Gordon Fraser’s e book, “Track of the Spirit River,” was printed in September 2016. The quick tales within the e book stream alongside just like the Rouge River, meandering by means of tales of the individuals who first settled within the area — into the world at the moment. The quiet of the bush and the roar of the river are mirrored in Mr. Fraser’s tales, because the folks of the group skilled joys and sorrows. Mr. Fraser needed to share his e book with folks throughout this unsure time, we might be bringing you chapters of his e book free of charge, right here on The Overview’s web site.

Copies of this e book can be found from The Overview. Electronic mail: [email protected] to pre-pay in your copy and prepare for protected pick-up at The Overview.

And now: right here is the fourth chapter of “Track of the Spirit River.”

It was late winter, 1858, when Fixed Palache tromped into the yard of the logging shanty, simply above La Belle’s falls on the Rouge River. He walked up on snowshoes from Calumet on the sting of a storm; wind moaning by means of the tall timber and snow falling laborious.
He was right here to verify on manufacturing and to plan for the spring break-up which, although weeks away nonetheless, was a activity his uncle confirmed him was finest deliberate properly prematurely. By no means go away something till the final second, he had been taught, and he adopted that lesson properly.
So the shanty males weren’t stunned to see him seem out of heavy falling snow from the river path as they completed their day’s work. Fixed Palache knew all the lads on this camp, as he did all through the far-flung shanties. And all the lads knew of Fixed Palache, for his popularity as a timber man was legendary. Tales advised how he and Huge Joe Montferrant had stood again to again towards 19 males in a Renfrew tavern; of his time as a Voyageur with Jean Courteau, and extra.
Fixed Palache greeted every man he met as he made his rounds, snow drifting and darkness setting in. Everybody was ending up for the day, guaranteeing that the camp could be prepared for the morrow and the digging out they knew was coming.
Contained in the shanty the winter wind whistled across the chimney; the storm was rising stronger. Males got here in out of the swirling snow with stamping of trainers and slapping and shaking of coats. The range within the centre of the room glowed purple.
The prepare dinner, a crusty outdated hand and veteran of numerous log drives, watched the faces of the shanty males as they entered the large lamp-lit cabin: Charbonneau, the skinny wiry one who runs behind the skid staff because the logs are snaked out from between the stumps. Bernard, the scaler and sharpener; and O’Riley, self-proclaimed champion with axe or fists. The prepare dinner knew their chores for the day have been virtually completed whereas his, the duty of filling these bellies and holding the our bodies robust, had hardly begun.
Extra males entered. Plates have been set alongside each side of the plank desk and shortly dishes of steaming meals beckoned as faces lined with sweat and fatigue turned to eye the feast. However they knew the rule that when the boss was on website, nobody took his place till Fixed Palache was in and seated.
Speak was small and moments appeared lengthy earlier than the door opened and the majority of Fixed Palache got here in out of the darkish and the storm. A look across the room and a nod of his head confirmed all was so as. Everybody’s activity had been accomplished to his satisfaction and the meal could be served. A tough grasp however truthful he was, and he saved the camps and the lads working at their finest.
What had been an orderly desk was lowered to empty plates as the lads ate in close to silence. Grunts of appreciation and requests to go platters have been the one sounds till chairs have been pushed away and pipes lit. Huge pots of scalding sizzling tea took the place of soiled dishes as males stretched and yawned with the heat and full stomachs.
The wind exterior the shanty rose in a gust inflicting a whistle within the range pipe and the prepare dinner dropped the pile of tin plates he was carrying to the wash basin. The boys who stopped what they have been doing to look caught a glimpse of the outdated man’s face change into white, although he turned so to not be seen.
Chancy, known as such for the dangers he takes whereas operating logs by means of the spring rapids, was one who remarked on the prepare dinner’s face and he known as throughout the room. “Hey Cookie. Why you trying so pale? You see a ghost within the nook?”
Solely a small ripple of laughter went up, for everybody knew you don’t ridicule the one who makes the meals. The prepare dinner was a good-natured soul and he might take a joke, however the remark went unheeded as wind howled by means of the winter forest.
