Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Very Low Place in Our History!

 ... and a few reviews.
No, the cartoon has nothing to do with the post, but it does help to raise the status from the depths of sadness.

I would like to know how we came to this very low place.
We have provincial elections taking place in a couple of Canada’s provinces and with most elections in memory there does not seem to be any chance of improvement.
One of the choices seems to think that nothing matters but the creation of jobs while the wants and needs of those actually making things work are ignored.
The other choices all seem to think that if they spend all the money they can borrow (the voter’s cash) to spend on programs they will save the world.
Both sides then make promises that are at odds with their basic ideas in hopes of confusing the voter into thinking their destructive ideas might not be implemented.
There was a time when sacrificing one’s independence for the duty of leadership was a noble calling.
It appears to have become the least laudatory of any effort and only a means to an inflated and un-earned pension.
The whole thing – and the results of recent elections – excite strong concerns about the future.
Therefore, I will avoid such dark thoughts and write no more about it. I will vote, as we all should, and complain when they institute programs that are a disaster as all of them will.
Instead I’ll post a collection of reviews for “The Making of Jake McTavish”.
I would very much appreciate those who have read my novels posting their thoughts in the review sections at
If you would rather, leave a note in the “comments” below.

Review of “The Making of Jake McTavish” from Western Writers of America.

D.M. McGOWAN. The Making of Jake McTavish. Strategic Book Publishing. Trade paperback, 229 pages, $15, The author of Partners and The Great Liquor War again focuses on Canada’s Wild West in this tale of revenge. Jake McTavish has been a loner since his wife was murdered, but when two thugs waylay him and kill his dog … well, McTavish is awakened – “and a whole lot meaner.” D.M. McGowan writes in such an easy-to-read style and with attention to detail and some unexpected twists and turns.

 I loved loved loved this book November 22, 2016
I loved loved loved this book. Ended up not getting much sleep that day because I couldn't put it down and the ending was not at all what I expected to be the final result. This is a really great book. It is an easy read and a fascinating story. Very well done and definitely worth the money. Now just have to get the rest of his books.

 McGowan Scores Again April 9, 2016
Another good western by D. M. McGowan. The author combines a plot full of twists and turns with a well-described setting mainly in the foothills and mountains of Alberta and BC. There are accurate references to historical events that took place in the area. Interesting titbits are inserted about how a man could survive in the wilderness if resourceful. The characters are believable. I especially liked Jake's rather cutting wit. Paula, with her independent spirit and determination, is refreshing compared to the paper-thin development of the female in traditional westerns. I'm looking forward to Mr. McGowan's next book - Cattle Business.

 Great Story telling! March 23, 2016
Darn it all, I'm off my feed this morning. Had to finish the book far into the night. The Chapters were short and kept introducing interesting twists and turns. Great story-telling!

style='box-sizing: border-box;orphans: auto;text-align:start;widows: 1; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px;word-spacing:0px' v:shapes="_x0000_i1028"> Journey for Justice December 20, 2015

Well-developed characters and true to life settings with descriptive writing put the reader into the story. The main character Jake McTavish stands alone in his empty cabin with his thoughts that he voiced to his blue tick hound, “Maybe I’ll just have t’shoot somebody. That way the government will have t’ feed us ‘til they punch my ticket and bury me.”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

75 th Anniversary of the Alaska Highway (the Alcan)

The Alaska Highway early years
Building the trail that became the Alcan - 1942
Civilian travel during the early years - 1943

Alaska Highway, Kilometer 1639, Feb. 26, 2013

As I’ve mentioned before, the Alaska Highway 75th Anniversary CD is now available and there is some good music on it, some good writing, good musicianship and good recording. Bert Goulet even made me sound authoritative.

Here are some more videos about the building of the highway with some great views of the cable control Caterpillars, gallons of mud and gumbo (no, it isn’t the same as mud; walk in it for one minute and you’ll know the difference.) a look at some US Army Engineers and the civilian contractors.

