“I can throw farther,” said Francis, a young Metis boy of Ojibwa and French blood. The little blond haired boy with a freckled face, who was with him, shook his head, “Can’t not!”
“Can to!” said Francis.
“Can’t not!” said Isaac Dunn again, the smaller of the two.
The two young boys were sitting on the bank of the Crow Wing River, watching the cool water run, the sun, reflecting off the liquid surface like thousands of sparkling diamonds. Just waiting to be plucked up by some lucky person and stuffed into pockets. The boys could be considered a study in contrasts. Francis was 12 years old, tall and dark. His father was a French trapper from Canada, his mother, a full blooded Ojibwa Indian. Young Isaac was shorter and younger then his companion, eleven years old, and son of Joshua Dunn, the Lutheran Pastor in the town of Old Crow Wing, where the waters of the Mississippi and that of the Crow Wing River came together.
It was July and the two boys were enjoying a spell by the river, lazy days in summer which made childhood memories those most cherished as people grew older. But growing old was not what these boys were thinking about. Their thoughts were much simpler. They were more concerned with fishing, swimming and…rock throwing.
After skipping stones, the boys began to wrestle, laughing and pinning each other to the ground. After a half hour, the boys stopped and laid back in the tall grass, listening to the birds.
“I like it here,” said Isaac taking a deep breath.
“Me too,” said Francis pulling on a tuft of grass.
“Ya heard from your Pa?” asked Isaac.
Francis shook his head, “Non, not yet. Ma Mere say he be gone another year or so, she say depend on the animals, depend on the traps, depend on the weather, lots of things.”
“Where’d he go this time?” asked Isaac.
“Mon Pere say he was headin’ northwest, he figgered there’d be good trapping that aways, if’n it weren’t all trapped out,” said Francis with a slight French accent to his English.
Isaac nodded his head as if he knew about such things, not wishing to admit otherwise. “Yeah, I reckon so, I mean that makes sense, when ya think about it.”
Francis nodded, “Oui, an Pere say next time he go out I go with him.”
“An you would be a trapper Francis, just like your pa!”
“Oui, an’ I would be rich, money an’ pelts, an’ later, you could go with me Isaac.”
Isaac didn’t say anything. He envied Francis and though he didn’t face the prejudice and discrimination of his Metis friend, he felt that Francis had more freedom. He was not bound to follow his father’s profession, he wanted to because that’s what would make his young friend happy. He could be around his father because that was what he wanted.
“That would be great Francis I’d like to go with ya’s!”
“Oui my friend, you and me out in the big wilderness, we would be kings.”
“Yeah, just the two of us, just you and me Francis, that would be grand!” said Isaac. Francis smiled but inside he knew it wouldn’t probably happen. Though Isaac wanted to go with him, he doubted that that time would ever come. Francis’ father was a trapper, but Isaac’s father was the town’s Lutheran pastor and everyone knew what was expected of his youngest son, regardless of how he felt about it. Isaac rebelled in small ways. He felt no calling and had no desire to take vows.
“Your sister still sweet on that army fella?” asked Francis.
Isaac nodded, “Yeah, she be sixteen next year and Pa said they could be married, maybe if’n everything was alright.”
“Your Pere, he like him huh?” Isaac shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know Francis, but I guess pa figgers maybe he be a good husband for her.”
“Well, maybe so Isaac, Maybe so,” said Francis with an air of authority. That only a twelve year old boy can show.
Suddenly Isaac changed the topic, “Hey Francis, I almost forgot, I’m gonna help Mr. Morrison on his ferry tomorrow, he asked me if you wanna go too?”
Allan Morrison started the town of Old Crow Wing in 1823 with his trading post, dealing with the Indians and Minneapolis. Everything grew up around the post. Old Crow Wing in 1850 was the northernmost American settlement and the county seat. And with a population of 700, half of which were Ojibwa, the town was growing. With other men of business starting their work, Morrison saw an opportunity and began a ferry service at the north end of town. Sometimes he let the young boys in town help him, it eased his work and the boys thought it was fun.