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When Everybody Called
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Hunting and Snaring
North Hegman Lake Pictograph, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, near Ely, Minnesota.
Photo by Etphonehome, 2003.
I like to talk with the old folks. It's a great pleasure for me to visit with them.(1) One time we were discussing about game, about hunting in their younger days.
We talked about how they got along partly on fish. And when they wanted venison, they'd hunt along the lakeshore. See, a deer has to come down in the waters in the summer, to get away from flies and insects and all of that. They get right in the water and stick their heads out. The deer eat that wild rice and whatever grows along the shore, weeds and everything. And after sultry weather the men would go down to the lakeshore and watch for deer in the evening. The deer will come out of the woods for water. They just lay along the shore, along the edge of the woods on the meadow, to blow away flies. And the Indian does the same. The deer were so well-acquainted with the people,(2) with the Indians, that they weren't spooked. There were not many guns at that time -- way-back -- just mostly arrows.
So the deer weren't scared.
Well, that's the way the Indians most generally got their game. But afterwards, they began to get single-barreled rifles. They played in moccasin games for guns.(3) When a guy had a rifle in those days he was a rich man. And if he had an axe, he was wealthy. If he had a one-man saw and an axe he could do anything. He could build another cabin if he wanted to. If he wanted to build a cabin he sawed out timber, small timber. And then he'd probably get somebody to help him put it up.
|Three or four men would be camping with you,(4) and together you'd
make a drive toward the point. They'd drive a deer down along the lakeshore,
and the one standing along the lakeshore would shoot the deer right there,
so they wouldn't have to drag him through the woods. That's how they did
it. They drove the deer right to the camps on the points. Sometimes the
deer would run right between the wiigwaams. Most generally that's
how they did it. And they could do it in those days because there were
so many deer, so much wildlife. And they weren't scared of people.
We also talked with the old folks about the rabbit and rabbit hunting. You're never too old to learn. When I was about 26, 27, 28, in there somewhere, I had something happen which was very much of a surprise to me. At that time I thought I knew it all, but you never can learn all of it in life. But I worked with a lot of the old people -- the older class -- to find things out. And I listened to them.
My father-in-law, Mr. George White, and I were driving along by horse and sled.(5) We went to town, Federal Dam, and I was driving the team along home on the logging road. We saw quite a few rabbits along the road. We did not have a gun. All we had was Scotch caps on; they were very warm.
We lived right by a logging camp, and had other things to eat, but we always like a dish of rabbit dumplings. That is a great dish. Rabbit -- wah-bus -- is substantial food to eat. We believe it will stay with you. We all like rabbit. And those days the rabbits were more fit to eat. They were clean, healthy, big. They were fat in the back, which was a sign of cold weather coming.
And as we were driving along we saw some rabbits. This old man I was
with had a team of horses. And this old man said, "Mr. Paul Buffalo, we're
gonna have a rabbit dinner tomorrow." And I looked around the sled, and
didn't see any gun or snaring wire.
"How are we gonna get 'em?" I asked him.
"Oh," he said, "wait 'till we see one. I'll show you how."
And I laughed. I laughed to myself, you know. I didn't dare to laugh at him.(6) I know he knew what he was talking about. I never laugh at old people. I laughed to myself. I was wondering how he was going to get the rabbit.
Finally, he pulled the lines tight.
He said, "Woh."
The horses stopped.
"You see that along the road?" he asked me.
I looked over to the right of us, "Yes. That's a rabbit."
It was setting on a high mound, about thirty, forty feet away from the road. It was a nice day, and that rabbit was sunning himself peaceable.
The old man said, "We're gonna have that rabbit."
"How you gonna have it?" I asked.
Well, he looked at me, and I looked at him, and then he took his cap off. We had Scotch caps them days -- real woolen caps for the lumberjacks. He took that cap off and slung it up in the air toward the rabbit. The cap came down by the rabbit, and the rabbit disappeared. I couldn't see where it went.
I said, "He's gone. . . . He's gone."
The old man said, "We'll have rabbit. You go over there where you seen him set, where my cap is."
And I walked over there.
"He went down in the hole here. There's a hole here," I said.
The old man got off the sled and there he come with an axe. He took the axe with him when he came from the sled. He planned to dig with the axe since he didn't have a shovel. And he shoveled that snow away with the axe blades. Finally he got down in the hole. I was watching him. I was learning this, see? I wanted to see how it's done. He reached in that hole. It happened to be . . . I have an idea that it was . . . an old cedar log.(7) He reached his hand in there, and out he comes with a rabbit. He hit it with a club, and bled it good. There was no sufferage, no struggle, and the rabbit was ours. He handed it to me. He reached his arm in that hole again, and he pulled out another one. I started to laugh.
He said, "Well, with the crop we have there are mostly two or three together. They den up and keep warm, like any other animal. The rabbits are either denned, or they're together, always."
"Hmmmmm. . . ."
So he handed that second one to me. He hit it in the head and it bled. It was well bled. I was carrying them and I said, "Should we get some more?"
He said, "No, that's all we need. That will make a mess."(8)
The Indians always believe in getting a mess of rabbits and not any more; all they could use was a mess. Two rabbits will make a good mess. Those days rabbits were pretty good size. They had a lot of flesh on. They're very good if they're cooked right -- well done. I've seen that.
He picked up his cap and we started for home.
It was great sport to see that. Boy, I was surprised to see how easy he did that. I figured the old Indian -- older than I was -- had taught me something that I didn't know. I never heard about catching rabbits like that. Well, of course, I recollect in my mind that I heard about it at one time, but I never was so interested in it as I am now.
I said, "Grandpa, you showed me something that I think is true. I heard something about catching rabbits like that, but I never paid any attention because I didn't see it."
When you don't see anything, you don't pay any attention. But I saw this. Humm. . . . Well, that was good, I learned something. I might be able to use that sometime because I'm the one most generally without a gun -- bah-ski-zii-g^n. I go all over without a gun, unless I'm hunting.
So we took the rabbits home. I told about it when we got home, and they just laughed at him. The old lady, Mrs. George White, said, "That's what he does. He just goes out and gets 'em. All he's got is a hatchet to dig with. Of course, if he's lucky he'll bring four, three, four."
But then Old Man White spoke up, "Most generally there's three or four, sometimes, in the hole or in the log. They jump in there from deep snow. But there's not always three or four."
I said, "Grandpa, what caused that? What caused that rabbit to go in there?"
"When I slung my cap he's thinking it's an owl that's gonna attack him, and he's seeking shelter in that hollow log. He thinks that in that hollow log he can get away from this, see? They squeeze in there pretty tight too. But the hawk don't dare to go in there. He's scared a weasel or something might attack him. That's what they're scared of too. I forgot to tell you this."
That's the way he put it. The hawk will always stay in the air because they're afraid of weasels -- sIm-g^ss -- too. Weasels are bad on birds, or any kind of wild animals. The same is true for a mink, or a fisher, or any kind of a bobcat -- bI-zio. So the hawk wants to get his game and go right up in the air, and that's what he's doing. That's very true. Could be true. When I saw that, I started to laugh. I learned something, but then I forgot about this for so many years.
Later on in years we were driving along one time, I don't just remember exactly when, but I think it was with Joe Barnes -- or maybe my boy(9) or somebody was with me. We were going along and I saw a rabbit on the road.
"You want to learn something?" I said.
"I'm gonna get that rabbit."
"How can you get him? You have no gun. We're going out to get wood. All we have is axes."
"We'll get that rabbit."
So I slung my cap to that rabbit. He was also about thirty, forty feet away from the road on a high mound sunning himself. And when my cap came over him, he went out of sight. I walked over there to look around. My partner started to laugh, "He's gone in the hole." There happened to be dirt lying around outside of that hole. I figured it was a woodchuck hole, or something like that. ak-Kah-ko-qiis -- woodchuck.
"Hmmm," I said to him, "It's gonna be a job to dig him out, maybe."
"Oh, come on, let's go. I seen what you could do," he said, "you proved it. You proved that the rabbit will disappear."
So we laughed. We didn't bother the rabbit. We just went on. I think that was Joe Barnes or Dave Staple, either one. I think it was Joe Barnes; ya. He always had his truck. He laughed at me.