Alaska Highway then and now

Building of the Alcan . USA Signal Corps

Mega Structure

Alaska Highway documentary

US Army, 341st Engineers, 1942
Mechanics from US Army 93rd Engineers
Rusty Dow, first female driver, 1942

Monday, March 27, 2017

Alaska Highway history you may not have heard

In 1964, from June through September I worked on the Penalty Ranch across the Peace River from Fort St. John. I went back a few times in subsequent years. The man who owned the ranch, René Dhenin had come to the country from Southern Alberta in the 1920s and was a packer, guide, freighter, horse trainer and cattlemen in the area well into the 1990s.
This year, 2017, is the 75th anniversary of the beginning of construction of the Alaska Highway. Although he had already been a guide for several years René was not involved in the initial trail blazing and the following rhyme explains why.
The concept of a land route from the “lower 48” states to Alaska had been around for several years. There where three routes in strong contention. Where the Mackenzie Highway is today was one choice, from Peace River town up through Hay River in the North West Territories then west through the Yukon. A much better idea was where the Alcan actually is, from Dawson Creek, BC, north-west through the Yukon. A third choice that was favored by many in the US Army was where the Hazelton – Cassiar – Watson Lake Highway is now.
Thus, in 1942, confusion abounds.
René’s story bellow is a part of that history.
As I’ve mentioned before, the CD with the songs from local artists acknowledging and celebrating the 75th anniversary can be found at many businesses and art galleries along the Alaska Highway or take a look at

 Near Muncho Lake

 Minnaker River Valley - Mile 178 on Alaska Highway
Hiking Mountain Ranges, René Dhenin’s Yarn

He told me of a walk he made back in forty one
With a day pack, rifle, knife and hand gun

He received a wire at Fort St. John, it said “Services required”
It specified the date then added, “All equipment, horses supplied.”

“From US Army Engineers” he said, “I’d worked for them a lot,
With my horses and guiding them over hill and ‘round the bogs.

So I put my horses out to graze, stored all tack and gear,
And hitched a ride, me and a pal, early spring that year.

Rode the caboose from Dawson Creek, then Pullman car to Cowtown.
Partied there with folks we knew then railroad again coastal bound.

It took four boats along the coast, each one getting smaller
Then we walked a couple of miles, the Telegraph Trail to follow.

At Telegraph Creek there’s another message, addressed directly to me
And after days and weeks of travel, one I sure didn’t want to see.

Once again from the US Army, my services no longer required.
I’m off in the Coastal Mountains and before I’m hired I’m fired.

My pal says he’s off to the sea, without my work, no work to be found.
He’ll get a ride on some coastal scow and he’s for Vancouver town.

But I make my living with horses and tack, and it’s to the east not west
So we say our goodbyes, off he goes, and I head for a high mountain pass.

I’d walked a week or so, low on grub and getting gaunt,
When some mountain caribou appear; more meat than I really want.

I took a fat cow and did her up, skinning, stripping and eating my fill
Packed some fresh wrapped in hide, but smoked jerky for most of the kill

Crossed many a creek and skirted muskeg, rivers as well, one or two
But coming down in the Omineca, there was the Finley a river I knew.

So I made a raft tied with bark, planning to float down to the Peace
But white water broke up the raft, lost it and most of my meat.

Back when I shot the caribou I’d made the hock skin into slippers.
On stretchers they floated and I found ‘em but lost my boots in the river.

Had my rifle slung on my shoulder, pistol and knife on my belt
So except for my boots and the meat, came out of it all pretty well.

Another day to dry myself and another week of walking
I’m not far from Hudson’s Hope and the supply boat’s docking.

So I caught a ride down river to home where all my equipment sat
So you see I missed the start of building the Alcan, but maybe best at that.

Monday, February 27, 2017

“I only read non-fiction.”

