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Rob Nixon The Old White Trader - A Tale of Central British North America   By: (1814-1880)

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Rob Nixon, by W.H.G. Kingston.



Picture a wide, gently undulating expanse of land covered with tall grass, over which, as it bends to the breeze, a gleam of light ever and anon flashes brightly. It is a rolling prairie in North America, midway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On either hand the earth and sky seem to unite, without an object to break the line of the horizon, except in the far distance, where some tall trees, by a river's side, shoot up out of the plain, but appear no higher than a garden hedge row. It is truly a wilderness, which no wise man would attempt to traverse without a guide.

That man has wandered there, the remnants of mortality which lie scattered about a skull and the bare ribs seen as the wind blows the grass aside, afford melancholy evidence. A nearer inspection shows a rifle, now covered with rust, a powder flask, a sheath knife, a flint and steel, and a few other metal articles of hunter's gear. Those of more destructible materials have disappeared before the ravenous jaws of the hosts of locusts which have swept over the plain. Few portions of the earth's surface give a more complete idea of boundless extent than the American prairie. Not a sound is heard. The silence itself is awe inspiring. The snows of winter have lain thickly on that plain, storms have swept over it, the rain has fallen, the lightning flashed, the thunder roared, since it has been trodden by the foot of man. Perhaps the last human being who has attempted to cross it was he whose bones lie blanching in the summer sun that sun which now, having some time passed its meridian height, is sinking towards the west.

Southward appear, coming as it were from below the horizon, some dark specks, scattered widely from east to west, and moving slowly. On they come, each instant increasing in numbers, till they form one dark line. They are animals with huge heads and dark shaggy manes, browsing as they advance, clearing the herbage before them. They are a herd of bison, known by the wild hunters of the west as buffaloes countless apparently in numbers powerful and ferocious in appearance, with their short thick horns and long heads. Now they halt, as the richer pasturage entices; now again advance. A large number lie down to rest, while others, moving out of the midst, seem to be acting as scouts to give notice of the approach of danger. They go on as before, darkening the whole southern horizon. The wind is from the west; the scouts lift up their shaggy heads and sniff the air, but discover no danger. From the east another dark line rises quickly above the horizon: the ground shakes with the tramp of horses. It is a troop of huntsmen savage warriors of the desert. What clothing they wear is of leather gaily adorned. Some have feathers in their heads, and their dark red skins painted curiously. Some carry bows richly ornamented: a few only are armed with rifles. A few, who, by their dress, the feathers and adornments of the head, appear to be chiefs, ride a head and keep the line in order. Every man holds his weapon ready for instant use. They advance steadily, keeping an even line. Their leader waves his rifle. Instantly the steeds spring forward. Like a whirlwind they dash on: no want of energy now. The huntsmen are among the bewildered herd before their approach has been perceived. Arrows fly in quick succession from every bow bullets from the rifles. The huntsmen have filled their mouths with the leaden messengers of death, and drop them into their rifles as they gallop on, firing right and left singling out the fattest beasts at a glance and never erring in their aim. In a few minutes the plain is thickly strewn with the huge carcasses of the shaggy buffaloes, each huntsman, as he passes on, dropping some article of his property by which he may know the beast he has killed... Continue reading book >>

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