By Helge Ingstad
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Extra resources for The Land of Feast and Famine
To hop about on a raft of moving timbers seems simple indeed when someone else is doing it. When, however, you have to do it yourself, it seems like an entirely different matter. It is not merely that one's foothold gives way beneath one, but that it gives way in all directions ! Boldly and full of confidence, you start out from shore and come to log number one. It sinks. You hop over to log number two, which immediately begins to spin round backwards as fast as it can. While your legs work like drumsticks and you flap like a crow, you look wildly about for some means of escape.
Nothing for it, then, but to look around for a new job. There was still no hurry about continuing north. The month of May had hardly begun, and it would be July before Great Slave Lake would be free of ice and navigable. A man named Dick was the owner of a little saw-mill a short way down the river. He asked us if we knew anything about mill work. We replied that we were both pretty handy with a saw, and it was lucky for us he didn't ask us what kind of saw we meant. Hired, we packed up and moved on to begin work for three dollars a day and keep.
The roaring of the rapids sounded in our ears. Quietly we sailed up to the bank, which was black with people. Just as we were busy making our ship fast, the Athabaska appeared upstream, steaming at top speed. But she had very little to be proud of, as we had been " the first boat north " by almost ten minutes. We went ashore at Fitzgerald. A short distance below the town begins a series of rapids, so turbulent that not even a flat-bottomed river boat can navigate them. In the old days it was a practice to shoot the lesser rapids in scows steered by huge oars, or sweeps, balanced outboard over the stern; down the more dangerous stretches these scows were tracked by means of ropes.