The Steamer "Onward" near Hope, BC late 1800s
Paddle boat race near Quesnel, BC

“I only read non-fiction.”
This is something I’ve heard from a variety of sources, some of which I quite highly respect.
I have asked, “Why not?” and received a variety of responses many of which revolve around, “I want to know the truth, not what someone imagined.”
I wonder if any of those who feel that way have every had the opportunity to watch a news report of an event/accident/disaster where they may have been involved or witnessed?
I know of no national Canadian news network does not present some form of bias. Of the three majors, one presents a story which is supportive of whichever government is most affected by the event; another supports views consistent with big business and the third presents whatever is the most exciting and bizarre.
I expect this is the case with networks throughout the world since as time passes the focus of these stories often changes drastically … and sometimes the presentation has shifted 180 degrees.
Almost all of those who “never read fiction” do revel in a good, entertaining movie. Fiction from a writer but presented as the director thinks the story is best presented. If you are reading fiction then YOU get to present it the way YOU see it, not the way some person you never met chooses to present it. The reader’s imagination forms the proper pictures which are proper and true for the reader.
Of course, at the point readers can view the movie and see if they agree with the director.
I have just finished reading two collections of stories about historical events. In a collection of “old west” stories and a collection of Canadian historical events I did not find one story that did not – in my view – contain a mistake. I have also read four historical accounts of the same event which could not agree on what happened.
Throughout school many (most) fellow students complained about history and how borrrrring it is. I didn't find it to be such since I saw the characters presented as people who had similar trials and tribulations throughout their efforts as those we all experience today.
Yes, the school tests all demand that we recite the dates associated with historical events because they need some way of proving (?) that the student actually read the material.
Historical fiction, by its very nature WILL contain elements of entertainment. It should show, not that something happened in ??65 but that it could have happened in 1765 or 1935. It should also demonstrate some of the surrounding forces affecting the event (segregation in 1820 compared to 1980?) and that PEOPLE made it happen and where effected by it. There should also be some emotion created or shared by those people adding to the entertainment value for the reader.
You know nothing of your past, your history? Read some history with fiction, be entertained and absorb some understanding which can then be used to enrich your present.
Reading will enrich the mind and life more than any other information source available to mankind. It has been proven over and over and measured in a variety of ways by countless studies.
Oh, and by the way, you don’t read fiction?

If you read at all, you have read fiction.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

An Excerpt from “Partners”

At this point in the story Tom and Frank have returned to the Cyprus Hills and located a defensible place with water close at hand. They know the two whiskey traders who killed the two Blackfoot at their first meeting are close behind but they have given up trying to evade them and are taking a stand. Following a wait of several hours Frank, on one of his scouting trips, sees the killers their numbers swelled to four, move into the hills. He returns to his own camp, tells Tom what he has seen and they settle down to wait for the attack.

