Scribner's Magazine, Volume 26, September 1899
Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
VOL. XXVI SEPTEMBER, 1899 NO. 3
Copyright, 1899, by Charles Scribner's Sons. All rights reserved.
WHERE THE WATER RUNS BOTH WAYS
By Frederic Irland
Illustrations from Photographs by the Author
The greatest glory of Canadais not its modern progress, butits vast and ancient wilderness.If you weary of the samenessand unprofitableness of everything you know, go where Iwent last year, to the upper watersof the Ottawa, where thebeaver is the master architectand the moose is king of thewoods. See for yourself, as Isaw, that the Ottawa and theGatineau, appearing to comefrom widely distant regions, havetheir origin close together andare twins. Behold these twochildren of the lakes, nourishedfrom the same generous breast. Tracetheir courses, and see that, though journeyingfar, in widely different directions,they finally arrive at a common destination.
Nobody knows all about that head-watercountry around the sources of the Ottawa.It is a prolific game region, where sportsmenrarely go, for the simple reason thatthey can get all the hunting they wantnearer to the railroad. There are plentyof deer close to almost any CanadianPacific station west of Pembroke, and it isnot much trouble to get a chance at amoose in two days from Deux Rivières,Rockliffe, or Mattawa. Not many huntingparties start from there either, and Isuppose the reason is that for thousands ofmiles to the west the woods, prairies, andmountains lie close to the railroad andafford almost limitless opportunities.
The territory enclosed by the Ottawaand the Gatineau has been, from immemorialtimes, the home of the AlgonquinIndians, and they still remain there, in suchprimitive innocence that they receive noannuity from the Dominion Government.In this they are unlike the Indians of theUnited States or their brother tribes ofCanada.
The map which accompanies this articleis reproduced from the latest CrownLand Office charts of the Upper OttawaRiver. Hundreds of lakes, some of themmany miles in extent, are unmarked, becausethey have never been surveyed. Buta glance at the map will give some idea ofthe flood which is poured out at the feetof Canada's stately capital. As a canoeingcountry I believe the Ottawa valleyto be unequalled anywhere in the world.The dotted line on the map shows thecourse of a lazy autumn trip which I tookaround the borders of the great interiorisland, formed by the streams which fallfrom a common birthplace in the Kakebongaregion and reunite in front of thecity of Ottawa.
The coureurs du bois of the old régimehave passed away, but the song of theirbeloved wilderness is as sweet to-day aswhen they found it irresistible.
At Mattawa I procured the supplieswhich are necessary for a canoe trip inthe woods, and the branch railroad took260me to the shore of Lake Kippewa. Thena lumber company's steamer carried me toHunter's Point, the farthest settlement,eighty-five miles north of Mattawa. Fromthere it was all canoe and portage. Nowherewas there a carry more than a milelong, and generally the distance was onlya few hundred yards from one lake toanother, or around a rapid. The riversform a continuous waterway, but we mademany short cuts. In five hundred milesof canoeing there were, perhaps, twentymiles of carrying, all told.
Mr. Isaac Hunter, the postmaster atHunter's Point, has his office in the frontroom of his house or else in his coat-pocket.He has a large, well-cleared farm,where his father lived before him, and hesells hay to the lumbermen at fifty dollarsa ton. Plenty of people in the UnitedStates might well want to be in his place.Yet the farm he lives on has no legal status.It has never been surveyed, and the CrownLand Office has no official knowledge of it.So he pays no taxes and he never cast avote in his life.
When I got to Mr. Hunter's I was atthe end of civilization. Beyond his housethere were no roads except the water-ways,and the journey I wished to make throughthe wilderness was several hundred mileslong. But I felt as sure of the wayas though I had been there before. Thereare no maps which are of any use at all.Not one of them shows more than half ofthe lakes which form the easy road wetravelled.
I told Mr. Hunter where I wanted togo. He said: "Well, my brother-in-law,Joe Decountie, knows the way to RossLake, about half way to the Grand LakeVictoria. Mr. Christopherson, the Hudson'sBay agent at Grand Lake, will beback here soon. If you want to go withJoe and bring back a moose by Saturday,you'll find Mr. Christopherson here then,and he can tell you how to go the restof the way. You'll need a canoe. Theysell pretty high this year. You can havethat one out by the water for six dollars."
Joe was young and big. He livedacross the bay from his brother-in-law.He and the rest of the twenty or thirtyother people around Hunter's Point speakAlgonquin and French and very fairEnglish, and their names show that thoseearly adventurers from Europe, two hundredyears ago and later, had no violentrace prejudices. The more I have seenof the half-bloods of Canada, the more Ihave come to admire them. They are offearless stock, and have inherited manygood traits from both races. They regardwith amusement and pity their half-brothers,the full-blood Algonquins of theremote forest, but they understand the261arts of wood-lore which make life morethan endurable there. They have French,English, Scotch, and Scandinavian familynames, and any one who thinks they leadan uncomfortable life is very much mistaken.