"Boy," he said, "that's something." After that he always told about hunting with a hat to the neighbors. He always tells them that I have all kinds of tricks that I've learned about.
"He don't need a gun. He knows how to do it without a gun," Joe would tell them.
They always laugh at me.
"Paul, you goin' out to get some wabbits?"
"Ya," I said, and we start laughing.
"Just use your old cap and throw it right to them. They'll disappear and you can go drag them out of the hole."
What causes that?
"Well, a rabbit is always alert. He's always looking up. When he thinks there's a hawk coming down, he gets for shelter. So that's the answer to this."
You can always try that. You can try it anytime. It may not always work. Hat throwing works only if the snow is deep enough. You have to have enough snow to cover the ground. It works with the snowshoe rabbit. I've seen that done. I tried it. It works. I don't know about the cottontail. A cottontail never changes color much. Cottontail is better eating than snowshoe, providing they're caught outside the city limits. In the city, they live like dogs. They eat anything.
I have to laugh over what I passed over when I was younger, in my younger 18s. And I commence to think, I began to wonder, why I see that truth.
One time I was hunting out of Deer River. Not very long ago we were making a drive for deer in the hunting season.(10) Down a logging road I noticed that there must be a rabbit there, because I first kind of thought I saw a squirrel moving but then I remembered that the rabbits weren't getting very white yet. Snowshoes rabbits change color with the season. It was hunting season and there was enough snow, but it was late for the rabbit to change color. They had late color that year. I kept looking at that. We were strung along on that logging road, and the other party -- Orson Weekley -- was looking up my way too. While we were both looking we saw something come down, like a cap, over this place where I thought I had seen this squirrel. And just that quick he was right back up in the air. This hawk we saw had a poor rabbit right by the back. I figured it's a hawk -- no-vI-gI-nay-bIg-wayss, "snake hawk." It's nuu-gI-nay-bId-I-gwIss, nuu-gI-nay-bId-I-gwIss, nuu-gI-nay-bId-I-gwIss, "snake-hawk." "He cleans up everything." He flew right up in the air, and I said, "I wonder if the other guy saw it?" A little while later, after the deer we were after came out, I went over and asked him, "Did you see that?" I was talking to a friend of mine, my hunting partner, Orson Weekley.
"Yea," he said, "I seen that hawk pick up that rabbit right from the logging road. Didn't he ever have a time to get up in the air above the timber? But when he got above the timber, he took the poor rabbit."
"Hmm, well that's something."
So I told him about this earlier experience I had: "Throw your cap where there is a rabbit. If he's got a chance, he will always duck."
But this rabbit didn't have a chance. There wasn't much snow on the logging road, and he didn't have the right color yet. The rabbit must-a been on the logging road. He didn't have a chance. If he's got a chance he'll always make for shelter. But this one didn't have a chance. This hawk came down just like a bullet. He closes his wings and comes down just like a bullet. He hit that ground and in a little while he was up in the air. That's what I seen. So I always laughed and told about this: "That's the way I hunt rabbits too."
"Yeah," I said. "I know there's a bear in there. We saw him the other day. We saw him come out of the creek."
He just worked around where we were peeling pople. Early morning
I could see tracks on top of the pople, near what I peeled. His tracks
showed he was walking on top of there. He was always leaving his footprints.
Gee, he was a pretty good size bear, judging from his footprints I looked
at. At my lunch time I'd throw bread there, and he'd come and eat up everything
"You know what he's hanging around for? You know why he walks on that wood that I peeled?" I asked my partner.
"He's eating that sap."
. . . When we peel pople, you know, that sweet sap is exposed. He licks those logs all over there where we peeled. That bark is sweet, and he licks that.
"He takes that bark and licks that. He's going for the sweetness. That's what he's doing. He licks that sap all the time. Sometime I see that bark throwed way over to the side of where we were working. . . ."
Years ago I shot a bear up here, pretty near to that place we were logging. I shot it with a twelve-gauge and number four shot -- BBs. One shot killed him deader than hell. He was a big one, too. Boy, that was a big bear!
"Ya," this lad-friend of mine said first thing in the morning when we met that time, "geeze I got a nice buck last night."
That was Michaud -- Charlie Michaud.
"Did you?" I said. "Well, let's go get it."
We were young fellows then, and we started off to get it. He shot it that night, and in the morning we went to get it. When we got to where he shot the deer, geeze, it was gone. There was nothing left -- well, I wouldn't say that, but there was just the hide laying there, and the head.
"Who was this who came there in the night?" I asked.
He said, "It's a bear."
Well, we looked, and all over were his tracks. There wasn't a hind quarter of the deer left. There weren't ribs, there wasn't anything left, just the head and the neck, chewed off, and the hide. It looked like somebody pulled -- skinned -- the hide off. Even the legs were chewed off a little. One leg was chewed completely off.
"He did a good job of skinning that hide," my friend said. "He just opened the guts and hung it up on the tree you know, that's all. That's a bear. Must be a big bear."
"Did he eat up the whole deer?"
"Naah. He didn't eat it up," he said. "He probably ate a little of it and planted the rest of it somewhere around here. Way out there in that swamp," he said. "He went and buried it somewhere."
"It wouldn't do to look for it," I said. "He must have chewed it all to heck, and dragged it in the dirt and everything."
The whole buck was gone. Geeze, we didn't get our buck.
"I'll tell you what we'll do," he said. "You like bear meat?"
"Sure, I like bear meat. My mother and father like bear meat too. All of us like bear meat."
"Then," he said, "you can have that bear, but before we go after him we'll go back home and do a little garden work."
We went back home and did a little garden work. Three o'clock came, four o'clock came, and we went in and had an early lunch. Then we got ready. He gave me a shotgun, and he took the rifle.
When we got back out to where we were going my friend said, "I'll get another buck, another deer," he said. "I'll get another one. I'll go over there on the point. You stay here and watch where this bear took the deer. You watch that tonight."
We were young kids then. I was too young. I was about 19, 20, years old.
"That was all right?"
So he went.
There was a burning(11) where he shot that deer. There was a big fire that went through there, and the deer was eating that young tender stuff growing over the burning. There was nothing else there, no tree big enough for a stand.(12) There were two little pople there, and I thought maybe I could use the two together. They were just two poples that didn't quite die out in the fire. They still had a little leaves on them. That fire killed off almost everything else.
Before he left, my partner said, "Why, the only thing we can do is shove a pole across that crotch up there."
The crotch was about as high as I could reach.
"You shove a long pole up there, and then I'll help you get up there. When you get up there, then you lay that other pole across and you sit on that next to the tree. Straddle that tree and then set on that pole. That's the only way you can get up there."
There were plenty of long poles, so we shoved one long pole up there, and I crawled up. He handed me another pole, which I placed against the two trees. I think I was only about eight, ten, feet high off of the ground, straddling the tree and the one pole, balancing myself by holding on the second pole.
That stump where the buck was killed the night before was about thirty, forty, thirty-two or forty feet away. I'll call it thirty, forty feet. This other guy hung the deer hide on the stump, "I'll put the deer hide here. He'll come get it," he said.
He was an old hunter, you know, but he's living yet. He's living next door to me over here. That was Michaud, the old man; Charlie, the old man.
"I'll watch that," I said, "and if you hear me shoot, you come right back now."
"Ya," he said, "and if you hear me shoot, come over and help me. We won't leave the deer there this time."
He was a good shot.
Geeze, I stood up there with that shotgun already loaded. Charlie didn't get very far from there when I heard the brush crack in the swamp. Oh geeze, I looked in the swamp there, and here come that bear! We must-a woke him up when we were talking. He came out, just slowly panting. From his head to his shoulders, geeze it looked like about three feet -- from his head and his shoulders to the ground. He was a big bear. Hoh, with his head down nosing around he looked like a big pig coming out of the swamp. He walked right up to that deer hide on that stump.
"I always heard," I was thinking while I was on that tree there, "if you just wound a bear, he's gonna kill you."
"I don't want to wound this bear," I thought. I was thinking a lot of this through my mind.
"What if the gun jams, and what if this pole breaks?"
I thought all that, just that quick, while he was looking at that deer hide. He picked up that hide, he looked at it, he chewed on that neck a little while, and then threw it down.
I watched him, and I was thinking, "Boy, you turn, just the way I want you to turn, and then I'll pull the trigger."