"Maybe make them killers nervous," Frank suggested. "They can't watch the country fer Injuns an’ keep an eye on us too. Blackfoot ain't noted as bein' real friendly folks. They won't treat us any better 'n they'll treat them whiskey traders, but it might give them two killers somethin' else t' think about."
            Following several moments of silence, Tom said, "I don't really believe Hank and Seth are capable of enough thought that it could be interrupted, but I suppose every little bit helps." Privately he thought that Frank was looking for any glimmerings of hope in the face of hopeless odds.
            Frank rolled up on one elbow and yelled across the hills, "Hey, Seth, yuh see them Blackfoot yet?"
            There was no answering call and Tom could detect no movement. He kept his eye on the ground below and to his right, the barrel of the Colt revolving rifle behind the logs, but ready to be thrust through a convenient hole.
            "Better keep an eye peeled, boys," Frank called, his attention trained on the ground below and left. "Them Blackfoot don't give much warnin'."
            "Traded with them Injuns," a voice called back. "Spent more 'n one night with 'em."
            "All night?" Frank asked. "And was it a village 'r just a camp o' young bucks gettin' drunk on yer rot gut?"
            There was a few moments of silence broken by Tom's call. "I don't think any of you have the guts to face a village of Indian families."
            "Listen t' the pilgrim talkin' 'bout guts," the voice from bellow responded. "Feller that hides behind a hill back t' the Old Woman Lake."
            "Now that is an interesting story," Tom conceded. "Did you tell your new partners how you backed down from a fifteen year old boy and a greenhorn?"
            Rock fragments flew from the breastworks in front of Tom. Smoke and sound came from the trees blow. Tom thrust his rifle forward, fired, then again to left and right. As he pulled the center pin and shook out the half empty cylinder he could hear shots from Frank's side. He forced himself not to look to his partner, but alternated his attention between changing cylinders and the source of the first shot. He had the fully loaded cylinder mounted and was priming the three fired chambers of the other when the firing stopped.
            "How are you doing?" Tom asked, just loud enough to be heard over the ringing in his ears. He could hear Frank slide the magazine tube from the butt-stock of his Spencer just before he answered.
            "Doin' better 'n them boys, I reckon. An' I ain't no fifteen, neither."
            Tom heard the magazine tube being pushed back in place as the boy finished talking. He had just finished loading, and tamping, three chambers that still required priming in the time it took the boy to replace four rim fire cartridges. That did not take into account the time it took to change cylinders. He knew his Colt would have some advantage over the Springfield muzzle loader, but the enemy also had a Spencer similar to Frank's. What other weapons did they face?
            "I thought you might be a few years older than that, but it was my intention to make them fire. Apparently, something I said was effective."
            Tom saw movement in the trees below him. Slightly to the right another shadow flitted from tree to tree.
            "They're getting ready," Tom said. Just as he spoke the man on the left broke from cover. Tom swung his rifle muzzle but the man dropped. The man on the right broke from cover. Tom kept his muzzle trained on his last sight of the first man. When the second man hit the ground, the first man rose. Tom fired.
            The man had risen from his face down position to lunge forward. The .44 caliber ball drove him over backward where he disappeared in the grass.
            Tom swung his muzzle to the right. He had only seen the second man move out of the corner of his eye. He was not sure where his target lay.
            Frank fired, levered the Spencer and fired again. At least three shots were fired in return. Frank fired again.
            Below his own position, Tom saw the grass move. The second man was working his way over to his wounded partner. Tom followed the grass movement but held his fire.
            "Still here?" Frank asked.
            The man crawling through the grass stopped near where the first man had gone down.
            "Yes, I'm still here," Tom responded. He moved several feet to the right, bringing the shotgun and extra rifle cylinder. He heard Frank replacing fired rounds, but made no move to reload his own weapon. He still had five shots. "I had given serious consideration to perhaps stepping over to the neighbors for tea, but decided against it."
            As he answered, Frank also moved. "Had enough tea, have yuh?"
             “Actually, I could use a spot. I just thought the weather was a bit warm for a long walk."
            The grass in front of Tom was moving again, but this time to the left of where he had shot the first attacker. He had expected them to move back to the trees, but perhaps the man had not been hit very hard.
            "Watch it! They're going to try again."
            Tom's warning was hardly out of his mouth when Frank began to take fire and return it. The wounded man began to fire at the spot Tom had just left. The second man made a rush. Tom saw his shot hit the center of the lunging man's chest. He swung his rifle back to the first man and fired twice.
            The wounded man began to crawl back toward the trees. Tom watched for several moments, and then quickly changed cylinders in his rifle.
            "They appear to be pulling back," Tom observed. "One wounded and one dead over here. I expect they have found it somewhat expensive."
      When there was no reply, Tom swung his gaze to the left. Frank lay near the fire, his head bloody.

By the way, the weapon on the cover is a Henry .44 rim-fire which does not appear in any part of this story. I told the publisher's designer that was the case but he wasn't prepared to change the image, and (since I liked the look of the cover anyway) I agreed to it. I then included a Henry in the story I was working on at the time which became "Homesteader: Finding Sharon" a follow-up to "The Great Liquor War."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Another rhyme; The Making of Jake McTavish

I don't know if I'm happy with this or not. I was unloading into a large tank the other day - actually on several days - and wrote a little something that outlines the plot of "The Making of Jake McTavish". It doesn't feel "finished" to me, but then my rhymes never do. I find it the same with the novels; I often have to tell myself to "quit fiddling with it. It's done!"
So what do you think of this rhyme? Is it finished?
By the way, the cover was designed by Tracy Wandling and I think she did a great job. In the novel there is reference to the Peace River and the rapids through Portage Canyon. You can find Tracy's work at
or take a look at her watercolors at

The Making of Jake McTavish
By D.M. McGowan

Jake McTavish was a traveled man
Had worked across Canada’s western land
Worked the Great Lakes as a young deck hand
Then on Winnipeg, a commercial fisherman

Squeezed out of that with winter coming on
He was a cattle drover before a month was gone
The job came with a cabin, heat food and light
But that winter proved a long, hard and daily fight.

