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reindeer is, and lasso those I want to use, for I am going to teach you
myself how to drive," adding: "I own over one thousand reindeer."

He called two other Lapps, and we put on our skees and started, and soon
after we were out of sight of the house. After an hour's travel we
reached the reindeer. I noticed that the snow was not very deep.

"In this herd I have over sixty reindeer that have been broken to
harness," said Jon.

"How can you find them out of such a great number?" I asked. "To me so
many of them look alike, in fact they would all look alike if it were
not that with some the horns are not as big as those of the others."

"I know them all," he replied. "I could even tell the ones that are
missing."

Then I remembered that I had heard that a shepherd knew every sheep of
his flock.

"Stay where you are," said Jon. "Many of the reindeer are shy, and do
not come to us when we are trying to lasso them."

Jon and the other two Lapps let their skees slip off their feet, so that
they could have a stronger footing, looked round so as to recognize the
deer they wanted, and then with their lassos in their hands, ready to be
flung, walked very carefully towards two reindeer somewhat apart from
the others. When they were near enough, some ten or fifteen yards from
them, which is about the distance one can lasso with a chance of
success, they stopped and threw their lassos over the horns of the
animals. One made no effort to escape, for he had been used to this for
more than five years; but the other cut up any amount of pranks, though
in his efforts to get away the rope got tighter and tighter at the base
of his horns.

The man had to use all his strength before the animal was subdued. Once
or twice he was pulled by the reindeer and almost fell. In his efforts
to get away the reindeer entangled his legs in the lasso and fell
powerless. In the mean time Jon had come gently towards his reindeer and
knotted the cord of the lasso round his muzzle.

"We always do this," said he to me, "as a measure of precaution. When
thus corded the reindeer move with far more difficulty if they wish to
run away."

The other reindeer, which fought so desperately for freedom, had only
been used twice during the winter and was not accustomed to being
lassoed.

These two animals were tied to trees, and then Jon and the Lapps went to
capture two others. Jon missed the second reindeer, a splendid bull, on
the first throw, the lasso falling on his back; but the next throw
caught him. At the same time the other man had succeeded in lassoing the
fourth one.

[Illustration: "The man had to use all his strength."]

Then Jon, pointing to the second reindeer he had lassoed, said: "Paulus,
I wanted this one especially for you. He is thirteen years old. He is
one of my favorites and has been often under harness. He does not go
quite as fast as he did formerly, but he is just the reindeer for
you, for he is more easily managed than any others I own."

I looked at the reindeer. I noticed that the animal had much stouter
legs than the common deer, or even than the elk, and the hoofs were
particularly large. They are smaller than our own big elks, and looked
very much like our caribou. The hair of the majority of the reindeer was
gray, very coarse and thick, and almost white under the belly. Some of
the animals in the herd were white.

Then we went homeward. Two or three times one of the reindeer made a
light show of resistance and had to be pulled for a minute or so, and
the wilder one was even less easy to manage; he struggled hard several
times, and twice the Lapp who held him was almost thrown down.




CHAPTER X

HARNESSING REINDEER. - THE FIRST LESSONS IN DRIVING. - CONSTANTLY UPSET
AT FIRST. - GOING DOWN HILL WITH REINDEER. - THROWN OUT AT THE
BOTTOM. - QUEER NOISE MADE BY REINDEER HOOFS.


On our return we tied our reindeer securely and went to a small house
where the harness was kept. There I saw along the walls many collars,
leather straps, and traces, but no bits. I thought this was singular,
and I wondered how the reindeer could be driven, but I said nothing. But
when harnesses for the reindeer were brought out I found that harnessing
a reindeer was very unlike harnessing a horse, and far more simple. A
collar was put on, and at the lower part of the collar a strong plaited
leather trace was fastened. This passed between the reindeer's legs and
was made fast to the forward part of the sleigh. No bits are used. The
rein (there was only one) was also of plaited leather and fastened at
the base of the horns.

During this process the reindeer seemed very restless and several times
were on the point of running away.

"The harnessing, as you see," said Jon to me, "though simple, has to be
done with great care, for no matter how well trained a reindeer is, as
soon as he is harnessed he wants to go; besides, he is easily scared
when in harness." So while things were being made ready for the start
the reindeer were tightly held.