The prepare dinner, forgotten for the second as he picked up the mess, was not occupied with the teasing. There was one thing within the storm, and this evening, which had him remembering a story advised to him way back. He needed to focus laborious to do his job; his thoughts a lot on the sounds of the winds.
O’Riley, recognized to be afraid of no man, picked up the tail finish of the comment.
“Sooner or later, ghosts will disappear. By the point a brand new century arrives, nobody will consider in haunts. Moreover, who of their proper thoughts would worry one thing you can not see?”
Charbonneau received up from his chair and went to the range. He stood there for a while, rubbing his palms collectively, having fun with the heat. “Aye, you’re proper about occasions altering, O’Riley lad. However I believe we will all the time share this world with others we can’t see.” He turned and requested over his shoulder “What say you, Fixed Palache?”
Fixed sat the place he was making entries in a ledger, away from the principle desk at a desk close to one of many cabin’s two home windows. The sound of his title being known as took him from his ideas and he regarded on the teamster, asking him to repeat.
Charbonneau requested once more. “Do you consider in issues we can’t see? Foreman, Sir.”
The winds exterior the log construction moaned and for a second the shanty shook slightly below the power of 1 robust blast. Fixed Palache put aside his pencil and stared out the window, ready for the storm to subside, utilizing the time to consider what he would say.
“Aye my lads, I say like Charbonneau. They’re throughout us, these we can’t see. By no means do I scoff on the spirits. However that was not all the time my method.”
The prepare dinner, nonetheless forgotten as he stacked plates and hung cooking pots, was listening intently to the chatter of the lads as ghosts and goblins have been mentioned.
O’Riley advised concerning the wee ones who lived among the many stones within the outdated nation of Eire, expressing disdain for many who believed in such. He laughed as he recounted his grandfather losing good whiskey on these full-moon nights, when he would set a glass of his finest contained in the fairy rings.
Delhi, the large black man whose energy was unmatched by any within the room, recounted how his mom took nice warning to not offend the Voodoo medical doctors at her residence within the Bayous far to the south. He spoke of spells and apparitions and dolls.
Across the shanty, man after man advised his opinion of denial or perception till all had been heard; besides the prepare dinner. Exterior, the storm grew extra intense and because the winter wind howled the lads moved nearer to the red-glowing range. The prepare dinner remained in his nook although his work was full.
Fixed Palache, who had stop his numbers and ledgers, took a seat along with his toes to the range and lit his pipe. He was about to say one thing when an amazing blast of wind blew the door open and for an prompt everybody turned to see. By some trick of that terrible gale, in that second a small whirlwind, outlined by the heavy falling snow, circled the opening then entered and dissipated right into a heap of white on the ground.
Quicker than what could be imagined for an outdated physique, the prepare dinner was throughout the room, slamming the door shut and jamming the bolt in place. All who had been trying on the doorway now discovered themselves staring on the ghost-white visage of the outdated man.
“What are you ?” The prepare dinner snarled. The gnarled face glared again at every of the lads. For a second, the silence within the shanty was full.
It was as if one thing had entered the shanty with that snow satan and all have been conscious of the change. Delhi’s squeeze field fell silent. The checker sport between Chancy and O’Riley was forgotten. Bernard stopped whetting the axe he had been engaged on; he, too, frozen in his place.
The wind moaned unhappy. A shutter banged and all jumped. Fixed Palache was the primary to maneuver, getting as much as fasten the unfastened board. He stood there for a time, his consideration held by one thing within the swirling darkness. Earlier than leaving the window he paused to look out yet one more time, shaking his head barely as he turned again in the direction of the room and his seat.
The prepare dinner remained, again to the door, staring on the gawking faces. “You males who mock the spirits, what have you learnt? It’s right here. Hear. Don’t you hear it calling?” The outdated man cocked his head to the sounds exterior.
Fixed Palache sat along with his elbows on his knees. Delhi’s blackness was darkened extra by the shadows solid by lamplight. O’Riley and Chancy remained nose to nose over the unfinished checkers sport. Bernard held tight to the razor-edged axe.
The storm blew laborious, moaning and crying by means of cracks within the shanty and the shingles overhead. However above these sounds have been others, like voices calling over some nice distance or time.