He came out of the winter with more beeves than he went in
But the money that was promised didn’t come to him
He did however leave with livestock and tack
And one horse toting a good sized pack

Through out the plains that summer
And into the following year
Wolf packs grew in numbers
Cleaning carrion, but then sheep and steers

So Jake became a wolfer
Getting a bounty for the ears
And more for the hides
But nothing for the tears

When opportunity offered
He changed once again
And became a drover
For another cattleman

Now some things were rough
Maybe a blanket for a bed
But Jake found he loved it
Applied for his own homestead

The months seemed to slip by
As Jake was having fun
And before long he found
The woman who was THE ONE

They worked together, built the ranch
The garden, corrals and of course the herd
Life was a dream, each a perfect match
But would have liked a baby, boy or girl

Then after a long day, away cutting poles
Jake came home to find two lives had been destroyed
Anna raped and murdered his own life a black hole
Then the law’s accusation left him more than annoyed

Jake ran life, and took Anna’s dog
Into the Omineca, trapping and alone
Though Anna was gone the memories stayed
And gnawed at him like the dog with a bone

Then two renegades try to kill him
Take his life, furs and gear
To take the wealth of his work,
Live high and disappear.

Can Jake survive, does he want to?
Will this new attack make him mad?
Will he ever solve Anna’s murder?
Or will he find something really bad?

Well now you have an outline,
But it’s really no advantage
To see the story’s end

Read The Making of Jake McTavish 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Short Story with History ... Enjoy

Here is a story I wrote several years ago concerning Alexander Mackenzie's trip through to the west coast. In his diary he remarked on how friendly the Bella Coola people where and how warlike the Bella Bella acted.
My immediate reaction was, "How friendly are these people, really? Even though there are parts and pieces of French, English, trade languages (Chinook) through which they can exchange information, did each group actually know what the other meant?"
I had also thought that the two groups as differentiated by Mackenzie where of the same people ... or thought I had read that somewhere ... so I looked into that. Yes, apparently they are Heiltsuk but some villages or clans could be more warlike than others.
The Bella Bella had good reason to be a little violent. Apparently some European traders had tried to lure them on to a ship and then capture them. This had resulted in some deaths and injury on both sides. There was a later incident where three Europeans where abducted and only escaped after several years (3 I believe).
Yes, the Heiltsuk people did trade with ships in coastal waters but both sides where very careful.
There are also several stories about shipwrecked sailors (fishermen?) washed up on the west coast and from the descriptions in those tales they where probably Asian.
So here is another of my short stories for your, I hope, enjoyment.
Leave me a comment, or click on one of the book covers to check out one of my novels. There are also links to video trailers for those novels over there; have a look at them.
You can also follow me on Facebook ... David-McGowan-Writing-Historical-Fiction
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Mackenzie's route from Fort Chipewyan to the coast

