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Poem by Emily Pauline Johnson
"Yes, sir, it's quite a story, though you won't believe it's true, But such things happened often when I lived beyond the Soo." And the trapper tilted back his chair and filled his pipe anew. "I ain't thought of it neither fer this many 'n many a day, Although it used to haunt me in the years that's slid away, The years I spent a-trappin' for the good old Hudson's Bay. "Wild? You bet, 'twas wild then, an' few an' far between The squatters' shacks, for whites was scarce as furs when things is green, An' only reds an' 'Hudson's' men was all the folk I seen. "No. Them old Indyans ain't so bad, not if you treat 'em square. Why, I lived in amongst 'em all the winters I was there, An' I never lost a copper, an' I never lost a hair. "But I'd have lost my life the time that you've heard tell about; I don't think I'd be settin' here, but dead beyond a doubt, If that there Indyan 'Wolverine' jest hadn't helped me out. "'Twas freshet time, 'way back, as long as sixty-six or eight, An' I was comin' to the Post that year a kind of late, For beaver had been plentiful, and trappin' had been great. "One day I had been settin' traps along a bit of wood, An' night was catchin' up to me jest faster 'an it should, When all at once I heard a sound that curdled up my blood. "It was the howl of famished wolves - I didn't stop to think But jest lit out across for home as quick as you could wink, But when I reached the river's edge I brought up at the brink. "That mornin' I had crossed the stream straight on a sheet of ice An' now, God help me! There it was, churned up an' cracked to dice, The flood went boiling past - I stood like one shut in a vice. "No way ahead, no path aback, trapped like a rat ashore, With naught but death to follow, and with naught but death afore; The howl of hungry wolves aback - ahead, the torrent's roar. "An' then - a voice, an Indyan voice, that called out clear and clean, 'Take Indyan's horse, I run like deer, wolf can't catch Wolverine.' I says, 'Thank Heaven.' There stood the chief I'd nicknamed Wolverine. "I leapt on that there horse, an' then jest like a coward fled, An' left that Indyan standin' there alone, as good as dead, With the wolves a-howlin' at his back, the swollen stream ahead. "I don't know how them Indyans dodge from death the way they do, You won't believe it, sir, but what I'm tellin' you is true, But that there chap was 'round next day as sound as me or you. "He came to get his horse, but not a cent he'd take from me. Yes, sir, you're right, the Indyans now ain't like they used to be; We've got 'em sharpened up a bit an' now they'll take a fee. "No, sir, you're wrong, they ain't no 'dogs.' I'm not through tellin' yet; You'll take that name right back again, or else jest out you get! You'll take that name right back when you hear all this yarn, I bet. "It happened that same autumn, when some Whites was comin' in, I heard the old Red River carts a-kickin' up a din, So I went over to their camp to see an English skin. "They said, 'They'd had an awful scare from Injuns,' an' they swore That savages had come around the very night before A-brandishing their tomahawks an' painted up for war. "But when their plucky Englishmen had put a bit of lead Right through the heart of one of them, an' rolled him over, dead, The other cowards said that they had come on peace instead. "'That they (the Whites) had lost some stores, from off their little pack, An' that the Red they peppered dead had followed up their track, Because he'd found the packages an' came to give them back.' "'Oh!' they said, 'they were quite sorry, but it wasn't like as if They had killed a decent Whiteman by mistake or in a tiff, It was only some old Injun dog that lay there stark an' stiff.' "I said, 'You are the meanest dogs that ever yet I seen,' Then I rolled the body over as it lay out on the green; I peered into the face - My God! 'twas poor old Wolverine."
Emily Pauline Johnson
Emily Pauline Johnson's other poems:
English Poetry. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org