No Man’s Brother (1984)
There I was, writing a book about furtrading in the Canadian North, and suddenly I realized I’d been pipped at the post. Obviously, these things happen, but it knocked the wind out of my literary sails. Not only was the story similar, it had the same elements of Pierre Radisson’s life.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I grew up on this stuff: I’d visited the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland as a child; I’d seen the spot where the Jesuits were martyred, I saw the beginnings of the Indian village which would later become a visitors’ museum of Huron life. But my identification with Pierre Radisson as a prior life for me made this a betrayal of sorts. (And this was six years before “Dances With Wolves”, the film of the 1988 book of the same name.) The idea that a white man would (or could) adopt the Native Canadian way of life seemed profoundly important at the time, but is almost passé now.
The Beaver House
To be honest, I’d written more of this manuscript, but I abandoned copying it onto typewritten sheets as soon as I realized that I wasn’t the first to envision a furtrader’s life among the natives. What made it worse was this report, also from the Vancouver Sun, but dated three days earlier:
Peter C. Newman, for God’s sake! How was I to compete with him? There was no way I could, and since he was writing about the Hudson’s Bay Company, it would be a no-brainer to include Radishes and Gooseberries (as we called them as children).
So I stopped.
But now I want to share a couple of insights with you about my manuscript. First of all, I researched the Indian names that I used. But I never explained what Ahmik’s name meant. The usual interpretation would be ‘Solitary One’ but I soon saw that it could also be interpreted as ‘Beaver’, which gave an extra meaning to the story title. Ahmik’s lodge was the beaver house.
The love triangle between Pierre, Kijik and Ahmik would have implications later in the story, although it no longer matters now: the White Man appears to be a friend of the Native Canadians, but what he’s really doing is stealing the land from them. He’s taking their ‘House’.
That’s why I tagged the story as a ‘metaphor’.
This is not the first manuscript I have abandoned over the years. My literary skills are ‘so-so’ when it comes to prose, story-telling, plays and essays. Only my poetry really shines.
So, farewell dear friend, we have had a good run, you and I. God bless.