Marker of stone.
By D.M. McGowan

          When I had seen eighteen winters, I left the village and traveled toward the rising sun for two days. On the third day I turned toward the home of the cold wind, and began a circle back toward the village. I searched for meat, but I found strangers.
          In the high land where the rivers flow in all directions, I began to hear strange, loud noises. Soon my nose could see the smoke of a poor fire, but the noises were nothing that I knew. I worked closer so that my eyes could tell my ears and nose what was causing this unknown thing.
At a place where the bank of the river is quite flat, there were many strangers. There was a family of Carrier people, who live in that land, and two of these strangers looked like the Cree people, that come from beyond where the sun rises. I had not seen these people until that time, but had been told of them.
          The other strangers were as nothing I had seen. They wore strange clothing, and all but one had faces covered in hair. Even the one whose face I could see had much hair under his nose. I had heard of white men who traded for furs along the shores of the Great Water, and saw that these men were like that.
          I knew then why I had not taken any meat during my hunt. These noisy strangers had chased all the game ahead of them.
          Moving back from their camp, I circled wide toward my village. I hurried to carry the news of the coming strangers to my father.
          I can not say why I began to travel from our village, for it was not a thing done by others. It made me different. There was a time when I was lost and very hungry and I ate the meat of a deer. From that day I was not the same as my own people who only eat fish. I was still welcome in my father's home, but all looked at me with different eyes. Because I was different, I knew of the strangers and could warn my father and the village.
          "Are they like the others?" my father asked, when I had told him of the noisy camp that I had found.
          "I was not yet of this world when the others came," I reminded him. "Only my father can know if these men are like those who came from the sea."
          I waited for my father's third wife to serve me food, before continuing. "I have heard my father's story of the yellow-skin men many times, and because of his great skill as a story teller, I do not believe these men who camp on top of the mountain are the same. One man has hair and skin the color of fire, and they all have much hair on their faces."
          My father nodded, and then quietly smoked his pipe for the time it might take an eagle to soar across our valley.
          "When the others came, some of them were good, and some were bad," he finally said. "One of our people who is a great boatman and fisherman is the son of the daughter of one of the good ones. One of our best carvers and his sister also carry the blood of a good man of yellow skin.
          "But many of the strangers cast up by the Great Water were not good men! All of their children have brought great trouble to our people. These children have been cast out of the village, or sent to the spirit world."
          He paused, removed his pipe stem from his mouth, and smiled at me. "Perhaps those sent beyond have learned better ways.
          "From our neighbors, the Bella Bella, we have also heard many stories about the men who trade for furs on the Great Water. But we know that our good neighbors sometimes have bad memories, so we must see these things for ourselves."
          He drew on his pipe before continuing. "You must return to this camp of noisy strangers that you have found. Offer to show them what they search for. You will spend time with them, then tell the council if they are good men, or bad men."
          "What is it they search for?" I asked.
          My father shrugged. "Fish? Furs? Perhaps to watch the eagle soar? Strangers have strange ways!"
          "And if they are good men?" I asked.
          My father shrugged again, puffing on his pipe. "We will show them kindness, and peace."
          "And if they are bad men?"
          My father removed the pipe from his mouth, and his eyes became hard as winter wind. "Then we will show them peace!"
          I hastily finished my meal, and then returned up the Great River to the top of the mountain.
          There is a good place to camp at the top of the trail where I waited for the strangers, hoping to watch as they settled for the night. When they arrived, I could see they were fewer in number. The Carrier people had left them so that now they numbered ten white men, and two Cree.
          Since the making of camp is the work of woman, the Cree did not help but stood near one side of the clearing leaning on long sticks. When the strangers were busy with fire and cooking, I made myself known to the Cree.
          I thought I had given the warriors enough warning, but perhaps their long time with the hairy ones had dulled their senses. When I appeared they where much afraid, and pointed the long sticks at me.
          The Bella Bella told stories of sticks that held death inside. It was said these sticks would let death out, hidden in smoke. Only those who faced the stick would see death.
          From the camp, in a language my father had taught me, a voice cried, "Stop!"
The Cree froze, still pointing the sticks at me, but glancing quickly at the one who spoke.
          Slowly I bowed toward the Cree, then toward the speaker, who was walking toward us. This one who gave orders was the only one who wore no clothes made of animal skins, and had less hair on his face than the others.
          "I welcome you to the home of the people of the sea," I greeted, in the language he had used.
          "You speak French!" he remarked.
          He did not sound happy to hear me use this language. I knew my use of this tongue would not be great for I only spoke it with my father who had taught it to me. But it was rude for this stranger to put the poor use of my father's teachings before my face.
          Perhaps the stranger could see in my face that I was unhappy, for he bowed low and asked me to step aside. I did not understand this, but took a step to the side, and bowed in return.
          "Welcome to our camp," he said. "Come, eat with us!"
          I nodded in agreement, but did not speak, concerned that my use of their language might offend them.
          When we had eaten much burned meat and drank a brew of boiled leaves, the chief of these strangers asked my name. When I told him, he looked puzzled, then said, "I will call you 'Spirit', because you appear from nowhere."
          He then told me his name, which I could not understand. Reaching out to his coat, I pinched the material and asked, "What is this called?"
          "It is cloth," he said. "Wool."
          "I will call you 'Wool'," I advised, "for you wear strange clothes."
          Several of the strangers laughed, though I had returned their leaders insult with one of mine. Then the leader said something in another language, and those who had sat with faces of stone, smiled.
          I learned two things about these men. They had not been taught good manners, but did not seem to mind when these bad manners were returned. It also appeared that not all of them spoke this language taught to me by my father.
          "How is it you speak the French?" Wool asked me.
          "I have learned from my father," I replied. "This language was taught to him before he was a man by those who came from the Great Water. They also taught him another language, which I have not learned to speak."
          I could see that Wool was made unhappy by what I said, though he tried to hide this distress while lighting his pipe.