I had the gun on him, part way, moving slow. By golly, he wouldn't turn. He'd sit up on his hind feet and he'd slap the mosquitos and flies. There were mosquitos and flies. It was still summer time. Finally, I raised up on the gun and he turned his left side to me. I figured, "He must have a heart, so I'm gonna aim for that."
Old Charlie didn't get quite to the tree he was goin' for when he heard the shot. So before he even got to the point, he turned right around and came back. When I shot this shot that man heard it.
When I shot the shot this bear jumped, made a big circle right around me, and went right back in where he came from, just as fast as he could go. It was a dark swamp in there, and ohhh it was thick. So I sat there, listening for him, to see if I could hear him wounded or whatever.
"If I wounded him," I thought, "I ain't gonna walk across here in the dark. I'll stay right here in the tree."
All at once he hollered like a person: "wah-uaa-aa," like that.
"All right, I must have hurt you pretty bad," I thought, but I wasn't sure if he was dying.
That partner of mine came up to me, "What did you see?"
"The bear. He came out, just a little after you left. He was eating there and I shot him."
"Where'd he go?"
"In there. . . . In the swamp, right where he came out of."
"Well . . . go and get your bear. You're the one that shot him. Go and get him now."
"Oh, no!" I said, "I wouldn't get him. You're my guide, you get 'em. You're the guide."
"Let's see . . . gimmy that shotgun."
He had a rifle, a 30-30.
"Ya . . . here you take the shotgun; ya," I said. "You're ain't sure of a close shot,(13) eh?"
"Give me that shotgun," he said, and he loaded 'er up with another shell. That shotgun held three, four shots.
"Which way did he go?"
"He followed that little trail into the swamp."
It was dark underneath that cedar swamp brush. It wasn't very light -- you could see all right, but it got kind'a dark, so you couldn't see plain. Charlie walked in there and looked around. We listened to see if we could hear the bear kicking, but we never heard any noise. Nothing.
"Did you hear that when he hollered?" I asked.
"Ya, I could hear him," he said. "That's when he was dying. He must be dead."
My friend went a little ways again, looking around at uproots and windfalls in the swamp.
"There he is. In the ground there."
He was lying in a hole. He fell in a hole and was lying there. You couldn't see the level of him because he dropped down in a hole of a bog.
"There he is, right there."
Right away my partner pointed his gun to the bear, and walked up and jabbed him with the gun. He didn't move. He jabbed the bear again. He didn't move. If he moved, Charlie was going to pull the trigger. He jabbed him two, three times.
"He's deader than heck. Go ahead, get ahold of him and drag him."
Oh, geeze, all excited I grabbed the bear and tried to pull him.
"He's just like pulling a horse, a dead horse."
Ah, geeze! I couldn't get a-hold on his wrist, it was so big, and I was pretty hefty too, those days. It took two of us to move him. We wrestled him there for quite a while and finally got him out to the edge of the swamp. It was all we could do(14) just to get him out of there. We got the old Ford down there without a top on, and threw him on the back end. That old Ford just springed right down with him in the back.
Well, when we got home there was a lot of meat, and a lot of Indians came and got it. They wanted some. We dried that meat and made jerky steak. That was the best meat we ever tasted. We got that bear just at the right time. He was not too fat. Ooohh, you couldn't beat that bear for jerk steak. My mother and dad made the bear jerk steak. Whow, gee, that's good! It's kind-a a red color. They fixed it good. Gee, that was good meat. Dried and cured, that lasted a long time with us; ya.
That was a big bear, but it wasn't too fat. I don't like bear meat when it's too fat, and I don't like it if it's too lean either. If it's just right, you got a meat.
Ya, we have awful times.
Old Charlie hunted lots. We were hunting deer one time by the Indian Allotment on Snake Creek, by Mud Lake Dam, in 1924-25. Snake Creek is about one and a half miles above Mud Lake Dam. We got a lot of deer by Snake Creek. The deer really came out of there.
This time Charlie was standing there and he looked at me. "Look at this."
I said, "What? Those tracks are no good."
"No," he said, "that's a good one right there."
"How we going to get 'em?"
I looked at Charlie and then he looked around. We lighted a cigarette. He takes his time thinking about it.
"I think he's lying in there . . . or lying over there. You go back around. The wind is blowing from that way. So don't go from that way. Go this opposite way. Go way back. Keep our scent back of us 'cause that's what they're lookin' for. They lay there, see? When that scent hits them they know you're there and then they'll sneak off. They'll go the other way from where you're comin'. You go this way where they can't get scent of ya. And you go stand opposite a certain place."
He knows just about where the wind destroys the scent. He knows where it'll go up. Now he'll go back just about to where he thinks the deer would be lying. Then he'd rush that area. Boy, right off the bat they come right for you. Just think, eh?
Well he rushed the area this time, and this time there wasn't anything there.
I saw him stop, break a little twig off and start chewing on it. "I thought something's going to go on here," he said. He'd start chewing that stick and he'd look at me. He said, "You see that big isle, that big point over there? Go over there, but don't go directly. Make a little slow swing, then come in on that spot. I'll be up there on the other side. There's a big stump, a big tree, a big dead-fall over there, and I'll be there. Give me about five, ten minutes."
He'd go, and I'd be standing there rolling a cigarette. I'd put that smoking away. "He must be at his stand by this time. I'll make a circle."
All at once I noticed something -- fresh signs. "I'll go in more." And on the way in maybe I brushed a tree or broke a twig. No sooner than I started in I could hear Charlie shooting. I could hear Charlie going "chck-keuw, chck-keuuuw, chck-keuwww, chck-keuww." Gee! Two, three, four shots. One time before that he got up to six deer at that one time, so I thought, "Cut it out." I thought, "cut it out. That's enough."
"Come out of there, Charlie," I hollered out. "How about it?"
So out he came.
We had a smoke.
"Well, when you can count up to three deer, you're doing well," he said.
"What happened to those others?" I was feeling around to see what he'd say.
"Oh, three's enough. I was just practicing."
"Well," I said, "whatta we gonna do with 'em?"
"We got lots of room," he said. "We're all hungry for that."
Then we'd take it home and take care of it.(15)
"That's enough for a long time. That's enough for a long time. When we're out of meat again, when we have nothing to eat, we'll go out again."
But it wasn't always that easy.
He'd laugh and say, "Let's go."
He was a wonderful hunter, that guy. I learned a lot of things from him. He knew where the deer were at all the time. Funny. He knew where they were lying all the time. And he knows just what the deer are going to do. He was an experienced guide that didn't think anything of it. He just worked satisfactorily for a living.
That's the guy who would have been a good game warden. Charlie would have been a dang good game warden. But he'd never take that job though. He'd never take it.
That guy can go anytime of the night or day. That guy, Charlie Michaud, would walk anywhere in the woods at night. He could feel the trail with his feet. He just walked anywhere in the night.
"Ain't you afraid to go walking around these raspberry patches and everything at night, looking around for these deer?" I asked him one time. "Ain't you afraid you'll run into a bear?"
"I pred'near stepped on a couple of cubs one time," he said, "and how they scrambled out of there squealing. I was on an old logging road, and I didn't know what the cubs were doing, when I pred'near stepped on them. Maybe they were sleeping. 'uaah-ah-aou-u-uh,' they went when I came up to them. Boy, I had to carry that rifle ready. But the old mother didn't come. She must-a been away. Well, I sure kept on a-goin' though."
He didn't look around to see where the cubs were. He just kept on a-goin'.
I've seen that guy walk so that you couldn't hear him. One time I was standing by a tree looking around. I was just looking around. I lit a cigarette, and was standing there smoking. I turned my head and there was Charlie sitting there.
"Just how'd you get here?"
"Oh, just slipped in."
"It's funny looking at you like that. Boy," I said, "you're . . . you're sneaky."
"Sit down and have another smoke. Don't get excited."
We had a cigarette, and we had another drive.
That guy knows the woods good. He was just like a wolf! -- mah-iiz-g^n -- wolf. Sneaky, tricky. He knew all the game.
All of those Tibbetts boys are good too. Bud Tibbetts, oh, Geez, he's the worst one.(16) He's a good hunter.
Story-telling is good.
