This book tells the fascinating story of two young men, one Indian and one white, who became stranded in the Rockies in early winter with only the clothes on their back. Resorting to primitive methods of making fire, weapons, shelter and clothes, they survive a frigid winter, and have numerous fantastic adventures. Although the book is fiction, it is based on a story told by a well-known fur trader who had lived most of his life among the Western Indians.
When in the seventies I turned my back on civilization and joined the trappers and traders of the Northwest, Thomas Fox became my friend. We were together in the Indian camps and trading posts often for months at a time; he loved to recount his adventures in still earlier days, and thus it was that I learned the facts of his life. The stories that he told by the evening campfire and before the comfortable fireplaces of our various posts, on long winter days, were impressed upon my memory, but to make sure of them I frequently took notes of the more important points.
As time passed, I realized more and more how unusual and interesting his adventures were, and I urged him to write an account of them. He began with enthusiasm, but soon tired of the unaccustomed work. Later, however, after the buffalo had been exterminated and we were settled on a cattle-ranch, where the life was of a deadly monotony compared with that which we had led, I induced him to take up the narrative once more. Some parts of it he wrote with infinite detail; other parts consisted only of dates and a few sentences.
He was destined never to finish the task. An old bullet wound in his lung had always kept him in poor health, and when, in the winter of 1885, he contracted pneumonia, the end was quick. His last request was that I would put his notes in shape for publication. This I have done to the best of my ability in my own old age; how well I have done it is for the reader to judge.
Brave, honest old Ah-ta-to-yi (The Fox), as the Blackfeet and frontiersmen loved to call him! We buried him on a high bluff overlooking the valley of the Two Medicine River, and close up to the foothills of the Rockies, the "backbone-of-the-world" that he loved so well. After we had filled in the grave and the others had gone, Pitamakan and I sat by the new-made mound until the setting sun and the increasing cold warned us also to descend into the valley. The old chief was crying as we mounted our horses.
"Although of white skin," he faltered, "the man who lies there was my brother. I doubt not that I shall soon meet him in the Sand-hills."
AU-PUN-I LODGE, February, 1912.
Note: The original book did not have named chapters. The chapter headings in this version were provided by the Heritage History editor to aid in navigation.