IN THE OLD NORTH
BY SERGIO PALUMBO
edited by Michele DUTCHER
“One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it’s left behind.”
Charles Dickens, “Little Dorrit”
Probably many have heard of the ‘March West’, the ill-planned and arduous journey of nearly nine hundred miles, later referred to as a great journey the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) completed between July 8 and October 9, 1874, while being sent through the Canadian prairies to the area of the present Alberta border. The NWMP had been created just one year before—it had yet to become the world-renowned Royal Canadian Mounted Police—and it later had in its ranks Sub. Insp. Francis Dickens, the son of famous British novelist Charles Dickens. The men had to get there before winter came, as they hadn’t been provided with any winter food supply. They had been sent to Alberta in order to battle the whiskey traders and stop their illegal activities, but when the police arrived at Fort Whoop-Up on October 9, the gates were found open and those they had come to fight were gone, disappeared. Where had they gone? Some said that the outlaws were aware that the North-West Mounted Police were coming, and so they had long since moved on, probably going south of the border.
But others among those who stayed there, and witnessed that operation, weren’t so certain. A few stated that, yes, it was a fact that the whiskey traders weren’t in the area anymore, but they also thought that the fugitives had been killed, and their corpses removed before the North-West Mounted Police arrived there. By whom could they have been killed, you might wonder? Well, this is a matter for debate.
An even smaller group spoke of unbelievable events they had seen, or unusual things they had spotted, and that the remains of those dead traders were still to be seen in the near forests, or at least of some of them. Be that as it may, there were official reports about what had happened, and even some more secret reports about what others thought had actually occurred in those wide expanses of terrain where the First Nations peoples lived, depending on the herds of buffalo that provided them with food, shelter, and tools. And there was even weirder hearsay about what those soldiers of the North-West Mounted Police really saw. Well, about what they said they had seen actually, though few high-ranking officers believed in their tales, or took for granted what they read.
After all, those great expanses were unexplored at that time and there had always been legends, and hearsay, pertaining to such wild areas that only a tiny number of explorers had visited until then. Surveys referred to those territories as the ‘Wild North Land’ and the ‘Great Lone Land’. There was room for any untrue or embroidered speech that didn’t confine any account to the facts, as frequently happened about in still unknown areas…
There are some reasons for that behaviour, and for such open disbelief in those strange reports, of course. And we’re going to tell you why, if you want to read what follows, indeed.
One evening, far out on the sun-baked waste of Wild Barley, a group of riders made their large camp near a small, withered tree. The cold wind came down upon them with the ever-creeping darkness.
The men had been riding on horseback for about four months through the wild and mostly unknown prairies, heading for the distant Fort Whoop-Up, accompanied by Potts, the force’s interpreter, who had some knowledge of those places. European settlers would eventually build large towns and farms as we can see today in Central Canada in our own time, for those would become one day very important agricultural areas. But not yet, not in 1874. A few men had started taking Native wives and forming a new cultural group, the Métis.
The expedition of two hundred and seventy five men—that in part had been assembled at Stanley Barracks, Toronto—was supported by three hundred and ten horses, a hundred and forty three draught oxen and a hundred and eighty seven carts and wagons, stretching out at least one and a half miles along the track. They also had two field guns for protection, cattle to use as food—that was almost over by then—and mowing machines.
George Arthur French, who commanded the North-West Mounted Police, had negotiated with the Canadian Illustrated News for the expedition be accompanied by Henri Julien, a journalist whom the Commissioner hoped would write a favourable account of the new force, of course. Having made only fifteen miles a day at most, travelling under unpleasant and arduous conditions, the main part of their group had turned off the southerly trail and gone through the much drier and rougher plains to the north-west. Food had immediately begun to run out and, due to the expedition’s failure to bring any jugs of water, the men had no other choice but to drink muddy local water. Another detachment of the sicker men and livestock were left behind at Old Wives Lake, in the following days.