But Charlie got old. He got too old to go out in the woods. Now he'll get lost in the woods. He thought he knew the woods the same as he used to, but there's so much underbrush coming up that he gets lost easy. He's willing to go. He's too willing. But we're afraid that he'll get tired and get turned around. We don't dare to go with him(17) anymore. So, we just tell him to stay home.
Just a year or so ago he wanted to go hunting with us. "No, Charlie," I said, "not after what I've seen."
He wanted to go right through a big bog, a floating bog. He was turned around in the woods.
I said, "The road is right here."
"No," he said, "it's over there, across the swamp there."
"Gees Charlie, don't go through there. That's a floating swamp, a floating bog. You'll get mired. You'll get swamp‑ed."
We argued there.
"All right," I said, "you go. I'm going around the other way, but I'm going to be able to see you well."
There was a big hill I was going to get up on and look down at him.
So he went in the bog. By gosh, he just has to show you that you're going to have to prove it to him. When he realized he was in the bog he turned around and came out.
"How far is that route?" he asked.
It was about fifty feet from where we were standing.
"You gotta show me," he said.
So he walked behind me a little way. I said, "There's the old logging road. They loaded the logs here last spring, and in another twenty-five feet we'll hit the main road." We walked up, and in about seventy-five or eighty feet of roads we hit the main road.
He stood there.
"Well I'll be a darned fool," he said. "I think I am lost. Which way do we go on this main road?"
I said, "Well, we'll go west."
"Which way is west?"
"We'll just turn right. Come on and follow me."
So we walked side by side in each rut. There came a car looking for us. It was our partner, Joe Barnes. That's who we were riding with.
I told Joe, "Ya, we pritt'near got lost. We didn't though. We found our way."
"I was looking for you, wondering where youse were."
So, if I had listened to Charlie we would'a both been out there in the bog. From that time on we wouldn't take Charlie with us. He's slipping.
Oh he'd get mad over that! When hunting season comes, he's raring to go, but they won't let him go. And that hurts him. Deer hunting season is the worst time of the year for him. He'll walk around the yard about half mad. His wife'll be holding him and she is telling him, "Don't leave. Do not go. You don't have to go. We got enough to eat. We'll get enough. The boy is gone.(18) We'll get some meat from some of the others."
"No. I wanna get my own meat."
Charlie is about eighty, I guess, about eighty years old. That's a great thing. I used to go over and pick Charlie up. I don't go anymore, the door's locked. I heard a lot of times that Charlie wanted to go. Joe Barnes would run into me. "Charlie's lookin' for ya," he'd say. "I know what he wants! He wants to go huntin' with ya."
But sometimes Tom White and Charlie catch me at my house. I just sit right down. "Well," I says, "Charlie," I says, "I ain't interested in huntin' no more. And if I did get a deer, what am I gonna do with it? I'm all alone."
"Ah, shucks," he'd say, "don't let that worry ya."
Then I'd tell him stories about how I saw those three deer when I was with him that time at Snake Creek. I'd tell him about another time we were hunting, "Geez, I had a good shot, but I ran out of shells."
He'd say, "Well, it was the same way with me."
Pretty soon we were telling hunting stories and he'd be satisfied.
"Do you remember that, when I shot? Do you remember that, when we chased across the meadows?"
And, oh boy, he was a good shot! He was too. I always bragged him up. He is true. I'd ask him if he remembered that time the gun missed, and he'd laugh. We'd be talking about hunting and he'd be satisfied. Pretty soon he'd be ready to go home.
I felt to myself that he was watching me, that he didn't want me to go hunting without him. He doesn't want me to get ahead of him. He doesn't want me to get one or two more deer than he got. He'd ask, "Did you get your deer yet?"
"No," I said, "I didn't get a deer."
'Cause, like I told him earlier, "What am I going to do with it?"
"I like to drive deer," I said, "more than anything else." I get a kick out of how my standers(19) shoot. I like to watch how they shake when a deer comes through. I put Joe Barnes on the stand too. Ya, he's a good shot. Joe Barnes is a good shot. He shot one right across the Leech River below the Mud Lake Dam one time. That's a long range shot. I think with the second shot he downed it. It was a nice one. And he got a nice one when I put him on the stand a year ago. But it's hard for him to get around. That's why I tease him all the time. But he says right back, "You don't go very far either. All you do is go down the hill there and just come back." He says, "You're afraid in the woods." He tries everything to tease me. He tries to blame me for everything. But I'll have to say he went out and got that one deer alone. He got 'em all alone. He's lucky. Here he came in on his own. Oh, geez, I laughed at him. Said I, "Did you see the men who were in your drive?"
He said, "There weren't any men in my drive. I just got out of the car and lay the gun over the hood and I pulled the trigger."
Quite a guy, that Joe!
We lived a life.
One time we were living that life, years ago, and a friend of mine, Sandy Morrell, said, "Let's go out and get a deer."
Oh, it was a nice evening, you know, a nice afternoon. More or less we were talking about the Indian way of life as we walked along. He was an Indian boy.
We came in near that old road near Six Mile Lake -- the one branching off before going back on the old road. And there was a big buck looking at us, standing pred'near broadside. Sandy had a 30-30. It was a good gun. He readied his gun and he shot.
I don't think he hit it. I can tell a deer when it's hit. He took off. The buck took his time, but he got out of sight in the brush.
After a minute or two Sandy spoke up, "Gee. . . . I'll go look for him over there, and you look here. You look in through that heavy thicket."
Oh, I hated to go into that heavy thicket. I didn't feel like going, because I thought it was no use.
"I don't think you hit 'em."
My friend followed it a long ways, but there was not a drop of blood. And the deer showed by his track that he was still traveling just as spry as ever. So he was gone, oh, about twenty minutes. I followed him a long ways into a mixed meadow. Here I was searching right around a thicket. I thought he'd go lay down in the thicket. And in the thicket, the thickest brush of the hazelnut I had ever seen -- the thickest brush I ever seen -- there was a black stump about twelve, fourteen feet high, sticking out of the hazelnut.
"He might be around that stump somewhere," I thought.
I had to pull apart those hazelnut brushes to get over by the stump.
What did I see in there?
That's where I saw thunderbirds. . . . Thunderbirds!
I think they were thunderbirds. They were birds about . . . I'll say about . . . about . . . two feet high. Two of them were sitting together. And just to see what they were was a great thing! And they were white -- pure white, just like cotton. You'd think that out of that charcoal they'd be black and dusty. Uh huh. That stump was black, but, boy, their feathers were just clean, just like cotton balls. They looked pretty. They were young ones, two of them, and they looked alike. They just sat there looking at me. I took a stick and I broke off a little piece and I poked them a little bit -- just to see them move, just to see if they were alive.
They were alive.
You know what I heard?
I looked around.
I poked the one again, and I poked the other one.
"Huuk-kuunk-kuunk-kuunk-kuunk-kuunk. Tchu-tchu-tchu-tchu-tchu-tchu-tchu. Tuw-tuw-tuw-tuw-tuw-tuw."
Just at that time the other guy hollered. "Come on! What are you doing?"
"You're doing something. I hear something."
Well, I left them alone.
"Excuse me," I said. "I know who you are."
I backed away. They were pretty as a picture! And I looked for a hawk or a mother to be around. There was nobody around. Generally a hawk will come after you.
When I got to where my friend stood, he said, "I heard you doing something in there."
"What was you monking(20) with?"
"Tuw-tuw-tuw-tuw-tuw-tuw-tuw," you could hear them as we talked. They were still mad you know. So I told him I saw them.
I said, "I saw two birds, that high."
"What color were they?"
"White. Pure white. That black stump is a white pine burnt. I figured they'd be black, but there wasn't a drop of dust on them at all. And where they stood was just like it was patted down. But they have somebody come feed them there."
He said, "You know they're thunderbirds."
"Well, let's go! Right now!"
"You done wrong disturbing them. . . ."
He was an Indian.
" . . . I didn't think you was that foolish."
"Ya, but I'm not foolish enough to let you look at them. Uh huh."
"Well, you seen them. You molested them."
He looked over to the West. Oh boy! A big black cloud was coming!
Boy, I'll tell you, we moved! We had two miles to go, and we were pacing it off walking. And it was hot! That cloud went right over. I could hear the rumble coming. Was there rumbling and noise! We just made the house when ca-rash!! Ca-rash!! Crash! Then lightning was in the sky.
