Saturday, 23, April, 1763:
The tom sounded far off. Elk moccasins whispered down the east face of the ridge. Fall’s oak leaves flexed, but did not crackle. Two steps and a pause…two steps and a pause…
The evening air smelled of fresh greenery, with a hint of old urine laced with the tannic aroma of decomposing duff. The still hunt progressed to a clump of three red cedar trees, struggling for light within the dripline of a monarch red oak. The tree was hollow, but sturdy with broad limbs. On either side of a split up the trunk, raccoon leavings rested atop the dark brown rotted wood washed from the crack.
Mi-ki-naak, Snapping Turtle in the Englishman’s tongue, removed the walnut-dyed wool blanket from his shoulders, wrapped it about his waist and sat cross-legged against the middle cedar tree. The French fusil rested in his lap, primed and loaded with duck shot.
“Ark, ark,” a hen clucked somewhere in the midst of the tamaracks. The returned white captive knew better than to answer the hen or try to entice the gobbler. This evening foray was an ambush, pure and simple.
The monarch oak grew halfway up the east face, not quite due west of the north island in the big swamp. Late in the day, the wild turkeys moved into the sedge grass and red willows. Before dusk they headed to the roost trees. Some crossed that island while others followed one of the three lower trails that passed on either side of the old oak. And some nights the birds chose a different route to the night roost.
“Chip, chip, chip, chip, chip,” a sparrow sang. A crimson cardinal and its drab, cinnamon-feathered mate flew from tree to bush to tree. Crows winged over, silent. And in time a string of seven geese ke-honked to the west for a rest on the Riviere aux Raisins.
At dusk Mi-ki-naak scrambled to his feet, shook out the blanket and placed it over his left shoulder. With light fading, he crested the ridge. Maybe forty paces to the south a red head popped up.
The jake stood in the hazy shadows behind the dead, lower branches of several small cedar trees. Another head popped up. A hen flapped hard, fleeing a few feet above the ridge’s west slope. A fourth bird began walking north. Snapping turtle swung the fusil. The firelock clicked as his thumb drew the French amber flint back. The brush was too thick, the hour too late. The returned white captive simply watched and chuckled…
Another Project Underway
“Have you found the beads, yet?” A pleasant guffaw followed that question. I laughed when I answered, “Not yet” with a cheery lilt to my voice. “There is always hope,” I thought. The question arose as a fellow living historian and I were discussing the frustrations of this year’s wild turkey season in Michigan.
As always, we ask each other what we did in the last few days. With a great sense of accomplishment I reported that I finally started cleaning my muzzleloading cabinets. That project has bugged me for several years. Something always comes up. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve reached into that hovel only to be called away.
In the first year of Msko-waagosh’s meager existence, I purchased several hanks of antique tube beads, cobalt blue and greyish white, from the bead mongers in the flea market at Friendship. My alter ego wanted them woven into the shoulder strap of his new shot pouch. About a year later I got to that project.
There were enough beads, but he decided he wanted more. At Msko-waagosh’s request, I took a hank of blue and one of white with me to our regional bead vendor. Well, those two hanks came up missing. We went through the truck, all our clothes, the bags and packages from that day—no beads.
In the back of my mind I have a lingering twitch that tells me I took something else along that day having nothing to do with living history, and I put those beads with whatever that was. I’ve never been able to coax that foggy recollection into the light of day.
So “the beads” are still missing, some six years later. Every time I start cleaning or sorting, the question arises, “Have you found the beads, yet?” The other side of that joke is that when I misplace something and can’t find it, I simply shrug my shoulders and declare, “It must be with the beads…”
Give traditional black powder hunting a try, be safe and may God bless you.