The hidden years in Canada 79, the chucklewig

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Tuesday 30 June 17:07

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The chucklewig

‘People fought for their existence. They settled in places that were fruitful and built the first houses. ‘ ‘When I was young,’ continued Mister Jones, ‘there were streets but no sewersor pavements yet. My grandfather was like Bill Comley,  he had come searching across the mountains. The only possessions that a settler had were his horse and a rolled up blanket that was tied behind his saddle. ‘ He looked around to see if we were listening and continued. As if in a trance came the story, first with descriptions of the village that grew slowly but after a while the story got hands and feet and carried us back to the time of Colonel Sartadi and his companions.

‘The first settlers who came here saw unspoiled land with a river and some streams which meandered through the wasteland. They did not wonder why none of the three other so dominant tribes had claimed the land. This was a sort of no-man's land ‘between the tribes and nobody wondered why that was.’ ‘It really was,’ continued the old man, ‘a no man's land, it was not meant for people. Trees were felled and log cabins were built. Outside the country's boundaries with waterfalls and prairie areas of what is now dead horse, the settlers were attacked by both the Cree and the Blackfoot and the Beaver tribes. The streets grew, outside the nucleus was the first ranch and it was noticed that although the valley was nice you could not easily leave the valley without crossing the land of the Cree and Blackfoot or the Beaver warriors. Those who had come through those areas without being attacked, were strangely enough prisoners of the valley and its territories. When the place became big enough to carry a name the inhabitants came together and called this place peace river. ‘

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‘But this is dead horse,’ said Don surprised? ‘Yeah, sure,’ the man said, ‘now, but it began as peace river.’ ‘I thought there is also a peace river up North,’ Beverly said. ‘It is there right now, but not then. When we founded the town of Peace River. The first proposal was even a different name, we called it Peace River crossing, which was soon shortened to Peace River. Slowly but surely a dichotomy developed in the village, settlers who set up a company and settlers who cut out large tracts of land to keep cows or horses. This was just before the time of twelve foot Davis. ‘ ‘It starts to make me feel dizzy,’ Beverly said, ‘Who is 12 foot Davis? That can not be a man of almost 4 meters? ‘There is much in this area that has happened and is still happening, what could actually not happen,’ the old man said thoughtfully. ‘In any case, there was the man called twelve foot Davis and at the end of Dead horse where the road goes up is his grave. It is a bit our only tourist attraction. ‘

‘Davis pumped a lot of money into Dead Horse. He had panned gold and searched in the Cariboo gold rush that began in 1865. Then he hit a modest claim of only four meters wide, some 12 foot and the gold fever broke out, everybody went buying pans and the area, which until then had been peaceful, became  the scene of shootings over a piece of land and lured any kind of adventurer of the entire planet to us. Even Colonel Sartadi with his gang. It was the first purely Canadian gold rush, do you know why there were no Americans in it, searching  and fighting? ‘ 'No,' all four of us said,’ when mister Jones looked around the circle. ‘Boy,’ said the old man, ‘you surely have history in school? What happened in 1866 that was really important? ‘ We looked at each other sheepishly. ‘The end of the American Civil War,’ said the old-timer. ‘The South and North American states were engaged in a fierce civil war, which ended in 1866 and therefore we had no competition from American prospectors that came immediately afterwards.’

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‘Did the colonel to whom you have referred a couple of times have anything to do with the civil war, asked Don.’ ‘Of course,’ the old man said in disbelief. ‘Colonel Sartadi was an adventurer, a mercenary who had fought with a small group of men in the civil war. After the South had lost, he rode with his group over the state border and looted farms, small villages and eventually the gold shipments that were underway when the prospectors, laid large Cariboo gold veins bare. When the veins were exhausted, the lucky ones went to retire in large cities and others disappeared to places where new rumors did the rounds, that gold was being found. ‘

‘We did not hear much about the chucklewig in those few years, too many people, I suppose, but when the gold rush ebbed away and 12 foot Davis, enriched our village with a trading post, which stands at the crossroads just outside Deadhorse which was bar, shop and hotel all in one, the first stories started again. Davis had made $ 30,000 in his adventure on gold,an unprecedented fortune in that time and began his trade. He married the most beautiful girl in the neighborhood , Mariette Jones and everything he invested in became a success. The marriage was childless, and Davis was a man who only worked and drank. ‘

