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[ Introduction ] [ Part 1 ] [Part 2 ] [Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ]
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THE FATHER VISITS, IN PASSING, THE TRIBES OF THE FOLLE AVOINE.
WHAT THAT FOLLE AVOINE IS. HE ENTERS THE BAY DES PUANTS;
SOME PARTICULARS ABOUT THAT BAY. HE ARRIVES AMONG THE FIRE NATION.
WITH all these precautions, we joyfully Plied our paddles on a portion of Lake huron, on That of the Ilinois and on the bay des Puants.
The first Nation that we came to was That of the folle avoine. I entered Their river, to go and visit these peoples to whom we have preached The Gospel for several years,in consequence of which, there are several good christians among Them.
The wild oat, whose name they bear because it is found in their country, is a sort of grass, which grows naturally in the small Rivers with muddy bottoms, and in Swampy Places. It greatly resembles the wild oats that Grow amid our wheat. The cars grow upon hollow stems, jointed at Intervals; they emerge from the Water about the month of June, and continue growing until they rise About two feet above it. The grain is not larger than That of our oats, but it is twice as long, and The meal therefrom is much more abundant. The Savages Gather and prepare it for food as Follows. In The month of September, which is the suitable time for The harvest, they go in Canoes through These fields of wild oats; they shake its Ears into the Canoe, on both sides, as they pass through. The grain falls out easily, if it be ripe, and they obtain their supply In a short time. But, in order to clean it from the straw, and to remove it from a husk in which it is Enclosed, they dry it in the smoke, upon a wooden grating, under which they maintain a slow fire for some Days. When The oats are thoroughly dry, they put them in a Skin made into a bag, thrust It into a hole dug in the ground for This purpose, and tread it with their feet -so long and so vigorously that The grain separates from the straw, and is very easily winnowed. After this, they pound it to reduce it to flour,-or even, without pounding it, they Boil it in water, and season it with fat. Cooked in This fashion, The wild oats have almost as delicate a taste as rice has when no better seasoning is added.
I told these peoples of the folle avoine of My design to go and discover Those Remote nations, in order to Teach them the Mysteries of Our Holy Religion. They were Greatly surprised to hear it, and did their best to dissuade me. They represented to me that I would meet Nations who never show mercy to Strangers, but Break Their heads with. out any cause; and that war was kindled Between Various peoples who dwelt upon our Route, which Exposed us to the further manifest danger of being killed by the bands of Warriors who are ever in the Field. They also said that the great River was very dangerous, when one does not know the difficult Places; that it was full of horrible monsters, which devoured men and Canoes Together; that there was even a demon, who was heard from a great distance, who barred the way, and swallowed up all who ventured to approach him; Finally that the Heat was so ,excessive In those countries that it would Inevitably Cause Our death.
I thanked them for the good advice that they gave me, but told them that I could not follow it, because the salvation of souls was at stake, for which I would be delighted to give my life; that I scoffed at the alleged demon; that we would easily defend ourselves against those marine monsters; and, moreover, that We would be on our guard to avoid the other dangers with which they threatened us. After making them pray to God, and giving them some Instruction, I separated from them. Embarking then in our Canoes, We arrived shortly afterward at the bottom of the Bay des puantz, where our Fathers labor successfully for the Conversion of these peoples, over two thousand of whom they have baptized while they have been there.
This bay bears a Name which has a meaning not so offensive in the language of the savages; For they call it la baye sallie ["salt bay"] rather than Bay des Puans,-although with Them this is almost the same and this is also The name which they give to the Sea. This led us to make very careful researches to ascertain whether there were not some salt-Water springs in This quarter, As there are among the hiroquois, but we found none. We con. clude, therefore, that This name has been given to it on account of the quantity of mire and Mud which is seen there, whence noisome vapors constantly arise, Causing the loudest and most Continual Thunder that I have ever heard.
The Bay is about thirty leagues in depth and eight in width at its Mouth; it narrows gradually to the bottom, where it is easy to observe a tide which has its regular ebb and flow, almost Like That of the Sea. This is not the place to inquire whether these are real tides; whether they are Due to the wind, or to some other cause; whether there are winds, The precursors of the Moon and attached to her suite, which consequently agitate the lake and give it an apparent ebb and flow whenever the Moon ascends above the horizon. What I can Positively state is, that, when the water is very Calm, it is easy to observe it rising and falling according to the Course of the moon; although I do not deny that This movement may be Caused by very Remote Winds, which, pressing on the middle of the lake, cause the edges to Rise and fall in the manner which is visible to our eyes.17
We left This bay to enter the river that discharges into it; it is very beautiful at its Mouth, and flows gently; it is full Of bustards, Ducks, Teal, and other birds, attracted thither by the wild oats, of which they are very fond. But, after ascending the river a short distance, it becomes very difficult of passage, on account of both the Currents and the sharp Rocks, which Cut the Canoes and the feet of Those who are obliged to drag them, especially when the Waters are low. Nevertheless, we successfully passed Those rapids; and on approaching Machkoutens, the fire Nation, I had the Curiosity to drink the mineral Waters of the River that is not Far from That village. I also took time to look for a medicinal plant which a savage, who knows its secret, showed to Father Alloues with many Ceremonies. Its root is employed to Counteract snake-bites, God having been pleased to give this antidote Against a poison which is very common in these countries. It is very pungent, and tastes like powder when crushed with the teeth; it must be masticated and placed upon the bite inflicted by the snake. The reptile has so great a horror of it that it even flees from a Person who has rubbed himself with it. The plant bears several stalks, a foot high, with rather long leaves; and a white flower, which greatly resembles The wallflower.'s I put some in my Canoe, in ordertoexamine it at leisure while we continued to advance toward Maskoutens, where we arrived on The 7th of June.