It was like a mouse
mounting a monstrous, untamed, plunging and rearing horse. Now we
set out each morning, familiar with stream and our boat, having no
thought of danger, and viewing the water, the same turbid flood,
as, our servant. Even as a skilful tamer will turn the wildest
horse into his willing slave, so have we conquered this river and
made it the bearer of our burdens. So I thought and wrote at the
time; but the wise tamer is ever alert, never lulled into false
security. He knows that a heedless move may turn his steed into
a deadly, dangerous monster. We had our lesson to learn.
That night (October 15) there was a dull yellow sunset. The morning
came with a strong north wind and rain that turned to snow, and
with it great flocks of birds migrating from the Athabaska Lake.
Many rough-legged Hawks, hundreds of small land birds, thousands
of Snow-birds in flocks of 20 to 200, myriads of Ducks and Geese,
passed over our heads going southward before the frost. About 8.30
the Geese began to pass in ever-increasing flocks; between 9.45
and 10 I counted 114 flocks averaging about 30 each (5 to 300) and
they kept on at this rate till 2 P. M. This would give a total of
nearly 100,000 Geese. It was a joyful thing to see and hear them;
their legions in flight array went stringing high aloft, so high
they looked not like Geese, but threads across the sky, the cobwebs,
indeed, that Mother Carey was sweeping away with her north-wind
broom. I sketched and counted flock after flock with a sense of
thankfulness that so many, were left alive. Most were White Geese,
but a twentieth, perhaps, were Honkers.
The Ducks began to pass over about noon, and became more numerous
than the Geese as they went on.
In the midst of this myriad procession, as though they were the
centre and cause of all, were two splendid White Cranes, bugling
as they flew. Later that day we saw another band, of three, but
these were all; their race is nearly run.
The full moon was on and all night the wild-fowl flew. The frost
was close behind them, sharp and sudden. Next morning the ponds
about us had ice an inch thick and we heard of it three inches at
But the sun came out gloriously and when at ten we landed at Fort
McMurray the day was warm and perfect in its autumnal peace.
Miss Gordon, the postmaster, did not recognise us at first. She
said we all looked "so much older, it is always so with folks who
Next morning we somehow left our tent behind. It was old and of
little value, so we did not go back, and the fact that we never
really needed it speaks much for the sort of weather we had to the
end of the trip.