But there was still a seemingly unending amount of ground still to cover through those borderless fields that stretched into the distance, apparently with no end. Actually, the amount of ground left to cover was almost the same as present-day Mexico.
Towards the end of August 24, the expedition had reached the foothills where the weather had turned much colder, and some of the expedition’s horses had started to die. As a matter of fact, although the men had expected the area to contain good grazing for their irreplaceable mounts, the land was found to be mostly treeless. A dejected French himself had thought of it as “little better than a desert”. It had been the Commissioner who changed his plan to move further towards Fort Whoop-Up and instead travelled seventy miles south towards the hills, close to the border, where supplies could be bought from the United States. Anyway, more horses died from the cold and hunger and many of the men were barefoot now.
They all were coming to those wild lands with one important duty on their minds: the suppression of illicit whiskey trading in the area. This was what they had been told, and these were the instructions the North-West Mounted Police had received. The movement of free traders into this region had largely developed after the American government began to enforce laws that prohibited trading liquor with any tribe of the First Nation peoples. And this led to many problems, like rebellions, fighting and deaths. However, the men also had other serious thoughts in their heads, like surviving the difficult environment they were riding through and finding food and water for their horses and themselves. And this hadn’t proven to be so easy.
The site to be reached at the end of that journey—if everything went well, in two days from now, about time!—was a Fort that had been once called Fort Hamilton after its builder, Alfred Hamilton. It had been built following a method involving the vertical placement of short logs, side by side, at least twelve feet in length in a trench so that the walls were strong and kept the inhabitants safe from attack, or so it was thought at that time. Anyway, it had been burned to the ground within a year, shortly after its construction in 1867, and had since been replaced by a more substantial structure, much larger and better built, that was named Fort Whoop-up in 1870, situated near the confluence of the Belley and St. Mary Rivers. Apart from this Fort, there were also others like Fort Kipp and Fort Standoff, but Fort Whoop-up was the largest of all those. The new Fort had been expensive as the workmanship was superior as were the materials used in its construction, because it was endowed with a cannon, and a six-pounder howitzer provided the traders with a measure of security. Within the walls there were various buildings, including store rooms, a stable and a trading room, and its presence was meant to publicly symbolize the end of the period of lawlessness that characterized those wild areas.
Owen Acker—wearing the reddish first ‘Norfolk jacket’ uniform with the grey trousers and the typical leather belt that usually was kept on instead of the cloth belt in order to support the holster when on duty—got off his weary mount and moved around the campfire, where he saw a tired and silent little group sitting after a very long day. As he arrived, he first spotted Declan who had already dropped his ass to the ground. They had gotten to know each other better during that journey. Declan was forty two, ten years older than him, and he made some wisecracks from time to time, so Owen reached him, wanting to exchange some words.
“Hi, Declan!” he greeted the skinny chestnut-haired veteran. “A strong cup of coffee is almost essential at this hour of the day, isn’t it?”
“Holy words, you said it! I’m waiting to have a sip of it in a few moments, the same as the rest of the men.” The other eyed him while gesturing to indicate the six soldiers nearby. With keen blue eyes, half-closed from years of searching the wide plains, and a greying mophead, Declan seemed to have gotten a strange stillness that highlighted his features, probably the calmness earned from a long life of riding across the prairies. You might have considered him an old veteran of the plains, though he didn’t have much knowledge about this part of the country. Only a few white people had been here. His muscular hands moved to the cup as soon as it was filled with the dark liquid he wished for.
“Just two days, and we’ll be there,” Owen continued. His hands started tidying the blond curls on his head that seemed to have gone to all directions after the long ride. Then he set his hazel eyes on the campfire.
“Hopefully. That’s what the Superintendent predicts at least.”
“Why did they name it Fort Whoop-up?” he asked the other. “As that place is so distant, people have begun surmising about it.”
