Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Buckskin Brigades - Chapter 30 - Get Your Brag Shots Today

This chapter is a dinky four pages intended to assure you that the book's hero isn't completely clueless, that "Yellow Hair Sees" what's going on.

Hubbard wastes a page waxing philosophical about how thieves, marksmen and traitors are rewarded or reviled depending on who they act against, proving that before he was admiral of the Sea Org he had a commission as Captain Obvious.  The Nor'Westers are hailing McGlincy's treacherous plan as the epitome of strategy, and this is weirdly being reflected on Yellow Hair, so that people keep coming up to give him gifts of a gunpowder horn or pistol or a Toledo steel knife.

I guess they're preemptive bribes or something?  But this raises the question of why they didn't give him this stuff during their initial welcome of the hero who slaughtered the hated HBC.  And then there's the matter of who is giving these gifts - it's not explained, but we can only conclude that it's the senior partners who were at the meeting when the Mustache and McGlincy made their proposal.  Because otherwise it's random voyageurs coming up to give Yellow Hair their pistol or whatever, and those guys are unruly drunks, so odds are good that they'd blab about the specifics of McGlincy's plan.  "We're really gonna pull one over on those filthy savages, eh?"

But again, Yellow Hair is smart, and more importantly hates white people, so he doesn't contract "the disease known as 'brag'" but instead is convinced that something is about to happen.  After all, the Nor'Westers are putting out a lot more canoes than usual for a trip to Fort Chesterfield, and are handing out a ton of rifles and powder.

Father Marc laughs that this means the HBC are in for it.

Yellow Hair also points out that the Mustache is talking about killing Indians, and Old Simon is "anxious to try a special ball of a peculiar pointed shape" (I don't know either) that he's sure will stop those "'damned redskins.'"  Yellow Hair complains that the Mustache talks about killing Indians as easily as he would talk about killing skunks, and that someone should convince him that "Indians are quite as good as he is---indeed, much better."

Father Marc laughs that the Mustache is "a windstorm without rain."

Yellow Hair is worried from all this talk about the Indians and his sudden popularity.  He can't imagine why anyone would want to attack the Pikuni, who of course are the whites' major trading partners and would never do anything unprovoked like try to rob some explorers while they slept.  So-

Now wait just a minute.  Couple of chapters ago, Yellow Hair heard a sentry call that McGlincy had arrived, and then a huge crowd gathered as the fat drunkard ranted about how the Indians had driven him from Fort Chesterfield.  So how on Earth did Yellow Hair a) miss that first speech, and b) not hear the story from the dozens of people who were so excited by it?  Where did he go between Chapters 26 and 27?

I guess the Plot is muffling his ears or something, cutting him off from this crucial information.  As it is, even though Father Marc again assures him that it's the HBC that is about to get massacred, Yellow Hair deduces that his sudden pampered treatment is similar to how a man feeds and grooms and pets a buffalo horse "to be in fine shape so that he can ride it to death."  Which would seem to suggest that when you're riding a horse normally you put barely any effort into keeping it healthy.

It may not be the best simile, and Yellow Hair tries another comparison to how he's seen these men fatten a chicken before eating it, "though why anybody would want to eat a chicken I don't know."  This led me to spend a few entertaining minutes on Wikipedia, which confirmed that other than some controversial theories about the Araucana, chickens aren't native to the New World.

All this to say, Yellow Hair has concluded that not only are the Nor'Westers about to attack his people, but they also intend for him to betray them.  So the real reason Yellow Hair is incapable of hearing about this is so that the author can show how clever he is for deducing this.

Father Marc urges Yellow Hair to flee if he thinks this is true, but our hero, being a hero, decides he'll do more good undermining the whites from the inside than by, say, racing ahead to give a warning and mobilizing his people against the army about to attack them.  Yep, gonna march with them and, if it turns out his suspicions are right, he'll try to send them and their treachery "to tell it in their Sand Hills---if they have any."

"But maybe it will mean your life," said Father Marc, at last alarmed.

"Maybe," said Yellow Hair with a bitter grin.

Unlikely, said the commentator with an annoyed roll of his eyes.

Okay, I guess Hubbard might find it narratively satisfying to have Yellow Hair make a heroic sacrifice and go down in a blaze of glory - they'll take him down, but know the truth.  But at this point, after holding off a whole fort by himself, after being able to escape from a dismal prison after six months captivity and only being mildly inconvenienced by the resulting gunshot wound, and after surviving a chase through the Canadian winter, it seems unlikely that more of these drunken, murder-happy fur traders could kill him.

Back to Chapter 29 

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