"See," he said, "that's what you done. You got them mad."
I got scared, a little bit.
"I'll never do it again."
"So that was thunderbirds you seen," he said.
They were pure white and nice and clean, just like cotton. And I asked a lot of the old folks about that.
"Them are eagles."
"Uh uh. There should have been a mother eagle there. You won't get out of there if you molest an eagle, 'cause you're attacked, most generally. Besides, eagles got a nest way up. Why did these birds have a place in a big hollow tree? Why were they in there very cozy? How could they keep clean in there with all of that wash-out from the charcoal? They should be black. No, they were pure white, just like cotton. They were clean."
A lot of them wonder about what I saw.
"Boy," he said, "you seen something!"
"Ya, I poked it. I poked them, just to see what would happen."
Boy, talk about the storm! It blew down trees and blew the tar paper off of the shack.
And a lot of them gave me hell . . . a lot of Indians.
"You shouldn't-a molested them."
"I didn't know who they were," I said.
"You were a fool," they told me.
I wanted to see what they were.
I think this was 1945 . . . it was a long time ago anyway. I feared that something might happen to me because I molested them. Here I felt good! They let me see them. It was the hardest place to go into, and I went in to see them. They had a little hole back there, just like a weasel. I sure would like to have a picture of that.
I believe today that they were thunderbirds.
And that's why when I pound that drum -- my "Thunderbird Drum" -- I talk to them.(21) When I went and took my drum into the house it was nice and clear outside. A little later with the thunder and lightning my shack just raised up like that.(22)
Sandy Morrell was with me. Ya. Morrell of Bena. I don't know where he is, or whether he died. He was an old veteran -- he was in the service. He believed in Indian, that guy.
Nobody else has seen that. Nobody's seen anything like that. I've asked a lot of them and they said, "Boy!" they said, "you must have power that thunderbirds let you see them."
So I often think of them. I can show you the place where I saw them right today. Just think. It was out of Bena there, by Six Mile Lake.
That's something special when you see those. Sure! When they let you see them that may be some warning,(23) but I think it's for a long life. But I should know better than to molest them. When they went "twu-twu-twu-twu-twu-twu-twu-tw-tw," it was just like thunder.
Sandy Morrell was standing way off and he heard it way over there where he was standing.
"What are you doing," he said.
"I poked a couple birds," I said. "I wound them thunderbirds up."
Their bills were a little bit long, but not very long. Their bills were just like a rooster. But they didn't have any beard. And they were clean, pure, just like angels! Pure! Oh boy, I wish I had the camera there. God!
If you want to try to see a thunderbird you have to put out tobacco and invite them in, but only a high spiritual man would do that.(24) A young guy can go out and search for thunderbirds. He can. He can. And maybe he'll see them. But it's the idea that you may have to take a year to do it. You may have to take a certain length of time. You have to read the histories of the Indians.(25) You have to prove yourself. You have to believe that Indian way of life.
If you want to try to see a thunderbird go out by yourself. Tell yourself, "This is where I'm going." Sit down on a log, put tobacco out, put a little smudge on your face, and build a little fire. Sit there and tell the Great what you're there for. Somebody might talk to you, but you can't look.(26) Maybe they will ask you what you're here for. That's what happens to a lot of them. Tell a spirit of the thunderbirds, "I want to see you."
When people don't want the thunderbirds to raise too much destruction they put out a feather or some other item like that. They most generally hang a feather up -- any feather, from any kind of bird -- or they tie it on a stick and stick it in the ground. On the other hand, if you want them to raise Cain with others they'll do it.
After that incident happened with the "Thunderbird Drum" and the big tree in front of my house there was another happening in Ball Club during a powwow over there.(27) I'm not bragging.(28) Jess Tibbetts came up to me. He said, "Paul, you're a service man(29) here in the powwow. I'll take your place and you go eat dinner in the community hall."
"Eat your dinner and then come back on the speaker's stand, because I have to watch the road," he said. "I'm watching the powwow grounds and directing traffic on the other end."
"Paul, you just rest up and go for dinner. Come on."
So I went and spoke to one of the women that was serving dinner in the community hall. She's a little off, that woman, and she's a little on the smart aleck side, you know. Boy she talks! She never did like too many people anyhow. She's sassy, but we don't pay any attention. I walked up to her and said, "See, I have to be on duty. Could you give me a quick lunch?"
She snapped back, "I can't give you a quick lunch because we got a lot of others to serve.(30) Why you live here. You can go and have your lunch at home."
And some people saw that.
"Okay. Thank you."
"I went to the store and got some stuff to have a quick lunch," I later told Jess Tibbitts who was waiting for me back at the speaker's stand. "I got to eat at home because they are serving so many."
So I sat there at home and thought. "She could'a told me in a better way. But she smarted-off," I thought to myself. "Somebody's watching. I don't know whether I should go back or not, because the weather doesn't look very good."
A little while after, you know what? I was just ready to go back to the powwow. You know where I live, not far from the powwow grounds. Holy cow! When I looked up toward the powwow grounds I saw the people running, grabbing their outfits, shutting the doors. A big wind came down. Talk about lightning and thundering and trees breaking down!
You know Jess Tibbitts believes in Indian. He said, "They won't want to monkey with you. Buffalo said, 'I'll blow you off the ground!'"
I didn't say anything. If they want to get smart, that's all right. I busted up the program that evening . . . or that's what a lot of them thought. The weather cleared up after while. And they were busy cleaning up the limbs on the ground. Everybody had truckfulls to haul and everything. That's what happened. Ask Jess about that. He laughs about that.
That happened in 1962, I guess, '60 . . . ya, '62 anyhow.
Well, I couldn't help that, but it's just what they asked for. What happens to you depends on how you use anybody. I could say bad things to you, but I'd feel it later on. I could strike you, but I'd feel it sooner or later. Because "what you do onto others you do onto me." That's what He said. Indians say that too.
See, the Indians' religion is something again. It is dangerous to fool with it. I'm scared of that. And that's why they're aware of me too.(31) But I don't put on that I use any method to hook(32) people.
At one time fur was the main living through the winter. We trapped mushrats, mink, and beaver. But mostly we trapped mink and beaver; ya. They were a good price. Sometimes we also sold wild rice when we had too much. Sometimes we traded for food. Fur from mink and beaver was a good living through the winter, but that got trapped out about 1918. About 1918 there was a slow-down. It was hard to find the beaver dams then, and it was hard to find the mink holes. After that you had to go along the river with a metal bar to find beaver. And when the bar goes through the beaver hut, you know that's where the beaver lives.
In the olden days, they tried out all kinds of methods of hunting and trapping and snaring and what not. I've heard them talk about using snares to catch ducks and things, but we never did it. I've heard of a snare catching a partridge.(35) I've seen a guy, George Nokay, he said, "I'm gonna have that partridge." It was a poor time to get his snares set for rabbits, so he put the snares out for partridge. Well, partridge run through rabbit roads anyhow. They'll run into a rabbit snare. The old Indians caught them in rabbit snares. Well, I suppose a duck along the lake shore will run in the rabbit snare too. But if he did, it's just accidently. It isn't a habit, but partridges run through there regular. So they would set snares for partridges, at times. The partridge'll set on top of a log to drum at mating times. The partridges always liked to walk on top of a log. So settin' a snare on the top of a log's the way they catch partridges.
Later on in years they started the snaring of deer. Later on I'm going to tell you about snaring deer.(36) Most of the time they were snaring wolf, fox -- wah-goos -- bobcat, or whatever they had like that. The fox is sharp and when they go through and they find any other scent, they'll jump and they'll dodge. They're very careful. If they find that scent they'll think, "There's something here." And that's the way they protect themselves. The hunter knows that, and they notice where they leave their own scent. I kind-a watch that too, you know, all the time.
But I saw those guys set snares for wolves, and they got them. I think this setting snares is more for -- is better for -- wolves. And for that they're great; they're successful. How they do it, I didn't know; so I asked them.
George White showed me how to set snares. This main snarer-man, an
Indian, my father-in-law -- George White -- told me how to do it. He really
gets them. He really knows what he's doing in the woods. At that time
all he did was snare for wolves. He made good money at it too. He was
from Bena. He was an old Indian. He was an expert. He told me how to do
it with those canvas gloves.