“Well, my dear fellow involved in this damn’—and maybe ill-fated—expedition, the stories explaining the origin of the Fort’s name are many. Maybe the most credible is the one about the whiskey trader, who, when asked how business was, replied that he was busy buying liquor and ‘whooping it up across the border’. But I don’t know if that’s the real reason.”
“So, those men, the whiskey traders we are possibly going to fight, what can you tell me about them? Why are there so many of them around? These are wild areas, only to be reached on horseback, and are full of dangers.”
“Well, financing the whiskey trade doesn’t require a great deal of money. You know that liquor is cheap and can be easily gotten. So great is this business that it isn’t that difficult to have large numbers of men working in it,” Declan said.
“Is that why many of our men think that when we arrive there we might find ourselves outnumbered and outgunned?”
“Yes, though I doubt it. The problem is not if we can win against them, as we are well armed and we also have field guns, but if we will have the strength to fight them. We need more food, and I’m more worried about our present conditions than about gunfights, or a bloody battle…” the veteran added, making a face.
“It’s true: our small army doesn’t travel on alcohol, does it?” Owen retorted. “And field guns—whatever number we have with us—won’t fire by themselves, they need experienced men who are well fed and who can properly operate them during the fighting, if this is what we have to undergo.”
“Indeed. You see, the problem is that the Native tribes do not seem to get used to alcohol, or liquors in general, so they don’t seem to be capable of controlling themselves once drunk,” Declan sneered.
“I know of many white men, too, who become very unruly and are a problem once they get some alcohol down their mouth in a bar. They come to blows and, at times, also put a hand on their weapon—you can imagine with what consequences.”
“Yes, that’s also true. You’re right,” the other said, nodding.
“How could a man have the strength to survive in these wild areas? I mean, how can the native people live here?”
“They are capable of many things civilized individuals like our kind would never even try. This is where they were born, after all, and they know well how to behave and live in these cold lands. What they can’t hold up, or escape, seems to be their unhealthy interest in whiskey that is made illegally available and sold to them. This is what brings us here…”
Owen stared at his friend and decided he was right. Talk near the campfire became soon animated: horses, the weather to be expected the next day, women and, of course, buffalo. A lot of older soldiers seemed to know, and to have studied animals, better than Owen himself had. After drinking, he walked a little way from the fire, and faced the darkness, where the plains seemed to be stretching forever, unknown and unlimited. How solemn and still those areas were!
He did draw in a great breath of the cold air, and felt a strange sensation. Something was there, away to the west. It called to him from out of the night. Soon he would know what was out there calling to him, if they arrived there alive. Also the stars, seen from that open site, looked very large, yet also so much farther off than he had ever seen them.
When they awakened the next morning, a long pale sun shone faintly out of the clouds in the West. They were going to have an overcast sky for most of that day, as those visible patterns over their heads never lied. Actually, most of the morning they made good time, but rain started falling as they arrived below the foothills, getting into a wild and misty nothingness, and then the air became much colder. Supper that evening, even if they didn’t feel rain on their clothes anymore, was a joyous occasion.
At the end of that day they settled down again into a calmness due to the weariness of the long day that was disrupted only, at times, by the drawn-out sounds of coyotes in the distance, somewhere.
The next morning their destination was supposed to be in sight, according to what the Superintendent said. They all hoped for that as riding through the hills around them, visibly layered with ancient sediments, had overworked most of them, and the prairies had almost had the better of these hardened men. For weeks they had been battling with cold temperatures, insects, and a lack of supplies. And maybe the real battleground was waiting for them at the Fort…
In fact, the most interesting part of their expedition hadn’t started yet. This was also thought to be the most difficult part other than, possibly, the bloodiest one, too.
If a battle had to take place, of course.
“How far does it look to you?” asked Owen, on horseback near a tall rock. He stared at the distant walls of Fort Whoop-Up and turned to the two riders who had stopped next to him. Among them was Declan.
“Two hours, perhaps, at a regular two-beat pace,” the veteran replied, his tired face showing all of his desire to stop soon. Which was exactly what all the other men wanted of course.
