Bushy gray tails swished. The two squirrels frolicked ten paces off the wagon trail. Elk moccasins paused. The squirrels both sat upright. The one on the left twitched its tail again and again; neither chattered or scolded. The one on the right bounded twice, then the chase was on. Around the old cedar tree, under the autumn olive and over an oak log the pair scampered and streaked. The still-hunt continued on.
At the westward dogleg in the rutted trail, the returned captive ducked under a grape vine, then stepped over a rotting, thigh-sized branch with no bark. Wary eyes scanned the descending slope. The still-hunt progressed. Not far off the ridge crest, a red squirrel navigated through the upper boughs of a half dozen young cedar trees. Dead needles and duff showered earthward. A crimson cardinal twittered away farther down the slope and to the south.
Two steps…a pause…two steps…a pause… Canada geese ke-honked on the River Raisin, from the echoing sounds, beyond the lily-pad flats where the channel deepens. A crow cawed, then another and another. A grape vine kinked and curled upward beside a thick red cedar tree. Years before a hired hunter for a meager trading post whacked away the lower branches with a keen-edged ax, forming a hollow in the tree’s dead, lower branches.
Those same eyes surveyed the hillside, both up and down. Satisfied, just as the hired hunter was, Msko-waagosh dropped his portage-collar-bound bedroll in the forgotten nest, then sat cross legged upon it facing down the slope where three trails exited the big swamp and entered the cedars. A while later, a wing bone call touched the woodsman’s dry lips. “Arrkk,” one soft cluck drifted on a warm, early-May breeze in the Year of our Lord, 1796…
When a Simple Pursuit Takes a Second Seat
That evening wasn’t about killing a wild gobbler, but rather about just crossing time’s threshold and venturing back to yesteryear. Sure, if a wandering, love-sick, long-bearded tom turkey marched over the rise, the death bees awaited. I amazed myself with how still I sat, how relaxed, how at peace I felt.
The doings of modern life fill my days and press on into my nights. All take a top priority, except traditional black powder hunting, it seems. Even my daily writing schedule looks like cheap Swiss cheese—all holes and no substance. The notion of saying “no,” cutting some activity short, or scrapping a “must do,” is not possible, at least not at this time. And to be honest, I played hooky and slipped the bonds of 21st-century life that evening. I had to, for my own sanity and the tranquility of home life.
Yet, despite the frustration, the exhausting efforts, I feel a sense of positive progress on many fronts. What began as two simple blog posts flowered into multi-page postings, but as yet, not completed to my satisfaction—thus this update. I trust regular readers will understand and find the delay worthy of their precious time.
Mi-ki-naak has a new sash coming, after Martin’s Station, maybe. The sheath design for his scalping knife is finalized, the leather chosen, but not cut or sewn. A large powder horn, used but repurposed, hangs over the work bench. The outline of a crude snapping turtle, cut with a knife, adorns that artifact’s body. Two straps for the horn have come and gone, neither deemed appropriate when viewed through his discerning eyes.
The coarse-woven fabric for his outer trade shirt is washed, folded and anticipating a scissors snip any day now. Late one evening a tired hand miss cut the buckskin for his shot pouch—that project needs attention, too. Oh, and a cardboard box containing a plain maple stock with an inlet smooth-bored barrel leaned against the back door yesterday, the start of an English fowler he can someday call his own.
Msko-waagosh’s wigwam is down and the canvas packed away. On his jaunt the other night, he spotted a couple of trees suitable for two bents; he just needs to find a dozen or so more—all a bit stouter than the ones that deteriorated and broke. A different and distinct sleeveless waist coat looms on the horizon, but no rush there. Once he sees Mi-ki-naak’s new sash, I expect he will want one, too. While viewing photos, I discovered his dark brown sash is a shared accoutrement with the hired trading post hunter. This is a minor oversight on my part.
The crusade for “different and distinct” affects all three historical characters. A few tweaks like these are in order for both of my existing personas. And it has come to my attention that the hired hunter for Samuel’s trading post should have a name; he deserves that. Yet these details are all part of the living historian’s constant process of critical evaluation, to say nothing of the backwoods insight gained through the hands-on lessons of the wilderness classroom.
I haven’t picked rocks on the North-Forty in a number of years—more like a couple of decades, Miss Tami points out. It seems the chisel plow pulled by Scott’s big green tractor worked a bit deeper this spring, pulling up rocks that are not digested well by a combine’s delicate insides. Although my body aches, I have a nice pile of 18th-century cobblestones, and an appropriate stash of larger, flat rocks that will work perfect as foundation stones for a log, half-faced station camp. Maybe by the fall?
At any rate, that is why blog postings are scant this spring. Dear reader, please bear with this humble traditional woodsman. In truth, that is why one cluck on a warm breeze was all that Msko-waagosh had left within him on that pleasant night in May of 1796…
Give traditional black powder hunting a try, be safe and may God bless you.