          "It is far to this Great Water?" he asked.
          "Perhaps two days," I replied, pointing down river.
          "And these men who came from the sea," he continued, "can you describe them?"
          "This was long ago, before I came to this world," I replied. "It is a story from my father who was very young when they came. They were washed ashore by a great storm, lived with the people for two winters, then took a great war canoe, and disappeared back out on the Great Water. Two of them did not go, but stayed with the people."
          Wool showed much excitement. "Are they still at your village?" he asked.
          Shaking my head, I replied, "No, they passed to the other world when I was very young."
          Wool showed much disappointment. "How many seasons have passed since these people came?" he asked.
          Again, I shrugged. "My father is the oldest man there is. I am the only son that still lives, for all the others have gone beyond. He had seen few winters when these men came from the Great Water."
          "But you saw the two men who stayed," Wool said. "Where these two men like my people?"
          I shrugged. "My father says they had yellow skin, although I do not remember that."
          Again, Wool was very excited. He turned to a man who sat beside him, and said something in yet a third language that had many choking sounds. It appeared that none of the others understood this talk, for they all looked puzzled.
          Turning back to me, Wool asked, "Can you show us the Great Water?"
          The next day, when the sun was in the center of the sky, we could see my village far below. Wool paused near where I waited for them, and pointed to the trail of smoke far below.
          "What people are these?" he asked.
          "My people," I said. "Bella Coola."
          "We will be welcome there?" he asked.
          That was for my father to say, after I had told him what I had learned, but I did not lie. I nodded, and said, "My father is a great leader."
          That night in my father’s village, after eating much fish, the strangers slept very hard. We tested them as they lay, and found that it would take a great deal to wake them. My father told me that he was very happy that they trusted me so much, for if it became necessary to send them beyond, it would be easy to do so while they slept.
          The next day there was much trouble. The white man tried to make my people eat some of their meat, and I had to tell them that I alone, among my people, ate meat. I told them how the smell of meat would make the fish go away, so those who catch fish can not eat it. Some of the white men found this very funny, but Wool did not.
          Later, these same men who laughed caused more trouble, much as small boys sometimes do. They threw the bone from the meat at one of the dogs who promptly swallowed it. The owner loved his dog, so in order to avoid killing him, he beat the dog until it let go of this bone. Then these trouble makers threw a bone in the river, and one of my people who saw this jumped in and retrieved the bone.
          The bones were burned in fire, but the two men who retrieved them had to be purified. First they washed in scented water and sand, and then they washed in the smoke of a fire made from cedar and grass.
          Wool returned from his study of our village, or perhaps a study of the sun and sky that he was always making, and asked why these men where washing in the smoke. When I told him, he went to his men and they spoke quietly. Those who had caused the trouble hung their heads in shame.
          My father and I watched this from the entrance to his lodge.
          "They are like boys when they first become men," my father observed. "They are not bad, just foolish. It is good that they have a strong leader, but you must get them away from here."
          "They wish to see the Great Water," I told my father.
          "So, take them to the Great Water, then they will leave. We have had peace for many summers, but these white men will bring back war with their foolish ways." He turned and entered his lodge but then came back and added, “They are our guests so we must see to their safety. Those of the other clan, the people of Bella Bella hate all white men and there will be fighting. Or perhaps these …” he gestured toward the white men, “these children will cause trouble with our own people. Then when the big canoes come on the Great Water they will no longer trade with us. Take them to the Great Water, let them see it, then have them go.” He turned back into the dimness of the lodge.
          With the help of a few well picked men, and three canoes, I arranged for the white men to travel to the village of my uncle.