The tones of the Superintendent resounded through the open ground, and the riders started going down the small slope that brought them to their long-desired destination, stretching out at least one and a half miles along the dampish track.
As the men slowly approached the site—and no one had opened fire against them so far, which was good, indeed—Owen spotted something unusual, becoming pensive, and uncertain. “What’s that thing?” he asked while opening his mouth in surprise. “Openings in the strong main gates of the Fort?”
“Well, cups of whiskey are said to have been given to the eager natives through wickets cut in the gates. The trader stands at the wicket, a tubful of whiskey beside him, and when a customer pushed in furs, or buffalo robes, to him through the hole in the wall he handed out a tin cupful of the alcohol.”
“And the more furs they brought, the more lawlessness amongst the local peoples, presumably induced by widespread drunkenness,” Owen said in a low tone.
“Exactly as you say,” Declan agreed, staring at him. He then spread wide his long arms. “However, you must not be a simpleton, you know. We were sent here not just to prevent the Natives from getting drunk, and becoming a more serious threat with uncontrolled acts of violence. We also came because the powerful Hudson’s Bay Company raised complaints as they found the illegal whiskey trade in the area a big problem to their commercial enterprises. This is also what led to the formation of our outfit, the North West Mounted Police.”
“But here we are, doing our job, and also pleasing the Big Cheeses who asked for this NWMP expedition to ride to this wild area at the possible cost of many lives. Soldiers do as they are ordered, and ask not… well you know the rigmarole,” the veteran stated, raising his voice a little. He dropped his arms, and once again grew calm. The man had briefly shown a glimpse of the great passion, and vividness, he once had had in his life. Although a veteran soldier, used to the difficulties and strangeness of days spent in the open while riding through different wooded hills, he still hadn’t buried all of it under an invisible reinforced suit of armour made of his disenchantment, hardening and long experience. Some would say, ‘A good heart under a rough coat’, and they might have been right about him.
As the riders of the North-West Mounted Police warily approached the Fort, they began to aim—on the mark of their Commissioner George French—at any gunman that might suddenly appear and start exchanging fire. But much to their disbelief, and to everyone’s surprise, they didn’t spot a single soul around, nor was there anyone inside the Fort as they calmly entered on horseback at the four-beat walk.
Even the gates of Fort Whoop-up were open and the outlaws were gone. That was a fact. Had they all died because of starvation? Or had an attack of a local tribe, maybe, taken place some weeks before they arrived? What else might have happened? It was difficult to be said at the moment.
Some armed men were sent outside the walls to scout out the nearby area, a task that occupied most of the day. The main part of the military expedition completely checked, and cleaned up, the upper level rooms and the drill ground inside, along with the guard towers and the stores.
A group of five members was sent to explore a portion of the land full of tall deciduous trees and shrubs. This group included: Owen; a short man named Frank; Grayson nicknamed ‘The Distracted’; and John, the youngest one among them. They were under the command of Declan, and they went into the area with their Calisher and Terry carbines—the first bolt-action weapon used by the British Army—in their hands. According to specifications, those new rifles were said to be able to fire 1,800 rounds without requiring additional cleaning, which was difficult to be certain of by then, as no one among them had ever fired so many rounds in their lifetime. The men’s eyes became very attentive and they narrowed more and more as their minds focused on the small broad-leaved plants and rocks. No one among them wanted to be attacked by surprise. And no one wanted to be left dead on the ground on that day, obviously.
They didn’t find anything unusual, or of any value, until lunchtime. Then, after a short pause, they began their duty again that lasted for several more hours. Closer inspection revealed many trees that grew on the few hills, plants that shaded the environment while some of the crevices held vegetation and underwood.