“You hear it, don’t you?” The prepare dinner’s cragged face was nonetheless turned, ear in the direction of the door. “I knew it. When a storm blows like this in these forests the Windigo walks. There, it calls once more! It’s calling considered one of its personal.”
O’Riley, to not be intimidated by man nor ghost, tossed down the checker in his hand. He rose from his seat, opening his mouth to talk however the prepare dinner stopped him with an outstretched hand, palm first. “Hear,” the outdated man stated. “Take heed to it converse.”
It didn’t take creativeness to listen to voices full of agony within the winds which howled over the roof and, though the range was packed full, the room felt chilly. The boys huddled near the glowing metallic, nobody considering of his cot, preferring firm to solitude.
Fixed Palache sat along with his head in his palms. The prepare dinner stared at him. Time appeared thick as molasses earlier than the outdated man spoke.
“Is it you, Fixed Palache? Is it you it has come for?”
Nothing extra was stated till Delhi jumped, tossing his squeeze field to the ground in his fright, white eyes large in the dead of night face. “One thing’s on the market Boss, one thing was trying in! There! Once more!”
All eyes turned to the window; all besides the prepare dinner and Fixed Palache.
Fixed raised himself, rubbing huge palms over his tough face, then stood and went to the prepare dinner. He took the outdated man to a chair and sat him down.
The storm now blew so laborious that the cabin creaked and groaned beneath the strain. Fixed spoke. “The Windigo, Cook dinner; you might be proper. It walks tonight, although maybe it solely involves remind me of one other place and one other time.
“Forty years in the past this evening, my uncle Cyprien Palache disappeared in a storm like this and was by no means seen once more. I keep in mind it prefer it was yesterday; up on the CouCou Cache.”
The prepare dinner, calmer now, stared on the foreman. “Then the story is true, Fixed. Inform us what occurred.”
Delhi, nonetheless wide-eyed from the imaginative and prescient on the window, grew much more in order he listened to the prepare dinner. The opposite males’s consideration was on Fixed whereas he walked to the window and regarded out. He stood there, seeing the stumps which surrounded the shanty, considering of how they regarded like tombstones because the snow drifted spherical.
Chancy broke the silence. “Inform us Boss.”
Fixed returned to his place by the range. Delhi was seated once more; his squeeze field put away. The storm rattled the roof and all craned their necks to lookup.
“Sure, I used to be there, Cook dinner. Typically it looks as if a foul dream. Typically I want I might neglect.”
Story-telling needed to wait whereas the wild winds toyed with the roof timbers and cried by means of the shingles. Fixed put a match to his pipe and drew deeply.
“Forty years in the past. Ah, I used to be only a younger man then. However I used to be a lot youthful after I first went to work for my uncle Cyprien, to be taught the log drives and learn how to deal with timber within the mill ponds.
“Cyprien was a brutal man; superb at getting timber previous rapids and operating the camps however not an excellent man. If somebody was sick or injured, my uncle gave them no mercy. Anybody who complained was despatched residence, or overwhelmed to a pulp, for Cyprien was huge and good along with his fists.
“The nuns in Montreal bought a younger lad, Indian Johnny we known as him, to Cyprien as a slave; indentured they known as it but it surely was close to slavery. Johnny was one half Abenaki and he turned an orphan when his mother and father have been drowned. He was positioned with the nuns and so they bought him. Six years he needed to serve, and Cyprien made sure he served full time.
“My uncle carried with him a silver whistle on a sequence round his neck and he used it to manage the lads. He used it to mark the time to start out work and when to stop. And he used it to torture Indian Johnny.
“Cyprien would whistle one quick blast to mark day begin or finish. Two calls meant river-right; three was river-left. He didn’t have to yell to be understood with that whistle, however the males hated it; it sounded evil.
“When Cyprien had a chore for Johnny he would blow that whistle one lengthy notice, and god assist Johnny if he didn’t reply directly. And Cyprien all the time had chores for the younger lad. Any time of the day or evening, my uncle would name Johnny with that whistle and Johnny would come operating solely to be slapped or made to go and not using a meal for reward.
