CONSTABLE ON PATROL
By Linda C Butler
Told by Charlie Vance
My trapline was near Thicket Portage, a small settlement on the Hudson Bay Railway line in northern Manitoba. Every year, near Christmas time, I came into town to sell my furs and to buy supplies to last me until I returned again in the spring.
I had a house in town with an extra bedroom which I rented to the police constable who occasionally came to our community. Since I had a dog team for trapping, I sometimes obtained employment taking him to remote areas. I spoke some Cree and could translate if the need arose.
I was travelling with the constable one day when we neared a trapper’s cabin. We saw smoke from the chimney so we knew that someone was home.
As we approached the cabin we gave a shout, expecting someone to come to the door to greet us, but it remained closed. I gave the command for the dogs to stop. I tended to the dogs, then we removed our heavy parkas and shook the snow from them and banged off our moccasins so we would not track snow into the cabin. We were cold and looked forward to going inside to warm up.
Visitors were uncommon at trapping cabins and were always made welcome. No one ever turned away travellers and if a trapper was not at home, he left the door unlocked in case someone came by.
We banged on the door and then opened it. There were two trappers inside and they did not seem pleased to see us. The constable stepped into the doorway first and as soon as we came into the room we could smell home brew. The small cabin was dark with the only light coming from one small window, and it took a minute for our eyes to adjust to the darkness. I saw a wooden keg near the stove, covered with a lid, and wrapped with a tarp to keep the contents warm.
I knew that if the constable came across a crime scene, he was obligated to take action to bring the parties to justice, and making home brew was a crime. I stood behind the constable, wondering how to get out of the situation. I considered turning around and making an excuse about why we had to leave.
The constable was cold and hungry and the warmth from the stove was inviting. He walked over to the wooden barrel, checked the lid to make sure it would support his weight, and then laid his parka on top and sat down. He removed his mitts and moccasins and began to warm himself by the fire. I was speechless, but I was cold too, so I walked to the other side of the stove and sat down.
One of the trapper boiled water for tea and we laid our frozen sandwiches on the stove to thaw. We ate and drank tea and discussed the price of furs as if this was a normal visit, all the while smelling the whiskey mash brewing in the barrel.
After we rested, we got up to leave, and the constable thanked the trappers for their hospitality. He never mentioned the home brew. I hitched the dogs and we departed and the incident was never discussed.
© Linda C Butler 2013