I could hear eight dogs running two by two and a row of four pulling a sleigh.
I could hear them panting, hear the skids of the sleigh as it breezes above the snow. Every now and then, I could hear my dad giving orders to the dogs.
I couldn’t understand his “dog language,” but the dogs certainly did. For each order — turn to the left, turn to the right or stop — my dad made a different sound that only the dogs seemed to understand.
I was only a boy, maybe six years old, but I can clearly remember being wrapped and secured to the sleigh as we made our way through the bush. I was so secured inside the sleigh it felt like I was tied up. It was dark, with only the light of the moon guiding us. I was laid flat on my back on the sleigh; all I could see were the spruce trees to my sides and the stars above.
I could feel the warmth of the blankets wrapped around me. It almost felt like being cuddled in a loving mother’s arms. The dogs with their steady speed kept me from falling asleep.
The northern lights were out in their full brilliance. They appeared to be dancing in the sky. I could see the stars which appeared so close I could almost reach up and touch one.
Every now and then I could see one shoot across the sky. So magnificent were the stars that they appeared to be little peepholes from heaven.
Our destination was a tent my dad had set up miles away from the main cabin on our trap line. The white canvas tent would be where we would camp, as my dad checked the traps along the line. The tent, shaped like a tiny house, had a stove and two beds. The dogs knew exactly where to go.
There was even a point where my dad fell off the sled and turned the dogs loose, while I was still inside the sleigh.
I didn’t have a clue my dad had slipped off. All I knew was the dogs seemed to be running faster and the sleigh was jumping and sliding all over the place. Then I felt the dogs slowing down and coming to complete stop. Then I heard my mom calling out for my dad, but there was no response. I could hear her footsteps as she headed towards the dogs and sleigh. The shocked look on her face is still etched in my mind as she realized I was inside the sleigh. She quickly untied the bindings that were keeping me inside and asked where my dad was.
“I don’t know,” I replied, telling her I thought he was there all along. She undid the dog team and tied them up separately close to the tent. We then unpacked all the supplies on the sleigh which my dad and I had loaded up at the main cabin.
My mom commented she was missing some of the stuff she was hoping we would bring.
“How am I supposed to cook without the proper pots and pans?” were the comments that stuck out. Then she said she might go out and look for my dad, but it was now completely dark. She decided she would wait until morning. From the sounds of the stove, I could hear she was making our morning fire and getting ready for breakfast. Then I heard the covered front entrance of the tent being opened. It was my dad.
Both his arms were full of the stuff that fell off the sleigh, including my mom’s pots and pans. He said his only prayers were I didn’t run into a pack of wolves. It was then that I realized the terrifying situation I could have found myself in.
This is a small story of my adventures on a trap line. It’s been so many years, but today as I look up at the stars and see the northern lights dance, I can’t help but remember the sleigh ride where I had no driver.
I can still hear the eight dogs, running two by two in a row of four.