“Typically the lads would ask Johnny why he didn’t simply slip away, get to a different crew. However he wouldn’t. He was happy with his heritage and regardless that an orphan he would do nothing to shame the dignity of his forefathers. He would bear the beatings and work out his indenture.
“Indian Johnny and I turned buddies, for we weren’t far off in age. Typically once we talked, he advised me of the spirits he worshipped, the way in which his father had taught him. He needed to be very cautious that Cyprien by no means noticed him, however when Johnny had a little bit time to himself he prayed to the Windigo.
“He stated the Windigo is the spirit of the storm; the spirit of the deep forests. He advised me that the Windigo might defend those that have been proud and courageous, and would destroy any others in its path when it walked.
“However I didn’t actually comply with all what he stated. Besides that I did see that Indian Johnny was true to his indenture and courageous in dealing with my uncle Cyprien.
“Then within the winter of ’18 my uncle took me and Indian Johnny with him on a visit far up the St. Maurice River, method north in Quebec. At La Tuque he employed Jean Courteau as his information and we headed out into the forest.
“All the way in which on that journey he used the whistle. There was no stopping till it blew, and he used it earlier than the sunshine was within the sky to get us to interrupt camp. He made Indian Johnny carry a double pack and if he received various steps behind, Cyprien blew that cursed whistle to make him hurry extra.
“We travelled for 2 days straight; by means of the snow, throughout frozen lakes and steep hills on the east aspect of the St. Maurice. Stunning nation, and wild. Would have been a nice place; aside from Cyprien.
“The third day on the path, clouds closed in and the wind started to blow. By mid-afternoon the snow got here thick and heavy, and it was not an evening to spend in a lean-to; if there was a selection.
“Jean Courteau knew of a shelter a couple of miles farther on alongside the shore of a river. A spot the place the tribes typically met merchants to trade fur for metal, so there we headed.
“The darkness got here early that afternoon and we pushed laborious to maintain forward of the storm. Indian Johnny suffered badly, making an attempt to maintain as much as Cyprien, Jean, and me, for he was carrying double weight and never but even 17 years outdated.”
Fixed Palache paused in his recount whereas he re-lit his pipe. The storm exterior was virtually a continuing cacophony, however everybody’s consideration was on the story.
“Hold going, Boss.” Charbonneau stated. “So what occurred?”
Fixed took a deep draw of his pipe and settled into his chair.
“Effectively we arrived at that camp, the CouCou Cache, Jean known as it; on a bend within the river, simply as evening set in. It was no more than a tough log shack with grime and sod for a roof, but it surely was stable and tight and had a fire.
“The storm blew prefer it does this evening, possibly tougher, and we might see no farther than our personal toes. Cyprien made Indian Johnny seek for wooden to burn regardless that the lad was virtually useless of fatigue. He did it although and we received that Cache heat.
“All may need gone properly for we had meals and shelter and Jean stated we have been not more than a one-day stroll from Les Rapides Blanc – the vacation spot we have been headed for. But the way in which that storm blew we questioned if the outdated shack might keep standing. So we huddled across the fire and waited.
“Because the place warmed up and uncle Cyprien loosened his jacket, all hell broke unfastened. He had misplaced his silver whistle. He searched by means of his overcoat and even his underwear, however no whistle.
“Cyprien went mad. He half tore the shack aside, and received younger Johnny to empty all of the packs on the ground, however nonetheless no whistle. My uncle paced the ground and would hear nothing about getting some meals prepared. Solely that whistle mattered and he should discover it.
“Jean and me, we tried to inform him he might get one other as quickly as we received to Quebec or Montreal, however he would hear nothing. That whistle was particular; couldn’t be re-made, and no different would do. That’s when he began accountable Indian Johnny.
“The storm blew laborious that evening additionally lads, horrible laborious, however when no signal of the whistle was discovered, Cyprien stated it was all Johnny’s fault the whistle had gone lacking. Jean requested how that could possibly be, since Johnny by no means touched le maudit sifflet. That made my uncle Cyprien actual mad.
“Cyprien stood six-foot-six in his sock toes. When in a rage in a small room, it was one thing to behold. Like a crazed bull in a pen, he was, however nonetheless he had sense sufficient to not deal with Jean Courteau, and I used to be kin; so he cursed Indian Johnny.
