
the bay after tedious and dangerous passages through the ice of Hudson's Straits, not far from the southern end of Greenland, they navigated the stormy, shallow waters and arrived in June or July at Fort Churchill or Port Nelson, where, lightering their cargos, they received their return freight and hastily set sail for home, fearful lest the ice of winter should make them prisoners for an entire season before they could reach the open Atlantic. At the ports of debarkation, crews of men who had brought down the furs in York 1 boats from the distant posts were waiting to load the precious supplies and the annual mails for the return trip to the wilds. They rowed and pushed their heavy crafts up the broad, rushing streams and across the lakes, day after day through the uninhabited wilderness, until, after months in some cases, they reached Lower Fort Garry and Upper Fort Garry on the Red River; Fort Ellice and Fort Qu'Appelle on the Assiniboin; Fort á la Corne, Carlton House, Fort Pitt, and Fort Edmonton on the North Saskatchewan; and other posts on the English, or Churchill, River, and on the countless lakes for whose accumulated waters it furnishes a channel. By other routes from the bay, and by combined water and land journeys, they carried such necessary supplies as would bear transportation to posts on Great Slave Lake, on the Peace River, on the Athabasca, even to the far trading forts on the Mackenzie River, up to and beyond the arctic circle.
The freighters' passage left no traces in the fleeting waters, but on land there still exist many of the old trails winding mile after mile over the grassy plains. Some of them are now abandoned, the primitive commerce having taken new directions, yet in this arid climate decade after decade they remain just as the last wheel pressed them. The passage of such a train of carts as I have described leaves three tracks in the dry soil, which, deepened by following trains, become more and more distinct. One is made by the pony or the bullock which draws the load, the others by the wheels. At length hollows or chuck-holes are formed, and, to avoid them, a new series of tracks is made a few inches apart from the old one. This in turn is abandoned for another, and the process goes on until as many as a score of such sets of tracks are worn in the brown soil, each track a foot in width and nearly a foot in depth. They everywhere maintain their parallelism, never running into one another, and the appearance they present is that of brown bands of color winding through the green expanse. Often not another sign of human life or occupancy can be seen for hundreds of miles, and an infrequent passenger with his outfit hails the advance of another with all the interest with which, on long
wishes they go on their separate journeys, and solitude unbroken reigns again.
The great plains are now comparatively devoid of animal life, and at certain seasons, even in summer, one may travel for several days at a time without seeing insect, bird, or beast of any kind. This surprising statement is literally true: but at other times insect life abounds beyond all comprehension or experience elsewhere; and now and then herds of antelope, or deer of several varieties, or a few elk, or a bear, or a band of wolves, or a badger may be seen; while the air is full of the winnowing of the wings and the cries of wild fowl. On every hand are seen lakes white with swans, plover, herons, cranes, curlew; and the active and enterprising cow-bird, which, alighting on the backs of domestic animals where there are any, promotes their comfort and satisfies its own hunger by the onslaught it makes on the myriads of mosquitos which torment them. Principal Grant at one time made a hurried journey through a part of this country, and upon his return wrote a book in which he averred that the existence VOL. XLIV.-76.
of a most powerful smudge of grass and leaves placed to windward, without finding every spoonful plentifully peppered with the culex, and a single sweep of the hand would capture a score of the winged pests, while the bitter tears ran from our eyes, that Principal Grant's powers of observation might have been considerably improved by exposure without protection for a time to such an atmosphere. Alas! during July and August mosquitos do abound, and they are attended by coadjutors of no mean powers-sand-flies, black-flies, deer-flies, bulldog-flies (the bot-fly), and I know not how many others, who conspire to make life for man and the animals on warm, damp days and at night nothing less than a burden. So numerous and virulent are they that animals grow thin in flesh during the period of their existence, and on the Athabasca River horses and cattle perish outright from their attacks. At night the traveler's animals are often stampeded by them, and the usual precaution taken is to make a dense, dank smudge of green boughs and sods, in the acrid smoke of which a passable degree of comfort
can be had. From such a smoke it would be impossible to stampede a band of horses, and for the choicest positions in it they will fight with teeth and hoofs.