It was when the reconnaissance was almost completed at 6:00 PM and the men had approached the Fort again, that Owen asked for the attention of Declan as the others had already entered. He got the impression he had glimpsed something whitish, maybe bones or clothes—that the rays of the setting sun had touched in the distance. It was within a portion of the woodland that their group hadn’t directly checked. But he was pretty sure he had seen something, difficult to say what it might really be, given the considerable distance from his point of view.
“So, you saw something that no other man in the other groups assigned to that area discovered?” the veteran asked in a dubious tone. “Alright, if you think so, maybe we should report this to our Superintendent and see what he thinks about it.”
“As you say, Declan,” Owen replied. “But I’m sure I saw something that might be bones out there. Or possibly something else. Maybe it’s the remains of a huge wild animal. What if it’s the corpses of those whiskey traders we came here to fight?”
“You mean somebody fought our battle before we arrived at the Fort and killed those? Well, you might be right. We need to wait for instructions, of course.”
And so they did, in the end, once they too got past the walls again.
“Go search that area now, if you like,” the Superintendent had told them once they had made their report about the sighting of possible remains of dead humans near some curved trees outside the Fort. “But you have to do it alone, and keep your mind on the coming sundown. At present, I have to attend other duties, and I just can’t let other men out…” And so the two had done that, leaving the safe walls of the wooden fortress that protected the rest of the soldiers.
Pre-dusk outside had quickly come and gone, with the sky endowed with many colours such as orangish and reddish shades, and then the darkest part of the evening—which came before the real night—had begun until it started being replaced by a deepening darkness.
Suddenly, the two heard noises coming from somewhere in a dark corner, and the strange sounds seemed to be nearby. Or so they appeared to be to their ears, coming from the other side of the path they had been walking until then. Once those noises disappeared, the worried Owen tried to tell himself they had never happened. However, he well knew that there might be many wild animals in that area and that they would be devoured easily if those were driven by hunger. This was why Declan put his hand to his holster and took out his pistol. It was a double-action revolver—a model from 1857—with a separate lock that he had long grown used to. After so many years, he liked that the lock itself could be easily removed, if a part of it might be breaking, and anyone with a little experience should have been able to repair it.
The two members of the North-West Mounted Police stared at each other. They both knew they had heard something, and that thinking differently was the wrong thing to do and was certainly unhelpful.
“Where did you exactly said you had spotted those whitish objects in this area from the Fort?” the hurried Declan urged the other.
“Ahead, do you see those bones in the undergrowth? They seem to be of dead humans…Maybe the victims were shot by arrows that easily pierced portions of the body. Or maybe their death was due to something else…”
“Something else, you say…It’s exactly was I’m afraid of by now!” the veteran added.
As they moved on, it was obvious that Declan was not troubled only by the forest nearby or any lonely wolf or the approaching darkness of the late evening, because the 42-year-old, chestnut-haired man had lived in the wilderness for most of his life. As a matter of fact, he was anxious over something much scarier and more elusive. Whatever lay in that woodland, not far from the Fort they had left at their back half an hour ago, seemed to be chasing them along the path they had taken. They knew that if a shot was fired, in case of need, and was heard at the Fort, they would send others to have a look or to be of help. But what left him troubled was that he didn’t know if anyone would come on time to save them. This also as he didn’t know what exactly was out there, the same as the much younger Owen.
In general, the experienced Declan had learned long ago to have a deep respect for the forests as they were a source of life, food, and death. But he was also well aware of something darker, worse and more dangerous than all that could commonly come out of those places at times, and it might be around now. Wild animals, some cruel plunderers, the armed whiskey traders, or even sudden wildfires had never scared him. But there were also legends, old tales, like the few ones his parents had kept telling him for so long, since he was just a child. Might it be that thing, whatever it really was, one of those fabled creatures? What the hell was going on out there?
