Monday, June 22, 2015

Buckskin Brigades - Chapter 32 - How Luberly Spent the Past Hundred Pages

And now it's October, and we're back at Fort Chesterfield.  Our hero has spent about two years living with white people, and has traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles across the vastness of Canada to arrive where he started his journey.  And all he has to show for it is an abiding hatred of white guys.  And all we have to show for it is about three action scenes and a lot of wry narration about backstabbing, greedy drunks assuming that these lands rightfully belong to them.

At any rate, the end is in sight.  McGlincy's canoe hits the shore, and he waits until the Mustache offers an arm to disembark.  Luberly - remember him?  Greasy guy, one of nature's lackeys?  He comes out to greet them, sees his boss "actually conversing and condescending like an ordinary man," and therefore assumes the Mustache must be someone tremendously important, "at least the King of England."  And then any further character interaction is put on hold for two pages so the author can sum up what happened after McGlincy fled from Fort Chesterfield to Fort William.

Despite the "Mongol horde of Indians" incident that drove McGlincy out, Luberly has been doing pretty well for himself, and raked in over two hundred beaver packs just that spring.  Some "Minnetarees" came in with pelts, so they got trade rifles, ammo and whiskey, then some Snakes came to visit, and traded beaver pelts for rifles and ammo, and then a big group of Crow appeared, and man they had a ton of beaver pelts they wanted to exchange for firearms!

And no mention of deliberately getting the Indians drunk so some would get killed in a brawl.  It's just bizarre: how are you supposed to be a racist, exploitative white guy if you don't cause the deaths of your trading partners for no reason?

The only clouds during this time of sunshine was when these White Fox, Low Horns and Lost-in-Mountains fellas showed up to complain that Luberly was screwing over the Blackfoot with his dangerously indiscriminate arms dealing.  Which at least meshes with the historical record - the Blackfoot rose to dominate the plains by the late 1700's thanks to weapons and horses gained from trade with the HBC, and did their best to keep their rivals from making similar deals.  Unfortunately a smallpox outbreak in the late 1830s made those efforts irrelevant.

Anyway, Luberly yelled at them until they ran off, only for them to return with a bunch of their tribesmen in July with pelts they wanted to swap for rifles, but alas, Luberly's stock was nearly depleted and he couldn't get them to exchange the pelts for booze.  As for where those pelts came from, Luberly didn't ask, but the narrator mentions that an American fur brigade entered Blackfoot territory, attacked a war party, and got driven off sans furs.

Never the other way around, remember that.  Hubbard has decided that the Blackfoot are fierce warriors but also perennial victims.  When fur traders enter their territory in search of pelts, nervous because of the Blackfoot's fearsome reputation, of course they'd attack an Indian war party on sight.  When outnumbered members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition camp with the Blackfoot to talk peace and trade, of course it was part of a plot to get the Indians to lower their defenses, making it entirely reasonable for the Pikuni to try to steal their guests' guns, and entirely unreasonable for those guests to respond with deadly force. 

Also, the narrator points out that Luberly likes to call Indians "filthy heathens," even though he himself is an unwashed, impious excuse for a man, "so the remark must be put down as a sloppy bit of profanity."  I don't disagree with the author's point that the white guys had no right to be so dismissive of the Native Americans, I am just utterly sick of him repeating it.

But that was what happened during the latest timeskip, and now that McGlincy is here with a bunch of guns, Luberly thinks he can get the rest of those pelts - by trading for them, of course, surely you weren't like our hero and assumed that every white person is interested only in killing Indians?  Except then McGlincy makes a big show about arriving to save them, Luberly is forced to shout "Thank God you've come!"  And when the Mustache declares that now they can withstand any attack, Luberly has to cry "Ay [sic], let them attack!" even though he has no idea who 'they' are and why they'd be aggressive.  Sometimes it's tough being a spineless toady.

So the bigwigs are welcomed, booze is distributed, and McGlincy by this point believes his own bloody tale of being driven from the fort by malicious Indians, so the toast is "To the extermination of those vermin, the Blackfeet."  It's only an hour later, after McGlincy and the Mustache are sufficiently liquored up, that Luberly brings up a matter of real concern.

See, while the HBC was bullied into paying for the repairs to Fort Chesterfield, and the place is now more fortified than ever, that's not all the HBC built.  Luberly takes the main antagonists outside and points across the river, to a new Hudson's Bay Company fort up on a bluff.  So when McGlincy had ranted about the HBC driving the Nor'Westers out with Indian allies and stealing the fur trade in Saskatchewan, he'd actually been partially prophetic instead of a drunken loon.  Whoops.  But he figures whatever, they were already planning on fighting, so now they just have more people to shoot at.  McGlincy and the Mustache start planning their campaign.

But what of our hero?  We're told that Yellow Hair, even as he walks around the rebuilt trading house, still shuts his eyes when he remembers the "burning horror" he experienced there, a humanizing bit of PTSD we certainly didn't see in the likes of Jettero Heller.  In fact, Yellow Hair is sorely tempted to run - his horses are amazingly enough still here, and it's only a four day ride home.  He's learned all he cares to learn about 'his' people, and has evidently given up on clearing his name, so we couldn't blame him for taking his leave of the place.

If he did leave, though, Yellow Hair would only be able to tell his people that the whites are up to no good, and nothing concrete.  So he resists the temptation to see Bright Star again and resolves to stay.

His place was here, inside the fort.

Here he was needed and here he could help.

And here he would stay.

Or you could cut McGlincy and the Mustache's throats while they sleep and then leave.  Just sayin'.

Oh, and Yellow Hair is still hanging out with Father Marc, who doesn't get to say anything this chapter.  Useless bloody priest.

Back to Chapter 31 

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