But the most impressive signs of the abundance of nobler animal life in recent times are the countless buffalo-trails found almost everywhere. Like the cart-trails they are worn deep into the soil, and they remain unchanged for years. While feeding or resting, the buffalo are scattered about, and they make no permanent impression of their presence; but when they are going to water or are traveling to new pastures, they move in single file behind the leader of the herd, and a trail is speedily formed by their sharp hoofs. On their now deserted pasturinggrounds these trails cut the surface in every direction, now and then marked by the wallowing-places worn deep in the ground, where each animal followed the leader not only in marching, but in taking a dry wash for health and comfort. Up-hill and down-hill these paths wind and wind. Even on the thin edges of the hogbacks in the valley of the Red Deer River, and on their almost vertical faces, where no horse can find a footing, and a man would find difficulty in going, the buffalo found an easy road for his sure-footed majesty.
It is not long since this noble animal was the monarch of these lonely regions. Not only are the hill-slopes in many places terraced by their deep-worn paths, running parallel to one another at the distance of perhaps a yard, but in favorite localities, where they once fed in countless droves, their bones and horns lie scattered on every hand, bleaching and slowly decomposing in the drying wind. Sometimes every square rod of the surface presents the sad memorials of a noble animal gone to his death in a pile of shoulder-blades, rib-bones, leg-bones, horns still covered with the black, shining corneous substance which made them so striking during life, and in a broad skull with empty eye-sockets, still tufted with brown hair, and still maintaining a lordly port. At one time in my wanderings I came, near the Eyebrow Hills, to a tract some hundreds of miles in extent, already-early in the autumn as it was―scathed by the prairie fires and left black and charred, the only spots excepted being a few small round marshes in which the
1 Some notion of the former abundance of the buffalo in the Canadian Northwest may be obtained from the following memoranda of outfit for a single buffalo-hunt in 1840, the authenticity of which cannot be doubted. There were required: 200 carts and harness, 655 carthorses, 586 draft-oxen, 403 horses for running buffalo with saddles and bridles, 1240 scalping-knives for cutting up meat, 740 guns (flint-lock), 150 gallons of powder, 1300 pounds of balls, 6240 gun-flints, and the number of persons was 1630. The expedition returned to Fort Garry in August, and the Hudson's Bay Com
moisture had checked the sweeping flames, where we found the only available pasturage for our animals at night. The coal-black surface was thickly dotted with the white bones of the buffalo, which, in some merciless onslaught of the hunters, had fallen there by the thousand for the paltry booty of their hides. Just where they fell, they lay scattered over miles of country, their bones the only mementos of once happy, crowding, noble animal life. As the skeletons gleamed white in the darkness and silence of night, the impression made on the thoughtful observer was depressing enough.1
Desiring one day to look over the country at large, with my half-breed guide I crossed some clay cañons on horseback, and climbed the slopes of one of the hills spoken of, whence in all directions the undulating plain lay spread out below me. A locating engineer with his party was following on my trail at a distance of some weeks' travel, and with him I wished to communicate concerning the best direction in which to carry his line. As my party consisted of only two men besides myself, I could not detach a messenger, and my only resource was to erect some monument on the summit of the hill, which, seen against the sky, would attract his attention. For such a construction the numerous buffalo-bones lying about offered ample materials. Inscribing a message to Douglass, the engineer, on a broad, white shoulder-blade, I put it at the base of the monument, and collecting a score of great skulls with the horns still attached to them, I piled them together to the height of eight or ten feet. At the top I placed another blade-bone directing attention to the message deposited below. As we rode away in the slanting light of the setting sun, which threw the shadow of the hill and its melancholy cairn of bones for miles and miles across the plain toward the east, whence we had come, I thought of the appropriate nature of such a monument the monarch of the lonely plains, crowded to his death by the ruthless, fiery edge of advancing civilization, sullenly looking with sightless eyes afar to catch the first gleaming light and the thunderous rush of that highest embodiment of nineteenth-century progress and power, the railway locomotive.
Until the farmer came to look upon these broad areas as furnishing land for cultivation in
pany paid £1200, or $6000, for the booty brought in. How many animals were slain we can only conjecture. Less than twenty years ago, my intelligent half-breed guide told me, he had seen, more than once, piles more than six feet in height of buffalo tongues which had been thrown together just as they were cut out after a single successful hunt by a party of Indians. These tongues were the perquisite of the medicine-man, who, during the progress of the hunt, sat in his tepee beating his drum and uttering incantations for its successful outcome, instead of participating more actively in the slaughter.