As the two slowly moved on and looked at the surroundings, the tall veteran suggested to Owen to stay wary, and calm, then he reminded himself of something he had long put in a small portion of his recollections, and almost forgotten. The same as that old object had always been in his sack since he had started traveling and riding through those wide plains many years ago…
It had been said, actually, that Sir John Alexander Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, had originally wanted to form units of Métis policemen, commanded by white Canadian officers in a similar manner to the British Indian Army, but he had later been forced to move away from this approach of his after the Rebellion of 1870 which called their loyalty into question.
As a consequence, the first enlisted men to be recruited came from some different areas, but most had some military experience, like Declan. Many of the men enlisting on this occasion were later dismissed as unsuitable for service, less than half completing their term of enlistment, and more care was taken in later recruiting.
His Métis friend of long ago, named Harry Dumont, was partly of British origin and partly also an Inuit from a small village of Manitoba. This part of the country had previously been included in Rupert’s Land and had been ceded to the country of Canada by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1869, before becoming a Province in 1870. In the end, anyway, Harry was never allowed to become a member of the North-West Mounted Police, differently from Declan himself. Others from his family, facing racism from the new white settlers and a large numbers of other poor Métis moved to what would become later the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. This was why the veteran had been given that old soapstone lamp by that man. This was what Declan now started searching for in his small sack with his left hand, and his fingers didn’t stop fidgeting until he touched it.
He remembered the words Harry had told him when he had put it on his table: “May this Qulliq (that he pronounced as kudlik) be a light to you when you’re in doubt, and you feel that there might be unearthly enemies around in the open ground even though you don’t see any of them.” This was roughly translated from his speech, which was an assembly of inexact English, French and of his own native language the young man had previously learned as a child. At that time, a much younger Declan had considered that the object had been probably painstakingly made with stone tools, or later metal tools, from soft soapstone found in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. His friend had also told him that such things were traded widely among the Inuit communities of old, as those could help dry the furs or the clothing, given the fact that the difference between drenched and dry clothes also meant the difference between life and death in such a cold climate.
A half-hemisphere forming a shallow dish with a lip, the lamp had to be filled with a measure of oil rendered from animal fat, into which a wick could be inserted. And this the veteran had done, all the times he had been sent riding through the prairies, even if he had never really lit that object so far. But you can never know, he had kept telling himself.
And, in fact, even today the lamp was ready, and might be lit, if needed. So, after taking it in his hands, almost at once, the lit wick generated light. Then he felt more self-assured. Though, he didn’t exactly know why, actually.
Accordingly, with that native lamp now put before his nose, the tall man gestured to his friend to walk in the direction he believed those noises had come, while wrapping his jacket tighter around him, as if he hoped it might better protect himself from whatever he might find. They kept walking in silence, the lamp being before their eyes, aside from the fact that he considered at times he really didn’t know what he was doing, and what might happen next.
Then Declan’s blue eyes saw something, under the brilliance of his old lamp. He increased the area enlightened by it and there he spotted two large bodies!
He saw them, just as they appeared to be next to the trees shadowed by the setting sun in the distance: four-legged creatures, standing five feet at the shoulder, their features resembling those of gigantic wolves with wider heads and long white furs. His Native American friend had told him once about their names: Waheelas. He hadn’t believed in his words that day, of course. But here they were, laying in front of him!
Otherwise invisible to the human eyes, and if it wasn’t thanks to that lamp the men would never be capable of spotting them, those were not wolves! Such monsters had a strong resemblance to other mythical Inuit creatures depicted in old legends of the Arctic peoples, those called the amarok, that were thought to live alone and appear suddenly, chasing after any person foolish enough to hunt alone at night. But his friend Harry had told him that Waheelas were very different beings, much more powerful, and deadlier.
Harry had tried to convince him that such fabled beings were said—among the Native Americans of those areas—to live in the Northwest lands, from the Nahanni Valley to the Rocky Mountains, and they were also known to be capable of ripping a man’s head off if they perceived an individual like a threat, or a danger.
Those beings looked at the two humans from afar, and sensed their smell for an apparently endless time. Then, as if what they had found was of no interest to them, the large Waheelas moved away, before Declan might think of his next move, and even before he could aim his weapon at them.
