Back to God's Country and Other Stories
Peter God was a trapper. He set his deadfalls and fox-baits along the edge of that long,
slim finger of the Great Barren, which reaches out of the East well into the country of the
Great Bear, far to the West. The door of his sapling-built cabin opened to the dark and
chilling gray of the Arctic Circle; through its one window he could watch the sputter and
play of the Northern Lights; and the curious hissing purr of the Aurora had grown to be a
monotone in his ears.
Whence Peter God had come, and how it was that he bore the strange name by which he
went, no man had asked, for curiosity belongs to the white man, and the nearest white
men were up at Fort MacPherson, a hundred or so miles away.
Six or seven years ago Peter God had come to the post for the first time with his furs. He
had given his name as Peter God, and the Company had not questioned it, or wondered.
Stranger names than Peter's were a part of the Northland; stranger faces than his came in
out of the white wilderness trails; but none was more silent, or came in and went more
quickly. In the gray of the afternoon he drove in with his dogs and his furs; night would
see him on his way back to the Barrens, supplies for another three months of loneliness
on his sledge.
It would have been hard to judge his age--had one taken the trouble to try. Perhaps he
was thirty-eight. He surely was not French. There was no Indian blood in him. His heavy
beard was reddish, his long thick hair distinctly blond, and his eyes were a bluish-gray.
For seven years, season after season, the Hudson's Bay Company's clerk had written
items something like the following in his record-books:
Feb. 17. Peter God came in to-day with his furs. He leaves this afternoon or to-night for
his trapping grounds with fresh supplies.
The year before, in a momentary fit of curiosity, the clerk had added:
Curious why Peter God never stays in Fort MacPherson overnight.
And more curious than this was the fact that Peter God never asked for mail, and no letter
ever came to Fort MacPherson for him.
The Great Barren enveloped him and his mystery. The yapping foxes knew more of him
than men. They knew him for a hundred miles up and down that white finger of
desolation; they knew the peril of his baits and his deadfalls; they snarled and barked
their hatred and defiance at the glow of his lights on dark nights; they watched for him,
sniffed for signs of him, and walked into his clever deathpits.