          Uncle greeted us at the water's edge and presented a great feast. After much food we slept there, then returned to our canoes and went on to the Great Water.
          Later that day, two canoes of Bella Bella people came out from shore to meet us. Their chief said that he knew all about white men, and had just shown some of them the power of the Bella Bella people. Then he jumped in our canoe and demanded that we take him to the path leading from the shore to his village.
          While we paddled to that place, Wool asked me what was said.
          "The Bella Bella trade with the white men who come in big canoes, out on the Great Water," I explained. "Then they trade with other people for these things."
I gestured toward the chief of the Bella Bella. "This one says that a short time ago he was badly treated by white men in a big canoe, and that his people defeated them in battle."
          Wool looked at the two canoes of Bella Bella and asked. "Is this dangerous?"
          I shrugged. "The Bella Bella people are very loud, and cause much trouble. They are of our people, but unlike those of my father’s village and my uncle’s village these people like war very much. My people try to stay away."
          "Were many people killed in this battle he speaks of?" Wool asked.
          Again I shrugged. "The Bella Bella people have poor memories," I advised.
          At Wool's look of puzzlement, one of the Cree said, "He means they are liars."
          When we reached the shore, the Bella Bella left our canoe, and we backed away into the water. He had wished to take the death sticks of the white men, and was not happy as we paddled away. He danced on the shore and made a great noise.
I directed the canoes to the place where the empty village stands by the rock. Wool was happy with this place, and we placed our camp on top of the rock, where we might see the Bella Bella if they came to cause trouble.
          We stayed there for three days. Each day Wool would look through a thing at the sky, then shake his head in sadness. Two other white men spent much time looking at the empty lodges and trash in the old village. Finally, on the third day, I told them that I would leave them to the Bella Bella if they did not come with me. I had to make them leave our land, as my father had said.
          Wool showed me this strange thing he used to look at the sky and said, "I need to find out where we are. I am keeping a record."
          "You are on the Great Water, near the river of the Bella Coola," I told him, though I thought he should already know this. "You are also near the home of the Bella Bella who would like to send you beyond and take your things to their lodges. We must go!"
          "Then leave me a canoe and go back," Wool said. "I will try one more time to read the sky, and then I will follow."
          Wool and two other white men stayed at the old village. As we paddled away, I could see him making marks on the big rock.
          The next day Wool and his men caught up to us, and we entered the village of my Uncle. The Bella Bella where already there, and almost brought death to some of our people with their trouble. They hid in one of the lodges when Wool and his people pointed the death sticks at them.
          To the Bella Bella I said, "You will leave this place or the white men will kill all of us. You can come back and trade when the white men are gone."
          Then I went outside and said to Wool, "Let the people of the loud talk go to their homes. Then we will all go up to my father's village, for there is no happiness here."
          Wool agreed, and his men did not point their sticks. The Bella Bella people went to their village, and we went to my father's.
          This was a very close thing, but it was not over. We still had the white men and all their trouble for one more day. That day was spent at my father's village, and passed with no further trouble.
          When they left the next day, I followed to make sure that they left our land. One of the Cree was not well, and had to be carried by Wool when they crossed the river, but leave they did. As they climbed the cliffs out of our land, I watched them until I could no longer see them.
          Two days after Wool and his men had left, I borrowed a canoe, and went once more to the Great Water. I went to the large rock where I had seen Wool making marks.
          The marks had not been made deep in the rock, but had been put on it with the color of blood. I studied them for many moments but could not understand why Wool had done this thing. It was not pretty, like a drawing, nor did it tell a story, like the work of a carver. It did not help to make the stone look better, and was the color of war.
          I have remembered these marks, and will make them again, so that you will see.

Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three.