The members of the North-West Mounted Police simply remained speechless.
Though it was unbeknownst to the two, those creatures, not differently from dogs and wolves, had some very sensitive noses. They had searched for the presence of alcohol on their bodies and in their breath, and they found none.
The smell of alcohol was intense, so much so that many people didn’t appreciate its odour as well. And it took very little alcohol in animals to poisoning them. So, once they happened to drink even some small drops of it, they immediately could appear confused, have difficulty walking and standing, and it might also include decreased breathing rate, low body temperature and other problems. This was true especially for dogs that had a very strong sense of smell. Wolves usually had a much stronger sense of smell than dogs, and the mythical Waheelas put it together with their unearthly abilities, which made it all even more unpleasing, and also obnoxious.
Dogs and wolves, being dogs and wolves, of course, seemed to be attracted to eating or drinking just about anything. They were usually curious, they loved to consume things, and they also explored with their mouths. But beer and other alcohol should be kept away from animals and never deliberately offered as a treat.
The overwhelming smell of alcohol and liquor in the air was something the Waheelas simply couldn’t accept to be nearby, nor to be brought to their wild lands by strangers. They also hated the bad breath of alcohol humans might let out. So, a proper move had to be made.
Though this couldn’t be understood by the men, those mythical beings had already done what they needed to. And their duty had ended once they had killed and eaten the bodies of the whiskey traders who had been around for days before the military came here. Those same whiskey traders whose remains Owen and Declan had thought to have spotted in the forest and that had made them ask for permission of the Superintendent to approach this site alone, so as to have a better look even if it was late evening.
The two men didn’t know (after all, how could they?) that the Waheelas didn’t like people involved in the illegal whiskey trade. Alcohol disturbed their very sensitive noses and also affected the health of the Natives who considered those places like home. This was an unexpected thing that had never been witnessed, or tasted, in that area before the white men came.
The locals were not used to alcohol of course, and other substances which also included: pepper, gunpowder, various other substances and also some toxins. These things frequently led to changes in their mindset they could not control, having effects which were disastrous for them. They began fighting amongst themselves and treating each other without respect. The local peoples were also easily forced to do whatever they were asked for to get the goods the white men sold them while charging unbelievably high prices. This also brought the Natives to be against the wild animals of the forests, at times, with no reason at all—and also against the cubs of the same Waheelas— just to get more furs to be given in exchange for more whiskey. This combination of elements were why the newcomers were reputed to be unwanted interlopers and enemies by those creatures.
Owen and his friend Declan moved back to the Fort once they felt relieved, without having fired a single shot, and saw that the extraordinary creatures, without attacking them, had already disappeared into the near woodland, becoming invisible again as they were distant from the old lamp of the Arctic Natives that had previously lit, and revealed them, thanks to its strange sorcerous characteristic.
That night, the two made their report, and their bald Superintendent, along with their fellow soldiers who had stayed behind at Fort Whoop-up, didn’t believe in their story. They weren’t surprised about that, but Owen and Declan were sure they had seen those strange monsters, though they hadn’t figured out what had precisely happened on that late evening in the open ground.
As all the members of the North-West Mounted Police moved away at the end of their operation, the Fort was closed-down in same year, 1874. Within a year, southern Alberta became a more decent place for the Natives and the whites alike.
Eventually, in modern times, the buildings of Fort Whoop-up disappeared, leaving only archaeological remains which are still discernible, with the only feature being intact is the well. Some researchers maintain that most of the site was destroyed by a fire started by sparks from a fireplace in 1888. These buried materials are nowadays especially important since few historic records are available for this old era of southern Alberta history. And for the thousands of legends, mostly being now forgotten, that pertains to the heroic period of the first explorations of those wild areas both by the First Nations and later also by the new settlers, anyway. Because, you know, as somebody once said, exploration really is one of the most important things about people…