“Nothing would do however Johnny should discover that whistle, even when it was within the snow someplace on our again path. However lads, the evening exterior was not a spot to be. Step outdoor and a person may by no means discover the Cache once more in the dead of night and drifts. By no means thoughts that although. Indian Johnny should discover the whistle and it needed to be someplace between right here and our final camp.
“So Indian Johnny bundled up and headed out. Jean and me, we have been feeling actual unhealthy for younger Johnny. However my uncle stated. “What good is being an Indian if he can’t observe,” and we watched him head out of the door.
“After he left, the storm received stronger and stronger till it appeared the roof would fly away. My uncle Cyprien simply sat by the hearth and stared and didn’t say one other phrase. Me and Jean, we have been hoping one of the best for Johnny out on such an evening.
“However time glided by and Johnny didn’t return. The storm was making noises prefer it does tonight; virtually like voices. Then all of it went silent; like a tomb is silent. Not a sound. No wind, no voices, you possibly can have heard a mouse stroll if there have been any.
“Cyprien, he went even madder within the silence. He stared round as if misplaced. It was then we heard the Windigo. Exterior, from someplace above the cabin, there got here sobs as if a person in horrible sorrow. Then moaning and whimpers like somebody in mortal ache, then shrieks of untamed laughter.
“Then we heard the whistle! Louder than my uncle ever blew, it known as in a single lengthy tone: the identical tone Cyprien used to name Indian Johnny.
“Effectively my uncle Cyprien, when he heard that decision, he jumped up so fast that me and Jean needed to get out of his method. Then he simply ran to the door and out into the storm. No person ever noticed him once more.”
Fixed Palache pushed again his chair and checked out his now-dead pipe, deciding to not re-ignite.
The prepare dinner broke the silence. “What occurred to you and Jean, and Indian Johnny?”
Exterior the storm was abating, the snow nonetheless falling heavy. Fixed stretched and re-settled in his chair.
“When morning got here, me and Jean discovered snowshoe tracks huge as a double-bulk sleigh all spherical that CouCou Cache. Search as we would we noticed no hint of Cyprien and even which course he went. So we headed again to La Tuque and Quebec city.”
It was O’Riley who requested. “And Indian Johnny, Fixed? What turned of him? Did he survive?”
“Johnny despatched phrase that he’s doing properly. When he left the CouCou Cache he headed straight to Lac St. Jean the place a few of his kin stay. He stays there now, and traps and hunts the moose.”
The woodstove was stuffed full once more, and quietly the lads made their methods to the cots. Exterior the snow stopped falling and the wind died away. One after the other, stars stuffed the areas left within the sky by departing clouds.
Lengthy earlier than daybreak, the prepare dinner had the desk piled excessive with pan bread, molasses and bacon fats. The aroma of espresso stuffed the air.
Charbonneau, the teamster, was the primary to open the door; anxious to verify on his horses. However he had solely pushed his method a brief distance by means of the drifted snow when he known as. “Hey Boss, you males, come see!”
From the place he stood, a path of footprints was plain within the fresh-fallen snow. Deep and broad they have been, heading proper off into the forest. And there, hanging on a peg by the cabin door, was an vintage silver whistle.
Fixed Palache pocketed the whistle and later that day, as he was leaving for a shanty over in Avoca, he took the time to face on the sting of La Belle’s Falls. With the late winter solar shining vivid, and the place the open river drops over sheer rock, he stood and considered his uncle Cyprien and Indian Johnny and the CouCou Cache.
Then he tossed the whistle into the water and went on his method.

The CouCou Cache was located on the Windigo River, a brief distance from the place that river bumped into the St. Maurice within the district of La Mauricie, Quebec. Who constructed it or when is misplaced to historical past. It was used as a Hudson’s Bay buying and selling publish from 1875 to 1913; although it’s recognized to have existed lengthy earlier than that.
In 1938 {an electrical} energy dam was constructed on the St. Maurice River and the positioning of the outdated CouCou Cache is now beneath the waters of Le Reservoir Blanc.

 


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