"I will now show you how to take your place in the sleigh," said Jon.
Then he sat upright at the bottom, with his legs stretched before him
and his back resting against the end of the sleigh. Then he got out and
said, "Now you get in." I found the position a very uncomfortable one;
but this is the only way one can sit in these little sleighs. And it
took me some time to get accustomed to it without getting tired, though
afterwards I could sit for hours without getting out.

Jon handed me the rein and twisted it round my wrist, and said with a
rather roguish smile: "Now, if you upset, the reindeer cannot run away
without you! After a while he will stop when he knows you are tipped
over. You will roll over several times in the snow before he stops."

"All right," I replied, "there is plenty of snow, no harm can come to
me. My head is safe."

"Be careful, Paulus," he added; "see that your rein never touches the
snow, for if it should get under the sleigh your arm might become
entangled and your wrist or shoulder be dislocated. If you upset, let
the rein go. If you want the reindeer to stop, throw the rein to the
left. If you want him to go fast, keep it on the right. Keep your rein
always loose, almost touching the snow. Have a sharp lookout about
this.

"I myself will ride with my legs outside, my toes touching the snow to
guide my sleigh; but you are a beginner, and you cannot do so. Never
ride with your legs out, for it is dangerous for a man who is not
accustomed to it to ride that way. Sometimes accidents happen even among
the most expert, and some Lapps get seriously injured. Here is a stick
to guide your sleigh, and to prevent your reindeer from going too fast
push the stick deep into the snow. It will not be as good as feet, but
it is much better than nothing.

"I will take the lead, you will follow, and two Lapps will come behind
to watch over you. Do not mind if you upset often; do not be
discouraged; a beginner has to upset many times before he knows how to
drive a reindeer and keep in his sleigh."

In the mean time our reindeers had become very restive and they were
held with difficulty. Suddenly Jon gave the order to start.

We started at a furious speed, and my sleigh rocked to and fro. It was
awful. I swayed first one way, then another. I knew that I could not
keep my equilibrium long without being thrown out, and I was right. Each
reindeer wanted to go faster than the others; they kept on at a terrible
gait. I was shot out of the sleigh, heels over head, and rolled over and
over in the snow. Finally the animal stopped.

[Illustration: "I was shot out of the sleigh."]

The Lapps behind me came to the rescue. After brushing the snow from my
face I got in again, and my reindeer started off at a fearful speed, and
in less than thirty seconds I was once more shot out of my sleigh.
This time the rein slipped from my wrist, as I had not secured it well
enough, and the animal sped away, leaving me on my back, blinded by the
snow. The Lapps went on their skees after my reindeer, which in the mean
time had stopped, and brought it back to me.

Then they said to me with a laugh: "Often reindeer start that way when
they feel frisky. To-day is the right sort of weather for them. The
mercury marks 40 degrees below zero. The starting is the most difficult
part."

I thought so! I got into my sleigh, and the animal started at a furious
speed, and once more I was shot out of the sleigh. I got up half
stunned, covered with snow. Fortunately I had twisted the rein so well
round my wrist this time that the reindeer could not run away without
me, and he stopped after I had been dragged a few seconds.

I was not disheartened - so I kept on driving and being thrown out. It
happened so often that I began to tire of counting the number of times I
upset. It must have been nearly one hundred times that day. It had been
a very hard day's work for me.

The second day I took more lessons, and began to learn how to balance
myself. It is a knack, and I began to improve and had fewer upsettings.
The third day I did better. I gradually learned pretty well how to
balance myself on level ground, and did not upset any more.

After a few days I knew how to drive reindeer on level ground, and I
could guide my sleigh with a stick as well as a sailor steers his boat
with the rudder.

When I had reached this stage of expertness Jon said to me: "Paulus, now
you can drive in a level country, but soon you will come where there are
many steep hills, and mountains. So you must learn how to drive down
steep hills. This is often very exciting. The weather is beautiful, and
this afternoon I want you to take your first lesson going down hill. I
have sent men for a fresh set of reindeer; they will soon be back."