This most-well-experienced guy told me that you have to have certain gloves to handle that snaring wire -- white canvas gloves. They're cheap. You have to have special gloves for that. And you have to take care of those gloves and use them for snaring only. So they bought gloves which they used only for handling snares.
If you set any snares in a swamp, cedar swamp, you have to rub your hands with those cedar boughs. If you are setting snares in a cedar swamp, you should take cedar boughs and rub them with your gloves, right in the palm of your hand. Where there's balsam you have to rub the palm of your gloves with balsam. Wherever you set snare that's what you use. If you're setting snare by cedar or spruce, you use cedar or spruce scent to rub your gloves. If you're in the hardwood, you rub your hands on the hardwood. You rub your gloves -- the gloves you wear only for snaring. Then you handle that wire. When you're done snaring you wrap them gloves up. You have to be careful of all that oil on your hands, because animals' noses are sharp.
The experienced ones boil their snares. In my time, they boiled their snares to clean them. You have to boil your snares before you go out. You have to get off that oil from the palm of the hands, which gets on there from handling the snares. Hot water and solution will boil it out. It will purify the wire. You can see your grease come to the top. The oil of the palm of your hand comes right to the top. There's so much of that on the snares that you have to get off. After you boil it, the scent goes away and then it becomes natural metal. Then after the metal's been outside for a while, that scent goes away. The weather takes that scent away. The snares pick up the weather. When those snares are new they have that scent from the palm of the hand on them. They get that palm-of-your-hand scent by people handling them. So many of them have been handling the snares in the market that they're bound to be scented-up. So when you take it out for use in the wilderness, you have to purify it first. That's the way they told me; they said, "You gotta purify them before you use them."
Maybe some of them leave their snares out two, three days. They can leave them two, three days. You can't go check them every day, because your scent is left on that land that the wolf travels. They're awful touchy, and they get your scent quick. It might be best to stay away from the snares. You have to watch that. Put your trail somewhere else. Sometimes you're walking across their trail, and they'll walk across your trail. Sometimes they'll follow you.
So some of the Indians have pretty good luck snaring. Your luck all depends on how careful you are. Some of them have pretty good luck because they're always careful. They're the ones that know the nature. Those that had good luck have experience.
That's the way they tell me they did it; ya. I know they did it that way. I know one of the best Indians, best snarers, best trapper, Canadian John Crowley,(37) from Bena. He was really getting them. And that's what he told me. He told me how to do it in about 1918.
But I never bothered about snaring. I wasn't much of a wolf-getter because I have other things to do. I had to try to make money working in the woods. I was busy at something else all the time.
In the olden times, we made our own snares out of cable -- na-qwaa-q^n, snare. We'd get the cable and burn it, and get the metal soft; they were steel cables. We made a loop on there. We tied a little wire, fine wire, a picture cord or something, to make kind of a solid loop, so that it'll never come loose. We made a lot of hand-made snares like that. I think the wolves had more of a chance of breaking that burnt wire, but it all depends on how cold the weather is. In warm weather, if they're caught, it's all right; but in cold weather the wire'll snap. It's breakable, and it will break in cold weather.
So at first they just used hand-made snares with a loop tied in them, but then this patent came out. There was a patent snare lock that came out from the snare-wire division, from somewhere where they make that snare-wire. They're patented. Somebody patented that. "Wolf-snares," they call it. They had those wolf snares in hardwares, too.(38) So later they'd buy their snares. So with this new snare they had better equipment. They were well made. They were well flexible. They were well sturdy. They were about six feet long and made out of cable. And on that snare cable they had a "V"-shaped metal piece behind the loop.
On that snare they had an additional "V"-shaped metal piece about an inch square. That metal helped to make a loop to hold a wolf. There was a hole in the one side of that "V"-shaped metal and they put the wire through that first hole then ran it through a hole on the other side of the "V". I have a matchbook here and I just opened the matchbook and I bored a hole through this matchbook -- through the whole works -- and then I opened it. That cable goes in the hole on the one side and out the hole on the other side. And when the wire's through the other side they're setting the snare . . . I don't really remember but I think they put that loop above a small metal piece. I think it's above; ya. The "V"-shaped metal's got to be forced down next to the animal's neck. So they put that "V"-shaped metal that came out to use in their snares behind the small metal piece that holds the loop.
So when the wolf got in there -- they were setting these snares for wolf -- the "V"-shaped metal piece would work the snare down around the wolf's neck. When the wolf comes in there, the snare comes down over the loop and slides around his neck. As he's pulling on that he'll push that metal "V" down further. That "V"-shaped metal piece locks the loop. They put up an awful battle; they kept a-working that, working that, working that. Those things really locked. He's trying hard. The further down it goes, the tighter it locks. It won't unlock. You can't unlock it. Of course if you shove it back by hand it will unlock. It's just a "V"-shaped metal. That, of course, any hunter will understand.
Those snarers, those hunters, game-getters, they knew how to use that, and they always got their game. That's how they made their snare line. They made a pretty good success with them. Boy how that snare would lock.
I never liked them though. I really didn't.
That "V"-shaped snare's quite a patent. They're quite a patent for wolves. They had more success with wolves on that patent kind. But that snaring's an awful death. I wouldn't want to see a wolf struggling with that patent-snare.
I'll tell you why it's good. I'll tell you why the patent is good, and why it generally made a success. But at this time, I'm going to tell you about this guy who didn't make success.
I was walking along the river down from my old place on Leech River downstream of Federal Dam and I saw a wolf lying on the bank. Those days I think the bounty on wolves was about fifteen, twenty dollars for a female, fifteen dollars for a male. That was in the days of bounty. Everybody was after wolves for the bounty. The bounty's what they wanted.
That was about in the thirties, thirty-eight. There was bounty yet on wolves in Minnesota. Then this bounty was taken off.(39) But before that they all made good money going after wolves. And when they had bounty the deer crop was increasing, the game was increased.
The wolves and the fox don't work together. When the fox goes, the wolves come. When the wolves go, the fox comes. It's either way. Of course the fox, he came in about 1917, '18, '19, '20. Seems though the fox seems to be moving out now. The rabbits are there. And when the rabbits were there, the fox came in with the birds and all the mice they pick up, and all that. They do away with the young crop; then they leave that area.
And then when the fox goes, the wolf comes in. They just kind of come in rotation of groups. I don't know what causes that, but it seems as though there aren't so many fox now. They say there's some, but it isn't what it used to be a few years ago. You used to see them anywhere. There is nothing of them now.
And that's the way with big game too. Where there's caribou, there's no whitetail deer. Where there's whitetail, there's no caribou. Old John Smith told me that before.
So when I was walking along the river, as I was saying before here, I saw a wolf lying on a bank.
I walked up to it, and I saw this patent-snare hooked around the wolf's mouth. It looked like he struggled to get away and this patent locked. It had locked around the jaw of the wolf and he couldn't shut his mouth. He was caught around the neck and around the jaw, and he was forced to bend his neck down to his throat. And there he was. I don't know where he picked the wire up, but there he laid, starved to death. He wasn't played out, he was starved. He couldn't eat. He couldn't drink.
I stood there. . . .
So when I got back to town, I told one of the boys in town, one of my cousins, Frank Sayers, "There's a patent-snare on a wolf laying down there on the river bank, second bend from my old place."
Right now they went down and got it. I think he got twenty dollars for that, or fifteen, or twenty. For sure he got fifteen. Anyhow, he hired a car, and he had enough to pay for the gas.(40) They took it to the county seat in Walker, and they got their bounty. So I just laughed.
Why, I didn't want to monkey with it. It wasn't mine.(41) But it was just laying around there on the river, a lost wolf. There was a bounty, so they took it in and the bounty was theirs.
But that showed how the "V"-snare locked his jaw. That patent lock starved him. So that's what I've seen. And that's why I don't like that patent lock. That patent lock is a wicked snare. Still . . . that "V"-shaped snare's quite a patent. You can't unlock it. Of course if you shove the metal piece back by hand it will unlock. But once you tighten them, you have to push them back by hand -- then they'll unlock.