A good deal has been written lately aboutthe hardships and dangers of camp life.For years I have spent a considerable timeeach season in the woods, sometimes dependingfor days on the resources of thecountry, and I can truthfully say I neverhad one uncomfortable hour there.
"Where shall we go after a moose, Joe?"I asked.
Joe said: "Well, it's bes' to go wherewe sure to find 'em. Dese fellers aroun'here don't like de place where I go, becauseit takes most all day to get dere.But I never failed yet to see moose." Sowe threw our luggage into the canoe, anddeparted, in a gentle rain-storm.
It was nearly a year since I had had apaddle in my hand, but it was only a shortdistance between portages. I know of noform of severe muscular exertion whichis so little irksome as paddling a canoe.Rowing is galley-slavery in comparison.With the paddle there are not less thanthree variations of position on each side,which bring new muscles into play andrelieve the weary ones; and a shift fromone hand to the other is a complete rest.So it was not long, during the succeedingmonth of canoeing, before I came, at daylight,to look forward to a long day's paddlingwith positive delight.
If any one wishes to know just wherewe went on that little side issue of a moosehunt let him get a good map of the Kippewaregion, and locate the space betweenLake Ostoboining and Hay Bay. It is ablank space on a Crown Land Office map,but there are at least fifty small lakes in it.It took six hours' canoeing and carrying,from Mr. Hunter's house, till we came tothe lake Joe had chosen.
That moose hunt was too easy. Wegot to the lake, put up the tent, choppedsome wood, and just at dusk, when Joewas baking biscuits in the frying-pan, suddenlyhe set the pan down and made arush for the canoe. At the same momentI saw a big bull moose wading out of hisdepth, from the opposite shore, into thedeep water, about the length of a city blockfrom the tent. He did not see us at all,and went right on, swimming leisurelyacross. The lake was narrow, and themoose did not hurry. His broad yellowantlers were so heavy that he barely kepthis nose above the water. It was a great262sight to see the ripple spread in a diagonalbehind him, while Joe urged the littlecanoe right up close astern. What a pityit was too dark for the camera! Whenhe was forty rods from shore and we wereclose to him, Joe asked, loudly and pleasantly,"Jack, where you goin' to-day?"Jack turned his big head, and the expressionin his ox-like eye was that of painedsurprise. He began to swim so hardthat he half climbed out of the water.
"Let's head him off," said Joe. Sowe made a respectful circle around themoose, and he ported his helm and turnedback toward the place whence he came.
"Drive him to the tent," I suggested;and we did the meanest thing I ever sawdone on a moose hunt. We kept betweenhim and where he wanted to go, and actuallymade him carry himself to shoreclose to the tent, before I turned the expressbullet loose. It was all done soquickly that the biscuits did not burn.
"Now, we worked ourselves out ofbusiness, didn't we?" commented Joe,by the fire-light, after we had completedcertain anatomical dismemberments, theresult of which would have astonished themoose very greatly if he could have seenhimself hung up. "My pore leetle cousinsain't got no fresh meat," continuedJoe, relapsing from the severely studiedEnglish with which he had previously addressedme. "It's 'bout twelve milestraight so, to de house. How you t'inkif I bring my cousins to-morrow to takeout de moose?"
I thought that was a very good idea,so the next day Joe left me and walkedthrough the woods to Hunter's Point, tobring his relatives. In the afternoon itrained, so Joe and his cousins did not appear,and I had the blankets to myselfthat night.
The Hudson's Bay Company supply atent which can be closed up tightly. Thisis good in mosquito time, but in the fallthere is nothing so fine as a plain shedtent, open in front. The heat from thefire is reflected down from the slantingroof, and you can keep warm and dry inthe coldest rain that ever fell, especially ifyou have a light fly spread above the tent.I had brought along a tent of this pattern,and was as comfortable as any king thatnight, though the nearest human beingwas twelve miles or so away. The rainmade the fire burn more brightly thanusual, by knocking the film of ashes fromthe logs.
The next morning I was awakened bymy old friends, the moose-birds. A pairof them were trying to carry off the moosemeat, all at one mouthful, and at the263same time fighting away a third bird whichsneaked in between their trips to theirplace of storage. The moose-bird takeslife very seriously, and his sole businessis stealing everything he can stick his billinto. Unless he is very often disturbedhe is without fear, and will readily alighton a stick held in your hand, if you put apiece of meat on the end of the stick. Ihave often photographed the bird at a distanceof three or four feet.
About two o'clock that afternoon Joeand his friends appeared on the scene,with another canoe; and they carried themoose home in sections.
The next day was so warm and brightthat we took the canoe and went on along observation tour. Joe made a bigcircuit, from lake to lake and pond topond. One of the geographical peculiaritiesof the country is that you can go bywater in any direction you choose, withshort portages. Between almost any tworidges you will find a lake or two.
In many places we saw where, earlierin the season, the moose had been eatingthe water-lilies. The