In the course of the afternoon the reindeer came out harnessed, and as
we were ready to start, "I will lead," said Jon, "you will follow, and
another Lapp will come third. It is far more difficult to go down hill
than to drive on a level surface. You must put your stick deep into the
snow to slacken the speed and guide your sleigh. Don't be frightened at
the speed, which is very great, and be careful not to be thrown out when
you reach the bottom of the hill; this is the most difficult part of
driving, for the reindeer turn sharply so as not to have the sleigh
strike their legs." At this remark I thought of my going down hill on
skees. That was hard enough, and I wondered what would happen to me with
the sleigh.

The surface of the country was slightly undulating, and our reindeer
followed each other in good order and at a short distance from one
another.

Suddenly Jon slackened the pace of his reindeer so that I should
overtake him. Then, when within hearing distance, he called out: "We
will soon go down a steep hill," and he started again.

He had hardly said these words when he was out of sight. I reached the
crest of the hill, then down went my reindeer at a terrible pace,
railway speed in fact, and as the animal reached the bottom of the hill
he made a sudden sharp curve. For a few seconds my body swayed from one
side to the other, and before I knew it I was flung headlong out of the
sleigh.

This took place in a great deal less time than I can tell it in. I had
been thrown out with great force against the snow, face forward, and as
the snow was granulated it hurt.

I had learned to be quick. I was in my sleigh in the twinkling of an eye
and followed the track made by Jon, and we rode quietly on the plain.
Soon Jon stopped and a moment after I joined him.

"Paulus," said he, when I had caught up with him, "we must try another
descent." We ascended the bank in a zigzag way (I following his track)
until we reached the summit. It was hard work. This hill was very long
and steep. When ready Jon shouted: "Paulus, look out; we are going to
have another descent." The pace of my reindeer was tremendous as he went
down. The animal seemed to know that if he did not go fast enough the
sleigh would strike against his legs as he descended the hill. Down we
went; we simply seemed to fly, and as the reindeer got to the bottom he
made the same sharp turn again, the sleigh whirled round with a great
jerk, and I was thrown out head over heels as before.

During the descent, as my animal ran his hind feet threw particles of
granulated snow in my face - they were like small stones striking it with
great force. It hurt awfully. After this I was obliged to put on my mask
for protection that day.

Ever since I had begun driving reindeer I had heard a noise, a sharp
sound, as if sticks of wood were striking against each other, when the
animals were trotting at full speed. It occurred to me to ask what was
the cause of this curious noise. My Lapp replied, "Every time the hoof
of the reindeer touches the snow it spreads wide apart, broadening in
this way and keeping the animal from sinking too deep in the snow; and
when the foot is lifted, the two sides of the hoof are brought together
again, striking against each other and making the noise you hear."

I continued to improve every day in going down hill, and succeeded at
last in keeping in by throwing my body in the opposite direction when
the reindeer made his sharp turn. This difficulty conquered, I bade Jon
a hearty good-bye, thanking him for his patience in teaching me, and
continued my journey.

[Illustration: "At noon I saw the sun's lower rim touching the
horizon."]

From Rukojarvi I had followed the highroad, passed the post stations of
Korpilombolo with its church, Sattajarvi, and came to the hamlet of
Pajala, in latitude 67° 10'. The hamlet is situated near the junction of
the Torne river with the Muonio, and had a church.




CHAPTER XI

THE LAST DAYS OF THE SUN. - BEGINNING OF THE LONG NIGHT. - A MIGHTY WALL
OF ICE. - THE LONG NIGHT'S WARNING VOICE. - THE AURORA BOREALIS AND
ITS MAGNIFICENCE.


The day I left Pajala I saw the sun at noon; it was hardly above the
horizon; it had barely risen and shown itself when it was sunset and it
disappeared under the horizon.

Then came a long snowstorm, and for a wonder one without a gale. After
the snowstorm the sky suddenly cleared, and at noon I saw the sun's
lower rim touching the horizon. It was of a fiery red. Then after a
while it disappeared.

The next day only the upper half of the sun was above the horizon at
noon, and just as the rim was ready to sink I fancied I heard the sun
say to me: "To-morrow you will not see me; then you will have entered
'The Land of the Long Night,' and when you go further and further north
you will be in that land. Good-bye, good-bye."