‘When some setllers further from the village wanted to build a few homesteads, fate intervened. They were all massacred at night except one, trapper Joe, who was out hunting. He heard shooting and screams that went through to the marrow. He rushed on foot to the small settlement and was expecting to see Colonel Sartadi's men or to see houses burning with jeering Indian warriors around them. But there was dead silence and the first thing that  reached him was a deep smell of blood. In the distance he heard a hyena-like laugh, a chuckle that moved away quickly, ‘a chuckling,’ Joe had later stated .. a chuckle. Joe saw at first light an unimaginable scene of death and blood. The cows were still behind the fence, restless but unhurt, but where the horses had stood near the water trough, loosely fastened with a bridle to the cross beam, were now, only dismembered carcasses. As if a huge tiger with huge claws, had pulled them apart. Not to eat them but just to tear them up. ‘

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‘Joe felt himself ill with fear and with his rifle cocked, he walked up to the first log cabin. The door was half open with twisted handles. The furniture was complete and some jewelry was still on the nightstand in the bedroom. Nothing had been robbed and he was scared, because after he had visited the other cabins, he understood that something had come along which did not fit in his thinking. The people had been taken away and the possessions and jewelry had not appealed  to the‘presence’. Indians would have burned the place down. He sat down outside a house, because he understood that the very people had had no chance because they had locked themselves in their cabins and whatever they saw, they had fired at through the windows to no avail and then ' It ‘ had come inside. outside you could run, you could try to flee, but what`were your chances against a creature that just pulled doors from the hinges. ‘

‘He tried to absorb every detail and decided if he would reach walking dead horse, never to return here again. He saw tufts of hair to a height of 3 meters in broken branches, he searched but found no traces, no horses, not one, the ground had been rock hard after prolonged lack of rain, so he was not surprised really. In a bush, he found some hairs that were reddish in color, but hair as you see it from a buffalo, not human, it was close braided, he picked up the spec and put it in his tobacco pouch. He wanted to leave, and quickly, because he feared that whatever had been along belonged to the nocturnal, or at least moved in that world. He remembered the chuckle that he had heard in the early morning dark and the thick tuft of hair that could have come from a coat or a poor quality wig and the word Chucklewig, formed in his head. The chuckle wigs. whatever they were, had their eyes on the people, the horses they had torn up so that the settlers could not flee when they had been attacked. Joe realized that he was dealing with an intelligent being. An intelligentsia which blocked flight options and left the cows unscathed because you can not ride them. He was scared. It had not been a gang of horse thieves or robbers, they were, or had been only interested in people. ‘

‘What happened to Joe,’ said Don? ‘Bad stuff,’ said Mister Jones, ‘after three days he came to Dead Horse where he made a statement and gave the tuft of hair to the sheriff. He became an alcoholic and died within a few years of alcohol poisoning. ' ‘That's the Chucklewig,’ the old man said, pointing to the plate of Don. ‘Pff,’ said Don, ‘that was a story, say! What did Comley have to do with it, because you started with him? ‘ ‘Oh, the same,’ said the old man, he was clearly irritated by  Don. ‘Thank you for your story,’ said Beverly. ‘It's not a story the man said, sulky, and suddenly his faraway look was gone.. Bill Comley who started a quarterback ranch along with Davis can talk about it.’

‘He was the last one was taken by the Chucklewigs. His horses were torn in the fields since then we only keep cows in Dead Horse. ' Since 1916, the name was changed to Deadhorse. ‘Gee,’ I said, 'what do you think, do you really think happened, have you given it much thought? ‘ ‘Yes.’ Mister Jones said, ‘I did.’

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‘The Beaver legend is the most convincing explanation for me.’ ‘Which is,’ said Richard? ‘The Beaver tribe driven here in ancient times, have a saying: if you drink from the peace River, you always come back, you will be owned by the river.’ ‘Yes,’ said Bev 'and did those people drink from the river or what would you say? ‘ ‘I do not know but the Beaver tribe legend says that when the Great Spirit gave them the areas, he drank from the river.’ The bell rang and people came in. ‘Good morning,’ came a nasal cowboy voice. ‘You are not driving young people crazy again with stories, I hope?’ ‘No, Billy Joe,’ laughed mister Jones, getting up, ‘just an explanation about our village .. what shall it be?’ ‘We'd better get going,’ I said, 'Don eat your Chucklewig and we’ll get going. ‘ ‘I am leaving it,’ said Don, with a shudder, ‘I’ve lost my appetite.

San Daniel 2015

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