In Book 3, “Uncharted Waters” (IN THE PUBLISHING PHASE!!), André’s mission is to ferry a young boy to his father, not lugging trade goods. Unfortunately, he’s late and doesn’t get first pick of the voyageurs for his crew.
Each one introduces himself, in order of when they approached André. (Their pictures are not quite how I see them—Bigstock only has a few voyageur images.) And they each come with a little baggage.

The crew:

Andre (photo of Colin Penziwol by Jenni Grandfield)

André: I’m almost 17, and had signed a contract to be a under-clerk in northern Canada. But when my foster mother Berthe got sick with lung fever (she’s our hamlet’s go-to herbalist), I gladly gave up that choice while she was healing—very slowly. Now, to be honest, I’m frustrated at that lost opportunity. If she ever gets well enough, she and Joseph want me to go back to France. I’m torn—what would I do there, but be my brother’s minion? Then this British colonel gave exactly what I needed—a chance to lead a an express canoe.




Michel: I’m not proud of it, but I bullied André (in Books 1 and 2)—I thought he was a loser for not having an apprenticeship, like me. But I was wrong. When my cousin got old enough to take over, Uncle tossed me out. Then André got recommended for this voyage, a perfect chance. Me, I begged, really begged him, to take me. Pretty humbling, and every step of this journey will be like that, since I’m the youngest know-nothing. But I’ll watch and learn.


Pretty Mouse

Pretty Mouse: Me, I like my high wines, but this time it screwed me up so I missed the brigade’s leaving date. I owe the company 45 livres, and have a bad rep besides—I may never get work again. But my favorite kid, André, offered not just a seat in the canoe but to be the devant—THE steersman in front—so I owe him. Plus I’m the cook and the singer. (Did I over-commit?) Lately though, he’s preoccupied and really crabby. It’s making me crazy. What else can I do, beholden as I am?


Reynard: I’m working my way back to my Ojibwa people after a long quest and a disease that nearly killed me. The world is about to change for my tribe and I must tell them other ways to survive. I learned to be wary—some Natives are our enemies, and whites have such different rules for living. I hardly know who to trust, so I keep my own counsel.



Baptiste: Quite some years ago my friend Gabriel and me, we signed on as winterers. But carrying and paddling, it’s a hard life—we nearly starved at our fur trade post. After the rendezvous Gabriel busted his head and barely finished that first year. My nephew Jean-Baptiste took his place and he and I, we were a team. But Gabriel, he could barely make it. At the end of my five-year contract, I found odd jobs that Gabriel and I could do. For years we lived like that. Then this came around—has to be easier than carrying six 90-pound packs over portages, that’s for sure.


Gabriel: Since I tripped on a portage years back, I don’t remember things. Instead I go in the woods and find things we can eat or sell—wild onions, nuts, berries, and sometimes an herb that I can use.ME,  I still know a thing or two. Baptiste, what a friend he is to have gotten us into this canoe. I hope I am strong enough, my knees like they are.




Francois: Me, I grew up with a paddle in my hand. Big waves, rocky currents, storms—they hold no terror for me. I know all the waters from here to Grand Portage, the rivers, the tricky rapids, the portages, the best places to camp, even a shortcut or two. I carry—three packs if you need. Whatever you want, I can do it. Sing. Cook. Repair the canoe. Me, I am your man.

And the “cargo”:


Danny: I’m going on 7. Mother had a baby and they got sick with red spots. They both died so our maid, she brought me to this officer, like Father, who said he’d get me to Father. It’s so exciting to be in a birch bark canoe and see animals but I don’t understand a word the men say—a little like the maid talked. They’re nice, especially the man who cooks—he’s my best friend.


Henry: I agreed to be a companion to a little boy—but this canoe voyage is harder than I thought. The crew—they’re not of my class. They don’t understand what I’m going through, so I try to keep quiet. But bottling it up always makes things worse—some things just have to be said. Then I make everyone tense.


Final Thoughts

(Featured image by Jenni Grandfield, taken at Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario.)




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