Then I thought I heard the "Long Night" say to me: "For one night of six
months I rule at the North Pole. Then I am most powerful. In the course
of countless years I have frozen the sea and I have built a wall of ice
so thick, and so broad, and so hard, that no vessel will ever be strong
enough to break through, and no man will ever reach the pole. I guard
the approach to the pole and watch carefully the wall of ice I have
built around it. When the sun drives me away and rules in his turn one
day of six months at the pole (for the whole year is equally divided
between us), he tries with his steady heat to destroy the wall I have
built. On my return I repair the damage the sun has done and make the
wall as strong as it was before. I send terrific gales and mighty
snowstorms over oceans and lands, and even far to the south of my
dominion, for my power is so great that it is felt beyond my realm."

There was a pause; then I thought I heard the sardonic laugh of the
"Long Night." I shuddered when I remembered the words the "Long Night"
had just spoken, and the laugh had in it something sinister. I fancied I
saw the dim figure of a woman with long flowing hair standing at the
pole, looking towards me. She was the "Long Night." I remembered the
names of the valiant and daring commanders who had led expeditions
towards the North Pole, and had perished in their endeavors with the
gallant men who had trusted and followed them.

Then I thought of the brave explorers who had followed in their wake
with better fortune, for their lives had been spared, though they failed
to reach the pole. The wall the "Long Night" had built could not be
passed.

As these thoughts came over me, I exclaimed: "'Long Night,' great and
terrible indeed has been the loss of life among those who have tried to
reach the pole, but the ingenuity of man is great, and in spite of the
ice barrier thou hast built around it we have not lost hope that man by
some device of his own may yet be able to reach the pole."

After uttering these words I imagined I heard, again coming from the far
north, another laugh of the "Long Night." It seemed like a laugh of
defiance in response to what I had said.

Near me was a forest of tall fir trees; looking up I saw the great blue
of heaven studded all over with brilliant stars shining down upon the
snow-covered land where I was.

The next day the sun did not appear. I was now in "The Land of the Long
Night." It was strange now to see stars all the time, and the moon in
the place of the sun. The great pines and fir trees of the forest
contrasted strongly with the snow of the land.

The sun had disappeared below the horizon, but in clear days its glow
could be seen. I could not tell the hour of the day, for the stars set
and rose in continuous succession in this kingdom of the "Long Night." I
did not know when it was morning or when it was evening, but in fine
weather the glow over the horizon told me when it was about noon. It was
indeed a strange land; but the Lapps could tell from the stars whether
it was night or day, for they were accustomed to gauge time by them
according to their height above the horizon, just as we do at home with
the sun. I had my watch, but could not look at it often, for it was
under my garments.

For many days the land was illuminated for a while every night by the
aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. Sometimes the aurora seemed to
imitate the waves of the sea and moved like big heavy swells, changing
colors, bluish, white, violet, green, orange. These colors seemed to
blend together. Then the heaving mass would become gradually intensely
red. This red mass broke into fragments which scattered themselves all
over the blue sky. It gave its reflection to the snow. It was the end of
the aurora or electric storm. They were never twice alike; they varied
in forms and colors. The auroras are like everything in creation: on our
earth there not two men or women exactly alike, there are not two leaves
alike, two blades of grass, two trees, two stones alike, neither two
waves, for the sea is ever changing in its ripples.




CHAPTER XII

THE SNOW GETTING DEEPER. - LAPP HOSPITALITY. - A LAPP REPAST. - COFFEE
AND TOBACCO LAPP STAPLES. - BABIES IN STRANGE CRADLES. - HOW THE
TENTS ARE MADE. - GOING TO SLEEP WITH THE MERCURY AT 39° BELOW.


When I had left Pajala I travelled on the frozen Muonio, passed the
stations of Kaunisvaara, Killangi, and Parkajoki, and came to
Muonioniska. All the hamlets or farms had comfortable log buildings.
Some of the dwelling-houses were quite large. Wood was not lacking and
the houses were quite warm. Forests of the fir were abundant.

The sun was now hidden below the horizon. The snow was getting deeper
every hour - and was about seven or eight feet deep on a level after
being packed. I was coming to another great "Snow Land." From
Muonioniska I travelled on between the Muonio and Ouanasjoki rivers.
(Joki means river in Finnish.) I became acquainted with many nomadic
Lapps who wandered with their reindeer over that great snow land - among
them were two very pleasant men of the name of Pinta and Wasara, who
agreed to travel with me for a while.