That snare's quite a patent, but they don't allow them in my state any more. I don't think they allow them. We don't allow snaring. We don't like snaring. I think it's a heavy offense, unless you have a permit. After a while you had to have a permit -- a card to show you were a trapper -- in order to set snares. Oh, that was about . . . about thirty, thirty-two -- somewhere along in there -- when that card first came in. See, they were hunting and trapping a lot then. There were rough spots as hard times came in.(42) And at that time they had learned the people how to save money and keep it out of sight for their use. They didn't charge you anything for that permit card. No, it was just free. The state gives you that. I could get one as I was in the timber business.(43) If somebody in the city wanted to get one they'd have to show how long they're going to be gone, and they'd have to show when they want to quit. OK. So you sign off when you're going, and sign on when you're coming back.
You have to have a permit for everything now. That's a good thing, so we can trust. I don't know how they enforce what the law is, what the ruling is, about hunting. I've seen things in my day, and heard of a lot of things. It's good to know all that.
And there's quite a lot to know of the things of nature, the nature of wild life, and how the Indian did things. There was a whole lot of stuff -- hunting, snaring, and trapping -- in those days. They tried everything. I think some things worked pretty good.
But now, there's nothing up our way. Now there's no bounty. There's nothing now. It isn't worthwhile to go out and monkey with trapping wolves. Folks would rather work out,(44) because you can't hardly make a living on just a few dollars for fur, on just a few dollars from bounties. And even when you get game you have to have enough money to carry you to buy your supplement of food for your camping out.(45) There's some big trappers, hunters, who make it on fur alone, but they have to get money enough when they sell their furs. They have to get money for the fur. The fur has to repay them for the time they put in, for the hard work they put in. And when we still had the bounty they had to get money for the bounty too.
How much money a guy could make on a snare line in a year depends on how far he goes, what country he's in, how many trappers are in there, and how many lines are in there. Some of them caught two or three wolves, and maybe made thirty, forty dollars. That was in about 1918, 1910. But the size of the fur makes a difference, and if they're female or male. There's a difference. Oh, I suppose if they get up around Canada, you'd make pretty good, if they're in bounty. But the Indian won't go after a snare trail, or they won't set snares unless there's a good bounty, unless it's worthwhile.
But you're after outlaw game, outlaw animals. A small trapper, hunter,
sometimes has a hard time with that. It's not easy to hunt for the outlaw
wolves. They're outlaws when they go and live on the young crop of birds,
ducks, eggs, rabbits, partridges, young birds, and anything that's young.
Bobcat and the timber wolf and the wolves are searching for the young
crop of game birds. That's what they're after when they're busy hunting.
So if there's no bounty on them, we aren't going to have game or game
birds. The wolves, brush coyotes, and everything search the lake shores,
they search the grass, they search for the hidden eggs. They're searching
all the time for food. So when there's no bounty, we're not going to have
game or ducks in the local area. The local's not going to have much game
or game birds. Maybe only a certain percentage of the crop is taken up
by this re‑searching by these wolves, coyotes, and foxes.
But I think we also have lots of bobcats to take away the young crop.
And the Conservation Department lets them in our country, in our state.
The Indians'd clean them out pretty good if there was bounty on them.
But I don't think there's any bounty. I don't think there's bounty in
our zone any more. But there are zones where they might still have bounty.
Well, I think that's one of our biggest troubles in wild life. The outlaw animals eat the eggs of the game birds, and they eat the young crop. They take the young crop and bury it. Then during that winter they work on that area. So when they're hungry, they know where they planted this stuff. Then it's ready to eat. But if they eat it fresh, too fresh, it'll kick back on them. Animals always wait. Everything is laid over for a week or so. A fox has to be pretty hungry before he eats fresh meat. He stores his stuff in dens. Same way with the skunk; same with other running animals.
We didn't have open season for deer hunting in our state, in our area, this year.(46) The deer crop didn't show up very good tracks or signs. The tracks are not very good eating, but there wasn't even very many of them to speak of.
. . . I don't know why that is. . . . Well, let's see . . . the wolves got some, naturally . . . and hunters took a hundred thousand last year in the season. I think they overtook too many. That's what I heard. They named a certain amount that the hunters took out. Last year they hit the forestry in northern Minnesota pretty hard from all other states. And they all had deer last season.(47) So this season they had to close 'er,(48) which is good because we'll have a crop next year. The deer are coming in now. I don't know where they're coming from, but everybody says there are quite a few tracks showing up. They could come from other areas looking for shelter to harbor‑nate.
I don't know if snowmobiles have anything to do with it. The snowmobiles, well they do disturb the herd. I belong in the Sportsman's Club in Deer River, and at a meeting I heard the Conservation Department speaking on that. We all spoke, pointing out views. They said the deer need food. The year before we helped the deer get food when we had a deep snow there.(49) I think the sportsmen did pretty good. They gave them hay, and they gave them grain; they gave them alfalfa, and all that stuff that deer eat. They helped the deer in where they're herded up. I think they did pretty good.
But to get back to those snowmobiles. . . . I heard one spokesman who said at a certain time of the year the deer come in to harbor‑nate, especially the does. They're coming to settle in for the winter. And by spring, this mother -- this doe -- doesn't want to be disturbed. And I think those snowmobiles going through with all that racket and noise, going through by the does, disturbs them. They have them little ones they're carrying, and they're running. And sometimes they overdo it.
So I think the deer should be left alone. I think people should not chase them or drive them, or do anything.
So I think snowmobiles disturb the deer a little. I think that's what that spokesman from the DNR said too(50); ya. The deer should not be disturbed. It isn't the idea that we don't want the snowmobiles, but they shouldn't disturb the deer because they harbor‑nate in that area. I think the deer should be left alone. But anyhow, if you leave them alone, they'll come out to feed.
How is that? Pretty good, isn't it?
That's true. I believe it.
Sure, the mother deer don't want to be disturbed at that time. Boy! That's your wild life! Nobody wants to be disturbed when they're carrying.(51) When they're carrying, the mother deer doesn't want to be disturbed because she's on the alert. She's on the alert all the time. If she hears a little noise, she's nervous. I'd say she's "nervous."
So keep them calm, and everything will be well-matured. Feed them well, do not run them, and do not go into where they are to try to see more. Some of them are in big herds, you know. And when you go in there, they're disturbed. And when they're disturbed you ought to see them high-tail it through the timber. You ought to see what they jump over -- dead and down trees, stumps, and everything. . . . Hmmm. . . . The deer shouldn't be disturbed during the winter. We disturb them enough during the hunting season.
And we should help them by feeding them. We should have a place for them where they can come out and go out there to feed. If we have a place like that they'll know right now when you're trying to help them feed. That's the nature of an animal. They know when you come there to feed. When they come, they'll see that you left something there. Generally they know; in general they should know.
That was with the Deer River Sportsmen that I heard that. They are trying to help the wildlife come back -- the game and fish. I think they're trying hard. I think we have lots in the club that are joining, helping. And we wish everybody else would join to help the wild life, to conserve the wild life. I think that that's a good organization. I think afterwards we'll get results from what we did for the deer.
That's about enough; ya.
1. Cf., Ch. 41, "Talking with the Old Folks: Recollections and Predictions."
2. Paul often thinks about things, and especially about things that happened years ago, in his original language, Ojibwe/Chippewa, and translates that into English. Generally speaking, when he talks about "the people" he is most likely thinking "Anishinaabe."
5. Note that Paul's form of address is "grandpa," that is, he calls him "grandpa." It would be normal to call elders in general "grandpa" and "grandma." Note a little later on that Paul's form of reference is "Old Man White." The title "Old Man" or "Old Lady" is a term of endearment and respect. Keep in mind that Paul is most likely thinking of this event in Ojibwe/Chippewa and translating it into English.
6. Younger people would never laugh at an elder or a senior in-law. On the other hand, brother-in-law joking, including with potential brothers-in-law was common and commonly accepted. And a little later on in Paul's narrative, it is alright to laugh at the fact that he was surprised that there was a second rabbit in the hole. And later on when Paul says, "I told about it when we got home, and they just laughed at him," they are not laughing at him but at the clever tricks that he often comes up with.