Wasara, the younger, was the son of a very rich Lapp who owned nearly
ten thousand reindeer, and possessed besides a good bank account.

Pinta was poor, the possessor of only about one hundred reindeer, which
pastured with those of his elder brother. Pinta was about thirty years
old; Wasara about twenty-five. Both were men of splendid physique; broad
shouldered with very muscular legs and arms, which were apparently as
hard as wood. They had blue eyes and fair hair. One was four feet eight
inches and a half in height, the other was four feet ten inches. They
were very skilful on skees; in summer they could make tremendous leaps
over rivers and ditches with the long poles they carried with them, and
could drive the most intractable reindeer, which are even worse than our
broncos.

While travelling, I drove next to the leader, for reindeer follow each
other mechanically in the same furrow. The leader is the one that has
the most work; but if he follows a furrow, his reindeer gives him little
trouble.

Pinta generally took the lead, I came next, and Wasara third. Pinta and
Wasara had their faithful dogs with them.

Travelling was fine; the snow was well packed, and so crisp that the
sleighs glided over it lightly. Often we travelled at the rate of
fifteen miles an hour, for our animals were strong and had not been used
for several days.

How I shouted, for I had such an exuberance of spirits. I felt so
strong and healthy. I wanted to go, to go onward, to go all the time.
Sometimes I felt like running, like jumping. One could not help it, for
it was the atmosphere that made one feel so. I could not get tired.

The fine weather, however, lasted but a few days. Then the sky became
gray, there was not a star to be seen, the wind began to rise, and snow
fell. We could see nothing. Wasara thought we were near the tent of his
father, but we could not see any landmark to guide us.

The two dogs ran in every direction, to try to scent people. They seemed
to know that we were looking after the tent of Wasara's father; but each
time they would return looking in the face of their masters silently, as
if to say "We find nothing."

We were somewhat afraid of wolves, but trusted in the dogs to warn us of
their approach. We at last concluded to stop; we kept the reindeer
harnessed and stood near them. We fixed our hoods carefully over our
faces, put on our masks, and seated ourselves on the snow. Soon I heard
heavy snoring - Pinta and Wasara were fast asleep, with their heads
downward and arms crossed on their breasts. The Lapps sleep often in
that way when travelling. But the weather cleared after three or four
hours and we continued our journey. My two friends then knew where they
were.

After an hour's drive we saw in the midst of the snow, near a large
forest of fir trees, a tent. "Here is the tent of my father," said
Wasara, pointing out the tent to me.

We hurried our reindeer, and as we approached the place more than a
dozen Lapp dogs, wolf-like in appearance, announced our arrival by their
fierce barking.

Wasara's father came outside of the tent, drove the dogs away, and told
them to be quiet. He recognized his son and bade us come in.

"What a strange abode these nomadic Lapps have," I said to myself, as I
looked around inside of the tent. According to Lapp etiquette the left
side of the tent was given to us, soft reindeer skins being first laid
on the top of branches of young birch trees that were spread on the
floor of earth, the snow having been removed where they had pitched
their tent.

The father took his snuffbox from a small bag and offered me a pinch of
snuff. This ceremony meant that I was welcome, and I passed the snuffbox
to his son who, in turn, offered a pinch of snuff to Pinta.

I looked with astonishment at the people that were in the tent, and
everything that surrounded me. These Lapps had blue eyes; their faces,
owing to exposure to the blustering winds, were very red, but the
protected part of the skin was as white as that of the whitest people.
There were a number of women and men, several young girls and two lads.
I was told that there were two men with the reindeer.

[Illustration: "What a strange abode these nomadic Lapps have!"]

The women were all busy; one was weaving shoe-bands of bright colors,
red predominating; another was just finishing a "kapta," and a third one
was putting a lining of red flannel over the seams upon a tiny pair of
reindeer-skin shoes for a child; the girls were sewing some
undergarments.

Wasara's father's first name was Pehr, - he was a fine-looking Lapp,
about seventy years old. His father was living, and was about ninety
years old. The outdoor life agrees with the Lapp. Give me the plateaus
of the Arctic regions for health. There are plenty of mosquitoes in


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Online LibraryPaul B. (Paul Belloni) Du ChailluThe Land of the Long Night → online text (page 5 of 16)