7. Note that Paul is careful here to say, "It happened to be . . . I have an idea that it was. . . ." It is important in Paul's way of thinking to distinguish things that he knows from experience from things that he only hears about or guesses is true. What Paul is most likely saying here is that even at that time the event happened he didn't actually know that the rabbit hole was in an old cedar log, but that he only thought -- at that time -- that it was the case. Paul is not saying that he doesn't remember what it was. You will note elsewhere in Paul's narratives that when he doesn't remember he will generally simply say that he does not remember, or will give an approximation. Also note later on in the narrative that Paul says that he had heard about this technique of catching rabbits but didn't pay any attention because he didn't see it: ""Grandpa, you showed me something that I think is true. I heard something about catching rabbits like that, but I never paid any attention because I didn't see it."
8. A "mess" of small animals or fish is enough for one meal. The actual number of fish or amount of meat in a "mess" will vary with the number of people expected to partake in the meal.
10. Here Paul is noting, and later in the story reaffirming, that in this particular event they were hunting "in season" as set by the State of Minnesota. The contention by the State of Minnesota that tribal members needed to observe seasons and seasonal rules was officially nullified in 1972: "In 1972 the Leech Lake Band was successful in asserting their right to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice free of state regulation on the Leech Lake Reservation." (Minnesota State Senate. Accessed 1 October 2018. https://www.senate.mn/departments/scr/report/bands/Wildlife.htm.) Hunting methods varied early on "in season," and after 1972.
11. There was an area where a forest fire went thorough.
12. A scaffold used as a stand to hunt deer, a dozen or so feet off of the ground.
13. He wasn't so sure of a good quick close-up shot with the rifle that he had, compared to one that he might get with the shotgun that Paul Buffalo had.
14. It was all they were able to do.
15. Note change in the discussion, from talking about three deer to talking about lots of venison, i.e., a change from "them" to "it."
16. "Bud Tibbetts, oh, Geez, he's the worst one," actually means he's the best one. This is a common way to compliment someone.
17. They didn't dare take him into the woods hunting any more.
18. Charlie's wife was essentially telling him that the boy is no longer living at home so they didn't have to feed him, and she was telling him that in an effort to discourage Charlie from thinking about going out hunting.
19. "Standers" are the hunters who are standing along the edge of an area where "drivers" are trying to drive the deer. "The stand" is the location where a shooter waits while the "drivers" attempt to drive the deer by. The number of "standers" and "drivers" depends on the size of the hunting party. This is a much different method of hunting than in the early days, and generally is one used in this region when hunting "in season" with a group.
22. Years later when Paul made his drum he dedicated it to the Thunderbird. As part of that dedication he introduced his drum to many peoples and groups and other drums around the area, and to the spirits, including the spirits of the thunderbirds. The part of the dedication of the drum that Paul is referring to here occurred at his home in Ball Club. He first talked to the thunderbirds outside of his house, and as he suggests "it was nice and clear outside." He took his drum inside and not long afterwards a fierce thunder and lightning storm came and split the tree in front of the door to his house "right down the middle." He had been talking to that tree earlier as part of the dedication of his drum to the thunderbird. Paul and his drum were OK after the storm, but it shook the house and everything around it. That was a sign that the thunderbirds blessed, and more importantly spiritually supported, his drum. As he says in Ch. 22, he got a "proof-mark" that the thunderbirds approved of and backed his drum: "He got a mark that was proof that the thunderbird answered his request, i.e., the mark of a lightning strike on the big tree in his yard, after he performed the ceremony on a clear afternoon." For the record, I was there at his house shortly after the storm was over and Paul's explanation of the events was exactly the same that day as it was ten years later; that is, it was not reinterpreted as time went on. For details on the events see Ch. 22, "Drums," and Ch. 23, "Niimi'idiwin: 'Come and Dance, Come and Sing--Living and Spirits Alike,'" and cf. Ch. 33, "Messengers and Unusual Events," and Ch. 34, "Fireballs, and the 'Black-Shadow-Man.'" And see also the event at the Ball Club celebration described later in Paul's narrative.
23. Notice the lack of concern for time with the psychological connecting of getting power because the Thunderbirds let Paul Buffalo see them -- which happened about 1945 -- and the incident involving the Thunderbird Drum and his house in Ball Club -- which happened about 1962 [or perhaps even 1966]. When I as a white person attended a curing ceremony in 1966 any possible ill effects from a white being present were thought to last five or more years. Cf., Ch. 30, "An Indian Curing Ceremony." Cause and effect as it pertains to power, ill effects, and so forth can have a tremendous time lag.
25. "Read" also means "read" (pay attention to) lectures and study the actions of animals, study the meaning of unusual signs, etc. Cf., Ch. 32, "Medicine Men / Medicine Women," Ch. 33, "Messengers and Unusual Events," and Ch. 34, "Fireballs, and the 'Black-Shadow-Man.'"
26. You put a black mark on your face to show the spirits that you respect that belief, you build a little fire ("put a little fire out") "to show the spirits that you are there" (the fire attracts their attention and they are drawn in to see what is happening; "pounding" a drum and singing in the "Indian" language, on other occasions, would also have the same effect), you tell the Great Spirit why you are there. And if other spirits come and talk to you, and they might come in the form of an animal in a vision, do not look for them or at them, but first tell them that you want to see them. This is much like the "vision quest" that young adolescent males go through as they are coming into adulthood. Cf., Ch. 26, "Dreams and Visions."
27. The celebration that Paul is talking about here is the Ball Club, MN, Mii Gwitch Mahnomen Days Annual Pow Wow (Wild Rice Thanksgiving Days Annual Pow Wow).
28. Notice that at the beginning of this story Paul specifically notes, "I'm not bragging." Bragging, and especially bragging about one's spiritual power or things related to one's spiritual power, is not considered in good taste. And some who believe in the "Indian" way would likely consider bragging to be dangerous, insofar as it can invite negative spiritual reaction if it "goes too far."
29. Paul's friend Jess is pointing out to Paul that he deserves and qualifies for lunch at the community center because he is a volunteer ("a service man") helping with the powwow. It was initially just a friendly encouragement to him to go have lunch, and there should have been no issue about it. Nevertheless, the fact that he was encouraged to go have lunch by a highly respected individual in the community becomes an important part of his story.
30. Principally they served lunch in the community hall to dancers in costume and to the drummers and singers, but community volunteers also have lunch there.31. Some people are afraid of Paul because of his power via his "Indian religion."
32. To "hook" people is to put a hex on them; it is using jibik.
35. For more on snaring "partridges," see Ch. 12, "Inbetween Time." Note that Paul is talking about ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) when he talks about "partridges." Ruffed grouse, native to Minnesota, are commonly, although incorrectly, called "partridges." Partridges (Perdix) were introduced to North American from Europe in the early 1900s, and are unrelated to ruffed grouse. In North America "true partridge" territory is more typically west/northwest/southwest of northern Minnesota. The Ojibwa People's Dictionary translates "partridge" as "bine . . . a partridge; a ruffled grouse [ruffed grouse: Bonasa umbellus]" Accessed 19 June 2018. https://ojibwe.lib.umn.edu/.
37. The proper spelling of this surname is unknown; it is included here in case one of the readers recognize it.
38. The patented "wolf-snares" were sold in stores that sold hardware.
39. The state of Minnesota paid a bounty on wolves until 1965.
40. He gave someone a little money to take him over to the county seat, enough to cover the cost of gas, plus a little extra.
41. He didn't set the snare, but more importantly, he didn't like the fact that the wolf starved to death.
42. The Great Depression started in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s. "Hard times came in" for folks around the world.
43. He was cutting logs.
44. Work for someone for pay.
45. "Camping out" is living off of the land, moving your camp seasonally. By about 1918 most people had to have some cash to supplement the seasonal way of life. And those who by then had moved to a year-round location also needed cash to support their new lifestyle.
46. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources closed the deer hunting season in 1971 because of the low deer population.
47. They all shot deer last year.
48. They had to close the Minnesota deer hunting season in 1971.
49. It was a bad year for the deer because of the large snowfall, and the sportsmen went in and cut feed for the deer, and also brought in hay by snowmobile.
50. The spokesman was from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
51. Paul is simply pointing out that no mother wants to be disturbed when she is pregnant and carrying one or more young ones. Whitetail deer normally have "twins," but they can have between one and three fawns. A higher number of "triplets" being born in a herd can be a sign of a healthy deer population. Paul is suggesting that disturbing the herd during certain times of the year, with snowmobiles or whatever, can affect the density of the deer population.
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